It’s Called “Puddling”

Today I learn that when butterflies gather together in a pile on the ground like this, it’s called “puddling.” It’s a puddle of butterflies! I love it. They do this because they have found a mineral rich area. They sit to absorb the salt and other nutrients they need. I love learning new verbs!

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Another Beautiful Biblical Verb

This morning, I note the verb “prepared” in 1 Corinthians 2:9.

But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him”—

It’s so wonderful to consider God’s work of preparation for us. We cannot even fathom the blessing of it. We cannot even imagine it, even if we tried. We don’t know how to think of these kinds of marvelous, supernatural, eternal, diving things. They elude us.

I think about that verb and God’s work to prepare something for us, and I remember other times I’ve read that verb in the Bible. This about this: Jesus tells us not to have troubled hearts because of a special kind of preparation.

He writes in John 14, “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.”

I love considering how God prepares a place for us. It’s a great way to keep my eternal perspective, but what about right now? What about today? Then I remember another use of the verb prepare. Can you remember it? What is coming to your mind about something God can do and is doing for you?

It’s in Psalm 23–the famous psalm about the Lord as our shepherd!  And this is what David tells us God does:

You prepare a table before me
    in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
    my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
    all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
    forever.

God prepares a table. Of course I think of how we’re seated with Christ (Ephesians 2:6) and the way God prepared for us a Savior. I also think of a table symbolizing feasting, fellowship, and joy.

Don’t you love thinking of God preparing a table for you today? I do. And it’s better than you can even imagine, both now and in eternity.

I also like thinking of God as beckoning us in to His presence: Come close. I’ve prepared something special. 

Who wouldn’t drop everything and run to Jesus?

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Another Joyful Practice

Besides writing this summer, consider the practice of close observation, especially through photography. You can try a picture a day.

I often think about A.R. Ammons (my favorite poet) and his famous quote: “Anything looked at closely becomes wonderful.” 

Back in the early days of Live with Flair, I found so much delight in taking pictures of acorns, snowflakes, flowers, and even grass. I looked closely at pinecones and bird nests and clouds. Everything started to feel wonderful. Close observation became an enormous part of the day and a way to build well-being.

Today, I venture out to check on my ground cherry. What a marvelous plant! It grows these lantern-like pods that house a tiny cherry that will grow about the size of a small grape. The lantern will turn yellow, dry out, and drop to the ground, and that’s when you can eat the delicious berry (technically more like a tomato) inside. They are sweet like pineapple but also taste like tomatoes. This makes them great in salsa, on pizza, or just as a snack. I keep a bowlful in the kitchen always.

(Sometimes I’m impatient, and I shake the branches to urge an early dropping of the cherries.)

What I love about this plant is how I grew it from the seed of a ground cherry last year that I carefully isolated, dried, and stored.

It’s a glorious world when you think about the fact that ground cherries are here for our nourishment and delight. Thank you, God.

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Summer Writing Dreams

As you know, I love encouraging writers. As June 1st approaches, I wondered if you had a writing dream in your heart for the summer. What if you wrote a novel or a devotional book? What if you wrote an article for a magazine? What if you wrote down some of your favorite memories or lessons learned to share with your grandchildren? A film script? A children’s book? A recipe book? A How-To book in the area of your expertise?

Think about a summer writing project. Writing is so great for mental health, and it’s such a joyful and meaningful practice. Living with flair means writing something, anything!

I’m working on a non-fiction book and a film script! I’m also writing course material for technical writers wanting to improve their skills. Normally, I teach students in the humanities, but this coming academic year, I’m focusing on helping the scientists, engineers, and mathematicians become excellent writers in their fields.

What about you?

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The Garden So Far

Normally in Pennsylvania, you’d want to plant your garden at the very end of May; I planted too soon because I started my seedlings too soon. This means I had to protect the plants from frost by covering them at night.

My tomatoes are “leggy,” but my beans, chives, and cilantro all look great. Cilantro does better in the ground than in a pot.

The ground cherry seems to double in size every day. In the background, you’ll see my plumcot tree happily growing tall. I might prune this tree each year and let it stay happy in a pot. You can grow plum trees in a pot! I needed a few more plum trees to pollinate with my first plum tree that will blossom next year.

 

My lavender and basil seem happy in these pots.

It’s a simple backyard garden that brings the perfect amount of joy each day. A storm came through last night and poured down rain, so I won’t need to water the garden for a few days. I still go out and inspect the plants to ward off anything that might harm them. I still go out and see what’s new with each plant. It feels like a spiritual practice, like something God does with us.

I love how living with flair means you don’t need extravagant, expensive, or fancy things to build a joyful life. If you have some dirt, some seeds, and some water and sunshine, you have everything you need.

I’m also learning that older people like myself love to talk about their gardens. If you want to know how to enter in a conversation with someone this summer, ask if they are growing a garden. See the way they light up. In my last three conversations with relative strangers, I asked about their gardens. 45 minutes later, they were each still lit up with happiness as they shared about their plants.

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The Way of Nature

Something ate our baby robins!

Most likely, a big crow feasted on them. We stand there by the nest, so saddened. We wonder if the mother is sad. Does she mourn? What does she do now?

We realize it’s the way of nature; sometimes, this happens.

The birds shall build another nest in another location and hope for the best. They’ve already left the yard to create a new life elsewhere.

We think about how fragile life is and how precarious. To think of little eggs atop sticks and grass! To think of helpless baby birds growing against a backdrop of storms and cold nights with hungry snakes and crows and owls and chipmunks! How does any bird survive at all?

Every bird is suddenly a miracle to see. You made it! You made it here alive! 

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Protect the Fledglings!

It’s almost time for my sparrows (and that one cowbird) to fledge. I love the verb “fledge.” It means to leave the nest. Any day now!

It’s both an exciting and terrifying moment. Think of the vulnerability. Think of the danger. The baby birds will hop around a bit, test out their wings, and hop around some more. They aren’t quite ready to fly (they will eventually), so mostly, they hobble about, flapping their wings, oblivious. In that precarious meantime, I know what I have to do: protect the fledglings! 

I keep my garden cat, Louie, inside. I stay far away from the nest to not cause any distress. I cheer on the baby birds from the kitchen window. Some will fly within a few minutes; some will take the whole day to figure it out. I pray no animal catches them.

Protecting the fledglings means I secure the garden. I keep predators away. I watch carefully. I love thinking of my own moments of fledging when I leave places of safety and familiarity to try my wings for the first time. I think of God securing a perimeter around me, cheering me on. I also think of becoming that protective and encouraging presence for anyone in my life just starting out in some new direction. Protect the fledglings!

 

 

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An Idol Present

I’m learning to detect the presence of idols in my heart. I think about this as I read Acts 17:16. We read this: “Now while Paul was waiting for them at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him as he saw that the city was full of idols.”

I think about Paul and his “provoked spirit” because he saw idols people worshiped instead of Jesus. His spirit wouldn’t tolerate it.

I pray mine won’t tolerate it. May I live with a provoked spirit when an idol begins to grow.

A provoked spirit! The phrase makes me thankful for the Holy Spirit who won’t allow idols to grow in our lives. I pray I won’t tolerate even the smallest little bit of a thing I might run to for life or meaning or joy apart from Jesus. These idols are sneaky and often disguised as good things that we’ve now come to worship, adore, and value as part of the good life, as part of what makes life work for us, and as part of our hopes and dreams.

And if you think you don’t have any idols? Think about John Calvin’s famous quote: “the human heart is a perpetual idol factory” [Institutes I.11.8]. It’s making one now. Right now.

But I’m learning detection skills: When I’m deeply afraid of losing something or not gaining something, it’s quite possible that thing has become an idol. When I believe this or that thing must happen for me (or my family) to feel happy or at peace, it’s quite possible I’m dealing with an idol. When I do things to avoid any feeling of shame or to appear a certain way to others, I’m protecting the idol of self. I’m the idol.

Oh, but there’s more! Fear, jealousy, shame, greed: they help us sniff out the idol so we can cast it aside. If those feelings overcome me, I wonder what thing, person, or experience I’ve set above Jesus. I wonder where I’m running for life apart from the only One who gives it abundantly. When I’m destabilized, it’s because I’m carrying an idol that won’t let me walk without falling.

When I reveal the idol and renounce my allegiance to it, suddenly, peace and joy return to my heart. I’m made to worship Jesus. And for today, I’ve stopped the churning of my idol factory.

 

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The Lady Slipper Orchids

For the past ten years, I’ve learned to look carefully–right during this very week in May–for the secret lady slipper orchids. They bloom deep in the forest, but you have to look. You have to seek them like rare, hidden treasures. You’ll miss them if you walk by too quickly. It’s odd that they blend in even while boasting a pink, delicate slipper of a bloom.

When I find them in May, I cannot help but squeal with delight and clap my hands. I tell my family that there’s never just one. The lady slippers exist in enormous symbiotic communities as they support one another and the big trees towering over them. You’ll run down the path and find more and more. But keep looking. You’ll miss them if you aren’t careful.

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