Hey everyone.  Glad it’s Friday?

It is sometimes amazing how we can start the week in a completely different mental or emotional place than where we end up.  I have to admit, I started out pretty rough, with some weighty things bearing down on me.  But as the week went on, good conversations with friends and students lifted me up.

Besides that, as always, there were a few bits of generosity and creativity that impacted me this week.

In My Kindledownload

I admitted a few weeks ago that I had started a new reading habit of which I am not entirely proud: the celebrity memoir.  I have read Jim Gaffigan, Mindy Kaling, and now Rachel Dratch.  You might remember her from Saturday Night Live.  She was “Debbie Downer.”

Rachel’s story is hardly a “fairy tale.”  Basically, everything she’s done, she had to try at least twice in order to achieve.  And what I have gotten out of these celebrity memoirs, above all else, is that just because someone has been on TV, it does not mean their life has been easy.  Life is a struggle…for everyone (not just you and me).  Most of the people who you and I think are very glamorous are actually unemployed most of the time.  But despite a lot of difficulties, things work out in unexpected ways (hence the subtitle “midlife miracle.”) Her story ends rather open-ended too, because that’s how life is.

In My Blog Reader

Everyone wants to find a great purpose to their lives.  We want to know that we are making an impact on the world, and we never really feel like we are doing enough.  Steve Weins lets us in on the dirty little secret about finding our purpose in life.  What an encouraging and challenging thing to read this week.

It’s true – if you aspire to be a writer, you’d better get comfortable (or at least be able to tolerate) rejection.  And really, doesn’t that go for all of life?  Living with rejection is just a good life lesson.  The first publisher that rejected Life After Art told us it sounded too much like All I Really Needed to Know I Learned In Kindergarten.  If you are wanting to publish a book, read this to-do list from Katie Axelson on handling rejection as a writer.

Finally, I was so excited to meet longtime blog-friend Caris Adel a few weeks ago at STORY (and even more excited to learn that we have more in common than we thought.)  As a guy who really feels like a misfit in the modern church, I really appreciated what she had to say with Pastor Kings and Servant Leaders.

Oh, and if you don’t remember “Debbie Downer,” watch her first and best appearance (despite the pre-train-wreck-but-still-annoying Lindsey Lohan who was hosting that night).

Those were the highlights of my week.  What fueled you this week?

At age 30, I feel that I sit on a generational dividing line.Doubt

On one side of me is generation Y.  On the other side is the Millennial generation.  People my age kind of started the modern trend of going to college and leaving church forever.  I cannot tell you how it felt to see so many friends from my church and youth group gradually fade from their faith.

Today, that trend has become a full-force phenomenon.  The statistics are direly grim, as we all know.  At least 75% of young people raised in the church will leave the church.  I have a special concern for the oldest students at the school I teach at, because I know they are headed into this phase of their lives – the phase where they give up on their faith.

Volumes have been written on why a generation is leaving the church.  Could it be technology?  Could it be dusty old music?  Could it be irrelevant preaching?

Probably all of the above.

But I think there is something else I think we’ve missed.  It is not an external matter of music or preaching or iPhones, but an internal one.

We have never taught our kids how to honestly doubt their faith.

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Most of us do not claim to be actors.

Very few of us have ever taken the stage or been in front of a camera.  We have never been taught the finer points of how to bring a fictional character to life for an audience.

And yet, many of us have been acting in an uncredited role for much of our lives.  I know I have done it.  I have spent much of my adult life pretending.  I have made up a fictional version of myself, a version of myself that I want people to believe is real.

The problem is that I have often spent so much time and energy pretending to be something, when I could just actually be the person I’m pretending to be.  

If the make-believe version of yourself is so great, if that’s what you want people to believe you are, then why not make a change?  Why not be the person you pretend to be?  Don’t give people the fake version of you.  Just believe that you can be the great person you want to be.  Be an artist, a writer, a singer, a superhero.

It’s the most important role of your lifetime.

pretend

What do you wish you were?  What are you pretending to be today?  What if you decided to stop pretending and just started to be?

 

This week, I largely avoided the news.

There comes a point when the events of the world are just so frustrating, so maddening, that it does me no good to try to keep up with it.  I simply shut it all out.  I know, I’m kind of a fatalist.  Things are going to do what they are going to do whether I read about it or not.

However, I was pleasantly surprised at just how fruitful everyone else was this week.  Here are a few things that fueled me.

On My Calendar

It occurred to me recently that it has been a very long time since I tried anything new.  When was the last time I actually did something where I might fail, where I have to be a student, an amateur?  

Enter Thursday nights.  I’ve had an itch in the back of my mind for a couple of years now, and I’m finally scratching it.  I signed up for a basic woodworking class at our local guild.  Not because I have to, or I want to start a new career or open an Etsy shop.  I don’t care if what I bring home looks like a child made it.  I am so thrilled to just try something new.

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You may have seen it in the news.  Recess is over.school

A school in New York recently made headlines by banning traditional sports balls from recess (allowing soft Nerf balls instead) as well as games of tag, cartwheels and other forms of “unorganized” play.

And although this is just one school, it is happening everywhere.  Schools in my own city are doing the same thing.  No soccer balls or footballs.  No rough games.  Basically, no fun.

Now, I’m not saying that a trip to the ER is my idea of fun.  But the issue that is raised in my mind is the negative and downright false lessons our kids our learning from our hyper-vigilant safety crusade.

What could be so bad about keeping our kids from getting hurt?  How about this…

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Everyone is looking for a formula, a plan, a few steps for better living.

And the people who aren’t looking are the ones who are selling us the formulas, plans and steps.  Good living is just so easy…well, as easy as a few easy payments.

I don’t buy into much of the self-improvement fad.  I scoff most of the time when a pastor or motivator or leader tells me that my life can be better with three or five easy steps.  If I just do “X, Y, Z,” then my life will be complete.  Usually, one of those steps involve giving the expert my money.  I think step one of their formula for better living is “Make up a formula for better living.”  Step two: “Sell your formula to a lot of people.”

But I like Mary Oliver’s formula.  There is no cost involved.  It is simple.  Anyone can do it.

Most of us are not even completing step one.  We just go through the motions and then wonder where the years went.  We feel cheated, simply because we didn’t bother with step one.

Step two is even more elusive.  It takes a certain amount of faith, a particular level of childish joy in a person to do step two.  Even if people do step one, most of them don’t get past this one.

And finally step three.  I’ve come to think that if people have not done steps one and two, and are trying to skip to step three, then whatever they are saying is probably not much worth listening to.  It’s only by doing steps one and two and we actually find our voices.

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So which step are you on today?  Don’t worry, it’s probably best to start at step one every day, isn’t it?