I command you: be strong and steadfast! Do not fear nor be dismayed, for the LORD, your God, is with you wherever you go. Joshua 1:9
For everyone feeling a little foggy today, welcome to Monday. When I don’t write the date on the board everyday I have to stop and think a little. Like many other folks, I’m missing routine and ordinary things. I’m missing my 22 girls and all the other middle lovelies for sure! I was thinking about my classroom this morning and realized Monday morning was always the time I switched classroom jobs and I sure could use a good “room fairy” and a couple of “lunch helpers” right about now! I’m not gonna lie, I could use some young eyes to help find my glasses because all of my students would agree that the most frequently asked question in my room is, “Does anybody see my glasses?” After three weeks of finding my own glasses I’m getting exhausted!
While I was looking for my glasses yesterday, I paused to think of some of the funny ways life is different this Lent. I realized that I’m probably going to be able to get another year out of my “school shoes” because I haven’t had a pair of good shoes on in weeks. I might need to consider shopping for Easter sweats or pajamas instead of a dress. I think it would be hilarious if everyone who filled my newsfeed with family pictures in their Christmas jammies does the same thing for Easter. As an added bonus, after you take the picture, you can just leave them on, walk into the living room and boom…you’re ready for church! My concept of dressing up has changed. I put on a pair of jeans the other day and felt so fancy I could hardly take it. Like teachers everywhere, I’m busy learning how to teach on-line so before I launched my first Zoom call with my amazing middle lovely work partners, I did my hair and put on mascara and lip gloss…I’m tellin ya what, I felt like I was ready for the prom!
There are so many things to laugh at and be encouraged by, but then there are moments when my breath catches in my throat and I feel a little overwhelmed by it all. I’m finding that if I use those two simple prayers I shared last Thursday, the Father truly speaks to my hurting heart. Two really big places he spoke to me was the verse from Joshua and the second was a part from Numbers that said, The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.
I felt so much peace and comfort from those two verses so I read them often but God is bigger than that. I am so moved and touched by music. Music helps me remember and think in a way plain spoken words don’t. I can’t remember three things from the grocery store but I can bust out in song if I hear the first few words of a School House Rock song. (if you’re too young to know what that is, google it) I know all about conjunctions and the Preamble to the Constitution because of these silly little songs. God, in his fanciness, knows how much he can bless my heart and touch my soul with music so I “randomly” came across this brand new song by Kari Jobe and Cody Carnes. They wrote it in early March in an attempt to bring peace as the pandemic was just beginning to unfold. They wrote the song “The Blessing” on a Thursday and recorded at their church on Sunday. This song the Holy Spirit sent provided such a healing balm to so many hearts it had more than 2 million views in five days. As I listened and watched I realized the song uses the verse from Joshua and from Numbers and a sprinkle of other great promises from Scripture. The whole thing is tiny nuggets from God repeated over and over so it can sink in. The entire song is about twelve minutes and as I watch them sing my heart is so touched by their joy, their faithfulness and I’m just so filled with hope. God sent this song to these incredibly talented people at a time when he knew we’d need his truth. I watch it at least once a day and it gives me a dose of hope, truth, peace and it is such a lift for my soul. The link is below and I hope you will give yourself the gift of time it takes to watch it and hear the truth God is speaking to all of his children.
A Seed To Plant: First, watch the video and second, call, zoom or face time someone you’re missing this week.
Blessings on your day!
Pray without ceasing. 1 Thessalonians 5:16
Next week was listed on the school calendar as “Spring Break” week. Like most folks, I had a list of things, places and people to fill the week and like everyone else, the schedule looks completely different. Never in a million years would I have listed my number one spring break activity as making protective face masks for my daughter the nurse but you can bet my sewing machine will be humming! As we begin to navigate our way through these different days we have to remember to anchor ourselves in hope and peace.
But how? It sure sounds great but how do we settle our souls in such an uncertain time. I’ve been praying a lot about that and two powerful prayers came to mind. They came in one of those “wake up you knucklehead” kind of moments. They aren't new and one of them is a prayer that has gotten our communities through some tough stuff in the past so I thought I’d dust them off and offer them to all those of us trying to find our faithful balance.
The first prayer for us to grab on to is that powerful 4 line prayer based on the writings of St. Francis DeSales…I Cant, You Can, You Promised, Please Do. Here’s what it looks like right about now…
*I Can’t…I can’t imagine how this will all turn out, I can’t stop thinking about how my family will stay healthy, I can’t figure out how it got so crazy, I can’t get past the fear of getting sick, I can’t imagine how God could let this happen, I can’t get used to everything that’s so different, I can’t process all the disappointments.
*You Can…You can bring peace, you can bring healing, you can strengthen us, you can protect us, you can give us the grace to weather this storm, you can grant eternal life to your faithful, you can do exactly what needs to be done to accomplish the plans only you can know, you can be trusted to love us through this because you’ve already been where we are.
*You Promised…you promised to be with us, to guide us, to bring life, to comfort and shelter us and you promised to lead us to Our Heavenly Father.
*Please Do…please bless us with peace, bring us strength, build up our trust, take care of us. Please do all that we need to grow in our faith and trust in your mercy.
Each time you feel the worry, fear, disappointment or uncertainty hanging over your head like a dark cloud, take these four lines and use them to craft a conversation with the Father filling in all the things on your heart. Tell God what you need, what you want and give him permission to come into your heart right where you are. It’s ok if it’s a little dark or angry or doubtful; he’s seen it all and he wants to be invited in to all of it because he loves us with the most tender, precious love we can imagine.
The second prayer has three parts. We ASK, we OFFER and we ACCEPT. It might go something like this…
*Lord I ask you to come into my fear or doubt or worry. I ask you to be present to me and make me aware of your presence.
*Lord I offer this suffering to you. I offer you my confusion or lack of patience with my children or my sadness in missing my friends and family. Whatever it is, offer it to him. It might seem like we’re offering him a pretty lousy gift but he’s delighted to take what we offer him.
*Lord, I accept this situation. I accept whatever blessings and grace you will grant me or my family or my community.
As we ask, offer and accept we demonstrate faith, surrender, trust and obedience. In those three simple statements we give God permission and we cooperate with his perfect love. We can pray this prayer dozens of times a day. We can pray it when the kids are getting along and there is peace and we can pray it when they’re fussing. We can pray it during those moments when we feel his grace working in our life. You can pray it for the good stuff and for the bad stuff. He wants to be a part of it all. In praying this little prayer we make sure not to waste any suffering and it can be a sign of our gratitude.
Hold fast to these two simple prayers when your heart is troubled and when you notice all the moments of beauty in the midst of the mess. Make no mistake, he’s right there for all of it.
A Seed To Plant: Jot down these two prayers and put them in a couple of places so you remember to lean on them and the peace and hope they will bring.
Blessings on your day!
But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. Isaiah 40:31
Hope is a word I misuse all of the time. I say thing like, “I hope it doesn’t rain.” or “I hope there is a parking spot close to the door.” When I really think about it, the things I “hope” for are usually things that would make my life convenient, or pleasant. This past week I have been challenged to look at the way I use the word hope. The first thing I needed to do was compare the worldly definition (the one I most often used) to the virtue of hope. Here’s what I found. “Hope” is commonly used to refer to a wish connected to a person's desire. But “Godly hope”; the virtue of hope, is the confident expectation of what God has promised and its strength is in His faithfulness. I’m pretty sure God doesn’t care about me getting sprinkled on or parking close to the front door at the grocery store so I decided I needed some work.
I love it when God teaches a lesson and uses real people as the teachers! Last week I met a beautiful woman who told me she was a woman of hope. She went on to share that for years she had prayed that her family would grow closer. Her children were grown and moved away and she longed for them to be more connected and involved in each others life. She said she always knew God could do that but it wasn’t until recently that she began to see him work. She said the things God was doing in her family were filling her with such abundant hope. As I listened to her share her story my heart both sunk and swelled as she told me that she was dying of cancer, but she was so filled with hope because God had used this situation to answer her prayer. Fighting the disease had been the thing that drew them together. She told me she was not afraid to die but rather hope filled because God had answered her prayer and brought her family so close that she knew they would support each other and care for her husband and make sure he didn’t get too lonely when she was gone. I was in awe as I hugged this beautiful soul, and took a lesson on the true meaning of the word hope.
God used another event this week to thump me with the word hope. God demonstrated his faithfulness in a might way in the lives of an incredible newlywed couple. As I took my spot in church for this beautiful wedding my heart was a little on the heavy side. The groom had lost both of his parents in a car crash just about a year ago and as I sat in the pew waiting for mass to begin I wondered how they would feel the same joy as other couples and I wondered what Fr. could say honor the event, the couple and the parents of the groom. Just when my tears were about to get out of control I remembered that God is bigger than our pain and he loved that bride and groom more than they loved each other. When it came time for Fr. Eric’s homily the hope came barging in! He spoke of the new life of Easter and the new life of marriage. He also talked about the beginnings and the scars that bring us to the important event in our lives. I watched this beautiful new couple laugh and smile and I watched their family and closest friends cling to the laughter and joy of the day and realized the only way that all happened was because of hope. Hope that joy will follow pain. Hope that God will never leave us stuck in our scars and our pain. Hope that he has a plan and that he works in every situation, not just the fancy, happy simple ones. Hope is understanding that God has promised good for his children and that good rises from the ashes of awful. I saw hope rise on Saturday and it was so much bigger than the sadness.
So what will I hope for now? I hope I will be able to use the word correctly. I pray that I can seek God working in my life and face my challenges and trials with confident expectation in his faithfulness because thats what hope really is.
A Seed To Plant: Think about the true definition of hope…make a new list of things you hope for.
This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. 1 John 5:14
Have you ever gotten something that far exceeded your expectation? When I was a little girl I remember asking for a baby doll for Christmas. All I wanted was a doll with brown hair and brown eyes. That Christmas stands out like no other because not only did I get the baby doll I wanted, I also got 3 outfits that my mom made by hand, I got a baby bottle to feed the baby doll and my dad made a baby bed out of an old wooden orange crate from my grandpas store. The doll bed came complete with a hand made mattress, pillow and little baby quilt. I remember squealing with so much excitement because it was SO much more than I had expected!
One of the best parts of traveling around giving talks and retreats is the people I meet and the stories they share about the things God is doing in their lives. I often pack up my little bag and hop on a plane determined to go give something but without fail…instead of doing the giving; I’m always the one who ends up receiving and experiencing so much more than I expected! I’m amazed at all the things the Lord can do when we open our heart; always more than we expected! Recently I’ve had some lovely women share an instance where God has worked in amazing and unexpected ways and with their permission I’d like to share them with you in this post.
*It’s all in the name. A nurse who was very apprehensive and anxious about a new computer system taking over the surgical center where she worked asked God to help her find a way to cope with the unwelcomed changes. She was an experienced nurse but technology wasn’t part of her training or her generation…compounding the stress and anxiety! In the shower the morning of the big “technology take over” she told God she was surrendering the whole crazy deal to him and asked him to calm her stress and be with her as she tried to learn. When she got to work that day, each nurse was assigned an assistant from the technology company. The gentleman assigned to help her was polite, gentle, understanding and extremely helpful and calming. As the nerves and stress began to subside, she thanked him for his helpfulness and asked his name. He told her his name was Emmanuel. Knowing that Emmanuel means “God is with us” she was overwhelmed at the goodness and love of the God she’d invited to be in charge of her day. The name was just a huge loving touch that proved his presence and love beyond her expectation.
*Just ask me. A grandma sat in the audience at a day of prayer and was troubled that her daughter was not making Sunday Mass a priority for her young family. She sent a text inviting her daughter and family to mass with her at the conclusion of the day of prayer but the daughter texted back and declined. The situation sat on the woman’s heart like a brick. When the scripture from 1 John was discussed she closed her eyes and made a conscious decision to ask God to take the situation and handle it “according to his will”. When the session took a break, she checked her phone and read a text from her daughter informing her of their Sunday Mass plans. When she checked the time the text was sent, it was exactly 1 minute after she had turned the situation over to the Fathers will. She was shaking with joy when she came to me to show me the text and tell me the story. The text also indicated that her grandson had just been accepted into the Catholic pre-school they were hoping he could attend. One request, one text, one big blessing that exceeded her expectation as only God can.
I think sometimes we set the bar so low it’s a wonder we don’t trip over it! God is waiting every minute to exceed our expectations. If we ask…if we believe…if we trust…and if it’s according to his will, he will surprise us every time! Go ahead and give it a try; ask with faith and then share the story!
A Seed To Plant: Make a two column list during your prayer time today. In the first column make a list of all the recent prayers God has answered in your life and in the second column make a list of all the things you’d like to lift to the Glory of his plan.
Blessings on your day!
The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him. Habakkuk 3:19
It has been one strange winter! We have had more snow days than I can ever remember in one school year. I’ve used the time to get caught up and do some of those yucky chores you dread but I’ve also had some time to watch a few movies. I have not one athletic bone in my body, but I love sports movies. I love it when the underdog wins, the hopeless find hope and the least expected turns out to be the most amazing. I have pulled four of my favorite quotes from 3 great movies for today’s post and added a twist as if they were each spoken to us by Jesus Himself.
It’s ok to think about what you want to do until it’s time to do what you’re meant to do. (The Rookie) If Jesus said that to us, I think He’d follow it up with “so put your plans and your dreams at the foot of my cross and I’ll take it from there. Oh, and by the way, I’ll come up with something WAYYYY better for you than you’d ever dream up yourself. Wait for it….Wait for it!”
You’ve taught me to judge a man by the soul of him, rather than the look of him. (Remember the Titans) That’s Jesus talking… but all too often way too many of us still haven’t learned that lesson. It’s easy to see this quote in terms of race but I think it’s much bigger than that. What about seeing the soul of a homeless person or a person lost in alcoholism or someone struggling with anger or mental illness? It’s not always easy to see beyond the first look sometimes but we’re supposed to.
When I told you not to get your hopes up, that didn’t mean I wasn’t going to. (Invincible) One of the things that really hurts my heart is when I visit with someone who has no hope. It hurts my heart even more when I see a person smash someone else’s hope. Hope is a very powerful thing and it can make amazing things happen. Hope is a grace and it’s freely given to each of us but we have to make sure we know that putting our hope in Christ is what we need to do. When we tell someone not to get their hopes up, we seem to be trying to protect them but I suppose Jesus would remind us to say instead, put your hope in Me because I have only the best for you….I will give you far more than you could hope for.
Sometimes bad things happen for no particular reason at all. (Remember the Titans) I see two big lessons of faith in this line. Lesson one, don't try to blame everything on something or someone and don’t try to explain, justify or second guess God’s motives because He sees our whole life, not just one event. Lesson two, no particular reason you can see or understand at this moment, but give Him time, He will reveal the reason and He will bring blessing and goodness because of it. I suppose it’s also helpful to remember that sometimes the lesson and the blessing are meant for someone else and it just comes through us and our circumstance.
There, I feel better now, thank you for allowing my lazy snow day movie watching to be used for a good purpose.
A Seed To Plant: Think of a line from one of your favorite movies that has meaning and enforces a Gospel teaching in your life. If you have time, share it with us in the comment section so we can be inspired as well.
Blessings on your day!
In my distress I called to the Lord…Psalm 18:6
If our high school would have had a debate team, I would have been absolutely the last person picked to be on it! I’m amazed at the way some people can eloquently deliberate a topic with conviction and finesse. Still others can bark an opinion and slam you with a defense that leaves your head spinning. I simply smell controversy or conflict and nearly trip over my own feet trying to get away from the conversation! We all have our own opinions and we all have the ability to make choices but that doesn’t mean we are obligated to yell them out. As Christians, it’s up to us to make sure our opinions and choices are based on truth and rooted in Scripture and Church teaching. Seems simple enough right?
As a society we don’t like to be told what to do. We aren’t so good with rules and regulations and I wonder if that is because there are so many voices yackin we can’t even hear the truth anymore. I’m not sure what happened to right and wrong; good and bad but we seem to live in a world full of clauses and sub-groups and exceptions. Some days I think gray is the most popular color in America. A very wise man I know always used to say, “Just do the right thing and keep your mouth shut.” Imagine what would happen if everyone was told to follow that advice for a day! What would happen if everyone was told they couldn’t say one thing for a day unless it was based in truth and steeped in Scripture?
A person could get pretty upset and discouraged with the state of affairs we seem to be in right now; but then that’s exactly what Satan wants. He would be delighted to think he’s reduced us all to a society of bickering, selfish, self-centered, slandering, lying, cheating, stealing idiots. He would be delighted to think we’ve forgotten our mission to seek the truth, live the truth and love the God who created us. Well news flash…WE HAVEN’T! I have come to realize a couple important truths of my own in the last couple days that seemed to yank me right out of my disappointment with our current state of affairs. The first; when we get to heaven we won’t present a summary of our best earthly actions nor will we be judged in groups. We are flying SOLO so it is our sole responsibility to make sure the choices we make and the opinions we base our actions on are in line with the will of the Father. One thing that is not gray…following the will of the Father is often very hard! He cares about our character not our comfort. The second; God is bigger than anything going on here on earth! He’s mightier than any ruling, leader, mandate or current event. He’s the one we should be aligning ourselves with, seeking protection from, gaining wisdom from and hanging on every word from. In order to do that well; to really follow His lead; we need to spend time in conversation with him. What would happen if the next time we see a post, or hear a news report that bubbles up our blood we stopped before reacting and spent a moment or two in prayer. Before we spout off our opinion what if we asked the Holy Spirit to inspire our words to be truthful and steeped in Scripture? God is bigger, richer, stronger and mightier than any of us combined but in order to see all of that clearly revealed to this hurting world, we have to live like we love him and become a world that prays first before anything else!
A Seed To Plant: Make a list of three “things”, “people”, or “groups” that seem to bother you most. Your task for the next week is to pray consistently for those three things. In your prayer, ask God to guide your actions and reactions to those three things.
Blessings on your day!
But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it. 2 Timothy 3:14
My heart is so full right now I can hardly type! Today I got to be the book ends to the school journey of some truly amazing young men and women. Today I got to see a group of students who were my very first class of 1st graders graduate from high school. The best part was that they invited me to be the speaker at their graduation and it was so much fun talking with my first group of little lovelies on this landmark day. I was asked to give a speech but instead I climbed down from the stage to stand on the field house floor and teach one last lesson to my graduate lovelies!
I spoke today on behalf of an entire community of teachers, bus drivers, school cooks, custodians, parents and grandparents who have invested in these kids for the last 12 years. I got to wish them well, offer some lessons on how to be an amazing human and invite them to be the catalyst for change in this world. In our small community these kids are known by name and they are prayed for and encouraged all along their way. I watched them walk across the stage right in front of me to get their diploma and I saw little backpacks and wide eyed first graders in my mind. It all zoomed by so fast that I felt a catch in my breath wondering if we had taught them all they need to know. I wondered if I did all I could to prepare them to make this world a better place. I prayed I had used well each opportunity I’d been given to help them grow in discipleship.
As I climbed down the steps to be closer to the kids for our last lesson, I remembered the first day they walked into my classroom and I’m pretty sure I was as scared then as I was today. I hoped I could cover my nervous voice and hold back the tears that stung behind my eyes. I hoped that the Holy Spirit would speak through me with the words he wanted them to hear. I felt the weight of responsibility that every teacher feels when they are given a classroom of young people. After the first couple of minutes I began to see their smiles and hear their laughter and every emotion bounding through my mind and my heart was replaced with hope and gratitude. They will do great thing, they will go great places and they will be amazing people! I have great hope that they will use their God given gifts and talents to make the world better. I’m grateful that I had a chance to be a part of their life, a part of their day, a part of their journey to this milestone. I’m grateful to be a teacher, it’s a vocation that reaps rewards that are too many to measure. Mostly I’m grateful that I landed here…in this place…in this community…to do this work. God is so good!
If the PW class of 2018 takes only one thing from todays lesson with them into the world I hope it’s the reminder that changing the world requires three simple things. Be kind, be honest and be grateful. When I give it some thought, that’s probably a great lesson for all of us!
A Seed To Plant: Which of the three things will you focus on today…kind, honest or grateful?
Blessings on your day!
Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose HOPE is in the Lord. Jeremiah 17:7
Maybe it’s just a Kansas thing, but growing up I often heard older people talk about the woes of the day and it would very often be followed by the phrase, “It’s all goin’ to hell in a hand basket.” As a kid, I wasn’t even sure what a hand basket was! Then I watched The Wizard of Oz, and when Elmira Gulch showed up on her bike with a basket to take Dorothy’s dog Toto away, I figured out what a “hand basket” was! Among the things on the list of woes were teenagers. It seemed older folks didn’t have much hope in them.
This past weekend I had the privilege of chaperoning two busloads of high school students from our area to a conference at Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio. We joined more than 2,000 others Friday evening in the university field house and the atmosphere was like a rock concert. Kids clapping and singing their guts out, passing beach balls above their heads all through the crowd and forming human trains and running through the aisles...ELECTRIC is the word that came to mind. (It’s ok if you need to take an aspirin before you read on.) But here is the amazing part, it was praise and worship music…these kids were going crazy for their Faith! Their love of the Lord is what brought them together and fed their frenzy! I was awestruck about 30 minutes later when all those teenagers dropped to their knees on the bleachers and hard gym floor in complete reverent silence to pray, praise , worship and adore the God who had created them! I watched teenagers laugh, pray, weep, and scream with delight as they drew closer, dug deeper and became more connected to Jesus! I’m not sure I even have words yet to describe what I was so blessed to be a part of this weekend. I went to help, but left with more HOPE than I can even describe.
On the 7 hour drive home, I thought about that “hell in a hand basket” phrase and realized that if those teenagers were goin’ somewhere in a hand basket…it sure wasn’t where the older folks from my childhood thought. To be quite honest…we’d all be lucky to climb in the basket with them because they’re goin’ somewhere alright, and based on what I saw this weekend, I wanna go too! The Steubenville Youth conferences will reach more than 40,000 teenagers this summer…talk about setting faith ablaze! This is the generation that will design, construct, operate, manage and decorate the nursing home I’m gonna live in! They are also the generation that is going to renew the spirit of the church and they will do it well!
In a world where bad news is pretty easy to find, today’s verse from the Prophet Jeremiah is the key to settle our troubled hearts. HOPE in the Lord is our comfort! We get worried and anxious about the woes of the day and we forget that our blessings will spring from the trust and HOPE we place in the Lord. Those teenagers I spent the weekend with get it! They renewed my hope because their faith is alive, real and contagious!
A seed to plant: Hope is rooted in God’s plan. Pick three things from your “I’m worried about” list and pray specifically for each one to be blessed by God and then replace the worry with expectant hope!
Blessings on your day!
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