Joyful Words Blog
Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light for my path.
– Psalm 119:105
– Psalm 119:105
I command you: be strong and steadfast! Do not fear nor be dismayed, for the LORD, your God, is with you wherever you go. Joshua 1:9
For everyone feeling a little foggy today, welcome to Monday. When I don’t write the date on the board everyday I have to stop and think a little. Like many other folks, I’m missing routine and ordinary things. I’m missing my 22 girls and all the other middle lovelies for sure! I was thinking about my classroom this morning and realized Monday morning was always the time I switched classroom jobs and I sure could use a good “room fairy” and a couple of “lunch helpers” right about now! I’m not gonna lie, I could use some young eyes to help find my glasses because all of my students would agree that the most frequently asked question in my room is, “Does anybody see my glasses?” After three weeks of finding my own glasses I’m getting exhausted!
While I was looking for my glasses yesterday, I paused to think of some of the funny ways life is different this Lent. I realized that I’m probably going to be able to get another year out of my “school shoes” because I haven’t had a pair of good shoes on in weeks. I might need to consider shopping for Easter sweats or pajamas instead of a dress. I think it would be hilarious if everyone who filled my newsfeed with family pictures in their Christmas jammies does the same thing for Easter. As an added bonus, after you take the picture, you can just leave them on, walk into the living room and boom…you’re ready for church! My concept of dressing up has changed. I put on a pair of jeans the other day and felt so fancy I could hardly take it. Like teachers everywhere, I’m busy learning how to teach on-line so before I launched my first Zoom call with my amazing middle lovely work partners, I did my hair and put on mascara and lip gloss…I’m tellin ya what, I felt like I was ready for the prom!
There are so many things to laugh at and be encouraged by, but then there are moments when my breath catches in my throat and I feel a little overwhelmed by it all. I’m finding that if I use those two simple prayers I shared last Thursday, the Father truly speaks to my hurting heart. Two really big places he spoke to me was the verse from Joshua and the second was a part from Numbers that said, The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.
I felt so much peace and comfort from those two verses so I read them often but God is bigger than that. I am so moved and touched by music. Music helps me remember and think in a way plain spoken words don’t. I can’t remember three things from the grocery store but I can bust out in song if I hear the first few words of a School House Rock song. (if you’re too young to know what that is, google it) I know all about conjunctions and the Preamble to the Constitution because of these silly little songs. God, in his fanciness, knows how much he can bless my heart and touch my soul with music so I “randomly” came across this brand new song by Kari Jobe and Cody Carnes. They wrote it in early March in an attempt to bring peace as the pandemic was just beginning to unfold. They wrote the song “The Blessing” on a Thursday and recorded at their church on Sunday. This song the Holy Spirit sent provided such a healing balm to so many hearts it had more than 2 million views in five days. As I listened and watched I realized the song uses the verse from Joshua and from Numbers and a sprinkle of other great promises from Scripture. The whole thing is tiny nuggets from God repeated over and over so it can sink in. The entire song is about twelve minutes and as I watch them sing my heart is so touched by their joy, their faithfulness and I’m just so filled with hope. God sent this song to these incredibly talented people at a time when he knew we’d need his truth. I watch it at least once a day and it gives me a dose of hope, truth, peace and it is such a lift for my soul. The link is below and I hope you will give yourself the gift of time it takes to watch it and hear the truth God is speaking to all of his children.
A Seed To Plant: First, watch the video and second, call, zoom or face time someone you’re missing this week.
Blessings on your day!
Pray without ceasing. 1 Thessalonians 5:16
Next week was listed on the school calendar as “Spring Break” week. Like most folks, I had a list of things, places and people to fill the week and like everyone else, the schedule looks completely different. Never in a million years would I have listed my number one spring break activity as making protective face masks for my daughter the nurse but you can bet my sewing machine will be humming! As we begin to navigate our way through these different days we have to remember to anchor ourselves in hope and peace.
But how? It sure sounds great but how do we settle our souls in such an uncertain time. I’ve been praying a lot about that and two powerful prayers came to mind. They came in one of those “wake up you knucklehead” kind of moments. They aren't new and one of them is a prayer that has gotten our communities through some tough stuff in the past so I thought I’d dust them off and offer them to all those of us trying to find our faithful balance.
The first prayer for us to grab on to is that powerful 4 line prayer based on the writings of St. Francis DeSales…I Cant, You Can, You Promised, Please Do. Here’s what it looks like right about now…
*I Can’t…I can’t imagine how this will all turn out, I can’t stop thinking about how my family will stay healthy, I can’t figure out how it got so crazy, I can’t get past the fear of getting sick, I can’t imagine how God could let this happen, I can’t get used to everything that’s so different, I can’t process all the disappointments.
*You Can…You can bring peace, you can bring healing, you can strengthen us, you can protect us, you can give us the grace to weather this storm, you can grant eternal life to your faithful, you can do exactly what needs to be done to accomplish the plans only you can know, you can be trusted to love us through this because you’ve already been where we are.
*You Promised…you promised to be with us, to guide us, to bring life, to comfort and shelter us and you promised to lead us to Our Heavenly Father.
*Please Do…please bless us with peace, bring us strength, build up our trust, take care of us. Please do all that we need to grow in our faith and trust in your mercy.
Each time you feel the worry, fear, disappointment or uncertainty hanging over your head like a dark cloud, take these four lines and use them to craft a conversation with the Father filling in all the things on your heart. Tell God what you need, what you want and give him permission to come into your heart right where you are. It’s ok if it’s a little dark or angry or doubtful; he’s seen it all and he wants to be invited in to all of it because he loves us with the most tender, precious love we can imagine.
The second prayer has three parts. We ASK, we OFFER and we ACCEPT. It might go something like this…
*Lord I ask you to come into my fear or doubt or worry. I ask you to be present to me and make me aware of your presence.
*Lord I offer this suffering to you. I offer you my confusion or lack of patience with my children or my sadness in missing my friends and family. Whatever it is, offer it to him. It might seem like we’re offering him a pretty lousy gift but he’s delighted to take what we offer him.
*Lord, I accept this situation. I accept whatever blessings and grace you will grant me or my family or my community.
As we ask, offer and accept we demonstrate faith, surrender, trust and obedience. In those three simple statements we give God permission and we cooperate with his perfect love. We can pray this prayer dozens of times a day. We can pray it when the kids are getting along and there is peace and we can pray it when they’re fussing. We can pray it during those moments when we feel his grace working in our life. You can pray it for the good stuff and for the bad stuff. He wants to be a part of it all. In praying this little prayer we make sure not to waste any suffering and it can be a sign of our gratitude.
Hold fast to these two simple prayers when your heart is troubled and when you notice all the moments of beauty in the midst of the mess. Make no mistake, he’s right there for all of it.
A Seed To Plant: Jot down these two prayers and put them in a couple of places so you remember to lean on them and the peace and hope they will bring.
Blessings on your day!
Thus says the Lord, Lo, I am about to create new heavens and a new earth; the things of the past shall not be remembered or come to mind. Isaiah 65:17
Holy cow this is so weird! I’ve struggled to write because I was trying so hard to write something light and joyful and funny because I thought that’s what we needed but the stuff just wouldn’t come. I started working on this post yesterday and couldn’t string together more than a few sentences so I’d delete and wait. I poured coffee and did morning prayers at 5:30 this morning and still couldn’t write so I put it away and went to Mass in my sweats asking the Holy Spirit to fill my page with the words someone might need to hear today.
In the first reading today from the Prophet Isaiah we read the words…I am about to create new heavens and a new earth. Well, that’s one way to look at these strange days. We surely are in the middle of something new aren’t we. The reading goes on to talk about the joy and love and happiness that will come from this new creation. It made me think of the three times in life I spent hours in labor giving birth to the three little Wohlferts. Phew…that was some suffering for sure but it brought forth life and happiness and joy I can’t even describe. I don’t want a re-do on those labor hours but they led to something so amazing. Maybe that’s what we’re in the middle of today; maybe that’s what Isaiah was trying to help us understand. In order for me to rejoice in the Kevin, the Jason and the Shannon I had to let all the pain and the worry and the wonder and uncertainty wash over me. Maybe that’s what we need to do with this strange time…let it wash over us and feel it instead of analyzing the snot out of it and trying to respond and react according to the latest article or news report.
So lets decide a few things for ourselves and invite God into the “washing over.”
*It’s a little scary…we haven’t done this before and we don’t know how long it will last or what to expect. It’s ok to be scared, say it out loud to someone and then remember that fear is not of God…peace is of God and he has plenty to go around if we ask him every time we feel that fear wash over us, to flood us with his peace instead. Stop whatever you’re doing and say the words…”Lord, take this fear and fill me with your peace!” take a deep breath and say it again as many times as it takes to feel the peace replace the fear.
*We have no control…for real…we don’t! For every planner, organizer, scheduler type person out there this is kicking us in the pants isn’t it! For those with the overwhelming desire to stand on something tall and scream, “Stop this, it isn’t on my agenda and I don’t have time for this craziness!” its’ ok, go ahead and scream it, you’ll feel better. When you’re done screaming, make a new agenda! Put new stuff on your list; fun stuff, silly stuff, lazy stuff, things I never have time to get to stuff. In a time when we may feel like we have no purpose never underestimate the accomplished feeling of looking into a silverware drawer with no bread crumbs! Clean something, organize a closet or a drawer, do something that gives you a feeling of accomplishment and then sit still and be quiet acknowledging the perfection, love and grace of the one who truly is in control…give him permission to be and pray for the grace to accept the rest and re-set he’s giving us.
*We are suffering…each in different ways…at different levels. We’re missing stuff, we’re uncertain and disappointed and sad. There are a million “I don’t know’s” floating in our minds and hearts and boy do we hate that. We have to do our own cooking and we’re apprehensive about going to the store. We are worried about getting sick. We’re confused about who to believe. We’re running out of ways to entertain our kids and ourselves. We’re worried about jobs and money and stocks. Let it wash over you and call it what it is…suffering. The good news about suffering is that it is an immediate path to Jesus. We’re all called to suffer but we have to learn to do it right. Our prayer is not Lord take it away, our prayer is Lord please use this suffering for good. Each time my mind starts spinning I stop and say, “Lord please use this suffering for a soul in great need.” It gives it a purpose…it gives it a use…it makes all of this seem to matter for something good. My mom always said, “Never waste your suffering.” I think Gods greatest raw material for building greatness is our suffering so make sure to offer him all of yours so he can do mighty works.
*Tell yourself the truth. Great good will come from this…God will protect his people…Some of us will get sick…Worried moments should be the times we stop and pray…What other time in our lives has our newsfeed been full of people going to church in the living room…Priests and Pastors are dong amazing things to bring together the faithful giving us the opportunity to be more faithful than fretful…We will be changed and if we hold on to God’s hand we will ABSOLUTELY be changed for the better.
God loves us too much to leave us stuck here, this won’t last forever and we will truly be OK! There will soon come the day when we laugh easier and we will go back to full churches and hugs from grandkids and fully stocked shelves but this isn’t that time…this is labor and because we as Christians believe in the promises of the God who loves us…there will be new life.
A Seed To Plant: Make a list of ten people you miss seeing and pray for them. If you get all your closets cleaned and windows washed and wonder what to do next, write them a note or send them a text to let them know you thought of them and said a prayer for them.
Blessings on your day!
Trust in the lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. Proverbs 3:5
I’m not sure what the best adjective to describe this week would be! I’ve bounced between wanting to hide in a closet and not come out until it’s over and wanting to glue my face to social media so I don’t miss a thing. Of course, both are a really bad idea so in my search for balance I’ve come across some really great stuff. I’ve had some new experiences, a chance to laugh and lots of time to pray. Here are some highlights from week one of whatever we’re going to call this time.
*I went to Mass in my living room for the first time. I love daily mass and now all I have to do is turn on the TV or jump on FaceBook and I’m there. I’m so grateful for the priests who are doing so many creative things to reach out and draw us together in prayer. I’ve been to Mass with three different priests this week and once I even went in my pj’s…that’s a first!
*I found live stream Eucharistic Adoration from more than a dozen different churches and chapels. If I could earn frequent flyer miles for all the churches I’ve traveled to this week I might have enough miles to fly to Kalamazoo.
*I have loved hearing stories about families finding creative ways to connect and survive all their togetherness. I’ve also loved the stories of those who are completely real and admit they’re just trying not to clobber each other. Not all families are peacefully putting together 1000 piece puzzles…be patient, we’ll figure it out!
*Not everyone was cut out to be a teacher so thank you to the dozens of homeschool moms who are helping the newbies find their way. I saw one “never wanted to be a teacher” parent asking for advice on getting a student transferred out of her class and another asking if they could be fired for drinking on the job…again, be patient, we’ll figure it out!
People are sharing food and shopping help and InstantPot recipes like champions and it’s fun to see because we all need to love each other a little more these days. Sitting in the airport last weekend, days before any of this happened, I stumbled across a blog written by a Christian missionary in Wuhan China who was writing about their quarantine. She shared her journey and stated that the first objective was to keep her children from strangling each other. As the weeks went on, she discovered sights and sounds and experiences that only the quiet could bring. She talked about peace and prayer and lessons too many to count. She said it took a while to disconnect before they could find beautiful ways to re-connect. As I look back on that blog I get the chills that what seemed like such a crazy read a week ago, is now our reality.
As we wade our way through this first week and get ready for the ones to come, there are a few things that might help. First, we may just need to mourn the loss of normal. It’s ok to be mad that we’re restricted, it’s ok to be sad and miss things, it’s ok to be angry at the people who think they are bigger than this and aren’t following the rules. All of it needs to be felt and acknowledged so go ahead and stomp, cry, yell and then take it all to the foot of the cross and ask Jesus to bring you peace and contentment. Second, we need to be patient! Lots of folks now have a new career. We’ve become teachers and cooks and entertainment engineers and we’re learning how to do all this while working from home in a noisy house. It’s going to take some time to settle down and give everybody a chance to get used to each other. And the third thing, we have to remember to pray for the grace to use this time well. As nutty as this all is, God will bring great good. We have a chance to slow down, re-set and re-balance even if we didn’t know we needed it. Keep sharing your stories, keep sharing your ideas and mostly lets keep praying for each other and don’t forget to go to Mass in your living room.
A Seed To Plant: Pray about the three things in the last paragraph and pick the one you need to focus most on this week.
Blessings on your day!
Be still and know that I am God. Psalm 46:11
I know it’s way past my normal post time but I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve started, deleted and re-started todays blog. I missed my post last Thursday because I was on my way to North Carolina to celebrate the life of my “cool aunt” Ellen. There are a hundred emotions about the early, sudden loss of a beautiful soul and a reunion with a couple dozen people I love with all my heart I want to share but I think those stories (and my are there some good ones!) will need to wait because so many things have seemed to come completely un-hinged in the last couple of days I think we might need a big ‘ole sprinkle of joy and logic in the wake of it all.
There is so much going on right now that this post could be a mile long but if there’s one thing we don’t need today it’s more folks flapping their lips spitting out their opinions about whose fault this mess is and who we should blame. We don’t need any more folks pointing out how we’re all going to hell in a hand basket because this is all pre-meditated and we’re following along like a bunch of mindless lambs. We don’t need any more reports about working too hard or not working at all and for heaven sakes I’m pretty sure I’ve seen enough pictures of toilet paper and homemade hand sanitizer recipes to last a lifetime.
As we plow through all of this stuff it seems like it all boils down to a couple of big things. Dealing with disappointment and being uncomfortable are not our strong suits. I think we have to admit both things and then begin to make our way back to normal. We all handle disappointment differently. The government isn’t controlling us because they cancelled the NCAAA tournament but it’s left a lot of folks disappointed. I’m surrounded by a community of young people who had state titles to defend and achieve who are so very disappointed the show stopped just short of the finish line. We’ve got weddings and parties and celebrations that are in limbo and that’s disappointing because no spring bride saw this coming and that’s disappointing. Those are real emotions and if we really want to act as Christ, there is no shortage of people who need our patience, compassion and understanding. Predictable means comfortable and we are fresh out of predictable right now. Things are uncertain for the next little bit. We do enjoy being in charge of things and we simply aren’t. Uncertainty is ok because it’s a great opportunity to build trust and that trust organically leads to obedience but for some it’s leading us to grab control where we can…like the toilet paper aisle.
There is so much information floating around it makes my head spin. The problem is, for every article you read, there is another to dispute it. For every beautiful thing you see, there are three ugly. Here’s my thought, find a medical source you trust; maybe a nurse or doctor you know and read what they share. Find a faithful person or source your trust and read what they share. Leave the rest unread! Don’t read about the conspiracy theories or the unbalanced disease comparison nonsense filling your newsfeed. If you feel like someone has sucked away your joy, it just might be you spending too much time with the news. There are some nutty things happening right now but there are also some really beautiful things going on right now. Satan isn’t gaining control of the world because churches suspended mass or emptied Holy Water fonts, if God is mighty enough to part a sea and save his people, I’m pretty sure he’s gonna usher us right through this without breaking a sweat.
If you want some joy back in your Monday here are some thoughts…
*Shut off the news.
*Soak up the stillness and quiet this time is creating.
*Pray extra…and then pray some more…and then follow it up with some more prayer.
*Ponder your willingness obey. If we can’t obey a request to stay home and cook our own food, how will we be able to obey the Father?
*Do something good for someone who has it rougher than you right now.
*Try to understand someone elses disappointment and find a way to console or re-assure them.
*Trade judging for loving…what if we assumed everyone is trying to do the best they can…and some folks might just need a little more help and understanding.
*Make a conscience decision to let this situation make us great instead of divided?
*Above all…a dozen times or more a day…repeat: Lord, protect us in this mess and show us how to serve you and show your love! Unless we get that part right, this will remain nothing but a big mess. I really want to look back on this and be able to say, “Wow, look what God did through all of that chaos; isn’t he faithful…and didn’t we handle that beautifully!” but in order to do that, we have to make some choices starting right now!
A Seed To Plant: Pick a couple things from the list and lets be great in the midst of the mess.
Blessings on your day!
I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father. Matthew 5:44-45
Sometimes a line from scripture hits me sideways and makes me puzzle over it for days. There is one verse that gets me every time I hear it. It’s one of those lines that I can't quite figure out what to do with or how to apply to daily life. God is loving and merciful and compassionate and capable of bringing great good out of unspeakable tragedy so why would a Father with all those amazing characteristics slap us with a line like, “be perfect as your Father is perfect.” What is that nonsense all about I’ve asked myself every time I’ve heard that line. Then came an insight!
Here are the words I read Saturday that made so much sense and I’m borrowing them from the Magnificat prayer book.
Being perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect means loving those who do not love you. We can do so because God has made us to be a people peculiarly his own. When we give God’s love to those who deserve it least, God raises us high in praise and renown and glory. Love shared makes us a sacred people.
Ok, so loving those who don’t love us and loving the hard to love and being patient, kind, merciful and understanding of those who push our buttons is the answer? It would seem so and it makes so much sense because his greatest commandment calls us simply to love. He isn’t asking me to build a hospital or begin an orphanage or do mission work in a Christian hating country, he’s asking me to love my neighbor…ALL of them. He even promises to give us the grace to do it. If we ask, he will open our heart and stretch it’s loving capacity far past the puny human limits we think it’s capable of. Plus, as a gigantic bonus for loving the hard to love, he slathers us with more grace, glory and love. So in a nutshell; I ask him to help me love, he gives me a super dose of love to give away, and then he blesses me for letting him do the work in my life…and that’s how I become “perfect” as he is “perfect” and that’s how I grow in holiness and gain eternal life? When you lay it all out like that, it seems too good to be true but then again, that is God isn’t it!
Two other things I realized as I’ve wrestled around with this verse, this perfection he calls us to is not a goal to be checked off, it’s a process to be lived. This process comes with success and failure all along the way and that is expected by the Father who loves us. We simply can never check the box and say LOVE, check I’ve done that. I think of that in terms of my own marriage and motherhood because I’d never look at Dave or the kids and think, “Yup, I love you enough, all set.” It’s a process that grows and deepens over time and boy am I thankful for that. The second thing is that this perfection scripture speaks of is not completely fulfilled here on earth. The perfection comes to completion at the end of our days. It’s a journey or a process not a task to cross off the list.
The perfection is in the love. I can go to mass every day and say 43 rosaries a day and donate money to cause after cause but if I don’t love those who don’t love me and the hard to love and if I don’t spend every day trying to grow in humility and holiness through my loving of others rather than self I’m not doing it right. Quite frankly, his way; his request, it so much simpler. If this strikes a cord with you, I have two ideas to help make this a part of your Lent. First, several times a day silently pray, Jesus, help me love the way you love. Second, spend some time each day with this little prayer, also from the Magnificat and me.
For those who have hurt or harmed us. Grant them every blessing Lord
For those who dislike us. Grant them every blessing Lord
For those who look down on us. Grant them every blessing Lord
For those who refuse to speak to us. Grant them every blessing Lord.
For those who test our patience and make our life difficult. Grant them every blessing Lord.
For those who believe differently and make us angry. Grant them every blessing Lord.
A Seed To Plant: Pick one of the two options above and put it in place this week.
Blessings on your day!
“Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, BEARING WITH ONE ANOTHER in love.” Ephesians 4:2
I was thinking the other day of things that go together. The common ones came to mind, like peanut butter and jelly and salt and pepper. I even began to think of people who went together like Lucy and Ethel or The Lone Ranger and Tonto. Funny how in your mind, some things are just a pair. I’ll bet if you stopped for just a minute you could come up with dozens of things that match. I think we get conditioned to see things together, and don’t really give them much notice. We even see pairs in Scripture. I did a little “independent research” and realized in most cases, (how scientific is that) when people describe something or someone, they use a pair of words. For instance, that flower is so bright and colorful or that baby is so cute and chubby. We tend to do a lot of things in pairs.
As we charge into Lent, whose up for a “Double Disciple” challenge? Your challenge will be do Christian acts double. Not just one good deed, but two. Not just a kind word to one person, but two. You could go all out if you wanted to, instead of giving one thing from each closet in your house to charity, make it two. What would happen if you took a plate of cookies or a bouquet of flowers to two neighbors instead of one. What about that young couple with little ones you know who could really use a night out, why not offer to babysit their kids for two hours instead of one so they can enjoy a peaceful dinner or a good nap. The possibilities are absolutely endless!
I saw a great church sign recently that said, “A narrow mind and a wide mouth are not a good combination.” It made me giggle. So I’m going to use the idea from that sign to make the “Double Disciple” challenge a wee bit stiffer. If during the week, you happen to demonstrate a pair of “not –so-Christian” behaviors or attitudes; like being grumpy and impatient with a spouse or co-worker, you have to do another double good act to make up for it. I can’t wait to see the blessings that are in store for the world if we all take on the challenge!
A Seed To Plant: Take on the “Be a Double Disciple” challenge this second week of Lent and let us know what happened.
Blessings on your day!
Subscribe to Joyful Words Blog
Sheri's writing can also be found at Faith Catholic Publications and on CatholicMom.com