And Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart. Luke 2:19
I have a suspicion that there are some things in the world that are universal. I suspect we all wish the work week had two days and the weekend had five. I suspect we all enjoy the beauty of the sunrise and sunset and I suspect we all have a junk drawer somewhere in our house! I love having a place to stick all that stuff I might need later or don’t have any idea what to do with. When I shove stuff in there I secretly pray I’ll be able to quickly find that one thing buried in there when I need it. Of course I realize how embarrassed I’d be if anybody actually looked in my junk drawer.
As I read this passage from Luke’s Gospel I thought about the things Mary had in her heart to reflect on; it was big stuff for sure! I love how Luke used the word reflect instead of worry, plan, manage or fix . As I sat down to pray, I asked God to help me ponder and reflect on the things in my own heart. It didn’t take me long to realize my heart was a little like my kitchen junk drawer! It was full of a bunch of clunky stuff I probably didn’t need, wouldn’t really find very helpful and of course a bunch of stuff that didn’t really match anything. In all honesty, my heart was cluttered with of a bunch of junk I just keep there because it’s easier to shove it in than take the time and effort to truly sort it all out.
As I reflected on my heart, I’m afraid to say there was as much gunk and clunk there as I found in my drawer. I discovered some jealousy and some impatience and some judgement. For several days I carried this junky heart thinking around and God showed me so many things that needed to be tossed out. I realized I was hauling around memories and thoughts and silly wishes that were taking up space he wanted to fill with better stuff. I came to realize there was stuff in my heart that had about as much value as the random junk in my drawer. I’m pretty sure that lonely hot wheels tire and broken diaper pin has about as much usefulness as some of the feelings I’m guarding in the secret corners of my heart. I’m absolutely certain those junky things are not the kinds of things he’s encouraging me to ponder.
The thing about reflecting is that it’s a passive activity. Mary realized she could only reflect and trust. She wasn’t forming her action plan or trying to figure out how to get God to change the plan. She was confident that in all of her thoughts and situations he was going to be there. I ponder the fixes and the action instead of reflecting on all the ways God is going to show up and use every situation for good. I realized that my reflection is always “me” centered; what am I going to do, and this simple line from Luke’s Gospel reminded me in a powerful way that I’m completely missing the point. Reflecting on the stuff in my heart pointed me to the fact that I need to do some dumping, sorting and re-organizing. I have to dump it all out and let go of the junk that’s taking up valuable space…space that was designed for things so much more important. In the dumping and purging, the thing I will make room for is him and his mighty works. Just like the “treasures” in my junk drawer that I’m saving in case I need them, chances are, I truly don’t! Dumping out that drawer to sort and clean is going to seem overwhelming and make my kitchen look like a giant mess before it gets better. But I know the result will be fresh, tidy and open…that’s the kind of drawer I’m after and that’s the kind of heart God’s looking for.
A Seed To Plant: Take some time this week to clean out the junk! Take a prayerful look at what’s in your heart and then pick a drawer, closet or spot to sort and organize while you pray. The two tasks added together are a pretty powerful way to do some reflecting!
Blessings on your day!
Let them grow together until the harvest; then at harvest time I will say to the harvesters, “First collect the weeds and tie them into bundles for burning but gather the wheat into my barn.” Matthew 13:30
The parable of the wheat and the weeds from Matthews Gospel has so many lessons! But my mind is glued right to one part. When my mind gets stuck on one little piece of scripture like that it’s usually a pretty good sign that I’m supposed to work on something! The part that really socked me was how the land owner told the servants to be patient. What?…the enemy just wrecked his whole wheat field by scattering weeds and he said nothing of revenge or justice or retribution. He didn’t ride his donkey into town and tell everybody who would listen about the awful thing someone had done to him. He didn’t go all 007 and try to track down the bad guys, he just said be patient, we’ll sort it all out later. Wow…what a lesson! We are pretty good at recognizing the hand of God in our lives and thanking him for our blessings but how good are we at letting him be in charge of justice? We are a society that likes to “right the wrongs” when they happen to us.
Sr. Mary MacKillop was an Australian nun who was a brilliant teacher. She had an infectiously joyful disposition and those around her thrived because of her love, holiness and honesty. One of my favorite stories is about how she truly imitated the land owner in this parable. Sr. Mary’s classrooms swelled and the students achieved brilliantly because of her enthusiasm and encouragement. There were so many new students that another room was added to the school and a crabby old priest was summoned to teach the other class of students. Orders were given for an achievement test to be administered to all students to determine the worth of the teachers in the diocese. After the tests were collected, Sr. Mary’s students’ scores were amazing. As you might expect the scores from the other class were not. Before the tests were sealed and mailed to the bishop, the old priest switched the teacher’s names receiving full credit for the splendid scores. Poor Sr. Mary was sent off to a dreadful assignment in the outback. The other sisters encouraged Sr. Mary to tell the bishop what had happened but she refused and told them they were not to say anything either. She believed that she had done what God had asked her to do and justice was not hers to serve, that was God’s business. She refused to speak about it stating that she had absolutely no doubts that God would see to things in his way and in his time but in the meantime she would use it as a splendid opportunity to grow in humility.
Go Sr. Mary! I know for a fact I have a long way to go if I ever want to measure up to her standard of trust in God’s judgment. I suppose I should begin with the person who drives like a nut in traffic and cuts me off. Or, I could start with the impatient person who snatches the parking spot I’ve patiently waited for and “claimed” with my blinker. I’m willing to bet that I won’t have to look very hard to find several places in my daily life that I could be more like the land owner and his field. I can think of several folks who could use a little more patience from me. Who knows, if I was a little more patient instead of running around yanking out the weeds of “injustice” I might discover things are a whole lot easier to sort out than I thought. I guess I need to worry less about who put the weeds in my wheat and worry more about being patient and letting someone wiser and more loving than me sort things out.
A Seed To Plant: Take some time this week to read the whole parable from Matthew 13:24-30. Sit still for a few minutes and identify some of the weeds in your wheat. How and where can you demonstrate the patience of the land owner?
Blessings on your day!
She is clothed in strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come. Proverbs 31:25
How many readers think this verse from Proverbs is talking about them? This past week I crossed paths with a few folks who seemed to be consumed with fear and worry about the future. I can tell you that they were not laughing at the days to come and I struggled to help them move from worry to peaceful faith. As I thought and prayed about these conversations I found this verse and it made me smile.
Have you ever stopped to think about what makes one person worry and another one not worry at all? Some of us look to the future and smile; others look the same direction and feel a pang of worry, dread and maybe even fear. Some might say worrying is just a part of your hard-wiring but I suppose we all carry a little bit of worry with us most days. I read once that there is a big difference between worry and concern. Being concerned about something inspires us to organize, call on resources and to handle things as best we can and leave the rest to God. Worry is more like doing everything possible and still fretting about God being able to do the rest according to your plan.
When the boys were little they had some plastic toy swords and the movie Peter Pan. They would have sword fights anywhere; the barn, kitchen, and yard you name it they would imagine a scene and play like crazy. Surprisingly, there were no casualties until the night they snuck the swords under the covers. The fight that night was a small disaster leaving two little boys with some red marks, a black eye and a giant scrape to the belly. When the dust settled and we were trying to sort it all out, the problem boiled down to the darkness. In the light, they could see and anticipate what was coming but in the darkness of their bedroom they couldn’t anticipate and react to what they couldn’t see coming. They lost their guide and their protection.
The Proverbs 31 woman who can laugh at days to come is one who doesn’t sit in the darkness of worry. Why? What makes her so immune to the worries and woes of the day? I think the answer to that question comes in the first part of the verse; strength and dignity. The really important part of the puzzle though is the realization that the strength and dignity come from God not from the world or within. When we think of strength, we typically think of muscles and physical power which requires work to attain. When we talk about strength from God the opposite is true. In order to be powered by the strength of God we have to do nothing but rest in him and know he will do all the heavy lifting! Gods strength sees all the obstacles and shifts in the path, he simply asks that we let him love us enough to maneuver us through them. If we can’t rely on God’s strength it’s kind of like having a sword fight in the dark; there is no way to anticipate and react to what we can’t see coming.
Laughing at the future doesn’t mean we see what’s coming; it means we are strong enough to face it because we know God will defend, protect and love us through whatever comes our way. He loves us too much to put us in a situation that is beyond what we need. Yes, sometimes we need struggle and difficulty but he knows how much and for what reason. We need to work on laughing at the days to come because when it all boils down to the bottom of the pot, it’s kind of funny that we should worry about something God has already orchestrated right down to the most teeny tiny detail.
A Seed To Plant: Make a list of the things that worry you. Ask God to bring you strength this week as you pray daily for him to transform your worry to peace.
Blessings on your day!
The Lord is faithful…2 Thessalonians 3:3
God is so fancy! I’m typing from the Boise airport looking out at the gorgeous mountains. They fascinate me; I guess that is to be expected from a Kansas girl! I’m enjoying this amazing backdrop before I hop a flight and head home. This amazing view is like the exclamation point to end a fabulous weekend spent with the Diocese of Boise Deacons and their wives.
This weekend I met some amazing disciples! I was touched right to my soul with their honesty, their dedication and their openness. I heard these beautiful servants tell stories of their passion for the homeless, the sick, the broken and the joyful. I was inspired by their selflessness and their humility. God invited me here this weekend to give, but my eyes are leaking as I reflect back on all I received from these incredible people! The plane will carry my bags, but my heart will carry the truly precious cargo.
As I head home my heart carries HOPE! My heart carries JOY! My heart carries FAITH! All of these things were gifts from the weekend. It’s so easy to hear the bad news, especially about the church and christianity. True disciples live their lives in such opposition to our culture and I spent a few days with a group of people who have made it their mission to carry on the work of Christ despite what the world might think or say! I spent the weekend surrounded by people who scream to the world through their actions, all that is right with the church. Their mission is to love and serve and to lead and they left my heart FULL!
Their joy and faithfulness reminded me that the doubters, the scandals, the disappointments will always swirl around our feet but they always have and Jesus’ instructions still stick. Enter a place in peace, share the truth with love and shake the dust and move along if you encounter opposition. As disciples we are asked to share the Good News, plant seeds and invite. If we do those things in absolute humility we can rest assured that we have done all the Father is asking.
The funny thing about hope is there are times it may seem to run in short supply but if our eyes and hearts are open, there are so many opportunities to have it restored. It can be easy to get stuck in hopelessness but there are people and events everyday that can fill your hope right back up to full if you’re looking. It’s a little like that Mr. Rogers quote; always look for the helpers. I was reminded this weekend that helpers don’t all wear uniforms and arrive with flashing lights. Sometimes it’s a group of deacons and wives who have dedicated their life to serve the Lord because they know he’s done good things in their life and they simply want to share his love and his hope with those who need it…without counting the cost, the time or the energy. I’m so thankful for them!
A Seed To Plant: This is a double! Be on the lookout for a person or event big or small that restores hope. Second, do something for another person this week that restores hope.
Blessings on your day!
Immediately his mouth was opened, his tongue was freed and he spoke blessing God. Luke 1:64
This verse made me take a hard look at what has got to be my greatest blessing and my greatest burden all lumped into one…my mouth! As a Catholic Speaker and Catholic School Theology Teacher, I have abundant opportunities to use my mouth to speak great words about our God and our faith. I wish this were the case all the time, but truthfully, when I ponder these words from Zachariah I am reminded of the dozens of times each week I use my mouth for words that don’t build the Kingdom of God on earth at all!
I need to take a big lesson from Zachariah. He was mute for months. If I imagine being struck mute I almost panic; it’s like I’d loose my most used human feature! If I did become mute and suddenly and unexpectedly regained my voice, I wonder what I’d say first. Truthfully, it probably would be something ridiculous like, “Lets go get pizza!” or “What the heck was that all about!” Not our friend Zachariah, the first words he spoke after months of silence; blessing, praise and worship. He focused on what he was grateful for and not what he had suffered or missed.
Zachariah used his silence to grow closer to the Father and unite himself to his perfect plan and his impeccable timing. The fruit of that silence was gratitude and awareness of the greatness of God. This passage from the Gospel of Luke contains a golden nugget for growing in holiness; find some silence and follow it with some time spent blessing and praising God for his mighty works in your life.
A Seed To Plant: Take a few moments to sit in the silence and replay your words from the last day or week follow it with these words: “Loving Father, open my eyes and still my words so I can truly recognize your presence and offer blessing to you for the many wonders you are working in my heart, my family and my world.”
Blessings on your day!
…“A man is coming after me who ranks ahead of me.” John 1:30
Have you ever heard the phrase, careful what you wish for? A humble heart is something I pray for constantly and I laugh at the frequency of God’s living color lessons. I had a pretty funny one recently. I was in the lobby of a convention center after I had given a talk and a lady came up to me and gave me a hug and said, “Your message really touched my heart, will you take a selfie with me?. I stood right beside her and as she held up her phone to snap our picture and as soon as she had it in place she said, “Oh wait, you’re not her, I thought you were someone else.” We laughed and went different directions. It gave me a lot to think about! It also made me think a lot about selfies in general. Selfies make up a pretty large and humorous number of overall posts on my Facebook newsfeed. These quickly snapped images capture important moments, achievements or places and they give the viewer a tiny little snapshot of someone else life. I’ll make a confession; I have never posted a selfie because I need more time to pose and make sure I don’t look like I have three chins or a neck the size of a tree trunk. Photo angles matter and by the time I get it all lined up, the moment’s long over! Selfie overload can cause us to think our life isn’t quite as exciting as the folks posting dozens of selfies in fancy, fun places and if we get too tangled up in the likes and shares and comments from our selfie posts it could make keeping our humility in check a little tough.
Humility can be a tricky think to master. Our culture screams “be the best” and we seem to focus constantly on who’s in first place but the first chapter of John’s Gospel teaches a beautiful lesson about the exact opposite. In this competitive world it’s a bit shocking to read the words, “A man is coming after me who ranks ahead of me.” It’s one thing to think someone is more important than you but to announce it loud and proud to all who will hear; that just seems crazy by todays standards! The funny thing is, John was completely comfortable with the way the events unfolded. A supporting role was perfect for him. He recognized that he had a completely different purpose than Jesus did fulfilling God’s plan. He didn’t get caught up in the fact that he would be doing the baptizing and he had been chosen to bring God’s grace to the crowds. He simply saw himself as a part of something amazing. He didn’t feel the need to be the star or have folks notice his good works.
John wasn’t the main attraction, he was to prepare the way and take part in the mighty work of the Father and his Son. I’m sure if selfies would have been taken that day, John would have been nowhere to be found. He wanted no notice, no thanks, no acknowledgement. John opened the door, so to speak, so the Father, Son and Holy Spirit could enter and add an amazing chapter to the love story God shares with us. Today is a great day to ask yourself, what are my motives for serving the Lord? Do I do it for him or do I do it so others might notice I’m a part of things?
A Seed To Plant: Take this little prayer with you into your quiet moments with the Lord this week. Loving Father, please help me push past my pride. Give me the grace to love and serve you with a humble heart. Please allow me to see those who need your mercy and your love and show me how to help them make room you so you can be the star in their life. Amen
Blessings on your day!
Jesus Christ…became poor although he was rich, so that by his poverty you might become rich. 2 Corinthians 8:19
There certainly are things I enjoy a little extra of! A little extra coffee, a little more time to linger on the porch visiting with friends and family or just a little extra sleep from time to time to list a few. One of the lessons my parents were HUGE on teaching was not to be greedy. Clear as a bell I can hear them say, “Be grateful for what you have because being greedy for more is ungratefulness and that’s ugly.” It was a great thing for them to teach me and it’s one of those things that sticks! I was praying with this scripture from Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians and I realized that this important lesson from my parents often creeps into my prayer life.
After some thought, I realized that my prayer view slides a little sideways from time to time. I’m really good at asking God to take care of people and situations and the needs of others. I mean, who doesn’t pray every day for people to get better or get jobs or get back on track. I’m really good at praising him and thanking him but I don’t often ask for his riches and heaping doses of his grace. I guess I feel blessed and thankful and I don’t want to be greedy. Upon careful thought, I realized I was trying to be like an A student to God. I wanted to keep a low profile, do my homework (daily prayer) and try like crazy to keep my nose in my own business and be obedient. I don’t think that’s all God wants for me. That’s actually a little robotic and not very “relationship-ish”.
God sent his son to suffer and die so we could be rich. Not rich in the money sense but rich in his grace, mercy and love. We were made for happiness. We were made to be saints and that’s work we can’t do alone. He’s waiting to give us extra! He spent everything; his blood, sweat, tears and very life to make us rich in him and I was too afraid to ask for personal extras. How crazy is that! It’s not like there is an expiration date on his gifts like a coupon. He will never say, “Sorry Sheri, you should have asked for joy and patience last week, I’m afraid that request is not valid past last Friday.” There are also no limits or strings to our requests either. I’m pretty sure he will never flash a sigh like you see in the grocery store on a great deal that says “limit 5 with additional $5 purchase”. He’s not going to run out of grace or attach strings or conditions to his gifts.
He died so we could be rich so why am I living like I have empty pockets? I’ve decided that something I want extra of is joy and compassion. I’m going to ask for extra forgiveness and a lot of extra peace and kindness. It doesn’t make us greedy, it makes us trusting and it makes us rich. It doesn’t make me ungrateful because it’s not about me…it’s about him and the things he wants to make me because of his gifts. I don’t know about you, but I’m going to ask for lots of extra things starting today…right after I get some extra coffee!
A Seed To Plant: Take out a sheet of paper and across the top write EXTRA-EXTRA-EXTRA and then make a list of all the things you need to ask God for extra of so you can become rich in him!
Blessings on your day!
He must increase, I must decrease. John 3:30
Every once in a while I get overwhelmed about all the things I’m not getting right. I can get lost in questions like; have I prayed enough, have I served enough, am I gentle, generous and merciful enough. Then come the list of shortfalls; the times I judged when I should have loved or doubted instead of trusted or gossiped when I was called to understand or re-focus. It would be easy to stay stuck in that funk and decide growing in holiness is just too hard but then I realize the evil one is at work in all these thoughts because the Father certainly doesn’t want me stuck in the mess. I think he allows my thoughts to go there so I can acknowledge my shortfalls, ask forgiveness and invite him to come blasting into my humanness and make me better.
After I pray my way through one of these funks I often think I need to charge out into the world and do some mighty good for God to make up for all my knuckle headed thoughts and actions. I’ll often make a giant list of all the things I am going to change and fix and avoid completely. Recently as I was plotting my giant moves toward holiness I came across this quote from St. Francis de Sales; “Great occasions for serving God seldom come, but little ones surround us daily.” Talk about an abrupt hault. I find God’s timing and humor amazing so I threw my giant list away and started a little one.
Growing in holiness means growing in humble service. St. Francis reminded me that I’m not called to a life of contemplative prayer. God isn’t asking me to build an orphanage or hospital or stamp out world hunger before bedtime. He’s asking me to serve in tiny ways again and again and again. So on my list of tiny things for the week I’ve added thing like being patient with slow drivers, pouring someone a second cup of coffee, saying hello first, texting or emailing at least one note of encouragement, letting someone go ahead of me in line and saying a quick prayer of blessing for anyone who irritates or inconveniences me.
Funny thing, as I began to pray with my list of little things, I could already feel the thoughts shifting from me and all my stuff, to others. I suppose that is exactly what we’re supposed to do and I’m quite grateful to St. Francis and the words he wrote more than 400 years ago for putting things in perspective.
A Seed To Plant: Write down these words from St. Francis de Sales and begin to make your own list of little things to do this week.
Blessings on your day!
The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace. Numbers 6: 24-26
Happy Birthday Joyful Words! This week marks the 7th year of blogs. At first I wasn’t going to mention it because seven seemed like such a random, unimportant number but then I did a little digging and suddenly seven had a whole new meaning. Here are a few cool things I learned about this seemingly silly little number…
A ladybug commonly has seven spots.
Most mammals have seven neck bones.
There are seven basic music notes. (think Sound of Music…do-re-me…you hum the rest)
Phone numbers have seven digits.
There are seven stars in the Big Dipper.
The periodic table has seven rows.
There are seven Spiritual and Corporal Works of Mercy.
Seven Sacraments were given to us by Jesus.
There are Seven Virtues and Seven Deadly Sins.
And, seven is the most common number rolled with two dice.
Once again, I realized that not everything is just as it seems at first glance. Sometimes if we do just a little thinking and try to see things from a different perspective, we are probably in for a surprise. The fact that this thing is still rollin after seven years is a giant surprise to me. I sure didn’t expect the Holy Spirit to keep me at it for this long. Another surprise is that I started writing to help people, but in truth, I’ve been the one who has been “schooled” along the way.
Sometimes I hit the publish button and I feel like the words that spill into cyberspace are no more relevant than the number seven seemed. I wonder if there is meaning or substance or if it’s all just a bunch of words. Then I remember who is in charge and I lean on him to give me the words I need or that he knows someone out there needs and I type and hold my breath hoping I don’t sound like a “wing nut”! Over the last seven years I’ve written about things that were funny, simple and sometimes tricky. Sometimes he’s asked me to write about things that were easy to hear and sometimes I’ve been asked to write a dose of truth that might have been hard to swallow for some. And, of course there are the times he's asked me to write about things that are dripping with grief and sadness. My mission is always to help us keep our eyes lifted up to him and I’ll be the first to admit that sometimes that’s just plain tough to do.
It’s been such a joy to have a little window to so many of your lives. My heart is always so touched when you leave comments that let me know the Holy Spirit has used words on this page to reach you. I’m humbled by this work and I’m thrilled that he’s asked me to serve him in this way as opposed to mission work in a jungle which I find the thought of absolutely terrifying! God is good and I’m happy to write about all the ways I see that truth unfold. I thank you for reading, I thank you for the prayers and I’m so grateful for your support. Please know of my daily prayers for all of you who stop by to give the blog a read. May God bless us all!
A Seed To Plant: The mission of the blog is to spread his joy so please take a minute or two today to pray for those you know who are struggling to find and feel the joy of the Lord.
Blessings on your day!
Happy are those who hear the word of the Lord and keep it. Luke 11:28
Happiness is a curious thing! Everybody seems to want it and one quick google search can reveal countless sites about how to get it. I even discovered some “happiness retreats” where folks could go to find happiness. In two days, for a mere $3,000 dollars (plus travel and accommodation expenses) you could be taught how to identify happiness and then seek happiness for yourself. I found some pretty crazy stuff! It all left me thinking…we make things so hard sometimes. This post is all about finding happiness and the good news is…it’s free! Since the Father who created us and loves us is also the creator of happiness that seems like the logical place to start. Each letter of the word is a thought or action you can start right now to seek and feel happiness.
H: Holy is His name! It sounds crazy but if you’re feeling worried or cranky or any other emotion that is soaking up your happy, put the attention where it should be; on Him. Stop for a minute and say Holy is your name God, Jesus I trust you, Father I praise you, Mighty God I thank you. You’ll be shocked at how fast your attention shifts from you to him and you feel a lightness come over you.
A: Attitude is the big thing! There are always two ways to look at things; this hurts me or this helps me. Struggles and suffering make happiness tough to attain if we look at things the first way and it sucks us right in to the “woe is me” thinking that makes happiness impossible. Instead realize that struggle and suffering are necessary for heaven and that God is more present in these times. We also have to remember that tough things come and go, just like easy things; life is meant to be a cycle not a straight line.
P: Pray! (you saw that one comin didn’t you) Tell God you’re cranky and ask him to bring you through whatever it is that is making you feel unhappy. He made you, he loves you and he truly wants his children to be happy. Talk to him about it and ask him to show you what he’s trying to teach you in this situation. If that seems too simple; give it a try and see for yourself.
P: Pass on some kindness and mercy. I don’t think there is anything that will bring you out of a slump faster than doing something for someone else. When you’re feeling grumpy or frustrated doing a good deed for another, especially the person who made you cranky is the farthest thing from your mind but purposefully thinking about the needs and happiness of another is a powerful thing. The thing about happiness is it’s a bit contagious so start some and you’ll be surprised how quickly it lands back on you.
Y: You are HIS! In the midst of all the things that are sucking away your happiness, remind yourself again and again that you belong to him! Nothing is going to happen that doesn’t have a purpose according to his plan. He will never leave you or forsake you or give you more than you can bear. I mean really, we’re talking about the God who parted the Red Sea, helped Paul escape prison with a dozen guards watching over him and who fed 5,000 people with five loaves and two fish. Surely you don’t think your unhappy situation is more than he can handle. He can do anything, including take care of you, who he made perfectly and wonderfully!
Our happiness is rooted in the God who loves and teaches us constantly. Sometimes his lessons come during tough times but the happiness rooted in him is the best kind! So, pick a letter and go be happy!
A Seed To Plant: Write these thoughts down and put them somewhere you can grab it when you feel like you could use a little more happy in your day; then pick a letter and get started!
Blessings on your day!
There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for everything under heaven. Ecclesiastes 3:1
So I’m a little slow this morning! This is a first; I’m blogging from a bus…full of middle lovelies…on our way to an amusement park for a class trip. As you might imagine, it’s not what I’d call a peaceful writing environment! My head and heart are full so I think the Holy Spirit can move my fingers in spite of the hilarious singing, bad jokes and general middle lovely chaos swirling around me right now!
Every class that passes through my classroom has a different set of gifts and personalities. They each teach me something different and leave something unique on my heart. This years class was no exception. It was the year of surprises! They surprised me with their wit, their humor, their attitude and their faith. They plunged into the beginnings of adolescence with a style all their own. More than any class before, they had a harder time saying good-bye. Their tears and resistance to leaving the building caught me by surprise but it also taught me some things and I’d like to share what they taught me because there is a lesson for us all.
*Most classes can’t wait to bust out of elementary school and head off to bigger, better and more important things. They have visions of things being exciting and fancy and they plan to enjoy so much new found freedom. This year the word was content. These kids were invested in each other and they could find joy in all the regular things that made up their day. They were happy to laugh and dance and be goofy wherever they were. One of them told me that he felt no need to look for something new when he was surrounded with so many things he liked already.
*They realized that the root is people. These kids have spent years developing relationships and these relationships of course have had their ups and downs but they were the foundation. They absolutely had those days when their patience ran thin with each other but they had a sense of family that they aren’t ready to see change. I was surprised at their ability to appreciate and value each other in spite of their differences, quirks and attitudes. Tolerance based on love is a beautiful thing to see.
*Change isn’t always easy. You may not love the idea of change but it happens anyway and you can either fight and fuss about it or ask God to go ahead of you and lead the way through it. So many of them prayed on our last day together for God to help them get used to the changes in their new school. Many prayed for God to protect their friendships and bless the new ones they would make. They realized that they needed a guide in this new adventure and they picked the best one available.
*The more grateful you are, the better things will be. They demonstrated time and again that opportunities don’t always seem exciting but if you can be grateful that someone needs your help or be grateful that you can do yucky jobs surrounded by friends it becomes much less about the task and happy hearts do great things.
*Finally, this class took the saying “Dance like nobody’s watchin!” to a whole new level. They showed me day after day that life is so much less complicated if you just be who you are without worrying so much about what everybody thinks. They weren’t afraid to be who they were and they didn’t feel like they were in competition with each other or the world.
They may only be 12 but they had lots to teach their old teacher. It’s that time of year when I worry and ponder and feel that catch in my breath wondering if I did everything they needed and took them as far as God wanted me to. I hope I planted the seeds that were mine to sow and I hope that the team of us that taught them gave them all they needed but in my pondering, I am reminded that the the Father loves them more than I do and he’s got a beautiful future planned for each of them. So for now, I will save this writing, hope for wi-fi inside the park so I can post it later today and just close my laptop and enjoy the sights and sounds of a bus full of fabulous middle lovelies one last day.
A Seed To Plant: Pick one of their lessons and put it in place.
Blessings on your day!
…remain in my love. John 15:9-11
As we get to the end of another school year and the Graduation Open House celebrations hit full swing I always find myself remembering classes and students who came in and out of my life. Some memories make me laugh, some make me sigh and some make my eyes leak a little. It would be easy to get lost in these thoughts for hours but this time of year is so busy there really isn’t time to sit still and ponder for too long or I’ll be late for something! I’m sure there are more than a few readers who can relate!
The other day I was reading this Gospel from John and I remembered one class in particular that was good at lots of things but remaining in one place for more than a split second was not their gift. Getting them to sit still and listen for any length of time at all was like trying to put puppies in a basket. I was convinced they were absolutely spring loaded. Several times a day I would witness the tiny window of time they would all be still and then one would get up and pretty soon another would follow and then another would wiggle off the carpet or away from the table and before I knew it nearly all of them had escaped. I laughed and remembered those little lovelies fondly for a few minutes and it made me wonder how many times God looks down at us and makes the same comparison.
In this Gospel Jesus clearly teaches that the Father asks us simply to remain in his love. We don’t have to run around searching for it or trying to do heroic things to earn it. The promise is simple, remain with me and I will bring you joy. The funny thing about this short Gospel is it sums up all we want and all we have to do to get it in 3 short verse. We complicate things so terribly! Stay with me…don’t run around like crazy and be still in my presence. Simple enough you would think but getting our attention and convincing us to rest and trust in his love must be a lot like trying to put puppies in a basket.
Last Friday I had a reminder of how much he wants me to remain in his love instead of in the chaos. I was praying in church and feeling a little overwhelmed about all that needed to be done so I just asked him to take over and give me the wisdom and strength to get things done with joy in my heart. When I got back to the classroom and checked my email, there was a message from a wonderful mom volunteering to do one of the big jobs on my to do list. I didn’t ask for help, she just sent a message and said; “hey, can I help with this?” The puppy in me just sat still as I said thank you Jesus! This week as I approach the thousand things required to end a school year, I’m going to carry the image of puppies in a basket with me. When the to-do list starts to feel overwhelming and I’m flying from task to task like a witch on a broom I will remember to be the one puppy who falls asleep in the basket and just rests in his love and trusts in his providence.
A Seed To Plant: Purposefully set aside 10 minutes each day when things get crazy to sit still and think about God and all he’s doing in your life. Be that puppy that climbs in the basket to be still and remain in the Father’s love.
Blessings on your day!
***Todays post is a re-post. I ran out of minutes because it's May plus I have a hunch this old post will ring true with more than one reader! I'll be back next week with fresh stuff!
For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven…Ecclesiastes 3:1
Did you hear that? It was a gigantic sigh; it was the universal “May is almost over” sigh. Tomorrow marks the end of the year’s busiest month…May! It’s been one of the greatest May’s ever in the history of May’s but I’m out of juice! In fact I fondly remember a story that illustrates exactly how I feel right about now.
One Christmas, I got a shiny new slinky. It was the greatest invention ever and I loved playing with that silly thing. I was very careful not to let it get tangled or pinched and it looked good as new for months. I always kept it in the orange box on my dresser when I wasn’t playing with it. I got my slinky the same Christmas my younger brother Joe got a rocking horse named “Bucko”. One summer day I was helping my mom with the dishes and when we were finished, I went to my room to get my slinky to play with on the front porch steps. I remember the blood curdling scream I let out when I found my prized possession all bent and tangled and mangled and connected like a spider web. When the story finally boiled down to the bottom of the pot, it seems Joe’s stick horse was about to be trampled by a stampede of wild Texas long horn cattle raging through the back yard near the apple tree and the only way to ensure Bucko’s safety was to tie him securely to the apple tree with my slinky. Apparently it took several wraps around the tree trunk to do the job and needless to say the slinky was never the same. When I think of that bent, twisted, frazzled toy, that’s exactly how I’m feeling as the month comes to a close. Just like that slinky I’ve been tugged and pulled and twisted in a hundred directions and I haven’t quite bounced back yet.
So what’s the answer? The answer is…there isn’t one! May is one month, one action packed, and fun-filled, over-flowing month and to be quite honest, I probably wouldn’t have it any other way! If I were to declare war on the month and put a cease fire to half the “stuff” scheduled in the month I’d have a hard time figuring out which half to erase. Humm…let’s see…as Christians we are called to use the gifts and talents He’s given us for His glory, my kids probably get really tired of hearing me say that! So if I practice what I preach how can I decide which talents and gifts I should put a basket over? Should I squash the concerts and band banquet with the French horn player? Maybe the softball team could have done without a catcher and the girl who hit a couple triples and always made her teammates laugh. What about the Prom, or graduation and the open house that took so much time to plan and organize? What if we had erased baseball season and we would have missed Jason’s three run over the fence homer or the no-hitter he pitched? I sure wouldn’t have had as much laundry to do that’s for sure. But what would we have gained and what would we have lost? Maybe awards night, that took a long time…or maybe I could have skipped the games where my kids took their turn sitting on the bench. But then I would have missed seeing them grow in humility and compassion while they were supporting their teammates from inside the dugout and practiced focusing on others.
God promised there is a purpose for every season. I knew this May was going to be a doozy so I prayed that God would help me soak it all in and enjoy every second of it. My prayerful request was that He remind me to pray for a suffering or lonely soul each time I felt the stress of the schedule start to bear down. (I’m not gonna lie…I prayed for lots of souls the past 30 days!)
It’s one month…31 crazy days! We don’t need to re-vamp our life because one month gets nutty; we need to enjoy the gifts and talents that we’re called to share with others during this hectic month. Nothing lasts forever…good OR bad. I’d do well to remind myself of that fact a little more often! I don’t think there is any permanent harm done because the Wohlfert’s didn’t eat 5 servings of fresh fruits and veggies every day in May and like any good mom who forgot to wash the Under Armor in the uniform load, I just rinsed it in the sink with some Downey and didn’t tell anybody and it all turned out ok. Our family has grown to include some new dust bunnies and cob webs this month and yes, I’ll admit it, I shoved some laundry and ironing into a basket and hid it in my closet before my Dad came to visit. (And just because God has a sense of humor it fell off the closet shelf and landed on my head one morning.) Guess what…it’s all ok! We are called to be FAITHFUL not called to be PERFECT.
Months like May are full of lessons. Lessons in patience, laughter, trust and faithful endurance! How’d you do? One more thought…if you are a mother of young ones, treasure your May’s! Truly BE at each event no matter how the 5th grade band sounds or how many strikes the little batter has because you’re going to wake up one morning and realize two of your children have graduated from high school and the cleats are about to be laced up for one last game. Quiet May’s will come…and they will come more quickly than you can imagine so just take God’s hand and BE PRESENT for life, let it flow by you. After all, our life on earth is a dress rehearsal for heaven!
A Seed To Plant: Make a list of the best things that happened in May, then make a list of 5 things that didn’t get done in May…now compare the list and say a prayer of thanksgiving.
Blessings on your day!
Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones. Proverbs 16:24
I don’t know about you, but I spend a lot of time trying to figure out how to make things better. Sometimes loving Christians carry the weight of the world on their shoulders and run around with pure hearts trying to save the world. I was speaking with someone not long ago and they were completely exasperated because of all the nasty stuff and unkind people in the world that didn’t act like they knew a thing about Jesus. The whole conversation made my heart heavy and I realized I'm surprised at the things some folks think they have the right to say to others. All too often someone will spout off a rude remark and when called on it, they snip back with a comment about free speech and being entitled to their own opinion I’ve been noticing a growing number of “ugly words” lately so as I sat with that on my heart, God pointed me to this verse from Proverbs.
If you are someone who likes to make things better, this is the verse for you! I realized after reading it a few times, I had the process all wrong! It really isn’t about “fixing” the words and actions of others! I can be upset by it, I can pray about it, I can even take a stand about it…but the truth of the matter is this…I can’t do a darn thing to change it! Change has to come from within…change has to be desired. If I’m busy trying to change someone else, I’m guaranteed only one thing…disappointment! Besides, my Mom would remind me I should keep my nose in my own business anyway. When I read this verse again this morning the solution to the problem became crystal clear…I have to change MY behavior. I can’t change someone else’s snappy rude tongue…but I can be in charge of my own. I can make sure my words are pleasant and sweet like honeycomb. God didn’t put me in charge of the world, the state, the county or even the town…He put me in charge of just this one person and after some prayerful time with this verse, I know exactly where I need to begin. What if we actually realized that every word we speak could be healing? What if each sentence we uttered were crafted with that intent? That would be pretty remarkable don’t you think?
The simple power of this Proverb was illustrated through a story I read not long ago. I had actually forgotten about the story until I was writing this post. The story involved a mom of six kids under 9. She and her husband have a deep commitment to the Lord and promised to accept lovingly all the children He chose to bless them with. They love their life but the rude remarks from others can sometimes be heartbreaking to this mom. She was telling the story about a disastrous grocery store adventure with her babies that had 5 of the six kids crying by the check-out lane. She was completely frazzled and on the edge of tears herself. Just when she thought things couldn’t get any worse, a woman stopped next to her and she braced herself for an ugly comment or rude remark about her large family but instead the two sentences spoken at that perfect moment changed her day completely. The woman looked directly at the frazzled mom and said, “Bless you for saying yes! These are lucky children because they will have the courage of their mother and lady; you’ve got a lot of that because I’m not even brave enough to bring one of mine shopping with me!” They shared a laugh and the frazzled mom was lifted…two little sentences is all it took! One sweet word, one kind gesture completely absent of judgment or criticism or opinion worked magic. I may not be able to change the world but I can work harder at speaking kindly to everyone I meet and that just might change a thing or two all on its own.
A Seed To Plant: Randomly speak three kind sentences this week!
Blessings on your day!
But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. Isaiah 40:31
Hope is a word I misuse all of the time. I say thing like, “I hope it doesn’t rain.” or “I hope there is a parking spot close to the door.” When I really think about it, the things I “hope” for are usually things that would make my life convenient, or pleasant. This past week I have been challenged to look at the way I use the word hope. The first thing I needed to do was compare the worldly definition (the one I most often used) to the virtue of hope. Here’s what I found. “Hope” is commonly used to refer to a wish connected to a person's desire. But “Godly hope”; the virtue of hope, is the confident expectation of what God has promised and its strength is in His faithfulness. I’m pretty sure God doesn’t care about me getting sprinkled on or parking close to the front door at the grocery store so I decided I needed some work.
I love it when God teaches a lesson and uses real people as the teachers! Last week I met a beautiful woman who told me she was a woman of hope. She went on to share that for years she had prayed that her family would grow closer. Her children were grown and moved away and she longed for them to be more connected and involved in each others life. She said she always knew God could do that but it wasn’t until recently that she began to see him work. She said the things God was doing in her family were filling her with such abundant hope. As I listened to her share her story my heart both sunk and swelled as she told me that she was dying of cancer, but she was so filled with hope because God had used this situation to answer her prayer. Fighting the disease had been the thing that drew them together. She told me she was not afraid to die but rather hope filled because God had answered her prayer and brought her family so close that she knew they would support each other and care for her husband and make sure he didn’t get too lonely when she was gone. I was in awe as I hugged this beautiful soul, and took a lesson on the true meaning of the word hope.
God used another event this week to thump me with the word hope. God demonstrated his faithfulness in a might way in the lives of an incredible newlywed couple. As I took my spot in church for this beautiful wedding my heart was a little on the heavy side. The groom had lost both of his parents in a car crash just about a year ago and as I sat in the pew waiting for mass to begin I wondered how they would feel the same joy as other couples and I wondered what Fr. could say honor the event, the couple and the parents of the groom. Just when my tears were about to get out of control I remembered that God is bigger than our pain and he loved that bride and groom more than they loved each other. When it came time for Fr. Eric’s homily the hope came barging in! He spoke of the new life of Easter and the new life of marriage. He also talked about the beginnings and the scars that bring us to the important event in our lives. I watched this beautiful new couple laugh and smile and I watched their family and closest friends cling to the laughter and joy of the day and realized the only way that all happened was because of hope. Hope that joy will follow pain. Hope that God will never leave us stuck in our scars and our pain. Hope that he has a plan and that he works in every situation, not just the fancy, happy simple ones. Hope is understanding that God has promised good for his children and that good rises from the ashes of awful. I saw hope rise on Saturday and it was so much bigger than the sadness.
So what will I hope for now? I hope I will be able to use the word correctly. I pray that I can seek God working in my life and face my challenges and trials with confident expectation in his faithfulness because thats what hope really is.
A Seed To Plant: Think about the true definition of hope…make a new list of things you hope for.
God is closer to you than water is to a fish. St. Catherine of Sienna
Good morning! It's mid May which means many of us are in the middle of a thousand things. It's easy to get lost in the chaos and the busy and feel like a fish swimming upstream. There are more things to do than minutes to do them in this time of year. I'm stuck there myself and came across this favorite quote and thought it just might be a little dose of what we all need to hear.
As we're busy swimming from thing to thing trying not to sink, it's a great idea to remember God is right there swimming beside us. Make sure you invite him along to the ball games and graduations and weddings and events that fill our May calendars. He's right there so go ahead and let him swim in front and you'll be surprised how calm the waters become.
A Seed To Plant: Sit with St. Catherine's words for a few quiet minutes today and see how they settle the soul.
Blessings on your day!
Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire. St. Catherine of Sienna
It was a big weekend. We made our last 6 hour drive to Franciscan University to see Shannon. After four years that seemed to go by in a blink, we now have a nurse. God had such a powerful hand in it all and I am so thankful. I could write and write about all the little things along the way that just fell in place. More times than I could count I shook my head in surprise, gratitude and awe as one thing after another made it possible for her to get an education at Franciscan. God wrapped it all up with an exclamation point on Saturday.
Franciscan has one of the countries top nursing programs which was appealing to Shannon but the University offers something so powerful for the soul. It’s a place of holiness and deeply rooted faith and Catholic tradition. She wanted to feed her mind, her heart and her soul. She knew as a sophomore in high school that she wanted to go there but academically, financially and geographically there had to be some “figuring out.” About the time she started praying about the possibility of going to school there she was preparing for her Confirmation. She had a couple of saints in mind to choose as her Confirmation Saint but three times in the same week the above quote from Catherine of Sienna appeared in her life. Once in history class, once on a random note that fell from a library book and then on a surprise bracelet she got int he mail from a friend. She asked God for specific guidance, and he certainly didn’t disappoint. It turns out that Catherine of Sienna is also the patron saint of nurses.
As the process continued toward Franciscan, crazy things happened like scholarships that came out of nowhere and details and events that just pointed the way. Again and again there were blessings and surprises that made it so clear that she was exactly where she was supposed to be. Each time we just smiled and said thank you! There were experiences and people and opportunities that just seemed to fall into her lap all along the way and as we sat in Finnigan Field-house for Commencement Saturday morning the Keynote Speaker opened with all the traditional greetings appropriate for the occasion. Then something that melted my heart happened. He looked out at the graduates and paused for a moment and then said, “Graduates, If you will leave this place today and be who God meant you to be, you will set the world on fire. St. Catherine of Sienna wasn’t kidding about that!” I could hardly keep the tears back. It was like a giant explanation point on an amazing college journey. God is so very good!
A Seed To Plant: Are you being who God intended you to be? It’s a question worth asking in prayer this week.
Blessings on your day!
For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord. Isaiah 55:8
I’ve been stuck on this verse for a few weeks and I just keep getting lessons. As I think about the Prophet Isaiah’s words, they have a more truthful application to my life than I’d like to admit! My thoughts ramble off into the back 40 during prayer and the things I’m thinking are definitely not His thoughts and sometimes, my ways are so NOT His ways! Why do we do that…when we know we shouldn’t speak words to others we wouldn’t speak directly to Him and we know His way and His plan trump ours EVERY time? Yet we keep runnin around sayin stuff we shouldn’t say and doin stuff that our stubborn nature tells us is easier! I guess it all leads me back to the truth…I’m just a big ole sinner who needs the love and mercy of a Gracious God because I sure can’t get it right without Him! Maybe that’s the whole point!
I learned a new prayer from a really great priest; here it is, “Thank You God, Your will be done!” Even I can remember that one! Seems simple and easy and makes sense...until you begin to think about when you should say it! It’s going to be easy to say that little prayer when I get a good parking spot, or when something good happens. The tricky part is when the yucky stuff happens. Fr. used the examples, when you loose your keys in the snow, “Thank you God, Your will be done.” Or when you loose your cell phone, “Thank you God, Your will be done…now I have more time to talk to You.” Seven little words that can change everything! I think we can get so busy we forget to have that ongoing dialogue with Our Father, maybe lost keys and slow traffic and broken mower belts really are a tiny nudge inviting us to speak with Him.
Disappointments are a great place to plug in this prayer! When things don’t go the way we plan, we can get pretty down. I remember not getting a teaching job I wanted so badly! I prayed, I researched, I practiced interviewing I did everything to prepare yet despite my best efforts, the interview committee picked someone else! I was so disappointed! I called my mom in tears and she listened to me blubber on and on and when I was finished, she softly said, “It wasn’t your job to get!” I remembered that conversation clear as a bell in church as Fr. was talking about that very simple little prayer and on the drive home, Isaiah’s words chimed in and I was overwhelmed with the power of God’s plan. It hit me that if I had gotten that teaching job, I would not have gone to K-State, I would not have found out about the job opening with the State Department of Education in Michigan, I would not have moved here, met and married Dave, had three wonderful children and my life would NOT be any of the terrific things it is right now! Thank you God, Your will be done! And it was done…with amazing attention to detail I might add! It’s surprising what seven little words can stir up!
God always knows what He’s doing. We have to thank Him especially when things don’t go our way. I don’t know about you but sometimes I forget that part. The harder something is, the bigger our thank you should be! He blesses us through good and happy things and He blesses us BIGGER through the difficult, disappointing and heartbreaking! We tend to see what’s good for us; He sees what’s good for ALL of His children. We have to remember we aren’t the only ones He has to care for. Our disappointment is most likely someone else’s blessing…we can stamp our feet like a spoiled impatient toddler or we can use that time for some of the greatest prayer and fortifying ever. He doesn’t withhold things to make us squirm, He waits for the perfect time and the perfect place and the perfect peace…all He asks is that we thank Him and ask Him to show us His way while we wait on His perfect timing. His ways, His words…yeah, it makes sense since we are His children!
A seed to plant: Write this little prayer down and stick it somewhere so you’ll remember to pray it often. Thank you God, Your will be done!
Blessings on your day!
Don’t pray when you feel like it. Have an appointment with the Lord and keep it. A man is powerful on his knees. ~ Corrie Ten Boom
Each year as the middle lovelies come to my classroom I’m on the lookout for the storyteller. They are the one who can make a 20 word story last for 7 minutes. They are usually very animated and I love listening them bring a simple event to life with living color and spectacular detail. Unfortunately we don’t always have time to stay tuned in for the entire story and I have to ask them to skip to the end or give us the “tiny size story”. I hate to do it but sometimes I just have to. One year not so long ago I had 4 storytellers and that was the year I learned a true appreciation for the gift of telling a powerful story in just a few, choice, touching words. I just finished reading a book called God Help Me: How to Grow in Prayer by Jim Beckman and it is fabulous; he is an amazing storyteller!
Sometimes I use too many words like the storytellers in my classroom so today, I’m going to borrow some simple, powerful words from Mr. Beckman…I don’t think he’ll mind; especially if you become inspired and decide to buy the book yourself. I hope they hit your heart as hard as they hit mine.
“I previously approached prayer as a kind of drug. I used it to help me feel close to god, to give me experiences of his presence. But as with a drug, I could choose when to take it and I could sometimes go without it. Prayer now has become more like air. It’s not really an option: I can’t breathe without it; I can’t live without it.”
“There is very little in prayer that depends on me. I can’t make myself have deep spiritual experiences. I can’t create consolation for myself. I can’t make up a word from God or make myself any holier. All of that depends on God. His movements are his and I can’t do anything to make them happen. The only things that I bring to the mix are consistently showing up for prayer and the disposition of my heart when I’m there.”
How’s that for straight to the point! I don’t think there’s any need for more words today…I need to concentrate on these and see where He leads me and my prayer time.
A Seed To Plant: Take these two passages to prayer with you and see what the Holy Spirit speaks to your heart about them.
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 you trying to invent yourself? Rest a while in his presence and ask him.
Blessings on your day!
For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord. Isaiah 55: 8
As a teacher, I get asked a lot of questions every day. Everything from, “Is it almost time for lunch?” to “Why do people say mean, stupid things?” Sometimes I have an answer because the question is routine or simple but often I’m left asking the Holy Spirit for words because I simply don’t know. After one of my recent speaking events, a beautiful soul sent a question I didn’t know quite how to answer. I was neck deep in Holy Week and Easter stuff at school so I could have typed a quick reply in an attempt to take the task off my to-do list, but the question begged prayerful thought, research and of course the wisdom of God’s Word. What started as an email to answer a question has spilled into a blog because I’m sure this dear lady isn’t the only one who has this wonder. With the help of the Holy Spirit, Scripture and a dynamic priest, here’s what I’ve got.
The question sprung from a scripture verse I was talking about that night in a church hall. We were thinking about Psalm 139:13-14 which reads …you knit me in my mothers womb…I am fearfully and wonderfully made… It’s a beautiful passage steeped in God’s loving truth but sometimes it comes with a sting. What if we aren’t perfect. What if we’re sick, or we have a condition or situation that causes our life to be anything BUT wonderful and perfect. Did God knit that? When life is hard or confusing or the suffering is great we often turn to God in our pain and befuddlement and wonder where he is and did he really intend things to be this way.
Here are a couple of things to think about. First of all, there is no such thing as perfect. The world pedals that concept constantly but it’s a deception. There is no such thing as a perfect family, job, or life like the TV commercials would have us believe. The goal of life is to get to heaven, not to have everything neat, tidy, pretty and easy. The goal of life is to get to heaven and claim our sainthood, and my friends, the path to that is not so simple. The holy men and women who have gone before us have shown us again and again that the path to holiness requires sacrifice and suffering. In John’s Gospel we read the words…In this world you will have trouble…16:33 Even though hard stuff came with a warning label we still shake our fist and say, “What the heck, God!” We have to know that he hears us, he loves us and he is working right in the middle of the messy, imperfect and un-wonderful parts of our life. He’s using them to bring holiness and lead us home and sometimes that’s a quick trip but more often than not it’s a long journey.
The second thing to remember is that suffering is inevitable. There are hundreds of commercials out there for stuff to make things quicker or easier. Heaven just plain can’t happen without suffering and trial; there’s no short-cut What we do with our suffering makes all the difference my friends. Suffering without Jesus is just pain without a purpose and it can leave us bitter and fumbling in the darkness. Suffering united with Jesus brings holiness. St. Paul said in his letter to the Colossians, Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake…1:24 his words are even more powerful when you consider that he wrote those words while chained in a prison cell. He knew the secret. He knew that Jesus didn’t die on a cross to take away our suffering but rather he came to transform our suffering. If we say in our suffering, “Jesus please suffer with me, please allow this “thing” to help me grow closer to you.” we will give our suffering purpose and the result is redemption. In other words, suffering is our vehicle to heaven. Uniting our suffering with Jesus gives our suffering meaning and the result is that wonderful, perfect life we’re all working for.
If suffering is our “vehicle” to heaven, it’s helpful to note that no two look alike. We buy into the crazy notion that everything should be fair and that is yet another deception of the world. When Christ allows us to carry a sliver of his cross, we grow in holiness and often help others through our personal suffering. It might be tempting to think it’s not fair because some sufferings seem much smaller or greater, but the reality is, God knows exactly how much we can bear. My mom suffered greatly when she buried my brother and then again when she battled cancer for 2 years but she always asked God to use that suffering not just for her soul, but for her husband, her children and all those who needed the redemption her suffering might bring to them. We can never completely see the burdens that others might be bearing…only God can see that and we have to trust in his wisdom and mercy.
That was a rather long answer to a pretty big question. I hope it offers some peace, some understanding and some, well, some hope.
A Seed To Plant: As you pray today, make a list of all the things that cause your heart suffering. Each time that “thing” enters your mind say, “Jesus join me as I carry this sliver of your cross.”
Blessings on your day!
The Lord remembers his covenant forever. Psalm 105: 8
I have a small set of completely useless talents! One of those useless talents is being able to remember song lyrics from decades ago. I don’t mean to brag, but I can sing songs that are even older than I am. Now, don’t be too impressed because I’m also the same woman who can’t remember 3 things at the grocery store and about the only room I can walk in to and consistently remember why I entered, is the bathroom. I remember random silly things but there are days when I forget ten times more than I remember. I like to console myself and say it’s because I just have so much important stuff to think about I run out of room in my brain!
Thank goodness God has a better memory than me! I’m so grateful for this reminder from Psalm 105 and it makes my heart peaceful to know that even on those crazy days when I forget to ask God for help or peace or assurance, he never forgets me or the covenant he made with his people. He remembers all the important stuff. He doesn’t remember just when it’s convenient or when it serves his purpose; he remembers his promise to love us all the time!
Sometimes we can make our way through lent and come out on Easter Sunday feeling like we didn’t get it right. We sometimes forget our lenten promises and when Good Friday rolls around we start to feel guilty for forgetting how much we wanted to show our love to Jesus though our sacrifices and penances. Now would be a great time to remember that our lenten works have no real bearing on the glory of Easter. Jesus wouldn’t be more “risen” if we had remembered all the things we promised on Ash Wednesday. God isn’t going to put us on the “B list” because we didn’t complete six weeks of perfect sacrificial piousness. His covenant promised his love, compassion, care and correction whether we ate chocolate during lent or not.
The fifty days of the Easter season are the perfect time to hit a “remember re-set”. God isn’t honored just through our sacrifice; he’s honored by our joy and gratitude. Easter is the absolute perfect time to be more joyful and grateful. We are an Easter people which is to say we are a people who were created to celebrate the joy and happiness of the Resurrection and the new beginnings it promises. That too was a part of the covenant God will always remember. I keep thinking about that line about happy christians and it makes me giggle so I’ll repeat it again; “There are way too many christians running around looking like they’ve been baptized in lemon juice!” Are we gonna mope about your lenten weaknesses or realize with enthusiastic happiness and joy that Easter makes all things new! What needs to be new with you? This is the season that begs us to believe the unbelievable and profess the spectacular and revel in the unfathomable! How about turning from the lent guilt and running head first into the magnificent gift of love the Father will never forget to show us. Absolutely, we are not worthy of such a gift but lets remember that he already knows that and it doesn’t matter. The gates of Heaven were flung open not because we deserve it but because the Father promised and because he wants us with him. That is something we need to remember! This Easter Season let your focus be joy, after all, someone died for you and then his Father raised him up!
A Seed To Plant: Find a great image of the Risen Jesus and pray with it each day to remind yourself that it was a gift for you from the Father who will never forget his promises.
Blessings on your day!
Happy Easter! I hope you had a beautiful Easter Sunday. In the tradition of the Catholic Church, the Easter Season continues for 50 days which leaves me plenty of time to write about it in the days to come. Yesterday was filled with family and sunshine and celebration. It was a great day but there were no left over minutes for writing so...todays post is a simple Happy Easter and a promise to return with more Joyful Words on Thursday!
Blessings on your day!
When the hour came He took his place at the table with the apostles. Luke 22:14
We have a tradition here at the Wohlfert house. When it’s your birthday, you get to choose the menu for your birthday supper. We had the same tradition in the McClaskey house too. Since I’ll do anything to get meatloaf for supper, I thought it was a tradition that certainly needed to continue with my children. As luck would have it, my daughter also chooses meatloaf on her birthday every year. There is just something comforting about sitting down with family to enjoy your favorite meal together.
Many years ago some friends invited us to go out for supper with them one Saturday night. Being a stay-at-home mom with three little ones under the age of 5 at the time, I think I had my finger on the babysitter’s phone number in the phone book before I had even finished accepting the invitation. Our friends said they had discovered this great place that they thought we’d just love. I WAS IN! The night arrived and as we waved goodbye to the kids and backed out of the driveway I felt so lucky to be going out to eat at an exciting new place where I wasn’t going to have to cut anyone else’s meat or transfer anyone’s drink to a cup with a spout. I was excited! After a 40 minute drive to the middle of nowhere, we pulled up in front of this old house that look like it had about 4 sunrooms added on, each in a different decade. The parking lot was gravel and the paint on the building wasn’t even all one color. I was a wee bit unimpressed to say the least. When we walked in the door it didn’t get much better. The big open space was full of tables that didn’t match and were covered with vinyl tablecloths that were every pattern and color known to man. All three pieces of silverware were a different pattern and even the glasses didn’t match. I really wondered what it was about the place my friend thought we’d love so much. A few seconds later a sweet, cheerful lady appeared at our table with a personality that would rival Santa’s! We placed our order and a few moments later some of the best homemade delicious food I’d ever tasted arrived at our table. We laughed, talked, ate and enjoyed a fabulous evening! It was not at all what I had expected when we got out of the car that night. Isn’t life like that sometimes!
When I read the gospel accounts of the last supper, I often wonder what the apostles thought when they first realized that night was no ordinary supper together. I wonder what they felt more; shock, fear or sorrow. We can be certain the evening didn’t turn out as they expected. Jesus had news they could not have possibly been ready for and the events of the night spilling into the next day were more than anyone could have imagined. It is on this night; Holy Thursday, I am more overwhelmed by my sinfulness than any other night of the year. I know the story, and the Easter morning happy ending but I still feel as dumbfounded each year as the apostles must have felt. Disbelief, sorrow, anguish…I feel it all heavy on my heart. Too many Christians want the Easter without the Holy Thursday and Good Friday. We want to skip to the happy ending and miss the brutality and the guilt but without the cross we aren’t Christians. Without meditating on the burden of our sins Christ bore, we don’t have repentance and without repentance we can’t have forgiveness and salvation. His death brought forth our life and in some small, unexpected, unpleasant way, we have to share it with Jesus.
If you truly want to experience Easter joy, spend some time this holy evening reading the Gospel accounts of the last supper…imagine…think…feel…experience the unexpected like the apostles. Tomorrow, on Good Friday, spend some time with the Gospel accounts of the crucifixion. As you read, ask God to join you with the suffering of His Son in order to come to a greater understanding of His gift of life and love. If you can unite yourself more closely with the cross, you will feel the joy of the Resurrection.
A Seed To Plant: Spend time with the Last Supper and Good Friday Gospel stories.
Blessings on your day!
…She has done a good thing for me. Matthew 26:10
Well, it’s Monday! That means the start of another week and as you read, some of you are tired, some are frustrated, some are happy and some are worried. No matter what you’re feeling as this new week begins I’m going to ask you to put it all on hold and realize this is not just another week. This is HOLY WEEK and more than anything I want this week to be different for you, for me, for everyone who is a christian. This is a week of powerful sacrifice, love, commitment and glory. The point and purpose of this post is to help you make this week set apart from all the others. I’m asking all of us to lay down our worries, our burdens and our “stuff” and choose instead to walk this week with Jesus and remember how great were his actions during this week as he redeemed us.
The Franciscan Sisters of the Eucharist in Duluth MN have a spectacular way of living out this week and setting it apart. I’d like to share their Holy Week focus in hopes it will change our focus too. Here’s what they think and pray about each day this week. They actually begin on Saturday. We’re a couple days late but we sure can back up our thinking and catch up. I’ve added a couple of questions to each day in hopes we can think about and act on them as we walk with Jesus through this extraordinary last week of his earthly life.
*Commitment Saturday - Ponder and pray about the commitment Jesus made to his Father’s plan and will. The commitment he made to our salvation. How have I committed to Jesus? What can I commit to do for him today?
*Procession Sunday - Jesus publicly showed his love for the Father. Will I walk with him? What will I do today to publicly stand and walk with Jesus?
*Extravagance Monday - How extravagant was his love for us. Read the story of the woman who anointed Jesus’ feet with perfume in Matthew 26. Her love and her actions showed extravagant love. How has Jesus shown extravagant love for you? Who can you love today?
*Compulsion to Completion Tuesday - Jesus was compelled to move forward to do his Father’s will in spite of doubts, worries, troubles or fear. He was determined to complete the Father’s will. What is God asking you to do for him? Where do you need to add compulsion and completion like Jesus?
*Aloneness Wednesday - Jesus knew the next day he would give everything and he paused to be alone in prayer, in silence in the presence of his Father. Spend at least 30 minutes in silence today. Take time to be alone with your Father and His Son pondering the upcoming few days and all Jesus did for you. Read the Gospel accounts of Holy Thursday and Good Friday so you will be ready to think about them in the upcoming days.
*Body Given Thursday - Jesus gave everything. His body to the guards who arrest him this night and in the Last Supper he gave us the everlasting promise of His Body and Blood which were to be poured out for the salvation of us all. What is Jesus asking you to give? Are there people in your life who need the gifts you can offer them?
*Impotent Friday - Jesus was powerless on this day. He who was Almighty became powerless for our sake and his Father had to observe it all. That happened for you and for me. Where do you need to submit to the Father? Where do you need to relinquish some power to the Father, knowing all the while he will be with you? From the time you wake up until 3 spend 5 to 10 minutes each hour meditating on the events of Good Friday; walking with him through this sorrowful day.
*Saturday - The Day of Night, Jesus spent this day in darkness. It was still, it was waiting, it was quiet. It was a day that with patience, reaped great glorious joy. Where do you need to be more patient? Find a way to practice that today.
*Sunday - The Day of Miracles. After you eat your chocolate bunny, make a list of all the miracles God has worked in your life and be sure to put Jesus a the top of the list.
May you use these thoughts and questions to guide you through the week and may the practice be fruitful for your soul.
A Seed To Plant: Print this one or open it each morning so you remember how to pray your way through each day and say a prayer of thanksgiving for the good Sisters for their Holy Week example.
Blessings on your day!
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