Yes, I Have Been Judas

One of the Twelve, who was called Judas Iscariot,
went to the chief priests and said,
“What are you willing to give me
if I hand him over to you?”
They paid him thirty pieces of silver,
and from that time on he looked for an opportunity
to hand him over.

Often on Palm Sunday, I think of Jesus parading in on a donkey, the palms waving in respect, and the beginning of the best and the worst week of his life. So, today when I read the beginning of the Gospel, I realized that my focus went to Judas.

Judas, the traitor.

My eyes couldn’t move past that part of the scripture.

Judas comment, “What are you willing to give me, if I hand him over?” was pretty telling of where Judas was in life. He was looking for an opportunity, but what opportunity exactly?

Judas was confused, scared, and falling into the hands of materialism and pride. Money and pride can get the best of anyone, but for Judas he would go down in history as the worst friend ever.

Judas is known by almost every Christian – even children – as someone NOT to be. It is easy to pretend that achieving the low status of Judas is next to impossible, but is it?

“I may be bad, but I am never as bad as Judas. Have you ever thought that to yourself before?”

Yet, I have been Judas.

I have hurt others reputations by talking about them and selling them out. It wasn’t the Son of God I was doing it to, but it was the children of God.

People sell out people all the time. It doesn’t even take someone who needs money to sell out someone else. As a society, we cast blame on others, we take money from those who need it most, we take bribes to do things we normally wouldn’t do, and we sell off someone else’s reputation to make us look better.

You might think – not me, I am never Judas.

Unfortunately, Judas is more relatable than you think. He is representative of our humanness. He comes into the story of Jesus for a reason. We are to reflect on him – not to say we will never be like him – but to say we are just like him. Jesus forgive us.

What we cannot copy is his end path. Judas allowed sin to bog down his soul. He could no longer live with himself. Instead of asking forgiveness from Jesus, Judas took his life. Can you imagine Jesus ever saying no to Judas asking for forgiveness? Even throughout the story of Judas, I can feel Jesus’ compassion and empathy for Judas’ sinfulness. Jesus feels the weight of Judas’ sin.

Jesus feels the weight of our sin too. No matter what it is. He feels our pain, our sorrow, and the weight of our burdens.

So, as you think of waving your palms today – think of waving down Jesus to ask forgiveness. Think of your palms as a sign that you are a sinner, and you need Jesus. Don’t let the weight of your sin bog you down like Judas. Think of your palms as a way to get Jesus’ attention and say, “Yes, I have been Judas.”

Come, forgive me.

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Paul’s Message of Discipleship

2 Timothy 1:7   For God did not give us a spirit of fear. He gave us a spirit of power and of love and of a good mind.

God’s message through Paul is clear.  Paul explains to Timothy to use the spirit that He gave you.  Spread His message sensibly with love and strength. Fear does not come from God. Fear is evil working its way through our soul.

Don’t you wonder why Paul felt it was necessary to write to Timothy?  My guess is that Timothy was in a rut. Spreading God’s message through his actions and words must have been exhausting and a little bit scary.  Timothy needed a pep talk, and Paul used his amazing writing skills to do this.  Sometimes when we try hard to spread God’s message we push through our own agenda, and it becomes exasperating.  Our bodies and minds tire from all the turmoil, and we cannot understand why people aren’t listening to us.

Throughout my life I have felt God’s call to accept people where they are and meet them there.  Not only in religious settings, but also as a teacher.  Sometimes we want those around us to be exactly where we are spiritually and intelligently.  We don’t want them to be too far ahead or too far behind, but come on now, that is impossible (and quite frankly, boring).

Wanting people on the same page as you is pretty common. You see it all the time. Recently, I rejoined Facebook. While I love the ideas for teaching lessons to my middle school students, I hate the rhetoric that goes along with it. People fighting with each other over politics. People spewing hate over who is to blame. People using all their energy to convince others that their view is the best. All the while making themselves look “right” while enforcing that others are “wrong.”

When I find myself scrolling down through it all, I encounter extreme exhaustion.  It just seems that God’s Will becomes the back-burner, and the individual will fight his/her way through for the “win.”  These actions and words fall on deaf ears because these people are pushing everyone to become just like them – and we all know that isn’t going to happen.  Pride begins to set in.  Stubbornness blocks hearts. Anger takes over. Divisions occur. God will eventually provide a good humbling situation, and trust me God is always quick to provide this. I personally know.

I know because it has happened to me. After multiple times of being on the receiving end of God’s redirection, I came to the realization that I was not meeting people where they were in life.  I was pushing them to be just like me, to think just like me, and to become mini-me.

If we all were in the same place in life, it would get a little crowded, and I hate crowds.  Crowds make me uncomfortable. They really would make me uncomfortable if we all looked and acted the same.  So why am I wanting everyone to think and act just like me?  Honestly, I don’t even like myself sometimes, so why would I think I am the role model for the perfect Christian?  Talk about uncomfortable.  Who would I look to for wisdom?  Who would provide me with new ideas and inspiration?

If I don’t want everyone to look and act like me, then what do I want?  What I have found (don’t get me wrong I still struggle with this) is that when we accept people where they are at, then we receive the benefit of their perspective.  Some of my biggest leaps in life have been because I have accepted spiritual advice from those much wiser.  Their strength, love and sensibility inspired me to be a better Christian.  Some of my biggest “aha” moments have been from those who I considered a little behind me spiritually (which I know sounds pompous, but stay with me on this).  These beautiful people reminded me of the gift of seeing Christ through a child’s eye.  It inspired me to go back and take a second look at my path.  It humbled me.

Interestingly enough some of the best conversations have been with those who had a different idea of spirituality.  These amazing friends have shown me the beauty of acceptance and love.  These friends are the ones that taught me the beauty of accepting and loving people where they are in the moment. 

Paul sees that Timothy is struggling, so he gives Timothy an inspirational letter to go out and motivate people with strength and love, but don’t forget to be sensible about it.  I cannot help but believe that Paul wanted Timothy not only to inspire, but to be inspired.  He wanted Timothy to increase his faith.  He understood that Timothy had already learned great things from his family, and didn’t want Timothy to keep that under a bushel basket.  He also didn’t want Timothy to go ram that light down someone’s throat.  He wanted Timothy to do it with grace, with good sense, and with a strong spirit.

I know I could use a letter like that.  Here is the good news: Paul wrote that letter for Timothy, but he published it for all to see.  Paul is writing that letter to each of us.  Go spread the Good News!  Use the spirit that God gave you to do so, but don’t forget to soak in the wisdom around you.  Don’t forget to listen and hear the cries of all.  Don’t forget to nurture your own spirit with goodness and grace.  Don’t forget to meet everyone where they are at, not where you want them to be.

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The Sword of Prayer

Ephesians 6:10-18

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.

Many people believe that prayer is passive in nature only. It is something you do when there is nothing else to do. When a friend or family member suffers, the belief is you should act on it. Take them a meal. Let their dog out. Go to the grocery for them.

While all these things are certainly kind, they are not what truly will get your family or friend out of trouble. Going to the grocery is easy. Making a meal is done with ease. How many of us can take time out of our day to sit in quiet and pray?

Prayer takes time for us to sit quietly with God. It is a commitment. It makes us reflect on the circumstances at hand. Most importantly, it makes us reflect on our own sinfulness. We cannot sit in prayer without cleansing our own soul to do so. In times of struggle, true prayer is the action that is avoided the most because to get to the prayer part, we have to move past our own pain.

What truly will defend the struggle is the sword of prayer. Prayer is far from passive. In fact, prayer is the most active thing anyone can do. Society thinks that action must involve something you can see and witness, but that is not the case. Prayer is powerful. It can change the path completely. Going to the grocery doesn’t even compare. Making a meal is nothing. Prayer is powerful.

As we look around today, we may not witness people in prayer, but trust me, they are praying. I find myself praying all day long. I wake up and pray. I pray throughout the day, calling out for God’s help in this crazy struggle for normal to return. I walk up the stairs and pray. I make dinner and pray. I have found unceasing prayer to be one of the most beneficial actions against this struggle.

In fact, during the last few weeks, the change in my own prayer life looks exactly like the Coronavirus curve we keep seeing on television. It has spiked tremendously.

I have known for many years that prayer is an active way to fight a battle, but I have succumbed to society’s – prayer is passive plan – too many times. When you read the scripture from Ephesians above, how could anyone come to the conclusion that prayer is just passive?

The armor of God is prayer.

It clothes us with protection for the battle.

It gives us the helmet of salvation.

Prayer helps us remain alert in times of trouble.

It fits us with peace. It calms our soul. It allows us to think clearly and with wisdom from God.

Prayer is active. Prayer is powerful. Prayer will win the battle.

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Psalm 102

The beautiful Psalm for today’s readings was incredibly powerful…

Refrain. O Lord, hear my prayer, and let my cry come to you.

O LORD, hear my prayer,
and let my cry come to you.
Hide not your face from me
in the day of my distress.
Incline your ear to me;
in the day when I call, answer me speedily.

R. O Lord, hear my prayer, and let my cry come to you.

The nations shall revere your name, O LORD,
and all the kings of the earth your glory,
When the LORD has rebuilt Zion
and appeared in his glory;
When he has regarded the prayer of the destitute,
and not despised their prayer.

R. O Lord, hear my prayer, and let my cry come to you.

Let this be written for the generation to come,
and let his future creatures praise the LORD:
“The LORD looked down from his holy height,
from heaven he beheld the earth,
To hear the groaning of the prisoners,
to release those doomed to die.”

R. O Lord, hear my prayer, and let my cry come to you.

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Blame

“Let the one among you who is without sin
be the first to throw a stone at her.”

John 8:1-11 tells the story of the prostitute that the Pharisees brought before Jesus to trick Him. They were eager to see how he would handle someone who had been caught in the act of adultery. Would Jesus forgive her? Would he condemn her?

Jesus throws it back at the Pharisees by recognizing that in fact – we all are sinful. So instead of condemning her, why don’t we take a look at ourselves first. It was a powerful message to everyone, even the Pharisees.

Sitting on my high horse and pointing the finger at all around me doesn’t do me any good. In fact, it does the very opposite. It takes away my chance at erasing the sin that is blocking God from entering my own heart.

As a teacher, I cannot tell you how many times a day I say to kids, “You cannot change him or her, but you can change your own actions.” I also find myself saying, “It is easy to point the blame at him or her, but what was your involvement?” I had thought it was really just today’s world, but now that I look back at this scripture, I realize it has been going on throughout all of mankind for thousands of years.

Blaming each other for situations without recognizing our own fault is a problem for everyone. I wish I could say only a few of us suffer from this syndrome, but that would be completely inaccurate. Pointing the finger at who is to blame creates a position of power. We feel we are better than others. We feel vindicated or our own sinfulness.

Jesus is telling us in this story that we need to set our own hearts right with God. Blaming others is never the solution. Finding what we could have done to make changes in our own life is always the solution.

Today, I begin my second week of online teaching. It is one of the hardest things I have ever done in my life. I have to be on my game; creating new and innovative ways to teach kids that have been thrown into a stressful situation. After texting back and forth with many teacher friends in all areas of the country, I have come to realize just what Jesus taught me in this scripture. I cannot control others. I can control my actions. I cannot stress over my mistakes and try to find someone to blame. I need to use those mistakes to make my teaching methods better the next day. I cannot please everyone, and I certainly cannot stress over trying to do so. I have to find a balance between loving myself enough to realize I am human. I will falter. Jesus will be there to help me up. Most of all, I have to love myself enough to realize that blaming others will not give me hope and determination to continue. What will give me hope is recognizing my faults, allowing God’s wisdom to guide me, and praying for strength to persevere each day.

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Sitting on the Sideline

John 7:40-53 We find Nicodemus in the scripture today. He subtly stands up for Christ in this story. His question, “Does our law condemn a man before it first hears him
and finds out what he is doing?”

Nicodemus is using the law to try to save Christ, yet he seems a little hesitant to do this. Nicodemus appears three times in the Gospel of John. He first appears asking Jesus what it means to be born again in Jesus. Jesus gives Nicodemus something to think about when he tells him we must be born of water and Spirit. We next hear from him in the story above where he seems to be working through what Jesus had told him previously in John. He tries to buy Jesus some time by using the law to question the other Pharisees and chief priests. Lastly, Nicodemus appeared at the foot of the cross. Joseph of Arimathea (another secret believer in Christ) and Nicodemus take Jesus’ body down from the cross and prepare the body according to Jewish tradition.

Nicodemus practices what I like to call a “sitting on the sideline” kind of faith. He sits on the bench watching and waiting for his moment. Sitting on the bench isn’t a bad thing unless you find yourself stuck there for life. As far as I know, we don’t hear much about Nicodemus after these three times in John. I am not sure what he ended up doing with this new found faith in Christ. Did he become a disciple? Did he continue to stay quiet about his belief?

I have been Nicodemus many times in my life. I have found myself quietly witnessing amazing disciples do Christ’s work. I have taken the time to learn from each of them, making mistakes, and practicing hard to be more like those disciples. Sitting on the sideline taught me the techniques of sharing Christ’s light. It was a time of listening and learning – not necessarily a time of action.

I have also been stuck on the sidelines. Instead of watching and learning, I became angry and filled with self-pity that I wasn’t the one playing the game. I have found my heart hardened to what was going on around me. My bitterness caused large amounts of sin to build up in my soul, and inaction became my middle name. Inaction became my life.

When we allow inaction to take over our life as a disciple – what we are all called to be – then we become afraid to make a move. This fear paralyzes us. It is not what God wants for any of us – ever.

We are called when we are baptized to be followers of Christ, but at the same time, leaders of faith. We are called to action.

Sitting on the sidelines is okay for a time, but at some point we have to stand up and shout out God’s message. We can no longer be afraid about life. We must prepare for that moment that our coach calls us into the game.

Yesterday, I watched Pope Francis give a powerful message on sitting back in fear. He read the scripture from Matthew about Jesus and the disciples on the boat when a large storm arose. The disciples were scared and anxious. They came to Christ in fear – asking Him – do you not love us? Aren’t you going to do something? Christ was heartbroken that they had so little faith. They still allowed fear to overcome them even when He was right there in there presence.

When we sit on the sidelines, we need to be aware, alert, and ready for anything. At any moment we may be called in to play the game. We have to know everything that is going on, and how to handle in-the-moment decisions. Fear cannot block us from doing this. After all, our coach is Christ. He will direct us, especially in the heat of the moment. He will be by our side even in the roughest storms. He will calm the storm in our heart if we just allow Him into our soul.

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Defend Us in Battle

Over the last few days, this has been my go-to prayer after my prayers.


St. Michael the Archangel,
defend us in battle.
Be our defense against the wickedness and snares of the Devil.
May God rebuke him, we humbly pray,
and do thou,
O Prince of the heavenly hosts,
by the power of God,
thrust into hell Satan,
and all the evil spirits,
who prowl about the world
seeking the ruin of souls. Amen.


Last night, I was kept awake after hearing about a dear friend who is in ICU battling this Coronavirus. This was the first time I had been personally touched by this horrible virus. I was angry and devastated all at the same time. So I started praying my go-to prayer immediately. I did it continuously for about 30 minutes.


When I awoke this morning, I decided to do a little research on just who is this St. Michael the Archangel, and why do I feel such protection when I pray his prayer?
St Michael the Archangel appears in Daniel 10, Daniel 12, Jude 1:9, and Revelation 12:7.

What I uncovered about St. Michael the Archangel is pretty darn scary. Scary, because there is a good reason that this prayer has come into my mind the last couple of weeks…


In Daniel, we find Daniel fasting and praying for an answer to his prayers. God sends a messenger to answer Daniel, but the messenger is detained for three weeks by some spiritual being. The messenger finally comes before Daniel saying that Michael, the archangel, assisted his arrival. It is here that we find persistent prayer can help us to remove obstacles that are blocking our way to God’s word. Michael, in Daniel’s case, was able to conquer the evil forces that were against Daniel’s message arriving safely.

Also in Daniel, we find the messenger sharing the future with Daniel. The future seems rather bleak. Michael, the archangel, will stand guard over the nation. The nation will suffer greatly, but there will be a time of hope for all true believers.

In Jude, whose one chapter in the bible is written to motivate Christians and help them recognize false teachings. Jude especially warns Christians of those teachers saying that it was okay to do whatever you please, just do what feels right for you, and forget about God’s punishment for the sinful. Michael appears… rebuking the devil in God’s name.

In Revelation, Michael is found at war with dragons. The dragon is a symbol of the devil. Michael defeats the devil, the one deceiving the whole world, and casts him down to the earth.

This prayer is a powerful prayer for all us to ward off evil, to cast out sin, and to set us right again with God. St. Michael the Archangel is the key to answering our unrelenting prayers, to protecting us from evil, and to conquering great suffering as he stands guard over our nation.

Today and in the days ahead, as we all begin to hear stories of friends, family, and strangers falling ill with this horrible virus, take a moment to pray this simple prayer. Call on this powerful angel to intercede for you, to protect you, and to conquer the great suffering of this world.

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When the World Wept

When the world wept,
Its tears filled the earth.
The oceans overflowed
And the lakes turned into rivers.
When the world wept,
Some people cried out for help
Others prayed
A few ignored it all
While some rejoiced in the life they had lived.
When the world wept,
Some people found sorrow in their own lives
Others saw money to made
A few united to help others
While some found despair.
When the world wept,
Once all the people looked around, they saw for the first time…a community.
Some shared their own stories to help others.
Others shared their gifts and talents to provide care
A few collected and gathered many, many more people who united in prayer
While others jumped in to console those in despair.
When the world wept,
It did not seem so big.
It no longer seemed lonely.
It became a family.
When the world wept,
The people found beauty within each other.
When the world wept,
It finally realized that it held great power.
Power it always had to defeat anything.
Power to change as long as its people united as one.

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Take up Your Cross and Follow Him

Matthew 16:24 “Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.’

I can honestly say I never recognized the meaning of this statement until the last few days.  God’s vision of what it means to take up the my cross and follow Him was not the same as my vision. My vision had more of a flippant view. It was more… “Hey, I have some extra time on my hands, why don’t I help out someone.” Or ” Maybe today I will go help out at the food bank.”

I wasn’t sacrificing anything to do the things I thought were good. I wasn’t going out of my comfort zone to volunteer to do God’s work. It was easy. Actually, it was too easy.

When Jesus called us to do take up our cross (which by the way you can always say no to- and many did), He called us to an eternal life with Him knowing that it would be hard work. It was going to take sacrifice and sweat. It wasn’t just a workout. The intensity of taking up a cross is one that most people would say, “No thanks, no way, and now how.” Denying who I am, means walking away from it all – for Christ. Giving up all those things that seem to mean so much to me – for Christ. Giving up my opinion of how things should be, and accepting God’s vision; in other words, taking up my cross and following Him.

Being a disciple who denies himself:

  • Letting go of your money bags – no more holding on to the “things” of this world that you think mean a lot but really are holding you back from God. This can be a lot of different things – money, family, friends, career, beautiful home, etc.
  • Pride has to go out the window – the opposite of pride, humility, is a good thing.  It brings us back to reality, and reminds us we are vulnerable.  We need to realize we are vulnerable in order for God to mold us into a new person.
  • Crush the control – everyone likes to be in control.  Come on, we all want our world to be “normal” and “scheduled.”  Surprises can throw a wrench in our plans, right?  Some of us dwell on this more than others, but you cannot deny yourself if you keep trying to control every little thing in your life.  Plus it will make you miserable if you try.
  • Relinquish reactions to the Spirit of Love.  This is my favorite – because I am a work-in-progress at this one.  Basically to deny yourself is to allow God to take over in your heart.  When we respond with love and compassion, we allow God to help us forgive, talk kindly to others, make decisions that are right, and that is exactly what He wants us to do.  It’s called Grace.

Take up your cross and follow me:

  • Accept struggles as blessings.  This is one of the hardest for me.  Struggles cause anxiety for me.  They throw me out of sync with life.  I get stressed out and angry (usually because I haven’t done one of those bullet points above).  Yet struggles are ways for God to transform me into a better version of me.  They are ways for me to allow God to take over in my heart and show me that there is an end to this.  I know when I allow God to take over, I have great peace and joy – even during the suffering.  But when I don’t, my suffering tends to get worse and worse – because I am controlling it – not God.
  • Take time by yourself.  When we take up a big, old, heavy cross, remember that God is doing it to transform us.  So take time and pray about it.  Take time away in a quiet place to think about what God needs you to do.  Take time to recognize that He wants to help you, but you have to deny yourself first.  And by the way, this is essential.  You cannot possibly understand God if you don’t spend time talking to Him.  Multi-tasking this is not an option.  It needs to be done with complete attention to God.
  • God did not call us to be comfortable.  He says that very clearly in Matthew 16:24 that I wrote above!  Unfortunately, a comfortable life means you are not being transformed.  When you aren’t being transformed, then you aren’t going through the process that you need for eternal life with God.  That is not something that people like to hear, but it is absolutely true.  We are humans and sinners.  We are a work in progress.  There is not one of us that doesn’t need to change.

Going through the process of struggle can seem like torture to so many.  I know it did (and still does) for me.  The constant feeling of going one step forward and three steps back can be exhausting.  Yet when I take time for myself, I realize that going through this process with the spirit of love in my heart (which is called Grace) changes the whole ballgame.  Remember responding with love can make a horrendous struggle into a transformative blessing.

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Plans, Plans, and more Plans

Planning out my future has been a true delight to me. I love to make great plans about what will happen to my family, where my job is going, and most of all what I can do with my money. I love to plan out details of things and dream about how my plans will unfold.

In the last couple of years, I have seen many of my plans change drastically. Obstacles have been thrown in the way of my plans, health has changed my plans, and death has changed my plans. Recently though, I was finally back to my planning ways and felt like I was on a great track to my future. I know, dangerous waters here.

Then walks in March 2020….

Plans shattered…

Reworked…

Back-up plans….

I have now realized what it really means to live day to day. Does that change my planning skills? No way! I still plan, but now I have Plan A, Plan B, and Plan C. Sometimes I even throw in a Plan D for fun! Everyday there is some new twist or turn which usually will create complete chaos and mourning of my plan. A roadblock in my plan in the past would have thrown me into a toddler-like tantrum in my heart. I didn’t express it outwardly, but the turmoil I felt throughout my body was just like a screaming, kicking, and pounding-of-my-hands fit that a 2 year old would throw over not getting a cookie.

The last couple of days I have found that tantrum throwing does not do me any good. Let’s face it, this change-of-plans life is going to be a daily occurrence for a while. I need to shift into what I do well – plan. But there is an added twist.

I need to plan and realize I am not in charge….God is. And His plan is always better than my plan. It doesn’t mean I stop planning, but it does mean I am more open to Plan Z which most likely will be His plan. God doesn’t want us to take a back seat in this mess. He wants us to use the wisdom He has given us to solve problems and plan for the future. He also wants us to listen to Him at the same time.

We need to allow Him to mold us, but that doesn’t mean we take a back seat to the process. We still need to participate in the plan. If we have learned anything from the last couple of weeks, it is that God is nudging us to do something, to change something, maybe even to realize something.

The tricky part is our sinfulness can get in the way of using God’s wisdom to plan how to prepare. Our pride, our jealousy, our stubbornness, our materialism, our glutiny, and our laziness will get in the way. Staying connected with God is so important at this moment and time.

Recharging my soul with God’s word over the last few weeks has brought me tremendous peace. It has allowed me to be open to His plan which a couple times matched up with my plan. It has brought me strength when I just wanted to give up. It has brought me hope when all I could see was despair in the world. God is the key to cleaning up this mess. Taking time to be with Him, listen to Him, and plan WITH God will change your life.

God gave me the gift of planning. He wants me to use it, but He wants me to do it with Him. Living day to day means praying with God daily, being in the moment of the day, and accepting the beauty that He gives us each day. It doesn’t mean to stop preparing. It means to prepare with Him leading the way.

After all, isn’t the Lenten journey all about…. Prepare the Way for the Lord…

How can you prepare, if you don’t plan?

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