He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. Psalm 147:3
When you teach in a Catholic School with nearly 300 students and each classroom has a set of Rosaries, that’s lots of beads and crucifixes that just don’t always stay together. Every year a 6th grader emerges who becomes the “Rosary Repairman”. This year I have a Rosary Repairman Extrodinare! Justin can fix any Rosary no matter how broken it might be. He works with speed and precision and intention. I handed him a whole bag of broken and mismatched and knotted Rosaries thinking it would take him weeks to get the mess tended to. I think he had them perfectly restored using some spare and new parts in less than two days. I’m always a little excited when a teacher brings me the broken ones because it tells me someone has been using them and that is great news!
I was thinking about this scripture the other morning as I watched Justin find the broken Rosaries I had put on his desk, grab his repair kit and swiftly begin his work. To be honest, I think he loves it when he finds some brokenness waiting on his desk for him. There is a challenge to restoring them and returning them to a classroom ready to be used for their intended purpose again. I think he sees those broken Rosaries the same way God sees our brokenness. It doesn’t make us worthless, it makes us needy. Those broken Rosaries need Justin, his tools and his patience in the same way we need the Father in the midst of our brokenness.
Every single one of us is broken. We’ve experienced broken dreams, broken relationships, and broken promises. We’ve lived through pain and loss and consequences that have left us chipped, cracked and leaking but none of that matters to the Father who loves us in the middle of our broken pieces. In fact, he loves us so much he can’t wait to restore and refine and repair us but we have to bring all our brokenness to him. Justin can’t restore all those Rosaries unless someone brings them to him. Just like the Father, he doesn’t ask questions or make judgements or discriminate about which ones get to be repaired, he just restores them and returns them so they can complete their purpose.
I was listening to an Advent video from the Unshakable Joy series by Chris Stefanick and he said something that really hit my heart. He said, “If you use something for a purpose it wasn’t intended for, it gets broken. If you use a microwave as a fork warmer, it’s gonna get broken.” How often are we left feeling broken because we headed down a path that wasn’t intended for us. How many times have we been left feeling cracked, chipped or leaking because we invested in a relationship or a behavior that led us away from God’s intended purpose for our life? How many times have we tried to use a microwave like a fork warmer and found ourselves left like those broken Rosaries that wind up on Justin’s desk?
This Advent let’s take some time to look at our brokenness and lay it at the feet of Jesus and ask him to repair, restore and refine us so we can get busy doing the things we were intended to do.
A Seed To Plant: Make a list of the brokenness you feel in your life and ask Jesus to swoop in and repair and restore you.
Blessings on your day!
And what I’m saying to you, I’m saying to all: Stay awake! Mark 13:37
I thought of my Dad at mass Sunday. Swirling among the words that you hear the first Sunday of Advent like watch, wait, prepare Father said “Pay Attention!” It grabbed me and I thought of one of Dad’s most famous one liners; “Pay attention…always pay attention…it doesn’t cost anything to pay attention!”
I guess it’s my Advent message so now I’m offering it to you too. The thing about paying attention is that you have to be in the present to do it. You have to be HERE, NOW…even if here and now aren’t where you want to be. As 2020 winds down (Thank you Jesus!) we’re thinking about wanting to be somewhere else…as if the mayhem and sadness of all of this will magically disappear one month from Tuesday. Advent is a time to get ready and the time for that starts now. I have to make room for him today…here…now…not when I think I will like things better. The funny thing is, he’s not “there” in that land of “normal” or “what used to be”. He’s HERE…NOW…today in this weird, strange, bizarre and surprisingly beautiful season.
I had to adjust my thinking a little today. Jesus is coming and things may not look much better on December 25th. I’m caught between warning him about the giant mess he’s about to enter and suggesting he wait a while longer until things get better. Then it hit me…HE makes things better and the thing he wants to make “better” the most is ME! Things aren’t changing, so it occurred to me that I’m the one being called to change and if I don’t PAY ATTENTION I’m gonna miss it all! When you study a little Scripture it’s pretty easy to see the world was pretty much a giant mess when Jesus came the first time so I don’t think he’ll be surprised or frightened or dismayed at all. I think he’ll find the good in all of it and all of us!
For the next few weeks I’ll be trying to pay attention. I’ll be sure to check the corners and the unexpected places where I might find Jesus trying to grab my attention. Scripture tells us he could always be found in unexpected places like sinners homes, with prostitutes, with the poor and in a stable. Paying attention is the work of the expectant. It’s a place of noticing, observing, eyes-wide-open attention each day but it’s not a place of fear or a place of excitement. It’s something different; it’s looking and expecting with hope but not prescribing the outcome. It’s no time for “fearful doom” thinking and it isn’t time for “Jesus make me feel warm, fuzzy and gleeful.” It’s paying attention with faith knowing that his will is perfect and he will reveal it little nuggets at a time. It’s being so expectant that even the teeniest of those nuggets fills us with a joy that leaves us breathless until we see the next one.
This Advent is different because this year we have something (thank you Covid) we usually don’t have; TIME! We aren’t rushing to parties and concerts and events. On one hand that can seem a little sad but wait…haven’t we all said in the past, “I could do Advent better if I had some time and wasn’t so busy!” Here we go…lets make this a really great Advent…let’s pay attention and prepare for him HERE and NOW! My prayer for the first week of Advent is to pay attention to the places I need to make room. I’m asking him to show me what needs to be shoved to the side and what needs to be tossed completely out to prepare room for HIM.
A Seed To Plant: Make a short list of specific things you can do to prepare and pay attention now that we have a little more time.
Blessings on your day!
And he will separate them one from the another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will place the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. Matthew 25: 32-33
When I heard the sheep and goats reference in this Sunday’s Gospel, I had a flashback to a wonderful story from a few years back. It’s the story of the perfect advice from a wise mom to her kids. As we seem to be all tangled up in picking sides these days, this seemed to add some wisdom to the importance of picking the TRULY right side.
In the parable of the sheep and the goats, Jesus is separating the sheep; the obedient loving followers from the rebellious, stiff necked, defiant goats. Now, anybody who reads this scripture wants to be a sheep for sure! In fact, most of our journey to Christ centers on being more “sheeplike” so we wind up at his right hand. Recently I visited with a really great mom. I’ve had the privilege of teaching a few of her children and they are completely cool kids; knowing the parents explains it all. They are a faithful, prayerful, loving, big Catholic family. The mom will admit they try really hard to get it right but sometimes it all goes a little crazy. Mornings can be the craziest time of day with clothes, breakfast, lunches and the bus that always sees to show up a wee bit before everyone is ready. She said she had to come up with a quick, direct and attention grabbing way to hammer home a message about how to live the day! I asked her what she said and she winked and told me I should ask the kids. So, I did just that.
First thing the next morning I asked he son what his mom said to remind him to be a disciple. He told me that when he and his siblings leave the house, his mom yells to them, “Have a good day and DON’T BE A GOAT!” Four simple words…don’t be a goat! How’s that for a living color example for life! I asked the young man what he thought his mom meant and he smiled and said, “thats her way of saying veer toward God’s right hand and make sure you don’t do stuff you’ll be judged negatively for and then get sent to the left because it’s kind of hard to get from the left back to the right, it’s just easier to stay to the right and not be a goat.”
A Seed To Plant: Make yourself a little sign that says Don’t Be A Goat! Then take some prayerful time to identify the places in your life you act a little more like a goat than a sheep.
Blessings on your day!
Oh, give thanks to the Lord! Chronicles 16:8
“If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all!” If I had a dollar for every time I have heard or spoken that phrase I could probably buy that new baby Kuereg I’d love to put in my classroom! But honestly…during nutty times like these, some days it takes some thinking to come up with something good to say when my world feels as messy as a teenagers bedroom!
As I was thinking about that the other day the Holy Spirit gently reminded me that I can always say thank you because God is constantly doing things I can be thankful for.
I sat for a few minutes to make a thank you list and things that have happened recently started popping into my head. The Father knows so well what we need that the first few made me laugh. I guess those are the ones I’m supposed to share.
*I was thankful for new shoes…I opened dozens of boxes in the clearance section and found a shoe that was like walking on a cloud! Perfect fit, on sale for $17.99, great style and color but there was only 1 in the box. I searched through twenty more boxes and came up empty. I was so disappointed. As I was leaving the shoe section, clear over in the mens shoe department I found the shoe on display. I knew it couldn’t be a mans shoe but I still searched all the shelves looking for more and there were zero! I picked it up and it was the same size so I knew it was the match! Nothing like a treasure hunt! Thank you God for helping me find things that just go together.
*I’m thankful for little surprises, like the parent who had flowers delivered to school and the only “common” area we can share this year is the front desk where we stop each morning to record our temperature and fill out the health form. God often adds beauty where we don’t see much so we have to be looking.
*I’m thankful when someone I love gets a surprise gift. The 3 day old dead bird that came from a coat pocket wasn’t the best gift for the Kindergarten teacher but I was thankful for the giant laughs that we all shared when we heard about her gift.
*I’m thankful for simple things and a FABULOUS principal to work for during this craziness. His simple gift of “you may were jeans until Christmas” was priceless and I’m so happy! (see why I needed new shoes)
*I’m thankful for good feedback. According to a lovely little student we’re teaching a lot of good things at St. Mary School but she reported that she’s a little disappointed she hasn’t learned about massage yet and she’s very curious about when we might be teaching that.
Even as the crazy roars on…we have so much to be thankful for and pondering those things leaves you feeling much better!
A Seed To Plant: Keep a running list this week of things to be thankful for…it’s good for the soul and the attitude.
Blessings on your day!
…and I will raise him up at the last day. John 6:40
We live in an “on demand” world. Movies on demand, drive through meals, pharmacies, groceries and dry cleaning just to name a few. We can order practically anything under the sun and have it on our front porch in two days, so waiting and being last aren’t usually part of our daily routine. I’m constantly on the search for ways to get things done faster and more efficiently in order to save time so I can cram more stuff into my day.
As I worked my way through this Gospel, I got excited reading about what will come to me, what Jesus will do for me, where my faithfulness will lead me. It’s such a hope filled collection of verses. I need to see Jesus, believe in Jesus and know that my faithfulness is what he’s asking of me. St. John lays out some beautiful steps to eternal life in this short Gospel but then comes that ending; the last day. I have to wait until then? What???
My fast paced mind wondered if I could speed things up a little because I don’t like waiting and who knows when the last day really is anyway! As I prayed with this reading a while I remembered my Grandma who taught me how to make the perfect Angel Food cake from scratch when I was little. She would smile and remind me that beating all those egg whites took time and baking it took time and cooling it upside-down on a coke bottle took time. She would pat my impatient hands and say, “Great things happen in the waiting!” So, I will keep believing, hoping, praying and wanting him ferociously while I wait for that last day!
To each day I need to add the words, “Loving Father, please use you gentle hand to slow me down. Grant me a spirit of patience as I notice the ways you are working in my life and help me prepare to be raised up on the last day!”
A Seed To Plant: What are you hurrying with? Where are the areas in your life God might be calling you to slow down and wait for him to work?
My Grace is sufficient for you. 2 Corinthians 12:9
Teaching during a pandemic...making sense of the political aftermath of the election...preparing for teacher conferences on a computer screen...keeping track of which kids are in quarantine and which ones are just out for a day...writing deadlines...report cards...lesson planning...voicemails...emails...cancelled and rescheduled speaking jobs...one persons virus fear and panic vs another's disregard...IT'S All GETTING A LITTLE HEAVY!
I'm feeling a little like I've run out of words and gas in my tank and at the end of the day I feel like there was more that didn't get done than did. There is a list of things I look back on and wish I had spent more time on or done differently. Last night all the kids were over for Sunday supper and when they left, I immediately zipped into high gear to finish getting ready for the week and write this mornings blog and I realized I had nothing left so I decided to just call it quits for the day. I instantly began feeling guilty about all the things that still didn't get finished after a weekend off school...I should have pushed harder, I should have stayed up later and as the tears started to roll down my cheek I remembered this verse.
He is enough! His love is enough! His peace is enough! His GRACE is everything. I think the Holy Spirit popped this little line into my head to remind me that I'm not in charge of anything...I'm not responsible for being perfect...these are crazy days and I can't trudge through them like nothing is different. I am reminded I need to lean a little harder on him. So for today...what I've done is enough. Maybe you needed this little reminder today too. The world is nuts...but we are enough. We are enough because we are his.
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 worry. 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!
To be a saint, be who you are and be that well. St. Francis DeSales
The beginning of November is a little like a saintly new year celebration. The feasts of All Saints and All Souls always tosses me into great thought about my own holiness and God’s plan for my sainthood. I know I’ve written it a hundred times but it bears repeating…we are called to be saints. That’s what God’s plan for each of us is…it’s what we were created for. He made us in his image and he wants us back in heaven where we will be saints. It’s the plan and thankfully the process isn’t rocket science. Love him, serve him, fail, ask forgiveness, love a little harder and with his never-ending grace, someday we will claim our sainthood…completely because it’s his plan!
Even though we celebrate All Saints, that sure doesn’t mean All Saints are the same. The truth is, saints are as completely different as you can imagine because each of us has a deeply different path to sainthood. The only thing that is the same is God’s desire to have us home and among the Communion of Saints. I thought it might be a great day to pause and pray and think about your sainthood. Fr. Mike Schmitz said, “The big question is…if we are all called to be saints, how do we answer that call? The simple answer…We act like they do!” This week, of all weeks can be a great opportunity to do just that.
The election has had a way of bringing out the ugly in some folks. It seems that Covid has become more a matter of politics than public health. It seems that seeing the good in others makes us weak, indecisive, and disloyal. It appears that red and blue and black and brown have become volatile words instead of colors that each add beauty of the fabric of our life. It seems that people are seen ONLY for the group they seem to be assigned to like they are one big lump. As chaotic and ugly and negative as the climate seems right now we have a powerful opportunity to work on our sainthood. Just because this seems to be the way society is behaving, we have a choice to see it the same and nod our head or see it differently and do a little tending to our own soul…which is by the way, the ONLY thing we have any control over! St. Francis DeSales also said, “Saints have a strategy for their lives because nobody has ever accidentally lived on purpose.” So what’s your strategy for the days and weeks to come as we head into the election and the aftermath that’s sure to follow? How about a saintly strategy that includes…
*Praying for the winners and the losers. Ask God to grant them the grace to accept the outcome with humility.
*Ponder the dignity of everyone…big, small, powerful, weak, those you agree with and those you don’t.
*God’s mercy will never allow him to give up on you…maybe we should spread that around a little. Merciful eyes see God even when a persons actions reflect something different.
*People are sometimes lumped into groups whether they asked to be or have great reason to even be there…there’s always more to the story than you know and it’s probably wise to be sure we know who’s telling the story.
*EVERY SINGLE PERSON, waking this earth was created in the Image and Likeness of God, we don’t have to agree with them or like them but we absolutely do have to remember this powerful truth.
*Sometimes God takes the long, windy, rocky, bumpy, ugly path to get us someplace we need to be. The sights along the way are certainly meant to teach us something if we’re watching, learning and listening. I’m sure Moses and the Israelites didn’t always see beauty in the desert but the trip was worth it!
*Trust in the Lord with all your heart! He demonstrates his love for his children again and again. Besides, if he could take care of the Red Sea, he can surely take care of a White house. We aren’t the boss of anything but saints revel and rejoice in the power of the One who is.
If we are going to use this nutty time to “act like they do” it might be a good idea to plan our strategy and be mindful of the example we’re setting for others. I don’t know about you, but I sure could use a heap of grace to use these next days well so I can “be who I am and do it well.” I am a woman of joy and optimism…even in days like these. Who are you?
A Seed To Plant: Pick one idea from this post that can help you live your sainthood in the days and weeks to come.
Blessings on your day!
“And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” Galatians 6:9
One of the best parts of my job is helping the middle lovelies find direction. We all need people to look up to, to imitate and to follow. Sadly, the choices our culture puts in front of our kids is lacking woefully in the good stuff they need. Several times a week I tell them stories or show them video clips of people doing excellent things. The fine education professors I had at Emporia State University about a hundred years ago told us a bazillion times that if we wanted the lessons to stick, we had to model, model, model and then model some more so I try constantly to show them people who are getting it right. I have to admit though, doing things the right way often takes more energy and thought than doing it the wrong way. I’ve come to the conclusion that sin is pretty easy it’s the resisting that’s tough!
Doing the right thing is always a choice. I visited with a lady several weeks ago after I gave a talk and she told me she had been taught in elementary school by a beautiful nun who always told them “do the right thing for no other reason than because it’s the right thing.” Seems pretty straight forward but after some thought and prayer, it’s deeper than you think. Do the right thing not because you’ll be noticed or get an award or prize. Do the right thing just because it’s right. That was a thought I was peeling around with on my heart and I made a discovery…and not a good one. I realized how many times in a week I thought or even said, “I don’t want to.” Maybe it was because I was tired, or worried or indifferent but there were so many times I just didn’t bother to do the right thing and give a little extra.
This has all been on my heart and I came across a story about a great and holy man that I need to share with you and the middle lovelies. This great man was Pope John the XXIII. He had just kicked off the opening of Vatican II and he was exhausted. He was also battling stomach cancer and feeling it’s painful effects as he retired to his room. One of his aids called his attention to the massive crowd in St. Peter’s Square. He said, “I don’t want to talk, I’ve talked all day.” That was quickly followed as he lifted himself wearily from his chair by a “but I will do it anyway.” He went to the window and delivered his famous “Moonlight Speech.” It was impromptu, heartfelt and beautiful. He did the right thing for the people and more than fifty years later we still remember his words. His message was simple; “give honor to the impressions of this night, which are always our feelings, which now we express before heaven and earth: faith, hope, love, love of God, love of brother, all aided along the way in the Lord's holy peace for the work of the good. And so, let us continue to love each other, to look out for each other along the way: to welcome whoever comes close to us, and set aside whatever difficulty it might bring.”
That night when he had to be running on a completely empty tank, he offered love, peace and a simple message about the right thing to do. It isn’t just the middle lovelies that needed a lesson from Good Pope John…their teacher needed it too!
A Seed To Plant: Make a list of three “right things” you will do today.
Blessings on your day!
Listen to advice and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom in the future. Proverbs 19:20
It’s easy to find God in church or in prayer but one of the things the middle lovelies and I talk a lot about is finding him, feeling him and seeing his work everywhere. He reveals himself to us in so many ways and I believe music is one of them. Every Tuesday we listen to a song and think about what Christ might be revealing to us through the lyrics. This week we were focusing on really listening instead of talking so much. That topic made the Tuesday Tune very easy to choose. We listened to the song Shut Up and Dance. We talked about the rude nature of the phrase but we came to an understanding that sometimes the phrase shut up could really catch our attention. I admitted there were probably plenty of times God wanted to scream that at me.
One of the kids started with the title and realized that dance was a good thing because in order to dance you needed to be matched up and close to the other person so they saw it as a message to be close with the Father. The kids were quick to point out that dance could be replaced with lots of words. They thought it could be God saying:
*shut up and listen to me
*shut up and pray
*shut up and stop worrying so much
*shut up and be kind to each other
*shut up and remember I made you perfect
*shut up and let me be the boss
*shut up and trust me to take care of the country
*shut up and be nice to everybody
They also thought the song might be about God getting our attention so we would stop doing things that could hurt our soul. When I dug a little deeper this is what they were thinking.
*shut up and stop lying
*shut up and be thankful
*shut up and stop disrespecting everybody
*shut up and quit doubting me
*shut up and stop putting yourself down
There is a line in the song that says “just keep your eyes on me” that was a favorite line because it was great advice. One big thinker said, “If we keep our eyes on the world and everybody else we might head in the wrong direction but if we keep our eyes on him, he will lead us home.” Another line says, “no holding back.” A very insightful fifth grader reminded us “Thats how we’re supposed to love him.”
Once again, I set out to teach but instead it was me who received all those lessons from a 4 minute song. I think maybe I’ll spend some extra time listening this week.
A Seed To Plant: Go to Youtube and listen to the song and begin thinking about all the things God would like you to be quiet and do.
Blessings on your day.
…you should aspire to live a tranquil life, to mind your own affairs, and to work with your own hands…1 Thessalonians 4:11
Do you remember the WWJD bracelet craze? What would Jesus do became the big question for a while. It was a great idea but I think it might be time for a new question. I don’t know about you but I seem to notice a whole lot of folks who think they know what everybody should be doing and they aren’t afraid to tell you. We seem to be running a little heavy on arm chair quarterbacks! Everywhere we turn these days somebody is evaluating somebody else’s words or actions like they are the expert on everything.
Free speech is awesome but it doesn’t mean you always have to use it or that you can use it with careless regard. Some day’s one sentence can turn into an entire segment on the evening news. Two things my mom always said make a whole lot of sense these days. 1) If you can’t say something nice don’t’ say anything at all and 2) Keep your nose in your own business. We seem to be spending a whole lot of time evaluating the thoughts, words and actions of others so that leads me to wonder if it’s time for a new question. I think the new question and bracelet should be WSID? What should I do?
Mother Teresa once asked a group of very influential people what needed to change most in this world to make it better, and more Christ like. Each person answered profoundly with things like; less greed, an end to world hunger, an end to violence and a variety of other truthful answers but she said the correct answer to that question is…ME. What should I do? The reason I think this is the great new question is because in order to know how I need to change and what I need to do I have to depend on God for the answer. If I’m calling out to and depending on Him, I’m less focused on others. I can’t be in charge of anybody else and heaven knows I’ve done enough stupid stuff myself so maybe if I worried less about what everyone else was doing and saying and more about what I was doing and saying I think that would be a very good thing. What if everyone started to ask WSID?
It probably won’t sell any bracelets but it sure would make the world more pleasant and holy. We won’t be judged in groups and we don’t get to weigh in our opinion on anyone else’s final judgement so perhaps we’d be better off just taking care of our own affairs instead of trying to get involved in someone else’s. It’s just a little question but it could have a marvelous answer.
A Seed To Plant: The next time you feel inclined to jump into a conversation or blurt out your opinion, stop and ask yourself WSID?
Blessings on your day!
…I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. Choose life, then, that you and your descendants may live, Deuteronomy 30:19
October is the month we are called to “respect life”. We are reminded during this beautiful month to think about life in all it’s ages and stages and realize each of us is a precious child of God. Many of us are very passionate about protecting the unborn and we will fight like mama bears if we find out someone is mistreating the elderly. Those are causes we pray and fight for in many ways but what about respecting the life we are surrounded by every day. How are we at respecting our neighbors and co-workers and those folks who annoy us? October is a call to think about the way we respect ALL life. Last week during Adoration I challenged all the students at school to do four simple things to respect the people around them. The message was for the kids but I suppose a lesson in respecting others is good for everyone.
Each of us was created in the Image and Likeness of God. I used to teach the first graders that meant when God made us, he put a little piece of himself in our heart so he was always a part of us. If we realize God is a part of everyone we meet, and all his children are precious, we realize when we disrespect or hurt someone we are also offending the Creator. Nearly three hundred kids agreed that was a very bad idea! Here are four things we can do to respect each other.
K - Know that each and every person was created and is precious to the Creator. Saying or doing hurtful things to others hurts the Creator.
I - Invite and include others. We love to get invited to parties and weddings and celebrations but inviting others to sit with us, eat with us, pray with us or spend time with us makes them feel noticed and valued.
N - Notice the people around you. Notice if someone is sad or lonely or hurting. We weren’t made to be alone in this world, we were made for community and we all need to know we matter, so be on the lookout for the people who need a little friendship.
D - Decide to show everyone the mercy and love Jesus did. We decide dozens of things every morning why not add this important decision to the list.
When we put all four of these actions in motion, our hearts will change. We were created for life and good. When we hurt or disrespect others we aren’t choosing life. Life is full of enough difficulties and frustrations, we should be about the business of making life a little easier for those we share our days with. The lesson was a simple message for kids but there might be some nuggets of truth for the kid in all of us.
A Seed To Plan: Pick one of the four ideas and put it in motion today.
Blessings on your day!
Have the courage to have your wisdom regarded as stupidity. Be fools for Christ. And have the courage to suffer the contempt of the sophisticated world. Justice Antonin Scalia
Ugh…it’s election season and it’s getting so close it’s hard to stay out of the way of the slinging mud! I think this season bothers me so much because the majority of the conversation is about the mistakes, shortfalls and perceived weaknesses of another person. I get it, I really do…it’s about convincing and quite honestly, the bad stuff gets peoples attention. For as much as I hate all the negative, the arguing and the difficulty actually sifting out the truth, there is one good thing about this season; it forces me to ponder and pray about what I really believe.
Our morals and our beliefs absolutely come into play during an election season and it’s often something people twist and attack. Christianity just isn’t “cool” according to some and it is brushed away and trivialized like the stuff fairy tales are made of. I can get a little huffy when faith is dismissed as a part of the leadership equation because it’s hinged to everything. When I read these words from Justice Scalia I realized it was ok to be offended and suffer as so many dismiss Jesus and his teaching. It made me realize I put too much stock in what the world thinks and it’s ok if the world thinks I’m foolish for believing the way I do. I guess being a fool for Christ is the best kind of foolish their is.
It’s so easy to get overwhelmed with that “hell in a hand basket” feeling as the election draws closer and recently I had a some conversations with some folks who were definitely overwhelmed. In his great timing, someone shared this quote and as I passed it along; we all felt some peace and balance. Trump and/or Biden isn’t going to fix or keep America great. People are. Read to your kids. Show them how to find joy in work. Teach them what respect and kindness is. No politician will ever do that. It’s not the government’s job to teach people how to be happy. I wish I could re-write it and add Pray with your kids. Believe in and trust the one who is the author of happiness and the one who is greatness Himself. America will be great when we remember to live the Gospel.
I suppose the other thing that really bugs me about this season is my intense dislike for conflict! Christians are often under attack during this season and accused of being old-fashioned, narrow minded and judgmental. Those words are hard to hear but maybe they’re true. If keeping up with the times means ditching the Gospel than I think I’ll be old-fashioned. I can’t count the times in the last couple of weeks I’ve heard someone say, “You need to be more open-minded.” It was usually in the context of accepting something contrary to Christian beliefs and again, just because God communicates in crazy ways, I saw a quote from G.K. Chesterton that said “Do not be so open-minded that your brains fall out.” It made me laugh because it just put things in perspective.
As God’s children we can use this season for good. We can use it as a chance to ponder what we believe and how our actions back those beliefs. We can use this time to pray for those who are running for office and those who are doing the voting. We can also use this time to realize that God is the winner…the power…the authority…the everything, and make sure we’re hitched to his wagon!
A Seed To Plant: Just for one day, every time your see a campaign sign or hear a political ad, say a prayer for God’s blessing on our country. For extra credit, do it for a week!
Blessings on your day.
Above all else, guard your heart,for everything you do flows from it. Proverbs 4:23
All too often we look in a mirror and think things like, I wish my legs were longer or my nose was smaller. Maybe we notice our eyes or shoulders and don’t even get me started on the hips and thighs! We’re pretty quick to point out which body parts we would like to change but when was the last time you looked in a mirror and recited the list of body parts we really do like? A good friend shared a story with me this week that really made me stop and think about the best body part of all.
My friend and her kindergarten son were outside playing catch with a football. She threw a pass that slipped through his little hands and thunked him square in the chest. His reply was priceless. He grabbed his chest, looked at his mom and said, “Mom, you hit me right where Jesus lives.” Not quite comprehending what he said she asked him to say it again and he matter of factly looked her in the eyes and said, “Yeah mom, you hit me in the heart, you know, right where Jesus lives!” Out of the mouths of babes! His comment just melted my heart!
Every time I saw this little guy walking through the halls the rest of the week I just smiled and thought, now there’s a kid who has learned something really important! He also made me realize how important our heart is. It’s far more than a blood pumping, life sustaining organ, it’s the home of Jesus and I should probably give it a little more thought and honor! So, what is my heart like? Is it a suitable home for the Son of God? Is it tender and open or is it cold and guarded? I suppose if I paid a little more attention to the importance of that body part everyone might benefit.
How’s your heart? Does it give Jesus a great place to hang out or could it use a little re-modeling? It stands to reason that if Jesus goes into our heart and dwells there, the feelings, emotions and actions it stimulates should mirror the one who dwells there.
A Seed To Plant: Take some time in prayer today to examine your heart. Can people tell who lives there?
Blessings on your day!
We were made for another world. C.S. Lewis
In these days of uncertainty, frustration, division and all around craziness we have a job to do. Our job is to be grateful! Yup…you read that right! Gratitude is a powerful thing and I for one need to give it more of my attention. If you're wondering why the need for gratitude, read the words by C.S. Lewis again. They stopped me in my tracks because I realized all I was focusing on was the craziness of the world and I needed to shift my thinking and be grateful for the blessings and the trials of the day because they are the things that will help me grow in holiness and get ready for the world I was really created for. I quickly came to discover I was going to have to begin with my perspective and this little story helped me do just that.
A blind boy sat on the steps of a building with a hat by his feet. He held up a sign which read, “I am blind, please help.” There were only a few coins in the hat – spare change from folks as they hurried past. A man was walking by. He took a few coins from his pocket and dropped them into the hat. He then took the sign, turned it around, and wrote some words. Then he put the sign back in the boy’s hand so that everyone who walked by would see the new words. Soon the hat began to fill up. A lot more people were giving money to the blind boy. That afternoon, the man who had changed the sign returned to see how things were. The boy recognized his footsteps and asked, “Were you the one who changed my sign this morning? What did you write?” The man said, “I only wrote the truth. I said what you said but in a different way.” I wrote, “Today is a beautiful day, but I cannot see it.” Both signs spoke the truth. But the first sign simply said the boy was blind, while the second sign conveyed to everyone walking by how grateful they should be to see.
In order to grow in gratitude I turned to the Saints and grabbed three pieces of advice to help. Maybe they will help you too.
*St. Ambrose said “No duty is more urgent than that of returning thanks.” I spend too much time attending to things I think are urgent but these wise words helped me realize I needed to shift my priorities and redefine urgent.
A Seed To Plant: Make a list of things you are grateful for and claim the advice of one of the saints and ask them to intercede for you as you pray for a more grateful heart.
Blessings on your day!
He must increase, I must decrease. John 3:30
One of the many things I miss now that the Wohlfert house is so quiet is practice. For more than a decade and a half there was always some kind of practice going on. It didn’t matter if it was reading, math facts, band, sports or even target practice for hunting season, it seemed like somebody was always practicing something. There is nothing more humbling than a good hard practice at whatever it is you are trying to get better at. The problem was nobody really enjoyed practice except me. I loved seeing my kids work hard, sweat, be frustrated and eventually trade in frustration for sheer determination. Practice is good for you no matter what it’s for but human nature leads us to desire perfection or success without the work.
Stop for a minute and think of something you need to practice. A little tricky wasn’t it! If you had a hard time coming up with something to practice I’ve got just the thing. I was reading in a prayer book the other day and came across a fabulous one liner that was too good to keep to myself. This simple thought is so power packed it’s going to make for a very short post today. Before you read it though, I want you to think for another minute about three things you’ve been frustrated about recently. If my guess is correct at least two of the things that frustrated you involved another person. So much of our negative energy stems from a reaction or comment or behavior from another person that doesn’t line up with our personal expectations or desires. In the spirit of being frustrated with others and tugging along the negative energy that goes with it; here is that great thought I promised. We all need to practice the art of self-forgetfulness! Pope John Paul II.
Holy cow…how’s that for a show stopper! I think maybe we spend so much time worrying and fussing about how other people see, value, appreciate and honor us that we lose track of the only desire we should be motivated by; pleasing God. If I were to forget my own desires and comforts more often I think I would certainly have more time for faithfulness. If I stopped worrying about who saw me do what or who noticed this or that I wouldn’t have anything to be disappointed about when others didn’t register the “wonder and awe” I thought I deserved. I don’t’ know about you, but I think I just found my new thing to practice… thinking about the Father more and myself less The art of self-forgetfulness isn’t something our culture promotes but since when does our culture promote things that will get us to heaven? I think I’m gonna go with JPII on this one and get my “self-forgetfulness” in motion, how about you…are you up for some tough practice?
A Seed To Plant: This week when you feel frustrated, stop and ask yourself if you are practicing the art of self-forgetfulness. Get ready for some good hard practice!
Blessings on your day!
…There is a season for everything… a time for healing; a time for knocking down, a time for building. A time for tears, a time for laughter; a time for mourning, a time for dancing… Ecclesiastes 3:1-4
It’s been pretty quiet here at Joyful Words and for that I apologize. It turns out, I though I was a little larger than life and God has used the past two weeks to serve me some patience and humble pie. I was quite sure that I would bounce right back from my knee replacement surgery. My surgeon is a phenomenal doctor and the new knee he gave me was walking without a cane by day three. I was amazed at the mobility and overall fanciness of my two new knees. I began to look at my three weeks off school and I compiled a magnificent list of things to do; I was even thinking I would probably be heading back to school at least a week early. Then things changed. It was at about the week one mark it became very clear that my body and my mind were on two very separate schedules. It seems bone healing isn’t something I can assign a time table to. I offer this observation not as a complaint because I absolutely know how very fortunate I am. I know this pain is passing and I know despite my feeling of complete uselessness right now, I will bounce back quickly and hardly remember any of this.
Last week the reading from Ecclesiastes was God telling me to stop bossing him around. I suppose every now and again I get tangled up in the belief that God loves me when I’m busy. He loves me when I’m productive and teaching, writing, reading or working. I believe that its’ my “DOING” that he loves so the better I DO the happier he is. Nothing like a throbbing femur bone at 3 in the morning to get your attention. I’ve also been schooled the past ten days in timing and deadlines and I’ve been acutely aware of my fabulous ability to compare apples to oranges! My sweet daughter reminded me that in May when I got my first knee I was teaching from home and the pace of the world had screeched to hault. I wasn’t missing my kids and coworkers so much because they weren’t at school either. I wasn’t worried about somebody picking up my slack because nobody was in the building. I didn’t have to worry about what school outfits I could wear these ridiculous compression hose with because my school outfits were sweats!
There is a time for everything…even if you don’t like it! I can’t make bones heal faster or make sleep come. I can’t crank out a bunch of work when the only thing my body is screaming at me to do is sit still and heal. This little hiccup in my September has given me the chance to re-think my puny range of control on anything. I’m beginning to realize that all he asks is all I have…anything I have…everything I have even when it’s impatience and a dented pride. Not one single thing in this world would be different if I was going back to school this week instead of next week. I’m pretty darn certain I wouldn’t get into heaven any easier if I could be back to full function by tomorrow morning. Instead of trying to be the Bionic Woman, I should shut up, sit still and practice being Patient Woman or Humble Woman or better yet, HIS Woman. I’ve had a pretty big dose of “be still” when what I think I was pushing for was a big ole dose of “The Gospel According to Sheri”. Instead of saying, in this Joyful Words silence, “I have learned” it’s much more accurate to say, “ In this silence, I’ve become acutely aware of some lessons I need to work on!” Perhaps they might just be a lesson for you too!
A Seed To Plant: Where are three places you are trying to be the boss?
Blessings on your day!
Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. 2 Corinthians 5:17
Growing up we always had a gigantic garden. I loved all the fresh vegetables that came from that garden but the potatoes were my favorite! Many things in life have changed but my love for potatoes has not! The first new little ones of the summer were the greatest. If you’ve ever looked at that first batch of new garden potatoes you’ll notice they are pretty bumpy and dimply and funny looking but they taste so good. Something about waiting so many months for a fresh new batch made them so special.
Potatoes are kind of funny when you think about it. They have to be dug out of the dirt. We spend so much time cleaning things and disinfecting things but during potato harvest you stand there looking into a big hole of dirt thinking YUM, these are gonna taste great! Sort of weird when you think of it but it’s really not so different than a lot of things in our life. God is so good at digging down through the muck and mess of our lives and scooping out the good.
I was at the grocery store the other day and saw a whole selection of baby potatoes. They made me think of new potatoes and I finished my shopping thinking about all kinds of things that are new. Some of the new things in my life have been exciting, like that first batch of new potatoes but some of the changes have been lumpy and bumpy. After nearly thirty years on the farm we moved to town. We’ve been here a month and there are so many things I like about this new address. I love the neighborhood full of kids and families. I love the neighbors who have delivered cookies and plants and the kids who have made pictures for my fridge. I love driving on pavement instead of muddy gravel roads and I’m so grateful for a new home (that’s completely clean). But I miss the noise of mooing and hummingbirds and deer I would watch from my front porch.
School is new! I’m happy to be back face to face with the middle lovelies. There are a lot of things that make teaching this year a new experience but it’s so good to be back. Going to mass outside on a beach towel and wearing a mask and eating lunch with my teacher family sprinkled many feet apart across the whole cafeteria is all new. Teaching in four different rooms in order to keep the kids safe and healthy in one spot is a very strange new. Not pulling a chair up next to a sad or struggling student or holding hands to pray together is a strange new too.
I’m getting my second shiny new knee this week and I’m grateful for that but it’s another new thing. Thinking about all this new stuff left me feeling a little old and overwhelmed. Then I remembered those great new potatoes didn’t always look so great so I thought about God looking into my life which at the time felt a little like a big ole dirty potato hole and saw things a little differently. I think I was resisting a little, wanting things to stay the same because it was comfortable but then I saw the beauty in the bumps and dimples. I began see the beauty in the new. I miss the farm but it’s a proud and happy thing to realize that Kevin was determined and successful enough to buy the farm. Yes, I will miss Shannon when she moves to Missouri after the wedding but she will be getting married to a fabulous young man and they will build a wonderful life. Then I began to think of another exciting new. New life, God’s promise that life is meant to move forward and change and in February Jason and Katie are going to have a baby that will bring so much new life and change and joy to our family.
When I see it through his eyes, I don’t see the bumps, dimples and dirt that comes with change and new stuff, he helps me see the growth, the love and my need for him.
A Seed To Plant: Make a list of “new things” happening in your lie and invite God into those new things. For bonus points, enjoy some potatoes this week!
Blessings on your day!
For we walk by Faith and not by sight. 2 Corinthians 5:7
Sometimes scripture can reach right up off the page and punch you in the nose! This verse socked me hard just as I was getting ready to throw my own little pity party. I’ve had several “careful what you wish for” moments this week and instead of throwing a fit, I decided to see what my Father had to say about things and this is right where I landed!
We follow a mighty God and he always leads us perfectly but sometimes we freak out a little when we realize we can’t see Him, or the path He has for us. I had to remind myself that my sight and His work were not necessarily a package deal. I have to live like I trust Him and live like I love him. This fall He has asked me to do some pretty crazy stuff and my heart has wound up in a twist several times but through it all I know He leads me.
It’s crazy how we go through warps of time where we are called to question everything we do. There are seasons of life where change seems to come at you like rapid fire from a Nerf gun. They aren’t all painful but they just keep coming. My role as a mother and wife has changed as the kids have all moved out. My role as a teacher has changed as education standards and practices have changed, my speaking ministry has blossomed and provided exciting travel opportunities and another ministry opportunity appeared from nowhere. I’m doing crazy fun things like meeting amazing people, doing radio interviews, not cooking every night because there are actually leftovers and helping 6th grade football and volleyball players learn to lead school prayer services. I’m beginning to realize that I’m not so young anymore. Several times recently I’ve been at meetings or events and found myself the oldest person in the room. My hair is sprouting some gray and my eyes have led me to be the owner of multiple pairs of reading glasses stashed everywhere! I’ve wondered a hundred times lately if I’m smart enough, funny enough, dedicated enough, energetic enough, young enough, old enough, prayerful enough and compassionate enough.
When I read this verse from Corinthians I realized I’m asking too many questions and trying to apply logic to God and that never works. I’m trying to SEE when He’s asking me simply to believe. That is so much easier! I don’t have to have answers to any of those silly questions, I just have to remind myself that I AM HIS and none of the rest of it matters. He will put me where I should be, doing what I should do, the way He wants it done, when it’s time. I just have to remember to walk by faith and find the joy He’s so generously sprinkling along the journey.
A Seed To Plant: Sit a while and pray about those spots you are having trouble navigating by faith and not by sight.
Blessings on your day!
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whosoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16
Every marketing genius works their entire career in hopes of being the one who creates that slogan that catches everyones attention and makes their product a household name. Some of those slogans stick for years. I’m pretty sure I can still sing the McDonalds Big Mac song and I can still sing “I’d like to buy the world a Coke.” We know how to “Just Do It”, “Have it your way.” and “Leave the light on.” If only we could get the really important stuff in life to stick like a commercial.
I like to have the 6th graders choose a Scripture Verse to guide them through their last year at St. Mary School. I ordered a pack of scripture cards with the verses printed in really cool, eye-catching fonts and designs. As I was cutting them up and getting them ready for the kids one caught my attention. I think it just might be the most catchy slogan I’ve seen in a long time.
The card said, John 3:16…be a whosoever! I had to think about it for a minute and then I just laughed. It was a perfect one liner. One of those statements that just sort of snaps you to attention. The goal in this life is to live it in such a way we get to heaven. The question then is, who gets to heaven. The answer is right there in John 3:16; whosoever believes in God. I want to be a whosoever! The beautiful part of this verse is that I have to realize being a whosoever is possible because of what God gave us through his Son, Jesus.
It’s all here…the motive, the result and the promise. A whosoever lives like they recognize and appreciate the gift of Jesus. A whosoever realizes what they need to do and what the reward will be. The whosoever knows the promise and tries to live like they believe it! A whosoever is who I want to be. If I take control and forget to ask the Father for his plan, I’m not being a whosoever. If I gossip and behave selfishly, I’m not a whosoever. If I fumble my way through the day leaning on God’s guidance and believing in his power, then I’m on the road to being a whosoever. I think I might be saying to myself, “That wasn’t very whosoeverish!” Maybe it’s a slogan that just might help you point yourself in the right direction too.
A Seed To Plant: Make a “Be a Whosoever” sign and stick it somewhere visible this week and see if it changes your thinking and your actions.
Blessings on your day!
You have been told, O man, what is good, and what the Lord requires of you: Only to do the right and to love goodness and to walk humbly with our God. Micah 6:8
Well then, there you have it! The Prophet Micah summed it all up in one brief verse of Scripture! Do the right thing, love things that are good and walk humbly with God. So I’m wondering; if it’s that simple how do I manage to mess it up so often? I think the place where I get all snarled up is trying to make things more complicated than they need to be. I can be the “Queen of Overthinking” and it just leads me farther away from the honest, simple root of my purpose…anybody with me there? (I am seriously hoping there are readers out there nodding their head in agreement!)
Let’s see if I can back up the truck and do a better job with these three simple expectations. Step one: “do the right”. I guess I should ask myself, the “right” for whom? More often than I probably even recognize, I’m interested in doing what’s “right” for me! I have a tendency to do “Christian good” when it’s convenient for me. I’m good at helping and praying and doing nice things when it fits in the schedule but what about when I really have to go out of my way to do good? I also have to stop and ask myself about how many times I don’t “do right”. What if I know there is a conversation going on that I should keep my nose out of but I just have to listen in anyway, what do I do if the talk turns into gossip, how do I “do right” and get out of that conversation? I suppose this simple directive should keep me out of those conversations in the first place.
Step two: “Love goodness” I don’t think Micah was simply referring to lovely flowers and other good things found in creation. I think he was challenging us to something bigger. Here’s the deal with loving goodness…it isn’t always fashionable, popular or common. Loving goodness requires us to love without judgment. It means we look for the good and Christ like even in people who look very different than us. We can be pretty narrow in our description of what is “normal” in this society and turn a squinty eye at things that diverge from that vision. I believe the greatest sound and sight EVER is a child! They are the ultimate “Good” created by God. Not long ago I was visiting with a family who was joyfully announcing the upcoming birth of their 7th child and I was so excited for them and honored to share in their joy. That baby will be the most loved child on the planet! As I walked away from the family I overheard two women speaking critically about them and one woman said, “How do they think they are ever going to give that many children what they need? She doesn't even work so they are doomed to a life of hand-me-downs and Wal-Mart shoes.” I wanted to speak but the tears stung in my eyes and my heart hurt so bad I couldn’t even talk. if I had that moment to re-live I would ask when Nike’s and designer clothes became more important in forming Children of God than the overflowing love of a family. Loving goodness means having great compassion and respect for EVERYTHING God created and doing everything in our power to defend it without casting worldly judgments.
Step three: “Walk humbly with our God” The real trick with this one is to realize we can’t be in charge! It really should read, “Walk humbly BEHIND God.” We might do a better job if we remembered we can’t be first in our Christian walk, God Himself must occupy that spot. Walking humbly means coming to terms with the fact that we are NOTHING without HIM and the more we give Him credit for, the more He blesses us. God doesn’t need our approval or our praise in order to build Him up and support His ego or self-esteem…He needs praise and adoration from us so we can practice humility and submission to His will for our lives.
A Seed To Plant: Pick one of the three ideas from this reading from Micah and put it to work this week. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you choose the one your soul needs most!
Blessings on your day!
My comfort in my suffering is this: Your promise preserves my life. Psalm 119:50
I don’t always like doing hard or yucky stuff. As a kid I was more than happy to help my grandma do dishes or dust. I’m pretty sure I thought it was great stuff and I did it with a smile on my face! But when my own mom asked me to do the same things it was dreadful and I was known to occasionally insert some drama while I tried to worm my way of helping her.
This week more than 300 people I spend my school day with have been asked to do something hard and undesirable. In order to come back to in-person school the staff and 6th graders are masked all day and the younger kids are masked on the bus and while in the halls or working in groups. My classroom has been above 80 a couple days this week, making the mask even more undesirable. No matter where your opinion lands on the issue, the fact is, we do what is asked because that’s how bad we all want to be there. The kids have been amazing and so resilient! I’m so proud of them. The big lesson this week has been about suffering. Doing something hard or undesirable can be considered a suffering and the same grandma I helped dust and do dishes always said, “Don’t waste your suffering.” This week we made that our focus in an attempt to follow our friend Samantha’s advice and “Stay Positive”.
I don’t like hard stuff but I can easily do hard stuff for someone else so that’s the premise behind the question “Who are you wearing your mask for today?” It’s so powerful to pray for someone but it’s even more powerful to offer your suffering for them. It’s really as simple as saying, Lord, I offer this suffering to you. You can offer it for something or someone specific or ask the Lord to use your suffering to bless a soul in great need. We were on day two of answering “Who are you wearing your mask for?” and someone said they would wear their mask for someone who was having a tumor removed from their brain. We all agreed we would join in and offer some of our mask suffering for that intention too. The next day we found out that the surgery was such an amazing success the patient went home the same day they had surgery. When that story was shared I think every single person was touched and inspired and overwhelmed by the goodness of our God who took a simple suffering and used it in such a mighty way. As we walk into the building and put on those masks there is a change in attitude when we think or say, “This is for___.” I’m so happy to be back in school. I’m so happy to surround myself with middle lovelies who are so eager to grow in their faith and become disciples.
I hope the next time you have to do something hard or undesirable instead complaining, you’ll offer that small suffering to God. The result is great grace outpoured in powerful ways.
A Seed To Plant: Pick a suffering you can offer to God this week and before you do it, remember to think about “Who it’s for”!
Blessings on your day!
…“Come and see.” John 1:46
I’ve been going to school for decades but this morning feels like my first, first day ever! One of the amazing teachers I work with posted a meme yesterday that said starting school this year was going to feel like flying a plane while we were building it! Truth!!
Today some are starting school in person like St. Mary in Westphalia, some are starting virtually, some are starting at home and some are waiting. Each decision was made by a small group of people who are doing what they think is best for the kids they serve. What once was a universal thing, consistent across the board, has become a crazy assortment. I was feeling a little uneasy about that until I read the line, “come and see” from todays Gospel.
Even though the first day of school looks a little wonky, God is still the Father of us all. He is still bigger than a virus or any policy maker. He’s waiting to meet us in the new, the challenging and the weirdness of this new school year. He’s inviting us to dive in and do what we’ve been asked to do and “come and see” what he’s got planned. I won’t enjoy teaching in a mask all day when it’s 90 degrees in Michigan but I’m so excited to see the next crew of middle lovelies I can hardly wait to bust through the front door of school.
Today I ask your prayers for students, parents, teachers and school leaders as we all try to figure out how to live out our vocation. Please ask God to remind us to “come and see” where he’s working in all of this.
A Seed To Plant: Pray for children today!
Blessings on your day!
“Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours.” Luke 15:31
I heard someone on the radio the other day talking about the story of the Prodigal Son so I decided to give it another read and do some thinking on it. Every time I read the story I get angry with the first son. According to the customs of his time, asking for his inheritance was the same as saying his father was dead to him. As a parent I just can’t imagine what it must have felt like to be so bitterly betrayed by my own son. As I read on, I sometimes find myself cheering for the second son…the one who was obedient, hardworking respectful and never asked for anything. He seems like the good son for sure…or does he? Surely the first son is the bad son…or is he? As I prayed on this passage from Luke’s Gospel I began to see myself in both sons. I’m not gonna lie…I didn’t like that idea very much!
I saw myself in the second son but not for good reasons. Yes I try to be obedient to God’s will and yes I try to be grateful and conservative and not demanding but this wasn’t what was stirring in my heart. The second son was all about entitlement. He wasn’t concerned about his brother, he was concerned about himself. He didn’t stop for 2 seconds to see the relief or joy in his father’s eyes. He didn’t stop for 2 seconds to realize what a tremendous act of “pride swallowing” his brother had just demonstrated. And he certainly didn’t stop long enough to think about how extravagantly his father would shower him with love if given the chance. It was a gigantic open and shut case of “that’s not fair!” Why is it we have such a hard time being genuinely happy for others when good fortune comes their way and not ours? I guess I need to think more about the blessing of generosity and less about keeping score. I heard a story not long ago about a wealthy couple who had attended a fundraising event and won the big cash prize. The audience was full of second sons who whispered among themselves about how that couple certainly didn’t deserve to win. What all those whisperers didn’t know is that the couple humbly accepted the cash prize and used every penny of it to buy groceries, diapers and gas cards for two struggling young families in their church.
The first son…what could he possibly have to teach me? I smugly thought I would never be so bold, wasteful, irresponsible and disrespectful. God wouldn’t let it off my heart so I stayed a while longer and thought about that lousy first son and as I sat and prayed, he began to sprout some redeeming qualities. I began to consider things like his courage, humility and desire to reconcile. He knew he had hurt his father but something deep inside him wanted to make that right. He wasn’t asking to have everything back to normal; he was willing to be a hired man, not a son. True, his return might have been motivated by selfish reasons like hunger and pride but I can’t even imagine being brave enough to take the risk. He had to be willing to own up to every one of his mistakes and face the judgment and consequences that might come. He left home prideful and arrogant and he returned broken and weak and a complete failure, but yet he returned. As he walked down that road to his father’s house every weakness was on full display. I’m not sure I could muster that kind of honesty. I can go to all sorts of lengths to conceal my weaknesses and failures; it must have been quite a task to lay it all on the line like he did. I noticed that not once did the son offer any kind of excuse or rationale for his behavior. He just told it like it was and hoped to be accepted in spite of the brokenness he brought with him; I don’t know about you but I could take a lesson there!
I spent so much time thinking about the sons, I forgot the star of the story…the father. The father in this story is our father too. Our Heavenly Father loves us with the same unconditional love as the father in the story. He will always welcome us back no matter what we’ve done or where we’ve been and he will be so happy to see us there will be great rejoicing. He loves us even when we’re too busy keeping score to realize only he knows the perfect reason blessings are bestowed as they are. I realized he wants us to know his forgiveness and his generosity. He wants us to remember our job isn’t to focus on the behavior of his children; our job is to focus on the love of the Father.
A Seed To Plant: Pick a favorite Gospel story and give it a read with fresh eyes, asking God to put you right into the story so he can reveal his truth and love to your heart.
Blessings on your day!
For where two or three gather in my name, I am there among them.’ Matthew 18:20
The past two weeks have been a giant “welcome back”! I didn’t realize how much I missed live ministry and physical connection until it came barreling back into my calendar. I’ve been meeting with teacher friends, celebrating weddings and presenting teacher retreats. I’m typing this blog from a teeny airport in Kearney Nebraska at the tail end of a fabulous weekend spent with some beautiful Catholic women. My heart is so full and I am so grateful to have been a part of the two or three or many who have gathered!
After months of very little on my calendar, it took a bit of recalibrating to get back into full school/ministry mode. As I have been traveling this month I realize we are all readjusting. Some folks are are like labrador retriever puppies released from a basket. They are so happy and exited and they wanna hug everyone and talk to everyone and be right next to everyone. I’ve discovered some folks are fearful and nervous about being out and about. They want to keep their distance and they want others to do the same. The third group of people I notice are those who really aren’t sure what to feel. Guess what…they are all ok! Each group is right…each reaction is correct. I’ve gotten much better these past few weeks at noticing, observing and respecting. I suppose those are skills we can all work on a little.
I’d like to thank the lovely ladies in Nebraska and the beautiful Catholic School Teachers I’ve spent time with this month for some great lessons. I’ve learned that you can see people smile even if they’re wearing a mask. I’ve learned you can sense emotion and offer comfort even if you’re six feet apart. I’ve learned that we truly are made for connection. I’ve learned that despite the apprehension about a virus, most folks really want to get back to some kind of regular or familiar. I’ve learned that compassion trumps opinion and listening is more therapeutic than ever. I’ve learned that this pandemic has affected us deeply and so very differently and those differences are best handled with understanding and respect. It really isn’t a good time to pick sides because when we’re fragile, confrontation just adds to the brokenness and division we are all desperately trying to figure out and mend.
I have tremendous respect for leaders who are responsible for bringing people back together. I’m thankful for teachers who are coming back because they love kids and they know they have to figure out how to get them together because they need it so much. I’m thankful for a group of Nebraska women who choose to attend a Catholic Conference and open up their worried hearts to the love of the Father. I’m in awe of the people who shared their struggles and their burdens with me this month, reminding me that we desperately need connection so we can share and laugh and pray and sometimes cry together about the craziness that has swirled around us these past months. Mostly I have realized how important it is to pray for each other and remember everyone is trying to do the best they can and when we do gather, know He is there too.
A Seed To Plant: This week pray for school teachers and leaders as they prepare to welcome kids back to school…however that looks.
Blessings on your day!
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