He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. Isaiah 40:29
When my oldest son was in the fourth grade, I volunteered to help him and his friends make a piñata for their class Halloween party. The boys had a great time slapping on the newspaper strips drenched in the gooey flour paste. Each little narrow strip of newspaper was carefully slopped on the outside of a Mylar balloon until the boys thought they’d covered every visible speck of silver balloon. After getting the boys and the table cleaned up, I picked up the piñata to set it in the sun to dry. As I reached down to grab it, I nearly threw out my shoulder the thing was so stinkin’ heavy! Holy cow…how could something made out of such tiny strips of weightless newspaper collect into a creation weighing as much as a toddler? The best laugh of all came the following week at the party when it practically took a sledge hammer to break the thing.
I had the pleasure of taking a class yesterday about using Scripture with students of all ages. It was an excellent class and the instructor was so dynamic, passionate and enjoyable. One of the underlying themes of the class was that using Scripture and helping kids LOVE IT involves lots of little things. It’s not about unveiling the complexities and all the history, it’s about the little ways God uses His word to reach us, draw us in and shower us with His gifts. As I was driving home, I drove past a lawn decorated to the hilt with Halloween decorations and I remembered that silly jack-o-lantern piñata the boys made about ten years ago. That 30 pound piñata took on a whole new meaning as I began to realize that our journey toward heaven is a little like that piñata. The creation of that big, strong piñata, began with something that was tiny, weightless and quite frankly, of no value but yet, it became so much more!
We can get pretty caught up sometimes in the big stuff of life, like money, careers, politics, mortgages, position and on and on. It’s all legitimate and needs our attention for sure, but our journey to heaven is supremely about the little stuff. Jesus worked some breath taking miracles, He did some unbelievable healings and He orchestrated some amazing conversions but His message to His followers always focused on the little things we were to do if we want to follow Him. He took more than 600 Jewish laws and condensed them into TWO commandments for us to follow…talk about simplifying things! He used parables or stories of the common, to teach and reach souls for His Father. He even pulled some children onto His lap to show us exactly who we needed to imitate. Jesus was all about the little things!
Our lives should be like that piñata…a combination of little things, done lovingly for Christ in order to make us strong enough to withstand the blows of disappointment, difficulty and discouragement tossed in our path by the evil one. During the class yesterday I was touched right to my core when the instructor was talking about the Parable of the Prodigal Son. What we need to understand about that story is simpler than greed and jealousy and betrayal. It’s not a story of good son vs bad son. It’s about a little choice with enormous consequence. I was dawn to tears when the instructor spoke in a voice so peaceful and loving and taught that the oldest son was saying to his father, I want your “stuff” not a relationship…he was in effect saying, father, you are dead to me. In a voice, quivering with the anguish of the true meaning of the parable, the instructor reminded us that the father in the story is indeed our God and Father and many times we act just like the son demanding God’s stuff; His love, mercy and grace without wanting to work at a relationship with Him. What God demands of us is simple and small compared to what He blesses us with but yet we sometimes let days slip by without carving out that chunk of time to sit in quiet uninterrupted prayer designed to forge our relationship with Him.
What little things can you begin with? Can we begin with or add a few minutes of Scripture each day? Maybe it could be a little time helping a neighbor? How about a little time praying for that crabby co-worker instead of complaining about them? If there are a hundred steps between me and God, I know that if I take the first little step toward Him, He will take the rest toward me.
A seed to plant: Tear 5 narrow strips of newspaper. For each of the strips, plan a little thing you can do to grow closer to God. After you complete those tasks, glue the strips of newspaper together. Consider how much stronger those strips of newspaper are when glued together than they were independently.
Blessings on your day!
For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved. 1 Corinthians 10:33
There are a lot of things I wish I were; thin, tall, better at math and more focused in silent prayer. On the other hand there are a lot of things I’m glad I’m not; homeless, friendless, Godless and a mother Pelican. Yup, you read that right…I’m glad I’m not a mamma Pelican. Before you think I’ve lost my marbles let me tell you a story. The legend of the Pelican may be old news to many, a beautiful reminder to some and all new stuff to others. I’ve run across the legend of the Pelican three times very recently and three is a magic number for me. I always ask God to give me things three times if it’s really important so when the third reference to mamma Pelicans came to my attention the other day I knew right away what my next post was going to be about.
Mamma pelicans have a blood red tip to their beak and legend says it’s symbolic of a behavior. When a mother can’t find food for her young, she will thrust her beak into her breast and allow her young to be fed from her very being. Talk about the ultimate self-sacrifice. What strikes me as truly amazing is that this particular bird is not noted for its beauty or performance in any way. It doesn’t have a notable song or a sweetness that would make it a popular species. By many standards Pelicans would even be considered a nuisance without noble purpose. Does that story remind you of anyone?
Pelicans can be found in Church art because they symbolize the same kind of self-sacrificing love and blood shed demonstrated by Jesus Christ himself. The blood of the new covenant was shed to give each of us life; eternal life and life to the fullest. Like the Pelican, the gift comes from a surprise donor…not one of nobility and notoriety but one of humble, simple and underestimated greatness. How often we judge by appearance instead of by truly important standards.
During this Lenten season let’s give up judgment and comparison and try harder to see the things that simmer below the surface. Let’s also remember the magnitude of the gift given to us by Jesus on the cross.
A Seed To Plant: In your prayer time this week, find an image of a Pelican and a crucifix, pray with them pondering the great gift of self-sacrificing love they represent.
Blessings on your day!
…return to me with all your heart…Joel 2:12
I’m gonna start todays post with a couple words you don’t often hear together in a sentence…happy Lent! We tend to look at Lent through the lens of deprivation, restriction and sacrifice but I’m going to suggest today we flip that right over and take a new look. The middle lovelies and I were watching a little YouTube clip about Lent and a couple things reached out and grabbed us; I’d like to share those things as well as a few other little tidbits that just might help make your Lent a happy one!
*Deacon Ralph Poyo came to Westphalia for a visit last month and he said Lent is completely about Jesus and drawing close to him so if you want to “give something up” then make it something you don’t want to “pick back up” when Lent is over. We need to give up those things that take our focus off Him so if they are coming between us now, they will probably come between us later so why not ditch ‘em!
*Lent should always include more still quiet prayer but to that add some extended learning and share the good news of Jesus with three people a week in some way. It could be an act of service, a positive message or a simple; I prayed for you today. Don’t keep Jesus to yourself…share him.
*If you want to re-focus on Jesus, walk around for a day (or an hour) with a popcorn kernel in your shoe. Every time it pokes your foot say “Thank you Jesus for making me think of you; please bless_________.”
*Don’t complain, argue or whine for a week (or a day) (or an hour) pick the one that fits. Those three behaviors are the greatest form of selfishness. Give up having your own way, the last word and the attention.
*It’s more about giving up sin and temptations that lead us to sin than giving up chocolate!
*Think of Lent as the buildup…the anticipation…the warm-up for the greatest crescendo of our faith…The Resurrection. The more we prepare, practice and ready ourselves for the amazing event, the more exciting, rewarding and awesome Easter will be.
*How much time do you spend preparing for Christmas or a wedding or a graduation? There is planning, organizing, shopping, decorating and new stuff involved. Now…how do we prepare for Easter? It’s the holiest day of the year and sometimes all we do is buy plastic grass and dye eggs. Using Lent as a preparation time is more powerful if we give some serious thought to what we’re preparing for…celebrate it like it’s a big deal…because it is!!!
We can’t waste Lent…not one day of it. Everything you do should be for one purpose…to draw you closer to Jesus. He wants us to return to him with our whole heart so do everything this Lent out of love for the one who loves you more than you can imagine.
A Seed To Plant: Whatever you’re planning to do during this Lenten season, pick one new thing that has never been a part of your Lenten observances before. Check out some online resources; there are hundreds of ideas out there to help make your Lent wonderful.
Blessings on your day…and Happy Lent!
...he gave them to his disciples to set before the people. Mark 6: 41
I was flipping through the Gospels the other day and I landed on the story of the loaves and fishes. I’ve heard the story dozens of times so I asked God to give me a new perspective on an old story. He didn’t disappoint me…as always! As I sat and pondered the words I began to think about how much I enjoy baking bread. It makes me feel so productive and it brings a wonderful smell to the kitchen and great smiles to the faces of my family. Then I remembered a story. I went through a spell where my bread looked beautiful until about 5 minutes into the baking and then the tops would go flat. The taste was still great but the loaves looks so goofy it frustrated me. Then one day, for no reason I can understand, I pulled out three of the most beautifully shaped loaves that had come from my oven in a long time. Moments later Jason walked in and began to slice himself a piece of warm bread, the problem was, the bread was still too hot to slice and he flattened and mangled the loaf trying to cut a piece. My shoulders sunk when I saw it…all my beautiful hard work…mashed into a mess. It was my job to slice and deliver at the right time. Then I realized how happy he was to be enjoying one of his favorite things, hot homemade bread and melted butter. My thoughts changed and the messy loaf of bread didn’t matter anymore because I realized I had missed the point!
After Jesus had taken, blessed and broken the bread something curious happened. He wasn’t the one who gave to the people gathered there that day. He gave the bread to his apostles to share with the people. Jesus had performed an amazing miracle but when it was time to take credit for the task, he stepped aside and allowed someone else to distribute the blessing. Nobody in the crowd missed out on the eating, but I’m sure many didn’t truly understand the amazing mystery of the multiplication. The greatest part of the story is the love and compassion Jesus felt for the crowd. It was that very love that motivated this great act but he didn’t need to be recognized, the loving was enough.
I lost sight of the point of this Gospel the day Jason mushed my bread. I was more concerned with having my perfect bread noticed than allowing my efforts to demonstrate my love for my family. I forgot it was about the love and not the credit.
A Seed To Plant: In your prayer this week ask God to remind you that he can work miracles in your life simply because he loves you. Ask him to take all your fears, concerns and trials and love you through them. Ask him to remind you that no task is too big for the One who fed 5,000 with only five loaves and 2 fish.
Blessings on your day!
Q: Did Adam and Eve ever have a date? A: No, they had an apple.
Sorry, I just had to begin today’s post with some Valentine humor…and remember I teach elementary school and bad jokes are a job hazard so I thought I’d share a little “joke love” with you! I watched some video clips about love and Valentine’s Day. The experts they interviewed were a group of 4 and 5 year olds and I must admit I was enlightened. In honor of the upcoming holiday I thought I’d put you all in the mood for a little love with a giggle on the side. Here’s what I learned…
*Love feels sparkly when it’s real.
*Daddies make the best Valentines because they think you’re perfect.
*Babies make the best Valentine present but only the ones that come from heaven.
*If you want someone to be your Valentine you have to share your most special thing with them.
*Kissing doesn’t have anything to do with Valentine’s Day it’s only about being happy.
*Sometimes your mom will make you give a Valentine to everybody even if you don’t want to because it’s good for you to practice love. I don’t get it but she tells me I will understand someday.
*You should never get married until you are at least 21 years and 345 days old; that’s important.
*Love means everything that’s good like Jesus, puppies and chocolate.
*When I get big I will want high heels, fur coats and lots of chocolate for Valentine’s Day but now I just want a cookie and everybody being nice to me.
*I don’t want squishy hugs and kisses; I want people just to play fun games with me and laugh with me.
There you have it! The perfect Valentine’s Day tutorial delivered right to your computer! As I listened to the kids I was struck by the simplicity of it all and the truth of it all. As I look over the list it almost seems like a to-do list from Jesus. It’s just what he’s shown us; His “daddy” is the best Valentine we could ever have, show kindness, show love to all; even when we don’t want to and simple blessings like laughter, compassion and happiness are powerful. We make it so tough sometimes don’t we! I also have a new word to describe that feeling I get when I have truly recognized God working in my life; sparkly real love! I’m hoping to enjoy that sparkly real love feeling as I ask God’s blessing on you and those you love this Valentine’s Day.
A Seed To Plant: Take a tip from the kids list and share God’s love with someone this Valentine’s day. If you are interested in giving someone high heels, fur coats, chocolate OR COFFEE…please let me know I think I can help find just the right person.
Blessings on your day and Happy Valentine’s Day!
For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. Galatians 3:27
Earlier this week I made a quick trip to Kansas to present a teacher in-service. As I was sitting in the airport in Chicago, I was enjoying some people watching. One guy walked past in a T-shirt that read, A blood donor saved my life. After he passed by, my mind began to wonder if he had been in an accident or if maybe he had been afflicted with an illness. Lost in thought, the T-shirt made me grateful for the generosity of people, especially those who donate blood so others like this man might be alive and healthy. A few minutes later, I saw the same guy walking in the opposite directions and I caught a glimpse of the back of his T-shirt and it displayed the words from Matthew 26:28, for this is my blood of the new covenant, which will be shed on behalf of many for the forgiveness of sins. I thought that was an amazing T-shirt!
Once again, my thoughts drifted to gratefulness…but this time for the ultimate blood donor, Jesus. I was thinking how cool it was that he wore that T-shirt in the most public place I could imagine. I suddenly got the urge to tell him how cool I thought his T- shirt was and I heard my mom’s voice in my ear saying “If you’ve got something nice to say to someone, you’d better spit it out cause folks need to hear good stuff.” I decided to find him and tell him…but then I realized that by the time I packed up my laptop, grabbed my suitcase and headed out of the boarding area, I would literally have to run through the terminal to find him and the vision of a chubby woman with a cup of coffee trotting through the airport tugging along a floral print suitcase behind her might be more than the good folks gathered at O’Hare airport were ready for on a Sunday morning! So, I stayed put, said a quick prayer for the guy in the cool T-shirt and went about my business.
A few minutes later I was reminded that God has an excellent sense of humor because the empty seat beside me was soon occupied by none other than the guy with the great T-shirt! It was all I could do not to laugh out loud! I told him I loved his shirt and that led to an amazing conversation that inspired and uplifted me! The gentleman told me that he knew he’d be spending the whole day in airports so he chose an outfit with a message. As he tugged on the T-shirt that morning he thought if one person noticed the message then he’d made a good choice for Jesus. (I’m not sure that has ever been the criteria on which I based my outfit choice…but it just might be someday.) As we sat in conversation, I was impressed by this man’s faith, his trust and his optimism. Both he and his wife had recently lost their jobs thanks to our current economy and in addition to raising their 15 yr. old son; they had recently and unexpectedly become guardians of their 11 month old grandson. He spoke about the way he felt God working in his life and about his expectant hope in God’s good plan for him and his family. He had every right to be frustrated, angry, anxious and cranky but instead he chose to put on a great T-shirt and God’s peace instead. He truly lived these words from Galatians and “put on the clothing of Christ”. He dressed himself in Christ both spiritually and physically! The situation started with a comment about a T-shirt, and ended up being a lesson in God’s love and grace. Who knew???
A seed to plant: This one is a double challenge! First, one day this week, purposefully wear or display something that will specifically draw attention to Jesus. Maybe it’s a T-shirt with a great message, religious jewelry or a sign in the rear window of your car. Second, take my mom’s advice and each time you think of something good to say…be sure you spit it out…let someone hear you say something good!
Blessings on your day!
"Come now, let us reason together," says the LORD. "Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow…” Isaiah 1:18
I had papers to grade and projects to finish but as I sat at my desk looking out my classroom window at the big snow hill, all I could do was watch kids and laugh. If a child came home and said they didn’t do anything fun at school I can guarantee that child was not on our playground snow hill today! I watched the big kids and the little kids. I watched them play together and I watched them play separately and I learned and laughed a lot! That snowy wonderland outside my window made me think about how much discipleship is like playing in the snow; here’s what I think…
*King of the hill: It’s gotta be God! Even the most skilled competitor can lose their footing and tumble to the bottom of the heap. Only God can stay on top round after round because when we try to be King we slip, slide tumble and loose our way after a round or two.
*Jump in with two feet plumb to your knees: being a disciple is worth the wade into the deep. The kids who went all in, laughed the loudest, had the most fun and lived each minute of their snowy recess to the fullest. They came in messy, wet, tired and completely used up because they packed in the most fun, had the fewest reservations and played like they meant it! That’s how I want to arrive in heaven don’t you?
*Don’t be afraid to leave your mark: don’t be afraid to let the world know what you stand for and that you and Jesus have been there. After sliding down the hill the kids would run to the wall and get a snowball and write or draw on the brick wall. By the end of recess there was hardly any natural brick color visible on the outside of the building. As I pulled away after school I could see the evidence of the way the kids had played; they had left their mark. What kind of mark do I leave?
*There is power in the exit: Inspired by Penguins the game became a fabulous contest of who can exit the snow hill best. There were jumps and flops, belly slides, flip to your britches and slide, knees first and any other creative way to get to the bottom of the hill you can imagine. The best part was the way they cheered each other on like they had each won Olympic Gold for the creative way they got their nylon covered bodies to the bottom of the hill. The big kids just cheered because they are too cool to wear snow pants to school and they couldn’t compete with the slippery little guys. As I sat watching and sometimes even clapping from inside my classroom I was reminded of a simple thought I heard years ago; “When you exit a room, do the people who were there know you love Jesus?” There is power in the exit my friends!
*Get comfortable being uncomfortable: I saw snow in hats, in mittens, in faces, ears and boots. I saw kids who wanted to cry when they landed face first in the snow but they were having too much fun to bother with tears. It was cold and wet socks and soggy mittens aren’t comfortable but sometimes being uncomfortable is worth it! Life is full of trade-offs and being a disciple is not for sissies and standing up for the Man who gave his very life for us is sometimes uncomfortable…but OH SO WORTH IT!
*K.I.S.S.: Keep it simple silly! Today was a beautiful lesson in the joy of simple things. We shouldn’t make being a disciple rocket science…just shut up and follow!
*Sometimes you just gotta eat some snow: Go ahead…dive in and live a little. Follow Jesus, raise your hands when you pray, dance to some praise music, close your eyes and lift up your arms like a toddler wanting to be picked up by their Father…worship like nobody’s watchin. Some of the kids ate a big scoop of snow every time they got to the bottom of the hill and munched on a snowball all the way back up to the top. Others had just a tiny nibble off the end of a mitten and still others face first into a drift for a big gobble of cold, fluffy snowflakes…no hesitation, no reservation, no concern for anyone who might be watching. I want to be the kind of disciple that goes face first into the drift to take in as much Jesus as I possibly can, how about you?
The papers still aren’t graded and the to do list isn’t any shorter but I learned a lot and laughed a lot and when the bell rang at the end of recess, I had some great fuel in my disciple tank!
A Seed To Plant: Which lesson speaks to your heart? Pick one and live it this week.
Blessings on your day!
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. Proverb 3:5
I recently had the privilege of writing a review/study for a chapter in a fabulous book called My Sisters the Saints: A Spiritual Memoir, by Colleen Carroll Campbell. I was assigned Chapter 3 in the book called Trust Fall. The assignment for CatholicMom.com caused me to do a lot of thinking about trust in my own life so I thought I’d share my reflections with all of you too.
Our God is a God we can trust. We can trust his love, his mercy, his forgiveness, his wisdom and his impeccable sense of timing and detail! Our God is a God of generosity, compassion and beautiful surprises all lavished splendidly on his faithful children. I think God does his best work when we aren’t expecting it! I suppose he likes to catch us by surprise sometimes just to demonstrate he really can handle things perfectly without our planning or assistance. I was reminded of that fact so many times throughout this book and I’m hopeful that the truth of it all might wash over me and actually stick!
In my early twenties there was a three year stretch of time when we buried my brother, my mother, my grandmother a 20 year old cousin and an uncle. I truly did have some days when I questioned the mercy and wisdom of God during those three years. I knew he had a plan and I knew he would reveal it to me if I remained faithful but there were struggles. Out of the blue one day I got a phone call from an old boss encouraging me to apply for a job with the State Department of Education in Michigan. I was a small town Kansas girl and had no desire to leave my family and my home. There was too much healing that needed to be done. I couldn’t go anywhere because I thought my family needed me too much and after wading through three years of grief it was my job to put everybody back together. Fueled completely by a desire to end the conversation I agreed to fax my resume that afternoon and I was certain that as soon as I hit the “send” button this whole ordeal would be forgotten. I remember a brief conversation with God as I tapped that green button in which I simply said, “Ok God, this is yours, but may I remind you I love Kansas and I don’t even know where Michigan is nor do I particularly care! I trust you Father.” Two hours later I was on the phone scheduling an interview and buying a plane ticket for that interview which would take place five days later. After the interview I hopped back on a plane and by the time my plane landed in Kansas City that evening they were calling to offer me the job. I wanted to scream NO, but I kept hearing the words I had spoken just a few days earlier, I trust you God; now it was time to prove it. Two weeks later I remember kissing my dad goodbye and telling him I’d be home in a year or two. Little did I know my move and my trust would lead to an amazing husband, a fabulous family, twelve years home raising babies and in Gods perfect timing a finished Master’s degree and a job as a Catholic Elementary School teacher, speaker and writer living in Michigan. Those things were NEVER on my to-do list and I continue to be overwhelmed daily by the graces and blessings that have flowed from trusting him with that one decision. I had no idea life could ever be this incredible...but GOD did!
As we unpack the stories of truly trusting him, a fundamental truth is right there ready to jump up and punch us in the nose. The words are simple and steeped in the mercy of Jesus…God can do anything he wants! The question is; will we let him.
A Seed To Plant: My Sisters The Saints is a terrific book! You can check out the book study going on over at CatholicMom.com and join others as they reflect and discuss the book. We are bound together when we share our struggles and our successes this story is full of both!
Blessings on your day!
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