Joyful Words Blog
Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light for my path.
– Psalm 119:105
– Psalm 119:105
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. James 1:2-4
It’s spring and it’s crazy! The schedules are packed with softball and baseball double headers, cattle shows, concerts, meetings, assemblies, prom and graduation parties. I think the messiness of schedules this time of year is part of what makes summer so lovely! The other night I was sitting in the bleachers for the third time that week and I overheard a
tired frazzled mom say, “Why do I do this?”
I spent some time thinking about that and I realized how important perspective is during crazy times. I heard my mother’s voice on the drive
home that night. She always used to say, “The greatest way to serve God is to serve others.” Service is what we are all called to and if something is done for another out of kindness and love its service. I love my kids with all my heart, Dave and I have been blessed with great kids and I don’t want to miss a thing they do. They were our gift from God and it’s our responsibility to raise them to be as faithful, strong, respectful and kind as we can. Early on in my motherhood a wise mother reminded me that babies were a gift from God but they really belong to Him, we just get the privilege of borrowing them and raising them up to imitate Him. I also heard my dad’s voice on the drive home that night. Dad always said, “If you borrow something, you need to return it in the same or better shape than it was
when you got it.” I realized that applied to our children.
If I truly believe that service is important, I’ll use the busy schedule this spring as a way to honor God. I’ll fill the bleachers with kind words
and laughter. I’ll wash those uniforms and iron those dress clothes in prayer. True, Jesus won’t be wearing number 4, number 8 or a green dress shirt but I can still wash and iron, offering that task in service to Him and pray for His blessing upon the the people who will wear those clothes. I can make sure that my words are encouraging. I can demonstrate patience with kids, coaches, fans and my husband. I can be grateful that I know so many wonderful kids who are able to run and play and receive awards. I can teach my children humility, I can speak about and pray for good winning and even better loosing. I can teach respect for authority by demonstrating respectfulness toward officials and teachers and coaches. I can teach my kids that life isn’t always fair and parent’s eyes are biased. I can teach my kids that they aren’t entitled to things. I can help my kids see that lots of other folks have different gifts than them and that is a cause for congratulations and celebration not pouting and criticizing. I can help them understand that each time they do something, it’s their chance to do their best and offer their performance as a gift to God in thanksgiving for all their blessings. I can teach them that when they are doing things for God’s glory and not their own, His approval is what they should seek, not the praise of a coach or teacher or fan and they will never be disappointed. Mostly I can be thankful for time spent traveling with my kids because they are catapulting into adulthood right before my very eyes.
The way I figure it, I have two choices. I can either complain about how busy I am and how little time I have to do this or that OR I can relax and enjoy God in the present. Laundry will always be waiting, sweeping and dusting truly isn’t more important than my children and as my oldest son Kevin always says, “You can sleep when you’re dead.” I’m going
to focus on the event at hand and not worry about what needs to be done tomorrow or next week or next month. I’m going to ask God to meet me in THIS day, THIS game, THIS event. By the time I got home the other night, I had a clear understanding of “Why I do this!” Each crazy, hectic event is a chance to find and spread the joy of Christ…I’ll have to ask myself often how I’m doing.
A Seed To Plant: As you face your busy day, take time to offer the challenges and stress of the schedule to God. Ask Him to bless it and help
you find ways to serve Him through the people and events of the day.
Blessings on your day!
Then He opened their minds to understand the scriptures. Luke 23:45
It was confirmed once again this week that being a first grade teacher has got to be one of the greatest jobs on the planet!! My little lovelies proved a very important point this week. They illustrated how essential it is to be curious, seek understanding and not be afraid to question.
During a religion lesson on Tuesday, I was reading from the Acts of the Apostles and we were talking about how the early Apostles were often treated horribly by people who didn’t believe in Jesus. We were in the middle of a great lesson on discipleship and being brave enough to profess our faith and stand up to defend Jesus when a little lovely raised his hand and said, “Ok, wait a minute, I thought the Apostles were good guys.” I confirmed that they were and asked what he was thinking and he said, “Well I don’t think they were so great.” In a puzzled voice I said, “Tell me what you’re thinking” and he looked right in my eyes and said “Well if they were so great, why did they go around chopping up stuff and people?” I was stumped and asked him to tell me more. As he talked, the light went on…the little lovely thought I was reading from the AX of the Apostles. Once we cleared that up he was able to look at the Apostles in a whole new way.
As I look back on that lesson, I continue to giggle and be amazed at the power of one little tiny word! I’m so glad my little lovely asked his question and didn’t continue to believe the Apostles were like villains on a
rampage! I was humorously reminded of the power of words. We have such power to build up and tear down with the words we speak. I was also reminded that God’s word has enormous power as well, but just like my
little lovely, we don’t always have a clear understanding of all the words. The lesson from the small ones this week is; seek to understand.
More times than I can recall, I have heard people say they don’t read Scripture because they don’t really understand it. Some will say it’s so full of names and places that have no clear meaning they simply get frustrated and put it down. I’m gonna be completely honest and admit there was a time when I felt the same way. I’ll splash you with a little more honesty and say even now, I’ll sometimes read a passage and have to re-read a couple more times trying to find a clear meaning. I think that's ok because the important thing is that we read His word and we try to understand. It's helpful to remember the words from Luke’s Gospel and know that if we ask Him for understanding, He will open our minds. Another beautiful thing about spending time in Scripture is when we sincerely ask Him to touch our life with His words; we can read the same passage again and again and receive new blessings and understanding from the same words. There are dozens of study Bibles and resources to help us unlock the treasures found in God’s Word. When we have big decisions and struggles in life these days it’s all too easy to go to google for information…I’m going to suggest we go somewhere else first…Google God…right in your Bible. Ask Him to open your mind and open your heart so it will be ready for the truth and the love dripping from every page of His Holy Word. Go ahead...ask Him the big questions...seek His thoughts...go straight to the source of goondess and truth and let him open your mind and understand.
A Seed To Plant: Spend time reading God’s word this week. If you have a burning question like my little lovely did this week, I challeng you to ask it and clear up your understanding!
Blessings on your day!
But rather, love your enemies and do good to them…Luke 5:35
Like many other Americans Friday I waited and I wondered and I prayed. I tried to decide if I should write about the Gosnell horrors and the Boston bombing…I left it up to Him. Friday evening before I shut down my computer for the day, I found His answer and some perfect words. The following is a facebook post from a sweet, faithful and lovely new friend, Noelle Garcia. She has given me permission to borrow her words so your heart can be lifted and touched just like mine was. She wrote late Friday
night, “I remember reading in one of the Immaculee Ilibagiza books that she
struggled to pray the Our Father while she was in hiding during the Rwandan genocide. One reason was because of the word, “our”. “Our Father”, how could He be the Father of evil people AND good people?
I reflect on that now…Our Father. The Father of Gosnell. The Father of the Boston Bombers. My Father. Maybe if they had known God as a loving Father…Gosnell wouldn’t have destroyed mothers and children and the bombing suspects wouldn’t have believed God would want this. But then we do use God to justify our evils sometimes don’t we? Our Father. Your Father. My friend’s Father. My enemy’s Father. My Father.”
Noelle’s words tied in with a discussion I had with my little lovelies earlier that same day. It amazes me what children know. As usual, they had questions and I asked the Holy Spirit to help me put things in their terms. In their minds and hearts it really all boiled down to people who didn’t know Jesus and His powerful love. I shared the above words from Luke’s Gospel about loving our enemies and we decided the best way we could do that was to pray for them. One was brilliant enough to know if we prayed for "bad guys" more often, maybe some of them would love Jesus and stop being a "bad guy" before they hurt somebody. At the suggestion of another little lovely, we stopped the discussion and prayed a decade of the rosary for enemies and bad guys. "And they will be led by a child" was a scripture that came to mind.
Weeks like this bring forth all sorts of discussions and thoughts. I loved the old clips of Mr. Rogers everywhere this week saying that when he was young and saw scary things his mother would remind him to look at all the helpers. She encouraged him to focus on the good being done by so many people rather than the bad being done by a few. I also love the image floating around of the FBI agent in full bullet proof gear delivering two gallons of milk to an out of milk family of toddlers during the lock-down on Friday. I heard a discussion while waiting in line at the grocery store.
One lady wisely said that the evil in this world is a sliver and the good in this world is most of the pie. I liked that image! I am a perpetual “Pollyanna” but I’d like to think bad situations often bring out the best in humanity. I’d like to
remember that God is the Father of us all and I NEED to remember His promise in John’s Gospel, “You will have trouble.” Not, you might or it’s possible, but YOU WILL! We’ve had a belly full of it this past week and hopefully it’s dropped us to our knees in prayer; prayer for the victims, the survivors, the families, the helpers, and the enemies. Prayers for them ALL because God is the Father of us ALL and in times like these we ALL need Him more than ever. Call on His name and be loved, comforted, protected and blessed!
A Seed To Plant: Pray for an enemy today. For extra credit, read one of Imaculee Ilibagiza’s books. Left To Tell is a good one to begin with. If you’ve read that one, try The Boy who met Jesus. Last Monday’s seed to plant was to tend your mustard seed…here’s an excellent way to do that!
Blessings on your day!
The Lord hears the cry of the poor. Psalm 34
When I hear the word poor I usually think of no money…anyone else think that? I know financial poverty is not what the Psalmist was referring to so I paused to think about the bigger meaning of these words. I pondered all the areas of my life where I was poor and here’s what I came up with.
There are days when I am very poor in patience. My tongue can be snappy and my judgments quick. One of the great casualties of being poor in patience is not being a good listener. I wondered how many things happened on these days that could make me richer if I wasn’t so busy
being impatient. Lord, on these impatient days,help me remember to cry out for your calm and your peace.
Sometimes I am poor in trust. When my pockets seem to be emptied of
this treasure I decide to take control and do God’s work for Him. I tend to look to heaven and say “I got this one God!” I can tell ya how that usually works out. When I’m poor in trust I doubt His love for me and the wisdom of His plan…silly me! I forget that I’m looking at one page of the story and He’s holding the whole book! Lord, on the days I lack trust, help me remember to say the words Jesus, I trust in You.
More often than I’d like to admit I’m poor in acceptance. I have to remind myself often that things in my life are organized specifically the way God needs them to be. When money is tight or when success seems to find its way into someone else’s life it’s tough not to get discouraged. One of the things I work on with my little lovelies is celebrating when good things come to others because they are blessings from God. All too often instead of celebrating with others in their good fortune we evaluate all the reasons it should have happened to us instead. When I’m poor in acceptance; Lord remind me to keep my nose in my own journey.
I think I am the poorest when I fail to live in the present. God has created THIS day for me. Yesterday is already finished and tomorrow isn’t a guarantee. The people, the opportunities, the joys and the challenges of THIS day are His gift to me and it’s my job to soak it all in and ask constantly through the day what the plan for all of it is. When I get this right, I feel His blessings. Recently I had a mountain of a day to climb; jobs, tasks, deadlines, projects and a teacher evaluation scheduled on top of it all. I woke up that morning feeling like limpy lettuce! It wasn’t even 5 in the morning and I wanted to go back to bed and be done with the day. I threw up my hands in morning prayer thinking God, how in the world am I supposed to “rejoice and be glad”when I’ve got a day like this! I then stumbled across the word surrender several times in my readings and prayers that morning. So, that’s what I did…I flat out said, “God, if you plan to be hearing from me during evening prayers tonight, you best be sending re-enforcements because I can’t get this all done and still be joyful.” I gave Him the day and I just sat back and watched Him show off! I was very rich indeed that day. Things fell in place, help I didn’t even request showed up, and the little lovelies were particularly bright and funny that day. The grand finale to the day was a cancelled meeting and plopping into bed at 11:40 only to realize that I’d smacked the wrong button on my alarm clock that morning and it was really only 10:40. That was just icing on the cake! The Lord hears our cries…especially when we see and ask for help in the places we’re poor. Try Him…cry out and see how He answers
A Seed To Plant: Spend some time in prayer asking God to help you see the areas where you are poor. He’s waiting to hear and answer your cry for riches in these areas.
Blessings on your day!
I have a mustard seed and I’m not afraid to use it. Pope Benedict XVI
“We all have that mustard seed and we shouldn’t be afraid to use it!” (Chris
Faddis) That’s the message I have sitting like a brick on my heart as I type this post. This was not the post I had planned for today but as it often happens, the Holy Spirit planted something right in the middle of my radar and it just has to bubble out onto the page for all of you to read. Today I had the tremendous blessing of listening to Chris Faddis tell the story of his wife and his life with her. Chris’s 32 year old wife Angela, his bride of 6 short years and mother of two young children died of cancer. Theirs is a story of surrender, trust and a gorgeous“living color” example of Jesus’ parable of the mustard seed. If you want to give your faith a “million volt jump start” go to YouTube and check out their journey…I promise
you will be changed! Chris’s book It is Well will be available in early May. Head over to www.itiswellbook.com and prepare to be inspired!
God and His amazing timing are a wonder to behold. On Wednesday I learned that Chris (a guy I had never heard of) was coming to the area to speak. It caught my attention because the person who arranged it is a woman of great faith and I took her invitation to heart. I asked Dave and Shannon to clear the afternoon and go with me not thinking much more about it. Less than 24 hours later, I learned that my Aunt Mary’s cancer had been re-diagnosed as stage four, inoperable and I was drawn to my knees. Aunt Mary is my mom’s sister and she is the bearer of one of the sweetest, kindest most loving hearts God ever put in a body! She has loved and mothered me and my children for all the years my mom has been gone.
She is amazing and her thoughtful, giving spirit has touched more people than any of us would ever be able to count. As I struggled to sort it out and
surrender it, out of nowhere comes this message of hope and trust from a man named Chris. I have so many things to share with her…I’ve never wanted to shrink those 800 miles between us so badly…or at least shrink the cost of the airfare to get there! I suppose that is part of the lesson in trust and surrender too.
We don’t really like to talk about the tough topics like suffering and death; if we’re being honest, most of us fear them! Chris said something today that made so much sense. He said life on this earth is barely even the batter compared to what’s to come…the masterful cake God will create. He said, “This life is really nothing more than some flour and eggs thrown together in a bowl, compared to our life in eternity with Christ.” Wow…talk
about a vivid and powerful image! In a world full of yucky news and negative attitudes, this message of hope and trust was a blessing to all of us parked in the pews. How long has it been since you’ve done something to feed your soul; something hopeful and inspiring? It’s a great way to let the love of God rush into your heart and do some good work. Chris is working hard to get the book and the story out not to make a buck…but to allow Jesus to make a difference. He’s trying to spread the message of trust his wife so beautifully illustrated in her life and in her death. I encourage you to check out his message and I invite you to pray for Chris and his family as he sets out to use his mustard seed. While I’m requesting prayers, please say some for my Aunt Mary, a beautiful, faithful soul in need of God’s peace and blessings.
A Seed to Plant: Use your mustard seed…do something this week to purposefully increase your faith. Read something, watch something, read
Scripture…anything for your mustard seed!
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 thought about this reading a lot one afternoon last week as my children were parasailing in Gulf Shores. I watched them floating in the sky and my glance kept drifting back to that boat rocking back and forth in the ocean waves. My children had the courage to try something I would NEVER do; once again there I was like one of the “chicken”apostles still in the boat! I stood on the beach waiting for them to return safely and I thought about the things that rock my boat and give God a chance to look at me and say “Oh you of little faith!”
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!
Were I to count, they would outnumber the sands; to finish, I
would need eternity. Psalm 139:18
As I write this post I’m sitting in the front seat of the family Suburban for the 14th hour today. I have graded all my papers, figured some grades for the report cards that go home this week and I’m trying not to glance back at the mound of bags, laundry and sandy beach towels that will tumble out at my feet when I get home and lift the hatch.
It was a fabulous week in Gulf Shores Alabama with more than a dozen seniors, their families and our two lovely “borrowed” daughters. We laughed, played in the ocean and the sand, shopped, played games, went to Mass, ate lots of food, used lots of sun screen and then laughed some more! It was an excellent week from beginning to end! Great seniors…great friends…great scenery…great fun…and now back to reality! It’s easy to slump in my seat as I think about the Michigan cold and the mountain of laundry, the report cards, the unpacking and the return to routine. We’ve counted the days for so long and now it’s all done! Then I realize it’s exactly that kind of attitude that satan loves! He loves it when we wallow and fuss and wilt in our shoes, looking only at the negative side of life. I’m using the drive through Indiana to think about things another way.
Somewhere in the Indianapolis traffic, I realized I needed to put my celebration hat back on! I am blessed with a wonderful senior son who has some terrific friends that I enjoyed so much for a whole week. I watched them hunt plastic Easter Eggs around the swimming pool landscape with the laughter of 6 year olds, the competitiveness of pro athletes in a title game and a carefree light-heartedness that was contagious. I watched this group of seniors enjoy simple things like crab-hunting, pool hopping, wave jumping and endless games of sand volleyball including all the younger brothers and sisters who wanted to play. We laughed as they sprinted toward the Krispy Kreme donut shop when the free donut light came on; it was like they were about to win a hundred dollars. They were happy, fun, grateful and so easily entertained with the simplest things. Their easy smiles and the sound of their laughter will keep me thankful for a long time. How many mothers of teenagers can say that!
I’m heading home to temperatures 30 degrees cooler but I’m happy I got to walk in the ocean waves with the sunshine on my face. It will take hours to unpack, do the laundry and vacuum all the sand out of the vehicle but I’m blessed to have a happy, healthy family that could run and play and get all that stuff dirty. I’m looking back at our kids and our two “borrowed” daughters with their sunburnt faces and sleepy eyes and I’m thankful we had so much fun it wore us out completely. I’m happy I have a job and
a routine to return to. I’m happy I have kids that wanted to spend the week with us, and a husband that loves driving for hours and hours and would walk along the beach with me. While doing the dishes one evening after feeding the crew, the other moms and I saw a clip on the news of Pope Francis lifting a little boy with Cerebral Palsy from his mother’s arms and kissing him on the cheek and I was drawn to tears because my children can walk and run. How can I be bummed out about the end of a vacation when I think of what that mother and millions of others like her go through each day?
Yup…the trip is almost over but I’m going to hang on to the wonderful and be extra thankful that God has blessed me in such a big way! The sand will be cleaned up and the dirt in the laundry will be washed away but His blessings won’t be. Who can be sad now…besides…the 2013 baseball and softball season begins on Tuesday…nothing better than watching your kids play ball! Vacation was great but God is greater!
A Seed To Plant: Jot down 3 things you are thankful for right this very minute…gratefulness is an excellent way to jab a shot of joy in your day!
Blessings on your day!
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Sheri's writing can also be found at Faith Catholic Publications and on CatholicMom.com