Joyful Words Blog
Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light for my path.
– Psalm 119:105
– Psalm 119:105
Be still and know that I am God. Psalm 46:11
One of the things I have enjoyed about this “timeout” is the opportunity to read a little and watch videos that make me laugh, make me think and help me grow in discipleship. This week I’ve come across two very holy, humble women who seemed to have a message I needed to hear. St. Faustina and St. Catherine of Siena were pretty “big deal” women. Their lives were filled with devotion, service, humility, courage and obedience. The way they loved and served the Lord and his people was simply astounding.
I was thinking about how much God must have loved these ladies and I wondered what I should to do to make him love me more. I began to make a list in my head of all the things I need to change and all the places I pale in comparison. I decided they must be in a completely separate category; one where they were doted on and revered by those on earth and in heaven. I mean, that would only make sense because both St. Faustina and St. Catherine had visions and messages from God and his Son. The saw, they heard and they physically felt his presence so surely he loved them dearly. It’s true, he absolutely did, but he loved them in the same way he loves you and me. Their response to his love is where the huge difference lies. They drew closer and closer to him no matter the cost. No matter what craziness was going on in the world around them, he was absolutely the only thing they thought about, focused on and lived for. Despite their complete devotion to him they were not always shielded from the hurts of the world. I was so surprised to learn that despite her amazing faith and interactions with the Divine Mercy Jesus, Faustina’s superiors wrote in her file three sharp words. Mother Superiors notes described her as; “No one special.” Wow, can you imagine a woman as incredible as St. Faustina being described that way? I think I would have been tempted to say, “Hey Sister, how many times has Jesus appeared in your room to chat? No one special my foot!” St. Catherine was humbled powerfully as well. God spoke to her and said, “I am who am; you are she who is not.” Talk about a truth that cuts you to the quick…Bam! I am, you aren’t! I know she knew this absolute truth but it would have been nice to lead with, “I am God and you are my beautiful daughter who serves with your whole self!” Judging by my reaction to these humbling zingers, it’s pretty clear to see why they are the saints and I am not!
Their stories contained a little “get over yourself” lesson for me. I have a tendency to see thing through the lens of “look what I’m doing for you God.” These ladies devoted their complete existence to him and I bought extra groceries for the food bank, prayed a few more Rosaries and volunteered to lead morning prayer a couple times a week and I think that makes me seem sparkly to God. Sheesh, I’ve got work to do! Their stories reminded me that it’s not my “doing” that makes the Father love me, it’s my “being.” We are called to serve and pray but mostly we’re called to just BE. Be his, Be still, Be humble and BE as close to him as we possibly can. Every experience that humbles us or stretches us or causes us to struggle is a moment to turn to him and be loved by him. He doesn’t need me to put on a show to earn his love, he just needs me to show up and let him love me…through the struggles, disappointments, uncertainty and all the humbling events that allow me to become small enough to fall in the shadow of his greatness.
A Seed To Plant: Read a little about a saint or two and ask the Father how he might be using their example to help you grow in faith.
Blessings on your day!
…with God, all things are possible. Matthew 9:26
Twice a week, Mrs. Pohl and I get to have “Sister Zoom” with our 22 girls. Before schools closed in March, Zoom was a word to describe the speed you needed to travel to get a warm chocolate chip cookie as it came right out of the oven. Today Zoom is the technology that allows us to connect. Zoom is the way we teach, it’s the way offices have staff meetings, it’s the way we communicate with family and friends instead of sitting down at the table together. Twice a week it’s how we see our “girls” and twice a week it’s how the St. Mary staff gathers for morning prayer and yesterday it allowed nearly 100 people to connect to finish Confirmation Prep. God bless the person who invented Zoom! I can’t imagine how we would have stumbled through this pandemic without it!
The first Sister Zoom assignment our girls had was to bring a sign to hold up that contained a positive message they thought their friends might need to hear. It was a great activity because we were all a little frazzled and maybe even a little frightened when this all began, so giving them the chance to pick some words to lift each other up was good for the spirit. Today I thought I’d let them offer the same words to all of you. Here are a few of the messages they shared.
*Find a way not an excuse
*Wake up, smile and tell yourself today is my day.
*What you are, is God’s gift to you. What you become, is your gift to God.
*Wake up. Be amazing. Repeat.
*You were given this life because you’re strong enough to live it.
*With God all things are possible.
*I look problems in the eye and give them a wink!
*I may not be perfect, but Jesus thinks I'm to die for.
*It’s not the size of the girl in the fight, but the size of the fight in the girl.
*We all love a beautiful rainbow, but you have to get through the rainstorm first.
I hope their words put a little lift in your day, a little hope in your heart and a little smile on your face.
A Seed To Plant: Pick one or two of the messages and use them to lift your spirits this week. For extra credit, share one with someone else who might need a little encouragement compliments of the 6-1 Sisters.
Blessings on your day!
…“You are to say, ‘His disciples came by night and stole him while we were asleep.’…Matthew 28:12
During the days since Easter I have been spending some time reading the story. As I was reading in the last chapter of Matthew’s gospel I got to verse 11 and wanted to yell, “Liar, Liar pants on fire!” It’s hard to believe the enemies of Jesus even tried to lie about something as astounding and beautiful as the resurrection. As I continued to read all I could think was; Wow…talk about an action packed story! This short Gospel has it all, epic drama, suspense, grief, jubilation, surprise, deceit, bribery and a splendid victorious hero! It’s a story of loyalty, love, dishonesty and the ultimate triumph of truth! Truth is a beautiful thing and we serve the God of truth.
Growing up the thing my dad held in highest regard was telling the truth, he considered truthfulness to be the most accurate mirror of a person’s character. He would often tell my brothers and me that one lie always ties itself to another and before long you could find yourself lying when the truth world fit better. That’s exactly what happened to the chief priests. How could anybody believe a small group of sorrowful and brokenhearted men appeared in the dark, rolled away an enormous stone and snuck off with Jesus’ body all without waking the team of soldiers assigned to guard the tomb? As Christians we know the truth fits better!
Sometimes Christ speaks truth to us and in our hearts we can be a little like the chief priests. Sometimes God’s truth is tough, especially when living it requires difficult change. The laws and truths of our faith are clear and often difficult to follow and we try to wriggle our way around them. Thank goodness we are loved by an Amazing Father who says to us, just as he said to the Mary’s in the garden that morning, “Do not be afraid.” He wants to lead us lovingly to his truth…his whole truth which offers the promise of eternal salvation. Now that we have a few different minutes on our hands, maybe it’s a good time to stare down some truth!
A Seed To Plant: What are some truths you are struggling with? The Mary’s in this Gospel were fearful and overjoyed. In prayer today, ask God to guide you through the fear and lead you to the great joy and freedom found only through living completely in his truth.
Blessings on your day!
He will fill your mouth with laughter and your lips with shouts of joy. John 8:21
Given the current state of affairs, everyone seems to be offering advice. Some of it is excellent and I’m doing my best to follow it. Some of it is making me crazy so I’m ditching some expectation and lowering the bar a bit. I actually wasted 15 minutes last week watching a tutorial video about how to look better during a Zoom call and another 10 minutes googling ways to make an interesting and captivating background for my online classroom. Sheesh! I finally gave up and decided the ceiling fan coming out of my head and the wrinkles, gray hairs and extra chins would just have to do. I’ve enjoyed being still, being prayerful, being peaceful, being quiet and that’s all great stuff but I realized the thing that’s missing is laughing…I haven’t read one article reminding me about the therapy of laughter. Here’s a little something to start your week of with a giggle…
A pastor went out one Saturday afternoon to visit his church members. At one house, it was obvious that someone was home, but nobody came to the door even though the preacher knocked several times. Finally, the preacher took out his card, wrote out 'Revelation 3:20' on the back of it, and stuck it in the door: "Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with me.” Revelation 3:20
The next morning, the card turned up in the collection plate. Below the preacher's message was written the following notation: "I heard your voice in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; and I hid myself.” Genesis 3:10
We were made for happiness and I am keenly aware that God has a great sense of humor; but right about now, I’m wondering how many of us still have ours in tact. I want you to ask yourself how long it’s been since you had a good laugh. If you can’t remember or if it hasn’t been in the last 24 hours, then it’s time to remedy that. We just gotta laugh so this week watch an episode or two of your favorite sit-com, ask your family to tell a joke at supper or start a text thread with a group of friends asking for a meme or gif that made them laugh. Look up videos about giggling babies or funny pets, whatever tickles your funny bone but please for the love of all things complicated and scary, take some time to laugh. Our word for the week is LULL! We are definitely in the middle of one, but today it means, Lighten Up Laugh Loudly!
A Seed To Plant: LULL today, and tomorrow and everyday this week!
Blessings on your day!
Be strong and courageous all you who hope in the Lord. Psalm 31: 25
Have you ever noticed how some words just sound better when spoken in a different language? I heard a teeny Italian grandma not so long ago speak about her faith and she spoke the words “Coraggio! Coraggio!” Again and again she spoke them with great gusto and hands raised to the heavens. In these past few weeks, I’ve heard her voice and her emphatic invitation to have COURAGE.
I’ve been a teacher for what seems like a hundred years but I find myself stuck in this mess I have no experience with and that I can’t quite understand or process. With courage, we’re fumbling our way through new technology, new best practice, new worries, new adventures and God willing, new ways to call on his name for the “Coraggio” to figure this all out. The worst part so far has been emptying out the girls desks and lockers and bagging it all up. I wasn’t prepared for the grief and awfulness that task was steeped in. I sat on my classroom floor weeping and I heard that voice, “Coraggio”. So, I asked the Lord for it and as I dried my tears, I got up and typed a letter to all of my students and as I put it in their bag and tied it shut, I prayed for each child by name. Once I had their bags all labeled and put in the designated area of the gym, I sat the Blessed Mother statue among the pile and prayed a Rosary for my 22 girls and their families asking her to intercede for all of them; asking her Son to bless them all with “Coraggio”.
Each of you reading this post is struggling with some part of this craziness and it affects each of us in very different ways. My cross to carry through all of this may seem but a sliver compared to someone else’s, but here’s the thing…it doesn’t matter the weight or the size of the cross, that’s not for us to judge. Our job is to carry it the best we can and more importantly to help others carry theirs all the while remembering Jesus has the heavy end. That my friends, requires “Coraggio”! It would appear that we could use a little more. It would appear that some have moved past fear and turned to fighting and blaming. One thing is for certain, that will only create a wound that takes longer to heal. We have no power over other’s choices or actions but we surly can pray and we surly can be the voice of light and courage to those fumbling in the darkness. Someday, we will look back on this and my question is…what do you hope you see? With great “Coraggio” use this experience we’re in the middle of to create something you’ll be proud to look back on. I want to get to the other side of this and say…yeah, I remember that, I used that time to…(fill in the blank).
For all who read this, know of my prayers for you and an out pouring of “Coraggio” for all of us stuck in a situation that can, if we use it well, bear great fruit.
A Seed To Plant: Make a list of three things you’d like to look back on a year from now and feel proud about. Where do you need Coraggio?
Blessings on your day!
He is not here for he has risen…Matthew 28:6
Happy Easter! A few times at staff meetings (ok, probably more than 20) I have said, Easter Monday is a day we should not be in school! The joy and significance of Easter is too much to contain, celebrate and absorb in just one day. Well, it seems my wish was granted. In fact, we are going to get the whole Easter Season off. As strange as the circumstances are, I choose to look at it as a gift. We didn’t miss Easter…it still happened! I’ll admit I had tears watching Easter Mass on screen because I wanted to be there so bad it hurt. More than ever, I wrestled greatly with the pain of not being there in person, then I remembered the sweet, hopeful words of my friend Ann who reminded me Easter lasts 50 days! I’m so hopeful we’ll be back to celebrate larger, louder and squished in our pews before this joyful season comes to a close.
I’m going to borrow some wise words from a Jesuit priest that just seems to be the reminder I needed on Easter Sunday. "Easter is meant to be a symbol of hope, renewal, and new life." "The very first Easter taught us this: that life never ends and love never dies." "Love always involves responsibility, and love always involves sacrifice. And we do not really love Christ unless we are prepared to face His task and to take up His Cross.”
This Easter we are surrounded by sacrifice. Our sacrifice is being offered out of love and demonstrates our responsibility to protect those who could be in great danger if they got this sickness. In light of it all, I’d say we’re doing Easter just right. I know he sees our love for him and I’m confident in the graces that will come to our families as we carry this cross. I’m looking forward to the hope and new life that this Easter will most certainly bring to all of us.
I hope you had a beautiful day and I hope you spend Easter Monday continuing to soak in the Glory and Power and Hope of Easter.
Blessings on your day!
…Take it; this is my body. Mark 14:22
I love Holy Thursday! It’s my second favorite Mass of the year but this year it’s not at all the same; but then again, nothing really is right now. The Mass of the Lord’s Supper is so rich and celebrates the institution of the Eucharist and the Priesthood and I will miss commemorating these things with my church family. It’s the night Jesus showed us how to love him and how to find the strength to do it well. At this Liturgy, we celebrate our unity as disciples but today I’m struggling with being disconnected.
The tears started Tuesday night after I hit the “end meeting” button on the first Zoom call with the 22 girls I shared most of a school year with. It was so good to see them smile and hear them giggle. It was a gift to connect virtually, but when it was over I was overwhelmed by an emptiness. It was so good to see them but it wasn’t enough…I couldn’t reach them …I couldn’t give them a hug or a high five. I couldn’t sit next to them to make sure their questions were all answered or check their smile to see if they were ok or just pretending. I didn’t get to hug them goodbye and tell them all the things that made them wonderful and all the things I’d miss about them. For the first time during this quarantine I felt overwhelmed by the separation.
As I was sitting with all of this in prayer, God helped me see all the ways this connects to Holy Thursday and the message Jesus shared with the Apostles that night so long ago. They didn’t realize there was an abrupt ending ahead of them. They didn’t realize why he was giving them such a mighty gift; the gift of his body and blood. They didn’t realize the desire for relationship that was being ignited in them as they sat around that table. All of the actions of Jesus in the hours that followed happened so Jesus could demonstrate the length and depth of his Fathers love for his children. We talk about wanting to have a relationship with Jesus but Holy Thursday reminds me we should want more! We should want intimacy…a closeness so tight we seem as one. Human nature achieves intimacy with the body. I can wave to a stranger, I can high five a student, I can rest my hand on the shoulder of someone who is struggling and I can embrace someone I truly love. All of those things are signs of intimacy and all of them in some way use the body. Jesus knew our need for intimacy and used his body in two incredibly profound ways to demonstrate it at the Last Supper. First, he washed the Apostles feet with tenderness and love inviting us to do the same for others. Second, he gave us HIS body and blood so we could draw him intimately into ourselves. There is nothing more intimate than taking another body into our own and that’s the gift we celebrate this night.
This distance learning/teaching thing is so much harder than I could have imagined. At first I thought it was so hard because there was so much technology and new best practice to learn but it wasn’t until this Holy Week that I realized those weren’t the things making this so difficult. It’s so hard because the relationship I have with the middle lovelies just isn’t enough, we need the connection; the intimacy to make everything complete. Watching Holy Thursday Mass Live-streamed will be beautiful and powerful but without the connection to church family there is a hollow feeling. Sacrifice, service, compassion and mercy are the hallmarks of these solemn and holy days ahead. I feel Jesus using this hurt in my heart to help me understand that growing in holiness is about not just the relationship but about intimacy. Lord, please help me draw closer to you.
A Seed To Plant: Connect with five people today. Text, call, stand on their front lawn to say hello or mail a letter…just connect.
Blessings on your day!
…She has done a good thing for me. Matthew 26:10
Well, it’s Monday! That means the start of another week and as you read, some of you are tired, some are frustrated, some are happy and some are worried. No matter what you’re feeling as this new week begins I’m going to ask you to put it all on hold and realize this is not just another week. This is HOLY WEEK and more than anything I want this week to be different for you, for me, for everyone who is a christian. This is a week of powerful sacrifice, love, commitment and glory. The point and purpose of this post is to help you make this week set apart from all the others. I’m asking all of us to lay down our worries, our burdens and our “stuff” and choose instead to walk this week with Jesus and remember how great were his actions during this week as he redeemed us.
The Franciscan Sisters of the Eucharist in Duluth MN have a spectacular way of living out this week and setting it apart. I’d like to share their Holy Week focus in hopes it will change our focus too. Here’s what they think and pray about each day this week. They actually begin on Saturday. We’re a couple days late but we sure can back up our thinking and catch up. I’ve added a couple of questions to each day in hopes we can think about and act on them as we walk with Jesus through this extraordinary last week of his earthly life.
*Commitment Saturday - Ponder and pray about the commitment Jesus made to his Father’s plan and will. The commitment he made to our salvation. How have I committed to Jesus? What can I commit to do for him today?
*Procession Sunday - Jesus publicly showed his love for the Father. Will I walk with him? What will I do today to publicly stand and walk with Jesus?
*Extravagance Monday - How extravagant was his love for us. Read the story of the woman who anointed Jesus’ feet with perfume in Matthew 26. Her love and her actions showed extravagant love. How has Jesus shown extravagant love for you? Who can you love today?
*Compulsion to Completion Tuesday - Jesus was compelled to move forward to do his Father’s will in spite of doubts, worries, troubles or fear. He was determined to complete the Father’s will. What is God asking you to do for him? Where do you need to add compulsion and completion like Jesus?
*Aloneness Wednesday - Jesus knew the next day he would give everything and he paused to be alone in prayer, in silence in the presence of his Father. Spend at least 30 minutes in silence today. Take time to be alone with your Father and His Son pondering the upcoming few days and all Jesus did for you. Read the Gospel accounts of Holy Thursday and Good Friday so you will be ready to think about them in the upcoming days.
*Body Given Thursday - Jesus gave everything. His body to the guards who arrest him this night and in the Last Supper he gave us the everlasting promise of His Body and Blood which were to be poured out for the salvation of us all. What is Jesus asking you to give? Are there people in your life who need the gifts you can offer them?
*Impotent Friday - Jesus was powerless on this day. He who was Almighty became powerless for our sake and his Father had to observe it all. That happened for you and for me. Where do you need to submit to the Father? Where do you need to relinquish some power to the Father, knowing all the while he will be with you? From the time you wake up until 3 spend 5 to 10 minutes each hour meditating on the events of Good Friday; walking with him through this sorrowful day.
*Saturday - The Day of Night, Jesus spent this day in darkness. It was still, it was waiting, it was quiet. It was a day that with patience, reaped great glorious joy. Where do you need to be more patient? Find a way to practice that today.
*Sunday - The Day of Miracles. After you eat your chocolate bunny, make a list of all the miracles God has worked in your life and be sure to put Jesus a the top of the list.
May you use these thoughts and questions to guide you through the week and may the practice be fruitful for your soul.
A Seed To Plant: Print this one or open it each morning so you remember how to pray your way through each day and say a prayer of thanksgiving for the good Sisters for their Holy Week example.
Blessings on your day!
…and Jeremiah sunk down into the mud. Jeremiah 38:6
My oldest brother and I had a favorite thing to do when we were little. It involved a couple illegal ingredients for little kids. In our back yard, we had an old cement fish pool. Before dad filled it in with dirt and mom made it a flower garden, it used to collect rain water. If we could get out to play before the water drained through the cracks in the cement, we could scoop up our first ingredient; water. Dirt; the second ingredient was easier to find. The third magic ingredient was the tricky one! If we could get rain water and dirt we knew all we needed was shaving cream. Our house was tiny so sneaking out the door with two handfuls of shaving cream squirted as quietly as possible took some skill. When we managed to pull it off we’d create the worlds best mud pies in the back of Jim’s big yellow Tonka Dump Truck. With sticks to stir and army men and toy animals to stick in the mud pie, we were set for a long afternoon of great fun! When I became a mother myself, it occurred to me that mom probably knew exactly what we were doing and just enjoyed the peace and quiet and maybe even the thought of her oldest two playing together happily.
When I read this line about the Prophet Jeremiah, I remembered the sight of all those toys sticking in the mud pies we used to make. It got me to thinking about the times we get stuck in the mud ourselves. Sometimes we wallow and struggle and just dig in deeper. Sometimes we get stuck because of the choices we make and sometimes we get stuck as a result of the choices others make. Right about now many folks are feeling a little stuck. Stuck at home, stuck in fear, stuck in a situation we feel unqualified and unprepared for. The anxiety and uncertainty of the pandemic can swallow us if we let it. The good news is, mud is different than cement. We can get out of the mud, it doesn’t trap us like cement! It will take some work but it’s absolutely worth the struggle.
God doesn’t want us to stay right where we are. He isn’t going to leave us stuck in this situation. It may feel like cement but it’s really just mud and getting unstuck is possible because of his grace and love for us. This isn’t permanent and he’s inviting us to reach up our hands and allow him to rescue us. Staying right where we are isn’t the Fathers choice, the truth is, we are either moving toward him or away from him, never staying just where we are. He wants us to move closer to him and sometimes he allows us to get stuck in the mud so we can realize how much we need him.
A Seed To Plant: Are you stuck? What are you stuck in the middle of right now that is preventing you from moving closer to the Father? Hold out your hand and ask him to pull you out!
Blessings on your day!
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Sheri's writing can also be found at Faith Catholic Publications and on CatholicMom.com