So Paul finds himself in prison, doing the thing we all do in our most vulnerable moments. He asks: “Who am I?” “What about my life matters?” He, being the Apostle Paul who’s seen it all and done a few shady things himself, knows that what’s in the heart matters most. Credentials, not so much. Nationality or heritage, eh, not really. Occupation- nope. Wealth? Social Standing? Good deeds? None of it amounts to much of an identity for Paul, without Jesus in the picture.
It’s his conviction that Christ’s way is the only path of right living, that gives Paul purpose. “I press on to make it my own,” that way of living in service to others; And because he does this, because Paul lives for that heavenly calling of God in Christ Jesus, his answer to the question “Who am I” is clear. I am Jesus’ friend. I share in his sufferings, so I might share in his resurrection too. Paul walks the highs and lows of life knowing to whom he belongs, and it makes all the difference- even in the midst of an unjust prison sentence.
This sure sense of connection with God is what I’d like to offer us all over the next 5 weeks. Because, I’m convinced (and so is Paul) that connecting with God gives us all the purpose and identity we long for. This fall, we’ve distributed Holding your Family Together by Rich Melheim to our families with kids in the home orbit in lieu of SS; I’m excited for our online discussions drawing us deeper into faith practices at home. (If you haven’t chimed in yet, please do! Our first question was posted Sunday- and I’ll post another this afternoon). But what I especially love about Rich’s approach is how accessible it is for every household, even those who live alone. If you want the full version- read the book, of course.
For today, I’d like to introduce the 1st step of Rich’s nightly routine he calls Faith5. It’s not intimidating, I promise. It’s only 5-15 minutes a night, every night, with family or even friends. (if you live alone, you can establish this routine with a loved one over the phone- and if your family won’t engage with you- same thing applies, find someone who will);
Okay, Step #1: Share one high and one low from your day. That’s it. It’s simple, but effective in helping us become better listeners to what’s really going on inside ourselves and one another. And that, in turn, helps us discover more of our identity. I’d like to offer a way sharing our highs and lows affects our minds and our spirits, according to research by Rich.
First, sharing highs (what is good in life) is great for our brains! It “triggers a cascade of positive and powerful neurochemical transmitters that bolster immune systems, regulate hormonal systems, improve one’s digestive tract, slows down the aging process, and triggers positive electro-chemical exchanges throughout the brain and body!” Interesting stuff, right!?
Sharing highs is also great for our spirits- who we are inside. “Sharing a high reclaims, renames, re-games, and reframes the day as God’s good gift. It teaches that life isn’t all bad and that, in fact, it contains a lot of good! Sharing a high lifts us to an attitude of gratitude and lowers us to a deeper appreciation for the Giver of all good gifts.”
But life doesn’t always happen in the positive zone, right? Our days consist of lows just as often, and it’s important to share them too! Here’s why, according to Rich,
“Sharing a low with the people you love minimizes the pain. It does so not by minimizing the problem, but by taking it off your shoulders and placing it into the arms of those who love and trust you the most. Everyone you “let in” is on your team. Everyone “in the know” who loves you now has antenna up searching for solutions. Everyone who cares is now praying to see answers and working to be the answers to the prayers. Everyone has your back.”
It also teaches us to create sacred space in our everyday lives. “Sharing lows gives you a better understanding of yourself and others. And especially if you’ve got kids in your home orbit, “growing up with a forum, format, and life-long experience in verbalizing one’s lows aloud (within the context of a safe, loving, non-judgmental home every night) gives one a huge advantage when it comes to building capacity for mental health, emotional resilience, and spiritual maturity.”
Friends, this stuff really matters for the way we establish our identity in Christ. The Apostle Paul walks with certainty that no matter what happens, who he is and his purpose on earth is secure. We know this, because Paul makes a point to share his highs and his lows with us in the art of writing letters. Want even more from Paul- read the NT, he writings make up nearly half the books in the NT.
Even in his lowest of lows, expressing the mess of his journey with others connects Paul with God, and it will help us begin the routine that sinks us further into an identity as God’s beloved. Sharing our highs and lows is the stuff of life itself- and if we commit to sharing consistently, think how much more we can discover about what really matters: Answering “Who am I?” & “What about my life matters?”
A few nights ago, the kids were running on steam- and we had some tears leading into circle time. Rather than skip, I used our sharing highs and lows as an opportunity for Briggs (the one with the tears) to express his frustration with the fact that Blaire had cleaned up his toys (ie- messed up his tower) without letting him know first. That was his low. After he collected himself a bit, he also shared another low- mommy left our family outing to the park early today, and that made me sad. Without allowing time to reflect on the day, I would have never known that me leaving the park made him sad, because he never mentioned it. Our evening ended in the kids praying for each other- both of them expressing how much they appreciate each other’s snuggles, playing, and giggles.
Circle time was for us that day became a very real in-the-moment chance for healing. From tears of frustration to prayers of gratitude for one another. That’s the power of Faith5- and I hope you stay tuned for step 2 next week!
And I really hope I get to hear to some of your stories as you begin implementing this routine in your families.
God you are so accessible to us if only we take the time to notice. Guide us in ways of sharing and prayer this week. Amen.
Rev. Emily Munger
delights in connecting sacred texts with everyday life.