Joyful Words Blog
Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light for my path.
– Psalm 119:105
– Psalm 119:105
You have been told, O man, what is good, and what the Lord requires of you: Only to do the right and to love goodness and to walk humbly with our God. Micah 6:8
Well then, there you have it! The Prophet Micah summed it all up in one brief verse of Scripture! Do the right thing, love things that are good and walk humbly with God. So I’m wondering; if it’s that simple how do I manage to mess it up so often? I think the place where I get all snarled up is trying to make things more complicated than they need to be. I can be the “Queen of Overthinking” and it just leads me farther away from the honest, simple root of my purpose…anybody with me there? (I am seriously hoping there are readers out there nodding their head in agreement!)
Let’s see if I can back up the truck and do a better job with these three simple expectations. Step one: “do the right”. I guess I should ask myself, the “right” for whom? More often than I probably even recognize, I’m interested in doing what’s “right” for me! I have a tendency to do “Christian good” when it’s convenient for me. I’m good at helping and praying and doing nice things when it fits in the schedule but what about when I really have to go out of my way to do good? I also have to stop and ask myself about how many times I don’t “do right”. What if I know there is a conversation going on that I should keep my nose out of but I just have to listen in anyway, what do I do if the talk turns into gossip, how do I “do right” and get out of that conversation? I suppose this simple directive should keep me out of those conversations in the first place.
Step two: “Love goodness” I don’t think Micah was simply referring to lovely flowers and other good things found in creation. I think he was challenging us to something bigger. Here’s the deal with loving goodness…it isn’t always fashionable, popular or common. Loving goodness requires us to love without judgment. It means we look for the good and Christ like even in people who look very different than us. We can be pretty narrow in our description of what is “normal” in this society and turn a squinty eye at things that diverge from that vision. I believe the greatest sound and sight EVER is a child! They are the ultimate “Good” created by God. Not long ago I was visiting with a family who was joyfully announcing the upcoming birth of their 7th child and I was so excited for them and honored to share in their joy. That baby will be the most loved child on the planet! As I walked away from the family I overheard two women speaking critically about them and one woman said, “How do they think they are ever going to give that many children what they need? She doesn't even work so they are doomed to a life of hand-me-downs and Wal-Mart shoes.” I wanted to speak but the tears stung in my eyes and my heart hurt so bad I couldn’t even talk. if I had that moment to re-live I would ask when Nike’s and designer clothes became more important in forming Children of God than the overflowing love of a family. Loving goodness means having great compassion and respect for EVERYTHING God created and doing everything in our power to defend it without casting worldly judgments.
Step three: “Walk humbly with our God” The real trick with this one is to realize we can’t be in charge! It really should read, “Walk humbly BEHIND God.” We might do a better job if we remembered we can’t be first in our Christian walk, God Himself must occupy that spot. Walking humbly means coming to terms with the fact that we are NOTHING without HIM and the more we give Him credit for, the more He blesses us. God doesn’t need our approval or our praise in order to build Him up and support His ego or self-esteem…He needs praise and adoration from us so we can practice humility and submission to His will for our lives.
A Seed To Plant: Pick one of the three ideas from this reading from Micah and put it to work this week. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you choose the one your soul needs most!
Blessings on your day!
My comfort in my suffering is this: Your promise preserves my life. Psalm 119:50
I don’t always like doing hard or yucky stuff. As a kid I was more than happy to help my grandma do dishes or dust. I’m pretty sure I thought it was great stuff and I did it with a smile on my face! But when my own mom asked me to do the same things it was dreadful and I was known to occasionally insert some drama while I tried to worm my way of helping her.
This week more than 300 people I spend my school day with have been asked to do something hard and undesirable. In order to come back to in-person school the staff and 6th graders are masked all day and the younger kids are masked on the bus and while in the halls or working in groups. My classroom has been above 80 a couple days this week, making the mask even more undesirable. No matter where your opinion lands on the issue, the fact is, we do what is asked because that’s how bad we all want to be there. The kids have been amazing and so resilient! I’m so proud of them. The big lesson this week has been about suffering. Doing something hard or undesirable can be considered a suffering and the same grandma I helped dust and do dishes always said, “Don’t waste your suffering.” This week we made that our focus in an attempt to follow our friend Samantha’s advice and “Stay Positive”.
I don’t like hard stuff but I can easily do hard stuff for someone else so that’s the premise behind the question “Who are you wearing your mask for today?” It’s so powerful to pray for someone but it’s even more powerful to offer your suffering for them. It’s really as simple as saying, Lord, I offer this suffering to you. You can offer it for something or someone specific or ask the Lord to use your suffering to bless a soul in great need. We were on day two of answering “Who are you wearing your mask for?” and someone said they would wear their mask for someone who was having a tumor removed from their brain. We all agreed we would join in and offer some of our mask suffering for that intention too. The next day we found out that the surgery was such an amazing success the patient went home the same day they had surgery. When that story was shared I think every single person was touched and inspired and overwhelmed by the goodness of our God who took a simple suffering and used it in such a mighty way. As we walk into the building and put on those masks there is a change in attitude when we think or say, “This is for___.” I’m so happy to be back in school. I’m so happy to surround myself with middle lovelies who are so eager to grow in their faith and become disciples.
I hope the next time you have to do something hard or undesirable instead complaining, you’ll offer that small suffering to God. The result is great grace outpoured in powerful ways.
A Seed To Plant: Pick a suffering you can offer to God this week and before you do it, remember to think about “Who it’s for”!
Blessings on your day!
…“Come and see.” John 1:46
I’ve been going to school for decades but this morning feels like my first, first day ever! One of the amazing teachers I work with posted a meme yesterday that said starting school this year was going to feel like flying a plane while we were building it! Truth!!
Today some are starting school in person like St. Mary in Westphalia, some are starting virtually, some are starting at home and some are waiting. Each decision was made by a small group of people who are doing what they think is best for the kids they serve. What once was a universal thing, consistent across the board, has become a crazy assortment. I was feeling a little uneasy about that until I read the line, “come and see” from todays Gospel.
Even though the first day of school looks a little wonky, God is still the Father of us all. He is still bigger than a virus or any policy maker. He’s waiting to meet us in the new, the challenging and the weirdness of this new school year. He’s inviting us to dive in and do what we’ve been asked to do and “come and see” what he’s got planned. I won’t enjoy teaching in a mask all day when it’s 90 degrees in Michigan but I’m so excited to see the next crew of middle lovelies I can hardly wait to bust through the front door of school.
Today I ask your prayers for students, parents, teachers and school leaders as we all try to figure out how to live out our vocation. Please ask God to remind us to “come and see” where he’s working in all of this.
A Seed To Plant: Pray for children today!
Blessings on your day!
“Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours.” Luke 15:31
I heard someone on the radio the other day talking about the story of the Prodigal Son so I decided to give it another read and do some thinking on it. Every time I read the story I get angry with the first son. According to the customs of his time, asking for his inheritance was the same as saying his father was dead to him. As a parent I just can’t imagine what it must have felt like to be so bitterly betrayed by my own son. As I read on, I sometimes find myself cheering for the second son…the one who was obedient, hardworking respectful and never asked for anything. He seems like the good son for sure…or does he? Surely the first son is the bad son…or is he? As I prayed on this passage from Luke’s Gospel I began to see myself in both sons. I’m not gonna lie…I didn’t like that idea very much!
I saw myself in the second son but not for good reasons. Yes I try to be obedient to God’s will and yes I try to be grateful and conservative and not demanding but this wasn’t what was stirring in my heart. The second son was all about entitlement. He wasn’t concerned about his brother, he was concerned about himself. He didn’t stop for 2 seconds to see the relief or joy in his father’s eyes. He didn’t stop for 2 seconds to realize what a tremendous act of “pride swallowing” his brother had just demonstrated. And he certainly didn’t stop long enough to think about how extravagantly his father would shower him with love if given the chance. It was a gigantic open and shut case of “that’s not fair!” Why is it we have such a hard time being genuinely happy for others when good fortune comes their way and not ours? I guess I need to think more about the blessing of generosity and less about keeping score. I heard a story not long ago about a wealthy couple who had attended a fundraising event and won the big cash prize. The audience was full of second sons who whispered among themselves about how that couple certainly didn’t deserve to win. What all those whisperers didn’t know is that the couple humbly accepted the cash prize and used every penny of it to buy groceries, diapers and gas cards for two struggling young families in their church.
The first son…what could he possibly have to teach me? I smugly thought I would never be so bold, wasteful, irresponsible and disrespectful. God wouldn’t let it off my heart so I stayed a while longer and thought about that lousy first son and as I sat and prayed, he began to sprout some redeeming qualities. I began to consider things like his courage, humility and desire to reconcile. He knew he had hurt his father but something deep inside him wanted to make that right. He wasn’t asking to have everything back to normal; he was willing to be a hired man, not a son. True, his return might have been motivated by selfish reasons like hunger and pride but I can’t even imagine being brave enough to take the risk. He had to be willing to own up to every one of his mistakes and face the judgment and consequences that might come. He left home prideful and arrogant and he returned broken and weak and a complete failure, but yet he returned. As he walked down that road to his father’s house every weakness was on full display. I’m not sure I could muster that kind of honesty. I can go to all sorts of lengths to conceal my weaknesses and failures; it must have been quite a task to lay it all on the line like he did. I noticed that not once did the son offer any kind of excuse or rationale for his behavior. He just told it like it was and hoped to be accepted in spite of the brokenness he brought with him; I don’t know about you but I could take a lesson there!
I spent so much time thinking about the sons, I forgot the star of the story…the father. The father in this story is our father too. Our Heavenly Father loves us with the same unconditional love as the father in the story. He will always welcome us back no matter what we’ve done or where we’ve been and he will be so happy to see us there will be great rejoicing. He loves us even when we’re too busy keeping score to realize only he knows the perfect reason blessings are bestowed as they are. I realized he wants us to know his forgiveness and his generosity. He wants us to remember our job isn’t to focus on the behavior of his children; our job is to focus on the love of the Father.
A Seed To Plant: Pick a favorite Gospel story and give it a read with fresh eyes, asking God to put you right into the story so he can reveal his truth and love to your heart.
Blessings on your day!
For where two or three gather in my name, I am there among them.’ Matthew 18:20
The past two weeks have been a giant “welcome back”! I didn’t realize how much I missed live ministry and physical connection until it came barreling back into my calendar. I’ve been meeting with teacher friends, celebrating weddings and presenting teacher retreats. I’m typing this blog from a teeny airport in Kearney Nebraska at the tail end of a fabulous weekend spent with some beautiful Catholic women. My heart is so full and I am so grateful to have been a part of the two or three or many who have gathered!
After months of very little on my calendar, it took a bit of recalibrating to get back into full school/ministry mode. As I have been traveling this month I realize we are all readjusting. Some folks are are like labrador retriever puppies released from a basket. They are so happy and exited and they wanna hug everyone and talk to everyone and be right next to everyone. I’ve discovered some folks are fearful and nervous about being out and about. They want to keep their distance and they want others to do the same. The third group of people I notice are those who really aren’t sure what to feel. Guess what…they are all ok! Each group is right…each reaction is correct. I’ve gotten much better these past few weeks at noticing, observing and respecting. I suppose those are skills we can all work on a little.
I’d like to thank the lovely ladies in Nebraska and the beautiful Catholic School Teachers I’ve spent time with this month for some great lessons. I’ve learned that you can see people smile even if they’re wearing a mask. I’ve learned you can sense emotion and offer comfort even if you’re six feet apart. I’ve learned that we truly are made for connection. I’ve learned that despite the apprehension about a virus, most folks really want to get back to some kind of regular or familiar. I’ve learned that compassion trumps opinion and listening is more therapeutic than ever. I’ve learned that this pandemic has affected us deeply and so very differently and those differences are best handled with understanding and respect. It really isn’t a good time to pick sides because when we’re fragile, confrontation just adds to the brokenness and division we are all desperately trying to figure out and mend.
I have tremendous respect for leaders who are responsible for bringing people back together. I’m thankful for teachers who are coming back because they love kids and they know they have to figure out how to get them together because they need it so much. I’m thankful for a group of Nebraska women who choose to attend a Catholic Conference and open up their worried hearts to the love of the Father. I’m in awe of the people who shared their struggles and their burdens with me this month, reminding me that we desperately need connection so we can share and laugh and pray and sometimes cry together about the craziness that has swirled around us these past months. Mostly I have realized how important it is to pray for each other and remember everyone is trying to do the best they can and when we do gather, know He is there too.
A Seed To Plant: This week pray for school teachers and leaders as they prepare to welcome kids back to school…however that looks.
Blessings on your day!
Be still and know that I am God. Psalm 46:11
Good morning! The new house is almost ready...the old house needs some cleaning before the new farmer takes over...there are about 70hundred boxes that need to be moved and dealt with...a few schools have asked me to come help them prayerfully get ready for this crazy new school year...I need to get ready for this crazy new school year myself. My head is pretty full of lists and ideas and details so my writing will be quiet for a while. God is so busy working in all of this great stuff going on...there is so much to celebrate and be excited about...I know he will work mightily in this mess and I know I'll have so many things to write about as I stand back and watch what he does, but for now...I just need to put the laptop away and get busy. I'll be back with more joyful words soon...I just wanted to let you know it's gonna be quiet for a bit.
A Seed To Plant...drag out and pray the litany of trust I posted a couple weeks ago...we could all use it as we head into August!
Blessings on your day
Sheri's writing can also be found at Faith Catholic Publications and on CatholicMom.com