The Selection Sunday show signaled the beginning of March Madness. As Covid has changed most everything we know, it’s good to see some familiar things come back. I’m offering a re-post from a great March of the past. It’s a reminder that this pandemic won’t last forever and that very often, the kids are the ones teaching the adults. Plus, I think all of our hearts can use a dose of happy!
…do good works… Ephesians 2:10
Every now and again life unfolds a fabulous event right before your eyes and you get a front row seat to something completely wonderful. During the past week the people of our community were a part of PW schools basketball history. For the second time in the school’s history, a boys’ team made it to the state finals. The venue for the final two games (The MSU Breslin Center) was the icing on the cake for every young man on the team who grew up wanting to be an MSU Spartan. It was a great run that ended with a State Runner-Up trophy but the events that made this an amazing week honestly have very little to do with the trophy awarded at the end of the final game.
As the Pirates advanced to the Quarterfinals and beyond, a few of the little lovelies asked during Morning Prayer if they could pray for the team to win. I repeated a line from a good friend who always says “I don’t think God really care about sports; He wants us to use all of our gifts and talents in the best way we can.” So instead of praying to win, we prayed that the players would do good works and play to honor God. That’s exactly what they did but they might not even realize all the lessons they taught this week. Many folks will say it’s just a game; life is about many more important things than shooting an orange ball through a hoop. They may be right but this group of young men and their coaches demonstrated so much more both on and off the court. Their attitude, behavior and discipleship is a story that needs to be told. For those readers close to home, it’s a review of all we were taught and for those of you far away, it’s a story to lift your spirit and inspire you to “be Christ” in all things.
Lesson 1 – Bloom where you are planted! Being a small school in a rural area, the players you have are the players you build a team with! There is nobody to recruit or nobody picking us as a school of choice, we field a team with the boys that were born here…period. The boys on this team have been playing together for 6 to 9 years. They learned to build on each other’s strengths, work hard and hold each other accountable for making the most of their talents. They learned the value of supporting each other and accepting each other for exactly who they are.
Lesson 2 – Humility is impressive, inspiring and it never goes out of fashion. No matter what the score or the outcome these young men were gracefully humble. They reminded us that humility is demonstrated because it is expected, not because it is earned or deserved.
Lesson 3 – The best way to thank God for a talent is to share it with compassion! Each year the team goes to play a game with the students at a school for the physically and mentally challenged. Most of the boys on the team will say it’s their favorite game of the season. This year several of those special students were at the semifinal game to support their Pirate buddies. At the end of the game, two of my favorite Pirates climbed up into the stands to find this group of special students who had come to cheer them on. They went to this section first, before finding their parents or their girlfriends or friends in the student section. The parents of one of these players told me nothing their son could do on the court could ever make them prouder than what he did after the game. When a reporter asked why that had been their first stop after the game he replied, "We just had to go up there and show ‘em some love and thank them for comin’ out to support us!” In the wise words of the coach, “It’s about doing something for someone who can’t do anything for you in return.” Thank you Pirates for demonstrating that reminder in living color. It was so very Christ like of you.
Lesson 4 – It has been said that a nation’s goodness can be judged by the way it treats it’s young and it’s old. This teams enthusiasm, talent, sportsmanship and Christianity gave a small town a chance to come together and grow in goodness. Not many small town teams could gather enough support to fill hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of seats in a Big 10 college coliseum. People from our communities and several neighboring towns bought tickets and rallied behind some great young men…that was a fine sight to see. Thanks for giving us a chance to practice treating our young with support and respect.
Lessons 5- Never miss a chance to do something good for kids; someday they will be in charge and they need to see how things should be done. To the anonymous donor who paid for the game ticket for every Pewamo elementary student, thank you just isn’t a big enough word! To the neighboring school to our North, thank you for lending us school busses to get all the kids to the game. True generosity is beautifully touching and it was modeled so clearly nobody could miss it!
Lesson 6 – In life we face challenges but there are also celebrations and times of great happiness; neither is intended to last forever. After the biggest week of his life, another of my favorite Pirates had to get up Sunday morning long before dawn to milk cows and his very wise father reminded him that life is like that…times of great excitement are always followed by a sudden burst of reality. God is eager to meet us in both places!
Lesson 7 – Thankfulness and praising the Giver of all gifts is the most important thing. Not many public school teams have a Catholic priest bless them before games and then sit behind the bench cheering and praying over them during the most important game of their high school career. They realized his role in helping them remember to play for God’s glory and not their own.
It may be just a game with an orange ball and a hoop; but for several hundred people from the middle of Michigan’s mitten…it was much much more! God bless the Pirates and we thank you for your humility, sportsmanship and your excellent example of Christ inspired behavior both on and off the court. Thank you for bringing us together! Many will remember this as the year of the winter that wouldn’t end…but we will also remember it as the year the students became the teachers of some great lessons!
A Seed To Plant: Take a lesson from the coach this week and share or do something with someone who can’t do anything back for you.
Blessings on your day!
A contrite and humble heart, O God, you will not spurn. Psalm 51:98
So here we are just past the half way point of Lent. Remember the passion and commitment burning in your heart on Ash Wednesday? How is it now? For some, the fire is still burning, perhaps for others things haven’t taken quite the same path you planned a few weeks ago. No matter where you are right now, we have a few weeks to finish strong and head into Holy Week with a greater peace, hope and joy. I have come across a few Lenten nuggets of thought as I’ve payed my way through the first half of Lent. Some are an inspiration and some a straight up whacks to the side of the head. I thought I’d share some of them with you so you can ponder and pray on them too.
*Lent is about grace. God knows that we will fall short in our Lenten penances. That’s why Jesus endured his passion and death. If we could do it on our own, Christ died for nothing.
*Jesus in not calling us to perfect outcome when it comes to loving others. But when we stop seeing people as problems and start seeing them as pearls we can be sure that we are beginning to love them.
*God will pardon a repentant sinner more quickly than a mother would snatch her child out of the fire. St. John Vianney
*We must forgive all the time. We must forgive everyone. We must forgive even when we think we cant.
*A quiet presence in the life of someone struggling is better than a lengthy speech.
*Lord, use me to reveal your love to today.
*Lord close my mouth and calm my heart when I lose my patience and arguments begin to bubble up around me.
*Gluttony crowds God’s spirit and envy eats joy.
*Lord help me trade ego for empathy and help me remember humility and humiliation are not the same thing.
A Seed To Plant: Pick one of the nuggets from the list above and spend a few days praying with it and see where the Holy Spirit leads you.
Blessings on your day!
I keep my eyes always on the Lord. Psalm 16:8
I was doing a presentation not long ago and a woman came up during the lunch break with a question about something she heard. She said she had gotten part of the quote but didn’t catch the end so she wanted me to help her fill in the blanks. When she laid down her notebook I was stunned to discover she had been furiously taking notes all morning in shorthand! I could hardly believe my eyes. She smirked and said it was so much faster and good for her memory; she couldn’t understand why nobody used shorthand anymore. It made me wonder how many other things seemed like the greatest idea at the time but faded away as time passed by; I thought of a few.
L’eggs pantyhose plastic eggs…those things were huge! I tried to use them as Easter eggs one year when the boys were little but it took nearly a pound of M&M’s to fill one up. They were creative and a great marketing idea but considering the fact that a pair of pantyhose only lasts about a day, I wonder where all those eggs are now.
Extra-long telephone cords…you know, the ones that let you walk into the next room to talk in private on your party line.
Tapes…8-Track, Cassette, VHS; each one started its own entertainment revolution but they’ve all become obsolete...even if you’re still hanging on to a BeeGee’s 8-track or a Bruce Springsteen Born in the USA cassette there’s no way to play it.
Self-correcting electric typewriters…wow those were a great invention even if I never could figure out how to change those little orange doodads that held the correction tape.
At the risk of making myself seem ancient I’m going to stop there. Why do I bring all this stuff up for heaven’s sake? Simple, each of those things took the world by surprise and by storm. Each offered a glimpse of something better and more modern. They were really good ideas developed by smart people but their usefulness expired and they were replaced by the next great idea. For some people that’s sad, for others it’s a chance to celebrate and embrace the next best thing. When you get right down to it though, it’s really a lesson in rolling with change and finding our constants. I know it’s easy to get all tangled up in progress and change but things are gonna come and go as fast as an 8-track tape so is it really worth the fuss and wasted energy pouting about the good ole days…back when things were simple? I think the more out of focus and crazy our lives get the easier it is to drift backwards and think those simpler times would solve everything. The truth of the matter is we’re kidding ourselves if we think a ringer washers or a car with a trunk the size of a soccer field is going to fix anything.
It isn’t about the era or the invention, it’s about the focus and our focus can get pretty out of whack. We need to remember it isn’t the changing stuff that creates the problem; it’s about fussin over the stuff instead of hitching our focus firmly around the one thing that will NEVER change and that is our Good, Good Father. He’s so much bigger than changing technology, appliances and fashions. We have to believe faithfulness to him will never go out of style, will always fit and will always be just the perfect thing for the job. We worry a lot about being “in style” but if you think something old, like shorthand makes sense don’t be afraid to use it but remember that the Good Lord has never cared about progress and technology and fashion, he simply cares about our hearts so don’t let the stuff get in the way.
A Seed To Plant: Make a list of things that take your focus from the Lord; lift it up to him and ask him to show you how to see more clearly.
Blessings on your day!
Even now," declares the LORD, "return to me with all your heart…” Joel 2:12
Lent is always a perfect time to do a little extra spiritual reading and this Lent I dived into a great read. The book is Mary’s Mantle Consecration by Christine Watkins. It’s a beautiful daily read about the virtues and Gifts of the Spirit. A few days ago the reading was about meekness and it really touched my heart.
We can easily associate meek with weak or doormat. You might think being meek means just hanging back quietly and letting the world happen around you but I didn’t realize what a key to growing in holiness it truly is. I’d like to share a few meekness nuggets to pray and ponder on.
*To be meek is to be a spiritual rock.
*To be meek is to submit to the Divine Will (not our own)
A Seed To Plant: Read the list again and pray about what relationships or areas of your life do you most need to grow in meekness.
Blessings on your day!
…”Saul Saul why do you persecute me.” Acts 1:4
I learned something new and it’s been bubbling in my heart for a few weeks. Since I’m a little long on tasks and a little short on writing minutes I thought I’d share this little tidbit with all of you and let you ponder on it a little.
The story of Saul to Paul is powerful and packed full of lessons. Saul sought power and fame. He was on a mission to exert his superiority over every Christian he could sniff out. I’m sure his name was known by many and feared by many as well. For the life of me I can’t imagine wanting to be feared, desiring to conquer others and to achieve greatness because of it. Saul was big stuff and I think he liked it that way.
I was searching for videos to use for morning prayer with the staff at school and came across a clip of Jim Caviezel, the actor who played Jesus in Mel Gibson’s movie Passion of the Christ. In this clip he said Saul means; great one and Paul means; little one. One little letter changes and the difference is enormous. Isn’t it funny that after his powerful conversion Saul who sought to be great in the eyes of the world became Paul who wrote, taught, prayed and led us all to learn to be little. The holy are little, the kind are little, the saints were little. I realized everyone I try to be like in my daily life is little in terms of earthly standards.
As I pondered the difference between being great in the eyes of the world and being little in the eyes of the Father, I suddenly felt the weight lift from my shoulders because being little seemed so much more important and doable than trying to please the world; live up to it’s standards and concern myself with position and power. So, my word of the year is STOP and now I am inspired to stop trying to be anything but LITTLE!
A Seed To Plant: Where will you be little this week?
Blessings on your day!
The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever. 1 John 2:17
Have you ever wanted something so much it occupied your thoughts completely? Sometimes we want things so badly we pray for it and we think about it and we ask others to pray for it too. It’s almost as if the desire overcomes our thoughts and emotions. I’m sure I’m not the only person to say that “something” I desired didn’t materialize at all. God is so smart he often denies those desires because he has something so much better in store for us but when we’re stuck in the middle of the wanting that concept can be pretty tough to swallow. I suppose we desire all kinds of things, romance, money, health, jobs, a bigger house, a baby, a better car or peace in our family. Whatever the desire, God is hearing and putting a plan in motion. For everyone stuck in the desiring process, I came across this little story told by Fr. Paul Wharton that illustrates exactly what we need to desire first.
A young man sought out the counsel of a wise and holy hermit. He asked the holy man to tell him how to find God. “How great is your desire to know Him”?, asked the saintly old man. “More than anything else in the world,” came the young mans reply. The hermit took the young man to the lake shore and they waded into the water until they were neck deep. The hermit then took the young man and pushed him under the water. The young man struggled terribly but the old man did not release his grip until the young man was about to drown. When they returned to the shore the hermit asked the young man, “Son, when you were under water, what did you want more than anything else?” The young man replied “Air!” “Well then, you will find God when your desire for him is as great as your desire for air was while I was holding you under the water.” spoke the old wise man.
As I’m busy praying for the things I desire, and praying for the things other people desire I realize I’m falling short. I’m falling short because I don’t quite have my desires in order. I need God; I worship, praise and thank God all throughout my day but it’s my desire for him that falls short. After reading that tiny little story, I realize that if I’m being completely honest, I don’t desire him as much as the young man desired air. I suppose if I worked on that desire with fervent prayer and dedication the rest of the desires on my list would probably fall right into place because I would want only Him and in wanting Him, I want less for myself. I would imagine there would be an enormous feeling of contentment if I got my desires in order. The story caused me to think a lot about what it means to desire Him more than air. Maybe this little story is just what you needed today too. So, let’s take a deep breath and organize our desires.
A Seed To Plant: Read the story again and then make a list of your desires. Put the words God/Air at the top and spend the week praying about it all.
Blessings on your day!
…but the greatest of these is love. 1 Corinthians 13:13
I can’t begin to count the number of times I’ve spoken or written the words, “God loves you more than you can ever imagine!” Such true words but it wasn’t until recently I began to feel the power of those words. Two weeks ago I became a grandma and I don’t think my heart was fully prepared for how fast and how hard I would fall in love with that tiny little boy! I was also surprised by how much I miss him and want to march right over to his house and scoop him up.
I knew I would love being a grandma but it’s a love that’s deeper and sweeter than I had ever imagined. It doesn’t matter if he's fussing or smiling during a dream, I look at his little face and all I see is absolute perfection. I think about him so many times during the day and wonder if he’s sleeping or cuddled tight with mom or dad. I pray often that he will be healthy and happy and know how much he’s loved and how lucky he is that God gave him the parents he got.
As all of this was tumbling through my head the other day I began to get a glimpse of how much the Father loves us. If I can be so captivated and madly in love with a teeny little boy, how much more must the Father love me? I was overwhelmed to realize he thinks of me even more than I think of baby Lewis. I realized that he gazes at me with a bursting heart just like I feel when I open a SnapChat to see our little Prince Charming. He sees within us the same perfection my eyes see when I look at my grandson. It’s even more overwhelming to realize that the love I feel for my grandson pales completely in comparison to the love God has for us.
I’ve dreamed about being a grandma for a long time and it’s everything I imagined plus so much more. Isn’t it just like God to take even the highest points of our life and throw in a powerful lesson to make it even better! The next time I feel like I’m not enough or get tangled up in the hundred and fifty silly, unGodly things I do each week I now have a perfect way to remember that his love is so much greater than my weakness and stumbling. Of all the lessons he’s taught, this is my favorite because every time I see that sweet little boy, I get a lesson reminder.
A Seed To Plant: Spend some time this first full week of Lent pondering the Fathers love for you.
Blessings on your day!
Come follow me. Matthew 4:19
Happy Lent! Welcome to the season of “turning”. Yesterday as I walked outside on a sunny Ash Wednesday -14 degree morning I was having thoughts of spring. My mind drifted back to mushroom hunting in the woods with my folks. I used to love tromping through the woods finding stuff. Sometimes I would hear my dad yell, “Don’t get too far ahead” or “hurry up you’re falling too far behind.” He wanted to make sure I didn’t wander off and get lost or travel into a spot that wasn’t safe. He loved having us outdoors with him and he wanted us to be safe; like all good fathers!
I’m in the middle of reading a really great book that has mentioned a similar sentiment a few times. In the book the author talks about all the times we try to manage things ourselves or bear the burdens of the day without calling out to God for help. He also talks about all the times we fail and fall and feel too embarrassed or ashamed to ask God for forgiveness thinking he will be so disappointed in us. The author proposes a beautiful counter thought to the negative stuff we often run through our heads. He uses the example of Jesus the Shepherd. He offers this thought, Jesus says stay with me little lamb, don’t run too far ahead where I’ve not prepared the path for you and don’t lag too far behind where you can’t see where I’m leading you. That just about sums up every low spot or difficulty in my life; all too often I’m the crazy little lamb that isn’t where I’m supposed to be!
If I walked in the woods with my dad today I wouldn’t leave his side. I’d be so interested in talking with him and searching for things together I wouldn’t want to explore on my own. I would want to take in all the love and lessons he had to share with me. I’d ask him questions; I’d soak up his knowledge and his experience and I would rely on him completely to show me the way. In fact, I think I would get so lost in just simply being with him I might not pay any attention at all to where we were, I’d just trust him completely and enjoy being with him knowing without a thought that we’d get safely back to the truck at the edge of the woods. I’d be the little lamb that didn’t get too far ahead or lag too far behind; right at his side is where I’d stay.
As all of this puddled through my mind on a freezing cold morning I realized that if I could trust my earthly father and want so deeply to go on another walk in the woods with him shouldn’t I want that same kind of walk with my Heavenly Father; shouldn’t it be as automatic and instinctive to stay right at his side. Of course it should but I’m really going to have to sit with this in prayer for a few days (or weeks) and figure out why I’m not the same little lamb with Him as I would be with my dad. One thing is for certain…this is not about the shepherd; it’s all about the little lamb! Perhaps this lent the greatest discipline of all would be to focus on being a little lamb that walks closer with Jesus. I don’t suppose my fancy plans and detailed disciplines impress him. I think what he really wants is for us to stay close to him. That will be challenge enough for this little lamb for sure!
A Seed To Plant: What kind of little lamb are you? Spend some time in prayer thinking about all the times you run ahead or lag behind and ask for the Shepherd to draw you to his side.
Blessings on your day!
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of his own…1 Peter 2:9
I came across a story a couple of weeks ago and it was a good one! It was one of those stories that sticks with you and applies to lots of different things. I found the story in a Lenten reflection book written by F. Joe Kempf and I decided all of you needed to read it too.
When Thomas Edison was working on improving his first light bulb, he handed the finished bulb to a young helper, who nervously and slowly carried it upstairs, but near the top step he dropped and shattered it. After a moment of horrified silence, the whole team set back to work. It took them 24 more hours of hard work to make another bulb. When it was finished they needed someone to take it upstairs again, Edison looked around, found the same boy and handed the new bulb to him to do the job. Edison knew that something more important than the bulb was at stake.
I think one of the reasons I love this story is because it so clearly illustrates trust, mercy, forgiveness and unselfishness. It made me think of all the things I fuss about. It made me think about all the things I take so seriously. It made me think of all the things I think I have to be in charge of myself. It made me think of all the silly things I believe are so valuable. But the biggie…it made me realize how easy it should be to give second chances and how grateful I am that God is so good at giving them again and again.
The invention of the light bulb was a pretty big stinkin deal for heaven sakes but Mr. Edison realized the human spirit was far more valuable! The whole story makes me think about how I treat others and what I truly value. It makes me think of some advice I got as a young teacher; people are ALWAYS more important than paper and stuff. Maybe this Thursday morning short post can be a reminder to us all.
A Seed To Plant: Make a list of your top 5 priorities…do they match the way you balance your time and attitude? Make someone feel important today!
Blessings on your day!
…then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine. Proverbs 3:10
It was one of those mornings! The kind where the minutes evaporate and the tasks multiply! I was rushing and trying to do some things two handed in the kitchen. I was pouring coffee with my right hand and rinsing dishes in the sink with my left. I guess I was focusing too hard on my left hand and didn’t notice my coffee pouring right hand was working overtime. Before I realized what had happened I literally had a “hot mess” on my hands which led to some mopping and re-brewing that weren’t in the morning plan. It seems that even when the coffee mug reached it’s maximum capacity, I kept pouring…and pouring…and pouring. The hot deliciousness from my coffee pot silently cascaded over the rim of the mug all over the counter and down the cabinet onto the kitchen floor. Just a word of warning; don’t try to wipe up freshly brewed hot coffee with paper towel until it’s had a wee bit of time to cool off. I’m not sure I remember what had me so distracted that morning but I sure can tell you what happened after the mess was cleaned up.
After brewing more coffee, I took my mug to the prayer chair and just took a few peaceful breaths before I cracked open one of my daily prayer books. I opened to the days page and I was astounded at the story that greeted me. Two things before I share the story; yes, I nearly spit out my sip of fresh delicious coffee as I started to read and yes, I realize you just can’t make this stuff up! Here’s what I read. There was a university professor who went searching for the meaning of life. After several years and several miles, he came to the hut of a particularly holy hermit and asked to be enlightened. The holy man invited the visitor into his humble dwelling and began to serve him tea. He filled the professor’s cup and then kept on pouring so that the tea was soon dripping onto the floor. The professor watched until he could no longer restrain himself. “Stop! It’s full. No more will go in.” “Like this cup”, said the hermit, “you are full of your own opinions, preconceptions, and ideas. How can I teach you unless you first empty your cup?” Thank you Fr. Wharton for peeking into my day and smacking me upside the head!
I’ve spent the last several days pondering what ’s in my cup. I’ve come to the conclusion that my cup is full of good stuff but it’s stuff I put there. I’m really good at filling my cup with things I think God would like but I have to pray and ponder a bit to make sure they really are the things he wants in my cup. I guess the only way to be sure is to dump out the cup and start over. I have to figure out how to empty myself and let him do the filling. It doesn’t really matter how I want to serve him, what matters is that I serve him the way he wants me too. I have never heard the “voice” of God; you know like a Morgan Freeman kind of voice but I sure know he’s sending a message and last week he sent it with the delicious smell of coffee. I know one thing for certain; God went to great lengths to get my attention so I think I’ll give this more thought and prayer and let you know what I come up with.
A Seed To Plant: What’s filling your cup? Is there room for Him?
Blessings on your day!
Above all, love each other deeply because love covers a multitude of sins. 1 Peter 4:8
Every now and again I feel like I’ve “got it all together.” My prayer life seems to be in order, I’m knee deep in loving and helping and serving and I can get a little “inflated”. I should know by now that is the time when he’s gonna grab me with a lesson. The story in this post isn’t mine. I don’t know who wrote it but it fell into my lap and I really believe it was God saying…hey Sheri…what about this? Read this and see what I might be asking you to work on. It’s about relationships not just rules and procedures. Being a disciple is tough work. This story left me examining my heart in a giant way. I think that’s something he likes us to do. Maybe this story will hit you as hard as it did me.
We were the only family with children in the restaurant. I sat Erik in a high chair and noticed everyone was quietly sitting and talking. Suddenly, Erik squealed with glee and said, 'Hi.' He pounded his fat baby hands on the high chair tray. His eyes were crinkled in laughter and his mouth was bared in a toothless grin, as he wriggled and giggled with merriment. I looked around and saw the source of his merriment. It was a man whose pants were baggy with a zipper at half-mast and his toes poked out of would-be shoes. His shirt was dirty and his hair was uncombed and unwashed. His whiskers were too short to be called a beard and his nose was so varicose it looked like a road map. We were too far from him to smell, but I was sure he smelled.. His hands waved and flapped on loose wrists.. 'Hi there, baby; hi there, big boy. I see ya, buster,' the man said to Erik. My husband and I exchanged looks, 'What do we do?’ Erik continued to laugh and answer, ‘Hi.' Everyone in the restaurant noticed and looked at us and then at the man. The old geezer was creating a nuisance with my beautiful baby. Our meal came and the man began shouting from across the room, 'Do ya patty cake? Do you know peek-a-boo? Hey, look, he knows peek- a-boo.’ Nobody thought the old man was cute. He was obviously drunk. My husband and I were embarrassed. We ate in silence; all except for Erik, who was running through his repertoire for the admiring skid-row bum, who in turn, reciprocated with his cute comments.
We finally got through the meal and headed for the door. My husband went to pay the check and told me to meet him in the parking lot. The old man sat poised between me and the door. 'Lord, just let me out of here before he speaks to me or Erik,' I prayed. As I drew closer to the man, I turned my back trying to sidestep him. As I did, Erik leaned over my arm, reaching with both arms in a baby's 'pick-me-up' position. Before I could stop him, Erik had propelled himself from my arms to the man.
Suddenly a very old smelly man and a very young baby consummated their love and kinship. Erik in an act of total trust, love, and submission laid his tiny head upon the man's ragged shoulder. The man's eyes closed, and I saw tears hover beneath his lashes. His aged hands full of grime, pain, and hard labor, cradled my baby's bottom and stroked his back. No two beings have ever loved so deeply for so short a time. I stood awestruck. The old man rocked and cradled Erik in his arms and his eyes opened and set squarely on mine. He said in a firm commanding voice, 'You take care of this baby.’ Somehow I managed, 'I will,' from a throat that contained a stone. He pried Erik from his chest, lovingly and longingly, as though he were in pain. I received my baby, and the man said, 'God bless you, ma'am, you've given me my Christmas gift.’ I said nothing more than a muttered thanks. With Erik in my arms, I ran for the car. My husband was wondering why I was crying and holding Erik so tightly, and why I was saying, 'My God, my God, forgive me.’ I had just witnessed Christ's love shown through the innocence of a tiny child who saw no sin, who made no judgment; a child who saw a soul, and a mother who saw a suit of clothes. I was a Christian who was blind, holding a child who was not.. I felt it was God asking, 'Are you willing to share your son for a moment?' when He shared His for all eternity. How did God feel when he put his baby in our arms 2000 years ago. The ragged old man, unwittingly, had reminded me, 'To enter the Kingdom of God , we must become as little children.’ If this has blessed you, please bless others by sending it on. Sometimes, it takes a child to remind us of what is really important. We must always remember who we are, where we came from and, most importantly, how we feel about others. The clothes on your back or the car that you drive or the house that you live in does not define you at all; it is how you treat your fellow man that identifies who you are.
A Seed to Plant: Read the story more than once…get past the whole stranger holding your baby thing and really feel what the message of the story is.
Blessings on your day!
My son, forget not my teaching, keep in mind my commands; Proverbs 3:1
Today begins the crazy, fun, joyful week known as Catholic Schools Week! Catholic schools across the country will be celebrating the gift and the blessing of Christ centered education. I am so thankful for the chance to teach in a Catholic School. It’s absolutely a gift to be able to incorporate Christ into every conversation and activity that makes up my day. Some worry about the right time, or the right opportunity to mention Jesus or faith and I realize I often take for granted that I can talk about it all day AND get paid for it.
This year is far from normal and not much is familiar or predictable so I think that’s why Catholic Schools Week is so exciting this year…we know how to laugh, we know how to celebrate and who doesn’t love a week full of activities and dress up days! It’s a break in the strange and a return visit to light-hearted and silly. We aren’t playing candy bar bingo in the parish hall tonight with a full house of families eating hot dogs and winning giant Snickers bars but tomorrow we’ll play for smaller candy bars via zoom in our classrooms. We won’t hold the annual Dodge Ball Tournament but we will play different games together. We will have Adoration in the gym instead of the cozy chapel and we’ll have a Bible Themed Carnival one classroom at a time. As I was buying supplies for carnival and the Lost Sheep game which involves getting the lost sheep (mini marshmallows) back in the pen with a straw, a lady approached me in the check out lane laughing wondering what on earth I was doing with 20 bags of marshmallows in my cart. When I explained she laughed and said God Bless all of you and I hope you have the best week ever…the kids have earned it. She was absolutely right about that! As we head into a week of fun, I didn’t want to be the only one enjoying some laughs today so I thought I’d share a few Catholic School Student comments. Some are from my students, some are borrowed from other teachers but all of them demonstrate the joy of the child.
**Hosanna in the highest is correct; Lasagna in the highest is not.
**The Holy Ghost is not a cousin to Caspar even if they are both friendly.
**I understand there was no room at the inn but hotels. com wouldn’t have been a thing 2,000 years ago…no honey, it wasn’t because the wifi wasn’t strong enough.
**No, I wasn’t there the night Jesus was born, that was a few years before my time.
When every day includes faith and kids its’ a winning combination! I want to thank all those who support Catholic Education. There are so many who sacrifice time, energy and money to make the work we do possible so please know that you will be included in our prayers of thanksgiving this week.
A Seed To Plant: Take some time this week to pray for all children in schools everywhere!
Blessings on your day!
“Apart from me you can do nothing.” John 15:5
As I make my way through the first month with my word for the year, there have been plenty of lessons. The biggest red flag I’ve been getting is STOP trying to do it all, fix it all, be a part of it all. In other words, keep your nose in your own business! There have been a couple of times I’ve turned things over or bowed out and then thought…who said that? The blessing of those actions is peace and it’s wonderful. I’m not “cured” but I sure enjoy the feeling and just this week there have been three really big confirmations that this “stop and feel peace” thing is where he’s leading me. He’s letting me know that if I shut up and step away a bit more the world won’t fall apart! I think I had the ridiculous notion that being peaceful meant I was being lazy…he’s working on me for sure! Here’s what he plunked before my eyes this week.
Peace lesson #1: Peace, it does not mean to be in a place where there is no trouble, noise or hard work. It means to be in the midst of those things and still be calm in your heart. Lady Gaga
Peace lesson #2: A Snow day! It was a surprise, it was familiar (not much is this year) and it was so quiet and beautiful. I wasn’t on the farm worrying about animals or living in a house with 30 years of projects and things to dust, polish or sort. It was just peaceful…I didn’t feel the need to race to school and re-do bulletin boards or organize the pile on the corner of my desk or work ahead on lesson plans. It was simply the gift of a found day and a rest for my brain and I saw it and appreciated it for just that!
Peace lesson #3 Shannon is reading a book by Fr. Jacques Philippe about…you guessed it, peace. She had just started reading it and without even knowing about my “personal peace journey” she shared this passage. “Consider the surface of a lake, above which the sun is shining. If the surface of the lake is peaceful and tranquil, the sun will be reflected in this lake; and the more peaceful the lake, the more perfectly will it be reflected. If, on the contrary, the surface of the lake is agitated, rough and unsettled, then the image of the sun can not be reflected.”
Realizing that I can do NOTHING without him, it seems the more I let him do and the less I try to do myself then the greater my peace. I thought that was a gift for me but as I pray on the words from Fr. Jacques I realize it’s not about me at all. Our job as disciples is to be Christ to others so if I’m like that unsettled lake, I’m not living in such a way that others can see his reflection. I think I’m going to have to borrow Shannon’s book so we can learn all about exactly how we achieve this peace of heart.
A Seed To Plant: Make a list of things that wrinkle up your peace and ask the Lord to smooth them out so we can reflect his love.
Blessings on your day!
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble; but be of good cheer for I have overcome the world.” John 16:33
I’m sure we’ve all had those moments when we really wanted to “tell it like it is” or truly give someone a “piece of our mind” but we didn’t . In all truthfulness, that’s probably a good thing and I firmly believe the Holy Spirit clamps down my tongue often before I spit out something I’d regret later. I’ve discovered the older I get the easier it is to keep my negative thoughts to myself and I have the Holy Spirit and a sweet little nun to thank for that. I had several lovely visits with Sister Margaret a few years ago and sometimes her powerful and loving words pop into my head at the most random times. Perhaps her greatest advice was to “let nothing pass your lips unless it leaves a heart better, happier or more in love with the Lord….and that includes your own.”
There is plenty to spout off about and it seems to be in style these days but it doesn’t seem to be making anything or anyone better. So in trying to figure out what to do instead of being sucked down into the mud; I remembered Sisters advice about picking something better. Our days are full of beautiful things but they aren’t always the things I pick to look at, think about or focus on first. Sisters words rang in my ears all last week and here’s how they worked…
*I can think about how challenging it is to teach during a pandemic; all the extras, the changes, the masks, the protocols or I can pick something else. I can pick the kindergartners who were in the middle of a giggle fest as the tried to help each other put on their snow boots.
*I can think about the days that start 40 minutes earlier than any other year or I can wake up and smile because some fabulous mystery person had a brand new fancy Keurig Coffee Maker shipped to me. It was a complete surprise that still makes me smile every time I think about the day that big box was delivered! I can think a bout how rude people on TV are or I can pick the absolute generous thoughtfulness from a stranger who knows that coffee is something I love!
*I can think about the unrest in our country or I can pick the middle lovelies who make me laugh every day and surprise me and frustrate me and remind me everyday that I have the hardest and best job ever because I have a chance to watch them grow as leaders and disciples and I have hope that someday they’ll take all the the life lessons they’re learning and make great leaders…better leaders…faithful leaders.
*I can think of all the ways I fall short or I’m not enough or I can pick the beautiful life God’s given me. The family, friends, community, students, parents; all of them who God has plunked me right in the middle of and be so grateful.
*I can think about the cold and snow and Michigan gray or I can pick the promise of spring that lies under that snow.
*I can think about all the ministry and travel and people I’m missing our on during this pandemic or I can pick the peace and time I have to read, study and be with my family.
*I can think about getting old; gray hairs, joints that don’t move as fluidly as they once did or I can pick the fact that those things have brought me to the stage in life where I get to meet my first grand baby any day now.
*I can think about my baby girl getting married and moving to Missouri or I can pick the joy in knowing she is about to begin a wonderful life together with a mad who adores her and I get to watch their happily ever after unfold.
I think Sister Margaret would want us to focus on inviting Jesus and his Holy Spirit into our own thought and words and actions so we could pick the things that would make the world better, happier and pleasing to the Lord. We won’t be judged in groups or towns or countries…it’s a solo event. I can’t change anything except myself, so this week…I pick positive and grateful and peaceful!
A Seed To Plant: What will you pick this week?
Blessings on your day!
Yet, oh Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay and you the potter: we are all the work of Your hands. Isaiah 64:7
I can close my eyes and see it sitting there on the top shelf of the cupboard above the plates and cereal bowls. I couldn’t reach it, so it was always someone else’s job to put it away after I had carefully dried it. It was a turquoise blue, glass casserole dish, the only one my mom had, and it was something she treasured. My dad gave it to her for Christmas, and if she pulled it out to use for supper, I knew she was going to be making something special. One day when I was about ten, I came home from school and Mom was on her way to a meeting. She asked me to put the casserole dish in the oven at 5 o’clock. I felt so important! I quickly raced to the kitchen and peeked under the glass lid to see what she had assembled inside the dish…it was beautiful; it looked like something you’d see in a cookbook picture. Well, the appointed time had come, I opened the oven door, and as I lifted the casserole dish up to slide it into the oven, it slipped right out of my hands, crashed to the floor, and shattered into pieces. I didn’t even consider the fact that I had just ruined supper. I just felt awful about breaking her casserole dish.
I managed to clean up the mess before Mom got home, and I even began to prepare a “plan B” supper. However, the hardest task of all was to hand Mom that collection of broken glass. She stared at it in silence for a moment, asked me if I was OK and then said, “Well, now it’s time to get creative. Your dad and brothers will be hungry, and it’s almost time to eat.” That was it…no scolding, no lecture, no disappointed glance, it was just time to get creative and move on. It was one of those events that just stuck with me.
I recently heard a pastor say, “God loves broken vessels!” My mind immediately rushed back to our kitchen in Hoyt, Kansas, when I was ten staring down at that mangled mess of turquoise-colored glass and casserole. My mom’s words echoed in my mind, “It’s time to get creative.”
We are each lovingly and perfectly crafted vessels made precisely by the hands of a compassionate potter. When we sin, it’s as if our vessels become chipped or cracked or leaky. I don’t know about you, but I’ve managed to put some real “dings” in my vessel over the years. If you get a crack or a leak in your favorite mug or dish, it no longer functions the way it was intended to. When we sin, we drift a bit from the Father’s love and, just like that broken vessel, we don’t function quite the way we were intended to either. Luckily, we are more valuable than mugs without a handle or casserole dishes broken into dozens of pieces. The Father is never going to throw us out! Instead, he uses our weakness to demonstrate His strength. If we have a chip or a leak, He invites us to come to Him and give Him a chance to restore us; to make us strong and purposeful again. He is the potter that created us. We are the work of His hands. So, if we need to be restored and have our purpose renewed, all we have to do is ask Him, and He will create us anew…as many times as we need it! God loves broken vessels because they require His strength, and any time we give Him the opportunity to show His strength by admitting our weakness, we are blessed.
A seed to plant: Identify a chip or a leak in your vessel, and ask God to strengthen and restore that imperfection in your life. Pick a different one tomorrow and a new one after that but don’t forget to make a list of the blessings you receive as the potter lovingly restores your vessel.
Blessings on your day!
And you will know the truth and the truth will set you free. John 8:32
Last week our word of the week was courage. When I asked the middle lovelies to tell me what courageous things they’d done, I got some; I rode a roller coaster; I rode with my sister when she was just learning to drive and I ate the brown meat at my aunt’s house. They were great but I was trying to get them to something bigger and then…the Holy Spirit saved the lesson when one boy said, “I think it was courageous when I went upstairs on my own and told my Dad I had lied to him and blamed my brother for something I’d done wrong.” BINGO! That’ exactly the kind of holy courage the week was intended to help us think about. It takes a lot of courage to seek and speak the truth.
It’s report card week so in order to complete that task so that I don’t loose my job…I thought I’d just spit out some truths we might need to chew on this week.
**The world fills us so full, we're not hungry for God.
**Temptation is an invitation to leave the truth and enter deception.
**We're trusting Him for eternity but not for earth.
**If we’re jealous; we’re not grateful.
**Complaining is the greatest form of selfishness.
Now, lets pray for the courage to do something great with these truths.
A Seed To Plant: As you sit in prayer this week, carefully ponder those five sentences and ask God to show you how they fit in your life.
Blessings on your day!
…and they shall name him Emmanuel, which means “God is with us.” Matthew 1:23
I don’t know about you, but I love those little “life hack” videos that pop up on my newsfeed. Things like putting hot glue dots on your hangers to keep slippery closes from falling off or 20 ways to organize junk, using random items around the house. Granted, some of them are pretty ridiculous but most of them come from folks who are way smarter and more creative than I am so I find myself watching and saying, “Seriously, that is awesome, why didn’t I think of that!” My mind likes simple, efficient and logical so if someone wants to pass along a little of that I’m gonna soak it up!
What I really love though, is when someone can give me some “life hacks” for my discipleship! Sometimes I can try to do 40 things at once to try to be holier and wind up in a tail spin. That’s usually when I get discouraged and feel like I’ll never be “good” enough to get to heaven. I’m getting better at promptly stopping that kind of thinking and calling it out for what it is…discouragement and we all know who throws that up in our face! That’s when we need to stop and say “Oh No…not today satan! You messed with the wrong disciple!” I know that no matter how crooked my path gets or how twisted around I become, as long as my heart is headed in HIS direction he’s gonna grab my hand and put me on his path if I call out for guidance. It’s like DIVINE GPS. (I’m pretty sure GPS stand for Gods Perfect Strategy) My discipleship and my path to holiness often looks like a fish floppin around on the bank, so anytime I can find a quick “something” to snap me back and return me to water, I’m happy. I found a little something that does just that so I thought I’d share. Like all those great tips and tricks we find on the “inter-webs” this isn’t mine but if it’s helpful, it’s worth sharing so…thanks to no work of my own…here ya go!
It begins with reminding ourselves of a simple fact. Since we were created in the image and likeness of God, then he’s always in us and with us. In short, we don’t need to do a lot of hard fancy stuff to get his attention because we never leave his gaze. I can’t hide from him so I can never really be lost. It’s simple but I can’t count the number of times I forget that. Remembering that is step one, step two is remembering the word WIT. This teeny word can lead us to holiness and save us from bad decisions, stupid actions and regrettable words. Here’s how it works. Jesus, live this day (or this moment; or this event; or this situation) WITH me; Live it IN me; Live itTHROUGH me. If you want the quicker version, at that split second when we’re about to gossip or lie or judge or lip off impatiently, or be afraid, what if we stopped long enough to say “Jesus, with me, in me and through me!” I’m pretty darn sure what would happen next would be a much better outcome. I spend a lot of prayer time telling him how sorry I am for all the stupid stuff I do and say and think. If I put the WIT prayer in action I’m pretty sure I’m gonna have a lot more time for saying prayers of gratitude!
A Seed To Plant: Write down the words to the WIT prayer and put it a few places you’ll notice and ask God to help you make it a frequent prayer in your day.
Blessings on your day!
I have called you by your name and you are mine. Isaiah 43:1
There was a little first grade boy who decided one day that he no longer liked the name his parents gave him, so he picked a new name. It began the day he started writing his name on all his papers with the capital letters ‘ZB’. As his teacher sat down that afternoon to correct the day’s work, she was a bit puzzled but it didn’t take long to figure out who the mystery student was. First thing the next morning she called ‘ZB’ up to her desk and asked if he might be willing to explain. He very politely told her that his parents had made a mistake and given him the wrong name so he decided to fix it himself and just start writing the name he had chosen. She said sweetly to this completely serious little guy, “Sweetheart, you can’t just change your name. That has to be done by an official person.” He shook his head and said, “Oh, I get it. So, can I go talk to the principal right now to change my name or should I wait till recess?” Holding back her laughter, she sent him down to visit the principal right away. The principal welcomed the visit and began by asking the little guy, “So, how did you come up with this new name?” The little boy said, “Well that’s easy! I just picked a cool name that would tell everybody what I’m good at.” The principal looked at the letters ‘ZB’ and said, “I’m not sure I understand.” With all the pride one smile could hold, the little boy stood up and said, “I’m a fast runner so my new name is Zooming Bullet! I just write ‘ZB’ because all those other letters take too long to write and I like to be fast.” The principal sent him on his way promising to make a phone call to his mother to discuss it. ‘ ZB’ raced back to class very content and the principal just sat at his desk and laughed harder than he had in weeks as he pondered what he might call himself if he could choose a new name.
From the moment we are knit in our mother’s womb, we are named by the God who created us. I am a firm believer that there is divine influence as Christian parents name their children. There is usually a strong story to our names whether we are knowingly named after a Saint or given a treasured family name, there is usually a reason. Do you know who you are named after and why? When Dave and I were picking names for our children we picked the middle names first. Each of them bears the name of a powerful Saint and a family member who we hoped would provide a strong example of faithfulness and goodness and in all three cases were heavenly saints themselves. Kevin, our oldest has the middle name James. James is the name of my father’s cousin who was killed in WWII. I shiver every time I read the telegram from the US Navy informing the family of the bomb attack on his ship. James is also the name of my mother’s brother who died of Leukemia at the age of 16 and finally, it was the name given to my older brother who has attributes too many to type! His name has a history of strong, brave, faith-filled men. Jason, our second son has the middle name Richard. Richard was the name of Dave’s brother who left this earth far too early but who lived each day with a huge spirit! Shannon, our daughter is named after my mother, Barbara. Her legacy could take up a whole blog itself!
I truly believe God knew them by name before they were born! It is absolutely amazing how our children resemble the characteristics of the people they were named after. Kevin looks like and shares so many of the same interests and mannerisms of my older brother sometimes it gives me the chills. When Jason was little he was the proud owner of a huge stubborn temper…the same temper and stubborn streak that used to cause his Uncle Richard to hold his breath and pass out. In both cases that temper mellowed into a strong confidence. As for Miss Shannon I have begun to discover that she is all of her grandmother’s greatest attributes bundled into one lovely person! Is it a coincidence, I don’t think so! If God loved us enough to create us so wonderfully and perfectly he wouldn’t leave our name to chance…He had a hand in that too.
We are His and He knows our name! He knows who we are and we will never be lost! I often wonder what my name says about me and I wonder what God thinks about the life I’m living under the name He gave me
A Seed to Plant: Find out the story of your name if you don’t know it. Take some time to think about your name and the memories and impressions you and your name will leave with others when you are absent.
Blessings on your day!
When the Lord saw her, he felt compassion for her. He told her, "You can stop crying.” Luke 7:13
Happy 2021! I hope your new year of off to a lovely start. Mine sure is! Here at the Wohlfert house we have our first grand baby coming and a wedding coming and all of us are healthy and happy and content. We have jobs we love, and kids that are happy, healthy and settled. We have everything we want and everything we need. We are thankful and that seems like the best way I could imagine to begin a new year. It wasn’t a New Years Eve of wishes and resolutions but rather one of gratitude and prayers for those who aren’t in the same comfortable boat as we are. I suppose when life is good, its the best time to reach out, pray for and offer help to those who are struggling. It’s a great time to remember that life is a long series of peaks and valleys…it isn’t always easy and it isn’t always hard. One sustains you through the other and helps you keep your balance and is a constant reminder to lend a hand to those in the valley and be assured of the help and prayers of those on the peaks.
Every New Year I write a post about my “word of the year”. This year I just couldn’t come up with one. I prayed all of December and didn’t really get a sense about anything so I began to wonder if it was a “thing” that had run it’s season then late last week I kept getting the word STOP. I thought, there…that’s it, I’m supposed to stop all of this and move on. But after I had resigned myself to that idea I kept reading, hearing and seeing that word STOP. I was a little befuddled and actually got sassy enough to say, “OK God, I got it…I’ll hang up the word of the year thing.” But the word kept coming…then I got it…my word is STOP. Got it…but what kind of word is that? It seemed so opposite…isn’t this whole thing supposed to be about a word that inspires action? Isn’t it supposed to be about doing something to grow in holiness? Isn’t it supposed to be a verb that draws you closer to heaven? I thought that’s what I’d been doing with my word each year! So STOP was just weird to me!
After a little thinking and praying, I discovered that the word STOP appears in Scripture more than 300 times. Sometimes the references are about us stopping something and sometimes it all about God stopping something. We are encouraged to stop being fearful, stop being lazy, stop ignoring commands and stop worrying. God stops storms and trials and enemies and destruction again and again when his children look to him with love and trust. After a little more thought I came up with a whole list of STOPS that would help me grow closer to the Father. I need to stop comparing and stop looking ahead and stop thinking of ways to “fix everything”. I need to stop thinking about how things look and stop fussing about how many places I fall short. I really need to stop chasing the myth of perfection because the measuring stick for that was not created or endorsed by the Father and I absolutely need to stop thinking there will ever be a day when my good deeds will earn me bonus points in the eyes of God. If I do only one thing with this word, it would be to stop listing to the world! That would be a great year. So here’s to a wonderful new year of stopping!
A Seed To Plant: Do you have a word or a Scripture or a thought for the year?
Happy New Year and Blessings on your day!
“Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!” – 2 Corinthians 9:15
I suppose everyone has a memory of a really special Christmas gift. My favorite Christmas gift memory is actually about someone else gift. I was a senior in high school and my brother was already finishing his second year in the Navy. He’d been at sea the year before so having him home for Christmas that year would have been gift enough but he brought a surprise present for my mom that touched us all.
My mom wasn't a fancy lady. She worked hard, loved hard and told it like it was. There was no pretending or fluffing things up, and you always knew where you stood with her. She was honest and probably one of the most generous and passionate women I ever met. She always had this beautiful look of peacefulness about her when she was holding a baby or a rosary. She had a secret wish for a set of beautiful china dishes which always seemed a little strange to me because she wasn’t about fancy, non-essential things; that wasn’t her style.
Some things are sealed tightly on your heart, that Christmas morning watching her open those crates with her beautiful china packed so carefully is one of those memories. The second part of that memory is the smile on my brothers face as he watched her laugh and cry and squeal as she unpacked each piece. When she was finished I remember them hug like they’d never stop. Her first adult child put his hands on her cheeks and said, “I could never tell you how much you are loved or how sorry I am for all the days I made being my mom harder than it should have been but I figured this would help you know.” My heart knew a gift even more beautiful than china was unfolding across the living room.
Mom believed that china was for special occasions and events but at least once a month we’d use the china and she’d always remind us that we were her most special people of all and that even a random Tuesday could be a special event if you brought a thankful heart to the table. After Jim died those dishes took on an even greater pricelessness. Jim was not one for being sentimental but every time she held one of those dishes I think she remembered that Christmas morning. I saw more than once as she’d hold a cup or a plate in her hands, tears streaming down her cheeks how important it was to speak what’s in your heart. One sentence on a snowy December 25th morning brought joy, peace and healing balm for a hurting heart. To this day, I’m still not sure what was more precious; the china or the thought and words that were shared with the gift.
Fast forward nearly forty years and the china found it’s place in our new house yesterday. Mom’s china has been my great treasure for thirty years. She asked me to take it and remember it’s true value when she was dying. I followed mom’s example and used it with my own family growing up to remind them that they were my most special people. I realize it isn’t at all practical but it has some lessons to teach. It’s about connection and tradition and family. It reminds me how important it is to let those we hold dear know exactly what they mean to us. It’s about gratefulness, reconciliation and the beautiful treasure of a great surprise!
As a mom I still find myself still trying to make sure Christmas is memorable and beautiful for my family. The truth is, not every Christmas will be…it can’t be! I remember lots of Christmas mornings and Iots oranges and walnuts in my stocking. I remember ribbon candy pulled from the bottom of my stocking with fuzz on it; which by the way just made it even more delicious. I remember the dog knocking over the tree and a new hand sewn dress hanging by the tree ready to wear to Christmas morning mass. They weren’t all spectacular…they didn’t need to be. I remember my mom praying by the Christmas tree each year praying that God would help us see his Son more clearly than the lights and presents. All these years later I realize how powerfully God worked through her simple prayer. The “China Christmas” was about so much more than dishes; it was about lessons I’d need sooner than I realized. I’m so thankful to be the keeper of my mothers treasure. As I was unpacking her treasure yesterday I was reminded that some Christmases are happy and wondrous and some feel like there are holes and missing pieces. We are so conditioned to want everything to be shiny and delightful. As I stepped back to look at the new cabinet with the china, I realized it was parked right under the Nativity Scene and I remembered mom’s prayer…God, help me see your Son more clearly…there he was, looking right at me from the wooden stable built by my Father -in-law. That little ceramic Baby Jesus caught my eye and buttoned up the lesson. For all the ways this Christmas might be different; the meaning, the promise and the hope are still there. This year perhaps the circumstances that might be leaving us feeling a little hollow, might allow us to see the gift of God’s Son more clearly because he’s the most treasured gift of all.
Blessings on your day and Merry Christmas!
Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord… Psalm 95:1
We made it! It’s Christmas break and teachers everywhere are breathing a gigantic sigh of relief and rest! As challenging as this fall has been I’m so very grateful for nearly 80 days of in person teaching. When I look back over the past few months so much has looked different…but my favorite things have remained the same. Kids are still funny, kids are still curious, kids still laugh and fuss and learn. The kids I spend each day with have rolled with everything we’ve asked of them. They recorded their Christmas program outside, they eat their lunch in the classroom, they have survived without all those delicious homemade birthday treats the St. Mary Mom’s are famous for and the big one…no dodgeball matches!
Last week we added a new tradition to our schedule. Every classroom took to the streets with a list of people who needed some Christmas cheer and we caroled. It was the first activity parents could join us for and we loved having them. More than 300 of us tromped through town stopping at houses, spreading ourselves across the whole lawn and we sang…maybe not well, but each lawn was dotted with about 40 spaced out little bodies belting out a familiar tune. It was such a good feeling to be doing something that seemed normal and while the event was designed to bring cheer to others, we all felt happier when we walked back into the building.
The school caroling event came on the heels of another joyful event in our little town. Just a few days prior, a flat bed trailer decked out with lights, decorations, Santa and five extremely talented men pulled into town. These guys made their way through town stopping in front of church and throughout the neighborhoods for little concerts. King and Country and the Trans Siberian Orchestra have nothin on these guys! The show was amazing and the joy they brought to all the folks lining the streets was matched only by the bands wives and children that followed the float in golf carts and Rangers. The whole thing was such a gift.
In the wake of change and uncertainty and disappointment over the last many months it seems Christmas music has the power to restore order to my heart. Whether it’s kids singing Away in a Manger on a cancer patients front lawn or the school principal playing electric guitar on a flatbed wagon rolling down the street, music focused on the joy of the most blessed season of the year makes a difference. It’s funny that these voices and these songs remind us that something great is coming, even in the midst of the yuck…sort of like it all went down a couple thousand years ago. It’s a powerful reminder that some folks were too stuck in the yuck to notice it when it happened the first time but hopefully a band on a wagon and 300 kids singing on the lawn are a signal for all of us to get ready and focus on the glory of Christmas because it promises to bring the same hope, the same love and the same glory it did the first time.
I heard a Christmas song for the first time last night and it just keeps tumbling in my mind. It was beautiful but more importantly it made me stop and check my perspective. It reminded me that we can see things one way but if we switch our focus things can look all together different. The song was Mary Had a Little Lamb. You’re probably thinking “whose fleece was white as snow” I know I was but then it all changed and I was so surprised. We get so used to seeing things through our tunnel vision, trying to prescribe the outcome that we miss the surprises. The song was beautiful and ended with the words, “Mary had a little lamb and when she looked into his eyes she saw the Lamb of God.” I had tears stinging my eyes. It wasn’t fluffy with four legs, it was Jesus the Little Lamb of God, come to save the world. He came in a way so unexpected…and brought everything a hurting world needed…he can absolutely do it again…in our hearts if we’re ready! Are you ready?
A Seed To Plant: Listen to and SING some Christmas music this week. Fill your heart and your home with some joy.
Blessings on your day!
“Make straight the way of the Lord.” John 1:23
As we prepare to enter the final week of Advent, I like to take a look at all the characters in the journey and the story of Jesus; I like to think about what they add to the story of Jesus and our salvation. One of my absolute favorites during Advent is John the Baptist. He was so bold, so unconcerned with the opinion of the world and so devoted to the task of getting to heaven. I guess you could say he inspires me with both his attitude and his words.
I remember a stage in my early teenage years when my bedroom frequently looked as if there had been an explosion of some sort, and it drove my mom nuts! One Saturday morning I “cleaned” my room and did not meet her standards. I had cleared a straight path from my bed to the door and quoted a version of these very words from John's Gospel and showed her how I had clearly made “a straight way for the Lord”. She assured me he was going to need a much wider path.
My moms assurance is true today! I realize I don’t always make the path to my heart straight or wide. I need to give God room to come into my heart and do His mighty works of mercy. I have all kinds of things in the way that make His way tricky to maneuver. I make Him wind His way around jealousy and pride and selfishness. The path hooks to the left when I toss in impatience and judgmental thinking. The way really goes sideways when control, bitterness and gossip get tossed into the mix.
Making straight the way of the Lord means keeping my eyes on Him. When my eyes are on Him and I’m preparing for Him to work in my life, I discover I’m moving in a straight and forward direction. He is the guide that straightens my way every time I re-adjust my focus on His way and not my own.
A Seed To Plant: What blocks or kinks the path between Jesus and your heart? Spend some time in prayer asking the Lord to straighten and widen the way to His love and mercy.
Blessings on your day!
Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Psalm 37:4
When I was a junior in high school I was being a goof ball in Swing Choir class and wound up with a solo part in the fall show. I was a “choir” voice and never wanted to do the solo thing but it all just sort of happened. After that show, I started singing a lot. It was fun to discover a gift I didn’t know I had but when I went off to college two years later, I quickly discovered my gift was pretty small town. I remember going to audition for a spot on the music ministry team at the campus parish and I heard the first ten voices ahead of me and I quietly snuck out the back door because I didn’t have a fraction of the gift those folks did. It was a very humbling experience to say the least. I realized I had two choices. I could be jealous and pouty and wallow in self pity or I could go to mass each weekend and soak in those beautiful voices and be grateful for those who chose to share them. I went with the second choice! One year later, I did audition and get a spot on the music ministry team and being surrounded by those whose talent was bigger than mine pushed me to work hard and get better.
Everybody knows you improve your skill when you work with someone who is a little bit better at something than you are. In education we call that scaffolding. We have to seek out those who do well, what we’d like to get better at. God’s kingdom isn’t going to advance much if we become better golfers, tennis players or cooks but it will advance if we become better disciples. Pope Francis recently shared his “Secrets to Happiness”. Since happiness is something this world could use a little more of, I thought I’d share a few of the popes secretes to happiness.
*Play with children
*Spend Sunday with family.
*Look after nature. “We have to look after creation and we are not doing it. It is one of the greatest challenges we have.”
*Respect those who think differently.
*Help people find employment: “Bringing bread home is what gives you dignity.”
If I asked for your new year wish list, I’d be willing to bet many of you would mention the desire to be happy and healthy so these words come at a perfect time. Instead of waiting to “get happy” or “receive happiness” perhaps we need to create it ourselves and your gift this first month of the new year is 5 things you can do to make it happen. What would happen to this new year if we decided in the midst of all of our busyness and nutty adventures, to cultivate happiness and share it with everyone who crosses our path? I think it would be a great addition to 2017. I’m gonna do it! Happiness is a top priority task for the year…who’s in?
A Seed To Plant: Pick one of the secrets from Pope Francis and add it to your week. Good luck and BE HAPPY!
Blessings on your day!
Immediately his mouth was opened, his tongue was freed and he spoke blessing God. Luke 1:64
Sunday was a glorious day!! I had the opportunity to do LIVE ministry. Since last March, speaking to a group in person has only happened a few times. Advent is usually one of my busiest times and this was my first event. It was so wonderful to be doing something I love with real people, in real time in a real church. We were properly spaced and masked and followed all the safety precautions and there was so much joy and connection my heart was full. In my 2 hour drive to the Detroit area parish I did some thinking about this line from Luke’s Gospel.
This verse made me take a hard look at what has got to be my greatest blessing and my greatest burden all lumped into one…my mouth! As a Catholic Speaker and Catholic School Theology Teacher, I have abundant opportunities to use my mouth to speak great words about our God and our faith. I wish this were the case all the time, but truthfully, when I ponder these words from Zachariah I am reminded of the dozens of times each week I use my mouth for words that don’t build the Kingdom of God on earth at all!
I need to take a big lesson from Zachariah. He was mute for months. If I imagine being struck mute I almost panic; it’s like I’d loose my most used human feature! If I did become mute and suddenly and unexpectedly regained my voice, I wonder what I’d say first. Truthfully, it probably would be something ridiculous like, “Lets go get pizza!” or “What the heck was that all about!” Not our friend Zachariah, the first words he spoke after months of silence; blessing, praise and worship. He focused on what he was grateful for and not what he had suffered or missed.
Zachariah used his silence to grow closer to the Father and unite himself to his perfect plan and his impeccable timing. The fruit of that silence was gratitude and awareness of the greatness of God. This passage from the Gospel of Luke contains a golden nugget for growing in holiness; find some silence and follow it with some time spent blessing and praising God for his mighty works in your life.
A Seed To Plant: Take a few moments to sit in the silence and replay your words from the last day or week follow it with these words: “Loving Father, open my eyes and still my words so I can truly recognize your presence and offer blessing to you for the many wonders you are working in my heart, my family and my world.”
Blessings on your day!
He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. Psalm 147:3
When you teach in a Catholic School with nearly 300 students and each classroom has a set of Rosaries, that’s lots of beads and crucifixes that just don’t always stay together. Every year a 6th grader emerges who becomes the “Rosary Repairman”. This year I have a Rosary Repairman Extrodinare! Justin can fix any Rosary no matter how broken it might be. He works with speed and precision and intention. I handed him a whole bag of broken and mismatched and knotted Rosaries thinking it would take him weeks to get the mess tended to. I think he had them perfectly restored using some spare and new parts in less than two days. I’m always a little excited when a teacher brings me the broken ones because it tells me someone has been using them and that is great news!
I was thinking about this scripture the other morning as I watched Justin find the broken Rosaries I had put on his desk, grab his repair kit and swiftly begin his work. To be honest, I think he loves it when he finds some brokenness waiting on his desk for him. There is a challenge to restoring them and returning them to a classroom ready to be used for their intended purpose again. I think he sees those broken Rosaries the same way God sees our brokenness. It doesn’t make us worthless, it makes us needy. Those broken Rosaries need Justin, his tools and his patience in the same way we need the Father in the midst of our brokenness.
Every single one of us is broken. We’ve experienced broken dreams, broken relationships, and broken promises. We’ve lived through pain and loss and consequences that have left us chipped, cracked and leaking but none of that matters to the Father who loves us in the middle of our broken pieces. In fact, he loves us so much he can’t wait to restore and refine and repair us but we have to bring all our brokenness to him. Justin can’t restore all those Rosaries unless someone brings them to him. Just like the Father, he doesn’t ask questions or make judgements or discriminate about which ones get to be repaired, he just restores them and returns them so they can complete their purpose.
I was listening to an Advent video from the Unshakable Joy series by Chris Stefanick and he said something that really hit my heart. He said, “If you use something for a purpose it wasn’t intended for, it gets broken. If you use a microwave as a fork warmer, it’s gonna get broken.” How often are we left feeling broken because we headed down a path that wasn’t intended for us. How many times have we been left feeling cracked, chipped or leaking because we invested in a relationship or a behavior that led us away from God’s intended purpose for our life? How many times have we tried to use a microwave like a fork warmer and found ourselves left like those broken Rosaries that wind up on Justin’s desk?
This Advent let’s take some time to look at our brokenness and lay it at the feet of Jesus and ask him to repair, restore and refine us so we can get busy doing the things we were intended to do.
A Seed To Plant: Make a list of the brokenness you feel in your life and ask Jesus to swoop in and repair and restore you.
Blessings on your day!
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