Last Friday was a day of pretending.

I don’t think Halloween is a day of evil. Not when I have a kid dressed as a whoopie cushion show up to my door. No, Halloween is a day when we celebrate the power of the human mind to make believe.

There were ninjas and princesses who came to my door. Cheri dressed up as Marge Gunderson and practiced saying “I’m not a hundred percent with you on your police work there, Lou.”

Of course, we’ve all noticed that Halloween has become a lot more of an adult holiday over the last twenty years. It’s no longer confined to just kids getting treats. Lots of adults want to take part in the pretending.

Kids are great at pretending, and they do not need a holiday to tell them to pretend, though. Every day can be a pretend day for them. But for adults, we’ve kind of lost that ability. We live in the world of bills and responsibilities and pretending seems like maybe its a waste of time and money. We look at kids pretending and we wish we could go back to a time when it came much easier to us.

But I have come to believe that pretending is not just a children’s pastime. It’s an essential human skill. It is the pretenders who imagine a world that does not yet exist. It is the pretenders who pursue “silly” ideas and change the world. It is often the pretenders who make other lives better. Pretending is not an avoidance strategy (though it can be). It is the human imagine getting lost in itself, making a new reality. Some of the most influential, creative people were simply the people who were the least afraid to pretend.

pretending

What if we did not just confine our pretending to one silly day each year? Would we be happier?

Would you do like Abraham did?

Worst Father-Son picnic ever.

Worst Father-Son picnic ever.

There has been a little conversation bubbling up over the last week, at least in my corner of social media, the question being would you do as Abraham did?

Meaning, would you pass the “test” that Abraham passed when he placed his promised son, Isaac on the altar?

Predictably, there are a lot of people who say “Surely I would!” They announce their confidence that they would absolutely be willing to murder their children if God told them to. They proclaim their willingness as a sign of their faith. It’s just a good thing that God does not tell them to do so.

And on the other side are the people who say, “Surely I would not!” And from this side, the “faithful” are prodded about what kind of God would really ask them to do such a thing. What is faith worth if God is so evil as to ask something like that?

Now Cheri and I have not waited nearly as long for our son as Abraham and Sarah did. But we have learned a couple of things about what it means to be long-waiting parents.

And one thing that we have learned is that while God may never ask us to place our child on a literal altar, the same test that Abraham faced, the rest of us also face, whether we know it or not.

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I take a lot of things seriously.

When I was a kid, I took school seriously. From the time I was in kindergarten, I was serious about succeeding, being a good student, getting good marks. I don’t really know why. Maybe I was just a very compliant child. I believed my parents when they told me that being serious in school was important.

Later, I was serious about a lot of other things. I got serious about my relationship with my wife. I seriously pursued a career. And today, I’m serious about how I teach my students. Sure, I think creating things should be fun. But I’m serious about it too. I seriously want students to do their best work for me. And I try to do as much as possible to help them succeed.

That’s not to say I don’t have a sense of humor. I like to laugh a lot. But my sense of serious has often done me as much harm as it has good. My sense of serious has often translated into a sense of stressfulness. Everything seems serious when you make it serious.

These days, Cheri and I are serious about preparing for the little one. We talk seriously about the things we want to teach him, the kind of home we want to create, the kind of relationships we want to have with him. We have had a long time to think about these things, and we consider that an advantage of infertility. Sure, we know the kid is going to come and make fools of us. But we want to try to accomplish a few things, you know?

But I think what I am looking forward to most is a healthy injection of unseriousness in my life. The last few years have been exceedingly serious, stressful, even unhealthy. I am looking forward to having a person around who wasn’t there for any of that, whose main concerns are not serious.

Here, I’ve got a photo of our toy and bookshelf that we’ve put together. Most of that stuff is new gifts given to us. But the “Hobbes” tiger on the left (of course there is no real Hobbes) we picked up years ago. We imagined that he would be just perfect for a child to own on some faraway day.

nonsense

And now that the day is inching closer, I am looking forward to having a little nonsense being brought back into my life.

 

 

It’s been kind of an unbelievable week here in Kansas City. Not that all of you are even aware of the World Series (Kansas City is a rather small market.) But we have seen ourselves in the news all week, which is strange for a city that is located on the map in just the place to be usually hidden directly behind the weatherman’s butt.

Kansas City on the ‘Nets2014 World Series: Game 1 San Francisco Giants v. Kansas City Royals

Much of the conversation this week lingered around this Buzzfeed open letter to Kansas City from America, a letter so thoughtfully constructed, not to mention flattering, that it actually redeems Buzzfeed in my mind a bit. A day or two later, our mayor, Sly James (yes, Sly) responded with an open letter to America from Kansas City.

And then there was this gem, 13 reasons why the Kansas City Royals are the worst. It’s this kind of uninformed link bait garbage that reminds me why the internet can be the worst thing ever. Do you ever have one of those days when the lists start pulling you in, and when you escape their grasp, you realize how dirty and shameful you feel?

In My Blog Feed

Holy cow, my blog feed was chock full of goodies this week. Somehow, all of these people spoke to me.

Kristen Strong confronted my perceived and frustrate need for a bunch of friends (hint: you and I don’t need a bunch of friends.) Holley Gerth discussed being intimidated by other people and Ally Vesterfelt’s best life advice is making a fool of yourself.

One of the most distinctive pieces of advice this week came from Hannah Brencher. It is simply: stop sleeping with liars. It’s not what you think. I sleep with liars. The liars wake me up in the middle of the night. Read this one right now.

Tyler Braun is turning thirty and has thirty life lessons he has learned so far.

Caryn Rivadeneira at Her.meneutics has an interesting angle on why prayer does not need to “come back” to public schools and Micah Murray addresses the frequent church activity of throwing stones.

Finally, Sarah Bessey shares her flutters and faith as her journey through loss and childbirth gains a new little chapter.

And that is what fueled me this week. Have a great weekend!

 

For a long time, my wife and I kept our secret.PlusOrMinus_Revisions1_June9

We kept it from friends. We kept it from family. It seemed like the only thing we could do.

Our friends had their babies and we would say, “Congratuations!” We would go home and say “We are happy for our friends.” People would ask if we were going to have kids, and we would stammer out some kind of answer about “timing.”

Months and years passed like that. If you have ever kept a secret, you know how it is too.

But I have to say that I am truly amazed, surprised even. Plus or Minus will be released in just a few short months. And when we first discussed writing a book about infertility, it felt like we were going to be exposing all of these dark, terrible secrets. The opposite has in fact been true.

In the process of being vulnerable, we have been given a great gift: redemption from our secrets.

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It’s pretty easy to be pessimistic, isn’t it?

I have to believe that there have always been pessimists, and I have to admit that there are plenty of times when I feel like one too. It’s not hard to look at the way things are and despair. It’s practically my default sometimes.

I think there are also some things that make us more pessimistic than we are naturally inclined to be.

I think watching too much of the news makes us pessimists. Why? Because the news is not just a neutral thing. It’s a product. It’s a product that is designed to make us feel a certain way (anxious, depressed, pessimistic) and then desire something (more news.) Have you ever noticed how the news is like potato chips? It never really fills you up, but you keep thinking you want more?

I think politics has a way of making us pessimists too. I don’t think this election season is making optimists out of anyone. I don’t think anyone believes that we are all going to just fall in love with Congress after election day. Politics is a lot like the news. The more we have of it, the more sick we feel. And election time comes around and we think this time it will be different!

And in this era of pessimism, I am reminded of something that was said in a different era of news and politics. She was never an official politician, though she was certainly a national leader. Perhaps there have always been just as many things to be pessimistic about. But somehow, the people who change the world resist the despair of the present.

future

It is an amazing thing we have, this capacity to be endlessly optimistic, if we choose to be. But the beauty of the future will not come in the ways in which we are taught to believe. A beautiful future for you and I will not come through any politician we elect. It will not come through Congress. The beauty of you future will not come through a tech company, or anything else we can buy.

All of these things we look to and believe that this will finally satisfy and fulfill us. But they won’t. The only way that your future and my future are truly optimistic is that we actually listen to the still small voice, the dream, and we go. 

There are no substitutes.