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.

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.

Psalm 1 For the Brave and Brokenhearted (Day 7)

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, from Manifesto of the Brave and Brokenhearted

Happy are those
who do not follow the advice of the wicked,
or take the path that sinners tread,
or sit in the seat of scoffers;
but their delight is in the law of the Lord,
and on his law they meditate day and night.
They are like trees
planted by streams of water,
which yield their fruit in its season,
and their leaves do not wither.
In all that they do, they prosper.
Psalm 1:1-3


I love the lyric of Psalm 1. It speaks of God’s creativity flowing through us as we choose the path of life and light over the path of hustling our way in the darkness. It also reminds me of Brené Brown’s Manifesto of the Brave and Brokenhearted at the end of Rising Strong.

Here’s the mashup I’m hearing in my head:

Happy are those
who do not follow the advice of the fearmongers,
or walk in step with the cynics,
or sit in the cheap seats with the critics;
but their delight is in the Law of Love,
and on this law they meditate day and night.
They are like trees
planted by streams of water,
which yield their fruit in its season,
and their leaves do not wither.
In all that they do, they prosper.

Those who misuse their power are not so,
but are like chaff that the wind blows away.
Therefore, their influence will not survive the judgment of Love,
or stand up in the presence of the wholehearted;
for the LORD of Love watches over the brave and brokenhearted,
but the false use of power will perish.

Starter Prayer and Practice

LORD of Love, keep watch over my brave and broken heart, and lead me in the path of wholeheartedness all of my days.

Read all of Psalm 1 aloud. Print out verses 1-3, and read them over, morning and evening, during this second week of the Rising Strong™ study. We’ll be back in Philippians tomorrow; but the Psalms are powerful prayers, and Psalm 1 is the kind of meditation that works it’s way through your soul over time.

Reading Focus for Rising Strong, by Brené Brown

We are finishing week 1 of this 6-week read along. The focus for week 2 is Chapters 4-5. The topics are: Owning our stories, reckoning with emotion, and an introduction to the rumble.

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)