It’s Monday November 26

My daughter is considering whether or not to pledge a sorority. Not having any experience to draw on, my wife and I are asking a lot of questions hoping to shed our many misconceptions of Greek life (Animal House and Valley Girls are vivid pictures from my generation). We are assuming it’s not all like that but, if not, then what?

Doing her due diligence, she brought home a brochure describing Greek life on campus and each of the houses. Of course, the brochure is beautiful–glossy, striking pictures of young men and women on daring adventures, engaged in philanthropic endeavors, and generally looking stunning. The brochure is definitely marketed for parents–no pictures of all night dance parties, beer pong, or guys on couches, their eyes glazed over with weed induced contentment.

The theme of the brochure struck me even before I opened it. BE MORE! My first question was, “Be more what?” My second question was, “Is my daughter not enough already?” Then my mind started wandering and I began to ask myself, “Am I not enough?” “Who gets to decide?”

Then (can you sense I got on a roll), I imagined myself entering this season of Advent and Christmas or, as they are culturally known–Black Friday and the four week Festival of Consumption. The messages of be more, buy more, have more, will permeate our senses at every turn, anxiety will escalate, and relationships will be vice-grip tense.

Unless. Unless, we choose otherwise. Maybe there is a way to be more (in a good way). But I think the only way I can get there is through being less. So here is what I’ve decided. Hold me to it. I’ve decided to:

Be less consumed by things and more compassionate toward people.
Be less scheduled in time and more open to wonder.
Be less judgmental about others’ motives and more available to others’ needs.
Be less obsessed with choosing the right present and more driven to be rightly present.
Be less concerned about what others think and more conscious of God’s thoughts.
Be less focused on my t.v. or computer or phone and more focused on my family.

It’s Monday. If you were going to create your own “less is more” list for this season, what would it look like? Peace. Kai

It’s Monday November 19

I spoke at a conference in Los Alamos, New Mexico this weekend. What a fascinating city. The geography was breathtaking. Los Alamos sits on a plateau more than 7000 feet above sea level-with rugged mountains embracing its perimeter and deep canyons carving this small community into multiple sub-communities connected only by a few expansive bridges and an expansive intellectual capacity rivaled no where else in the world.

Remember, Los Alamos is the home of the labs that birthed the atomic bomb and a nuclear capacity that is the envy of the world. They say there are more P.H.D’s per capita in Los Alamos than anywhere else. During breakfast before the conference I struck up a conversation with a young woman who had traveled to Los Alamos to work in the labs for a week. She’s an astro-physicist at 29 years of age. When I asked her what she had been working on at the labs she told me about her fascination with and study of exploding stars. Exploding stars! It was 6:45am and I was talking about exploding stars with a 29 year old– my head was exploding!

At the end of the day I happened to be in conversation with a gentleman who is a psychologist in Los Alamos. He let me in on a not so secret, secret. Behind the facade of the massive intellect, the way above the norm standard of living, and the positions of prestige lies as much loneliness, emptiness, and desperation as any other place. Those who can probe the vast mysteries of the cosmos have as much difficulty wrestling with the vast recesses of the soul as the rest of us.

I guess I should not have been surprised. But every so often I get caught in the illusion that some people have it all figured out. I get seduced by the cultural voices that tell me that position and power and wealth and intellect are antidotes to suffering and pain and disappointment and despair.

Not so.

As I write this from 30,000 ft., I find myself gazing out the window of a plane into a vast unknown and being reminded about how much I don’t know about God, the cosmos, human nature and, indeed, myself. But, this weekend, I discovered again when I live with my feet firmly planted on the ground and speak of what I know of God’s love and listen intently to others as they tell their stories, something happens–fear dissipates if ever so slightly, bonds of unity grow ever more tightly, and hope spreads–rightly.

It’s Monday. Bag your illusions about others and find a way to extend a hand of friendship, compassion, and love. I think you will be surprised. Peace. Kai

It’s Monday November 12

Within twenty-four hours this past weekend I had the honor of participating in two of life’s great transitions–marriage and death.

By the time you read this the newlyweds will not have entered their new life covenant for more than fifty-nine hours. As we spoke final words over a life, we acknowledged in reverential awe the covenant two others made and lived in for more than fifty-nine years.

Tears flowed the first day- a bride anxious and giddy, a groom relieved and expectant. Tears flowed the next day- a husband grateful for years but alone in the day, children and grand-children marked by the presence of one no longer there.

Laughter erupted in memories of the past and hopes for the future, in simple joys expected and in profound joys experienced.

I will, said the couple, for this day and, by God’s grace, for fifty-nine years or more. I wish, said the widower, I could have fifty-nine more hours, fifty-nine more seconds with the one I loved.

Promises were spoken. Promises were heard. I will make the journey into life with you. I will walk through the valley of the shadow of death with you.

Twenty-four hours–one day, this day, the only day. What will you do with yours?

Will covenants be fiercely embraced?
What about the tears? Will they be etchings of sorrow on your face or rivers of joy?
And laughter. Will laughter overtake you or be overwhelmed with the anxieties of the day?
Will you hear a promise from a loved one, from God?
Will you speak a promise to a loved one, to your God?

Within twenty-four hours this past weekend I had the honor of participating in two of life’s great transitions–marriage and death. They both made me more grateful for this day.

It’s Monday. One day, yes. But, for today, the only day. What will you receive? What will you give? Peace. Kai

It’s Monday November 5

As a leader of a Christian community, I will not tell you who to vote for, but I will say–vote. Faith lives in the world, not simply within the walls of the church building. We have a responsibility within the Christian community to participate in making this world better, more just, more compassionate, loving and safe. That needs to be lived out individually but it is also reflected in the systems of government that connect with the common good.

David Lose, professor at Luther Seminary and recent lecturer at the conference we hosted at Peace, sends out a daily email reflection that is worth your time (www.davidlose.net). In a recent email, he was reflecting on why we vote and how the principles of the faith inform our decisions. I think it’s worth the time.

In his words: Three beliefs I hold are central to me as I approach this election.

1) God works through elected officials to care for God’s people and world. Indeed, I would say that God sets up the office of public official for precisely this reason (see Romans 13:1-7). For this reason, elected officials deserve our prayer and support (see 1 Timothy 2:1-4). And for this reason we should also vote – as by voting we faithfully occupy the office for exercising authority in a democracy – and protect the right to vote of all citizens.

2) God’s will and concern throughout Scripture is most clearly directed to caring for the most vulnerable: the poor, children, the hungry, immigrants, those without family or protection. Again and again, from the prophets to Jesus in Matthew 25, God directs us to care for “the least of these,” for when we do so we honor God and witness to God’s goodness.

3) While Christians cannot afford to disagree on this primary affirmation of Scripture – that God gives particular attention to those in need – we may and often do disagree on the means by which to accomplish God’s will. There is no one way to serve the poor, but we’d better make sure this is what we’re really doing.

So with all this in mind, I wanted to share that I voted this year by absentee ballot because I will be out of the state on Nov. 6. What I found really interesting is that it gave me the time and opportunity to look more closely into some of the races and candidates. On the national and state-wide contests, I had pretty much made up my mind. But when it came to several local races – city council positions, judges, etc. – that I often leave blank, I took 15 minutes or so to do a little online research and come to a more informed decision.

Granted, I could do that before going to a polling place, but there was something about having the ballot in front of me that helped me take the time and do the research to be a more informed voter. And it felt, to borrow the old words, meet, right, and salutary.

Should you also want to give some additional thought to your votes – whether by absentee ballot or in person at the polls – here are several cites that I have found helpful.

FactCheck.org – a non-partisan review of candidates’ claims, statements, and commercials.

Congress.org – providing information about local, state, and national officials.

Circle of Protection – a group of Christian leaders from across traditions that have urged the government to care for the poor. They currently feature of a video response of the two candidates explaining their strategy for caring for God’s most vulnerable people.

It’s Monday. Vote. Peace. Kai