The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace. Numbers 6: 24-26
Happy Birthday Joyful Words! This week marks the 7th year of blogs. At first I wasn’t going to mention it because seven seemed like such a random, unimportant number but then I did a little digging and suddenly seven had a whole new meaning. Here are a few cool things I learned about this seemingly silly little number…
A ladybug commonly has seven spots.
Most mammals have seven neck bones.
There are seven basic music notes. (think Sound of Music…do-re-me…you hum the rest)
Phone numbers have seven digits.
There are seven stars in the Big Dipper.
The periodic table has seven rows.
There are seven Spiritual and Corporal Works of Mercy.
Seven Sacraments were given to us by Jesus.
There are Seven Virtues and Seven Deadly Sins.
And, seven is the most common number rolled with two dice.
Once again, I realized that not everything is just as it seems at first glance. Sometimes if we do just a little thinking and try to see things from a different perspective, we are probably in for a surprise. The fact that this thing is still rollin after seven years is a giant surprise to me. I sure didn’t expect the Holy Spirit to keep me at it for this long. Another surprise is that I started writing to help people, but in truth, I’ve been the one who has been “schooled” along the way.
Sometimes I hit the publish button and I feel like the words that spill into cyberspace are no more relevant than the number seven seemed. I wonder if there is meaning or substance or if it’s all just a bunch of words. Then I remember who is in charge and I lean on him to give me the words I need or that he knows someone out there needs and I type and hold my breath hoping I don’t sound like a “wing nut”! Over the last seven years I’ve written about things that were funny, simple and sometimes tricky. Sometimes he’s asked me to write about things that were easy to hear and sometimes I’ve been asked to write a dose of truth that might have been hard to swallow for some. And, of course there are the times he's asked me to write about things that are dripping with grief and sadness. My mission is always to help us keep our eyes lifted up to him and I’ll be the first to admit that sometimes that’s just plain tough to do.
It’s been such a joy to have a little window to so many of your lives. My heart is always so touched when you leave comments that let me know the Holy Spirit has used words on this page to reach you. I’m humbled by this work and I’m thrilled that he’s asked me to serve him in this way as opposed to mission work in a jungle which I find the thought of absolutely terrifying! God is good and I’m happy to write about all the ways I see that truth unfold. I thank you for reading, I thank you for the prayers and I’m so grateful for your support. Please know of my daily prayers for all of you who stop by to give the blog a read. May God bless us all!
A Seed To Plant: The mission of the blog is to spread his joy so please take a minute or two today to pray for those you know who are struggling to find and feel the joy of the Lord.
Blessings on your day!
Happy are those who hear the word of the Lord and keep it. Luke 11:28
Happiness is a curious thing! Everybody seems to want it and one quick google search can reveal countless sites about how to get it. I even discovered some “happiness retreats” where folks could go to find happiness. In two days, for a mere $3,000 dollars (plus travel and accommodation expenses) you could be taught how to identify happiness and then seek happiness for yourself. I found some pretty crazy stuff! It all left me thinking…we make things so hard sometimes. This post is all about finding happiness and the good news is…it’s free! Since the Father who created us and loves us is also the creator of happiness that seems like the logical place to start. Each letter of the word is a thought or action you can start right now to seek and feel happiness.
H: Holy is His name! It sounds crazy but if you’re feeling worried or cranky or any other emotion that is soaking up your happy, put the attention where it should be; on Him. Stop for a minute and say Holy is your name God, Jesus I trust you, Father I praise you, Mighty God I thank you. You’ll be shocked at how fast your attention shifts from you to him and you feel a lightness come over you.
A: Attitude is the big thing! There are always two ways to look at things; this hurts me or this helps me. Struggles and suffering make happiness tough to attain if we look at things the first way and it sucks us right in to the “woe is me” thinking that makes happiness impossible. Instead realize that struggle and suffering are necessary for heaven and that God is more present in these times. We also have to remember that tough things come and go, just like easy things; life is meant to be a cycle not a straight line.
P: Pray! (you saw that one comin didn’t you) Tell God you’re cranky and ask him to bring you through whatever it is that is making you feel unhappy. He made you, he loves you and he truly wants his children to be happy. Talk to him about it and ask him to show you what he’s trying to teach you in this situation. If that seems too simple; give it a try and see for yourself.
P: Pass on some kindness and mercy. I don’t think there is anything that will bring you out of a slump faster than doing something for someone else. When you’re feeling grumpy or frustrated doing a good deed for another, especially the person who made you cranky is the farthest thing from your mind but purposefully thinking about the needs and happiness of another is a powerful thing. The thing about happiness is it’s a bit contagious so start some and you’ll be surprised how quickly it lands back on you.
Y: You are HIS! In the midst of all the things that are sucking away your happiness, remind yourself again and again that you belong to him! Nothing is going to happen that doesn’t have a purpose according to his plan. He will never leave you or forsake you or give you more than you can bear. I mean really, we’re talking about the God who parted the Red Sea, helped Paul escape prison with a dozen guards watching over him and who fed 5,000 people with five loaves and two fish. Surely you don’t think your unhappy situation is more than he can handle. He can do anything, including take care of you, who he made perfectly and wonderfully!
Our happiness is rooted in the God who loves and teaches us constantly. Sometimes his lessons come during tough times but the happiness rooted in him is the best kind! So, pick a letter and go be happy!
A Seed To Plant: Write these thoughts down and put them somewhere you can grab it when you feel like you could use a little more happy in your day; then pick a letter and get started!
Blessings on your day!
There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for everything under heaven. Ecclesiastes 3:1
So I’m a little slow this morning! This is a first; I’m blogging from a bus…full of middle lovelies…on our way to an amusement park for a class trip. As you might imagine, it’s not what I’d call a peaceful writing environment! My head and heart are full so I think the Holy Spirit can move my fingers in spite of the hilarious singing, bad jokes and general middle lovely chaos swirling around me right now!
Every class that passes through my classroom has a different set of gifts and personalities. They each teach me something different and leave something unique on my heart. This years class was no exception. It was the year of surprises! They surprised me with their wit, their humor, their attitude and their faith. They plunged into the beginnings of adolescence with a style all their own. More than any class before, they had a harder time saying good-bye. Their tears and resistance to leaving the building caught me by surprise but it also taught me some things and I’d like to share what they taught me because there is a lesson for us all.
*Most classes can’t wait to bust out of elementary school and head off to bigger, better and more important things. They have visions of things being exciting and fancy and they plan to enjoy so much new found freedom. This year the word was content. These kids were invested in each other and they could find joy in all the regular things that made up their day. They were happy to laugh and dance and be goofy wherever they were. One of them told me that he felt no need to look for something new when he was surrounded with so many things he liked already.
*They realized that the root is people. These kids have spent years developing relationships and these relationships of course have had their ups and downs but they were the foundation. They absolutely had those days when their patience ran thin with each other but they had a sense of family that they aren’t ready to see change. I was surprised at their ability to appreciate and value each other in spite of their differences, quirks and attitudes. Tolerance based on love is a beautiful thing to see.
*Change isn’t always easy. You may not love the idea of change but it happens anyway and you can either fight and fuss about it or ask God to go ahead of you and lead the way through it. So many of them prayed on our last day together for God to help them get used to the changes in their new school. Many prayed for God to protect their friendships and bless the new ones they would make. They realized that they needed a guide in this new adventure and they picked the best one available.
*The more grateful you are, the better things will be. They demonstrated time and again that opportunities don’t always seem exciting but if you can be grateful that someone needs your help or be grateful that you can do yucky jobs surrounded by friends it becomes much less about the task and happy hearts do great things.
*Finally, this class took the saying “Dance like nobody’s watchin!” to a whole new level. They showed me day after day that life is so much less complicated if you just be who you are without worrying so much about what everybody thinks. They weren’t afraid to be who they were and they didn’t feel like they were in competition with each other or the world.
They may only be 12 but they had lots to teach their old teacher. It’s that time of year when I worry and ponder and feel that catch in my breath wondering if I did everything they needed and took them as far as God wanted me to. I hope I planted the seeds that were mine to sow and I hope that the team of us that taught them gave them all they needed but in my pondering, I am reminded that the the Father loves them more than I do and he’s got a beautiful future planned for each of them. So for now, I will save this writing, hope for wi-fi inside the park so I can post it later today and just close my laptop and enjoy the sights and sounds of a bus full of fabulous middle lovelies one last day.
A Seed To Plant: Pick one of their lessons and put it in place.
Blessings on your day!
…remain in my love. John 15:9-11
As we get to the end of another school year and the Graduation Open House celebrations hit full swing I always find myself remembering classes and students who came in and out of my life. Some memories make me laugh, some make me sigh and some make my eyes leak a little. It would be easy to get lost in these thoughts for hours but this time of year is so busy there really isn’t time to sit still and ponder for too long or I’ll be late for something! I’m sure there are more than a few readers who can relate!
The other day I was reading this Gospel from John and I remembered one class in particular that was good at lots of things but remaining in one place for more than a split second was not their gift. Getting them to sit still and listen for any length of time at all was like trying to put puppies in a basket. I was convinced they were absolutely spring loaded. Several times a day I would witness the tiny window of time they would all be still and then one would get up and pretty soon another would follow and then another would wiggle off the carpet or away from the table and before I knew it nearly all of them had escaped. I laughed and remembered those little lovelies fondly for a few minutes and it made me wonder how many times God looks down at us and makes the same comparison.
In this Gospel Jesus clearly teaches that the Father asks us simply to remain in his love. We don’t have to run around searching for it or trying to do heroic things to earn it. The promise is simple, remain with me and I will bring you joy. The funny thing about this short Gospel is it sums up all we want and all we have to do to get it in 3 short verse. We complicate things so terribly! Stay with me…don’t run around like crazy and be still in my presence. Simple enough you would think but getting our attention and convincing us to rest and trust in his love must be a lot like trying to put puppies in a basket.
Last Friday I had a reminder of how much he wants me to remain in his love instead of in the chaos. I was praying in church and feeling a little overwhelmed about all that needed to be done so I just asked him to take over and give me the wisdom and strength to get things done with joy in my heart. When I got back to the classroom and checked my email, there was a message from a wonderful mom volunteering to do one of the big jobs on my to do list. I didn’t ask for help, she just sent a message and said; “hey, can I help with this?” The puppy in me just sat still as I said thank you Jesus! This week as I approach the thousand things required to end a school year, I’m going to carry the image of puppies in a basket with me. When the to-do list starts to feel overwhelming and I’m flying from task to task like a witch on a broom I will remember to be the one puppy who falls asleep in the basket and just rests in his love and trusts in his providence.
A Seed To Plant: Purposefully set aside 10 minutes each day when things get crazy to sit still and think about God and all he’s doing in your life. Be that puppy that climbs in the basket to be still and remain in the Father’s love.
Blessings on your day!
***Todays post is a re-post. I ran out of minutes because it's May plus I have a hunch this old post will ring true with more than one reader! I'll be back next week with fresh stuff!
For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven…Ecclesiastes 3:1
Did you hear that? It was a gigantic sigh; it was the universal “May is almost over” sigh. Tomorrow marks the end of the year’s busiest month…May! It’s been one of the greatest May’s ever in the history of May’s but I’m out of juice! In fact I fondly remember a story that illustrates exactly how I feel right about now.
One Christmas, I got a shiny new slinky. It was the greatest invention ever and I loved playing with that silly thing. I was very careful not to let it get tangled or pinched and it looked good as new for months. I always kept it in the orange box on my dresser when I wasn’t playing with it. I got my slinky the same Christmas my younger brother Joe got a rocking horse named “Bucko”. One summer day I was helping my mom with the dishes and when we were finished, I went to my room to get my slinky to play with on the front porch steps. I remember the blood curdling scream I let out when I found my prized possession all bent and tangled and mangled and connected like a spider web. When the story finally boiled down to the bottom of the pot, it seems Joe’s stick horse was about to be trampled by a stampede of wild Texas long horn cattle raging through the back yard near the apple tree and the only way to ensure Bucko’s safety was to tie him securely to the apple tree with my slinky. Apparently it took several wraps around the tree trunk to do the job and needless to say the slinky was never the same. When I think of that bent, twisted, frazzled toy, that’s exactly how I’m feeling as the month comes to a close. Just like that slinky I’ve been tugged and pulled and twisted in a hundred directions and I haven’t quite bounced back yet.
So what’s the answer? The answer is…there isn’t one! May is one month, one action packed, and fun-filled, over-flowing month and to be quite honest, I probably wouldn’t have it any other way! If I were to declare war on the month and put a cease fire to half the “stuff” scheduled in the month I’d have a hard time figuring out which half to erase. Humm…let’s see…as Christians we are called to use the gifts and talents He’s given us for His glory, my kids probably get really tired of hearing me say that! So if I practice what I preach how can I decide which talents and gifts I should put a basket over? Should I squash the concerts and band banquet with the French horn player? Maybe the softball team could have done without a catcher and the girl who hit a couple triples and always made her teammates laugh. What about the Prom, or graduation and the open house that took so much time to plan and organize? What if we had erased baseball season and we would have missed Jason’s three run over the fence homer or the no-hitter he pitched? I sure wouldn’t have had as much laundry to do that’s for sure. But what would we have gained and what would we have lost? Maybe awards night, that took a long time…or maybe I could have skipped the games where my kids took their turn sitting on the bench. But then I would have missed seeing them grow in humility and compassion while they were supporting their teammates from inside the dugout and practiced focusing on others.
God promised there is a purpose for every season. I knew this May was going to be a doozy so I prayed that God would help me soak it all in and enjoy every second of it. My prayerful request was that He remind me to pray for a suffering or lonely soul each time I felt the stress of the schedule start to bear down. (I’m not gonna lie…I prayed for lots of souls the past 30 days!)
It’s one month…31 crazy days! We don’t need to re-vamp our life because one month gets nutty; we need to enjoy the gifts and talents that we’re called to share with others during this hectic month. Nothing lasts forever…good OR bad. I’d do well to remind myself of that fact a little more often! I don’t think there is any permanent harm done because the Wohlfert’s didn’t eat 5 servings of fresh fruits and veggies every day in May and like any good mom who forgot to wash the Under Armor in the uniform load, I just rinsed it in the sink with some Downey and didn’t tell anybody and it all turned out ok. Our family has grown to include some new dust bunnies and cob webs this month and yes, I’ll admit it, I shoved some laundry and ironing into a basket and hid it in my closet before my Dad came to visit. (And just because God has a sense of humor it fell off the closet shelf and landed on my head one morning.) Guess what…it’s all ok! We are called to be FAITHFUL not called to be PERFECT.
Months like May are full of lessons. Lessons in patience, laughter, trust and faithful endurance! How’d you do? One more thought…if you are a mother of young ones, treasure your May’s! Truly BE at each event no matter how the 5th grade band sounds or how many strikes the little batter has because you’re going to wake up one morning and realize two of your children have graduated from high school and the cleats are about to be laced up for one last game. Quiet May’s will come…and they will come more quickly than you can imagine so just take God’s hand and BE PRESENT for life, let it flow by you. After all, our life on earth is a dress rehearsal for heaven!
A Seed To Plant: Make a list of the best things that happened in May, then make a list of 5 things that didn’t get done in May…now compare the list and say a prayer of thanksgiving.
Blessings on your day!
Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones. Proverbs 16:24
I don’t know about you, but I spend a lot of time trying to figure out how to make things better. Sometimes loving Christians carry the weight of the world on their shoulders and run around with pure hearts trying to save the world. I was speaking with someone not long ago and they were completely exasperated because of all the nasty stuff and unkind people in the world that didn’t act like they knew a thing about Jesus. The whole conversation made my heart heavy and I realized I'm surprised at the things some folks think they have the right to say to others. All too often someone will spout off a rude remark and when called on it, they snip back with a comment about free speech and being entitled to their own opinion I’ve been noticing a growing number of “ugly words” lately so as I sat with that on my heart, God pointed me to this verse from Proverbs.
If you are someone who likes to make things better, this is the verse for you! I realized after reading it a few times, I had the process all wrong! It really isn’t about “fixing” the words and actions of others! I can be upset by it, I can pray about it, I can even take a stand about it…but the truth of the matter is this…I can’t do a darn thing to change it! Change has to come from within…change has to be desired. If I’m busy trying to change someone else, I’m guaranteed only one thing…disappointment! Besides, my Mom would remind me I should keep my nose in my own business anyway. When I read this verse again this morning the solution to the problem became crystal clear…I have to change MY behavior. I can’t change someone else’s snappy rude tongue…but I can be in charge of my own. I can make sure my words are pleasant and sweet like honeycomb. God didn’t put me in charge of the world, the state, the county or even the town…He put me in charge of just this one person and after some prayerful time with this verse, I know exactly where I need to begin. What if we actually realized that every word we speak could be healing? What if each sentence we uttered were crafted with that intent? That would be pretty remarkable don’t you think?
The simple power of this Proverb was illustrated through a story I read not long ago. I had actually forgotten about the story until I was writing this post. The story involved a mom of six kids under 9. She and her husband have a deep commitment to the Lord and promised to accept lovingly all the children He chose to bless them with. They love their life but the rude remarks from others can sometimes be heartbreaking to this mom. She was telling the story about a disastrous grocery store adventure with her babies that had 5 of the six kids crying by the check-out lane. She was completely frazzled and on the edge of tears herself. Just when she thought things couldn’t get any worse, a woman stopped next to her and she braced herself for an ugly comment or rude remark about her large family but instead the two sentences spoken at that perfect moment changed her day completely. The woman looked directly at the frazzled mom and said, “Bless you for saying yes! These are lucky children because they will have the courage of their mother and lady; you’ve got a lot of that because I’m not even brave enough to bring one of mine shopping with me!” They shared a laugh and the frazzled mom was lifted…two little sentences is all it took! One sweet word, one kind gesture completely absent of judgment or criticism or opinion worked magic. I may not be able to change the world but I can work harder at speaking kindly to everyone I meet and that just might change a thing or two all on its own.
A Seed To Plant: Randomly speak three kind sentences this week!
Blessings on your day!
But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. Isaiah 40:31
Hope is a word I misuse all of the time. I say thing like, “I hope it doesn’t rain.” or “I hope there is a parking spot close to the door.” When I really think about it, the things I “hope” for are usually things that would make my life convenient, or pleasant. This past week I have been challenged to look at the way I use the word hope. The first thing I needed to do was compare the worldly definition (the one I most often used) to the virtue of hope. Here’s what I found. “Hope” is commonly used to refer to a wish connected to a person's desire. But “Godly hope”; the virtue of hope, is the confident expectation of what God has promised and its strength is in His faithfulness. I’m pretty sure God doesn’t care about me getting sprinkled on or parking close to the front door at the grocery store so I decided I needed some work.
I love it when God teaches a lesson and uses real people as the teachers! Last week I met a beautiful woman who told me she was a woman of hope. She went on to share that for years she had prayed that her family would grow closer. Her children were grown and moved away and she longed for them to be more connected and involved in each others life. She said she always knew God could do that but it wasn’t until recently that she began to see him work. She said the things God was doing in her family were filling her with such abundant hope. As I listened to her share her story my heart both sunk and swelled as she told me that she was dying of cancer, but she was so filled with hope because God had used this situation to answer her prayer. Fighting the disease had been the thing that drew them together. She told me she was not afraid to die but rather hope filled because God had answered her prayer and brought her family so close that she knew they would support each other and care for her husband and make sure he didn’t get too lonely when she was gone. I was in awe as I hugged this beautiful soul, and took a lesson on the true meaning of the word hope.
God used another event this week to thump me with the word hope. God demonstrated his faithfulness in a might way in the lives of an incredible newlywed couple. As I took my spot in church for this beautiful wedding my heart was a little on the heavy side. The groom had lost both of his parents in a car crash just about a year ago and as I sat in the pew waiting for mass to begin I wondered how they would feel the same joy as other couples and I wondered what Fr. could say honor the event, the couple and the parents of the groom. Just when my tears were about to get out of control I remembered that God is bigger than our pain and he loved that bride and groom more than they loved each other. When it came time for Fr. Eric’s homily the hope came barging in! He spoke of the new life of Easter and the new life of marriage. He also talked about the beginnings and the scars that bring us to the important event in our lives. I watched this beautiful new couple laugh and smile and I watched their family and closest friends cling to the laughter and joy of the day and realized the only way that all happened was because of hope. Hope that joy will follow pain. Hope that God will never leave us stuck in our scars and our pain. Hope that he has a plan and that he works in every situation, not just the fancy, happy simple ones. Hope is understanding that God has promised good for his children and that good rises from the ashes of awful. I saw hope rise on Saturday and it was so much bigger than the sadness.
So what will I hope for now? I hope I will be able to use the word correctly. I pray that I can seek God working in my life and face my challenges and trials with confident expectation in his faithfulness because thats what hope really is.
A Seed To Plant: Think about the true definition of hope…make a new list of things you hope for.
God is closer to you than water is to a fish. St. Catherine of Sienna
Good morning! It's mid May which means many of us are in the middle of a thousand things. It's easy to get lost in the chaos and the busy and feel like a fish swimming upstream. There are more things to do than minutes to do them in this time of year. I'm stuck there myself and came across this favorite quote and thought it just might be a little dose of what we all need to hear.
As we're busy swimming from thing to thing trying not to sink, it's a great idea to remember God is right there swimming beside us. Make sure you invite him along to the ball games and graduations and weddings and events that fill our May calendars. He's right there so go ahead and let him swim in front and you'll be surprised how calm the waters become.
A Seed To Plant: Sit with St. Catherine's words for a few quiet minutes today and see how they settle the soul.
Blessings on your day!
Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire. St. Catherine of Sienna
It was a big weekend. We made our last 6 hour drive to Franciscan University to see Shannon. After four years that seemed to go by in a blink, we now have a nurse. God had such a powerful hand in it all and I am so thankful. I could write and write about all the little things along the way that just fell in place. More times than I could count I shook my head in surprise, gratitude and awe as one thing after another made it possible for her to get an education at Franciscan. God wrapped it all up with an exclamation point on Saturday.
Franciscan has one of the countries top nursing programs which was appealing to Shannon but the University offers something so powerful for the soul. It’s a place of holiness and deeply rooted faith and Catholic tradition. She wanted to feed her mind, her heart and her soul. She knew as a sophomore in high school that she wanted to go there but academically, financially and geographically there had to be some “figuring out.” About the time she started praying about the possibility of going to school there she was preparing for her Confirmation. She had a couple of saints in mind to choose as her Confirmation Saint but three times in the same week the above quote from Catherine of Sienna appeared in her life. Once in history class, once on a random note that fell from a library book and then on a surprise bracelet she got int he mail from a friend. She asked God for specific guidance, and he certainly didn’t disappoint. It turns out that Catherine of Sienna is also the patron saint of nurses.
As the process continued toward Franciscan, crazy things happened like scholarships that came out of nowhere and details and events that just pointed the way. Again and again there were blessings and surprises that made it so clear that she was exactly where she was supposed to be. Each time we just smiled and said thank you! There were experiences and people and opportunities that just seemed to fall into her lap all along the way and as we sat in Finnigan Field-house for Commencement Saturday morning the Keynote Speaker opened with all the traditional greetings appropriate for the occasion. Then something that melted my heart happened. He looked out at the graduates and paused for a moment and then said, “Graduates, If you will leave this place today and be who God meant you to be, you will set the world on fire. St. Catherine of Sienna wasn’t kidding about that!” I could hardly keep the tears back. It was like a giant explanation point on an amazing college journey. God is so very good!
A Seed To Plant: Are you being who God intended you to be? It’s a question worth asking in prayer this week.
Blessings on your day!
For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord. Isaiah 55:8
I’ve been stuck on this verse for a few weeks and I just keep getting lessons. As I think about the Prophet Isaiah’s words, they have a more truthful application to my life than I’d like to admit! My thoughts ramble off into the back 40 during prayer and the things I’m thinking are definitely not His thoughts and sometimes, my ways are so NOT His ways! Why do we do that…when we know we shouldn’t speak words to others we wouldn’t speak directly to Him and we know His way and His plan trump ours EVERY time? Yet we keep runnin around sayin stuff we shouldn’t say and doin stuff that our stubborn nature tells us is easier! I guess it all leads me back to the truth…I’m just a big ole sinner who needs the love and mercy of a Gracious God because I sure can’t get it right without Him! Maybe that’s the whole point!
I learned a new prayer from a really great priest; here it is, “Thank You God, Your will be done!” Even I can remember that one! Seems simple and easy and makes sense...until you begin to think about when you should say it! It’s going to be easy to say that little prayer when I get a good parking spot, or when something good happens. The tricky part is when the yucky stuff happens. Fr. used the examples, when you loose your keys in the snow, “Thank you God, Your will be done.” Or when you loose your cell phone, “Thank you God, Your will be done…now I have more time to talk to You.” Seven little words that can change everything! I think we can get so busy we forget to have that ongoing dialogue with Our Father, maybe lost keys and slow traffic and broken mower belts really are a tiny nudge inviting us to speak with Him.
Disappointments are a great place to plug in this prayer! When things don’t go the way we plan, we can get pretty down. I remember not getting a teaching job I wanted so badly! I prayed, I researched, I practiced interviewing I did everything to prepare yet despite my best efforts, the interview committee picked someone else! I was so disappointed! I called my mom in tears and she listened to me blubber on and on and when I was finished, she softly said, “It wasn’t your job to get!” I remembered that conversation clear as a bell in church as Fr. was talking about that very simple little prayer and on the drive home, Isaiah’s words chimed in and I was overwhelmed with the power of God’s plan. It hit me that if I had gotten that teaching job, I would not have gone to K-State, I would not have found out about the job opening with the State Department of Education in Michigan, I would not have moved here, met and married Dave, had three wonderful children and my life would NOT be any of the terrific things it is right now! Thank you God, Your will be done! And it was done…with amazing attention to detail I might add! It’s surprising what seven little words can stir up!
God always knows what He’s doing. We have to thank Him especially when things don’t go our way. I don’t know about you but sometimes I forget that part. The harder something is, the bigger our thank you should be! He blesses us through good and happy things and He blesses us BIGGER through the difficult, disappointing and heartbreaking! We tend to see what’s good for us; He sees what’s good for ALL of His children. We have to remember we aren’t the only ones He has to care for. Our disappointment is most likely someone else’s blessing…we can stamp our feet like a spoiled impatient toddler or we can use that time for some of the greatest prayer and fortifying ever. He doesn’t withhold things to make us squirm, He waits for the perfect time and the perfect place and the perfect peace…all He asks is that we thank Him and ask Him to show us His way while we wait on His perfect timing. His ways, His words…yeah, it makes sense since we are His children!
A seed to plant: Write this little prayer down and stick it somewhere so you’ll remember to pray it often. Thank you God, Your will be done!
Blessings on your day!
Don’t pray when you feel like it. Have an appointment with the Lord and keep it. A man is powerful on his knees. ~ Corrie Ten Boom
Each year as the middle lovelies come to my classroom I’m on the lookout for the storyteller. They are the one who can make a 20 word story last for 7 minutes. They are usually very animated and I love listening them bring a simple event to life with living color and spectacular detail. Unfortunately we don’t always have time to stay tuned in for the entire story and I have to ask them to skip to the end or give us the “tiny size story”. I hate to do it but sometimes I just have to. One year not so long ago I had 4 storytellers and that was the year I learned a true appreciation for the gift of telling a powerful story in just a few, choice, touching words. I just finished reading a book called God Help Me: How to Grow in Prayer by Jim Beckman and it is fabulous; he is an amazing storyteller!
Sometimes I use too many words like the storytellers in my classroom so today, I’m going to borrow some simple, powerful words from Mr. Beckman…I don’t think he’ll mind; especially if you become inspired and decide to buy the book yourself. I hope they hit your heart as hard as they hit mine.
“I previously approached prayer as a kind of drug. I used it to help me feel close to god, to give me experiences of his presence. But as with a drug, I could choose when to take it and I could sometimes go without it. Prayer now has become more like air. It’s not really an option: I can’t breathe without it; I can’t live without it.”
“There is very little in prayer that depends on me. I can’t make myself have deep spiritual experiences. I can’t create consolation for myself. I can’t make up a word from God or make myself any holier. All of that depends on God. His movements are his and I can’t do anything to make them happen. The only things that I bring to the mix are consistently showing up for prayer and the disposition of my heart when I’m there.”
How’s that for straight to the point! I don’t think there’s any need for more words today…I need to concentrate on these and see where He leads me and my prayer time.
A Seed To Plant: Take these two passages to prayer with you and see what the Holy Spirit speaks to your heart about them.
Blessings on your day!
My heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee. St. Augustine
When my kids were little they had a toy that both entertained and frustrated them. It was a red plastic ball with openings of different shapes and sizes. The object was to insert the correct shape into the corresponding opening. My toddlers couldn’t always see the difference between a circle and an oval or a square and a rectangle so there were many attempts to jam the wrong shape into the wrong hole. Just like my kids, we too sometimes try to make things fit where they don’t quite belong.
We were created in the image and likeness of the God who loves us. Our hearts were meant to fit perfectly in his but we often forget that and try to pack ourselves into roles where we don’t fit. When the toy pieces didn’t fit together the kids would bang, push, and get frustrated until they slowed down and looked things over carefully and attempted to put the pieces in gently and purposefully. During those times in life when we struggle to make things fit according to our plan, we experience that same chaos and frustration. God has the perfect antidote; rest in him. Only he knows how our life should fit together and he simply asks us to love and serve him while we wait for him to put all the pieces in the perfect spot.
The next time we hit that place of chaos and frustration we need to slow down and ask the Lord to calm us down and rest a bit as he puts the pieces back in the order he desires.
A Seed To Plant: Take some quiet minutes in prayer to ask yourself if their are there pieces in your life that don’t seem to fit together? Are you the person God is asking you to be or you trying to invent yourself? Rest a while in his presence and ask him.
Blessings on your day!
For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord. Isaiah 55: 8
As a teacher, I get asked a lot of questions every day. Everything from, “Is it almost time for lunch?” to “Why do people say mean, stupid things?” Sometimes I have an answer because the question is routine or simple but often I’m left asking the Holy Spirit for words because I simply don’t know. After one of my recent speaking events, a beautiful soul sent a question I didn’t know quite how to answer. I was neck deep in Holy Week and Easter stuff at school so I could have typed a quick reply in an attempt to take the task off my to-do list, but the question begged prayerful thought, research and of course the wisdom of God’s Word. What started as an email to answer a question has spilled into a blog because I’m sure this dear lady isn’t the only one who has this wonder. With the help of the Holy Spirit, Scripture and a dynamic priest, here’s what I’ve got.
The question sprung from a scripture verse I was talking about that night in a church hall. We were thinking about Psalm 139:13-14 which reads …you knit me in my mothers womb…I am fearfully and wonderfully made… It’s a beautiful passage steeped in God’s loving truth but sometimes it comes with a sting. What if we aren’t perfect. What if we’re sick, or we have a condition or situation that causes our life to be anything BUT wonderful and perfect. Did God knit that? When life is hard or confusing or the suffering is great we often turn to God in our pain and befuddlement and wonder where he is and did he really intend things to be this way.
Here are a couple of things to think about. First of all, there is no such thing as perfect. The world pedals that concept constantly but it’s a deception. There is no such thing as a perfect family, job, or life like the TV commercials would have us believe. The goal of life is to get to heaven, not to have everything neat, tidy, pretty and easy. The goal of life is to get to heaven and claim our sainthood, and my friends, the path to that is not so simple. The holy men and women who have gone before us have shown us again and again that the path to holiness requires sacrifice and suffering. In John’s Gospel we read the words…In this world you will have trouble…16:33 Even though hard stuff came with a warning label we still shake our fist and say, “What the heck, God!” We have to know that he hears us, he loves us and he is working right in the middle of the messy, imperfect and un-wonderful parts of our life. He’s using them to bring holiness and lead us home and sometimes that’s a quick trip but more often than not it’s a long journey.
The second thing to remember is that suffering is inevitable. There are hundreds of commercials out there for stuff to make things quicker or easier. Heaven just plain can’t happen without suffering and trial; there’s no short-cut What we do with our suffering makes all the difference my friends. Suffering without Jesus is just pain without a purpose and it can leave us bitter and fumbling in the darkness. Suffering united with Jesus brings holiness. St. Paul said in his letter to the Colossians, Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake…1:24 his words are even more powerful when you consider that he wrote those words while chained in a prison cell. He knew the secret. He knew that Jesus didn’t die on a cross to take away our suffering but rather he came to transform our suffering. If we say in our suffering, “Jesus please suffer with me, please allow this “thing” to help me grow closer to you.” we will give our suffering purpose and the result is redemption. In other words, suffering is our vehicle to heaven. Uniting our suffering with Jesus gives our suffering meaning and the result is that wonderful, perfect life we’re all working for.
If suffering is our “vehicle” to heaven, it’s helpful to note that no two look alike. We buy into the crazy notion that everything should be fair and that is yet another deception of the world. When Christ allows us to carry a sliver of his cross, we grow in holiness and often help others through our personal suffering. It might be tempting to think it’s not fair because some sufferings seem much smaller or greater, but the reality is, God knows exactly how much we can bear. My mom suffered greatly when she buried my brother and then again when she battled cancer for 2 years but she always asked God to use that suffering not just for her soul, but for her husband, her children and all those who needed the redemption her suffering might bring to them. We can never completely see the burdens that others might be bearing…only God can see that and we have to trust in his wisdom and mercy.
That was a rather long answer to a pretty big question. I hope it offers some peace, some understanding and some, well, some hope.
A Seed To Plant: As you pray today, make a list of all the things that cause your heart suffering. Each time that “thing” enters your mind say, “Jesus join me as I carry this sliver of your cross.”
Blessings on your day!
The Lord remembers his covenant forever. Psalm 105: 8
I have a small set of completely useless talents! One of those useless talents is being able to remember song lyrics from decades ago. I don’t mean to brag, but I can sing songs that are even older than I am. Now, don’t be too impressed because I’m also the same woman who can’t remember 3 things at the grocery store and about the only room I can walk in to and consistently remember why I entered, is the bathroom. I remember random silly things but there are days when I forget ten times more than I remember. I like to console myself and say it’s because I just have so much important stuff to think about I run out of room in my brain!
Thank goodness God has a better memory than me! I’m so grateful for this reminder from Psalm 105 and it makes my heart peaceful to know that even on those crazy days when I forget to ask God for help or peace or assurance, he never forgets me or the covenant he made with his people. He remembers all the important stuff. He doesn’t remember just when it’s convenient or when it serves his purpose; he remembers his promise to love us all the time!
Sometimes we can make our way through lent and come out on Easter Sunday feeling like we didn’t get it right. We sometimes forget our lenten promises and when Good Friday rolls around we start to feel guilty for forgetting how much we wanted to show our love to Jesus though our sacrifices and penances. Now would be a great time to remember that our lenten works have no real bearing on the glory of Easter. Jesus wouldn’t be more “risen” if we had remembered all the things we promised on Ash Wednesday. God isn’t going to put us on the “B list” because we didn’t complete six weeks of perfect sacrificial piousness. His covenant promised his love, compassion, care and correction whether we ate chocolate during lent or not.
The fifty days of the Easter season are the perfect time to hit a “remember re-set”. God isn’t honored just through our sacrifice; he’s honored by our joy and gratitude. Easter is the absolute perfect time to be more joyful and grateful. We are an Easter people which is to say we are a people who were created to celebrate the joy and happiness of the Resurrection and the new beginnings it promises. That too was a part of the covenant God will always remember. I keep thinking about that line about happy christians and it makes me giggle so I’ll repeat it again; “There are way too many christians running around looking like they’ve been baptized in lemon juice!” Are we gonna mope about your lenten weaknesses or realize with enthusiastic happiness and joy that Easter makes all things new! What needs to be new with you? This is the season that begs us to believe the unbelievable and profess the spectacular and revel in the unfathomable! How about turning from the lent guilt and running head first into the magnificent gift of love the Father will never forget to show us. Absolutely, we are not worthy of such a gift but lets remember that he already knows that and it doesn’t matter. The gates of Heaven were flung open not because we deserve it but because the Father promised and because he wants us with him. That is something we need to remember! This Easter Season let your focus be joy, after all, someone died for you and then his Father raised him up!
A Seed To Plant: Find a great image of the Risen Jesus and pray with it each day to remind yourself that it was a gift for you from the Father who will never forget his promises.
Blessings on your day!
Happy Easter! I hope you had a beautiful Easter Sunday. In the tradition of the Catholic Church, the Easter Season continues for 50 days which leaves me plenty of time to write about it in the days to come. Yesterday was filled with family and sunshine and celebration. It was a great day but there were no left over minutes for writing so...todays post is a simple Happy Easter and a promise to return with more Joyful Words on Thursday!
Blessings on your day!
When the hour came He took his place at the table with the apostles. Luke 22:14
We have a tradition here at the Wohlfert house. When it’s your birthday, you get to choose the menu for your birthday supper. We had the same tradition in the McClaskey house too. Since I’ll do anything to get meatloaf for supper, I thought it was a tradition that certainly needed to continue with my children. As luck would have it, my daughter also chooses meatloaf on her birthday every year. There is just something comforting about sitting down with family to enjoy your favorite meal together.
Many years ago some friends invited us to go out for supper with them one Saturday night. Being a stay-at-home mom with three little ones under the age of 5 at the time, I think I had my finger on the babysitter’s phone number in the phone book before I had even finished accepting the invitation. Our friends said they had discovered this great place that they thought we’d just love. I WAS IN! The night arrived and as we waved goodbye to the kids and backed out of the driveway I felt so lucky to be going out to eat at an exciting new place where I wasn’t going to have to cut anyone else’s meat or transfer anyone’s drink to a cup with a spout. I was excited! After a 40 minute drive to the middle of nowhere, we pulled up in front of this old house that look like it had about 4 sunrooms added on, each in a different decade. The parking lot was gravel and the paint on the building wasn’t even all one color. I was a wee bit unimpressed to say the least. When we walked in the door it didn’t get much better. The big open space was full of tables that didn’t match and were covered with vinyl tablecloths that were every pattern and color known to man. All three pieces of silverware were a different pattern and even the glasses didn’t match. I really wondered what it was about the place my friend thought we’d love so much. A few seconds later a sweet, cheerful lady appeared at our table with a personality that would rival Santa’s! We placed our order and a few moments later some of the best homemade delicious food I’d ever tasted arrived at our table. We laughed, talked, ate and enjoyed a fabulous evening! It was not at all what I had expected when we got out of the car that night. Isn’t life like that sometimes!
When I read the gospel accounts of the last supper, I often wonder what the apostles thought when they first realized that night was no ordinary supper together. I wonder what they felt more; shock, fear or sorrow. We can be certain the evening didn’t turn out as they expected. Jesus had news they could not have possibly been ready for and the events of the night spilling into the next day were more than anyone could have imagined. It is on this night; Holy Thursday, I am more overwhelmed by my sinfulness than any other night of the year. I know the story, and the Easter morning happy ending but I still feel as dumbfounded each year as the apostles must have felt. Disbelief, sorrow, anguish…I feel it all heavy on my heart. Too many Christians want the Easter without the Holy Thursday and Good Friday. We want to skip to the happy ending and miss the brutality and the guilt but without the cross we aren’t Christians. Without meditating on the burden of our sins Christ bore, we don’t have repentance and without repentance we can’t have forgiveness and salvation. His death brought forth our life and in some small, unexpected, unpleasant way, we have to share it with Jesus.
If you truly want to experience Easter joy, spend some time this holy evening reading the Gospel accounts of the last supper…imagine…think…feel…experience the unexpected like the apostles. Tomorrow, on Good Friday, spend some time with the Gospel accounts of the crucifixion. As you read, ask God to join you with the suffering of His Son in order to come to a greater understanding of His gift of life and love. If you can unite yourself more closely with the cross, you will feel the joy of the Resurrection.
A Seed To Plant: Spend time with the Last Supper and Good Friday Gospel stories.
Blessings on your day!
…She has done a good thing for me. Matthew 26:10
Well, it’s Monday! That means the start of another week and as you read, some of you are tired, some are frustrated, some are happy and some are worried. No matter what you’re feeling as this new week begins I’m going to ask you to put it all on hold and realize this is not just another week. This is HOLY WEEK and more than anything I want this week to be different for you, for me, for everyone who is a christian. This is a week of powerful sacrifice, love, commitment and glory. The point and purpose of this post is to help you make this week set apart from all the others. I’m asking all of us to lay down our worries, our burdens and our “stuff” and choose instead to walk this week with Jesus and remember how great were his actions during this week as he redeemed us.
The Franciscan Sisters of the Eucharist in Duluth MN have a spectacular way of living out this week and setting it apart. I’d like to share their Holy Week focus in hopes it will change our focus too. Here’s what they think and pray about each day this week. They actually begin on Saturday. We’re a couple days late but we sure can back up our thinking and catch up. I’ve added a couple of questions to each day in hopes we can think about and act on them as we walk with Jesus through this extraordinary last week of his earthly life.
*Commitment Saturday - Ponder and pray about the commitment Jesus made to his Father’s plan and will. The commitment he made to our salvation. How have I committed to Jesus? What can I commit to do for him today?
*Procession Sunday - Jesus publicly showed his love for the Father. Will I walk with him? What will I do today to publicly stand and walk with Jesus?
*Extravagance Monday - How extravagant was his love for us. Read the story of the woman who anointed Jesus’ feet with perfume in Matthew 26. Her love and her actions showed extravagant love. How has Jesus shown extravagant love for you? Who can you love today?
*Compulsion to Completion Tuesday - Jesus was compelled to move forward to do his Father’s will in spite of doubts, worries, troubles or fear. He was determined to complete the Father’s will. What is God asking you to do for him? Where do you need to add compulsion and completion like Jesus?
*Aloneness Wednesday - Jesus knew the next day he would give everything and he paused to be alone in prayer, in silence in the presence of his Father. Spend at least 30 minutes in silence today. Take time to be alone with your Father and His Son pondering the upcoming few days and all Jesus did for you. Read the Gospel accounts of Holy Thursday and Good Friday so you will be ready to think about them in the upcoming days.
*Body Given Thursday - Jesus gave everything. His body to the guards who arrest him this night and in the Last Supper he gave us the everlasting promise of His Body and Blood which were to be poured out for the salvation of us all. What is Jesus asking you to give? Are there people in your life who need the gifts you can offer them?
*Impotent Friday - Jesus was powerless on this day. He who was Almighty became powerless for our sake and his Father had to observe it all. That happened for you and for me. Where do you need to submit to the Father? Where do you need to relinquish some power to the Father, knowing all the while he will be with you? From the time you wake up until 3 spend 5 to 10 minutes each hour meditating on the events of Good Friday; walking with him through this sorrowful day.
*Saturday - The Day of Night, Jesus spent this day in darkness. It was still, it was waiting, it was quiet. It was a day that with patience, reaped great glorious joy. Where do you need to be more patient? Find a way to practice that today.
*Sunday - The Day of Miracles. After you eat your chocolate bunny, make a list of all the miracles God has worked in your life and be sure to put Jesus a the top of the list.
May you use these thoughts and questions to guide you through the week and may the practice be fruitful for your soul.
A Seed To Plant: Print this one or open it each morning so you remember how to pray your way through each day and say a prayer of thanksgiving for the good Sisters for their Holy Week example.
Blessings on your day!
This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. 1 John 5:14
Have you ever gotten something that far exceeded your expectation? When I was a little girl I remember asking for a baby doll for Christmas. All I wanted was a doll with brown hair and brown eyes. That Christmas stands out like no other because not only did I get the baby doll I wanted, I also got 3 outfits that my mom made by hand, I got a baby bottle to feed the baby doll and my dad made a baby bed out of an old wooden orange crate from my grandpas store. The doll bed came complete with a hand made mattress, pillow and little baby quilt. I remember squealing with so much excitement because it was SO much more than I had expected!
One of the best parts of traveling around giving talks and retreats is the people I meet and the stories they share about the things God is doing in their lives. I often pack up my little bag and hop on a plane determined to go give something but without fail…instead of doing the giving; I’m always the one who ends up receiving and experiencing so much more than I expected! I’m amazed at all the things the Lord can do when we open our heart; always more than we expected! Recently I’ve had some lovely women share an instance where God has worked in amazing and unexpected ways and with their permission I’d like to share them with you in this post.
*It’s all in the name. A nurse who was very apprehensive and anxious about a new computer system taking over the surgical center where she worked asked God to help her find a way to cope with the unwelcomed changes. She was an experienced nurse but technology wasn’t part of her training or her generation…compounding the stress and anxiety! In the shower the morning of the big “technology take over” she told God she was surrendering the whole crazy deal to him and asked him to calm her stress and be with her as she tried to learn. When she got to work that day, each nurse was assigned an assistant from the technology company. The gentleman assigned to help her was polite, gentle, understanding and extremely helpful and calming. As the nerves and stress began to subside, she thanked him for his helpfulness and asked his name. He told her his name was Emmanuel. Knowing that Emmanuel means “God is with us” she was overwhelmed at the goodness and love of the God she’d invited to be in charge of her day. The name was just a huge loving touch that proved his presence and love beyond her expectation.
*Just ask me. A grandma sat in the audience at a day of prayer and was troubled that her daughter was not making Sunday Mass a priority for her young family. She sent a text inviting her daughter and family to mass with her at the conclusion of the day of prayer but the daughter texted back and declined. The situation sat on the woman’s heart like a brick. When the scripture from 1 John was discussed she closed her eyes and made a conscious decision to ask God to take the situation and handle it “according to his will”. When the session took a break, she checked her phone and read a text from her daughter informing her of their Sunday Mass plans. When she checked the time the text was sent, it was exactly 1 minute after she had turned the situation over to the Fathers will. She was shaking with joy when she came to me to show me the text and tell me the story. The text also indicated that her grandson had just been accepted into the Catholic pre-school they were hoping he could attend. One request, one text, one big blessing that exceeded her expectation as only God can.
I think sometimes we set the bar so low it’s a wonder we don’t trip over it! God is waiting every minute to exceed our expectations. If we ask…if we believe…if we trust…and if it’s according to his will, he will surprise us every time! Go ahead and give it a try; ask with faith and then share the story!
A Seed To Plant: Make a two column list during your prayer time today. In the first column make a list of all the recent prayers God has answered in your life and in the second column make a list of all the things you’d like to lift to the Glory of his plan.
Blessings on your day!
As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. Joshua 24:15
As I type this post we’re just hours from tip-off of the MSU Texas Tech NCAA Final Four game. I have made some great friends in Lubbock and I’ve rooted for the Red Raiders throughout the whole tournament but tonight there is a dividing line and I’m typing in green! I just have to pick the Spartans tonight because one of my favorite priests always says, “MSU is where Jesus went to school!”
Tonights game is just one of the many places we divide ourselves and take sides. Sometimes the divisions are light hearted and fun; other times they can be completely serious. As humans we fuss and argue and pick sides but as Children of God, we need to come together and find our voice in this crazy world. We need to remember we’re all fighting AGAINST the same thing…evil! If we could remember who are leader is and follow him together the world could be very different.
I’ve been thinking a lot about what makes us choose the things we do. Sometimes it’s a family thing, sometimes it’s a political thing or a financial thing that influences our choices. Sometimes we’re pressured into making choices and picking sides. I ran across this quote shortly before the NCAA tournament began and it just stuck to my heart. When it comes to the most important “side” or “choice” we can pick there is no pressure, no requirements, no loss whatsoever. The outcome will be perfect and generous and loving and compassionate and amazing. When you pick God, there is only truth and he’s always right there waiting for us to pick him and allow him to transform everything! This little nugget of comfort and hope was written by Fr. Cantalamessa who is the preacher to the papal household. I hope it sticks you your heart too and helps you pick the team that will always finish first…the team that follows Jesus!
He it is, the Only Begotten of the Father, who stands before the human race today and says: Be still, and know that I am God. (Ps 46:11) He does not plead for it, he does not beg for faith and recognition, as so many pseudo-prophets and founders of empty religions do. He does not say. “Believe me, please, be kind enough to listen,” but he says: “Know that I am God!” Whether you believe it or not, I am God!
A Seed To Plant: Think of the “teams” you are a part of and then compare the amount of time you devote to that team to the amount of time you devote to being on Christ’s disciple squad. Make adjustments as needed.
Blessings on your day!
I am an imperfect person loved by a perfect God!
I had a funny realization the other day when I had the middle lovelies and their kindergarten buddies at mass. One of the littles had a runny nose so the big buddy turned and asked me if I had a Kleenex they could give the kindergartener. I immediately began rummaging through my coat pockets pulling out Kleenex after Kleenex. I smiled and thought I must have looked a little like a magician pulling colorful scarves out of a hat. I finally came to one that was wadded but after careful inspection, I could tell it hadn’t been used. It looked a little rumpled but as I did the unfold test I could tell it was a “never been used” one. Feeling a bit successful at the fruitful Kleenex search mission, I handed it up with pride to the middle lovely. The little one looked a bit suspicious and after using it the child looked at their big buddy and said, “My mom buys the kind that come in the little rectangle package and come out folded nicely, I’m not sure I like this kind.” It took everything I had not to laugh out loud!
As I looked down at the pile of crumpled white Kleenexes in my lap and began to tuck them all back in my coat pockets I realized my discipleship journey is a whole lot like that crumped pile of Kleenex! Here’s what I mean…
*When I forget to let God be in charge, things get all wrinkled, wadded and jumbled.
*Even when things get messy in the middle, all I need is a fresh corner to clean up my act.
*Things rarely come neatly packaged and perfectly stacked like the little rectangle Kleenex packages.
*Things don’t always have to look new, neat and tidy to work well, sometimes following Christ is just messy and unpredictable.
*God loves me even when I’m a rumpled mess and all I have left is a little room around the edges.
*God always wants to give a little extra love so I have some left to share.
*Just because I appear to be prepared, well packaged and all put together, it doesn’t mean I’m holy. Holiness focuses on the inside not the outward appearance.
*Just like those tissues in my pocket, God has a very specific purpose in my life and I sometimes have to do a little searching to find it.
*All too often, I have to dig around and try all the wrong things before I get to the good one.
*Finding a good Kleenex right before a sneeze is a great relief but it’s nothing compared to the relief in my life when I let God take control right before I try to do it my own way and goof it up.
Some people say they never really hear God speak to them; perhaps the problem is they just aren’t listening carefully because he can communicate his lessons and his love in the strangest ways; even in a pile of rumpled Kleenexes!
A Seed To Plant: Are you a fresh new package disciple or are you one who’s a little ruffled around the edges? Take some time in prayer this week and think about it…are you waiting until everything is in perfect order to invite him in or are you willing to invite him into your mess?
Blessings on your day!
Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. Matthew 4:1
It seems like everybody has that friend who just always has the right thing to say at precisely the right moment. I admire those fast thinking, quick witted folks who just spit out the perfect set of words in a flash and leave everyone else speechless. I especially enjoy hearing that person when they speak words that are kind and truthful. More than once I’ve observed as a person like that has left a group of people just scratching their heads in silence thinking, “humm, good point, why didn’t I think of that!” Let’s be clear…I am NOT that person! I’m more like the one who mulls the conversation over and hours later thinks, man, I should have said___!
Instead of being the person with the right words, I’m beginning to realize being quiet is usually a much better choice for me. The story about the temptation of Jesus appears in three of the Gospels and each contains a huge detail I’d never noticed before. Satan is talking away to Jesus, he’s wheeling and dealing and carrying on but Jesus doesn’t really speak back. There is no conversation, no argument, no points to defend or no rebuttal on Jesus’ part. Jesus doesn’t enter conversation at all. Jesus does speak, but he doesn’t converse. After Satan huffs and puffs, Jesus speaks one line of truth. He doesn’t make something up. He doesn’t embellish or brag or even make Satan feel like the “despicable nothing slug” he really is, he simply quotes one line of scripture. He doesn’t use extra words because he grabs the perfect ones right from the book of “the only great words we ever need” book; the Bible. What a genius idea!
After this was pointed out to me in a sermon by a wonderful priest, he said some words that hit my heart. He said, “Jesus didn’t enter into conversation with Satan and neither should we…ever!” At first I smugly sat in my pew thinking, well of course not, I certainly would never enter into a debate or a battle with Satan. But, as he often does, Jesus showed up in my heart with a gigantic flash light and showed me exactly where I let it happen again and again. Of course it’s never a toe to toe confrontation like the one Jesus and Satan had but the little battles creep in and bring their ugliness along. Through some prayer I came to realize that I do listen to Satan. That voice that says, “you aren’t smart enough” or “go ahead and try to do that; you’ve failed there before and you’ll fail again” or the one that goes “yeah, this whole ministry and blog thing; do you really think you’re qualified to do God’s work”. He starts battles that leave me wondering if I’ve been a good enough wife, mom, teacher or friend. He creeps into my head with thoughts about past mistakes, weaknesses and calls to my mind the dozens of times a day I fall desperately short and I listen. In my head I make excuses or even agree with him for a bit.
Since this Gospel has been a big part of my Lenten Prayer, the Lord has led me to a few things. First, I need to be like Jesus and silence his voice with one well chosen line from God’s truth. Second, like Jesus, I need to recognize whose voice it is and quiet it immediately. I’m not called to argue or defend or refute. My job is to stand on the truth of God and walk away from the conversation. I have this sign with my middle lovelies. I’ll clamp four fingers down onto my thumb like an alligator closing it’s mouth and say “ZZZT”. All talking stops! Lately when I hear that voice that tells me things that aren’t true, I give Satan the ZZZT sign. I’m also making a list of one line truths from Scripture to go along with my ZZZT. A raw and honest look at how it works; when I looked at the gorgeous pictures from Jason and Katie’s perfect wedding day I heard that voice say, “Geeze Sheri, you should have worked harder and lost more weight before the wedding because that dress would have looked so much better in a smaller size.” I quick did my ZZZT and said “You are precious in my eyes and glorious because I love you. Isaiah 43:4” I’ll be completely honest, I had to repeat it a couple (or couple dozen) times before it choked out that ugly voice but it’s my beginning at ending the conversations! Where do you need to begin?
A Seed To Plant: Make a list of those conversations you need to put a stop to and then google a line from Scripture that tells the truth. Stand on that truth and remember Jesus didn’t enter into conversation with Satan and neither should we…ever!
Blessings on your day!
Every good and perfect gift is from God above. James 1:17
Unless you’ve been living under a rock you are undoubtedly aware that there is a lot of yuck filling the news. When all the craziness from candidates to policemen to natural disasters and disrespect for life gets lumped together it can bring out the worst in us. Everyone is entitled to their opinions but folks sometimes forget others might not share the same one yet they insist on loudly sharing those opinions with everyone and proclaiming their thoughts are correct, just, moral and supreme. The result is a muddy mess that leaves me scratching my head wondering; why don’t folks remember everybody’s life matters and how in tarnation did things get so scrambled up.
I surely don’t understand all the messes we hear about in the news but there are a few truths I know. First, God is bigger than ALL of it! Second, I can’t fix it; God would never ask or expect me to and third there are two very powerful things that we can do RIGHT NOW that will matter. These things will matter in my life, my family and with the people I am close to. I can’t fix it but I sure shootin can make it better…and so can you. The greatest part; these two things will tackle the feelings of frustration, dread, anxiety and the overwhelming desire we might have to throw something at the TV or computer screen when we watch the news.
There is a tiny back story to this idea and it came from the Holy Spirit because I would have never thought to do this myself. As I was sitting in prayer sad and frustrated about the current state of affairs of our nation I was prompted to go to something happy so I yanked an Advent book from my shelf. Advent is such a time of joy and happy anticipation so I opened up the book and started soaking in the words and felt excited and happy; it was crazy! After reading several pages two things became very clear and my heart filled with hope and faith. Complaining, dwelling, commiserating and joining in on face book rants about how this country is going to hell in a handbasket isn’t cutting it…that Advent book made that very clear! We have to take part in the plan of God; and make no mistake, even in this mess, he has one…and judging by the magnitude of the mess I’m confident it’s gonna be a GOOD one for those who are faithful!
So, the first of those two things; be GRATEFUL! Yup, you read that right, be GRATEFUL. Think about it, gratefulness should be our response to the grace, mercy and blessings of God and no matter what you just watched on the 6 o’clock news, God has blessed YOU! A grateful heart sees what’s good and appreciates it. People who are grateful are merciful and kind because gratefulness causes us to be connected to the one who gave us the things we’re grateful for. If we are connected to the giver of all good things, he gives more good things. That connection leads to eternal life…that’s what we need to remember to focus on, not this short-term life we’re in the middle of right now. This isn’t the good part…that’s comin and our salvation isn’t based on the behavior of the world; it’s based on our personal behavior. If we’re living gratefully we aren’t complaining, we aren’t worrying we’re busy praising and thanking the Father and that leads to great stuff!
The second of the two things; be LOVING! If we are grateful, we realize all good things flow from love not hate, jealousy, greed or pride. When we’re loving, the atmosphere changes completely and God barges right in and brings those cool gifts of the Spirit…you remember those…joy, peace, kindness, goodness and gentleness! No elected official or community leader is going to deliver those gifts if we cast our vote for them or hold up the right poster at a protest rally. Those gifts come from only one place and there is no spot for those gifts in our life unless we are loving. Too many of us are fumbling around in a fog of bitterness, anger, frustration with our hands thrown up in disbelief…that isn’t the proper disposition or frame of mind to be loving. We need a new disposition; let’s try gratitude and love and see what gets better; I’m guessing everything will!
A Seed To Plant: Write down this quote and pray with it for a while and see how your heart changes. “Gratitude flows from the recognition that all that is good is born of a divine gift of love freely given to us so that we may offer thanks and share it with others.” (Author unknown but they must be a really smart, holy person!)
Blessings on your day!
Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it. Proverbs 22:6
We could debate until we were out of breath about which professions and jobs are most important to the future of our world. There could be equally long debates about the wage and status for those jobs and professions. I have been reminded this month that the debate about status and money and importance doesn’t amount to a hill of beans because the true marker is passion and the peace in your soul that only comes from the satisfaction of knowing you are using your God given gifts to bring him glory in any way he asks. People who choose to work with kids of any age sure don’t do it for the money or the status yet they are some of the most richly blessed and revered people you’ll find. I’ve had a front row seat to amazing kids who have been led by the example of amazing adults.
Our little mid-Michigan community has brought home 3 State Titles this month. One in Competitive Cheer, one in Boys Basketball and one in Girls Basketball. In fact, in the last 10 years this little community has earned 11 State Titles and has advanced to Finals 25 times. Academic success and achievement in the Arts for our students is stellar as well. But how? It’s a school made up of around 400 kids who all live within the boundaries of a rural district. The towns are tiny, there is nothing flashy or fancy but there is something amazing that goes on around here. The success all boils down to a very powerful root.
As my newsfeed jammed full of pictures of the kids who were achieving great things this month I thought of the words of an old Whitney Houston song…I believe that children are our future; teach them well and let them lead the way. Show them all the beauty they possess inside. Give them a sense of pride, to make it easier; let the children's laughter remind us how we use to be. It sort of hit the spot! Our kids are great and they are loved and led by parents, teachers, coaches, principals, Priests and dozens of other community members who have great passion. All those people who invest their time, prayer, energy and love into this community see great fruit.
The priority however isn’t trophies or scores or medals, the priority is the rock solid FAITH of this community; that faith is the root! Faith and family are top priority and with those priorities come a strong work ethic, a balanced perspective and a strong sense of pride. When something is working, it’s evident. The biggest return on the investment is when the kids become the ones teaching the lessons. The grand finale of the month happened Saturday night when the girls team got back to town and asked Father Eric to say an unscheduled mass for the team. They had attended mass together regularly all season and it seemed the perfect ending. Saturday night, it was the girls teaching the lesson on priorities. The kids in this community steep everything in prayer. They pray with each other and for each other. They are often seen living out their faith on and off the playing field. Sometimes they are the ones who are inspiring the adults to grow in faith and discipleship.
When faith is your root, what sprouts and grows from there is a beauty to behold. When you set out on a mission to help young people grow in faith and live that faith through whatever gifts God gives, that makes a difference in the world.
A Seed To Plant: If you want to change the world, find a way to use your gifts to support kids. Volunteer, coach, teach, tutor and pray!
Blessings on your day!
Indeed, religion with contentment is a great gain. 1 Timothy 6:6
Have you ever gone out to eat with a person who has to look at every plate that comes out of the kitchen before they can decide what to order? That same person usually stares down each plate at the table, asking five questions about each order, and more often than not, that same person can be heard saying something like, “I wish I would have ordered that instead, I want what they have!” Let’s face it, if we’re being totally honest, we probably make a dozen comparisons each day. We compare tiny things like parking spots and lunch choices and we compare big things like cars, paychecks and homes. Did you ever stop and think about why we do this?
If we took a survey of 100 people and asked the question, “What word best describes you right now?” What percentage of people do you think might reply with the word “Content”? I would be willing to bet very few, if any, would spit out that answer! We are a restless people by nature. We spend a lot of time and energy comparing, evaluating and calculating everything. Is it greed, lust, materialism or is it possible that the restlessness is simply a yearning for God to fill a spot in our lives we may not even realize is vacant?
I love my life! I love everything about it, my husband, my children, my job, my family, my co-workers, my parish, my home…my life is absolutely more blessed than I ever imagined it could be! That being said, you would think I would be perfectly content. That would be correct most of the time, but every now and again that restless ache creeps in and makes me compare what I have with something God blessed someone else with. God has given me WAY more than enough and He certainly has given me WAY more than I deserve but sometimes I want Him to give ME that vacation to a beautiful beach resort or spiffy new fancy thing my neighbor has. He has generously given me gifts and blessings and I try to use them to further His kingdom but sometimes I really wish those gifts could land me a book deal or a speaker booking at a big-name conference where I could rub elbows with the “Big Names” and be a part of all the exciting “hoop-la” that goes with it.
99 days out of 100 I’m grateful and content but I was having that day when I was restless and feeling a little jealous. I needed to get out from under the burden of those feelings so I slipped in the side door of church during lunch and asked Him to take them away. As I sat in the silence, the word “why” just kept popping in my head. I thought and thought about it and kept wondering things like, “why…why did he get that and why did she get to go there and why…” I went through the whole list and then it hit me! The “why” meant something completely different…God was leading me to ask myself “WHY” do you want those things. If you really want to use the gifts I gave you to serve me, why do you care about those things? I sat a bit longer and thought about why I wanted all those things I thought He had forgotten to give me. I told Him I felt like I was being “skipped over”. Then the train hit me...I was wandering away from His truth. He doesn’t allow me to write this blog each week to be recognized, He gave me this gift to spread His love and help others recognize His presence. He didn’t give me my speaking gift to become recognized in a faraway fancy place, He gave it to me to speak to whoever He put in the chairs wherever He sends me. He didn't send me to a beach, he sent me to spread His love to a bunch of "tweenagers" every day. He didn’t forget to give me a fancy car or the income for a beautiful cottage; he gave me exactly what I needed to provide me with the perfect balance of humility and peace. Mostly, He made me realize He has blessed me with the perfect life for ME! I realized that what I need and what everyone else needs are as different as can be, but in the difference lies the perfection that only He can determine.
I left the church that afternoon knowing that the why really meant; why are you restless for things that aren’t yours. I left understanding the why, was the way He uncovered the restlessness in my soul that needed to rest in Him! I think I’ll swap “C” words…I’ll swap compare for celebrate. Each time I’m tempted to say, “I want what they have”, I’ll say instead, “God, thank you for taking such perfect care of them because You know perfectly what we need!” He works in ways both huge and tiny based on things we will never see or know…thank you Father for being in charge…You always get it right!
A Seed To Plant: Practice gratefulness this week and swap “C” words. Ask God each time you are tempted to make a comparison to settle your restless soul!
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.
I found some perfect words to put this in perspective. I'm going to borrow these words from one of my favorite authors, Matthew Kelly. I hope he doesn't mind and I hope they touch your heart and serve as a reminder of the true definition of greatness.
"Do you want to be 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: Ponder Mr. Kelly's words and see if you can find some ways to grow in greatness.
Blessings on your day!
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