ISSUE No. 29 | January 2023
If you’re new to CULTIVARE we welcome you! CULTIVARE is a monthly field guide for life and faith, brought to you by TEND. Each month we explore a specific “field” – a topic or theme through which we seek to cultivate contemplation, engagement, and deeper understanding. Our guiding questions are:
What are you cultivating in your life?
What fruit do you want your life to bear?
Each issue of CULTIVARE is structured into three parts:
Cultivate: Examines a specific “Field” or facet of life and offers questions to unearth and challenge our held perspective; along with concise kernels of truth which we call “Seeds.”
Irrigate: Explores the ways we nurture our understanding, which varies from individual to individual. We offer six means of irrigation: Art, Poetry, Profile, Film, Essay, and Books.
Germinate: Encourages practical ways to engage in becoming more fruitful and free in our lives.
Our name, CULTIVARE, in Spanish means “I will cultivate.” We hope each issue of our field guide will encourage you to do just that – cultivate new thoughts, actions, faith, hope, and fruitful living. We invite you to dig in and DIG DEEP!
For we are partners working together for God, and you are God's field.
(I Corinthians 3:9)
Our theme this month is COURAGE. As we transition from 2022 to 2023, we are keenly aware that this past year has been difficult and draining for many people. “Weary and wondering” may be a fitting description for the posture many have toward the new year ahead. Though we may aspire to approach the year ahead with courage, our feelings may mirror those of the Lion in the Wizard of Oz, who, after offering a litany of examples of courage, asks his friends:
Lion: What do they got that I ain’t got?
Lion: You could say that again!
Courage may at times be elusive, but it is always foundational. It is the virtue upon which all other virtues are built. Merriam Webster Dictionary defines “Courage” as: Mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty. One of the great moral leaders of the twentieth century, Martin Luther King, Jr., offered his own definition: Courage is an inner resolution to go forward despite obstacles. Cowardice is submissive surrender to circumstances. Courage breeds creativity; Cowardice represses fear and is mastered by it. Cowardice asks the question, is it safe? Expediency asks the question, is it politic? Vanity asks the question, is it popular? But conscience asks the question, is it right? And there comes a time when we must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but one must take it because it is right.
In this issue we look at courage, specifically moral courage. Why moral courage? Because we agree with Mark Twain that: It is curious that physical courage should be so common in the world and moral courage so rare. Our hope is that this issue inspires you to take steps to act courageously in the year ahead. To that end we feature an exiled artist who, through his artwork, speaks truth to power. We spotlight gymnast Rachael Denhollander who confronted her abuser and in so doing led the way for others to seek justice. We highlight a book by professor Brene Brown which looks at how the courage to be vulnerable can transform the way we live, parent, and lead. And the images we feature throughout the issue provide a gallery of individuals we think embody inspirational courage (starting with our opening image of Ruby Bridges).
The Psalmist heartens us to: Be strong and let your heart take courage, all you who hope in the Lord. (Psalm 31:24). Our prayer is that the Psalmist’s words prove true for all of us in 2023. We recognize that exercising courage is often exceedingly hard to do. In the times when we are discouraged, when we contemplate quitting or opting out, may we remember what Tom Hanks says to Gina Davis in the movie A League of Their Own when she plans to quit:
Davis: It just got too hard.
Hanks: It’s supposed to be hard. If it wasn’t hard everyone would do it.
The hard is what makes it great.
Here’s to a courageous 2023! (DG)
These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace.
In the world you have tribulation, but take courage;
I have overcome the world. (John 16:33 NAS)
Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Behold, all who are incensed against you shall be put to shame and confounded; those who strive against you shall be as nothing and shall perish. You shall seek those who contend with you, but you shall not find them; those who war against you shall be as nothing at all. For I, the LORD your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, "Fear not, I am the one who helps you." (Isaiah 41:10-13 ESV)
For the Spirit that God has given us does not make us timid;
instead, his Spirit fills us with power, love, and self-control. (II Timothy 1:7 GNT)
Haven't I commanded you? Strength! Courage! Don't be timid; don't get discouraged.
God, your God, is with you every step you take. (Joshua 1:9 MSG)
A handful of quotes to contemplate and cultivate into your life
Whatever you do, you need courage. Whatever course you decide upon, there is always someone to tell you that you are wrong. There are always difficulties arising that tempt you to believe your critics are right. To map out a course of action and follow it to an end requires some of the same courage that a soldier needs. Peace has its victories, but it takes brave men and women to win them. (Ralph Waldo Emerson)
Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage. (Anais Nin)
Fear is a reaction. Courage is a decision. (Winston Churchill)
Courage is not simply one of the virtues but the form of every virtue at the testing point, which means at the point of highest reality. (C.S. Lewis)
If fear is to be a driving force in your life, fear what you’ll miss. Fear what happens if you don’t act. Fear what they’ll think of you down the road, for having dared so little. Think of what you’re leaving on the table. Think of the terrifying costs of playing so small.
It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat. (Theodore Roosevelt)
Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgement that something else is more important than one’s fear. (James Neil Hollingworth)
Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, “I will try again tomorrow.” (Mary Anne Radmacher)
Have courage for the great sorrows of life and patience for the small ones; and when you have laboriously accomplished your daily task, go to sleep in peace. God is awake.
Artist of the Month
By Bonnie Fearer
Chinese artist Ai Weiwei was born in 1957 to a preeminent Chinese poet and his wife, who were banished to an isolated labor camp during the cultural revolution. In the 1970’s the family was allowed to return to Beijing, but the experience left an imprint on Ai. After first becoming an architect, he later turned to art and was recognized primarily for his sculptures. What got the world’s attention, however, was how Ai employed his art to speak truth to power – specifically, the Chinese government. After the 2008 Sichuan earthquake, Ai was openly critical of the government’s shoddy construction of schoolhouses that collapsed during the earthquake, killing over 5,000 students. His accusations led to surveillance, beatings, house arrest and destruction of his studio. He was ordered to cease his remarks, but Ai refused.
Among the artworks that resulted from Ai’s “citizen investigation” was "Remembering" (2009), an installation in Munich in which 9,000 colored backpacks were arranged on a wall to form a quote, in Chinese, from an earthquake victim’s mother.
Ai Weiwei, "Remembering", 2009, backpacks on the facade of the Haus der Kunst (Munich)
In 2010 Ai Weiwei was recognized for his exhibit entitled “Sunflower Seeds,” at the Tate Modern in London. Over 1,600 Chinese craftsmen created nearly ten tons of individual porcelain sunflower seeds for the exhibit. As Ai explained, “[In] the times I grew up, it was a commonplace symbol for The People, the sunflower faces the trajectory of the red sun, so must the masses feel towards their leadership.” Originally, viewers were asked to walk across the porcelain seeds as a symbol of the crushing of people under authoritarian rule. However, health concerns over the dust that was raised ended that exercise.
Ai Weiwei has embodied bold courage by using his art to speak against abuse of power. Though he has left his native China (and is currently living in Portugal), his work and witness continues.
The Chinese artist and provocateur Ai Weiwei with his “Forever” installation in London.
Credit...Facundo Arrizabalaga/European Pressphoto Agency
Touched By An Angel
by Maya Angelou
We, unaccustomed to courage
exiles from delight
live coiled in shells of loneliness
until love leaves its high holy temple
and comes into our sight
to liberate us into life.
and in its train come ecstasies
old memories of pleasure
ancient histories of pain.
Yet if we are bold,
love strikes away the chains of fear
from our souls.
We are weaned from our timidity
In the flush of love's light
we dare be brave
And suddenly we see
that love costs all we are
and will ever be.
Yet it is only love
which sets us free.
By Bonnie Fearer
It has been said that courage is measured not only by the risk it entails, but by the good it preserves. There are many tales of courage we could have chosen for our profile in this issue –tales of the heroism of physical courage under duress, to the countless acts of courage coming out of war, out of slavery, and out of the ordinary pathos of being human in a broken world.
For this issue, we have chosen to profile one who exemplifies moral courage, and for this reason we are profiling Rachael Denhollander. If you don’t recognize her name, please read on, as her courage is instructive, and worthy of our respect.
Rachael Denhollander was the first person to make allegations of decades-long sexual abuse against Larry Nassar, the physician employed by both Michigan State University, and the USA Gymnastics team. She was the last one to give her legal testimony at his trial. Denhollander helped to galvanize the allegations of scores of other gymnasts, like herself, whom Nassar had abused over almost twenty years. Twenty years. It is an excruciatingly long time, especially when you consider that complaints had been made throughout that time, by various girls, to both Michigan State University, and to USA Gymnastics leadership – complaints that were either ignored, silenced or covered up. The abuse Denhollander revealed in her court testimony was thus two-pronged: the abuse from Nassar himself, and the abuse from institutions that chose self-preservation over human individuals--some as young as six years old.
In her testimony, Rachael Denhollander repeatedly asked MSU representatives, and the leadership of USA Gymnastics, “How much is a little girl worth? How much is a young woman worth?” When she addressed those present, she said:
Look around the courtroom, remember what you have witnessed these past seven days. This is what it looks like when someone chooses to put their selfish desires above the safety and love for those around them and let it be a warning to us all moving forward as a society.
This is what it looks like when the adults in authority do not respond properly to disclosures of sexual assault.
This is what it looks like when institutions create a culture where a predator can flourish unafraid and unabated, and this is what it looks like when people in authority refuse to listen, put friendships in front of the truth, fail to create or enforce proper policy and fail to hold enablers accountable.
This is what it looks like. It looks like a courtroom full of survivors who carry deep wounds. Women and girls who have banded together to fight for themselves because no one else would do it.
In addressing Larry Nassar himself, Denhollander said:
In our early hearing, you brought your Bible into the courtroom and you have spoken of praying for forgiveness. And so, it is on that basis that I appeal to you. If you have read the Bible you carry, you know the definition of sacrificial love portrayed is of God himself loving so sacrificially that he gave up everything to pay a penalty for the sin he did not commit. By his grace, I, too, choose to love this way.
You spoke of praying for forgiveness. But Larry, if you have read the Bible you carry, you know forgiveness does not come from doing good things, as if good deeds can erase what you have done. It comes from repentance, which requires facing and acknowledging the truth about what you have done in all its utter depravity and horror - without mitigation, without excuse, without acting as if good deeds can erase what you have seen in this courtroom today.
…The Bible you carry says it is better for a stone to be thrown around your neck and you thrown into a lake, than for you to make even one child stumble. --And you have damaged hundreds.
The Bible you carry speaks of a final judgment where all of God’s wrath and eternal terror is poured out on men like you. Should you ever reach the point of truly facing what you have done, the guilt will be crushing. And that is what makes the gospel of Christ so sweet. Because it extends grace and hope and mercy where none should be found. And it will be there for you.
Denhollander’s full testimony lasted 36 minutes. It is appropriately direct, at times necessarily graphic, and shatteringly articulate and passionate – all because she never wanted to see another little girl victimized and unprotected by a corrupted, selfish system. It cost her. She had to put her private shame on public display to protect innocents. She had to face institutions that had alternately ignored her, bullied her, and threatened her. And she had to face a man who had terrorized her throughout her gymnastics career, and who haunted her attempts to heal for years afterward.
At the end of Denhollander’s testimony, she sat down. When she did, the courtroom rose -- and they gave her a standing ovation. Then Judge Rosemarie Aquilina, who presided over the case, pointed to those clapping and said to Denhollander, “You made this happen. You are the bravest person I’ve ever had in my courtroom.”
For Rachael Denhollander’s full testimony, click here
Each month we recommend films focused on our theme
A Hidden Life
Visionary writer-director Terrence Malick masterfully shines the spotlight on humanity with A Hidden Life, telling the true story of a World War II conscientious objector. The film is based on the true story of Franz Jägerstätter, an Austrian peasant farmer born and raised in the village of St. Radegund, who refused to take the oath of allegiance to Hitler during World War II, sacrificing everything, including his life, rather than to fight for the Nazis. Franz Jägerstätter’s story was little known outside of St. Radegund, and might never have been discovered, was it not for the research of Gordon Zahn, an American who visited the village in the 1970s. A Hidden Life focuses on the soulful relationship between Franz and his wife Fani, poignantly portraying their bond as deeply as Franz’s devotion to his cause. It is a timeless story of devotion, love and forgiveness writ large. Available on various streaming services.
The First Wave
With exclusive access inside one of New York’s hardest hit hospital systems during the terrifying first four months of the pandemic, Emmy Award-winning director Matthew Heineman’s The First Wave spotlights the everyday heroes at the epicenter of COVID-19 as they come together to fight one of the greatest threats the world has ever encountered. Heineman embeds with a group of doctors, nurses and patients on the frontlines as they all desperately try to navigate the crisis. With each distinct storyline serving as a microcosm for viewing the emotional and societal impacts of the pandemic, The First Wave is a testament to the strength of the human spirit. Available on various streaming services.
The Breathtaking Courage of Harriet Tubman
"If you hear the dogs, keep going.
If you see the torches in the woods, keep going.
If there’s shouting after you, keep going.
Don’t ever stop.
If you want a taste of freedom.
The Courage to Live with Radical Uncertainty
When your future is uncertain, how do you keep moving forward? In this courageous talk, oncologist and cancer survivor Shekinah Elmore shares how she embraced life after a rare genetic diagnosis -- and explains why she believes doctors have a duty to help their patients learn to live with radical uncertainty.
Real Christian Courage Looks Like Elijah at His Most Pathetic
In this provocative article Russell Moore, Christianity Today’s Editor and Chief and Director of the Public Theology Project, challenges many individuals’ conventional view of courage, issuing a caution to those who “stand for truth” by calling down “fire from heaven” upon their enemies. Moore exhorts all of us that: Your courage will not be found in triumphant Mount Carmel moments, when you scatter your enemies, real and imagined. It will be forged, instead, when you cannot stand on your own at all, when you are collapsed in the wild places, maybe even begging for death. Elijah thought he was walking to Mount Sinai, but he was really walking toward Mount Calvary. And so are you. Only the crucifiable self can find the courage to stand.
Read the entire article at CT: View Now
Each month we recommend a book (or two) focused on our theme
How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Parent, and Lead
By Brené Brown
Every day we experience the uncertainty, risks, and emotional exposure that define what it means to be vulnerable or to dare greatly. Based on twelve years of pioneering research, Brené Brown PhD, MSW, dispels the cultural myth that vulnerability is weakness and argues that it is, in truth, our most accurate measure of courage. Daring Greatly is not about winning or losing. It’s about courage. In a world where “never enough” dominates and feeling afraid has become second nature, vulnerability is subversive. Uncomfortable. It’s even a little dangerous at times. And, without question, putting ourselves out there means there’s a far greater risk of getting criticized or feeling hurt. But when we step back and examine our lives, we will find that nothing is as uncomfortable, dangerous, and hurtful as standing on the outside of our lives looking in and wondering what it would be like if we had the courage to step into the arena—whether it’s a new relationship, an important meeting, the creative process, or a difficult family conversation. Daring Greatly is a practice and a powerful new vision for letting ourselves be seen.
by Bernard Waber
What is courage? Certainly, it takes courage for a firefighter to rescue someone trapped in a burning building, but there are many other kinds of courage too. Everyday kinds that normal, ordinary people exhibit all the time, like “being the first to make up after an argument,” or “going to bed without a nightlight.” Bernard Waber explores the many varied kinds of courage and celebrates the moments, big and small, that bring out the hero in each of us.
Practical suggestions to help you go deeper into our theme
1. QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION
a. What would you do if you weren’t afraid?
b. Can you think of a situation where you wanted to do the right thing, but found yourself
unable to do it? What prevented you from acting according to your values?
c. Can you think of a situation where it was difficult to do the right thing, but you managed to do it? What factors were present that enabled you to live up to your values?
d. How do you decide when to exercise moral courage?
e. What do you wish you had the courage to do?
2. THE FOUR TYPES OF EVERYDAY COURAGE
Everyday courage is not about heroes or heroism. Rather, it is about the grit and determination necessary to make tough calls that keep central the best interests of all. In this article written for school principals, author Cathy J. Lassiter outlines the four types of courage that make up Everyday Courage, namely, Moral Courage, Disciplined Courage, Intellectual Courage, and Empathetic Courage.
3. BONUS TED TALK: THE GIFT AND POWER OF EMOTIONAL COURAGE
Psychologist Susan David shares how the way we deal with our emotions shapes everything that matters: our actions, careers, relationships, health and happiness. In this deeply moving, humorous and potentially life-changing talk, she challenges a culture that prizes positivity over emotional truth and discusses the powerful strategies of emotional agility.
4. VIDEO: THE COURAGE TO SEEK, FIND, AND REDEEM
Deanne Shrodes grew up knowing she was adopted as an infant. At age 27, she found her biological mother, but her father’s identity was kept from her. But in May 2022, a DNA match led to an unlikely reunion, and then an unlikely act of courage and kindness.
5. MUSIC VIDEO: BRAVE by Sara Bareilles
Lord, all around me and swirling within me there are things that are scary, hard, and painful. When I feel afraid and too small to do the hard things I need or want to do, give me courage.
Like you did with Peter, and so many others, show me where you are and where you want to take me. When you call me out of my places of self-protection, help me trust you fully.
Give me courage to focus on you and not the fear I feel. I am reminded that you will not sink. You will not fall. You love me even when I doubt and am afraid. You offer courage to move ahead anyway. I need to see you reaching out for me and know your solid foundation under me.
In the middle of my stormy fears, show me you are near, and you hear. Amen.
But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord,
whose confidence is in him.
They will be like a tree planted by the water
that sends out its roots by the stream.
It does not fear when heat comes;
its leaves are always green.
It has no worries in a year of drought
and never fails to bear fruit.
(Jeremiah 17:7-8 NIV)
CULTIVARE is a ministry of TEND and is offered free to our subscribers. We are grateful to our donors who help underwrite our costs. If you would like to support the ongoing work of CULTIVARE, please consider us in your giving. All financial contributions to TEND
(a 501c3 ministry) for CULTIVARE are tax-deductible.
Subscribe to CULTIVARE for free!
Images used in order of appearance:
1. FIELD: Ruby Bridges, Uncredited, AP, 1960
2. SEEDS: Uncredited, Special Olympics Virginia, Undated
3. ART: Jeff Widener/AP Images, Tank Man, Tiananmen Square, China, 1989
4. POETRY: Art Resource, NY, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, 1924
5. PROFILE: Uncredited, AP, Rosa Parks Being Fingerprinted, Montgomery, 1956
6. FILM: Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi in London for a conference on Indian constitutional reform in 1931. Credit...Associated Press
7. ESSAY: Uncredited, Corrie Ten Boom, The Corrie Ten Boom House Foundation, Undated
8. BOOKS: Brigitte Lacombe, Malala Yousafzai, 2013
9. DIG DEEPER: Steve Schapiro, Martin Luther King, Jr., Undated
10. ROOTED: Uncredited, British Chaplain prays over dying German soldier, Imperial War Museum, 1918
TEAM CULTIVARE: Duane Grobman (Editor), Elizabeth Bolsinger, Amy Drennan, Bonnie Fearer, Ben Hunter, Eugene Kim, Nick Kinnier, Andrew Massey, Rita McIntosh, Jason Miller, Heather Shackelford, Jason Pearson (Design: Pearpod.com)
We welcome hearing your thoughts on this issue
and suggestions for future issues.
Email us at: firstname.lastname@example.org