Tuesday, August 30

A prayer for back-to-school time

For some of us, this time of year brings a sense of anticipation, a spring in our steps, an eagerness to meet new challenges.

For others of us, this time of year dredges up images of old hurts, gives us leaden feet, and makes us dread facing each new challenge.

And some of us find ourselves somewhere in between.

Lord, You know the truth about us.

You know our histories, our hurts, and our hopes.

You know just what makes our hearts beat faster with anticipation and what makes them palpitate with dread. So we don't have to pretend with You.

What a relief, God, not to have to pretend.

Would you help us, Lord? Honestly, sometimes we don't even know what we need, much less what we want, when we face a new season. But You know what we need. You know where we need healing, where we need help, and where we simply need encouragement.

If we ascend into heaven, You are there.
If we go down into the depths, You are there.

Lord, we confess that sometimes we've been afraid of finding You. We haven't trusted that You are good. We haven't been able to believe that You are with us and for us.

But that's not the truth, is it? The truth is that You are always good, always with us, and always for us.

Give us eyes to see that You are here, God. Give us strength to seek You with all our hearts.

And please give us courage to know that everywhere we find You, we find love.

For every need we have this school year, we ask for Your grace. You've told us that it's sufficient for us.

We want to believe.
We need to believe.
We choose to believe.
Lord, help our unbelief!

Meditate on these passages:
Psalm 139 * I John 4 * II Corinthians 12 * Mark 9

Wednesday, August 24

There's no accounting for taste

Want to hear something shocking? I can hardly believe that I'm going to say this publicly, but here goes:

My house has no white walls.

There. I've said it. Not a single wall in my house is painted white. You'll find some subdued colors, like Benjamin Moore Fieldstone in my living room:

What does it mean that there is "no accounting for taste"? Each of us gets to decide what we believe to be beautiful. It's an amazingly freeing concept!

And you'll find some very bold colors, such as the custom blue of my dining room walls.

Ever wondered what it means that there is "no accounting for taste"? Each of us gets to decide what we believe to be beautiful. It's an amazingly freeing concept!

But aside from the half wall below the dining room chair rail, nary a white wall will you find.

Now, even more shocking:

I'm not planning to paint any of my walls white.

You know what that makes me? A little out of step with the decorating times.

White walls are all the rage right now. Surely I need to be painting something?! It's not that I think white walls are ugly; I don't. I admire them in many houses. But I decorate my home according to my own taste, and white walls don't quite fit.

Should I set aside what I prefer and go for what is popular? After all, I write about trying to make my home a place of grace and beauty. Is there something wrong with me? Will the Style Police come to arrest me?

The answer is no.

Have you ever heard the comment "There's no accounting for taste"? I've heard people say that many times, usually while rolling their eyes. For years I assumed that this comment was an insult, because that's the only way I'd ever heard it used. People would look at something they found to be ugly or unappealing and say, "There's no accounting for taste," in the same tone of voice as saying "Ewww. Get that out of my sight."

But now I know that "no accounting for taste" is a statement of fact, and it's actually a very freeing concept.

You see, there are many things in life for which there is very strict accounting. There is accounting for how much money is in your bank account. For the amount you must pay in taxes. For how many pills you get in a prescription and how often you can get it refilled. For how many calories you are able to take in and how many you must expend to lose or gain weight. There's accounting for so much.

But there's no accounting for taste, because taste is not something that is prescribed by an authority or set by laws of nature. Taste is an individual thing, and we're all different.

Now, it is true that many of us agree that certain styles are pleasing or lovely. There are principles of art (color, proportion, symmetry, etc.) that are almost universally appealing. There are some design principles describing things that tend to look good to most of us. And it's certainly true that some tastes are more popular than others. But it's not true that certain kinds of taste are right and others are wrong.

So I'd like to make a proposal: let's stop comparing ourselves with one another and enjoy our own styles. Your taste is your taste, and mine is mine--and there's no accounting for taste! There are no rules. There is no Style Police. Each of us gets to decide what we believe to be beautiful--and then we can enjoy sharing it.

Life is good if we all bless and encourage one another. Vive la différence!

Tuesday, August 16

Surprising beauty

I've had the chance to travel to some truly beautiful places in my life. Some of those I've shared here, such as my trips to Paris, Rome, and Normandy. Breathtaking, all of them.

This month, though, I witnessed some of the greatest beauty I've seen in a long time. Here are just a few photos from my travels in the past couple of weeks. See if you can guess where I was:

Okay, that last photo gave away the fact that I was in the U.S. This one makes it even more clear:

Any guesses?

Here are a couple more clues:

Perhaps you've recognized it by now.

I was in Michigan. Michigan! Can you believe the beauty?

I believe that when Michigan is mentioned, many folks can only conjure images of defunct factories dotted across the "Rust Belt" or abandoned houses in Detroit. Or they imagine the climate to be limited to harsh, gray winters. While Michigan may be home to some unattractive features (and what place isn't?!), I've discovered that it's also home to ravishing beauty.

I was born and reared in the South, but one of the greatest privileges of my life was moving to this beautiful state 25 years ago. For seven years my family thrived in Michigan. While we were glad to return to the South, we'll never forget what we learned while we were up North: that beauty is all around if we just have eyes to see it.

Lord, give us eyes to see the beauty of your Creation and of one another, wherever we may be.