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)

Opponents (Day 11)

Living BIG [Boundaries, Integrity, Generosity] is saying: ‘Yes, I’m going to be generous in my assumptions and intentions while standing solidly in my integrity and being very clear about what’s acceptable and what’s not acceptable. Brené Brown

Do not be intimidated by your opponents. Their influence will not last, and you are being saved. And this is God’s doing. For God has graciously granted you the privilege not only of believing in Christ, but of suffering for him as well—since you are having the same struggle that you saw I had and now hear that I still have. Phil 1: 27-30


“Don’t let him see you’re afraid. I have my walking stick, and we will pass by him quickly and confidently.”

My Grandma whispered these words to calm my fears as we set out on a country walk that would take us past a snarling dog. But I was afraid! I was seven years old, and that year our family dog had bitten the milkman. What might this wilder dog do to me?

Swallowing my feelings, I walked beside Grandma. My faith was tested when the dog charged up to us, stopped, sniffed and ran back to his porch. He was only curious. But had I screamed and cried and run away, he might have chased me.

“Don’t let your opponents intimidate you,” Paul tells the Philippians. Of course those who oppose our gospel values are not simply large dogs. Something sadder and more insidious is usually going on. From the first-century world of Paul and Jesus to our day, small-minded people have opposed the gospel.

When I say ‘opposed the gospel’ I’m not referring to certain religious values that might be opposed: like prayer in schools or keeping Muslims out of office. I’m referring to gospel values like compassion, empathy, respecting differences, generosity, kindness, freedom and wisdom.

These gospel values are topics that pervade all of Brené Brown’s research and teaching. In your world, an opponent might be a critical parent, an uncaring teacher, spiritually abusive clergy, disgruntled co-workers, school bullies or an oppressive social system like sexism or homophobia.

In the Rising Strong™ process we learn the skills to stand up to our opponents without becoming like them. In chapter six of Rising Strong you will learn about the skill of ‘Living BIG’ (Boundaries, Integrity and Generosity)

It is not enough to extend generosity of spirit to our opponents. Neither abusive systems of power nor petty selfishness will yield to your generosity. However! When you add clarity of values and boundary-keeping to your life skills, you will rise strong in the presence of your enemies.

Starter Prayer

LORD God, teach me how to Live BIG whenever someone or something threatens my gospel values. Help me discover my values and learn to cherish them and use them well.

Reading Focus for Rising Strong, by Brené Brown

We are heading into week two of this 6-week study. The focus for week two is Chapters 3-5 of Rising Strong. The topics are: Owning our stories, reckoning with emotion, and an introduction to the rumble.

Offloading Hurt (Day 10)

[When hurt] is left unchecked, it festers, grows, and leads to behaviors that are completely out of line with whom we want to be, and thinking that can sabotage our relationships and careers. Brené Brown

Live your life in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ… standing firm in one spirit, striving side by side with one mind for the faith of the gospel… The Apostle Paul (Philippians 1:27)


If you wonder about the relationship between the Rising Strong™ process and gospel goodness, look no further than chapter four of Rising Strong.

The core “good news” (gospel) of the Christian faith is the promise of transformation. It’s well stated in 2 Peter 1:4: God has given something very great and wonderful… you are able to share the divine nature!

And how divine do you feel? Me? Not so much today!

Have you ever bolted from a family argument and distanced yourself from others for the rest of the day? Have you ever been harsh with a toddler? And at work, do you ever feel overlooked in a meeting and become forceful or shut down? Do you know anyone who bottled their feelings, and then ended their marriage with an affair? Is anyone here on a desperate journey for validation from parents or the boss, and you are sinking even lower from numbing the pain with over-spending or alcohol?

We all struggle with negative emotions and hurtful behavior.

There is a huge gap between the Bible’s wisdom, modeled by Jesus, and the way we sometimes treat one another and ourselves. And this mistreatment is almost always a matter of offloading our own hurt onto others. Offloading occurs at the interpersonal level and the societal level. Offloading hurt is the source of everything from marital conflict and sibling rivalry to racism, sexism, mass incarceration and war.

I urge us to read chapter four with a brave heart. Meditate on the two components of reckoning with emotion: Recognizing we are emotionally hooked and getting curious about what we are feeling. Then check out the six ways we offload our hurt onto others. Where do you see yourself in these descriptions?

Self-observation is an essential component of healing and transformation. This step is a powerful beginning to the rest of the rising strong process.

Starter Prayer

LORD God, give me the courage to recognize when I am emotionally hooked and to get curious about my uncomfortable emotions. Help me overcome the human tendency to avoid this topic altogether.

Reading Focus for Rising Strong, by Brené Brown

We are heading into week two of this 6-week study. The focus for week two is Chapters 3-5 of Rising Strong. The topics are: Owning our stories, reckoning with emotion, and an introduction to the rumble.

Reckoning With Emotion (Day 9)

There is a clear pattern among the women and men who demonstrate the ability to rise strong from hurt or adversity—they reckon with emotion. Brené Brown

I would really rather leave all this and be with Christ Jesus, because that would feel far better. But staying here on earth is more vital for your sake… to help you advance and rejoice in your faith. The Apostle Paul (Philippians 1:23-25)


Chapter Four of Rising Strong begins with this statement:

You may not have signed up for a hero’s journey, but the second you fell down, got your butt kicked, suffered a disappointment, screwed up, or felt your heart break, it started. It doesn’t matter whether we are ready for an emotional adventure—hurt happens. And it happens to every single one of us. Without exception. The only decision we get to make is what role we’ll play in our own lives: Do we want to write the story or do we want to hand that power over to someone else? Choosing to write our own story means getting uncomfortable; it’s choosing courage over comfort. Brené Brown

In the New Testament, Paul models how to reckon with painful emotion. The context for Philippians 1 is found in 2 Corinthians 1:8-11. There, Paul described what actually happened before he was released from prison. It sounds as though things reached a point where he not only thought he would be killed, but where his own emotions became so painful he felt the death sentence inside his own heart and mind.

We mustn’t hear Paul’s exhortations to the Philippians in a cheerful or above-it-all tone. We shouldn’t fall for the lie that some people are Teflon heroes while others feel pain, fear and reactionary anger. And we can’t make the mistake of thinking God does spiritual transformation to us—in a vacuum.

Paul leaned into the emotional discomfort of imprisonment. This reckoning with emotion carried him through a terrible experience and changed his heart.

What does fear, shame or grief feel like in your body? How do you know when you are emotionally hooked? How have you experienced God’s mercy in a face down moment?

Starter Prayer and Practice

Merciful God, teach me how to recognize my emotions and lean into the discomfort. Help me trust you in this process and learn to trust myself.

Reading Focus for Rising Strong, by Brené Brown

We are heading into week two of this 6-week study. The focus for week two is Chapters 3-5 of Rising Strong. The topics are: Owning our stories, reckoning with emotion, and an introduction to the rumble.