You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. Isaiah 26:3
Last week I had one of those “how lucky am I” events. I had the chance to meet a wonderful author. I have read her words and been touched by her gift and when she sent me a message and suggested we meet, I was shocked to discover I only had to drive 25 minutes away. I was surprised to discover this very lovely and talented lady lives in SE Michigan but regularly visits the county I live in. It turns out she is a Master Gardener and coordinates the volunteer crew that tends the glorious gardens at the St. Francis Retreat Center in Dewitt. She makes the drive each week to “tend to the beauty.” Not only did I get the deluxe garden tour, I got deep lessons in faith, trust and prayerfulness.
Margaret Rose (isn’t that just the perfect name for a gardener!) told me the story of the journey that has led her from her family greenhouse to creating magnificent prayer gardens to glorify God to author; spreading beauty
and peace through the written word. Hers is a tale of God standing at each and every corner taking her by the hand leading her in HIS direction. More than once that afternoon I blinked back tears and brushed down a patch of goose bumps as she joyfully talked about her faith, and her journey.
When she finished proudly sharing the gardens we sat a spell to talk some more and that’s when I got a wonderful gift. I went that day hoping to gather information about how to write a book but left instead with information that was so much more important and powerful…something God thought my life needed way more than a “ how to get published lesson.” I think that’s how it happens most of the time…the best stuff comes to us when we least expect
it! Margaret shared that most of her writing is done during Eucharistic Adoration, while immersed in deep and thoughtful prayer. Then it happened…I didn’t really mean to say it…I didn’t really intend to admit it...but I did! I looked right at her and said “I am so impressed that you can enter such a deep state of prayerfulness and stillness! Most of the time I
sit to pray deeply I suffer from a SEVERE case of Monkey Mind! My thoughts just start jumping and climbing around like monkeys swinging
from tree to tree!” Then she said it…something so simple but so profound that it took my breath away for a second. She smiled and said, “Let the monkeys jump around, they will settle down.” Seriously…that’s it…let
them jump? She went on to explain that each of those random thoughts jumping through my mind were prayer worthy and I simply needed to acknowledge them, offer the thoughts as prayers and wait for the “dust to settle” if you will. I can’t tell you how many “deep and meaningful” prayer attempts have ended in frustration because I spent so much time trying to chase those jumpin monkeys away one at a time, which only led to more distraction and self-scolding for not being able to be still and pray. I couldn’t wait to get home and try it again. She was right!
Here is what it looks like now…when I’m trying to still myself and I start thinking about what to fix for supper or which chores need to be done first, I see that jumpin monkey and ask God to organize my to do list and I remind myself that if God feeds the creatures of the earth, surely He will give me a great casserole idea. When the monkeys jump to people and needs and situations I quickly ask God’s blessing on each of them by name. Jumpin
monkeys are like toddlers…they eventually wear out. After a short time it was like those monkeys all settled onto a branch to be still and that’s when my mind became still and prayerful. It’s gonna take more practice for sure, but I’m off to a great start! My new friend Margaret said the perfect thing at the perfect time! I hope her wisdom will bless you too.
A Seed To Plant: Spend some time in silent prayer this week…see if you can settle the jumpin monkeys!
Blessings on your day!
… Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you… Exodus 16:4
I sometimes have this picture in my mind about making it to heaven and having an “orientation seminar” with God and His angels and saints. To amuse myself while driving or doing yucky tasks, I sometimes compose a list of questions I’d like to ask during the Q and A part of that meeting. Some of the questions are biggies and some are completely silly. I was weeding my big flower bed (completely yucky task!) recently and the list of silly questions got pretty long. The list topper that day was, “God, if carrots and cucumbers are supposed to be good for us, why didn’t you make them taste better than things that are bad for us like chips and cheesecake?” I love my fruits and vegetables don’t get me wrong, but seriously, there is a very good reason the summer ice cream shop on the corner doesn’t sell broccoli splits or caramel cabbage sundaes!
This silly question has stayed with me for several days. Recently at daily Mass, the first reading has been from the Exodus story. Today’s reading was about Manna; bread from heaven. It’s a beautiful story of God and His loving faithfulness. I wondered what it would be like to just see your food appear, morning and night with no effort on your part! Seriously…meals I didn’t have to plan, prepare, serve or clean up…that would be heaven! It didn’t happen once a week; it happened every day. The food was sent in the perfect amounts and nobody had to analyze its protein and carbohydrate ratio, dispute its nutritional density or scrutinize the label. It just came and it was perfect! If you read a little further in the story it isn’t long before the Israelites threw a hissy fit because they wanted meat…it came and then they threw another fit about being thirsty. Each time God answered their whining in a miraculous way. He made it SO easy for them! I have read that story time and time again and I’m always a little stunned that the Israelites could be so whiney and demanding. They lacked appreciation and after all
they had witnessed God do for them they still experienced doubt, denial and
rebellion. I’m pretty quick to think I would have been a much more faithful dessert traveler. I think I might have even been Moses right hand girl. I
wouldn’t have doubted no-sir-re! I would have been awed, amazed and completely obedient. Or would I?
The “or would I” leads me back to my silly question about zucchini verses French fries! Do I have the strength to know the truth and act obediently?
Do I know some choices are better for me than others…sure! Do I always make those good for me choices…absolutely not? Do I try to wiggle out of the “hard way or the right way” and settle for the “easy way”…yes I do more often than I’d care to admit probably. So you might be wondering what lettuce, cookies and the Israelites all have to do with one another and here is the connection…strength to trust and follow the will of the Father…especially when there is a choice available that seems easier or tastier or more self-gratifying. I have to be more willing to experience a little self-denial. If I really want to live as a disciple, I have to stop throwing a temper tantrum about silly little stuff that brings me happiness and comfort. I mistakenly think those simple pleasures that bring temporary good feelings matter. The truth is, they can’t even compare to what God has in store for us. It’s kinda like having a bucket of sand and thinking you have a sea
shore. It took the Israelites 40 years of wandering…I wonder how much longer I’ll be wandering before I truly master the lesson of living in His will instead of wandering my easy path! The road to the Father is paved one
joyfully offered sacrifice and one loving act of obedience at a time. Lord, give me the strength to get to You!
A Seed To Plant: Be consciences of little sacrifices and acts of self-denial you can offer to the Father this week.
Blessings on your day!
For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. Luke 12:34
Last Thursday marked the official end of the “graduation season” for me. There was one celebration remaining and the invited guests were my son Jason and his three good buddies Ty, Ryan and Dane. The list of things I love about having these four young men in my kitchen is a long one! I’m lucky to have been their teacher, either in kindergarten or fourth grade and I have enjoyed a front row seat to their entire “growing up.” They are great men, and they have terrific parents so I know they will do great things in this world. It was so fun listening to them jabber on and on about dorms and classes and new college roommates. They have their toes on the edge of a big adventure but I have to say the whole thing hurt my heart a little because they have been such a part of my life it’s hard to imagine evenings without them watching ball games, dueling loudly at the ping pong table and playing PlayStation in the basement. I’ll miss the pile of shoes collected inside the back room door signaling their presence and honestly I’ll miss their perpetual hunger! These boys can eat, and as any woman who loves to cook knows, there’s nothing better than a hungry crowd! Given their intense love for food, it seemed only fitting that my graduation gift to them would revolve around a meal. So, Thursday was the day they filed in to my kitchen for fried chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy, corn on the cob, strawberry short cake and graduation gifts.
I wanted these boys to know how grateful I am for their friendship to my son and how very special they are to me so…much to everyone’s surprise they didn’t eat at the island or dash off to the basement with a plate. Instead, the dining room table was set with fresh flowers from my garden and my Mothers good china, complete with linen napkins and 50 year old stemware. I didn’t do it to impress them or make them uncomfortable; I did it out of love. The whole time I was setting the table and preparing the meal, I prayed for them. I prayed that God would guide them in the path He has specifically planned for each of them. I prayed for their safety, their purity, their success and mostly for their desire to grow deeper in their faith. By the time they arrived to eat, I was blinkin like a frog in a hail storm fighting back tears!
So why the china…at lunch…on a Thursday…for four teenage young men? Because it’s special! I am not a “stuff” kind of person. I don’t have jewelry or fancy things; except for Mom’s china. It was a gift from my brother Jim. When he was in the Navy, he picked it up overseas for Mom and gave it to
her for Christmas. My mother was not a fancy girl either but Jim’s china and the wedding ring from my Dad were her two great treasures. When she died, Dad gave me the china and it just sits in the hutch looking pretty. I read a story not too long ago about a little girl who asked her mother why they never used her good china and she said, “Well sweetie, it’s for very special people.” The little girl crinkled her nose and said, “But mom, you told me I was special and I’ve never gotten to use the china.” OUCH!
I remembered that story after I had set the table Thursday with the regular every day dishes and quickly put them back in the cupboard. As I was carefully taking the china down from the shelf, it occurred to me that God sees us the way I see my Mother’s china. In His eyes, we are precious treasures. We have been created in His image and likeness which makes us beautiful and special and priceless. The china needs to come out of the hutch more often and I need to act like I am loved and treasured more often. I forget I am precious in the eyes of God even in my sinfulness, even in my shortcomings. Sitting down to a table set with china creates an atmosphere that isn’t there with paper plates or regular dishes. It demands carefulness and appreciation. What if we woke up each morning and
lived the day knowing it was a gift from God designed to be treasured, respected and appreciated like good china? All too often we tuck that knowledge away like china in a hutch, settling for the regular and the average. God designed us for greatness and He loves us with enormous passion…perhaps we should start living like we remember that!
I used my time and treasure to show those four young men how special they are to me. I wish them every good blessing and I know they will be back to share their stories because one of the gifts I gave them was a full cookie box with their name and a tag that said “refills forever” on top. They thought it was a yummy gift…I knew it would be one way to guarantee they would be back to my kitchen again and again and when they leave my kitchen they will get a box of cookies and prayers!
A Seed To Plant: If you have good dishes or special things you are saving, get them out this week and use them to show your appreciation or affection to someone special…it’s a simple way to reflect the love of the Father.
Blessings on your day!
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