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)

Transforming Lives and Communities (Day 38)

All revolutions start with a new vision of what’s possible. Brené Brown.

For God, all things are possible. Jesus


In the opening paragraphs of Chapter 11, Brené explains why the Revolution is part-3 of the rising strong process:

Revolution might sound a little dramatic, but in this world, choosing authenticity and worthiness is an absolute act of resistance. Choosing to live and love with our whole hearts is an act of defiance. You’re going to confuse, piss off, and terrify lots of people—including yourself. One minute you’ll pray that the transformation stops, and the next minute you’ll pray that it never ends. You’ll also wonder how you can feel so brave and so afraid at the same time. At least that’s how I feel most of the time…brave, afraid, and very, very alive. Rising strong is the final piece of this transformation.

As we are nearing the end of 40 Days of Rising Strong, it’s time to ask the question: What is truly possible for me?

I encourage us to think about this question in two ways. First way: What is possible within me?

When a negative emotion takes hold of us and the first thought we have is, Why am I so bugged about this? Something’s up, and I need to go on a long prayer walk and figure this out, that’s when the uprising has started. That’s when you know you’ve integrated a new way of thinking. When you dig into your story rather than making one up, that’s when you know you’re in a revolution.

The second version of the question is: What is possible through me?

Having learned to rise strong from an emotional setback, in what ways will this affect your community? There is a saying: Transformed people transform people. The vision for rising strong is not only about personal transformation, it’s also about transforming our families, classrooms, faith communities, cities and nations.

Check out the section The Story Rumble At Work in Chapter 11. In this section Brené shares a list of questions her team works through whenever a hard moment presents itself. I find these questions can be used in any group settings where people work together, such as a family home! She also provides five guiding principles called The 5 Rs: This is How We Work.

Our willingness and ability to rumble during conflicts like a marital fight over money, a teen who has chosen scary friends, or a failed project at work will keep us from caving in and giving up in life’s most terrifying moments.

 I hope you feel empowered by the possibility of rising strong in the ordinary events of your life.

Starter Prayer

LORD God, give me a vision for what is possible. Give me courage to keep rising even when the people around me wish it would stop!

Reading Focus for Rising Strong, by Brené Brown

We are now in week 6, of this 6-week study. The focus is Chapters 11 of Rising Strong. The topic is the Revolution– keys learnings and writing a brave new ending.

Rumbling for Peace (Day 37)

It doesn’t matter if your community is a parent-teacher organization or a Boy Scout troop or a neighborhood coalition, using our ability to navigate uncomfortable conversations, own our emotions, and rumble with our stories is how we build connection. Brené Brown.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. Jesus (Matthew 5:9)


This weekend at Crossroads Church in northern CO, Pastor Ryan Howell challenged our community to live into the vocation of ‘peacemakers’. (I’ll post the link here as soon as the media team has it ready.)

Ryan shared that (according to Jesus) being a peacemaker is what marks one as a child of God.

Needless to say, Ryan pointed out that churches tend to focus on other markers of godliness such as beliefs, Bible knowledge, ways of worshiping and outward behavior. Somehow peacemaking is not a typical mission priority for Christian churches in our day.

But what if it were?

Even though I am a pastor, much of who I am and what I believe was forged in me through public classroom settings, which are a microcosm of the world. In the neighborhood schools, universities and grad school where I learned, ‘rumbling with our stories’ was encouraged. (The Rumble is part-2 of the rising strong process.)

We also had teachers who were good at facilitating the rumble and modeling respect in diverse settings. Even in seminary, we rumbled with competing theologies, differing ethics and new ways of interpreting scripture. The scholars, teachers, coaches and students in my classroom experiences shaped me more than any other influence.

The churches I have been a part of would have loved to play the role of lead influencer in my life, but they didn’t. Churches did influence my life, but mostly within the focused specialties of Bible teaching, worship, mobilizing volunteers for ministry projects and funding local and global mission.

The best thing the Church provided for my formation, was a place of belonging on the faith journey. But this belonging came at a cost—not much rumbling was allowed. Diversity of perspective was not welcomed if it crossed certain lines. And sadly, church leaders were not nearly as good at creating safe space for rumbling as were my classroom teachers. Church leaders typically don’t have the skills or experience necessary to teach the rumble, nor facilitate it, especially when people feel threatened and start reacting out of toxic emotions.

In Chapter 11 of Rising Strong, Brené Brown writes: What makes a college of social work a unique laboratory for rumbling is the expectation that we must have uncomfortable conversations if we’re going to work to empower people and change systems.

I’m waking up to the reality of how difficult it has been for me to bring rumbling topics from the diverse settings where I learned life into the settings of ‘sameness’ in the churches where I’ve led for 30+ years. Currently, I lead in a church where there is a reasonable amount of openness to the vocation of peacemaking. But as Ryan pointed out in the message on Sunday: Peacemaking comes with a cost. I have painful stories about the cost of rumbling, hence the cost of peacemaking. It seems like church people want peace, but most people do not know how to have uncomfortable conversations.

If a faith community is going to be a peacemaking community (empower people to change unjust systems), we will need to learn how to navigate uncomfortable conversations, own our emotions and rumble with our stories in order to build connection with each other and the world God loves. Although a church is a specific kind of community, the conversations we have should mirror the same conflicts that unsettle all groups—differences, fears, competing priorities and conflicting perspectives.

I’ve tried other pathways to being truly alive, and they always lead me back here. They lead me home to the Great Hope of my life: That God is on everyone’s side. No matter who you are or where you come from, you MORE-than-matter to God– you are essential to God; and you are an essential part of your community.

This reflection was long string of somewhat connected thoughts about The Revolution—part-3 of the rising strong process. (See chapter 11.)

Tomorrow we’ll look at how the ‘rumble that leads to peace’ can revolutionize our communities.

Starter Prayer

LORD God, lead me into the uncomfortable conversations that are a necessary part of peacemaking.

Reading Focus for Rising Strong, by Brené Brown

We are now in week 6, of this 6-week study. The focus is Chapters 11 of Rising Strong. The topic is the Revolution– keys learnings and writing a brave new ending.