Joyful Words Blog
Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light for my path.
– Psalm 119:105
– Psalm 119:105
…”Saul Saul why do you persecute me.” Acts 1:4
I learned something new and it’s been bubbling in my heart for a few weeks. Since I’m a little long on tasks and a little short on writing minutes I thought I’d share this little tidbit with all of you and let you ponder on it a little.
The story of Saul to Paul is powerful and packed full of lessons. Saul sought power and fame. He was on a mission to exert his superiority over every Christian he could sniff out. I’m sure his name was known by many and feared by many as well. For the life of me I can’t imagine wanting to be feared, desiring to conquer others and to achieve greatness because of it. Saul was big stuff and I think he liked it that way.
I was searching for videos to use for morning prayer with the staff at school and came across a clip of Jim Caviezel, the actor who played Jesus in Mel Gibson’s movie Passion of the Christ. In this clip he said Saul means; great one and Paul means; little one. One little letter changes and the difference is enormous. Isn’t it funny that after his powerful conversion Saul who sought to be great in the eyes of the world became Paul who wrote, taught, prayed and led us all to learn to be little. The holy are little, the kind are little, the saints were little. I realized everyone I try to be like in my daily life is little in terms of earthly standards.
As I pondered the difference between being great in the eyes of the world and being little in the eyes of the Father, I suddenly felt the weight lift from my shoulders because being little seemed so much more important and doable than trying to please the world; live up to it’s standards and concern myself with position and power. So, my word of the year is BE and now I am inspired to BE LITTLE!
A Seed To Plant: Where will you be little this week?
Blessings on your day!
The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; by the Lord has this been done… Matthew 21: 42
It’s in a mother’s nature to want people to like, enjoy and accept her children. I’ve never kissed my kids goodbye in the morning and sweetly said, “Bye honey, I hope you get rejected today, love ya!” Maybe I should. Even as adults we seek acceptance, we want to fit in and be liked by our peers but we have to be cautious that those offering acceptance are also those who will lead us closer to Christ.
What would our earthly life be like if we lived each day realizing the acceptance of our Heavenly Father is the only nod of approval necessary? Jesus’ message in this parable is crystal clear, live a life acceptable to God and you will bear great fruit; get tangled up in approval of man and you will most certainly lose your way. Living as a light of Christ is not for sissies and it may cause us to be rejected by those who aren’t as committed to holiness but in that rejection, we are in good company and at that very moment we may be completely open to the work of Christ and become the cornerstone of something he’s building around us. In quiet prayer ask God to reveal to your heart all those people you are seeking approval from. What makes their approval important and will it bring you closer to Christ and allow you to bear great fruit?
A Seed To Plant: Take these words to prayer with you tis week…Loving Father, help me to live each day seeking your approval. Allow me to be a cornerstone in your good works even if it means being rejected. Comfort me in my disappointment and strengthen me in my journey toward greater holiness.
Blessings on your day!
…he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion…Philippians 1:6
Every so often, something so amazing happens in our classroom that I feel like I should sign my paycheck over to the kids! Last week I had one of those days! It started as a simple job, but it turned into something so inspiring! Ash Wednesday, all my female middle lovelies were singing like angels in the school choir and all the boys were asked by our friend Beth to help unpack and display all the Lenten Prayer Books available for parishioners. When the boys returned to the classroom, a few of them had a copy of Matthew Kelly’s book, Rediscovering Jesus. They were so excited to have a copy. I was pleased that they were interested in the book but didn’t give it a whole lot more thought. At the end of the day, I heard the boys who had grabbed the book having a discussion. Since the book had 40 short chapters, they decided to read one each day of Lent and discuss the questions at the end of each chapter at morning recess. I was stunned! The next morning, right before recess, they cracked open the book and began discussing the questions. At the sight of that, the rest of the boys decided to join them. There was a quick run to church to grab more copies of the book and discuss the plans for their “Boys book study.”
The girls in the room were watching and listening just like I was and one of them ask if they could do a book study too. With all the sweetness and sincerity they could muster, one of them told me that it was the boys idea and they didn’t want to “steal” their book. I promised to go on Amazon that night and pick something for them to start next week. I am ditching part of my lesson plans for the next few weeks so they can put their full effort into a Lenten book designed to help them grow in holiness. When they left the room that day, I flopped down in my chair and I just started to cry. I don’t know if I’ve ever been prouder of a group of students! I am so inspired by them. What they did was absolutely unprompted by an adult, it wasn’t suggested, offered, assigned or instigated by a big person…it was just some 12 year olds who wanted to make Lent a time to grow closer to Christ.
These kids are amazing, they come from fabulous homes and they are surrounded by a community that prays for and supports them and boy does it show! I’m old; I have degrees and I’ve been to seminars and trainings and workshops but I am so often outdone by the faith and spirit of the kids I get to spend my days with! I don’t know if they will process the books the same way an adult will; I don’t know how in-depth their discussions will be; I don’t know if they will find the text difficult and frustrating at times but I believe the words of St. Paul to the Philippians and I know he will complete the good work he started with these amazing kids who fill the seats in room 6-1. I think it’s fair to say…the teacher just got schooled…and for that I am grateful!
A Seed To Plant: Be like these amazing kids…pick up a book and grow in holiness as you take 40 days to work your way through it. There will be grace!
Blessings on your day!
…and your Father who sees…Matthew 6:6
Happy Lent! Welcome to that time of year when we set out with all our hearts to grow in holiness. For me, it’s easy to look at the road to holiness and feel a little overwhelmed because I get so off track. It’s easy for me to look at lent as a time to “bear down” and do some really hard stuff to show Jesus I’m so thankful for all he did. My intentions are good but I read something today that was so very simple and so very powerful that it adjusted my thinking in a beautiful way..
One of the prayer books I was reading mentioned that three times in Ash Wednesday’s Gospel it said “The Father Sees.” Clear back in the book of Genesis he looked around and saw that it was good. How did I miss that? I’ve heard that Gospel on Ash Wednesday dozens of times and never caught that! More years that not, I set out to do some crazy long list of stuff in order to “make up” for all my shortcomings the rest of the year. Lent certainly has a penitential feel and purpose but it’s not a time to lock ourselves in a personal dungeon and be crabby and miserable for 6 weeks.
I think I wanted to do hard stuff so Jesus would see me and notice all the sacrifice and love and suffering. The author of this little article pointed out so clearly, the Father sees…he sees ALL THE TIME and he sees us with such love and mercy. It made me think of a chubby cheeked baby and how I just want to kiss their face off when I see one! I believe the Father looks at us that way every…singe…time! He’s always looking, he doesn’t miss a thing so that realization changed the way I thought about Lent this year. The point is not to get the Father’s attention; not to get him to look at me and the hard stuff I’m doing. The point is to get ME to look at HIM!
One of the things I decided to work on this Lent was speaking patiently. Sometimes people say silly stuff and it can be tough to resist the eye roll or stare or “Way to go Captain Obvious” attitude. Today was one of those days when I had many opportunities to practice this Lenten Promise. It was easier to do today because each time I wanted to react badly, I looked up first and quickly said, “Lord I see you and I will try to be like you.” The wave of patience that washed over me each time I did that was amazing.
If you’ve ever taken children to the pool, you know how many times they can say “hey watch this” in thirty minutes. That was the way I did Lent; hey Jesus, look at me I’m not eating chocolate or hey Jesus did you see that I went to an extra daily mass today, wasn’t that good of me, doesn’t that count for extra? It was almost like a giant score card and Lent was the bonus round! Now, I realize it’s me watching him. It sure takes a lot of the pressure off! My biggest Lenten task is to do the things that help me fix my gaze on him. If I’m looking to him and I know he’s looking at me, that influences my choices and attitudes; that helps me grow in holiness.
A Seed To Plant: Look at your Lenten list, what things are there that will help you look at Jesus the way he looks at you?
Blessings on your day!
…my cup runneth over Psalm 23:5
Do you remember that part in the Cinderella story when all the ladies in the kingdom were trying to squish their foot into the glass slipper? Most of the ladies just didn’t give up, they tried again and again to make it fit. No matter the angle, no mater the force, there was just more foot than shoe. I remember as a little girl yelling at the book; “Stop, you’re gonna break Cinderella’s slipper, it’s not for you!” It took the perfect foot, and when that foot was found, in one gentle, motion everything fell in place. This weekend I discovered glass slippers and God’s love had more in common than I realized.
As I type this, I’m sitting in a hotel room outside Baltimore Maryland. I was scheduled to be gone less than 48 hours but due to some crazy Michigan weather, I had to leave 24 hours early to beat one storm and I’m staying 24 hours longer because of another one. God is so funny, because this extra time with lots of peace, quiet and no distractions (not to mention a hotel lobby with perpetual hot coffee) is exactly what was needed to make the glass slipper fit.
A week ago I was beginning to feel frazzled about too many tasks and assignments and wondering how I was going to fit them all in. On Wednesday morning I was sitting in my prayer chair and I reminded God I promised I’d do anything he asked as long as he gave me the words and the energy. I pointed out that I needed a little help making it all fit. I very distinctly remember saying the words, “Lord, I don’t know how this is all going to fit but I trust you to show me.” and then with a little Irish SASS, I added, “And you should probably get right on that cause I’m starting to wilt a little and the deadlines are closin in!” A few hours later, I got a text from Delta airlines encouraging me to fly to Maryland Thursday instead of Friday. Since the fine folks at St. Peter the Apostle parish had planned a conference for about 100 people, they needed the speaker to be there, so I left a day early. Friday was a great work day, no laundry, no distractions; it was great but there was still much on the list. Saturday was a fabulous day, I spent the day with a room full of people who prayed hard and laughed easy. I went to offer them something but they lifted and filled my heart so much that I truly received more than I gave! My cup was overflowing!
As I tried to head home on Sunday, the ice got in the way and I found myself once again in a cozy hotel room with peace, quiet and lots of time to work. By the time I hit the pillow tonight that task list is just a sliver of stuff and that feels amazing! When I look backwards a few days, I see that scene from Cinderella and me trying to jam and cram and push. Today I realize God showed up in a grand fashion and just slid the slipper right on! He gave me a gift, a chance to focus and do the work he asked me to do. He also sprinkled that work time with lovely people who were funny, faithful, inspiring and genuine. So if you hear a clicking sound, it’s just me walking around in my glass slippers in Maryland carrying my full cup.
A Seed To Plant: Do you doubt that God can do a might work in your life? Give him a chance, call it out and specifically ask him to guide you through that tough spot.
Blessings on your day!
…’You are My servant, I have chosen you and not rejected you.’ Isaiah 41:9
I love choices; I don’t need a lot of choices but having more than one option is a very good thing. I love apple pie, but if I had the choice of apple pie or pecan pie I would absolutely choose pecan! Sometimes making the right choice is a no brainer; like pecan over apple but sometimes it’s tricky! Last week I had a God thump that made me think of choices in a new light.
Friday the middle lovelies were sitting at mass with our kindergarten buddies and I was helping the little guy next to me find the right page in the song book. Once we found it, he wanted me to point to the words as we sang. The song was familiar and a school mass favorite. Honestly, if it hadn’t been for the little one next to me, I wouldn’t have even had to pick up the book. God had a plan! My favorite lines from this song are, “my hearts one desire is to be holy, set apart for You Lord, I want to be holy, ready to do your will’ great words right. I’ve belted them out just like that dozens of times but Friday as I pointed to each word with my fingers for my buddy, God thumped me as I read not “I want to be holy” but “I CHOOSE to be holy.” That one word made a huge difference.
The difference between want and choose is action, responsibility and work. I can want to be holier or thinner or more prayerful and patient. I can want all I want and it just remains a wish or a dream. If I choose to be those things, that means I have to do something about it. It reminded me of something my mom used to say when we whined about something being hard or not going our way. She would say, “Well child, why don’t you wish in one hand and spit in the other and see which one gets full faster. Nothing gets done until you get busy.”
Lent is less than a week away and I am asking and praying about my plans. The ultimate goal of the Lenten Season is to help us grow in holiness. The big question I’ve been pondering and praying about is; do I want to grow in holiness or do I choose to grow in holiness? If I just want it, I can guarantee I will sit in church on Good Friday weeping because I’m in the same place I was on Ash Wednesday. If I want things to be different I have to choose to make them different. I have to take action and not just wish for change. That puts a different light on things. It takes away the try and replaces it with a do. I don’t know about you but my Lent can use more DOING and CHOOSING! I’m not quite sure what he’s leading me to on this years Lenten Journey but I do know I will have to make some choices and I’m pretty sure they won’t be as easy as pecan over apple! Lord, help me see and choose!
A Seed To Plant: Make a list of the things that get in the way of your holiness. Now circle a few and pray over them the next few days asking God to help you CHOOSE the ones he wants to help you tackle this Lent.
Blessings on your day!
And from that time Jesus began to tell the people…Matthew 4:17
Can you think of something you loved to do as a child that you enjoy just as much today? One of the things on my list is listening to stories from my dad’s childhood. Even if I’ve heard some of the stories again and again I just love to listen to him. I really love it on the rare occasion when I get to sit down with my aunts and uncles and listen to them all chime in and laugh and add details the other might have forgotten. Sometimes I feel like I’m being catapulted right into the middle of the story myself. I can remember the names of people and places that were never a part of my life but their stories have been handed down with such detail and emotion I think I know. I wasn’t alive when WWII ended but I’ve heard my dad tell about that day when he was a little boy and Grandpa closed up the store so they could load up the car and drive around with a picnic lunch celebrating. I’ve never lived in the day of probation but I know stories about young men and their fast cars that carried bootleg whiskey across state lines. I’ve never known a life without indoor plumbing or electricity but the stories make me realize I’m both blessed by my abundance and absent of the simplicity and peacefulness of that time. Not all of the stories are fun, some are hard to tell and hard to hear but they are all a part of the story of my family and God’s fingerprint is so clear throughout. I’m always sad when the conversation ends. I just want to know every part of the story.
Jesus had a magnificent story, a story of heaven. He didn’t talk about it like a distant mystical place; He talked about it like it was home. His stories were rich with detail and hope. He had a way of drawing people in and they would sit at his feet and listen as long as he spoke. I can’t imagine what it would have been like to sit there and listen, to be inspired and amazed and encouraged.
A young person recently made me realize how important it is to share the stories of our life and our family and our faith. I came away from my conversation with her realizing we need to share the most important part of our story…the part that lets people know what God is doing in our lives. Some think faith is a private thing; a personal thing. What if Jesus had thought that very same thing? What if he’d kept the news of his Father private and personal and never shared the details and the emotion with his followers? What would have happened if the Apostles had kept the story of Jesus to themselves?
When you sit down to tell your stories, past and present…tell them the whole story. Tell them how God has been a part of your history, your life, your success and struggle? We can’t assume our others know about our Faith…we have to tell the story for the same reason Jesus did, to inspire, encourage and amaze.
A Seed To Plant: Make a list this week of the ten greatest ways God has been a part of your history. Share at least three of those before the month ends.
Blessings on your day!
For I know well the plans I have for your future…Jeremiah 29:11
We sure spend a lot of time planning. We look forward to trips and events. I spent some time the other day booking flights and making hotel arrangements for speaking engagements this spring and it all left me wondering what day it was. Jesus is with us right this moment, he meets us right where we are, doing exactly what we’re doing. He doesn’t dwell in our past or wait off in the distant future hoping we make it there to meet him. He invites us to notice him working in our life right here and right now.
It can be easy to get tangled up in the past; reliving could’ve or should’ve moments and it’s equally easy to get lost in fear and worry about our future. Neither are productive places to go and stay, but as I was so busy glancing into the future, it caused me to pause and ponder the past a bit. I took a look backwards in prayer and I was so sweetly surprised with the things I discovered Christ had done there.
I looked back at “loves” I thought would make my life perfectly complete and in my disappointed tears I didn’t imagine the perfect man he had already chosen for me.
I looked back at jobs I wanted so badly; ones with high pay and great benefits, and while I pouted about missed employment opportunities he already had an amazing job just waiting. One where I am surrounded by the most amazing teachers and staff and oh…the students…I couldn’t even imagine anything so wonderful. I didn’t realize a full heart would trump full pockets so mightily!
I looked back at the losses in my life; the tears and the grief that I thought would choke me to death, and what I see now, is the way his tender love and compassion dulled the hurt and the holes left behind by loss were filled with beautiful memories and an ability to reach out with his tender mercy to others who are nursing those same pains.
I looked back and saw three chubby, giggly, drooling babies that grew up too fast. For a moment there was a sad catch in my breath; one that longed to rock, and cuddle and swing with those little loves, but then I realized they grew into wonderful young adults and someday there may be grand babies to rock and cuddle and return when they get crabby or stinky.
I looked back at a body that was smaller, moved faster and had less sags, wrinkles and fewer gray hairs. Then I remembered that each sag, wrinkle and gray hair has a story to tell. I remembered the hundreds of guests of all ages I’ve fed, and the cookies, bread and cinnamon rolls it gives me such joy to bake and share and I know that love of food and the hospitality it brings to others makes me happier than a smaller number on my tags. Each one of those wrinkles and gray hairs represents a worry I lifted up in prayer and the laugh lines have been so much fun to earn.
I looked back at disappointments and worries and tragedies and realize God lifted and guided me through every single one and made me stronger, more faithful and more determined to trust him.
I looked back at all the things I wanted, prayed for and knew I simply couldn’t live happily without, and I know now that I received precisely the ones he knew would make my life fit his plan and he withheld the ones that were meant for another.
I looked back at all the friends, family, laughter, weddings, vacations, trips and events and realize I am so ridiculously thankful for all of it and so amazingly loved by the Father who created me.
Looking backwards for a bit was good for my soul and it gave me a long list of things to thank him for. After a look backwards and a chance to take note of all the wonderful things he’s done through the good and the bad times, I simply have no worries for the future. He’s got an excellent track record…so in the words of Padre Pio; Pray, Hope and Don’t Worry!
A Seed To Plant: Take some time to look backwards and take notice of all the ways God has placed his loving hand upon your shoulders. Be sure to tell him thank you!
Blessings on your day!
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Sheri's writing can also be found at Faith Catholic Publications and on CatholicMom.com