When Process Becomes Practice (Day 36)

The Revolution begins when the process becomes practice. Brené Brown.

Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you. The Apostle Paul (Philippians 4:9)


Years ago, one of my favorite Bible commentators wrote a book called A Long Obedience in the Same Direction. The title stuck with me as a life principle. Whenever I think about giving up on something that’s hard, I remember the concept the book title teaches: stay on a good journey long enough, and you’ll eventually end up where you want to be.

I hope your rising strong journey is something you stick with for a lifetime.

If we’re realistic, we won’t expect to be great at rising strong the first time we try it! The things we’re learning like: Living BIG, The Physics of Vulnerability, Integrity of Values and BRAVING Trust… are HARD to do. As we practice these skills, we will get better and better at rising strong.

In Chapter 11 Brené says that the Revolution begins when the process becomes practice.

How can you turn what you’re learning into regular practices? How can you, as Paul writes in Philippians, keep on doing the things that you have learned, received and heard?

Ideas for turning the process into practice:

  1. Read Chapter 11, The Revolution.
  2. Every day this week, review one of the small group discussion guides from the past five weeks. Pick one key learning from that guide to focus on that day.
  3. Keep the conversation going in your own soul. Try one of these:
    • Talk to God about that key learning.
    • Write about the learning in your journal.
    • Tell a friend or family member about the key learning.

Starter Prayer

LORD God, help me practice the key learnings from Rising Strong.

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.

Choosing New Thoughts (Day 35)

When we deny our stories and disengage from tough emotions, they don’t go away; instead, they own us, they define us. Our job is not to deny the story, but to defy the ending—to rise strong, recognize our story, and rumble with the truth until we get to a place where we think, Yes. This is what happened. This is my truth. And I will choose how this story ends. Brené Brown.

Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. The Apostle Paul (Philippians 4:8)


For the most part we get to choose how we use our minds. We are the director of our thoughts and perspectives. In doing so, we are influencing the stories of our lives.

How does this idea sit with you?

If you are a Christian with some Bible experience, you might be familiar with Philippians 4:8. If not, the concept is common sense: Focus your thoughts on things that are pleasant, good, just and worth passing on to others. What images does this conjure up for you? I typically picture simple blessings like my home, the beauty of creation, my neighborhood and church, my family members…

But today, I thought of something new. What if the next time something hard happens to me, I think about the rising strong process itself? What if I think about good things: like reckoning with my uncomfortable emotions; rumbling with the story instead of denying it; and the new learning that will revolutionize my life and help others?

What if I use my mind to explore how I’m feeling? What if I make generous assumptions about the people in this tough story? What if I put some thought into the boundaries that need to be in place in order for me to be consistently generous with these people? What if I think about my values and how they will help me in this tough arena? What if I use my mind to create a vision for a better ending?

I’m grateful for the simple list of good things I tend to think about when hard things happen; and maybe it’s time for that list to grow. Maybe God is calling me to a level of maturity that will change my life and influence others for the better.

My go-to list of happy thoughts has carried me through some pretty dark moments, and now it’s time to try branch out and try some new things.

What are some of your favorite, happy thoughts? What new focal points are you taking away from this Rising Strong read-along and group study?

Starter Prayer

LORD God, teach how to use my mind in ever-expanding ways.

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.

Just Breathe (Day 34)

Breath and mindfulness give us the awareness and space we need to make choices that are aligned with our values. Brené Brown

Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. The Apostle Paul (Philippians 4:6-7)


Church people used to have a saying: When in a fix, Philippians 4:6. It was a catch phrase to help us remember today’s verse. The idea was that when something bad or scary happens, remember to pray instead of worrying.

The catchy phrase trained me to talk to God more often, but talking-prayer didn’t entirely do the trick. Sometimes this method works, but it has limitations. Let me explain…

Anxiety has always been a way of life for human beings. In the ancient pagan world, most people were raised to worship many gods and goddesses—all of whom were potentially out to get you. In Paul’s day, even the Jews were afraid of God’s wrath. This is why Jesus labored to teach everyone a more truthful way of thinking about God—God as a good parent who is attentive, compassionate and helpful.

Here in Philippians, Paul is teaching on the same topic. He’s saying: With the Good God revealed in Christ Jesus, there is no guarantee against suffering, but we can be sure that God listens and will respond with loving help and care. Instead of worrying, pray. As you do, God will calm you down and protect your mind and heart from anxiety. This was a revolutionary thought for anyone afraid of God’s punishment, power or distance.

In chapter four of Rising Strong Brené Brown brings up the subject of “paying attention” to our anxious feelings and calming ourselves down. Another word for this in “mindfulness” and another idea for that is “meditation.”

As a person and a spiritual director, I am convinced that in Philippians 4:6 Paul is encouraging more than simply “talking prayer.” I believe in talking prayer! I also believe that some form of quiet-minded prayer is a necessary part of prayer in general. Until we learn some form of meditative prayer, I’m afraid we will always struggle with anxious thoughts.

In chapter four Brené explains the concept of mindfulness and makes several recommendations for practice. I’ll summarize them here and add a few of my own.

  1. Breath Practice. I’ve tried all kinds. Brené recommends “tactical breathing” as practiced by first responders. Read about it in Chapter Four. I mostly use a practice I learned in Svaroopa Yoga, which is a kind of therapeutic yoga.
  2. Silence. I sit in 5-10 minutes of prayerful silence each morning as soon as I finish my spiritual reading and before I plan my day or go outside to workout.
  3. Walking or running outdoors. Being in nature and moving rhythmically will change you at the molecular and spiritual level.
  4. Centering Prayer. This one is a life commitment, and it will revolutionize everything about your life. It comes out of Ignatian spirituality, which is Christian. There are numerous ways to learn and practice Centering Prayer– books, retreats, groups and with a spiritual director. If you read, Open Mind, Open Heart by Father Thomas Keating is a good place to start.

Would you like to learn more about mindfulness, breath practice, meditation or centering prayer? If so, post your questions as a comment to this thread. I am passionate about this topic, and I’d love to help you learn more.

Starter Prayer

LORD God, teach me new ways to pray.

Reading Focus for Rising Strong, by Brené Brown

We are now in week 5, of this 6-week study. The focus is Chapters 9-10 of Rising Strong. The topics are: rumbling with failure and self-worth.

Let JOY Live (Day 33)

JOY is the most vulnerable emotion we experience. Brené Brown

Celebrate joyfully in the Lord, all the time. I’ll say it again: celebrate! Let everybody know how gentle and gracious you are. The Lord is near. The Apostle Paul (Philippians 4:4-5)


Over decades of research, Dr. Brené Brown has discovered that vulnerability is not weakness—in fact, it is the source of human strength. This aligns with what the Apostle Paul discovered in his own spiritual journey. Paul talks about his weaknesses and how human vulnerability is actually the pathway for union with God as well as our most blissful experiences of love, creativity, JOY and belonging.

Dr. Brown also found that JOY is the most vulnerable emotion we experience. No wonder Paul urges his community to be vulnerable and let JOY roam free. The ability to do so is key to spiritual transformation.

According to Brown’s research, 90% of us have a type of “armor” we use to protect us from the powerful emotion of JOY. She calls it “foreboding joy.”

Since JOY is the most vulnerable emotion we experience, if we are not emotionally capable of tolerating joy, we try to protect our hearts by “dress rehearsing tragedy.” That is, imagining something bad is going to happen, when in fact, nothing is wrong.

It happened to me often when my girls were little. Five of us would be piled up on our king-sized bed for story time, my newborn baby snuggling in a proud sister’s arms. Then suddenly a dark feeling would wash over me: What if one of them dies?

‘Foreboding joy’ still happens to me these days. I’ll wake up in the morning and think: I’m so excited about our house remodel, the church is thriving, our parents are doing well… This can’t last. What hard thing is going to happen next?

“What wrong with that?” you say. “I do it all the time, and I think I should! It’s one of the ways I stay realistic and ready for life’s hardships.”

Well, during her research, Brené Brown met people who don’t rehearse tragedy. These people had profound capacity for JOY. When something glorious was happening to them, they felt happy. Instead of practicing disaster, they use JOY as a gentle reminder to practice gratitude. These same people do very well when hardship hits. They have strong skills in empathy, practicing values, withstanding criticism, rumbling with their tough stories and Rising Strong after a setback.

One more thought: How many of us use “foreboding joy” to control others? Parents, maybe you’re afraid that celebrating your child’s success today will cause them to stop trying hard tomorrow. Or at work, do you ever withhold a celebration, because you want the team to keep on improving their performance?  

The capacity to be joyful without engaging in self-protection is exactly what Paul is encouraging here in Philippians Chapter 4. He is urging us to fully feel our JOY and celebrate with others.

How would today be different for you if you let JOY roam free in your heart and home and workplace?

Starter Prayer

LORD God, make me brave enough to be joyful.

Reading Focus for Rising Strong, by Brené Brown

We are now in week 5, of this 6-week study. The focus is Chapters 9-10 of Rising Strong. The topics are: rumbling with failure and self-worth.

Worthy of Love and Belonging (Day 32)

I define wholehearted living as engaging in our lives from a place of worthiness. It means cultivating the courage, compassion, and connection to wake up in the morning and think, “No matter what gets done and how much is left undone, I am enough. It’s going to bed at night thinking, Yes, I am imperfect and vulnerable and sometimes afraid, but that doesn’t change the truth that I am brave and worthy of love and belonging.” Brené Brown.

But our citizenship[l] is in heaven, and it is from there that we are expecting a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. He will transform the body of our humiliation that it may be conformed to the body of his glory, by the power that also enables him to make all things subject to himself. The Apostle Paul (Philippians 20-21)


In Philippians 3, Paul is comparing and contrasting the power of God with the power of earthly rulers and systems. He is admitting that even faithful believers can get confused and put our faith in the world’s survival tactics. He is urging us to think of ourselves as ‘citizens of heaven’ instead. For Christ’s followers, the faith community (church) is a ‘colony of heaven’; and we are responsible for bringing God’s rule into our homes, churches and the spaces where we daily live.

Of course, we’re not very good at this! Plus, things often go wrong, and as Brené Brown puts it: You’re going to stumble, fall, and get your ass kicked. And sometimes we simply find ourselves weak and helpless, because our minds and bodies are subject to sickness, aging, fatigue and all that fun stuff.

Even if we have turned our lives over to the saving grace of a higher power (in the Christian sense, Christ Jesus), we still have climbing to do and falls to rise from. In the words of Robert Frost, I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep.

Nevertheless, we hope and trust that Christ Jesus himself will keep on transforming our hearts, life circumstances and relationships. And much of our hope is in the long game—that better days are coming when Christ will thoroughly transform creation.

I believe that the concept of ‘wholehearted living’, which came out of Brené Brown’s research, is similar to what Jesus called ‘choosing the narrow road that leads to life’. I also think it maps with Paul’s idea of ‘being transformed through the renewing of our minds’ rather than ‘conforming’ to the world’s ways.

In Rising Strong, Dr. Brown talks about living wholeheartedly from the starting place of worthiness. How does your faith in God (Christian or other) help you establish and maintain a sense of “worthiness” each day? What difference does “worthiness” make in your ability to live a brave and joyful life?

Starter Prayer

LORD God, help me begin and end each day grounded in worthiness.

Reading Focus for Rising Strong, by Brené Brown

We are now in week 5, of this 6-week study. The focus is Chapters 9-10 of Rising Strong. The topics are: rumbling with failure and self-worth.

No Greater Threat (Day 31)

There is no greater threat to the critics and cynics and fearmongers than those of us who are willing to fall because we have learned how to rise. Brené Brown.

Brothers and sisters, join in imitating me, and observe those who live according to the example you have in us. For many live as enemies of the cross of Christ; I have often told you of them, and now I tell you even with tears. The Apostle Paul (Philippians 3:17-18)


The critics and cynics and fearmongers…

As we read the Apostle Paul, we see how he had people problems. Does anyone reading this have a people problem?? Think: controlling parent, angry teen, uncaring boss, competitive co-worker, mean teacher, emotionally detached partner, betrayal by a friend… Or what about a problem in our culture?  Corrupt politicians, mass incarceration, illiteracy, toxic social media, neighbors threatened with deportation…

Some people read today’s passage and assume Paul was calling everyone outside his group an enemy. To many vocal Christians in today’s world, an “enemy of Christ” would be anyone who does not share that Christian’s view of the Bible and brand of morality.

Paul was referring to something else entirely. Here’s the background: Philippi was a Roman Colony. And naturally the citizens of Phillipi resented some of the tactics used by Rome to keep the colonial citizens in line: Violence, control, unjust economic practices, ethnic persecution. And! The oldest trick in the book: “Bow down to our emperor, or off to jail you go.” Furthermore, Paul had trouble with people in his own religion—fundamentalists who were pushing a purity agenda over and against the actual Good News of Jesus.

So, Paul is sick and tired of the cynics, critics and fearmongers of the day. And he is beseeching his little group to discover (and use) their true power. Paul knows he has discovered the secret of contentment and actual influence, and he wants to empower his listeners to follow his example in dealing with both petty and life-threatening challenges while remaining hopeful and full of faith.

Chapter 11 of Rising Strong is about pulling together the key learnings of the rising strong process, and beginning to apply them faithfully. The chapter ends with The Manifesto of the Brave and Brokenhearted—a celebration of those who choose to work through life’s challenges with True Power. The manifesto is an apt summary of what Paul has in mind when he says, “imitate me and people who live out a good example.”

Tomorrow, we will continue into the high-point of Philippians, where Paul describes the place of belonging for everyone who chooses life along the Jesus Way.

Starter Prayer

LORD God, point me to the people worth imitating and following. Help me be a good example and lead the way for others.

Reading Focus for Rising Strong, by Brené Brown

We are now in week 5, of this 6-week study. The focus is Chapters 9-10 of Rising Strong. The topics are: rumbling with failure and self-worth.

Life-giving Endings (Day 27)

What has to end or die so we can experience a rebirth in our relationships? Brené Brown.

I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death,  and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead. The Apostle Paul (Philippians 3:10-11)


For me, today’s passage is the most personal and telling statement Paul makes in the Prison Letters. Paul wants to experience whole-life transformation, and he realizes that something must die in order for that to happen.

He realizes that Resurrection is a mystery, and he’s not sure how this will be accomplished. I suspect he is gazing at two horizons in his mind’s eye: Living in union with God now; and the assurance of safe passage through a physical death into eternal life with God.

I cherish Paul’s statement, because I have these longings myself. I want to know True Life today: healing, character transformation, JOY, freedom, creativity, Love and Wisdom… I want these goods in my heart, my home, our church, my workplace. I want a flourishing life in the kingdom of God with the family of God—NOW. And I want to see this Resurrection happening in the world, where individuals and groups of people are living in spiritual darkness, hunger, war, persecution, loneliness or exclusion in their earthly lives.

I also want to be a part of the ultimate Resurrection that God is accomplishing in all of creation and which is everlasting and beyond our dreams.

This understanding that something must die as a part of Resurrection is actually addressed by the author in Rising Strong. When she discusses Rumbling with Forgiveness, Dr. Brown frames ‘forgiveness’ as the process of healing from loss and experiencing new birth. I want to refer you to read this section in Chapter 7. Here are a few bites to whet your appetite:

“In order for forgiveness to happen, something has to die. If you make a choice to forgive, you have to face into the pain. You simply have to hurt.”

“The death or ending that forgiveness necessitates comes in many shapes and forms. We may need to bury our expectations or dreams. We may need to relinquish the power that comes with “being right” or put to rest the idea that we can do what’s in our hearts and still retain the support or approval of others.”

“So, forgiveness is not forgetting or walking away from accountability or condoning a hurtful act; it’s the process of taking back and healing our lives so we can truly live.”

After you read Rumbling with Forgiveness in Chapter 7, consider these questions:

  1. Where are you holding on too tight, because you are afraid of experiencing the pain and grief of letting go of an expectation (forgiveness)?
  2. What will you lose and grief if you let go of this expectation?
  3. What will be resurrected in your soul or relationships if you choose to walk through this grief?
  4. What expectation did God let go of when Christ Jesus came and died among us?
  5. How do you feel about this larger way of thinking about forgiveness?

Starter Prayer

LORD God, light the path of forgiveness before me. Help me make forgiveness a regular practice of rising strong.

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. Next week our discussion groups will focus on chapters 8-9.