If someone were to ask you what habits you have, what would you say? I’ve been thinking about habits since I came out of Nick’s the other day (after a clergy lunch featuring soft drinks), bumped into a friend, and he said, “I haven’t been in worship because I just got out of the habit.”So I have been thinking about habits.
Change, pens and the watch all go in the right shoe
When you think about it, our lives are formed by our habits. This may be more than you want to know, but the start of every day is shaped by habits developed over time. It’s almost always the same order: wash my face, insert my mono-vision contact in my right eye using the middle finger of my right hand, shave, put my pedometer on the right side of the band of my exercise shorts, and pack my gym bag with the clothes for the day. I’ve found that it “works” to put my change, wristwatch, and pens in the right dress shoe. They are kept in the shoe by putting my dress socks in on top of them.
When I get to the Y, I prefer to use the first treadmill on the last row in the cardio section. When “my” treadmill isn’t available, I wobble for just a moment. I’m a bit uncertain about which one to choose. Then, I use the same 4-6 weight machines every day.
Habits. When it is time to water-ski, I always put on my right ski first. When I am coming into Chicago and headed for Lincoln Park, I take Stony Island to South Lake Shore Drive and head north. When it is time to go to bed, I sleep on the right side of the bed.
Do habits equal a life on auto-pilot?
There was a time when I thought doing things out of habit was a terribly uncreative, somewhat thoughtless way to live. Habits were boring, pedestrian, and life would be better if we were making a conscious decision every moment to do something in a new way. So let’s figure out a new, unique way to live each day.
Tomorrow, for example, how about having your coffee before having your cereal and orange juice rather than breakfast being orange juice first, then cereal, with coffee last? What about slipping your left ski on first the next time? What about putting butter on your bread before you drop it in the toaster? Why not consider taking the Dan Ryan up to I-55 rather than driving down Stony Island? What about alternating which side of the bed you’ll sleep on based on the lunar schedule? Be creative! Make it up as you go!
That would be an exhausting way to live, wouldn’t it?
The lesson of Max
This past weekend I was playing with my 16-month old grandson, Max, on the sloping yard in front of my father-in-law’s home. Max was learning to walk on an incline and had to think about each step. He was working to consciously balance his weight. Sometimes, he would playfully throw out one leg and fall down on purpose with a giggle. But having to think about each step was a chore.
The truth is that habits simplify life. We learn what works and we don’t have to consciously decide the little (and big) things over and over.
Habits also help us hold onto and live out lessons we learned earlier in life. We discover something that works, so we leverage that discovery and repeat the pattern over and over again. You can see this with baseball pitchers and batters: they discover a way of pitching or hitting that “works” for them. They have a routine.
A better life is often built on newly-learned habits
Much of life, it turns out, is about learning healthy, life-giving, loving habits.
The NBC Evening News this week carried a story about a veteran of Iraq, severely wounded, who had to learn how to walk and talk and think. His recovery was built on developing a set of habits that were life-giving.
First make your habits, Warren Buffett has said, and then your habits make you. Erasmus wrote: “A nail is driven out; habit is overcome by habit.”
Sean Covey says we become what we repeatedly do.
Mahatma Gandhi observed: “Your beliefs become your thoughts,
Your thoughts become your words, Your words become your actions,
Your actions become your habits, Your habits become your values,
Your values become your destiny.”
Here is a hunch I have: one of the reasons Jesus spent all day, almost every day, with the disciples was to teach them holy habits. He wanted loving (even the enemy!) to become a habit…something they would just do (Matthew 5:43-ff).Healing and giving were to be a part of life, so he was showing them how to live like this time after time until healing and giving would become habits (Matthew 10:5-ff).The Galilean taught them how greatness is not to be found in being served but serving (Matthew 20:26-27), and then after the Last Supper Jesus washed their feet. So serving would become second-nature to them. A holy habit.
The habits of loving, giving, serving, forgiving, praying, worshipping, and spending time with the stories of the Bible so God’s love story soaks into us: our habits make us.
Back to Nick’s
Back to that conversation I had with my friend outside Nick’s: I walked away thinking about the power of habits.“I just got out of the habit,” my friend said to me about worship. Now that the holy habit has been broken, experts in human behavior would point out that it will take repetition for worship to become a habit again.
Physical trainers talk about “muscle memory.”I am convinced that we have a “spirit memory.”Something is done often enough that it becomes second-nature to us.
A key time in life to develop holy habits, habits that bring us face-to-face with God and deepen our soul life, are childhood and adolescence. That’s why I tell parents who love their children to give them the best kind of love there is loose in the universe: the love of God in Jesus.
Whenever I watch a family with young children enter the sanctuary, I want to cheer! I want to cheer because I have some idea what it takes to get two or three children up out of bed, cleaned up, dressed, in the car, and then into worship. A pastoral colleague in Mentone, Indiana celebrates great moments by shouting “More cowbell!” When I see parents who love their children enough to make worship, Sunday school, fellowship and youth group a habit; I want to shout, “More cowbell!” Taking children to Disney World or the Rockies is a loving thing for a parent to do, but taking them to a faith community where they can develop holy habits is even more loving!
What kind of habits are you developing…in yourself and in your children? What kind of “soul memory” will you have that will get you through this adventure we call life?
Building presentation – June 12th and 15th
Two identical presentations will be held. One will be on Sunday, June 12th, at 10:30 a.m. in the Great Hall. (Open Door attendees may want to come to the Building Committee presentation before worship, and Sanctuary attendees will come after worship.) The second presentation will be the evening of Wednesday, June 15th, at 7 p.m. in room 218.
Major elements include:
- A central, main entrance off 4th street near the labyrinth.
- A main staircase up around the Atrium entrance to the Gathering Place.
- Expansion of the Gathering Place to handle larger groups.
- Reorienting the Sanctuary 180 degrees so the pulpit and chancel would be in the west end of the room.The room would have an expanded balcony.
- Renovation of the ground-floor Fellowship Hall.
- Repurposing the Great Hall for youth ministries.
- Moving the Childcare area closer to the Sanctuary.
- Moving the choir room closer to the Sanctuary and Chancel.
- Glass doors on the east end of the Sanctuary so worshippers can see into the space as they approach down the hallways.
- Enhanced security for the Pre-School and Sunday School areas.
- A stairway that would allow people to walk directly into the church offices from the street level.
We are a people who have always looked forward. We are a congregation that has, again and again, stepped out in faith in response to the call to serve God.
It’s time to look forward again!
Remember, our Summer Worship Schedule is in effect: the Sanctuary service is at 9:30 a.m. and The Open Door community of First Methodist Church gathers at 11:15 a.m.
Grace and peace,
Join us this Sunday, in a Jesus community where all are loved and welcomed, as we continue our series FOLLOW THE LEADER. Invite a friend to join you.
UMC General Conference news
Nearly one thousand UM delegates from around the world have been meeting in Portland, Oregon for the once-every-four-years General Conference. This is the highest decision-making body for the 11-million member denomination.
If you want to get more information you can go to www.umc.org/topics/general–conference-2016.
A Building Vision
JOIN US AS WE SEE THE NEW THING GOD MAY DO IN THIS PLACE!
Late in 2014 our congregation voted to undertake a comprehensive building study and explore possible solutions to challenges presented by our current facility.
Late in 2015 we received a report on needed structural repairs (estimated cost between $2.8 and $3.5 million).
Now, we have the opportunity to see some exciting possibilities about the building and ways it can be a ministry asset to future generations.
Join us in the Great Hall on Sunday, June 12th at 10:30 a.m. or Wednesday, June 15th at 7:00 p.m. for a report (with virtual fly-through tour of some elements of the possible redesigned building) by architects Kevin Stuckwisch & Mary Krupinski.
We encourage you to come and join the conversation!