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

 

It’s Monday– A Life Re-Imagined

 

A Life Re-Imagined.

 This is the theme for our retreat, Friday, November 11 (7-9pm) and Saturday, November 12 (9-4) at Peace Lutheran Church. We are going to take the transformative insights we have been working with in our sermon series this fall and do two things simultaneously: 1) Help you take a deep, accepting look at your present life, and 2) Give you the framework to create an intentional plan for the next phase.

Here are the themes we will be engaging:

Every Day a Birth-Day: For the first time since I have been at Peace (that’s a long time!) I will teaching the Cycle of Grace—a gift one of my favorite teachers, Trevor Hudson, has given me in the past few years.

Like a Child: To reimagine our days, our lives, our relationships, we have to develop a new capacity to dream, to be child-like in wonder, to hope.

Adolescence—The Struggle is Real: Much of our growth happens through times of struggle and pain. How can we embrace the renewing potential of these times in our lives?

Adulting: How do we make peace with the normal, monotonous, non-inspiring tasks of adult life? Can we find joy in the ordinary, pleasure in simplicity?

Everyday a Birth-Day: In God’s grace, each day is a new day. The past is gone. The future awaits. With the intentional plans you will have created, the present moment will be one to be celebrated—a birth-day, of sorts!

This retreat is not just for the Peace community. It would be a great time for you to invite a good friend or a neighbor or someone you know from the gym—anyone who is open to experience the renewing power of God’s grace and love. Anyone who might want to Re-Imagine Their Everyday Life.

The cost is $25. I will leading these sessions along with Kevin Ryan, our mindfulness and yoga instructor. Michael Lester, our Minister of Music, will be creating times of musical reflection and meditation.

It’s Monday. Do you need to get a gift for yourself? Join us on November 11 and 12. A Life Re-Imagined. Peace. Kai

Register: www.peacegahanna.org or email your name and your intention to attend the retreat to info@peacegahanna.org.

It’s Monday: Haters breed haters

“People who haven’t come to at least a minimal awareness of their own dark side will always find someone else to hate or fear. Hatred holds a group together much more quickly and easily than love and inclusivity.” -Fr. Richard Rohr

When I first read these words I was lured into the trap. I immediately projected onto all the “haters” my disdain for their divisive tone, their dangerous parsing of people groups and ideologies, their duplicitous rhetoric of patriotism. Of course, I was on the side of love and inclusivity. Of course. If only they could see the world like I see the world.

That’s the trap. Haters breed haters, even reluctant haters. I would never want to be known as one of them, as someone who creates either/or categories of people and ideas and policies. But, that’s what happens when I attempt to deny my own dark side, the side of me that is easily seduced into tit for tat, he said/she said, I’m right/you’re wrong thinking and being. My heart overflows with the very vile thoughts and attitudes that I despise. Haters breed haters, even reluctant haters.

I think Rohr is right. Hatred holds a group together much more quickly and easily than love and inclusivity. Love and inclusivity are hard. I have to be willing to listen to those I would, in any other world, despise. I have to be willing to suspend judgment and first check my own heart to see if what I’m opposing isn’t just something that I’m struggling with in my own life. It’s always easier to cast stones at external circumstances than to cast our gaze at our inward disposition. Hatred easily binds us together.

But friends, just because something is hard, doesn’t mean we take the route of complacency and indifference, retreating to our places of comfort and hoping against hope that the pettiness and destructive rhetoric of this season fades away. Love and inclusivity is the vision. It’s the hope of God for human community and, thus, is worth the work.

 As followers of Jesus, our voice must be heard, and even more so, our lives must resound with expectant hope. Even as we honestly wrestle with our own dark sides we can press toward the vision for our common humanity that grounds itself in love and inclusivity. Yes, haters breed haters, even reluctant haters. But, lovers breed lovers, even reluctant lovers!

It’s Monday. We have much work to do. How will that vision of love and inclusivity shape your interactions this day, this week? Peace. Kai

 

 

It’s Monday–Reimagine the Other!

Over the next two weeks we will ask these questions as we Re-imagine our Everyday Lives. How does God see each of us? How are we invited by God to view others? What do we, personally, need to re-imagine about others to move more closely to what God first imagined for each of us in human community?

With that charge, I decided to open up the Gospel of Mark and simply notice how Jesus interacted with others. It wasn’t long before a significant theme emerged.

In the 15th verse of the first chapter, Jesus proclaims that the Kingdom of God is at hand. In other words, Jesus will show us, through his words and actions, what God imagines for us and for human relationships.

In the following verses, Jesus…

Dignifies the ordinary in the call of fisherman (Mark 1: 16-20);

is fully present in healing ways for the sick (Mark 1: 29-32);

is moved with pity for the untouchable lepers (Mark 1:40-41);

and values the ostracized tax collectors and sinners (Mark 2: 13-14).

And that is just the first two chapters of Mark’s Gospel. Following, he will compassionately encourage the mentally unstable, consistently embrace the culturally displaced—women and children, and courageously engage foreigners with the open hospitality of God.

Raising the dignity of each person isn’t just something that Jesus does. It is who Jesus is. The closer we get to the heart of God the more our hearts are cracked open so we can receive one another as image bearers of God—God’s very presence in the world.

Bishop Desmond Tutu said it this way, “Every human is a sacrament of God’s presence in the world.”  Sacraments—tangible, touchable, visible ways we experience the invisible God.

With Jesus’ example in mind, we, as followers of Jesus, unequivocally say these things in our time:

Black lives matter to God.

Women, especially those who have been abused or demeaned for who they are, matter to God.

LGBTQ people matter to God.

Immigrants matter to God.

You might say, “Hey Kai, what about white people, men, or police officers. Don’t they matter to God?” Of course they do. I’m counting on it since I’m a white, middle class, male. Simply recall Bishop Tutu’s words, “Every human is a sacrament of God’s presence in the world.”

But, notice the list of people who Jesus engaged above. God has, and always has had, a decided motivation toward embracing those who have been cast out or cast off, exiled or excluded, disrespected or disregarded.

Followers of Jesus, in our words and our actions, are called accordingly to denounce any acts of violence, in word or deed, which diminish the humanity of another. Followers of Jesus, in our words and deeds, are called accordingly to act compassionately toward our neighbors in ways that celebrate the unique humanity of the other.

For followers of Jesus, all aspects of our lives are conduits for that kind of life to be known, that kind of community to be created. Who we are in our families, as community members, and as responsible citizens of our country are bound by the same call.

It’s Monday. What would it mean for you to follow Jesus and see others as he sees them?  Peace. Kai

It’s Monday–Praying the Hours

We launched our Reimagine Your Everyday Life theme this fall with this vision in mind:

Our creator God has invited us to become co-creators of a more loving world.

In order for vision to become reality, we must shape the daily rhythms of our lives in ways that connect that vision not only to the invigorating source of life, God’s energizing Spirit, but also to the ordinary parts of our lives—the mundane tasks of the day, the momentous and non-momentous interactions we have with others.

This week we launched an initiative called Praying the Hours that does both. Praying the Hours is not new. In fact, is has deep roots in both the Judaic and Christian traditions. We have simply adapted it for our time and our community.

We are inviting the community to join in these prayer times. In the morning, we imagine and anticipate how God will be active in our days, in and through us. Around noon we pray for others as a reminder that even the busiest, most chaotic day is not, in the end, just about us. At meals, we bless God for the gift of one another and our food. In the evening, we reflect on the day past, scanning for grace moments and releasing the burdens of our failures and misfortunes to our gracious and forgiving God.

We have created specific prayers for you to do. If you already have a life-giving prayer rhythm for your day, don’t make this an extra burden. If you don’t, join us and see how God’s presence will be made known in the ordinary rhythms of your day.

 Morning Prayer: Breathe in and out deeply as many times as needed to slow down your mind…

  • Then say, “This is the day the Lord has made. I will rejoice and be glad in it.”
  • Following, take a few minutes and think through the components of your day and say, “God, help me imagine how I can be your presence in the tasks and interactions of my day.”
  • Conclude with, “Lord, make me an instrument of your peace and love.”

Noon: Breathe in and out deeply as many times as needed to slow your mind…

  • Then, call to mind anyone that you know who might be in need of God’s presence—in times of joy or sorrow.
  • Say their names and ask God to be with them.
  • If you are moved to follow-up with any of them, create a plan.

Mealtime: Before a meal, pause for a brief moment to thank God for the grace of daily nourishment. Or, say a more formal meal prayer like…

  • “Come, Lord Jesus, be our guest. Let these gifts to us be blessed. Amen.”
  • If with family or friends, “Gracious God, thank you for the food before us, the friends beside us, the love between us, and your presence among us. Amen.”
  • You can also choose a prayer from your own background.

 Evening Prayer: Before going to sleep, take a few moments to recall or write down your responses:

  • “God, thank you for being present in these ways_______________________
  • Today, I was grateful for________________________________________.
  • Forgive me for______________________________________________.
  • Finally, say, “Help me to remember your promise that tomorrow is always a new day in your love.”

If you would like to receive text reminders as this new habit is established, we will be sending out reminders in the morning and evening for the next 45 days. Text PTH to 313131.

Remember, these prayers should never be a burden. If you miss a day, no problem, come back to them the next day. You cannot make your God love you more by doing these prayers or less by not doing them.

We simply hope they are a way to intentionally tap into the renewing, energizing power of God as you Reimagine Your Everyday Life… through God’s Eyes.

It’s Monday. Join us in Praying the Hours. Peace. Kai

It’s Monday–Adulting!

The fuel gauge read 15 miles left on my tank so I thought it might be time to fill up. I pulled up to the pump, typed in all the requisite information, and bam… $1.00 off a gallon appeared on the screen. You know that saying “Dance like no one is watching.” The party was on! I’m just hoping the security cameras can be scrubbed. Middle-aged dancing at a gas pump, though joyful and celebratory, is not pretty.

And, by the way, people were watching!

As I drove away, I thought to myself, “Wow, my reaction to $1.00 discount on a gallon of gas was almost on par with the moment my soon to be wife accepted my proposal, the day our children were born, and the Minnesota Twins first World Series Championship.” When did my life get so boring!

In common parlance, I was “adulting.” Adulting is the catchall phrase for the reality that what you never expected yourself to be doing when you grow up, you are now doing. You hear it mostly from the lips of 20 somethings. They sign their first renter’s agreement—adulting. They pay their own phone bill (I heard that happens in some families)—adulting. They buy a spatula—adulting.

When you are in your 20’s, it’s a sign you are growing into the next phase of life. But, it’s often spoken with a mixture of disbelief and disgust. Life was way cooler when your parents were helping with tuition, covering added expenses, and supplying you with any necessary household implements. You used to be able to spend your money on technology and craft beer and chipotle, six times a week. Now you are “adulting” with your rent and insurance and cheap wine because you have to buy your own.

Recently, I was talking to a college student at the Y about his summer job. He loved the interactions with campers and the collegiality of his peer counselors. But, in his words, “Working 40 hours a week is rough!” Who knew?

That’s adulting—living into the mundane and monotonous daily lives of, let’s say, “MOST EVERYONE!”

So, what do we do with that?

We need to recognize and acknowledge the anxiety that wells up within us when it feels like we are just going through the motions. We hear cultural messages like, “Live Your Best Life Always.” Then, we watch those best lives being plastered all over our Facebook walls and we think we are the only ones muddling through our days.

I’m convinced this cultural motivation to Live Your Passion/Follow your Dream/Discover Your Best Life/Make Every Moment Count, though compelling at times, doesn’t serve us well when life isn’t any of those. Relationships end and addictions begin at the intersection of what I think my life should be and what it really is. We’ve been seduced into believing that if our relationships are not life giving at any moment, then there must be something wrong with the relationship, something wrong with me. Most addictive behaviors (alcohol consumption, shopping, sex…) are misguided attempts to feel something again, to feel anything.

What would it take to reimagine our lives in healthy rather than destructive ways, even when living into the monotony of most days?

First, let this be your mantra:

I’m Muddling…But, I’m OK.

Bored… I’m Ok.

Mundane life…I’m still OK.

Even more than OK, can we allow these to be generative periods in our lives, like the dormant, slumbering life buried under a long winter awakening to the resurrection of vital, spring growth?

I’ve read numerous articles by child psychologists who lament the loss of free play and periods of boredom in our kid’s lives. We, as parents, can get so obsessive about meeting every one of our kid’s needs that we flow seamlessly from one source of entertainment to the next, which is both exhausting for parents and debilitating for our kid’s capacity to think on their own, to create, to grow.

It also creates adults who know nothing but a fully entertained life. It creates pleasure-seeking adults with limited capacity and desire to live the ordinary parts of life, to celebrate just being alive, to endure periods when they are just muddling through.

Reimagine Your Everyday Life. It sounds like a theme that will lift us to the heights of our personal possibility. Maybe, it’s a perspective on life that can carry us through the depths of our personal lethargy.

For me, the best antidotes for banality and boredom are gratitude and curiosity.

Gratitude grounds me in the sheer goodness of life—simple life, every day life, $1.00 off a gallon of gas life. So, I try to find ways to celebrate ordinary things.

Curiosity opens me to the possibility of being surprised. It awakens me to the vibrations of something intriguing or, in the least bit, new. It encourages me to ask new questions, to challenge assumptions, to non-judgmentally enter into the space of uncertainty, and then to be OK being there.

And I forgot, there is one more antidote, patient trust—in a God who walks with us through wildernesses and in whose resurrection proclaims to each of our ordinary lives…”New Day!”

It’s Monday. Even in the most routine of days, what can you be grateful for and curious about? Peace. Kai

It’s Monday–Stuckness and the Necessity of Imagination

Have you ever uttered these statements?

  • That’s just the way the world is.
  • That’s just the way those people are.
  • That’s just who I am.

If you have, you were probably feeling stuck—stuck in a world of racial injustice, growing economic disparity, and perpetual cycle of war that never seems to change; stuck in your perceptions of others, some formed by personal experience, some ill-formed by cultural stereotype and suspicion; stuck in your image of yourself, shaped by negative voices of your past, shaded by regret, and sharpened by a never-ending cycle of trial and failure.

Being stuck becomes the filter through which we view the future and its ever-narrowing possibility. Being stuck unleashes the damning “I told you so’s” of our past. Being stuck nudges us consciously or subconsciously down paths where we seek to gratify our unmet needs in the present, too often in destructive ways.

Over the years I have found that the study of family systems theory offers great insight in these circumstances. Systems theory reminds us that when a system or family or individual is stuck, these characteristics emerge:

  • There is an unending treadmill of trying harder. We do the same things over and over again hoping something new will emerge. Maybe this time! Maybe next time!
  • There is a focus on finding answers rather than asking new questions. In times of distress, being stuck, we usually want an answer, a quick-fix, because we don’t want to deal with larger, longer term issues.
  • Our thinking becomes polarized, either/or thinking. Think about our cultural inability to deal with ambiguity, uncertainty. We look for people who tell us what’s right and what’s wrong. We want simple answers to complex questions.

When we are stuck, we lose the capacity to see beyond, to dream, to imagine. Systems theory reminds us that imagination is one of the keys to release the system.

Let me take you back to the text from Sunday. When the prophet Isaiah spoke to the people of Israel living in exile, a penetrating period of corporate and personal “stuckness” for the faith community, he invited them to see beyond, to dream, to imagine.

Thus says God, the Lord,

who created the heavens and stretched them out,

who spread out the earth and what comes from it,

who gives breath to the people upon it

and spirit to those who walk in it:  

I am the Lord, I have called you in righteousness…(Isaiah 42:5-6)

You are part of a bigger story, a universal story, a story without beginning or end, a drama imagined in the mind of God. This creator of the universe breathes life and spirit into you. That’s how close our God is—as intimate as the breath you take, as integral to you as the activities that make you most alive. And this creator God calls you! The world continues to unfold-the plans of God are unfinished, the dream of God yet to be realized. God has called you to participate in making it happen.

We are invited by our creator to be co-creators of a more loving world.

 How? By loving what God loves—all people, all creation. By living well in the places we find ourselves each day. By receiving the gifts of forgiveness to release our past and hope to open a future.

It’s Monday. Each day this week, Reimagine Your Everyday Life by asking yourself, “How can I work with God to co-create a more loving world?” Then, smile at the strangers you encounter; surprise someone by going out of your way in something, anything; forgive each other when conflicts emerge; tell a hopeful story; live a hopeful life. Peace. Kai