Joyful Words Blog
Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light for my path.
– Psalm 119:105
– Psalm 119:105
Do you want to be well? John 5:6
50 years ago Burger King rolled out their ad campaign with a jingle that went, “Hold the pickle, hold the lettuce. Special orders don’t upset all we ask is that you let us serve it your way. Have it your way at Burger King.” It may have been a genius way to sell the Whopper but it’s not exactly the motto for growing in holiness. For some strange reason that jingle has been tumbling in my head and it struck me that sometimes I expect my relationship with Jesus to be just like ordering the perfect burger. The truth is, I’m not always sure what it is I really think I want.
Someone recently pointed out that we have so many choices it can be really tough to figure out what we want most. We seem to chase thing after thing. We buy stuff and more stuff trying to figure out what that one thing really is. How many times have we eaten four or five snacks before we really even figure out what we’re really hungry for? I read a question not long ago that made me giggle and think. The gentleman asked, “What do cats like most? Mice, right? So if mice is what the cat really wants why is cat food made from chicken, pork, beef, lamb and fish instead of mouse?
I’ve given it a lot of thought and I think sometimes I don’t figure out what I really want because it’s easier to just try several options and complain when they aren’t what I really wanted than it is to really stop, pray and ponder what I want, examining all the consequences and unintended consequences that go with my choices. Jesus’ question to the crippled man in Johns Gospel was a bit strange but it really digs down to a deeper level; a level I think I need to visit more often. The lame man had been there on his mat crippled for decades. Actually being healed would require responsibility and change for the man, after 38 years Jesus asked a very fair question. I’m sure it made the man wonder how much he really wanted the change that meant moving, pain, work and responsibility. Jesus wanted to know if it was really worth it to him.
Blessed Santia Szymkowiak had the perfect answer to the question, “What do you want?” She lived her entire life with one motto, “Jesus make me want whatever you want.” She believed what Jesus wanted most for and from her was holiness. I don’t know about you, but that isn’t my usual thought process, but it sure should be. If I want what he wants then I can’t always have it my way. If I do things his way, it means change and being uncomfortable; two things we don’t readily sign up for! Burger King made a fortune off making customers feel like they could have anything they wanted and there was happiness because of it. I guess that leads me to ask myself the big question; where do I want happiness; on earth so it can last about as long as that delicious burger or do I want the bliss for all of eternal life? My way will be temporary, his way will be eternal. It’s really what I want most but what am I willing to do; what changes am I willing to make in order to want what he wants?
A Seed To Plant: Make a list of all the things you want, and make a list of all the things you’re pouting about because they didn’t go your way. Pray with that list and ask God to show you what he wants for you.
Blessings on your day!
…for from the fullness of the heart the mouth speaks. Luke 6:45
Now that’s an entire Holy Hour in ten words! Even though my heart is buried deep within my chest, my mouth is its perfect reflection. Sometimes that’s a great thing and sometimes not so much! As I prayed with this Gospel, so filled with gems and treasures, I just kept coming back to this one line again and again. The sad reality that washed over me was…sometimes my heart and words are judgmental and fickle.
The Holy Spirit painfully allowed me to see that more often than I’d care to admit, my heart and words were different based on what the person I was speaking to would think of me. I realized that sometimes my heart and words are more patient and kinder because I might get something in return. That led me to discover and prayerfully confess that my heart wasn’t always full of his gigantic love for me. If it was, the only thing that would come forth would be HIS love, HIS attitude and HIS words. I am His creation but I don’t always bear good fruit and that stems from the gunk I let settle into my heart.
If my mouth is complaining and judging and arguing and sassing, my heart needs a “Love of Jesus” refill that only comes in prayer. Keeping my heart right so my mouth follows requires desiring the holiness of myself and of others. It also requires that I contemplate the fact that HIS is the only opinion of me that matters. Praying on those truths should get my tree filled up with HIS good fruit.
A Seed To Plant: Spend some time in prayer with this line and ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to you the people and places that don’t always bring out the best of your heart and words.
Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might…Ecclesiastes 9:10
Anybody else have a thing or two that just isn’t getting done? It’s crazy how I can look at a pile of papers or the ironing and acknowledge that it needs to be taken care of but yet day after day I can just keep looking at it and say, not yet…I’ll get to it! Shoot, I’ve even been known to move the thing to another spot…not sure if I’m trying to justify that as “working on it” or if I’m just hoping it won’t nag at me in a different spot. In the grand scheme of life I don’t suppose papers and clothes are a huge deal but I read a quote from St. Augustine that made me realize how many times I say “not yet” to God and that is a different thing entirely.
If you remember his story, St. Augustine was quite the colorful character. His early life was about as far from sainthood as you could imagine. His story offers plenty of “blush worthy” adventures but the Father doesn’t give up on anybody. As St. Augustine was beginning to feel the pull of the Father’s unfathomable love, he was curious and longed for a life that was different but he is famously quoted as saying “Oh Lord, give me chastity and continence (self-restraint) but not yet.” When I first read this I thought, “geeze Augustine, are you in or are you out?” No sooner had that thought tumbled through my brain than I thought, humm, “geeze Sheri, are you in or are you out?” Thump right to the nugget compliments of the Holy Spirit! I surprise myself often at how quickly I can sum up somebody elses “stuff” before I clearly study my own!
This quote inspired me to make a list of the physical and more importantly the spiritual stuff I keep saying “not yet” to. I think the Holy Spirit is just being bossy right now because the list is big! I told Him in prayer that my paper was full but yet stuff still keeps poppin into my head. As I was pouting about all the stuff on my spiritual “not yet” list in prayer the other day, this thought jumped right into my head…if any one of these things is getting in the way of my closeness to Christ, is it worth it? Uuuuh…NO it’s not so how do I tackle my “not yet” list. As I looked over my list, I planned to begin with a couple of smaller ones…you know, just ease myself in but one stood out on the page like it was screaming at me and it’s a doozy.
I’m gonna spill something out right here…for more than forty years I’ve had a love/hate (mostly hate) relationship with the scales. Swimsuits and zippers are two of my greatest enemies! I’ve gone from “not yet” to “all in” to “all out” more times than I can count. I’ve been motivated by vanity, pride, and even a skewed notion that God would love me more the smaller the number. There has been guilt, shame, embarrassment, disappointment and 32 dozen other ridiculous emotions and notions. St. Augustine’s quote helped me realize it wasn’t about a size or a bag of Ruffles but a discovery of the root and God’s why. Augustine’s journey points to the fact that our spiritual “not yet” is keeping us at arms length (or further) from the Father’s love. If we run to the “thing” instead of running to the Father or if we use a “thing” to fill us with joy, pleasure, fun or comfort it will never last and it will never offer the satisfaction we’re looking for…only He can do that. So the question is, how do I turn to Him “now” instead of “not yet”. Here are some thoughts…
*Begin each morning with prayer asking specifically for help chipping away at ONE thing from your “not yet” list.
*Get to the root and know God’s why.
*Write down 3 things you are grateful for and focus on those things instead of focusing on how hard it’s gonna be to work on your thing. It’s a little like how a mom mixes a toddlers medicine in with applesauce. One drowns out the other and makes it easier to swallow.
*Find people and resources that have tackled your same “not yet”. As much as technology can be a pebble in my shoe, it’s a wonderful tool for finding stories and videos of people who have won the battle we’re beginning. Augustine had some big “not yet” things on his list and he sought help and support; same goes for us.
* “Not yet” happens with partial effort…”all in” requires first and foremost a desire to be closer to the one who loves us most…if you want that head into it will all your might?
*We can’t muscle our way through it…we have to ask for God’s Grace. My Grandma Thelma used to use the phrase, “But only by the Grace of God” often and man was she spot on! Good things, Godly things only happen because of His grace and it’s free…all we do is ask…there isn’t a punch card or a maximum amount. He gives it in ample supply because he wants us close and he wants us to move past “not yet”. We just have to ask for the grace to be “all in” and want Him more than the thing we’re putting in between us.
*Hope…God can turn our “not yet” into “not ever again” even if we can’t imagine how.
A Seed To Plant: Make your spiritual “not yet” list? After you make your list, sit for a few minutes and imagine what your life would be like if you didn’t have to devote thought and energy to those things again…and what would happen if we shifted all those minutes and all that energy to the Father? How very different our days would be!
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!
Sheri's writing can also be found at Faith Catholic Publications and on CatholicMom.com