Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Psalm 37:4
When I was a junior in high school I was being a goof ball in Swing Choir class and wound up with a solo part in the fall show. I was a “choir” voice and never wanted to do the solo thing but it all just sort of happened. After that show, I started singing a lot. It was fun to discover a gift I didn’t know I had but when I went off to college two years later, I quickly discovered my gift was pretty small town. I remember going to audition for a spot on the music ministry team at the campus parish and I heard the first ten voices ahead of me and I quietly snuck out the back door because I didn’t have a fraction of the gift those folks did. It was a very humbling experience to say the least. I realized I had two choices. I could be jealous and pouty and wallow in self pity or I could go to mass each weekend and soak in those beautiful voices and be grateful for those who chose to share them. I went with the second choice!
Everybody knows you improve your skill when you work with someone who is a little bit better at something than you are. In education we call that scaffolding. We have to seek out those who do well, what we’d like to get better at. God’s kingdom isn’t going to advance much if we become better golfers, tennis players or cooks but it will advance if we become better disciples. Saturday, Pope Francis celebrated his 80th birthday and as a birthday tribute to him, one of the Advent prayer books I read each morning shared his “Secrets to Happiness”. When I find an article about Pope Francis I usually read it because he’s one of those folks who can make me a better disciple when I try to imitate what he does or practice what he teaches and inspires. Since happiness is something this world could use a little more of, I thought I’d share a few of the popes secrets to happiness.
*Play with children
*Spend Sunday with family.
*Look after nature. “We have to look after creation and we are not doing it. It is one of the greatest challenges we have.”
*Respect those who think differently.
*Help people find employment: “Bringing bread home is what gives you dignity.”
If I asked for your Christmas list, I’d be willing to bet many of you would mention the desire to be happy and healthy so these words come at a perfect time. Instead of waiting to “get happy” or “receive happiness” perhaps we need to create it ourselves and your gift this last week of Advent is 5 things you can do to make it happen. What would happen to our Christmas week if we decided in the midst of all of our last minute shopping, prepping, wrapping and nutty adventures to give the gift of happiness to everyone who crossed our path? I think it would be a great week. I’m gonna try really hard to live by that as we scramble to set up 7 Christmas trees on the Altar with the help of 20 twelve year olds…and when we hustle to paint and finish parent’s Christmas gifts and dive head first into the last week of school (mayhem) before Christmas break. I’m gonna do it! Happiness is the word for the week…who’s in?
A Seed To Plant: Pick one of the secrets from Pope Francis and add it to your week. Good luck and BE HAPPY!
Blessings on your day!
Be still and know that I am God. Psalm 46:11
Things can get pretty crazy this time of year. It's such a joyous time when you've got a minute to stop and think about it; but finding a minute to stop and think can be a bit of a challenge. When I was a kid if you were sassy your mother made you stand in a corner. I think that's a lost form of discipline today but I'm not sure it was such a bad idea. The premise behind it makes sense...you're upset, saying things you don't mean to so go take a breath, face the wall where there are no distractions, and stand still to calm down. I sort of wish someone would send me to go stand in the corner! I could use a few minutes to be still without distractions and calm down. Truth is we don't really need a corner to do that but we do need to make a real effort to be still. Satan loves to use busyness and noise to dilute our focus.
Everybody loves babies, they're so cute and sweet and innocent and this time of year the image of the Baby Jesus fills our eyes and warms our hearts. It's hard to compete with a baby for attention so Satan has to pull out his big guns this time of year. Don't let him get you! Be still for a minute and imagine the manger that Mary and Joseph tenderly laid Jesus in. See the fresh straw, imagine the stable and the animals and the chilly night air; throw yourself right into the story. Be still and just soak in the events of that night. It's a bit like a spiritual standing in the corner.
We have a choice; we can get lost in the chaos, or pause at the manger and spend a few minutes a day getting ready for a love so overwhelming it's hard to imagine. So in the next few days leading up to Christmas, be still and know that the manger is more than a Christmas decoration.
A Seed To Plant: Take a few minutes each day between now and Christmas and gaze at a picture or image of the Christ Child and ponder the greatness of that night...your day will be changed!
Blessings on your day!
Rejoice in the Lord always; I will say it again, rejoice! Philippians 4:4
Yesterday marked the beginning of the third week of Advent. The candle is pink and the word is “rejoice”. It may all leave us wondering; rejoice in what? It’s the nuttiest time of year; it’s getting colder, the shopping list is long, the event calendar is bursting at the seams and half the people I know have a cold or the flu.
Rejoice is a huge word and it fits better than we think if we just take a minute to adjust our eyes. I suppose when we think of a giant word like REJOICE we expect a giant feeling; one that sticks around for a while. We think if something is big enough to rejoice then there is this giant, almost euphoric cloud that envelopes everything. That would be lovely wouldn’t it…folks, I think we call that heaven and this life is not that! When we have such a giant expectation it often comes with a giant disappointment. I’d like to suggest that rejoice isn’t as inflated as we make it in our minds. Rejoice is more of a hiccup that brings sparkle, light, joy, hope and meaning. It comes in spurts long enough to lift our hearts and re-focus our vision. The third week of Advent is joyful because “it’s almost here!” If we’ve been busy getting our hearts ready for God’s Son, then that is exciting news but if we’ve been busy getting ready for a holiday then our reaction is much different.
Rejoicing sets our balance but we have to recognize when those little moments appear on our radar and we need to learn to slow down long enough to recognize and relish them. Here’s how it works…
*I have a job I LOVE! (rejoice) I have a stack of 150 cursive handwriting papers to check (yuck) I check them all and stamp then with a Christmas sticker and the task is done! (rejoice) By next Friday I’ll have 76 more to check. (yuck) I get to spend every day with middle lovelies that make me laugh and amaze me weekly with their curiosity and humor! (rejoice)
*After 4 months of studying in Austria our Shannon came home yesterday! (rejoice) We had to drive to Toledo in a snow storm to pick her up (yuck) After spending nearly 8 hours on the road to make a 4 hour drive we pulled into our garage. (rejoice)
*I have a beautiful, cozy home. (rejoice) The bathroom gets messy, the kitchen sink fills with dishes and dust collects on all the furniture. (yuck) I get a burst of energy and a window of time and everything is once again in order. (rejoice) Someone gets hungry, comes in from the barn and makes tracks on the floor and the laundry piles up again. (yuck) I’m surrounded by a family God picked just for me and they are healthy so they eat, and play and move and work and come home to see me and need me. (GREAT rejoice)
See how it works! Rejoicing comes in spurts and it’s like a little fourth of July display in your heart to remind you that the Lord is amazing and his love comes in bursts of light again and again. But here’s the thing; we have to have our eyes open to see it and our heart open to feel it. Rejoicing happens in the midst of the regular and the yuck not in place of it. It pops up all over and sometimes catches us by surprise…like todays snow day! This third week of Advent is just the right time to wake up and smell the rejoicing! Keep your eyes open and your heart ready. One last thing…rejoicing is multiplied when we follow it with gratitude. Don’t forget to tell him thank you and let him know you noticed the joyful things he sprinkled throughout your day.
A Seed To Plant: Sit for a quiet minute and ponder the “rejoice” moments of the last few days that you might have missed.
Blessings on your day!
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