Grief

Owning our stories of heartbreak is a tremendous challenge when we live in a culture that tells us to deny our grief. Brené Brown.

Be merciful to me, Lord, for I am in distress;
    my eyes grow weak with sorrow,
    my soul and body with grief.
Psalm 31

LORD God, be merciful to me as I rumble with my grief. Amen


One day I asked my Grandma B., “How long did it take you to get over Uncle Donnie’s death?”

I was about 15 and unaware of how grief works. I had no idea that a mother will never “get over” the death of her son. Uncle Donnie was killed in Vietnam when he was 19 years old. There is a photo in the family album of my grandparents standing in their living room with the Marine who presented them the purple heart medal. My grandpa and grandma posed for the photo, but their gaze is not at the camera. They look lifeless.

This week, our human family is facing numerous losses and griefs. One grief at the front of my mind is the grief that students and parents are feeling in northern Colorado. Students have learned they won’t return to school this spring. Parents are grieving the loss of the educational routines and teachers that support their families. Parents are grieving the loss of vocation structure and freedom in the face of changing family needs.

In Rising Strong, author Brené Brown describes the three most foundational elements of grief that emerged from her studies: loss, longing, and feeling lost. We are experiencing all of this.

Spiritual Practice

Since we live in a culture that has no patience for grief, and since rumbling with grief is crucial to the rising strong process… Please give yourself the gift of acknowledging your grief. Read Psalm 31. Like the psalmist did, talk it out with God verbally or in writing.

If you would like to talk to a pastor or trained volunteer, please contact us at Crossroads Church. Call 970-203-9201, and ask for Perry. We have skilled, trustworthy people who can walk with you in your grief for as long as you like.

Divine

God has given something very great and wonderful… you are able to share the divine nature!  2 Peter 1:4

LORD God, give me the courage to learn more about my own nature: my thoughts, my emotions and my reactions. And help me overcome the human tendency to avoid this topic altogether. Amen


The core “good news” (gospel) of the Christian faith is the promise of whole-life 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!

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 start over-functioning or shutting down? Do you know anyone who bottled their feelings, and then ended their marriage with an affair? Is anyone here on a quest for validation from parents or the boss, and you are numbing the pain with over-spending or alcohol?

We all struggle with negative emotions and bad behavior. And in these days of COVID-19 we’re under a lot of relational pressure

There is a huge gap between the divine life 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 emotional discomfort onto other people. Offloading occurs at the interpersonal level and the societal level. Offloading hurt is the source of most relational stress– everything from marital conflict and sibling rivalry to racism, sexism, mass incarceration and war.

[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.

Spiritual Practice

Check out these six ways we offload our hurt onto others. Where do you see yourself in these descriptions?

Read 2 Peter 1:4 and the starter prayer at the top of this post. Breathe deeply and thank God for the Hope that you are becoming more like Jesus with every step you take on the journey of life.

Self-observation is an essential component of healing and transformation. This step is a powerful beginning to your next experience with growth and courage.

Rest well,
Katie

The Art Of Thanksgiving

May you be made strong with God’s strength.
And have True Power and be prepared
to endure all things with patience.
And may you learn the Art of Thanksgiving
from the God who has promised you
inheritance as the children of light.

(Adapted from Colossians Chapter 1)


Every spring our family would hold our breath as the goslings and their parents migrated from the ponds near our home to the larger lake across the road.

The fuzzy yellow babes would toddle behind their parents through dangerous territory. They had to cross streets and make their way through yards where dogs and cats were watching. When the processional began, our own young daughters would work together, securing the neighborhood predators and summoning their father to direct traffic.

Fortunately, the geese always reached their destination safely. And we were amazed at the parents’ confidence as they led their vulnerable families through potential hazards and on to the real world where they would grow to maturity.

Today, I feel a little like Mother Goose. I’ve just facilitated my first 40 Days of Rising Strong group experience. I’ve heard your encouraging stories and over-heard your brave conversations. We’ve been able to discuss, and even practice, the rising strong process with friends on the same journey. And now it’s time to cross the road and walk into some challenging environments.

The holiday season will be rife with all familiar stressors and emotional triggers. We will be with some people who have never heard of the Manifesto of the Brave and Brokenhearted or reckoning with emotion or the story rumble. This is going to be quite a challenge. How will we hold on to our divine dignity while honoring the dignity of others?

The mother goose used her natural instincts to get her family safely to the other side. Unfortunately, our natural human instincts aren’t as effective. We are more complicated creatures; we have emotional wounds and flaws. We need our rising strong practices, and we need to employ them as spiritual practices—inviting God into the practice itself.

As Christ followers who have learned to rise, we have newfound wisdom to understand what is happening to us and how we can co-operate with the divine life that is gently working and growing within us.

We can nurture this process with prayer and awareness.

Today, I am meditating on Paul’s prayer for wisdom and thanksgiving in Colossians 1. The phrase that is speaking to me is: Learn the Art of Thanksgiving from the God who has promised you inheritance as the children of light.

Sometimes I don’t feel like a thankful child of light. When my feelings get the best of me and I say or do something to aggravate a relational dynamic, I want to remember that God is working in me to transform me into a shining light.

I hope you will join me and keep Paul’s prayer close this week. And I encourage us to review the rising strong practices. You pick two! Pick one that you are good at, and pick one you suck at! Then practice these two with reckless abandon on Thanksgiving Day. I’ve chosen: 1.) Believing that people are doing the best they can and 2.) Choosing courage over comfort.

If anyone is up for it, I would love to hear your questions and wisdoms in the comments section on this blog.

I’m Thankful for You! Katie

Starter Prayer

LORD God, give me True Power and teach me the Art of Thanksgiving.

Can Do (Day 40)

Showing up is our power.
Story is our way home.
Truth is our song.
We are the brave and brokenhearted.
We are rising strong. Brené Brown

I’ve been having a great celebration in the Lord because your concern for me has once again burst into flower. I’m not talking about lacking anything. I’ve learnt to be content with what I have. I know how to do without, and I know how to cope with plenty. In every possible situation I’ve learned the hidden secret of being full and hungry, of having plenty and going without, and it’s this: I have strength for everything in the one who gives me power. The Apostle Paul (Philippians 4:10-13)


The Rising strong process is largely about finding our True Power. Throughout Rising Strong, Brené Brown explains how the brain works and how human beings tend to react to uncomfortable feelings by using false power. Some of us over-function: I won’t feel; I will do; I don’t need help, I help. Others under-function: I won’t function, I will fall apart. I don’t help, I need help. Some people lash out when they’re hurting. Other people distance themselves. Every personality has a style of misusing power.

The Book of Philippians is the Apostle Paul’s ‘thank you note’ to a group of friends who helped him survive prison. They sent financial gifts and visitors. The Philippian group had also received a great deal from Paul in the form of spiritual leadership and teaching. In essence Paul and his friends had formed a mutually supportive relationship of giving and receiving. They trusted one another. Each partner was willing to be vulnerable with the other in times of need. Each was empathetic with the other in the face down moments—coming alongside without judgment.

The friendship illustrated throughout the letter, is a beautiful example of rising strong in action—of finding God’s power in ourselves and others.

This rising strong life is counterintuitive and somewhat rare. In the next and (and final) paragraph of Philippians 4, Paul mentions that “no other church shared with me in this manner of giving and receiving.” Apparently, the Philippians were practicing the ‘physics of vulnerability’ quite well, and Paul was commending them for it. He was also modeling the vulnerability of giving and receiving.

When we begin spiritual practices like receiving help, Living BIG, integrity of values, BRAVING Trust or feeling JOY, they feel unnatural. And yet, I’m convinced that these practices are, as Paul puts it, the “hidden secret” for contentment.

Our lives will be utterly different when we learn the secret of contentment—living in the power of vulnerability, which is only possible because Christ gives us grace.

It is possible for all of us to become brave with our lives every day. Once we have fallen in the service of being brave, and once we have experienced the power of vulnerability, we are able to continue living moment by moment, rising strong.

Starter Prayer

LORD God, teach me the hidden secret of contentment and strength, which comes from Christ‘s power working in me.

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.

Teaching Our Children (Day 39)

We’re doing our best to model and teach our children the rising strong process and help them integrate it as a practice in their lives. Brené Brown.

Put these words of mine in your heart and soul… teach them to your children, talking about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise. Moses (Deuteronomy 11)


In the past 40 days, I’ve heard about dozens of your personal ah-ha moments. Many of us have said something like this: The rising strong process is opening my eyes and changing everything; I wish I had learned this stuff years ago.

Your stories remind me of the importance of teaching our children the rising strong process and helping them integrate it as a practice in their lives.

My nest is empty now, and I have a passion for equipping parents, grandparents, foster parents, teachers, health care professionals and church leaders how to integrate the rising strong practices into their lives. From there, we all have the opportunity to teach these practices to our children, grands, fosters, students, patients and parishioners.

In chapter four of Rising Strong Brené writes: It often takes just a single brave person to change the trajectory of a family, or of any system, for that matter.

Furthermore, this one brave person does not have to have all the answers. They just need to show up, be vulnerable and practice rising strong in their own setting. Brené tells about her mother going to therapy and then showing the family how to take responsibility for their own feelings. That’s teaching the process to kids!

Who are your children, grandchildren, foster and adopted children? How could you model, and teach them, this process?

Would you like more information about attending a Daring Way™ intensive or retreat in 2020? Email me at daringway@crossroadscolorado.com. We’ll add you to the mailing list and make sure you receive the calendar of opportunities for parents (grands and fosters too!), educators, health care pros and faith community leaders.

Starter Prayer

LORD God, help me get started modeling and teaching rising strong with the young people in my life.

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.

Transforming Lives and Communities (Day 38)

All revolutions start with a new vision of what’s possible. Brené Brown.

For God, all things are possible. Jesus


In the opening paragraphs of Chapter 11, Brené explains why the Revolution is part-3 of the rising strong process:

Revolution might sound a little dramatic, but in this world, choosing authenticity and worthiness is an absolute act of resistance. Choosing to live and love with our whole hearts is an act of defiance. You’re going to confuse, piss off, and terrify lots of people—including yourself. One minute you’ll pray that the transformation stops, and the next minute you’ll pray that it never ends. You’ll also wonder how you can feel so brave and so afraid at the same time. At least that’s how I feel most of the time…brave, afraid, and very, very alive. Rising strong is the final piece of this transformation.

As we are nearing the end of 40 Days of Rising Strong, it’s time to ask the question: What is truly possible for me?

I encourage us to think about this question in two ways. First way: What is possible within me?

When a negative emotion takes hold of us and the first thought we have is, Why am I so bugged about this? Something’s up, and I need to go on a long prayer walk and figure this out, that’s when the uprising has started. That’s when you know you’ve integrated a new way of thinking. When you dig into your story rather than making one up, that’s when you know you’re in a revolution.

The second version of the question is: What is possible through me?

Having learned to rise strong from an emotional setback, in what ways will this affect your community? There is a saying: Transformed people transform people. The vision for rising strong is not only about personal transformation, it’s also about transforming our families, classrooms, faith communities, cities and nations.

Check out the section The Story Rumble At Work in Chapter 11. In this section Brené shares a list of questions her team works through whenever a hard moment presents itself. I find these questions can be used in any group settings where people work together, such as a family home! She also provides five guiding principles called The 5 Rs: This is How We Work.

Our willingness and ability to rumble during conflicts like a marital fight over money, a teen who has chosen scary friends, or a failed project at work will keep us from caving in and giving up in life’s most terrifying moments.

 I hope you feel empowered by the possibility of rising strong in the ordinary events of your life.

Starter Prayer

LORD God, give me a vision for what is possible. Give me courage to keep rising even when the people around me wish it would stop!

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.

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.