Joyful Words Blog
Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light for my path.
– Psalm 119:105
– Psalm 119:105
If you love me you will keep my commandments. John:14:15
I think something we all wrestle with in our Christian walk is sin and God’s laws. It’s easy to get discouraged and a little frustrated about God’s laws and how our human nature can make it so darn hard to live within them. We can sometimes look at his laws as restricting and stiff. People have turned away from church thinking that if God really loved us he wouldn’t give us so many rules and regulations. To some, living his laws is like an intrusion on freedoms and pleasures. I was recently reminded of an explanation so crystal clear and beautifully simple it brought me some peace so I thought I’d share!
The speaker who offered this illustration showed a slide of his rescue dog Sophie. He told us shortly after he got her, she ran away and he looked and looked but couldn’t find her anywhere. He didn’t know where she was and he couldn’t protect her. Sometime later he got a call from the Sheriff’s department telling him they had his Sophie. Unfortunately in her little get away, she had been hit by a car. He nursed her back to health although some of her injuries never healed. He used this story to illustrate the love and freedom of God’s laws. If Sophie had stayed inside the fence where she was safe, protected and cared for by her master, she wouldn’t have gotten hurt. For Sophie, that fence seemed like a barrier and a hindrance and she felt trapped. In an attempt to escape her restriction she ventured outside the protection and safety of the fence and the result was a disaster.
Our free will is what makes us want to jump the fence. We don’t always realize that if we live within Gods laws, we will be safe and protected by our Heavenly Master. If we’re inside the fence and we are living within the boundaries he has set for us we will remain close to him and he will meet all our needs. If we jump the fence and go outside his laws and his ways we are purposely separating ourselves from him and that is a recipe for disaster. We have a choice to sin or go beyond the boundaries of his loving protection and he will always open the gate and welcome us back after we’ve jumped the fence but the further we stray from the loving protection of his boundaries the more danger we encounter. Jumping the fence or sinning brings great consequences that can take a long time to heal and rob us of our peace. Living inside that fence we will find contentment and true freedom; the freedom that comes from no guilt, no worry, no consequences and complete understanding that you are being lovingly protected and cared for. Inside the fence is the best place to be!
A Seed To Plant: Sit for a few quiet minutes and imagine yourself living contently inside a lush beautiful yard surrounded by a fence. Sit with the knowledge that you have everything you need and there is no danger or stress. Soak up the peacefulness and safety of that surrounding. Now think about the things that tempt you to jump that fence and separate yourself from that place. Ask your loving Master to help you overcome that temptation to step outside the protection of his laws.
Blessings on your day!
Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. Hebrews 12:14
My dad always taught us that if we borrowed something, no matter what it was, we should return it in better condition than it was when we borrowed it. I’m pretty sure that applies to our children too. Before our first baby was born, my Grandma told me that the children I would bear weren’t mine, rather, they were a precious gifts on loan from the Father and it was our primary responsibility as parents, to help them get to heaven. Grandmas thinking may seem a bit countercultural today. The word might have us think our primary task is to get our kids on the most prestigious teams, the most elite dane troops or into the most impressive schools. While we’re aiming for first string, first chair and top score, Jesus is begging us to show our children that nothing is more important than giving him first place in our lives.
Holiness, simply put, is oneness with God so here are a few things we can do as parents to make good on our responsibility to help our kids grow in holiness and give the Lord first place.
*Pray with and for your kids every day. It’s hard for kids to understand the importance of Jesus and His Church if we rarely talk about it.
*Do as I do! Our kids imitate what we model. They need to see us pray, read scripture and trust in the Lord. We are teaching lessons when we’re cut off in traffic, talking about the frustrating co-worker at dinner or putting an envelope in the Sunday collection.
*As you travel to games, concerts, recitals and events, make sure to include some trips to the really important places like Sunday Mass, Eucharistic Adoration or even a quick stop to rest from the noise and chaos in a quiet, peaceful church. As Catholic Christians, we know Jesus is with us always but a special stop to sit in his Eucharistic Presence is good for the soul. It also shows our children that Jesus is important enough to stop for.
*Say NO to the things that don’t point your kids to heaven. That could be screen activity, movies, music or friendships. Their holiness is more important than your popularity.
*Point them to the Holy Ones. The world sets before our children people who don’t always use their gifts and talents to glorify God. Since moving into a cave to shelter our kids from all of that isn’t very practical, we can shower them with stories of the holy men and women of our faith. Many of the saints lived crazy, amazing, adventurous lives and their stories are interesting and inspiring. Put them before your kids to serve as heroes and role models.
“Holy enough” is not a thing…holiness is a continuous journey toward the Father so as we help our children grow in holiness, we will find ourselves growing too and that is a very good thing!
A Seed To Plant: Pick something from the list and make a plan to put it into action this week.
Blessings on your day!
Be still and know that I am God. Psalm 46:11
It’s been a beautiful summer! I got to completely soak in Grandma-hood and I loved every single second of it. I will miss my full days with the fabulous Lewis but ready or not it’s time to begin a new school year. We had a retreat on Tuesday we learned that the word “Behold” is always spoken before something new and amazing is about to happen in the Mass and in Scripture. I’m looking at next Monday as “Behold Day”.
After finishing the Covid craziness of last school year I knew I needed to find my peace and balance. As humans we aren’t so good at that. I spent hours rocking, stroller pushing and playing with Lewis and as I soaked it all in, the peace and joy he brought my days helped me make some discoveries.
* Time doesn’t slow down; you have to do the slowing. There will always be stuff going on but stillness is
where God can find you and bring peace.
* Things did get done without me. I’ve never been very good at saying no but this summer I discovered that
when you do, someone else says yes.
* Life comes in stages just like books come in chapters. You’ll never get to the great ending if you don’t keep
turning the pages and following along.
* My screen porch is not just architecture and a lawn chair storage area…it’s for sitting, praying, rocking
grandsons, visiting with friends and neighbor kids, writing and reading even in the middle of the day when
there are chores to be done.
* The more you make time for quiet stillness, the greater the peace; the greater the peace the greater the
contentment and with contentment comes clearer perspective, less stress a more prayerful heart and a
happier demeanor. Who knew!
I feel a little like I’m in a lawn chair parked in the shallow ocean water. Life is rolling by and changing but it’s washing over me like warm waves and a gentle breeze. My prayer the first day of summer vacation was “God, help me be still, I’m lousy at it!” Not only did he do what I asked, he has blessed me greatly while doing it. Busy isn’t always a choice, but stillness is…perhaps the best choice we can make.
A Seed To Plant: Look at the week ahead and choose three chunks of time where you will commit to being still and quiet and pray that the Lord meets you powerfully in those moments.
Blessings on your day!
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us rid ourselves of every burden and sin that clings to us and persevere in running the race that lies before us while keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, the leader and perfecter of faith… Hebrews 12: 1-2
Oh golly, my head is so full of thoughts, my hands are so full of tasks and my heart is so full of emotions! It’s not a surprise; it’s the week before school starts, I just forget what it feels like until we get here again. There is so much to organize and plan and prepare. I looked around my classroom this afternoon and realized I had 3 bulletin boards started, a scrub bucket of water that made it to about half of the lockers, six feet of lamination that had about a foot cut out and I was looking for something on Teacher Pay Teacher!
It’s easy to get sidetracked when you loose your focus. Being overwhelmed can make me forget which direction I’m headed. As I prepare for a new school year I am so hopeful that it’ will be a normal year; but what if it’s not! As we all get ready to begin there are dozens of voices yelling directives. There is still fear, worry and that feeling of waiting for the other shoe to drop. There are still voices arguing about what’s right and what’s best and if I try to take it all in things get fuzzy. But then I remember, God is still in charge and he’s bigger than all of it. As Fr. Ricardo says, “God isn’t worried about any of this!”
As I stepped away from everything, I made a list of the top ten reasons I love my job and why I’m ready to go back to a new school year. As I was finishing the list, I remembered this quote I read earlier this week from St. Jane Frances De Chantal that helped me catch my breath and smile. She said, “Hold your eyes on God and leave the doing to him. That is all the doing you have to worry about.” It’s easy to look at our world right now and find the bad and get caught in the crazy. Without too much effort we might even think things are worse now than they’ve ever been but St. Jane Frances wrote these words to encourage believers in1640, when they believed they were in the middle of the worst times. I suppose it’s all relative! The truth isn’t really in the circumstances, the truth is in the Father. No matter how sidetracked or fuzzy headed or overwhelmed we feel, all we have to do is hold our eyes on him and let him do the doing! I was also reminded that his “doing” is pretty amazing!
A Seed To Plant: Make a list of all the things that have you rattled, worried or discouraged then take that list to prayer and ask the Father to help you keep your eyes on him.
Blessings on your day!
Then I declared my sin to you; my guilt I did not hide. Psalm 32:5
I spent some time in my classroom the other day trying to unpack and get ready to start a new year. After spending three hours there the best way to describe the way it looked as I turned off the light and walked out is “the cupboards threw up!” There were stacks of books, bulletin board fabric and border containers open and bulging out everywhere and piles of “things” on each available flat surface. The chairs are all stacked in a tall pile and the computers are still draped in blue plastic bags with cords coiled into neat spools. It looked so awful I’m not sure I want to go back! It’s amazing how much faster and easier it is to pack it all up in June than it is to unpack it all in August! It reminded me of a cartoon I saw recently that said, “I love vacation; it takes me 4 hours to pack and 4 weeks to unpack!” It was a painful reality when I consider the task every teacher faces when it’s time to get the room ready to go for a new school year.
The reality of the piles and the mess will make it hard to go back in there on Monday but it just has to be done. There is no magic spell or closet full of helpful elves that will sneak in under cover of darkness and get the job done so I’m just gonna have to buckle down and slug through it all. I have to focus on the first morning I will walk in and see that shiny floor, curtains hung, bulletin boards finished and everything all in its place. Eye on the prize kind of thinking I guess! I suppose it’s all so uncomfortable because it causes us to tackle the undesirable and most of us would like to slink away from that any chance we can. As I tripped over piles all afternoon I got to thinking about my bad habits and sinfulness. I’d much rather avoid those than deal with them! It’s pretty easy to take the bad stuff like my shortness of patience or my quick judgements and tuck them away like books in a closet but they need to be dealt with from time to time. If I didn’t acknowledge the mess in my room and the stuff on the bottom shelf I wouldn’t really be ready for my best school year. I suppose my eternal salvation requires the same attention. I realized as I was dusting, sorting and organizing, it’s about more than supplies; it’s about my soul. Every corner of my life needs some inspection, evaluation and action. There are things I need more of and definitely things I need less of!
When my room is ready I will waltz through the door with a light and cheerful heart but in order to get to that point I have to be willing to do the heavy lifting, the scrubbing and the sorting. As I plopped down next to a pile of text books and school supplies I figured I’d better pay twice as much attention to cleaning up my soul and addressing the things that distance me from the Father. Just like my classroom in June, it’s much easier to tuck it all away that pull it all out and deal with it! I think I’ll take some time this week to treat my soul like I do my classroom in August…unpack it all, sort it and do what’s necessary to put it all in order!
A Seed To Plant: Pick a cupboard or closet this week to unpack and clean…after you finish with it, go through the same process with your soul!
Blessings on your day!
For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. Romans 3:23
Phew…there you have it! Pay close attention to the second word of the verse; yup, it says ALL have sinned and will fall short. It really isn’t new information but there are days we act like we’re the only ones who fall into sin. The really excellent news is that the Father who loves us and takes great delight in us isn’t surprised by our shortcomings. Truth is, he sees it coming before it happens, tries to stop us and still loves us even after we ignore his promptings and do it anyway! That is ALL of us, so today is a great day to pick your sad self up and think things in a new way.
The world does a pretty good job of trying to beat us down and convince us that we don’t stack up. Social media feeds our insecurities and the news fuels our fears and worries. I guess the question becomes; who are you going to listen to and which voices are you going to hear? How about filling our ears with some truth about who God really is, and what he wants us to think…
*Ours is a Father who keeps his promises…Scripture is full of them! Who do you trust more; the Father who created you or the anchorman on the 6 o’clock news?
*We can’t surprise God. After creating all the people who have ever lived and watching all the stuff they’ve done since the beginning of time, I’m pretty sure he’s seen it all so why do we try to hide from his love and think he will turn away from us because of what we might have done.
*God knows more than you do. For crying out-loud, don’t you think the God who knows the numbers of hairs on your head will be able to take care of just about anything you need today?
*Nothing is too hard for God…invite him into your hard things.
*”Holiness consists simply in doing Gods will and being just what God wants us to be.” St. Therese
*”Remain humble, remain simple. The more you do so, the more good you will do.” St. John Vianney
*“Earth has no sorrow that heaven cannot heal.” St. Thomas More
*”The truth is like a lion; you don’t have to defend it. Let it loose, it will defend itself.” St. Augustine
*”Unless there is Good Friday in your life, there can never be Easter Sunday.” Fulton J Sheen
God’s faithfulness is joyful, predictable, consistent and powerful. He will never trick us, toss our efforts out on a technicality or leave us on our own. In fact, he knows us better than we know ourselves so remember these words from St. Catherine, “God is closer to us than water is to a fish.” Maybe today is the perfect day to step away from our guilt, our fearfulness and our human weakness to think some new thoughts…His thoughts!
A Seed To Plant: Pick anything from the list above that touched your heart and put it on a post-it note so you can think those thoughts.
Blessings on your day!
“He brought me out into a broad place; he rescued me, because he delighted in me” Psalm 19:18
348 is a pretty big number. What would you like to have 348 of? I’d like 348 vacation days, cups of coffee and slices of carrots cake! I wouldn’t like 348 flat tires, papers to grade or dirty dishes to wash. 348 smiles from sweet baby Lewis would never be enough and 348 family suppers would be far too few. One thing I know for sure, if someone told me the same thing over and over 348 times, I think it would be pretty important and I’d pay attention.
In Scripture, God tells us of his love for us 348 times and yet we still don’t always believe it. We still often focus on what the world thinks and which earthly people love us more than we recall the 348 times the Father proclaims his love for us. We still often mope and pout, feeling like we’re alone and lost and unlovable so maybe today is the day we need to be reminded just how much we are loved.
We sometimes get tangled up in the notion that the Father loves us but he probably doesn’t always like us. We might be tempted to believe that he doesn’t like us when we sin or when we gossip or doubt or stretch the truth a little to make things sound a little better. We might be tempted to think he doesn’t like us so much when we waste our prayer time scrolling through social media and we may entertain the notion that he would like us more if we spent less time shopping on Amazon and more time praying or reading about the 348 times he says “I love you” in scripture. Honestly, that’s human thinking and it couldn’t be further from the truth! See, God not only loves us, he likes us, he wants us and he DELIGHTS in us. How’s that for a message, he delights in us!
God is constantly inviting us to grow in holiness…to grow closer to him. Please don’t confuse that with the notion that God will love you more when you reach some potential you establish for yourself. God created you with magnificent love before even your mother knew you existed and he has never stopped delighting in you since that very first moment. We have visions and plans and goals for ourselves and God’s love has nothing to do whether we check those things off our list. I watch my grandson with such wonder, awe and absolute delight. I notice every teeny little new thing he does and my heart just about bursts. I have visions of the kind of little boy, young man and grown gentleman he will become but I’m not going to love him more then…I’m not going to reserve my love and my delight for when he’s all grown up and has “become” something the world thinks is valuable and important. I’m going to get busy loving him and delighting in him every single step of the way. And that’s exactly the same way God loves us…he delights in us today, tomorrow, next week and he loves us all throughout our “becoming”.
If we could even begin to fathom the Fathers love for us, even the really bad days would be beautiful. Remind yourself today of the message given to you 348 times and then spend some time loving yourself too.
A Seed To Plant: Make a list of things you like about yourself, thank God for those things and then find a couple of those 348 places God spoke his love for you and jot them down so they can sink in.
Blessings on your day!
But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint. Isaiah 40:31
As someone who could fit every shred of personal athletic ability onto the end of a Q-tip, I find the Olympics astounding. Seriously, have you watched what those people can do? I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t win a single event at a Kindergarten track meet so watching the speed, agility, flexibility and sheer determined will of the competitors fascinates me. Then I started to wonder…
I started to wonder what happens when they are no longer able to compete? There are more than 10,000 athletes participating in the summer games; how many do you know? These people have dedicated nearly their entire life to this one event. For many they have no time left for anything but preparing for the Olympics so what happens when it’s over? We won’t know their names, fewer than 350 Gold medals will be handed out in Tokyo, so if your whole life has been about this one thing, that’s a lot of work for a pretty slim pay off so I wonder why they work so hard for such a slim chance at gold?
I wonder how they feel when it’s over? Was it worth it, are they content with their outcome and is the memory of the experience enough to sustain them after the competition is all over? I wonder if they ever walk away wishing they had invested all that time and energy into something with a greater pay-out? Very few will ever make it to a commercial or a Wheaties box and given the investment and level of their gift it sure seems like they should!
As I think about the focus and determination required to be an Olympian I am in awe. Sometimes I don’t even have the determination to wash and dry the dishes all at once; I have to divide the task. Then it hit me…there is one event that most certainly deserves the same determination and focus for all of us and the payout is WAY better and reward more precious than a million truck loads of gold medals.
Heaven…heaven is it! I realized that the energy and time Olympians pour into their event should pale in comparison to the amount we invest in growing our holiness. Thank goodness the preparation for heaven doesn’t involve physical running, diving, throwing or jumping. However, it require running from temptation, diving into the Word and prayer, throwing away earthly attachments and jumping for joy that getting the greatest reward imaginable isn’t a competition. There isn’t a limited number of “heaven medals” we’re competing for. The Father desires for each and every one to enjoy the rewards of eternal life with him in heaven. I don’t have to be better than person X, Y or Z, I just have to be the me the Father intended me to be. The secret to our race to achieve holiness is God’s Abundant Grace given in unending supply simply by asking. Not only is he waiting for us to claim our true prize, he will give us everything we need to achieve it. I guess what I really need to ask myself is; would I rather be a saint in heaven or famous on earth?
A Seed To Plant: What are three things you can add to your “Spiritual Workout” to prepare for the ultimate prize?
Blessings on your day!
Sheri's writing can also be found at Faith Catholic Publications and on CatholicMom.com