Monday, July 28, 2014

Overcomer


Friends of Faith:
I spent some time traveling and listening to Christian music yesterday – music that gained new meaning for Stan when he shared it with the high school youth who experienced an overturned raft in a class four whitewater rapids during their service trip last week.

“You're an overcomer. Stay in the fight ‘til the final round. You're not going under. ‘Cause God is holding you right now. You might be down for a moment. Feeling like it's hopeless. That's when He reminds You. That you're an overcomer. You're an overcomer. Everybody's been down. Hit the bottom, hit the ground. Oh, you're not alone. Just take a breath, don't forget. Hang on to His promises. He wants You to know.” Lyrics by Mandisa
It made me think about the hope given to us by Christ Jesus through His death and His resurrection. About the hope he gives to us, both in times of crisis and joy. We cannot be held down if we allow God to pull us up. We are not alone when we hang on to His promise and when we take every breath with the thankfulness that it is through Him that we live and breathe.

Jesus said to his disciples: “The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure buried in a field, which a person finds and hides again, and out of joy goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant searching for fine pearls. When he finds a pearl of great price, he goes and sells all that he has and buys it.” Mt 13:44-46
And the lyrics take on additional meaning when they are blended with Sunday’s reading…. When I am asked to give up everything to overcome, to find the treasure of heaven….. That God’s promise may be buried deep inside, even in emptiness. But when I seek to unearth His goodness and give Him all of my treasures, all of my dreams and hopes, then I can and will overcome.

Heavenly Father: Your love is perfect. I am asked to unearth my treasure, to give you everything earthly and to hang on to the pearls of your promises. You are my hope, my encouragement and my leader, holding me up so that I may overcome. Help me to believe and trust in your presence in every part of my life. Amen.

May we see that the real treasure of life, the treasure that will help us overcome, is the presence of Christ in our every trial, action and adventure.
May you always overcome through the intercession and grace of God’s perfection,
Blessings,
Charlotte

Monday, July 21, 2014

A Smile

Friends of Faith:
Smiling is a universal language. “Smile and the world smiles with you.” “A smile is the shortest distance between two people.” “Smiles multiply.” “You are someone’s reason to smile.” “A smile through tears is the most beautiful smile.” “A smile makes the world go round.” (I think this one should be, “a smile goes around the world.”) “Use your smile to change the world today but don’t let the world change your smile.” And, “Peace begins with a smile”—Mother Teresa.

 
As I was relating “fire stories” to one friend, she commented, “sounds like God has given you a few small miracles.” And I commented back—“yes, God has given us many BIG miracles.” Miracle after miracle, smile after smile—I wonder what God is thinking—not just about my own reactions, but about the reactions to the reactions of my actions, about how his miracles, his blessings are being carried forward. I hope each of my smiles is being carried on, multiplying as it travels, becoming love, peace and joy for someone who needs it more than this someone who is already so blessed.

 
"Jesus proposed a parable to the crowds, saying: “The kingdom of heaven may be likened to a man who sowed good seed in his field. While everyone was asleep his enemy came and sowed weeds all through the wheat, and then went off. When the crop grew and bore fruit, the weeds appeared as well. The slaves of the householder came to him and said, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? Where have the weeds come from?’ He answered,‘An enemy has done this.’ His slaves said to him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’ He replied, ‘No, if you pull up the weeds you might uproot the wheat along with them. Let them grow together until harvest; then at harvest time I will say to the harvesters, “First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles for burning; but gather the wheat into my barn.”’”

“He proposed another parable to them. “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that a person took and sowed in a field. It is the smallest of all the seeds, yet when full-grown it is the largest of plants. It becomes a large bush, and the ‘birds of the sky come and dwell in its branches.’” He spoke to them another parable. “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed with three measures of wheat flour until the whole batch was leavened.” ….His disciples approached him and said, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds in the field.” He said in reply, “He who sows good seed is the Son of Man, the field is the world, the good seed the children of the kingdom. The weeds are the children of the evil one, and the enemy who sows them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels….”” Mt 13:24-43

 
This weekend’s reading of the parable of sowing weeds amongst the good seed, and of the parable of the mustard seed, made me draw parallels between the sowing, growing, greatness and strength of the Christian community to the likeness of the spreading of a smile, just as God spreads the seed, and of the smallness of the mustard seed, to the seeming smallness of a smile which grows great and strong.

 
There is also the parallel of the devil that sows and promotes weeds to the everyday spreading of rumors and untruths, wherever possible, into every event of our lives, with the hope to cause us as Christians to believe the weeds are real, and to fail or make us forget to look around for real beauty, true blessings, growing around us.

And how God’s hand, his seed, is always the greater, better part of every circumstance: how his seed, like the mustard seed, like a glimmer of a smile, always grows stronger, taking over the entire field if we nurture and spread it—leaving the weeds behind, to be gathered at the end and burned, while the beauty of the flowers of the field are gathered by angels.
But what if what God plants, we as Christians sit back and ignore, become complacent and accepting of the weeds, allowing rumors and untruths to grow? Won’t this then mean the devil is being allowed a ground to play on, and the beauty of the flowers growing in the field could be overshadowed?

 
Heavenly Father, Your seed is strong, Your smile is powerful. I know I am as small as a mustard seed. Help me to become strong in faith so that my seeds, my smiles, will grow and spread. Thank you for your continued blessings of the smiles you send to give me peace and encourage me, the seeds of Christian friends, who support me when I am weak. Help us together to uphold the beauty of Your field, the Church, a community of love. Amen.

 
So as to kill some of those weeds, the rumors: we are doing fine; the shop, both sales and service, are up and running thanks to wonderful neighbors and friends; our insurance company is treating us well; I am thankful for my new offices downtown and enjoying having neighbors to smile at. And Stan’s phones are working J.

 
Please continue to pray for a resolution by the Fire Marshall as to the cause of the fire so we can begin demolition and rebuilding. As they are doing their job, God is developing our patience.

Although His miracles, like our smiles, might be small at first – His miracles, just like our smiles, are always big as they grow and spread into others’ worlds. When we are weak, he is strong.
 
If you are struggling to smile because you have no one physically smiling at you just try Googling: “smiles!!!” (And see the poem below)




The smile on my face doesn’t mean life is perfect; it means I appreciate what I have and what God has blessed me with.
Keep smiling, God loves you. Do me (or someone) a favor and smile, for you are someone else’s reason to smile,
Blessings,
Charlotte


PS: I couldn’t resist posting this poem – insert a smile at every dare…..
Dare to Be
When a new day begins, dare to smile gratefully.
When there is darkness, dare to be the first to shine a light.

When there is injustice, dare to be the first to condemn it.
When something seems difficult, dare to do it anyway.
When life seems to beat you down, dare to fight back.
When there seems to be no hope, dare to find some.
When you’re feeling tired, dare to keep going.
When times are tough, dare to be tougher.
When love hurts you, dare to love again.
When someone is hurting, dare to help them heal.
When another is lost, dare to help them find the way.
When a friend falls, dare to be the first to extend a hand.
When you cross paths with another, dare to make them smile.
When you feel great, dare to help someone else feel great too.
When the day has ended, dare to feel as you’ve done your best.
Dare to be the best you can –
At all times, Dare to be!”
Steve Maraboli, Life, the Truth, and Being Free

Monday, July 14, 2014

Growing Our Identity


Friends of Faith:
Who am I?

When Moses asked this question of God, he answered, “I am, who I am.” Ex 3:14
God’s identity is supreme, it is stripped of anything or anyone else—it is supremely one, He is supremely his own. And God’s desire for us is that we become like him, holy and without blemish, because he formed us in his image and likeness (Gn 1: 26)

Our identity, then, should not be defined by how we see ourselves or how someone else sees us, by what we own or don’t own, or by whom we know or don’t know, but rather only by how God sees us.
Yet in our human nature, all of us try to identify ourselves either by what we do, by what we have or by whom we know or are associated with (I am an accountant, he is the Chicago Cubs pitcher, they are the ones with the child who …., she’s the one that wears the fancy hat or drives the red sports car, they’re the ones with the mansion of a house or a great “man cave,” or they’re the ones who we always see with … at the football game).

And when I lose my ability to be an accountant, when the ball player loses his ability to throw a ball 99 miles an hour, when a child can’t or doesn’t have the desire to achieve all that we thought they should or could, when our car is wrecked or our house is blown over by a tornado, or when our friends move on – who are we then, who do we become without all this stuff, without all that we do, or without someone we thought we could depend on?
“And he spoke to them at length in parables, saying: “A sower went out to sow.  And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path, and birds came and ate it up.  Some fell on rocky ground, where it had little soil.  It sprang up at once because the soil was not deep, and when the sun rose it was scorched, and it withered for lack of roots. Some seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it. But some seed fell on rich soil and produced fruit, a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold.  Whoever has ears ought to hear.” Mt 13: 2-9

This parable isn’t just about what we do, but rather it is about growing our identity in and through our faith, about opening our ears and hearts to listen to God’s word (the seed) to be sure that it falls on rich ground (us.)
God’s word is like pure refreshing water. We can treasure and accept it like a cleansing rain or try to control it and make our own—eroding the soil and his truth, rejecting it as somehow polluted because we believe man’s ways are better than God’s ways.

I am asked to examine where the richness of my faith lies: in rich soil, Him, or choked out by the rocks and weeds of power or greed. I am asked to look for, recognize, and pull out the weeds and rocks in my life by examining and prioritizing Him over the materialism which overtakes the growth of the identity he desires for me.
I desire roots which are firmly planted in the truths of His church, nurtured by prayer and formation, and which will allow me to overcome the peer pressures of an immoral society.

I hope to grow my identity upwards, so that the fruit I am gifted with will become pollen for others by evangelization and the spreading of His good news.   
Heavenly Father, You are the greatest farmer, with seed so rich it fills my every need.  Refresh me with the pure, true and living water of Your Spirit. Help me to weed out the impurities of my life and strip myself of earthly riches, of the rocks and thorns which overshadow the identity you desire. May I bear fruit not of human materialism, but of a love which cares for and serves others. Help me to become more like your “I am,” created anew: holy, pure, humble and grateful to live in this, your heavenly garden. Amen.

Is my soul growing richer in God’s identity each day? Will I bear heavenly fruit?
May we reach out to each other to grow in faith together,
Blessings,
Charlotte

Monday, July 7, 2014

Meek and Humble of Heart

Friends of Faith:

“See, your king shall come to you; a just savior is he, meek, and riding on an ass, on a colt, the foal of an ass.” Zec 9:9

Christ did not come to us as a knight in shining armor riding in on a high horse, but rather he comes to us meek and humble, riding on a lowly ass.
And he did not reveal himself to the haughty and rich, the smart and the learned, but rather to the “little ones.”

“At that time Jesus exclaimed: “I give praise to you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to little ones.” Mt 11: 25-26
He revealed himself to the little ones, because just as any parent is to a child, that is when we are the most trusting, when like a little child I listened, hanging on to their every word, obeying their correction and accepting their love unconditionally.

But as I grow older, I deceive myself into thinking I have become wiser, that I have learned to do everything I need to do, and that “I can do it by myself.”
I often forget that it is through God that I am able to anything, yet alone everything.

Again this is not just today’s verse, for today’s situation, it is everyone’s verse, for every situation.
“Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.” Mt 11: 28-30

So, when I trust in God, when I listen to him, my decisions are easy, because they are his. HE makes my burdens light, he gives me knowledge, courage, strength, understanding and most importantly HE gives me peace.
Heavenly Father, send down your Spirit to ride into my life. Help me to realize that He will not come as a knight in shining armor, but meek and humble—whispering in the night. May I meet Him not on my own high horse, feeling as if I know everything, but rather, may I come to Him as he does to me, riding meekly and mildly, with an open heart, trusting and willing to follow His every command, listening for His whispers in the night. Help me to be His faithful child today. Amen.

This is Stan’s and my prayer as we face the challenges of rebuilding and restoring this week. Piece by piece God gives us answers and what we can handle, making our burden light, giving us an inner peace. Not necessarily taking away the problem, but rather making it not mine/ours, but giving us His answers and His peace to continue forward.
As of today we are still unable to enter the building, pray for our patience and an answer in this area. Our focus this week will be to get the parts that we were able to salvage more readily accessible and to finish building temporary office for our sales and parts departments.

We ask your continued prayers for safety and good health for us and all who are working to help us. And we thank God for the freedoms our nation has bestowed on us that allow us the choices to serve others in a way that honors Him.
I pray that each of you will not deceive yourselves into thinking you can “do it yourselves,” but instead meekly and mildly accept God’s hand in your lives,
Blessings,
Charlotte

Friday, July 4, 2014

In God we Trust


Friends of Faith:
This is what was posted today on the Hobby Lobby site... worthwhile reading and prayerfully it is the way we should and do "work" everyday...trusting God. He has certainly been our reliance, our strength and our joy.

Especially over the past two weeks we have thanked him for every blessing we have received... your prayers, the firemen's hands who fought and saved paperwork, the many willing hands we have called upon and those we have yet to call upon, answers to prayers for tools and a more current answer to office space for our sales and parts departments. And we ask for mercy for all the prayers of thanksgiving we didn't offer up because we didn't see the gifts before the fire.

Why is it that something has to be taken away from us to be able see the blessings of the gifts being given to us before they are lost? Not only is it evident by a fire (or any storm) which only destroyed/s replaceable "stuff," but also in terms of our marriages (in divorce and death); in our families (through the separation of unforgiveness and illness); and in our children who grow up too quickly.

We are still unable to access the building, but the blessing here is that this week we were able to focus on getting our service and sales departments up and running as well as settle into my new office space uptown. We are taking this long holiday weekend to regroup mentally by rest, prayer, and family time.

On Monday, with the help of your prayers we will be open for full service, sales and parts at the ZLine 9 Building just to the south of our former location. I have been operational all week at my new location 108 E High St. (formerly Doyles Family Pharmacy). Many thank you's continue for the Zimmerman's and Doyle's who have been so accommodating to our needs.

We would ask your continued prayers for the patience of our team, and our customers--especially those in any way impacted by some loss of equipment in the fire; for our insurance company to remain fair in their settlement with them and us; for the Fire Marshall to release the building for inventory and demolition; and for your willing hands when we call with a specific need.

Again, many, many thanks for your continued prayers.
May we not only be a nation, but a people who places our trust in God.
Have a Safe and Enjoyable 4th of July with family and friends,
In God we Trust!
Charlotte
In God We Trust

Monday, June 30, 2014

Our Response

Friends of Faith:

“Jesus had revealed himself to his disciples and, when they had finished breakfast, said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” Simon Peter answered him, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.” He then said to Simon Peter a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?”Simon Peter answered him, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was distressed that he had said to him a third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.” Jn 21: 15-19

Symbolically, Jesus asked Simon Peter for a response three times. And three times Simon Peter said, “yes,” “I love you,” and “I will serve you.”
We too are asked by God for that same response daily: a request and a response to love, to serve, and to pray unceasingly.

We spent a refreshing and joyous weekend in church attending the ordination of three new priests for the Archdiocese of Dubuque and attending their “first” masses. These young men have answered the call to “tend my sheep” for the rest of their lives. But just like us, they will be given challenges to continue to respond to that call every day: to pray, to serve, to be obedient and to do God’s will.
What is OUR response to God’s call? Are we ready to say a resounding yes? Do we pray unceasingly for the grace, and the ability to respond according to God’s will?

Many people have asked Stan and I how we responded to the phone call that our building and offices were on fire just a little over a week ago. Gratefully God continues to reveal himself to us and we were graced to respond and start that day in much the same way as we start every day: with the knowledge that that day, just like every other, was in God’s control, so holding hands we said a prayer – a prayer for safety of the firemen and all that would serve and that through the day and whatever would happen in it His will would be done.
We responded by turning to God in the trust of a prayer.

Our focus now, is to be certain that our continued response is for God’s purpose and not our own. As one of the newly ordained reflected on his responses, his choices, in being called to the priesthood, I reflected on the choices that Stan and I will make over the next few weeks.

I thought back to when we started our businesses and built the building. Then, the choices we made were much more about our immediate needs for jobs and how a new building would be able to accommodate both of our businesses. We focused more on what we needed and how much we could afford to give. God’s call and God’s desires for us to serve Him and his people were “accidental” rather than purposeful thoughts.
Thankfully,  looking back, God had a sure and certain hand in gifting us with what we needed and a purpose for our chosen careers. But, I am pretty sure we didn’t give him the credit he was due, or thank him often enough for all that we were given in and by the serviceability of those buildings.

Our response and our focus now are much different. We are focusing on being patient for the answers to our many prayers of how to rebuild. We pray that our every response and our every choice remain directed by God. We are relying on our faith and trust in him, knowing that He will provide if we make the response and choose to love and to serve.
And our focus on rebuilding is on the thankfulness of the response of others to our needs, of being offered temporary locations at Z Line and Doyles and of the many willing hands who are making these spaces feasible and practical.

While we realize that we ourselves no longer have a “need” for a job, the building or to build we also realize that God calls us to more. He is asking us to serve: our employees, our customers and our community. It is where our response must always be a heartfelt “yes.”
Daily each of us are given challenges and therefore an opportunity to answer “yes” in response to God’s call to serve others regardless of the circumstances of those challenges. Some calls, some challenges, some opportunities are bigger than others, but EVERY choice we make, big or small, is a choice to choose God, to respond to God’s call to love and to serve the needs of others; to pray unceasingly for the Godly responses to the human answers of our “how to” questions.

Heavenly Father, You love us unconditionally and offer us the opportunity to accept you by the responses we make to the challenges placed in our lives. Help us to make choices which show you our grateful acceptance of all that you provide for us daily. Help our love of you be a witness which will convert hearts and hands to more fully love and serve you. Thank you for revealing yourself to us so that we are given the opportunity to respond in faith. May each person who responds to you in faith be given the mercy of peace, joy, hope and comfort in their daily lives. Amen.
What will your response be to God today? Will we be able to say: “I have competed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith.” 2 Tm 4: 7  

Pray unceasingly that you will answer His call and respond to his message, in love, in service and in acceptance of the gifts of every challenge and every opportunity provided.
Blessings,
Charlotte

Friday, June 27, 2014

Friday Prayer Requests

Friends of Faith:
Our prayers today are of continued thanksgiving for all the blessings have received: from God in a beautiful rainbow to start Thursday, along with the mass Scripture which spoke to us of how and why we are called to adversity, and the hope he graces us with; to the many blessings we are receiving from each of you in support by cards and emails, hands, prayers, food and a willingness to be there whenever we call.

We would also ask your continued prayers that the insurance and fire marshall/adjuster would finish their investigation fairly and quickly so that we can begin removing contents from the building and again for patience for us and for our customers.

Many of you have asked how we are doing and how we are doing this: The following is a message I received, before it my reply to her. In actuality this applies to all of us, every day, and for every reason, and speaks exactly as to both hows:

Dear Uncle Stan and Aunt Charlotte,
I was reading my devotional tonight and it made me think of you guys and everything going on this week:
"Stay calmly conscious of Me today, no matter what. Remember that I go before you as well as with you into the day. Nothing takes Me by surprise. I will not allow circumstances to overwhelm you, so long as you look to Me. I will help you cope with whatever the moment presents. Collaborating with Me brings blessings that far outweigh all your troubles.Awareness of My Presence contains Joy that can endure all eventualities.
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
—Psalm 23:1–4 nkjv
Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.
—2 Corinthians 4:16–17"

Know of my prayers for you- both of thanksgiving that you two continuously look to The Lord for strength and guidance immediately as obstacles come your way, and prayers for strength that you may continue to rely on God and trust His will completely. I will offer a rosary up for you tonight."

And my reply:
Thank you! That is perfect and exactly why we have been able to stay calm. I told Uncle Stan yesterday almost this exact thing....and wondered how anyone without faith would ever make it through life in general.... not even just in a catastrophe.
Thanks for the rosary. We know God is answering our prayers through Mary's intercession.
Love Uncle Stan and Aunt Charlotte
 
I won't post again until my regular Monday morning as we will be spending the weekend with Andy at the ordination of three of his classmates. Pray for the graces bestowed on them as new priests and for all of their spiritual mentors who guide them.
 
May you all be blessed by the grace of God as we are, in faith, in hope and in love,
Through Christ our Lord, Amen!
Charlotte & Stan