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

It’s Monday–I’m Back!

Wednesday morning, August 17. We hugged our son, Anders, and watched him drive off to Suwanee, Georgia, his new home while on a two-year ministry internship. Two weeks prior we had moved our daughter, Annika, into an apartment in downtown Chicago. We hugged and watched her walk away to await a roommate she had never met and four years of medical school she had been working for most of her life. Within a few days, we knew we would hug our son, Leif, wave goodbye, and watch as he would drive off toward his junior year at Capital University.

The weight of separation felt unbearable.

As I walked into the office, I happened upon our new intern, Jared Howard, standing with his four year old daughter preparing themselves for her first day of pre-school. My mind went wild with memories. My heart seized with lament over the passing of years. I could barely contain myself as I stumbled back to my office. Once safely walled off from the rest of the world, I wept. I just wept for about an hour.

The joy and mystery of each birth. The jarring, maddening sleepless nights.

Peeling kids off our legs and ushering them into their yearly unknown. Pausing at the door and wondering what they may experience and know.

The wonder of discovery. The pain of friendships gone awry.

The unleashing of talents affirmed. The unlearning necessary when pathways closed.

A flood of memories washed over me.

Yet, there was a problem with allowing myself to drown in my longing for days past—the present moment called. I had to perform a funeral service within an hour. Life had changed for me, yes. But, it had also changed dramatically for a family at Peace.

In that moment I was struck by this insight—at each new phase of life, no matter how shattering or subtle, we have to reimagine what life can be.

Reimagine Your Everyday Life…Through God’s Eyes is our theme for our fall preaching series beginning Sunday, September 18. As we live in a world that can numb us with its oppressive demands, its insistent routines, its superficial relationships, can we create the space to pause, breathe deeply, and wonder what our lives would look like, not just Sunday but Monday-Saturday, if we knew in the very depths of our being that our lives mattered to God, that our ordinary interactions could reflect the extraordinary love of God, and that the end game is not personal success and recognition but a different kind of world, a more loving world, a world that reflects the sacrificial love of its creator.

So, we will explore the vision God has for us, the way we order our days, the value of our work, and the meaningful hope of our service to community.

Each of us has been invited by our creator to be co-creators of a more loving world.

It’s Monday. We look forward to being together in worship and seeing what might happen as we Reimagine our Everyday Lives… Through God’s Eyes! Peace. Kai