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)

Courage That Cares (Day 21)

When we stop caring what people think, we lose our capacity for connection. But when we are defined by what people think, we lose the courage to be vulnerable. Brené Brown

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Psalm 23:5


As we practice the rising strong process, we will encounter the gap between our own strength and the emotionally resilient person we long to be.

In Psalm 23, the shepherd-king David poetically bridges this gap. He describes what it feels like to walk through life as a vulnerable human being AND also one who is deeply connected to God’s strength. It’s like being fed and cared for when you’re tired. It’s like going through death and darkness, while tethered to God’s light and life. It’s like God affirming you out loud in front of your critics and enemies.

In Rising Strong, the author describes a healthy pathway for dealing with the critics in our lives. It’s not as simple as NOT caring what people think. Criticism hurts; and sadly both loved ones and strangers will attempt to control us with criticism. We might try the tactic of “I don’t care what you think”, but that’s actually a form of emotional armor that will fail us. For me, the armor fails when I’m tired, my heart opens up and suddenly the hurt rushes in.

Brené Brown writes in Chapter 10:

When we stop caring what people think, we lose our capacity for connection. But when we are defined by what people think, we lose the courage to be vulnerable. The solution is getting totally clear on the people whose opinions actually matter. On a one-inch-by-one-inch square of paper, I want you to write down the names of the people who really matter. This is a sacred little space. If you have more names than can fit on a square this size, you need to edit. These should be the people who love you not despite your imperfections and vulnerabilities, but because of them. When you’re facedown in the arena, these are the folks who will pick you up and confirm that the fall totally sucked, then remind you that you’re brave and they’ll be there to dust you off the next time. You should also include the people who are brave enough to say “I disagree” or “I think you’re wrong,” and who will question you when they see you acting outside of your values. I carry my square in my wallet.

I’ve learned that spiritual strength is something God forges in us as we do spiritual practices. The 1×1 square paper exercise is a spiritual practice for staying connected in the midst of criticism. So is meditating on Psalm 23, especially verse 5.

Bible scholar Howard Macy writes: In subtle and even surprising ways [The Psalms] show us the “real world,” they draw us ever steadily toward authentic wholeness, and they bring us to see and delight in the God who is with us.

So, who are the people on your 1×1 square and why?

Now picture yourself seated at the foot of a long dinner table with your trusted people seated on your right and left and God (Parent God, Sibling Jesus or Holy Spirit) at the head. The critics in your life are also at the table, but God and your trusted friends are in charge of this dinner, and God has provided food, drink and a place of belonging for everyone.

How do you feel about this picture? In what ways does it change your view of being criticized?

Starter Prayer

LORD God, help me get clear about the people whose opinions really matter.

Reading Focus for Rising Strong, by Brené Brown

We are moving into 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.

Going Back Into the Arena (Day 6)

I want to be in the arena. I want to be brave with my life. And when we make the choice to dare greatly, we sign up to get our asses kicked. We can choose courage or we can choose comfort, but we can’t have both. Not at the same time. Brené Brown.

I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance. It is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be put to shame in any way, but that by my speaking with all boldness, Christ will be exalted now as always in my body, whether by life or by death. The Apostle Paul (Philippians 1:19-20)


In the introduction to Rising Strong, Brené Brown writes about two counterfeit versions of courage that are overused in our day: ‘gold-plated grit’ and the ‘badassery deficit’. You can google these phrases or read about them in Rising Strong.

Continue reading Going Back Into the Arena (Day 6)