Full Measure of Blessing

In Romans 15:29, Paul writes, “I know that when I come to you,<span class="crossreference" value="(A)” style=”font-weight: bold; vertical-align: top;”> I will come in the full measure of the blessing of Christ.”

All day, I think about what it would mean to come to people “in the full measure” of blessing. I think about people I know who somehow seem to bring this full measure of blessing with them. These people make me feel closer to God. I feel like anything can happen when I’m with them.

It’s a powerful thought and a powerful prayer. It’s a great way to live; I want to bring the full measure of blessing wherever I go. 


The Thing Itself is the Prize

This morning, I was so happy just to have some time to write. It makes me sad not to write.

I realized that writing is the prize. Doing it is the prize. It reminds me of the way I’m learning to love God–just for Himself, just to be with Him–and not for what could come of it in the way of blessing. He is the blessing. That is the prize.

When thought of this way, I enjoy the thing I’m doing–whether writing or praying. I sink down deep into it because the doing is the prize. Sure, you can think about agents and publishers and book contracts and signings, but that’s a whole other thing. That’s the business of it that may or may not flow from the writing.

I predict that if one enjoys the prize of writing itself, the suffocating clutch of future reward will loosen its dark grip. The reward will come, but it’s also already here.

So write! Write, write, write, and rejoice.


Lovely Melting

My youngest and I put on boots to stomp in puddles. It’s warm outside! Snow melts, and glorious muddy puddles await.

We go in search of puddles. Eventually, we find our way to the other side of the house.

We have our first Spring Thing to Monitor. Soon, we’ll be checking on bird nests and berries. For now, we’ll check on the daffodils for blooms. How lovely!


But It’s Impossible!

Today I learn about Impossible Bottles.

Have you read about the painstaking process of creating impossible scenes inside bottles (the ones with tiny, tiny necks)? These bottles are “impossible” because they showcase objects that could not possibly fit through the opening of the bottle.

Maybe you’ve seen them.  Ships, knots, playing cards, tennis balls, coins, various toys. I learn that the creators take apart these objects and then patiently and carefully reassemble them inside the bottle using special long tools. Normally, in the case of ships or cards, the artist collapses and folds the objects to fit them through the opening. Once inside the wide, round part of the bottle, the artist then pulls a string to coax the object back to its normal position.

Even when knowing the technique of it all, viewers sit dumfounded over how these scenes came to be. It’s impossible. It seems like magic. The object simply cannot fit inside the neck of the bottle, so that’s that.

Once I learned how the artists do it, I realized that the impossible things actually make sense when understood from the artist’s point of view. He knows what I don’t know. He has tools I know nothing about.

This impossible scenario that I cannot imagine actually isn’t impossible. As I think about fitting things into my life or wondering how something seemingly impossible will come about, I remember the Artist with tools I know nothing about.

Of course He’d put that thing into my life within boundaries that cannot possibly hold it. He’s making good art of me.


Save Yourself Some Pain: Don’t Ever Assume You Know What People Are Thinking

Today I remember how much pain and distress we can save ourselves if we don’t imagine what other people are thinking.

You just cannot know. You aren’t in their minds. If you’re confused or concerned about what someone might or might not be thinking, mature adults simply ask that person what he or she is thinking.

We avoid so much confusion if we just ask.

Many of my conversations with my husband begin with my theorizing what a friend or family member must be thinking. He often tells me, “You don’t know that.” Twice today I misinterpreted what someone was thinking. Twice! (And I’m someone who reads people very well–it’s part of teaching for over a decade.)

Living with flair means we don’t assume we know what people are thinking. Just ask them. This saves much pain, confusion, and distress.


15 Kinds of Gratitude

Today my friend reminds me to practice different kinds of gratitude. What do you mean kinds of gratitude?

She tells me that gratitude takes on several forms. You can practice gratitude for people who have blessed you or circumstances you enjoy, for example. This got me thinking. How many kinds of gratitude are there?

I thought of 15, but I think many more exist.
1. Gratitude for people
2. Gratitude for surroundings
3. Gratitude for suffering and what it produces in us
4. Gratitude for hope in our heart
5. Gratitude for the provision of food and shelter
6. Gratitude for forgiveness of sin
7. Gratitude for the ability to bless others
8. Gratitude for worship
9. Gratitude for creative expression in all forms
10. Gratitude for work
11. Gratitude for restorative sleep
12. Gratitude for laughter and the ability to perceive humor and irony
14. Gratitude for the capacity to learn
15. Gratitude for growing things of all kinds

This whole entire day just shimmers with gratitude. I feel better already.


The Soul-Corrosion of Success

Author, scholar, and Bible translator J.B. Phillips, in his autobiography, The Price of Success, explains a particular type of soul-corrosion that comes with success. He writes:

     I was not nearly so aware of the dangers of success. The subtle corrosion of character, the unconscious changing of values and the secret monstrous growth of a vastly inflated idea of myself seeped slowly into me. Vaguely I was aware of this and, like some frightful parody of St. Augustine, I prayed, “Lord make me humble–but not yet.” 
    I can still savor the sweet and gorgeous taste of it all–the warm admiration, the sense of power, of overwhelming ability, of boundless energy and never failing enthusiasm. I still do not regret it; in a sense it was inevitable, for I was still very young for my age. But it is very plain to me now why my one man kingdom of power and glory had to stop. 

These sobering thoughts remind me to step back for a moment. Pastor Phil Davis talks about Christians driven to achieve and produce (like me!). He says, “It is a good quality, but it has a dangerous side. In our flurry of achievement, we need to ask ourselves: Is this sanctified ambition, or is it my own need for accomplishment and achievement?”

My prayer this week is for sanctified ambition. Success seems like a good thing. Success seems like the right thing. Success even seems like a fruitful thing. But apart from God’s sanctifying hand in it, it quickly becomes worship of self, a one man kingdom of power and glory. The subtle corrosion will begin.

The trend in Christian publishing and speaking–both things I love–require fame. Publishers who write to me have noted that I’m not famous enough yet. Once I am–by proof of followers of blogs and tweets and other social media measurements–then I’ve earned the right to sell books. Once this happens for any of us, the monstrous machine begins to churn: we’re known; we’re successful; we’re powerful.

Oh, Lord! Save me from it! Who can escape the soul-corrosion in such a time as this? We’re not strong enough. I’m not strong enough for fame. Who is?


Alright, Alright, Alright: What Matthew McConaughey Needs Each Day

If you haven’t heard Matthew McConaughey’s acceptance speech for best actor last night at the Oscars, click here.  It’s wonderful! He tells the audience the three things he needs each day: something to look up to, something to look forward to, and someone to chase.

Something to look up to.
Something to look forward to.
Someone to chase.

He looks up to God because he knows “He’s graced my life with opportunities that are not of my own hand or any other human hand.”

He looks forward to being with his family who “he wants to make the most proud of [him].”

And he chases the man he’ll be in ten years. He’s knows he’ll never get there, but he keeps chasing him.

I like thinking about life this way.

It was a great speech, and I’m so glad I heard it.


Glamorous Life!

Our family loves watching the Oscars (mostly I do). We love the Red Carpet gowns and all the glamour of it all. When I was younger, I dreamed about what it might be like to be on that Red Carpet.

Not tonight. On this night, we’re making little appetizers and watching the Oscars in our pajamas with a cat or two curled up by our feet. We already bought dumplings and little egg rolls to enjoy. We can’t wait to hear Idina Menzel sing “Let it Go.” For fanciness, we’ll make Shirley Temples and drink them through straws.

We’ll look fabulous, darling. Who are we wearing? Target, by Target. Our post Oscar plans? Snuggles.

I’m so glad I’m here and not there.

My kind of glamour involves a comfortable seat, lots of snuggles with those I love, and performing fake interviews and fake acceptance speeches in order to get everyone laughing.

It’s a glamorous life!


Walking Around, Astonished

I love curiosity. Curiosity goads the depressed out of bed, the bored off the coach, and the apathetic into the world.

May we never cease wondering about things. May we never stop asking ask why and how.

May we never stop thinking about more than what we normally think about.

I love so many things about my husband, but one thing I really love is his curiosity. Life is always an adventure for us; there’s just so much to wonder about and explore.

Before most of my classes begin–before the formal teaching of semicolons and vivid verbs–I like to find out what students are wondering about. I like to share something I’ve been wondering about, too. Maybe I’ve encountered a curious new verb somewhere. Maybe I’ve read a new neuroscience study. Maybe I’ve identified a new bird in the wild.

If a student says, “Nothing really. I’m not curious about anything really,” then I know what to do. I astonish them with something amazing from nature: the mimic octopus or amazing photos of beautiful things in nature.  I might ask about something elusive or ineffable like intuition or deja vu.

So much of teaching, parenting, friendship, and even our relationship with God is about having a curious heart. I want to always keep wondering. I want to walk around, astonished.