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Bible. Poetry. Music.

By July 10, 2013 3 Comments

“What do we progressive Christians use for devotional resources?”

Welcome to a little insider pastoral conversation in my office. This question lit me up! I think progressives are sometimes overlooked when it comes to our devotional practices. Heck, I think some think we don’t have devotional practices. I think we are often looked at as more interested in political and social issues than reading the stories of Jesus. This stereotype makes me sad and the more I’ve thought about it the more I find it offensive. Why do social justice and the witness of the church matter to me? In large part because of the priority I place on my personal piety and the art of being part of Christian community. Look, this progressive pastor is so down with piety that I lead a workshop for my classis in Warwick, New York on piety. Imagine this tattooed, punk rock preacher standing up in front of fellow church leaders twice her age proclaiming the importance of the pious life? It was a bit ironic (don’t call me a hipster).

When I was 13 I was a Christian bookstore devotional book junky. I ate up titles like “40 Days with God” “Meeting Jesus” “This is How you Know You Are a Real Christian” (okay the last title is made up but it points to the current of my Christian community at the time). Needless to say these are not on my bookshelf now.

So, what do we progressive Christians use for our devotional resources? Here are my personal top three:

1)   The Bible. This summer I’ve invited my congregation to read The Psalms throughout the summer and               particularly pay attention to the variety of vibrant & surprising prayers.

3)   Poetry. Lots of good, honest, raw poetry.

4)   Music. All varieties of music.


I’m a sucker for Mary Oliver and this piece has been sitting with me all week, it’s good news.



Today I’m flying low and I’m
not saying a word.
I’m letting all the voodoos of ambition sleep. 

The world goes on as it must,
the bees in the garden rumbling a little,
the fish leaping, the gnats getting eaten.
And so forth.


But I’m taking the day off.
Quiet as a feather.
I hardly move though really I’m traveling
a terrific distance.

Stillness. One of the doors
into the temple.


And for music…

India.Arie’s Thy Will Be Done has been on repeat in my earbuds on my subway commute. I can’t find a YouTube clip so you’ll just need to Spotify it yourself.

Ben Harper and The Blind Boys of Alabama in I Shall Not Walk Alone:

Cosmic Love is the epitome of the apophatic in pop music which grabs my heart strings:


Brandi Carlile’s Looking Out:


What keeps you going? What fuels your faith? What inspires you to expand your awareness of God? What’s devotional food for you? Where do you find the grace of Jesus?



Jes Kast

The Reverend Jes Kast is an ordained Minister of Word and Sacrament and serves West End Collegiate Church as their Associate Pastor.


  • Sue Poll says:

    Thank you for all of the above! I, too, love Mary Oliver. She is a contemporary psalmist, as far as I'm concerned!

  • Dennis Kellermeierdkellermei says:

    Words of Hope, The Bible, and The Twelve | In that order | Every morning

  • Mari-Beth says:

    Have you read Mary Oliver's "Logos"?

    It's such an amazing take on the loaves and fishes story…"accept the miracle"…how simple and yet so diffcult to do.

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