Friday, February 11, 2011

The Wholehearted

Friday, February 11, 2011 -- Week of 5 Epiphany, Year One
Frances Jane (Fanny) Van Alstyne Crosby, Hymnwriter, 1915
To read about our daily commemorations, go to our Holy Women, Holy Men blog:

Today's Readings for the Daily Office (Book of Common Prayer, p. 946)
Psalms 88 (morning)       91, 92 (evening)
Isaiah 61:1-9
2 Timothy 3:1-17
Mark 10:32-45

Today's gospel starts with Jesus walking ahead of the disciples on the road to Jerusalem.  The disciples are hanging back, afraid, the text says.  There follows Jesus' third prediction of the passion in Mark's gospel.  Then James and John ask Jesus for a place of honor in his glory.  Jesus then teaches them about servant leadership:  "whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all."

I ran across a brief video the other day.  It was a presentation by Brene Brown, whom I had never heard of.  She was sharing some research she had conducted about fear and courage, and about shame and worthiness.

She said that people who have a sense of their own worthiness are people who experience a sense of loving and belonging.  They have come to believe that they are worthy of love and belonging.  She studied these "wholehearted" people, as she called them, asking what it is that they have in common.

First, she said, they have a particular sense of courage.  It is the courage to be imperfect.  Second, she said, they have compassion.  But she said, they have learned to be kind to themselves first, then to others.  Third they will in connection with others.  This sense of connection is a result of authenticity, which she defined as the ability to let go of who we think we should be, in order to be who we are.  She said that wholehearted people embraced their vulnerability.  They believed that what made them vulnerable also made them beautiful, as in the willingness to say "I love you" first, in order to invest in relationship. 

Because vulnerability requires our loss of control, we tend to numb vulnerability.  She said that we are the most in-debt, obese, addicted, and medicated adult population in U.S. history.  We try to numb our feelings of vulnerability, but you can't selectively numb emotions.  I don't want to feel this, so I'll have a beer and dessert.  But when we numb our bad feelings we also numb joy, gratitude, and happiness.  Then we feel even more vulnerable.  ...more beer.

We have ways other than addiction to avoid our feelings of vulnerability.  Certainty is one way.  If we make everything uncertain to be certain, we think we won't feel so vulnerable.  Blame is another.  And perfection.  We try to make things be perfect, especially our children.  Yet children are hard-wired for struggle.  Why can't we regard our children acknowledging that they are imperfect, yet wired for struggle, and worthy of love?  Our final way that we try to avoid our vulnerability is to pretend that what we do doesn't have an effect on other people.  We try to ignore the damage we do.

Here's a better way, according to Brene Brown.  Let ourselves be seen.  Deeply seen.  Love with our whole heart.  Practice gratitude and joy, especially in moments of terror and vulnerability.  And, believe that we are enough.

When we see Jesus walking ahead of the disciples, we see one who embraces his vulnerability with wholehearted courage.  He refuses to numb himself to his coming passion.  He walks into it, surrendering to the loss of control, even unto death.  He does not protect his disciples, but trusts that they are hard-wired for struggle.  He invites them into community, where they can see and know him and one another, where they can love with their whole heart, where they can practice compassion, gratitude and joy as servants to all.  It is enough.  It is the way of resurrection.



Audio podcast:  Listen to an audio podcast of the most recent Morning Reflections from today and the past week.  Click the following link:
Morning Reflection Podcasts

About Morning Reflections
"Morning Reflections" is a brief thought about the scripture readings from the Daily Office of Morning and Evening Prayer according to the practice found in the Book of Common Prayer of the Episcopal Church.

Morning Prayer begins on p. 80 of the Book of Common Prayer.
Evening Prayer begins on p. 117
An online resource for praying the Daily Office is found at -- Click for online Daily Office
Another form of the office from Phyllis Tickle's "Divine Hours" is available on our partner web site at this location -- --  Click for Divine Hours

Discussion Blog:  To comment on today's reflection or readings, go to, or click here for Lowell's blog find today's reading, click "comment" at the bottom of the reading, and post your thoughts.

The Mission of St. Paul's Episcopal Church
is to explore and celebrate
God's infinite grace, acceptance, and love.

See our Web site at

Our Rule of Life: 
We aspire to...
    worship weekly
    pray daily
    learn constantly
    serve joyfully 
    live generously.

Lowell Grisham, Rector
St. Paul's Episcopal Church
Fayetteville, Arkansas


At 1:44 PM, Blogger lila said...

Thanks for posting and introducing Brene Brown to me! I found the very video on YOUtube and enjoyed it just now.

At 5:26 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Our final way that we try to avoid our vulnerability is to pretend that what we do doesn't have an effect on other people. We try to ignore the damage we do."

I wish people way up in the homosexual movement would read this post. They are pretending that what they do doesn't hve an effect on people, especially children. Well, we can certainly hope.

Good stuff Lowell

At 7:09 PM, Anonymous janet said...

Lovely meditation from the heart. This one had me wiping away tears early this morning and I wasn't quite sure why. There is such abounding hope in following the gentle, courageous Jesus.

Peace, Janet

At 8:02 AM, Blogger Lowell said...

Thanks for the comments on the Wholehearted blog.

A brief response to Anon. One of the blessings that the gay equality movement has given our society is to give dignity and identity to children who are growing up with an internal experience of a same-sex orientation but who live in a gay-hostile world. The rate of suicide among gay children is scandalous.

Recently in the wake of a series of youth suicides, hundreds of adult gay people posted videos with the message "It gets better." They are giving hope to children who are feeling isolated, judged, oppressed and hopeless. It would be wonderful if our culture could become so loving and just that gay children would grow up in loving and nurturing environments so that we would not longer have children taking their own lives because of the false guilt and cruelty they experience.

Christians who condemn persons of same-sex orientation must realize that what they say and do has a profound, and even deadly effect on some others.


At 10:49 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

There is no dignity in sin. Sex outside a marriage (with whoever or whatever) is sin.
"It gets better"? Denying the Holy Spirit and our conscience does NOT get better, and yes this lifestyle is hopeless. Our hope is in the Lord.
Lowell, if being gay is inate, then why so much homosexuality in prison? the fact is its purely choice, and undeniably so.
And you are correct. Christians have to authority to condemn anyone, much less homosexuals, condemnation is the job of a rightous and just God. We can, should, and MUST declare truth in love. And yes it is love to tell truth.

At 3:30 PM, Blogger Lowell said...

Good people can and do disagree about whether committed same-sex relationships are sinful. You and I disagree about that. That's fine.

What's not fine is declaring something as a fact that is not a fact, but an opinion. Sexual orientation is not "purely choice." That's a fact. The origins of sexual orientation are pretty mysterious and there are various competent studies and theories, but no one with authentic scientific credentials would claim that sexual orientation is a choice. Sexual behavior is a choice. If that's what you mean, I have no disagreement with you.

Trying to tell the truth in love.


At 9:17 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, we can disagree. But one of us is wrong. Flat out wrong.

Sexual orientation is nothing more than a politically correct way to say sexual attraction. And no, attraction is not pure choice. But saying it is not a choice in no way leads to a conclusion that it is inate or God given. That is just a wishful conclusion with no basis in reality and a total lack of "facts". We all have emotional baggage and we are all formed psychologically in our personal environment. But the fact, and yes its a fact, remains that if we (Christians) endorse activity based on desire, attraction and yes orientation; then we are fully rejecting Christs call to take up our cross, deny ourselves, and follow him. It is the very picture of a slippery slope.
That is the truth in love to you. You are endorsing a lifestyle based on orientation. You are potentially causing a child to stumble in doing so. Do you desire a millstone hung around your neck?


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