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.

Eye Contact (Day 20)

We don’t have to do all of it alone. We were never meant to. Brené Brown.

Still, I think it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus—my brother and co-worker and fellow soldier, your messenger and minister to my need… Welcome him then in the Lord with all joy, and honor such people, because he came close to death for the work of Christ, risking his life to make up for those services that you could not give me. The Apostle Paul (Philippians 2:25-30)


Paul ends Philippians 2 with some storytelling around his needs and the people who care for him. Apparently his support system is largely the Philippian church and two men named Timothy and Epaphroditus. It’s easy to bounce over these types passages when we read Paul’s writings. After all, they seem like personal details that would only be important to Paul and his people. His words here don’t sound like something to build your life on. Certainly not the significance of “I can do all things through Christ who give me strength” or “Make my joy complete by being of one mind.”

I could go on typing famous sound bites from Philippians until sundown. But here’s the point. These other little paragraphs are a big deal too. They give us a window into Paul’s heart. If all Paul’s writings were dense, abstract theological statements and moral instruction, we would have never known him as a human being.

Chapter 8 of Rising Strong is all about being human and ‘rumbling’ with human need. For some reason human beings tend to look away from need. When someone is grieving, dying, homeless, addicted, psychotic… we may want to look away. We also look away from our own deep need. We also find it hard to accept help from others.

In her research, Brené Brown discovered the people who rise strong are more willing to make eye contact with human need—in themselves as well as others. And she found that the two are correlated: The willingness to accept help is abundant in people who are themselves truly helpful.

How are you at making eye contact with your own needs? The storytelling in Chapter 8 is eye opening.

Starter Prayer

LORD God, help me take a long, loving look at my own need.

Reading Focus for Rising Strong, by Brené Brown

We are in week three, of this 6-week study. The focus is Chapters 5-6 of Rising Strong. The topics are: The Rumble, and Living BIG (Boundaries, Integrity and Generosity). If your discussion group has completed session three, begin reading Chapters 7-8.

Learning to Care (Day 19)


What do people with strong relationships, parents with deep connections to their children, teachers nurturing creativity and learning, clergy walking with people through faith, and trusted leaders have in common? They recognize the power of emotion and they’re not afraid to lean in to discomfort. Brené Brown

I hope to send Timothy to you soon… I have nobody else of his quality: he will care quite genuinely about how you are. Like a child with a father he has worked as a slave alongside me for the sake of the gospel. The Apostle Paul (Philippians 2:19-23)

I can’t remember when it happened, but one day I woke up and realized that my own daughters, whom I used to goad and nag to help with cooking, laundry, gardening or entertaining—even proof reading and editing—had become highly skilled and reliable in all of those things. They had learned to care about their work and the people they serve.

I realized that over years of working closely together, we had come to share a brain and a heart. And now, I have the blessing of their helpful companionship. Sometimes we work side by side as partners. And when they do work on my behalf, I know they will do an excellent job.

This is the ultimate joy of parenting, leadership and teaching in any setting. And Brené Brown’s research reminds me of an X-factor in any good apprenticeship—the factor of caring. Brené discovered that good students have been taught empathy and emotional resilience by their parents and teachers, coaches and pastors.

We learn in Paul’s letter to the Philippians that he and Timothy have worked together like father and son—in a culture where most children follow their parents into the family occupation and learn how to work by watching and copying. Now, an intimate bond has formed between the two, so much so that Paul trusts his young friend to represent him anywhere.

It’s interesting that he doesn’t endorse Timothy as a “wonderful teacher”, or a “devout and holy man”, but as a caring person who can be trusted to serve people with love and expertise.

In what ways were you taught skills like empathy when you were growing up? In what ways are you practicing them now and passing them on to others?

Starter Prayer

LORD God, guide me into caring relationships where I can learn, grow and influence others for good.

Reading Focus for Rising Strong, by Brené Brown

We are in week three, of this 6-week study. The focus is Chapters 5-6 of Rising Strong. The topics are: The Rumble, and Living BIG (Boundaries, Integrity and Generosity). If your discussion group has completed session three, begin reading Chapters 6-7.

Spiritual Connection (Day 13)


Laughter, song, and dance create emotional and spiritual connection; they remind us of the one thing that truly matters when we are searching for comfort, celebration, inspiration, or healing: We are not alone. Brené Brown

Bring your thinking into line with one another. Here’s how to do it. Hold on to the same love; bring your innermost lives into harmony; fix you minds on the same object. Never act out of selfish ambition or vanity; instead regard everybody else as more important. Look after each other best interests, not your own. The Apostle Paul (Philippians 1:2-4)

In high school, I was involved in theater, forensics (speech club), choir and cheerleading. Looking back, I see what attracted me to all of these activities. In the singing, acting, speaking and dancing, I was working in community with other young artists and athletes to create something meaningful, beautiful and fun.

That’s the spirit of Paul’s comments to the little church in Philippi. On my high school teams, the players were not out for their own glory at the expense of others (on most days:). In a cheer routine, if someone tries to steal the limelight from the others, a 3-high pyramid might collapse, and someone could get seriously hurt. In a choir, if one singer ignores the conductor’s cutoff, they may get heard, but the song suffers.

In these groups, the magic happens because everyone is working together with the same objective. That’s how families, schools, work teams and faith communities can be as well—vibrant groups connected by love, trust and creativity.

But we all know how hard it is to find or form such a group. The good fairy doesn’t just come along and create synergistic places of love and belonging. Sometimes, there seems to be a bad fairy out there creating family conflicts, religious violence, bad bosses and toxic work places.

When I look back on the magic of my teenage years, I see the faces of four wholehearted, adult leaders who created the space for young people to connect and grow: Thank you Jackie Anderson, Harold Hamler, Mary Tesch Scobey and Terry Roulier.

You and I can be that kind of teacher and coach, beginning today. Everyone engaged in this Rising Strong™ study has the potential to become wholehearted and to cultivate love and belonging in the groups where we have influence.

In Chapter four of Rising Strong, Brené Brown explains how our painful emotions and unmet needs often push us to offload hurt and live on the run, rather than reckon with our emotions and create atmospheres where people can learn and grow.

Do you want to live a wholehearted life in a vibrant community? Are you willing to be a co-creator of such a place?

Starter Prayer

LORD God, put me on the path to freedom from the powers of disconnection. Bring me into an accepting and supportive community. Make me an agent of love and belonging.

Reading Focus for Rising Strong, by Brené Brown

We are well into week two, and heading into week three, of this 6-week study. The focus is Chapters 4-5 of Rising Strong. The topics are: Reckoning with emotion, the rumble and Living BIG.