It’s Monday April 28

This weekend, my daughter Siri affirmed her baptismal faith.  When she was an infant, Patty and I made promises that we would do our best to raise her with some sense of the wonder and mystery of God, some knowledge of God’s love being made known in Jesus, and with an anticipation (at least a hope) that she would find a way to live that out uniquely in her own life.  

In the Lutheran tradition, the service of Affirmation of Baptism creates an opportunity for the students to say “Yes” to that life.  

During the service, Siri sang a song entitled Someday that helped us imagine what life would be like if God’s desire of love permeated our living.  One line leapt out at me.  “Someday, life would be fairer, need would rarer, and greed will not pay.”  

Listening, I felt the deep paradox of that vision.  I imagined the world the students live in and will encounter as they grow.  It’s a world, in some places, radically different from that vision.   There is shameful injustice, debilitating need, and ravenous greed that continues to create cavernous gaps between those who have and those who don’t, those who are satisfied and those who crave, those who make the rules and those violated by the gain of the rule-makers.  

Part of me wanted to take all the students and say, “Let’s huddle close. It’s a dark world. Let’s do what we can to hold the darkness at bay for as long as possible.”  Yet, that would neither serve them well nor offer the would a chance to breathe again. 

Visions become reality when they become embodied in persons, in communities willing to courageously step into their world, sometimes with only a hope that what may be, can be! 

Life can be fairer.  Need can be rarer.  Greed can give way to generous living.  

Whereas part of me wanted to gather the students in, more of me wanted to send them out.  The world needs to be different.  The world needs fresh minded, imaginative, courageous students and adults willing to invest in the process of birthing that new world.

For some reason, God chose to work with us and through us to make that happen.  Sometimes, I wonder why.  At other times, I just wonder.  

You.  Me.  Us.  We’re part of God’s dream for a new humanity, a new way of being with one another, a new “someday” where life is fairer, need is rarer, and greed doesn’t pay.  

It’s Monday.  That new world awaits.  How will you be part of it?  Peace. Kai

It’s Monday from my daughter Annika

It’s Easter Monday.  Three years ago I started writing these It’s Monday posts to provide encouragement for the community I serve and create a linkage between Sunday’s worship and Monday’s re-immersion in the world of work, school, life!  Though I intended on writing them for one season of Easter, three years later they have become part of the rhythm of my week and, hopefully, a source of inspiration for yours.

One of the joyous and unintended outgrowths of It’s Monday is that my daughter picked up on the concept and, as she became a Resident Advisor on her floor of sophomore girls at Vanderbilt, wrote a weekly piece of encouragement.  This morning I received a copy of her last It’s Monday of the 2013-14 school year.  She gave me permission to share her final, guiding words.  Having read it, I wouldn’t mind being on her floor!

1. Be kind: Of all the things that are important in life, this is number one.  You can never be too kind–to others and to yourself. 

2. Read: Read out of self-respect; read because there are too many good things going on in this world to not know about; read because your mind deserves to grow and learn each and every day.

3. Talk to janitors, talk to cashiers, talk to servers at the restaurant, and when you talk to them, look them in the eye, genuinely listening to what they have to say. Life is not just about how you treat the people you know, it’s about how you treat the people you don’t know, the people that you cannot reap any benefit from, the people you may never see again.  Talk to them and be kind to them because it’s the right thing to do.

4. Ask questions. We’ve all been to way too many gatherings where we are the only individual to ask questions of others–how they are doing, what they do for a living, what their dreams are  Don’t be that person that doesn’t care and doesn’t ask questions. Make people feel important. Ask.

5. Do what gives you life. I’d much rather be surrounded by people who honestly, and whole-heartedly love dungeons and dragons than by people who are too concerned with what is cool or popular to be who they are. Do what you love, not because someone else wants you to, but because you love it. And don’t think twice about it.

6. Feel the feels.  It’s okay to cry. It’s okay to laugh obnoxiously even if you’re the only one laughing.  It’s okay to scream. When you are feeling emotional, let yourself feel. Your spirit needs that.

7. Put your phone down and talk. There’s nothing that can be said via text, email, tweet, etc., that cannot be more powerfully and effectively said in person. Be present. Talk to professors, talk to hall mates, talk to friends, talk to family, talk to strangers. Talk.

8. Find time to be.  In our crazy world, it is important to just sit–to listen to good music, to close your eyes and wonder, to think deeply and thoughtfully about important things. Find time to do this. Just be.

9. There are two words that could always be said more in our culture-Let’s Dance! Dance because it’s freeing, dance slowly, dance weirdly, dance spontaneously, dance in public, dance alone, dance with your mom, dance with your life partner.  In the words of a Japanese proverb, “We’re fools whether we dance or not… so we might as well just dance.”

10. Be the best YOU you can be: “The privilege of a lifetime is being who you are” -Joseph Campbell. You are perfect in all your imperfections, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise! “You is kind, you is smart, and you is important.” (from the movie, The Help)

It’s Monday.  My daughter found a way to share her Easter life with those in her sphere of influence.  What about you?  And remember, “We’re fools whether we dance or not… so we might as well just dance.”  Peace. Kai

It’s Monday April 14

Yesterday, I shared this brief reflection about the Garden of Gethsemane story.  First, the story:

Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane. He said to the disciples, “Stay here while I go and pray over there.” 37 When he took Peter and Zebedee’s two sons, he began to feel sad and anxious. 38 Then he said to them, “I’m very sad. It’s as if I’m dying. Stay here and keep alert with me.” 39 Then he went a short distance farther and fell on his face and prayed, “My Father, if it’s possible, take this cup of suffering away from me. However—not what I want but what you want.”

40 He came back to the disciples and found them sleeping. He said to Peter, “Couldn’t you stay alert one hour with me? 41  Stay alert and pray so that you won’t give in to temptation. The spirit is eager, but the flesh is weak.” 42 A second time he went away and prayed, “My Father, if it’s not possible that this cup be taken away unless I drink it, then let it be what you want.”

43 Again he came and found them sleeping. Their eyes were heavy with sleep. 44 But he left them and again went and prayed the same words for the third time. 45 Then he came to his disciples and said to them, “Will you sleep and rest all night? Look, the time has come for the Human One[e] to be betrayed into the hands of sinners. 46  Get up. Let’s go. Look, here comes my betrayer.”

What is the state of your soul these days? Hard question isn’t it? It’s much easier to reflect on our external world—I’m doing well at work; here is a list of my successes and failures.  School is almost over, my grades are good or I could be doing better in my classes.  My relationships are in good order; some struggles, yes, but overall I’m doing well.  

It’s much easier to reflect on the externals.  

But, the question is this: What is the state of your soul? 

The late Dallas Willard was once asked how to pinpoint where we are on our spiritual journey and what might be an appropriate next step. He pondered for a moment and then said, “Maybe you need to ask, ‘What’s bothering you?’”

What’s bothering you? What bothers you enough to incite action?  What bothers you so much it paralyzes?  What’s bothering you?

Back to the Garden of Gethsemane.  This transient moment in time is one of the most penetrating insights into Jesus’ soul.  “I’m very sad,” he says.  “It’s as if I’m dying.”  What’s bothering him? He’s trapped in that enveloping chasm between what he knows is ahead and what he wants to avoid, what he knows is right and what he wants to do.    

Have you ever been there?  Caught between what you know is right and what you really want to do instead, what you know is ahead and what you would rather avoid. If we are honest, we most often choose the path of least resistance; the pathway that avoids our pain, our loneliness, our isolation.  

In this gripping story of self-revelation, Jesus soul is laid bare. Take this cup from me. Remove this suffering.  Take this sadness.  Remove this loneliness.  Though surrounded by his disciples, Jesus was utterly alone, alone with his wrenching inner struggle.  

As I read this story over and over this past week, I couldn’t help but be grateful.  Grateful for a God who knows struggle and loneliness and loss. Grateful for a God whose heart is opened to the pain and confusion we all face when trying to discern what it right.  Grateful for a God who doesn’t stand over, but walks with.

It’s Monday.  What is the state of your soul?  What’s bothering you?  How can we make this journey together this Holy Week?  Peace. Kai


It’s Monday April 7

Eugene Cho, pastor at Quest Church in Seattle and founder of One Day’s Wages, a non-profit formed to alleviate global poverty, spoke at the Renovare National Conference this past week. He told a story about when he was studying theater and was told by his teacher that “He just wasn’t very good.”  In order to immerse himself into a particular role as a homeless person, it was suggested that he live the part for a few days. 

He did. He clothed himself in ratty apparel, set out a container for donations, and positioned himself outside a local department store. 

His discovery:  Almost no one looked him in the eyes.  Thousands of people crossed his path, most averting their eyes so as not to be drawn into any level of relationship.

John’s gospel often uses a word for seeing or sight that has dual meanings—both physical seeing and spiritual insight.  I wonder if the act of looking into another’s eyes does both.  We see them and then we “see” them; in their glory or depravity, smitten by unspeakable joy or bitten by unspoken despair.  In seeing them, we gain insight into ourselves, our God.  What draws us?  What repels us? What can’t we avoid? What can’t we stomach?  We grow in self-understanding when we reflect on our gut reaction to people.  

If we allow ourselves, our imaginings about God are also expanded. 

Jesus saw the blind man on the side of the road, he gazed into the eyes of the Samaritan woman at the well, he didn’t look past the lepers or the morally depraved. 

He sees you and me—in all our glory and depravity, smitten by unspeakable joy or bitten by unspoken despair.  What he sees, he loves!

So, I decided to do a little experiment of my own.  My daughter and I went to the grocery store this afternoon. As we were entering the store I said, “Let’s do an experiment on the art of small talk.”  Each aisle we entered, I threw her a knowing elbow, approached the unsuspecting person, looked them in the eye, and opened up a conversation.  

Other than the person who fled yelling “Creepster!”  it was a successful experiment. (Actually no one fled yelling creepster.  If they were thinking it, they didn’t let on!)  The mom with her young child choosing spaghetti sauce, the woman examining granola bars, the man buying lottery tickets from a machine, the cashier who rang us out were all part of our experiment.  

Our findings? Mostly smiles, laughter, and positive human connection.  

I don’t really know what that means other than it leads me to believe that community is still good, relationships matter, human interaction edifies, and looking people in the eyes can be a holy gift.  

I suppose it also means that if you want to be alone in a grocery store and you see me enter your aisle… flee! 

It’s Monday.  Who do you need to “see” today?  Peace. Kai