Above all else, guard your heart for everything you do flows from it. Proverbs 4:23
Several years ago my friend Cindy and I did a 60 mile walk from Ann Arbor to Detroit to raise money for breast cancer research. That 3 day walk was long, difficult and amazing. We took off that first day not really grasping what it would take physically and emotionally to walk about 20 miles three days in a row. The first day was great but on day 2 and 3 it was a little tougher to get up and get motivated because I knew how far that distance was and I knew what I would feel like at the end of the day. Looking back, it’s one of my favorite memories but I can honestly say I’d probably never do it again.
The distance made that weekend a challenge, but as I get older, I realize sometimes shorter distances can prove to be just as difficult as that long 60 mile walk. There is one short distance that trips me up nearly every day. That distance is a mere 18 inches from my head to my heart. There are so many things I know in my mind to be true and right, but that knowledge and wisdom doesn’t always travel to my heart where I can put things in action. I’ve been noticing the Father inviting me to pay attention to that distance lately.
I can read lots of scripture and say lots of prayers but if I don’t let those words travel from my mind to my heart, they don’t become action. I can write all kinds of goals and ambitions in my prayer journal but if I don’t set my heart on them, they are nothing more than words on a page. In my mind I know he loves me infinitely but when I shrink away from his affection and hide from him when I’ve done something I think will disappoint him, my heart isn’t living his love.
I know he will meet my every need but when I find myself feeling jealous of things others have, I’m not letting the knowledge make it to my heart so I can feel gratitude more than greed. When I compare every meal I cook to something the Pioneer Woman creates in her test kitchen or when I walk into my living room and compare it to something Chip and Joanna create, I’m stuck in my head, not my heart. Making those comparisons is a little like thinking the fancier my stuff is, the more the Father loves me. If I closed that 18 inch gap a little I would realize that’s nonsense. God doesn’t sprinkle his love like ship lap and cinnamon, he slathers it right into our struggles, disappointments and simple joys.
My head tells me he’d love me more if I was put together and less of a hot mess; my heart tells me he is delighted to meet me in the middle of my daily disasters. My head tells me I should work harder to be good so he’ll love me more; my heart tells me he doesn’t expect perfection, just prayerfulness, contrition and a dozen do-overs a day. My head tells me I’m not worthy of his love; my heart agrees but reminds me worthiness isn’t a condition for being loved and cherished by my Creator. My head tell me I’ll never be good enough or strong enough or holy enough; my heart tells me I’m HIS and he will be all those things for me. My head tells me work harder; my heart reminds me that he says “rest in me”.
Who knew there could be such a disconnect in that short distance! I’m thinking I don’t need to take a long hike or climb a tall mountain; I just need to do a better job at the short space between my head and my heart…that’s a mission that will keep me busy for a while!
A Seed To Plant: Jot down 3 or 4 things that get jumbled in that distance between your head and your heart.
Blessings on your day!
God proves his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us. Romans 5:8
I love living in the country; it has so many perks! I love the fact that we have fresh beef that we raise ourselves (I can’t lie…Dave does the raising) we have fresh pork, vegetables and flowers from my gardens that sit on the kitchen island most of the summer and fall and my niece and her family raise chickens so there are plenty of eggs to share. When school started this fall, I instituted a tiny holiday (at least it’s kind of a holiday for me) called “Egg Day With Aunt Sheri!” When I’m out of eggs, my three great nieces come to my classroom after school and I take them home so I can get eggs from my niece. The girls like it because they don’t have to ride the school bus home and because we absolutely have to make a stop and get a treat! These three little girls are such sweeties and they always remember to pick out a treat to take home to their brother. The other day as we were driving home with their treats, I had to laugh because they were busy making trades. I’ll give you 3 Combos for a gummy worm or I think a gummy worm is worth 4 mini Oreos were the sounds that entertained me all the way home. As I picked up my eggs and dropped off the girls I couldn’t help but think of this verse from Paul’s letter to the Romans.
The girls were all about negotiating a trade that was fair for everyone, but God made the most epic, lopsided trade of all time. I’m not sure I fully comprehend the power of this verse so I’ve been puddling it around in my heart for a few days. We toss around the words fair, just and equal quite a bit, but I for one don’t spend much time thinking about how the Father must process those words. Our relationship with him is anything but fair, just or equal. He can’t be outdone or undone or even partially matched in love and mercy and I’m not very good at thanking him for that.
I think the power in this verse lies in the five words “while we were still sinners”. It wasn’t a negotiation. It doesn’t say, after you got your act together Christ died for you. It doesn’t say, when you stopped sinning Chris died for you. It doesn’t say if you do x, y and z then I’ll consider sending my Son to save you. He did it before we got it all together. It wasn’t about scoring enough points to get the reward. It was a matter of; I love you so much, I’ll take you right in the middle of your messy, goofy, sin riddled life and send my Son to show you once and for all how extravagantly I love you. I need to get that through my thick noggin because I go through most days thinking I can trade my measly little gummy worms or Oreos for a life in heaven. He isn’t there to bargain or negotiate with. He takes my puny little attempts at holiness and gives me the grace I need to do better. I think he whispers to me, I did this so you would be able to come home to my loving embrace; I want your love, your trust and I want you to put me in first place. It’s a gift my child; not a trade!
A Seed To Plant: Take a few minutes to thank God for his love and ask him to help you see a couple of things he’s inviting you to do so you can grow in holiness.
Blessings on your day!
And my God will meet all your needs… Philippians 4:19
We’re about 6 weeks into a new school year and it’s still that “getting to know about you stage”. As a teacher, you come to know their faces and expressions and sounds. You try to figure out how they will deal with disappointment, correction and success. Throughout the course of a day I get to see over 80 students and they each come individually wrapped and packaged; all with their own little secret ingredient! It’s fascinating and frustrating and delightful all at the same time. I often shake my head and marvel at how very different each and every one of my middle lovelies is. I marvel at God’s creativity as it walks, skips, slinks or thunders through my door.
It doesn’t take long to realize some need more time, more patience, more firmness or more love than others. Finding the right equation takes prayer and observation and lots of listening. I will be the very first person to admit I often get it wrong; I often mis-judge a students needs or intent. God has shown me after 100 years of teaching that the words “I was wrong, please forgive me” are powerful to a child…or a grown up…or an elderly person! As I think about my middle lovelies and many of the other lovelies in the building I can’t help but notice they create such a beautiful collection of God’s best work and each one of them is a treasure in his eyes. It’s my eyes that sometimes need an adjustment. I can get overwhelmed when I see how many people are misunderstood, misjudged and misinterpreted. I just want each child to be understood and loved and enjoy being at school!
The Young Disciples group will have the opportunity to participate in a program with some students who have disabilities and unique needs organized by Special Olympics this year. As we listened to a lovely speaker teach us about these young kids and the struggles and challenges they face everyday, it left me feeling a little guilty. Guilty that my life seems so easy, guilty that I take so many blessings for granted. I was looking at pictures of the beautiful children we will be working with and I just wanted to scoop them all up and make their life perfect. It was all churning around in my heart and all of the sudden I came across this quote from a woman I met last spring who has spent her entire life blind, mostly paralyzed and suffering from a host of other ailments. She was speaking about God’s enormous love and genius plan for us. She left us with a quote that came to my heart at the perfect moment. She said this, “I believe there is no such thing as a special needs person. We all have needs; human needs and some of us just need some accommodations in order to have our human needs met.”
I read it a few times until I found my peace. It made me think of things with a different perspective! It also made me realize how true it is for each of us. It is about those most basic needs; to feel loved, to feel accepted, to feel needed, to feel safe. Those are things I can give easily but I wonder how often I don’t recognize someone else's need for them or I’m too busy to offer to meet them. Each of those needs were perfectly designed by God and he’s waiting and willing to provide for them as only he can. When I really think about it, I often need some accommodations in order for him to meet my needs. I need him to be patient with me when I try to do it all myself. I need him to be understanding when I forget to show gratitude. I need him to make accommodations for my narrow thinking and impatient attitude. I suppose we would all do well to focus more on the accommodations than the expectations; putting things in that order might make a big difference. I realize after reading that sweet woman's words, I’m certainly glad the Father looks at me with accommodation and not expectation cause he’d sure be disappointed a lot! Father, thank you for all your accommodations, please help me offer them to others.
A Seed To Plant: Lord, please help me see those who need accommodations today and allow me to see their human needs and their great value as your child.
Blessings on your day!
I have called you by your name, giving you a title, though you knew me not. Isaiah 45:4
I had an amazing mom! However, she did sometimes call my brothers and I by the wrong name; which was highly curious since I look nothing like a Jim or a Joe. This little habit was something I said I’d never do as a mom. Unfortunately, I did it too, more times than I could count. Thank goodness we are loved by a Father who created us and calls us by name; the right name.
There is power in our name and we take pride in our titles; they’re a big part of our earthly identity. If I speak to my class and say “hey you” the response is very different than if I call a student by name. The Father doesn’t just know our name, he knows us; every gift, talent, struggle, sin and quirk. The title he has given us declares boldly and mightily his love for us; our title is; HIS beloved child. We don’t have to take a test, write an essay or prove anything to claim the title. We simply have to recognize that we are his beloved and spend each day getting to know him more deeply and love him more adoringly.
Our Father is so amazing we should set aside some time each day to discover something new about the One who created us, inspires us and calls us by name. The Father doesn’t call us by name because we’re famous or popular, he is personally inviting us to go forth and share his good news and demonstrate his love and mercy to others.
A Seed To Plant: Thank the Lord for loving you enough to know you by your name. Lord, help me remember how precious I am to you and grant me the grace to proclaim your name to those around me. For bonus points; say hello to ten people today and use their name.
Blessings on your day!
“Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours.” Luke 15:31
I heard someone on the radio the other day talking about the story of the Prodigal Son so I decided to give it another read and do some thinking on it. Every time I read the story I get angry with the first son. According to the customs of his time, asking for his inheritance was the same as saying his father was dead to him. As a parent I just can’t imagine what it must have felt like to be so bitterly betrayed by my own son. As I read on, I sometimes find myself cheering for the second son…the one who was obedient, hardworking respectful and never asked for anything. He seems like the good son for sure…or does he? Surely the first son is the bad son…or is he? As I prayed on this passage from Luke’s Gospel I began to see myself in both sons. I’m not gonna lie…I didn’t like that idea very much!
I saw myself in the second son but not for good reasons. Yes I try to be obedient to God’s will and yes I try to be grateful and conservative and not demanding but this wasn’t what was stirring in my heart. The second son was all about entitlement. He wasn’t concerned about his brother, he was concerned about himself. He didn’t stop for 2 seconds to see the relief or joy in his father’s eyes. He didn’t stop for 2 seconds to realize what a tremendous act of “pride swallowing” his brother had just demonstrated. And he certainly didn’t stop long enough to think about how extravagantly his father would shower him with love if given the chance. It was a gigantic open and shut case of “that’s not fair!” Why is it we have such a hard time being genuinely happy for others when good fortune comes their way and not ours? I guess I need to think more about the blessing of generosity and less about keeping score. I heard a story not long ago about a wealthy couple who had attended a fundraising event and won the big cash prize. The audience was full of second sons who whispered among themselves about how that couple certainly didn’t deserve to win. What all those whisperers didn’t know is that the couple humbly accepted the cash prize and used every penny of it to buy groceries, diapers and gas cards for two struggling young family in their church.
The first son…what could he possibly have to teach me? I smugly thought I would never be so bold, wasteful, irresponsible and disrespectful. God wouldn’t let it off my heart so I stayed a while longer and thought about that lousy first son and as I sat and prayed, he began to sprout some redeeming qualities. I began to consider things like his courage, humility and desire to reconcile. He knew he had hurt his father but something deep inside him wanted to make that right. He wasn’t asking to have everything back to normal; he was willing to be a hired man not a son. True, his return might have been motivated by selfish reasons like hunger and pride but I can’t even imagine being brave enough to take the risk. He had to be willing to own up to every one of his mistakes and face the judgment and consequences that might come. He left home prideful and arrogant and he returned broken and weak and a complete failure, but yet he returned. As he walked down that road to his father’s house every weakness was on full display. I’m not sure I could muster that kind of honesty. I can go to all sorts of lengths to conceal my weaknesses and failures; it must have been quite a task to lay it all on the line like he did. I noticed that not once did the son offer any kind of excuse or rationale for his behavior. He just told it like it was and hoped to be accepted in spite of the brokenness he brought with him; I don’t know about you but I could take a lesson there!
I spent so much time thinking about the sons, I forgot the star of the story…the father. The father in this story is our father too. Our Heavenly Father loves us with the same unconditional love as the father in the story. He will always welcome us back no matter what we’ve done or where we’ve been and he will be so happy to see us there will be great rejoicing. He loves us even when we’re too busy keeping score to realize only he knows the perfect reason blessings are bestowed as they are. I realized he wants us to know his forgiveness and his generosity. He wants us to remember our job isn’t to focus on the behavior of his children; our job is to focus on the love of the Father.
A Seed To Plant: Pick a favorite Gospel story and give it a read with fresh eyes, asking God to put you right into the story so he can reveal his truth and love to your heart.
Blessings on your day!
Consider it all joy, my brothers when you encounter various trials, for you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.
Consider trials JOY? What was St. James thinking when he wrote this? Upon first glance at this verse we might be tempted to wonder if the beloved Saint put in a few too many prayerful “all-nighters” because surely he wasn’t serious about feeling joyful when the washer breaks, someone you love gets sick, the fuel pump on the car goes out or the sweet teenager in your home eats the last piece of peach pie you were hiding…I mean saving, in the back of the fridge! Joy…I don’t think so! And what about the really big stuff like losing your job or serious illness, surely he couldn’t have meant those things could bring joy. I suppose we could sit down and make a list of all the trials that have happened upon us in the past month and we would be overcome with many emotions, none of which would be joy!
The real meat of this verse is the part that explains what we can get in exchange for our trials…stronger faith and perseverance. Do you remember when you were young and you went home from school and complained about that boy who pulled your pigtails or the girl who annoyingly pointed out your every move to the teacher? The standard reply from home went something like this, “Well honey, if they didn’t like you they wouldn’t tease you.” This verse has a little bit of that flavor to it don’t ya think! God promised that we would have trouble…it is a guarantee, not a possibility. Even though we’ve read those words more than once, trials still seem to catch us by surprise. We sometimes even cop an attitude and think, “What, me…why me Lord? What have I done to deserve this difficulty?” We might even get really sassy and say, “Oh, pardon me Father, but you’ve made a mistake, I’ve already had 8 serious trials this month, I believe this current dilemma belongs to the neighbor or even better, the guy who cut me off in traffic this morning!”
The simple truth is, if He didn’t love us, He wouldn’t give us trials at all. Each difficulty or disappointment that knocks on our front door or barges right into our day is an opportunity to grow in trust or compassion or patience. When we throw up our hands in despair and say, “Ok God, I don’t know how to do this…I don’t think I’m strong enough for this, please guide me and guard me and love me through it!” we will grow in faith and perseverance plus we will be blessed with grace and mercy. I think what St. James was teaching us is that any time we surrender to the holy power of God, that’s joyful, and the blessing is more strength, more grace and more faith for the next thing! It seems strange to thank God for the lousy stuff but that is what we are called to do. We need to act like we are completely aware that He is about to do a might work through that trial if we would just stand back and let Him take us through it.
A Seed To Plant: The next time a trial comes your way, stop and thank God
for it and ask Him to show you the joy in the situation. We’d love to hear your stories!
Blessings on your day!
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, on your own intelligence rely not.
At St. Mary’s school, the first of each month means a project. All twelve big hallway bulletin boards are prepared with a focus on one central faith based theme which changes each time we flip the calendar. You might find it funny to know that when I was a freshman at Emporia State University, I specifically remember choosing to teach High School because I didn’t want to mess with all those bulletin boards you find in an elementary classroom! Now I teach 1st grade and have 8 bulletin boards inside my room and the giant one in the hall…God is hilarious isn’t He! Last February our theme was God’s Love…not too tough right…well I had this great idea that I thought the kids would get in a snap! I was feeling pretty smart about the whole thing until I explained it to the kids and I got nothin’ but that “deer in the headlights” look from every single one of them! I’ve been teaching long enough to know when the ship is sinking and I need to bail before I drown...I was there! In a flash I said, “Ok God, I wasn’t so smart here…send me something quick that will honor You and teach all who see this project about Your love, show me what to do, send Your Holy Spirit quickly with a good idea!” Bing…just like that the idea came. I looked at the kids and said, “You know what kids, the Holy Spirit just sent me a great idea, let’s try it again.” I explained the new idea and the little boy in the back corner smiled and said,”Mrs. Wohlfert, next time why don’t you just ask God first instead of wasting time trying to think things up on your own.” Brilliant boy!
My mission with these bulletin boards is always to reveal something new and amazing about God to my students, they are truly a teaching tool and I take these projects seriously because they are a priceless opportunity.
With that in mind, we got started. I explained how I would draw a giant heart for the center of the board which would contain the words “I see God’s love…” Each child would get their picture taken holding that giant heart and then in a small heart, they would have to write the words that completed the idea. After I had carefully explained the instructions, I asked if anyone knew how they were going to finish the sentence. I was prepared to help them stretch their ideas and invite them to dig deeper. I was quite sure I’d have to assist them in their thinking. Once again God must have been just laughing at me because the first child I called on blew me out of the water with his answer! I should have seen it coming because he was an amazing little boy whose faith was so enormous that sometimes it would swallow me up! He raised his hand and said, “Mrs. Wohlfert, this is the easiest question you’ve asked us all year, I see God’s love…(pause and grin from him)…when I see Jesus on the cross. I couldn’t stop the tears that rolled down my cheeks! But wait…it gets better…the little girl next to him put her arm around his shoulder and said, “That’s the best answer ever in the world!”
As I sat and listened to my class one by one announce their thoughts I was astounded! Each answer revealed another great nugget of God’s grace and love. As I dismissed them to their seats to begin, I sat in my chair a minute and wondered….ok…so who’s the teacher here…who is the smart one? It all became clear, that two second prayer of trust, even if it was offered as a plea out of desperation, gave me the truth spoken in this verse from Proverbs. I look back on that day and realize that if God can be trusted to help with little bitty things like a first grade bulletin board, He is certainly equipped to tackle the big things like finances, relationships and whatever else we think we're smart enough to handle on our own!
A seed to plant: At some point before this long holiday weekend is over, find one situation you struggle with and stop in your tracks and say the words “Father I trust you, Father I love you, please send your Holy Spirit and take charge of this.” Put Proverbs 3:5 in action!
Blessings on your day!
…but the greatest of these is love. 1 Corinthians 13:13
I love weddings! I love everything about them, the clothes, the excitement, the food and laughter, but mostly I enjoy the happiness that surrounds the entire event. Saturday, I had the pleasure of attending the wedding of a co-worker. She looked so beautiful and so radiantly happy…actually, joyful is a
better word. Happiness is an emotion but true joy comes only from being completely in the will of God. It was abundantly clear that Kelly and Ben were exactly where God had intended them to be!
I think the thing I love best about weddings is the way it sets Paul’s words to the Corinthians in motion. As the wedding began, I found myself searching the faces of the people gathered there to celebrate. I’d never done that before and my eye immediately caught the little faces of the third graders who had come to see their lovely teacher get married. I was tickled by the loving glances and giggles and tiny happy tears, and the smiles…dozens and dozens of them. In a world that can get so segmented and divided over “issues” of the day, it was absolutely delightful to be a part of a big group of folks completely united and genuinely happy about one thing…two people and the love they share! Love is the greatest!
Now, I may joke around about not defrosting the freezer because I’m too busy contemplating how to achieve world peace, but the reality is, world peace, love and harmony are probably not going to blanket us like the snow from a January blizzard. Before you feel sad and deflated though, remember the great thing is that if we are aware that God’s love can accomplish anything…in fact ALL things that’s the most peaceful though ever! Stop for a minute and imagine what life would be like if for one day,
heck even one hour, we looked at all the people in our path with the same kind of genuine love that plastered the faces of all those folks at Saturday’s
wedding! Not possible some would say; well you might be right about that if you are looking through human eyes. We are called to look at others, especially the difficult others in our life, through God’s eyes. See, God’s eyes have a different lens; a lens of love. He sees us with an even greater happiness, joy, respect and delight than I saw on the faces of those at the wedding. He sees us with love because He made us…perfectly, in His image and He asks us to look at the others He created through His eyes! That’s a pretty tough thing…but not quite so tough if we remember that the “greatest of these is love” and through that great gift we can accomplish things we didn’t think were possible. I think the first step to peace, is love.
A seed to plant: Pick a person to look at today. Each time you see them, ask God to help you look at them through His eyes, focusing on the beauty and wonder He threaded through them as He brought them into being.
Tomorrow pick two people and the ultimate goal will be to see everyone through His eyes and soon you may look as giddy and delighted as someone watching a wedding.
Blessings on your day!
We love because God first loved us. 1 John 4:19
Do the words “He started it”, "No, He started it,” followed with a louder “Uh-uh HE started it!” seem familiar to anyone? Growing up, I remember one family car in particular. It was a 1970 something blue Plymouth Fury III. You could compare its size to a modern day pontoon! I remember that car well because that’s the car my brothers and I rode in most. The boys always sat by the windows and I took the middle. "Middle child, middle seat", my mom would say. Personally, I think I was placed there due to my sweet, demure nature so I could be the peacemaker and have a positive effect on my brother’s behavior. (I’m sure my little brother will confirm that story.) If I had a quarter for every time I got stuck in the middle of a “he started it” duel in the back seat of that car, I could probably buy my own Plymouth! We really knew it had gone too far when mom would reach into the glove box and pull out the ruler and, as predictable as the rising of the sun, she would say, “I don’t care who started it, I want it stopped right now!” She would then begin waving the ruler fiercely.
At this point in my life, I realize two important things about mom and her ruler: 1) She was 5’ 12” with very long arms but that car was so big I don’t think she could have reached us from the front seat and 2) She NEVER intended to…it was simply a diversion tactic. (She was so good!) Looking back, that was a lesson in God’s love. She was a loving parent and she didn’t want to hurt or harm; she wanted to redirect and refocus us.
When we consider the enormous love God has for us and look at this verse from John’s first letter, we realize without a doubt “He started it!” He wins…He loved first! Now, thanks to human nature, we often think if we didn’t win, then we lost; but in this case, His winning is our greatest prize! God’s love for us can’t be outdone! It’s too huge, amazing, perfect and astounding! Here is the really good news…it’s not a contest! God is not asking us to love bigger or better than Him, instead He’s asking us to share the love He gives us in tiny little ways with everyone He puts in our path each day. As if that wasn’t enough, here’s the kicker…DESERVING has nothing to do with giving or receiving His love. It’s a free gift; it’s always there; always fits perfectly, never expires, and won’t run out no matter how much of it we give away to others!
There are a million ways to share His love with others. I recently bought 5 platters on a clearance table and decorated them with the words “pray and pass platter”. The objective is to pray for the person/family who will receive the platter filled with homemade goodies, fruit, fresh produce or whatever you can think of. They will enjoy the treat, and then pass on some prayers and goodies to someone else. As we live on this earth our main objective should be to share the love God started. Unlike the duels in the backseat of the Plymouth, this is something that should never be stopped!
A seed to plant:
Make a list of 5 acts of love you can share with people in your life during the next week. Include prayer for the recipients because asking God’s blessing on someone is a great expression of His love! Be sure to share the stories of how reflecting His love touched others!
Blessings on your day!
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