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

Worthy of Love and Belonging (Day 32)

I define wholehearted living as engaging in our lives from a place of worthiness. It means cultivating the courage, compassion, and connection to wake up in the morning and think, “No matter what gets done and how much is left undone, I am enough. It’s going to bed at night thinking, Yes, I am imperfect and vulnerable and sometimes afraid, but that doesn’t change the truth that I am brave and worthy of love and belonging.” Brené Brown.

But our citizenship[l] is in heaven, and it is from there that we are expecting a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. He will transform the body of our humiliation that it may be conformed to the body of his glory, by the power that also enables him to make all things subject to himself. The Apostle Paul (Philippians 20-21)


In Philippians 3, Paul is comparing and contrasting the power of God with the power of earthly rulers and systems. He is admitting that even faithful believers can get confused and put our faith in the world’s survival tactics. He is urging us to think of ourselves as ‘citizens of heaven’ instead. For Christ’s followers, the faith community (church) is a ‘colony of heaven’; and we are responsible for bringing God’s rule into our homes, churches and the spaces where we daily live.

Of course, we’re not very good at this! Plus, things often go wrong, and as Brené Brown puts it: You’re going to stumble, fall, and get your ass kicked. And sometimes we simply find ourselves weak and helpless, because our minds and bodies are subject to sickness, aging, fatigue and all that fun stuff.

Even if we have turned our lives over to the saving grace of a higher power (in the Christian sense, Christ Jesus), we still have climbing to do and falls to rise from. In the words of Robert Frost, I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep.

Nevertheless, we hope and trust that Christ Jesus himself will keep on transforming our hearts, life circumstances and relationships. And much of our hope is in the long game—that better days are coming when Christ will thoroughly transform creation.

I believe that the concept of ‘wholehearted living’, which came out of Brené Brown’s research, is similar to what Jesus called ‘choosing the narrow road that leads to life’. I also think it maps with Paul’s idea of ‘being transformed through the renewing of our minds’ rather than ‘conforming’ to the world’s ways.

In Rising Strong, Dr. Brown talks about living wholeheartedly from the starting place of worthiness. How does your faith in God (Christian or other) help you establish and maintain a sense of “worthiness” each day? What difference does “worthiness” make in your ability to live a brave and joyful life?

Starter Prayer

LORD God, help me begin and end each day grounded in worthiness.

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.

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.

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.