What your hands provide you will enjoy; you will be blessed and prosper. Psalm 128:2
Growing up we always had a gigantic garden. The garden was the work of the summer. There was always something to do, planting, weeding, picking or preserving. My mom canned and froze enough produce for the whole year; green beans, carrots, potatoes, corn, tomatoes, peas and beets. It was a complete drag during the middle of the summer when it was 100 degrees and my brothers and I were sitting in the back yard shucking corn for hours but fresh sweet corn in January made it all worth it. I can’t begin to count the times my folks reminded me of that while they handed me another bucket of green beans to snap. It isn’t always easy to see the blessing that comes with the investment at the time. All these years later, I still plant a garden and can tomatoes. True, I can get a can on sale for less than a dollar but it just isn’t the same. The problem is, by the time spring finally comes in Michigan and I get to a point with the end of the school year chaos and I finally get them planted it’s always September before they are ready to pick and can.
This is a particularly busy time of year with speaking and school but I came home Wednesday to a basket of tomatoes staring me down. I knew they had to be canned or they would spoil and even though I had a dozen other things to do, I reminded myself how good they would taste in chili and soup when the snow was flying so I got to it, but not without plenty of eye rolling and muttering under my breath, “really…now…I have to do this now? Why can’t they be ready before school starts, that would be much more convenient! As I stood at the kitchen sink washing jars and peeling tomatoes I asked myself why I even bother at all. But as I sit here typing, drinking a cup of coffee, I hear the canner bubbling and the soft clink of the seals setting on the jars fresh from the canner and I realize how satisfying it is and how connected I feel to my mom when I do what she did. It’s worth it, but it always takes me a while to remember that.
If I’m being honest, canning tomatoes is a little like my faith life. I love the end result, but more often than I should, I grumble about the effort and the time it takes. I want the relationship and the grace but I don’t always want to invest the time necessary. I want to head to the pantry in January and grab what I need but it takes effort to make sure it will be there when I need it. Sometimes my prayer life is like that. I cry out to God with my list of wants and needs and I just expect to grab what I need. I take his mercy and his goodness for granted way too often. It will be a sad day when I go to the pantry and there are no more tomatoes but it would be an unfathomably devastating day if I went to the Lord and he wasn’t there. I very well may run out of tomatoes but I can breathe a sigh of relief to know as long as I run to the Father and truly seek him, his grace and compassion will never run dry. Out of all the things I needed to do besides can tomatoes, I had to make the tomatoes a priority. I wonder how much better my attitude and perspective would be if I remembered to put the Father and his plan as my top priority every day. Timing is important. No matter how hard I wish, I can't make those tomatoes ripe any sooner. Patience is such a key and these tomatoes are a reminder to trust in Gods timing is perfect. As I sit back and admire the jars of warm tomatoes all lined up on my counter I’m pretty sure there are many times the Father lines the events of my days up in perfect order and I don’t even notice it or thank him for it. Funny how much you can learn from putting tomatoes in a jar!
A Seed To Plant: Make a list of three things you can do this week to invest in your relationship with the Father. Say a prayer of thanksgiving for someone who taught you something important.
Blessings on your day!
"Teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:20
I’m still trying to adjust to seeing just two toothbrushes in the bathroom toothbrush cup. I remember when there were five and three of them were short and chunky with cartoon characters on the handle. The other morning as I looked a little sadly at the two lonely toothbrushes standing in the cup, it served as a reminder that everything changes and that’s as it should be. As I stood there brushing my teeth, staring at a the toothbrush cup I contemplated getting a smaller container, one that wouldn’t show so much empty space, but then, as he often does, in a completely random place, God began to teach.
I know with absolutely certainty, the three little Wohlferts I love so much were never intended to stay here on Pratt road forever. I know with absolute certainty Dave and I enjoy the young adults they have become and we find great joy watching them discover their own path. Sometimes it’s hard to keep quiet about thing. We’d like to offer advice we hope is steeped in wisdom and experience, but like all parents, we realize that some lessons are best learned by living. Our kids know we are always here if they need advice or help but we try to let them ask first before we just spit it all out. I’m sure the Father is sitting there anxious for us to ask for help too! Like earthly parents, he’s waiting in the wings with wisdom, experience, love and a way to navigate a situation with much less difficulty if we’d only ask.
Those two little toothbrushes screamed a powerful message about my relationship with the Father. Although three toothbrushes are absent from the cup, my kids aren’t absent from my life. I don’t see them, I don’t hear them everyday but I know they are there. I suppose the Father needed to remind me of that, I may not see him or hear him but he reminded me he’s always there. As I thought about each of the kids who now have their own toothbrush holder, I realize I’m not responsible for providing the vessel, thats their job. We were each given a free will and we have the opportunity to make dozens of choices a day. We’ve been given a body or a vessel to get us through this earthly life but the choice to listen to and follow him are our responsibility; he won’t barge into our lives uninvited and take control of the vessel. How we fill it is up to our own choosing. It’s our job to remember he will always fill our vessel with the best stuff imaginable but it needs to be empty enough to make room for him.
I always bought the toothbrushes. As far as the kids were concerned, they were just always there and were probably taken for granted. Let’s face it, unless you are the mom, not much thought goes into toothbrush supply. I stood there brushing, wondering how much money I had spent on toothbrushes over the decades and I couldn’t think of one single time anyone thanked me for providing a toothbrush. Just as I was about to feel a teeny bit unappreciated, I realized how many dozens and dozens of gifts, graces and blessings God provides without my notice or proper acknowledgement.
The last thing that popped into my head before I spit and swished was the fact that I reminded, even hounded my kids to use those toothbrushes at LEAST twice a day and more often when they ate something sticky or gooey. Since those toothbrushes aren’t in my bathroom anymore, I have to trust that they remember what I told them. If they don’t, obviously there will be dental consequences. My mind quickly shifted to prayer. I hope we remember to pray more times than we brush…did I teach them that…will they remember that…will they realize that when things in life get sticky or gooey they need to add a little extra? Will they realize the consequences of a life without him? And of course, will I remember that myself? I’m sure God was reminding me that prayer should be as automatic as tooth brushing and hopefully a lot more frequently. He also made me realize that the time I spend brushing my own teeth would be a perfect opportunity to pray for the kids who have toothbrush holders of their own now. As I wiped my mouth and put my toothbrush in the cup with Dave’s, I thanked him for the lesson and for the gift of all those years with five toothbrushes in the cup.
A Seed To Plant: Think of five people to pray for this week each time you brush your teeth.
Blessings on your day!
Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, Colossians 3:23
Happy Labor day. It’s an early morning as I sit typing on my front porch watching the sun come up and I’m so very thankful! So thankful to be sitting on my porch drinking coffee watching God paint in the sky; thankful for the last summer weekday morning to enjoy my porch and thankful for labor that I love. Dave just pulled out of the driveway on his way to work and it reminded me of the three things I’d like us all to pause a minute and do today.
First, pray in thanksgiving for the work we do. Whether we make a little or a lot, whether we love our jobs or not, today is a good day to be thankful for a chance to use our gifts and make a little money to support those we love.
Second, pray for those who don’t get today off. Some folks, like the farmers who feed us, never get a day off. If you know one, thank one! If I think about all the folks going to work today they are probably going off to a job to serve those of us who don’t have to go to work today. Thank you God for them!
Third, pray for those who are unemployed or underemployed. The stress, the worry, the disappointment they feel can be overwhelming. Let’s pray for the single parents working two or three jobs trying to make ends meet. Let’s pray for those, who for a dozen different reasons we don’t know anything about, make up the ranks of the working poor.
There you have it…your tasks for the day! Happy Labor day!
A Seed To Plant: Do the assignment above!
Blessings on your day!
For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord. Isaiah 55:8
How about that for a Thursday kick in the pants! 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!
Not long ago I heard a priest teach a simple prayer during his homily. 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. Gordon 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. Gordon 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 Wohlfert, 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!
And all this is from God who has reconciled himself to us through Jesus…2 Corinthians 5:18
A long time ago I had a co-worker who was difficult to work with. She was a bigger challenge than putting on panty hose on a hot August day! It seemed that no matter how hard I tried, how friendly I was or how efficient I became, I just couldn’t please her. Every day before work I would ask God to give me a heap of patience so I wouldn’t have boiling blood by noon. Most days I was at a slow simmer by 10 am and I would feel like God wasn’t listening or I just wasn’t trying hard enough. Luckily, it was just a summer job but I have never forgotten that experience. I remember it because just like that summer, there have been plenty of other times I have found myself in a pickle and I go into prayer asking God to give me patience or understanding or whatever the necessary grace might be and then I trot off to fix the situation. It wasn’t until recently that I realized I didn’t have it quite right. In his book God Help Me, Jim Beckman offered a thought that spun me around like a top!
“I was using a self-help approach to Christianity. I would diagnose myself and then, like a good doctor, prescribe myself a prescription like patience. Then I went to God and told him to fill the prescription. Is it any wonder nothing ever changed? The language itself is all wrong anytime we find ourselves telling God what to do we’re in trouble. At the very center of this self-help approach to prayer was ME, not GOD.” He goes on to explain that the whole mystery of our faith is realizing Jesus is the center, not us. We can never live a perfect life as humans but we can through Jesus. “God doesn’t want you to live the Christian life; if that’s what you think the invitation is, you’ve got it all wrong. He wants Jesus to live the Christian life in you! And through Jesus you are to become the very righteousness of God.”
When I did some serious thinking about this information, I realized that it wasn’t at all about the behavior of that tricky woman one summer a long time ago. It was about what Christ was trying to teach me about myself through her. He was inviting me to look deeply at myself so he could reveal and teach. I discovered looking back that I was angry and hurt at that point in my life and he was trying to get me to turn those things over to him, but I couldn’t or didn’t want to deal with that, I wanted to find another way out. Looking back it was like riding my bike into a wall every day and expecting it to move! He was trying to mend my heart and show me some truths, but I was wasting all my prayer time demanding he give me the tools to fix somebody else.
I’d like to say that I’m much older now and I’ve moved past such silly prayer mistakes but the truth is I needed these words right now just as much as I needed them that summer long ago. I need to stop complicating things and let God be God. I need to stop approaching prayer with a self-help attitude and begin to let God reveal and teach and love me; that takes an honest and open heart. Whew…I’ve got some work to do!
A Seed To Plant: Listen to your prayer words this week. Are you self-prescribing or letting God be the center?
Blessings on your day!
Brothers and sisters: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. 2 Corinthians 9:
As a teacher, I know there are some things kids enjoy. No matter what the age, glitter glue, paint and wet glue are always met with enthusiasm. The hesitation on my part is the inability of most of the students to comprehend the concept of “use just a little”. When I moved from little lovelies to middle lovelies, I thought they would get it; not so much! I still get projects that weigh 3 pounds and take 4 days to dry! It seems if a little glitter or paint is good, then a lot makes the project awesome! I suppose it’s later in life when we realize that very often a little can go a long way! Just like the kids and their glitter glue, we adults can sometimes go overboard on things and loose track of the concept “enough”. We are a society that likes our “stuff” aren't we.
As I was looking at the insane number of cucumbers in my garden the other day, I thought of this verse from Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians. In the spring we dumped jut a few extra seeds in that little hole just to make sure we would get a nice amount of cucumbers. Sheesh…is seems we sowed bountifully and now the reaping from that one plant is crazy! As I was cleaning and planning what in the world to do with all these green little beauties, I began to think of the places we could use more bountiful sowing and reaping. I’ve decided these are some places we could benefit from sowing as abundantly as school kid with a fresh bottle of glitter glue!
A Seed To Plant: As you sit in quiet prayer this week, think about the areas of your life where you have sowed sparingly and the places you can bump up the sowing and then ask the Father to bless you with his abundant bounty.
Blessings on your day!
Hear my cry for help, my king, my God! Psalm 5:3
The second Monday evening of the month is a great time slot! That’s a spot in the month when Satan gets really, really ticked off! This past Monday began the third year of the Daughters of God Faith Series in our area and like the previous two years, more than 100 women gathered to learn, pray and grow closer to God. I am humbled and honored to be in the company of so many faith-filled women who carve out that time from their busy lives. I walk in each month with the class carefully prepared and power points created and try to look like I know what I’m doing. I giggle though because the Holy Spirit doesn’t really care what’s on my laptop or in my notebook. I just open my mouth and ask Him to take over; and take over He does! This past Monday night He began our class with something unplanned and amazing.
Each month there is a basket in the front of the room on the prayer table. In front of the basket there are white slips of paper and red slips of paper. The white slips are for prayer intentions and requests. The red ones are put in the basket if a prayer or petition has been granted or blessed. The red slips give a great visual for the work God is doing in the lives of his praying faithful. We pray together over those intentions in the basket during our opening and closing prayer time and women in the audience are asked to remember those intentions throughout the month during their private prayer time.
Monday night before class, one of the ladies told me a special guest would be joining the class that night. After the opening prayer, I introduced a beautiful woman who made her way to the front of the class and tenderly placed a red slip in the prayer basket then took the microphone and explained that she had been a white slip in our prayer basket and she wanted to change the slip to red herself. Turns out, we had been praying for this lovely lady for months as she battled breast cancer. She had been given a clean bill of health and she wanted to briefly share her story. She assured us that it was the power of prayer from many people that led to her healing and she wanted to personally thank the women there for their prayerful support. Amid the tears and cheers we were all touched by the power of the moment. I remember crawling in bed Monday night thinking…wow...thank you Holy Spirit for her brave and touching words…it was a powerful beginning to kick off the new series! I love it when we allow God to be in charge of something and He shows off in an amazing way just because He can!
I have no doubt that God has big plans ahead for this beautiful woman of faith and courage. I was inspired and motivated by her and I was touched by the power and extreme love of our Father in heaven. Her strength came from the prayers of others, many she had never met. It wasn’t hard for us to do, it didn’t take a degree or certification and it certainly didn’t take much time, but the result was monumental! How much time do we spend praying for others by name? It’s an important way to spend some minutes every day. If you don’t do it…start. If you already do it…do more! Cry out the names of those who need God’s blessing.
A seed to plant: Get a little notebook and make a list of all the people you know of who need prayer. Carry the book with you and when someone asks you for prayer, jot down their name. Read through your list and ask God to bless those folks each day. Take note of any of those who have received an answer or a blessing and watch the magnificent ways God is showing Himself in answer to our prayers.
Blessings on your day!
Pray without ceasing. 1Thessalonians 5:17
One of the things that made me feel so lucky as a little girl was the fact that my Grandpa Ted owned a store. It had a gas pump out front and inside was a grocery store and the town post office. The counter was lined with big glass jars filled with different kinds of candy but the greatest thing in the store was the pop machine. I was amazed that all you had to do was deposit a coin, then open the narrow glass door, grab the pop bottle by its top and pull it out. The biggest problem life presented at that age was trying to decide whether my brother and I were going to share a Squirt or a Root Beer. Life was simple!
Lots of years later, life isn’t always quite so simple! I’ve discovered that the days that seem to be the most complicated and crazy are usually the ones when I haven’t deposited as much into my daily prayer. I think sometimes our prayer life can be a little like Grandpa Ted’s pop machine. We simply make a little investment and expect to have God open the door so we can pull out any flavor blessing we pick. He wants more from us than a quick “shout out” when we want something or when we need Him to rescue us from the mess we’ve made. He lovingly demands more from us. But Paul told the Thessalonians to pray without ceasing...really…how do you do that? Who can be on their knees in prayer all day?
I think the passage is challenging us to put Christ in the forefront of our thoughts, our words and our actions, consulting him throughout the day with everything. One of my first grade lovelies said one day, “But if you pray like that won’t you run out of stuff to talk to God about?” I said, “Not if you pray with WOW, OOPS, THANKS and GIMME.” You can imagine the puzzled looks that followed and so the lesson began. Each time we stop to pray, start by telling God what He’s done that is amazing ("Wow"). Next, ask His forgiveness for all the faults and failings of the day. Don’t forget to call them out by name ("Oops"). Then have a long talk with Him about all the things you are thankful for and for all the blessings received ("Thanks"). And finally, ask for His blessing on those people and situations that need Him("Gimme"). Those four words are a great starting point for personal prayer. If you cover all four each time you call upon His name in prayer, you’re not likely to run out of stuff to say and you have gotten a lot closer to “without ceasing.” God’s calling us to make more than a tiny deposit, and when we do, the blessings we’ll receive are going to be far more amazing than anything ever pulled out of Grandpa’s pop machine.
A seed to plant: Write wow, oops, thanks and gimme on a notecard. Practice praying with those 4 categories for a few days and see if you enjoy a prayer time that is more focused and fulfilling.
Blessings on your day!
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