It’s Monday April 29

Eight months ago, I penned these words as I reflected on the experience of dropping my daughter off at college.

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.

Tonight, she’s coming home. You never know how you will navigate these transitions. In some ways, if feels like a blink of an eye. In other ways, I’m awe-struck we made it all these months. A kid at college is a poignant reminder that you can be away from someone and with them all the time, at the same time.

Jesus said this to his disciples, “I will be with you always.” But he wasn’t, at least physically. Yet I can imagine for the disciples he was present-at times palpably, other times as a faint notion, still other times not consciously, but simply in the way that they did things, encountered their world. You can be away from someone physically and still be with them.

So we made that adjustment. Now we prepare for another. She will return, with mounds of clothes and an even deeper pile of experiences that shaped her. We want it to be the same but it won’t be. Even if feels like normal, her experiences will have shaped her and ours have shaped us. She learned she can live on her own. We pressed on well without her in the house. I got used to four piles of laundry not five; it’s neater, less chaotic. It costs less to go out and eat with four than five and we fit more comfortably in the car. It’s weird to say, but it is so. We pressed on well without her in the house.

But, there was still the empty chair at the table–an ever present reminder that though we were whole as a family of four, we weren’t complete. In a few weeks, our oldest will also be home from college, maybe for the last summer. With six in our house, including five jobs and three cars, the summer will be chaotic and messy and we’ll probably irritate one another, especially the college kids, because there will be guidelines about when people can come and go. But, we’ll love it! Every minute of it.

If the blur of the last eight months reminds me of anything it reminds me of this: Don’t lose the moment, the day, always thinking about the future or ruminating on your past.

So, when she arrives her bed will be made, her closet cleared of all the extra winter clothes we stored there. There will be cheese and crackers, drinks for all ages, laughter and tears. For that moment, the whole world will be contained in our living room. Past will be past. The future will wait. The moment will be all we have.

It’s Monday. What about today, the moments of your day, deserve to be cherished? Peace. Kai

It’s Monday April 22

The prophet Micah confronts us with this question, “What does The Lord require of us?” His response has been etched in my heart all week, “Seek justice. Love kindness. Walk humbly with our God.”

What a week! As I wrote last Monday, who could have predicted the national tragedy of the Boston Marathon bombing and ensuing manhunt that would bind our hearts, lock the doors of a community, and capture the imaginations of a nation? Who could have imagined the towering fire-ball that would engulf a fertilizer plant in Texas and wreak havoc on a community?

What a week.

Within our community at Peace, we received news that Janie Tinklenberg, after fifteen years of faithful ministry, would be moving on to a new call in Orlando, Florida. Though we can and should rejoice with her in this new venture, parting elicits sadness, change invites uncertainty.

In all of this, the question of Micah provided a lens through which I could see all the national chaos and local change of this week.

What does The Lord require?

Seek Justice: For pre-meditated acts of evil, we call on justice to be done. But, there is another level of Christian maturity that balances our drive toward combative anger and vengeance. Jesus also calls us to “Love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us.” I didn’t hear much of that this week. That doesn’t minimize the horror of the perpetrated event but it does mitigate against the crippling effects of perpetual animosity. Our hearts shrink under the constant pressure and weight of hatred. So we seek justice and we pray for enemies.

Love Kindness: The calamity in Texas reminds us of the precarious demands of progress and profit. For the sake of greater gain, we, at times, put ourselves at risk by the pressure we put on business, the incentive to produce, and the procedures that we overlook. In this case, there was great cost, ultimate cost to families and a community. In response, the images of people flooding to the site, to homes, to the nursing facility to assist were compelling, just as those who rushed to the bombing sites at risk to their own lives. Even in calamity, kindness has power.

Walk Humbly with our God: As we say goodbye to Janie Tinklenberg over these weeks, one of the ways of God that she embodies for me is this humble walk. We joke, at times, about her Dutch, Reformed piety that doesn’t allow her to brag or even receive compliments well. But, it’s more than that. Janie views herself as a servant of God. We are better for it.

What a week. As I’ve tried to navigate the dark and uncertain twistings of the events of this week, I’ve become more conscious of this one fact: No matter what comes, we are still God’s people.

God will be present. God yet calls us to seek justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with our God.

It’s Monday. A new week! Thank God. But, we also have the same call to seek justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with our God. Thank God. Peace. Kai

It’s Monday April 15

There is no perfect Christian community–never was, never will be. The paradox of our Christian journey in community, then, is that though we will never attain it, we are compelled to strive for it. We will never be perfect in love but we love anyway. We will never perfectly forgive or receive forgiveness, but we forgive anyway. Our hearts will never be pure, our motivations will be suspect, our actions, at times, questionable, but we move forward anyway not simply because it’s a good, humane thing to do (though it is) but because God desires it for us, for our communities, for God’s world.

I was reminded of how hard it is to be in community this past week. As I was preparing my sermon this relationship exchange from a distant past came to mind.

The church and society have been hotly debating the level of acceptance of gay and lesbian relationships for many years. More than a decade ago in the Lutheran Church, the conversation had risen to the forefront of our national and local conversations. As you know, there is no lack of passionate, deeply held positions on both sides.

One gentleman chose to make this a personal issue with me, as a representative of the larger church. So, for a season, I was lambasted with articles, postings, emails, phone calls, etc. Thank God there was no Facebook or Twitter at that time because the conversation would have gone viral for sure. We met for lunch. We met for breakfast. We met for coffee. Though it was apparent from our first meeting that the goal of the conversation was not healthy open conversation rather, what was expected of me and, by extension through me, was full repentance of the church today and the church universal. (OK, that’s a little hyperbole. But, it felt like that.)

For those of you who know me, you know that I’m a pretty good listener. I try to ask good questions to get to the story behind the story. I have a generous tolerance for diverse opinions and viewpoints, especially if I think the other person is open and has a teachable spirit. But, what you may not have experienced in me is that when pushed too far, I say to myself, “Game on” and I go for it. And, I’m pretty good thinking on my feet and I love to filet what I perceive to be rigid, non-thinking arguments. I even get to the point of creating argument for argument sake, even if I don’t hold a particular position.

Well, at our final conversation about the issue, I went there. It was almost an out of body experience. I began to sit up taller. I leaned in. I’m sure my finger started pointing as my eyes were shooting darts. All the while, I noticed the person shrinking back in their chair, a stunned look on their face as the argument darted from condemnation of their viewpoint to condemnation of anyone who could hold such a narrow minded viewpoint.

As I’m wrapping up my prosecution of the case and this person, a horrible thought passed through my mind. I had become what I despised–full of myself, rigid, unwilling to see the humanity cloaked behind the garments of our most deeply held beliefs.

Before the conversation ended, this question came to me, “to what end?” So, I said, “You know, we’ve been going at this conversation for many hours over these months. In all that time, we have not said or done one thing that builds the other person up or benefits the larger community. It’s obvious we aren’t going to convince each other to budge. But, can we work with each other to build–build up others, build up the community, build up our capacity to hold different positions on a range of issues but a common heart for love?”

It’s not easy is it? The reality is there are no perfect Christian communities because the communities are made up of imperfect people like you and me.

But, God has not given up on us. So, let’s not give up on each other.

It’s Monday. In conflict, seek the third way today–not your way or their way, but the way of love. Peace. Kai

It’s Monday April 8

This Time Tomorrow. Our Easter theme focuses our minds on the manifestation of Jesus’ resurrection in our daily lives, not just the celebration of Easter on Sunday mornings. Each week we are asking someone in worship these three questions:

What do you do Monday through Saturday?
What will you be doing this time tomorrow?
How can we pray for you?

Following our Easter services, I made contact with one of the persons we interviewed for our This Time Tomorrow segment in worship. He was heading into a rough Monday morning of intense meetings and potentially difficult planning sessions. His response nailed it!

“Yesterday when I arrived at work and opened the Interview with God (a daily devotional he listens to), the Saturday service came rushing back and I felt this sensation of not being alone. It was really neat and it stayed with me throughout the day; difficult to put into words but real nonetheless. At the risk of sounding glib, I felt like the guy in the Verizon commercial with the network behind him. 🙂 ”

The network behind him! I couldn’t think of a better way to express the outcome we hoped for in this season. As you leave Sunday worship, can you imagine the network of your faith community having your back as you enter your work place, your school? Do you know and can you be confident that Jesus’ life is present in and through yours? You are not alone. Because you are not alone, what you do Monday through Saturday matters as much to Jesus as what you do Sunday.

It’s Monday. The network is behind you today. Be confident in the expansiveness of our love, of Jesus’ love for you. Peace. Kai