March 13, 2017
Give and gifts will be given to you;
a good measure, packed together, shaken down, and overflowing,
will be poured into your lap.
For the measure with which you measure
will in return be measured out to you.” Luke 6:36
Sarah, my late daughter, was a beautiful soul with Downs syndrome. Each day she woke up with a smile on her face and her joy was infectious. She loved writing love-notes and over her short life of twenty- three years, she composed hundreds of misspelled quotes. With the wisdom of a great sage, she wrote things like: “Alwys follow yr dreams, God livs in my heart , and one of my personal favorites; “You’re the bst mom I evr had in my life.”
Nine years after her death, Sarah’s notes continue to inspire me. I treasure each little quote and read them often. Sarah used her time well on this earth and God continues to magnify the small gifts she shared.
Mother Teresa once said: “I’m a little pencil in the hand of a writing God, who is sending a love letter to the world.” Like Mother Teresa, God invites each of us to leave our mark in the Kingdom of God. We can do this by simply smiling at others and sharing bits of wisdom. In doing so, we become as the apostle Paul put it: “a letter from Christ.” (2: Corinthians 3:3)
Is there someone who might appreciate a love-note from you? As Lent continues, why not encourage someone with a handwritten note? Just for fun, buy some stationary and try using ink instead of a computer. (It’s always a treat to write in cursive!)
Let yourself become God’s pencil. Compose a few simple quotes and smile your way through the writing. Who knows? Maybe your note will become someone’s greatest treasure!
March 14, 2017
The greatest among you must be your servant.
Whoever exalts himself will be humbled;
but whoever humbles himself will be exalted
Matthew: 23: 1-12
One of my older colleagues remembers a workshop she presented in a crowded gymnasium where over a hundred participants had gathered. After offering a beautiful reflection on prayer, she felt pumped up with pride. “The applause went on and on.” she told me. After her talk, she began wheeling a television set unto the stage to show a video. (This was back in the nineties so the clunky set was perched atop a high stand–remember those?) When she rolled the stand over a long cord, the TV toppled to the floor and broke in half. Crash…
Luckily, no one was near enough to get hurt, but my friend was completely humiliated. “I’ve never been so embarrassed.” she said.
An awkward silence filled the gym. “Well, so much for the video.” the speaker quipped. The audience began laughing and immediately several people began helping her to “pick up the pieces.” Her humiliation was diffused with humor and the audience was able to see that she was vulnerable, just like them. Many of the participants hung around afterward to offer her words of praise and encouragement.
In our reading for today, Jesus reminds us that the humble will be exalted. It’s so true. When we are vulnerable, embarrassed, or brought low, God will pick up the pieces.
March 15, 2017
Just so, the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve
and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Matthew 20: 17-28.
When Pope Francis was a student he worked as a bouncer, a floor-sweeper, and an assistant in a chemical lab.
In the hallowed soil of humility, Pope Francis grew into a Pope. Now that he is the shepherd of our church, I love watching television clips of him walking through crowds because he always seems to be drawn to the meek and lowly. This touches me deeply because our first child was born with a disability. A couple of months ago, I saw a photo of him embracing a man who was covered with boils and sores from head to toe.
These images call to mind the love and humility of Christ.
But it’s not always easy to be humble. We may resent that we are underemployed, or caring for an elderly parent or trying to help a defiant son or daughter. But if the son of God was willing to embrace lepers, eat with sinners, and wash dirty feet, we must will to “go low.” too.
In what ways is the Lord humbling you? How are you be trained to serve in the Kingdom of God?
March 16, 2017
He is like a tree
planted near running water,
That yields its fruit in due season,
and whose leaves never fade.
Whatever he does, prospers. Psalm 1:1-2,3,4, and 6
Recently I read a heartwarming story about a 91 year old man from Michigan in hospice. Though battling terminal cancer, he spends his days making hats for the homeless while lying in his bed. Using a small loom, he crochets the hats with donated yarn and donates them to charity. He’s doesn’t know exactly how many hats he’s made because he stopped counting at 8,000. In his last days of life, God is prospering the work of his hands.
Prosperity is an interesting concept. In our early years, many of us listen to an inner voice that tells us: “ Strive for financial success! Be prosperous!” But as we age, many of us realize that it doesn’t matter how much money we’ve made or how expensive our house is. The closer we get to eternity, the more we begin to review our spiritual life. In our golden years, many of us ask: Have I prospered in love? Have I grown more compassionate? Have I been a good servant of God?
The hat-man is a beautiful example of spiritual prosperity. Though faced with many physical challenges, he is weaving (and leaving) blessings for the world.
How does God want to prosper the work of your hands? What small gifts can you share with the Kingdom of God?
March 17, 2017
Israel loved Joseph best of all his sons,
for he was the child of his old age;
and he had made him a long tunic.
When his brothers saw that their father loved him best of all his sons,
they hated him so much that they would not even greet him.
Genesis 37:3-4, 12-13A, 17B-28A
I grew up with five sisters. As teenagers, we fought about everything; barrettes, makeup, clothes, car keys, jewelry– you name it. Now that we’re older, we appreciate and even celebrate our differences. My sister Peggy is a natural designer and often sews drapes for my home. Annie calls me daily just to share a funny story or joke. Kathy is a prayer warrior and her wise counsel is never weighed lightly.
Nine years ago, it was my sisters who got me through the most difficult day of my life. On that cold day in January, we buried my twenty-three-year-old daughter. As guests began arriving at the entryway of the church, my sisters gathered around me, three on one side and two on the other. Their presence encircled me like a sunlight and I will never forget the warmth of their support.
In our reading for today, young Joseph fought with his siblings too. One fight was over a tunic, of all things! When Joseph donned the colorful coat, his brothers became jealous and threw him into a well, leaving him for dead. (Talk about sibling rivalry!)
But years later, when all the brothers were grown, a beautiful and unexpected reconciliation happened. Joseph, now the esteemed leader of Egypt, offered unconditional forgiveness to his brothers. Through his tears, Joseph told his siblings: “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good.” Genesis 50:20.
I have yet to meet a perfect family. Most of us have at least a few issues that need some work. In the story of Joseph, we see that God can heal even the worst cases of family rivalry, jealousy or betrayal. So too, in our own family stories, God longs to mend what is broken.
Today, visualize your own family and let the story of Joseph to speak to you. As you imagine what restoration might look like, be open to the Lord’s plan. Pray for healing and try not to grow weary if the answer doesn’t happen immediately.
Trust that God, in his own way and time, will bring it about.
March 18, 2017
While he was still a long way off,
his father caught sight of him, and was filled with compassion.
He ran to his son, embraced him and kissed him.
Luke 15: 1-3, 11-32
When I see a young parent cradling an infant, I always smile. I’ll never forget those early days of motherhood, especially the way it felt to kiss the faces of my three little children. Their chubby cheeks were as soft as marshmallows and all these years later I can still hear their giggles. “Do you know how much I love you?” I would gush. Boundless beauty was pack into their smallness. Each of them, in their own diminutive way, brought so much joy to our family.
Now that my kids are in their twenties, I still kiss them on the cheek when they visit. They always roll their eyes, but I want them to know that my love is unchangeable. “Sorry…” I tell them. “I’m here for the long haul!”
Maybe that’s the way the father felt in today’s reading. After his young son spent months partying and squandering his inheritance, the wayward son returned to his father’s house, remorseful. At best, the reunion should’ve been awkward. The sins of the son had dishonored the family in so many ways. But when his father caught sight of him something amazing happened. He ran to his son and kissed him! I love this image—a dad who simply can’t un-love his son.
We all have sins that aren’t proud of. But today’s reading reminds us that we can always come home to the mercy of God. No matter what we’ve done, Our Father waits for our return.
Like the prodigal son, we can never be un-loved by God.