Pray without ceasing. 1 Thessalonians 5:16
Next week was listed on the school calendar as “Spring Break” week. Like most folks, I had a list of things, places and people to fill the week and like everyone else, the schedule looks completely different. Never in a million years would I have listed my number one spring break activity as making protective face masks for my daughter the nurse but you can bet my sewing machine will be humming! As we begin to navigate our way through these different days we have to remember to anchor ourselves in hope and peace.
But how? It sure sounds great but how do we settle our souls in such an uncertain time. I’ve been praying a lot about that and two powerful prayers came to mind. They came in one of those “wake up you knucklehead” kind of moments. They aren't new and one of them is a prayer that has gotten our communities through some tough stuff in the past so I thought I’d dust them off and offer them to all those of us trying to find our faithful balance.
The first prayer for us to grab on to is that powerful 4 line prayer based on the writings of St. Francis DeSales…I Cant, You Can, You Promised, Please Do. Here’s what it looks like right about now…
*I Can’t…I can’t imagine how this will all turn out, I can’t stop thinking about how my family will stay healthy, I can’t figure out how it got so crazy, I can’t get past the fear of getting sick, I can’t imagine how God could let this happen, I can’t get used to everything that’s so different, I can’t process all the disappointments.
*You Can…You can bring peace, you can bring healing, you can strengthen us, you can protect us, you can give us the grace to weather this storm, you can grant eternal life to your faithful, you can do exactly what needs to be done to accomplish the plans only you can know, you can be trusted to love us through this because you’ve already been where we are.
*You Promised…you promised to be with us, to guide us, to bring life, to comfort and shelter us and you promised to lead us to Our Heavenly Father.
*Please Do…please bless us with peace, bring us strength, build up our trust, take care of us. Please do all that we need to grow in our faith and trust in your mercy.
Each time you feel the worry, fear, disappointment or uncertainty hanging over your head like a dark cloud, take these four lines and use them to craft a conversation with the Father filling in all the things on your heart. Tell God what you need, what you want and give him permission to come into your heart right where you are. It’s ok if it’s a little dark or angry or doubtful; he’s seen it all and he wants to be invited in to all of it because he loves us with the most tender, precious love we can imagine.
The second prayer has three parts. We ASK, we OFFER and we ACCEPT. It might go something like this…
*Lord I ask you to come into my fear or doubt or worry. I ask you to be present to me and make me aware of your presence.
*Lord I offer this suffering to you. I offer you my confusion or lack of patience with my children or my sadness in missing my friends and family. Whatever it is, offer it to him. It might seem like we’re offering him a pretty lousy gift but he’s delighted to take what we offer him.
*Lord, I accept this situation. I accept whatever blessings and grace you will grant me or my family or my community.
As we ask, offer and accept we demonstrate faith, surrender, trust and obedience. In those three simple statements we give God permission and we cooperate with his perfect love. We can pray this prayer dozens of times a day. We can pray it when the kids are getting along and there is peace and we can pray it when they’re fussing. We can pray it during those moments when we feel his grace working in our life. You can pray it for the good stuff and for the bad stuff. He wants to be a part of it all. In praying this little prayer we make sure not to waste any suffering and it can be a sign of our gratitude.
Hold fast to these two simple prayers when your heart is troubled and when you notice all the moments of beauty in the midst of the mess. Make no mistake, he’s right there for all of it.
A Seed To Plant: Jot down these two prayers and put them in a couple of places so you remember to lean on them and the peace and hope they will bring.
Blessings on your day!
Thus says the Lord, Lo, I am about to create new heavens and a new earth; the things of the past shall not be remembered or come to mind. Isaiah 65:17
Holy cow this is so weird! I’ve struggled to write because I was trying so hard to write something light and joyful and funny because I thought that’s what we needed but the stuff just wouldn’t come. I started working on this post yesterday and couldn’t string together more than a few sentences so I’d delete and wait. I poured coffee and did morning prayers at 5:30 this morning and still couldn’t write so I put it away and went to Mass in my sweats asking the Holy Spirit to fill my page with the words someone might need to hear today.
In the first reading today from the Prophet Isaiah we read the words…I am about to create new heavens and a new earth. Well, that’s one way to look at these strange days. We surely are in the middle of something new aren’t we. The reading goes on to talk about the joy and love and happiness that will come from this new creation. It made me think of the three times in life I spent hours in labor giving birth to the three little Wohlferts. Phew…that was some suffering for sure but it brought forth life and happiness and joy I can’t even describe. I don’t want a re-do on those labor hours but they led to something so amazing. Maybe that’s what we’re in the middle of today; maybe that’s what Isaiah was trying to help us understand. In order for me to rejoice in the Kevin, the Jason and the Shannon I had to let all the pain and the worry and the wonder and uncertainty wash over me. Maybe that’s what we need to do with this strange time…let it wash over us and feel it instead of analyzing the snot out of it and trying to respond and react according to the latest article or news report.
So lets decide a few things for ourselves and invite God into the “washing over.”
*It’s a little scary…we haven’t done this before and we don’t know how long it will last or what to expect. It’s ok to be scared, say it out loud to someone and then remember that fear is not of God…peace is of God and he has plenty to go around if we ask him every time we feel that fear wash over us, to flood us with his peace instead. Stop whatever you’re doing and say the words…”Lord, take this fear and fill me with your peace!” take a deep breath and say it again as many times as it takes to feel the peace replace the fear.
*We have no control…for real…we don’t! For every planner, organizer, scheduler type person out there this is kicking us in the pants isn’t it! For those with the overwhelming desire to stand on something tall and scream, “Stop this, it isn’t on my agenda and I don’t have time for this craziness!” its’ ok, go ahead and scream it, you’ll feel better. When you’re done screaming, make a new agenda! Put new stuff on your list; fun stuff, silly stuff, lazy stuff, things I never have time to get to stuff. In a time when we may feel like we have no purpose never underestimate the accomplished feeling of looking into a silverware drawer with no bread crumbs! Clean something, organize a closet or a drawer, do something that gives you a feeling of accomplishment and then sit still and be quiet acknowledging the perfection, love and grace of the one who truly is in control…give him permission to be and pray for the grace to accept the rest and re-set he’s giving us.
*We are suffering…each in different ways…at different levels. We’re missing stuff, we’re uncertain and disappointed and sad. There are a million “I don’t know’s” floating in our minds and hearts and boy do we hate that. We have to do our own cooking and we’re apprehensive about going to the store. We are worried about getting sick. We’re confused about who to believe. We’re running out of ways to entertain our kids and ourselves. We’re worried about jobs and money and stocks. Let it wash over you and call it what it is…suffering. The good news about suffering is that it is an immediate path to Jesus. We’re all called to suffer but we have to learn to do it right. Our prayer is not Lord take it away, our prayer is Lord please use this suffering for good. Each time my mind starts spinning I stop and say, “Lord please use this suffering for a soul in great need.” It gives it a purpose…it gives it a use…it makes all of this seem to matter for something good. My mom always said, “Never waste your suffering.” I think Gods greatest raw material for building greatness is our suffering so make sure to offer him all of yours so he can do mighty works.
*Tell yourself the truth. Great good will come from this…God will protect his people…Some of us will get sick…Worried moments should be the times we stop and pray…What other time in our lives has our newsfeed been full of people going to church in the living room…Priests and Pastors are dong amazing things to bring together the faithful giving us the opportunity to be more faithful than fretful…We will be changed and if we hold on to God’s hand we will ABSOLUTELY be changed for the better.
God loves us too much to leave us stuck here, this won’t last forever and we will truly be OK! There will soon come the day when we laugh easier and we will go back to full churches and hugs from grandkids and fully stocked shelves but this isn’t that time…this is labor and because we as Christians believe in the promises of the God who loves us…there will be new life.
A Seed To Plant: Make a list of ten people you miss seeing and pray for them. If you get all your closets cleaned and windows washed and wonder what to do next, write them a note or send them a text to let them know you thought of them and said a prayer for them.
Blessings on your day!
Trust in the lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. Proverbs 3:5
I’m not sure what the best adjective to describe this week would be! I’ve bounced between wanting to hide in a closet and not come out until it’s over and wanting to glue my face to social media so I don’t miss a thing. Of course, both are a really bad idea so in my search for balance I’ve come across some really great stuff. I’ve had some new experiences, a chance to laugh and lots of time to pray. Here are some highlights from week one of whatever we’re going to call this time.
*I went to Mass in my living room for the first time. I love daily mass and now all I have to do is turn on the TV or jump on FaceBook and I’m there. I’m so grateful for the priests who are doing so many creative things to reach out and draw us together in prayer. I’ve been to Mass with three different priests this week and once I even went in my pj’s…that’s a first!
*I found live stream Eucharistic Adoration from more than a dozen different churches and chapels. If I could earn frequent flyer miles for all the churches I’ve traveled to this week I might have enough miles to fly to Kalamazoo.
*I have loved hearing stories about families finding creative ways to connect and survive all their togetherness. I’ve also loved the stories of those who are completely real and admit they’re just trying not to clobber each other. Not all families are peacefully putting together 1000 piece puzzles…be patient, we’ll figure it out!
*Not everyone was cut out to be a teacher so thank you to the dozens of homeschool moms who are helping the newbies find their way. I saw one “never wanted to be a teacher” parent asking for advice on getting a student transferred out of her class and another asking if they could be fired for drinking on the job…again, be patient, we’ll figure it out!
People are sharing food and shopping help and InstantPot recipes like champions and it’s fun to see because we all need to love each other a little more these days. Sitting in the airport last weekend, days before any of this happened, I stumbled across a blog written by a Christian missionary in Wuhan China who was writing about their quarantine. She shared her journey and stated that the first objective was to keep her children from strangling each other. As the weeks went on, she discovered sights and sounds and experiences that only the quiet could bring. She talked about peace and prayer and lessons too many to count. She said it took a while to disconnect before they could find beautiful ways to re-connect. As I look back on that blog I get the chills that what seemed like such a crazy read a week ago, is now our reality.
As we wade our way through this first week and get ready for the ones to come, there are a few things that might help. First, we may just need to mourn the loss of normal. It’s ok to be mad that we’re restricted, it’s ok to be sad and miss things, it’s ok to be angry at the people who think they are bigger than this and aren’t following the rules. All of it needs to be felt and acknowledged so go ahead and stomp, cry, yell and then take it all to the foot of the cross and ask Jesus to bring you peace and contentment. Second, we need to be patient! Lots of folks now have a new career. We’ve become teachers and cooks and entertainment engineers and we’re learning how to do all this while working from home in a noisy house. It’s going to take some time to settle down and give everybody a chance to get used to each other. And the third thing, we have to remember to pray for the grace to use this time well. As nutty as this all is, God will bring great good. We have a chance to slow down, re-set and re-balance even if we didn’t know we needed it. Keep sharing your stories, keep sharing your ideas and mostly lets keep praying for each other and don’t forget to go to Mass in your living room.
A Seed To Plant: Pray about the three things in the last paragraph and pick the one you need to focus most on this week.
Blessings on your day!
Be still and know that I am God. Psalm 46:11
I know it’s way past my normal post time but I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve started, deleted and re-started todays blog. I missed my post last Thursday because I was on my way to North Carolina to celebrate the life of my “cool aunt” Ellen. There are a hundred emotions about the early, sudden loss of a beautiful soul and a reunion with a couple dozen people I love with all my heart I want to share but I think those stories (and my are there some good ones!) will need to wait because so many things have seemed to come completely un-hinged in the last couple of days I think we might need a big ‘ole sprinkle of joy and logic in the wake of it all.
There is so much going on right now that this post could be a mile long but if there’s one thing we don’t need today it’s more folks flapping their lips spitting out their opinions about whose fault this mess is and who we should blame. We don’t need any more folks pointing out how we’re all going to hell in a hand basket because this is all pre-meditated and we’re following along like a bunch of mindless lambs. We don’t need any more reports about working too hard or not working at all and for heaven sakes I’m pretty sure I’ve seen enough pictures of toilet paper and homemade hand sanitizer recipes to last a lifetime.
As we plow through all of this stuff it seems like it all boils down to a couple of big things. Dealing with disappointment and being uncomfortable are not our strong suits. I think we have to admit both things and then begin to make our way back to normal. We all handle disappointment differently. The government isn’t controlling us because they cancelled the NCAAA tournament but it’s left a lot of folks disappointed. I’m surrounded by a community of young people who had state titles to defend and achieve who are so very disappointed the show stopped just short of the finish line. We’ve got weddings and parties and celebrations that are in limbo and that’s disappointing because no spring bride saw this coming and that’s disappointing. Those are real emotions and if we really want to act as Christ, there is no shortage of people who need our patience, compassion and understanding. Predictable means comfortable and we are fresh out of predictable right now. Things are uncertain for the next little bit. We do enjoy being in charge of things and we simply aren’t. Uncertainty is ok because it’s a great opportunity to build trust and that trust organically leads to obedience but for some it’s leading us to grab control where we can…like the toilet paper aisle.
There is so much information floating around it makes my head spin. The problem is, for every article you read, there is another to dispute it. For every beautiful thing you see, there are three ugly. Here’s my thought, find a medical source you trust; maybe a nurse or doctor you know and read what they share. Find a faithful person or source your trust and read what they share. Leave the rest unread! Don’t read about the conspiracy theories or the unbalanced disease comparison nonsense filling your newsfeed. If you feel like someone has sucked away your joy, it just might be you spending too much time with the news. There are some nutty things happening right now but there are also some really beautiful things going on right now. Satan isn’t gaining control of the world because churches suspended mass or emptied Holy Water fonts, if God is mighty enough to part a sea and save his people, I’m pretty sure he’s gonna usher us right through this without breaking a sweat.
If you want some joy back in your Monday here are some thoughts…
*Shut off the news.
*Soak up the stillness and quiet this time is creating.
*Pray extra…and then pray some more…and then follow it up with some more prayer.
*Ponder your willingness obey. If we can’t obey a request to stay home and cook our own food, how will we be able to obey the Father?
*Do something good for someone who has it rougher than you right now.
*Try to understand someone elses disappointment and find a way to console or re-assure them.
*Trade judging for loving…what if we assumed everyone is trying to do the best they can…and some folks might just need a little more help and understanding.
*Make a conscience decision to let this situation make us great instead of divided?
*Above all…a dozen times or more a day…repeat: Lord, protect us in this mess and show us how to serve you and show your love! Unless we get that part right, this will remain nothing but a big mess. I really want to look back on this and be able to say, “Wow, look what God did through all of that chaos; isn’t he faithful…and didn’t we handle that beautifully!” but in order to do that, we have to make some choices starting right now!
A Seed To Plant: Pick a couple things from the list and lets be great in the midst of the mess.
Blessings on your day!
I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father. Matthew 5:44-45
Sometimes a line from scripture hits me sideways and makes me puzzle over it for days. There is one verse that gets me every time I hear it. It’s one of those lines that I can't quite figure out what to do with or how to apply to daily life. God is loving and merciful and compassionate and capable of bringing great good out of unspeakable tragedy so why would a Father with all those amazing characteristics slap us with a line like, “be perfect as your Father is perfect.” What is that nonsense all about I’ve asked myself every time I’ve heard that line. Then came an insight!
Here are the words I read Saturday that made so much sense and I’m borrowing them from the Magnificat prayer book.
Being perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect means loving those who do not love you. We can do so because God has made us to be a people peculiarly his own. When we give God’s love to those who deserve it least, God raises us high in praise and renown and glory. Love shared makes us a sacred people.
Ok, so loving those who don’t love us and loving the hard to love and being patient, kind, merciful and understanding of those who push our buttons is the answer? It would seem so and it makes so much sense because his greatest commandment calls us simply to love. He isn’t asking me to build a hospital or begin an orphanage or do mission work in a Christian hating country, he’s asking me to love my neighbor…ALL of them. He even promises to give us the grace to do it. If we ask, he will open our heart and stretch it’s loving capacity far past the puny human limits we think it’s capable of. Plus, as a gigantic bonus for loving the hard to love, he slathers us with more grace, glory and love. So in a nutshell; I ask him to help me love, he gives me a super dose of love to give away, and then he blesses me for letting him do the work in my life…and that’s how I become “perfect” as he is “perfect” and that’s how I grow in holiness and gain eternal life? When you lay it all out like that, it seems too good to be true but then again, that is God isn’t it!
Two other things I realized as I’ve wrestled around with this verse, this perfection he calls us to is not a goal to be checked off, it’s a process to be lived. This process comes with success and failure all along the way and that is expected by the Father who loves us. We simply can never check the box and say LOVE, check I’ve done that. I think of that in terms of my own marriage and motherhood because I’d never look at Dave or the kids and think, “Yup, I love you enough, all set.” It’s a process that grows and deepens over time and boy am I thankful for that. The second thing is that this perfection scripture speaks of is not completely fulfilled here on earth. The perfection comes to completion at the end of our days. It’s a journey or a process not a task to cross off the list.
The perfection is in the love. I can go to mass every day and say 43 rosaries a day and donate money to cause after cause but if I don’t love those who don’t love me and the hard to love and if I don’t spend every day trying to grow in humility and holiness through my loving of others rather than self I’m not doing it right. Quite frankly, his way; his request, it so much simpler. If this strikes a cord with you, I have two ideas to help make this a part of your Lent. First, several times a day silently pray, Jesus, help me love the way you love. Second, spend some time each day with this little prayer, also from the Magnificat and me.
For those who have hurt or harmed us. Grant them every blessing Lord
For those who dislike us. Grant them every blessing Lord
For those who look down on us. Grant them every blessing Lord
For those who refuse to speak to us. Grant them every blessing Lord.
For those who test our patience and make our life difficult. Grant them every blessing Lord.
For those who believe differently and make us angry. Grant them every blessing Lord.
A Seed To Plant: Pick one of the two options above and put it in place this week.
Blessings on your day!
“Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, BEARING WITH ONE ANOTHER in love.” Ephesians 4:2
I was thinking the other day of things that go together. The common ones came to mind, like peanut butter and jelly and salt and pepper. I even began to think of people who went together like Lucy and Ethel or The Lone Ranger and Tonto. Funny how in your mind, some things are just a pair. I’ll bet if you stopped for just a minute you could come up with dozens of things that match. I think we get conditioned to see things together, and don’t really give them much notice. We even see pairs in Scripture. I did a little “independent research” and realized in most cases, (how scientific is that) when people describe something or someone, they use a pair of words. For instance, that flower is so bright and colorful or that baby is so cute and chubby. We tend to do a lot of things in pairs.
As we charge into Lent, whose up for a “Double Disciple” challenge? Your challenge will be do Christian acts double. Not just one good deed, but two. Not just a kind word to one person, but two. You could go all out if you wanted to, instead of giving one thing from each closet in your house to charity, make it two. What would happen if you took a plate of cookies or a bouquet of flowers to two neighbors instead of one. What about that young couple with little ones you know who could really use a night out, why not offer to babysit their kids for two hours instead of one so they can enjoy a peaceful dinner or a good nap. The possibilities are absolutely endless!
I saw a great church sign recently that said, “A narrow mind and a wide mouth are not a good combination.” It made me giggle. So I’m going to use the idea from that sign to make the “Double Disciple” challenge a wee bit stiffer. If during the week, you happen to demonstrate a pair of “not –so-Christian” behaviors or attitudes; like being grumpy and impatient with a spouse or co-worker, you have to do another double good act to make up for it. I can’t wait to see the blessings that are in store for the world if we all take on the challenge!
A Seed To Plant: Take on the “Be a Double Disciple” challenge this second week of Lent and let us know what happened.
Blessings on your day!
“Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier. Be the living expression of God's kindness: kindness in your face, kindness in your eyes, kindness in your smile.” Blessed Mother Teresa
Now there is a Lenten challenge! There is just some advice that needs to be followed and this power-packed tidbit from Mother Theresa begs to be heeded. I shared this quote during prayer with the middle lovelies last week and they all agreed it would make the world a whole lot better but then one very honest young man said, “But man Mrs. Wohlfert, that’s just so hard to do.” I told him I agreed completely!
This quote has been heavy on my mind for several days and I’ve discovered it’s much easier to live these words when you’re in control of the situation and interactions are pleasant. When I really thought about it hard I was pretty good at living this challenge; I would slow down, look people in the eyes when they spoke and be still until they were finished with the conversation. It seemed a bit awkward at first but after a few days it became more second nature. I was feeling pretty good about it until that situation I hadn’t planned for; you know the ones that catch you by surprise and tilt you off your balance. I had one of those situations this weekend and I totally blew it…I was frazzled and almost instantly I reacted and it wasn’t a reaction that matched the quote! I wasn’t the Wicked Witch of the West or anything but as I replayed the event I realized my reaction was based on selfishness and pride. A few hours later I was still really heavy hearted about the whole thing so I stopped to pray about it. (I don’t know why I always wait so long to do that!) After just a few seconds of quiet prayer it was very clear that I needed to apologize. I needed to call myself out on the selfishness and pride. I needed to admit that I was thinking of myself first and others second and I had to admit that I hadn’t left anyone better or happier with my snappy reaction. The more I tried to talk myself out of it, the more I realized I needed to do it and do it soon. After a giant gulp of pride with a huge serving of humble pie on the side, I made the apology and shared the story of my failure to live out this quote. The apology was graciously accepted and thankfully my reaction was a much bigger deal in my mind than in actuality!
The funny thing about the whole situation…I was the one who left feeling happier and better. Crazy, I thought that was the gift I was going to give; not the one I was going to get. God is good and lesson learned…for today anyway! Thank goodness God expects progress not perfection!
A Seed To Plant: Make it your goal this week to live this verse. Think about the people it will be easiest and hardest to live it with and then ask God to bless your attempts.
Blessings on your day!
At the time, all discipline seems a cause not for joy but of pain, yet later it brings the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who are trained by it. Hebrews 12:11
So…what’s your plan? Hopefully you’ve been pondering last Thursdays questions and you are beginning to pray about the ways God is leading you to grow in holiness this lent. I asked God to lead me to something I really needed to focus on. I didn’t want lent to be a repeat of New Years resolutions. I didn’t want it to be about a dozen little things that made me feel good but didn’t leave me with a lasting change of heart and I certainly didn’t want a repeat of my 7th grade eat only lettuce, tuna and oranges disaster! About two weeks ago, I asked him to lead me boldly. I gave him permission to lead me to something new and I promised to “COME” with him (my word this year) into the desert he chose for me; for us.
Knowing how much the Father loves us and wants to draw us closer and closer, I counted on his love and kindness as he led me to a new lent. What he’s been leading me to the past many days is sometime that has caused me to think, pray and do a lot of surrender and perhaps even a little bargaining. The final days of his lenten calling were the boldest but in his infinite love and compassion, he saved the hardest parts of the invitation for the days I spent in Florida in the sunshine, listening to and watching the ocean. I was staying in a fabulous oceanfront home surrounded by family and laughter and fun and so much beauty. The setting was amazing; the lenten message was not so lovely and simple. At least he gave it to me in small pieces surrounded by his blessings while I had time to really think and pray about what he was asking.
I boldly asked to be led to something I’d never done during lent before. I asked for balance. I asked for him to be abundantly clear and I asked for something that would truly change my desires and holiness. For the next 14 days, one of my morning prayer book contained a story about “Saints who Suffered.” Throughout the last two weeks I’ve stumbled across dozens of readings, posts, stories and examples of suffering and sacrifice. I seem to find them at every turn and I know he’s behind each and every one. I know those are the two things he’s asking this lent and he’s also being crystal clear about the areas the suffering and sacrifice should find root. I keep going back to those questions I posed last Thursday and I’m amazed and grateful and a little nervous about the things he’s helped me learn.
I know what he’s asking me to do, he will give me the grace to accomplish. I know that what he’s asking me to do he will give me the strength to follow through with. I know what he’s asking me to do will absolutely draw me closer and lead me not only to the foot of his cross but to the glory of his rising. The most amazing thing about all of this journey toward lent…even though sacrifice and suffering are the path he’s leading me to, I feel so much joy and anticipation about the weeks ahead. I’m getting excited about what he’s leading me to even though I’m painfully aware that it’s gonna be hard. He hasn’t always asked me to do “hard”, but this year he is and he’s also asking me to be very honest and transparent about this journey. I promised him I’d write about it, but not yet! I want all of you to spend a couple more days praying and pondering with him about how you will journey this lent. After I stopped trying to talk him out of the hard stuff for this lent and surrendered to his plan I opened a prayer book and read these words; Loving Father, make me a student of the cross. Teach me to rejoice in suffering. There it was, a giant exclamation point to his request so, step one…get ready for class…I plan to be a great student this lent.
A Seed To Plant: Pray with your whole heart to know the desires of the Father for your lenten journey. Remember, it’s about your holiness and your relationship with him. Ask him to make it clear and make it personal.
Blessings on your day!
So humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, so that he may exalt you in due time. 1Peter 5:6
It’s almost time my friends…lent is less than a week away so it’s time to start thinking about growing in holiness! Today I offer a few questions for all of us to think on and pray with in these next few days.
*What are the habits and behaviors I seem to “go back to” even though I try to avoid or change them.
*In times of stress or frustration, what do I turn to for consolation? Is it prayer or something else?
*If Jesus took human form and spent the day with me, what would he notice or encourage me to do differently?
*When I hear the word “Sacrifice” what comes to mind?
*On a scale of 1 to 10 how comfortable is my life and how important is comfort and convenience to me?
Lent isn’t meant to be a time of torture but giving up beach swimming for lent in Michigan isn’t really going to develop much holiness. As with all things, balance is key. Lent is a time for God to exalt you. The sacrifices we make are supposed to help us grow closer to God and that isn’t always easy work. The work of holiness can be really hard and it requires change and that often means being uncomfortable and inconvenienced, so as we ponder these questions let’s pray that the Father will help us discover the ways he’s inviting us to humble ourselves before him and be touched by the power of his mighty hand.
A Seed To Plant: Take these questions to prayer and jot down what he puts on your heart so we can take a look at them on Monday and form a lenten plan.
Blessings on your day!
Before man are life and death…whichever he chooses shall be given him. Sirach 15:
I have a plant in my living room that I love. The leaves are wide and deep green. I have absolutely no idea what kind of plant it is; all I know is it’s pretty and easy to take care of and it sends a clear signal when it needs my attention. When I forget to water it, the leaves and stems bend clear down and lay flat on the table but once I water it, it perks straight back up and looks beautiful within an hour. As we were listening to this reading from Sirach in mass this morning, all I could think about was that plant.
The water on that plant in my living room creates life and beauty and I can see it happening right before my very eyes. As I listened to these words and thought of my plant I realized that my choices affect my soul just like water affects that plant. Sometimes I accidentally neglect the plant but a wee bit of time and attention brings it right back to life and restores it’s beauty. I think that’s what God’s mercy does for our weary, soggy, limp souls. The water is the fruit of our prayer and his amazing grace. As I sat thinking about it, there are so many choices I make that deprive my soul of the life, beauty and brilliant joy just like my neglectful watering habits affect my pretty plant.
I began to wonder what choices I make that lead to the serious wilting of my relationship with the Father. My first smug thought was, I don’t make any decisions that are death, I’m much more of a chose life person! As he always does when I think I’m all that and a holy bag of chips, he humbles me and what came next was a rapid fire list of behaviors, attitudes and actions that lead slowly to destruction. He reminded me that each time I look at someone in judgement, thinking of myself as happier, more prayerful or more put together, my soul wilts. I realized that every time I choose to participate in a conversation that isn’t kind or charitable, my soul wilts. Every time I run to the comfort of food instead of running to the comfort of his love, I wilt a little. Every time I watch or read or listen to something that opposes his truth or purity or goodness I wilt a little. Each time I snap back at someone or make snap decisions about how someone drives or dresses or behaves, my soul wilts a little. All of these situations may seem pretty innocent or human or even acceptable in themselves but in reality the little things add up to become big and the choice is ours to make. I’ve been lucky that every time I’ve seen my plant drooping I’ve been able to water it and bring it back but one of these times I might neglect it too long and it won’t perk back up. Thank goodness God’s mercy is more reliable than my plant care skills! It’s never too late to turn back to him but as the Priest mentioned in his homily, there are always consequences!
With life there is abundant joy and mercy and grace. With death there is sadness, stress, destruction and separation. Each of those little decisions I make that are not life giving come with a consequence that is uncomfortable and undesirable. I’m sure I’ve blamed God for not listening or helping me out of a rough patch but as I think about it, those are probably times when I’m stuck in the yuck of consequences that are a direct result of those little soul wilting choices. When it all boils down to the bottom of the pot, the truth is, we have free will and the choices are truly all ours to make. That means that the consequences are also truly ours as well; we chose them. I decided that was a pretty tough truth! This reading is about more than heaven and hell, it’s about today and tomorrow and the hundreds of todays and tomorrows that lead us into eternity. I think today is the day to start thinking more about the life and death of my choices. I’m thankful for a great message from Scripture and the beautiful visual aid that sits in my living room.
A Seed To Plant: Ask the Father to help you think about your choices pick out the ones that are reaping life and the ones that are wilting your soul.
Blessings on your day!
Neither he nor his parents sinned; it is so that the works of God might be made visible through him. John 9:3
We like explanations don’t we. Our world surrounds us with technology, information and knowledge designed to explain and justify everything…until we hit one of those rough patches that we simply can’t make sense of. We aren’t so good at meaning the words, “that’s just the way it is”. We demand proof! We are a society of highly intelligent humans after all, there should be a way to describe, defend and understand everything. If there isn’t, then somebody must have lied or done something wrong because all things should make sense! If things don’t make sense, or if we don’t like the explanation we’ve been given, we set out looking for a spot to lay the blame. I’ve discovered the more out of balance our society’s moral compass becomes; the harder it is to “accept” things we can’t explain. God’s work included.
After reading this story from John’s Gospel , I guess the game of prove or blame isn’t new. The disciples were busy trying to figure out why the blind man was afflicted. They wanted to lay blame or find fault in order to understand the situation but in a simple yet completely profound way Jesus explained the man’s situation. His affliction was not to punish or to penalize…his situation was meant to magnify the amazing power of God. I’ve read this story a dozen times before, and I always thought of that man who lived on the streets in darkness with pity and sadness. This time I saw him with different eyes. My feelings for this Gospel character turned from pity to something more like envy. God chose the blind man in such a pitiful state to show His glory…what a lucky turn of events for him! This Gospel reminded me of a conversation I had recently with a woman who just bubbles over with God’s love. She was speaking so tenderly about her brother who had recently lost his battle with cancer. She shared her admiration and inspiration as she told his story. The part of the conversation that sunk deep into my heart was his reaction to the doctor’s proclamation of his condition…difficult news to say the least! Upon hearing the news he told his sister how lucky he felt that God wanted him home in heaven at such an early age. As tears stung in my eyes, it was easy to see why he was such an inspiration to her. There was no blame, no need for explanation…it was simply a case of “accepting” a situation as the work of the Father.
The trouble with trying to explain and understand everything is that we can only do it through the lens of human knowledge. God is the one with the wisdom and understanding to see how things are woven together from beginning to end. We are only capable of seeing what’s right in front of us while God sees so much more. He knows the purpose for each situation…He knows what each event will prepare us for…He knows what will follow each disappointment and sadness… He knows the mighty and glorious ending to all of our stories. If we are willing to accept the “happy ending” we so desperately look for, then we need to remember that His job is to prepare us for it. Sickness, death, disappointment and afflictions aren’t meant to punish, they are meant to strengthen and renew and allow Him to show His mighty and powerful love for His children. In our weakness He shows His strength. That is the only explanation or understanding we ever need…simple as that! The glory of His works on the other side of our struggle is more amazing than we can even begin to imagine. I believe this with all my heart because that’s how much He loves us. So the next time you’re in the middle of “yuck”,remind yourself that God is the only justification, understanding and explanation you need. Remind yourself that the glory He will show through your strife will be every bit as magnificent as the way the blind man felt the moment he washed the mud from his eyes and could see for the first time. Remember that God’s ways are not our ways...His are best and they don’t require explanation or understanding, just our trust!
A Seed To Plant: Read John 9:1-41 and make a list of situations you need to stop trying to understand, justify and explain and simply ask God to make you aware of the ways He’s working in them.
Blessings on your day!
A glad heart lights up the face…Proverbs 15:13
I was reading a little piece about Saint Emily de Rodat last week and it mentioned a quote she spoke to a young postulant. I felt like the words sort of jumped off the page and landed right in my heart. She told the young nun, “Keep your enthusiasm. Be brave. Put all your trust in God. And always maintain a holy cheerfulness.” These were powerful words for someone who lives in the grayest winter state in the the entire United States. Sometimes it can be a little tough to maintain a cheerful attitude as the sun is so stingy with it’s rays so St. Emily’s words were perfect.
I often think about being cheerful but I don’t think I’d ever heard the term holy cheerfulness. When you think about it, it does make sense because holiness means growing closer to God so of course that would make you cheerful! The part I really like about the phrase is that if cheerfulness is a way to become holy, then God has a big part in it and maintaining a cheerful disposition is something he’s probably waiting to help with. If you could use a little holy cheerfulness to light up your face here are some things to try.
*Start your day with prayer…invite him to help you see the pockets of positive, cheerful, funny and joyful moments in your day.
*Step away from social media if it leads you to anxiety, jealousy or comparison. Those are the things that steal our joy and squish your cheerful light.
*Feel the feelings and find the root. Sometimes people and things make us mad or disappointed or frustrated; that’s human. It’s the reaction to those emotions we need to consider. Being cheerful and positive doesn’t mean you scold yourself for getting mad because anger is a bad thing, it means we think, pray and ponder asking God to show us the root of the emotion. After a bit of thinking, it’s a powerful thing to ask God to show you the next step. If I’m mad or frustrated I will ask God to put that person in my path if I’m supposed to chat about it. If they don’t cross my path I know I’m supposed to prayerfully hand him the situation.
*Pray for people. Judgement can cloud our cheerfulness, disappointment in other people can cloud our cheerfulness and unfulfilled expectations can cloud our cheerfulness. When any of these things happen it can be such a powerful, positive lift in attitude to stop for a second and pray for that person or situation. Don’t ask God to change them or it, ask him to change you…to bring joy to your heart. It feels so freeing and uplifting to desire another persons holiness.
*Throw your hissy fit on paper. Looking back through old prayer journals I can tell my mood without even reading the words. When I come across something I wrote in upper case letters with a dozen exclamation points I know I was emptying my heart. The end of every rant should contain a prayer of surrender, perspective and the promise to leave it there. The Father knows how you feel but spitting it out only to him can save you from making a situation worse by speaking the wrong words at the wrong time. Frustration tossed at the foot of the cross instead of on the ears of others always comes with a better ending. Spit it out and shut the book so you don’t have the burden on dragging it through your whole day.
*Give some cheer away even if you don’t feel like you have much in your heart. The act of being generous and kind can bring more cheerful grace than you can imagine. Sprinkling cheer into someone else situation will bounce back to yours. Write a little note, buy someone a coffee, or send someone a text or email about something positive you noticed about them. Lifting up another is a fabulous way to get a little lift yourself.
Let’s face it, being grumpy isn’t a magnet for anything good. I keep remembering the words of Dan Meers from a blog a couple weeks back, we can rise and shine or rise and whine. To add to that I guess if we want holy cheerfulness we need to be shiny instead of whiney.
A Seed To Plant: Pick one of the cheerful boosting suggestions and put it into practice this week.
Blessings on your day!
As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. Joshua 24:15
I’m not a saver and I’m not a collector but I still seem to have more stuff than I really need. I’ve got kids keepsake stuff, school stuff, kitchen stuff and a little bit of “just in case I need it” stuff. We will be building a house soon and as I think about packing and moving I wonder how much stuff I can do without. The thought of packing up a few decades of stuff is a little overwhelming. The thought of picking out all the stuff for the new house can be a little overwhelming too. I decided to divide the house up into small sections and go through every drawer, closet and space bit by bit. As I was mapping out my plan, I came across this little story and it really put things in perspective and made the tasks ahead seem much less overwhelming.
A tourist from America paid a visit to a renowned Polish rabbi, Hofetz Chaim. The tourist was astonished to see that the rabbi’s house was only a simple room filled with books plus a table and a bench. “Rabbi,” asked the tourist, “where is all your furniture?” “Where is yours?” replied the rabbi. “Mine?” asked the puzzled American. “But I am only a visitor here, I’m only passing through.” “So am I.” said the rabbi.
Every now and then I need a little zap in the thought process like this story to help me get things in proper perspective. I’m pretty sure I shouldn’t be sacrificing prayer time to decide if if want to go with sage or cypress green in the laundry room and I don’t suppose anyone will notice if I have new end tables and lamps or if I repurpose the same ones I’ve had for years. The big thought that just keeps running through my mind is gratitude. The past week I have prayed for balance and peace in this whole process and along came the perfect little story at the perfect time…He’s so fancy and I’m so grateful for his love and attention to my prayer.
A Seed To Plant: Read the story again and pray about the ways God might be speaking to you through this little story.
Blessings on your day!
Be still and know that I am God. Psalm 46:11
Does anybody remember the old View Master toy? It was so cool; you just slipped in a circular disc with pictures, looked through the viewing lens and pulled the handle to go from picture to picture. That was some fancy entertainment back in the day! I remember looking through them and pulling the handle as fast as I could to see the pictures go at high speed…it was kind of like watching something in fast forward mode. As I sit here typing, I feel a little like that is what my life has become…pulling the handle so fast everything looks like fast forward. It can be pretty entertaining but I can’t say I always enjoy it.
I don’t think God intended life to be that way however. He has been sending me that message loud and clear the past few days and it hits me right in morning prayer. The harder it is to settle myself in prayer, the more I know I need to slow down and evaluate my “stuff”. I took a few minutes today to do just that and I came across this meditation. It was left by a lovely reader as a comment to one of the posts here at joyful words. I think I’ll share it, because it just seems to fit.
Be still and know that I am God.
Be still and know that I am.
Be still and know.
This week in my prayer chair I will take it line by line and ask God to help me soak it all in and feel Him slow down the speed of the handle on my life’s View Master. In fact, I’ll try to see my life through His lens. I’m betting it will be in slower motion!
A Seed To Plant: Take a week and pray this meditation on Psalm 46:11 with me…let’s see what He shows us about the speed of life.
Blessings on your day!
The One who rules over men in justice is like the morning light at sunrise on a cloudless morning…2 Samuel 23:3-4
The famous line from last Thursday’s blog was you can choose to rise and SHINE or rise and WHINE. I’ve been repeating that in my head for several days and I have a question that I’m wondering if others have too. What if life is particularly tricky and staying in bed on a cold gray morning makes it extra hard to rise and SHINE? In case you might have that same question, here are a few things that might help.
*Rise and SHINE starts before you fall asleep. End your day by jotting down (or at least saying out loud) three things that happened during the day that were good, happy or you are thankful for. If you fall asleep with positive things on your mind, you sleep better and wake up better.
*Before the RISE part, make sure you invite God into the day you are about to rise and greet. Give him permission to be in charge and promise to take the back seat and let him drive.
*Sleep! Getting up when you’re exhausted is tough let alone trying to get up when you haven’t been under the covers long enough makes it extra tough. When we get busy or life gets crazy the first thing to go is sleep and that is a terrible plan. 30 minutes of screen time traded for 30 minutes of sleep makes a giant difference.
*If you want to feel good about doing a great act of service, offer to let a sleep deprived mom of littles take a nap while you watch after her kids.
*End the day with a chat with the Father thanking him for all the grace, mercy and blessings he showered you with throughout the day and then call to mind all the places you fell a little short, asking for his forgiveness. Those simple steps will lead you to so much good.
I read this passage not long ago and it seems the perfect way to end this post. It seems to offer some wisdom that we might need to assist in or RISING and SHINING.
Every morning we arise afresh in Christ our light. Ancient Christian writers warn against “morning demons”: yesterday’s worries and grievances returning to poison the new day.
I suppose recognizing and naming those morning demons is important but the more important thing to do is ask Christ our light to overpower them so we can shine HIS light through our words, attitude and actions.
A Seed To Plant: Choose one or two to these ideas to put in place this week.
Blessings on your day!
Give thanks to the Lord, because he is good; his love is eternal. 1 Chronicles 16:34
Every now and again I run across a thought or a quote that just seems to stop me in my tracks. That happened this week when I was came across a video clip about Dan Meers the man who wears the KC Wolf mascot costume for the Kansas City Chiefs. He is a man of great humor, great faith and great mission.
Dan suffered some terrible injuries while practicing a stunt to entertain the fans at Arrowhead Stadium. As he suffered through months of recovery and rehabilitation he questioned God’s plan but was inspired to trust his faithfulness when someone helped him realize that every morning we wake up, we have something to complain about and something to be grateful for. Whichever one we choose to focus on will shape our attitude for the day. His physical pain was enormous but he realized that the pain meant he was’t paralyzed and he wasn’t dead so the pain was something he should be thankful for because it was the best choice of the three.
His story is powerful and inspiring but the line that really hit my heart was this, “Every morning you wake up, you have the choice to rise and shine or rise and whine.” If we choose to whine, we have no ability to have a positive impact for Jesus. How about that for a line to think about. Dan pointed out that it’s easy to be grateful when we are being blessed but thanking him during the trials builds surrender, trust and helps us see God’s faithfulness. As I watch my beloved Chiefs play in the Super Bowl next weekend, I’ll be watching for the mascot and I’ll be seeing him through different eyes. I’ve included the link to his story in case you have 6 minutes to be inspired and grateful.
A Seed To Plant: Find some time to watch Dan’s story and then make a list of the things your grateful for…not just the blessings but the trials too.
Blessings on your day! (And go Chiefs!)
Pray without ceasing. 1 Thessalonians 5:17
The single most powerful thing we can do is pray. Prayer is our hope, it’s our peace, it’s our inroad to God’s grace and comfort. We are called as christians to offer prayers of thanksgiving, prayers of surrender, prayers of forgiveness and prayers of petition. Prayer is our communication with the God who created us, loves us and is waiting to flood our minds, hearts and lives with his presence if we just call on his name. There are dozens and dozens of books on how to pray and why to pray and when to pray. There are dozens of videos on prayer not to mention journals and tools to help us pray better. All of these marvelous resources don’t do us any good if we don’t carve out the time to practice what they teach.
Every now and again I just have to STOP and back up the truck. Things can get busy and complicated and we can get in a prayer rut or forget to pray at all. When I enter one of these seasons I know I need to take a step back and simplify things. These are also the times I usually need a reminder that praying can happen anywhere, anytime and doesn’t require books or journals or routine. Simple, heartfelt spontaneous prayer is such a source of comfort, balance and joy. I find that if I connect prayer to a frequently seen object it helps me remember to pause and pray. In case you could use a simple way to slow down and pray, here is a quick way to pray every time you look at your hand. I didn’t make this up but it sure gets my attention and serves as a gentle reminder that I need to talk often with the one who loves me most.
As you relax you hands to your side, the thumb is closest to your leg so we start there and move toward the pinky. Here’s what you do…
Thumb: since it’s closest to you, you use your thumb to pray for those who are closest to you. Mention them by name and offer God whatever worry or wish you have for them.
Pointer: Say a prayer for all those in your life who point you to Jesus.
Tall Finger: Since this is the tallest finger and “towers” over the others, we use this finger to pray for those above us in authority and power. We pray for leaders of our town, church, state, nation and world. (Praying here a little extra instead of complaining about these leaders is so much more productive)
Ring Finger: Since it is the weakest of all the fingers, this is where we pause to pray for all those who are weak and powerless. The unborn, the homeless, the hungry, the refugees all those who have no strength or voice.
Pinky Finger: The little one we save for last is us. Here we offer our own personal prayers and needs to the Lord.
Each time you gaze at your hand, pause and offer these five prayers. It’s easy to do as you see your hands washing dishes or sorting laundry or resting on the steering wheel at a stop light. I hope we never look at our hands the same way again!
A Seed To Plant: Make a note somewhere about the prayers for each finger and find at least five opportunities this week to pray this way.
Blessings on your day!
Your light must shine before others that they may see the good that you do and give glory to God. Matthew 5:16
Have you ever been in the dark…I mean REALLY dark…the kind of dark where you can’t even see the hand in front of your face? That’s certainly not a place I like to be! My older brother used to think it was hilarious to walk by my room and flip off the lights leaving me in the dark. I always hated that, which is probably why he did it so often! That darkness always caught me by surprise and the instant absence of light made me feel a second of panic.
We were all created in the Image and Likeness of God, which means His light, is a part of each of us. It was a gift given free of charge just for being created by a loving Father. Our end of the deal is to share that light with others. This crazy world we live in has no shortage of dark places, people and situations. I don’t’ think we can wish them or even pray them all away but we sure can let our light shine on them.
What does your light look like? Maybe you’ve never really even given it much thought. Well, there’s no time like the present to tumble that thought around in your head for a while. Maybe your light is the gift of patience, understanding or compassion. Maybe you’re that person who can offer wise counsel, prayer or laughter. You might even be that person who can fix something, cook something or help arrange and organize something. Sometimes our light dispels someone else’s darkness and we don’t even realize it. If you aren’t sure what your gifts are, ask those close to you. God makes no mistakes when He arranges our days and the people that cross our path. We have dozens of chances to share our light every day. It could be through a polite gesture like holding open a door or by listening intently as people speak to us. Even something as simple as a warm smile can shine light into someone’s dark day.
God made each of us to be something wonderful. We are the ones who settle for mediocrity and keep our light hidden from those who might need it. We get one pass through this earthly life and it should be our mission to leave a bright mark! The world needs people who really live this verse from St. Matthew. Everyone reading this blog today can probably think of a few people they know who live or lived their life in a shining, beautiful, inspiring way. Let’s see if we can follow their lead and bring a little more light to our days!
A seed to plant: Make a list of your gifts…ask for help if you need to. Pick one or two things from your list and decide to use that gift to shine your light into someone else’s darkness
Blessings on your day!
…wash me and make me whiter than snow. Psalm 51:9
We know God will always give us exactly what we need, at precisely the time we need it but there still may be times when we feel like he’s not hearing. In times of trial and suffering we can feel like faith, religion and prayer are not helping. If you are struggling with something and doubt and fear might be creeping into your thoughts consider this little story.
A soap maker and pastor were chatting and walking one day and the soap maker pointed out all the pain, suffering, corruption and dishonesty in the world. He asked the pastor how, after years of teaching about the Father’s goodness and kindness and after all his sermons on God’s love, mercy and forgiveness could he still believe that faith, religion and prayer are relevant. The soap maker pointed out that it clearly seemed like nonsense because in the couple thousand years since Jesus died, the world didn’t really get better. Given all the chaos in the world the soap maker figured prayer and faith just didn’t work. The pastor listened and then stopped to point out a group of little boys playing and they were covered in dirt from head to toe. The pastor told the soap maker that clearly soap didn’t work because if it did, those little boys wouldn’t be so dirty. The soap maker of course protested and pointed out that all the soap in the world wouldn’t do any good unless you invested in it and used it regularly. The pastor winked and told him that the same was true of prayer and faith.
I have lots of prayer books, my shelves are stuffed with spiritual reading, I go to mass a couple times a week and I even teach in a Catholic School but do I always apply and appreciate my faith properly? Like the soap maker I wonder if it’s all really working, but then I realize I need to come to the good sense of the pastor and stop and ask if I’M really working. I suppose I think faith and prayer are working when I’m getting what I want. After hearing this little story I pondered how quickly I cry despair when stuff gets messy. I pondered how quickly I think God isn’t listening when I’m stuck in something hard and disappointing. I’m quick to think I’m getting a raw deal and I’m taking more of a hit than anyone around me and think, hmm, is this how much God loves me? After thinking about all this and trying to decide if the soap maker or the pastor had the stronger case, I remembered the directions on the soap: lather, rinse and repeat. All three steps are necessary to clean up those dirty little boys the men saw along their walk and the same is true for our faith and our prayer. The more intensely we scrub with the soap the spiffier the outcome will be. The same is true with faith and prayer; the more intensely and frequently we trust, believe and cry out in supplication and thanksgiving the more we begin to see the results of his work. I think I’m going to put a bar of soap on my prayer table for awhile!
A Seed To Plant: Ponder this story in prayer a few times this week and ask God where you might need a little soap.
Blessings on your day!
…“A man is coming after me who ranks ahead of me.” John 1:30
Selfies make up a pretty large and humorous number of posts on my Facebook newsfeed. These quickly snapped images capture important moments, achievements or places and they give the viewer a tiny little snapshot of someone else's life. I’ll make a confession; I rarely post a selfie because I need more time to pose and make sure I don’t look like I have three chins or a neck the size of a tree trunk. Photo angles matter and by the time I get it all lined up, the moment’s long over! Selfie overload can cause us to think our life isn’t quite as exciting as the folks posting dozens of selfies in fancy, fun places and if we get too tangled up in the likes and shares and comments from our selfie posts it could make keeping our humility in check a little tough.
Humility can be a tricky think to master. Our culture screams “be the best” and we seem to focus constantly on who’s in first place, but in the first chapter of John's Gospel, he teaches a beautiful lesson about the exact opposite. In this competitive world it’s a bit shocking to read the words, “A man is coming after me who ranks ahead of me.” It’s one thing to think someone is more important than you but to announce it loud and proud to all who will hear; that just seems crazy by todays standards! The funny thing is, John was completely comfortable with the way the events unfolded. A supporting role was perfect for him. He recognized that he had a completely different purpose than Jesus did fulfilling God’s plan. He didn’t get caught up in the fact that he would be doing the baptizing and he had been chosen to bring God’s grace to the crowds. He simply saw himself as a part of something amazing. He didn’t feel the need to be the star or have folks notice his good works.
John wasn’t the main attraction, he was to prepare the way and take part in the mighty work of the Father and his Son. I’m sure if selfies would have been taken that day, John would have been nowhere to be found. He wanted no notice, no thanks, no acknowledgement. John opened the door, so to speak, so the Father, Son and Holy Spirit could enter and add an amazing chapter to the love story God shares with us. Today is a great day to ask yourself, what are my motives for serving the Lord? Do I do it for him or do I do it so others might notice I’m a part of things?
A Seed To Plant: Take this little prayer with you into your quiet moments with the Lord this week. Loving Father, please help me push past my pride. Give me the grace to love and serve you with a humble heart. Please allow me to see those who need your mercy and your love and show me how to help them make room you so you can be the star in their life. Amen
Blessings on your day!
The Word became flesh and dwelt among us…John 1:14
Happy New Year! It’s a new year, a new decade and time for the new word for the year. I remember reading about a word for the year nearly a decade ago and I’ve been giving it a whirl ever since. Some years the word has been an encouragement, some years an inspiration and some years quite honestly, an annoyance. God has used these “words” in some powerful ways over the years because each one is the result of about a month of prayerful consideration. This year I was afraid this post wasn’t going to happen because for weeks I haven’t been able to figure out what my word was supposed to be.
Like every other year, I’ve started out thinking sweet, easy words like peace, joy or laughter but per our agreement, when a word pops in my head, I pray on it and if it sticks it’s mine, if I forget it in a day or two, it wasn’t the word for me. I feel the need to insert a scoop of honesty here, I’m at that stage in life where forgetting is something that I get better at each year! I wasn’t sure if I was going to skip the word of the year because God wasn’t giving me the word or because I just couldn't remember it! The word didn't actually come until my birthday so I think he wanted me to trust his timing…or it was just him being fancy. The word came at the beginning of a Holy Hour and it popped up more than a dozen times during that hour so, being faithful to our deal…I didn’t forget it!
The word for 2020 is COME. Over the past few days pondering this word I’ve been overwhelmed with places I need this word in the upcoming year. My first thoughts were all about invitations. I began thinking about how much I need him to come into my teaching, my marriage, my work and my…well…my everything. I thought about how he must be waiting for me to invite him to come on in a take over. At first I thought this meant I’d be giving up a lot but then I realized it’s actually the opposite. If I ask him to COME into my thoughts, my words, my writing and my…well…my everything, it actually takes the pressure off of me because it allows me to let him take the lead.
I’ve discovered this new word is about action and attitude and it’s bringing me peace. I want him to come into my heart and my reactions so I can act with mercy instead of judgement. I want him to come into my words so I can bring his compassion and peace. I want him to come into my decisions so my life more closely follows his will for me instead of a runaway train jumping the tracks! I want him to come into my prayer so that time becomes more of a relationship than an obligation. I want him to come into my driving, my waiting, my giving, my service and my frustrations so I can mirror him instead of a cranky grump, a pouting toddler or a sharp tongued sassy mouth. I want him to come so I can be as understanding and forgiving with the people who annoy me as I am of a stranger in need or someone I want to impress. I want him to come so I can be who he made me to be, serving right where he put me instead of trying to be fancy or important or impressive. I want him to come so big I become teeny and fade in his shadow so all others see is HIM and not me. (Boy…that’s gonna take a LOT of work!!)
Mostly I want him to COME to me so I can COME to him and be better…holier…kinder…more honest…more compassionate and more…well; more Christ-like. Whew…when he put these four letters together and gave me this word, I think he had a big year in mind. I can just imagine him standing there with his hand out saying, COME on…let’s get to work!
A Seed To Plant: Do you have a word? Share it with us if you do so we can all pray that God uses these words powerfully in our life.
Blessings on your day!
Ask for a sign from the Lord, your God…Isaiah 7:11
The wait is almost over, I hope it’s been a prayerful and peaceful Advent! Twice in the last few days these words from the Prophet Isaiah have hit my heart. It makes me wonder how often we ask and look for signs. For the most part I think we ask out of faith. Many of us look for or pray for signs so we can feel guided or assured but I suppose sometimes in our frustration and disappointment we can get a little crazy with our demand for a sign. I’ve never asked him for something outrageous like a banner flying behind an airplane with the answer to my question, but I am guilty of asking for signs because I’m low on trust.
I think the problem with asking for signs is that we’ve already been given so many. I have to imagine God in heaven doing a face palm when we ask for a sign and wondering how many more times he has to dazzle us before we just shut up and trust. When you read this entire passage, Isaiah predicted the sign with remarkable, dramatic detail; Virgin birth and a baby name decades and decades in advance…now that’s a sign! When we trace back the story of Gods love, it’s easy to see time and time again he’s been showing us some pretty spectacular signs of his endless love for his people.
Todays post includes a Christmas present. The link below will take you to a video by the Skit Guys that is a 3 minute wonder to behold. Every time I play it for the Middle Lovelies they ask to watch it again and again to see all the signs and stories unfold. Each of the events are a sign of His wonder and love. When I really think about it, he’s already given me far more signs than I’ll ever need. I guess I just need a reminder from time to time. Perhaps I’ll work on asking for fewer signs and aim for greater appreciation of the ones that he’s already shown.
I’d like to wish all of you a beautiful and blessed Christmas! Please know of my Christmas prayers for all of you.
A Seed To Plant: Take three minutes and watch this beautiful video.
Blessings on your day!
He must increase, I must decrease. John 3:30
I love to cook and my kitchen is my happy place. I’m not much of a recipe follower, I tend to use them as suggestions instead of instructions so I can get pretty creative with substitutions. Occasionally, the result of my creative swap teeters on the edge of disaster! A recent such disaster got me to thinking about the swaps that I should consider in my discipleship. Since Christmas is near and I want to give the Baby King the gift of a better me, I decidedI should make a few substitutions in my daily faith life.
*I need to swap the word BUT for the word BECAUSE. All too often I find myself saying things like “It’s ok BUT…” or “I’d like that BUT…” The BUT automatically shifts my focus to what’s wrong or negative. BECAUSE would help me find the positive. “I enjoyed that BECAUSE…” or ‘I’d be happy to do that BECAUSE…”
*I need to swap my words for HIS Word. If I spent more time quietly soaking up His Word instead of flapping my lips or chatting it up on social media, that would be a super power swap for my soul! My words sure aren’t going to make the world better but HIS will!
*I need to swap thinking about doing things with actually doing them! Procrastination can often be disguised as “planning” or “organizing” when in my case, it’s actually just plain ole puttering around and dragging my feet instead of just gettin to the task! I can’t even imagine how many more good discipley things I could do with all those minutes I waste.
*I need to swap reacting for pondering. I can be way too snappy with my actions and reactions. I’m a problem solver and sometimes I just spring into action and try to get all the wrinkles smoothed out whether I’m the best person for the job or not. I need to spend some time prayerfully pondering and giving God a chance to do things his way.
*I need to swap why me for why not me! It’s ok if I work extra sometimes. It’s ok if someone makes more money than me. It’s ok if folks don’t notice all the things I do. It’s ok if someone else gets the attention, reward or surprise. I need to stop thinking about what I think I deserve or have earned and learn to celebrate the joys, successes and good fortune of others. I need to remind myself that all the things I do are for his glory and not mine!
It’s just five little swaps but I have a feeling the final product will be a great improvement! As we wrap up the last few days of Advent and finish getting our hearts ready, I think I’ll focus on swapping out some junk and make some room for him.
A Seed To Plant: Pick one of these swaps or think up some of your own and put them in action these last few days of Advent.
Blessings on your day!
Be patient, brothers and sisters, until the coming of the Lord. James 5:7
Happy Third week of Advent. It’s the Joyful week but how many of us are thinking; ok, enough with the patient waiting already! If we’re used to running like our hair is on fire, this whole season can be a test for us. Any time we enter a new Church Season, it’s an invitation to deeper prayer; but what if we’re not “getting” what we’re praying for? We might be tempted to think God has forgotten us or not heard our pleas but rest assured, he’s absolutely aware and waiting on his perfect timing. As I wait for Christmas and use the waiting to pray, read and prepare, the words above from St. James and a quote from Henri Nouwen hit my heart. “Waiting is never a movement from nothing to something. It is always a movement from something to something more.” Henri Nouwen
I guess I thought of waiting as empty time and I began to wonder how often I’m guilty of thinking it’s either something or nothing. Something is MY way and if it’s not going MY way then I have nothing. Boy did these words make me realize I had it wrong. I suppose I need to look at things with gratitude so I can see the somethings in my life while I’m waiting for the something mores! After I read this quote the first week of Advent I started thinking about all the times it seemed like I was waiting and God was doing nothing. I was humbled to realize he’s always in the process of giving me something more. I’ve realized that more isn’t necessarily bigger, or sparklier, or exciting but something more is always perfect for me.
The example that became the most vivid was so far back I didn’t realize he was still working on it. Years ago I prayed for him to take the pain and help me understand the reason for the death of my brother and my mom. I began praying and waiting for something that didn’t hurt so much. It dawned on me last Friday that the something I prayed for was phenomenally more than I could have imagined and it came so gradually and gently I took it for granted. Friday was a great day! It started with staff Advent prayer, next came a morning of laughter with 22 female middle lovelies who bring me so much joy and the beginning of preparation for 3 Christmas celebrations with my husband and kids and thats when it hit me! All the years I’ve been waiting, he’s been giving me something more and more and more. I think back to the loss and the waiting has delivered a might something more…a job I love more and more each year, a work family that’s amazing and a family I could have only imagined. While I was waiting for him to make me a famous speaker and author he made me something so much more…he made me more faithful, more humble and more available. While I was waiting to make more money, he made me rich in family, friendships grace and contentment. While I was waiting to get over the pain of loss, he's allowed me to walk with those who are hurting and share their pain with an understanding and compassionate heart. While I was waiting for him to give me everything I wanted he’s given me more than I could have ever imagined.
As we head into these last several days of Advent, it’s the perfect time to ponder with grateful hearts all the something mores that slipped by unnoticed and prepare to take those things with us as we gaze at the Baby in the Manger on Christmas.
A Seed To Plant: Spend some time in prayer recalling all the something mores you might have missed.
Blessings on your day!
A voice cries out: in the desert prepare the way of the Lord! Isaiah 40:3
There are a lot of words I like to hear. There are words that can turn a bad day into a great day in a flash and words that can bring comfort or hope to a hurting, sad soul. There are words that just make you feel happy, loved and safe. Then there are the words we don’t like so much. You know those pesky little words that mean we have changes to make, work to do or truth to face. The readings during the season of Advent are full of those words. Words like; prepare, wait, repent and forgive are so deeply connected with the meaning and purpose of Advent but if you’re anything like me, you read past them and get on with the shopping, baking and holiday fun.
In this zillion miles an hour world we live in, waiting isn’t something we do well because we can get just about everything on demand and express delivered to our hot little hands. Instant is better isn’t it? When I think about instant my mind floods with thoughts of projects I’ve tried to complete as quickly as possible; cakes I’ve tried to cool instantly so I could get them frosted only to have the frosting melt and slide off into a sugary mess or graduation party decorations and pictures I tried to put up in a quick rush that all fell down over night because I didn’t take the time to do the job well. I can think of situations and mistakes I’ve tried to forget rather than process properly and prayerfully while considering the truth of my actions and repent. I think of forgiveness issued by my words but not really felt in my heart. All of those things leave me feeling empty inside because they weren’t really done the right way...the Advent way…the Lord’s way.
As we journey through Advent it would be a great idea to pause and take stock of the words offered by the likes of Isaiah the Prophet and John the Baptist. They were pretty smart guys who were intensely in love with the God we claim to love and serve. They didn’t run around spitting out these words we aren’t too fond of to make themselves popular. They shared these words because they are precisely the things we need to do in order to draw closer to the Father who loves us. They are the words that allow us to truly ready ourselves for the coming of something completely amazing that often gets taken for granted or lost in the wrapping paper and tinsel. Imagine the preparation that would take place if Pope Francis or our favorite sports, music or movie star were coming to our home for a visit. It would be a frenzy of activity and preparation. Stop for a second and imagine what your to-do list would include as you got ready for that event and consider the amount of focus you world devote to your special guest.
Each Advent we begin a New Liturgical year with a time of preparation for the most amazing guest imaginable. He’s not a guest that will come into our home for an hour, a day or a meal; he wants to come into our heart and dwell there for all eternity. Are we ready for that? If the answer is “no” or “not quite” then the good news is, we have some time to get ready. Take a long prayerful look at the words prepare, wait, repent and forgive and ask the Lord to show you how to turn the words into actions that will truly prepare us for the birth of Jesus.
A Seed To Plant: Pick one of those Advent words and pray with it this week slowly and carefully this week to see where He leads you on the journey to His Son.
Blessings on your day!
Click on the items below to expand the options available to you to explore the Joyful Words blog.