It’s Monday August 27

Having traveled in a car twenty-three out of my waking thirty-three hours this weekend, I offer you these words from Jean Vanier rather than my own.  

When I discover that I am accepted and loved as a person, with my strengths and weaknesses, when I discover that I carry within myself a secret, the secret of my uniqueness, then I can begin to open up to others and respect their secret.

Each human being, however small or weak, has something to bring to humanity. As we start to really get to know others, as we begin to listen to each other’s stories, things begin to change. We begin the movement from exclusion to inclusion, from fear to trust, from closedness to openness, from judgment and prejudice to forgiveness and understanding. It is a movement of the heart.

It’s Monday.  Know you are accepted and loved.  Live it with others.  Peace. Kai

It’s Monday August 20

Tear soaked pillow. Sounds like a country western song doesn’t it? That’s appropriate because I was in Nashville, Tn, the mecca of country music, this weekend. Yet, I wasn’t writing a song, I was living my life. My life, at this stage is bound by the rhythms of hellos and goodbyes, leave-taking and homecoming, sadness and joy. This weekend our daughter launched her college career at Vanderbilt University.

Tear soaked pillow. Move in day proceeded without a hitch. The bulging van’s contents were efficiently transported up five flights of stairs by eager upperclass students. Beds got lofted. Check. Boxes unpacked. Check. Clothes packed in too tight quarters. Check. Roommate good. Check. Parents pleasant. Check. Final run to Target. Check. Emotions effectively kept at bay. Check.

Tear soaked pillow. Exhausted from the day, we crashed in our hotel beds desperately needing sleep so as not to be too emotionally fragile the next morning. Sleep came, then departed at 6am. I startled awake, disoriented by the unfamiliar space and the all too familiar emotional place. When I remembered why I was lying in a hotel bed in Nashville, Tn., the floodgates opened. For a moment, I could barely breathe, my lungs filled with sadness. I tried to stifle my cry, placating my thoughts with my usual fare of distraction and minimizing. “You’ve done this before.” “A lot of parents are doing the same thing.” “It could be worse.” “She’s in a good place.” “You are not alone.” Yet, I was. As opposed to other times when I would avoid or deny or flee from the emotional impact of the experience, this time I decided to let myself be in the moment. Tears cascaded down my cheeks as a lifetime passed before my eyes.

Tear soaked pillow. The reality was I couldn’t stay in that place. Logistically I had to get up, get ready, say my goodbyes, and drive back to Columbus to be with the rest of my family. Emotionally, my soul couldn’t sustain the onslaught. There were moments, many moments during the drive home, when my mind wandered and tears would wind down my cheeks and drip on my shirt. No need to wipe them away, I decided. Let them fall. For as we traveled back, it dawned on me–the only reason my sadness soaked pillows that day is that the joy of raising kids has saturated my being for a life-time. Sadness and joy co-mingle. Sadness had its day. Joy endures.

It’s Monday. I’m writing a new song today. It’s called, “Tears on my keyboard.” But, you know what, there aren’t as many today. The joy of a life-time is taking hold. Peace. Kai

It’s Monday August 13

The Olympics are over. Sleep will return. This past weekend I shared one last Olympic reflection with the congregation I serve.

I’ve seen the commercial focused on US swimmer Ryan Lochte a hundred times in the past few weeks but the closing lines caught me yesterday.  “Luck didn’t get me to the Olympics.  I swam there.”  Though Lochte was overshadowed by the record breaking exploits of Michael Phelps, there is no doubt he is a finely tuned Olympic champion.  

“Luck didn’t get me to the Olympics.  I swam there.”  Every once in a while, I’m asked the question, “How do I become more spiritual?”  My response is usually, “What do you mean by spiritual?”  Each person asking has a different reason for asking and a different outcome in mind but they tend to fall into a few categories:
1)  They are worried they are not living a “good enough” life for God.
2)  They are struggling with some sin– abusive anger, addiction, lying, etc. 
3)  They have a vision of what they want to be– more loving, compassionate, generous, patient and don’t know how to get there.

Books have been written in response to each of these questions so these brief words won’t do them justice.  The simple response to #1 is: Don’t worry.  God’s love is “good enough” for you just as you are; imperfect, deeply flawed. God’s grace and love in Jesus is enough.  You can’t earn it.  You don’t deserve it.  Grace flows toward you, in you, and through you anyway!  Be grateful.

The response to two and three has something to do with Ryan Lochte’s commercial.  Do you want to get there…start swimming.  There is no substitute for conscious, intentional activity of heart, mind, and spirit.  Pray for God’s Spirit to move in you, then move.  If you want to be more generous, give; more compassionate, serve; less angry, find opportunities for joy; more loving, love.  

Is it a perfect system or solution? Ask Ryan Lochte.  It’s not.   Yet, it is a way forward.  

It’s Monday. In the words of Dori in the movie, Finding Nemo–“Just keep swimming, swimming, swimming…”  Swimming in the ocean of God’s grace and love.  Peace. Kai

It’s Monday–August 6

U.S. gymnast McKayla Maroney is the best female vaulter in the world. Her vault, the Amanar, has the highest degree of difficulty, by far, of any other vault attempted by her competitors. When she stuck the landing in the team competition and received less than perfect scores the commentators were stunned–both by her incomparable skill and the fact that points were deducted at all. She’s that good. Entering the individual competition on the vault all she needed to do was land on her feet and the gold medal was hers.

Her first vault, the Amanar, though not as perfect as the one she landed in the team competition positioned her far above the competition. Racing down the runway toward her second vault, a much less difficult vault, everyone knew she only needed to complete the vault, as she had done hundreds, if not thousands of times before, and she would reign as Olympic champion. Those who watched were stunned. Instead of standing tall reaching for the skies, she fell flat on her butt. Bitter disappointment was etched in her face as she received the silver, not the gold medal.

Athletic competition isn’t the best metaphor for life but if often reveals deep truths about us, our understanding of one another and of the faith. Some manifestations of Christianity live and die by that metaphor continually striving to win over others, to defeat the enemy, to conquer foes.

The Jesus I know and follow invites me to a different kind of life. Jesus invites me to give up my life in order to find it, to die to worldly fulfillment in order to live fully, to a life where the last will be first. Pretty radical, I know. Anti-culture, indeed.

Yet, it allows me to fall flat on my butt and not be seized by bitter disappointment having blown the expectations others place on me and I carry myself. Do I want to fall flat on my butt? No. Will I? Yes. With more practice will I reduce the likelihood of failure? Probably. Will I become perfect? Never.

Perfectionism is one of the great spiritual obstacles. In our minds we tell ourselves we cannot be perfect. In practice, we beat ourselves up when we fail as people, as parents, in relationships, in living. In that way of thinking, if we do not win, exceed expectations, prove ourselves, we must be losers.

Today, I’m grateful for a gracious God-a God who sees my imperfections and knows my inadequacies; a God who, if keeping score, would not even put me on the medal stand, but who, using the measure of grace, calls me loved.

It’s Monday. Chances are you will fall flat on your butt today, this week. When you do, recall the words spoken to Jesus in his baptism (from Eugene Peterson’s translation of the bible The Message): “You are my child, chosen and marked by my love, the pride of my life.” Place those words in a prominent place so you can reference them often. Better yet, memorize them. Make them part of who you are. Then, extend that grace to others. Peace. Kai