Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones. Proverbs 16:24
I don’t know about you, but I spend a lot of time trying to figure out how to make things better. Sometimes loving Christians carry the weight of the world on their shoulders and run around with pure hearts trying to save the world. I was speaking with someone not long ago and they were completely exasperated because of all the nasty stuff and unkind people in the world that didn’t act like they knew a thing about Jesus. The whole conversation made my heart heavy and I realized I'm surprised at the things some folks think they have the right to say to others. All too often someone will spout off a rude remark and when called on it, they snip back with a comment about free speech and being entitled to their own opinion I’ve been noticing a growing number of “ugly words” lately so as I sat with that on my heart, God pointed me to this verse from Proverbs.
If you are someone who likes to make things better, this is the verse for you! I realized after reading it a few times, I had the process all wrong! It really isn’t about “fixing” the words and actions of others! I can be upset by it, I can pray about it, I can even take a stand about it…but the truth of the matter is this…I can’t do a darn thing to change it! Change has to come from within…change has to be desired. If I’m busy trying to change someone else, I’m guaranteed only one thing…disappointment! Besides, my Mom would remind me I should keep my nose in my own business anyway. When I read this verse again this morning the solution to the problem became crystal clear…I have to change MY behavior. I can’t change someone else’s snappy rude tongue…but I can be in charge of my own. I can make sure my words are pleasant and sweet like honeycomb. God didn’t put me in charge of the world, the state, the county or even the town…He put me in charge of just this one person and after some prayerful time with this verse, I know exactly where I need to begin. What if we actually realized that every word we speak could be healing? What if each sentence we uttered were crafted with that intent? That would be pretty remarkable don’t you think?
The simple power of this Proverb was illustrated through a story I read not long ago. I had actually forgotten about the story until I was writing this post. The story involved a mom of six kids under 9. She and her husband have a deep commitment to the Lord and promised to accept lovingly all the children He chose to bless them with. They love their life but the rude remarks from others can sometimes be heartbreaking to this mom. She was telling the story about a disastrous grocery store adventure with her babies that had 5 of the six kids crying by the check-out lane. She was completely frazzled and on the edge of tears herself. Just when she thought things couldn’t get any worse, a woman stopped next to her and she braced herself for an ugly comment or rude remark about her large family but instead the two sentences spoken at that perfect moment changed her day completely. The woman looked directly at the frazzled mom and said, “Bless you for saying yes! These are lucky children because they will have the courage of their mother and lady; you’ve got a lot of that because I’m not even brave enough to bring one of mine shopping with me!” They shared a laugh and the frazzled mom was lifted…two little sentences is all it took! One sweet word, one kind gesture completely absent of judgment or criticism or opinion worked magic. I may not be able to change the world but I can work harder at speaking kindly to everyone I meet and that just might change a thing or two all on its own.
A Seed To Plant: Randomly speak three kind sentences this week!
Blessings on your day!
But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. Isaiah 40:31
Hope is a word I misuse all of the time. I say thing like, “I hope it doesn’t rain.” or “I hope there is a parking spot close to the door.” When I really think about it, the things I “hope” for are usually things that would make my life convenient, or pleasant. This past week I have been challenged to look at the way I use the word hope. The first thing I needed to do was compare the worldly definition (the one I most often used) to the virtue of hope. Here’s what I found. “Hope” is commonly used to refer to a wish connected to a person's desire. But “Godly hope”; the virtue of hope, is the confident expectation of what God has promised and its strength is in His faithfulness. I’m pretty sure God doesn’t care about me getting sprinkled on or parking close to the front door at the grocery store so I decided I needed some work.
I love it when God teaches a lesson and uses real people as the teachers! Last week I met a beautiful woman who told me she was a woman of hope. She went on to share that for years she had prayed that her family would grow closer. Her children were grown and moved away and she longed for them to be more connected and involved in each others life. She said she always knew God could do that but it wasn’t until recently that she began to see him work. She said the things God was doing in her family were filling her with such abundant hope. As I listened to her share her story my heart both sunk and swelled as she told me that she was dying of cancer, but she was so filled with hope because God had used this situation to answer her prayer. Fighting the disease had been the thing that drew them together. She told me she was not afraid to die but rather hope filled because God had answered her prayer and brought her family so close that she knew they would support each other and care for her husband and make sure he didn’t get too lonely when she was gone. I was in awe as I hugged this beautiful soul, and took a lesson on the true meaning of the word hope.
God used another event this week to thump me with the word hope. God demonstrated his faithfulness in a might way in the lives of an incredible newlywed couple. As I took my spot in church for this beautiful wedding my heart was a little on the heavy side. The groom had lost both of his parents in a car crash just about a year ago and as I sat in the pew waiting for mass to begin I wondered how they would feel the same joy as other couples and I wondered what Fr. could say honor the event, the couple and the parents of the groom. Just when my tears were about to get out of control I remembered that God is bigger than our pain and he loved that bride and groom more than they loved each other. When it came time for Fr. Eric’s homily the hope came barging in! He spoke of the new life of Easter and the new life of marriage. He also talked about the beginnings and the scars that bring us to the important event in our lives. I watched this beautiful new couple laugh and smile and I watched their family and closest friends cling to the laughter and joy of the day and realized the only way that all happened was because of hope. Hope that joy will follow pain. Hope that God will never leave us stuck in our scars and our pain. Hope that he has a plan and that he works in every situation, not just the fancy, happy simple ones. Hope is understanding that God has promised good for his children and that good rises from the ashes of awful. I saw hope rise on Saturday and it was so much bigger than the sadness.
So what will I hope for now? I hope I will be able to use the word correctly. I pray that I can seek God working in my life and face my challenges and trials with confident expectation in his faithfulness because thats what hope really is.
A Seed To Plant: Think about the true definition of hope…make a new list of things you hope for.
God is closer to you than water is to a fish. St. Catherine of Sienna
Good morning! It's mid May which means many of us are in the middle of a thousand things. It's easy to get lost in the chaos and the busy and feel like a fish swimming upstream. There are more things to do than minutes to do them in this time of year. I'm stuck there myself and came across this favorite quote and thought it just might be a little dose of what we all need to hear.
As we're busy swimming from thing to thing trying not to sink, it's a great idea to remember God is right there swimming beside us. Make sure you invite him along to the ball games and graduations and weddings and events that fill our May calendars. He's right there so go ahead and let him swim in front and you'll be surprised how calm the waters become.
A Seed To Plant: Sit with St. Catherine's words for a few quiet minutes today and see how they settle the soul.
Blessings on your day!
Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire. St. Catherine of Sienna
It was a big weekend. We made our last 6 hour drive to Franciscan University to see Shannon. After four years that seemed to go by in a blink, we now have a nurse. God had such a powerful hand in it all and I am so thankful. I could write and write about all the little things along the way that just fell in place. More times than I could count I shook my head in surprise, gratitude and awe as one thing after another made it possible for her to get an education at Franciscan. God wrapped it all up with an exclamation point on Saturday.
Franciscan has one of the countries top nursing programs which was appealing to Shannon but the University offers something so powerful for the soul. It’s a place of holiness and deeply rooted faith and Catholic tradition. She wanted to feed her mind, her heart and her soul. She knew as a sophomore in high school that she wanted to go there but academically, financially and geographically there had to be some “figuring out.” About the time she started praying about the possibility of going to school there she was preparing for her Confirmation. She had a couple of saints in mind to choose as her Confirmation Saint but three times in the same week the above quote from Catherine of Sienna appeared in her life. Once in history class, once on a random note that fell from a library book and then on a surprise bracelet she got int he mail from a friend. She asked God for specific guidance, and he certainly didn’t disappoint. It turns out that Catherine of Sienna is also the patron saint of nurses.
As the process continued toward Franciscan, crazy things happened like scholarships that came out of nowhere and details and events that just pointed the way. Again and again there were blessings and surprises that made it so clear that she was exactly where she was supposed to be. Each time we just smiled and said thank you! There were experiences and people and opportunities that just seemed to fall into her lap all along the way and as we sat in Finnigan Field-house for Commencement Saturday morning the Keynote Speaker opened with all the traditional greetings appropriate for the occasion. Then something that melted my heart happened. He looked out at the graduates and paused for a moment and then said, “Graduates, If you will leave this place today and be who God meant you to be, you will set the world on fire. St. Catherine of Sienna wasn’t kidding about that!” I could hardly keep the tears back. It was like a giant explanation point on an amazing college journey. God is so very good!
A Seed To Plant: Are you being who God intended you to be? It’s a question worth asking in prayer this week.
Blessings on your day!
For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord. Isaiah 55:8
I’ve been stuck on this verse for a few weeks and I just keep getting lessons. As I think about the Prophet Isaiah’s words, they have a more truthful application to my life than I’d like to admit! My thoughts ramble off into the back 40 during prayer and the things I’m thinking are definitely not His thoughts and sometimes, my ways are so NOT His ways! Why do we do that…when we know we shouldn’t speak words to others we wouldn’t speak directly to Him and we know His way and His plan trump ours EVERY time? Yet we keep runnin around sayin stuff we shouldn’t say and doin stuff that our stubborn nature tells us is easier! I guess it all leads me back to the truth…I’m just a big ole sinner who needs the love and mercy of a Gracious God because I sure can’t get it right without Him! Maybe that’s the whole point!
I learned a new prayer from a really great priest; here it is, “Thank You God, Your will be done!” Even I can remember that one! Seems simple and easy and makes sense...until you begin to think about when you should say it! It’s going to be easy to say that little prayer when I get a good parking spot, or when something good happens. The tricky part is when the yucky stuff happens. Fr. used the examples, when you loose your keys in the snow, “Thank you God, Your will be done.” Or when you loose your cell phone, “Thank you God, Your will be done…now I have more time to talk to You.” Seven little words that can change everything! I think we can get so busy we forget to have that ongoing dialogue with Our Father, maybe lost keys and slow traffic and broken mower belts really are a tiny nudge inviting us to speak with Him.
Disappointments are a great place to plug in this prayer! When things don’t go the way we plan, we can get pretty down. I remember not getting a teaching job I wanted so badly! I prayed, I researched, I practiced interviewing I did everything to prepare yet despite my best efforts, the interview committee picked someone else! I was so disappointed! I called my mom in tears and she listened to me blubber on and on and when I was finished, she softly said, “It wasn’t your job to get!” I remembered that conversation clear as a bell in church as Fr. was talking about that very simple little prayer and on the drive home, Isaiah’s words chimed in and I was overwhelmed with the power of God’s plan. It hit me that if I had gotten that teaching job, I would not have gone to K-State, I would not have found out about the job opening with the State Department of Education in Michigan, I would not have moved here, met and married Dave, had three wonderful children and my life would NOT be any of the terrific things it is right now! Thank you God, Your will be done! And it was done…with amazing attention to detail I might add! It’s surprising what seven little words can stir up!
God always knows what He’s doing. We have to thank Him especially when things don’t go our way. I don’t know about you but sometimes I forget that part. The harder something is, the bigger our thank you should be! He blesses us through good and happy things and He blesses us BIGGER through the difficult, disappointing and heartbreaking! We tend to see what’s good for us; He sees what’s good for ALL of His children. We have to remember we aren’t the only ones He has to care for. Our disappointment is most likely someone else’s blessing…we can stamp our feet like a spoiled impatient toddler or we can use that time for some of the greatest prayer and fortifying ever. He doesn’t withhold things to make us squirm, He waits for the perfect time and the perfect place and the perfect peace…all He asks is that we thank Him and ask Him to show us His way while we wait on His perfect timing. His ways, His words…yeah, it makes sense since we are His children!
A seed to plant: Write this little prayer down and stick it somewhere so you’ll remember to pray it often. Thank you God, Your will be done!
Blessings on your day!
Don’t pray when you feel like it. Have an appointment with the Lord and keep it. A man is powerful on his knees. ~ Corrie Ten Boom
Each year as the middle lovelies come to my classroom I’m on the lookout for the storyteller. They are the one who can make a 20 word story last for 7 minutes. They are usually very animated and I love listening them bring a simple event to life with living color and spectacular detail. Unfortunately we don’t always have time to stay tuned in for the entire story and I have to ask them to skip to the end or give us the “tiny size story”. I hate to do it but sometimes I just have to. One year not so long ago I had 4 storytellers and that was the year I learned a true appreciation for the gift of telling a powerful story in just a few, choice, touching words. I just finished reading a book called God Help Me: How to Grow in Prayer by Jim Beckman and it is fabulous; he is an amazing storyteller!
Sometimes I use too many words like the storytellers in my classroom so today, I’m going to borrow some simple, powerful words from Mr. Beckman…I don’t think he’ll mind; especially if you become inspired and decide to buy the book yourself. I hope they hit your heart as hard as they hit mine.
“I previously approached prayer as a kind of drug. I used it to help me feel close to god, to give me experiences of his presence. But as with a drug, I could choose when to take it and I could sometimes go without it. Prayer now has become more like air. It’s not really an option: I can’t breathe without it; I can’t live without it.”
“There is very little in prayer that depends on me. I can’t make myself have deep spiritual experiences. I can’t create consolation for myself. I can’t make up a word from God or make myself any holier. All of that depends on God. His movements are his and I can’t do anything to make them happen. The only things that I bring to the mix are consistently showing up for prayer and the disposition of my heart when I’m there.”
How’s that for straight to the point! I don’t think there’s any need for more words today…I need to concentrate on these and see where He leads me and my prayer time.
A Seed To Plant: Take these two passages to prayer with you and see what the Holy Spirit speaks to your heart about them.
Blessings on your day!
My heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee. St. Augustine
When my kids were little they had a toy that both entertained and frustrated them. It was a red plastic ball with openings of different shapes and sizes. The object was to insert the correct shape into the corresponding opening. My toddlers couldn’t always see the difference between a circle and an oval or a square and a rectangle so there were many attempts to jam the wrong shape into the wrong hole. Just like my kids, we too sometimes try to make things fit where they don’t quite belong.
We were created in the image and likeness of the God who loves us. Our hearts were meant to fit perfectly in his but we often forget that and try to pack ourselves into roles where we don’t fit. When the toy pieces didn’t fit together the kids would bang, push, and get frustrated until they slowed down and looked things over carefully and attempted to put the pieces in gently and purposefully. During those times in life when we struggle to make things fit according to our plan, we experience that same chaos and frustration. God has the perfect antidote; rest in him. Only he knows how our life should fit together and he simply asks us to love and serve him while we wait for him to put all the pieces in the perfect spot.
The next time we hit that place of chaos and frustration we need to slow down and ask the Lord to calm us down and rest a bit as he puts the pieces back in the order he desires.
A Seed To Plant: Take some quiet minutes in prayer to ask yourself if their are there pieces in your life that don’t seem to fit together? Are you the person God is asking you to be or you trying to invent yourself? Rest a while in his presence and ask him.
Blessings on your day!
For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord. Isaiah 55: 8
As a teacher, I get asked a lot of questions every day. Everything from, “Is it almost time for lunch?” to “Why do people say mean, stupid things?” Sometimes I have an answer because the question is routine or simple but often I’m left asking the Holy Spirit for words because I simply don’t know. After one of my recent speaking events, a beautiful soul sent a question I didn’t know quite how to answer. I was neck deep in Holy Week and Easter stuff at school so I could have typed a quick reply in an attempt to take the task off my to-do list, but the question begged prayerful thought, research and of course the wisdom of God’s Word. What started as an email to answer a question has spilled into a blog because I’m sure this dear lady isn’t the only one who has this wonder. With the help of the Holy Spirit, Scripture and a dynamic priest, here’s what I’ve got.
The question sprung from a scripture verse I was talking about that night in a church hall. We were thinking about Psalm 139:13-14 which reads …you knit me in my mothers womb…I am fearfully and wonderfully made… It’s a beautiful passage steeped in God’s loving truth but sometimes it comes with a sting. What if we aren’t perfect. What if we’re sick, or we have a condition or situation that causes our life to be anything BUT wonderful and perfect. Did God knit that? When life is hard or confusing or the suffering is great we often turn to God in our pain and befuddlement and wonder where he is and did he really intend things to be this way.
Here are a couple of things to think about. First of all, there is no such thing as perfect. The world pedals that concept constantly but it’s a deception. There is no such thing as a perfect family, job, or life like the TV commercials would have us believe. The goal of life is to get to heaven, not to have everything neat, tidy, pretty and easy. The goal of life is to get to heaven and claim our sainthood, and my friends, the path to that is not so simple. The holy men and women who have gone before us have shown us again and again that the path to holiness requires sacrifice and suffering. In John’s Gospel we read the words…In this world you will have trouble…16:33 Even though hard stuff came with a warning label we still shake our fist and say, “What the heck, God!” We have to know that he hears us, he loves us and he is working right in the middle of the messy, imperfect and un-wonderful parts of our life. He’s using them to bring holiness and lead us home and sometimes that’s a quick trip but more often than not it’s a long journey.
The second thing to remember is that suffering is inevitable. There are hundreds of commercials out there for stuff to make things quicker or easier. Heaven just plain can’t happen without suffering and trial; there’s no short-cut What we do with our suffering makes all the difference my friends. Suffering without Jesus is just pain without a purpose and it can leave us bitter and fumbling in the darkness. Suffering united with Jesus brings holiness. St. Paul said in his letter to the Colossians, Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake…1:24 his words are even more powerful when you consider that he wrote those words while chained in a prison cell. He knew the secret. He knew that Jesus didn’t die on a cross to take away our suffering but rather he came to transform our suffering. If we say in our suffering, “Jesus please suffer with me, please allow this “thing” to help me grow closer to you.” we will give our suffering purpose and the result is redemption. In other words, suffering is our vehicle to heaven. Uniting our suffering with Jesus gives our suffering meaning and the result is that wonderful, perfect life we’re all working for.
If suffering is our “vehicle” to heaven, it’s helpful to note that no two look alike. We buy into the crazy notion that everything should be fair and that is yet another deception of the world. When Christ allows us to carry a sliver of his cross, we grow in holiness and often help others through our personal suffering. It might be tempting to think it’s not fair because some sufferings seem much smaller or greater, but the reality is, God knows exactly how much we can bear. My mom suffered greatly when she buried my brother and then again when she battled cancer for 2 years but she always asked God to use that suffering not just for her soul, but for her husband, her children and all those who needed the redemption her suffering might bring to them. We can never completely see the burdens that others might be bearing…only God can see that and we have to trust in his wisdom and mercy.
That was a rather long answer to a pretty big question. I hope it offers some peace, some understanding and some, well, some hope.
A Seed To Plant: As you pray today, make a list of all the things that cause your heart suffering. Each time that “thing” enters your mind say, “Jesus join me as I carry this sliver of your cross.”
Blessings on your day!
The Lord remembers his covenant forever. Psalm 105: 8
I have a small set of completely useless talents! One of those useless talents is being able to remember song lyrics from decades ago. I don’t mean to brag, but I can sing songs that are even older than I am. Now, don’t be too impressed because I’m also the same woman who can’t remember 3 things at the grocery store and about the only room I can walk in to and consistently remember why I entered, is the bathroom. I remember random silly things but there are days when I forget ten times more than I remember. I like to console myself and say it’s because I just have so much important stuff to think about I run out of room in my brain!
Thank goodness God has a better memory than me! I’m so grateful for this reminder from Psalm 105 and it makes my heart peaceful to know that even on those crazy days when I forget to ask God for help or peace or assurance, he never forgets me or the covenant he made with his people. He remembers all the important stuff. He doesn’t remember just when it’s convenient or when it serves his purpose; he remembers his promise to love us all the time!
Sometimes we can make our way through lent and come out on Easter Sunday feeling like we didn’t get it right. We sometimes forget our lenten promises and when Good Friday rolls around we start to feel guilty for forgetting how much we wanted to show our love to Jesus though our sacrifices and penances. Now would be a great time to remember that our lenten works have no real bearing on the glory of Easter. Jesus wouldn’t be more “risen” if we had remembered all the things we promised on Ash Wednesday. God isn’t going to put us on the “B list” because we didn’t complete six weeks of perfect sacrificial piousness. His covenant promised his love, compassion, care and correction whether we ate chocolate during lent or not.
The fifty days of the Easter season are the perfect time to hit a “remember re-set”. God isn’t honored just through our sacrifice; he’s honored by our joy and gratitude. Easter is the absolute perfect time to be more joyful and grateful. We are an Easter people which is to say we are a people who were created to celebrate the joy and happiness of the Resurrection and the new beginnings it promises. That too was a part of the covenant God will always remember. I keep thinking about that line about happy christians and it makes me giggle so I’ll repeat it again; “There are way too many christians running around looking like they’ve been baptized in lemon juice!” Are we gonna mope about your lenten weaknesses or realize with enthusiastic happiness and joy that Easter makes all things new! What needs to be new with you? This is the season that begs us to believe the unbelievable and profess the spectacular and revel in the unfathomable! How about turning from the lent guilt and running head first into the magnificent gift of love the Father will never forget to show us. Absolutely, we are not worthy of such a gift but lets remember that he already knows that and it doesn’t matter. The gates of Heaven were flung open not because we deserve it but because the Father promised and because he wants us with him. That is something we need to remember! This Easter Season let your focus be joy, after all, someone died for you and then his Father raised him up!
A Seed To Plant: Find a great image of the Risen Jesus and pray with it each day to remind yourself that it was a gift for you from the Father who will never forget his promises.
Blessings on your day!
Happy Easter! I hope you had a beautiful Easter Sunday. In the tradition of the Catholic Church, the Easter Season continues for 50 days which leaves me plenty of time to write about it in the days to come. Yesterday was filled with family and sunshine and celebration. It was a great day but there were no left over minutes for writing so...todays post is a simple Happy Easter and a promise to return with more Joyful Words on Thursday!
Blessings on your day!
When the hour came He took his place at the table with the apostles. Luke 22:14
We have a tradition here at the Wohlfert house. When it’s your birthday, you get to choose the menu for your birthday supper. We had the same tradition in the McClaskey house too. Since I’ll do anything to get meatloaf for supper, I thought it was a tradition that certainly needed to continue with my children. As luck would have it, my daughter also chooses meatloaf on her birthday every year. There is just something comforting about sitting down with family to enjoy your favorite meal together.
Many years ago some friends invited us to go out for supper with them one Saturday night. Being a stay-at-home mom with three little ones under the age of 5 at the time, I think I had my finger on the babysitter’s phone number in the phone book before I had even finished accepting the invitation. Our friends said they had discovered this great place that they thought we’d just love. I WAS IN! The night arrived and as we waved goodbye to the kids and backed out of the driveway I felt so lucky to be going out to eat at an exciting new place where I wasn’t going to have to cut anyone else’s meat or transfer anyone’s drink to a cup with a spout. I was excited! After a 40 minute drive to the middle of nowhere, we pulled up in front of this old house that look like it had about 4 sunrooms added on, each in a different decade. The parking lot was gravel and the paint on the building wasn’t even all one color. I was a wee bit unimpressed to say the least. When we walked in the door it didn’t get much better. The big open space was full of tables that didn’t match and were covered with vinyl tablecloths that were every pattern and color known to man. All three pieces of silverware were a different pattern and even the glasses didn’t match. I really wondered what it was about the place my friend thought we’d love so much. A few seconds later a sweet, cheerful lady appeared at our table with a personality that would rival Santa’s! We placed our order and a few moments later some of the best homemade delicious food I’d ever tasted arrived at our table. We laughed, talked, ate and enjoyed a fabulous evening! It was not at all what I had expected when we got out of the car that night. Isn’t life like that sometimes!
When I read the gospel accounts of the last supper, I often wonder what the apostles thought when they first realized that night was no ordinary supper together. I wonder what they felt more; shock, fear or sorrow. We can be certain the evening didn’t turn out as they expected. Jesus had news they could not have possibly been ready for and the events of the night spilling into the next day were more than anyone could have imagined. It is on this night; Holy Thursday, I am more overwhelmed by my sinfulness than any other night of the year. I know the story, and the Easter morning happy ending but I still feel as dumbfounded each year as the apostles must have felt. Disbelief, sorrow, anguish…I feel it all heavy on my heart. Too many Christians want the Easter without the Holy Thursday and Good Friday. We want to skip to the happy ending and miss the brutality and the guilt but without the cross we aren’t Christians. Without meditating on the burden of our sins Christ bore, we don’t have repentance and without repentance we can’t have forgiveness and salvation. His death brought forth our life and in some small, unexpected, unpleasant way, we have to share it with Jesus.
If you truly want to experience Easter joy, spend some time this holy evening reading the Gospel accounts of the last supper…imagine…think…feel…experience the unexpected like the apostles. Tomorrow, on Good Friday, spend some time with the Gospel accounts of the crucifixion. As you read, ask God to join you with the suffering of His Son in order to come to a greater understanding of His gift of life and love. If you can unite yourself more closely with the cross, you will feel the joy of the Resurrection.
A Seed To Plant: Spend time with the Last Supper and Good Friday Gospel stories.
Blessings on your day!
…She has done a good thing for me. Matthew 26:10
Well, it’s Monday! That means the start of another week and as you read, some of you are tired, some are frustrated, some are happy and some are worried. No matter what you’re feeling as this new week begins I’m going to ask you to put it all on hold and realize this is not just another week. This is HOLY WEEK and more than anything I want this week to be different for you, for me, for everyone who is a christian. This is a week of powerful sacrifice, love, commitment and glory. The point and purpose of this post is to help you make this week set apart from all the others. I’m asking all of us to lay down our worries, our burdens and our “stuff” and choose instead to walk this week with Jesus and remember how great were his actions during this week as he redeemed us.
The Franciscan Sisters of the Eucharist in Duluth MN have a spectacular way of living out this week and setting it apart. I’d like to share their Holy Week focus in hopes it will change our focus too. Here’s what they think and pray about each day this week. They actually begin on Saturday. We’re a couple days late but we sure can back up our thinking and catch up. I’ve added a couple of questions to each day in hopes we can think about and act on them as we walk with Jesus through this extraordinary last week of his earthly life.
*Commitment Saturday - Ponder and pray about the commitment Jesus made to his Father’s plan and will. The commitment he made to our salvation. How have I committed to Jesus? What can I commit to do for him today?
*Procession Sunday - Jesus publicly showed his love for the Father. Will I walk with him? What will I do today to publicly stand and walk with Jesus?
*Extravagance Monday - How extravagant was his love for us. Read the story of the woman who anointed Jesus’ feet with perfume in Matthew 26. Her love and her actions showed extravagant love. How has Jesus shown extravagant love for you? Who can you love today?
*Compulsion to Completion Tuesday - Jesus was compelled to move forward to do his Father’s will in spite of doubts, worries, troubles or fear. He was determined to complete the Father’s will. What is God asking you to do for him? Where do you need to add compulsion and completion like Jesus?
*Aloneness Wednesday - Jesus knew the next day he would give everything and he paused to be alone in prayer, in silence in the presence of his Father. Spend at least 30 minutes in silence today. Take time to be alone with your Father and His Son pondering the upcoming few days and all Jesus did for you. Read the Gospel accounts of Holy Thursday and Good Friday so you will be ready to think about them in the upcoming days.
*Body Given Thursday - Jesus gave everything. His body to the guards who arrest him this night and in the Last Supper he gave us the everlasting promise of His Body and Blood which were to be poured out for the salvation of us all. What is Jesus asking you to give? Are there people in your life who need the gifts you can offer them?
*Impotent Friday - Jesus was powerless on this day. He who was Almighty became powerless for our sake and his Father had to observe it all. That happened for you and for me. Where do you need to submit to the Father? Where do you need to relinquish some power to the Father, knowing all the while he will be with you? From the time you wake up until 3 spend 5 to 10 minutes each hour meditating on the events of Good Friday; walking with him through this sorrowful day.
*Saturday - The Day of Night, Jesus spent this day in darkness. It was still, it was waiting, it was quiet. It was a day that with patience, reaped great glorious joy. Where do you need to be more patient? Find a way to practice that today.
*Sunday - The Day of Miracles. After you eat your chocolate bunny, make a list of all the miracles God has worked in your life and be sure to put Jesus a the top of the list.
May you use these thoughts and questions to guide you through the week and may the practice be fruitful for your soul.
A Seed To Plant: Print this one or open it each morning so you remember how to pray your way through each day and say a prayer of thanksgiving for the good Sisters for their Holy Week example.
Blessings on your day!
This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. 1 John 5:14
Have you ever gotten something that far exceeded your expectation? When I was a little girl I remember asking for a baby doll for Christmas. All I wanted was a doll with brown hair and brown eyes. That Christmas stands out like no other because not only did I get the baby doll I wanted, I also got 3 outfits that my mom made by hand, I got a baby bottle to feed the baby doll and my dad made a baby bed out of an old wooden orange crate from my grandpas store. The doll bed came complete with a hand made mattress, pillow and little baby quilt. I remember squealing with so much excitement because it was SO much more than I had expected!
One of the best parts of traveling around giving talks and retreats is the people I meet and the stories they share about the things God is doing in their lives. I often pack up my little bag and hop on a plane determined to go give something but without fail…instead of doing the giving; I’m always the one who ends up receiving and experiencing so much more than I expected! I’m amazed at all the things the Lord can do when we open our heart; always more than we expected! Recently I’ve had some lovely women share an instance where God has worked in amazing and unexpected ways and with their permission I’d like to share them with you in this post.
*It’s all in the name. A nurse who was very apprehensive and anxious about a new computer system taking over the surgical center where she worked asked God to help her find a way to cope with the unwelcomed changes. She was an experienced nurse but technology wasn’t part of her training or her generation…compounding the stress and anxiety! In the shower the morning of the big “technology take over” she told God she was surrendering the whole crazy deal to him and asked him to calm her stress and be with her as she tried to learn. When she got to work that day, each nurse was assigned an assistant from the technology company. The gentleman assigned to help her was polite, gentle, understanding and extremely helpful and calming. As the nerves and stress began to subside, she thanked him for his helpfulness and asked his name. He told her his name was Emmanuel. Knowing that Emmanuel means “God is with us” she was overwhelmed at the goodness and love of the God she’d invited to be in charge of her day. The name was just a huge loving touch that proved his presence and love beyond her expectation.
*Just ask me. A grandma sat in the audience at a day of prayer and was troubled that her daughter was not making Sunday Mass a priority for her young family. She sent a text inviting her daughter and family to mass with her at the conclusion of the day of prayer but the daughter texted back and declined. The situation sat on the woman’s heart like a brick. When the scripture from 1 John was discussed she closed her eyes and made a conscious decision to ask God to take the situation and handle it “according to his will”. When the session took a break, she checked her phone and read a text from her daughter informing her of their Sunday Mass plans. When she checked the time the text was sent, it was exactly 1 minute after she had turned the situation over to the Fathers will. She was shaking with joy when she came to me to show me the text and tell me the story. The text also indicated that her grandson had just been accepted into the Catholic pre-school they were hoping he could attend. One request, one text, one big blessing that exceeded her expectation as only God can.
I think sometimes we set the bar so low it’s a wonder we don’t trip over it! God is waiting every minute to exceed our expectations. If we ask…if we believe…if we trust…and if it’s according to his will, he will surprise us every time! Go ahead and give it a try; ask with faith and then share the story!
A Seed To Plant: Make a two column list during your prayer time today. In the first column make a list of all the recent prayers God has answered in your life and in the second column make a list of all the things you’d like to lift to the Glory of his plan.
Blessings on your day!
As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. Joshua 24:15
As I type this post we’re just hours from tip-off of the MSU Texas Tech NCAA Final Four game. I have made some great friends in Lubbock and I’ve rooted for the Red Raiders throughout the whole tournament but tonight there is a dividing line and I’m typing in green! I just have to pick the Spartans tonight because one of my favorite priests always says, “MSU is where Jesus went to school!”
Tonights game is just one of the many places we divide ourselves and take sides. Sometimes the divisions are light hearted and fun; other times they can be completely serious. As humans we fuss and argue and pick sides but as Children of God, we need to come together and find our voice in this crazy world. We need to remember we’re all fighting AGAINST the same thing…evil! If we could remember who are leader is and follow him together the world could be very different.
I’ve been thinking a lot about what makes us choose the things we do. Sometimes it’s a family thing, sometimes it’s a political thing or a financial thing that influences our choices. Sometimes we’re pressured into making choices and picking sides. I ran across this quote shortly before the NCAA tournament began and it just stuck to my heart. When it comes to the most important “side” or “choice” we can pick there is no pressure, no requirements, no loss whatsoever. The outcome will be perfect and generous and loving and compassionate and amazing. When you pick God, there is only truth and he’s always right there waiting for us to pick him and allow him to transform everything! This little nugget of comfort and hope was written by Fr. Cantalamessa who is the preacher to the papal household. I hope it sticks you your heart too and helps you pick the team that will always finish first…the team that follows Jesus!
He it is, the Only Begotten of the Father, who stands before the human race today and says: Be still, and know that I am God. (Ps 46:11) He does not plead for it, he does not beg for faith and recognition, as so many pseudo-prophets and founders of empty religions do. He does not say. “Believe me, please, be kind enough to listen,” but he says: “Know that I am God!” Whether you believe it or not, I am God!
A Seed To Plant: Think of the “teams” you are a part of and then compare the amount of time you devote to that team to the amount of time you devote to being on Christ’s disciple squad. Make adjustments as needed.
Blessings on your day!
I am an imperfect person loved by a perfect God!
I had a funny realization the other day when I had the middle lovelies and their kindergarten buddies at mass. One of the littles had a runny nose so the big buddy turned and asked me if I had a Kleenex they could give the kindergartener. I immediately began rummaging through my coat pockets pulling out Kleenex after Kleenex. I smiled and thought I must have looked a little like a magician pulling colorful scarves out of a hat. I finally came to one that was wadded but after careful inspection, I could tell it hadn’t been used. It looked a little rumpled but as I did the unfold test I could tell it was a “never been used” one. Feeling a bit successful at the fruitful Kleenex search mission, I handed it up with pride to the middle lovely. The little one looked a bit suspicious and after using it the child looked at their big buddy and said, “My mom buys the kind that come in the little rectangle package and come out folded nicely, I’m not sure I like this kind.” It took everything I had not to laugh out loud!
As I looked down at the pile of crumpled white Kleenexes in my lap and began to tuck them all back in my coat pockets I realized my discipleship journey is a whole lot like that crumped pile of Kleenex! Here’s what I mean…
*When I forget to let God be in charge, things get all wrinkled, wadded and jumbled.
*Even when things get messy in the middle, all I need is a fresh corner to clean up my act.
*Things rarely come neatly packaged and perfectly stacked like the little rectangle Kleenex packages.
*Things don’t always have to look new, neat and tidy to work well, sometimes following Christ is just messy and unpredictable.
*God loves me even when I’m a rumpled mess and all I have left is a little room around the edges.
*God always wants to give a little extra love so I have some left to share.
*Just because I appear to be prepared, well packaged and all put together, it doesn’t mean I’m holy. Holiness focuses on the inside not the outward appearance.
*Just like those tissues in my pocket, God has a very specific purpose in my life and I sometimes have to do a little searching to find it.
*All too often, I have to dig around and try all the wrong things before I get to the good one.
*Finding a good Kleenex right before a sneeze is a great relief but it’s nothing compared to the relief in my life when I let God take control right before I try to do it my own way and goof it up.
Some people say they never really hear God speak to them; perhaps the problem is they just aren’t listening carefully because he can communicate his lessons and his love in the strangest ways; even in a pile of rumpled Kleenexes!
A Seed To Plant: Are you a fresh new package disciple or are you one who’s a little ruffled around the edges? Take some time in prayer this week and think about it…are you waiting until everything is in perfect order to invite him in or are you willing to invite him into your mess?
Blessings on your day!
Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. Matthew 4:1
It seems like everybody has that friend who just always has the right thing to say at precisely the right moment. I admire those fast thinking, quick witted folks who just spit out the perfect set of words in a flash and leave everyone else speechless. I especially enjoy hearing that person when they speak words that are kind and truthful. More than once I’ve observed as a person like that has left a group of people just scratching their heads in silence thinking, “humm, good point, why didn’t I think of that!” Let’s be clear…I am NOT that person! I’m more like the one who mulls the conversation over and hours later thinks, man, I should have said___!
Instead of being the person with the right words, I’m beginning to realize being quiet is usually a much better choice for me. The story about the temptation of Jesus appears in three of the Gospels and each contains a huge detail I’d never noticed before. Satan is talking away to Jesus, he’s wheeling and dealing and carrying on but Jesus doesn’t really speak back. There is no conversation, no argument, no points to defend or no rebuttal on Jesus’ part. Jesus doesn’t enter conversation at all. Jesus does speak, but he doesn’t converse. After Satan huffs and puffs, Jesus speaks one line of truth. He doesn’t make something up. He doesn’t embellish or brag or even make Satan feel like the “despicable nothing slug” he really is, he simply quotes one line of scripture. He doesn’t use extra words because he grabs the perfect ones right from the book of “the only great words we ever need” book; the Bible. What a genius idea!
After this was pointed out to me in a sermon by a wonderful priest, he said some words that hit my heart. He said, “Jesus didn’t enter into conversation with Satan and neither should we…ever!” At first I smugly sat in my pew thinking, well of course not, I certainly would never enter into a debate or a battle with Satan. But, as he often does, Jesus showed up in my heart with a gigantic flash light and showed me exactly where I let it happen again and again. Of course it’s never a toe to toe confrontation like the one Jesus and Satan had but the little battles creep in and bring their ugliness along. Through some prayer I came to realize that I do listen to Satan. That voice that says, “you aren’t smart enough” or “go ahead and try to do that; you’ve failed there before and you’ll fail again” or the one that goes “yeah, this whole ministry and blog thing; do you really think you’re qualified to do God’s work”. He starts battles that leave me wondering if I’ve been a good enough wife, mom, teacher or friend. He creeps into my head with thoughts about past mistakes, weaknesses and calls to my mind the dozens of times a day I fall desperately short and I listen. In my head I make excuses or even agree with him for a bit.
Since this Gospel has been a big part of my Lenten Prayer, the Lord has led me to a few things. First, I need to be like Jesus and silence his voice with one well chosen line from God’s truth. Second, like Jesus, I need to recognize whose voice it is and quiet it immediately. I’m not called to argue or defend or refute. My job is to stand on the truth of God and walk away from the conversation. I have this sign with my middle lovelies. I’ll clamp four fingers down onto my thumb like an alligator closing it’s mouth and say “ZZZT”. All talking stops! Lately when I hear that voice that tells me things that aren’t true, I give Satan the ZZZT sign. I’m also making a list of one line truths from Scripture to go along with my ZZZT. A raw and honest look at how it works; when I looked at the gorgeous pictures from Jason and Katie’s perfect wedding day I heard that voice say, “Geeze Sheri, you should have worked harder and lost more weight before the wedding because that dress would have looked so much better in a smaller size.” I quick did my ZZZT and said “You are precious in my eyes and glorious because I love you. Isaiah 43:4” I’ll be completely honest, I had to repeat it a couple (or couple dozen) times before it choked out that ugly voice but it’s my beginning at ending the conversations! Where do you need to begin?
A Seed To Plant: Make a list of those conversations you need to put a stop to and then google a line from Scripture that tells the truth. Stand on that truth and remember Jesus didn’t enter into conversation with Satan and neither should we…ever!
Blessings on your day!
Every good and perfect gift is from God above. James 1:17
Unless you’ve been living under a rock you are undoubtedly aware that there is a lot of yuck filling the news. When all the craziness from candidates to policemen to natural disasters and disrespect for life gets lumped together it can bring out the worst in us. Everyone is entitled to their opinions but folks sometimes forget others might not share the same one yet they insist on loudly sharing those opinions with everyone and proclaiming their thoughts are correct, just, moral and supreme. The result is a muddy mess that leaves me scratching my head wondering; why don’t folks remember everybody’s life matters and how in tarnation did things get so scrambled up.
I surely don’t understand all the messes we hear about in the news but there are a few truths I know. First, God is bigger than ALL of it! Second, I can’t fix it; God would never ask or expect me to and third there are two very powerful things that we can do RIGHT NOW that will matter. These things will matter in my life, my family and with the people I am close to. I can’t fix it but I sure shootin can make it better…and so can you. The greatest part; these two things will tackle the feelings of frustration, dread, anxiety and the overwhelming desire we might have to throw something at the TV or computer screen when we watch the news.
There is a tiny back story to this idea and it came from the Holy Spirit because I would have never thought to do this myself. As I was sitting in prayer sad and frustrated about the current state of affairs of our nation I was prompted to go to something happy so I yanked an Advent book from my shelf. Advent is such a time of joy and happy anticipation so I opened up the book and started soaking in the words and felt excited and happy; it was crazy! After reading several pages two things became very clear and my heart filled with hope and faith. Complaining, dwelling, commiserating and joining in on face book rants about how this country is going to hell in a handbasket isn’t cutting it…that Advent book made that very clear! We have to take part in the plan of God; and make no mistake, even in this mess, he has one…and judging by the magnitude of the mess I’m confident it’s gonna be a GOOD one for those who are faithful!
So, the first of those two things; be GRATEFUL! Yup, you read that right, be GRATEFUL. Think about it, gratefulness should be our response to the grace, mercy and blessings of God and no matter what you just watched on the 6 o’clock news, God has blessed YOU! A grateful heart sees what’s good and appreciates it. People who are grateful are merciful and kind because gratefulness causes us to be connected to the one who gave us the things we’re grateful for. If we are connected to the giver of all good things, he gives more good things. That connection leads to eternal life…that’s what we need to remember to focus on, not this short-term life we’re in the middle of right now. This isn’t the good part…that’s comin and our salvation isn’t based on the behavior of the world; it’s based on our personal behavior. If we’re living gratefully we aren’t complaining, we aren’t worrying we’re busy praising and thanking the Father and that leads to great stuff!
The second of the two things; be LOVING! If we are grateful, we realize all good things flow from love not hate, jealousy, greed or pride. When we’re loving, the atmosphere changes completely and God barges right in and brings those cool gifts of the Spirit…you remember those…joy, peace, kindness, goodness and gentleness! No elected official or community leader is going to deliver those gifts if we cast our vote for them or hold up the right poster at a protest rally. Those gifts come from only one place and there is no spot for those gifts in our life unless we are loving. Too many of us are fumbling around in a fog of bitterness, anger, frustration with our hands thrown up in disbelief…that isn’t the proper disposition or frame of mind to be loving. We need a new disposition; let’s try gratitude and love and see what gets better; I’m guessing everything will!
A Seed To Plant: Write down this quote and pray with it for a while and see how your heart changes. “Gratitude flows from the recognition that all that is good is born of a divine gift of love freely given to us so that we may offer thanks and share it with others.” (Author unknown but they must be a really smart, holy person!)
Blessings on your day!
Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it. Proverbs 22:6
We could debate until we were out of breath about which professions and jobs are most important to the future of our world. There could be equally long debates about the wage and status for those jobs and professions. I have been reminded this month that the debate about status and money and importance doesn’t amount to a hill of beans because the true marker is passion and the peace in your soul that only comes from the satisfaction of knowing you are using your God given gifts to bring him glory in any way he asks. People who choose to work with kids of any age sure don’t do it for the money or the status yet they are some of the most richly blessed and revered people you’ll find. I’ve had a front row seat to amazing kids who have been led by the example of amazing adults.
Our little mid-Michigan community has brought home 3 State Titles this month. One in Competitive Cheer, one in Boys Basketball and one in Girls Basketball. In fact, in the last 10 years this little community has earned 11 State Titles and has advanced to Finals 25 times. Academic success and achievement in the Arts for our students is stellar as well. But how? It’s a school made up of around 400 kids who all live within the boundaries of a rural district. The towns are tiny, there is nothing flashy or fancy but there is something amazing that goes on around here. The success all boils down to a very powerful root.
As my newsfeed jammed full of pictures of the kids who were achieving great things this month I thought of the words of an old Whitney Houston song…I believe that children are our future; teach them well and let them lead the way. Show them all the beauty they possess inside. Give them a sense of pride, to make it easier; let the children's laughter remind us how we use to be. It sort of hit the spot! Our kids are great and they are loved and led by parents, teachers, coaches, principals, Priests and dozens of other community members who have great passion. All those people who invest their time, prayer, energy and love into this community see great fruit.
The priority however isn’t trophies or scores or medals, the priority is the rock solid FAITH of this community; that faith is the root! Faith and family are top priority and with those priorities come a strong work ethic, a balanced perspective and a strong sense of pride. When something is working, it’s evident. The biggest return on the investment is when the kids become the ones teaching the lessons. The grand finale of the month happened Saturday night when the girls team got back to town and asked Father Eric to say an unscheduled mass for the team. They had attended mass together regularly all season and it seemed the perfect ending. Saturday night, it was the girls teaching the lesson on priorities. The kids in this community steep everything in prayer. They pray with each other and for each other. They are often seen living out their faith on and off the playing field. Sometimes they are the ones who are inspiring the adults to grow in faith and discipleship.
When faith is your root, what sprouts and grows from there is a beauty to behold. When you set out on a mission to help young people grow in faith and live that faith through whatever gifts God gives, that makes a difference in the world.
A Seed To Plant: If you want to change the world, find a way to use your gifts to support kids. Volunteer, coach, teach, tutor and pray!
Blessings on your day!
Indeed, religion with contentment is a great gain. 1 Timothy 6:6
Have you ever gone out to eat with a person who has to look at every plate that comes out of the kitchen before they can decide what to order? That same person usually stares down each plate at the table, asking five questions about each order, and more often than not, that same person can be heard saying something like, “I wish I would have ordered that instead, I want what they have!” Let’s face it, if we’re being totally honest, we probably make a dozen comparisons each day. We compare tiny things like parking spots and lunch choices and we compare big things like cars, paychecks and homes. Did you ever stop and think about why we do this?
If we took a survey of 100 people and asked the question, “What word best describes you right now?” What percentage of people do you think might reply with the word “Content”? I would be willing to bet very few, if any, would spit out that answer! We are a restless people by nature. We spend a lot of time and energy comparing, evaluating and calculating everything. Is it greed, lust, materialism or is it possible that the restlessness is simply a yearning for God to fill a spot in our lives we may not even realize is vacant?
I love my life! I love everything about it, my husband, my children, my job, my family, my co-workers, my parish, my home…my life is absolutely more blessed than I ever imagined it could be! That being said, you would think I would be perfectly content. That would be correct most of the time, but every now and again that restless ache creeps in and makes me compare what I have with something God blessed someone else with. God has given me WAY more than enough and He certainly has given me WAY more than I deserve but sometimes I want Him to give ME that vacation to a beautiful beach resort or spiffy new fancy thing my neighbor has. He has generously given me gifts and blessings and I try to use them to further His kingdom but sometimes I really wish those gifts could land me a book deal or a speaker booking at a big-name conference where I could rub elbows with the “Big Names” and be a part of all the exciting “hoop-la” that goes with it.
99 days out of 100 I’m grateful and content but I was having that day when I was restless and feeling a little jealous. I needed to get out from under the burden of those feelings so I slipped in the side door of church during lunch and asked Him to take them away. As I sat in the silence, the word “why” just kept popping in my head. I thought and thought about it and kept wondering things like, “why…why did he get that and why did she get to go there and why…” I went through the whole list and then it hit me! The “why” meant something completely different…God was leading me to ask myself “WHY” do you want those things. If you really want to use the gifts I gave you to serve me, why do you care about those things? I sat a bit longer and thought about why I wanted all those things I thought He had forgotten to give me. I told Him I felt like I was being “skipped over”. Then the train hit me...I was wandering away from His truth. He doesn’t allow me to write this blog each week to be recognized, He gave me this gift to spread His love and help others recognize His presence. He didn’t give me my speaking gift to become recognized in a faraway fancy place, He gave it to me to speak to whoever He put in the chairs wherever He sends me. He didn't send me to a beach, he sent me to spread His love to a bunch of "tweenagers" every day. He didn’t forget to give me a fancy car or the income for a beautiful cottage; he gave me exactly what I needed to provide me with the perfect balance of humility and peace. Mostly, He made me realize He has blessed me with the perfect life for ME! I realized that what I need and what everyone else needs are as different as can be, but in the difference lies the perfection that only He can determine.
I left the church that afternoon knowing that the why really meant; why are you restless for things that aren’t yours. I left understanding the why, was the way He uncovered the restlessness in my soul that needed to rest in Him! I think I’ll swap “C” words…I’ll swap compare for celebrate. Each time I’m tempted to say, “I want what they have”, I’ll say instead, “God, thank you for taking such perfect care of them because You know perfectly what we need!” He works in ways both huge and tiny based on things we will never see or know…thank you Father for being in charge…You always get it right!
A Seed To Plant: Practice gratefulness this week and swap “C” words. Ask God each time you are tempted to make a comparison to settle your restless soul!
Blessings on your day!
For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord...Jeremiah 29:11
How many times do we hear the world tell us BE GREAT! Since the beginning of time, greatness has been important. I guess someone has to be in charge and have power but I'm not sure that makes them great. I'm not sure money, stuff or position are the best indicators of how great you are but it seems like we live in a world that uses those very things as the benchmark.
I found some perfect words to put this in perspective. I'm going to borrow these words from one of my favorite authors, Matthew Kelly. I hope he doesn't mind and I hope they touch your heart and serve as a reminder of the true definition of greatness.
"Do you want to be great? Born in a stable...served all men...was criticized for His attempts to live and proclaim the truth...and He suffered. He was the greatest. If you want to be great, be little."
A Seed To Plant: Ponder Mr. Kelly's words and see if you can find some ways to grow in greatness.
Blessings on your day!
… “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” Mathew 14:31
Saturday I had the privilege of participating in a Women’s conference and the theme was based on Matthew’s gospel about getting out of the boat. I love this story, 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’ve been thinking about this reading a lot this week and I remembered the time all three of my children were parasailing in Gulf Shores. I watched them floating in the sky and my glance kept drifting back to that boat rocking back and forth in the ocean waves. My children had the courage to try something I would NEVER do; once again there I was like one of the “chicken” apostles still in the boat! I think sometimes I really need that boat to rock so hard it almost tips over before I muster up the courage to get out.
After some thinking and paying I made a short list of the places it’s hard to get out of the boat and trust. The top three for me are 1)My world my children will raise children in 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 organize the future 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 we want our 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 concerns. 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!
He must become greater, I must become less. John 3:30
Crosses, daisies and faithful Disciples of Jesus! That pretty much sums up the past couple of months for me! In the last few months I have spoken to several hundred folks who were on the same mission…to grow in holiness. As usual, I show up with my computer to do what God has asked me to do, using the words the Holy Spirit gives me and think I’m giving something. In all truthfulness; I always walk away taking more than I gave!
The Lenten message I’ve shared a few times involves the image of crosses and daisies. I saw a meme on Ash Wednesday that said “pick up your cross and not a handful of daisies!” It made me laugh and it made me think. After I pondered it a bit I realized Lent is about recognizing the power of both the crosses and the daisies. The daisies are the beautiful, simple, Christlike things I can do dozens of times each day that help me think of others more and myself less. The daisies are tiny acts of service and compassion that truly do help us grow in holiness. If these things are offered to Jesus with love, they console his heart and they draw our attention to the service of others and not ourselves. If I smile instead of argue; if I offer my spot in line or hold open the door; if I walk away instead of gossiping; if I offer a helping hand to a struggling soul and I do all those things out of love for Jesus…those little daisies allow holiness to blossom. Anything done out of love for, and offered to Jesus, has results that are as pleasing to him as a beautiful daisy is to us.
The crosses are the tough stuff! It’s true that the daisies help us grow in holiness but life can’t be all daisies. The crosses are personal, they may be private and they may be heavy but Jesus is just waiting there beside us ready to help us with the heavy lifting. We have to reach down and pick them up before he will grab on and help with the struggle. Our free will doesn’t allow him to join in until we get started and ask for help. Sometimes I hover over my crosses. I would imagine I must look to Jesus like one of those professional weight lifters on TV. I rub my hands, make some noise, bend down, practice the motions but as I step up to grab the cross I put my hands on it but don’t always stand up with the weight in my hand; I just go through the warm-up again and never get to the heavy lifting. Lent is the perfect time to quit the warm up and get to the lifting. No more studying the crosses; no more dragging the crosses; it’s time for ready set LIFT and CARRY!
As you focus on your crosses and daisies this lent, stop to tell your story and stop to ask others about their story. God doesn’t mean for us to bear our crosses in silence. We are called to support and love each other along the way.
A Seed To Plant: Make a list of the crosses and daisies you will focus on this week.
Blessings on your day!
“Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier. Be the living expression of God's kindness: kindness in your face, kindness in your eyes, kindness in your smile.” Blessed Mother Teresa
Now there is a Lenten challenge! There is just some advice that needs to be followed and this power-packed tidbit from Mother Theresa begs to be heeded. I shared this quote during prayer with the middle lovelies last week and they all agreed it would make the world a whole lot better but then one very honest young man said, “But man Mrs. Wohlfert, that’s just so hard to do.” I told him I agreed completely!
This quote has been heavy on my mind for several days and I’ve discovered it’s much easier to live these words when you’re in control of the situation and interactions are pleasant. I was intentional about this quote for a few days and I was pretty good at living this challenge when I would slow down, look people in the eyes when they spoke and be still until they were finished with the conversation. It seemed a bit awkward at first but after a few days it became more second nature. I was feeling pretty good about it until that situation I hadn’t planned for; you know the ones that catch you by surprise and tilt you off your balance. I had one of those situations this weekend and I totally blew it…I was frazzled and almost instantly I reacted and it wasn’t a reaction that matched the quote! I wasn’t the Wicked Witch of the West or anything but as I replayed the event I realized my reaction was based on selfishness and pride. A few hours later I was still really heavy hearted about the whole thing so I stopped to pray about it. (I don’t know why I always wait so long to do that!) After just a few seconds of quiet prayer it was very clear that I needed to apologize. I needed to call myself out on the selfishness and pride. I needed to admit that I was thinking of myself first and others second and I had to admit that I hadn’t left anyone better or happier with my snappy reaction. The more I tried to talk myself out of apologizing, the more I realized I needed to do it and do it soon. After a giant gulp of pride with a huge serving of humble pie on the side, I made the apology and shared the story of my failure to live out this quote. The apology was graciously accepted and thankfully my reaction was a much bigger deal in my mind than in actuality!
The funny thing about the whole situation…I was the one who left feeling happier and better. Crazy, I thought that was the gift I was going to give; not the one I was going to get. God is good and lesson learned…for today anyway! Thank goodness God expects progress not perfection!
A Seed To Plant: Make it your goal this week to live this verse. Think about the people it will be easiest and hardest to live it with and then ask God to bless your attempts.
Blessings on your day!
…and your Father who sees…Matthew 6:6
Happy (almost) Lent! Welcome to that time of year when we set out with all our hearts to grow in holiness. For me, it’s easy to look at the road to holiness and feel a little overwhelmed because I get so off track. It’s easy for me to look at lent as a time to “bear down” and try to do some really hard stuff. My intentions are good but these words from the Ash Wednesday Gospel hit my heart. Most years I set out to do some crazy long list of stuff in order to “make up” for all my shortcomings the rest of the year. Lent certainly has a penitential feel and purpose but it’s not a time to lock ourselves in a personal dungeon and be crabby and miserable for 6 weeks.
I think I wanted to do hard stuff so Jesus would see me and notice all the sacrifice and love and suffering. The Father sees…he sees ALL THE TIME and he sees us with such love and mercy. It makes me think of a chubby cheeked baby and how I just want to kiss their cheeks when I see one! I believe the Father looks at us that way every…singe…time! He’s always looking, he doesn’t miss a thing so that realization changed the way I think about lent. The point is not to get the Father’s attention; not to get him to look at me and the hard stuff I’m doing. The point is to get ME to look at HIM! What we “give up” this lent should be something we don’t pick back up! We need to give up those things that take our focus off Him so if they are coming between us now, they will probably come between us later so why not ditch ‘em!
If you’ve ever taken children to the pool, you know how many times they can say “hey watch this” in thirty minutes. That was the way I did Lent; hey Jesus, look at me I’m not eating chocolate or hey Jesus did you see that I went to an extra daily mass today, wasn’t that good of me, doesn’t that count for extra? It was almost like a giant score card and lent was the bonus round! Now, I realize it’s about me watching him. It sure takes a lot of the pressure off! My biggest Lenten task is to do the things that help me fix my gaze on him. If I’m looking to him and I know he’s looking at me, that influences my choices and attitudes; that helps me grow in holiness.
Here are some things you might try this Lent. Make a commitment to read a book about our Catholic faith this lent. It could be a book about the Mass like A Biblical Walk Through The Mass by Edward Sri. It could be about discipleship like A Walk in Her Sandals by Kelly Wahlquist or The Biggest Lie In The History of Christianity by Matthew Kelly. Just pick up a book and draw closer. We are a people made for companionship so why not join your parish family and participate in Lenten Devotions like the Stations of the Cross, The Rosary or Divine Mercy Chaplet or make a commitment to attend an extra mass each week. In the true spirit of lent, invite someone to join you. Almsgiving is about more than money so why not take a look at the “things” that fill your home. Are there things you can offer to those in need? Consider giving up some of the clothes, shoes, toys and things that fill your home. The sacrifice of parting with some of your “extra” could be a great blessing to someone in great need. Consider offering your daily coffee or weekly pizza night money to a shelter or agency that serves those in need.
A Seed To Plant: Take some time to pray about your lenten journey. Ask the Father to show you the things you should “give up” and not “pick back up”; things that will help you look at Jesus the way he looks at you?
Blessings on your day!
He laid his hand on the blind man’s eye a second time…Mark 8:25
The other day I was reading a story in Mark’s Gospel and got things so incredibly wrong. I was so wrong in fact that I had to laugh at my own thick headedness! I wish Jesus would teach me gently but it’s blatantly obvious that what I often need instead is a thump!
When I read the story in Mark Gospel about the healing of the blind man something really struck me. Jesus put his hand on the blind man and put spit on his eyes and then ask if he could see. He replied that he could see people that looked like trees so Jesus once again put his hands on the mans eyes and then he could see. My ridiculous reaction was, “I wonder why Jesus didn’t get it right the first time?” I actually thought about Jesus making a mistake or losing his touch. I wondered if maybe he was exhausted or distracted. I was thinking it was an odd story because I didn’t remember Jesus ever half-healing someone and having to take a do-over. It had me thinking.
I’m afraid to admit it took me longer than it should have to realize it had nothing to do with the ability of Jesus. It was the faith of the man that was the problem. Duh…how could I even think Jesus was “loosing his touch”. I had to laugh at myself for being such a knucklehead! Sheesh…Jesus needing a do-over; what was wrong with me! I couldn’t get it out of my head all day and every time I thought about it I realized the story applied to so many places in my life. I could recall so many times I thought Jesus hadn’t gotten it quite right. He hadn’t heard my requests as clearly as I was articulating them. He hadn’t organized the responses to my prayers in quite the order and fashion I was planning. Let’s not even talk about the times he responded too early or too late.
It’s funny how many examples I could think of in my life where I actually reacted the same way to a situation as I reacted to this Gospel story; what’s up with Jesus? The not so gentle lesson to the story is, it’s not Jesus at all. It’s me being like the man who wasn’t open enough or faithful enough or trusting enough to recognize and accept Jesus and his perfect touch and timing. It’s been several days and I’m still shaking my head. Jesus needing a do-over, what was I thinking!
A Seed To Plant: Pull out your Bible or google this Gospel Mark 8:22-26 and give it a read asking Jesus to show you the times he tried to help or heal and you didn’t have enough faith to understand or accept it.
Blessings on your day!
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