There’s a great little Bible verse in 1 Samuel 14:6 where Jonathan claims that “the Lord will accomplish His purposes, whether by many or by few.” Some translations say, “Nothing can hinder the Lord; He can win a battle with many warriors or just a few.”
The phrase “just a few” resonates with me this week as I encourage fellow bloggers, book writers, community builders, and speakers. We’re increasingly expected to produce proof of our influence though followers, retweets, shares, event attendance, mentions, and of course, book deals. Bigger is always better in social networking circles.
But is that God’s way to think about influence? What about the few that we care for? What about the few that God calls us to love and influence?
I’m driving home from teaching my small class of students. Just 24 in each class, 48 altogether. In the world of influence and big numbers–of platform and importance–I am woefully inadequate. I’m a joke to publishers and conference teams.
I’m nobody. Even my blog doesn’t rank high enough to mean anything.
But you read it. And I love you and am thankful for you. I’m not trying to measure influence anymore; one really can’t. Jesus didn’t employ performance metrics in his ministry on earth. He turned away from big crowds and invested in the few.
I’m realizing how much I love the few.
God accomplishes His purposes whether by many or by few. Maybe it shouldn’t matter to us either.
Thank you for reading Live with Flair. Thank you for the privilege of teaching you if you are reading as my student. Thank you for the high honor of being asked to speak at any event you might have attended. I see you as you and not as a platform for influence.
* Thank you to Robin Kramer over at Pink Dryer Lint for helping me see this truth.
A dear friend–who blogs at Grapes into Wine directs me to a fascinating article called, “There’s More to Life Than Being Happy.” I immediately ask my students to read this text because we’re grappling with what it means to pursue happiness.
In this article (which will take you just a few moments to read), you’ll find what researchers argue is better than happiness.
A meaningful life, studies show, makes you feel better than happiness does.
Can you believe it? Self-sacrifice, aligning with a higher cause, and giving rather than taking actually is better for your well-being than the pursuit of happiness.
Living with flair means we seek meaning over happiness.
What did you think of the article?
Sometimes I just want to punish students for asking me for recommendations last minute. I want to close my office door when they come by to get class notes because they overslept for class. I think about withholding all my good will and servant mindset because they just don’t deserve it.
But neither do I.
I don’t deserve any of the goodness and blessing of God, and yet He bestows it freely. I think about this theological truth and change my heart towards the people in my path today. Neighbors, children, students, and colleagues: their good (or terrible) behavior shouldn’t change my opinion of them. I freely extend the grace God shows me.
Living with flair means we stop punishing people because they don’t deserve good things. Neither do we.
Did you have to extend grace today?
Today, nothing goes according to plan. With a school closure and all my dreams for solitary writing dashed, I prepare for the exact opposite: boisterous little girls and a whole day of activity. My quiet, uninterrupted day becomes loud, busy, and very messy.
My day is not my own. When God changes the plan, I’m learning to go with it.
Besides, I know that one day I’ll give anything to have a house full of little girls who need a mom to stir brownie mix, attend to crafts, make lunches, and supervise makeovers. On this day, what was supposed to happen did happen.
Solitude can wait; there’s a dance party to join in my basement.
Did this day go according to your plans?
The sun explodes onto the backyard this morning. We shade our eyes from the snow’s reflection of her. The whole scene sparkles and shimmers.
My youngest stands by the window to watch all the winter birds at the feeder. The Northern Cardinals, in particular, feast and then fly about the yard. We count seven birds that scatter when we pull on our boots to try to capture a photo.
The Northern Cardinal still stands devoted to that Winterberry bush. We talk about that old nest–the one the birds either add to or rebuild each year–that’s now filled with snow. That poor nest! A nest filled with snow and not baby birds!
That’s just what this season means. Our hearts are open nests for growing things, but maybe now’s the time to fatten up spiritually and strengthen ourselves emotionally as we get ready for spring.
Meanwhile, I wait in the kitchen and will try again tomorrow to take photos of these beautiful winter birds.
Do you feel like you are fattening up spiritually and emotionally this season?
Today I remember that I absolutely love spending time with people who–even after decades–maintain the curiosity and wonder of a child. I have a friend who can always tell you what new idea she’s pondering or what new book she’s been reading. She’s as eager and humble as a new student in a foreign land.
A therapist once told me that as some people age, they tend to become rigid in their ideas. They seldom change. They become hardened, unteachable, and proud.
But certain older people know how to stay pliable. They grapple with new concepts and maintain a humble heart. They admit they have so much to learn.
I want to keep learning with an eager and humble heart.
What are you learning these days?
I’m talking about oath taking in my advanced writing course. We’re reading the Hippocratic Oath for health professionals and asking ourselves what a professional oath might look like in our diverse fields.
I remember my husband reciting for me the Boy Scout Oath and adding on that you always want to leave a place “better than you found it.” For him, this isn’t just about camp sites; it’s for grocery stores, restaurants, and even gas stations. Although technically not a Scout law, from the time he was a young boy, he pledged to leave places–and now people–better than he found them.This might mean picking up garbage. This might mean encouraging an employee. This might mean helping someone with a task.
What if we all left places and people better than we found them? Every encounter becomes an opportunity to add beauty and order. We leave a blessing wherever we go.
What can you leave better than you found it today?
Most people spend about 30 seconds reading your blog. Maybe less.
I’ve heard from folks that if they click on a blog and see paragraph after paragraph of text, they don’t want to read it. It’s too much effort. It’s too much commitment. Besides, many people read blogs when they have a moment between other activities. They don’t have time to wade through pages of your thoughts.
I know how hard this is. I know because I’ve been teaching writing courses for ten years. Shorter is harder. Shorter means every word matters and packs a punch.
Think of a blog post like a little poem or song you offer up for the day. Think of distilling down your thoughts and compressing them into that golden nugget of insight.
Try to write your blog in under 20 sentences. Try to keep it under 200 words. Your readers will love you.
Why do you think it’s so hard to keep things short?
My friends with teenage children tell me that one way to survive the teenage years is to “keep them talking.” That’s the most important thing. For them, hearing just a few words out of their teenagers seems like precious gold. Parents of teenagers cherish every conversation, every text, and every moment when the teen just wants to talk.
I needed to hear that today because in my life, there’s so much talking from children that I think I might go crazy. Every meal time, dinner ride, bed time routine, wake up routine, homework session, and walk to school is too much talking. My little girls fight over who gets to tell me what next. My husband even puts his hands up over his head at dinner to referee between those of us who just have so much to say.
But it won’t always be this way.
For now, I’m going to listen and keep them talking–even if it makes me crazy, even if the whole house is loud and buzzing with talking. It might not be this way in a few years.
Keep them talking.
Isn’t it hard to listen to children talk all day long? I was told to “be quiet” so many times as a child!
Today–despite all of our resolve and all of our goal setting to walk our mile to school every day–we drive in.
We have a -15 wind chill.
It’s so bitterly cold that the three steps it takes to get to the car take my breath away.
Even the crossing guard tells us it’s a day to drive in.
So we drive in.
It’s OK to go easy on yourself. Some days, you just have to drive in.
It is bitterly cold! How are you going to go easy on yourself today?