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)

Action On Injustice (Day 23)

Acknowledging privilege and taking action on injustice require constant vigilance. Brené Brown

If someone else thinks they have reasons to put confidence in the flesh (‘privileged’), I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless. But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. The Apostle Paul (Philippians 3:4-7)


Continuing story…

Several months later, I attended another church leader gathering in our area. A guest pastor and his team were sharing about their work in western Africa. These men were faith-filled and genuine, but it was obvious that they do not consider women co-equals in leadership at home or in the faith community.

At the end of the presentation, someone asked all the pastors in the audience to come forward and pray for this team. I was the only female who went forward in a sea of local male pastors. Once we were in place, the event host asked my colleague Scott to lead the prayer aloud, to which he replied, “I think Katie should lead it.”

Once again, Scott was passing his privilege to me.

My story relates to Paul’s warning in Philippians: Don’t trust in ‘the flesh’.

For the purpose of this reflection, I’ve paraphrased “flesh” to “privilege”. When Paul refers to the ‘the flesh’ here as well as Galatians and Romans, he is talking about the pride of physical descent, in which the Jews placed their confidence. Paul admits that ethnic privilege had been his confidence too.

Ethnic privilege was big in the ancient world, and continues in our day. And there are many other forms of privilege in our society: race, gender, sexual orientation, class, family status, age group… Privilege means that you can afford to look the other way, because you are not the one being harassed, underpaid, pulled over, deported, lynched, shut out, etc…

Paul’s message in Philippians 3 is that he had taken a long, painful look at privilege and decided to pick it apart and remove it from his life. I don’t think he’s bragging. I think he’s telling a painful story of ‘humiliation leading to transformation’, which we can only hear if we listen without judgment.

And Paul is now clear in his thinking: If I passively rest in my privilege, I cannot be the distinctive light of life that God has created me to be—I cannot be the transforming presence that the children of God are made for. Furthermore, whatever privileged identity I am resting on will eventually fall apart and no longer be able to support True Life. (Hence Paul’s choice of the term ‘flesh’ that decays.)

In the rising strong process, The Rumble is for doing deep work with two things: 1.) Painful emotions and 2.) Human need (Chapter 8). Within the scope of human need, Brené Brown addresses such things as connection, self-worth, privilege and asking for help.

I invite you to read Chapter 8 of Rising Strong alongside Philippians 3. What is Paul teaching us about rumbling with privilege? We’ve heard Paul’s story, Brené’s story, a bit of my story. What is your story; and how does it lead you to take action against injustice?

Starter Prayer

LORD God, help my awareness of my privilege embolden me to look injustice in the eye and take action.

Reading Focus for Rising Strong, by Brené Brown

We are in week 4, of this 6-week study. The focus is Chapters 7-8 of Rising Strong. The topics are: Rumbling with difficult emotions and human need.

It’s Our Privilege (Day 22)

I’ve learned enough about privilege to know that we’re at our most dangerous when we think we’ve learned everything we need to know about it. Brené Brown.

Finally, my dear family, rejoice in the Lord!  It’s no trouble for me to repeat myself, and for you it is a safeguard. Beware of the religious elite! All they are interested in is protecting their image. True believers trust God’s Spirit, follow Jesus’s teachings, and place no confidence in their privileged status (My paraphrase of Philippians 3:1-3)


I entered the meeting space late and overheard the guest speaker asking the event host to move the audience to a smaller room. The speaker had noticed that the room was only half full. He prefers to speak to a crowded room. (I get that!) The host explained to him that the conference room would not have enough seats for everyone. To which the speaker replied, “That’s good! I like the energy when the room is over capacity. Once the conference table is full, set up some chairs around the perimeter.”

My heart began to race, and I immediately lost my appetite. I was turned off by this speaker’s philosophy of event management, but why did I feel upset by it? If this guy wants a dopamine hit to get his energy up for speaking, why do I care? Then I realized: This whole scene is a ‘values violation’ for me; and being in a room full of male clergy always ‘triggers shame’ for me. (More on values violations and shame triggers later this week.)

Back to the story… I lingered in the auditorium, until the final few of us were ushered into the smaller conference room. Expecting to sit on the perimeter, imagine my surprise when my colleague Scott was already reading the situation, setting up chairs, and motioning to several local guests to sit on the edge of the room with him. When I made eye contact with Scott, he raised his eyebrows, smiled, and wryly motioned for me to take an open seat at the table.

This would not be the last meeting where Scott takes action. (I’ll share another story tomorrow.) Being aware of the power and privilege in the setting, Sam was making room at the table for others and me.

You may or may not have thought about the kind of religious privilege Paul writes about in Philippians 3 or I encounter at male-dominated clergy gatherings. Brené Brown addresses other types of privilege in Chapter 8 of Rising Strong.

How does privilege affect you on a daily basis? Either the privilege you have or the privilege you don’t have?

Starter Prayer

LORD God, teach me more about my privilege. Help me make the choice to connect with people outside my privileged group.

Reading Focus for Rising Strong, by Brené Brown

We are in week 4, of this 6-week study. The focus is Chapters 7-8 of Rising Strong. The topics are: Rumbling with difficult emotions and human need.