Trust in the Lord with all your heart, on your own intelligence rely not.
At St. Mary’s school, the first of each month means a project. All twelve big hallway bulletin boards are prepared with a focus on one central faith based theme which changes each time we flip the calendar. You might find it funny to know that when I was a freshman at Emporia State University, I specifically remember choosing to teach High School because I didn’t want to mess with all those bulletin boards you find in an elementary classroom! Now I teach 1st grade and have 8 bulletin boards inside my room and the giant one in the hall…God is hilarious isn’t He! Last February our theme was God’s Love…not too tough right…well I had this great idea that I thought the kids would get in a snap! I was feeling pretty smart about the whole thing until I explained it to the kids and I got nothin’ but that “deer in the headlights” look from every single one of them! I’ve been teaching long enough to know when the ship is sinking and I need to bail before I drown...I was there! In a flash I said, “Ok God, I wasn’t so smart here…send me something quick that will honor You and teach all who see this project about Your love, show me what to do, send Your Holy Spirit quickly with a good idea!” Bing…just like that the idea came. I looked at the kids and said, “You know what kids, the Holy Spirit just sent me a great idea, let’s try it again.” I explained the new idea and the little boy in the back corner smiled and said,”Mrs. Wohlfert, next time why don’t you just ask God first instead of wasting time trying to think things up on your own.” Brilliant boy!
My mission with these bulletin boards is always to reveal something new and amazing about God to my students, they are truly a teaching tool and I take these projects seriously because they are a priceless opportunity.
With that in mind, we got started. I explained how I would draw a giant heart for the center of the board which would contain the words “I see God’s love…” Each child would get their picture taken holding that giant heart and then in a small heart, they would have to write the words that completed the idea. After I had carefully explained the instructions, I asked if anyone knew how they were going to finish the sentence. I was prepared to help them stretch their ideas and invite them to dig deeper. I was quite sure I’d have to assist them in their thinking. Once again God must have been just laughing at me because the first child I called on blew me out of the water with his answer! I should have seen it coming because he was an amazing little boy whose faith was so enormous that sometimes it would swallow me up! He raised his hand and said, “Mrs. Wohlfert, this is the easiest question you’ve asked us all year, I see God’s love…(pause and grin from him)…when I see Jesus on the cross. I couldn’t stop the tears that rolled down my cheeks! But wait…it gets better…the little girl next to him put her arm around his shoulder and said, “That’s the best answer ever in the world!”
As I sat and listened to my class one by one announce their thoughts I was astounded! Each answer revealed another great nugget of God’s grace and love. As I dismissed them to their seats to begin, I sat in my chair a minute and wondered….ok…so who’s the teacher here…who is the smart one? It all became clear, that two second prayer of trust, even if it was offered as a plea out of desperation, gave me the truth spoken in this verse from Proverbs. I look back on that day and realize that if God can be trusted to help with little bitty things like a first grade bulletin board, He is certainly equipped to tackle the big things like finances, relationships and whatever else we think we're smart enough to handle on our own!
A seed to plant: At some point before this long holiday weekend is over, find one situation you struggle with and stop in your tracks and say the words “Father I trust you, Father I love you, please send your Holy Spirit and take charge of this.” Put Proverbs 3:5 in action!
Blessings on your day!
For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save what was lost. Luke 19:10
When I was in college, I had my life all mapped out! I was very careful to organize each and every detail. I had everything written out in a notebook including how many children I wanted, what color my house would be and what kind of job I would have. According to my plan, I was to be married by 23 and be finished having babies by 30. I even had their names picked out, of course with alternates in case my future husband didn’t like my first choice. It was fool proof ... my happily ever after was all right there written in the notebook! I was so organized…what could possibly go wrong. Before I knew it I was 25 and absolutely nothing written in my notebook was happening, in fact, there were quite a few things that had happened that I would have never considered putting in the notebook…things like the death of my brother, and losing my Mom to cancer…those were not in my plan! I was melting inside and I remember feeling a little lost!
During this “lost season”, I went to visit my Grandma. A visit with Grandma Thelma always made things better! As we were sitting on her porch swing and she was trying once again to teach me how to crochet, tears started to fall down my cheeks into the yarn on my lap and Grandma gently took the things from my hands, knowing completely well that the tears were not due to my miserable attempt at crocheting. A couple questions later, there I sat blubbering like a baby spilling the whole tale of the stupid notebook and all my foolish plans. I distinctly remember telling her in the middle of my hissy fit that according to my plan, I was supposed to be half way done having babies by now but instead I was sitting on the front porch with her on a Friday night. I also told her that in the meantime I was quite sure all my eggs were rotting! I told her I’d been so careful in my planning, I just didn’t understand what had gone so terribly wrong!
When I had finished, Grandma sweetly said, “I know the problem!" She always did, but her explanation wasn’t what I expected. She didn’t mess around with her words…she cut right to the heart of the problem. She said, “You need to throw that darn notebook of yours in the trash.” I looked at her in shock and she went on to say, “The problem with your notebook is that it’s your plan and that’s never going to work.” She went on to lovingly remind me that everything happens for a reason, both the good and the bad, it’s all part of God’s plan whether we like it or not. She told me to ask God to write the plan for me, she also assured me that He was a better planner than me and that I would indeed have a few good eggs left when I needed them! Thank you Grandma!
That visit on the porch was like Jesus rounding up a lost lamb! I had gotten so tangled up in trying to take care of myself I had forgotten that really was Gods job. I still keep a notebook, but it’s a prayer journal. I still write my lists and organize my plans in the notebook, but the big difference between the first notebook and the ones I write in now…these are the plans I ask God to bless if they are according to His will and strike down if they are not. I often remind Him I’m pretty thick-headed so please be very clear with the directions because I don’t have Grandma to clear it up for me anymore.
How could we possibly think that a God who loved us so much He would send His only Son to save us wouldn’t know better the plans for our life!
Let Him take over your plans…you won’t be disappointed!
A seed to plant: Grab a piece of paper right now, and write down your plans for the week…then ask God to bless the list…invite Him to take charge of the list… and then stand back and see what He does with your week!
Blessings on your day!
…as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. Joshua 24:15
Earlier this summer my good friends from Kansas came for a visit and they brought a beautiful plaque for my mantle with this verse from Joshua on it. I love this verse! Last night as I was peeling through the living room like my hair was on fire, the plaque caught my eye and stopped me in my tracks. Ya see, I was zooming around trying to get supper ready, paperwork for meet the coaches night finished, laundry off the line, the kitchen floor swept and a dozen other odds and ends tied up before we had to leave the house. In all my rushing and cramming…I don’t think I was doing so hot in the “servin the Lord” department. Truth be told, I was muttering under my breath and spittin and sputterin about the amount of dirty socks my family could produce, the proper identification of the petrified food on the inside of the microwave and about how much less sweeping I would have to do if we could just blacktop the lawn! It was probably not a scene endoursed by the Heavenly Father!
In this passage from Joshua, he made a strong declaration about who his people would serve. That statement should be the same one we are willing to make today, but let me tell ya…there’s more to it than plopping a plaque on your mantle. Being a house that serves the Lord is easy when things are calm, everyone is cooperating and things are going according to schedule. Ok, stop laughing…that COULD happen! God tests us with challenges and trials every day, He wants to see how much we’ll talk to Him, trust Him and ask for His guidance. I think we could all agree that the tests and challenges we face are far easier to deal with than wandering in the desert, facing a seven year famine or being plagued by frogs and gnats. If some of God’s early children could survive those hardships and make a declaration about who they would serve, surely my house can do a little better job serving as we fumble through car pools, barn chores, ball games and a small mountain of laundry!
When I crawled into bed last night feeling like a big ‘ole heap of wilted lettuce, I thought about my house and what our “serving the Lord” looked like. I came to the conclusion that it wasn’t just about what happened inside our house, but it also included what we took with us when we walked out the
front door. Phew, I was comforted by that thought because I don’t often mutter to people other than my own husband and children about tracking in mud and barn straw or leaving cabinet doors open. The bottom line is, we teach each other how to serve the Lord by the example we set in our own home. Each new day gives us a chance to ask God to help us become better servants. Our constant effort toward this end does two great things. First, it tightens up our relationship with Him and second, it sets an example for those we share our home with. The best way I can think of to create a society that serves the Lord is to start with some houses that do!
I got a picture this week from a college freshman showing her beautifully decorated dorm room. The caption read “My new home”. On the wall I saw a crucifix hanging and I was impressed that in her “new house” she was already preparing to serve the Lord. I smiled and thought of her parents and realized they were definitely a family that lived this verse. I was inspired!
A seed to plant: Find a plaque or make a card with this verse from Joshua to share with three people. Together we can remind each other of this important commitment and flood the neighborhoods with houses that “serve the Lord”.
Blessings on your day!
If we acknowledge our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from every wrongdoing. 1 John 1:9
Last week my oldest son helped me power wash the front porch...a job the kids don’t usually line up and beg to help with! The combination of dust from our gravel road and lots of flies attracted by the cattle make it a necessary but undesirable task. As I was swirling my scrub brush along the siding and porch rail I figured I should pray for people who were knee-deep in things a whole lot worse than fly specks and road dust! Not long into the scrubbin' and prayin' I started thinking about how small dust and fly specks really are when you isolate just one. The problem is when they glob together…that’s when true scrubbing is required! Our porch is pretty good sized, so I had lots of time to think about how something that started out so tiny could cause such a big mess.
About a third of the way through the project, I looked down at my fingers that were getting shriveled from the scrub water and that’s when it hit me…the mess on my porch was kinda like sin. I realized through this humbling episode of porch scrubbing that I’m nothing but a big ‘ole sinner! Each little sin like impatience or judgmental thinking that plagues my days is like a speck on my porch…one at a time they may not seem like much, but when several glob together, I wind up with a mess that requires scrubbing! We only scrub our front porch once a year, not because it isn’t needed more often, but because it’s the minimum requirement…something we do only when we simply can’t stand it any longer. I began to wonder if there was any correlation between the frequency with which I scrubbed my porch and how often I sought a good “soul scrubbing” from my Heavenly Father.
I sweep the porch often, and I began to realize that was much like my nightly examination of conscience. I quickly ask God for forgiveness before I fall asleep but that’s like a quick sweep…it’s not a true scrubbing. I came to the conclusion that sunny afternoon last week that I needed to make some adjustments in my “soul scrubbing” schedule. We are so lucky to be the children of such a loving and mighty God. He knows keeping us from sin completely is as impossible as keeping the dust and fly specks off my porch, but that’s what keeps us running to His loving arms as we beg forgiveness for the mess that all our tiny little sins make when they glob together. His forgiveness is there for us. All He asks is that we come to Him with a spirit of repentance and a desire to change. If I approach Him with a TRUE repentant heart and work harder at avoiding those small sins maybe He wouldn’t have to scrub so hard when I got there!
My ambition was to have a clean porch; the outcome was a reminder of God’s great love and my ever-growing need for Him. Our God is the God of surprises and the God of the ordinary. I am continually amazed at the ways He sends me His messages when I approach things with prayer…He can even turn scrubbin' the porch into a lesson!
A seed to plant: Sit down with a pencil and a piece of paper. Make a list of all the tiny little sins that plague your day and "glob up" to make a mess on your soul. Lift that list up to the Father with a repentant heart asking for His loving forgiveness. Don’t forget to ask for His guidance on how to “keep your porch clean.”
Blessings on your 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 direction 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 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!
His mother said to the servers, “Do whatever He tells you.” John 2:5
Would everyone who ever had a mother look into their eyes and say, “Just do it…because I said so!”, please stand up. If you are a reader who follows directions, you’re probably now reading this post standing up! Somewhere early in mamma school the women in my mother’s generation learned how to say that phrase with such authority and strength it was simply a conversation stopper! When my mom launched that phrase from her lips it was a done deal…mamma said do it…case closed! Lucky for me, my mother passed on the talent. As I fast forward lots of years I have said those same words to my own children at the end of a debate I had to come out the winner of. It’s like the motherhood trump card…do it because I said so!
Why is it so powerful…why does it work…why do we say it? I think the
first thing that makes it so powerful is that it’s biblical…if Mary, the mother of Jesus could use the line successfully all mother (and fathers) should be encouraged to use it too! I think it works because it’s simple and I think we
say it because we love our children and we know what’s best for them. Mary’s words had a deeper meaning; they were an invitation to the servers to be a part of something amazing that was about to happen. Mamma Mary knew great things were about to begin with her son…she knew best that night so she spoke those powerful words and the servants at that wedding did what they were instructed because Jesus’ mother “said so!”
These words from John’s Gospel have a strong tie to our lives even today. We are the servers…we are those called to be Christ’s hands and feet on earth. We are called to live and spread the Gospel message so Mary’s words are as relevant to us today as they were to the servers in Cana the night Jesus performed his first miracle. Our mothers told us to “do what they said” because they knew there was more to the situation than we could see. Mary knew that too. Mary knows that still. Whenever we hear the words in this Gospel message, we should be reminded to “do whatever He tells us”. That really is our job…to do whatever He tells us. He has every last detail about our life sealed in His heart why wouldn’t we listen and obey? We are a stubborn people. Lucky for us, we are reminded by Mary's words in this verse to do whatever Jesus tells us, and even luckier for us, because of God’s great love and wisdom, we are invited back again and again to try to do it the right way…the way He tells us.
A seed to plant: Before you go to bed tonight, recall a situation where you didn’t “do whatever He said”. Think about the outcome of that situation and prayerfully sleep on it. Tomorrow morning pick one tricky or difficult area in your life and specifically ask God to help “do whatever He tells you”.
Blessings on your day!
Let your speech always be gracious…Colossians 4:6
Jeremy was a young boy who was best friends with trouble. He spent more time in the principal’s office than in the classroom. One day when he was in the 8th grade, he had once again won himself an all-expense paid vacation to the principal’s office. This particular day, the principal and the vice principal were both absent so the secretary sent him across the street to see the High School principal. He took a seat in the unfamiliar office realizing this new territory made him a little nervous. When the secretary told him the principal was ready to see him, he walked heavy footed and heavy hearted toward the gentleman seated behind the desk. He prepared himself for the judging glare and harsh commentary he had become accustomed to. What happened next however shocked him right down to his socks and changed his life. The principal rose to his feet, smiled broadly and then shook the boy’s hand with the same friendly warm handshake he would have extended to a celebrity visitor. He looked the boy in the eye and said, “Welcome to our school Jeremy, I’m happy to meet you. I understand you will be a student in this building next fall and before we talk about what brought you here today, I’d like to talk to you about what gifts and talents you’ll share with us when you’re a freshman.” One conversation was all it took to change a young man’s direction.
I wish I could say my speech is always gracious…I wish I could say my speech is always as positive and optimistic as that principals…shoot,truth be told, my tongue can be snappy and sassy at times; especially with the people I love most. There isn’t a day that goes by when I don’t put my head on the pillow at night and examine my conscience and my day without recounting an instance when I barked off an answer or responded silently to someone’s silly questions with a DUHH! look in my eyes. I have to admit I’ve had moments when I should have just bitten my tongue and kept quiet. Maybe if my tongue tasted better, perhaps like chocolate, I would be more likely to bite it and swallow ungracious words.
Since I don’t think God will be changing tongue flavors any time soon, it’s up to us to pray for the grace of discipline to speak gracious words. I think the first step to gracious speech is to ask ourselves two basic questions before we speak: 1) Would I say these words to Jesus? And 2) Will any possible good come from these words I’m about to speak? We are all created in the image and likeness of God so He is present in each person we speak to…hum…that’s something to think about. It’s also important to remember we speak with our eyes and our body. There have been times my face and my body said something completely different than my words.
I think God is calling us to something way bigger than, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all”. In this verse from Colossians, He’s directing us to speak graciously! He’s establishing it as the norm,every day, not just on Sundays between the church pew and the car…He used the word always! Biting our tongue won’t give us the gracious spirit needed to speak graciously always, but being mindful of this verse and asking continuously for His grace will get us closer. Imagine how we’d all feel if this Scripture came to life in our home, workplace and church! You just never know when God might have you in mind to change a life the way Jeremy’s principal did with his gracious words.
A seed to plant: Make note of those people who seem to be the subject of your most “ungracious” words, then jot down a few sentences you can speak to them that are gracious.
Blessings on your day!
Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures. Luke 24:45
One spring afternoon, my students were taking a bathroom break and one of the boys came running back into the classroom and announced in a very loud voice, “Hey Mrs. Wohlfert, Johnny (name changed to protect the innocent) got his thing stuck in the thing.” My dumbfounded, “What?” was met with a grin and a “you better get in there quick!” After making sure my first trip into a boys bathroom was safe and clear, and it was established that the “stuck thing” was a commonly visible body part, I wiggled open the stall door and I was greeted by the sight of one of my most curious minded first grade boys kneeling on the floor with his arm stuck, clear past the elbow, in the double roll toilet paper dispenser. The harder he tried to pull it back out, the more tightly it became wedged by the paper divider. He was pinched, frightened and crying. Once I freed his arm, he crawled on my lap and sobbed. When he settled down a little, I asked, “So, what exactly were you trying to do?” He sniffed and said,“Well I think I just wanted to figure it out.”
I don’t know about you,but I spend a lot of time trying to figure things out myself. How many times have you heard people say,“Life doesn’t come with an instruction manual.”? I think we get busy trying to figure out how life works on our own, and like Johnny, we get stuck! The truth is, life does come with an instruction manual, and the wise Christian, spends time with it each and every day they wake up and draw breath. All the answers are there, all the wisdom is there, all the comfort, hope, peace and direction we could ever need lies right there in the Bible between Genesis and Revelations. God has spelled it all out for us, clearly and lovingly.
I remember the first time I picked up Scripture and cried out to God to get me out of a pickle. I closed my eyes, opened up my Bible to find the answer and landed right in Matthew’s Gospel, reading about the genealogy of Jesus. “How is this supposed to help?” I screamed. It turned out His help was there in that long list of names I couldn’t pronounce. He was pointing me to my family; my faithful Mom and my wise Dad were just waiting for me to ask for help and guidance. Even when we don’t know quite what we’re asking for, God is there, ready to use His“instruction manual” to guide us. He loves us too much to make us figure it out on our own.
Many will say they don’t often read Scripture because they don’t always understand it. The key to understanding Scripture is to ask God to reveal its meaning to you. Each time you pick up His word, ask Him to open your heart and your mind so you will be ready to absorb a word or a phrase. I think we’re much better off focusing on a small passage rather than a page or whole chapter. Once you ask God to guide your understanding, read the passage slowly and carefully and then just sit and let it percolate in your mind and your heart. Sometimes He uses Scripture to help us figure something out on the spot, other times He intends for us to save that instruction for later. Either way, He’s using His word to inspire, guide and instruct.
A seed to plant: Make a promise right now to carve out 15 minutes each day for the next week. Commit to using that time to sit quietly with Scripture. Begin by asking God to open your heart and mind to understand the words He would have you read. If you aren’t sure where to begin, pick one of the four Gospels, the stories and instructions within those pages are amazing! I guarantee, these will be the best minutes of your week!
Blessings on your day!
For we are His handiwork, created in Christ Jesus for the good
works that God has prepared in advance, that we should live in them.
I have been surrounded this week by a lot of good works! For the 12th summer in a row, our home for one week in July was at the Clinton County 4-H fair. Some of our families’ favorite memories have happened there. For our oldest son, tomorrow will close his final fair. As I look back over the past 12 county fairs, I can’t help but recognize all the places God has gently touched and abruptly thumped not only his life but the hearts and lives of all the kids and families who are a part of the fair. Sometimes, He touches with the sweet happiness of victory and sometimes, He touches with the sting of disappointment. The one thing that is certain though, He uses those kids and animals and projects to send a very precise message…if we look for it!
In order to get a livestock project ready for the fair, the work begins many months before they tie it up or put it in a pen on the fairgrounds. I couldn’t even begin to count the number of hours a 4-H member spends feeding, training, grooming and walking their animals! I’ve watched year after year as kids have walked into the show ring leading an immaculately groomed steer that weighed 5 to 10 times what they did. I’ve watched kids walk animals they were too short to see over to the wash rack and the show ring with a confidence and pride that is impressive and inspiring. I have seen kids who were too shy to talk to their own shoe-strings, learn to become confident and articulate because a judge was going to gently bombard them with questions that would greatly influence their standing in showmanship competition. I’ve watched kids carefully (and usually without much enthusiasm) prepare their financial statements and records, designed to develop an awareness of real world basic economics. On many occasions, I have stood at the end of a barn to look down the center aisle and watch dozens and dozens of hot, sweaty, tired kids laughing as they worked. Countless times, I have seen kids walk up to a judge and present a project. That project is a representation of time, talent, ability and pride and in the end; it becomes subject to the judgment of one set of eyes.
The “good works God has prepared” are evident at the county fair. Not many of the 4-H members at the fair will go on to have a career in production agriculture, but they will take the messages and lessons with them no matter what path God puts them on. God was at the fair teaching patience, trust, confidence and compassion. He was there teaching the value and blessing of caring for another living being. He was there flooding kids with the Holy Spirit when they needed the right words. He was there when they needed the grace of strength and patience. He was there to teach that people don’t always see “justice and judgment” the same way. He was there molding and forming the character of His children, showing them that the value of hard work, dedication and responsibility doesn’t always come with a purple ribbon and a champion title but if it is done in His honor, the prize is so much greater! God was at the county fair, I hope people saw Him and felt His presence!
A seed to plant: For the next week, wherever you go, make it a special assignment to look for God. What is He showing you, teaching you and reminding you?
Blessings on your day!
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