Joyful Words Blog
Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light for my path.
– Psalm 119:105
– Psalm 119:105
Children too are a gift from the Lord…Psalm 127:3
The middle lovelies and I have been on quite a mission the past several weeks and as is usually the case, I set out to teach them, but they were the ones doing most of the teaching! It would be an understatement to say things didn’t go exactly the way I planned, nor did they follow the timeline I had outlined in my lesson book but the outcome far exceeded any measureable standard I was aiming for. Lent is such a time of powerful reflection on the sacrifice and love Jesus offered us and the Stations of the Cross, or the journey of Jesus to Calvary is the perfect focal point. The 5th graders project involved visually depicting a Station in modern pictures, words and images as well as writing a personal reflection on the events of that Station. The kids were also asked to relate the events of their station to a modern day situation.
The fifth graders did such powerful writing in their reflections we had to add another opportunity for them to share their work because I couldn’t narrow it down to the 14 best. When the project was complete, nearly 40 of them shared their reflections before the student body or at a Parish night of prayer. I was inspired not only by the words they wrote but that the words were matched with the confidence to share something so personal in front of a large crowd. I thought I’d share just a few of their thoughts.
*Jesus, they stripped your garment from you and you didn’t complain, help me realize I need to be stripped of bad habits without complaining. Jesus, help me strip from evil things and put on clothes of kindness and clothes of love.
*Jesus, when they rolled that stone in front of the tomb it separated you from the people who loved you. Help me realize my sin is just like that big stone; it separates me from you and the more I sin the heavier that stone becomes making it harder to roll away.
*Jesus, when Simon helped you he showed us how to be unselfish, he showed us how to be a friend even to a stranger. Help me love others even when it’s hard or I don’t want to.
*When the women of Jerusalem came to meet you they weren’t afraid; I would have been. I would have worried about those mean soldiers and their whips but you weren’t. This station shows me I shouldn’t be afraid to stand up for Jesus and defend him. It also makes me think that I should be a friend to others and accept friendship when somebody shows it to me.
*Jesus, I could never do what you did. I don’t think I’m supposed to because you did it for me and I thank you for that. I can carry my own cross though; I can fold the towels when my mom asks me and not pretend I don’t hear her ask. Jesus, you give us little crosses to carry and every time I do that I make it easier for the person who follows me just like you made it easier to follow you because you did the hard stuff.
*I can understand why you fell Jesus. You were so tired and the cross was so heavy but you got up and kept going. Help me get up when I fall, help me realize things like being ignored or getting blamed for something I didn’t do are so tiny compared to what you did for me. Help me be stronger and not make such a big deal out of little things.
As I read and listened to their reflections I was inspired to be a better Disciple of Jesus. Their words were so honest and to the point they left me changed. As adults we tend to complicate things so as you begin your Holy Week I hope you are inspired by this wee dose of bottom line truth.
A Seed To Plant: Strip yourself of devices and screens and noise this week and spend some prayerful time reflecting on the Passion Narrative from the Gospel…walk with Jesus this week in a quiet powerful way.
Blessings on your day!
There you have it…those are the two words for the day! They sum it all up and there just isn’t a need for much more. What do they mean? Good question! The words mean TOTALLY YOURS.
Totus tuus was the Papal Motto of St. John Paul II and it seemed to help him do some pretty amazing stuff in his lifetime so I’ve decided we should all just borrow them for a while and see how things go. My hunch is …things will go a whole lot better.
A Seed To Plant: Borrow those words for a few days and see what happens. All the good, bad, challenging, crazy and amazing things are going to cause us to say Totus Tuus God!
For as the earth brings forth its shoots, and as a garden causes what is sown in it to spring up, so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise to spring forth. Isaiah 61:11
God is so smart! He gives us exactly the gifts we need to fulfill the plan He has created specifically and perfectly for each of us. It sounds so simple when I put it in print, but it’s putting that thought into action that gets tricky at times. I try not to be greedy or jealous but sometimes I see gifts in others and I can’t help but stomp my foot like a toddler and wish I had that gift too. I’m certain at those moments God looks down and rolls his eyes at me and finds me completely ridiculous. Thank goodness my little fits don’t last long before I’m snapped back to reality with a dose of gratefulness.
I received a package in the mail recently that showcased the amazing gifts of a good friend. As I tore off the wrapper, I found a copy of a beautiful new book called A Catholic Gardner’s Spiritual Almanac. As I began reading through the pages of this wonderful book written by Margaret Rose Realy I was amazed at the gifts God has given her. She has three gifts in particular that inspire and impress me. She is a beautiful writer, a brilliant Catholic and an amazing gardener. This delightful new book displays all three gifts splendidly. The book seamlessly weaves together the beauty, celebrations and traditions of faith, nature and the bounty of the God who loves us.
I have trouble growing weeds but I would love to be the creator of gorgeous gardens. I love my Catholic faith but feel like I know a thimbles worth compared to the gallons there is to know and I think it would be so fun to see my words tucked neatly between the covers of a book. Considering all that, it might have been tempting to feel a little jealous of my friend but instead I was excited to dive into this new book and take advantage of the true purpose of her gifts…to build up the Church. Margaret’s gifts bubble forth from this book in such a way that I can learn and grow. I can learn about my faith, I can learn about plants, seeds and all things growing. Her gift doesn’t remain hers…it becomes mine too. At one point I just sat the book down and pondered what a beautiful servant it takes to empty yourself completely without worry of the cost, the time, the outcome or the expense. Margaret’s book is just that; an emptying of her thoughts, expertise, talents and deep love of God and all He has created for us to enjoy.
I think perhaps the greatest mistake I can make is to think my gifts are for me or that they are given to me so others might think more of me. My friend Margaret taught me differently and instead of a fit or a pout, I offer a prayer of thanksgiving and a heartfelt desire to share the fruit of her gifts so others can be touched the way I have been. Thank you God for the gifts you have given Margaret and thank you Margaret for sharing them with us.
A Seed To Plant: Give yourself a Spring gift; head over to Amazon and get a copy of A Catholic Gardner’s Spiritual Almanac by Margaret Rose Realy.
Blessings on your day!
How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news…Isaiah: 52-7
I love the hint of spring that teases us in mid-March here in Michigan. It’s been a long, cold winter and I’m excited to feel the temperatures shifting up the thermometer a bit. The only down side to March warmth is March mud! YUCK! If I make it to heaven I’m really going to have to ask God exactly what He was thinking when He created mosquitos and mud! In no way do they enrich my life or bring me closer to Him…so…what’s the point?
The other day when the snow finally started the big melt Dave asked me to come out to the barn and give him a hand with something. I was in a hurry so I just threw on some old tennis shoes and trotted off down the driveway toward the barn. I got about half-way there and realized there was no dry ground, only one giant puddle. I tried to tip-toe over to the highest ground but I was still up to my shoe laces in mud. My right foot went down but as I tried to walk forward that foot didn’t come with me. I was stuck! One mighty tug left my shoe in the mud and my sock ahead of me in the water. If I had been a child I probably would have thought the whole thing was hilarious but as an adult…not so much.
When I finally got my shoe pulled up out of the goopy mud I had to laugh at the footprint I left behind. I quickly shoved the muddy shoe back on knowing I couldn’t do any more damage to my sock and hurried on to the barn to help Dave. When I had finished and I passed back by my footprint, it was almost completely filled in with muddy water again. It made me think about my faith footprint. How deep is it? How long will it last? How many will I leave behind? Humm, maybe God did have a point with the mud!
If we stop and think of all the places our feet take us in a month and all the people we come in contact with, it doesn’t take a genius to discover that’s a lot of people and places. What if we left a faith footprint on most of those people? What if we did or said something in all of those places to all of those people to share the good news of Jesus’ love for us? If that seems too overwhelming back it up and imagine the outcome if we did it only half of the time…that’s still an amazingly large number of people who would see or hear about Jesus. If I had stepped right back in that muddy footprint in the driveway it would have stayed longer. If I did it again and again it might even become permanent. The same can be true with our faith footprint. Establishing that footprint could be as simple as a bumper sticker, jewelry or a t-shirt with a Christian message or symbol. You might say God bless you when someone sneezes or pray in public before you eat. If doing one or two simple things like that over and over is all it takes to create deep and lasting faith footprints can you imagine how the world would change?
It’s funny the things that run through your mind as you try to pry your tennis shoe out of the mud! The important thing is now that I have the thought; I need to get busy doing something with it. Off I go to make some faith footprints, won’t you join me?
A Seed To Plant: Make at least five intentional decisions to leave a faith footprint this week.
Blessings on your day!
Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. Matthew 13:7
When I was a little girl I hated wearing turtle neck shirts. I felt like I was going to choke with that fabric all the way up my neck. Many a battle was waged between my mom and me on cold winter mornings due to my turtle neck phobia. I thought of a few of those battles when I read this scripture from Matthew last week. I will admit that I still don’t care for turtle necks but this passage made me stop and think about the things that choke me more than high necked sweaters.
Jesus explained to his disciples after telling this parable that the seed sown is the word of God planted in our hearts and the thorns are the things in life that snuff out or diminish the work of God. It made me stop and think about the thorns in my life; what’s choking my faith and making it hard to receive and grow God’s word and presence I wondered. I started to make a list of all those thorns and I came up with television, immoral thinking, lack of values and work ethic and mass media right away. I tell ya what though, the more I thought about it, the more I realized I couldn’t just blame it on “the world”. Most of the thorns choking me were of my own doing. It’s easy to place the blame on other people or influences but it became obvious after a wee bit of thinking that I had plenty of thorns of my own that I needed to trim away.
Each time we gossip or tell even the tiniest lie the thorns start closing in. Each time we judge others based on their appearance, status or income, the thorns squeeze a little tighter. Each day we put our personal and social needs ahead of our prayer time, those thorns take away a little more life. Each time we fail to see others through the eyes of Christ, we stunt our spiritual growth. Complaining, criticizing and being disrespectful are also like prime fertilizer to those thorns that choke out Christ’s light in our life. They are the noxious weeds that ruin the beautiful life we were created to be.
We need to tend our seed. God put us here on earth to share His love and His light. If there is something that’s choking that seed and preventing us from doing what He put us here to do, it’s time to get out the tools and get to work on the thorns and weeds! I suppose it’s also important to remember that we need to take care of our own thorns and weeds instead of worrying about somebody else’s. When my life on earth is complete, and I stand before the judgment of God, I really don’t think He will ask me about the thorns among my neighbor’s seed. I’m quite certain I’ll be accountable only for my own. When I think about the choking thorns I need to get busy with, it makes turtle neck shirts almost seem comfortable!
A Seed To Plant: Identify the things that are thorns in your life and ask God, the Master Gardener, to help you figure out how to up-root them so His love can sprout and grow in your life.
Blessings on your day!
…The head of John the Baptist…Mark 6:25
It can be easy to look at the upside of our faith and enjoy the peace and blessings that come from God’s love in our life. It’s something I do every day because it gives me balance and hope. I’m guilty however of getting washed away in the “warm and fuzzy” parts of my faith without always considering the messy, ugly and dare I say horrific things people did to make sure I could enjoy the great blessings on my relationship with Christ. As the middle lovelies prepare to reenact the Stations of the Cross during Holy Week, we watched Mel Gibson’s, Passion of the Christ. It was an intense day as we were faced with the reality of what Jesus did for us. The movie and the follow up discussion were heavy but necessary as we continue to try to grow in faith. Being a disciple isn’t for sissies. As I was praying for the middle lovelies and the lessons these next few weeks will teach them about the Father’s abounding love, I came across another one of the Gospel stories that’s just tough and ugly. I suppose a little dose of tough and ugly once in a while is good for gaining appreciation and perspective so here’s to a little of that today!
What a story! For me, the story of the beheading of John the Baptist is a tough one to read. When I sat down to pray with this Gospel I asked God to help me see beyond my anger at Herod’s cowardice and my furry with Herodias and her vengeful spirit. I knew this Gospel was meant to stir more within my heart than those negative emotions.
As I slowly read the passage again and again, my focus switched from the villains to John; the faithful and beloved prophet, martyr and friend of Jesus. I was inspired by his courage, humility and conviction. What a demonstration in speaking truth and standing on principals! John’s death was more than a foreshadowing of Jesus’ passion it was a triumphant lesson in trust! Many of us have faith because we know Jesus is God’s son who died for us and rose to set us free. John loved, trusted and believed even without the proof of the resurrection. As I think about what John did I have to ask, are there situations in my life where I should speak out to uphold the truths of my faith? Am I holding any grudges that need to be replaced with forgiveness? Do I need to model John’s humility and trust in a greater fashion?
A Seed To Plant: In prayer this week pray; Dear Lord, inspire me to be truthful and forgiving to others. Bless me with a spirit of humility and courage as I spread your truth and love. And above all, Lord help me appreciate those who met tragedy so I could meet You!
Blessings on your day!
The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; by the Lord has this been done… Matthew 21: 42
It’s in a mother’s nature to want people to like, enjoy and accept her children. I’ve never kissed my kids goodbye in the morning and sweetly said, “Bye honey, I hope you get rejected today, love ya!” Maybe I should. Even as adults we seek acceptance, we want to fit in and be liked by our peers but we have to be cautious that those offering acceptance are also those who will lead us closer to Christ.
What would our earthly life be like if we lived each day realizing the acceptance of our Heavenly Father is the only nod of approval necessary? Jesus’ message in this parable is crystal clear, live a life acceptable to God and you will bear great fruit; get tangled up in approval of man and you will most certainly lose your way. Living as a light of Christ is not for sissies and it may cause us to be rejected by those who aren’t as committed to holiness but in that rejection, we are in good company and at that very moment we may be completely open to the work of Christ and become the cornerstone of something he’s building around us. In quiet prayer ask God to reveal to your heart all those people you are seeking approval from. What makes their approval important and will it bring you closer to Christ and allow you to bear great fruit?
A Seed To Plant: Take these words to prayer with you tis week…Loving Father, help me to live each day seeking your approval. Allow me to be a cornerstone in your good works even if it means being rejected. Comfort me in my disappointment and strengthen me in my journey toward greater holiness.
Blessings on your day!
I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Philippians 4:13
Once upon a time there was a little boy named Jason who wanted nothing more than to grow up and play college baseball. Well, he grew up and he’s playing his second year of baseball for Lansing Community college and along the way he’s learned some great lessons and relied on some heavenly helpers. God has blessed Dave and I with three really great kids and I give the credit to the Father who created them and lots of great people who have been a part of their lives. People like teachers, coaches, Priests, neighbors and a small town full of eyes and ears who never hesitate to hold kids accountable. This post isn’t just about a proud mamma; it’s really about the power of strong witness, deep faith and the marks they can leave on a young man.
Jason was influenced by two faith-filled men early in his baseball career. One was an elementary teacher who used to play catch with him after school and share his knowledge, skill and love of the game. The other was his JV coach who later became his Confirmation sponsor. Both these men helped him become a better player and a better man, they weren’t afraid to live and share their faith and that made a difference. Another strong influence was a teammate just one year older. Jason and Brendon played together several times over the years and Brendon taught Jason to love the game and play it for the fun of it. He always made him laugh and not take himself too seriously. He taught some great lessons for baseball and for life.
Jason’s biggest baseball companion however is a girl! Yup…you read that right…a girl. Her name is Rita, St. Rita that is. St. Rita is the patron saint of baseball and difficult circumstances; as a relief pitcher, Jason is no stranger to those and Rita has helped him through more than one tough inning. For Jason’s Confirmation we gave him a St. Rita medal. Unfortunately there was one rainy game and one crabby umpire that created a situation that didn’t end happily. Jason was told by the umpire who saw something shiny tucked into Jason’s jersey that he had to remove the medal before he could throw another pitch. The sad part of the story is the medal slipped out of his pocket, got lost in the mud somewhere on the field and never made its way home. Some people have a lucky rabbit’s foot or a lucky coin but Jason has something bigger; a Saintly companion who reminds him that this game is all about using the talents God gave him to bring Glory back to the giver of the gift. After he started being more mindful of his abilities and where they came from he started doing something interesting that happened so fast only a mamma would notice. At the beginning of every inning he would bend down and scratch something in the dirt. When I asked him what he was doing he smiled and said “one of two things, if I’m nervous or uptight I write BTN and if I’m worried or struggling I write P413.” He went on to explain that BTN are the initials of his teammate Brendon who died in a car crash his senior year. He said, “Thinking of him helps me remember how to play like I love the game. P413 or Philippians 4:13 reminds me that this game isn’t about me at all, it’s about doing what I can with the gifts God has given me.”
When you pray for the intercession of a Saint they become like a heavenly companion. Jason was about to leave for his first college spring training in Florida and I had every intention of getting him a new St. Rita medal but I forgot. The Saturday before the team was to take off, I was telling the story about Jason and St. Rita at a conference I was speaking at and I mentioned that I had forgotten to get a new medal. Two days before Jason left, a package arrived from a city and person that were not familiar to me. As I opened the package and read the letter, I was astonished at the words I was reading. A lady who had been in the audience a few days earlier said she had purchased a St. Rita medal years ago and never gave it to the person she had intended to give it to. She said that must have been because it was really supposed to be for Jason. It was a beautiful medal. We were touched, pleased, blessed and grateful. Jason was touched by yet another beautiful soul willing to be a witness to faith and the power of God’s beautiful presence in our lives.
Jason and St. Rita will be making the trip to Florida for spring training this week. It’s a fresh season; a perfect season so far and new beginnings are always exciting. Who knows what the season holds…maybe a season that could land him a spot on a 4 year college team next year, only God knows that, so for now, it’s just Jason, St. Rita and the foundation of faith so many have had a hand in. Either way it’s always a great day to play ball and use the gifts God gives you!
A Seed To Plant: Make it a point to make a connection with a child or teenager this week. Take a minute to encourage or witness to them. It may seem like it doesn’t matter but believe me…it does! They grow to be men and women of faith by seeing what they look, act and sound like.
Blessings on your day!
“Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier. Be the living expression of God's kindness: kindness in your face, kindness in your eyes, kindness in your smile.” Blessed Mother Teresa
Now there is a Lenten challenge! There is just some advice that needs to be followed and this power-packed tidbit from Mother Theresa begs to be heeded. I shared this quote during prayer with the middle lovelies last week and they all agreed it would make the world a whole lot better but then one very honest young man said, “But man Mrs. Wohlfert, that’s just so hard to do.” I told him I agreed completely!
This quote has been heavy on my mind for several days and I’ve discovered it’s much easier to live these words when you’re in control of the situation and interactions are pleasant. When I really thought about it hard I was pretty good at living this challenge; I would slow down, look people in the eyes when they spoke and be still until they were finished with the conversation. It seemed a bit awkward at first but after a few days it became more second nature. I was feeling pretty good about it until that situation I hadn’t planned for; you know the ones that catch you by surprise and tilt you off your balance. I had one of those situations this weekend and I totally blew it…I was frazzled and almost instantly I reacted and it wasn’t a reaction that matched the quote! I wasn’t the Wicked Witch of the West or anything but as I replayed the event I realized my reaction was based on selfishness and pride. A few hours later I was still really heavy hearted about the whole thing so I stopped to pray about it. (I don’t know why I always wait so long to do that!) After just a few seconds of quiet prayer it was very clear that I needed to apologize. I needed to call myself out on the selfishness and pride. I needed to admit that I was thinking of myself first and others second and I had to admit that I hadn’t left anyone better or happier with my snappy reaction. The more I tried to talk myself out of it, the more I realized I needed to do it and do it soon. After a giant gulp of pride with a huge serving of humble pie on the side, I made the apology and shared the story of my failure to live out this quote. The apology was graciously accepted and thankfully my reaction was a much bigger deal in my mind than in actuality!
The funny thing about the whole situation…I was the one who left feeling happier and better. Crazy, I thought that was the gift I was going to give; not the one I was going to get. God is good and lesson learned…for today anyway! Thank goodness God expects progress not perfection!
A Seed To Plant: Make it your goal this week to live this verse. Think about the people it will be easiest and hardest to live it with and then ask God to bless your attempts.
Blessings on your day!
Sheri's writing can also be found at Faith Catholic Publications and on CatholicMom.com