…return to me with all your heart…Joel 2:12
We’re only a couple days away from a great chance to grow in holiness. In my younger years I sort of looked at lent with dread. I would think about the deprivation and sacrifice and the certain disappointment as I faced my lack of discipline in keeping my lenten plans. I remember one year in junior high I decided I really wanted to show Jesus how much I loved him so I was determined to eat nothing but lettuce, tuna and oranges from Ash Wednesday until Easter Sunday. I think I lasted until the first Monday of lent before I blew it. I still remember how disappointed I was in myself. I truly felt I had let Jesus down.
I often look back to that lent as the perfect “what not to do” story. Jesus already experienced the crucifixion…he doesn’t expect us to do it too. He doesn’t want to be honored by our ridiculous plans for intense self deprivation. I think the goal of lent is to grow in holiness not loose 20 pounds and run 14 miles a day. Sometimes I think we approach lent with a vengeance to make up for the New Year resolutions we blew by the end of January. Lent is not that! I think it’s about picking a few meaningful things that will pull us away from the world and lead us closer to him. It’s not just about one thing, it’s really about three things.
Think of a camera tripod, it has three legs and if one of them breaks, the whole thing falls out of balance and becomes ineffective. Lent is like that tripod; it has three parts, each with an important role in balance. The first leg is prayer, the second is almsgiving and the third is fasting. When we focus only on fasting from certain food (usually the thing we like the most) and thats where we direct all of our energy we miss out on the joys and blessings of the other two legs. We can fast from lots of things like screen time, complaining, gossip, shopping or wasting time; it’s not all about chocolate and fries. Eating fewer calories won’t necessarily help us grow in holiness. If you have an unhealthy addiction to ice cream or Fritos and your intention is to honor the body God gave you by treating it with health and greater respect thats great but the whole junior high lettuce, tuna orange thing was about me; not about growing in holiness so it’s no wonder my tripod tipped over that lent!
Make sure as you approach lent this year you give serious thought to the plans you’re making for prayer and giving. It will be great to go through closets and give away some of the things we don’t need as much as someone else might but what if I gave away stuff and time? What if after I dropped off that bag of clothes to charity I stopped to visit someone who is sick or lonely; maybe even a stop at a nursing home just to visit or pray with someone? There are dozens of great books about wonderful spiritual things I’d like to order but I think I’ll donate the money I would have spent on a new book to read during lent to a charity and read one of the ones I already have but haven’t opened yet. I know myself…if I don’t make the plan and put it on paper so I can pray over it for a few days I’ll wind up doing something silly that isn’t sustainable and won’t really help me grow in holiness. I think it’s really more about small and consistent than huge and short term. With everything on my lenten list, I have to ask myself; will this pull me away from the world and lead me closer to Jesus.
I spent Saturday with a fabulous group of women who gave up their entire Saturday to grow in faith. They laughed easy and prayed hard and they were a delight to be with. I ended the day by attending Mass with many of them and their priest, Fr. Dwight gave a wonderful homily. The one line he used that I just loved was this; Lent is like Gods great recycling bin! I think we can all use a little holiness spruce up and lent is the perfect time for that.
A Seed To Plant: Sit down and sketch out your lent plans in writing and pray with them a couple days and ask Jesus if they will help you grow closer to him. Don’t forget to make a plan that includes all three legs of the tripod…prayer, fasting and giving.
Blessings on your day.
But let your “Yes” mean “Yes” and your “No” mean “No”…James 5:12
Wow did this one smack be upside the head! I think I would be shamefully astounded if I counted the times I approached things looking for the “easier” way to do them. More than a few times I’ve re-routed plans and projects searching for increased benefit and decreased personal discomfort! The biggest problem with that is what I usually get in return is minimal satisfaction! I also shudder when I think of the things in my life that lack true commitment and consistent effort.
I remember when Jason was an infant. He loved sleeping if it was light outside but not so much during the middle of the night. Kevin was 18 months old and I remember some of those days and nights felt so long. In my exasperation and exhaustion one day I was pouring out my heart and frustration to a wise friend and she said, “You’re looking at this all wrong; your goal is to get him to sleep so you can sleep too but your mission should be to relax, rock, pray and enjoy your precious son.” I thought she was nuts at first but I was desperate enough to try it her way and she was right. It was hard to remember that I had said “Yes” to motherhood and all that came with it. I was feeling deprived and uncomfortable…it was all about what I was missing and giving up and not what I had been given. The next many nights were different. I rocked and held him with a peace I hadn’t had before and said “Yes” to all the parts of motherhood and believed with all my heart that God would give me the strength and patience to chase my 18 month old the next day even if I didn’t get much sleep. That’s exactly what He did! It didn’t take long before Jason got his sleeping straightened out and I never admitted it out loud but I kind of missed that quiet time in the middle of the night with a new baby.
God calls us so many times a day and He leads us so tenderly but so much of it we miss. I’m so busy trying to make things easy on myself I often lack the consistency to follow through on the things I say “Yes” to in my faith life. I am also painfully aware of the times I vow to say “No” to screen time or procrastination only to let it dribble into my hours leaving little or no time for reading, prayer or study. I think St. James was speaking directly to me. I suppose if I spent more time honoring my yes’s and my no’s instead of trying to negotiate an easier path God would have some abundant blessings for me and I would be filled with great satisfaction. I can be a stubborn woman though!
When I finally stopped fussing about my fussing baby and just enjoyed being in the moment God honored my “yes”. He gave me joy, peace and energy because I was more concerned with the minutes I gained with my baby and less worried about the minutes of sleep I lost. As Lent approaches, I plan to make a list of “Yes” and “No” and I will spend this prayerful season consistently honoring both…I’ll be sure to keep you posted!
A Seed To Plant: Make a list of “Yes” and “No” things that you can offer God the Father. Ask Him to show you where you need to say yes and where He’d like you to say no.
Blessings on your day!
The community of believers was of one heart and mind, and no one claimed that any of his possessions was his own. Acts 4:32
Last week was a week of sweet lessons and love. I showed the Young Disciple group at school a flyer about a group called the Homeless Angels who were seeking school uniforms for the homeless children they helped. The Young Disciples decided to organize an out of dress code day on Valentines day to help the Homeless Angels. Each student who wanted to participate was asked to bring in a piece of uniform clothing or a financial donation. Two days later, we delivered more than a dozen boxes of clothes and over $500. I was overwhelmed by the generosity and love! There have been several instances in the last year when this little school I’m so lucky to teach at has stepped up and burst forth with amazing generosity. They have contributed hundreds of diapers to Shared Pregnancy; tables full of toys and food to the needy and more than four thousand dollars to former students taking mission trips. When I read about the way the new church shared and took care of one another in the book of Acts, I can’t help but make a connection to our little town.
A few weeks ago, our word of the week was opposite. We talked about mercy being the opposite of hate and peace being the opposite of anger. They made lots of great connections that week and recognized some habits that we need to swap with an opposite behavior. That lesson came to mind when I was searching YouTube for class videos. I came across the clip from Finding Nemo where the seagulls are all yelling “Mine, Mine, Mine, Mine” and I had to laugh at what an opposite it was to the week we’d had at school. I suppose it can be easier than we’d like to admit to get sucked into thinking about ourselves first. We live in kind of a crazy world and it doesn’t take much to slip into self-preservation mode. I’ve had some beautiful reminders lately about why that’s such a bad idea.
Friday and Saturday I had the privilege of visiting the Diocese of Saginaw and meeting some truly beautiful people! They reminded me that some of the most powerful things we need in our life are simple and certainly not meant to be kept to ourselves. I marveled at the way they laughed so easily and genuinely connected with each other over simple conversation. I saw tears mixed with laughter and hugs mixed with stories and true hearing mixed with the listening. It was such a gift to my spirit to see such genuine faithfulness. There was no “mine, mine, mine, mine” it was us…children of God…us!
This verse from the Acts of the Apostles was shown to me in two very different ways this week. I saw it’s literal, material meaning and I saw it’s spirit meaning. I watched people give generously of their stuff and generously of themselves. Both were so powerful. I think that’s exactly how it’s supposed to be. I can share my stuff and comfort you from the outside but when that’s followed with some giving from the inside; our patience and compassion, big things happen. I saw a quote recently the said, “Be the change you want to see.” The world changes when people have basic needs but it changes SUBSTANTIALLY when people are loved and valued. Lets work on that!
A Seed To Plant: Make a list of ten things you will share this week. Be sure your list includes both material things and things from the heart like a conversation or extra patience or a cup of coffee with someone who just needs to be heard.
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. 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. 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!
…then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine. Proverbs 3:10
It was one of those mornings! The kind where the minutes evaporate and the tasks multiply! I was rushing and trying to do some things two handed in the kitchen. I was pouring coffee with my right hand and rinsing dishes in the sink with my left. I guess I was focusing too hard on my left hand and didn’t notice my coffee pouring right hand was working overtime. Before I realized what had happened I literally had a “hot mess” on my hands which led to some mopping and re-brewing that weren’t in the morning plan. It seems that even when the coffee mug reached it’s maximum capacity, I kept pouring…and pouring…and pouring. The hot deliciousness from my coffee pot silently cascaded over the rim of the mug all over the counter and down the cabinet onto the kitchen floor. Just a word of warning; don’t try to wipe up freshly brewed hot coffee with paper towel until it’s had a wee bit of time to cool off. I’m not sure I remember what had me so distracted that morning but I sure can tell you what happened after the mess was cleaned up.
After brewing more coffee, I took my mug to the prayer chair and just took a few peaceful breaths before I cracked open one of my daily prayer books. I opened to the days page and I was astounded at the story that greeted me. Two things before I share the story; yes, I nearly spit out my sip of fresh delicious coffee as I started to read and yes, I realize you just can’t make this stuff up! Here’s what I read. There was a university professor who went searching for the meaning of life. After several years and several miles, he came to the hut of a particularly holy hermit and asked to be enlightened. The holy man invited the visitor into his humble dwelling and began to serve him tea. He filled the professor’s cup and then kept on pouring so that the tea was soon dripping onto the floor. The professor watched until he could no longer restrain himself. “Stop! It’s full. No more will go in.” “Like this cup”, said the hermit, “you are full of your own opinions, preconceptions, and ideas. How can I teach you unless you first empty your cup?” Thank you Fr. Wharton for peeking into my day and smacking me upside the head!
I’ve spent the last several days pondering what ’s in my cup. I’ve come to the conclusion that my cup is full of good stuff but it’s stuff I put there. I’m really good at filling my cup with things I think God would like but I have to pray and ponder a bit to make sure they really are the things he wants in my cup. I guess the only way to be sure is to dump out the cup and start over. I have to figure out how to empty myself and let him do the filling. It doesn’t really matter how I want to serve him, what matters is that I serve him the way he wants me too. I have never heard the “voice” of God; you know like a Morgan Freeman kind of voice but I sure know he’s sending a message and last week he sent it with the delicious smell of coffee. I know one thing for certain; God went to great lengths to get my attention so I think I’ll give this more thought and prayer and let you know what I come up with.
A Seed To Plant: What’s filling your cup? Is there room for Him?
Blessings on your day!
And from that time Jesus began to tell the people…Matthew 4:17
Can you think of something you loved to do as a child that you enjoy just as much today? One of the things on my list is listening to stories from my dad’s childhood. Even if I’ve heard some of the stories again and again, I just love to listen to him. I really love it on the rare occasion when I get to sit down with my aunts and uncles and listen to them all chime in and laugh and add details the other might have forgotten. Sometimes I feel like I’m being catapulted right into the middle of the story myself. I can remember the names of people and places that were never a part of my life because their stories have been handed down with such detail and emotion. I wasn’t alive when WWII ended but I’ve heard my dad tell about that day when he was a little boy and Grandpa closed up the store so they could load up the car and drive around with a picnic lunch celebrating. I’ve never lived in the day of prohibition but I know stories about young men and their fast cars that carried bootleg whiskey across state lines. I’ve never known a life without indoor plumbing or electricity but the stories make me realize I’m blessed by my abundance but lacking in the simplicity and peacefulness of that time. Not all of the stories are fun, some are hard to tell and hard to hear but they are all a part of the story of my family and God’s fingerprint is so clear throughout. I’m always sad when the conversation ends. I just want to know every part of the story.
Jesus had a magnificent story, a story of heaven. He didn’t talk about it like a distant mystical place; He talked about it like it was home. His stories were rich with detail and hope. He had a way of drawing people in and they would sit at his feet and listen as long as he spoke. I can’t imagine what it would have been like to sit there and listen, to be inspired and amazed and encouraged.
A young person recently made me realize how important it is to share the stories of our life and our family and our faith. I came away from my conversation with her realizing we need to share the most important part of our story…the part that lets people know what God is doing in our lives. Some think faith is a private thing; a personal thing. What if Jesus had thought that very same thing? What if he’d kept the news of his Father private and personal and never shared the details and the emotion with his followers? What would have happened if the Apostles had kept the story of Jesus to themselves?
When you sit down to tell your stories, past and present…tell them the whole story. Tell them how God has been a part of your history, your life, your success and struggle? We can’t assume our others know about our Faith…we have to tell the story for the same reason Jesus did, to inspire, encourage and amaze.
A Seed To Plant: Make a list this week of the ten greatest ways God has been a part of your history. Share at least three of those before the month ends.
Blessings on your day!
The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever. 1 John 2:17
Have you ever wanted something so much it occupied your thoughts completely? Sometimes we want things so badly we pray for it and we think about it and we ask others to pray for it too. It’s almost as if the desire overcomes our thoughts and emotions. I’m sure I’m not the only person to say that “something” I desired didn’t materialize at all. God is so smart; he often denies those desires because he has something so much better in store for us but when we’re stuck in the middle of the wanting, that concept can be pretty tough to swallow. I suppose we desire all kinds of things, romance, money, health, jobs, a bigger house, a baby, a better car or peace in our family. Whatever the desire, God is hearing and putting a plan in motion. For everyone stuck in the desiring process, I came across this little story told by Fr. Paul Wharton that illustrates exactly what we need to desire first.
A young man sought out the counsel of a wise and holy hermit. He asked the holy man to tell him how to find God. “How great is your desire to know Him?”, asked the saintly old man. “More than anything else in the world,” came the young mans reply. The hermit took the young man to the lake shore and they waded into the water until they were neck deep. The hermit then took the young man and pushed him under the water. The young man struggled terribly but the old man did not release his grip until the young man was about to drown. When they returned to the shore the hermit asked the young man, “Son, when you were under water, what did you want more than anything else?” The young man replied “Air!” “Well then, you will find God when your desire for him is as great as your desire for air was while I was holding you under the water.” spoke the old wise man.
As I’m busy praying for the things I desire, and praying for the things other people desire I realize I’m falling short. I’m falling short because I don’t quite have my desires in order. I need God; I worship, praise and thank God all throughout my day but it’s my desire for him that falls short. After reading that tiny little story, I realize that if I’m being completely honest, I don’t desire him as much as the young man desired air. I suppose if I worked on that desire with fervent prayer and dedication, the rest of the desires on my list would probably fall right into place because I would want only Him and in wanting Him, I want less for myself. I would imagine there would be an enormous feeling of contentment if I got my desires in order. The story caused me to think a lot about what it means to desire Him more than air. Maybe this little story is just what you needed today too. So, let’s take a deep breath and organize our desires.
A Seed To Plant: Read the story again and then make a list of your desires. Put the words God/Air at the top and spend the week praying about it all.
Blessings on your day!
And aspire to live a tranquil life, to mind your own affairs and to work with your hands… 1 Thessalonians 4:11
There is a great story about a frazzled business woman who hustled through her last morning of a business trip, skipping lunch in order to catch an afternoon flight home. As she rushed through the airport she realized she hadn’t eaten all day so she quickly grabbed her favorite snack, a king size Kit-Kat bar as raced toward her gate. She plopped down into her seat on the plane just in time for take-off. In complete exhaustion, she dropped her bag, buckled her seat belt and closed her eyes to relax a minute. As she sat there quietly trying to gather herself, she heard the sound of a candy wrapper. She peeked out of one eye and saw the man next to her eating…you guessed it…a king size Kit-Kat bar! She was too livid to even speak so she sat with her eyes closed absolutely fuming for the rest of the flight. She pondered the rude, bold, inconsiderate behavior of the man sitting beside her the entire flight until she nearly shook with anger. When they landed, she grabbed her bag and huffed off the plane without even looking at the guy. She proceeded to the baggage claim area where she once again met up with this candy bar stealing man, her anger and disgust boiling up all over again. As she stomped past him indignantly she noticed he had just purchased a huge delicious looking muffin. She put all her emotions into full swing and reached out, proceeded to take a giant bite out of the top of the muffin and then return the bitten muffin back into the man’s hand. He stood in stunned silence as she marched past him to the parking lot feeling completely satisfied at the way she had settled the score! As she tossed her bags into her car, her bag tipped over spilling its contents all over the back seat and much to her astonishment, right before her very eyes she saw…yup…you guessed it…a king size Kit-Kat candy bar!
This lady was anything but tranquil and she was so busy jumping to conclusions and making judgments about the character of the guy next to her she couldn’t see past her own anger. If we were to put Paul’s words to the Thessalonians into modern day language, it might sound something like; slow down, mind your own business and get to work! I suppose it doesn’t matter if the message was to the first Christians or to Christians in the year 2017, it’s still good stuff! Good advice doesn’t get any more bottom line than that!
When we get frazzled and overloaded like the lady in the story, we don’t see things clearly. We tend to let our attention drift to issues that really aren’t our business. It’s hard to keep our focus on the Father when we’re so discombobulated! So what’s the answer to making sure we follow St. Paul’s advice? Be peaceful, worry about yourself and do the work God has given you the gifts and talents to do. I know when I get overwhelmed, I have to stop and ask myself if I’m filling my to-do list with MY tasks or HIS? It’s not our job to worry about the work of others and seek justice if we think things aren’t fair. Like the lady in the story, sometimes we seek justice and we may not know all there is to know. The antidote to crazy, frazzled, peace stealing stress is in the first few words of the passage “live a tranquil life”. There’s only one way to do that and it’s to rest…rest in Him. When we rest in Him, that peace will allow us to do what He has planned for us, not what He has planned for someone else. So before you take a bite out of somebody else’s muffin ask God to slow you down and be tranquil!
A seed to plant: Make your to-do list and pray over it before you attempt to check anything off. At the bottom of the list write the words, Lord, don’t let me bite anybody’s muffin today!
Blessings on your day!
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