Wholehearted

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
    and do not rely on your own insight.
In all your ways acknowledge him,
    and he will make straight your paths.
Proverbs 3:5-6


This weekend, Ryan Howell and the Crossroads team talked about the heart. Ryan did a great job of explaining how the Hebrew imagination understood the heart as having four dimensions: thinking, feeling, choosing and behaving. The biblical writers carried this view of the heart forward through the teachings of Jesus, Paul and others.

Fast forward to today, and the Hebrew way of understanding the heart maps perfectly with the research findings of Dr. Brené Brown and the Daring Way™ community.

The research shows that people who go through really hard things and grow emotionally, spiritually and relationally are people who are in touch with the various parts of their hearts. Another way of saying this is that emotionally resilient people understand themselves really well. They are able to observe themselves thinking, feeling and acting. And! They take responsibility for choosing their thoughts, feelings and actions. Because of these skills, they trust themselves. And this knowing of self ,and trusting self, also aids us in knowing and trusting God and creating a circle of trust in our important relationships.

This may sound a bit too theological, metaphysical and analytical for some. But the good news is that we can cultivate whole-heartedness without much knowledge or interest in the scholarly aspects of this topic.

If the wholehearted self is a combination of our thinking, feeling, choosing and doing-selves, we ought to get to know each of these selves! This means spending time and talking with ourselves and God about our thoughts, feelings, choice-making and actions. This is totally doable, and you can start growing today.

Spiritual Practice:

Read Proverbs, Chapter 3:1-8. Sit silently, breath, relax… When you’re feeling centered and present with yourself and your physical surroundings, try the following exercise.

Identify an uncomfortable emotion or experience you’ve had in the past few days, and write, pray or talk about the following prompts:

  1. I’m physically feeling _____________. Ask: How is my body responding? Where am I physically feeling this? (Common bodily responses include: accelerated pulse, dry mouth, tight throat, discomfort in your head or stomach…)
  2. I’m thinking ________________. Ask: Is there a thought constantly looping in my mind? What’s my go-to thought process?
  3. I do / I act ___________________. Ask: What’s the first thing I want to do? What’s the only thing I want to do?

This exercise will put you in touch with all the parts of your heart! As we get to know these parts of ourselves, we become what is called—integrated beings. And we become more and more able to redirect our feelings, thoughts and actions. That self-regulation is what is meant by choices—or “the will.”

Thomas Merton writes that the concept of “the heart” refers to the deepest psychological ground of one’s personality, the inner sanctuary where one’s self-awareness goes beyond analytical reflection and opens out into union with God.

Friends, our hearts never stop growing and changing. How exciting to think that we can be a vital part of that process.

More on this tomorrow evening. It’s so important during this uncertain season of our life together.

Have a blessed evening; and rest safely,
Katie

Daily Examen

Since the object of our love is infinite, we can always love more and more perfectly.  St. Ignatius of Loyola

O send out your light and your truth; let them lead me; let them bring me to your holy hill and to your dwelling. Then I will go to the altar of God, to God my exceeding joy; and I will praise you with songs, O God, my God. Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my help and my God. Psalm 43:3-6


Has your week been a blur? Do you even know what day it is?

I had to think about it! It’s Friday. I’m actually moving, if you can believe that. Dave and I are taking our time, migrating our things from a temporary house to some newly remodeled digs. I picked a fight with him today, because he was bringing boxes and items in the front door too fast for my taste! In between moving tasks, we’re each doing our day jobs from the home office, like many of you; and like many of you, we’re not getting the traction we want each day.

The Good New is: every day is an opportunity for grace and self-compassion. In these days, I find it helpful to have spiritual exercises I can practice until they become– my practice. One such practice is the Daily Examen.

Spiritual Practice: The Daily Examen

Another way to pray is to watch for God’s presence in your life. More than 400 years ago St. Ignatius Loyola taught about mindfulness via a simple practice called the Daily Examen. The Examen is a guided reflection on the events of the day meant to help us notice God’s presence and receive God’s guidance. Most people practice Examen in the evening, but many prefer to look back on the previous day each morning. Try this version of St. Ignatius’s prayer:

1. Become aware of God’s presence. Sit quietly in a comfortable spot and establish your openness to God: Breath deeply, sit in silence until your mind slows down, read Psalm 43:3-6. Then, review the events of your day with a prayerful attitude. The day may seem blurry or meaningless to you. Ask God to bring clarity and understanding.

2. Review the day with gratitude. Gratitude is the foundation of our relationship with God. Walk through your day in the presence of God and note the joy and goodness. Focus on the day’s gifts. Look at your work and the people you interacted with. What did you receive from these people? What did you give them? Pay attention to small things—the food you ate, the sights you saw, and other seemingly small pleasures. God is in the details.

3. Pay attention to your emotions. One of St. Ignatius’s great insights was that we detect the presence of the Spirit of God in the movements of our emotions. Reflect on the feelings you experienced during the day. Boredom? Joy? Resentment? Compassion? Anger? Confidence? What is God saying through these feelings?

God will most likely show you some ways that you fell short. Make note of these mistakes and faults. But look deeply for other implications. Does a feeling of frustration perhaps mean that God wants you consider a new direction in some area of your work? Are you concerned about a friend? Perhaps you should reach out to her in some way.

4. Choose one feature of the day and pray from it. Ask the Holy Spirit to direct you to something during the day that God thinks is particularly important. It may involve a feeling—positive or negative. It may be a significant encounter with another person or a vivid moment of pleasure or peace. Or it may be something that seems rather insignificant. Look at it. Pray about it. Allow the prayer to arise spontaneously from your heart—whether intercession, praise, repentance, or gratitude.

5. Look toward tomorrow. Ask God to give you light for tomorrow’s challenges. Pay attention to the feelings that surface as you survey what’s coming up. Are you doubtful? Cheerful? Apprehensive? Full of delighted anticipation? Allow these feelings to turn into prayer. Seek God’s guidance. Ask for help and understanding. Pray for hope.

St. Ignatius encouraged people to talk to Jesus like a friend. End the Daily Examen with a conversation with Jesus. Ask forgiveness for your sins and healing for your wounds. Ask for God’s protection and help. Ask for God’s wisdom about the questions you have and the problems you face. Do all this in the spirit of gratitude. Your life is a gift, and it is filled with gifts from God. End the Daily Examen with the Our Father.

Have a blessed evening; and rest safely,
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.

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.

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).

Everyday Spirituality (Day 17)

When our intentions and actions are guided by spirituality—our belief in our interconnectedness and love—our everyday experiences can be spiritual practices. We can transform teaching, leading, and parenting into spiritual practices. Brené Brown

Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose. The Apostle Paul (Philippians 2:12-13)


Paul’s statement in Philippians 2:12-13 is layered. First he says to work out our salvation. Then he says God is working in us. So which is it, Paul? Who is the savior: God or me? Or are we in some kind of salvation-collaboration?

I love N.T. Wright’s heading in his commentary on Philippians: How Salvation is Worked Out. Thank you. I’d like to know!

Truth is, verse 12 is hard to understand. It’s not quite the principle of “The Lord helps those who help themselves.” Salvation is God’s grace-based process from start to finish. But God wants us to work out for ourselves what this business of being saved means in practice. And I wonder if Paul is driving home the point that Paul himself is not responsible for the sanity of those whom he leads and influences. He is trying to get them/us to take responsibility for the day to day management of living into the saved-status God has lavishly supplied.

This maps nicely with the principle Brené Brown found in her research: Those who have learned to rise strong again and again view the rising strong process as a spiritual practice.

How does this align (or disconnect) with your view of spiritual practice? In what ways does it encourage you? In what ways does it challenge you?

I’ll start: I’m encouraged by the wisdom that says I need to DO something in order to experience transformation. This helps me know that I’m not crazy (entirely). When I’m loafing around expecting God’s goodness to make my life easy, I’m going to be disappointed. I’m also challenged. If I’m responsible for partnering with God in the transformative process, I’ve got some work to do– every day, in every setting.

What say you??

Starter Prayer

LORD God, give me spiritual eyes to see, and spiritual ears to hear, what the Spirit is directing me into– every day.

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).