Your light must shine before others that they may see the good that you do and give glory to God. Matthew 5:16
Have you ever been in the dark…I mean REALLY dark…the kind of dark where you can’t even see the hand in front of your face? That’s certainly not a place I like to be! My older brother used to think it was hilarious to walk by my room and flip off the lights leaving me in the dark. I always hated that, which is probably why he did it so often! That darkness always caught me by surprise and the instant absence of light made me feel a second of panic.
We were all created in the Image and Likeness of God, which means His light, is a part of each of us. It was a gift given free of charge just for being created by a loving Father. Our end of the deal is to share that light with others. This crazy world we live in has no shortage of dark places, people and situations. I don’t’ think we can wish them or even pray them all away but we sure can let our light shine on them.
What does your light look like? Maybe you’ve never really even given it much thought. Well, there’s no time like the present to tumble that thought around in your head for a while. Maybe your light is the gift of patience, understanding or compassion. Maybe you’re that person who can offer wise counsel, prayer or laughter. You might even be that person who can fix something, cook something or help arrange and organize something. Sometimes our light dispels someone else’s darkness and we don’t even realize it. If you aren’t sure what your gifts are, ask those close to you. God makes no mistakes when He arranges our days and the people that cross our path. We have dozens of chances to share our light every day. It could be through a polite gesture like holding open a door or by listening intently as people speak to us. Even something as simple as a warm smile can shine light into someone’s dark day.
God made each of us to be something wonderful. We are the ones who settle for mediocrity and keep our light hidden from those who might need it. We get one pass through this earthly life and it should be our mission to leave a bright mark! The world needs people who really live this verse from St. Matthew. Everyone reading this blog today can probably think of a few people they know who live or lived their life in a shining, beautiful, inspiring way. Let’s see if we can follow their lead and bring a little more light to our days!
A seed to plant: Make a list of your gifts…ask for help if you need to. Pick one or two things from your list and decide to use that gift to shine your light into someone else’s darkness
Blessings on your day!
…wash me and make me whiter than snow. Psalm 51:9
We know God will always give us exactly what we need, at precisely the time we need it but there still may be times when we feel like he’s not hearing. In times of trial and suffering we can feel like faith, religion and prayer are not helping. If you are struggling with something and doubt and fear might be creeping into your thoughts consider this little story.
A soap maker and pastor were chatting and walking one day and the soap maker pointed out all the pain, suffering, corruption and dishonesty in the world. He asked the pastor how, after years of teaching about the Father’s goodness and kindness and after all his sermons on God’s love, mercy and forgiveness could he still believe that faith, religion and prayer are relevant. The soap maker pointed out that it clearly seemed like nonsense because in the couple thousand years since Jesus died, the world didn’t really get better. Given all the chaos in the world the soap maker figured prayer and faith just didn’t work. The pastor listened and then stopped to point out a group of little boys playing and they were covered in dirt from head to toe. The pastor told the soap maker that clearly soap didn’t work because if it did, those little boys wouldn’t be so dirty. The soap maker of course protested and pointed out that all the soap in the world wouldn’t do any good unless you invested in it and used it regularly. The pastor winked and told him that the same was true of prayer and faith.
I have lots of prayer books, my shelves are stuffed with spiritual reading, I go to mass a couple times a week and I even teach in a Catholic School but do I always apply and appreciate my faith properly? Like the soap maker I wonder if it’s all really working, but then I realize I need to come to the good sense of the pastor and stop and ask if I’M really working. I suppose I think faith and prayer are working when I’m getting what I want. After hearing this little story I pondered how quickly I cry despair when stuff gets messy. I pondered how quickly I think God isn’t listening when I’m stuck in something hard and disappointing. I’m quick to think I’m getting a raw deal and I’m taking more of a hit than anyone around me and think, hmm, is this how much God loves me? After thinking about all this and trying to decide if the soap maker or the pastor had the stronger case, I remembered the directions on the soap: lather, rinse and repeat. All three steps are necessary to clean up those dirty little boys the men saw along their walk and the same is true for our faith and our prayer. The more intensely we scrub with the soap the spiffier the outcome will be. The same is true with faith and prayer; the more intensely and frequently we trust, believe and cry out in supplication and thanksgiving the more we begin to see the results of his work. I think I’m going to put a bar of soap on my prayer table for awhile!
A Seed To Plant: Ponder this story in prayer a few times this week and ask God where you might need a little soap.
Blessings on your day!
…“A man is coming after me who ranks ahead of me.” John 1:30
Selfies make up a pretty large and humorous number of posts on my Facebook newsfeed. These quickly snapped images capture important moments, achievements or places and they give the viewer a tiny little snapshot of someone else's life. I’ll make a confession; I rarely post a selfie because I need more time to pose and make sure I don’t look like I have three chins or a neck the size of a tree trunk. Photo angles matter and by the time I get it all lined up, the moment’s long over! Selfie overload can cause us to think our life isn’t quite as exciting as the folks posting dozens of selfies in fancy, fun places and if we get too tangled up in the likes and shares and comments from our selfie posts it could make keeping our humility in check a little tough.
Humility can be a tricky think to master. Our culture screams “be the best” and we seem to focus constantly on who’s in first place, but in the first chapter of John's Gospel, he teaches a beautiful lesson about the exact opposite. In this competitive world it’s a bit shocking to read the words, “A man is coming after me who ranks ahead of me.” It’s one thing to think someone is more important than you but to announce it loud and proud to all who will hear; that just seems crazy by todays standards! The funny thing is, John was completely comfortable with the way the events unfolded. A supporting role was perfect for him. He recognized that he had a completely different purpose than Jesus did fulfilling God’s plan. He didn’t get caught up in the fact that he would be doing the baptizing and he had been chosen to bring God’s grace to the crowds. He simply saw himself as a part of something amazing. He didn’t feel the need to be the star or have folks notice his good works.
John wasn’t the main attraction, he was to prepare the way and take part in the mighty work of the Father and his Son. I’m sure if selfies would have been taken that day, John would have been nowhere to be found. He wanted no notice, no thanks, no acknowledgement. John opened the door, so to speak, so the Father, Son and Holy Spirit could enter and add an amazing chapter to the love story God shares with us. Today is a great day to ask yourself, what are my motives for serving the Lord? Do I do it for him or do I do it so others might notice I’m a part of things?
A Seed To Plant: Take this little prayer with you into your quiet moments with the Lord this week. Loving Father, please help me push past my pride. Give me the grace to love and serve you with a humble heart. Please allow me to see those who need your mercy and your love and show me how to help them make room you so you can be the star in their life. Amen
Blessings on your day!
The Word became flesh and dwelt among us…John 1:14
Happy New Year! It’s a new year, a new decade and time for the new word for the year. I remember reading about a word for the year nearly a decade ago and I’ve been giving it a whirl ever since. Some years the word has been an encouragement, some years an inspiration and some years quite honestly, an annoyance. God has used these “words” in some powerful ways over the years because each one is the result of about a month of prayerful consideration. This year I was afraid this post wasn’t going to happen because for weeks I haven’t been able to figure out what my word was supposed to be.
Like every other year, I’ve started out thinking sweet, easy words like peace, joy or laughter but per our agreement, when a word pops in my head, I pray on it and if it sticks it’s mine, if I forget it in a day or two, it wasn’t the word for me. I feel the need to insert a scoop of honesty here, I’m at that stage in life where forgetting is something that I get better at each year! I wasn’t sure if I was going to skip the word of the year because God wasn’t giving me the word or because I just couldn't remember it! The word didn't actually come until my birthday so I think he wanted me to trust his timing…or it was just him being fancy. The word came at the beginning of a Holy Hour and it popped up more than a dozen times during that hour so, being faithful to our deal…I didn’t forget it!
The word for 2020 is COME. Over the past few days pondering this word I’ve been overwhelmed with places I need this word in the upcoming year. My first thoughts were all about invitations. I began thinking about how much I need him to come into my teaching, my marriage, my work and my…well…my everything. I thought about how he must be waiting for me to invite him to come on in a take over. At first I thought this meant I’d be giving up a lot but then I realized it’s actually the opposite. If I ask him to COME into my thoughts, my words, my writing and my…well…my everything, it actually takes the pressure off of me because it allows me to let him take the lead.
I’ve discovered this new word is about action and attitude and it’s bringing me peace. I want him to come into my heart and my reactions so I can act with mercy instead of judgement. I want him to come into my words so I can bring his compassion and peace. I want him to come into my decisions so my life more closely follows his will for me instead of a runaway train jumping the tracks! I want him to come into my prayer so that time becomes more of a relationship than an obligation. I want him to come into my driving, my waiting, my giving, my service and my frustrations so I can mirror him instead of a cranky grump, a pouting toddler or a sharp tongued sassy mouth. I want him to come so I can be as understanding and forgiving with the people who annoy me as I am of a stranger in need or someone I want to impress. I want him to come so I can be who he made me to be, serving right where he put me instead of trying to be fancy or important or impressive. I want him to come so big I become teeny and fade in his shadow so all others see is HIM and not me. (Boy…that’s gonna take a LOT of work!!)
Mostly I want him to COME to me so I can COME to him and be better…holier…kinder…more honest…more compassionate and more…well; more Christ-like. Whew…when he put these four letters together and gave me this word, I think he had a big year in mind. I can just imagine him standing there with his hand out saying, COME on…let’s get to work!
A Seed To Plant: Do you have a word? Share it with us if you do so we can all pray that God uses these words powerfully in our life.
Blessings on your day!
Ask for a sign from the Lord, your God…Isaiah 7:11
The wait is almost over, I hope it’s been a prayerful and peaceful Advent! Twice in the last few days these words from the Prophet Isaiah have hit my heart. It makes me wonder how often we ask and look for signs. For the most part I think we ask out of faith. Many of us look for or pray for signs so we can feel guided or assured but I suppose sometimes in our frustration and disappointment we can get a little crazy with our demand for a sign. I’ve never asked him for something outrageous like a banner flying behind an airplane with the answer to my question, but I am guilty of asking for signs because I’m low on trust.
I think the problem with asking for signs is that we’ve already been given so many. I have to imagine God in heaven doing a face palm when we ask for a sign and wondering how many more times he has to dazzle us before we just shut up and trust. When you read this entire passage, Isaiah predicted the sign with remarkable, dramatic detail; Virgin birth and a baby name decades and decades in advance…now that’s a sign! When we trace back the story of Gods love, it’s easy to see time and time again he’s been showing us some pretty spectacular signs of his endless love for his people.
Todays post includes a Christmas present. The link below will take you to a video by the Skit Guys that is a 3 minute wonder to behold. Every time I play it for the Middle Lovelies they ask to watch it again and again to see all the signs and stories unfold. Each of the events are a sign of His wonder and love. When I really think about it, he’s already given me far more signs than I’ll ever need. I guess I just need a reminder from time to time. Perhaps I’ll work on asking for fewer signs and aim for greater appreciation of the ones that he’s already shown.
I’d like to wish all of you a beautiful and blessed Christmas! Please know of my Christmas prayers for all of you.
A Seed To Plant: Take three minutes and watch this beautiful video.
Blessings on your day!
He must increase, I must decrease. John 3:30
I love to cook and my kitchen is my happy place. I’m not much of a recipe follower, I tend to use them as suggestions instead of instructions so I can get pretty creative with substitutions. Occasionally, the result of my creative swap teeters on the edge of disaster! A recent such disaster got me to thinking about the swaps that I should consider in my discipleship. Since Christmas is near and I want to give the Baby King the gift of a better me, I decidedI should make a few substitutions in my daily faith life.
*I need to swap the word BUT for the word BECAUSE. All too often I find myself saying things like “It’s ok BUT…” or “I’d like that BUT…” The BUT automatically shifts my focus to what’s wrong or negative. BECAUSE would help me find the positive. “I enjoyed that BECAUSE…” or ‘I’d be happy to do that BECAUSE…”
*I need to swap my words for HIS Word. If I spent more time quietly soaking up His Word instead of flapping my lips or chatting it up on social media, that would be a super power swap for my soul! My words sure aren’t going to make the world better but HIS will!
*I need to swap thinking about doing things with actually doing them! Procrastination can often be disguised as “planning” or “organizing” when in my case, it’s actually just plain ole puttering around and dragging my feet instead of just gettin to the task! I can’t even imagine how many more good discipley things I could do with all those minutes I waste.
*I need to swap reacting for pondering. I can be way too snappy with my actions and reactions. I’m a problem solver and sometimes I just spring into action and try to get all the wrinkles smoothed out whether I’m the best person for the job or not. I need to spend some time prayerfully pondering and giving God a chance to do things his way.
*I need to swap why me for why not me! It’s ok if I work extra sometimes. It’s ok if someone makes more money than me. It’s ok if folks don’t notice all the things I do. It’s ok if someone else gets the attention, reward or surprise. I need to stop thinking about what I think I deserve or have earned and learn to celebrate the joys, successes and good fortune of others. I need to remind myself that all the things I do are for his glory and not mine!
It’s just five little swaps but I have a feeling the final product will be a great improvement! As we wrap up the last few days of Advent and finish getting our hearts ready, I think I’ll focus on swapping out some junk and make some room for him.
A Seed To Plant: Pick one of these swaps or think up some of your own and put them in action these last few days of Advent.
Blessings on your day!
Be patient, brothers and sisters, until the coming of the Lord. James 5:7
Happy Third week of Advent. It’s the Joyful week but how many of us are thinking; ok, enough with the patient waiting already! If we’re used to running like our hair is on fire, this whole season can be a test for us. Any time we enter a new Church Season, it’s an invitation to deeper prayer; but what if we’re not “getting” what we’re praying for? We might be tempted to think God has forgotten us or not heard our pleas but rest assured, he’s absolutely aware and waiting on his perfect timing. As I wait for Christmas and use the waiting to pray, read and prepare, the words above from St. James and a quote from Henri Nouwen hit my heart. “Waiting is never a movement from nothing to something. It is always a movement from something to something more.” Henri Nouwen
I guess I thought of waiting as empty time and I began to wonder how often I’m guilty of thinking it’s either something or nothing. Something is MY way and if it’s not going MY way then I have nothing. Boy did these words make me realize I had it wrong. I suppose I need to look at things with gratitude so I can see the somethings in my life while I’m waiting for the something mores! After I read this quote the first week of Advent I started thinking about all the times it seemed like I was waiting and God was doing nothing. I was humbled to realize he’s always in the process of giving me something more. I’ve realized that more isn’t necessarily bigger, or sparklier, or exciting but something more is always perfect for me.
The example that became the most vivid was so far back I didn’t realize he was still working on it. Years ago I prayed for him to take the pain and help me understand the reason for the death of my brother and my mom. I began praying and waiting for something that didn’t hurt so much. It dawned on me last Friday that the something I prayed for was phenomenally more than I could have imagined and it came so gradually and gently I took it for granted. Friday was a great day! It started with staff Advent prayer, next came a morning of laughter with 22 female middle lovelies who bring me so much joy and the beginning of preparation for 3 Christmas celebrations with my husband and kids and thats when it hit me! All the years I’ve been waiting, he’s been giving me something more and more and more. I think back to the loss and the waiting has delivered a might something more…a job I love more and more each year, a work family that’s amazing and a family I could have only imagined. While I was waiting for him to make me a famous speaker and author he made me something so much more…he made me more faithful, more humble and more available. While I was waiting to make more money, he made me rich in family, friendships grace and contentment. While I was waiting to get over the pain of loss, he's allowed me to walk with those who are hurting and share their pain with an understanding and compassionate heart. While I was waiting for him to give me everything I wanted he’s given me more than I could have ever imagined.
As we head into these last several days of Advent, it’s the perfect time to ponder with grateful hearts all the something mores that slipped by unnoticed and prepare to take those things with us as we gaze at the Baby in the Manger on Christmas.
A Seed To Plant: Spend some time in prayer recalling all the something mores you might have missed.
Blessings on your day!
A voice cries out: in the desert prepare the way of the Lord! Isaiah 40:3
There are a lot of words I like to hear. There are words that can turn a bad day into a great day in a flash and words that can bring comfort or hope to a hurting, sad soul. There are words that just make you feel happy, loved and safe. Then there are the words we don’t like so much. You know those pesky little words that mean we have changes to make, work to do or truth to face. The readings during the season of Advent are full of those words. Words like; prepare, wait, repent and forgive are so deeply connected with the meaning and purpose of Advent but if you’re anything like me, you read past them and get on with the shopping, baking and holiday fun.
In this zillion miles an hour world we live in, waiting isn’t something we do well because we can get just about everything on demand and express delivered to our hot little hands. Instant is better isn’t it? When I think about instant my mind floods with thoughts of projects I’ve tried to complete as quickly as possible; cakes I’ve tried to cool instantly so I could get them frosted only to have the frosting melt and slide off into a sugary mess or graduation party decorations and pictures I tried to put up in a quick rush that all fell down over night because I didn’t take the time to do the job well. I can think of situations and mistakes I’ve tried to forget rather than process properly and prayerfully while considering the truth of my actions and repent. I think of forgiveness issued by my words but not really felt in my heart. All of those things leave me feeling empty inside because they weren’t really done the right way...the Advent way…the Lord’s way.
As we journey through Advent it would be a great idea to pause and take stock of the words offered by the likes of Isaiah the Prophet and John the Baptist. They were pretty smart guys who were intensely in love with the God we claim to love and serve. They didn’t run around spitting out these words we aren’t too fond of to make themselves popular. They shared these words because they are precisely the things we need to do in order to draw closer to the Father who loves us. They are the words that allow us to truly ready ourselves for the coming of something completely amazing that often gets taken for granted or lost in the wrapping paper and tinsel. Imagine the preparation that would take place if Pope Francis or our favorite sports, music or movie star were coming to our home for a visit. It would be a frenzy of activity and preparation. Stop for a second and imagine what your to-do list would include as you got ready for that event and consider the amount of focus you world devote to your special guest.
Each Advent we begin a New Liturgical year with a time of preparation for the most amazing guest imaginable. He’s not a guest that will come into our home for an hour, a day or a meal; he wants to come into our heart and dwell there for all eternity. Are we ready for that? If the answer is “no” or “not quite” then the good news is, we have some time to get ready. Take a long prayerful look at the words prepare, wait, repent and forgive and ask the Lord to show you how to turn the words into actions that will truly prepare us for the birth of Jesus.
A Seed To Plant: Pick one of those Advent words and pray with it this week slowly and carefully this week to see where He leads you on the journey to His Son.
Blessings on your day!
On that day, a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse and from his roots a bud shall blossom. Isaiah 11:1
One of the things I love most about living in the small community of Westphalia is the endearing sense of family and heritage. Unless you’re “not from around here” you might not even realize how beautiful and unique the family ties that connect and bind this community are. The questions, “Who are your parents?” or “Who are your grandparents?” are common and ordinary around here. The family tree is a thing of beauty and it’s roots run deep in faithfulness, perseverance, loyalty and love.
America seems to be obsessed with genealogy and it has become a billion-dollar industry. Over the past few years ancestry sites have become the second most frequently visited sites on the internet. It also seems that ancestor-hunting is the country’s most popular pastime after gardening. When NBC aired a program called Who Do You Think You Are? More than 2 million households tuned in. It’s an expensive hobby however; folks regularly pay upwards of $1,800 a year to search for names to add to their family tree. Seems crazy doesn’t it!
Families are a funny combination of personalities, gifts, talents, strengths and shortcomings. Families are known for lots of different things. Some are farmers and keeper of the land. Others are business owners and decision makers. Some boast of athletic or intellectual gifts. Still others are known for their quiet, honest, prayerful trustworthiness. We are a combination of leaders, followers, thinkers and doers. We are different but yet we share one mighty connection.
When I read chapter 11 from the Prophet Isaiah I hear a story of promise and hope . I hear a story of the beauty and strength of Jesse’s family tree; from whose stump came One who brought strength, knowledge, peace, justice and faithfulness. We hear about One who was so mighty his very presence created the impossible. Who could imagine a cow and a bear together or a lion and a lamb and most unthinkable a baby and a cobra? Isaiah was telling of one to come who would lead, protect, defend and save us all. This reading is not just about Jesse’s family tree, it’s about ours too because i’t’s a story of Jesus and we are the children God sent his Son Jesus to earth for. We are the benefactors of his gifts, his genius and his mercy. We are HIS!
If you have been blessed with a strong sense of family Advent is the perfect time to thank God for that and to take time to give some thought to our true family roots. Are we a bud that is blossoming into something pleasing to the Father or could our branch on the family tree benefit from some prayerful pruning and tender care? We don’t have to spend hundreds of dollars or hours searching to discover who the most important part of our Family Tree is. Advent is a season to prepare for the newborn king and contemplate the gift of being his child.
A Seed To Plant: Make contact with someone in your family you haven’t spoken to in a while. Call, text or send a card just to let them know you thought about and prayed for them today
Blessings on your day!
Small towns are a fabulous source of support. We are so connected here and we share each others triumphs and tragedies. This fall we have buried several great people who have left some big holes in the fabric of our community. Today we will walk with our 6th graders as they honor their friend Samantha who died two years ago. I couldn’t get my words right for this post and then I stepped away to pray for the words he wanted and he led me back to this post I wrote two years ago. The words are two years old but they are ever so relevant. Every now and again I suppose it’s good for the soul to think about God working in our lives even when things aren’t what we planned or expected.
The Lord is close to the brokenhearted, saves those whose spirit is crushed. Psalm 34:19
Every once in a while something happens that I just can’t seem to find the joyful words for. Several times since the Joyful Words blog began, I’ve needed to write a piece that presented my best attempt at trying to explain the unexplainable, offer comfort to the miserable and provide a window from which to catch a glimpse of the beauty nestled deeply in a tragedy. Today is one of those days and I pray the Holy Spirit will use my typing to apply some healing balm and loving peace to a hurting community.
From a human perspective, the best ending to life on earth would be to simply lie down for a nap at the ripe old age of 90 something and peacefully pass from this dwelling to the next. No pain, no suffering, no trauma, no mess. The problem is, that’s not often the way it all goes down. This week our little community has fallen to it’s knees; both in prayer and in grief as we mourn the loss of a beautiful little 10 year old named Samantha. She was a joyful light so full of love and life. We had a one day window to beg for a miracle before the Lord called her home. Now we’re all trying to fit the pieces back together. As teachers and parents we’re trying to help nearly 300 children process something they can’t wrap their heads or their hearts around. As family, friends and brothers and sisters in Christ we’re reaching out to a family that is stunned and a little broken. As Christians, we’re trying to trustingly grab on to the peace and comfort of the Father. And as humans, we’re confused, broken hearted and perhaps even a little bit angry.
I suppose the greatest tragedy of all would be for us to stay stuck right where we are. God doesn’t make this stuff happen. He doesn’t plan it or will it, but he sure does meet us in the middle of it and lead us through it. He didn’t turn his back on us and ignore our plea for a miracle. Our hope wasn’t wasted and our faith wasn’t ignored. It’s ok to not have a crystal clear understanding of things; it’s ok if we can’t figure things all out; it’s ok if stuff just doesn’t make sense. Having faith doesn’t guarantee understanding. God is so much bigger than our pain and he is so much stronger than our suffering. Those are the truths we need to stand on in times like these.
In the midst of the hard and the ugly this week there has been tremendous grace and overwhelming love. I’ve had a front row seat to some amazing views this week and I’ve seen heartwarming beauty come from deep sadness. Our miracle may not have looked the way we wanted it to but I’d like to share a few of the many little miracles of the week because they bring hope and they are a reminder that God loves us so richly and he’s too fond of us to leave us right where we are.
**Just like Mr. Rogers said, “Look for the helpers.” This week we have seen so, so many amazing helpers who have brought food, counseling and comfort to our students and staff. Helpers have transformed our school gym into a space of magnificent beauty to gather for prayer, and comfort as we celebrate the life of a sweet little girl. My favorite helpers are the army of folks who have swaddled Samantha’s family with love and prayers.
**Words aren’t always necessary. Sometimes the greatest act of compassion is to reach out and hold someones hand or offer them a tissue for their leaky eyes and drippy nose. It’s been a wonder to see the big kids take care of the little kids and see classmates lifting each other up in those moments when it just gets overwhelming.
**The power of family is unshakable when they are united in faith and prayer.
**The Holy Spirit always sends the right words when you ask for them and sometimes what he sends comes out a little twisted and that’s ok too because that often creates laughter and he know when that’s what you need most!
**There is absolutely nothing that can’t be made better when surrounded by prayer and the phrase, Jesus I trust in you is a powerhouse!
**Super Heroes sometimes come in the form of a 10 year old twin sister with the courage of a warrior, armed with the strength and the power and the love to make sure we had all the inside information about her sister so we could honor her memory perfectly.
**Together, united in trust and faith, guided by the Grace of God, anything is possible and joy can be found even on the darkest day.
I’m reminded of a line from one of my favorite movies, “Sometimes life is hard for no particular reason at all!” I may not be able to find a good reason for the events of this week but I sure can find God and his goodness splattered everywhere I look.
A Seed To Plant: Please say a prayer for peace and comfort for Samantha’s family, Connie’s family, Bev’s family, Terry’s family and Mark’s family.
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 many Christians 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’ve been “hitting the books” so to speak because I have the great privilege of presenting a Woman’s night of Advent Prayer and Reflection this week…twice! I discovered some simple truths and beautiful thoughts for all of us as we stand at the edge of December. 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!
Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Colossians 3:15
There are two really important words in this short verse from St. Paul’s letter to the Colossians that lead us to the third BE; peace and thankful. The third thing we need to focus on to calm down the worry is to BE THANKFUL. Gratitude is powerful and not only does it do wonders for our own troubled heart, it’s a beautiful gift to everyone else. Here is an interesting thing I learned about being thankful. Recent MRI studies have mapped the gratitude circuitry in the brain, which activates a sense of reward, fairness, and decision-making—all aspects that help facilitate survival. In case you might be looking for ways to amp up the gratitude here are a few tips to help you sprinkle a little more thankfulness in your day.
*Make it a habit at least once a day to say out-loud three things you are grateful for.
*End your day by jotting down a few things from the day that you are thankful for. I often tell the story of how my mom had a practice of doing exactly this very thing. It was her belief that if the last thing on your mind before sleep was something you were thankful for instead of something you were worried about, you’d sleep better and wake up more positive.
*Tell at least two people a day thank you! Make it specific if you really want to brighten someones day and spread a little joy.
*Make sure your thank-you’s outnumber your complaints.*Check your perspective, if you’re having trouble thinking of something to be grateful for, check out the situation of those around you and that might help you see your situation through a different lens.
*Volunteer…Jesus wasn’t kidding with the whole “serve others” thing. Turns out, it’s a great boost for our gratitude and our happiness.
*Notice and appreciate the little things. I was in the middle of a train-wreck of a day not long ago and a little boy with Downs Syndrome walked up to me in the store and gave me a carnation. He said, “You look like you need something pretty and a hug.” In that one split second the my attitude completely changed.
*Be with the people you love. Make sure you surround yourself with people who lift you up, make you laugh and bring you joy.
*Find some gratitude scriptures you can call on when you’re feeling a little worried and wilted. God’s word is always true and always meant to bring good.
We worship freely, we have all we need to eat, we have shelter, we have transportation and people who care about us. Those things alone make us some of the richest people in the world. I don’t know about you but I think I should sit down and make a list of those and the hundred other things I probably take for granted and add them to my gratitude list. Sounds like a great way to chase the blues away.
A Seed To Plant: Spend some time working on your gratitude list and then find a few great scripture verses about gratitude you can use when the worry gets heavy on your heart.
Blessings on your day!
Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise think about these things. Philippians 4:8
So after what I hope was a “BE LOUD” sort of weekend, it’s time to move to the second be; “BE WIDE-EYED” Before I launch into the second Be, we need to go back to an episode of Little House on the Prairie. (If you weren’t a viewer…is that even possible? think of any old western with plow horses.) The horses working in the field or hauling the family to town in the wagon often wore blinders. These little square leather pieces were meant to focus horses on the path and avoid distractions. It seems logical and safe don’t you think? There are days I think it would be helpful to have a pair so I could focus on one task at a time instead of looking around and seeing a dozen things to do and jumping from task to task.
Sometimes we are like those horses with blinders and we plow full speed ahead focused on one thing. The problem though, is when we struggle with anxiety and worry the thing we’re “laser focused” on is usually adding to our struggle instead of leading us away from it. The second Be challenges us to Be Wide-Eyed and notice what’s on the other side of those blinders. There are a hundred things wrong with this world today. There is tragedy, violence, disaster and evil in all corners of the globe. There is also sorrow, pain, sickness, financial struggle, relationship trouble and plain ole worry settled into all the corners of our daily life and it’s easy to get caught with “blinder vision” and see only those things. St. Paul in his letter to the Philippians encouraged them to look WIDER and he even told them exactly what to focus on.
Today, I’m going to pull a St. Paul and tell you exactly the same thing. You absolutely can see the yuck…there is a lot of it but I’m going to encourage you to take off the blinders and look to the left and to the right. I’m going to ask you to look for the things that are good, just, noble and lovely. I don’t for one hot second want to diminish the reality of the hurt and confusion that may be sitting on your heart, I’m just asking you to notice all the other stuff God is showing you. Bad news always leads. Lies and negative spins on stuff seem sparklier than a story about a four year old spending all his birthday money to buy cake mixes to make cupcakes for the firefighters and policemen in his neighborhood which he sweetly delivered in his little red wagon. A story about deceit and violence will get more reads, likes and comments than the article about NICU nurses who dressed premies for Halloween or National Kindness day. It’s a good idea to take down the blinders and see what you’re missing. We have to ask hard questions and make touch choices like turning off the news, cutting back or eliminating social media or other places that are feeding our worry and anxiety. When I quit watching the news I was afraid I’d be “out of the loop”. Funny thing is, I didn’t really want to be in the loop in the first place. Another funny thing, the world didn’t change when I stopped watching the circus; but I did.
We live in a world of great people doing great stuff…do you see it? I had a visit from a group of 5th grade boys on Halloween night who brought me hot coffee and I have a student who copied my favorite Scripture verse in perfect cursive with a glitter gel pen…beautiful! I watched a 6th grade brother visit a first grade sister who forgot her lunch delivering half of everything that was in his lunch pail. The sandwich was torn in half and a half a bag of Doritos were poured onto the sandwich and wrapped in a paper towel. He split the apple in half with his desk scissors and gave her one of his two Hershey Kisses. The whole exchange happened in silence behind the coat rack in my classroom. Words aren’t needed to define that kind of love and humility. I still cry every time I remember that morning. If I hadn’t been wide-eyed I would have missed something beautiful. If you’re struggling I’ll ask you to look for the positive, the good, the lovely and excellent going on all around you. If you love someone who is struggling I’ll ask you to point it out and maybe even be the one who creates a little positive event in their life. A note or text, a flower or favorite snack delivered anonymously or personally with a hug and a prayer make a huge difference. One more thought, when we’re struggling, there is nothing that can pull us out of a slump faster than turning our focus to someone else. If I’m having a lousy day, seeing only my own yuck, doing a positive act for someone can snap me out of a funk faster than anything I can think of. There is a quote from a favorite movie, The Shack and it just seems to fit this BE. The line comes when God is speaking to Mac and God says, “When all you see is your own pain, you loose sight of Me.” BE WIDE-EYED this week and look for the positive things St. Paul points us to.
A Seed To Plant: Add the second BE to your list and then begin looking! Please share the wide-eyed things you’re seeing so we can all enjoy!
Blessings on your day!
For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. Romans 10:13
My heart hurts often when I realize how many people struggle with worry, stress and anxiety. I see it sapping peoples energy, their joy and their hope. In an attempt to figure out how I can help and not make things worse, I have been doing some studying. I think unknowingly, we sometimes say things that aren’t at all helpful. If someone is truly trapped in a struggle phrases like, “Just snap out of it.” or “You’re making a really big deal out of this don’t ya think?” are among some of the most unhelpful. If they could just snap out of it, they most certainly would.
In my search for helpful answers I’ve read lots and lots of stuff and I’ve decided to boil it down into 3 things I hope might help. I’ve lumped lots of prayer and reading into the 3 Be’s and I’ve decided to turn the 3 Be’s into a 3 part series! If you struggle with worry I hope you can find some simple truth and hope. If you love someone who struggles with worry, I hope you can find some things to encourage them and bring some hope and peace to their heart.
Let’s start with the first Be…Be Loud! Let me take you back to childhood and explain. When I was a kid, we had a great apple tree in our back yard. It was the perfect climbing tree and my brothers were up in that tree nearly every spring and summer day. I would watch from the ground only wishing I could climb with them. I was grounded for a couple of reasons. First, I was terrified of leaving the ground (pretty big deterrent to tree climbing). Second, I was frightened because I wore leg braces for the first 12 years of my life and I had a completely lousy sense of balance, so tree climbing was not a great idea.
I honestly don’t know what came over me one day but I decided to give tree climbing a try despite my fear. I remember getting a 5 gallon bucket to give myself a boost to help me reach the first branch. I got up to about the third branch and then a limb got wedged between the cable on my leg brace and my leg. I was stuck and as I tried to get free my other foot slipped off the branch and I was left hanging there sideways with my feet touching no part of the tree. I screamed as loud as I could for my dad and in pretty quick fashion I could hear his calm voice. I yelled for him to help me and get me down but he did something I didn’t expect. He told me that he was going to help, but that I was the one who got into the pickle and I was going to have to get out. For what seemed like forever he stood under that tree giving me directions about where to put my hands and feet. He walked me through getting the branch unstuck from the the cable on my braces and he coached me down onto the bucket and to the ground. I remember asking him why he didn’t just climb up the tree and rescue me and he told me it was better to learn how to get myself out of a pickle with a little support and guidance so I would know what to do if it ever happened again.
There are so many lessons from that day. Each of us has a Father who will race to our aid if we call on his name. Whether it’s a father racing to an apple tree, or to the bedroom to scare monsters out of the closet or a Father who races to the heart of a weary child to restore peace and hope they are just a shout away. All we have to do is cry out loudly for the help of our Father and help will come. We sometimes think he forgets to show up when we call his name and things don’t get better immediately. I think sometimes Father God helps a little like my dad did the day I got stuck in the tree. He didn’t rescue me straight down from the tree but he guided and taught and walked me through; I had to cooperate and listen. If I hadn’t, I might still be stuck in that tree or the same thing might have happened the next time I climbed a tree if he hadn’t helped me learn.
If we’re struggling and we cry out loudly, God will put someone in our path to help us. I’ve learned that I don’t always know what to do or say when someone is struggling but if I cry out too, the Holy Spirit sends the words and thoughts I need to walk with a struggling friend. There are lessons in every struggle and the learning comes at the hands of a Father who loves us and wants what’s good for us. My dad taught me decades ago that getting to the other side of a tough situation doesn’t always happen the way you think it might. God is the same kind of teacher and guide, he’s going to give us what we need, not necessarily what we want but we must never doubt his mighty love.
The next time you’re struggling or overcome with worry, Be Loud and call out to the Lord to meet you in the middle of your mess…he’ll come a runnin…I promise! Stay tuned Monday for the second Be.
A Seed To Plant: Start a note where you can write the 3 Be’s in case you or someone you love needs them. Look for opportunities this week to Be Loud and invite the Lord into your worry and troubles.
Blessings on your day!
Save me, O God, for the waters have risen to my neck. Psalm 69:2
These past few weeks have been pretty nutty! My to-do list goes to prayer with me each morning and I know God will organize it all for his glory but there are a few times I’ve been a little overwhelmed. As I was working my way through the tasks of the past many days I was encouraged when I remembered back to swimming lessons when I was a little girl. Just for the record, I HATED swimming lessons. I remember the required trip into the deep end and that feeling of complete helplessness when I realized my feet couldn’t touch bottom and I had nothing to grab on to. The instructor would yell, relax, close your mouth and tip your head back so the water won’t go up your nose. I didn’t enjoy anything about that feeling.
That feeling has been a familiar one these past few days but I discovered something I never learned in swimming lessons. When you close your mouth and tip your head back so you can breathe, you are automatically looking up. Quietly looking up is always a good idea and this week it’s a practice that has meant survival and surprisingly, great joy! I’ve crammed way too much into the past two weeks but as the waters rose, I kept asking God to keep me from drowning. Not only did he answer but he blessed me with lots of little surprises along the way. He arranged every detail, every time table and every event. Things may not have been completed as early or fast as I wanted but it all got finished. I had help when I didn’t expect it, laughter when it was most needed and great friends along the way. I even managed to score front row parking a couple of times when I’d peeled into the parking lot at the last minute.
I’ve had to reach out and ask for help and we have had to eat left-overs a few times but it all fell in place. I’m in awe of the way God can swoop in and put things in order if we just close our mouth, tip our head back and look up to the giver of life and the master of all time and tasks. Perhaps I should try that more often!
A Seed To Plant: Tip your head back, close your mouth and look up to the giver of life and enjoy your day!
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 these days? I was waiting for an appointment the other day and a news channel was on. It only took about 2 minutes for me to move to another part of the room so I couldn’t see or hear it. The division, the arguing, the twisting of the truth and the accusations swirl around like leaves in the November wind and it makes me so very sad.
So what do we do? 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. Please take a minute to realize that you are a BELOVED CHILD OF GOD and he expects us to amaze him. So go ahead…trust him, believe in him and amaze him.
A Seed To Plant: Say a prayer for our country, say a prayer for our leaders, say a prayer for each other. Tell Jesus you trust him and go be amazing!
Blessings on your day!
The soul of education is the education of the soul.
I have no idea who said this really smart thing…I googled and googled but I can’t find a name to give credit to. It certainly isn’t my thought, just one that I heard and took to heart. When I first heard it, I thought it pertained to my role as a teacher but the more I thought about it the wider its meaning became.
Friday was a truly spectacular day at St. Mary School. All Saints Day is a little like Christmas! We always refer to it as a non-academic day but after hearing this quote I think the opposite is true. We don’t take spelling tests or math tests or turn in homework on November 1st. We celebrate the holy men and women who show us what true discipleship really looks like. We focus on the fact that the saints were sinners like us. They did things that were inspiring and fabulous and they had days, weeks and maybe even decades where their lives were a hot mess! Thats good information to know because none of us can keep running the race if perfection is the expectation.
The middle lovelies lined the halls Friday morning with their art exhibits. They each drew the name of a saint and were asked to create an exhibit that depicted one event, action or detail that could bring that saint to life and tell their story. This is the third time we have done Saint Art Prize and I was blown away at their creativity, their enthusiasm and their knowledge. They chatted with dozens and dozens of visitors about their saint and their project with poise and great showmanship. They knew their stuff and they shared what they knew beautifully. One of the kids told me they had spent so much time learning and creating they felt like this saint was a new big sister who would always be looking out for them and guiding them from now on. That seemed like some soul education to me.
The primary lesson in the education of the soul is that we were fearfully and wonderfully created in the image of Our Father and we were made for community. We were not made to be alone yet in our society there are far too many people stumbling through their days in isolation and lonely sadness. Friday afternoon our whole school family was divided into four Houses to make sure that was never the story in our school. There was a huge reveal assembly with colored spotlights and new t-shirts and envelopes ripped open with more excitement that packages on Christmas morning. Everybody has a House…everybody has a family…everybody has a spot in a group made up of K-6th graders to pray with, play with, laugh with and to protect. Knowing you have a House to belong to is good for the soul.
After the roar quieted in the gym and 300 people were divided into their Houses all wearing the same shirt we knelt together and prayed as Fr. Eric brought the Blessed Sacrament to us. We prayed and we promised with the help of Jesus to take care of each other, to pray for and with each other and to help each other grow in sainthood. Our souls were very happy!!
The funny thing was, all of this wasn’t just for the kids. The grown ups felt a new connection and a new spark as well. Sometimes we teach the kids and sometimes they teach us. Hopefully we’re helping each other continue our education of the soul. In the true sense of education, it wasn’t a non-academic day at all, it was an epic education day!
A Seed To Plant: Choose something to read or to watch each day for the remainder of 2019 to educate your soul!
Blessings on your day!!
…to the church of God…to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints…1Corinthians 1:2
Tomorrow we will be celebrating the holy men and women we call saints. All Saints Day at St. Mary School is as exciting as a mini Christmas! It’s a day of fun, celebration and excitement. In a world that likes to put lots of “role models” in front of our kids, it’s nice to show them who they really should be trying to imitate. This year on All Saints Day we will unveil each classrooms new patron saint, enjoy the 5th and 6th grade Saint Art Prize exhibits and unveil the new House System. Since it’s been crazy with a capital C I’m short on writing minutes so…I’m borrowing from some words from those wise, holy people we call saints. Hopefully you will find a nugget or two to warm your heart and point you on your own path to sainthood.
“What can you do to promote world peace? Go home and love your family.” St. Mother Teresa
“Let nothing disturb you. Let nothing frighten you. Everything passes away except God. God alone is sufficient.“ St. Teresa of Avila
“No one heals himself by wounding another.” St. Ambrose
“Pray, hope and don’t worry.” St. Padre Pio
“The saints did not all begin well, but they ended well.” St. John Vianney
“Hold your eyes on God and leave the doing to Him. That is all the doing you have to worry about.” St. Jeanne de Chantal
“The devil fears hearts on fire with love of God.” St. Catherine of Siena
“Apart from the cross, there is no other ladder by which we may get to heaven.” -St. Rose of Lima
“You learn to speak by speaking, to study by studying, to run by running, to work by working, and just so, you learn to love by loving. All those who think to learn in any other way deceive themselves.” -St. Francis de Sales
“God never tires of forgiving us, we are the ones who tire of asking for his mercy.” Pope Francis
“Stupidity is a gift too, just be careful not to overuse it.” St. John Paul II
A Seed To Plant: Pick a quote and read it every day.
Blessings on your day!
…Joy comes with the dawn. Psalm 30:6
God made a lot of amazingly wonderful things for us to enjoy on this earth but one thing I love (almost as much as Mr. Wohlfert) is COFFEE! I love the taste of it, the smell of it, the way that warm steamy mug of deliciousness feels as I swallow those first sips snuggled in my chair for morning prayers…I love everything about it! I do have some rules though…it CANNOT be instant and it CANNOT have any sweet or creamy stuff added to it. Just plain…straight up good black coffee; plain and simple! I joke with my middle lovelies every time I make a mistake (which is about 100 times a day) I just laugh and say, “Yikes, guess I need more coffee!” They laugh and are diverted and we move along. That first cup in the morning is pure joy! Even if my old bones are a bit weary at 4:45 am when the alarm goes off, I topple out of bed because I look forward to that first cup of coffee! God is so good!
Now you might think I’m nuts for writing about something as random as coffee, but if you think about it for a minute…there’s a connection to our faith. I love the way God reveals little nuggets of his truth in the midst of the silliest things…yes…like a cup of coffee. When I wake up in the morning and putter to the kitchen in the dark to hit the on switch on the coffee maker, it doesn’t matter what yesterday was like, or how I slept or even what’s on the schedule for the day, I know for certain my cup of coffee is going to be delicious and wonderful just like every other morning and I know I won’t be disappointed. Few things in life are that certain. Sounds a little like God’s love if you think about it…no matter the day, the time or the event; God is going to be there with a love that is amazing and certain. We don’t have to earn it or deserve it or even request it, all we have to do is hold up our day and say…fill me with your grace and smother me with your mercy and there it is! And…just like a fresh pot of delicious coffee…it happens the same way day after day after day and he will never disappoint us!
I like my coffee plain and simple! I don’t want sweet, gooey, fluffy distracting stuff in my coffee and I don’t want it weak, lukewarm or artificial! That’s what being a disciple of Jesus is all about. If we follow Him and live by His word we are guaranteed truth; plain, simple and authentic! I love waking up to fresh coffee and I make sure to thank Him for inventing it every morning when I sit down to enjoy IT and HIM! Joy comes to me twice every morning …while I sip and while I pray!
A seed to plant: Make a list of 3 simple things you enjoy…do a little deep thinking and see how those things are like the love of Christ. Get creative and share them if you like so we can all enjoy your thoughts!
Blessings on your day!
Love requires sacrifice…always!
It’s not scripture but it’s a powerful truth I seem to forget. Sacrifice often takes a back seat to convenience and comfort. We prefer easy, speedy and painless and then wonder why we don’t feel fulfilled. The important stuff; the stuff that leaves us joyful and alive; that’s the stuff that involves love and requires sacrifice.
I’ve had several nudges lately that remind me how true this statement is. We are called by the greatest commandment to love, and the truth is, we can’t follow that commandment without sacrifice. Sometimes that sacrifice is small, for instance, I love my students but spending time in the evenings and on weekends to grade or plan is a sacrifice. Other times the sacrifice is much bigger. I hugged a good friend at her father’s wake this week and she lovingly told me she was so happy for her dad and found peace just thinking about him rejoicing and being free from pain. Her perspective and strength were inspiring but the sacrifice of that love will weigh heavy on her days for quite a while.
Sometimes the sacrifice needs to look like patience. Sometimes it needs to sound like a swallowed opinion. Sometimes it needs to appear to be sand slipping through our fingers as we let go of the past or of our own agenda. Sacrifice is loving people exactly how they are and where they are. Sometimes we’re called to love someone just by being present and there is sacrifice in keeping quiet and not trying to fix or change them. The people who love us back make it easy to love but we’re also called to show Christ’s love to those who can give nothing in return and that is truly a sacrifice.
I think about all the times I’ve tried to find the perfect gift to show my love for someone. When I heard this line spoken by a movie character I realized I’ve been shopping the wrong way. I suppose the more we love, the more we should be willing to sacrifice. I loved my children but I’m not sure they always saw my carpool complaining as a loving sacrifice. This simple little line can bleed into doing the laundry and helping with homework and holding the flashlight in the rain so Dave can figure out why the tractor is making a weird noise. This kind of love happens in the middle of the night after a bad dream or at the end of the day when you wan’t to tune out the world but someone you love just really wants to spill their heart.
There have been times when I’ve wondered if all the sacrifice of a relationship was worth it or if it was really supposed to be so hard and one-sided, but as I’ve prayed with these words for a few weeks I realized I was looking at it out of balance. Love and sacrifice aren’t always equal. Sometimes we receive love far greater than we sacrifice and more often than not it is opposite. We’re able to sacrifice and love others but at some point we expect to receive love in return. We want to feel there is something in it for us. I forget that my call to love others isn’t to get something in return. Love is so much bigger than all the warm fuzzy feelings. Love is the duty of a disciples and the way to keep that in balance is to realize each person that crosses our path is there so I can show them the love of Christ. It’s not about loving so I can get something back, it’s about loving so I can love Jesus himself. When I look at Jesus on the cross I find the truth because it reminds me that there is more love poured out on me than I could ever imagine. I know I will never be called to love with a sacrifice anywhere near that magnitude but when I recall his sacrifice for me, it helps put my teeny little sacrifices for others in perspective. Again, I remember it’s not about me at all!
A Seed To Plant: Who can you love today?
Blessings on your day!
And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. Luke 9:23
If someone asked you what holiness was could you give a good answer? I thought I could, but then something changed! Before this thing happened I would have told them holiness was going to church, saying prayers, doing good deeds, SEEING and BEING Christ to others…that’s what I thought. But then…I read something that stopped me in my holiness seeking little tracks!
Holiness is dying to self! What? I read those words again and promptly shut the book and put it down because I didn’t like that. I pouted about it for the rest of the day and then came back to those words later that night. I like going to mass, I like praying, I like doing sweet, thoughtful things for others, isn’t that enough? After some feet dragging, silent temper tantrum throwing and finally a very ungraceful surrender, I realized how true those words really were. I can add and do all I want but it’s about the subtracting; the dying.
As eerie as it sounds, each prayer journal entry this week has started with the words, Lord, help me die a little more today. No, I’m not loopy and I haven’t been sniffing the ink in the ditto machine I’m serious and it’s a lesson that’s HARD! Holiness is all about being close to Christ; so close I’m hidden in him and I can’t do that if I have my own stuff in the way. If you’re anything like me it’s a daily objective to make things easier and more comfortable for myself. I call it efficiency sometimes. I say I’ve earned it sometimes. I think its standing up for what I’m entitled to sometimes. The bottom line is this…I want what’s best for me, what’s most convenient for me, what’s easiest for me and I need to die a little because getting my way isn’t making me holy.
So how do I need to die? (That just sounds weird doesn’t it?) I need to die to my desire to be appreciated and recognized for everything. I need to die to my desire to eat anything I want because I like it and think it’s yummy. I need to die to my desire to be right all the time. I need to die to my desire to make comparisons and judgments. I need to die to my desire to tell God what I need and what he needs to take care of. I need to die to complaining because that is the greatest form of selfishness. I need to die to my desire to offer my opinion and perspective all the time. I need to die to impatience. And I really need to die to my desire to organize, plan and evaluate everything. All of these things minimize the amount of room God has to work in my mind and my heart. All of these things separate me from God when what I really want is to grow in holiness. My sacrifices in dying to self in these ways are what God is inviting me to do…wanna join me and do a little dying?
A Seed To Plant: Write down the ways you need to die to self and then get busy growing in holiness.
Blessings on your day!
Do not accept anything as truth if it lacks love. Do not accept anything as love which lacks truth. St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross
I’ve bumped into several people lately who all shared a similar concern. At one point in the conversation truth in media came up. I think on some level we’re all a little frustrated as we try to figure out who is actually telling the truth. It’s hard to figure out what the truth really is and there is no shortage of folks ready and waiting to jump in and stir up the stories.
I suppose St. Teresa really put it all in perspective in one little quote. For those who might not know her story, she spoke these words as she and a group of other nuns were being loaded on a cattle car headed for a concentration camp. The message she wanted to leave with those who would follow is basic…speak truth in love. I think I will take her words and let them guide my speaking and listening for the next few days and see what I learn. I think it just might change a few things.
A Seed To Plant: Put this quote somewhere visible and let it guide what you say and how you process what you hear.
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.
Greatness makes us feel fancy, it can make our chests puff a little and it almost makes us feel like we have a free pass at the yucky stuff. I mean, how many queens scrub the toilet? Greatness means people seek us, smile at us, talk kindly to us and that isn’t a bad thing at all until we look at it from the other direction. As I was thinking about how neat it would be to achieve greatness and be all sparkly, I found a few words in a book by Matthew Kellly that put it all in perspective. I hope he doesn't mind if I borrow and I hope they touch your heart and serve as a reminder of the true definition of greatness.
"Do you want to be great? He was 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: Take some time in prayer and ponder the kind of greatness the Father is calling you to today!
Blessings on your day!
…”My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:9
I love working with people who have a “can do” attitude. They always seem so full of energy and optimism. I’d like to think that most days I’m a “can do” kinda girl but then there are those days when I’m absolutely not! Some seasons are busier than others and they spread out before us to-do’s and events that just don’t let up. It’s hard to maintain a prayer life, a house, a dozen schedules, the laundry and then plan meals that don’t all come from a bag or box. We try hard to squeeze it all in but if our prayer time gets whittled away things can jump the tracks quickly.
God knew there would be seasons like these. He knew we would loose our way and forget to sit at his feet. He also knew that there would be times when we were overwhelmed and drained so he has a solution. The antidote to our worldly craziness is his GRACE. The blog would be a mile long if I made a list of all the times I reached the “I’m about to loose it” stage and then remembered to ask for his grace. There is always an instant turn around when I stop and recognize my “can do” has turned into a “can’t do” and I ask for his grace to guide me through. He always delivers every…single…time! The following blip was written by Bonnie B Thurston. I have no idea who Bonnie is, but when I read these words in class Tuesday night I knew she had written them for me; and perhaps for you too.
In the accounts of the Garden of Resurrection in the gospels there is a great stone over the mouth of Jesus’ tomb. Who will move it? The women know that they are unable to remove what separates them from the Lord. This is a great metaphor for the spiritual life. We cannot in our own strength, remove what separates us from God and the life God wants us to have in fullness. We cannot bring life from death. But God can and does. The technical word for this is “grace”. Bonnie B. Thurston.
His grace brings life and removes what separates us from him and the life he has planned. All we have to do is ask for it; loads of it, heaps of it, there is no end or limit. We just have to be still and ask him.
A Seed To Plant: Sit still and have a chat with the Father about grace. Ask for it, tell him where you feel weak and worn out and ask him to swoop into your life with giant grace and then enjoy what he does next!
Blessings on your day!
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