Spiritual Connection (Day 13)

Laughter, song, and dance create emotional and spiritual connection; they remind us of the one thing that truly matters when we are searching for comfort, celebration, inspiration, or healing: We are not alone. Brené Brown

Bring your thinking into line with one another. Here’s how to do it. Hold on to the same love; bring your innermost lives into harmony; fix you minds on the same object. Never act out of selfish ambition or vanity; instead regard everybody else as more important. Look after each other best interests, not your own. The Apostle Paul (Philippians 1:2-4)

In high school, I was involved in theater, forensics (speech club), choir and cheerleading. Looking back, I see what attracted me to all of these activities. In the singing, acting, speaking and dancing, I was working in community with other young artists and athletes to create something meaningful, beautiful and fun.

That’s the spirit of Paul’s comments to the little church in Philippi. On my high school teams, the players were not out for their own glory at the expense of others (on most days:). In a cheer routine, if someone tries to steal the limelight from the others, a 3-high pyramid might collapse, and someone could get seriously hurt. In a choir, if one singer ignores the conductor’s cutoff, they may get heard, but the song suffers.

In these groups, the magic happens because everyone is working together with the same objective. That’s how families, schools, work teams and faith communities can be as well—vibrant groups connected by love, trust and creativity.

But we all know how hard it is to find or form such a group. The good fairy doesn’t just come along and create synergistic places of love and belonging. Sometimes, there seems to be a bad fairy out there creating family conflicts, religious violence, bad bosses and toxic work places.

When I look back on the magic of my teenage years, I see the faces of four wholehearted, adult leaders who created the space for young people to connect and grow: Thank you Jackie Anderson, Harold Hamler, Mary Tesch Scobey and Terry Roulier.

You and I can be that kind of teacher and coach, beginning today. Everyone engaged in this Rising Strong™ study has the potential to become wholehearted and to cultivate love and belonging in the groups where we have influence.

In Chapter four of Rising Strong, Brené Brown explains how our painful emotions and unmet needs often push us to offload hurt and live on the run, rather than reckon with our emotions and create atmospheres where people can learn and grow.

Do you want to live a wholehearted life in a vibrant community? Are you willing to be a co-creator of such a place?

Starter Prayer

LORD God, put me on the path to freedom from the powers of disconnection. Bring me into an accepting and supportive community. Make me an agent of love and belonging.

Reading Focus for Rising Strong, by Brené Brown

We are well into week two, and heading into week three, of this 6-week study. The focus is Chapters 4-5 of Rising Strong. The topics are: Reckoning with emotion, the rumble and Living BIG.

Messy Middle (Day 8)

The middle is messy, but it’s also where the magic happens. Brené Brown.

For to me, living is Christ and dying is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which I prefer. I am hard pressed between the two… The Apostle Paul (Philippians 1:21-23)

Have you ever found yourself pulled into an adventure, and by the time you realize how hard it’s going to be, there is no way out? You are as Paul writes: hard pressed between living and dying.

Childbirth was one such adventure for me. In 1988 I accepted the call to parenthood when (you guessed it!) I became pregnant. The pregnancy was exhilarating… I loved the doctor visits, the childbirth classes and the baby showers. I also did a lot of throwing up. But I still felt like Ares, queen mother of the Amazons.

Even the labor was fun at first. We checked into the hospital, and the nurses and doctors were impressed with how this Ares was handling the steady and effective contractions.

And then everything changed—fast. Instead of the contractions seeming like powerful, painful ocean waves, they began imploding inside me like bombshells. My whole body began to shake, partly from the pain and partly from the power, but mostly from the bone-chilling FEAR.

I drew upon every ounce of physical and emotional strength that I had cultivated in my mind and body for 23 years, and it was wholly insufficient. I started crying out for help. Dave had never seen an Ares of the Amazons act like this, so he RAN for help.

The nurse bolted in the room and assessed the situation. And then she spoke the words I will never forget: Katie you are in the transition phase of labor. It’s horrible AND effective. If you can trust this process, your body will carry you and your baby safely to the other side.

I love words, and sometimes words save me. And this nurse—Marge as I remember her—saved me with her words. With her permission, I stopped trying to rise, and I surrendered to grace. I don’t remember much of the next 45 minutes; only that we made it to the light.

The Transition Phase of Labor is how I understand the “messy middle” of a struggle. The messy middle is when we’re drowning in uncertainty about the future, and we’re not sure which would be better—fighting on or going home to God.

And the hardest thing about the transitional messy middle, is what Brené Brown learned from the Pixar team and the Apostle Paul wrote about from prison:

Experience and success don’t give you easy passage through the middle space of struggle. They only grant you a little grace, a grace that whispers, “This is part of the process. Stay the course.” Experience doesn’t create even a single spark of light in the darkness of the middle space. It only instills in you a little bit of faith in your ability to navigate the dark. The middle is messy, but it’s also where the magic happens (Brené Brown, Rising Strong).

When have you walked a dark passage, and then (by grace) pressed on into the light? What role did human or divine connection play in your salvation?

Starter Prayer and Practice

God of Salvation, help me slow down my story and observe us walking through the messy middle together. Give me eyes to see the magic; and give me a bit of faith in my ability to navigate the dark.

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.