Grief

Owning our stories of heartbreak is a tremendous challenge when we live in a culture that tells us to deny our grief. Brené Brown.

Be merciful to me, Lord, for I am in distress;
    my eyes grow weak with sorrow,
    my soul and body with grief.
Psalm 31

LORD God, be merciful to me as I rumble with my grief. Amen


One day I asked my Grandma B., “How long did it take you to get over Uncle Donnie’s death?”

I was about 15 and unaware of how grief works. I had no idea that a mother will never “get over” the death of her son. Uncle Donnie was killed in Vietnam when he was 19 years old. There is a photo in the family album of my grandparents standing in their living room with the Marine who presented them the purple heart medal. My grandpa and grandma posed for the photo, but their gaze is not at the camera. They look lifeless.

This week, our human family is facing numerous losses and griefs. One grief at the front of my mind is the grief that students and parents are feeling in northern Colorado. Students have learned they won’t return to school this spring. Parents are grieving the loss of the educational routines and teachers that support their families. Parents are grieving the loss of vocation structure and freedom in the face of changing family needs.

In Rising Strong, author Brené Brown describes the three most foundational elements of grief that emerged from her studies: loss, longing, and feeling lost. We are experiencing all of this.

Spiritual Practice

Since we live in a culture that has no patience for grief, and since rumbling with grief is crucial to the rising strong process… Please give yourself the gift of acknowledging your grief. Read Psalm 31. Like the psalmist did, talk it out with God verbally or in writing.

If you would like to talk to a pastor or trained volunteer, please contact us at Crossroads Church. Call 970-203-9201, and ask for Perry. We have skilled, trustworthy people who can walk with you in your grief for as long as you like.

Voice

Blessed is the LORD! for he has heard the voice of my prayer. The LORD is my strength and my shield, my heart trust in him, and I have been helped; Therefore my heart dances for joy, and in my song will I praise him. The LORD is the strength of his people, a safe refuge for his anointed. Save your people and bless your inheritance, shepherd them and carry them forever. Psalm 28


There is a modern catch phrase meaning: ‘the person speaking has something to say, and the people listening affirm that the speaker is worthy of speaking.’ The catch phrase is: to “have a voice.” We might say, “she found her voice” or “I have a voice” or “they gave me a voice.”

Truth is: You have a voice. If you’ve ever felt silenced, you know it’s a terrible feeling. And to have a voice is a wonderful and healthy way of using your rightful power.

God is one who gives voice; and the most important place we use our voice is in prayer. Anyone can pray, anytime. No one can silence your prayers. And best of all, the LORD of creation listens to your voice and joins in your prayer– with compassion, vision and wisdom beyond words.

VESPERS Prayer

There are countless ways of using your voice in prayer. There are talking prayers and silent prayers, group prayers and solitary prayers. There is mental prayer and meditation, intercessory prayer and soaking prayer, breath prayers and desperate prayers. There are scripted prayers, prayer services and praying in the Spirit. Prayer breeds life, and there are so many new things to learn and try when it comes to your VOICE in prayer.

Vespers is a service of evening prayer, which comes out of the monastic community tradition. Vespers is a wonderful way to transition the day into a hopeful evening.

A Vespers prayer time is something you can do any evening, anywhere. If you like, you can light a candle, sit quietly and invite yourself into God’s presence, then read a Psalm and finally close with a prayer that is intended to be used for a full week. There are various prayer books and resources that provide us with scriptures, prayers and songs for Vespers.

Let’s Try It

Light a candle and sit quietly alone or with others. Rest in silence for a minute or two. Rest your heart and mind and silently confess your intention to enter into God’s presence.

Read this evening’s Psalm 28:6-9 aloud. Is there a word or phrase that speaks to you? Form what you’re thinking about into a prayer. Write it down, talk to God about it or share it with someone else. Use your freedom in Christ to speak your peace!

Say the Our Father aloud: Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who have trespassed against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory, forever and ever. Amen

Conclude by saying The Prayer Appointed for the Week. (From The Book of Common Prayer in the Season of Lent): Gracious Father, whose blessed Son Jesus Christ came down from heaven to be the true bread which give life to the world: Evermore give me this bread, that he may live in me, and I in him; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen

Have a blessed evening; and rest safely,
Katie

Divine

God has given something very great and wonderful… you are able to share the divine nature!  2 Peter 1:4

LORD God, give me the courage to learn more about my own nature: my thoughts, my emotions and my reactions. And help me overcome the human tendency to avoid this topic altogether. Amen


The core “good news” (gospel) of the Christian faith is the promise of whole-life transformation. It’s well stated in 2 Peter 1:4: God has given something very great and wonderful… you are able to share the divine nature!

And how divine do you feel? Me? Not so much!

Have you ever bolted from a family argument and distanced yourself from others for the rest of the day? Have you ever been harsh with a toddler? And at work, do you ever feel overlooked in a meeting and start over-functioning or shutting down? Do you know anyone who bottled their feelings, and then ended their marriage with an affair? Is anyone here on a quest for validation from parents or the boss, and you are numbing the pain with over-spending or alcohol?

We all struggle with negative emotions and bad behavior. And in these days of COVID-19 we’re under a lot of relational pressure

There is a huge gap between the divine life modeled by Jesus and the way we sometimes treat one another and ourselves. And this mistreatment is almost always a matter of offloading our own emotional discomfort onto other people. Offloading occurs at the interpersonal level and the societal level. Offloading hurt is the source of most relational stress– everything from marital conflict and sibling rivalry to racism, sexism, mass incarceration and war.

[When hurt] is left unchecked, it festers, grows, and leads to behaviors that are completely out of line with whom we want to be, and thinking that can sabotage our relationships and careers. Brené Brown.

Spiritual Practice

Check out these six ways we offload our hurt onto others. Where do you see yourself in these descriptions?

Read 2 Peter 1:4 and the starter prayer at the top of this post. Breathe deeply and thank God for the Hope that you are becoming more like Jesus with every step you take on the journey of life.

Self-observation is an essential component of healing and transformation. This step is a powerful beginning to your next experience with growth and courage.

Rest well,
Katie

Wholehearted

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
    and do not rely on your own insight.
In all your ways acknowledge him,
    and he will make straight your paths.
Proverbs 3:5-6


This weekend, Ryan Howell and the Crossroads team talked about the heart. Ryan did a great job of explaining how the Hebrew imagination understood the heart as having four dimensions: thinking, feeling, choosing and behaving. The biblical writers carried this view of the heart forward through the teachings of Jesus, Paul and others.

Fast forward to today, and the Hebrew way of understanding the heart maps perfectly with the research findings of Dr. Brené Brown and the Daring Way™ community.

The research shows that people who go through really hard things and grow emotionally, spiritually and relationally are people who are in touch with the various parts of their hearts. Another way of saying this is that emotionally resilient people understand themselves really well. They are able to observe themselves thinking, feeling and acting. And! They take responsibility for choosing their thoughts, feelings and actions. Because of these skills, they trust themselves. And this knowing of self ,and trusting self, also aids us in knowing and trusting God and creating a circle of trust in our important relationships.

This may sound a bit too theological, metaphysical and analytical for some. But the good news is that we can cultivate whole-heartedness without much knowledge or interest in the scholarly aspects of this topic.

If the wholehearted self is a combination of our thinking, feeling, choosing and doing-selves, we ought to get to know each of these selves! This means spending time and talking with ourselves and God about our thoughts, feelings, choice-making and actions. This is totally doable, and you can start growing today.

Spiritual Practice:

Read Proverbs, Chapter 3:1-8. Sit silently, breath, relax… When you’re feeling centered and present with yourself and your physical surroundings, try the following exercise.

Identify an uncomfortable emotion or experience you’ve had in the past few days, and write, pray or talk about the following prompts:

  1. I’m physically feeling _____________. Ask: How is my body responding? Where am I physically feeling this? (Common bodily responses include: accelerated pulse, dry mouth, tight throat, discomfort in your head or stomach…)
  2. I’m thinking ________________. Ask: Is there a thought constantly looping in my mind? What’s my go-to thought process?
  3. I do / I act ___________________. Ask: What’s the first thing I want to do? What’s the only thing I want to do?

This exercise will put you in touch with all the parts of your heart! As we get to know these parts of ourselves, we become what is called—integrated beings. And we become more and more able to redirect our feelings, thoughts and actions. That self-regulation is what is meant by choices—or “the will.”

Thomas Merton writes that the concept of “the heart” refers to the deepest psychological ground of one’s personality, the inner sanctuary where one’s self-awareness goes beyond analytical reflection and opens out into union with God.

Friends, our hearts never stop growing and changing. How exciting to think that we can be a vital part of that process.

More on this tomorrow evening. It’s so important during this uncertain season of our life together.

Have a blessed evening; and rest safely,
Katie

Daily Examen

Since the object of our love is infinite, we can always love more and more perfectly.  St. Ignatius of Loyola

O send out your light and your truth; let them lead me; let them bring me to your holy hill and to your dwelling. Then I will go to the altar of God, to God my exceeding joy; and I will praise you with songs, O God, my God. Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my help and my God. Psalm 43:3-6


Has your week been a blur? Do you even know what day it is?

I had to think about it! It’s Friday. I’m actually moving, if you can believe that. Dave and I are taking our time, migrating our things from a temporary house to some newly remodeled digs. I picked a fight with him today, because he was bringing boxes and items in the front door too fast for my taste! In between moving tasks, we’re each doing our day jobs from the home office, like many of you; and like many of you, we’re not getting the traction we want each day.

The Good New is: every day is an opportunity for grace and self-compassion. In these days, I find it helpful to have spiritual exercises I can practice until they become– my practice. One such practice is the Daily Examen.

Spiritual Practice: The Daily Examen

Another way to pray is to watch for God’s presence in your life. More than 400 years ago St. Ignatius Loyola taught about mindfulness via a simple practice called the Daily Examen. The Examen is a guided reflection on the events of the day meant to help us notice God’s presence and receive God’s guidance. Most people practice Examen in the evening, but many prefer to look back on the previous day each morning. Try this version of St. Ignatius’s prayer:

1. Become aware of God’s presence. Sit quietly in a comfortable spot and establish your openness to God: Breath deeply, sit in silence until your mind slows down, read Psalm 43:3-6. Then, review the events of your day with a prayerful attitude. The day may seem blurry or meaningless to you. Ask God to bring clarity and understanding.

2. Review the day with gratitude. Gratitude is the foundation of our relationship with God. Walk through your day in the presence of God and note the joy and goodness. Focus on the day’s gifts. Look at your work and the people you interacted with. What did you receive from these people? What did you give them? Pay attention to small things—the food you ate, the sights you saw, and other seemingly small pleasures. God is in the details.

3. Pay attention to your emotions. One of St. Ignatius’s great insights was that we detect the presence of the Spirit of God in the movements of our emotions. Reflect on the feelings you experienced during the day. Boredom? Joy? Resentment? Compassion? Anger? Confidence? What is God saying through these feelings?

God will most likely show you some ways that you fell short. Make note of these mistakes and faults. But look deeply for other implications. Does a feeling of frustration perhaps mean that God wants you consider a new direction in some area of your work? Are you concerned about a friend? Perhaps you should reach out to her in some way.

4. Choose one feature of the day and pray from it. Ask the Holy Spirit to direct you to something during the day that God thinks is particularly important. It may involve a feeling—positive or negative. It may be a significant encounter with another person or a vivid moment of pleasure or peace. Or it may be something that seems rather insignificant. Look at it. Pray about it. Allow the prayer to arise spontaneously from your heart—whether intercession, praise, repentance, or gratitude.

5. Look toward tomorrow. Ask God to give you light for tomorrow’s challenges. Pay attention to the feelings that surface as you survey what’s coming up. Are you doubtful? Cheerful? Apprehensive? Full of delighted anticipation? Allow these feelings to turn into prayer. Seek God’s guidance. Ask for help and understanding. Pray for hope.

St. Ignatius encouraged people to talk to Jesus like a friend. End the Daily Examen with a conversation with Jesus. Ask forgiveness for your sins and healing for your wounds. Ask for God’s protection and help. Ask for God’s wisdom about the questions you have and the problems you face. Do all this in the spirit of gratitude. Your life is a gift, and it is filled with gifts from God. End the Daily Examen with the Our Father.

Have a blessed evening; and rest safely,
Katie

Evening Light

May God be merciful to us and bless us, show us the light of his countenance and come to us. Psalm 67:1


It’s been a long day of news and announcements concerning the coronavirus outbreak. I’m grateful for my morning prayer walk and Ryan’s Morning Drop of Hope, because shortly after the day spun away from me! As I type this, we’ve just learned of the stay at home directive from the Governor’s office as well as Larimer County. I pray you are well.

VESPERS Prayer

Speaking of prayer, I’m a fan of all kinds of prayer. There are talking prayers and silent prayers, group prayers and solitary prayers. There is mental prayer and meditation, intercessory prayer and soaking prayer, breath prayers and desperate prayers. There are scripted prayers, prayer services and praying in the Spirit. Prayer breeds life, and there are so many new things to learn and try when it comes to prayer.

Vespers is a service of evening prayer, which comes out of the monastic community tradition. Vespers is a wonderful way to transition the day into a hopeful evening.

A Vespers prayer time is something you can do anytime, anywhere. If you like, you can light a candle, sit quietly and invite yourself into God’s presence, then read a Psalm and finally close with a prayer that is intended to be used for a full week. There are various prayer books and resources that provide us with scriptures, prayers and songs for Vespers.

Let’s Try It

Light a candle and sit quietly alone or with others. Rest in silence for a minute or two. Rest your heart and mind and silently confess your intention to enter into God’s presence.

Read Psalm 67 aloud. Is there a word or phrase that speaks to you? Form what you’re thinking about into a prayer. Write it down, talk to God about it or share it with someone else.

Say The Lord’s Prayer aloud: Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who have trespassed against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory, forever and ever. Amen

Conclude by saying The Prayer Appointed for the Week. (From The Book of Common Prayer in the Season of Lent): Almighty God, you know that we have no power in ourselves to help ourselves: Keep us both outwardly in our bodies and inwardly in our souls, that we may be defended from all adversities which may happen to the body, and from all evil thoughts which may assault and hurt the soul; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen

Have a blessed evening; and rest safely,
Katie

In the Waiting

So then, my friends and family, when you come together to eat, wait for one another— 1 Corinthians 11

Generous God, help us rest our lives in your goodness. Give us the patience and endurance to wait for our neighbors who also depend on your goodness. Amen


Have you ever hiked with a tired child—one who was slower than the group and at some point, sat down on a rock and refused to move? Perhaps after whining for a mile or so, the little person just plopped down and yelled, “WAIT UP!”

We have old videos of this happening in our family. After doing everything possible to urge the straggler along, the family finally faced the fact that we must wait for one another. Nothing is gained by rushing down the trail if someone gets left in the forest and eaten by wolves. (On second thought, there are margaritas to be gained—at Ed’s Cantina in Estes Park, which is why we were rushing in the first place!)

My Lenten readings took me somewhere unexpected this morning, and it relates to today’s headlines. In 1 Corinthians 11, Paul’s counsels: Wait for One Another.

In the early church, some Christians were embroiled in greed and selfishness. Food scarcity was the presenting problem. One group had access to more and was eating better meals, while another group was left waiting out back. This problem within human nature cannot be confined to church life, because the same issues are at work in our country during the coronavirus outbreak.

Walter Brueggemann comments: In an economy of acute individualism, the strong and powerful can, in greedy ways, monopolize resources and take them from the table of the vulnerable; or conversely, policies and practices of the community may generate an equitable distribution of essential life resources so that all may participate together in well-being.

In the news today, we learn of the tension between the priority of “keep the economy moving” and the need to slow down our movements and wait for the virus to be contained and the health care system to expand capacity.

Paul counsels: Wait for one another. The basis for the waiting is the promise that there will be enough divine/human compassion and resources to weather this economic vulnerability together.

God’s promises stand at all times—times of famine, war, plague, terrorism and political ruthlessness. We have no idea how the mind of Christ will influence this economy while we wait together. The wait-promise is fully illustrated in the story where Jesus feeds 5K people and has a surplus of bread. These stories exist in faith traditions to illustrate divine providence working in tandem with human love.

History shows that where the Christ-presence reigns, there is always enough. This gospel claim of always-enough puts the greedy anxiety of certain economic policy directions to shame. We don’t need to choose between health and future wealth. Health and wealth actually work together. If we choose to stand in solidarity with the physically vulnerable, and our health care community, by modifying our economic operations today, we will be OK. I’m not sure how this being-OK will happen (I’m a former social studies teacher who respects the science of economics), but it will happen.

Spiritual Practice

Read the verse listed at the top of the page, pray the starter prayer, and then listen to this song: Take Courage. The hook phrase in the song is: So take courage my heart / Stay steadfast my soul / He’s in the waiting.

The drop of hope we receive from God’s promises is all the sweeter when we use our hands and feet to pass it on to our neighbor. Do you know someone who has lost their job or is concerned about their well-being? Reach out with a word of hope today and some kind of material gift. Your gift could be a card, your presence on a FaceTime call, flowers or a food item. Pass on your hope, and remember to wash your hands!

Have a blessed evening; and rest safely,
Katie

P.S. The song is recorded by our Crossroads Church worship leaders. More songs and hopeful messages live and on-demand every week during these weird times.