Jesus said, “Come follow me and I will make you fishers of men.” Mark 1:17
Growing up, Sunday was a great day. Mom and Dad made sure it was a day we slowed down. It was often the day we would take a drive and go visit my Grandmas or play games at the kitchen table. Winter Sundays were great but spring, summer and fall Sundays often involved a relaxing activity that I hated…fishing! Everyone in the family except me loved to go, so not wanting to spoil anyones fun, I never said anything but man I hated it when it was a fishing Sunday. To me, it was completely ant-social, totally uneventful and absolutely boring! You couldn’t talk or you’d scare the fish away, the hook began and ended with something wiggly and gross and if I actually ever sat still enough to catch something, the great prize was eating it. Since I don’t like fish, even the prize wasn’t a good deal. The only Sunday fishing trip I ever really enjoyed was the one where I convinced my mom that some boys at school told me Chocolate Chip Cookies were great fish bait. I told her that if I used those as bait, nobody would have to help me or listen to me complain about spearing a poor, little, slimy worm with a hook. It was a great day. I left my empty hook in the water all afternoon while I laid in the summer sun slowly nibbling on my two cookies and then announcing at the end of the afternoon that those boys had no idea what they were talking about! Any good fisherman will tell you, it’s all about the bait.
I love this verse from Mark’s gospel even if it does remind me of fishing Sundays. These words Jesus spoke two thousand years ago were not just meant for the disciples; they were for us in this place and this time as well. It’s one of those verses we read and think…oh no…he’s not talking to me! I’m not qualified to preach the Gospel or evangelize and lead others to the Lord. That’s for religiously smart, holy people who know lots of stuff about faith and the bible. If that’s what we’re thinking then we’re making a big mistake. Sharing the good news of Jesus’ love and mercy is a job that belongs to each of us. After all he’s done for us, he’s asking us to be willing to publicly “show him a little love!”
The most important part of this verse is the phrase “and I will make you”. Those five little words take all the pressure off of us. He's saying very clearly that he will give us what we need to do what he’s asking us to do. If we follow, he will arrange the situation and circumstances perfectly. He isn’t asking us to convert a continent or preach an eloquent sermon to thousands, he’s just asking us to take him with us wherever we go and share him with others. If you’ve ever asked someone to “put in a good word for you” then you understand what he’s asking. He’s asking us to make the introduction and he’s so amazing, he’ll even point out the folks he’d like us to introduce him to if we agree to follow and help him make a difference in peoples lives.
If we agree to let him make us fishers of men the best part is the bait! The bait he’s asking us to use as we “fish for men” is love. It isn’t knowledge or power or strength. We don’t have to buy any equipment or supplies, he’s given us everything we need to do this work. He has loved us abundantly and if we share that love with others, hearts will be changed, lives will be changed and the world will be changed. This is one fishing trip I can get excited about! The request is clear so pick up your pole, spend some time in prayer so you can load up on his love and then take that bait and tell a true fish story about the things you’ve seen him do when people grabbed onto the bait and let him change their life.
A Seed To Plant: Take this verse to prayer with you this week and ask the Father to show you where to take some of his famous bait!
Blessings on your day!
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. Philippians 2:3-4
It’s funny how different messages or thoughts seem to “randomly” pop into my head when I really need to hear them. A couple of years ago I read in several places that we should know our place in the grand order of things. I since have been reminded several times in the past couple of months that my place is 3rd. Sounds weird right! But it’s simple, God first, others second and myself third. I think if I searched the archives I’m sure I’ve actually written about being 3rd before but that message has been whappin me over the head more times than the anvil hammered Wiley Coyote in the Roadrunner cartoon. The reminder came loud and clear back in September when we took the 6th graders to camp. One of the camp counselors that the kids enjoyed the most sat down to visit one night and I noticed a tattoo on his forearm. It said, “I am third”. We had a nice chat about it and I realized he lived those words and that’s why he was such a delight to be around. I didn’t give it much thought after that thinking it was just a little reminder. Have you noticed that when you miss his message the first time he doesn’t hesitate to send it again and again until it clicks? In the last two months I’ve done several new talks and no matter what the topic, this thought of being 3rd just keeps coming up again and again. Sometimes I have to laugh and think; how in the world can I make that connect to this topic and when I ask, he always answers.
He’s lovingly helped me include this concept in almost all of the talks I’ve done this fall but in my heart I thought it was for others to learn. I foolishly thought I had a pretty good handle on the concept and did a fairly decent job of living it, but the last few days he’s been all about showing me in LIVING COLOR how I really wasn’t living it as well as I thought. The first was a sweet happening that whispered, “Sheri, I really am speaking to you, please pay attention.” and the second was a flat out UGLY, “I came unraveled, lost it and went screeching into first place instead of third” kind of event that has me face palming in embarrassment.
My word is joy. It’s in all my stuff, it’s in the name of my Ministry, it’s something I pray for every day, I talk about it, have scripture quotes about it everywhere…it’s my center of balance word. It’s kinda “my word”. After a presentation last Friday a truly lovely lady gave me a postcard. She told me a story about a speaker she had heard. He taught the audience to remember our place is 3rd by using the word JOY. I loved it. The postcard clearly spelled out that the J was for Jesus, the O was for Others and the Y was for you. Perfect sense, lovely visual aid and all delivered with a hug from a lovely lady in Saginaw Michigan. That was my whisper.
The UGLY came Tuesday at school. Looking back it wasn’t a really big deal but my reaction made it awful. It seems lately that my to do list is never under two columns and keeping all the plates spinning takes a lot of skill and balance. I know it’s a season; not permanent and I secretly enjoy watching how God manages and balances everything he asks me to do in amazing fashion but Tuesday I truly lost my way. My days are a bit like a house of cards this fall so if one thing gets shuffled five others fall out of line so when a surprise announcement came first thing Tuesday morning that totally changes the flow of the day and required 4 emails and 2 phone calls to “fix everything” before 8:20 in the morning I abandoned third place at rocket speed. I was anything but joyful and prayerful and I did everything but invite Jesus to meet me in the mess and keep me calmly in 3rd place. I spit and sputtered and focused on all the ways a decision that affected 300 other people inconvenienced me. I’m just gonna tell ya’ll I gave myself a BIG OLE first place medal that morning and as I crawled in bed that night all I wanted to do was give it back! I put myself in first place and felt miserable.
As God always does when we let him in, he gently pointed out that the day had actually turned out perfectly. He also made it clear in my heart that I needed to visit with all those caught in my spitting and sputtering and reclaim my 3rd place spot. The one thing I realized looking back over the event was how beautifully everything just fell into place in spite of the “alternate plan I wasn’t in charge of” and how much better the day would have been if I had just stood on bronze to begin with and shut out the noise and asked him for peace. I also made a note to remind myself that bronze is my favorite color…not gold!
A Seed To Plant: Prayerfully ponder the places you try to be first and ask God to show you how you can strive to be 3rd.
Blessings on your day!
The peace of God will guard your minds and hearts. Philippians 4:7
Have you ever had one of those crazy moments when you nearly did something completely ridiculous and then stopped and said, “WHOA, I better step back and take a breath, I’m loosen it”? I had that moment last week. It’s been a little hectic lately but God is good and I was clippin along with everything he was asking me to do and then came the God thump. It came when I was in my kitchen which is the place that centers me in the chaos. In my kitchen, I am happy because I love feeding people; it’s good for my soul! It brings me joy when people enjoy what I serve them and it always gives me a time to pray for my family and those who will eat what I’m whippin up in my kitchen. I love the feeling of serving that bubbles in my heart when I’m busy in the kitchen. When the God thump came, I was making a batch of cinnamon rolls for somebody who needed a little lovin and a little lift. Like usual, it was late and I was trying to cram one more thing into the day. I had the dough all rolled out and it was smeared with warm butter and sprinkled generously with brown sugar and in a quick twist to the cupboard I grabbed and was about to sprinkle a big ole dose of cinnamon on top of the sugar. Thank goodness the thump came and I paused a nano-second to realize that I was about to plaster the buttery, sugary dough with CHILI POWDER instead of cinnamon. After finishing up with the appropriate spice, and putting the rolls in the pan, I decided to close the kitchen and just be still.
As the rolls raised and baked, I had a chance to sit still and I asked God for a dose of peace as thick as the brown sugar I’d just piled on those rolls. He obliged, and I sat there and soaked up the gift of his peace. It gave me a chance to think about how nutty the pace of life can get. It gave me a chance to think and pray about how we use our time. I’m very grateful that I don’t get rattled easily but I began to do some thinking about how we handle stress. Just for fun, I googled stress and one of the first thing I found was a list of the top 100 books on stress. Top 100; I was floored…if there were 100 on top, how many more were under that 100? Next, I found 33 Scripture verses about peace. There was the answer! We were ingenuously created with an amazing immune system. That system works round the clock fighting off germs, and other microscopic stuff to keep us in balance. We have a stress relief system like that too. That system goes into action when we tap into God’s peace. In John’s gospel Jesus tells us his peace surpasses the worlds peace. It is greater, deeper, more conquering than anything we can get from a book. It comes with free, instant delivery; it always fits perfectly and it is precisely customized to fit all your worries, fears and anxieties.
There is a prescription for strengthening your peace system. It’s a three step process; take a dose of scripture reading, follow it with some quiet stillness soaking up the wisdom of those words and repeat! Nowhere in scripture does it tell us to go forth and be crazy. The book of Genesis doesn’t say that on the eighth day God created stress and worry. Those things are not of God and anything that is not from him is something we can ask him to help us avoid and remove. I don’t know about you, but sometimes I get all tangled up in it and forget to remind myself that it’s not his, but he will sure take it away if I ask him. It will require sitting still and applying the three steps, but for me, it’s a much better thing to do than making cinnamon rolls with chili powder.
A Seed To Plant: Write yourself a note right this minute scheduling the time today you will strengthen your peace system and do those simple three steps. It will be the most important thing you do today!
Blessings on your day!
God proves his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us. Romans 5:8
I love living in the country; it has so many perks! I love the fact that we have fresh beef that we raise ourselves (I can’t lie…Dave does the raising) we have fresh pork, vegetables and flowers from my gardens that sit on the kitchen island most of the summer and fall and my niece and her family raise chickens so there are plenty of eggs to share. When school started this fall, I instituted a tiny holiday (at least it’s kind of a holiday for me) called “Egg Day With Aunt Sheri!” When I’m out of eggs, my three great nieces come to my classroom after school and I take them home so I can get eggs from my niece. The girls like it because they don’t have to ride the school bus home and because we absolutely have to make a stop and get a treat! These three little girls are such sweeties and they always remember to pick out a treat to take home to their brother. The other day as we were driving home with their treats, I had to laugh because they were busy making trades. I’ll give you 3 Combos for a gummy worm or I think a gummy worm is worth 4 mini Oreos were the sounds that entertained me all the way home. As I picked up my eggs and dropped off the girls I couldn’t help but think of this verse from Paul’s letter to the Romans.
The girls were all about negotiating a trade that was fair for everyone, but God made the most epic, lopsided trade of all time. I’m not sure I fully comprehend the power of this verse so I’ve been puddling it around in my heart for a few days. We toss around the words fair, just and equal quite a bit, but I for one don’t spend much time thinking about how the Father must process those words. Our relationship with him is anything but fair, just or equal. He can’t be outdone or undone or even partially matched in love and mercy and I’m not very good at thanking him for that.
I think the power in this verse lies in the five words “while we were still sinners”. It wasn’t a negotiation. It doesn’t say, after you got your act together Christ died for you. It doesn’t say, when you stopped sinning Chris died for you. It doesn’t say if you do x, y and z then I’ll consider sending my Son to save you. He did it before we got it all together. It wasn’t about scoring enough points to get the reward. It was a matter of; I love you so much, I’ll take you right in the middle of your messy, goofy, sin riddled life and send my Son to show you once and for all how extravagantly I love you. I need to get that through my thick noggin because I go through most days thinking I can trade my measly little gummy worms or Oreos for a life in heaven. He isn’t there to bargain or negotiate with. He takes my puny little attempts at holiness and gives me the grace I need to do better. I think he whispers to me, I did this so you would be able to come home to my loving embrace; I want your love, your trust and I want you to put me in first place. It’s a gift my child; not a trade!
A Seed To Plant: Take a few minutes to thank God for his love and ask him to help you see a couple of things he’s inviting you to do so you can grow in holiness.
Blessings on your day!
Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction and faithful in prayer. Romans 12:12
Thank you for patiently waiting for the Joyful Words re-do. I thought I'd send out a quick message to let you know things were up and running before I got back to the regular Monday and Thursday posts. If you have some time, poke around the site and give it a look. If you'd like to have the blog delivered right to your email inbox, please fill out subscribe box and we will make that happen. You can also access the site through Face Book and now Twitter.
I'll be back tomorrow morning with a regular post but before I close this one out I'd like to offer a HUGE Thank you, Thank you, Thank you to the very talented Debbie Hengesbach for the great new design, to Jessie Lynn photography for capturing my smile with her photography talents and to a delightful former student, Aidan Flynn for the video on the home page.
Blessings on your day!
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. Hebrews 13:8
Things change…it’s just a fact! Sometimes it’s a delightful fact, like when the time changes and I get to sleep an extra hour or when the timer dings and the squishy dough has changed into delicious homemade cinnamon rolls. Other times changes aren’t so whippy, like when the sands of time shift, and the only perky thing left is my smile or when my biceps droop south and become a waving flag every time I raise my arm. I thought not having to shave my legs was awesome until I realized those little hairs were sprouting out my chin instead. Oh, and one more; I thought calling myself the most “mature” teacher in the building instead of the “oldest” was great until three kids in one week called me grandma. I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m looking at things all wrong; change is gonna happen and I can either roll with it or let it roll right over me!
I’ve decided to roll with it! After all, the things time does to a person are really kinda funny and sometimes I think it’s God’s great way of making sure I get plenty of humility practice. You might wonder what precipitated this “pondering”. It all started when I was standing on a step-stool in the classroom fixing one of the curtains and a sweet middle lovely walked into the room and with shock, asked if it was really a safe idea for me to be climbing on things. I would have given anything to have had the courage to jump right off the third step and shock his socks off but right before I attempted it, I had a vision of me landing wrong and breaking something or putting out an eye and requiring a call to 911 leaving the poor child scarred for life so I just winked and thanked him for his concern and promptly put him on the steps-stool to be the hero and save the classroom from a drooping curtain disaster. That afternoon as I riffled through the piles on my desk looking for that one piece of paper I put in a safe place, I realized time changes lots of things and along with the things that are different, so many things are made better by change; if we have the courage to see them.
I realize I’m really not THAT old but when I’m surrounded by co-workers half my age, it can feel like it. I had a visit last month with my 92 year old Great Aunt Patricia and realized that change and age are part of life. Aunt Patricia has an absolutely infectious laugh, a keen knowledge of the world around her, a savvy awareness of college sports and the Kansas City Cheifs plus enough spunk for a dozen people. As we chatted in my dads hospital room she made me realize that life isn’t always what you think you sighed up for but it’s never more than you can handle. It’s funny, but as I watched her drive away in her 1988 Pontiac Bonneville I didn’t notice gray hair, wrinkles or arm flags. I noticed an amazing woman, who to this day, raises a disabled child, mows her lawn, cleans her house and goes to Mass often. I don’t see age, I see a wonderful lady who has rolled right along with the changes life has tossed in her lap. If my 90’s can look that funny and spunky and wise; bring it on…I got a true glimpse of my gene pool and I was excited!
Speaking of changes, the Joyful Words website is about to undergo a big re-construction project. Starting Wednesday, the site will be temporary closed so a very talented web designer named Debbie can swoop in and fancy things up. Stay tuned, changes are on the way. While we wait, please know I’m praying for you and thanking the Father for this really cool journey we’re sharing. Thank you for coming back again and again to read what the Holy Spirit sends me.
A Seed To Plant: What changes are you struggling with right now? Take them to prayer and ask for the patience, wisdom and courage to face them and move through them gracefully.
Blessings on your day!
I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength. Philippians 4:13
Great news; I can do ALL things! Maybe I’ll begin by leaping a tall building with a single bound or establishing world peace by lunchtime or maybe get the crumbs cleaned out of the silverware tray! Somehow I don’t think that’s what Paul was saying to thePhilippians.
The key words in this verse are not “I can do all things” but rather “through Christ”. We weren’t created by God to be super heroes, or to live each day breaking our neck trying to do a hundred things to please everyone we know. We were created to be His hands and feet here on earth. I don’t recall a single passage in Sacred Scripture that described Jesus multi-tasking, over-booking His schedule or helping only those who could help him back. The beauty of this verse is that he’s not asking us to bear the burdens of the world and do ALL things. He’s inviting us to be open to his plan and let him supply the direction, grace, mercy, love and strength we need. In our acts of loving service, it’s a good idea to take an inventory of ALL the things we’re trying to accomplish and prayerfully sort through them. Maybe we’re trying to do a task that was meant to bring somebody else closer to God! Notice those in your faith community; maybe our greatest task of the day is as simple as stopping to listen carefully to a person who just really needs to be heard.
A Seed To Plant: In your daily prayer take a look at your “to do” list and ask God for the wisdom to know which tasks are really yours. Spend some time studying the way your favorite saint stayed focused on the one thing God was asking of them.
Blessings on your day!
Calling his disciples, he began sending them out two by two…Mark 6:7
This Gospel is a dozen lessons all wrapped into one. It’s about trust, teamwork, awareness, truth and gratefulness. As I reflect on these verses it provides an occasion to look at my relationship with the Lord and see which pieces of my discipleship are in order and which have a few kinks! This Gospel highlights the instructions given to a group of Christians long ago, but the instructions really haven’t changed and they apply to our personal discipleship all these years later.
Last week Dave and I celebrated our 26th wedding anniversary and this was the Gospel of the day. After reading that Gospel story, I was reminded that it was a great day to celebrate the fact that God sent me out in a new way with the other part of my pair! Once we said “I Do” we headed out together to help each other trust and serve. We lead each other and help each other decide when we need to stick with something and when we need to shake the dust from our sandals and move on. When bills are high and things don’t go like we expected, we remind each other that we have enough and God will fill in the gaps. I’m sure just like us, the disciples didn’t always see eye to eye with the other half of their pair but they had to stick to the mission. If the world tries to deceive us or our children we have to guide each other toward the truth. Together we have to discover and share the good news of Jesus with each other and those we love. Thank goodness for pairs and clear instructions!
Building his church on earth is our work, but it isn’t work he intended us to do alone, so it’s important to ask yourself; who is the other half of my pair? Who am I traveling and sharing my discipleship with on my journey to heaven? A 26th wedding anniversary was a great day to stop and say, “Dear Father, thank you for loving me enough to send me a helper and show me the way to know you, love you and serve you in this life so I may be happy with you in the next.”
A Seed To Plant: So, who is the other half of your pair and what are you doing together to make this world more Christ-like?
Blessings on your day!
And my God will meet all your needs… Philippians 4:19
We’re about 6 weeks into a new school year and it’s still that “getting to know about you stage”. As a teacher, you come to know their faces and expressions and sounds. You try to figure out how they will deal with disappointment, correction and success. Throughout the course of a day I get to see over 80 students and they each come individually wrapped and packaged; all with their own little secret ingredient! It’s fascinating and frustrating and delightful all at the same time. I often shake my head and marvel at how very different each and every one of my middle lovelies is. I marvel at God’s creativity as it walks, skips, slinks or thunders through my door.
It doesn’t take long to realize some need more time, more patience, more firmness or more love than others. Finding the right equation takes prayer and observation and lots of listening. I will be the very first person to admit I often get it wrong; I often mis-judge a students needs or intent. God has shown me after 100 years of teaching that the words “I was wrong, please forgive me” are powerful to a child…or a grown up…or an elderly person! As I think about my middle lovelies and many of the other lovelies in the building I can’t help but notice they create such a beautiful collection of God’s best work and each one of them is a treasure in his eyes. It’s my eyes that sometimes need an adjustment. I can get overwhelmed when I see how many people are misunderstood, misjudged and misinterpreted. I just want each child to be understood and loved and enjoy being at school!
The Young Disciples group will have the opportunity to participate in a program with some students who have disabilities and unique needs organized by Special Olympics this year. As we listened to a lovely speaker teach us about these young kids and the struggles and challenges they face everyday, it left me feeling a little guilty. Guilty that my life seems so easy, guilty that I take so many blessings for granted. I was looking at pictures of the beautiful children we will be working with and I just wanted to scoop them all up and make their life perfect. It was all churning around in my heart and all of the sudden I came across this quote from a woman I met last spring who has spent her entire life blind, mostly paralyzed and suffering from a host of other ailments. She was speaking about God’s enormous love and genius plan for us. She left us with a quote that came to my heart at the perfect moment. She said this, “I believe there is no such thing as a special needs person. We all have needs; human needs and some of us just need some accommodations in order to have our human needs met.”
I read it a few times until I found my peace. It made me think of things with a different perspective! It also made me realize how true it is for each of us. It is about those most basic needs; to feel loved, to feel accepted, to feel needed, to feel safe. Those are things I can give easily but I wonder how often I don’t recognize someone else's need for them or I’m too busy to offer to meet them. Each of those needs were perfectly designed by God and he’s waiting and willing to provide for them as only he can. When I really think about it, I often need some accommodations in order for him to meet my needs. I need him to be patient with me when I try to do it all myself. I need him to be understanding when I forget to show gratitude. I need him to make accommodations for my narrow thinking and impatient attitude. I suppose we would all do well to focus more on the accommodations than the expectations; putting things in that order might make a big difference. I realize after reading that sweet woman's words, I’m certainly glad the Father looks at me with accommodation and not expectation cause he’d sure be disappointed a lot! Father, thank you for all your accommodations, please help me offer them to others.
A Seed To Plant: Lord, please help me see those who need accommodations today and allow me to see their human needs and their great value as your child.
Blessings on your day!
How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news… Isaiah 52:7
I have a lot to thank God for every day! I’m thankful for a really great mom. She taught me more lessons than I can count. Sometimes her lessons were gentle and sweet other lessons were swift and to the point! I could always count on her to tell me what she thought and the important stuff was usually delivered without sugar on top! I was always so proud to be her daughter and I’d like to think I have some of her great “Barb-isms” within me. I loved the bond we shared and when she died, I missed that mother daughter relationship terribly. But, as usual, God showed how smart and loving he truly is and he gave me a daughter. Funny thing, after two sons, I was perfectly content with the thought of having another son, but along came a daughter and I haven’t stopped thanking him for her since the day she arrived. I love my sons, but my life suddenly felt complete again the first time I said, “I have a daughter”.
I love my Shannie B for so many reasons, but her faith, compassion and sweetness top the list. In this blog I often quote famous saints, saintly people or regular people trying their hardest to be saintly. I’m always looking for scripture and teachings to share so we can all examine our discipleship and grow closer to the Father. This week the inspiration came from a Facebook post and it’s the simple wisdom and raw truth of a young woman slugging her way through nursing school. In spite of the stress and struggle that come with trying to follow God’s plan to become a nurse, she invites him in and asks him to guide her path when she’d too overwhelmed to find her way. She sees her clinical work as her vocation, not her assignment. She sees it as a chance to grow in holiness not just a chance to get a grade. I’m so proud of my daughter the nursing student and her words in this simple post are good medicine for all of our souls! Compliments of an overwhelmed but very trusting young woman, I offer you her simple advice…
“Far better to simply "Be your message" Live it! Radiate it! Be an Inspiration! Nursing School has been anything but easy but when I realize that people all around me want goodness, whether that's people in the hospital marking their last days of life or those walking around Franciscan's campus, they don't want it from a cute quote on Instagram or a cliche comment saying it'll all be okay...they seek goodness from me and from YOU, a real live person who actually puts those quotes into action so "Be Your Message" today, you never know whose watching”
A Seed To Plant: What is your message? Ask God what message he wants you to deliver through your words and actions today.
Blessings on your day!
And all this is from God who has reconciled himself to us through Jesus…2 Corinthians 5:18
A long time ago I had a co-worker who was difficult to work with. She was a bigger challenge than putting on panty hose on a hot August day! It seemed that no matter how hard I tried, how friendly I was or how efficient I became, I just couldn’t please her. Every day before work I would ask God to give me a heap of patience so I wouldn’t have boiling blood by noon. Most days I was at a slow simmer by 10 am and I would feel like God wasn’t listening or I just wasn’t trying hard enough. Luckily, it was just a summer job but I have never forgotten that experience. I remember it because just like that summer, there have been plenty of other times I have found myself in a pickle and I go into prayer asking God to give me patience or understanding or whatever the necessary grace might be and then I trot off to fix the situation. It wasn’t until recently that I realized I didn’t have it quite right. In his book God Help Me, Jim Beckman offered a thought that spun me around like a top!
“I was using a self-help approach to Christianity. I would diagnose myself and then, like a good doctor, prescribe myself a prescription like patience. Then I went to God and told him to fill the prescription. Is it any wonder nothing ever changed? The language itself is all wrong anytime we find ourselves telling God what to do we’re in trouble. At the very center of this self-help approach to prayer was ME, not GOD.” He goes on to explain that the whole mystery of our faith is realizing Jesus is the center, not us. We can never live a perfect life as humans but we can through Jesus. “God doesn’t want you to live the Christian life; if that’s what you think the invitation is, you’ve got it all wrong. He wants Jesus to live the Christian life in you! And through Jesus you are to become the very righteousness of God.”
When I did some serious thinking about this information, I realized that it wasn’t at all about the behavior of that tricky woman one summer a long time ago. It was about what Christ was trying to teach me about myself through her. He was inviting me to look deeply at myself so he could reveal and teach. I discovered looking back that I was angry and hurt at that point in my life and he was trying to get me to turn those things over to him, but I couldn’t or didn’t want to deal with that, I wanted to find another way out. Looking back it was like riding my bike into a wall every day and expecting it to move! He was trying to mend my heart and show me some truths, but I was wasting all my prayer time demanding he give me the tools to fix somebody else.
I’d like to say that I’m much older now and I’ve moved past such silly prayer mistakes but the truth is I needed these words right now just as much as I needed them that summer long ago. I need to stop complicating things and let God be God. I need to stop approaching prayer with a self-help attitude and begin to let God reveal and teach and love me; that takes an honest and open heart. Whew…I’ve got some work to do!
A Seed To Plant: Listen to your prayer words this week. Are you self-prescribing or letting God be the center?
Blessings on your day!
…for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart. 1 Samuel 16:7
Sometimes it’s all in how you look at it! That little thought popped into my head as I was walking out the west facing living room door to hang up some laundry Saturday afternoon. It’s late September and that means the sunny west side of the house, including the screen door is plastered with box-elder bugs. I don’t know why they come every fall, I don’t know why they like the west sun and I certainly don’t know why they gather by the hundreds on my door.
As I was swatting my way through the cloud of bugs with my wet basket of wash, I had to giggle and realize it could be worse. Other than being annoying and puzzling those bugs don’t really harm anything. As I was hanging sheets and towels I began to think about how awful it would be if those pesky little things stung or bit or were filled with venomous spit or something…that would really be awful. I soon realized it really wasn’t such a bad thing at all. As I finished my task and headed to the house, I wondered how many other thing I was looking at all wrong; here’s my list.
*Teaching in 90 degree heat with a room full of kids that smell like sweaty pencils isn’t so bad when I consider what the folks who were in Harvey, Irma or Maria’s path are dealing with.
*Getting up to go to the bathroom a few times a night isn’t so bad when you consider all the folks that don’t have clean water to drink.
*The world if full of problems and knuckleheads. My concern should be not causing more problems, not worrying about the ones I can’t do anything about and certainly trying everything I can think of in order not to become another knucklehead!
*Lots of folks say we’re going to hell in a hand basket…I’m not gonna grab one of those baskets…I’ll just pick up a bag and keep on trying to head for heaven.
*Just because someone says so doesn’t make it true. I can waste lots of minutes trying to pick a side or I can just remember God is the author of truth and I only need to worry about picking his side.
*I’m rounder than I’d like, I’m shorter than I’d like, my life is not glamorous, I’m not rich, I don’t have a fancy anything but I have WAY more than I need, and WAY more than I deserve because I’m loved by a Father who spoils me rotten with his grace and mercy and love.
*Hot coffee, green grass, freedom to pray on my front porch, a clothes line to hang wash, a family I love and a job that challenges and delights me daily…I’m rich and more privileged than royalty!
Oh wait…I forgot…I am royalty because I am the daughter of the King of heaven and earth. It’s all in how you look at it!
A Seed To Plant: Make a list of the things that “bug” you and then flip them over and look at them another way.
Blessings on your day!
I have called you by your name, giving you a title, though you knew me not. Isaiah 45:4
I had an amazing mom! However, she did sometimes call my brothers and I by the wrong name; which was highly curious since I look nothing like a Jim or a Joe. This little habit was something I said I’d never do as a mom. Unfortunately, I did it too, more times than I could count. Thank goodness we are loved by a Father who created us and calls us by name; the right name.
There is power in our name and we take pride in our titles; they’re a big part of our earthly identity. If I speak to my class and say “hey you” the response is very different than if I call a student by name. The Father doesn’t just know our name, he knows us; every gift, talent, struggle, sin and quirk. The title he has given us declares boldly and mightily his love for us; our title is; HIS beloved child. We don’t have to take a test, write an essay or prove anything to claim the title. We simply have to recognize that we are his beloved and spend each day getting to know him more deeply and love him more adoringly.
Our Father is so amazing we should set aside some time each day to discover something new about the One who created us, inspires us and calls us by name. The Father doesn’t call us by name because we’re famous or popular, he is personally inviting us to go forth and share his good news and demonstrate his love and mercy to others.
A Seed To Plant: Thank the Lord for loving you enough to know you by your name. Lord, help me remember how precious I am to you and grant me the grace to proclaim your name to those around me. For bonus points; say hello to ten people today and use their name.
Blessings on your day!
As one whom his mother comforts so I will comfort you. Isaiah 66:13
As I was driving in the car today pondering the current state of my motherhood, the song “Dear Younger Me” came on the radio and I was immediately a puddle of tears. My baby girl turned 21 on Saturday and it’s always a special day because she shares her birthday with my grandma. Grandma died just a few days short of her 90th birthday so when Shannon arrived on what would have been her Great Grandmas 90th birthday, I felt like God had given me an extra special gift. When my beautiful Irish aunts all told me Shannon was sent to take Grandma’s place, I felt extra grace to help her become as faithful, joyful and kind as the amazing woman she shares her special day with.
Fast forward 21 years and my babies are all grown up now. I blubbered a bit as I looked at their baby pictures, choosing just the right one to post on Facebook, but they weren’t tears of sadness or grief…they were tears of joy, relief and thankfulness. Joy that we have three adult children we are very proud of and that we really enjoy. Relief that we survived drivers training, orthodontics, awkward middle school stuff and discovering the path God picked for each of them. And thankfulness for all the graces, gray hair, lessons in patience and proud mamma moments along the way.
I took all that to Mass with me and watched a sight I’ve seen many many times unfold before my eyes. Mass had just begun when I spotted her…you’ve all seen her…that mom with the little one who at moments has the strength of Hercules. You know the mom I’m talking about…the one who walks in with a load of kids and stuff and looks exhausted before we even stand for the opening hymn. My heart is always touched by the moms who desperately want to look put together but all too often they rush out of their house wearing the only outfit that will fit over their beautiful body that is still shaped a little differently after bringing forth another miracle. I look across the aisle and see the mom who tried to do her hair in the 2.5 minutes she had to get herself ready after wrangling up all her little lovelies only to have it all messed up, pulled down and chewed on by the soggy fisted wee one in her arms. I notice the mom who had an extra 30 seconds and decided to accessorize only to have her beautiful necklace become a chew toy. I see the mom who is wearing her favorite color in the hopes of brightening up her tired complexion only to have it decorated with stripes of spit up down the front and back. I see the moms who are trying every thing they know from pacifiers to board books to cheerios and goldfish to keep their little one quiet in church but they end up frazzled, stared at and sporting the tell tale sweaty lip before mass is even half over.
As I thought back to my “young me” I decided she had some things to say. After nearly a quarter century of being a mom, here’s what I’d like the mom with the sweaty lip to know. You are beautiful and the fact that you got out of sweats or yoga pants and made it to mass with your family makes Jesus smile; don’t worry about the cranky person two pews back who doesn’t know that. I want you to know that growing babies leaves evidence; on your hips, belly and thighs and it’s BEAUTIFUL! You are beautiful because you are a walking sacrifice…every day. Women often give up flat bellies, tight buns and perky anything so another human can enter the world and then feel bad because they don’t look like they did when they were 16. Each roll and lump and wiggle tells the story of your YES to life. Just so you know, there are no body size specifications for entering heaven.
I wish the younger me would have know that babies are loud, they smell bad and they are messy…usually in public! They are also cute, funny, amazing and holy in the eyes of the Father who perfectly created them and gave them specifically to you! Our world is pretty crazy and bringing our wee ones to church is the greatest security measure we can offer their soul. They belong there and you belong there! We need you there, and the Father needs you there. You may walk out the door and not be able to recall a word the priest said, but the graces will be granted because you were there with your babies, trying to worship and praise God with your church family. That's what we’re called to do and he certainly doesn’t expect us or the infant and toddler we’re toting along to be perfect but present.
I see you tired and frazzled and wondering if it was all worth it and the older me says “YES IT IS! Please don’t stop coming to church!” I see you sweat, I see the spit up, I see your patience sometimes fade but more than all that I see your faithfulness, your hopefulness and your absolutely stunning beauty. I remember it and I needed you to know some days I’d like it all back. I’d like you to know that it won’t last forever. I’ve never seen a 12 year old ask for goldfish, a sippy cup or a story book during the homily. Someday you will return to outfits that match and accessories and hair do’s that are stylish and lovely, but for now, just revel in the fact that you are doing the greatest job on earth…being a faithful mom whose trying to help her kids get to heaven. So wipe the sweat from your lip, buy a comfortable outfit and sit by people like me who will reach out to take your baby or make faces at your toddler to try and entertain them while you take a breath.
A Seed To Plant: If you aren’t a mom, share this post with someone who is and most of all, be the one who makes that young mom with the sweaty lip feel supported, loved, welcomed! Next time you see that mom in church, instead of scowling or judging, say a little prayer for her and ask the Peace of Christ to come over her and the little one she’s desperately trying to keep from distracting you.
Blessings on your day!
Out of the fullness of his grace he has blessed us all, giving us one blessing after another. (John 1:16)
I just love it when surprises show up in my day! The best part of trying really hard to be a good disciple is the way God sends his grace in tiny little packages and I notice them. I can be pretty thick headed (not sure if that’s a gift from my Irish father or my German mother?) but lately he’s been really good at helping me recognize the great little surprises of life as his gifts. What I’ve discovered is that the more I notice them and follow them with gratitude to him; the more little graces he sprinkles throughout my day! He’s so good to me!
Yesterday I drove to downtown Detroit to do a training at Sacred Heart Seminary. The building is incredibly beautiful but it is nestled in a part of Detroit that isn’t quite so beautiful. I was excited to be invited to the Archdiocese of Detroit again because the people there are SOOO amazing and in love with the Lord, but the travel there makes me a little stressed. I occasionally have to slow down on my morning commute for a tractor or possibly a school bus, but traffic slowdowns mean something TOTALLY different in Detroit. When 6 lanes of traffic became a parking lot and I was totally unfamiliar with the route, I decided I had 2 choices. First, I could become a giant stress ball sitting in my Chevy Traverse or second, I could say loudly and repeatedly, Jesus I trust in you…Jesus build my patience….Father, if you could part the Red Sea you can get me through this traffic to the place I need to be; AND…he did! The fist surprise of the day was the big truck that let me scoot over into the lane I needed so I didn’t miss my exit and it came with a giant smile and a happy wave from the driver.
After I finished in Detroit I had an hour drive to meet my 6th graders at camp. I was sad to miss the first few hours of camp but the little surprise in that; I didn’t have to ride the bus! The best surprise of the day happened when I arrived at camp and heard little voices yelling hello to me and the giant wet hug I got from the camper who fell in the lake while canoeing was awesome! I fell asleep last night thinking God had graced me huge and I thought that was enough. Then today began and the surprises just keep coming!
My day began with an incredible surprise…two beautiful ladies I don’t even know made the most delicious coffee I think I’ve ever had and I drank my first cup of the day in a rocking chair, on a giant porch, looking at a lake while saying my morning prayers! Nobody ever makes my first cup of coffee of the day…I didn’t realize how such a simple thing could make me so delighted and I was so grateful! I didn’t think I’d be able to post a blog today but…the lodge has wifi and I’m typing with a view of a beautiful lake. God is really outdoing himself and I have to wonder…is he really working harder this week or am i just seeing things more clearly because my heart is more open and grateful?
I’m in a beautiful place the next two days with the students I love, some great parents who happily volunteered to come along and we are surrounded by Camp Ohiyesa staff who are beaming with joy and are using their God given gifts and talents to make this a fabulous experience and my heart is just so full! Thank you God for your grace…now please help me remember to notice it even when the surrounding aren’t so pretty and the people aren’t so lovely and the coffee isn’t so tasty. Help me remember that your grace comes to us in happy times but it also abounds in times that are tricky. Help me remember you will always give one blessings after another!
A Seed To Plant: Your mission today is two fold…look for his surprises and then tell him thank you. The more you repeat the process…the more he will send his grace!
Blessings on your day!
And when I wake up, you are still with me. Psalm 139:18
Wow…is this the little wink we all needed to hear this morning. There is so much on our hearts this morning…fires in the NW, flooding in the south and Irma scooting and thrashing up through Florida and Georgia. It’s hard not to be overwhelmed as we think about all those who are suffering so much, but then along comes Psalm 139:18 and we exhale a little. He’s still here. He’s still inspiring people to give and help and support. He's comforting the lost and the lonely and the frightened. He’s working his mightiness through the sadness and the chaos.
Dave and I made a quick drive home this weekend to attend to not one, but two family emergencies and there was verse 139:18. His fingers are in the middle of everything I”m trying to bear on my own shoulders. His embrace is around all those who are hurting and in need. His love, mercy and protection is new each morning…just in time for renewed hope and a new beginning.
He will never NOT be with us; we just go through moments when we forget to notice he’s right there. Let’s remember he’s right here with us today and remember to ask him to make his presence felt in the midst of the chaos.
A Seed To Plant: Tragedy doesn't strike EVERYWHERE all at once. If you aren’t in the midst of tragedy or chaos, your job is to pray for those who are, so let's join together today and do just that.
Blessings on your day!
“For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building.” 1 Corinthians 10:31
Happy Labor day! I realize this isn’t a holiday everyone gets to celebrate. As I sit here typing in my pajamas with hot coffee inches away from my computer, Dave and Kevin are hard at work with the cattle and Shannon is going to class. That’s all a little against the spirit of the holiday don’t you think? Or is it?
I think sometimes we forget that our labor is a great way to love and serve the Lord. As Paul told the Corinthians, we are God’s fellow workers so that means we’re in this together. It’s easy to want to separate work from play or busy from peace but the truth is, God wants to meet us in both places. He wants all that we do to be an outpouring of his love. If we work, we have a chance to grow in holiness by serving others. Working can be a great way to gain something more valuable than a paycheck. Many of us spend the better part of our week at work so thats a lot of time to work with the Father in his fields and in his buildings don’t ya think? I think I need to shift my perspective.
I’ve decided to re-do some curriculum this weekend and as I stare at the pile of opened books and scattered sticky notes and notebook paper I have all over the dining room table, I realize today is a day to pause and thank God for our jobs and it’s an even better day to pause and pray for those who are underemployed or desperately seeking employment. Re-doing and long range planning may not be my favorite part of the job but I’m right where God put me, doing exactly what he’s asked me to do so I’ll ask him to join me in all the parts of my work, the fun and the not so whippy!
Wherever you are this weekend, at work or at play, know he’s there with you. It’s pretty easy to see him from a lounge chair watching the sunset on the lake but as we all head back to work tomorrow the questions are; can I see him in the cranky person at work and am I honoring him in the way I preform the tasks I’ve been given? Father, come with me to work because I want to answer both of those questions with a big yes!
A Seed To Plant: Take some quiet moments to thank God for work and ask him to show you more clearly how to bring him along.
Blessings on your day!
Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth. Matthew 5:5
Every now and again I run across something that just doesn’t seem to belong or have relevance anymore. I was cleaning closets recently and found an old rotary dial phone with a long spiral cord. I also have a potato slicer and French fry cutter that belonged to my Grandma Thelma. She used it in her kitchen when I was little girl. Both of those items have been replaced with more modern, convenient, efficient updated models so the old ones are cast aside as if they are no longer useful. There is a key word in this scripture passage from St. Matthew’s gospel that might seem as irrelevant as those old treasures hiding in my closet. That word is meek.
We strive to be strong and successful. We pray for the grace of patience, perseverance and wisdom. We admire people who are confident, powerful leaders with vision. To tell others our goal is to grow in meekness would be a little like seeing a rotary dial phone in a Verizon store! To be honest, when I came across the word meek the other day I decided to give it a look and some prayer. I think I need to change my opinion about that word. I think it’s a word we might all be able to relate to better than we thought and I’m certain it’s something we could use more of.
Long ago in biblical times the quality of meekness was highly respected and aspired to. We tend to view it as weak, timid or passive but that was not the message Jesus was teaching when he shared the Sermon on the Mount. Meekness in its true meaning is the opposite of those things. Being meek doesn’t mean you are weak and have to take everything like a door mat, it means an active and deliberate acceptance of undesirable circumstances that are part of a bigger picture we can’t see. Being meek doesn’t mean throwing in the towel, it means giving God authority to do what he wills with our life. True meekness can be measured by how closely related we are to the will of the Father. When we make that relationship first, we are content in his love and his control of our life. If we let him be in charge we realize everything happens for a purpose and we trust in his plan. If we are more centered on ourselves and our comforts and our pride we tend to fuss and complain and point out all the things that don’t go our way. If we are low on meekness we tend to see the world through the lens of poor me instead of God’s got it all figured out!
If someone rich in meekness is treated unfairly or wrongly it doesn’t mean that doesn’t sting, but vengeance or revenge isn’t part of their reaction. Their first reaction is to pray for the person who has wronged them and give the rest to God. A meek soul realizes that God is the source of justice and that all situations contain lessons. Sometimes the lesson is for us and sometimes the lesson is for somebody else and taught through us. In order to grow in meekness, we have to admit regularly that we are not equal with God. Through our great dependence on Him we grow and we trust and we think WAY more about him than about ourselves. I suppose meekness is a bit like realizing we truly need to settle into second place and stop trying so hard to be in charge, on top and number one. I don’t know about you but I have a lot of meekness building to do!
A Seed To Plant: What are some of the areas in your life that could use a little more meekness? Spend some prayer time this week with this old word with a great and misunderstood meaning.
Blessings on your day!
For I know well the plans I have for you declares the Lord…Jeremiah 29:11
I think we’ve all been exposed to the logic that if we’re trying to get better at something, we have to hang out and practice, or “do it” with someone who’s better at it than we are. That goes for anything from studying, playing a sport, music and growing in discipleship. If we don’t put ourselves in the company of someone who will challenge us to grow, we run the risk of becoming complacent or even stagnant.
This past week I was put in the middle of the story of a spiritual giant. I ask God every morning to put things in my path that will help me grow in holiness and he did just that, through a beautiful soul named Barb. I’d like to tell Barb’s story; it’s about a woman who is smack dab in the middle of a lousy situation that would have many of us in misery thinking God had forgotten about us. This beautiful woman's advice is heartwarming, life changing and life giving. I want to share her story because she’s the ultimate example of how to get better at discipleship by hanging out with someone who’s really good at it.
Her story begins with a stage 4 cancer diagnosis just weeks ago. The first pictures I saw of her days after the news were at her daughters wedding, and by the twinkle in her eye and the smile on her face you would have guessed the doctors were nuts and the stories were a lie. Sadly, the doctors weren’t mistaken and the story was true, so Barb’s journey began. I suppose in an attempt to comfort her family and friends she put the whole thing in perspective with her suitcase analogy. I was so touched and inspired by her story I asked permission to share because I think hanging out with Barb, her faithfulness and her suitcase story, we will all learn from her example, be inspired by her attitude and grow in holiness.
After Barb found out she was so sick, the first thing she did was to thank Jesus for giving her part of his cross to carry. All she asked in return was the courage to help her carry it to completion. The next step was to look at her cancer like packing her suitcase to go on a trip. The first thing to pack is the most important, and for Barb, that was obviously Jesus. He has to be the most important and the top priority. She makes sure she packs in a lot of Jesus through her daily prayers; especially Daily Mass, praying the Divine Office, the Rosary and Novenas. Novenas are very important because they are harder and require commitment and dedication. Next to go in are her sorrows and pain. The sorrows aren’t packed for pity or attention; quite the opposite. The sorrows are an important thing to pack because they are offered for others. Barb is keenly aware that offering our personal suffering for others is a powerful and loving gift. Suffering and pain are especially helpful for the suffering souls in purgatory. Up next are the blessings. I can just see her standing over that suitcase lovingly and gratefully calling each blessing by name and tucking it into her suitcase with tender, sincere thankfulness to God. Each day she does a little more packing; more prayers, more thankfulness, more suffering and she tucks it all in getting ready to go. Her mission as she wakes up each day is to fill that suitcase as full as she can so she’s ready for her trip. She doesn’t know what Jesus has in store for her but she is prayerfully and faithfully getting ready.
This weekend as I helped my daughter pack her suitcases to head back to college, I couldn’t help but think about Barb’s suitcase. It’s such an ordinary object but yet Barb turned it into such an incredible lesson in trusting in God the Father. I want to be a better packer…starting today! I hope you will all join me in praying for Barb and her packing; may she be fully prepared for her journey!
A Seed To Plant: What’s in your suitcase? If you wait until the last minute to pack, you might rush and miss something so take some prayerful time this week to think about what needs to come out of your suitcase and what needs to go in.
Blessings on your day!
There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: Ecclesiastes 3:1
One of my big projects this summer was to decorate my front porch. It was the first project and the favorite project of the summer. That porch is where I spent time almost every day of summer break. I did a lot of praying, reading, writing and planning on that porch. At times it felt like an outdoor living room or office. I remember the first morning I sipped coffee and said morning prayers out there; I let out a sigh that morning thinking the new school year seemed so far away. This morning, one of the last few mornings I have left for morning coffee and prayers on my porch, I realized how fast the days had ticked by. I started to feel a little pouty about the end of slow peaceful mornings when all of the sudden the flys started to pester me. The little ones were nipping at my legs and ankles and the big ones were landing on my book and dive bombing my head. They irritated the snot out of me and I was a little steamed that they would barge in and ruin one of my last porch mornings.
After a few minutes of being annoyed by these pesky little creatures I rushed into the house and in a moment of brilliance, I came back out with a fly swatter. I was going to show them! I smushed a few and sat in my chair feeling rather accomplished…I showed them who was boss! I picked up my book and began reading again and read less than a paragraph before they came back with an army of their friends. It was as if they flew off to find friends and invite them back to look at the nut swatting flys outside! I did have to stop and laugh at myself. Why on earth did I think that would actually work!
After surrendering to the winged party wreckers, I went inside and gave some thought to what had happened. As I was pouting about the rude interruption to my peaceful porch dwelling I had failed to realize they hadn’t bothered me all summer long. I had had weeks and weeks of perfect, so how dare I get all in a yank about one bad morning. As I drove to school to prepare for next week, I realized those flys were sort of a message and subtle kick me off my porch to move on to the next thing kind of deal. Swatting at them had been as senseless as expecting summer to last forever. My peace and quiet came as a season but all season change. The great parts of our live don’t last forever but neither do the bad ones. They all come and go. Thats how God gives us joy, rest and peace to prepare us for the trials and tricky stuff that draws us closer to him. Trying to throw a hissy fit when those seasons change is as pointless as swatting flys outside. As I puddled about my classroom getting excited about the new school year beginning on Monday, I stopped to thank him for a prayerful, wonderful, restful, peaceful summer on my pretty porch. He and I had some great talks there this summer and I thanked him for that too. After I finished with my thank you prayer, I went to my desk to type the class schedule and a giant fly landed on my computer screen and followed my cursor across the screen. I laughed and realized once again, God has a great sense of humor!
A Seed To Plant: Give some thought to the highs and the lows he’s walked you through this year. Thank him for both.
Blessings on your day!
Before we can get busy and live, we first have to get busy and die. Fr. Mike
I finally threw them away.! I had a pair of shoes in the garage that were older than the middle lovelies who will be taking a seat in my classroom next week. I had a really hard time throwing them out for a few reasons. First of all they were so completely comfortable and easy. Secondly, I had worn the backs down so they just slipped on in a second and they were all stretched out and broken in so they formed perfectly to my feet. The last big reason it was hard to toss them out…besides my earrings, they are about the only thing I own from 1999 that still fits! They sure weren’t pretty, they sure weren't the best I could get, they honestly were all used up and were practically out of function but I still held on because it was easy, I didn’t have to think about it or invest any effort into picking new ones or breaking them in…as bad as they were, it was just automatic!
I was at a funeral last week and Fr. Mike used the quote above early in his homily. It got my attention for sure! I’ve been mulling over his words for almost a week now and each day they tug my heart a little more. When we think about living, we think about today and tomorrow and probably next week. We think about our schedules and the upcoming events we’re looking forward to, like trips or celebrations. We also think of events and trips we aren’t looking forward to, like the dentist appointment or defrosting the freezer. The truth is; none of that is the living Fr. Mike was talking about. True living comes in the next life. In eternal life we never have an event that brings us anything but COMPLETE happiness and joy. No stress, no deadlines, no organizing or planning and certainly no “get the yucky stuff done so I can get to the good stuff” thinking. If we take our absolute best, most perfectly amazing day on earth and multiply it by a million, it won’t come anywhere close to the supremely awesome time we will spend in eternity with the Father. That thought has me grinning from ear to ear as I sit here typing. Making sure we experience the amazing life God has planned for us is where the “get busy and die” part comes in.
I was so busy hanging on to those nasty old shoes because it was habit, it was easy, it was convenient but I finally had to die to the shoes. I had to make a decision to put them to rest and do something better. When I actually did that, things were a little stiff and uncomfortable at first but now my feet are happy, and the performance of a pair of shoes that actually stay on my feet and keep the mud and yucky barn and yard stuff off my feet when I run out to do chores is a big bonus. Everything, including my toes, is fresher, cleaner and in much better order. I’m perfectly aware that changing out my chore shoes is much different than changing out some of the habits, practices and attitudes that are mucking up my eternal life, but you can see where Fr. Mike’s homily led me. If I don’t begin to die to self in the way I do my living, I’m risking my chance at truly living…with HIM…where living really matters! I had to really look hard at my earthly living and recognize that this is nothing compared to what I’m really looking forward to. Is it better to complain about things or people that are making my earthly living inconvenient or uncomfortable or is it better to recognize my selfishness and die a little to my selfish wants in order to put someone else first. That homily and those old shoes caused me to ask myself a couple of serious question. “If my life ended this day, what would I have to make an accounting for?” “If I stood before the Father today, what parts of my living would I have to explain, defend or prove?” “Are my judgmental thoughts, my overindulgences, my stubborn pride and my determination to do things my way, things that help me get busy living?” I decided I need to ditch those things like my old shoes and get busy and die to those things and probably a whole list of others. Step one; Jesus, take my hand, I’m gonna need some help learning to die!
A Seed To Plant: Make a list of all the things that are going to get in the way of truly living and ask God to help you devise a plan so you can get busy and die to the things that are in the way.
Blessings on your day!
“Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours.” Luke 15:31
I heard someone on the radio the other day talking about the story of the Prodigal Son so I decided to give it another read and do some thinking on it. Every time I read the story I get angry with the first son. According to the customs of his time, asking for his inheritance was the same as saying his father was dead to him. As a parent I just can’t imagine what it must have felt like to be so bitterly betrayed by my own son. As I read on, I sometimes find myself cheering for the second son…the one who was obedient, hardworking respectful and never asked for anything. He seems like the good son for sure…or does he? Surely the first son is the bad son…or is he? As I prayed on this passage from Luke’s Gospel I began to see myself in both sons. I’m not gonna lie…I didn’t like that idea very much!
I saw myself in the second son but not for good reasons. Yes I try to be obedient to God’s will and yes I try to be grateful and conservative and not demanding but this wasn’t what was stirring in my heart. The second son was all about entitlement. He wasn’t concerned about his brother, he was concerned about himself. He didn’t stop for 2 seconds to see the relief or joy in his father’s eyes. He didn’t stop for 2 seconds to realize what a tremendous act of “pride swallowing” his brother had just demonstrated. And he certainly didn’t stop long enough to think about how extravagantly his father would shower him with love if given the chance. It was a gigantic open and shut case of “that’s not fair!” Why is it we have such a hard time being genuinely happy for others when good fortune comes their way and not ours? I guess I need to think more about the blessing of generosity and less about keeping score. I heard a story not long ago about a wealthy couple who had attended a fundraising event and won the big cash prize. The audience was full of second sons who whispered among themselves about how that couple certainly didn’t deserve to win. What all those whisperers didn’t know is that the couple humbly accepted the cash prize and used every penny of it to buy groceries, diapers and gas cards for two struggling young family in their church.
The first son…what could he possibly have to teach me? I smugly thought I would never be so bold, wasteful, irresponsible and disrespectful. God wouldn’t let it off my heart so I stayed a while longer and thought about that lousy first son and as I sat and prayed, he began to sprout some redeeming qualities. I began to consider things like his courage, humility and desire to reconcile. He knew he had hurt his father but something deep inside him wanted to make that right. He wasn’t asking to have everything back to normal; he was willing to be a hired man not a son. True, his return might have been motivated by selfish reasons like hunger and pride but I can’t even imagine being brave enough to take the risk. He had to be willing to own up to every one of his mistakes and face the judgment and consequences that might come. He left home prideful and arrogant and he returned broken and weak and a complete failure, but yet he returned. As he walked down that road to his father’s house every weakness was on full display. I’m not sure I could muster that kind of honesty. I can go to all sorts of lengths to conceal my weaknesses and failures; it must have been quite a task to lay it all on the line like he did. I noticed that not once did the son offer any kind of excuse or rationale for his behavior. He just told it like it was and hoped to be accepted in spite of the brokenness he brought with him; I don’t know about you but I could take a lesson there!
I spent so much time thinking about the sons, I forgot the star of the story…the father. The father in this story is our father too. Our Heavenly Father loves us with the same unconditional love as the father in the story. He will always welcome us back no matter what we’ve done or where we’ve been and he will be so happy to see us there will be great rejoicing. He loves us even when we’re too busy keeping score to realize only he knows the perfect reason blessings are bestowed as they are. I realized he wants us to know his forgiveness and his generosity. He wants us to remember our job isn’t to focus on the behavior of his children; our job is to focus on the love of the Father.
A Seed To Plant: Pick a favorite Gospel story and give it a read with fresh eyes, asking God to put you right into the story so he can reveal his truth and love to your heart.
Blessings on your day!
Brothers and sisters: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. 2 Corinthians 9:
As a teacher, I know there are some things kids enjoy. No matter what the age, glitter glue, paint and wet glue are always met with enthusiasm. The hesitation on my part is the inability of most of the students to comprehend the concept of “use just a little”. When I moved from little lovelies to middle lovelies, I thought they would get it; not so much! I still get projects that weigh 3 pounds and take 4 days to dry! It seems if a little glitter or paint is good, then a lot makes the project awesome! I suppose it’s later in life when we realize that very often a little can go a long way! Just like the kids and their glitter glue, we adults can sometimes go overboard on things and loose track of the concept “enough”. We are a society that likes our “stuff” aren't we.
As I was looking at the insane number of cucumbers in my garden the other day, I thought of this verse from Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians. In the spring we dumped jut a few extra seeds in that little hole just to make sure we would get a nice amount of cucumbers. Sheesh…is seems we sowed bountifully and now the reaping from that one plant is crazy! As I was cleaning and planning what in the world to do with all these green little beauties, I began to think of the places we could use more bountiful sowing and reaping. I’ve decided these are some places we could benefit from sowing as abundantly as school kid with a fresh bottle of glitter glue!
A Seed To Plant: As you sit in quiet prayer this week, think about the areas of your life where you have sowed sparingly and the places you can bump up the sowing and then ask the Father to bless you with his abundant bounty.
Blessings on your day!
Consider it all joy, my brothers when you encounter various trials, for you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.
Consider trials JOY? What was St. James thinking when he wrote this? Upon first glance at this verse we might be tempted to wonder if the beloved Saint put in a few too many prayerful “all-nighters” because surely he wasn’t serious about feeling joyful when the washer breaks, someone you love gets sick, the fuel pump on the car goes out or the sweet teenager in your home eats the last piece of peach pie you were hiding…I mean saving, in the back of the fridge! Joy…I don’t think so! And what about the really big stuff like losing your job or serious illness, surely he couldn’t have meant those things could bring joy. I suppose we could sit down and make a list of all the trials that have happened upon us in the past month and we would be overcome with many emotions, none of which would be joy!
The real meat of this verse is the part that explains what we can get in exchange for our trials…stronger faith and perseverance. Do you remember when you were young and you went home from school and complained about that boy who pulled your pigtails or the girl who annoyingly pointed out your every move to the teacher? The standard reply from home went something like this, “Well honey, if they didn’t like you they wouldn’t tease you.” This verse has a little bit of that flavor to it don’t ya think! God promised that we would have trouble…it is a guarantee, not a possibility. Even though we’ve read those words more than once, trials still seem to catch us by surprise. We sometimes even cop an attitude and think, “What, me…why me Lord? What have I done to deserve this difficulty?” We might even get really sassy and say, “Oh, pardon me Father, but you’ve made a mistake, I’ve already had 8 serious trials this month, I believe this current dilemma belongs to the neighbor or even better, the guy who cut me off in traffic this morning!”
The simple truth is, if He didn’t love us, He wouldn’t give us trials at all. Each difficulty or disappointment that knocks on our front door or barges right into our day is an opportunity to grow in trust or compassion or patience. When we throw up our hands in despair and say, “Ok God, I don’t know how to do this…I don’t think I’m strong enough for this, please guide me and guard me and love me through it!” we will grow in faith and perseverance plus we will be blessed with grace and mercy. I think what St. James was teaching us is that any time we surrender to the holy power of God, that’s joyful, and the blessing is more strength, more grace and more faith for the next thing! It seems strange to thank God for the lousy stuff but that is what we are called to do. We need to act like we are completely aware that He is about to do a might work through that trial if we would just stand back and let Him take us through it.
A Seed To Plant: The next time a trial comes your way, stop and thank God
for it and ask Him to show you the joy in the situation. We’d love to hear your stories!
Blessings on your day!
“You better learn to swim upstream, going against the current, against the flow. Only dead things float downstream.” -- Steve Ray
I think its fair to say that toothbrushes are an object designed for a good purpose. Everybody has one and everybody uses it a couple times a day. I think everyone would agree with the statement that “toothbrushes are good.” Or are they? I remember one evening many, many years ago I would have totally disagreed with that statement! There was an unfortunate incident involving two sleepy, crabby siblings, one tube of toothpaste and a toothbrush wielded like a sword. To make a long story short, my blindness was slightly dramatic and only temporary but that evening, I was a preschooler who knew for a fact, toothbrushes are bad and dangerous! Even the most harmless and “good” things can be used for bad I suppose, so it’s important to step back and look at things through the lens of reason and intent.
Social media is a big part of our world. Like the toothbrush, many folks feel like it’s good and others view it like that sleepy little girl who got poked in the eye with a toothbrush and have nothing good to say about it. Again, we have to look through the lens of reason and intent. Without a doubt, there is garbage, danger and evil lurking in our digital world but there is also a great deal of good, rich, amazing stuff too. The quote from Steve Ray at the beginning of this post is the perfect example. My friend Noelle Garcia was at a Catholic Family Conference in Wichita, Kansas this weekend and she posted many little nuggets like this one throughout the conference. I couldn’t be there to learn and listen but I’m so glad she posted what was being shared with her. I’m so glad my focus leads me to the good and inspiring places that can encourage me to swim upstream and help me find the desire and strength to swim against the current.
When I gave this quote some prayerful thought, I realized there are so many times I get tired of swimming upstream and I just want to grab on to something and float. Being an intentional disciple is tough sometimes. Choosing to begin the day in prayer and scripture reading instead of sleeping longer isn’t always easy. Walking away from conversations that aren’t positive or fruitful isn’t always easy. Making the decision to see and be Christ to others isn’t always easy or convenient. Offering cheerfulness and Christian charity towards the worlds rude and cranky, takes thought, occasional tongue biting and discipline. Standing up for the unborn, the underserved and the mis-judged is tough but when any of these things are done with Christ like love, you better believe it’s an upstream effort.
The next time you’re having one of those days when you just want to take a “pass” on the “current fighting” and just grab onto a piece of drift wood and float along, stop and think about what you’re grabbing. Drift wood is dead, that’s why it’s floating downstream. While it may be easier, it isn’t going to get us anywhere good. God didn’t put us on this earth to be dumped into a collection pool where dead stuff gathers and becomes stagnant and lifeless. He promises new life, refreshing life and an existence with him filled with joy, peace and life abundant. The next time you feel weary from swimming upstream, join up with others swimming in the same direction and give each other strength and support instead of grabbing something dead that will pull you downstream.
A Seed To Plant: Make a list of the things you’re hanging on to that are dragging you downstream. Reach out to one person who is swimming upstream and chat with them, pray with them and commit to one thing you can do together to help each other go against the current.
Blessings on your day!
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