"I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33
I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately about all the people knee deep in lousy stuff. I have gotten many emails and texts in the past few weeks from people who need prayer to navigate their way through life. There is sickness, distress, family and job difficulties and some of these requests are swirling really close to home. I’m so happy they ask for prayer, and I’ve been praying my little tail off and absolutely; I trust, I believe and my faith is strong as a bolder but every now and again I just wanna say, “Hey, wait a dog-gone minute God, this is all too much!” I’m sure that comment during prayer is followed by a heavenly face-palm!
The big question I’ve been hearing from those folks struggling is, “If God loves us, why does this lousy stuff happen?” I would have to say that’s a completely fair question and I wish like heck I could type an answer to make it all better but here is the truth, A) God doesn’t MAKE bad stuff happen and he loves us even harder when it does and B) Sometimes there isn’t a simple answer to complicated things. With my heart a little heavy, I’ve spent some time prayin, and thinkin and here are some of the things that made me feel better.
There is a big difference in being involved and being in control. God is completely involved in our lives and the more we pray and grow in our relationship with him, the more involved he will be. Because of our free will, God does not control our lives. Some of the distress I’ve been asked to pray for is the result of someone doing something lousy with their free will and leaving others to suffer in the wake of poor choices. God cannot be in control of that but he can absolutely be involved in our lives as we navigate through it if we invite him to meet us there and lead us through. He won’t wave a magic wand and make it all disappear but he will give us the grace and the strength to endure the difficulties if we ask.
Bad stuff isn’t part of God’s plan. He doesn’t give people cancer or trap children in a cave because his “master plan” indicated it’s time for it. That is not how a loving Father operates. If a dad decided to go for a walk with his son, and along the way the son stepped in a gopher hole and hurt his ankle that would be a lousy thing. Lousy as it is, the dad didn’t make it happen. He was absolutely there but he didn’t plan it or want it to happen; he wasn’t in control of it, but you can bet your bottom dollar that he instantly became involved. He felt the hurt, he poured out compassion and comfort and he did everything possible to aid in his sons healing.
If God controlled everything, we might think life would be easier and long gone would be fear, suffering and pain. I suppose in some ways that makes sense but because of our sinful nature (thank you Adam, Eve and Satan) we want what we want and we aren’t always so good at trusting and following the rules, let alone being completely controlled, so this idea has some holes. God doesn’t force his love or his perfect will on us, it’s up to us to choose to love, trust, surrender and follow him. When we’re tempted to think God makes bad things happen it’s good to remember a few truths from scripture. Jesus heals the sick; he doesn’t bring about their illness. Often the healing isn’t physical but it is spiritual and the result of that healing can lead to our salvation. Jesus liberates the oppressed; he doesn’t prolong their oppression. Jesus sets the prisoner free; he doesn’t imprison. Jesus restores a broken creation; he doesn’t further cripple it through disease, suffering, and pain.
When I find myself feeling overwhelmed about the sadness or madness of a lousy situation, I have to reach for the three biggest truth of all. They’re stiff ones and sometimes they go down like vinegar but they are enormous truth spoken in even bigger love. The first; every situation no matter how sad or tragic or difficult, is a situation where God can bring about a greater good. The part that makes that really tough to wrap our heads and hearts around is sometimes we hurt too much to see the good and often the greater good is for someone else. The second; Scripture says, there will be trouble and it is only through suffering we can fully come to Christ. When I realize that, and stop to contemplate the suffering of both the Father and the Son; done for me…it really puts things in perspective. Finally, heaven is the reward, not earth. As humans, we cling to the familiar and fear the unknown. If we could begin to unwrap even a tiny corner of the delight, glory and absolute magnificence of eternal life we would run from this world so fast we’d be nothing but a streak!
The lousy stuff is never what we wish for and it’s never handed out as a punishment but there is love, healing, and even salvation when we truly let the Father get involved and walk with us through the lousy. The lousy stuff is where God shows his power, his compassion and his amazing ability to unite, support and draw people closer to each other and to heaven.
A Seed To Plant: Spend some time asking God to be involved in your struggles or the struggles of someone you love. Trust him and then watch to see the way he works.
Blessings on your day!
And the peace that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6
Growing up in Kansas, I was no stranger to whopper thunder storms! The hail, the tornado warnings, the wind and booming thunder was all a part of spring and summer. I am a storm lover and I have my dad to thank for that. As a little girl, when a big storm would come rolling through I remember my dad would look me in the eye and say “it’s gonna be fine, we’re safe.” It was such a simple statement but I remember the calm that came with his words. Once I heard them, I could sit right next to him and enjoy the lighting and the sounds. His re-assuring words put everything in perspective and allowed me to focus on something other than fear.
Last week I had the opportunity to attend the Amazing Parish conference. It was such a fabulous event and my mind and my heart are still processing all the hopeful, happy and exciting events of that conference. Before we boarded our flight, I opened my laptop and on social media I saw faithful Catholics pitted against one another arguing about what should be fundamental church teaching and it hurt my heart. I felt like I was facing a storm and I felt uneasy. As I sat at that conference with more than 600 Catholics eager to find ways to bring Jesus to a hurting world, Fr. John Riccardo said something that brought the same kind of peace and comfort to my stormy heart that my dad’s words always did in the middle of the thunder and wind.
Fr. John pointed out three truths. First, our world is crying; wailing actually. Second, our church is crying and third, we…me, you, all of us are not alive by chance in fact we were born for exactly this time. Then came the words my heart needed most… “God is not nervous right now!” It was like my dad saying, “it’s gonna be fine, we’re safe.” Those words were like a giant blanket of peace. I still hear those words echo in my mind and I think, of course he’s not nervous…he’s God and he has equipped us for exactly this time and place. Fr. John reminded us that Jesus doesn’t NEED anything but he WANTS our hearts. How often do we wonder what we need to do instead of enjoying the fact that we are desperately wanted simply so he can fill our hearts with his love.
In posts to come, I will share some of the amazing jewels from the conference but for now, I just want to leave you with a few simple words. God’s not nervous…we aren’t needed; we’re wanted!
A Seed To Plant: Sit with these simple words, be comforted by them and ask God how he wants them to change your heart.
Blessings on your day
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whosoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16
Every marketing genius works their entire career in hopes of being the one who creates that slogan that catches everyones attention and makes their product a household name. Some of those slogans stick for years. I’m pretty sure I can still sing the McDonalds Big Mac song and I can still sing “I’d like to buy the world a Coke.” We know how to “Just Do It”, “Have it your way.” and “Leave the light on.” If only we could get the really important stuff in life to stick like a commercial.
I like to have the 6th graders choose a Scripture Verse to guide them through their last year at St. Mary School. I ordered a pack of scripture cards with the verses printed in really cool, eye-catching fonts and designs. As I was cutting them up and getting them ready for the kids one caught my attention. I think it just might be the most catchy slogan I’ve seen in a long time.
The card said, John 3:16…be a whosoever! I had to think about it for a minute and then I just laughed. It was a perfect one liner. One of those statements that just sort of snaps you to attention. The goal in this life is to live it in such a way we get to heaven. The question then is, who gets to heaven. The answer is right there in John 3:16; whosoever believes in God. I want to be a whosoever! The beautiful part of this verse is that I have to realize being a whosoever is possible because of what God gave us through his Son, Jesus.
It’s all here…the motive, the result and the promise. A whosoever lives like they recognize and appreciate the gift of Jesus. A whosoever realizes what they need to do and what the reward will be. The whosoever knows the promise and tries to live like they believe it! A whosoever is who I want to be. If I take control and forget to ask the Father for his plan, I’m not being a whosoever. If I gossip and behave selfishly, I’m not a whosoever. If I fumble my way through the day leaning on God’s guidance and believing in his power, then I’m on the road to being a whosoever. I think I might be saying to myself, “That wasn’t very whosoeverish!” Maybe it’s a slogan that just might help you point yourself in the right direction too.
A Seed To Plant: Make a “Be a Whosoever” sign and stick it somewhere visible this week and see if it changes your thinking and your actions.
Blessings on your day!
Be strong and courageous all you who hope in the Lord. Psalm 31: 25
Have you ever noticed how some words just sound better when spoken in a different language? I heard a teeny Italian grandma not so long ago speak about her faith and she spoke the words “Coraggio! Coraggio!” Again and again she spoke them with great gusto and hands raised to the heavens. In these past few weeks, I’ve heard her voice and her emphatic invitation to have COURAGE.
I’ve been a teacher for what seems like a hundred years but I find myself stuck in this mess I have no experience with and that I can’t quite understand or process. With courage, we’re fumbling our way through new technology, new best practice, new worries, new adventures and God willing, new ways to call on his name for the “Coraggio” to figure this all out. The worst part so far has been emptying out the girls desks and lockers and bagging it all up. I wasn’t prepared for the grief and awfulness that task was steeped in. I sat on my classroom floor weeping and I heard that voice, “Coraggio”. So, I asked the Lord for it and as I dried my tears, I got up and typed a letter to all of my students and as I put it in their bag and tied it shut, I prayed for each child by name. Once I had their bags all labeled and put in the designated area of the gym, I sat the Blessed Mother statue among the pile and prayed a Rosary for my 22 girls and their families asking her to intercede for all of them; asking her Son to bless them all with “Coraggio”.
Each of you reading this post is struggling with some part of this craziness and it affects each of us in very different ways. My cross to carry through all of this may seem but a sliver compared to someone else’s, but here’s the thing…it doesn’t matter the weight or the size of the cross, that’s not for us to judge. Our job is to carry it the best we can and more importantly to help others carry theirs all the while remembering Jesus has the heavy end. That my friends, requires “Coraggio”! It would appear that we could use a little more. It would appear that some have moved past fear and turned to fighting and blaming. One thing is for certain, that will only create a wound that takes longer to heal. We have no power over other’s choices or actions but we surly can pray and we surly can be the voice of light and courage to those fumbling in the darkness. Someday, we will look back on this and my question is…what do you hope you see? With great “Coraggio” use this experience we’re in the middle of to create something you’ll be proud to look back on. I want to get to the other side of this and say…yeah, I remember that, I used that time to…(fill in the blank).
For all who read this, know of my prayers for you and an out pouring of “Coraggio” for all of us stuck in a situation that can, if we use it well, bear great fruit.
A Seed To Plant: Make a list of three things you’d like to look back on a year from now and feel proud about. Where do you need Coraggio?
Blessings on your day!
…and Jeremiah sunk down into the mud. Jeremiah 38:6
My oldest brother and I had a favorite thing to do when we were little. It involved a couple illegal ingredients for little kids. In our back yard, we had an old cement fish pool. Before dad filled it in with dirt and mom made it a flower garden, it used to collect rain water. If we could get out to play before the water drained through the cracks in the cement, we could scoop up our first ingredient; water. Dirt; the second ingredient was easier to find. The third magic ingredient was the tricky one! If we could get rain water and dirt we knew all we needed was shaving cream. Our house was tiny so sneaking out the door with two handfuls of shaving cream squirted as quietly as possible took some skill. When we managed to pull it off we’d create the worlds best mud pies in the back of Jim’s big yellow Tonka Dump Truck. With sticks to stir and army men and toy animals to stick in the mud pie, we were set for a long afternoon of great fun! When I became a mother myself, it occurred to me that mom probably knew exactly what we were doing and just enjoyed the peace and quiet and maybe even the thought of her oldest two playing together happily.
When I read this line about the Prophet Jeremiah, I remembered the sight of all those toys sticking in the mud pies we used to make. It got me to thinking about the times we get stuck in the mud ourselves. Sometimes we wallow and struggle and just dig in deeper. Sometimes we get stuck because of the choices we make and sometimes we get stuck as a result of the choices others make. Right about now many folks are feeling a little stuck. Stuck at home, stuck in fear, stuck in a situation we feel unqualified and unprepared for. The anxiety and uncertainty of the pandemic can swallow us if we let it. The good news is, mud is different than cement. We can get out of the mud, it doesn’t trap us like cement! It will take some work but it’s absolutely worth the struggle.
God doesn’t want us to stay right where we are. He isn’t going to leave us stuck in this situation. It may feel like cement but it’s really just mud and getting unstuck is possible because of his grace and love for us. This isn’t permanent and he’s inviting us to reach up our hands and allow him to rescue us. Staying right where we are isn’t the Fathers choice, the truth is, we are either moving toward him or away from him, never staying just where we are. He wants us to move closer to him and sometimes he allows us to get stuck in the mud so we can realize how much we need him.
A Seed To Plant: Are you stuck? What are you stuck in the middle of right now that is preventing you from moving closer to the Father? Hold out your hand and ask him to pull you out!
Blessings on your day!
Thus says the Lord, Lo, I am about to create new heavens and a new earth; the things of the past shall not be remembered or come to mind. Isaiah 65:17
Holy cow this is so weird! I’ve struggled to write because I was trying so hard to write something light and joyful and funny because I thought that’s what we needed but the stuff just wouldn’t come. I started working on this post yesterday and couldn’t string together more than a few sentences so I’d delete and wait. I poured coffee and did morning prayers at 5:30 this morning and still couldn’t write so I put it away and went to Mass in my sweats asking the Holy Spirit to fill my page with the words someone might need to hear today.
In the first reading today from the Prophet Isaiah we read the words…I am about to create new heavens and a new earth. Well, that’s one way to look at these strange days. We surely are in the middle of something new aren’t we. The reading goes on to talk about the joy and love and happiness that will come from this new creation. It made me think of the three times in life I spent hours in labor giving birth to the three little Wohlferts. Phew…that was some suffering for sure but it brought forth life and happiness and joy I can’t even describe. I don’t want a re-do on those labor hours but they led to something so amazing. Maybe that’s what we’re in the middle of today; maybe that’s what Isaiah was trying to help us understand. In order for me to rejoice in the Kevin, the Jason and the Shannon I had to let all the pain and the worry and the wonder and uncertainty wash over me. Maybe that’s what we need to do with this strange time…let it wash over us and feel it instead of analyzing the snot out of it and trying to respond and react according to the latest article or news report.
So lets decide a few things for ourselves and invite God into the “washing over.”
*It’s a little scary…we haven’t done this before and we don’t know how long it will last or what to expect. It’s ok to be scared, say it out loud to someone and then remember that fear is not of God…peace is of God and he has plenty to go around if we ask him every time we feel that fear wash over us, to flood us with his peace instead. Stop whatever you’re doing and say the words…”Lord, take this fear and fill me with your peace!” take a deep breath and say it again as many times as it takes to feel the peace replace the fear.
*We have no control…for real…we don’t! For every planner, organizer, scheduler type person out there this is kicking us in the pants isn’t it! For those with the overwhelming desire to stand on something tall and scream, “Stop this, it isn’t on my agenda and I don’t have time for this craziness!” its’ ok, go ahead and scream it, you’ll feel better. When you’re done screaming, make a new agenda! Put new stuff on your list; fun stuff, silly stuff, lazy stuff, things I never have time to get to stuff. In a time when we may feel like we have no purpose never underestimate the accomplished feeling of looking into a silverware drawer with no bread crumbs! Clean something, organize a closet or a drawer, do something that gives you a feeling of accomplishment and then sit still and be quiet acknowledging the perfection, love and grace of the one who truly is in control…give him permission to be and pray for the grace to accept the rest and re-set he’s giving us.
*We are suffering…each in different ways…at different levels. We’re missing stuff, we’re uncertain and disappointed and sad. There are a million “I don’t know’s” floating in our minds and hearts and boy do we hate that. We have to do our own cooking and we’re apprehensive about going to the store. We are worried about getting sick. We’re confused about who to believe. We’re running out of ways to entertain our kids and ourselves. We’re worried about jobs and money and stocks. Let it wash over you and call it what it is…suffering. The good news about suffering is that it is an immediate path to Jesus. We’re all called to suffer but we have to learn to do it right. Our prayer is not Lord take it away, our prayer is Lord please use this suffering for good. Each time my mind starts spinning I stop and say, “Lord please use this suffering for a soul in great need.” It gives it a purpose…it gives it a use…it makes all of this seem to matter for something good. My mom always said, “Never waste your suffering.” I think Gods greatest raw material for building greatness is our suffering so make sure to offer him all of yours so he can do mighty works.
*Tell yourself the truth. Great good will come from this…God will protect his people…Some of us will get sick…Worried moments should be the times we stop and pray…What other time in our lives has our newsfeed been full of people going to church in the living room…Priests and Pastors are dong amazing things to bring together the faithful giving us the opportunity to be more faithful than fretful…We will be changed and if we hold on to God’s hand we will ABSOLUTELY be changed for the better.
God loves us too much to leave us stuck here, this won’t last forever and we will truly be OK! There will soon come the day when we laugh easier and we will go back to full churches and hugs from grandkids and fully stocked shelves but this isn’t that time…this is labor and because we as Christians believe in the promises of the God who loves us…there will be new life.
A Seed To Plant: Make a list of ten people you miss seeing and pray for them. If you get all your closets cleaned and windows washed and wonder what to do next, write them a note or send them a text to let them know you thought of them and said a prayer for them.
Blessings on your day!
…wash me and make me whiter than snow. Psalm 51:9
We know God will always give us exactly what we need, at precisely the time we need it but there still may be times when we feel like he’s not hearing. In times of trial and suffering we can feel like faith, religion and prayer are not helping. If you are struggling with something and doubt and fear might be creeping into your thoughts consider this little story.
A soap maker and pastor were chatting and walking one day and the soap maker pointed out all the pain, suffering, corruption and dishonesty in the world. He asked the pastor how, after years of teaching about the Father’s goodness and kindness and after all his sermons on God’s love, mercy and forgiveness could he still believe that faith, religion and prayer are relevant. The soap maker pointed out that it clearly seemed like nonsense because in the couple thousand years since Jesus died, the world didn’t really get better. Given all the chaos in the world the soap maker figured prayer and faith just didn’t work. The pastor listened and then stopped to point out a group of little boys playing and they were covered in dirt from head to toe. The pastor told the soap maker that clearly soap didn’t work because if it did, those little boys wouldn’t be so dirty. The soap maker of course protested and pointed out that all the soap in the world wouldn’t do any good unless you invested in it and used it regularly. The pastor winked and told him that the same was true of prayer and faith.
I have lots of prayer books, my shelves are stuffed with spiritual reading, I go to mass a couple times a week and I even teach in a Catholic School but do I always apply and appreciate my faith properly? Like the soap maker I wonder if it’s all really working, but then I realize I need to come to the good sense of the pastor and stop and ask if I’M really working. I suppose I think faith and prayer are working when I’m getting what I want. After hearing this little story I pondered how quickly I cry despair when stuff gets messy. I pondered how quickly I think God isn’t listening when I’m stuck in something hard and disappointing. I’m quick to think I’m getting a raw deal and I’m taking more of a hit than anyone around me and think, hmm, is this how much God loves me? After thinking about all this and trying to decide if the soap maker or the pastor had the stronger case, I remembered the directions on the soap: lather, rinse and repeat. All three steps are necessary to clean up those dirty little boys the men saw along their walk and the same is true for our faith and our prayer. The more intensely we scrub with the soap the spiffier the outcome will be. The same is true with faith and prayer; the more intensely and frequently we trust, believe and cry out in supplication and thanksgiving the more we begin to see the results of his work. I think I’m going to put a bar of soap on my prayer table for awhile!
A Seed To Plant: Ponder this story in prayer a few times this week and ask God where you might need a little soap.
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!
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!
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!
… “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” Mathew 14:31
Saturday I had the privilege of participating in a Women’s conference and the theme was based on Matthew’s gospel about getting out of the boat. I love this story, it’s full of little lessons! One thing that always makes me giggle a little is how much I’m like the apostles that stayed in the boat. Poor Peter gets scolded by Jesus for being of “little faith”. Truth is, I’d be one of the 11 still sitting in the boat never having the guts to get out and even try walking on water in the first place! Sometimes my boat is rockin but I’m not brave enough to get out and be faithful!
I’ve been thinking about this reading a lot this week and I remembered the time all three of my children were parasailing in Gulf Shores. I watched them floating in the sky and my glance kept drifting back to that boat rocking back and forth in the ocean waves. My children had the courage to try something I would NEVER do; once again there I was like one of the “chicken” apostles still in the boat! I think sometimes I really need that boat to rock so hard it almost tips over before I muster up the courage to get out.
After some thinking and paying I made a short list of the places it’s hard to get out of the boat and trust. The top three for me are 1)My world my children will raise children in 2)The shrinking moral conscience of our culture and 3)The economy and leadership of our country. Boy can I ever be an apostle glued to the boat seat when I think about these things! I need to leap out of the boat like Peter and take some steps toward Jesus. There are many things that rock our boat and test our faith but the message is the same to us as it was to Peter; trust Me, keep your eyes on Me,have faith in Me and I will guide and protect and love you!
I can’t organize the future any more than I can sweep into the US Senate or House and pray with them and get things all straightened out. (talk about being tossed into a stormy sea…yikes!) I wish I could do great big things that would restore common values like modesty, honesty and respect for life but the truth is, I’m only in charge of my little corner of the world. So what’s a sea-sick scardey cat apostle to do…PRAY! TRUST! GET OUT OF THE BOAT SO JESUS CAN GRAB ON!
If I look back on my own life, the troubles and difficult times are the ones that caused me to learn the most. Having jobs that were hard, yucky and paid pennies were the ones that made me strong and grateful. Wrestling with tough decisions about my future gave me great opportunity to pray and trust God’s will for my life. Why would we want our kids to have an easy go of it and miss those important lessons and opportunities to grow in faith and character? I think I’ll get out of that boat and just ask God to bless them and remind them daily to ask Him for direction and then pray like crazy they listen and follow!
As for the boat rockin I feel when I think of state of affairs with our culture and our country, I had a thought. If your inbox or facebook newsfeed is full of jokes, slogans and stories about the woes of our world, what do you think would happen if instead of forwarding or sharing them, we would instead stop and pray? Judging by the number of those types of posts I see each day, that could be a LOT of prayin…I think the seas would calm and more folks would have the courage and the trust to get out of the boat and walk toward Jesus. I think we underestimate the power of prayer, especially with issues we think are beyond us. I sometimes forget to pray for our leaders. I don’t remember often enough to pray for people who have lost their way and make decisions that draw people away from God rather than toward Him. Shame on me…guess I better write that down so I remember! I don’t know about you, but I think I’m ready to get out of the boat and test the water!
A Seed To Plant: What’s rockin your boat? Make a list and then stop today and pray for the courage to walk toward Jesus and hand Him your concerns. While you’re prayin, stop and say a prayer for the President and all those in positions of leadership and power.
Blessings on our day!
He laid his hand on the blind man’s eye a second time…Mark 8:25
The other day I was reading a story in Mark’s Gospel and got things so incredibly wrong. I was so wrong in fact that I had to laugh at my own thick headedness! I wish Jesus would teach me gently but it’s blatantly obvious that what I often need instead is a thump!
When I read the story in Mark Gospel about the healing of the blind man something really struck me. Jesus put his hand on the blind man and put spit on his eyes and then ask if he could see. He replied that he could see people that looked like trees so Jesus once again put his hands on the mans eyes and then he could see. My ridiculous reaction was, “I wonder why Jesus didn’t get it right the first time?” I actually thought about Jesus making a mistake or losing his touch. I wondered if maybe he was exhausted or distracted. I was thinking it was an odd story because I didn’t remember Jesus ever half-healing someone and having to take a do-over. It had me thinking.
I’m afraid to admit it took me longer than it should have to realize it had nothing to do with the ability of Jesus. It was the faith of the man that was the problem. Duh…how could I even think Jesus was “loosing his touch”. I had to laugh at myself for being such a knucklehead! Sheesh…Jesus needing a do-over; what was wrong with me! I couldn’t get it out of my head all day and every time I thought about it I realized the story applied to so many places in my life. I could recall so many times I thought Jesus hadn’t gotten it quite right. He hadn’t heard my requests as clearly as I was articulating them. He hadn’t organized the responses to my prayers in quite the order and fashion I was planning. Let’s not even talk about the times he responded too early or too late.
It’s funny how many examples I could think of in my life where I actually reacted the same way to a situation as I reacted to this Gospel story; what’s up with Jesus? The not so gentle lesson to the story is, it’s not Jesus at all. It’s me being like the man who wasn’t open enough or faithful enough or trusting enough to recognize and accept Jesus and his perfect touch and timing. It’s been several days and I’m still shaking my head. Jesus needing a do-over, what was I thinking!
A Seed To Plant: Pull out your Bible or google this Gospel Mark 8:22-26 and give it a read asking Jesus to show you the times he tried to help or heal and you didn’t have enough faith to understand or accept it.
Blessings on your day!
The Lord God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground—trees that were pleasing to the eye…Genesis 2:9
October is absolutely my very favorite month of the year. I love the change in temperatures, colors, foods and clothes. We celebrate some of my favorite events in October but what I love most are the trees. Some trees are so intense with yellows, oranges and reds they look like they’re plugged in. As I was driving a couple hours to a speaking job last weekend it was sunny and warm and I just soaked in all the color and beauty. Once I got home, it occurred to me that I take trees for granted the other eleven months out of the year. That thought hovered with me for a few days and I’ve heard three cool tree stories in the past couple of days so I figured that means a message for all of us.
Lesson 1: Trees change, the color changes, the shape changes, the size changes; everything about them changes from season to season. None of those changes are permanent. Some stages are a whole lot more appealing than others for sure. I suppose life is like that. There are times when our lives are bright and brilliant and others when things seem dull and unattractive. Each of the stages come and go, one follows the other and the old makes way for the new. I’m sure the tree doesn’t pout when it’s beautiful colored leaves fall to the ground for us to tromp on; it’s just the ebb and flow. Each stage and each change offers something new and different. Just like the leaves that don’t stay but for a season, our highs aren’t meant to stay forever and neither are our lows. God is right there in both teaching, loving and then moving us along.
Lesson 2: Storms deepens the roots. Trees have a way of adapting to conditions. Storms of life will come and go so being firmly anchored is a means of survival. Tree roots sink deeper into the ground for life-giving nutrients and we need to anchor deeply in our faith and trust in the Lord so we can be nourished by his life-giving grace and mercy. Being rooted in our faith is what allows us to survive the storms and tough spots in life. Strong roots make us steady as the world around us changes.
Lesson 3: Destruction often ushers in new life. The cones on some pine trees are only opened by the flash heat of a forrest fire. The intense heat causes the cone to open up and spill it’s seeds so new life can be spread by gravity and wind. We often look at destruction as life damaging and not as life giving. Sometimes being completely disappointed or devastated is what it takes for us to surrender our own plans and let the love of God guide us to new life.
I guess October trees aren’t just beautiful to look at, they have lessons to offer as well. The next time I’m smack dab in the middle of something stormy and hard I’ll remind myself that I’m working on my roots. The next time I watch my well thought out plans go up in smoke, I’ll remind myself to watch for the seeds of new life around me and I will certainly be reminded that sometimes my life might look like a bunch of bare branches but something good will pop out soon. Thank you God for some beautiful trees and some great lessons.
A Seed To Plant: Pick one of the lessons and ask God to show you how he might be inviting you to apply it to your life this season.
Blessings on your day!
For we walk by Faith and not by sight. 2 Corinthians 5:7
Sometimes scripture can reach right up off the page and punch you in the nose! This verse socked me hard just as I was getting ready to throw my own little pity party. I’ve had several “careful what you wish for” moments this week and instead of throwing a fit, I decided to see what my Father had to say about things and this is right where I landed!
We follow a mighty God and he always leads us perfectly but sometimes we freak out a little when we realize we can’t see Him, or the path He has for us. I had to remind myself that my sight and His work were not necessarily a package deal. I have to live like I trust Him and live like I love him. This fall He has asked me to do some pretty crazy stuff and my heart has wound up in a twist several times but through it all I know He leads me.
It’s crazy how we go through warps of time where we are called to question everything we do. There are seasons of life where change seems to come at you like rapid fire from a Nerf gun. They aren’t all painful but they just keep coming. My role as a mother and wife has changed as the kids have all moved out. My role as a teacher has changed as education standards and practices have changed, my speaking ministry has blossomed and provided exciting travel opportunities and another ministry opportunity appeared from nowhere. I’m doing crazy fun things like meeting amazing people, doing radio interviews, not cooking every night because there are actually leftovers and helping 6th grade football and volleyball players learn to lead school prayer services. I’m beginning to realize that I’m not so young anymore. Several times recently I’ve been at meetings or events and found myself the oldest person in the room. My hair is sprouting some gray and my eyes have led me to be the owner of multiple pairs of reading glasses stashed everywhere! I’ve wondered a hundred times lately if I’m smart enough, funny enough, dedicated enough, energetic enough, young enough, old enough, prayerful enough and compassionate enough.
When I read this verse from Corinthians I realized I’m asking too many questions and trying to apply logic to God and that never works. I’m trying to SEE when He’s asking me simply to believe. That is so much easier! I don’t have to have answers to any of those silly questions, I just have to remind myself that I AM HIS and none of the rest of it matters. He will put me where I should be, doing what I should do, the way He wants it done, when it’s time. I just have to remember to walk by faith and find the joy He’s so generously sprinkling along the journey.
A Seed To Plant: Sit a while and pray about those spots you are having trouble navigating by faith and not by sight.
Blessings on your day!
In God we trust
There is a scene from a movie I love and one character says, “nothing really surprises me anymore” and the other character looks at him in shock and says, “that’s too bad because things surprise the heck out of me every day!” From the very first time I saw that movie, I try to make it my mission to be on the lookout for surprises every day. I’ve discovered if I’m not looking for them I become complacent and cynical. Those are two qualities I think the world could use a whole lot LESS of for sure.
Earlier this week the VFW came to visit our 6th graders to teach them how to appreciate and fold our American Flag. It was Patriot Day and they came in uniform. They come every year because hanging and taking down the flag each day is a 6th grade job and they need to do it properly. This year the men from the VFW taught the kids about the folds of the flag and even though I’d heard it before, the correlation between our faith and our flag surprised me. I thought I’d share in hopes of surprising you too. Our faith is such a part of the foundation of our country that it’s pretty hard to separate two things that started out so very connected. The flag is folded thirteen times, each with a powerful symbolism.
The 1st fold of the flag is a symbol of life.
The 2nd fold is a symbol of our belief in eternal life.
The 3rd fold is made in honor and remembrance of the veterans departing our ranks who gave a portion of their lives for the defense of our country to attain peace throughout our world.
The 4th fold represents our weaker nature, for as American citizens trusting in God, it is to Him we turn in times of peace as well as in times of war for his divine guidance.
The 5th fold is a tribute to our country, for in the words of Stephen Decatur, “Our Country, in dealing with other countries, may she always be right; but it is our country, right or wrong.”
The 6th fold is for where our hearts lie. It is with our heart that We pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with Liberty and Justice for all.
The 7th fold is a tribute to our Armed Forces, for it is through the Armed Forces that we protect our country and our flag against all her enemies, whether they be found within or beyond the boundaries of our republic.
The 8th fold is a tribute to the one who entered into the valley of the shadow of death, that we might see the light of day.
The 9th fold is a tribute to womanhood, and Mothers. For it has been through their faith, their love, loyalty and devotion that the character of men and women who have made this country great has been molded.
The 10th fold is a tribute to fathers, for he, too, has given his sons and daughters for the defense of our country since they were first born.
The 11th fold represents the lower portion of the seal of King David, King Solomon and glorifies in the Hebrew eyes, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
The 12th fold represents an emblem of eternity and glorifies in the Christians eyes, God the Father, the Son and Holy Spirit.
The 13th fold, or when the flag is completely folded, the stars are uppermost reminding us of our nations motto, “In God We Trust.”
This isn’t new information…it isn’t just made up…it’s as old as the flag itself and within the folds of the flag are the reminders of so many things we believe and are supposed to stand together and celebrate. Motherhood, fatherhood, eternity, Jesus, the Trinity and God the Father of all. I was surprised all over again Monday afternoon as I watched some proud and honorable veterans teach 40 twelve year olds what the Flag of their Country really stands for. I was surprised at how much I forget and take for granted the ways God really does want to bless America.
A Seed To Plant: Share this information with someone who might also be surprised about the way our faith and our flag are connected.
Blessings on your day
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