Joyful Words Blog
Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light for my path.
– Psalm 119:105
– Psalm 119:105
Even so, on the outside you appear righteous but, on the inside, you filled with hypocrisy and evil doing. Matthew 23:28
Fancy Nancy is one of my favorite children’s book characters. She’s over the top and can’t be outdone in the “Ooo-La-La department.” She’s all about the “look” of things and as I read this line from Matthew’s Gospel I thought of a list of ways I’m like Fancy Nancy. Although I love that book character being a Fancy Nancy Christian is probably not the direction I should be headed.
I spoke at a conference recently and as I was chatting with some folks after the talk one very blunt little lady asked a question that’s been bouncing around in my heart ever since. She thanked me for the talk and spoke of ways she would carry it with her but then she asked, “Was this the real you or was this just for the stage?” I swallowed and quickly said the Come Holy Spirit. Come Now. Come as you wish prayer before I spoke and then listened to the words that came from my mouth. I replied to her question, or rather the Holy Spirit did with these words, “Oh gosh, I sure hope I am; I sure try to be but I guess that’s a question I’d really better to take to prayer and ask Jesus how to answer truthfully.” Instead of being insulted or embarrassed, I saw it as an invitation to ask myself a hard question.
Since that big question is still sitting on my heart these words from St. Matthew’s Gospel, reminded me He wasn’t done teaching yet. The line I chose from this Gospel is the softer verse. The line before it Jesus uses the term “white washed tombs full of dead mans bones.” That seemed a little harsh and then Fancy Nancy popped in my mind. After a giggle, the connection made sense. I do love Jesus and I do try to be joyful and humble but what about those times when I’m not.
Fancy Nancy is all about the look so the question is, do I worry about how I look to the world or how I look to the Father?
Fancy Nancy is all about the shock and awe so the question is, am I in awe because of all God does or is my focus simply on what He’s doing for me when it happens to match what I wanted?
Fancy Nancy is out to impress so that creates two questions. Who am I trying to impress with my “holiness” and would living my faith look different if nobody was looking?
Fancy Nancy does everything for attention so I have to ask myself if where I sit, the books and stuff I carry into church with me or what I wear are all done with the right motivation.
Fancy Nancy is light hearted, whimsical and always looking for more. She has an aversion to the plain and simple. When I think about it, she is the opposite of what Jesus was speaking about in this Gospel. St. Matthew and Fancy Nancy have made me see the lady’s question with truthful eyes. This unlikely duo has made me realize how often I need to stop and ask myself if what the world sees matches what Jesus sees.
A Seed To Plant: Take some time to read chapter 23 of Matthews Gospel and ask the Lord to show you where He might be whispering a shift.
Blessings on your day!
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding... Proverbs 3:5
Trust can be a tricky thing. We live in a world that promotes independence and self-sufficiency but we follow a God who promotes the opposite. The world says “Grab it…take charge of it…look out for yourself…be great!” The Father who created us and adores us says “Let go…I have the plan…surrender to me and I will lead you to a life far more magnificent than you can fathom!” When you actually read it on paper it makes the decision seem pretty simple but trusting Him can be tough. We’re conditioned to muscle our way through and He wants to fight for us so each day needs to be an exercise in letting Him.
I’ve shared before that God and I have an agreement about my travel. I ask Him to get me where I need to be on time because people and schedules are counting on me but I promise to surrender and let Him do anything He wants to with my trip home without complaint. I offer any struggle or inconvenience that I might want to whine about for the people I just worked with and the people I love or who need prayers. I started this deal with the Father for two reasons. First, I know we can never get to heaven without some suffering and second, there are so many people who need prayer and offering up any of my inconvenience is a prayerful gift. But there is also a third reason…I just get a kick out of seeing how fancy He is and how He shows His love and care for me when I do actually trust Him. He’s done some pretty funny stuff on my trips home but last weekend He showed His fanciness in a giant way.
As usual, I got to Oklahoma City with travel that was smooth as silk! It was a spectacular weekend and I met some truly amazing faith filled people of all ages! The hospitality and friendly conversation absolutely filled my heart! I got up at 3 am on Sunday to begin my journey home. I had a 3:45 Uber to get me to the airport for a 5 am flight. As I got in the elevator on the 14th floor, I wasn’t expecting any other passengers but the elevator stopped on floor 13 and two folks joined me. As soon as the door closed the elevator took off like a rocket and stopped with a slam between floor 6 and 7. The first thing I thought was…we’re ok…thank you Jesus! The lady was struggling in a big way and as I was praying in my head and feeling complete peace it occurred to me that I should pray out-loud so the young couple could feel it too…and they did. The second thing I thought was…oh no, the Uber is gonna leave because I’ll be late. I just smiled to myself knowing God would find me a later flight. Two firemen arrived and pried open the doors and lifted us out and I was rushing out the hotel door only to discover that the fire truck was blocking the Uber driver so he had to wait for me. My TSA precheck status number arrived the day before I left on this trip so I was able to zip through security and make my flight. I buckled up thinking how many times He just takes care of every little thing. The TSA number wasn’t supposed to arrive until September but He knew I’d need it earlier…nobody was hurt in the elevator…the firemen arrived quickly…the young couple yelled from across the hotel foyer as I got in the Uber “Thank you for praying; we should start doing that!” He is always right there and when my eyes are on Him, I see what He’s doing along the way. The only thing I might have to complain about is that my flight was so early Starbucks wasn’t even open!
Surrendering my travel is such a simple way to trust more plus it’s just plain funny to see all the ways He works. When we were getting ready to land in Atlanta, the pilot announced that we would need to circle the airport again because the landing flap wasn’t working properly. I decided to use that 20 minutes to pray a Rosary for everyone who is sick, struggling or starting a new school year…we touched down perfectly just as I finished the last prayer. He’s just so fancy! I’m not sure who needed that Rosary at that specific time but I know I wouldn’t have prayed it if we hadn’t heard that announcement. I trust He did something lovely with those prayers. I never get home on time or like my ticket says I will, but it sure makes great stories and gives me lots of chances to see where He’s working in my life.
A Seed To Plant: What can you surrender to the Lord that might help you grow in trust?
Blessings on your day!
The plans of the diligent lead to profit as surely as haste leads to poverty. Proverbs 21:5
“Being a Christian is a bit like getting involved in the stock market!” What? Those were the opening words of the homily at Mass recently and if I wasn’t paying complete attention before I heard those words I immediately snapped to attention! Money and faith aren’t usually a great combination; one usually offers the other complications so I was curious to see where this line of thinking was headed
Here are a few of the great ideas that homily left on my heart. When we make an investment in the stock market we aren’t guaranteed the return we expect. We can’t predict with certainty what ride our investment will take. All we know for certain is there will be times of highs and times of lows. We also know that sinking money into the stock market is risky and you have to have a “stomach” for it. If you plunk in your money expecting gain after gain after gain you will be disappointed, frustrated and maybe even a nervous wreck. The seasoned investors know it’s about the long haul not the immediate return. They know to keep their eyes on what’s to come and not panic at every down turn along the way. The stock market takes faith, courage and trust that things will prosper in due time. The most successful investors also know there are lots of adjustments along the way. They also know that if they handle themselves with patience, diligence and faith the rewards on their investment will be amazing.
Isn’t all that true of our Christian walk? The most successful disciples aren’t afraid to make a sizeable investment; maybe even go “all in”. In our discipleship we know that the bigger the investment the bigger the return! In our walk with Jesus there will be gains and losses, there will be highs and lows. We need to keep our eyes on the end result…Heaven. If things start to go sour in our lives like loss, disappointment, sufferings and struggles of all kinds and we just loose our nerve and pull out thinking God has let us down, we will miss the return on our investment. Every time we trust and put our faith in the Father the return is far more plentiful than we can ever imagine. Being a Christian takes some nerve and some patience and the realization that every day won’t be lovely and predictable but through all the highs and lows God is there and the return on our investment will be of immensely higher value than anything we will ever chuck into the stock market. Thank you Bishop Cistone for a great image of discipleship.
A Seed To Plant: Take this analogy to prayer with you this week and see where God invites you to follow him. By meditating on the parallels he may have some great things to reveal to you…I know he’s got things bubblin in my head and heart.
Blessings on your day!
It is not joy that makes us grateful, it is gratitude that makes us joyful. Brother David
It's funny how those two things go together! I'm pretty sure Brother David's wisdom was lost on me for far too many years, but the older I get, the more the Father is helping me understand it. This past month has been one long opportunity to practice both. 4 short weeks ago my grandbaby count jumped by one and my heart grew more than a dozen sizes. The adventures of the last month have given me countless moments to be grateful and that gratitude has spawned a joy in my soul that is giant. All of it has shown in loving color how God shows up in the smallest ways and does the biggest things.
I got to spend the first week of Dominic’s life with him. I treasured my chance to take some middle of the night rocking shifts. I don’t think I studied my own babies quite as much as I did that tiny little boy. I’m so grateful for newborn snuggles. As we rocked and sang, I realized how grateful I was for the chance to be helpful. Traveling the 500 miles back home at the end of that week really put a dent in my joy but God is so fancy that the very next day I had a visit with my other grandbabies, Lewis and Ella and my joy was back up to overflowing!
This past weekend my heart felt a whole new kind of gratitude and I have to admit it caught me completely by surprise. Dominic was baptized on Sunday so that meant another road trip to Missouri but this time we had two new travel buddies. Our son Jason was the Godfather so he and little Lewis came along for the trip. A 9 hour road trip with Lewis as my backseat buddy made it the absolute best trip ever. He was a complete delight and what a treasure it was to have that much uninterrupted time with a grandchild. I got out of the Buick in Shannon’s driveway thinking I was as joyful as I could ever be…but it got better! I got to witness something I had never even considered. As parents you love and support your kids and you pray that God will lead them to be great humans and I think he’s done just that with my three kids but when I watched my children love and play with and discuss each other’s children I’m not sure I can even find the words to describe how incredible that felt as a mom. Seeing great humans raise great humans and knowing you had a little part in that is a gift!
When it was time to leave Missouri, my heart went back to that soggy place in double fashion. I had to say goodbye to my Missouri loves and my Michigan loves. I felt completely cheated because I didn’t get to ride back to Michigan in the back seat with Lewis. I wanted another 9 hours with him but I needed to get to the airport and go to West Virginia. Knowing that joy is not happiness but being completely in the “will of God”, I boarded my flight with a grateful heart because I had an opportunity to serve Catholic Schools. Once again, I had that moment when I thought I was “giving and doing” something for God and He flipped that upside down in a quick second! The people I worked with yesterday were warm and happy and truly dedicated to their vocation. It was such a wonderful day. Tomorrow, I get to spend the day with the other half of the Catholic Schools in northern West Virginia but today is a gap day and when I woke up this morning, I was a little sad that I wouldn’t be home tomorrow to spend the day watching Lewis and Ella like I usually do on Thursdays but God once again got all fancy and has provided me with a hotel courtyard with a water fall, a fire pit, some giant rocking chairs and work space. And just to show off a little bit more, He’s arranged for me to be typing in the sunshine on a beautiful 70 degree, no humidity morning.
The more grateful I am, the more I see how He’s using me, leading me and truly loving me. I’m so happy that the Holy Spirit is helping me see the joy in following His plan even when it crashes like a wave against what I want. As I wrap this up and get ready to post, I will slip inside the hotel and get another cup of delicious coffee that will be available all day long! Thank you Jesus!!
A Seed To Plant: Take some time to pray with the quote from Brother David and then make a list of things you are grateful for. As you ponder that list, ask yourself how you saw God in the things on that list.
Blessings on your day!
Just as weeds are collected and burned [up] with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. Matthew 13:40
When I was about 8, my parents were busy in our gigantic garden and I thought I’d be helpful while they were busy outside and take a stab at doing the laundry. I’d seen mom do it a hundred times so I was sure I could do it…how hard could it be? Eight-year-old overconfidence, cluelessness and an overflowing hamper of dirty laundry contained all the making for a complete disaster. I knew the laundry needed to be divided into smaller piles but I didn’t understand the first thing about sorting, I simply divided it into smaller piles and started up the washer. If you can imagine a mix and mess of pinks, reds and blues throughout all the laundry, I can assure you the outcome was worse than you imagined! The look of shock on my mom’s face was not due to a surprise task being done to say the least. Luckily, I hadn’t wrecked everything and we had a full box of Biz color bleach but I learned a gigantic lesson about the importance of proper sorting that afternoon. Each time I hear the Gospel stories about sorting the weeds and the wheat or God sorting the sheep and the goats I remember that sorting lesson from long ago.
I might not have understood the relevance of sorting the laundry when I was 8 but I often remind myself of the relevance of my words and actions when it comes to the “final sorting” done by my Heavenly Father. The goats and the weeds are not what we’re aiming for! I taught a family of lovely kids whose mom kissed them goodbye every morning and said “Don’t be a goat!” What did she mean? Goats and weeds represent the qualities that are the opposite of what Jesus showed us. Goats are stubborn, independent, self-reliant and headstrong. I act like a goat when I don’t rely on God and I try to muscle through everything with my own strength and my own plan. He made us to depend on Him, to need Him, to follow Him instead of blazing our own trail. The weeds are those plants that don’t bear fruit. They add no value to the crop or the people who God created it for. They snatch up the water and resources needed by the good stuff and their roots can anchor them deep. Gosh, can I ever be weed-like but thankfully even in my greatest “weediness” God is merciful. In the parable the weeds weren’t gathered up and destroyed immediately, they were given time. The Father doesn’t yank us up and toss us to the side every time we become rooted in sin or involved it things that don’t allow the gifts and talents, He’s given us to benefit His creation. Just like those weeds, He gives us time before the destruction in the end but I have to be mindful that I don’t know when my “sorting and harvest” will happen.
The sheep and the wheat are the model of good discipleship. The sheep are trusting and follow the voice of their good shepherd. They are dependent, obedient and loyal. The world may say sheep are stupid just as the world sometimes says Christians are stupid for blindly following Jesus. I guess it boils down to a big question. Am I following what the world thinks or am I following the one headed in the direction of heaven? The final sorting depends on how I answer that question. The wheat is a gift created to nourish, strengthen and delight. It is the example Jesus used to connect the physical gift with the spiritual gifts He gives us and we are meant to receive, enjoy and share them.
So, what if you happen to love goats and you’re gluten intolerant? These sorting stories aren’t meant to bash goats and promote bigger bread consumption. We probably all have some goat and weedy behaviors that we need to tune into before the final sorting. I don’t know if goats can change but people can change and you don’t have to eat toast to get to heaven, the nourishing, strengthening wheat in your life is exactly what Scripture and the Sacraments are for.
A Seed to Plant: In prayer this week, make a list of all the goat and weed-like attitudes and actions you’d like to ask the Father to help you sort out of your life.
Blessings on your day!
Sheri's writing can also be found at Faith Catholic Publications and on CatholicMom.com