Process

The Spirit of Christ is within us, inspiring creativity as a way of life. Ephesians 2

Creator God, why do I resist the creative process in my own life? Help me enjoy my life as a work in progress. Help me celebrate the creative process in other lives as well. Amen


It’s been almost three months since we moved into our newly remodeled house, and we’ve averaged a couple of big move-in chores per day ever since. First it was the beds, then the clothes, the kitchen and the furniture. Yesterday Dave finished the sprinkler system, and now he’s into earth-moving, manure and grass seed. Yippee! Today I’m washing summer blankets that smell like cardboard boxes. This evening we plan to hang some artwork. On second thought, I’m done working today, and the artwork will have to wait for tomorrow or next year.

Why is this move-in taking so long? Two good reasons: 1.) The world is experiencing a pandemic, some symptoms of which I pray are beginning to recede in your life. And speaking of life, 2.) I’m still trying to live mine—exercising, socializing with family, washing clothes, cooking for fun, working a meaningful job, watching movies, reading, expecting my first grandchild, and getting the travel trailer ready for a road trip to Montana. So truthfully, there will be little progress made on the yard or artwork until late-June.

And while it’s easy for us to feel behind or overwhelmed about the business of life, the important thing to remember is that EVERYTHING is ALWAYS a work in progress. Not because we are unable to finish something, but because life and work is a continual process. One who is unwilling to embrace this reality will never be happy and will spread their misery far and wide.

I hope this pandemic has helped you move closer to accepting process-orientation as a healthy state of life and not some kind of failure. Process-orientation is a term used by helping professionals who walk with people through challenging times. Therapists, life coaches and other guides are held accountable for allowing clients to evolve without the pressure to perform or reach the helper’s goals. Shouldn’t we extend the same grace to ourselves? If process-orientation is important in therapy, isn’t it important in everything?

Spiritual Practice

Right now, I’m looking at the evolving backyard. On the one hand it looks like a lot of dirt; and I can smell manure. On the other hand, it looks fresh and new and ready to get growing.

What is unfinished and evolving in your life? (That’s a trick question. The answer is: Everything!) Where are you in the process? And how can “behind” be reframed as “on the way?”

Take courage,
Katie

Illness as a Messenger

May grace come to restore you to balance.
May it shape a new space in your heart
To embrace this illness as a teacher
Who has come to open your life to new worlds.
John O’Donohue


Before I write about the hope of springtime, I want to say something about illness.

Illness is a messenger. When your body takes ill, it’s speaking. When a social illness erupts in a family, there is a message for the family leader/s. When a church or corporation turns toxic, it’s time to listen up big time. When a pandemic strikes the earth, there is an important message for her inhabitants.

And when it’s a pandemic, I can’t help but think the message is for the whole global community, rather than for a specific individual; although illness amidst pandemic speaks to individually infected people and families as well.

You may think I’m crazy for saying these things, but many of you know what I’m talking about. To soften the claim let me explain:

The message of illness is not a shaming or hurtful message. It’s always a sign of hope for your wellbeing. Your body has been created by God to care enough about you to speak up and help you heal. And so too, the earth that God created and loves always cares enough to speak to her inhabitants when we are hurting.

Everything I’ve just said is an oversimplification of a life principle, which is never straightforward and calls for careful interpretation.

Tonight, I just wanted to name it. To get it off my chest. To ask us to begin thinking about it. This pandemic is a messenger.

Spiritual Practice

To get us started thinking about the hopeful possibilities, here is a blessing from the late John O’Donohue, a poet, theologian and philosopher.

A Blessing for a Friend on the Arrival of Illness
by John O’Donohue


Now is the time of dark invitation
Beyond a frontier that you did not expect
Abruptly, your old life seems distant.
You barely noticed how each day opened
A path through fields never questioned,
Yet expected deep down to hold treasure.
Now your time on earth becomes full of threat;
Before your eyes your future shrinks.
You lived absorbed in the day to day,
So continuous with everything around you,
That you could forget you were separate;
Now this dark companion has come between you,
Distances have opened in your eyes,
You feel that against your will
A stranger has married your heart.
Nothing before has made you
Feel so isolated and lost.
When the reverberations of shock subside in you,
May grace come to restore you to balance.
May it shape a new space in your heart
To embrace this illness as a teacher
Who has come to open your life to new worlds.

May you find in yourself
A courageous hospitality
Towards what is difficult,
Painful and unknown.

May you use this illness
As a lantern to illuminate
The new qualities that will emerge in you.
May the fragile harvesting of this slow light
Help you to release whatever has become false in you.
May you trust this light to clear a path
Through all the fog of old unease and anxiety
Until you feel arising within you a tranquility
Profound enough to call the storm to stillness.
May you find the wisdom to listen to your illness:
Ask it why it came? Why it chose your friendship?
Where it wants to take you? What it wants you to know?
What quality of space it wants to create in you?
What you need to learn to become more fully yourself
That your presence may shine in the world.
May you keep faith with your body,
Learning to see it as a holy sanctuary
Which can bring this night-wound gradually
Towards the healing and freedom of dawn.

May you be granted the courage and vision
To work through passivity and self-pity,
To see the beauty you can harvest
From the riches of this dark invitation.

May you learn to receive it graciously,
And promise to learn swiftly
That it may leave you newborn,
Willing to dedicate your time to birth.

Sleep peacefully,
Katie

Global

Go into all the world and share God’s Love with every creature. Mark 16

God who is able to open the eyes of our hearts: Give our graduates the special ability to share their compassion and talents during these trying times. Amen


This week’s evening drop of hope is dedicated to the class of 2020. Yesterday I wrote about the reality of being chosen. Today I’m thinking about the significance of global compassion within our graduates.

My youngest daughter Amy graduated from CU in December—not quite the class of 2020, but close enough! So, here’s an open letter to Amy. Some of these ideas are inspired by a recent editorial written by Melinda and Bill Gates.

Dear Amy: Your grandparents were just coming of age at the end of WW2—over 70 years ago. In 1947, then Secretary of State George C. Marshall gave the commencement address at Harvard University. He urged the graduates to rise above their own comfort and security and assist our European neighbors despite being “distant from the troubled areas of the Earth.”

About that time, your Grandfather Eusebio Martinez was your age and living with his Mexican, immigrant family in north Denver. Grandpa Chepo was deployed under the Marshall Plan and served with the U.S. Army near Munich. It was there that he met a 19-year-old Bavarian villager, Anna Höecker.

Your grandparents fell in love in war-torn Germany where Chepo was serving the vision of the Marshall Plan. This strategy, which helped Western Europe recover, also spurred a turning point in history from global war to an era of peace and prosperity.

Today in 2020, we again face mass suffering and uncertainty. Again, groups will need to work together to recover and rebuild. Only now, we look to a generation of young adults who are extremely tuned in to the world. Unlike the Harvard grads of 1947, you are well acquainted with what is happening all over the globe! You’ve been online since you were toddlers. You consume popular culture from near and far. Your thinking has been shaped by a multiplicity of mentors who speak various languages. You have access to the truth about our cruelest problems such as racism, economic injustice, mass incarceration and hunger.

I am hopeful, because your access to cross cultural information and experiences has made you exceptionally compassionate and aware. You know that you are inextricably connected to the whole human family—across generations, ethnicities and access to resources. There is no limit to how you might serve humanity well—public service, teaching, writing, parenting, researching, healing, feeding…

It’s true. You’re entering the workforce in a time of global suffering. For some time, you and your peers will grieve the loss of rituals and rites of passage like grad parties, family memorials, weddings and birthday celebrations. Your sister Anne will give birth to your nephew, and there will be no baby shower– perhaps not even a hospital or home visit. These are big deals that will change us forever.

You and your peers have a hike ahead of you. So, don’t accept any pressure to answer the big questions about jobs, housing plans or graduate school on anyone’s timeline but your own. There are so many ways you can use your voice and share your talents, wherever you are. Oswald Chambers said that prayer is the highest form of social justice. Jesus said that sharing food and water with the hungry and thirsty proves that one is close to God.

The willingness to connect and serve the world led your grandparents to overcome global tragedy and create a better world. Now it’s our turn. The same spirit that empowered Jesus is still healing the world from generation to generation. I treasure every moment we have to love and serve together. Love, Mom.

Spiritual Practice

Friends: If you have endured this mercilessly long post, will you also join me in serving the class of 2020? 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

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

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

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