Lent 2020

  • Grace in the Midst of Grief and Loss

    As many of us know, the weight of grief can be overwhelming. In its initial stages, grief can literally take our breath away. One way we can practice grace in the midst of grief is to be gentle and patient with ourselves as we begin to heal. The world will not necessarily know to extend grace to us when we are grieving, and so it is essential that we extend it to ourselves.


    Even if we are not currently experiencing grief ourselves, we likely know someone who is grieving. Most people suffering grief report how alone they feel when, after the first month or two, others stop talking with them about their loss. One way we can extend grace to others is to have the courage to continue to be with and speak with them about their loss, showing them that we are comfortable with their vulnerability, even if it simply means sitting with them in their silence or tears.


    Making It Personal: How natural is it for you to extend grace to your- self when you are experiencing grief? Can you think of a time when someone embodied grace by being the kind of friend for you that Henri Nouwen describes in the following quote? Who in your life now could benefit from you being that kind of friend?

    "The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing ... that is a friend who cares."
    Henri Nouwen
  • The Courage to Play and Be Silly

    Today is April Fool’s Day, an excellent day to remember the importance of play and silliness in our lives and how it contributes to our wellness.


    Research has long shown the importance of laughter and play in a child’s overall development and well-being, and now it is showing that the same is valid for people throughout the life cycle. The study of the role of play in adult wellness is given full attention by the American Journal of Play, a scholarly journal that explores the importance of play in both our workplaces and in our personal lives. Research also tells us that, on average, children laugh many more times a day than adults.


    We can easily grow rigid and inflexible when we forget the importance of playing and being silly. There are many ways that grace can be manifested in our lives and in our relationships. Today let’s remember the importance of playfulness and humor as two expressions of grace.


    Making It Personal: Do playfulness, laughter, and silliness come naturally for you? What do you think about the idea that humor and play are manifestations of grace? Can you think of a time when you either witnessed or experienced such grace?
  • What's In Your Cup?

    You are holding a cup of coffee when someone comes along and accidentally bumps your arm, making you spill coffee everywhere. Why did you spill the coffee? Because someone bumped into you, right? Wrong answer. You spilled the coffee because coffee was in the cup. If tea had been in it, you would have spilled tea. Whatever is inside the cup is what will come out. Therefore, when life comes along and shakes you, whatever is inside of you will come out.


    So each of us needs to ask ourselves, “What’s in my cup?” When life gets bumpy, what spills over? Joy, gratefulness, peace, and humility? Or anger, bitterness, harsh words, and reactions? We get to choose what’s in our cup.


    Making It Personal: Can you think of a time when some kind of stress “bumped” you? Did grace spill out of your cup, or something else? What can you learn from your experience?

  • The Courage to Practice Grace Under Pressure

    It takes courage to choose to respond with grace at any time, but especially when we are under the pressure of some stress or challenge. Everyone experiences pressure, sometimes even extreme pressure, in their lives. The question is not if we will experience stress in our lives, but rather how we will choose to respond. The keyword in the previous sentence is the word respond.


    Viktor Frankl, an Austrian psychiatrist, wrote a highly respected book entitled Man’s Search For Meaning, which includes this quote: “Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”


    There is a crucial distinction between reacting to stress and responding to stress. When we merely react, we often blame the stress, or someone or something other than ourselves, for our reaction. Responding is different than reacting in that it involves our thoughtfully choosing the response we wish to make. As the quote above from Sam Rodman reminds us, God has given us the freedom to think and not merely react out of fear and stress, and to have the courage to respond with grace.


    Making It Personal: What speaks to you in this quote by Viktor Frankl? Can you think of times when you have handled stress by either reacting or responding? What was the difference when you were able to respond rather than react?
  • Courage is Grace Under Pressure

    The powerful story of the resurrection of Lazarus, in John’s gospel, is a parable of grace under pressure. But not the kind of grace that presents a calm exterior. Everyone in this story is upset, even overwrought, including Jesus. Deep grief has taken hold. But grace and courage are everywhere, as well.


    Martha confronts Jesus saying “If you had been here, my brother would not have died.” Her boldness is an expression of grace under pressure. Jesus is not calm, but he is courageous as he opens himself to God’s grace. His tears are a sign of that openness.


    Grace is present wherever the truth of God is being revealed. To speak our truth takes courage. 

    Jesus calls Lazarus out of the tomb. And then he tells the people “Unbind him and let him go. ...”

    This is God’s grace for each of us, to be set free from our fears, to find the courage to speak our truth, to discover that boldness is a gift.

  • The Courage to Let Go of Prejudice

    It is unfortunately all too true in our day-to-day interactions with one another ... we unconsciously pre-judge others based on their appearance, often related to their color, size, and shape, among other factors. Anna Courie wrote about one form of bias and prejudice: “Even today, we have a tendency to collectively think that something is “less-than” about a person with disease or disability.” We often do the same regarding race, class, gender, and sexual orientation.


    Tribal thinking, which almost always includes strong prejudices about the “others” who are not a part of one’s tribe, is strong in our culture. As people of faith, we are called to reject all forms of prejudice, and to “strive for justice and peace among all people, respecting the dignity of every human being” (Book of Common Prayer). It takes courage to let go of our prejudices and engage in this counter-cultural way of accepting and loving others.

    Making It Personal: Sometimes it is easier to be aware of our prejudices by looking at our past. Are you aware of any prejudices that you used to have that you have been able to overcome? Looking at your life today, are there people you find particularly challenging to treat with dignity and to see as beloved children of God, just like you?


  • The Courage to Let Go of Fear and Worry

    The author of Psalm 23 knows about worry and fear. “Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil.” What is comforting is that the author is not consumed by fear and worry, but instead focuses on the comfort that God’s presence offers. The confidence in God’s comfort is so beautifully described in this psalm.


    The root meaning of the word worry means to strangle. That seems appropriate given how worry can constrict our spiritual and emotional well-being. And while it is probably impossible to choose never to worry, we do have the choice to become aware when our worry is excessive, and to make choices that will help us to let go of perhaps not all of it, but most of it.


    Making It Personal: “Let go and let God,” may seem like an overused cliché, but do you find comfort or wisdom in these words? Does Psalm 23 provide comfort for you in times of worry? Is there a particular line from the psalm that gives you comfort? Have you ever felt that worry was constricting your emotional and/or spiritual well-being?

  • The Courage to Let Go of Darkness

    Ephesians 5:8-11 calls us to live as children of the light. On the surface, this sounds not only desirable, but maybe even easy. After all, who would choose to live in darkness instead of light? 


    The news is full of stories of bigotry, racism, and hatred. Behind each of these stories are people who are choosing to live in the dark rather than in the light. Living in the light of God’s love is a continual call to change, grow, and to repent when we have chosen to live in darkness.


    Darkness is not just “out there” in other people. Each of us has the capacity to choose thoughts, words, and deeds that reflect sin and darkness, just as we can choose those which spread light and love. We manifest and radiate out to others the energy in which we choose to live.


    Making It Personal: What is your response to the Scripture quote from Ephesians? Why do you think someone might choose to remain in the darkness rather than living in the light? Have you struggled, or do you struggle, with that decision yourself?

  • The Courage to Let Go of Feelings of Inadequecy

    Perfectionism and feelings of inadequacy often go hand in hand. It is the feeling of being inadequate that can drive someone toward perfectionism. It is also possible that feelings of inadequacy hinder a person from believing they can do or achieve things that are worthwhile.


    In the story of the Samaritan woman who meets Jesus at the well, we see a woman who is hindered by deep feelings of inadequacy. It is only through her confession and encounter with Jesus that she overcomes her feelings of not being good enough, and is then able to go forth so deeply transformed that her testimony begins to transform others.


    Feelings of inadequacy should not be confused with humility. Humility is a spiritual virtue that has been described as not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less often, and being modest about your own place in the world. Love is grounded in humility. It is difficult to love— ourselves and others—if we are overwhelmed by feelings of inadequacy.


    Making It Personal: Have you struggled, or do you currently struggle, with feelings of adequacy? If so, what gives you the courage let go of those feelings? Do you see how letting go of feelings of inadequacy could free up energy to help you bloom?

  • The Courage to Let Go of Perfectionism

    It is hard to underestimate the damage that the “disease of perfectionism” does to the well-being of ourselves and to others. Perfectionism creates deep feelings of lack and inadequacy in ourselves, sending us on an endless and impossible search to correct every perceived flaw. It can also create harsh criticisms, which can then become the justification for the mistreatment of others who are judged to be “less than perfect” in some way. Perfectionism is not in any way the same thing as striving to be our best selves and striving to do the right thing. Perfectionism can actually cripple us and prevent us from striving to be our best.


    The Bible is full of stories of people who, when first called by God to do something, respond by stating their inadequacies. Each of them knows their imperfections all too well, and thus believe God would be better off calling someone else. As people of faith, our belovedness is not something we earn or achieve. We are beloved by God because we are God’s children. Knowing and truly internalizing this is key to letting go of perfectionism.


    Making It Personal: Do you or have you ever struggled with perfectionism? Are you aware of the harmful effects of perfectionism, either in how you treat yourself or in how you view and treat others? What might help you to let go of perfectionism?

  • The Courage to Let Go

    It takes courage to let go of what is familiar, familiar ways of doing things, as well as letting go of familiar lenses through which we view the world, ones that may not fully reflect the lens through which God views the world.


    In the story of Jesus healing a man who has been blind since birth, the disciples simply viewed sin through the familiar lens at that time, that illness was always the direct result of sin. Unless we are aware of this lens through which we view others or even ourselves, and more importantly, unless we are willing to let go of it, we risk not being able to fully embrace the dignity of each and every person as a child of God, regardless of their current state of health or ability.


    Making It Personal: What is your reaction to the quote from Raymond Lindquist, “Courage is the power to let go of the familiar”? What is your response to the thought about how the lens through which people have typically viewed people with illness or disabilities? Can you think of a time when you had the courage to let go of something you were doing, or a particular way of thinking that you came to believe was hurting yourself or others?

  • God's Works Revealed in Us

    Each and every one of us can be a vessel through which God works, despite or because of the ways in which we are broken. It is not a coincidence that the Bible describes people’s encounters with God as causing them to shine. When God touches us, like the blind man, we are transformed into shining beacons of God’s grace, mercy, and love. No matter what illness, disease, disability, injury we suffer, or sin we have committed, God’s works can be revealed through each one of us.


    It takes courage to allow God to work through us and not be worried about what the world thinks. It takes being willing to be driven away, just as the blind man, and continuing to preach the good works of God. It takes discipline, dedication, and a commitment that, no matter how many times we get beaten down, we will get back up to allow God’s work to be revealed in us.


    God works well with fear, doubt, and self-loathing. I invite you this week to identify where you feel “less than” in your life. Then, I challenge you to find the courage to consider the possibility that God’s works can be revealed through you, especially through the “less-than” places you may have discovered.

  • Now I See

    The Bible is full of stories of people who have been changed in and through their encounters with God, Jesus, and/or the Holy Spirit. As people of faith, we need not ever be afraid of change.


    “I once was lost, but now am found” reminds us that change in our lives often comes, not as the result of our own initiative, but as the result of God’s initiative. As we have already considered, we still have the free will to respond to God’s invitation to change, and therefore have an essential role in the change process. As we conclude our week of reflecting on having the courage to change direction, it is good to remember that the initial invitation to change is often an invitation from God.


    As you reflect back on what you have experienced this week, and as you think about significant changes you have made, or are making, be sure to take time to reflect on where you find God in the midst of these changes.


    Making It Personal: Have you ever changed direction in your life in response to a clear sign or calling from God? Was that call clear at the time or did it become clear later, after you were making the change? Are you aware of a change right now that God is inviting you to make?

  • When Others Notice Change in Us

    When we have made a significant change in our lives, it is not uncommon for others to notice. At first it might be a wondering, “There’s something different about you lately, but I can’t quite put my finger on it. ...You seem happier, lighter, more energetic.”


    Changing direction in one aspect of our life will radiate out and manifest itself in multiple ways. Matthew 7:16-17 talks about good fruit coming forth from good trees. In a similar manner, good decisions and good changes that we make in our lives usually bear good fruit, and bad decisions usually bear bad fruit. Scripture reminds us that we will be known by the fruits that we bear.


    Who among us has not been inspired to make a change in our lives because of the positive, contagious energy we have experienced from someone else making a similar change? How wonderful and rewarding it can be, then, when the hard work of change radiates from us in a way that others notice our more positive way of being in the world.


    Making It Personal: Have you had the experience of others noticing that there is something different about you when you have made a change in your life? Have you ever noticed that in others? Have you had the experience of making a change in your life because you were inspired by someone else making a similar change?

  • Overcoming the Tendency to Backtrack

    Once we muster the courage to decide to change directions, however small that change in direction may be, we soon discover that this decision is actually a series of ongoing decisions. Once we are on our new course, we soon find that we have to continue to make the decision to stay on course, even when we are tempted to turn around.


    We know from the story of the Exodus journey that the people who were journeying with Moses in the wilderness had their moments of wanting to turn around and go back to the familiarity of what they had known in Egypt. This is as true for organizations as it is for individuals. Who among us doesn’t know of a business, church, or other organization that would rather choose to continue to decline than change direction? Changing direction is hard work—even when we know that what we are leaving behind is not working for us—because it requires us to look at ourselves honestly and make hard, often courageous, decisions.


    Making It Personal: Can you think of a time when you struggled with the desire to “go back” after you made a decision to make a change in your life? Are you experiencing that struggle in your life right now? Have you ever been, or are you currently, part of an organization, church, or institution that gives up and wants to “go back” when the work of change gets hard and requires courage?

  • The Courage to Stop Digging

    We all sometimes have a hard time admitting that we are wrong. Often more hurt is caused by denying and defending a wrongdoing than by the actual wrongdoing itself. An apology finally offered after an hour of denying or minimizing is much less meaningful than an apology that is offered immediately without hesitation. But apologies take courage, and can be hard.


    Sometimes the courage to change directions simply means first acknowledging that we were wrong. And when we can do that, it releases the energy it takes to defend or minimize our mistake or misjudgment, and frees us up to move in a new direction.


    Making It Personal: To paraphrase Will Roger’s quote as a question, “Do you ever find yourself continuing to dig, even when you find your- self in a hole”? If so, why do you think that is? What helps you to more easily acknowledge a mistake or misjudgment, and then begin to move in a new direction?

  • The Courage to Practice Honest Self-Reflection

    Honest self-reflection is challenging, especially when it involves acknowledging that something is not quite right. The first inkling we get that a change may be needed often comes to us as a “whisper.” It might be a whisper of a health issue, tension in a relationship, a feeling of emptiness, anxiety, or exhaustion.


    There are so many ways we can rationalize away the whispers that tell us things are out of balance in our lives. Believing the rationalizations over the whispers relieves us, at least temporarily, of the anxiety of having to practice the courage it takes to make a change. But if the whispers are ignored long enough, they often turn to shouts and then it may be harder for us to make a needed change.


    It takes courage to listen to the “whispers” through honest self-reflection, but with practice, we can trust that we are taking the first step in the journey toward life-giving change.


    Making It Personal: What is your response to the idea that the process of change starts with honest self-reflection? Can you think of a time when you ignored a whisper in your life? Can you think of a time when you listened to a whisper regarding a change, and then had the courage to make that change? Are you hearing any such whispers in your life right now?

  • The Courage to Change Direction

    Courage can change the whole trajectory of our lives. When we choose to keep on doing what we’ve always done because it is the “path of least resistance,” we rarely consider that a courageous choice. The truth is that change is hard, but when our patterns and routines no longer serve us, or when they themselves are unhealthy, it takes courage to change direction.


    The Samaritan woman had a daily routine of going to the well alone and we can imagine that she had been doing the same thing day in and day out, month after month, year after year. And then one day her life is changed by the courageous choices she makes, both in her willingness to be open to a chance encounter with an unexpected visitor, and afterwards when she dares to go back into the city to proclaim the miracle and bounty of her encounter with Jesus.


    Making It Personal: Have you ever made a choice to change directions that was as dramatic as the Samaritan woman at the well? Are you considering such a change now? Can you think of a time when you practiced courage in even a small way, and your life was never the same again?

  • Courage Found at the Well

    Today's reflection focuses on the world-weariness of the Samaritan woman Jesus encounters at Jacob’s well—a woman for whom life has truly become a toil. The repeated journey to the well is a real toil, which is why she wants to stop coming to draw her water. And while some of the Samaritan woman’s problems may relate to the nature of the society in which she lived, some of them surely stem from her inability to practice courage. Her choices have led her to a life of being used and abused, cynical and world-weary. Choices that lacked discernment, and made without the courage that is rooted in heart, soul, strength, and mind.


    But then something changes for this broken woman, for whom “nothing is as I would wish it to be.” Something changes at the well, when it is “about Noon.” For at the well is someone else, weary and in need, but whose weariness comes not from cowardice but courage—the courage to live out a God-given vocation, one that will lead inevitably and inexorably to Jerusalem and the Cross.


    And because of her brave choice to be open to the stranger, this broken woman is finally able to be courageous, for not only does she ask to drink from the Living Water, but she then goes straight back into the city to evangelize—to tell those around her about the Living Water from the Living Word that looks death in the eye and brings life. And having practiced courage, this woman’s life would never again be the same. And at “about Noon,” Jesus would practice his own courage more fully, arms outstretched upon the cross—and the world would never be the same again, either.

  • Moving out of Our Comfort Zones to Help Others

    As individuals, and as Christian communities, God calls us to risk leaving our Comfort Zones to help those whom life has thrown in a Panic Zone. Jesus was always risking getting involved with those whom the society at his time judged unclean, often enduring the harsh criticism of the religious leaders of his day.


    Loving our neighbor, especially when it makes us uncomfortable, is not easy. When it comes to living out this central commandment of our faith to love our neighbor who is alone, marginalized, discriminated against, and hurting, may we pray for the courage to be like the Samaritan and not the priest and Levite (Luke 10:25-37), both in our individual lives and in our faith communities.


    Making It Personal: Have you ever found yourself in a Panic Zone and blessed by a Good Samaritan who reached out to help? Where is God calling you or your faith community right now to move out of your Comfort Zone in order to help others?

  • When God Calls Us to Move out of Our Comfort Zones

    The Bible is full of stories of God calling people to do things they could not have imagined ever doing. The decision to risk leaving one’s status quo to follow God was most likely as much of a gut-wrenching decision for those in biblical times as it is for us today. 


    All change is hard, even change to which God is calling us. Sometimes it’s hard to discern what is God’s call to change, and what is simply our own ego. During times of change, it is invaluable to discern God’s call to us in the context of community, seeking the spiritual guidance of others whom we trust and who can help us be true to God’s call to grow and change.


    Making It Personal: Can you think of a time when God was calling you to have courage and make a change that you were not quite sure you wanted to make? Is there a change that God is calling you to make right now? To whom do you turn for spiritual counsel when you need help discerning God’s call and direction for your life?

  • Expanding Our Understanding of Courage

    “Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying (whispering), ‘I will try again tomorrow.’” - Mary Anne Radmacher


    Acts of courage are not limited to large noteworthy public displays of courage, but are more often simple, quiet actions that oftentimes no one else even knows about.


    Thinking of all the people you’ve known who have been faithful caretakers to loved ones, sometimes for years, even decades. Think of people who courageously live every day with a serious physical or mental health issue. Think of people who have overcome addiction, living their life one day at a time. Think of people who have been victims of racism, and other forms of injustice, and have found the way and the will to persevere and to stand up and fight against those injustices. Just like the people you know who live courageous lives, these people most likely will not make the headlines, or receive any kind of public recognition.


    Making It Personal: Who do you know that models the kind of quiet, day-to-day courage described in this reflection? Can you think of times when you practiced courage in a way that didn’t necessarily “roar,” but showed itself in a more private and quiet manner?

  • The Courage to Face Our Doubts and Fears

    Psychologist Susan Jeffers wrote a best-selling book that addresses our feelings of fear, and its title summarizes her advice to her readers: Feel the Fear ... and Do It Anyway. Fear is often what keeps us from moving out of our Comfort Zones and yet, as Jeffers notes, fear can actually make us more comfortable to go ahead and act in the face of our fears.

    In her book she identifies five truths about facing fear.


    1. The fear will never go away as long as you continue to grow.

    2. The only way to get rid of the fear of doing something is to go out and do it.

    3. The only way to feel better about yourself is to go out and do it.

    4. Not only are you afraid when facing the unknown, so is everyone else.

    5. Pushing through fear is less frightening than living with the bigger underlying fear that comes from a feeling of helplessness!


    Making It Personal: As you read these five truths about facing fear, is there one that you know to be true from personal experience? Is there one truth that has your name on it right now? If so, how might you live into this truth?

  • The Growth Zone

    All growth is initially uncomfortable, and that moving into the Growth Zone requires us to step outside our Comfort Zone. This is the courageous step that Nicodemus took when he came and talked with Jesus. And this is the step we take when we open ourselves to learn or to experience something new.


    However, if we have set a goal for growth or change that is too big or we are making that change too quickly, we may find ourselves in the Panic Zone where we rarely grow. Life, too, can throw us into the Panic Zone when we are forced to face unplanned and unexpected challenges. 


    Spiritual growth is an ongoing life-long process. It takes courage and the support of a loving community to continuously say “yes” to God’s call to be born again, and again, and again.


    Making It Personal: Is there a specific way in which God is calling you right now to move out of your Comfort Zone? Are you experiencing any part of the Panic Zone right now, and if so, how might you seek support to move into the Growth Zone?

  • the courage to grow

    Our theme for this second week in Lent will be the courage to grow, especially by moving out of our comfort zones. We will reflect on the various ways in which God might be calling us, like Nicodemus, to move out of our comfort zones in order to be born anew. 


    We know that Nicodemus sought Jesus out to speak with him face to face at night (John 3:1- 17). He went under cover of darkness, most likely because he was clearly moving out of his comfort zone in going to talk with Jesus. Jesus tells him that anyone who wants to experience the kingdom of God must be born again. Nicodemus learns that Jesus is speaking of a spiritual rebirth, a birth that is “of water and Spirit.” Nicodemus demonstrated courage in coming to Jesus because he had “the mental and moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty.”


    Making It Personal: Read the story of Nicodemus coming to talk with Jesus, found in John 3:1-17. What speaks to you in this story about courage? What do you think of the dictionary definition of courage? Is there anything from your life experience that you would add to that definition?

  • Courageous in God’s Eyes

    Whenever we witness or are told about an incredible act of courage, we celebrate and cheer the individual(s). Holy Scripture is full of heroes, people whom we think had incredible spiritual gifts that we mere mortals do not have. Or so we think.


    The definition of courage is, “mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty.” What we do not see in the media, nor does our inner critic consider, are those agonizing moments when you and I toss and turn questioning God, questioning our next steps, trying to rationalize and agonizing over whatever situation in which we find ourselves. Psalm 121 reads like a mantra someone in ancient times repeated over and over in order to face their own fears, and to this day we continue to recite it in times of fear and doubt.


    It takes a whole lot of courage to be in a tough place and deal with hard decisions and circumstances. take time to remember those times in your life when YOU struggled and forgive yourself for not seeing how strong and courageous you were! There were no cameras, only silence; no confetti, just our tears; no adoring crowds, only our fears and insecurities. Yet, that’s alright because in the eyes of God we are courageous, strong, and quite capable of withstanding fear and difficulty!

  • LETTING OURSELVES BE SEEN

    When we talk about the courage to be vulnerable we are really talking about the courage to allow our vulnerability to be seen and to be known by others. “Courage starts with showing up and letting ourselves be seen.”


    As we walk this Lenten journey together, we encourage you to take Saturdays as a time to reflect on and digest what you have experienced and learned the previous week. Look back over this week’s reflections. If there was one you didn’t pay close attention to, perhaps you can read it again and give it some thought. Or maybe there was a particular reflection that really spoke to you and you might want to spend more time with that one.


    Making It Personal: As you look back over this week and reflect on its theme of the courage to be vulnerable, what stands out most for you? Is there anything you want to do differently going forward based on what you have learned this week?

  • PRACTICING COURAGE WITH ALL YOUR MIND

    Each of us possesses unique gifts and a unique voice. We can express our gifts and our voice in all aspects of our lives: work, family, friends, community, and social-political actions. To express our voice fully, though, can make us feel vulnerable. 1 Corinthians 12:4-6 acknowledges this vulnerability when it calls us to “speak the truth even if your voice is shaking.”


    Hearing the voice of the one who calls us to follow him can give us the courage we need to grow in our Christian walk. “But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ” (Ephesians 4:15).


    Making It Personal: Is there a time in your life when your voice shook when you spoke the truth? Have you ever been hesitant, or are you hesitant now, to speak the truth because doing so would make you vulnerable? What do you think it means to speak the truth “in love” as described in Ephesians 4:15?

  • Practicing Courage with All Your Strength

    Two factors that are foundational to our ability to be resilient: spirituality and community. Spirituality provides us with meaning, hope, and a larger perspective in the midst of challenging times. We need the love and support of others always, but most especially when we are in the midst of a stressful time.


    Having the courage to nurture our spirituality and to strengthen our connections with others will not prevent us from experiencing vulnerability and adversity at times. We will find, though, that our spirituality and the support of others are key factors in helping us to bounce back and move forward whenever we face unexpected challenges in our lives.


    Making It Personal: What are your thoughts about the quote above by Andrew Zolli about resilience? Do you agree that spirituality and community are key factors in resilience? Can you think of an area in your life where you might need to summon up some courage to be more resilient?

  • Practicing Courage with All Your Soul

    This reflection focuses on what it means to have the courage to be vulnerable as it relates to our spiritual lives. Grief is not just an emotional wilderness, but that often it is also a time of disruption to a person’s spiritual well-being. Psalm 23 says, “though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I shall fear no evil.” Note the emphasis on movement. It acknowledges that the valley of grief is real and it is deep, but it describes it as something that is walked through, not a place to stay.


    The spiritual questions that get raised in the early experiences of grief can feel like we are experiencing a breakdown in our faith. With time, spiritual guidance, and the support of a spiritual community, many who are grieving actually end experiencing a breakthrough in their faith life. A new place opens up to them in which they develop a deeper, more intimate faith in God, one that embraces and sustains them in their time of vulnerability.


    Making It Personal: Have you ever had your faith tested in the midst of grief and loss? Are you experiencing this right now? Looking back, can you remember a time when your faith grew as a result of spending time in the wilderness of grief?

  • Practicing Courage with All Your Heart

    Many of the important relationships in our lives, including relationships with friends, family members, colleagues, and neighbors, will likely experience challenging moments over a lifetime. We hurt and disappoint one another, we become irritable and short with each other, and thus we experience wilderness periods that test our relationships. It is important that when we find ourselves in a hard place in a relationship, we don’t get stuck there, but that we grow in and through the challenging time. 


    It takes courage to be able to acknowledge when we have been wrong and have hurt someone we care about. It takes courage to ask for forgiveness. Authentic, lasting relationships involve two imperfect and vulnerable people who have the courage not to give up on each other.


    Making It Personal: Can you think of a time when a relationship failed because you and/or the other person did not have the courage to be vulnerable? Can you think of a relationship you have today that is strong because you and the other person did have the courage to be vulnerable?

  • The Courage to be Vulnerable

    We will all enter emotional, physical, spiritual, and relational wildernesses at some point in our lives. It is when we find ourselves entering the wilderness that our courage to be vulnerable is tested. 


    This week, we will reflect on what it means to have the courage to be vulnerable in all aspects of our lives. 


    Making It Personal: How would you describe the transformation that took place for Jesus during his forty days in the wilderness? Looking back on your own life, can you identify a wilderness time, planned or unplanned, when you experienced a significant transformation?

  • Wilderness

    The wilderness is a place of trial and vulnerability. Sometimes we go to the wilderness of our own accord because we know that it’s time to make a change. Other times the wilderness comes to us, without warning. God is there to see us through those unwelcome wildernesses, and that he provides us with the courage it will take to navigate the unfamiliar and sometimes frightening terrain. “Through” is an important concept when it comes to the wilderness, for it is not our final destination. We travel through the wilderness on our way to somewhere else. 


    Wilderness is a place of transformation. We need to stay long enough to allow it to change us, or to accept the change that is thrust upon us. However we get there, we go to the wilderness to learn what we must learn and accept what we must accept. Then it’s time to find the courage to move on.


    Jesus learned a lot about himself in the wilderness, and we learn a lot about him. He knows our wilderness, has been there himself. And he offers us the courage and the strength that comes through vulnerability as we make our way through the wilderness to transformation that’s promised to us on the other side.

  • The Courage to Embrace the Ordinary

    Courage is not necessarily about big and extraordinary choices, but is almost always found in the ordinary, small decisions we make every day. Courage can be expressed in the ordinary by getting up and going to work every morning, taking care of a sick loved one, cooking dinner every night, speaking up about an important cause, or being there for a friend in need. Showing up for life as your real self on a regular basis is something that indeed takes courage— not the big newsworthy kind of courage, but the type needed to show up as our authentic selves in all the ordinary moments of our lives.


    “I don’t have to chase extraordinary moments to find happiness—it’s right in front of me if I’m paying attention and practicing gratitude.” - Brené Brown


    Making It Personal: Considering the quote above, what’s does the idea of “the courage to embrace the ordinary” mean to you? Can you think of a time when you have shown this kind of courage?

  • Living an Examined Life

    A commitment to regular self-examination is a cornerstone of health and wellness in all aspects of life. Every faith tradition has days and seasons that invite followers to focus on self-examination and their commitment to living a renewed life. Just as an annual check-up with the doctor is good for one’s physical health, Lent provides a yearly check-up for one’s emotional and spiritual well-being. In this devotional we invite each of us to create a more intentional life when it comes to practicing courage.


    Making It Personal: What is your response to Socrates’ words, “The unexamined life is not worth living”? As you examine your current level of showing courage in the world, would you describe yourself as a courageous person? Why or why not, and are you satisfied with your answer?

  • The Purpose of Practice

    We focus on practicing because our desire is for each of us to strengthen our ability to act with courage, especially when we find ourselves in the midst of challenging circumstances. 
    We grow in our ability to do something when we practice it. The truth is not that “practice makes perfect,” but rather that “practice makes progress.” 


    Making It Personal: Have you ever had the experience of growing in your ability to do something through practice? Can you think of a time when, as you were facing some hardship, you discovered a level of courage that you had not previously known? Is there a particular challenge you are facing now that is presenting you with a chance to practice additional courage?

  • Practicing Courage

    As we enter this season of Lent, we will be sharing excerpts from devotionals that will walk us through the act of practicing daily acts of courage. A theme we felt was most appropriate as we walk through this season of transition. 


    Living faithfully and courageously is a lifelong spiritual practice. Each of us is called to the bold, daily action of loving God and each other with our whole selves. We are called to let our most protected selves be vulnerable to God’s transforming love. We are called to increase the strength of our ability to respond in love. We are called to learn, to listen, and perhaps to change our minds about what we think we know about God and God’s wildly generous love. Let us begin today to name reality and make live-giving, love-filled, courageous choices.

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