Joyful Words Blog
Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light for my path.
– Psalm 119:105
– Psalm 119:105
Above all else, guard your heart,for everything you do flows from it. Proverbs 4:23
All too often we look in a mirror and think things like, I wish my legs were longer or my nose was smaller. Maybe we notice our eyes or shoulders and don’t even get me started on the hips and thighs! We’re pretty quick to point out which body parts we would like to change but when was the last time you looked in a mirror and recited the list of body parts we really do like? A good friend shared a story with me this week that really made me stop and think about the best body part of all.
My friend and her kindergarten son were outside playing catch with a football. She threw a pass that slipped through his little hands and thunked him square in the chest. His reply was priceless. He grabbed his chest, looked at his mom and said, “Mom, you hit me right where Jesus lives.” Not quite comprehending what he said she asked him to say it again and he matter of factly looked her in the eyes and said, “Yeah mom, you hit me in the heart, you know, right where Jesus lives!” Out of the mouths of babes! His comment just melted my heart!
Every time I saw this little guy walking through the halls the rest of the week I just smiled and thought, now there’s a kid who has learned something really important! He also made me realize how important our heart is. It’s far more than a blood pumping, life sustaining organ, it’s the home of Jesus and I should probably give it a little more thought and honor! So, what is my heart like? Is it a suitable home for the Son of God? Is it tender and open or is it cold and guarded? I suppose if I paid a little more attention to the importance of that body part everyone might benefit.
How’s your heart? Does it give Jesus a great place to hang out or could it use a little re-modeling? It stands to reason that if Jesus goes into our heart and dwells there, the feelings, emotions and actions it stimulates should mirror the one who dwells there.
A Seed To Plant: Take some time in prayer today to examine your heart. Can people tell who lives there?
Blessings on your day!
Your love has given me great joy and encouragement, because you, brother, have refreshed the hearts of the Lord’s people. Philemon 1:7
When you work in an elementary school the word “contagious” doesn’t have a positive meaning. The first reaction is to grab the Clorox wipes and start wiping down every flat surface that doesn’t move. It turns into a near olympic event to conquer the germs that could take out half of the front row in one swift swoop. But Saturday night I got a different look at the word and I liked it.
Saturday I was traveling home from a beautiful trip to Charles City Iowa. I spent the day with a hall full of beautiful women who had strong faith, easy laughter and hearts that were willing to love and serve the Lord. It was a great day! On my way home, I had a two hour layover at O’Hare airport in Chicago and I chose to sit in an open hallway rather than a cramped boarding area where I had a little more room to work. After a few minutes I realized I was near the Cubs Bar. I love baseball but since my two favorite teams; the Tigers and the Royals are out, I hadn’t been paying much attention to the playoffs. I learned in a hurry that the Cubs were still in the hunt.
One of the big screen tv’s in the bar was angled out a bit so folks passing by could stop for a bit and catch the score even if they didn’t have time to sit down for a burger and a beer. About the time the Cubs scored their first run, the atmosphere became contagiously enthusiastic. I’m sure all those who stopped to cheer on the Cubs weren’t all die hard fans, but they got drawn into the spirit and the contagious energy. I watched police officers and TSA agents and custodians and traveling executives share conversation like they were long lost friends. I saw fist bumps and high fives and even a hug or two. The only people who didn’t walk away smiling were the folks wearing Dodgers shirts.
I watched for more than an hour and I was delighted to see the events unfold. I truly believe that the power of that hour wasn’t in the game but rather in the human connection itself. It usually started with a simple question; “who’s ahead?” or “how’s the game?” What followed next was great! There were no barriers; no financial or status divisions. There was no color, no religion, no political party…it was just folks cheering for something good, something simple, something fun. It didn’t take an education or a policy or an act of congress; it just took a wee little bit of contagious cheerfulness and camaraderie.
Make no mistake, this isn’t a post about baseball; it’s a post about how calculated our thinking has become on some days. We can become so concerned with each others credentials and points of view we forget we are so easily able to connect at the heart over the simplest things in life. I tried really hard to soak up some of that contagious energy and whatever “germs” caused it so I could bring it home. I think we could all use a little dose of that fever. I think maybe we should call it the “love your neighbor” epidemic. So, go on…get out there and spread some of those germs around and lets see if we can’t brighten things up today!
A Seed To Plant: Smile and say hello to 5 random people today, if you’re feeling especially contagious ask them how their day is!
Blessings on your day!
And we know that all things work together for good of those who love God, who are the called according to purpose. Romans 8:28
Sometimes things happen that just make me stop and say, “Wow God…that’s amazing”. I’ve had a couple of those events lately so I thought I’d splash a big ole ray of light into everybody's day and share them. The very best part of traveling and speaking is, hands down, the people I meet and the things I see God doing in their lives. The joy in those experiences so far outweighs the time, energy and travel it hardly seems fair.
When I do a Catholic Hospitality training one of the components of the day is teaching people to pray together with another person. The prayer is spontaneous and heartfelt and that type of prayer usually scares most folks half to death. It makes us very vulnerable and that simply isn’t a feeling lots of folks enjoy. During the training I teach participants the process, give them the basic steps and model the process. I even provide a script in case they need a back up plan. The final step is to tell them they can’t pray with anyone at their table or anyone they know or came to the conference with. We say a prayer to the Holy Spirit to help match up the prayer partners in such a way that they can connect and truly reap the power and benefit of this type of prayer. From where I stand the whole process is absolutely amazing. What begins as nervous laughter turns to a heart pouring, story sharing and very often life changing experience. I’m always amazed at the power that swallows the room and the peace that blankets the participants. God always does amazing work but there have been three extremely powerful stories from this fall that I got permission to share with all of you.
The first story happened when two young women found each others gaze from across a crowd of more than 75 people. They sat together and introduced themselves, and as instructed, they talked about the things going on in their life that they needed prayer for. These two women soon drifted into a world all of their own. I could tell something beautiful was happening and they shared with me later that they couldn’t believe what God had done for them. Each of these two women had very recently suffered the pain and heartbreak of a miscarriage. They prayed with each other and drew each other to the comfort of Jesus in a way nobody else in the room could have done. They left that day with a beautiful sister in Christ to support them along the way of this difficult journey and they made plans to call each other twice a week to pray together and check up on the other. How does that happen?
The second story was the tale of two grandmas. These two strangers came together to pray and in a very short time discovered that they shared the same birthday, the same number of children and grandkids, and the same first name. As they began talking about their prayer needs they found those as identical as the other details they’d discussed. They prayed together with the closeness of long lost sisters and vowed that day to pray not only for their own kids and grandkids but they agreed to pray for the others kids and grandkids by name as well. What are the odds?
The third story involves something almost too amazing to believe. In a crowd of more than 100 people God did something truly powerful. After most of the crowd had settled in with their partner to pray, I noticed a woman all alone at a table in the back of the room on her phone. It turns out she had been in the rest room during the instructions so she just slipped back into the room and sat down hoping nobody would notice her. There happened to be a gentlemen still looking for a partner in the corner of the room and he spotted her, and sat down next to her and asked if they could pray together. At the end of the conference she came up in tears to tell me her story and explain why it had been such a tremendous blessing. She shared that two years ago she was going through a really rough time. During this rough time she was in a car accident and didn’t have the means to repair her car so she purchased a “hunk of junk on 4 wheels” to get her by. One morning the car just stopped in the middle of heavy Detroit morning traffic and everyone who sped by just yelled and honked at her but nobody offered to help. Finally as she was just about to fall to pieces a man approached her car and offered to help. He pushed her car off the road and drove her to work. She was so touched and blessed by his kindness and helpfulness but never really got to properly thank him and let him know how much his actions were appreciated at that really low spot in her life. In a way only God can manage, the man who was the last person to find a partner; the man who tapped her on the shoulder and asked her to pray was the same man who had stopped to help her two years earlier. How does that happen?
If you are going through something tough and you wonder if God is really listening and noticing; I hope these stories give you a blast of sunny hope because he is busy doing things only he can do…and believe me; you just can’t make this stuff up!
A Seed To Plant: Take some time to reach out to someone today and ask them if there is anything they need prayer for.
Blessings on your day!
Peace I Ieave with you; my peace I give to you. John 14:27
Have you ever stared into the washer when it was running the spin cycle? As a kid, I used to stick a wooden spoon handle into the slot the housed the shut off switch so I could open the lid and watch the laundry spin. I was fascinated by the speed and force and I loved the occasional mist of water that would wet my face. I know it seems like a silly thing but I thought it was so cool that the laundry could mash up against the side and not fall to the center. Since school started my life has felt a little like the spin cycle on the washer but God is good and he’s that force that has kept everything from crashing to the middle.
So much has happened and I have so much to be grateful for. Dave and I celebrated our 25th anniversary, I’ve traveled like crazy speaking and meeting some truly amazing people. I get to spend each day with 75 truly awesome middle lovelies and I went to 6th grade camp and Canada all in one week. I’ve been in the air and on the porch and in the barn and planted my feet in 7 different states in the past 3 months. Sometimes I shake my head and say, “why me, Lord? You could have picked anyone to do this work but I’m so glad you picked me!” This afternoon was quiet and still and I felt like the washer stopped spinning for bit. As I stopped to catch my breath I realized that just like the washer everything was still in place even after the spinning stopped. Peace is such a lovely thing, it’s our gift from the Father who loves us…he promised it to us and I think we forget to cash in on that gift.
Millions of Americans are tuned into the Presidential candidate debate as I type, I chose peace instead of the chaos that is being televised and that will jam up social media for the next few days. I’m gonna let the world spin like crazy and I’m just going to sit in the quiet office and type. As I think about the craziness that consumes our days right now I realize what a gift peace really is. I think about nutty things like the scary clowns and hurricane winds and presidential mud slinging and it makes peace even more necessary. In the hectic pace of the past couple of months there are some things that I wish would go as viral instead. In the past several weeks I’ve met people who have been married for decades, people who beat cancer three or more times and people who have overcome tragedies that made me want to cry. I’ve met people full of joy and hope and light and they inspire me. I have watched students in my classroom form friendships, support each other and boys who open song books at mass and sing with their whole heart. I’be been touched by the generosity and hospitality of strangers and the warmth of hugs from people I’ve never met and will probably never see again. I’ve seen the ocean, the mountains, the forrest and held a baby just a few weeks old. I’ve laughed, cried and stretched myself to the limits but all the while God has held it all in place and kept it all spinning in good order.
These past several weeks have been a great reminder of some of the most important lessons in life. God’s in charge, there are way more good people than bad, hot coffee fixes everything, there is always something to laugh about and smiles are the universal language of God’s love. God reveals himself so clearly through creation and people so it’s great to pay attention to both, I guarantee you’ll find what’s good! This week as your life seems like the spin cycle just spin along, knowing God’s got it under control and take a minute to look for the good stuff and the good folks, they are there; shining like a beacon offering you a slice of peace in the middle of the spinning.
A Seed To Plant: Make a list of 5 great things that have happened in the last two weeks…sometimes we have to slow down a minute to sort out the good stuff.
Blessings on your day!
For one who believes with his heart and so is justified, and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved. Romans 10:10
My favorite part about Sunday is the way I feel after coming home from mass. My strength is renewed, my hope is filled up and my spirit is lifted. I always feel a sense of enthusiasm and joy and I believe the grace God has just slathered on me will bless me on my Christian walk all week. I guess I feel a little “ten feet tall and bullet proof”. If I’m completely honest though…I don’t usually make it past Tuesday afternoon before I start to feel the burden of my human sinfulness bearing down on me. I forget to trust here and there, I let my mind run off like a new puppy during Morning Prayer or I’m mowed over by a wave of impatience. Then there I am…not nearly ten feet tall and certainly not bullet proof at all. It seems my will and God’s plan crash at the intersection of Eternal Salvation and Stubborn Nature regularly!
In Paul’s letter to the Romans he wrote beautifully about our salvation through Jesus. These words from chapter 10 are so comforting and they seem so simple; believe it in your heart and confess your belief and there ya go! But before I do my little “Yeah, I can SO do this” dance around the ring like Rocky, I hear my mother’s voice saying, “Whoa Bessie…not so fast!” What does “believe with his heart” and “confess with the mouth” really look like? I will be the first in line to say my heart and my mouth sometimes get off course.
If I truly believe in the Lord with my whole heart then that means there is no room for unjust anger or judgmental feelings or failing compassion upon the marginalized. And then there is the issue of my mouth. I don’t think I can spew impatient statements and sassy retorts one minute and the good news of Jesus the next and have things work out all peachy! Just about the time I think I have this “Christian living” and “discipleship” thing all figured out, I hear scripture like these words from Romans and I realize I’ve got a lot of work to do. I don’t look at that in a hopeless, discouraging way at all. I look at it as an invitation to work on my heart and mouth because salvation is worth it…eternal life is worth it!
Sometimes I fall short…way short… and I thank God for that awareness. Yup, you read that right, I said THANK GOD, for that awareness. He’s not going to zap us with a lightning bolt, He’s going to love us and welcome us with His ever open arms as we try again to get it right tomorrow…He’s just that great to us! Every now and again I need to hear words like these from St. Paul and take an inventory of my heart and my mouth. If I am going to believe with my whole heart, I need to push some things out that are in His way of achieving total occupancy of my heart. I also need to work harder at making my mouth declare things that are pleasing to His ears. Thank goodness I have another chance to get it right today!
A Seed To Plant: Sit still for a wee bit today and ask yourself what else is harbored in your heart besides a love for Christ. Then sit still a wee bit longer and ponder what things are coming from your mouth other than the words of our loving Father.
Blessings on your day!
Be still and know that I am God. Psalm 46:11
I apologize for the absence of words here but the reason is a good one! Last week I was in the woods with the middle lovelies at camp on post day and wifi doesn't seem to work so well from a woodsy location. From there I traveled to British Columbia and had an amazing adventure. When I got home last night it was nearly midnight so on just a few hours sleep I'm afraid to type too much this morning for fear of what might tumble out onto the screen!
God showed himself in so many ways the past several days and there are lessons to share, but for today, I need to be still, process a bit and catch my breath. I'll be back with more joyful words on Thursday. Until then, may God bless you and those you love!
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Sheri's writing can also be found at Faith Catholic Publications and on CatholicMom.com