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