Joyful Words Blog
Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light for my path.
– Psalm 119:105
– Psalm 119:105
Consider it all joy, my brothers when you encounter various trials, for you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.
Consider trials JOY? What was St. James thinking when he wrote this? Upon first glance at this verse we might be tempted to wonder if the beloved Saint put in a few too many prayerful “all-nighters” because surely he wasn’t serious about feeling joyful when the washer breaks, someone you love gets sick, the fuel pump on the car goes out or the sweet teenager in your home eats the last piece of peach pie you were hiding…I mean saving, in the back of the fridge! Joy…I don’t think so! And what about the really big stuff like losing your job or serious illness, surely he couldn’t have meant those things could bring joy. I suppose we could sit down and make a list of all the trials that have happened upon us in the past month and we would be overcome with many emotions, none of which would be joy!
The real meat of this verse is the part that explains what we can get in exchange for our trials…stronger faith and perseverance. Do you remember when you were young and you went home from school and complained about that boy who pulled your pigtails or the girl who annoyingly pointed out your every move to the teacher? The standard reply from home went something like this, “Well honey, if they didn’t like you they wouldn’t tease you.” This verse has a little bit of that flavor to it don’t ya think! God promised that we would have trouble…it is a guarantee, not a possibility. Even though we’ve read those words more than once, trials still seem to catch us by surprise. We sometimes even cop an attitude and think, “What, me…why me Lord? What have I done to deserve this difficulty?” We might even get really sassy and say, “Oh, pardon me Father, but you’ve made a mistake, I’ve already had 8 serious trials this month, I believe this current dilemma belongs to the neighbor or even better, the guy who cut me off in traffic this morning!”
The simple truth is, if He didn’t love us, He wouldn’t give us trials at all. Each difficulty or disappointment that knocks on our front door or barges right into our day is an opportunity to grow in trust or compassion or patience. When we throw up our hands in despair and say, “Ok God, I don’t know how to do this…I don’t think I’m strong enough for this, please guide me and guard me and love me through it!” we will grow in faith and perseverance plus we will be blessed with grace and mercy. I think what St. James was teaching us is that any time we surrender to the holy power of God, that’s joyful, and the blessing is more strength, more grace and more faith for the next thing! It seems strange to thank God for the lousy stuff but that is what we are called to do. We need to act like we are completely aware that He is about to do a might work through that trial if we would just stand back and let Him take us through it.
A Seed To Plant: The next time a trial comes your way, stop and thank God for it and ask Him to show you the joy in the situation. We’d love to hear your stories!
Blessings on your day!
(During the Easter Season, we read from the Acts of the Apostles daily. While lectoring at Mass this weekend I was reading from Acts and had to grin as I remembered this post from a few years past and thought it was worthy of a re-run…enjoy the wisdom of a seven year old!)
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 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 and then as he talked the light went on…the little lovely thought I was reading from the AXE 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 Tuesday’s 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 the important thing is that we read His word and we 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 you unlock the treasures found in God’s Word. When we have big decisions to make 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.
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 challenge you to ask it and clear up your understanding!
Blessings on your day!
I am an imperfect person loved by a perfect God!
I had a funny realization the other day when I had the middle lovelies and their kindergarten buddies at mass. One of the littles had a runny nose so the big buddy turned and asked me if I had a Kleenex they could give the kindergartener. I immediately began rummaging through my coat pockets pulling out Kleenex after Kleenex. I smiled and thought I must have looked a little like a magician pulling colorful scarves out of a hat. I finally came to one that was wadded but after careful inspection, I could tell it hadn’t been used. It looked a little rumpled but as I did the unfold test I could tell it was a “never been used” one. Feeling a bit successful at the fruitful Kleenex search mission, I handed it up with pride to the middle lovely. The little one looked a bit suspicious and after using it the child looked at their big buddy and said, “My mom buys the kind that come in the little rectangle package and come out folded nicely, I’m not sure I like this kind.” It took everything I had not to laugh out loud!
As I looked down at the pile of crumpled white Kleenexes in my lap and began to tuck them all back in my coat pockets I realized my discipleship journey is a whole lot like that crumped pile of Kleenex! Here’s what I mean…
*When I forget to let God be in charge, things get all wrinkled, wadded and jumbled.
*Even when things get messy in the middle, all I need is a fresh corner to clean up my act.
*Things rarely come neatly packaged and perfectly stacked like the little rectangle Kleenex packages.
*Things don’t always have to look new, neat and tidy to work well, sometimes following Christ is just messy and unpredictable.
*God loves me even when I’m a rumpled mess and all I have left is a little room around the edges.
*God always wants to give a little extra love so I have some left to share.
*Just because I appear to be prepared, well packaged and all put together, it doesn’t mean I’m holy. Holiness focuses on the inside not the outward appearance.
*Just like those tissues in my pocket, God has a very specific purpose in my life and I sometimes have to do a little searching to find it.
*All too often, I have to dig around and try all the wrong things before I get to the good one.
*Finding a good Kleenex right before a sneeze is a great relief but it’s nothing compared to the relief in my life when I let God take control right before I try to do it my own way and goof it up.
Some people say they never really hear God speak to them; perhaps the problem is they just aren’t listening carefully because he can communicate his lessons and his love in the strangest ways; even in a pile of rumpled Kleenexes!
A Seed To Plant: Are you a fresh new package disciple or are you one who’s a little ruffled around the edges? Take some time in prayer this week and think about it…are you waiting until everything is in perfect order to invite him in or are you willing to invite him into your mess?
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 middle 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 middle 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!
This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. 1 John 5:14
Have you ever gotten something that far exceeded your expectation? When I was a little girl I remember asking for a baby doll for Christmas. All I wanted was a doll with brown hair and brown eyes. That Christmas stands out like no other because not only did I get the baby doll I wanted, I also got 3 outfits that my mom made by hand, I got a baby bottle to feed the baby doll and my dad made a baby bed out of an old wooden orange crate from my grandpas store. The doll bed came complete with a hand made mattress, pillow and little baby quilt. I remember squealing with so much excitement because it was SO much more than I had expected!
One of the best parts of traveling around giving talks and retreats is the people I meet and the stories they share about the things God is doing in their lives. I often pack up my little bag and hop on a plane determined to go give something but without fail…instead of doing the giving; I’m always the one who ends up receiving and experiencing so much more than I expected! I’m amazed at all the things the Lord can do when we open our heart; always more than we expected! Recently I’ve had some lovely women share an instance where God has worked in amazing and unexpected ways and with their permission I’d like to share them with you in this post.
*It’s all in the name. A nurse who was very apprehensive and anxious about a new computer system taking over the surgical center where she worked asked God to help her find a way to cope with the unwelcomed changes. She was an experienced nurse but technology wasn’t part of her training or her generation…compounding the stress and anxiety! In the shower the morning of the big “technology take over” she told God she was surrendering the whole crazy deal to him and asked him to calm her stress and be with her as she tried to learn. When she got to work that day, each nurse was assigned an assistant from the technology company. The gentleman assigned to help her was polite, gentle, understanding and extremely helpful and calming. As the nerves and stress began to subside, she thanked him for his helpfulness and asked his name. He told her his name was Emmanuel. Knowing that Emmanuel means “God is with us” she was overwhelmed at the goodness and love of the God she’d invited to be in charge of her day. The name was just a huge loving touch that proved his presence and love beyond her expectation.
*Just ask me. A grandma sat in the audience at a day of prayer and was troubled that her daughter was not making Sunday Mass a priority for her young family. She sent a text inviting her daughter and family to mass with her at the conclusion of the day of prayer but the daughter texted back and declined. The situation sat on the woman’s heart like a brick. When the scripture from 1 John was discussed she closed her eyes and made a conscious decision to ask God to take the situation and handle it “according to his will”. When the session took a break, she checked her phone and read a text from her daughter informing her of their Sunday Mass plans. When she checked the time the text was sent, it was exactly 1 minute after she had turned the situation over to the Fathers will. She was shaking with joy when she came to me to show me the text and tell me the story. The text also indicated that her grandson had just been accepted into the Catholic pre-school they were hoping he could attend. One request, one text, one big blessing that exceeded her expectation as only God can.
I think sometimes we set the bar so low it’s a wonder we don’t trip over it! God is waiting every minute to exceed our expectations. If we ask…if we believe…if we trust…and if it’s according to his will, he will surprise us every time! Go ahead and give it a try; ask with faith and then share the story!
A Seed To Plant: Make a two column list during your prayer time today. In the first column make a list of all the recent prayers God has answered in your life and in the second column make a list of all the things you’d like to lift to the Glory of his plan.
Blessings on your day!
Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9
Do you ever look at your life and wonder just how you got where you are? As I sit here typing, it’s Friday afternoon and I’m in an airport on my way to Tulsa. Tomorrow, it will be my privilege to take the stage and let the Holy Spirit send me the words that will hopefully make a couple hundred women laugh, pray and fall a little more deeply in love with the Father. It’s an awesome gig and I’m just scratching my head thinking “Why me God…what did I ever do to deserve such a cool task?” It’s a freaky, snowy, April day in Michigan and I’m happily headed to some sunshine and heat and I’m pretty excited about that! I often look at my life and take note of the dozens and dozens of things that are not at all like I thought they would be when I got older. Nearly every one of those differences causes me to sigh deeply and say “thank goodness for that!” I revel at how much smarter God is than me and I take absolute delight in how joyful, peaceful and FUN the life he mapped out for me is. That being said, there are days I’m not so thrilled with his plan. I get tired and frustrated and I struggle; heck, there are even days when I get irritated for no reason at all and feel an overwhelming desire to drop kick someone into the cow pen! Those not so lovely days boil down to one simple thing…a lack of trust and desire to stick to his plan!
My friend Brian told an amazing story not long ago about trust. The story came at the perfect time because my “trust tank” was running a little low. I may not tell the story exactly the right way because at the time I was hearing it my heart was pounding so hard and my thoughts were zipping around in my head so fast it was hard for my ears to keep up. Maybe you know the feeling and maybe this story will hit your heart the same way it hit mine.
The story was about a man who had been shipwrecked but by the grace of God was able to salvage supplies for his survival. He was so grateful for God’s goodness and he thanked him because even though this terrible thing had happened, God provided the supplies and a way to save them. The man built a hut to house and protect the supplies essential for his survival and again offered his praise and thanksgiving to the Father. (I remember thinking at that point in the story; great job for remembering to thank God during the trial.) Then disaster struck again and the hut which contained the lifesaving goods burned to the ground. In fear, hopelessness and desperation he cried out to God and asked why he had abandoned him and allowed him to suffer such a debilitating loss. As he contemplated his certain demise, he spotted a ship that had come to his rescue. The captain of the ship told him what a brilliant idea it had been to build such a huge fire to signal help. He told the man that the ship had been headed in a completely different direction but seeing such a huge amount of smoke he realized it clearly must have been someone signaling for help so he immediately changed course and came to his rescue. How’s that for a lesson in God having the final say and the best plan ever!
If there are hiccups and speed bumps in my life it isn’t because God messed up or forgot about me; it’s because he’s getting me ready for the next thing. Since I can’t possibly know what that next thing is, I probably shouldn’t waste my time building a hut to protect the stuff I think I need to get there. I can’t possibly know so I shouldn’t pack, store and prepare…I simply need to trust, obey and stick to his plan. He’s already shown me patience, love, grace, mercy and blessings beyond imagination why would I even question?
A Seed To Plant: Make a list of some of the times God’s plan turned out to be way better than yours. Be sure to offer your thanks for all the “fires” along the way that revealed how much he loves and cares for you.
Blessings on your day!
Good morning! Although it's cloudy,windy, spitting snow and freezing outside; I am on spring break. I'm going to be taking the week off to do some quiet, prayerful, peaceful reflection and catch my breath. I'll be back with more joyful words next Monday. Blessings on your week!
Sheri's writing can also be found at Faith Catholic Publications and on CatholicMom.com