Daily Surrender: At Any Cost

Today as I’m vacuuming, I realize the need for daily surrender. Last week’s passion hasn’t carried over, apparently. Walter Henrichsen’s quote about surrender flutters about in my mind, but I don’t want to think about it. Decades ago, I read his words about what it might mean for someone to be “willing to pay any price to have the will of God accomplished in his life.”

Any price? Am I willing?

Not today. Not right now. I value too many things I want to keep intact: my family, my health, my work, my friendships.

But I consecrate myself again, asking God to help me do so. But then, I gather all my rights back into my heart, stubborn and angry. Then I surrender again when I remember the supreme authority and beauty of God.

Back and forth. Back and forth.

I cry out: God make me willing to count any cost!  Help me understand how magnificent You are that anything here I cling to matters so little in comparison to following You! Accomplish Your will in my life, no matter what the cost. 

I return to vacuuming, surrendered.


A Peek Inside Teaching: Precise Definitions

I love teaching the “Definition Essay” in my Advanced Writing in the Humanities course. For this assignment, students grapple with a complex, debatable, and rather urgent word. It’s an urgent word because our community, workplaces, or larger culture needs a fresh understanding of this word. It matters that we get this right.

We debate about words like happiness, power, education, motivation, disability, freedom, and community. We read texts and watch videos as we deeply consider these words. We watch these videos in class, for example:

“How to Understand Power,” by Eric Liu: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c_Eutci7ack

and “What Does It Mean to Be Educated?” by Noam Chomsky: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eYHQcXVp4F4

We dialogue with others; we think through shades of meaning; we figure out what’s at stake or what’s so dangerous about inaccurate definitions. Students become excited to think more carefully about words like failure, creativity, therapy, equality, and offensive.

And we write! We write to change the world!



Does It Help You Grow Into a Better Person?

I love asking the right kinds of questions to help me make decisions about where to spend my time and what projects to consider. Lately, I’ve added two more into my toolbox of decision-making questions.

  1. Does it help you grow into a better person?
  2. Does it help you love God and love others more?

When I’m deciding about activities and new pursuits, I ask these questions.


The Apparent Poverty of the Moment

I’m reading A.W. Tozer, and I love his statement about consecrating every space of our lives to God to make every moment sacred. I think of laundry and dishes and dinner preparation. I think of brushing my teeth. Could these moments become sacred?


He writes, “We can meet this successfully only by the exercise of an aggressive faith. We must offer all our acts to God and believe that He accepts them. Then hold firmly to that position and keep insisting that every act of every hour of the day and night be included in the transaction. Keep reminding God in our times of private prayer that we mean every act for His glory; then supplement those times by a thousand thought-prayers as we go about the job of living. Let us practice the fine art of making every work a priestly ministration. Let us believe that God is in all our simple deeds and learn to find Him there.”

Let us practice the fine art of making every work a priestly ministration. 

Let us find God in simple deeds. 

I smile at the rather bold insistence that I exercise aggressive faith. I think of all the verbs lining up behind this invitation: I offer; I believe; I hold firmly; I keep insisting; I remind God of my intention; I supplement with a thousand thought prayers; I practice the “fine art of making every work a priestly ministration.”

The fine art of it! I’m watching the famous horse trainer Klaus Hempfling talk about finding great things amid the smallest, hidden moments (on his video about listening to horses of all things). Hempfling encourages the idea of finding fulfillment in the “apparent poverty of the moment.” His words remind me that we position ourselves within the “apparent poverty of the moment,” and consecrate it to God.

We realize the sacred, grace-filled reality right here, especially, perhaps, when it feels the most empty and mundane.


Different Kinds of Order

Today at the dentist, as usual, I ask for parenting advice. My dentist has raised two beautiful sons who have now graduated from college and are off doing wonderful things. 

I learn this new tip: organization looks different for different children. What you think is massive disorder may actually represent a particular system within that child’s mind. Don’t push your system on a child that has another kind of system.

As long as grades stay strong and life feels good for them, why push my kind of order on them? I think, too, of my order when it comes to God’s design and timing. I push my system on Him, and I claim that something’s a massive disorder. But really, it’s just a different form of His loving organization.

Both parenting and living as a child of God require the faith to trust a system I cannot always see or understand.  


Tea for Two

Today my husband announces that he would love to go back to tea. We find the little blue teapot for two, pull out our wedding teacups and saucers, and steep the Romanian loose tea from our neighbor. 

And we sip. And we talk. 


In the Garden in Winter

I walk around the garden in the unusually warm afternoon. It feels like a summer day as the sun beats down. It feels like the kind of day I’d pick a bowl full of raspberries. 

But it’s winter, no matter what it feels like. The raspberry canes tell the truth: it’s February, and nothing grows yet.

I’m glad to observe the empty, brittle arms that can offer nothing. It’s because I know what’s coming. This great season of rest and quiet inevitably gives way to growth. 
I expect nothing from the berries, but I turn to see other gifts one can only see in winter on bare branches: 

And I remember to receive what each season offers. 


Morning Pep Talk: 4 Ways to Guarantee a Great Day

One of my daughters simply dislikes Friday at school. It’s not any fun. It’s boring. She doesn’t like the classes that day. There’s nothing good happening. She’s too tired. She just knows it’s going to be a disaster of a day. She’s looking forward to nothing.

We sip tea and consider the Morning Pep Talk in this case. I tread carefully as one must when approaching anyone in a bad mood. If I’m too cheerful, she’ll retreat. So I ask:

So you woke up today and wondered, “What fun will I have today?” I think that’s the wrong question, my sweet girl! First of all, you don’t have to worry about whether fun will come your way today because of this little gem of a Bible verse. In 1 Timothy 6:17, it says that God “richly provides all things for our enjoyment.” You don’t have to craft it or worry about it anymore. God will richly provide it. And He made you and knows you better than you know yourself, so He will design the thing you will enjoy, and you don’t even know yet that you will enjoy it. 

That’s the first thing. Got it? God will provide for your joy today. 

She’s sipping tea and crunching her toast. I see a flicker, the smallest little flicker of hope.

Secondly, don’t ask about your own fun anymore. I think you might ask, “Who can I bless today?” That takes your eyes off our yourself, and it puts you on a love mission all day long. Every day is a great day when you find people to love!

That’s the second thing. Got it? Bless others.

Now she’s thinking about her love mission. I can see her mind cataloguing people who need some encouragement. We actually write a few names down in the prayer journal we’re now keeping right by the toaster.

Thirdly, my little Beautiful Darling, it goes back to gratitude. Thank God for everything coming your way, and you will find some joy in hidden places. And write down those things! And lastly, you have not because you ask not. Write down what you need. Ask God for what you need! Do you not believe He will work on your behalf?

I test her on the Four Things:

  1. Believe God provides enjoyment today.
  2. Bless others instead of focusing on yourself
  3. Cultivate a grateful heart
  4. Ask God for what you need

And we’re off on the walk to school. It’s a new day, and it’s going to be a great one!




When You Want to Share What You Love

When students find me to tell me they want me to watch certain movies, listen to certain songs, read certain books, or view certain youtube videos, I beam all week. For me, this conversation marks something so special. It’s the connection between student and teacher that makes teaching so rewarding and inspiring.

And it doesn’t always happen.

I’m always telling them what to think about, so when they tell me what I should experience, I’m not just the distant lecturer up front; I’m a person they connect with. A learning community forms where we all share the joys of our discoveries. They say, “You have to see this! I totally thought of you when I read this! You will love it!” or “I have to show you this. This made me think of something you said in class.”

These days of teaching I treasure.




Terrible Beauty

On the neighborhood walk today, I delight in the sun on my face, the soft breezes, and the sound of birds chirping. I even hear a woodpecker. I visit with neighbors, enjoy the morning light, and think that maybe spring will soon arrive.

But then–within what seems like mere seconds–I discern a dark shadow over my head. A cloak of strangely cold blackness falls around me. I look behind me to see a storm like a black claw. It chases me up the hill to my house. It thunders, but instead of rain, a deluge of icy snow begins to fall.

I’m running. It’s terrible: dark, haunting, and predatory. I feel hunted down by clouds, thunder, and snow. But it’s a sublime feeling; I’m both terrified and filled with wonder. And it’s beautiful. It’s beautiful because in a minute, I know I won’t be in it.

My home rises in view, and I calmly walk to the door, blinded by snow. I take refuge in the warm, safe kitchen. Now, I watch this terrible beauty from complete safety. It’s swirling about me, yes, but I’m not in it. 

I’ve taken refuge here, and it’s beautiful. I think of taking refuge in God so that no matter where I am or what storm threatens, it’s a terrible beauty from a position of complete safety.