Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us rid ourselves of every burden and sin that clings to us and persevere in running the race that lies before us while keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, the leader and perfecter of faith… Hebrews 12: 1-2
Oh golly, my head is so full of thoughts, my hands are so full of tasks and my heart is so full of emotions! It’s not a surprise; it’s the week before school starts, I just forget what it feels like until we get here again. There is so much to organize and plan and prepare. I looked around my classroom this afternoon and realized I had 3 bulletin boards started, a scrub bucket of water that made it to about half of the lockers, six feet of lamination that had about a foot cut out and I was looking for something on Teacher Pay Teacher!
It’s easy to get sidetracked when you loose your focus. Being overwhelmed can make me forget which direction I’m headed. As I prepare for a new school year I am so hopeful that it’ will be a normal year; but what if it’s not! As we all get ready to begin there are dozens of voices yelling directives. There is still fear, worry and that feeling of waiting for the other shoe to drop. There are still voices arguing about what’s right and what’s best and if I try to take it all in things get fuzzy. But then I remember, God is still in charge and he’s bigger than all of it. As Fr. Ricardo says, “God isn’t worried about any of this!”
As I stepped away from everything, I made a list of the top ten reasons I love my job and why I’m ready to go back to a new school year. As I was finishing the list, I remembered this quote I read earlier this week from St. Jane Frances De Chantal that helped me catch my breath and smile. She said, “Hold your eyes on God and leave the doing to him. That is all the doing you have to worry about.” It’s easy to look at our world right now and find the bad and get caught in the crazy. Without too much effort we might even think things are worse now than they’ve ever been but St. Jane Frances wrote these words to encourage believers in1640, when they believed they were in the middle of the worst times. I suppose it’s all relative! The truth isn’t really in the circumstances, the truth is in the Father. No matter how sidetracked or fuzzy headed or overwhelmed we feel, all we have to do is hold our eyes on him and let him do the doing! I was also reminded that his “doing” is pretty amazing!
A Seed To Plant: Make a list of all the things that have you rattled, worried or discouraged then take that list to prayer and ask the Father to help you keep your eyes on him.
Blessings on your day!
Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Colossians 3:15
There are two really important words in this short verse from St. Paul’s letter to the Colossians that lead us to the third BE; peace and thankful. The third thing we need to focus on to calm down the worry is to BE THANKFUL. Gratitude is powerful and not only does it do wonders for our own troubled heart, it’s a beautiful gift to everyone else. Here is an interesting thing I learned about being thankful. Recent MRI studies have mapped the gratitude circuitry in the brain, which activates a sense of reward, fairness, and decision-making—all aspects that help facilitate survival. In case you might be looking for ways to amp up the gratitude here are a few tips to help you sprinkle a little more thankfulness in your day.
*Make it a habit at least once a day to say out-loud three things you are grateful for.
*End your day by jotting down a few things from the day that you are thankful for. I often tell the story of how my mom had a practice of doing exactly this very thing. It was her belief that if the last thing on your mind before sleep was something you were thankful for instead of something you were worried about, you’d sleep better and wake up more positive.
*Tell at least two people a day thank you! Make it specific if you really want to brighten someones day and spread a little joy.
*Make sure your thank-you’s outnumber your complaints.*Check your perspective, if you’re having trouble thinking of something to be grateful for, check out the situation of those around you and that might help you see your situation through a different lens.
*Volunteer…Jesus wasn’t kidding with the whole “serve others” thing. Turns out, it’s a great boost for our gratitude and our happiness.
*Notice and appreciate the little things. I was in the middle of a train-wreck of a day not long ago and a little boy with Downs Syndrome walked up to me in the store and gave me a carnation. He said, “You look like you need something pretty and a hug.” In that one split second the my attitude completely changed.
*Be with the people you love. Make sure you surround yourself with people who lift you up, make you laugh and bring you joy.
*Find some gratitude scriptures you can call on when you’re feeling a little worried and wilted. God’s word is always true and always meant to bring good.
We worship freely, we have all we need to eat, we have shelter, we have transportation and people who care about us. Those things alone make us some of the richest people in the world. I don’t know about you but I think I should sit down and make a list of those and the hundred other things I probably take for granted and add them to my gratitude list. Sounds like a great way to chase the blues away.
A Seed To Plant: Spend some time working on your gratitude list and then find a few great scripture verses about gratitude you can use when the worry gets heavy on your heart.
Blessings on your day!
Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise think about these things. Philippians 4:8
So after what I hope was a “BE LOUD” sort of weekend, it’s time to move to the second be; “BE WIDE-EYED” Before I launch into the second Be, we need to go back to an episode of Little House on the Prairie. (If you weren’t a viewer…is that even possible? think of any old western with plow horses.) The horses working in the field or hauling the family to town in the wagon often wore blinders. These little square leather pieces were meant to focus horses on the path and avoid distractions. It seems logical and safe don’t you think? There are days I think it would be helpful to have a pair so I could focus on one task at a time instead of looking around and seeing a dozen things to do and jumping from task to task.
Sometimes we are like those horses with blinders and we plow full speed ahead focused on one thing. The problem though, is when we struggle with anxiety and worry the thing we’re “laser focused” on is usually adding to our struggle instead of leading us away from it. The second Be challenges us to Be Wide-Eyed and notice what’s on the other side of those blinders. There are a hundred things wrong with this world today. There is tragedy, violence, disaster and evil in all corners of the globe. There is also sorrow, pain, sickness, financial struggle, relationship trouble and plain ole worry settled into all the corners of our daily life and it’s easy to get caught with “blinder vision” and see only those things. St. Paul in his letter to the Philippians encouraged them to look WIDER and he even told them exactly what to focus on.
Today, I’m going to pull a St. Paul and tell you exactly the same thing. You absolutely can see the yuck…there is a lot of it but I’m going to encourage you to take off the blinders and look to the left and to the right. I’m going to ask you to look for the things that are good, just, noble and lovely. I don’t for one hot second want to diminish the reality of the hurt and confusion that may be sitting on your heart, I’m just asking you to notice all the other stuff God is showing you. Bad news always leads. Lies and negative spins on stuff seem sparklier than a story about a four year old spending all his birthday money to buy cake mixes to make cupcakes for the firefighters and policemen in his neighborhood which he sweetly delivered in his little red wagon. A story about deceit and violence will get more reads, likes and comments than the article about NICU nurses who dressed premies for Halloween or National Kindness day. It’s a good idea to take down the blinders and see what you’re missing. We have to ask hard questions and make touch choices like turning off the news, cutting back or eliminating social media or other places that are feeding our worry and anxiety. When I quit watching the news I was afraid I’d be “out of the loop”. Funny thing is, I didn’t really want to be in the loop in the first place. Another funny thing, the world didn’t change when I stopped watching the circus; but I did.
We live in a world of great people doing great stuff…do you see it? I had a visit from a group of 5th grade boys on Halloween night who brought me hot coffee and I have a student who copied my favorite Scripture verse in perfect cursive with a glitter gel pen…beautiful! I watched a 6th grade brother visit a first grade sister who forgot her lunch delivering half of everything that was in his lunch pail. The sandwich was torn in half and a half a bag of Doritos were poured onto the sandwich and wrapped in a paper towel. He split the apple in half with his desk scissors and gave her one of his two Hershey Kisses. The whole exchange happened in silence behind the coat rack in my classroom. Words aren’t needed to define that kind of love and humility. I still cry every time I remember that morning. If I hadn’t been wide-eyed I would have missed something beautiful. If you’re struggling I’ll ask you to look for the positive, the good, the lovely and excellent going on all around you. If you love someone who is struggling I’ll ask you to point it out and maybe even be the one who creates a little positive event in their life. A note or text, a flower or favorite snack delivered anonymously or personally with a hug and a prayer make a huge difference. One more thought, when we’re struggling, there is nothing that can pull us out of a slump faster than turning our focus to someone else. If I’m having a lousy day, seeing only my own yuck, doing a positive act for someone can snap me out of a funk faster than anything I can think of. There is a quote from a favorite movie, The Shack and it just seems to fit this BE. The line comes when God is speaking to Mac and God says, “When all you see is your own pain, you loose sight of Me.” BE WIDE-EYED this week and look for the positive things St. Paul points us to.
A Seed To Plant: Add the second BE to your list and then begin looking! Please share the wide-eyed things you’re seeing so we can all enjoy!
Blessings on your day!
For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. Romans 10:13
My heart hurts often when I realize how many people struggle with worry, stress and anxiety. I see it sapping peoples energy, their joy and their hope. In an attempt to figure out how I can help and not make things worse, I have been doing some studying. I think unknowingly, we sometimes say things that aren’t at all helpful. If someone is truly trapped in a struggle phrases like, “Just snap out of it.” or “You’re making a really big deal out of this don’t ya think?” are among some of the most unhelpful. If they could just snap out of it, they most certainly would.
In my search for helpful answers I’ve read lots and lots of stuff and I’ve decided to boil it down into 3 things I hope might help. I’ve lumped lots of prayer and reading into the 3 Be’s and I’ve decided to turn the 3 Be’s into a 3 part series! If you struggle with worry I hope you can find some simple truth and hope. If you love someone who struggles with worry, I hope you can find some things to encourage them and bring some hope and peace to their heart.
Let’s start with the first Be…Be Loud! Let me take you back to childhood and explain. When I was a kid, we had a great apple tree in our back yard. It was the perfect climbing tree and my brothers were up in that tree nearly every spring and summer day. I would watch from the ground only wishing I could climb with them. I was grounded for a couple of reasons. First, I was terrified of leaving the ground (pretty big deterrent to tree climbing). Second, I was frightened because I wore leg braces for the first 12 years of my life and I had a completely lousy sense of balance, so tree climbing was not a great idea.
I honestly don’t know what came over me one day but I decided to give tree climbing a try despite my fear. I remember getting a 5 gallon bucket to give myself a boost to help me reach the first branch. I got up to about the third branch and then a limb got wedged between the cable on my leg brace and my leg. I was stuck and as I tried to get free my other foot slipped off the branch and I was left hanging there sideways with my feet touching no part of the tree. I screamed as loud as I could for my dad and in pretty quick fashion I could hear his calm voice. I yelled for him to help me and get me down but he did something I didn’t expect. He told me that he was going to help, but that I was the one who got into the pickle and I was going to have to get out. For what seemed like forever he stood under that tree giving me directions about where to put my hands and feet. He walked me through getting the branch unstuck from the the cable on my braces and he coached me down onto the bucket and to the ground. I remember asking him why he didn’t just climb up the tree and rescue me and he told me it was better to learn how to get myself out of a pickle with a little support and guidance so I would know what to do if it ever happened again.
There are so many lessons from that day. Each of us has a Father who will race to our aid if we call on his name. Whether it’s a father racing to an apple tree, or to the bedroom to scare monsters out of the closet or a Father who races to the heart of a weary child to restore peace and hope they are just a shout away. All we have to do is cry out loudly for the help of our Father and help will come. We sometimes think he forgets to show up when we call his name and things don’t get better immediately. I think sometimes Father God helps a little like my dad did the day I got stuck in the tree. He didn’t rescue me straight down from the tree but he guided and taught and walked me through; I had to cooperate and listen. If I hadn’t, I might still be stuck in that tree or the same thing might have happened the next time I climbed a tree if he hadn’t helped me learn.
If we’re struggling and we cry out loudly, God will put someone in our path to help us. I’ve learned that I don’t always know what to do or say when someone is struggling but if I cry out too, the Holy Spirit sends the words and thoughts I need to walk with a struggling friend. There are lessons in every struggle and the learning comes at the hands of a Father who loves us and wants what’s good for us. My dad taught me decades ago that getting to the other side of a tough situation doesn’t always happen the way you think it might. God is the same kind of teacher and guide, he’s going to give us what we need, not necessarily what we want but we must never doubt his mighty love.
The next time you’re struggling or overcome with worry, Be Loud and call out to the Lord to meet you in the middle of your mess…he’ll come a runnin…I promise! Stay tuned Monday for the second Be.
A Seed To Plant: Start a note where you can write the 3 Be’s in case you or someone you love needs them. Look for opportunities this week to Be Loud and invite the Lord into your worry and troubles.
Blessings on your day!
She is clothed in strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come. Proverbs 31:25
How many readers think this verse from Proverbs is talking about them? This past week I crossed paths with a few folks who seemed to be consumed with fear and worry about the future. I can tell you that they were not laughing at the days to come and I struggled to help them move from worry to peaceful faith. As I thought and prayed about these conversations I found this verse and it made me smile.
Have you ever stopped to think about what makes one person worry and another one not worry at all? Some of us look to the future and smile; others look the same direction and feel a pang of worry, dread and maybe even fear. Some might say worrying is just a part of your hard-wiring but I suppose we all carry a little bit of worry with us most days. I read once that there is a big difference between worry and concern. Being concerned about something inspires us to organize, call on resources and to handle things as best we can and leave the rest to God. Worry is more like doing everything possible and still fretting about God being able to do the rest according to your plan.
When the boys were little they had some plastic toy swords and the movie Peter Pan. They would have sword fights anywhere; the barn, kitchen, and yard you name it they would imagine a scene and play like crazy. Surprisingly, there were no casualties until the night they snuck the swords under the covers. The fight that night was a small disaster leaving two little boys with some red marks, a black eye and a giant scrape to the belly. When the dust settled and we were trying to sort it all out, the problem boiled down to the darkness. In the light, they could see and anticipate what was coming but in the darkness of their bedroom they couldn’t anticipate and react to what they couldn’t see coming. They lost their guide and their protection.
The Proverbs 31 woman who can laugh at days to come is one who doesn’t sit in the darkness of worry. Why? What makes her so immune to the worries and woes of the day? I think the answer to that question comes in the first part of the verse; strength and dignity. The really important part of the puzzle though is the realization that the strength and dignity come from God not from the world or within. When we think of strength, we typically think of muscles and physical power which requires work to attain. When we talk about strength from God the opposite is true. In order to be powered by the strength of God we have to do nothing but rest in him and know he will do all the heavy lifting! Gods strength sees all the obstacles and shifts in the path, he simply asks that we let him love us enough to maneuver us through them. If we can’t rely on God’s strength it’s kind of like having a sword fight in the dark; there is no way to anticipate and react to what we can’t see coming.
Laughing at the future doesn’t mean we see what’s coming; it means we are strong enough to face it because we know God will defend, protect and love us through whatever comes our way. He loves us too much to put us in a situation that is beyond what we need. Yes, sometimes we need struggle and difficulty but he knows how much and for what reason. We need to work on laughing at the days to come because when it all boils down to the bottom of the pot, it’s kind of funny that we should worry about something God has already orchestrated right down to the most teeny tiny detail.
A Seed To Plant: Make a list of the things that worry you. Ask God to bring you strength this week as you pray daily for him to transform your worry to peace.
Blessings on your day!
This weekend I had the opportunity to speak at a conference for Deacons and their wives in the Diocese of Lubbock, TX. As I sat in the audience waiting my turn to take the stage, I was wrestling with some fear. The fear was self inflicted because the morning speakers were Deacon Dominick Pastore and his wife Teresa Tomeo Pastore. Teresa Tomeo is a Catholic Rock Star! She is a famous TV and Radio personality and the author of many powerful books. To say I was a wee bit apprehensive to follow in the footsteps of such giants of the faith is an understatement. As I sat wrestling, I heard that familiar message of the Father that reminds me; Sheri, I’ve called you to be my servant, not a star. Fear was trying to creep it’s way into my heart and that’s when I remembered a lesson taught by one of my own students who is todays guest blogger.
Todays blogger is truly a sweet, gentle, beautiful daughter of God. Melanie shares her many gifts and talents as easily as she shares her warm smile and her faithful spirit.
“Don’t worry about tomorrow, tomorrow will take care of itself.” - Matthew 6:34
Last month, I nervously walked into the State Finals Spelling Bee with hundreds of thoughts twirling around my head. I had just placed 2nd in the Diocesan spelling bee to another speller, who seemed like she knew every word in the English language. This was my second state finals and I had studied very hard, but I still feared that my mind would go blank. I wanted to represent my school well, but a sense of worry loomed in the back of my mind.
Just a while back, we began these books as a Lenten reflection in our class. The girls were reading, Make Every Day Count by Max Lucado. The book was a great tool to grow closer to Christ and it touched my heart in many places. But one chapter really spoke to me. It helped me with something I knew I had; fear!
Fear is one of the most negative energies out there. It originates from the feeling that God’s plan won’t work or we’re not good enough. Yet, fear is something we should embrace. But why?
Fear happens to everyone. It can actually be beneficial or harmful, but it depends how you look at it and how you use it. If we let what we’re scared of take over our minds and hearts, we could be in for some serious damage. Rather, take fear as an opportunity, not a burden.
We can use fear to grow in holiness, because every day we can choose how to tackle it. Instead of running from our fears, we can run to God for the strength and guidance to overcome them. God hasn’t abandoned us; he is always waiting with open arms to aid us in our times of need. All we have to do is believe that he can help us and he does care about us. Because it’s true. But, we also must believe that he will help us, even if it doesn’t happen right away. We must still place our trust in God, even if we are waiting, or else we’ll begin to doubt Him and ask,“Can He do this?” “Does He even care about me?” “I’m not sure He’ll even help…” “Why isn’t God helping me?”
You may be wondering, why can’t I just let my fear go and that be the end of it? Well, to be able to let go of something, first you must embrace it. Just like you have to take the opportunity to run to Jesus and admit you have fears before you can get rid of them.
As I stood up to that microphone to spell my first word, I realized that I was prepared and ready to do my best. And even if I did get out, God didn’t love me any less. I knew that Jesus was right by my side and he had everything under control.
A Seed to Plant: Imagine Jesus running toward you, and taking all your fears away. Offer up all of your worries to God today.
Blessings on your day!
Thank you Melanie…you are amazing!
Don’t worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink or about your body, what you will wear. Matthew 6:25
If I asked you to make a list of the top ten things you worry about, what would it look like? Stop for a second and bring a few of your worries to mind….Why do we spend so much time worrying? What do you suppose brings it all on in the first place? I actually know a few folks who could be professional worriers. I’ve met people who worry if they can’t think of enough things to worry about. It’s a crazy thing but it’s so common.
I happened to meet a worrier extraordinaire on my flight home recently so I knew exactly what God was going to ask me to write about this week! In the span of about 10 minutes this poor woman who was the size of a pixie stick worried that her bag wouldn’t fit under the seat, that her toothpaste would squirt out of the tube due to changing air pressure, that her Diet Coke wouldn’t be served with ice, that the sweater in her bag would get too wrinkled, that her curling iron cord would get tangled and that the seat belt would be too small to fit around her itty bitty waist…that one made me laugh out loud and as I pointed to my already fastened seat belt… we both chuckled at the ridiculousness of that last concern. I asked her if she often felt joyful and she looked at me like I had two heads and replied, “I don’t have time to be joyful, I have too much to worry about for that!”
This passage from Matthews Gospel is one of many that warn against unnecessary worry. Jesus was teaching that too much worry is a clear sign of not enough trust! Yes, we are going to be concerned about things and ponder and pray about our children, our finances, our future and when we will next have dessert, God knows that but he expects us to lift those concerns to him and faithfully ask him to take charge…and he will…in his time…in his wisdom and in his way.
I was glancing at my boarding pass as we landed in Chicago and Mrs. Worry Wart glanced down at it and nearly hyperventilated. She told me there was absolutely no way I could make my connection 3 terminals away in such a huge airport in less than an hour. “Aren’t you worried, it’s late, you’re gonna miss your flight and you’ll never get home tonight, you’ll have to sleep in the airport and someone might steal your things while you doze off sitting in the uncomfortable chairs, what will you do?” I smiled at her and said, “Sister, God invited me to go on this trip and spread a little of his word and he knows my middle lovelies need me tomorrow morning so I am certain that he will help me glide my chubby hind parts three terminals over in time to get on the plane and make it home tonight.” “How can you be so sure about that?” came her reply. I smiled, touched her hand and said, “Because the God who made us and loves us takes care of everything perfectly when we let him. He depends on us to love him and if we’re too busy worrying, we don’t have as much time for that as we should.” I made it to my gate with several minutes to spare so I sat down to tell him thank you!
My friends, worry robs us of peace, it strips us of our joy and it erodes our trust. When we were little, our mom’s told us not to touch the stove because it was harmful and dangerous. In scripture our Father tells us the same thing about worry. We listened to our mom’s but how are we doing with listening to our Father? Jesus told the Women of Jerusalem on his way to Calvary not to worry even while he could see his own cross. I’m sure nothing I could worry about could even compare so I think I’d better pay attention. Charles Spurgeon, a famous preacher used to say, “ Anxiety does not empty tomorrow of its trials; it simply empties today of its joy.” Great food for thought as we get ready to begin Holy Week.
A Seed To Plant: Lift your list of worries to the Lord and ask him to help you swap worry for trust!
Blessings on your day!
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