Hello everyone! I wanted to post a little note and let you know I'm taking a little rest. I'm going to spend some time with family and friends so I'm going to "unplug" for a few days. I'll be back next Thursday with more Joyful Words! Blessings on your day and on your 4th of July Celebrations!
A false balance is an abomination to the LORD, But a just weight is His delight.
I had a wonderful kindergarten teacher named Mrs. Justice and she was a gem! Seriously, if I can remember gobs of things about her after nearly a half century; lets face it, she must have been awesome! I loved her laugh, her kindness and the way her room felt so much like home. There was however one thing in our classroom that I hated…the balance beam. The silly thing sat just a couple inches off the floor but it terrified me. I would step up on it and instantly begin to sway and stagger like I’d been drinking for a week. Looking back I have no idea why I had such a lousy sense of balance. I’m sure I just thought too much about it and the lack of balance was all in my head but I still remember that confusing, out of control sensation.
I haven’t been on a balance beam since kindergarten but I sure can relate to that same out of balance feeling for different reasons. The funny thing is, when I was trying to walk on that silly beam, it was all my issue; I was the one responsible for that fuzzy, tippy feeling so all I had to do was hop down and balance was restored. Today it’s not so simple. Today the imbalance is usually served up at the hands of others and it can make us a little crazy.
Fake news leads us to imbalance. People with narrow minded, black and white “hell or high water” thinking and speech can lead us to imbalance. Companies or folks who only tell the slice of truth that helps them market their stuff lead us to imbalance. Last week my school computer screamed at me and flashed warnings that it had been attacked by some kind of trojan horse, worm, scorpion, flaming dragons virus thingy. It scared the snot out of me! I didn’t really want to work on Language Arts Curriculum in the first place but then to have my computer tell me that my credit cards and possibly my first born offspring were in danger (ok, maybe that’s a little dramatic!) made me feel a little out of balance. It ended up being a pretty simple fix but as it turns out the voice coming from my computer wanted to sell me some kind of product to perfect my potentially attacked computer. Wasn’t that helpful of them! Once I found out everything was ok, I breathed a sigh of relief and then I got a little irritated that it was so easy to be thrown off balance; I was right back in kindergarten facing down that silly balance beam.
After the whole virus debacle, I happened to find an article on a health and nutrition blog that outlined some of the fabulous things good black coffee can do for a person. I of course agreed enthusiastically with every word and finished the article feeling very affirmed in my coffee habit. Not two hours later, I was checking email and stumbled onto an article telling me my morning “nectar of the Gods” was going to have me lame, forgetful and sick as a dog if I didn’t dump it out and never take a sip again. Of course I took that entire article as a big pile of horse pucky! Again though, I was surprised at how easy it is to loose our balance when everyone with a laptop or access to social media can flip the truth completely out of balance and leave us scratching our heads.
Since I’m not Queen of the Universe and I can’t control all the ridiculous stuff people like to spit out as truth, I had to give it some prayer and thought and this is what I came up with. Logic and common sense may seem to be a bit out of fashion but we can all make an effort to bring them back. Think first; speak later (or not at all) seems to be a good idea sometimes. Don’t believe everything you hear (read) is sound advice. Trading media time for prayer time would be splendid for many reasons. The final thing; it’s a big one…pray for balance and truth. We get so sucked in to the craziness but what if we just didn’t. What if we refrained from replying to something just so we can have our voice heard. It just might be better for the whole planet if we worried more about simply having our voice heard by the Father who gave us that voice cause I’pretty sure he didn’t give it to us and instruct us in scripture to “go forth and make an ugly, controversial, half baked truthful noise”. When all else fails, do what I did in kindergarten when that silly balance beam threw me off balance…just hop off and go do something better!
A Seed To Plant: The next time you encounter something that throws you off balance, stop right then and there and pray for the person or folks at the root of it. Something mighty will happen if we all get a little better at that!
Blessings on your day!
Christ Be Our Light
And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your thoughts in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:7
Many years ago when my mom died, someone gave me a book titled, “When Bad Things Happen To Good People”. I let it set on my shelf for years without ever so much as opening the front cover. It might have been a spectacular book but I just couldn’t bring myself to read it. I think it had something to do with the connotation that life was good and death was bad and that just didn’t settle well with me. In my estimation, sorting all of life's people and events into “good” and “bad” piles seems like crazy work that would require an awful lot of black and white judgement and we all know that sometime there are circumstances that can make things completely gray.
Our community has been tilted completely out of balance this week by the death of a young man and his father. George was a man who was larger than life. He was humble, funny, generous, a champion for children and underdogs and he was a true disciple of Christ. His son Grant was one of God’s most special ones. His Cerebral Palsy prevented him from speaking but his laughter and squealing delight at something little like the fanning pages of a magazine spoke volumes about the simple beauty of life and showed us all what raw joy looked like. The circumstances of their death has shrouded our community in a veil of sadness, confusion and darkness. It’s hard to find joy in the midst of so much pain and shock. It’s one of those times when you fold your hands over your heart and say, “Father are you there?” It’s one of those times when things aren’t black and white and can’t be neatly sorted into categories.
Our God is a God of mercy, compassion, grace and enormous love. However, when we are in the midst of great suffering we can tend to think he’s abandoned us. When we are overwhelmed with doubt and grief we can think he’s punishing us or letting us flounder. When we are walking in darkness we can think his light simply isn’t big enough or powerful enough to dispel it. The painful truth is, when we are at our lowest we often stop reaching up so he can grab us and lift us up. The painful fog we’re all wading our way through this week isn’t going to envelope us forever and we certainly aren’t the only folks in the world who are suffering so no matter what you might be struggling with, there are some truths to hold on to.
*Christ is present! We can see him in the comfort, support and love shared among his people. Each hug, card, prayer or kind word is motivated by him, planned by him and sent by him to comfort and console. We don’t need to worry about saying the right or wrong thing, we just need to open our arms and wrap the hurting in his love.
*Christ is our Light! He has promised to guide each of us out of the darkness if we but call on him. If you’ve ever been surrounded by darkness and someone turns on a bright light it can be blinding. The power of Christ's light is so much more powerful than that, we have to open our eyes and be guided by that light and not by our own doubt, fear or stubbornness.
*Suffering isn’t a punishment, it’s a gift. We misunderstand that because as humans we don’t like to be uncomfortable but suffering is what unites us to Christ and becoming united with Christ is what draws us to holiness and our home in heaven. It may be a bitter pill to swallow but it is a profound truth. St. Teresa of Avila said, “We always find that those who walked closest to Christ were those who had to bear the greatest trials.”
*Faith and trust trump understanding every single time! We will never understand everything that happens in our world. In our human minds we try to sort things into piles and apply logic, reason and understanding. The truth is, we are not able to comprehend much of what goes on around us and the blessing is, we don’t have to. We have to trust the Father who loves us and know he has a plan and that he will never abandon us or leave us to perish.
*A community of believers united in prayer is one of the most powerful forces on earth. Tragedy can unite people in a way nothing else can so we can use these times for powerful good.
*Sometimes there just aren’t any words to make things all better. Even Jesus had to escape the chaos and pain occasionally to go away and pray, we should follow his example and pour out our hearts and invite him to bring his love and healing.
* I think Jesus would want us to remember that sorting and judging is the work of His Father and he doesn’t need our assistance. God can do anything he wants because only HE sees the heart.
*When it all seems too much to bear, just pedal and ask him to steer.
Father, for all who suffer, we ask for your comfort, your peace, your mercy and your love.
A Seed To Plant: Write down the name of someone who is suffering and ask God to give them strength, comfort and peace. And if I may ask, please pray for George, Grant and all those who loved them and feel the pain of their death.
Blessings on your day!
But if it comes from God, you will not be able to destroy…Acts 5:39
I can’t believe what I’m about to type; this week marks the 5th anniversary of the Joyful Words Blog. I had no idea what I was getting myself into when I promised him 5 years ago that I would write 2 posts a week. I had no idea what work, stress and enormous grace this writing would become in my life. This verse is perfect for today because this is all so clearly his work. I’ve had several occasions over the past 5 years when I was ready to throw in the towel and say, “really God…isn’t this enough…I’m not trained as a writer…there is so much I don’t know about you…there are people so much smarter and more eloquent to do this work…can I be done now?” Our deal was, as long as he gave me the words and the energy I’d do whatever he asked and on those mornings when I sat down at 4 am with NOTHING to write, he always came through and something spilled out through my finger tips onto the screen. The other part of our arrangement was that he needed to find a way to let me know his words were touching someones heart, so each comment, like and share is confirmation from the Father that I’m not done yet. I’ve drug my feet and pouted a few times but he always makes good on his promise and the outpouring of His Holy Spirit on these pages never ceases to amaze me. He is faithful, he is mighty and he’s using my fingers; how lucky am I!
I looked up the symbol for 5th anniversaries. I was expecting something cool like a ruby or a fine metal. I was excited to search and tie something fun into todays post about this special anniversary. However, much to my dismay, the symbol for 5th anniversaries isn’t something shiny or fancy at all, in fact it’s quite dull and disappointing. My search revealed that the symbol is wood…yeah you read that right, WOOD! Yikes! How anticlimactic is that! Before I tossed that dumb idea out I stopped to think and pray for a bit and it hit me! It’s such a God thing to use something ordinary like wood, to touch our hearts and come to us at our level. It’s such a God thing to invite us, as author Henry Nowen suggests, to find the Sacred in the Ordinary.
Wood seemed so ordinary but if we search for and ponder the sacred, the truth is surprising. In Exodus, Leviticus and Kings there are many verses that talk about using specific types of wood to build altars for worship and sacrifice. If we think about it, some of the most amazing stories in Scripture used wood as the instrument of God’s greatness and saving love. The Israelites painted the saving blood on their door posts, which were wood, so the Angel of Death would pass over them. The staff Moses used to part the Red Sea and bring forth water from the rock was made of wood. How about Noah’s Ark, David’s sling shot, and the yolk that is meant to make our burden easy; all wood! The most profound gift of the Father’s love was his Son Jesus and there was wood involved in his arrival and his departure from his earthly life. At his birth, he was laid in a wooden manger and a cross made of wood was the place of his death. After a tiny bit of thinking, ordinary wood took on a completely different meaning to me.
It was so ridiculous of me to wish for something shiny and fancy when a hundred times a week God shows himself in the ordinary and the simple. I should know by now that God works best that way. When I really think about it, these blog posts are pretty much wood…plain, simple, no frills. They certainly aren’t fancy or sparkly, but rather, the Father’s way of helping me and perhaps you too, learn that he is waiting to meet us in the simple, the ordinary, the everyday; and once he meets us there, he wants to lead us closer and closer to the amazing, the dazzling and the magnificent. Thanks to all of you for going with me on this journey from the ordinary to the sacred.
A Seed To Plant: Find a piece of wood and put it in your prayer space. Use it as a reminder to find the sacred in the ordinary.
Blessings on your day!
Feathers and a Saint
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9
One of the cool traditions we have at St. Mary school happens on All Saints Day. At a special prayer service, each classroom gets to draw a secret package containing the name and picture of their classroom patron saint for the year. This year, our classroom patron was St. Phillip Neri. St. Phillip was known for his practical, funny, down to earth approach to living the Gospel. One book we read stated that if God’s saints were like a deck of cards, St. Phillip would be the joker. Since our classroom was a place where we laughed often and we laughed hard; it was a perfect fit! We learned a lot from the examples of his life and his discipleship. As I put away his picture and put my room to rest for the summer, I remembered one of my favorite St. Phillip Neri stories and it seems like the perfect day to share it.
One day a woman went to confession to St. Phillip and she confessed the sin of gossip. She was really quite sorrowful about the way she gave in to gossip and uncharitable conversations about others. As her penance, he asked her to go to the market and buy a chicken. As she returned home with it she was to pluck it as she walked and scatter the feathers as she strolled home. She was then to report back to him so he could tell her what to do next. She did as he instructed and returned to him the next day. He told her to go back along the same route and gather each feather she had tossed along the journey. She quickly explained the impossibility of the task pointing out that the feathers would be long scattered everywhere and gathering them all back up would be impossible. He nodded and pointed out that her unkind words had spread from mouth to mouth much like those feathers had been spread and it would be impossible to gather them back up. He prayed with her and urged her to go in peace but to remember the lesson and carefully and lovingly watch each word she uttered.
What a lesson…what an image! I suppose the first thing that grabbed me when I read the story were the words, SIN of gossip. I had to think for a minute about that. I know it’s rude, I know it’s not a good idea but sinful? That’s a little harsh isn’t it? Or is it? One of my goals for the summer is to do some praying and some thinking about all those “little” things I do; those bad habits that make me go, sheesh…that wasn’t good! I need to give them a good look and really pray about how those “little” things like gossip or judgmental thinking or teensy white lies are affecting my relationship with Jesus. The thing is, when you pray for something specific and you say the words “Show me Jesus; let me see with your eyes,” he does it…so I’d better be ready because he will shine a light on those places I’d rather not focus on. It might be a LONG summer folks…whose with me? Who wants to dive in to those “little” things and see what Jesus might want to replace them with when we look at them honestly and try to do a little repentance.
A Seed To Plant: Start the conversation…ask him in prayer to show you those little places where big change might draw us closer to him!
Blessings on your day!
The Lord has done great things for us we are filled with joy and laughter. Psalm 126:3
Life is amazing right now! I’m sitting on my newly decorated front porch enjoying a cool evening breeze. It’s that GLORIOUS first Sunday night of summer vacation. For those of you who aren’t teachers, its hard to describe the carefree feeling of knowing the weekend has come to a close yet you have no papers to grade, lessons to plan or classroom details to organize. I LOVE my job but the feeling of that first Sunday night of vacation makes me giddy!
I’m enjoying planters full of blooming color, hummingbirds fluttering around the feeder and the sound of bugs and frogs and birds as the sun sinks low in the sky. It is a perfect summer evening and I’m sitting on my glider with my computer in my lap just soaking it all in. This scripture just seems to sum it all up! He’s done lots of great things for me and I’m filled to the top!
My heart just wants to scream out; thank you Lord for a job I love and a chance to rest. I’m filled with joy that you gave me this family, this town, this home, this sunset, this front porch. I don’t have any big words tonight…just thank you. Mostly, I’m filled with joy and laughter at the opportunity tonight to just be still and soak it all in.
A Seed To Plant: What are the great things God has done for you? Now, sit still and enjoy them for a bit!
Blessings on your day!
But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Matthew 6:33
When was the last time you heard someone scream in an excited voice, “Yeah, I’m third whoo hoo for me!” Uh…probably never, that’s just nuts. Or is it? We live in a world that promotes being first, best, biggest and fastest. Being third is nothing to aspire to by most standards, or so I thought. I was reading an article recently and in small print at the bottom of one of the pages was a quote from the author who said she constantly strives to be third; God first, others second and herself third.
I chewed on that thought for the better part of two days and quite frankly I am amazed by it. My first reaction was, oh yeah, good idea, I do that too. Then reality whapped me upside the head and I was flooded with examples of times I truly was not content with third place. God is so good at honestly putting me in my place. Then I moved on to this thought…well surly it doesn’t mean third all the time. For instance, it’s my obligation to be the best mother and wife I can be so I have to try to be the best or first in that role. Then I thought about my teaching, surely God and a whole batch of parents each year want me to be the best teacher for their children. Imagine the gasps at open house if I proudly announced I was the third best teacher. I then proceeded to go into the pattern I usually go into when I hear something from God I don’t really want to agree with; I decided the quote was flawed or goofy.
It’s usually at that point I have to give up and ask God why He really lead me to the words and begin to open my mind and heart to the truth He’s speaking through the words. He didn’t fail me! After some pouting, praying and processing I got the truth. The truth is, it isn’t about me at all! God has to come first or my life is nothing but one long chain of goofed up stuff. God always has to be in the front seat because I’m a lousy navigator and take way too many wrong turns and dead end paths…He never loses the way. If I believe He will lead me perfectly in anything I do in His name then it’s easier to let Him claim first place. If I can agree to that, I have to remember the greatest commandment is to love others. It’s the most basic thing He asks of me and honoring His request to love Him by loving others means putting others in spot two. It just seems like the least I can do for the God who has done everything for me. That leaves third place and instead of selfishly looking at it as a consolation prize I had to stop a minute and realize those first two places were for Him and service to Him so third place is as close to Him as I could possibly be. After thinking it over, I really like third place. If I’m doing everything I do to serve Him and the people He created then how can I want anything more? If I let Him be first and offer everything I do to Him, it will all be just as He wishes and that will always be right! Thinking of third place in a new way is very freeing! The pressure is off…I just have to follow along behind first and second with a heart full of love and I will win every time! I’ll just stay locked in third and glide along on His tail wind! The journey to heaven is a great one…and the prize for coming in third is magnificent! Bronze just became my new favorite color!
A Seed To Plant: Spend some serious time this week pondering which spot you’re in. How can you work harder to come in third?
Blessings on your day!
Prayer is the oxygen of the soul. St. Padre Pio
My older brother Jim was the master at scaring the snot out of people! He could stealthily hide behind almost anything and lunge out at the perfect moment and leave you jumping and breathless. No matter how many times he did it, I was always caught off guard. My reaction was always a giant gulp and a moment of holding my breath until my heart started beating again. I have that same “gulp and breath hold” every time I see a snake, giant spider or mouse jump out of the feed barrel in the barn. It’s a crazy thing when you momentarily stop doing the one thing you do most instinctively; breath.
When I happened upon this quote from St. Padre Pio it made me think of all the times we gasp and stop breathing. There is no real danger in those snap seconds but they remind me of those moments in life when things are scary, heavy or so frustrating it feels like I can’t breathe. If I dig into those times a little bit, I realize those are probably the times I try to take the wheel and handle things on my own instead of lifting the moment up in prayer. I will know I’ve reached a new spot in my discipleship when I lift things up in prayer before I think, ponder, worry or hold my breath. Prayer truly is the oxygen for the soul and when there is oxygen, there is life and peace and joy.
I spent the weekend in Up-State New York and it was so great! I had my first flight in an 8 passenger Cessna, my first glimpse of the Adirondack Mountains and my first opportunity to see the beautiful landscape and meet the lovely people who call that part of the US home. I was invited there to present a Catholic Hospitality Training. One of my favorite parts of the day is the session when we learn to pray together with others. I always ask the group to find a prayer partner that they don’t know. I say a prayer to the Holy Spirit that he will match people up to make a powerful connection. It all seems sort of random until we give it over to him. I have to tell you, some mighty things happened Saturday afternoon…talk about a whole lot of oxygen for the soul! One couple who wound up together was a man recently diagnosed with a medical condition and a professional who treats that specific disorder. Another pair was a person who went through addiction counseling quite a time ago and she wound up praying with a former counselor who helped her find the path to healing. A third pair discovered that they had so much in common they were in tears. It is such a powerful thing to witness! It’s as if new life is breathed into the room and the souls are filled with life giving oxygen.
Jesus is so willing to flood our souls with the oxygen we need, but we have to stop holding our breath. We have to go to him and we have to offer to bring him to others. When we offer to pray for others the life giving oxygen for our souls comes to both the pray-er and the prayed for. We often hesitate to pray with others because we’re afraid we’ll do it wrong or say the wrong words but the power of prayer is so much bigger than the words we speak. We aren’t the giver of the comfort; He is, and he just wants us to open our mouth so he can pour forth the words. So how’s your oxygen level?
A Seed To Plant: Sit in quiet prayer for a few minutes today and just focus on your breathing; the rhythm of the air in and the air out. When you’ve settled into a peaceful calm, focus on the prayer that will bring oxygen not to your body but to your soul.
Blessings on your day!
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