Let JOY Live (Day 33)

JOY is the most vulnerable emotion we experience. Brené Brown

Celebrate joyfully in the Lord, all the time. I’ll say it again: celebrate! Let everybody know how gentle and gracious you are. The Lord is near. The Apostle Paul (Philippians 4:4-5)


Over decades of research, Dr. Brené Brown has discovered that vulnerability is not weakness—in fact, it is the source of human strength. This aligns with what the Apostle Paul discovered in his own spiritual journey. Paul talks about his weaknesses and how human vulnerability is actually the pathway for union with God as well as our most blissful experiences of love, creativity, JOY and belonging.

Dr. Brown also found that JOY is the most vulnerable emotion we experience. No wonder Paul urges his community to be vulnerable and let JOY roam free. The ability to do so is key to spiritual transformation.

According to Brown’s research, 90% of us have a type of “armor” we use to protect us from the powerful emotion of JOY. She calls it “foreboding joy.”

Since JOY is the most vulnerable emotion we experience, if we are not emotionally capable of tolerating joy, we try to protect our hearts by “dress rehearsing tragedy.” That is, imagining something bad is going to happen, when in fact, nothing is wrong.

It happened to me often when my girls were little. Five of us would be piled up on our king-sized bed for story time, my newborn baby snuggling in a proud sister’s arms. Then suddenly a dark feeling would wash over me: What if one of them dies?

‘Foreboding joy’ still happens to me these days. I’ll wake up in the morning and think: I’m so excited about our house remodel, the church is thriving, our parents are doing well… This can’t last. What hard thing is going to happen next?

“What wrong with that?” you say. “I do it all the time, and I think I should! It’s one of the ways I stay realistic and ready for life’s hardships.”

Well, during her research, Brené Brown met people who don’t rehearse tragedy. These people had profound capacity for JOY. When something glorious was happening to them, they felt happy. Instead of practicing disaster, they use JOY as a gentle reminder to practice gratitude. These same people do very well when hardship hits. They have strong skills in empathy, practicing values, withstanding criticism, rumbling with their tough stories and Rising Strong after a setback.

One more thought: How many of us use “foreboding joy” to control others? Parents, maybe you’re afraid that celebrating your child’s success today will cause them to stop trying hard tomorrow. Or at work, do you ever withhold a celebration, because you want the team to keep on improving their performance?  

The capacity to be joyful without engaging in self-protection is exactly what Paul is encouraging here in Philippians Chapter 4. He is urging us to fully feel our JOY and celebrate with others.

How would today be different for you if you let JOY roam free in your heart and home and workplace?

Starter Prayer

LORD God, make me brave enough to be joyful.

Reading Focus for Rising Strong, by Brené Brown

We are now in week 5, of this 6-week study. The focus is Chapters 9-10 of Rising Strong. The topics are: rumbling with failure and self-worth.

Worthy of Love and Belonging (Day 32)

I define wholehearted living as engaging in our lives from a place of worthiness. It means cultivating the courage, compassion, and connection to wake up in the morning and think, “No matter what gets done and how much is left undone, I am enough. It’s going to bed at night thinking, Yes, I am imperfect and vulnerable and sometimes afraid, but that doesn’t change the truth that I am brave and worthy of love and belonging.” Brené Brown.

But our citizenship[l] is in heaven, and it is from there that we are expecting a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. He will transform the body of our humiliation that it may be conformed to the body of his glory, by the power that also enables him to make all things subject to himself. The Apostle Paul (Philippians 20-21)


In Philippians 3, Paul is comparing and contrasting the power of God with the power of earthly rulers and systems. He is admitting that even faithful believers can get confused and put our faith in the world’s survival tactics. He is urging us to think of ourselves as ‘citizens of heaven’ instead. For Christ’s followers, the faith community (church) is a ‘colony of heaven’; and we are responsible for bringing God’s rule into our homes, churches and the spaces where we daily live.

Of course, we’re not very good at this! Plus, things often go wrong, and as Brené Brown puts it: You’re going to stumble, fall, and get your ass kicked. And sometimes we simply find ourselves weak and helpless, because our minds and bodies are subject to sickness, aging, fatigue and all that fun stuff.

Even if we have turned our lives over to the saving grace of a higher power (in the Christian sense, Christ Jesus), we still have climbing to do and falls to rise from. In the words of Robert Frost, I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep.

Nevertheless, we hope and trust that Christ Jesus himself will keep on transforming our hearts, life circumstances and relationships. And much of our hope is in the long game—that better days are coming when Christ will thoroughly transform creation.

I believe that the concept of ‘wholehearted living’, which came out of Brené Brown’s research, is similar to what Jesus called ‘choosing the narrow road that leads to life’. I also think it maps with Paul’s idea of ‘being transformed through the renewing of our minds’ rather than ‘conforming’ to the world’s ways.

In Rising Strong, Dr. Brown talks about living wholeheartedly from the starting place of worthiness. How does your faith in God (Christian or other) help you establish and maintain a sense of “worthiness” each day? What difference does “worthiness” make in your ability to live a brave and joyful life?

Starter Prayer

LORD God, help me begin and end each day grounded in worthiness.

Reading Focus for Rising Strong, by Brené Brown

We are now in week 5, of this 6-week study. The focus is Chapters 9-10 of Rising Strong. The topics are: rumbling with failure and self-worth.

No Greater Threat (Day 31)

There is no greater threat to the critics and cynics and fearmongers than those of us who are willing to fall because we have learned how to rise. Brené Brown.

Brothers and sisters, join in imitating me, and observe those who live according to the example you have in us. For many live as enemies of the cross of Christ; I have often told you of them, and now I tell you even with tears. The Apostle Paul (Philippians 3:17-18)


The critics and cynics and fearmongers…

As we read the Apostle Paul, we see how he had people problems. Does anyone reading this have a people problem?? Think: controlling parent, angry teen, uncaring boss, competitive co-worker, mean teacher, emotionally detached partner, betrayal by a friend… Or what about a problem in our culture?  Corrupt politicians, mass incarceration, illiteracy, toxic social media, neighbors threatened with deportation…

Some people read today’s passage and assume Paul was calling everyone outside his group an enemy. To many vocal Christians in today’s world, an “enemy of Christ” would be anyone who does not share that Christian’s view of the Bible and brand of morality.

Paul was referring to something else entirely. Here’s the background: Philippi was a Roman Colony. And naturally the citizens of Phillipi resented some of the tactics used by Rome to keep the colonial citizens in line: Violence, control, unjust economic practices, ethnic persecution. And! The oldest trick in the book: “Bow down to our emperor, or off to jail you go.” Furthermore, Paul had trouble with people in his own religion—fundamentalists who were pushing a purity agenda over and against the actual Good News of Jesus.

So, Paul is sick and tired of the cynics, critics and fearmongers of the day. And he is beseeching his little group to discover (and use) their true power. Paul knows he has discovered the secret of contentment and actual influence, and he wants to empower his listeners to follow his example in dealing with both petty and life-threatening challenges while remaining hopeful and full of faith.

Chapter 11 of Rising Strong is about pulling together the key learnings of the rising strong process, and beginning to apply them faithfully. The chapter ends with The Manifesto of the Brave and Brokenhearted—a celebration of those who choose to work through life’s challenges with True Power. The manifesto is an apt summary of what Paul has in mind when he says, “imitate me and people who live out a good example.”

Tomorrow, we will continue into the high-point of Philippians, where Paul describes the place of belonging for everyone who chooses life along the Jesus Way.

Starter Prayer

LORD God, point me to the people worth imitating and following. Help me be a good example and lead the way for others.

Reading Focus for Rising Strong, by Brené Brown

We are now in week 5, of this 6-week study. The focus is Chapters 9-10 of Rising Strong. The topics are: rumbling with failure and self-worth.

Resurrection Hope Happens (Day 30)

Hope happens when we can set goals, have the tenacity and perseverance to pursue those goals, and believe in our own abilities to act. Brené Brown.

Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. All of us, then, who are mature should take such a view of things. The Apostle Paul (Philippians 3:13-15)


Have you noticed that we’ve been moving through Philippians, passage by passage? If not, it doesn’t matter. We’re here, and today is a big day! It’s time for Paul’s famous statement on perseverance. He’s using his own discipleship experience as an example—trying to explain WHY there is no person who is so mature that they have ‘arrived’. There is always more traveling to do.

Our teacher is gently warning against the tendency toward religious entitlement—the assumption that if we believe the right things and do the correct practices, we can have the blessed life without waiting and longing and straining for Resurrection itself.

Paul is clear. He has not reached the goal, and neither has anyone else.

We need Paul’s kind of Resurrection HOPE: We have not arrived, and we must keep pressing forward towards the goal. A true athlete knows that the race isn’t over until the end has been reached. To see oneself in front of the pack, and therefore having arrived at the finish, is crazy. (Some of us can’t even to relate to that kind of misplaced confidence, because we’re painfully aware of how much work God is still doing in us!)

What then is the goal (or the finish line)?

Paul calls the goal: the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. And some people take that to mean simply ‘heaven’ or life after death. But if we look ahead in Philippians, we see that Paul doesn’t talk about going to heaven. He speaks instead of the Spirit of Christ transforming the world and all who live here. For Paul, living in ‘heaven’ isn’t the goal we are straining for; rather, it’s living as our transformed selves in a whole new world. So, the ‘upward call’ seems to be Resurrection itself—or whole-life, whole-earth, new-birth and transformation. (This is not to say that the afterlife doesn’t matter. I’m saying Paul was not straining to get there.)

Straining forward toward whole life transformation, means living in the present with our hope set on Resurrection. (See also Colossians 3:1-4.)

And none of this means living in a joyless, earthly struggle. Paul says he is eager to ‘overtake’ Resurrection because Christ Jesus has ‘overtaken’ him. There is no English word to capture the double meaning of ‘overtaken’ here. Paul is saying two HUGE things at once, which cannot exist apart from one another: He still has work to do to catch up and reach his goal (overtake); and at the same time, the Spirit of Christ has created a supernatural drive and zeal within him, which powers him forward (overtaken by Christ).

Brené Brown addresses the topics of hope and perseverance in Chapter 9 of Rising Strong in the section about Rumbling with Failure. Her research aligns with this passage in Philippians. I encourage us to read both passages and envision how rumbling with failure is a necessary part of transformation in individuals, families and society.

Starter Prayer

LORD God, give me Resurrection Hope, and teach me how to persevere.

Reading Focus for Rising Strong, by Brené Brown

We are now in week 5, of this 6-week study. The focus is Chapters 8-9 of Rising Strong. The topics are: rumbling with failure and self-worth.

Going in Again (Day 29)

When I see people stand fully in their truth, or when I see someone fall down, get back up, and say, Damn. That really hurt, but this is important to me and I’m going in again—my gut reaction is, “What a badass.” Brenè Brown

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. The Apostle Paul (Philippians 3:12)


Eric Liddell was the Olympian who refused to run his preferred 100-yard dash, because one of the qualifying rounds fell on the Sabbath. Instead he went on to win a gold medal in the lung-bursting 440. The scene was made famous by the movie Chariots of Fire.

How can we talk about Rising Strong, or the Book of Philippians, without a nod to this infamous moment in the history of sports?

The stage was set, and the final sprint to be run: 440 yards. Liddell and the runners were still bunched together around the first bend when Liddell was pushed over and fell entirely off the track. In a flash, he was back on his feet, as though charged within by a divine force. At the last moment he overtook the leaders for the win in his final step.

What would you have done? I suspect I would have accepted from the moment I fell that I was out of the race, with no hope left. I would have set my sights on rising strong next year. With Liddell it was the opposite. It was as though he was illustrating this passage of Paul— or Brenè Brown on the true meaning of “badassery”.

Brenè makes a deal of that ‘term’ in the introduction of Rising Strong; because she doesn’t want us to confuse the process of rising with cultural obsessions about “grit”, “swagger” and what she terms—“badassery”.

This morning I read Philippians 3:12-16 and re-read the Introduction of Rising Strong and re-watched Manifesto of the Brave and Brokenhearted.

Together, they paint a picture of the person who is willing to live bravely—not because of grit, swagger or perfection, but because they have LEARNED how to rise strong.

More on Chasing on to the Finish tomorrow.

Starter Prayer

LORD God, teach me the difference between faking it and rising strong.

Reading Focus for Rising Strong, by Brené Brown

We are now in week 5, of this 6-week study. The focus is Chapters 8-9 of Rising Strong. The topics are: rumbling with failure and self-worth.

GOOD Grief (Day 28)

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


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.

Looking back on my own life, I have endured one Great Grief so far—my parents divorce. Only a week ago, I went out of my way to drive past our little family home in north Boulder. Every time I drive through Boulder, a feeling washes over me. It is some type of longing for home—a longing for the life I loved and lost in that divorce. I love my life now and both of my parents, and the new lives we created are beautiful. Yet the longing remains.

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

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 lingering over the section on grief in Chapter 7. I encourage you to read the section and reflect on your own feelings of loss, longing and feeling lost. Try something new: indulge your memories. Then Read all of Psalm 31. Like the psalmist did, talk it out with God verbally or in writing.

If you are walking with a long-lasting and ‘complicated grief’, please go the appendix and read the notes on complicated grief. 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.

Starter Prayer

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

Reading Focus for Rising Strong, by Brené Brown

We are heading into week 5, of this 6-week study. The focus is Chapters 8-9 of Rising Strong. The topics are: rumbling with failure and self-worth.

Life-giving Endings (Day 27)

What has to end or die so we can experience a rebirth in our relationships? Brené Brown.

I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death,  and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead. The Apostle Paul (Philippians 3:10-11)


For me, today’s passage is the most personal and telling statement Paul makes in the Prison Letters. Paul wants to experience whole-life transformation, and he realizes that something must die in order for that to happen.

He realizes that Resurrection is a mystery, and he’s not sure how this will be accomplished. I suspect he is gazing at two horizons in his mind’s eye: Living in union with God now; and the assurance of safe passage through a physical death into eternal life with God.

I cherish Paul’s statement, because I have these longings myself. I want to know True Life today: healing, character transformation, JOY, freedom, creativity, Love and Wisdom… I want these goods in my heart, my home, our church, my workplace. I want a flourishing life in the kingdom of God with the family of God—NOW. And I want to see this Resurrection happening in the world, where individuals and groups of people are living in spiritual darkness, hunger, war, persecution, loneliness or exclusion in their earthly lives.

I also want to be a part of the ultimate Resurrection that God is accomplishing in all of creation and which is everlasting and beyond our dreams.

This understanding that something must die as a part of Resurrection is actually addressed by the author in Rising Strong. When she discusses Rumbling with Forgiveness, Dr. Brown frames ‘forgiveness’ as the process of healing from loss and experiencing new birth. I want to refer you to read this section in Chapter 7. Here are a few bites to whet your appetite:

“In order for forgiveness to happen, something has to die. If you make a choice to forgive, you have to face into the pain. You simply have to hurt.”

“The death or ending that forgiveness necessitates comes in many shapes and forms. We may need to bury our expectations or dreams. We may need to relinquish the power that comes with “being right” or put to rest the idea that we can do what’s in our hearts and still retain the support or approval of others.”

“So, forgiveness is not forgetting or walking away from accountability or condoning a hurtful act; it’s the process of taking back and healing our lives so we can truly live.”

After you read Rumbling with Forgiveness in Chapter 7, consider these questions:

  1. Where are you holding on too tight, because you are afraid of experiencing the pain and grief of letting go of an expectation (forgiveness)?
  2. What will you lose and grief if you let go of this expectation?
  3. What will be resurrected in your soul or relationships if you choose to walk through this grief?
  4. What expectation did God let go of when Christ Jesus came and died among us?
  5. How do you feel about this larger way of thinking about forgiveness?

Starter Prayer

LORD God, light the path of forgiveness before me. Help me make forgiveness a regular practice of rising strong.

Reading Focus for Rising Strong, by Brené Brown

We are in week 4, of this 6-week study. The focus is Chapters 7-8 of Rising Strong. The topics are: Rumbling with difficult emotions and human need. Next week our discussion groups will focus on chapters 8-9.