The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him. Habakkuk 3:19
I absolutely love sports movies! It’s kinda funny that a sports movie will always be my first pick because I have not one athletic bone in my body. I love it when the underdog wins, the hopeless find hope and the least expected turns out to be the most amazing. I have pulled four of my favorite quotes from 3 great movies for today’s post and added a twist as if they were each spoken to us by Jesus Himself.
It’s ok to think about what you want to do until it’s time to do what you’re meant to do. (The Rookie) If Jesus said that to us, I think He’d follow it up with “so put your plans and your dreams at the foot of my cross and I’ll take it from there. Oh, and by the way, I’ll come up with something WAYYYY better for you than you’d ever dream up yourself. Wait for it….Wait for it!”
You’ve taught me to judge a man by the soul of him, rather than the look of him. (Remember the Titans) That’s Jesus talking… but all too often way too many of us still haven’t learned that lesson. It’s easy to see this quote in terms of race but I think it’s much bigger than that. What about seeing the soul of a homeless person or a person lost in alcoholism or someone struggling with anger or mental illness? It’s not always easy to see beyond the first look sometimes but we’re supposed to.
When I told you not to get your hopes up, that didn’t mean I wasn’t going to. (Invincible) One of the things that really hurts my heart is when I visit with someone who has no hope. It hurts my heart even more when I see a person smash someone else’s hope. Hope is a very powerful thing and it can make amazing things happen. Hope is a grace and it’s freely given to each of us but we have to make sure we know that putting our hope in Christ is what we need to do. When we tell someone not to get their hopes up, we seem to be trying to protect them but I suppose Jesus would remind us to say instead, put your hope in Me because I have only the best for you….I will give you far more than you could hope for.
Sometimes bad things happen for no particular reason at all. (Remember the Titans) I see two big lessons of faith in this line. Lesson one, don't try to blame everything on something or someone and don’t try to explain, justify or second guess God’s motives because He sees our whole life, not just one event. Lesson two, no particular reason you can see or understand at this moment, but give Him time, He will reveal the reason and He will bring blessing and goodness because of it. I suppose it’s also helpful to remember that sometimes the lesson and the blessing are meant for someone else and it just comes through us and our circumstance.
I sort of figure watching sports movies is a faith experience when you realize that one of the ways God reveals himself to us is through others. Sometimes those others are actors and script writers that unknowingly put a powerful message about discipleship into the movie. Whatever your favorite movies are…listen again and see if there just might be a message to help you follow Jesus a little closer.
A Seed To Plant: Think of a line from one of your favorite movies that has meaning and enforces a Gospel teaching in your life. If you have time, share it with us in the comment section so we can be inspired as well.
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!
Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever. 1 Chronicles 16:34
Did you ever trade something from your lunch box when you were a kid? I remember trying to trade tuna salad on Friday’s but it never worked. Apples and oranges never seemed to give me much negotiation power either. I do remember the day I made the trade of the decade. On that memorable day mom put 2 fresh Chocolate Chip cookies in my lunch and I was able to trade them for a Twinkie! I was so thrilled and I couldn’t believe the kid fell for those homemade cookies while I walked away with that little package of golden deliciousness. I’d never had a Twinkie but they were store made; something we didn’t have at our house so I was sure they must be amazing! I took a bite and I was instantly disappointed but I didn’t let on! As the afternoon wore on I learned a valuable lesson about assuming things were better just because they looked fancy, expensive and well presented. That was the last time I ever made a lunch trade and I never told my mom what I’d done because I thought it would hurt her feelings. I also learned that day that homemade by hands that love you trumps everything so be very careful about the value of what you’re trading!
Since the disappointing Twinkie trade of the 70’s, I’ve become a much more skilled trader; I’m pretty good at not winding up with unwanted stuff. Recently I learned from a good friend that sometimes you actually can trade away negative things. I have some jealousy I’d like to get rid of but it isn’t one of those things somebody else wants so it often just sits around my heart and stinks things up. It causes me to judge and envy and resent sometimes. None of those things are attractive, productive or “disciple-ish” but I didn’t know what to do with it. That’s where my friend came to the rescue. She had one simple idea from a favorite Pastor and she gladly shared (not traded) the advice with me. She said that jealousy could be traded away to the Father who loved me with all His heart. The trade was simple; give him all my jealousy…in exchange for gratefulness.
It was that simple! The pastor told her that the bigger jealousy is the smaller our gratefulness is so you trade one for the other. I’ve been working with my new trade and it’s true. If I’m jealous about someone else’s stuff or opportunities then I’m not being grateful for my own. If I’m busy comparing my situation, bank balance or work load with the next person’s I’m not being grateful for all the blessings God has given me. When you look at it that way I realize how absolutely and completely LUCKY I am and that there isn’t one single thing in my life I’d trade for a fancier, more expensive, newer, and flashier ANYTHING! Grateful is way better than jealous. Reminds me of how much better mom’s cookies were than that stupid Twinkie. I may not have marble countertops but I have an awesome husband who is my rock. I may not have a dream vacation to take but I have three kids and a room full of middle lovelies that are greater than I ever dreamed. I may not have a closet filled with fancy clothes but my body is wrapped with little people hugs and the joy and love of a building full of kids each and every day. I may not have treasures to be sold but I have freedom, love, faith and a life I get to share with friends, family and a community I love. Jealous…that’s as crazy as a Twinkie snagged in a bad trade!
A Seed To Plant: Start a list of things you are grateful for! Include it all, big stuff, small stuff and everything in between. Keep the list handy and add to it every time you think of something and use it to help you trade the negative things; the things that pull us away from the love of the Father.
Blessings on your day!
Speak Lord, your servant is listening. Samuel 3:9
I am 20 days into my 30 minutes for 30 days challenge and every day there is a little something that settles into my mind or heart. Along with those four lines; wreck me, break me, change me, draw me tight I often find myself asking, “Lord, what was I born to do?” That seems like a strange question for someone my age but it’s been a good one to ponder. I haven’t had that experience of hearing the voice of God speak like James Earl Jones or Morgan Freeman but he’s sent me some thoughts through the most random places. I thought I’d share three of my favorites.
One day I was thinking about heaven and what was truly required to get there. I realized that sometimes I have a “minimum requirement” way of thinking. I know we’re all busy and we’re encouraged to live our best life but I spent some time asking the questions in my mind and heart. Less than an hour after leaving church I came across this quote that seemed pretty direct. “ We often hear life is short better enjoy it. But how about eternity is long better prepare for it.” That advanced my thoughts beyond minimum requirements.
A couple of days later I was feeling like I should be “doing” something during these 30 minutes. I should be reading Scripture or praying or studying or pouring out my heart to the Lord. I was having a hard time just being still and listening. I actually left the church that day saying, “Lord if this is really what I’m supposed to be doing I need you to let me know that you want me to keep it up.” I came home, opened up my computer and came across this quote from Fulton Sheen. “Most commit the same mistake with God they commit with their friends; they do all the talking.” That was pretty clear so I absolutely went back the next day!
The third very vivid way He made his point came after three days of wrestling with the “break me” part of my prayer. I asked Him to show me all the things that I needed Him to break away from my heart and my habits. He showed me a whole list of things and I began to justify and realized this was going to take a lot of work, prayer and discipline on my part. I thought about changes but they were small because I didn’t want to get too uncomfortable. I didn’t want to make things too hard and I was all about the small steps approach. I knew this part of the prayer would take a whole lot of work and again I began to justify and ask the question, “Ok God, seriously, that isn’t that bad right?” The very next day this is what I came across while working on a retreat I will be giving in a couple of weeks. “Lukewarm people don’t really want to be saved from their sins, they just want to be saved from the penalty of their sins.” I think I’m going to have to turn up the heat!
He's making it pretty clear that He’s listening…now to get down to the business of putting his direction into action.
A Seed To Plant: Be intentional in your prayer this week and spend more time asking God a question and then really being quiet to hear the answer.
Blessings on your day!
Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect. Romans 12:2
It started with a story that just took root in my heart. It was a story about a criminal who admittedly deserved his life sentence. His heart was hard but after decades in prison and the unrivaled power and mercy of Jesus, he changed. In his 70’s after over fifty years behind bars, he met a man who had something he had never seen and desperately wanted for himself. The younger man was unjustly sent to prison for financial crimes. He was a fall guy and certainly no danger to society but he chose to embrace the sentence as an opportunity to examine his life, his gifts and his service to the Lord. He spent hundreds and hundreds of hours in the prison chapel adoring Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament and it transformed him to a man of joy, gratitude, contentment and humility. The older prisoner recognized the young man was different and he wanted what he had. The younger man told him he needed to spend 1 hour a day in Adoration for 30 straight days. He was to take no bible, rosary, prayer book or music. It was to simply be a time of emptying and listening. On the 30th day he experienced a transformation that was dramatic and complete. The priest who shared the story then challenged everyone listening to commit to 30 minutes a day for 30 days.
The whole story just sat there for nearly six weeks before I finally decided to accept the challenge. I decided to wait for the New Year but then I got busy and by the time I finally got myself to the church to do the first day it was already January the 6th. I started my time feeling bad about taking so long to get started but then I realized that it was the feast of the Epiphany which means “a sudden striking revelation.” Knowing God’s timing is always perfect I began to realize the next 30 days were going to be anything but ordinary. The act of walking into church for 30 minutes without anything to pray with or guide my thoughts was pretty strange at first but has become a source of peace and freedom. I love that there is nothing expected or required or prescribed. I just show up to listen and be His.
There is a prayer I began to pray in October and to be honest it was just 4 thoughts that came from different places that landed in one prayer. It actually took weeks to say those four lines and really mean them. They were a little terrifying at first but now they are as automatic as drawing breath and they are the lines I repeat several times as I quiet myself each time I sit before Jesus. The lines are “Wreck me. Break me. Change me. Draw me tight.” I don’t know where the Lord will lead me as I finish out my 30 days but he is moving and working in my heart in powerful ways. Next week I’ll share a little more about those 4 lines but this week I just wanted to encourage all of you to consider this challenge too.
We spend so much time planning what we will do, how we’ll act, what we’ll change and add but the power of the transformation of the two prisoners in the story was not “doing” but rather “letting” Jesus do the work. I heard Catholic speaker Mark Hart once say that prayer doesn’t change our relationship with Jesus, prayer IS our relationship with Jesus. I’m finding that listening, emptying and offering for 30 minutes is very powerful prayer. Maybe you’ll be like me and take a while to think it over and let it sit on your heart but if you really want to be His, this seems like a pretty great place to start.
A Seed To Plant: Prayerfully ponder this challenge. Do you want to be transformed?
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! Some days I feel like my older brother turned off the lights and I’d like to scream, “Hey, we need a little more light please!” Perhaps, if enough of us woke up every day with a desire to live these words from St. Matthew, it might get so bright everyone could see their way to Christ.
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!
So whoever is in Christ is a new creation: the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come. 2 Corinthians 5:17
Happy New Year! For the past several years I have written my first post of the year about my “word for the year” but the Holy Spirit has led me in a different direction this year. The past couple months have been weeks of quiet thinking and pondering. Instead of a word, I was led to some questions. The questions many days have left me silent and I think that’s exactly what the purpose was. A new year is usually filled with lists and plans and desires and I usually used my “word” to craft the me I was hoping to become. The questions are inviting me deeper, they are inviting me to lighten the grip I have on things that make me comfortable and they are inviting me to trust and love in bigger ways than I know how. Maybe some of the questions will help you see where God is calling you to walk a little closer with Him this year too.
*Who is Jesus? It’s two very different things to know about Jesus and to truly KNOW Jesus. To truly know Jesus we have to change our lives. What is he asking me to change? I can’t claim to know and love and follow him and be stuck in habits, attitudes and thoughts that are not His.
*Do I love Him enough to invite Him to change everything in my life if it’s keeping me at a distance from Him? Do I have the courage to say “Wreck me Lord?” Do I really trust Him enough to go all in, hands up surrendered and willing to let Him break away all of the parts of me that keep me from Him?
*Do I give Him the “first fruits” of my day without exception? Is His opinion of me the one that matters most?
*Do I realize He’s asking me to be completely dependent? He’s asking me to give him my will, my way and my time. In our dependence we rest in Him, find peace and learn to trust.
*Do I realize that trust is the antidote to fear and worry…courage is not. How quickly do I turn to Jesus with a heart full of trust?
*Do I try to fix things or trust in God’s response to the things I offer Him in prayer?
Those are some of the questions that have come to my heart the last several weeks. There aren’t quick fixes or easy solutions to any of them but they all require a prayerful, quiet pondering and they will all lead to change…which I suppose is the whole point. As we begin this new year, what is the Father asking you?
A Seed To Plant: Spend some quiet time with these questions and see if the Lord might be inviting you to sit and pray with one or two.
Blessings on your day!
On this mountain the Lord of hosts will provide for all peoples…Isaiah 25:6
It seems like several of the daily Scripture readings so far this Advent have made mention of mountains. I’ve been tumbling that in my head and when I walked through the living room and heard a commercial with Julie Andrew’s voice singing Climb Every Mountain I knew I’d better sit down and give all this mountain stuff some prayerful thought.
I grabbed a cup of coffee and asked God to make sense of the whole mountain thing for me and to be honest I just couldn’t get settled in. I was restless and had too much on my mind to really focus on prayer so I asked God to show me what it was all about. Still, I couldn’t settle myself for productive prayer because there were just too many tasks on my mind. I asked him to show me and invite me back to stillness when he thought I was ready. I did a few things from my to-do list. No, wait… I have to be honest; I picked the three or four quickest and easiest things on my list so I could feel superficially successful and productive. I even did something that wasn’t on my list then quickly wrote it down just so I could cross it off. Then I decided to get to the task I LEAST wanted to do. I grabbed my book bag and set out to grade papers and update the grading website. As I reached into my bag to pull out the papers that needed attention I laughed out loud again because what I slammed down on the counter was a MOUNTAIN of papers. Now, please don’t call my principal and have me fired for delinquent grading! Feeling completely overwhelmed, I decided maybe I should do the second least favorite job on my list; sort my “speaker shelf” (let’s be honest…shelves) in the office. Again, I was facing a MOUNTAIN of files books and materials. Not knowing whether to laugh or cry I walked out of the office through the living room and paused to see what Dave was watching on TV and no lie, it was a show about MOUNTAIN climbing. It became abundantly clear! I needed to climb my mountains.
Advent is the Church season that calls us to pause and prepare. We need to force ourselves to still our hearts and ponder the magnificence that will be upon us in a few short days. I think that’s where the mountain thing comes in. Each of those tasks I was trying to avoid seemed like a mountain that would require huge time, stillness and discipline. Entering grades and sorting files are not activities that can be done while watching TV or chatting with friends or doing anything fun so I suppose that makes them perfect Advent task; tasks that require stillness and focus. God is so smart isn’t he!
It’s time to wrap up this post because I have to shift from Joyful Words to my own little mountain of stuff. Before I dive in, I’ll make another cup of coffee and ask God to accept my paper mountain climb as a loving offering to him. I’ll ask him to help me use the time to think prayerful thoughts and ponder the beautiful plan he had for our salvation as I patiently and lovingly tackle the mountain set before me! One last thought…what’s your mountain made of? Laundry? Homework? Cleaning? Email replies? Whatever it’s made of, remember Isaiah’s words; On this mountain the Lord of hosts will provide for all his people. Phew!
A Seed To Plant: Pick a mountain, ask God to help you climb it prayerfully and with your mind focused on the miracle of salvation that started with a beautiful baby boy!
Blessings on your day!
While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. Luke 2:6-7
When I was in the second grade I remember giving my mom the “gift of all time”, or so I thought. We had a mantle above the gas fireplace in our living room and each December that became the perfect spot for the Nativity set. Putting out the little statues was always mom’s job…nobody else got to help, we just watched her unwrap each piece from the newspaper and shoe box that was its home for most of the year. I’m sure they were made out of simple ceramics but she handled them as if they were made of priceless crystal. I remember her always holding Mary a little longer than the others. I told myself that when I got big I would ask her why…but I never really got the chance to ask that question. Now that I’m a mother, I think I understand.
Early that second grade December, my brother Jim got a pair of new shoes because he was growing so fast his toes just wouldn’t fit into his school shoes any more. We went to Kinney’s shoe store and all their shoes came in brown boxes. As we rode home from Topeka looking at the beautiful Christmas lights I remember spying that brown shoe box on Jim’s lap thinking I had the absolute perfect gift idea. You see, that Nativity set my mom loved so much had no stable and I was convinced that I could turn that brown shoe box into a magnificent stable! The next afternoon I set to work. I wasn’t sure how that shoe box would be transformed but I knew my first step was to make the gray inside of the box brown like wood. It was a little trickier than I had imagined. Coloring the inside a shoe box carefully and in all one direction was hard. Now, before I tell the rest of the story I just need to interject one important detail…I’m not very artistic or crafty so the transfer of the image in my head to an actual stable took some VERY wrong turns! Turning the box lid into a roof was a disaster. I used so much glue and tape trying to get it to stay up that that shoe box weighed about five pounds. One failed attempt actually involved trying to attach real tree bark to the roof to try to cover up all my other mistakes . After several afternoons I finally got a finished product that would stand up with the strategic placement of two nice sized rocks in the back corners. I was so proud! I was also amazed that I had done the whole project by myself without anybody knowing a thing. I’m sure my mom was in the kitchen thanking God for my new found love of library books…NOT! The afternoon I finished, Jim and dad were out in the garage so it was the perfect time to present mom with her gift. I’m not gonna lie…it was an awful looking sight but it was a mess I felt so proud of. Mom looked at it and then looked at me and just wrapped me in her arms. I remember sitting down to the table with her to stare at it and she just scooped me up on her lap. The crazy looking thing barely even stood up but I told her I thought with the rocks and maybe some extra tape we would have no problem propping it up. As I sat there on her lap, my brother Jim and my dad walked into the kitchen. Jim had something behind his back and he was smiling so big it made us all excited. Without even recognizing the “stable” on the table he pulled the gift from behind his back. He and dad had built a stable, a real stable out of real wood for mom’s beautiful Nativity statues.
Looking back at that afternoon I wouldn’t have wanted to be my mom for all the money in the world! Before I knew it, both of us were on her lap and she was just hugging both our necks. After a few minutes the boys were off to clean up the garage and I just sat with mom and her two stables. Dad and Jim had been able to create out of simple wood scraps a stable that looked exactly like the one I had seen in my mind. She kissed my forehead and said, “I am so lucky! I went from no stable to two stables all in one afternoon. Now I have a place to lay Baby Jesus.” That’s it…that’s all she said…that’s all I needed to hear. A place for Baby Jesus to rest! I remember thinking that someone as important as the Son of God, even if only duplicated in plaster, needed the best place possible to rest His head. Mom left both stables there on the table and went about her chores. I just sat there looking at them and I realized the power of her simple words. He would want the best…even from me, as an eight year old. I took my stable to my room and put it under my bed, where it stayed for years. Several years later I pulled it out at Christmas time and mom and I had a great laugh at my creation.
I don’t think I’ll ever forget that Christmas humility lesson. Jim could have easily pointed out how much better his was and mom could have certainly pointed out the flaws in my stable but they both loved me enough to let me figure out how to be humble on my own terms. They both left this earth way earlier than I wanted them to, but I thank God every day for the lessons they taught me…even the ones made out of a cardboard shoe box.
A Seed To Plant: Sit for a few quiet minutes in front of a Nativity scene this week and ask God to reveal one simple thing you can do to make your heart the perfect place for Baby Jesus to rest.
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 decided I 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 reactin 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!
Those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint. Isaiah 40:31
If you were to give yourself a score between 1 and 10; 10 being awesome, how would you score yourself at waiting? Are you patient, still and peaceful as you wait or are you fidgety, anxious and impatient? What would you think if I told you I was going to give you a free trip to sit in a waiting room? I’m not sure how many would find that much of a trip at all but maybe it could be if we took a different look at waiting and the things that can happen to us while we wait.
One December many years ago I remember sitting in waiting rooms at Mayo Clinic with Mom for an entire week. I am reminded of a simple blessing of all that waiting each year when I put up our Nativity set. As we waited and waited, I began to visit with people who were also waiting and there was one particular couple from Wisconsin that made the waiting so much better. Throughout the week he would whittle little pieces of wood and she would card wool from the sheep they raised. On the last day we were at the clinic they told Dad and me they would be praying for us and they handed each of us a set of nativity animals made from the wood he had carved and whittled and the wool she had carded. Each year as I unpack them I pray for that couple and remember the gift of their talent and their friendship and prayers during a time of frustrated waiting. They were our Mayo clinic blessing; a waiting blessing.
I think we’re all waiting for something. What are you waiting for? Maybe you’re waiting for a new job, or a headache to go away. Perhaps your wait is more serious like waiting for a baby, for test results, a lost love to return or for a diagnosis. Perhaps you’re waiting for someone to get car keys so you don’t have so much carpooling to do or for a little one to finally sleep through the night or master the art of potty training. Many are waiting for a blanket of sadness, grief or loneliness to be lifted from their heavy heart. We spend months just waiting for something to start and something to stop so something else can start. The honest truth is, many of us are simply waiting on God to organize our life just the way we’ve been planning it; just waiting for him to do his job the way we’d like it. Since we spend so much time waiting, the kind of waiter we are matters.
The prophet Isaiah promised that those who waited on the Lord would have their strength renewed. I could use a little of that! The fruit of waiting patiently is peace. That peace gives way to humility and docility. What if we invited God into our waiting? What if we offered him the seat right next to us? Through that attitude of humility and docility that comes with peace, we might begin to realize that the job we’ve been waiting for might not be ours at all; maybe it’s the perfect job for someone else. What if that person we’ve been waiting to love us is meant to love somebody else because God has someone chosen that will love us far more than the person we had in mind ever could. What if healing meant making our soul healthier than our body so we could enjoy eternity with Jesus instead of spending more years on earth? What if we became so good at waiting we grew in humility to such a point we rejoiced when others got something and we forgot we were even waiting in the first place? What if we realized all of the waiting we do has a great purpose; one we usually can’t see. Not to worry, God can see it and someday we’ll figure it out and realize when we patiently wait for him to bring everything to complete perfection, we are blessed with something so much better than we even hoped for!
Isaiah said that we would not grow weary or faint. How can that be? Worrying and waiting is exhausting, everybody knows that. Well, here’s a news flash, waiting is supposed to be an inactive thing so we shouldn’t be worn out. If we are waiting right we are in peace, letting time pass with contentment knowing God has it all under control. Instead we get worn out because we fight and squirm and wrestle with God’s plan confident he’s forgotten, or misunderstood our needs. Advent seems to be a great time to practice our waiting! Ready…set…wait!
A Seed To Plant: What are you waiting for? Make a list and ask God to take your worries and “waiting for’s” and exchange them for peace and patience.
Blessings on your day!
…In this world you will have trouble, but take courage, I have conquered the world. John 16:33
When the “three little Wohlferts” were all in school full time, I went back to school and turned my Kansas secondary teaching certificate into a Michigan elementary teaching certificate. Some days have been WAY more amazing than I ever expected and other days, not what I expected at all! My first teaching partner taught me more about being a good elementary teacher during the first semester than I learned in all my years of college! She loved her job, she was GREAT at her job and she had an amazing ability to draw the best from each student and “get the job done”. She affectionately referred to me as “Pollyanna.” I will admit I am like that Disney movie character because I usually live in my little bubble and always think things are going to be just fine, and just as lovely as I see them in my mind. Sometimes life takes a turn from the way I picture it in my mind and Pollyanna gets her britches in a twist!
The older I get, the more I am reminded that life is about balance. If we go through life expecting things to always be happy or right or good, there will be trouble and we will get frustrated. As I look back at the twists and turns in my life, I realize it was the times when stuff I didn’t expect landed in my lap, that I grew and changed and deepened my trust in God the most. We tend to get a little hung-up on good stuff. When things are good and happy we expect them to stay that way and then when the unexpected happens we can feel a little like we’ve been punished or abandoned by the Father who is supposed to love us. As a society, we can be pretty “all or nothing” in our thinking. We forget that nothing is meant to be permanent…not happiness and certainly not sorrow. God works through both the good times and the tough times. We can be assured of His blessings and His love always! He did not SUGGEST there MIGHT be trouble. He didn’t say PERHAPS on the 3rd Thursday of July there is a CHANCE you will have trouble…no…He flat out promised that trouble WILL HAPPEN. So why are we so puzzled and pouty when it does? I think it’s mostly because we weren’t expecting it.
Each time I come through troubles, I feel stronger and more peaceful. The greatest thing trouble does for me is make me realize compared to most other folks…I’ve got NOTHIN! It makes me realize I have so much to be thankful for and so many reasons to praise His Holy Name! I read a little slogan on a billboard not long ago that fits perfectly. The sign said, DON’T LET YOUR TROUBLES GET YOU DOWN, REMEMBER YOU CAN’T USE AN EGG UNLESS IT’S BROKEN. Maybe it’s the Pollyanna in me, but I believe even in my biggest troubles, I can look back and truly see the hand of God guiding and protecting me. Nothing is without reason…and we may not always like the reason but it is exactly in those situations I just have to sigh, shrug my shoulders and say…this must be something I need for heaven! Life is full of things I didn’t expect. I didn’t expect to move to Michigan, I didn’t expect to teach elementary school and I certainly didn’t expect to be a writer! I wasn’t expecting to get grey hair, have nine pairs of reading glasses and have every dessert I ate show up on my hips! However in each of those unexpected events, there have been great blessings. The thing we forget…we are not going to be judged on what we expected, but rather on how we managed the unexpected.
A Seed To Plant: Look back on two of your biggest troubles. Write down the blessings you can identify as a result of those troubles; how did you grow, change or deepen your Faith.
Blessings on your day!
God is closer to us than water is to a fish. St. Catherine of Siena
A few weeks ago I was flying home and my travels took me through the Dallas Ft. Worth airport on a Saturday evening which was a crazy adventure to say the least. It was a stormy night which added delightfully to the chaos and lots of delayed flights added to the crowd. I had to board a tram to connect to another terminal and when I got on, it was full but not packed but as the tram approached the second stop that began to change. Each stop added another glob of passengers and I got packed tighter and tighter toward the middle of the tram car. Everyone was laughing about it which was great but at one point I had to turn my head sideways in order to breathe because my face was pressed tightly into the back of a tall gentleman in a tailored suit who would probably not have appreciated me breathing on his fabric. I remember getting off at my stop thinking; Phew! I don’t think I’ve ever been packed so tightly against that many people in my life!
Today’s quote from St. Catherine of Siena reminded me of that tram trip in Dallas. It also reminded me of a line from Psalm 139, I will hem you in behind and before with my hand upon your shoulder. God desires to be that close to us; as close as water to a fish and as close as the people in the tram car. Isn’t it funny though that sometimes we think he’s so far away? If that’s how we feel then the ten million dollar question becomes; is he far from me or am I far from him?
I am a visual person. I learn much better by demonstration and touching than reading so when I came across this quote it made Gods desire to be with me so visual and so clear. I don’t know about you, but I’ll take the blame for all the bad geography! You can’t get much closer than water to a fish or being hemmed in from before and behind so if God’s not close it’s because I’m in the wrong place. If I don’t feel him close it isn’t because he’s taken a lunch break, it’s because I’m not on the path he led me to. If I can’t feel him when I reach out it isn’t because he’s not there; it’s because I’m reaching for something that isn’t mine to have. I suppose before I again question his nearness to me, I’d better make sure I’m in the right spot…on my knees with my arms stretched out toward him asking for a rescue and a re-start. He doesn’t want to be a Father who loves me from a distance; fish and water are pretty close and he wants to be even closer than that to me. Come on God…I give you permission to invade ALL my space!
A Seed To Plant: Find a picture of a fish and put it somewhere visible to remind yourself how close God is to you then while he’s right there, go ahead and ask him to guide and help you!
Blessings on your day!
Get out there and bring your joy! Pope Francis
How simple is that! When Pope Francis spoke these words he was talking about our work as disciples of Jesus. He went on to say, “If we are full of Christian joy then we should let our faces know it.” I love that image. So many times I muddle my way through the day trying to be a good disciple and I get tangled up in the “work” of it all and miss the “joy” of it all!
Nobody will ever be inspired by a grump! Who would ever want to be a disciple if all they ever hear is how much work it is, how many committees you have to serve on and how much time it’s going to take. If that’s all I knew of Jesus and discipleship I would probably run as fast as I could in the opposite direction. Our job as disciples is to bring people to Christ not scare them away or point out how hard we work to be one. People want to be drawn to Christ not dragged so I suppose it is a good idea every now and again to see if our attitude is one that is drawing, dragging or scaring away. I guess the even bigger question to ask myself is; would I want to follow me and get involved?
Pope Francis is an inspiration to all Christians because he is a living, breathing demonstration of joy, love, kindness and humility found only in the heart of a servant of the Lord. He makes us want to follow! I was reminded of a story I heard about a little girl who got in line and followed the kids who were leaving school to go to Religious Ed. A few weeks later the teacher realized the little girl wasn’t Catholic and asked her why she was going along each week. Her response was awesome. She smiled at the teacher and said, “I just wanted to go where they were going and learn what they were learning because when they come back to school they are so happy!” Out of the mouths of babes! It made me stop and ask myself, when was the last time I came out of church and others could see the joy and the happiness bubblin out of me? Jesus hasn’t changed…he is and was and always will be so that led me to the conclusion that it was me who wasn’t always bringing my joy; not him!
It doesn’t matter what the sermon is like or the music is like or the way the sanctuary is decorated. The joy of Jesus and discipleship lies in the love he has for us, the mercy he shows us and the grace he freely gives us. I just need to act like it! So…pew potatoes unite…let’s get out there and spread the word and bring our joy!
A Seed To Plant: Before you go to church this Sunday, ask God to reveal three things to you that will bring you joy and then take it out the door when you leave and share it.
Blessings on your day!
The Lord God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground—trees that were pleasing to the eye…Genesis 2:9
October is absolutely my very favorite month of the year. I love the change in temperatures, colors, foods and clothes. We celebrate some of my favorite events in October but what I love most are the trees. Some trees are so intense with yellows, oranges and reds they look like they’re plugged in. As I was driving a couple hours to a speaking job last weekend it was sunny and warm and I just soaked in all the color and beauty. Once I got home, it occurred to me that I take trees for granted the other eleven months out of the year. That thought hovered with me for a few days and I’ve heard three cool tree stories in the past couple of days so I figured that means a message for all of us.
Lesson 1: Trees change, the color changes, the shape changes, the size changes; everything about them changes from season to season. None of those changes are permanent. Some stages are a whole lot more appealing than others for sure. I suppose life is like that. There are times when our lives are bright and brilliant and others when things seem dull and unattractive. Each of the stages come and go, one follows the other and the old makes way for the new. I’m sure the tree doesn’t pout when it’s beautiful colored leaves fall to the ground for us to tromp on; it’s just the ebb and flow. Each stage and each change offers something new and different. Just like the leaves that don’t stay but for a season, our highs aren’t meant to stay forever and neither are our lows. God is right there in both teaching, loving and then moving us along.
Lesson 2: Storms deepens the roots. Trees have a way of adapting to conditions. Storms of life will come and go so being firmly anchored is a means of survival. Tree roots sink deeper into the ground for life-giving nutrients and we need to anchor deeply in our faith and trust in the Lord so we can be nourished by his life-giving grace and mercy. Being rooted in our faith is what allows us to survive the storms and tough spots in life. Strong roots make us steady as the world around us changes.
Lesson 3: Destruction often ushers in new life. The cones on some pine trees are only opened by the flash heat of a forrest fire. The intense heat causes the cone to open up and spill it’s seeds so new life can be spread by gravity and wind. We often look at destruction as life damaging and not as life giving. Sometimes being completely disappointed or devastated is what it takes for us to surrender our own plans and let the love of God guide us to new life.
I guess October trees aren’t just beautiful to look at, they have lessons to offer as well. The next time I’m smack dab in the middle of something stormy and hard I’ll remind myself that I’m working on my roots. The next time I watch my well thought out plans go up in smoke, I’ll remind myself to watch for the seeds of new life around me and I will certainly be reminded that sometimes my life might look like a bunch of bare branches but something good will pop out soon. Thank you God for some beautiful trees and some great lessons.
A Seed To Plant: Pick one of the lessons and ask God to show you how he might be inviting you to apply it to your life this season.
Blessings on your day!
Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. Proverbs 4:23
All too often we look in a mirror and think things like, I wish my legs were longer or my nose was smaller. Maybe we notice our eyes or shoulders and don’t even get me started on the hips and thighs! We’re pretty quick to point out which body parts we would like to change but when was the last time you looked in a mirror and recited the list of body parts we really do like? A good friend shared a story with me this week that really made me stop and think about the best body part of all.
My friend and her kindergarten son were outside playing catch with a football. She threw a pass that slipped through his little hands and thunked him square in the chest. His reply was priceless. He grabbed his chest, looked at his mom and said, “Mom, you hit me right where Jesus lives.” Not quite comprehending what he said she asked him to say it again and he matter of factly looked her in the eyes and said, “Yeah mom, you hit me in the heart, you know, right where Jesus lives!” Out of the mouths of babes! His comment just melted my heart!
Every time I saw this little guy walking through the halls the rest of the week I just smiled and thought, now there’s a kid who has learned something really important! He also made me realize how important our heart is. It’s far more than a blood pumping, life sustaining organ, it’s the home of Jesus and I should probably give it a little more thought and honor! So, what is my heart like? Is it a suitable home for the Son of God? Is it tender and open or is it cold and guarded? I suppose if I paid a little more attention to the importance of that body part everyone might benefit.
How’s your heart? Does it give Jesus a great place to hang out or could it use a little re-modeling? It stands to reason that if Jesus goes into our heart and dwells there, the feelings, emotions and actions it stimulates should mirror the one who dwells there.
A Seed To Plant: Take some time in prayer today to examine your heart. Can people tell who lives there?
Blessings on your day!
Love requires sacrifice…always!
It’s not scripture but it’s a powerful truth I seem to forget. Sacrifice often takes a back seat to convenience and comfort. We prefer easy, speedy and painless and then wonder why we don’t feel fulfilled. The important stuff; the stuff that leaves us joyful and alive; that’s the stuff that involves love and requires sacrifice.
I’ve had several nudges lately that remind me how true this statement is. We are called by the greatest commandment to love, and the truth is, we can’t follow that commandment without sacrifice. Sometimes that sacrifice is small, for instance, I love my students but spending time in the evenings and on weekends to grade or plan is a sacrifice. Other times the sacrifice is much bigger. I hugged a good friend at her father’s wake this week and she lovingly told me she was so happy for her dad and found peace just thinking about him rejoicing and being free from pain. Her perspective and strength were inspiring but the sacrifice of that love will weigh heavy on her days for quite a while.
Sometimes the sacrifice needs to look like patience. Sometimes it needs to sound like a swallowed opinion. Sometimes it needs to appear to be sand slipping through our fingers as we let go of the past or of our own agenda. Sacrifice is loving people exactly how they are and where they are. Sometimes we’re called to love someone just by being present and there is sacrifice in keeping quiet and not trying to fix or change them. The people who love us back make it easy to love but we’re also called to show Christ’s love to those who can give nothing in return and that is truly a sacrifice.
I think about all the times I’ve tried to find the perfect gift to show my love for someone. When I heard this line spoken by a movie character, I realized I’ve been shopping the wrong way. I suppose the more we love, the more we should be willing to sacrifice. I loved my children but I’m not sure they always saw my carpool complaining as a loving sacrifice. This simple little line can bleed into doing the laundry and helping with homework and holding the flashlight in the rain so Dave can figure out why the tractor is making a weird noise. This kind of love happens in the middle of the night after a bad dream or at the end of the day when you want to tune out the world but someone you love just really wants to spill their heart.
There have been times when I’ve wondered if all the sacrifice of a relationship was worth it or if it was really supposed to be so hard and one-sided, but as I’ve prayed with these words for a few weeks I realized I was looking at it out of balance. Love and sacrifice aren’t always equal. Sometimes we receive love far greater than we sacrifice and more often than not it is opposite. We’re able to sacrifice and love others but at some point, we expect to receive love in return. We want to feel there is something in it for us. I forget that my call to love others isn’t to get something in return. Love is so much bigger than all the warm fuzzy feelings. Love is the duty of a disciples and the way to keep that in balance is to realize each person that crosses our path is there so I can show them the love of Christ. It’s not about loving so I can get something back, it’s about loving so I can love Jesus himself. When I look at Jesus on the cross, I find the truth because it reminds me that there is more love poured out on me than I could ever imagine. I know I will never be called to love with a sacrifice anywhere near that magnitude but when I recall his sacrifice for me, it helps put my teeny little sacrifices for others in perspective. Again, I remember it’s not about me at all!
A Seed To Plant: Who can you love today?
Blessings on your day!
You have been told, O man, what is good, and what the Lord requires of you: Only to do the right and to love goodness and to walk humbly with our God. Micah 6:8
Well then, there you have it! The Prophet Micah summed it all up in one brief verse of Scripture! Do the right thing, love things that are good and walk humbly with God. So I’m wondering; if it’s that simple how do I manage to mess it up so often? I think the place where I get all snarled up is trying to make things more complicated than they need to be. I can be the “Queen of Overthinking” and it just leads me farther away from the honest, simple root of my purpose…anybody with me there? (I am seriously hoping there are readers out there nodding their head in agreement!)
Let’s see if I can back up the truck and do a better job with these three simple expectations. Step one: “do the right”. I guess I should ask myself, the “right” for whom? More often than I probably even recognize, I’m interested in doing what’s “right” for me! I have a tendency to do “Christian good” when it’s convenient for me. I’m good at helping and praying and doing nice things when it fits in the schedule but what about when I really have to go out of my way to do good? I also have to stop and ask myself about how many times I don’t “do right”. What if I know there is a conversation going on that I should keep my nose out of but I just have to listen in anyway, what do I do if the talk turns into gossip, how do I “do right” and get out of that conversation? I suppose this simple directive should keep me out of those conversations in the first place.
Step two: “Love goodness” I don’t think Micah was simply referring to lovely flowers and other good things found in creation. I think he was challenging us to something bigger. Here’s the deal with loving goodness…it isn’t always fashionable, popular or common. Loving goodness requires us to love without judgment. It means we look for the good and Christ like even in people who look very different than us. We can be pretty narrow in our description of what is “normal” in this society and turn a squinty eye at things that diverge from that vision. I believe the greatest sound and sight EVER is a child! They are the ultimate “Good” created by God. Not long ago I was visiting with a family who was joyfully announcing the upcoming birth of their 7th child and I was so excited for them and honored to share in their joy. That baby will be the most loved child on the planet! As I walked away from the family I overheard two women speaking critically about them and one woman said, “How do they think they are ever going to give that many children what they need? She doesn't even work so they are doomed to a life of hand-me-downs and Wal-Mart shoes.” I wanted to speak but the tears stung in my eyes and my heart hurt so bad I couldn’t even talk. if I had that moment to re-live I would ask when Nike’s and designer clothes became more important in forming Children of God than the overflowing love of a family. Loving goodness means having great compassion and respect for EVERYTHING God created and doing everything in our power to defend it without casting worldly judgments.
Step three: “Walk humbly with our God” The real trick with this one is to realize we can’t be in charge! It really should read, “Walk humbly BEHIND God.” We might do a better job if we remembered we can’t be first in our Christian walk, God Himself must occupy that spot. Walking humbly means coming to terms with the fact that we are NOTHING without HIM and the more we give Him credit for, the more He blesses us. God doesn’t need our approval or our praise in order to build Him up and support His ego or self-esteem…He needs praise and adoration from us so we can practice humility and submission to His will for our lives.
A Seed To Plant: Pick one of the three ideas from this reading from Micah and put it to work this week. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you choose the one your soul needs most!
Blessings on your day!
What your hands provide you will enjoy; you will be blessed and prosper. Psalm 128:2
Growing up we always had a gigantic garden. The garden was the work of the summer. There was always something to do, planting, weeding, picking or preserving. My mom canned and froze enough produce for the whole year; green beans, carrots, potatoes, corn, tomatoes, peas and beets. It was a complete drag during the middle of the summer when it was 100 degrees and my brothers and I were sitting in the back yard shucking corn for hours but fresh sweet corn in January made it all worth it. I can’t begin to count the times my folks reminded me of that while they handed me another bucket of green beans to snap. It isn’t always easy to see the blessing that comes with the investment at the time. All these years later, I still plant a garden and can tomatoes. True, I can get a can on sale for less than a dollar but it just isn’t the same. The problem is, by the time spring finally comes in Michigan and I get to a point with the end of the school year chaos and I finally get them planted its always September before they are ready to pick and can.
This is a particularly busy time of year with speaking and school but I came home Wednesday to a basket of tomatoes staring me down. I knew they had to be canned or they would spoil and even though I had a dozen other things to do, I reminded myself how good they would taste in chili and soup when the snow was flying so I got to it, but not without plenty of eye rolling and muttering under my breath, “really…now…I have to do this now? Why can’t they be ready before school starts, that would be much more convenient! As I stood at the kitchen sink washing jars and peeling tomatoes, I asked myself why I even bother at all. But as I sit here typing, drinking a cup of coffee, I hear the canner bubbling and the soft clink of the seals setting on the jars fresh from the canner and I realize how satisfying it is and how connected I feel to my mom when I do what she did. It’s worth it, but it always takes me a while to remember that.
If I’m being honest, canning tomatoes is a little like my faith life. I love the end result, but more often than I should, I grumble about the effort and the time it takes. I want the relationship and the grace but I don’t always want to invest the time necessary. I want to head to the pantry in January and grab what I need but it takes effort to make sure it will be there when I need it. Sometimes my prayer life is like that. I cry out to God with my list of wants and needs and I just expect to grab what I need. I take his mercy and his goodness for granted way too often. It will be a sad day when I go to the pantry and there are no more tomatoes but it would be an unfathomably devastating day if I went to the Lord and he wasn’t there. I very well may run out of tomatoes but I can breathe a sigh of relief to know as long as I run to the Father and truly seek him, his grace and compassion will never run dry. Out of all the things I needed to do besides can tomatoes, I had to make the tomatoes a priority. I wonder how much better my attitude and perspective would be if I remembered to put the Father and his plan as my top priority every day. Timing is important. No matter how hard I wish, I can't make those tomatoes ripe any sooner. Patience is such a key and these tomatoes are a reminder to trust in Gods timing is perfect. As I sit back and admire the jars of warm tomatoes all lined up on my counter, I’m pretty sure there are many times the Father lines the events of my days up in perfect order and I don’t even notice it or thank him for it. Funny how much you can learn from putting tomatoes in a jar!
A Seed To Plant: Make a list of three things you can do this week to invest in your relationship with the Father. Say a prayer of thanksgiving for someone who taught you something important.
Blessings on your day!
“Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns and yet your Heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” Matthew 6:26
I was sitting in the basement making new curtains for my classroom and I was visited by a very strange guest. I was just stitching away minding my own business when I heard a whoosh sound followed by the crashing of the roaster oven lid. The roaster is kept on a high shelf near the sewing machine and when I looked up to see what made the racket I was dive bombed by a bird. After my screech I’m not sure who was more startled, me or the bird. There has never been a bird inside…let alone in the basement. I was puzzled not only about how he got in, but by how I was going to get him out!
It took me a minute to come up with a plan, which included making sure he didn’t get upstairs. He dive bombed me a couple more times and then seemed to vanish. I’m not sure what was more unsettling; seeing him or not seeing him! I went out of the sewing room, around the corner and across the basement and took the screen off the egress window and pulled back the curtain in hopes that if I could get him pointed in that direction he’d see the open window and fly out. After I’d prepared his exit, I began searching for him and startled him off his nesting perch and he crashed right into the basement door. I was not excited about the prospect of scooping up a dead bird but as I crept toward my new feathered friend trying to see if he was still alive he whizzed over my head and around the corner and in one quick zoom flew clear across the length of the basement and right out the window. Success!
When I sat back down to the sewing machine I realized that little incident was a lessons. I was thinking about all the times I’d made my own silly decisions without consulting my Father the master planner. Like that bird, I have wound up in some crazy situations that were not meant for me. Thankfully like the open window I provided for the bird, God always seems to provide a way out for me too. I can think of plenty of times I’ve flapped around and banged my head trying to go somewhere I wasn’t supposed to go. I’ve traveled down the wrong path and searched and searched to find my way only to discover I was simply on the wrong path to begin with. That little bird wanted nothing to do with me. It would have been easier and much less stressful if he would have gently perched on my finger so I could take him outside peacefully but we weren’t meant to have a relationship. I don’t know about you, but I have been a part of friendships or relationships that were not meant for me, God even arranges those to our benefit if we invite him into the center of them.
When I finished the project and went upstairs, I walked past the hallway mirror and noticed what I thought was white thread on my hair and forehead. As I moved in closer for inspection, I realized that it wasn’t thread, it was bird poop. Who says God doesn’t have a sense of humor! I got a couple great lessons plus a little humility training to boot. All in all…it was a very good day!
A Seed To Plant: Have you ever been in the wrong place or the wrong relationship? Ask God to guide you to the nearest planned exit and put you back on the path he has chosen.
Blessings on your day!
Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Romans 12:12
I’m sure we’ve all heard the line, “if you aren’t part of the solution; you must be part of the problem.” They are wise words but perhaps a bit misunderstood. I think being part of the solution doesn’t necessarily mean solving the problem single handedly but rather making an honest attempt at working toward something better. There are some mighty problems in this world to be solved and I sure shootin didn’t cause them, plus I know for a fact that I am not in the position to solve them. So should I throw in the towel and go cry in the closet? Nope! I was reading an article about an amazing woman named Dorothy Day and she had one little idea that put it all in perspective for me.
Dorothy Day was a saving grace to so many who were left physically, spiritually and emotionally crippled by the devastation of the Great Depression. Her motives and actions were genuine, compassionate and life changing. She provided a beacon of hope during a time when there wasn’t much. She didn’t solve the financial problems of the day but she worked in her own way to be part of the solution one person and one family at a time. She didn’t offer money, but rather provided the most basic needs of the suffering. She offered dignity, shelter, hope and joy…so much joy. She didn’t give a lot ,but what she gave mattered greatly. She said, “We contribute to the misery of the world if we ignore beauty and joy in life. If we seek the will of the One who sent Jesus, we need to open our hearts to joy.”
It’s not hard to find the problems, but we get in a big pickle when we have an even harder time finding the beauty around us. It isn’t often we see a smiling baby or a gorgeous harvest moon on the front page of the paper or newsfeed but when we do see them they give us a lift. Who doesn’t love a good giggling baby video shared on social media? They just let us escape for a few minutes. After reading the article I realized my role in the solution was easier than I thought. It’s my job to connect with beauty and joy. John Ruskin was a famous art critic from England who used to say “We have the duty of delight.” That line made me realize we sometimes see joy and beauty and peaceful things as frivolous and non-productive. We think we have to work and take things to task and ponder serious matters in order to be responsible, informed citizens. Did you hear that, I think God just belly laughed!” We’ve got it so twisted up it isn’t even funny.
God is the maker of joy and beauty not the creator of evil, cynical, corrupt or absurd so why not focus on the things he made and leave the rest of the mess alone? Dorothy Day didn’t solve the problem of the Great Depression, but she sure was a solution to those she was able to bring delight to. Sounds like a much better way to spend my day, what do you think?
A Seed To Plant: Take some time to sit and make a list of things in your world that are beautiful and joyful and then go about the duty of delighting in them instead of stewing over problems you can’t solve. It is perhaps the most important work we can do!
Blessings on your day!
Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth. Matthew 5:5
Every now and again I run across something that just doesn’t seem to belong or have relevance anymore. I was cleaning closets recently and found an old rotary dial phone with a long spiral cord. I also have a potato slicer and French fry cutter that belonged to my Grandma Thelma. She used it in her kitchen when I was little girl. Both of those items have been replaced with more modern, convenient, efficient updated models so the old ones are cast aside as if they are no longer useful. There is a key word in this scripture passage from St. Matthew’s gospel that might seem as irrelevant as those old treasures hiding in my closet. That word is meek.
We strive to be strong and successful. We pray for the grace of patience, perseverance and wisdom. We admire people who are confident, powerful leaders with vision. To tell others our goal is to grow in meekness would be a little like seeing a rotary dial phone in a Verizon store! To be honest, when I came across the word meek the other day I decided to give it a look and some prayer. I think I need to change my opinion about that word. I think it’s a word we might all be able to relate to better than we thought and I’m certain it’s something we could use more of.
Long ago in biblical times the quality of meekness was highly respected and aspired to. We tend to view it as weak, timid or passive but that was not the message Jesus was teaching when he shared the Sermon on the Mount. Meekness in its true meaning is the opposite of those things. Being meek doesn’t mean you are weak and have to take everything like a door mat, it means an active and deliberate acceptance of undesirable circumstances that are part of a bigger picture we can’t see. Being meek doesn’t mean throwing in the towel, it means giving God authority to do what he wills with our life. True meekness can be measured by how closely related we are to the will of the Father. When we make that relationship first, we are content in his love and his control of our life. If we let him be in charge we realize everything happens for a purpose and we trust in his plan. If we are more centered on ourselves and our comforts and our pride we tend to fuss and complain and point out all the things that don’t go our way. If we are low on meekness we tend to see the world through the lens of poor me instead of God’s got it all figured out!
If someone rich in meekness is treated unfairly or wrongly it doesn’t mean that doesn’t sting, but vengeance or revenge isn’t part of their reaction. Their first reaction is to pray for the person who has wronged them and give the rest to God. A meek soul realizes that God is the source of justice and that all situations contain lessons. Sometimes the lesson is for us and sometimes the lesson is for somebody else and taught through us. In order to grow in meekness, we have to admit regularly that we are not equal with God. Through our great dependence on Him we grow and we trust and we think WAY more about him than about ourselves. I suppose meekness is a bit like realizing we truly need to settle into second place and stop trying so hard to be in charge, on top and number one. I don’t know about you but I have a lot of meekness building to do!
A Seed To Plant: What are some of the areas in your life that could use a little more meekness? Spend some prayer time this week with this old word with a great and misunderstood meaning.
Blessings on your day!
"The weeds are the children of the Evil One.” Matthew 13:38
This line in a recent Gospel reading really made me stop and think. Growing up, our family had a gigantic garden. We would can and freeze enough produce to last the whole year with plenty left to give away. I didn’t mind snapping beans or shucking corn or even washing potatoes, but the chore I dreaded was pulling weeds. Some had deep, thick roots; some were vines that tangled their way through several rows, and some were adorned with flowers disguising prickers. They were a destructive nuisance, and they had to be dealt with or they would suck the life out of the vegetables. I never dreamed that even though I moved 800 miles away from that garden, I would still be dealing with weeds in my life.
The weeds I battle these days may not be green and rooted in dirt; instead, they are menacing, distracting, discouraging, and rooted in my heart. The weeds of the evil one I battle these days are called comparison, judgment, dishonesty, greed, and control. When these weeds root too deeply into my heart they choke out the light, life, and truth of the Father’s great plan and His even greater love for me.
The produce from my childhood garden was meant to nourish, sustain, and help us thrive, but it needed to be protected and tended. The same is true of the greatness God wants to provide for me in my daily life now. He will never abandon His children. I just need to hack away the weeds so there is room for only Him in my heart.
A Seed To Plant: What are the weeds that need to be hacked away in the garden of your heart? After you’ve put some things on your list, offer up this short little prayer and then watch God get busy! Good and loving Father, please help me root up all the habits and sins that prevent You from bringing forth beautiful light and life in my days.
Blessings on your day!
We know that all creation is groaning in labor pains even until now; Romans 8:22
Those words were part of the second reading at Mass last weekend and boy did they grab my attention. Anyone who has ever been in a delivery room while a baby makes its way into the world can relate in a very personal way to that line. As I was pondering those words, I scanned the pews in front of me and counted more than a dozen babies and toddlers and marveled at the beauty those labor pains produce and asked God to show me why this verse jumped out and struck me so deeply; a few days later, He did!
Like many of you, I remember vividly and happily the day I got married. I remember Fr. Hasenkamp slowly and clearly saying the vows each of us were to repeat. I remember being so excited and nervous I was afraid I would get lost in my own thoughts and say the wrong thing. I remember promising to love and honor Dave and I remember the part about accepting children lovingly and raising them up in the faith. I thought about that at Mass as I scanned the crowd and looked at all the people there with little ones who had made the same promises I had. You’d think since we all spoke the same promises, we’d be really good at helping each other honor them…but sometimes we’re not.
I get troubled when we turn the wrong things into a competition. We’ve all been the parent of the child who does something that makes us proud and in all honesty, we’ve probably all been the parent of the child who does the opposite. I wish we weren’t so quick to judge other parents when the child falls into group two. Let’s face it, labor was hard but sometimes it doesn’t even compare to how hard raising kids can be. My babies were the size of toddlers when they were born; they all apparently adored me so much they never wanted to exit the womb, and sleeping through the night was definitely not a “thing” with the Three Little Wohlferts. They all walked, talked, whined and had epic diaper disasters at different stages and times and it seemed someone always had advice on what I wasn’t doing right. We need to give ourselves and our kids a break. Our goal is to raise our kids up in the faith and help them get to heaven and quite frankly I think we could all use a little help with that big job now and again. What if we said something kind to the lady in the grocery with the screaming toddler instead of raising our eyebrow and assuming she doesn’t know how to discipline her child. What if we entertained the notion that the fussy baby and the grumpy dad sitting in the same waiting room were sleep deprived, going through a tough time or flat out having a bad day. And just maybe that 9 year old having a melt down at the movie theater has some real struggles and truly didn’t come to ruin your day.
Making assumptions doesn’t help us raise our kids…judging doesn’t help us get our kids to heaven. The labor pains weren’t supposed to be the easiest part! Each family, each child, each parent is on a journey we know nothing about. No one ever said the world needed more competition and comparison! God has an amazing plan for each of us…even the smallest, wiggliest, fussiest, loudest, quietest little person and their frustrated, sleep deprived, proud,loving mammas and daddies. I came across a neat little story that just kind of drove this whole scripture home. It’s a story about a dog and an elephant and the genius of the Loving Father who can do whatever he wants in the time frame he chooses.
The story goes like this. An elephant and a dog became pregnant at same time. Three months down the line the dog gave birth to six puppies. Six months later the dog was pregnant again, and nine months on it gave birth to another dozen puppies. The pattern continued. On the eighteenth month the dog approached the elephant questioning, "Are you sure that you are pregnant? We became pregnant on the same date, I have given birth three times to a dozen puppies and they are now grown to become big dogs, yet you are still pregnant. Whats going on?". The elephant replied, "There is something I want you to understand. What I am carrying is not a puppy but an elephant. I only give birth to one in two years. When my baby hits the ground, the earth feels it. When my baby crosses the road, human beings stop and watch in admiration, what I carry draws attention. So what I'm carrying is mighty and great.". Don't lose faith when you see others receive answers to their prayers. Don't be envious of others testimony. If you haven't received your own blessings, don't despair. Say to yourself "My time is coming, and when it hits the surface of the earth, people shall yield in admiration."
I think it would be a good idea to yield in admiration a little more often!
A Seed To Plant: Do one small thing to support a parent!
Blessings on your day!
The righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father… Matthew 13:43
This Gospel reminds me how much Jesus wants us to “get it!” Not only does he tell the parable but he assembles the followers and explains it again. I can see myself saying, “OK Jesus, lets sit down and you can hit me with it again because I didn’t quite get it the first time.” I am so very thankful that he is patient with my thick headedness and offers us his teaching again and again and sends his Holy Spirit to make it clear in prayer.
I recently had a long conversation with a friend who was having a meltdown due to the “state of the world”. I agreed that there is no shortage of really lousy stuff goin on and I totally supported the meltdown because an occasional hissy fit is good for the soul. When we spew out all our frustration, worry and fear it’s like cleaning house. When we shove out the mess, we have an empty space but it’s up to us what we put back into that cleared out space. If we rant and rave and stay stuck in the yuck nothing good happens to our soul, our attitude or our relationship with Jesus. The point of a great meltdown is to get it all out and the next step is prayer…Lord I’ve cleared out the junk that was sitting heavy on my heart now help me fill it with YOU!
So how does that work exactly? There a couple of questions you can ask yourself. As you feel the yuck creeping back and putting wrinkles in your peace the first question is “Are these thoughts of God or of evil? Remember that God is a God of peace not turmoil. Second question, “Will spending time and energy on this bring me closer to Jesus?” If the answer is no then simply say “I send these unhelpful thoughts to the foot of the cross, Jesus please replace them with joy and peace.” Third, fill your ears, heart and mind with something lovely instead of ugly. Listen to a song or a podcast of a YouTube video designed to bring love, truth, joy or laughter into your day. The greatest strategy for managing the behavior of a toddler is distraction…it works on grownups too. Praying a Rosary for your list of worries and people who are really dancing on your last nerve or who have really hurt you is a powerful tool for doing something good with something awful. At the end of that Rosary close with the words, “Ok God, it’s yours…all of it, I’m letting go.”
When I listen to people say we are headed for sure disaster and the world is dark, I think of two things. God’s mercy and Noah. In God’s great mercy, when we face him at the end of our life we won’t be judged based on the actions, opinions or decisions of others. We won’t be judged as a group or need to provide a list of our known associates on earth. It’s just a solo event so isn’t it great that the only thing we will be judged on, is also the only thing we are in control of…ourselves! His mercy is so fancy isn’t it! As for Noah, he won the award for living among the greatest group of knuckleheads and off the rails idiots and what does scripture say about Noah? Very simply, it says “He was a righteous man; Noah walked in faith with God.” That’s it…that’s what it takes to rise about the yuck of the world; walk in faith with God. Trust him, follow him, talk with him and wake up each day saying, “Hold on God, I’m coming…I wanna belong to you today more than I want to worry and stew and fret about what everybody else is doing.” Say that, take a breath and then remember God can do anything and everything!
A Seed To Plant: Go ahead and have a meltdown or throw a hissy fit, God won’t mind. Then ponder one of the questions or actions in this blog that can help you fill that empty spot well. If you need someone to share your meltdown with, I’m happy to help!
Blessings on your day!
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