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.