Joyful Words Blog
Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light for my path.
– Psalm 119:105
– Psalm 119:105
But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8
Saint Augustine gave a sermon once in which he proposed a kind of self-test to see if we truly love God; Suppose God proposed you a deal and said “I will give you anything you want. You can possess the whole world. Nothing will be impossible for you…nothing will be a sin, nothing forbidden. You will never die, never have pain, never have anything you do not want and always have anything you do want….except for one thing; you will never see my face.” St. Augustine closed with a question; did a chill arise in your hearts, when you heard the words, “You will never see my face”? That chill is the most precious thing in you; that is the pure love of God.
Every time I read the wise words of this story I get such a wave of desire…desire to try harder to be holy! I realize after reading St. Augustine’s words I have a renewed sense of purpose…a new strength…a new hope. I think we work so hard at doing the “right thing” maybe we forget just what we’re working for. It’s easy to get into the habit of doing good things so others will think we’re “nice”. In the words of our former parish priest, Fr. James, “nowhere in the bible are we called to be nice!” We are called to be holy, called to be uncomfortable, called to realize sometimes the Gospel’s hit us sideways…and that’s ok! We are called to do the hard work of following Christ…being His hands and feet on earth and that, as we all know, isn’t always easy. There are days, when that offer from God St. Augustine talked about seems like a great idea! Those are the times we need to set out with new energy to do His work and know it isn’t without great blessing and reward.
I read this story tonight and then I told the room full of teenagers listening, “Our number one task is to get to heaven! Everything we do, say, listen to, watch and everyone we hang out with will either help us get there, or draw us away so pay attention!” The temptation is there to think one little thing here or there won’t matter but it’s still a step away from our task. The most powerful thing I can think of to make those decisions easier is to remember what’s waiting for us in heaven…the face of God. That’s something worth fighting for…that trumps everything! We just have to remember it!
A Seed To Plant: Print the words to St. Augustine’s sermon and read them every day this week. I’m willing to bet if you let them really sink into your heart, living the Gospel message will have a new meaning!
Blessings on your day!
I have made you, I will carry you, I will sustain you and I will rescue you. Isaiah 46:4
Have you ever made a promise you didn’t keep? When a promise is broken it’s a lousy feeling no matter which end of the promise you’re on. I can remember being in 5th grade and a friend of mine had just received a new cartoon/joke book and I wanted to read it so bad. I promised to give him a dime if he would let me borrow it before everyone else that wanted to look at it got a chance. He let me borrow it and I remember thinking how much more I would have enjoyed the book if I could have actually made good on my promise. I knew good and well that I didn’t have any money to give him and I knew mom and dad wouldn’t have given me the money for such a silly thing. A dime had great value and money was to be used for necessary things only. I couldn’t even finish reading the book that night because I knew I’d have to explain to my friend the next day that I’d broken my promise and I felt too lousy to enjoy the book. I don’t know why that story sticks with me to this day but every now and again it bubbles up in my mind. When I saw this verse the memory of the broken promise sprung up and I realized how my weakness is one of his most amazing strengths.
We are a pretty stubborn and independent people sometimes aren’t we! I forget the truth of this verse from the Prophet Isaiah…often! I’m pretty good at trusting God when things are hard or crazy. I’m pretty good at knowing he will rescue me but while reading this verse and considering what it promises something new occurred to me… probably something he’s been trying to tell me for years! Here’s the revelation…HE MEANS ALL THE TIME! I tend to think I can coast along and tend to the easy stuff saving his service for the tough stuff or for when I’m in over my head. I think I honestly convince myself that when things are smooth I can handle it so he can assist someone who has a bigger need or a heavier cross to carry. It’s almost as if I think I’m doing him a favor by not bugging him so much. The problem with that is when I’m not depending on the truth of his promise I get the false sense that I’m in charge and that never ends well.
Everywhere I go I seem to hear the phrase, “work smarter not harder”. Well duh…I think that’s exactly what this verse is saying. Working smarter means completely living the truth of this verse…everyday…when things are great and when they’re not! If we really believe in these promises from our Loving Father, life just gets better and better. He will never break a promise…ever. If I look at the disappointments in my life I might be tempted to think God wasn’t there for me but the truth is those disappointments that felt like broken promises came at exactly those times when I was trying to take care of things myself and give him a break. So…I think I get it now! This one little verse spoken a few thousand years ago still has enormous truth and promise even today. I think I’ll tape them somewhere important so I can read them again and again. I promise God, I’ll pay more attention to them!
A Seed To Plant: Join me in putting this powerful verse somewhere visible and pray with these words this week.
Blessings on your day!
Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Romans 12:12
Hope! That’s a word I don’t really pay much attention to. I say things like “Gee I hope we get a snow day so I can catch up a little.” Or “I hope I can finish the laundry and get to bed before midnight.” I don’t think that’s the kind of hope Christ promises. However I got a little glimpse of how powerful real hope can be and I just had to share the story.
A big group of teenagers from the area boarded a bus at 5:30 Wednesday morning headed for the March For Life Rally in Washington DC. They will spend two nights sleeping on gym floors, invest about 20 of the 60 hours they are gone traveling on a bus and stand in the winter cold for one important reason…to support life! It’s not a luxury vacation they were excited about; the enthusiasm I saw in the early morning darkness was contagious and hopeful and rooted in something so much more important than a trip!
My classes prayed for those teenagers who went to the Nation’s Capital to make a statement about the desperate need for a culture of life. We prayed for their safety, we prayed for their mission and we prayed that God and those who needed to hear their message would respond. After prayers the middle lovelies wanted to know what they would be doing on the trip so I gave them a run down of the activities of the trip which will include a Matt Maher concert, and they wanted to know how old they had to be before they could go. I asked them how many of them would like to go when they were old enough and many raised their hands enthusiastically. Then one beautiful middle lovey said, “I don’t want to go!” Surprised at her response I asked her to explain. That’s when a tidal wave of hope washed over me and left me with tears. She said, “I don’t want to go because I want abortion and all the babies it kills to end so there won’t even be one of these rallies to go to when I’m older.” Holy cow! What hope; what faith! She understands the concept of praying with expectation. I realized how easy it is to grumble about all the things that are wrong in the world around us but to pray with HOPE is a beautiful thing and it took an eleven year old to remind me of that.
I spent the rest of the day just floating on that feeling of hope and the joy and peace that came with it. I was pondering it all while running errands and grabbing a quick bite to eat with Dave. Before our dinner arrived we started chatting with a guy at the table next to us. He was outlining all the things that were wrong with this country. His rant on the woes of the world included everything from too many electronics to poor parenting to a complete lack of morals and overwhelming greed. Some of his thoughts had merit but I had to draw the line when he said something along the lines of, “This country’s goin to hell in a hand basket because the kids in this country are a bunch of spoiled brats who can’t do anything but take! It’s all pretty hopeless!” After the day I’d had I absolutely could not have disagreed more! He didn’t know the kids I knew, he didn’t see what I’d seen or hear what I’d heard and I felt bad for him. I tried to give him a glimpse but he didn’t want to entertain the notion that he might be wrong. I suppose he taught me that what makes hope so powerful is you have to want it!
I want it don’t you? If you could use a little hope, start in God’s Word then make it a point to look around you and find the folks that are alive with the love of Christ, let them be the light of hope we all need in this crazy world. After you’ve grabbed on to some hope of your own, make sure you share it!
A Seed To Plant: Spend some time in the Word and find 3 or 4 verses that contain the word hope. Read, ponder and share them!
Blessings on your day!
He must increase I must decrease John 3:30
There you have it, this one little verse says it all...it's as simple and as hard as that.
No matter how many directions I tried to go with todays post this verse just kept coming to my mind again and again! None of the stories I wanted to tell had a flow and none of my thoughts had a connecting thread. Writing this post was like being in the middle of a chatting crowd of people and feeling like I had nothing to say; or at least nothing that would really contribute to the conversation.
I've decided this must be Gods way of saying to me, "Hush up Sheri, just use my words...they say it all today." I'll use this as an invitation to be still and see where He's asking me to decrease so He can increase.
A Seed To Plant: Since this was such a quick post to read, maybe you could take some extra minutes to pray with this verse too.
Blessings on your day!
Speak the truth in love. Ephesians 4:15
There are two words that can make every person who works in an elementary school groan and feel the hair on the back of their neck prickle. Those words are indoor recess. Now, don’t get me wrong, a day or maybe even two are fine but when there are several in a row things start to get ugly. Too many days of indoor recess can unleash the noisy, wiggly, rowdy beast hiding silently within even the sweetest, most quiet child! Strange things happen after a few consecutive days of being trapped indoors and mysterious things occur without any logical explanation. Last week during a friendly game of Nerf basketball a ceiling light cover just appeared on the floor instead of the ceiling. As the most innocent player in the group was convinced to take the broken light cover to the principal’s office to explain all he could come up with was “yeah; this kinda fell.” I had to chuckle under my breath as I heard the poor kid try to explain the situation. The accurate account of events would have been something more like, “I’m sorry, surprisingly somehow in the middle of our indoor full contact basketball/soccer/football game some over-excited pre-adolescent hormonal he-men lost control of our skyrocketing energy level and witnessed full contact between the Nerf ball and light cover sending it spiraling to its shattered demise!” But then again, how often do we truly tell things exactly the way they are.
It’s not always easy to tell the truth! Let’s face it; sometimes the truth doesn’t seem as interesting as an embellished story. Who wants to admit that they were excited to catch a little fish! We often feel the need to spice things up a little; no harm right? Truth is powerful and truth can be difficult. I don’t know about you but there have been many times in my life when hearing the truth has been much harder than speaking it! We can spin a thin cloud of deception about what we want to hear and believe as truth but when someone cuts through that cloud or that illusion we’ve put there it’s hard to swallow. We are a culture that doesn’t like to be told what to do and when we get caught trying to creatively get around a rule we tend to get a little steamed.
When Paul spoke these words to the Church in Ephesus he meant them to be words of protection. When the teacher told the boys not to play full court basketball in the classroom she wanted to protect them. (And the light covers) The resistance led to a problem. Luckily it was a problem that had an easy solution but that might not be the case with our souls. When we are defiant there is always a price to be paid for not being truthful. This week the middle lovelies had this verse for their WOW words and they were asked to write about the situations in life that made it most difficult to tell the truth. They also had to write a message to themselves from God. They had to think about what they thought God might like to tell them about the way they were living out this verse. Much to my surprise this was a very quick and easy assignment for them. As I looked over their journals I realized quickly that they get this. They know exactly where they are struggling with truth and most of them could indicate exactly why. One middle lovely hit it right on the head with these beautiful words, “Even if the person I’m talking to doesn’t know I’m sort of lying God knows and that should be more important to me than trying to make someone else think I’m greater by telling them something that isn’t completely true.” The most popular answer to the question; when is it hardest to tell the truth was “when I’ve been caught doing something I’m not supposed to.”
Pretty wise aren’t they! We have an obligation as Christians to live truthfully and to speak the truth with love. We live in a society where words and rules are stretched so far this way and that to suit our personal needs and desires it’s easy to lose sight of what the truth really is. Sacred Scripture is full of truth; the rules, the laws the expectations but we can still swing to the left and to the right and try to justify our decisions for doing things our own way. We have a choice and the toughest choices are usually the right ones and the right ones lead to the greatest blessings. Let’s not only speak the truth but let’s seek it too!
A Seed To Plant: When is hardest for you to be truthful and what do you suppose God would like to tell you about truthfulness?
Blessings on your day!
Beloved, I hope you are prospering in every respect and are in good health, just as your soul is prospering. 3 John 2
Little by little! That’s the progress that works well but it’s usually the last pace we want. We’re more of a big and now kind of culture. Sometimes I am a little embarrassed before God about the way I do things. Once I decide something should happen I shift into right now, all or nothing mode and tell God he’s in charge. When the process flops I wonder why he wasn’t listening and leading. Lately I’ve been wondering how many times he’s gently tugged me in the direction of his plan and I’ve missed the invitation to go sweetly, gently and peacefully in that new direction.
My new word, obedience has opened my eyes to lots of stuff in the past two weeks! I wish I could write about how inspired I’ve been to act obediently with a joyful heart but my mother taught me not to lie! It’s been kind of a fighting tooth and nail ordeal some days and I’m not even half way through the first month! January 1st I hit the ground ready to submit, abandoning my will to his…completely in all or nothing mode. I felt like the first ten days of the month were one battle after another and I was left with zero peace! I sat in prayer Friday morning completely frustrated and wondering what I was doing wrong. Since Friday was a snow day I had extra time to sit in my prayer chair and read. Through some random page flipping in several books it became very clear that my journey with this word is a little by little thing. I wanted to please him with everything; I think he’s asking me for one at a time. I’m completely convinced that the first is my pride and the second is my health. I asked him to help me be sure I understood him correctly…and he did!
I was reminded again and again the next two days that the only person I need to be important to is him. The only person I need to please is him. The only recognition I need is from him. It was message after message like rapid fire texting from the Father. The exclamation point at the end of the sentence was contained in a little snippet I came across about Blessed Marie Ann Blondin. She was the daughter of a poor farmer who eventually became a nun, learned to read and write, became a teacher, principal and founder of an order of nuns whose mission was to educate poor children. He work led to an order that was growing, thriving and serving. A new Chaplin with a desire to exert great control left her removed from her position as superior and sent to complete the most obscure tasks possible. When a young sister asked her why she had been assigned to such lowly work she told her, “The deeper a tree sinks its roots into the soil the greater are its chances of growing and producing fruit.” (Give Us This Day pg 37) I found those pretty powerful words. We spend lots of minutes trying to climb the ladder, get ahead and get our due when the greatest power is getting lower. It was also interesting to discover that this holy woman died on January 2nd; my birthday. Ok God…I got it; thank you for the clarity!
At Mass Friday morning I promised God I would live a healthful day if he would help me. I had volunteered to make 9 dozen cookies for a fundraiser so I promised God as a complete act of obedient love I wouldn’t nibble the dough or eat any of the warm gooey deliciousness…YIKES! On my drive home from Mass with windy snow blowing I saw a faint rainbow among the clouds and immediately the words “I promised too” popped into my head. I got home smiling and realized I didn’t even need to make those cookies until next weekend! As if that wasn’t enough, I went grocery shopping and as I stood reading labels on products I was certain wouldn’t taste nearly as yummy as the unhealthy versions I was stunned to find in the bottom corner of a label a small Christian fish symbol that said 3 John 2. Those are the words I used as the verse for today’s post. I was stunned! God saying to me, through St. John on a salad dressing bottle, “I hope you are in good health.” Pretty clear message once again! Scripture and salad dressing…who would have thought!
Not only is God calling me to be obedient, he’s helping me little by little every step of the way and I’m amazed at his love and goodness! So here’s to God’s help through Blessed Marie Ann, rainbows, wrong dates, salad dressing and a letter from St. John. Little by little God, please keep ‘em comin and keep me recognizing the help!
A Seed To Plant: Think of something you are truly struggling with then ask God for very specific help with that struggle. Stay alert and be prepared to accept his help as he draws you closer to him little by little. Don’t forget to share the story!
Blessings on your day!
Be still and know that I am God. Psalm 46:11
When I was a little girl if I argued with my mom or used a tone she didn’t think was respectful the standard consequence was to stand in the corner facing the wall. I would have to stand there and think about the error of my ways until I was ready to apologize properly. I used to think that was the most cruel and unusual punishment ever in the history of punishments. I mean seriously…it was quiet, nothing to look at…nothing to do…nobody to disturb me…just me alone with my thoughts! Today I’m begging…would somebody PLEASE send me to the corner because I need to just be quiet and think. It’s been one of those an inch short and a minute late kind of weeks.
I spent some serious time over break planning some awesome lessons for my middle lovelies and I charged back to school this week ready to dive in and it’s been one disaster after another. I’ve spilled coffee on important papers, accidently recycled an English assignment, spent hours planning a stellar unit for a new Novel only to discover they’ve already read it and the week is only half over. I’m beginning to think they are going to take my paycheck back this week. God did spare me one epic disaster and I’m thanking him for that. Our hallway bulletin boards for January have an Old Testament theme so I’ve been busy planning three lessons and bulletin boards for the middle lovelies to work on. One grade is going to do heroes of the Old Testament. They will need to do a little research and jot down a couple of facts about the hero they choose. Since the rest of the week had been such a mess by the Grace of God I took a few minutes after school just to make sure resources were readily available to do the research. The fourth name I looked up was Lot and boy am I glad I did! About three paragraphs in it told the story of drunkenness and incest with his daughters. YIKES! Not the standard stuff you give fifth graders to read so I sat at my desk until 5:30 making sure I had 41 “morally uneventful” heroes on my list. I think I’ve made every mistake and blunder I could possibly make this week! I’ve questioned my ability and effectiveness as a teacher, as a mother, as a wife and as a writer. I’ve not only eaten my lunch but I’ve worn it, I’ve forgotten important things, I’ve washed the same load of laundry three times and put a hefty serving of chili powder instead of cinnamon in the baked apples I made for dinner one night. Believe me when I tell you these are just the highlights! I feel like I should be walking around with some kind of warning label on my sweater! Have you ever noticed that when you get discouraged with yourself you see your flaws far more clearly than your strengths? I’d like to stand in the corner and think about that for a few minutes if you please!
I suppose it would be easy to feel sorry for myself because it’s been such a lousy week. I might even feel like I’ve got a reason or two to be a little ticked off at God for ruining my week and throwing me into such doubt when he really should be rewarding faithful servants and picking on the bad guys instead. Those are exactly the things Satan wants me to think right now. I think it’s the perfect time to go stand in the corner and think about what God is trying to teach me through all of this. If I stand still long enough I might find big humor in all of it but for now I’m feeling pretty soggy so I just have to be still and let it all wash over me knowing there is a lesson. There is something I need to see right now and if I’m patient and trust he will reveal it. He’s teaching and preparing me for something and he will deliver me from this funk. I guess it’s like labor and delivery isn’t it…you never get to the delivery without some labor. If any of you have had a 2015 with a less than spectacular beginning let’s just all go stand in the corner and pray a bit and know God’s got something big goin on in our lives!
A Seed To Plant: God teaches and reaches us through every emotion…take some quiet time this week to ponder what he’s up to in your life.
Blessings on your day!
Is not my word like fire, says the Lord, like a hammer shattering rocks? Jeremiah 23:29
Bring on the word because I’ve got some rocks in my life that need some shattering! I’ve got some rocks I’ve been toting around for too long and it’s time to give them to the Lord to shatter so I can climb over the rubble and move on! Back in November I started thinking about what my “word” for 2015 would be. I started a list and each time a word would pop into my mind I’d write it down. At the beginning of December I started praying over this list asking God to inspire the one I needed; the one that would draw me closer to him. I was so proud of my process and I really liked some of the words I had recorded. My 2014 word was discipline and it was a tough one. God did some great things in my life through that word but being truly disciplined to his promptings landed me smack dab in the middle of some tough stuff over the last 12 months. It was abundantly clear on many occasions that he had way more confidence in my abilities than I did but I lived my word with conviction! I was hoping that as a reward for my faithfulness to that tricky word he would bless me with a sweet tender word like love, peace, joy or happiness for 2015. Not so lucky! As it turns out, my new word didn’t even appear on the list. Looking back I realize it popped up in conversation with the middle lovelies and my own children several times but I didn’t dare put it on the list. I convinced myself that it was just a word that needed discussion for them…it wasn’t a word for me for heaven’s sake! But you can guess how it ended…God is so bossy!
My word for 2015 is obedience. Nothin sweet and fluffy about that one…it’s hard core. I did have to laugh when I realized there was no getting around that word because it comes with a history and kind of a “careful what you wish for” story. As I mentioned earlier, the word had come up in conversation with the middle lovelies and my children several times this fall. I very distinctly remember saying one day, “it takes a lot of courage and faith to be truly obedient to God. That means being obedient to rules, laws and church teachings of all kinds, not just the ones that seemed beneficial and convenient.” We had several discussions about submitting, arguing, needing to be right and humble acceptance. I remember one fiery middle lovely who argued that complete obedience meant loosing independence and control. I smiled and said, “We’re not losing it, were giving it to God because he’s the one with the plan and the answers and the blessings…he just needs us to obediently follow.” Those words are coming back to haunt me right now!
As I was fighting with the reality of this word and what it would mean for my 2015 I came across a beautiful confirmation. The day after Christmas I was straightening a pile of books I’m half-done reading and a bookmark fell out. On it was a picture of Saint Pope John XXIII. His Papal motto was Obedentia et Pax. I read those words and just laughed out loud at God’s fingerprint on my heart even as I was being stubborn and whiney about this word. The words translate from Latin to English as Obedience and Peace. The whole obedience thing worked out pretty well for Pope John the XXIII so I suppose I’m in good company. Disobedience is the greatest thief of peace we can know. I look at all the things I struggle with in my daily life, all those rocks that need to be shattered, and each of them contains an element of disobedience. I struggle with doing it all; disobedience to his plan. I struggle with pride; disobedience to honoring him most. I struggle with judging and comparing; disobedience to seeing things through his eyes instead of my own. I struggle with my weight; disobedience to recognizing simple basic physical needs and his ability to meet them instead of indulging my greedy desires. I struggle with feeling overwhelmed; disobedience to his plan to save me instead of my plan to save the whole world because nobody else can! Oh my…could I go on and on!!!
I guess in a way he gave me a sweet word; peace…but it will come as the fruit of a hard word; obedience. I will just have to remind myself of that fruit many times as I live and grow as a disciple using my word for 2015. God willing I will be able to write one whopper of a post at the end of the year about all the ways obedience has changed me. One thing I’m certain of…he’s got a lot of work to do in me because I’m really gonna need help with this one. Come to think of it, that’s precisely the reason he gave me the word isn’t it! What’s your word?
A Seed To Plant: Take some time to do some praying, thinking and writing with your 2015 word. As you pray with your word, look forward to the end of the year and prayerfully ask God to show you what he wants to accomplish in you using this word he’s given you.
Therefore if any one is in Christ, he is a new creation... 2 Corinthians 5:17
Happy New Year! I think this verse from 2 Corinthians is the perfect way to start a new year…as a new creation. Now, you might be thinking; but Sheri, there was nothing wrong with the “old creation”. You would be right except for one tiny little thing…we’re still here…we’re still sinful and we’re still not as close to God as we can possibly be. I suppose as long as earthly things keep a distance between God and us we have the need to be a little new.
Have you noticed how life is constantly new and changing? As I sit here typing, the house is so quiet. All three little Wohlfert’s have an adventure of their own this New Year’s Eve and here on Pratt Road things are completely still and quiet…not a bad way to wrap up a year and ring in a new one; it’s just different. I have to admit though I’m soaking in the quiet because New Year’s Day always brings all the Wohlfert’s to our house to celebrate. It’s one of my favorite traditions! Our house will be home to more than 75 guests throughout the afternoon, siblings, nieces, nephews and cousins will pop in to laugh, eat, watch football and catch up. This year there will be lots of baby holding as the family has welcomed 5 new blessings this fall and there are a few more on the way. Talk about new…new creation at its finest. It’s a great day to listen and watch. I will spend some time New Year’s day being amazed at how the same group of kids I watched share toys and games as toddlers and teenagers will now talk about parenting and careers and pass each other’s new babies around like we used to pass them around. Most things change but I will be reminded the most important ones don’t…faith and family! It will be a crazy, loud, fun amazing day; I can’t think of a better way to begin a new year, surrounded by the things that are most important.
When I’m back on Monday I’ll be sharing my “word” for 2015…do you have yours yet? Be thinking and enjoy the beginning of a NEW Year…a New creation.
A Seed To Plant: Do some thinking and praying about your “word” for the year.
Blessings on your day!
Sheri's writing can also be found at Faith Catholic Publications and on CatholicMom.com