The Knocking

I’m finishing the book Prevailing Prayer by D.L. Moody. In his chapter on petitioning the Lord, he discusses how Jesus tells us, “Ask and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find, knock, and it shall be opened unto you” (Luke 11:9). Moody writes, “Some people think God does not like to be troubled with our constant coming and asking. The only way to trouble God is not to come at all. He encourages us to come to Him repeatedly, and press our claims.”

The only way to trouble God is not to come at all. 

Moody explains further that many people approach God and do not expect an answer. They are the ones who knock and run away or knock and believe in their heart that nobody is home. Or they knock so softly to not disturb. Finally, they knock without being sure they actually want entrance into the place.

But think about the persistent knock of someone on your door. They won’t go away. It’s loud and urgent. They know what they need and won’t run away. Moody reflects on someone who says, “Jesus cannot be expected to answer runaway knocks. He has never promised it. I mean to keep knocking, knocking, until He cannot help opening the door.”

So we keep knocking on the door. We ask, seek, and knock to find the door opening. I think about what doors seem closed to us. On which door will we keep knocking with the full expectation God will open that door and welcome us?

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Back When I Was a Homesickness Expert

Back in the 1990’s at Camp Greystone, I slowly became an expert in helping homesick campers adjust to camp. Two techniques worked the best:

First, the number one intervention that helped these campers was this: the next day’s schedule. When I could excite the campers about what was coming next and remind them of the predicable and fun schedule, they became almost immediately more comfortable. I’d say, “I know you miss home, but tell me about what you’re doing tomorrow. Did you sign up for swimming? For ceramics? What time? Oh! How fun!” I kept going back to the schedule of what was coming next at specific times. I’d tell the homesick girl to keep thinking about how much fun this or that thing was going to be at this or that time. The technique combines hope with predictability. You will have fun at this time. Then, at this time, this will happen.

The structure helped.

Second, I had to teach the campers that it’s OK and even normal to miss home. You can miss home and have fun at the same time. What a revelation to these campers that they could hold these complex emotions together in the brain! Laura Hollowell–our great leader at camp–taught homesick campers this profound truth: they didn’t have to choose between their love of home and their love of camp. Both are true, and the stress of feeling like you have to choose which place makes you happiest makes the homesickness worse. It added to the confusion. I learned to tell homesick campers they can miss home and also have fun.

Remember the hopeful schedule.

Remember you can miss home and have fun at the same time.

I remember this when I travel or vacation for any duration of time. Even adults can become debilitatingly homesick when they travel. They often don’t talk about it because it’s embarrassing and confusing. Isn’t homesickness just for children? No! Anyone can become homesick when traveling (even on the best, most glamorous vacations). You’re longing for familiarity, and you miss your home surroundings, especially pets. You miss familiar foods, sounds, and smells. These homesick feelings can nearly ruin a vacation you’ve planned.

Do what homesick campers learn to do: Put a daily itinerary together that includes the kinds of fun things you know you’ll enjoy. List out actual times and the events you’re looking forward to. The structure often helps immediately. Then? Remember you can miss home and have fun at the same time.

What works for homesick campers at Camp Greystone works for adults, too. Happy travels!

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When and Why People Seek Your Input

I often ask my students why people seek their input. The answer often reveals a direction for their careers they haven’t yet considered. The answer uncovers their strongest areas of talent and expertise.

I ask the class: Why do people seek your input? For what service? 

The answers pop in: fitness and nutrition advice, relationship help, therapeutic conversations, financial planning, decision making, building a social media platform, writing, study skills, empathetic listening, party planning, website design, and baking. The list goes on. Sometimes a student will tell the class that everyone wants advice on interior design because of her talent in this area. Maybe she should change her major. Or the student that manages a large investment portfolio might consider taking some finance classes to see where it leads. What about the student who cannot stop offering styling advice to his friends? Could that become a business?

It’s something to think about. Why do people seek you out? For what service?

People seek me out for spiritual encouragement, evangelism training, and writing advice. People seek my husband out for strategic thinking, leadership development, and discipleship. My daughters? I watch how their friends seek them out for advice in certain areas. This might indicate a future calling.

Living with flair means paying attention to how people want you to serve them. It’s a clue, a signpost, and a possible career direction.

 

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Thinking About the Rainbow

The best rainbow photo I ever took involved a hike in the Rocky Mountains. I love this decades old photo!

Rocky Mountain Rainbow

I thought about this photo because I’m beginning my chronological Bible reading plan again using Every Word: A Reader’s 90-Day Guide to the Bible. I arrive to the moment in Genesis when God places a rainbow in the sky as a sign of His love and promise to Noah never to destroy the earth by a flood (Genesis 9:12-17). The rainbow is the sign of the everlasting covenant.

I spend a few minutes thinking carefully about rainbows and what they represent. I love thinking metaphorically and symbolically, so of course I found myself delighted by the three factors present create that rainbow: refraction, reflection, and diffusion. Yes, I looked up each word! When we look at a rainbow, we can see light bending or changing direction as it passes through water droplets (refraction). The light changes when it encounters the water. It then reflects. It then diffuses.

I want to be that light that refracts when it meets the Living Water–Jesus. I want to reflect Him and then diffuse that love everywhere. Refract, reflect, diffuse.

And this happens best in trials.

Rainbows appear best after the worst and darkest storms. Without that dark backdrop of storms, you’d hardly see the beautiful rainbow in my photo.

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My Favorite Summer Pasta Salad

Tomorrow, our little street hosts our annual block party. We get permission from the city to block off the street with traffic cones, and we enjoy a great day together. The party lasts all day and into the night with great conversation, delicious foods, and fun games for the children. One generous family provides all the BBQ meats (and they have a smoker!), but neighbors bring all the sides and drinks. We all gather in folding chairs and just hang out in the centrally located yards or right in the street.

If you live on a street you can block off, why not throw your own block party–if not this summer, next year? It’s a great way to build connections with your neighbors. We all look forward to this each summer, and because of COVID, we skipped last year.

It’s time for a real party!

To prepare for tomorrow’s party, I decided to make my favorite pasta salad recipe that uses the basil I’m growing in my garden. It’s the Williams-Sonoma Pasta Salad with Tomato and Bell Pepper dish.

It’s a lemony salad filled with capers, fresh basil, and veggies to make this a healthy and light side dish. The recipe is over 20 years old, and I couldn’t find it online (so I took a picture for you below from the cookbook). All credit goes to Williams-Sonoma! Here’s the link to their cookbook. I modify this recipe by doubling the fresh lemon juice and capers because I love lemon and capers! I also double the whole recipe for a crowd. Here’s what I do:

Mix 5 tablespoons good olive oil with 1 tsp fresh lemon juice and a dash of salt (more if you like salt). Add in 8 shredded basil leaves. Let this rest a while in a separate bowl while you cook 1/2 box of fusilli pasta.  While it’s cooking, chop 3 tomatoes, 1 yellow bell pepper, and 3 celery stalks. Add this to the bowl with 2 tablespoons capers (or the whole drained jar like me!). Mix everything and pour your lemon-basil dressing over it. You will love this! Here’s the look of the doubled recipe with the whole box of fusilli. Enjoy!

 

 

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Exercise Hope

We’re wired for hope. I love that we’re made to hope. My hope-hungry heart finds itself wandering to the garden every morning. I love growing things from seed because it’s such a hope-drenched process. I hope they will germinate. I hope they will grow. I hope they will bear fruit. I hope they will ripen. 

Tending plants helps cultivate a hopeful heart. Here are some garden updates for you!

Here are the tomatoes grown from last year’s seeds and a few super-sweet cherry tomatoes that I feared would never grow.

The ground cherry is such a lovely and extraordinary plant! Soon, the Chinese lantern-like husks will fall to the ground and we can feast on the fruit inside.

So I wander the garden as an exercise in hope.

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Protection on the Job

If you’re a writer or someone who sits more than 5 hours a day, let me remind you right now as you’re reading this to position your pelvis and sit tall. Align your head over your spine. Lengthen your spine.

Did you do it? Now do that every day. Imagine you’re sitting with a tail out behind you (not curled in under you). Imagine a string pulling your head up straight to the ceiling.

I visited a highly recommended physical therapist this morning to help with back pain. What a miracle proper stretching, posture, and pelvis positioning can be!

I’m learning to raise my awareness every moment to think about posture. I’m learning to stretch.

Once again, the default state of our lives will tend towards chaos and destruction. It will. We must apply the pressure of awareness to so many situations–spiritual, physical, nutritional, relational, emotional, financial, mental–to keep ahead of deterioration.

 

 

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Nothing Mattered More Than This

I remember a seminary course I took on the Old Testament several summers ago. The professor said the same thing over and over again about what mattered to God’s people. He cried out, “Nothing mattered more than securing the blessing of God.” God’s blessing was everything. God was the source of all life, all goodness, all peace, and and joy. Nothing mattered more in life than knowing you were living under the blessing of God. 

I think about him pacing around the classroom and reminding us how vital God’s blessing was to the Israelites. All of life was about securing this blessing. When I read Psalm 115:14 this morning, I note a special blessing that reminds me of that class: “May the Lord give you increase, you and your children! May you be blessed by the Lord, who made heaven and earth.” 

May you be blessed by the Lord!

It occurs to me how all my attempts to control my life, to make good things happen, or to do this or matter not in this spiritual economy; it’s the Lord’s blessing that matters. Nothing matters more than securing the blessing of God.

But how do we secure it?

Jesus secures this blessing for us. We don’t offer more sacrifices or pray harder or arrange anything. We appeal to Jesus alone. That’s the marvel of the New Testament. It answers the question of how we enter into the blessing so desperately sought. And now we live under this glorious, incomprehensible blessing that matters more than anything else. And Jesus is ultimately this blessing in Himself.

With God’s blessing, everything aligns. Everything makes sense. Everything fills up with peace, joy, purpose.

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Decontaminate.

This morning I recalled 2 Corinthians 7:1 where Paul writes this: “Therefore, since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.”

When I don’t feel well or if I feel overwhelmed or even off-center, I always remember this idea of decontaminating. Perhaps I’ve let in a contaminating presence. Perhaps I’m experiencing a call to decontaminate. What a sensitively calibrated thing our spirits are!

We often forget categories of what we can decontaminate. It’s not just physical space; we can purify and decontaminate our minds, our bodies, our habits, and even our conversations. We can replace the unhealthy with the healthy. We can think about nourishing food, thoughts, behaviors, and words. What if we asked God for the discernment to identify any poisoning or polluting things in our lives? I want to learn more and more to “sow to please the Spirit” and not the flesh. What a powerful concept here in Galatians 6:8 that “Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.”

I don’t want destruction. I want life. 

I ask God what I can purify in my body and spirit today. I ask how I can sow to please the Spirit and purify my life for Him.

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Always Looking for the Good Things

In Psalm 103, we read all the benefits of following God. My favorite lines is this from verse 5: God “satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagles.” 

I love thinking about the good things God has planned this very day. I pray we always look for those things and learn to perceive them.

Sometimes, we become so contaminated in our attitude through complaining, jealousy, bitterness, or entitlement that we fail to see the good things. Complaining clouds our vision and we cannot see the gifts. We cannot see the beauty. We cannot see the blessings.

Here’s a hint: Look for the things today that make you feel more youthful. The promise does, after all, refer to good things that make our “youth renewed like the eagles.” What will happen in our lives today to bring in that youthful cheer?

Last night, we entertained our sweet neighbors’ young daughters for an evening of s’mores, card games, and dancing. The two little girls reminded me that when something happens that makes you laugh, makes you want to dance and sing, or makes you want to enjoy sweet treats, a good, youthful thing is happening. The little girls were also full of curiosity and wonder. Children love animals and nature. They naturally love so many things!

Maybe today, you’ll enjoy a good thing that makes you feel young, free, and joyful. Take note of it and thank the Lord for His good gifts that satisfy the desires of your heart.

(I already recorded a good thing that made me feel young and free. My neighbors have a new Shiba Inu puppy that looks exactly like a baby red fox. Exactly! I love foxes, so last night I pet the Shiba Inu and felt like a little child with a fox. It made me laugh and made my heart so happy. If you want to enjoy a bit of what it was like, look up Shiba Inu puppies online and enjoy the pictures.)

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