Joyful Words Blog
Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light for my path.
– Psalm 119:105
– Psalm 119:105
In my distress I called to the Lord…Psalm 18:6
If our high school would have had a debate team, I would have been absolutely the last person picked to be on it! I’m amazed at the way some people can eloquently deliberate a topic with conviction and finesse. Still others can bark an opinion and slam you with a defense that leaves your head spinning. I simply smell controversy or conflict and nearly trip over my own feet trying to get away from the conversation! We all have our own opinions and we all have the ability to make choices but that doesn’t mean we are obligated to yell them out. As Christians, it’s up to us to make sure our opinions and choices are based on truth and rooted in Scripture and Church teaching. Seems simple enough right?
As a society we don’t like to be told what to do. We aren’t so good with rules and regulations and I wonder if that is because there are so many voices yackin we can’t even hear the truth anymore. As the presidential race begins to gear up I find myself not listening to any of it because I’m not sure where to find the truth in it. I’m not sure what happened to right and wrong; good and bad but we seem to live in a world full of clauses and sub-groups and exceptions. Some days I think gray is the most popular color in America. A very wise man I know always used to say, “Just do the right thing and keep your mouth shut.” Imagine what would happen if everyone was told to follow that advice for a day! What would happen if everyone was told they couldn’t say one thing for a day unless it was based in truth and steeped in Scripture?
A person could get pretty upset and discouraged with the state of affairs we seem to be in right now; but then that’s exactly what Satan wants. He would be delighted to think he’s reduced us all to a society of bickering, selfish, self-centered, slandering, lying, cheating, stealing idiots. He would be delighted to think we’ve forgotten our mission to seek the truth, live the truth and love the God who created us. Well news flash…WE HAVEN’T! I have come to realize a couple important truths of my own in the last couple days that seemed to yank me right out of my disappointment with our current state of affairs. The first; when we get to heaven we won’t present a summary of our best earthly actions nor will we be judged in groups. We are flying SOLO so it is our sole responsibility to make sure the choices we make and the opinions we base our actions on are in line with the will of the Father. One thing that is not gray…following the will of the Father is often very hard! He cares about our character not our comfort. The second; God is bigger than anything going on here on earth! He’s mightier than any ruling, leader, mandate or current event. He’s the one we should be aligning ourselves with, seeking protection from, gaining wisdom from and hanging on every word from. In order to do that well; to really follow His lead; we need to spend time in conversation with him. What would happen if the next time we see a post, or hear a news report that bubbles up our blood we stopped before reacting and spent a moment or two in prayer. Before we spout off our opinion what if we asked the Holy Spirit to inspire our words to be truthful and steeped in Scripture? God is bigger, richer, stronger and mightier than any of us combined but in order to see all of that clearly revealed to this hurting world, we have to live like we love him and become a world that prays first before anything else!
A Seed To Plant: Make a list of three “things”, “people”, or “groups” that seem to bother you most. Your task for the next week is to pray consistently for those three things. In your prayer, ask God to guide your actions and reactions to those three things.
Blessings on your day!
So the last will be first and the first will be last. Matthew 20:16
How long would it take you to come up with a list of chores you really don’t like to do? If you’re anything like me you often try to get somebody else to do those. Let’s face it, some tasks are just awful and nobody wants to do them. Today I’m going to suggest that those are exactly the jobs we should be doing before anybody else gets a chance. Now before you quit reading thinking I’ve lost my marbles let me explain what I mean.
I think sometimes we get things a little backwards and forget the importance of humility and the blessings that flow from simple humble service. I heard a story not long ago about a man who makes it a point to always pick up the paper towel from the floor any time he goes into a restroom. You might be surprised to learn that the man is a famous executive. His car needed a repair while he was traveling on business one day so he pulled into a small gas station for the repair. He waited patiently and as usual, after using the restroom he picked up all the stray paper towel that littered the floor. When he was paying his bill he offered his kind thanks, included a tip for the repairman and his check was met with a question from one of the station employees. The young man said he knew what the restroom looked like before and he knew this man was responsible for its transformation and he wanted to know why a man who was rich and powerful would feel it necessary to do a job even he didn’t want to do. The man smiled and told the young man it was a simple task to keep him aware of how important humble service was. As he was leaving the station he looked at the young man and said, “I don’t ever want to get too big for my britches or think I’m better than someone else. We all have to find ways to take care of each other.”
I think as a society we are insulted and offended too easily. It’s easy to think things “aren’t our job” or that some tasks belong to those with less seniority or authority. Sometimes following the example of the executive is more beneficial for us than it is for anybody else. This week a tornado ripped through a neighboring town leaving a path of destruction. Praise God nobody was seriously injured but what a disaster! Social media and network news has been full of great stories since the storm of the teamwork, compassion and selflessness being witnessed as Portland cleans up. People helping others, taking care of each other, doing great humble service for people they know and people they don’t know. It’s a beautiful thing to see unfold. I thought to myself yesterday, what if that’s what we did every day? What if that was the norm instead of the exception? What if we just did stuff for others because we were able to?
The most powerful thing about humble service is that it completely removes us from the picture. We don’t do those nasty little tasks like picking up restroom paper towel in order to advance in our career or get a raise in pay, we do it simply to serve others and it is in those simple acts of selflessness we may truly serve God. I can take out the trash even if it’s not my job, I can clean out the pig pen even though the pigs aren’t my 4-H project, I can pick up paper towel in a restroom even if I didn’t drop it, I can give someone the closer parking spot. It’s all humble service…now I just have to remember to do it!
A Seed To Plant: Take a couple days to pray with this thought then like the executive, pick something you can do as an act of humble service.
Blessings on your day!
Come follow me…Matthew 4:19
I’m sure to someone who drives a truck or travels extensively for work my week didn’t seem like much but to the woman who has a 3 mile commute to work it was kind of a big deal! I spoke to a wonderful group of women in Madison Wisconsin on Wednesday and traveled to Franciscan University in Steubenville Ohio for Shannon’s college orientation on Thursday. It was 24 total driving hours according to GPS calculations however it ended up being nearly 34 in reality. But…as he often does, God had some lessons smack dab in the middle of the unplanned and unpredicted!
I thought I was so prepared. I had printed MapQuest directions, OnStar and three smart phones in the vehicle on the way to Wisconsin. I was sure we would scoot around the lower side of Chicago and fly right along. Not the case! I was completely enjoying the company and conversation of three great travel friends and listening to the OnStar lady politely point the way. That was the only thing I was paying attention to until I saw the Sears Tower in the distance. I thought I’d be routing around the city any minute but the tower just kept getting closer until we were completely stuck in six lanes of thick traffic. Yuck! I think it’s fair to say that even the super close view of the landmark Sears Tower didn’t make it any better; we were not too impressed. Faith provided an interesting perspective though. Instead of being rattled by the traffic and congestion I just kept feeling so thankful that I had friends along for the ride! I’m not sure how willing they will be to take another trip with me but I was so glad to be traveling through that mess with laughter and good friends! We were determined to find a different route home and avoid downtown Chicago but that superior plan came with a missed exit and a lovely drive nearly fifty miles in the wrong direction. As frustrating as that was to discover the delay resulted in a perfectly timed connection with a nephew in Indiana. Had we executed our plan perfectly we would have missed him completely. Funny how things work when we think we have the perfect plan!
After the events of Tuesday and Wednesdays drive I was sure the familiar trip to Ohio would be a cake walk. Again, I left with printed directions, a smart phone (which I have to admit is new and I really don’t know how to use very well yet) and our friends at OnStar. I was confident and looking forward to an easy drive when all of the sudden something brought traffic to a standstill. It was the kind of slowdown that had people getting out of their cars to visit. Sitting there meant being very late for our six p.m. event but trusting google maps meant driving through the grass median and turning around to follow directions that took us someplace completely unfamiliar. Trusting the voice on that little smartphone was a big decision. Thankfully after a bumpy ride to cut across to the other side of the interstate it was a smooth and flawless detour. I was amazed that the alternate route took us about 1/4 mile north to a tiny little two lane road that I’d never noticed before which ran parallel to the interstate. As we drove along we saw the miles long back up. If we hadn’t trusted that little GPS voice we might still be sitting there!
The week was sprinkled with mishaps, unplanned detours, opportunities for a new perspective and happy endings. I guess life is a lot like that isn’t it! No matter how perfectly we think we have things planned and mapped out; stuff happens! I practiced trust, patience and optimism this week and each time I did things just worked out. I don’t think it was a coincidence…I think that’s pretty much the way life really works when I’m not so busy being bent out of shape that my excellent planning isn’t materializing! We had to be willing to try new routes and make changes based on blind trust. It’s funny that after we finally made it through Chicago we made a much needed rest stop and lying right at my feet on the pavement as I hopped out of the car were two penny’s facing up revealing the words “In God We Trust”. I love it when he gets right to the point! If he is who we trust, it isn't blind trust at all! He always leads the way but that doesn’t mean his path is straight, clear or direct! After all, the invitation came in Matthew's Gospel, "Come follow me."
A Seed To Plant: Stop and pray about one thing you are busy planning right now. Ask God to take charge of those plans and then let go of the control a bit and see what he does with your plans.
Blessings on your day!
Good Morning! Todays post is interrupted by a trip to Wisconsin and a trip to Ohio! With half the trip behind me I have stories about some fun traveling friends, a terrific group of Wisconsin Catholic Women, the Sears Tower and a three hour traffic jam. With 32 hours of driving in one week you can guarantee there will be stories to tell on Monday! Stay tuned and meet me back here on Monday for some joyful words!
Blessings on your day!
… Remain in my love… John 15:9
Yesterday was a rainy, soggy humid day for a parade but Dave and I went anyway. We went for a few reasons. First, to support a local parish summer picnic, second because we wanted to see the Homecoming queen riding in a golf cart throwing candy and third because I love watching all the little kids laugh and squeal as they scramble to the curb to collect all the candy thrown from the floats. I love to watch them cover their little ears when the fire trucks go by and clap their hands to the beat of the PW marching band. They don’t have a care in the world and gathering parade candy is the best summer activity ever; even if the tootsie rolls do land in a rain puddle!
As the parade goes on, the kids always seem to inch farther and farther away from the safety of the curb and parents are constantly pulling them back and very often they protest. There is a constant creeping forward to get a better look at what’s coming or a closer vantage point when the next handful of candy is hurled towards them. For the kids it’s all about the grab, for the parents it’s all about the safety and the battle continues until the last tractor passes by.
I snatched four small words from John’s Gospel that remind me of the kids at the parade. When we really think about the way we live, we are a lot like those kids at the parade. We want to eek ahead and get a good look at what’s coming. We want to make sure we will be able to scoop up the best blessings before someone else gets a chance. We don’t want to be the one who is left with rain puddle tootsie rolls. As we dart around trying to arrange things so we can be comfortable and happy we sometimes stray far away from safety. The love of the Father is a little like that yellow line painted along the curb; it’s there to keep us safe and when we wander away we are in danger.
Our lives aren’t supposed to be comfortable, happy and easy all the time. Suffering and difficulty are what build our trust in God and they are the places we see Him working in our lives the most clearly. When we cling to him and love him we are safe no matter what seems to swirl around us but if we get too far from the curb and try to take care of things ourselves we have trouble. The Father knows exactly what we need, exactly when we need it and we need to stay on the curb where he can keep us safe and be patient. I was thinking about that yesterday as I watched a preschooler throw a fit because his dad wouldn’t let him off the curb to rescue some tootsie rolls and dum dum suckers from a puddle. His dad told him to be patient and something better would land near him. I laughed out loud 30 seconds later when four Dove Chocolates landed right at the little boy’s feet. He was too young to understand the remarkable difference between a tootsie roll and a Dove bar but I got it and I was amazed at the way the Father showed me exactly what I should write about today. It was as if he leaned down and said, “Sheri, just tell them to remain in my love, where I can keep them safe from harm and I will offer something so much better than danger and soggy tootsie rolls.” It’s amazing what good things come when we trust our Father!
A Seed To Plant: In prayer this week, ask God to show you those areas in your life where you eek ahead of him and stray from the safety of his love.
Blessings on your day!
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. Psalm 139:14
I am fearfully and wonderfully made! When was the last time you said that to yourself as you saw your reflection in the mirror? I’m guilty of saying several other things instead! It was a crazy school year full of great changes and challenges and celebrations. There was excitement and panic tangled up with opportunity and adventure. There were middle lovelies and seniors and new jobs and new schools all smashed into one school year and looking back I can say there was some stress. Someone asked me at a softball game this spring how stressful the year had been and I smiled and answered, “About 25 pounds worth, but check in with me next fall and I’d like to show you what 25 pounds of peace looks like!” So with the first week of summer vacation, I’m on a journey of peace and a mission to ditch the 25 pounds of stress that mysteriously (or not so mysteriously) wound up slathered all over my body! If only it were as simple as a good intention.
As I work to restore organization and order to my neglected house I was sorting piles in the office, and I happened upon an old book and flipped it right open to a paragraph all highlighted and underlined and it made me laugh out loud! The book is called Having a Mary Spirit by Joanna Weaver. It was particularly funny because I was pouting about how hard it is to swap my crappy eating for healthy habits (AGAIN!) and wondering why God made me so round in the first place. I started out shaped like a snowball and I just seem to keep rolling down the hill and collecting more. I began my little “this is not fair” pity party wishing He had made me differently and that’s when the book appeared. This is what I read;
I don’t know why I couldn’t have been a bear. If you’re a bear you get to hibernate. You do nothing but sleep for six months. I could get used to that. And another thing, before you hibernate, you’re supposed to eat yourself stupid. That wouldn’t bother me either. If you’re a mama bear, everyone knows you mean business; you swat anyone who bothers your cubs. If your cubs get out of line, you swat them too. Your husband expects you to growl when you wake up. He expects you to have hairy legs and excess body fat. He likes it. I wish I were a bear!
After I stopped laughing I realized the power of this verse from Psalm 139. He didn’t make me a bear, he made me HIS! That’s way better than eating myself stupid, not shaving my legs and sleeping for six months! I think the part of the verse that deserves attention and not just a pass by are the first three words; I praise you... enough said! He is waiting for me to praise him because he made me fearfully and wonderfully in his image. The extra lumps are my doing but he loves me anyway. I think as I set out in search of a peaceful summer I better make sure I do a little more praising and thanking and just maybe I’ll swap that for pouting and comparing my cross to everybody else’s. Seems like a good plan to me! While I’m about the business of praising I’m also going to remember to thank him for his perfectly timed humor because I haven’t opened that book in over 5 years and it just appeared and fell open to the perfect page. Does he love me enough to rescue me with humor…YUP!!!
A Seed To Plant: Write yourself a note that contains the words from Psalm 139:14 and repeat it three times every day for a week.
Blessings on your day!
And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. Matthew 22:37
Dave and I spent another great weekend traveling from Graduation party to Graduation party visiting and laughing and celebrating. It’s fun to watch people enter a room and see what they do and how their presence changes the atmosphere of the room. It’s fun to see how people find a seat and navigate the crowd. I did a little people watching this weekend and thought I’d share an observation and a quote today that seemed simple and important.
“God does not germinate in sad souls. He wants a heart that is free and happy.” St. Mary Magdalene de’ Pazzi I noticed this weekend that the sad souls were easy to spot and so were the happy ones. I’ve come to the conclusion that it really has very little to do with life circumstances and personality but a great deal more to do with peace; the kind of peace that comes from contentment in Christ. I’ve spent time talking with lots of folks who were experiencing trials and some who were in the midst of exciting times and there were sad and happy souls in each camp. I believe the happy souls have something bigger than a positive attitude going for them; they have a clear understanding of this verse from Matthew. The truly happy souls love God no matter what and through it all. They are the ones who can talk about the exciting blessings in their life and give God the credit and they are the ones who can talk about the struggles and tragedies in their life and acknowledge God’s presence, wisdom and love in the midst of it all.
The happy souls seemed to think of others first, they ask about you first, they talk about the delicious food and beautiful weather. They take your plate and offer to bring you a fresh drink. They have a servant’s heart and I think there must be a strong tie between a servant’s heart and a happy soul! They are happy and free like the quote suggests because they know they don’t have to be in charge; that is a job reserved for the God who loves them. They are not required to think and plan and organize their lives, they allow God to do that and they are simply left with the task of loving him and loving others. Some of the happy souls were loud and outgoing, some were quiet and reserved but the thing that made them all so beautiful was the way they humbly let the light and compassion of Christ shine on others rather than on themselves. Whether we realize it or not, the happy souls are the ones we gravitate toward because they just make us feel better.
The whole thought of happy souls left me wondering why we make it so hard. The lesson was cemented into my heart last night as I tended our sprouting garden and wondered what kind of soul I was giving God to germinate in. Humm…I’m sure I will be thinking hard about that this week!
A Seed To Plant: Spend some time in prayer this week and evaluate what kind of “soul” you are and ask God to help you be a great soul for him to germinate in.
Blessings on your day!
No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. John 15:13
The mystery began as soon as a very puzzled mother realized her 7 year old son had returned home from school without his underwear. After she had exhausted him with her standard line of questioning, she sighed, realizing she was no closer to unraveling the mystery. In her wisdom, she decided to do what all good mothers do…wait him out…he was bound to crack sooner or later!
A few days after the unfortunate underwear incident, the mom was unpacking her sons Spiderman backpack and discovered a small brown paper lunch bag with a message scrawled across the outside in red marker. The note, written by the mother of her son’s best friend explained the whole situation in humorous detail. It seemed that the measure of “coolness” among that particular group of boys was directly related to the designs on their little underwear. Her son had been wearing a pair of his new sports equipment underwear on the day of the disappearance. They were covered with pictures of little hockey pucks, baseballs, footballs, tennis rackets and such. Apparently they were the COOLEST one’s ever. The boy’s best friend studied them carefully because he wanted some just like it for his upcoming birthday. After a brief discussion about the inability of modern day mothers to shop properly, he decided to do what any great buddy would do; hand them over so the buddies mother could stick them in her purse, take them to Wal-Mart and whip them out when she arrived in the underwear section enabling her to purchase exactly the right underwear. Now that’s true friendship!
Friendship is one of the most thoughtful gifts God gives us. As I look back at the troubled or difficult times in my life, it’s usually the memory of friends who appeared and slathered me with love, support and laughter that I remember instead of the event itself. God promised life would be difficult at times but in His amazing love, he gave us great friends to help us along. The little boy who gave up his underwear was willing to forgo his personal comfort, endure his mother’s pelting questions and possibly deal with a bit of embarrassment all for his friend. Not exactly “laying down your life” but it was that tiny act of “dying to self” that contains the lesson.
Make no mistake, I’m not encouraging anyone to give up any part of their wardrobe today, but I am suggesting we take a cue from a 7 year old boy and make a sacrifice for a friend. If you’re looking for a way to love and honor God, why not start by loving and honoring the friends He’s blessed you with. A little act of “dying to self”, like passing up sweets, less screen time or doing the most dreaded job on the task list without complaint can be done out of love and offered up the Father in the name of a friend. Now that is a powerful way to ask God’s blessing on a friend; that is powerful love!
A seed to plant: Make a list of three friends and three simple acts of self-sacrifice you can do for the intentions and needs of those friends. Lift them up in prayer each time the sacrifice gets difficult and the blessings will magnify. Don’t forget to share the story of blessings that will follow your acts of “dying to self” for a friend.
Blessings on your day!
Then Jesus said to his disciples, "Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. Matthew 16:24
It’s always a wild spring when you have a senior in the house! One of my favorite parts of a senior spring is attending all the Graduation Open Houses and visiting with family, friends and neighbors. It doesn’t hurt that I have to do very little cooking on the weekends for several weeks in a row either. This past weekend I had some terrific conversations with lots of great folks as we hopped from party to party and a couple things really stood out that I just thought I needed to share.
I visited quite a while with a good friend who was sharing the story of her 5 month old niece who has been recently diagnosed with a rare condition and will be spending the next 6 months in the hospital receiving Chemo and a bone marrow transplant. At 5 months old I was wondering if I should feed my babies strained peas or applesauce and they are trying to decide which type of Chemo to give their baby girl. As I listened to her speak I felt like someone had punched me in the stomach! I was amazed with the faith, the hope and the absolute conviction she had in the power of prayer! I was inspired by the story of the way her family has put together a plan and spun into action to support her brother and get this baby girl well. Her story of faith and trust inspired me so I’m asking all of you to pray for baby Kendall.
Toward the end of the conversation she shared some words she had heard at a parish mission a while back and talked about how they were bringing her strength. I thought they were so powerful I wanted to share them with all of you. We all have a cross in life and we can either drag it or carry it! The speaker at the mission referenced his two elderly aunts who both had struggles and sufferings but each approached them differently. One aunt grumbled, complained and acted in true pessimistic fashion while the other always had smiles, laughs and cookies for those who stopped by to visit in spite of the toll aging had taken on her. The first drug her cross while the other carried hers and boy was there a difference.
I also learned a new word; Avanti which is an Italian word that means go forward or go forth. The conversation surrounding that word was all about moving ahead with whatever life scoops up and plops in your lap. I think in this life God expects us to go forward with whatever cross he gives us; that’s just our job but how we do that is up to us…drag or carry. If you really think about it dragging takes longer, alienates us and probably reduces the benefits of the struggle. Carrying is still hard but it’s a sign of trust and gives us the opportunity to glorify God while we move along with our cross. I guess when it all boils down to the bottom of the pot…I don’t want to be a cross dragger I wanna be a cross lifter! My crosses are mine for a very specific reason and I don’t think God is one bit impressed if I try to convince the world mine is harder, heavier and requires sympathy from others. So after a weekend of beautiful stories of struggle and triumph my motto for the week is “Carry, don’t drag sister!”
A Seed To Plant: Pray for baby Kendall and figure out if you’re a dragger or a carrier!
Blessings on your day!
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Sheri's writing can also be found at Faith Catholic Publications and on CatholicMom.com