Joyful Words Blog
Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light for my path.
– Psalm 119:105
– Psalm 119:105
“For I the Lord do not change.” Malachi 3:6
How’s your Lent? It’s a great feeling to get to this point in the season and recognize tangible ways our changes and sacrifices have allowed us to detach from our will a little. As we dive deep into the last weeks of Lent it’s a good time to ask ourselves, “WHY did I give that up?” or “WHY did I make that change?” I recently heard a priest point out that often our Lenten plans are very self focused. He challenged his listeners to think beyond themselves and make some changes that had a positive effect on someone else. Then he spoke this powerful line…
“One changed life, always changes another!” If we are going to be the people of service we are called to be, this line is mighty motivation. I have heard the powerful story of three people this Lent who made a change in their life and it changed another. I share their stories to inspire us to do some great things to finish out this Lent.
*Adjusting your schedule to give the gift of time changes things. Lent opens our hearts to receive gifts from the Lord as we free ourselves from habits and distractions that allow us more time to get closer to Him. Tonight I saw one of these gifts. When I made time as a Lenten commitment to visit a very old woman in assisted living, she quickly became my friend. But tonight she kissed me goodbye and said she would pray for me and at that moment I felt my mom in her embrace (my mom died 40 years ago when she and I were both too young to lose each other). God is good and beautiful and works in mysterious ways. I am looking forward to our visits long after Lent has passed!! One changed life always changes another!
* Changing my perspective was a game changer! I’ve been politely angry at God for twenty years for a lousy marriage and entering my sixties divorced and childless. All I could do was count the pains, injustices and shortfalls of my life. This Lent I asked God to change my broken heart and swap my list of pains for a list of joys. I told him I would change my anger if he would put someone in my path who needed my love. It was a tall order but a powerful wave of trust and peace washed over me as Fr. traced the ashen cross on my forehead on Ash Wednesday. The next day a single mother and her two pre-teen daughters moved in next door. Long story short, I have three new friends who needed my love, my support, my help and my skills as a retired teacher. I help with homework, we share dinner together three nights a week and I marvel at how easy it was to change from anger to joy. One changed life always changes another!
* I began last Lent in the middle of a bitter, unhappy marriage. It seemed like every time my husband walked into the room all I could do was think about how much more I gave to the relationship and how unappreciated and taken for granted I felt. I sought counsel from a wise friend who told me the only thing I could control was myself and that “gratitude covered a multitude of sins.” After prayer and googling a lot of Catholic marriage talks I decided to change my attitude. Instead of keeping “score”, I started keeping a gratitude list about my husband. The first few days the list was pretty small but as Lenten days passed, I began to notice and appreciate so many things I had been too bitter to see. I also began to pray for him every day and as the bitterness and selfishness in my heart began to disappear, our love, laughter and faithfulness completely changed. One changed life always changes another!
Lent is a time to change our hearts, attitudes and actions…he’s inviting us to change not just for ourselves but for another of his children and just maybe he’s inviting someone to make a change that will bless us. Don’t fear the change because no matter how much things swirl around us; his love never changes!
A Seed To Plant: Spend some time in prayer this week asking the Father to show you where you can make a change that will change another.
Blessings on your day!
…and the greatest of these is love. 1 Corinthians 13:13
I think Jesus had a favorite word and he taught over and over that we should put that word into action. The word…LOVE! It covers a multitude of sins and correct a mountain of troubles, but what does it look like? I’ve had the Beetles song “All I need is Love” stuck in my head for a week and then I came across this article below; the Holy Spirit no doubt is responsible for this post! I have no idea who wrote it or I’d give them credit and a thousand thank you’s. These thoughts don’t just apply to romantic love…but to all of us and the ways we treat each other. It’s a longer read but OH SO WORTH THE TIME!
A group of professional people posed this question to a group of 4 to 8 year-olds, 'What does love mean?' The answers they got were broader, deeper, and more profound than anyone could have ever imagined!
**'When my grandmother got arthritis, she couldn't bend over and paint her toenails anymore... So my grandfather does it for her all the time, even when his hands got arthritis too. That's love.' Rebecca - age 8
**'When someone loves you, the way they say your name is different. You just know that your name is safe in their mouth.' Billy - age 4
**'Love is when a girl puts on perfume and a boy puts on shaving cologne and they go out and smell each other.' Karl - age 5
**'Love is when you go out to eat and give somebody most of your French fries without making them give you any of theirs.' Chrissy - age 6
**'Love is what makes you smile when you're tired.' Terri - age 4
**'Love is when my mommy makes coffee for my daddy and she takes a sip before giving it to him, to make sure the taste is OK.' Danny - age 8
**'Love is what's in the room with you at Christmas if you stop opening presents and just listen.' Bobby - age 7 (Wow!)
**'If you want to learn to love better, you should start with a friend who you hate.' Nikka - age 6 (we need a few million more Nikka's on this planet)
'**Love is when you tell a guy you like his shirt, then he wears it every day.' Noelle - age 7
**'Love is like a little old woman and a little old man who are still friends even after they know each other so well.' Tommy - age 6
**'During my piano recital, I was on a stage and I was scared. I looked at all the people watching me and saw my daddy waving and smiling.He was the only one doing that. I wasn't scared anymore.' Cindy - age 8
**'Love is when Mommy gives Daddy the best piece of chicken.' Elaine - age 5
**'Love is when Mommy sees Daddy smelly and sweaty and still says he is handsomer than Robert Redford.' Chris - age 7
'**Love is when your puppy licks your face even after you left him alone all day.' Mary - age 4
**'I know my older sister loves me because she gives me all her old clothes and has to go out and buy new ones.' Lauren - age 4
**'When you love somebody, your eyelashes go up and down and little stars come out of you.' (what an image!) Karen - age 7
**'You really shouldn't say 'I love you' unless you mean it. But if you mean it, you should say it a lot. People forget.' Jessica - age 8
**And the final one: The winner was a four year old child whose next door neighbor was an elderly gentleman who had recently lost his wife. Upon seeing the man cry, the little boy went into the old gentleman's yard, climbed onto his lap, and just sat there. When his mother asked what he had said to the neighbor, the little boy said, 'Nothing, I just helped him cry.’
A Seed To Plant: These snippets have so much to think about! What if the second half of Lent was all about finding ways to LOVE BIGGER! It’s impossible to focus on loving others harder and be selfish at the same time. I’d say that’s a win win! Pick something from the list and put it into action this week.
Blessings on your day!
… “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” Mathew 14:31
I love this story from Matthew’s Gospel. It’s full of little lessons! One thing that always makes me giggle a little is how much I’m like the apostles that stayed in the boat. Poor Peter gets scolded by Jesus for being of “little faith”. Truth is, I’d be one of the 11 still sitting in the boat never having the guts to get out and even try walking on water in the first place! Sometimes my boat is rockin but I’m not brave enough to get out and be faithful!
I discovered three “boat rockers” in my life are 1)My children’s future 2)The shrinking moral conscience of our culture and 3)The economy and leadership of our country. Boy can I ever be an apostle glued to the boat seat when I think about these things! I need to leap out of the boat like Peter and take some steps toward Jesus. There are many things that rock our boat and test our faith but the message is the same to us as it was to Peter; trust Me, keep your eyes on Me,have faith in Me and I will guide and protect and love you!
I can’t guarantee that my children will get their dream job with benefits and a generous salary any more than I can sweep into the US Senate or House and pray with them and get things all straightened out. (talk about being tossed into a stormy sea…yikes!) I wish I could do great big things that would restore common values like modesty, honesty and respect for life but the truth is, I’m only in charge of my little corner of the world. So what’s a sea-sick scardey cat apostle to do…PRAY! TRUST! GET OUT OF THE BOAT SO JESUS CAN GRAB ON!
If I look back on my own life, the troubles and difficult times are the ones that caused me to learn the most. Having jobs that were hard, yucky and paid pennies were the ones that made me strong and grateful. Wrestling with tough decisions about my future gave me great opportunity to pray and trust God’s will for my life. Why would I want my kids to have an easy go of it and miss those important lessons and opportunities to grow in faith and character? I think I’ll get out of that boat and just ask God to bless them and remind them daily to ask Him for direction and then pray like crazy they listen and follow!
As for the boat rockin I feel when I think of state of affairs with our culture and our country, I had a thought. If your inbox or facebook newsfeed is full of jokes, slogans and stories about the woes of our world, what do you think would happen if instead of forwarding or sharing them, we would instead stop and pray? Judging by the number of those types of posts I see each day, that could be a LOT of prayin…I think the seas would calm and more folks would have the courage and the trust to get out of the boat and walk toward Jesus. I think we underestimate the power of prayer, especially with issues we think are beyond us. I sometimes forget to pray for our leaders. I don’t remember often enough to pray for people who have lost their way and make decisions that draw people away from God rather than toward Him. Shame on me…guess I better write that down so I remember! I don’t know about you, but I think I’m ready to get out of the boat and test the water!
A Seed To Plant: What’s rockin your boat? Make a list and then stop today and pray for the courage to walk toward Jesus and hand Him your concern. While you’re prayin, stop and say a prayer for the President and all those in positions of leadership and power.
Blessings on our 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 cookies but if I have the choice between a cookie or a piece of Carrot Cake that’s a simple choice…both are great but clearly the Carrot Cake wins every time! Last week I had a God thump that made me think of choices in a new light.
While I was at mass recently I had the opportunity to help 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 a familiar 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.”
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 Carrot Cake over cookies! 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!
…return to me with your whole heart. Joel 2:12
Happy Ash Wednesday! As we begin this holy season of prayerfulness, our mission is to grow closer to God. The goal of it all is to love a little harder and believe a little bigger! The next 40 days are an opportunity to examine our habits and steer away from those that aren’t helping us become holier. My big thought this Ash Wednesday morning is…don’t just give up something you will pick back up after Easter…make it count…make it result in a change of heart…make it something that changes us more into the person God made us to be. Growing in trust, faith, hope and prayerfulness are the things that have come to me as I prayed about using this Lent well. As I was praying about the HOW, I came across this little story that I thought I’d share. Maybe it will help your heart prepare to follow Jesus more closely this Lent.
*Once all villagers decided to pray for rain. On the day of prayer, all the people gathered, but only one boy came with an umbrella. That is faith.
*When you throw babies in the air, they laugh because they know you will catch them. That is trust.
*Every night we go to bed without any assurance of being alive the next morning, but we still set alarms to wake up. That is hope.
*We plan big things for tomorrow in spite of zero knowledge of the future. That is confidence.
*We see the world suffering, but still, we get married and have children. That is love.
*The sweet, cheerful 80 year old lady wears a t-shirt that says “I’m not 80, I’m sweet 16 with 64 years of experience.” That is positive perspective.
Lent is a time for change; change that makes us closer to Jesus. Perspective is so important these next 40 days. Let’s focus not so much on the change and sacrifice but on the grace that spills out as we use these days well. Let’s focus on the great things that will change in our heart when we invite and allow the Father into our thoughts, lives and conversations. Let’s focus on what our faithfulness will look like when we grow in trust, faith, hope and love. Know of my prayers for all of you as we journey through the desert of these Lenten days toward the glory of the Resurrection.
A Seed To Plant: Instead of going back to the “Lent’s of old”, ask Jesus how he wants to draw you closer…give him permission to be in charge of your Lenten plans this year.
Blessings on your day and Happy Lent!
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Sheri's writing can also be found at Faith Catholic Publications and on CatholicMom.com