Joyful Words Blog
Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light for my path.
– Psalm 119:105
– Psalm 119:105
Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Romans 12:12
I’m sure we’ve all heard the line, “if you aren’t part of the solution; you must be part of the problem.” They are wise words but perhaps a bit misunderstood. I think being part of the solution doesn’t necessarily mean solving the problem single handedly but rather making an honest attempt at working toward something better. There are some mighty problems in this world to be solved and I sure shootin didn’t cause them, plus I know for a fact that I am not in the position to solve them. So should I throw in the towel and go cry in the closet? Nope! I was reading an article about an amazing woman named Dorothy Day and she had one little idea that put it all in perspective for me.
Dorothy Day was a saving grace to so many who were left physically, spiritually and emotionally crippled by the devastation of the Great Depression. Her motives and actions were genuine, compassionate and life changing. She provided a beacon of hope during a time when there wasn’t much. She didn’t solve the financial problems of the day but she worked in her own way to be part of the solution one person and one family at a time. She didn’t offer money, but rather provided the most basic needs of the suffering. She offered dignity, shelter, hope and joy…so much joy. She didn’t give a lot ,but what she gave mattered greatly. She said, “We contribute to the misery of the world if we ignore beauty and joy in life. If we seek the will of the One who sent Jesus, we need to open our hearts to joy.”
It’s not hard to find the problems, but we get in a big pickle when we have an even harder time finding the beauty around us. It isn’t often we see a smiling baby or a gorgeous harvest moon on the front page of the paper or newsfeed but when we do see them they give us a lift. Who doesn’t love a good giggling baby video shared on social media? They just let us escape for a few minutes. After reading the article I realized my role in the solution was easier than I thought. It’s my job to connect with beauty and joy. John Ruskin was a famous art critic from England who used to say “We have the duty of delight.” That line made me realize we sometimes see joy and beauty and peaceful things as frivolous and non-productive. We think we have to work and take things to task and ponder serious matters in order to be responsible, informed citizens. Did you hear that, I think God just belly laughed!” We’ve got it so twisted up it isn’t even funny.
God is the maker of joy and beauty not the creator of evil, cynical, corrupt or absurd so why not focus on the things he made and leave the rest of the mess alone? Dorothy Day didn’t solve the problem of the Great Depression, but she sure was a solution to those she was able to bring delight to. Sounds like a much better way to spend my day, what do you think?
A Seed To Plant: Take some time to sit and make a list of things in your world that are beautiful and joyful and then go about the duty of delighting in them instead of stewing over problems you can’t solve. It is perhaps the most important work we can do!
Blessings on your day!
Trust in the LORD. Have faith, do not despair. Trust in the LORD. Psalm 27:14
I really enjoy traveling and meeting people in all the cool places the Father invites me to tell his story. August has been a 4 state month and I got to add so many new faces and names to my heart. I’ve been privileged to hear stories of great joy and tremendous struggle. I’ve had the chance to laugh with people, cry with people and pray with people. I’m so grateful for the adventures he sends me on but sometimes the travel can be tricky. I’ve discovered that air travel is a great way to build trust and surrender and as usual; the Father doesn’t disappoint. God has showed up in some pretty fancy ways this month so I just thought I’d tell you my favorite stories.
*The West Virginia story…the retreat finished early Friday afternoon but the only flight I could book didn’t leave until 7:30 Saturday night. I was not thrilled about spending more than 24 hours in a hotel room and airport waiting but I told God I’d look at it as a chance to practice Psalm 46:11 Be still and know I am God. I did however put in a request for a little travel blessing to see if there could be any way he could get me home earlier. As I wrapped up the retreat ,Mary Ann, the lovely woman who invited me to WV told me she was leaving to drive to Michigan and offered to take me along. Instead of getting home at 1am Sunday morning, I actually got home at 8:30 Friday night. Talk about a travel blessing!
*The Texas story…my flight from Lubbock to Dallas kept getting bumped back and my layover in Dallas had been whittled down to 45 minutes and I was a little concerned about hiking through that big airport in such a short time so when Tricia dropped me off I asked her to say a little prayer at 8 pm so I could scoot quickly and catch that last flight from TX to MI. As I got out of her truck I got a text that the flight to Dallas had been bumped another hour and I’d miss my connection completely. As I walked into the terminal I heard an announcement that a flight to Dallas was in the final phase of boarding. I scrambled through security and noticed it was 4:09 and that the flight was departing at 4:23. They saw me coming with my shoes in my hand and quickly changed my reservation and got me on that flight just as they were about to close the door. I really savored my 2 hour layover in Dallas that evening!
*The Iowa story…I was so excited that after a two day training I would be able to finish up Saturday afternoon and get a 7pm flight home. Getting home Saturday night was exciting since Monday is the fist day of school. My excitement faded a few weeks before the trip when the airline cancelled that evening flight and put me on a 6am flight Sunday morning. In an attempt to avoid having the folks from St. Paul the Apostle parish do a 4am pick-up, I decided to be brave and take my first go at an Uber. I loaded the app, scheduled the pick up and set my alarm for 3:30am. I waited in front of the hotel for my Uber and they didn’t come so I headed back in to the hotel and called both of the local cab companies and they had no cabs available. I said a quick prayer, “Lord I came to Iowa for you so please get me home.” As soon as I finished that prayer the man at the front desk re-appeared and introduced me to a member of the maintenance staff at the hotel and said that she would be happy to give me a ride to the airport.
I’m sitting here in the Chicago airport early on a Sunday morning with such a full heart and giant smile because I just can’t believe how faithful he is. I always remind myself that the God who could part the Red Sea could certainly arrange a flight schedule so I could get where I needed to be. He rewards that trust again and again and sometimes he even shows off a little so I can be reminded of how fancy he can be. I’ll be home by noon and that gives me plenty of time to hang out with my husband and finish up a few things to get ready for a whole new batch of middle lovelies on the first day of school tomorrow. God is so good!
A Seed To Plant: Sit for a few minutes and think back over the month of August and make a list of things that have happened that were evidence of God taking care of the details of your life then make sure you thank him!
Blessings on your day!
“No one can serve two masters.m He will either hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and man.” Matthew 6:24
It’s almost time for school to begin and I wanted to practice my question asking and I decided to begin with the Joyful Words readers. Question one: What are the things you love or really like? Question two: What are the things that occupy your time your thoughts and your actions? And finally, question three: What are ten things you just can’t imagine living without?
I’m sure all of our answers would provide a wide variety of information and if I had the chance to read everyones answers I imagine I would be persuaded or inspired to change some of my own. I read a quote from St. Bernard the other day that actually bubbled up these questions. The quote was this, “What we love, we shall grow to resemble.” My first reaction was; sweet, I love Jesus so I’m growing to resemble him! Then reality slapped me up side the head and it didn’t take long for me to hone in on all the ways I DO NOT resemble Jesus and that led to the three questions I’m proposing to myself and all of you who read these words.
No matter what shows up on your answer sheet it’s a great reality check and opportunity to adjust our thinking because ultimately we can’t serve two masters as Matthew reminds us in his Gospel. I can still enjoy the things of earth like coffee and sitting on my porch but I need to keep everything in the order that points me to the Father.
A Seed To Plant: Take some time this week to ponder and write down your answers to the three questions and then let the words of St. Bernard guide you to have a great conversation with the Father.
Blessings on your day!
To every thing there is a season and a time for every purpose under heaven: Ecclesiastes 3:1
It’s that time again! Time to look at my classroom and see everything neatly in its place. The floor is shiny, the books are in order, the pencils are long and pointy and the top of my desk is clearly visible. Its quiet and settled but not for long.
As I stood in the doorway taking one last look before I turned off the light I smiled about how quickly the room would change and I laughed because I wouldn’t want it any other way. Some things in life are just meant to be used and get a little messy. It might be nice if the floor would stay shiny and the sink didn’t get all splattered up but that isn’t life. I’ll take the commotion and the movement and the scuffing up because it means we’re moving and doing and learning and living. I realized my faith can be a little like my classroom.
If I wanted, I could probably institute a set of ridiculous rules to keep my room in perfect order. We could be scrubbing the sink and floors and organizing the book shelves and cleaning desks every ten minutes to keep it fancy looking but that doesn’t seem very reasonable. My faith isn’t meant to be pulled out and practiced only in perfect, shiny conditions. God doesn’t love me because my life is all in good order. He still loves me if I get a little smudged and wrinkled. If I wanted to keep everything in order I could sit in church all day so I wouldn’t get messy but then I wouldn’t be living my faith or sharing my faith. My faith, like my classroom, would probably do best with a “full steam ahead” philosophy.
I save my favorite job for last; the desk note. More than a hundred times in Scripture we are referred to as God’s Beloved and I think we forget how very much he loves us. On each desk written above the students name are the words God’s Beloved. I sit at each desk as I write and bless it with Holy Water and pray for the student who will sit there and I pray that I will be the teacher that student needs me to be. I ask God to remind me daily how much he loves this child so that I can love them too. As I switched off the light I prayed a prayer of blessing over the tidy, shiny room and thanked God for this incredible work he’s called me to do. I asked him to remind me that I am his beloved and to make me act like I knew it. I headed to my car and couldn’t help but smile a little bigger.
A Seed To Plant: Write the message “God’s Beloved (your name)” in a couple of places where you will see it often and then soak in the truth of that message. It’s true when you’re shiny and when you’re not!
Blessings on your day!
Come to me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest. Matthew 11:28
I love rocking chairs and my favorite place to rock is outside on a porch or a deck. When I have the chance to sit and rock, there is a peace and calm that just seem to wash over me. It’s funny how quickly you fall into a gentle rhythm when you rock; something often missing from the chaos of our days. There are a lot of things we do quickly but rocking in a rocking chair isn’t really one of them. Its funny how just a few minutes of gently moving back and forth can cause you to slow your roll and breathe.
In all honesty, I’ve never really thought too much about rocking until this weekend. I was sitting in a rocking chair on a patio looking out at the dry Texas Prairie. I was just taking in all the beauty of the redish brown dirt and dry landscape. I noticed as I rocked that it was so flat I could see for miles. I sat there just soaking it all in watching a couple of rabbits hopping around amongst the rose bushes. It was dry and hot but the wind was blowing a bit so I didn’t really notice the heat. The view was beautiful in its own way. As I rocked, it occurred to me that just last weekend I was rocking in West Virginia and the view was so very different. As I rocked last weekend I looked out on the tree covered mountains. Everything was green and there were flowers of every color within my view. From that rocker I could also see and hear two beautiful fountains. I remember just sitting there soaking it all in until the mosquitoes chased me inside.
As I rocked away in West Texas thinking about rocking in West Virginia I thought about rocking on my own front porch looking out at the corn field as we chatted with the neighbors who stopped by for a visit. This summer I’ve rocked in a lot of different places. I got the chance to rock on the porch with my dad and my brother who live more than 600 miles away. I’ve rocked and prayed. I’ve rocked and laughed. I’ve rocked and sipped hot coffee. And last night I rocked and cried as I prayed for the soul of my good friends dad who lost his battle with cancer. This summer I’ve rocked babies to sleep and listened to the tales of my favorite new nurse. As I type this blog on a late night flight back home to Michigan I realized the Father has used something I love to teach me something important.
As I pondered all my “rocking” it occurred to me that those times stick so vividly in my mind because the all have something in common. I slowed down and opened my eyes to what was around me. In the slow gentle rhythm of the rocker I was able to soak in the beauty of my surroundings. I was able to soak in the presence of those rocking with me. I was able to just be still, shut up and take in all in. When I think about it, I was really seeing God and his goodness in the Texas prairie and the West Virginia mountains and the Clinton County corn and in the sleepy baby Francis and the giggly baby Silas. I felt the love of God as I laughed and prayed with family and friends. In a rocker I am reminded of the slow and gentle ways God is a part of the rhythm of every moment of every day. The trick however is to slow down and recognize it.
I love how fancy God gets sometimes with his lessons. It would have been so easy for him to make something in my life come to a crazy screeching halt to teach me to slow down but instead he let me learn while enjoying some beautiful stuff and people all while rocking in my chair. Is he great or what!
A Seed To Plant: Take a few minutes this week and sit in a rocking chair. Let yourself slow down and allow God grant you some peace.
Blessings on your day!
“This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased, listen to him.” Matthew 17:5
In the first half of chapter 17 in Matthew’s Gospel we read the magnificent story of the Transfiguration. You would think that after seeing something as indescribably amazing as the Transfiguration, Peter, James and John would never doubt or struggle with trusting the will of God again. I mean really, after seeing what they had just seen how could they ever doubt, question or stray from God again. But in his infinite wisdom I think God knew they would because they were human so as if the events of the day hadn’t been powerful enough, he included a simple and precise verbal statement, “This is my beloved Son with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” The key phrase is at the end…listen to him. I don’t know about you but I sure could use that reminder every now and again.
I had a professor in college one time that handed out a test. It was the standard fill in the bubble test that we had seen dozens of times before. As the question and answer sheets circulated around the room he strongly advised waiting until he had finished making announcements and giving directions before beginning. I’m a people pleaser so I sat there listening to him ramble on as I watched everyone around me quickly reading and filling in bubbles. I was just about ready to tune him out and get started when I heard him quietly say, if you’re still listening to my voice, put down your pencil, don’t say a word and in five minutes bring your test forward, you will receive a perfect score on today’s exam. I thought a perfect exam score was awesome but as I read this passage from Matthew, I realized what I could gain from listening to HIM would most certainly blow that right out of the water!
God demonstrates his power and presence in our lives all the time but in our weakness; we often don’t listen to him. Sometimes it’s as if God’s grand workings in our lives make us feel entitled to float along with independent holiness instead of falling to our knees in thanksgiving and submission. I’m famous for taking the “holy glow feeling” that comes from identifying God’s handiwork and using it to plug along on my own instead of truly listening to him. I have to remember to listen and look for Jesus all the time; in times of blessing as well as times of struggle. He knows what’s best, he knows what’s right, and even when I’m in the middle of a hissy fit determined to do it my own way, he just patiently waits for me to listen and do it his way!
A Seed To Plant: When do I find it most difficult to “listen to him?” Father of wisdom, show me where I need to listen and guide me to live my life like I’ve heard your voice.
Blessings on your day!
Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, (love) is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails…1 Corinthians 13:4-8
I remember hearing a long time ago that if you were dating a person and you wanted to really understand if they were the “right person” you should read this passage from 1 Corinthians and insert their name. I thought that was excellent thinking but I was already married so I didn’t give it much thought. I have no idea what made it pop into my head the other day but it just sat there. Today I woke up to the news of more shootings and more folks sharing their opinions about gun control evil people and the woes of the world.
As the bad news bubbled in my heart I came across this quote by St. Teresa of Calcutta. "Spread love everywhere you go: first of all in your own house. Give love to your children, to your wife or husband, to a next door neighbor... Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier. Be the living expression of God's kindness; kindness in your face, kindness in your eyes, kindness in your smile, kindness in your warm greeting.” I’m not sure we understand how important it is to love one another. It was the basic command of Jesus yet we seem to get it so very twisted up.
As all of this tumbled around in my heart and my head I remembered that I have absolutely no control over anyone else actions but my own and it made me start to think about how I loved others. The teacher in me thought about a scoring rubric or grading scale for judging my “love ability.” Somewhere in the middle of a really long bike ride on a beautiful Sunday afternoon this reading had a purpose and I realized the rubric already existed. I pulled out the New Testament, found 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 and began to read it slowly inserting my own name. It sounded like this, “Sheri is patient, Sheri is kind. Sheri is not jealous, Sheri is not pompous…” I’ll be honest, there were parts I really couldn’t say out loud because they weren’t consistently true. I wanted to say “Sheri is not quick-tempered…most of the time or Sheri endures almost all things.” It was not an easy read! It was glaringly obvious where I fall short.
I can’t change the world but I can change me. There will always be awful stuff going on in the world, there always has been and one powerless teacher from Michigan isn’t going to end world violence but God isn’t asking me to. He’s asking me to love others as he loves me. This reading from St. Paul’s letter is a great place to start. The cool thing about it is, if I try harder to get it right, not only will I feel better, but the Father will be pleased and who doesn’t want a new way to please the Father. It might sound so simple but I really believe the world will get better if we all learn to love a little harder.
Blessings on your day!
A Seed To Plant: Spend some quiet minutes reading this passage and inserting your name and see where the Holy Spirit leads your heart.
Give thanks to the Lord for He is good, his love is everlasting. 1Thessalonians 5:18
Todays post is more of a homework assignment than a message. I keep running across a quote which I'm sure is familiar to many of you. It's funny how it just keeps popping up so I'm guessing that's a pretty clear message for me and perhaps for you too. It's actually perfect timing too because I'm on the road and this was just the perfect quick little nugget for an already late Thursday post. My prayer is that the Lord does something beautiful in your heart with this homework assignment.
Here's the quote: "What if you woke up and the only things you had left were the things your thanked God for the day before?"
The assignment: Pray on those words for a while and then make a list of what you would have today. The second part of your assignment is to make a list of the things you want to make sure you wake up with tomorrow. And just so you know..."THANK YOU GOD FOR EVERYTHING" is cheating. Let's really take some time to go through a detailed accounting of all the things we need to say thank you for.
Blessings on your day!
Sheri's writing can also be found at Faith Catholic Publications and on CatholicMom.com