Be still and know that I am God. Psalm 46:11
Good morning! The new house is almost ready...the old house needs some cleaning before the new farmer takes over...there are about 70hundred boxes that need to be moved and dealt with...a few schools have asked me to come help them prayerfully get ready for this crazy new school year...I need to get ready for this crazy new school year myself. My head is pretty full of lists and ideas and details so my writing will be quiet for a while. God is so busy working in all of this great stuff going on...there is so much to celebrate and be excited about...I know he will work mightily in this mess and I know I'll have so many things to write about as I stand back and watch what he does, but for now...I just need to put the laptop away and get busy. I'll be back with more joyful words soon...I just wanted to let you know it's gonna be quiet for a bit.
A Seed To Plant...drag out and pray the litany of trust I posted a couple weeks ago...we could all use it as we head into August!
Blessings on your day
Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures. Luke 24:45
I don't know abut you but I feel so much better with some laughter in my day. As I was thinking about getting ready to go back to school I realized I really needed to laugh so as I sat with my new planner I closed my eyes to remember funny moments in my teaching career and one immediately popped into my head and a blog just seemed to follow!
One spring afternoon, my students were taking a bathroom break and one of the boys came running back into the classroom and announced in a very loud voice, “Hey Mrs. Wohlfert, Johnny (name changed to protect the innocent) got his thing stuck in the thing.” My dumbfounded, “What?” was met with a grin and a “you better get in there quick!” After making sure my first trip into a boys bathroom was safe and clear, and it was established that the “stuck thing” was a commonly visible body part, I wiggled open the stall door and I was greeted by the sight of one of my most curious minded first grade boys kneeling on the floor with his arm stuck, clear past the elbow, in the double roll toilet paper dispenser. The harder he tried to pull it back out, the more tightly it became wedged by the paper divider. He was pinched, frightened and crying. Once I freed his arm, he crawled on my lap and sobbed. When he settled down a little, I asked, “So, what exactly were you trying to do?” He sniffed and said,“Well I think I just wanted to figure it out.”
I don’t know about you,but I spend a lot of time trying to figure things out myself. How many times have you heard people say,“Life doesn’t come with an instruction manual.”? I think we get busy trying to figure out how life works on our own, and like Johnny, we get stuck! The truth is, life does come with an instruction manual, and the wise Christian, spends time with it each and every day they wake up and draw breath. All the answers are there, all the wisdom is there, all the comfort, hope, peace and direction we could ever need lies right there in the Bible between Genesis and Revelations. God has spelled it all out for us, clearly and lovingly.
I remember the first time I picked up Scripture and cried out to God to get me out of a pickle. I closed my eyes, opened up my Bible to find the answer and landed right in Matthew’s Gospel, reading about the genealogy of Jesus. “How is this supposed to help?” I screamed. It turned out His help was there in that long list of names I couldn’t pronounce. He was pointing me to my family; all those people are my people! Their lives tell a story of faithfulness and mistakes and triumph and tragedy. They model what to do and what not to do. That chapter was the introduction to the Fathers love, faithfulness, mercy and discipline. They were just waiting for me to ask for help and guidance. Even when we don’t know quite what we’re asking for, God is there, ready to use His“instruction manual” to guide us. He loves us too much to make us figure it out on our own.
Many will say they don’t often read Scripture because they don’t always understand it. The key to understanding Scripture is to ask God to reveal its meaning to you. Each time you pick up His word, ask Him to open your heart and your mind so you will be ready to absorb a word or a phrase. I think we’re much better off focusing on a small passage rather than a page or whole chapter. Once you ask God to guide your understanding, read the passage slowly and carefully and then just sit and let it percolate in your mind and your heart. Sometimes He uses Scripture to help us figure something out on the spot, other times He intends for us to save that instruction for later. Either way, He’s using His word to inspire, guide and instruct.
A seed to plant: Make a promise right now to carve out 15 minutes each day for the next week. Commit to using that time to sit quietly with Scripture. Begin by asking God to open your heart and mind to understand the words He would have you read. If you aren’t sure where to begin, pick one of the four Gospels, the stories and instructions within those pages are amazing! I guarantee, these will be the best minutes of your week!
Blessings on your day!
…You are fearfully and wonderfully made…Psalm 139:14
I was looking through some beginning of the school year questions the other day and one that I’ve seen dozens of times held my attention for a long time. The question was, if you could be any animal which would you be. I pondered lots of choices and dismissed most of them for silly reasons. I didn’t want to be a lion or gator because I didn’t want people to be afraid of me. I didn’t want to be a cheetah because I hate running and I didn’t want to be a skunk for obvious reasons. I wondered about being tiny like a hummingbird and giant like a hippopotamus. After much thought I settled on a dog.
Dogs are loyal, enthusiastic, friendly and affectionate. Puppies especially are adorable and tend to bring laughter and delight. Dogs are also intelligent, helpful and easy to get along with. They don't need a lot of expensive stuff and they are usually very content. In my mind, it was the answer that made sense. The funny thing is that those are all qualities I really admire in people. I thought about this question far longer than I care to admit so then I turned it to prayer and wondered what the Father was teaching.
Animals have characteristics that are meant to help them survive and take their place in the order of creation. The same is true for each of us. We aren’t supposed to all be alike. Each of us was perfectly created by the Father who loves us to be, act and think differently. Our differences were meant to make us stronger and to help us grow in holiness. We seem to have lost sight of that. We would never expect a shark to be as cuddly as a kitten or a giraffe to snuggle up at the foot of our bed. We wouldn’t expect a tiger to help bring in the cattle and elephants perched in trees chirping delightfully would be a little terrifying. Maybe God was reminding me to open not only my eyes but my heart to the differences he purposefully designed in each of us. We have so much to learn and appreciate and respect when we walk among God’s sons and daughters but we have to open our eyes and notice.
As I pondered the silly question that started all of this I realized it helped me notice the beauty in everything God created. The next day I found this line in a prayer book and it seemed like the perfect lesson. Lord, Lord, I could learn so much if I would notice before I nag and pray before I panic.
A Seed To Plant: Spend some time this week with that line from the prayer book and if you really want a distraction think about the animal question too.
Blessings on your day!
Whoever watches his mouth and tongue keeps himself from trouble. Proverbs 21:23
This is a weird post…I have no words today. Every now and again when I’m busy or just can’t get the words right he leads me to a re-post that fits but that isn’t the case today. Today, I just don’t have words and I think that’s exactly where the lesson is. The lesson today is “Sheri, just shut up!” I think I’ve been entered into the school of silence. I think he put me there because there is too much talking…too much reading…too much listening…way too many words being hurled around…too much pontificating and judging. Maybe I’m not the only one who needs to come to the school of silence. There is so much to navigate right now and I think if I’m busy thinking and talking and planning I can’t hear him tell me how to do all of this.
Two of my favorite saints suggest that silence might be just what we need a little more of. Their wisdom brought peace to my troubled soul this morning. So I’ll do as they suggest and just be quiet and ask the Father to quiet my noisy mind, my swirling heart and my busy hands so I can remember the sound of his voice whispering his plan.
Patience, prayer and silence; these are what give strength to the soul. St. Faustina
Silence is God’s first language. St. John of the Cross
A Seed To Plant: Turn off the noise…all of it for an hour or a day and steep yourself in his silence.
Blessings on your day!
Do not be afraid…1 Kings 17:13
The other night I was making dinner and I reached in the cupboard to grab the olive oil. I pulled out the dark green bottle and began to pour, only to discover that instead of a stream of oil coming from the bottle all I was seeing was a few drips! I immediately got frustrated at the inconvenience. Instead of quickly finishing up, I had to go dig through the pantry and hopefully retrieve a full bottle. After just a few seconds of looking and re-shuffling the pantry I found a full bottle and returned to my task. As I stood there in my kitchen stirring I was wondering who it was who emptied the old one without replacing it and why couldn’t they have just taken a few more seconds to replace the bottle instead of leaving the work to me. Then like a smack to the head, I remembered the story of the widow and Elijah from the Old Testament.
If you remember the story, Elijah shows up at this widow’s house during a time of famine and asks her for some water to drink and something to eat. She looks at him and lets him know she’d love to help but can’t. She honestly reports that she has only a bit of oil and a tiny bit of flour and she was getting ready to prepare the last of it for a meal for herself and her son…get this…and then they were going to die because there was no more food. Pause there for a minute…replay…I’m going to use the last drops of oil and spoons of flour to make a cake (yum ?) for us and then we will prepare to die. Not, then I will go to the pantry and get more oil. Not, then I will run to the store and buy more oil or go to the neighbor’s house and borrow more. I will use what I have and that is the end of it all. I can’t even imagine!
As I stood in my kitchen embarrassed about my little empty oil bottle tiff and the widows story I began to see things differently. I glanced over at a full pantry. Behind me was a full refrigerator and on the counter was a bowl of fruit all of which could probably feed a village in some places of the world and suddenly the word plenty was the only one I could think of. I have plenty; plenty of food, plenty of money, plenty of clothes, plenty of EVERYTHING but yet I often focus on what I don’t have instead of what I have plenty of. All of the sudden I felt pretty small, pretty foolish and pretty ungrateful.
The widow’s story continues when Elijah tells her to go ahead and make him some food and the Lord will take care of her and her son. In an unbelievable act of faith she uses the rest of her resources to feed Elijah and as promised, her oil jug and her flour jar never ran dry. The story is about so much more than kitchen staples! God offers the same promise to us each and every day. Just trust me, I will take care of you because I love you and I will reward your faithfulness. The widow loved God more than she loved her stuff. The widow was generous and trusting to an extreme; and her generosity and faithfulness were rewarded to an extreme. It’s a story that offered me perspective and reflection. It made me think about my own gratefulness and trust and generosity. I can’t change all the crazy stuff going on in the world right now but I can’t help but think how much different things would be if we focused on a few of the widow’s lessons and figured out how to use them in our own life.
A Seed To Plant: Read the story from 1Kings 17:7-16 and ask God to help you reflect on the story and show you how he wants you to draw closer to him.
Blessings on your day!
The Lord is my strength and my shield; in him I trust and I am helped…Psalm 28:7
A few weeks ago I said that “I don’t know” was probably my most spoken sentence. As the craziness seems to escalate and the unanswered questions keep piling up, I have tried to swap “I don’t know.” for “Jesus show me how.” It brings me peace because I know he will guide us through this whole mess but I asked for more peace, more understanding and more loving calmness for my family, my friends and my school family. As he always does, he gave me exactly what I asked for, and as usual, I didn’t pick up on it right away. Three times in the last week I have come across this prayer and finally got it. I’m a little slow on the uptake sometimes but the third time I “stumbled onto” this prayer I realized it’s exactly the balm my soul and spinning mind needed.
At a time when there have been so many lines drawn in the sand I’m not sure where to step, I needed to re-claim the truth. I needed to remember the way to heaven is paved by my trust in Jesus, not my trust in a human. “I don’t know” what the first day of school will look like but I know “Jesus will show me how” he wants me to reach my students that day. I’m pretty sure “did you wear your facemark” and “did you maintain proper social distance in 2020” won’t be on an entry exam to heaven but I’m sure every uncomfortable thing…every sacrificial thing…every difficult or ridiculous thing I’m asked to do can help me grow in holiness. When my head starts to spin about whose bossing us around and why, I have to come back to, Jesus I trust you…I know I am your beloved daughter and I know everything I do on earth is a part of my path back to you if I trust, surrender, obey and REMEMBER HOW ADORED I AM BY THE ONE WHO CREATED ME! So todays post is the balance and the truth we all need a big ole dose of today.
Litany of Trust
From the belief that I have to earn Your love … Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear that I am unlovable … Deliver me, Jesus.
From the false security that I have what it takes … Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear that trusting You will leave me more destitute … Deliver me, Jesus.
From all suspicion of Your words and promises … Deliver me, Jesus.
From the rebellion against childlike dependency on You … Deliver me, Jesus.
From refusals and reluctances in accepting Your will … Deliver me, Jesus.
From anxiety about the future … Deliver me, Jesus.
From resentment or excessive preoccupation with the past … Deliver me, Jesus.
From restless self-seeking in the present moment … Deliver me, Jesus.
From disbelief in Your love and presence … Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being asked to give more than I have … Deliver me, Jesus.
From the belief that my life has no meaning or worth … Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of what love demands … Deliver me, Jesus.
From discouragement … Deliver me, Jesus.
That You are continually holding me, sustaining me, loving me … Jesus, I trust in you.
That Your love goes deeper than my sins and failings, and transforms me …Jesus, I trust in you.
That not knowing what tomorrow brings is an invitation to lean on You … Jesus, I trust in you.
That You are with me in my suffering … Jesus, I trust in you.
That my suffering, united to Your own, will bear fruit in this life and the next …Jesus, I trust in you.
That You will not leave me orphan, that You are present in Your Church…Jesus, I trust in you.
That Your plan is better than anything else … Jesus, I trust in you.
That You always hear me, and in Your goodness always respond to me …Jesus, I trust in you.
That You give me the grace to accept forgiveness and to forgive others …Jesus, I trust in you.
That You give me all the strength I need for what is asked …Jesus, I trust in you.
That my life is a gift … Jesus, I trust in you.
That You will teach me to trust You … Jesus, I trust in you.
That You are my Lord and my God … Jesus, I trust in you.
That I am Your beloved one … Jesus, I trust in you.
A Seed To Plant: Print or write this prayer and pray it when you feel unsettled, uncertain or anxious about the world around you.
Blessings on your day!
… Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you… Exodus 16:4
I sometimes have this picture in my mind about making it to heaven and having an “orientation seminar” with God and His angels and saints. To amuse myself while driving or doing yucky tasks, I sometimes compose a list of questions I’d like to ask during the Q and A part of that meeting. Some of the questions are biggies and some are completely silly. I was weeding my big flower bed (completely yucky task!) recently and the list of silly questions got pretty long. The list topper that day was, “God, if carrots and cucumbers are supposed to be good for us, why didn’t you make them taste better than things that are bad for us like chips and cheesecake?” I love my fruits and vegetables don’t get me wrong, but seriously, there is a very good reason the summer ice cream shop on the corner doesn’t sell broccoli splits or caramel cabbage sundaes!
This silly question led me to think about the story of manna in the book of Exodus. It’s a beautiful story of God and His loving faithfulness. I wondered what it would be like to just see your food appear, morning and night with no effort on your part! Seriously…meals I didn’t have to plan, prepare, serve or clean up…that would be heaven! It didn’t happen once a week; it happened every day. The food was sent in the perfect amounts and nobody had to analyze its protein and carbohydrate ratio, dispute its nutritional density or scrutinize the label. It just came and it was perfect! If you read a little further in the story it isn’t long before the Israelites threw a hissy fit because they wanted meat…it came and then they threw another fit about being thirsty. Each time God answered their whining in a miraculous way. He made it SO easy for them! I have read that story time and time again and I’m always a little stunned that the Israelites could be so whiney and demanding. They lacked appreciation and after all they had witnessed God do for them they still experienced doubt, denial and rebellion. I’m pretty quick to think I would have been a much more faithful dessert traveler. I think I might have even been Moses right hand girl. I wouldn’t have doubted no-sir-re! I would have been awed, amazed and completely obedient. Or would I?
The “or would I” leads me back to my silly question about zucchini verses French fries! Do I have the strength to know the truth and act obediently? Do I know some choices are better for me than others…sure! Do I always make those good for me choices…absolutely not? Do I try to wiggle out of the “hard way or the right way” and settle for the “easy way”…yes I do more often than I’d care to admit probably. So you might be wondering what lettuce, cookies and the Israelites all have to do with one another and here is the connection…strength to trust and follow the will of the Father…especially when there is a choice available that seems easier or tastier or more self-gratifying. I have to be more willing to experience a little self-denial. If I really want to live as a disciple, I have to stop throwing a temper tantrum about silly little stuff that brings me happiness and comfort. I mistakenly think those simple pleasures that bring temporary good feelings matter. The truth is, they can’t even compare to what God has in store for us. It’s kinda like having a bucket of sand and thinking you have a sea shore. It took the Israelites 40 years of wandering…I wonder how much longer I’ll be wandering before I truly master the lesson of living in His will instead of wandering my easy path! The road to the Father is paved one joyfully offered sacrifice and one loving act of obedience at a time. Lord, give me the strength to get to You!
A Seed To Plant: Be consciences of little sacrifices and acts of self-denial you can offer to the Father this week.
Blessings on your day!
And he said, “The one who sows the good seed, is the Son of Man Matthew 13:37
With everything swirling around in the world today it’s easy to get overwhelmed. As I think of going back to school next month, I wonder what that will look like. When I talk to parents, I feel the uncertainty and concern bubble up into the conversation. I don’t have any answers but I do know that the Father will bring us out on the other side of all this and we will all be ok! I saw this little story the other day and it reminded me that we are in the middle of making some history. This whole pandemic…this whole weird season of our lives… will be remembered. The how is the important part…how will we remember it and how will history remember the way we lived through it. That made me think.
A man was watching his eighty year old neighbor planting a small peach tree. He inquired of him, “You don’t expect to eat peaches from that tree, do you?” The old man rested on his spade. He replied, “No, at my age I know I won’t. But all my life I have enjoyed peaches - never from a tree I planted myself. I’m just trying to pay the other fellows who planted the trees for me.”
I don’t know how any of this started…I don’t know how any of this will end, but one thing is for sure, our attitude, our actions and our prayers will have an impact on our children, our grandchildren and the folks who remember all of this. So I guess the question is, am I going to plant peach trees or thorn bushes. Both will last and both will be noticed for a long time to come but only one bears a desirable fruit that brings good. History is full of great, simple, faithful people who weathered storms and tragedy and chaos I can’t even begin to imagine. When I hear their stories I am inspired by their faith, their determination, their strength and their perseverance. Those who lived through war and economic disaster and telegrams of lost sons in war bore a burden that hurst my heart to think about but most of them planted peaches and when I read about their lives I’m filled with hope.
“I don’t know” seem to be the most frequently used words in my vocabulary these days and I suppose it’s time I remember what I DO know. I DO know that the Father loves us. I DO know I will teach and children will laugh and learn and succeed and stumble and I will be blessed to watch it all! I DO know gratitude, trust, compassion, mercy and kindness are running shorter than fear, doubt, arguing, blame and dishonesty these days. I suppose we could think of the first five as peaches and the second five as thorns. I think I’ll get busy “planting peach trees” so my students and children and grandchildren will have something good to enjoy beyond all this craziness.
A Seed To Plant: Spend some time in prayer thinking of ways you can trade thorn bushes for peach trees.
Blessings on your day!
…be confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. Philippians 1:6
Cooking brings me joy! I love to cook and feed people and entertain. My food is pretty simple but something about the act of pulling a bunch of things together to create a table full of food that brings people together and nourishes them gives me so much happiness. I’m the kind of cook that views recipes as a mere suggestion. There are a few things I don’t like the flavor of, like nutmeg, so you can be sure I will leave that out of every recipe that calls for it but every now and again, just to practice discipline I’ll find a new recipe and follow it perfectly. As I’m following the directions I often argue about it. I’m convinced there is too much of something or too little of something else but those are the times I’m usually happily surprised with the end result.
I think I take that attitude with me beyond the kitchen too. I can look at things and think, well that doesn’t go together or doing those things will never work out or look right. Our human eyes are often too quick to see the disaster instead of the grace. Whether I’m in the kitchen or the classroom or out and about in the world, I need to remember that sometimes God puts things into the mix for reasons I don’t see in the beginning. I came across this little farmers prayer story the other day and it really hit my heart. There is a lot of crazy stuff being thrown into the mix these days so this brought me peace. I read it and took a breath to remember the master mixer is in charge!
A pastor asked an older farmer, decked out in bib overalls, to say grace for the morning breakfast. Lord, “I hate buttermilk”, the farmer began. The visiting pastor opened one eye to glance at the farmer and wondered where this was going. The farmer loudly proclaimed, “Lord I hate lard.” Now the pastor was growing concerned. Without missing a beat, the farmer continued. “And Lord you know I don’t care for raw white flour.” The pastor once again opened an eye to glance around the room and saw that he wasn’t the only one to feel uncomfortable. Then the farmer added, “But Lord, when you mix them all together and bake them, I do love fresh biscuits. So Lord when things come up that we don’t like, when life gets hard, when we don’t understand what you’re saying to us, help us to just relax and wait until you are done mixing. It will probably be better than biscuits. Amen”
Today, I think I’ll just enjoy the biscuits!
A Seed To Plant: Make a list of those places you have a hard time seeing God’s good and grace, and ask him to grant you patience and trust while he finishes mixing all the parts together.
Blessings on your day!
I write to you, children, because you know the Father… 1John 2:14
As I continue on my closet cleaning and packing quest this summer, I was getting a little grumpy about the whole process. It isn’t my favorite way to spend summer days but every now and then I run across a treasure hidden in a box or on a top shelf that adds some joy to the job. One day last week I found a bundle of letters and cards all tied together with a ribbon. Some of them were from decades ago and it was fun to look through them and remember.
Looking through that bundle of notes and letters I felt so loved and appreciated. I was touched not so much by the words on the page but by the investment of time, energy and thought that went into that bundle. There was shopping, writing, looking up an address and getting to the post office to buy a stamp and pop it into the mailbox. Today, we do things so differently. I remember my mom and my aunts had a drawer full of cards to choose from and a trip to the post office was a daily event. It isn’t often that I go to the mail box and find something truly exciting that I can’t wait to rip open. Today, we communicate mostly by email or text and the process is certainly more efficient, cheap and speedy. I love my pile of letters but if I think about all the communication I send and receive in a week and having to do it all by hand and mail it would require a whole extra day in the week to keep up…plus another side job to pay the postage and buy the cards! Things change!
As I sat with the pile of letters on my desk I found one from my dad. My dad isn’t one for flowering things up or using more words than necessary so when I found one that simply said, “I love you,. Your Mom would be proud.” I realized it didn’t matter how the message was sent, it was all about how the message was received. I moved on to another closet all the while wondering if Jesus would communicate through a long lovely letter or if he was more like an email or text. I began conjuring up in my mind all the messages I thought he’d like me to hear and what they might look like. I suppose sometimes he’d be gentle with a long poetic love letter. I’m sure there are days he would give me a direct loving message of truth like my dad and I’d be lying if I didn’t admit there would be days he’d like to send me a few word text in all caps with some exclamation points at the end.
It was great to look through that stack and be reminded of peoples thoughts but the Father is sending us message all day, every day to direct, love, instruct and encourage us. He communicates through Scripture, through people and through those little whispers and nudges we get when we call his name and invite him to come into our mess. My prayer as I tucked that treasured bundle away in a box was that I’d pay more attention to his communication with me. I pray I’ll be a better listener and live his words not bundle them up and tuck them away forgetting what he really wants me to know. His basic message to all of us is the same…”I love you more than you are capable of loving.” “I will always be right here waiting for you to invite me in.” and “Make me the one thing you love more than anything or anyone and all will be better than you can imagine.”
A Seed To Plant: Write two messages this week. Write one to someone who needs to hear something good. Send it in any way you’d like, just share some love and encouragement. The second letter is to your Heavenly Father. You can tell, ask, wonder and offer your plans, just spill our your heart in writing as if writing to your very best friend.
Blessings on your day!
Why do you notice the splinter in your brothers eye but not notice the wooden plank in your own? Matthew 7:3
I sure have a knack for overcomplicating things sometimes! It’s easy to get tangled up in the stories and happenings in other peoples lives and forget that we aren’t saddled with the job of deciding and judging and sorting it all out. Thank goodness that’s the work of the Father. I’m simply called to love God and to love others. Seems simple but rest assured, I can goof up even that very simple instruction. God always has a way of yanking me back when I’ve wandered too far off. This week he did it with a teeny little story.
A wise, old middle-eastern mystic said this about himself. “I was a revolutionary when I was young and all my prayer to God was: ‘Lord, give me the energy to change the world.’ As I approached middle age and realized that my life was half-gone without my changing a single soul, I changed my prayer to : ‘Lord, give me the grace to change all those who come in to contact with me. Just my family and friends and I shall be satisfied.’ Now that I am an old man and my days are numbered, I have begun to see how foolish I have been. My one prayer now is: ‘Lord, give me the grace to change myself.’ If I had prayed for this right from the start, I would not have wasted my life.
A Seed To Plant: Just read that little story a few times and ask the Lord to let it wash over you and change you. I think the world will look a whole lot different if we get this one little prayer right!
Blessings on your day!
So the last will be first and the first will be last. Matthew 20:16
How long would it take you to come up with a list of chores you really don’t like to do? If you’re anything like me you often try to get somebody else to do those. Let’s face it, some tasks are just awful and nobody wants to do them. Today I’m going to suggest that those are exactly the jobs we should be doing before anybody else gets a chance. Now before you quit reading thinking I’ve lost my marbles let me explain what I mean.
I think sometimes we get things a little backwards and forget the importance of humility and the blessings that flow from simple humble service. I heard a story not long ago about a man who makes it a point to always pick up the paper towel from the floor any time he goes into a restroom. You might be surprised to learn that the man is a famous executive. His car needed a repair while he was traveling on business one day so he pulled into a small gas station for the repair. He waited patiently and as usual, after using the restroom he picked up all the stray paper towel that littered the floor. When he was paying his bill he offered his kind thanks, included a tip for the repairman and his check was met with a question from one of the station employees. The young man said he knew what the restroom looked like before and he knew this man was responsible for its transformation and he wanted to know why a man who was rich and powerful would feel it necessary to do a job even he didn’t want to do. The man smiled and told the young man it was a simple task to keep him aware of how important humble service was. As he was leaving the station he looked at the young man and said, “I don’t ever want to get too big for my britches or think I’m better than someone else. We all have to find ways to take care of each other.”
I think as a society we are insulted and offended too easily. It’s easy to think things “aren’t our job” or that some tasks belong to those with less seniority or authority. Sometimes following the example of the executive is more beneficial for us than it is for anybody else. The most powerful thing about humble service is that it completely removes us from the picture. We don’t do those nasty little tasks like picking up restroom paper towel in order to advance in our career or get a raise in pay, we do it simply to serve others and it is in those simple acts of selflessness we may truly serve God. I can pick something up even if I didn’t drop it, I can give someone the closer parking spot, I can hold the door or distract a frazzled moms fussy toddler while she pays for her groceries. It’s all humble service…now I just have to remember to do it!
A Seed To Plant: Take a couple days to pray with this thought then like the executive, pick something you can do as an act of humble service.
Blessings on your day!
Gentle words bring life and health; a deceitful tongue crushes the spirit.” Proverbs 15:4
Eight years seems like a long time. Eight Junes ago I was the mama of a college student and two high schoolers. I didn’t have any gray hair, I sported fewer wrinkles and I didn’t qualify to belong to AARP. Eight years ago I finally said yes to the Holy Spirit’s prompting and started writing the Joyful Words Blog and eight years ago I could never have imagined we’d still be at it. Two blogs a week for eight years is a lot of words and I thank the Holy Spirit for all of them. As I was on my porch thinking about the blog I pondered the power of words, especially in these crazy days and realized how much power our words have. They have power for great good and power for great harm. As I was thinking and praying about the words we use with our family, our friends and on social media I came across this great story about St. Philip Neri.
A lady once went to St. Philip for confession and she confessed that she had been gossiping and speaking unkindly about others. For her penance he told her to go to the market and buy an unplucked bird. On her walk home she was to pluck the bird and scatter the feathers along the way and then come back to see him the next day. She did as he told her and returned the following day feeling a bit foolish about the whole event. He praised her for her obedience and then told her for the completion of her penance she was to walk the same path and collect all the feathers she had tossed along the way. She gasped and pointed out the impossibility of the task. “ Father, the wind has scattered the feathers in all directions and I will never be able to capture them all.” she said. The saint replied, “Quite true. Neither can you recall the damaging words about your neighbors which by this time have passed from mouth to mouth far beyond your reach. Be careful in the future and watch every word you utter.”
Our words have great power and each day the Father puts people in our path who can either be lifted up or squashed down by our words. Sometimes those very people live in our house and need our good words more than we realize. For eight years I have prayed to the Holy Spirit every time I sit down to my laptop asking for the words someone needs to be lifted, cheered, encouraged or comforted. I’ve prayed for words of peace and healing and insight. I’ve asked for words of light and truth and joy. The biggest request of all, is that he will help me speak those kinds of words all the time and not just in print twice a week. I’ve asked for the grace to live the words I type here and over the past eight years I can see some places I’ve gotten it right but I am also aware of all the “feather chasing” I need to do.
I’m grateful for those of you who log on and read and I pray for all of you each time I hit the “publish” button. I promised the Holy Spirit when I started this thing eight years ago that I would continue to write as long as people continued to read so thank you for your support and your prayers as we all joyfully navigate our way to holiness.
A Seed To Plant: Find someone this week who really needs some good words and be the one to lift them up!
Blessings on your day!
A false balance is an abomination to the LORD, But a just weight is His delight. Proverbs 11:1
I had a wonderful kindergarten teacher named Mrs. Justice and she was a gem! Seriously, if I can remember gobs of things about her after nearly a half century; lets face it, she must have been awesome! I loved her laugh, her kindness and the way her room felt so much like home. There was however one thing in our classroom that I hated…the balance beam. The silly thing sat just a couple inches off the floor but it terrified me. I would step up on it and instantly begin to sway and stagger like I’d been drinking for a week. Looking back I have no idea why I had such a lousy sense of balance. I’m sure I just thought too much about it and the lack of balance was all in my head but I still remember that confusing, out of control sensation.
I haven’t been on a balance beam since kindergarten but I sure can relate to that same out of balance feeling for different reasons. The funny thing is, when I was trying to walk on that silly beam, it was all my issue; I was the one responsible for that fuzzy, tippy feeling so all I had to do was hop down and balance was restored. Today it’s not so simple. Today the imbalance is usually served up at the hands of others and it can make us a little crazy.
Fake news leads us to imbalance. People with narrow minded, black and white “hell or high water” thinking and speech can lead us to imbalance. Companies or folks who only tell the slice of truth that helps them market their stuff lead us to imbalance. Last week my school computer screamed at me and flashed warnings that it had been attacked by some kind of trojan horse, worm, scorpion, flaming dragons virus thingy. It scared the snot out of me! I didn’t really want work on curriculum in the first place but then to have my computer tell me that my credit cards and possibly my first born offspring were in danger (ok, maybe that’s a little dramatic!) made me feel a little out of balance. It ended up being a pretty simple fix but as it turns out the voice coming from my computer wanted to sell me some kind of product to perfect my potentially attacked computer. Wasn’t that helpful of them! Once I found out everything was ok, I breathed a sigh of relief and then I got a little irritated that it was so easy to be thrown off balance; I was right back in kindergarten facing down that silly balance beam.
After the whole virus debacle, I happened to find an article on a health and nutrition blog that outlined some of the fabulous things good black coffee can do for a person. I of course agreed enthusiastically with every word and felt very affirmed in my coffee habit. Not two hours later, I was checking email and stumbled onto an article telling me my morning “nectar of the Gods” was going to have me lame, forgetful and sick as a dog if I didn’t dump it out and never take a sip again. Of course I took that entire article as a big pile of horse pucky! Again though, I was surprised at how easy it is to loose our balance when everyone with a laptop or access to social media can flip the truth completely out of balance and leave us scratching our heads.
Since I’m not Queen of the Universe and I can’t control all the ridiculous stuff people like to spit out as truth, I had to give it some prayer and thought and this is what I came up with. Logic and common sense may seem be a bit out of fashion but we can all make an effort to bring them back. Think first ;speak later (or not at all) seems to be a good idea sometimes. Don’t believe everything you hear (read) is sound advice. Trading media time for prayer time would be splendid for many reasons. The final thing; it’s a big one…pray for balance and truth. We get so sucked in to the craziness but what if we just didn’t. What if we refrained from replying to something just so we can have our voice heard. It just might be better for the whole planet if we worried more about simply having our voice heard by the Father who gave us that voice cause I’pretty sure he didn’t give it to us and instruct us in scripture to “go forth and make an ugly, controversial, half baked truthful noise”. When all else fails, do what I did in kindergarten when that silly balance beam threw me off balance…just hop off and go do something better!
A Seed To Plant: The next time you read something that throws you off balance, stop right then and there and pray for the person or folks at the root of it. Something mighty will happen if we all get a little better at that!
Blessings on your day!
I could not get a post to come together today...my mind was blank and the Holy Spirit was quiet so I put things away for a couple of hours. The words, "the work is done" popped into my head. I ridiculously kept trying to write and when I tried to post a writing the Lord clearly didn't approve of I ended up on the archive page. When I tried to click out of the archive page, I landed on this post from 2015...I'm smiling through tears at the timing and wisdom of the Lord...seems like 5 years later, we haven't changed as much as we thought.
In my distress I called to the Lord…Psalm 18:6
If our high school would have had a debate team, I would have been absolutely the last person picked to be on it! I’m amazed at the way some people can eloquently deliberate a topic with conviction and finesse. Still others can bark an opinion and slam you with a defense that leaves your head spinning. I simply smell controversy or conflict and nearly trip over my own feet trying to get away from the conversation! We all have our own opinions and we all have the ability to make choices but that doesn’t mean we are obligated to yell them out. As Christians, it’s up to us to make sure our opinions and choices are based on truth and rooted in Scripture and Church teaching. Seems simple enough right?
As a society we don’t like to be told what to do. We aren’t so good with rules and regulations and I wonder if that is because there are so many voices yackin we can’t even hear the truth anymore. I’m not sure what happened to right and wrong; good and bad but we seem to live in a world full of clauses and sub-groups and exceptions. Some days I think gray is the most popular color in America. A very wise man I know always used to say, “Just do the right thing and keep your mouth shut.” Imagine what would happen if everyone was told to follow that advice for a day! What would happen if everyone was told they couldn’t say one thing for a day unless it was based in truth and steeped in Scripture?
A person could get pretty upset and discouraged with the state of affairs we seem to be in right now; but then that’s exactly what Satan wants. He would be delighted to think he’s reduced us all to a society of bickering, selfish, self-centered, slandering, lying, cheating, stealing idiots. He would be delighted to think we’ve forgotten our mission to seek the truth, live the truth and love the God who created us. Well news flash…WE HAVEN’T! I have come to realize a couple important truths of my own in the last couple days that seemed to yank me right out of my disappointment with our current state of affairs. The first; when we get to heaven we won’t present a summary of our best earthly actions nor will we be judged in groups. We are flying SOLO so it is our sole responsibility to make sure the choices we make and the opinions we base our actions on are in line with the will of the Father. One thing that is not gray…following the will of the Father is often very hard! He cares about our character not our comfort. The second; God is bigger than anything going on here on earth! He’s mightier than any ruling, leader, mandate or current event. He’s the one we should be aligning ourselves with, seeking protection from, gaining wisdom from and hanging on every word from. In order to do that well; to really follow His lead; we need to spend time in conversation with him. What would happen if the next time we see a post, or hear a news report that bubbles up our blood we stopped before reacting and spent a moment or two in prayer. Before we spout off our opinion what if we asked the Holy Spirit to inspire our words to be truthful and steeped in Scripture? God is bigger, richer, stronger and mightier than any of us combined but in order to see all of that clearly revealed to this hurting world, we have to live like we love him and become a world that prays first before anything else!
A Seed To Plant: Make a list of three “things”, “people”, or “groups” that seem to bother you most. Your task for the next week is to pray consistently for those three things. In your prayer, ask God to guide your actions and reactions to those three things.
Blessings on your day!
…encourage one another, agree with one another, live in peace and the God of love and peace will be with you. Corinthians 13:11
If we’re looking for the true answer to all that troubles us today it seems to be right here. Encourage each other, agree with each other. That’s the opposite of what’s happening these days and it’s all giving me a giant headache. Every time I turn around it seems like there is another line in the sand and a group of folks screaming at us to pick a side. Why? Is there a prize for being on the “right side” of an argument that makes no sense to begin with? Some issues absolutely do have a clear right and wrong side but that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about the stuff that stirs up fear and anxiety. The stuff that is based on half truth and opinion. The stuff that is dividing us for no good reason and is sucking away our peace.
I saw a headline the other day that said, “Where is God now? I was surprised to find the perfect answer to that question in this reading from Paul to the Corinthians. Where is God, well, he’s with you and he’s measured out his love and his peace in huge heaps if we do one simple thing….live in peace. Peace is a choice we have to make sometimes several times a day. When we check social media and get wound up over something, we have to stop and say, “Jesus, bring me your peace.” Instead of firing back a reply or comment to someone's argument, stop instead and say “Jesus bring me your peace.” When you read an article or hear a story about violence, unrest and blame, stop and say “Jesus bring me your peace and Jesus bring your peace to _____.” If we’re arguing and dividing and proving and blaming we won’t find peace; in fact we’ll create a heaping scoop of the opposite.
Paul gave these words of wisdom and encouragement a couple thousand years ago and it astounds me how much we still need them today! Encourage others, seek peace and the love and peace of Christ will fill you. There is so much nonsense going on right now if we actually stopped and thought about these short words and prayed for peace each time we got ruffled that would be a big hunk of time spent doing something that will actually make us feel better. I happen to think there are thousands of us looking for a way to feel better!
God is not absent right now. He’s not on a luxury cruise or hiking in a remote mountain range. He’s truly present and busy in the middle of all the mess but we have to seek him out. We have to go where he is, in the peace, the encouragement, the positive, the light. That’s tough to do some days for sure. The effort is worth it and our souls will thank us when we seek his peace instead of getting stuck in the mess. This is our cross to bear. Slugging our way through the ugly and the uncertain in our world right now is our way to grow in holiness. Growing in holiness takes effort. Words like these from St. Paul help break things down into simple, doable parts if we grab them. If you’d like a little inspiration from a wise disciple living a little closer to our time, here is some wisdom from an “almost nun” who lived through WWII and stepping into motherhood with nearly a dozen children who were not her own. “We shall be together with the man of Nazareth, who will recognize us as his disciples if we now patiently bear our daily cross.” Maria von Trapp
Where is God in all this? He’s right there waiting to help us pick up our daily cross so he can lead us toward peace. As we walk together through our day with those crosses, let’s take St. Paul’s advice and sprinkle some more encouragement and a little less arguing into our days.
A Seed To Plant: Call or text someone today with a word of encouragement. For extra “peace points” make it someone you don’t always agree with.
Blessings on your day!
She left and did as Elijah had said. She was able to eat for a year…1 Kings 17:15
A wise little girl told me one time that what the world needed most is “more giving stuff away.” It made me giggle but something about that simple little idea just clung in my thoughts. When I heard this line in the story of the Prophet Elijah and the widow this week that little girl’s idea bounced in my mind. As adults, we know the word is generosity and she’s right, the world needs more of it. The widow in the story matched her loving generosity with a gigantic dose of trust as well. I think that’s a pretty powerful combination don’t you? In case you don’t know the whole story; a widow and her son were preparing to die of hunger during a famine. The widow had only a tiny bit of flour and oil to prepare one last meal before starvation. Then out of nowhere appears this man asking for bread and water. She explains the situation and he tells her to make him a small cake before she does as she plans. In other words, hey lady, feed me first before you and your son have your last nibble of bread and die of starvation. I think I might have been looking for something to throw at Him! Not the widow, she responded with generosity and trust and her reward was a bin of flour and a jug of oil that never ran dry.
I was watching a little video clip about St. Katherine Drexel last weekend and her life too demonstrated enormous generosity coupled with amazing trust. When Katherine’s wealthy parents died, their estate left Katherine and her sisters with 14 million dollars each. Today that amount would be closer to 400 million. Even though her family was very wealthy, their wealth was outmatched by their generosity. The Drexel family opened their home three afternoons a week to bring in and feed, clothe and pray with the poor and the needy. Guided by her parents example of loving generosity, Katherine became a nun and used her fortune to generously serve societies lost and forgotten. Out of that entire fortune, not one little bit was saved for herself. One of the people I was watching the video with said, “I think I would have set some aside in a special little account just in case.” Like the widow, it was generosity first, trust second and blessings third.
Don’t be puzzled, this is not a post offering financial guidance for managing the millions of dollars you have lying around, I will let you manage your millions yourself! It is however a good day to look at all of the things that constitute our personal fortune, like our time, health, resources and God-given gifts and talents. It’s a good day to evaluate our generosity and trust, using the example of the heroes of our faith. There are people like Katherine who have so much and then there are people like the widow who have so little yet both acted with such generosity it left a mark! I suppose that eliminates all excuses for the rest of us doesn’t it! We are each called to be generous stewards of our gifts no matter how great or how small they seem. We are also called to give an example of generosity to our friends and family. I wonder what Katherine would have done with her fortune if she hadn’t grown up in a home that flung open its doors to love and care for the poor? I have to ask myself what I have taught my own children about generosity.
I think the biggest thing sitting on my heart as I type this post…what does my loving God have in store for me if I were to act in complete generosity and trust? The widow got a blessing far beyond imagination, Katherine Drexel was blessed immeasurably by those she loved and served in the name of Christ. So what’s waiting for me? I suppose I have to grow in trust, act with greater generosity and see what happens. I’ll keep you posted!
A Seed To Plant: As you sit in prayer this week, ask God to show you how to be more generous and trusting.
Blessings on your day!
Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light on my path. Psalm 119:105
I’m not sure I can even describe how happy I was to go back to mass this weekend. It was so good to see students I’ve missed and friends I’ve only seen from a distance. It was a sunny, chilly morning and sitting in my lawn chair with my family made my heart so happy! I don’t think I fully realized how much I missed it, until mass began and so did the tears. As I sat there soaking it all in, I asked the Holy Spirit to give me a direction for the blog because it was so overwhelming I didn’t even know where to begin. There was so much to see and feel and take in I got a little distracted. Father Eric was about mid way through his homily and two words popped out like the were yelled straight into my ear and I just giggled. The Holy Spirit was making extra sure I was paying attention to the direction he was pointing out.
I am very aware of the division, fear, sadness, anger and disruption that seems to be woven into everything these days. A simple scrap of fabric or a distance of seventy-two inches can drive a wedge between us. Common ground is tough to establish right about now and opinions are more plentiful than the spring dandelions that pop up overnight. I wish there was an answer or a cure or a solution but we are smack dab in the middle of a very uncomfortable time. Maybe thats not all bad though. Uncomfortable is what causes us to change; everything from uncomfortable clothes and shoes to uncomfortable attitudes and relationships. I think it’s time to realize change has to begin personally…in each of us. We can’t keep blaming people and groups and organizations. We can’t control a darn one of them…but ourselves…that we can do something about. But how? That’s where Fr. Eric’s two words come into play. If we want to change, to heal, to move from this place of fear and discomfort we need two things. We need leaven and light.
Each week I bake bread so the word leaven was a very powerful image to me. Every week I plop that blob of dough in the bottom of the silver bowl and set it to rest. An hour later I return to see the magic and the mystery of leaven because that same blob is now light, airy and peeking over the rim of the bowl. I don’t know really know how it works but I know that leavening or lifting up is powerful and transformative. I had to pause and ask myself who I was lifting up or leavening these days. As I check my newsfeed or see the latest red ticker news scroll across the TV, are my thoughts of lifting others up or squashing something down. It also occurred to me that God will be the one doing all the heavy lifting, I just need to focus on his children that need a little leaven. If I spent as much time thinking about, writing, texting, calling or mailing a card to someone who needed a little lift as I did complaining, fussing, worrying and pontificating about everyone who is wrong and out of control, not only would I be lifted up but so would others. How many times have I stopped and said, God, this is nuts, I trust you to do something there while I find someone in my own neighborhood or community who needs a visit, a bouquet of lilacs or a plate of fresh cookies? And speaking of lifting or leavening, I had to ask myself about my prayers. I think I’m guilty of leaving my worries, fears and disappointments in the bottom of that bowl to sit. Sometimes I roll them around in my head like I roll that dough on the counter. I have to remind myself that I can’t just sit with them, wallowing in them and letting them sit heavy on my heart. I have to lift them up to the One who has the power to lift, transform and bring new life.
The thing about fear is that it brings darkness. The destruction is happening in our cities in the darkness. The anger and rage is coming from the darkest parts of fear and rebellion. In the darkness you can’t find peace or joy or hope. Those are the things that come in the light and the light of Christ dispels all darkness. The light Christ came to bring was meant for all humanity and it conquers all fear. The thing about light, is that one little lamp can spread and pierce darkness all around. I walked into our new house that is under construction one evening last week and it was getting a little dark outside. Instinctively, the first thing I did as I opened the door was reach to hit the light switch. I giggled at the habit because there are no switches yet. I remembered that while Father Eric was talking about light and wondered what would happen if our response to bad news and crisis was to simply pray “Jesus, shine your light of peace.” as quickly as I reached to hit that light switch. What if we used our smile, our thoughtfulness, our generosity and our prayer to shine the Light of Christ into the darkness we hear about. Again, God does the heavy work, we just have to ask him to turn on the switch. The second prayer for us should be, “Lord, make me a light to shine your love.”
As we try to be the leaven and the light, the Holy Spirit will clearly direct us. If we simply say, “Lord show me where to lift and be light.” He will give you very clear directions. The amazing side blessing to that is we become so tuned in to the direction of the Holy Spirit and the people he’s asking us to share the leaven and the light with, we forget about the mess around us because we’re focused on HIM and on OTHERS. That my friends, is how we begin to bring good out of ugly.
A Seed To Plant: Take a minute to pray and ask the Father to show you 3 people today that need a little lift and a little light.
Blessings on your day!
…in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:6
I love living in the country. It’s so peaceful and pretty and my front porch looking off into the fields is one of the best places to be. There is, however a drawback to living in the country and that is the gravel road. For some reason this year our road has been giving the county fits. Some spots are just fine and then all the sudden you hit a patch that seems like a remote village mountain trail or a big section of beach sand. The road commission has been working hard but it’s still a mess. I get excited when I hear the grader coming by and the Chloride truck that sprays the compound that keeps down the dust is always a happy sight but then I head off down the road and realize the rough spots are back and I sigh.
One day last week I pulled out of the driveway and took off to the east and the first quarter mile was great and I thought, wow, this is great it’s all in order. Just as soon as I had processed that thought, bam, there was a soft low spot followed by a set of holes that allowed a top speed of about 5mph to maneuver. My shoulders slumped and I thought great, back to this again. The same process repeated itself for the next mile and a half until I reached a paved road. Once I turned onto the pavement there was such a sigh of relief, phew, that’s over I thought. As I picked up speed and headed down the road I realized how much my life resembled that gravel road I live on.
I began to take a good look at the bumps and slowdowns in my own road to Christ and realized I have way more than the road I live on. I might want to complain about them and blame them on someone else but the truth of the matter is they are mine to maneuver. I can’t just stay parked in my driveway waiting on the county to come along and make the path perfect any more than I can sit still waiting for God to swoop in and take away every bump, low spot and pot hole in my life. I gotta get out there and figure out how to find my way toward my destination. The one really good thing about the rough spots in the road is that they cause you to slow down and think about your driving. Sometimes I live at top speed without enough conscious thought about the journey. If I try to blaze down the road too fast it’s easy to lose control, so it is with life too. If I try to blaze through life all on my own without troubling the Father for guidance and support it’s easy to lose control and veer off where the path can be rougher.
The big realization I had is that the whole road isn’t awful, just parts of it. I realized all I was focusing on were the rough parts and not the smooth parts. All my attention was strapped to the parts that were less than expected; I think I look at life like that too. It made me remember that being a disciple is a journey filled with easy and hard but that neither is supposed to last forever. When we’re really happy and life is going along smoothly, we expect it to continue just that way and then when things get rough and choppy (like they always will) we throw up our hands discouraged. Neither is designed to last forever, our life is peaks and valleys. If life were to continue constantly on an even plane without peaks and valleys, the line would always be in the middle…that would be a life of medium and nobody wants that. God loves to meet us and rejoice with us when we hit the peaks and he’s right there with us with his love and mercy when we hit the low spots, who’d want to miss that! It’s all about the journey, not just the current mile. If things in your life are a little out of perspective, take a drive down your nearest gravel road and let God speak to your heart.
A Seed To Plant: Name some of the speed bumps along your journey and pray about the best way to maneuver them.
Blessings on your day!
And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.
1 Peter 5:10
There is a great story about a little girl whose mother sent her to the store to pick up an important item. She told the little girl to come directly home after she picked it up. Much to the mothers dismay, she was nearly two hours late returning home. When she arrived, she apologized for taking so long and explained that she ran into her friend who was crying because her doll was broken and she was so sad about it that she just had to stop and help her. Her mother asked her how she helped fix the doll and she told her that she didn’t. She didn’t know anything about fixing dolls so she just sat down and helped her cry.
I’m feeling a lot like that little girl lately! As we wait to return to something; anything that has even a smidge of familiar, the days are getting long and the rules are getting heavy. I’ve chatted with several folks this week and it seems all I could do was help them cry. We’ve cried about disappointments, missed occasions, watered-down celebrations and flat out dismay. We’re frazzled, contained and running out of cheerful creative energy. Parents are tired of teaching and working and juggling a house full of needs, wants and worries. If we’re being honest we may be getting a little sick of each other and blanket forts and sidewalk chalk have lost all appeal. We cook 432 times a day, we can’t seem to get enough toilet paper and for crying out loud why are we out of Cheez-Its and apples AGAIN? It will get better but maybe the best thing we can do right now is just sit down and help someone cry! At our core we want to be compliant, we want to be obedient, we want to be logical but most of us just want to bail off this crazy bus!
I can make a list of a bazillion great things that have come out of this quarantine but right now it’s ok if we’re feeling a little “over it all.” My mom used to say the best thing to do with feelings is just sit still and feel them. Let them wash over you and spit out what you’re thinking. Make a list of all the things your mourning, mad about, disappointed about and feel you were cheated out of. Feel it all…acknowledge it all and realize we have all felt this thing deeply and differently. It’s ok if you’re toast…it’s ok if you’re enjoyed the quiet…it’s ok if you are worried and fearful enough to not want to leave home yet. IT”S OK! Let’s stop judging reactions and just cry or laugh or pray with each other right where we are.
I read a little something that said during times of great testing (like right now!) three things happen. God is able to reveal, to purify and to strengthen. In order for those things to happen we have to “sweep the emotional porch”. Let it all out and then take a look at what God might be doing or might be wanting to do. That purging of emotion will allow us to move forward so we can receive the gifts from our suffering. Through our suffering, Almight God…
*Reveals…what have you learned about yourself during this trial? What is more clear to you now than before? Where are you stronger than you knew and more tender than you thought?
*Purifies…If I want this suffering to bring me closer to God I have to think about where I place my hope? The place I put my hope reveals the source of my security. Am I looking to the Governor or my spouse or the newscaster to bring me hope or am I seeking the pure and true hope of the Father.
*Strengthens…Where is my strength coming from? Do I feel strong only on those days I’m able to pull myself up by the bootstraps and slap on a happy face? Strength isn’t defined by not yelling at the kids or screaming at the screen about the latest goofy prediction or scenario. Strength comes from the Praise and Honor we give the Father in the middle of all that. Strength comes from the Father, not from ourselves. The more we ask, rely and beg for his strength the more we step out of ourselves and into his loving protection. The trials are not without purpose and maybe the three gifts of suffering might help our perspective a little.
A Seed To Plant: Feel your feelings and find someone to help you cry or yell or pout your way through it all so you can see the work he’s waiting to do through the three gifts of suffering.
Blessings on your day!
…what is born of spirit is spirit. John 3:6
One of the favorite things I’ve done during this time at home is watch the series, Chosen. If you haven’t watched it, go to YouTube and give the first season a watch. Talk about making the Gospels real! The series brings so much life, it animates those familiar stories with human personality, humor and “realness”! One of the episodes features the meeting between Jesus and Nicodemus and it brought so much understanding to a section of the Gospel I never really “got”.
I can completely relate to Nicodemus in this gospel. He’s trying so hard to understand, to comprehend, to believe! Sometimes I try so hard to fully understand the words of Jesus and my little mind just doesn’t always get it. When I feel that frustration I realize it’s time to call on the Holy Spirit. He is the divine interpreter and sometimes He brings insight and understanding and sometimes His answer is, I’ll show you later.
In my speaking, teaching and writing I’m constantly relying on the Holy Spirit to swoosh in and do the work for me. As we approach the feast of Pentecost it’s a good time to ponder the power and blessing of the Holy Spirit. Being born in the Holy Spirit means constantly asking to be flooded again and again, and the more we ask, the more He comes and the more alive we become. In Hebrew, spirit and wind are the same word and the Spirit of God can change the course of our days, our words and our hearts much like the wind can change the course of a sailboat. We can’t control the Holy Spirit any more than a sailor can control the wind but what we are called to do is invite the Holy Spirit into our life and be open to the ways He wants to redirect and bless us. When I’m uncertain and need to make sure I’m doing things His way I say these words, “Come Holy Spirit, come now, come as You wish!”
As we prepare to re-enter church and work, there is uncertainty. Some are worried that the rules are too strict while others worry they aren’t strict enough. All of it swirls up around us in uncertainty, fear and frustration. Isn’t it funny that we are about to celebrate the feast of the “antidote” to all of it…the Holy Spirit. He really does hear us…he really will answer our pleas…he really does love us enough to give us the perfect gift as we sit in the center of our uncertainty; the breath of life…the Holy Spirit. Lets do more than watch the next two weeks tick by; lets really pray for the Holy Spirit to blow in and change us, settle us and bring us the joy of the Father!
A Seed To Plant: What things are you are busy trying to control or manage? Those struggles can make us tired and discouraged so where are the places you can invite the Spirit of God to rush in and bring direction, peace and rebirth?
Blessings on your day!
For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them. Matthew 18:20
I had the opportunity to be a part of a webinar this week about Parish Hospitality and Church Re-entry. The goal was to offer suggestions to parishes all over the country about how to lovingly, joyfully and warmly welcome people back to church…whenever that will be…however that will be. I thought I’d share the first question from the interview. The question was about how we could help prepare for re-entry. I offer three things we can all do to help prepare. We may not be making the decisions but we sure play a role in the process.
The first step is Prayer. We need to pray for our Bishops, Priests and Parish Leadership…this is tough work. It will require obedience and trust. Those are a little tricky these days so it’s important to think about where to find the truth. In Wednesdays first reading there was dissension and dispute so they went to the Apostles for the truthful answers and counsel. That action from the Acts of the Apostles is so appropriate for us today. We count on our Bishops who are the Apostolic successors to make the decisions best for all of the Church family and they need our prayer and our support. We need to pray for them rather than second guess and heckle them. We also need to pray for our own obedience. If we can’t be obedient to requests for public safety how can we expect to be obedient in the big ways that will be necessary for heaven?
The second thing we need to do to prepare is adjust our Perspective. All of us are are coming from different places; for some it may be a place of fear, anger or isolation. This thing has affected all of deeply and each of us differently and we have to be so aware of that. As I was thinking about what re-entry might look like I couldn’t help but think of the first day of school and the kindergartners across the hall from my 6th grade room. Some come afraid, some are a little nervous, some aren’t really sure they’re ready to be there, some are excited and have been waiting their whole life for this day and can hardly contain their enthusiasm. With those new students, it’s our job as a school community to acknowledge them all, meet them where they are and offer the same warm, friendly welcome to each of them. It isn’t our job to get everyone on the same page, it’s our job to welcome them the way they walk through the door and make them feel safe, welcome and connected. Our duty as members of a Church family is much the same. We have to be patient and gentle with each other.
The third thing we need to do is Act WithThe Love of Jesus. There will be so many things…masks or no masks, those who think we’ve done too much and those who think we haven’t done enough. We are welcoming back the scrupulous and those with a relaxed attitude about it all. Every decision, every attitude, every new best practice needs to be steeped in the love of Jesus. How we say things matters greatly. It will be very different to say “For the greater good of God’s people we will be doing this” instead of “You may not enter if”. We have to remember what we’re coming back for…we’re coming back for JESUS! We’re coming back to worship in his house with joy and connection and hope. We have to make sure we remember what we’re getting ready to come back to!
I’m ready to go back…I’m ready to pray together and connect with church family and I hope this time of prayer and longing has made us a stronger, more compassionate, more joyful people and our return will be like a Wedding Feast!
A Seed To Plant: What have you missed most about public worship and how will you take the joy of the Lord with you when you go back?
Blessings on your day!
Today I'm borrowing something old! Sorry for the radio silence last week but I got a shiny new knee and the recovery process has been a great reminder of how I am certainly not in control! I was so sure I could Zoom with the girls, lead staff morning prayer, write and carry on life as normal from my chair. Yeah...not so much! I'm grateful, humbled and today reminded that if I'd like to present something meaningful, I'd better go with a re-post!
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 little 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 began reading a new 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!
Be still and know that I am God. Psalm 46:11
One of the things I have enjoyed about this “timeout” is the opportunity to read a little and watch videos that make me laugh, make me think and help me grow in discipleship. This week I’ve come across two very holy, humble women who seemed to have a message I needed to hear. St. Faustina and St. Catherine of Siena were pretty “big deal” women. Their lives were filled with devotion, service, humility, courage and obedience. The way they loved and served the Lord and his people was simply astounding.
I was thinking about how much God must have loved these ladies and I wondered what I should to do to make him love me more. I began to make a list in my head of all the things I need to change and all the places I pale in comparison. I decided they must be in a completely separate category; one where they were doted on and revered by those on earth and in heaven. I mean, that would only make sense because both St. Faustina and St. Catherine had visions and messages from God and his Son. The saw, they heard and they physically felt his presence so surely he loved them dearly. It’s true, he absolutely did, but he loved them in the same way he loves you and me. Their response to his love is where the huge difference lies. They drew closer and closer to him no matter the cost. No matter what craziness was going on in the world around them, he was absolutely the only thing they thought about, focused on and lived for. Despite their complete devotion to him they were not always shielded from the hurts of the world. I was so surprised to learn that despite her amazing faith and interactions with the Divine Mercy Jesus, Faustina’s superiors wrote in her file three sharp words. Mother Superiors notes described her as; “No one special.” Wow, can you imagine a woman as incredible as St. Faustina being described that way? I think I would have been tempted to say, “Hey Sister, how many times has Jesus appeared in your room to chat? No one special my foot!” St. Catherine was humbled powerfully as well. God spoke to her and said, “I am who am; you are she who is not.” Talk about a truth that cuts you to the quick…Bam! I am, you aren’t! I know she knew this absolute truth but it would have been nice to lead with, “I am God and you are my beautiful daughter who serves with your whole self!” Judging by my reaction to these humbling zingers, it’s pretty clear to see why they are the saints and I am not!
Their stories contained a little “get over yourself” lesson for me. I have a tendency to see thing through the lens of “look what I’m doing for you God.” These ladies devoted their complete existence to him and I bought extra groceries for the food bank, prayed a few more Rosaries and volunteered to lead morning prayer a couple times a week and I think that makes me seem sparkly to God. Sheesh, I’ve got work to do! Their stories reminded me that it’s not my “doing” that makes the Father love me, it’s my “being.” We are called to serve and pray but mostly we’re called to just BE. Be his, Be still, Be humble and BE as close to him as we possibly can. Every experience that humbles us or stretches us or causes us to struggle is a moment to turn to him and be loved by him. He doesn’t need me to put on a show to earn his love, he just needs me to show up and let him love me…through the struggles, disappointments, uncertainty and all the humbling events that allow me to become small enough to fall in the shadow of his greatness.
A Seed To Plant: Read a little about a saint or two and ask the Father how he might be using their example to help you grow in faith.
Blessings on your day!
…with God, all things are possible. Matthew 9:26
Twice a week, Mrs. Pohl and I get to have “Sister Zoom” with our 22 girls. Before schools closed in March, Zoom was a word to describe the speed you needed to travel to get a warm chocolate chip cookie as it came right out of the oven. Today Zoom is the technology that allows us to connect. Zoom is the way we teach, it’s the way offices have staff meetings, it’s the way we communicate with family and friends instead of sitting down at the table together. Twice a week it’s how we see our “girls” and twice a week it’s how the St. Mary staff gathers for morning prayer and yesterday it allowed nearly 100 people to connect to finish Confirmation Prep. God bless the person who invented Zoom! I can’t imagine how we would have stumbled through this pandemic without it!
The first Sister Zoom assignment our girls had was to bring a sign to hold up that contained a positive message they thought their friends might need to hear. It was a great activity because we were all a little frazzled and maybe even a little frightened when this all began, so giving them the chance to pick some words to lift each other up was good for the spirit. Today I thought I’d let them offer the same words to all of you. Here are a few of the messages they shared.
*Find a way not an excuse
*Wake up, smile and tell yourself today is my day.
*What you are, is God’s gift to you. What you become, is your gift to God.
*Wake up. Be amazing. Repeat.
*You were given this life because you’re strong enough to live it.
*With God all things are possible.
*I look problems in the eye and give them a wink!
*I may not be perfect, but Jesus thinks I'm to die for.
*It’s not the size of the girl in the fight, but the size of the fight in the girl.
*We all love a beautiful rainbow, but you have to get through the rainstorm first.
I hope their words put a little lift in your day, a little hope in your heart and a little smile on your face.
A Seed To Plant: Pick one or two of the messages and use them to lift your spirits this week. For extra credit, share one with someone else who might need a little encouragement compliments of the 6-1 Sisters.
Blessings on your day!
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