Last night, I heard again the Native American tale of the two wolves that Billy Graham once popularized in his 1970’s book on the Holy Spirit.
The most original source I could find comes from the Nanticoke Indian Association’s website where they account “The Tale of the Two Wolves.”
One evening, an elderly Cherokee brave told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside people. He said, “My son, the battle is between two ‘wolves’ inside us all. One is evil. It is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego. The other is good. It is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith.” The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf wins?”
The grandfather simply replied, “The one that you feed.”
I want to feed the good wolf.
I hear the tale last night in this concise form: The two wolves of joy and despair fight inside of us each day. Which one wins?
The one I feed.
I feed joy today.
One of my all-time favorite Live with Flair moments came on October 28, 2010 when I posted on Your Most Memorable Act.
In this post, I saw the way God combined words, writing, and motherhood in this Boo Platter that became the stuff of elementary school legend. For years, the children begged for the Boo Platter for their Halloween class party. It’s not glamorous, crafty, or Pinterest-worthy, but it’s all me, right down to the writing of words.
This morning, I sign in at the school office to deliver my final Boo Platter to the 5th grade classroom. Next year, my daughter will find herself in the impenetrable fortress of Middle School where parents hardly enter the building.
But not on this day. This day, I weave through the costumed children as “Ghostbusters” plays on the intercom. I compliment the princesses, the Minions, the Star Wars characters, and the Harry Potter wizards. I hold my Boo Platter high and make my way through cats and knights and Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz.
And I deliver the final Boo Platter.
When my husband travels, we fall apart. We do. Nobody sleeps well, and we just feel out of sorts. Even the cats rebel against his absence.
So this morning, after a sleepless night, an angry daughter, and rebelling cats, I was in no mood for flair.
And I had a headache. Woe is me!
I wanted to cancel class. I wanted to cancel everything. But I knew what to do. I stood in the shower and remembered all those years of choosing to find something beautiful and good in any situation. For thousands and thousands of days, God helped me find the wondrous thing in the most discouraging of days.
The day chugged into motion, and I knew to look for tiny, beautiful things:
My 13 year old borrowed my boots for school, and I realized she’s all grown up. I smiled and snapped a picture of her. Those boots on that girl–a tiny, beautiful moment.
I glanced at the boxed mix of caramel apple cupcakes my younger daughter and I would make after school together. Such a little thing would fill the house with warm smells. She still loves to bake with me. A tiny, beautiful thing.
Then, I left the house for a meeting on campus, and when I stopped in at the Creamery, they were featuring a Coconut Cream Pie Latte. Never in my life had I heard of such a thing. You know my weakness for coconut. You know my love of coffee. This was a wonderful little treat.
And the day chugged on with flair.
The wind arrives in great, rainy gusts this morning. It sends the leaves up in tornados of burnt orange and golden yellow. It’s so blustery, I think. I love the word blustery because it sounds a bit like a gust of wind rising up as you say it. It means, in fact, something blowing in great bursts. I wonder, therefore, if something can bluster.
I look up the verb, and it means to talk in a loud, aggressive, or indignant way with little effect. A rant. A howl. A thunder of words. As in, “She just blusters on but doesn’t change anyone’s mind.”
For all this noise and display–nothing. With little effect. It’s also arrogant, chaotic, and noisy.
I think of what it means to use words to great effect. Perhaps it’s the opposite of bluster’s definition. Perhaps quiet, peaceful, cheerful speech affects others more than when I bluster. I remember this in marriage and parenting.
And I remember the chaos of leaves that scatter and obscure my view as I drive on blustery days. I want my writing and speech to bring order, clarity, and change. I want the hush and harmony, not the boisterous bluster.
The best tree in the neighborhood flares into bright gold every October. Every neighbor knows the one I mean.
It’s this tree. This one tree slows down traffic and walkers as we gaze at its beauty.
But we also know this: This one tree drops all of its leaves in a single day, in what seems like a single moment. Some trees gradually fade into winter with their bony fingers rising up to the air, but this tree saddens us all at once. And we know its coming. By afternoon, we’ll have a different view on the street.
So we pause and marvel. It’s just like spring with the Weeping Cherry’s blooms that last for a single day before the wind and warm afternoon showers take the blossoms down.
I’ve learned to stay with the beautiful thing that’s right here. Tomorrow, we’ll hardly know it was ever this glorious. (But the loss won’t devastate us because we’ll find the beauty in how those bare branches carry the snow and icicles.)
This is the day the Lord has made. I will rejoice and be glad in it!
When I was 19 years old, I wished I had a different voice. I wanted a Southern accent like all the girls around me, but instead, I had this strange, unplaced kind of voice. And I couldn’t sing to save my life. I could only talk way too much with this voice.
One summer, my camp director told me that I had the “perfect broadcasting voice.” (A strange compliment for a girl who never imagined being on television or the radio.) It was accent-free; my voice was a little of this and a little of that. No one could place it. Midwest? Maybe. East Coast? Maybe. It could blend and fit in because of its belonging-nowhere kind of tone and pitch. My explanation? God’s plan for my childhood involved me moving every two years in a military family. My upbringing meant Army bases in Kansas, California, Virginia, and Washington, and my college years had me spending every summer in North Carolina.
That was me: belonging nowhere right down to my voice.
So 20 years later, when I find myself doing radio interview after radio interview to talk about my new book, people say they absolutely love my voice. This voice that made no sense to me makes perfect sense on the air. It’s like God shaped this whole life for my voice to reach out to people. Isn’t that funny?
And as if God wanted me to really understand this calling that He knew would come about all along–after all those moves to different regions that shaped how I sound–three different women found me yesterday to randomly announce that they loved my voice.
What kind of compliment is that? Have you ever just told someone that you love their speaking voice?
It’s such a funny thing! It’s so wonderful to see God use even this unusual voice in His unfolding plan.
(By the way, I’ve seen my voice displayed on an oscilloscope compared to other voices. It’s ridiculous! It’s just like an explosion of fireworks! When other voices register as calm, appropriate, and normally textured, mine explodes.)
I’m watching a man signing a worship song with his hands. Watching him worship with his hands made me think about my own hands. I want to worship with my hands.
I thought of Psalm 90:17, where Moses–writing the oldest of the Psalms–cries out: “Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us, and establish the work of our hands upon us; yes, establish the work of our hands!”
The work of my hands: the laundry stains, the dishes, the braiding of hair, the peeling of potatoes, the smoothing of sheets, the scratching of backs, the writing on the chalkboard and the typing of words. . .
Let these hands worship in all these ways!
My friend sends me an article where the authors ask, “What makes a teacher great?” They present the classical concept of “Philoxenia,” a new Greek word to add to my list. The word technically means “love of strangers” or more broadly, “a good host with a generous spirit.”
The authors suggest that such a deeply classical concept of generous hosting applies to both home and work. They ask, “What if a truly great teacher is one who nourishes her students through Philoxenia? Perhaps we ought to think of ourselves as hosts, offering a place of rest and renewal: providing a feast, a celebration, and a song.”
I think the Italian Mamas would approve.
The classical concept of hosting others–in my home and classroom–inspires me so much as I think about how to generously invite others into rest and renewal wherever I go. No matter where I am or what I’m doing–and whether I’m with friends or strangers–I’m a host.
Let me help you rest and refresh. Let me offer a feast, a celebration, a song.
I love falling leaves, and for several seasons now, I’ve tried to capture them descending with my camera. But something extraordinary happened yesterday: a leaf stalled mid-flight down, right in my yard. It was there, frozen in space, like some fantasy film scene.
Upon closer inspection, I realize it’s trapped in a nearly invisible spider’s web.
Trapped like this, isolated and dangling, I observe it, capture it on film, and enjoy this moment in time when something falling froze for me.
And I remember that, sometimes, things don’t follow the intended or natural path at all. They stay stuck in a moment because there’s something here to wonder over and delight in.
I know it’s a silly thing, but I love making dough with yeast. I love oiling the bowl and setting the round ball (in this case, pizza dough for dinner) inside as I cover it with my blue dishtowel.
I leave the for the day, and I know it’s working. Something is happening. Whether I perceive it or not, whether I realize it or not, a natural process stays in place with that yeast, sugar, flour, water, and my spices for my dough (I add garlic powder, oregano, and thyme into my crust).
I return and find it is working according to plan. The joy of lifting that blue dishtowel! Such a simple, pure pleasure. Haven’t these past five years been about just this: ordinary marvels, ordinary pleasures, ordinary moments that shimmer with God’s love and goodness?
Well, today, it’s yeast again. I don’t need much in this life when I can smile with pleasure at pizza dough rising on the stove.
I realize why I love these secret little processes: Just like yeast that will do its secret work, a spiritual life in Christ–aided by the Holy Spirit, God’s word, and prayer–is working within me, is happening, is growing me. It’s happening. It’s working. Whether I perceive it today or not, that power is doing something within me.
Someday soon I’ll marvel at that growth that came in a secret little way.