Joyful Words Blog
Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light for my path.
– Psalm 119:105
– Psalm 119:105
…God anointed you with the oil of gladness…Hebrews 1:9
Holy smokes…where did June and July go? I’m a little shell shocked as I turn the page to August today and realize school starts THIS month! Wow…it seems like I just packed my classroom up and now it’s time to go open those boxes again! Someone told me that for teachers June is like Friday night; July is like Saturday and August is like Sunday night. I’ve never felt that truth as much as I do right now! I’m starting to bounce between…gosh, I’m excited to see the middle lovelies and my teacher friends and good grief; my curriculum maps aren’t ready and I still haven’t figured out the perfect way to make possessive pronouns and dangling participles come to life!
I ran into a fellow teacher yesterday and she asked me how my summer was and I replied; WEIRD! I’m not sure why that word popped out first but it’s pretty true I guess. Physically I accomplished a lot; most of the main floor of the house got new paint and a re-design. There are washed windows, a scrubbed porch, cleaned closets and a purged and organized office. There were new recipes and time to putter in the kitchen which I loved and lots of clothes line dried laundry. There was lots of ball playing and watching, the first herd of Kevin’s show cattle to help with, and a semester of study in Austria to help Shannon prepare for. I served as a consultant more than a mom which is a sign of independent children but it’s…weird.
There were some holes in the summer. For the first summer in 16 years there is no 4-H fair to get ready for. No pigs or steers to wash and pack feed for; no show clothes to iron or show boots to polish. Last weekend I chaperoned a trip with 100 high school students to a Steubenville Youth Conference. It was a fabulous weekend hanging out with 1,200 kids on fire for Christ…but none of them was my own child; that was weird! The kids have been more in than out this summer which has been a very good weird…cooking again for a family of five, extra laundry and the constant trail of “stuff’ tracked in from the barn; great, but weird to be back in that groove.
Just as I was starting to feel a little like someone ate the last piece of pie I remembered that I still have 29 days of summer left! I realized the first 2/3 of summer break had been full of lots of great stuff and even if I really did have everything on that ridiculously crazy long “to do” list finished, I’d be exhausted and there would have been no minutes for anything fun. I don’t know what I was thinking I missed out on but if felt a little ridiculous moping about turning a page on the calendar. It was right about that time, I remembered something Sr. Miriam said in one of her talks last weekend. She told the crowd of 1,200 teenagers and some brave adults, “don’t let the world swallow you in busyness and expectation, cry out to the Lord and ask him to anoint you with the oil of gladness.” That was what I was missing. I had all these crazy expectations about reading important books, creating manicure perfect lessons for the entire school year, taking long walks and growing a weed free garden. Nuts…I was nuts! Whats even nuttier was that I was feeling bad that those aren't the things that happened in June and July. I really do need a little oil of gladness!
The funny thing is though…he’s already anointed me with gladness. There is so much gladness in my life…my marriage, my kids, my home, my front porch, a job I love, people to pray with and laugh with and the list goes on! The world is kinda nuts right now but my life is full of gladness from the Lord and I let that pale in comparison to some weird expectations. So for the next few weeks, I’m gonna keep plugging away at that to-do list and I’m gonna soak up that oil of gladness I’ve been anointed with.
Just a funny side note, if you’ve heard folks say you can get anything on Amazon…I think they’re right…including a bottle of “Oil of Gladness”. No kidding…I don’t think it works like God’s, but it is available in case you need a little extra!
A Seed To Plant: Make two lists. One; the summer things you’re glad about and two; the summer things you still need to pack into the next 3 weeks…ask God to bless both lists.
Blessings on your day!
We have to do the work of the one who sent me while it is day.
Think of a task you really dread. Maybe you even have more than one! Have you ever noticed how productive we can be doing many of the other things on our to-do list instead of the one we are trying to avoid? For me, one of the tasks I dread most is washing the blinds. Living on a gravel road, they gather a lot of dust and they have to be taken down, scrubbed, dried and re-hung…it takes forever and it’s a pain! When it’s done however, that is a terrific feeling. There are dozens of things I don’t really like to do, scrub the crisper drawer, sort the basket next to the phone where all the “stuff” seems to land and vacuum the stairs to name a few. It seems the same thing happens again and again…they appear on my to-do list and I do ten other things first. It’s like I just dance around them pretending they might just go away.
Someone e-mailed me a link to a little video clip called; Eat That Frog. This little you-tube video contained some great wisdom. The whole premise of the video was to look at all the tasks that had to be done and put the absolute worst or most dreaded task on your list first…and then do it first. It employed the idea that if you had to eat a live frog every day it would surely be the most awful thing you would have to do so if you do it first and get it over with the rest of your day would certainly be better. Procrastinating can rob us of our positive attitude and wear us out. It takes a lot of work and planning to re-arrange our whole day around the one thing we really don’t want to do…but if we did it first and moved on we’d have a much better day!
That sounds like a great idea but I’m still left with little motivation to do something I dread. Here is where an attitude shift can help. This is the stage where it might be a good idea to play a mental game of “follow the leader”. There was a fabulous man named Brother Lawrence who lived a simple and holy life working in a monetary kitchen. He was known for his ability to rejoice in everyday tasks embracing them as the perfect way to practice the presence of Christ. He believed that Christ met him wherever he was, doing whatever he was doing. It was as if Brother Lawrence knew with every task, Christ was there waiting, all he had to was ask Christ if he could join him. Now if I remembered Jesus was my blind scrubbing partner I might not dread the job so much! Another great example is Blessed Mother Teresa. She was cleaning the wounds of a dying man one day and the reporter following her for a story put down his equipment in disgust and said, “I wouldn’t do what you’re doing for a million dollars!” Mother smiled at him and said, “I wouldn’t do it for a million dollars either, but I’d do it for Jesus!”
There is grace in our obedience and submission. If we were to take our most dreaded tasks and “eat that frog” first with a spirit of love for Christ I think we would be changed. I think we need to remember that every task is our opportunity to practice the presence of Christ like Brother Lawrence. I think I might try to snag a copy of Brother Lawrence’s book called Practicing the Presence of God and see if I can’t adjust my attitude toward the crisper drawer and the living room blinds!
A Seed To Plant: Make you to-do list and try eating the frog first while you ask Christ to meet you in your task!
Blessings on your day!
Every good and perfect gift is from God above. James 1:17
Unless you’ve been living under a rock the past several weeks, you are undoubtedly aware that there is a lot of yuck filling the news. When all the craziness from candidates to policemen to natural disasters and disrespect for life gets lumped together it can bring out the worst in us. Everyone is entitled to their opinions but folks sometimes forget others might not share the same one yet they insist on loudly sharing those opinions with everyone and proclaiming their thoughts are correct, just, moral and supreme. The result is a muddy mess that leaves me scratching my head wondering; why don’t folks remember everybody’s life matters and how in tarnation did things get so scrambled up.
I surely don’t understand all the messes we hear about in the news but there are a few truths I know. First, God is bigger than ALL of it! Second, I can’t fix it; God would never ask or expect me to and third there are two very powerful things that we can do RIGHT NOW that will matter. These things will matter in my life, my family and with the people I am close to. I can’t fix it but I sure shootin can make it better…and so can you. The greatest part; these two things will tackle the feelings of frustration, dread, anxiety and the overwhelming desire we might have to throw something at the TV or computer screen when we watch the news.
There is a tiny back story to this idea and it came from the Holy Spirit because I would have never thought to do this myself. As I was sitting in prayer sad and frustrated about the current state of affairs of our nation I was prompted to go to something happy so I yanked an Advent book from my shelf. Advent is such a time of joy and happy anticipation so I opened up the book and started soaking in the words and felt excited and happy; it was crazy! After reading several pages two things became very clear and my heart filled with hope and faith. Complaining, dwelling, commiserating and joining in on face book rants about how this country is going to hell in a handbasket isn’t cutting it…that Advent book made that very clear! We have to take part in the plan of God; and make no mistake, even in this mess, he has one…and judging by the magnitude of the mess I’m confident it’s gonna be a GOOD one for those who are faithful!
So, the first of those two things; be GRATEFUL! Yup, you read that right, be GRATEFUL. Think about it, gratefulness should be our response to the grace, mercy and blessings of God and no matter what you just watched on the 6 o’clock news, God has blessed YOU! A grateful heart sees what’s good and appreciates it. People who are grateful are merciful and kind because gratefulness causes us to be connected to the one who gave us the things we’re grateful for. If we are connected to the giver of all good things, he gives more good things. That connection leads to eternal life…that’s what we need to remember to focus on, not this short-term life we’re in the middle of right now. This isn’t the good part…that’s comin and our salvation isn’t based on the behavior of the world; it’s based on our personal behavior. If we’re living gratefully we aren’t complaining, we aren’t worrying we’re busy praising and thanking the Father and that leads to great stuff!
The second of the two things; be LOVING! If we are grateful, we realize all good things flow from love not hate, jealousy, greed or pride. When we’re loving, the atmosphere changes completely and God barges right in and brings those cool gifts of the Spirit…you remember those…joy, peace, kindness, goodness and gentleness! No elected official or community leader is going to deliver those gifts if we cast our vote for them or hold up the right poster at a protest rally. Those gifts come from only one place and there is no spot for those gifts in our life unless we are loving. Too many of us are fumbling around in a fog of bitterness, anger, frustration with our hands thrown up in disbelief…that isn’t the proper disposition or frame of mind to be loving. We need a new disposition; let’s try gratitude and love and see what gets better; I’m guessing everything will!
A Seed To Plant: Write down this quote and pray with it for a while and see how your heart changes. “Gratitude flows from the recognition that all that is good is born of a divine gift of love freely given to us so that we may offer thanks and share it with others.” (Author unknown but they must be a really smart, holy person!)
Blessings on your day!
Do not be afraid…1 Kings 17:13
The other night I was making dinner and I reached in the cupboard to grab the olive oil. I pulled out the dark green bottle and began to pour, only to discover that instead of a stream of oil coming from the bottle all I was seeing was a few drips! I immediately got frustrated at the inconvenience. Instead of quickly finishing up, I had to go dig through the pantry and hopefully retrieve a full bottle. After just a few seconds of looking and re-shuffling the pantry I found a full bottle and returned to my task. As I stood there in my kitchen stirring I was wondering who it was who emptied the old one without replacing it and why couldn’t they have just taken a few more seconds to replace the bottle instead of leaving the work to me. Then like a smack to the head, I remembered the story of the widow and Elijah from the Old Testament.
If you remember the story, Elijah shows up at this widow’s house during a time of famine and asks her for some water to drink and something to eat. She looks at him and lets him know she’d love to help but can’t. She honestly reports that she has only a bit of oil and a tiny bit of flour and she was getting ready to prepare the last of it for a meal for herself and her son…get this…and then they were going to die because there was no more food. Pause there for a minute…replay…I’m going to use the last drops of oil and spoons of flour to make a cake (yum ?) for us and then we will prepare to die. Not, then I will go to the pantry and get more oil. Not, then I will run to the store and buy more oil or go to the neighbor’s house and borrow more. I will use what I have and that is the end of it all. I can’t even imagine!
As I stood in my kitchen embarrassed about my little empty oil bottle tiff and the widows story I began to see things differently. I glanced over at a full pantry. Behind me was a full refrigerator and on the counter was a bowl of fruit all of which could probably feed a village in some places of the world and suddenly the word plenty was the only one I could think of. I have plenty; plenty of food, plenty of money, plenty of clothes, plenty of EVERYTHING but yet I often focus on what I don’t have instead of what I have plenty of. All of the sudden I felt pretty small, pretty foolish and pretty ungrateful.
The widow’s story continues when Elijah tells her to go ahead and make him some food and the Lord will take care of her and her son. In an unbelievable act of faith she uses the rest of her resources to feed Elijah and as promised, her oil jug and her flour jar never ran dry. The story is about so much more than kitchen staples! God offers the same promise to us each and every day. Just trust me, I will take care of you because I love you and I will reward your faithfulness. The widow loved God more than she loved her stuff. The widow was generous and trusting to an extreme; and her generosity and faithfulness were rewarded to an extreme. It’s a story that offered me perspective and reflection. It made me think about my own gratefulness and trust and generosity. I can’t change all the crazy stuff going on in the world right now but I can’t help but think how much different things would be if we focused on a few of the widow’s lessons and figured out how to use them in our own life.
A Seed To Plant: Read the story from 1Kings 17:7-16 and ask God to help you reflect on the story and show you how he wants you to draw closer to him.
Blessings on your day!
The alarm clock snooze button was a terrific invention. Whether you are the kind of person who taps it once or smacks it five times, it's like a bit of permission to stop time and resume what you love for just a wee bit.
There have been many times I wish life had a snooze button! This week is one of those times. This is the week each summer when Kansas comes to Michigan so I am officially hitting snooze for the whole week! There is coffee to drink and whiffle ball to play and a trip to the lake to be taken. There is a years worth of laughter and stories to catch up on so the words here will be on snooze until next week.
Blessings on your week...stay tuned till next Monday when the snooze is off and I get back to work!
Be still and know that I am God. Psalm 46:11
Good morning. It's time for a quiet pause here at Joyful Words. The pause started Monday as we all celebrated a beautiful long summer weekend holiday and it will continue as our family pauses to celebrate the life of my Father in Law. He was a wonderful, gentle, faithful, hard working man who will be terribly missed. We're going to pause a bit but I'll be back with more joyful words when the dust settles and the hearts heal a bit.
Blessings on your day!
Subscribe to Joyful Words Blog
Sheri's writing can also be found at Faith Catholic Publications and on CatholicMom.com