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

The Name Game

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1

Gracious God, help us to become masters of recognizing and regulating own emotions and thus a transforming presence in an anxious world. Amen


My colleague Ryan Howell is on Facebook Live, 10am weekdays, sharing a Daily Drop of Hope. This morning the topic was The Blame Game. I encourage you to join Ryan for a hopeful thoughts and actual Bible wisdom. (Sometimes the Bible is used to spread foolery—just sayin’.)

And now for my expertise on the Blame Game: I have thousands of stories of me using blame to discharge my own emotional discomfort. However, I have no actual video footage of me doing these childish things. And, since videos of people mercilessly blaming people are funny, I’ll borrow one from Brené Brown.

Here’s what we know about the blame game from researcher Brené Brown and the Daring Way™ community of helping professionals.

  1. We play it when we’re feeling hurt, frustrated, afraid. (Often it’s fear.)
  2. The antidote is to play the Name Game instead.

The Name Game is a little game you play with yourself when you have a blaming thought or say a blaming thing. The object of the Name Game is to graciously NAME a few things about yourself in an effort to stop the spiral and observe yourself truthfully. The payoff is peace, love and a little JOY.

Make no mistake the Name Game takes skill and courage. In order to win you need to:

  1. Name the feeling/emotion you are experiencing. (Here’s a list of core emotions; be aware that anger is what we consider a secondary emotion. It’s usually masking other emotions. Name the emotions that often show up as anger for you.)
  2. Name the place in your body where you physically feel discomfort. (Rapid pulse, dry mouth, constricted throat, racing heart, churning stomach, aching head, shaking hands, weak legs… Are we having fun yet?)
  3. Name the thoughts in your mind: (What thought loops occupy your mind; or what does your thought-process look/sound like when you’re playing the blame game?)

The Name Game is a hard alternative to blame, and it’s the only path to freedom when you get emotionally hooked. Naming your emotions and mental story lines is a way to become a transforming presence in yourself, your home and your workplace.

Spiritual Practice

Think about a time you blamed or were tempted to blame. Can you name what you were feeling?

Name the places in your body where you felt uncomfortable. And name the thoughts you were having when you blamed.

In this season, let’s be on the lookout for our own negative emotions, bodily discomfort and scary thoughts. AND! Let’s be watching out for fellow travelers who are having these experiences; and let’s show them some grace. Empathy means being able to feel what the other is feeling. Imagine what they might be feeling in their body and saying in their mind. Then say a prayer for the person and let it go!

Grace can take you places hustling can’t! (Liz Gilbert)

Have a blessed evening; and rest safely,

Katie

Take Courage

Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side. Later that night, the boat was pounded by the waves, and the wind was against it. Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake.When the disciples saw him, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear. But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” Matthew 14

Lord Jesus, who brings calm out of chaos: Help us recover our True Selves, that we might trust you with courageous and free hearts. Amen


The Bible tells a story about Jesus’s disciples being afraid during a storm. (A common childhood fear.) One evening after a long day of teaching and feeding a crowd, Jesus directed his friends to take their boat to the other side of a large lake. He then headed into the mountains for an evening of solitude. (A common practice among wise parents and servant leaders!)

At dawn he comes walking to them on the stormy lake. When they see him, they are terrified and telling themselves a catastrophic story—“Not only are we stuck in a violent storm, but a dark spirit is coming after us too!”

The disciples’ emotional reaction lines up with Brené Brown’s research on courage and human nature. When something bad happens to us, the brain immediately concocts a story to make sense out of the events. The story does NOT need to be true; in fact it’s usually untrue. Your brain is looking for the quickest explanation in an effort to protect yourself. This is why it’s so hard to stay grounded in faith when something scary is happening.

The disciples are frightened by the storm. They don’t quite trust Jesus, because they’re not yet convinced of God’s power to walk us through difficulty. Jesus explains to them that they have “hard hearts”—they are stuck thinking in the false and fearful categories of scarcity, victimization and self-protection.

It’s easy in this troubled world to forget that we are the children of God. When get overwhelmed, we fall prey to anxiety about scarcity and catastrophe.

Spiritual Practice:

Lent is a good time to remember who we are and what it means to be children of God and disciples of Christ. In the story, Jesus urges us, “Take courage! Don’t be afraid.” The story tells us that 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 freedom and well-being is fear and greed. 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.

As I’m typing this, the news is telling scary stories about the consequences of coronavirus in Italy. I’m glad we can practice some simple self-care wherever we are.

Have a blessed evening, and rest safely,

Katie

A Daily Drop of Nature

The whole earth is filled with awe at your wonders;
    where morning dawns, where evening fades,
    you call forth songs of joy. Psalm 65

Creator God who is present in Jesus and every creature, forgive our small, cramped sense of life. During these unsettling days, draw us into your larger LOVE so that we might experience pure JOY.


In the past week of the coronavirus pandemic, I’ve watched an evolution of mindset and practices in my neighborhood. It’s good.

Saturday morning, I jogged down to the River’s Edge Natural Area. The route was oddly quiet—fewer walkers, runners and canine companions than usual. I started to wonder why my neighbors were missing their nature-time on a fairly mild weekend morning.

Only one car was in the parking lot. As I got closer, I could see a person asleep in the driver’s seat, and there was a sign was on the window. I was afraid to get close enough to read the sign, but I guessed it was someone letting us know—I’m not camping here; I’m just resting. Or, I’m homeless; Please let me sleep!

I left the person in peace and finished my circuit around the ponds. Still I saw no other exercisers. The lone car was still alone. Suddenly I panicked, “Has there been a big announcement that everyone should stay inside?” I checked my phone and saw nothing noteworthy.

Then I remembered how scrambled up my own morning routine has been for the past week. My appetite is weird. I’m turning on the news at odd times. I’m checking my phone. I’m having a hard time prioritizing work and domestic tasks… I imagine that we’re all in the same boat with shifting routines and some level of anxiety.

Fast forward to today, and the scene was much different. My exercise route was packed with people, children, and new dogs! I suspect the community is responding to the needs of our own souls. Mindful of the toll that uncertainty is taking of our emotional well-being, we’re looking for ways to experience some of life’s simple, healthy JOYS. Getting outside with pets and Framily (friends and fam) is one such JOY.

At times it’s almost impossible to enjoy God’s gifts, because we are understandably consumed with the dangers and responsibilities of life. Many days we miss God’s abundance in the rivers, mountains, singing birds and faithful dogs of the EVERY-day life. Too often, we miss the JOY of human Love. These things are not only free gifts; they are God’s healing gifts that reduce anxiety and bring hope.

Spiritual Practice:

When I can’t seem to remember what JOY feels like, I try to find one sweet thought from scripture or a book I’m reading. And then I spend some time outside in nature mediating on that thought. And if someone in my Framily wants to join me, I swap the meditation part for some companionship. Both experiences are powerful forms of prayer and healing.

While we’re in this struggle together, let’s get a daily drop of hope– from nature.

Have a blessed day and restful night,

Katie

The Art Of Thanksgiving

May you be made strong with God’s strength.
And have True Power and be prepared
to endure all things with patience.
And may you learn the Art of Thanksgiving
from the God who has promised you
inheritance as the children of light.

(Adapted from Colossians Chapter 1)


Every spring our family would hold our breath as the goslings and their parents migrated from the ponds near our home to the larger lake across the road.

The fuzzy yellow babes would toddle behind their parents through dangerous territory. They had to cross streets and make their way through yards where dogs and cats were watching. When the processional began, our own young daughters would work together, securing the neighborhood predators and summoning their father to direct traffic.

Fortunately, the geese always reached their destination safely. And we were amazed at the parents’ confidence as they led their vulnerable families through potential hazards and on to the real world where they would grow to maturity.

Today, I feel a little like Mother Goose. I’ve just facilitated my first 40 Days of Rising Strong group experience. I’ve heard your encouraging stories and over-heard your brave conversations. We’ve been able to discuss, and even practice, the rising strong process with friends on the same journey. And now it’s time to cross the road and walk into some challenging environments.

The holiday season will be rife with all familiar stressors and emotional triggers. We will be with some people who have never heard of the Manifesto of the Brave and Brokenhearted or reckoning with emotion or the story rumble. This is going to be quite a challenge. How will we hold on to our divine dignity while honoring the dignity of others?

The mother goose used her natural instincts to get her family safely to the other side. Unfortunately, our natural human instincts aren’t as effective. We are more complicated creatures; we have emotional wounds and flaws. We need our rising strong practices, and we need to employ them as spiritual practices—inviting God into the practice itself.

As Christ followers who have learned to rise, we have newfound wisdom to understand what is happening to us and how we can co-operate with the divine life that is gently working and growing within us.

We can nurture this process with prayer and awareness.

Today, I am meditating on Paul’s prayer for wisdom and thanksgiving in Colossians 1. The phrase that is speaking to me is: Learn the Art of Thanksgiving from the God who has promised you inheritance as the children of light.

Sometimes I don’t feel like a thankful child of light. When my feelings get the best of me and I say or do something to aggravate a relational dynamic, I want to remember that God is working in me to transform me into a shining light.

I hope you will join me and keep Paul’s prayer close this week. And I encourage us to review the rising strong practices. You pick two! Pick one that you are good at, and pick one you suck at! Then practice these two with reckless abandon on Thanksgiving Day. I’ve chosen: 1.) Believing that people are doing the best they can and 2.) Choosing courage over comfort.

If anyone is up for it, I would love to hear your questions and wisdoms in the comments section on this blog.

I’m Thankful for You! Katie

Starter Prayer

LORD God, give me True Power and teach me the Art of Thanksgiving.