Where the Millionaire Preachers Get it Wrong Every Time

Quite simply: if you do it right, there’s no money to be made.

This morning I was listening to a song by the Claire Lynch Band called Children of Abraham, and as most spiritual music does, the song explained it all.

The first line of the refrain for the song is:

Children of Abraham come by it honest,
Living on nothing but a lick and a promise.

If you’re not familiar with the phrase “a lick and a promise,” that is southern speak for “being so poor that we have nothing but wishes to live on.” The Children of Abraham came from intense, mud-digging poverty, not great wealth. And nothing about wealth or the path to gain it will do anything to make one spiritually better. If nothing else, it gets in the way.

The story of the song is from the book of Genesis-Exodus, of Moses leading the Children of Israel into the wilderness and they wandered around – pretty lost – for 40 days. (Biblical stories tend to work in a 40 day time frame.) This after some pretty huge promises from God to Abraham about this great nation that God and Abraham are putting together.

One hitch: Abraham has to do it all without God’s direct help. There’s the challenge: Not money or Lear jets or prayer cloths or books and DVD sales, but the pure survival of an entire nation, while God watches to see how you pull it off.

Imagine yourself being there: lost, and so lost that even your leader doesn’t know where you are going except “out there.” He’s led on by nothing but grains of sand as a promise that something better lies beyond the desert. And if you ask him … all he can stutter back to you is, “out there.”

Here, Claire brings the song into our own life, and that is how we all – we Children of Abraham – continue on. We want to fly like the eagles borne on the wind but we can’t do that just yet. So what does the singer pray for in the song? Patience. Not better wings. Not a swifter wind. Not more eagle-like strength. The singer prays for the patience to stick with it until the knowledge, the strength, and the strong wind comes along.

And that is the tough part of being a spiritual person: the time when there’s nothing around in any direction but hot dry dusty air… the desert of the heart. And even though what we may want is oasis, what we really need to get through is patience.

It has nothing to do with mission seeds of as much money as you have in your 401k. It’s absolutely nothing to do with a theology of prosperity – one of the biggest lies I’ve ever heard any TV preacher spout. Being this child of Father Abram that she describes is all about sticking to it, with nothing but grains of sand in your pocket to go by.

And living on a lick and a promise.

Keep the faith!
– Amen


Children of Abrahamlyrics
– sung by Claire Lynch and the Claire Lynch Band

Back when the blessing was only a dream,
Old Father Abram was looking at me.
I’m one of the many stars in the sky:
Don’t care if I stumble, I’m learning to fly.
A token of promise, like one grain of sand,
was all that he needed, to enter the land.
And those who were chosen to answer the call,
will follow his footsteps, forsaking it all.

Children of Abraham come by it honest,
living on nothing but a lick and a promise,
flying on the wings of a prayer.

The young grow weary, they run and they faint,
I want to be strong, Lord, teach me to wait.
I’ll soar like an eagle, borne on the wind,
Going wherever the Spirit will send.


The Spiritual Selfie – beginning the way through Lent

The 40 days leading up to Easter are – for Christian believers in such – a time of quiet and self-contemplation. This is different from the 40 days leading up to Christmas known as Advent which is also a time of quiet reflection (spiritually,) and yet is a time of anticipation.

Something new is about to happen! How do we / how do I prepare for whatever that change is?

In Lent, it’s all about me: where am I now spiritually? What’s going well, and what’s not? What needs change? What can I do to be both a better Christian and a better member of a greater community?

If you subtract out the “Christian” part, you can see how this works as a great plan for anyone of a contemplative slant: taking a dedicated, demarked time off for a lot of spiritual selfies of how we are, internally. What we believe. What we do not believe. And (the most important part), where do we need to improve.

Think of this as your annual spiritual review. You give yourself some new “jobs,” you drop off some that aren’t working, and you evaluate.

Our life as contemplative people is always this process of trying, review, change, and trying again.

The sort-of traditional way that Lent works is that one “gives up” something for these 40 days, and here is where all the late-night jokes come into play: giving up paying bills, giving up the wife, giving up my job, etc. etc.

What should happen in reality is that you give up something that will cause you some degree of distress to have to do without it for these 40 days. For me, it would be something like drinking coffee. I would say something like watching a favorite TV show except that I know my DVR would record it and I’d just watch it a month from now.

And, Lent is also a time to take on something new. (This part doesn’t make it to the late-night standup routines, so you might not be familiar with it.) The idea here is we add on something that is a task of some sort that needs resolution, not a burden that is impossible or will cause additional stress and fatigue.

And there doesn’t need to be a 100:100 balance of taking on vs. letting go. Going into Lent this year I found lots of taking on, and haven’t been inspired yet (two days into the event) of what to take off. Perhaps I’m burden hoarding this year!

That still doesn’t take me away from the central idea of these 40 day, of introspection and turning over the rocks in my spiritual path and looking to see what sorts of bugs and worms are under there. There’s no goal as to what happens with this self-examination: it’s not meant to necessarily make you better or worse, or to make you just throw up your hands and give up on all of it. The idea is that you have looked inside yourself and your own spirituality (of whatever type you have,) and that you better understand what you saw.

Change, then, will come out of that understanding.

Keep the faith!


A call to prayer and service at the beginning of Lent:


Dear People of God:

The first Christians observed with great devotion the days of our Lord’s passion and resurrection, and it became the custom of the Church to prepare for them by a season of penitence and fasting.

This season of Lent provided a time in which converts to the faith were prepared for Holy Baptism. It was also a time when those who, because of notorious sins, had been separated from the body of the faithful were reconciled by penitence and forgiveness, and restored to the fellowship of the Church.

Thereby, the whole congregation was put in mind of the message of pardon and absolution set forth in the Gospel of our Savior, and of the need which all Christians continually have to renew their repentance and faith.



At the end of these 40 days – during the great brouhaha of the Easter season and on into what we call “the ordinary time,” – how many of the things you gave up will stay off your agenda, and how many of those jobs that you took on, will remain?


The “Awesome God” Hipster Church Tirade

I’m not usually in the practice of posting articles verbatim from other sites, but this one from Huff Post Religion is an exception because I knew exactly what they were talking about.

I don’t claim to be an old foagie of churchdom. I have my wayward or liberal views on the running of the church as much as anybody. I definitely do not feel as if my views are stuck back somewhere in time about 2 weeks after Martin Luther made nail holes in the church door.

I realize there have always been megachurches from the beginning of Christianity (when they were called Cathedrals,) and there always will be. I refer to the ones we have today as PowerPoint Churches. Another pastor friend of mine refers to them as “naughty Baptists.” My writing is not intended to disrespect anyone’s particular spiritual belief, or their lack of belief – it’s no skin off my nose, as long as nobody is getting hurt.

Here is one very familiar sounding tirade about hipster churches, and particularly a visible lack of Radical Welcome in some churches where folks might show up for their own spiritual quenching, and yet leave without consideration of those sitting around them. “Church” is not a solitary exercise, even in large groups.

A Tirade For The Trendy Church

by Jack Levinson

I get up early on Sunday morning and drive to the manufacturing district, which is totally desolate. I’m self-conscious because I’m visiting a hipster church. Naked, too, because I’ve got no tats. Not even a Bible verse across my ribs from my grad school days. And, at 59, I’m totally grey. My beard. Even my chest hair. (My ear hair isn’t, but it’s growing long because I’m old.) My eyebrows, too, they’re going grey. Legit not on fleek, so I’m embarrassed to begin with. I park my 2004 Honda Odyssey a ways away, obvs, and walk toward the front door of a warehouse building at the end of a deserted street. Totally trendy sign on the side of the building. They open the door for me and smile and say, “Hi! Welcome!” and hand me a piece of paper.

So far, so good. #awesome

Inside is hip, too. To the left, there’s a white wall with little rectangular tiles the size of small bricks at the back of a coffee bar. Java! Yaaaaas! Now I’m right at home because I’m from Seattle. So I ask for decaf, but they literally don’t even have it. That’s right. I’m grey–and can’t drink regular. But they’re not old. They can drink regular. #typical. I drink pouch-poured hot chocolate. So I feel a little less welcome, but it’s my fault (or my body’s fault) I can’t turn up like I used to.

I look around. There’s a little alcove to the right where you walk into the worship space. It has repurposed wood walls. In the middle is a wood cross made up of small, square, rusty nails. Literally so freaking cool.

Now the backstory. (I didn’t grow up with this word, so it must be trendy, right?) I taught a class this week on the Holy Spirit. I wanted us to be somewhere Pentecostal or charismatic–somewhere growing–on Sunday. There’s just 7 of us altogether in the squad. Two white guys in our 50s. Two guys in their 20s, a young white guy, and an Indian guy (his parents are from India). A 40-something red-head, and 2 African-American women, 1 in her 50s, 1 in her 60s.

Why do you need to know that? Because the people at the church we visited were mostly white. I’m talking 96% white. And mostly young.

So the 7 of us come early because the website, which is totally hip, says Sunday worship begins at 10. It doesn’t. It begins at 10:20. Because starting on the hour or half hour would be way too mainstream.

So what to do? We stand in a small half moon in the little alcove which most of the regulars have to pass through to get to the 10:20 service. In and out they go, out and in, passing our little multicultural half-moon without a word. In and out. Out and in. Not a word. Not one.

30 minutes of silence.

1800 seconds tick by without a hello.

I know a lot of people are angry at the suit-and-tie, Sunday-best church. And a lot of churches, with speakers sporting tattoo sleeves, are giving them a home where they don’t have to get bored or angry or petulant. The main speaker–the pastor, I guess–talked about dry church.

The church I’m attending is not dry, of course. They’re wet. They don’t have the crinkly skin or decrepit traditions of old people and obsolete churches.

You’re angry at dry church.

You’re bored by dry church.

You’re sick of dry church.

I get it.

But are you much different from dry church? Or any better, really? When 7 people–people who look a lot different from most of you–stand and half-moon you in the alcove, why don’t you stop to say hello?

You don’t shake our hands.

You don’t smile.

You don’t tell us your name.

And admit it. You know we’re not one of yours. A 66-year-old African American woman? No way. An Indian? I didn’t see one. Except for my student. And there are 7 of us standing at the entrance to the worship room, which has more repurposed wood and a skylight and stark concrete warehouse walls and a drummer in a glass box.

I’m angry.

I’m bored by hipster inhospitality.

I’m irked by Bohemian indifference.

I’m annoyed by trendy aloofness.

No, that’s not right.

I’m sad. Disappointed that a church which, on its website, claims that thousands have been touched by its members, couldn’t greet strangers in their midst. Their website even makes a lot of going in to worship and out to serve.

So in and out they go. Out and in they come. And not one word of welcome. No. Not one.

Keep the faith!


credit: Huffington Post