Rise and Shine
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!
How You Look At It
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!)
Praying With 5
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!
Little More Light
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!
Soap & Prayer
…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!
New Year New Word
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!
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