Concerning Tomatoes

With so many tomatoes, I’ve developed the daily tomato sandwich ritual. It’s a great way to use your tomatoes, dill, and lettuce. Our favorite sandwich involves a hearty toasted, grainy bread, sliced tomatoes, red onion, fresh dill, and crisp lettuce. You can use a vegan mayo (it’s good!) or regular. Make sure you add lots of salt and pepper to your sandwich. Delicious!

I also love making oven-dried tomatoes with all my Roma tomatoes. Once you’ve collected enough from your garden (or, if you’re like me, your neighbors offer gifts of surplus tomatoes), simply slice, remove the seeds, and add salt. Place on a baking sheet at 250 degrees for several hours. Check each hour to see how dried they are. Then, you can store them in the fridge, freeze them, or eat them right away with a little olive oil and fresh basil. All winter, I’ll use use the stored dried tomatoes in sauces, in sandwiches (see above!), and on our pizzas.


Cleaning the Bird Bath

If you’ve never seen a plump robin rollicking in your bird bath, you’ve missed out on a fun garden moment. They relish the cool water; they splash about; they turn circles.

This bird bath has brought joy to the garden. When the sun rises, the solar-powered fountain starts and pours water down into the bowl. It’s a delightful tinkling sound.

I just returned from cleaning the bird bath and filling it with fresh, cool water. The birds come immediately to bathe and refresh themselves. I need to straighten the one bowl when I’m finished writing this.

Living with flair has always meant finding the delightful things in our environment. And it means finding ways to bless both people and nature’s creatures around us.


Serrano Peppers Everywhere

Any Mexican dish. Sliced on sandwiches. In salads. Pickled. Roasted. Any way you want. I’m surviving on peppers. Maybe I’m wrong about this, but I’ve noticed that the longer the peppers stay on the plant, the less hot they are. This helps!


Back to School for College Students: 50% off My Books Till August 12!

Enjoy this great discount! To support my appearance at the EveryCampus: Back to School event last night, Moody Publishers is offering a 50% discount on all my titles through Aug 12th.  If you tuned in last night and wanted to learn more about being seated with Christ, go to my author page at Moody Publishers to find Seated with Christ: Living Freely in a Culture of Comparison and the new book Sent: Living a Life that Invites Others to Jesus. These make great gifts for incoming freshmen or returning students! Buy a bunch for freshmen Bible studies! Let me know if you launch a book club or Bible study, and I’ll pop in on Zoom (or other format) to visit your group if I’m free that night! Enjoy!


Even the Smallest Turning Back

This morning I read a quote from George MacDonald–the Scottish preacher and writer. He writes, “The spirit of God lies all about the spirit of man like a mighty sea ready to rush in at the smallest chink in the walls that shut Him out from His own.”

I think of the “smallest chink” that admits the tiniest bit of light in our hearts, that ever so slight turning to the Lord, that softening of the heart that allows His love to flow to us. I love thinking of God as poised to rush in the very moment we crack open the door of our lives.

I think afresh about Revelation 3:20 and the eager words of Jesus: “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.”


Tomorrow Night: EveryCampus: Back to School

Something fun! Tomorrow night (Thursday–Aug. 6th) at 9:00 PM-10:00 PM EST, a group of speakers, professional athletes, college professors, and performers are gathering online for a free virtual event to bless and encourage incoming and current college students! Join the live event via Facebook here:

(And just between you and me, yes, I did feel like I didn’t belong in that lineup of athletes, performers, and celebrity speakers. But sometimes God just puts you places, and you laugh and marvel with Him.)


The Midwife, the Sister, and the Wife

I’m back in the book of Exodus, and today I realize the power of small characters and small acts that lead to astonishing things. Sometimes we doubt how our service helps anyone or we wonder why our ministry seems so small. Sometimes we think that, in the big scheme of things, we aren’t really that special or impactful.

But in the first chapters of Exodus, we see the faithfulness of overlooked characters who set the whole story in motion. First, the faithful midwives who allowed the Hebrew baby boys to live. They receive only 5 verses of scripture (Exodus 1:17-21), but their act of obedience to the Lord–instead of living in fear of an evil king–led to the expansion of the Hebrew people.

Next, of course, we see the small act of Moses’ big sister. She dares approach Pharaoh’s daughter to ask about finding a Hebrew woman to care for the baby Moses. How wonderful and what a blessing that she finds Moses’ own mother who then actually receives payment for what she would have gladly done anyway.

Finally, we see a tiny verse in Exodus 4:25 and the quick action of Zipporah, Moses’ wife, who circumcises her son to fulfill the conditions of God’s covenant. This turns the Lord’s anger away from Moses and her son.

We rarely hear sermons on midwives, sisters, and wives who act decisively and in great faith. We don’t read entire books on them or learn to model on lives on their wisdom. But their small actions set in motion big events. I like to remember this when I wonder if my daily acts of faithful obedience to God mean little. In our ordinary daily routines, it’s helpful to remember the small, overlooked characters in the Bible.


When I Get to This Part of the Bible

As you know, I read five Psalms a day which loosely correspond with the days of month. It’s always a powerful reminder when I read Psalm 15-29 because these words have practically disintegrated in my Bible.

The pages are so written over, so cried over, and so read that many have either fallen out or faded away.

These are the Psalms the the Lord used most in my life as I was struggling through graduate school at the University of Michigan. This morning I recall the highlights of verses I kept close to my heart:

Psalm 15: I learned the power of joyful speech that believes the best about others and refuses to gossip. I would pray that my tongue would “utter no slander” (v. 3). I learned integrity and how to “keep my oath even when it hurts” (v. 4).

Psalm 16: I learned that “apart from God I have no good thing” (v. 2) and that the “boundary lines for me have fallen in pleasant places (v. 6). I learned that with God with me, I will not be shaken.

Psalm 17: I learned that if I call on God, He will answer (v. 6). I learned that I can take refuge in God (v. 7).

Psalm 18: I learned that “the Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge” (v. 1). I rejoiced that the Lord “reached down from on high and took hold of me” (v. 16) as my rescuer and redeemer. I learned that He delights in me. I learned He “turns my darkness into light” (v. 28) and that with God’s help, “I can advanced against a troop” and “scale a wall” of whatever challenges me (v. 29). I learned how He “arms me with strength and makes my way secure” (v. 32).

Finally, in Psalm 19, I learned the beauty and power of God’s word and recounted the prayer at the end that “the words of my mouth and meditation of my heart” would please Him. Enjoy Psalm 19:7-14:

The law of the Lord is perfect,
    refreshing the soul.
The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy,
    making wise the simple.
The precepts of the Lord are right,
    giving joy to the heart.
The commands of the Lord are radiant,
    giving light to the eyes.
The fear of the Lord is pure,
    enduring forever.
The decrees of the Lord are firm,
    and all of them are righteous.

They are more precious than gold,
    than much pure gold;
they are sweeter than honey,
    than honey from the honeycomb.
 By them your servant is warned;
    in keeping them there is great reward.
 But who can discern their own errors?
    Forgive my hidden faults.
 Keep your servant also from willful sins;
    may they not rule over me.

Then I will be blameless,
    innocent of great transgression.

 May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.


The Delight

I thought all day about the word “delight” in Psalm 1. We read this:

Blessed is the one
    who does not walk in step with the wicked
or stand in the way that sinners take
    or sit in the company of mockers,
but whose delight is in the law of the Lord,
    and who meditates on his law day and night.
 That person is like a tree planted by streams of water,
    which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither—
    whatever they do prospers.

I’ve been learning to “delight” in God’s word. When we delight in something, we anticipate great pleasure in our experience with it, as one might delight in spending time with a loved one or eating some delicious dessert. Think of all the things that truly delight our hearts. Now imagine feeling that way about God’s word and longing to read our Bibles day and night like this. Sometimes I feel this way about a good novel or a Netflix series. I cannot wait to get back to it. I might feel this way about a friend I want to see or a special creature.

What a great prayer to ask God to help us delight in His word. We must believe that it will reward us, that it will connect us to Jesus–our True Delight–and train our hearts to enjoy it. I’ve been learning to delight in God’s word to discover more of His character, promises, goodness, and ultimate control. I’ve been learning to delight in His presence and care for me. I’ve been learning to delight in how the Holy Spirit can use the “living and active” word in my heart (Hebrews 4:12). When I approach it with that attitude and expectation, my delight grows.


A Joyful Gardening Thing

I’ve learned to plan the dinner menu around what I can harvest in the garden. It’s a special form of joy. We make a pasta with pesto and peas, a taco night where I slice up the Serrano peppers, and a baked potato night to use up all the chopped chives. Next week, with ripe tomatoes, we’ll eat all the Italian dishes, including eggplant parmesan when the eggplant ripens. In the fall, I cannot wait to feast on the Brussels sprouts.

(I wish I could say that I plan treats around the blackberries, raspberries, and ground cherries, but alas! I eat them all before I can even arrive back to the house! It’s a greedy gobbling every morning.)

When we began this journey of staying home mid-March, I learned what it means to flourish in limitation. Within the boundaries of God’s plan here, I looked out into an overgrown backyard. Those were the boundaries. I weeded more out of boredom and a need to accomplish something more than anything else.

And I learned this:

Gardening provides structure to the day and offers something beautiful for the brain: something to hope for each new morning as you check for growth, new blossoms, fruit, and then ripening. I think this trains the mind in hope just like writing Live with Flair every day does. You live in the expectation of good news. You dwell in hopeful things.

And you also learn odd things you never imagined knowing: how cornmeal sprinkled around your Brussels sprouts will attract the birds that eat the worms that eat the sprouts (and how the worms will overfeed on the cornmeal and leave your sprouts alone, too); how Thai Basil tastes and smells exactly like licorice if you let it flower; how ground cherries are the greatest delight and hardly anyone knows about them; how shiny “scare tape” will save your berry patches from all the birds; and how your tomatoes will ripen as soon as the temperature dips below 85 degrees.

All this from a little plot of land. The tighter my constraints, the deeper my knowledge went. A limitation is never truly a limit.

Psalm 16 has always been my favorite psalm, especially the line about how “the boundary lines for me have fallen in pleasant places.”

The garden is pleasant indeed. Sometime, small allotments of anything provide the pathway to abundance, especially if they involve dirt and seed.