Joyful Words Blog
Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light for my path.
– Psalm 119:105
– Psalm 119:105
“If you are wise, you will be reservoirs and not channels” St. Bernard
When my brother Jim was young he would play for hours with his farm toys and cars in the dirt. Dad cut down a big tree and pulled out the stump one summer and it left a huge bare spot in the back yard. Jim quickly moved his stuff to that dirt spot and made roads and buildings out of twigs. That was his spot the whole summer. After a night of heavy rain he went out to the spot to discover a giant puddle right in the middle of his city. He got out his bulldozer and began to dig channels but he quickly discovered that all they did was drain the big puddle and leave him with nothing. In his mind he was trying to create rivers and a lake but in no time at all the channels carried the water away and the giant puddle dried up. It was all very disappointing to a little boy!
When I read this quote from St. Bernard I remembered that little boy and his adventures one hot Kansas summer and I realized our walk with God can be just like those channels he dug in the dirt. If all we are is a channel all we will be capable of is taking from the reservoir until we have drained it dry. Jim tried all day long to take buckets of water and re-fill the reservoir but the channels just kept sucking it dry. St. Bernard continues his thoughts by saying, “The channels let the water flow away and do not retain a drop. But the reservoir is first filled, and then, without emptying itself, pours out its overflow which is ever renewed over the fields which it waters.” In his book God Help Me, Jim Beckman adds, “We are not meant to be channels just moving things from here to there, even good things that we have heard or learned. We are designed to be reservoirs filled to capacity with the very life of God, even overflowing. It is the overflow that becomes our ministry.” I hope Mr. Beckman won’t mind me sharing that piece of his great thinking!
So, the big question…how do we become a reservoir and not a channel? It’s simple, we allow God to fill us…again and again and again until the overflow floods into everything around us. The only way I know to do that is through prayer. If the best we do is offer prayer while driving or waiting at a stoplight or while we sit in the drive-thru line the best we will be is a channel because that kind of prayer life will never fill us. If the best we offer God in conversation is a laundry list of needs and wants we will find ourselves empty and dry. If the best we offer God are our well-intended attempts to fit deliberate, consistent prayer time into our lives the best we will be is a channel. A reservoir takes work and takes time. If we think we just don’t have time for 15 to 30 minutes of reservoir building prayer then we probably need it more than we realize. Another great line from Jim Beckman’s book was in response to the excuses we make about not having time for consistent, intimate daily prayer is “no one ever died of hunger because of not having time to eat.” That screamed to me, you have time for what you make time for!
Sometimes my head spins when I see some of the crazy stuff going on in our culture! I am not a wise or powerful woman who can change much, but I know for sure there is one thing I can change and that’s me; I’m going to work on changing from a channel to a reservoir. We all have a mission to share the love of Christ and the world would be such a different place if we were sharing from the overflow of our reservoir. Just as the earth depends on life giving water, God’s children depend on HIS life giving water so let’s get to filling up our reservoirs!
A Seed To Plant: Take an honest look at your daily prayer life and ask God to show you what changes you can make to become a reservoir.
Blessings on your day!
Just a little message to let you know I'm going to hit the pause button this week. I have a couple of big projects that need some attention. As you pause in Joyful Words blog reading for the week, I would be grateful if you used those reading minutes to pray for some specific intentions sitting very heavy on my heart. In your charity, please lift these intentions to the Father...
*For the soul of sweet baby Alice and everyone who loved her and bears the grief of her absence.
*For sweet Brooke and her family who are courageously beginning the battle against Leukemia.
*For the lovely Audrey, may she be granted the gifts of healing and grace.
*For the Holy Spirit to supply me with the words and love the teachers in the Diocese of Wheeling WV need.
*For happy endings and new beginnings for those experiencing change in their lives.
*For those who struggle with anxiety, worry and depression. May they feel the touch of Jesus in a very specific way this week.
Thank you for the prayers...stay tuned, I'll be back next week with more Joyful Words.
Blessings on your day!
"I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33
I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately about all the people knee deep in lousy stuff. I have gotten many emails and texts in the past few weeks from people who need prayer to navigate their way through life. There is sickness, distress, family and job difficulties and some of these requests are swirling really close to home. I’m so happy they ask for prayer, and I’ve been praying my little tail off and absolutely; I trust, I believe and my faith is strong as a bolder but every now and again I just wanna say, “Hey, wait a dog-gone minute God, this is all too much!” I’m sure that comment during prayer is followed by a heavenly face-palm!
The big question I’ve been hearing from those folks struggling is, “If God loves us, why does this lousy stuff happen?” I would have to say that’s a completely fair question and I wish like heck I could type an answer to make it all better but here is the truth, A) God doesn’t MAKE bad stuff happen and he loves us even harder when it does and B) Sometimes there isn’t a simple answer to complicated things. With my heart a little heavy, I’ve spent some time prayin, and thinkin and here are some of the things that made me feel better.
There is a big difference in being involved and being in control. God is completely involved in our lives and the more we pray and grow in our relationship with him, the more involved he will be. Because of our free will, God does not control our lives. Some of the distress I’ve been asked to pray for is the result of someone doing something lousy with their free will and leaving others to suffer in the wake of poor choices. God cannot be in control of that but he can absolutely be involved in our lives as we navigate through it if we invite him to meet us there and lead us through. He won’t wave a magic wand and make it all disappear but he will give us the grace and the strength to endure the difficulties if we ask.
Bad stuff isn’t part of God’s plan. He doesn’t give people cancer or trap children in a cave because his “master plan” indicated it’s time for it. That is not how a loving Father operates. If a dad decided to go for a walk with his son, and along the way the son stepped in a gopher hole and hurt his ankle that would be a lousy thing. Lousy as it is, the dad didn’t make it happen. He was absolutely there but he didn’t plan it or want it to happen; he wasn’t in control of it, but you can bet your bottom dollar that he instantly became involved. He felt the hurt, he poured out compassion and comfort and he did everything possible to aid in his sons healing.
If God controlled everything, we might think life would be easier and long gone would be fear, suffering and pain. I suppose in some ways that makes sense but because of our sinful nature (thank you Adam, Eve and Satan) we want what we want and we aren’t always so good at trusting and following the rules, let alone being completely controlled, so this idea has some holes. God doesn’t force his love or his perfect will on us, it’s up to us to choose to love, trust, surrender and follow him. When we’re tempted to think God makes bad things happen it’s good to remember a few truths from scripture. Jesus heals the sick; he doesn’t bring about their illness. Often the healing isn’t physical but it is spiritual and the result of that healing can lead to our salvation. Jesus liberates the oppressed; he doesn’t prolong their oppression. Jesus sets the prisoner free; he doesn’t imprison. Jesus restores a broken creation; he doesn’t further cripple it through disease, suffering, and pain.
When I find myself feeling overwhelmed about the sadness or madness of a lousy situation, I have to reach for the three biggest truth of all. They’re stiff ones and sometimes they go down like vinegar but they are enormous truth spoken in even bigger love. The first; every situation no matter how sad or tragic or difficult, is a situation where God can bring about a greater good. The part that makes that really tough to wrap our heads and hearts around is sometimes we hurt too much to see the good and often the greater good is for someone else. The second; Scripture says, there will be trouble and it is only through suffering we can fully come to Christ. When I realize that, and stop to contemplate the suffering of both the Father and the Son; done for me…it really puts things in perspective. Finally, heaven is the reward, not earth. As humans, we cling to the familiar and fear the unknown. If we could begin to unwrap even a tiny corner of the delight, glory and absolute magnificence of eternal life we would run from this world so fast we’d be nothing but a streak!
The lousy stuff is never what we wish for and it’s never handed out as a punishment but there is love, healing, and even salvation when we truly let the Father get involved and walk with us through the lousy. The lousy stuff is where God shows his power, his compassion and his amazing ability to unite, support and draw people closer to each other and to heaven.
A Seed To Plant: Spend some time asking God to be involved in your struggles or the struggles of someone you love. Trust him and then watch to see the way he works.
Blessings on your day!
Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord! Psalm 27:14
Dave and I were watching a movie and one of the characters was an Amish woman. She was giving a rather worldly woman a ride in her buggy. The fancy lady was complaining about how slow they were going and the Amish lady said, “One of the secrets to life is realizing that just because you get somewhere fast or do something quickly, it doesn’t add any extra time to your life.” So much truth; probably for all of us.
Jesus was pretty clear that our mission on earth is to get to heaven and that is done by serving others. Perhaps the greatest danger of being in a hurry is feeling like we don’t have time to serve. We are busy folks and there is laundry and meals and cleaning and all the stuff that causes the days to go by in a blur. Since I heard that wise little TV Amish lady speak her truth, it’s been heavy on my heart and in his fanciness he hammered the lesson home.
As many of you know, our lovely daughter has a fabulous groom and they moved to St. Louis MO where she works as an Oncology Nurse. She’s busy learning her way around a big city, a big hospital, a new marriage and navigating her way through all things new. If you know my Shannon you know she goes all in…heart first and she does it if fast motion. Knowing that she’s in the middle of lots of things that are new, my prayer for her the last couple of weeks has been, “Father, help her slow down and see the people you put in her path and show her what they need.” Nobody knew that I was praying those words several times a day except me and the Father who loves us both like crazy.
A couple of days ago I got a text from Shannon in the middle of the day that said, “Awesome God moment today!” She was discharging a patient and after she wheeled him to the parking ramp to get in his car and go home, she turned with the wheelchair to return to her floor. She glanced over her shoulder and noticed an elderly lady having a really difficult time walking and making her way into the hospital. Shannon told her she’d be happy to give her a ride to whatever part of the hospital she needed to go to. As they were wheeling along, the lady shared that her son was very sick. Shannon took her where she needed to go and found out later that day that the son had died very shortly after the mom got there. Her story made me cry thinking about how sad it would have been if that mother had missed her chance to share those last minutes with her son. God truly does put us just where he needs us at precisely the right time.
I’m so glad God helped Shannon notice. I’m so glad her gave her that great feeling of being part of his plan and serving. God chooses to use our gifts and our talents and our time in ways we can’t even imagine or predict. I suppose the question is…do we let him? Do we slow down enough to see who he’s putting in our path or are we too busy with our to-do list? I think the Amish lady in the buggy had time to look around, I wonder what I’d see if I slowed down enough to look over my shoulder more often. Maybe we should all give that a try.
A Seed To Plant: Each morning for the next few days pray these words; “Father, help me slow down and see the people you put in my path and show me what they need.”
Blessings on your day!
Happy Independence day! Since today is a holiday for most folks, (THANK YOU to nurses, farmers, firefighters, law enforcement and all the other folks who don't get holidays!!) I just thought I'd toss up a short post with a simple challenge.
This is the holiday we celebrate our freedom so I'd like to challenge everyone to exercise a practice the world desperately needs. Sometime this week please practice the freedom to pray. Pray in public where others can see, whip out a Rosary in the park or pray before a meal in a restaurant. Go to a crowded place wearing a shirt with a christian message...anything you can think of to express and share your faith publicly...because we can!
The second part of the challenge will take a little more boldness. Ask someone, anyone if they have something you could pray for. If you see someone stressed, frazzled, sad or who just looks alone, very kindly say hello and ask them if there is something they'd like you to pray for. Seems kinda scary but you will be surprised at the outcome! You have no idea the kind of impact bringing Jesus into someones life can make. Don't worry about the who or the where, just ask the Holy Spirit to point out a person and he absolutely will.
If we love Jesus so much and we live in a country where we are free to share that love, shouldn't we be talking about him way more often than we are? An athiest once told a priest that if Jesus was so great and he should really believe in him then why didn't people who believe in him talk about him more?
Enjoy your long weekend, thank God for your freedom and those who protect it and go be Free to Pray.
Blessings on your day!
And the peace that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6
Growing up in Kansas, I was no stranger to whopper thunder storms! The hail, the tornado warnings, the wind and booming thunder was all a part of spring and summer. I am a storm lover and I have my dad to thank for that. As a little girl, when a big storm would come rolling through I remember my dad would look me in the eye and say “it’s gonna be fine, we’re safe.” It was such a simple statement but I remember the calm that came with his words. Once I heard them, I could sit right next to him and enjoy the lighting and the sounds. His re-assuring words put everything in perspective and allowed me to focus on something other than fear.
Last week I had the opportunity to attend the Amazing Parish conference. It was such a fabulous event and my mind and my heart are still processing all the hopeful, happy and exciting events of that conference. Before we boarded our flight, I opened my laptop and on social media I saw faithful Catholics pitted against one another arguing about what should be fundamental church teaching and it hurt my heart. I felt like I was facing a storm and I felt uneasy. As I sat at that conference with more than 600 Catholics eager to find ways to bring Jesus to a hurting world, Fr. John Riccardo said something that brought the same kind of peace and comfort to my stormy heart that my dad’s words always did in the middle of the thunder and wind.
Fr. John pointed out three truths. First, our world is crying; wailing actually. Second, our church is crying and third, we…me, you, all of us are not alive by chance in fact we were born for exactly this time. Then came the words my heart needed most… “God is not nervous right now!” It was like my dad saying, “it’s gonna be fine, we’re safe.” Those words were like a giant blanket of peace. I still hear those words echo in my mind and I think, of course he’s not nervous…he’s God and he has equipped us for exactly this time and place. Fr. John reminded us that Jesus doesn’t NEED anything but he WANTS our hearts. How often do we wonder what we need to do instead of enjoying the fact that we are desperately wanted simply so he can fill our hearts with his love.
In posts to come, I will share some of the amazing jewels from the conference but for now, I just want to leave you with a few simple words. God’s not nervous…we aren’t needed; we’re wanted!
A Seed To Plant: Sit with these simple words, be comforted by them and ask God how he wants them to change your heart.
Blessings on your day
Sheri's writing can also be found at Faith Catholic Publications and on CatholicMom.com