Five years ago, a student of mine designed an ad campaign encouraging college freshman to stop drinking on weekends. He created a picture of a passed out college student on the front of a t-shirt. He wrote above it, “You don’t know what you’re missing.” Beneath the image, he began a list of all the amazing activities one could do instead of simply partying.
The university loved it. I loved it.
Today in class, I ask students to tell me a few of the activities they do outside of class. I’m amazed at all a person can do! I learn about croquet clubs, skiing clubs, investing clubs, Chinese calligraphy clubs, service clubs, clubs that exist just to encourage other clubs, television production clubs, and Italian clubs. I learn about Christian clubs, equestrian clubs, and political clubs.
Students tell me they can choose from 800 clubs.
I feel myself growing larger inside. I remember my own clubs: fitness group, walk-to-school, Italian Mamas, and writing groups. I begin to think about other clubs I would want to join this year. Photography? Film? Maybe I will start a calligraphy club.
Once again, I realize one should never have a bored day in her life.
What clubs do you attend?
I read Psalm 119:164: “Great peace have they who love your law, and nothing can make them stumble.”
A heart at peace? How does one define it and know it? It goes deeper than emotion, like a fixed anchor for the soul even as turbulent waters crash about. It’s a steadiness. It’s an assurance. It’s a giggle in the face of evil. It’s a dance in the desert.
Jesus comes as the Prince of Peace, and some days, I think this is my favorite name of God.
How would you define it?
Every morning when I open wide the back doors to let the fresh morning air come through the screens, the chipmunks come and taunt our cats. The little chipmunks pop their heads up through the deck and stare at the cats.
The cats stare back.
It’s a high alert situation. The cats stand like statues (except for their tails).
Ears back, tail swishing, eyes fixed. You can’t bother a cat on high alert. The whole body tunes itself to a singular object. Nothing else matters.
|Jack with His One Eye Focused
You can’t distract them from this moment. It’s too important.
I thought of Proverbs: “Pay attention and turn your ears to the sayings of the wise.” Nearly every chapter urges, “Pay attention. Turn your ears to wisdom.”
Something about the rigorous cat in front of that chipmunk stays with me all morning. Pay attention. Turn your ears to wisdom in this way. Let nothing else matter. It’s too important.
In the spirit of quizzing, I decide to ask myself what I really learned this week.
I’m picking raspberries, and I reflect on all I’ve learned this week about unity and what destroys it.
As I think about living in unity within families, neighborhoods, classrooms, and larger communities, I’m learning that our default state tends towards separation, isolation, divisiveness, cynicism, superiority, gossip, and complaint.
We know very well how to destroy harmony. I can do it every day with my words.
So I’m learning to fight against it. I choose to move towards the outsider, to draw others in, to build up and not divide, to speak hope, to stay humble, to believe the best and speak the best, and to offer thanksgiving. Every unity-destroyer has an equally powerful opposite force that generates beautiful harmony between people. The Christian life should–I’m learning–reflect that beautiful harmony.
Living with flair means we generate beautiful harmony.
What are you learning most of all these days?
I read this morning a quote from Hannah Whitall Smith. She argues that “the soul who gives thanks can find comfort in everything; the soul who complains can find comfort in nothing.”
I realize the truth of it, especially when she later writes this bold statement:
“There can be nothing in our lives that lacks in it somewhere a cause for thanksgiving, and no matter who or what may be the channel to convey it, everything contains for us a hidden blessing from God.”
How different my days could be if I only believed that every moment has within it a cause for thanksgiving and a hidden blessing from God!
Training the heart towards such truth–remembering it each and every day–changes everything.
Did you find the hidden blessing today?
Students hate my reading quizzes.
But after all this time and all these years of learning how to really serve students, I stand behind the benefit of reading quizzes. They increase student attentiveness and encourage great class discussion because folks come prepared.
But students don’t like them, and, by extension, students aren’t too thrilled with me.
That’s OK. I tell them that by the end of this course, they’ll be the strongest writers. They’ll never see verbs or semicolons the same way. That’s the goal. The goal isn’t liking me.
Sometimes, living with flair means you endure not being liked because you’re accomplishing a good thing. It’s the same with parenting, writing, and just living day to day. Somebody won’t like what you’re doing, and that’s OK. The goal isn’t to be liked.
Besides, some students love the reading quizzes.
When did you learn it was OK not to have everyone like you?
This morning, I read some beautiful words in Paul Miller’s A Praying Life. He says that when you “stop trying to control your life and instead allow your anxieties and problems to bring you to God in prayer, you shift from worry to watching.”
I love it. I love that when I go to God, I’m then invited to watch. I’m watching for God’s amazing answer and work on my behalf. I’m watching for His power and presence.
I’m watching not worrying.
Miller says that I’m looking for God to “weave his patterns in the story of [my] life.” As I see God work, Miller insists that my life will begin to “sparkle with wonder.”
It does. It really does. I’m not worried today. I’m watching for God’s intervening hand.
Shifting from worry to watching! Don’t you love the freedom and joy in that? Are you now watching?
My kitchen computer (a tiny little netbook that’s falling apart) loses her backspace button today.
It just stops working.
If I want to delete a letter, I have to stop and figure out a way to press in the residual little bump that’s part of the old backspace button. It takes forever.
I find myself slowing down. I find myself deliberately placing my fingers on the keyboard–like a new typist–because it’s so difficult to correct these errors.
It reminds me of my ancient past when we used white out. You had to blow on it so it would dry and then reposition your paper in the typewriter (what’s that?) and retype your correction. I suddenly feel so thankful for the backspace button on this computer.
That’s it. Backspace is my flair for today. Something so simple and so taken for granted! I love that I lost it so I would feel that love for it again.
What little thing have you lost that you are now so thankful for?
This morning in church, it occurs to me that much of my thinking involves wanting some aspect of my life to change. I pray in this direction. I hope in the direction of just make this all different.
I remember that contentment in our circumstances represents one of the greatest gifts given by God. Contentment means happiness and complete satisfaction. Paul writes, “I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through Him who gives me strength.” Later, I read that “godliness with contentment is great gain.”
I need the wisdom to know when to stop praying for change and to start praying for contentment.
Maybe I can do both. I don’t know.
I choose today to ask for contentment, and I feel myself rising out of the darkness into glorious light.
Do you feel truly content? Share your secret!
Today I remember the simplest truth that we can ask God for wisdom. In James 1:5, I read that “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God who gives generously without finding fault, and it will be given to you.”
My natural inclination is to sort it all out myself. I implement strategies. I verbally process. I journal. I ask everyone for advice. I think and think and think.
What if I just asked God for wisdom? It seems too simple. It seems too easy.
But I do it. I ask God for wisdom regarding a problem, and without fail–and often within the same day–the clouds part, and I know the right way to think or act in a confusing situation. Today, for example–right after I pray–a friend arrives at my door with wise, Biblical counsel.
The wisdom unfolds generously: scripture, discernment, and confirmation just come. Maybe it’s not always in the very same day, but it does come.
I ask for wisdom, and God gives it generously.
Where do you go for wisdom?