"And he said: "I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven." Matthew 18:3
Have you ever put something aside in a “safe place” only to discover a few weeks or months (or maybe even a few hours) later you can’t remember where that safe place is? Maybe it’s just me but the older I get the more time I spend trying to find safe places. A while back, someone sent me the message in today’s post and I put it in a safe place. Months later, ta-da! I guess I’ll call it Gods excellent timing because I just happened to stumble across it last week while I was preparing for an Advent by Candlelight event I had been invited to speak at and the words were a perfect fit with the message of the evening. As I think about ways to make Advent more meaningful, this was the perfect thing to find. I hope in these words you can find some things to prayerfully ponder and maybe even change in order to put things in the right perspective and get ready for the birth of our Savior.
THE PARADOX OF OUR AGE
We have bigger houses but smaller families;
more conveniences, but less time.
We have more education but less sense;
more knowledge, but less judgment;
more experts, but more problems;
more medicines, but less healthiness.
We've been all the way to the moon and back,
but have trouble crossing the street to meet the new neighbor.
We build more computers to hold more information,
to produce more copies than ever,
but have less communication.
We have become long on quantity but short on quality.
These are times of fast foods, but slow digestion;
tall men but short character;
steep profits but shallow relationships.
It's a time when there is much in the window,
but nothing in the room.
I hope somewhere in that story you can find a little nugget or two to work on, I know I see several! A few of the middle lovelies told me last week they were committing to less time “on screen” and more time “in prayer” this Advent. I promised I’d join them because I can’t be in charge of the world and fix all the issues this little story points out, but I can be in charge of my own heart and my own home…and that’s really all God ever asks us to do. He doesn’t ask for perfection, only participation. Please join me this week in pondering these words. The last line really hit me; much in the window but nothing in the room; if the room is my heart I’m petrified at the thought of nothing; but I rejoice at the thought of Jesus taking up all the space in my heart.
A Seed To Plant: Take this story into your prayer time and really ponder what God might be leading you to do or change as you use this Advent Season to prepare for His coming.
Blessings on your day!
He will be great…Luke 1:32
Molly was her name. She was plastic, had fuzzy brown hair and eyelids that opened and closed when I put her down or picked her up. I would rock her, cuddle her and carry her everywhere. Molly the dolly, made me realize how much I wanted to be a mother; it was my biggest prayer. After my first child, my prayer changed. From that point, until this very day, I have prayed daily for the same thing; Lord, whatever it takes for the sanctification of my children, please do it. That can be a scary prayer, but as I pray it, I remember that he loves my kids more than I do and that brings great peace!
As I read this Gospel I am struck by two verses; He will be great & you have found favor with God. As parents, we worry and wonder about our children; have we loved them enough, taught them enough, instilled enough faith; so imagine the stunning relief if you heard a messenger of God, say about your child, “He will be great.” What would that sigh of relief even sound like if we knew for sure that our children would achieve greatness in the eyes of God? And what would we do with all the minutes we spend thinking about their holiness and happiness? At first, the two verses seemed separate, but then the Holy Spirit helped me see that if desiring and praying for our children's holiness is a top priority, then we’re doing exactly what God asked us to do when he placed that little life in our womb.
As we enter the second week of Advent we continue to prepare to celebrate the birth of God’s Son. Our Nativity scenes are up and the focal point is the Baby Jesus. God chose to send the Savior as a baby because he knew he would be loved, accepted and adored. Nobody is afraid of or threatened by a cute little baby. We find babies lovable and perfect. As we get our hearts ready, we would do well to ponder the ways God finds us lovable, perfect and would like to come into our lives and make us great. He wants to bring us his peace in this busy time. He wants to remind us how much he loves us. I think I’ll take a lesson from Molly the Dolly and lay down so my eyes shut and my fuzzy brown hair hits the pillow and just be still while I ponder all the ways God finds favor with his children and tries to help them be great.
A Seed To Plant: How would you like to invite Jesus into your life and make you grow in the greatness the Father has planned for you?
Blessings on your day!
…a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one. Matthew 19:5
Some things just go together. Salt and pepper, peanut butter and jelly, thunder and lightning and now the newest addition to that list; Jason and Katie! On Saturday there was curly hair, fancy clothes, shiny shoes, pretty flowers and hugs galore. The music was lovely, the food was delicious and the laughter was contagious. The flower girl was a delight to watch and the friends and family that gathered to celebrate were a collection of the finest folks you could know. I think I was prepared for all of that but then there were the surprises; the things that took my breath away and left my heart all warm and melty.
I wasn't ready to see the group of groomsmen who played at my house as little boys and sat in my classroom as elementary students, dressed in tuxedos all grown up and completely handsome. I hadn’t thought about what it would be like to look across the dance floor and spot dozens of former students dancing at a function that wasn’t the senior prom. I wasn’t ready for the emotion that came from watching an older brother standing next to the guy he’d wrestled with and harassed and loved for a couple of decades with such a proud smile. I wasn’t quite prepared to listen to him toast his little brother and pull wedding rings out of his pocket so Jason could seal his promise to the lovely girl from the next town to the north. I didn’t know quite how to feel as I sat in pew three looking at my handsome sons on the altar and listening to their little sisters gorgeous voice drift down from the choir loft above. I didn’t count on the explosion of emotion as my three little Wohlferts became four and stood at the altar looking all grown up.
The part I really wasn’t able to prepare for was watching my son make the same promises to his bride that his dad made to me many years ago. I couldn’t cry when I saw the smile that took up his whole face when he saw his gorgeous Katie coming down that aisle. I’ve never seen happy in such living color as I did when he took her arm and walked her to the top step of the altar! I’ve heard wedding vows before but they sounded so different when they came from the voice of my son. I’ve had lots of proud mama moments over the last couple of decades but knowing that someone so lovely, so genuinely good inside and out had chosen my son to spend her whole life with was a pride I’ve never felt. Listening to the things they wrote about each others faith and desire to put Christ at the center of their marriage and help each other follow God’s plan made my heart swell in a way I’m not quite sure I can describe in words.
My grandma told me that you have to find a spouse who could help you get to heaven. When I found that spouse 27 years ago, I started praying that my children would find theirs too. I wasn’t prepared to know how thankful I’d feel that God answered that prayer so perfectly for Jason and Katie. It was a happy day, a beautiful day, a fun day…a perfect day! As I soaked in all the emotion and sat watching the day unfold in joy and gratitude for the grace and blessings we were all neck deep in, I had a thought. As splendidly perfect as the day was, it was just a teeny reflection of the love our Father has for us. Feeling the power of that truth my friends, was something I really wasn’t prepared for; it hit me like a ton of bricks. It was as if he whispered to me, “Sheri, all this happiness, joy, beauty, celebration; it’s just a shadow of what I feel for all of my children every minute of every day.”
Thanks to all of you for the prayers, they were felt, they were seen and they manifested into an absolutely perfect day!
A Seed To Plant: Tell someone you love them today!
Blessings on your day!
Stay Awake! Matthew 24:42
Holy cow…did December sneak up on anybody else? I used to invisibly roll my eyes in youthful disrespect when “older” people said, “oh just wait; the older you get the faster time goes by!” The older I get, the more truth I discover in those words! Does anyone else ever feel like hitting the pause button long enough to get caught up?
This past weekend we began the season of Advent. I have a new Advent attitude this year. My new attitude comes from some extra prayer and study about the preparation season leading up to the birth of Christ. I discovered some simple truths and beautiful thoughts for all of us as we stand at the edge of advent. I hope they give you a new perspective on this often stressful, hectic, perhaps even chaotic month. Stay awake fits…not because we’re exhausted by all the activity but because we need to be awake and tuned in to the gift of God’s Son or Christmas becomes nothing more than another day.
Popular culture and the wonderful world of retail sales catapulted us into Christmas right after the last bag of Halloween candy left the shelf but those of us who yearn for the true meaning…the deeper meaning…the life changing meaning of Christmas need to be willing to wait a little. As a society, we aren’t very good at waiting! We like everything quickly and conveniently and we sometimes get lost in the “one-up” philosophy that often drives our ambitions and our actions. If you feel even a little part of that thinking seeping into your heart or thoughts, sit still for a minute and think about Advent.
If the season of Advent could be summed up in two words, they would be PATIENTLY WAITING! Yikes…really…but when will the shopping and baking and decorating and celebrating happen if we just sit around waiting? Good question I suppose, but maybe the answer is right in front of us…maybe we don’t have to spend so much time focused on all those things. If those are the things that take away from really “getting” Christmas maybe a prayerful re-vamp of December priorities is in order. I think that’s the point of this post! I have a few big questions for all of us…ready…Is walking into church on Christmas Eve or Christmas Morning the highlight of your December? What consumes more time; shopping for the perfect gifts or preparing to receive the perfect gift of God’s Son? And finally, would you like to spend Christmas wrapped up in the Wonder and Awe lying in the manger or exhausted, sick of the decorations and ready to flip the page and clean up the mess? Jesus is bigger than one day!
God sent the gift of His Son in a tiny, humble, simple beginning…He figured we could relate to that. I think He felt like each of us could accept and believe something so “real”. Each December He gives us the chance to re-live the true meaning of His gift. Each December we have a chance to clean our spiritual house to prepare for Him to dwell in our hearts. That only happens through still, quiet prayer and a desire on our part to seek Him and be blessed beyond measure by the true gift of Christmas. I’m sure some of you are tempted to scream at your screen at me and say…geez Sheri…it’s the busiest month of the year and you are suggesting I take time I already don’t have enough of to sit still and pray for my heart to be ready for the New Born King! ABSOLUTELY!!! Scream away, but that’s exactly what I’m challenging all of us to do this December. I have to let you in on a secret…God can multiply time! If you unselfishly, trustingly, prayerfully give Him some of your day, He will bless you unbelievably. Be honest as you start your prayer, say to Him, “God, I’ve got SO much to do today, please know these 10 or 15 minutes I’m going to sit here in prayer are precious. Please take my busy day and show me how to make You a part of it. Bless my actions and my words and my tasks.” Then my friends…stand back and prepare to be amazed at what He will do! If you aren’t sure what to do with that prayer time, read the story…the Christmas story from the Annunciation all the way through the Magi. Read it little by little again and again asking God to get your heart ready. Ask Him to make this Christmas about His Son…His gift and not so much about all the other stuff. I know it may sound crazy but invite God to go shopping with you…He has made some amazing gifts “appear” when I had no ideas and very little budget. Invite Him into all of it, asking Him to help you keep His Son as the focus.
I figure if I do Advent right, I will go to Mass Christmas Eve with my family and be so filled with joy and gratitude my heart will feel like it just might burst! I want to FEEL the meaning of Christmas! That’s my goal this December.
A Seed To Plant: Take the first step today…sit in quiet prayer and ask God to show you how to “do December” with a spirit of prayerful anticipation of the most amazing gift imaginable; His Son.
Blessings on your day!
Good morning! Beds are made all over my house, the fridge and freezer are full of food for Kansas company. Fancy clothes are ready to go. My heart is so full of happiness for my son and his bride to be I can hardly stand it. Saturday is the big day and writing a post didn't quite get crossed off the to-do list! In 2 more wake-ups I will become a "mother-in-law" for the first time and I'm so excited I can hardly sleep. Today I simply post a request...I ask for your prayers. I ask for you to pray for safe travels for guests, I ask your prayers for God's blessing on this wedding but mostly I ask for you to pray for an outpouring of grace on this beautiful couple as they stand before God and their family and friends and begin their life together as husband and wife. Thank you and I'll be back next week!
Blessings on your day!
Seek the face of the Lord always. Psalm 105:4
What does God look like? If no one has ever seen his face how are we supposed to seek it and how will we know if we really see it? Those are fair questions when you’re a middle lovely. If we are supposed to seek His face always, I suppose we’d better know where to look! It’s easy to seek the face of God in the obvious, like creation, babies and children. I have no problem seeing and feeling the presence of God when I’m in my classroom! My students fill my days with every emotion possible. I know just what Jesus meant when He said, “Let the little children come to me.” Most mornings when I go into the gym for Morning Prayer and the Pledge I want to say the same thing! It’s a bit more of a challenge however to seek His face in the unpleasant, the unfair, and the unlikable.
Seeking God’s face doesn’t just apply to people…we need to seek his face in situations and experiences. Sure we recognize God in the events that are happy and joyful like weddings and celebrations but we need to know He is present in the sad and difficult and sorrowful ones as well. His love, presence and inviting spirit are there even we can recognize no apparent good in the situation. We are reminded not only to seek Him but to praise and thank Him in all situations. That’s easy to say until we’re smack dab in the middle of ugly and we have to spit out the words, “God I’m seeking you in this mess and I thank you for these circumstances…even though they STINK!” Sometimes uttering those words can taste like vinegar in our mouth but if you repeat them again and again, you can begin to see His face and feel His presence guiding and teaching and blessing.
We like things to be simple and easy and happy and when they aren’t, we tend to think God has left us all alone. Our purpose in seeking God shouldn’t be to make us “feel good”, the purpose is to build us up for the Kingdom and a life spent with Him. Very often the things we need to learn can only be taught when life isn’t all neat and tidy and happy. But make no mistake…God is there…just waiting for us to seek Him so He can take us by the hand and begin the next lesson!
A seed to plant: Write the words, “God I trust you, God I love you, God I will be faithful and seek your face” on a notecard and read it again and again when you’re in a situation where it’s hard to seek His face.
Blessings on your day!
…now he waits until his emery are made his footstool. Hebrews 10:13
As I sat in mass this weekend I heard this verse jump out of the second reading and my mind went zooming back to the living room of my childhood home. I vividly remembered that we had a dark green footstool in our living room and as I recall, it had many functions. My favorite memory of that footstool was the way my little brother used to fasten a bath towel around his neck like a super hero and jump off that footstool thinking it would boost him high enough that he could fly. We did use it to rest feet on, especially when there was a story to be read or a baby to be rocked. It was sturdy and comfortable and important.
I had to stretch a little and read this verse a time or two before it’s meaning really hit my heart. When I read the word enemy, I immediately thought of a person. I don’t have any human enemies so I moved on to a verse I thought had more meaning but something kept calling me back. After I let it percolate in my mind and heart a while, it came to me. The enemy may not be a person at all. The enemy could be anything preventing my pursuit of the Fathers joy. It’s always a great time to do some soul searching about enemies that might creep into our lives and try to distract us.
I was able to stick a label on my enemies rather quickly once I started thinking about it. I would love to sit at God’s right hand like the line before this verse reads, and watch Him slap down a footstool on impatience or on judgmental thinking or on any other of the sinful areas of my life. I was really touched by those those beautiful words in this reading,“at my right hand”. In order to have Him put those enemies at his feet like a footstool, I have to be beside Him. He can’t help me if I’m a mile away, He needs me right there beside Him clinging to Him with childlike dependence. Then and only then will the footstool slamming begin!
Just like my living room as a child, sometimes we had to move some stuff out of the way to get to the footstool, so it is with our need to move the barriers that are keeping us from the right hand of God so we can get near that footstool. What’s in your way?
A Seed To Plant: Take the next few days to prayerfully consider what enemies you would like to see as his footstool and then reach for God’s hand.
Blessings on your day!
Calling his disciples, he began sending them out two by two…Mark 6:7
This story in Mark’s Gospel is a dozen lessons all wrapped into one. It’s about trust, teamwork, awareness, truth and gratefulness. As I reflect on these verses it provides an occasion to look at my relationship with the Lord and see which pieces of my discipleship are in order and which have a few kinks! This line highlights the instructions given to a group of Christians a couple thousand years ago, but the instructions really haven’t changed and they apply to our personal discipleship all these years later.
One day a while back I opened to this passage and it was right about the time Dave and I celebrated our 27th wedding anniversary. After reading that Gospel story, I was reminded that it was a great day to celebrate the fact that God sent me out in a new way with the other part of my pair! Once we said “I Do” we headed out together to help each other trust and serve. We lead each other and help each other decide when we need to stick with something and when we need to shake the dust from our sandals and move on. When bills are high and struggles come and things don’t go like we expected, we remind each other that we have enough and God will fill in the gaps. I’m sure just like us, the disciples didn’t always see eye to eye with the other half of their pair but they had to stick to the mission. If the world tries to deceive us or our children we have to guide each other toward the truth. Together we have to discover and share the good news of Jesus with each other and those we love. Thank goodness for pairs and clear instructions!
Building his church on earth is our work but it isn’t work he intended us to do alone so it’s important to ask yourself; who is the other half of my pair? Who am I traveling and sharing my discipleship with on my journey to heaven? I heard a priest give a sermon once where he stated that we are the average of the 5 people we spend the most time with. So in light of his words and this Gospel it makes me stop and consider who all my pairs are. Growing in holiness is a journey that takes great companions. In your prayers today think about your people and stop and say, “Dear Father, thank you for loving me enough to send me a helper and show me the way to know you, love you and serve you in this life so I may be happy with you in the next.”
A Seed To Plant: So, who is the other half of your pair and what are you doing together to make this world more Christ-like?
Blessings on your day!
For from him and through him and for him are all things. To him be glory forever, Amen. Romans 11:36
I’ve come to the conclusion that there is no such thing as random happenings. You may disagree with me and that’s absolutely fine but I’ve begun to believe that every event, situation and person provides an opportunity to learn and grow in faith.
I shiver when I think of all the times we dismiss the deliberate work of God as random, coincidence, karma or fate. I think our loving Father is much more personal and spectacular than that! I remember the night I met my husband. He was taking my roommate out to dinner and I answered the door and chatted with him while he waited for her to finish getting ready. Several weeks later I sat down in a meeting with a room full of strangers and guess who was seated right across the table from me…yup…that same guy; the man who became my husband. I don’t think that was random. I also remember the cold snowy winter evening I was coming home from the Orthodontist with three kids and a trunk full of groceries and I got a flat tire. The wind chill that evening was more than 10 below zero and after digging the spare tire out from under all the groceries, I couldn’t get the frozen lug nuts off to change the tire. As I knelt in the snow frozen and frustrated, a gentleman stopped and invited me to drive my car to the farm right up the road. It turns out he owned a tire shop and he had all the equipment necessary to change my tire in his heated shop. Random… I think not!
I really think Christ dwells among us and works through us. When I think about my days here on earth, I realize every single thing is meant to draw me closer to Him. The sooner I realize that and lift my heart to Him in thanksgiving for the million ways a week He works in my life, the more exciting it becomes to see His works. When I recognize things I might have once called random, as His handiwork, I feel loved and protected and blessed. Those are great things to feel for sure!
A Seed To Plant: Take some time this week to write down all the things that seem like “random” events. At the end of the week, lift your list to the Lord in prayer and ask Him to show you how He was working purposefully in each of those situations.
Blessings on Your day!
For then you shall delight in the Almighty and you shall lift up your face toward God. Job 22:26
Magnifying glasses are always a hit no matter what grade I teach. There is just something fun about looking at something regular in a new way. Even ordinary things like paper clips and the human tongue can become fascinating when seen with magnified detail. In the spirit of close inspection, I have a thought for you today compliments of Deacon Ralph Poyo. He was a presenter at the conference I attended recently and I could write a dozen posts with all the ideas he shared but today I have one word he explained in a whole new way.
The word is intimacy. Most of us would define the word as extreme closeness and that would be correct but we don’t often think of it in a Godly way. Deacon Ralph made sure everyone listening Wednesday night would think of it as a way to describe our relationship with God the Father. He said intimacy means IN-TO-ME-SEE. Talk about making a word come to life! So, grab your magnifying glass and head down to the next paragraph and let’s see what we discover.
God desires intimacy with each of us so if we stand before God in prayer and accept his invitation to see in to him; what would we see? I think we would see compassion, forgiveness, understanding, mercy, pride, delight and unfathomable love. That’s what he’s made of and that’s what he shows us. When we see him we see truth, justice, and everything right; not judgment, punishment or shame. I think he wants us to see that we are made in his image so we should see the same things in ourselves that we see in him. When was the last time you looked in the mirror and saw those things in your reflection? If we are intimate with him, we will begin to mirror what’s in him. I think the world could use a whole lot more of that image what do you think? He’s inviting us to see into him and loose ourselves in his goodness; he’s desperate for us to grow so close to him that we will move past things like guilt, shame, disappointment and greed. Seeing him closely will make us long for nothing else.
If I imagine seeing the face of God I often imagine myself turning or bowing my head in the presence of his greatness but he loves us so much he’s inviting us to get closer…so close we can experience IN-TO-ME-SEE!
A Seed To Plant: Write today’s word down the Deacon Ralph way and give it a lot of prayerful thought…let it draw you closer to the Father.
Blessings on your day!
We love because he first loved us. 1 John 4:19
I have a lot of one liners that tumble through my head. Sometimes I remember where I heard them and others just roll around and I don’t have any idea where they came from. I’m taking a fabulous class every Tuesday night that dives into scripture in a profound and beautiful way. A couple of weeks ago we were talking about the love of God and one of those famous one liners just kept running through my mind. The line is, “Love is just love!” We discussed something in class that proved that statement to be so incomplete!
We are all called to love God and love others. As simple as that sounds, I think we can all agree some days it’s harder than we think! Love is not just love…it’s commitment, it’s patience, it’s sacrifice, it’s humility and silence and joy. The depths of Gods love for us are massive and nearly incomprehensible. As we study the book of Genesis his abounding and merciful love is amazing. In one of our handouts there was a little three line piece from St. Catherine of Sienna that really touched my heart and made me realize that when it comes to God, love is WAY more than just love. St. Catherine lays out three stages of loving God. I’ll share them with you and perhaps they will stir up your mind and heart and give you great food for thought and prayer.
*The first stage of loving God is Servile fear: We obey God like a servant out of fear.
*The second state is Mercenary love: We love God because of what we will receive.
*The third stage is Love for the sake of love: It’s not about rewards or fear but simply born of a desire for relationship with God.
I’d like to say I’m firmly in stage three but that would not be true. I think I get there sometimes but I can find plenty of times I land squarely in stage one and two. I find my self in the first stage when I am aware of my sinfulness. It’s at those times I have to admit I change my ways more out of fear of punishment and not always because I recognize the deep ways I’ve hurt my Father. I’m often at stage two, looking for the “brownie points” as if they can be stockpiled or recorded in some heavenly score book. The third stage is where we will find peace and joy but there is a lot of humility and re-thinking involved in getting to and staying in stage three.
It all boils down to choices. It’s not about being perfect it’s about surrendering so that we can be perfected but his love. I really want to love him, I really want to be consistently at that third stage of love with the Father. I will choose that today and ask him to help me live that choice. That would be something to give thanks for!
A Seed To Plant: Take a good look at these three stages and ask God to show you where you are and then ask him to help you get where he’d like you to be.
Blessings on your day!
When Jesus heard this he was amazed at him …Luke 7: 9
I’m pretty good at skipping. I’m a good cook. I always make my bed in the morning and I don’t leave my things laying around. Some folks might think those are nice accomplishments but I don’t think my gifts and talent would amaze anyone, especially Jesus. Can you even imagine Jesus looking at you and telling people that you amazed him?
The person Jesus was talking about in this verse from Luke was the Roman soldier who fully and completely trusted in Jesus. He believed that Jesus didn’t even have to go near his sick servant; he had faith that Jesus could simply say the word and heal his servant because he was that mighty. Think about that for a minute…the soldier didn’t have to do something huge, or dramatic or spectacular to amaze Jesus, he just trusted and believed in the power of Jesus. I don’t know about you but I’d like to amaze Jesus. Imagine the conversation…you get home from work and someone says, “Hey, what did you do today?” and you say, “Oh not much, I just amazed Jesus today!” That would be awesome!
I wonder if Jesus is very amazed with us this week? Sometimes I look at my newsfeed and things get all puddled together in a pretty “un-amazing” fashion. Today we celebrate All Saints day and it’s a pretty great day to stop and think about the most amazing people who walked this earth. The really important thing to remember is that we are ALL called to be saints. We are all expected to live like we know that and it often leaves us feeling like we fall a little short of amazing. The great news is this…we aren’t called to be perfect. We are called to follow God so he can perfect us.
The goal is sainthood so what now? We remember we’re his, we remember we were ALL created in his image, we remember that love and mercy trump all things all the time. We have to look at history and know people rise up, people come together and if they’re going to go anywhere good, they have to follow Christ to get there. We have a big job to do, we have division to heal and peace to find. We have a great Father who wants good for us. Jesus is waiting for us to amaze him and all we have to do to accomplish that task is to trust him and have faith like the Roman Soldier that he is a mighty healer. He is capable of all things and he can inspire greatness and strength in the most broken and weak. Take a minute to realize that you are a BELOVED CHILD OF GOD and he expects us to amaze him. So go ahead…take a minute to trust him, believe in him and amaze him.
A Seed To Plant: Tell Jesus you trust him and go be amazing!
Blessings on your day!
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen. Philippians 4:23
This week we celebrate the holiday that as a mother, was my least favorite. Halloween called on two gifts I seemed to get in shorter supply than many moms. Halloween with kids requires creativity and strength in the face of chocolate temptation…I am woefully lacking in both departments. One year I remember dressing two little Wohlfert boys in black trash bags with cardboard ears duct taped on a headband; they were bats! Thank goodness their desire for candy was greater than their interest in costumes because they looked pretty ridiculous. All the thinking, creating, hauling, buckling and unbuckling was frazzling. I was often amazed at how many times in a short window of time I could say, “Stop eating candy!” How crazy was that. I dressed them up, took them out with big bags to get candy and then told them not to eat it. Such an odd holiday isn’t it!
Even though I was always happy to turn back into our own driveway at the end of the night, I would sigh as I faced the bowl of candy on the dining room table that wasn’t empty. I love chocolate so the battle with the candy bowl would begin at the very time of day when I was too tired to slay the sugary, chocolate dragon. After they collected the candy the next step was to dump out their bags and begin to sift and sort and trade. After I was finally able to scrape my sugar buzzed little darlings off the ceiling and get them to bed I was faced with the bowl of candy and the three bags to boot. As a responsible parent, I had to hide it so they didn’t gobble it all up by All Souls Day; that was responsible parenting…right! I could put it out of the kids sight, but I knew where it was. The virtue of temperance always seemed to wane around the end of October. Looking back, I’m not sure how hard I prayed to resist that temptation and I’m sure I didn’t pause to think about how I could grow in holiness if I had actually called on God’s grace and conquered the temptation.
The years have passed and now I can think of Halloween in a different way, and as I sit here typing in an airport watching adorable little kids trotting through the airport in their Halloween costumes, I see some similarities between the upcoming holiday and my faith walk. I wake up every morning and spend the first chunk of my day in prayer but in all truthfulness, I realize that sometimes I don’t invest much more creative energy in my prayer time than I did in the kids costumes. Sometimes I just sit there and “get the job done” so I can collect a reward from God; much like the kids and their pursuit of chocolate rewards. The temptation of all that candy doesn’t just come at Halloween and all temptation isn’t chocolate. I can shake my fist and throw a hissy fit or I can bear down and push through it. In temptation, no matter what form it takes we can fight it and draw closer to the Father or we can forget to ask for help and deliverance and be steamrolled by it. Option two always leaves me feeling fuzzy, guilty and a little nauseous like a trick-or-treater (or parent) who ate too much candy.
God often asks us to do a lot and I’m not always a big fan of doing what he asks. I can be little “do my own thing-ish” at times, so I laughed when I remembered the negotiations that took place around the kitchen table as the kids sorted and traded their evening haul. Truth; I do that with God. Well God, if I serve you here and do what you ask here then you should be able to give me this or help me with that. Oh, and how about that candy hiding! I became the master of the goods. I decided when and how to dole the treats out. They were motivation for good behavior, prompt chore doing and extra vegetable eating. I could decide to give extra for things I liked or deny giving it at all if I didn't think they had “earned” it. Heck, on more occasions than I can count, I actually kept some of their stuff for myself. (sorry kids) I can’t even begin to tell you how magnificently grateful I am that God doesn’t hold his grace and blessings hostage the way I held the 3 little Wohlferts candy hostage. He is beyond fair, he is beyond generous and he delights in giving more than we could ever deserve or earn. This year as I admire the creative costumes and hand out chocolate, I’ll be praying that maybe I’ll learn from my Halloween thoughts and maybe you will too.
A Seed To Plant: Take a minute early this week to say a prayer for parents and children. May they laugh, be safe and enjoy each other this Halloween.
Blessings on your day!
How precious is your unfailing love, O God! - Psalm 36:7
Boy did I learn a big lesson this week! The greatest part of the big lesson is that it came from one of the teeniest teachers in the building. The teacher has long blonde hair, sparkly eyes and a smile that melts your heart. I saw her as just another adorable kindergartner but she was a part of a lesson that was anything but pint-sized and I think we can all learn a little something from her lesson.
For some reason, this sweet little thing high fives or hugs several of the teachers on a daily basis. She greets us with her giant smile and injects our day with a giant ray of sunshine. The funny thing is, I’m not her teacher, she has no reason to pick me to share her smiles, hugs and hello’s with; she just does it. Every day, she shows up and it just spills out of her like candy from a piñata. There have been so many times I’ll be walking down the hall with my mind pondering a dozen things and she’ll just pop out of nowhere with a bubbly hello and a hug and suddenly anything that seemed important just fades and I walk away with a smile and a little ray of her sunshine. One morning this week I had the pleasure of holding the door and welcoming the kids into the building; it’s one of my favorite jobs to be the one who gets to start their St. Mary School day. That morning there were dozens of smiles, hugs and good mornings. I remember standing there by the door thanking God for letting me be a part of 288 little lives.
My heart was happy as I said hello and opened the door for the last few students. When the traffic slowed and all the kids were sitting in their seats in the gym waiting for morning prayer, I just stood at the door with a smile and as I turned there she was, running toward me and she stopped a few feet from where I was standing and said, “Hey, I just love you so much.” And just like that she ran back to sit with her friends. My heart instantly melted at the sweetness and sincerity of this sweet little thing. While I stood with all my teacher friends praying with all the kids, the lesson hit me like a ton of bricks.
Ya see, I’ve done nothing to earn her sweetness. I’ve done nothing to deserve her kindness. I haven’t asked, demanded or instigated her joy. She has nothing to gain by giving it all so freely. She really doesn’t get anything kindergarten fair in return because I can’ t go out to play or sit at the same table and share a snack. I can’t foster a friendship by inviting her over to play or go to the movies so she really gets nothing in return. And that sweet “I love you so much!” came as a gift to my heart…she took off so fast there was nothing I could say in return. Everything about this little girls gifts is so completely one sided. As my “eyes started to sweat” (that’s “5th grade boy” for I’m crying) I realized that’s exactly how it is with God and me. She demonstrated what the love of God is really like. It’s always there. It’s never earned or deserved and it comes with no strings or conditions. He loves us intensely despite our fears and our failings. He always leads with love and joy and he offers it every time we greet him. He never fails and he never runs low. He has nothing to gain and yet he lights up when he sees us and he just waits to tell us in a hundred different ways every day “I love you so much!”
Several of the staff at school are meeting once a week to participate in the Wild Goose series. It’s a beautiful video teaching series on the Holy Spirit.(I would HIGHLY recommend it!) The first lesson was about the love of God and that class left me praying on the question, how do I KNOW God loves me? He showed me this week with a lesson from one of his smallest teachers. He loves me enough to send a wee one to SHOW me what his love is like. He knew right where to get my heart; through a child. He didn’t send big words or profound scripture, he touched my heart with his love in a way he knew I wouldn’t miss!
A Seed To Plant: Pray on that question, “How do I KNOW God loves me?” See where he leads you in prayer.
Blessings on your day!
“And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” Galatians 6:9
One of the best parts of my job is helping the middle lovelies find direction. We all need people to look up to, to imitate and to follow. Sadly, the choices our culture puts in front of our kids is lacking woefully in the good stuff they need. Several times a week I tell them stories or show them video clips of people doing excellent things. The fine education professors I had at Emporia State University about a hundred years ago told us a bazillion times that if we wanted the lessons to stick, we had to model, model, model and then model some more so I try constantly to show them people who are getting it right. I have to admit though, doing things the right way often takes more energy and thought than doing it the wrong way. I’ve come to the conclusion that sin is pretty easy it’s the resisting that’s tough!
Doing the right thing is always a choice. I visited with a lady several weeks ago after I gave a talk and she told me she had been taught in elementary school by a beautiful nun who always told them “do the right thing for no other reason than because it’s the right thing.” Seems pretty straight forward but after some thought and prayer, it’s deeper than you think. Do the right thing not because you’ll be noticed or get an award or prize. Do the right thing just because it’s right. That was a thought I was peeling around with on my heart and I made a discovery…and not a good one. I realized how many times in a week I thought or even said, “I don’t want to.” Maybe it was because I was tired, or worried or indifferent but there were so many times I just didn’t bother to do the right thing and give a little extra.
This has all been on my heart and I came across a story about a great and holy man that I need to share with you and the middle lovelies. This great man was Pope John the XXIII. He had just kicked off the opening of Vatican II and he was exhausted. He was also battling stomach cancer and feeling it’s painful effects as he retired to his room. One of his aids called his attention to the massive crowd in St. Peter’s Square. He said, “I don’t want to talk, I’ve talked all day.” That was quickly followed as he lifted himself wearily from his chair by a “but I will do it anyway.” He went to the window and delivered his famous “Moonlight Speech.” It was impromptu, heartfelt and beautiful. He did the right thing for the people and more than fifty years later we still remember his words. His message was simple; “give honor to the impressions of this night, which are always our feelings, which now we express before heaven and earth: faith, hope, love, love of God, love of brother, all aided along the way in the Lord's holy peace for the work of the good. And so, let us continue to love each other, to look out for each other along the way: to welcome whoever comes close to us, and set aside whatever difficulty it might bring.”
That night when he had to be running on a completely empty tank, he offered love, peace and a simple message about the right thing to do. It isn’t just the middle lovelies that needed a lesson from Good Pope John…their teacher needed it too!
A Seed To Plant: Make a list of three “right things” you will do today.
Blessings on your day!
The Lord God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground—trees that were pleasing to the eye…Genesis 2:9
October is absolutely my very favorite month of the year. I love the change in temperatures, colors, foods and clothes. We celebrate some of my favorite events in October but what I love most are the trees. Some trees are so intense with yellows, oranges and reds they look like they’re plugged in. As I was driving a couple hours to a speaking job last weekend it was sunny and warm and I just soaked in all the color and beauty. Once I got home, it occurred to me that I take trees for granted the other eleven months out of the year. That thought hovered with me for a few days and I’ve heard three cool tree stories in the past couple of days so I figured that means a message for all of us.
Lesson 1: Trees change, the color changes, the shape changes, the size changes; everything about them changes from season to season. None of those changes are permanent. Some stages are a whole lot more appealing than others for sure. I suppose life is like that. There are times when our lives are bright and brilliant and others when things seem dull and unattractive. Each of the stages come and go, one follows the other and the old makes way for the new. I’m sure the tree doesn’t pout when it’s beautiful colored leaves fall to the ground for us to tromp on; it’s just the ebb and flow. Each stage and each change offers something new and different. Just like the leaves that don’t stay but for a season, our highs aren’t meant to stay forever and neither are our lows. God is right there in both teaching, loving and then moving us along.
Lesson 2: Storms deepens the roots. Trees have a way of adapting to conditions. Storms of life will come and go so being firmly anchored is a means of survival. Tree roots sink deeper into the ground for life-giving nutrients and we need to anchor deeply in our faith and trust in the Lord so we can be nourished by his life-giving grace and mercy. Being rooted in our faith is what allows us to survive the storms and tough spots in life. Strong roots make us steady as the world around us changes.
Lesson 3: Destruction often ushers in new life. The cones on some pine trees are only opened by the flash heat of a forrest fire. The intense heat causes the cone to open up and spill it’s seeds so new life can be spread by gravity and wind. We often look at destruction as life damaging and not as life giving. Sometimes being completely disappointed or devastated is what it takes for us to surrender our own plans and let the love of God guide us to new life.
I guess October trees aren’t just beautiful to look at, they have lessons to offer as well. The next time I’m smack dab in the middle of something stormy and hard I’ll remind myself that I’m working on my roots. The next time I watch my well thought out plans go up in smoke, I’ll remind myself to watch for the seeds of new life around me and I will certainly be reminded that sometimes my life might look like a bunch of bare branches but something good will pop out soon. Thank you God for some beautiful trees and some great lessons.
A Seed To Plant: Pick one of the lessons and ask God to show you how he might be inviting you to apply it to your life this season.
Blessings on your day!
Get out there and bring your joy! Pope Francis
How simple is that! When Pope Francis spoke these words he was talking about our work as disciples of Jesus. He went on to say, “If we are full of Christian joy then we should let our faces know it.” I love that image. So many times I muddle my way through the day trying to be a good disciple and I get tangled up in the “work” of it all and miss the “joy” of it all!
Nobody will ever be inspired by a grump! Who would ever want to be a disciple if all they ever hear is how much work it is, how many committees you have to serve on and how much time it’s going to take. If that’s all I knew of Jesus and discipleship I would probably run as fast as I could in the opposite direction. Our job as disciples is to bring people to Christ not scare them away or point out how hard we work to be one. People want to be drawn to Christ not dragged so I suppose it is a good idea every now and again to see if our attitude is one that is drawing, dragging or scaring away. I guess the even bigger question to ask myself is; would I want to follow me and get involved?
Pope Francis is an inspiration to all Christians because he is a living, breathing demonstration of joy, love, kindness and humility found only in the heart of a servant of the Lord. He makes us want to follow! I was reminded of a story I heard about a little girl who got in line and followed the kids who were leaving school to go to Religious Ed. A few weeks later the teacher realized the little girl wasn’t Catholic and asked her why she was going along each week. Her response was awesome. She smiled at the teacher and said, “I just wanted to go where they were going and learn what they were learning because when they come back to school they are so happy!” Out of the mouths of babes! It made me stop and ask myself, when was the last time I came out of church and others could see the joy and the happiness bubblin out of me? Jesus hasn’t changed…he is and was and always will be so that led me to the conclusion that it was me who wasn’t always bringing my joy; not him!
It doesn’t matter what the sermon is like or the music is like or the way the sanctuary is decorated. The joy of Jesus and discipleship lies in the love he has for us, the mercy he shows us and the grace he freely gives us. I just need to act like it! So…pew potatoes unite…let’s get out there and spread the word and bring our joy!
A Seed To Plant: This week in prayer, ask God to reveal three things to you that will bring you joy and then take it out the door when you leave and share it.
Blessings on your day!
…shake the dust from your feet…Luke 9:5
My mom used to have a famous line. She’d pull it out any time I was trying to make a big decision or plan something. Instead of telling me what to do, she would say, “Well, you could do that but then what happens if…” She would let me think and ponder and look at different sides of the issue. She might repeat that statement a dozen times as I worked my way through the possibilities. She taught me to think about the possibilities and the consequences and then she let me see them through. She was such a wise woman! Today it seems that there is no shortage of folks who want to tell each of us exactly what we should believe and do and think and support. I’m beginning to see two really big problems with that. First, they aren’t offering balanced information steeped in truth and mercy and second, too many folks are letting others do their thinking for them, believing anything they hear.
As I’ve prayed and ached a little over the past couple of weeks about things happening in the news, I was searching for some truth and peace. As always, God pointed me to a passage I’d read dozens of times, but he helped me see it with different eyes. The passage is from Luke’s Gospel and it brought peace and clarity to the mess filling up my newsfeed. When Jesus sent out the disciples their job was to bring the message of love, peace and hope. They weren’t asked to beat people with a stick until they believed exactly what they told them to believe. They were speaking truth and planting seeds. All to often today if someone doesn’t believe what we believe things turn twenty shades of ugly!
Jesus told the disciples if they and the peace the brought with them was not accepted or welcomed they were to shake the dust from their feet and move on. Nowhere in this Gospel did Jesus tell them to stay and beat folks silly until they agreed. He didn’t instruct them to shame, belittle or humiliate them, just shake the dust and move along. He also didn’t teach them to move to the next house and bad mouth the place they weren’t welcomed. It was a simple, gentle motion, shake and go. But before they shook and left, they gave the peace of Christ. It made me wonder how many times we get into an argument and desire the other persons holiness or offer them the peace of Christ?
The other thing that struck me was the dust. Dust is dirt right? And things grow in dirt right? So while they gently shook the dust and moved past, what was left in the dust? The disciples left in that dust seeds of peace, seeds of compassion, seeds of gentleness. As they quietly slipped away they demonstrated what Christ taught us; love one another. I wonder how many times the disciples shook the dust from their sandals and those left behind were inspired by their example of gentleness and non-judgement? I wonder how many people pondered on it and changed their attitude or behavior? I wonder how many through the seeds left in the dust actually came to follow Jesus after all?
As I’ve prayed with this Gospel for several days I’m reminded of that famous line from St. Teresa of Calcutta; the thing that needs to change most in this world if it is to be more peaceful and Christ like is ME! I suppose it would be a great idea if we did a little more dust shaking and less tongue wagging and finger pointing. And I know I need to work harder at desiring the holiness of all those people in the news making me crazy. My words for the week…shake, peace and plant seeds of hope in the dust!
A Seed To Plant: Read Luke 9:1-6 and see if the Lord has some direction for you in regards to creating peace on earth.
Blessings on your day!
He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. Isaiah 40:29
When my oldest son was in the fourth grade, I volunteered to help him and his friends make a piñata for their class Halloween party. The boys had a great time slapping on the newspaper strips drenched in the gooey flour paste. Each little narrow strip of newspaper was slopped on the outside of a Mylar balloon until the boys thought they’d covered every visible speck of silver balloon. After getting the boys and the table cleaned up, I picked up the piñata to set it in the sun to dry. As I reached down to grab it, I nearly threw out my shoulder the thing was so stinkin’ heavy! Holy cow…how could something made out of such tiny strips of weightless newspaper collect into a creation weighing as much as a toddler? The best laugh of all came the following week at the party when it practically took a sledge hammer to break the thing.
I had the pleasure of taking a class about teaching Scripture to kids. It was an excellent class and the instructor was so dynamic, passionate and enjoyable. One of the underlying themes of the class was that using Scripture and helping kids LOVE IT involves lots of little things. Bringing Scripture to life is not about unveiling the complexities and all the history, it’s about revealing the little ways God uses His word to reach us, draw us in and shower us with His gifts. As I was coming home, I drove past a lawn decorated to the hilt with Halloween decorations and I remembered that silly jack-o-lantern piñata the boys made more than a dozen years ago. That 30 pound piñata took on a whole new meaning as I began to realize that our journey toward heaven is a little like that piñata. The creation of that big, strong piñata, began with something that was tiny, weightless and of little value by itself but yet, it became so much more!
We can get pretty caught up sometimes in the big stuff of life, like money, careers, politics, mortgages, position and on and on. It’s all legitimate and needs our attention for sure, but our journey to heaven is supremely about the little stuff. Jesus worked some breath taking miracles, He did some unbelievable healings and He orchestrated some amazing conversions but His message to His followers always focused on the little things. He took more than 600 Jewish laws and condensed them into TWO commandments for us to follow…talk about simplifying things! He used parables or stories of the common, to teach and reach souls for His Father. He even pulled some children onto His lap to show us exactly who we needed to imitate. Jesus was all about the little things!
Our lives should be like that piñata…a combination of little things, done lovingly for Christ in order to make us strong enough to withstand the blows of disappointment, difficulty and discouragement tossed in our path by the evil one. During the class I was touched right to my core when the instructor was talking about the Parable of the Prodigal Son. The message of that story is simpler than greed and jealousy and betrayal. It’s not a story of good son vs bad son. It’s about a little choice with enormous consequence. I was dawn to tears when the instructor spoke in a voice so peaceful and loving and taught that the prodigal son was saying to his father, I want your “stuff” not a relationship…he was in effect saying; father, you are dead to me. In a quivering voice, the instructor reminded us that the father in the story is indeed our God and Father and many times we act just like the son demanding God’s stuff; His love, mercy and grace without wanting to work at a relationship with Him. What God demands of us is simple and small compared to what He blesses us with yet we still sometimes let days slip by without carving out that chunk of time to sit in quiet, uninterrupted prayer. He isn't asking us to live the life of a Cloistered Monk, He just wants us to invite Him into our day and trust Him.
What little things can you begin with? Can you begin with or add a few more minutes of Scripture each day? Maybe it could be a little time helping a neighbor? How about a little time praying for that crabby co-worker instead of complaining about them? If there are a hundred steps between me and God, I know that if I take the first little step toward Him, He will take the rest toward me. He's asking for little things from us so He can build us up and give us strength...and we'll be way stronger than a jack-o-lantern pinata.
A seed to plant: Do 5 little things this week that will strengthen your relationship with your Creator.
Blessings on your day!
…his mercies are not spent; they are new each morning. Lamentations 3:22-23
I am grateful for lots and lots of things and one of them is my ability to fall asleep as fast and hard as a brick being dropped from a high building! On the nights I’m not asleep in the first 3 seconds after crawling between the sheets I try to do a replay of my day and offer thanksgiving for the blessings and pray for forgiveness for my sinfulness. When I get to that part, sometimes I get pretty sad, even embarrassed about things I have done or said during the day. It’s funny that on the nights I don’t fall right to sleep it’s usually because something has happened during that day that I need to pray on, ask forgiveness for or ask God to help me fix the next day. I’m not gonna lie, some nights when I start thinking about silly things that slipped out of my mouth that shouldn’t have, or situations where I didn’t slow down enough to really listen or be compassionately present for someone I’d rather just roll over and go to sleep. Sometimes it’s like someone holding up a mirror and I don’t like what I see.
I was having one of those nights not long ago and I couldn’t go to sleep. I ended up moving to the couch so I wouldn’t disturb Dave because no matter how hard I tried to drift off, something just kept nagging at me so I gave up, opened scripture and asked God to show me what he was putting on my heart. It was a beautiful experience of his mercy that eventually led me to this verse in Lamentations. How great is our God! Even as he was pointing out something I didn’t want to see, he did it with such love. I realized that he was showing me how I could follow him more closely and after a while longer, I fell sound asleep and didn’t even roll over the rest of the night. When I woke up the next morning I felt so peaceful and content because I realized that no matter how much we mess things up, he is there for us and his mercies are new each morning.
Don’t we serve an amazing God! It’s like a “do-over” every day. The morning brings new light, new opportunity and God’s new mercies. If you’re reading this today and your heart is heavy about something you’re lugging around, put it to rest in the forgiving arms of the Father and sleep tonight knowing his mercies will be new in the morning. Admit your faults and failings, ask his forgiveness, offer apology and make peace where you need to and know things will be as fresh and hopeful as a bright new morning.
A Seed To Plant: Ask God to show you where you need to seek forgiveness, offer forgiveness and then rest in the promise of his mercy.
Blessings on your day!
Jesus looked at them and said, “For human beings is impossible, but not for God. All things are possible for God." Mark 10:27
When my heart is troubled I tell myself, “It’s ok, God can do anything he wants!” As I watch the events of the world unfold around me and I look at the number of folks hurting and suffering I find myself repeating that line often. One quick look at the news and it’s easy to see why folks are discouraged. No matter how much I’d like to make things better for everyone, I am not a wise or powerful woman who can change any of it. But I can, and will, pray about it and do my best to share God’s hope and love and joy in an attempt to keep those in my corner of the world grounded in this important truth that with God all things are possible. God is calling each of us to remember in times of trouble that if we look carefully, he gives us signs of His love and encouragement every day.
As long as God is in charge, the news will never be all bad, so powered by the hope in this verse, I set out to see what good things God was doing and I was able to fill my eyes, ears and heart with so much “good stuff”. All around me I noticed God’s signals that assured me it’s gonna be ok because of his infinite possibilities! At mass, I saw the adorable chubby cheeks of a little girl who found her voice. With each happy squeal I was reminded that babies are God’s sign of life. At a restaurant I saw a family with five little ones who screeched, giggled and wiggled and I smiled because their parents chose life. At the Secretary of State office I watched as a very patient, kind hearted 3 year old fed her baby sister dry cereal one piece at a time.
When I stopped for coffee, I noticed a table of men loud with laughter and energy sitting before their open Bibles discussing Gods word. At the market I watched a young man present an elderly lady he didn’t know a bouquet of flowers to make her day. In the airport I saw executives with laptops and spreadsheets begin an important meeting with prayer. As I looked with eyes wide open I saw Gods goodness and possibilities again and again. Sights and sounds that give witness to the“good” in this world. The happy giggles and delightful squeals and those who gathered to pray, visit, laugh and share in each other’s lives…that’s my signal that as long as we remember the words from Marks Gospel…we’ll be ok. We aren’t promised perfection, we are promised hope, mercy and love from the Father who created us. We have to remember that with God, all things won’t be perfect but they are most certainly possible!
A Seed To Plant: Take some time to sit in prayer and make a list off all the things that trouble you. One by one ask God to handle each item and bring your heart hope and peace, knowing he will take care of them.
...then he looked up to heaven and groaned and said to him, “Ephphatha!” that is “Be opened!” Mark 7:34
It’s funny how memories from long ago flood back at random times. As the middle lovelies all came back to school this week and we began to talk about all the things we would do and learn I explained that we had to be open to what the Lord wanted to teach us and speak to us. One of the middle lovelies remember the Gospel reading from Sunday and we began to talk about the word “Ephphatha” which means be open. This particular Gospel is about Jesus healing a deaf man. I was impressed with the memory and connection from something he had heard several days earlier. I realized I needed to bring my A game to school this year! As we were in the middle of a great discussion about being open and being ready I remembered Shannon’s baptism and a piece I had written about being open. In honor of one really smart middle lovely I decided to share it with everyone today.
The day our daughter Shannon was baptized is a day I’ll never forget! The day was memorable for some very obvious reasons like the religious significance and the celebration with family but it had an even greater significance in my life as a Catholic mom. I remember standing at the Baptismal font feeling very uncomfortable in the panty hose and skirt that were too tight on my “just had a baby” body. I was distracted by Shannon’s 2 and 4 year old brothers who were being wiggly and silly sitting on big cousins laps watching. I remember worrying about the meal I would soon be serving to 40 people and then I heard the word, “Ephphatha!”
The word was spoken to my baby girl but it seared my heart! It bolted me to attention and drew me to task with shock. God was inviting and commanding the newest member of his church to be open to his Word and his Will but I felt him speaking those words to me that Sunday morning and suddenly it seemed like the whole world melted away. I didn’t notice my pinched waistband or my noisy boys, all I noticed in that moment was openness and a burning desire to stay opened. Shannon began to squirm in my arms as she lay there wrapped in an abundance of beautiful white slippery fabric and I realized that it was my great task and honor as a Catholic mother to fill her tiny open ears with God’s word and life. I realized that morning it was my responsibility to protect my children’s open ears from harmful words, and ideas. They were open and it was my job to see that they were filled and in his infinite goodness that day he gave me the awareness of his grace so as not to be overwhelmed by the task!
A Seed To Plant: Write the word Ephphatha at the top of a blank page of paper. As you sit and pray with that word, ask God to show you where you should be more open to his Word and his Will.
Blessings on your day!
Every man, whatsoever his condition, desires to be happy. St.
After the Saturday I had, I probably have enough thoughts to write a dozen blogs! I spent the day at the Diocese of Lansing Made for Happiness Assembly and it was an absolutely spectacular day. I sat in the MSU Breslin Center with more than 13,000 Catholics and prayed, sang, laughed and praised! The energy, the speakers, the unity, the communal prayer…it was overwhelming! We gathered as Christ’s people; members of an imperfect church but followers of a Perfect God! There was happiness, grace, healing and glorious HOPE! If I wrote about everything that’s on my heart the blog would be thousands of words long and to quote a phrase that makes me laugh, “Aint nobody got time for that!” It’s impossible for me to pick a favorite part of the day but there is a line from Fr. Mike Schmitz, priest extrodinare, that hit me like a ton of bricks. I’ve come to understand that when something hits me that hard I’m probably supposed to pay attention.
Fr. Mike was talking about Santa Claus. He spoke about the times as a child he begged his mom to take him to see Santa. He didn’t want to just write a letter, he wanted to SEE Santa. Looking back he realized that he didn’t really care about the man Santa, he only cared about what Santa could do for him. Seeing Santa meant asking in person for presents and then receiving them simply because he asked for them. He had no real regard for Santa himself, only what he could give him. As he was talking I could vividly remember my brothers and I getting ready to go to White Lakes Mall in Topeka, KS to see Santa. I remember what an outing it was and how exciting it was. It was probably the only car trip all year where the boys and I didn’t argue and poke each other and irritate the snot out of our parents. The memory made me smile. But then came the bombshell, he asked how many of us ever saw God that way. Ugh! The reality of my answer was heavy. I’ve been reflecting on this for over 24 hours and it’s definitely become something I realize I need to work on.
I get excited about the idea of God. I spend time in prayer and I try to do things that please him but I have to ask myself why? Am I just trying to win his favor so he will give me what I ask for in prayer. Do I go to him trying to “butter him up” so I can make up for the times I truly don’t pick up my cross? Do I turn to him when things are hard and disappointing and temptation knocks loudly or do I do what I want and then go to him a few days later and act all “buddy buddy in my prayer.” It left me asking myself where my true intentions and commitment were. I truly do want to join him among the Communion of Saints but do I work for it, I mean really work for it or do I expect heaven to be his great gift to me even if I haven’t been a loyal disciple. Do I want him enough to defend him or share his story in public? Do I love him enough to trust him and follow him and be uncomfortable as he works in my life? Do I listen for his voice or drown him out with my own thoughts? Am I willing to surrender everything to him and admit I am perfectly made and adored by my creator? I can’ just be excited about the idea, I have to live the idea. I have to love him above all because of what he HAS given me, not just for what I want him to give me. Sheesh, thank you Fr. Mike for a big heap of stuff to work on…it might not make me FEEL better but it sure will make me BE better. (thanks for that line too!)
A Seed To Plant: If the Santa story touched your heart, please spend the week praying about it and see where he leads you.
Blessings on your day!
What your hands provide you will enjoy; you will be blessed and prosper. Psalm 128:2
Growing up we always had a gigantic garden. The garden was the work of the summer. There was always something to do, planting, weeding, picking or preserving. My mom canned and froze enough produce for the whole year; green beans, carrots, potatoes, corn, tomatoes, peas and beets. It was a complete drag during the middle of the summer when it was 100 degrees and my brothers and I were sitting in the back yard shucking corn for hours but fresh sweet corn in January made it all worth it. I can’t begin to count the times my folks reminded me of that while they handed me another bucket of green beans to snap. It isn’t always easy to see the blessing that comes with the investment at the time. All these years later, I still plant a garden and can tomatoes. True, I can get a can on sale for less than a dollar but it just isn’t the same. The problem is, by the time spring finally comes in Michigan and I get to a point with the end of the school year chaos and I finally get them planted it’s always September before they are ready to pick and can.
This is a particularly busy time of year with speaking and school but I came home Wednesday to a basket of tomatoes staring me down. I knew they had to be canned or they would spoil and even though I had a dozen other things to do, I reminded myself how good they would taste in chili and soup when the snow was flying so I got to it, but not without plenty of eye rolling and muttering under my breath, “really…now…I have to do this now? Why can’t they be ready before school starts, that would be much more convenient! As I stood at the kitchen sink washing jars and peeling tomatoes I asked myself why I even bother at all. But as I sit here typing, drinking a cup of coffee, I hear the canner bubbling and the soft clink of the seals setting on the jars fresh from the canner and I realize how satisfying it is and how connected I feel to my mom when I do what she did. It’s worth it, but it always takes me a while to remember that.
If I’m being honest, canning tomatoes is a little like my faith life. I love the end result, but more often than I should, I grumble about the effort and the time it takes. I want the relationship and the grace but I don’t always want to invest the time necessary. I want to head to the pantry in January and grab what I need but it takes effort to make sure it will be there when I need it. Sometimes my prayer life is like that. I cry out to God with my list of wants and needs and I just expect to grab what I need. I take his mercy and his goodness for granted way too often. It will be a sad day when I go to the pantry and there are no more tomatoes but it would be an unfathomably devastating day if I went to the Lord and he wasn’t there. I very well may run out of tomatoes but I can breathe a sigh of relief to know as long as I run to the Father and truly seek him, his grace and compassion will never run dry. Out of all the things I needed to do besides can tomatoes, I had to make the tomatoes a priority. I wonder how much better my attitude and perspective would be if I remembered to put the Father and his plan as my top priority every day. Timing is important. No matter how hard I wish, I can't make those tomatoes ripe any sooner. Patience is such a key and these tomatoes are a reminder to trust in Gods timing is perfect. As I sit back and admire the jars of warm tomatoes all lined up on my counter I’m pretty sure there are many times the Father lines the events of my days up in perfect order and I don’t even notice it or thank him for it. Funny how much you can learn from putting tomatoes in a jar!
A Seed To Plant: Make a list of three things you can do this week to invest in your relationship with the Father. Say a prayer of thanksgiving for someone who taught you something important.
Blessings on your day!
For we walk by Faith and not by sight. 2 Corinthians 5:7
Sometimes scripture can reach right up off the page and punch you in the nose! This verse socked me hard just as I was getting ready to throw my own little pity party. I’ve had several “careful what you wish for” moments this week and instead of throwing a fit, I decided to see what my Father had to say about things and this is right where I landed!
We follow a mighty God and he always leads us perfectly but sometimes we freak out a little when we realize we can’t see Him, or the path He has for us. I had to remind myself that my sight and His work were not necessarily a package deal. I have to live like I trust Him and live like I love him. This fall He has asked me to do some pretty crazy stuff and my heart has wound up in a twist several times but through it all I know He leads me.
It’s crazy how we go through warps of time where we are called to question everything we do. There are seasons of life where change seems to come at you like rapid fire from a Nerf gun. They aren’t all painful but they just keep coming. My role as a mother and wife has changed as the kids have all moved out. My role as a teacher has changed as education standards and practices have changed, my speaking ministry has blossomed and provided exciting travel opportunities and another ministry opportunity appeared from nowhere. I’m doing crazy fun things like meeting amazing people, doing radio interviews, not cooking every night because there are actually leftovers and helping 6th grade football and volleyball players learn to lead school prayer services. I’m beginning to realize that I’m not so young anymore. Several times recently I’ve been at meetings or events and found myself the oldest person in the room. My hair is sprouting some gray and my eyes have led me to be the owner of multiple pairs of reading glasses stashed everywhere! I’ve wondered a hundred times lately if I’m smart enough, funny enough, dedicated enough, energetic enough, young enough, old enough, prayerful enough and compassionate enough.
When I read this verse from Corinthians I realized I’m asking too many questions and trying to apply logic to God and that never works. I’m trying to SEE when He’s asking me simply to believe. That is so much easier! I don’t have to have answers to any of those silly questions, I just have to remind myself that I AM HIS and none of the rest of it matters. He will put me where I should be, doing what I should do, the way He wants it done, when it’s time. I just have to remember to walk by faith and find the joy He’s so generously sprinkling along the journey.
A Seed To Plant: Sit a while and pray about those spots you are having trouble navigating by faith and not by sight.
Blessings on your day!
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