It’s Monday October 29

A group of leaders from our community spent more than twenty hours over four weeks telling stories about Peace–its past, present and future, evaluating ministry, and discerning our core values. Here are the core values we articulated:

Grace not guilt
Service without condition
Relationships over rules
Love not fear

As a leader in the community I was thrilled. That’s the kind of community I had always hoped to be part of and invest in. Yet, as a leader, I also know there is, at times, a gap between stated values and lived values. Stated values are those statements you put on a plaque or emboss on your letterhead, convince yourself that everyone knows and lives them, and then pat yourself on the back. Lived values are embodied in every aspect of the community–what happens publicly as the community gathers and privately as we relate to one another.

One of the most exciting moments in our leader conversation was when I asked each person present which value is most life-giving for them and which keeps them connected with the community. One by one, with little hesitation, each leader named a lived value of Peace that they not only had experienced but that continues to give them life.

Now, let’s extend the conversation. Whether you are part of the Peace community or not, which of these would be most life-giving for you? What’s missing? I would love to hear from your this week.

It’s Monday. What would it be like to live these core values in your home, your workplace, your community this week? Let me know how it goes. Peace. Kai

It’s Monday October 22

“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13: 35). Really? If that is the criteria, I see very few disciples of Jesus as the political campaigns reach their apex. If Jesus said, “By this everyone will know you are disciples, if you are cynical, back-biting, prone to shredding other’s dignity as you shred their political argument” then, indeed, disciples abound!

Elie Wiesel, a Jewish holocaust survivor and out-spoken defender of humanity, recently was asked about the rise of anti-semitism in Europe and the turmoil in the Middle East. He made an important distinction that can be instructive for our current political climate. He commented that he has exchanged “tolerance” for “respect.” Tolerance creates an open path for acceptance, but it often overlooks abhorrent behavior that dehumanizes others for who they are, what they think or believe.

Respect elevates the humanity of the other recognizing we are all more than what we believe, the color of our skin, the allegiance of our political party. Respect also condemns any actions that demean, dehumanize, or diminish another person. We are called to be more than that.

In the past, I have called for a quiet revolution of character. There is no time like the present. Followers of Jesus need not be known for their boisterous blathering. Anyone can do that. Can we be known for a call to civility, our laudable loving of one another, our relentless respect no matter the allegiance, and our determined decisions to sacrificially serve?

It’s Monday. How can you live into this quiet revolution of character today? What you do and what you say matters! Peace. Kai

It’s Monday October 15

Our congregation hosted a regional conference for pastors and church leaders this past weekend. As with most good conferences, the measure of insight exceeded my capacity to absorb it and it sent my mind spinning. Here are just a few soundbites:
“Stories shape our lives.”
“The story you believe is the one that’s true, no matter if indeed it it true.” (I couldn’t help but think about our current campaign season with this one).
“Biblical story is just one of many stories for people today.”
“We are subject to more new information in one day than a person in the Middle Ages received in a lifetime!”
“We have reached a point of super saturation–we can’t hold it all.”
“Stories help us make sense of our lives.”
“We give our allegiance to those stories that do!”

That was the first of three sessions. My mind was spinning with grand ideas for my personal, professional, and relational life, accelerating with each new thought. The whir of these insights and questions was both exhilarating and paralyzing. So much to do. So much that could be done. But how? When? By whom?

Now it’s Monday morning and quiet. I discover again how essential it is to engage deeply in life, but then retreat. Only in retreat, in stepping back, in pausing for a moment or an extended period of time can the onslaught of information, of stimulation settle and begin to be sorted. The problem is most of us live with constant stimulation, with minds perpetually in motion and there is no rest.

The practice of sitting quietly, taking a walk, stopping to breathe deeply, or intentionally paying attention to the beauty of life has proved invaluable to me. I wish I could say I was more consistent, building these times in my life everyday, but I’d be lying to you. I can say, though, that when I get there, I experience its renewal. Albert Einstein once said something like, out of clutter–simplicity.

So what does that mean for me after this weekend? Simply this: My story matters. So does yours! I can get caught in the wake of many other story lines but this one, in its simplicity, helps me make sense of mine: God loves me no matter what. I hope to do the same for others.

It’s Monday. Pull back for a moment today and remind yourself that your story matters to God and others. Then, live it. Peace. Kai

It’s Monday October 8

I am starving! How many times have we said those words as we prepare to gorge ourselves with a scrumptious dinner? Yet, today I am unusually hungry (I cannot say starving) and it is making me think about the daily experience of many.

I wish I could say I, as a spiritual exercise, was fasting so I could be more attentive to God and more aware of what others live but I am just getting ready for my annual physical so no food or drink for twelve hours. On top of that, I had an extremely long day at work yesterday and did not eat well. Can I say I am starving? Not in comparison to many. Am I really hungry, yes!

So, I’m thinking about two things today: 1) What is it like to live with this physical ache in your body because of lack of nutrition? 2) I am also thinking about the value of simple spiritual exercises like fasting, which open our minds in new ways to God and God’s people, especially, in this case, the hungry and poor.

I cannot help but think about the millions of people who die each year because of malnutrition in the same world where I send back a steak in a restaurant because it isn’t prepared to my specifications. I am thinking about the millions who endure this ache in their stomachs each day, distracting them from thinking, relating, and living freely as I do. I am saddened to think about the kids in my community, my suburban community of Columbus, Ohio, who feel like this when they go to school each day. Some have choices. Many do not.

Fasting is a spiritual exercise that I have never really engaged but I’m thinking about how it might be a valuable exercise. The purpose of any spiritual exercise is not to impress God with faithfulness or impress others with your uppity holiness. Spiritual exercises open your mind to God, your heart to others, and your spirit to deeper reflection on life.

Chances are I will sprint to my refrigerator when my physical exam is complete. Yet, I don’t think the learnings will vanish as quickly as the pangs of hunger. I hope not. I inadvertently tripped over God this morning. It’s good to stumble every so often.

It’s Monday. What will you do today to open your mind to God’s presence (remember God is already where you are) and the needs of your neighbors? Peace. Kai