“This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased, listen to him.” Matthew 17:5
In the first half of chapter 17 in Matthew’s Gospel we read the magnificent story of the Transfiguration. You would think that after seeing something as indescribably amazing as the Transfiguration, Peter, James and John would never doubt or struggle with trusting the will of God again. I mean really, after seeing what they had just seen how could they ever doubt, question or stray from God again. But in his infinite wisdom I think God knew they would because they were human so as if the events of the day hadn’t been powerful enough, he included a simple and precise verbal statement, “This is my beloved Son with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” The key phrase is at the end…listen to him. I don’t know about you but I sure could use that reminder every now and again.
I had a professor in college one time that handed out a test. It was the standard fill in the bubble test that we had seen dozens of times before. As the question and answer sheets circulated around the room he strongly advised waiting until he had finished making announcements and giving directions before beginning. I’m a people pleaser so I sat there listening to him ramble on as I watched everyone around me quickly reading and filling in bubbles. I was just about ready to tune him out and get started when I heard him quietly say, if you’re still listening to my voice, put down your pencil, don’t say a word and in five minutes bring your test forward, you will receive a perfect score on today’s exam. I thought a perfect exam score was awesome but as I read this passage from Matthew, I realized what I could gain from listening to HIM would most certainly blow that right out of the water!
God demonstrates his power and presence in our lives all the time but in our weakness; we often don’t listen to him. Sometimes it’s as if God’s grand workings in our lives make us feel entitled to float along with independent holiness instead of falling to our knees in thanksgiving and submission. I’m famous for taking the “holy glow feeling” that comes from identifying God’s handiwork and using it to plug along on my own instead of truly listening to him. I have to remember to listen and look for Jesus all the time; in times of blessing as well as times of struggle. He knows what’s best, he knows what’s right, and even when I’m in the middle of a hissy fit determined to do it my own way, he just patiently waits for me to listen and do it his way!
A Seed To Plant: When do I find it most difficult to “listen to him?” Father of wisdom, show me where I need to listen and guide me to live my life like I’ve heard your voice.
Blessings on your day!
…behold, I am making all things new…Isaiah 21:5
As the calendar ticks away to the end of July, teachers everywhere are beginning to scurry. The back to school mind is beginning to plan and organize and prepare. I suppose most of the non-teacher world, sees summer for us as a multi week vacation. That would be partly true, but not completely. For me, and most of the other teachers I know, it’s a time to reflect and re-work the parts of our curriculum that didn’t quite reach the students the way we’d hoped. It’s a time to read and prepare for changes and fresh ideas, all targeted at engaging students and helping them grow. It’s also a time to catch up on projects. Today was the day I tackled my last big project for the summer; painting and redecorating the bathroom.
When I got started this morning, I was optimistic because the bathroom is the smallest room in the house so I thought I could have it wrapped up by afternoon. Well, one thing led to another and by the time I re-painted the vanity and spray painted the towel holders and light fixtures and then got to the walls, it was dinnertime. I had such high hopes for a quick and uneventful project. Well, the walls are painted, but the drawers are all out of the vanity and the ladder is still in the bathtub. The room looks like an F2 tornado passed through and there are little bits of toilet paper stuck to the floor where i bumped over my paint pan and when I stood up to wipe things up, I knocked down the toilet paper roll and it of course, rolled right through the paint splatters. I finally just turned off the light and called it a day. Instead of feeling relieved and satisfied with a job well done, I realize I get to rise and shine in the morning and give it another go! I’ll have to hold off on my shiny new bathroom until tomorrow.
As I was standing in the kitchen cooking supper I had to snicker a little. I was all huffy because the day didn’t follow my plan and turn out the way I had organized it in my mind. I had a schedule and I wanted that item checked off my list today! I wanted to look at my pretty new towels and shower curtain and clean, freshly painted walls right now…not tomorrow! I think I’ve been down that road before! It wasn’t good enough for me to realize that at some point tomorrow, I will have everything I wished for. The little toddler in me came peeking out because I didn’t get my way. Then, I felt that tender tug at my heart which was the Father trying to help me understand he had a lesson for me today.
God says “behold I make things new”. He does that with his perfectly timed answers to our prayers but we get impatient like I did with the bathroom project. If I would have rushed and re-hung everything, I wouldn’t have given the paint the proper time to dry and cure in this humid weather. I would have ended up ruining something in my haste. I realized how many times I try to rush the Father and jump to the end before I’ve allowed him the time to work things for his purpose. I will be patient and tomorrow, probably before lunchtime, I will behold a new bathroom and I will be happy. As I finish up tomorrow, you can bet I’ll take my time and do careful work knowing that the Father who loves me will be doing exactly the same thing.
A Seed To Plant: Be like Jesus, take some time to go off alone and pray. Offer your list of places you’d like to invite the Father to make you new and then patiently wait for his intercession!
Blessings on your day!
…and you gave your children good ground for hope that you would permit repentance for their sins. Wisdom 12:19
What are some of the things in this life that you can just count on? Many things in life are fluid but there certainly are things that always stay the same; it gets light in the morning, little kid giggles evaporate a bad mood and snakes scare the snot out of me are a few of my constants! We can count on lots of things and one of those “sure things” I find great comfort in is the never-ending mercy of Jesus. He will always love us and forgive us…his mercy is so much bigger than our sin; no two ways about it. We all love that thought but there is a little something that goes with his mercy that we sometimes breeze by; repentance.
Repentance isn’t a word we toss around over coffee or a cocktail too often but it’s sure an important word. The definition of repentance is “ sincere regret or remorse”. It can make us a little uncomfortable because in order to repent, we have to really stop and process what we’ve done wrong and thats really NO fun at all. We do everything fast, including this step of the forgiveness process. Sometimes the word regret is used jokingly, like when we refer to wearing a half a can of Aqua Net hair spray on our hair in the 80’s or shoulder pads that made us look like we were headed for a tryout with the Detroit Lions in our teal green rayon dress. But when we’re talking about regret, repentance and the mercy of Jesus, it takes on a whole new meaning.
Last spring I had a bouquet of flowers in the prayer corner. They were arranged in a pretty glass vase that I’ve had for a long time. It was the end of the day and one of the middle lovelies accidentally hit the vase of flowers with his backpack. He set it back up on the shelf and we moved on like nothing happened. The next morning the flowers looked a little wilted so I got a pitcher to add water to the vase and I was shocked when the water came pouring out of the vase as fast as I could pour it in. It seemed that there was a big chunk missing from the back of the vase so the water just went right from the top through the hole in the back. I laughed and found the piece of glass under the edge of the carpet. It wasn’t until recently that I realized what a great lesson that vase had to teach.
Mercy is like the water I was pouring from the pitcher. It comes without measure, without end and without cost. Jesus just loves us so much he showers us with his mercy endlessly. We are like that vase with the missing chunk. I could have stood there and poured water all day but it would have done the flowers no good because they were not prepared to hold on to and receive the benefits of the water as long as they were in that broken vase. In order for that water to be nourishing and life giving, it had to have a vessel ready to receive it. When we sin, and are in need of the Fathers mercy, we have to be ready to receive it in order to be blessed by it’s life giving benefits. If we don’t repent, we can’t fully receive mercy. If we demand the Fathers mercy but don’t express regret or sorrow and a desire to change we can’t experience the mercy that helps us grow in holiness. It took time, energy and money to purchase all the different flowers that I put in that arrangement, I sure didn’t want them to wither and die without trying to care for them. Jesus feels the same way about us times a million! I had to get my container right. It took time and I got hurt when I cut my finger on the jagged glass, but it was worth it when I saw those flowers perked up and restored to their original beauty. Truly repenting about our sinfulness can be uncomfortable and sometimes even painful but it’s the only way to prepare our hearts to receive. I hope you’ll find a few quiet minutes this week to get your container right so you can receive the life-giving mercy of Jesus.
A Seed To Plant: Ask the Father to help you make a list of the things in your life that require repentance on your part. After you’ve prayed about that list, ask him to show you how to prepare your heart to fully receive his mercy.
Blessings on your day!
We know that all creation is groaning in labor pains even until now; Romans 8:22
Those words were part of the second reading at Mass last weekend and boy did they grab my attention. Anyone who has ever been in a delivery room while a baby makes its way into the world can relate in a very personal way to that line. As I was pondering those words, I scanned the pews in front of me and counted more than a dozen babies and toddlers and marveled at the beauty those labor pains produce and asked God to show me why this verse jumped out and struck me so deeply; a few days later, He did!
Like many of you, I remember vividly and happily the day I got married. I remember Fr. Hasenkamp slowly and clearly saying the vows each of us were to repeat. I remember being so excited and nervous I was afraid I would get lost in my own thoughts and say the wrong thing. I remember promising to love and honor Dave and I remember the part about accepting children lovingly and raising them up in the faith. I thought about that at Mass as I scanned the crowd and looked at all the people there with little ones who had made the same promises I had. You’d think since we all spoke the same promises, we’d be really good at helping each other honor them…but sometimes we’re not.
I get troubled when we turn the wrong things into a competition. We’ve all been the parent of the child who does something that makes us proud and in all honesty, we’ve probably all been the parent of the child who does the opposite. I wish we weren’t so quick to judge other parents when the child falls into group two. Let’s face it, labor was hard but sometimes it doesn’t even compare to how hard raising kids can be. My babies were the size of toddlers when they were born; they all apparently adored me so much they never wanted to exit the womb, and sleeping through the night was definitely not a “thing” with the Three Little Wohlferts. They all walked, talked, whined and had epic diaper disasters at different stages and times and it seemed someone always had advice on what I wasn’t doing right. We need to give ourselves and our kids a break. Our goal is to raise our kids up in the faith and help them get to heaven and quite frankly I think we could all use a little help with that big job now and again. What if we said something kind to the lady in the grocery with the screaming toddler instead of raising our eyebrow and assuming she doesn’t know how to discipline her child. What if we entertained the notion that the fussy baby and the grumpy dad sitting in the same waiting room were sleep deprived, going through a tough time or flat out having a bad day. And just maybe that 9 year old having a melt down at the movie theater has some real struggles and truly didn’t come to ruin your day.
Making assumptions doesn’t help us raise our kids…judging doesn’t help us get our kids to heaven. The labor pains weren’t supposed to be the easiest part! Each family, each child, each parent is on a journey we know nothing about. No one ever said the world needed more competition and comparison! God has an amazing plan for each of us…even the smallest, wiggliest, fussiest, loudest, quietest little person and their frustrated, sleep deprived, proud,loving mammas and daddies. I came across a neat little story that just kind of drove this whole scripture home. It’s a story about a dog and an elephant and the genius of the Loving Father who can do whatever he wants in the time frame he chooses.
The story goes like this. An elephant and a dog became pregnant at the same time. Three months down the line the dog gave birth to six puppies. Six months later the dog was pregnant again, and nine months on it gave birth to another dozen puppies. The pattern continued. On the eighteenth month the dog approached the elephant questioning, "Are you sure that you are pregnant? We became pregnant on the same date, I have given birth three times to a dozen puppies and they are now grown to become big dogs, yet you are still pregnant. Whats going on?". The elephant replied, "There is something I want you to understand. What I am carrying is not a puppy but an elephant. I only give birth to one in two years. When my baby hits the ground, the earth feels it. When my baby crosses the road, human beings stop and watch in admiration, what I carry draws attention. So what I'm carrying is mighty and great.". Don't lose faith when you see others receive answers to their prayers. Don't be envious of others testimony. If you haven't received your own blessings, don't despair. Say to yourself "My time is coming, and when it hits the surface of the earth, people shall yield in admiration."
I think it would be a good idea to yield in admiration a little more often! If the dog had continued to compare and judge, he might have missed the amazing.
A Seed To Plant: Do one small thing to support a parent!
Blessings on your day!
No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. John 15:13
The mystery began as soon as a very puzzled mother realized her seven year old son had returned home from school without his underwear. After she had exhausted him with her standard line of questioning, she sighed, realizing she was no closer to unraveling the mystery. In her wisdom, she decided to do what all good mothers do…wait him out…he was bound to crack sooner or later!
A few days after the unfortunate underwear incident, the mom was unpacking her sons Spiderman backpack and discovered a small brown paper lunch bag containing the missing underwear, with a message scrawled across the outside in red marker. The note, written by the mother of her son’s best friend explained the whole situation in humorous detail. It seemed that the measure of “coolness” among that particular group of boys was directly related to the designs on their little underwear. Her son had been wearing a pair of his new sports equipment underwear on the day of the disappearance. They were covered with pictures of little hockey pucks, baseballs, footballs, tennis rackets and such. Apparently they were the COOLEST one’s ever. The boy’s best friend studied them carefully because he wanted some just like it for his upcoming birthday. After a brief discussion about the inability of modern day mothers to shop properly, he decided to do what any great buddy would do; hand them over so the buddies mother could stick them in her purse, take them to Wal-Mart and whip them out when she arrived in the underwear section enabling her to purchase exactly the right underwear. Now that’s true friendship!
Friendship is one of the most thoughtful gifts God gives us. As I look back at the troubled or difficult times in my life, it’s usually the memory of friends who appeared and slathered me with love, support and laughter that I remember instead of the event itself. God promised life would be difficult at times, but in His amazing love, he gave us great friends to help us along. The little boy who gave up his underwear was willing to forgo his personal comfort, endure his mother’s pelting questions and possibly deal with a bit of embarrassment all for his friend. Not exactly “laying down your life” but it was that tiny act of “dying to self” that contains the lesson.
Make no mistake, I’m not encouraging anyone to give up any part of their wardrobe today, but I am suggesting we take a cue from a seven year old boy and make a sacrifice for a friend. If you’re looking for a way to love and honor God, why not start by loving and honoring the friends He’s blessed you with. A little act of “dying to self”, like passing up sweets, less screen time or doing the most dreaded job on the task list without complaint can be done out of love and offered up to the Father in the name of a friend. Now that is a powerful way to ask God’s blessing on a friend; that is powerful love!
A Seed To Plant: Make a list of three friends and decide on a simple act of self-sacrifice you can do for the intentions and needs of those friends. Lift them up in prayer each time the sacrifice gets difficult and the blessings will magnify. Don’t forget to share the story of blessings that will follow your acts of “dying to self” for a friend.
Blessings on your day!
So Jacob was left alone and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. Genesis 32:25
When the kids were little, most nights included a “wrestling match” between them and their Dad. Sometimes it was one on one and sometimes it was Three Little Wohlferts against Dad. It was always just for fun and included lots of tickling, laughing and “not so epic” moves. The wrestling in our living room was very unlike the wrestling described in Jacob’s story in the book of Genesis. If you don’t remember the story, take a peek at Genesis 32 and give it a look; it’s a powerful story. This story happened to be one of the daily mass readings this week and it really got me to thinking about the things I’m wrestling with.
If you noticed in my wrestling story I mentioned it was always Dave and the kids; I was never a part of the event. As I look back on that I’m left wondering, why? Part of me thinks it was because I wanted it to be Dad’s thing. Part of me wonders if I was just afraid to look silly or do it wrong and part of me wonders if I didn’t jump in because the kids wouldn’t think I was as much fun at it as Dad was. Either way, I realize I missed out on something. I didn’t jump in and get involved for a few pretty lame reasons. The bottom line; I got in my own way. Unlike me, Jacob fought ferociously and with a steadfast spirit. He didn’t let up, he didn’t give in and he certainly didn’t cower from the challenge out of fear or shame or doubt; he entered in and stood his ground with determination and in the end, the Angel gave him a new name. As I let these two stories weave together in my mind, I wonder what new name I’d be given based on the way I wrestle my way through my journey to heaven. Some days I’m sure it wouldn’t be a name I’d like on a T-Shirt!
There are plenty of things to wrestle with these days. I say I want a greater understanding of Scripture and I want to draw deeper into prayer but do I wrestle with the demands of the day and the distractions of my own mind in order to make that “want” a reality? Do I carve out that time and do the study consistently and wholeheartedly or do I water it down when distractions and disruptions come along?
Sometimes the things we’re called to wrestle with aren’t so big or scary but we run from the fight. I’ve asked God to help me live mercy and love more automatically but I’m not always willing to slug my way through it. I walked 500 extra steps at the grocery store today because I saw someone I know who is in great need of love and mercy but I was in a hurry so I walked past that aisle to avoid what would have been a lengthy, difficult conversation. I didn’t just loose the the wrestling match; I completely left the mat! I remembered Jacobs story and felt awful so I trotted up and down several aisles looking for this person so I could do what I should have done in the first place; be present to someone in need.
Very often I let public opinion determine the intensity of my wrestling. I have to stop and ask myself if I’m willing to be Jacob and wrestle out the tough issues that need a voice of discipleship even if it isn’t the fancy way to think. I have to wonder who the people are who need me to wrestle for them; the unborn, the underemployed, the poor. If these things are really important to Christ, they should be important to me and if I’m gonna call myself a disciple of Jesus I’d better get ready to rumble. I should probably take a lesson from the living room matches of long ago…yup, others may be lots better at it than me but God’s not calling me to be the BEST wrestler, I think he’s just calling me to hop on the mat and give it all I’ve got. So, pardon me while I say a few prayers and figure out how to get myself out of his way so I can get ready to wrestle!
A Seed To Plant: What are the things, big or small you need to wrestle intently with?
Blessings on your day!
Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts…Colossians 3:15
I was holding one of my new great nephews the other night at a family gathering and as I was staring down at his perfect tininess, I couldn’t help but remember my own kids sleeping in my arms years ago. I was enjoying my trip down memory lane as I watched this little “boy wonder” sleeping so peacefully in my arms when out of nowhere, a loud noise woke up the little man and instantly he was crying and kicking and flapping his little arms around. In a split second he went from complete peace to frightened chaos. The crazy thing was, that just as fast as he got wound up, he calmed right down and went back to sleep. In a tiny second, he had completely gone back to peacefulness. I realized it takes me much longer to settle down after someone disturbs my peace!
It has been a quiet summer and I’ve had the chance to spend many minutes on my front porch enjoying the peacefulness of a quiet country morning or evening. The morning after I held my great nephew I was sitting on my porch and I read a quote that said, “Why do we only REST in peace and not LIVE in peace too?” When I put the the two together it seemed like a recipe for change. I thought about how quickly that sweet baby boy went from calm to crazy and back to calm and I thought about how peace just seems to be reserved for vacation and those rare moments when the chores are caught up or we’re too pooped to do anything but flop into bed. That doesn’t seem quite right does it? I sat right there on my porch with a cup of hot coffee and a prayer book open on my lap thinking I was going to be all over this “peace” stuff and then it happened! I lost my peace. One second I’m all peaceful, like that sleeping baby, and then right up out of a Hosta Lilly in the landscaping came Gus Gus the chipmunk. He is never invited to sit on my porch but he just seems to be getting braver and braver. This particular morning as I was grasping peace with both hands, Gus Gus hopped up on the porch and just stared at me with his creepy little eyes. I, of course, screamed and pulled my feet up into the chair like a giant fire-breathing dragon had just swooped in to eat me for breakfast. My scream sent Gus Gus back into the landscape and my peace went flying away with him. I just couldn’t settle down again, so I packed up my stuff and went into the house. After I sorted the laundry, I realized that I was the problem, not Gus Gus. I felt a little ridiculous when I owned up to the fact that I had let a chipmunk ruin my peace. I laughed even harder when I realized I truly was in HIS space not the other way around. Isn’t that just like life, we get a wrinkle in our peace because something happens that we don't like and then we go huffing off frustrated with someone or something, presuming they messed up our peace on purpose.
I decided that if I really did want to live in peace and be like that little boy sleeping in my arms, I had to choose to be peaceful. So, I poured another cup of coffee, turned on the washer, grabbed my Rosary and went back to my spot on the porch. Knowing that God has a great sense of humor, I asked him to teach me to choose peace, even if the lesson involved a member of the rodent family. I will admit, I looked over to that corner of the porch a hundred times, you know, in case I needed to fire a cannon or call in the National Guard to protect me from the creepy invading enemy. Half way through my coffee, just as I settled down and regained my peace, Gus Gus came back…with a date! Now, before I could scream or call in a SWAT team, into my head popped a scene from the Mickey Mouse Christmas movie where Chip and Dale were trapped in Mickey’s Christmas Tree and it was making Pluto crazy. Thank you Father for that little helpful image; it was pretty clear that I was Pluto! I haven’t seen that movie since the 3 little Wohlfert’s were tiny so I knew it was the Father using the teaching tool I respond to best; humor. I smiled and thought, I get it…don’t be Pluto; Choose Peace! Needless to say, I have a new summer project.
A Seed To Plant: How will you choose to LIVE in peace this week. Make a list of the things that have put a wrinkle in your peace recently and ask God to help you make a plan to bounce back from chaos to peace quickly. Don’t worry, he’ll hear you!
Blessings on your day!
Hello everyone! I wanted to post a little note and let you know I'm taking a little rest. I'm going to spend some time with family and friends so I'm going to "unplug" for a few days. I'll be back next Thursday with more Joyful Words! Blessings on your day and on your 4th of July Celebrations!
A false balance is an abomination to the LORD, But a just weight is His delight.
I had a wonderful kindergarten teacher named Mrs. Justice and she was a gem! Seriously, if I can remember gobs of things about her after nearly a half century; lets face it, she must have been awesome! I loved her laugh, her kindness and the way her room felt so much like home. There was however one thing in our classroom that I hated…the balance beam. The silly thing sat just a couple inches off the floor but it terrified me. I would step up on it and instantly begin to sway and stagger like I’d been drinking for a week. Looking back I have no idea why I had such a lousy sense of balance. I’m sure I just thought too much about it and the lack of balance was all in my head but I still remember that confusing, out of control sensation.
I haven’t been on a balance beam since kindergarten but I sure can relate to that same out of balance feeling for different reasons. The funny thing is, when I was trying to walk on that silly beam, it was all my issue; I was the one responsible for that fuzzy, tippy feeling so all I had to do was hop down and balance was restored. Today it’s not so simple. Today the imbalance is usually served up at the hands of others and it can make us a little crazy.
Fake news leads us to imbalance. People with narrow minded, black and white “hell or high water” thinking and speech can lead us to imbalance. Companies or folks who only tell the slice of truth that helps them market their stuff lead us to imbalance. Last week my school computer screamed at me and flashed warnings that it had been attacked by some kind of trojan horse, worm, scorpion, flaming dragons virus thingy. It scared the snot out of me! I didn’t really want to work on Language Arts Curriculum in the first place but then to have my computer tell me that my credit cards and possibly my first born offspring were in danger (ok, maybe that’s a little dramatic!) made me feel a little out of balance. It ended up being a pretty simple fix but as it turns out the voice coming from my computer wanted to sell me some kind of product to perfect my potentially attacked computer. Wasn’t that helpful of them! Once I found out everything was ok, I breathed a sigh of relief and then I got a little irritated that it was so easy to be thrown off balance; I was right back in kindergarten facing down that silly balance beam.
After the whole virus debacle, I happened to find an article on a health and nutrition blog that outlined some of the fabulous things good black coffee can do for a person. I of course agreed enthusiastically with every word and finished the article feeling very affirmed in my coffee habit. Not two hours later, I was checking email and stumbled onto an article telling me my morning “nectar of the Gods” was going to have me lame, forgetful and sick as a dog if I didn’t dump it out and never take a sip again. Of course I took that entire article as a big pile of horse pucky! Again though, I was surprised at how easy it is to loose our balance when everyone with a laptop or access to social media can flip the truth completely out of balance and leave us scratching our heads.
Since I’m not Queen of the Universe and I can’t control all the ridiculous stuff people like to spit out as truth, I had to give it some prayer and thought and this is what I came up with. Logic and common sense may seem to be a bit out of fashion but we can all make an effort to bring them back. Think first; speak later (or not at all) seems to be a good idea sometimes. Don’t believe everything you hear (read) is sound advice. Trading media time for prayer time would be splendid for many reasons. The final thing; it’s a big one…pray for balance and truth. We get so sucked in to the craziness but what if we just didn’t. What if we refrained from replying to something just so we can have our voice heard. It just might be better for the whole planet if we worried more about simply having our voice heard by the Father who gave us that voice cause I’pretty sure he didn’t give it to us and instruct us in scripture to “go forth and make an ugly, controversial, half baked truthful noise”. When all else fails, do what I did in kindergarten when that silly balance beam threw me off balance…just hop off and go do something better!
A Seed To Plant: The next time you encounter something that throws you off balance, stop right then and there and pray for the person or folks at the root of it. Something mighty will happen if we all get a little better at that!
Blessings on your day!
And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your thoughts in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:7
Many years ago when my mom died, someone gave me a book titled, “When Bad Things Happen To Good People”. I let it set on my shelf for years without ever so much as opening the front cover. It might have been a spectacular book but I just couldn’t bring myself to read it. I think it had something to do with the connotation that life was good and death was bad and that just didn’t settle well with me. In my estimation, sorting all of life's people and events into “good” and “bad” piles seems like crazy work that would require an awful lot of black and white judgement and we all know that sometime there are circumstances that can make things completely gray.
Our community has been tilted completely out of balance this week by the death of a young man and his father. George was a man who was larger than life. He was humble, funny, generous, a champion for children and underdogs and he was a true disciple of Christ. His son Grant was one of God’s most special ones. His Cerebral Palsy prevented him from speaking but his laughter and squealing delight at something little like the fanning pages of a magazine spoke volumes about the simple beauty of life and showed us all what raw joy looked like. The circumstances of their death has shrouded our community in a veil of sadness, confusion and darkness. It’s hard to find joy in the midst of so much pain and shock. It’s one of those times when you fold your hands over your heart and say, “Father are you there?” It’s one of those times when things aren’t black and white and can’t be neatly sorted into categories.
Our God is a God of mercy, compassion, grace and enormous love. However, when we are in the midst of great suffering we can tend to think he’s abandoned us. When we are overwhelmed with doubt and grief we can think he’s punishing us or letting us flounder. When we are walking in darkness we can think his light simply isn’t big enough or powerful enough to dispel it. The painful truth is, when we are at our lowest we often stop reaching up so he can grab us and lift us up. The painful fog we’re all wading our way through this week isn’t going to envelope us forever and we certainly aren’t the only folks in the world who are suffering so no matter what you might be struggling with, there are some truths to hold on to.
*Christ is present! We can see him in the comfort, support and love shared among his people. Each hug, card, prayer or kind word is motivated by him, planned by him and sent by him to comfort and console. We don’t need to worry about saying the right or wrong thing, we just need to open our arms and wrap the hurting in his love.
*Christ is our Light! He has promised to guide each of us out of the darkness if we but call on him. If you’ve ever been surrounded by darkness and someone turns on a bright light it can be blinding. The power of Christ's light is so much more powerful than that, we have to open our eyes and be guided by that light and not by our own doubt, fear or stubbornness.
*Suffering isn’t a punishment, it’s a gift. We misunderstand that because as humans we don’t like to be uncomfortable but suffering is what unites us to Christ and becoming united with Christ is what draws us to holiness and our home in heaven. It may be a bitter pill to swallow but it is a profound truth. St. Teresa of Avila said, “We always find that those who walked closest to Christ were those who had to bear the greatest trials.”
*Faith and trust trump understanding every single time! We will never understand everything that happens in our world. In our human minds we try to sort things into piles and apply logic, reason and understanding. The truth is, we are not able to comprehend much of what goes on around us and the blessing is, we don’t have to. We have to trust the Father who loves us and know he has a plan and that he will never abandon us or leave us to perish.
*A community of believers united in prayer is one of the most powerful forces on earth. Tragedy can unite people in a way nothing else can so we can use these times for powerful good.
*Sometimes there just aren’t any words to make things all better. Even Jesus had to escape the chaos and pain occasionally to go away and pray, we should follow his example and pour out our hearts and invite him to bring his love and healing.
* I think Jesus would want us to remember that sorting and judging is the work of His Father and he doesn’t need our assistance. God can do anything he wants because only HE sees the heart.
*When it all seems too much to bear, just pedal and ask him to steer.
Father, for all who suffer, we ask for your comfort, your peace, your mercy and your love.
A Seed To Plant: Write down the name of someone who is suffering and ask God to give them strength, comfort and peace. And if I may ask, please pray for George, Grant and all those who loved them and feel the pain of their death.
Blessings on your day!
But if it comes from God, you will not be able to destroy…Acts 5:39
I can’t believe what I’m about to type; this week marks the 5th anniversary of the Joyful Words Blog. I had no idea what I was getting myself into when I promised him 5 years ago that I would write 2 posts a week. I had no idea what work, stress and enormous grace this writing would become in my life. This verse is perfect for today because this is all so clearly his work. I’ve had several occasions over the past 5 years when I was ready to throw in the towel and say, “really God…isn’t this enough…I’m not trained as a writer…there is so much I don’t know about you…there are people so much smarter and more eloquent to do this work…can I be done now?” Our deal was, as long as he gave me the words and the energy I’d do whatever he asked and on those mornings when I sat down at 4 am with NOTHING to write, he always came through and something spilled out through my finger tips onto the screen. The other part of our arrangement was that he needed to find a way to let me know his words were touching someones heart, so each comment, like and share is confirmation from the Father that I’m not done yet. I’ve drug my feet and pouted a few times but he always makes good on his promise and the outpouring of His Holy Spirit on these pages never ceases to amaze me. He is faithful, he is mighty and he’s using my fingers; how lucky am I!
I looked up the symbol for 5th anniversaries. I was expecting something cool like a ruby or a fine metal. I was excited to search and tie something fun into todays post about this special anniversary. However, much to my dismay, the symbol for 5th anniversaries isn’t something shiny or fancy at all, in fact it’s quite dull and disappointing. My search revealed that the symbol is wood…yeah you read that right, WOOD! Yikes! How anticlimactic is that! Before I tossed that dumb idea out I stopped to think and pray for a bit and it hit me! It’s such a God thing to use something ordinary like wood, to touch our hearts and come to us at our level. It’s such a God thing to invite us, as author Henry Nowen suggests, to find the Sacred in the Ordinary.
Wood seemed so ordinary but if we search for and ponder the sacred, the truth is surprising. In Exodus, Leviticus and Kings there are many verses that talk about using specific types of wood to build altars for worship and sacrifice. If we think about it, some of the most amazing stories in Scripture used wood as the instrument of God’s greatness and saving love. The Israelites painted the saving blood on their door posts, which were wood, so the Angel of Death would pass over them. The staff Moses used to part the Red Sea and bring forth water from the rock was made of wood. How about Noah’s Ark, David’s sling shot, and the yolk that is meant to make our burden easy; all wood! The most profound gift of the Father’s love was his Son Jesus and there was wood involved in his arrival and his departure from his earthly life. At his birth, he was laid in a wooden manger and a cross made of wood was the place of his death. After a tiny bit of thinking, ordinary wood took on a completely different meaning to me.
It was so ridiculous of me to wish for something shiny and fancy when a hundred times a week God shows himself in the ordinary and the simple. I should know by now that God works best that way. When I really think about it, these blog posts are pretty much wood…plain, simple, no frills. They certainly aren’t fancy or sparkly, but rather, the Father’s way of helping me and perhaps you too, learn that he is waiting to meet us in the simple, the ordinary, the everyday; and once he meets us there, he wants to lead us closer and closer to the amazing, the dazzling and the magnificent. Thanks to all of you for going with me on this journey from the ordinary to the sacred.
A Seed To Plant: Find a piece of wood and put it in your prayer space. Use it as a reminder to find the sacred in the ordinary.
Blessings on your day!
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9
One of the cool traditions we have at St. Mary school happens on All Saints Day. At a special prayer service, each classroom gets to draw a secret package containing the name and picture of their classroom patron saint for the year. This year, our classroom patron was St. Phillip Neri. St. Phillip was known for his practical, funny, down to earth approach to living the Gospel. One book we read stated that if God’s saints were like a deck of cards, St. Phillip would be the joker. Since our classroom was a place where we laughed often and we laughed hard; it was a perfect fit! We learned a lot from the examples of his life and his discipleship. As I put away his picture and put my room to rest for the summer, I remembered one of my favorite St. Phillip Neri stories and it seems like the perfect day to share it.
One day a woman went to confession to St. Phillip and she confessed the sin of gossip. She was really quite sorrowful about the way she gave in to gossip and uncharitable conversations about others. As her penance, he asked her to go to the market and buy a chicken. As she returned home with it she was to pluck it as she walked and scatter the feathers as she strolled home. She was then to report back to him so he could tell her what to do next. She did as he instructed and returned to him the next day. He told her to go back along the same route and gather each feather she had tossed along the journey. She quickly explained the impossibility of the task pointing out that the feathers would be long scattered everywhere and gathering them all back up would be impossible. He nodded and pointed out that her unkind words had spread from mouth to mouth much like those feathers had been spread and it would be impossible to gather them back up. He prayed with her and urged her to go in peace but to remember the lesson and carefully and lovingly watch each word she uttered.
What a lesson…what an image! I suppose the first thing that grabbed me when I read the story were the words, SIN of gossip. I had to think for a minute about that. I know it’s rude, I know it’s not a good idea but sinful? That’s a little harsh isn’t it? Or is it? One of my goals for the summer is to do some praying and some thinking about all those “little” things I do; those bad habits that make me go, sheesh…that wasn’t good! I need to give them a good look and really pray about how those “little” things like gossip or judgmental thinking or teensy white lies are affecting my relationship with Jesus. The thing is, when you pray for something specific and you say the words “Show me Jesus; let me see with your eyes,” he does it…so I’d better be ready because he will shine a light on those places I’d rather not focus on. It might be a LONG summer folks…whose with me? Who wants to dive in to those “little” things and see what Jesus might want to replace them with when we look at them honestly and try to do a little repentance.
A Seed To Plant: Start the conversation…ask him in prayer to show you those little places where big change might draw us closer to him!
Blessings on your day!
The Lord has done great things for us we are filled with joy and laughter. Psalm 126:3
Life is amazing right now! I’m sitting on my newly decorated front porch enjoying a cool evening breeze. It’s that GLORIOUS first Sunday night of summer vacation. For those of you who aren’t teachers, its hard to describe the carefree feeling of knowing the weekend has come to a close yet you have no papers to grade, lessons to plan or classroom details to organize. I LOVE my job but the feeling of that first Sunday night of vacation makes me giddy!
I’m enjoying planters full of blooming color, hummingbirds fluttering around the feeder and the sound of bugs and frogs and birds as the sun sinks low in the sky. It is a perfect summer evening and I’m sitting on my glider with my computer in my lap just soaking it all in. This scripture just seems to sum it all up! He’s done lots of great things for me and I’m filled to the top!
My heart just wants to scream out; thank you Lord for a job I love and a chance to rest. I’m filled with joy that you gave me this family, this town, this home, this sunset, this front porch. I don’t have any big words tonight…just thank you. Mostly, I’m filled with joy and laughter at the opportunity tonight to just be still and soak it all in.
A Seed To Plant: What are the great things God has done for you? Now, sit still and enjoy them for a bit!
Blessings on your day!
But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Matthew 6:33
When was the last time you heard someone scream in an excited voice, “Yeah, I’m third whoo hoo for me!” Uh…probably never, that’s just nuts. Or is it? We live in a world that promotes being first, best, biggest and fastest. Being third is nothing to aspire to by most standards, or so I thought. I was reading an article recently and in small print at the bottom of one of the pages was a quote from the author who said she constantly strives to be third; God first, others second and herself third.
I chewed on that thought for the better part of two days and quite frankly I am amazed by it. My first reaction was, oh yeah, good idea, I do that too. Then reality whapped me upside the head and I was flooded with examples of times I truly was not content with third place. God is so good at honestly putting me in my place. Then I moved on to this thought…well surly it doesn’t mean third all the time. For instance, it’s my obligation to be the best mother and wife I can be so I have to try to be the best or first in that role. Then I thought about my teaching, surely God and a whole batch of parents each year want me to be the best teacher for their children. Imagine the gasps at open house if I proudly announced I was the third best teacher. I then proceeded to go into the pattern I usually go into when I hear something from God I don’t really want to agree with; I decided the quote was flawed or goofy.
It’s usually at that point I have to give up and ask God why He really lead me to the words and begin to open my mind and heart to the truth He’s speaking through the words. He didn’t fail me! After some pouting, praying and processing I got the truth. The truth is, it isn’t about me at all! God has to come first or my life is nothing but one long chain of goofed up stuff. God always has to be in the front seat because I’m a lousy navigator and take way too many wrong turns and dead end paths…He never loses the way. If I believe He will lead me perfectly in anything I do in His name then it’s easier to let Him claim first place. If I can agree to that, I have to remember the greatest commandment is to love others. It’s the most basic thing He asks of me and honoring His request to love Him by loving others means putting others in spot two. It just seems like the least I can do for the God who has done everything for me. That leaves third place and instead of selfishly looking at it as a consolation prize I had to stop a minute and realize those first two places were for Him and service to Him so third place is as close to Him as I could possibly be. After thinking it over, I really like third place. If I’m doing everything I do to serve Him and the people He created then how can I want anything more? If I let Him be first and offer everything I do to Him, it will all be just as He wishes and that will always be right! Thinking of third place in a new way is very freeing! The pressure is off…I just have to follow along behind first and second with a heart full of love and I will win every time! I’ll just stay locked in third and glide along on His tail wind! The journey to heaven is a great one…and the prize for coming in third is magnificent! Bronze just became my new favorite color!
A Seed To Plant: Spend some serious time this week pondering which spot you’re in. How can you work harder to come in third?
Blessings on your day!
Prayer is the oxygen of the soul. St. Padre Pio
My older brother Jim was the master at scaring the snot out of people! He could stealthily hide behind almost anything and lunge out at the perfect moment and leave you jumping and breathless. No matter how many times he did it, I was always caught off guard. My reaction was always a giant gulp and a moment of holding my breath until my heart started beating again. I have that same “gulp and breath hold” every time I see a snake, giant spider or mouse jump out of the feed barrel in the barn. It’s a crazy thing when you momentarily stop doing the one thing you do most instinctively; breath.
When I happened upon this quote from St. Padre Pio it made me think of all the times we gasp and stop breathing. There is no real danger in those snap seconds but they remind me of those moments in life when things are scary, heavy or so frustrating it feels like I can’t breathe. If I dig into those times a little bit, I realize those are probably the times I try to take the wheel and handle things on my own instead of lifting the moment up in prayer. I will know I’ve reached a new spot in my discipleship when I lift things up in prayer before I think, ponder, worry or hold my breath. Prayer truly is the oxygen for the soul and when there is oxygen, there is life and peace and joy.
I spent the weekend in Up-State New York and it was so great! I had my first flight in an 8 passenger Cessna, my first glimpse of the Adirondack Mountains and my first opportunity to see the beautiful landscape and meet the lovely people who call that part of the US home. I was invited there to present a Catholic Hospitality Training. One of my favorite parts of the day is the session when we learn to pray together with others. I always ask the group to find a prayer partner that they don’t know. I say a prayer to the Holy Spirit that he will match people up to make a powerful connection. It all seems sort of random until we give it over to him. I have to tell you, some mighty things happened Saturday afternoon…talk about a whole lot of oxygen for the soul! One couple who wound up together was a man recently diagnosed with a medical condition and a professional who treats that specific disorder. Another pair was a person who went through addiction counseling quite a time ago and she wound up praying with a former counselor who helped her find the path to healing. A third pair discovered that they had so much in common they were in tears. It is such a powerful thing to witness! It’s as if new life is breathed into the room and the souls are filled with life giving oxygen.
Jesus is so willing to flood our souls with the oxygen we need, but we have to stop holding our breath. We have to go to him and we have to offer to bring him to others. When we offer to pray for others the life giving oxygen for our souls comes to both the pray-er and the prayed for. We often hesitate to pray with others because we’re afraid we’ll do it wrong or say the wrong words but the power of prayer is so much bigger than the words we speak. We aren’t the giver of the comfort; He is, and he just wants us to open our mouth so he can pour forth the words. So how’s your oxygen level?
A Seed To Plant: Sit in quiet prayer for a few minutes today and just focus on your breathing; the rhythm of the air in and the air out. When you’ve settled into a peaceful calm, focus on the prayer that will bring oxygen not to your body but to your soul.
Blessings on your day!
But not the wicked, they are like chaff which the wind drives away. Psalm 1:4
One of the fond memories I have of growing up in Hoyt was the huge garden we planted every spring. My Dad always had (and still has) one of the most beautiful gardens in town. One of the things I enjoyed most from our garden was the popcorn. Dad had an old flywheel corn sheller we used to take the popcorn off the cob. After we finished that job, he would set a window fan on a stool and slowly pour the popcorn from one bucket to another in front of the fan to blow out the chaff. When I came across this Psalm not long ago, I couldn’t help but remember those days on the back patio watching the white chaff blow into the green grass making it look like a December snow.
Everyone in our house loved popcorn so helping with the planting and harvesting was no big chore because we knew how much we’d enjoy the fruits of our labor! When helping dad blow away the chaff, my job was to hold the bottom bucket still so it didn’t spill. As I knelt there on the patio carefully doing my assigned task, I remember asking why we had to blow that stuff out. I wondered why we had to go to all that fuss if the stuff didn’t have any flavor or didn’t cause any harm…seemed like extra work to me! Dad tolerated my chatter and my dozens of questions patiently but when I was persistent about the chaff he had to come up with something to shut me up! I still remember what he said. His reply was simple enough to make sense to a child and practical enough to stick to my mind like glue for decades. He said, “Chaff is useless; it has no purpose and no reason to be in the popcorn. If we don’t blow it away, it clumps up in the popper and prevents the popcorn from popping right. It may seem little and light and harmless but we have to get it out of the popcorn or it ruins everything.”
How many things that distract and discourage us could be considered chaff? How many things do we fuss and worry over that really have no purpose other than to clump up our hearts? I’m guessing we could all use a good driving wind to whip through our life and drive away the chaff. Maybe we have someone we need to forgive; maybe we have an apology that needs to be made or perhaps one or two of us have some people we need to make things right with. Maybe our chaff comes from bad habits that are unhealthy or contrary to God’s plan for us. Our chaff might even come from selfishness that could be standing between us and a great blessing from our Loving Father. I suppose to stretch the wisdom of my dad, chaff is anything that fills our thoughts and hearts that is useless and has no purpose in helping us love the Father who created us. Now that the warmer spring breezes are beginning to blow, maybe we should all go outside and stand in the wind and ask God to drive out our chaff and get rid of the clumps that are ruining our relationship with Him.
A Seed To Plant: Make a list of the “chaff” in your life. It could be behaviors or attitudes or feelings then take the list to the Lord and stand in His driving wind to become pure and clean!
Blessings on your day!
Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.
2 Corinthians 3:17
Happy Memorial Day! Growing up this holiday was steeped in deep military, and religious significance. I come from a Navy family, dating back to WWII. There were very few months of interrupted service from the late 1930’s into the early 2000’s, so this day was a day to travel to cemeteries and honor those who served and those who raised and prayed for them. It’s a day we heard stories of people we’d never met. Some of those stories were fun to hear and others hurt my heart, but it was a day for remembering.
As I sit here typing, I’m grateful! I honor those who have defended our freedom and I will pray for their souls. I wasn’t going to post today, I was going to take the day off but I woke up early realizing the best way to honor those whose actions are the root of this celebration, was to practice the freedoms they defend for me; freedom of speech and freedom of religion. I think about Christians of long ago and Christians of today who have to share their faith in secret. Writing a blog like this would certainly put them in grave danger. How lucky am I to sit here twice a week and type freely about God and the beautiful ways his Son Jesus works in my life every day. I type without fear and you read without putting yourselves in danger. I don’t often consider what a privilege this work is or what a grace is is to be able to “share Jesus” so freely. Today seems like a good day to give that some thought and thanks.
A Seed To Plant: As I type and as you read, lets promise to hit the pause button and say a prayer for those this day was designed to honor, remember and thank.
Blessings on your day!
I will instruct you and show you the way you should walk, give you counsel and watch over you. Psalm 32:8
Last year the 6th grade middle lovelies started a tradition that we were happy to continue last week. They use their last all school Eucharistic Adoration to leave their younger peers with some lessons. It’s a marvelous opportunity to think back on all they’ve learned about being a Disciple of Jesus and pass on that knowledge. The little kids are great listeners and the prayer time is action packed and powerful. I thought I’d share a few little snippets of their wisdom with all of you today because they were amazing, and as a teacher, I just cried because I am so proud of them and honored to have been a part of their journey.
Lesson 1 - Be kind…even when God is the only one watching, because he is always watching. The most simple act of kindness is a smile and we can all do that.
Lesson 2 - Make good choices…life or death are the choices we have. Life choices are the ones that lead us to heaven and please God, death choices are the ones that lead us away from Jesus.
Lesson 3 - Love hard…Jesus said so. He’ll never ask us to love each other as hard as he loved us so we have a pretty easy job. Love your friends and love your enemies, thats it! Plus, he will give you the grace to do it when it's hard. When we plant the smallest seed of love God can take that seed and turn it into something huge and amazing.
Lesson 4 - Trust…God is constantly putting people in our path to help us when we stumble and loose our way but we’re usually too busy to notice it for what it is…a loving hand from God.
Lesson 5 - We are His Beloved…we need to act like we know it. We spend too much time wishing we had the gifts and talents He gave other people and we forget we have exactly the ones we need to do what he’s asking us to do.
Lesson 6 -Serve - God asks us to serve each other. Just like Jesus washed the feet of his Apostles at the last supper, we are called to care for and serve others. They chose to highlight the loving service they have seen every day by Sue, our fabulous school secretary. They even prepared a skit about a boy with a bloody nose and Sue swooping in to serve and love and help.
Lesson 7 - Be Thankful…our prayer is like a Christmas list of wishes instead of an offering of thanks and we need to change that. We have to be aware of the people, places and things God puts in our life to bring us happiness, blessings and comfort. The lovelies took this opportunity to call each teacher up by name and give them a gift and highlight one way that teacher had shown them what true discipleship looks like.
Lesson 8 - Life…respect it, protect it and value it. We are on this earth to do his work and if we give our life to him things will be perfect; not always easy, but perfect in his eyes. The only way we can truly live life well is if we keep Christ at the center of our life. In a completely tear rendering moment, all 35 of them silently flooded onto the altar and knelt around the Blessed Sacrament in a circle of prayer as a symbol of what it looks like to keep Jesus in the center of our life.
These kids are 12 and they amazed me. They have a thirst and a knowledge and a desire to draw close and hold tight to the Lord and they shared that with the whole school in a dramatic and powerful way. I just have to say once again, I have the greatest job in the world! I hope their lessons just might hit your heart today too.
A Seed To Plant: Pick one of the 8 lessons to work on as you set out on a mission to grow in holiness.
Blessings on your day!
Return to me and I will return to you, says the Lord of hosts. Malachi 3:7
Did you ever lose something important? It can be a real pain in the neck to stop everything and look for something we misplace. Maybe for you it’s your phone, keys or shoes, for me it’s my glasses. I’m at that lovely age where I need reading glasses. In an attempt not to waste time looking for them, I’ve purchased 5 or 6 pair from the dollar store and have them strategically placed all over the house, good plan right…not so much! I still spend too many minutes retracing my steps and trying to find a pair when I need them. I was looking for a pair the other day and I remembered the three things my dad used to say when we lost something. Sometimes he would say, “Good grief child, you’d lose your head if it wasn’t screwed on to your shoulders!” If he didn’t say that, then he would offer the following helpful tidbit, “Well, I don’t know where it is but I know you’ll find it in the last place you look!” The last really helpful thing he would say was, “Humm, I can’t imagine what happened to it since you put it right back in the proper place it came from!” I can laugh now, but when I was a little girl I didn’t find much humor in his wisdom.
Lost stuff is one thing, lost souls are quite another. When Jason was little, he was shopping with me and while I was busy looking at a stuffed rack of winter coats, he crawled inside one of the circular clothing racks and hid. I panicked when I couldn’t find him. After a few short seconds of frantically calling his name my racing heart slowed a little when he peeked his little chubby cheeks through the clothes and screamed “I’m right here mom!” I’ll never forget that feeling and the hug that came right before the scolding was the best hug ever! I went through a time this spring where I felt a little lost. I was continuing my daily prayer but I just felt like God wasn’t as close as he usually was. I felt like I was drifting away and I just couldn’t find my way back. I know it’s not uncommon for people to go through periods of dryness in their prayer life but I sure didn’t like it. When things were most difficult the evil one was trying to convince me God had abandoned me I began to pray that God would find me and bring me back and close the gap I felt between us. That was my prayer for several weeks and on the darkest day, I read these words from the Prophet Malachi, return to me, that I may return to you.
Once those words were stuck in my head and my heart I began to realize God hadn’t gone anywhere! He is the fixed object in this relationship…I am the variable. In order for him to come to me, I had to go to him. I had been seeking the good feeling of his presence, I wanted his blessing and his grace but I wasn’t seeking his presence. I wanted a big heap of me and my happy blessed life with a side of God…he wanted it the other way around. I wondered why he wasn’t answering my prayers and bringing me comfort and peace; he was just frantically calling my name trying to bring me back home to his plan. I was uncomfortable because I wasn’t where he was asking me to be. He wanted more of my time, my heart and my trust. He wanted me to return to him so he could return to me. When I was trying to find my way and figure out what I needed to change, scripture tells me that all the while, he was frantically calling my name and searching, much like the day I lost Jason and he rejoiced greatly when I returned. The day I got it figured out was a great day and that is exactly the day I remembered the story of a lost Jason. I have no doubt he popped that story into my head just to prove a point and I’ve never felt so loved! I guess my dad’s wisdom was right. He was the last place I looked, and it’s amazing how easy it is to find things when they are in their proper place…God first not me first!
A Seed To Plant: If you happen to be feeling a little distant from God, ask him to woo you back then have the courage to return with your whole heart.
Blessings on your day!
I wait with longing for the Lord, my soul waits for his word. Psalm 130:5
Doesn’t is seem like we’re always waiting for something? I was thinking about that as I was caught in a traffic slow down the other day. I have a beautiful niece waiting to have a baby, I have a room full of middle lovelies waiting for the end of the school year, I have a daughter waiting to head off on a summer adventure in Kansas to be a counselor at a Catholic Girls Camp. We wait for food, parties, clothes from the dryer and for the end of the week. I suppose it’s all a natural thing but it took over my thoughts that afternoon.
Today was the last day of school for local seniors and my newsfeed was full of photos of lovely young people I’ve know since they were in first grade. I’m old enough to remember when their mammas were pregnant with them and as I looked at a couple of them on FaceBook I can remember how awaited their arrival was and now their moms and dads wonder where the last 18 years went. Funny how that happens isn't it! You blink and your pregnant belly is holding a diploma, a wedding bouquet or a baby of their own. We tend to look at the beginning and swoop to the current day and forget how much waiting there has been in-between. Waiting in the dentist office, the gym, the car pool line and outside the bathroom door. I think we actually spend more time waiting than we spend doing.
I know it’s a random thing to write about today but it has been a brilliant reminder that I should pay attention to my waiting. It caused me to wonder how I spend all those waiting minutes. Do I practice patience or look for a “Father pleasing” thing to do while I wait? If waiting is a given in our society, I’ve come to the conclusion that I need to be better at it. I need to look for people to pray for, visit with and serve or show kindness to. As I stood in the check out line at the grocery store at dinner time last night I was noticing that the cashier was not long on speed. I needed to get home and get supper on the table and I was right on the edge of getting impatient when I noticed my beautiful daughter step around me and visit with the shopper behind us. She was in a wheel chair and Shannon went back to visit with her unload all of her groceries onto the conveyor belt. They visited about everything from the ladies granddaughters to the Flaming Hot Cheetos she was purchasing. I think it’s pretty fair to say I got a lesson on the kind of waiter I should be. I also realized that fabulous use of wait time didn’t interfere with me getting supper on the table at all, so stepping outside of my own little waiting bubble to serve someone else turned that wasted time into valuable minutes.
So what are you waiting for and how are you waiting? Those are the big questions for the day. The world will whiz by in a blink whether we spend ten more minutes in line or in traffic. Our babies and grand babies are going to grow so fast we won’t remember colic, potty training,homework, teenage driving or any of the dozen other things that make us feel overwhelmed and frustrated. I suppose when we boil it down to the bottom of the pot, our tiny time on earth is all about waiting for the true life…in heaven, so again I ask myself and I ask you; how are we waiting?
A Seed To Plant: Think of five things you can do the next time you have to wait for something. Try at least one out in the next few days.
Blessings on your day!
Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised. – Proverbs 31:30
It’s been a beautiful Mothers day. I had all three of my kids home today and that was the perfect gift. Motherhood, like most things, changes over time. I remember a few of my early years of motherhood wanting nothing more on Mothers day than a few hours of peace and quiet. I loved being a mom but I just wanted a tiny stretch of time when nobody yelled the word “MOM”. I also remember thinking one year that the perfect gift would be for everyone in the family to wear the same clothes for a week so I wouldn’t have laundry to do. Today, instead of wishing for peace and quiet, I love the sight and sound of tall bodies stretched out in my living room and ten feet parked under my dining room table.
As I looked through my FaceBook newsfeed today, I saw post after post of beautiful mothers with lovely children. I saw tall mothers, short mothers, old mothers and young mothers. I saw moms who looked all put together and moms who looked like they might be ready to unravel as they wrangled up a toddler for the perfect mothers day photo. The thing I loved best about all those photos is that they honestly showed that motherhood is messy! It’s the best hard job a woman can have and somedays everyone stands up straight and smiles but most days there are things that have to be hunted down, squeezed tight and pinched into place…and I’m not just talking about the children!
I’ve never been a charming, beautiful, fashionable, got it all together kind of mom. I’ve never been the coordinating outfits, papers always turned in on time, perfect healthy lunch packing kind of mom. There were plenty of mornings I looked out the front door as the kids ran toward the bus and thought, phew…thank goodness they made it out alive when I wanted to be the mom who blew a kiss and told each of my kids something inspirational. More Sunday’s than I can count as we tromped quickly through the church parking lot I was barking orders about not touching each other or talking during mass instead of helping my kids prepare their hearts to meet Jesus. Most of the time I forgot to tell them to wash their hands, I stole some of the good candy from their Halloween bags, I hid toys that annoyed me, and I taped pages together so I didn’t really have to read ALL the pages of the Go Dog Go book.
Truth be told, I’m probably the most imperfect mom out there but this line from Proverbs 31 brings me hope. I do love the Lord and I have great fear, or wonder and awe for him and his mighty works. I hope he sees that I tried to do my best with the gift of these three kids he gave me. As I watched them harass each other, laugh together and play cards with their 92 year old Grandma today, I’m grateful that they turned out to be delightful young adults. I guess doing chores, getting dirty, eating pretzels and ketchup for lunch and wearing shirts inside out because mom didn’t catch it on the way out the door didn’t hurt them. I may not have been the kind of mom I always wanted to be, but by the Grace of God, I was the kind of mom he made me to be. There are plenty of things I didn't give them but I did give them lots of love, lots of prayer and lots of laughter. Today, I thank God for picking me to be the mamma of three great young people and for giving us everything we need plus extra!
A Seed To Plant: Who are the people who have most influenced your life? How many of the things they did are you sharing with those you love?
Blessings on your day!
My heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee. St. Augustine
When my kids were little they had a toy that both entertained and frustrated them. It was a red plastic ball with openings of different shapes and sizes. The object was to insert the correct shape into the corresponding opening. My toddlers couldn’t always see the difference between a circle and an oval or a square and a rectangle so there were many attempts to jam the wrong shape into the wrong hole. Just like my kids, we too sometimes try to make things fit where they don’t quite belong.
We were created in the image and likeness of the God who loves us. Our hearts were meant to fit perfectly in his but we often forget that and try to pack ourselves into roles where we don’t fit. When the toy pieces didn’t fit together the kids would bang, push, and get frustrated until they slowed down and looked things over carefully and attempted to put the pieces in gently and purposefully. During those times in life when we struggle to make things fit according to our plan, we experience that same chaos and frustration. God has the perfect antidote; rest in him. Only he knows how our life should fit together and he simply asks us to love and serve him while we wait for him to put all the pieces in the perfect spot.
The next time we hit that place of chaos and frustration we need to slow down and ask the Lord to calm us down and rest a bit as he puts the pieces back in the order he desires.
A Seed To Plant: Take some quiet minutes in prayer to ask yourself if their are there pieces in your life that don’t seem to fit together? Are you the person God is asking you to be or are you trying to invent yourself? Rest a while in his presence and ask him.
Blessings on your day!
Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. Ephesians 6:11
This verse made me remember a plastic suit of armor the boys had when they were little. One of the boys would wear the armor and the other would wear the Detroit Lions shoulder pads and football uniform and pretend to slay all the bad guys in the county. They were invincible in those get ups. They felt strong and brave and confident as they rode their bikes up and down the lane defending the land. It didn’t matter to them that it was just cheap plastic, what they wore convinced them of something.
That memory and this verse made me think about what our wardrobe says about us. It seems like a simple thing, get up, get dressed and go on with your day but when you think about it WHAT we put on can send a message. We identify police officers, doctors and nurses by the clothes they wear and we automatically assume they will be helpful because of the way they are dressed. We will approach a total stranger in a store to ask for help based on a simple plastic name tag pinned to their shirt. We have the potential to trust, mistrust; judge and misjudge people every day based on what they wear. Does that seem crazy to anybody else?
I guess the big questions are what does God’s armor look like and how often do I wear it? Then it hit me, it’s not really about fabric at all. The clothes we wear may reflect something about our style, profession or personality but they don’t necessarily tell the whole story. I think the armor of God is something we put on from the inside. It can be pretty easy to look at someone’s clothes and assume a thing or two about them that may or may not be correct but the armor of God is unmistakable. Putting it on is intentional, never just a quick grab and go outfit. The boys always needed my help putting on those get ups they used to wear and so it is with Gods armor; we need him to assist us. If we intentionally ask God to protect us and defend us we have to be willing to let him. Wearing his armor means we are protected and safe, but silly humans that we are, we think it means we are now prepared to charge into the world and defeat all the evils much like two little boys I remember in my back yard. God is the defender and we are the defended; the armor of God doesn’t give us a job it gives us peace.
God’s armor is not heavy or clumsy; it’s powerful and designed to fit perfectly. I realized that if I woke up each morning and asked God to dress me in his armor I would be more confident and peaceful and content. I realized I wouldn’t have to worry about harm or evil because nothing is stronger than God. It doesn’t mean nothing bad will happen, it means God will protect me no matter what the circumstance. If I puddled my way through each day without worry or distraction about all the things that might happen or could happen or shouldn’t happen I would have so much more time for great things! I would have more time to pray, more time to help and WAY more time to love. I think I’ll ask God to help me put on that armor right now and leave the defending to him while I get busy with trusting bigger and loving harder…talk about dress for success!
A Seed To Plant: Stop right now and ask God to suit you in his armor and then give him a list of all the things you’d like to be defended from. All that’s left is to trust and be protected.
Blessings on your day!
So David triumphed over the Philistine with a sling and a stone…1 Samuel 17:50
Hands down David and Goliath is an Old Testament favorite. As I re-read it not long ago, the sling shot seemed to stay in my mind. (no pun intended) It’s really a crazy story when you think about it. What are the chances we could really inflict great bodily harm using a sling shot? Since I can’t hit the refrigerator with a rubber band, you can probably breathe easy if I come toward you with a sling shot because odds are good my shot won’t be within 5 feet of my target! It was such an odd weapon of choice for David don’t you think? I wonder what the giant must have thought as this very young soldier stood before him with it…did he find it insulting or funny or insanely ridiculous? I wonder if it made him angry or if he just wanted to bust out laughing.
Lately I seem to be confronting the “giants” in my day with a sling shot! Although David was able to conquer with it, I’m afraid I’m not so successful. I seem to keep missing the target and I wonder what God must think as he watches me wildly fling stones around and not really conquer the things that creep between us. I’m sure on some occasions He must have a good laugh at me; I must look like a nut throwing sand at an approaching army. I do believe I often miss the WHOLE point of the David and Goliath story. It wasn’t about David and his sling shot at all…it was about the power of God working through an open, trusting and expectant heart. David didn’t doubt, he just knew God would conquer. The truth is, David could have faced that enemy with a paper clip or a cotton ball and defeated him because it was the power of God that did the work not the power of man. I’m not so good at living that part of the story. I still think with enough practice, my sling shot and I will get better…NOT! It's not about the size of the battle or the weapon, it's the size of the faith and trust that determine the outcome.
After another re-read of the story I realize I need to make a choice. Either I need another weapon to slay the sinful enemies and giants in my life or I need to let someone else aim my sling shot because I am a lousy shot! Let me see...I think I’ll try a little harder to go with the second choice!
A Seed To Plant: Read the story of David and Goliath and then seriously contemplate the things you’re trying to slay with a sling shot and then figure out which ones you need to hand over to God’s precise aim.
Blessings on your day!
Lord let your mercy be on us as we place our trust in you. Psalm 33:22
As I sit here typing, I’m staring out a giant airport window at the beautiful mountains and I am captivated by the view. I’ve been in awe of these mountains since I arrived here in Idaho on Friday. Each time I left the conference room and found a window I’d be surprised all over again; the view just never gets old. As my flight leaves I’ll be sad to watch the view disappear through the airplane window. I think the fine folks here in Idaho appreciate the beauty but I’m sure they aren’t as taken by surprise when they look out the window as I am. The only thing more beautiful than the Idaho mountains is the Idaho people I’ve met. It was a spectacular weekend from beginning to end and I’m heading back to Michigan with a full heart.
Gods grace and mercy, like the mountains in Idaho, is amazing to me. Strong, beautiful, surprising, massive and sometimes taken for granted. Who am I to get to do this work…to see so many beautiful places…to meet amazing people who let me into their lives and share their story…to tell HIS story and invite others to love him more. I’m a big ole sinner and yet he still works through my brokenness to spread his love and his light. I need his grace and mercy like the flowers need the sun and the rain. This weekend of beauty reminded me that the more I trust, the less I think and fret. If I’m not busy fussing and fretting my eyes and heart are open to the surprises that stand before me as clearly as these beautiful mountains.
Each time I leave my classroom, the middle lovelies pray for the people I will be working with and the message I will give. I’m always surprised at how overwhelmed audiences are to discover that a group of kids in Michigan is praying for them. It gives the kids a window to the world and there is great power in the prayer they offer. They always pray that the Holy Spirit will come upon the group gathered and work in a mighty way. This weekend I found out one of the ladies at the conference had had a dream early last week that a big group of children was praying for her so when I told the crowd gathered at this weekends conference that the students had been praying for them she was overwhelmed. Gods merciful love allows a few dozen kids to impact the life of people they will never meet. This weekend their prayers encouraged a woman who had been living on the outer fringes of faith to take a full on dive right into the merciful arms of the Father. She was broken and bruised from a life of “hard stuff” and she said the moment she heard there were children praying for her something in her heart just softened and for the first time in decades she was able to think of herself as God’s daughter and not his renegade, rebel child. That revelation in her soul led her to trust and weep and feel like she was His Beloved child.
I’m many thousand feet in the air now, looking down at snow covered mountains and I am marveling at the change. Twenty minutes ago I saw green, flowering trees and freshly sprouted leaves. Now I’m looking at a giant blanket of snow. It’s like a change of seasons in a matter of minutes. It is a beautiful reminder that our relationship with the Lord has seasons too. We go through seasons of great change, new life and beauty and we go through seasons that seem dark, dry and maybe even a little barren. The beauty of the seasons lies in the changing…no one season lasts forever but each one offers the earth or the soul something it needs. If I lived in perpetual spring, I would miss the color of fall. If I lived in the peaceful quiet of winter snow I’d miss the warmth and green of summer. Each provides something necessary at the appropriate time. Our spiritual walk is much the same. Sometimes we need seasons to sit quietly and just be, other times we need to move, be actively seeking, growing and changing in our walk with him. His mercy allows us to pass through each season and our trust in him allows us to know we are right where we need to be. The greater the trust, the greater the peace. The greater the trust the bigger the surprises. The greater the trust the more beauty we see in each season of our life. It seems so simple but yet I goof it up again and again. Thank goodness for God’s mercy that faces me with as mighty a presence as an Idaho mountain reminding me again and again that he’s just waiting for me to trust.
A Seed To Plant: Sit for a while and think about what season your relationship with Jesus is in. What are the things he’s trying to show you that are as big as a mountain but still hard to see? Ask him for the grace of trust and see what he reveals to you.
Blessings on your day!
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