Okay, let me give you the skinny:
a la orden (in spanish) means at your service
In some Spanish speaking countries, you’ll hear it as much as you hear “Hola,” which was the case when I lived in Honduras for the past three years. Bus drivers, taxistas, people in cafés and people on the streets – they all say “a la orden” for one reason or another. But it wasn’t the common-ness of the word that got me hooked, it was a few particular instances.
I noticed, when I hung out with my high school girls, they would ALWAYS compliment each other on the clothes they wore. The girl wearing the complimented clothes would nearly always respond with, “a la orden.” After a little investigation, I found that this translated to, “Oh, thanks! If you want to wear it – it’s yours anytime! Just ask!”
This was their way of saying thanks for the compliment:
Girl 1 compliments Girl 2 on her blouse
Girl 2 recognizes the compliment and then makes the blouse available to Girl 1
Girl 1 could then ask to borrow the blouse if the need came up
So, I started wondering what would happen if we did the same with our spiritual gifts AND the material things we own. I wrote about it here and here and here. What would happen if we offered the things about our lives that draw out compliments? Because, generally, the things we are complimented on are things we get pretty excited about. A shirt, a car, an art project, guitar playing skills, hanging out with kids… you can fill in the blank with a possession or talent that has sent some compliments your way.
THEN, you take that compliment and turn it around to say:
a la orden
Yep. You make that gift, talent, or possession available to whoever recognized it was good in you.
There is nothing good in me (I know that for certain), save Christ. So, whatever is good about what I do, think, say, or have is only good because of Christ in me and I can’t be selfish about Him.
This is the a la orden philosophy that I realize is not anything new or revolutionary (my friend and I found GOBS of a la orden examples in the Old Testament). But, it was something that put flesh on the bones of “put others ahead of yourself” and has kept me accountable to keep at it.
In Honduras, my friends and I kind of went crazy. We made “a la orden” a verb and a noun. We would have a la orden parties, a la orden discussions, a la orden clothes (if you so much as mentioned you liked it). We carried food and toys and clothes in my car to a la orden to the kids at stoplights. We tried to remind each other of the things we needed to make available to others – that we shouldn’t and couldn’t hoard the good things God has given us.
Now, I’m taking this sweet Spanish phrase to the great plains of the Midwest.
It’s been interesting, but I guess it means helping with wedding plans, talking beside a campfire in the middle of the night, babysitting, meeting for coffee, calling my Honduran students who are now in college, talking on skype, driving to Colorado to encourage a sister who is struggling, functioning as a taxi for church events and a shuttle service for a mission conference. It means farming (and providing some un-farmer-like comedic relief) and writing and jumping like popcorn during game time at AWANA. It means letting a future missionary take me out for coffee and answering all her questions about “how to get there” with “Trust in the Lord, my dear.”
It means a lot of things I never thought it would, but it always means thinking less of me and more of others. If I’m holding on to something to tightly, it might be something I should try to give up – like time and physical treasures.
I’m excited to find out there are OH-SO-MANY ways a la orden lives on here. I do miss doing a la orden lifestyle with my community in Honduras, but I figure we’d better spread the love around and what better place than Iowa?
Here are some of my favorite a la orden buddies.
Here is a beautiful tune for your Tuesday! Enjoy!