If you judge people, you have no time to love them. Blessed Mother Teresa
There are three important questions we should ask ourselves each day according to Fr. John Riccardo. #1 Why am I here? #2 Where am I going? #3 How am I going to get there? I’ve been pondering those questions for a couple of weeks and they have changed my heart. I was really thinking about #3 and considered those who showed me how to work my way to heaven. Five years after a truly amazing woman, my Godmother died, I was reminded of a post I wrote about her. I’m sharing it today because it has some great answers to question #3.
This is a post that took a while to put in print. My mind wanted to write it but it took a while for my heart to cooperate. It’s a story of strength, faith and radical kindness. It’s the story of a great blessing…no, not a great blessing…a phenomenal and life changing blessing. It’s a story that might be passed over as common but make no mistake the simplicity of the story is what makes it so profound! I’m writing this story because there are just some stories in life that deserve…no, not deserve… NEED to be told because they really matter and because they have the potential to make us better people just because we heard the story and make an attempt each day to live a little piece of it. It’s my Aunt Mary’s story. I
When Aunt Mary first got sick, she asked me to come home and help her plan her funeral. She didn’t want to burden her family with those decisions. She, Shannon and I spent two amazing days together planning. She had Shannon and I sing dozens of songs for her so she could pick exactly the ones she wanted. We read from Scripture for hours one afternoon until she found the perfect readings. I was feeling very peaceful about it all until she asked me to give her eulogy. We had traded turns crying and being strong several times in those two days but that was my moment to lose it a little. When I told her I’d be honored she threw her arms around me and I was lost like a little girl in one of her world famous loving hugs. When we got it all back together, she told me she wanted to see a rough draft before I returned to Michigan. I laughed out loud and asked why she didn’t trust me. She said she just wanted to make sure I didn’t stand up there talking about her! Above all, she was humble beyond imagination and she didn’t want that to change. She wanted me to use that time to teach the important lessons everybody needed to know in order to live a good life, a life pleasing to God, and so I did. I reminded everyone about the great lessons she had shown us all.
She showed us how to love...everyone! She never knew a stranger and she never missed a chance to smile and say hello. She knew peoples favorite colors and flowers and desserts. She always remembered something about you and when you spoke, she listened. Her spare minutes were spent doing or making something for someone else. Always giving, always paying attention to the tiny details so she could remember you with a surprise “perfect something”. She didn’t think anything about it; “Anyone can do something nice for someone!” she would say. But she did it better than anyone I know. Her signature expression of love was handwritten letters and notes. It was a simple thing but the impact of that simple act is huge. Many nights through her illness I would find Shannon asleep wrapped in a blanket Aunt Mary made her surrounded by a stack of cards and letters from her she had read over and over and over.
She showed us how to serve. That really is our mission as Christians; to serve and not be served. She was a master! It was second nature for her to put other people first because she knew people had a story she didn’t know and everybody deserved to feel like they were important and treated with kindness. Her service was extra special because she did it with such tenderness and sincerity no matter who you were, where you lived or what your past involved.
She showed us kindness…to a degree I’ve never seen from anyone else on earth. I think if I could gather all the sugar on the planet I still couldn’t make a heart as sweet as hers! She cried easily and laughed even easier. She loved hard and forgave easy. The last lesson she wanted me to teach for her was the importance of forgiveness. She made me promise I’d say, “Life is too short to carry the heavy burden of an unforgiving heart.” “Make peace and move on to better things”, was another line I promised to share for her. She wanted me to remind everyone that judging and doubting God and selfishness were a waste of time and energy. She suggested more prayer, more faith, more generosity and lots and lots more kindness instead.
She battled cancer like a warrior, she prayed like a saint and she loved with the compassion of Christ himself but I wasn’t allowed to say those things at her funeral so I wanted to make sure I said them now…because they matter! She was one of those people who made your life better just because you knew her. Her generosity and her faith and her courage were legendary and the best way I know to keep her legacy alive is to try every day to live like she did. It’s a tall order but I’m up for the challenge so why don’t you join me and just maybe we can make this world better!
A Seed To Plant: Pick one of Aunt Mary’s lessons and live it this week!
Blessings on your day!
“No one who lights a lamp conceals it with vessel…” Luke 8:16
These ten words are golden! The simple truth of this line is that WE are the light and even when we don’t feel very shiny or glowing, we absolutely are in the eyes of The Father. We were given His light when we were created and we were tasked with letting that light shine during our Baptism.
Often we think we can only shine our light if we can be really sparkly. There are times when we come across someone whose light seems like a blow torch and we are more like a little birthday candle and it’s easy to shrink away and conceal ourselves and feel insignificant. This is exactly what the evil one wants us to do. The truth is, God has given each and every one of us a different way to love and serve. The light he’s asking us to shine is HIM, not us. He wants us to showcase HIS love, mercy and might; not our own. There is no such thing as a light that’s too small or plain. This line from Luke’s Gospel encourages us to trust Him to point us to the places that need His light and he promises to send us with exactly the perfect wattage to show him to those who need to see.
When we think about the pockets of darkness in our world today we can shine His light forth in the way we love and serve others, in our attempts to do the right thing and in our ability to trust and hope in his promises. Letting him shine through us can be a powerful weapon against the darkness that creeps in to extinguish the power of His light. Which of these three ways can you ask the Lord to help you let His light shine more powerfully?
A Seed To Plant: Pray this little prayer each morning. Oh Lord of Light, give me the grace to grow in humility so that I may let YOUR light truly shine through and pierce the darkness. Keep me ever mindful or your guidance as you point me to those who need the hope and promise of your light, and Lord, keep me ever grounded in my pursuits to bring glory to You. Amen
Blessings on your day!
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. Deuteronomy 6:5
We fight so hard! We fight for time, resources, attention and the right things. We fight against stupidity, against evil and against anyone who tries to do harm to those we love. It can feel like every time we turn the corner we’re fighting and it’s no wonder we’re exhausted and frustrated because the stuff just keeps comin. Hopefully our biggest fight is the one we wage on worldly attachments as we are trying getting to heaven.
What if I suggested that fighting is exactly the opposite of what we should be doing? My friends, Eternal Life isn’t about fighting at all, actually it’s about quite the opposite. Eternal Life is about surrender! It’s about giving up the fight and letting God do that part. We shouldn’t feel like we’re laying a big job on his shoulders because the fight is already finished…every war that could prevent us from heaven has already been waged and conquered through the Cross. So today is a great day to take a breath and surrender…be still…be quiet…be peaceful knowing God’s done the heavy lifting and we are simply called to make him our everything. The weight of the world was never intended for your shoulders. But how do we begin to give him all? Here are a few things you can do to surrender your life to Christ.
First; Surrender your day, your work, your thoughts, your family and all your worries. Lay them at his feet and say “Lord I give it all to you, now lead me through this day the way you want it to be.” Guess what, you have to do that EVERY single day; sometimes more than once. I heard a priest asked the question, “How long have you been a priest?” He smiled and said, “Since this morning, every day I have to surrender my life to him in prayer so my vocation is new every morning.”
Second; Pray…every morning and throughout the day. Again and again remind yourself that he’s in charge and tell him thank you for his love. Ask often for him to show you clearly how much he loves you. The prayer is the communication between the one in charge (Him) and the one following the plan. (Us) Nothing runs smoothly without that kind of communication; not a company, a school or a family and certainly not a soul seeking God’s presence.
Third; Choose your noise wisely. Pay attention to the sounds that fill your head. It all matters so ask yourself what noise are the people, music and personalities you surround yourself with making. Is it noise that lifts and supports or sound that brings anger, frustration and discontentment. Pick the noise (or even absence of it) carefully. People who doubt, whine, complain and criticize aren’t helping you focus on putting God first.
Fourth; Circle back. Start again with the first thing and go through the list determined to hold on to the world with a lighter grip than before.
Fr. John Riccardo said, “If you really want to measure your surrender you can look two places; your checkbook and your calendar. Those are the indicator of where we’re focusing our two biggest worldly attachments; money and time.” What are yours telling you? Is there enough room for God in your world? I’m working these four steps very intentionally these days and I can promise I’m not there yet but the peace I feel by making even the smallest progress is an amazing grace filled gift! We have NOTHING to loose but my friends we have EVERYTHING to gain. (Cue to the Disney song “Let It Go!”)
A Seed To Plant: Start with the first step every day this week and see how he blesses you.
Blessings on your day!
For I know well the plans I have for you…Jeremiah 29:11
The last three weeks have been a giant lesson in things not going according to plan…or should I say “my plan”. It’s great to be back in school, it’s great to be at camp with the 6th graders, it’s great to be back to a normal routine and it’s great to be enjoying cool mornings and beautiful sunny days. Those are all according to plan but then there are the other things that just don’t seem to get finished or solved. And of course we can’t forget the things we didn’t even see coming!
As I sit here on the porch watching a bunch of twelve year olds canoe, the instructor probably didn’t plan to have on canoe capsize in the first few minutes and I’m sure the Swans swimming peacefully didn’t plan to be chased around the lake by pre-teens in red and green canoes. I’m positive the girls didn’t plan on sharing the shower last night with a woefully lost little tree frog and I know more than a couple kids who didn’t plan on being brave enough to zip line or climb a rock wall. Quite often the stuff that happens in place of our plans is great stuff but sometimes it all catches us by surprise.
For over nine years I have been writing this blog on Mondays and Thursdays. That was something I certainly never planned but it has been something I have enjoyed. Sadly, the past three weeks have been so wonky I haven’t been able to find the minutes I needed to put the posts together. I feel bad when people hop on those mornings to read a blip and there isn’t anything there. Since I don’t see life slowing down anytime soon, I have to change my plan a bit. I need to announce a little change here at the blog. Instead of posting on Monday and Thursday, I will be changing the plan and posting one blog a week on Wednesdays.
This is a change of plans I’ve been praying about for several weeks and I promise that if life settles a bit or if the Lord leads me back to full swing I’ll go back to two posts a week but for now, Wednesday is the day to grab a dose of joy!
A Seed To Plant: If life has left you feeling overwhelmed, take it to prayer and see if the Lord might be leading you to a a little change of plans.
Blessings on your day!
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