Monday, August 11, 2014

Walking on Chaos

I have been consumed with thoughts about the Christians in Iraq. I picture their pure terror as ISIS comes for them, forcing them from their homes, killing, starving. What would you do? I picture myself singing Amazing Grace as I prepare to die.
CS Lewis once wrote that a Christian has really one choice between two alternatives. We can either believe that Jesus really was the Son of God or we can believe that he was a lunatic.  One or the other. Many want to comfortably think of Jesus as a revolutionary or some kind of nice prophet, but the truth is that the gospels record some pretty wild stuff. Jesus walks on water. Jesus cures blind people. Jesus brings the dead back to life. And Jesus says that he is the Son of God, so either he was mentally ill or an incredible liar, or he was who he said he was. You have to come to terms with the gospels as miraculous occurrences or write them off entirely. There is no in between.

Today's gospel is so miraculous as to almost seem outrageous. Jesus finally says when and shows some tough love. He tells the crowds to go home, go away. He tells everyone to go away. He goes up a mountain to pray through the night. He sends the disciples out in their boat. After all, that was how they got their food. They went fishing at night. On the Sea of Galiliee, the fish rise at night. It is just too hot during the daylight hours so they go deep underwater during the heat of the day and rise to eat insects in the cooler hours of the night.

After his prayer time, Jesus comes to the disciples by walking on the water. It is by now early morning. And when they see him coming, the disciples are afraid. Jesus says, "Take heart. It is I. Don't be afraid."

Don't be afraid. The Spirit of God moved over the face of the waters in the beginning of creation and Jesus moved across the waters to the disciples. God says, "I move across the chaos and disorder and violence and hatred, I walk on top of all of it to find a way to you."

I watched the movie Heaven is for Real this week. It is the true story of a four-year-old boy who almost dies from a ruptured appendix and finds himself in heaven. He describes heaven with amazing accuracy and seems to have greeted a great-grandfather he didn't know existed and even a sister who died just a few months before birth. The little boy talks of his experience with child-like trust and innocence but the adults in his life and in his fathers church find his experience disturbing.

The church board meets with the boy's dad, who is the pastor of this small Nebraska Church, and they tell the pastor to stop talking about his son's experience. They don't want to hear it anymore. It's too disruptive, it scares them. It's just plain weird.

When faced with the possibility of true miracles, we want to run away. Give me comfort. Give me rational explanations. Give me the status quo.

All of us are called to follow Jesus out on that water like Peter did. We must move out of the comfort of the boat that we know will sustain us, focus on Jesus himself as our source of strength, and then step into the unknown. How do you know when you are walking on water? When you dare to try things that could truly fail. When you aim to follow Jesus and have no idea how you will get there. Being a Christian takes enormous courage. It means believing in the possibility of miracles. It means stepping out in faith.

My friends, the status quo is just not good enough. The boat of comfort that we live in is not cutting it. Christians are dying by the thousands in the Middle East. The Ebola virus is spreading with disturbing speed.  We don't need a tame God who comforts only. We need miracles! We need the God who walks on water, rises from the grave, and saves people. 

I want you to pray in a new way this week. I want you to pray with the conviction that God can and will bring peace somehow to the Holy Land. I want you to step out in boldness and ask God to save those Christians being slaughtered in Iraq and around the globe. I want you to pray for the ethnic Yazitis who are trapped on a mountain in Iraq, starving to death. And even more importantly, I want you to offer God your all.  I want you to be willing to step out in faith. Ask that God will get you out of the boat. Ask God what He wants from you. Then ask Him for the courage to do things you think impossible. 

    There is a priest named Andrew White who is called the Vicar of Baghdad. Ten years ago, he was pastoring a flock of about 6000 Christians. In the past decade, 1200 members of this flock have been killed and yet he refuses to leave Baghdad. He walks on the chaos and continues to pray for a miracle. He looks nothing like what I would have pictured. He is not big, strong, courageous looking. He has glasses and he talks with a slight slur. Father White has multiple sclerosis. When asks if he thinks the situation will improve for Christians, he says that he must believe this. He has no other choice. He must believe in miracles.

If you were on top of the mountaintop with 40,000 others surrounded and dying, what would you do? Would you let yourself be killed? Would you fight? In a way, we all are up there with them on that mountain. We are all waiting for a miracle.

To follow Jesus means to face chaos.  To follow Jesus means to be afraid. Peter was scared stiff! He had no idea what he was doing. But he did it! He walked on water. Yes, on that day he became anxious and sank, and was saved by Jesus. But there would be more chances for Peter to step out in faith. And he did just that, even to martyrdom. 

Let us not give up hope that our world can be healed somehow, that God is great enough to find a way forward. Let us have the courage to step out on the chaotic waters ourselves, just like Peter, and to put our trust in the Son of God who transcends all that we can begin to imagine.  For He is The Lord, the God who saves His people. 

This is the God of the Universe here! Of course miracles are possible.

Monday, August 04, 2014

Fishes, Loaves and Toxic Charity

Other than the resurrection itself, there is only one miracle that is present in all four of the gospel accounts.  We hear about this miracle in the gospel today. It is also one of the very few miracles in which Jesus distributes goods, the other being the miracle at Cana. The multiplication of the loaves and the fishes is so important and if we look closely at Jesus' actions, we can learn how to minister to those in need.

Jesus is one busy guy. The crowds will not give him any peace. He tries to get away and they follow him like a swarm of flies. And yet, he cares for them, despite all their neediness.

The crowd has followed Jesus, the sun is setting and everybody is hungry. The disciples tell Jesus to send them away so that they can find food for themselves. "We cannot help them," the disciples say. "There are just too many of them."

We can't do it. We don't have enough. That is what the disciples say. And that is what we say when confronted with violence in the Middle East, the outbreak of the Ebola virus, and brutalities in the Ukraine.  "I can't solve these problems," we say. "I just don't have enough...strength, resources, wisdom, patience, understanding...I just don't have enough!"

In Mark's rendition of this miracle, before Jesus does anything at all, he asks a very important question. He asks, 

"What do you have?


"What have you got?

Instead of focusing on the lack of food, money, resources, Jesus asks them to identify what it is that they DO have, and then he multiplies it. You may not have much but you do have something to offer. What is it? What is your offering? 

Jesus could have made food appear out of nothing, but he didn't do that. He used what they had. He asked them to contribute to the miracle.

This summer, a group of us have been reading an amazing book. It is called Toxic Charity. The author, Robert Lupton, argues that non-profits and especially churches have been throwing money, clothing and food at the poor for decades without asking for anything in return. This kind of behavior presupposes that the people you are serving have nothing to offer, nothing to contribute. If you feed them without asking for their contribution, you demean them.

We send mission groups to foreign countries where we, for example, build houses. In doing so, we may be making ourselves feel better but the local people are basically being treated as if they cannot build their own houses, as if they have no skill and need complete rescuing. This creates a kind of toxic dependency, as the African villagers begin to believe that the only way they can improve their lives is to wait for Americans to come and build for them, feed them, dig their wells. 

In the last fifty years, the continent of Africa has received $1 trillion in benevolent aid. And yet, country by country, Africans are poorer today. Per capita income is lower than in the 1970's. Over half of the 700 million people on the continent live on less than $1 per day. Dambisa Moyo, African economist and author of the book Dead Aid, writes, "The foreign aid becomes a disease which pretends to be a cure." 

We do the very same thing to the poor of this country. We try to provide for their needs often without asking for them to contribute. Churches converge on neighborhoods, planting flowers and picking up trash, bruising the pride of the residents. We give children Christmas gifts as if their parents are no longer capable of giving. We fly off on mission trips to poverty-stricken villages, suitcases full of goodies, trips that one Nicaraguan leader says "turns my people into beggars."

No one has been worse at toxic charity than churches. Why? We want to help. We want to be generous, to do what is right. We want to do what Jesus did. But we have forgotten that the very first question to ask is not "what do you need?" No, the first question that Jesus asked was the polar opposite. He asked, "What have you got?"

Lupton talks about his first year in inner-city ministry. He brought a pile of wrapped Christmas presents to a family in the core of Atlanta. He unloaded the presents in the living room of their apartment and the father was so ashamed that he walked out of the room....

Does a person have a strong body? Can they hold a hammer? Can they clean a kitchen in exchange for food? Can a father earn those Christmas presents for his own children by doing some simple tasks, thus preserving his dignity and enabling him to be a father once more? 

The crowd of people with Jesus had so little, just five loaves and two fish. But Jesus took what they had to give BEFORE he served them. He gave them their dignity by asking them to contribute to their own meal. They contributed before Jesus did anything at all, and, best of all, he used everything that they gave as part of his solution, part of the miracle.

Every Sunday, we share Christ's body and blood together. But there is something immensely important that happens before the priest says the prayers. The bread and wine are carried up the center aisle from the congregation. These gifts, they come from you. We could easily bring them in from the side, but we bring them up from the midst of the congregation because Christ makes his Eucharist from what you can give him, from your contribution, from your offering.

Charity should never be a one-way relationship. Always the one who is serving the poor should acknowledge that they too are receiving something in return. It is relationships of mutuality that create love and strength for the days to come. 

Lately, when I turn on the news, I feel completely powerless. One of our members, Richard Samuel, is in Guinea right now and hiding from the Ebola virus. I have no answers for how to help him. I have no answers for how to end the mind-boggling hatred and violence which infects the Holy Land. I am dumbstruck by the way that the Ukrainians are suffering.  But just when I am feeling overwhelmed, I remember Jesus' words, "What have you got?"

I have prayer. I can pray. I can study and learn. I can listen to the cries of the world and ask for God's guidance. I can welcome Father Raja into our midst and try to help other Christians fleeing violence. 

Many years, ago, when things were more peaceful in Israel, I went to the Galilee with JD, to the place where they believe that this miracle occurred with loaves and fishes. There is a sixth century mosaic on the floor of the old church there. The mosaic is replicated on your bulletin cover. Just five simple loaves and four fish. Take a look. It doesn't look like much, does it?

Listen to me now.  

It is not your job to fix the world. God alone can do that. All Jesus asks of you is for you to give Him whatever you have. What is your five loaves and two fish? Give your gifts, your money, your skills, your prayers. Give yourself. Give your intelligence, your listening heart. These issues are complex and not easily solved. We must be willing to do all that we can. And Our Lord will do the rest. 

What have you got? Whatever it is, it is all that Jesus asks of you, no more and no less. Give what you have and then let God do the rest.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Last week, we discussed the parable of the dirt. Remember how I told you about the desert fathers of the fourth and fifth centuries, how they would go into a cave and meditate on one single parable for a YEAR? And then they would come out and explain that they could not plumb the depths of its meaning. These parables are rich, with many levels of meaning about our lives with God.

Today Jesus tells us another parable. This one is also about gardening but it has to do with wheat and weeds. Jesus says that the kingdom of God is like a man who sowed wheat in a field but the enemy came at night and sowed weeds among the wheat. When the reapers come, they cannot remove the weeds without hurting the wheat so both must grow together until harvest time. And then the judge will separate the two. The wheat will be stored in his barns, the weeds will be burned.

This parable is talking about three major levels of reality all at the same time. It is talking about 

1. The External of our earthly lives, our relationships and decisions
2. The Internal world world of our minds and hearts 
3. The Eternal world of everlasting life and what happens to us when we die

Jesus is talking about truth which simultaneously exists in all three realms of reality. The truth is very simple, and it is this: the world that you and I live in, both inside and outside of our bodies and minds, is complicated. It is a complex world made up of good and bad, light and darkness, wheat and weeds. Our instinct is always to believe that situations and people are simple, that the world is black and white, but in reality, it is very complicated.

Why did Jesus use the image of weeds? Well, for one, weeds multiply. For another, they are generally unwanted. If left unchecked, they can take over a garden and choke the wheat. They tend to be identifiable, ie, they come in certain repetitive forms and they never stop growing. They never stop coming.

I have a small garden behind our house. I am growing tomatoes, kale, mint and parsley, and some lettuce. It is an amateur garden for a busy mom. And there are constant weeds. In the five years that I have lived in Florida, I have gotten to know the weeds. There are four or five kinds. It is best if I glance at the garden and pull them daily or they can get out of hand. The more the rain, the more they grow.

Let's talk about the first level of reality that Jesus refers to, the reality of the external world in which we live. The external world has wheat and weeds, people who are good and people who are evil. This part is hard for most Episcopalians to admit, that there might be evil people in the world. But all you have to do is look at the Malaysian plane that was shot out of the sky this week, killing 300 innocent souls, and you must admit that perhaps Jesus was right. There are people who are evil. It is not our job to get rid of these people but they do exist. Jesus tells us that they do exist. M Scott Peck, a well known psychologist, calls these People of the Lie. These usually are the people who would never confess their sins or admit their faults. In their minds, they are beyond reproach.  Be aware that such people do exist. And one way to identify them is by the fact that they would never admit their faults.

The second level that this parable speaks about is the reality of your mind. You have wheat and weeds in your mind. You have thoughts that come straight from God and from love itself. These good thoughts are about your worth and your beauty and the fact that God wants you just as you are. And the weeds are the opposite. The weeds are all those thoughts that tell you that you don't deserve to be here. Here are some good weeds...

The "if only" weed. If only, I had made this decision or done things that way, then I might be happier! This weed can take over your whole mind and force you to live in a world of regret, stuck in decisions of the past.

The "poor me" weed. I get this one a lot. Just feeling sorry for yourself rather than asking for help or rest. 

The "I'm worthless weed" that tells you about how many mistakes you have made and how bad you are.

Alcoholics can tell you about weeds, about the thoughts that they have that will never go away, thoughts that tell them that they deserve to drink, even after thirty years of sobriety.

Let's be honest. Our minds are a mess. Even CS Lewis, one of the greatest theologians of our era, wrote that at least one third of all his thoughts were completely self-absorbed and vain. Our thoughts are a mess of weeds. But there is some wheat in there too, and that is what we need to focus on.

Many people avoid silence because it brings them into a direct encounter with the weeds that live in their minds. But you cannot identify those weeds if you can't hear them. They have less control over you when you know what they are and where they are. So silence is important. Knowing what your weeds sound like, that is important. And learning to love yourself despite your weeds, well, that is absolutely essential.

Remember what the psalmist wrote, God discerned your thoughts from afar. God knows how ugly and hateful they can be. God hears your lust and your insecurity and your fury at life. And God still finds you good. How bizarre is that? God still says to you, "I see your weeds, I hear them, but I made you and there is a lot of good in you...focus on the good."

This complexity that exists both in our internal and external worlds also is reflected in heaven, where there is a cosmic struggle going on between the good and the evil, the forces of light and the forces of darkness. It is clear from the very beginning that God has allowed evil to coexist in the creation and that it sows weeds. In your baptism, you took vows of cosmic significance. You vowed to fight evil and to stand for the good. Your life, your thoughts as well as your actions, also effect God's cosmic battle with evil. This is mystical stuff beyond our understanding but it is real. You are important to God in more ways that one.

 This parable tells a deep truth and the truth is this: you cannot get rid of your weeds. God knows your weeds and God loves you anyway. God finds you good, even with your weeds. In fact, Jesus is very clear that we are not to try to remove our weeds. God wants you to grow and mature with both weeds and wheat. And it is God alone, Christ alone, who will separate the two.

And what you do inside your head matters to God, says the Psalmist to God, "you discern my thoughts from afar..."  Your mind matters. What you chose to focus on matters. What you do matters, not just in your own life but in the life eternal as well. Choose the wheat. There is some kind of blessing in almost every day, some kind of goodness in almost every person. Seek out the good, the wheat. But always be aware of the weeds too. And trust that God alone can make them go away.

Friday, July 18, 2014

American Peace: A Rest for the Soul

There is an old folk tale about a king. He was a great and wise ruler and he was getting very old. His final wish was to leave his kingdom in the hands of his son, but he wanted to teach him one important lesson before he died. He wanted his son to know that no matter what chaos ensued, it was important for the king to stay focused and at peace within himself. Dedication to serving his kingdom would bring a king inner peace that could never be taken from him, no matter what the circumstances.

But the king's son did not seem capable of grasping this concept. He believed that cunning and power were more important than inner peace. So the king decided to demonstrate his point by calling upon all the artists in the kingdom. He called his senior advisors and instructed them to organize a painting competition. "The painter who is able to best represent peace and serenity will win a great reward," said the king. The king also added another instruction, "Under no circumstances are you to reject any work of art, however strange it appears or horror it should cause."

Paintings came from every corner of the kingdom. Scenes of marvelous beauty, of calm seas and clear skies, flocks of birds in flight and other idyllic scenes were painted to evoke beauty and peace. And then, in the midst of all the beauty, there appeared a most bizarre painting. Painted in dark tones and with little light, it pictured a rough sea in the middle of a storm. High waves were crashing violently against dark cliff rocks. The sky was covered with dark clouds.

The senior advisors instructed the painting to be placed in a dark corner of the exhibit, for they did not think it worthy of the king's attention. It was only the memory of the king's instructions not to discard any work that prevented them from simply throwing it away.

The day came for the competition. The king walked the great exhibit hall looking carefully at every painting, his son at his side. With each painting, the king seemed to get more and more morose. When asked what he was thinking, he said that the paintings were beautiful but that there was something lacking in every one of them. Finally, the king glanced at the painting tucked in a dark corner. "Why is this painting tucked away?" he asked. "Did I not instruct you to show me everything?" The advisors claimed that this painting was obviously created by a lunatic who had no understanding of peace, but the king was not listening. He walked up to the picture and looked at it more closely than any of them had.

After a full minute of silence, the king exclaimed, "This is the one!"

"My friends," he instructed his advisors and his son, "you did not look closely enough."

The nobles approached the painting along with the prince. The king showed them something tucked among the rocks. It was a small nest where there was a newborn bird. The mother was feeding it, totally detached from the storm taking place around her.

"Peace does not come from living in an ideal world as it is reflected in the other paintings, with their calm seas and clear skies. Peace is the capacity to keep your attention on what is a priority for you, despite the difficult circumstances."

In 1776, fifty-six men signed the Declaration of Independence. We look upon these men with admiration for their brilliance, but they possessed something even more important.  Have you ever wondered what happened to them? Five were captured by the British, tortured and killed. Twelve had their homes ransacked and burned down. Two lost sons in the Revolutionary War. Two had sons captured. Nine died from wounds in the Revolutionary War. They lost their property, went into hiding, their spouses died, their children died. This was not a time of peace but a time of mass chaos and war, and yet, in the midst of the darkness, a small but powerful idea was born, the idea that all people are created equal and that they can govern themselves. At the heart of the storm, there was this birth of inspiration, a gift from God, the gift of a free nation.

In today's gospel, Jesus invites us to come to him for rest. "Come unto me all you that travail and are heavy laden and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me for you will find rest for your will find peace." Jesus, who himself was crucified in a most brutal manner, offers peace to those who focus on him. Jesus did not experience physical peace while he walked the earth. He had people chasing him, needing him, arguing over him and even murdering him. During his ministry, the only moments of quiet that he had were when he went away early in the morning to pray. But the peace that he was offering had nothing to do with external circumstances. It had to do with dedicating your life to God.

Our lives are crazy. Most of you are incredibly busy. The economy has not fully recovered. We are afraid of what is happening in the Middle East and especially Iraq. There are people all over the world who hate Americans and would rather see us dead or at least failing in every way. The storms of the world are brewing. We cannot even agree among ourselves as to the best course of action. We are a nation divided and enslaved by fear.

And yet, Jesus claims that we can find peace in the midst of the storm, if we only focus on him. And how do we look to him? We must be willing to devote our lives and our entire focus to something greater than ourselves. In the midst of the storms of life, we must be willing to tend to the work of Christ and the birthing of his kingdom into the world. If we give our lives for something greater than ourselves, though the world may crumble around us, we will be at peace.

On September 19, 1789, an article addressed to "The PEOPLE of the United States" appeared on the inside pages of the American Daily Advertiser, Philadelphia's major newspaper. In this short letter, George Washington explained that he would not stand for reelection as President of the United States. Instead, amid all the chaos and uncertainty, he would go home to rest at Mt. Vernon.

This man was called The Father of the Country. At six foot four, he was regal. He was a war hero. He had it all and everyone felt more secure with him at the helm. But George Washington understood that he was following an ideal higher than his own ambition. And he understood that, if democracy was to succeed, that a president should not serve for more than two terms. And so, in the midst of the instability of a new and volatile country, Washington went home.

In this day and age, our commercials make you think that buying the best product or going to a spa will bring you calm and peace. But that is not true. Peace does not come from finding a quiet place or witnessing a beautiful sunset. Peace only comes when you nurture the birth of something greater within your own soul, the service of God, the life of Christ. You must give up your life for a burden even greater, something worth dying for.

True freedom comes, ironically, when you give your life away to something much greater. And then, even if the whole world caves in around you, you will find rest for your soul.

Remember the hymn about the disciples and the peace of God that they found? Here are the poetic words:

Contented, peaceful fishermen,
before they ever knew
the peace of God that filled their hearts
brimful, and broke them too.

Young John who trimmed the flapping sail,
homeless in Patmos died,
Peter, who hauled the teeming net,
head-down was crucified.

The peace of God, it is no peace,
but strife closed in the sod,
Yet let us pray for but one thing --
the marvelous peace of God.

Thursday, July 17, 2014


The parables that Jesus told are remarkable. They contain a depth of meaning that cannot be reached. The desert monks of the fourth and fifth centuries used to go into caves alone and meditate on one parable for a year. A year! And the monk would emerge claiming that he had not yet plumbed the depth of its meaning.

The parable that we heard today is called the parable of the seed. But I don't think it's really about the seeds at all. I think it is about dirt. I think it should be called the parable of the dirt.

In fact, I want to talk to you today about dirt. Most of us have spent years contemplating seeds, that gospel message that Jesus gave us and how we are to spread that message to everyone, spreading seeds of the kingdom so that others may learn about God and about God's Son and in this way their lives and souls may be changed and even saved.

But the story is not as much about the seeds as it is about dirt, about different kinds of dirt. You see the success of God's message to us is dependent not as much on the message itself as on the way in which it is received. In other words, God's love and God's salvation in Jesus is offered to all people. It is our reception of that message that determines our relationship with God.  The seeds are the same throughout the story. It is the dirt that changes. This story is about the dirt. It is about where the seeds land.

God loves you. The question of your life is whether or not you will choose to love God back.

There are four kinds of dirt that Jesus describes. 

1. The path, where there is no dirt at all, like a concrete highway, no place for the seed the find purchase. 
2. The shallow ground, where there is a little dirt, but no room for the seed to put down roots
3. Thorny ground, where there is some dirt, but also thorns that take up a lot of space and choke the seed.
4. And finally, good soil. Good dirt, the stuff of growth, the place where the message of God can take root and grow.

Let's pause and think for a moment about something that you all know but may never have taken the time to truly contemplate. What is dirt?

Dirt is made up of things that have died, of nature's trash, you might say.

That means that good spiritual soil would be full of all the things in your life that you have had to suffer with, move through, be challenged by and let go of. Failed relationships, illnesses, mistakes, fights, sadness. All of this hard stuff makes for good soil. In fact, the best soil is called compost and it is made up of stuff that has died and rotted into the soil. All the stuff that you have terminated and that you wish you could forget about yourself or your past. These are the very things that make God's word grow. Struggles. Suffering. Pain.

According to the American mindset, a person does well if he or she is successful. Do you have a good job? A fancy education? Do you have lasting friendships? Successful children? Productive employment? These are the ways we measure our lives. But none of this kind of success makes for good soil. A life of comfort and success does not make good dirt. No, God wants us to grow and die to ourselves and grow again. And growth hurts.

When my middle son, Jacob, was about seven, he awoke in the middle of the night with a sharp pain on the side of his stomach. I immediately got worried about appendicitis. I rushed into the bedroom where my husband JD was fast asleep. JD had long ago had his appendix removed. I woke him up and asked him what side his appendix was on. He told me and, sure enough, that was the side that was causing Jacob pain. So I rushed Jacob to the emergency room.

Of course, we waited for hours. When finally a doctor was able too see us, he told us that JD must have been too sleepy to give an accurate answer. The appendix was on the other side and what Jacob was having was probably nothing more than growing pains.

Thanks a lot. Three hours in the middle of the night and all it was was a growing pain. But I had never thought about the fact that growth, particularly rapid growth, can hurt. And it is the pain of growth that provides the good soil in which the gospel can be planted and grow.

A world-renowned Stanford University psychologist by the name of Carol Dweck just published a great book. It is called Mindset: the New Psychology of Success. In the book, she paints a picture of a day with small set backs. Imagine yourself in the midst of this day, she writes. It begins with a C+ on a mid term paper that you have worked hard on. Then, you find that you have gotten a parking ticket as you leave class. You are so frustrated that you call your friend, who brushes you off and doesn't listen to you. How do you respond?

A person with what Dweck calls a Fixed Mindset will say these kind of things to him or herself..."that the professor is stupid" "I must be an idiot, I'm not that smart...I never get good luck and I really don't have good friends." In other words, a person with a fixed mindset will define themselves by these experiences.

But a person with a Growth Mindset will see these experiences as a challenge, as contributing to their soil...they will ask themselves, "What can I do to learn how to get a better grade on the next paper? Maybe I will meet with the professor...I have to pay this parking ticket immediately so it does not drag me down and I've got to be more careful where I park...and I need to call this friend back and explain that I really didn't feel heard...I wonder if there is something going on in her life that prevented her from listening..."

Dweck says, at any point in a persons life, no matter how old that person may be, that the person can decide to have a growth mindset. It is a decison. It is an action. 

Your hardships, your suffering, your failures...they make for good soil. And if the real purpose of this life is to know and love God, well, you might even go so far as to admit that your struggles bless you. And that, my friends, is what the cross of Christ is all about.

Dirt. It is rich stuff, made up of all that has been discarded or has died. It is where you will find yourself growing into the person that God wants you to be.