The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen. Philippians 4:23
This week we celebrate the holiday that as a mother, was my least favorite. Halloween called on two gifts I seemed to get in shorter supply than many moms. Halloween with kids requires creativity and strength in the face of chocolate temptation…I am woefully lacking in both departments. One year I remember dressing two little Wohlfert boys in black trash bags with cardboard ears duct taped on a headband; they were bats! Thank goodness their desire for candy was greater than their interest in costumes because they looked pretty ridiculous. All the thinking, creating, hauling, buckling and unbuckling was frazzling. I was often amazed at how many times in a short window of time I could say, “Stop eating candy!” How crazy was that. I dressed them up, took them out with big bags to get candy and then told them not to eat it. Such an odd holiday isn’t it!
Even though I was always happy to turn back into our own driveway at the end of the night, I would sigh as I faced the bowl of candy on the dining room table that wasn’t empty. I love chocolate so the battle with the candy bowl would begin at the very time of day when I was too tired to slay the sugary, chocolate dragon. After they collected the candy the next step was to dump out their bags and begin to sift and sort and trade. After I was finally able to scrape my sugar buzzed little darlings off the ceiling and get them to bed I was faced with the bowl of candy and the three bags to boot. As a responsible parent, I had to hide it so they didn’t gobble it all up by All Souls Day; that was responsible parenting…right! I could put it out of the kids sight, but I knew where it was. The virtue of temperance always seemed to wane around the end of October. Looking back, I’m not sure how hard I prayed to resist that temptation and I’m sure I didn’t pause to think about how I could grow in holiness if I had actually called on God’s grace and conquered the temptation.
The years have passed and now I can think of Halloween in a different way, and as I sit here typing in an airport watching adorable little kids trotting through the airport in their Halloween costumes, I see some similarities between the upcoming holiday and my faith walk. I wake up every morning and spend the first chunk of my day in prayer but in all truthfulness, I realize that sometimes I don’t invest much more creative energy in my prayer time than I did in the kids costumes. Sometimes I just sit there and “get the job done” so I can collect a reward from God; much like the kids and their pursuit of chocolate rewards. The temptation of all that candy doesn’t just come at Halloween and all temptation isn’t chocolate. I can shake my fist and throw a hissy fit or I can bear down and push through it. In temptation, no matter what form it takes we can fight it and draw closer to the Father or we can forget to ask for help and deliverance and be steamrolled by it. Option two always leaves me feeling fuzzy, guilty and a little nauseous like a trick-or-treater (or parent) who ate too much candy.
God often asks us to do a lot and I’m not always a big fan of doing what he asks. I can be little “do my own thing-ish” at times, so I laughed when I remembered the negotiations that took place around the kitchen table as the kids sorted and traded their evening haul. Truth; I do that with God. Well God, if I serve you here and do what you ask here then you should be able to give me this or help me with that. Oh, and how about that candy hiding! I became the master of the goods. I decided when and how to dole the treats out. They were motivation for good behavior, prompt chore doing and extra vegetable eating. I could decide to give extra for things I liked or deny giving it at all if I didn't think they had “earned” it. Heck, on more occasions than I can count, I actually kept some of their stuff for myself. (sorry kids) I can’t even begin to tell you how magnificently grateful I am that God doesn’t hold his grace and blessings hostage the way I held the 3 little Wohlferts candy hostage. He is beyond fair, he is beyond generous and he delights in giving more than we could ever deserve or earn. This year as I admire the creative costumes and hand out chocolate, I’ll be praying that maybe I’ll learn from my Halloween thoughts and maybe you will too.
A Seed To Plant: Take a minute early this week to say a prayer for parents and children. May they laugh, be safe and enjoy each other this Halloween.
Blessings on your day!
How precious is your unfailing love, O God! - Psalm 36:7
Boy did I learn a big lesson this week! The greatest part of the big lesson is that it came from one of the teeniest teachers in the building. The teacher has long blonde hair, sparkly eyes and a smile that melts your heart. I saw her as just another adorable kindergartner but she was a part of a lesson that was anything but pint-sized and I think we can all learn a little something from her lesson.
For some reason, this sweet little thing high fives or hugs several of the teachers on a daily basis. She greets us with her giant smile and injects our day with a giant ray of sunshine. The funny thing is, I’m not her teacher, she has no reason to pick me to share her smiles, hugs and hello’s with; she just does it. Every day, she shows up and it just spills out of her like candy from a piñata. There have been so many times I’ll be walking down the hall with my mind pondering a dozen things and she’ll just pop out of nowhere with a bubbly hello and a hug and suddenly anything that seemed important just fades and I walk away with a smile and a little ray of her sunshine. One morning this week I had the pleasure of holding the door and welcoming the kids into the building; it’s one of my favorite jobs to be the one who gets to start their St. Mary School day. That morning there were dozens of smiles, hugs and good mornings. I remember standing there by the door thanking God for letting me be a part of 288 little lives.
My heart was happy as I said hello and opened the door for the last few students. When the traffic slowed and all the kids were sitting in their seats in the gym waiting for morning prayer, I just stood at the door with a smile and as I turned there she was, running toward me and she stopped a few feet from where I was standing and said, “Hey, I just love you so much.” And just like that she ran back to sit with her friends. My heart instantly melted at the sweetness and sincerity of this sweet little thing. While I stood with all my teacher friends praying with all the kids, the lesson hit me like a ton of bricks.
Ya see, I’ve done nothing to earn her sweetness. I’ve done nothing to deserve her kindness. I haven’t asked, demanded or instigated her joy. She has nothing to gain by giving it all so freely. She really doesn’t get anything kindergarten fair in return because I can’ t go out to play or sit at the same table and share a snack. I can’t foster a friendship by inviting her over to play or go to the movies so she really gets nothing in return. And that sweet “I love you so much!” came as a gift to my heart…she took off so fast there was nothing I could say in return. Everything about this little girls gifts is so completely one sided. As my “eyes started to sweat” (that’s “5th grade boy” for I’m crying) I realized that’s exactly how it is with God and me. She demonstrated what the love of God is really like. It’s always there. It’s never earned or deserved and it comes with no strings or conditions. He loves us intensely despite our fears and our failings. He always leads with love and joy and he offers it every time we greet him. He never fails and he never runs low. He has nothing to gain and yet he lights up when he sees us and he just waits to tell us in a hundred different ways every day “I love you so much!”
Several of the staff at school are meeting once a week to participate in the Wild Goose series. It’s a beautiful video teaching series on the Holy Spirit.(I would HIGHLY recommend it!) The first lesson was about the love of God and that class left me praying on the question, how do I KNOW God loves me? He showed me this week with a lesson from one of his smallest teachers. He loves me enough to send a wee one to SHOW me what his love is like. He knew right where to get my heart; through a child. He didn’t send big words or profound scripture, he touched my heart with his love in a way he knew I wouldn’t miss!
A Seed To Plant: Pray on that question, “How do I KNOW God loves me?” See where he leads you in prayer.
Blessings on your day!
“And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” Galatians 6:9
One of the best parts of my job is helping the middle lovelies find direction. We all need people to look up to, to imitate and to follow. Sadly, the choices our culture puts in front of our kids is lacking woefully in the good stuff they need. Several times a week I tell them stories or show them video clips of people doing excellent things. The fine education professors I had at Emporia State University about a hundred years ago told us a bazillion times that if we wanted the lessons to stick, we had to model, model, model and then model some more so I try constantly to show them people who are getting it right. I have to admit though, doing things the right way often takes more energy and thought than doing it the wrong way. I’ve come to the conclusion that sin is pretty easy it’s the resisting that’s tough!
Doing the right thing is always a choice. I visited with a lady several weeks ago after I gave a talk and she told me she had been taught in elementary school by a beautiful nun who always told them “do the right thing for no other reason than because it’s the right thing.” Seems pretty straight forward but after some thought and prayer, it’s deeper than you think. Do the right thing not because you’ll be noticed or get an award or prize. Do the right thing just because it’s right. That was a thought I was peeling around with on my heart and I made a discovery…and not a good one. I realized how many times in a week I thought or even said, “I don’t want to.” Maybe it was because I was tired, or worried or indifferent but there were so many times I just didn’t bother to do the right thing and give a little extra.
This has all been on my heart and I came across a story about a great and holy man that I need to share with you and the middle lovelies. This great man was Pope John the XXIII. He had just kicked off the opening of Vatican II and he was exhausted. He was also battling stomach cancer and feeling it’s painful effects as he retired to his room. One of his aids called his attention to the massive crowd in St. Peter’s Square. He said, “I don’t want to talk, I’ve talked all day.” That was quickly followed as he lifted himself wearily from his chair by a “but I will do it anyway.” He went to the window and delivered his famous “Moonlight Speech.” It was impromptu, heartfelt and beautiful. He did the right thing for the people and more than fifty years later we still remember his words. His message was simple; “give honor to the impressions of this night, which are always our feelings, which now we express before heaven and earth: faith, hope, love, love of God, love of brother, all aided along the way in the Lord's holy peace for the work of the good. And so, let us continue to love each other, to look out for each other along the way: to welcome whoever comes close to us, and set aside whatever difficulty it might bring.”
That night when he had to be running on a completely empty tank, he offered love, peace and a simple message about the right thing to do. It isn’t just the middle lovelies that needed a lesson from Good Pope John…their teacher needed it too!
A Seed To Plant: Make a list of three “right things” you will do today.
Blessings on your day!
The Lord God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground—trees that were pleasing to the eye…Genesis 2:9
October is absolutely my very favorite month of the year. I love the change in temperatures, colors, foods and clothes. We celebrate some of my favorite events in October but what I love most are the trees. Some trees are so intense with yellows, oranges and reds they look like they’re plugged in. As I was driving a couple hours to a speaking job last weekend it was sunny and warm and I just soaked in all the color and beauty. Once I got home, it occurred to me that I take trees for granted the other eleven months out of the year. That thought hovered with me for a few days and I’ve heard three cool tree stories in the past couple of days so I figured that means a message for all of us.
Lesson 1: Trees change, the color changes, the shape changes, the size changes; everything about them changes from season to season. None of those changes are permanent. Some stages are a whole lot more appealing than others for sure. I suppose life is like that. There are times when our lives are bright and brilliant and others when things seem dull and unattractive. Each of the stages come and go, one follows the other and the old makes way for the new. I’m sure the tree doesn’t pout when it’s beautiful colored leaves fall to the ground for us to tromp on; it’s just the ebb and flow. Each stage and each change offers something new and different. Just like the leaves that don’t stay but for a season, our highs aren’t meant to stay forever and neither are our lows. God is right there in both teaching, loving and then moving us along.
Lesson 2: Storms deepens the roots. Trees have a way of adapting to conditions. Storms of life will come and go so being firmly anchored is a means of survival. Tree roots sink deeper into the ground for life-giving nutrients and we need to anchor deeply in our faith and trust in the Lord so we can be nourished by his life-giving grace and mercy. Being rooted in our faith is what allows us to survive the storms and tough spots in life. Strong roots make us steady as the world around us changes.
Lesson 3: Destruction often ushers in new life. The cones on some pine trees are only opened by the flash heat of a forrest fire. The intense heat causes the cone to open up and spill it’s seeds so new life can be spread by gravity and wind. We often look at destruction as life damaging and not as life giving. Sometimes being completely disappointed or devastated is what it takes for us to surrender our own plans and let the love of God guide us to new life.
I guess October trees aren’t just beautiful to look at, they have lessons to offer as well. The next time I’m smack dab in the middle of something stormy and hard I’ll remind myself that I’m working on my roots. The next time I watch my well thought out plans go up in smoke, I’ll remind myself to watch for the seeds of new life around me and I will certainly be reminded that sometimes my life might look like a bunch of bare branches but something good will pop out soon. Thank you God for some beautiful trees and some great lessons.
A Seed To Plant: Pick one of the lessons and ask God to show you how he might be inviting you to apply it to your life this season.
Blessings on your day!
Get out there and bring your joy! Pope Francis
How simple is that! When Pope Francis spoke these words he was talking about our work as disciples of Jesus. He went on to say, “If we are full of Christian joy then we should let our faces know it.” I love that image. So many times I muddle my way through the day trying to be a good disciple and I get tangled up in the “work” of it all and miss the “joy” of it all!
Nobody will ever be inspired by a grump! Who would ever want to be a disciple if all they ever hear is how much work it is, how many committees you have to serve on and how much time it’s going to take. If that’s all I knew of Jesus and discipleship I would probably run as fast as I could in the opposite direction. Our job as disciples is to bring people to Christ not scare them away or point out how hard we work to be one. People want to be drawn to Christ not dragged so I suppose it is a good idea every now and again to see if our attitude is one that is drawing, dragging or scaring away. I guess the even bigger question to ask myself is; would I want to follow me and get involved?
Pope Francis is an inspiration to all Christians because he is a living, breathing demonstration of joy, love, kindness and humility found only in the heart of a servant of the Lord. He makes us want to follow! I was reminded of a story I heard about a little girl who got in line and followed the kids who were leaving school to go to Religious Ed. A few weeks later the teacher realized the little girl wasn’t Catholic and asked her why she was going along each week. Her response was awesome. She smiled at the teacher and said, “I just wanted to go where they were going and learn what they were learning because when they come back to school they are so happy!” Out of the mouths of babes! It made me stop and ask myself, when was the last time I came out of church and others could see the joy and the happiness bubblin out of me? Jesus hasn’t changed…he is and was and always will be so that led me to the conclusion that it was me who wasn’t always bringing my joy; not him!
It doesn’t matter what the sermon is like or the music is like or the way the sanctuary is decorated. The joy of Jesus and discipleship lies in the love he has for us, the mercy he shows us and the grace he freely gives us. I just need to act like it! So…pew potatoes unite…let’s get out there and spread the word and bring our joy!
A Seed To Plant: This week in prayer, ask God to reveal three things to you that will bring you joy and then take it out the door when you leave and share it.
Blessings on your day!
…shake the dust from your feet…Luke 9:5
My mom used to have a famous line. She’d pull it out any time I was trying to make a big decision or plan something. Instead of telling me what to do, she would say, “Well, you could do that but then what happens if…” She would let me think and ponder and look at different sides of the issue. She might repeat that statement a dozen times as I worked my way through the possibilities. She taught me to think about the possibilities and the consequences and then she let me see them through. She was such a wise woman! Today it seems that there is no shortage of folks who want to tell each of us exactly what we should believe and do and think and support. I’m beginning to see two really big problems with that. First, they aren’t offering balanced information steeped in truth and mercy and second, too many folks are letting others do their thinking for them, believing anything they hear.
As I’ve prayed and ached a little over the past couple of weeks about things happening in the news, I was searching for some truth and peace. As always, God pointed me to a passage I’d read dozens of times, but he helped me see it with different eyes. The passage is from Luke’s Gospel and it brought peace and clarity to the mess filling up my newsfeed. When Jesus sent out the disciples their job was to bring the message of love, peace and hope. They weren’t asked to beat people with a stick until they believed exactly what they told them to believe. They were speaking truth and planting seeds. All to often today if someone doesn’t believe what we believe things turn twenty shades of ugly!
Jesus told the disciples if they and the peace the brought with them was not accepted or welcomed they were to shake the dust from their feet and move on. Nowhere in this Gospel did Jesus tell them to stay and beat folks silly until they agreed. He didn’t instruct them to shame, belittle or humiliate them, just shake the dust and move along. He also didn’t teach them to move to the next house and bad mouth the place they weren’t welcomed. It was a simple, gentle motion, shake and go. But before they shook and left, they gave the peace of Christ. It made me wonder how many times we get into an argument and desire the other persons holiness or offer them the peace of Christ?
The other thing that struck me was the dust. Dust is dirt right? And things grow in dirt right? So while they gently shook the dust and moved past, what was left in the dust? The disciples left in that dust seeds of peace, seeds of compassion, seeds of gentleness. As they quietly slipped away they demonstrated what Christ taught us; love one another. I wonder how many times the disciples shook the dust from their sandals and those left behind were inspired by their example of gentleness and non-judgement? I wonder how many people pondered on it and changed their attitude or behavior? I wonder how many through the seeds left in the dust actually came to follow Jesus after all?
As I’ve prayed with this Gospel for several days I’m reminded of that famous line from St. Teresa of Calcutta; the thing that needs to change most in this world if it is to be more peaceful and Christ like is ME! I suppose it would be a great idea if we did a little more dust shaking and less tongue wagging and finger pointing. And I know I need to work harder at desiring the holiness of all those people in the news making me crazy. My words for the week…shake, peace and plant seeds of hope in the dust!
A Seed To Plant: Read Luke 9:1-6 and see if the Lord has some direction for you in regards to creating peace on earth.
Blessings on your day!
He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. Isaiah 40:29
When my oldest son was in the fourth grade, I volunteered to help him and his friends make a piñata for their class Halloween party. The boys had a great time slapping on the newspaper strips drenched in the gooey flour paste. Each little narrow strip of newspaper was slopped on the outside of a Mylar balloon until the boys thought they’d covered every visible speck of silver balloon. After getting the boys and the table cleaned up, I picked up the piñata to set it in the sun to dry. As I reached down to grab it, I nearly threw out my shoulder the thing was so stinkin’ heavy! Holy cow…how could something made out of such tiny strips of weightless newspaper collect into a creation weighing as much as a toddler? The best laugh of all came the following week at the party when it practically took a sledge hammer to break the thing.
I had the pleasure of taking a class about teaching Scripture to kids. It was an excellent class and the instructor was so dynamic, passionate and enjoyable. One of the underlying themes of the class was that using Scripture and helping kids LOVE IT involves lots of little things. Bringing Scripture to life is not about unveiling the complexities and all the history, it’s about revealing the little ways God uses His word to reach us, draw us in and shower us with His gifts. As I was coming home, I drove past a lawn decorated to the hilt with Halloween decorations and I remembered that silly jack-o-lantern piñata the boys made more than a dozen years ago. That 30 pound piñata took on a whole new meaning as I began to realize that our journey toward heaven is a little like that piñata. The creation of that big, strong piñata, began with something that was tiny, weightless and of little value by itself but yet, it became so much more!
We can get pretty caught up sometimes in the big stuff of life, like money, careers, politics, mortgages, position and on and on. It’s all legitimate and needs our attention for sure, but our journey to heaven is supremely about the little stuff. Jesus worked some breath taking miracles, He did some unbelievable healings and He orchestrated some amazing conversions but His message to His followers always focused on the little things. He took more than 600 Jewish laws and condensed them into TWO commandments for us to follow…talk about simplifying things! He used parables or stories of the common, to teach and reach souls for His Father. He even pulled some children onto His lap to show us exactly who we needed to imitate. Jesus was all about the little things!
Our lives should be like that piñata…a combination of little things, done lovingly for Christ in order to make us strong enough to withstand the blows of disappointment, difficulty and discouragement tossed in our path by the evil one. During the class I was touched right to my core when the instructor was talking about the Parable of the Prodigal Son. The message of that story is simpler than greed and jealousy and betrayal. It’s not a story of good son vs bad son. It’s about a little choice with enormous consequence. I was dawn to tears when the instructor spoke in a voice so peaceful and loving and taught that the prodigal son was saying to his father, I want your “stuff” not a relationship…he was in effect saying; father, you are dead to me. In a quivering voice, the instructor reminded us that the father in the story is indeed our God and Father and many times we act just like the son demanding God’s stuff; His love, mercy and grace without wanting to work at a relationship with Him. What God demands of us is simple and small compared to what He blesses us with yet we still sometimes let days slip by without carving out that chunk of time to sit in quiet, uninterrupted prayer. He isn't asking us to live the life of a Cloistered Monk, He just wants us to invite Him into our day and trust Him.
What little things can you begin with? Can you begin with or add a few more minutes of Scripture each day? Maybe it could be a little time helping a neighbor? How about a little time praying for that crabby co-worker instead of complaining about them? If there are a hundred steps between me and God, I know that if I take the first little step toward Him, He will take the rest toward me. He's asking for little things from us so He can build us up and give us strength...and we'll be way stronger than a jack-o-lantern pinata.
A seed to plant: Do 5 little things this week that will strengthen your relationship with your Creator.
Blessings on your day!
…his mercies are not spent; they are new each morning. Lamentations 3:22-23
I am grateful for lots and lots of things and one of them is my ability to fall asleep as fast and hard as a brick being dropped from a high building! On the nights I’m not asleep in the first 3 seconds after crawling between the sheets I try to do a replay of my day and offer thanksgiving for the blessings and pray for forgiveness for my sinfulness. When I get to that part, sometimes I get pretty sad, even embarrassed about things I have done or said during the day. It’s funny that on the nights I don’t fall right to sleep it’s usually because something has happened during that day that I need to pray on, ask forgiveness for or ask God to help me fix the next day. I’m not gonna lie, some nights when I start thinking about silly things that slipped out of my mouth that shouldn’t have, or situations where I didn’t slow down enough to really listen or be compassionately present for someone I’d rather just roll over and go to sleep. Sometimes it’s like someone holding up a mirror and I don’t like what I see.
I was having one of those nights not long ago and I couldn’t go to sleep. I ended up moving to the couch so I wouldn’t disturb Dave because no matter how hard I tried to drift off, something just kept nagging at me so I gave up, opened scripture and asked God to show me what he was putting on my heart. It was a beautiful experience of his mercy that eventually led me to this verse in Lamentations. How great is our God! Even as he was pointing out something I didn’t want to see, he did it with such love. I realized that he was showing me how I could follow him more closely and after a while longer, I fell sound asleep and didn’t even roll over the rest of the night. When I woke up the next morning I felt so peaceful and content because I realized that no matter how much we mess things up, he is there for us and his mercies are new each morning.
Don’t we serve an amazing God! It’s like a “do-over” every day. The morning brings new light, new opportunity and God’s new mercies. If you’re reading this today and your heart is heavy about something you’re lugging around, put it to rest in the forgiving arms of the Father and sleep tonight knowing his mercies will be new in the morning. Admit your faults and failings, ask his forgiveness, offer apology and make peace where you need to and know things will be as fresh and hopeful as a bright new morning.
A Seed To Plant: Ask God to show you where you need to seek forgiveness, offer forgiveness and then rest in the promise of his mercy.
Blessings on your day!
Jesus looked at them and said, “For human beings is impossible, but not for God. All things are possible for God." Mark 10:27
When my heart is troubled I tell myself, “It’s ok, God can do anything he wants!” As I watch the events of the world unfold around me and I look at the number of folks hurting and suffering I find myself repeating that line often. One quick look at the news and it’s easy to see why folks are discouraged. No matter how much I’d like to make things better for everyone, I am not a wise or powerful woman who can change any of it. But I can, and will, pray about it and do my best to share God’s hope and love and joy in an attempt to keep those in my corner of the world grounded in this important truth that with God all things are possible. God is calling each of us to remember in times of trouble that if we look carefully, he gives us signs of His love and encouragement every day.
As long as God is in charge, the news will never be all bad, so powered by the hope in this verse, I set out to see what good things God was doing and I was able to fill my eyes, ears and heart with so much “good stuff”. All around me I noticed God’s signals that assured me it’s gonna be ok because of his infinite possibilities! At mass, I saw the adorable chubby cheeks of a little girl who found her voice. With each happy squeal I was reminded that babies are God’s sign of life. At a restaurant I saw a family with five little ones who screeched, giggled and wiggled and I smiled because their parents chose life. At the Secretary of State office I watched as a very patient, kind hearted 3 year old fed her baby sister dry cereal one piece at a time.
When I stopped for coffee, I noticed a table of men loud with laughter and energy sitting before their open Bibles discussing Gods word. At the market I watched a young man present an elderly lady he didn’t know a bouquet of flowers to make her day. In the airport I saw executives with laptops and spreadsheets begin an important meeting with prayer. As I looked with eyes wide open I saw Gods goodness and possibilities again and again. Sights and sounds that give witness to the“good” in this world. The happy giggles and delightful squeals and those who gathered to pray, visit, laugh and share in each other’s lives…that’s my signal that as long as we remember the words from Marks Gospel…we’ll be ok. We aren’t promised perfection, we are promised hope, mercy and love from the Father who created us. We have to remember that with God, all things won’t be perfect but they are most certainly possible!
A Seed To Plant: Take some time to sit in prayer and make a list off all the things that trouble you. One by one ask God to handle each item and bring your heart hope and peace, knowing he will take care of them.
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