Ask for a sign from the Lord, your God…Isaiah 7:11
The wait is almost over, I hope it’s been a prayerful and peaceful Advent! Twice in the last few days these words from the Prophet Isaiah have hit my heart. It makes me wonder how often we ask and look for signs. For the most part I think we ask out of faith. Many of us look for or pray for signs so we can feel guided or assured but I suppose sometimes in our frustration and disappointment we can get a little crazy with our demand for a sign. I’ve never asked him for something outrageous like a banner flying behind an airplane with the answer to my question, but I am guilty of asking for signs because I’m low on trust.
I think the problem with asking for signs is that we’ve already been given so many. I have to imagine God in heaven doing a face palm when we ask for a sign and wondering how many more times he has to dazzle us before we just shut up and trust. When you read this entire passage, Isaiah predicted the sign with remarkable, dramatic detail; Virgin birth and a baby name decades and decades in advance…now that’s a sign! When we trace back the story of Gods love, it’s easy to see time and time again he’s been showing us some pretty spectacular signs of his endless love for his people.
Todays post includes a Christmas present. The link below will take you to a video by the Skit Guys that is a 3 minute wonder to behold. Every time I play it for the Middle Lovelies they ask to watch it again and again to see all the signs and stories unfold. Each of the events are a sign of His wonder and love. When I really think about it, he’s already given me far more signs than I’ll ever need. I guess I just need a reminder from time to time. Perhaps I’ll work on asking for fewer signs and aim for greater appreciation of the ones that he’s already shown.
I’d like to wish all of you a beautiful and blessed Christmas! Please know of my Christmas prayers for all of you.
A Seed To Plant: Take three minutes and watch this beautiful video.
Blessings on your day!
He must increase, I must decrease. John 3:30
I love to cook and my kitchen is my happy place. I’m not much of a recipe follower, I tend to use them as suggestions instead of instructions so I can get pretty creative with substitutions. Occasionally, the result of my creative swap teeters on the edge of disaster! A recent such disaster got me to thinking about the swaps that I should consider in my discipleship. Since Christmas is near and I want to give the Baby King the gift of a better me, I decidedI should make a few substitutions in my daily faith life.
*I need to swap the word BUT for the word BECAUSE. All too often I find myself saying things like “It’s ok BUT…” or “I’d like that BUT…” The BUT automatically shifts my focus to what’s wrong or negative. BECAUSE would help me find the positive. “I enjoyed that BECAUSE…” or ‘I’d be happy to do that BECAUSE…”
*I need to swap my words for HIS Word. If I spent more time quietly soaking up His Word instead of flapping my lips or chatting it up on social media, that would be a super power swap for my soul! My words sure aren’t going to make the world better but HIS will!
*I need to swap thinking about doing things with actually doing them! Procrastination can often be disguised as “planning” or “organizing” when in my case, it’s actually just plain ole puttering around and dragging my feet instead of just gettin to the task! I can’t even imagine how many more good discipley things I could do with all those minutes I waste.
*I need to swap reacting for pondering. I can be way too snappy with my actions and reactions. I’m a problem solver and sometimes I just spring into action and try to get all the wrinkles smoothed out whether I’m the best person for the job or not. I need to spend some time prayerfully pondering and giving God a chance to do things his way.
*I need to swap why me for why not me! It’s ok if I work extra sometimes. It’s ok if someone makes more money than me. It’s ok if folks don’t notice all the things I do. It’s ok if someone else gets the attention, reward or surprise. I need to stop thinking about what I think I deserve or have earned and learn to celebrate the joys, successes and good fortune of others. I need to remind myself that all the things I do are for his glory and not mine!
It’s just five little swaps but I have a feeling the final product will be a great improvement! As we wrap up the last few days of Advent and finish getting our hearts ready, I think I’ll focus on swapping out some junk and make some room for him.
A Seed To Plant: Pick one of these swaps or think up some of your own and put them in action these last few days of Advent.
Blessings on your day!
Be patient, brothers and sisters, until the coming of the Lord. James 5:7
Happy Third week of Advent. It’s the Joyful week but how many of us are thinking; ok, enough with the patient waiting already! If we’re used to running like our hair is on fire, this whole season can be a test for us. Any time we enter a new Church Season, it’s an invitation to deeper prayer; but what if we’re not “getting” what we’re praying for? We might be tempted to think God has forgotten us or not heard our pleas but rest assured, he’s absolutely aware and waiting on his perfect timing. As I wait for Christmas and use the waiting to pray, read and prepare, the words above from St. James and a quote from Henri Nouwen hit my heart. “Waiting is never a movement from nothing to something. It is always a movement from something to something more.” Henri Nouwen
I guess I thought of waiting as empty time and I began to wonder how often I’m guilty of thinking it’s either something or nothing. Something is MY way and if it’s not going MY way then I have nothing. Boy did these words make me realize I had it wrong. I suppose I need to look at things with gratitude so I can see the somethings in my life while I’m waiting for the something mores! After I read this quote the first week of Advent I started thinking about all the times it seemed like I was waiting and God was doing nothing. I was humbled to realize he’s always in the process of giving me something more. I’ve realized that more isn’t necessarily bigger, or sparklier, or exciting but something more is always perfect for me.
The example that became the most vivid was so far back I didn’t realize he was still working on it. Years ago I prayed for him to take the pain and help me understand the reason for the death of my brother and my mom. I began praying and waiting for something that didn’t hurt so much. It dawned on me last Friday that the something I prayed for was phenomenally more than I could have imagined and it came so gradually and gently I took it for granted. Friday was a great day! It started with staff Advent prayer, next came a morning of laughter with 22 female middle lovelies who bring me so much joy and the beginning of preparation for 3 Christmas celebrations with my husband and kids and thats when it hit me! All the years I’ve been waiting, he’s been giving me something more and more and more. I think back to the loss and the waiting has delivered a might something more…a job I love more and more each year, a work family that’s amazing and a family I could have only imagined. While I was waiting for him to make me a famous speaker and author he made me something so much more…he made me more faithful, more humble and more available. While I was waiting to make more money, he made me rich in family, friendships grace and contentment. While I was waiting to get over the pain of loss, he's allowed me to walk with those who are hurting and share their pain with an understanding and compassionate heart. While I was waiting for him to give me everything I wanted he’s given me more than I could have ever imagined.
As we head into these last several days of Advent, it’s the perfect time to ponder with grateful hearts all the something mores that slipped by unnoticed and prepare to take those things with us as we gaze at the Baby in the Manger on Christmas.
A Seed To Plant: Spend some time in prayer recalling all the something mores you might have missed.
Blessings on your day!
A voice cries out: in the desert prepare the way of the Lord! Isaiah 40:3
There are a lot of words I like to hear. There are words that can turn a bad day into a great day in a flash and words that can bring comfort or hope to a hurting, sad soul. There are words that just make you feel happy, loved and safe. Then there are the words we don’t like so much. You know those pesky little words that mean we have changes to make, work to do or truth to face. The readings during the season of Advent are full of those words. Words like; prepare, wait, repent and forgive are so deeply connected with the meaning and purpose of Advent but if you’re anything like me, you read past them and get on with the shopping, baking and holiday fun.
In this zillion miles an hour world we live in, waiting isn’t something we do well because we can get just about everything on demand and express delivered to our hot little hands. Instant is better isn’t it? When I think about instant my mind floods with thoughts of projects I’ve tried to complete as quickly as possible; cakes I’ve tried to cool instantly so I could get them frosted only to have the frosting melt and slide off into a sugary mess or graduation party decorations and pictures I tried to put up in a quick rush that all fell down over night because I didn’t take the time to do the job well. I can think of situations and mistakes I’ve tried to forget rather than process properly and prayerfully while considering the truth of my actions and repent. I think of forgiveness issued by my words but not really felt in my heart. All of those things leave me feeling empty inside because they weren’t really done the right way...the Advent way…the Lord’s way.
As we journey through Advent it would be a great idea to pause and take stock of the words offered by the likes of Isaiah the Prophet and John the Baptist. They were pretty smart guys who were intensely in love with the God we claim to love and serve. They didn’t run around spitting out these words we aren’t too fond of to make themselves popular. They shared these words because they are precisely the things we need to do in order to draw closer to the Father who loves us. They are the words that allow us to truly ready ourselves for the coming of something completely amazing that often gets taken for granted or lost in the wrapping paper and tinsel. Imagine the preparation that would take place if Pope Francis or our favorite sports, music or movie star were coming to our home for a visit. It would be a frenzy of activity and preparation. Stop for a second and imagine what your to-do list would include as you got ready for that event and consider the amount of focus you world devote to your special guest.
Each Advent we begin a New Liturgical year with a time of preparation for the most amazing guest imaginable. He’s not a guest that will come into our home for an hour, a day or a meal; he wants to come into our heart and dwell there for all eternity. Are we ready for that? If the answer is “no” or “not quite” then the good news is, we have some time to get ready. Take a long prayerful look at the words prepare, wait, repent and forgive and ask the Lord to show you how to turn the words into actions that will truly prepare us for the birth of Jesus.
A Seed To Plant: Pick one of those Advent words and pray with it this week slowly and carefully this week to see where He leads you on the journey to His Son.
Blessings on your day!
On that day, a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse and from his roots a bud shall blossom. Isaiah 11:1
One of the things I love most about living in the small community of Westphalia is the endearing sense of family and heritage. Unless you’re “not from around here” you might not even realize how beautiful and unique the family ties that connect and bind this community are. The questions, “Who are your parents?” or “Who are your grandparents?” are common and ordinary around here. The family tree is a thing of beauty and it’s roots run deep in faithfulness, perseverance, loyalty and love.
America seems to be obsessed with genealogy and it has become a billion-dollar industry. Over the past few years ancestry sites have become the second most frequently visited sites on the internet. It also seems that ancestor-hunting is the country’s most popular pastime after gardening. When NBC aired a program called Who Do You Think You Are? More than 2 million households tuned in. It’s an expensive hobby however; folks regularly pay upwards of $1,800 a year to search for names to add to their family tree. Seems crazy doesn’t it!
Families are a funny combination of personalities, gifts, talents, strengths and shortcomings. Families are known for lots of different things. Some are farmers and keeper of the land. Others are business owners and decision makers. Some boast of athletic or intellectual gifts. Still others are known for their quiet, honest, prayerful trustworthiness. We are a combination of leaders, followers, thinkers and doers. We are different but yet we share one mighty connection.
When I read chapter 11 from the Prophet Isaiah I hear a story of promise and hope . I hear a story of the beauty and strength of Jesse’s family tree; from whose stump came One who brought strength, knowledge, peace, justice and faithfulness. We hear about One who was so mighty his very presence created the impossible. Who could imagine a cow and a bear together or a lion and a lamb and most unthinkable a baby and a cobra? Isaiah was telling of one to come who would lead, protect, defend and save us all. This reading is not just about Jesse’s family tree, it’s about ours too because i’t’s a story of Jesus and we are the children God sent his Son Jesus to earth for. We are the benefactors of his gifts, his genius and his mercy. We are HIS!
If you have been blessed with a strong sense of family Advent is the perfect time to thank God for that and to take time to give some thought to our true family roots. Are we a bud that is blossoming into something pleasing to the Father or could our branch on the family tree benefit from some prayerful pruning and tender care? We don’t have to spend hundreds of dollars or hours searching to discover who the most important part of our Family Tree is. Advent is a season to prepare for the newborn king and contemplate the gift of being his child.
A Seed To Plant: Make contact with someone in your family you haven’t spoken to in a while. Call, text or send a card just to let them know you thought about and prayed for them today
Blessings on your day!
Small towns are a fabulous source of support. We are so connected here and we share each others triumphs and tragedies. This fall we have buried several great people who have left some big holes in the fabric of our community. Today we will walk with our 6th graders as they honor their friend Samantha who died two years ago. I couldn’t get my words right for this post and then I stepped away to pray for the words he wanted and he led me back to this post I wrote two years ago. The words are two years old but they are ever so relevant. Every now and again I suppose it’s good for the soul to think about God working in our lives even when things aren’t what we planned or expected.
The Lord is close to the brokenhearted, saves those whose spirit is crushed. Psalm 34:19
Every once in a while something happens that I just can’t seem to find the joyful words for. Several times since the Joyful Words blog began, I’ve needed to write a piece that presented my best attempt at trying to explain the unexplainable, offer comfort to the miserable and provide a window from which to catch a glimpse of the beauty nestled deeply in a tragedy. Today is one of those days and I pray the Holy Spirit will use my typing to apply some healing balm and loving peace to a hurting community.
From a human perspective, the best ending to life on earth would be to simply lie down for a nap at the ripe old age of 90 something and peacefully pass from this dwelling to the next. No pain, no suffering, no trauma, no mess. The problem is, that’s not often the way it all goes down. This week our little community has fallen to it’s knees; both in prayer and in grief as we mourn the loss of a beautiful little 10 year old named Samantha. She was a joyful light so full of love and life. We had a one day window to beg for a miracle before the Lord called her home. Now we’re all trying to fit the pieces back together. As teachers and parents we’re trying to help nearly 300 children process something they can’t wrap their heads or their hearts around. As family, friends and brothers and sisters in Christ we’re reaching out to a family that is stunned and a little broken. As Christians, we’re trying to trustingly grab on to the peace and comfort of the Father. And as humans, we’re confused, broken hearted and perhaps even a little bit angry.
I suppose the greatest tragedy of all would be for us to stay stuck right where we are. God doesn’t make this stuff happen. He doesn’t plan it or will it, but he sure does meet us in the middle of it and lead us through it. He didn’t turn his back on us and ignore our plea for a miracle. Our hope wasn’t wasted and our faith wasn’t ignored. It’s ok to not have a crystal clear understanding of things; it’s ok if we can’t figure things all out; it’s ok if stuff just doesn’t make sense. Having faith doesn’t guarantee understanding. God is so much bigger than our pain and he is so much stronger than our suffering. Those are the truths we need to stand on in times like these.
In the midst of the hard and the ugly this week there has been tremendous grace and overwhelming love. I’ve had a front row seat to some amazing views this week and I’ve seen heartwarming beauty come from deep sadness. Our miracle may not have looked the way we wanted it to but I’d like to share a few of the many little miracles of the week because they bring hope and they are a reminder that God loves us so richly and he’s too fond of us to leave us right where we are.
**Just like Mr. Rogers said, “Look for the helpers.” This week we have seen so, so many amazing helpers who have brought food, counseling and comfort to our students and staff. Helpers have transformed our school gym into a space of magnificent beauty to gather for prayer, and comfort as we celebrate the life of a sweet little girl. My favorite helpers are the army of folks who have swaddled Samantha’s family with love and prayers.
**Words aren’t always necessary. Sometimes the greatest act of compassion is to reach out and hold someones hand or offer them a tissue for their leaky eyes and drippy nose. It’s been a wonder to see the big kids take care of the little kids and see classmates lifting each other up in those moments when it just gets overwhelming.
**The power of family is unshakable when they are united in faith and prayer.
**The Holy Spirit always sends the right words when you ask for them and sometimes what he sends comes out a little twisted and that’s ok too because that often creates laughter and he know when that’s what you need most!
**There is absolutely nothing that can’t be made better when surrounded by prayer and the phrase, Jesus I trust in you is a powerhouse!
**Super Heroes sometimes come in the form of a 10 year old twin sister with the courage of a warrior, armed with the strength and the power and the love to make sure we had all the inside information about her sister so we could honor her memory perfectly.
**Together, united in trust and faith, guided by the Grace of God, anything is possible and joy can be found even on the darkest day.
I’m reminded of a line from one of my favorite movies, “Sometimes life is hard for no particular reason at all!” I may not be able to find a good reason for the events of this week but I sure can find God and his goodness splattered everywhere I look.
A Seed To Plant: Please say a prayer for peace and comfort for Samantha’s family, Connie’s family, Bev’s family, Terry’s family and Mark’s family.
Blessings on your day!
Stay Awake! Matthew 24:42
Holy cow…did December sneak up on anybody else? I used to invisibly roll my eyes in youthful disrespect when “older” people said, “oh just wait; the older you get the faster time goes by!” The older I get, the more truth I discover in those words! Does anyone else ever feel like hitting the pause button long enough to get caught up?
This past weekend many Christians began the season of Advent. I have a new Advent attitude this year. My new attitude comes from some extra prayer and study about the preparation season leading up to the birth of Christ. I’ve been “hitting the books” so to speak because I have the great privilege of presenting a Woman’s night of Advent Prayer and Reflection this week…twice! I discovered some simple truths and beautiful thoughts for all of us as we stand at the edge of December. I hope they give you a new perspective on this often stressful, hectic, perhaps even chaotic month. Stay awake fits…not because we’re exhausted by all the activity but because we need to be awake and tuned in to the gift of God’s Son or Christmas becomes nothing more than another day.
Popular culture and the wonderful world of retail sales catapulted us into Christmas right after the last bag of Halloween candy left the shelf but those of us who yearn for the true meaning…the deeper meaning…the life changing meaning of Christmas need to be willing to wait a little. As a society, we aren’t very good at waiting! We like everything quickly and conveniently and we sometimes get lost in the “one-up” philosophy that often drives our ambitions and our actions. If you feel even a little part of that thinking seeping into your heart or thoughts, sit still for a minute and think about Advent.
If the season of Advent could be summed up in two words, they would be PATIENTLY WAITING! Yikes…really…but when will the shopping and baking and decorating and celebrating happen if we just sit around waiting? Good question I suppose, but maybe the answer is right in front of us…maybe we don’t have to spend so much time focused on all those things. If those are the things that take away from really “getting” Christmas maybe a prayerful re-vamp of December priorities is in order. I think that’s the point of this post! I have a few big questions for all of us…ready…Is walking into church on Christmas Eve or Christmas Morning the highlight of your December? What consumes more time; shopping for the perfect gifts or preparing to receive the perfect gift of God’s Son? And finally, would you like to spend Christmas wrapped up in the Wonder and Awe lying in the manger or exhausted, sick of the decorations and ready to flip the page and clean up the mess? Jesus is bigger than one day!
God sent the gift of His Son in a tiny, humble, simple beginning…He figured we could relate to that. I think He felt like each of us could accept and believe something so “real”. Each December He gives us the chance to re-live the true meaning of His gift. Each December we have a chance to clean our spiritual house to prepare for Him to dwell in our hearts. That only happens through still, quiet prayer and a desire on our part to seek Him and be blessed beyond measure by the true gift of Christmas. I’m sure some of you are tempted to scream at your screen at me and say…geez Sheri…it’s the busiest month of the year and you are suggesting I take time I already don’t have enough of to sit still and pray for my heart to be ready for the New Born King! ABSOLUTELY!!! Scream away, but that’s exactly what I’m challenging all of us to do this December. I have to let you in on a secret…God can multiply time! If you unselfishly, trustingly, prayerfully give Him some of your day, He will bless you unbelievably. Be honest as you start your prayer, say to Him, “God, I’ve got SO much to do today, please know these 10 or 15 minutes I’m going to sit here in prayer are precious. Please take my busy day and show me how to make You a part of it. Bless my actions and my words and my tasks.” Then my friends…stand back and prepare to be amazed at what He will do! If you aren’t sure what to do with that prayer time, read the story…the Christmas story from the Annunciation all the way through the Magi. Read it little by little again and again asking God to get your heart ready. Ask Him to make this Christmas about His Son…His gift and not so much about all the other stuff. I know it may sound crazy but invite God to go shopping with you…He has made some amazing gifts “appear” when I had no ideas and very little budget. Invite Him into all of it, asking Him to help you keep His Son as the focus.
I figure if I do Advent right, I will go to Mass Christmas Eve with my family and be so filled with joy and gratitude my heart will feel like it just might burst! I want to FEEL the meaning of Christmas! That’s my goal this December.
A Seed To Plant: Take the first step today…sit in quiet prayer and ask God to show you how to “do December” with a spirit of prayerful anticipation of the most amazing gift imaginable; His Son.
Blessings on your day!
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