Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth. Matthew 5:5
Every now and again I run across something that just doesn’t seem to belong or have relevance anymore. I was cleaning closets recently and found an old rotary dial phone with a long spiral cord. I also have a potato slicer and French fry cutter that belonged to my Grandma Thelma. She used it in her kitchen when I was little girl. Both of those items have been replaced with more modern, convenient, efficient updated models so the old ones are cast aside as if they are no longer useful. There is a key word in this scripture passage from St. Matthew’s gospel that might seem as irrelevant as those old treasures hiding in my closet. That word is meek.
We strive to be strong and successful. We pray for the grace of patience, perseverance and wisdom. We admire people who are confident, powerful leaders with vision. To tell others our goal is to grow in meekness would be a little like seeing a rotary dial phone in a Verizon store! To be honest, when I came across the word meek the other day I decided to give it a look and some prayer. I think I need to change my opinion about that word. I think it’s a word we might all be able to relate to better than we thought and I’m certain it’s something we could use more of.
Long ago in biblical times the quality of meekness was highly respected and aspired to. We tend to view it as weak, timid or passive but that was not the message Jesus was teaching when he shared the Sermon on the Mount. Meekness in its true meaning is the opposite of those things. Being meek doesn’t mean you are weak and have to take everything like a door mat, it means an active and deliberate acceptance of undesirable circumstances that are part of a bigger picture we can’t see. Being meek doesn’t mean throwing in the towel, it means giving God authority to do what he wills with our life. True meekness can be measured by how closely related we are to the will of the Father. When we make that relationship first, we are content in his love and his control of our life. If we let him be in charge we realize everything happens for a purpose and we trust in his plan. If we are more centered on ourselves and our comforts and our pride we tend to fuss and complain and point out all the things that don’t go our way. If we are low on meekness we tend to see the world through the lens of poor me instead of God’s got it all figured out!
If someone rich in meekness is treated unfairly or wrongly it doesn’t mean that doesn’t sting, but vengeance or revenge isn’t part of their reaction. Their first reaction is to pray for the person who has wronged them and give the rest to God. A meek soul realizes that God is the source of justice and that all situations contain lessons. Sometimes the lesson is for us and sometimes the lesson is for somebody else and taught through us. In order to grow in meekness, we have to admit regularly that we are not equal with God. Through our great dependence on Him we grow and we trust and we think WAY more about him than about ourselves. I suppose meekness is a bit like realizing we truly need to settle into second place and stop trying so hard to be in charge, on top and number one. I don’t know about you but I have a lot of meekness building to do!
A Seed To Plant: What are some of the areas in your life that could use a little more meekness? Spend some prayer time this week with this old word with a great and misunderstood meaning.
Blessings on your day!
For I know well the plans I have for you declares the Lord…Jeremiah 29:11
I think we’ve all been exposed to the logic that if we’re trying to get better at something, we have to hang out and practice, or “do it” with someone who’s better at it than we are. That goes for anything from studying, playing a sport, music and growing in discipleship. If we don’t put ourselves in the company of someone who will challenge us to grow, we run the risk of becoming complacent or even stagnant.
This past week I was put in the middle of the story of a spiritual giant. I ask God every morning to put things in my path that will help me grow in holiness and he did just that, through a beautiful soul named Barb. I’d like to tell Barb’s story; it’s about a woman who is smack dab in the middle of a lousy situation that would have many of us in misery thinking God had forgotten about us. This beautiful woman's advice is heartwarming, life changing and life giving. I want to share her story because she’s the ultimate example of how to get better at discipleship by hanging out with someone who’s really good at it.
Her story begins with a stage 4 cancer diagnosis just weeks ago. The first pictures I saw of her days after the news were at her daughters wedding, and by the twinkle in her eye and the smile on her face you would have guessed the doctors were nuts and the stories were a lie. Sadly, the doctors weren’t mistaken and the story was true, so Barb’s journey began. I suppose in an attempt to comfort her family and friends she put the whole thing in perspective with her suitcase analogy. I was so touched and inspired by her story I asked permission to share because I think hanging out with Barb, her faithfulness and her suitcase story, we will all learn from her example, be inspired by her attitude and grow in holiness.
After Barb found out she was so sick, the first thing she did was to thank Jesus for giving her part of his cross to carry. All she asked in return was the courage to help her carry it to completion. The next step was to look at her cancer like packing her suitcase to go on a trip. The first thing to pack is the most important, and for Barb, that was obviously Jesus. He has to be the most important and the top priority. She makes sure she packs in a lot of Jesus through her daily prayers; especially Daily Mass, praying the Divine Office, the Rosary and Novenas. Novenas are very important because they are harder and require commitment and dedication. Next to go in are her sorrows and pain. The sorrows aren’t packed for pity or attention; quite the opposite. The sorrows are an important thing to pack because they are offered for others. Barb is keenly aware that offering our personal suffering for others is a powerful and loving gift. Suffering and pain are especially helpful for the suffering souls in purgatory. Up next are the blessings. I can just see her standing over that suitcase lovingly and gratefully calling each blessing by name and tucking it into her suitcase with tender, sincere thankfulness to God. Each day she does a little more packing; more prayers, more thankfulness, more suffering and she tucks it all in getting ready to go. Her mission as she wakes up each day is to fill that suitcase as full as she can so she’s ready for her trip. She doesn’t know what Jesus has in store for her but she is prayerfully and faithfully getting ready.
This weekend as I helped my daughter pack her suitcases to head back to college, I couldn’t help but think about Barb’s suitcase. It’s such an ordinary object but yet Barb turned it into such an incredible lesson in trusting in God the Father. I want to be a better packer…starting today! I hope you will all join me in praying for Barb and her packing; may she be fully prepared for her journey!
A Seed To Plant: What’s in your suitcase? If you wait until the last minute to pack, you might rush and miss something so take some prayerful time this week to think about what needs to come out of your suitcase and what needs to go in.
Blessings on your day!
There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: Ecclesiastes 3:1
One of my big projects this summer was to decorate my front porch. It was the first project and the favorite project of the summer. That porch is where I spent time almost every day of summer break. I did a lot of praying, reading, writing and planning on that porch. At times it felt like an outdoor living room or office. I remember the first morning I sipped coffee and said morning prayers out there; I let out a sigh that morning thinking the new school year seemed so far away. This morning, one of the last few mornings I have left for morning coffee and prayers on my porch, I realized how fast the days had ticked by. I started to feel a little pouty about the end of slow peaceful mornings when all of the sudden the flys started to pester me. The little ones were nipping at my legs and ankles and the big ones were landing on my book and dive bombing my head. They irritated the snot out of me and I was a little steamed that they would barge in and ruin one of my last porch mornings.
After a few minutes of being annoyed by these pesky little creatures I rushed into the house and in a moment of brilliance, I came back out with a fly swatter. I was going to show them! I smushed a few and sat in my chair feeling rather accomplished…I showed them who was boss! I picked up my book and began reading again and read less than a paragraph before they came back with an army of their friends. It was as if they flew off to find friends and invite them back to look at the nut swatting flys outside! I did have to stop and laugh at myself. Why on earth did I think that would actually work!
After surrendering to the winged party wreckers, I went inside and gave some thought to what had happened. As I was pouting about the rude interruption to my peaceful porch dwelling I had failed to realize they hadn’t bothered me all summer long. I had had weeks and weeks of perfect, so how dare I get all in a yank about one bad morning. As I drove to school to prepare for next week, I realized those flys were sort of a message and subtle kick me off my porch to move on to the next thing kind of deal. Swatting at them had been as senseless as expecting summer to last forever. My peace and quiet came as a season but all season change. The great parts of our live don’t last forever but neither do the bad ones. They all come and go. Thats how God gives us joy, rest and peace to prepare us for the trials and tricky stuff that draws us closer to him. Trying to throw a hissy fit when those seasons change is as pointless as swatting flys outside. As I puddled about my classroom getting excited about the new school year beginning on Monday, I stopped to thank him for a prayerful, wonderful, restful, peaceful summer on my pretty porch. He and I had some great talks there this summer and I thanked him for that too. After I finished with my thank you prayer, I went to my desk to type the class schedule and a giant fly landed on my computer screen and followed my cursor across the screen. I laughed and realized once again, God has a great sense of humor!
A Seed To Plant: Give some thought to the highs and the lows he’s walked you through this year. Thank him for both.
Blessings on your day!
Before we can get busy and live, we first have to get busy and die. Fr. Mike
I finally threw them away.! I had a pair of shoes in the garage that were older than the middle lovelies who will be taking a seat in my classroom next week. I had a really hard time throwing them out for a few reasons. First of all they were so completely comfortable and easy. Secondly, I had worn the backs down so they just slipped on in a second and they were all stretched out and broken in so they formed perfectly to my feet. The last big reason it was hard to toss them out…besides my earrings, they are about the only thing I own from 1999 that still fits! They sure weren’t pretty, they sure weren't the best I could get, they honestly were all used up and were practically out of function but I still held on because it was easy, I didn’t have to think about it or invest any effort into picking new ones or breaking them in…as bad as they were, it was just automatic!
I was at a funeral last week and Fr. Mike used the quote above early in his homily. It got my attention for sure! I’ve been mulling over his words for almost a week now and each day they tug my heart a little more. When we think about living, we think about today and tomorrow and probably next week. We think about our schedules and the upcoming events we’re looking forward to, like trips or celebrations. We also think of events and trips we aren’t looking forward to, like the dentist appointment or defrosting the freezer. The truth is; none of that is the living Fr. Mike was talking about. True living comes in the next life. In eternal life we never have an event that brings us anything but COMPLETE happiness and joy. No stress, no deadlines, no organizing or planning and certainly no “get the yucky stuff done so I can get to the good stuff” thinking. If we take our absolute best, most perfectly amazing day on earth and multiply it by a million, it won’t come anywhere close to the supremely awesome time we will spend in eternity with the Father. That thought has me grinning from ear to ear as I sit here typing. Making sure we experience the amazing life God has planned for us is where the “get busy and die” part comes in.
I was so busy hanging on to those nasty old shoes because it was habit, it was easy, it was convenient but I finally had to die to the shoes. I had to make a decision to put them to rest and do something better. When I actually did that, things were a little stiff and uncomfortable at first but now my feet are happy, and the performance of a pair of shoes that actually stay on my feet and keep the mud and yucky barn and yard stuff off my feet when I run out to do chores is a big bonus. Everything, including my toes, is fresher, cleaner and in much better order. I’m perfectly aware that changing out my chore shoes is much different than changing out some of the habits, practices and attitudes that are mucking up my eternal life, but you can see where Fr. Mike’s homily led me. If I don’t begin to die to self in the way I do my living, I’m risking my chance at truly living…with HIM…where living really matters! I had to really look hard at my earthly living and recognize that this is nothing compared to what I’m really looking forward to. Is it better to complain about things or people that are making my earthly living inconvenient or uncomfortable or is it better to recognize my selfishness and die a little to my selfish wants in order to put someone else first. That homily and those old shoes caused me to ask myself a couple of serious question. “If my life ended this day, what would I have to make an accounting for?” “If I stood before the Father today, what parts of my living would I have to explain, defend or prove?” “Are my judgmental thoughts, my overindulgences, my stubborn pride and my determination to do things my way, things that help me get busy living?” I decided I need to ditch those things like my old shoes and get busy and die to those things and probably a whole list of others. Step one; Jesus, take my hand, I’m gonna need some help learning to die!
A Seed To Plant: Make a list of all the things that are going to get in the way of truly living and ask God to help you devise a plan so you can get busy and die to the things that are in the way.
Blessings on your day!
“Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours.” Luke 15:31
I heard someone on the radio the other day talking about the story of the Prodigal Son so I decided to give it another read and do some thinking on it. Every time I read the story I get angry with the first son. According to the customs of his time, asking for his inheritance was the same as saying his father was dead to him. As a parent I just can’t imagine what it must have felt like to be so bitterly betrayed by my own son. As I read on, I sometimes find myself cheering for the second son…the one who was obedient, hardworking respectful and never asked for anything. He seems like the good son for sure…or does he? Surely the first son is the bad son…or is he? As I prayed on this passage from Luke’s Gospel I began to see myself in both sons. I’m not gonna lie…I didn’t like that idea very much!
I saw myself in the second son but not for good reasons. Yes I try to be obedient to God’s will and yes I try to be grateful and conservative and not demanding but this wasn’t what was stirring in my heart. The second son was all about entitlement. He wasn’t concerned about his brother, he was concerned about himself. He didn’t stop for 2 seconds to see the relief or joy in his father’s eyes. He didn’t stop for 2 seconds to realize what a tremendous act of “pride swallowing” his brother had just demonstrated. And he certainly didn’t stop long enough to think about how extravagantly his father would shower him with love if given the chance. It was a gigantic open and shut case of “that’s not fair!” Why is it we have such a hard time being genuinely happy for others when good fortune comes their way and not ours? I guess I need to think more about the blessing of generosity and less about keeping score. I heard a story not long ago about a wealthy couple who had attended a fundraising event and won the big cash prize. The audience was full of second sons who whispered among themselves about how that couple certainly didn’t deserve to win. What all those whisperers didn’t know is that the couple humbly accepted the cash prize and used every penny of it to buy groceries, diapers and gas cards for two struggling young family in their church.
The first son…what could he possibly have to teach me? I smugly thought I would never be so bold, wasteful, irresponsible and disrespectful. God wouldn’t let it off my heart so I stayed a while longer and thought about that lousy first son and as I sat and prayed, he began to sprout some redeeming qualities. I began to consider things like his courage, humility and desire to reconcile. He knew he had hurt his father but something deep inside him wanted to make that right. He wasn’t asking to have everything back to normal; he was willing to be a hired man not a son. True, his return might have been motivated by selfish reasons like hunger and pride but I can’t even imagine being brave enough to take the risk. He had to be willing to own up to every one of his mistakes and face the judgment and consequences that might come. He left home prideful and arrogant and he returned broken and weak and a complete failure, but yet he returned. As he walked down that road to his father’s house every weakness was on full display. I’m not sure I could muster that kind of honesty. I can go to all sorts of lengths to conceal my weaknesses and failures; it must have been quite a task to lay it all on the line like he did. I noticed that not once did the son offer any kind of excuse or rationale for his behavior. He just told it like it was and hoped to be accepted in spite of the brokenness he brought with him; I don’t know about you but I could take a lesson there!
I spent so much time thinking about the sons, I forgot the star of the story…the father. The father in this story is our father too. Our Heavenly Father loves us with the same unconditional love as the father in the story. He will always welcome us back no matter what we’ve done or where we’ve been and he will be so happy to see us there will be great rejoicing. He loves us even when we’re too busy keeping score to realize only he knows the perfect reason blessings are bestowed as they are. I realized he wants us to know his forgiveness and his generosity. He wants us to remember our job isn’t to focus on the behavior of his children; our job is to focus on the love of the Father.
A Seed To Plant: Pick a favorite Gospel story and give it a read with fresh eyes, asking God to put you right into the story so he can reveal his truth and love to your heart.
Blessings on your day!
Brothers and sisters: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. 2 Corinthians 9:
As a teacher, I know there are some things kids enjoy. No matter what the age, glitter glue, paint and wet glue are always met with enthusiasm. The hesitation on my part is the inability of most of the students to comprehend the concept of “use just a little”. When I moved from little lovelies to middle lovelies, I thought they would get it; not so much! I still get projects that weigh 3 pounds and take 4 days to dry! It seems if a little glitter or paint is good, then a lot makes the project awesome! I suppose it’s later in life when we realize that very often a little can go a long way! Just like the kids and their glitter glue, we adults can sometimes go overboard on things and loose track of the concept “enough”. We are a society that likes our “stuff” aren't we.
As I was looking at the insane number of cucumbers in my garden the other day, I thought of this verse from Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians. In the spring we dumped jut a few extra seeds in that little hole just to make sure we would get a nice amount of cucumbers. Sheesh…is seems we sowed bountifully and now the reaping from that one plant is crazy! As I was cleaning and planning what in the world to do with all these green little beauties, I began to think of the places we could use more bountiful sowing and reaping. I’ve decided these are some places we could benefit from sowing as abundantly as school kid with a fresh bottle of glitter glue!
A Seed To Plant: As you sit in quiet prayer this week, think about the areas of your life where you have sowed sparingly and the places you can bump up the sowing and then ask the Father to bless you with his abundant bounty.
Blessings on your day!
Consider it all joy, my brothers when you encounter various trials, for you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.
Consider trials JOY? What was St. James thinking when he wrote this? Upon first glance at this verse we might be tempted to wonder if the beloved Saint put in a few too many prayerful “all-nighters” because surely he wasn’t serious about feeling joyful when the washer breaks, someone you love gets sick, the fuel pump on the car goes out or the sweet teenager in your home eats the last piece of peach pie you were hiding…I mean saving, in the back of the fridge! Joy…I don’t think so! And what about the really big stuff like losing your job or serious illness, surely he couldn’t have meant those things could bring joy. I suppose we could sit down and make a list of all the trials that have happened upon us in the past month and we would be overcome with many emotions, none of which would be joy!
The real meat of this verse is the part that explains what we can get in exchange for our trials…stronger faith and perseverance. Do you remember when you were young and you went home from school and complained about that boy who pulled your pigtails or the girl who annoyingly pointed out your every move to the teacher? The standard reply from home went something like this, “Well honey, if they didn’t like you they wouldn’t tease you.” This verse has a little bit of that flavor to it don’t ya think! God promised that we would have trouble…it is a guarantee, not a possibility. Even though we’ve read those words more than once, trials still seem to catch us by surprise. We sometimes even cop an attitude and think, “What, me…why me Lord? What have I done to deserve this difficulty?” We might even get really sassy and say, “Oh, pardon me Father, but you’ve made a mistake, I’ve already had 8 serious trials this month, I believe this current dilemma belongs to the neighbor or even better, the guy who cut me off in traffic this morning!”
The simple truth is, if He didn’t love us, He wouldn’t give us trials at all. Each difficulty or disappointment that knocks on our front door or barges right into our day is an opportunity to grow in trust or compassion or patience. When we throw up our hands in despair and say, “Ok God, I don’t know how to do this…I don’t think I’m strong enough for this, please guide me and guard me and love me through it!” we will grow in faith and perseverance plus we will be blessed with grace and mercy. I think what St. James was teaching us is that any time we surrender to the holy power of God, that’s joyful, and the blessing is more strength, more grace and more faith for the next thing! It seems strange to thank God for the lousy stuff but that is what we are called to do. We need to act like we are completely aware that He is about to do a might work through that trial if we would just stand back and let Him take us through it.
A Seed To Plant: The next time a trial comes your way, stop and thank God
for it and ask Him to show you the joy in the situation. We’d love to hear your stories!
Blessings on your day!
“You better learn to swim upstream, going against the current, against the flow. Only dead things float downstream.” -- Steve Ray
I think its fair to say that toothbrushes are an object designed for a good purpose. Everybody has one and everybody uses it a couple times a day. I think everyone would agree with the statement that “toothbrushes are good.” Or are they? I remember one evening many, many years ago I would have totally disagreed with that statement! There was an unfortunate incident involving two sleepy, crabby siblings, one tube of toothpaste and a toothbrush wielded like a sword. To make a long story short, my blindness was slightly dramatic and only temporary but that evening, I was a preschooler who knew for a fact, toothbrushes are bad and dangerous! Even the most harmless and “good” things can be used for bad I suppose, so it’s important to step back and look at things through the lens of reason and intent.
Social media is a big part of our world. Like the toothbrush, many folks feel like it’s good and others view it like that sleepy little girl who got poked in the eye with a toothbrush and have nothing good to say about it. Again, we have to look through the lens of reason and intent. Without a doubt, there is garbage, danger and evil lurking in our digital world but there is also a great deal of good, rich, amazing stuff too. The quote from Steve Ray at the beginning of this post is the perfect example. My friend Noelle Garcia was at a Catholic Family Conference in Wichita, Kansas this weekend and she posted many little nuggets like this one throughout the conference. I couldn’t be there to learn and listen but I’m so glad she posted what was being shared with her. I’m so glad my focus leads me to the good and inspiring places that can encourage me to swim upstream and help me find the desire and strength to swim against the current.
When I gave this quote some prayerful thought, I realized there are so many times I get tired of swimming upstream and I just want to grab on to something and float. Being an intentional disciple is tough sometimes. Choosing to begin the day in prayer and scripture reading instead of sleeping longer isn’t always easy. Walking away from conversations that aren’t positive or fruitful isn’t always easy. Making the decision to see and be Christ to others isn’t always easy or convenient. Offering cheerfulness and Christian charity towards the worlds rude and cranky, takes thought, occasional tongue biting and discipline. Standing up for the unborn, the underserved and the mis-judged is tough but when any of these things are done with Christ like love, you better believe it’s an upstream effort.
The next time you’re having one of those days when you just want to take a “pass” on the “current fighting” and just grab onto a piece of drift wood and float along, stop and think about what you’re grabbing. Drift wood is dead, that’s why it’s floating downstream. While it may be easier, it isn’t going to get us anywhere good. God didn’t put us on this earth to be dumped into a collection pool where dead stuff gathers and becomes stagnant and lifeless. He promises new life, refreshing life and an existence with him filled with joy, peace and life abundant. The next time you feel weary from swimming upstream, join up with others swimming in the same direction and give each other strength and support instead of grabbing something dead that will pull you downstream.
A Seed To Plant: Make a list of the things you’re hanging on to that are dragging you downstream. Reach out to one person who is swimming upstream and chat with them, pray with them and commit to one thing you can do together to help each other go against the current.
Blessings on your day!
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