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

Simply Enough

Every generous act of giving comes from above. James, the brother of Jesus

Giving God, we are amazed by your creative generosity. Help us to trust and participate in your way of sharing and providing. Give us eyes to see who is being left out; and give us the courage to broaden our circles of care.   


Yesterday afternoon I made corned beef and cabbage. I couldn’t find a green cabbage, but I found a red one—good enough. I didn’t have large carrots, but Amy had a small bag of mini carrots—good enough. I was out of onions, and a neighbor gave me her two onions—simply enough.

This ordinary experience has me thinking about the way God moves provisions through people to overcome scarcity and create enough.

Remember the Jesus story where he has the disciples seat a hungry crowd on the green grass? Jesus and his team then create a meal out of next-to-nothing. The story is all about God overcoming scarcity. Everyone was invited to the table, and everyone was fed and satisfied—unlimited inclusion; unlimited food.

Contrast this with the Old Testament story of Joseph, his brothers and an Egyptian Pharaoh during a famine. Joseph tells his brothers to lie to Pharaoh and tell Pharaoh they are cattlemen rather than shepherds when they ask for food. Pharaoh controls the food supply; and he dislikes shepherds.

Walter Brueggemann comments: Pharaoh’s practice is quite ordinary. We are always sorting out people to see who qualifies for abundance, whether by race, class, gender, character, education, performance, or production. This is standard practice in every society. But Jesus is extraordinary. No norms of qualification. No questions asked. All are welcome! All are fed! Jesus’s extraordinary generosity contrasts with the ordinary outlook of Pharaoh.

Spiritual Practice:

Consider these things: With whom are you sharing these days? It matters not what you have nor what you need: It matters that we share. God moves resources through people. Period. If our table is open to everyone, our hands are extended for sharing and our hearts are humble for receiving… we simply will have enough.

With whom are you sharing these days? Who shares with you? Leave a comment and tell us about your circle of sharing and how you plan to expand it during our community-wide struggle with the spread of the coronavirus.

Have a blessed day and peaceful night,
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

Elevate Our Hearts Today

Sometimes God’s vision of a new humanity is proclaimed in the world through the life and voice of one ordinary, enlightened person. Their words are so stunning and true, we simply can’t get past this person’s message. We cannot see around the largess of the vision. We can only marvel at the relationship between this person’s imagination and the mind of God.


Jesus is the Ultimate Example of such a life. The message and leadership of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. is also an example. Reverend King’s life is a stunning illustration of how every human being might live into a portion of God’s work and imagination.

Old Testament scholar Walter Brueggemann puts it so well:

On this day when we remember Martin Luther King, we recall especially his “dream speech” in which he articulated a version of the kingdom of God when there would be reconciliation and solidarity across all our distinctions. King spoke out of a renovated imagination. He no longer imagined the world according to the corrupt imagination of fear and hate. He summoned his listeners into that renovated imagination through which God’s future could be seen differently… We are invited by Dr. King to engage in the new creation, apart from old ways of wounding and division.

Our hearts are elevated this day, because Divine Love within us identifies with King’s vision and King’s sacrifice.

If we are so graced today, we might empathize with the suffering of the tens of thousands of God’s children who marched and wept and prayed and suffered violence during the Civil Rights Movement in this land. If we are so graced, we might empathize with the millions upon millions of Africans who journeyed through the dark waters of the Middle Passage to this land. If we are so graced, we might agonize with the five thousand who bore the lynching tree even after the Emancipation Proclamation of this land. If we are so graced, we shall face the reality of the mass incarceration of black persons in this land today—and fight it as the plague it is.

This day let us remember the dream. Let it elevate our hearts. And let us contemplate our own true calling.

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. (Hebrews 4)

Prayer for the day: God of all our births, give us in this season [Epiphany] a fresh capacity to see your hope for your world and resolve to live according to that vision. In his name. Amen. (Walter Brueggemann)

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.

Can Do (Day 40)

Showing up is our power.
Story is our way home.
Truth is our song.
We are the brave and brokenhearted.
We are rising strong. Brené Brown

I’ve been having a great celebration in the Lord because your concern for me has once again burst into flower. I’m not talking about lacking anything. I’ve learnt to be content with what I have. I know how to do without, and I know how to cope with plenty. In every possible situation I’ve learned the hidden secret of being full and hungry, of having plenty and going without, and it’s this: I have strength for everything in the one who gives me power. The Apostle Paul (Philippians 4:10-13)


The Rising strong process is largely about finding our True Power. Throughout Rising Strong, Brené Brown explains how the brain works and how human beings tend to react to uncomfortable feelings by using false power. Some of us over-function: I won’t feel; I will do; I don’t need help, I help. Others under-function: I won’t function, I will fall apart. I don’t help, I need help. Some people lash out when they’re hurting. Other people distance themselves. Every personality has a style of misusing power.

The Book of Philippians is the Apostle Paul’s ‘thank you note’ to a group of friends who helped him survive prison. They sent financial gifts and visitors. The Philippian group had also received a great deal from Paul in the form of spiritual leadership and teaching. In essence Paul and his friends had formed a mutually supportive relationship of giving and receiving. They trusted one another. Each partner was willing to be vulnerable with the other in times of need. Each was empathetic with the other in the face down moments—coming alongside without judgment.

The friendship illustrated throughout the letter, is a beautiful example of rising strong in action—of finding God’s power in ourselves and others.

This rising strong life is counterintuitive and somewhat rare. In the next and (and final) paragraph of Philippians 4, Paul mentions that “no other church shared with me in this manner of giving and receiving.” Apparently, the Philippians were practicing the ‘physics of vulnerability’ quite well, and Paul was commending them for it. He was also modeling the vulnerability of giving and receiving.

When we begin spiritual practices like receiving help, Living BIG, integrity of values, BRAVING Trust or feeling JOY, they feel unnatural. And yet, I’m convinced that these practices are, as Paul puts it, the “hidden secret” for contentment.

Our lives will be utterly different when we learn the secret of contentment—living in the power of vulnerability, which is only possible because Christ gives us grace.

It is possible for all of us to become brave with our lives every day. Once we have fallen in the service of being brave, and once we have experienced the power of vulnerability, we are able to continue living moment by moment, rising strong.

Starter Prayer

LORD God, teach me the hidden secret of contentment and strength, which comes from Christ‘s power working in me.

Reading Focus for Rising Strong, by Brené Brown

We are now in week 6, of this 6-week study. The focus is Chapters 11 of Rising Strong. The topic is the Revolution– keys learnings and writing a brave new ending.