Saturday, April 25, 2009

Sitting at His (BIG) Feet

My daughter snapped this picture of me last week-end when we were retreating with the lovely ladies from Des Moines and the surrounding small towns. These BIG shoes served as a prop in a monologue as a young woman sat at the feet of Jesus pouring out her life story. Notice the logo and the heart-shaped holes for the shoe strings. These women were so creative!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Life's Intersections

The wind whipped the car door out of control and it slammed into the Cadillac parked next to us, leaving a door "ding" behind. My husband wrote a little explanatory note and placed it on the windshield, along with our contact information so that we could make it right with the owner.

A few days later an elderly man called and identified himself as the owner of the car. To my surprise, he was not calling to ask us for damage reimbursement. He was calling to thank us for being honest. We ended up having a very pleasant conversation and I hung up feeling as though I had made a new friend.

It's interesting to think about how our lives intersect with others; sometimes the most trivial of events brings someone or something new and fresh into our lives. I like to turn it over in my mind at day's end, to take it out of my memory-pocket and enjoy it a second time.

What brings a smile to you at the end of your day?

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Keeping House: Yankee or Southern?

I enjoy collecting quotes, both philosophic and practical. Lately I've been drawn to quotes about housekeeping, and I thoroughly enjoyed this one taken from the book Cold Sassy Tree:

Miss Love was washing a kitchen window that looked clean to me already. It seemed like every time I went down there, she was washing floors or windows, one, despite she'd cleaned the whole house good last summer. "Miss Love, I reckon you ain't heard about fall and spring cleanin'," I said one day. She had come out on the back porch to empty her wash water just as I headed for the barn. I said, "In between spring and fall, and fall and spring, ma'am, you just s'posed to sweep and mop and use the feather duster and like that."

"I like the Yankee way better," she said, bristling. I reckon she thought Mama had criticized how she did. "Up North, ladies do extra cleaning every week in one room. Brush down the walls and wash the floor one week, maybe wash windows and curtains the next, and so on. When they get that room done, they start on another. The house stays nice year round, and it's not exhausting like doing all the heavy cleaning at once."

When I told Mama, she said, "I'd rather get worn out twice a year than stay worn out all the time."

I recently heard the famous Flylady on a DVD seminar. She said that the custom of spring cleaning came about during the era of coal furnaces. After having the house closed up all winter, there would be black soot on everything and a thorough spring cleaning was a necessity. Flylady would come down firmly in the Yankee camp when it comes to housekeeping.

Do you have a housekeeping calendar that you live by? Are you a Yankee or a Southern homemaker?

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Wisdom: Gathering and Giving

Wisdom is the pursuit of a lifetime, and it entails both gathering and giving. According to the wisdom literature of the Old Testament, the gathering process might include any or all of the following:

  • Honing the ability to listen and hear wise things (some don't recognize wisdom when they hear it!)
  • Acquiring wise counsel from elders or mentors
  • Embracing the teaching of parents
  • Treasuring wise words
  • Engaging more life energy to the pursuit of wisdom than to the pursuit of wealth
  • Tenacity in holding on to the good instruction that has been received
  • Training the mind to think deeply and reflectively on the wisdom that has been gathered and gained, so as to add even more to the cache.
  • Developing the habit of gathering wisdom each and every day

No one can be truly wise who gathers but fails to give. Like breathing, wisdom requires intake and exhalation. The giving or exhaling might look something like this:

  • Speaking only at the right time and in measured words
  • Actively transferring wisdom to worthy student(s) via informal or formal relationships
  • Writing or making permanent the specific wisdom-work that has become your own
  • Inviting others to partake of your bounty
  • Carefully guarding a lifestyle that models wisdom without words

I can trace seasons of my life where I have gathered, often followed by seasons of giving. I suppose a little of both happen in the course of most days, but sometimes there are longer and more pronounced seasons of one or the other.

It seems like I am in a "giving" season right now. I've prepared a dozen messages for public speaking all to be delivered within a seven-week period. It's both exhilarating and draining! It's also very, very humbling.

I remember the first time I spoke to a group of 100 ladies, about 17 years ago. I was used to speaking, but on a much smaller scale. This larger, unfamiliar setting caused acute nervousness and I had the typical stage fright symptoms of sweaty palms and dry mouth.

Shortly after that, I had my first baby and I stepped out of public ministry. Period. For ten years.

A funny thing happened when I returned to teaching and speaking: I lost the stage fright. Rather than feeling rusty or timid, I felt a new sense of confidence and enjoyment in the process of giving. After "losing" ten years of practice, how could it be possible to advance in my ability to share truth?

I attribute it to the fact that those ten years added incredible, maturing life experiences to the mental knowledge I had been tucking away. I now had living examples of both success and failure to add breadth and credibility to the things I was saying. I had grown, not just by studying but by LIVING.

My husband, who is a pastor and who often speaks 3 or more times weekly, was discussing this with me the other day. He has come to similar conclusions that I have. Studying for a particular speaking engagement is very important, but there is something beyond that discipline that enables us to truly benefit those who will listen to us. It's a lifestyle of wisdom: gleaning it day in and day out, here a little and there a little. It's a lifestyle of reading and praying and crying and laughing and eating and drinking and working. There are many people who do these things every day, but the one who gleans those experiences for wisdom will have a fully loaded treasury from which to draw, to benefit himself as well as others.

"Spread the wealth around" may not be good advice for the economic health of a nation, but it is very good advice for those who are dealing with a commodity more precious than money--wisdom.

How have you gained or given wisdom this week?

"Happy is the man who finds wisdom, And the man who gains understanding;
For her proceeds are better than the profits of silver,
And her gain than fine gold.
She is more precious than rubies,
And all the things you may desire cannot compare with her.
Length of days is in her right hand, In her left hand riches and honor.
Her ways are ways of pleasantness,
And all her paths are peace.
She is a tree of life to those who take hold of her,
And happy are all who retain her.
Proverbs 3:13-18 (NKJV)

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Dead Poets Society

I'm not sure how it is that I missed this movie when it was in its heyday, but I wouldn't have appreciated it much in 1989 anyway because I hadn't yet fully developed a love of poetry. Oh, I enjoyed it, but I didn't love it.

The poet-teacher (Robin Williams) sparks a love of poetry in his preppy students, and in the process they learn to think, to feel, to appreciate beauty, to take risks, and to seize the day (carpe diem!) I've come to believe that poetry is an indispensable tenet of a liberal (generous) education, and that yes--- it really can contribute significantly to the health of society.

I loved watching Robin William's (a.k.a. John Keating) joi de vivre and his unorthodox teaching methods. Learn about poetry cadences by doing military drills outside. View the world from a different angle by standing on the desk. Read poetry by candlelight in a dark cave. Evoke laughing and weeping from your students by living with them.

There's a bit of tragedy in this movie, and some rough spots that I would speed over quickly when watching with children. The poetic word set events in motion amongst these typical high school students, having an almost domino-effect on their lives. Witnessing it makes me want to "eat and drink the precious words" all the more. Poetry keeps us young.