Every good and perfect gift is from God above. James 1:17
Unless you’ve been living under a rock you are undoubtedly aware that there is a lot of yuck filling the news. When all the craziness from candidates to policemen to natural disasters and disrespect for life gets lumped together it can bring out the worst in us. Everyone is entitled to their opinions but folks sometimes forget others might not share the same one yet they insist on loudly sharing those opinions with everyone and proclaiming their thoughts are correct, just, moral and supreme. The result is a muddy mess that leaves me scratching my head wondering; why don’t folks remember everybody’s life matters and how in tarnation did things get so scrambled up.
I surely don’t understand all the messes we hear about in the news but there are a few truths I know. First, God is bigger than ALL of it! Second, I can’t fix it; God would never ask or expect me to and third there are two very powerful things that we can do RIGHT NOW that will matter. These things will matter in my life, my family and with the people I am close to. I can’t fix it but I sure shootin can make it better…and so can you. The greatest part; these two things will tackle the feelings of frustration, dread, anxiety and the overwhelming desire we might have to throw something at the TV or computer screen when we watch the news.
There is a tiny back story to this idea and it came from the Holy Spirit because I would have never thought to do this myself. As I was sitting in prayer sad and frustrated about the current state of affairs of our nation I was prompted to go to something happy so I yanked an Advent book from my shelf. Advent is such a time of joy and happy anticipation so I opened up the book and started soaking in the words and felt excited and happy; it was crazy! After reading several pages two things became very clear and my heart filled with hope and faith. Complaining, dwelling, commiserating and joining in on face book rants about how this country is going to hell in a handbasket isn’t cutting it…that Advent book made that very clear! We have to take part in the plan of God; and make no mistake, even in this mess, he has one…and judging by the magnitude of the mess I’m confident it’s gonna be a GOOD one for those who are faithful!
So, the first of those two things; be GRATEFUL! Yup, you read that right, be GRATEFUL. Think about it, gratefulness should be our response to the grace, mercy and blessings of God and no matter what you just watched on the 6 o’clock news, God has blessed YOU! A grateful heart sees what’s good and appreciates it. People who are grateful are merciful and kind because gratefulness causes us to be connected to the one who gave us the things we’re grateful for. If we are connected to the giver of all good things, he gives more good things. That connection leads to eternal life…that’s what we need to remember to focus on, not this short-term life we’re in the middle of right now. This isn’t the good part…that’s comin and our salvation isn’t based on the behavior of the world; it’s based on our personal behavior. If we’re living gratefully we aren’t complaining, we aren’t worrying we’re busy praising and thanking the Father and that leads to great stuff!
The second of the two things; be LOVING! If we are grateful, we realize all good things flow from love not hate, jealousy, greed or pride. When we’re loving, the atmosphere changes completely and God barges right in and brings those cool gifts of the Spirit…you remember those…joy, peace, kindness, goodness and gentleness! No elected official or community leader is going to deliver those gifts if we cast our vote for them or hold up the right poster at a protest rally. Those gifts come from only one place and there is no spot for those gifts in our life unless we are loving. Too many of us are fumbling around in a fog of bitterness, anger, frustration with our hands thrown up in disbelief…that isn’t the proper disposition or frame of mind to be loving. We need a new disposition; let’s try gratitude and love and see what gets better; I’m guessing everything will!
A Seed To Plant: Write down this quote and pray with it for a while and see how your heart changes. “Gratitude flows from the recognition that all that is good is born of a divine gift of love freely given to us so that we may offer thanks and share it with others.” (Author unknown but they must be a really smart, holy person!)
Blessings on your day!
Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it. Proverbs 22:6
We could debate until we were out of breath about which professions and jobs are most important to the future of our world. There could be equally long debates about the wage and status for those jobs and professions. I have been reminded this month that the debate about status and money and importance doesn’t amount to a hill of beans because the true marker is passion and the peace in your soul that only comes from the satisfaction of knowing you are using your God given gifts to bring him glory in any way he asks. People who choose to work with kids of any age sure don’t do it for the money or the status yet they are some of the most richly blessed and revered people you’ll find. I’ve had a front row seat to amazing kids who have been led by the example of amazing adults.
Our little mid-Michigan community has brought home 3 State Titles this month. One in Competitive Cheer, one in Boys Basketball and one in Girls Basketball. In fact, in the last 10 years this little community has earned 11 State Titles and has advanced to Finals 25 times. Academic success and achievement in the Arts for our students is stellar as well. But how? It’s a school made up of around 400 kids who all live within the boundaries of a rural district. The towns are tiny, there is nothing flashy or fancy but there is something amazing that goes on around here. The success all boils down to a very powerful root.
As my newsfeed jammed full of pictures of the kids who were achieving great things this month I thought of the words of an old Whitney Houston song…I believe that children are our future; teach them well and let them lead the way. Show them all the beauty they possess inside. Give them a sense of pride, to make it easier; let the children's laughter remind us how we use to be. It sort of hit the spot! Our kids are great and they are loved and led by parents, teachers, coaches, principals, Priests and dozens of other community members who have great passion. All those people who invest their time, prayer, energy and love into this community see great fruit.
The priority however isn’t trophies or scores or medals, the priority is the rock solid FAITH of this community; that faith is the root! Faith and family are top priority and with those priorities come a strong work ethic, a balanced perspective and a strong sense of pride. When something is working, it’s evident. The biggest return on the investment is when the kids become the ones teaching the lessons. The grand finale of the month happened Saturday night when the girls team got back to town and asked Father Eric to say an unscheduled mass for the team. They had attended mass together regularly all season and it seemed the perfect ending. Saturday night, it was the girls teaching the lesson on priorities. The kids in this community steep everything in prayer. They pray with each other and for each other. They are often seen living out their faith on and off the playing field. Sometimes they are the ones who are inspiring the adults to grow in faith and discipleship.
When faith is your root, what sprouts and grows from there is a beauty to behold. When you set out on a mission to help young people grow in faith and live that faith through whatever gifts God gives, that makes a difference in the world.
A Seed To Plant: If you want to change the world, find a way to use your gifts to support kids. Volunteer, coach, teach, tutor and pray!
Blessings on your day!
Indeed, religion with contentment is a great gain. 1 Timothy 6:6
Have you ever gone out to eat with a person who has to look at every plate that comes out of the kitchen before they can decide what to order? That same person usually stares down each plate at the table, asking five questions about each order, and more often than not, that same person can be heard saying something like, “I wish I would have ordered that instead, I want what they have!” Let’s face it, if we’re being totally honest, we probably make a dozen comparisons each day. We compare tiny things like parking spots and lunch choices and we compare big things like cars, paychecks and homes. Did you ever stop and think about why we do this?
If we took a survey of 100 people and asked the question, “What word best describes you right now?” What percentage of people do you think might reply with the word “Content”? I would be willing to bet very few, if any, would spit out that answer! We are a restless people by nature. We spend a lot of time and energy comparing, evaluating and calculating everything. Is it greed, lust, materialism or is it possible that the restlessness is simply a yearning for God to fill a spot in our lives we may not even realize is vacant?
I love my life! I love everything about it, my husband, my children, my job, my family, my co-workers, my parish, my home…my life is absolutely more blessed than I ever imagined it could be! That being said, you would think I would be perfectly content. That would be correct most of the time, but every now and again that restless ache creeps in and makes me compare what I have with something God blessed someone else with. God has given me WAY more than enough and He certainly has given me WAY more than I deserve but sometimes I want Him to give ME that vacation to a beautiful beach resort or spiffy new fancy thing my neighbor has. He has generously given me gifts and blessings and I try to use them to further His kingdom but sometimes I really wish those gifts could land me a book deal or a speaker booking at a big-name conference where I could rub elbows with the “Big Names” and be a part of all the exciting “hoop-la” that goes with it.
99 days out of 100 I’m grateful and content but I was having that day when I was restless and feeling a little jealous. I needed to get out from under the burden of those feelings so I slipped in the side door of church during lunch and asked Him to take them away. As I sat in the silence, the word “why” just kept popping in my head. I thought and thought about it and kept wondering things like, “why…why did he get that and why did she get to go there and why…” I went through the whole list and then it hit me! The “why” meant something completely different…God was leading me to ask myself “WHY” do you want those things. If you really want to use the gifts I gave you to serve me, why do you care about those things? I sat a bit longer and thought about why I wanted all those things I thought He had forgotten to give me. I told Him I felt like I was being “skipped over”. Then the train hit me...I was wandering away from His truth. He doesn’t allow me to write this blog each week to be recognized, He gave me this gift to spread His love and help others recognize His presence. He didn’t give me my speaking gift to become recognized in a faraway fancy place, He gave it to me to speak to whoever He put in the chairs wherever He sends me. He didn't send me to a beach, he sent me to spread His love to a bunch of "tweenagers" every day. He didn’t forget to give me a fancy car or the income for a beautiful cottage; he gave me exactly what I needed to provide me with the perfect balance of humility and peace. Mostly, He made me realize He has blessed me with the perfect life for ME! I realized that what I need and what everyone else needs are as different as can be, but in the difference lies the perfection that only He can determine.
I left the church that afternoon knowing that the why really meant; why are you restless for things that aren’t yours. I left understanding the why, was the way He uncovered the restlessness in my soul that needed to rest in Him! I think I’ll swap “C” words…I’ll swap compare for celebrate. Each time I’m tempted to say, “I want what they have”, I’ll say instead, “God, thank you for taking such perfect care of them because You know perfectly what we need!” He works in ways both huge and tiny based on things we will never see or know…thank you Father for being in charge…You always get it right!
A Seed To Plant: Practice gratefulness this week and swap “C” words. Ask God each time you are tempted to make a comparison to settle your restless soul!
Blessings on your day!
For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord...Jeremiah 29:11
How many times do we hear the world tell us BE GREAT! Since the beginning of time, greatness has been important. I guess someone has to be in charge and have power but I'm not sure that makes them great. I'm not sure money, stuff or position are the best indicators of how great you are but it seems like we live in a world that uses those very things as the benchmark.
I found some perfect words to put this in perspective. I'm going to borrow these words from one of my favorite authors, Matthew Kelly. I hope he doesn't mind and I hope they touch your heart and serve as a reminder of the true definition of greatness.
"Do you want to be great? Born in a stable...served all men...was criticized for His attempts to live and proclaim the truth...and He suffered. He was the greatest. If you want to be great, be little."
A Seed To Plant: Ponder Mr. Kelly's words and see if you can find some ways to grow in greatness.
Blessings on your day!
… “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” Mathew 14:31
Saturday I had the privilege of participating in a Women’s conference and the theme was based on Matthew’s gospel about getting out of the boat. I love this story, it’s full of little lessons! One thing that always makes me giggle a little is how much I’m like the apostles that stayed in the boat. Poor Peter gets scolded by Jesus for being of “little faith”. Truth is, I’d be one of the 11 still sitting in the boat never having the guts to get out and even try walking on water in the first place! Sometimes my boat is rockin but I’m not brave enough to get out and be faithful!
I’ve been thinking about this reading a lot this week and I remembered the time all three of my children were parasailing in Gulf Shores. I watched them floating in the sky and my glance kept drifting back to that boat rocking back and forth in the ocean waves. My children had the courage to try something I would NEVER do; once again there I was like one of the “chicken” apostles still in the boat! I think sometimes I really need that boat to rock so hard it almost tips over before I muster up the courage to get out.
After some thinking and paying I made a short list of the places it’s hard to get out of the boat and trust. The top three for me are 1)My world my children will raise children in 2)The shrinking moral conscience of our culture and 3)The economy and leadership of our country. Boy can I ever be an apostle glued to the boat seat when I think about these things! I need to leap out of the boat like Peter and take some steps toward Jesus. There are many things that rock our boat and test our faith but the message is the same to us as it was to Peter; trust Me, keep your eyes on Me,have faith in Me and I will guide and protect and love you!
I can’t organize the future any more than I can sweep into the US Senate or House and pray with them and get things all straightened out. (talk about being tossed into a stormy sea…yikes!) I wish I could do great big things that would restore common values like modesty, honesty and respect for life but the truth is, I’m only in charge of my little corner of the world. So what’s a sea-sick scardey cat apostle to do…PRAY! TRUST! GET OUT OF THE BOAT SO JESUS CAN GRAB ON!
If I look back on my own life, the troubles and difficult times are the ones that caused me to learn the most. Having jobs that were hard, yucky and paid pennies were the ones that made me strong and grateful. Wrestling with tough decisions about my future gave me great opportunity to pray and trust God’s will for my life. Why would we want our kids to have an easy go of it and miss those important lessons and opportunities to grow in faith and character? I think I’ll get out of that boat and just ask God to bless them and remind them daily to ask Him for direction and then pray like crazy they listen and follow!
As for the boat rockin I feel when I think of state of affairs with our culture and our country, I had a thought. If your inbox or facebook newsfeed is full of jokes, slogans and stories about the woes of our world, what do you think would happen if instead of forwarding or sharing them, we would instead stop and pray? Judging by the number of those types of posts I see each day, that could be a LOT of prayin…I think the seas would calm and more folks would have the courage and the trust to get out of the boat and walk toward Jesus. I think we underestimate the power of prayer, especially with issues we think are beyond us. I sometimes forget to pray for our leaders. I don’t remember often enough to pray for people who have lost their way and make decisions that draw people away from God rather than toward Him. Shame on me…guess I better write that down so I remember! I don’t know about you, but I think I’m ready to get out of the boat and test the water!
A Seed To Plant: What’s rockin your boat? Make a list and then stop today and pray for the courage to walk toward Jesus and hand Him your concerns. While you’re prayin, stop and say a prayer for the President and all those in positions of leadership and power.
Blessings on our day!
He must become greater, I must become less. John 3:30
Crosses, daisies and faithful Disciples of Jesus! That pretty much sums up the past couple of months for me! In the last few months I have spoken to several hundred folks who were on the same mission…to grow in holiness. As usual, I show up with my computer to do what God has asked me to do, using the words the Holy Spirit gives me and think I’m giving something. In all truthfulness; I always walk away taking more than I gave!
The Lenten message I’ve shared a few times involves the image of crosses and daisies. I saw a meme on Ash Wednesday that said “pick up your cross and not a handful of daisies!” It made me laugh and it made me think. After I pondered it a bit I realized Lent is about recognizing the power of both the crosses and the daisies. The daisies are the beautiful, simple, Christlike things I can do dozens of times each day that help me think of others more and myself less. The daisies are tiny acts of service and compassion that truly do help us grow in holiness. If these things are offered to Jesus with love, they console his heart and they draw our attention to the service of others and not ourselves. If I smile instead of argue; if I offer my spot in line or hold open the door; if I walk away instead of gossiping; if I offer a helping hand to a struggling soul and I do all those things out of love for Jesus…those little daisies allow holiness to blossom. Anything done out of love for, and offered to Jesus, has results that are as pleasing to him as a beautiful daisy is to us.
The crosses are the tough stuff! It’s true that the daisies help us grow in holiness but life can’t be all daisies. The crosses are personal, they may be private and they may be heavy but Jesus is just waiting there beside us ready to help us with the heavy lifting. We have to reach down and pick them up before he will grab on and help with the struggle. Our free will doesn’t allow him to join in until we get started and ask for help. Sometimes I hover over my crosses. I would imagine I must look to Jesus like one of those professional weight lifters on TV. I rub my hands, make some noise, bend down, practice the motions but as I step up to grab the cross I put my hands on it but don’t always stand up with the weight in my hand; I just go through the warm-up again and never get to the heavy lifting. Lent is the perfect time to quit the warm up and get to the lifting. No more studying the crosses; no more dragging the crosses; it’s time for ready set LIFT and CARRY!
As you focus on your crosses and daisies this lent, stop to tell your story and stop to ask others about their story. God doesn’t mean for us to bear our crosses in silence. We are called to support and love each other along the way.
A Seed To Plant: Make a list of the crosses and daisies you will focus on this week.
Blessings on your day!
“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. I was intentional about this quote for a few days and I was pretty good at living this challenge when 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 apologizing, 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!
…and your Father who sees…Matthew 6:6
Happy (almost) Lent! Welcome to that time of year when we set out with all our hearts to grow in holiness. For me, it’s easy to look at the road to holiness and feel a little overwhelmed because I get so off track. It’s easy for me to look at lent as a time to “bear down” and try to do some really hard stuff. My intentions are good but these words from the Ash Wednesday Gospel hit my heart. Most years I set out to do some crazy long list of stuff in order to “make up” for all my shortcomings the rest of the year. Lent certainly has a penitential feel and purpose but it’s not a time to lock ourselves in a personal dungeon and be crabby and miserable for 6 weeks.
I think I wanted to do hard stuff so Jesus would see me and notice all the sacrifice and love and suffering. The Father sees…he sees ALL THE TIME and he sees us with such love and mercy. It makes me think of a chubby cheeked baby and how I just want to kiss their cheeks when I see one! I believe the Father looks at us that way every…singe…time! He’s always looking, he doesn’t miss a thing so that realization changed the way I think about lent. The point is not to get the Father’s attention; not to get him to look at me and the hard stuff I’m doing. The point is to get ME to look at HIM! What we “give up” this lent should be something we don’t pick back up! 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!
If you’ve ever taken children to the pool, you know how many times they can say “hey watch this” in thirty minutes. That was the way I did Lent; hey Jesus, look at me I’m not eating chocolate or hey Jesus did you see that I went to an extra daily mass today, wasn’t that good of me, doesn’t that count for extra? It was almost like a giant score card and lent was the bonus round! Now, I realize it’s about me watching him. It sure takes a lot of the pressure off! My biggest Lenten task is to do the things that help me fix my gaze on him. If I’m looking to him and I know he’s looking at me, that influences my choices and attitudes; that helps me grow in holiness.
Here are some things you might try this Lent. Make a commitment to read a book about our Catholic faith this lent. It could be a book about the Mass like A Biblical Walk Through The Mass by Edward Sri. It could be about discipleship like A Walk in Her Sandals by Kelly Wahlquist or The Biggest Lie In The History of Christianity by Matthew Kelly. Just pick up a book and draw closer. We are a people made for companionship so why not join your parish family and participate in Lenten Devotions like the Stations of the Cross, The Rosary or Divine Mercy Chaplet or make a commitment to attend an extra mass each week. In the true spirit of lent, invite someone to join you. Almsgiving is about more than money so why not take a look at the “things” that fill your home. Are there things you can offer to those in need? Consider giving up some of the clothes, shoes, toys and things that fill your home. The sacrifice of parting with some of your “extra” could be a great blessing to someone in great need. Consider offering your daily coffee or weekly pizza night money to a shelter or agency that serves those in need.
A Seed To Plant: Take some time to pray about your lenten journey. Ask the Father to show you the things you should “give up” and not “pick back up”; things that will help you look at Jesus the way he looks at you?
Blessings on your day!
Click on the items below to expand the options available to you to explore the Joyful Words blog.