Neither he nor his parents sinned; it is so that the works of God might be made visible through him. John 9:3
We like explanations don’t we. Our world surrounds us with technology, information and knowledge designed to explain and justify everything…until we hit one of those rough patches that we simply can’t make sense of. We aren’t so good at meaning the words, “that’s just the way it is”. We demand proof! We are a society of highly intelligent humans after all, there should be a way to describe, defend and understand everything. If there isn’t, then somebody must have lied or done something wrong because all things should make sense! If things don’t make sense, or if we don’t like the explanation we’ve been given, we set out looking for a spot to lay the blame. I’ve discovered the more out of balance our society’s moral compass becomes; the harder it is to “accept” things we can’t explain. God’s work included.
After reading this story from John’s Gospel , I guess the game of prove or blame isn’t new. The disciples were busy trying to figure out why the blind man was afflicted. They wanted to lay blame or find fault in order to understand the situation but in a simple yet completely profound way Jesus explained the man’s situation. His affliction was not to punish or to penalize…his situation was meant to magnify the amazing power of God. I’ve read this story a dozen times before, and I always thought of that man who lived on the streets in darkness with pity and sadness. This time I saw him with different eyes. My feelings for this Gospel character turned from pity to something more like envy. God chose the blind man in such a pitiful state to show His glory…what a lucky turn of events for him! This Gospel reminded me of a conversation I had recently with a woman who just bubbles over with God’s love. She was speaking so tenderly about her brother who had recently lost his battle with cancer. She shared her admiration and inspiration as she told his story. The part of the conversation that sunk deep into my heart was his reaction to the doctor’s proclamation of his condition…difficult news to say the least! Upon hearing the news he told his sister how lucky he felt that God wanted him home in heaven at such an early age. As tears stung in my eyes, it was easy to see why he was such an inspiration to her. There was no blame, no need for explanation…it was simply a case of “accepting” a situation as the work of the Father.
The trouble with trying to explain and understand everything is that we can only do it through the lens of human knowledge. God is the one with the wisdom and understanding to see how things are woven together from beginning to end. We are only capable of seeing what’s right in front of us while God sees so much more. He knows the purpose for each situation…He knows what each event will prepare us for…He knows what will follow each disappointment and sadness… He knows the mighty and glorious ending to all of our stories. If we are willing to accept the “happy ending” we so desperately look for, then we need to remember that His job is to prepare us for it. Sickness, death, disappointment and afflictions aren’t meant to punish, they are meant to strengthen and renew and allow Him to show His mighty and powerful love for His children. In our weakness He shows His strength. That is the only explanation or understanding we ever need…simple as that! The glory of His works on the other side of our struggle is more amazing than we can even begin to imagine. I believe this with all my heart because that’s how much He loves us. So the next time you’re in the middle of “yuck”,remind yourself that God is the only justification, understanding and explanation you need. Remind yourself that the glory He will show through your strife will be every bit as magnificent as the way the blind man felt the moment he washed the mud from his eyes and could see for the first time. Remember that God’s ways are not our ways...His are best and they don’t require explanation or understanding, just our trust!
A Seed To Plant: Read John 9:1-41 and make a list of situations you need to stop trying to understand, justify and explain and simply ask God to make you aware of the ways He’s working in them.
Blessings on your day!
“This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased, listen to him.” Matthew 17:5
In the first half of chapter 17 in Matthew’s Gospel we read the magnificent story of the Transfiguration. You would think that after seeing something as indescribably amazing as the Transfiguration, Peter, James and John would never doubt or struggle with trusting the will of God again. I mean really, after seeing what they had just seen how could they ever doubt, question or stray from God again. But in his infinite wisdom I think God knew they would because they were human so as if the events of the day hadn’t been powerful enough, he included a simple and precise verbal statement, “This is my beloved Son with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” The key phrase is at the end…listen to him. I don’t know about you but I sure could use that reminder every now and again.
I had a professor in college one time that handed out a test. It was the standard fill in the bubble test that we had seen dozens of times before. As the question and answer sheets circulated around the room he strongly advised waiting until he had finished making announcements and giving directions before beginning. I’m a people pleaser so I sat there listening to him ramble on as I watched everyone around me quickly reading and filling in bubbles. I was just about ready to tune him out and get started when I heard him quietly say, if you’re still listening to my voice, put down your pencil, don’t say a word and in five minutes bring your test forward, you will receive a perfect score on today’s exam. I thought a perfect exam score was awesome but as I read this passage from Matthew, I realized what I could gain from listening to HIM would most certainly blow that right out of the water!
God demonstrates his power and presence in our lives all the time but in our weakness; we often don’t listen to him. Sometimes it’s as if God’s grand workings in our lives make us feel entitled to float along with independent holiness instead of falling to our knees in thanksgiving and submission. I’m famous for taking the “holy glow feeling” that comes from identifying God’s handiwork and using it to plug along on my own instead of truly listening to him. I have to remember to listen and look for Jesus all the time; in times of blessing as well as times of struggle. He knows what’s best, he knows what’s right, and even when I’m in the middle of a hissy fit determined to do it my own way, he just patiently waits for me to listen and do it his way!
A Seed To Plant: When do I find it most difficult to “listen to him?” Father of wisdom, show me where I need to listen and guide me to live my life like I’ve heard your voice.
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!
… Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you… Exodus 16:4
I sometimes have this picture in my mind about making it to heaven and having an “orientation seminar” with God and His angels and saints. To amuse myself while driving or doing yucky tasks, I sometimes compose a list of questions I’d like to ask during the Q and A part of that meeting. Some of the questions are biggies and some are completely silly. I was weeding my big flower bed (completely yucky task!) recently and the list of silly questions got pretty long. The list topper that day was, “God, if carrots and cucumbers are supposed to be good for us, why didn’t you make them taste better than things that are bad for us like chips and cheesecake?” I love my fruits and vegetables don’t get me wrong, but seriously, there is a very good reason the summer ice cream shop on the corner doesn’t sell broccoli splits or caramel cabbage sundaes!
This silly question has stayed with me for several days. Recently at daily Mass, the first reading has been from the Exodus story. Today’s reading was about Manna; bread from heaven. It’s a beautiful story of God and His loving faithfulness. I wondered what it would be like to just see your food appear, morning and night with no effort on your part! Seriously…meals I didn’t have to plan, prepare, serve or clean up…that would be heaven! It didn’t happen once a week; it happened every day. The food was sent in the perfect amounts and nobody had to analyze its protein and carbohydrate ratio, dispute its nutritional density or scrutinize the label. It just came and it was perfect! If you read a little further in the story it isn’t long before the Israelites threw a hissy fit because they wanted meat…it came and then they threw another fit about being thirsty. Each time God answered their whining in a miraculous way. He made it SO easy for them! I have read that story time and time again and I’m always a little stunned that the Israelites could be so whiney and demanding. They lacked appreciation and after all they had witnessed God do for them they still experienced doubt, denial and rebellion. I’m pretty quick to think I would have been a much more faithful dessert traveler. I think I might have even been Moses right hand girl. I wouldn’t have doubted no-sir-re! I would have been awed, amazed and completely obedient. Or would I?
The “or would I” leads me back to my silly question about zucchini verses French fries! Do I have the strength to know the truth and act obediently? Do I know some choices are better for me than others…sure! Do I always make those good for me choices…absolutely not? Do I try to wiggle out of the “hard way or the right way” and settle for the “easy way”…yes I do more often than I’d care to admit probably. So you might be wondering what lettuce, cookies and the Israelites all have to do with one another and here is the connection…strength to trust and follow the will of the Father…especially when there is a choice available that seems easier or tastier or more self-gratifying. I have to be more willing to experience a little self-denial. If I really want to live as a disciple, I have to stop throwing a temper tantrum about silly little stuff that brings me happiness and comfort. I mistakenly think those simple pleasures that bring temporary good feelings matter. The truth is, they can’t even compare to what God has in store for us. It’s kinda like having a bucket of sand and thinking you have a sea shore. It took the Israelites 40 years of wandering…I wonder how much longer I’ll be wandering before I truly master the lesson of living in His will instead of wandering my easy path! The road to the Father is paved one joyfully offered sacrifice and one loving act of obedience at a time. Lord, give me the strength to get to You!
A Seed To Plant: Be consciences of little sacrifices and acts of self-denial you can offer to the Father this week.
Blessings on your day!
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