Before man are life and death…whichever he chooses shall be given him. Sirach 15:
I have a plant in my living room that I love. The leaves are wide and deep green. I have absolutely no idea what kind of plant it is; all I know is it’s pretty and easy to take care of and it sends a clear signal when it needs my attention. When I forget to water it, the leaves and stems bend clear down and lay flat on the table but once I water it, it perks straight back up and looks beautiful within an hour. As we were listening to this reading from Sirach in mass this morning, all I could think about was that plant.
The water on that plant in my living room creates life and beauty and I can see it happening right before my very eyes. As I listened to these words and thought of my plant I realized that my choices affect my soul just like water affects that plant. Sometimes I accidentally neglect the plant but a wee bit of time and attention brings it right back to life and restores it’s beauty. I think that’s what God’s mercy does for our weary, soggy, limp souls. The water is the fruit of our prayer and his amazing grace. As I sat thinking about it, there are so many choices I make that deprive my soul of the life, beauty and brilliant joy just like my neglectful watering habits affect my pretty plant.
I began to wonder what choices I make that lead to the serious wilting of my relationship with the Father. My first smug thought was, I don’t make any decisions that are death, I’m much more of a chose life person! As he always does when I think I’m all that and a holy bag of chips, he humbles me and what came next was a rapid fire list of behaviors, attitudes and actions that lead slowly to destruction. He reminded me that each time I look at someone in judgement, thinking of myself as happier, more prayerful or more put together, my soul wilts. I realized that every time I choose to participate in a conversation that isn’t kind or charitable, my soul wilts. Every time I run to the comfort of food instead of running to the comfort of his love, I wilt a little. Every time I watch or read or listen to something that opposes his truth or purity or goodness I wilt a little. Each time I snap back at someone or make snap decisions about how someone drives or dresses or behaves, my soul wilts a little. All of these situations may seem pretty innocent or human or even acceptable in themselves but in reality the little things add up to become big and the choice is ours to make. I’ve been lucky that every time I’ve seen my plant drooping I’ve been able to water it and bring it back but one of these times I might neglect it too long and it won’t perk back up. Thank goodness God’s mercy is more reliable than my plant care skills! It’s never too late to turn back to him but as the Priest mentioned in his homily, there are always consequences!
With life there is abundant joy and mercy and grace. With death there is sadness, stress, destruction and separation. Each of those little decisions I make that are not life giving come with a consequence that is uncomfortable and undesirable. I’m sure I’ve blamed God for not listening or helping me out of a rough patch but as I think about it, those are probably times when I’m stuck in the yuck of consequences that are a direct result of those little soul wilting choices. When it all boils down to the bottom of the pot, the truth is, we have free will and the choices are truly all ours to make. That means that the consequences are also truly ours as well; we chose them. I decided that was a pretty tough truth! This reading is about more than heaven and hell, it’s about today and tomorrow and the hundreds of todays and tomorrows that lead us into eternity. I think today is the day to start thinking more about the life and death of my choices. I’m thankful for a great message from Scripture and the beautiful visual aid that sits in my living room.
A Seed To Plant: Ask the Father to help you think about your choices pick out the ones that are reaping life and the ones that are wilting your soul.
Blessings on your day!
Neither he nor his parents sinned; it is so that the works of God might be made visible through him. John 9:3
We like explanations don’t we. Our world surrounds us with technology, information and knowledge designed to explain and justify everything…until we hit one of those rough patches that we simply can’t make sense of. We aren’t so good at meaning the words, “that’s just the way it is”. We demand proof! We are a society of highly intelligent humans after all, there should be a way to describe, defend and understand everything. If there isn’t, then somebody must have lied or done something wrong because all things should make sense! If things don’t make sense, or if we don’t like the explanation we’ve been given, we set out looking for a spot to lay the blame. I’ve discovered the more out of balance our society’s moral compass becomes; the harder it is to “accept” things we can’t explain. God’s work included.
After reading this story from John’s Gospel , I guess the game of prove or blame isn’t new. The disciples were busy trying to figure out why the blind man was afflicted. They wanted to lay blame or find fault in order to understand the situation but in a simple yet completely profound way Jesus explained the man’s situation. His affliction was not to punish or to penalize…his situation was meant to magnify the amazing power of God. I’ve read this story a dozen times before, and I always thought of that man who lived on the streets in darkness with pity and sadness. This time I saw him with different eyes. My feelings for this Gospel character turned from pity to something more like envy. God chose the blind man in such a pitiful state to show His glory…what a lucky turn of events for him! This Gospel reminded me of a conversation I had recently with a woman who just bubbles over with God’s love. She was speaking so tenderly about her brother who had recently lost his battle with cancer. She shared her admiration and inspiration as she told his story. The part of the conversation that sunk deep into my heart was his reaction to the doctor’s proclamation of his condition…difficult news to say the least! Upon hearing the news he told his sister how lucky he felt that God wanted him home in heaven at such an early age. As tears stung in my eyes, it was easy to see why he was such an inspiration to her. There was no blame, no need for explanation…it was simply a case of “accepting” a situation as the work of the Father.
The trouble with trying to explain and understand everything is that we can only do it through the lens of human knowledge. God is the one with the wisdom and understanding to see how things are woven together from beginning to end. We are only capable of seeing what’s right in front of us while God sees so much more. He knows the purpose for each situation…He knows what each event will prepare us for…He knows what will follow each disappointment and sadness… He knows the mighty and glorious ending to all of our stories. If we are willing to accept the “happy ending” we so desperately look for, then we need to remember that His job is to prepare us for it. Sickness, death, disappointment and afflictions aren’t meant to punish, they are meant to strengthen and renew and allow Him to show His mighty and powerful love for His children. In our weakness He shows His strength. That is the only explanation or understanding we ever need…simple as that! The glory of His works on the other side of our struggle is more amazing than we can even begin to imagine. I believe this with all my heart because that’s how much He loves us. So the next time you’re in the middle of “yuck”,remind yourself that God is the only justification, understanding and explanation you need. Remind yourself that the glory He will show through your strife will be every bit as magnificent as the way the blind man felt the moment he washed the mud from his eyes and could see for the first time. Remember that God’s ways are not our ways...His are best and they don’t require explanation or understanding, just our trust!
A Seed To Plant: Read John 9:1-41 and make a list of situations you need to stop trying to understand, justify and explain and simply ask God to make you aware of the ways He’s working in them.
Blessings on your day!
A glad heart lights up the face…Proverbs 15:13
I was reading a little piece about Saint Emily de Rodat last week and it mentioned a quote she spoke to a young postulant. I felt like the words sort of jumped off the page and landed right in my heart. She told the young nun, “Keep your enthusiasm. Be brave. Put all your trust in God. And always maintain a holy cheerfulness.” These were powerful words for someone who lives in the grayest winter state in the the entire United States. Sometimes it can be a little tough to maintain a cheerful attitude as the sun is so stingy with it’s rays so St. Emily’s words were perfect.
I often think about being cheerful but I don’t think I’d ever heard the term holy cheerfulness. When you think about it, it does make sense because holiness means growing closer to God so of course that would make you cheerful! The part I really like about the phrase is that if cheerfulness is a way to become holy, then God has a big part in it and maintaining a cheerful disposition is something he’s probably waiting to help with. If you could use a little holy cheerfulness to light up your face here are some things to try.
*Start your day with prayer…invite him to help you see the pockets of positive, cheerful, funny and joyful moments in your day.
*Step away from social media if it leads you to anxiety, jealousy or comparison. Those are the things that steal our joy and squish your cheerful light.
*Feel the feelings and find the root. Sometimes people and things make us mad or disappointed or frustrated; that’s human. It’s the reaction to those emotions we need to consider. Being cheerful and positive doesn’t mean you scold yourself for getting mad because anger is a bad thing, it means we think, pray and ponder asking God to show us the root of the emotion. After a bit of thinking, it’s a powerful thing to ask God to show you the next step. If I’m mad or frustrated I will ask God to put that person in my path if I’m supposed to chat about it. If they don’t cross my path I know I’m supposed to prayerfully hand him the situation.
*Pray for people. Judgement can cloud our cheerfulness, disappointment in other people can cloud our cheerfulness and unfulfilled expectations can cloud our cheerfulness. When any of these things happen it can be such a powerful, positive lift in attitude to stop for a second and pray for that person or situation. Don’t ask God to change them or it, ask him to change you…to bring joy to your heart. It feels so freeing and uplifting to desire another persons holiness.
*Throw your hissy fit on paper. Looking back through old prayer journals I can tell my mood without even reading the words. When I come across something I wrote in upper case letters with a dozen exclamation points I know I was emptying my heart. The end of every rant should contain a prayer of surrender, perspective and the promise to leave it there. The Father knows how you feel but spitting it out only to him can save you from making a situation worse by speaking the wrong words at the wrong time. Frustration tossed at the foot of the cross instead of on the ears of others always comes with a better ending. Spit it out and shut the book so you don’t have the burden on dragging it through your whole day.
*Give some cheer away even if you don’t feel like you have much in your heart. The act of being generous and kind can bring more cheerful grace than you can imagine. Sprinkling cheer into someone else situation will bounce back to yours. Write a little note, buy someone a coffee, or send someone a text or email about something positive you noticed about them. Lifting up another is a fabulous way to get a little lift yourself.
Let’s face it, being grumpy isn’t a magnet for anything good. I keep remembering the words of Dan Meers from a blog a couple weeks back, we can rise and shine or rise and whine. To add to that I guess if we want holy cheerfulness we need to be shiny instead of whiney.
A Seed To Plant: Pick one of the cheerful boosting suggestions and put it into practice this week.
Blessings on your day!
As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. Joshua 24:15
I’m not a saver and I’m not a collector but I still seem to have more stuff than I really need. I’ve got kids keepsake stuff, school stuff, kitchen stuff and a little bit of “just in case I need it” stuff. We will be building a house soon and as I think about packing and moving I wonder how much stuff I can do without. The thought of packing up a few decades of stuff is a little overwhelming. The thought of picking out all the stuff for the new house can be a little overwhelming too. I decided to divide the house up into small sections and go through every drawer, closet and space bit by bit. As I was mapping out my plan, I came across this little story and it really put things in perspective and made the tasks ahead seem much less overwhelming.
A tourist from America paid a visit to a renowned Polish rabbi, Hofetz Chaim. The tourist was astonished to see that the rabbi’s house was only a simple room filled with books plus a table and a bench. “Rabbi,” asked the tourist, “where is all your furniture?” “Where is yours?” replied the rabbi. “Mine?” asked the puzzled American. “But I am only a visitor here, I’m only passing through.” “So am I.” said the rabbi.
Every now and then I need a little zap in the thought process like this story to help me get things in proper perspective. I’m pretty sure I shouldn’t be sacrificing prayer time to decide if if want to go with sage or cypress green in the laundry room and I don’t suppose anyone will notice if I have new end tables and lamps or if I repurpose the same ones I’ve had for years. The big thought that just keeps running through my mind is gratitude. The past week I have prayed for balance and peace in this whole process and along came the perfect little story at the perfect time…He’s so fancy and I’m so grateful for his love and attention to my prayer.
A Seed To Plant: Read the story again and pray about the ways God might be speaking to you through this little story.
Blessings on your day!
Be still and know that I am God. Psalm 46:11
Does anybody remember the old View Master toy? It was so cool; you just slipped in a circular disc with pictures, looked through the viewing lens and pulled the handle to go from picture to picture. That was some fancy entertainment back in the day! I remember looking through them and pulling the handle as fast as I could to see the pictures go at high speed…it was kind of like watching something in fast forward mode. As I sit here typing, I feel a little like that is what my life has become…pulling the handle so fast everything looks like fast forward. It can be pretty entertaining but I can’t say I always enjoy it.
I don’t think God intended life to be that way however. He has been sending me that message loud and clear the past few days and it hits me right in morning prayer. The harder it is to settle myself in prayer, the more I know I need to slow down and evaluate my “stuff”. I took a few minutes today to do just that and I came across this meditation. It was left by a lovely reader as a comment to one of the posts here at joyful words. I think I’ll share it, because it just seems to fit.
Be still and know that I am God.
Be still and know that I am.
Be still and know.
This week in my prayer chair I will take it line by line and ask God to help me soak it all in and feel Him slow down the speed of the handle on my life’s View Master. In fact, I’ll try to see my life through His lens. I’m betting it will be in slower motion!
A Seed To Plant: Take a week and pray this meditation on Psalm 46:11 with me…let’s see what He shows us about the speed of life.
Blessings on your day!
The One who rules over men in justice is like the morning light at sunrise on a cloudless morning…2 Samuel 23:3-4
The famous line from last Thursday’s blog was you can choose to rise and SHINE or rise and WHINE. I’ve been repeating that in my head for several days and I have a question that I’m wondering if others have too. What if life is particularly tricky and staying in bed on a cold gray morning makes it extra hard to rise and SHINE? In case you might have that same question, here are a few things that might help.
*Rise and SHINE starts before you fall asleep. End your day by jotting down (or at least saying out loud) three things that happened during the day that were good, happy or you are thankful for. If you fall asleep with positive things on your mind, you sleep better and wake up better.
*Before the RISE part, make sure you invite God into the day you are about to rise and greet. Give him permission to be in charge and promise to take the back seat and let him drive.
*Sleep! Getting up when you’re exhausted is tough let alone trying to get up when you haven’t been under the covers long enough makes it extra tough. When we get busy or life gets crazy the first thing to go is sleep and that is a terrible plan. 30 minutes of screen time traded for 30 minutes of sleep makes a giant difference.
*If you want to feel good about doing a great act of service, offer to let a sleep deprived mom of littles take a nap while you watch after her kids.
*End the day with a chat with the Father thanking him for all the grace, mercy and blessings he showered you with throughout the day and then call to mind all the places you fell a little short, asking for his forgiveness. Those simple steps will lead you to so much good.
I read this passage not long ago and it seems the perfect way to end this post. It seems to offer some wisdom that we might need to assist in or RISING and SHINING.
Every morning we arise afresh in Christ our light. Ancient Christian writers warn against “morning demons”: yesterday’s worries and grievances returning to poison the new day.
I suppose recognizing and naming those morning demons is important but the more important thing to do is ask Christ our light to overpower them so we can shine HIS light through our words, attitude and actions.
A Seed To Plant: Choose one or two to these ideas to put in place this week.
Blessings on your day!
Give thanks to the Lord, because he is good; his love is eternal. 1 Chronicles 16:34
Every now and again I run across a thought or a quote that just seems to stop me in my tracks. That happened this week when I was came across a video clip about Dan Meers the man who wears the KC Wolf mascot costume for the Kansas City Chiefs. He is a man of great humor, great faith and great mission.
Dan suffered some terrible injuries while practicing a stunt to entertain the fans at Arrowhead Stadium. As he suffered through months of recovery and rehabilitation he questioned God’s plan but was inspired to trust his faithfulness when someone helped him realize that every morning we wake up, we have something to complain about and something to be grateful for. Whichever one we choose to focus on will shape our attitude for the day. His physical pain was enormous but he realized that the pain meant he was’t paralyzed and he wasn’t dead so the pain was something he should be thankful for because it was the best choice of the three.
His story is powerful and inspiring but the line that really hit my heart was this, “Every morning you wake up, you have the choice to rise and shine or rise and whine.” If we choose to whine, we have no ability to have a positive impact for Jesus. How about that for a line to think about. Dan pointed out that it’s easy to be grateful when we are being blessed but thanking him during the trials builds surrender, trust and helps us see God’s faithfulness. As I watch my beloved Chiefs play in the Super Bowl next weekend, I’ll be watching for the mascot and I’ll be seeing him through different eyes. I’ve included the link to his story in case you have 6 minutes to be inspired and grateful.
A Seed To Plant: Find some time to watch Dan’s story and then make a list of the things your grateful for…not just the blessings but the trials too.
Blessings on your day! (And go Chiefs!)
Pray without ceasing. 1 Thessalonians 5:17
The single most powerful thing we can do is pray. Prayer is our hope, it’s our peace, it’s our inroad to God’s grace and comfort. We are called as christians to offer prayers of thanksgiving, prayers of surrender, prayers of forgiveness and prayers of petition. Prayer is our communication with the God who created us, loves us and is waiting to flood our minds, hearts and lives with his presence if we just call on his name. There are dozens and dozens of books on how to pray and why to pray and when to pray. There are dozens of videos on prayer not to mention journals and tools to help us pray better. All of these marvelous resources don’t do us any good if we don’t carve out the time to practice what they teach.
Every now and again I just have to STOP and back up the truck. Things can get busy and complicated and we can get in a prayer rut or forget to pray at all. When I enter one of these seasons I know I need to take a step back and simplify things. These are also the times I usually need a reminder that praying can happen anywhere, anytime and doesn’t require books or journals or routine. Simple, heartfelt spontaneous prayer is such a source of comfort, balance and joy. I find that if I connect prayer to a frequently seen object it helps me remember to pause and pray. In case you could use a simple way to slow down and pray, here is a quick way to pray every time you look at your hand. I didn’t make this up but it sure gets my attention and serves as a gentle reminder that I need to talk often with the one who loves me most.
As you relax you hands to your side, the thumb is closest to your leg so we start there and move toward the pinky. Here’s what you do…
Thumb: since it’s closest to you, you use your thumb to pray for those who are closest to you. Mention them by name and offer God whatever worry or wish you have for them.
Pointer: Say a prayer for all those in your life who point you to Jesus.
Tall Finger: Since this is the tallest finger and “towers” over the others, we use this finger to pray for those above us in authority and power. We pray for leaders of our town, church, state, nation and world. (Praying here a little extra instead of complaining about these leaders is so much more productive)
Ring Finger: Since it is the weakest of all the fingers, this is where we pause to pray for all those who are weak and powerless. The unborn, the homeless, the hungry, the refugees all those who have no strength or voice.
Pinky Finger: The little one we save for last is us. Here we offer our own personal prayers and needs to the Lord.
Each time you gaze at your hand, pause and offer these five prayers. It’s easy to do as you see your hands washing dishes or sorting laundry or resting on the steering wheel at a stop light. I hope we never look at our hands the same way again!
A Seed To Plant: Make a note somewhere about the prayers for each finger and find at least five opportunities this week to pray this way.
Blessings on your day!
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!
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