Joyful Words Blog
Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light for my path.
– Psalm 119:105
– Psalm 119:105
…so they may see the good that you do and give glory to God. Matthew 5:16
What is the best good deed you’ve ever done for another person? I hope as you fumble through your mind for that answer you have so many it ’s hard to choose. Wouldn’t that make for an awesome world; if we did so many good things for others we couldn’t even recall each of them? I had a week of really good things and as I sit here typing and thinking about them my heart is as warm as the coffee I’m sipping! It was a crazy busy week so it might be easy to swish on by to the new week without remembering all the good events that touched my life. As I share a few of mine, reach back through your memory and grab some of yours too.
Birthday treats for the class are definitely an elementary teacher perk, especially the ones moms around here send in! One of my middle lovelies celebrated her birthday this week and she brought the best treat EVER! All of the students got slushies but I got a delicious hot steaming cup of fresh coffee! That was good; very good. I got a cupcake from a kindergartner with a plastic football ring on top. The bonus was he pulled it out of the cupcake, licked off the frosting and slipped it on my finger before I knew what was happening. He told me it looked really good on me too. That was good; very good. I got a flower from a student, a new Rosary and prayers from my daughter as she visited the holiest places in Poland. That was good; very good! I got a fabulous drawing, a freezer full of fresh beef, a lovely date with my groom and an email from an old friend. I got to watch a group of 12 year olds powerfully lead an entire school in Adoration prayers. It was a good week; a very good week! Mr. Thelen was reading from the book of Genesis at morning prayer this week and the line that bounced in my ears each time he read was; “and God saw that it was good!”
We may not be people of power, or riches or fame but we are certainly people capable of goodness. I read the story of Gino Bartali the Italian Olympic cyclist recently and I was touched in a huge way. Gino would smuggle paperwork in the frame of his bike that was necessary to free Jewish people during WWII. The soldiers let him ride right past because they thought he was training so he could bring home more gold medals. Little did they know he was making it possible for hundreds of Jewish men, women and children to escape to freedom and life. After the war when the discovery of his great goodness was made, his simple reply was this. “Good is something you do, not something you talk about. Some medals are pinned to your soul not to your jacket.”
So here’s to a week of medals pinned to our souls! Make it a week of GOOD!
A Seed To Plant: Make a plan to do five acts of pure goodness this week and ask God to bless the people who will receive those acts of goodness.
Blessings on your day!
God has glory in what he conceals…Proverbs 25:2
I often tell my students that my brothers got all the athletic ability in our family. Every speck of it I got you could stack neatly on the tip of my pinky nail! Seriously, I was even lousy at the game hide and seek! In order to be good at hide and seek you have to be quick enough to run off to a great hiding spot and you have to be nimble enough to slink into small secluded spaces. It seemed like I was the permanent seeker and rarely the hider. We had a rainy day this week and that meant indoor recess. Very often during indoor recess the little kids will play a game of hide and seek and it cracks me up because a classroom is filled with mostly open space but they find it entertaining. It made me think about what and who is hiding in each of us. I guess you could say that today’s post is brought to you by a group of little people hiding behind the coat rack and under the table.
What gifts or talents are hiding inside you? Sometimes we don’t reveal our true abilities because we have the silly notion that if I’m not the “best” at something I’m not gonna put myself out there and be shown up. God gave us those gifts not to be hidden but to be shared. We have to remember that comparison is the greatest their of joy!
What person is hiding inside us? How much time do we spend trying to think, look and act like someone else? In the midst of all that, the world is missing out on the YOU God created you perfectly to be. You are fearfully and wonderfully made for a specific purpose! God doesn’t make mistakes. I spent the first couple decades of my life hating my hips until I was in my 32nd hour of labor with a 10 pound baby and the doctor looked at me and said, “You can do this, God gave you the perfect hips to deliver big healthy babies, he knew what he was doing.” After I recovered from the urge to spit on his shoes, I realized he was exactly right and I needed to change my perspective a bit. The you that’s hiding inside could be the exact person someone has been waiting for years to meet.
What’s hiding in our joy, our sorrow, our challenges, our celebrations and our frustrations? What’s God trying to teach us; what amazing lessons does he have tucked in there for us to find? What if we looked at each day as an opportunity to SEEK instead of HIDE? The harder we seek the more we will find and who knows what treasures God has for us in the midst of the very things we’re hiding from and hiding behind. Amazing what indoor recess can make you think of!
A Seed To Plant: Take a few minutes to go back through this post and ponder the answers to all the questions it posed.
Blessings on your day!
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!
* Someone asked about focusing during prayer with the words WOW, THANKS, OOPS, GIMMIE so I thought I'd run this old post again to answer the question!
Pray without ceasing. 1Thessalonians 5:17
One of the things that made me feel so lucky as a little girl was the fact that my Grandpa Ted owned a store. It had a gas pump out front and inside was a grocery store and the town post office. The counter was lined with big glass jars filled with different kinds of candy but the greatest thing in the store was the pop machine. I was amazed that all you had to do was deposit a coin, then open the narrow glass door, grab the pop bottle by its top and pull it out. The biggest problem life presented at that age was trying to decide whether my brother and I were going to share a Squirt or a Root Beer. Life was simple!
Lots of years later, life isn’t always quite so simple! I’ve discovered that the days that seem to be the most complicated and crazy are usually the ones when I haven’t deposited as much into my daily prayer. I think sometimes our prayer life can be a little like Grandpa Ted’s pop machine. We simply make a little investment and expect to have God open the door so we can pull out any flavor blessing we pick. He wants more from us than a quick “shout out” when we want something or when we need Him to rescue us from the mess we’ve made. He lovingly demands more from us. But Paul told the Thessalonians to pray without ceasing...really…how do you do that? Who can be on their knees in prayer all day?
I think the passage is challenging us to put Christ in the forefront of our thoughts, our words and our actions, consulting him throughout the day with everything. One of my first grade lovelies said one day, “But if you pray like that won’t you run out of stuff to talk to God about?” I said, “Not if you pray with WOW, OOPS, THANKS and GIMME.” You can imagine the puzzled looks that followed and so the lesson began. Each time we stop to pray, start by telling God what He’s done that is amazing ("Wow"). Next, ask His forgiveness for all the faults and failings of the day. Don’t forget to call them out by name ("Oops"). Then have a long talk with Him about all the things you are thankful for and for all the blessings received ("Thanks"). And finally, ask for His blessing on those people and situations that need Him("Gimme"). Those four words are a great starting point for personal prayer. If you cover all four each time you call upon His name in prayer, you’re not likely to run out of stuff to say and you have gotten a lot closer to “without ceasing.” God’s calling us to make more than a tiny deposit, and when we do, the blessings we’ll receive are going to be far more amazing than anything ever pulled out of Grandpa’s pop machine.
A seed to plant: Write wow, oops, thanks and gimme on a notecard. Practice praying with those 4 categories for a few days and see if you enjoy a prayer time that is more focused and fulfilling.
Blessings on your day!
A friend will be a friend in times of all kinds… Proverbs 17:17
The older I get, the more my brain resembles Swiss Cheese. I often find that important stuff just falls through the holes! I’m sure I could do some research and figure out how to improve my memory. Maybe I need more blueberries or I could pay hundreds of dollars for memory enhancement sessions or, I can just write lots of notes and trust God to help me remember the really important stuff. Last summer it was my pleasure to chaperone a group of 100 high school students to a Steubenville Youth Conference. As a huge bonus to the trip, Fr. Mike Schmitz was the priest for the conference and he is one dynamic, inspiring, on-fire Catholic Priest. Just listening to him alone made the 12 hour bus ride worth every minute.
That trip was back in July and surprisingly, even with my Swiss Cheese brain, I remember so many of the things he said. One of the things that really sticks with me is this line from his Sunday homily; “We are the average of the five people we spend the most time with.” At first I remember thinking, hmm, thats interesting, but then I really let it sink in and realized how powerful that thought really was. Living as a disciple of Jesus is not for sissies…getting to heaven is serious business and it can’t wait until we think we’re entering the final phases of life. It’s a here and now and everyday thing. Most of us spend a lot of time reading, praying, reading blogs, listening to podcast and videos trying to learn to live like we love him. That’s all excellent but what about those we surround ourselves with? Are they on the same track we are? Are they helping us in our quest for heaven or are they pulling us back by the shirt tail?
Fr. Mike used a story abut his family to make the statement come to life. He said that everyone in his family, including the in-laws have completed at least one IronMan competition. It was like a ripple effect that defined something very important about his family. They were conscious about health, fitness and when that was woven with a strong sense of competition the average of the five people he spends the most time with inspire each other to some pretty intense fitness goals. We are greatly influenced by the people we are around plus, we have the ability to greatly inspire others, perhaps without even knowing it.
What would we be like if we were the average of five people who were merciful, compassionate and joyful? What if we were the average of people who were generous, prayerful and positive? What if we are the average of five people who are crabby, gossipy and negative? I suppose the real hope in this verse is we don’t have to do it all ourselves. Discipleship can be easier or harder depending on those we surround ourself with. I figured since I managed to remember this for a couple of months it must be something I was supposed to share…hope it brings some new perspective and food for prayerful thought.
A Seed To Plant: Take a prayerful look at your relationships; what are you the average of?
Blessings on your day!
Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Ephesians 4:2
I ask God for a lot of stuff! Mostly it’s stuff for other people but honestly, I ask a lot. One of the things I ask for most frequently is humility. Lord, please get me out of the way so you can work through me. I just want to do what he asks me to without getting all big headed. I try really hard to remember that I’ve got nothin…anything good that comes from me is all HIM! I also ask him to teach me and remind me any way he sees fit. Sometimes he’s subtle, sometimes he's bold and sometimes he’s just downright amazing.
At the end of the first week of school I was feeling pretty confident in my “week as a teacher”. I felt like I had it all together and things had gone really well. I thought after a couple decades of doing this job maybe I had it all figured out. With that kind of thinking I should have smelled a storm brewing cause just like any other time my humility gets a little foggy there is always a storm on it’s way.
One of the jobs I have at the end of the day is to manage the kids who line up to go to the busses through the west doors. In order to get to the busses safely the kids need to follow two simple rules; first, stay on the sidewalk and don’t cut across the corner of the parking lot and second, don’t run. Every day for a week we went over the rules. We made up silly songs about them, we took turns repeating the rules and we even played a fill in the blank game about the rules. I thought I’d done a stellar job of instructing and the kids would have it down pat! I even remember thinking, I’ve been so funny, creative, witty and effective I’ll bet nobody will forget what to do. On the last day of the week one of my favorite kindergartners wiggled his way to the front of the line and I said, “Ok, one last time, who can give me the rules?” The kindergartner raised his hand and enthusiastically said “I know” “great,” I said, “what is the first and most important rule?” He looked at me with a blank stare and a pause and then said, “Oh I got it…NO PICKLES!”
My shining moment of teacher excellence was reduced to “no pickles!” Where had I gone wrong? Pickles…where on earth did that come from? After a whole lot of laughter we came up with the correct rules but as he skipped down the sidewalk to the bus he was singing a little tune about not eating pickles. I thought I was so important and effective and all my work was reduced to a glorified condiment!
God hears our prayers and that day, he knew my humility needed a little help. It was a good day for a lesson and he chose to use an adorable little boy with an enormous sense of humor and an unrivaled spirit to give me a little lesson. I thanked him both for the lesson and for the beautiful way he chose to deliver it.
A Seed To Plant: Where has God used a “No Pickles” message to get your attention? Take some time to ask him for the grace you need most and then take note when he answers your prayer and sends that grace.
Blessings on your day!
Sheri's writing can also be found at Faith Catholic Publications and on CatholicMom.com