Joyful Words Blog
Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light for my path.
– Psalm 119:105
– Psalm 119:105
Come follow me and I will make you fishers of men. Matthew 4:19
I drove past the school playground yesterday and noticed a couple things missing. Since yesterday was our 7th snow day since Christmas, missing thing number one was obviously the children but the second missing thing was more subtle. Footprints; there were no little boot prints, no half-done snowmen, and not a single snow angel. The snow was just…there! It was a bit of a sad sight and if that snow could talk it would have no story to tell, no tales of laughter and excitement and the squealing joy of all the little people who had been there and left their mark. It made me stop and think about the story left behind with our footprints. Each of us leaves a footprint where we go and I have to wonder just what our story is all about.
I was thinking about those footprints in the snow while I was washing dishes last night and heard a commercial on the radio about reducing our carbon footprint on the earth. I’m not entirely sure what that means but I know leaving that kind of footprint isn’t a good thing. The whole footprint thing just kind of snowballed and this morning, a bookmark fell out of one of my prayer books. It was a dog eared torn out page from an old daily devotional book. The words I had circled said, “What kind of faith footprint are you leaving for people to follow?” Humm…good question!
We can tell a lot from a footprint. Footprints can be helpful. The hunters in my family use animal footprints to seek and track. Footprints can be precious. One year for mother’s day we made plaster stepping stones with the kid’s footprints and what mother doesn’t treasure the newborn footprint taken right after her baby is born. Footprints can be alarming. Our house was broken into once and I could tell immediately the muddy footprints across my kitchen floor did not belong to anyone in my family. I guess footprints are a pretty big deal when you stop and think about it. I suppose that’s why the line about our faith footprint just stuck with me.
If someone was tracking us, where would our footprints lead them? To the refrigerator, the tv, the computer? Do our footprints ever lead folks to a place that isn’t gonna get them to heaven? How often do our footprints lead to a quiet place of prayer or to a place of joyful worship? Do our footprints lead others to places of kindness and service? I wonder how often our footprints lead the way through tough situations demonstrating faithful strength and perseverance. Are we strong enough to leave footprints as we walk away from a conversation or an activity that will tear someone down instead of lifting them up? Do our footprints ever lead us toe to toe with wrong and rotten and pass through courageously or do they skirt around it taking the easier path?
I suppose those are the kind of things that determine the faith footprint we leave behind. I hope we leave more faith footprints; in fact I hope we leave so many this world begins to look like a snowy school playground after recess!
A Seed To Plant: Stop for a few minutes and think about all the places you have left your footprint during the past week. If you discover you need to leave some footprints in a new direction…lift it up in prayer and be on your way!
Blessings on your day!
His appearance was like lightning and his clothing white as snow. Matthew 28:3
As I sit here typing, I am aware that I really should be standing in the school gym with 260 students saying Morning Prayer and the Pledge of Allegiance…but I’m not! I’m actually sitting here drinking coffee and typing in my sweats. I’m not sick; it’s just another snow day in Michigan! I think it’s fair to say that we are officially trapped in the grip of an old fashioned winter! The weatherman says that within the next 24 hours the wind chill will be near 40 below…YIKES! The weather we’ve had this winter just changes everything and there isn’t a darn thing we can do about it. I feel a little like shouting out to the wind and snow, “Hey…don’t you know we’re missing Penguin week in first grade? Hey…don’t you know we are trying to get the hang of long vowel sounds? Hey…don’t you know we should be diving into math fact families and prayer writing? And HEY…it’s Catholic Schools Week and you can’t celebrate it if you aren’t in school!” But shouting those things would be as useless as shoveling the sidewalk again.
I guess there’s nothing like a big hard dose of something we can’t change to make us realize how little control we really have. I listen to the forecast and I’m frustrated about all the things in my plans that aren’t happening. I wonder if God ever looks down at me with the same frustration when I don’t cooperate with His plan for me. I know my little lovelies are at home doing great things like building blanket forts, snuggling under their warm covers a little longer than usual and having great fun with their toys. I know lots of moms who are so happy to keep their little lovelies to themselves another day because they do go from kindergarten to senior at warp speed and I won’t take that away from them but I’m not always as good at surrendering my plans as I should be!
I think as I sit here this cold winter morning I need to take a few lessons from the wind and snow. First, bend to the plan of God; just because I planned it, prayed over it and wrote it down doesn’t mean it’s a good plan…God’s is always better so I’d better be willing to bend and sway like the branches in the wind. Second, be grateful; my quiet day is spent inside a warm house…I’m glad I have one and I’m grateful to those amazingly strong folks like farmers, policemen, snow plow drivers and the dozens of other occupations who have to be outside. Third, I’ve been given the gift of time…I’d better use it to read, pray and study and return to school a little closer to Him.
A Seed To Plant: Are there things in your life you are trying to plan and manage on your own? Take a few minutes to hand those over to the Father. Also in your prayers today, remember all those who aren’t as safe and warm as you.
Blessings on your day!
And whosoever shall offend one of these little ones that believe in me, it is better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he were cast into the sea. Mark 9:42
I began my teaching career in junior high. That was an adventure to say the least! I have been asked many times how I became a motivational speaker and my answer is always the same, “If you can teach junior high, you can do ANYTHING!” I will forever be a more patient, joyful, compassionate and understanding person because of the time I spent in the presence of those wonderful little hormonal and emotional time-bombs! One of the things I remember hearing daily among the kids at that age was the phrase, “No offense but…” I tried and tried and tried to help them understand that if they had to begin the conversation with those words, it was indeed GOING to be offensive.
Have you noticed how often people “water down” the truth and their own personal convictions in the name of “not offending” anyone. Sometimes we dance around the truth so many times we don’t even remember what it was! We worry about offending the political and religious ideas and beliefs of people we have never met. We worry about offending adults, children, governments, institutions and people half way around the world but yet we don’t always think hard enough about offending the very God who loves us, protects us and breathed us into being.
In a sermon a while back our pastor shared a comment he had heard at a retreat. He said the speaker had told them that “The Gospel can be offensive.” What? I had to chew on that one a few weeks before it became clear. When we look at the Gospels as our directive for living instead of merely a set of suggestions, they can be offensive, especially if we’re living only bits and pieces of the Gospel message. Every time we live in a way that opposes the teachings of Jesus, we offend God. I think He must be offended on a regular basis. We live in a society that will spend hundreds of dollars to “re-word” a statement or document so it doesn’t offend someone but yet our behaviors offend the Almighty on a regular basis and we don’t seem to give it due notice. I have to pause a bit and ask myself how offended God is when I think judgmental thoughts about one of His beloved children. I have to wonder how offended He is each time I choose to spend time on the screen, instead of on my knees. I wonder if He is offended by popular music, the garbage on television or the books that depict characters and plots that do anything but uphold the Gospel message. I really wonder if the thing that offends Him the most is the way our society has become completely immune to it all.
If Jesus came to live in our home for a day, would we feel the need to change the channel on the TV or hide the book we were reading. I wonder if Jesus would say, “I wish you’d worry more about offending my Father in Heaven and worry less about offending people of this world.” If trying our hardest to avoid offending God became the mission of every Christian, I think we’d be amazed at the dramatic change that would occur in our world. So… go ahead and read the Gospels and be offended…that’s where He begins to speak to our heart.
A seed to plant: Draw one of the four names from a hat, Matthew, Mark, Luke or John…read that Gospel slowly and carefully over the next few days…ask God to offend you and then slather you with His Grace so you can make a change.
Blessings on your day!
And you will know the truth and the truth will set you free. John 8:32
**The world fills us so full, we're not hungry for God.
**Temptation is an invitation to leave the truth and enter deception.
**We're trusting Him for eternity but not for earth.
A Seed To Plant: As you sit in prayer this week, carefully ponder those three sentences and ask God to show you how they fit in your life.
Blessings on your da
Then I called upon the name of the Lord…Psalm 116:4
How many of you remember the day when finding an answer meant looking something up in a book? Yes, I know that sentence probably made me sound old but the truth is, I do remember life before technology. The other day Shannon was demonstrating to her Dad the feature on her iPod that allows her to ask a question directly into the device and “Siri” responds almost immediately with an answer. I thought I would be smart and give Siri a question that would make her think, but before I tell you the question, I have a story that goes with it.
I had a first grader a few years ago that asked me if Jesus had a last name. I will be honest and admit that I didn’t know the answer so that’s exactly what I told him. I did promise to do my homework and come back the next day with the answer. As you might imagine, I did have one smarty-pants who claimed to know the answer and responded “Christ” is his last name and soon another spoke up and corrected his smart friend and said the answer was “Of Nazareth”. I told all three boys to stay tuned! As promised, I did my homework and discovered that in the time of Jesus your last name was tied to your genealogy so a man was called (first name) Bar-(father’s first name) so that made his name, Jesus Bar-Joseph. After reporting the answer, they all had a great time re-naming themselves and then we were on to the next thing.
When Shannon wanted a question for the Siri demonstration I suggested she ask what Jesus’ last name was. She asked and waited for a moment and Siri answered, “Unable to answer, Jesus is not in your contacts.” We laughed like crazy! It did make me stop and think a bit though. Is Jesus in my contacts? How often do I get in touch with Him? I’m not saying your response to this post should be to enter J-E-S-U-S into your cell phone contact list but Siri’s reply did give me something to ponder.
I don’t know, maybe I will add His name to my contacts, and then when I’m scrolling through I’ll see it and be reminded to call upon His Holy Name. Maybe it will remind me how much I want Him to recognize the sound of my voice. Maybe it will remind me to text Him a quick thank you for my blessings. We have cars that help us back up and park, we have phones that wake us up; we have buzzers that tell us when to pull out the food or switch the load of laundry so maybe it’s not such a crazy idea to put Jesus in our contacts to remind us to call on Him. One thing I know for sure, I desperately need Him to be my main contact for all things great, scary, worrisome, difficult and joyful so I’d better make sure He’s who I contact first. I think He should be a "call me always" instead of a "call me maybe!"
A Seed To Plant: What kind of reminders can you give yourself to stay in touch with God through prayers of petition, thanks and praise?
Blessings on your day!
If they obey and serve Him, they spend their days in prosperity, their years in happiness. Job 36:11
I have the privilege of meeting once a month with a small group of lovely women. Sometimes we meet to talk about a book we’re reading and studying together, sometimes we meet to pray but mostly we meet to encourage each other in our faith walk. My life is richer because of the honest conversation about their celebrations and challenges and the way they weave their faith through it all. We started a new book together this week and the second day’s reading told an amazing and inspiring story with a great lesson. I shouldn’t have been surprised, but the same story grabbed each of us. As we sat discussing the story I realized right then and there it was a story that needed to be shared with all of you too.
The story is about St. Louis de Montfort. He was a great man of God who died in the early 17 hundreds but he lived in such a way his words and deeds are an inspiration to Christians even to this day. The story is told that he gathered peasants to build a giant monument to the Passion of Christ on a hilltop. It took he and hundreds of peasants 15 months to construct the monument as a tribute to the love of Christ. The day before the monument was to be dedicated; Montfort’s enemies convinced the local government to destroy it because they told officials it was a fortress against the government. As St. Louis and the peasants gathered and saw their work in ruins, he reminded the disappointed crowd that the work they did was to honor God and they could certainly do that in their hearts without a monument; “We will still bless God.” The saint obediently accepted the destruction of his plans because he realized it was a part of God’s plan. (33 Days to Morning Glory Fr. Michael E. Gaitley)
I can get upset if someone wrecks my dinner plans or my weekly schedule gets all tangled up so I simply can’t imagine the devastation St. Louis and the peasants felt. Not only was their work disrespected and destroyed, the reason was based on a lie. While I was reading I wanted to yell out… “No, you’ve got it all wrong, he’s a good guy, and you’ve made a mistake!” Instead, he just accepted it and blessed God anyway. There was no anger, blaming, self-pity, retaliation and no talk of justice. What an example. It's a great lesson in WHY we do things…especially church things. I suppose if we truly do things to honor God and His plan, our obedient effort is more important than the outcome. It’s tempting sometimes to plan a class or give a talk somewhere and anticipate a huge crowd but the simple truth is, if I’m teaching or speaking as a way to honor God, then I have to realize He will send exactly the number of people He needs to have there and I should be as happy to do His work for 12 people as I am to do it for 200. I think that’s the way St. Louis would tell me to look at it. St. Louis demonstrated a gigantic spirit of humility. His joy and blessing came from “doing” and letting God be in charge of the outcome. He demonstrated that if we are a true disciple the end result has everything to do with God’s plan and nothing to do with our ego, pride or self-worth. I think we should swap the words self-worth for God-worth! I’ve been bubbling this story over in my heart for days now and what I’m left with is a desire to worry more about my God-worth than my own plans and needs. I’m thanking St. Louis for a great lesson; one as important today as it was 300 years ago.
A Seed To Plant: Make a list of places in your life where you need to let go of the outcome and focus more on the obediently serving and bring glory to God.
Blessings on your day!
…the corrections of discipline are the way to life. Proverbs 6:23
So, after several days of prayerful consideration I’m wondering how many of you have your WORD for 2014? It’s kind of funny that what was a new idea to me, has actually been a pretty big deal for quite a while. I learned that lots of folks have been doing this for several years. I guess even if I came late to the party, I’m still really glad I came.
I mentioned in the first post that my word wasn’t even one I had considered. The truth is I don’t like my word! It’s a hard word and it involves change and work and persistence. My word is DISCIPLINE! I remember when the word came to me on the drive home from Kansas. We were somewhere in the middle of Indiana and I wanted to scream, “Really God, that’s the best you can do!” Of course I spent the next 100 miles trying to ignore the word but it just wouldn’t go away. God kept showing me spot after spot after spot in my life where my new little word would fit perfectly! YUCK! I just wanted a word I could plug in and feel good about. I wanted joy or contentment or blessing! Those were nice feel good words that would affirm everything I’m doing in my faith journey. But NO…I get a busy word. He can just be so bossy!
I suppose if I’m going to tell the whole story you should also know that I pouted about the word for several days. It made me feel un-appreciated! In fact, I really threw one heck of a pity party! The speech I gave at the party went something like this. Really God, I teach full time in a Catholic school, spreading the Gospel every day! I speak and teach audiences about discipleship and following YOU many evenings and weekends! I lead a women’s faith formation group! I faithfully write this blog, about YOU twice a week! I pray hard and often! I include YOU in my marriage and my parenting, not to mention all the other things I try to do to be a good disciple! Isn’t that enough…don’t you think I deserve a nice easy word after all that! I got no response indicating I would be given a new word as a result of my magnificent hissy fit!
So what does it mean? It means I’ve given Him much of my time and talent but He wants more. I have to believe that if I let discipline guide me through 2014 He will show me exactly why He made me work so hard. He’s asking me to be more disciplined with my screen time and spend less time on Facebook and more time studying and serving others. He’s asking me to be more disciplined with my thoughts so I judge less and compare less. He’s asking me to be more disciplined with my focus in prayer and at Mass so I can truly find Him there. He’s asking me to be more disciplined with my words so I respond more patiently and lovingly to my husband, children, co-workers and students. He wants me to be more disciplined with detail tasks like grading papers, ironing, and all the other little pain in the neck things I often procrastinate about. And finally the REALLY BIG ONE…my ministry work keeps me mentally active but He’s asking me to be disciplined and take better care of my health and become more physically active. He’s asking me to be disciplined for the year…not for the day or the week or the month…THE YEAR!
I may not like my word, but I absolutely LOVE the one who gave it to me so I will be faithful to the word. I will work hard because I know He gave it to me out of love and He will be faithful to me as I try my hardest to practice discipline in all the spots He pointed out. The thing about this whole word of the year…I know I have to really USE the word. It already feels as much a part of me as my cotton socks. I can’t escape it or run away from it. If I do this right and let Him work through this word, I think I’m gonna have one heck of a post to write in December!
A Seed To Plant: Do you have your word? Make sure to write it down (several places) and pray about how you are going to use it. I’d love to hear your word if you’d be willing to share! Let’s remember to pray for each other and our “words”…especially those of us who got hard ones! J
Blessings on your day!
…they bowed down and did him homage…Mathew 2:11
I left Mass with a powerful thought Sunday morning. One line from the Gospel left me thinking and thinking and thinking. It’s funny, I’ve heard that same Gospel reading many Epiphany Sunday’s but today it really smacked me hard somewhere between the eyes and the heart! The words came from Matthew’s Gospel; they bowed down and did him homage…
You might be thinking, well yeah…that’s how the story goes what’s the big deal! I guess what struck me today was the fact that the Magi were from a foreign land which meant they didn’t know Jesus or Mary or Joseph. They weren’t Jewish, they didn’t know the history and didn’t share the same beliefs or customs but yet they knew! They knew that tiny baby was worthy of adoration and homage. They knew that tiny baby was infinitely more than just an ordinary baby. They were outsiders but their hearts and their eyes saw past the regular and went straight to the amazing. They had no proof, they had no memo or document or official verification, they had faith and hope and they responded to it by bowing down in homage. They didn’t ask for verification or paperwork or baby Jesus’ social security number; they simply believed and demonstrated enormous respect and reverence.
It makes me really wiggle in my pew when the Gospel jabs me like that. I’ve been asking myself the same question over and over; “When was the last time I walked into church or sat down to pray with even a sliver of the respect, adoration and homage the Magi demonstrated? I suppose I get so comfortable I forget how amazing Jesus is. If I’m really being honest I will even go so far as to say I probably even take him for granted. Shame on me! Again and again and again, the Lord has powerfully demonstrated his love, compassion and tender care for me and my family but yet I continue to give him less than He deserves. I forget to include Him, I forget to trust Him and in my pride I even try to take credit for the things He’s done. Sometimes I seek glory and attention that completely belongs to Him. Sometimes I forget to include Him in my plans until I’ve messed it up and need Him to come to my rescue. I forget to thank Him for things like good health until someone gets sick and then I screech at Him in despair. Honestly, I don’t act very “Magi-like” sometimes.
I have more “proof” than I will ever need so after much wrestling with this line from Matthew’s Gospel, I’m going to remember to offer Jesus my humble heart bowed down in homage. For me that means making a list of the things I must remember to tell Him each morning and each night before sleep so I don’t forget or take Him for granted. I need to study that list like I’m studying for the exam of a lifetime. It means I need to open my heart and give Him the treasure He's asking for; my whole heart. It also means finding a picture of the Baby Jesus and the Magi to put in my prayer journal so I don’t forget the stirring I felt this Epiphany Sunday.
A Seed To Plant: What are three thing you can start doing to bow down in homage today? Think hard and let the bowing and homage begin!
Blessings on your day!
Gray hair is a crown of glory; it is gained by virtuous living. Proverbs 16:31
So, what would you like to have 50 of? Dollars, dinners out, loads of laundry done for you…oh wait…those are my wishes! What would yours be? Today is 50 day for me…50 years of life. Holy Cow…50 years old…how did that happen!! I remember when my Mom was sick; one of the things she really wanted to do the summer before she died was throw a 50th birthday party for my Dad. It was an excellent day! The yard was full of family and friends laughing, eating, pitching horseshoes and enjoying life! I remember my little brother and I talking about it on the patio where we stood watching and soaking it in and we discussed how OLD 50 was. We agreed that Dad was so old he would probably “fart dust” (little brother’s words…not mine!) Oh my, has time changed my perspective! Honestly, my perspective began to change the first year I was a teacher. There I was, fresh out of college and my first hour class asked how old I was. Stupidly, I smiled and said, “How old do you think I am?” HUGE mistake! One sweet (or not so sweet) little 15 year old said, “Oh, I’ll be nice, maybe 30 or so!” Nice…Nice…how was that nice! I was 23 and felt like I’d been kicked in the knees! From that day forward, I have NEVER told a class of any grade level my age. For a while I told my classes I was 112. That drove one determined little seven year old absolutely nuts one year. She asked at least once a week for the correct number and reminded me how it was a sin to lie. I just smiled and said, “I’m OLD honey…I’m OLD.” I remember her telling the little boy next to her I could NOT be 112 because I didn’t have any grandbabies so I had to be in my 80’s or 90’s and not my hundreds. Oh my...it took all the composure I had not to laugh out loud! That was of course the same year one of my students asked me if I was “there” the night Jesus was born! I tell ya…education can be a tough gig sometimes!
Half a century is a pretty cool thing to witness...I’m blessed to have been a part of lots of great stuff in the past half century. I hope this is the stage where the “wiser” part of “older and wiser” kicks in! Upon hearing that I was turning the big 50 a lady I know mentioned that it was “better than the alternative”. There was a time I would have completely agreed with her but I have to tell you my perspective on that has changed as well. If we do discipleship right, the end is the prize not the punishment. There are still gobs and gobs of things I’d like to see and do but meeting Jesus is one of them and if that happens at 70 or 112 or next week then I’m hoping I’ll see heaven…I figure that’s a goal not a consequence.
In honor of my 50th, I’ve started to make a list of my 50 greatest blessings and a list of 50 things I’d like to do for somebody else. I’ll take a look behind and a look ahead as I begin this new decade. I realized I’ve “wished” a lot of days away waiting for something bigger and better or funnier or happier or less stressful. I suppose I’ve missed a lot in those moments. I have a hunch those moments I wanted to skip contained some of His most powerful lessons and blessings…I’ll try really hard not to do that in my next half century. I’ve decided there are some things I’m going to try not to say now that I’m 50. Some of them are, “I’m so busy”, “I wish I had”, “Oh I can’t” and “I’m too thin”…no wait, I’d LOVE to say that!!! I think I’ll trade worry for trust, procrastination for prayer and comparison for service. I want to grow in humility and holiness while I shrink in selfishness and pursuit of worldly success. Wow, I’ve got a lot to do, it’s a good thing I’m only 50, if I was old all this work might make me tired!
A Seed To Plant: Even if it’s not your 50th birthday, go ahead and make a list of your blessings and some things you can do to serve others.
Blessings on your day!
Subscribe to Joyful Words Blog
Sheri's writing can also be found at Faith Catholic Publications and on CatholicMom.com