But God, who is rich in mercy, because of the great love He has for us, Ephesians 2:4
My big brother Jim was a great guy! I have so many memories of our childhood; and like all brothers and sisters close in age, it should come as no surprise that most of those memories are of great times and events, and others…well…not so much! Jim was tall and strong and he absolutely LOVED to catch me by surprise and grab my hands and start a game of “mercy”. The rules were simple, bend back your opponent’s hands until they cried “mercy” and then you’d stop. Strange game I know but he did it every chance he got. Jim was competitive and beating me was quick work when I was little but as I got older and he began to realize I had inherited our mother’s huge, strong hands and long fingers I wasn’t such a quick win and he had to take it up a notch when I beat him a time or two. After I had a taste of victory, I wasn’t as eager to spit out that cry for “mercy” to end the game. I giggle when I remember the last Christmas we were all together, I was 20 and he was 22 and we were still playing that stupid game.
One thing I could always count on from Jim was immediate mercy when I called out the word. He didn’t take a second to honor the request, he stopped instantly. “Mercy” was a game played by lots of folks when I was growing up (maybe it was a Kansas thing??) but not every opponent honored the request for mercy immediately but Jim did and that always stuck with me. For Catholics all over the world, the Sunday after Easter is known as Divine Mercy Sunday and it’s a day we celebrate the immediate, guaranteed and undeserved Mercy of the God who loves us. I read somewhere that GRACE is a gift freely given by God for things we don’t deserve and MERCY is a gift freely given in place of what we do deserve. Thank goodness! If God chose to discipline me with penalties and punishments for all my sin and shortcomings I’d never get ahead…I think He knew that and that’s why He invented mercy! In fact, His Divine Mercy is even more immediate than that shown by my brother Jim in that silly game we used to play.
In order to better understand the gift of Divine Mercy, I’ve borrowed some words from the Marians of the Immaculate Conception website…may their words help your heart understand this beautiful gift. The ABC’s make it easy to understand… A – Ask for His mercy. God wants us to approach Him in prayer constantly, repenting of our sins and asking Him to pour His mercy out upon us and the whole world. B– Be merciful. God wants us to receive His mercy and let it flow through us to others. He wants us to extend love and forgiveness to others just as He does to us. C – Completely trust in Jesus. God wants us to know the graces of His mercy are dependent upon our trust. The more we trust in Jesus, the more we will receive.
Lucky us!!! How blessed are we to receive the gift of His mercy…but wait…if you read carefully you noticed the parts that said the gift is free but it comes with an expectation! The expectation is that we must extend His mercy to those around us! YUP…that means to those who have wronged us and hurt us and haven’t lived up to their end of the bargain. I suppose it’s a little like the way we are with God; often hurting him, not living up to our end of the bargain and doing dozens of assorted “wrongs” a week. I’m thankful for the memory of my brother Jim and our countless games of “mercy” because it was a wee little sneak peek into the beautiful revelation of the Divine Mercy of our Father.
A Seed To Plant: Pray over the Mercy ABC’s and jot down those things you need to ask God’s mercy for and then make a list of those whom you will allow His mercy to flow through you and land on!
Blessings on your day!
Help me, Lord, my God; save me in your kindness. Psalm 109:26
As I contemplate the joy and amazement of this Easter season my thoughts just get lost in the “wow” of it all. How did a stone that big just get moved over? How did the Apostles feel when they saw Jesus again? How must Thomas have felt when Jesus loved him enough to let him touch his wounds so he would be convinced? How must Mary have felt to hold her sons face in her hands and look lovingly into his eyes again? The list of questions goes on and on and all I come away with is … “wow – I can’t even imagine!”
I think we forget through Jesus’ resurrection we also received a resurrection. He paid the enormous cost for all of our sins. It’s not often in life someone does ALL the hard, horrible, painful work for us and we simply reap the benefit but it happened one Easter long ago. That Easter lives on to this day and as Christians, we’re still basking in the blessings of the resurrection. As I’ve been contemplating the “Wow” of the resurrection, I’ve made a list of things I need a resurrection from. They will take a lot of work and maybe some sacrifice and perhaps even a fair dose of suffering but if I want to share in the joy of Jesus’ resurrection I figure I’ve got a little work of my own to do. And I suppose my greatest hope is to be more in love with him and more connected to him and even more filled with Easter joy! Here’s my list…
*I need to be resurrected from selfishness! A wise woman I know recently said that complaining is the greatest form of selfishness because the reason we whine and complain is to let others know something happened to us that wasn’t convenient or pleasant and we want attention for it. I didn’t want to believe her but the more I think about it the more “right” I realize she really is! Lord, help me realize the world isn’t obligated to ensure my comfort and happiness.
*I need to be resurrected from narrow-mindedness! I’ve got to remember I don’t know what I don’t know! I see a tiny sliver of the situation but if I had the chance to see the whole thing I would realize how narrow my perspective can truly be! That needs to be my first thought and not my last.
*I need to be resurrected from indulgence! I approach the comforts of this world with my hands poised to reach out and take rather than with hands lifted to thank and share. I often want the first, prime choice things for myself instead of being satisfied with the crumbs or the crusts. I approach things and feel the need to grab them up in case they won’t be there later instead of trusting that I will always have exactly what I need exactly when I need it. (You would think by now that I would realize there will not be a world-wide shortage of chocolate chip cookies or mashed potatoes!) My indulgence can border on greed more often than I’d like to admit! Lord remind me all I need is You!
*I need to be resurrected from doubt! My blessings outweigh my struggles by a hundred-fold but I seem to forget that daily! Jesus, heal me of my unbelief…yes I do think those words were put specifically in the New Testament for me!!!!
Jesus didn’t rise by himself; it was through the power of His Heavenly Father. I need to remember that He is my Father too and if I but call on His name and trust in His infinite wisdom, power and love I too will experience a resurrection from all the things on my list. Why do I make it so hard…I call upon His name, I suffer through the process of change a bit all the while remembering He’s got me in the palm of His hand and I will rise above it and be closer to Him. Seems simple enough…guess I better get to work on my resurrection!
A Seed To Plant: What are some of the things you need a resurrection from? As you make your list, read the resurrection story slowly and carefully and allow yourself to be swept away in the “Wow” of the story!
Blessings on your day!
He is not here, He has risen just as he said.. Matthew 28:6
Happy Easter! It’s the day on the Christian calendar that means EVERYTHING to us! It’s about so much more than chocolate bunnies, pretty dresses and baskets filled with surprises. I have so many thoughts about the glory of this day…but here’s the deal…its late Easter Sunday night as I type and it was one of the greatest Easters I remember! The sunshine finally made its way to Michigan and it was nearly 70 degrees today…so of course we stayed outside to soak up every second of it. The other thing that made the day so fabulous is it was our turn to host the Easter party so today we celebrated with nearly 60 of my husband’s family. We laughed a lot, ate too much and enjoyed each other’s company for hours and hours!
Sadly, everyone has gone home and the house is quiet and back in order; the floor swept and the dishes all put away but the one thing I’m in no hurry to clean up is the glass storm door leading to the front porch. The family has grown to include several great nieces and nephews and they left their adorable little finger prints all over the door. After everyone had gone home I found myself washing dishes at the sink just staring at those little prints wondering how my own children had grown past that stage right before my very eyes. Spring came today, in all its glory…we wondered if it ever would, but everything changes and runs in cycles…including fingers that grow too big to leave prints and smears on the glass. The one thing that never changes though is the love of the Savior that brought us all together today.
I hope your Easter was wonderful! I’m sad the day has come to an end but I’m comforted by the fact that we are an Easter people and the celebration will continue…it’s bigger than one day so that gives me a chance to just stare at the little fingerprints that warm my heart a little longer and know I can still write about Easter on Thursday!
Blessings on your day!
...But the Lord laid upon him the guilt of us all. Isaiah 53:6
Many times in these posts it’s been my privilege to share the wisdom, honesty, simplicity and humor of my little lovelies. Today is another one of those posts! Good Friday is a difficult event to teach. I never get through the teaching without tears because as I look at all those darling, innocent (well, mostly innocent) faces it’s a hard story to tell. It’s hard to tell them that our offenses were responsible for the suffering and death of Jesus when most of them have sins no greater than being sassy or telling a lie to compensate for poor judgment over something like playing football in the living room and breaking a lamp. It’s hard to figure out the balance of Good Friday details. I want them to understand but the true brutality of the day is more than a seven year old should know. A couple years ago I was having an especially difficult time with the lesson when one little boy raised his hand and absolutely saved me.
I have a line in my classroom that I use every time I goof things up (which is often!). First graders require routine and consistency and they all know the one thing I love almost as much as Mr. Wohlfert is coffee, so when I make a mistake, in order to avoid upsetting the balance I always say, “whoa…what was I thinking…I need more coffee!” The day of the difficult Good Friday lesson as I was coming unraveled right before their very eyes with my tears, that darling little boy in the middle of the carpet raised his hand and said, “Mrs. Wohlfert, did you make up the name Good Friday?” A bit surprised I said, “No, why do you ask?” He smiled and said, “Well because if you had made up that name I was gonna tell you to go get a lot of coffee because that’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard.” I laughed at his “cut to the chase” commentary and when I asked him to tell us what he meant he said, “Think about it, all that terrible stuff happened to someone great like Jesus who never did anything by love people and then they go and call the day good? That’s nuts Mrs. Wohlfert, it’s just nuts!” As I sat there asking the Holy Spirit to help me with my response, the little girl next to him said, “I think they named it that after it happened. The day wasn’t good, but what happened because of the day was good cause that’s when Jesus opened the gates of Heaven for us all and that’s really good.” The only thing left to do was to remind them that no matter how awful that part of the story is, there is an unbelievably happy ending to the story and we celebrate it three days later on Easter Sunday. You can bet that every year since that day, I have included their words as a part of the Good Friday lesson. I am forever changed when I become the student and they become the teachers.
I have to borrow another story that just fits with the Good Friday story. This beautiful lesson came from two Kindergarten students earlier this year as Mrs. Sedlecky was talking about the amazing love of Jesus. One little boy raised his hand and said, “Mrs. Sedlecky, I’ve got something sad to tell you.” She looked at him and told him she was ready to hear his sad story so he looked at her again and said, “You know that Jesus guy you were talking about, yeah, a couple years ago he died.” I can only imagine what was going through her mind as she formulated her response but she too was saved by the wisdom of a child when another little boy said, “It’s ok, Jesus died, but he died because he loves us.” The first little boy looked in amazement and said, “No kidding?” It just goes to show you, even the most complex mysteries of our faith can be seen new when you look through the eyes of a child.
Jesus encouraged us all to have the faith of a child, so on this Good Friday read the story and look at it through the eyes of a child until you can clearly see how much you are loved and sought after by the Savior who died for you.
A Seed To Plant: Read Isaiah Chapter 53 slowly and prayerfully through the eyes of a child and then drop to your knees in complete gratitude and thanksgiving for the events of the day and for the happy ending to the story.
Blessings on your day!
Christ became obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Philippians 2:8
Happy Holy Week! This is the most powerful week in the life of a Christian. It’s a week to pause, ponder and pray. I’d like everyone reading this post to take some time to stop in their tracks and soak in the beauty, sorrow, sacrifice and magnificence of this week. Imagine for a few minutes what it would be like if Holy Week were made into a motion picture; I know Mel Gibson kind of already did that but think of it in your own mind and your first task is to cast yourself in one of the roles. I’m going to assume none of us would cast ourselves in the role of Jesus, so I’ve listed some of the other characters for you to select from. So…climb up in the director’s chair and see where you fit best.
John – beloved, loyal friend…the only Apostle to travel to Calvary and weep at the feet of the crucified Christ…generous even to the point of taking the mother of Christ into his home; must be fearless enough to walk beside Jesus as he carries his cross and tender enough to comfort and console His mother in her unspeakable grief and agony.
Peter – strong, faithful follower…until put to the test…must be willing to seek with all your heart the forgiveness and mercy of the loving Jesus after you deny him not once but three times.
Apostles – must be willing to abandon all of your possessions to follow a man named Jesus who you don’t always understand…must make a commitment to tell His story with enormous passion for the rest of your days…must be able to live with the guilt of falling asleep and running away to hide during the very hours your love, prayers and support are needed most.
Judas – must have serious issues with priorities and loyalties…demonstrate in living color how wealth and power can blind good judgment and destroy truth.
Simon of Cyrene - strong, compassionate and helpful spirit…must be willing to help another of God’s children with absolutely no regard to personal cost or gain.
Veronica – courageous, tender and loving, yet brave in the face of tremendous personal danger…must be willing to act spontaneously with unsurmountable compassion being your only motive.
Mary – unfathomable obedience and absolute reliance on the strength of God the Father…complete surrender of every joy and every sorrow…flawless, sinless and utterly selfless even to the point of unthinkable personal grief and torment inflicted on a mothers heart.
Pontius Pilate - curious, conflicted and controlled by circumstances of politics and position…must feel deeply but lack the confidence and security to properly act on your beliefs.
Claudia – (wife of Pilate) must be open to the promptings and stirrings of God in your life and possess the personal confidence and conviction to share those stirrings and promptings without reservation even if others don’t respond in the manner you know is right.
Chief priests and leaders – cowardly, deceitful and dishonest…must prize authority, power and vanity over all things…must be willing to hush or squash all things that might interfere with personal security and position…must have a great ability to distort or ignore the truth in the name of personal security and achievement.
The Crowd – must be willing to go with the flow…acceptant of popular opinion and able to be swept up in the culture no matter the consequence of your actions…must be unwilling to form, voice or defend a clear sense of right, wrong, truth or justice.
So…which part fits best? If you’re like me, as you study the list you can see yourself in lots of roles…but that isn’t a positive thing. The roles I desire most seem to be the places where I give my most lack-luster performances and as much as I look hatefully upon some of the characters, I sometimes see myself in their role. This week isn’t as much a “reliving” of an event as it is a “reflection” on their power to transform us into Christians, who love more tenderly, appreciate more deeply, sacrifice more obediently and repent more wholeheartedly. It’s a week to be drawn in by the overwhelming and overpowering love of the Savior who endured all of this for US while contemplating the reality of the fact that our sins did this to Him. It’s not a regular week, it has a title for a reason, make it your mission this week to live like you know this week is different, it’s Holy!
A Seed To Plant: Make a plan right this minute for the way your actions and behaviors will make this week different. Decide what to put aside this week, what to pick up this week and include plans for reading the Gospel accounts of this week.
Blessings on your day!
So they said to one another, “Let us appoint a leader and go back to Egypt.” Numbers 14:4
When I read stories from the Old Testament to the little lovelies they always groan at those crazy Israelites who just don’t get it! The story is always the same…God does something amazing…they thank Him…they begin to grumble and turn away from Him and do something crazy and unfaithful…they get themselves into a pickle…they ask God for help…God helps them because He loves them…and then it begins all over again. My question to them is always the same…do we ever act like the Israelites?
I won’t speak for you but I know I sure do! They cried out, “God deliver us from the Egyptians and this life of slavery.” So, He did, in fine and dramatic style I might add, what with the plagues, the blood on the door posts and the parting of the red sea! I’d like to think if I could have walked through the parted sea I’d be a perfect disciple for life! Or would I? I wonder if I would have joined in with the groaning for bread, and water, and meat just like everybody else. Maybe I wouldn’t have started the grumbling but after enough folks climbed on the bandwagon I suppose if I’m being truthful, I probably would have too. The part of the story that makes me really scratch my head is the part when the Israelites actually wanted to go BACK to Egypt! It was awful there; dangerous, oppressive, ruthless and degrading, yet they still wanted to trade the unknown for the known no matter how awful the known was. That’s crazy talk…or is it?
The desert was God’s way. He had his beloved people wrapped tightly in his arms of compassion but I suppose it wasn’t easy enough or comfortable enough or didn’t look exactly like they had pictured it in their mind so they revolted and turned their backs on Him again and again. Does that sound at all familiar to you? It sure does to me! They were willing to go back to Egypt; to settle for less than God’s plan because it was familiar; awful, but familiar. They knew what to expect and there weren’t any surprises. They didn’t trust and they weren’t all that willing to obey without guarantees, regularly updated timelines and a detailed schedule of events. Rather than hope and wait with obedient trust, they thought it would be easier to hightail it back to Egypt.
So what’s in your Egypt? What are you willing to settle for because it’s familiar and absent of surprises? What are those habits and attitudes you are willing to return to because it’s easier than trusting, obeying and patiently waiting for God’s good work to be revealed? I’m very aware of my shortcomings and weaknesses. I’m completely aware of the way those things trap me like an Israelite slave at the hands of the Egyptians so why haven’t I conquered or abandoned them? I suppose a big part of the reason is because it would be really really hard and I’d have to surrender a lot and it might get uncomfortable so what do I do…I go back to Egypt where I know I’ll be miserable. The right thing to do would be to go back out to the desert, take the Father’s hand and let him lead me through it. Even if the sand is hot and the walk is long I have to trust him to lead me to the perfect people, places and things he has planned. So…what’s in YOUR Egypt?
A Seed To Plant: Take some serious prayer time and ask God to show you the things that are sending you back to Egypt…then ask him to take your hand and lead you in his direction.
…Did I not tell you that if you believe you will see the Glory of God?” John 11:40
Sunday’s Gospel was from St. John and it was the story of Jesus rising Lazarus. This Gospel stirs up lots of human emotions like sadness, anguish, happiness and suspense, all in one story. It’s long, it’s intense and it’s powerful but there is one line that just jumps right off the page at me. And even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you. 11:22 The faith and confidence demonstrated by Martha in that one sentence dishes up a huge serving of inspiration and hope! She saw beyond her personal sadness and grief. She displayed a tremendous trust in Jesus and the love of His Father. She didn’t cry and scream and bargain, she trusted that Jesus would ask His Father for the perfect thing, it would be given and she would accept it as just that…the perfect thing.
Life is full of events that are difficult and often the timing of these events make the burden even greater to bear. Those are truths that all of us face. God’s love for us isn’t measured by the absence of pain and grief. Even Jesus felt it in this Gospel. Verse 35 says Jesus wept. It’s important to remember that Jesus also healed, gave sight, loved, shared and raised the dead. He came to deliver us from the deadly power of sin and raise us to everlasting life with Him just as he raised his friend Lazarus.
A Seed To Plant: Take note of the areas of your life you need to approach with the confidence of Martha, then pray; Jesus, Almighty Savior and Healer, I ask you to raise me up out of my doubt and stand me firmly in Your life-giving, healing presence.
Blessings on your day!
Honesty guides good people…Proverbs 11:3
There is nothing like April fool’s day in first grade. It’s one of those days you just wish to be over as quickly as possible because it’s an ongoing assortment of “tales” told by some of the most honest people on earth; little kids are so lousy at lying! One of the things I love most about the little lovelies is their honesty, even if they do try to fib, it’s usually as clear as a bell. One little girl made nearly a dozen attempts to “April fools” me and she just couldn’t understand why I never fell for it; I told her it had a lot to do with the giant grin on her face each time she came to talk to me!
Along with all the crazy April fool’s day stuff, the kids were busy finishing up their prayer writing lessons. We keep thing pretty simple in first grade so we teach them to write Praise, Thanksgiving and Petition prayers. The sincerity and honesty of their prayers touchs my heart. One little boy brought his thanksgiving prayer to read and I noticed right away it was very short. I told him I was surprised his thankful list wasn’t longer than one sentence. He grinned and read the prayer, “My Owsum God, thank you for everything and everybody I like.” He spent the next 30 seconds trying to convince me that his prayer was smart because he could save time and not have to sit down and write everything one at a time because “I like a lot of stuff and a lot of people so it would take too long to do it your way.” Honest reply!
Another burst of honest prayer came when a little girl read from her praise prayer the words “My Kool God, You are umazing! It is good the way you made my mom and dad, they are nice but you could have tried harder on my bruther be cuz he is not so nice…” And another still wrote a petition prayer asking God to make her dad please like cats better so she could have lots of them.
The thing that I love about children’s prayers is how honest they are. As adults we worry about the words and the sentiment too much. We’re afraid to ask for too much or too little and we very often forget to pray with expectation. We worry about how we sound in front of everybody including God himself. He wants the bottom line. He wants to hear all our stuff, the good the bad the frustrated the angry and the amazing. Prayer is our communication with God and He wants it to be honest. Go ahead and be honest with Him. Tell Him the crabby neighbor is driving you nuts but then be sure to ask Him for more patience and love. Go ahead and tell Him what you think He should take special note of in your life but then ask Him to help you see things through His eyes. Go ahead and let Him know how frustrated you are about suffering and sickness and tragedy but then ask Him how to show His comfort, healing and peace. He wants to hear it all!
A Seed To Plant: Take out 3 pieces of paper and write down a prayer of Praise, Thanksgiving and Petition. Spelling doesn’t count but honesty does!
Blessings on your day!
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