A Little Update: The More You Manage

Don’t be surprised if, sometime soon, you stop seeing regular posts on Live with Flair for several days. I’m still blogging, though! Don’t you worry! It’s because I might have to migrate my site to another server and work on maintenance to avoid some problems with my site sending out spam. All day, I’ve been wondering about the stress of managing larger websites, more traffic, and more access points for hackers and various internet bot threats.

You pay a small fortune to provide security for larger websites, and it takes so much to debug sites, find the bad scripts running, and clean everything up. (Don’t you just love that it’s called a bad script? Oh, the scripts we run in our head, both good and bad!)

So if you don’t receive a daily blog, it’s because of this. I’ll send out the ones you miss when my site security returns.

The more you manage, the more access to threats, both internal and external. You stay on your guard, you think of enemy footholds, and you realize that every opportunity brings with it various costs. It’s nothing to fret over; it’s just something to understand and resolve.

I remember that, while a website seems so important and shiny, you can take it all down, and I’d still write. Nothing can stop this writer right here.


Things You Learn When You Observe Other Teachers

Today I observe another college instructor to provide feedback, encouragement, and gain insight for future recommendations. I sit there with a pad of paper for notes, and I hide somewhere in the back of the room to watch what’s happening.

As I observe other teachers–especially the quiet, peaceful personalities–I learn that some teachers aren’t afraid of silence. They use silence in the classroom to deliberately create discomfort; they use silence to invite a deeper kind of grappling with ideas. Some teachers pose one complex question instead of a dozen. It’s slow and silent. Some, for example, show a short video or slide and then say nothing at all as they wait for students to imagine the question the media prompts. Students do all the work; the professor sets up the environment for inquiry and then retreats into silence.

The measure of successful lessons aren’t always a type of verbal engagement but rather a silent one. (After all, students engage with noise all day long. What does silence now mean to them?) Why did this feel so refreshing? Why did this feel so unusual–like a departure from the whole world for the 50 minute class?

Slow and silent. An instruct who disappears to let students into view. What is this new kind of classroom? 

I realize the vast opportunities for professional development in the area of using silence and single governing questions for a class where students think more than speak. I think about slowing down. I think about a new generation of students who live in noise and constant requests for verbal engagement. I think about silence, and I realize how much I need to learn.


Every Situation: An Opportunity

I read this morning how highly confident and successful people have a mindset that every situation (every setback or failure, but also every success or invitation) is an opportunity. 

Everything that happens to us represents an opportunity: for growth, for worship, for dependence, for wonder, for gratitude, for character and maturity, and for innovation.

Whatever stressor arrives today, I might see it as an opportunity. Suddenly, I feel more excitement than fear, more hope than despair. I feel more creative than stuck, more eager than unmotivated.

This thing? It’s an opportunity more than anything else.


Exceedingly So

I love how my great friend and mentor has recently prayed that God would make her “exceedingly fruitful.” I love her stories of how God has answered that prayer almost immediately. I think about that beautiful word exceedingly. I notice how in Psalm 68:3, we’re told that the people don’t just rejoice in God, but they exceedingly rejoice. I love how in Matthew 19:25, the disciples are not just amazed at Jesus but exceedingly amazed. Or, I see in 2 Corinthians 7:13 how exceedingly comforted Paul is.

When Jesus is present, things aren’t normal and ordinary. They become marvelous and exceedingly so. They exceed expectations. They exceed our capacity to even imagine them.

Exceedingly: It’s a beautiful word that means to a great extent, in an extreme way, beyond what is usual.

So today, I find myself praying, not just for God’s mercy and joy to fill our lives, but for it to arrive in exceedingly beautiful ways. I pray for an exceedingly fruitful ministry, an exceedingly wonderful holiday with family, and an exceedingly bountiful parenting and marriage life.

I pray most of all that I would know Jesus in an exceedingly powerful and intimate way.

And His answer will exceed even my asking.



New Question: What’s Your Good News?

I love starting class by asking each person to say his or her name and answer the question: “What’s one piece of good news?” We sometimes clap and cheer after whatever it is people announce. I love this “Name Game” because it changes the atmosphere in the classroom; it makes us somehow more creative and receptive to new ideas and new styles of writing.

I don’t have any research to back up my claim here, but I will report that positive, grateful atmospheres change my writing instruction and their receptivity. Sometimes it’s difficult to reframe something to find something good, but when we do, it’s a wonderful way to start off a class, a conversation, a dinner, or any kind of meeting.

And it’s especially marvelous to approach teens with this question before they begin the onslaught of everything going wrong. Instead, I’ll ask: “What went right today? What’s one piece of good news?”



His Highest Willingness

This morning I read E. Stanley Jones’ thoughts about prayer. He challenges our ideas that we somehow must overcome God’s reluctance or somehow convince God to move on our behalf. I wonder if we imagine God’s disposition as bored, unwilling, distant, annoyed, or even angry with us.

Stanley insists that instead, we must “lay hold [of] His highest willingness. All His barriers are down. All you have to do is take down your barriers. Prayer lets God’s love in.”

His highest willingness. 

What if we believed this phrase with all our hearts? What if we approached each new morning understanding God’s overwhelming willingness–His eager waiting and His desire–to meet us, respond to us, empower us, bless us, and renew us? He is neither reluctant nor bored with His children.

Stanley tells his readers that a vital prayer life is the most worthwhile thing in all of life. And when we consider God’s highest willingness to meet us in prayer, perhaps it shifts us more to this grand pursuit of Him.


What Can Never Be Food: A Lesson From the Cat

This morning, once again, I find that Merlin has brought his toy mouse and placed it in his food bowl. It’s adorable, but it also, at least this morning, feels desperate and sad.


Why does he do this? Does he wish for it to be food? Does he dream and wonder if it will magically turn into the mouse he once caught on a summer day long ago?

His wanting this fake mouse to turn into the delicious food he enjoys doesn’t make anything happen. It will never be food. It will never satisfy. Still, he drags the mouse from wherever it’s been to the food bowl. It does make me laugh.

But I also think about all the things I drag into my life that I imagine will feed my soul. I think about what brings true peace, true safety, true prosperity. I think about all the things I add to my hopes and dreams and desires; if I just add them into the mix of salvation and connection and Jesus, will they come about and feed my deepest longings?

Of all things I might consider on this day, I remember Isaiah 44:20. I think of the one who “feeds on ashes; a deluded heart has led him astray, and he cannot deliver himself.” But then, God tells us that He redeems! He’s the true food for our souls–the bread of life (John 6:35) we’ve needed all along. God says, “You will not be forgotten by me. I have blotted out your transgressions like a cloud and your sins like mist; return to me, for I have redeemed you.”

Meanwhile, I continue to lead Merlin to food that will satisfy: the treats, the canned wet food just on Saturday, the crunchy daily food, and the fresh, cool water. I will keep filling the bowl, and maybe someday soon, he’ll know the toy mouse won’t feed him and cannot ever.




Making the Harder Work Fun

So much of the day involves tasks I don’t necessarily want to do. I’ve learned over the years the great trick of pairing something I love with something I don’t want to do in order to ease the boredom, dislike, or even discomfort of a task.

Pair exercise with walking with a friend.

Pair coffee and snacks I love with grading a stack of papers.

Pair great, new music with hard cleaning chores.

Pair talking on the phone with folding laundry.

It’s a simple reminder today about making harder work more fun.


An Hour Walk

Lately, I’ve been taking hour long walks with time I do not have to spare.

An hour! Who has an hour?

I close the garage door behind me, pushing back inside deadlines and laundry and cooking and grading.

I’ve invited my children along for the walk. I’m amazed what can happen in an hour as we walk around the neighborhood. We notice beautiful things, beautiful people, beautiful animals. We talk about whatever we need to talk about.

I remind my children what a walk can do for the soul.

Of course, back home, our work load hasn’t changed. The circumstances we left remain exactly the same.

But we’ve changed.