Change

See, I am doing a new thing! Isaiah 43:19

Major change is often said to be impossible unless the head of the [family or organization] is an active supporter. John P. Kotter

God of transformation. Help us recognize when it’s time to change. Give us courage to champion the move on behalf of those who look to us for guidance.


Last night we learned that Cal State has canceled most in-person classes for the fall. I don’t recall it being mentioned, but certainly there will be no dorm life and no Greek life. There will be no rite of passage as tens of thousands of freshmen stream onto campus, buy books, rush houses and feel the exhilaration of independence when their parents drive away. There will be no music wafting from the open windows of practice studios—no marching band on the quad. No frisbee golf, no roommates, no study sessions in the libraries. There will be no office hours with faculty in the hollowed halls of learning.

These days I’m thinking about parents, grandparents and other leaders who are helping young people navigate change. It’s not just the parents of would-be college freshman. All leaders are under pressure to help our youth adapt and change to emerging realities in their educational and social lives.

A colleague of mine just explained his family’s innovative plan for a birthday party in the driveway. That’s the idea. There is no limit to the adaptive spirit of parents and educators these days.

John P. Kotter has been a mentor to me on the subject of accepting and leading change. His books help us understand why we resist change, even how the head of a household, group or org can sabotage the group’s ability to change and survive.

There is so much I could say on this subject, and it would be very fun to talk about it in a lively conversation with you.

Spiritual Practice

But here is my question for everyone who is in a position of responsibility—in a home, a workplace, a community. How can you help the group you lead accept necessary changes, adapt and thrive?

I know that’s a big question. I keep reading Kotter’s books to help me get better at this! But the question is first personal. Will you forgive the tough circumstance you’re in and lift your eyes to the opportunities inherent in change?

If your child can’t move into the dorms, can you champion the value of education in some other way? If the church facility isn’t open for worship services, can we champion the value of the church mission some other way? If we can’t fly in planes, can we champion the value of family vacation in some other way? If the wedding party or baby shower can’t happen the old way, how will it be wonderful in the new way?

Forgiveness and imagination are necessary components of change and growth. The last thing we want to do is be some log jam in another person’s evolution, especially a young person’s. Where am I holding on too tight?

Sleep peacefully,
Katie

Illness as a Messenger

May grace come to restore you to balance.
May it shape a new space in your heart
To embrace this illness as a teacher
Who has come to open your life to new worlds.
John O’Donohue


Before I write about the hope of springtime, I want to say something about illness.

Illness is a messenger. When your body takes ill, it’s speaking. When a social illness erupts in a family, there is a message for the family leader/s. When a church or corporation turns toxic, it’s time to listen up big time. When a pandemic strikes the earth, there is an important message for her inhabitants.

And when it’s a pandemic, I can’t help but think the message is for the whole global community, rather than for a specific individual; although illness amidst pandemic speaks to individually infected people and families as well.

You may think I’m crazy for saying these things, but many of you know what I’m talking about. To soften the claim let me explain:

The message of illness is not a shaming or hurtful message. It’s always a sign of hope for your wellbeing. Your body has been created by God to care enough about you to speak up and help you heal. And so too, the earth that God created and loves always cares enough to speak to her inhabitants when we are hurting.

Everything I’ve just said is an oversimplification of a life principle, which is never straightforward and calls for careful interpretation.

Tonight, I just wanted to name it. To get it off my chest. To ask us to begin thinking about it. This pandemic is a messenger.

Spiritual Practice

To get us started thinking about the hopeful possibilities, here is a blessing from the late John O’Donohue, a poet, theologian and philosopher.

A Blessing for a Friend on the Arrival of Illness
by John O’Donohue


Now is the time of dark invitation
Beyond a frontier that you did not expect
Abruptly, your old life seems distant.
You barely noticed how each day opened
A path through fields never questioned,
Yet expected deep down to hold treasure.
Now your time on earth becomes full of threat;
Before your eyes your future shrinks.
You lived absorbed in the day to day,
So continuous with everything around you,
That you could forget you were separate;
Now this dark companion has come between you,
Distances have opened in your eyes,
You feel that against your will
A stranger has married your heart.
Nothing before has made you
Feel so isolated and lost.
When the reverberations of shock subside in you,
May grace come to restore you to balance.
May it shape a new space in your heart
To embrace this illness as a teacher
Who has come to open your life to new worlds.

May you find in yourself
A courageous hospitality
Towards what is difficult,
Painful and unknown.

May you use this illness
As a lantern to illuminate
The new qualities that will emerge in you.
May the fragile harvesting of this slow light
Help you to release whatever has become false in you.
May you trust this light to clear a path
Through all the fog of old unease and anxiety
Until you feel arising within you a tranquility
Profound enough to call the storm to stillness.
May you find the wisdom to listen to your illness:
Ask it why it came? Why it chose your friendship?
Where it wants to take you? What it wants you to know?
What quality of space it wants to create in you?
What you need to learn to become more fully yourself
That your presence may shine in the world.
May you keep faith with your body,
Learning to see it as a holy sanctuary
Which can bring this night-wound gradually
Towards the healing and freedom of dawn.

May you be granted the courage and vision
To work through passivity and self-pity,
To see the beauty you can harvest
From the riches of this dark invitation.

May you learn to receive it graciously,
And promise to learn swiftly
That it may leave you newborn,
Willing to dedicate your time to birth.

Sleep peacefully,
Katie

Losing Women

Daring greatly means the courage to be vulnerable. It means to show up and be seen. To ask for what you need. To talk about how you’re feeling. Brené Brown


Every day we learn of a new loss to grieve in this season of change. Today I am grieving the loss of women. Rather than grieving alone, I’m reaching out for your help.

You and I were born into a male dominated world—a place when most of our power, influence and resources are controlled by men. I then attempted a career in a disproportionately male-dominated enterprise—spiritual leadership. Like you, I know our world, and my own job, like the back of my hand.

I also raised a family of four little women in this world. The Martinez women are now in the workforce observing these things for themselves and kicking my butt.

Gender bias has produced pain and grief in our lives. How could it not? Scaling walls, getting tired, falling from heights and rolling backwards down hills are not anyone’s vision of an exhilarating career. To be fair, there have been some satisfying moments of pure survival, navigating change successfully and living by grace.

We’ve long known that even when women are technically welcome and wanted in their chosen field, there is a high cost. Men bear a far smaller share of this cost burden. By and large, men have more resources to run their homes and care for their children while they work from home, travel or office-away.

Dear Peacemakers, here is our new loss: The pandemic is causing a caregiving crisis. Melinda Gates explained on NBC last week: “If we’re going to look at re-opening our economy, we have to take care of our most essential workers,” she says. “Eighty-five percent of nurses are women. And yet, who is the primary caregiver at home? Women. Who is the primary one for educating the kids? Women.”

She explains that when caregiving disproportionately falls on women, it makes it hard for them to do their jobs, leading to a loss of income for some women who end up taking a break from work or leaving the workforce altogether.

I know from my friends, family and neighbors that our women with children or aging parents are struggling under the burden of disproportionate caregiving. We are losing women.

One loss is the emotional vitality of our sisters, NOW. The next loss will be to watch our progress away from gender bias diminished. The next loss will the wellbeing of our world, homes, relationships and workplaces. The world needs women who are fully alive, leading strong and loving our neighbors well.

Spiritual Practice

Will you open your mind and learn about this scary topic with me?

As a starting point, will you read this short article with short video from Secretary-General António Guterres speaking at a meeting of the United Nations? I like it because it is plain spoken, caring and true.

And sisters: Please enjoy this mother’s day blessing spoken by Wendy Howell to my church in northern Colorado.

What can you do to help shoulder some domestic load for a woman or mother today?

Where women thrive, the world thrives. A rising tide floats all boats.

Have a blessed evening,
Katie

Teachers

Whoever welcomes a child, welcomes me. Jesus

Lord God who created the vocation of teaching, shower your servants with grace and peace, and give them the desires of their hearts. Amen


This week, the evening drop of hope is dedicated to the class of 2020. On Monday, we stared into the face of being chosen, and yesterday I shared an open letter to Amy and the class of 2020. Today, I’m thinking about how much our grads will miss their teachers.

In honor or teacher appreciation week our Crossroads Family Ministry Team had a poignant conversation with Kim Terry, an elementary school teacher who also volunteers with Crossroads Kids. The team asked Kim a couple of questions, and her answers explain why the student-teacher relationship is so important.

1. What is one of the most rewarding things about teaching? Why do you do it?

There are so many things that make it rewarding! In my 18 years I have always worked with primary students, kindergarten- second grade. Seeing their daily excitement about new things and the energy they bring every day is so fun!

I have chosen in my career to always work at Title schools usually in low income areas. I find the partnership with families to be one of my favorite things. Most parents want better for their kids than the path they had and want to support you as they can. My current school is a social emotional elementary school here in Loveland that contains many kids from trauma. I chose this school because I truly want to make a difference and be an advocate for all students. I know that they cannot feel safe or successful at school if their basic needs are not met. I have extra food, clothing, toys, toiletries, etc. to pass out as needed.

It also has warms my heart that my passion to work in this field with this population and trickled down into my own kids’ heart. They happily help out and seeing their eyes opened to differences with empathy, not judgement, is a true blessing. 

2. What have you noticed families need during these COVID-19 times, and how have you seen educators help meet those needs?

As I mentioned earlier that many of these families need to feel safe and secure before they can even imagine trying to complete any school work at home. The struggle of dealing with job loss, no income, no food, and even in some cases no place to live has made completing school virtually near impossible.

It is tough to even try to make it an equitable experience. I have seen educators getting very creative with trying to reach families with a variety of communication tools, regular check-ins, working into the evening to help students because they just can’t figure it out during the day, and so much more. There have been yard signs delivered in front yards, food bags delivered on porches, and books with fun activities, just cause, dropped off. We LOVE our students and miss them tremendously.

I feel nostalgic every time I walk on the campuses where I once attended school. There is Lincoln Elementary, Conrad Ball Jr. High, Loveland High School, CU Boulder, Colorado State University (Yes, I am both a Buff and a Ram), and North Park Seminary in Chicago. When I’m able, I like to go into the buildings or walk the grounds. My mind is filled with pictures of the teachers, coaches and administrators who invested in me and cared about me.

Spiritual Practice

Graduation from high school or college is a jarring change for most people. And in this Covid-19 reality there are fewer festivities and rituals to soften the transition and prepare the young adult to let go– especially of treasured relationships with teachers who have invested so much in their lives.

There are a few days left in teacher appreciation week. Let’s find a way to acknowledge the value of our teachers as the difficult losses of our grads. We can hold them in our prayers, celebrate them in our social media feeds, send them a card or shoot them a text. Let’s not get hung up on making it perfect. Find a way to reach out and just do it!

Cheers to the teachers and the grads who love them!
Katie

Global

Go into all the world and share God’s Love with every creature. Mark 16

God who is able to open the eyes of our hearts: Give our graduates the special ability to share their compassion and talents during these trying times. Amen


This week’s evening drop of hope is dedicated to the class of 2020. Yesterday I wrote about the reality of being chosen. Today I’m thinking about the significance of global compassion within our graduates.

My youngest daughter Amy graduated from CU in December—not quite the class of 2020, but close enough! So, here’s an open letter to Amy. Some of these ideas are inspired by a recent editorial written by Melinda and Bill Gates.

Dear Amy: Your grandparents were just coming of age at the end of WW2—over 70 years ago. In 1947, then Secretary of State George C. Marshall gave the commencement address at Harvard University. He urged the graduates to rise above their own comfort and security and assist our European neighbors despite being “distant from the troubled areas of the Earth.”

About that time, your Grandfather Eusebio Martinez was your age and living with his Mexican, immigrant family in north Denver. Grandpa Chepo was deployed under the Marshall Plan and served with the U.S. Army near Munich. It was there that he met a 19-year-old Bavarian villager, Anna Höecker.

Your grandparents fell in love in war-torn Germany where Chepo was serving the vision of the Marshall Plan. This strategy, which helped Western Europe recover, also spurred a turning point in history from global war to an era of peace and prosperity.

Today in 2020, we again face mass suffering and uncertainty. Again, groups will need to work together to recover and rebuild. Only now, we look to a generation of young adults who are extremely tuned in to the world. Unlike the Harvard grads of 1947, you are well acquainted with what is happening all over the globe! You’ve been online since you were toddlers. You consume popular culture from near and far. Your thinking has been shaped by a multiplicity of mentors who speak various languages. You have access to the truth about our cruelest problems such as racism, economic injustice, mass incarceration and hunger.

I am hopeful, because your access to cross cultural information and experiences has made you exceptionally compassionate and aware. You know that you are inextricably connected to the whole human family—across generations, ethnicities and access to resources. There is no limit to how you might serve humanity well—public service, teaching, writing, parenting, researching, healing, feeding…

It’s true. You’re entering the workforce in a time of global suffering. For some time, you and your peers will grieve the loss of rituals and rites of passage like grad parties, family memorials, weddings and birthday celebrations. Your sister Anne will give birth to your nephew, and there will be no baby shower– perhaps not even a hospital or home visit. These are big deals that will change us forever.

You and your peers have a hike ahead of you. So, don’t accept any pressure to answer the big questions about jobs, housing plans or graduate school on anyone’s timeline but your own. There are so many ways you can use your voice and share your talents, wherever you are. Oswald Chambers said that prayer is the highest form of social justice. Jesus said that sharing food and water with the hungry and thirsty proves that one is close to God.

The willingness to connect and serve the world led your grandparents to overcome global tragedy and create a better world. Now it’s our turn. The same spirit that empowered Jesus is still healing the world from generation to generation. I treasure every moment we have to love and serve together. Love, Mom.

Spiritual Practice

Friends: If you have endured this mercilessly long post, will you also join me in serving the class of 2020? When we write out our graduation cards, can we do the following?

  • Empathize with the graduate. It must be terribly disappointing and weird to miss the rituals and festivals of graduation.
  • Affirm the graduate. Graduations mark a very special passage from one stage of life and learning to the next. The world needs brave and brokenhearted young adults more now than ever. “We have the highest confidence in your talents and your courageous heart, and we can’t wait to see what you teach the world in the next decade and beyond!”

If you live with a graduate, please affirm them NOW. Say, “Word on the street is that you and your class are going to be a very special influence in the next decade. I’m not sure what that will look like, but I can’t wait to see how it turns out.”

God bless you, and please encourage a graduate this week!
Katie

Chosen

For many are called, but few are chosen. Jesus

God who calls everyone to live in the light of your love, help the graduates of 2020 to realize how special they are. May this bizarre circumstance result in them leading us more deeply into Your Love.


This weekend Tom Hanks delivered a virtual commencement address that moved us to tears. Good! There’s healing in our tears, especially the hopeful ones. And God knows we need to shed some hopeful tears these days.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the graduates who are grieving the loss of pomp and circumstance—the collective pride and joy of a stadium brimming with parental hope, grandparental love, friendships, educators, coaches, flowers, cameras, brass instruments and inadequate sound systems!

So, I was planning to dedicate the evening drop of hope all week long to the class of 2020. Now, inspired by Tom Hanks keen choice of words, I want to write about the hopefulness of being CHOSEN.

“I’m here to say congratulations,” Hanks said. “Congratulations to you chosen ones.”

The chosen ones. On the one hand the phrase has an exclusive ring to it. To be chosen is to be privileged. But in Hanks’ mind and the mind of Christ, “chosen” is not something that puts you above the crowd. Being chosen makes you an essential steward of God’s gifts, which are meant for everyone.

In the tradition of Bible literature, to be chosen by God is to be selected by God as an ambassador of everyone’s status as the beloved children of God. Moses was chosen to help the children of Israel understand their belovedness. Peter, Paul and Mary were all chosen to help Jesus bring all of humanity into the blessing of God’s love.

As Father Richard Rohr puts it: “It’s not that God likes anyone better or that they are more worthy than the rest. God’s chosenness is for the sake of communicating chosenness to everybody else! You lead others to the depth to which you have been led.”

Can we help our graduates live into their unique vocation of being chosen for leadership at a time like this? The class of 2020 is stepping over the threshold from childhood to adult vocational service during a global health and economic crisis. These young adults and their families have been led into the depths of disappointment and uncertainty. Is the universe picking on them; or have they been selected for something special?

Bravehearted people simply know that they are a unique minority. In the Jesus-sense they know they are being used as starter yeast, flavorful/healing salt and vitamin-D rich sunlight. (See Matthew 5 and Luke 13.) Remember that yeast is not dough, salt is not a meal and light shines to illuminate something else.

Jesus knew whom to call. What if we help our graduates understand the highness of this calling and the unique way that Jesus thinks?

Spiritual Practice

When we write out our graduation cards, can we do the following?

  • Empathize with the graduate. It must be terribly disappointing and weird to miss the rituals and festivals of graduation.
  • Affirm the graduate. Graduations mark a very special passage from one stage of life and learning to the next. The world needs brave and brokenhearted young adults more now than ever. “We have the highest confidence in your talents and your courageous heart, and we can’t wait to see what you teach the world in the next decade and beyond!”

If you live with a graduate, please affirm them NOW. Say, “Word on the street is that you and your class are going to be a very special influence in the next decade. I’m not sure what that will look like, but I can’t wait to see how it turns out.”

God bless you, and please encourage a graduate this week!
Katie

Pilgrimage

The Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore. Psalm 121

God who leads us safely through the varied terrain of life. Help us travel with wonder and purpose. Amen


This week’s evening drop series has been dedicated to the biology and spirituality of movement. Why does walking make us feel so good? What does it mean to “walk by faith?” Where do runners get their strength? This Friday evening, I want to celebrate the power of pilgrimage.

I spent my 50th birthday on the tiny Island of Iona, off the western coast of Scotland. The trip was a pilgrimage with a close group of scholars and spiritual directors. That morning I took a solo walk to the north coast on the Irish Sea. It was raining, and the wind was blowing hard. I remember talking to God and saying, “The first 50 years have been been quite a climb– growing up, raising children, learning a vocation– I’m ready now to walk downhill, with the wind on my back and sunshine on my shoulders.

Well, my life still feels like ‘climbing mountains in rain gear’, and I suspect I will feel that way for as long as I have air in my lungs.

Life is a climb—a journey of constant growth, sacrifice, and trusting God for what we cannot see. Eugene Peterson said, we are pilgrims, and we are also disciples—always moving and always learning. The Pilgrimage Psalms (Psalms 120-134) were sung by traveling families as they made the journey up to Jerusalem for the annual feasts.

It is my opinion that travel changes a person and strengthens a family. In all my travels I can feel my pilgrim’s heart. What does this journey mean? Who might I meet? What can I experience in this new place that will open the eyes of my heart? Perhaps I just love traveling-with-a-purpose so much that I make it one of the highest priorities of my life.

Don’t misunderstand. We’re not a fancy family with lots of funds. Neither Dave nor I had parents who took us places other than National Forest campgrounds and southern Minnesota! (Things we love and visit to this day.) Most of our travels have been with a pop-up trailer and four kids. We were pilgrims to the Grand Tetons, the Olympic Rainforest, the Canadian Rockies, the Outer Banks, Yosemite and Big Sur…

I think God saw how happy we were on these trips, and God helped us reach for more. Somehow we found a way to visit friends in England and family in Bavaria. In seminary I got to know South America. When Sarah was studying in Spain, the two of us made pilgrimage to Rome one Holy Week. And then I was hell bent on Iona. And last week I got hell bent on Jerusalem.

Spiritual Practice

And that brings me to the whole point. Let’s plan a pilgrimage NOW! I don’t know who you are and what is possible for you. But let’s all pick a place to go for our next trip, put it on the calendar and plan it out.

Safe, close spots include: Steamboat Lake, Chambers Lake, Black Canyon of the Gunnison, Chasm Lake, Pawnee National Grassland, the top of Pike’s Peak… Can you travel further away? I love Moab, Santa Fe and the Anasazi Ruins. The moment it’s possible, I’ll be on a plane to NYC to pilgrim-around with Ryan and Sarah.

Life is a pilgrimage, and literal pilgrimage has a purpose in the spiritual life. What kind of travel has changed you? What have been your happiest moments on the road?

Sweet dreams,
Katie