It’s Monday December 17

This weekend we gathered for worship our eyes opened once again to the dark realities of our world, our ears tuned in to hear something, anything that would allow us to move forward, our hearts broken as we grieved the horrific circumstances of the mall shooting in Portland, Oregon, and the unspeakable horror in Newtown, Connecticut.

Each service, the mood continued to grow more somber as we spoke of the events of this past week. Though painful, we knew we had to speak about these things for silence and indifference perpetuate the gathering darkness. But there was a noticeable change about 2/3 of the way through my sermon. I recalled the words of Elie Wiesel, a holocaust survivor and outspoken advocate of peace and non-violence, as he mused on how he had been able to move toward light from, arguably, one of the darkest periods in modern history.

He said, freedom from the darkness begins by “being thankful for small things-gaining strength and courage to reach for bigger things.” So, we called to mind those things in our lives we are thankful for. Then, we stopped during worship and spoke of our gratitude to our neighbors.

From the front of the congregation, it was amazing to watch the mood lift, smiles return, and laughter descend on the community–all gifts from God. We reminded one another that each time we speak of and act on our gratitude, even in small things, we push back the darkness. Each time we speak of and act on our gratitude we reflect the nature of our God who entered a world of darkness with a light that can never, will never be extinguished.

It’s Monday. Thank God. I was glad I could go back to work today, grateful to be surrounded by a community that longs for and lives in the light of Christ. Peace. Kai

It’s Monday December 10

It’s Sunday night and I’m watching the Packers and Lions going at it in Green Bay, Wisconsin at iconic Lambeau Field. The snow has been falling for almost twelve hours, players are wrapped in thermal jackets on the sidelines, balls are being dropped, presumably because the hands start to get brittle when exposed to below freezing temperatures for hours, and there is the knuckle-head (knuckle-cheese head) with no shirt on, sucking down another beer. Football in December.

When I grew up in Minnesota, I remember watching the Vikings and Packers rivalry routinely battled out in sub-freezing weather until we built the Metrodome in Minneapolis. Yes, it’s always 70 degrees in the Metrodome. Yes, the weather is predictable. Yes, the conditions for fans are comfortable and appealing. Yes, I never lost feeling in my butt like I would have sitting on the cold, hard bleachers in Metropolitan Stadium. But, I can’t help but think something was lost–reality!

In our world we strive to create conditions where we don’t have to deal with bitter elements. We create for comfort. We move in to neighborhoods of like culture. We associate with people who naturally connect. We do what we can to push back the bitter elements of life, to sanitize our worlds and relationships, to remove whatever emotional or spiritual or physical scaffolding we might have suspended on our incomplete lives.

Then, it happens–Life. Messy, chaotic, incomplete life. Life that resembles the bitterly cold, but fresh air of Lambeau Field more than the perfectly comfortable but artificial air of the Metrodome. We can deny it but we can’t avoid it. We can hide from it but it will, in its own way and time, be revealed.

When that life happens, and it does for all of us, we are reminded that, as we battle the elements, we need to huddle a little more closely together, buy a neighbor a hot-chocolate who might not be able to buy one themselves, get the no-shirt guy something to wear, and say to ourselves, “God, I’m grateful that my life, my messy, chaotic, incomplete life, is never apart from yours.”

It’s Monday. No domes for me this week. I’ll just take life as it is, especially if we get to do it together! Peace. Kai

It’s Monday December 3

Richard Foster, the former President and founder of Renovare’ International, a movement dedicated to the spiritual formation of both individuals and faith communities, was asked to envision what a spiritually formed person and community would be like. He opened by imagining this:

“I dream of a day when spiritual formation has so saturated all who follow hard after Jesus that they become known to all as experts in how to live well.

How to love a spouse well
How to raise children well.
How to study well.
How to face adversity well.
How to run businesses and financial institutions well.
How to form community life well.
How to reach out to those on the margins well.
How to die well.”

There is much to consider in each of those dreams. The one that continued to resonate in my spirit this week was what does it mean to become an expert in facing adversity well? My mind retraced the personal struggles I endured over the years within my own soul and in relationship to others. I considered the stories of so many people at Peace that have navigated this perilous journey of life with such courage and grace. I recalled the great paradoxes of the Christian faith–new life emerges from death; weeping comes in the night but joy in the morning; a light shining in the darkness and a darkness that will never overcome it.

I asked myself, “How do we face adversity well? What do we know, cling to, or release in order for us to step toward a new day?” Here is where I landed for today.
We are broken. We don’t expect or assume life will be perfect and we certainly don’t put that pressure on others. We are neither morbidly pessimistic about life nor do we see life through rose colored glasses. Suffering and struggle are inevitable. No one is immune.

We are loved. From what I’ve experienced and seen in you, those who were able to press forward through adversity almost always had someone who said, “No matter what, I’ll take the journey with you.”

We endure–patiently. The quick-fix mentality has permeated every realm of our society. Those who face adversity well meet the demands of each day and, at the same time, take a long view of the struggle. They don’t force themselves or others to get over it and move on. They gather strength from God as they wait and hope.

We extract goodness from each day. Even in difficult situations, those who face adversity well grab hold of small fragments of goodness, fleeting grace moments and are able to say, “That is enough for the day.”

We live with a prevailing hope. Paul said it in Romans 5, “Suffering produces endurance and endurance produces character and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us.” Those who have faced adversity well, have their sails set toward the winds of hope.

It’s Monday. From what you have seen and experienced, what would you add to that list? Peace. Kai