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.

Eye Contact (Day 20)

We don’t have to do all of it alone. We were never meant to. Brené Brown.

Still, I think it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus—my brother and co-worker and fellow soldier, your messenger and minister to my need… Welcome him then in the Lord with all joy, and honor such people, because he came close to death for the work of Christ, risking his life to make up for those services that you could not give me. The Apostle Paul (Philippians 2:25-30)


Paul ends Philippians 2 with some storytelling around his needs and the people who care for him. Apparently his support system is largely the Philippian church and two men named Timothy and Epaphroditus. It’s easy to bounce over these types passages when we read Paul’s writings. After all, they seem like personal details that would only be important to Paul and his people. His words here don’t sound like something to build your life on. Certainly not the significance of “I can do all things through Christ who give me strength” or “Make my joy complete by being of one mind.”

I could go on typing famous sound bites from Philippians until sundown. But here’s the point. These other little paragraphs are a big deal too. They give us a window into Paul’s heart. If all Paul’s writings were dense, abstract theological statements and moral instruction, we would have never known him as a human being.

Chapter 8 of Rising Strong is all about being human and ‘rumbling’ with human need. For some reason human beings tend to look away from need. When someone is grieving, dying, homeless, addicted, psychotic… we may want to look away. We also look away from our own deep need. We also find it hard to accept help from others.

In her research, Brené Brown discovered the people who rise strong are more willing to make eye contact with human need—in themselves as well as others. And she found that the two are correlated: The willingness to accept help is abundant in people who are themselves truly helpful.

How are you at making eye contact with your own needs? The storytelling in Chapter 8 is eye opening.

Starter Prayer

LORD God, help me take a long, loving look at my own need.

Reading Focus for Rising Strong, by Brené Brown

We are in week three, of this 6-week study. The focus is Chapters 5-6 of Rising Strong. The topics are: The Rumble, and Living BIG (Boundaries, Integrity and Generosity). If your discussion group has completed session three, begin reading Chapters 7-8.

Learning to Care (Day 19)


What do people with strong relationships, parents with deep connections to their children, teachers nurturing creativity and learning, clergy walking with people through faith, and trusted leaders have in common? They recognize the power of emotion and they’re not afraid to lean in to discomfort. Brené Brown

I hope to send Timothy to you soon… I have nobody else of his quality: he will care quite genuinely about how you are. Like a child with a father he has worked as a slave alongside me for the sake of the gospel. The Apostle Paul (Philippians 2:19-23)

I can’t remember when it happened, but one day I woke up and realized that my own daughters, whom I used to goad and nag to help with cooking, laundry, gardening or entertaining—even proof reading and editing—had become highly skilled and reliable in all of those things. They had learned to care about their work and the people they serve.

I realized that over years of working closely together, we had come to share a brain and a heart. And now, I have the blessing of their helpful companionship. Sometimes we work side by side as partners. And when they do work on my behalf, I know they will do an excellent job.

This is the ultimate joy of parenting, leadership and teaching in any setting. And Brené Brown’s research reminds me of an X-factor in any good apprenticeship—the factor of caring. Brené discovered that good students have been taught empathy and emotional resilience by their parents and teachers, coaches and pastors.

We learn in Paul’s letter to the Philippians that he and Timothy have worked together like father and son—in a culture where most children follow their parents into the family occupation and learn how to work by watching and copying. Now, an intimate bond has formed between the two, so much so that Paul trusts his young friend to represent him anywhere.

It’s interesting that he doesn’t endorse Timothy as a “wonderful teacher”, or a “devout and holy man”, but as a caring person who can be trusted to serve people with love and expertise.

In what ways were you taught skills like empathy when you were growing up? In what ways are you practicing them now and passing them on to others?

Starter Prayer

LORD God, guide me into caring relationships where I can learn, grow and influence others for good.

Reading Focus for Rising Strong, by Brené Brown

We are in week three, of this 6-week study. The focus is Chapters 5-6 of Rising Strong. The topics are: The Rumble, and Living BIG (Boundaries, Integrity and Generosity). If your discussion group has completed session three, begin reading Chapters 6-7.

New Awareness (Day 18)

We now know when we’re showing up and when we’re hiding out, when we are living our values and when we are not. Our new awareness can also be invigorating—it can reignite our sense of purpose and remind us of our commitment to wholeheartedness. Brené Brown

Do all things without murmuring and arguing, so that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, in which you shine like stars in the world. It is by your holding fast to the word of life that I can boast on the day of Christ that I did not run in vain or labor in vain. The Apostle Paul (Philippians 2:14-16)


Dave and I are remodeling a midcentury ranch home near downtown Loveland. This spring and summer we found our energies divided between our current residence and the shiny new project. I had to force myself to put the usual effort into potting flowers at home, because the realtor insisted it must be done!

The house sold quickly (It must have been those flower pots!). And one day, Dave and helpers brought all the gorgeous, blooming containers to our next house and plopped them down in the middle of a construction zone. It was depressing.

I felt a number of things: Guilty that the yard was taking such a beating during the build; overwhelmed at the landscape and patio work we now have ahead of us; and confused about where to put these beautiful flower pots in an unfinished environment. They seemed out of place.

Now, I am not a young woman! But I had cherished this sort of opportunity all my life. So I took a deep breath, and we began arranging the pots in the future patio spaces. Instead of forgetting about these flowers, I decided they would be ‘a thing of beauty’ in a work zone.

Life is often like this. The Apostle Paul writes about looking forward to the day when God has finished the work of peace and justice in the whole cosmos. Until then, the children of God are to be shining lights—a beacon of hope—a sign of God’s beauty in the midst of unfinished work.

The rising strong process relates to this. In Chapter One, Brené Brown explains what it will be like if we choose to be brave with our lives. Once we identify our arena, and show up and take a stand, we can never go back to our old life; and that’s hard. Sometimes this is depressing. However! We now have the opportunity of a lifetime: We have new awareness and bigger, stronger hearts. The rising strong experience can reignite our sense of purpose and remind us of our most treasured values. We are as Paul says, “shining like stars in the world.”

Can you name a ‘thing of beauty’ that gives you hope in the midst of your unfinished life?

Starter Prayer

LORD God, give me eyes to see and ears to hear what the Spirit is doing in me and around me as I practice rising strong. Help me stay encouraged by the beautiful signs of progress.

Reading Focus for Rising Strong, by Brené Brown

We are in week three, of this 6-week study. The focus is Chapters 5-6 of Rising Strong. The topics are: The Rumble, and Living BIG (Boundaries, Integrity and Generosity).

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.

Compassion (Day 12)

I’ve met and interviewed people who not only have spent time facedown in the arena, but also were brave enough to open their eyes to the suffering of others lying there with them. Brené Brown

If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. The Apostle Paul, Philippians 2:1-2


There is an old religious joke that says if you have two rabbis, priests or pastors you’ve probably got three opinions. The joke works for republicans and democrats too. (Picture the presidential election debates where 12 party rivals are arguing on stage at once.)

In real life, there are theological differences, political resentments and radically differing ideologies in religion and politics. While I doubt that we can change that any times soon, I have great faith that you and I can develop the eyes and heart of compassion to treat people with love and care.

I’ve been at a big dinner of ‘dignitaries’ where the person saying grace reminded us: “Remember, the most interesting person in the room is the person sitting next to you.” I need these reminders day by day, moment by moment.

So, how is it possible to live the way Paul envisions– thinking, loving and regarding everyone’s opinions as better than one’s own? Or how do we have compassion for others when we ourselves are face down in the arena?

Simple thought: The habit of compassion (skill of empathy) is a miracle of grace and transformation, and the rising strong process sure helps!

I’ll leave us to meditate on the words of American Buddihist nun Pema Chödrön as quoted in Rising Strong:

When we practice generating compassion, we can expect to experience our fear of pain. Compassion practice is daring. It involves learning to relax and allow ourselves to move gently toward what scares us….In cultivating compassion we draw from the wholeness of our experience—our suffering, our empathy, as well as our cruelty and terror. It has to be this way. Compassion is not a relationship between the healer and the wounded. It’s a relationship between equals. Only when we know our own darkness well can we be present with the darkness of others. Compassion becomes real when we recognize our shared humanity.

Starter Prayer

God of Compassion, help me to see my suffering neighbor as an equal. When I see my neighbor’s pain, help me to recognize my own wounds and long for my own healing.

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 3-5 of Rising Strong. The topics are: Owning our stories, reckoning with emotion, the rumble and Living BIG.

Opponents (Day 11)

Living BIG [Boundaries, Integrity, Generosity] is saying: ‘Yes, I’m going to be generous in my assumptions and intentions while standing solidly in my integrity and being very clear about what’s acceptable and what’s not acceptable. Brené Brown

Do not be intimidated by your opponents. Their influence will not last, and you are being saved. And this is God’s doing. For God has graciously granted you the privilege not only of believing in Christ, but of suffering for him as well—since you are having the same struggle that you saw I had and now hear that I still have. Phil 1: 27-30


“Don’t let him see you’re afraid. I have my walking stick, and we will pass by him quickly and confidently.”

My Grandma whispered these words to calm my fears as we set out on a country walk that would take us past a snarling dog. But I was afraid! I was seven years old, and that year our family dog had bitten the milkman. What might this wilder dog do to me?

Swallowing my feelings, I walked beside Grandma. My faith was tested when the dog charged up to us, stopped, sniffed and ran back to his porch. He was only curious. But had I screamed and cried and run away, he might have chased me.

“Don’t let your opponents intimidate you,” Paul tells the Philippians. Of course those who oppose our gospel values are not simply large dogs. Something sadder and more insidious is usually going on. From the first-century world of Paul and Jesus to our day, small-minded people have opposed the gospel.

When I say ‘opposed the gospel’ I’m not referring to certain religious values that might be opposed: like prayer in schools or keeping Muslims out of office. I’m referring to gospel values like compassion, empathy, respecting differences, generosity, kindness, freedom and wisdom.

These gospel values are topics that pervade all of Brené Brown’s research and teaching. In your world, an opponent might be a critical parent, an uncaring teacher, spiritually abusive clergy, disgruntled co-workers, school bullies or an oppressive social system like sexism or homophobia.

In the Rising Strong™ process we learn the skills to stand up to our opponents without becoming like them. In chapter six of Rising Strong you will learn about the skill of ‘Living BIG’ (Boundaries, Integrity and Generosity)

It is not enough to extend generosity of spirit to our opponents. Neither abusive systems of power nor petty selfishness will yield to your generosity. However! When you add clarity of values and boundary-keeping to your life skills, you will rise strong in the presence of your enemies.

Starter Prayer

LORD God, teach me how to Live BIG whenever someone or something threatens my gospel values. Help me discover my values and learn to cherish them and use them well.

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.

Offloading Hurt (Day 10)

[When hurt] is left unchecked, it festers, grows, and leads to behaviors that are completely out of line with whom we want to be, and thinking that can sabotage our relationships and careers. Brené Brown

Live your life in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ… standing firm in one spirit, striving side by side with one mind for the faith of the gospel… The Apostle Paul (Philippians 1:27)


If you wonder about the relationship between the Rising Strong™ process and gospel goodness, look no further than chapter four of Rising Strong.

The core “good news” (gospel) of the Christian faith is the promise of transformation. It’s well stated in 2 Peter 1:4: God has given something very great and wonderful… you are able to share the divine nature!

And how divine do you feel? Me? Not so much today!

Have you ever bolted from a family argument and distanced yourself from others for the rest of the day? Have you ever been harsh with a toddler? And at work, do you ever feel overlooked in a meeting and become forceful or shut down? Do you know anyone who bottled their feelings, and then ended their marriage with an affair? Is anyone here on a desperate journey for validation from parents or the boss, and you are sinking even lower from numbing the pain with over-spending or alcohol?

We all struggle with negative emotions and hurtful behavior.

There is a huge gap between the Bible’s wisdom, modeled by Jesus, and the way we sometimes treat one another and ourselves. And this mistreatment is almost always a matter of offloading our own hurt onto others. Offloading occurs at the interpersonal level and the societal level. Offloading hurt is the source of everything from marital conflict and sibling rivalry to racism, sexism, mass incarceration and war.

I urge us to read chapter four with a brave heart. Meditate on the two components of reckoning with emotion: Recognizing we are emotionally hooked and getting curious about what we are feeling. Then check out the six ways we offload our hurt onto others. Where do you see yourself in these descriptions?

Self-observation is an essential component of healing and transformation. This step is a powerful beginning to the rest of the rising strong process.

Starter Prayer

LORD God, give me the courage to recognize when I am emotionally hooked and to get curious about my uncomfortable emotions. Help me overcome the human tendency to avoid this topic altogether.

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.

Reckoning With Emotion (Day 9)

There is a clear pattern among the women and men who demonstrate the ability to rise strong from hurt or adversity—they reckon with emotion. Brené Brown

I would really rather leave all this and be with Christ Jesus, because that would feel far better. But staying here on earth is more vital for your sake… to help you advance and rejoice in your faith. The Apostle Paul (Philippians 1:23-25)


Chapter Four of Rising Strong begins with this statement:

You may not have signed up for a hero’s journey, but the second you fell down, got your butt kicked, suffered a disappointment, screwed up, or felt your heart break, it started. It doesn’t matter whether we are ready for an emotional adventure—hurt happens. And it happens to every single one of us. Without exception. The only decision we get to make is what role we’ll play in our own lives: Do we want to write the story or do we want to hand that power over to someone else? Choosing to write our own story means getting uncomfortable; it’s choosing courage over comfort. Brené Brown

In the New Testament, Paul models how to reckon with painful emotion. The context for Philippians 1 is found in 2 Corinthians 1:8-11. There, Paul described what actually happened before he was released from prison. It sounds as though things reached a point where he not only thought he would be killed, but where his own emotions became so painful he felt the death sentence inside his own heart and mind.

We mustn’t hear Paul’s exhortations to the Philippians in a cheerful or above-it-all tone. We shouldn’t fall for the lie that some people are Teflon heroes while others feel pain, fear and reactionary anger. And we can’t make the mistake of thinking God does spiritual transformation to us—in a vacuum.

Paul leaned into the emotional discomfort of imprisonment. This reckoning with emotion carried him through a terrible experience and changed his heart.

What does fear, shame or grief feel like in your body? How do you know when you are emotionally hooked? How have you experienced God’s mercy in a face down moment?

Starter Prayer and Practice

Merciful God, teach me how to recognize my emotions and lean into the discomfort. Help me trust you in this process and learn to trust myself.

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.

Going Back Into the Arena (Day 6)

I want to be in the arena. I want to be brave with my life. And when we make the choice to dare greatly, we sign up to get our asses kicked. We can choose courage or we can choose comfort, but we can’t have both. Not at the same time. Brené Brown.

I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance. It is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be put to shame in any way, but that by my speaking with all boldness, Christ will be exalted now as always in my body, whether by life or by death. The Apostle Paul (Philippians 1:19-20)


In the introduction to Rising Strong, Brené Brown writes about two counterfeit versions of courage that are overused in our day: ‘gold-plated grit’ and the ‘badassery deficit’. You can google these phrases or read about them in Rising Strong.

Continue reading Going Back Into the Arena (Day 6)