Monthly Archives: December 2018

Kukla Christmas Letter 2018

It is the last day of 2018… so I guess I need to get this written. 2018 is a bit of blur to me. It has felt like a year in which all the important things in our immediate family went well… kids are healthy, school and music and sports are going well, the parents are appropriately exhausted, and there is no reason to believe that it won’t continue that way into 2019.

Warren keeps very busy because he loves keeping his options open: soccer, cross-country, track, oboe, saxophone, piano, science bowl, and honor society… and he does it all well… from what I can tell. Even family-oriented, responsible 13 year old boys are hard to get much out of… in Warren language the word ok means about 23,641 different things.

Elizabeth is finding her own way. She has come to a time of learning to opt out of things that aren’t exciting to her that she used to do because she followed in her brother’s footsteps. She is also a lot like having a 25 year living in the house when it comes to her desire to run a household… she is Caroline to a t (if the name Caroline had a t in it). What defines her this year uniquely? She spends hours and hours every week out on the hammock swing listening to music on her ipod. That girl was born to swim and fly… and she only visits the land now and then.

Meredith… Mere-Mere… or most properly: The Mere. She is who she has always been which is a strong willed and yet tender and caring individual. The Mountain Goat is her spirit animal. She excels at school… and being different than anyone else. I think that is her life goal. To never travel a trail… but to always make her own with flair and agility (and when that won’t work.. to simply bust on through).

Danielle is joy to everyone… except maybe her immediate family. But I wish I could capture the sheer joy with which she does everything… and I’d give my life to make sure she doesn’t lose that. She is a Valkyrie on the soccer field, an amazing helper in the kitchen, a smotherer (with love) of dogs, and can take forever to put to bed because she has to first tuck in 20 some dolls and stuffed animals for whom she has made their own beds out of pieces of cloth and cardboard.

Like I said… we’re good. But…

The flip side is it feels like all the little things went horrible or were way more a time suck than they should have been in this last year… last 3 years actually. I joke.. but my house and yard are literally falling apart. My neighbors are annoyed because there is now a wire stretched across the road to get us internet (which Caroline requires for work) because the line under the road is dead and they don’t want to dig it up for just our house. And that’s just one example that seems to define so much of our life from a functional aspect.

Work feels like swimming upstream and uphill for both Caroline and me… I don’t think either of us really admit that because we love our jobs… but its been a year in which that work felt… a lot like work. We can point to things that we wish we could fix but cannot… and we live in frustration about our own futility. It’s hard to sit idle around people in pain, or systems that are broken, but… what do you do when there is nothing that can be done? Which gets me to the swirling maelstrom that is the world around us. I feel very strongly that many of the justice issues of our day have hit devastating roadblocks that make me question the reality of many of my primary values: connectedness, love, and the “common good”. I find it hard to wake up in the morning in a good mood… and yet personally we have nothing to complain about because we are all good.

This has been 2018. I’m really not sad to put it behind me. But just as I’m sure my kids will have another great 2019… I don’t imagine the shadows of these ills will be a thing of the past either. So… what does one resolve to do in the face of this… how do we find that energy to continue to pursue hope, love, and justice?

I found my wisdom just in time from the strangest of sources. The movie Aquaman. Without spoiling the plot in the movie a husband who has been separated from his wife spends every morning at sunrise walking out to the end of the dock in the ocean to wait for the day his wife joins him there as promised. Every day he walks out there… and every day he stands alone… waiting for the beloved who doesn’t show. Every day. And yet he keeps walking out there. And I realized something. Every day my dock is full. It is abundantly full. Maybe its not as many people as I’d like. Maybe some of them come bearing more weight and baggage than I’d like. But my dock is full. Friends, family, coworkers. And they are out there for us, each and every day. And that is enough. All the other things… all those little things. They aren’t what I will remember in twenty years. And maybe sooner than later I will learn to not let them bug me even now. But what matters the most is that my dock is full with people who share my values and together we will not give up on hope. We will continue to pursue justice with love, and more than a little joy along the journey.

So here is what I hope to leave you all with as we make this transition from 2018 to 2019. Who is it that you wish to join you on your dock when you walk out there each day? Who powers up your day so that morning is brimming with more hope than despair? And on whose dock are you showing up?

So many of you made appearances in so many ways on the Kukla dock this last year. We thank you for it. We are grateful for the constant reminder that together we shall overcome all things… or, at the least, survive them. And its you – sharing in the journey of us – that gives us peace. So a happy send off to 2018… and 2019? Bring it on.

With Love,

The Kuklas

Not Your Normal Christmas Eve Reflection

This morning I wore a Darth Vader shirt to work.
I always have to rationalize my clothing choices.
I picked it because it’s light-weight-cozy and its a rainy morning.
I picked it because I will go home and change soon anyway.
But… I rationalized it by saying, “I’ll give the Empire its morning… because with the night comes rebellion.”

And then it hit me: Vader is Herod.

Herod was born and raised a Jew. By family link he was royalty.. but a client kingdom of a powerful and distant Empire. When Herod’s life is crumbling around him in desperation he seeks the aid of the Empire… and they name him a King. Borrowing Imperial power, casting off / betraying his original wife (whom he eventually had executed) and children to make a political marriage, Herod returns to secure the rule of Jerusalem and begin the Herodian Dynasty.

Herod then becomes known for his grand building projects, a polarizing personality, and by general historical consensus a despotic and tyrannical rule with the use of Imperial power to create a police state to suppress his own people and their criticisms of his rule.

Herod will respond to the word of a potential child of rebellion with fear and lies – and set his whole kingdom on edge to see what this means… and it would mean the slaughtering of countless children to protect his power even from unsubstantiated rumor. He forced a whole kingdom to bear the same sacrifices he had made in his own life for the propagation of his personal power and the Empire he represented with iconic visage.

Yes. Herod gets the morning… but the night will still be his undoing – he will be his own undoing – because that is how rule by fear works. It necessarily destroys you from within even as it inspires the very hope that will outlast you. The trappings of Empire are grand, and the human toll of their oppression is real and heartbreaking. Let me not downplay either one. But let us also not pretend that inside the hard shell of their exterior power lies anything but a very fragile and pathetic man. Nothing there is worthy of worship. Let us not pretend that any Empire – as impressive as they look and as powerful as they feel – was good news to the common person, the inside stranger, or the outsider.

I will repeat what I said yesterday… all the Goliaths the world has ever produced have failed to bring us any closer to the Community of God.

The way to Empire is never a way to peace and wholeness. So tonight… what we celebrate is not the birth of a king… that language was only ever helpful as the language of the Empire to understand the threat to its power on its terms. But what we celebrate is the birth of a way freed from kings. We don’t play on their terms… if we do they win again. So we let it go. We look to a child to show us a new way. The child who is not-king. The child who is friend. The child who is not, and will not be, co-opted by Imperial terminology… even the language of Messiah (which is ultimately a term of religious empire) to lead us in the foolishness of the gospel. The foolishness of vulnerability, openness, and humility. The way of not-kings that will grant us peace.

And that we, as a people, have not yet figured out how to make this way work in scale does not mean it doesn’t work. It means that it is… not-yet.

So the Empire gets the morning… but the sunset is coming, and it will birth a new day.