We Run

And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. Hebrews 12

God who goes first and God who empowers, forgive our tendency to shrink back. Give us courage to risk uncertainty and run the race marked out for us. Amen


This week’s evening drop series is dedicated to the biology and spirituality of movement. Why does walking make us feel so good? What does it mean to “walk by faith?” And tonight, I want to celebrate the strength of runners.

There is a certain bravery needed for running, which doesn’t apply to walking. Running will bring you to places of depletion, pain and self-doubt. Sometimes we enter these states during a single run; other times they come to us over the course of a season. If you’re a runner you know what it’s like to wake up with shin splints or be furloughed by a stress fracture. These setbacks occur in the spiritual journey as well as the running life.

I’ve already confessed that I prefer to walk. Walking is enjoyable for me. I also enjoy trusting God and opting out of the rat race and competition of modern life. My fantasy is to walk the contemplative journey companioned by God and other enlightened people. But the life of faith is rarely that way, because there are relational heartbreaks, vocational train wrecks and financial ruins to deal with. You can’t opt out of running with the bulls, or running from the bears—even if you’re a spiritual advisor, a yogi master or a well-set retiree.

Life is dangerous, and sometimes we must run. Life is also exhilarating, and sometimes God invites you to pick up the pace and run headlong into the face of uncertainty. This is faith.

Spiritual Practice

In the Daring Way™ we talk about knowing our arena—being clear about the setting where we are called to show up, be seen and live bravely with our lives. During the Covid-19 crisis people are showing up in the arenas of parenting, neighboring and laboring. We work from home or we go to work in healthcare, grocery stores and meat packing plants. People are running hard into the arena of businesses and leadership—meeting payroll, forgiving rents-due, making tough decisions, keeping supply lines open, reorganizing for mission. My daughter Anne will give birth to my first grandchild during a plague. Many women are giving birth in an era of social distancing, with limited physical support. Many people have entered the arena of death, separated from their loved ones.

I’m sorry this Spring is not a walk in the park. The cherry blossoms are in bloom, but we’re not there the breathe them in. Whatever race you are running, Christ-in-you is REAL strength. A good spiritual practice is to name your “arena” or your “race.” Take a Post-It note and write, “My arena is ________.” Or, “I am running the race of ___________.” Put that Post-It where you will see it several times a day.

There are no guarantees about the race, and we will always be uncertain of the outcome. Faith means showing up and running anyway. You may not know where the race will lead you and what will happen along the way, but you are on the right track.

Every morning I jog out of my driveway and run at least two blocks before walking downhill to the river. I’d like to become a real runner, but currently I’m a walker who occasionally jogs. I’m waiting for running to become enjoyable, but I have my doubts about that ever happening.

Love you,
Katie

Hidden Strength

For we walk by faith, not by sight. 2 Corinthians 5

Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and your dominion endures through all generations. Psalm 145

God of hidden strength and goodness, forgive our tendency to trust in worldly systems and be intimidated by appearances. Give us faith to keep taking steps. Amen


This week’s evening drop is dedicated to the biology and spirituality of walking. Why does walking make us feel so good? Tonight I want to celebrate the spiritual power of walking by faith.

Walking by sight is an endless temptation. The phrase “walk by sight” means to live by what we can see. And most of what we see is the world’s systems of power and security. In Jesus’s day Rome had the power. Early in the Old Testament days, Pharaoh had the power. Bible stories told in each of these eras illustrate the futility of trying to influence our circumstances by tapping into the visible and obvious systems of power.

In this Covid-19 era there are visible systems of power: the economy, business, supply chains, governors, the president, the CDC, congress and the World Health Org—to name a few. To walk by sight in our day is to put our faith in these systems—to hope and believe that these systems have control over our well-being.

Against such a tiresome practice of walking by sight, the Apostle Paul urges us to “walk by faith”—to trust a power we cannot see. This is the gospel (Good News) that there is a hidden Goodness at work in the universe. The proof of this loving presence is the resurrection of Jesus, which is also reflected in every aspect of nature and every aspect of your life.

To walk by faith is to cooperate with a Reality deeper and more powerful than the markets, the government or the health care system.

Spiritual Practice

If we choose to, we learn to walk by faith during a lifetime of practice and growth. When we walk by sight we focus on the visible successes of our outward lives, and we experience regular discouragement. True Faith does not plan her course by those signs. Rather, she walks with a daily confidence that the power of God is always at hand.

Psalm 145 is about the power of God, which is hidden in all things. If you could use a dose of encouragement for your walk of faith, take a minute and read Psalm 145 aloud. Perhaps visualize or write down the worldly systems you are still hoping will come through for you. And then visualize the more hopeful and realistic truths described in this Psalm. If you had access to the levers of power in the world’s governments or the transformational power of God in creation, which would you choose?

Rest well,
Katie  

We Walk

For we walk by faith, not by sight. 2 Corinthians 5

We walk to keep our mental and physical worlds open and to stop the walls from closing in. Dr. Shane O’Mara

Creator God who makes us divinely human, lead me into new worlds of health, vitality and creativity. Amen


This week, the evening drop of hope is dedicated to the biology and spirituality of walking.

Why does walking make us feel good? For me, walking is habit. When I show up in a new city the SECOND thing I do is figure out where I can walk for exercise and what site seeing I can do on foot. (The first thing I do is figure out where I can get coffee.)

During quarantine, I appreciate the gift of walking more than ever.

I’ve been reading how walking elevates our mood. As we walk, we place our heart muscle under positive stress, and molecules are produced that assist with the growth of cells, regulation of metabolism and reducing inflammation.

Walking is also essential to our nature and sets us apart as humans. No other animal does it. Have you ever watched a child learn to walk? One day they make this unique transition from crawling on all fours to toddling around on two feet. When my daughters were toddlers we sang a song: Walking, walking, walking, walking / seems so easy now / but I remember when I was small / and I did not know how! (On the most genius album of baby songs ever, by Hap Palmer.)

And we do NOT walk by sight. Dr. Shane O’Mara observes that walking is how we begin to find our way around in the world and develop an internal GPS and sense of direction. People who are visually impaired from birth still navigate with purpose and direction, because the experience of walking around in three-dimensional space creates cognitive maps. Close your eyes, and point to the door. That is your cognitive map at work, and it was built by moving around—not by looking around.

Movement through the world changes the dynamics of the brain itself, boosting creativity. Have you ever been out walking and had a hopeful time of prayer or an inspired idea for solving a relationship problem? Me too! “A walking brain is a more active brain,” writes Dr. Mara.

Spiritual Practice

So, in this time of “stay at home” and “safer at home” limitations, let’s indulge the joy of walking. Take a walk and say, “How do I love thee? Let me count the ways!” I love what you do for my lungs; I love how you reduce my anxiety; I love how you help me stay connected with neighbors; I love all the birds and bees and flowers and trees that I walk with every day.

The rest of this week, I will get spiritual and talk about walking as a metaphor for the faith journey: living faithfully, running risks and the art of pilgrimage.

The biggest joy of the quarantine walks? Seeing Dave’s mom, who is 92, walking up my driveway for a little (socially distant) visit. Grandma lives two blocks away, and she walks every day. She is also an artist and a lover of international travel. My own mother lives four blocks away, and also walks by my house every morning. I learned the habit of daily walks from her.

Sleep well and start your day tomorrow with a long walk in the neighborhood,
Katie

Speak

My speech was plain, not with a lot of eloquence or human persuasion, but the Holy Spirit’s power was in my words, showing those who heard them that the message was from God. 1 Corinthians 2

God who speaks worlds into being, teach me how to speak from my heart. Amen


This evening’s drop of hope is dedicated to the power of speech.

The NFL Draft is now under way, and the first pick has become a hometown hero for calling attention to something impacting so many families in this pandemic—hunger.

Even before food banks were overwhelmed by Americans desperate to feed their families Joe Burrow had used his Heisman Trophy acceptance speech to remind us there has always been hunger in America.

“Coming from southeast Ohio, it’s a very impoverished area,” the 23-year-old Burrow said on a New York stage in December. “The poverty rate is almost two times the national average, and there’s so many people there that don’t have a lot. I’m up here for all those kids in Athens and in Athens County that go home to not a lot of food on the table, hungry after school,” he added, telling those kids, “and you guys can be up here, too.”

The night of the ceremony the people in that community were paying attention. Will Drabold said Burrow’s mention of southeast Ohio struck him like a bolt of lightning. Will put the quote on Facebook and wrote, “Let’s honor Joey’s words and give money to the food pantry.” He didn’t think it would raise a thousand dollars.

But donations poured in from all over the country raising $650K—five years of ordinary income.

The food pantry director told newscaster Lester Holt: Joe has given a voice to this region and to its needs. I hope that this conversation will turn into something that will actually help us go out of business.

Spiritual Practice

This story reminds me that it is not the artfulness of our words that moves people to compassionate action. Even complacent people will recognize the message of Christ when they hear it from a pure heart.

If you’re like me, you’re wondering: What is the message of Christ at the heart of me?

According to Joe Burrow’s example, it’s probably related to gratitude. He said, “I didn’t write it. I just went up there and started talking. I wanted to mention southeast Ohio because so many people had helped me from that area. Then it just kind of came to my mind that I could mention the struggles that area goes through.”

Joe’s dad recalls checking in with Joe before the ceremony. He found Joe writing some notes on a scrap of paper. But when his son received the award and started speaking, Dad could tell Joe was off script and speaking from his heart.

What are you grateful for NOW? What could you say about that?

Sniff-sniff; smile-smile; sleep well,
Katie

Every-day Peacemaking

Blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called children of God. Matthew 5

Spirit of Christ, embodied by Jesus and the assembly of saints: Help me to host your peacemaking ways in my body too! Help my faith community become agents of peace near and far. Amen


Today Daily Drop of Hope is from Bethlehem! That’s right—we’re coming to you from that sacred space 10 kilometers south of Jerusalem.

Our teacher, Sami Awad, is director of the Holy Land Trust. The Holy Land Trust builds communities of resiliency through grassroots movements of nonviolent resistance. Sami is a friend of Pastor Ryan Howell. Ryan has been going live every day at 10am, and this week he is introducing us to the Howell’s ministry partners around the world.

Sami’s teaching and exhortation especially aligns with Crossroads mission to become a network of every-day peacemakers. He shared the three ways his community is sowing peace in Palestine: Non-violent resistance, healing trauma, and nurturing transformation.

He defines PEACE as something other than safety and security. Peace derives from the risky life-arts of breaking privilege, giving freely, listening well and compassionate service. This brand of peace requires significant disruption!

Ryan talked about the necessity of ending the “myth of sacred violence” that fuels harmful religion, including some modern strains of Christianity.

Sami also spoke of the blessing of being locked down for 50 days. He thanks God for the opportunity to change our way of life. God is giving us permission to turn the tables of economic injustice, pay attention to the brokenhearted and spin free of fearful motivations into deeper movements of love, compassion and care. He urged us to think beyond protecting our wealth during this pandemic and to lean in to the possibilities in God’s bigger vision for humankind.

Spiritual Practice

My summary does not do it justice. Watch/listen to Sami’s brief video message. At the end, he prays for us in Arabic!

The Peace of Christ be with you,
Katie

Decisions

Wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace. James 3

Jesus, who taught us the Way of Wisdom, thank you for relieving us of the anguish of impossible decisions. Help us use your good judgment to help ourselves and our neighbors. Amen


Today Pastor Doru Cirdei who leads Filadelphia Church in Chisinau Moldova was Ryan Howell’s guest on the Morning Drop of Hope. Early in their conversation I was struck with a one-word theme: Decisions. They were talking about decisions that faith communities, parents, health organizations and governments are making in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The best decision-making guidance I know comes from the late, great Peter Drucker. His classic book The Effective Executive is like a devotional. Every year, I try to read it slowly and get better at the big themes of his teaching. One of those themes is decision-making.

According to Drucker, good decision-makers do not make a great many decisions. They concentrate on what is important. They try to make the few, critical decisions they make at the highest level of understanding. Their decisions are based on pre-determined values, principles and rules that they apply over and over. Then when a new problem emerges, the decision is largely processed by applying earlier high-level decisions already in practice.

As my church and my household have responded to the vexing problem of our time—Covid-19—we fairly easily make decisions about how we will operate. We value life, therefore we will limit our freedom of movement, or gathering in person, in favor of protecting all life. We have already decided that Jesus gives special preference to the poor, the incarcerated, foreigners among us and the sick; therefore, our decisions will be made in favor these vulnerable neighbors.

It’s surprising how many dilemmas disappear when we base our current decisions on good decisions already made. And as patterns in our decision-making emerge, these can be named as values, which enlighten any analysis we need to do in a novel situation.

Spiritual Practice

As we all transition from the Stay at Home directive of April to the Safer at Home directive of May, we have decisions to make. How will we use our additional freedom?

What decisions have you previously made in your life which will guide your operations in the month of May?

It matters not if our enterprise is a corporation, a small business, a church, a home or our own spiritual transformation—our choices matter. And by God’s grace very few of these choices are novel and vexing. Most of the time our decisions are as complicated as we choose to make them.

I am heartened to be a spiritual leader in the company of wise persons like Ryan, Doru, Governor Polis and all of you!

Have a blessed evening,
Katie

Non-Anxious Presence

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4

Spirit of the Living Christ, inhabit my heart and mind in such a way that I become a purveyor and protector of the peace—for my own good and the good of the whole human family. Amen


Today Pastor Ryan Howell hosted the Morning Drop Hope with his friend Tom MacDonald who pastors in the U.K.. Tom shared about the peace of Christ that Jesus brought into every setting and situation. Tom used the term non-anxious presence, which comes from the work of psychologist, Edwin Friedman—a world-class expert on how anxiety is passed from person to person within families, work places, faith communities and nationalistic movements.

We are living in a time when anxiety is being passed from person to person in our homes, political conversations and leadership groups. I hope for your sake that you are not caught up in a cancerous cell of anxiety-producing drama. If you, or people you depend on, are struggling with group anxiety, reach out to me. We have resources to help you.

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to hear from several non-anxious leaders on Sunday news programs. My favorite was the Chancellor of Austria, Sebastian Kurz. Just listening to Chancellor Kurz lowered my pulse and gave me hope. Kurz carefully explained the compassionate and wise sequence and timing of Austria re-opening their society. He was empathetic to the U.S. and expressed his hope and blessing that we would be safe and prosperous as we navigate our own reopening.

I also listened to an epidemiologist encourage leaders in all industries to be hopeful about reopening, to watch carefully how their industry is proceeding and to follow carefully a step or two behind the early movers and shakers.

As a pastor, these three non-anxious experts give me wise-hope and lower my anxiety. Tom reminded me that I can be the presence of Christ and bring peace into any situation. The chancellor and the scientist also encouraged me that God will provide the wisdom we need to step this thing out when the time comes.

Spiritual Practice:

This is a good time to remember who we are and what it means to be children of God and disciples of Christ. The Spirit of Christ is more powerful than any threat– and able to calm any chaos. But this confidence can only happen in us when we are grounded in our true identity in Christ. Without access to your True Self, you cannot freely exercise faith when storms come. The opposite of being a non-anxious presence is being a fear monger . But we have the option to choose!

For me, the best way to overcome fear is to stop and really feel it and say to myself, “I’m scared, but it’s only a feeling. Fear has no power; but God’s Love does!” When I don’t stop and talk to myself about fear, it spirals. When I stop, breath and confess my fear, I have the opportunity to remember God’s presence and receive Peace. This is not a perfect science, but it’s a good start.

Perhaps the best spiritual practice for spreading peace is to regulate what we read, watch and listen to. Find wise mentors, even in the new media!

Have a blessed evening, and rest safely,
Katie