Today a friend alerted me to these adorable photos of little acorn people from the Facebook group called, “You Need More Art in Your Life.” I just love these creative little acorn people! Feel free to check out the post on Facebook to see more photos.
In a workplace environment, I’ve learned to ask God what it means for me to be like Jesus who, as described best by Paul in Philippians 2:7, “made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant. . . “
In the simplest way to think about it, a servant serves others rather than herself. She performs helpful tasks to make life run smoothly for others. She often takes on duties that others do not want to do. There’s also a willing, humble attitude about the whole thing. I think of Jesus who deserved highest honor and for others to serve Him, but instead, He’s the One washing the feet of the disciples. He’s the One laying down His life.
I call my oldest daughter and ask how I might serve her today to make her life easier. I ask about any errands I might complete for her or ways I can free up time in her overwhelming schedule. Something feels right about this, like the day was about this all along.
I wake up feeling. . . Blah! But I know what to do:
I begin with the Basics: good coffee, Bible reading, oatmeal, prayer. Then I move into Advanced: I consider who I might bless. I take a brisk walk across campus. I get to work. Soon, I’m OK.
I pray your day shapes up. I pray you launch out even if you feel . . . Blah!
In Psalm 142:7, we read this: “Set me free from my prison, that I may praise your name. Then the righteous will gather about me because of your goodness to me.”
I know many of you reading this blog currently sit with a great story in your heart about how God set you free. You praise God in a unique and vital way rooted in your story of salvation. As I challenge students and fellow writers and speakers to tell the story of their freedom, I thinking about how this public display of praise will gather a crowd–just as David expected and understood would happen.
When you tell the story of God setting you free from whatever held you back from His abundant life, you’ll find yourself in a fresh community of people who want and need to celebrate with you. You’ll find yourself in the embrace of those drawn to the goodness of Jesus displayed in your life.
So praise Him! Tell your story in writing, in speaking, or in artistic expression of all sorts. And then, expect a crowd. The crowd isn’t about your fame or position. It’s not even about attention or recognition. It’s about being part of a great family of souls who resonate with the freedom of the gospel, where we all gather in a great, inclusive, and marvelous chorus of praise.
Is emotional maturity the same thing as spiritual maturity? How does character transformation happen? I love the intersection of spirituality and the neuroscience of transformation, so this morning, I learned from a conversation between Michael Sullivant and Dr. Jim Wilder as they talk about his work with Dallas Willard and this concept of spiritual transformation.
I learned that spiritual disciplines (prayer, journaling, Bible reading, attending church, etc) are a strategy “driven by the conscious mind which is dominantly on the left side of the brain.” But character transformation–which is about identity and ourselves in relationship with others–is “driven by the right side of the brain.” And we aren’t the best at growing relationally and deeper into love. I could spend my whole life learning more about love. Couldn’t you? As someone who loves this intersection between psychology and spirituality, I’m understanding more and more the importance of growing relationally while investing time in the spiritual disciplines. There’s a way to combine them. Perhaps we might see how fostering loving relationships serves as a spiritual discipline–a way to make room for God to change us.
I love this idea: Spiritual disciplines are a way to “make room for God” to work as we think about our own growth. We often don’t make room at all for anything other than our own mind thinking through solutions to problems. What would it look like to “make room” for God to grow something different within us? In particular, how do we grow more and more into the kind of deeply loving relationships that God intended for us? As loneliness and dehumanization thrive, and as college students in particular feel detached from others and even themselves, I wish to press on into the study of transformation and how it involves both our disciplines and our work at relating well to other.
Two clues: Loving others means holding them in our minds–thinking of their interests and not just our own (Philippians 2:4). And it also means the willingness to suffer for others–to lay down our lives for them (1 John 3:16).
This morning, I woke up feeling tired from all the work the night before. And I couldn’t think of what to plan for dinner. And I worried that I was drinking too much caffeine to allow for good sleep.
Do you not think scripture speaks to even this? I turn to Psalm 127 and read the wise words of Solomon:
Unless the Lord builds the house,
the builders labor in vain.
Unless the Lord watches over the city,
the guards stand watch in vain.
In vain you rise early
and stay up late,
toiling for food to eat—
for he grants sleep to those he loves.
Without the Lord’s help, provision, and direction, we work, eat, and sleep in vain. “In vain” means without success or desired result. No more! I invite the Lord back into the busyness of the morning. I take notes. I pray. I write. I ask God to build, watch, provide, and grant sleep.
I talk to some colleagues about our diminishing energy as we age. In the mid-forties, you suddenly don’t have the same energy you once had. Or we’re all just getting sick (as we do on a college campus!) Or, we just need more sleep. Whatever the reason, the fact stands: we’re tired.
I’ve noticed how certain people know how to prioritize the day based on available energy. They do less. They only do what matters. And they don’t punish themselves for napping, putting on pajamas at 7:00 PM, for stopping work altogether to take a day off.
There’s a blessing in having less energy because it forces a particular focus. It allow what matters to rise to the top of our to-do list. We make wiser choices. We ironically find ourselves more productive we understand our limits and protect them.
In our neighborhood, a ginkgo tree down the street turns golden every October. We were so inspired that, last year, we planted our own. I took side by side pictures this morning and thought to myself, “Everyone needs a role model!”
One day far into the future, our own little ginkgo tree will become like this one.
Sometimes friends and students lovingly tease me about my now 12 year commitment to my after school Snack Platter. I have loved putting out after school snacks from the time Sarah started kindergarten until this very afternoon when my now teen daughters arrive home.
The after school Snack Platter now happens at 4:00 PM, and it’s our version of a tea time. After our snack, we all go our separate ways until dinner.
I love the after school Snack Platter for so many reasons: It’s a break in the day to rest in the kitchen, enjoy good conversation, and refresh before the next activity. It’s also an event that communicates value and how much I treasure my daughters; it’s like a little gift each afternoon. Sometimes I make the Snack Platter particularly festive or special with a dessert like little cheesecakes or cookies, but mostly, it’s just a healthy snack. I finally love how the after school Snack Platter works as a check in point for teens, too, even if I only get them for a few minutes.
My favorite snacks: popcorn, apples and some kind of dip (pumpkin dip above), hummus and pita, olives and cheese, veggies and ranch dip, hot cider and gingersnaps, avocado toast, berries and whipped cream, or crackers and peanut butter.
This afternoon, my husband came up from his office to ask if he could join in with the after school snack. How fun!