Chosen

For many are called, but few are chosen. Jesus

God who calls everyone to live in the light of your love, help the graduates of 2020 to realize how special they are. May this bizarre circumstance result in them leading us more deeply into Your Love.


This weekend Tom Hanks delivered a virtual commencement address that moved us to tears. Good! There’s healing in our tears, especially the hopeful ones. And God knows we need to shed some hopeful tears these days.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the graduates who are grieving the loss of pomp and circumstance—the collective pride and joy of a stadium brimming with parental hope, grandparental love, friendships, educators, coaches, flowers, cameras, brass instruments and inadequate sound systems!

So, I was planning to dedicate the evening drop of hope all week long to the class of 2020. Now, inspired by Tom Hanks keen choice of words, I want to write about the hopefulness of being CHOSEN.

“I’m here to say congratulations,” Hanks said. “Congratulations to you chosen ones.”

The chosen ones. On the one hand the phrase has an exclusive ring to it. To be chosen is to be privileged. But in Hanks’ mind and the mind of Christ, “chosen” is not something that puts you above the crowd. Being chosen makes you an essential steward of God’s gifts, which are meant for everyone.

In the tradition of Bible literature, to be chosen by God is to be selected by God as an ambassador of everyone’s status as the beloved children of God. Moses was chosen to help the children of Israel understand their belovedness. Peter, Paul and Mary were all chosen to help Jesus bring all of humanity into the blessing of God’s love.

As Father Richard Rohr puts it: “It’s not that God likes anyone better or that they are more worthy than the rest. God’s chosenness is for the sake of communicating chosenness to everybody else! You lead others to the depth to which you have been led.”

Can we help our graduates live into their unique vocation of being chosen for leadership at a time like this? The class of 2020 is stepping over the threshold from childhood to adult vocational service during a global health and economic crisis. These young adults and their families have been led into the depths of disappointment and uncertainty. Is the universe picking on them; or have they been selected for something special?

Bravehearted people simply know that they are a unique minority. In the Jesus-sense they know they are being used as starter yeast, flavorful/healing salt and vitamin-D rich sunlight. (See Matthew 5 and Luke 13.) Remember that yeast is not dough, salt is not a meal and light shines to illuminate something else.

Jesus knew whom to call. What if we help our graduates understand the highness of this calling and the unique way that Jesus thinks?

Spiritual Practice

When we write out our graduation cards, can we do the following?

  • Empathize with the graduate. It must be terribly disappointing and weird to miss the rituals and festivals of graduation.
  • Affirm the graduate. Graduations mark a very special passage from one stage of life and learning to the next. The world needs brave and brokenhearted young adults more now than ever. “We have the highest confidence in your talents and your courageous heart, and we can’t wait to see what you teach the world in the next decade and beyond!”

If you live with a graduate, please affirm them NOW. Say, “Word on the street is that you and your class are going to be a very special influence in the next decade. I’m not sure what that will look like, but I can’t wait to see how it turns out.”

God bless you, and please encourage a graduate this week!
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

Hopefulness

Commit your way to the Lord;
    trust in him and he will do this:
He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn,
    your vindication like the noonday sun.
Psalm 37

Easter Tuesday Prayer: God of all futures, give us the tenacity to hope, that we may not give in to fear, despair, or cynicism. Amen.


(This week the evening drop of hope is dedicated to the courage-building skills of rising strong. It’s my way of staying in the Easter Spirit for the whole week!)

Today, the debate over public health versus economic freedom is raging in the news. The president claims he has absolute authority to decide when we can safely open schools and public spaces. The state governors say, “Not so fast.” Well, no matter who gets to decide, you and I won’t have much of a say.

When your future is at the mercy of government decision makers, where do you find hope?

Since 2014, the church where I lead has had a motto: Hope is Here. The motto has at least three meanings: 1.) Our church family embodies a deep sense of hopefulness; 2.) The Spirit of Christ brings Hope, and Christ is in everything; 3.) Because the Spirit of Christ is in us, Hope is with us when we gather, and hope goes with us when we’re scattered into the community.

What is Hope?

Brené Brown writes that “Hope is a function of struggle.” So, it makes sense that our church rose into this character of hopefulness through some painful struggles. It also makes sense that Crossroads is influencing individuals and families with Hope during the painful struggle of Covid-19.

Next to Love and Belonging, we want those we love to have a deep sense of hopefulness.

This evening, I want to offer us a way to foster hopefulness in our personal lives—NOW.

Before learning about C.R. Snyder’s research on hope, I thought hope was a feeling of possibility; and as a theologian I had all kinds of Bible material on the topic. But according to Snyder, hope isn’t an emotion; it’s a way of thinking about something. Emotional literacy plays a supporting role, but hope is really a style of directing the mind, which involves goals, pathways and agency.

According to Snyder, hope happens when:

  1. We have the ability to set realistic goals (I know where I want to go).
  2. We are able to figure out how to move toward those goals, including the ability to stay flexible and develop alternative routes (I know how to get there, I’m persistent, and I can tolerate disappointment and try again).
  3. We believe in ourselves (I can do this!).

HOPE as a Spiritual Practice:

I realize every person’s situation is different today. While one medical worker wonders when she will hold her baby again, a fellow parent on the same block wonders when he will walk his child to the school bus stop, or receive a paycheck, again. The intensity of longing and wondering puts the squeeze on the hopefulness of both parents.

No matter what you hope for, do yourself a favor and meditate your way through Snyder’s pathway and your situation. 1.) Envision meeting your goal and talk to God about the worthiness of what you hope for. 2.) Admit, “God I don’t have the power to control the outcome; but I am brave enough to commit and persist through the twists and turns of my situation (Read Psalm 37). 3.) Finally, remind yourself of a time in the past when you faced uncertainty and persisted. Say, “I’ve done it before; I can do this again.”

Is this a formula for hopefulness? Not really. It’s a spiritual practice that trains the mind and transforms the self. I offer it to us, because I’m passionate about us learning HOW to hope in life-changing ways.

Rest well and take JOY,
Katie

Rise Up

I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Ephesians 3

Easter Monday Prayer: Risen Christ, you include me in your mystery of passion, death, waiting, and new life. Because I trust YOU, I trust my own deaths too. Allow me this Easter to go further with you and to trust the Power of Resurrection. Amen


Before you read: Watch and listen!

It is Easter Monday: Holy Week has happened; and Spring has sprung. We are perhaps halfway through this BIG Pause, and we’re now fully aware we are making history. We’ve never experienced a global pandemic with a national shutdown before. When it’s over, most of us will look back on this as a live-changing event.

What are you learning so far? What good will come from what we’re going through? To put it another way: When this is over, what are you willing to let back into your life? We have a chance to think about that.

There is a lot of speculation going on about the meaning and purpose of our pain—on the individual and collective level.

This week, I’ll devote the evening musings to the practical process of rising strong in midst of suffering. Learning and growing through hardship isn’t guaranteed; but it’s powerfully possible. Going from strength to strength over the course of our lives mostly depends on the quality of consciousness we bring to the evolving stories of our lives.

And since we’re all in weird times this Easter Week, why not go on an intentional treasure hunt for the next great thing to be uncovered in our hearts? Each evening this week, I’ll bring a different rising strong topic and a new exercise for rising.

Spiritual Practice

This evening our practice is to be mindful of our Easter Monday status of being in-Christ. You are literally filled up to all the fullness of God. I know: You don’t always feel that way, and neither do I.

Listen again to the theme song for this Easter week, performed by our worship musicians at Crossroads. It’s lit up with photos of families who are rising strong.

Read aloud the verses from Ephesians 3 and the starter prayer at the top of this post.

Rest Well knowing you are in good hands,
Katie

Abnormally Holy

“The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.” Jesus speaking; John 12

Starter Prayer: Risen Christ, you include me in your mystery of passion, death, waiting, and new life. Because I trust YOU, I trust my own deaths too. Allow me this Easter to go further with you and to trust the Power of Resurrection. Amen


The worship and devotional practices of Holy Week and Good Friday are meant to teach us about the mysterious and holy cycle of suffering, death and resurrection as ultimately demonstrated by Jesus of Nazareth for our salvation. As we read the final chapters of Jesus’s story, and remember his arrest and execution, we are meant to allow his loving mercy to comfort us in our own suffering. This is the purpose of the readings, songs and prayers of a “normal” Holy Week.

But this Holy Week is not “normal.” This Holy Week we are literally living in the drama and themes of Passover, Death and Waiting for Resurrection. Passover: There is a plague in the land, which we pray will pass. Death: But as we pray, “Let this cup pass from us,” people are dying anyway. And Waiting: When will the dying be over and salvation from COVID-19 be realized?

When a seed falls into the ground and dies, there is a kernel of power within the seed. Deep in the darkness of the soil, life is erupting. In time, we will see new life.

I believe these deaths and resurrections naturally occur in the world. And the pattern points to an even larger reality. God is Love, and God works these very same risings in our individual lives and in the events of history until the redemption of the whole world. For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that all who believe in him will not die, but will have eternal life.

Spiritual Practice

Pray the Starter Prayer at the top of this post. And in preparation for Good Friday, I urge us to read the Story of the Cross of Jesus from Matthew Chapters 24-27. Pay special attention to the Focus Passage: Matthew 27:45-56 and the Daily Verse for Good Friday: “Truly this man was God’s son!” The full Holy Week Reading Plan is online.

Please join us online at 6:30pm Friday for a live Good Friday meditation led by Pastor Ryan Howell. I know that Ryan will do a beautiful job of simply leading us to the Cross and through the Paschal mystery of Jesus. If you’re able, have three candles and something to eat and drink. We will take communion together.

The Power and the Peace of Christ be yours this Abnormally, Holy Week,
Katie

p.s. Online Easter events for adults and Kids are coming Sunday! Crossroads Kids Live Party is at 9am and Easter with amazing music and message is at 10am.

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.

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

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.