You have been told, O man, what is good, and what the Lord requires of you: Only to do the right and to love goodness and to walk humbly with our God. Micah 6:8
Well then, there you have it! The Prophet Micah summed it all up in one brief verse of Scripture! Do the right thing, love things that are good and walk humbly with God. So I’m wondering; if it’s that simple how do I manage to mess it up so often? I think the place where I get all snarled up is trying to make things more complicated than they need to be. I can be the “Queen of Overthinking” and it just leads me farther away from the honest, simple root of my purpose…anybody with me there? (I am seriously hoping there are readers out there nodding their head in agreement!)
Let’s see if I can back up the truck and do a better job with these three simple expectations. Step one: “do the right”. I guess I should ask myself, the “right” for whom? More often than I probably even recognize, I’m interested in doing what’s “right” for me! I have a tendency to do “Christian good” when it’s convenient for me. I’m good at helping and praying and doing nice things when it fits in the schedule but what about when I really have to go out of my way to do good? I also have to stop and ask myself about how many times I don’t “do right”. What if I know there is a conversation going on that I should keep my nose out of but I just have to listen in anyway, what do I do if the talk turns into gossip, how do I “do right” and get out of that conversation? I suppose this simple directive should keep me out of those conversations in the first place.
Step two: “Love goodness” I don’t think Micah was simply referring to lovely flowers and other good things found in creation. I think he was challenging us to something bigger. Here’s the deal with loving goodness…it isn’t always fashionable, popular or common. Loving goodness requires us to love without judgment. It means we look for the good and Christ like even in people who look very different than us. We can be pretty narrow in our description of what is “normal” in this society and turn a squinty eye at things that diverge from that vision. I believe the greatest sound and sight EVER is a child! They are the ultimate “Good” created by God. Not long ago I was visiting with a family who was joyfully announcing the upcoming birth of their 7th child and I was so excited for them and honored to share in their joy. That baby will be the most loved child on the planet! As I walked away from the family I overheard two women speaking critically about them and one woman said, “How do they think they are ever going to give that many children what they need? She doesn't even work so they are doomed to a life of hand-me-downs and Wal-Mart shoes.” I wanted to speak but the tears stung in my eyes and my heart hurt so bad I couldn’t even talk. if I had that moment to re-live I would ask when Nike’s and designer clothes became more important in forming Children of God than the overflowing love of a family. Loving goodness means having great compassion and respect for EVERYTHING God created and doing everything in our power to defend it without casting worldly judgments.
Step three: “Walk humbly with our God” The real trick with this one is to realize we can’t be in charge! It really should read, “Walk humbly BEHIND God.” We might do a better job if we remembered we can’t be first in our Christian walk, God Himself must occupy that spot. Walking humbly means coming to terms with the fact that we are NOTHING without HIM and the more we give Him credit for, the more He blesses us. God doesn’t need our approval or our praise in order to build Him up and support His ego or self-esteem…He needs praise and adoration from us so we can practice humility and submission to His will for our lives.
A Seed To Plant: Pick one of the three ideas from this reading from Micah and put it to work this week. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you choose the one your soul needs most!
Blessings on your day!
For I do not do what I want, but I do what I hate. Romans 7:15
We had a snap of cool summer weather a few weeks back so I made an industrial sized batch of chili. After it had cooled I grabbed a glass measuring cup to scoop the chili into containers for the freezer. It wasn’t a new task or one that required any kind of special skill but yet I managed to find myself in the middle of a disaster! As I was getting ready to pour the first scoop into the bowl, my brain must have entered some kind of warped fog because I dumped out the chili before I even reached the counter top where the bowl was waiting. In some bizarre turn of events, I found myself standing in a puddle of splattered chili. It was on my feet, my pants, the floor, the rug the cupboard doors and many other tiny little spaces. I’m still not sure how it happened but it took me thirty minutes to get everything cleaned up! YUCK!
As I was scrubbing up the mess trying to figure out how I had managed to do something so crazy I thought of this verse from Romans. Talk about an experience in not doing what I want and doing what I hate! While I was doing clean up, I decided to think about the positives of the whole situation. One of the tasks on my summer to do list that hadn’t been completed was to scrub all my kitchen cabinets so I got to take that off my list. Another bonus was related to my kitchen rugs. I have a habit of purchasing kitchen rugs with a bright pattern. Make no mistake, that isn’t because I am a master designer with artsy flair, it simply means that kind of rug hides lots of spills and I don’t’ have to wash the rugs as often. It was past time for a good rug washing and thanks to the chili event I had no choice. The third positive thing that came from the disaster was probably the most important of all. As I crawled around my kitchen scrubbing I realized that I was on my knees; a good place to be and I had to slow down and focus on just one thing. I don’t know about you but I’m not as good at either of those things as I should be. I spend a big chunk of time each morning in prayer but I’m nestled into my comfy prayer chair with my coffee and it’s a very cozy way to begin my day. I’m tellin’ ya, being on my knees on that hard tile floor made prayer a different experience. My mind didn’t wander like it does in comfy prayer; I was focused.
I know for a fact that when St. Paul wrote this letter to the Romans he wasn’t thinking about chili spills and scrub buckets but I do believe Scripture has a way of grabbing you right where you are. Splattering chili was not what I had planned but as I crawled around scrubbing I realized I focused on what I wanted, and on doing things with my own power far too much of the time. We like things to go our way and according to our plan. I think that is one of the ways sin sneaks in and takes over. When I realize sin has gotten a hold of my attitude or my behavior I find myself in the middle of something I hate. I’d like to say that only happens once in a while but that wouldn’t be true! It was great food for thought as I crawled around on my knees. When I finished I was determined to spend more time on my knees in focused prayer talking with my Father about all those things I hate doing that I need His help with. I realized the truth of this verse is that unless I surrender everything to Him the cycle is just going to continue again and again. Who knew a chili spill could contain such an important spiritual lesson!
A Seed To Plant: Make a list of things you seem to do that you don’t want to do then hit your knees with that list and ask Sweet Jesus to help you make a change.
Blessings on your day!
Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. Matthew 24:24
You never know the weight of another persons cross. Those words occurred to me tonight as I watched 44 6th graders tromp through the rain after evening prayer headed back to their cabins. As I type, we are finishing up our first day of camp and some of those middle lovelies headed off heavy footed and heavy hearted.
I think camp is great and it’s a time to watch the kids bond, build friendships, conquer challenges and grow as young leaders. I love everything about camp (except for the tissue thin mattresses) and it isn’t a burden to be here in any way but for some of the kids that isn’t the case. I watched as some of them began to realize mom and dad were pretty far away. I watched some of them worry about the thunder and rain. I wondered how many of them were a little heavy hearted because they wouldn’t be able to creep into mom and dad’s room if the thunder woke them up. For some of them, it will be hard to fall asleep and Friday seems so far away. To a middle lovely those are heavy crosses to bear the first night of camp.
To some folks, those crosses might seem trivial but to a 12 year old a hundred miles from home that isn’t the case. There were lots of hugs and winks and promises to pray for a good night of sleep. I try to explain as best I can that they will feel so strong and proud when they accomplish this tough thing and there are lots of reminders of the protection and comfort our Guardian Angels. The truth is, none of that makes much sense in the middle of the situation. It’s usually after the fact that we see how God was busy working in the situation all along. God doesn’t tell us to suck it up or tell us to stop whining because the cross really isn’t THAT heavy. Instead he helps us carry them when we ask. Tomorrow morning things will look very different and they will be back to the fun. That is a reminder that crosses aren’t meant to be carried forever. He gives us rest and sometimes he bears all the weight himself.
God is always reminding us of his love and mercy if we’re paying attention. My heart was a little heavy this afternoon as I watched the middle lovelies laughing and having a great time together and I couldn’t help thinking about their classmate Samantha that died when these kids were in the 4th grade. Many of us who love this class call on her heavenly intercession to bless and strengthen this terrific class often and not long after I had prayed a decade of the Rosary asking for that very thing, it started to pour. A few minutes later the sun popped out and we saw a rainbow over the lake and the other 6th grade teacher was telling us that she had been told a rainbow was a sign of love from someone in heaven. I realized as I saw that rainbow that Samantha came to camp with us too. That beautiful rainbow only lasted a little while but it made that cross a little easier to carry.
As I pray for the middle lovelies to have good sleep, I ask the Lord to help me be aware of those who need help with their crosses instead of trying to determine how heavy I think they are compared to mine.
A Seed To Plant: Make a list of the crosses you’re carrying and then ask him for help because we’re not meant to do all the heavy lifting ourselves.
Blessings on your day!
…so that I may come to you with joy by the will of God and be refreshed together with you. Romans 15:32
One of middle lovelies shared a book with me last week and I flipped open to a random page in hopes of finding some inspiration for todays blog. First crack open I found something great to share. Last week I wrote about the giants that make us feel like grasshoppers and the story of St. Benezet (who I have never heard of) from Dominic’s book seems to be the perfect follow up.
St. Benezet was a shepherd but felt God calling him to solve a problem. It seems there was a spot along the Rhone River near the saint’s home where many people died trying to cross the river so Benezet felt he was supposed to build a stone bridge across the river so people could have a safe crossing. The first problem was, he was a shepherd and not an engineer. Problem two (which is a big one) he had no experience, money or materials.
I think this is about the point in the story when I would have tossed up my hands and said, “Sorry God, you asked the wrong person, I have no way to accomplish this giant task!” Lucky for the people of this village that wasn’t how he responded. He told the Bishop about his situation and he amazingly supported the project in all ways despite the obvious problems with the plan. Both men truly believed that it was what God WANTED. I don’t know about you but I sometimes tend to see the reasons things won’t work before I see the reasons God might want it to. I also often forget that God can do anything he wants.
Benezet worked tirelessly for seven years on the project. I’d like to say he cut the ribbon and stood proudly at the grand opening of the bridge to hear the townspeople cheer but that’s not the truth. The truth is , he died before he ever saw the project completed. Many people who were inspired by his hard work and his dedication to God’s request completed the bridge after he died. There was celebration both for the bridge completion and for the many miracles that happened through the intercession and prayers of St. Benezet.
This humble shepherd’s life tells a great story of faith, trust, obedience and humility. If we look at the great Cathedrals of old and a simple stone bridge over the Rhone River we see that they share something that seems to escape modern culture…humility. Most of the great architects and builders never saw their work to completion. They didn’t need the accoladed of humans to fulfill them. They set out to do a task using their God given gifts and talents and they did it to bring Glory to God, the giver of the gifts and not for their own credit or glory.
Benezet’s story is a great reminder to me that God can use us any way he needs to for his purposes. It made me think of that famous quote, “God doesn’t call the equipped, he equips the called.” Those are truthful words so my prayer is, “Lord, get me out of the way and show me where you need my service. Lord, allow this little grasshopper to do giant things when you ask!”
A Seed To Plant: Spend some quiet time in prayer asking the Lord where he might be asking you to serve or build a bridge. Then ask him for the humble obedience to follow his plan.
Blessings on your day!
…we cannot attack these people; they are too strong for us. Numbers 13:31
I was reading the story of the Israelites in the book of numbers and it seemed like such an ancient, un-relatable story at first. I picked up a commentary on this particular section and it talked about the Israelites scoping out their new land and finding the Anakim who were known as a race of giants. (Best guess is that they were somewhere around 9 feet tall. One of the most famous of this tribe which were defeated and scattered was none other than Goliath of David and Goliath fame.) The Israelites told Moses they must seem like mere grasshoppers compared to them. That image stuck in my head!
Take a minute and just imagine a giant and a grasshopper standing side by side…pretty lopsided image isn’t it. Things get really spooky when we think about ourselves being that grasshopper standing next to a 9 foot tall person who could squish us. It sort of makes you shake in your boots a little doesn’t it.
All of this vivid imagining led me to wonder about the times and situations that make me feel exactly like that grasshopper next to the giant. Sometimes the giant is finances or poor health or a mountain of laundry flanked by piles of paperwork. Sometimes it’s loneliness or infertility or a troubled relationship. Giants come in many forms for sure! The Israelite grasshopper were terrified and overwhelmed at the thought of facing down something as big and powerful as a giant. Many of them were ready to turn tail and run because they just couldn’t fathom a way out of the situation. I can honestly say I have shared their hopelessness. When I’m tired and the list of tasks and responsibilities is far beyond what little is left in my tank it’s tempting to want to run off screaming!
The grasshoppers faced the giants though. They might have felt silly and unprepared and unequipped but they charged it to battle. They might have felt overwhelmed and outnumbered but they went after it head down full steam ahead. The image of grasshoppers leaping toward a giant seems funny at best. I can imagine a cartoon giant simply swatting those grasshoppers away with the flick of a wrist. That image doesn’t provide much hope and courage either but that’s because we’re missing the point.
It doesn’t matter how “grasshopperish” we feel and it doesn’t matter how fierce and mighty the giants of our day are; the answer lies beyond the grasshopper and the giant. The Israelites didn’t drive the giants off because of their own power or brilliance or skill, they triumphed not because of WHO they were but because of WHOSE they were.
As we face the giants in our path, we need to arm ourselves with the truth of WHOSE we are. There is no giant that can match the power, strength and wisdom of the God who created us in his image. He will fight for us, he will rescue us and he will strengthen us for any battle. In case you have been feeling a little “grasshopperish” lately, maybe this will help you tackle your giants.
A Seed To Plant: Make a list of the giants making you feel like a grasshopper and ask the Lord to show you how to conquer each one of them.
Blessings on your day!
Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart as if working for the Lord, not for human masters. Colossians 3:23
Happy Labor Day! Some of us are resting and playing today but many are hard at work just like any other day. I have some simple thoughts today...what if we prayed for a greater respect for all workers instead of comparing.
I wonder what this world would be like if we had as much respect for the Doctor that repaired a heart as we did for the mechanic who repaired his car so he could make it to the hospital? What if we valued the farmer who raised the food as we did the super star who did the commercial to endorse it? What would happen if we honored the God who gives the gifts and talents we turn into our careers and occupations instead of categorizing and judging based on the financial reward we receive from the world?
There is dignity in the work we do and that dignity is magnified when we remember two things. First, it all starts with gifts and talents from the Lord and second, we are meant to serve others in all we do including our work. When I think about things that way it makes even the yuckiest parts of my work seem to have a greater purpose.
A Seed To Plant: Today lets take some time to pray for all who work and for those who are looking for the true work the Lord has for them.
Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Romans 12:12
I’m sure we’ve all heard the line, “if you aren’t part of the solution; you must be part of the problem.” They are wise words but perhaps a bit misunderstood. I think being part of the solution doesn’t necessarily mean solving the problem single handedly but rather making an honest attempt at working toward something better. There are some mighty problems in this world to be solved and I sure shootin didn’t cause them, plus I know for a fact that I am not in the position to solve them. So should I throw in the towel and go cry in the closet? Nope! I was reading an article about an amazing woman named Dorothy Day and she had one little idea that put it all in perspective for me.
Dorothy Day was a saving grace to so many who were left physically, spiritually and emotionally crippled by the devastation of the Great Depression. Her motives and actions were genuine, compassionate and life changing. She provided a beacon of hope during a time when there wasn’t much. She didn’t solve the financial problems of the day but she worked in her own way to be part of the solution one person and one family at a time. She didn’t offer money, but rather provided the most basic needs of the suffering. She offered dignity, shelter, hope and joy…so much joy. She didn’t give a lot ,but what she gave mattered greatly. She said, “We contribute to the misery of the world if we ignore beauty and joy in life. If we seek the will of the One who sent Jesus, we need to open our hearts to joy.”
It’s not hard to find the problems, but we get in a big pickle when we have an even harder time finding the beauty around us. It isn’t often we see a smiling baby or a gorgeous harvest moon on the front page of the paper or newsfeed but when we do see them they give us a lift. Who doesn’t love a good giggling baby video shared on social media? They just let us escape for a few minutes. After reading the article I realized my role in the solution was easier than I thought. It’s my job to connect with beauty and joy. John Ruskin was a famous art critic from England who used to say “We have the duty of delight.” That line made me realize we sometimes see joy and beauty and peaceful things as frivolous and non-productive. We think we have to work and take things to task and ponder serious matters in order to be responsible, informed citizens. Did you hear that, I think God just belly laughed!” We’ve got it so twisted up it isn’t even funny.
God is the maker of joy and beauty not the creator of evil, cynical, corrupt or absurd so why not focus on the things he made and leave the rest of the mess alone? Dorothy Day didn’t solve the problem of the Great Depression, but she sure was a solution to those she was able to bring delight to. Sounds like a much better way to spend my day, what do you think?
A Seed To Plant: Take some time to sit and make a list of things in your world that are beautiful and joyful and then go about the duty of delighting in them instead of stewing over problems you can’t solve. It is perhaps the most important work we can do!
Blessings on your day!
Trust in the LORD. Have faith, do not despair. Trust in the LORD. Psalm 27:14
I really enjoy traveling and meeting people in all the cool places the Father invites me to tell his story. August has been a 4 state month and I got to add so many new faces and names to my heart. I’ve been privileged to hear stories of great joy and tremendous struggle. I’ve had the chance to laugh with people, cry with people and pray with people. I’m so grateful for the adventures he sends me on but sometimes the travel can be tricky. I’ve discovered that air travel is a great way to build trust and surrender and as usual; the Father doesn’t disappoint. God has showed up in some pretty fancy ways this month so I just thought I’d tell you my favorite stories.
*The West Virginia story…the retreat finished early Friday afternoon but the only flight I could book didn’t leave until 7:30 Saturday night. I was not thrilled about spending more than 24 hours in a hotel room and airport waiting but I told God I’d look at it as a chance to practice Psalm 46:11 Be still and know I am God. I did however put in a request for a little travel blessing to see if there could be any way he could get me home earlier. As I wrapped up the retreat ,Mary Ann, the lovely woman who invited me to WV told me she was leaving to drive to Michigan and offered to take me along. Instead of getting home at 1am Sunday morning, I actually got home at 8:30 Friday night. Talk about a travel blessing!
*The Texas story…my flight from Lubbock to Dallas kept getting bumped back and my layover in Dallas had been whittled down to 45 minutes and I was a little concerned about hiking through that big airport in such a short time so when Tricia dropped me off I asked her to say a little prayer at 8 pm so I could scoot quickly and catch that last flight from TX to MI. As I got out of her truck I got a text that the flight to Dallas had been bumped another hour and I’d miss my connection completely. As I walked into the terminal I heard an announcement that a flight to Dallas was in the final phase of boarding. I scrambled through security and noticed it was 4:09 and that the flight was departing at 4:23. They saw me coming with my shoes in my hand and quickly changed my reservation and got me on that flight just as they were about to close the door. I really savored my 2 hour layover in Dallas that evening!
*The Iowa story…I was so excited that after a two day training I would be able to finish up Saturday afternoon and get a 7pm flight home. Getting home Saturday night was exciting since Monday is the fist day of school. My excitement faded a few weeks before the trip when the airline cancelled that evening flight and put me on a 6am flight Sunday morning. In an attempt to avoid having the folks from St. Paul the Apostle parish do a 4am pick-up, I decided to be brave and take my first go at an Uber. I loaded the app, scheduled the pick up and set my alarm for 3:30am. I waited in front of the hotel for my Uber and they didn’t come so I headed back in to the hotel and called both of the local cab companies and they had no cabs available. I said a quick prayer, “Lord I came to Iowa for you so please get me home.” As soon as I finished that prayer the man at the front desk re-appeared and introduced me to a member of the maintenance staff at the hotel and said that she would be happy to give me a ride to the airport.
I’m sitting here in the Chicago airport early on a Sunday morning with such a full heart and giant smile because I just can’t believe how faithful he is. I always remind myself that the God who could part the Red Sea could certainly arrange a flight schedule so I could get where I needed to be. He rewards that trust again and again and sometimes he even shows off a little so I can be reminded of how fancy he can be. I’ll be home by noon and that gives me plenty of time to hang out with my husband and finish up a few things to get ready for a whole new batch of middle lovelies on the first day of school tomorrow. God is so good!
A Seed To Plant: Sit for a few minutes and think back over the month of August and make a list of things that have happened that were evidence of God taking care of the details of your life then make sure you thank him!
Blessings on your day!
“No one can serve two masters.m He will either hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and man.” Matthew 6:24
It’s almost time for school to begin and I wanted to practice my question asking and I decided to begin with the Joyful Words readers. Question one: What are the things you love or really like? Question two: What are the things that occupy your time your thoughts and your actions? And finally, question three: What are ten things you just can’t imagine living without?
I’m sure all of our answers would provide a wide variety of information and if I had the chance to read everyones answers I imagine I would be persuaded or inspired to change some of my own. I read a quote from St. Bernard the other day that actually bubbled up these questions. The quote was this, “What we love, we shall grow to resemble.” My first reaction was; sweet, I love Jesus so I’m growing to resemble him! Then reality slapped me up side the head and it didn’t take long for me to hone in on all the ways I DO NOT resemble Jesus and that led to the three questions I’m proposing to myself and all of you who read these words.
No matter what shows up on your answer sheet it’s a great reality check and opportunity to adjust our thinking because ultimately we can’t serve two masters as Matthew reminds us in his Gospel. I can still enjoy the things of earth like coffee and sitting on my porch but I need to keep everything in the order that points me to the Father.
A Seed To Plant: Take some time this week to ponder and write down your answers to the three questions and then let the words of St. Bernard guide you to have a great conversation with the Father.
Blessings on your day!
To every thing there is a season and a time for every purpose under heaven: Ecclesiastes 3:1
It’s that time again! Time to look at my classroom and see everything neatly in its place. The floor is shiny, the books are in order, the pencils are long and pointy and the top of my desk is clearly visible. Its quiet and settled but not for long.
As I stood in the doorway taking one last look before I turned off the light I smiled about how quickly the room would change and I laughed because I wouldn’t want it any other way. Some things in life are just meant to be used and get a little messy. It might be nice if the floor would stay shiny and the sink didn’t get all splattered up but that isn’t life. I’ll take the commotion and the movement and the scuffing up because it means we’re moving and doing and learning and living. I realized my faith can be a little like my classroom.
If I wanted, I could probably institute a set of ridiculous rules to keep my room in perfect order. We could be scrubbing the sink and floors and organizing the book shelves and cleaning desks every ten minutes to keep it fancy looking but that doesn’t seem very reasonable. My faith isn’t meant to be pulled out and practiced only in perfect, shiny conditions. God doesn’t love me because my life is all in good order. He still loves me if I get a little smudged and wrinkled. If I wanted to keep everything in order I could sit in church all day so I wouldn’t get messy but then I wouldn’t be living my faith or sharing my faith. My faith, like my classroom, would probably do best with a “full steam ahead” philosophy.
I save my favorite job for last; the desk note. More than a hundred times in Scripture we are referred to as God’s Beloved and I think we forget how very much he loves us. On each desk written above the students name are the words God’s Beloved. I sit at each desk as I write and bless it with Holy Water and pray for the student who will sit there and I pray that I will be the teacher that student needs me to be. I ask God to remind me daily how much he loves this child so that I can love them too. As I switched off the light I prayed a prayer of blessing over the tidy, shiny room and thanked God for this incredible work he’s called me to do. I asked him to remind me that I am his beloved and to make me act like I knew it. I headed to my car and couldn’t help but smile a little bigger.
A Seed To Plant: Write the message “God’s Beloved (your name)” in a couple of places where you will see it often and then soak in the truth of that message. It’s true when you’re shiny and when you’re not!
Blessings on your day!
Come to me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest. Matthew 11:28
I love rocking chairs and my favorite place to rock is outside on a porch or a deck. When I have the chance to sit and rock, there is a peace and calm that just seem to wash over me. It’s funny how quickly you fall into a gentle rhythm when you rock; something often missing from the chaos of our days. There are a lot of things we do quickly but rocking in a rocking chair isn’t really one of them. Its funny how just a few minutes of gently moving back and forth can cause you to slow your roll and breathe.
In all honesty, I’ve never really thought too much about rocking until this weekend. I was sitting in a rocking chair on a patio looking out at the dry Texas Prairie. I was just taking in all the beauty of the redish brown dirt and dry landscape. I noticed as I rocked that it was so flat I could see for miles. I sat there just soaking it all in watching a couple of rabbits hopping around amongst the rose bushes. It was dry and hot but the wind was blowing a bit so I didn’t really notice the heat. The view was beautiful in its own way. As I rocked, it occurred to me that just last weekend I was rocking in West Virginia and the view was so very different. As I rocked last weekend I looked out on the tree covered mountains. Everything was green and there were flowers of every color within my view. From that rocker I could also see and hear two beautiful fountains. I remember just sitting there soaking it all in until the mosquitoes chased me inside.
As I rocked away in West Texas thinking about rocking in West Virginia I thought about rocking on my own front porch looking out at the corn field as we chatted with the neighbors who stopped by for a visit. This summer I’ve rocked in a lot of different places. I got the chance to rock on the porch with my dad and my brother who live more than 600 miles away. I’ve rocked and prayed. I’ve rocked and laughed. I’ve rocked and sipped hot coffee. And last night I rocked and cried as I prayed for the soul of my good friends dad who lost his battle with cancer. This summer I’ve rocked babies to sleep and listened to the tales of my favorite new nurse. As I type this blog on a late night flight back home to Michigan I realized the Father has used something I love to teach me something important.
As I pondered all my “rocking” it occurred to me that those times stick so vividly in my mind because the all have something in common. I slowed down and opened my eyes to what was around me. In the slow gentle rhythm of the rocker I was able to soak in the beauty of my surroundings. I was able to soak in the presence of those rocking with me. I was able to just be still, shut up and take in all in. When I think about it, I was really seeing God and his goodness in the Texas prairie and the West Virginia mountains and the Clinton County corn and in the sleepy baby Francis and the giggly baby Silas. I felt the love of God as I laughed and prayed with family and friends. In a rocker I am reminded of the slow and gentle ways God is a part of the rhythm of every moment of every day. The trick however is to slow down and recognize it.
I love how fancy God gets sometimes with his lessons. It would have been so easy for him to make something in my life come to a crazy screeching halt to teach me to slow down but instead he let me learn while enjoying some beautiful stuff and people all while rocking in my chair. Is he great or what!
A Seed To Plant: Take a few minutes this week and sit in a rocking chair. Let yourself slow down and allow God grant you some peace.
Blessings on your day!
“This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased, listen to him.” Matthew 17:5
In the first half of chapter 17 in Matthew’s Gospel we read the magnificent story of the Transfiguration. You would think that after seeing something as indescribably amazing as the Transfiguration, Peter, James and John would never doubt or struggle with trusting the will of God again. I mean really, after seeing what they had just seen how could they ever doubt, question or stray from God again. But in his infinite wisdom I think God knew they would because they were human so as if the events of the day hadn’t been powerful enough, he included a simple and precise verbal statement, “This is my beloved Son with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” The key phrase is at the end…listen to him. I don’t know about you but I sure could use that reminder every now and again.
I had a professor in college one time that handed out a test. It was the standard fill in the bubble test that we had seen dozens of times before. As the question and answer sheets circulated around the room he strongly advised waiting until he had finished making announcements and giving directions before beginning. I’m a people pleaser so I sat there listening to him ramble on as I watched everyone around me quickly reading and filling in bubbles. I was just about ready to tune him out and get started when I heard him quietly say, if you’re still listening to my voice, put down your pencil, don’t say a word and in five minutes bring your test forward, you will receive a perfect score on today’s exam. I thought a perfect exam score was awesome but as I read this passage from Matthew, I realized what I could gain from listening to HIM would most certainly blow that right out of the water!
God demonstrates his power and presence in our lives all the time but in our weakness; we often don’t listen to him. Sometimes it’s as if God’s grand workings in our lives make us feel entitled to float along with independent holiness instead of falling to our knees in thanksgiving and submission. I’m famous for taking the “holy glow feeling” that comes from identifying God’s handiwork and using it to plug along on my own instead of truly listening to him. I have to remember to listen and look for Jesus all the time; in times of blessing as well as times of struggle. He knows what’s best, he knows what’s right, and even when I’m in the middle of a hissy fit determined to do it my own way, he just patiently waits for me to listen and do it his way!
A Seed To Plant: When do I find it most difficult to “listen to him?” Father of wisdom, show me where I need to listen and guide me to live my life like I’ve heard your voice.
Blessings on your day!
Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, (love) is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails…1 Corinthians 13:4-8
I remember hearing a long time ago that if you were dating a person and you wanted to really understand if they were the “right person” you should read this passage from 1 Corinthians and insert their name. I thought that was excellent thinking but I was already married so I didn’t give it much thought. I have no idea what made it pop into my head the other day but it just sat there. Today I woke up to the news of more shootings and more folks sharing their opinions about gun control evil people and the woes of the world.
As the bad news bubbled in my heart I came across this quote by St. Teresa of Calcutta. "Spread love everywhere you go: first of all in your own house. Give love to your children, to your wife or husband, to a next door neighbor... 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, kindness in your warm greeting.” I’m not sure we understand how important it is to love one another. It was the basic command of Jesus yet we seem to get it so very twisted up.
As all of this tumbled around in my heart and my head I remembered that I have absolutely no control over anyone else actions but my own and it made me start to think about how I loved others. The teacher in me thought about a scoring rubric or grading scale for judging my “love ability.” Somewhere in the middle of a really long bike ride on a beautiful Sunday afternoon this reading had a purpose and I realized the rubric already existed. I pulled out the New Testament, found 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 and began to read it slowly inserting my own name. It sounded like this, “Sheri is patient, Sheri is kind. Sheri is not jealous, Sheri is not pompous…” I’ll be honest, there were parts I really couldn’t say out loud because they weren’t consistently true. I wanted to say “Sheri is not quick-tempered…most of the time or Sheri endures almost all things.” It was not an easy read! It was glaringly obvious where I fall short.
I can’t change the world but I can change me. There will always be awful stuff going on in the world, there always has been and one powerless teacher from Michigan isn’t going to end world violence but God isn’t asking me to. He’s asking me to love others as he loves me. This reading from St. Paul’s letter is a great place to start. The cool thing about it is, if I try harder to get it right, not only will I feel better, but the Father will be pleased and who doesn’t want a new way to please the Father. It might sound so simple but I really believe the world will get better if we all learn to love a little harder.
Blessings on your day!
A Seed To Plant: Spend some quiet minutes reading this passage and inserting your name and see where the Holy Spirit leads your heart.
Give thanks to the Lord for He is good, his love is everlasting. 1Thessalonians 5:18
Todays post is more of a homework assignment than a message. I keep running across a quote which I'm sure is familiar to many of you. It's funny how it just keeps popping up so I'm guessing that's a pretty clear message for me and perhaps for you too. It's actually perfect timing too because I'm on the road and this was just the perfect quick little nugget for an already late Thursday post. My prayer is that the Lord does something beautiful in your heart with this homework assignment.
Here's the quote: "What if you woke up and the only things you had left were the things your thanked God for the day before?"
The assignment: Pray on those words for a while and then make a list of what you would have today. The second part of your assignment is to make a list of the things you want to make sure you wake up with tomorrow. And just so you know..."THANK YOU GOD FOR EVERYTHING" is cheating. Let's really take some time to go through a detailed accounting of all the things we need to say thank you for.
Blessings on your day!
Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth. Matthew 5:5
Every now and again I run across something that just doesn’t seem to belong or have relevance anymore. I was cleaning closets recently and found an old rotary dial phone with a long spiral cord. I also have a potato slicer and French fry cutter that belonged to my Grandma Thelma. She used it in her kitchen when I was little girl. Both of those items have been replaced with more modern, convenient, efficient updated models so the old ones are cast aside as if they are no longer useful. There is a key word in this scripture passage from St. Matthew’s gospel that might seem as irrelevant as those old treasures hiding in my closet. That word is meek.
We strive to be strong and successful. We pray for the grace of patience, perseverance and wisdom. We admire people who are confident, powerful leaders with vision. To tell others our goal is to grow in meekness would be a little like seeing a rotary dial phone in a Verizon store! To be honest, when I came across the word meek the other day I decided to give it a look and some prayer. I think I need to change my opinion about that word. I think it’s a word we might all be able to relate to better than we thought and I’m certain it’s something we could use more of.
Long ago in biblical times the quality of meekness was highly respected and aspired to. We tend to view it as weak, timid or passive but that was not the message Jesus was teaching when he shared the Sermon on the Mount. Meekness in its true meaning is the opposite of those things. Being meek doesn’t mean you are weak and have to take everything like a door mat, it means an active and deliberate acceptance of undesirable circumstances that are part of a bigger picture we can’t see. Being meek doesn’t mean throwing in the towel, it means giving God authority to do what he wills with our life. True meekness can be measured by how closely related we are to the will of the Father. When we make that relationship first, we are content in his love and his control of our life. If we let him be in charge we realize everything happens for a purpose and we trust in his plan. If we are more centered on ourselves and our comforts and our pride we tend to fuss and complain and point out all the things that don’t go our way. If we are low on meekness we tend to see the world through the lens of poor me instead of God’s got it all figured out!
If someone rich in meekness is treated unfairly or wrongly it doesn’t mean that doesn’t sting, but vengeance or revenge isn’t part of their reaction. Their first reaction is to pray for the person who has wronged them and give the rest to God. A meek soul realizes that God is the source of justice and that all situations contain lessons. Sometimes the lesson is for us and sometimes the lesson is for somebody else and taught through us. In order to grow in meekness, we have to admit regularly that we are not equal with God. Through our great dependence on Him we grow and we trust and we think WAY more about him than about ourselves. I suppose meekness is a bit like realizing we truly need to settle into second place and stop trying so hard to be in charge, on top and number one. I don’t know about you but I have a lot of meekness building to do!
A Seed To Plant: What are some of the areas in your life that could use a little more meekness? Spend some prayer time this week with this old word with a great and misunderstood meaning.
Blessings on your day!
“I love those who love me, and those who seek me diligently find me.” Proverbs 8:17
The day was so beautiful it caught me by surprise. I was driving to Indianapolis to pick up my girlie and about thirty minutes into the drive I had this overwhelming feeling of peace and gratitude. The weather was perfect. Blue sky, no humidity, bright sun and 75 degrees. The day couldn’t have been more perfect. In the quiet of my drive I realized that I had no impending deadlines, no yucky task that was pressing on my time and nowhere else I’d rather be at the moment. I couldn’t help but smile; one of those really deep smiles that comes from somewhere down around your knee caps! I just started to pray in gratitude for all the things that made it a perfect day.
As I was soaking it all in, my mind wandered to all those I love who are suffering. Families with sick loved ones and families facing tough decisions and folks knee deep in grief and struggle. I prayed for them one by one as they popped into my mind and wished they could be with me, enjoying the perfect day I was right in the middle of. The emotion of their pain and struggle washed over me and I felt it in my heart but after praying for each one, my mind and my heart went back to the perfect day God had laid out for me.
After another hundred miles I said out loud in my car, “Man I wish every day could be like this!” I smiled and drove on for a while and then it hit me. If every day was like this one, I wouldn’t be struck by the peace and I wouldn’t notice the perfection of such an ordinary day. Nothing was spectacular about the day. I hadn’t won anything, I didn’t have more money than I had the day before and the world was still full of pockets of ugly but the day was a gift. As I kept driving I realized that the purpose of days like this was to fill my soul with the grace, love, presence and tenderness of My Father for days that weren’t like this one.
I soaked it all up and in my mind I bottled it up to put away like a treasure in my heart and the next time the day isn’t so lovely or easy or perfect I’ll remember this day and know that more will come. I’ll remember what it felt like and what a gift it was and know it can’t last forever but then again neither can the yucky days. I’m grateful for the day and I’m curious about how many others there have been along the way that I missed. Mostly I just thanked him for the glory of a perfect ordinary day!
A Seed To Plant: Think about a day that was a perfect ordinary day and ask God to help you put that memory like a treasure in your heart to save for a day you need it.
Blessings on your day!
The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Deuteronomy 31:8
I was walking through the living room with a load of laundry the other night and paused to see a hunting show Dave was watching. A small group of men were following a guide through brush and up inclines and through tall grass in pursuit of some kind of wild game. The guide led the way whacking out a path with a machete. All along the way the guide was pointing out the dangers and beauty of the trip and it really made me stop and think. The men following the guide had no idea where they were or where they were headed. They were unfamiliar with the path and had only a mental vision of the destination. They were fully dependent on the guide to lead them to the bounty or prize of the day.
I couldn’t get that show out of my mind for several days. All I could keep thinking about was how dreadful the whole adventure seemed to me. As the guide pointed out snakes and bee hives the size of Volkswagens and loose gravel near cliff edges I know for certain I would have turned around within the first few hundred yards and gone back to the camp to drink coffee.
On my next pass through the living room I noticed that the guide had indeed led the hunters to a beautiful clearing with a breathtaking view and exactly the game they had been in search of. After an adventurous hike filled with peaks, valleys, danger, delight and blind faith, they got exactly what they were hoping for. I walked out of the living thinking there was probably a lesson.
I have been blessed to share a rough journey with a few friends this summer. Each of these beautiful, strong women has faced fierce battles of different kinds. I’ve laughed, cried and prayed with and for these friends as they picked themselves up and trudged on after each setback. I’ve been inspired by their courage and faith and then it dawned on me; their lives were a little like the hunting show Dave was watching. Isn’t life like that sometimes; tough, dangerous and tricky to maneuver. The wrong turn can lead to more difficulty and forging off in an unknown direction without a guide would certainly not end well.
God is an awful lot like that hunting guide. He’s always ahead clearing a path and offering direction and warning. Even in the thick of it all, the only thing he asks is that we stay close and follow his lead so he can guide and protect us on our way to a destination far more beautiful than we could ever imagine. Just like the guide on the TV show, nobody was forced to follow but it sure made sense to do so. I had to ask myself what kind of follower I am. As I think back on that show, I see so many places in my life where I felt like I was stuck in thick brush and he led me through it every time and led me to a place greater than I had imagined. I suppose the next time I get stuck I’ll remember this image of God as my guide and trust and follow a little more easily.
A Seed To Plant: Are there some adventures going on in your life that you need to invite God to lead you through?
Blessings on your day!
Wait for the Lord, take courage; be stouthearted, wait for the Lord! Psalm 27:14
Wait is not my favorite word! I’m more of a GO kind of girl rather than a WAIT kind of girl! I saw a great quote the other day that said “Our willingness to wait reveals the value we place on the object we’re waiting for.” It made me stop a while and think about my posture and attitude while waiting, needless to say, I didn’t really like what I discovered about myself.
The quote caused me to stop and figure out what I was waiting for. As I began to make my list, I realized some of the things were pretty silly. When I thought about how much I actually valued some of the things on my list I understood why waiting is hard. Most of the things on my list weren’t important enough to wait for or really even wish for so I crossed all those off the list. When it boiled down to the bottom of the pot here’s what I learned; the only thing on my list really worth waiting patiently, courageously and stoutheartedly for…is meeting Jesus. Most of the stuff on my list, like Godly spouses and happy marriages for my children or fun, peaceful retirement will just come in Gods own time, but Heaven…that’s the one I need to focus on. I suppose if my focus is really truly there every day, everything else will be just as God desires…in his time…for his purpose and in his ultimate perfection. As I came to this conclusion my peace was interrupted by panic when I thought; what if God doesn’t give me what I’m waiting for? Then my heart answered my mind as only God can instruct it to and I heard; if he doesn’t give me what I’m waiting for, that means he’s got something better…just wait and see!
Here’s another thought I have about waiting, it isn’t work. It doesn’t require great effort like scrubbing the porch or organizing the office files or sorting the junk drawer. (All silly things I’ve been waiting for…I told you there was some silly stuff on my list!) If we truly live the words of this verse from Psalm 27 our lives will get instantly calmer, more peaceful and much easier. I’d like to end this post with a passage from Jim Beckman’s book God Help Me, “Think of the image of a sailboat. The boat doesn’t do anything burdensome to respond to the wind in its sails – it simply moves forward propelled by the wind. The sailboat responds by moving forward, but it is the wind that is carrying it.” What are you waiting for? If it is something of great value than be still and know God will provide the wind to move your sailboat! I’m thinking it just might be the perfect time to wish for a sailboat instead of a speedboat!
A Seed To Plant: Make a list of all the things you’re waiting for. (Silly ones too!) Tuck it away for a day or two. When you get it back out, ask God to give you eyes to see his plan and his timing as you evaluate each item on your list and think about its value.
Blessings on your day!
And Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart. Luke 2:19
I have a suspicion that there are some things in the world that are universal. I suspect we all wish the work week had two days and the weekend had five. I suspect we all enjoy the beauty of the sunrise and sunset and I suspect we all have a junk drawer somewhere in our house! I love having a place to stick all that stuff I might need later or don’t have any idea what to do with. When I shove stuff in there I secretly pray I’ll be able to quickly find that one thing buried in there when I need it. Of course I realize how embarrassed I’d be if anybody actually looked in my junk drawer.
As I read this passage from Luke’s Gospel I thought about the things Mary had in her heart to reflect on; it was big stuff for sure! I love how Luke used the word reflect instead of worry, plan, manage or fix . As I sat down to pray, I asked God to help me ponder and reflect on the things in my own heart. It didn’t take me long to realize my heart was a little like my kitchen junk drawer! It was full of a bunch of clunky stuff I probably didn’t need, wouldn’t really find very helpful and of course a bunch of stuff that didn’t really match anything. In all honesty, my heart was cluttered with of a bunch of junk I just keep there because it’s easier to shove it in than take the time and effort to truly sort it all out.
As I reflected on my heart, I’m afraid to say there was as much gunk and clunk there as I found in my drawer. I discovered some jealousy and some impatience and some judgement. For several days I carried this junky heart thinking around and God showed me so many things that needed to be tossed out. I realized I was hauling around memories and thoughts and silly wishes that were taking up space he wanted to fill with better stuff. I came to realize there was stuff in my heart that had about as much value as the random junk in my drawer. I’m pretty sure that lonely hot wheels tire and broken diaper pin has about as much usefulness as some of the feelings I’m guarding in the secret corners of my heart. I’m absolutely certain those junky things are not the kinds of things he’s encouraging me to ponder.
The thing about reflecting is that it’s a passive activity. Mary realized she could only reflect and trust. She wasn’t forming her action plan or trying to figure out how to get God to change the plan. She was confident that in all of her thoughts and situations he was going to be there. I ponder the fixes and the action instead of reflecting on all the ways God is going to show up and use every situation for good. I realized that my reflection is always “me” centered; what am I going to do, and this simple line from Luke’s Gospel reminded me in a powerful way that I’m completely missing the point. Reflecting on the stuff in my heart pointed me to the fact that I need to do some dumping, sorting and re-organizing. I have to dump it all out and let go of the junk that’s taking up valuable space…space that was designed for things so much more important. In the dumping and purging, the thing I will make room for is him and his mighty works. Just like the “treasures” in my junk drawer that I’m saving in case I need them, chances are, I truly don’t! Dumping out that drawer to sort and clean is going to seem overwhelming and make my kitchen look like a giant mess before it gets better. But I know the result will be fresh, tidy and open…that’s the kind of drawer I’m after and that’s the kind of heart God’s looking for.
A Seed To Plant: Take some time this week to clean out the junk! Take a prayerful look at what’s in your heart and then pick a drawer, closet or spot to sort and organize while you pray. The two tasks added together are a pretty powerful way to do some reflecting!
Blessings on your day!
Let them grow together until the harvest; then at harvest time I will say to the harvesters, “First collect the weeds and tie them into bundles for burning but gather the wheat into my barn.” Matthew 13:30
The parable of the wheat and the weeds from Matthews Gospel has so many lessons! But my mind is glued right to one part. When my mind gets stuck on one little piece of scripture like that it’s usually a pretty good sign that I’m supposed to work on something! The part that really socked me was how the land owner told the servants to be patient. What?…the enemy just wrecked his whole wheat field by scattering weeds and he said nothing of revenge or justice or retribution. He didn’t ride his donkey into town and tell everybody who would listen about the awful thing someone had done to him. He didn’t go all 007 and try to track down the bad guys, he just said be patient, we’ll sort it all out later. Wow…what a lesson! We are pretty good at recognizing the hand of God in our lives and thanking him for our blessings but how good are we at letting him be in charge of justice? We are a society that likes to “right the wrongs” when they happen to us.
Sr. Mary MacKillop was an Australian nun who was a brilliant teacher. She had an infectiously joyful disposition and those around her thrived because of her love, holiness and honesty. One of my favorite stories is about how she truly imitated the land owner in this parable. Sr. Mary’s classrooms swelled and the students achieved brilliantly because of her enthusiasm and encouragement. There were so many new students that another room was added to the school and a crabby old priest was summoned to teach the other class of students. Orders were given for an achievement test to be administered to all students to determine the worth of the teachers in the diocese. After the tests were collected, Sr. Mary’s students’ scores were amazing. As you might expect the scores from the other class were not. Before the tests were sealed and mailed to the bishop, the old priest switched the teacher’s names receiving full credit for the splendid scores. Poor Sr. Mary was sent off to a dreadful assignment in the outback. The other sisters encouraged Sr. Mary to tell the bishop what had happened but she refused and told them they were not to say anything either. She believed that she had done what God had asked her to do and justice was not hers to serve, that was God’s business. She refused to speak about it stating that she had absolutely no doubts that God would see to things in his way and in his time but in the meantime she would use it as a splendid opportunity to grow in humility.
Go Sr. Mary! I know for a fact I have a long way to go if I ever want to measure up to her standard of trust in God’s judgment. I suppose I should begin with the person who drives like a nut in traffic and cuts me off. Or, I could start with the impatient person who snatches the parking spot I’ve patiently waited for and “claimed” with my blinker. I’m willing to bet that I won’t have to look very hard to find several places in my daily life that I could be more like the land owner and his field. I can think of several folks who could use a little more patience from me. Who knows, if I was a little more patient instead of running around yanking out the weeds of “injustice” I might discover things are a whole lot easier to sort out than I thought. I guess I need to worry less about who put the weeds in my wheat and worry more about being patient and letting someone wiser and more loving than me sort things out.
A Seed To Plant: Take some time this week to read the whole parable from Matthew 13:24-30. Sit still for a few minutes and identify some of the weeds in your wheat. How and where can you demonstrate the patience of the land owner?
Blessings on your day!
She is clothed in strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come. Proverbs 31:25
How many readers think this verse from Proverbs is talking about them? This past week I crossed paths with a few folks who seemed to be consumed with fear and worry about the future. I can tell you that they were not laughing at the days to come and I struggled to help them move from worry to peaceful faith. As I thought and prayed about these conversations I found this verse and it made me smile.
Have you ever stopped to think about what makes one person worry and another one not worry at all? Some of us look to the future and smile; others look the same direction and feel a pang of worry, dread and maybe even fear. Some might say worrying is just a part of your hard-wiring but I suppose we all carry a little bit of worry with us most days. I read once that there is a big difference between worry and concern. Being concerned about something inspires us to organize, call on resources and to handle things as best we can and leave the rest to God. Worry is more like doing everything possible and still fretting about God being able to do the rest according to your plan.
When the boys were little they had some plastic toy swords and the movie Peter Pan. They would have sword fights anywhere; the barn, kitchen, and yard you name it they would imagine a scene and play like crazy. Surprisingly, there were no casualties until the night they snuck the swords under the covers. The fight that night was a small disaster leaving two little boys with some red marks, a black eye and a giant scrape to the belly. When the dust settled and we were trying to sort it all out, the problem boiled down to the darkness. In the light, they could see and anticipate what was coming but in the darkness of their bedroom they couldn’t anticipate and react to what they couldn’t see coming. They lost their guide and their protection.
The Proverbs 31 woman who can laugh at days to come is one who doesn’t sit in the darkness of worry. Why? What makes her so immune to the worries and woes of the day? I think the answer to that question comes in the first part of the verse; strength and dignity. The really important part of the puzzle though is the realization that the strength and dignity come from God not from the world or within. When we think of strength, we typically think of muscles and physical power which requires work to attain. When we talk about strength from God the opposite is true. In order to be powered by the strength of God we have to do nothing but rest in him and know he will do all the heavy lifting! Gods strength sees all the obstacles and shifts in the path, he simply asks that we let him love us enough to maneuver us through them. If we can’t rely on God’s strength it’s kind of like having a sword fight in the dark; there is no way to anticipate and react to what we can’t see coming.
Laughing at the future doesn’t mean we see what’s coming; it means we are strong enough to face it because we know God will defend, protect and love us through whatever comes our way. He loves us too much to put us in a situation that is beyond what we need. Yes, sometimes we need struggle and difficulty but he knows how much and for what reason. We need to work on laughing at the days to come because when it all boils down to the bottom of the pot, it’s kind of funny that we should worry about something God has already orchestrated right down to the most teeny tiny detail.
A Seed To Plant: Make a list of the things that worry you. Ask God to bring you strength this week as you pray daily for him to transform your worry to peace.
Blessings on your day!
The Lord is faithful…2 Thessalonians 3:3
God is so fancy! I’m typing from the Boise airport looking out at the gorgeous mountains. They fascinate me; I guess that is to be expected from a Kansas girl! I’m enjoying this amazing backdrop before I hop a flight and head home. This amazing view is like the exclamation point to end a fabulous weekend spent with the Diocese of Boise Deacons and their wives.
This weekend I met some amazing disciples! I was touched right to my soul with their honesty, their dedication and their openness. I heard these beautiful servants tell stories of their passion for the homeless, the sick, the broken and the joyful. I was inspired by their selflessness and their humility. God invited me here this weekend to give, but my eyes are leaking as I reflect back on all I received from these incredible people! The plane will carry my bags, but my heart will carry the truly precious cargo.
As I head home my heart carries HOPE! My heart carries JOY! My heart carries FAITH! All of these things were gifts from the weekend. It’s so easy to hear the bad news, especially about the church and christianity. True disciples live their lives in such opposition to our culture and I spent a few days with a group of people who have made it their mission to carry on the work of Christ despite what the world might think or say! I spent the weekend surrounded by people who scream to the world through their actions, all that is right with the church. Their mission is to love and serve and to lead and they left my heart FULL!
Their joy and faithfulness reminded me that the doubters, the scandals, the disappointments will always swirl around our feet but they always have and Jesus’ instructions still stick. Enter a place in peace, share the truth with love and shake the dust and move along if you encounter opposition. As disciples we are asked to share the Good News, plant seeds and invite. If we do those things in absolute humility we can rest assured that we have done all the Father is asking.
The funny thing about hope is there are times it may seem to run in short supply but if our eyes and hearts are open, there are so many opportunities to have it restored. It can be easy to get stuck in hopelessness but there are people and events everyday that can fill your hope right back up to full if you’re looking. It’s a little like that Mr. Rogers quote; always look for the helpers. I was reminded this weekend that helpers don’t all wear uniforms and arrive with flashing lights. Sometimes it’s a group of deacons and wives who have dedicated their life to serve the Lord because they know he’s done good things in their life and they simply want to share his love and his hope with those who need it…without counting the cost, the time or the energy. I’m so thankful for them!
A Seed To Plant: This is a double! Be on the lookout for a person or event big or small that restores hope. Second, do something for another person this week that restores hope.
Blessings on your day!
Immediately his mouth was opened, his tongue was freed and he spoke blessing God. Luke 1:64
This verse made me take a hard look at what has got to be my greatest blessing and my greatest burden all lumped into one…my mouth! As a Catholic Speaker and Catholic School Theology Teacher, I have abundant opportunities to use my mouth to speak great words about our God and our faith. I wish this were the case all the time, but truthfully, when I ponder these words from Zachariah I am reminded of the dozens of times each week I use my mouth for words that don’t build the Kingdom of God on earth at all!
I need to take a big lesson from Zachariah. He was mute for months. If I imagine being struck mute I almost panic; it’s like I’d loose my most used human feature! If I did become mute and suddenly and unexpectedly regained my voice, I wonder what I’d say first. Truthfully, it probably would be something ridiculous like, “Lets go get pizza!” or “What the heck was that all about!” Not our friend Zachariah, the first words he spoke after months of silence; blessing, praise and worship. He focused on what he was grateful for and not what he had suffered or missed.
Zachariah used his silence to grow closer to the Father and unite himself to his perfect plan and his impeccable timing. The fruit of that silence was gratitude and awareness of the greatness of God. This passage from the Gospel of Luke contains a golden nugget for growing in holiness; find some silence and follow it with some time spent blessing and praising God for his mighty works in your life.
A Seed To Plant: Take a few moments to sit in the silence and replay your words from the last day or week follow it with these words: “Loving Father, open my eyes and still my words so I can truly recognize your presence and offer blessing to you for the many wonders you are working in my heart, my family and my world.”
Blessings on your day!
…“A man is coming after me who ranks ahead of me.” John 1:30
Have you ever heard the phrase, careful what you wish for? A humble heart is something I pray for constantly and I laugh at the frequency of God’s living color lessons. I had a pretty funny one recently. I was in the lobby of a convention center after I had given a talk and a lady came up to me and gave me a hug and said, “Your message really touched my heart, will you take a selfie with me?. I stood right beside her and as she held up her phone to snap our picture and as soon as she had it in place she said, “Oh wait, you’re not her, I thought you were someone else.” We laughed and went different directions. It gave me a lot to think about! It also made me think a lot about selfies in general. Selfies make up a pretty large and humorous number of overall posts on my Facebook newsfeed. These quickly snapped images capture important moments, achievements or places and they give the viewer a tiny little snapshot of someone else life. I’ll make a confession; I have never posted a selfie because I need more time to pose and make sure I don’t look like I have three chins or a neck the size of a tree trunk. Photo angles matter and by the time I get it all lined up, the moment’s long over! Selfie overload can cause us to think our life isn’t quite as exciting as the folks posting dozens of selfies in fancy, fun places and if we get too tangled up in the likes and shares and comments from our selfie posts it could make keeping our humility in check a little tough.
Humility can be a tricky think to master. Our culture screams “be the best” and we seem to focus constantly on who’s in first place but the first chapter of John’s Gospel teaches a beautiful lesson about the exact opposite. In this competitive world it’s a bit shocking to read the words, “A man is coming after me who ranks ahead of me.” It’s one thing to think someone is more important than you but to announce it loud and proud to all who will hear; that just seems crazy by todays standards! The funny thing is, John was completely comfortable with the way the events unfolded. A supporting role was perfect for him. He recognized that he had a completely different purpose than Jesus did fulfilling God’s plan. He didn’t get caught up in the fact that he would be doing the baptizing and he had been chosen to bring God’s grace to the crowds. He simply saw himself as a part of something amazing. He didn’t feel the need to be the star or have folks notice his good works.
John wasn’t the main attraction, he was to prepare the way and take part in the mighty work of the Father and his Son. I’m sure if selfies would have been taken that day, John would have been nowhere to be found. He wanted no notice, no thanks, no acknowledgement. John opened the door, so to speak, so the Father, Son and Holy Spirit could enter and add an amazing chapter to the love story God shares with us. Today is a great day to ask yourself, what are my motives for serving the Lord? Do I do it for him or do I do it so others might notice I’m a part of things?
A Seed To Plant: Take this little prayer with you into your quiet moments with the Lord this week. Loving Father, please help me push past my pride. Give me the grace to love and serve you with a humble heart. Please allow me to see those who need your mercy and your love and show me how to help them make room you so you can be the star in their life. Amen
Blessings on your day!
Jesus Christ…became poor although he was rich, so that by his poverty you might become rich. 2 Corinthians 8:19
There certainly are things I enjoy a little extra of! A little extra coffee, a little more time to linger on the porch visiting with friends and family or just a little extra sleep from time to time to list a few. One of the lessons my parents were HUGE on teaching was not to be greedy. Clear as a bell I can hear them say, “Be grateful for what you have because being greedy for more is ungratefulness and that’s ugly.” It was a great thing for them to teach me and it’s one of those things that sticks! I was praying with this scripture from Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians and I realized that this important lesson from my parents often creeps into my prayer life.
After some thought, I realized that my prayer view slides a little sideways from time to time. I’m really good at asking God to take care of people and situations and the needs of others. I mean, who doesn’t pray every day for people to get better or get jobs or get back on track. I’m really good at praising him and thanking him but I don’t often ask for his riches and heaping doses of his grace. I guess I feel blessed and thankful and I don’t want to be greedy. Upon careful thought, I realized I was trying to be like an A student to God. I wanted to keep a low profile, do my homework (daily prayer) and try like crazy to keep my nose in my own business and be obedient. I don’t think that’s all God wants for me. That’s actually a little robotic and not very “relationship-ish”.
God sent his son to suffer and die so we could be rich. Not rich in the money sense but rich in his grace, mercy and love. We were made for happiness. We were made to be saints and that’s work we can’t do alone. He’s waiting to give us extra! He spent everything; his blood, sweat, tears and very life to make us rich in him and I was too afraid to ask for personal extras. How crazy is that! It’s not like there is an expiration date on his gifts like a coupon. He will never say, “Sorry Sheri, you should have asked for joy and patience last week, I’m afraid that request is not valid past last Friday.” There are also no limits or strings to our requests either. I’m pretty sure he will never flash a sigh like you see in the grocery store on a great deal that says “limit 5 with additional $5 purchase”. He’s not going to run out of grace or attach strings or conditions to his gifts.
He died so we could be rich so why am I living like I have empty pockets? I’ve decided that something I want extra of is joy and compassion. I’m going to ask for extra forgiveness and a lot of extra peace and kindness. It doesn’t make us greedy, it makes us trusting and it makes us rich. It doesn’t make me ungrateful because it’s not about me…it’s about him and the things he wants to make me because of his gifts. I don’t know about you, but I’m going to ask for lots of extra things starting today…right after I get some extra coffee!
A Seed To Plant: Take out a sheet of paper and across the top write EXTRA-EXTRA-EXTRA and then make a list of all the things you need to ask God for extra of so you can become rich in him!
Blessings on your day!
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