Joyful Words Blog
Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light for my path.
– Psalm 119:105
– Psalm 119:105
For the word of God is alive and active…Hebrews 4:12
It’s pretty accurate to predict eye rolls and some quiet groans when I happily announce a writing assignment to the middle lovelies. Recently I was met with exactly that as I explained to the Young Disciple group that they would be writing a little something for me about the mark they will leave behind at St. Mary School. The assignment was to look back on their year in the group and evaluate what kind of legacy their words, actions and attitudes would leave behind. I wanted them to honestly look at their experience as a disciple in the school and write something for me. Then the assignment took and unexpected twist when I handed out 2” by2” inch cards for the assignment. The final instruction was that their writing could be done using only one word. Some were thrilled and I heard one lovely say, “For real, we only have to write one word for the assignment; that’s awesome!” I assured him that he was correct but instructed him to choose the word wisely. As they sat to think, the task proved to be a little trickier than they thought.
As I was reading through their cards I was both surprised and impressed. Their answers were very honest. I got lots of great answers like kindness, faithfulness, honesty, patience and funny. To be honest those were the words I was expecting but then I came to some that caught me by surprise. One said “Again” and another said “Disappointing” and the third that caught my attention was the one that said, “Un-noticeable”. There was some great discussion with some of these beautiful young disciples. The ones that provided those last three answers all admitted they wish they had tried harder and been more consistent. They reported having done some great things for others but they didn’t do all they could have and they didn’t do all Jesus had called them to do. I was so inspired and impressed with their honesty.
When we meet the last time in early June, I will remind them that we can’t wait to be disciples. The world and our Heavenly Father need us to start now. We can’t wait until we get ourselves in perfect order, or until our schedule lightens up or until we’ve rested up a bit. It’s time now, the world needs people with a passion to love and serve the Lord today and if we don’t get started, we aren’t going to be able to leave much of a mark in his honor. So, go ahead…pick just one word to describe the impact of your discipleship.
A Seed To Plant: Prayerfully think back over the past year and write down just one word to describe your discipleship at home, school and in your community. Do you need a new word? If you do, take it to prayer and pick a new word to motivate you.
Blessings on your day!
I do believe Lord, help my unbelief. Mark 9:24
Last Friday was the 6th graders last all school Adoration. They wanted to lead Friday Adoration prayers and leave a powerful message with the 220 younger students at St. Mary School. The event was a cross between the early scenes of the movie Do You Believe and a flash mob. It was powerful to say the least. After encouraging everyone to think about what they believe, they offered six challenges for living like you believe. These six ideas were a combination of their thoughts and plans. They are an amazing group of middle lovelies and I thought their work offered a strong challenge to us all. So…compliments of a wonderful group of 6th graders, here’s your Monday message.
Number 1: Pray more…not just at school, not just at church and not just before you eat. Make time each and every day to sit still and talk with Jesus. Tell him how much you love him and need him and ask him to show you what he’d like you to do for him. Pray for people you are angry at and people who have hurt you. Pray for forgiveness and kindness.
Number two…Don’t be selfish. Give other people your time if they need help or if they are sad and need someone to cheer them up. Be generous with your toys and stuff. We have way more stuff than we need and there are so many people who don’t have enough so we should share.
Number three, show Mercy. That means be kind to everyone, even if they aren’t kind to you. Jesus didn’t pick on people and he didn’t ignore people or embarrass them. If you believe in what he did for you, show his mercy.
Number four…Don’t be afraid to make sacrifices. We can be pretty spoiled and take things for granted. Believers are willing to put others first. They let others line up in front of them, they are humble and not afraid to give others credit for things. They think of other people before they think of themselves.
Number five…Be brave! Have confidence that God can do anything he wants to with your gifts and talents. Don’t be afraid to live like you believe. Be brave enough to pray in a restaurant before you eat, be brave enough to wear a crucifix or scapular. Don’t be afraid to tell people about Jesus and be brave enough to act like you believe.
Number six…look for Jesus! We are all created in the image and likeness of God so he is in each of us. Every time you invite someone to join you, you are inviting Jesus. Every time you say something nice instead of something rude or mean, you speak kindly to Jesus. Believers find a way to love everyone…not just the people it’s easy to like. Believers do the hard stuff and they remember to ask Jesus to help them when it’s hard to do the right thing. He will always be there to help.
If we try really hard to do those six things then Jesus will know we believe and we will share his love and the power of his cross with others so they can come to believe too.
I think there is power in their words for believers of any age so I hope you’ll put their words to use and be more conscientious of not just believing, but living those beliefs for Jesus and others to see.
A Seed To Plant: Take a careful look at these six things and pick one to work on this week.
Blessings on your day!
…I came so that you may have life and have it more abundantly. John 10:10
It’s a big week at school! The middle lovelies have carefully turned and tended 30 pheasant eggs for the past three weeks and the hatch has finally begun. I’m amazed that watching a baby bird work for hours to escape from its tiny shell just never gets old! It’s incredible how 30 boisterous kids can stand quietly, mesmerized by a wobbling egg or a new hatchling. Hatching with big kids is a new experience and to be honest I wasn’t quite sure how they’d react. I’m happy to report that the enthusiasm, excitement and joy were equal to their little lovely counterparts!
As I type, it’s late Wednesday evening and I’m sitting at my school desk waiting to see if anyone else hatches and needs to be moved from the incubator to the brooder. It’s quiet and still and dark in the school and I’m pondering the day with a sense of wonder and awe. At one point today there were about 30 middle lovelies crowded around the incubator cheering on Pheasant number 2. They were kneeling, standing and climbed up on chairs to get a good look. There were more “oohs and aahas” than the 4th of July as he struggled for an hour to make his way free from the sticky shell. As I stood watching the kids I couldn’t help but think about our struggles here on earth and the cheerleaders we have in heaven.
As the kids awaited the little one, I realized Jesus is awaiting us with the same excitement and enthusiasm. As the kids would see a beak poke out they would cheer and then it would disappear back into the shell and they would sigh with disappointment. I assume that’s what Jesus does when we trust in him or avoid sin; he cheers and then we slip back into our old ways and he sighs. Thank goodness the kids didn’t give up hope until that chick had broken free from the hold that shell had on it; Jesus will never give up on us either! Sometimes the world gets overwhelming and we can feel alone and misunderstood in our struggles. Today’s cheering section at the incubator reminded me of the cheering section we have in the Communion of Saints. Father Joe Krupp once described walking into Spartan Stadium with the MSU Football team and being overwhelmed by the sight, sound and complete magnitude of the capacity crowd. He related that experience to a teeny tiny version of the Communion of Saints and their constant cheering, roaring and supporting encouragement of each earthly soul seeking heaven. Watching those kids cheer on the pheasant today reminded me of that story and of how lucky we are. The only job of the Communion of Saints, or heavenly souls is to help us get where they are. I guess today was a vivid reminder that we are never alone in our struggle and strife!
It’s been a good day. I didn’t get any papers graded like I needed to tonight and I didn’t follow the lesson plans I’d made but the day was filled with lessons far better than any I could pencil into a box in a book. I’ve told myself I need to go home even though there are several eggs working hard to enter the world. I guess God has one final reminder for me today as the incubator has become quiet and still like the halls of the school and it’s as if he’s telling me to go home, tomorrow is a new day, brimming with hope and life and surprises. That’s enough to make me sleep happy! I think my last thought as I melt into the covers tonight will be, “thank you Jesus for such sweet, simple joyful reminders of your love, support and presence in this world!”
A Seed To Plant: Just take a minute to thank God for life!
Blessings on your day!
And the peace of God which surpasses all understanding, shall keep your hearts, your minds through Christ Jesus. - Philippians 4:7.
Two weekends in a row, at churches 400 miles apart, I heard the same song so I figured there must be a message. The first weekend the song was sung by Michaela; a beautiful, talented young woman with a tremendous gift and the second weekend it was a Franciscan Friar whose voice bounced off every heart in the chapel on the campus of Franciscan University in Steubenville. It’s an old song but a newer arrangement gives it such beauty and meaning it just reaches out and thumps your soul and your heart to attention.
We visited Shannon at school this past weekend and enjoyed a quick trip to Pittsburg taking in as many sights as we could in a few short hours. As we were driving home today I wrestled with three things. First, I was sad to leave Shannon in Ohio for summer session instead of bringing her AND her stuff home. Second, the sight of tent cities tucked up under the viaducts in downtown Pittsburg and third, that song! On the drive home I’m sure the family thought I was just napping but I was pondering it all in my heart, asking God to make it all clear and show me how it was connected. Just as he always does, in his time, he did show me and I’d like to share.
The song is called, It Is Well and the arrangement that has touched my heart is by Bethel. If you want to hear something amazing, head over to YouTube and check it out! There are a few lines from the song that just grabbed my attention; “Let go my soul and trust in him” “Waves and wind still know his name” and “through it all my eyes are on you”. How do those grab you! When I got home I searched the origins of the song and it turns out, it has quite a story! The song was written in the 1800’s by a man named Horatio Spafford. He was a successful businessman from Chicago who was no stranger to tragedy and faith. He and his wife had 5 children. Their young son died and just months later they lost nearly everything in the Chicago fire. He sent is wife and daughters on a ship to England for a rest and he planned to follow after a business problem had been attended to. Four days later he got word that the ship had a collision and it sunk. His wife survived but his daughters did not. When he boarded a ship for England to be with his wife, he asked the captain to stop over the spot where the ship had gone down and it was then and there that he wrote the words to the song It Is Well With My Soul. Can you even imagine using those words in that moment? I think my goose bumps were three layers deep after reading the history of the song.
So what does it all mean to me? What was God trying to tell me? I think there are lots of days when things don’t go right and I think I need to do something about it. I think of those tents under the viaducts and feel guilty because I have so much. I think about how lucky my daughter is to be getting such an excellent education in such an amazing place but I pouted because I couldn’t bring her home yet. I get to speak and write and teach about the amazing, mighty love and mercy of God but nothing seems to get better in the world and then this song comes along two weekends in a row to remind me that I should say “let go my soul and trust in him.” He knows the troubles of my soul, he knows when all is not well and in those times I have to remember that “through it all, my eyes are on him”…or are they? When my soul is not at rest it’s probably because I’m trying to do his work and he isn’t asking me to. He’s asking me to trust him. He’s asking me, just like Horatio Spafford to remember he has a plan and it includes every tiny detail; the good ones, easy ones, hard ones, sad ones confusing ones and of course the glorious ones!
Recently I heard someone say that we become troubled because we aren’t focused on what God is asking us to do. Mother Teresa did amazing things…unbelievable things but despite all the work she did and all the work her Sisters are still doing, Calcutta didn’t get better. God’s presence doesn’t mean the absence of tough, sad or difficult stuff. God’s presence is right there in the midst of it all. The waves and wind still know his name…do we? He wants us to be content in the wisdom of his plan not in our ability to do things for him. If I get that straight it will be well with my soul.
A Seed To Plant: What are the things that trouble your soul. Make a list and give them to him so all will be well. Before you make your list, head over to YouTube and be stirred by the song.
Blessings on your day!
We love because God first loved us. 1 John 4:19
Do the words “he started it”, no, “he started it,” followed with a louder “uh-uh HE started it!” seem familiar to anyone? Growing up, I remember one family car in particular. It was a 1970 something blue Plymouth Fury III. You could compare its size to a modern day pontoon! I remember that car well because that’s the car my brothers and I rode in most. The boys always sat by the windows and I took the middle. Middle child, middle seat my mom would say. Personally, I think I was placed there due to my sweet demure nature so I could be the peacemaker and have a positive effect on my brother’s behavior. (I’m sure my little brother will confirm that story.) If I had a quarter for every time I got stuck in the middle of a “he started it” duel in the back seat of that car, I could probably buy my own Plymouth! We really knew it had gone too far when mom would reach into the glove box and pull out the ruler and as predictable as the rising of the sun, she would say, “I don’t care who started it, I want it stopped right now!” She would then begin waving the ruler fiercely.
At this point in my life, I realize two important things about mom and her ruler; 1) She was 5’12” with very long arms but that car was so big I l don’t think she could have reached us from the front seat and 2) She NEVER intended to…it was simply a diversion tactic. (She was so good!) Looking back, that was a lesson in God’s love. She was a loving parent and she didn’t want to hurt or harm, she wanted to redirect and refocus us.
When we consider the enormous love God has for us and take a look at this verse from John’s first letter we realize without a doubt “He started it!” He wins…He loved first! Now, thanks to human nature, we often think if we didn’t win, then we lost but in this case His winning is our greatest prize! God’s love for us can’t be outdone! It’s too huge, amazing, perfect and astounding! Here is the really good news…it’s not a contest! God is not asking us to love bigger or better than Him, instead He’s asking us to share the love He gives us in tiny little ways with everyone He puts in our path each day. As if that wasn’t enough, here’s the kicker…DESERVING has nothing to do with giving or receiving His love. It’s a free gift; it’s always there, always fits perfectly, never expires, and won’t run out no matter how much of it we give away to others!
There are a million ways to share His love with others. I recently bought 5 platters on a clearance table and decorated them with the words “pray and pass platter”. The objective is to pray for the person/family who will receive the platter filled with homemade goodies, fruit, fresh produce or whatever you can think of and then they will enjoy the treat and then pass on some prayers and goodies to someone else. As we live on this earth our main objective should be to share the love God started. Unlike the duels in the backseat of the Plymouth, this is something that should never be stopped!
A seed to plant: Make a list of 5 acts of love you can share with people in your life during the next week. Include prayer for the recipients because asking God’s blessing on someone is a great expression of His love! Be sure to share the stories of how reflecting His love touched others!
Blessings on your day!
I can do all things through him who gives me strength. Philippians 4:13
I believe this verse with all my heart, but today I need to believe it with my head! I’m really hoping he’s got a lot of strength because I’ve got a lot of stuff I need it for. I suppose my story today is like a hundred other “May” stories; too much stuff and not enough hours. Don’t you just hate that feeling of lots of tasks and events all piled up so high it’s almost like you might get swallowed!
I should have spent the day taking care of tasks yesterday but instead I enjoyed my boys on mother’s day. I cooked for them because that brings me joy; I played bean bags in the yard when I should have been grading papers. I played cards even though I should have done a dozen different tasks that are overdue. I picked people over paper which is always a good idea but this morning I’m feeling a little squished under a small mountain of “to-do’s” that didn’t get done.
Welcome to the club right! So, as I sit here very early on a Monday morning the way I see it, I have two choices. First, I could be panicky and cranky and feel guilty that I’m behind or second, I can repeat this verse Paul spoke to the Philippians about a dozen times until my heart and my head are in sync! It’s easy to be prayerful in church but when it comes to letting God’s Word seep into our mind, heart and actions; that’s the kind of prayerful that gets hard. I have to trust that he will give me the strength and the minutes and the ambition and the perseverance to get caught up. I have to believe that if I love and serve him through the piles of stuff and the things on the list; he will bless me. Crabby and guilty aren’t gonna get me anywhere!
As I get ready to post these thoughts I think they are a little silly but I’m guessing there may be one or two of you in the same underdone and overwhelmed boat as I am. I have hope that we will look back on all this in a few days and be able to say, “Wow…can you believe how God just swooped in and gave me the strength to tackle all that stuff!” I really hope he crashes into my life in such a mighty way I can write a whole post about it. But for now…I need to pray and tell him “I’ve got nothing…please come on in and take over because I can only do 5 things but you can do ALL things and I need you!”
A Seed To Plant: Before you make your to-do list today, put P413 at the top and repeat the verse a few times before you get started and then repeat often throughout the day!
Blessings on your day!
This is the work of God, that you believe. John 6:29
Have you ever made something a lot harder than it really was? I remember when we were planning our big remodeling and house addition several years ago. The whole process was a bit overwhelming at first but I remember having specific problems with one thing; the clothes line. I grew up hanging out laundry and it’s just kind of a rural thing to do, and I do it a lot. With the remodel plans we were having trouble finding a good spot for the door. I wanted it to be convenient to the laundry room and clothes line but I didn’t want the door in our bedroom so we were baffled. We must have gotten out the house plans four or five times to think the problem through when Kevin, who was about ten, walked through the kitchen, and asked what we were thinking about. We told him we were trying to find a place for the door close to the close line and we were having trouble finding a solution. He studied the blueprints for about 30 seconds and said, “Well, why don’t you just move the clothesline.” He ran out to play and Dave and I just stared at each other thinking; boy did we ever make this hard…leave it to the kid to point out the obvious!
Satan likes to discourage and distract us, making things seem harder than they really are. Getting to heaven should be the goal of us all but sometimes we can get pretty tangled up in the rules and our sinfulness. God knows we’re gonna sin…He gets that; that’s why he is so merciful. We can get ourselves in trouble though, when we give in to satan’s stinkin thinkin and tell ourselves we aren’t worthy of God’s love and mercy. Duhh…we aren’t, but that doesn’t matter one little bit because he doesn’t give us his love and mercy because we deserve it, he gives it to us because he’s God and he wants to. There is no deserving or earning involved. When we get down on ourselves and our sinful nature it’s easy to think getting to heaven is way too hard and we are way too weak and small. When that happens we are forgetting the one thing Jesus said that was designed to bring us into balance…believe! Believe in the goodness and mercy of God. Believe in the almighty power of a loving God who can do anything he wants. Believe in the fact that our faith is a mystery that we aren’t ever going to fully understand; nor do we have to in order to receive the full effect of its benefits.
Our job is to believe that God will patch our leaks, chips and cracks. Our job is to believe that in our weakness he will show his strength. Our job is to believe that his love is mighty enough to part the Red Sea so it can do anything we need. Our job is to believe that God loves us in spite of everything we might point out as weak or unlovable. Our job is to believe that we are created, protected and guided by a God who loves us with his whole heart and wants only one thing; to bring us home into his arms. Our job isn’t really that hard; you might just need to move your clothes line out of the way so you can have room to believe a little more.
A Seed To Plant: Make a list of the things that are getting in the way of believing that God has you completely in the palm of his hand.
Blessings on your day!
Sheri's writing can also be found at Faith Catholic Publications and on CatholicMom.com