“Does anyone have the foggiest idea what sort of power we so blithely invoke? Or, as I suspect, does no one believe a word of it?” Annie Dillard

As I think about Easter, I recall Annie Dillard’s quote about the power Christians have in the name of Jesus. Lately I’ve been thinking about how little I understand it and how little I invoke it.

What would happen if I did? What would happen if I lived my life in daily resurrection power? The kind of power that brings dead things to life, parts seas, brings down manna from heaven, heals the blind, walks on water, multiplies meager resources, changes one thing into another, finds treasure in the mouth of a fish, silences the demons, commands nature, cleanses, restores, redeems, renews, protects, provides. . .

Oh, if I did! Seeing my life’s problems in the light of resurrection power fills me with a sublime joy. I’m filled with wonder before a Holy God. I’m skirting around the hem of glory, daring to touch a bit of the magic that upholds the universe.

We invoke a power we cannot comprehend.

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Isn’t it overwhelming to consider?

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For Best Results

I’ve been cleaning the grout on my kitchen floor all day long. With an aching back and knees, I take a hot bath with some fancy bubble bath that’s supposed to soothe everything with lavender and chamomile.

I turn the bottle around, and it says in bold print, “For best results, breathe deeply.”

I sink down and breathe deeply.

I’m soaking and talking to God all about the day, thanking Him for the New Day that tomorrow represents–that day in history that changed everything. I’m considering the meaning of Jesus’s blood and that final blood sacrifice for sin. We’re truly free–once and for all–from sin’s dominion. We are prisoners set free.

I’m breathing deeply of these spiritual truths. I’m so thankful for time away by myself to talk to God, reflect, and marvel. Outwardly, I’m wasting away with these joints, but inwardly, I’m renewed. I’m ready for Easter in my heart. There’s a way, in years past, that I missed Easter because I didn’t take the time in my own mind for it.

For best results, breathe deeply.

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I love Easter!

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Some Spring Kitchen Whimsy: Let Children Paint the Silverware Holder

We’re Spring Cleaning around here, and as I clean the crumbs from the silverware holder, I notice all the beautiful white paint has chipped off.

I want to buy another one to freshen up the kitchen, but my husband reminds me we can just paint each section with fresh white paint.

At the same time, I’m cleaning out the craft cabinet and gathering all the vibrant acrylic paints in one spot. Why use plain old white when you can use deep sea blues, rain forest greens, mandarin oranges? What about blushing pinks, royal purples, and warm lavenders? And don’t forget the buttery, sunny yellows.

“Let’s paint each section something bright and cheery!” You don’t have to convince my daughters.

They work together and plan their strategy.

I love the rippling texture of the blue and green. It doesn’t have to be perfect. Nobody cares about perfect today.  We care about splashes of color and kitchen whimsy.

Besides, once filled, you can’t see all the drips and smears going up the sides. 

I love it. Every time I reach for a fork or a spoon, I actually smile. I’m going to remember this day when my girls are off to college. I’ll reach for a cereal spoon and burst into tears. 

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What’s the most whimsical thing in your kitchen?

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We’re Thinking Less; He’s Thinking More

Our church is studying Experiencing God by Henry Blackaby and Claude King, and I’m struck again by the simple truth that God wants to give generously, far beyond our meager requests of Him. Often in Scripture, someone asks for one thing, and God gives another.

It’s because God wants to give more. He goes beyond.

The authors point us to the paralytic in Mark 2, for example, who came asking for a particular kind of healing, and God offered another. He forgave his sins–a deeper, more profound healing–first.

I learn that when God doesn’t answer prayer, or when He answers in a way I don’t want or expect, it’s because He’s giving more.

Can I really believe this glorious truth?

I search the scriptures and remember that God longs to “give immeasurably more than we can ask or imagine” (Ephesians 3). I remember that God came “so that we might have life and have it abundantly” (John 10).  I even recall Jesus at one of the great feasts when He offers the promise of Living Water that would quench spiritual thirst forever (John 7).

Well then.

I think God’s denying me some great thing–giving me less–when really, there’s a more hidden inside the delay, the change, or the no.

This truth truly helps me live with flair.

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Have you experienced this?

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Chop It Off and Start Fresh

After several years of sassy side ponytails, braids, buns, curls, headbands, fun chalk color, feathers, and clip-on extensions, my fashionista daughter’s hair needed some serious repair.

We go to the salon today, and the stylist diagnoses the hair using the words breakage, damage, brittle, dry, and worn out.

“Let’s start fresh and let it all heal.”

“Yes, let’s!”

We opt for a very short inverted bob. “With side bangs,” the little one insists. We trade in very long hair for a brand new short look.

(By the way, I ask her if I can post pictures, and she asks me not to. Children have rights, too, fellow bloggers. I did find a picture to show you what this cut looks like here.)

As the stylist talks about starting fresh, I think about all the broken or damaged parts of myself I carry around in my own head. Why do I keep accommodating certain memories or emotions? Why gather them up in some slick ribbon and arrange them at all?

Why not just start fresh and let go with a whole new me?

I think of the new creation we are in God. I think of how the old has gone and the new has come. It’s gone, as gone as cut hair falling all around us and disappearing as it’s swept far away.

We have a new self, so let’s wear it.

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I love new haircuts. Have you ever gone from very long to very short?

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“What a delicious thing writing is. . .”

I ease a dusty Madame Bovary off of the bookshelf. I love this novel and decide to read it again. In the Foreword, I read how Gustave Flaubert felt about the act of writing. He writes in a letter, “What a delicious thing writing is–not to be you any more but to move through the whole universe you’re talking about.”

Flaubert describes inhabiting the characters and “riding in a forest on a fall afternoon beneath the yellow leaves.” He allows himself to become the “horses, the leaves, the wind” and the “red sun beating on [the characters’] half-closed eyelids.”

Sometimes, in the business of writing, we forget the deliciousness of writing.

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My students don’t often enjoy writing. One of my goals is to help them love it. Do you enjoy writing?

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A Checklist for Writing

I love checklists. I even love them for my writing. Here’s a nice one I’m giving my students tomorrow. I want every sentence to shimmer.

*    1. Did I eliminate “to be” (am, is, are, was, were, has, have, seems, appears, exists, etc.) verbs and spice my writing with vivid verbs that create a mood?
*    2. Did I transform verbs to their strongest form (chop off “ed” or “ing”) to keep in present tense and avoid passive voice?
*    3. Did I juggle secret ingredients (semicolons, dashes, commas, parentheses, colons) to generate rhythm, build ethos, and create a written voice?
*    4. Can I find long, convoluted sentences and break them apart? Did I add in sentences of varying length? Have I mixed long, short, and medium length sentences within the paragraph, and did I begin each sentence with a different pattern?
*    5. Did I match the word choice and tone to my audience by selecting words they might use or hear often?
*    6. Did I build rapport by asking a question, sharing my feelings, imagining the reader’s feelings, using analogies, referencing shared experiences, and attaching the writing to the reader’s concerns or interests?
*    7. Can I locate every conjunction (and, but, for, or, nor, so, yet) and determineif punctuation is correct  (commas, semi-colons, or nothing needed)?
*    8. Will I cut out any fat from sentences (meaningless phrases or redundant expressions) by placing the noun right next to the verb to help keep sentences concise?
*    9. Did I utilize the rhetorical appeals? Did I generate emotion (pathos), engage reasoning (logos) and build my trustworthiness (ethos).
*    10. Did I keep sentences on topic? If a new topic emerges, did I begin a new paragraph with a clear transition sentence for my reader?
Enjoy!
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What’s your current writing project?  

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Well, You Have to Ask

Twice today, someone advises me to “ask God for wisdom.”

By quoting James 1:5 (“If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you), these folks implore me to simply ask and receive.

God gives wisdom generously.

God gives wisdom regardless of any fault in us, and He doesn’t rebuke us for asking.

God will answer when we ask.

I’m reminded of Jesus’ words throughout the gospels and how God gives good gifts to His children when we ask.  The door opens when we ask. Our joy is complete when we ask.

Instead of fretting, over-processing, or surmising, just ask.  Instead of entertaining paralyzing emotions, ask for wisdom. Ask for the answer.

I’m excited about God’s generous wisdom that comes to us when we ask. How will it come? Through wise words from wise souls, through scripture, through Holy Spirit revelation?

Yes! It will come–generously, impartially, and absolutely–when we ask.

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Have you asked God for wisdom and received it?

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Lounge About

I enjoy watching Jack lounge. It’s a hard life for a cat with one eye. He needs to lounge indeed.

He finds the coziest spot and settles. He stretches out. He knows he’ll be fed in an hour. He’ll have fresh water and plenty of attention.

Without a care, he can lounge.

Perhaps we all should lounge a bit. We have a Good Shepherd who gives us all the attention and provision we need.
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Are you lounging?

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My Friend’s Awesome Family Night Strategy: Inhabiting Another Person’s Joy

My friend recently suggested a new way to enact “Friday Family Night.” (Thanks, Stephanie!) In her family, a different family member is totally in charge of family night each week. This person plans dinner, an outing, or whatever she wants for the night within whatever budget the family decides.

Even the youngest member plans within budget and leads the rest of the family for the evening.

The best rule for this strategy is this: No one can complain or resist. When it’s your turn, everyone follows what you decide. When it’s another family member’s turn, nobody can complain.

It’s a wonderful system, and mom gets a break from planning. We’ve been doing this for a few months, and we love what’s happening.

When it’s my husband’s turn, if he wants us all watching UNC basketball, nobody complains. If the youngest wants fancy hot dogs at Dairy Queen and crafting, nobody complains. On my night, if I want frozen yogurt and bookstore browsing, nobody complains. If my oldest plans homemade sushi and Wii games, nobody complains.

As a result, we all get to know each other a little better.

We work on inhabiting the particular joys of each family member.

I love having a night off from planning meals or activities. I love that my children get to practice planning and budgeting. I love that they look forward to our Friday Family Night; they wouldn’t miss it for the world.

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What would you chose for a family night if you knew everybody would go along with you and nobody could complain?

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