…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!
…“You are to say, ‘His disciples came by night and stole him while we were asleep.’…Matthew 28:12
During the days since Easter I have been spending some time reading the story. As I was reading in the last chapter of Matthew’s gospel I got to verse 11 and wanted to yell, “Liar, Liar pants on fire!” It’s hard to believe the enemies of Jesus even tried to lie about something as astounding and beautiful as the resurrection. As I continued to read all I could think was; Wow…talk about an action packed story! This short Gospel has it all, epic drama, suspense, grief, jubilation, surprise, deceit, bribery and a splendid victorious hero! It’s a story of loyalty, love, dishonesty and the ultimate triumph of truth! Truth is a beautiful thing and we serve the God of truth.
Growing up the thing my dad held in highest regard was telling the truth, he considered truthfulness to be the most accurate mirror of a person’s character. He would often tell my brothers and me that one lie always ties itself to another and before long you could find yourself lying when the truth world fit better. That’s exactly what happened to the chief priests. How could anybody believe a small group of sorrowful and brokenhearted men appeared in the dark, rolled away an enormous stone and snuck off with Jesus’ body all without waking the team of soldiers assigned to guard the tomb? As Christians we know the truth fits better!
Sometimes Christ speaks truth to us and in our hearts we can be a little like the chief priests. Sometimes God’s truth is tough, especially when living it requires difficult change. The laws and truths of our faith are clear and often difficult to follow and we try to wriggle our way around them. Thank goodness we are loved by an Amazing Father who says to us, just as he said to the Mary’s in the garden that morning, “Do not be afraid.” He wants to lead us lovingly to his truth…his whole truth which offers the promise of eternal salvation. Now that we have a few different minutes on our hands, maybe it’s a good time to stare down some truth!
A Seed To Plant: What are some truths you are struggling with? The Mary’s in this Gospel were fearful and overjoyed. In prayer today, ask God to guide you through the fear and lead you to the great joy and freedom found only through living completely in his truth.
Blessings on your day!
He will fill your mouth with laughter and your lips with shouts of joy. John 8:21
Given the current state of affairs, everyone seems to be offering advice. Some of it is excellent and I’m doing my best to follow it. Some of it is making me crazy so I’m ditching some expectation and lowering the bar a bit. I actually wasted 15 minutes last week watching a tutorial video about how to look better during a Zoom call and another 10 minutes googling ways to make an interesting and captivating background for my online classroom. Sheesh! I finally gave up and decided the ceiling fan coming out of my head and the wrinkles, gray hairs and extra chins would just have to do. I’ve enjoyed being still, being prayerful, being peaceful, being quiet and that’s all great stuff but I realized the thing that’s missing is laughing…I haven’t read one article reminding me about the therapy of laughter. Here’s a little something to start your week of with a giggle…
A pastor went out one Saturday afternoon to visit his church members. At one house, it was obvious that someone was home, but nobody came to the door even though the preacher knocked several times. Finally, the preacher took out his card, wrote out 'Revelation 3:20' on the back of it, and stuck it in the door: "Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with me.” Revelation 3:20
The next morning, the card turned up in the collection plate. Below the preacher's message was written the following notation: "I heard your voice in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; and I hid myself.” Genesis 3:10
We were made for happiness and I am keenly aware that God has a great sense of humor; but right about now, I’m wondering how many of us still have ours in tact. I want you to ask yourself how long it’s been since you had a good laugh. If you can’t remember or if it hasn’t been in the last 24 hours, then it’s time to remedy that. We just gotta laugh so this week watch an episode or two of your favorite sit-com, ask your family to tell a joke at supper or start a text thread with a group of friends asking for a meme or gif that made them laugh. Look up videos about giggling babies or funny pets, whatever tickles your funny bone but please for the love of all things complicated and scary, take some time to laugh. Our word for the week is LULL! We are definitely in the middle of one, but today it means, Lighten Up Laugh Loudly!
A Seed To Plant: LULL today, and tomorrow and everyday this week!
Blessings on your day!
Be strong and courageous all you who hope in the Lord. Psalm 31: 25
Have you ever noticed how some words just sound better when spoken in a different language? I heard a teeny Italian grandma not so long ago speak about her faith and she spoke the words “Coraggio! Coraggio!” Again and again she spoke them with great gusto and hands raised to the heavens. In these past few weeks, I’ve heard her voice and her emphatic invitation to have COURAGE.
I’ve been a teacher for what seems like a hundred years but I find myself stuck in this mess I have no experience with and that I can’t quite understand or process. With courage, we’re fumbling our way through new technology, new best practice, new worries, new adventures and God willing, new ways to call on his name for the “Coraggio” to figure this all out. The worst part so far has been emptying out the girls desks and lockers and bagging it all up. I wasn’t prepared for the grief and awfulness that task was steeped in. I sat on my classroom floor weeping and I heard that voice, “Coraggio”. So, I asked the Lord for it and as I dried my tears, I got up and typed a letter to all of my students and as I put it in their bag and tied it shut, I prayed for each child by name. Once I had their bags all labeled and put in the designated area of the gym, I sat the Blessed Mother statue among the pile and prayed a Rosary for my 22 girls and their families asking her to intercede for all of them; asking her Son to bless them all with “Coraggio”.
Each of you reading this post is struggling with some part of this craziness and it affects each of us in very different ways. My cross to carry through all of this may seem but a sliver compared to someone else’s, but here’s the thing…it doesn’t matter the weight or the size of the cross, that’s not for us to judge. Our job is to carry it the best we can and more importantly to help others carry theirs all the while remembering Jesus has the heavy end. That my friends, requires “Coraggio”! It would appear that we could use a little more. It would appear that some have moved past fear and turned to fighting and blaming. One thing is for certain, that will only create a wound that takes longer to heal. We have no power over other’s choices or actions but we surly can pray and we surly can be the voice of light and courage to those fumbling in the darkness. Someday, we will look back on this and my question is…what do you hope you see? With great “Coraggio” use this experience we’re in the middle of to create something you’ll be proud to look back on. I want to get to the other side of this and say…yeah, I remember that, I used that time to…(fill in the blank).
For all who read this, know of my prayers for you and an out pouring of “Coraggio” for all of us stuck in a situation that can, if we use it well, bear great fruit.
A Seed To Plant: Make a list of three things you’d like to look back on a year from now and feel proud about. Where do you need Coraggio?
Blessings on your day!
He is not here for he has risen…Matthew 28:6
Happy Easter! A few times at staff meetings (ok, probably more than 20) I have said, Easter Monday is a day we should not be in school! The joy and significance of Easter is too much to contain, celebrate and absorb in just one day. Well, it seems my wish was granted. In fact, we are going to get the whole Easter Season off. As strange as the circumstances are, I choose to look at it as a gift. We didn’t miss Easter…it still happened! I’ll admit I had tears watching Easter Mass on screen because I wanted to be there so bad it hurt. More than ever, I wrestled greatly with the pain of not being there in person, then I remembered the sweet, hopeful words of my friend Ann who reminded me Easter lasts 50 days! I’m so hopeful we’ll be back to celebrate larger, louder and squished in our pews before this joyful season comes to a close.
I’m going to borrow some wise words from a Jesuit priest that just seems to be the reminder I needed on Easter Sunday. "Easter is meant to be a symbol of hope, renewal, and new life." "The very first Easter taught us this: that life never ends and love never dies." "Love always involves responsibility, and love always involves sacrifice. And we do not really love Christ unless we are prepared to face His task and to take up His Cross.”
This Easter we are surrounded by sacrifice. Our sacrifice is being offered out of love and demonstrates our responsibility to protect those who could be in great danger if they got this sickness. In light of it all, I’d say we’re doing Easter just right. I know he sees our love for him and I’m confident in the graces that will come to our families as we carry this cross. I’m looking forward to the hope and new life that this Easter will most certainly bring to all of us.
I hope you had a beautiful day and I hope you spend Easter Monday continuing to soak in the Glory and Power and Hope of Easter.
Blessings on your day!
…Take it; this is my body. Mark 14:22
I love Holy Thursday! It’s my second favorite Mass of the year but this year it’s not at all the same; but then again, nothing really is right now. The Mass of the Lord’s Supper is so rich and celebrates the institution of the Eucharist and the Priesthood and I will miss commemorating these things with my church family. It’s the night Jesus showed us how to love him and how to find the strength to do it well. At this Liturgy, we celebrate our unity as disciples but today I’m struggling with being disconnected.
The tears started Tuesday night after I hit the “end meeting” button on the first Zoom call with the 22 girls I shared most of a school year with. It was so good to see them smile and hear them giggle. It was a gift to connect virtually, but when it was over I was overwhelmed by an emptiness. It was so good to see them but it wasn’t enough…I couldn’t reach them …I couldn’t give them a hug or a high five. I couldn’t sit next to them to make sure their questions were all answered or check their smile to see if they were ok or just pretending. I didn’t get to hug them goodbye and tell them all the things that made them wonderful and all the things I’d miss about them. For the first time during this quarantine I felt overwhelmed by the separation.
As I was sitting with all of this in prayer, God helped me see all the ways this connects to Holy Thursday and the message Jesus shared with the Apostles that night so long ago. They didn’t realize there was an abrupt ending ahead of them. They didn’t realize why he was giving them such a mighty gift; the gift of his body and blood. They didn’t realize the desire for relationship that was being ignited in them as they sat around that table. All of the actions of Jesus in the hours that followed happened so Jesus could demonstrate the length and depth of his Fathers love for his children. We talk about wanting to have a relationship with Jesus but Holy Thursday reminds me we should want more! We should want intimacy…a closeness so tight we seem as one. Human nature achieves intimacy with the body. I can wave to a stranger, I can high five a student, I can rest my hand on the shoulder of someone who is struggling and I can embrace someone I truly love. All of those things are signs of intimacy and all of them in some way use the body. Jesus knew our need for intimacy and used his body in two incredibly profound ways to demonstrate it at the Last Supper. First, he washed the Apostles feet with tenderness and love inviting us to do the same for others. Second, he gave us HIS body and blood so we could draw him intimately into ourselves. There is nothing more intimate than taking another body into our own and that’s the gift we celebrate this night.
This distance learning/teaching thing is so much harder than I could have imagined. At first I thought it was so hard because there was so much technology and new best practice to learn but it wasn’t until this Holy Week that I realized those weren’t the things making this so difficult. It’s so hard because the relationship I have with the middle lovelies just isn’t enough, we need the connection; the intimacy to make everything complete. Watching Holy Thursday Mass Live-streamed will be beautiful and powerful but without the connection to church family there is a hollow feeling. Sacrifice, service, compassion and mercy are the hallmarks of these solemn and holy days ahead. I feel Jesus using this hurt in my heart to help me understand that growing in holiness is about not just the relationship but about intimacy. Lord, please help me draw closer to you.
A Seed To Plant: Connect with five people today. Text, call, stand on their front lawn to say hello or mail a letter…just connect.
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!
…and Jeremiah sunk down into the mud. Jeremiah 38:6
My oldest brother and I had a favorite thing to do when we were little. It involved a couple illegal ingredients for little kids. In our back yard, we had an old cement fish pool. Before dad filled it in with dirt and mom made it a flower garden, it used to collect rain water. If we could get out to play before the water drained through the cracks in the cement, we could scoop up our first ingredient; water. Dirt; the second ingredient was easier to find. The third magic ingredient was the tricky one! If we could get rain water and dirt we knew all we needed was shaving cream. Our house was tiny so sneaking out the door with two handfuls of shaving cream squirted as quietly as possible took some skill. When we managed to pull it off we’d create the worlds best mud pies in the back of Jim’s big yellow Tonka Dump Truck. With sticks to stir and army men and toy animals to stick in the mud pie, we were set for a long afternoon of great fun! When I became a mother myself, it occurred to me that mom probably knew exactly what we were doing and just enjoyed the peace and quiet and maybe even the thought of her oldest two playing together happily.
When I read this line about the Prophet Jeremiah, I remembered the sight of all those toys sticking in the mud pies we used to make. It got me to thinking about the times we get stuck in the mud ourselves. Sometimes we wallow and struggle and just dig in deeper. Sometimes we get stuck because of the choices we make and sometimes we get stuck as a result of the choices others make. Right about now many folks are feeling a little stuck. Stuck at home, stuck in fear, stuck in a situation we feel unqualified and unprepared for. The anxiety and uncertainty of the pandemic can swallow us if we let it. The good news is, mud is different than cement. We can get out of the mud, it doesn’t trap us like cement! It will take some work but it’s absolutely worth the struggle.
God doesn’t want us to stay right where we are. He isn’t going to leave us stuck in this situation. It may feel like cement but it’s really just mud and getting unstuck is possible because of his grace and love for us. This isn’t permanent and he’s inviting us to reach up our hands and allow him to rescue us. Staying right where we are isn’t the Fathers choice, the truth is, we are either moving toward him or away from him, never staying just where we are. He wants us to move closer to him and sometimes he allows us to get stuck in the mud so we can realize how much we need him.
A Seed To Plant: Are you stuck? What are you stuck in the middle of right now that is preventing you from moving closer to the Father? Hold out your hand and ask him to pull you out!
Blessings on your day!
I command you: be strong and steadfast! Do not fear nor be dismayed, for the LORD, your God, is with you wherever you go. Joshua 1:9
For everyone feeling a little foggy today, welcome to Monday. When I don’t write the date on the board everyday I have to stop and think a little. Like many other folks, I’m missing routine and ordinary things. I’m missing my 22 girls and all the other middle lovelies for sure! I was thinking about my classroom this morning and realized Monday morning was always the time I switched classroom jobs and I sure could use a good “room fairy” and a couple of “lunch helpers” right about now! I’m not gonna lie, I could use some young eyes to help find my glasses because all of my students would agree that the most frequently asked question in my room is, “Does anybody see my glasses?” After three weeks of finding my own glasses I’m getting exhausted!
While I was looking for my glasses yesterday, I paused to think of some of the funny ways life is different this Lent. I realized that I’m probably going to be able to get another year out of my “school shoes” because I haven’t had a pair of good shoes on in weeks. I might need to consider shopping for Easter sweats or pajamas instead of a dress. I think it would be hilarious if everyone who filled my newsfeed with family pictures in their Christmas jammies does the same thing for Easter. As an added bonus, after you take the picture, you can just leave them on, walk into the living room and boom…you’re ready for church! My concept of dressing up has changed. I put on a pair of jeans the other day and felt so fancy I could hardly take it. Like teachers everywhere, I’m busy learning how to teach on-line so before I launched my first Zoom call with my amazing middle lovely work partners, I did my hair and put on mascara and lip gloss…I’m tellin ya what, I felt like I was ready for the prom!
There are so many things to laugh at and be encouraged by, but then there are moments when my breath catches in my throat and I feel a little overwhelmed by it all. I’m finding that if I use those two simple prayers I shared last Thursday, the Father truly speaks to my hurting heart. Two really big places he spoke to me was the verse from Joshua and the second was a part from Numbers that said, 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.
I felt so much peace and comfort from those two verses so I read them often but God is bigger than that. I am so moved and touched by music. Music helps me remember and think in a way plain spoken words don’t. I can’t remember three things from the grocery store but I can bust out in song if I hear the first few words of a School House Rock song. (if you’re too young to know what that is, google it) I know all about conjunctions and the Preamble to the Constitution because of these silly little songs. God, in his fanciness, knows how much he can bless my heart and touch my soul with music so I “randomly” came across this brand new song by Kari Jobe and Cody Carnes. They wrote it in early March in an attempt to bring peace as the pandemic was just beginning to unfold. They wrote the song “The Blessing” on a Thursday and recorded at their church on Sunday. This song the Holy Spirit sent provided such a healing balm to so many hearts it had more than 2 million views in five days. As I listened and watched I realized the song uses the verse from Joshua and from Numbers and a sprinkle of other great promises from Scripture. The whole thing is tiny nuggets from God repeated over and over so it can sink in. The entire song is about twelve minutes and as I watch them sing my heart is so touched by their joy, their faithfulness and I’m just so filled with hope. God sent this song to these incredibly talented people at a time when he knew we’d need his truth. I watch it at least once a day and it gives me a dose of hope, truth, peace and it is such a lift for my soul. The link is below and I hope you will give yourself the gift of time it takes to watch it and hear the truth God is speaking to all of his children.
A Seed To Plant: First, watch the video and second, call, zoom or face time someone you’re missing this week.
Blessings on your day!
Pray without ceasing. 1 Thessalonians 5:16
Next week was listed on the school calendar as “Spring Break” week. Like most folks, I had a list of things, places and people to fill the week and like everyone else, the schedule looks completely different. Never in a million years would I have listed my number one spring break activity as making protective face masks for my daughter the nurse but you can bet my sewing machine will be humming! As we begin to navigate our way through these different days we have to remember to anchor ourselves in hope and peace.
But how? It sure sounds great but how do we settle our souls in such an uncertain time. I’ve been praying a lot about that and two powerful prayers came to mind. They came in one of those “wake up you knucklehead” kind of moments. They aren't new and one of them is a prayer that has gotten our communities through some tough stuff in the past so I thought I’d dust them off and offer them to all those of us trying to find our faithful balance.
The first prayer for us to grab on to is that powerful 4 line prayer based on the writings of St. Francis DeSales…I Cant, You Can, You Promised, Please Do. Here’s what it looks like right about now…
*I Can’t…I can’t imagine how this will all turn out, I can’t stop thinking about how my family will stay healthy, I can’t figure out how it got so crazy, I can’t get past the fear of getting sick, I can’t imagine how God could let this happen, I can’t get used to everything that’s so different, I can’t process all the disappointments.
*You Can…You can bring peace, you can bring healing, you can strengthen us, you can protect us, you can give us the grace to weather this storm, you can grant eternal life to your faithful, you can do exactly what needs to be done to accomplish the plans only you can know, you can be trusted to love us through this because you’ve already been where we are.
*You Promised…you promised to be with us, to guide us, to bring life, to comfort and shelter us and you promised to lead us to Our Heavenly Father.
*Please Do…please bless us with peace, bring us strength, build up our trust, take care of us. Please do all that we need to grow in our faith and trust in your mercy.
Each time you feel the worry, fear, disappointment or uncertainty hanging over your head like a dark cloud, take these four lines and use them to craft a conversation with the Father filling in all the things on your heart. Tell God what you need, what you want and give him permission to come into your heart right where you are. It’s ok if it’s a little dark or angry or doubtful; he’s seen it all and he wants to be invited in to all of it because he loves us with the most tender, precious love we can imagine.
The second prayer has three parts. We ASK, we OFFER and we ACCEPT. It might go something like this…
*Lord I ask you to come into my fear or doubt or worry. I ask you to be present to me and make me aware of your presence.
*Lord I offer this suffering to you. I offer you my confusion or lack of patience with my children or my sadness in missing my friends and family. Whatever it is, offer it to him. It might seem like we’re offering him a pretty lousy gift but he’s delighted to take what we offer him.
*Lord, I accept this situation. I accept whatever blessings and grace you will grant me or my family or my community.
As we ask, offer and accept we demonstrate faith, surrender, trust and obedience. In those three simple statements we give God permission and we cooperate with his perfect love. We can pray this prayer dozens of times a day. We can pray it when the kids are getting along and there is peace and we can pray it when they’re fussing. We can pray it during those moments when we feel his grace working in our life. You can pray it for the good stuff and for the bad stuff. He wants to be a part of it all. In praying this little prayer we make sure not to waste any suffering and it can be a sign of our gratitude.
Hold fast to these two simple prayers when your heart is troubled and when you notice all the moments of beauty in the midst of the mess. Make no mistake, he’s right there for all of it.
A Seed To Plant: Jot down these two prayers and put them in a couple of places so you remember to lean on them and the peace and hope they will bring.
Blessings on your day!
Thus says the Lord, Lo, I am about to create new heavens and a new earth; the things of the past shall not be remembered or come to mind. Isaiah 65:17
Holy cow this is so weird! I’ve struggled to write because I was trying so hard to write something light and joyful and funny because I thought that’s what we needed but the stuff just wouldn’t come. I started working on this post yesterday and couldn’t string together more than a few sentences so I’d delete and wait. I poured coffee and did morning prayers at 5:30 this morning and still couldn’t write so I put it away and went to Mass in my sweats asking the Holy Spirit to fill my page with the words someone might need to hear today.
In the first reading today from the Prophet Isaiah we read the words…I am about to create new heavens and a new earth. Well, that’s one way to look at these strange days. We surely are in the middle of something new aren’t we. The reading goes on to talk about the joy and love and happiness that will come from this new creation. It made me think of the three times in life I spent hours in labor giving birth to the three little Wohlferts. Phew…that was some suffering for sure but it brought forth life and happiness and joy I can’t even describe. I don’t want a re-do on those labor hours but they led to something so amazing. Maybe that’s what we’re in the middle of today; maybe that’s what Isaiah was trying to help us understand. In order for me to rejoice in the Kevin, the Jason and the Shannon I had to let all the pain and the worry and the wonder and uncertainty wash over me. Maybe that’s what we need to do with this strange time…let it wash over us and feel it instead of analyzing the snot out of it and trying to respond and react according to the latest article or news report.
So lets decide a few things for ourselves and invite God into the “washing over.”
*It’s a little scary…we haven’t done this before and we don’t know how long it will last or what to expect. It’s ok to be scared, say it out loud to someone and then remember that fear is not of God…peace is of God and he has plenty to go around if we ask him every time we feel that fear wash over us, to flood us with his peace instead. Stop whatever you’re doing and say the words…”Lord, take this fear and fill me with your peace!” take a deep breath and say it again as many times as it takes to feel the peace replace the fear.
*We have no control…for real…we don’t! For every planner, organizer, scheduler type person out there this is kicking us in the pants isn’t it! For those with the overwhelming desire to stand on something tall and scream, “Stop this, it isn’t on my agenda and I don’t have time for this craziness!” its’ ok, go ahead and scream it, you’ll feel better. When you’re done screaming, make a new agenda! Put new stuff on your list; fun stuff, silly stuff, lazy stuff, things I never have time to get to stuff. In a time when we may feel like we have no purpose never underestimate the accomplished feeling of looking into a silverware drawer with no bread crumbs! Clean something, organize a closet or a drawer, do something that gives you a feeling of accomplishment and then sit still and be quiet acknowledging the perfection, love and grace of the one who truly is in control…give him permission to be and pray for the grace to accept the rest and re-set he’s giving us.
*We are suffering…each in different ways…at different levels. We’re missing stuff, we’re uncertain and disappointed and sad. There are a million “I don’t know’s” floating in our minds and hearts and boy do we hate that. We have to do our own cooking and we’re apprehensive about going to the store. We are worried about getting sick. We’re confused about who to believe. We’re running out of ways to entertain our kids and ourselves. We’re worried about jobs and money and stocks. Let it wash over you and call it what it is…suffering. The good news about suffering is that it is an immediate path to Jesus. We’re all called to suffer but we have to learn to do it right. Our prayer is not Lord take it away, our prayer is Lord please use this suffering for good. Each time my mind starts spinning I stop and say, “Lord please use this suffering for a soul in great need.” It gives it a purpose…it gives it a use…it makes all of this seem to matter for something good. My mom always said, “Never waste your suffering.” I think Gods greatest raw material for building greatness is our suffering so make sure to offer him all of yours so he can do mighty works.
*Tell yourself the truth. Great good will come from this…God will protect his people…Some of us will get sick…Worried moments should be the times we stop and pray…What other time in our lives has our newsfeed been full of people going to church in the living room…Priests and Pastors are dong amazing things to bring together the faithful giving us the opportunity to be more faithful than fretful…We will be changed and if we hold on to God’s hand we will ABSOLUTELY be changed for the better.
God loves us too much to leave us stuck here, this won’t last forever and we will truly be OK! There will soon come the day when we laugh easier and we will go back to full churches and hugs from grandkids and fully stocked shelves but this isn’t that time…this is labor and because we as Christians believe in the promises of the God who loves us…there will be new life.
A Seed To Plant: Make a list of ten people you miss seeing and pray for them. If you get all your closets cleaned and windows washed and wonder what to do next, write them a note or send them a text to let them know you thought of them and said a prayer for them.
Blessings on your day!
Trust in the lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. Proverbs 3:5
I’m not sure what the best adjective to describe this week would be! I’ve bounced between wanting to hide in a closet and not come out until it’s over and wanting to glue my face to social media so I don’t miss a thing. Of course, both are a really bad idea so in my search for balance I’ve come across some really great stuff. I’ve had some new experiences, a chance to laugh and lots of time to pray. Here are some highlights from week one of whatever we’re going to call this time.
*I went to Mass in my living room for the first time. I love daily mass and now all I have to do is turn on the TV or jump on FaceBook and I’m there. I’m so grateful for the priests who are doing so many creative things to reach out and draw us together in prayer. I’ve been to Mass with three different priests this week and once I even went in my pj’s…that’s a first!
*I found live stream Eucharistic Adoration from more than a dozen different churches and chapels. If I could earn frequent flyer miles for all the churches I’ve traveled to this week I might have enough miles to fly to Kalamazoo.
*I have loved hearing stories about families finding creative ways to connect and survive all their togetherness. I’ve also loved the stories of those who are completely real and admit they’re just trying not to clobber each other. Not all families are peacefully putting together 1000 piece puzzles…be patient, we’ll figure it out!
*Not everyone was cut out to be a teacher so thank you to the dozens of homeschool moms who are helping the newbies find their way. I saw one “never wanted to be a teacher” parent asking for advice on getting a student transferred out of her class and another asking if they could be fired for drinking on the job…again, be patient, we’ll figure it out!
People are sharing food and shopping help and InstantPot recipes like champions and it’s fun to see because we all need to love each other a little more these days. Sitting in the airport last weekend, days before any of this happened, I stumbled across a blog written by a Christian missionary in Wuhan China who was writing about their quarantine. She shared her journey and stated that the first objective was to keep her children from strangling each other. As the weeks went on, she discovered sights and sounds and experiences that only the quiet could bring. She talked about peace and prayer and lessons too many to count. She said it took a while to disconnect before they could find beautiful ways to re-connect. As I look back on that blog I get the chills that what seemed like such a crazy read a week ago, is now our reality.
As we wade our way through this first week and get ready for the ones to come, there are a few things that might help. First, we may just need to mourn the loss of normal. It’s ok to be mad that we’re restricted, it’s ok to be sad and miss things, it’s ok to be angry at the people who think they are bigger than this and aren’t following the rules. All of it needs to be felt and acknowledged so go ahead and stomp, cry, yell and then take it all to the foot of the cross and ask Jesus to bring you peace and contentment. Second, we need to be patient! Lots of folks now have a new career. We’ve become teachers and cooks and entertainment engineers and we’re learning how to do all this while working from home in a noisy house. It’s going to take some time to settle down and give everybody a chance to get used to each other. And the third thing, we have to remember to pray for the grace to use this time well. As nutty as this all is, God will bring great good. We have a chance to slow down, re-set and re-balance even if we didn’t know we needed it. Keep sharing your stories, keep sharing your ideas and mostly lets keep praying for each other and don’t forget to go to Mass in your living room.
A Seed To Plant: Pray about the three things in the last paragraph and pick the one you need to focus most on this week.
Blessings on your day!
Be still and know that I am God. Psalm 46:11
I know it’s way past my normal post time but I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve started, deleted and re-started todays blog. I missed my post last Thursday because I was on my way to North Carolina to celebrate the life of my “cool aunt” Ellen. There are a hundred emotions about the early, sudden loss of a beautiful soul and a reunion with a couple dozen people I love with all my heart I want to share but I think those stories (and my are there some good ones!) will need to wait because so many things have seemed to come completely un-hinged in the last couple of days I think we might need a big ‘ole sprinkle of joy and logic in the wake of it all.
There is so much going on right now that this post could be a mile long but if there’s one thing we don’t need today it’s more folks flapping their lips spitting out their opinions about whose fault this mess is and who we should blame. We don’t need any more folks pointing out how we’re all going to hell in a hand basket because this is all pre-meditated and we’re following along like a bunch of mindless lambs. We don’t need any more reports about working too hard or not working at all and for heaven sakes I’m pretty sure I’ve seen enough pictures of toilet paper and homemade hand sanitizer recipes to last a lifetime.
As we plow through all of this stuff it seems like it all boils down to a couple of big things. Dealing with disappointment and being uncomfortable are not our strong suits. I think we have to admit both things and then begin to make our way back to normal. We all handle disappointment differently. The government isn’t controlling us because they cancelled the NCAAA tournament but it’s left a lot of folks disappointed. I’m surrounded by a community of young people who had state titles to defend and achieve who are so very disappointed the show stopped just short of the finish line. We’ve got weddings and parties and celebrations that are in limbo and that’s disappointing because no spring bride saw this coming and that’s disappointing. Those are real emotions and if we really want to act as Christ, there is no shortage of people who need our patience, compassion and understanding. Predictable means comfortable and we are fresh out of predictable right now. Things are uncertain for the next little bit. We do enjoy being in charge of things and we simply aren’t. Uncertainty is ok because it’s a great opportunity to build trust and that trust organically leads to obedience but for some it’s leading us to grab control where we can…like the toilet paper aisle.
There is so much information floating around it makes my head spin. The problem is, for every article you read, there is another to dispute it. For every beautiful thing you see, there are three ugly. Here’s my thought, find a medical source you trust; maybe a nurse or doctor you know and read what they share. Find a faithful person or source your trust and read what they share. Leave the rest unread! Don’t read about the conspiracy theories or the unbalanced disease comparison nonsense filling your newsfeed. If you feel like someone has sucked away your joy, it just might be you spending too much time with the news. There are some nutty things happening right now but there are also some really beautiful things going on right now. Satan isn’t gaining control of the world because churches suspended mass or emptied Holy Water fonts, if God is mighty enough to part a sea and save his people, I’m pretty sure he’s gonna usher us right through this without breaking a sweat.
If you want some joy back in your Monday here are some thoughts…
*Shut off the news.
*Soak up the stillness and quiet this time is creating.
*Pray extra…and then pray some more…and then follow it up with some more prayer.
*Ponder your willingness obey. If we can’t obey a request to stay home and cook our own food, how will we be able to obey the Father?
*Do something good for someone who has it rougher than you right now.
*Try to understand someone elses disappointment and find a way to console or re-assure them.
*Trade judging for loving…what if we assumed everyone is trying to do the best they can…and some folks might just need a little more help and understanding.
*Make a conscience decision to let this situation make us great instead of divided?
*Above all…a dozen times or more a day…repeat: Lord, protect us in this mess and show us how to serve you and show your love! Unless we get that part right, this will remain nothing but a big mess. I really want to look back on this and be able to say, “Wow, look what God did through all of that chaos; isn’t he faithful…and didn’t we handle that beautifully!” but in order to do that, we have to make some choices starting right now!
A Seed To Plant: Pick a couple things from the list and lets be great in the midst of the mess.
Blessings on your day!
I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father. Matthew 5:44-45
Sometimes a line from scripture hits me sideways and makes me puzzle over it for days. There is one verse that gets me every time I hear it. It’s one of those lines that I can't quite figure out what to do with or how to apply to daily life. God is loving and merciful and compassionate and capable of bringing great good out of unspeakable tragedy so why would a Father with all those amazing characteristics slap us with a line like, “be perfect as your Father is perfect.” What is that nonsense all about I’ve asked myself every time I’ve heard that line. Then came an insight!
Here are the words I read Saturday that made so much sense and I’m borrowing them from the Magnificat prayer book.
Being perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect means loving those who do not love you. We can do so because God has made us to be a people peculiarly his own. When we give God’s love to those who deserve it least, God raises us high in praise and renown and glory. Love shared makes us a sacred people.
Ok, so loving those who don’t love us and loving the hard to love and being patient, kind, merciful and understanding of those who push our buttons is the answer? It would seem so and it makes so much sense because his greatest commandment calls us simply to love. He isn’t asking me to build a hospital or begin an orphanage or do mission work in a Christian hating country, he’s asking me to love my neighbor…ALL of them. He even promises to give us the grace to do it. If we ask, he will open our heart and stretch it’s loving capacity far past the puny human limits we think it’s capable of. Plus, as a gigantic bonus for loving the hard to love, he slathers us with more grace, glory and love. So in a nutshell; I ask him to help me love, he gives me a super dose of love to give away, and then he blesses me for letting him do the work in my life…and that’s how I become “perfect” as he is “perfect” and that’s how I grow in holiness and gain eternal life? When you lay it all out like that, it seems too good to be true but then again, that is God isn’t it!
Two other things I realized as I’ve wrestled around with this verse, this perfection he calls us to is not a goal to be checked off, it’s a process to be lived. This process comes with success and failure all along the way and that is expected by the Father who loves us. We simply can never check the box and say LOVE, check I’ve done that. I think of that in terms of my own marriage and motherhood because I’d never look at Dave or the kids and think, “Yup, I love you enough, all set.” It’s a process that grows and deepens over time and boy am I thankful for that. The second thing is that this perfection scripture speaks of is not completely fulfilled here on earth. The perfection comes to completion at the end of our days. It’s a journey or a process not a task to cross off the list.
The perfection is in the love. I can go to mass every day and say 43 rosaries a day and donate money to cause after cause but if I don’t love those who don’t love me and the hard to love and if I don’t spend every day trying to grow in humility and holiness through my loving of others rather than self I’m not doing it right. Quite frankly, his way; his request, it so much simpler. If this strikes a cord with you, I have two ideas to help make this a part of your Lent. First, several times a day silently pray, Jesus, help me love the way you love. Second, spend some time each day with this little prayer, also from the Magnificat and me.
For those who have hurt or harmed us. Grant them every blessing Lord
For those who dislike us. Grant them every blessing Lord
For those who look down on us. Grant them every blessing Lord
For those who refuse to speak to us. Grant them every blessing Lord.
For those who test our patience and make our life difficult. Grant them every blessing Lord.
For those who believe differently and make us angry. Grant them every blessing Lord.
A Seed To Plant: Pick one of the two options above and put it in place this week.
Blessings on your day!
“Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, BEARING WITH ONE ANOTHER in love.” Ephesians 4:2
I was thinking the other day of things that go together. The common ones came to mind, like peanut butter and jelly and salt and pepper. I even began to think of people who went together like Lucy and Ethel or The Lone Ranger and Tonto. Funny how in your mind, some things are just a pair. I’ll bet if you stopped for just a minute you could come up with dozens of things that match. I think we get conditioned to see things together, and don’t really give them much notice. We even see pairs in Scripture. I did a little “independent research” and realized in most cases, (how scientific is that) when people describe something or someone, they use a pair of words. For instance, that flower is so bright and colorful or that baby is so cute and chubby. We tend to do a lot of things in pairs.
As we charge into Lent, whose up for a “Double Disciple” challenge? Your challenge will be do Christian acts double. Not just one good deed, but two. Not just a kind word to one person, but two. You could go all out if you wanted to, instead of giving one thing from each closet in your house to charity, make it two. What would happen if you took a plate of cookies or a bouquet of flowers to two neighbors instead of one. What about that young couple with little ones you know who could really use a night out, why not offer to babysit their kids for two hours instead of one so they can enjoy a peaceful dinner or a good nap. The possibilities are absolutely endless!
I saw a great church sign recently that said, “A narrow mind and a wide mouth are not a good combination.” It made me giggle. So I’m going to use the idea from that sign to make the “Double Disciple” challenge a wee bit stiffer. If during the week, you happen to demonstrate a pair of “not –so-Christian” behaviors or attitudes; like being grumpy and impatient with a spouse or co-worker, you have to do another double good act to make up for it. I can’t wait to see the blessings that are in store for the world if we all take on the challenge!
A Seed To Plant: Take on the “Be a Double Disciple” challenge this second week of Lent and let us know what happened.
Blessings on your day!
“Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier. Be the living expression of God's kindness: kindness in your face, kindness in your eyes, kindness in your smile.” Blessed Mother Teresa
Now there is a Lenten challenge! There is just some advice that needs to be followed and this power-packed tidbit from Mother Theresa begs to be heeded. I shared this quote during prayer with the middle lovelies last week and they all agreed it would make the world a whole lot better but then one very honest young man said, “But man Mrs. Wohlfert, that’s just so hard to do.” I told him I agreed completely!
This quote has been heavy on my mind for several days and I’ve discovered it’s much easier to live these words when you’re in control of the situation and interactions are pleasant. When I really thought about it hard I was pretty good at living this challenge; I would slow down, look people in the eyes when they spoke and be still until they were finished with the conversation. It seemed a bit awkward at first but after a few days it became more second nature. I was feeling pretty good about it until that situation I hadn’t planned for; you know the ones that catch you by surprise and tilt you off your balance. I had one of those situations this weekend and I totally blew it…I was frazzled and almost instantly I reacted and it wasn’t a reaction that matched the quote! I wasn’t the Wicked Witch of the West or anything but as I replayed the event I realized my reaction was based on selfishness and pride. A few hours later I was still really heavy hearted about the whole thing so I stopped to pray about it. (I don’t know why I always wait so long to do that!) After just a few seconds of quiet prayer it was very clear that I needed to apologize. I needed to call myself out on the selfishness and pride. I needed to admit that I was thinking of myself first and others second and I had to admit that I hadn’t left anyone better or happier with my snappy reaction. The more I tried to talk myself out of it, the more I realized I needed to do it and do it soon. After a giant gulp of pride with a huge serving of humble pie on the side, I made the apology and shared the story of my failure to live out this quote. The apology was graciously accepted and thankfully my reaction was a much bigger deal in my mind than in actuality!
The funny thing about the whole situation…I was the one who left feeling happier and better. Crazy, I thought that was the gift I was going to give; not the one I was going to get. God is good and lesson learned…for today anyway! Thank goodness God expects progress not perfection!
A Seed To Plant: Make it your goal this week to live this verse. Think about the people it will be easiest and hardest to live it with and then ask God to bless your attempts.
Blessings on your day!
At the time, all discipline seems a cause not for joy but of pain, yet later it brings the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who are trained by it. Hebrews 12:11
So…what’s your plan? Hopefully you’ve been pondering last Thursdays questions and you are beginning to pray about the ways God is leading you to grow in holiness this lent. I asked God to lead me to something I really needed to focus on. I didn’t want lent to be a repeat of New Years resolutions. I didn’t want it to be about a dozen little things that made me feel good but didn’t leave me with a lasting change of heart and I certainly didn’t want a repeat of my 7th grade eat only lettuce, tuna and oranges disaster! About two weeks ago, I asked him to lead me boldly. I gave him permission to lead me to something new and I promised to “COME” with him (my word this year) into the desert he chose for me; for us.
Knowing how much the Father loves us and wants to draw us closer and closer, I counted on his love and kindness as he led me to a new lent. What he’s been leading me to the past many days is sometime that has caused me to think, pray and do a lot of surrender and perhaps even a little bargaining. The final days of his lenten calling were the boldest but in his infinite love and compassion, he saved the hardest parts of the invitation for the days I spent in Florida in the sunshine, listening to and watching the ocean. I was staying in a fabulous oceanfront home surrounded by family and laughter and fun and so much beauty. The setting was amazing; the lenten message was not so lovely and simple. At least he gave it to me in small pieces surrounded by his blessings while I had time to really think and pray about what he was asking.
I boldly asked to be led to something I’d never done during lent before. I asked for balance. I asked for him to be abundantly clear and I asked for something that would truly change my desires and holiness. For the next 14 days, one of my morning prayer book contained a story about “Saints who Suffered.” Throughout the last two weeks I’ve stumbled across dozens of readings, posts, stories and examples of suffering and sacrifice. I seem to find them at every turn and I know he’s behind each and every one. I know those are the two things he’s asking this lent and he’s also being crystal clear about the areas the suffering and sacrifice should find root. I keep going back to those questions I posed last Thursday and I’m amazed and grateful and a little nervous about the things he’s helped me learn.
I know what he’s asking me to do, he will give me the grace to accomplish. I know that what he’s asking me to do he will give me the strength to follow through with. I know what he’s asking me to do will absolutely draw me closer and lead me not only to the foot of his cross but to the glory of his rising. The most amazing thing about all of this journey toward lent…even though sacrifice and suffering are the path he’s leading me to, I feel so much joy and anticipation about the weeks ahead. I’m getting excited about what he’s leading me to even though I’m painfully aware that it’s gonna be hard. He hasn’t always asked me to do “hard”, but this year he is and he’s also asking me to be very honest and transparent about this journey. I promised him I’d write about it, but not yet! I want all of you to spend a couple more days praying and pondering with him about how you will journey this lent. After I stopped trying to talk him out of the hard stuff for this lent and surrendered to his plan I opened a prayer book and read these words; Loving Father, make me a student of the cross. Teach me to rejoice in suffering. There it was, a giant exclamation point to his request so, step one…get ready for class…I plan to be a great student this lent.
A Seed To Plant: Pray with your whole heart to know the desires of the Father for your lenten journey. Remember, it’s about your holiness and your relationship with him. Ask him to make it clear and make it personal.
Blessings on your day!
So humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, so that he may exalt you in due time. 1Peter 5:6
It’s almost time my friends…lent is less than a week away so it’s time to start thinking about growing in holiness! Today I offer a few questions for all of us to think on and pray with in these next few days.
*What are the habits and behaviors I seem to “go back to” even though I try to avoid or change them.
*In times of stress or frustration, what do I turn to for consolation? Is it prayer or something else?
*If Jesus took human form and spent the day with me, what would he notice or encourage me to do differently?
*When I hear the word “Sacrifice” what comes to mind?
*On a scale of 1 to 10 how comfortable is my life and how important is comfort and convenience to me?
Lent isn’t meant to be a time of torture but giving up beach swimming for lent in Michigan isn’t really going to develop much holiness. As with all things, balance is key. Lent is a time for God to exalt you. The sacrifices we make are supposed to help us grow closer to God and that isn’t always easy work. The work of holiness can be really hard and it requires change and that often means being uncomfortable and inconvenienced, so as we ponder these questions let’s pray that the Father will help us discover the ways he’s inviting us to humble ourselves before him and be touched by the power of his mighty hand.
A Seed To Plant: Take these questions to prayer and jot down what he puts on your heart so we can take a look at them on Monday and form a lenten plan.
Blessings on your day!
Before man are life and death…whichever he chooses shall be given him. Sirach 15:
I have a plant in my living room that I love. The leaves are wide and deep green. I have absolutely no idea what kind of plant it is; all I know is it’s pretty and easy to take care of and it sends a clear signal when it needs my attention. When I forget to water it, the leaves and stems bend clear down and lay flat on the table but once I water it, it perks straight back up and looks beautiful within an hour. As we were listening to this reading from Sirach in mass this morning, all I could think about was that plant.
The water on that plant in my living room creates life and beauty and I can see it happening right before my very eyes. As I listened to these words and thought of my plant I realized that my choices affect my soul just like water affects that plant. Sometimes I accidentally neglect the plant but a wee bit of time and attention brings it right back to life and restores it’s beauty. I think that’s what God’s mercy does for our weary, soggy, limp souls. The water is the fruit of our prayer and his amazing grace. As I sat thinking about it, there are so many choices I make that deprive my soul of the life, beauty and brilliant joy just like my neglectful watering habits affect my pretty plant.
I began to wonder what choices I make that lead to the serious wilting of my relationship with the Father. My first smug thought was, I don’t make any decisions that are death, I’m much more of a chose life person! As he always does when I think I’m all that and a holy bag of chips, he humbles me and what came next was a rapid fire list of behaviors, attitudes and actions that lead slowly to destruction. He reminded me that each time I look at someone in judgement, thinking of myself as happier, more prayerful or more put together, my soul wilts. I realized that every time I choose to participate in a conversation that isn’t kind or charitable, my soul wilts. Every time I run to the comfort of food instead of running to the comfort of his love, I wilt a little. Every time I watch or read or listen to something that opposes his truth or purity or goodness I wilt a little. Each time I snap back at someone or make snap decisions about how someone drives or dresses or behaves, my soul wilts a little. All of these situations may seem pretty innocent or human or even acceptable in themselves but in reality the little things add up to become big and the choice is ours to make. I’ve been lucky that every time I’ve seen my plant drooping I’ve been able to water it and bring it back but one of these times I might neglect it too long and it won’t perk back up. Thank goodness God’s mercy is more reliable than my plant care skills! It’s never too late to turn back to him but as the Priest mentioned in his homily, there are always consequences!
With life there is abundant joy and mercy and grace. With death there is sadness, stress, destruction and separation. Each of those little decisions I make that are not life giving come with a consequence that is uncomfortable and undesirable. I’m sure I’ve blamed God for not listening or helping me out of a rough patch but as I think about it, those are probably times when I’m stuck in the yuck of consequences that are a direct result of those little soul wilting choices. When it all boils down to the bottom of the pot, the truth is, we have free will and the choices are truly all ours to make. That means that the consequences are also truly ours as well; we chose them. I decided that was a pretty tough truth! This reading is about more than heaven and hell, it’s about today and tomorrow and the hundreds of todays and tomorrows that lead us into eternity. I think today is the day to start thinking more about the life and death of my choices. I’m thankful for a great message from Scripture and the beautiful visual aid that sits in my living room.
A Seed To Plant: Ask the Father to help you think about your choices pick out the ones that are reaping life and the ones that are wilting your soul.
Blessings on your day!
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