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.

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.

All You Need is L & W (Day 4)

The goal of the process is to rise from our falls, overcome our mistakes, and face hurt in a way that brings more wisdom and wholeheartedness into our lives. Brené Brown. 

I pray that you will overflow with love for others, and at the same time keep on growing in spiritual knowledge and wisdom… May you be filled to overflowing with the fruit of right living that shows you are a child of God… Philippians 1:9-11


This week I am on spiritual retreat with a group of women exploring their purpose and calling. I guess you could say they are asking the question: “What is my arena? Where in the world do I want to show up, and be brave?”

Continue reading All You Need is L & W (Day 4)