“Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier. Be the living expression of God's kindness: kindness in your face, kindness in your eyes, kindness in your smile.” Blessed Mother Teresa
Now there is a Lenten challenge! There is just some advice that needs to be followed and this power-packed tidbit from Mother Theresa begs to be heeded. I shared this quote during prayer with the middle lovelies last week and they all agreed it would make the world a whole lot better but then one very honest young man said, “But man Mrs. Wohlfert, that’s just so hard to do.” I told him I agreed completely!
This quote has been heavy on my mind for several days and I’ve discovered it’s much easier to live these words when you’re in control of the situation and interactions are pleasant. When I really thought about it hard I was pretty good at living this challenge; I would slow down, look people in the eyes when they spoke and be still until they were finished with the conversation. It seemed a bit awkward at first but after a few days it became more second nature. I was feeling pretty good about it until that situation I hadn’t planned for; you know the ones that catch you by surprise and tilt you off your balance. I had one of those situations this weekend and I totally blew it…I was frazzled and almost instantly I reacted and it wasn’t a reaction that matched the quote! I wasn’t the Wicked Witch of the West or anything but as I replayed the event I realized my reaction was based on selfishness and pride. A few hours later I was still really heavy hearted about the whole thing so I stopped to pray about it. (I don’t know why I always wait so long to do that!) After just a few seconds of quiet prayer it was very clear that I needed to apologize. I needed to call myself out on the selfishness and pride. I needed to admit that I was thinking of myself first and others second and I had to admit that I hadn’t left anyone better or happier with my snappy reaction. The more I tried to talk myself out of it, the more I realized I needed to do it and do it soon. After a giant gulp of pride with a huge serving of humble pie on the side, I made the apology and shared the story of my failure to live out this quote. The apology was graciously accepted and thankfully my reaction was a much bigger deal in my mind than in actuality!
The funny thing about the whole situation…I was the one who left feeling happier and better. Crazy, I thought that was the gift I was going to give; not the one I was going to get. God is good and lesson learned…for today anyway! Thank goodness God expects progress not perfection!
A Seed To Plant: Make it your goal this week to live this verse. Think about the people it will be easiest and hardest to live it with and then ask God to bless your attempts.
Blessings on your day!
At the time, all discipline seems a cause not for joy but of pain, yet later it brings the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who are trained by it. Hebrews 12:11
So…what’s your plan? Hopefully you’ve been pondering last Thursdays questions and you are beginning to pray about the ways God is leading you to grow in holiness this lent. I asked God to lead me to something I really needed to focus on. I didn’t want lent to be a repeat of New Years resolutions. I didn’t want it to be about a dozen little things that made me feel good but didn’t leave me with a lasting change of heart and I certainly didn’t want a repeat of my 7th grade eat only lettuce, tuna and oranges disaster! About two weeks ago, I asked him to lead me boldly. I gave him permission to lead me to something new and I promised to “COME” with him (my word this year) into the desert he chose for me; for us.
Knowing how much the Father loves us and wants to draw us closer and closer, I counted on his love and kindness as he led me to a new lent. What he’s been leading me to the past many days is sometime that has caused me to think, pray and do a lot of surrender and perhaps even a little bargaining. The final days of his lenten calling were the boldest but in his infinite love and compassion, he saved the hardest parts of the invitation for the days I spent in Florida in the sunshine, listening to and watching the ocean. I was staying in a fabulous oceanfront home surrounded by family and laughter and fun and so much beauty. The setting was amazing; the lenten message was not so lovely and simple. At least he gave it to me in small pieces surrounded by his blessings while I had time to really think and pray about what he was asking.
I boldly asked to be led to something I’d never done during lent before. I asked for balance. I asked for him to be abundantly clear and I asked for something that would truly change my desires and holiness. For the next 14 days, one of my morning prayer book contained a story about “Saints who Suffered.” Throughout the last two weeks I’ve stumbled across dozens of readings, posts, stories and examples of suffering and sacrifice. I seem to find them at every turn and I know he’s behind each and every one. I know those are the two things he’s asking this lent and he’s also being crystal clear about the areas the suffering and sacrifice should find root. I keep going back to those questions I posed last Thursday and I’m amazed and grateful and a little nervous about the things he’s helped me learn.
I know what he’s asking me to do, he will give me the grace to accomplish. I know that what he’s asking me to do he will give me the strength to follow through with. I know what he’s asking me to do will absolutely draw me closer and lead me not only to the foot of his cross but to the glory of his rising. The most amazing thing about all of this journey toward lent…even though sacrifice and suffering are the path he’s leading me to, I feel so much joy and anticipation about the weeks ahead. I’m getting excited about what he’s leading me to even though I’m painfully aware that it’s gonna be hard. He hasn’t always asked me to do “hard”, but this year he is and he’s also asking me to be very honest and transparent about this journey. I promised him I’d write about it, but not yet! I want all of you to spend a couple more days praying and pondering with him about how you will journey this lent. After I stopped trying to talk him out of the hard stuff for this lent and surrendered to his plan I opened a prayer book and read these words; Loving Father, make me a student of the cross. Teach me to rejoice in suffering. There it was, a giant exclamation point to his request so, step one…get ready for class…I plan to be a great student this lent.
A Seed To Plant: Pray with your whole heart to know the desires of the Father for your lenten journey. Remember, it’s about your holiness and your relationship with him. Ask him to make it clear and make it personal.
Blessings on your day!
So humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, so that he may exalt you in due time. 1Peter 5:6
It’s almost time my friends…lent is less than a week away so it’s time to start thinking about growing in holiness! Today I offer a few questions for all of us to think on and pray with in these next few days.
*What are the habits and behaviors I seem to “go back to” even though I try to avoid or change them.
*In times of stress or frustration, what do I turn to for consolation? Is it prayer or something else?
*If Jesus took human form and spent the day with me, what would he notice or encourage me to do differently?
*When I hear the word “Sacrifice” what comes to mind?
*On a scale of 1 to 10 how comfortable is my life and how important is comfort and convenience to me?
Lent isn’t meant to be a time of torture but giving up beach swimming for lent in Michigan isn’t really going to develop much holiness. As with all things, balance is key. Lent is a time for God to exalt you. The sacrifices we make are supposed to help us grow closer to God and that isn’t always easy work. The work of holiness can be really hard and it requires change and that often means being uncomfortable and inconvenienced, so as we ponder these questions let’s pray that the Father will help us discover the ways he’s inviting us to humble ourselves before him and be touched by the power of his mighty hand.
A Seed To Plant: Take these questions to prayer and jot down what he puts on your heart so we can take a look at them on Monday and form a lenten plan.
Blessings on your day!
Before man are life and death…whichever he chooses shall be given him. Sirach 15:
I have a plant in my living room that I love. The leaves are wide and deep green. I have absolutely no idea what kind of plant it is; all I know is it’s pretty and easy to take care of and it sends a clear signal when it needs my attention. When I forget to water it, the leaves and stems bend clear down and lay flat on the table but once I water it, it perks straight back up and looks beautiful within an hour. As we were listening to this reading from Sirach in mass this morning, all I could think about was that plant.
The water on that plant in my living room creates life and beauty and I can see it happening right before my very eyes. As I listened to these words and thought of my plant I realized that my choices affect my soul just like water affects that plant. Sometimes I accidentally neglect the plant but a wee bit of time and attention brings it right back to life and restores it’s beauty. I think that’s what God’s mercy does for our weary, soggy, limp souls. The water is the fruit of our prayer and his amazing grace. As I sat thinking about it, there are so many choices I make that deprive my soul of the life, beauty and brilliant joy just like my neglectful watering habits affect my pretty plant.
I began to wonder what choices I make that lead to the serious wilting of my relationship with the Father. My first smug thought was, I don’t make any decisions that are death, I’m much more of a chose life person! As he always does when I think I’m all that and a holy bag of chips, he humbles me and what came next was a rapid fire list of behaviors, attitudes and actions that lead slowly to destruction. He reminded me that each time I look at someone in judgement, thinking of myself as happier, more prayerful or more put together, my soul wilts. I realized that every time I choose to participate in a conversation that isn’t kind or charitable, my soul wilts. Every time I run to the comfort of food instead of running to the comfort of his love, I wilt a little. Every time I watch or read or listen to something that opposes his truth or purity or goodness I wilt a little. Each time I snap back at someone or make snap decisions about how someone drives or dresses or behaves, my soul wilts a little. All of these situations may seem pretty innocent or human or even acceptable in themselves but in reality the little things add up to become big and the choice is ours to make. I’ve been lucky that every time I’ve seen my plant drooping I’ve been able to water it and bring it back but one of these times I might neglect it too long and it won’t perk back up. Thank goodness God’s mercy is more reliable than my plant care skills! It’s never too late to turn back to him but as the Priest mentioned in his homily, there are always consequences!
With life there is abundant joy and mercy and grace. With death there is sadness, stress, destruction and separation. Each of those little decisions I make that are not life giving come with a consequence that is uncomfortable and undesirable. I’m sure I’ve blamed God for not listening or helping me out of a rough patch but as I think about it, those are probably times when I’m stuck in the yuck of consequences that are a direct result of those little soul wilting choices. When it all boils down to the bottom of the pot, the truth is, we have free will and the choices are truly all ours to make. That means that the consequences are also truly ours as well; we chose them. I decided that was a pretty tough truth! This reading is about more than heaven and hell, it’s about today and tomorrow and the hundreds of todays and tomorrows that lead us into eternity. I think today is the day to start thinking more about the life and death of my choices. I’m thankful for a great message from Scripture and the beautiful visual aid that sits in my living room.
A Seed To Plant: Ask the Father to help you think about your choices pick out the ones that are reaping life and the ones that are wilting your soul.
Blessings on your day!
Neither he nor his parents sinned; it is so that the works of God might be made visible through him. John 9:3
We like explanations don’t we. Our world surrounds us with technology, information and knowledge designed to explain and justify everything…until we hit one of those rough patches that we simply can’t make sense of. We aren’t so good at meaning the words, “that’s just the way it is”. We demand proof! We are a society of highly intelligent humans after all, there should be a way to describe, defend and understand everything. If there isn’t, then somebody must have lied or done something wrong because all things should make sense! If things don’t make sense, or if we don’t like the explanation we’ve been given, we set out looking for a spot to lay the blame. I’ve discovered the more out of balance our society’s moral compass becomes; the harder it is to “accept” things we can’t explain. God’s work included.
After reading this story from John’s Gospel , I guess the game of prove or blame isn’t new. The disciples were busy trying to figure out why the blind man was afflicted. They wanted to lay blame or find fault in order to understand the situation but in a simple yet completely profound way Jesus explained the man’s situation. His affliction was not to punish or to penalize…his situation was meant to magnify the amazing power of God. I’ve read this story a dozen times before, and I always thought of that man who lived on the streets in darkness with pity and sadness. This time I saw him with different eyes. My feelings for this Gospel character turned from pity to something more like envy. God chose the blind man in such a pitiful state to show His glory…what a lucky turn of events for him! This Gospel reminded me of a conversation I had recently with a woman who just bubbles over with God’s love. She was speaking so tenderly about her brother who had recently lost his battle with cancer. She shared her admiration and inspiration as she told his story. The part of the conversation that sunk deep into my heart was his reaction to the doctor’s proclamation of his condition…difficult news to say the least! Upon hearing the news he told his sister how lucky he felt that God wanted him home in heaven at such an early age. As tears stung in my eyes, it was easy to see why he was such an inspiration to her. There was no blame, no need for explanation…it was simply a case of “accepting” a situation as the work of the Father.
The trouble with trying to explain and understand everything is that we can only do it through the lens of human knowledge. God is the one with the wisdom and understanding to see how things are woven together from beginning to end. We are only capable of seeing what’s right in front of us while God sees so much more. He knows the purpose for each situation…He knows what each event will prepare us for…He knows what will follow each disappointment and sadness… He knows the mighty and glorious ending to all of our stories. If we are willing to accept the “happy ending” we so desperately look for, then we need to remember that His job is to prepare us for it. Sickness, death, disappointment and afflictions aren’t meant to punish, they are meant to strengthen and renew and allow Him to show His mighty and powerful love for His children. In our weakness He shows His strength. That is the only explanation or understanding we ever need…simple as that! The glory of His works on the other side of our struggle is more amazing than we can even begin to imagine. I believe this with all my heart because that’s how much He loves us. So the next time you’re in the middle of “yuck”,remind yourself that God is the only justification, understanding and explanation you need. Remind yourself that the glory He will show through your strife will be every bit as magnificent as the way the blind man felt the moment he washed the mud from his eyes and could see for the first time. Remember that God’s ways are not our ways...His are best and they don’t require explanation or understanding, just our trust!
A Seed To Plant: Read John 9:1-41 and make a list of situations you need to stop trying to understand, justify and explain and simply ask God to make you aware of the ways He’s working in them.
Blessings on your day!
A glad heart lights up the face…Proverbs 15:13
I was reading a little piece about Saint Emily de Rodat last week and it mentioned a quote she spoke to a young postulant. I felt like the words sort of jumped off the page and landed right in my heart. She told the young nun, “Keep your enthusiasm. Be brave. Put all your trust in God. And always maintain a holy cheerfulness.” These were powerful words for someone who lives in the grayest winter state in the the entire United States. Sometimes it can be a little tough to maintain a cheerful attitude as the sun is so stingy with it’s rays so St. Emily’s words were perfect.
I often think about being cheerful but I don’t think I’d ever heard the term holy cheerfulness. When you think about it, it does make sense because holiness means growing closer to God so of course that would make you cheerful! The part I really like about the phrase is that if cheerfulness is a way to become holy, then God has a big part in it and maintaining a cheerful disposition is something he’s probably waiting to help with. If you could use a little holy cheerfulness to light up your face here are some things to try.
*Start your day with prayer…invite him to help you see the pockets of positive, cheerful, funny and joyful moments in your day.
*Step away from social media if it leads you to anxiety, jealousy or comparison. Those are the things that steal our joy and squish your cheerful light.
*Feel the feelings and find the root. Sometimes people and things make us mad or disappointed or frustrated; that’s human. It’s the reaction to those emotions we need to consider. Being cheerful and positive doesn’t mean you scold yourself for getting mad because anger is a bad thing, it means we think, pray and ponder asking God to show us the root of the emotion. After a bit of thinking, it’s a powerful thing to ask God to show you the next step. If I’m mad or frustrated I will ask God to put that person in my path if I’m supposed to chat about it. If they don’t cross my path I know I’m supposed to prayerfully hand him the situation.
*Pray for people. Judgement can cloud our cheerfulness, disappointment in other people can cloud our cheerfulness and unfulfilled expectations can cloud our cheerfulness. When any of these things happen it can be such a powerful, positive lift in attitude to stop for a second and pray for that person or situation. Don’t ask God to change them or it, ask him to change you…to bring joy to your heart. It feels so freeing and uplifting to desire another persons holiness.
*Throw your hissy fit on paper. Looking back through old prayer journals I can tell my mood without even reading the words. When I come across something I wrote in upper case letters with a dozen exclamation points I know I was emptying my heart. The end of every rant should contain a prayer of surrender, perspective and the promise to leave it there. The Father knows how you feel but spitting it out only to him can save you from making a situation worse by speaking the wrong words at the wrong time. Frustration tossed at the foot of the cross instead of on the ears of others always comes with a better ending. Spit it out and shut the book so you don’t have the burden on dragging it through your whole day.
*Give some cheer away even if you don’t feel like you have much in your heart. The act of being generous and kind can bring more cheerful grace than you can imagine. Sprinkling cheer into someone else situation will bounce back to yours. Write a little note, buy someone a coffee, or send someone a text or email about something positive you noticed about them. Lifting up another is a fabulous way to get a little lift yourself.
Let’s face it, being grumpy isn’t a magnet for anything good. I keep remembering the words of Dan Meers from a blog a couple weeks back, we can rise and shine or rise and whine. To add to that I guess if we want holy cheerfulness we need to be shiny instead of whiney.
A Seed To Plant: Pick one of the cheerful boosting suggestions and put it into practice this week.
Blessings on your day!
As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. Joshua 24:15
I’m not a saver and I’m not a collector but I still seem to have more stuff than I really need. I’ve got kids keepsake stuff, school stuff, kitchen stuff and a little bit of “just in case I need it” stuff. We will be building a house soon and as I think about packing and moving I wonder how much stuff I can do without. The thought of packing up a few decades of stuff is a little overwhelming. The thought of picking out all the stuff for the new house can be a little overwhelming too. I decided to divide the house up into small sections and go through every drawer, closet and space bit by bit. As I was mapping out my plan, I came across this little story and it really put things in perspective and made the tasks ahead seem much less overwhelming.
A tourist from America paid a visit to a renowned Polish rabbi, Hofetz Chaim. The tourist was astonished to see that the rabbi’s house was only a simple room filled with books plus a table and a bench. “Rabbi,” asked the tourist, “where is all your furniture?” “Where is yours?” replied the rabbi. “Mine?” asked the puzzled American. “But I am only a visitor here, I’m only passing through.” “So am I.” said the rabbi.
Every now and then I need a little zap in the thought process like this story to help me get things in proper perspective. I’m pretty sure I shouldn’t be sacrificing prayer time to decide if if want to go with sage or cypress green in the laundry room and I don’t suppose anyone will notice if I have new end tables and lamps or if I repurpose the same ones I’ve had for years. The big thought that just keeps running through my mind is gratitude. The past week I have prayed for balance and peace in this whole process and along came the perfect little story at the perfect time…He’s so fancy and I’m so grateful for his love and attention to my prayer.
A Seed To Plant: Read the story again and pray about the ways God might be speaking to you through this little story.
Blessings on your day!
Be still and know that I am God. Psalm 46:11
Does anybody remember the old View Master toy? It was so cool; you just slipped in a circular disc with pictures, looked through the viewing lens and pulled the handle to go from picture to picture. That was some fancy entertainment back in the day! I remember looking through them and pulling the handle as fast as I could to see the pictures go at high speed…it was kind of like watching something in fast forward mode. As I sit here typing, I feel a little like that is what my life has become…pulling the handle so fast everything looks like fast forward. It can be pretty entertaining but I can’t say I always enjoy it.
I don’t think God intended life to be that way however. He has been sending me that message loud and clear the past few days and it hits me right in morning prayer. The harder it is to settle myself in prayer, the more I know I need to slow down and evaluate my “stuff”. I took a few minutes today to do just that and I came across this meditation. It was left by a lovely reader as a comment to one of the posts here at joyful words. I think I’ll share it, because it just seems to fit.
Be still and know that I am God.
Be still and know that I am.
Be still and know.
This week in my prayer chair I will take it line by line and ask God to help me soak it all in and feel Him slow down the speed of the handle on my life’s View Master. In fact, I’ll try to see my life through His lens. I’m betting it will be in slower motion!
A Seed To Plant: Take a week and pray this meditation on Psalm 46:11 with me…let’s see what He shows us about the speed of life.
Blessings on your day!
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