It’s Monday–Breakfast with my Daughter

So, I had a few options in front of me this morning: 1) Write an insightful, inspiring It’s Monday to all of you as we enter the Advent Season or 2) Take my daughter out to breakfast before she flies back to medical school after this short holiday break.

I’m going to breakfast!

It’s Monday: Make the meaningful moments of life your priority this season. Peace. Kai

It’s Monday–Give Me Hope

With this short week for many, amidst the preparations and travel, and the anticipation of all the delightful and dreaded family gatherings, I simply offer this prayer for the season from Ted Loder:

Give Me Hope 

O God,

this is a hard time,

a season of confusion,

a frantic rush

to fill my closets,

my schedule

and my mind,

only to find myself empty.

 

Give me hope, Lord,

and remind me

of your steady presence

and gracious purposes

that I may live fully.

Renew my faith

that the earth is not destined

for dust and darkness,

but for frolicking life

and deep joy

that, being set free

from my anxiety for the future,

I may take the risks of love

today.

It’s Monday. What risks of love will you take this season? Peace. Kai

It’s Monday–Is God in Charge?

God is in charge. God is in control.

I’ve read many variations of those sentiments in the last week and, I’ll be honest, I’m not sure what they mean.

Is this:

  • An honest affirmation of someone’s faith in a God who ultimately has this whole crazy world under control in ways that don’t seem apparent to us now.
  • A way to avoid investing in the process of making anything better or different. If God is in control, I’ll let God work this one out.
  • Something we just say when we don’t have much else to say.

I’m uneasy with any of those responses these days. If they work for you, I certainly can’t take that away from you. But, they don’t work for me. I just don’t know what they really mean when we get down to specifics and how they provide comfort to:

  • The three gay students who contacted me last Wednesday, anxious and fearful about their future.
  • The freshman student at a local university whose personal space and safety was violated with a pencil scrawled note shoved under their door that threated his “kind” of person in this “new” America.
  • The Muslim women accosted in her car by people screaming at her to get out of their country.

What does it mean to them to say, “God is in charge.” “God is in control.”?

Help me out.

And if you stick with that line of reasoning do we backtrack through human history and offer the same balm to all victims of threat or violence based on their race or creed or orientation? I don’t know that I have a right to say that.

So what does it mean? I don’t presume to have the final answer. But, let me offer a few guiding insights that I use to frame up my response in times such as these:

  • God created the world in love, for love. That is my starting point. If you don’t agree with me on that, we will necessarily come to different conclusions. It’s simply my starting point.
  • Love cannot be coerced or manipulated. For love to be love, it cannot seek to control the other person. In fact, love gives up a sense of control, of being in charge. And love does so for the sake of the other person’s freedom.
  • Therefore, love can be rejected. Hatred and indifference and division can be chosen in relationship to others. They are not God’s desire or God’s intent for the world. But, based on a world designed in love, for love, hatred and indifference and division are possible. We see this being played out in myriad ways throughout history and certainly in our time.
  • The presence of hate doesn’t diminish the promise of love. God, in my mind, has not chosen and will not choose a different path than love just because it doesn’t work out in all times and in all circumstances.
  • God, in God’s wisdom or foolishness (I wonder sometimes), chose for that love to saturate a love-starved world through people like you and me.

 What that means for me is simply this: Yes, God is in charge. God is in charge of the design of the world, the intent of love planted within us, the redemption that comes when we stumble and fall, and the decision to make us co-creators of a more loving world. Again, sometimes I wonder about God’s wisdom or foolishness in that decision. But, I believe the invitation stands.

Therefore, in the words of American poet, Clarissa Pinkola Estes,

Ours is not the task of fixing the entire world all at once, but of stretching out to mend the part of the world that is within our reach. Any small, calm thing that one soul can do to help another soul, to assist some portion of this poor suffering world, will help immensely. It is not given to us to know which acts or by whom, will cause the critical mass to tip toward an enduring good.

 What is needed for dramatic change is an accumulation of acts, adding, adding to, adding more, continuing…

 It’s Monday. What movements of enduring good will be part of your charge today? Peace. Kai

My Vote

My vote.

I cast my vote early because I can in this country. My voice can be heard and counted. I’m grateful for that right and privilege.

I won’t tell you specifically who I voted for I will tell you directionally what I voted for. This is certainly my opinion—but it is my opinion based on years of studying the ancient scriptures, listening to what the Spirit of God is saying now, and living, as best I can, in a way that reflects not only what God has said but also the direction the Living God is moving.

Let me explain: I am guided by a simple interpretive principle when I read the scriptures. Sometimes we need to do what God says. Sometimes we need to head the direction that God is leading.

Sounds simple. Not so much. The process includes hours of intentional work, discernment, prayer and action. For that reason, I am convinced that all too many in the Christian community don’t want to or choose not to do the work. So we fall back on what we learned when we were growing up, we don’t critically reflect on or ask what God might be saying today, or, in a worst case scenario, we blindly follow leaders who often are corrupted by the seductive impulse to power over the lives of those in their care.

Maybe that sounds a little harsh. But, it’s real. I know it because I’ve seen it and because, as a leader, I’m tempted to succumb to the voices in my head that say, “Just tell people what they want to hear.” Or even worse, “They won’t ask questions anyway, so just tell them what to do!” It’s easy to be seduced by those voices. I live in that tension all the time.

So, back to my interpretive principles: Sometimes we need to do what God says. Sometimes we need to head the direction that God is leading.

 Sometimes we need to do what God says. In this case I look for consistent, unchanging themes throughout scripture. A simple example is: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. Love your neighbor as yourself.” The theme is woven throughout the history of the people of Israel and the early Christian community. Another example is God’s decided heart motivation toward the “widows, the poor, and the orphans.” In other words, anyone who, because of circumstance, needs to rely on the community, the community is obligated to extend help and care. Christian communities and any community that desires to reflect Christian values should be known by how it cares for and includes those who are easily excluded, have no voice, or face discrimination and injustice at the hands of a dominant culture. These themes are threaded throughout the fabric of the biblical narrative. Sometimes we need to do what God says.

Sometimes we need to head the direction that God is leading. A specific example: In Deuteronomy 23:1, eunuchs are excluded from the worshipping community. Later in the biblical story, the prophet Isaiah imagines what the world will be like when God’s kingdom is realized. In Isaiah 56, the prophet proclaims that a sign of the emerging kingdom will be that eunuchs and foreigners will be invited to participate in the kingdom life. In Acts 8, when the early church is going out to announce the kingdom is at hand through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, one of the first to hear and receive the call is an Ethiopian eunuch.

Look at that:

Deuteronomy: Eunuchs no.

Isaiah: Eunuchs, maybe, in the future.

Acts: Eunuchs, yes.

See the direction! The direction of God in the scriptural narrative is expansive and inclusive. God’s desire is for more to be welcomed and given a chance to participate fully in community, not less. Yes, there were times when the community became isolationist and resisted. But, God’s Spirit has always been prodding us forward. Two steps ahead. One back. Two step ahead. One back.

We make a move toward a more open, inclusive community, then the forces of fear and perceived scarcity become threats and we shrivel in retreat—regressing rather than progressing.

Diminishing one’s humanity because of race—regression.

Diminishing one’s humanity because of gender—regression.

Diminishing one’s humanity because of sexual preference—regression.

Diminishing one’s humanity because of creed—regression.

Sometimes we need to do what God says. Sometimes we need to head the direction that God is leading.

 I voted today to keep heading in the direction that, I believe, God is leading the entire human community, not just the Christian community. Yes, it’s a stumbling, scratch your heard, can’t believe we got ourselves into this place, kind of journey. Two steps ahead. One step back. In then end, it has less to do with the flawed candidates. And I’m certainly not saying God has a candidate in mind.

But, I do believe God has a direction in mind. God is always calling us forward to a more inclusive vision of human community—more loving, more compassionate, more hopeful.

That’s just me. I’m glad I had a chance to vote today.

Peace. Kai