Amen, Amen I say to you…John 5:24
The word amen appears in the New Testament more than 50 times. Its translation roughly means to support, agree or confirm. When I was growing up I was taught that amen meant “Yes! I believe!” If Jesus lived for us and died for us all out of love then my response sure should be AMEN or YES! It’s absolutely the least I can do!
This Tuesday, November 18 is “The Grace of Yes Day” or #graceofyes. The idea of saying yes to God’s plan for your life is an idea that author Lisa Hendy and her friends at Ave Maria Press hope will take social media by storm and go viral! Lisa is the author of a fabulous new book called The Grace of Yes: Eight Virtues for Generous Living. Lisa is the founder of CatholicMom.com. The website she started is now viewed worldwide and keeps central its focus to spread the Gospel and draw people to Jesus. Lisa is a speaker, teacher, writer, mom and beautiful Daughter of God. Her life has given her never-ending opportunities to say Yes to God and thousands and thousands have been blessed by the Grace of God that has poured forth from her YES. The book is full of beautiful stories of real people just like you and me trying hard every day to say YES and serve the God who loves us. It’s a true book of blessings for your heart and your life. She opens her heart and pours it out in absolutely life changing fashion. It’s a must have book!
The purpose of Grace of Yes day isn’t to sell books; it’s to create awareness and a desire to seek the places in our own lives where God is waiting for our YES! On Tuesday you are invited to share your story of YES! God is just waiting with abundant grace to hear our yes. He’s waiting to bless us and draw us tight to his side when we give him our yes or amen. It means we believe he knows what’s best for us; it means we support the plan he has for us by simply saying yes and allowing him to control it all; it means we confirm the fact that we adore him, we will be faithful to him and we surrender completely with a gigantic YES to the wonder and goodness and blessing he has in store for us! Join us on Tuesday and post #graceofyes on social media with a message of how you say Yes to God. If ice buckets, cartoons and pictures of movie stars can go viral don’t you think the power of saying Yes to God would be something positive to take the internet by storm? Go ahead, be brave, do a little faith sharing on your social media page…say YES to loving him out loud!
Happy Grace of Yes Day!
A Seed To Plant: #graceofyes…tell everyone what happened when you said YES to God. If you don’t do it on social media, please find a friend today and share the story of your YES…and get Lisa’s book…it’s awesome!
Blessings on your day!
And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. Luke 9:23
If someone asked you what holiness was could you give a good answer? I thought I could, but then something changed! Before this thing happened I would have told them holiness was going to church, saying prayers, doing good deeds, SEEING and BEING Christ to others…that’s what I thought. But then…I read something that stopped me in my holiness seeking little tracks!
Holiness is dying to self! What? I read those words again and promptly shut the book and put it down because I didn’t like that. I pouted about it for the rest of the day and then came back to those words later that night. I like going to mass, I like praying, I like doing sweet, thoughtful things for others, isn’t that enough? After some feet dragging, silent temper tantrum throwing and finally a very ungraceful surrender, I realized how true those words really were. I can add and do all I want but it’s about the subtracting; the dying.
As eerie as it sounds, each prayer journal entry this week has started with the words, Lord, help me die a little more today. No, I’m not loopy and I haven’t been sniffing the ink in the ditto machine I’m serious and it’s a lesson that’s HARD! Holiness is all about being close to Christ; so close I’m hidden in him and I can’t do that if I have my own stuff in the way. If you’re anything like me it’s a daily objective to make things easier and more comfortable for myself. I call it efficiency sometimes. I say I’ve earned it sometimes. I think its standing up for what I’m entitled to sometimes. The bottom line is this…I want what’s best for me, what’s most convenient for me, what’s easiest for me and I need to die a little because getting my way isn’t making me holy.
So how do I need to die? (That just sounds weird doesn’t it?) I need to die to my desire to be appreciated and recognized for everything. I need to die to my desire to eat anything I want because I like it and think it’s yummy. I need to die to my desire to be right all the time. I need to die to my desire to make comparisons and judgments. I need to die to my desire to tell God what I need and what he needs to take care of. I need to die to complaining because that is the greatest form of selfishness. I need to die to my desire to offer my opinion and perspective all the time. I need to die to impatience and worry. And I really need to die to my desire to organize, plan and evaluate everything. All of these things minimize the amount of room God has to work in my mind and my heart. All of these things separate me from God when what I really want is to grow in holiness. My sacrifices in dying to self in these ways are what God is inviting me to do…wanna join me and do a little dying?
A Seed To Plant: Write down the ways you need to die to self and then get busy growing in holiness.
Blessings on your day!
Stop judging by appearances, but judge justly. John 7:24
How do you measure your goodness? How can you label your value or your worth? Society has lots of ways to do that for us and I’m here to tell you they’ve got it all wrong! Switching from little to middle lovelies has brought lots of challenges and even more blessings. When people ask if I think I made the right choice I can say there are little lovely things I miss but overall I LOVE the middle lovelies! However my first “What was I thinking” experience came last week as I was preparing report cards. YUCK! First of all, adding and dividing all those numbers was awful, second; summing up an entire quarter of work in a two digit number was a lousy thing to have to do and thirdly; I realized how little that number or letter really says about the person it was assigned to! The whole experience left my brain bubblin, so I took it to prayer and out popped a post!
Thursday afternoon I watched kids look at a collection of letters and begin to make assessments and judgments about themselves and their classmates. I saw confidence soar and plummet. I saw joy and I saw frustration…all because of a letter in a box and I wanted to scream. After some thought I realized it’s not just students that do it…we all do it. We look at a scale that measures one specific part of who we are and we apply it to our entire being. I think to some degree we have all been affected by a letter or a number assigned to us by someone else. Some people look at their age and let it dictate how they should act or what they should do. Some people look at the number on the scale or on their tag and instantly feel pride or shame. Some folks look at a test score or an income to determine their station in life. What about the people who use the age of someone’s house or car to judge their worth or value. Oh yeah and the almighty judgments made based on income or address. How quickly we forget they are just numbers that reflect a piece of information about one part of our life…they don’t define us! We worry about IQ’s and ACT scores and Credit ratings. We stress about interest rates and debt tallies and gas prices.
How about we look at another judgment scale! What if we used the letter and number scale below to judge our greatness and importance instead…
WP – wonderfully and perfectly made (that’s all of us…ALL of us…flaws, sins and all)
100% - that’s the amount of minutes in each day God watches, protects and loves us; that’s also the amount of minutes each day he asks us to do the same with each other
HS – humble service…that’s our true measure of goodness and it was demonstrated by the washing of 12 men’s dirty feet
QP – quiet prayer…that’s the letter combination to make us all winners
12 – seems like a small number but 12 uneducated, common men spread the Gospel in an astounding fashion; how often do you spread the Gospel like they did
3/1 – the perfect number…the essential number…the lifesaving mystery number Father, Son, Holy Spirit 3 in 1…the answer to everything no matter how large or how small
I’ll bet if you really thought about it a little while, you could come up with more to add to the list. I’d love to get a piece of paper giving me a HS for the day…that’s a good mark on the scale of Christian goodness don’t you think. It’s time we start looking beyond the scales and measures our culture sets up and look for the things that really matter!
A Seed To Plant: Which label or measure above are you going to work on this week? Pick one and take it to prayer then make sure you look for that measure in others while you try to amplify it in yourself.
Blessings on your day!
Save me, O God, for the waters have risen to my neck. Psalm 69:2
Ok…it’s been quite a week and I’m still hangin on to the same verse I was clinging to on Monday. As it turns out, it’s a jewel! Since Monday I think it’s fair to say that the water rose from my neck to my nose! As I was thinking about it this afternoon I remembered back to swimming lessons when I was a little girl. Just for the record, I HATED swimming lessons. I remember the required trip into the deep end and that feeling of complete helplessness when I realized my feet couldn’t touch bottom and I had nothing to grab on to. The instructor would yell, relax, close your mouth and tip your head back so the water won’t go up your nose. I didn’t enjoy anything about that feeling.
That feeling has been a familiar one this week but I discovered something I never learned in swimming lessons. When you close your mouth and tip your head back so you can breathe, you are automatically looking up. Quietly looking up is always a good idea and this week it’s a practice that has meant survival and surprisingly, great joy! I’ve crammed way too much into the past two weeks but as the waters rose, I kept asking God to keep me from drowning. Not only did he answer but he blessed me with lots of little surprises along the way. He arranged every detail, every time table and every event. Things may not have been completed as early or fast as I wanted but it all got finished. I had help when I didn’t expect it, laughter when it was most needed and great friends along the way. I even managed to score front row parking a couple of times when I’d peeled into the parking lot at the last minute.
I’ve had to reach out and ask for help and my family has had to eat left-overs a couple nights this week but it all fell in place. I’m in awe of the way God can swoop in and put things in order if we just close our mouth, tip our head back and look up to the giver of life and the master of all time and tasks. Perhaps I should try that more often!
A Seed To Plant: Tip your head back, close your mouth and look up to the giver of life and enjoy your day!
Blessings on your day!
Save me, O God, for the waters have risen to my neck. Psalm 69:2
How many times in a week do you tell somebody how busy you are? Its report card season and I’ll be the first to admit I’m feeling overwhelmed. I was sitting in prayer Friday morning and I was offering up my to do list to my Father, the ultimate time manager. I made a promise to him a couple years ago when I started writing and my ministry work began to blossom that I would go wherever he sent me and do whatever he asked me as long as he gave me the words and the energy. It’s become abundantly clear that he’s often a little overconfident in my abilities! Nonetheless, I promised so in my “overwhelmed-ness” I spoke out loud, “God do you know how I feel? I opened my prayer book and the verse above was the opening line in the Psalm for the morning. I think he not only knew how I felt but he was telling me how to solve the problem!
As I pondered that verse all day the word I kept coming up with was grateful! Strange word I thought at first but the more I let it wash over me, the more I understood. I was reminded of the verse from Luke 12 that says to him whom much is given, much will be required. I was reminded that being busy is a great exercise in humility. The world doesn’t need to know how busy I am or how much my daily schedule entails. If I truly am honoring my promise and using my gifts and talents for the Glory of God then my reward will be in heaven not on earth. If I can make all my tasks a service to the giver of all gifts, then everything becomes a prayerful offering; even report cards and laundry. I am as guilty as the next person of engaging in the “who is busiest” contest as if trying to gain approval, sympathy or respect. It stems from our human weakness, satan’s ploy to keep us so stinking busy we forget our focus and simply forgetting that we can make anything into an opportunity to serve God.
As I approach my task list with gratefulness I will realize how blessed I am to have those tasks. I’m grateful I have a beautiful family to create a mountain of dirty laundry; the world is full of lonely people. I’m grateful I have report cards to do; it means I am surrounded by middle lovelies who are the job I love. I’m grateful for the blogs I have to write at midnight or dawn; it builds my trust that the Holy Spirit will speak exactly the words someone needs to hear and he chooses me to type them. I’m grateful for speeches to give and classes to teach; it means people are hungry for the fire of Christ and he picks me to help start the blaze. I’m grateful for ball games and concerts and meetings; too many people feel they have no place to belong. I’m grateful for errands and shopping and cleaning; many are confined to a bed or wheel chair unable to move or see and do the things I selfishly view as burdens. Mostly I'm grateful that he has great expectations for me because it means he has given me much!
God gives us a hundred situations a day to help us grow in holiness. I may feel like the water is up to my neck but if I call out for help, he will first ask me to spend time loving him and putting my focus in perspective and then he’ll ALWAYS keep my head above water!
A Seed To Plant: With a grateful heart, list your tasks for the day and ask God to make you aware of the ways they can help you grow in holiness. Thank him for the expectations he has for you!
Blessings on your day!
Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. Romans 8:26
There is a big difference between being uncomfortable about doing something and being terrified about doing something! Up until a couple years ago, spontaneously praying out loud put me in the terrified zone! What if I said something wrong? What if my words didn’t make sense? What if a more eloquent prayer was in my midst and they thought my word choice was silly? What if I can’t think of anything to say at all and I get struck by lightning because I’m a lousy out-loud prayer? Oh boy did I have a list of reasons and reservations that prohibited me from leading spontaneous prayer every time I was asked. At first I was ok with the fact that I seemed justified in never being the prayer leader but then something started gnawing at me. I had to think and pray about it for a long time before I could build up the courage to give it a try and once I took that first step, I learned so much; so today seems like the perfect day to share what I learned!
As I was wrestling with this, I heard a speaker say something that made a light come on in my head. (Actually it was more like a gigantic powerful search light!) She said, “People today are sleeping with each other before they are praying with each other because the act of praying with another person is a deeply personal and intimate act.” Holy cow! If you needed a prayer warrior I was your girl…but I was gonna do my prayin in my morning prayer chair with just me and Jesus! The out loud spontaneous stuff was better left to the professionals but I realized through that speakers powerful words, the Holy Spirit was calling me to hand him my terrified. The real lessons came when I started with just simple opening or closing prayer for a meeting here and there. I was getting through them feeling a little less like throwing up each time until the night I was asked to do the opening prayer and the guy across the table from me did the closing and his prayer was so beautiful and simple and powerful and I felt like a prayer flop. I asked him after the meeting how he was able to craft such perfect words and he said, “I don’t! Step one is ask the Holy Spirit to send the words he wants you to speak, step two, know in your heart he will and step three, get out of the way and don’t give a second thought to how you sound because it isn’t about you at all!” That was some powerful advice!
This fall the seed has grown and I’ve been amazed at the situations and lessons I’ve gotten about praying out loud. Last week I was doing a staff retreat for a lovely parish staff and at the end of the day one of the participants was upset after receiving a phone call and I bumped into her as she was headed into the church to pray. We spoke briefly and I headed off to my car but I just couldn’t ignore the voice that was telling me to go back and ask her if she wanted me to pray with her. It was as if my feet weighed a hundred pounds and I just couldn’t move them down the sidewalk so I turned around and headed back into church and ask her if she wanted to pray together. I was glad I went back but I’m not gonna lie, I was a tiny bit relieved when she said she thought she would be ok. I was doubting instead of trusting. I found out later that simply offering to pray with her was a blessing to her heart. On Sunday I was asked to MC a fabulous night of praise and worship at our parish. I prayed about it for days before I said yes and even though part of me wanted to say no, every confirmation in prayer told me to say yes. As the night drew nearer I got more rattled. It would be out loud praying at several intervals during the 90 minute event. That was way out of my comfort zone especially since there was going to be a big crowd. I prepared and printed and planned and felt ok about it. When the evening started, they turned the lights way down and the flashlight I grabbed didn’t work so I couldn’t read a single word I had printed and written. It was an instant lesson in trusting the power of the Holy Spirit!
God wasn’t finished with the subject yet! On Tuesday’s the middle lovelies enjoy “Testimony Tuesday” and the speaker was talking about the importance of praying for each other and with each other. On the fly, we decided to take all the kids to the school chapel and practice praying out loud. She led us in beautiful prayer and demonstrated how to let the Holy Spirit send the words. After she had prayed about a few of the kids intentions she asked if someone was willing to give it a try and pray for her. She shared that she was newly pregnant and wanted someone to pray for that intention. One faith filled courageous middle lovely volunteered to give it a try. She did a fabulous job! She prayed for a healthy baby and a good delivery; all the things you would expect someone to pray about but then she shocked me when she said, “And God, if this baby should happen to die, please help her know you will still be there to love her and take care of her.” I was in tears and so was this beautiful woman. The amazing thing about this prayer is that none of us had any idea that on that specific day, she had been troubled with the thought of losing that baby. It was just heavy on her heart and none of us could possibly have known, but the Holy Spirit did and he put those words of blessing into the prayer of a child. It was amazing! As we sat there in the chapel I remembered the words of that speaker and I was determined to make it a false statement. The next thing that came to mind was that I couldn’t expect the students to do something I wasn’t willing to do myself.
As with anything new and challenging, practice is the key. Our mission is to get ourselves out of the way and just open our mouth and let the words of comfort, peace, love and blessing that can come only from God just come flowing out. Awkwardness is a given at first but it goes away with experience. Our willingness to waddle through something unfamiliar and frightening for the Glory of God is pleasing to the Lord and I’m all about pleasing the Lord how about you?
A Seed To Plant: You have 7 days to complete this task! Pick one person to pray out loud with. If someone at work or school is going through a difficult or joyful time offer to pray together. It can be as simple as Lord; I thank you for this person. I ask your blessing upon them at this time, please wrap them in your loving protection and strengthen them. Go ahead…give it a try…our eternity depends on it!
Blessings on your day!
…his mercies are not spent; they are new each morning. Lamentations 3:22-23
I am grateful for lots and lots of things and one of them is my ability to fall asleep as fast and hard as a brick being dropped from a high building! On the nights I’m not asleep in the first 3 seconds after crawling between the sheets I try to do a replay of my day and offer thanksgiving for the blessings and pray for forgiveness for my sinfulness. When I get to that part, sometimes I get pretty sad, even embarrassed about things I have done or said during the day. It’s funny that on the nights I don’t fall right to sleep it’s usually because something has happened during that day that I need to pray on, ask forgiveness for or ask God to help me fix the next day. I’m not gonna lie, some nights when I start thinking about silly things that slipped out of my mouth that shouldn’t have, or situations where I didn’t slow down enough to really listen or be compassionately present for someone I’d rather just roll over and go to sleep. Sometimes it’s like someone holding up a mirror and I don’t like what I see.
I was having one of those nights not long ago and I couldn’t go to sleep. I ended up moving to the couch so I wouldn’t disturb Dave because no matter how hard I tried to drift off, something just kept nagging at me so I gave up, opened scripture and asked God to show me what he was putting on my heart. It was a beautiful experience of his mercy that eventually led me to this verse in Lamentations. How great is our God! Even as he was pointing out something I didn’t want to see, he did it with such love. I realized that he was showing me how I could follow him more closely and after a while longer, I fell sound asleep and didn’t even roll over the rest of the night. When I woke up the next morning I felt so peaceful and content because I realized that no matter how much we mess things up, he is there for us and his mercies are new each morning.
Don’t we serve an amazing God! It’s like a “do-over” every day. The morning brings new light, new opportunity and God’s new mercies. If you’re reading this today and your heart is heavy about something you’re lugging around, put it to rest in the forgiving arms of the Father and sleep tonight knowing his mercies will be new in the morning. Admit your faults and failings, ask his forgiveness, offer apology and make peace where you need to and know things will be as fresh and hopeful as a bright new morning.
A Seed To Plant: Ask God to show you where you need to seek forgiveness, offer forgiveness and then rest in the promise of his mercy.
Blessings on your day!
Get out there and bring your joy! Pope Francis
How simple is that! When Pope Francis spoke these words he was talking about our work as disciples of Jesus. He went on to say, “If we are full of Christian joy then we should let our faces know it.” I love that image. So many times I muddle my way through the day trying to be a good disciple and I get tangled up in the “work” of it all and miss the “joy” of it all!
Nobody will ever be inspired by a grump! Who would ever want to be a disciple if all they ever hear is how much work it is, how many committees you have to serve on and how much time it’s going to take. If that’s all I knew of Jesus and discipleship I would probably run as fast as I could in the opposite direction. Our job as disciples is to bring people to Christ not scare them away or point out how hard we work to be one. People want to be drawn to Christ not dragged so I suppose it is a good idea every now and again to see if our attitude is one that is drawing, dragging or scaring away. I guess the even bigger question to ask myself is; would I want to follow me and get involved?
Pope Francis is an inspiration to all Christians because he is a living, breathing demonstration of joy, love, kindness and humility found only in the heart of a servant of the Lord. He makes us want to follow! I was reminded of a story I heard about a little girl who got in line and followed the kids who were leaving school to go to Religious Ed. A few weeks later the teacher realized the little girl wasn’t Catholic and asked her why she was going along each week. Her response was awesome. She smiled at the teacher and said, “I just wanted to go where they were going and learn what they were learning because when they come back to school they are so happy!” Out of the mouths of babes! It made me stop and ask myself, when was the last time I came out of church and others could see the joy and the happiness bubblin out of me? Jesus hasn’t changed…he is and was and always will be so that led me to the conclusion that it was me who wasn’t always bringing my joy; not him!
It doesn’t matter what the sermon is like or the music is like or the way the sanctuary is decorated. The joy of Jesus and discipleship lies in the love he has for us, the mercy he shows us and the grace he freely gives us. I just need to act like it! So…pew potatoes unite…let’s get out there and spread the word and bring our joy!
A Seed To Plant: Before you go to church this Sunday, ask God to reveal three things to you that will bring you joy and then take it out the door when you leave and share it.
Blessings on your day!
No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. John 15:13
The mystery began as soon as a very puzzled mother realized her 7 year old son had returned home from school without his underwear. After she had exhausted him with her standard line of questioning, she sighed, realizing she was no closer to unraveling the mystery. In her wisdom, she decided to do what all good mothers do…wait him out…he was bound to crack sooner or later!
A few days after the unfortunate underwear incident, the mom was unpacking her sons Spiderman backpack and discovered a small brown paper lunch bag with a message scrawled across the outside in red marker. The note, written by the mother of her son’s best friend explained the whole situation in humorous detail. It seemed that the measure of “coolness” among that particular group of boys was directly related to the designs on their little underwear. Her son had been wearing a pair of his new sports equipment underwear on the day of the disappearance. They were covered with pictures of little hockey pucks, baseballs, footballs, tennis rackets and such. Apparently they were the COOLEST one’s ever. The boy’s best friend studied them carefully because he wanted some just like it for his upcoming birthday. After a brief discussion about the inability of modern day mothers to shop properly, he decided to do what any great buddy would do; hand them over so the buddies mother could stick them in her purse, take them to Wal-Mart and whip them out when she arrived in the underwear section enabling her to purchase exactly the right underwear. Now that’s true friendship!
Friendship is one of the most thoughtful gifts God gives us. As I look back at the troubled or difficult times in my life, it’s usually the memory of friends who appeared and slathered me with love, support and laughter that I remember instead of the event itself. God promised life would be difficult at times but in His amazing love, he gave us great friends to help us along. The little boy who gave up his underwear was willing to forgo his personal comfort, endure his mother’s pelting questions and possibly deal with a bit of embarrassment all for his friend. Not exactly “laying down your life” but it was that tiny act of “dying to self” that contains the lesson.
Make no mistake, I’m not encouraging anyone to give up any part of their wardrobe today, but I am suggesting we take a cue from a 7 year old boy and make a sacrifice for a friend. If you’re looking for a way to love and honor God, why not start by loving and honoring the friends He’s blessed you with. A little act of “dying to self”, like passing up sweets, less screen time or doing the most dreaded job on the task list without complaint can be done out of love and offered up the Father in the name of a friend. Now that is a powerful way to ask God’s blessing on a friend; that is powerful love!
A seed to plant: Make a list of three friends and three simple acts of self-sacrifice you can do for the intentions and needs of those friends. Lift them up in prayer each time the sacrifice gets difficult and the blessings will magnify. Don’t forget to share the story of blessings that will follow your acts of “dying to self” for a friend.
Blessings on your day!