The Japanese kintsugi cultural tradition is a wonderfully pure example of what a life in Christ is like.
The art of kintsugi is practiced by only the most skilled artists in Japan. These artists spend years studying the art of pottery. They give each jar special grooves, designs, and nicks that result in a perfectly crafted piece with an absolutely vulnerable, breakable, lovely form. Each of these jars could run up to $1,000 American dollars—one pretty penny!
My grandmother (who we lovingly called Mema) used to say, “There is a time for everything—a season for every stage—an ending for every beginning.” It reminds me of these words from Ecclesiastes 3:
“You can’t be like everybody else. You’ll have to work twice as hard for half as much.”
I find myself fighting with a tangled ball of lights year after year as we decorate the Christmas tree. Since we have had children, this has gotten extraordinarily difficult.
As I prepare to serve as a host for a Thanksgiving celebration, I cannot help but stop and realize that this holiday season is going to be entirely different than any other. I don my mask as I enter the grocery store, staying at least six feet from my shopping counterparts. Inside, I see a little girl in a shield drop her doll in the aisle; I smile at her through my mask (you know, the eye smile) and pick up her doll. Her face lights up behind the shield as I move toward her with her toy.
There is a glossy sheet of paper adorned with the face of a young man, which I keep in my car at all times. I like to pull it out and look at it as I am driving home. It makes me feel at home. I have written a Bible verse in the bottom right corner that reads:
The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. Matthew 7:25 (NIV)
Special thanks to the ministries of St. Lucas Lutheran Early Childhood Center and Word of Life Lutheran School in St. Louis, Missouri, for taking the time to educate my children and many others on the promises of God.
In my household, I get the pleasure of dropping both of my children off at school each day. My wife is a full-time Lutheran school teacher, so she arrives at school quite early and is not able to drop the kids off on a consistent basis. As I load my two- and four-year-olds into our purple Ford Flex, they fill my car with songs from school—songs about Jesus. They kick their legs with excitement as they belt “Jesus Loves Me” with a remix of “Jesus, Remember Me” with a feature by the “ABC” song. I open our sunroof to get some fresh air and therapeutic sun into the car as the kids scarf down their breakfast, bellowing lyrics as we drive along.
Earlier this summer, I received a phone call that caused me to drop my glass cup on the floor right before heading into a Bible study. My doctor had called to tell me that the “routine” COVID-19 test I had taken was not so routine and that I had been diagnosed with the novel coronavirus disease. The next few seconds were a blur, and I quickly popped into the Zoom Bible study feeling as if I had been hit with a ton of bricks.
I had COVID-19. What was going to happen to me?
It was Easter Sunday at St. Matthew Lutheran Church in Brooklyn, NY. The tiny urban neighborhood church was crowded with saints singing “Jesus Christ is Risen Today” at the top of their lungs, their song rising to the roof as incense. New LCMS Lutheran converts Janine Bolling and Gerard Bolling, brother and sister by blood, with their entire Brooklyn family watching, were to become brother and sister in Christ, with the entire family of God both gazing down from heaven and gazing forward from the hot wooden pews in the not-yet-air-conditioned sanctuary.
In my office, I have a kneeler that I got off of Craigslist from a Lutheran church that had closed many years ago. It was the first piece of furniture I dropped down into my empty, stuffy, non-air-conditioned office that I was presented with at the beginning of my vicarage at Bethlehem Lutheran Church—a church I now serve as pastor. I lovingly refer to this office as my “penthouse suite.” See, the 171-year-old urban school building that Bethlehem now worships in was built to have five different levels. Thirty steps for each landing. Of course, where was my office?
The very top.