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 STOP and now I am inspired to stop trying to be anything but LITTLE!
A Seed To Plant: Where will you be little this week?
Blessings on your day!
The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever. 1 John 2:17
Have you ever wanted something so much it occupied your thoughts completely? Sometimes we want things so badly we pray for it and we think about it and we ask others to pray for it too. It’s almost as if the desire overcomes our thoughts and emotions. I’m sure I’m not the only person to say that “something” I desired didn’t materialize at all. God is so smart he often denies those desires because he has something so much better in store for us but when we’re stuck in the middle of the wanting that concept can be pretty tough to swallow. I suppose we desire all kinds of things, romance, money, health, jobs, a bigger house, a baby, a better car or peace in our family. Whatever the desire, God is hearing and putting a plan in motion. For everyone stuck in the desiring process, I came across this little story told by Fr. Paul Wharton that illustrates exactly what we need to desire first.
A young man sought out the counsel of a wise and holy hermit. He asked the holy man to tell him how to find God. “How great is your desire to know Him”?, asked the saintly old man. “More than anything else in the world,” came the young mans reply. The hermit took the young man to the lake shore and they waded into the water until they were neck deep. The hermit then took the young man and pushed him under the water. The young man struggled terribly but the old man did not release his grip until the young man was about to drown. When they returned to the shore the hermit asked the young man, “Son, when you were under water, what did you want more than anything else?” The young man replied “Air!” “Well then, you will find God when your desire for him is as great as your desire for air was while I was holding you under the water.” spoke the old wise man.
As I’m busy praying for the things I desire, and praying for the things other people desire I realize I’m falling short. I’m falling short because I don’t quite have my desires in order. I need God; I worship, praise and thank God all throughout my day but it’s my desire for him that falls short. After reading that tiny little story, I realize that if I’m being completely honest, I don’t desire him as much as the young man desired air. I suppose if I worked on that desire with fervent prayer and dedication the rest of the desires on my list would probably fall right into place because I would want only Him and in wanting Him, I want less for myself. I would imagine there would be an enormous feeling of contentment if I got my desires in order. The story caused me to think a lot about what it means to desire Him more than air. Maybe this little story is just what you needed today too. So, let’s take a deep breath and organize our desires.
A Seed To Plant: Read the story again and then make a list of your desires. Put the words God/Air at the top and spend the week praying about it all.
Blessings on your day!
…but the greatest of these is love. 1 Corinthians 13:13
I can’t begin to count the number of times I’ve spoken or written the words, “God loves you more than you can ever imagine!” Such true words but it wasn’t until recently I began to feel the power of those words. Two weeks ago I became a grandma and I don’t think my heart was fully prepared for how fast and how hard I would fall in love with that tiny little boy! I was also surprised by how much I miss him and want to march right over to his house and scoop him up.
I knew I would love being a grandma but it’s a love that’s deeper and sweeter than I had ever imagined. It doesn’t matter if he's fussing or smiling during a dream, I look at his little face and all I see is absolute perfection. I think about him so many times during the day and wonder if he’s sleeping or cuddled tight with mom or dad. I pray often that he will be healthy and happy and know how much he’s loved and how lucky he is that God gave him the parents he got.
As all of this was tumbling through my head the other day I began to get a glimpse of how much the Father loves us. If I can be so captivated and madly in love with a teeny little boy, how much more must the Father love me? I was overwhelmed to realize he thinks of me even more than I think of baby Lewis. I realized that he gazes at me with a bursting heart just like I feel when I open a SnapChat to see our little Prince Charming. He sees within us the same perfection my eyes see when I look at my grandson. It’s even more overwhelming to realize that the love I feel for my grandson pales completely in comparison to the love God has for us.
I’ve dreamed about being a grandma for a long time and it’s everything I imagined plus so much more. Isn’t it just like God to take even the highest points of our life and throw in a powerful lesson to make it even better! The next time I feel like I’m not enough or get tangled up in the hundred and fifty silly, unGodly things I do each week I now have a perfect way to remember that his love is so much greater than my weakness and stumbling. Of all the lessons he’s taught, this is my favorite because every time I see that sweet little boy, I get a lesson reminder.
A Seed To Plant: Spend some time this first full week of Lent pondering the Fathers love for you.
Blessings on your day!
Come follow me. Matthew 4:19
Happy Lent! Welcome to the season of “turning”. Yesterday as I walked outside on a sunny Ash Wednesday -14 degree morning I was having thoughts of spring. My mind drifted back to mushroom hunting in the woods with my folks. I used to love tromping through the woods finding stuff. Sometimes I would hear my dad yell, “Don’t get too far ahead” or “hurry up you’re falling too far behind.” He wanted to make sure I didn’t wander off and get lost or travel into a spot that wasn’t safe. He loved having us outdoors with him and he wanted us to be safe; like all good fathers!
I’m in the middle of reading a really great book that has mentioned a similar sentiment a few times. In the book the author talks about all the times we try to manage things ourselves or bear the burdens of the day without calling out to God for help. He also talks about all the times we fail and fall and feel too embarrassed or ashamed to ask God for forgiveness thinking he will be so disappointed in us. The author proposes a beautiful counter thought to the negative stuff we often run through our heads. He uses the example of Jesus the Shepherd. He offers this thought, Jesus says stay with me little lamb, don’t run too far ahead where I’ve not prepared the path for you and don’t lag too far behind where you can’t see where I’m leading you. That just about sums up every low spot or difficulty in my life; all too often I’m the crazy little lamb that isn’t where I’m supposed to be!
If I walked in the woods with my dad today I wouldn’t leave his side. I’d be so interested in talking with him and searching for things together I wouldn’t want to explore on my own. I would want to take in all the love and lessons he had to share with me. I’d ask him questions; I’d soak up his knowledge and his experience and I would rely on him completely to show me the way. In fact, I think I would get so lost in just simply being with him I might not pay any attention at all to where we were, I’d just trust him completely and enjoy being with him knowing without a thought that we’d get safely back to the truck at the edge of the woods. I’d be the little lamb that didn’t get too far ahead or lag too far behind; right at his side is where I’d stay.
As all of this puddled through my mind on a freezing cold morning I realized that if I could trust my earthly father and want so deeply to go on another walk in the woods with him shouldn’t I want that same kind of walk with my Heavenly Father; shouldn’t it be as automatic and instinctive to stay right at his side. Of course it should but I’m really going to have to sit with this in prayer for a few days (or weeks) and figure out why I’m not the same little lamb with Him as I would be with my dad. One thing is for certain…this is not about the shepherd; it’s all about the little lamb! Perhaps this lent the greatest discipline of all would be to focus on being a little lamb that walks closer with Jesus. I don’t suppose my fancy plans and detailed disciplines impress him. I think what he really wants is for us to stay close to him. That will be challenge enough for this little lamb for sure!
A Seed To Plant: What kind of little lamb are you? Spend some time in prayer thinking about all the times you run ahead or lag behind and ask for the Shepherd to draw you to his side.
Blessings on your day!
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of his own…1 Peter 2:9
I came across a story a couple of weeks ago and it was a good one! It was one of those stories that sticks with you and applies to lots of different things. I found the story in a Lenten reflection book written by F. Joe Kempf and I decided all of you needed to read it too.
When Thomas Edison was working on improving his first light bulb, he handed the finished bulb to a young helper, who nervously and slowly carried it upstairs, but near the top step he dropped and shattered it. After a moment of horrified silence, the whole team set back to work. It took them 24 more hours of hard work to make another bulb. When it was finished they needed someone to take it upstairs again, Edison looked around, found the same boy and handed the new bulb to him to do the job. Edison knew that something more important than the bulb was at stake.
I think one of the reasons I love this story is because it so clearly illustrates trust, mercy, forgiveness and unselfishness. It made me think of all the things I fuss about. It made me think about all the things I take so seriously. It made me think of all the things I think I have to be in charge of myself. It made me think of all the silly things I believe are so valuable. But the biggie…it made me realize how easy it should be to give second chances and how grateful I am that God is so good at giving them again and again.
The invention of the light bulb was a pretty big stinkin deal for heaven sakes but Mr. Edison realized the human spirit was far more valuable! The whole story makes me think about how I treat others and what I truly value. It makes me think of some advice I got as a young teacher; people are ALWAYS more important than paper and stuff. Maybe this Thursday morning short post can be a reminder to us all.
A Seed To Plant: Make a list of your top 5 priorities…do they match the way you balance your time and attitude? Make someone feel important today!
Blessings on your day!
…then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine. Proverbs 3:10
It was one of those mornings! The kind where the minutes evaporate and the tasks multiply! I was rushing and trying to do some things two handed in the kitchen. I was pouring coffee with my right hand and rinsing dishes in the sink with my left. I guess I was focusing too hard on my left hand and didn’t notice my coffee pouring right hand was working overtime. Before I realized what had happened I literally had a “hot mess” on my hands which led to some mopping and re-brewing that weren’t in the morning plan. It seems that even when the coffee mug reached it’s maximum capacity, I kept pouring…and pouring…and pouring. The hot deliciousness from my coffee pot silently cascaded over the rim of the mug all over the counter and down the cabinet onto the kitchen floor. Just a word of warning; don’t try to wipe up freshly brewed hot coffee with paper towel until it’s had a wee bit of time to cool off. I’m not sure I remember what had me so distracted that morning but I sure can tell you what happened after the mess was cleaned up.
After brewing more coffee, I took my mug to the prayer chair and just took a few peaceful breaths before I cracked open one of my daily prayer books. I opened to the days page and I was astounded at the story that greeted me. Two things before I share the story; yes, I nearly spit out my sip of fresh delicious coffee as I started to read and yes, I realize you just can’t make this stuff up! Here’s what I read. There was a university professor who went searching for the meaning of life. After several years and several miles, he came to the hut of a particularly holy hermit and asked to be enlightened. The holy man invited the visitor into his humble dwelling and began to serve him tea. He filled the professor’s cup and then kept on pouring so that the tea was soon dripping onto the floor. The professor watched until he could no longer restrain himself. “Stop! It’s full. No more will go in.” “Like this cup”, said the hermit, “you are full of your own opinions, preconceptions, and ideas. How can I teach you unless you first empty your cup?” Thank you Fr. Wharton for peeking into my day and smacking me upside the head!
I’ve spent the last several days pondering what ’s in my cup. I’ve come to the conclusion that my cup is full of good stuff but it’s stuff I put there. I’m really good at filling my cup with things I think God would like but I have to pray and ponder a bit to make sure they really are the things he wants in my cup. I guess the only way to be sure is to dump out the cup and start over. I have to figure out how to empty myself and let him do the filling. It doesn’t really matter how I want to serve him, what matters is that I serve him the way he wants me too. I have never heard the “voice” of God; you know like a Morgan Freeman kind of voice but I sure know he’s sending a message and last week he sent it with the delicious smell of coffee. I know one thing for certain; God went to great lengths to get my attention so I think I’ll give this more thought and prayer and let you know what I come up with.
A Seed To Plant: What’s filling your cup? Is there room for Him?
Blessings on your day!
Above all, love each other deeply because love covers a multitude of sins. 1 Peter 4:8
Every now and again I feel like I’ve “got it all together.” My prayer life seems to be in order, I’m knee deep in loving and helping and serving and I can get a little “inflated”. I should know by now that is the time when he’s gonna grab me with a lesson. The story in this post isn’t mine. I don’t know who wrote it but it fell into my lap and I really believe it was God saying…hey Sheri…what about this? Read this and see what I might be asking you to work on. It’s about relationships not just rules and procedures. Being a disciple is tough work. This story left me examining my heart in a giant way. I think that’s something he likes us to do. Maybe this story will hit you as hard as it did me.
We were the only family with children in the restaurant. I sat Erik in a high chair and noticed everyone was quietly sitting and talking. Suddenly, Erik squealed with glee and said, 'Hi.' He pounded his fat baby hands on the high chair tray. His eyes were crinkled in laughter and his mouth was bared in a toothless grin, as he wriggled and giggled with merriment. I looked around and saw the source of his merriment. It was a man whose pants were baggy with a zipper at half-mast and his toes poked out of would-be shoes. His shirt was dirty and his hair was uncombed and unwashed. His whiskers were too short to be called a beard and his nose was so varicose it looked like a road map. We were too far from him to smell, but I was sure he smelled.. His hands waved and flapped on loose wrists.. 'Hi there, baby; hi there, big boy. I see ya, buster,' the man said to Erik. My husband and I exchanged looks, 'What do we do?’ Erik continued to laugh and answer, ‘Hi.' Everyone in the restaurant noticed and looked at us and then at the man. The old geezer was creating a nuisance with my beautiful baby. Our meal came and the man began shouting from across the room, 'Do ya patty cake? Do you know peek-a-boo? Hey, look, he knows peek- a-boo.’ Nobody thought the old man was cute. He was obviously drunk. My husband and I were embarrassed. We ate in silence; all except for Erik, who was running through his repertoire for the admiring skid-row bum, who in turn, reciprocated with his cute comments.
We finally got through the meal and headed for the door. My husband went to pay the check and told me to meet him in the parking lot. The old man sat poised between me and the door. 'Lord, just let me out of here before he speaks to me or Erik,' I prayed. As I drew closer to the man, I turned my back trying to sidestep him. As I did, Erik leaned over my arm, reaching with both arms in a baby's 'pick-me-up' position. Before I could stop him, Erik had propelled himself from my arms to the man.
Suddenly a very old smelly man and a very young baby consummated their love and kinship. Erik in an act of total trust, love, and submission laid his tiny head upon the man's ragged shoulder. The man's eyes closed, and I saw tears hover beneath his lashes. His aged hands full of grime, pain, and hard labor, cradled my baby's bottom and stroked his back. No two beings have ever loved so deeply for so short a time. I stood awestruck. The old man rocked and cradled Erik in his arms and his eyes opened and set squarely on mine. He said in a firm commanding voice, 'You take care of this baby.’ Somehow I managed, 'I will,' from a throat that contained a stone. He pried Erik from his chest, lovingly and longingly, as though he were in pain. I received my baby, and the man said, 'God bless you, ma'am, you've given me my Christmas gift.’ I said nothing more than a muttered thanks. With Erik in my arms, I ran for the car. My husband was wondering why I was crying and holding Erik so tightly, and why I was saying, 'My God, my God, forgive me.’ I had just witnessed Christ's love shown through the innocence of a tiny child who saw no sin, who made no judgment; a child who saw a soul, and a mother who saw a suit of clothes. I was a Christian who was blind, holding a child who was not.. I felt it was God asking, 'Are you willing to share your son for a moment?' when He shared His for all eternity. How did God feel when he put his baby in our arms 2000 years ago. The ragged old man, unwittingly, had reminded me, 'To enter the Kingdom of God , we must become as little children.’ If this has blessed you, please bless others by sending it on. Sometimes, it takes a child to remind us of what is really important. We must always remember who we are, where we came from and, most importantly, how we feel about others. The clothes on your back or the car that you drive or the house that you live in does not define you at all; it is how you treat your fellow man that identifies who you are.
A Seed to Plant: Read the story more than once…get past the whole stranger holding your baby thing and really feel what the message of the story is.
Blessings on your day!
My son, forget not my teaching, keep in mind my commands; Proverbs 3:1
Today begins the crazy, fun, joyful week known as Catholic Schools Week! Catholic schools across the country will be celebrating the gift and the blessing of Christ centered education. I am so thankful for the chance to teach in a Catholic School. It’s absolutely a gift to be able to incorporate Christ into every conversation and activity that makes up my day. Some worry about the right time, or the right opportunity to mention Jesus or faith and I realize I often take for granted that I can talk about it all day AND get paid for it.
This year is far from normal and not much is familiar or predictable so I think that’s why Catholic Schools Week is so exciting this year…we know how to laugh, we know how to celebrate and who doesn’t love a week full of activities and dress up days! It’s a break in the strange and a return visit to light-hearted and silly. We aren’t playing candy bar bingo in the parish hall tonight with a full house of families eating hot dogs and winning giant Snickers bars but tomorrow we’ll play for smaller candy bars via zoom in our classrooms. We won’t hold the annual Dodge Ball Tournament but we will play different games together. We will have Adoration in the gym instead of the cozy chapel and we’ll have a Bible Themed Carnival one classroom at a time. As I was buying supplies for carnival and the Lost Sheep game which involves getting the lost sheep (mini marshmallows) back in the pen with a straw, a lady approached me in the check out lane laughing wondering what on earth I was doing with 20 bags of marshmallows in my cart. When I explained she laughed and said God Bless all of you and I hope you have the best week ever…the kids have earned it. She was absolutely right about that! As we head into a week of fun, I didn’t want to be the only one enjoying some laughs today so I thought I’d share a few Catholic School Student comments. Some are from my students, some are borrowed from other teachers but all of them demonstrate the joy of the child.
**Hosanna in the highest is correct; Lasagna in the highest is not.
**The Holy Ghost is not a cousin to Caspar even if they are both friendly.
**I understand there was no room at the inn but hotels. com wouldn’t have been a thing 2,000 years ago…no honey, it wasn’t because the wifi wasn’t strong enough.
**No, I wasn’t there the night Jesus was born, that was a few years before my time.
When every day includes faith and kids its’ a winning combination! I want to thank all those who support Catholic Education. There are so many who sacrifice time, energy and money to make the work we do possible so please know that you will be included in our prayers of thanksgiving this week.
A Seed To Plant: Take some time this week to pray for all children in schools everywhere!
Blessings on your day!
Sheri's writing can also be found at Faith Catholic Publications and on CatholicMom.com