• I will be taking a couple weeks off from my regular letter. Next Sunday I will be on vacation (celebrating the Chinese New Year at Tristan, Scarlette, and Sean's house in Lisle.  
  • The following week Jie and I and Mindy and Jordan will be in Israel, along with about a dozen other church folks from around the U.S.  Our trip is organized by the Society for Biblical Studies.  Visits will be to both historical sites as well as to places where we will be able to talk directly to Palestinians and Israelis who are affected by the long standing violence and conflicts there.
  • My parents are now in Texas for their annual trip to warm weather.  (Castro, Texas)  They will return in March.

February 11, 2018
Best After School Job in the Country
According to the New York Times (two days ago) there are six teenagers in Kansas who are running for governor. As it turns out, Kansas lawmakers have overlooked  (going on 157 years now)  setting a minimum  age requirement for their governors. 

Vermont is the only other state where a child can be elected governor.  But that factoid is insignificant, since Vermont is in another universe... and no one there is governable anyway.
Legislators in Kansas are suddenly rushing to pass a new law that would set a minimum age requirement, alarmed that the rest of the country will laugh at them.  But if they don't get their act together before the end of the year, they may have to override the veto of some 16 year old, who would not have been old enough to vote for himself in the first place.  

I'm wondering to myself why Kansas is so concerned about this problem and not some of the other difficulties they have.  For example, how many people do you know who just love to drive across Kansas?  Scientists have proven (mathematically) that if an IHOP pancake were to be expanded to the size of Kansas, Kansas would be flatter.  

If you do spend much time in Kansas, watch out for the law:  it's illegal to hunt ducks while riding a mule, shoot rabbits from a motor boat, or put ice cream on your cherry pie on a Sunday.  Also, watch out for the wind.  Dodge City is the windiest city in the United States, and Kansas ranks second in the country in average number of annual tornadoes.  In a flurry of recent tax-cuts, the Kansas legislature left many of their schools with only enough money to open the doors four days a week.  Perhaps the final insult was a best-selling book appearing in 2004 by historian Thomas Frank, entitled, What's the Matter with Kansas?  It's hard to see how a teenage governor would be able to make things any worse.
Of course, there are some bragging rights Kansas can boast.  My grandmother was born there.  The helicopter and the dial telephone were invented there.  Kansas is the site of the first Pizza Hut, the discovery of helium, and the oven that baked the first graham cracker.  It leads the nation in wheat production and is second in cattle.  (Think of the hamburger shortage we would have without Kansas!)  And on top of all that...it is the geodetic center of North America!  In other words, IF we decide to start getting along with Mexico and Canada again, we can all meet smack in the middle and have a make-up fest at Meade's Ranch in northwest Kansas. And even though it might get a little tight, Kansas is roomy enough to host all 565 million of us...and sell us fresh hamburgers for at least two weeks.
As for the teens running for governor, the gig pays $99,636 a year, not bad for an after-school job. But since people older than 20 are also allowed to run for the office, many of them will, and the six teenaged candidates are likely to get lost in the crowd.  We'll probably never hear from them after primary day.  You never know, though.  Politics is really weird these days, so don't bet the whole farm against one of them getting elected. 
If the people of Kansas were to make an appointment (all 3 million of them) with a psychiatrist for group therapy, to figure out what is wrong with them, they would probably be able to trace it back to the U.S. Congress.  

In 1850, the only residents of the Kansas-Nebraska territory were the folks from about 25 Indian tribes.  But Congress decided (in 1854) that we needed more slave states in the country.  Now, the Indians weren't much interested in being slave-owners (or slaves,) and the legislators didn't want to come right out and blatantly order Kansas to be a slave state, so they decided to send all the Native Americans packing to more western territories.  Then they opened the borders to all the white guys in the country and scheduled a vote on whether Kansas would be a free or slave. 

Pro-slavery advocates poured in from Missouri.  And pro-freedom campaigners rushed in from Iowa, Illinois and Ohio.  These amazing guys decided that the best way to win an election would be to shoot the opposition.  The whole territory became known as "Bleeding Kansas."
And so, there's always a story.  Every person and family, every organization and institution, and every state and place has stories running in the background, influencing us without our even knowing.  We don't usually forge our lives by making rational decisions.  We more likely become who we are by channeling the unspoken stories that are our heritage. 

It probably won't make any difference who gets elected governor of Kansas.  But it might indeed change everything if some preacher showed up, and convinced folks to switch out some of their sad and silly stories for some genuine narratives of faith, grace, and hope.  Lord have mercy.  --Mike      

 The Sunday letter is something I have done now for over 20 years.  It is a disciplined musing:  mindfulness, memory, and imagination.  I write it when I first wake up on a Sunday morning and then share it with the congregation.  The letter you see published here is usually revised from what the congregation receives.  This discipline of thinking and writing puts me in the place of describing rather than advising.  It prepares me to proclaim the gospel rather than get preachy with the souls who will sit before me.  --JMS


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