My comfort in my suffering is this: Your promise preserves my life. Psalm 119:50
I don’t always like doing hard or yucky stuff. As a kid I was more than happy to help my grandma do dishes or dust. I’m pretty sure I thought it was great stuff and I did it with a smile on my face! But when my own mom asked me to do the same things it was dreadful and I was known to occasionally insert some drama while I tried to worm my way of helping her.
This week more than 300 people I spend my school day with have been asked to do something hard and undesirable. In order to come back to in-person school the staff and 6th graders are masked all day and the younger kids are masked on the bus and while in the halls or working in groups. My classroom has been above 80 a couple days this week, making the mask even more undesirable. No matter where your opinion lands on the issue, the fact is, we do what is asked because that’s how bad we all want to be there. The kids have been amazing and so resilient! I’m so proud of them. The big lesson this week has been about suffering. Doing something hard or undesirable can be considered a suffering and the same grandma I helped dust and do dishes always said, “Don’t waste your suffering.” This week we made that our focus in an attempt to follow our friend Samantha’s advice and “Stay Positive”.
I don’t like hard stuff but I can easily do hard stuff for someone else so that’s the premise behind the question “Who are you wearing your mask for today?” It’s so powerful to pray for someone but it’s even more powerful to offer your suffering for them. It’s really as simple as saying, Lord, I offer this suffering to you. You can offer it for something or someone specific or ask the Lord to use your suffering to bless a soul in great need. We were on day two of answering “Who are you wearing your mask for?” and someone said they would wear their mask for someone who was having a tumor removed from their brain. We all agreed we would join in and offer some of our mask suffering for that intention too. The next day we found out that the surgery was such an amazing success the patient went home the same day they had surgery. When that story was shared I think every single person was touched and inspired and overwhelmed by the goodness of our God who took a simple suffering and used it in such a mighty way. As we walk into the building and put on those masks there is a change in attitude when we think or say, “This is for___.” I’m so happy to be back in school. I’m so happy to surround myself with middle lovelies who are so eager to grow in their faith and become disciples.
I hope the next time you have to do something hard or undesirable instead complaining, you’ll offer that small suffering to God. The result is great grace outpoured in powerful ways.
A Seed To Plant: Pick a suffering you can offer to God this week and before you do it, remember to think about “Who it’s for”!
Blessings on your day!
And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.
1 Peter 5:10
There is a great story about a little girl whose mother sent her to the store to pick up an important item. She told the little girl to come directly home after she picked it up. Much to the mothers dismay, she was nearly two hours late returning home. When she arrived, she apologized for taking so long and explained that she ran into her friend who was crying because her doll was broken and she was so sad about it that she just had to stop and help her. Her mother asked her how she helped fix the doll and she told her that she didn’t. She didn’t know anything about fixing dolls so she just sat down and helped her cry.
I’m feeling a lot like that little girl lately! As we wait to return to something; anything that has even a smidge of familiar, the days are getting long and the rules are getting heavy. I’ve chatted with several folks this week and it seems all I could do was help them cry. We’ve cried about disappointments, missed occasions, watered-down celebrations and flat out dismay. We’re frazzled, contained and running out of cheerful creative energy. Parents are tired of teaching and working and juggling a house full of needs, wants and worries. If we’re being honest we may be getting a little sick of each other and blanket forts and sidewalk chalk have lost all appeal. We cook 432 times a day, we can’t seem to get enough toilet paper and for crying out loud why are we out of Cheez-Its and apples AGAIN? It will get better but maybe the best thing we can do right now is just sit down and help someone cry! At our core we want to be compliant, we want to be obedient, we want to be logical but most of us just want to bail off this crazy bus!
I can make a list of a bazillion great things that have come out of this quarantine but right now it’s ok if we’re feeling a little “over it all.” My mom used to say the best thing to do with feelings is just sit still and feel them. Let them wash over you and spit out what you’re thinking. Make a list of all the things your mourning, mad about, disappointed about and feel you were cheated out of. Feel it all…acknowledge it all and realize we have all felt this thing deeply and differently. It’s ok if you’re toast…it’s ok if you’re enjoyed the quiet…it’s ok if you are worried and fearful enough to not want to leave home yet. IT”S OK! Let’s stop judging reactions and just cry or laugh or pray with each other right where we are.
I read a little something that said during times of great testing (like right now!) three things happen. God is able to reveal, to purify and to strengthen. In order for those things to happen we have to “sweep the emotional porch”. Let it all out and then take a look at what God might be doing or might be wanting to do. That purging of emotion will allow us to move forward so we can receive the gifts from our suffering. Through our suffering, Almight God…
*Reveals…what have you learned about yourself during this trial? What is more clear to you now than before? Where are you stronger than you knew and more tender than you thought?
*Purifies…If I want this suffering to bring me closer to God I have to think about where I place my hope? The place I put my hope reveals the source of my security. Am I looking to the Governor or my spouse or the newscaster to bring me hope or am I seeking the pure and true hope of the Father.
*Strengthens…Where is my strength coming from? Do I feel strong only on those days I’m able to pull myself up by the bootstraps and slap on a happy face? Strength isn’t defined by not yelling at the kids or screaming at the screen about the latest goofy prediction or scenario. Strength comes from the Praise and Honor we give the Father in the middle of all that. Strength comes from the Father, not from ourselves. The more we ask, rely and beg for his strength the more we step out of ourselves and into his loving protection. The trials are not without purpose and maybe the three gifts of suffering might help our perspective a little.
A Seed To Plant: Feel your feelings and find someone to help you cry or yell or pout your way through it all so you can see the work he’s waiting to do through the three gifts of suffering.
Blessings on your day!
Thus says the Lord, Lo, I am about to create new heavens and a new earth; the things of the past shall not be remembered or come to mind. Isaiah 65:17
Holy cow this is so weird! I’ve struggled to write because I was trying so hard to write something light and joyful and funny because I thought that’s what we needed but the stuff just wouldn’t come. I started working on this post yesterday and couldn’t string together more than a few sentences so I’d delete and wait. I poured coffee and did morning prayers at 5:30 this morning and still couldn’t write so I put it away and went to Mass in my sweats asking the Holy Spirit to fill my page with the words someone might need to hear today.
In the first reading today from the Prophet Isaiah we read the words…I am about to create new heavens and a new earth. Well, that’s one way to look at these strange days. We surely are in the middle of something new aren’t we. The reading goes on to talk about the joy and love and happiness that will come from this new creation. It made me think of the three times in life I spent hours in labor giving birth to the three little Wohlferts. Phew…that was some suffering for sure but it brought forth life and happiness and joy I can’t even describe. I don’t want a re-do on those labor hours but they led to something so amazing. Maybe that’s what we’re in the middle of today; maybe that’s what Isaiah was trying to help us understand. In order for me to rejoice in the Kevin, the Jason and the Shannon I had to let all the pain and the worry and the wonder and uncertainty wash over me. Maybe that’s what we need to do with this strange time…let it wash over us and feel it instead of analyzing the snot out of it and trying to respond and react according to the latest article or news report.
So lets decide a few things for ourselves and invite God into the “washing over.”
*It’s a little scary…we haven’t done this before and we don’t know how long it will last or what to expect. It’s ok to be scared, say it out loud to someone and then remember that fear is not of God…peace is of God and he has plenty to go around if we ask him every time we feel that fear wash over us, to flood us with his peace instead. Stop whatever you’re doing and say the words…”Lord, take this fear and fill me with your peace!” take a deep breath and say it again as many times as it takes to feel the peace replace the fear.
*We have no control…for real…we don’t! For every planner, organizer, scheduler type person out there this is kicking us in the pants isn’t it! For those with the overwhelming desire to stand on something tall and scream, “Stop this, it isn’t on my agenda and I don’t have time for this craziness!” its’ ok, go ahead and scream it, you’ll feel better. When you’re done screaming, make a new agenda! Put new stuff on your list; fun stuff, silly stuff, lazy stuff, things I never have time to get to stuff. In a time when we may feel like we have no purpose never underestimate the accomplished feeling of looking into a silverware drawer with no bread crumbs! Clean something, organize a closet or a drawer, do something that gives you a feeling of accomplishment and then sit still and be quiet acknowledging the perfection, love and grace of the one who truly is in control…give him permission to be and pray for the grace to accept the rest and re-set he’s giving us.
*We are suffering…each in different ways…at different levels. We’re missing stuff, we’re uncertain and disappointed and sad. There are a million “I don’t know’s” floating in our minds and hearts and boy do we hate that. We have to do our own cooking and we’re apprehensive about going to the store. We are worried about getting sick. We’re confused about who to believe. We’re running out of ways to entertain our kids and ourselves. We’re worried about jobs and money and stocks. Let it wash over you and call it what it is…suffering. The good news about suffering is that it is an immediate path to Jesus. We’re all called to suffer but we have to learn to do it right. Our prayer is not Lord take it away, our prayer is Lord please use this suffering for good. Each time my mind starts spinning I stop and say, “Lord please use this suffering for a soul in great need.” It gives it a purpose…it gives it a use…it makes all of this seem to matter for something good. My mom always said, “Never waste your suffering.” I think Gods greatest raw material for building greatness is our suffering so make sure to offer him all of yours so he can do mighty works.
*Tell yourself the truth. Great good will come from this…God will protect his people…Some of us will get sick…Worried moments should be the times we stop and pray…What other time in our lives has our newsfeed been full of people going to church in the living room…Priests and Pastors are dong amazing things to bring together the faithful giving us the opportunity to be more faithful than fretful…We will be changed and if we hold on to God’s hand we will ABSOLUTELY be changed for the better.
God loves us too much to leave us stuck here, this won’t last forever and we will truly be OK! There will soon come the day when we laugh easier and we will go back to full churches and hugs from grandkids and fully stocked shelves but this isn’t that time…this is labor and because we as Christians believe in the promises of the God who loves us…there will be new life.
A Seed To Plant: Make a list of ten people you miss seeing and pray for them. If you get all your closets cleaned and windows washed and wonder what to do next, write them a note or send them a text to let them know you thought of them and said a prayer for them.
Blessings on your day!
Give thanks to the Lord, because he is good; his love is eternal. 1 Chronicles 16:34
Every now and again I run across a thought or a quote that just seems to stop me in my tracks. That happened this week when I was came across a video clip about Dan Meers the man who wears the KC Wolf mascot costume for the Kansas City Chiefs. He is a man of great humor, great faith and great mission.
Dan suffered some terrible injuries while practicing a stunt to entertain the fans at Arrowhead Stadium. As he suffered through months of recovery and rehabilitation he questioned God’s plan but was inspired to trust his faithfulness when someone helped him realize that every morning we wake up, we have something to complain about and something to be grateful for. Whichever one we choose to focus on will shape our attitude for the day. His physical pain was enormous but he realized that the pain meant he was’t paralyzed and he wasn’t dead so the pain was something he should be thankful for because it was the best choice of the three.
His story is powerful and inspiring but the line that really hit my heart was this, “Every morning you wake up, you have the choice to rise and shine or rise and whine.” If we choose to whine, we have no ability to have a positive impact for Jesus. How about that for a line to think about. Dan pointed out that it’s easy to be grateful when we are being blessed but thanking him during the trials builds surrender, trust and helps us see God’s faithfulness. As I watch my beloved Chiefs play in the Super Bowl next weekend, I’ll be watching for the mascot and I’ll be seeing him through different eyes. I’ve included the link to his story in case you have 6 minutes to be inspired and grateful.
A Seed To Plant: Find some time to watch Dan’s story and then make a list of the things your grateful for…not just the blessings but the trials too.
Blessings on your day! (And go Chiefs!)
For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord. Isaiah 55: 8
As a teacher, I get asked a lot of questions every day. Everything from, “Is it almost time for lunch?” to “Why do people say mean, stupid things?” Sometimes I have an answer because the question is routine or simple but often I’m left asking the Holy Spirit for words because I simply don’t know. After one of my recent speaking events, a beautiful soul sent a question I didn’t know quite how to answer. I was neck deep in Holy Week and Easter stuff at school so I could have typed a quick reply in an attempt to take the task off my to-do list, but the question begged prayerful thought, research and of course the wisdom of God’s Word. What started as an email to answer a question has spilled into a blog because I’m sure this dear lady isn’t the only one who has this wonder. With the help of the Holy Spirit, Scripture and a dynamic priest, here’s what I’ve got.
The question sprung from a scripture verse I was talking about that night in a church hall. We were thinking about Psalm 139:13-14 which reads …you knit me in my mothers womb…I am fearfully and wonderfully made… It’s a beautiful passage steeped in God’s loving truth but sometimes it comes with a sting. What if we aren’t perfect. What if we’re sick, or we have a condition or situation that causes our life to be anything BUT wonderful and perfect. Did God knit that? When life is hard or confusing or the suffering is great we often turn to God in our pain and befuddlement and wonder where he is and did he really intend things to be this way.
Here are a couple of things to think about. First of all, there is no such thing as perfect. The world pedals that concept constantly but it’s a deception. There is no such thing as a perfect family, job, or life like the TV commercials would have us believe. The goal of life is to get to heaven, not to have everything neat, tidy, pretty and easy. The goal of life is to get to heaven and claim our sainthood, and my friends, the path to that is not so simple. The holy men and women who have gone before us have shown us again and again that the path to holiness requires sacrifice and suffering. In John’s Gospel we read the words…In this world you will have trouble…16:33 Even though hard stuff came with a warning label we still shake our fist and say, “What the heck, God!” We have to know that he hears us, he loves us and he is working right in the middle of the messy, imperfect and un-wonderful parts of our life. He’s using them to bring holiness and lead us home and sometimes that’s a quick trip but more often than not it’s a long journey.
The second thing to remember is that suffering is inevitable. There are hundreds of commercials out there for stuff to make things quicker or easier. Heaven just plain can’t happen without suffering and trial; there’s no short-cut What we do with our suffering makes all the difference my friends. Suffering without Jesus is just pain without a purpose and it can leave us bitter and fumbling in the darkness. Suffering united with Jesus brings holiness. St. Paul said in his letter to the Colossians, Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake…1:24 his words are even more powerful when you consider that he wrote those words while chained in a prison cell. He knew the secret. He knew that Jesus didn’t die on a cross to take away our suffering but rather he came to transform our suffering. If we say in our suffering, “Jesus please suffer with me, please allow this “thing” to help me grow closer to you.” we will give our suffering purpose and the result is redemption. In other words, suffering is our vehicle to heaven. Uniting our suffering with Jesus gives our suffering meaning and the result is that wonderful, perfect life we’re all working for.
If suffering is our “vehicle” to heaven, it’s helpful to note that no two look alike. We buy into the crazy notion that everything should be fair and that is yet another deception of the world. When Christ allows us to carry a sliver of his cross, we grow in holiness and often help others through our personal suffering. It might be tempting to think it’s not fair because some sufferings seem much smaller or greater, but the reality is, God knows exactly how much we can bear. My mom suffered greatly when she buried my brother and then again when she battled cancer for 2 years but she always asked God to use that suffering not just for her soul, but for her husband, her children and all those who needed the redemption her suffering might bring to them. We can never completely see the burdens that others might be bearing…only God can see that and we have to trust in his wisdom and mercy.
That was a rather long answer to a pretty big question. I hope it offers some peace, some understanding and some, well, some hope.
A Seed To Plant: As you pray today, make a list of all the things that cause your heart suffering. Each time that “thing” enters your mind say, “Jesus join me as I carry this sliver of your cross.”
Blessings on your day!
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say rejoice. Philippians 4:4
This verse is one of those “feel good” verses I like to spit out when I’m happy and things are going well. I’m getting better and better at calling out in thanks for every good thing. It’s been a consciences effort over the past many months to really remind myself to thank him and recognize the million moments when he’s working powerfully in my life. Lately though I’ve been asked to look at this verse through a different lens.
The truth about this verse is that it was written by St. Paul. The hit me over the head truth of this verse is that it was written while he was in prison awaiting his martyrdom. From the darkness, the squalor, the stench, the most unfortunate, uncomfortable and undeserved location, he cried out for us to rejoice as he was at that very moment. He didn’t say it once, but twice; rejoice! Now, I’ve been in some pretty dark, complicated, painful spots but I’ve got nothin to compare to this…not even close. Praying with this verse has brought to mind some things I need to remember about rejoicing, especially when it’s the last thing on my mind.
Being a disciple means saying YES to God. When we say yes, it’s usually because we want to grow closer to him and experience his powerful grace. We sign up for the good stuff! How conveniently and quickly we forget about the hard or bad that comes with the good. God shows us how this works in his creation again and again. He put thorns with roses and cobs with sweet corn and mosquitos with summer. We’ve lived it and seen it dozens of times but we are always shocked when the suffering and hardship come. The Apostles said yes to Jesus and talk about a roller-coaster ride that yes was. Every one of them endured trial, hardship, persecution and all but one faced martyrdom. Amazingly, they all listed to Paul and did it all while rejoicing, and for what? For eternal peace, freedom and absolute perfection.
These thoughts served as a sort of “buck up butter-cup” kind of experience in Adoration a couple of weeks ago. I was lamenting about people who were sick and troubles and woes we are facing as a community, a church and as a nation. Wouldn’t you know it, this was exactly the verse he led me to. When I look at all the stuff I was made heavy-hearted by, I realized I have absolutely no control over any of it and the only thing I could do was lift it up to him and rejoice! Rejoice not that these things were happening, but rejoice because I trust he’s working in all of it.
Embracing hardship cheerfully isn’t something we generally put on our daily to-do list but I suppose it really should be. Following St. Paul’s advice in his letter to the Philippians I decided to give it a try. I have a really bum knee and long walks through the airport and standing to deliver an all day training is pretty awful. Last week when I went to Texas, I parked my car at at the airport and said, “Lord, I thank you for this lousy hurting knee. I will praise you and rejoice in the pain and I offer this suffering to you. I rejoice in the pain in the hopes that you will bless someone in great need with the pain I offer you.” And of course because I can be sassy, I added, “And Lord, If I’m gonna stand and do one evening and two full days of training, I need you to take some of the pain away during those hours. If you could part the Red Sea, I know you can manage the pain for a couple days.” It was sort of an experiment but he was so faithful and mighty and lovingly answered my prayer. Through the prompting of the Holy Spirit I rejoiced when it didn’t hurt so much and then again when I got home and it did. His power is overwhelming! Give it a try, rejoice in the middle of something awful or painful that’s going on in your life. He will be waiting to meet you in the middle of it.
A Seed To Plant: Make a list of all the things going on in your life that are hard to rejoice in. Write or say the words; Lord, help me rejoice in_____.
Blessings on your day!
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