Love requires sacrifice…always!
It’s not scripture but it’s a powerful truth I seem to forget. Sacrifice often takes a back seat to convenience and comfort. We prefer easy, speedy and painless and then wonder why we don’t feel fulfilled. The important stuff; the stuff that leaves us joyful and alive; that’s the stuff that involves love and requires sacrifice.
I’ve had several nudges lately that remind me how true this statement is. We are called by the greatest commandment to love, and the truth is, we can’t follow that commandment without sacrifice. Sometimes that sacrifice is small, for instance, I love my students but spending time in the evenings and on weekends to grade or plan is a sacrifice. Other times the sacrifice is much bigger. I hugged a good friend at her father’s wake this week and she lovingly told me she was so happy for her dad and found peace just thinking about him rejoicing and being free from pain. Her perspective and strength were inspiring but the sacrifice of that love will weigh heavy on her days for quite a while.
Sometimes the sacrifice needs to look like patience. Sometimes it needs to sound like a swallowed opinion. Sometimes it needs to appear to be sand slipping through our fingers as we let go of the past or of our own agenda. Sacrifice is loving people exactly how they are and where they are. Sometimes we’re called to love someone just by being present and there is sacrifice in keeping quiet and not trying to fix or change them. The people who love us back make it easy to love but we’re also called to show Christ’s love to those who can give nothing in return and that is truly a sacrifice.
I think about all the times I’ve tried to find the perfect gift to show my love for someone. When I heard this line spoken by a movie character, I realized I’ve been shopping the wrong way. I suppose the more we love, the more we should be willing to sacrifice. I loved my children but I’m not sure they always saw my carpool complaining as a loving sacrifice. This simple little line can bleed into doing the laundry and helping with homework and holding the flashlight in the rain so Dave can figure out why the tractor is making a weird noise. This kind of love happens in the middle of the night after a bad dream or at the end of the day when you want to tune out the world but someone you love just really wants to spill their heart.
There have been times when I’ve wondered if all the sacrifice of a relationship was worth it or if it was really supposed to be so hard and one-sided, but as I’ve prayed with these words for a few weeks I realized I was looking at it out of balance. Love and sacrifice aren’t always equal. Sometimes we receive love far greater than we sacrifice and more often than not it is opposite. We’re able to sacrifice and love others but at some point, we expect to receive love in return. We want to feel there is something in it for us. I forget that my call to love others isn’t to get something in return. Love is so much bigger than all the warm fuzzy feelings. Love is the duty of a disciples and the way to keep that in balance is to realize each person that crosses our path is there so I can show them the love of Christ. It’s not about loving so I can get something back, it’s about loving so I can love Jesus himself. When I look at Jesus on the cross, I find the truth because it reminds me that there is more love poured out on me than I could ever imagine. I know I will never be called to love with a sacrifice anywhere near that magnitude but when I recall his sacrifice for me, it helps put my teeny little sacrifices for others in perspective. Again, I remember it’s not about me at all!
A Seed To Plant: Who can you love today?
Blessings on your day!
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!
What your hands provide you will enjoy; you will be blessed and prosper. Psalm 128:2
Growing up we always had a gigantic garden. The garden was the work of the summer. There was always something to do, planting, weeding, picking or preserving. My mom canned and froze enough produce for the whole year; green beans, carrots, potatoes, corn, tomatoes, peas and beets. It was a complete drag during the middle of the summer when it was 100 degrees and my brothers and I were sitting in the back yard shucking corn for hours but fresh sweet corn in January made it all worth it. I can’t begin to count the times my folks reminded me of that while they handed me another bucket of green beans to snap. It isn’t always easy to see the blessing that comes with the investment at the time. All these years later, I still plant a garden and can tomatoes. True, I can get a can on sale for less than a dollar but it just isn’t the same. The problem is, by the time spring finally comes in Michigan and I get to a point with the end of the school year chaos and I finally get them planted its always September before they are ready to pick and can.
This is a particularly busy time of year with speaking and school but I came home Wednesday to a basket of tomatoes staring me down. I knew they had to be canned or they would spoil and even though I had a dozen other things to do, I reminded myself how good they would taste in chili and soup when the snow was flying so I got to it, but not without plenty of eye rolling and muttering under my breath, “really…now…I have to do this now? Why can’t they be ready before school starts, that would be much more convenient! As I stood at the kitchen sink washing jars and peeling tomatoes, I asked myself why I even bother at all. But as I sit here typing, drinking a cup of coffee, I hear the canner bubbling and the soft clink of the seals setting on the jars fresh from the canner and I realize how satisfying it is and how connected I feel to my mom when I do what she did. It’s worth it, but it always takes me a while to remember that.
If I’m being honest, canning tomatoes is a little like my faith life. I love the end result, but more often than I should, I grumble about the effort and the time it takes. I want the relationship and the grace but I don’t always want to invest the time necessary. I want to head to the pantry in January and grab what I need but it takes effort to make sure it will be there when I need it. Sometimes my prayer life is like that. I cry out to God with my list of wants and needs and I just expect to grab what I need. I take his mercy and his goodness for granted way too often. It will be a sad day when I go to the pantry and there are no more tomatoes but it would be an unfathomably devastating day if I went to the Lord and he wasn’t there. I very well may run out of tomatoes but I can breathe a sigh of relief to know as long as I run to the Father and truly seek him, his grace and compassion will never run dry. Out of all the things I needed to do besides can tomatoes, I had to make the tomatoes a priority. I wonder how much better my attitude and perspective would be if I remembered to put the Father and his plan as my top priority every day. Timing is important. No matter how hard I wish, I can't make those tomatoes ripe any sooner. Patience is such a key and these tomatoes are a reminder to trust in Gods timing is perfect. As I sit back and admire the jars of warm tomatoes all lined up on my counter, I’m pretty sure there are many times the Father lines the events of my days up in perfect order and I don’t even notice it or thank him for it. Funny how much you can learn from putting tomatoes in a jar!
A Seed To Plant: Make a list of three things you can do this week to invest in your relationship with the Father. Say a prayer of thanksgiving for someone who taught you something important.
Blessings on your day!
“Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns and yet your Heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” Matthew 6:26
I was sitting in the basement making new curtains for my classroom and I was visited by a very strange guest. I was just stitching away minding my own business when I heard a whoosh sound followed by the crashing of the roaster oven lid. The roaster is kept on a high shelf near the sewing machine and when I looked up to see what made the racket I was dive bombed by a bird. After my screech I’m not sure who was more startled, me or the bird. There has never been a bird inside…let alone in the basement. I was puzzled not only about how he got in, but by how I was going to get him out!
It took me a minute to come up with a plan, which included making sure he didn’t get upstairs. He dive bombed me a couple more times and then seemed to vanish. I’m not sure what was more unsettling; seeing him or not seeing him! I went out of the sewing room, around the corner and across the basement and took the screen off the egress window and pulled back the curtain in hopes that if I could get him pointed in that direction he’d see the open window and fly out. After I’d prepared his exit, I began searching for him and startled him off his nesting perch and he crashed right into the basement door. I was not excited about the prospect of scooping up a dead bird but as I crept toward my new feathered friend trying to see if he was still alive he whizzed over my head and around the corner and in one quick zoom flew clear across the length of the basement and right out the window. Success!
When I sat back down to the sewing machine I realized that little incident was a lessons. I was thinking about all the times I’d made my own silly decisions without consulting my Father the master planner. Like that bird, I have wound up in some crazy situations that were not meant for me. Thankfully like the open window I provided for the bird, God always seems to provide a way out for me too. I can think of plenty of times I’ve flapped around and banged my head trying to go somewhere I wasn’t supposed to go. I’ve traveled down the wrong path and searched and searched to find my way only to discover I was simply on the wrong path to begin with. That little bird wanted nothing to do with me. It would have been easier and much less stressful if he would have gently perched on my finger so I could take him outside peacefully but we weren’t meant to have a relationship. I don’t know about you, but I have been a part of friendships or relationships that were not meant for me, God even arranges those to our benefit if we invite him into the center of them.
When I finished the project and went upstairs, I walked past the hallway mirror and noticed what I thought was white thread on my hair and forehead. As I moved in closer for inspection, I realized that it wasn’t thread, it was bird poop. Who says God doesn’t have a sense of humor! I got a couple great lessons plus a little humility training to boot. All in all…it was a very good day!
A Seed To Plant: Have you ever been in the wrong place or the wrong relationship? Ask God to guide you to the nearest planned exit and put you back on the path he has chosen.
Blessings on your day!
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!
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!
"The weeds are the children of the Evil One.” Matthew 13:38
This line in a recent Gospel reading really made me stop and think. Growing up, our family had a gigantic garden. We would can and freeze enough produce to last the whole year with plenty left to give away. I didn’t mind snapping beans or shucking corn or even washing potatoes, but the chore I dreaded was pulling weeds. Some had deep, thick roots; some were vines that tangled their way through several rows, and some were adorned with flowers disguising prickers. They were a destructive nuisance, and they had to be dealt with or they would suck the life out of the vegetables. I never dreamed that even though I moved 800 miles away from that garden, I would still be dealing with weeds in my life.
The weeds I battle these days may not be green and rooted in dirt; instead, they are menacing, distracting, discouraging, and rooted in my heart. The weeds of the evil one I battle these days are called comparison, judgment, dishonesty, greed, and control. When these weeds root too deeply into my heart they choke out the light, life, and truth of the Father’s great plan and His even greater love for me.
The produce from my childhood garden was meant to nourish, sustain, and help us thrive, but it needed to be protected and tended. The same is true of the greatness God wants to provide for me in my daily life now. He will never abandon His children. I just need to hack away the weeds so there is room for only Him in my heart.
A Seed To Plant: What are the weeds that need to be hacked away in the garden of your heart? After you’ve put some things on your list, offer up this short little prayer and then watch God get busy! Good and loving Father, please help me root up all the habits and sins that prevent You from bringing forth beautiful light and life in my days.
Blessings on your day!
We know that all creation is groaning in labor pains even until now; Romans 8:22
Those words were part of the second reading at Mass last weekend and boy did they grab my attention. Anyone who has ever been in a delivery room while a baby makes its way into the world can relate in a very personal way to that line. As I was pondering those words, I scanned the pews in front of me and counted more than a dozen babies and toddlers and marveled at the beauty those labor pains produce and asked God to show me why this verse jumped out and struck me so deeply; a few days later, He did!
Like many of you, I remember vividly and happily the day I got married. I remember Fr. Hasenkamp slowly and clearly saying the vows each of us were to repeat. I remember being so excited and nervous I was afraid I would get lost in my own thoughts and say the wrong thing. I remember promising to love and honor Dave and I remember the part about accepting children lovingly and raising them up in the faith. I thought about that at Mass as I scanned the crowd and looked at all the people there with little ones who had made the same promises I had. You’d think since we all spoke the same promises, we’d be really good at helping each other honor them…but sometimes we’re not.
I get troubled when we turn the wrong things into a competition. We’ve all been the parent of the child who does something that makes us proud and in all honesty, we’ve probably all been the parent of the child who does the opposite. I wish we weren’t so quick to judge other parents when the child falls into group two. Let’s face it, labor was hard but sometimes it doesn’t even compare to how hard raising kids can be. My babies were the size of toddlers when they were born; they all apparently adored me so much they never wanted to exit the womb, and sleeping through the night was definitely not a “thing” with the Three Little Wohlferts. They all walked, talked, whined and had epic diaper disasters at different stages and times and it seemed someone always had advice on what I wasn’t doing right. We need to give ourselves and our kids a break. Our goal is to raise our kids up in the faith and help them get to heaven and quite frankly I think we could all use a little help with that big job now and again. What if we said something kind to the lady in the grocery with the screaming toddler instead of raising our eyebrow and assuming she doesn’t know how to discipline her child. What if we entertained the notion that the fussy baby and the grumpy dad sitting in the same waiting room were sleep deprived, going through a tough time or flat out having a bad day. And just maybe that 9 year old having a melt down at the movie theater has some real struggles and truly didn’t come to ruin your day.
Making assumptions doesn’t help us raise our kids…judging doesn’t help us get our kids to heaven. The labor pains weren’t supposed to be the easiest part! Each family, each child, each parent is on a journey we know nothing about. No one ever said the world needed more competition and comparison! God has an amazing plan for each of us…even the smallest, wiggliest, fussiest, loudest, quietest little person and their frustrated, sleep deprived, proud,loving mammas and daddies. I came across a neat little story that just kind of drove this whole scripture home. It’s a story about a dog and an elephant and the genius of the Loving Father who can do whatever he wants in the time frame he chooses.
The story goes like this. An elephant and a dog became pregnant at same time. Three months down the line the dog gave birth to six puppies. Six months later the dog was pregnant again, and nine months on it gave birth to another dozen puppies. The pattern continued. On the eighteenth month the dog approached the elephant questioning, "Are you sure that you are pregnant? We became pregnant on the same date, I have given birth three times to a dozen puppies and they are now grown to become big dogs, yet you are still pregnant. Whats going on?". The elephant replied, "There is something I want you to understand. What I am carrying is not a puppy but an elephant. I only give birth to one in two years. When my baby hits the ground, the earth feels it. When my baby crosses the road, human beings stop and watch in admiration, what I carry draws attention. So what I'm carrying is mighty and great.". Don't lose faith when you see others receive answers to their prayers. Don't be envious of others testimony. If you haven't received your own blessings, don't despair. Say to yourself "My time is coming, and when it hits the surface of the earth, people shall yield in admiration."
I think it would be a good idea to yield in admiration a little more often!
A Seed To Plant: Do one small thing to support a parent!
Blessings on your day!
The righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father… Matthew 13:43
This Gospel reminds me how much Jesus wants us to “get it!” Not only does he tell the parable but he assembles the followers and explains it again. I can see myself saying, “OK Jesus, lets sit down and you can hit me with it again because I didn’t quite get it the first time.” I am so very thankful that he is patient with my thick headedness and offers us his teaching again and again and sends his Holy Spirit to make it clear in prayer.
I recently had a long conversation with a friend who was having a meltdown due to the “state of the world”. I agreed that there is no shortage of really lousy stuff goin on and I totally supported the meltdown because an occasional hissy fit is good for the soul. When we spew out all our frustration, worry and fear it’s like cleaning house. When we shove out the mess, we have an empty space but it’s up to us what we put back into that cleared out space. If we rant and rave and stay stuck in the yuck nothing good happens to our soul, our attitude or our relationship with Jesus. The point of a great meltdown is to get it all out and the next step is prayer…Lord I’ve cleared out the junk that was sitting heavy on my heart now help me fill it with YOU!
So how does that work exactly? There a couple of questions you can ask yourself. As you feel the yuck creeping back and putting wrinkles in your peace the first question is “Are these thoughts of God or of evil? Remember that God is a God of peace not turmoil. Second question, “Will spending time and energy on this bring me closer to Jesus?” If the answer is no then simply say “I send these unhelpful thoughts to the foot of the cross, Jesus please replace them with joy and peace.” Third, fill your ears, heart and mind with something lovely instead of ugly. Listen to a song or a podcast of a YouTube video designed to bring love, truth, joy or laughter into your day. The greatest strategy for managing the behavior of a toddler is distraction…it works on grownups too. Praying a Rosary for your list of worries and people who are really dancing on your last nerve or who have really hurt you is a powerful tool for doing something good with something awful. At the end of that Rosary close with the words, “Ok God, it’s yours…all of it, I’m letting go.”
When I listen to people say we are headed for sure disaster and the world is dark, I think of two things. God’s mercy and Noah. In God’s great mercy, when we face him at the end of our life we won’t be judged based on the actions, opinions or decisions of others. We won’t be judged as a group or need to provide a list of our known associates on earth. It’s just a solo event so isn’t it great that the only thing we will be judged on, is also the only thing we are in control of…ourselves! His mercy is so fancy isn’t it! As for Noah, he won the award for living among the greatest group of knuckleheads and off the rails idiots and what does scripture say about Noah? Very simply, it says “He was a righteous man; Noah walked in faith with God.” That’s it…that’s what it takes to rise about the yuck of the world; walk in faith with God. Trust him, follow him, talk with him and wake up each day saying, “Hold on God, I’m coming…I wanna belong to you today more than I want to worry and stew and fret about what everybody else is doing.” Say that, take a breath and then remember God can do anything and everything!
A Seed To Plant: Go ahead and have a meltdown or throw a hissy fit, God won’t mind. Then ponder one of the questions or actions in this blog that can help you fill that empty spot well. If you need someone to share your meltdown with, I’m happy to help!
Blessings on your day!
…complete my joy by being of the same mind, with the same love, united in heart, thinking one thing. Philippians 2:5
Complete HIS joy…now there’s a cool thought! Just how do we do that? St. Paul helped us with that answer as he spilled out these instructions in his letter to the Philippians. He said, be of the same mind as Jesus and love like Jesus and give him your whole heart so you become one. Our entire journey to sainthood is packed right into these few words but the trick is putting them into action.
The heart and the mind are truly connected and I find in my own life that if I get my mind right my heart will follow. But getting the mind right takes some doing because there are so many voices fighting for a spot in my thoughts. Attempting to have a like mind to Jesus takes some focus for sure. Truly understanding how someone thinks often requires a change in perspective. Managers at Disney properties spend some time each week observing a section of their space from their knees. Since their focus audience is children, they work hard to see what they see and think what they think. What if we applied the same practice? What if we got on our knees in prayer to see things from Jesus’ perspective? What if we made it our mission to think, love and act like him in every interaction, problem, celebration and encounter during our day? When marketers try to sell us a product they try to get into our thoughts and they often use a motto or slogan to get things to stick. Maybe we need to do the same!
If you were to come up with a motto for your journey toward Jesus what would it be? If we each had a motto that summed up our desires to live out our sainthood, we could use it like an anchor to ground us in our mission to have the same mind as Christ. It’s not a new idea but it’s a great one that could be powerful. In order to help me create my own, I studied those of other really holy folks. Maybe by sharing a few you can begin to ask the Holy Spirit to help you create one for yourself.
**Pope John Paul II: Totally Yours (Totus Tuus)
**Pope John XXIII: Obedience and Peace (Obedientia et Pax)
**Jesuit Order: For the Greater Glory of God (Ad maiorem Dei Gloria)
**Franciscan Order: Peace and Good (Pax et bonum)
**Dominican Order: To praise, to preach, to bless (Audare, benedicere, praedicare)
**St. Elizabeth of the Trinity: God in me, I in Him
**St. John Henry Newman: Heart speaks to heart.
**Catholic Author Claire Dwyer: Respect life, Revel truth, Radiate love
**St. Mary 6th grade Class of 2022: Do good work
**St. Mary School: We will come to know God, love God and serve God and his people
What will your motto be? What words or phrase will serve as a great reminder to take on the mind of Christ so we can complete his joy and enjoy heaven in His presence? It doesn’t have to be long or Latin, just something to snap your mind to attention. When the kids were little and they got near the stove all I had to do was say “No, Hot!” and they instantly cut and ran. I need something that helps me cut and run from the ways of the world and the grip of temptation and sin. I need a little something to remind me not to judge, compare, gossip or stick my nose into business that isn’t my own. I need a little something to help me change my perspective when I’m not being of the mind and heart of Jesus.
A Seed To Plant: Pray about your motto. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you start with a list of words and ideas you can pray with and use to create a motto designed to help you think with his mind.
Blessings on your day!
Come follow me…Matthew 4:19
Seems like a simple thought doesn’t it. So many talk about following Jesus but I listened to a great speaker recently who put some powerful truth to those words and what it really means to be a disciple or follower of Jesus. The whole short talk left me feeling like I’ve got some thinking, praying and changing to do. Here’s what I learned…
In the Sermon on the Mount in chapters 5,6 and 7 of Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus spells out the new law of the kingdom. He teaches and preaches and explains. He highlights important things we need to do to follow him like be humble, love our enemy and live without judging others. He also calls us to focus on the condition of our hearts. When we decide to follow Jesus we think different, look different and act different. We become different than the rest of the world. That’s pretty big stuff for most of us who spend a lot of time trying to blend in, go with the flow and not make a spectacle of ourselves but the truth is, if we really want to follow Jesus, we’re going to be different. Chances are, others are gonna notice our differences and call us out on them; what will we do?
In the next three chapters of Matthew’s Gospel Jesus shifts from teaching to application. We can read the ten miracle stories where Jesus showed he had power and authority over everything. He had power over disease, death, wind, evil, political structures and anything the evil one could stir up. (He still does!) In a mighty way, he took his message from the classroom to the streets and showed us what being his follower looked like. Come follow me said the man who had no place to lay his head. I’m so incredibly thankful that many did just that and paved the way for all disciples to follow.
The speaker made a powerful point that made me squirm in my chair a little when he said the only thing stopping us from being a true follower of Jesus (one of those folks who is different) is excuses. We make all kinds of them and we try to justify so many things because we aren’t so good at sacrifice, suffering and following him which means taking up our cross. I’ve said dozens of times before, I’m much better at dragging my crosses than picking them up! After giving all this some thought I realized it was true…I was full of excuses that prevented me from completely following Jesus.
The speaker also mentioned that we can’t follow Jesus part time. There is no position for part time disciple…truly following him means reconfiguring everything, detaching from things of the world and living to please the Father and not people. Phew, that’s tuff! I have a better understanding now about the rich young man and the narrow gate! The question is, do I want what’s on the other side of that narrow gate? I’ve been wondering why I’m so attached to being comfortable and accepted? If I know I am God’s beloved why is it so hard to detach from worldly things even though I know he only desires my holiness and sainthood and will provide for my every need? We grumble, complain and worry about the state of affairs swirling around us but yet we cling so hard to the world and resist being the kind of “different” it takes to enter Paradise. I think before I can truly “Come Follow Him” I have some questions to pray about.
A Seed To Plant: Which of the questions above do you need to stop and think about a bit?
Blessings on your day!
They all ate and were satisfied… Luke 9:17
When I heard these words at the end of last Sunday’s Gospel they hit me like a sack of bricks. I’ve been thinking about them for a few days now and I’m still wondering if I even know what that means…to be satisfied?
We aren’t very good with “exactly the right amount”. Our culture promotes more, better, extra and on reserve. We stock up, plan ahead and over prep everything from toilet paper to salad greens. When you think about it, we are people of excess more than satisfaction. In this Gospel thousands of people walked and walked and walked just to listen to Jesus teach. They had no worries about food or lodging. They didn’t have reservations and back up plans. They didn’t pack a cooler or a rubbermaid tote full of snacks. They just abandoned everything because nothing was more important than the word of the Son of God.
What do you suppose those early disciples would think of TV shows like “Hoarders” or “Extreme Couponing”? I know those are extreme examples but you have to wonder who really needs dozens of tubes of tooth paste even if you do get them for practically nothing. I’ve been making a list of all the places in my life where I’ve lost track of the meaning of the word satisfied and it is embarrassingly long. I’m not suggesting we all become radical minimalists but the Gospel has really made me stop and think.
The thought I keep coming back to is the difference in my trust and the trust of the characters in this Gospel story. They completely trusted in the providence of God. They knew He would be faithful and they would be grateful. It also struck me that there were twelve baskets of food left over which means people weren’t grabbing up the extra to save “just in case”. They trusted God for this meal, they were satisfied and content and they trusted him the same way about tomorrow. They had a focus that was on Jesus and not self and that focus brought them trust. I think it’s probably pretty safe to say the disciples and followers of Jesus were a stress free group of faithful folks who were not very likely to have a stress related cardiac event.
Ya know it’s funny, I’ve heard this Gospel dozens and dozens of times but that line just jumped right up at me. That always means God’s trying to teach me something. If I spent as much time praying and reading His Word as I do plotting and planning my shopping, meal prep and event schedule I’m positive my soul would be a lot shinier. Imagine the stories we could tell if we sought to be satisfied instead of fortified with extra. Imagine the stories of God’s providence we could tell if we actually let him meet our needs instead of trying to plan, control and manage everything ourselves. Imagine how content our hearts would be if we stepped back a bit and let him show us how much he loves us.
I chatted with a lady recently at a retreat I was presenting and she shared that the greatest way to learn to trust more and rely less on self is to spend five solid minutes in prayer thinking about anything but yourself. Any time thoughts of self or tasks or worries about your life creep in, you have to start all over. Seems simple…5 minutes thinking about anything but yourself. I guess the words SATISFIED, CONTENT and ENOUGH need to be a part of my prayer for a while, how about you.
A Seed To Plant: Where are the places you find yourself going beyond satisfied? How about those 5 minutes thinking about anything but self…give that a try too.
Blessings on your day!
Keep yourselves in the love of God and wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. Jude 1:21
Sorry for two weeks of “radio silence!” It seems that the end of the school year swallowed me whole but now it’s summer and I’m back to writing from my screen porch!
Happy 10th Birthday Joyful Words Blog!! I’m astounded that God has keep this going for a decade! When I finally quit arguing with Him and actually started writing, I could have never imagined He would still be sending me words 520 weeks later. Please know how very grateful I am to all of you who check in and give these things a read. I promised Him I’d keep writing as long as people kept reading and letting me know he was working through the words. I consider it an absolute honor to share this work with you. I thought today we could take a look at the number 10…turns out the Father has used this number for some pretty important lessons.
*10 and 10th appear in Scripture more than 320 times; pretty sure that’s at least the number of times I’ve needed and received his mercy this week!
*10 is a perfect number which suggests completeness, order and peace: may this be a year of ALL of that for each of us!
*In the first chapter of Genesis alone we read “God said” 10 times; perhaps we should work on doing what he says the FIRST time instead of needing to be told 9 more times (maybe that’s just me!)
*There are 10 Commandents; which is a great trade for more than 600 Jewish laws.
*There were 10 plagues; always a great reminder of God’s power and love for his people.
*We are asked to tithe 10 percent; after all we’re given it doesn’t seem like so much in return.
*10 generations of man lived on earth before the Flood; thank goodness He promised not to do that again.
*The Passover lamb was selected on day 10 of the 1st month (Exodus 12:3), as was Jesus, the Lamb that takes away the sins of the world (John 12:28 - 29; 1Corinthians 5:7).
I’m always so surprised at the way he uses simple things to teach like a number or a word. There is simply no end to the magnificent things he will do through us when we start with one word…YES!! I’m so glad you’ve followed along with one of my favorite “Yes’s”! Thank you to those of you who have read, liked and commented about the ways the Lord is working in your life; we truly need to help each other grow in holiness. I will be praying 10 Rosaries for my readers asking God to bless, protect and guide you.
A Seed To Plant: Say YES to God 10 times this week. It can be something big or something little like stopping to say a quick prayer for someone who comes into your thoughts. As always, please share what happens!
Blessings on your day!
Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. Ephesians 6:11
This verse made me remember a plastic suit of armor the boys had when they were little. One of the boys would wear the armor and the other would wear the Detroit Lions shoulder pads and football uniform and pretend to slay all the bad guys in the county. They were invincible in those get ups. They felt strong and brave and confident as they rode their bikes up and down the lane defending the land. It didn’t matter to them that it was just cheap plastic, what they wore convinced them of something.
That memory and this verse made me think about what our wardrobe says about us. It seems like a simple thing, get up, get dressed and go on with your day but when you think about it WHAT we put on can send a message. We identify police officers, doctors and nurses by the clothes they wear and we automatically assume they will be helpful because of the way they are dressed. We will approach a total stranger in a store to ask for help based on a simple plastic name tag pinned to their shirt. We have the potential to trust, mistrust; judge and misjudge people every day based on what they wear. Does that seem crazy to anybody else?
I guess the big questions are what does God’s armor look like and how often do I wear it? Then it hit me, it’s not really about fabric at all. The clothes we wear may reflect something about our style, profession or personality but they don’t necessarily tell the whole story. I think the armor of God is something we put on from the inside. It can be pretty easy to look at someone’s clothes and assume a thing or two about them that may or may not be correct but the armor of God is unmistakable. Putting it on is intentional, never just a quick grab and go outfit. The boys always needed my help putting on those get ups they used to wear and so it is with Gods armor; we need him to assist us. If we intentionally ask God to protect us and defend us we have to be willing to let him. Wearing his armor means we are protected and safe, but silly humans that we are, we think it means we are now prepared to charge into the world and defeat all the evils much like two little boys I remember in my back yard. God is the defender and we are the defended; the armor of God doesn’t give us a job it gives us peace.
God’s armor is not heavy or clumsy; it’s powerful and designed to fit perfectly. I realized that if I woke up each morning and asked God to dress me in his armor I would be more confident and peaceful and content. I realized I wouldn’t have to worry about harm or evil because nothing is stronger than God. It doesn’t mean nothing bad will happen, it means God will protect me no matter what the circumstance. If I puddled my way through each day without worry or distraction about all the things that might happen or could happen or shouldn’t happen I would have so much more time for great things! I would have more time to pray, more time to help and WAY more time to love. I think I’ll ask God to help me put on that armor right now and leave the defending to him while I get busy with trusting bigger and loving harder…talk about dress for success!
A Seed To Plant: Stop right now and ask God to suit you in his armor and then give him a list of all the things you’d like to be defended from. All that’s left is to trust and be protected.
Blessings on your day!
So they said to him, “What sign can you do, that we may see and believe in you? “What can you do?…John 6:30
I remember taking the kids to the pool when they were little and a hundred times I would hear them yell, “Watch this Mom!” After watching a dozen times my “noticing” diminished sufficiently! There were times I wanted to say, “I’ll watch when you’ve got something good or new to show me!” Reading this passage from todays Gospel threw me back to those days at the pool.
Our world is so busy and fast paced we can become easily bored and complacent. We are constantly expecting the next thing to be a little fancier, bigger, more exciting or shinier. This passage from John’s Gospel serves as a stark reminder that we need to adjust our eyes and attitudes when it comes to the ways Jesus is working in our lives. The people demanded signs like Jesus was in a competition against Moses, but before I roll my eyes at them and scoff their behavior, I need to check myself. I need to sharpen my “noticing”. I need to ask myself daily, “What is Jesus doing in my life right now.” If the only things I notice are the giant, fancy things he does, I’m missing the root of it all. This Gospel reminds me that he does a hundred mighty things for me and my children every single day and I’m not paying attention because I’m stamping my feet waiting for him to dramatically end the woes of the world. I’m waiting to be “Wow’ed” and he’s waiting for me to notice I’m being “Woo’ed” by his love every day.
In a world that is spinning at the speed of sound, God is using this passage to remind us of the power and peace waiting for us in the simple, the plain, the still. Maybe this week instead of demanding the big stuff we can ask for eyes to see the little ways he fills our days with compassion, mercy and grace.
A Seed To Plant: What is the Lord doing in your life right now? Make a list of all the ways big and small he’s “wooing” you during this season of your life.
Blessings on your day!
Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there also will my servant be. The Father will honor whoever serves me. John 12:26
Oh golly, it’s May and tis the season for ball games, school events, graduations and special happenings galore. It’s that season when meal planning, bedtimes, regular schedules and empty laundry baskets seem like ancient history! It’s easy to get tangled up in the chaos and wish it would all just stop. Finding time for daily prayer and family meals is tricky at best and these busy days can leave us feeling like we are lagging behind as disciples. I’d like to offer a different perspective today for anyone who might be choking on their May calendar.
We serve and are adored by a God who can’t be outdone in generosity. Time and again he shows up and multiplies, subtracts, divides and adds the perfect things our life needs when we remember to invite him in. We are about to begin a unit on the Works of Mercy and as I was thinking about them through the lens of a busy parent I could see something different that just might bring you some peace and help you realize you are discipling and serving God and others more than you think in this busy season. Let’s take a look at those Works of Mercy…
Feed the hungry…yes that means packing lunches, providing the post game snack or making cookies for the school fundraiser. It also means making meals sometimes magically appear from the bare cupboards and fridge because mamma doesn’t have time to shop. Remember to pray for all the “eaters”.
Give drink to the thirsty…pretty sure juice boxes and gatorade provided for the school picnic or ball team count. Quick prayers together in the car can also quench a thirst for peace, confidence and contentment. Remember to pray for all those you offer drink to.
Clothe the naked…I’ve come to believe in my older age that laundry is truly a labor of love. That late night load tossed in to make sure the right outfit is ready for tomorrows event is in fact a merciful and unselfish act. Remember to pray for the wearers of the clothes as you wash and fold.
Shelter the homeless…You provide a home that serves as a place of prayer, safety and rest for the people you love most. You work daily to make sure the children God entrusted you with are noticed, valued, corrected and directed. Most of you open that same home to neighbors and friends too. Remember to pray for all the people who cross your doorstep.
Visit the sick and imprisoned…As you sit waiting for the game or concert to begin and you chat with the person sitting next to you perhaps you are visiting them in a prison of personal loneliness. When you take time to ask someone about that person in their life suffering or struggling you are giving them the strength and support they need to return to the journey. When you offer to pray for those in tough situations you are giving them the greatest help imaginable. Remember to pray for all those sitting in the bleachers or auditorium or lawn chairs.
As you continue to wade your way through the rest of this busy season of your life there are a few things you can do to make sure you aren’t wasting these minutes. In fact, these simple things can help you turn the chaos into a chance to grow in holiness. First, be sure to invite Jesus into the business of the day. Offer all of it…every last stinkin thing on the schedule to him and ask him to help you see him working through all of it. Second, use car time to say quick prayers with your kids. Take turns sharing what you need prayers for and say a prayer together for each other. Third, ask the Holy Spirit to take control of all your conversations so you can be a vessel of his grace and finally, remember that each and every thing we do can be offered as a gift to the Father who will offer it back as grace ten-fold.
A Seed To Plant: Pick one of the four suggestions and put it in action today.
Blessings on your day!
…and the greatest of these is love 1Corinthians 13:13
The last couple of weeks almost daily it seems I read, see or hear something about the Mercy of God. Usually that means somebody else might need to hear about it too. Todays post is a little like a toddler; short and sweet but full of might! Here are some nuggets of Mercy...
*Love is the greatest virtue and mercy is the highest form of love.
*Mercy is a free and undeserved gift from the Father that is the opposite of what we deserve and it’s given completely out of love.
*Mercy is bigger than forgiveness. Mercy allows you to look at those you’ve forgiven with a hope for their holiness.
*Mercy requires humility.
*Humility is not about thinking less of ourselves but thinking of ourselves less…if we are thinking of ourselves less, we can think of the Father more which always leads to loving and merciful thinking and actions.
*Pride is the enemy of a merciful life and not one person in recorded history ever choked to death on their pride.
*He who knows how to forgive and show mercy prepares for himself many graces from God. As often as I look upon the cross, so often will I forgive with all my heart. St. Faustina
A Seed To Plant: Ask God to show you the places in your life where his mercy needs to be received and given.
Blessings on your day!
But God, who is rich in mercy, because of the great love He has for us, Ephesians 2:4
My big brother Jim was a great guy! I have so many memories of our childhood; and like all brothers and sisters close in age, it should come as no surprise that most of those memories are of great times and events, and others…well…not so much! Jim was tall and strong and he absolutely LOVED to catch me by surprise and grab my hands and start a game of “mercy”. The rules were simple, bend back your opponent’s hands until they cried “mercy” and then you’d stop. Strange game I know but he did it every chance he got. Jim was competitive and beating me was quick work when I was little but as I got older and he began to realize I had inherited our mother’s huge, strong hands and long fingers I wasn’t such a quick win and he had to take it up a notch when I beat him a time or two. After I had a taste of victory, I wasn’t as eager to spit out that cry for “mercy” to end the game. I giggle when I remember the last Christmas we were all together, I was 20 and he was 22 and we were still playing that stupid game.
One thing I could always count on from Jim was immediate mercy when I called out the word. He didn’t take a second to honor the request, he stopped instantly. “Mercy” was a game played by lots of folks when I was growing up (maybe it was a Kansas thing??) but not every opponent honored the request for mercy immediately but Jim did and that always stuck with me. For Catholics all over the world, the Sunday after Easter is known as Divine Mercy Sunday and it’s a day we celebrate the immediate, guaranteed and undeserved Mercy of the God who loves us. We’re gong to dwell on the topic for a few weeks because our world is crying out for God’s love and mercy. I read somewhere that GRACE is a gift freely given by God for things we don’t deserve and MERCY is a gift freely given in place of what we do deserve. Thank goodness! If God chose to discipline me with penalties and punishments for all my sin and shortcomings I’d never get ahead…I think He knew that and that’s why He invented mercy! In fact, His Divine Mercy is even more immediate than that shown by my brother Jim in that silly game we used to play.
In order to better understand the gift of Divine Mercy, I’ve borrowed some words from the Marians of the Immaculate Conception website…may their words help your heart understand this beautiful gift. The ABC’s make it easy to understand… A – Ask for His mercy. God wants us to approach Him in prayer constantly, repenting of our sins and asking Him to pour His mercy out upon us and the whole world. B– Be merciful. God wants us to receive His mercy and let it flow through us to others. He wants us to extend love and forgiveness to others just as He does to us. C – Completely trust in Jesus. God wants us to know the graces of His mercy are dependent upon our trust. The more we trust in Jesus, the more we will receive.
Lucky us!!! How blessed are we to receive the gift of His mercy…but wait…if you read carefully you noticed the parts that said the gift is free but it comes with an expectation! The expectation is that we must extend His mercy to those around us! YUP…that means to those who have wronged us and hurt us and haven’t lived up to their end of the bargain. I suppose it’s a little like the way we are with God; often hurting him, not living up to our end of the bargain and doing dozens of assorted “wrongs” a week. I’m thankful for the memory of my brother Jim and our countless games of “mercy” because it was a wee little sneak peek into the beautiful revelation of the Divine Mercy of our Father.
A Seed To Plant: Pray over the Mercy ABC’s and jot down those things you need to ask God’s mercy for and then make a list of those whom you will allow His mercy to flow through you and land on!
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 weeks 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.
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!
…with age-old love I have loved you; so I have kept my mercy toward you. Jeremiah 31:3
For the last several weeks the middle lovelies have been preparing to present their Shadow Stations of the Cross. Every year I am struck by the simplicity, power and passion generated by a group of twelve year olds and its ability to stir the hearts and tears of a gym full of people. It is the perfect way to begin Holy Week.
After practice one day I overheard two of the kids talking and one of them said, “It’s hard to believe someone could love us enough to go through all this!” Honestly, I can’t believe it either! I watch from side stage as these kids act out the crucifixion and the tears sting! Sometimes my mind drifts to those who were witnesses to the real Passion of Christ and my heart nearly pounds out of my chest at the slightest imagining of what that must have been like. Holy Week always leaves me feeling so loved, but always with a tinge of guilt and not nearly enough gratitude. It’s easy for me to feel like I should be doing more…praying more…serving more…living better so I can show Jesus how much I love him. It’s easy to feel like I come up so short.
I was feeling that way this morning at mass and Father Eric said exactly what my heart needed to hear. If you’re mid way through your Holy Week thinking you can never repay Jesus for the gift he so extravagantly gave maybe this will help you enter into the Triduum peacefully and prayerfully too. When we consider the love Jesus has for us, we have to remember that it isn’t a contest. We can never match his love and his love doesn’t change. Instead of harboring thoughts of inadequacy Father suggests this very simple prayer. “Jesus I love you too!”
As we ponder the events of the Last Supper, the washing of the feet or the scourging we should just say “Thank You Jesus, I love you too!” That simple little prayer says it all. It allows us to acknowledge the depth of Jesus’ love and do the only thing we’re capable of…thank him and return the love. Instead of thinking; I haven’t earned this kind of love or I don’t deserve this huge love, I will just say thank you Jesus, I love you too! Those words just seem to settle the soul. I hope you’ll take them deep into your Holy Week too.
A Seed To Plant: Read the Holy Week story from the Gospels and end each part of your reading with the words, “Thank you Jesus, I love you too.”
Blessings on your day!
Have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross! Philippians 2: 5-11
We are almost there; we’re right on the edge of my favorite week of the year…Holy Week!! The question of the day is; are you gonna leap or limp into this spectacular week on the christian calendar? The choice is yours and the blessings and benefits of the week will be proportional to your choice.
Why might we limp? Sometimes it’s as simple as recognizing our “inner toddler”. We may be headed into Holy Week limping with a pouty heart because Lent didn’t finish as spectacularly as we had envisioned it on Ash Wednesday. Maybe we fell short, maybe all Lent did was make us more aware of our sinfulness and our stubbornness. Yeah…so what…join the club! The limpers probably tried to do Lent their way and wanted to feel great because of what they had done. Having a spotlight thrown on our flaws, weaknesses and flub-ups isn’t anything we’d purposefully sign up for but sometimes it’s exactly where Jesus needs us to park and stare. The other guess I’m willing to make is that the limpers are feeling like they didn’t “get” anything out of Lent. Everyone wants the “sparkle -farkle” “warm and fuzzy” holy feelings, and if we’re not feelin’ it we throw up our hands and think we’ll just give it a go next Ash Wednesday. Uhhh….that’s us trying to be the boss again…that’s us trying to tell Jesus what we need instead of considering the fact that he’s shown us some things he needs us to see and if we’ll just hang with him and give him everything during this Holy Week, he’s got a miracle to blow our minds on Easter Sunday. Lent is about change, growing and journeying, so take a minute, stand up straight, quit limping and start leaping because the amazing love of the Father is about to bust out and amaze us this week if we’re looking.
So why leap? Because this week we’ll re-live the events done out of the most magnificent and spectacular love imaginable… it’s all for love…every last tiny detail of this week illustrates his love for us. Nobody has ever or will ever do something so incredible for us, so we need to leap into it head first and soak it up; the story, the people, the details, the celebrations, the sorrow but mostly the LOVE. Here are some things you can do to make sure you’re leaping and not limping.
First, since this was all done out of love that’s the place for us to start. Love Jesus a little more this week. Since the best way to show love it so be present, that’s exactly what we need to do. Spend more time with Jesus this week. Read Scripture, pray, soak up a pod-cast, video, song or article about Holy Week each day so you can appreciate the love and leap into the happy ending on Sunday.
Second, share some love. Pick one act of love you can offer this week. Make it a tough one…consider that whole “love those who can’t love you back” or “love your neighbor” thing. Do a great act of love simply because Jesus did a big one for you.
Third, read the story! Go through the Gospel stories of the passion, death and resurrection this week. Read them slowly and let the love in the story wash over you like a warm, healing rain.
Last, just be his! Steer away from the TV and the Screens this week…just be with him. Imagine each day that you are walking with him, living the story with him and experiencing his love first hand. Give him that gift and the blessings he will return to you on Easter Sunday will leave you changed. Now; ready, set. LEAP! Have a blessed and truly HOLY Week!
A Seed To Plant: Write down and actually DO the four things above to make this a wonderful Holy Week.
Blessings on your day!
“For I the Lord do not change.” Malachi 3:6
How’s your Lent? It’s a great feeling to get to this point in the season and recognize tangible ways our changes and sacrifices have allowed us to detach from our will a little. As we dive deep into the last weeks of Lent it’s a good time to ask ourselves, “WHY did I give that up?” or “WHY did I make that change?” I recently heard a priest point out that often our Lenten plans are very self focused. He challenged his listeners to think beyond themselves and make some changes that had a positive effect on someone else. Then he spoke this powerful line…
“One changed life, always changes another!” If we are going to be the people of service we are called to be, this line is mighty motivation. I have heard the powerful story of three people this Lent who made a change in their life and it changed another. I share their stories to inspire us to do some great things to finish out this Lent.
*Adjusting your schedule to give the gift of time changes things. Lent opens our hearts to receive gifts from the Lord as we free ourselves from habits and distractions that allow us more time to get closer to Him. Tonight I saw one of these gifts. When I made time as a Lenten commitment to visit a very old woman in assisted living, she quickly became my friend. But tonight she kissed me goodbye and said she would pray for me and at that moment I felt my mom in her embrace (my mom died 40 years ago when she and I were both too young to lose each other). God is good and beautiful and works in mysterious ways. I am looking forward to our visits long after Lent has passed!! One changed life always changes another!
* Changing my perspective was a game changer! I’ve been politely angry at God for twenty years for a lousy marriage and entering my sixties divorced and childless. All I could do was count the pains, injustices and shortfalls of my life. This Lent I asked God to change my broken heart and swap my list of pains for a list of joys. I told him I would change my anger if he would put someone in my path who needed my love. It was a tall order but a powerful wave of trust and peace washed over me as Fr. traced the ashen cross on my forehead on Ash Wednesday. The next day a single mother and her two pre-teen daughters moved in next door. Long story short, I have three new friends who needed my love, my support, my help and my skills as a retired teacher. I help with homework, we share dinner together three nights a week and I marvel at how easy it was to change from anger to joy. One changed life always changes another!
* I began last Lent in the middle of a bitter, unhappy marriage. It seemed like every time my husband walked into the room all I could do was think about how much more I gave to the relationship and how unappreciated and taken for granted I felt. I sought counsel from a wise friend who told me the only thing I could control was myself and that “gratitude covered a multitude of sins.” After prayer and googling a lot of Catholic marriage talks I decided to change my attitude. Instead of keeping “score”, I started keeping a gratitude list about my husband. The first few days the list was pretty small but as Lenten days passed, I began to notice and appreciate so many things I had been too bitter to see. I also began to pray for him every day and as the bitterness and selfishness in my heart began to disappear, our love, laughter and faithfulness completely changed. One changed life always changes another!
Lent is a time to change our hearts, attitudes and actions…he’s inviting us to change not just for ourselves but for another of his children and just maybe he’s inviting someone to make a change that will bless us. Don’t fear the change because no matter how much things swirl around us; his love never changes!
A Seed To Plant: Spend some time in prayer this week asking the Father to show you where you can make a change that will change another.
Blessings on your day!
…and the greatest of these is love. 1 Corinthians 13:13
I think Jesus had a favorite word and he taught over and over that we should put that word into action. The word…LOVE! It covers a multitude of sins and correct a mountain of troubles, but what does it look like? I’ve had the Beetles song “All I need is Love” stuck in my head for a week and then I came across this article below; the Holy Spirit no doubt is responsible for this post! I have no idea who wrote it or I’d give them credit and a thousand thank you’s. These thoughts don’t just apply to romantic love…but to all of us and the ways we treat each other. It’s a longer read but OH SO WORTH THE TIME!
A group of professional people posed this question to a group of 4 to 8 year-olds, 'What does love mean?' The answers they got were broader, deeper, and more profound than anyone could have ever imagined!
**'When my grandmother got arthritis, she couldn't bend over and paint her toenails anymore... So my grandfather does it for her all the time, even when his hands got arthritis too. That's love.' Rebecca - age 8
**'When someone loves you, the way they say your name is different. You just know that your name is safe in their mouth.' Billy - age 4
**'Love is when a girl puts on perfume and a boy puts on shaving cologne and they go out and smell each other.' Karl - age 5
**'Love is when you go out to eat and give somebody most of your French fries without making them give you any of theirs.' Chrissy - age 6
**'Love is what makes you smile when you're tired.' Terri - age 4
**'Love is when my mommy makes coffee for my daddy and she takes a sip before giving it to him, to make sure the taste is OK.' Danny - age 8
**'Love is what's in the room with you at Christmas if you stop opening presents and just listen.' Bobby - age 7 (Wow!)
**'If you want to learn to love better, you should start with a friend who you hate.' Nikka - age 6 (we need a few million more Nikka's on this planet)
'**Love is when you tell a guy you like his shirt, then he wears it every day.' Noelle - age 7
**'Love is like a little old woman and a little old man who are still friends even after they know each other so well.' Tommy - age 6
**'During my piano recital, I was on a stage and I was scared. I looked at all the people watching me and saw my daddy waving and smiling.He was the only one doing that. I wasn't scared anymore.' Cindy - age 8
**'Love is when Mommy gives Daddy the best piece of chicken.' Elaine - age 5
**'Love is when Mommy sees Daddy smelly and sweaty and still says he is handsomer than Robert Redford.' Chris - age 7
'**Love is when your puppy licks your face even after you left him alone all day.' Mary - age 4
**'I know my older sister loves me because she gives me all her old clothes and has to go out and buy new ones.' Lauren - age 4
**'When you love somebody, your eyelashes go up and down and little stars come out of you.' (what an image!) Karen - age 7
**'You really shouldn't say 'I love you' unless you mean it. But if you mean it, you should say it a lot. People forget.' Jessica - age 8
**And the final one: The winner was a four year old child whose next door neighbor was an elderly gentleman who had recently lost his wife. Upon seeing the man cry, the little boy went into the old gentleman's yard, climbed onto his lap, and just sat there. When his mother asked what he had said to the neighbor, the little boy said, 'Nothing, I just helped him cry.’
A Seed To Plant: These snippets have so much to think about! What if the second half of Lent was all about finding ways to LOVE BIGGER! It’s impossible to focus on loving others harder and be selfish at the same time. I’d say that’s a win win! Pick something from the list and put it into action this week.
Blessings on your day!
… “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” Mathew 14:31
I love this story from Matthew’s Gospel. It’s full of little lessons! One thing that always makes me giggle a little is how much I’m like the apostles that stayed in the boat. Poor Peter gets scolded by Jesus for being of “little faith”. Truth is, I’d be one of the 11 still sitting in the boat never having the guts to get out and even try walking on water in the first place! Sometimes my boat is rockin but I’m not brave enough to get out and be faithful!
I discovered three “boat rockers” in my life are 1)My children’s future 2)The shrinking moral conscience of our culture and 3)The economy and leadership of our country. Boy can I ever be an apostle glued to the boat seat when I think about these things! I need to leap out of the boat like Peter and take some steps toward Jesus. There are many things that rock our boat and test our faith but the message is the same to us as it was to Peter; trust Me, keep your eyes on Me,have faith in Me and I will guide and protect and love you!
I can’t guarantee that my children will get their dream job with benefits and a generous salary any more than I can sweep into the US Senate or House and pray with them and get things all straightened out. (talk about being tossed into a stormy sea…yikes!) I wish I could do great big things that would restore common values like modesty, honesty and respect for life but the truth is, I’m only in charge of my little corner of the world. So what’s a sea-sick scardey cat apostle to do…PRAY! TRUST! GET OUT OF THE BOAT SO JESUS CAN GRAB ON!
If I look back on my own life, the troubles and difficult times are the ones that caused me to learn the most. Having jobs that were hard, yucky and paid pennies were the ones that made me strong and grateful. Wrestling with tough decisions about my future gave me great opportunity to pray and trust God’s will for my life. Why would I want my kids to have an easy go of it and miss those important lessons and opportunities to grow in faith and character? I think I’ll get out of that boat and just ask God to bless them and remind them daily to ask Him for direction and then pray like crazy they listen and follow!
As for the boat rockin I feel when I think of state of affairs with our culture and our country, I had a thought. If your inbox or facebook newsfeed is full of jokes, slogans and stories about the woes of our world, what do you think would happen if instead of forwarding or sharing them, we would instead stop and pray? Judging by the number of those types of posts I see each day, that could be a LOT of prayin…I think the seas would calm and more folks would have the courage and the trust to get out of the boat and walk toward Jesus. I think we underestimate the power of prayer, especially with issues we think are beyond us. I sometimes forget to pray for our leaders. I don’t remember often enough to pray for people who have lost their way and make decisions that draw people away from God rather than toward Him. Shame on me…guess I better write that down so I remember! I don’t know about you, but I think I’m ready to get out of the boat and test the water!
A Seed To Plant: What’s rockin your boat? Make a list and then stop today and pray for the courage to walk toward Jesus and hand Him your concern. While you’re prayin, stop and say a prayer for the President and all those in positions of leadership and power.
Blessings on our day!
…’You are My servant, I have chosen you and not rejected you.’ Isaiah 41:9
I love choices; I don’t need a lot of choices but having more than one option is a very good thing! I love cookies but if I have the choice between a cookie or a piece of Carrot Cake that’s a simple choice…both are great but clearly the Carrot Cake wins every time! Last week I had a God thump that made me think of choices in a new light.
While I was at mass recently I had the opportunity to help the little guy next to me find the right page in the song book. Once we found it, he wanted me to point to the words as we sang. The song was a familiar favorite. Honestly, if it hadn’t been for the little one next to me, I wouldn’t have even had to pick up the book. God had a plan! My favorite lines from this song are, “my hearts one desire is to be holy, set apart for You Lord, I want to be holy, ready to do your will’ great words right. I’ve belted them out just like that dozens of times but Friday as I pointed to each word with my fingers for my buddy, God thumped me as I read not “I want to be holy” but “I CHOOSE to be holy.” That one word made a huge difference.
The difference between want and choose is action, responsibility and work. I can want to be holier or thinner or more prayerful and patient. I can want all I want and it just remains a wish or a dream. If I choose to be those things, that means I have to do something about it. It reminded me of something my mom used to say when we whined about something being hard or not going our way. She would say, “Well child, why don’t you wish in one hand and spit in the other and see which one gets full faster. Nothing gets done until you get busy.”
The ultimate goal of the Lenten Season is to help us grow in holiness. The big question I’ve been pondering and praying about is; do I want to grow in holiness or do I choose to grow in holiness? If I just want it, I can guarantee I will sit in church on Good Friday weeping because I’m in the same place I was on Ash Wednesday. If I want things to be different I have to choose to make them different. I have to take action and not just wish for change. That puts a different light on things. It takes away the try and replaces it with a do. I don’t know about you but my Lent can use more DOING and CHOOSING! I’m not quite sure what he’s leading me to on this years Lenten Journey but I do know I will have to make some choices and I’m pretty sure they won’t be as easy as Carrot Cake over cookies! Lord, help me see and choose!
A Seed To Plant: Make a list of the things that get in the way of your holiness. Now circle a few and pray over them the next few days asking God to help you CHOOSE the ones he wants to help you tackle this Lent.
Blessings on your day!
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