Be Careful What You Pray For

This afternoon, a group of children practice their instruments together in my home.  One girl drags in an enormous baritone horn, another assembles her flute, and still another positions herself at the piano.

These brand-new musicians (two being my daughters) all want to practice their first song:  Hot Cross Buns.

It’s loud, squeaky, and all out of sync.

I’m listening to it all, and I remember how I prayed that God would fill my home with music.  I know nothing about music.  I don’t even know how to read music.  But I knew I wanted to raise musical children; it seemed right and good and wonderful.

That year, I said in despair to a friend, “I don’t have a piano, and we’ll never be able to afford one.”  My friend said, “Well, you need to ask God to send you a piano and to fill this home with music!”

So I did.  And He did.  The next day, a friend texted to tell me the church down the road was giving a perfectly good piano away because they were getting a new one.  Did I want it? 

Within an hour, I had a dolly and a truck from U-Haul, several strong students, and a piano entering into my living room.

And today I have a concert happening before my eyes.  

I think about that prayer as my house explodes with music.

I’ve never heard a more beautiful sound.

Journal:  Did you ever ask for an extravagant thing that you received?


Is God Like This?

This morning before church, I have a moment to relax with a cup of coffee at the kitchen table.

I put a dollop of whipped cream in my coffee mug. (I like to pretend I’m at Starbucks.) 

All of a sudden, the little one flits over, skirt twirling and finger pointing at my mug.

Then she does it.  She actually does it.  She sticks her finger straight into the cream, pulls it out, and licks away.

The audacity!  How dare she?  I’m feeling. . . something.  As she completes another twirl around me, I see her pointed finger approaching my mug.  But instead of punishing her, I tip the coffee mug so she can get the most cream.  I’m encouraging this atrocious behavior.

I’m so overcome with love for that little child. 

The image of the little one dancing about me with inappropriate manners and audacious finger-pointing requests delights me.  I should have been angry.  I should have scolded her, but I cannot.  That little twirl!  That little finger full of cream!

Later in church, the image stirs up within me.  It wasn’t an audible voice; it wasn’t a boom of thunder from the clouds.  But as I recalled that child and how I couldn’t help but tip the mug so she might enjoy more of what I could offer, I felt that Spirit-whisper saying:  I feel this way about you. I’m overcome with love. 

Dance about.  Make audacious and inappropriate requests.  Point the finger and dizzy yourself with twirls.  God tips the mug, delighted. 


Breathing Deeply in the Froglet Phase

When you aren’t a tadpole anymore, but you still aren’t a frog, you’re a froglet.  I’m reading a book about frogs to my children (how could we not after chasing a toad on Saturday?), and I read that, on the way to becoming a frog, the tadpole endures a curious in-between phase. 

The froglet phase. 

She has lungs but must stay in water.  She has feet but can’t yet manage the land.  Now a foreigner in the place once her home, she cannot even breathe.  Her gills betray her, and her tail that helps her swim disappears.

She doesn’t quite fit in her environment because she’s made for a different one.  
I read the text with my daughters and look at pictures of frantic froglets, fanning a worthless stub of tail, bursting through the water’s surface to gulp that breath of air.

Something about coming to the surface like that resonates deeply with me.  I saw myself in that froglet.  I saw myself gulping for spiritual truth, for spiritual refreshment, because the physical environment wasn’t–and couldn’t–be my satisfaction. 

As spiritual beings made for communion with God, how do I manage in the grime and slosh of daily life when I’m made for a different environment–a heavenly one, a spiritual one?    We toggle like froglets on the rim of two environments.  I need to rise, fast and direct, to the surface of the water and take the deepest breath I can from the environment I was made for.  

When a frantic froglet realizes her gills and tail won’t work–and shouldn’t–she propels herself up and out of that murky underwater world and up into the light.  She breathes in what she was made for.

It helps me live with flair to think of myself as a froglet.  My environment wasn’t meant to sustain my life. There’s a whole world outside of the dark water.  I need to swim up, breathe deeply through a life of prayer and connection to God, and look around.

There’s glorious land ahead. And once I see it, the weight of this world doesn’t hold me down. 

(Image “Tailed Froglet” courtesy of W.A. Djatmiko)


The Secret Community You Might Want to Join

This morning, at 5:30 AM, I discovered the secret community of Those Who Rise Early.

I can’t believe this world exists.  There I am, alarm going off, pulling on work-out clothes and stumbling to the driveway, when all of a sudden, I look around.  At the unnatural hour of 5:30 AM, there are actual people walking about.  Happy people.  People with dogs and friends and strollers and. . . energy.

What coffee do these people drink?

I pass folks out in their yard and folks driving places.  I see three runners, several walkers, and some gardeners. Why in the world are they so happy?  Do they know it’s 5:30 AM?

It’s a secret community.  Those Who Rise Early do things like work out, drink a quiet cup of coffee, stroll in their gardens, take leisurely showers, fix their hair, empty the dishwasher, prepare breakfast, and then, they greet Those Who Rise Late with a smile, ready.   

I’ve been in the later group my whole life.  I’m the one in the bad mood, dragging myself around, begging for coffee, griping at everybody and wanting my soft bed back.  Let me sleep!  I need my sleep!  I’m fighting the DNA of generations upon generations of Those Who Sleep Late.  I need to sleep until that last possible minute.   So stop bothering me and hand me that cup of coffee.  I need to sleep late

Do I?  I decided to interview Those Who Rise Early.  This club chooses to greet the day differently, and it’s supremely amazing to join them.  They usually delight in 2 hours of solitude and productivity before children rise, before traffic surges, before the onslaught of the day.  Of the men and women I’ve talked to, this 5:30 wake up has changed their lives.  They wake that early for a variety of reasons:  personal prayer or meditation times, exercise, solitude, meal preparation and house organization, reading or writing.  Those people seem to live with with flair because their early rising prepares them for the day. 

My early morning wake up is part of living with flair.  I’ve taken a nose-dive off that plateau.  I’m hoping to change this part of my life and join the secret community of 5:30 AM.  Day by day, day by day.


The Fame That Lasts Till Lunch

My daughter tried out for the talent show yesterday. 

I’m amazed that she would do this.  Amazed.  Last year, she didn’t receive even one vote from her class for her dance routine. (It was freestylin’ to “Accidentally in Love”–the worm, the spins on your bottom–I’ll spare you the details because she would want me to.)

And this year has been heartbreak. The mean girls!  The fickle crowd!  When she told me she planned to audition in front of her class, I wanted to scream:  “Are you crazy, foolish child?  Will you cast yourself to the lions?  Let’s preserve what little reputation you have left!  You will be devoured and humiliated!  Stay safe in my arms!  You’ve endured enough!”  I knew she’d be competing against a kid with magic tricks and a girl with years of elite gymnastics training.

She had no chance. 

But she really wanted to audition.  So there I am, preparing mentally all day for her sure failure.  I’m visualizing my parking space, closest to the school, so I can pick her up in my arms and carry her to the car so nobody can see her tears.  I’m imagining a special comforting dessert that will await her homecoming. What helps a child recover from. . . losing? 

She walks out of the school building, and I can hardly face her.  She calmly approaches me with a little folded piece of paper.  She doesn’t say anything but just points to the note.  I unfold it and she’s written in yellow marker: “I won the vote.  Yay!”

Oh, me of little faith.

As we drive home, she tells me about the other acts and how nobody was that good.  But when she performed her piano act (after dragging the class to the auditorium just so they could hear her 1 minute of music), everybody started cheering.  They voted for her.  The hands went up in the air!

What world is this where things go well for her?  Did God hear my prayer, her music teacher’s prayer, and all my frantic text message prayer requests to please pray for my daughter today?

I think so.

“How did it feel?  Did you feel just great?”  I asked her, beaming but definitely trying to hide my proud parent, over-the-top enthusiasm.

“It was awesome.”  She paused and looked out the window.

“But my fame ended by lunch time.  People forget you.”

She changed the subject and told me to look back to see her amazing ceramic turtle she made in art class. We were on to new adventures, new topics–art, her summer reading plan, and what computer games she wanted to play. 

Whatever it was that allowed her to walk down that hallway to the auditorium, her little chin up, it’s another thing I’m putting on my version of her resume.  Right next to “Survived Recess,” I’m putting, “Auditioned in Front of Hostile 2nd Grade Crowd to Win Spot in School Talent Show Despite Totally Bombing Last Year’s Dance Routine.”

And I might add:  “Learned that Fame Ends By Lunchtime so Don’t Bother Wanting it So Badly”

That girl has flair.  I would have never had the guts to do what she did.

And God answered an even better prayer than my superficial “grant her success.”  He showed my daughter that winning the love of the crowd doesn’t last. And it shouldn’t.  There are much better adventures awaiting.


One Good Prayer

This morning, I had a few minutes before the walk to school, so I took out my prayer journal. What did I need?  What did the neighbors need?   Many things came to mind, but one thought kept recurring.  I knew I might pray for prosperity, for health, for safety, for success, or for any host of material things. God says we can ask for anything.  But I knew to pray this:

“Jesus, help us see you today.” 

Jonathan Swift wrote that “vision is the art of seeing what is invisible to others.”  When I look at this day, right now, I know that God is at work.  And he sees what I don’t see.  Through suffering, through disappointment, through fear, through loneliness, God sees what I don’t see.  I want vision to see, with God’s help, what is otherwise invisible.  That’s flair. 

I want to see what God sees.  I want to pierce through that layer of my circumstances to perceive that invisible script that God writes.  These marks of God’s intentions, of God’s goodness, of God’s love, are here.  I pray that God sharpens my vision so I can see them. 

My sleuthing for daily flair is really a prayer to see the invisible thing–that underlying beauty and goodness in any situation, no matter how bleak.  It’s a prayer to identify, in every circumstance, the marks of a spiritual process.  When I see that process, I’m suddenly released from fear.  I can find hope and love here, even in pain or confusion. 

Living with flair means seeing the invisible thing. It means offering up a prayer to find God in whatever situation I’m in because, surely, he is here.