Joyful Words Blog
Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light for my path.
– Psalm 119:105
– Psalm 119:105
…Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her. Mark 10:42
Do you ever feel like you are at war with yourself? You try to do the right things and live up to the expectations but some days it just feels like you fall short…I hope that’s not just me! I had a lousy day; one of those look under every rock of your life and not really like what you see kind of days. I suppose it’s good to take an honest inventory of your life from time to time but sometimes it’s painful to be honest with yourself. What I came to discover is that I’m probably like everybody else with some good qualities and some not so stellar ones too. As I was thinking about this “battle with self”, I remembered a Gospel story about two sisters who had a battle right in front of Jesus. I could relate so perfectly to this story and the constant struggle to do the right thing for the right reason. As I re-read this Gospel I realized that I can be both sisters; Martha and Mary.
This epic sister conflict reveals the perfect model for our lives as faithful servants! It’s easy to read this Gospel and take sides, but the truth of the matter is we all have an inner Martha and an inner Mary. It’s also easy to read this Gospel and make Martha out to be the “bad guy” sister. Really, can you imagine having the guts to whine to Jesus about cooking and serving! In Martha’s defense, the most important guest of all time was in the living room and there sat the chief helper star struck, completely shirking all sense of responsibility and duty, I’m not gonna lie, I think I would have been a bit irritated myself.
As a Disciple of Christ our vocation includes the Martha stuff like cooking, cleaning and serving. It also includes the Mary stuff like devotion, attentiveness and focus on the better part. This Gospel should inspire us to be a balance of both sisters. We need to realize that when the cooking and serving are done as a prayerful offering to God, it is a powerful form of prayer and devotion. We also need to realize our Mary moments of complete and uninterrupted prayer have to be carved into our daily schedule. I need to read this Gospel several times and balance my Mary and Martha! I need to read this Gospel several times to realize my battle is normal and as long as I keep plugging along trying to do the right thing and keep it all in balance, God will notice, and thank goodness he rewards us for attempts and not just perfection!
A Seed To Plant: How can I make my Martha tasks like cooking and serving more of a prayerful offering instead of complaining about it and feeling unappreciated? How can I be more attentive and focused on Jesus like Mary? How can I find balance and have patience with myself?
Blessings on your day!
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the tactics of the devil. Ephesians 6:10-11
That verse from Pauls letter to the Ephesians are our WOW words this week. We’ve talked all week about being strong, remarkable and warriors for the Lord. I’m wondering how long it’s been since you’ve thought of yourself as a remarkable warrior? The middle lovelies weren’t quite sure it was possible until we unpacked what it really looks like to the Lord.
Our Monday Message video was about a young doctor named Brianne Feldpausch who started a program that took medical care out into the streets and shelters to care for the homeless. The program is impressive and the kids all agreed that the work of the young doctor featured in the video reminded them of a modern day Mother Teresa. After we talked about how brave and compassionate and remarkable she was, I shared that she was from Fowler, which is the little neighboring town just up the road. Being a remarkable warrior for the Lord doesn’t mean you have to come from a big important place. Lesson number 1.
Our Tuesday tune was about being a warrior that could rise above defeat and disappointment to get things done. When we inserted God into the song and thought about the message he might be sharing through the song, we realized that not every battle is the same and we aren’t called to fight them all, only the ones he chooses and equips us for. We realized that even the greatest warriors don’t win every battle because it’s about persistence more than perfection. Lesson number 2.
On WOW word Wednesday before the verse was written in beautiful cursive in a prayer journal, we talked about armor. We talked about David and King Saul’s armor and what God’s armor really looked like. I saw an image on FaceBook that I completely snitched and used in class. I had two oranges and two glasses of water. The orange with the peel represented God’s armor. We decided that when we arm ourselves with prayer and we seek to do God’s will and follow his plan and ask him to show us the battles he’s asking us to fight for him we are protected. As you plunk that orange with the peel into the water, it floats. Then we talked about fighting battles he hasn’t invited us to fight or that he hasn’t equipped us to fight we’re like the unpeeled orange and we sink right to the bottom. Lesson number 3.
Sometimes our battles are with things like living with honesty, spreading peace in chaos or choosing words that are kind instead of gossip. Sometimes our battle is to spread Gods mercy instead of judgement or to stand up for a cause and speak the truth. As we weave it all together, these words from St. Mother Teresa are a good place to start as we pray for God’s armor and directions. Lesson number 4.
I used to pray that God would feed the hungry, or do this or that, but now I pray that he will guide me to do whatever I’m supposed to do, what I can do. I used to pray for answers, but now I’m praying for strength. I used to believe that prayer changes things, but now I know that prayer changes us and we change things. St. Mother Teresa
A Seed To Plant: Spend some time reading the scripture and the quote in todays post and ask God to point you to the places he’s calling you to be a remarkable warrior.
Blessings on your day!
The secret of happiness is to live every day moment by moment and to thank God for what he is sending us everyday in his blessing. St. Gianna
This school year if off to a fabulous beginning! I have a room of all girls and they are an absolute joy! They are a group that can be candid, honest and open about the things we’re reading and learning. We started the year reading the Max Lucado book, Make Every Day Count. The girls divided up into groups and are taking turns teaching their peers about the author’s ten strategies for living faithfully and joyfully. They have taken their work seriously and are teaching each other some great stuff.
One of the chapters began with the diary of a dog. It highlighted the dog’s daily schedule and it was filled with excitement over the simplest things. It sounded something like this: 5:00 am Oh Boy time to get up, 5:02 am Oh Boy time to go outside, 5:10 am Oh Boy time to eat, 5:15am Oh Boy time to crawl up on the couch, 5:16 am Oh Boy, time for a nap, 6:00 am Oh Boy time for the little humans to get up and play with me. It went on throughout the whole day and every event began with the words “Oh Boy”. You could almost feel his tail wag with excitement as the girls read that part of the book to us. It made us think!
The point of the chapter was to challenge us to look for the flowers of our days and not the weeds. Lots of things are going to happen throughout the course of a day and some of them will be pleasant and some of them not so much. The girls and I made a decision to use the dogs “Oh Boy” line before doing simple or unpleasant things. For the rest of the week in our room you could hear things like, “Oh Boy, time to do handwriting.” or “Oh Boy, time to take a test.” One of my favorites was, “Oh Boy, time to come in from recess and learn some more stuff.” They say it with enthusiasm and silliness and every time one of them says it, the others join in and repeat or they just smile and giggle a little as they get ready to do that task they really aren’t all that excited about.
The “Oh Boy’s” are a dose of positive attitude at the right time because I sure can get cranky or pouty about the same tasks that need to be done again and again so I used the line at home. “Oh Boy, time to do the laundry (I’ll be washing the same clothes for the 50th time).” and “Oh Boy, time to prepare a meal.(That will be gone in fifteen minutes leaving nothing behind but a mess and the thought of doing it all again in a few hours) and “Oh Boy, I get to sweep the floor. (Which I will need to do again tomorrow because people will walk on it and track in grass, dirt and who know what else.)
I caught myself doing the “Oh Boy” thing all wrong and realized I was missing the point. All of those things are my opportunity to serve the people I love the most. Cooking, cleaning, grading papers, planning lessons, sweeping the floor…all of it is designed to give me the chance to love and serve God by loving and serving the ones he’s given me to tend to. When I got my heart straight my “Oh Boy” changed. The smile goes deep when I say “Oh Boy, I get to serve my family” or “Oh Boy, I get to serve 22 lovely young daughters of God.” or “Oh Boy, I get to grow in holiness by cooking, and cleaning instead of doing mission work in a jungle.” Positive perspective is powerful and “Oh Boy, I’m so glad he straightened up my heart and my thinking.
A Seed To Plant: Follow the lesson the Middle Lovely ladies taught and use the “Oh Boy” line in front of your not so terrific tasks this week. I’ll bet it will make you smile!
Blessings on your day!
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!
For I do not do what I want, but I do what I hate. Romans 7:15
We had a snap of cool summer weather a few weeks back so I made an industrial sized batch of chili. After it had cooled I grabbed a glass measuring cup to scoop the chili into containers for the freezer. It wasn’t a new task or one that required any kind of special skill but yet I managed to find myself in the middle of a disaster! As I was getting ready to pour the first scoop into the bowl, my brain must have entered some kind of warped fog because I dumped out the chili before I even reached the counter top where the bowl was waiting. In some bizarre turn of events, I found myself standing in a puddle of splattered chili. It was on my feet, my pants, the floor, the rug the cupboard doors and many other tiny little spaces. I’m still not sure how it happened but it took me thirty minutes to get everything cleaned up! YUCK!
As I was scrubbing up the mess trying to figure out how I had managed to do something so crazy I thought of this verse from Romans. Talk about an experience in not doing what I want and doing what I hate! While I was doing clean up, I decided to think about the positives of the whole situation. One of the tasks on my summer to do list that hadn’t been completed was to scrub all my kitchen cabinets so I got to take that off my list. Another bonus was related to my kitchen rugs. I have a habit of purchasing kitchen rugs with a bright pattern. Make no mistake, that isn’t because I am a master designer with artsy flair, it simply means that kind of rug hides lots of spills and I don’t’ have to wash the rugs as often. It was past time for a good rug washing and thanks to the chili event I had no choice. The third positive thing that came from the disaster was probably the most important of all. As I crawled around my kitchen scrubbing I realized that I was on my knees; a good place to be and I had to slow down and focus on just one thing. I don’t know about you but I’m not as good at either of those things as I should be. I spend a big chunk of time each morning in prayer but I’m nestled into my comfy prayer chair with my coffee and it’s a very cozy way to begin my day. I’m tellin’ ya, being on my knees on that hard tile floor made prayer a different experience. My mind didn’t wander like it does in comfy prayer; I was focused.
I know for a fact that when St. Paul wrote this letter to the Romans he wasn’t thinking about chili spills and scrub buckets but I do believe Scripture has a way of grabbing you right where you are. Splattering chili was not what I had planned but as I crawled around scrubbing I realized I focused on what I wanted, and on doing things with my own power far too much of the time. We like things to go our way and according to our plan. I think that is one of the ways sin sneaks in and takes over. When I realize sin has gotten a hold of my attitude or my behavior I find myself in the middle of something I hate. I’d like to say that only happens once in a while but that wouldn’t be true! It was great food for thought as I crawled around on my knees. When I finished I was determined to spend more time on my knees in focused prayer talking with my Father about all those things I hate doing that I need His help with. I realized the truth of this verse is that unless I surrender everything to Him the cycle is just going to continue again and again. Who knew a chili spill could contain such an important spiritual lesson!
A Seed To Plant: Make a list of things you seem to do that you don’t want to do then hit your knees with that list and ask Sweet Jesus to help you make a change.
Blessings on your day!
Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. Matthew 24:24
You never know the weight of another persons cross. Those words occurred to me tonight as I watched 44 6th graders tromp through the rain after evening prayer headed back to their cabins. As I type, we are finishing up our first day of camp and some of those middle lovelies headed off heavy footed and heavy hearted.
I think camp is great and it’s a time to watch the kids bond, build friendships, conquer challenges and grow as young leaders. I love everything about camp (except for the tissue thin mattresses) and it isn’t a burden to be here in any way but for some of the kids that isn’t the case. I watched as some of them began to realize mom and dad were pretty far away. I watched some of them worry about the thunder and rain. I wondered how many of them were a little heavy hearted because they wouldn’t be able to creep into mom and dad’s room if the thunder woke them up. For some of them, it will be hard to fall asleep and Friday seems so far away. To a middle lovely those are heavy crosses to bear the first night of camp.
To some folks, those crosses might seem trivial but to a 12 year old a hundred miles from home that isn’t the case. There were lots of hugs and winks and promises to pray for a good night of sleep. I try to explain as best I can that they will feel so strong and proud when they accomplish this tough thing and there are lots of reminders of the protection and comfort our Guardian Angels. The truth is, none of that makes much sense in the middle of the situation. It’s usually after the fact that we see how God was busy working in the situation all along. God doesn’t tell us to suck it up or tell us to stop whining because the cross really isn’t THAT heavy. Instead he helps us carry them when we ask. Tomorrow morning things will look very different and they will be back to the fun. That is a reminder that crosses aren’t meant to be carried forever. He gives us rest and sometimes he bears all the weight himself.
God is always reminding us of his love and mercy if we’re paying attention. My heart was a little heavy this afternoon as I watched the middle lovelies laughing and having a great time together and I couldn’t help thinking about their classmate Samantha that died when these kids were in the 4th grade. Many of us who love this class call on her heavenly intercession to bless and strengthen this terrific class often and not long after I had prayed a decade of the Rosary asking for that very thing, it started to pour. A few minutes later the sun popped out and we saw a rainbow over the lake and the other 6th grade teacher was telling us that she had been told a rainbow was a sign of love from someone in heaven. I realized as I saw that rainbow that Samantha came to camp with us too. That beautiful rainbow only lasted a little while but it made that cross a little easier to carry.
As I pray for the middle lovelies to have good sleep, I ask the Lord to help me be aware of those who need help with their crosses instead of trying to determine how heavy I think they are compared to mine.
A Seed To Plant: Make a list of the crosses you’re carrying and then ask him for help because we’re not meant to do all the heavy lifting ourselves.
Blessings on your day!
…so that I may come to you with joy by the will of God and be refreshed together with you. Romans 15:32
One of middle lovelies shared a book with me last week and I flipped open to a random page in hopes of finding some inspiration for todays blog. First crack open I found something great to share. Last week I wrote about the giants that make us feel like grasshoppers and the story of St. Benezet (who I have never heard of) from Dominic’s book seems to be the perfect follow up.
St. Benezet was a shepherd but felt God calling him to solve a problem. It seems there was a spot along the Rhone River near the saint’s home where many people died trying to cross the river so Benezet felt he was supposed to build a stone bridge across the river so people could have a safe crossing. The first problem was, he was a shepherd and not an engineer. Problem two (which is a big one) he had no experience, money or materials.
I think this is about the point in the story when I would have tossed up my hands and said, “Sorry God, you asked the wrong person, I have no way to accomplish this giant task!” Lucky for the people of this village that wasn’t how he responded. He told the Bishop about his situation and he amazingly supported the project in all ways despite the obvious problems with the plan. Both men truly believed that it was what God WANTED. I don’t know about you but I sometimes tend to see the reasons things won’t work before I see the reasons God might want it to. I also often forget that God can do anything he wants.
Benezet worked tirelessly for seven years on the project. I’d like to say he cut the ribbon and stood proudly at the grand opening of the bridge to hear the townspeople cheer but that’s not the truth. The truth is , he died before he ever saw the project completed. Many people who were inspired by his hard work and his dedication to God’s request completed the bridge after he died. There was celebration both for the bridge completion and for the many miracles that happened through the intercession and prayers of St. Benezet.
This humble shepherd’s life tells a great story of faith, trust, obedience and humility. If we look at the great Cathedrals of old and a simple stone bridge over the Rhone River we see that they share something that seems to escape modern culture…humility. Most of the great architects and builders never saw their work to completion. They didn’t need the accoladed of humans to fulfill them. They set out to do a task using their God given gifts and talents and they did it to bring Glory to God, the giver of the gifts and not for their own credit or glory.
Benezet’s story is a great reminder to me that God can use us any way he needs to for his purposes. It made me think of that famous quote, “God doesn’t call the equipped, he equips the called.” Those are truthful words so my prayer is, “Lord, get me out of the way and show me where you need my service. Lord, allow this little grasshopper to do giant things when you ask!”
A Seed To Plant: Spend some quiet time in prayer asking the Lord where he might be asking you to serve or build a bridge. Then ask him for the humble obedience to follow his plan.
Blessings on your day!
…we cannot attack these people; they are too strong for us. Numbers 13:31
I was reading the story of the Israelites in the book of numbers and it seemed like such an ancient, un-relatable story at first. I picked up a commentary on this particular section and it talked about the Israelites scoping out their new land and finding the Anakim who were known as a race of giants. (Best guess is that they were somewhere around 9 feet tall. One of the most famous of this tribe which were defeated and scattered was none other than Goliath of David and Goliath fame.) The Israelites told Moses they must seem like mere grasshoppers compared to them. That image stuck in my head!
Take a minute and just imagine a giant and a grasshopper standing side by side…pretty lopsided image isn’t it. Things get really spooky when we think about ourselves being that grasshopper standing next to a 9 foot tall person who could squish us. It sort of makes you shake in your boots a little doesn’t it.
All of this vivid imagining led me to wonder about the times and situations that make me feel exactly like that grasshopper next to the giant. Sometimes the giant is finances or poor health or a mountain of laundry flanked by piles of paperwork. Sometimes it’s loneliness or infertility or a troubled relationship. Giants come in many forms for sure! The Israelite grasshopper were terrified and overwhelmed at the thought of facing down something as big and powerful as a giant. Many of them were ready to turn tail and run because they just couldn’t fathom a way out of the situation. I can honestly say I have shared their hopelessness. When I’m tired and the list of tasks and responsibilities is far beyond what little is left in my tank it’s tempting to want to run off screaming!
The grasshoppers faced the giants though. They might have felt silly and unprepared and unequipped but they charged it to battle. They might have felt overwhelmed and outnumbered but they went after it head down full steam ahead. The image of grasshoppers leaping toward a giant seems funny at best. I can imagine a cartoon giant simply swatting those grasshoppers away with the flick of a wrist. That image doesn’t provide much hope and courage either but that’s because we’re missing the point.
It doesn’t matter how “grasshopperish” we feel and it doesn’t matter how fierce and mighty the giants of our day are; the answer lies beyond the grasshopper and the giant. The Israelites didn’t drive the giants off because of their own power or brilliance or skill, they triumphed not because of WHO they were but because of WHOSE they were.
As we face the giants in our path, we need to arm ourselves with the truth of WHOSE we are. There is no giant that can match the power, strength and wisdom of the God who created us in his image. He will fight for us, he will rescue us and he will strengthen us for any battle. In case you have been feeling a little “grasshopperish” lately, maybe this will help you tackle your giants.
A Seed To Plant: Make a list of the giants making you feel like a grasshopper and ask the Lord to show you how to conquer each one of them.
Blessings on your day!
Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart as if working for the Lord, not for human masters. Colossians 3:23
Happy Labor Day! Some of us are resting and playing today but many are hard at work just like any other day. I have some simple thoughts today...what if we prayed for a greater respect for all workers instead of comparing.
I wonder what this world would be like if we had as much respect for the Doctor that repaired a heart as we did for the mechanic who repaired his car so he could make it to the hospital? What if we valued the farmer who raised the food as we did the super star who did the commercial to endorse it? What would happen if we honored the God who gives the gifts and talents we turn into our careers and occupations instead of categorizing and judging based on the financial reward we receive from the world?
There is dignity in the work we do and that dignity is magnified when we remember two things. First, it all starts with gifts and talents from the Lord and second, we are meant to serve others in all we do including our work. When I think about things that way it makes even the yuckiest parts of my work seem to have a greater purpose.
A Seed To Plant: Today lets take some time to pray for all who work and for those who are looking for the true work the Lord has for them.
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Sheri's writing can also be found at Faith Catholic Publications and on CatholicMom.com