Joyful Words Blog
Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light for my path.
– Psalm 119:105
– Psalm 119:105
…prepare the way of the Lord; make straight his path. Mark 1:3
Prepare…wait…be vigilant…be patient…contemplate…be still. Those are the words that flood our ears as we begin the season of Advent. A season set aside in the Christian world to help us do one thing…re-focus! Man oh man does the world need a little re-focus right about now. In order to do Advent right, we have to be mindful of what it is we’re preparing for so today is a perfect day to think about that very thing.
Saturday was a very big day for a group of young men who represented our community. It was just a football game…or was it? Playing in a State Championship game is every football players dream, so to say Saturday’s trip to Ford field was just another game is like saying Christmas is just another day on the calendar. Saturday the towns of Pewamo and Westphalia were practically empty. Folks headed in droves to Detroit to watch a group of talented, hard working determined young men play their hearts out. Folks went to watch the ending to a story, and man what a spectacular ending it was! Those who watched either from the stands or on TV saw the young men we’ve all known since boyhood. I saw those same looks of determination; those same looks of frustration; those same grins and those same spirits I’d seen in the classroom. The beauty of living in a small town is that you know each of the players by name, you know their family and you know that the fans are going to stop traffic at the four corners to welcome home the boys and their Championship title. This little school district collected two state championship and one state runner-up trophies within a month but why the fuss? The fuss is in the story not just the ending. The fuss is in the lessons, the examples, the relationships and the reminder that we’re all stronger when we stand together and focus on the good stuff.
The road to championships this fall at PW schools is a lot like Advent. The excitement wasn’t just in one race or game. There was a preparation, a contemplation, a focus and re-focus along the way. It took dozens of re-do’s and many, many moments of reflection to get to the happy endings we all enjoyed. They couldn’t race right to the championship ending, there was waiting and patience along the way. All those pieces fit together beautifully in the end and there was great rejoicing, laughter and celebration. If those of you from out of town could have seen the crowded streets or the standing cheering crowds your hearts would have been touched by the support, love and powerful connection. My favorite faces were the moms and dads. The parents who payed for shoes, pay to play fees, equipment, lessons, tallied miles on vehicles and spent small fortunes on gas to games and practice. All the sacrifice of time, treasure and talent all melted into great happy shouts and proud hugs and smiles. Why? Because they love their children and want good things for them. The number of prayers said for the athlete’s safety; their sportsmanship; their ability to use well their gifts to glorify the giver of those gifts…it was all a part of the journey and the parents were grateful and proud, the coaches were humbled and honored and the athletes were excited and fulfilled. It’s got all the components of the perfect Advent. Patience, re-focus, anticipation, preparation, glory and a proud Father and great blessing at the end!
My last big thought as I type this post so proud of the students who grew up to do really cool stuff is this; what if we walked in to Mass or Church Service on Christmas as excited about the birth of God’s Son as we were about these amazing accomplishments and trophies? What if we looked at Advent as the season to get ready for the amazing? Our kids and coaches have shown us how it’s done and what the result can be, so how about we apply those same lessons to an even greater, mightier and worthier level? And how about the look on the Father’s face when we get it right?
A Seed To Plant: Make a plan for Advent. Get a book, find a website, download an app…take that step today to begin preparing for a Championship Christmas.
Blessings on your day!
Thanks be to God for is indescribable gifts. 2 Corinthians 9:15
What has God done in your life that you find indescribable? I’m thankful for lots of things; some regular stuff like food and shelter but then there are the indescribable things! As we begin this crazy fun week leading up to Thanksgiving I thought I’d share a few of the gifts from God the middle lovelies find indescribable.
1)Don’t be jealous! Jealousy is the opposite of gratitude so when you find yourself feeling jealous, stop immediately and list 5 things you’re thankful for.
2)Be generous! God can’t be outdone in generosity so the more you give the more you will be blessed. I told the story of the day Ghandi was getting on a train and one of his shoes fell down between the platform and the tracks. There was no way to reach the shoe so he quickly threw the other shoe down onto the tracks too. Puzzled, his companions looked at him and asked why? He said one shoe would be of no value so he might as well leave the pair.
3)Be the creator of thankfulness. Why not be the one who does great things today and gives others something to be thankful for.
4) Be thankful in the middle of the yucky, hard and ugly stuff. Thank him for being tired because it means you’ve had the ability to work hard. Thank him for the mistakes because they teach us lessons. Thank him for the weakness because thats when he can show his strength. Thank him for not getting what you want because that gives us the chance to look forward to something. Thank him for the suffering because thats how we learn to depend on him. Thank him for the worry because thats how we learn to trust. Thank him for spoiled plans because thats how we learn who is really in charge.
I would like to wish you and all those you love a very happy Thanksgiving. I’ll be back next Monday with more joyful words!
A Seed To Plant: Spend some time this week puddling around these words…If the only prayer you ever say in your whole life is “thank you” that would suffice. Mister Eckhart
Blessings on your day!
For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. Matthew 11:30
Is there really such a thing as God wanting too much? I don’t know about you but sometimes I sure feel that way! It feels like as soon as I get one spiritual wrinkle smoothed out, He fluffs the fabric and then there’s another wrinkle! Then my good sense takes over and I realized it’s not a matter of God wanting too much, but rather it’s me not wanting to give something to Him.
This one little verse from Matthew’s Gospel is a doozie isn’t it! More than once I’ve read it and thought…really God…sometimes doing things your way is NOT easy or light. Sometimes it’s really, really hard and I just don’t know if I’m getting it right. I don’t know about you but I can get a little stressed out sometimes trying to do everything he asks me to do!
I’ve had these thoughts sitting on my heart a lot lately and the other day I turned on the TV to check the weather and I stumbled across an episode of Little House on the Prairie. In this particular episode Pa was busy hooking up the horses to plow the field. As Pa hitched up the horses he put a yoke around each of their necks. As the horses began the difficult work ahead the yoke and harness made it much easier for them. They stayed together and were able to keep the same pace and work together as one stronger unit. That was it…I finally got it. Jesus’ yoke is a double; one for me and one for him. I don’t have to do the work by myself, that was never his plan at all. His yoke is easy and his burden is light because he’s stronger than me so he will always take the lead, pick up the slack and do the heavy part.
Being a disciple is not always easy but it's not a solo job. Sometimes he does ask a lot of us so the next time I feel like the burden is too heavy or too hard, I’m going to think about that episode of Little House on the Prairie and remember that I don’t have to do the work alone. The next time I’m stuck in the middle of a tough decision or temptation instead of trying to worm my way out of it alone I’ll remember to put my head down and walk closely with Jesus asking him to pull ahead a little harder because I’m feeling weak. I’ll also remember we’re connected, just like Pa’s horses so I know he’ll always be right there beside me.
A Seed To Plant: Think about a burden you are trying to bear and then imagine being hitched to Jesus like Pa’s horses. Just sit there for a few minutes and imagine charging ahead and pulling that burden with the help of Jesus right beside you doing the heavy stuff.
Blessings on your day!
Desire realized is sweet to the soul…Proverbs 13:19
Who remembers the old Tootsie Pop commercials with the owl? The whole premise of the add was based on the number of licks it took to get to the center of the sucker and bite into the yummy chocolate center. I’ve been thinking about that commercial for the past few days and asking myself two questions. First, why were we in such a hurry to get to the center when the outside was pretty tasty itself and second, what’s the good stuff tucked into the middle of all our hard work and struggles? Pretty random I know but I promise I have a point!
It’s been a pretty amazing week for our little school district. In the last week we’ve watched our High School Cross Country teams clench the Mens state title and the Women’s runner up title. We’ve watched our football team knock off the number 1 ranked team in the division giving them a spot in the state semi-finals. The atmosphere is pretty jazzed up around here and for good reason. But when I was thinking about that commercial, I had to ask myself exactly what is the reason we’re all so excited. These titles are great but it’s not the trophies and titles that are at the heart of things. None of our athletes will probably go on to run in the Olympics or play pro football and that’s ok because it’s all about what’s at the center of this sweetness.
The stuff at the center is worth working for; it’s worth fighting for and it’s a cause for celebration! Days like these give us a chance to pull together and root for something good. The whole community has a steak in these kids lives and when you see things work together for good everyone takes part in the celebration. There is no money to be made or fame to be snatched…it’s just a bunch of big people celebrating the success and hard work of “our kids” and it’s a bunch of little people who see what support, love, pride and respect look like. There are lessons all around us. Times like these make us stand together with pride and excitement. Times like these help us see the things that unite us; not the things that separate us. There have been plenty of “licks” to get to the center. There have been long hours of practice, fund raisers, wins and losses along the way. Meets and games in the cold, the heat, the rain and now we all get to come together and enjoy the sweetness in the center.
There isn’t much we can change in this world and to be even more truthful, there isn’t much God has even put us in charge of. He has however, asked us to love him; love one another; grow in discipleship and be good stewards of the blessings he’s given us. During a time when we needed a reminder of the sweetness that lies at the center of it all, thank you to the kids for reminding us all what’s important. Making this nation great happens in our own house, making leaders and strong Christian men and women who will make a difference starts at our kitchen table. I guess it’s a great day to look around and find the sweet moments at the center of it all because those are the ones that matter the most. Thanks to the kids for giving us a reason to remember that!
A Seed To Plant: As you sit in prayer, make a list of 5 things that are right and sweet at the center of your world.
Blessings on your day!
When Jesus heard this he was amazed at him …Luke 7: 9
I’m pretty good at skipping. I’m a good cook. I always make my bed in the morning and I don’t leave my things laying around. Some folks might think those are nice accomplishments but I don’t think my gifts and talent would amaze anyone, especially Jesus. Can you even imagine Jesus looking at you and telling people that you amazed him?
The person Jesus was talking about in this verse from Luke was the Roman soldier who fully and completely trusted in Jesus. He believed that Jesus didn’t even have to go near his sick servant; he had faith that Jesus could simply say the word and heal his servant because he was that mighty. Think about that for a minute…the soldier didn’t have to do something huge, or dramatic or spectacular to amaze Jesus, he just trusted and believed in the power of Jesus. I don’t know about you but I’d like to amaze Jesus. Imagine the conversation…you get home from work and someone says, “Hey, what did you do today?” and you say, “Oh not much, I just amazed Jesus today!” That would be awesome!
I wonder if Jesus is very amazed with us this week? I guess I knew it would happen the days right after the election but it’s uglier than I thought it would be; the comments, the accusations, the misinterpreted and unappreciated passions. It’s all puddled together in a pretty “un-amazing” fashion. We prayed at school this morning for those who were happy with things and those who were unhappy. We prayed for those who were excited and those who were anxious. That was the most amazing part of the day!
So what now? We remember we’re his, we remember we were ALL created in his image, we remember that love and mercy trump all things all the time. We have to look at history and know people rise up, people come together and if they’re going to go anywhere good, they have to follow Christ to get there. We have a big job to do, we have division to heal and peace to find. We have a great Father who wants good for us. Jesus is waiting for us to amaze him and all we have to do to accomplish that task is to trust him and have faith like the Roman Soldier that he is a mighty healer. He is capable of all things and he can inspire greatness and strength in the most broken and weak.
Whether you feel like you won or you lost this week, take a minute to realize that you are a BELOVED CHILD OF GOD and he expects us to amaze him. So go ahead…take a minute to trust him, believe in him and amaze him.
A Seed To Plant: Say a prayer for our country, say a prayer for those who voted the same way you did and one for those who didn’t. Tell Jesus you trust him and go be amazing!
Blessings on your day!
There will be trouble and distress…Romans 2:9
If you know me well, you know that numbers are not my strength. In fact I think if my friend Erin the math teacher gave me a story problem I just might break out in hives! If you know me well, you know that I would walk a mile to avoid a controversy and if you know me well, you know I have about as much interest in politics as I do in last weeks garbage. That being said, this is the post that came to me for today. It involves numbers, it just might spark controversy and it does address politics…I tried not to write about this stuff but the other post I wrote is floating somewhere in cyberspace and nowhere on my Apple; He can just be so bossy!
Let’s start with just a few numbers…
125; the number of folks who came to Rochester Hills Saturday to learn how to serve Jesus.
600; the number of Catholic high school students who attended a youth rally Sunday
35; the number of fifth graders who led another 240 kids in singing the Divine Mercy Chaplet for Veterans and for our country last Friday afternoon
60,000; the number of High School students who attended a Steubenville Youth Conference last summer to learn to love and serve the Lord and build His Kingdom on earth
10 million; the number of likes and shares on a FaceBook post called Christians Vote in the first 5 hours after posting
Infinity; the number of prayers being said for God’s guidance in Tuesday’s election
Now some conflict and politics…
I quit reading posts, watching TV or listening to radio months ago. If I see the candidates faces, or hear their voices I have one automatic response…5 Hail Mary’s for them and 5 for our Country. I’m not for one minute denying the gravity of Tuesday, I’m just choosing to put my prayerful trust in the King of the Universe. You know…the one who can make anything perfect! I have pondered the advice of a few I believe to be faithful, trustworthy Catholics and allowed their opinions to form my voting conscience, but as for the drama and the never-ending media circus I have said a giant, you aren’t going to fill my head and heart with garbage, no thank you! I don’t watch it, I don’t talk about it because I made a choice…a choice to see the hopeful, the joyful and the GOD that surrounds us. This country has seen tough times before. Conflict, deceit, despair and panic are as old as the book of Genesis and they will probably continue to be a part of the tapestry of humankind forever. My head is not in the sand, I know this is big stuff but I also know God is so much bigger and he will not turn his back on the faithful. He doesn’t promise easy, he doesn’t promise gentle and he doesn’t promise perfect…he promises Eternal Life. Now that’s something I can focus on!
The numbers I mentioned give me hope. The numbers represent the massive number of Americans who have dropped to their knees and let their shadow cross the doorstep of a church, perhaps out of frustration or desperation but folks are looking up in the midst of all this mess. Our nation is completely focused on 2 people…I’d rather focus on the kids who have been faithfully praying for this election every day for months. I’d rather focus on the millions who are doing amazing things to serve God and others. I’d rather focus on how I’m living my faith because I realize we will stand before God and be judged one at a time, not as a group or a political party. The election results on Tuesday have no bearing on the judgment results on the day I stand before God. Friday at school mass, I watched 7 year olds sing with their whole body, I watched Fr. Eric gently lift the little reader on crutches down the altar steps as gently as if she had been made of glass and I watched a couple hundred kids stop and pray for souls of the faithful departed at a bulletin board listing their names in the front hallway at school.
Pick your view…what are you seeing? Where are you looking and what points you up? And my simple line…if God is powerful enough to part the Red Sea, he’s powerful enough to tend to the White House. You can call me naive but I'd prefer you called me hopeful!
A Seed To Plant: God bless us all, God help us see the good that surrounds us and God Bless our Country. Vote once and pray without ceasing.
Blessings on your day!
To all of God’s beloved in Rome, called to be saints…Romans 1:7
November is the month Catholics celebrate all the Saints in Heaven and pray in a special way for all the Souls of the faithful departed. St. Augustine said there is no greater act of mercy and compassion than to pray for those who have gone before us. As a Catholic School Teacher the mission this month is to take a dozen opportunities to teach the kids the meaning of this verse from Romans…we are God’s beloved and we are called to be saints. Becoming saints is what we were made for…we are his and he wants us back. I suppose we could all use that reminder from time to time.
The first part of November is also the time report cards are due, seats get switched, new bulletin boards go up and the school craft show happens. I missed writing the past two weeks because Dave and I were in Austria for parents week visiting Shannon. There are so many stories to tell and I can hardly wait to spill them out on paper but for now, the duties of school in November are sitting on my shoulders like a St. Bernard on a bug so the Europe stories will have to wait until next week.
When we returned at midnight Monday night and I realized there was a mountain of laundry, an empty fridge, a three column to do list at school and three speaking jobs in the next several days I wanted to get back on that plane and escape it all. I realized my life had gone from zero the 80 in the blink of an eye. Tuesday morning when I got up I took my coffee and went to my prayer chair first…before anything else…as hard as that was, God didn’t disappoint and like he always does, he blessed me with something huge in the midst of the chaos. As I pondered, read and prayed that morning of All Saints Day, I realized he was showing me my path to sainthood. He was challenging me to live out my vocation as a wife, mom and teacher in such a way that I would grow in sainthood. Some saints led army’s, some started revolutions, some lived heroic profound lives and did things we can hardly even fathom. That’s what he called them to…he’s calling me to something very different. He’s calling me to reach out to him in the middle of the laundry, the papers, the grocery shopping…the mess of my days. He’s calling me to live it all with joy because I’m his beloved and this is where he put me and this is how he is allowing me to serve him and work my way back home to him as a saint.
I spent a couple hours Tuesday morning unpacking suitcases, doing laundry, answering email and getting caught up in rapid speed. Things just seemed to click perfectly, just as they always do when I remember to start with prayer first. When I did get to school, I was met with hugs and and hello’s and a hot cup of coffee from my students with a note that said, “Welcome back, we thought you’d probably need this!” I also found a stack of graded papers from my completely awesome sub…enormous blessings within the first 10 minutes of returning to school! Zero to 80 might be my life, but it’s an awesome ride when I let God take the wheel.
A Seed To Plant: How is God calling you to grow in sainthood in your everyday life? Are you cooperating or resisting?
Blessings on your day!
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Sheri's writing can also be found at Faith Catholic Publications and on CatholicMom.com