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.