Joyful Words Blog
Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light for my path.
– Psalm 119:105
– Psalm 119:105
Children let us love not in word or speech but in deed and truth. 1John 3:18
I love watching parents in action. I especially love it when a mom or dad can immediately halt a behavior with just a look. You know; “the look”. No words needed, just “the look”. I find it really amazing when that look comes from a tiny, gentle, sweet little mom. I observed a tiny, mighty, master mom at work in the airport Friday afternoon and I’m tellin you what, as I got caught in the cross hairs of her gaze, I felt a chill and I sat up straight myself! As fierce as that look was, it was done out of love for her squabbling boys and it was so much better than ugly words or threats. I can only imagine what this world could become if we all took a cue from this line in St. Johns letter and focused on our deeds more than our words.
The first few words of this verse give us a mission; LOVE. Love is so much more than sappy, kissey-face, goey stuff. Hollywood gets it wrong, social media gets it wrong, television gets it wrong so it’s no wonder we’re all a little fuzzy when it comes to figuring out what love really looks like! The kind of love St. John was writing about is the real deal kind of love. Love is mercy and mercy means forgiveness and forgiveness means choosing the Father’s way. Love allows us to see people as their Creator sees them and when we look through his lens, love becomes giving and not taking. Love is not a suggestion, it’s necessary to make earthly life meaningful and eternal life possible.
I don’t know about you, but I could seriously pray on this verse for weeks and probably still not get it right. We are told by the world to find our voice and use our words, but it seems like it’s all becoming a giant screaming match with everybody trying to out-talk the next guy. It’s also a little tricky to navigate through all the words and messages and pick out the truth. Words can be twisted and misinterpreted but actions are concrete and powerful. When we think about the loving things we can do for others, it’s important to think small. Most of us will not be called to build a hospital, start an orphanage or open a school to serve forgotten children. We are simply being asked to do simple things with great love.
Yesterday I sat in a huge, old, gorgeous cathedral and I was captivated by the beauty, but I was more deeply touched watching the people and the way I saw this verse come to life. I got to watch the woman in front of me reach over to touch the shoulder of a hurting friend. No words were spoken, just a simple touch and a look that was steeped in compassion. As I was gazing at the stories being told in the stunning stained glass windows, I was distracted by a man who used his neck tie to play peek-a-boo with a restless toddler in front of him whose mom was trying desperately to hold on to his wiggly body. As I listened to the Bishop of the Diocese of Salt Lake City deliver a powerful homily, my gaze shifted to the usher as he welcomed a disheveled and frazzled looking little old woman and took her fail arm and escorted her to a seat. She wore years of worry on her brow but as that usher put out his arm and led her to an empty seat you could see the look of gratefulness and peace on her face as she settled in to listen. As I left the Cathedral, I noticed the little house next door that served sandwiches to the city’s homeless every day. God gave me a line from scripture during mass and then illustrated it for me in living color. I love it when he makes it so easy to see!
Maybe today is a good day to just be quiet and do something. Loving deeds speak louder than words…let’s get busy!
A Seed To Plant: Spend a couple days praying with this verse and ask God to put people in your path who need a little action packed quiet love!
Blessing on your day!
Above all else, guard your heart for everything you do flows from it. Proverbs 4:23
Several years ago my friend Cindy and I did a 60 mile walk from Ann Arbor to Detroit to raise money for breast cancer research. That 3 day walk was long, difficult and amazing. We took off that first day not really grasping what it would take physically and emotionally to walk about 20 miles three days in a row. The first day was great but on day 2 and 3 it was a little tougher to get up and get motivated because I knew how far that distance was and I knew what I would feel like at the end of the day. Looking back, it’s one of my favorite memories but I can honestly say I’d probably never do it again.
The distance made that weekend a challenge, but as I get older, I realize sometimes shorter distances can prove to be just as difficult as that long 60 mile walk. There is one short distance that trips me up nearly every day. That distance is a mere 18 inches from my head to my heart. There are so many things I know in my mind to be true and right, but that knowledge and wisdom doesn’t always travel to my heart where I can put things in action. I’ve been noticing the Father inviting me to pay attention to that distance lately.
I can read lots of scripture and say lots of prayers but if I don’t let those words travel from my mind to my heart, they don’t become action. I can write all kinds of goals and ambitions in my prayer journal but if I don’t set my heart on them, they are nothing more than words on a page. In my mind I know he loves me infinitely but when I shrink away from his affection and hide from him when I’ve done something I think will disappoint him, my heart isn’t living his love.
I know he will meet my every need but when I find myself feeling jealous of things others have, I’m not letting the knowledge make it to my heart so I can feel gratitude more than greed. When I compare every meal I cook to something the Pioneer Woman creates in her test kitchen or when I walk into my living room and compare it to something Chip and Joanna create, I’m stuck in my head, not my heart. Making those comparisons is a little like thinking the fancier my stuff is, the more the Father loves me. If I closed that 18 inch gap a little I would realize that’s nonsense. God doesn’t sprinkle his love like ship lap and cinnamon, he slathers it right into our struggles, disappointments and simple joys.
My head tells me he’d love me more if I was put together and less of a hot mess; my heart tells me he is delighted to meet me in the middle of my daily disasters. My head tells me I should work harder to be good so he’ll love me more; my heart tells me he doesn’t expect perfection, just prayerfulness, contrition and a dozen do-overs a day. My head tells me I’m not worthy of his love; my heart agrees but reminds me worthiness isn’t a condition for being loved and cherished by my Creator. My head tell me I’ll never be good enough or strong enough or holy enough; my heart tells me I’m HIS and he will be all those things for me. My head tells me work harder; my heart reminds me that he says “rest in me”.
Who knew there could be such a disconnect in that short distance! I’m thinking I don’t need to take a long hike or climb a tall mountain; I just need to do a better job at the short space between my head and my heart…that’s a mission that will keep me busy for a while!
A Seed To Plant: Jot down 3 or 4 things that get jumbled in that distance between your head and your heart.
Blessings on your day!
She left and did as Elijah had said. She was able to eat for a year…1 Kings 17:15
A wise little girl told me one time that what the world needed most is “more giving stuff away.” It made me giggle but something about that simple little idea just clung in my thoughts. I’m still unfolding the story of the Prophet Elijah and the widow that I wrote about last week and that little girl’s idea bounced in my mind. As adults, we know the word is generosity and she’s right, the world needs more of it. The widow in the story matched her loving generosity with a gigantic dose of trust. I think that’s a pretty powerful combination don’t you?
I was watching a little video clip about St. Katherine Drexel last weekend and her life too demonstrated enormous generosity coupled with amazing trust. When Katherine’s wealthy parents died, their estate left Katherine and her sisters with 14 million dollars each. Today that amount would be closer to 400 million. Even though her family was very wealthy, their wealth was outmatched by their generosity. The Drexel family opened their home three afternoons a week to bring in and feed, clothe and pray with the poor and the needy. Guided by her parents example of loving generosity, Katherine became a nun and used her fortune to generously serve societies lost and forgotten. Out of that entire fortune, not one little bit was saved for herself. One of the people I was watching the video with said, “I think I would have set some aside in a special little account just in case.” Like the widow, it was generosity first, trust second and blessings third.
Don’t be puzzled, this is not a post offering financial guidance for managing the millions of dollars you have lying around, I will let you manage your millions yourself! It is however a good day to look at all of the thing that constitute our personal fortune, like our time, health, resources and God-given gifts and talents. It’s a good day to evaluate our generosity and trust, using the example of the heroes of our faith. There are people like Katherine who have so much and then there are people like the widow who have so little yet both acted with such generosity it left a mark! I suppose that eliminates all excuses for the rest of us doesn’t it! We are each called to be generous stewards of our gifts no matter how great or how small they seem. We are also called to give an example of generosity to our friends and family. I wonder what Katherine would have done with her fortune if she hadn’t grown up in a home that flung open its doors to love and care for the poor? I have to ask myself what I have taught my own children about generosity.
I think the biggest thing sitting on my heart as I type this post…what does my loving God have in store for me if I were to act in complete generosity and trust? The widow got a blessing far beyond imagination, Katherine Drexel was blessed immeasurably by those she loved and served in the name of Christ. So what’s waiting for me? I suppose I have to grow in trust, act with greater generosity and see what happens. I’ll keep you posted!
A Seed To Plant: As you sit in prayer this week, ask God to show you how to be more generous and trusting.
Blessings on your day!
Do not be afraid…1 Kings 17:13
The other night I was making dinner and I reached in the cupboard to grab the olive oil. I pulled out the dark green bottle and began to pour, only to discover that instead of a stream of oil coming from the bottle all I was seeing was a few drips! I immediately got frustrated at the inconvenience. Instead of quickly finishing up, I had to go dig through the pantry and hopefully retrieve a full bottle. After just a few seconds of looking and re-shuffling the pantry I found a full bottle and returned to my task. As I stood there in my kitchen stirring I was wondering who it was who emptied the old one without replacing it and why couldn’t they have just taken a few more seconds to replace the bottle instead of leaving the work to me. Then like a smack to the head, I remembered the story of the widow and Elijah from the Old Testament.
If you remember the story, Elijah shows up at this widow’s house during a time of famine and asks her for some water to drink and something to eat. She looks at him and lets him know she’d love to help but can’t. She honestly reports that she has only a bit of oil and a tiny bit of flour and she was getting ready to prepare the last of it for a meal for herself and her son…get this…and then they were going to die because there was no more food. Pause there for a minute…replay…I’m going to use the last drops of oil and spoons of flour to make a cake (yum ?) for us and then we will prepare to die. Not, then I will go to the pantry and get more oil. Not, then I will run to the store and buy more oil or go to the neighbor’s house and borrow more. I will use what I have and that is the end of it all. I can’t even imagine!
As I stood in my kitchen embarrassed about my little empty oil bottle tiff and the widows story I began to see things differently. I glanced over at a full pantry. Behind me was a full refrigerator and on the counter was a bowl of fruit all of which could probably feed a village in some places of the world and suddenly the word plenty was the only one I could think of. I have plenty; plenty of food, plenty of money, plenty of clothes, plenty of EVERYTHING but yet I often focus on what I don’t have instead of what I have plenty of. All of the sudden I felt pretty small, pretty foolish and pretty ungrateful.
The widow’s story continues when Elijah tells her to go ahead and make him some food and the Lord will take care of her and her son. In an unbelievable act of faith she uses the rest of her resources to feed Elijah and as promised, her oil jug and her flour jar never ran dry. The story is about so much more than kitchen staples! God offers the same promise to us each and every day. Just trust me, I will take care of you because I love you and I will reward your faithfulness. The widow loved God more than she loved her stuff. The widow was generous and trusting to an extreme; and her generosity and faithfulness were rewarded to an extreme. It’s a story that offered me perspective and reflection. It made me think about my own gratefulness and trust and generosity. I can’t change all the crazy stuff going on in the world right now but I can’t help but think how much different things would be if we focused on a few of the widow’s lessons and figured out how to use them in our own life.
A Seed To Plant: Read the story from 1Kings 17:7-16 and ask God to help you reflect on the story and show you how he wants you to draw closer to him.
Blessings on your day!
"There's a young boy here with five barley loaves and two fish. But what good is that with this huge crowd?” John 6:9
I have a confession to make…sometimes when I’m in mass and the reading is one I’ve heard dozens of times, I can tend to “tune out” thinking; oh yeah, I know this one! Last Friday at school mass the Gospel was the story of the loaves and fishes. I’m not gonna lie, I didn’t offer my complete attention as the Gospel began because I knew how this one ended. Pinching myself for having such a bad attitude, I quickly asked God to show me something new; please give me a new idea about this story. He did!
As I was listening to the Gospel I wondered; what if the boy hadn’t shared his bread? What if he had thought it was too small, or not the right shape or maybe a little over-baked or lumpy looking? What if he figured it was never enough to begin with so why bother? It was at that moment I realized it was a good thing I was not the little boy with the bread because I probably would have thought about all those things and more! I am often the queen of “ALL OR NONE” thinking. Jesus took whatever was offered that day and made it perfect.
As I was puddling this through in my head, Fr. Eric offered a line in his homily that hit my heart and finished the lesson I had asked the Lord to teach me that morning. He talked about the times in life when the best we have to offer the Father are our crumbs. I am often worried about offering only a perfect loaf when all he really needs from me are my crumbs.
I bake 3 loaves of bread every week. One is always a give away loaf, I just take it to school with me and ask the Lord to direct me to the person who might need a little something special that day. Dave is always happy to get the other two loaves but I’m guilty of studying the 3 loaves and most often choosing the nicest one to give away. I will also admit if I have a week when the bread doesn’t turn out pretty, I won’t give one away at all. In all my time of giving away bread, nobody ever commented on it’s color, shape or size. Each person I’ve given bread to takes it with a smile and goes home to make toast. As Fr. Eric talked about giving God our crumbs it all made sense.
God is…well he’s God; the author of perfection, so why would I doubt for one minute that I had to offer him a perfect loaf when all he needs are my crumbs. He can take the broken, the crumbled, the messy and the small and turn them into absolute perfection. I don’t have to be the perfect christian, I don’t have to be the perfect wife, mom or teacher. He’s asking for the tiny crumbs of my life to be lifted up so he can bring great good. When we give him our crumbs, he can do great things with them and then we just simply stand back and give him the glory. The Gospel doesn’t tell us the little boy’s name; it doesn’t matter. His humble generosity trumped his notoriety. I’m not gonna scream out to the world, “Hey look at my crumbs!” I’m going to give them to the Father and then stand back and say, “Hey look what he did!” Thank you Father for taking my crumbs!
A Seed To Plant: Read this familiar story with new eyes this week and then ask the Lord to help you lift up your crumbs.
Blessings on your day!
For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord. Isaiah 55:8
How about that for a Thursday kick in the pants! As I think about the Prophet Isaiah’s words, they have a more truthful application to my life than I’d like to admit! My thoughts ramble off into the back 40 during prayer and the things I’m thinking are definitely not His thoughts and sometimes, my ways are so NOT His ways! Why do we do that…when we know we shouldn’t speak words to others we wouldn’t speak directly to Him and we know His way and His plan trump ours EVERY time? Yet we keep runnin around sayin stuff we shouldn’t say and doin stuff that our stubborn nature tells us is easier! I guess it all leads me back to the truth…I’m just a big ole sinner who needs the love and mercy of a Gracious God because I sure can’t get it right without Him! Maybe that’s the whole point!
Not long ago I heard a priest teach a simple prayer during his homily. Here it is, “Thank You God, Your will be done!” Even I can remember that one! Seems simple and easy and makes sense...until you begin to think about when you should say it! It’s going to be easy to say that little prayer when I get a good parking spot, or when something good happens. The tricky part is when the yucky stuff happens. Fr. Gordon used the examples, when you loose your keys in the snow, “Thank you God, Your will be done.” Or when you loose your cell phone, “Thank you God, Your will be done…now I have more time to talk to You.” Seven little words that can change everything! I think we can get so busy we forget to have that ongoing dialogue with Our Father, maybe lost keys and slow traffic and broken mower belts really are a tiny nudge inviting us to speak with Him.
Disappointments are a great place to plug in this prayer! When things don’t go the way we plan, we can get pretty down. I remember not getting a teaching job I wanted so badly! I prayed, I researched, I practiced interviewing I did everything to prepare yet despite my best efforts, the interview committee picked someone else! I was so disappointed! I called my mom in tears and she listened to me blubber on and on and when I was finished, she softly said, “It wasn’t your job to get!” I remembered that conversation clear as a bell in church as Fr. Gordon was talking about that very simple little prayer and on the drive home, Isaiah’s words chimed in and I was overwhelmed with the power of God’s plan. It hit me that if I had gotten that teaching job, I would not have gone to K-State, I would not have found out about the job opening with the State Department of Education in Michigan, I would not have moved here, met and married Dave Wohlfert, had three wonderful children and my life would NOT be any of the terrific things it is right now! Thank you God, Your will be done! And it was done…with amazing attention to detail I might add! It’s surprising what seven little words can stir up!
God always knows what He’s doing. We have to thank Him especially when things don’t go our way. I don’t know about you but sometimes I forget that part. The harder something is, the bigger our thank you should be! He blesses us through good and happy things and He blesses us BIGGER through the difficult, disappointing and heartbreaking! We tend to see what’s good for us; He sees what’s good for ALL of His children. We have to remember we aren’t the only ones He has to care for. Our disappointment is most likely someone else’s blessing…we can stamp our feet like a spoiled impatient toddler or we can use that time for some of the greatest prayer and fortifying ever. He doesn’t withhold things to make us squirm, He waits for the perfect time and the perfect place and the perfect peace…all He asks is that we thank Him and ask Him to show us His way while we wait on His perfect timing. His ways, His words…yeah, it makes sense since we are His children!
A seed to plant: Write this little prayer down and stick it somewhere so you’ll remember to pray it often. Thank you God, Your will be done!
Blessings on your day!
I am an imperfect person loved by a perfect God!
I had a funny realization the other day when I had the middle lovelies and their kindergarten buddies at mass. One of the littles had a runny nose so the big buddy turned and asked me if I had a Kleenex they could give the kindergartener. I immediately began rummaging through my coat pockets pulling out Kleenex after Kleenex. I smiled and thought I must have looked a little like a magician pulling colorful scarves out of a hat. I finally came to one that was wadded but after careful inspection, I could tell it hadn’t been used. It looked a little rumpled but as I did the unfold test I could tell it was a “never been used” one. Feeling a bit successful at the fruitful Kleenex search mission, I handed it up with pride to the middle lovely. The little one looked a bit suspicious and after using it the child looked at their big buddy and said, “My mom buys the kind that come in the little rectangle package and come out folded nicely, I’m not sure I like this kind.” It took everything I had not to laugh out loud!
As I looked down at the pile of crumpled white Kleenexes in my lap and began to tuck them all back in my coat pockets I realized my discipleship journey is a whole lot like that crumped pile of Kleenex! Here’s what I mean…
*When I forget to let God be in charge, things get all wrinkled, wadded and jumbled.
*Even when things get messy in the middle, all I need is a fresh corner to clean up my act.
*Things rarely come neatly packaged and perfectly stacked like the little rectangle Kleenex packages.
*Things don’t always have to look new, neat and tidy to work well, sometimes following Christ is just messy and unpredictable.
*God loves me even when I’m a rumpled mess and all I have left is a little room around the edges.
*God always wants to give a little extra love so I have some left to share.
*Just because I appear to be prepared, well packaged and all put together, it doesn’t mean I’m holy. Holiness focuses on the inside not the outward appearance.
*Just like those tissues in my pocket, God has a very specific purpose in my life and I sometimes have to do a little searching to find it.
*All too often, I have to dig around and try all the wrong things before I get to the good one.
*Finding a good Kleenex right before a sneeze is a great relief but it’s nothing compared to the relief in my life when I let God take control right before I try to do it my own way and goof it up.
Some people say they never really hear God speak to them; perhaps the problem is they just aren’t listening carefully because he can communicate his lessons and his love in the strangest ways; even in a pile of rumpled Kleenexes!
A Seed To Plant: Are you a fresh new package disciple or are you one who’s a little ruffled around the edges? Take some time in prayer this week and think about it…are you waiting until everything is in perfect order to invite him in or are you willing to invite him into your mess?
Blessings on your day!
This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it. Psalm 118:24
I have watched the pictures trickle through my newsfeed all week and they make me sigh a little. It’s spring break week for folks around here and the family trip pictures from beaches, cruises, mountains and lovely places have been fun to see. Today however, the joy shrunk a little as I looked out my window to a windy April snow storm. As I grabbed a heavier sweatshirt I suddenly wished a few of those lovely beach people would be pinched by a sand crab or something! I know that was not very christian of me but looking at the April blizzard in my front yard made me a little jealous!
When the snow stopped I realized I’d been completely childish and I apologized for my ugly thoughts and jealous wishes. As I stopped to think on it for a bit I realized it was a great lesson on a subject I obviously haven’t learned yet. Contentment is the name of the lesson and rejoicing in another mans blessings is the assignment. I flunked both today!
As I was busy humbugging other peoples fun I forgot how thankful I am that I got to take three of those trips when each of our kids were seniors. I forgot that I’ve been able to slow down and catch up this week…I’ll really appreciate that on Monday! I forgot that I was able to go to Jim and Tonya’s funeral this week and be amazed and inspired at the strength of their three children as they delivered their parents ecology with the strength and grace of faithful warriors. If I’d have been on a beach I would have missed Easter with a few dozen family members that I love and I’d miss a trip to Franciscan University this weekend to see my daughters Nursing Dedication Ceremony. My hamper wouldn’t be empty, my furniture wouldn’t be dust free and my refrigerator wouldn’t be absent of anything green and fuzzy. All of that makes me feel a little accomplished I suppose!
I have to remember that THIS really is the day the Lord has made and he made me right where I am for a good reason. Before I hit the pillow tonight I’ll be sure and thank him for that. And, I’ll be sure to say a prayer for all those beautiful people enjoying a lovely trip with the family they love.
A Seed To Plant: Make a list of 5 things you are grateful for right now!
Blessings on your day!
The Lord hears the cry of the poor. Psalm 34
When I hear the word poor I usually think of no money…anyone else think that? I know financial poverty is not what the Psalmist was referring to so I paused to think about the bigger meaning of these words. I pondered all the areas of my life where I was poor and here’s what I came up with.
There are days when I am very poor in patience. My tongue can be snappy and my judgments quick. One of the great casualties of being poor in patience is not being a good listener. I wondered how many things happened on these days that could make me richer if I wasn’t so busy being impatient. Lord, on these impatient days,help me remember to cry out for your calm and your peace.
Sometimes I am poor in trust. When my pockets seem to be emptied of his treasure I decide to take control and do God’s work for Him. I tend to look to heaven and say “I got this one God!” I can tell ya how that usually works out. When I’m poor in trust I doubt His love for me and the wisdom of His plan…silly me! I forget that I’m looking at one page of the story and He’s holding the whole book! Lord, on the days I lack trust, help me remember to say the words Jesus, I trust in You.
More often than I’d like to admit I’m poor in acceptance. I have to remind myself often that things in my life are organized specifically the way God needs them to be. When money is tight or when success seems to find its way into someone else’s life it’s tough not to get discouraged. One of the things I work on with my middle lovelies is celebrating when good things come to others because they are blessings from God. All too often instead of celebrating with others in their good fortune we evaluate all the reasons it should have happened to us instead. When I’m poor in acceptance; Lord remind me to keep my nose in my own journey.
I think I am the poorest when I fail to live in the present. God has created THIS day for me. Yesterday is already finished and tomorrow isn’t a guarantee. The people, the opportunities, the joys and the challenges of THIS day are His gift to me and it’s my job to soak it all in and ask constantly through the day what the plan for all of it is. When I get this right, I feel His blessings. Recently I had a mountain of a day to climb; jobs, tasks, deadlines, projects and a teacher evaluation scheduled on top of it all. I woke up that morning feeling like limpy lettuce! It wasn’t even 5 in the morning and I wanted to go back to bed and be done with the day. I threw up my hands in morning prayer thinking God, how in the world am I supposed to “rejoice and be glad”when I’ve got a day like this! I then stumbled across the word surrender several times in my readings and prayers that morning. So, that’s what I did…I flat out said, “God, if you plan to be hearing from me during evening prayers tonight, you best be sending re-enforcements because I can’t get this all done and still be joyful.” I gave Him the day and I just sat back and watched Him show off! I was very rich indeed that day. Things fell in place, help I didn’t even request showed up, and the middle lovelies were particularly bright and funny that day. The grand finale to the day was a cancelled meeting and plopping into bed at 11:40 only to realize that I’d smacked the wrong button on my alarm clock that morning and it was really only 10:40. That was just icing on the cake! The Lord hears our cries…especially when we see and ask for help in the places we’re poor. Try Him…cry out and see how He answers
A Seed To Plant: Spend some time in prayer asking God to help you see the areas where you are poor. He’s waiting to hear and answer your cry for riches in these areas.
Blessings on your day!
Sheri's writing can also be found at Faith Catholic Publications and on CatholicMom.com