Hello everyone! I just wanted to take a minute to wish you all a Blessed and Merry Christmas! I will be unplugged this week to enjoy family, friends and take a rest. I'll be back with more joyful words and tales to tell on the 29th. Enjoy the last week of Advent and get excited as you take these final few days to get your heart ready! Thank you for your support, your prayers and for being a faithful reader here at joyful words! May God richly bless you this Christmas!
"Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; Matthew 5:12
When the Christmas decorations come down from the attic each December there are a few things I unpack first; the really special things. The first is the handmade Nativity Stable my father-in-law made, the second is the needlepoint stockings with the kids names Dave’s sister Jan made and the third is much less sentimental but still a personal favorite; the movie Elf. Quite a contrast I know but there is a good reason. When I take out the first two my heart is touched! I think of the time and love that went into the creation of the stockings and stable and I re-play Christmas past. When the movie comes out I laugh; plain and simple…it just makes me laugh! It’s always good to laugh but this time of year it’s even more important to balance the hectic days with some spirit lifting laughter.
One of the things I love most about the main character; Buddy the Elf, is his contagious enthusiasm and cheerfulness. Granted, he’s a bit over the top but he just seems to roll with life, finding the good in everything and every person; including angry Taxi drivers and mean raccoons! He finds great pleasure in simple things like revolving doors, paper snowflakes and maple syrup. He works hard, doesn’t complain, tries his best to please everyone, compliments easily and speaks the truth always. He is good, kind, friendly and sincerely thoughtful and sweet. I think the world could use a lot more Buddy’s! The one thing though that really makes Buddy unique is his passion for Santa. One of my favorite scenes is when the store manager announces that Santa will be arriving the next day and Buddy jumps and claps and screams “I know him, I know him!” He immediately recognized the Santa that arrives the next day as an imposter. Right away he saw him and said, “That’s not him, I know him and that’s not him.”
Now before you all think I’ve lost my mind with today’s post I want you to stop for a minute and think with me. We have one more week of Advent left to get ready so allow me to make a comparison. In the movie, Buddy stayed up all night preparing the toy department for the arrival of his favorite guest; the guest he knew intimately. Buddy nearly jumped out of his elf tights with excitement when he found out he’d be seeing his friend. He loudly demonstrated passion, happiness, excitement, and unmeasurable pleasure at the mere mention of his friend’s name. What if the movie was called “Jesus” and we were the main character? What would our reaction to our friend be? Would there be jumping, clapping or unmeasurable joy and excitement at the mention of his name? Would we stay up all night making the perfect preparations for our special guest or would we just try to make time when we could squeeze in a minute or two here and there? Do we know him intimately or are we sometimes tricked by a false Jesus allowing it to distract or divert us from the true meaning of the Savior?
Sometimes we do the same thing over and over and wonder why it didn’t turn out differently. Maybe that describes your Advent but not to worry…there is a week left. There is great value to looking at something familiar with a completely new perspective. Maybe it’s time to think like Buddy the Elf. Maybe it’s time to imitate his enthusiasm. Maybe it’s time to put away doubt and skepticism and look with eyes and hearts of hope, joy and thoughtfulness. Maybe it’s time to imagine ourselves standing at the Nativity scene with contagious enthusiasm because he came…the savior came…to see me…to live for me…to die for me…to bring me the gift of salvation! Maybe our goal for the next week is to expect and anticipate Jesus with the same excitement Buddy had for Santa.
A Seed To Plant: Watch Elf, or at least a YouTube clip from the movie and see it through the lens of you and Jesus then make a plan for how you will imitate Buddy’s enthusiasm during this last week of Advent.
Blessings on your day!
Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour. Matthew 25:13
I love Tuesday’s! That’s the day students file in, find a seat and get ready for “Tuesday Tunes”! The process is very simple and I’m amazed each week at how something so simple can be so fun and powerful. After I play a song we talk about what God might be speaking to us through the lyrics. I’m always amazed at the way some kids react and respond. I’m continually surprised at how the same set of words can mean something so different to each of them; and the way some of them dig half-way to China and grab a deep nugget of wisdom and insight never ceases to amaze me!
Last Tuesday I played a song called Born In Me by Francesca Battestelli. If you haven’t heard it make sure you head over to YouTube when you’re done reading to check it out; it’s an incredible song. When the song finished there was just silence in all four classes. They were thinking and studying the image of the Baby Jesus at the end of the song. It was pretty amazing to see a room full of middle lovelies just entranced by a song. There was a line in the song that said “I will hold you in the beginning and you’ll hold me in the end.” Several said that was Mary talking simply saying Mary held Jesus when he was a baby and then Jesus will hold her in his arms when she comes to heaven. One dug really deep and said he thought it was God speaking to us saying “I held you in my hands and made you in my image as I created you and after you have lived your life well on earth, you will return to me and I will hold you again.” May I remind you this child was 12! Amazing!
Another line they found powerful was the line that said “I’ll make my heart your Bethlehem” What a beautiful thought! A few of the middle lovelies were sure that meant that Jesus came to Bethlehem the first Christmas but as he finished his life on earth we simply celebrate his return to our hearts each Christmas. Beautiful…and then another one said; “We have to work really hard to make sure our heart is pure, clean and wide open because if our heart is to be his home, we don’t want him to find there is no room at the inn again!”
The kids picked up on the line that said, “If You’re pleased with me why am I so terrified?” I loved the thoughts on this line. There were the obvious ones like, she was afraid of what her Joseph, her parents and family would say and she was afraid of the unknown. But then it happened…someone went in a direction I’d never considered and said, “I think Mary was terrified because she wanted to make sure she could protect God’s son. I can’t always protect my iPod and my cat; I can’t imagine how scared I would be to be in charge of Jesus! I just think she was afraid to disappoint God because disappointing your parents is really a bad feeling.”
The last line that really struck them said “The only thing my heart can offer is a vacancy.” One class fell silent when a very humble and honest young man said, “I don’t even think I can offer that most of the time. I spend too much time being selfish, playing and doing what I want to that I don’t think there is enough room in my heart for Jesus.” Holy Cow! I think he spoke for all of us and opened the door for amazing discussion on the ways we can use the last days of Advent to make sure our heart can offer a vacancy to the Newborn King.
It was more powerful than you average Tuesday that’s for sure! If you’re looking for a new way to sit in quiet prayer you might try a Tuesday Tune of your own…on any day you like. Just play it and see what lines hit your heart and then spend some prayerful minutes just pondering the words and the message.
A Seed To Plant: Find Born In Me and give it a prayerful listen.
Blessings on your day!
"And he said: "I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven." Matthew 18:3
Have you ever put something aside in a “safe place” only to discover a few weeks or months (or maybe even a few hours) later you can’t remember where that safe place is? Maybe it’s just me but the older I get the more time I spend trying to find safe places. A while back, someone sent me the message in today’s post and I put it in a safe place. Months later, ta-da! I guess I’ll call it Gods excellent timing because I just happened to stumble across it last week while I was preparing for an Advent by Candlelight event I had been invited to speak at and the words were a perfect fit with the message of the evening. As I think about ways to make Advent more meaningful, this was the perfect thing to find. I hope in these words you can find some things to prayerfully ponder and maybe even change in order to put things in the right perspective and get ready for the birth of our Savior.
THE PARADOX OF OUR AGE
We have bigger houses but smaller families;
more conveniences, but less time.
We have more education but less sense;
more knowledge, but less judgment;
more experts, but more problems;
more medicines, but less healthiness.
We've been all the way to the moon and back,
but have trouble crossing the street to meet the new neighbor.
We build more computers to hold more information,
to produce more copies than ever,
but have less communication.
We have become long on quantity but short on quality.
These are times of fast foods, but slow digestion;
tall men but short character;
steep profits but shallow relationships.
It's a time when there is much in the window,
but nothing in the room.
I hope somewhere in that story you can find a little nugget or two to work on, I know I see several! A few of the middle lovelies told me last week they were committing to less time “on screen” and more time “in prayer” this Advent. I promised I’d join them because I can’t be in charge of the world and fix all the issues this little story points out, but I can be in charge of my own heart and my own home…and that’s really all God ever asks us to do. He doesn’t ask for perfection, only participation. Please join me this week in pondering these words. The last line really hit me; much in the window but nothing in the room; if the room is my heart I’m petrified at the thought of nothing; but I rejoice at the thought of Jesus taking up all the space in my heart.
A Seed To Plant: Take this story into your prayer time and really ponder what God might be leading you to do or change as you use this Advent Season to prepare for His coming.
Blessings on your day!
Be still and know that I am God. Psalm 46:11
Today’s blog is brought to you by a guest author I happen to think is pretty amazing! What you’re about to read is a prayerful meditation written by my daughter, Shannon. She wrote it to read last Monday night when more than 100 high school students gathered for a night of praise and worship. She will tell you it was completely inspired by the Holy Spirit and its only purpose was to help guide herself and her peers as they gathered to pray. She didn't want anyone to know the words were hers but her mamma thought they were too powerful to leave on her IPod. I hope they help you in your search for Advent patience and peace.
Some were dragged here tonight; some are here because their friends came; and some really are excited to be here. Maybe you’re sitting in your seat and see people kneel and prayerfully lift their hands and you think to yourself "What am I missing?? Why don't I feel anything? Where is God for me? I struggle too!" Maybe you want to be close with God but you’re scared what the people beside you will think if you bow your head to pray. Maybe you’re thinking “Who is this God anyway?” In church maybe you just say the words because it's what you’ve said since you could talk...but those words mean nothing. The gospel yesterday was something about "being alert and waiting" but you’re not even sure what you should wait for or what you could even do to start. Besides you don't even know what a guy that lived a couple thousand years ago can do for you!
If you’re thinking things like this, don't worry because God wants to let you see how good he is tonight! So let's start from the beginning...prophecies said "there's a king coming!!! And he's gonna be awesome!!" So the news is that Mary's gonna have a kid! Months go by and it's time to have this lil guy and where is he born; a huge palace with jewels and gold?! No. he was born in a barn and laid in a manger-a feeding trough for cows! People we're wondering when the "awesome" was comin in.
Time goes by, he preaches and proclaims how great his dad is and how heaven is so great! But he was a just a regular guy, nothing awesome and at 33 he prepared to be whipped and face the biggest amount of humiliation and rejection ever imagined! "Awesome"??? Not seeing it and God says look closer...
"Why do you think I was born in such a low place, a cows feed pan! I did it for all the people that think they’re too far away and too low for me to take care of them! I did it so when people think they’re too dirty and too low down on the holy totem pole, I could then show them my life and they will see that I lived the most humble and lowly life there ever was! The reason why people pray to me isn't so they can be high up; they do it to learn how to be as humble and simplistic as possible. But you know why I did what I did and lived how I lived?? Because you are worth everything to me! I believe in you like no one else! I'm your number one fan and when you feel scared bow your head or raise your hands, let me meet you there because what I'm seeing in your soul right now is awesome; not because it's filled with jewels but because inside of you is a dirty feed pan of sins but guess what rests in that nasty dirty feed pan?? ME…IT’S ME… I dwell in your mess because I know what it's like to be surrounded by dirt. I believe you’re here sitting in your spot for a reason and I'm so proud of you for being here! Thank you! Let me meet you here right now!"
Come Holy Spirit! Let this Advent Season be about us giving our messes and burdens to Jesus who wants to make us stress free!
A Seed To Plant: The next time you sit down to pray, take these words with you and read them slowly imagining Jesus saying them right to you!
Thank you Shannon & Blessings on your day!
The Lord gives strength to his people; the Lord blesses his people with peace. Psalm 29:11
Well, we’ve flipped to the final page of the calendar and entered the season of Advent…the beautiful Christian season of peace, patience, hope, joy and waiting! We are pretty good at the joy and hope but the peace, patience and waiting; maybe not so much! If you ask me it’s pretty ironic that the busiest month of the year is flanked by the message of patience and waiting but come to think of it, of course the God that loves us completely would use those words in December to protect us from the events, parties, programs, shopping and festivities our culture dictates. In the month we are supposed to prepare for the greatest miracle of all time, we drive ourselves silly with shopping, decorating, celebrating and chocolate! STOP right where you are and re-think December with me if you would!
Advent is a season of Peace but what do you think of when you hear the word peace? Do you think of all the places including our own hearts that need it or do you see it at work in your life? Ladies and gentlemen…peace is something God promised but we have to want it, seek it and work for it. Peace is the gift of this season and you can’t get it on Black Friday, Cyber Monday or by waiting in line for an hour with a Kohl’s 30% off coupon. Peace is the result of prayer and stillness; peace is the gift of God’s presence in your day. It is that magnificent gift that helps you realize that if you give God you entire day and speak with him often throughout it, as if consulting your personal adviser he will provide those moments of great exhale as things just “magically” fall into place. He can handle the details, the shopping, the cleaning, the schedules. He’s bigger than your to-do list, he’s a better entertainer than Martha Stewart and he is rich beyond measure. You have four weeks to prepare for the gift of his Son Jesus. Do you want Jesus to be the first guest who gets the prime spot and all the best preparation or do you want to squeeze him in as the last guest through the door in a standing room only venue?
I know what you’re thinking…Sheri I just don’t have time to be still and prepare. Advent would be so much better if it was in March when I wasn’t so busy. Yup I hear you but think with me a minute. What adds to your goal of eternal life; the perfect gift and cookie plate for someone at the office or a heart that’s ready to welcome the gift of a miracle sent to this earth to live and die just for you? He loves you so much that even if you were the only one on earth, he would die just for you! That’s a gift worth getting ready for don’t ya think? Time is precious but consider this powerful though I ran across in one of my Advent Prayer Books, each 24 hour day has 1,440 minutes. If you spent just 6 minutes in prayer each day over the next 43 days (Advent and Christmas seasons) you would invest 1,440 minutes in your relationship with the Father and the Son he sent to this world as an infant to save us. It seems like a pretty small investment on our part that will reap an unbelievable reward. There has never been a time when we have needed peace more. Peace is the fruit of patience and waiting my friends! Let’s use this beautiful season to patiently wait for a Newborn King that has the power to change EVERYTHING!
A Seed To Plant: Find 6 or more minutes each day with the sole purpose of preparing for the gift that’s coming straight to your heart on December 25th! Think of it as advanced planning and preparation for the most amazing event you will ever attend!
Blessings on your day!
For then you shall delight in the Almighty and you shall lift up your face toward God. Job 22:26
Magnifying glasses are always a hit no matter what grade I teach. There is just something fun about looking at something regular in a new way. Even ordinary things like paper clips and the human tongue can become fascinating when seen with magnified detail. In the spirit of close inspection, I have a thought for you today compliments of Deacon Ralph Poyo. He was a presenter at the conference I attended last week and I could write a dozen posts with all the ideas he shared but today I have one word he explained in a whole new way.
The word is intimacy. Most of us would define the word as extreme closeness and that would be correct but we don’t often think of it in a Godly way. Deacon Ralph made sure everyone listening Wednesday night would think of it as a way to describe our relationship with God the Father. He said intimacy means IN-TO-ME-SEE. Talk about making a word come to life! So, grab your magnifying glass and head down to the next paragraph and let’s see what we discover.
God desires intimacy with each of us so if we stand before God in prayer and accept his invitation to see in to him; what would we see? I think we would see compassion, forgiveness, understanding, mercy, pride, delight and unfathomable love. That’s what he’s made of and that’s what he shows us. When we see him we see truth, justice, and everything right; not judgment, punishment or shame. I think he wants us to see that we are made in his image so we should see the same things in ourselves that we see in him. When was the last time you looked in the mirror and saw those things in your reflection? If we are intimate with him, we will begin to mirror what’s in him. I think the world could use a whole lot more of that image what do you think? He’s inviting us to see into him and loose ourselves in his goodness; he’s desperate for us to grow so close to him that we will move past things like guilt, shame, disappointment and greed. Seeing him closely will make us long for nothing else.
If I imagine seeing the face of God I often imagine myself turning or bowing my head in the presence of his greatness but he loves us so much he’s inviting us to get closer…so close we can experience IN-TO-ME-SEE!
A Seed To Plant: Write today’s word down the Deacon Ralph way and give it a lot of prayerful thought…let it draw you closer to the Father.
Blessings on your day!
Hello everyone! I will be attending a conference this week so I'm taking a little time out from the blog. I will have much to share next week. Until then...be well and blessings on your day!
Amen, Amen I say to you…John 5:24
The word amen appears in the New Testament more than 50 times. Its translation roughly means to support, agree or confirm. When I was growing up I was taught that amen meant “Yes! I believe!” If Jesus lived for us and died for us all out of love then my response sure should be AMEN or YES! It’s absolutely the least I can do!
This Tuesday, November 18 is “The Grace of Yes Day” or #graceofyes. The idea of saying yes to God’s plan for your life is an idea that author Lisa Hendy and her friends at Ave Maria Press hope will take social media by storm and go viral! Lisa is the author of a fabulous new book called The Grace of Yes: Eight Virtues for Generous Living. Lisa is the founder of CatholicMom.com. The website she started is now viewed worldwide and keeps central its focus to spread the Gospel and draw people to Jesus. Lisa is a speaker, teacher, writer, mom and beautiful Daughter of God. Her life has given her never-ending opportunities to say Yes to God and thousands and thousands have been blessed by the Grace of God that has poured forth from her YES. The book is full of beautiful stories of real people just like you and me trying hard every day to say YES and serve the God who loves us. It’s a true book of blessings for your heart and your life. She opens her heart and pours it out in absolutely life changing fashion. It’s a must have book!
The purpose of Grace of Yes day isn’t to sell books; it’s to create awareness and a desire to seek the places in our own lives where God is waiting for our YES! On Tuesday you are invited to share your story of YES! God is just waiting with abundant grace to hear our yes. He’s waiting to bless us and draw us tight to his side when we give him our yes or amen. It means we believe he knows what’s best for us; it means we support the plan he has for us by simply saying yes and allowing him to control it all; it means we confirm the fact that we adore him, we will be faithful to him and we surrender completely with a gigantic YES to the wonder and goodness and blessing he has in store for us! Join us on Tuesday and post #graceofyes on social media with a message of how you say Yes to God. If ice buckets, cartoons and pictures of movie stars can go viral don’t you think the power of saying Yes to God would be something positive to take the internet by storm? Go ahead, be brave, do a little faith sharing on your social media page…say YES to loving him out loud!
Happy Grace of Yes Day!
A Seed To Plant: #graceofyes…tell everyone what happened when you said YES to God. If you don’t do it on social media, please find a friend today and share the story of your YES…and get Lisa’s book…it’s awesome!
Blessings on your day!
And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. Luke 9:23
If someone asked you what holiness was could you give a good answer? I thought I could, but then something changed! Before this thing happened I would have told them holiness was going to church, saying prayers, doing good deeds, SEEING and BEING Christ to others…that’s what I thought. But then…I read something that stopped me in my holiness seeking little tracks!
Holiness is dying to self! What? I read those words again and promptly shut the book and put it down because I didn’t like that. I pouted about it for the rest of the day and then came back to those words later that night. I like going to mass, I like praying, I like doing sweet, thoughtful things for others, isn’t that enough? After some feet dragging, silent temper tantrum throwing and finally a very ungraceful surrender, I realized how true those words really were. I can add and do all I want but it’s about the subtracting; the dying.
As eerie as it sounds, each prayer journal entry this week has started with the words, Lord, help me die a little more today. No, I’m not loopy and I haven’t been sniffing the ink in the ditto machine I’m serious and it’s a lesson that’s HARD! Holiness is all about being close to Christ; so close I’m hidden in him and I can’t do that if I have my own stuff in the way. If you’re anything like me it’s a daily objective to make things easier and more comfortable for myself. I call it efficiency sometimes. I say I’ve earned it sometimes. I think its standing up for what I’m entitled to sometimes. The bottom line is this…I want what’s best for me, what’s most convenient for me, what’s easiest for me and I need to die a little because getting my way isn’t making me holy.
So how do I need to die? (That just sounds weird doesn’t it?) I need to die to my desire to be appreciated and recognized for everything. I need to die to my desire to eat anything I want because I like it and think it’s yummy. I need to die to my desire to be right all the time. I need to die to my desire to make comparisons and judgments. I need to die to my desire to tell God what I need and what he needs to take care of. I need to die to complaining because that is the greatest form of selfishness. I need to die to my desire to offer my opinion and perspective all the time. I need to die to impatience and worry. And I really need to die to my desire to organize, plan and evaluate everything. All of these things minimize the amount of room God has to work in my mind and my heart. All of these things separate me from God when what I really want is to grow in holiness. My sacrifices in dying to self in these ways are what God is inviting me to do…wanna join me and do a little dying?
A Seed To Plant: Write down the ways you need to die to self and then get busy growing in holiness.
Blessings on your day!