It’s Monday October 1

Do you ever let 100 good things be overshadowed by one bad thing? I almost let it happen this weekend.

On Saturday, our Hope team from Peace hosted a homeless picnic in downtown Columbus, though to envision it as merely a picnic minimizes the scope of the event. Over the past few years, the event has grown to include haircuts (over 230 this year), foot washing (120), pedicures, dental check-ups, HIV testing, glaucoma checks, free clothing, toiletries, and thousands of meals. More than 100 volunteers from multiple churches are included in this sweet expression of servant love.

Across the street, the city of Columbus was hosting an Arts Festival. As I pulled out from our event and headed home, I noticed a street preacher positioned across the street from our homeless event, at the gate of the Arts Festival, spewing his hateful venom at all who entered. I was enraged.

For everyone who strolled across the Broad Street bridge and entered the festival, the impression of what it means to follow Jesus was clouded by the dark predictions of the preacher of doom, when a mere four lanes away was an beautiful expression of sacrificial love by servants for good.

Candidly, for a moment, I allowed the twisted rhetoric of the street preacher to drown out the voices of peace and love and hope I had been immersed in throughout the day. Then I recalled a simple truth: You cannot be responsible for what others say or do, only who you are and the life you live.

These words from an anonymous author came to me this weekend reminding me of who we are and what we are about as followers of Jesus.

Be converted to love every day.
Change all your energies,
all your potential,
into selfless gifts for the other person.
Then you yourself will be changed from within
and through you
God’s kingdom will break into the world.

It’s Monday. What selfless gift can you offer someone today? Peace. Kai

It’s Monday September 24

Stories change us. Last night, many gathered at Peace to view the documentary, I Am, a provocative dissection of our culture of excess and greed. Throughout, the documentary debunked common held assumptions that competition is the driver of human relationships, that having more equates to being more, that survival is only for the fittest among us–the rest be damned. Scientists, theologians, cultural anthropologists, and poets extolled the inner connectivity that binds the creation together, the virtue of cooperation over competition, the physiological and social and theological reasons that relationships matter. Stories change us.

The question for today is: What stories will you tell, listen to, live? For if it is true that stories change us, and I think it is, then we have to decide which stories we will engage and how. We have to decide which stories we will tell one another and why.

We can, as I suspect we often do, tell stories of success and achievement, stories that shed a good light on ourselves and others. We can participate in cultural story lines of sport and changing weather, of activity and busyness, stories that allow us to skip along the surface of our lives never penetrating the deeper waters where we must risk and be vulnerable. Ultimately those stories won’t change us. They will simply numb us.

Last week, I had the privilege of attending to the stories of people who were seeking to immerse themselves into the deeper waters of life and love, of pain and loss, of division and reconciliation.
-One young man told me that he had always held a deep antagonism toward a certain part of the church. He couldn’t understand them. He thought they were weird. He had only experienced them peripherally as harsh and judgmental. So, instead of writing them off, he decided he had to go and participate in their ministry rather than judge from afar. Unity, in his understanding of the church and in his own soul, could not be achieved from a distance. He had to risk being in relationship with people he had kept at arm’s length.
-An elderly gentleman, his body slowly yielding to the disabling effects of Parkinson’s, spoke about this journey of suffering as an education in “Learning to live in grace.”
-An African-American young man, in a mostly white gathering, spoke candidly about what it meant to be welcomed and honored for who he is. “I don’t often interact with white people.” were his words. “In fact, most of the time I don’t really want to but today I started to experience what might be possible in relationships that cross the lines.”

Stories–good stories, true stories, stories of vulnerability and risk, of life and love, of pain and loss, of division and reconciliation–change us.

It’s Monday. What story will you tell today? What story will you listen to? Peace. Kai

It’s Monday September 17

When common messages or themes come at me from multiple directions, I’ve learned to pay attention.  Yesterday was a case in point.  Pastor Doug’s sermon on Abraham highlighted the fact that the promise God made to Abraham at age 75 still hadn’t come to fruition when he was 99!  24 years.  How many of us dive into spiritual and emotional conniptions after waiting for 24 hours, much less 24 years? 

In the afternoon, some leaders gathered for our strategic planning process.  The exercise we focused on was an in-depth review of the past twenty years at Peace, specifically examining the key turning points and what they could teach us.  Since I’ve been a pastor at Peace for almost twenty years, it was fascinating, through the perspective of others, to document and reflect on the evolution of progress in our ministry.  It was evident that growth that goes wide must also go deep.  It was also very clear that crisis hurts, but it can be a pathway to renewed life. 

With the long view of life and ministry presented throughout the day, one of my favorite works by Father Teilhard de Chardin came to mind.  

Above all, trust in the slow work of God.

We are, quite naturally,impatient in everything to reach the end without delay.

We should like to skip the intermediate stages.

We are impatient of being on the way to something unknown, something new,

and yet it is the law of all progress that it is made by passing through

some stages of instability – and that it may take a very long time. . .

Only God could say what this new spirit gradually forming within you will be.

Give Our Lord the benefit of believing that his hand is leading you,

and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself in suspense and incomplete.

It’s Monday.  Read this multiple times.  Pay attention to the words or phrases that stand out for you today.  Say a prayer asking God to help you know what to do next–rest, step forward, be patient, trust, accept, hope.  Peace. Kai

It’s Monday September 10

What do you think of when you imagine the Garden of Eden? Chances are you picture whatever your perfect place is–lush vegetation, soaring mountains, scents that remind you of something your grandma cooked when you were young. The relationships are edifying, conflict, if there is any, is resolved with the best intention, and peace between people groups reigns.

Imagining Eden in that way creates a natural dissonance between Eden and our lives, between the ideal and the real. It also creates a pervasive anxiety within us as we strive, in our lives, in our families, in our communities, to recapture Eden. We look around and see others who have better lives, perfect families, who live in ideal communities, and our soul constricts with envy, covetousness, and self-hatred.

What if the writers of Genesis 2 and 3 intended another storyline than the ideal/real dichotomy? What if the Eden they described was less like the utopia we imagine and more like the neighborhoods, the families, the communities, we inhabit? As you read the story in Genesis 2 and 3, ask yourself, “Why, in a perfect place, is there temptation, anxiety, limits to freedom?”

As I reread the stories this past week, I couldn’t help but notice that the Garden of Eden was not that much different than the world I live in.  My guess is that the writers of those stories would agree. If that is true, it leads me to these life principles:

Perfection is an unattainable goal…so release it.
Failure is an inevitable experience…embrace it.
Redemption is an indescribable gift…celebrate it!

It’s Monday. Focus your mind on those last three sentences, what do they mean for you? Peace. Kai

Throughout this preaching series we will be offering you simple practices to more fully engage the story. This week:
Memorize this verse from Mark 1:11–“You are my child–chosen and marked by love, pride of my life.” (The Message, translation)
Post that verse in prominent places and/or recite it often to yourself as a reminder of the God who loves imperfect, failure laden, redeemed people like you.