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!
Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Colossians 3:15
There are two really important words in this short verse from St. Paul’s letter to the Colossians that lead us to the third BE; peace and thankful. The third thing we need to focus on to calm down the worry is to BE THANKFUL. Gratitude is powerful and not only does it do wonders for our own troubled heart, it’s a beautiful gift to everyone else. Here is an interesting thing I learned about being thankful. Recent MRI studies have mapped the gratitude circuitry in the brain, which activates a sense of reward, fairness, and decision-making—all aspects that help facilitate survival. In case you might be looking for ways to amp up the gratitude here are a few tips to help you sprinkle a little more thankfulness in your day.
*Make it a habit at least once a day to say out-loud three things you are grateful for.
*End your day by jotting down a few things from the day that you are thankful for. I often tell the story of how my mom had a practice of doing exactly this very thing. It was her belief that if the last thing on your mind before sleep was something you were thankful for instead of something you were worried about, you’d sleep better and wake up more positive.
*Tell at least two people a day thank you! Make it specific if you really want to brighten someones day and spread a little joy.
*Make sure your thank-you’s outnumber your complaints.*Check your perspective, if you’re having trouble thinking of something to be grateful for, check out the situation of those around you and that might help you see your situation through a different lens.
*Volunteer…Jesus wasn’t kidding with the whole “serve others” thing. Turns out, it’s a great boost for our gratitude and our happiness.
*Notice and appreciate the little things. I was in the middle of a train-wreck of a day not long ago and a little boy with Downs Syndrome walked up to me in the store and gave me a carnation. He said, “You look like you need something pretty and a hug.” In that one split second the my attitude completely changed.
*Be with the people you love. Make sure you surround yourself with people who lift you up, make you laugh and bring you joy.
*Find some gratitude scriptures you can call on when you’re feeling a little worried and wilted. God’s word is always true and always meant to bring good.
We worship freely, we have all we need to eat, we have shelter, we have transportation and people who care about us. Those things alone make us some of the richest people in the world. I don’t know about you but I think I should sit down and make a list of those and the hundred other things I probably take for granted and add them to my gratitude list. Sounds like a great way to chase the blues away.
A Seed To Plant: Spend some time working on your gratitude list and then find a few great scripture verses about gratitude you can use when the worry gets heavy on your heart.
Blessings on your day!
Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise think about these things. Philippians 4:8
So after what I hope was a “BE LOUD” sort of weekend, it’s time to move to the second be; “BE WIDE-EYED” Before I launch into the second Be, we need to go back to an episode of Little House on the Prairie. (If you weren’t a viewer…is that even possible? think of any old western with plow horses.) The horses working in the field or hauling the family to town in the wagon often wore blinders. These little square leather pieces were meant to focus horses on the path and avoid distractions. It seems logical and safe don’t you think? There are days I think it would be helpful to have a pair so I could focus on one task at a time instead of looking around and seeing a dozen things to do and jumping from task to task.
Sometimes we are like those horses with blinders and we plow full speed ahead focused on one thing. The problem though, is when we struggle with anxiety and worry the thing we’re “laser focused” on is usually adding to our struggle instead of leading us away from it. The second Be challenges us to Be Wide-Eyed and notice what’s on the other side of those blinders. There are a hundred things wrong with this world today. There is tragedy, violence, disaster and evil in all corners of the globe. There is also sorrow, pain, sickness, financial struggle, relationship trouble and plain ole worry settled into all the corners of our daily life and it’s easy to get caught with “blinder vision” and see only those things. St. Paul in his letter to the Philippians encouraged them to look WIDER and he even told them exactly what to focus on.
Today, I’m going to pull a St. Paul and tell you exactly the same thing. You absolutely can see the yuck…there is a lot of it but I’m going to encourage you to take off the blinders and look to the left and to the right. I’m going to ask you to look for the things that are good, just, noble and lovely. I don’t for one hot second want to diminish the reality of the hurt and confusion that may be sitting on your heart, I’m just asking you to notice all the other stuff God is showing you. Bad news always leads. Lies and negative spins on stuff seem sparklier than a story about a four year old spending all his birthday money to buy cake mixes to make cupcakes for the firefighters and policemen in his neighborhood which he sweetly delivered in his little red wagon. A story about deceit and violence will get more reads, likes and comments than the article about NICU nurses who dressed premies for Halloween or National Kindness day. It’s a good idea to take down the blinders and see what you’re missing. We have to ask hard questions and make touch choices like turning off the news, cutting back or eliminating social media or other places that are feeding our worry and anxiety. When I quit watching the news I was afraid I’d be “out of the loop”. Funny thing is, I didn’t really want to be in the loop in the first place. Another funny thing, the world didn’t change when I stopped watching the circus; but I did.
We live in a world of great people doing great stuff…do you see it? I had a visit from a group of 5th grade boys on Halloween night who brought me hot coffee and I have a student who copied my favorite Scripture verse in perfect cursive with a glitter gel pen…beautiful! I watched a 6th grade brother visit a first grade sister who forgot her lunch delivering half of everything that was in his lunch pail. The sandwich was torn in half and a half a bag of Doritos were poured onto the sandwich and wrapped in a paper towel. He split the apple in half with his desk scissors and gave her one of his two Hershey Kisses. The whole exchange happened in silence behind the coat rack in my classroom. Words aren’t needed to define that kind of love and humility. I still cry every time I remember that morning. If I hadn’t been wide-eyed I would have missed something beautiful. If you’re struggling I’ll ask you to look for the positive, the good, the lovely and excellent going on all around you. If you love someone who is struggling I’ll ask you to point it out and maybe even be the one who creates a little positive event in their life. A note or text, a flower or favorite snack delivered anonymously or personally with a hug and a prayer make a huge difference. One more thought, when we’re struggling, there is nothing that can pull us out of a slump faster than turning our focus to someone else. If I’m having a lousy day, seeing only my own yuck, doing a positive act for someone can snap me out of a funk faster than anything I can think of. There is a quote from a favorite movie, The Shack and it just seems to fit this BE. The line comes when God is speaking to Mac and God says, “When all you see is your own pain, you loose sight of Me.” BE WIDE-EYED this week and look for the positive things St. Paul points us to.
A Seed To Plant: Add the second BE to your list and then begin looking! Please share the wide-eyed things you’re seeing so we can all enjoy!
Blessings on your day!
For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. Romans 10:13
My heart hurts often when I realize how many people struggle with worry, stress and anxiety. I see it sapping peoples energy, their joy and their hope. In an attempt to figure out how I can help and not make things worse, I have been doing some studying. I think unknowingly, we sometimes say things that aren’t at all helpful. If someone is truly trapped in a struggle phrases like, “Just snap out of it.” or “You’re making a really big deal out of this don’t ya think?” are among some of the most unhelpful. If they could just snap out of it, they most certainly would.
In my search for helpful answers I’ve read lots and lots of stuff and I’ve decided to boil it down into 3 things I hope might help. I’ve lumped lots of prayer and reading into the 3 Be’s and I’ve decided to turn the 3 Be’s into a 3 part series! If you struggle with worry I hope you can find some simple truth and hope. If you love someone who struggles with worry, I hope you can find some things to encourage them and bring some hope and peace to their heart.
Let’s start with the first Be…Be Loud! Let me take you back to childhood and explain. When I was a kid, we had a great apple tree in our back yard. It was the perfect climbing tree and my brothers were up in that tree nearly every spring and summer day. I would watch from the ground only wishing I could climb with them. I was grounded for a couple of reasons. First, I was terrified of leaving the ground (pretty big deterrent to tree climbing). Second, I was frightened because I wore leg braces for the first 12 years of my life and I had a completely lousy sense of balance, so tree climbing was not a great idea.
I honestly don’t know what came over me one day but I decided to give tree climbing a try despite my fear. I remember getting a 5 gallon bucket to give myself a boost to help me reach the first branch. I got up to about the third branch and then a limb got wedged between the cable on my leg brace and my leg. I was stuck and as I tried to get free my other foot slipped off the branch and I was left hanging there sideways with my feet touching no part of the tree. I screamed as loud as I could for my dad and in pretty quick fashion I could hear his calm voice. I yelled for him to help me and get me down but he did something I didn’t expect. He told me that he was going to help, but that I was the one who got into the pickle and I was going to have to get out. For what seemed like forever he stood under that tree giving me directions about where to put my hands and feet. He walked me through getting the branch unstuck from the the cable on my braces and he coached me down onto the bucket and to the ground. I remember asking him why he didn’t just climb up the tree and rescue me and he told me it was better to learn how to get myself out of a pickle with a little support and guidance so I would know what to do if it ever happened again.
There are so many lessons from that day. Each of us has a Father who will race to our aid if we call on his name. Whether it’s a father racing to an apple tree, or to the bedroom to scare monsters out of the closet or a Father who races to the heart of a weary child to restore peace and hope they are just a shout away. All we have to do is cry out loudly for the help of our Father and help will come. We sometimes think he forgets to show up when we call his name and things don’t get better immediately. I think sometimes Father God helps a little like my dad did the day I got stuck in the tree. He didn’t rescue me straight down from the tree but he guided and taught and walked me through; I had to cooperate and listen. If I hadn’t, I might still be stuck in that tree or the same thing might have happened the next time I climbed a tree if he hadn’t helped me learn.
If we’re struggling and we cry out loudly, God will put someone in our path to help us. I’ve learned that I don’t always know what to do or say when someone is struggling but if I cry out too, the Holy Spirit sends the words and thoughts I need to walk with a struggling friend. There are lessons in every struggle and the learning comes at the hands of a Father who loves us and wants what’s good for us. My dad taught me decades ago that getting to the other side of a tough situation doesn’t always happen the way you think it might. God is the same kind of teacher and guide, he’s going to give us what we need, not necessarily what we want but we must never doubt his mighty love.
The next time you’re struggling or overcome with worry, Be Loud and call out to the Lord to meet you in the middle of your mess…he’ll come a runnin…I promise! Stay tuned Monday for the second Be.
A Seed To Plant: Start a note where you can write the 3 Be’s in case you or someone you love needs them. Look for opportunities this week to Be Loud and invite the Lord into your worry and troubles.
Blessings on your day!
Save me, O God, for the waters have risen to my neck. Psalm 69:2
These past few weeks have been pretty nutty! My to-do list goes to prayer with me each morning and I know God will organize it all for his glory but there are a few times I’ve been a little overwhelmed. As I was working my way through the tasks of the past many days I was encouraged when I remembered back to swimming lessons when I was a little girl. Just for the record, I HATED swimming lessons. I remember the required trip into the deep end and that feeling of complete helplessness when I realized my feet couldn’t touch bottom and I had nothing to grab on to. The instructor would yell, relax, close your mouth and tip your head back so the water won’t go up your nose. I didn’t enjoy anything about that feeling.
That feeling has been a familiar one these past few days but I discovered something I never learned in swimming lessons. When you close your mouth and tip your head back so you can breathe, you are automatically looking up. Quietly looking up is always a good idea and this week it’s a practice that has meant survival and surprisingly, great joy! I’ve crammed way too much into the past two weeks but as the waters rose, I kept asking God to keep me from drowning. Not only did he answer but he blessed me with lots of little surprises along the way. He arranged every detail, every time table and every event. Things may not have been completed as early or fast as I wanted but it all got finished. I had help when I didn’t expect it, laughter when it was most needed and great friends along the way. I even managed to score front row parking a couple of times when I’d peeled into the parking lot at the last minute.
I’ve had to reach out and ask for help and we have had to eat left-overs a few times but it all fell in place. I’m in awe of the way God can swoop in and put things in order if we just close our mouth, tip our head back and look up to the giver of life and the master of all time and tasks. Perhaps I should try that more often!
A Seed To Plant: Tip your head back, close your mouth and look up to the giver of life and enjoy your day!
Blessings on your day!
When Jesus heard this he was amazed at him …Luke 7: 9
I’m pretty good at skipping. I’m a good cook. I always make my bed in the morning and I don’t leave my things laying around. Some folks might think those are nice accomplishments but I don’t think my gifts and talent would amaze anyone, especially Jesus. Can you even imagine Jesus looking at you and telling people that you amazed him?
The person Jesus was talking about in this verse from Luke was the Roman soldier who fully and completely trusted in Jesus. He believed that Jesus didn’t even have to go near his sick servant; he had faith that Jesus could simply say the word and heal his servant because he was that mighty. Think about that for a minute…the soldier didn’t have to do something huge, or dramatic or spectacular to amaze Jesus, he just trusted and believed in the power of Jesus. I don’t know about you but I’d like to amaze Jesus. Imagine the conversation…you get home from work and someone says, “Hey, what did you do today?” and you say, “Oh not much, I just amazed Jesus today!” That would be awesome!
I wonder if Jesus is very amazed with us these days? I was waiting for an appointment the other day and a news channel was on. It only took about 2 minutes for me to move to another part of the room so I couldn’t see or hear it. The division, the arguing, the twisting of the truth and the accusations swirl around like leaves in the November wind and it makes me so very sad.
So what do we do? We remember we’re his, we remember we were ALL created in his image, we remember that love and mercy trump all things all the time. We have to look at history and know people rise up, people come together and if they’re going to go anywhere good, they have to follow Christ to get there. We have a big job to do, we have division to heal and peace to find. We have a great Father who wants good for us. Jesus is waiting for us to amaze him and all we have to do to accomplish that task is to trust him and have faith like the Roman Soldier that he is a mighty healer. He is capable of all things and he can inspire greatness and strength in the most broken and weak. Please take a minute to realize that you are a BELOVED CHILD OF GOD and he expects us to amaze him. So go ahead…trust him, believe in him and amaze him.
A Seed To Plant: Say a prayer for our country, say a prayer for our leaders, say a prayer for each other. Tell Jesus you trust him and go be amazing!
Blessings on your day!
The soul of education is the education of the soul.
I have no idea who said this really smart thing…I googled and googled but I can’t find a name to give credit to. It certainly isn’t my thought, just one that I heard and took to heart. When I first heard it, I thought it pertained to my role as a teacher but the more I thought about it the wider its meaning became.
Friday was a truly spectacular day at St. Mary School. All Saints Day is a little like Christmas! We always refer to it as a non-academic day but after hearing this quote I think the opposite is true. We don’t take spelling tests or math tests or turn in homework on November 1st. We celebrate the holy men and women who show us what true discipleship really looks like. We focus on the fact that the saints were sinners like us. They did things that were inspiring and fabulous and they had days, weeks and maybe even decades where their lives were a hot mess! Thats good information to know because none of us can keep running the race if perfection is the expectation.
The middle lovelies lined the halls Friday morning with their art exhibits. They each drew the name of a saint and were asked to create an exhibit that depicted one event, action or detail that could bring that saint to life and tell their story. This is the third time we have done Saint Art Prize and I was blown away at their creativity, their enthusiasm and their knowledge. They chatted with dozens and dozens of visitors about their saint and their project with poise and great showmanship. They knew their stuff and they shared what they knew beautifully. One of the kids told me they had spent so much time learning and creating they felt like this saint was a new big sister who would always be looking out for them and guiding them from now on. That seemed like some soul education to me.
The primary lesson in the education of the soul is that we were fearfully and wonderfully created in the image of Our Father and we were made for community. We were not made to be alone yet in our society there are far too many people stumbling through their days in isolation and lonely sadness. Friday afternoon our whole school family was divided into four Houses to make sure that was never the story in our school. There was a huge reveal assembly with colored spotlights and new t-shirts and envelopes ripped open with more excitement that packages on Christmas morning. Everybody has a House…everybody has a family…everybody has a spot in a group made up of K-6th graders to pray with, play with, laugh with and to protect. Knowing you have a House to belong to is good for the soul.
After the roar quieted in the gym and 300 people were divided into their Houses all wearing the same shirt we knelt together and prayed as Fr. Eric brought the Blessed Sacrament to us. We prayed and we promised with the help of Jesus to take care of each other, to pray for and with each other and to help each other grow in sainthood. Our souls were very happy!!
The funny thing was, all of this wasn’t just for the kids. The grown ups felt a new connection and a new spark as well. Sometimes we teach the kids and sometimes they teach us. Hopefully we’re helping each other continue our education of the soul. In the true sense of education, it wasn’t a non-academic day at all, it was an epic education day!
A Seed To Plant: Choose something to read or to watch each day for the remainder of 2019 to educate your soul!
Blessings on your day!!
…to the church of God…to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints…1Corinthians 1:2
Tomorrow we will be celebrating the holy men and women we call saints. All Saints Day at St. Mary School is as exciting as a mini Christmas! It’s a day of fun, celebration and excitement. In a world that likes to put lots of “role models” in front of our kids, it’s nice to show them who they really should be trying to imitate. This year on All Saints Day we will unveil each classrooms new patron saint, enjoy the 5th and 6th grade Saint Art Prize exhibits and unveil the new House System. Since it’s been crazy with a capital C I’m short on writing minutes so…I’m borrowing from some words from those wise, holy people we call saints. Hopefully you will find a nugget or two to warm your heart and point you on your own path to sainthood.
“What can you do to promote world peace? Go home and love your family.” St. Mother Teresa
“Let nothing disturb you. Let nothing frighten you. Everything passes away except God. God alone is sufficient.“ St. Teresa of Avila
“No one heals himself by wounding another.” St. Ambrose
“Pray, hope and don’t worry.” St. Padre Pio
“The saints did not all begin well, but they ended well.” St. John Vianney
“Hold your eyes on God and leave the doing to Him. That is all the doing you have to worry about.” St. Jeanne de Chantal
“The devil fears hearts on fire with love of God.” St. Catherine of Siena
“Apart from the cross, there is no other ladder by which we may get to heaven.” -St. Rose of Lima
“You learn to speak by speaking, to study by studying, to run by running, to work by working, and just so, you learn to love by loving. All those who think to learn in any other way deceive themselves.” -St. Francis de Sales
“God never tires of forgiving us, we are the ones who tire of asking for his mercy.” Pope Francis
“Stupidity is a gift too, just be careful not to overuse it.” St. John Paul II
A Seed To Plant: Pick a quote and read it every day.
Blessings on your day!
…Joy comes with the dawn. Psalm 30:6
God made a lot of amazingly wonderful things for us to enjoy on this earth but one thing I love (almost as much as Mr. Wohlfert) is COFFEE! I love the taste of it, the smell of it, the way that warm steamy mug of deliciousness feels as I swallow those first sips snuggled in my chair for morning prayers…I love everything about it! I do have some rules though…it CANNOT be instant and it CANNOT have any sweet or creamy stuff added to it. Just plain…straight up good black coffee; plain and simple! I joke with my middle lovelies every time I make a mistake (which is about 100 times a day) I just laugh and say, “Yikes, guess I need more coffee!” They laugh and are diverted and we move along. That first cup in the morning is pure joy! Even if my old bones are a bit weary at 4:45 am when the alarm goes off, I topple out of bed because I look forward to that first cup of coffee! God is so good!
Now you might think I’m nuts for writing about something as random as coffee, but if you think about it for a minute…there’s a connection to our faith. I love the way God reveals little nuggets of his truth in the midst of the silliest things…yes…like a cup of coffee. When I wake up in the morning and putter to the kitchen in the dark to hit the on switch on the coffee maker, it doesn’t matter what yesterday was like, or how I slept or even what’s on the schedule for the day, I know for certain my cup of coffee is going to be delicious and wonderful just like every other morning and I know I won’t be disappointed. Few things in life are that certain. Sounds a little like God’s love if you think about it…no matter the day, the time or the event; God is going to be there with a love that is amazing and certain. We don’t have to earn it or deserve it or even request it, all we have to do is hold up our day and say…fill me with your grace and smother me with your mercy and there it is! And…just like a fresh pot of delicious coffee…it happens the same way day after day after day and he will never disappoint us!
I like my coffee plain and simple! I don’t want sweet, gooey, fluffy distracting stuff in my coffee and I don’t want it weak, lukewarm or artificial! That’s what being a disciple of Jesus is all about. If we follow Him and live by His word we are guaranteed truth; plain, simple and authentic! I love waking up to fresh coffee and I make sure to thank Him for inventing it every morning when I sit down to enjoy IT and HIM! Joy comes to me twice every morning …while I sip and while I pray!
A seed to plant: Make a list of 3 simple things you enjoy…do a little deep thinking and see how those things are like the love of Christ. Get creative and share them if you like so we can all enjoy your thoughts!
Blessings on your day!
Love requires sacrifice…always!
It’s not scripture but it’s a powerful truth I seem to forget. Sacrifice often takes a back seat to convenience and comfort. We prefer easy, speedy and painless and then wonder why we don’t feel fulfilled. The important stuff; the stuff that leaves us joyful and alive; that’s the stuff that involves love and requires sacrifice.
I’ve had several nudges lately that remind me how true this statement is. We are called by the greatest commandment to love, and the truth is, we can’t follow that commandment without sacrifice. Sometimes that sacrifice is small, for instance, I love my students but spending time in the evenings and on weekends to grade or plan is a sacrifice. Other times the sacrifice is much bigger. I hugged a good friend at her father’s wake this week and she lovingly told me she was so happy for her dad and found peace just thinking about him rejoicing and being free from pain. Her perspective and strength were inspiring but the sacrifice of that love will weigh heavy on her days for quite a while.
Sometimes the sacrifice needs to look like patience. Sometimes it needs to sound like a swallowed opinion. Sometimes it needs to appear to be sand slipping through our fingers as we let go of the past or of our own agenda. Sacrifice is loving people exactly how they are and where they are. Sometimes we’re called to love someone just by being present and there is sacrifice in keeping quiet and not trying to fix or change them. The people who love us back make it easy to love but we’re also called to show Christ’s love to those who can give nothing in return and that is truly a sacrifice.
I think about all the times I’ve tried to find the perfect gift to show my love for someone. When I heard this line spoken by a movie character I realized I’ve been shopping the wrong way. I suppose the more we love, the more we should be willing to sacrifice. I loved my children but I’m not sure they always saw my carpool complaining as a loving sacrifice. This simple little line can bleed into doing the laundry and helping with homework and holding the flashlight in the rain so Dave can figure out why the tractor is making a weird noise. This kind of love happens in the middle of the night after a bad dream or at the end of the day when you wan’t to tune out the world but someone you love just really wants to spill their heart.
There have been times when I’ve wondered if all the sacrifice of a relationship was worth it or if it was really supposed to be so hard and one-sided, but as I’ve prayed with these words for a few weeks I realized I was looking at it out of balance. Love and sacrifice aren’t always equal. Sometimes we receive love far greater than we sacrifice and more often than not it is opposite. We’re able to sacrifice and love others but at some point we expect to receive love in return. We want to feel there is something in it for us. I forget that my call to love others isn’t to get something in return. Love is so much bigger than all the warm fuzzy feelings. Love is the duty of a disciples and the way to keep that in balance is to realize each person that crosses our path is there so I can show them the love of Christ. It’s not about loving so I can get something back, it’s about loving so I can love Jesus himself. When I look at Jesus on the cross I find the truth because it reminds me that there is more love poured out on me than I could ever imagine. I know I will never be called to love with a sacrifice anywhere near that magnitude but when I recall his sacrifice for me, it helps put my teeny little sacrifices for others in perspective. Again, I remember it’s not about me at all!
A Seed To Plant: Who can you love today?
Blessings on your day!
And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. Luke 9:23
If someone asked you what holiness was could you give a good answer? I thought I could, but then something changed! Before this thing happened I would have told them holiness was going to church, saying prayers, doing good deeds, SEEING and BEING Christ to others…that’s what I thought. But then…I read something that stopped me in my holiness seeking little tracks!
Holiness is dying to self! What? I read those words again and promptly shut the book and put it down because I didn’t like that. I pouted about it for the rest of the day and then came back to those words later that night. I like going to mass, I like praying, I like doing sweet, thoughtful things for others, isn’t that enough? After some feet dragging, silent temper tantrum throwing and finally a very ungraceful surrender, I realized how true those words really were. I can add and do all I want but it’s about the subtracting; the dying.
As eerie as it sounds, each prayer journal entry this week has started with the words, Lord, help me die a little more today. No, I’m not loopy and I haven’t been sniffing the ink in the ditto machine I’m serious and it’s a lesson that’s HARD! Holiness is all about being close to Christ; so close I’m hidden in him and I can’t do that if I have my own stuff in the way. If you’re anything like me it’s a daily objective to make things easier and more comfortable for myself. I call it efficiency sometimes. I say I’ve earned it sometimes. I think its standing up for what I’m entitled to sometimes. The bottom line is this…I want what’s best for me, what’s most convenient for me, what’s easiest for me and I need to die a little because getting my way isn’t making me holy.
So how do I need to die? (That just sounds weird doesn’t it?) I need to die to my desire to be appreciated and recognized for everything. I need to die to my desire to eat anything I want because I like it and think it’s yummy. I need to die to my desire to be right all the time. I need to die to my desire to make comparisons and judgments. I need to die to my desire to tell God what I need and what he needs to take care of. I need to die to complaining because that is the greatest form of selfishness. I need to die to my desire to offer my opinion and perspective all the time. I need to die to impatience. And I really need to die to my desire to organize, plan and evaluate everything. All of these things minimize the amount of room God has to work in my mind and my heart. All of these things separate me from God when what I really want is to grow in holiness. My sacrifices in dying to self in these ways are what God is inviting me to do…wanna join me and do a little dying?
A Seed To Plant: Write down the ways you need to die to self and then get busy growing in holiness.
Blessings on your day!
Do not accept anything as truth if it lacks love. Do not accept anything as love which lacks truth. St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross
I’ve bumped into several people lately who all shared a similar concern. At one point in the conversation truth in media came up. I think on some level we’re all a little frustrated as we try to figure out who is actually telling the truth. It’s hard to figure out what the truth really is and there is no shortage of folks ready and waiting to jump in and stir up the stories.
I suppose St. Teresa really put it all in perspective in one little quote. For those who might not know her story, she spoke these words as she and a group of other nuns were being loaded on a cattle car headed for a concentration camp. The message she wanted to leave with those who would follow is basic…speak truth in love. I think I will take her words and let them guide my speaking and listening for the next few days and see what I learn. I think it just might change a few things.
A Seed To Plant: Put this quote somewhere visible and let it guide what you say and how you process what you hear.
Blessings on your day!
For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord...Jeremiah 29:11
How many times do we hear the world tell us BE GREAT! Since the beginning of time, greatness has been important. I guess someone has to be in charge and have power but I'm not sure that makes them great. I'm not sure money, stuff or position are the best indicators of how great you are but it seems like we live in a world that uses those very things as the benchmark.
Greatness makes us feel fancy, it can make our chests puff a little and it almost makes us feel like we have a free pass at the yucky stuff. I mean, how many queens scrub the toilet? Greatness means people seek us, smile at us, talk kindly to us and that isn’t a bad thing at all until we look at it from the other direction. As I was thinking about how neat it would be to achieve greatness and be all sparkly, I found a few words in a book by Matthew Kellly that put it all in perspective. I hope he doesn't mind if I borrow and I hope they touch your heart and serve as a reminder of the true definition of greatness.
"Do you want to be great? He was great…born in a stable...served all men...was criticized for His attempts to live and proclaim the truth...and He suffered. He was the greatest. If you want to be great, be little.”
A Seed To Plant: Take some time in prayer and ponder the kind of greatness the Father is calling you to today!
Blessings on your day!
…”My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:9
I love working with people who have a “can do” attitude. They always seem so full of energy and optimism. I’d like to think that most days I’m a “can do” kinda girl but then there are those days when I’m absolutely not! Some seasons are busier than others and they spread out before us to-do’s and events that just don’t let up. It’s hard to maintain a prayer life, a house, a dozen schedules, the laundry and then plan meals that don’t all come from a bag or box. We try hard to squeeze it all in but if our prayer time gets whittled away things can jump the tracks quickly.
God knew there would be seasons like these. He knew we would loose our way and forget to sit at his feet. He also knew that there would be times when we were overwhelmed and drained so he has a solution. The antidote to our worldly craziness is his GRACE. The blog would be a mile long if I made a list of all the times I reached the “I’m about to loose it” stage and then remembered to ask for his grace. There is always an instant turn around when I stop and recognize my “can do” has turned into a “can’t do” and I ask for his grace to guide me through. He always delivers every…single…time! The following blip was written by Bonnie B Thurston. I have no idea who Bonnie is, but when I read these words in class Tuesday night I knew she had written them for me; and perhaps for you too.
In the accounts of the Garden of Resurrection in the gospels there is a great stone over the mouth of Jesus’ tomb. Who will move it? The women know that they are unable to remove what separates them from the Lord. This is a great metaphor for the spiritual life. We cannot in our own strength, remove what separates us from God and the life God wants us to have in fullness. We cannot bring life from death. But God can and does. The technical word for this is “grace”. Bonnie B. Thurston.
His grace brings life and removes what separates us from him and the life he has planned. All we have to do is ask for it; loads of it, heaps of it, there is no end or limit. We just have to be still and ask him.
A Seed To Plant: Sit still and have a chat with the Father about grace. Ask for it, tell him where you feel weak and worn out and ask him to swoop into your life with giant grace and then enjoy what he does next!
Blessings on your day!
Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
For all of us who have ever spit out the words, “Lord, just tell me what to do and I’ll do it!”, this post is for you. As usual, I was wrestling with this question and overcomplicating the answer. He let me continue to wrestle with it for a few more weeks and then on a random Saturday, I attended a conference I wasn’t really all that excited about going to and right in the middle of it, I got a very simple answer to what I thought was a genius level complicated question.
The man presenting the class said the path to discovering God’s will for our life was found in First Thessalonians. He said it involved three things and then he pointed to the verse you see at the top of this page. I’ve been thinking and praying about it for a few weeks and here’s what I think.
Rejoice always…I’ve discovered rejoicing has very little to do with my personal comfort and satisfaction. I’m reminded of Pope John Paul II’s words, “I’m gonna act like I wished I felt!” When I realize every situation and circumstance is an opportunity to grow in holiness or grow in selfishness, I need to pick the first one. God is with me at every turn; even the wrong ones and he will never abandon me if I call on his help and I can’t think of a greater reason to rejoice. I’m trying to change my “Seriously God!” to “God, not sure what we’re doin here but I’m happy because you’re doin it with me!” Rejoicing is also noticing and praising him for all the great things in a day; giving credit where credit is due. “God it’s so great that you…” is a phrase I think and say a hundred times a day. “God it’s so great that you kept that crazy driver from taking off my front fender. or God it’s so great that you created the pinks of the morning sky, the yellow of my favorite mum and the orange of those pumpkins.” I call it out when things fall in place, when things go the right way and when they don’t. Noticing him and rejoicing for ALL of it puts HIM first in my mind instead of myself.
Pray constantly…all things are prayer when we invite him in. Before our feet hit the floor our first words should be, “Lord thanks for new day, please be the boss of it!” Every situation is an opportunity for prayer. “Lord, be with me as I make this phone call. or Lord please take charge of my work today or Lord, please meet me in the laundry and bless all those who will wear these clothes I’m going to wash and fold.” The more we invite, the more we can turn all of the parts of our day into constant prayer. He will walk through any task with us if we invite him through a simple prayer. He wants to join us in the exciting, the boring, the terrific and the yucky. Truth is, he makes all of it better and if we truly ask him in throughout the day it changes the things we get into. If I invite him in to my evening office time I’m much more likely to be productive rather than get lost on Pinterest or Facebook.
Give thanks in all circumstances…All of them? Yup…all of them! When we give thanks for all things, even the ones we really don’t like, great things can happen. First, if it’s a really lousy situation we’re thanking him for, that gives us a chance to offer that suffering and that is always a powerful thing. Second, it makes us mindful of his power and grace. I have a lot of trouble with my knees and every time I walk and it hurts, I say “Thank you for this pain, please take this teeny suffering and do something good for a soul in need.” I know he will, and it makes things much easier. My mom told me to never waste my suffering and that suffering was the closest path to Jesus’ heart. Giving thanks also allows us to recognize God’s hand in our life. It allows us to see the truth; there is no such thing as luck or coincidence, only God’s providence and the more I notice it and thank him for it, the clearer his Will for my life becomes. Perhaps these three things will help you discover a path to His plan!
A Seed To Plant: Copy down this verse and put it into action this week. See how many times a day you can incorporate these three simple things.
Blessings on your day!
For she said “If I even touch his garment I will be made well.” Mark 5:28
I love it when I find a nugget of something new and cool. I’m in year two of a four year Scripture Study class and we are currently studying the Gospel of Mark. One of the resources we are using is a study book written by Dr. Mary Healy and it is so wonderful. She peels away so many layers of new meaning and understanding to words and stories I’ve heard my whole life.
Last week we were comparing the stories of the healing of Jairus’s daughter and the hemorrhaging woman. To be honest, I had never really paid attention to the fact that the second story was sandwiched inside the first. Two things really struck me and I thought I’d share.
First, Jairus had just begged Jesus to come heal his daughter and Jesus heard his request and they were headed to his house. As a parent, I would have wanted to take his hand and sprint to my house but shortly after they set out Jesus stopped to find out who had touched his cloak. Can you imagine the panic of Jairus? I could just see myself screaming to Jesus in utter panic, “Come on Jesus, she’s so sick, talk to this lady later and for heaven sakes how did you even notice someone touching your cloak in this crowd? I’m sure it was nothing; please, hurry, lets go!” I’m sure to him that conversation with the hemorrhaging woman seemed like it lasted forever and as they were getting ready to head off again, he received news that it was too late. My heart hurt for Jairus thinking about it all from his perspective. How hard to feel like our children are the center of our world and then discover they don’t seem that way to everyone else.
The second thing was a little fact Dr. Healy pointed out in her book. Jairus’s daughter was twelve. That is how long the woman had been bleeding. Holy Cow!! She had been sick for as long as that little girl had been alive. If you think about the little girls twelve years they were probably filled with joy and laugher. In those twelve years they celebrated her birth, learning to walk, speak and learn. Everything in those years had been new and exciting and her family probably adored her. Then you think about the woman's twelve years and realize she had been sick, hurting and she used all her resources and still didn’t get better. She had no joy, no support or family to celebrate her because she was ritually unclean for a dozen years and she was sealed off. She was miserable, out of money, and isolated from people and from her ability to worship in the temple and find comfort among those gathered there to pray. She was closed out and suffering through no fault of her own yet she was treated like a criminal outcast.
When you compare those dozen years it seems so out of balance. As I have pondered these two stories the past week I realize there are some lessons and truths to consider. When I think of Jairus and the panic he must have been in; the urgency he felt, I wonder how many times those emotions are mis-judged. Do we see frazzled parents and stop to think about what might be going on that’s making them that way? Do we offer to pray or talk with them about their worries or anxieties or do we wonder why they can’t seem to get a grip and settle down? It also makes me remember that every child is somebody’s everything and parents deserve to be treated like we know that.
When I think about the hemorrhaging woman I wonder how many people I know who have been suffering for a long time with something I can’t see? How many people are struggling with isolation and judgment and an affliction that just doesn’t seem to get better. I think of those who battle with anxiety or mental and emotional challenges and I wonder if I’m doing all I can to offer support, compassion and prayer; basically everything the woman didn’t get? This Gospel passage made me realize everyone has a story and I don’t need to know what it is but how drastically the world would change if I simply remembered these stories, applied them to people I meet and changed my attitude and behavior toward others. I had to ask myself, have I done all I could to help stop the hemorrhaging or have I made it worse. I’m pretty sure I can do better and I’m thankful for the chance to see this Gospel through new eyes.
A Seed To Plant: Look for the strugglers and pray for them and ask God to show you how you can help. If you are the struggler, take it to prayer and let someone share your struggle and walk with you and help you find healing.
Blessings on your day!
…Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her. Mark 10:42
Do you ever feel like you are at war with yourself? You try to do the right things and live up to the expectations but some days it just feels like you fall short…I hope that’s not just me! I had a lousy day; one of those look under every rock of your life and not really like what you see kind of days. I suppose it’s good to take an honest inventory of your life from time to time but sometimes it’s painful to be honest with yourself. What I came to discover is that I’m probably like everybody else with some good qualities and some not so stellar ones too. As I was thinking about this “battle with self”, I remembered a Gospel story about two sisters who had a battle right in front of Jesus. I could relate so perfectly to this story and the constant struggle to do the right thing for the right reason. As I re-read this Gospel I realized that I can be both sisters; Martha and Mary.
This epic sister conflict reveals the perfect model for our lives as faithful servants! It’s easy to read this Gospel and take sides, but the truth of the matter is we all have an inner Martha and an inner Mary. It’s also easy to read this Gospel and make Martha out to be the “bad guy” sister. Really, can you imagine having the guts to whine to Jesus about cooking and serving! In Martha’s defense, the most important guest of all time was in the living room and there sat the chief helper star struck, completely shirking all sense of responsibility and duty, I’m not gonna lie, I think I would have been a bit irritated myself.
As a Disciple of Christ our vocation includes the Martha stuff like cooking, cleaning and serving. It also includes the Mary stuff like devotion, attentiveness and focus on the better part. This Gospel should inspire us to be a balance of both sisters. We need to realize that when the cooking and serving are done as a prayerful offering to God, it is a powerful form of prayer and devotion. We also need to realize our Mary moments of complete and uninterrupted prayer have to be carved into our daily schedule. I need to read this Gospel several times and balance my Mary and Martha! I need to read this Gospel several times to realize my battle is normal and as long as I keep plugging along trying to do the right thing and keep it all in balance, God will notice, and thank goodness he rewards us for attempts and not just perfection!
A Seed To Plant: How can I make my Martha tasks like cooking and serving more of a prayerful offering instead of complaining about it and feeling unappreciated? How can I be more attentive and focused on Jesus like Mary? How can I find balance and have patience with myself?
Blessings on your day!
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the tactics of the devil. Ephesians 6:10-11
That verse from Pauls letter to the Ephesians are our WOW words this week. We’ve talked all week about being strong, remarkable and warriors for the Lord. I’m wondering how long it’s been since you’ve thought of yourself as a remarkable warrior? The middle lovelies weren’t quite sure it was possible until we unpacked what it really looks like to the Lord.
Our Monday Message video was about a young doctor named Brianne Feldpausch who started a program that took medical care out into the streets and shelters to care for the homeless. The program is impressive and the kids all agreed that the work of the young doctor featured in the video reminded them of a modern day Mother Teresa. After we talked about how brave and compassionate and remarkable she was, I shared that she was from Fowler, which is the little neighboring town just up the road. Being a remarkable warrior for the Lord doesn’t mean you have to come from a big important place. Lesson number 1.
Our Tuesday tune was about being a warrior that could rise above defeat and disappointment to get things done. When we inserted God into the song and thought about the message he might be sharing through the song, we realized that not every battle is the same and we aren’t called to fight them all, only the ones he chooses and equips us for. We realized that even the greatest warriors don’t win every battle because it’s about persistence more than perfection. Lesson number 2.
On WOW word Wednesday before the verse was written in beautiful cursive in a prayer journal, we talked about armor. We talked about David and King Saul’s armor and what God’s armor really looked like. I saw an image on FaceBook that I completely snitched and used in class. I had two oranges and two glasses of water. The orange with the peel represented God’s armor. We decided that when we arm ourselves with prayer and we seek to do God’s will and follow his plan and ask him to show us the battles he’s asking us to fight for him we are protected. As you plunk that orange with the peel into the water, it floats. Then we talked about fighting battles he hasn’t invited us to fight or that he hasn’t equipped us to fight we’re like the unpeeled orange and we sink right to the bottom. Lesson number 3.
Sometimes our battles are with things like living with honesty, spreading peace in chaos or choosing words that are kind instead of gossip. Sometimes our battle is to spread Gods mercy instead of judgement or to stand up for a cause and speak the truth. As we weave it all together, these words from St. Mother Teresa are a good place to start as we pray for God’s armor and directions. Lesson number 4.
I used to pray that God would feed the hungry, or do this or that, but now I pray that he will guide me to do whatever I’m supposed to do, what I can do. I used to pray for answers, but now I’m praying for strength. I used to believe that prayer changes things, but now I know that prayer changes us and we change things. St. Mother Teresa
A Seed To Plant: Spend some time reading the scripture and the quote in todays post and ask God to point you to the places he’s calling you to be a remarkable warrior.
Blessings on your day!
The secret of happiness is to live every day moment by moment and to thank God for what he is sending us everyday in his blessing. St. Gianna
This school year if off to a fabulous beginning! I have a room of all girls and they are an absolute joy! They are a group that can be candid, honest and open about the things we’re reading and learning. We started the year reading the Max Lucado book, Make Every Day Count. The girls divided up into groups and are taking turns teaching their peers about the author’s ten strategies for living faithfully and joyfully. They have taken their work seriously and are teaching each other some great stuff.
One of the chapters began with the diary of a dog. It highlighted the dog’s daily schedule and it was filled with excitement over the simplest things. It sounded something like this: 5:00 am Oh Boy time to get up, 5:02 am Oh Boy time to go outside, 5:10 am Oh Boy time to eat, 5:15am Oh Boy time to crawl up on the couch, 5:16 am Oh Boy, time for a nap, 6:00 am Oh Boy time for the little humans to get up and play with me. It went on throughout the whole day and every event began with the words “Oh Boy”. You could almost feel his tail wag with excitement as the girls read that part of the book to us. It made us think!
The point of the chapter was to challenge us to look for the flowers of our days and not the weeds. Lots of things are going to happen throughout the course of a day and some of them will be pleasant and some of them not so much. The girls and I made a decision to use the dogs “Oh Boy” line before doing simple or unpleasant things. For the rest of the week in our room you could hear things like, “Oh Boy, time to do handwriting.” or “Oh Boy, time to take a test.” One of my favorites was, “Oh Boy, time to come in from recess and learn some more stuff.” They say it with enthusiasm and silliness and every time one of them says it, the others join in and repeat or they just smile and giggle a little as they get ready to do that task they really aren’t all that excited about.
The “Oh Boy’s” are a dose of positive attitude at the right time because I sure can get cranky or pouty about the same tasks that need to be done again and again so I used the line at home. “Oh Boy, time to do the laundry (I’ll be washing the same clothes for the 50th time).” and “Oh Boy, time to prepare a meal.(That will be gone in fifteen minutes leaving nothing behind but a mess and the thought of doing it all again in a few hours) and “Oh Boy, I get to sweep the floor. (Which I will need to do again tomorrow because people will walk on it and track in grass, dirt and who know what else.)
I caught myself doing the “Oh Boy” thing all wrong and realized I was missing the point. All of those things are my opportunity to serve the people I love the most. Cooking, cleaning, grading papers, planning lessons, sweeping the floor…all of it is designed to give me the chance to love and serve God by loving and serving the ones he’s given me to tend to. When I got my heart straight my “Oh Boy” changed. The smile goes deep when I say “Oh Boy, I get to serve my family” or “Oh Boy, I get to serve 22 lovely young daughters of God.” or “Oh Boy, I get to grow in holiness by cooking, and cleaning instead of doing mission work in a jungle.” Positive perspective is powerful and “Oh Boy, I’m so glad he straightened up my heart and my thinking.
A Seed To Plant: Follow the lesson the Middle Lovely ladies taught and use the “Oh Boy” line in front of your not so terrific tasks this week. I’ll bet it will make you smile!
Blessings on your day!
You have been told, O man, what is good, and what the Lord requires of you: Only to do the right and to love goodness and to walk humbly with our God. Micah 6:8
Well then, there you have it! The Prophet Micah summed it all up in one brief verse of Scripture! Do the right thing, love things that are good and walk humbly with God. So I’m wondering; if it’s that simple how do I manage to mess it up so often? I think the place where I get all snarled up is trying to make things more complicated than they need to be. I can be the “Queen of Overthinking” and it just leads me farther away from the honest, simple root of my purpose…anybody with me there? (I am seriously hoping there are readers out there nodding their head in agreement!)
Let’s see if I can back up the truck and do a better job with these three simple expectations. Step one: “do the right”. I guess I should ask myself, the “right” for whom? More often than I probably even recognize, I’m interested in doing what’s “right” for me! I have a tendency to do “Christian good” when it’s convenient for me. I’m good at helping and praying and doing nice things when it fits in the schedule but what about when I really have to go out of my way to do good? I also have to stop and ask myself about how many times I don’t “do right”. What if I know there is a conversation going on that I should keep my nose out of but I just have to listen in anyway, what do I do if the talk turns into gossip, how do I “do right” and get out of that conversation? I suppose this simple directive should keep me out of those conversations in the first place.
Step two: “Love goodness” I don’t think Micah was simply referring to lovely flowers and other good things found in creation. I think he was challenging us to something bigger. Here’s the deal with loving goodness…it isn’t always fashionable, popular or common. Loving goodness requires us to love without judgment. It means we look for the good and Christ like even in people who look very different than us. We can be pretty narrow in our description of what is “normal” in this society and turn a squinty eye at things that diverge from that vision. I believe the greatest sound and sight EVER is a child! They are the ultimate “Good” created by God. Not long ago I was visiting with a family who was joyfully announcing the upcoming birth of their 7th child and I was so excited for them and honored to share in their joy. That baby will be the most loved child on the planet! As I walked away from the family I overheard two women speaking critically about them and one woman said, “How do they think they are ever going to give that many children what they need? She doesn't even work so they are doomed to a life of hand-me-downs and Wal-Mart shoes.” I wanted to speak but the tears stung in my eyes and my heart hurt so bad I couldn’t even talk. if I had that moment to re-live I would ask when Nike’s and designer clothes became more important in forming Children of God than the overflowing love of a family. Loving goodness means having great compassion and respect for EVERYTHING God created and doing everything in our power to defend it without casting worldly judgments.
Step three: “Walk humbly with our God” The real trick with this one is to realize we can’t be in charge! It really should read, “Walk humbly BEHIND God.” We might do a better job if we remembered we can’t be first in our Christian walk, God Himself must occupy that spot. Walking humbly means coming to terms with the fact that we are NOTHING without HIM and the more we give Him credit for, the more He blesses us. God doesn’t need our approval or our praise in order to build Him up and support His ego or self-esteem…He needs praise and adoration from us so we can practice humility and submission to His will for our lives.
A Seed To Plant: Pick one of the three ideas from this reading from Micah and put it to work this week. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you choose the one your soul needs most!
Blessings on your day!
For I do not do what I want, but I do what I hate. Romans 7:15
We had a snap of cool summer weather a few weeks back so I made an industrial sized batch of chili. After it had cooled I grabbed a glass measuring cup to scoop the chili into containers for the freezer. It wasn’t a new task or one that required any kind of special skill but yet I managed to find myself in the middle of a disaster! As I was getting ready to pour the first scoop into the bowl, my brain must have entered some kind of warped fog because I dumped out the chili before I even reached the counter top where the bowl was waiting. In some bizarre turn of events, I found myself standing in a puddle of splattered chili. It was on my feet, my pants, the floor, the rug the cupboard doors and many other tiny little spaces. I’m still not sure how it happened but it took me thirty minutes to get everything cleaned up! YUCK!
As I was scrubbing up the mess trying to figure out how I had managed to do something so crazy I thought of this verse from Romans. Talk about an experience in not doing what I want and doing what I hate! While I was doing clean up, I decided to think about the positives of the whole situation. One of the tasks on my summer to do list that hadn’t been completed was to scrub all my kitchen cabinets so I got to take that off my list. Another bonus was related to my kitchen rugs. I have a habit of purchasing kitchen rugs with a bright pattern. Make no mistake, that isn’t because I am a master designer with artsy flair, it simply means that kind of rug hides lots of spills and I don’t’ have to wash the rugs as often. It was past time for a good rug washing and thanks to the chili event I had no choice. The third positive thing that came from the disaster was probably the most important of all. As I crawled around my kitchen scrubbing I realized that I was on my knees; a good place to be and I had to slow down and focus on just one thing. I don’t know about you but I’m not as good at either of those things as I should be. I spend a big chunk of time each morning in prayer but I’m nestled into my comfy prayer chair with my coffee and it’s a very cozy way to begin my day. I’m tellin’ ya, being on my knees on that hard tile floor made prayer a different experience. My mind didn’t wander like it does in comfy prayer; I was focused.
I know for a fact that when St. Paul wrote this letter to the Romans he wasn’t thinking about chili spills and scrub buckets but I do believe Scripture has a way of grabbing you right where you are. Splattering chili was not what I had planned but as I crawled around scrubbing I realized I focused on what I wanted, and on doing things with my own power far too much of the time. We like things to go our way and according to our plan. I think that is one of the ways sin sneaks in and takes over. When I realize sin has gotten a hold of my attitude or my behavior I find myself in the middle of something I hate. I’d like to say that only happens once in a while but that wouldn’t be true! It was great food for thought as I crawled around on my knees. When I finished I was determined to spend more time on my knees in focused prayer talking with my Father about all those things I hate doing that I need His help with. I realized the truth of this verse is that unless I surrender everything to Him the cycle is just going to continue again and again. Who knew a chili spill could contain such an important spiritual lesson!
A Seed To Plant: Make a list of things you seem to do that you don’t want to do then hit your knees with that list and ask Sweet Jesus to help you make a change.
Blessings on your day!
Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. Matthew 24:24
You never know the weight of another persons cross. Those words occurred to me tonight as I watched 44 6th graders tromp through the rain after evening prayer headed back to their cabins. As I type, we are finishing up our first day of camp and some of those middle lovelies headed off heavy footed and heavy hearted.
I think camp is great and it’s a time to watch the kids bond, build friendships, conquer challenges and grow as young leaders. I love everything about camp (except for the tissue thin mattresses) and it isn’t a burden to be here in any way but for some of the kids that isn’t the case. I watched as some of them began to realize mom and dad were pretty far away. I watched some of them worry about the thunder and rain. I wondered how many of them were a little heavy hearted because they wouldn’t be able to creep into mom and dad’s room if the thunder woke them up. For some of them, it will be hard to fall asleep and Friday seems so far away. To a middle lovely those are heavy crosses to bear the first night of camp.
To some folks, those crosses might seem trivial but to a 12 year old a hundred miles from home that isn’t the case. There were lots of hugs and winks and promises to pray for a good night of sleep. I try to explain as best I can that they will feel so strong and proud when they accomplish this tough thing and there are lots of reminders of the protection and comfort our Guardian Angels. The truth is, none of that makes much sense in the middle of the situation. It’s usually after the fact that we see how God was busy working in the situation all along. God doesn’t tell us to suck it up or tell us to stop whining because the cross really isn’t THAT heavy. Instead he helps us carry them when we ask. Tomorrow morning things will look very different and they will be back to the fun. That is a reminder that crosses aren’t meant to be carried forever. He gives us rest and sometimes he bears all the weight himself.
God is always reminding us of his love and mercy if we’re paying attention. My heart was a little heavy this afternoon as I watched the middle lovelies laughing and having a great time together and I couldn’t help thinking about their classmate Samantha that died when these kids were in the 4th grade. Many of us who love this class call on her heavenly intercession to bless and strengthen this terrific class often and not long after I had prayed a decade of the Rosary asking for that very thing, it started to pour. A few minutes later the sun popped out and we saw a rainbow over the lake and the other 6th grade teacher was telling us that she had been told a rainbow was a sign of love from someone in heaven. I realized as I saw that rainbow that Samantha came to camp with us too. That beautiful rainbow only lasted a little while but it made that cross a little easier to carry.
As I pray for the middle lovelies to have good sleep, I ask the Lord to help me be aware of those who need help with their crosses instead of trying to determine how heavy I think they are compared to mine.
A Seed To Plant: Make a list of the crosses you’re carrying and then ask him for help because we’re not meant to do all the heavy lifting ourselves.
Blessings on your day!
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