Immediately his mouth was opened, his tongue was freed and he spoke blessing God. Luke 1:64
This verse made me take a hard look at what has got to be my greatest blessing and my greatest burden all lumped into one…my mouth! As a Catholic Speaker and Catholic School Theology Teacher, I have abundant opportunities to use my mouth to speak great words about our God and our faith. I wish this were the case all the time, but truthfully, when I ponder these words from Zachariah I am reminded of the dozens of times each week I use my mouth for words that don’t build the Kingdom of God on earth at all!
I need to take a big lesson from Zachariah. He was mute for months. If I imagine being struck mute I almost panic; it’s like I’d loose my most used human feature! If I did become mute and suddenly and unexpectedly regained my voice, I wonder what I’d say first. Truthfully, it probably would be something ridiculous like, “Lets go get pizza!” or “What the heck was that all about!” Not our friend Zachariah, the first words he spoke after months of silence; blessing, praise and worship. He focused on what he was grateful for and not what he had suffered or missed.
Zachariah used his silence to grow closer to the Father and unite himself to his perfect plan and his impeccable timing. The fruit of that silence was gratitude and awareness of the greatness of God. This passage from the Gospel of Luke contains a golden nugget for growing in holiness; find some silence and follow it with some time spent blessing and praising God for his mighty works in your life.
A Seed To Plant: Take a few moments to sit in the silence and replay your words from the last day or week follow it with these words: “Loving Father, open my eyes and still my words so I can truly recognize your presence and offer blessing to you for the many wonders you are working in my heart, my family and my world.”
Blessings on your day!
…“A man is coming after me who ranks ahead of me.” John 1:30
Have you ever heard the phrase, careful what you wish for? A humble heart is something I pray for constantly and I laugh at the frequency of God’s living color lessons. I had a pretty funny one recently. I was in the lobby of a convention center after I had given a talk and a lady came up to me and gave me a hug and said, “Your message really touched my heart, will you take a selfie with me?. I stood right beside her and as she held up her phone to snap our picture and as soon as she had it in place she said, “Oh wait, you’re not her, I thought you were someone else.” We laughed and went different directions. It gave me a lot to think about! It also made me think a lot about selfies in general. Selfies make up a pretty large and humorous number of overall posts on my Facebook newsfeed. These quickly snapped images capture important moments, achievements or places and they give the viewer a tiny little snapshot of someone else life. I’ll make a confession; I have never posted a selfie because I need more time to pose and make sure I don’t look like I have three chins or a neck the size of a tree trunk. Photo angles matter and by the time I get it all lined up, the moment’s long over! Selfie overload can cause us to think our life isn’t quite as exciting as the folks posting dozens of selfies in fancy, fun places and if we get too tangled up in the likes and shares and comments from our selfie posts it could make keeping our humility in check a little tough.
Humility can be a tricky think to master. Our culture screams “be the best” and we seem to focus constantly on who’s in first place but the first chapter of John’s Gospel teaches a beautiful lesson about the exact opposite. In this competitive world it’s a bit shocking to read the words, “A man is coming after me who ranks ahead of me.” It’s one thing to think someone is more important than you but to announce it loud and proud to all who will hear; that just seems crazy by todays standards! The funny thing is, John was completely comfortable with the way the events unfolded. A supporting role was perfect for him. He recognized that he had a completely different purpose than Jesus did fulfilling God’s plan. He didn’t get caught up in the fact that he would be doing the baptizing and he had been chosen to bring God’s grace to the crowds. He simply saw himself as a part of something amazing. He didn’t feel the need to be the star or have folks notice his good works.
John wasn’t the main attraction, he was to prepare the way and take part in the mighty work of the Father and his Son. I’m sure if selfies would have been taken that day, John would have been nowhere to be found. He wanted no notice, no thanks, no acknowledgement. John opened the door, so to speak, so the Father, Son and Holy Spirit could enter and add an amazing chapter to the love story God shares with us. Today is a great day to ask yourself, what are my motives for serving the Lord? Do I do it for him or do I do it so others might notice I’m a part of things?
A Seed To Plant: Take this little prayer with you into your quiet moments with the Lord this week. Loving Father, please help me push past my pride. Give me the grace to love and serve you with a humble heart. Please allow me to see those who need your mercy and your love and show me how to help them make room you so you can be the star in their life. Amen
Blessings on your day!
Jesus Christ…became poor although he was rich, so that by his poverty you might become rich. 2 Corinthians 8:19
There certainly are things I enjoy a little extra of! A little extra coffee, a little more time to linger on the porch visiting with friends and family or just a little extra sleep from time to time to list a few. One of the lessons my parents were HUGE on teaching was not to be greedy. Clear as a bell I can hear them say, “Be grateful for what you have because being greedy for more is ungratefulness and that’s ugly.” It was a great thing for them to teach me and it’s one of those things that sticks! I was praying with this scripture from Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians and I realized that this important lesson from my parents often creeps into my prayer life.
After some thought, I realized that my prayer view slides a little sideways from time to time. I’m really good at asking God to take care of people and situations and the needs of others. I mean, who doesn’t pray every day for people to get better or get jobs or get back on track. I’m really good at praising him and thanking him but I don’t often ask for his riches and heaping doses of his grace. I guess I feel blessed and thankful and I don’t want to be greedy. Upon careful thought, I realized I was trying to be like an A student to God. I wanted to keep a low profile, do my homework (daily prayer) and try like crazy to keep my nose in my own business and be obedient. I don’t think that’s all God wants for me. That’s actually a little robotic and not very “relationship-ish”.
God sent his son to suffer and die so we could be rich. Not rich in the money sense but rich in his grace, mercy and love. We were made for happiness. We were made to be saints and that’s work we can’t do alone. He’s waiting to give us extra! He spent everything; his blood, sweat, tears and very life to make us rich in him and I was too afraid to ask for personal extras. How crazy is that! It’s not like there is an expiration date on his gifts like a coupon. He will never say, “Sorry Sheri, you should have asked for joy and patience last week, I’m afraid that request is not valid past last Friday.” There are also no limits or strings to our requests either. I’m pretty sure he will never flash a sigh like you see in the grocery store on a great deal that says “limit 5 with additional $5 purchase”. He’s not going to run out of grace or attach strings or conditions to his gifts.
He died so we could be rich so why am I living like I have empty pockets? I’ve decided that something I want extra of is joy and compassion. I’m going to ask for extra forgiveness and a lot of extra peace and kindness. It doesn’t make us greedy, it makes us trusting and it makes us rich. It doesn’t make me ungrateful because it’s not about me…it’s about him and the things he wants to make me because of his gifts. I don’t know about you, but I’m going to ask for lots of extra things starting today…right after I get some extra coffee!
A Seed To Plant: Take out a sheet of paper and across the top write EXTRA-EXTRA-EXTRA and then make a list of all the things you need to ask God for extra of so you can become rich in him!
Blessings on your day!
He must increase, I must decrease. John 3:30
Every once in a while I get overwhelmed about all the things I’m not getting right. I can get lost in questions like; have I prayed enough, have I served enough, am I gentle, generous and merciful enough. Then come the list of shortfalls; the times I judged when I should have loved or doubted instead of trusted or gossiped when I was called to understand or re-focus. It would be easy to stay stuck in that funk and decide growing in holiness is just too hard but then I realize the evil one is at work in all these thoughts because the Father certainly doesn’t want me stuck in the mess. I think he allows my thoughts to go there so I can acknowledge my shortfalls, ask forgiveness and invite him to come blasting into my humanness and make me better.
After I pray my way through one of these funks I often think I need to charge out into the world and do some mighty good for God to make up for all my knuckle headed thoughts and actions. I’ll often make a giant list of all the things I am going to change and fix and avoid completely. Recently as I was plotting my giant moves toward holiness I came across this quote from St. Francis de Sales; “Great occasions for serving God seldom come, but little ones surround us daily.” Talk about an abrupt hault. I find God’s timing and humor amazing so I threw my giant list away and started a little one.
Growing in holiness means growing in humble service. St. Francis reminded me that I’m not called to a life of contemplative prayer. God isn’t asking me to build an orphanage or hospital or stamp out world hunger before bedtime. He’s asking me to serve in tiny ways again and again and again. So on my list of tiny things for the week I’ve added thing like being patient with slow drivers, pouring someone a second cup of coffee, saying hello first, texting or emailing at least one note of encouragement, letting someone go ahead of me in line and saying a quick prayer of blessing for anyone who irritates or inconveniences me.
Funny thing, as I began to pray with my list of little things, I could already feel the thoughts shifting from me and all my stuff, to others. I suppose that is exactly what we’re supposed to do and I’m quite grateful to St. Francis and the words he wrote more than 400 years ago for putting things in perspective.
A Seed To Plant: Write down these words from St. Francis de Sales and begin to make your own list of little things to do this week.
Blessings on your day!
The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace. Numbers 6: 24-26
Happy Birthday Joyful Words! This week marks the 7th year of blogs. At first I wasn’t going to mention it because seven seemed like such a random, unimportant number but then I did a little digging and suddenly seven had a whole new meaning. Here are a few cool things I learned about this seemingly silly little number…
A ladybug commonly has seven spots.
Most mammals have seven neck bones.
There are seven basic music notes. (think Sound of Music…do-re-me…you hum the rest)
Phone numbers have seven digits.
There are seven stars in the Big Dipper.
The periodic table has seven rows.
There are seven Spiritual and Corporal Works of Mercy.
Seven Sacraments were given to us by Jesus.
There are Seven Virtues and Seven Deadly Sins.
And, seven is the most common number rolled with two dice.
Once again, I realized that not everything is just as it seems at first glance. Sometimes if we do just a little thinking and try to see things from a different perspective, we are probably in for a surprise. The fact that this thing is still rollin after seven years is a giant surprise to me. I sure didn’t expect the Holy Spirit to keep me at it for this long. Another surprise is that I started writing to help people, but in truth, I’ve been the one who has been “schooled” along the way.
Sometimes I hit the publish button and I feel like the words that spill into cyberspace are no more relevant than the number seven seemed. I wonder if there is meaning or substance or if it’s all just a bunch of words. Then I remember who is in charge and I lean on him to give me the words I need or that he knows someone out there needs and I type and hold my breath hoping I don’t sound like a “wing nut”! Over the last seven years I’ve written about things that were funny, simple and sometimes tricky. Sometimes he’s asked me to write about things that were easy to hear and sometimes I’ve been asked to write a dose of truth that might have been hard to swallow for some. And, of course there are the times he's asked me to write about things that are dripping with grief and sadness. My mission is always to help us keep our eyes lifted up to him and I’ll be the first to admit that sometimes that’s just plain tough to do.
It’s been such a joy to have a little window to so many of your lives. My heart is always so touched when you leave comments that let me know the Holy Spirit has used words on this page to reach you. I’m humbled by this work and I’m thrilled that he’s asked me to serve him in this way as opposed to mission work in a jungle which I find the thought of absolutely terrifying! God is good and I’m happy to write about all the ways I see that truth unfold. I thank you for reading, I thank you for the prayers and I’m so grateful for your support. Please know of my daily prayers for all of you who stop by to give the blog a read. May God bless us all!
A Seed To Plant: The mission of the blog is to spread his joy so please take a minute or two today to pray for those you know who are struggling to find and feel the joy of the Lord.
Blessings on your day!
Happy are those who hear the word of the Lord and keep it. Luke 11:28
Happiness is a curious thing! Everybody seems to want it and one quick google search can reveal countless sites about how to get it. I even discovered some “happiness retreats” where folks could go to find happiness. In two days, for a mere $3,000 dollars (plus travel and accommodation expenses) you could be taught how to identify happiness and then seek happiness for yourself. I found some pretty crazy stuff! It all left me thinking…we make things so hard sometimes. This post is all about finding happiness and the good news is…it’s free! Since the Father who created us and loves us is also the creator of happiness that seems like the logical place to start. Each letter of the word is a thought or action you can start right now to seek and feel happiness.
H: Holy is His name! It sounds crazy but if you’re feeling worried or cranky or any other emotion that is soaking up your happy, put the attention where it should be; on Him. Stop for a minute and say Holy is your name God, Jesus I trust you, Father I praise you, Mighty God I thank you. You’ll be shocked at how fast your attention shifts from you to him and you feel a lightness come over you.
A: Attitude is the big thing! There are always two ways to look at things; this hurts me or this helps me. Struggles and suffering make happiness tough to attain if we look at things the first way and it sucks us right in to the “woe is me” thinking that makes happiness impossible. Instead realize that struggle and suffering are necessary for heaven and that God is more present in these times. We also have to remember that tough things come and go, just like easy things; life is meant to be a cycle not a straight line.
P: Pray! (you saw that one comin didn’t you) Tell God you’re cranky and ask him to bring you through whatever it is that is making you feel unhappy. He made you, he loves you and he truly wants his children to be happy. Talk to him about it and ask him to show you what he’s trying to teach you in this situation. If that seems too simple; give it a try and see for yourself.
P: Pass on some kindness and mercy. I don’t think there is anything that will bring you out of a slump faster than doing something for someone else. When you’re feeling grumpy or frustrated doing a good deed for another, especially the person who made you cranky is the farthest thing from your mind but purposefully thinking about the needs and happiness of another is a powerful thing. The thing about happiness is it’s a bit contagious so start some and you’ll be surprised how quickly it lands back on you.
Y: You are HIS! In the midst of all the things that are sucking away your happiness, remind yourself again and again that you belong to him! Nothing is going to happen that doesn’t have a purpose according to his plan. He will never leave you or forsake you or give you more than you can bear. I mean really, we’re talking about the God who parted the Red Sea, helped Paul escape prison with a dozen guards watching over him and who fed 5,000 people with five loaves and two fish. Surely you don’t think your unhappy situation is more than he can handle. He can do anything, including take care of you, who he made perfectly and wonderfully!
Our happiness is rooted in the God who loves and teaches us constantly. Sometimes his lessons come during tough times but the happiness rooted in him is the best kind! So, pick a letter and go be happy!
A Seed To Plant: Write these thoughts down and put them somewhere you can grab it when you feel like you could use a little more happy in your day; then pick a letter and get started!
Blessings on your day!
There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for everything under heaven. Ecclesiastes 3:1
So I’m a little slow this morning! This is a first; I’m blogging from a bus…full of middle lovelies…on our way to an amusement park for a class trip. As you might imagine, it’s not what I’d call a peaceful writing environment! My head and heart are full so I think the Holy Spirit can move my fingers in spite of the hilarious singing, bad jokes and general middle lovely chaos swirling around me right now!
Every class that passes through my classroom has a different set of gifts and personalities. They each teach me something different and leave something unique on my heart. This years class was no exception. It was the year of surprises! They surprised me with their wit, their humor, their attitude and their faith. They plunged into the beginnings of adolescence with a style all their own. More than any class before, they had a harder time saying good-bye. Their tears and resistance to leaving the building caught me by surprise but it also taught me some things and I’d like to share what they taught me because there is a lesson for us all.
*Most classes can’t wait to bust out of elementary school and head off to bigger, better and more important things. They have visions of things being exciting and fancy and they plan to enjoy so much new found freedom. This year the word was content. These kids were invested in each other and they could find joy in all the regular things that made up their day. They were happy to laugh and dance and be goofy wherever they were. One of them told me that he felt no need to look for something new when he was surrounded with so many things he liked already.
*They realized that the root is people. These kids have spent years developing relationships and these relationships of course have had their ups and downs but they were the foundation. They absolutely had those days when their patience ran thin with each other but they had a sense of family that they aren’t ready to see change. I was surprised at their ability to appreciate and value each other in spite of their differences, quirks and attitudes. Tolerance based on love is a beautiful thing to see.
*Change isn’t always easy. You may not love the idea of change but it happens anyway and you can either fight and fuss about it or ask God to go ahead of you and lead the way through it. So many of them prayed on our last day together for God to help them get used to the changes in their new school. Many prayed for God to protect their friendships and bless the new ones they would make. They realized that they needed a guide in this new adventure and they picked the best one available.
*The more grateful you are, the better things will be. They demonstrated time and again that opportunities don’t always seem exciting but if you can be grateful that someone needs your help or be grateful that you can do yucky jobs surrounded by friends it becomes much less about the task and happy hearts do great things.
*Finally, this class took the saying “Dance like nobody’s watchin!” to a whole new level. They showed me day after day that life is so much less complicated if you just be who you are without worrying so much about what everybody thinks. They weren’t afraid to be who they were and they didn’t feel like they were in competition with each other or the world.
They may only be 12 but they had lots to teach their old teacher. It’s that time of year when I worry and ponder and feel that catch in my breath wondering if I did everything they needed and took them as far as God wanted me to. I hope I planted the seeds that were mine to sow and I hope that the team of us that taught them gave them all they needed but in my pondering, I am reminded that the the Father loves them more than I do and he’s got a beautiful future planned for each of them. So for now, I will save this writing, hope for wi-fi inside the park so I can post it later today and just close my laptop and enjoy the sights and sounds of a bus full of fabulous middle lovelies one last day.
A Seed To Plant: Pick one of their lessons and put it in place.
Blessings on your day!
…remain in my love. John 15:9-11
As we get to the end of another school year and the Graduation Open House celebrations hit full swing I always find myself remembering classes and students who came in and out of my life. Some memories make me laugh, some make me sigh and some make my eyes leak a little. It would be easy to get lost in these thoughts for hours but this time of year is so busy there really isn’t time to sit still and ponder for too long or I’ll be late for something! I’m sure there are more than a few readers who can relate!
The other day I was reading this Gospel from John and I remembered one class in particular that was good at lots of things but remaining in one place for more than a split second was not their gift. Getting them to sit still and listen for any length of time at all was like trying to put puppies in a basket. I was convinced they were absolutely spring loaded. Several times a day I would witness the tiny window of time they would all be still and then one would get up and pretty soon another would follow and then another would wiggle off the carpet or away from the table and before I knew it nearly all of them had escaped. I laughed and remembered those little lovelies fondly for a few minutes and it made me wonder how many times God looks down at us and makes the same comparison.
In this Gospel Jesus clearly teaches that the Father asks us simply to remain in his love. We don’t have to run around searching for it or trying to do heroic things to earn it. The promise is simple, remain with me and I will bring you joy. The funny thing about this short Gospel is it sums up all we want and all we have to do to get it in 3 short verse. We complicate things so terribly! Stay with me…don’t run around like crazy and be still in my presence. Simple enough you would think but getting our attention and convincing us to rest and trust in his love must be a lot like trying to put puppies in a basket.
Last Friday I had a reminder of how much he wants me to remain in his love instead of in the chaos. I was praying in church and feeling a little overwhelmed about all that needed to be done so I just asked him to take over and give me the wisdom and strength to get things done with joy in my heart. When I got back to the classroom and checked my email, there was a message from a wonderful mom volunteering to do one of the big jobs on my to do list. I didn’t ask for help, she just sent a message and said; “hey, can I help with this?” The puppy in me just sat still as I said thank you Jesus! This week as I approach the thousand things required to end a school year, I’m going to carry the image of puppies in a basket with me. When the to-do list starts to feel overwhelming and I’m flying from task to task like a witch on a broom I will remember to be the one puppy who falls asleep in the basket and just rests in his love and trusts in his providence.
A Seed To Plant: Purposefully set aside 10 minutes each day when things get crazy to sit still and think about God and all he’s doing in your life. Be that puppy that climbs in the basket to be still and remain in the Father’s love.
Blessings on your day!
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