God is our refuge and our strength, an ever-present help in distress. Psalm 46:1
Have you ever put something away in that “safe place” that you were sure was the perfect, logical spot only to spend a big chunk of time trying to recall just where that perfect spot was? I can’t even count the number of times I’ve muttered while searching high and low for that thing I put in the perfect place that I was sure to remember! It’s frustrating isn’t it! Very often when I do finally find it I think, “What on earth were you thinking…that wasn’t logical or memorable in the least!” I’m really glad I don’t have to search for God that hard, or find the perfect spot to store his love and affection.
So many times when I feel overwhelmed or pulled in too many directions I call out to God like he’s lost or something. “Dear God…where are you…I’m choking here…HELLO!!!” or “Hey God…woman in trouble here; can world peace wait a few minutes, I need you right now please!” I saw a cartoon featuring Mr. Magoo talking to a lamp post like it was a real person and it was so ridiculous it was funny. I wasn’t laughing so hard when I realized sometimes that must be what God feels like when he sees us throwing a hissy fit or calling out to him impatiently as if he’s on a long lunch and not fully aware of each and every one of our needs.
I’m not sure how many more years I need to wander this earth before I fully wrap my head around the fact that our God does not charge in on a white horse nor does he rein down thunder and lightning each time we call out his name for help. He is a God who comes in the quiet, like a still, small whisper. He doesn’t get lost, he doesn’t ignore, and he doesn’t come a minute too soon or a minute too late. The only walls I need him to bust down are the walls of my heart so I can trust, listen, love and hope harder each day. I don’t need to go around muttering to lamp posts or other inanimate objects expecting them to talk back, I just need to speak to Him in the quiet and know he hears me instantly. I don’t have to hide his contact information or keep him in a corner compartment “on hold” for when I might need him, I know where he is, I know that he hears me, I know that God is present even if all I hear is silence. After all, peace doesn’t mean trouble is absent, it means God is present; without even tracking him down. I think I just needed to remember he is ever present and ever so easy to find. Maybe you needed that reminder today too.
A Seed To Plant: For 10 minutes; just be still and listen for the whisper!
Blessings on your day!
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say rejoice. Philippians 4:4
This verse is one of those “feel good” verses I like to spit out when I’m happy and things are going well. I’m getting better and better at calling out in thanks for every good thing. It’s been a consciences effort over the past many months to really remind myself to thank him and recognize the million moments when he’s working powerfully in my life. Lately though I’ve been asked to look at this verse through a different lens.
The truth about this verse is that it was written by St. Paul. The hit me over the head truth of this verse is that it was written while he was in prison awaiting his martyrdom. From the darkness, the squalor, the stench, the most unfortunate, uncomfortable and undeserved location, he cried out for us to rejoice as he was at that very moment. He didn’t say it once, but twice; rejoice! Now, I’ve been in some pretty dark, complicated, painful spots but I’ve got nothin to compare to this…not even close. Praying with this verse has brought to mind some things I need to remember about rejoicing, especially when it’s the last thing on my mind.
Being a disciple means saying YES to God. When we say yes, it’s usually because we want to grow closer to him and experience his powerful grace. We sign up for the good stuff! How conveniently and quickly we forget about the hard or bad that comes with the good. God shows us how this works in his creation again and again. He put thorns with roses and cobs with sweet corn and mosquitos with summer. We’ve lived it and seen it dozens of times but we are always shocked when the suffering and hardship come. The Apostles said yes to Jesus and talk about a roller-coaster ride that yes was. Every one of them endured trial, hardship, persecution and all but one faced martyrdom. Amazingly, they all listed to Paul and did it all while rejoicing, and for what? For eternal peace, freedom and absolute perfection.
These thoughts served as a sort of “buck up butter-cup” kind of experience in Adoration a couple of weeks ago. I was lamenting about people who were sick and troubles and woes we are facing as a community, a church and as a nation. Wouldn’t you know it, this was exactly the verse he led me to. When I look at all the stuff I was made heavy-hearted by, I realized I have absolutely no control over any of it and the only thing I could do was lift it up to him and rejoice! Rejoice not that these things were happening, but rejoice because I trust he’s working in all of it.
Embracing hardship cheerfully isn’t something we generally put on our daily to-do list but I suppose it really should be. Following St. Paul’s advice in his letter to the Philippians I decided to give it a try. I have a really bum knee and long walks through the airport and standing to deliver an all day training is pretty awful. Last week when I went to Texas, I parked my car at at the airport and said, “Lord, I thank you for this lousy hurting knee. I will praise you and rejoice in the pain and I offer this suffering to you. I rejoice in the pain in the hopes that you will bless someone in great need with the pain I offer you.” And of course because I can be sassy, I added, “And Lord, If I’m gonna stand and do one evening and two full days of training, I need you to take some of the pain away during those hours. If you could part the Red Sea, I know you can manage the pain for a couple days.” It was sort of an experiment but he was so faithful and mighty and lovingly answered my prayer. Through the prompting of the Holy Spirit I rejoiced when it didn’t hurt so much and then again when I got home and it did. His power is overwhelming! Give it a try, rejoice in the middle of something awful or painful that’s going on in your life. He will be waiting to meet you in the middle of it.
A Seed To Plant: Make a list of all the things going on in your life that are hard to rejoice in. Write or say the words; Lord, help me rejoice in_____.
Blessings on your day!
But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8
Saint Augustine had a way of "telling it like it is"! He didn't mince words or beat around the bush he just cut to the chase and taught it like it was. Once he gave a sermon in which he proposed a kind of self-test to see if we truly love God; Suppose God proposed you a deal and said “I will give you anything you want. You can possess the whole world. Nothing will be impossible for you…nothing will be a sin, nothing forbidden. You will never die, never have pain, never have anything you do not want and always have anything you do want….except for one thing; you will never see my face.” St. Augustine closed with a question; did a chill arise in your hearts, when you heard the words, “You will never see my face”? That chill is the most precious thing in you; that is the pure love of God.
Every time I read the wise words of this story I get such a wave of desire…desire to try harder to be holy! I realize after reading St. Augustine’s words I have a renewed sense of purpose…a new strength…a new hope. I think we work so hard at doing the “right thing” maybe we forget just what we’re working for. It’s easy to get into the habit of doing good things so others will think we’re “nice”. In the words of our former parish priest, Fr. James, “nowhere in the bible are we called to be nice!” We are called to be holy, called to be uncomfortable, called to realize sometimes the Gospel’s hit us sideways…and that’s ok! We are called to do the hard work of following Christ…being His hands and feet on earth and that, as we all know, isn’t always easy. There are days, when that offer from God St. Augustine talked about seems like a great idea! Those are the times we need to set out with new energy to do His work and know it isn’t without great blessing and reward.
I read this story tonight and then I told the room full of teenagers listening, “Our number one task is to get to heaven! Everything we do, say, listen to, watch and everyone we hang out with will either help us get there, or draw us away so pay attention!” The temptation is there to think one little thing here or there won’t matter but it’s still a step away from our task. The most powerful thing I can think of to make those decisions easier is to remember what’s waiting for us in heaven…the face of God. That’s something worth fighting for…that trumps everything! We just have to remember it!
A Seed To Plant: Print the words to St. Augustine’s sermon and read them every day this week. I’m willing to bet if you let them really sink into your heart, living the Gospel message will have a new meaning!
Blessings on your day!
“For behold, I have made you small among the nations…” Jeremiah 49:15
Here’s a little fun fact for you. Each tower of the Golden Gate Bridge contains more than 600,000 rivets. That’s a lot of rivets! Now you may be wondering what on earth that has to do with anything but if you read a little further it may have a lot to do with you! This little tidbit of seemingly unimportant information grabbed my attention when it was followed by the phrase, “and not one of them does something on it’s own.”
Each rivet is absolutely important but not a single one of them demands recognition for the job they do. I’d never look at a picture of the Golden Gate Bridge and say, “Oh my, look at rivet number 432,000…isn’t that an awesome rivet!” Instead, when I look at all those rivets I realize they are an integral part of something amazing but it isn’t completely dependent on any one rivet. They each work together for a greater purpose. I offer this post today both as a reminder and as a comfort.
The reminder is about service, humility and the work we have in our discipleship. I can do all kinds of personal things to grow in holiness but if I’m not using my time, talents and treasures to serve others, I’m not a rivet thats building the Kingdom of God on earth. The Ten Commandments are divided into two groups; Love God and Love Others! We are called to do both. One rivet won’t hold up a bridge any more than one person can singlehandedly build the Kingdom. This little tidbit has given me cause to consider how important a rivet I think I really am. As I type, it’s early Sunday morning and I’m watching the sun come up through a giant airport window. It’s a stunning view and I’m so happy to be on my way to Texas to do the work he’s called me there to do, but I have to be careful not to think that makes my rivet any shinier than the next guys. After all, if they build a bridge with only one rivet who would trust it? As I think of those 6000,000 rivets, I’m reminded that strength for good work comes when the work is done by many, each doing what they are called to do, in the way they’re called to do it, all for the Glory of God not to be noticed as a standout.
The comfort of this little thought is that the weight of the task doesn’t rest completely on one person’s shoulders. We don’t have to carry the weight of the world. We don’t have to be in charge. We don’t have to know everything, understand everything, and battle all the woes of the world on our own. God surrounded us with lots of other rivets to share the journey and the work of our discipleship. We were made to be in communion with others for lots of different reasons; God is so smart! So relax, look around and find the rivets near you and trust in their support. I have the great pleasure to teach in a school made up of a group of really awesome rivets! On any given day we pray, laugh, think and sometimes cry together offering the support, love and assurance needed to build God’s Kingdom through our vocation as teachers. Look around, who are the rivets near you?
Those rivets in the Golden Gate Bridge work together to support more than 112,000 vehicles a day. I’d say that’s a fabulous example of combined effort. The question is, where is God calling me to be a rivet!
A Seed To Plant: Take some time in prayer to consider the kind of rivet God’s calling you to be. Ponder a bit on the ideas of service, humility and comfort from this simple post.
Blessings on your day!
"Also the Glory of Israel will not lie or change His mind; for He is not a man that He should change His mind.” 1 Samuel 15:29
Welcome to 2019! It’s time for the annual word of the year post. I just learned that there is some sort of app that can generate your word for you. The folks I know who have tried it have gotten some pretty fancy words. One lady got the word “dazzle” and another got “fascination” and yet a third got “excitement”. After many weeks of prayer, my word is crystal clear…and once again it’s not very fancy. I say it’s not fancy because it involves work on my part. My word for 2019 is “CONSISTENT”. Wa-hoo! At first I pouted a little thinking this was a word that meant I was going to be tested and asked to actually plow through some stuff he’s been leading me toward for a while. After the word was clear, I spent several days asking him to help me actually like my word!
It’s been cause for a lot of reflection and it’s only the second day of January! In my prayer, I came across this verse from 1Samuel and it shined a giant spotlight on a couple of things that come with my word. I was pointed right to truthfulness and decisiveness. Truth hit my heart because we live in a world that seems to be a little allergic to honesty. It’s hard to know which headline or sound bite to believe. I know I can't do much to change that but I sure can work consistently to seek, defend, and live truth. Changing my mind is usually what happens when I loose steam and don’t finish what I started. It occurred to me that if consistent was a word I lived, I could be a little more Christ-like. I liked the thought of that!
I’m celebrating the last few hours of my birthday as I type and it’s been a great day. I think it’s been a great day because it had the best beginning. I went to church for a Eucharistic Holy Hour at 5:45 this morning and in the still and the quiet the thought that popped into my head (thank you Holy Spirit) was that being consistent didn’t mean being perfect. That was a huge relief. The verse points out that He is not a man and he won’t change his mind but I am human so he sort of expects it I think…phew! That little line took off some of the pressure for sure! As I begin this new year and pray about the way I’d like to live out this next birth year, I made a list of all the places I needed to be more consistent. When I finished, the list wasn’t nearly as scary as I thought it might be. I am the queen of stop and start…green light and red light…hurry up, go crazy and then stall out! I believe the words I need to adopt are finish what you start with consistent progress. I think I can do that!
As I was looking at the list of things that need my new word and making a plan, I realized I probably need to find the root of my inconsistency. I’m usually in perpetual motion and get lots of stuff done but there are those few things that just never turn out quite like I thought they would when I got started. I need to spend some time in prayer thinking about why! Some of them are big things like writing a book and others are small like praying a daily Rosary EVERY day. Some are just yucky like keeping papers graded and my desk free from piles and some are hard like consistently eating right and speaking truthfully and kindly to everyone. My new word seems to fit everywhere but I need to figure out how to use it well. I’ll keep you posted!
A Seed To Plant: What’s your word? Share it if you have one so we can all pray for each other as we figure out how to live our word!
Blessings on your day!
Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour. Matthew 25:13
I love Tuesday’s! That’s the day students file in, find a seat and get ready for “Tuesday Tunes”! The process is very simple and I’m amazed each week at how something so simple can be so fun and powerful. After I play a song we talk about what God might be speaking to us through the lyrics. I’m always amazed at the way some kids react and respond. I’m continually surprised at how the same set of words can mean something so different to each of them; and the way some of them dig half-way to China and grab a deep nugget of wisdom and insight never ceases to amaze me!
The Tuesday before Christmas break I played a song called Born In Me by Francesca Battestelli. If you haven’t heard it make sure you head over to YouTube when you’re done reading to check it out; it’s an incredible song. When the song finished there was just silence in all four classes. They were thinking and studying the image of the Baby Jesus at the end of the song. It was pretty amazing to see a room full of middle lovelies just entranced by a song. There was a line in the song that said “I will hold you in the beginning and you’ll hold me in the end.” Several said that was Mary talking simply saying Mary held Jesus when he was a baby and then Jesus will hold her in his arms when she comes to heaven. One dug really deep and said he thought it was God speaking to us saying “I held you in my hands and made you in my image as I created you and after you have lived your life well on earth, you will return to me and I will hold you again.” May I remind you this child was 12! Amazing!
Another line they found powerful was the line that said “I’ll make my heart your Bethlehem” What a beautiful thought! A few of the middle lovelies were sure that meant that Jesus came to Bethlehem the first Christmas but as he finished his life on earth we simply celebrate his return to our hearts each Christmas. Beautiful…and then another one said; “We have to work really hard to make sure our heart is pure, clean and wide open because if our heart is to be his home, we don’t want him to find there is no room at the inn again!”
The kids picked up on the line that said, “If You’re pleased with me why am I so terrified?” I loved the thoughts on this line. There were the obvious ones like, she was afraid of what her Joseph, her parents and family would say and she was afraid of the unknown. But then it happened…someone went in a direction I’d never considered and said, “I think Mary was terrified because she wanted to make sure she could protect God’s son. I can’t always protect my iPod and my cat; I can’t imagine how scared I would be to be in charge of Jesus! I just think she was afraid to disappoint God because disappointing your parents is really a bad feeling.”
The last line that really struck them said “The only thing my heart can offer is a vacancy.” One class fell silent when a very humble and honest young man said, “I don’t even think I can offer that most of the time. I spend too much time being selfish, playing and doing what I want to that I don’t think there is enough room in my heart for Jesus.” Holy Cow! I think he spoke for all of us and opened the door for amazing discussion on the ways we can make sure our heart can offer a vacancy to the Newborn King.
It was more powerful than you average Tuesday that’s for sure! If you’re looking for a new way to sit in quiet prayer you might try a Tuesday Tune of your own…on any day you like. Just play it and see what lines hit your heart and then spend some prayerful minutes just pondering the words and the message.
A Seed To Plant: Find Born In Me and give it a prayerful listen.
Blessings on your day!
For unto us a child is born...Isaiah 9:6
As we enjoy these days of Christmas we should take some time to focus our thoughts and prayers on God’s gift of perfect love; His Son. Love is, after all the only reason God could possibly have for lavishing such a sinful people with such an extraordinary gift.
Many things have come along over the years that have changed the world. Henry Ford’s Model-T weighed 1,450 pounds and it changed the way the world moved. The first washing machine weighed over 250 pounds and it made cleaning things easier. The first computer weighed nearly one ton and it gave the world access to more knowledge and communication. As valuable, helpful and convenient as these and other modern changes are, they haven’t always changed our life for the better. In fact sometimes changes in our world just muddy up the water and clutter our focus. Bigger, faster and more convenient isn’t always better. Sometimes all these changes lead us away from the love, peace and joy God sent His Son to this earth to bring us.
The most significant change for the people of God’s earth weighed only seven pounds and arrived in the most humble surrounding imaginable. There was no million dollar marketing scheme to prepare us for His arrival. There was no multi-million dollar Super Bowl commercial to get us all hyped up about His coming. There was simply a seven pound miracle that came to change EVERYTHING! If we would embrace it and all the Christ Child brought us, we could move through our days with hearts overflowing with joy. We would travel through life here on earth more easily than the first passengers in a Model-T. If we opened ourselves to God’s mercy and forgiveness, we would be washed whiter than any garment to pass through even the most efficient washing machine. If we would share the love that little seven pound wonder came to bring us, we would speak and act with more wisdom and knowledge than any computer could generate. Maybe, if we would slow down this Christmas to absorb the absolute Wonder and Awe of the coming of Christ, we would begin to find our balance and see that God sent His Son to earth to change us significantly.
A seed to plant: Take time this Christmas to gaze at the Christ Child in the manger and ask God to help you see what changes are needed to draw closer to Him. It’s ok to start small, after all the biggest change ever only weighed seven pounds.
Blessings on your day!
God danced among the common and that night…he did a waltz. Max Lucado
Happy Christmas Eve! So how was your Advent? I hope you were able to make a little room in your heart and get ready for the wee Baby Jesus! What, you didn’t have an hour of uninterrupted silent prayer each day? What do you mean, you felt frazzled and stressed instead of calm and prayerful? Are you kidding, you don’t really feel all that much different than you did the first Sunday of Advent?
Welcome to the club! Believe me, I get it! How many times did your kids get the flu or did auto or home repair bills catch you by surprise? How many Christmas programs did you squeeze in between working late, eating too much sugar and going to 45 school events since Advent began? Isn’t it funny how we begin Advent with such high hopes to be calm and enjoy and wait and prepare but we end up rattled, exhausted, low on money and wishing Advent came AFTER Christmas when we had more time to focus on it! The good news is; we still have a few hours! Think of this post as an Advent Sprint Finish how-to!
First of all, I’d be willing to bet that your Advent had more shining moments that you realize. Take a few minutes of still and quiet today and reflect back on the last three weeks. Did you pray a little more? Were you a little more mindful of the needs of others? Did you do something to take care of the struggling, the hungry or the needy during Advent? Maybe you read or listened to something good for your soul or payed a little more attention to the homily or the Scripture Readings. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you call to mind the little ways you opened your heart to prepare. You may not string it all together but he certainly does.
Just because Advent is a whole season, it’s still just a window of time made up of smaller moments. Loving the Lord and growing in Discipleship isn’t all or nothing! It’s about chunks of times when we take little steps forward. My tall sons can get across a room faster than I can with their long legs but it doesn’t mean their trip is better, it just means they traveled a little differently than me. Don’t let Advent guilt skulk into your heart today…its’ Christmas Eve and a miracle is about to take place. It’s the eve of the night of Wonder and Awe! It’s the night we celebrate the beginning of God’s humanity. It’s the night that we remember how powerfully God showed his love for us. He reached down and put his son in the arms of a teenage girl so we could join him in heaven as saints! There is no room for guilt or worry or feelings of unworthiness today! We’ve got a party to get ready for!
Company comes often and sometimes I’m ready for them. Sometimes I have plenty of time to prepare and put flowers and homemade goodies on my guests bed side table. Those are the times everything is scrubbed and shiny and all the favorite foods are prepared. Other times, I have from the time a guest pulls into the driveway and makes it to the front door to get ready. Either way, I love having guests and the quality of my preparation has very little to do with the beauty of the visit. You may have had a great Advent getting ready or you may be doing “Newborn King Prep” at warped speed today but either way, Jesus is coming and he’s gonna be awesome regardless of what we’ve done. At this point, the most important task is all that remains….OPEN THE DOOR OF YOUR HEART AND LET HIM IN!
Merry Christmas My Friends!
Those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint. Isaiah 40:31
If you were to give yourself a score between 1 and 10; 10 being awesome, how would you score yourself at waiting? Are you patient, still and peaceful as you wait or are you fidgety, anxious and impatient? What would you think if I told you I was going to give you a free trip to sit in a waiting room? I’m not sure how many would find that much of a trip at all but maybe it could be if we took a different look at waiting and the things that can happen to us while we wait.
One December many years ago I remember sitting in waiting rooms at Mayo Clinic with Mom for an entire week. I am reminded of a simple blessing of all that waiting each year when I put up our Nativity set. As we waited and waited, I began to visit with people who were also waiting and there was one particular couple from Wisconsin that made the waiting so much better. Throughout the week he would whittle little pieces of wood and she would card wool from the sheep they raised. On the last day we were at the clinic they told Dad and me they would be praying for us and they handed each of us a set of nativity animals made from the wood he had carved and whittled and the wool she had carded. Each year as I unpack them I pray for that couple and remember the gift of their talent and their friendship and prayers during a time of frustrated waiting. They were our Mayo clinic blessing; a waiting blessing.
I think we’re all waiting for something. What are you waiting for? Maybe you’re waiting for a new job, or a headache to go away. Perhaps your wait is more serious like waiting for a baby, for test results, a lost love to return or for a diagnosis. Perhaps you’re waiting for someone to get car keys so you don’t have so much carpooling to do or for a little one to finally sleep through the night or master the art of potty training. Many are waiting for a blanket of sadness, grief or loneliness to be lifted from their heavy heart. We spend months just waiting for something to start and something to stop so something else can start. The honest truth is, many of us are simply waiting on God to organize our life just the way we’ve been planning it; just waiting for him to do his job the way we’d like it. Since we spend so much time waiting, the kind of waiter we are matters.
The prophet Isaiah promised that those who waited on the Lord would have their strength renewed. I could use a little of that! The fruit of waiting patiently is peace. That peace gives way to humility and docility. What if we invited God into our waiting? What if we offered him the seat right next to us? Through that attitude of humility and docility that comes with peace, we might begin to realize that the job we’ve been waiting for might not be ours at all; maybe it’s the perfect job for someone else. What if that person we’ve been waiting to love us is meant to love somebody else because God has someone chosen that will love us far more than the person we had in mind ever could. What if healing meant making our soul healthier than our body so we could enjoy eternity with Jesus instead of spending more years on earth? What if we became so good at waiting we grew in humility to such a point we rejoiced when others got something and we forgot we were even waiting in the first place? What if we realized all of the waiting we do has a great purpose; one we usually can’t see. Not to worry, God can see it and someday we’ll figure it out and realize when we patiently wait for him to bring everything to complete perfection, we are blessed with something so much better than we even hoped for!
Isaiah said that we would not grow weary or faint. How can that be? Worrying and waiting is exhausting, everybody knows that. Well, here’s a news flash, waiting is supposed to be an inactive thing so we shouldn’t be worn out. If we are waiting right we are in peace, letting time pass with contentment knowing God has it all under control. Instead we get worn out because we fight and squirm and wrestle with God’s plan confident he’s forgotten, or misunderstood our needs. When I get like that I hear my mother’s voice say, “Now Sheri Ann, just settle down miss, settle down!” Good advice as always mom! Advent seems to be a great time to practice our waiting! Ready…set…wait!
A Seed To Plant: What are you waiting for? Make a list and ask God to take your worries and “waiting for’s” and exchange them for peace and patience.
Blessings on your day!
“I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in his word I hope; my soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning, more than watchmen for the morning.” Psalm 130:5-6
Advent is the season of waiting! I’ve been waiting to get caught up, waiting for a break in the action to Christmas shop, waiting for a couple of hours to bake cookies, waiting to sit still and enjoy the quiet. It’s funny…this weekend as I had no internet access for some funky reason, I got all I was waiting for. I didn’t have any bookings this weekend and all my kids came home to eat a couple of times and I read nearly a whole book.
Since I couldn’t put together a post and get it up and running without internet, I was scrambling before school to get something put together. Somewhere between finishing the prep for morning prayer for the staff and lunch count, I lost what I had started typing so…todays post is nothing more than a reflection on the fruits of my weekend…just God’s goodness. His gift was peace and still and I will be praying you can enjoy the same in these remaining days before Christmas.
Now, to get the internet figured out…and get the Christmas shopping started. I’m all fueled up on peace so here I go!
Blessings on your day!
"And he said: "I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven." Matthew 18:3
Have you ever put something aside in a “safe place” only to discover a few weeks or months (or maybe even a few hours) later you can’t remember where that safe place is? Maybe it’s just me but the older I get the more time I spend trying to find safe places. A while back, someone sent me the message in today’s post and I put it in a safe place. Months later, ta-da! I guess I’ll call it Gods excellent timing because I just happened to stumble across it last week while I was preparing for an Advent by Candlelight event I had been invited to speak at and the words were a perfect fit with the message of the evening. As I think about ways to make Advent more meaningful, this was the perfect thing to find. I hope in these words you can find some things to prayerfully ponder and maybe even change in order to put things in the right perspective and get ready for the birth of our Savior.
THE PARADOX OF OUR AGE
We have bigger houses but smaller families;
more conveniences, but less time.
We have more education but less sense;
more knowledge, but less judgment;
more experts, but more problems;
more medicines, but less healthiness.
We've been all the way to the moon and back,
but have trouble crossing the street to meet the new neighbor.
We build more computers to hold more information,
to produce more copies than ever,
but have less communication.
We have become long on quantity but short on quality.
These are times of fast foods, but slow digestion;
tall men but short character;
steep profits but shallow relationships.
It's a time when there is much in the window,
but nothing in the room.
I hope somewhere in that story you can find a little nugget or two to work on, I know I see several! A few of the middle lovelies told me last week they were committing to less time “on screen” and more time “in prayer” this Advent. I promised I’d join them because I can’t be in charge of the world and fix all the issues this little story points out, but I can be in charge of my own heart and my own home…and that’s really all God ever asks us to do. He doesn’t ask for perfection, only participation. Please join me this week in pondering these words. The last line really hit me; much in the window but nothing in the room; if the room is my heart I’m petrified at the thought of nothing; but I rejoice at the thought of Jesus taking up all the space in my heart.
A Seed To Plant: Take this story into your prayer time and really ponder what God might be leading you to do or change as you use this Advent Season to prepare for His coming.
Blessings on your day!
He will be great…Luke 1:32
Molly was her name. She was plastic, had fuzzy brown hair and eyelids that opened and closed when I put her down or picked her up. I would rock her, cuddle her and carry her everywhere. Molly the dolly, made me realize how much I wanted to be a mother; it was my biggest prayer. After my first child, my prayer changed. From that point, until this very day, I have prayed daily for the same thing; Lord, whatever it takes for the sanctification of my children, please do it. That can be a scary prayer, but as I pray it, I remember that he loves my kids more than I do and that brings great peace!
As I read this Gospel I am struck by two verses; He will be great & you have found favor with God. As parents, we worry and wonder about our children; have we loved them enough, taught them enough, instilled enough faith; so imagine the stunning relief if you heard a messenger of God, say about your child, “He will be great.” What would that sigh of relief even sound like if we knew for sure that our children would achieve greatness in the eyes of God? And what would we do with all the minutes we spend thinking about their holiness and happiness? At first, the two verses seemed separate, but then the Holy Spirit helped me see that if desiring and praying for our children's holiness is a top priority, then we’re doing exactly what God asked us to do when he placed that little life in our womb.
As we enter the second week of Advent we continue to prepare to celebrate the birth of God’s Son. Our Nativity scenes are up and the focal point is the Baby Jesus. God chose to send the Savior as a baby because he knew he would be loved, accepted and adored. Nobody is afraid of or threatened by a cute little baby. We find babies lovable and perfect. As we get our hearts ready, we would do well to ponder the ways God finds us lovable, perfect and would like to come into our lives and make us great. He wants to bring us his peace in this busy time. He wants to remind us how much he loves us. I think I’ll take a lesson from Molly the Dolly and lay down so my eyes shut and my fuzzy brown hair hits the pillow and just be still while I ponder all the ways God finds favor with his children and tries to help them be great.
A Seed To Plant: How would you like to invite Jesus into your life and make you grow in the greatness the Father has planned for you?
Blessings on your day!
…a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one. Matthew 19:5
Some things just go together. Salt and pepper, peanut butter and jelly, thunder and lightning and now the newest addition to that list; Jason and Katie! On Saturday there was curly hair, fancy clothes, shiny shoes, pretty flowers and hugs galore. The music was lovely, the food was delicious and the laughter was contagious. The flower girl was a delight to watch and the friends and family that gathered to celebrate were a collection of the finest folks you could know. I think I was prepared for all of that but then there were the surprises; the things that took my breath away and left my heart all warm and melty.
I wasn't ready to see the group of groomsmen who played at my house as little boys and sat in my classroom as elementary students, dressed in tuxedos all grown up and completely handsome. I hadn’t thought about what it would be like to look across the dance floor and spot dozens of former students dancing at a function that wasn’t the senior prom. I wasn’t ready for the emotion that came from watching an older brother standing next to the guy he’d wrestled with and harassed and loved for a couple of decades with such a proud smile. I wasn’t quite prepared to listen to him toast his little brother and pull wedding rings out of his pocket so Jason could seal his promise to the lovely girl from the next town to the north. I didn’t know quite how to feel as I sat in pew three looking at my handsome sons on the altar and listening to their little sisters gorgeous voice drift down from the choir loft above. I didn’t count on the explosion of emotion as my three little Wohlferts became four and stood at the altar looking all grown up.
The part I really wasn’t able to prepare for was watching my son make the same promises to his bride that his dad made to me many years ago. I couldn’t cry when I saw the smile that took up his whole face when he saw his gorgeous Katie coming down that aisle. I’ve never seen happy in such living color as I did when he took her arm and walked her to the top step of the altar! I’ve heard wedding vows before but they sounded so different when they came from the voice of my son. I’ve had lots of proud mama moments over the last couple of decades but knowing that someone so lovely, so genuinely good inside and out had chosen my son to spend her whole life with was a pride I’ve never felt. Listening to the things they wrote about each others faith and desire to put Christ at the center of their marriage and help each other follow God’s plan made my heart swell in a way I’m not quite sure I can describe in words.
My grandma told me that you have to find a spouse who could help you get to heaven. When I found that spouse 27 years ago, I started praying that my children would find theirs too. I wasn’t prepared to know how thankful I’d feel that God answered that prayer so perfectly for Jason and Katie. It was a happy day, a beautiful day, a fun day…a perfect day! As I soaked in all the emotion and sat watching the day unfold in joy and gratitude for the grace and blessings we were all neck deep in, I had a thought. As splendidly perfect as the day was, it was just a teeny reflection of the love our Father has for us. Feeling the power of that truth my friends, was something I really wasn’t prepared for; it hit me like a ton of bricks. It was as if he whispered to me, “Sheri, all this happiness, joy, beauty, celebration; it’s just a shadow of what I feel for all of my children every minute of every day.”
Thanks to all of you for the prayers, they were felt, they were seen and they manifested into an absolutely perfect day!
A Seed To Plant: Tell someone you love them today!
Blessings on your day!
Stay Awake! Matthew 24:42
Holy cow…did December sneak up on anybody else? I used to invisibly roll my eyes in youthful disrespect when “older” people said, “oh just wait; the older you get the faster time goes by!” The older I get, the more truth I discover in those words! Does anyone else ever feel like hitting the pause button long enough to get caught up?
This past weekend we began the season of Advent. I have a new Advent attitude this year. My new attitude comes from some extra prayer and study about the preparation season leading up to the birth of Christ. I discovered some simple truths and beautiful thoughts for all of us as we stand at the edge of advent. I hope they give you a new perspective on this often stressful, hectic, perhaps even chaotic month. Stay awake fits…not because we’re exhausted by all the activity but because we need to be awake and tuned in to the gift of God’s Son or Christmas becomes nothing more than another day.
Popular culture and the wonderful world of retail sales catapulted us into Christmas right after the last bag of Halloween candy left the shelf but those of us who yearn for the true meaning…the deeper meaning…the life changing meaning of Christmas need to be willing to wait a little. As a society, we aren’t very good at waiting! We like everything quickly and conveniently and we sometimes get lost in the “one-up” philosophy that often drives our ambitions and our actions. If you feel even a little part of that thinking seeping into your heart or thoughts, sit still for a minute and think about Advent.
If the season of Advent could be summed up in two words, they would be PATIENTLY WAITING! Yikes…really…but when will the shopping and baking and decorating and celebrating happen if we just sit around waiting? Good question I suppose, but maybe the answer is right in front of us…maybe we don’t have to spend so much time focused on all those things. If those are the things that take away from really “getting” Christmas maybe a prayerful re-vamp of December priorities is in order. I think that’s the point of this post! I have a few big questions for all of us…ready…Is walking into church on Christmas Eve or Christmas Morning the highlight of your December? What consumes more time; shopping for the perfect gifts or preparing to receive the perfect gift of God’s Son? And finally, would you like to spend Christmas wrapped up in the Wonder and Awe lying in the manger or exhausted, sick of the decorations and ready to flip the page and clean up the mess? Jesus is bigger than one day!
God sent the gift of His Son in a tiny, humble, simple beginning…He figured we could relate to that. I think He felt like each of us could accept and believe something so “real”. Each December He gives us the chance to re-live the true meaning of His gift. Each December we have a chance to clean our spiritual house to prepare for Him to dwell in our hearts. That only happens through still, quiet prayer and a desire on our part to seek Him and be blessed beyond measure by the true gift of Christmas. I’m sure some of you are tempted to scream at your screen at me and say…geez Sheri…it’s the busiest month of the year and you are suggesting I take time I already don’t have enough of to sit still and pray for my heart to be ready for the New Born King! ABSOLUTELY!!! Scream away, but that’s exactly what I’m challenging all of us to do this December. I have to let you in on a secret…God can multiply time! If you unselfishly, trustingly, prayerfully give Him some of your day, He will bless you unbelievably. Be honest as you start your prayer, say to Him, “God, I’ve got SO much to do today, please know these 10 or 15 minutes I’m going to sit here in prayer are precious. Please take my busy day and show me how to make You a part of it. Bless my actions and my words and my tasks.” Then my friends…stand back and prepare to be amazed at what He will do! If you aren’t sure what to do with that prayer time, read the story…the Christmas story from the Annunciation all the way through the Magi. Read it little by little again and again asking God to get your heart ready. Ask Him to make this Christmas about His Son…His gift and not so much about all the other stuff. I know it may sound crazy but invite God to go shopping with you…He has made some amazing gifts “appear” when I had no ideas and very little budget. Invite Him into all of it, asking Him to help you keep His Son as the focus.
I figure if I do Advent right, I will go to Mass Christmas Eve with my family and be so filled with joy and gratitude my heart will feel like it just might burst! I want to FEEL the meaning of Christmas! That’s my goal this December.
A Seed To Plant: Take the first step today…sit in quiet prayer and ask God to show you how to “do December” with a spirit of prayerful anticipation of the most amazing gift imaginable; His Son.
Blessings on your day!
Good morning! Beds are made all over my house, the fridge and freezer are full of food for Kansas company. Fancy clothes are ready to go. My heart is so full of happiness for my son and his bride to be I can hardly stand it. Saturday is the big day and writing a post didn't quite get crossed off the to-do list! In 2 more wake-ups I will become a "mother-in-law" for the first time and I'm so excited I can hardly sleep. Today I simply post a request...I ask for your prayers. I ask for you to pray for safe travels for guests, I ask your prayers for God's blessing on this wedding but mostly I ask for you to pray for an outpouring of grace on this beautiful couple as they stand before God and their family and friends and begin their life together as husband and wife. Thank you and I'll be back next week!
Blessings on your day!
Seek the face of the Lord always. Psalm 105:4
What does God look like? If no one has ever seen his face how are we supposed to seek it and how will we know if we really see it? Those are fair questions when you’re a middle lovely. If we are supposed to seek His face always, I suppose we’d better know where to look! It’s easy to seek the face of God in the obvious, like creation, babies and children. I have no problem seeing and feeling the presence of God when I’m in my classroom! My students fill my days with every emotion possible. I know just what Jesus meant when He said, “Let the little children come to me.” Most mornings when I go into the gym for Morning Prayer and the Pledge I want to say the same thing! It’s a bit more of a challenge however to seek His face in the unpleasant, the unfair, and the unlikable.
Seeking God’s face doesn’t just apply to people…we need to seek his face in situations and experiences. Sure we recognize God in the events that are happy and joyful like weddings and celebrations but we need to know He is present in the sad and difficult and sorrowful ones as well. His love, presence and inviting spirit are there even we can recognize no apparent good in the situation. We are reminded not only to seek Him but to praise and thank Him in all situations. That’s easy to say until we’re smack dab in the middle of ugly and we have to spit out the words, “God I’m seeking you in this mess and I thank you for these circumstances…even though they STINK!” Sometimes uttering those words can taste like vinegar in our mouth but if you repeat them again and again, you can begin to see His face and feel His presence guiding and teaching and blessing.
We like things to be simple and easy and happy and when they aren’t, we tend to think God has left us all alone. Our purpose in seeking God shouldn’t be to make us “feel good”, the purpose is to build us up for the Kingdom and a life spent with Him. Very often the things we need to learn can only be taught when life isn’t all neat and tidy and happy. But make no mistake…God is there…just waiting for us to seek Him so He can take us by the hand and begin the next lesson!
A seed to plant: Write the words, “God I trust you, God I love you, God I will be faithful and seek your face” on a notecard and read it again and again when you’re in a situation where it’s hard to seek His face.
Blessings on your day!
…now he waits until his emery are made his footstool. Hebrews 10:13
As I sat in mass this weekend I heard this verse jump out of the second reading and my mind went zooming back to the living room of my childhood home. I vividly remembered that we had a dark green footstool in our living room and as I recall, it had many functions. My favorite memory of that footstool was the way my little brother used to fasten a bath towel around his neck like a super hero and jump off that footstool thinking it would boost him high enough that he could fly. We did use it to rest feet on, especially when there was a story to be read or a baby to be rocked. It was sturdy and comfortable and important.
I had to stretch a little and read this verse a time or two before it’s meaning really hit my heart. When I read the word enemy, I immediately thought of a person. I don’t have any human enemies so I moved on to a verse I thought had more meaning but something kept calling me back. After I let it percolate in my mind and heart a while, it came to me. The enemy may not be a person at all. The enemy could be anything preventing my pursuit of the Fathers joy. It’s always a great time to do some soul searching about enemies that might creep into our lives and try to distract us.
I was able to stick a label on my enemies rather quickly once I started thinking about it. I would love to sit at God’s right hand like the line before this verse reads, and watch Him slap down a footstool on impatience or on judgmental thinking or on any other of the sinful areas of my life. I was really touched by those those beautiful words in this reading,“at my right hand”. In order to have Him put those enemies at his feet like a footstool, I have to be beside Him. He can’t help me if I’m a mile away, He needs me right there beside Him clinging to Him with childlike dependence. Then and only then will the footstool slamming begin!
Just like my living room as a child, sometimes we had to move some stuff out of the way to get to the footstool, so it is with our need to move the barriers that are keeping us from the right hand of God so we can get near that footstool. What’s in your way?
A Seed To Plant: Take the next few days to prayerfully consider what enemies you would like to see as his footstool and then reach for God’s hand.
Blessings on your day!
Calling his disciples, he began sending them out two by two…Mark 6:7
This story in Mark’s Gospel is a dozen lessons all wrapped into one. It’s about trust, teamwork, awareness, truth and gratefulness. As I reflect on these verses it provides an occasion to look at my relationship with the Lord and see which pieces of my discipleship are in order and which have a few kinks! This line highlights the instructions given to a group of Christians a couple thousand years ago, but the instructions really haven’t changed and they apply to our personal discipleship all these years later.
One day a while back I opened to this passage and it was right about the time Dave and I celebrated our 27th wedding anniversary. After reading that Gospel story, I was reminded that it was a great day to celebrate the fact that God sent me out in a new way with the other part of my pair! Once we said “I Do” we headed out together to help each other trust and serve. We lead each other and help each other decide when we need to stick with something and when we need to shake the dust from our sandals and move on. When bills are high and struggles come and things don’t go like we expected, we remind each other that we have enough and God will fill in the gaps. I’m sure just like us, the disciples didn’t always see eye to eye with the other half of their pair but they had to stick to the mission. If the world tries to deceive us or our children we have to guide each other toward the truth. Together we have to discover and share the good news of Jesus with each other and those we love. Thank goodness for pairs and clear instructions!
Building his church on earth is our work but it isn’t work he intended us to do alone so it’s important to ask yourself; who is the other half of my pair? Who am I traveling and sharing my discipleship with on my journey to heaven? I heard a priest give a sermon once where he stated that we are the average of the 5 people we spend the most time with. So in light of his words and this Gospel it makes me stop and consider who all my pairs are. Growing in holiness is a journey that takes great companions. In your prayers today think about your people and stop and say, “Dear Father, thank you for loving me enough to send me a helper and show me the way to know you, love you and serve you in this life so I may be happy with you in the next.”
A Seed To Plant: So, who is the other half of your pair and what are you doing together to make this world more Christ-like?
Blessings on your day!
For from him and through him and for him are all things. To him be glory forever, Amen. Romans 11:36
I’ve come to the conclusion that there is no such thing as random happenings. You may disagree with me and that’s absolutely fine but I’ve begun to believe that every event, situation and person provides an opportunity to learn and grow in faith.
I shiver when I think of all the times we dismiss the deliberate work of God as random, coincidence, karma or fate. I think our loving Father is much more personal and spectacular than that! I remember the night I met my husband. He was taking my roommate out to dinner and I answered the door and chatted with him while he waited for her to finish getting ready. Several weeks later I sat down in a meeting with a room full of strangers and guess who was seated right across the table from me…yup…that same guy; the man who became my husband. I don’t think that was random. I also remember the cold snowy winter evening I was coming home from the Orthodontist with three kids and a trunk full of groceries and I got a flat tire. The wind chill that evening was more than 10 below zero and after digging the spare tire out from under all the groceries, I couldn’t get the frozen lug nuts off to change the tire. As I knelt in the snow frozen and frustrated, a gentleman stopped and invited me to drive my car to the farm right up the road. It turns out he owned a tire shop and he had all the equipment necessary to change my tire in his heated shop. Random… I think not!
I really think Christ dwells among us and works through us. When I think about my days here on earth, I realize every single thing is meant to draw me closer to Him. The sooner I realize that and lift my heart to Him in thanksgiving for the million ways a week He works in my life, the more exciting it becomes to see His works. When I recognize things I might have once called random, as His handiwork, I feel loved and protected and blessed. Those are great things to feel for sure!
A Seed To Plant: Take some time this week to write down all the things that seem like “random” events. At the end of the week, lift your list to the Lord in prayer and ask Him to show you how He was working purposefully in each of those situations.
Blessings on Your day!
For then you shall delight in the Almighty and you shall lift up your face toward God. Job 22:26
Magnifying glasses are always a hit no matter what grade I teach. There is just something fun about looking at something regular in a new way. Even ordinary things like paper clips and the human tongue can become fascinating when seen with magnified detail. In the spirit of close inspection, I have a thought for you today compliments of Deacon Ralph Poyo. He was a presenter at the conference I attended recently and I could write a dozen posts with all the ideas he shared but today I have one word he explained in a whole new way.
The word is intimacy. Most of us would define the word as extreme closeness and that would be correct but we don’t often think of it in a Godly way. Deacon Ralph made sure everyone listening Wednesday night would think of it as a way to describe our relationship with God the Father. He said intimacy means IN-TO-ME-SEE. Talk about making a word come to life! So, grab your magnifying glass and head down to the next paragraph and let’s see what we discover.
God desires intimacy with each of us so if we stand before God in prayer and accept his invitation to see in to him; what would we see? I think we would see compassion, forgiveness, understanding, mercy, pride, delight and unfathomable love. That’s what he’s made of and that’s what he shows us. When we see him we see truth, justice, and everything right; not judgment, punishment or shame. I think he wants us to see that we are made in his image so we should see the same things in ourselves that we see in him. When was the last time you looked in the mirror and saw those things in your reflection? If we are intimate with him, we will begin to mirror what’s in him. I think the world could use a whole lot more of that image what do you think? He’s inviting us to see into him and loose ourselves in his goodness; he’s desperate for us to grow so close to him that we will move past things like guilt, shame, disappointment and greed. Seeing him closely will make us long for nothing else.
If I imagine seeing the face of God I often imagine myself turning or bowing my head in the presence of his greatness but he loves us so much he’s inviting us to get closer…so close we can experience IN-TO-ME-SEE!
A Seed To Plant: Write today’s word down the Deacon Ralph way and give it a lot of prayerful thought…let it draw you closer to the Father.
Blessings on your day!
We love because he first loved us. 1 John 4:19
I have a lot of one liners that tumble through my head. Sometimes I remember where I heard them and others just roll around and I don’t have any idea where they came from. I’m taking a fabulous class every Tuesday night that dives into scripture in a profound and beautiful way. A couple of weeks ago we were talking about the love of God and one of those famous one liners just kept running through my mind. The line is, “Love is just love!” We discussed something in class that proved that statement to be so incomplete!
We are all called to love God and love others. As simple as that sounds, I think we can all agree some days it’s harder than we think! Love is not just love…it’s commitment, it’s patience, it’s sacrifice, it’s humility and silence and joy. The depths of Gods love for us are massive and nearly incomprehensible. As we study the book of Genesis his abounding and merciful love is amazing. In one of our handouts there was a little three line piece from St. Catherine of Sienna that really touched my heart and made me realize that when it comes to God, love is WAY more than just love. St. Catherine lays out three stages of loving God. I’ll share them with you and perhaps they will stir up your mind and heart and give you great food for thought and prayer.
*The first stage of loving God is Servile fear: We obey God like a servant out of fear.
*The second state is Mercenary love: We love God because of what we will receive.
*The third stage is Love for the sake of love: It’s not about rewards or fear but simply born of a desire for relationship with God.
I’d like to say I’m firmly in stage three but that would not be true. I think I get there sometimes but I can find plenty of times I land squarely in stage one and two. I find my self in the first stage when I am aware of my sinfulness. It’s at those times I have to admit I change my ways more out of fear of punishment and not always because I recognize the deep ways I’ve hurt my Father. I’m often at stage two, looking for the “brownie points” as if they can be stockpiled or recorded in some heavenly score book. The third stage is where we will find peace and joy but there is a lot of humility and re-thinking involved in getting to and staying in stage three.
It all boils down to choices. It’s not about being perfect it’s about surrendering so that we can be perfected but his love. I really want to love him, I really want to be consistently at that third stage of love with the Father. I will choose that today and ask him to help me live that choice. That would be something to give thanks for!
A Seed To Plant: Take a good look at these three stages and ask God to show you where you are and then ask him to help you get where he’d like you to be.
Blessings on your day!
When Jesus heard this he was amazed at him …Luke 7: 9
I’m pretty good at skipping. I’m a good cook. I always make my bed in the morning and I don’t leave my things laying around. Some folks might think those are nice accomplishments but I don’t think my gifts and talent would amaze anyone, especially Jesus. Can you even imagine Jesus looking at you and telling people that you amazed him?
The person Jesus was talking about in this verse from Luke was the Roman soldier who fully and completely trusted in Jesus. He believed that Jesus didn’t even have to go near his sick servant; he had faith that Jesus could simply say the word and heal his servant because he was that mighty. Think about that for a minute…the soldier didn’t have to do something huge, or dramatic or spectacular to amaze Jesus, he just trusted and believed in the power of Jesus. I don’t know about you but I’d like to amaze Jesus. Imagine the conversation…you get home from work and someone says, “Hey, what did you do today?” and you say, “Oh not much, I just amazed Jesus today!” That would be awesome!
I wonder if Jesus is very amazed with us this week? Sometimes I look at my newsfeed and things get all puddled together in a pretty “un-amazing” fashion. Today we celebrate All Saints day and it’s a pretty great day to stop and think about the most amazing people who walked this earth. The really important thing to remember is that we are ALL called to be saints. We are all expected to live like we know that and it often leaves us feeling like we fall a little short of amazing. The great news is this…we aren’t called to be perfect. We are called to follow God so he can perfect us.
The goal is sainthood so what now? We remember we’re his, we remember we were ALL created in his image, we remember that love and mercy trump all things all the time. We have to look at history and know people rise up, people come together and if they’re going to go anywhere good, they have to follow Christ to get there. We have a big job to do, we have division to heal and peace to find. We have a great Father who wants good for us. Jesus is waiting for us to amaze him and all we have to do to accomplish that task is to trust him and have faith like the Roman Soldier that he is a mighty healer. He is capable of all things and he can inspire greatness and strength in the most broken and weak. Take a minute to realize that you are a BELOVED CHILD OF GOD and he expects us to amaze him. So go ahead…take a minute to trust him, believe in him and amaze him.
A Seed To Plant: Tell Jesus you trust him and go be amazing!
Blessings on your day!
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen. Philippians 4:23
This week we celebrate the holiday that as a mother, was my least favorite. Halloween called on two gifts I seemed to get in shorter supply than many moms. Halloween with kids requires creativity and strength in the face of chocolate temptation…I am woefully lacking in both departments. One year I remember dressing two little Wohlfert boys in black trash bags with cardboard ears duct taped on a headband; they were bats! Thank goodness their desire for candy was greater than their interest in costumes because they looked pretty ridiculous. All the thinking, creating, hauling, buckling and unbuckling was frazzling. I was often amazed at how many times in a short window of time I could say, “Stop eating candy!” How crazy was that. I dressed them up, took them out with big bags to get candy and then told them not to eat it. Such an odd holiday isn’t it!
Even though I was always happy to turn back into our own driveway at the end of the night, I would sigh as I faced the bowl of candy on the dining room table that wasn’t empty. I love chocolate so the battle with the candy bowl would begin at the very time of day when I was too tired to slay the sugary, chocolate dragon. After they collected the candy the next step was to dump out their bags and begin to sift and sort and trade. After I was finally able to scrape my sugar buzzed little darlings off the ceiling and get them to bed I was faced with the bowl of candy and the three bags to boot. As a responsible parent, I had to hide it so they didn’t gobble it all up by All Souls Day; that was responsible parenting…right! I could put it out of the kids sight, but I knew where it was. The virtue of temperance always seemed to wane around the end of October. Looking back, I’m not sure how hard I prayed to resist that temptation and I’m sure I didn’t pause to think about how I could grow in holiness if I had actually called on God’s grace and conquered the temptation.
The years have passed and now I can think of Halloween in a different way, and as I sit here typing in an airport watching adorable little kids trotting through the airport in their Halloween costumes, I see some similarities between the upcoming holiday and my faith walk. I wake up every morning and spend the first chunk of my day in prayer but in all truthfulness, I realize that sometimes I don’t invest much more creative energy in my prayer time than I did in the kids costumes. Sometimes I just sit there and “get the job done” so I can collect a reward from God; much like the kids and their pursuit of chocolate rewards. The temptation of all that candy doesn’t just come at Halloween and all temptation isn’t chocolate. I can shake my fist and throw a hissy fit or I can bear down and push through it. In temptation, no matter what form it takes we can fight it and draw closer to the Father or we can forget to ask for help and deliverance and be steamrolled by it. Option two always leaves me feeling fuzzy, guilty and a little nauseous like a trick-or-treater (or parent) who ate too much candy.
God often asks us to do a lot and I’m not always a big fan of doing what he asks. I can be little “do my own thing-ish” at times, so I laughed when I remembered the negotiations that took place around the kitchen table as the kids sorted and traded their evening haul. Truth; I do that with God. Well God, if I serve you here and do what you ask here then you should be able to give me this or help me with that. Oh, and how about that candy hiding! I became the master of the goods. I decided when and how to dole the treats out. They were motivation for good behavior, prompt chore doing and extra vegetable eating. I could decide to give extra for things I liked or deny giving it at all if I didn't think they had “earned” it. Heck, on more occasions than I can count, I actually kept some of their stuff for myself. (sorry kids) I can’t even begin to tell you how magnificently grateful I am that God doesn’t hold his grace and blessings hostage the way I held the 3 little Wohlferts candy hostage. He is beyond fair, he is beyond generous and he delights in giving more than we could ever deserve or earn. This year as I admire the creative costumes and hand out chocolate, I’ll be praying that maybe I’ll learn from my Halloween thoughts and maybe you will too.
A Seed To Plant: Take a minute early this week to say a prayer for parents and children. May they laugh, be safe and enjoy each other this Halloween.
Blessings on your day!
How precious is your unfailing love, O God! - Psalm 36:7
Boy did I learn a big lesson this week! The greatest part of the big lesson is that it came from one of the teeniest teachers in the building. The teacher has long blonde hair, sparkly eyes and a smile that melts your heart. I saw her as just another adorable kindergartner but she was a part of a lesson that was anything but pint-sized and I think we can all learn a little something from her lesson.
For some reason, this sweet little thing high fives or hugs several of the teachers on a daily basis. She greets us with her giant smile and injects our day with a giant ray of sunshine. The funny thing is, I’m not her teacher, she has no reason to pick me to share her smiles, hugs and hello’s with; she just does it. Every day, she shows up and it just spills out of her like candy from a piñata. There have been so many times I’ll be walking down the hall with my mind pondering a dozen things and she’ll just pop out of nowhere with a bubbly hello and a hug and suddenly anything that seemed important just fades and I walk away with a smile and a little ray of her sunshine. One morning this week I had the pleasure of holding the door and welcoming the kids into the building; it’s one of my favorite jobs to be the one who gets to start their St. Mary School day. That morning there were dozens of smiles, hugs and good mornings. I remember standing there by the door thanking God for letting me be a part of 288 little lives.
My heart was happy as I said hello and opened the door for the last few students. When the traffic slowed and all the kids were sitting in their seats in the gym waiting for morning prayer, I just stood at the door with a smile and as I turned there she was, running toward me and she stopped a few feet from where I was standing and said, “Hey, I just love you so much.” And just like that she ran back to sit with her friends. My heart instantly melted at the sweetness and sincerity of this sweet little thing. While I stood with all my teacher friends praying with all the kids, the lesson hit me like a ton of bricks.
Ya see, I’ve done nothing to earn her sweetness. I’ve done nothing to deserve her kindness. I haven’t asked, demanded or instigated her joy. She has nothing to gain by giving it all so freely. She really doesn’t get anything kindergarten fair in return because I can’ t go out to play or sit at the same table and share a snack. I can’t foster a friendship by inviting her over to play or go to the movies so she really gets nothing in return. And that sweet “I love you so much!” came as a gift to my heart…she took off so fast there was nothing I could say in return. Everything about this little girls gifts is so completely one sided. As my “eyes started to sweat” (that’s “5th grade boy” for I’m crying) I realized that’s exactly how it is with God and me. She demonstrated what the love of God is really like. It’s always there. It’s never earned or deserved and it comes with no strings or conditions. He loves us intensely despite our fears and our failings. He always leads with love and joy and he offers it every time we greet him. He never fails and he never runs low. He has nothing to gain and yet he lights up when he sees us and he just waits to tell us in a hundred different ways every day “I love you so much!”
Several of the staff at school are meeting once a week to participate in the Wild Goose series. It’s a beautiful video teaching series on the Holy Spirit.(I would HIGHLY recommend it!) The first lesson was about the love of God and that class left me praying on the question, how do I KNOW God loves me? He showed me this week with a lesson from one of his smallest teachers. He loves me enough to send a wee one to SHOW me what his love is like. He knew right where to get my heart; through a child. He didn’t send big words or profound scripture, he touched my heart with his love in a way he knew I wouldn’t miss!
A Seed To Plant: Pray on that question, “How do I KNOW God loves me?” See where he leads you in prayer.
Blessings on your day!
“And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” Galatians 6:9
One of the best parts of my job is helping the middle lovelies find direction. We all need people to look up to, to imitate and to follow. Sadly, the choices our culture puts in front of our kids is lacking woefully in the good stuff they need. Several times a week I tell them stories or show them video clips of people doing excellent things. The fine education professors I had at Emporia State University about a hundred years ago told us a bazillion times that if we wanted the lessons to stick, we had to model, model, model and then model some more so I try constantly to show them people who are getting it right. I have to admit though, doing things the right way often takes more energy and thought than doing it the wrong way. I’ve come to the conclusion that sin is pretty easy it’s the resisting that’s tough!
Doing the right thing is always a choice. I visited with a lady several weeks ago after I gave a talk and she told me she had been taught in elementary school by a beautiful nun who always told them “do the right thing for no other reason than because it’s the right thing.” Seems pretty straight forward but after some thought and prayer, it’s deeper than you think. Do the right thing not because you’ll be noticed or get an award or prize. Do the right thing just because it’s right. That was a thought I was peeling around with on my heart and I made a discovery…and not a good one. I realized how many times in a week I thought or even said, “I don’t want to.” Maybe it was because I was tired, or worried or indifferent but there were so many times I just didn’t bother to do the right thing and give a little extra.
This has all been on my heart and I came across a story about a great and holy man that I need to share with you and the middle lovelies. This great man was Pope John the XXIII. He had just kicked off the opening of Vatican II and he was exhausted. He was also battling stomach cancer and feeling it’s painful effects as he retired to his room. One of his aids called his attention to the massive crowd in St. Peter’s Square. He said, “I don’t want to talk, I’ve talked all day.” That was quickly followed as he lifted himself wearily from his chair by a “but I will do it anyway.” He went to the window and delivered his famous “Moonlight Speech.” It was impromptu, heartfelt and beautiful. He did the right thing for the people and more than fifty years later we still remember his words. His message was simple; “give honor to the impressions of this night, which are always our feelings, which now we express before heaven and earth: faith, hope, love, love of God, love of brother, all aided along the way in the Lord's holy peace for the work of the good. And so, let us continue to love each other, to look out for each other along the way: to welcome whoever comes close to us, and set aside whatever difficulty it might bring.”
That night when he had to be running on a completely empty tank, he offered love, peace and a simple message about the right thing to do. It isn’t just the middle lovelies that needed a lesson from Good Pope John…their teacher needed it too!
A Seed To Plant: Make a list of three “right things” you will do today.
Blessings on your day!
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