In the Waiting

So then, my friends and family, when you come together to eat, wait for one another— 1 Corinthians 11

Generous God, help us rest our lives in your goodness. Give us the patience and endurance to wait for our neighbors who also depend on your goodness. Amen


Have you ever hiked with a tired child—one who was slower than the group and at some point, sat down on a rock and refused to move? Perhaps after whining for a mile or so, the little person just plopped down and yelled, “WAIT UP!”

We have old videos of this happening in our family. After doing everything possible to urge the straggler along, the family finally faced the fact that we must wait for one another. Nothing is gained by rushing down the trail if someone gets left in the forest and eaten by wolves. (On second thought, there are margaritas to be gained—at Ed’s Cantina in Estes Park, which is why we were rushing in the first place!)

My Lenten readings took me somewhere unexpected this morning, and it relates to today’s headlines. In 1 Corinthians 11, Paul’s counsels: Wait for One Another.

In the early church, some Christians were embroiled in greed and selfishness. Food scarcity was the presenting problem. One group had access to more and was eating better meals, while another group was left waiting out back. This problem within human nature cannot be confined to church life, because the same issues are at work in our country during the coronavirus outbreak.

Walter Brueggemann comments: In an economy of acute individualism, the strong and powerful can, in greedy ways, monopolize resources and take them from the table of the vulnerable; or conversely, policies and practices of the community may generate an equitable distribution of essential life resources so that all may participate together in well-being.

In the news today, we learn of the tension between the priority of “keep the economy moving” and the need to slow down our movements and wait for the virus to be contained and the health care system to expand capacity.

Paul counsels: Wait for one another. The basis for the waiting is the promise that there will be enough divine/human compassion and resources to weather this economic vulnerability together.

God’s promises stand at all times—times of famine, war, plague, terrorism and political ruthlessness. We have no idea how the mind of Christ will influence this economy while we wait together. The wait-promise is fully illustrated in the story where Jesus feeds 5K people and has a surplus of bread. These stories exist in faith traditions to illustrate divine providence working in tandem with human love.

History shows that where the Christ-presence reigns, there is always enough. This gospel claim of always-enough puts the greedy anxiety of certain economic policy directions to shame. We don’t need to choose between health and future wealth. Health and wealth actually work together. If we choose to stand in solidarity with the physically vulnerable, and our health care community, by modifying our economic operations today, we will be OK. I’m not sure how this being-OK will happen (I’m a former social studies teacher who respects the science of economics), but it will happen.

Spiritual Practice

Read the verse listed at the top of the page, pray the starter prayer, and then listen to this song: Take Courage. The hook phrase in the song is: So take courage my heart / Stay steadfast my soul / He’s in the waiting.

The drop of hope we receive from God’s promises is all the sweeter when we use our hands and feet to pass it on to our neighbor. Do you know someone who has lost their job or is concerned about their well-being? Reach out with a word of hope today and some kind of material gift. Your gift could be a card, your presence on a FaceTime call, flowers or a food item. Pass on your hope, and remember to wash your hands!

Have a blessed evening; and rest safely,
Katie

P.S. The song is recorded by our Crossroads Church worship leaders. More songs and hopeful messages live and on-demand every week during these weird times.

The Name Game

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1

Gracious God, help us to become masters of recognizing and regulating own emotions and thus a transforming presence in an anxious world. Amen


My colleague Ryan Howell is on Facebook Live, 10am weekdays, sharing a Daily Drop of Hope. This morning the topic was The Blame Game. I encourage you to join Ryan for a hopeful thoughts and actual Bible wisdom. (Sometimes the Bible is used to spread foolery—just sayin’.)

And now for my expertise on the Blame Game: I have thousands of stories of me using blame to discharge my own emotional discomfort. However, I have no actual video footage of me doing these childish things. And, since videos of people mercilessly blaming people are funny, I’ll borrow one from Brené Brown.

Here’s what we know about the blame game from researcher Brené Brown and the Daring Way™ community of helping professionals.

  1. We play it when we’re feeling hurt, frustrated, afraid. (Often it’s fear.)
  2. The antidote is to play the Name Game instead.

The Name Game is a little game you play with yourself when you have a blaming thought or say a blaming thing. The object of the Name Game is to graciously NAME a few things about yourself in an effort to stop the spiral and observe yourself truthfully. The payoff is peace, love and a little JOY.

Make no mistake the Name Game takes skill and courage. In order to win you need to:

  1. Name the feeling/emotion you are experiencing. (Here’s a list of core emotions; be aware that anger is what we consider a secondary emotion. It’s usually masking other emotions. Name the emotions that often show up as anger for you.)
  2. Name the place in your body where you physically feel discomfort. (Rapid pulse, dry mouth, constricted throat, racing heart, churning stomach, aching head, shaking hands, weak legs… Are we having fun yet?)
  3. Name the thoughts in your mind: (What thought loops occupy your mind; or what does your thought-process look/sound like when you’re playing the blame game?)

The Name Game is a hard alternative to blame, and it’s the only path to freedom when you get emotionally hooked. Naming your emotions and mental story lines is a way to become a transforming presence in yourself, your home and your workplace.

Spiritual Practice

Think about a time you blamed or were tempted to blame. Can you name what you were feeling?

Name the places in your body where you felt uncomfortable. And name the thoughts you were having when you blamed.

In this season, let’s be on the lookout for our own negative emotions, bodily discomfort and scary thoughts. AND! Let’s be watching out for fellow travelers who are having these experiences; and let’s show them some grace. Empathy means being able to feel what the other is feeling. Imagine what they might be feeling in their body and saying in their mind. Then say a prayer for the person and let it go!

Grace can take you places hustling can’t! (Liz Gilbert)

Have a blessed evening; and rest safely,

Katie

Take Courage

Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side. Later that night, the boat was pounded by the waves, and the wind was against it. Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake.When the disciples saw him, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear. But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” Matthew 14

Lord Jesus, who brings calm out of chaos: Help us recover our True Selves, that we might trust you with courageous and free hearts. Amen


The Bible tells a story about Jesus’s disciples being afraid during a storm. (A common childhood fear.) One evening after a long day of teaching and feeding a crowd, Jesus directed his friends to take their boat to the other side of a large lake. He then headed into the mountains for an evening of solitude. (A common practice among wise parents and servant leaders!)

At dawn he comes walking to them on the stormy lake. When they see him, they are terrified and telling themselves a catastrophic story—“Not only are we stuck in a violent storm, but a dark spirit is coming after us too!”

The disciples’ emotional reaction lines up with Brené Brown’s research on courage and human nature. When something bad happens to us, the brain immediately concocts a story to make sense out of the events. The story does NOT need to be true; in fact it’s usually untrue. Your brain is looking for the quickest explanation in an effort to protect yourself. This is why it’s so hard to stay grounded in faith when something scary is happening.

The disciples are frightened by the storm. They don’t quite trust Jesus, because they’re not yet convinced of God’s power to walk us through difficulty. Jesus explains to them that they have “hard hearts”—they are stuck thinking in the false and fearful categories of scarcity, victimization and self-protection.

It’s easy in this troubled world to forget that we are the children of God. When get overwhelmed, we fall prey to anxiety about scarcity and catastrophe.

Spiritual Practice:

Lent is a good time to remember who we are and what it means to be children of God and disciples of Christ. In the story, Jesus urges us, “Take courage! Don’t be afraid.” The story tells us that Spirit of Christ is more powerful than any threat– and able to calm any chaos. But this confidence can only happen in us when we are grounded in our true identity in Christ. Without access to your True Self, you cannot freely exercise faith when storms come. The opposite of freedom and well-being is fear and greed. But we have the option to choose!

For me, the best way to overcome fear is to stop and really feel it and say to myself, “I’m scared, but it’s only a feeling. Fear has no power; but God’s Love does!” When I don’t stop and talk to myself about fear, it spirals. When I stop, breath and confess my fear, I have the opportunity to remember God’s presence and receive Peace. This is not a perfect science, but it’s a good start.

As I’m typing this, the news is telling scary stories about the consequences of coronavirus in Italy. I’m glad we can practice some simple self-care wherever we are.

Have a blessed evening, and rest safely,

Katie

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

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.