“For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them." Matthew 18:20
Have you ever accepted an invitation to show up somewhere and “help” only to discover when it was all over that you were actually the one who was “helped”? Last weekend when I volunteered to “help” as a chaperone at the Steubenville Youth Conference, I thought I was doing a small act of service for the Parish and the 60 kids who had signed up to go. Boy did I have that backwards! One of the tasks of the chaperones is to facilitate a small group that meets several times throughout the weekend to process everything they’re hearing, feeling and thinking. The goal is to help them deepen their faith, and ensure the experience impacts them for longer than just a weekend. The small group I worked with was a collection of nine fantastic young women you could imagine and they amazed and inspired me each time we met.
Before I get too far into the story, you should know that a small group discussion meeting is not on teenager’s top ten favorite things to do
list! This group was an exception! They were always eager to gather under a tree somewhere on campus and share their thoughts and see what
insights the other eight had to share. They amazed me time and time again! These lovely ladies are all recent graduates and they wanted to soak in everything they could before they charged off into the world. They wanted to process the information but more importantly they wanted to talk about how they could weave it into the fabric of their being to help them become better disciples. They want to LIVE their faith not just claim they have it!
They laughed together, prayed together, cried together and they
did it all with such loving support of one another. I’m not sure they realize how amazing their connection to each other really is. They shared the ways
they felt God calling and working in their hearts with the same casual ease some adults talk about the weather. It was just so natural and candid and honest. They tackled some tough topics about college and prayer and personal brokenness. I had the best spot at the conference and it was my pleasure, my joy and my great blessing to have been a part of this circle of nine amazing, beautiful, faithful, funny, loving young women. God has great plans for those nine and I know with all certainty they will make good on His plans!
I guess the thing that made them so inspiring to me is that they were able to do something that we aren’t so good at as adults and that’s help each other share and grow in our faith. They did it with such ease…like they were talking about the latest fashions or what they were having for lunch…it just flowed from their hearts. I was very humbled and I realized I want what they have. I went to help but they taught me there is something very important missing from many adults’ lives. We don’t typically huddle together and talk about the grace God has slathered us with lately or about the way we feel Him working through us as we navigate our way through the challenges of everyday life. Why don’t we? We share tools, we share cleaning tips and recipes and we share our Kohl’s 30% off coupons but we don’t share the stories of God alive and present in our lives. If you could only see the spark, the enthusiasm and the greatness that can come from a conversation like that you’d be convinced. For now, you’ll just have to take my word for it and accept my invitation to gather a group of people and make Jesus the topic of conversation.
I feel obligated to announce to the world that there are nine young women on fire for the Lord ready to let loose on the world…stand back…they have faith and they aren’t afraid to share it and live it. Good luck ladies and thank you for the blessing you’ve been to me and thank you for the way you are about to make a difference in this world!
A Seed To Plant: Gather a few friends and talk about the work of the Father in your lives. Start with a scripture verse and let it flow from there.
I guarantee the graces will be abundant!
Blessings on your day!
It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you… John
A good number of us wake up each morning and choose to pray and
invite God to help us live a saintly day. I don’t know about you but I put the whole weight of discipleship on my shoulders. I thought Christ’s love was connected to MY choices, My sins, MY behavior and actions…but in reality, this passage from John’s Gospel makes it very clear that before I even came into being, I was chosen by God the Father. The whole truth is, He
picked us first and we are His no matter how much we goof up our relationship with Him!
Now I’d like to tell you that I discovered and pondered that revelation while in a quiet and peaceful lakeside location…and I contemplated it some more as I strolled through a majestic forest while listening to the birds and smelling the flowers and admiring God’s colorful handiwork in nature. But…that would be a lie! I tend to think I can only come to these great discoveries in stillness and prayerful connection to God, but…just because He can…He taught me some amazing things this past weekend in the craziest, loudest, most electric place possible! I had the enormous pleasure of chaperoning a bus load of high school students to the Steubenville Youth Conference at Franciscan University this weekend. After we checked into our luxurious accommodations…oh wait it was a dorm room….we walked to the Field House and were greeted by about 2,200 teenagers….and a band…and beach balls bouncing through the crowd, and lots of jumping and singing and screaming and …I’ll stop before you all need to go find ear plugs or take a Tylenol just imagining it! It wasn’t a rock concert or a ball game, it was praise and worship adolescent style and I am changed because of their passion and their faith and the their enthusiasm!!!
The theme of the conference was “Chosen” and we spent the weekend
learning and understanding that we are chosen, loved and accepted unconditionally by our Heavenly Father. That was a powerful revelation for hundreds of teenagers this weekend, and having a part in watching those revelations occur was a blessing beyond measure. It’s a very humbling and
amazing experience to hug a teenager as they laugh or weep deeply because they have been able to push past every obstacle society puts between them and God’s love and then watch God fill them so full it leaks out all over! It’s incredibly powerful to see more than two thousand kids kneeling in bleachers or a gym floor so completely immersed in prayer that an hour passes like a second. It’s incredible to watch the power of the Holy Spirit fill a teenager so full of courage and hope and holiness that they crave God’s word and they dedicate their heart to the Father and not to the world. I can’t even describe what a splendor that sight is to behold!
If you’re watching the news, reading the paper or having conversations that include topics like, government healthcare, Monsanto, the IRS or just about any other worldly topic, it’s easy to feel like someone just pulled your plug and drained out a good share of your hope and optimism. I am here to tell you to lift up your heart because what I witnessed this weekend proved that THEY are our hope. If we want to make a difference in this world there is a natural resource we need to protect and nurture and it’s our youth! They have a fire, a hunger and an ability to bring about greatness…the greatness of Christ. Youth who love Christ and are armed with the knowledge that they are CHOSEN are a powerful ally in the battle for truth and goodness!
I’ve felt their passion, I’ve seen their enthusiasm and I’ve heard their voices lifted in praise and I’m tellin ya…they are a mighty force. They are the body of Christ NOW and they need our prayers and our support and ou interaction NOW. As adults we tend to view them as the future of our church when actually they ARE the church and they are hungry for a place to love and serve the Lord. In many cases they know more than we do, they love Christ more deeply than we do, they have more passion than we do and they certainly have more energy than we do. We need to stand side by side with them and set about the work of those who know they are CHOSEN! If you don’t think working with teens is in your set of gifts, then pray for them or financially support their spiritual development. If you doubt the power of a teenager, I’m guessing you’ve never seen firsthand what happens to one who allows the power of God to work through them. That’s something EVERY person should see, they will amaze you!
A Seed to Plant: Get the names of some teenagers from your church and begin to pray every day for them by name. At some point this week pick out a teenager and have a conversation with them and encourage them in some way.
Blessings on your day!
"Joy is the serious business of Heaven.” ~ C. S. Lewis
I think if any of us could actually remember our first year of life, we’d be
amazed at all we were able to do in twelve short months. Some of us have a better understanding of the accomplishments of the first year of life because we’re parents. Many have perhaps never even stopped long enough to give it thought, but if you ponder it a second it’s pretty amazing. Babies begin as little bundles that can’t even hold up their own head but they turn into little people that learn to communicate, motivate their body, begin to feed and soothe themselves, and recognize the ones they love. All that in 365 days! The really astounding part is they do all of it without going to a class, or a seminar and with very little guidance and instruction; it just happens naturally. Generally speaking, nobody really interferes with the process…we don’t introduce legislation or pass ordinances or seek corporate funding for the process. We simply have faith, pray for healthy children, meet basic human needs, lovingly support and encourage and… ta-dah…the result is as a one year old who is surprisingly different than the child they were twelve months earlier.
Today is the first birthday of the Joyful Words blog and as I reflect back on what has changed and what I have learned in the last twelve months I am surprised, pleased and humbled! This whole process has been very much like the first year of a baby’s life. I started out with no training, no experience and I often feel no business, offering perspective and ideas about how to “Live Christ”. I’m not a trained writer, Theologian or Scripture scholar. What I am, is a woman who gets it wrong more than she gets it right and I’m able to use laughter and humor as I look for God in the most common and the most peculiar situations and experiences. I really think becoming good Disciples is all about practicality and I think God uses the events of daily life like laundry and flat tires and disappointments to draw us closer. I truly believe we seek the simple and simple is what I’m good at!
I will be honest, I fought this writing thing kicking and screaming! I had attended a class on the gifts and charisms of the Holy Spirit and through the course we were required to complete a 180 question inventory. The scores revealed that I possessed the charism of writing. I distinctly remembered thinking the scoring tool was suffering some sort of malfunction! I sat with that knowledge for more than two years and throughout that time these odd requests kept coming to me that all required writing. My mom was a huge believer in the power of the Holy Spirit as the giver of words and knowledge so when those first requests started coming in, I remembered the way she taught me to pray to the Holy Spirit for HIS words not mine, because His words would always be better. She was completely right! Over the course of the last year, there have been many times I’ve sat down at the laptop to compose the next day’s blog and had absolutely no idea what to write about and my prayer is always the same, “Holy Spirit please send me the words you want me to use today. Please allow me to be the messenger of a word or blessing to someone’s heart.” It’s fun work for sure! When I started I was a little overwhelmed about the thought of doing this twice every week but I just felt Him guiding the whole process so I listened and promised Him that as long as He sent the words, I’d provide the typing!
Just like an infant, who with faith, prayer and love changes naturally and dramatically throughout the first year, I too have been changed profoundly. I have been blessed and humbled beyond measure by this work and I would like to thank all of you for that. I have been so touched by your comments and your stories…those honestly are the things that keep me writing. My deal with God was, as long as people let me know YOUR words are touching their hearts, I’ll keep typing and hitting the publish button. Thank you for putting up with my goofy sense of humor and my simple minded approach to living and spreading the Gospel message. Thank you for listening to my silly stories and for taking a front row seat twice a week as I reveal my shortcomings and my challenges as a Child of God. Thank you for telling others about the blog and sharing the link. I suspect the reason we all show up here twice a week is because we’re all in the same boat...tryin our best to live like saints. I guess we’d do well to remember that God created us in His image so we could love and be loved. If I were to blow out a candle on this first birthday, my wish would be for God’s blessing upon all of you!
A Seed To Plant: Eat a really yummy dessert to celebrate this birthday. While you eat it, reflect back on the past year and make a list of the changes and blessings you’ve seen. Thank God for one blessing He’s given you for each bite of dessert you take.
Blessings on your day!
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