Fame and Fortune?

I’m listening to Vonette Bright speak about the days of co-founding a ministry in 1951 that now ranks as one of the largest missions organizations in the world.  She mentions the moment she agreed to fully surrender to God.   What would it require?  What would it mean to submit to a calling? 

I learned part of the answer I didn’t know before. 

I didn’t realize that within an actual contract the Brights signed between themselves and God, the couple agreed not to accumulate wealth or seek fame.

I smiled when I heard her explain this. She knew something far greater and more satisfying than the world’s most seductive paths.  She knew what mattered most in another economy in another kingdom.

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Journal:  Famous people are often annoyed by their fame.  They don’t want it once they have it.  Wealthy folks often die lonely and miserable.  If we know these things, why are we still tempted by fame and money?  What do they promise?

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How to Live in Luxury

Luxurious or lavish things do not need to be expensive.  I’m learning that luxury can be sought in the right mindset.  There’s something biblical about luxury properly applied.  But, by definition, luxurious implies indulgent, excessively expensive, and unnecessary. 

Even the word seems excessive.  The way it sounds seems. . . luxurious

The word connotes an entire world of very fine and very unobtainable things.

But in my house, we use the word to mean anything rich in goodness and superior in quality.  We can make luxurious fruit tarts and paint our toenails with luxurious colors.  We can lay out in the grass, luxuriously, and watch the lightening bugs.  We can swim in the public pool with luxurious backstrokes.

We won’t be on boats or eating fine chocolates today.  We won’t be vacationing on a far off island. 

And that’s fine. 

There’s something so uncertain about wealth and luxury.  Today, as I was painting my daughter’s fingernails with the cheapest bottle of bright pink, I remembered one of my favorite Bible verses from the book of Timothy.  

“Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.”

Does God really richly provide everything for our enjoyment?  Not for our needs, but for our enjoyment?  How lavish!  How luxurious! This means I only have to wait and see what luxurious experience God might send my way today.

Maybe it’s the gorgeous deep purple blossoms on the eggplant I’m growing outside.  I’ve never grown eggplant before, and I’m amazed by how beautiful it is.  And the fruit hasn’t even come yet.  Eggplant is excessive and probably unnecessary (although I did learn how to make Eggplant Parmesan), but my goodness, I love those blossoms.

Thank you, God, for the luxury of purple eggplant blossoms.  They have flair indeed. 

(photo courtesy of Dilling / flickr)

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3 Questions that Set Me Straight

This time last year, I was mad about everything.  I was jealous of other mothers and their resplendent brunches, their new jewelry, and their country club life.  Why couldn’t I just have more money?

I was jealous that Rob Reiner was filming a movie, “Flipped,” in my old backyard (the one I left to move here).  I should have been there, serving coffee to Hollywood celebrities and awaiting my invitation to star in the movie.

I was jealous of other women (friends from college) who had political and academic power.  That was supposed to be me there on Capitol Hill or at that podium.  It was weird how jealous I was.  It was the kind of jealous that ate my insides and made me stomp my feet in the kitchen as I told my husband how wrong everything was.  I was supposed to be a different person by now.  Why was I here, in this town, with this life?

The rhetoric of my life was “if only.” 

So exactly one year ago today, I sat in church, jealous and ridiculous.  I had just finished writing something about how if you ask yourself a good question, the right question, you could get yourself out of any bad mood.  I knew I need to ask spiritual questions.  That seemed right (after all, I was in church).  So I wrote:

1.  Is knowing God better than anything? (as J.I. Packer asks: “For what higher, more exalted, and more compelling goal can there be than to know God?”)

2.  Will I live the life God asks me to? (Here, in this town, with no retail, no glitz?)

3.  Will I pursue wealth or godliness? (Seriously?  I need a whole new summer wardrobe with sparkly flip flops.)

These questions mattered so much to me because in a split second, like lightening forking through the roof and straight into my heart, they reoriented me.  They set me straight.  They reminded me that my happiness comes from surrender to the spiritual truth that governs my life.  

The first recorded question that Jesus asks in the Gospel of John is, “What do you want?”  I love this question.  I love the disciples’ answer even more.  They essentially ask him where he is staying.  They want to be where Jesus is.  They would leave everything to be in his presence.  So Jesus says (strangely), “Come and see.”

When God says, “What do you want,” the answer from my heart is: “To be in your presence.”

God, always the pursuer, always setting up a way to delight us, just says, “Come and see.”

That morning, a year ago today, I imagined God asking my jealous heart: “What do you want?”  And I wrote in my journal: To be in your presence.  But is it really enough?  It is really worth it to pursue spiritual instead of material wealth?

And God said: “Come and see.”

It’s been a year.  What a year of enjoying the life God has given me.  Nothing more, nothing less.  When I open my eyes to see the wonder and mystery of God, the jealousy dissolves.  Living with flair today means I continue to “come and see” what God wants to prove to me about the sufficiency of Himself.

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Admiring the Raw

I’ve been practicing a new flair attitude. I want to admire people.

Admiring somebody seems gushy and cheesy; we think about valentines or romantic movies. But the real meaning of admire is to esteem, respect, and have a high opinion of someone. I want to be the kind of woman who thinks highly of all kinds of folks for good reasons. What I admire about people can reveal to me what I value. It tells me what my heart thinks is good, noble, and right.

I used to admire wealth, prestige, and my appearance more than anything. It’s embarrassing to admit how much. For almost 2 decades I pursued every accolade possible. I admired people with advanced degrees, people with political power in Washington, and couples with the kind of wealth that lets them own several vacation homes. I admired beautiful women who dressed fashionably and went to the salon on a weekly basis. I had the time and means to live that way. I hung around people like that, at those sort of houses, and at those kinds of parties.

I wasn’t happy.

Today, I’m a completely different person. I can tell just by what I admired over the last few hours. My days, not surprisingly, are devoid of material wealth, prestige, or a salon appearance. I live in a small town in a rented house; nobody even cares about my academic degrees; my hair is still in a pony-tail from this morning. I can’t remember if I washed it.

But I did something right today:

I admired—with flair—my daughter’s incredible 2nd grade teacher for her creativity, devotion, and genius lesson plans. I admired a man battling cancer while I ate biscotti in his kitchen. I admired a salesperson who treated me kindly. I also admired three girls who rode their bikes up a huge hill without stopping to catch their breath.

I even admired the dogs in my neighborhood for their consistently joyful tail wagging.

I just admired my youngest daughter for enduring strep throat with a good attitude today. And now, I’m off to admire my husband who just left to pick up a new prescription of antibiotics.

Living with flair means learning to admire the authentic thing, the raw parts of really living, that show me what is so good and right about my life.

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