So I Will

Today, I had the privilege of writing a guest blog post for The Seed Company, an organization founded by Wycliffe Bible Translators to accelerate Bible translation all over the world.  The Seed Company blog asked me the question, “How does reading the Bible help you live with flair?”   Here’s my answer below, and check out The Seed Company to learn more about this great mission.

When I read God’s word, I learn how to see the world differently.
Suddenly, what’s boring becomes beautiful; what’s mundane becomes marvelous.  When I read the world through the lens of my Bible, I’m filled with wonder.  I’m on a treasure hunt to find the mysteries of God in acorns, injured cats, pancakes, or snowflakes. 
For the past 10 months, I’ve been blogging at “Live with Flair.”  It began with a challenge to find beauty, wonder, and spiritual truth every day.  Even in the most common thing, I could find God’s truth and reflect upon it. 
God’s word says I can, so I will. 
I have to take seriously the argument in Psalm 19 that the heavens “declare the glory of God,” and that the skies “proclaim the work of his hands.”  The psalmist claims that creation “pours forth speech” and can “reveal knowledge.” 
What speech?  What knowledge? 
Just this morning, I read a quote from E. Stanley Jones that “all things have the stamp of Christ upon them,” and that His will is “wrought into their very structure.”  As I turn to consider the book of Romans, I learn that “since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made. . .” 
Might I consider this pencil and think about the divine nature of the Creator?  Might I make a cheese sandwich and understand the invisible qualities of an Almighty God? 
Colossians tells me that “Christ is before all things and in Him all things hold together.”  All things: pencils, cheese sandwiches, injured cats, snowflakes.  I challenge myself to let God’s word interpret my environment.  I’m on a mission to see into the structure of common objects and find the glory of God. 
This process comes about through mystery.  I find an object and ask a question about it.  Why is it this way?  How did it become this way?  Soon, I’m in the presence of mystery, one step away from worship.  As I uncover the wonder, I then turn and praise the Living God—Jesus—who created all things, even cheese sandwiches. 
And that’s how I live with flair. 
Share

How You Know You’re Getting Better

Do you remember the story of my one-eyed cat, Jack?  We rescued this wounded kitty and brought him into our home.  He couldn’t even purr, he was that broken.  But we knew his purr was in there somewhere. 

We brushed him, fed him, bathed him, pet him, and loved and loved and loved him.  And one day, he found his purr. 

But he still had no voice; this kitty could not meow.  We stuck with this messed up cat–despite the one eye, the injured mouth, and the tail that wouldn’t hang right.  We kept loving him. 

And a year later, he stood tall and proud in the kitchen and let out his first squeaky meow. That cat found his voice.  It took a year, but he learned to meow again.

A few months later, I discover that my wounded cat is serving another cat, holding her down and bathing her.  Jack couldn’t purr a year ago, and now he is taking care of others.  I couldn’t believe it. 

Well, it gets better. 

Last night, I’m reading books with my daughter in her bed, and Jack hops up on top of us and starts doing this strange dance.  He’d press his front paws in and then arch his back and press his back paws into the blanket.  He could hardly keep his balance, and he was tangling himself up in the sheets. 

“What is Jack trying to do?”  we laugh and ask each other.  We stay very still and observe him.  Then, we realize what is happening. 

Jack is attempting a behavior that all domestic cats do (but Jack never did).  He is kneading. 

All cats, when they feel content and safe, press their front paws in and out like they’re kneading bread.   Some say that when cats do this, they remember their kitten days of pressing against their mother to get milk.  Others claim that cats only enact this ritual when they feel at home.  They knead a space to mark it as their bed, usually right next to their mother. 

Jack never did this. It’s like he had no memory of even being a happy kitten or being at home.  Maybe because he wasn’t.   But last night, Jack tries to knead.  Kneading, however, represents a complex instinctual action.  Cats alternatively flex each paw, press in, and then retract their claws as they lift each paw.  Only the front paws knead. 

Jack has no idea how to do it, but some kitty instinct kicks in.  We watch Jack attempt to knead the bed.  He starts, falls over, and then tries again with his back paws (all wrong!).  Eventually, as he purrs loudly and rolls all over us, he gets it right.  He presses his front paws in, alternating between left and right, before he curls up and falls asleep beside my daughter.

He found his purr.  Then he found his voice.  Then he found a way to serve despite his wounds.  Then, then, he began to remember his true self–becoming fully alive and doing what he was meant to do.  Finally safe, finally at home, Jack starts to act like a real cat in every way. 

There’s hope for us all, no matter how wounded.  

Share

But We Didn’t

Last night, our doorbell rings at 10:00 PM.  On our front porch, a woman in a gray sweater, sweat pants, and flip flops stands shivering.  We open the door, and she immediately apologizes.

“I’m so sorry to bother you,” she says.  “I’m house sitting for my parents while they travel.  I went into the garage to get something and the door to the house closed and locked behind me!  I’m locked out of my house!”

We invite this stranger into the warm living room.  Sitting by our Christmas tree, we call the locksmith.  But the locksmith can’t verify her identity, so we have to call the police to meet this woman at her own parent’s house to unlock the doors.  She waits on the couch until all the right folks arrive in her driveway to help her.

Meanwhile, I have no choice but to offer a beverage and make conversation.  I’m in my pajamas, and I sit cross-legged on the couch. 

We sit there, staring at one another.  I start to ask questions.

I discover wonderful things.  I hear about a screenplay she’s writing, a novel she’s selling, and her life in New York.  I learn about her theories of dating.  I learn about her degree in linguistics.  I learn about her sister on the West Coast. 

This stranger in flip flops is funny, vibrant, and kind.  I start to really like her.  I start to want to be her life long friend.

When it’s all over, I give her a huge hug like we’ve been friends forever.

She’s coming back today to leave her card. 

Friendship can enter your life at any time.  A stranger locked out of her house, shivering on your doorstep, might just become a dear friend.  You never know. 

We could have turned her away.  We could have hidden in the bedroom and not even answered the door.

But we didn’t.

Share

Christmas Estuary

Estuary Mouth

Yesterday, I read a book that mentions the word estuary.  An estuary is the part of a river that nears the sea.  In an estuary, salt water and fresh water mix.  As one of the most curious habitats, estuaries house creatures that learn how to live in impossible contradiction; they must survive in overlapping environments–fresh and saline.

Salmon, for example.  Salmon start their lives in freshwater, but they were made for the ocean.  Something enables them to get there.  I read about how when salmon transition between freshwater and the sea, the cellular structure of their gills changes.  The gills learn to secrete salts (not absorb them) just like a normal salt water fish.  The process has a name:  osmoregulate.

A new verb!  Osmoregulate means to maintain that perfect balance–that harmony–necessary to live in environments that threaten to either dilute or saturate the body.  And in estuaries, salmon learn how.  They slowly adapt themselves for what’s ahead.  Then, they journey on towards their lives in the great ocean.

How confusing that place must seem.  

As I consider that journey, I can’t help but think about times of estuary–impossible contradictions–places where life does not feel right.  We’ve left but haven’t arrived.  We see the future but aren’t ready to embrace it.  It’s as if we are left alone to adapt for what’s ahead.  We are becoming something. 

Estuaries, because of their in-between status as both freshwater and saltwater, contain the best nutrients.  Scientists tell me that estuaries are among the most productive habitats in the world.  The swirl of confusion, as wild as the tide, ironically provides refuge and rest for marine life.  They strengthen their ability to adapt and regulate in that estuary.

Life feels like an estuary when I consider the miraculous Christmas claim that I’m meant for another world.  And, by design, I find myself here, becoming something for there

Living with flair means I don’t despair when I’m not at my destination.  I’m osmoregulating in my perfect estuary for what’s ahead.  

(Photo, “Estuary Mouth,” Public Domain, US government.)

Share

Somebody Needs This

Last week–during my horrible cold– my neighbors express their concern for me in. . . soup

First came the hearty meatball soup with spinach and tomatoes.

Then, on day two, a bright orange butternut squash soup paraded in with crostini appetizers so delicious I gobbled six between the front door and my kitchen.

Day three?  A classic turkey noodle elbowed in.  The Italian Mama brought more the next day, escorted by bread and chocolate and a baked ziti that stole the show.    

On day four, a minestrone humbly entered, warm and muted.  

And the next day, when I had given up all hope that my body would heal, a creamy potato soup arrived.

Bowls and bowls of steaming broth, eaten right in the bed, nourished me in more ways than one. My body was healing, aided by neighbors whose soup loudly proclaimed: “We are taking care of you!” 

This morning, word spreads that a family down the street is sick.  My crock pot muscles her way between the toaster and the coffee pot, and I chop all the ingredients for a vegetable beef stew.  I’ll deliver it late afternoon and find my place in the parade of neighborhood love in the form of steaming soup. 

So loved did I feel by soup that I wonder why I don’t make it every day this winter and find a neighbor who needs it.  Somebody needs soup today, and living with flair means I deliver it. 

Share

Why Are They Doing This?

Just as I tuck my daughters in bed last night, the doorbell rings.  My husband opens the door, and a gust of icy air enters.  We can feel it all the way up into the bedrooms.  Who would come by so late on such a cold evening?

Then, the singing starts.  I peek down the stairs, and a half moon of carolers stands on my front porch singing, “Hark the Herald Angels Sing,” and then, “We Wish You a Merry Christmas.”

I hurry to nudge the children out of their warm beds.  We gather on the stairs and crane our necks to see the carolers.  Even the cats come to witness this event.

My youngest asks, “Mommy why are they doing this?”

“They are carolers caroling!” I tell her.

To carol means to sing a joyous religious song, and last night, we had a dozen carolers caroling.  It felt like we’d been visited for a special reason–like an unexpected celebration arrived at our home.  Each carol told a story, a narrative, about Christ’s birth or some celebration surrounding the Christmas season.

I suddenly want to teach my children all the old carols.  I want to transport them back in time to when folks honored the birth of Jesus with the kind of singing that went out through the towns and villages on Christmas Eve. They rejoiced with carols.  

I want to rejoice like that.  I want to broadcast that ecstatic joy–the kind that knocks on a stranger’s door in the cold night and sings out.

I love that Christmas carols remind me of something I’d forgotten:  I rejoice in Christmas.  I open wide the door of my home and heart and let the celebration in.

Photo: Bolas Navidenas — Kris de Curtis (Creative Commons)

Share

Are You the Fudge Fairy?

Perched atop a snow drift by my front door today, a package of homemade fudge boasts a bright green ribbon.  It’s the same wrapping every time.  And every time, a Bible verse of encouragement, neatly typed and tucked under the ribbon, speaks about God’s faithfulness. 

I never know when the fudge delivery will come.  Sometime in the cloak of night or wee hours of the morning, someone delivers fudge all over town.  It comes several times a year.  Mostly graduate students receive the gift–just as exams approach–and soon, the phone rings.

“Are you the fudge fairy?” 

“No, are you?” 

Nobody knows.  

Gifts delivered in secret to the front door delight this community.  Part of the joy is not knowing who performs this anonymous ministry of fudge–and guessing and guessing and loving that someone was thinking of you.  

Are you the fudge fairy? 

Share

The Simple Remedy

This morning, the icy wind blows against the house and whips down the street, determined.  The power goes out, and suddenly, the warm yellow glow of the kitchen turns into the blue-black of a morning not quite awake. 

We have breakfast by lantern and candlelight.  It’s quiet

We have so much time on our hands.  It’s as if a lack of electricity remedies our morning frenzy. 

We have to pull the garage door open by hand.

I can’t charge my cell phone; I can’t check email.  My day turns basic, simple.

But I can drive across town to the doctor’s office.  Finally, after 14 days of coughing, the doctor wants to treat with antibiotics.  As I sit there, still chilled from my morning without heat, the doctor says, “You’ll need to buy buckwheat honey today.  It’s the only thing that works for the cough.” 

Buckwheat honey?  Last week, I paid a fortune in medications (that did not work) to treat this cough, prescribed with robotic speed.  But this new doctor claims that all the clinical trials in cough research show that a teaspoon of buckwheat honey (and it has to be buckwheat–no other type works) coats the throat in such a way that coughing ceases.

A simple remedy, as simple as a quiet breakfast by lantern, trumps the big expense of manufactured cough suppressants.   My jar of honey costs a couple dollars, and I cradle it in my arms as I make my way through the fluorescent lights of the grocery store.  I imagine the little bees making this honey–that simple, natural act–that I’ll benefit from today. 

Honey and lanterns:  I have to remember that living with flair can be natural and basic and cheap.  That kind of living may remedy what frenzies my day.

Share

How Ridiculously Inconvenient!

I receive a desperate email from one of my best students.  He’s applying to this great new program, but the deadline’s been changed to tomorrow.  He has no choice but to beg his professors to write last minute recommendations. 

It’s a ridiculous inconvenience.  It’s exam week here.  I’m grading papers, posting grades, and barely keeping my head above the water.  Not only is the recommendation due now, but I have to stop everything, drive across town to my office to pick up the appropriate letterhead, write the narrative, and then arrange to meet the student to drop off the forms. 

What makes this one student’s life so precious, so important, that I would bother to do what I do not have time for?

I bundle up in my coat and scarf, pull on my gloves and boots, and brave the ice.  As I drive, it’s as if God has a message for me about the beauty of the ridiculously inconvenient.  God, after all, takes on the inconvenience of flesh, and if I think about it, Christmas is actually a celebration of radical inconvenience. 

A student needing a recommendation seems a small thing, really. 

I know, I know.  I’ve also memorized the quote:  Your lack of planning doesn’t constitute an emergency on my part. 

But what if it did?  What if I embraced being ridiculously inconvenienced for once in my life and made your particular need my current emergency? 

I’m smiling as a race into the English department.  It’s because the student is precious–profoundly so–and why wouldn’t I go to extraordinary lengths to help him move forward in the direction of his dreams? What makes my time more valuable than his? 

Years ago, I was that flustered student trying to meet deadlines, knocking sheepishly on my professors’ doors.  How many folks did I inconvenience on my journey?  How many emergencies did I bring into the laps of folks I needed to help me? 

Living with flair means I learn to embrace inconvenience.  The inconvenient things often usher in the magnificent, the life-changing, and the divine.  I felt myself transforming into the type of woman I want to be as I drove back home.  I did a ridiculously inconvenient thing for someone, and I knew it was full of flair. 

Share

Christmas and the Ancient Path

I stay home from church today and cough my way through the morning.  But I want to create my own Sabbath worship–to start the week fresh in peace–especially with so much to do to prepare for Christmas. 

I light candles and gather my Bible and a curious old journal that my students presented me on the last day of class. 

It’s an ancient journal, fresh out of Camelot or Narnia or Hogwarts.  The grainy pages connect with wisps of leather; the secrets within stay secure with a clasp.

I will record wise things here.  I will document revelations and promises–the whispers of God into my heart.  I will take His Hand and follow ancient paths that lead me to truth. 

As I unclasp my journal, I’m reminded of the words of that moody and artsy prophet Jeremiah.  He tells me:

This is what the LORD says:
   “Stand at the crossroads and look;
   ask for the ancient paths,
ask where the good way is, and walk in it,
   and you will find rest for your souls.” 

I open my journal and ask for the ancient paths.  And then I know.  I recall his name:  The Ancient of Days, God, the one who comes from the ancient into the modern, the one who descends down into a manger. 

That’s Christmas–the ancient path that leads from Bethlehem into my heart. 

Share