He must become greater, I must become less. John 3:30
Crosses, daisies and faithful Disciples of Jesus! That pretty much sums up the past couple of months for me! In the last few months I have spoken to several hundred folks who were on the same mission…to grow in holiness. As usual, I show up with my computer to do what God has asked me to do, using the words the Holy Spirit gives me and think I’m giving something. In all truthfulness; I always walk away taking more than I gave!
The Lenten message I’ve shared a few times involves the image of crosses and daisies. I saw a meme on Ash Wednesday that said “pick up your cross and not a handful of daisies!” It made me laugh and it made me think. After I pondered it a bit I realized Lent is about recognizing the power of both the crosses and the daisies. The daisies are the beautiful, simple, Christlike things I can do dozens of times each day that help me think of others more and myself less. The daisies are tiny acts of service and compassion that truly do help us grow in holiness. If these things are offered to Jesus with love, they console his heart and they draw our attention to the service of others and not ourselves. If I smile instead of argue; if I offer my spot in line or hold open the door; if I walk away instead of gossiping; if I offer a helping hand to a struggling soul and I do all those things out of love for Jesus…those little daisies allow holiness to blossom. Anything done out of love for, and offered to Jesus, has results that are as pleasing to him as a beautiful daisy is to us.
The crosses are the tough stuff! It’s true that the daisies help us grow in holiness but life can’t be all daisies. The crosses are personal, they may be private and they may be heavy but Jesus is just waiting there beside us ready to help us with the heavy lifting. We have to reach down and pick them up before he will grab on and help with the struggle. Our free will doesn’t allow him to join in until we get started and ask for help. Sometimes I hover over my crosses. I would imagine I must look to Jesus like one of those professional weight lifters on TV. I rub my hands, make some noise, bend down, practice the motions but as I step up to grab the cross I put my hands on it but don’t always stand up with the weight in my hand; I just go through the warm-up again and never get to the heavy lifting. Lent is the perfect time to quit the warm up and get to the lifting. No more studying the crosses; no more dragging the crosses; it’s time for ready set LIFT and CARRY!
As you focus on your crosses and daisies this lent, stop to tell your story and stop to ask others about their story. God doesn’t mean for us to bear our crosses in silence. We are called to support and love each other along the way.
A Seed To Plant: Make a list of the crosses and daisies you will focus on this week.
Blessings on your day!
“Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier. Be the living expression of God's kindness: kindness in your face, kindness in your eyes, kindness in your smile.” Blessed Mother Teresa
Now there is a Lenten challenge! There is just some advice that needs to be followed and this power-packed tidbit from Mother Theresa begs to be heeded. I shared this quote during prayer with the middle lovelies last week and they all agreed it would make the world a whole lot better but then one very honest young man said, “But man Mrs. Wohlfert, that’s just so hard to do.” I told him I agreed completely!
This quote has been heavy on my mind for several days and I’ve discovered it’s much easier to live these words when you’re in control of the situation and interactions are pleasant. I was intentional about this quote for a few days and I was pretty good at living this challenge when I would slow down, look people in the eyes when they spoke and be still until they were finished with the conversation. It seemed a bit awkward at first but after a few days it became more second nature. I was feeling pretty good about it until that situation I hadn’t planned for; you know the ones that catch you by surprise and tilt you off your balance. I had one of those situations this weekend and I totally blew it…I was frazzled and almost instantly I reacted and it wasn’t a reaction that matched the quote! I wasn’t the Wicked Witch of the West or anything but as I replayed the event I realized my reaction was based on selfishness and pride. A few hours later I was still really heavy hearted about the whole thing so I stopped to pray about it. (I don’t know why I always wait so long to do that!) After just a few seconds of quiet prayer it was very clear that I needed to apologize. I needed to call myself out on the selfishness and pride. I needed to admit that I was thinking of myself first and others second and I had to admit that I hadn’t left anyone better or happier with my snappy reaction. The more I tried to talk myself out of apologizing, the more I realized I needed to do it and do it soon. After a giant gulp of pride with a huge serving of humble pie on the side, I made the apology and shared the story of my failure to live out this quote. The apology was graciously accepted and thankfully my reaction was a much bigger deal in my mind than in actuality!
The funny thing about the whole situation…I was the one who left feeling happier and better. Crazy, I thought that was the gift I was going to give; not the one I was going to get. God is good and lesson learned…for today anyway! Thank goodness God expects progress not perfection!
A Seed To Plant: Make it your goal this week to live this verse. Think about the people it will be easiest and hardest to live it with and then ask God to bless your attempts.
Blessings on your day!
…and your Father who sees…Matthew 6:6
Happy (almost) Lent! Welcome to that time of year when we set out with all our hearts to grow in holiness. For me, it’s easy to look at the road to holiness and feel a little overwhelmed because I get so off track. It’s easy for me to look at lent as a time to “bear down” and try to do some really hard stuff. My intentions are good but these words from the Ash Wednesday Gospel hit my heart. Most years I set out to do some crazy long list of stuff in order to “make up” for all my shortcomings the rest of the year. Lent certainly has a penitential feel and purpose but it’s not a time to lock ourselves in a personal dungeon and be crabby and miserable for 6 weeks.
I think I wanted to do hard stuff so Jesus would see me and notice all the sacrifice and love and suffering. The Father sees…he sees ALL THE TIME and he sees us with such love and mercy. It makes me think of a chubby cheeked baby and how I just want to kiss their cheeks when I see one! I believe the Father looks at us that way every…singe…time! He’s always looking, he doesn’t miss a thing so that realization changed the way I think about lent. The point is not to get the Father’s attention; not to get him to look at me and the hard stuff I’m doing. The point is to get ME to look at HIM! What we “give up” this lent should be something we don’t pick back up! We need to give up those things that take our focus off Him so if they are coming between us now, they will probably come between us later so why not ditch ‘em!
If you’ve ever taken children to the pool, you know how many times they can say “hey watch this” in thirty minutes. That was the way I did Lent; hey Jesus, look at me I’m not eating chocolate or hey Jesus did you see that I went to an extra daily mass today, wasn’t that good of me, doesn’t that count for extra? It was almost like a giant score card and lent was the bonus round! Now, I realize it’s about me watching him. It sure takes a lot of the pressure off! My biggest Lenten task is to do the things that help me fix my gaze on him. If I’m looking to him and I know he’s looking at me, that influences my choices and attitudes; that helps me grow in holiness.
Here are some things you might try this Lent. Make a commitment to read a book about our Catholic faith this lent. It could be a book about the Mass like A Biblical Walk Through The Mass by Edward Sri. It could be about discipleship like A Walk in Her Sandals by Kelly Wahlquist or The Biggest Lie In The History of Christianity by Matthew Kelly. Just pick up a book and draw closer. We are a people made for companionship so why not join your parish family and participate in Lenten Devotions like the Stations of the Cross, The Rosary or Divine Mercy Chaplet or make a commitment to attend an extra mass each week. In the true spirit of lent, invite someone to join you. Almsgiving is about more than money so why not take a look at the “things” that fill your home. Are there things you can offer to those in need? Consider giving up some of the clothes, shoes, toys and things that fill your home. The sacrifice of parting with some of your “extra” could be a great blessing to someone in great need. Consider offering your daily coffee or weekly pizza night money to a shelter or agency that serves those in need.
A Seed To Plant: Take some time to pray about your lenten journey. Ask the Father to show you the things you should “give up” and not “pick back up”; things that will help you look at Jesus the way he looks at you?
Blessings on your day!
…he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion…Philippians 1:6
Every so often, something so amazing happens in our classroom that I feel like I should sign my paycheck over to the kids! Last week I had one of those days! It started as a simple job, but it turned into something so inspiring! Ash Wednesday, all my female middle lovelies were singing like angels in the school choir and all the boys were asked by our friend Beth to help unpack and display all the Lenten Prayer Books available for parishioners. When the boys returned to the classroom, a few of them had a copy of Matthew Kelly’s book, Rediscovering Jesus. They were so excited to have a copy. I was pleased that they were interested in the book but didn’t give it a whole lot more thought. At the end of the day, I heard the boys who had grabbed the book having a discussion. Since the book had 40 short chapters, they decided to read one each day of Lent and discuss the questions at the end of each chapter at morning recess. I was stunned! The next morning, right before recess, they cracked open the book and began discussing the questions. At the sight of that, the rest of the boys decided to join them. There was a quick run to church to grab more copies of the book and discuss the plans for their “Boys book study.”
The girls in the room were watching and listening just like I was and one of them ask if they could do a book study too. With all the sweetness and sincerity they could muster, one of them told me that it was the boys idea and they didn’t want to “steal” their book. I promised to go on Amazon that night and pick something for them to start next week. I am ditching part of my lesson plans for the next few weeks so they can put their full effort into a Lenten book designed to help them grow in holiness. When they left the room that day, I flopped down in my chair and I just started to cry. I don’t know if I’ve ever been prouder of a group of students! I am so inspired by them. What they did was absolutely unprompted by an adult, it wasn’t suggested, offered, assigned or instigated by a big person…it was just some 12 year olds who wanted to make Lent a time to grow closer to Christ.
These kids are amazing, they come from fabulous homes and they are surrounded by a community that prays for and supports them and boy does it show! I’m old; I have degrees and I’ve been to seminars and trainings and workshops but I am so often outdone by the faith and spirit of the kids I get to spend my days with! I don’t know if they will process the books the same way an adult will; I don’t know how in-depth their discussions will be; I don’t know if they will find the text difficult and frustrating at times but I believe the words of St. Paul to the Philippians and I know he will complete the good work he started with these amazing kids who fill the seats in room 6-1. I think it’s fair to say…the teacher just got schooled…and for that I am grateful!
A Seed To Plant: Be like these amazing kids…pick up a book and grow in holiness as you take 40 days to work your way through it. There will be grace!
Blessings on your day!
…and your Father who sees…Matthew 6:6
Happy Lent! Welcome to that time of year when we set out with all our hearts to grow in holiness. For me, it’s easy to look at the road to holiness and feel a little overwhelmed because I get so off track. It’s easy for me to look at lent as a time to “bear down” and do some really hard stuff to show Jesus I’m so thankful for all he did. My intentions are good but I read something today that was so very simple and so very powerful that it adjusted my thinking in a beautiful way..
One of the prayer books I was reading mentioned that three times in Ash Wednesday’s Gospel it said “The Father Sees.” Clear back in the book of Genesis he looked around and saw that it was good. How did I miss that? I’ve heard that Gospel on Ash Wednesday dozens of times and never caught that! More years that not, I set out to do some crazy long list of stuff in order to “make up” for all my shortcomings the rest of the year. Lent certainly has a penitential feel and purpose but it’s not a time to lock ourselves in a personal dungeon and be crabby and miserable for 6 weeks.
I think I wanted to do hard stuff so Jesus would see me and notice all the sacrifice and love and suffering. The author of this little article pointed out so clearly, the Father sees…he sees ALL THE TIME and he sees us with such love and mercy. It made me think of a chubby cheeked baby and how I just want to kiss their face off when I see one! I believe the Father looks at us that way every…singe…time! He’s always looking, he doesn’t miss a thing so that realization changed the way I thought about Lent this year. The point is not to get the Father’s attention; not to get him to look at me and the hard stuff I’m doing. The point is to get ME to look at HIM!
One of the things I decided to work on this Lent was speaking patiently. Sometimes people say silly stuff and it can be tough to resist the eye roll or stare or “Way to go Captain Obvious” attitude. Today was one of those days when I had many opportunities to practice this Lenten Promise. It was easier to do today because each time I wanted to react badly, I looked up first and quickly said, “Lord I see you and I will try to be like you.” The wave of patience that washed over me each time I did that was amazing.
If you’ve ever taken children to the pool, you know how many times they can say “hey watch this” in thirty minutes. That was the way I did Lent; hey Jesus, look at me I’m not eating chocolate or hey Jesus did you see that I went to an extra daily mass today, wasn’t that good of me, doesn’t that count for extra? It was almost like a giant score card and Lent was the bonus round! Now, I realize it’s me watching him. It sure takes a lot of the pressure off! My biggest Lenten task is to do the things that help me fix my gaze on him. If I’m looking to him and I know he’s looking at me, that influences my choices and attitudes; that helps me grow in holiness.
A Seed To Plant: Look at your Lenten list, what things are there that will help you look at Jesus the way he looks at you?
Blessings on your day!
…’You are My servant, I have chosen you and not rejected you.’ Isaiah 41:9
I love choices; I don’t need a lot of choices but having more than one option is a very good thing. I love apple pie, but if I had the choice of apple pie or pecan pie I would absolutely choose pecan! Sometimes making the right choice is a no brainer; like pecan over apple but sometimes it’s tricky! Last week I had a God thump that made me think of choices in a new light.
Friday the middle lovelies were sitting at mass with our kindergarten buddies and I was helping the little guy next to me find the right page in the song book. Once we found it, he wanted me to point to the words as we sang. The song was familiar and a school mass favorite. Honestly, if it hadn’t been for the little one next to me, I wouldn’t have even had to pick up the book. God had a plan! My favorite lines from this song are, “my hearts one desire is to be holy, set apart for You Lord, I want to be holy, ready to do your will’ great words right. I’ve belted them out just like that dozens of times but Friday as I pointed to each word with my fingers for my buddy, God thumped me as I read not “I want to be holy” but “I CHOOSE to be holy.” That one word made a huge difference.
The difference between want and choose is action, responsibility and work. I can want to be holier or thinner or more prayerful and patient. I can want all I want and it just remains a wish or a dream. If I choose to be those things, that means I have to do something about it. It reminded me of something my mom used to say when we whined about something being hard or not going our way. She would say, “Well child, why don’t you wish in one hand and spit in the other and see which one gets full faster. Nothing gets done until you get busy.”
Lent is less than a week away and I am asking and praying about my plans. The ultimate goal of the Lenten Season is to help us grow in holiness. The big question I’ve been pondering and praying about is; do I want to grow in holiness or do I choose to grow in holiness? If I just want it, I can guarantee I will sit in church on Good Friday weeping because I’m in the same place I was on Ash Wednesday. If I want things to be different I have to choose to make them different. I have to take action and not just wish for change. That puts a different light on things. It takes away the try and replaces it with a do. I don’t know about you but my Lent can use more DOING and CHOOSING! I’m not quite sure what he’s leading me to on this years Lenten Journey but I do know I will have to make some choices and I’m pretty sure they won’t be as easy as pecan over apple! Lord, help me see and choose!
A Seed To Plant: Make a list of the things that get in the way of your holiness. Now circle a few and pray over them the next few days asking God to help you CHOOSE the ones he wants to help you tackle this Lent.
Blessings on your day!
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