What a Child Needs to Hear from You

I’m visiting with my dear friend, the one who told me that the sign of a happy childhood is dirty children.  This is my same friend who raises five children without a television set or computer games.  I’m always eager for what new parenting advice she’ll impart.

Today, I watch and listen.  Over and over again, I hear her tell her children, “I just love to be with you.”  Her teenage daughter comes to sit next to her, and she says, “I’m so glad!  I just love to be with you.”  She still walks with the teenager to school, she says, “because I just love to be with her so much.”  She says it so that daughter can overhear her. 

The teenager’s beaming face lights the whole kitchen.

Later, we leave to go on a walk in the neighborhood, and the oldest children want to come along.  Their mother says, “Of course!  I just love to be with you!” 

That’s the phrase I hear the most coming out of this mother’s mouth.

I make lunch with my daughters later, and I tell them, “I just love to be with you.”  I walk outside and push them on the swing and tell them, “I just love to be with you.”

Something’s changed between us already.  

I wonder if children would make better choices, grow in confidence, overflow with happiness, and connect better with their parents if we practiced saying, “I just love to be with you.”  I want my children to overhear me tell the neighbors this.  I want my children to know I’d choose them.  I want my children to know that those words reflect the boundless love of God who adores and delights in them.

I’m going to tell more children that I love to be with them.  

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Journal:  What child in your life needs to hear the words, “I just love to be with you”?  

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Released from the Snare

All day, I’ve been thinking about a verse from Psalm 25:15.

“My eyes are ever on the Lord,
   for only he will release my feet from the snare.”

A snare means a trap.  It’s a deceptively enticing situation or mindset that captures us.  These past few days, I’ve repeated this verse over and over again.  I’ve applied it to unwise relationships I’ve formed (professional or personal), foolish commitments I’ve made, and ungodly mindsets I adopt.   When I feel ensnared by something, I’m learning to ask God to set me free.

And He does.

Living with flair means I keep my eyes “ever on the Lord.”  He knows exactly how to “release my feet from the snare”–whatever it may be today.
  

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Journal:  Do I feel ensnared by something from which I can ask God to release me?

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Loving by Faith

This morning, I remember the simplest of truths:  I love others by faith.  There’s a supernatural, unconditional, pure and deep love that God wants to produce in me for others (and myself).  But I cannot conjure it from my own flesh.  I cannot think or feel my way into loving folks that, for whatever reason, are difficult for me to love. 

And God commands I love others–especially enemies, especially the unlovable–with that pure and deep love.

Impossible!  Yes.  In my own strength, it is impossible. 

I pull a little booklet off of the dusty bookshelves.  It’s How You Can Love by Faith, by Bill Bright.  I flip through the pages, hungry for the truth there.  He writes:

“God has an unending supply of His divine, supernatural, agape love for you.  It is for you to claim, to grow on, to spread to others, and thus to reach hundreds and thousands with the love that counts, the love that will bring them to Jesus Christ. In order to experience and share this love, you must claim it by faith; that is, trust His promise that He will give you all that you need to do His will on the basis of His command and promise.”

Suddenly, I’m parenting my girls with the pure, deep love of God flowing through me.  I’m overwhelmed with divine love for my husband, my neighbors, my students, myself.

When God gives a command in scripture, He gives the power to fulfill it.  Living with flair means I enter, by faith, into that divine flow of agape love.  I love the unlovable.  I love the ones hardest to love.  I love in a way that counts. 

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Journal:  Bill Bright suggests I make a list of folks in my life that are hard to love.  Then, I choose to love them by faith. I’m to ask the Holy Spirit “to fill [me] with Christ’s love for each of them”, then pray for them and think of ways to tangibly demonstrate love to them.   Will I love by faith this week?   

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Secret Agent Life

This morning, I read about how a businessman responds to a doctor’s order to go to a train station and “look for someone who needs help.” The doctor believed that if the businessman practiced doing something for another person every day, that man would begin to feel better about his life.

He did.  It worked.  

I wonder about the direction to “look for someone who needs help.” What if that mission shaped my day?    I wonder what it means to live a life that anticipates, on a daily basis, how I might serve another person.

Someone we’ll encounter today will need something (a hug, a word, a ride, a lunch), and what if God wanted to use us to meet that particular need?  What if each day we were on a special assignment to care for somebody in our path?   

But we will not know who, where, or when this person might appear.  We just know that it will, most certainly, happen.  So we keep our eyes open, waiting for our special assignment.

I tell God I’m available.  But I’m nervous–a little–about what shape the day will take.

The day transforms into an action-adventure film.  I’m the one scanning the train station platform, looking for the helpless.  But it’s not the train station; it’s my own street, my own neighborhood, my own office.   

I feel like a secret agent on a mission from God. I feel like this covert operation changes the focus, the purpose, and the meaning of what it means to be alive today. 

Living with flair means I’m available for secret missions to care for everyone and anyone, stranger or friend, who enters my life today. 

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Journal:  Who was my special assignment today? 

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A Little Love Story

This morning, the little one plows into our bed and announces that she is about to lose her first loose tooth.

The world stops for a minute.  A first lost tooth!

In our family, we let Dad do the tooth pulling.  There’s even a title assigned to this role.  He pinches his thumb and forefinger together and calls his hand the “Extractor.”  The girls giggle and squeal as the Extractor approaches the loose tooth. 

Meanwhile, my daughter’s mouth contains exceptionally tiny teeth, and the Extractor can hardly get a hold of that one small front tooth.

I’m watching this dad–so large by comparison–bending low and peering inside that small mouth.  He examines with great care that little tooth and suggests we try to pull it this evening since it’s not quite ready.   It seems so strange, so wonderful, as I observe this interaction.

Is there anything too small for this dad to care about–to know so well?  Is there anything about his daughter that he wouldn’t stop everything for, bend low, and examine and tend to?

God whispers in my heart:  “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!”  I imagine myself as that daughter. Do I realize God knows everything about me?  Can it be true, as the Psalmist says, that our tears are on a scroll–part of God’s record?  Can it be true that, as Jesus himself proclaims  “even the very hairs of [our] head are all numbered.  So don’t be afraid. . . “?  

A father knows–and cares deeply about–even a loose tooth.  What can happen to me today that falls outside the knowledge and loving attention of the Father?  

Living with flair means I realize that even tiny details about me are known, cared about, and tended to by God.  




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Journal:  What small event (that I’m tempted to think nobody cares about) might I entrust to God today?

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Our Uncommon Uses

While cleaning my home today, I notice two of my favorite objects: a flowerpot and a serving dish.   We received them as wedding gifts over ten years ago, and they were both too beautiful not to use.  
But I don’t grow flowers inside in pots, and I rarely transfer our dinner onto serving platters (and this one seemed too small for my family).  I couldn’t keep these things hidden away!  Instead, I found uncommon uses for both the pot and the platter.

The pot became my cooking utensil holder.

The platter became our key tray. 

I realized that the pot can hold more than soil; the platter can carry more than a meal.

As I think about all my specific plans and dreams–the things I know I was made for–I have to pause and ask about the uncommon uses for my skills.   

Over the years, I have been so busy telling the Potter what I am really made for, and He’s already using me for broader, more interesting and more useful things. Things I hadn’t imagined.  Immeasurably more! 

Sometimes we emerge into the world on usual paths, using our gifts and talents in uncommon but wonderful ways.  Living with flair means I allow it.  We are too beautiful–too loved–to be kept hidden away. 

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Journal:  Our wedding theme verse was from Ephesians 3:20:  “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us. . . “  As I look at my wedding objects today, I think about the unsual paths our lives take.  How have I seen God do “immeasurably more” with the plans and dreams of my heart?

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Stencil Me In

Snowman Pancake

This morning, we invite some neighbors to join us for our Saturday Morning Pancakes.  My artistic neighbor sees the pancakes and immediately makes a homemade stencil so we can decorate them. We relax, drink coffee, and decorate snowman pancakes in the chaos of powdered sugar and syrup. 

So there we are, eating our art, and discussing such topics as multiple universes, our thoughts about God, and whether or not technology acts like an autonomous organism.  We have smart neighbors.  I love the kinds of conversations these neighbors inspire.  They can get a whole group talking and thinking. 

Meanwhile, I have a film student (who happens to be in my writing class) stopping by to take footage of our neighborhood fitness group for a promotional video about running.  Normally, the neighbors meet on Monday nights and walk to school every morning, but we have to reproduce a Saturday Morning Fitness Group for his video.  I call neighbors at the absolute last minute and tell them we are running around in my front yard.  Could they come by with their children–real quick–and help out my film student?  I know this is a little, you know, chaotic. 

They come.  Without question, they come.

And they welcome the chaos.  You have to–when you want to build authentic community–welcome some chaos, some last minute plans.  I’ve learned I need to make the space in my life for the possibility of last minute plans.  I need to schedule large blocks of nothing. 

As some of us finish our snowman pancakes and coffee, others gather in the front yard, and still others hang out in the living room. I haven’t even vacuumed yet.  Saturday cleaning day will now be Sunday cleaning day.  I overhear neighborhood plans to have a Giant Gingerbread House Making Party.  We don’t know when this will happen, and yes, it will be chaotic.  

But just send out the call.  We’ll come.  Without question, we’ll come.  

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A Double Serving of Peace

I’m racing about, scrubbing floors and making beds, and my cell phone rings and rings.  Who has time to chat at a time like this?

Besides, it’s storming outside and my beautifully raked lawn is now a tangle of leaves and branches.  Everything was supposed to be perfect as my family arrives for Thanksgiving. 

Nothing is going to be perfect.  I know this. 

I check the voice mail and a neighbor chirps:  “Go outside!  There’s a rainbow sitting on top of your house!”

The Rainbow

The phone rings again.  It’s my husband.  “Go outside!  There’s a rainbow!  Show the girls!”

We stop everything and observe this glorious display.  It doesn’t matter how anything else looks right now because there’s a rainbow over me.  And it’s now a double rainbow, barely visible, but there.  

I marvel at that sign of God’s goodness and love, that sign of peace.  It’s over me, barely visible, but there.   

There’s a rainbow over you right now.

A double serving of Thanksgiving peace.  

 


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