Joyful Words Blog
Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light for my path.
– Psalm 119:105
– Psalm 119:105
And what I’m saying to you, I’m saying to all: Stay awake! Mark 13:37
I thought of my Dad at mass Sunday. Swirling among the words that you hear the first Sunday of Advent like watch, wait, prepare Father said “Pay Attention!” It grabbed me and I thought of one of Dad’s most famous one liners; “Pay attention…always pay attention…it doesn’t cost anything to pay attention!”
I guess it’s my Advent message so now I’m offering it to you too. The thing about paying attention is that you have to be in the present to do it. You have to be HERE, NOW…even if here and now aren’t where you want to be. As 2020 winds down (Thank you Jesus!) we’re thinking about wanting to be somewhere else…as if the mayhem and sadness of all of this will magically disappear one month from Tuesday. Advent is a time to get ready and the time for that starts now. I have to make room for him today…here…now…not when I think I will like things better. The funny thing is, he’s not “there” in that land of “normal” or “what used to be”. He’s HERE…NOW…today in this weird, strange, bizarre and surprisingly beautiful season.
I had to adjust my thinking a little today. Jesus is coming and things may not look much better on December 25th. I’m caught between warning him about the giant mess he’s about to enter and suggesting he wait a while longer until things get better. Then it hit me…HE makes things better and the thing he wants to make “better” the most is ME! Things aren’t changing, so it occurred to me that I’m the one being called to change and if I don’t PAY ATTENTION I’m gonna miss it all! When you study a little Scripture it’s pretty easy to see the world was pretty much a giant mess when Jesus came the first time so I don’t think he’ll be surprised or frightened or dismayed at all. I think he’ll find the good in all of it and all of us!
For the next few weeks I’ll be trying to pay attention. I’ll be sure to check the corners and the unexpected places where I might find Jesus trying to grab my attention. Scripture tells us he could always be found in unexpected places like sinners homes, with prostitutes, with the poor and in a stable. Paying attention is the work of the expectant. It’s a place of noticing, observing, eyes-wide-open attention each day but it’s not a place of fear or a place of excitement. It’s something different; it’s looking and expecting with hope but not prescribing the outcome. It’s no time for “fearful doom” thinking and it isn’t time for “Jesus make me feel warm, fuzzy and gleeful.” It’s paying attention with faith knowing that his will is perfect and he will reveal it little nuggets at a time. It’s being so expectant that even the teeniest of those nuggets fills us with a joy that leaves us breathless until we see the next one.
This Advent is different because this year we have something (thank you Covid) we usually don’t have; TIME! We aren’t rushing to parties and concerts and events. On one hand that can seem a little sad but wait…haven’t we all said in the past, “I could do Advent better if I had some time and wasn’t so busy!” Here we go…lets make this a really great Advent…let’s pay attention and prepare for him HERE and NOW! My prayer for the first week of Advent is to pay attention to the places I need to make room. I’m asking him to show me what needs to be shoved to the side and what needs to be tossed completely out to prepare room for HIM.
A Seed To Plant: Make a short list of specific things you can do to prepare and pay attention now that we have a little more time.
Blessings on your day!
And he will separate them one from the another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will place the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. Matthew 25: 32-33
When I heard the sheep and goats reference in this Sunday’s Gospel, I had a flashback to a wonderful story from a few years back. It’s the story of the perfect advice from a wise mom to her kids. As we seem to be all tangled up in picking sides these days, this seemed to add some wisdom to the importance of picking the TRULY right side.
In the parable of the sheep and the goats, Jesus is separating the sheep; the obedient loving followers from the rebellious, stiff necked, defiant goats. Now, anybody who reads this scripture wants to be a sheep for sure! In fact, most of our journey to Christ centers on being more “sheeplike” so we wind up at his right hand. Recently I visited with a really great mom. I’ve had the privilege of teaching a few of her children and they are completely cool kids; knowing the parents explains it all. They are a faithful, prayerful, loving, big Catholic family. The mom will admit they try really hard to get it right but sometimes it all goes a little crazy. Mornings can be the craziest time of day with clothes, breakfast, lunches and the bus that always sees to show up a wee bit before everyone is ready. She said she had to come up with a quick, direct and attention grabbing way to hammer home a message about how to live the day! I asked her what she said and she winked and told me I should ask the kids. So, I did just that.
First thing the next morning I asked he son what his mom said to remind him to be a disciple. He told me that when he and his siblings leave the house, his mom yells to them, “Have a good day and DON’T BE A GOAT!” Four simple words…don’t be a goat! How’s that for a living color example for life! I asked the young man what he thought his mom meant and he smiled and said, “thats her way of saying veer toward God’s right hand and make sure you don’t do stuff you’ll be judged negatively for and then get sent to the left because it’s kind of hard to get from the left back to the right, it’s just easier to stay to the right and not be a goat.”
A Seed To Plant: Make yourself a little sign that says Don’t Be A Goat! Then take some prayerful time to identify the places in your life you act a little more like a goat than a sheep.
Blessings on your day!
Oh, give thanks to the Lord! Chronicles 16:8
“If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all!” If I had a dollar for every time I have heard or spoken that phrase I could probably buy that new baby Kuereg I’d love to put in my classroom! But honestly…during nutty times like these, some days it takes some thinking to come up with something good to say when my world feels as messy as a teenagers bedroom!
As I was thinking about that the other day the Holy Spirit gently reminded me that I can always say thank you because God is constantly doing things I can be thankful for.
I sat for a few minutes to make a thank you list and things that have happened recently started popping into my head. The Father knows so well what we need that the first few made me laugh. I guess those are the ones I’m supposed to share.
*I was thankful for new shoes…I opened dozens of boxes in the clearance section and found a shoe that was like walking on a cloud! Perfect fit, on sale for $17.99, great style and color but there was only 1 in the box. I searched through twenty more boxes and came up empty. I was so disappointed. As I was leaving the shoe section, clear over in the mens shoe department I found the shoe on display. I knew it couldn’t be a mans shoe but I still searched all the shelves looking for more and there were zero! I picked it up and it was the same size so I knew it was the match! Nothing like a treasure hunt! Thank you God for helping me find things that just go together.
*I’m thankful for little surprises, like the parent who had flowers delivered to school and the only “common” area we can share this year is the front desk where we stop each morning to record our temperature and fill out the health form. God often adds beauty where we don’t see much so we have to be looking.
*I’m thankful when someone I love gets a surprise gift. The 3 day old dead bird that came from a coat pocket wasn’t the best gift for the Kindergarten teacher but I was thankful for the giant laughs that we all shared when we heard about her gift.
*I’m thankful for simple things and a FABULOUS principal to work for during this craziness. His simple gift of “you may were jeans until Christmas” was priceless and I’m so happy! (see why I needed new shoes)
*I’m thankful for good feedback. According to a lovely little student we’re teaching a lot of good things at St. Mary School but she reported that she’s a little disappointed she hasn’t learned about massage yet and she’s very curious about when we might be teaching that.
Even as the crazy roars on…we have so much to be thankful for and pondering those things leaves you feeling much better!
A Seed To Plant: Keep a running list this week of things to be thankful for…it’s good for the soul and the attitude.
Blessings on your day!
…and I will raise him up at the last day. John 6:40
We live in an “on demand” world. Movies on demand, drive through meals, pharmacies, groceries and dry cleaning just to name a few. We can order practically anything under the sun and have it on our front porch in two days, so waiting and being last aren’t usually part of our daily routine. I’m constantly on the search for ways to get things done faster and more efficiently in order to save time so I can cram more stuff into my day.
As I worked my way through this Gospel, I got excited reading about what will come to me, what Jesus will do for me, where my faithfulness will lead me. It’s such a hope filled collection of verses. I need to see Jesus, believe in Jesus and know that my faithfulness is what he’s asking of me. St. John lays out some beautiful steps to eternal life in this short Gospel but then comes that ending; the last day. I have to wait until then? What???
My fast paced mind wondered if I could speed things up a little because I don’t like waiting and who knows when the last day really is anyway! As I prayed with this reading a while I remembered my Grandma who taught me how to make the perfect Angel Food cake from scratch when I was little. She would smile and remind me that beating all those egg whites took time and baking it took time and cooling it upside-down on a coke bottle took time. She would pat my impatient hands and say, “Great things happen in the waiting!” So, I will keep believing, hoping, praying and wanting him ferociously while I wait for that last day!
To each day I need to add the words, “Loving Father, please use you gentle hand to slow me down. Grant me a spirit of patience as I notice the ways you are working in my life and help me prepare to be raised up on the last day!”
A Seed To Plant: What are you hurrying with? Where are the areas in your life God might be calling you to slow down and wait for him to work?
My Grace is sufficient for you. 2 Corinthians 12:9
Teaching during a pandemic...making sense of the political aftermath of the election...preparing for teacher conferences on a computer screen...keeping track of which kids are in quarantine and which ones are just out for a day...writing deadlines...report cards...lesson planning...voicemails...emails...cancelled and rescheduled speaking jobs...one persons virus fear and panic vs another's disregard...IT'S All GETTING A LITTLE HEAVY!
I'm feeling a little like I've run out of words and gas in my tank and at the end of the day I feel like there was more that didn't get done than did. There is a list of things I look back on and wish I had spent more time on or done differently. Last night all the kids were over for Sunday supper and when they left, I immediately zipped into high gear to finish getting ready for the week and write this mornings blog and I realized I had nothing left so I decided to just call it quits for the day. I instantly began feeling guilty about all the things that still didn't get finished after a weekend off school...I should have pushed harder, I should have stayed up later and as the tears started to roll down my cheek I remembered this verse.
He is enough! His love is enough! His peace is enough! His GRACE is everything. I think the Holy Spirit popped this little line into my head to remind me that I'm not in charge of anything...I'm not responsible for being perfect...these are crazy days and I can't trudge through them like nothing is different. I am reminded I need to lean a little harder on him. So for today...what I've done is enough. Maybe you needed this little reminder today too. The world is nuts...but we are enough. We are enough because we are his.
Blessings on your day!
And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. Luke 9:23
If someone asked you what holiness was could you give a good answer? I thought I could, but then something changed! Before this thing happened I would have told them holiness was going to church, saying prayers, doing good deeds, SEEING and BEING Christ to others…that’s what I thought. But then…I read something that stopped me in my holiness seeking little tracks!
Holiness is dying to self! What? I read those words again and promptly shut the book and put it down because I didn’t like that. I pouted about it for the rest of the day and then came back to those words later that night. I like going to mass, I like praying, I like doing sweet, thoughtful things for others, isn’t that enough? After some feet dragging, silent temper tantrum throwing and finally a very ungraceful surrender, I realized how true those words really were. I can add and do all I want but it’s about the subtracting; the dying.
As eerie as it sounds, each prayer journal entry this week has started with the words, Lord, help me die a little more today. No, I’m not loopy and I haven’t been sniffing the ink in the ditto machine I’m serious and it’s a lesson that’s HARD! Holiness is all about being close to Christ; so close I’m hidden in him and I can’t do that if I have my own stuff in the way. If you’re anything like me it’s a daily objective to make things easier and more comfortable for myself. I call it efficiency sometimes. I say I’ve earned it sometimes. I think its standing up for what I’m entitled to sometimes. The bottom line is this…I want what’s best for me, what’s most convenient for me, what’s easiest for me and I need to die a little because getting my way isn’t making me holy.
So how do I need to die? (That just sounds weird doesn’t it?) I need to die to my desire to be appreciated and recognized for everything. I need to die to my desire to eat anything I want because I like it and think it’s yummy. I need to die to my desire to be right all the time. I need to die to my desire to make comparisons and judgments. I need to die to my desire to tell God what I need and what he needs to take care of. I need to die to complaining because that is the greatest form of selfishness. I need to die to my desire to offer my opinion and perspective all the time. I need to die to impatience and worry. And I really need to die to my desire to organize, plan and evaluate everything. All of these things minimize the amount of room God has to work in my mind and my heart. All of these things separate me from God when what I really want is to grow in holiness. My sacrifices in dying to self in these ways are what God is inviting me to do…wanna join me and do a little dying?
A Seed To Plant: Write down the ways you need to die to self and then get busy growing in holiness.
Blessings on your day!
To be a saint, be who you are and be that well. St. Francis DeSales
The beginning of November is a little like a saintly new year celebration. The feasts of All Saints and All Souls always tosses me into great thought about my own holiness and God’s plan for my sainthood. I know I’ve written it a hundred times but it bears repeating…we are called to be saints. That’s what God’s plan for each of us is…it’s what we were created for. He made us in his image and he wants us back in heaven where we will be saints. It’s the plan and thankfully the process isn’t rocket science. Love him, serve him, fail, ask forgiveness, love a little harder and with his never-ending grace, someday we will claim our sainthood…completely because it’s his plan!
Even though we celebrate All Saints, that sure doesn’t mean All Saints are the same. The truth is, saints are as completely different as you can imagine because each of us has a deeply different path to sainthood. The only thing that is the same is God’s desire to have us home and among the Communion of Saints. I thought it might be a great day to pause and pray and think about your sainthood. Fr. Mike Schmitz said, “The big question is…if we are all called to be saints, how do we answer that call? The simple answer…We act like they do!” This week, of all weeks can be a great opportunity to do just that.
The election has had a way of bringing out the ugly in some folks. It seems that Covid has become more a matter of politics than public health. It seems that seeing the good in others makes us weak, indecisive, and disloyal. It appears that red and blue and black and brown have become volatile words instead of colors that each add beauty of the fabric of our life. It seems that people are seen ONLY for the group they seem to be assigned to like they are one big lump. As chaotic and ugly and negative as the climate seems right now we have a powerful opportunity to work on our sainthood. Just because this seems to be the way society is behaving, we have a choice to see it the same and nod our head or see it differently and do a little tending to our own soul…which is by the way, the ONLY thing we have any control over! St. Francis DeSales also said, “Saints have a strategy for their lives because nobody has ever accidentally lived on purpose.” So what’s your strategy for the days and weeks to come as we head into the election and the aftermath that’s sure to follow? How about a saintly strategy that includes…
*Praying for the winners and the losers. Ask God to grant them the grace to accept the outcome with humility.
*Ponder the dignity of everyone…big, small, powerful, weak, those you agree with and those you don’t.
*God’s mercy will never allow him to give up on you…maybe we should spread that around a little. Merciful eyes see God even when a persons actions reflect something different.
*People are sometimes lumped into groups whether they asked to be or have great reason to even be there…there’s always more to the story than you know and it’s probably wise to be sure we know who’s telling the story.
*EVERY SINGLE PERSON, waking this earth was created in the Image and Likeness of God, we don’t have to agree with them or like them but we absolutely do have to remember this powerful truth.
*Sometimes God takes the long, windy, rocky, bumpy, ugly path to get us someplace we need to be. The sights along the way are certainly meant to teach us something if we’re watching, learning and listening. I’m sure Moses and the Israelites didn’t always see beauty in the desert but the trip was worth it!
*Trust in the Lord with all your heart! He demonstrates his love for his children again and again. Besides, if he could take care of the Red Sea, he can surely take care of a White house. We aren’t the boss of anything but saints revel and rejoice in the power of the One who is.
If we are going to use this nutty time to “act like they do” it might be a good idea to plan our strategy and be mindful of the example we’re setting for others. I don’t know about you, but I sure could use a heap of grace to use these next days well so I can “be who I am and do it well.” I am a woman of joy and optimism…even in days like these. Who are you?
A Seed To Plant: Pick one idea from this post that can help you live your sainthood in the days and weeks to come.
Blessings on your day!
Sheri's writing can also be found at Faith Catholic Publications and on CatholicMom.com