Joyful Words Blog
Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light for my path.
– Psalm 119:105
– Psalm 119:105
The Lord our God is merciful and forgiving, even though we have rebelled against him; Daniel 9:9
When I was a kid, there was a show on TV called Romper Room and the star was a lady named Miss Nancy. One of the things I really remember about that show were the stilt like things the kids on the show sometimes walked around on. They were like little upside down sand buckets with strings attached. The kids would step up on them, hold on to the strings and walk around a foot taller. I thought those were so cool so I begged my dad to make me some. Being the awesome dad that he was, he used coffee cans and bailing twine and made some that were even better than the ones Miss Nancy had! I remember thinking I would step right up and take off just like the kids on TV did but boy was I surprised when I did several face plants in the yard before I managed to actually take two steps in a row. It was so awkward, stiff and unnatural feeling; kind of like dragging giant bricks along. Eventually I did manage to take more than five or six steps but it was exhausting and dreadfully slow.
I was thinking about forgiveness the other day and the coffee can stilts came to mind. I really do believe walking around with unforgiveness in our hearts is a lot like trying to walk on those silly things. They were a burden that stood in my way. They might have made me feel taller or above things a bit but that was deceiving. You see, I couldn’t enjoy the view because I was constantly looking down to manage my next cumbersome step. I was just clomping along with a weight or a burden; I wasn’t free to move comfortably and hop, skip or run like a normal kid when I was hanging on to them. If I really wanted to take off and enjoy the day, I had to let go of the strings that attached me to them and step away and do the things I was designed to do.
Fr Joe Kempf tells the story of a man from Spain who had a bitter falling out with his teenage son. The situation caused much pain and after a while the father couldn’t stand clomping through his days which were filled with anger and unforgiveness so he decided to search for his son. Finally, in Madrid, in a last desperate attempt to find his son, he put an ad in the newspaper. The ad read, “Dear Paco, meet me in front of the newspaper office at noon. All is forgiven, I love you. Your Father.” The next day at noon in front of the newspaper office, more than a dozen “Pacos” showed up. They were all seeking forgiveness from their fathers.
Why is it that a gift so freely and constantly given to us by our Heavenly Father is often so very hard for us to give to someone else? Consider just one question; can you list one positive thing unforgiveness has done in your life? I heard someone say once that not forgiving someone is like drinking poison and hoping the other person gets sick. Offering forgiveness to someone doesn’t mean they didn’t do whatever they did to hurt you, it just means you give God permission to heal you, strengthen you and allow you to move about your life doing his will without clomping around dragging that heavy weight. Forgiveness is a choice and in the beginning we might have to remind ourselves several times a day that we made the choice to forgive. How about it? Jesus died and rose for us; can we climb down off our coffee can stilts and show the forgiveness to others that he shows to us every day? Easter is a time for new life; maybe we should start with the new life that comes from forgiving old hurts.
A Seed To Plant: This week in prayer, spend some time pondering where we might need to receive or show forgiveness. Ask the Lord to make you desire forgiveness and then ask him to help you make the choice.
Blessings on your day!
If then you were raised with Christ, seek what is above…Colossians 3:1
I love the Easter Lilly’s, the candles, the Alleluias and the sanctuary banked in white and gold! Easter, with all its familiar sights, smells and sounds is such a welcome contrast to Lent. Every Easter as I sit in Mass I get lost in the glory of it all and my mind wanders to the “wow” of it all; the questions and wonders about what that first Easter must have been like. I wonder things like: How did that giant stone just get moved over? How must Mary have felt to hold her sons face in her hands and look lovingly into his eyes again? How did the Apostles feel when they saw Jesus again? How did Peter feel when he faced the Savior he had denied? How must Thomas have felt when Jesus loved him enough to let him touch his wounds so he would be convinced? The list of questions goes on and on and all I come away with is; “wow – I can’t even imagine!”
It’s wonderful to realize that because of Jesus’ resurrection, we also received a resurrection. He paid the enormous cost for all of our sins. It’s not often in life someone does ALL the hard, horrible, painful work for us and we simply reap the benefit but it happened one Easter long ago. That Easter lives on to this day, and as Christians, we’re still basking in the blessings of the resurrection. Sometimes I wonder if Jesus looks at the world and thinks…so this is how they repay me after all I did for them? As we revel in the blessings and “Wow” of the resurrection, it’s a good time to ponder the things we need a resurrection from. Jesus rose from the dead to bring us new life and in order to claim that new life there are some things we need a resurrection from. They might take work, maybe some sacrifice and perhaps even a fair dose of suffering but if we want to share in the joy of Jesus’ resurrection; if we want him to know we really were worth the price he paid then we’ve got a little work to do. If we could be resurrected from a few things that drag us down we could truly become an “Easter People” full of his hope, joy, peace and mercy. How about a resurrection from…
* Selfishness! Complaining is the greatest form of selfishness. We whine and complain to let others know something happened to us that wasn’t convenient or pleasant. Lord, help us realize the world isn’t obligated to ensure my comfort and happiness; that comes only from you!
*Narrow-mindedness! We’ve got to remember we don’t know what we don’t know! We see a tiny sliver of the situation but if we had the chance to see the whole thing we would realize how narrow our perspective can truly be! Lord, help us see with eyes of mercy instead of judgment.
*Indulgence! We approach the comforts of this world with our hands poised to reach out and take rather than with hands lifted to thank and share. We often want the first, prime choice things instead of being satisfied with the crumbs or the crusts. We approach things and feel the need to grab them up in case they won’t be there later instead of trusting that we will always have exactly what we need exactly when we need it.! Lord, remind us all we need is You!
*Doubt! Our blessings outweigh our struggles by a hundred-fold but we seem to forget that daily! Jesus, heal us of our unbelief; teach us to trust in you!
*Fear! Jesus broke the chains of death and did all the heavy lifting to bring us peace and eternal life. Lord, help us remember your protection is bigger than any fear.
Jesus didn’t rise by himself; it was through the power of His Heavenly Father. We need to remember that He is our Father too and if we but call on His name and trust in His infinite wisdom, power and love we too will experience a resurrection from all the things that separate us from him. The power and glory of the Resurrection are not confined to one day on the calendar…they joy and salvation of the day is everlasting! Happy Easter and may the power of HIS resurrection give us the strength to experience our own personal resurrection.
Blessings on your day!
When the hour came He took his place at the table with the apostles. Luke 22:14
I’m not sure how to explain it but Holy Thursday has always been deeply emotional and spiritually moving for me. I think it has something to do with the powerful simplicity of linking an event so HUGE with a practice so simple; supper. We have a tradition here at the Wohlfert house. When it’s your birthday, you get to choose the menu for your birthday supper. We had the same tradition in the McClaskey house too. Since I’ll do anything to get meatloaf for supper, I thought it was a tradition that certainly needed to continue with my children. As luck would have it, my daughter also chooses meatloaf on her birthday every year. There is just something comforting about sitting down with family to enjoy your favorite meal together.
Many years ago some friends invited us to go out for supper with them one Saturday night. Being a stay-at-home mom with three little ones under the age of 5 at the time, I think I had my finger on the babysitter’s phone number in the phone book before I had even finished accepting the invitation. Our friends said they had discovered this great place that they thought we’d just love. I WAS IN! The night arrived and as we waved goodbye to the kids and backed out of the driveway I felt so lucky to be going out to eat at an exciting new place where I wasn’t going to have to cut anyone else’s meat or transfer anyone’s drink to a cup with a spout. I was excited! After a 40 minute drive to the middle of nowhere, we pulled up in front of this old house that look like it had about 4 sunrooms added on, each in a different decade. The parking lot was gravel and the paint on the building wasn’t even all one color. I was a wee bit unimpressed to say the least. When we walked in the door it didn’t get much better. The big open space was full of tables that didn’t match and were covered with vinyl tablecloths that were every pattern and color known to man. All three pieces of silverware were a different pattern and even the glasses didn’t match. I really wondered what it was about the place my friend thought we’d love so much. A few seconds later a sweet, cheerful lady appeared at our table with a personality that would rival Santa’s! We placed our order and a few moments later some of the best homemade delicious food I’d ever tasted arrived at our table. We laughed, talked, ate and enjoyed a fabulous evening! It was not at all what I had expected when we got out of the car that night. Isn’t life like that sometimes!
When I read the gospel accounts of the last supper, I often wonder what the apostles thought when they first realized that night was no ordinary supper together. I wonder what they felt more; shock, fear or sorrow. We can be certain the evening didn’t turn out as they expected. Jesus had news they could not have possibly been ready for and the events of the night spilling into the next day were more than anyone could have imagined. It is on this night; Holy Thursday, I am more overwhelmed by my sinfulness than any other night of the year. I know the story, and the Easter morning happy ending but I still feel as dumbfounded each year as the apostles must have felt. Disbelief, sorrow, anguish…I feel it all heavy on my heart. Too many Christians want the Easter without the Holy Thursday and Good Friday. We want to skip to the happy ending and miss the brutality and the guilt but without the cross we aren’t Christians. Without meditating on the burden of our sins Christ bore, we don’t have repentance and without repentance we can’t have forgiveness and salvation. His death brought forth our life and in some small, unexpected, unpleasant way, we have to share it with Jesus.
If you truly want to experience Easter joy, spend some time this holy evening reading the Gospel accounts of the last supper…imagine…think…feel…experience the unexpected like the apostles. Tomorrow, on Good Friday, spend some time with the Gospel accounts of the crucifixion. As you read, ask God to join you with the suffering of His Son in order to come to a greater understanding of His gift of life and love. If you can unite yourself more closely with the cross, you will feel the joy of the Resurrection.
A Seed To Plant: Spend time with the Last Supper and Good Friday Gospel stories.
Blessings on your day!
Look to the Lord in his strength; seek to serve him constantly. Psalm 105:4
It’s my favorite week of the year…Holy Week. To make it even better, we will be in school this week. Each day the middle lovelies and I get to walk through the power, mystery and amazement of the Paschal Mystery. (Jesus’ passion, death and resurrection…it’s a test question this week) This week is epic for Christians…it’s the everything week…it’s the who we are and what we believe week! I hope by the end of the post you are inspired to make sure it isn’t just another row of seven boxes on the calendar!
The power of the week began for me on Friday as the 5th graders shared the meditations they wrote on the Stations of the Cross. Listening to an articulate 11 year old relate Jesus’ public stripping in the 10th station to the embarrassment and humiliation of adolescence or the tender mercy of Veronica serving as a model for true mercy and seeing Christ in everyone just brought me to tears. They were so sincere and so real. They wrote beautifully, reflected deeply and courageously shared their very personal work with a big crowd of peers and parishioners. They inspired me and allowed me to see the suffering of Jesus and those who loved him with new eyes.
The 6th graders will be preforming the Stations of the Cross in Shadow Theater Monday night and Thursday afternoon. They’ve had to work hard and work quickly because snow days in Lent cut their practice time short but they amaze me. The stations are set to powerful contemporary Christian music and leave the audience touched and inspired. I’m amazed at how something so simple can have such an impact. One of the things we do to prepare for this undertaking is watch Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ. I am amazed how their acting comes to life and fills with emotion once we’ve seen the movie. One of the middle lovelies said the other day, “I just feel it now, I can imagine it better, but only for a few minutes because it’s just too hard to think about it too much because what Jesus did for us is just too much to soak up for a kid like me.” I put my arm around his shoulder and assured him it was too much to soak up for me too.
I have a Holy Week challenge for all of us! Let’s dive into this week heart first and really soak it up. Here are some ideas to try this week…
*No TV…read the Passion Gospels instead
*No Dessert…save sweetness for the glory of Easter Sunday
*Less talking…more silence, stillness and pondering
*Think like someone else…like Mary, Peter, John or Mary Magdalene; any of the key players in the events of the weeks…put yourself in the story and let it wash over you
*Add a “foot washing” act of service to each day of the week
*Be grateful, prayerful and aware of all Jesus did for you this week so long ago
A Seed To Plant: Look at the list above and make a Holy Week Plan!
Blessings on your day!
Don’t worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink or about your body, what you will wear. Matthew 6:25
If I asked you to make a list of the top ten things you worry about, what would it look like? Stop for a second and bring a few of your worries to mind….Why do we spend so much time worrying? What do you suppose brings it all on in the first place? I actually know a few folks who could be professional worriers. I’ve met people who worry if they can’t think of enough things to worry about. It’s a crazy thing but it’s so common.
I happened to meet a worrier extraordinaire on my flight from Houston to Atlanta this week so I knew exactly what God was going to ask me to write about this week! In the span of about 10 minutes this poor woman who was the size of a pixie stick worried that her bag wouldn’t fit under the seat, that her toothpaste would squirt out of the tube due to changing air pressure, that her Diet Coke wouldn’t be served with ice, that the sweater in her bag would get too wrinkled, that her curling iron cord would get tangled and that the seat belt would be too small to fit around her itty bitty waist…that one made me laugh out loud and as I pointed to my already fastened seat belt… we both chuckled at the ridiculousness of that last concern. I asked her if she often felt joyful and she looked at me like I had two heads and replied, “I don’t have time to be joyful, I have too much to worry about for that!”
This passage from Matthews Gospel is one of many that warn against unnecessary worry. Jesus was teaching that too much worry is a clear sign of not enough trust! Yes, we are going to be concerned about things and ponder and pray about our children, our finances, our future and when we will next have dessert, God knows that but he expects us to lift those concerns to him and faithfully ask him to take charge…and he will…in his time…in his wisdom and in his way.
I was glancing at my boarding pass as we landed in Atlanta and Queen Worry Wart glanced down at it and nearly hyperventilated. She told me there was absolutely no way I could make my connection 3 terminals away in such a huge airport in less than an hour. “Aren’t you worried, it’s late, you’re gonna miss your flight and you’ll never get home tonight, you’ll have to sleep in the airport and someone might steal your things while you doze off sitting in the uncomfortable chairs, what will you do?” I smiled at her and said, “Sister, God invited me to go on this trip and spread a little of his word and he knows my middle lovelies need me tomorrow morning so I am certain that he will help me glide my chubby hind parts three terminals over in time to get on the plane and make it home tonight.” “How can you be so sure about that?” came her reply. I smiled, touched her hand and said, “Because the God who made us and loves us takes care of everything perfectly when we let him. He depends on us to love him and if we’re too busy worrying, we don’t have as much time for that as we should.” I made it to my gate with several minutes to spare so I sat down to tell him thank you!
My friends, worry robs us of peace, it strips us of our joy and it erodes our trust. When we were little, our mom’s told us not to touch the stove because it was harmful and dangerous. In scripture our Father tells us the same thing about worry. We listened to our mom’s but how are we doing with listening to our Father? Jesus told the Women of Jerusalem on his way to Calvary not to worry even while he could see his own cross. I’m sure nothing I could worry about could even compare so I think I’d better pay attention. Charles Spurgeon, a famous preacher used to say, “ Anxiety does not empty tomorrow of its trials; it simply empties today of its joy.” Great food for thought as we get ready to begin Holy Week.
A Seed To Plant: Lift your list of worries to the Lord and ask him to help you swap worry for trust!
Blessings on your day!
I keep my eyes always on the Lord. Psalm 16:8
I was doing a presentation not long ago and a woman came up during the lunch break with a question about something she heard. She said she had gotten part of the quote but didn’t catch the end so she wanted me to help her fill in the blanks. When she laid down her notebook I was stunned to discover she had been furiously taking notes all morning in shorthand! I could hardly believe my eyes. She smirked and said it was so much faster and good for her memory; she couldn’t understand why nobody used shorthand anymore. It made me wonder how many other things seemed like the greatest idea at the time but faded away as time passed by; I thought of a few.
L’eggs pantyhose plastic eggs…those things were huge! I tried to use them as Easter eggs one year when the boys were little but it took nearly a pound of M&M’s to fill one up. They were creative and a great marketing idea but considering the fact that a pair of pantyhose only lasts about a day, I wonder where all those eggs are now.
Extra-long telephone cords…you know, the ones that let you walk into the next room to talk in private on your party line.
Tapes…8-Track, Cassette, VHS; each one started its own entertainment revolution but they’ve all become obsolete...even if you’re still hanging on to a BeeGee’s 8-track or a Bruce Springsteen Born in the USA cassette there’s no way to play it.
Self-correcting electric typewriters…wow those were a great invention even if I never could figure out how to change those little orange doodads that held the correction tape.
At the risk of making myself seem ancient I’m going to stop there. Why do I bring all this stuff up for heaven’s sake? Simple, each of those things took the world by surprise and by storm. Each offered a glimpse of something better and more modern. They were really good ideas developed by smart people but their usefulness expired and they were replaced by the next great idea. For some people that’s sad, for others it’s a chance to celebrate and embrace the next best thing. When you get right down to it though, it’s really a lesson in rolling with change and finding our constants. I know it’s easy to get all tangled up in progress and change but things are gonna come and go as fast as an 8-track tape so is it really worth the fuss and wasted energy pouting about the good ole days…back when things were simple? I think the more out of focus and crazy our lives get the easier it is to drift backwards and think those simpler times would solve everything. The truth of the matter is we’re kidding ourselves if we think a ringer washers or a car with a trunk the size of a soccer field is going to fix anything.
It isn’t about the era or the invention, it’s about the focus and our focus can get pretty out of whack. We need to remember it isn’t the changing stuff that creates the problem; it’s about fussin over the stuff instead of hitching our focus firmly around the one thing that will NEVER change and that is our Good, Good Father. He’s so much bigger than changing technology, appliances and fashions. We have to believe faithfulness to him will never go out of style, will always fit and will always be just the perfect thing for the job. We worry a lot about being “in style” but if you think something old, like shorthand makes sense don’t be afraid to use it but remember that the Good Lord has never cared about progress and technology and fashion, he simply cares about our hearts so don’t let the stuff get in the way.
A Seed To Plant: Make a list of things that take your focus from the Lord; lift it up to him and ask him to show you how to see more clearly.
Blessings on your day!
Be doers of the word and not just hearers only, deluding yourselves. James 1:22
Do any of you know a person that is absolutely brutally honest with you? You know, that person who will tell you just like it is and is not one bit afraid to call the kettle black! This type of person has an amazing ability to leave you breathless with one quick sentence. The outcome is often the same…we stop, steam a bit, and then take some time to realize they just spoke a truth. We may not like the sound of it but it turns out very often to be something we needed to hear. I heard a story several years ago about a person just like this.
The story goes like this; a wife told her husband that she wanted to take part in a new Bible study at the church on Tuesday nights. He replied “another one? “ “Yeah”, she snapped, “You got a problem with that Mr. I go bowling and hunting and fishing and never go to church with my wife on Sunday?” The husband smiled and said, “I wouldn’t mind at all if you went to another Bible study but I don’t see any evidence that you’ve used anything you’ve learned at the last 12 Bible studies you’ve already gone to.”Ouch! There was that one honest line that left her breathless! After four days of no talking, no cooking, sleeping on the couch and no communication what-so-ever, she realized he was right! She hadn’t changed one bit despite all the time, energy and resources she’d invested in her former studies. On day 5 she got up the courage to look him in the eyes and tell him he was right! She surprised her husband even further when she told him she wanted to make a deal with him. She said she would be willing to spend her time studying and applying all the materials she already had instead of going to another Bible study if he would agree to start going to church with her if he began to see her put into action what she had learned.
I don’t know how the story ended, but I have a hunch! St. James used some very simple words in this verse, words many of us, just like the lady in the story are challenged by; being doers of the word and not just hearers. I may aspire to be the town’s greatest cook and I may buy cookbook after cookbook and I might discuss cooking and recipes with others but none of that will really make me a great cook! I have to DO it…I have to roll up my sleeves, dig into the words and put them into action! I have to take a risk and be willing to get messy and goof it up a few times before I get it right! God doesn’t want to hear what we know; he wants to SEE what we know.
Easier said than done for sure but now is the time to dig in and be a DOER of the word!
A seed to plant: Read James Chapter 1 and pick two things that hit your heart. Write down how you will “DO” those two things this week!
Blessings no your day!
Because of Christ and our faith in him, we can now come boldly and confidently into God's presence. Ephesians 3:12
One night a few years ago I got up to go to the bathroom and as I stumbled back to the bedroom in the dark, I turned to go around the corner and ran right into the wall. I hit the wall corner so hard I fell backwards and ended up with a black eye. I sat there stunned at the fact that I’d made that trip from the bathroom to the bedroom a hundred times and never hit the wall! What happened that night? After my pride healed and my black eye went away I did have to look back at that event and laugh.
One morning this week I was trying to get supper prepared ahead of time and it was a recipe disaster! I was trying to work quickly and quietly because it was 4:45 in the morning and I didn’t want to wake anyone up. It was one mistake after another as I stumbled around in a dimly lit kitchen. The coffee was still brewing which was probably the biggest part of the problem! I added a tablespoon of salt instead of a teaspoon and then I used baking soda instead of baking powder and to top it all off, I realized the milk I added to the recipe was really sour…after I had added it to the mixing bowl! The whole process left me short on prayer time so I asked God to send me something in quick form since I didn’t have as much time as usual. I asked Him to open my mind and my heart to receive exactly the words I needed to strengthen me for the tasks at hand that day. I reached down into the basket of prayer books and snatched one up. I opened it up to the passage for the day and it hit me like that wall in the face from a few years back. This is what I read…God does not change, but I hope you do.
“Really God…that’s what You want me to know today!” I got a little snippy at that point! I thought, here I am, up at dawn making a nice dinner for my family to grab and go quickly on a busy night and I still make sure I don’t forget to start my day with prayer and “God does not change, but I hope you do” is what you send me! I grumbled silently till noon that day! Early in the afternoon I was looking through my desk for masking tape and I came across a quote I had scrawled across a note card that had Mother Teresa’s picture on it with a quote that read, “I realize the one thing that needs to change most in this world is me.” I had forgotten that was even in my desk, I felt like I had hit the wall again! What was I supposed to think?
I asked Him for exactly what I needed that day and apparently I needed to change something so I had to be brave and take the next step and ask Him exactly what I needed to change. I got home from school and took a quick minute to grab up that same prayer book again. I had been struggling with a tricky conversation I needed to have with someone. I wondered if that was what He was speaking to me about. I was feeling pretty confident and maybe even a little stubborn about the way I needed this conversation to go. I took a quick second to ask God to change my heart and my mind about this tricky conversation if I needed to. I flipped open the prayer book and this is what I read, “Develop the ability to say everything without saying anything. Action is the loudest voice.” Again…I hit the wall! He couldn’t have made it any clearer. My words weren’t going to be the right ones. I just needed to listen and hug and love this person, I needed to change from being the one with the right words to the woman with God’s love spoken through actions not words. I needed to get out of the way so God could do His work, I just needed to participate, not be in charge. Thank you God for being so clear and as subtle as running into a wall…that’s just what I need!
A Seed To Plant: Grab your favorite prayer book or Scripture and ask God to direct you to the words you need right now…then ponder and pray over them until figure out where He’s leading you.
Blessings on your day!
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Sheri's writing can also be found at Faith Catholic Publications and on CatholicMom.com