Joyful Words Blog
Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light for my path.
– Psalm 119:105
– Psalm 119:105
Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Colossians 3:15
There are two really important words in this short verse from St. Paul’s letter to the Colossians that lead us to the third BE; peace and thankful. The third thing we need to focus on to calm down the worry is to BE THANKFUL. Gratitude is powerful and not only does it do wonders for our own troubled heart, it’s a beautiful gift to everyone else. Here is an interesting thing I learned about being thankful. Recent MRI studies have mapped the gratitude circuitry in the brain, which activates a sense of reward, fairness, and decision-making—all aspects that help facilitate survival. In case you might be looking for ways to amp up the gratitude here are a few tips to help you sprinkle a little more thankfulness in your day.
*Make it a habit at least once a day to say out-loud three things you are grateful for.
*End your day by jotting down a few things from the day that you are thankful for. I often tell the story of how my mom had a practice of doing exactly this very thing. It was her belief that if the last thing on your mind before sleep was something you were thankful for instead of something you were worried about, you’d sleep better and wake up more positive.
*Tell at least two people a day thank you! Make it specific if you really want to brighten someones day and spread a little joy.
*Make sure your thank-you’s outnumber your complaints.*Check your perspective, if you’re having trouble thinking of something to be grateful for, check out the situation of those around you and that might help you see your situation through a different lens.
*Volunteer…Jesus wasn’t kidding with the whole “serve others” thing. Turns out, it’s a great boost for our gratitude and our happiness.
*Notice and appreciate the little things. I was in the middle of a train-wreck of a day not long ago and a little boy with Downs Syndrome walked up to me in the store and gave me a carnation. He said, “You look like you need something pretty and a hug.” In that one split second the my attitude completely changed.
*Be with the people you love. Make sure you surround yourself with people who lift you up, make you laugh and bring you joy.
*Find some gratitude scriptures you can call on when you’re feeling a little worried and wilted. God’s word is always true and always meant to bring good.
We worship freely, we have all we need to eat, we have shelter, we have transportation and people who care about us. Those things alone make us some of the richest people in the world. I don’t know about you but I think I should sit down and make a list of those and the hundred other things I probably take for granted and add them to my gratitude list. Sounds like a great way to chase the blues away.
A Seed To Plant: Spend some time working on your gratitude list and then find a few great scripture verses about gratitude you can use when the worry gets heavy on your heart.
Blessings on your day!
Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise think about these things. Philippians 4:8
So after what I hope was a “BE LOUD” sort of weekend, it’s time to move to the second be; “BE WIDE-EYED” Before I launch into the second Be, we need to go back to an episode of Little House on the Prairie. (If you weren’t a viewer…is that even possible? think of any old western with plow horses.) The horses working in the field or hauling the family to town in the wagon often wore blinders. These little square leather pieces were meant to focus horses on the path and avoid distractions. It seems logical and safe don’t you think? There are days I think it would be helpful to have a pair so I could focus on one task at a time instead of looking around and seeing a dozen things to do and jumping from task to task.
Sometimes we are like those horses with blinders and we plow full speed ahead focused on one thing. The problem though, is when we struggle with anxiety and worry the thing we’re “laser focused” on is usually adding to our struggle instead of leading us away from it. The second Be challenges us to Be Wide-Eyed and notice what’s on the other side of those blinders. There are a hundred things wrong with this world today. There is tragedy, violence, disaster and evil in all corners of the globe. There is also sorrow, pain, sickness, financial struggle, relationship trouble and plain ole worry settled into all the corners of our daily life and it’s easy to get caught with “blinder vision” and see only those things. St. Paul in his letter to the Philippians encouraged them to look WIDER and he even told them exactly what to focus on.
Today, I’m going to pull a St. Paul and tell you exactly the same thing. You absolutely can see the yuck…there is a lot of it but I’m going to encourage you to take off the blinders and look to the left and to the right. I’m going to ask you to look for the things that are good, just, noble and lovely. I don’t for one hot second want to diminish the reality of the hurt and confusion that may be sitting on your heart, I’m just asking you to notice all the other stuff God is showing you. Bad news always leads. Lies and negative spins on stuff seem sparklier than a story about a four year old spending all his birthday money to buy cake mixes to make cupcakes for the firefighters and policemen in his neighborhood which he sweetly delivered in his little red wagon. A story about deceit and violence will get more reads, likes and comments than the article about NICU nurses who dressed premies for Halloween or National Kindness day. It’s a good idea to take down the blinders and see what you’re missing. We have to ask hard questions and make touch choices like turning off the news, cutting back or eliminating social media or other places that are feeding our worry and anxiety. When I quit watching the news I was afraid I’d be “out of the loop”. Funny thing is, I didn’t really want to be in the loop in the first place. Another funny thing, the world didn’t change when I stopped watching the circus; but I did.
We live in a world of great people doing great stuff…do you see it? I had a visit from a group of 5th grade boys on Halloween night who brought me hot coffee and I have a student who copied my favorite Scripture verse in perfect cursive with a glitter gel pen…beautiful! I watched a 6th grade brother visit a first grade sister who forgot her lunch delivering half of everything that was in his lunch pail. The sandwich was torn in half and a half a bag of Doritos were poured onto the sandwich and wrapped in a paper towel. He split the apple in half with his desk scissors and gave her one of his two Hershey Kisses. The whole exchange happened in silence behind the coat rack in my classroom. Words aren’t needed to define that kind of love and humility. I still cry every time I remember that morning. If I hadn’t been wide-eyed I would have missed something beautiful. If you’re struggling I’ll ask you to look for the positive, the good, the lovely and excellent going on all around you. If you love someone who is struggling I’ll ask you to point it out and maybe even be the one who creates a little positive event in their life. A note or text, a flower or favorite snack delivered anonymously or personally with a hug and a prayer make a huge difference. One more thought, when we’re struggling, there is nothing that can pull us out of a slump faster than turning our focus to someone else. If I’m having a lousy day, seeing only my own yuck, doing a positive act for someone can snap me out of a funk faster than anything I can think of. There is a quote from a favorite movie, The Shack and it just seems to fit this BE. The line comes when God is speaking to Mac and God says, “When all you see is your own pain, you loose sight of Me.” BE WIDE-EYED this week and look for the positive things St. Paul points us to.
A Seed To Plant: Add the second BE to your list and then begin looking! Please share the wide-eyed things you’re seeing so we can all enjoy!
Blessings on your day!
For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. Romans 10:13
My heart hurts often when I realize how many people struggle with worry, stress and anxiety. I see it sapping peoples energy, their joy and their hope. In an attempt to figure out how I can help and not make things worse, I have been doing some studying. I think unknowingly, we sometimes say things that aren’t at all helpful. If someone is truly trapped in a struggle phrases like, “Just snap out of it.” or “You’re making a really big deal out of this don’t ya think?” are among some of the most unhelpful. If they could just snap out of it, they most certainly would.
In my search for helpful answers I’ve read lots and lots of stuff and I’ve decided to boil it down into 3 things I hope might help. I’ve lumped lots of prayer and reading into the 3 Be’s and I’ve decided to turn the 3 Be’s into a 3 part series! If you struggle with worry I hope you can find some simple truth and hope. If you love someone who struggles with worry, I hope you can find some things to encourage them and bring some hope and peace to their heart.
Let’s start with the first Be…Be Loud! Let me take you back to childhood and explain. When I was a kid, we had a great apple tree in our back yard. It was the perfect climbing tree and my brothers were up in that tree nearly every spring and summer day. I would watch from the ground only wishing I could climb with them. I was grounded for a couple of reasons. First, I was terrified of leaving the ground (pretty big deterrent to tree climbing). Second, I was frightened because I wore leg braces for the first 12 years of my life and I had a completely lousy sense of balance, so tree climbing was not a great idea.
I honestly don’t know what came over me one day but I decided to give tree climbing a try despite my fear. I remember getting a 5 gallon bucket to give myself a boost to help me reach the first branch. I got up to about the third branch and then a limb got wedged between the cable on my leg brace and my leg. I was stuck and as I tried to get free my other foot slipped off the branch and I was left hanging there sideways with my feet touching no part of the tree. I screamed as loud as I could for my dad and in pretty quick fashion I could hear his calm voice. I yelled for him to help me and get me down but he did something I didn’t expect. He told me that he was going to help, but that I was the one who got into the pickle and I was going to have to get out. For what seemed like forever he stood under that tree giving me directions about where to put my hands and feet. He walked me through getting the branch unstuck from the the cable on my braces and he coached me down onto the bucket and to the ground. I remember asking him why he didn’t just climb up the tree and rescue me and he told me it was better to learn how to get myself out of a pickle with a little support and guidance so I would know what to do if it ever happened again.
There are so many lessons from that day. Each of us has a Father who will race to our aid if we call on his name. Whether it’s a father racing to an apple tree, or to the bedroom to scare monsters out of the closet or a Father who races to the heart of a weary child to restore peace and hope they are just a shout away. All we have to do is cry out loudly for the help of our Father and help will come. We sometimes think he forgets to show up when we call his name and things don’t get better immediately. I think sometimes Father God helps a little like my dad did the day I got stuck in the tree. He didn’t rescue me straight down from the tree but he guided and taught and walked me through; I had to cooperate and listen. If I hadn’t, I might still be stuck in that tree or the same thing might have happened the next time I climbed a tree if he hadn’t helped me learn.
If we’re struggling and we cry out loudly, God will put someone in our path to help us. I’ve learned that I don’t always know what to do or say when someone is struggling but if I cry out too, the Holy Spirit sends the words and thoughts I need to walk with a struggling friend. There are lessons in every struggle and the learning comes at the hands of a Father who loves us and wants what’s good for us. My dad taught me decades ago that getting to the other side of a tough situation doesn’t always happen the way you think it might. God is the same kind of teacher and guide, he’s going to give us what we need, not necessarily what we want but we must never doubt his mighty love.
The next time you’re struggling or overcome with worry, Be Loud and call out to the Lord to meet you in the middle of your mess…he’ll come a runnin…I promise! Stay tuned Monday for the second Be.
A Seed To Plant: Start a note where you can write the 3 Be’s in case you or someone you love needs them. Look for opportunities this week to Be Loud and invite the Lord into your worry and troubles.
Blessings on your day!
Save me, O God, for the waters have risen to my neck. Psalm 69:2
These past few weeks have been pretty nutty! My to-do list goes to prayer with me each morning and I know God will organize it all for his glory but there are a few times I’ve been a little overwhelmed. As I was working my way through the tasks of the past many days I was encouraged when I remembered back to swimming lessons when I was a little girl. Just for the record, I HATED swimming lessons. I remember the required trip into the deep end and that feeling of complete helplessness when I realized my feet couldn’t touch bottom and I had nothing to grab on to. The instructor would yell, relax, close your mouth and tip your head back so the water won’t go up your nose. I didn’t enjoy anything about that feeling.
That feeling has been a familiar one these past few days but I discovered something I never learned in swimming lessons. When you close your mouth and tip your head back so you can breathe, you are automatically looking up. Quietly looking up is always a good idea and this week it’s a practice that has meant survival and surprisingly, great joy! I’ve crammed way too much into the past two weeks but as the waters rose, I kept asking God to keep me from drowning. Not only did he answer but he blessed me with lots of little surprises along the way. He arranged every detail, every time table and every event. Things may not have been completed as early or fast as I wanted but it all got finished. I had help when I didn’t expect it, laughter when it was most needed and great friends along the way. I even managed to score front row parking a couple of times when I’d peeled into the parking lot at the last minute.
I’ve had to reach out and ask for help and we have had to eat left-overs a few times but it all fell in place. I’m in awe of the way God can swoop in and put things in order if we just close our mouth, tip our head back and look up to the giver of life and the master of all time and tasks. Perhaps I should try that more often!
A Seed To Plant: Tip your head back, close your mouth and look up to the giver of life and enjoy your day!
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 these days? I was waiting for an appointment the other day and a news channel was on. It only took about 2 minutes for me to move to another part of the room so I couldn’t see or hear it. The division, the arguing, the twisting of the truth and the accusations swirl around like leaves in the November wind and it makes me so very sad.
So what do we do? 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. Please take a minute to realize that you are a BELOVED CHILD OF GOD and he expects us to amaze him. So go ahead…trust him, believe in him and amaze him.
A Seed To Plant: Say a prayer for our country, say a prayer for our leaders, say a prayer for each other. Tell Jesus you trust him and go be amazing!
Blessings on your day!
The soul of education is the education of the soul.
I have no idea who said this really smart thing…I googled and googled but I can’t find a name to give credit to. It certainly isn’t my thought, just one that I heard and took to heart. When I first heard it, I thought it pertained to my role as a teacher but the more I thought about it the wider its meaning became.
Friday was a truly spectacular day at St. Mary School. All Saints Day is a little like Christmas! We always refer to it as a non-academic day but after hearing this quote I think the opposite is true. We don’t take spelling tests or math tests or turn in homework on November 1st. We celebrate the holy men and women who show us what true discipleship really looks like. We focus on the fact that the saints were sinners like us. They did things that were inspiring and fabulous and they had days, weeks and maybe even decades where their lives were a hot mess! Thats good information to know because none of us can keep running the race if perfection is the expectation.
The middle lovelies lined the halls Friday morning with their art exhibits. They each drew the name of a saint and were asked to create an exhibit that depicted one event, action or detail that could bring that saint to life and tell their story. This is the third time we have done Saint Art Prize and I was blown away at their creativity, their enthusiasm and their knowledge. They chatted with dozens and dozens of visitors about their saint and their project with poise and great showmanship. They knew their stuff and they shared what they knew beautifully. One of the kids told me they had spent so much time learning and creating they felt like this saint was a new big sister who would always be looking out for them and guiding them from now on. That seemed like some soul education to me.
The primary lesson in the education of the soul is that we were fearfully and wonderfully created in the image of Our Father and we were made for community. We were not made to be alone yet in our society there are far too many people stumbling through their days in isolation and lonely sadness. Friday afternoon our whole school family was divided into four Houses to make sure that was never the story in our school. There was a huge reveal assembly with colored spotlights and new t-shirts and envelopes ripped open with more excitement that packages on Christmas morning. Everybody has a House…everybody has a family…everybody has a spot in a group made up of K-6th graders to pray with, play with, laugh with and to protect. Knowing you have a House to belong to is good for the soul.
After the roar quieted in the gym and 300 people were divided into their Houses all wearing the same shirt we knelt together and prayed as Fr. Eric brought the Blessed Sacrament to us. We prayed and we promised with the help of Jesus to take care of each other, to pray for and with each other and to help each other grow in sainthood. Our souls were very happy!!
The funny thing was, all of this wasn’t just for the kids. The grown ups felt a new connection and a new spark as well. Sometimes we teach the kids and sometimes they teach us. Hopefully we’re helping each other continue our education of the soul. In the true sense of education, it wasn’t a non-academic day at all, it was an epic education day!
A Seed To Plant: Choose something to read or to watch each day for the remainder of 2019 to educate your soul!
Blessings on your day!!
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Sheri's writing can also be found at Faith Catholic Publications and on CatholicMom.com