Whoever exalts himself will be humbled; but whoever humbles
himself shall be exalted.” Matthew 23:12
Last Friday was the 100th day of school at St. Mary’s and that’s cause for a huge celebration! We spend days and days doing math activities to reinforce the concept of the number 100…it’s big stuff. In the spirit of changing things up this year, my wonderful partner teacher suggested the two of us dress up like we were a hundred years old. We were quite a site, let me tell ya! Actually I’m still seeing flecks of grey hair paint every now and again and I’m still itchy from that head to toe polyester I was wearing. The kids weren’t quite sure what to think of us at first but the silliness made for a great day.
When we had finished afternoon prayers and sat down to read a story one of my little lovelies cuddled up right beside me patting my “helmet-like”spray painted hair and said, “Mrs. Wohlfert, you look so pretty." She was admiring the three awful pieces of chunky plastic jewelry I had around my neck to accessorize my nightmare of an outfit like they were precious jewels. For one little moment I wanted to scream… “Are you kidding me…pretty…I’m in 30 year old polyester from the Good Will store!” I’m so glad I didn’t say anything because I would have missed the heart-melting statement she made next. She smiled and said, “You look like my great-grandma. She’s in heaven now and I miss her.” My eyes got a little wet and I felt humbled by her connection.
I read something recently that reminded me about the importance
of being exalted by others. We’ve all probably had an experience with someone who let their talent, fame or money go to their head in an arrogant way and these folks give “being exalted” a bad name. Nobody wants to see themselves become swallowed up by pride, ego and bragging so all too often we do an about face the other way and don’t allow ourselves to be exalted. Sincere compliments and praise from others for things done well, or in a Christ-like way are God’s way of letting us know He is pleased.
There is a real danger in never accepting affirmation. Scripture calls us to give and to receive…that includes compliments. It’s an awful feeling when you are trying to respond to something wonderfully done with a heartfelt compliment and the receiver rejects it or feels the need to shoot a compliment right back to you like an IOU. God calls us to be gracious and humble in all things. Practice your humble and simple “thank you” so the next time someone feels called to exalt you, you’ll know just what to do!
A Seed To Plant: Make a list of 5 people you think need to be exalted then get busy with the list. The harder part of the homework today…be ready to accept kind words from others with humble gratitude.
Blessings on your day!
But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8
Saint Augustine gave a sermon once in which he proposed a kind of self-test to see if we truly love God; Suppose God proposed you a deal and said “I will give you anything you want. You can possess the whole world. Nothing will be impossible for you…nothing will be a sin, nothing forbidden. You will never die, never have pain, never have anything you do not want and always have anything you do want….except for one thing; you will never see my face.” St. Augustine closed with a question; did a chill arise in your hearts, when you heard the words, “You will never see my face”? That chill is the most precious thing in you; that is the pure love of God.
Every time I read the wise words of this story I get such a wave of desire…desire to try harder to be holy! I realize after reading St. Augustine’s words I have a renewed sense of purpose…a new strength…a new hope. I think we work so hard at doing the “right thing” maybe we forget just what we’re working for. It’s easy to get into the habit of doing good things so others will think we’re “nice”. In the words of our parish priest, Fr. James,“nowhere in the bible are we called to be nice!” We are called to be holy, called to be uncomfortable, called to realize sometimes the Gospel’s hit us sideways…and that’s ok! We are called to do the hard work of following Christ…being His hands and feet on earth and that, as we all know, isn’t always easy. There are days, when that offer from God St. Augustine talked about seems like a great idea! Those are the times we need to set out with new energy to do His work and know it isn’t without great blessing and reward.
I read this story tonight and then I told the room full of teenagers listening, “Our number one task is to get to heaven! Everything we do, say, listen to, watch and everyone we hang out with will either help us get there, or draw us away so pay attention!” The temptation is there to think one little thing here or there won’t matter but it’s still a step away from our task. The most powerful thing I can think of to make those decisions easier is to remember what’s waiting for us in heaven…the face of God. That’s something worth fighting for…that trumps everything! We just have to remember it!
A Seed To Plant: Print the words to St. Augustine’s sermon and read them
every day this week. I’m willing to bet if you let these wise words really sink into your heart, living the Gospel message will have a new meaning!
Blessings on your day!
…Make straight the way of the Lord... John 1:23
A couple summers ago I was asked to speak at a convention in Canada. I was excited and I made sure I had the proper paperwork required to cross the border. As the trip drew closer, I began to get a wee bit anxious because I had never crossed the bridge into Canada alone and driving to the heart of Detroit to get to the bridge was not an adventure I was looking forward to. I left home that June morning with my coffee, my GPS and a bunch of prayers! As I was following the GPS through downtown Detroit I realized there was a lot of construction going on both in the city and on the entry to the bridge. The GPS had me turning left and right and circling through neighborhoods I would have never chosen to visit! I was getting frustrated because I could see the giant bridge but just couldn’t find my way there. Finally I saw a huge orange sign attached to a tall chain link fence that said, “ALL BRIDGE TRAFFIC: Ignore GPS directions and follow orange sign instructions.” Hallelujah, my path was made straight! I heaved a huge sigh of relief…so big a sigh in fact; I didn’t notice I pulled into the Customs lane for French speakers only! God has such a sense of humor! Luckily it was 6 in the morning so there was no traffic back up and the lovely little French speaking Customs agent also spoke English. PHEW!
I realize often that my walk with Christ is very much like that trip to Canada. I know heaven is where I want to go, but sometimes my journey towards that destination can get a little twisted and off course. The world likes to give us directions. Society and media are full of formulas, products and gadgets designed to make us healthy, wealthy and wise. Just like my GPS, directions and diagrams just spew out for every ear to hear but that doesn’t always mean it’s going to point us in the right direction. Quite honestly, if we’re looking to the world to point us to the straight path…we’re in BIG
trouble! Growing up I can recall my parents talking with other adults about how the world was “going to hell in a hand-basket” and they would shake their heads in frustration at one of the phrases of the day, “If it feels good do it!” Well, folks, if we look to the secular world to set our course, they are still sellin’ the same line…except now the phrase comes with illustrations and they’re on nearly every channel.
I loved the giant orange sign I saw that June morning. It made things crystal clear! Sometimes we ask for a sign…an assurance…some direction for our path and we stumble around looking for something like that big orange sign and we throw a hissy fit when we can’t see it. Well, maybe we’re not looking
in the right place. I would be willing to bet each of you reading this has the perfect instruction sign…it’s called the Bible! If you’re looking for the straight path, pull out the ultimate “direction manual” and spend some time studying His word, I guarantee you’ll find information even more helpful than that orange sign in Detroit! I don’t’ think He cares if our path is straight…He just cares that we’re moving in His direction.
A Seed To Plant: Take a few quiet minutes to just sit with Scripture. Ask God to open your mind and your heart as you read over familiar passages or simply crack it open and read where your eyes rest. See what he draws you to and then let those words wash over you like a warm rain and ask Him to use them to set you on the path that leads to Him.
Blessings on your day!
For one who believes with his heart and so is justified, and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved. Romans 10:10
I love Sundays! I love them for lots of reasons but my favorite part about Sunday is the way I feel after coming home from mass. My strength is renewed, my hope is filled up and my spirit is lifted. I always feel a sense of
enthusiasm and joy and I believe the grace God has just slathered on me will bless me on my Christian walk all week. I guess I feel a little “ten feet tall and bullet proof”. If I’m completely honest though…I don’t usually make it past Tuesday afternoon before I start to feel the burden of my human sinfulness bearing down on me. I forget to trust here and there, I let my mind run off like a new puppy during Morning Prayer or I’m mowed over by a wave of impatience. Then there I am…not nearly ten feet tall and certainly not bullet proof at all. It seems my will and God’s plan crash at the intersection of Eternal Salvation and Stubborn Nature regularly!
In Paul’s letter to the Romans he wrote beautifully about our salvation through Jesus. These words from chapter 10 are so comforting and they seem so simple; believe it in your heart and confess your belief and there ya go! But before I do my little “Yeah, I can SO do this” dance around the ring
like Rocky, I hear my mother’s voice saying, “Whoa Bessie…not so fast!” What does “believe with his heart” and “confess with the mouth” really
look like? I will be the first in line to say my heart and my mouth sometimes get off course.
If I truly believe in the Lord with my whole heart then that means there is no room for unjust anger or judgmental feelings or failing compassion upon the marginalized. And then there is the issue of my mouth. I don’t think I can spew impatient statements and sassy retorts one minute and the good news of Jesus the next and have things work out all peachy! Just about the time I think I have this “Christian living” and “discipleship” thing all figured out, I hear scripture like these words from Romans and I realize I’ve got a lot of work to do. I don’t look at that in a hopeless, discouraging way at all. I look at it as an invitation to work on my heart and mouth because salvation is worth it…eternal life is worth it!
Lent is a great time to own up to the fact that we sometimes fall short…way short… and thank God for that awareness. Yup, you read that right, I said THANK GOD, for that awareness. He’s not going to zap us with a lightning bolt, He’s going to love us and welcome us with His ever open arms as we try again to get it right tomorrow…He’s just that great to us! Every now and again I need to hear words like these from St. Paul and take an inventory of my heart and my mouth. If I am going to believe with my whole heart, I need to push some things out that are in His way of achieving total occupancy of my heart. I also need to work harder at making my mouth declare things that are pleasing to His ears. Thank goodness it’s Sunday…I think I can do it!
A Seed To Plant: Sit still for a wee bit today and ask yourself what else is harbored in your heart besides a love for Christ. Then sit still a wee bit longer and ponder what things are coming from your mouth other than the words of our loving Father.
Blessings on your day!
…Take your throne at my right hand while I make your enemies your footstool. Psalm 110:1
We had a dark green footstool in our living room when I was
growing up and as I recall it had many functions. My favorite memory of that footstool was the way my little brother used to fasten a bath towel around his neck like a super hero and jump off that footstool thinking it would boost him high enough that he could fly. We did use it to rest feet on, especially when there was a story to be read or a baby to be rocked. It
was sturdy and comfortable and important.
I had to stretch a little and read this verse a time or two before it’s meaning really hit my heart. When I read the word enemy, I immediately thought of a person. I don’t have any human enemies so I moved on to a verse I thought had more meaning but something kept calling me back. After I let it percolate in my mind and heart a few days, it came to me. The enemy may not be a person at all. The enemy could be anything preventing my pursuit of the Fathers joy. Lent is a great time to do some soul searching about enemies that might creep into our lives and try to distract us.
I was able to stick a label on my enemies rather quickly once I started thinking about it. I would love to sit at God’s right hand and watch Him slap down a footstool on impatience or on judgmental thinking or on any other of the sinful areas of my life. The beautiful part of this verse is the “at my right hand” part. In order to have Him put those enemies at my feet, I have to be beside Him. He can’t help me if I’m a mile away, He needs me right there beside Him clinging to Him with childlike dependence. Then and only then will the footstool slamming begin!
Just like my living room as a child, sometimes we had to move some stuff out of the way to get to the footstool, so it is with our need to move the barriers that are keeping us from the right hand of God so we can get near that footstool. What’s in your way?
A Seed To Plant: Take the beginning days of Lent to prayerfully consider what enemies you would like to see under your footstool and then reach for God’s hand.
Blessings on your day!
The person who is trustworthy in small matters is also trustworthy in great ones… Luke 16:10
When the three little Wohlfert’s learned to drive, their first solo adventure was to drive the 3 miles to town to pick up a gallon of milk. It’s funny how
such a small thing can be such a landmark isn’t it. While they were basking in independence, we were testing them out with small trips; they were a sort of rite of passage to bigger trips. If however, we didn’t think they were ready,
they didn’t get to move on to longer drives. This practice didn’t always set well because they seemed to be under the false impression that just because they had a driver’s license, they could drive anywhere they wanted. Silly kids!
I wonder if God looks at us with the same wrinkled forehead and raised eyebrow look we give our kids when they think they are qualified and ready to do something they haven’t earned our trust for yet? We have a tendency to try to do the “big stuff” for Jesus like volunteer at the soup kitchen or serve on six different committees at church thinking that the bigger the task, the bigger His approval. However, I think it’s the small matters that are often the hardest and give us the most opportunity to live our faith. I was struck with the significance of this verse while grocery shopping a few weeks ago. It was a scenario that I had encountered a few times before but this day it jabbed me like a left hook.
Maybe I’m the only one who does this, but when approaching the checkout with my heaping cart of groceries, I always scan to find the shortest line, sometimes even sending Shannon jogging down the stretch to see if there is a shorter line I might have missed. Well, same as always, I was heading to the check out and saw a new lane open up. I assumed the position; head down, no eye-contact and feet movin like my shoes were on fire. But then it
happened…I saw him…the guy also headed to the same checkout lane. I noticed he was further away than I was so I picked up my pace just a tiny bit, avoided eye contact and zipped into the empty lane ahead of him. When he arrived a millisecond after me I did it…I gave him a little surprised look and sweetly said “Oh my, pardon me.” As if it was a complete surprise we arrived at the same time!
Pardon me my foot! I knew darn good and well what I was up to! For a brief
second, I knew I should back off or at least slow down…my heart knew what was right but that darned old flesh just barged in and took over! I certainly didn’t make a spectacle of myself, in fact the whole event was not even noticeable to anyone except the two of us but it wasn’t my most shining moment and it bugged me for days! When I came across this verse I was haunted by the whole situation once again. These are exactly the “small matters” this verse is speaking about! When I think about it, God puts many of these tiny opportunities in our path every week. It’s through these “small things” we can become trustworthy in His eyes. Talk about somebody I’d really like to have trust me! It might be easy to dismiss these silly little things as a part of God’s plan but I believe they are. He promised to love us and protect us, but that promise doesn’t come with a guarantee of convenience and comfort. Sometimes He loves us enough to make us wiggle a little in our own skin. His instruction for managing the small matters comes from our conscience. Chances are if our decision or action disturbs our peace, He’s testing us, just waiting for us to do the right thing. I guess you could say He’s waiting to see how we do on the short drives.
A Seed To Plant:
Keep a watchful eye on yourself this week. Open your eyes and your heart to the “small matters” God puts in your path and use them to build His trust. Remind yourself that sometimes acting like His child isn’t always quick, easy or convenient but the blessings he gives His faithful make our efforts well worth it!
Blessings on your day!
Trust in the Lord with all your heart… Proverbs 3:5
When I was a little girl my mom used to make homemade pop cycles for my brothers and me out of Kool-Aid. I loved sitting on the steps on a hot Kansas summer day eating them. My favorite way to eat one was to bite off a piece and let in sit in my mouth and tip my head back letting it melt and just run down my throat…just kind of letting the sweet fruity smell and flavor wash over me. This past week I’ve had that “wash over me” feeling, except it’s been the grace of God spilling over my senses and not a frozen summer snack.
Last Thursday my post about rolling away the stone was so personal I nearly threw up right after I hit the publish button. I spent the next few hours thinking things like…oh gosh…what if I fail! What if it was too much and
readers were left wanting me to hold up my “too much information”card. What if this is just too hard and I really can’t do it…what if I was all wrong and God doesn’t have anything to do with this at all! Then I was reminded this whole thing really is about trusting so I got a little sassy with God and said, “So, if this was really Your idea, please prove it.” Giving up dairy, grains, sugars and sweeteners, beans and peanut butter and anything processed for 30 days is clearly something I could never do on my own. Surviving on fruit, vegetables, eggs and meat for a month seemed impossible after the post flew onto the website. However, l still really felt like I was supposed to do this and I was gearing myself up for four long weeks of suffering and deprivation, headaches and a case or two of the grump’s. But, God heard my sassy little voice and the joke was on me!
I have nearly finished the first week and I am in complete awe of the generosity, compassion and strength God has shown me. This week has been one grace after another washing over me like a flood.I woke up last Friday morning with a huge sense of peace that hadn’t been there the day before and by ten that morning; I had three lovely ladies tell me they were praying for my success. Several readers left supportive comments on the blog or Facebook and I can’t even begin to tell you how powerful that was. It was like God whispering, I’ll roll that stone away, trust me and I’ll sprinkle your path with people who will help you while you wait. I got an email Friday night from the dear lady in California who inspired me to do the Whole30 and she included her cell phone number in case I had questions. I’ve never met her but she wanted me to know she was eager to see me succeed. Saturday Dave and I took an impromptu trip to MSU to visit our son Kevin.
He picked his favorite burger place for lunch and I thought…great…but to my surprise right on the menu board in big letters were the words, ‘we’re happy to serve our famous burgers with no bun’. Really…thank you God. Sunday was a card party with a seemingly endless array of snacks and goodies…and one beautiful bowl of delicious fruit...that’s all I needed! As I
was standing a safe distance away from the food, a sweet friend who had read the post put her hand on my arm and shared some very encouraging words. Thanks again God! Monday was birthday treat day it seemed.
At the end of the day I plopped down at my desk and there sat three
baggies of treats…all with chocolate! That very instant in walked a sweet young mom with a basket of fresh fruit and vegetables…it looked like a rainbow in a basket! She said, “I read your post and I just wanted you to know I’m praying for you and wanted to give you some support.” She left, and I cried! It was the most thoughtful gift I could have ever imagined and it was delivered with absolutely perfect timing. It was His exclamation point at the end of the sentence. The sentence that said “Sheri, that should prove it, don’t you think!”
I have spent the last couple days wondering two big things.First, how did I get so lucky that He chose to shower me with such powerful grace? And second, if it feels this amazing to trust Him completely, why in the world didn’t I do it sooner? It’s hard to find the words to explain how incredible it feels to trust completely and hand over a big stone! All I can say is, “Ya really have to try this!”
A Seed To Plant: Take a look again at that list of stones you need God to roll away in your life and make a plan to dive in and give it completely over to Him…don’t wait…it’s too amazing to miss out on!
Blessings on your day!
Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. Matthew 13:7
When I was a little girl I hated wearing turtle neck shirts. I felt like I was going to choke with that fabric all the way up my neck. Many a battle was waged between my mom and me on cold winter mornings due to my turtle neck phobia. I thought of a few of those battles when I read this scripture from Matthew last week. I will admit that I still don’t care for turtle necks but this passage made me stop and think about the things that choke me more than high necked sweaters.
Jesus explained to his disciples after telling this parable that the seed sown is the word of God planted in our hearts and the thorns are the things in life that snuff out or diminish the work of God. It made me stop and think about the thorns in my life; what’s choking my faith and making it hard to receive and grow God’s word and presence I wondered. I started to make a list of all those thorns and I came up with television, immoral thinking, lack of values and work ethic and mass media right away. I tell ya what though, the more I thought about it, the more I realized I couldn’t just blame it on “the world”. Most of the thorns choking me were of my own doing. It’s easy to place the blame on other people or influences but it became obvious after a wee bit of thinking that I had plenty of thorns of my own that I needed to trim
Each time we gossip or tell even the tiniest lie the thorns start closing in. Each time we judge others based on their appearance, status or income, the thorns squeeze a little tighter. Each day we put our personal and social needs ahead of our prayer time, those thorns take away a little more life. Each time we fail to see others through the eyes of Christ, we stunt our spiritual growth. Complaining, criticizing and being disrespectful are also like prime fertilizer to those thorns that choke out Christ’s light in our life. They are the noxious weeds that ruin the beautiful life we were created to be.
We need to tend our seed. God put us here on earth to share His love and His light. If there is something that’s choking that seed and preventing us from doing what He put us here to do, it’s time to get out the tools and get to work on the thorns and weeds! I suppose it’s also important to remember that we need to take care of our own thorns and weeds instead of worrying about somebody else’s. When my life on earth is complete, and I stand to be judged by God, I really don’t think He will ask me about the thorns among my neighbor’s seed. I’m quite certain I’ll be accountable only for my own. When I think about the choking thorns I need to start hackin away, it makes turtle neck shirts almost seem comfortable!
A Seed To Plant: Identify the things that are thorns in your life and ask God, the Master Gardener, to help you figure out how to up-root them so His love can sprout and grow in your life.
Blessings on your day!
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