Daisies and Roses

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“Let the red roses grown and fade;
I’d rather have daisies on a rainy Tuesday.”

So runs the tagline from the first song I ever wrote—that is, the first song I ever wrote that I actually still rather like. It is inspired by my mother’s words to my father in a story I’ve never grown tired of hearing.

You see, my dad is an accountant and, this time of year, he is absolutely swamped. He is also an incredibly practical person and, although he does a great job showing my mom that he loves her, romance is not his natural bent. One Valentine’s Day early in their relationship, my dad—then a cluelessly head-over-heels young man—did his best to surprise my mom with the classic red roses.

Well, this did not go according to plan, something deeply troubling to those of us (like my dad and me) who thrive on plans.

My mom, however, reassured my dad with the following words: “I don’t care about roses on Valentine’s day. I just want a mixed bouquet on a Tuesday for no reason.”

My parents’ love, it turns out, does not center on an annual ritual of overpriced roses (I hate to break it to you, men, but roses are more expensive the day before Valentine’s…) but instead is built upon small, thoughtful, sweet surprises. My dad regularly surprises my mom with flowers and, once I entered the picture, began to bring me my own small bouquets as well, teaching me what it is to care for someone on both the holidays and the everydays.

In high school, when my mom explained the reasoning behind the random bouquets and lack of roses on Valentine’s, I wrote my own take on the story in a song called “Daisies” and it became my own sort-of romance anthem. The main lyrics go something like this:

VERSE 1
Today was perfect, perfectly scripted.
Each moment flawless, just like you planned it.
You took my hand, we danced…
Like we should: romance.

REFRAIN
But I wish you knew
And I know it’s strange
To throw this yearly act away.
Let the red roses grow and fade;
I’d rather have daisies on a rainy Tuesday…

BRIDGE
Red roses are heartless on Valentine’s day.

CHORUS
I’d rather laugh at some silly movie
Than always have you singing songs to me…
I love to dance but don’t need romance.
Let the red roses grow and fade;
I’d rather have daisies on a rainy Tuesday.

I’ll even include a link to a very old, very poor teenager-with-an-iPhone recording of this song.  (It’s hugely embarrassing, so don’t tell anyone else about it. It’s our secret, you hear?)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MXtwNajUOik&feature=share

The thing is, though, while I still prefer daisies to red roses, I am not sure I agree with my own song anymore. You see, I met someone who brought me daisies on Tuesday and who is always ready to “laugh at some silly movie” with me. The thing is, though, he has also taught me to love slow-dancing; he both twirls me around and sends me flowers, but makes me laugh like nobody else. And—here comes the irony—I have turned into the one constantly writing and singing songs.

Despite the protests of my first song against constant serenading, I have become the ukulele player with four main chords and a whole lot of rhymes. Somehow, in the past year, I have become a hopeless romantic, while yet remaining the pragmatist who savors small, thoughtful gestures.

And so, after years of resenting Valentine’s as a mere “yearly act” or “sainted old cliché,” I have come to enjoy it as a little extra sweetness on top of the everyday. I suppose the key is finding someone who will love me on this day but not only this day. Besides, Valentine’s day is just as likely to be rainy as any random Tuesday, right?

The beautiful thing about this love, too, is that it is not limited to romantic love. Friends and family are just as capable of providing those sweet, everyday gestures of affection and care. (Happy Galentine’s, am I right?) You know that passage in 1 Corinthians that everyone quotes to tie their spiritual and romantic lives together? (“Love is patient, love is kind, etc.”) Well, the King James Version translates “love” as “charity.”

“Charity suffereth long, and is kind;
charity envieth not;
charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up.”

– 1 Corinthians 14:4

Charity goes far beyond and before romantic love; charity is the love of Christ manifest in the love of believers toward each other. Dearest friends, family, and lovers: let’s celebrate the everyday in charity. Valentine’s is, I am now forced to admit, worth enjoying, but how marvelous to think that our love—our charity—extends through the whole year, to each and every person in our lives. That may be daisies on Tuesday, mailing a note to your best friend, or calling up your parents to thank them for demonstrating that sustainable relationships are built on apparently-ordinary acts of charity.

Still, happy Valentine’s, my love. You know who you are.

Rejoicing in Repetition

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“And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers.” – 1 Thessalonians 2:13

My current favorite song—“Shape of Love” by Passenger—keeps popping up in my Spotify playlists and I never skip it. Its opening chords make me smile no matter how many times it has played today already. Similarly, as I said in a previous post, I eat the same breakfast every day and have not yet grown entirely tired of porridge.

Often I run the same trail, and my legs rejoice at cresting its hill, no matter how many times I have done it before. Likewise, I have been known to pick a favorite café and show up every day in pursuit of a honey oat latte. (If you are ever in Gilbert, AZ, do visit Mythical Coffee, or Enchanted Coffee Bar in La Mirada, CA.)

And yet, while there are these things which I seem never to tire of, I am perpetually restless in my devotional life. From flipping open my Bible at random to reading straight through without really taking in its words, I am guilty of every single sin of inattention. For a theology student, this is an area of weakness, but for a Christian, this is critical. It should be deeply concerning to any Christian who grows bored in his or her engagement with the Word since it is that very Word which promises eternity. Yet, even knowing this, I never fail to fall behind in those “read through the Bible in a year” plans, and my hodgepodge hoping-the-right-passage-will-fall-open-in-my-lap plan is even less effective at holding my focus.

“And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers.”

– 1 Thessalonians 2:13

For two summers as an undergraduate student, I did a study abroad trip in Cambridge, England, and was required to read the books of Ephesians and Colossians, respectively, every day for three weeks. This immersion method sounded tedious at first, but after only a few days, my natural craving for regularity kicked in and I found myself delighting in the Scriptures in a way I had been missing for years. Soon, I was memorizing passages without meaning to, finding new insights with each reading, and even discovering the value of comparing various translations and reading the books themselves in different orders.

Recently, however, I went through another Scriptural-drought. In bored surrender, I decided that I would just reread 1 Thessalonians every day, as well as pray my way through the great Puritan Prayer Book, The Valley of Vision. And, while the repetition at first seemed as bland as having my morning porridge without heaping spoonfuls of honey, I am slowly realizing the truth of the Psalms:

“How sweet are your words to my taste,
sweeter than honey to my mouth!
Through your precepts I get understanding;
therefore I hate every false way.”

-Psalm 119:103-104

Not only am I finding that I crave the sweet familiarity of the Word with each new day, but I am also rediscovering its nourishment. Each rereading, beyond merely bringing delight, grants new understanding which then develops into practical application, just as the Psalm proclaims.

Savoring a tenth rereading of Thessalonians this morning, I wondered why more believers do not practice this method and, indeed, why I was so initially resistant. I am now reminded of G.K. Chesterton’s words:

“Children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged . . . grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, “Do it again” to the sun; and every evening, “Do it again” to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.”

– Chesterton, “The Ethics of Elfland”

We are told by Christ that we must become like the little children to inherit the kingdom of heaven (Luke 18:17). Perhaps we must repossess that childlike love for repetition without boredom in order to truly inherit the Word as well. Indeed, Chesterton attributes this virtue of children—to delight in apparent monotony—to their “fierce and free” spirit. Even and especially as grown-up Christians, however—as little children adopted by God through Christ Jesus—we ought to live in this Spirit of such ferocity and freedom, such strength and grace.

Indeed, this is the maturity of believers, that we experience afresh the joy and confidence of children, all while growing deeper and truer in our faith and understanding. We cannot grow in these without Scripture, and so, just as the sun insists on rising each day, we must steadfastly return to our morning routines—our daily porridge and honey lattes—and to our regular re-immersion in the Word, one book, over-and-over, at a time, all the while learning to pray:

“Form my heart according to the Word,
according to the image of thy Son,
So shall Christ the Word, and his Word,
be my strength and comfort.”

The Valley of Vision, “Christ the Word”