Joyful Words Blog
Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light for my path.
– Psalm 119:105
– Psalm 119:105
…My grace is sufficient for you…2 Corinthians 12:9
I read an article once about a family that had a special tradition. Each time someone got something new, they had to give something away to make room for it. To tell you the truth, I thought that sounded a little crazy at first. As the days passed and I continued to think about that family, I realized that they understood the concept of “enough”.
We live in a world that has us programmed for bigger, better, faster, easier and over the top. It seems like those concepts apply to everything from the size of our living room TV to the speed of our technology. It’s no wonder we as a society have lost track of the concept of “enough” and have become a restless people. We worry about investments, savings accounts, college funds and retirement plans. The pressure of getting, keeping and managing all of our “stuff” is stressful! I’d like to suggest that we all “back up the truck” and think for a minute about enough.
In his second letter to the Corinthians, Paul was trying to explain that God and His loving grace is sufficient, or enough. When we make our list of what we need or what we want, how often do we remember to take inventory of God’s graces and blessings? Do we need 15 pairs of shoes, 20 outfits and a bigger TV, or do we have enough? Could it be that what we really need is to spend more time building a relationship with the Father and trusting in His goodness, compassion and grace? Do you suppose a bigger chunk of our day spent connecting with God will make us more successful and comfortable than money and things?
God loves us and wants us to be happy, but He doesn’t want us to lose track of the important things in life. He is the designer of generosity and He wants to bless us with good things, but He encourages us to trust in Him and realize that He is enough…the rest will fall into place as long as we have Him.
A seed to plant: Make a list of the things you have “enough” of, then find ten things you have more than enough of and share them with those who don’t have enough.
Blessings on your day!
Yet, oh Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay and you the potter: we are all the work of Your hands. Isaiah 64:7
I can close my eyes and see it sitting there on the top shelf of the cupboard above the plates and cereal bowls. I couldn’t reach it, so it was always someone else’s job to put it away after I had carefully dried it. It was a turquoise blue, glass casserole dish, the only one my mom had, and it was something she treasured. My dad gave it to her for Christmas, and if she pulled it out to use for supper, I knew she was going to be making something special. One day when I was about ten, I came home from school and Mom was on her way to a meeting. She asked me to put the casserole dish in the oven at 5 o’clock. I felt so important! I quickly raced to the kitchen and peeked under the glass lid to see what she had assembled inside the dish…it was beautiful; it looked like something you’d see in a cookbook picture. Well, the appointed time had come, I opened the oven door, and as I lifted the casserole dish up to slide it into the oven, it slipped right out of my hands, crashed to the floor, and shattered into pieces. I didn’t even consider the fact that I had just ruined supper. I just felt awful about breaking her casserole dish.
I managed to clean up the mess before Mom got home, and I even began to prepare a “plan B” supper. However, the hardest task of all was to hand Mom that collection of broken glass. She stared at it in silence for a moment, asked me if I was OK and then said, “Well, now it’s time to get creative. Your dad and brothers will be hungry, and it’s almost time to eat.” That was it…no scolding, no lecture, no disappointed glance, it was just time to get creative and move on. It was one of those events that just stuck with me.
A year ago, I was at a teachers meeting and the speaker said, “God loves broken vessels!” My mind immediately rushed back to our kitchen in Hoyt, Kansas, when I was ten staring down at that mangled mess of turquoise-colored glass and casserole. My mom’s words echoed in my mind, “It’s time to get creative.”
We are each lovingly and perfectly crafted vessels made precisely by the hands of a compassionate potter. When we sin, it’s as if our vessels become chipped or cracked or leaky. I don’t know about you, but I’ve managed to put some real “dings” in my vessel over the years. If you get a crack or a leak in your favorite mug or dish, it no longer functions the way it was intended to. When we sin, we drift a bit from the Father’s love and, just like that broken vessel, we don’t function quite the way we were intended to either. Luckily, we are more valuable than mugs without a handle or casserole dishes broken into dozens of pieces. The Father is never going to throw us out! Instead, he uses our weakness to demonstrate His strength. If we have a chip or a leak, He invites us to come to Him and give Him a chance to restore us; to make us strong and purposeful again. He is the potter that created us. We are the work of His hands. So, if we need to be restored and have our purpose renewed, all we have to do is ask Him, and He will create us anew…as many times as we need it! God loves broken vessels because they require His strength, and any time we give Him the opportunity to show His strength by admitting our weakness,
A seed to plant: Identify a chip or a leak in your vessel, and ask God to strengthen and restore that imperfection in your life. Pick a different one tomorrow and a new one after that but don’t forget to make a list of the blessings you receive as the potter lovingly restores your vessel.
Blessings on your day!
He has made everything beautiful in its time…Ecclesiastes 3:11
What is the most beautiful thing you can think of? I’m guessing things like sunsets, rainbows, ocean views, mountain tops and of course flowers and babies would be on the list. When we see the beautiful things God created for our enjoyment, it’s easy to recognize His presence in the world. Some of His color, design and absolute genius take our breath away and it’s easy to remember to acknowledge, praise and thank Him when we’re surrounded by some of His beautiful and amazing work. That’s just the way it should be, but what about looking for God in the ordinary stuff of life as well as the majestic and beautiful?
God is the God of the ordinary. He is always waiting to surprise us around every corner, but sometimes we’re so busy looking for Him in the big stuff, we miss Him in the little stuff. God doesn’t always bless us in huge dynamic ways, sometimes His blessings come in quiet, ordinary situations. Last weekend Dave and Kevin were hauling the cattle trailer back from MSU
and the truck just absolutely died; no warning, just completely conked out. YUCK! That was one of those situations that can really test your patience. But, in the middle of that ordinary situation, God was waiting with a blessing, the truck broke down on the way home, with no cattle or show supplies and equipment to worry about and the completely cool part of the situation, the truck conked out about 100 yards from our driveway. The Wohlfert’s were quite thankful for His choice of location!
God doesn’t want us to speak with Him just when we see big, beautiful and amazing stuff. He wants to hear from us as we stand smack dab in the middle of the everyday ordinary stuff that makes up our day to day life. He wants us to realize He’s waiting for us in the middle of the regular! How many people can you pray for when you fold a load of laundry? How many times can you call down God’s blessing upon your family as you pack their lunch or prepare dinner? How many times does your heart ache when you call to mind someone who is sick or suffering? Why not lift them up in prayer by name every time you wash dishes or sweep the garage. That stuff is a huge part of our everyday life, ask God to meet you there!
The next time I see a sunset or feel the cool rain on a hot, dusty day, I’ll be sure to thank God, but I will try equally hard to thank Him and chat with Him when I try to match up whichever socks the dryer hasn’t eaten or scrub petrified syrup off the breakfast table. I hope today is an ordinary day because God can make EVERYTHING beautiful…and I can't wait to see how many places I can find Him in my ordinary!
A seed to plant: Pick three things you see or use often (cell phone, car keys etc.). Make up a short little prayer you can say each time you use that ordinary object. Perhaps you could pray before sending or answering a call or text on your cell phone, “Lord, please make my words pleasing to Your ears.” Or before starting your car you might pray, “Lord, let this trip bring me
closer to You.” The possibilities are endless. Imagine how something as ordinary as making a call could increase the number of times in a day you speak with your Father. Maybe you could post some of your objects and the prayers you created to go with them.
Blessings on your day!
No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. John 15:13
The mystery began as soon as a very puzzled mother realized her seven year old son had returned home from school without his underwear. After she had exhausted him with her standard line of questioning, she sighed, realizing she was no closer to unraveling the mystery. In her wisdom, she decided to do what all good mothers do…wait him out…he was bound to crack sooner or later!
A few days after the unfortunate underwear incident, the mom was unpacking her sons Spiderman backpack and discovered a small brown paper lunch bag containing the missing underwear, with a message scrawled across the outside in red marker. The note, written by the mother of her son’s best friend explained the whole situation in humorous detail. It seemed that the measure of “coolness” among that particular group of boys was directly related to the designs on their little underwear. Her son had been wearing a pair of his new sports equipment underwear on the day of the disappearance. They were covered with pictures of little hockey pucks, baseballs, footballs, tennis rackets and such. Apparently they were the COOLEST one’s ever. The boy’s best friend studied them carefully because he wanted some just like it for his upcoming birthday. After a brief discussion about the inability of modern day mothers to shop properly, he decided to do what any great buddy would do; hand them over so the buddies mother could stick them in her purse, take them to Wal-Mart and whip them out when she arrived in the underwear section enabling her to purchase exactly the right underwear. Now that’s true friendship!
Friendship is one of the most thoughtful gifts God gives us. As I look back at the troubled or difficult times in my life, it’s usually the memory of friends who appeared and slathered me with love, support and laughter that I remember instead of the event itself. God promised life would be difficult at times, but in His amazing love, he gave us great friends to help us along. The little boy who gave up his underwear was willing to forgo his personal comfort, endure his mother’s pelting questions and possibly deal with a bit of embarrassment all for his friend. Not exactly “laying down your life” but it was that tiny act of “dying to self” that contains the lesson.
Make no mistake, I’m not encouraging anyone to give up any part of their wardrobe today, but I am suggesting we take a cue from a seven year old boy and make a sacrifice for a friend. If you’re looking for a way to love and honor God, why not start by loving and honoring the friends He’s blessed you with. A little act of “dying to self”, like passing up sweets, less screen time or doing the most dreaded job on the task list without complaint can be done out of love and offered up to the Father in the name of a friend. Now that is a powerful way to ask God’s blessing on a friend; that is powerful love!
A seed to plant: Make a list of three friends and decide on a simple act of self-sacrifice you can do for the intentions and needs of those friends. Lift
them up in prayer each time the sacrifice gets difficult and the blessings will
magnify. Don’t forget to share the story of blessings that will follow your acts of “dying to self” for a friend.
Blessings on your day!
…but the greatest of these is love. 1 Corinthians 13:13
I love weddings! I love everything about them, the clothes, the excitement, the food and laughter, but mostly I enjoy the happiness that surrounds the entire event. Saturday, I had the pleasure of attending the wedding of a co-worker. She looked so beautiful and so radiantly happy…actually, joyful is a
better word. Happiness is an emotion but true joy comes only from being completely in the will of God. It was abundantly clear that Kelly and Ben were exactly where God had intended them to be!
I think the thing I love best about weddings is the way it sets Paul’s words to the Corinthians in motion. As the wedding began, I found myself searching the faces of the people gathered there to celebrate. I’d never done that before and my eye immediately caught the little faces of the third graders who had come to see their lovely teacher get married. I was tickled by the loving glances and giggles and tiny happy tears, and the smiles…dozens and dozens of them. In a world that can get so segmented and divided over “issues” of the day, it was absolutely delightful to be a part of a big group of folks completely united and genuinely happy about one thing…two people and the love they share! Love is the greatest!
Now, I may joke around about not defrosting the freezer because I’m too busy contemplating how to achieve world peace, but the reality is, world peace, love and harmony are probably not going to blanket us like the snow from a January blizzard. Before you feel sad and deflated though, remember the great thing is that if we are aware that God’s love can accomplish anything…in fact ALL things that’s the most peaceful though ever! Stop for a minute and imagine what life would be like if for one day,
heck even one hour, we looked at all the people in our path with the same kind of genuine love that plastered the faces of all those folks at Saturday’s
wedding! Not possible some would say; well you might be right about that if you are looking through human eyes. We are called to look at others, especially the difficult others in our life, through God’s eyes. See, God’s eyes have a different lens; a lens of love. He sees us with an even greater happiness, joy, respect and delight than I saw on the faces of those at the wedding. He sees us with love because He made us…perfectly, in His image and He asks us to look at the others He created through His eyes! That’s a pretty tough thing…but not quite so tough if we remember that the “greatest of these is love” and through that great gift we can accomplish things we didn’t think were possible. I think the first step to peace, is love.
A seed to plant: Pick a person to look at today. Each time you see them, ask God to help you look at them through His eyes, focusing on the beauty and wonder He threaded through them as He brought them into being.
Tomorrow pick two people and the ultimate goal will be to see everyone through His eyes and soon you may look as giddy and delighted as someone watching a wedding.
Blessings on your day!
Pray without ceasing. 1Thessalonians 5:17
One of the things that made me feel so lucky as a little girl was the fact that my Grandpa Ted owned a store. It had a gas pump out front and inside was a grocery store and the town post office. The counter was lined with big glass jars filled with different kinds of candy but the greatest thing in the store was the pop machine. I was amazed that all you had to do was deposit a coin, then open the narrow glass door, grab the pop bottle by its top and pull it out. The biggest problem life presented at that age was trying to decide whether my brother and I were going to share a Squirt or a Root Beer. Life was simple!
Lots of years later, life isn’t always quite so simple! I’ve discovered that the days that seem to be the most complicated and crazy are usually the ones when I haven’t deposited as much into my daily prayer. I think sometimes our prayer life can be a little like Grandpa Ted’s pop machine. We simply make a little investment and expect to have God open the door so we can pull out any flavor blessing we pick. He wants more from us than a quick “shout out” when we want something or when we need Him to rescue us from the mess we’ve made. He lovingly demands more from us. But Paul told the Thessalonians to pray without ceasing...really…how do you do that? Who can be on their knees in prayer all day?
I think the passage is challenging us to put Christ in the forefront of our thoughts, our words and our actions, consulting him throughout the day with everything. One of my first grade lovelies said one day, “But if you pray like that won’t you run out of stuff to talk to God about?” I said, “Not if you pray with WOW, OOPS, THANKS and GIMME.” You can imagine the puzzled looks that followed and so the lesson began. Each time we stop to pray, start by telling God what He’s done that is amazing ("Wow"). Next, ask His forgiveness for all the faults and failings of the day. Don’t forget to call them out by name ("Oops"). Then have a long talk with Him about all the things you are thankful for and for all the blessings received ("Thanks"). And finally, ask for His blessing on those people and situations that need Him("Gimme"). Those four words are a great starting point for personal prayer. If you cover all four each time you call upon His name in prayer, you’re not likely to run out of stuff to say and you have gotten a lot closer to “without ceasing.” God’s calling us to make more than a tiny deposit, and when we do, the blessings we’ll receive are going to be far more amazing than anything ever pulled out of Grandpa’s pop machine.
A seed to plant: Write wow, oops, thanks and gimme on a notecard. Practice praying with those 4 categories for a few days and see if you enjoy a prayer time that is more focused and fulfilling.
Blessings on your day!
…“God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”James 4:6
Many Americans think about the 4th of July and conger up images of
fireworks, picnics, swimming and all kinds of family summer fun. I think of those things as well, but the 4thof July image that always blinks in my mind first; dirty roasters! For those readers not living here in Westphalia, let me interject. The St. Mary’s 4th of July picnic is a celebration of huge
proportion! Hundreds of folks come to town to celebrate and eat BBQ beef, gravy burgers or sausage and kraut. Pounds and pounds of meat are cooked and served that day, leaving behind a mountain of dirty roasters. As
you might imagine, an event this big requires the volunteer assistance of
everyone in the parish. For about 20 years, my work shift has been scrubbing roasters. I have never really minded the job because I’m an absolute wizard with a putty knife and five hour old, baked on gravy! (I have seriously considered adding this skill to my resume!) There is something to be said for doing a job and truly being able to clearly see the end result.
The truth is, I didn’t APPRECIATE my roaster scrubbing job until this year when I looked at it through different eyes. The eyes of a very holy and inspiring woman named, Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta. You may be wondering what a nun from India could possibly have to do with scorched sauerkraut! Well, here’s the connection; her entire life was dedicated to humble service to others. She did things nobody else wanted to do with people nobody else wanted to serve. She was able to sweetly find and serve God through each loving task performed for someone else’s benefit. Even after all she did for others; she consistently practiced acts of humility because it was through performing these acts that she was able to feel closest to God. Her favorite task to increase humility was to clean bathrooms. I don’t suppose there were any “scrubbing bubbles” involved either…it was a “roll up your sleeves, scrub the floor with an old toothbrush kind of cleaning.” That kind of humble service makes scrubbing those roasters seem like an afternoon by the pool sipping mint juleps!
We live in a world where we like convenience and service, but if we look at the words from the Apostle James, we quickly realize that God’s graces don’t stem from being great, important and served. His rich graces come from HUMBLE SERVICE done for others! When was the last time you completed a loving act of humble service for another? My mom said a million times as I grew up, “The greatest way to serve God is to serve others.” As each of those roasters were being cleaned, I called to mind someone who needed God’s healing, peace and comfort and taking my cue from Mother Teresa, the task was humbly and lovingly offered for their benefit. I fall so very short of her beautiful example, but people like her keep
A seed to plant: Throughout the upcoming week, purposefully complete at least one act of humble service for another person each day. It might be something as simple as picking up the stray paper towel from the floor of a
public restroom…nothing makes you feel greater than to humble yourself before your Father. Feel free to post a comment; we’d all love to hear about your homework!
Blessings on your day!
We love because God first loved us. 1 John 4:19
Do the words “He started it”, "No, He started it,” followed with a louder “Uh-uh HE started it!” seem familiar to anyone? Growing up, I remember one family car in particular. It was a 1970 something blue Plymouth Fury III. You could compare its size to a modern day pontoon! I remember that car well because that’s the car my brothers and I rode in most. The boys always sat by the windows and I took the middle. "Middle child, middle seat", my mom would say. Personally, I think I was placed there due to my sweet, demure nature so I could be the peacemaker and have a positive effect on my brother’s behavior. (I’m sure my little brother will confirm that story.) If I had a quarter for every time I got stuck in the middle of a “he started it” duel in the back seat of that car, I could probably buy my own Plymouth! We really knew it had gone too far when mom would reach into the glove box and pull out the ruler and, as predictable as the rising of the sun, she would say, “I don’t care who started it, I want it stopped right now!” She would then begin waving the ruler fiercely.
At this point in my life, I realize two important things about mom and her ruler: 1) She was 5’ 12” with very long arms but that car was so big I don’t think she could have reached us from the front seat and 2) She NEVER intended to…it was simply a diversion tactic. (She was so good!) Looking back, that was a lesson in God’s love. She was a loving parent and she didn’t want to hurt or harm; she wanted to redirect and refocus us.
When we consider the enormous love God has for us and look at this verse from John’s first letter, we realize without a doubt “He started it!” He wins…He loved first! Now, thanks to human nature, we often think if we didn’t win, then we lost; but in this case, His winning is our greatest prize! God’s love for us can’t be outdone! It’s too huge, amazing, perfect and astounding! Here is the really good news…it’s not a contest! God is not asking us to love bigger or better than Him, instead He’s asking us to share the love He gives us in tiny little ways with everyone He puts in our path each day. As if that wasn’t enough, here’s the kicker…DESERVING has nothing to do with giving or receiving His love. It’s a free gift; it’s always there; always fits perfectly, never expires, and won’t run out no matter how much of it we give away to others!
There are a million ways to share His love with others. I recently bought 5 platters on a clearance table and decorated them with the words “pray and pass platter”. The objective is to pray for the person/family who will receive the platter filled with homemade goodies, fruit, fresh produce or whatever you can think of. They will enjoy the treat, and then pass on some prayers and goodies to someone else. As we live on this earth our main objective should be to share the love God started. Unlike the duels in the backseat of the Plymouth, this is something that should never be stopped!
A seed to plant:
Make a list of 5 acts of love you can share with people in your life during the next week. Include prayer for the recipients because asking God’s blessing on someone is a great expression of His love! Be sure to share the stories of how reflecting His love touched others!
Blessings on your day!
Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose HOPE is in the Lord. Jeremiah 17:7
Maybe it’s just a Kansas thing, but growing up I often heard older people talk about the woes of the day and it would very often be followed by the phrase, “It’s all goin’ to hell in a hand basket.” As a kid, I wasn’t even sure what a hand basket was! Then I watched The Wizard of Oz, and when Elmira Gulch showed up on her bike with a basket to take Dorothy’s dog Toto away, I figured out what a “hand basket” was! Among the things on the list of woes were teenagers. It seemed older folks didn’t have much hope in them.
This past weekend I had the privilege of chaperoning two busloads of high school students from our area to a conference at Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio. We joined more than 2,000 others Friday evening in the university field house and the atmosphere was like a rock concert. Kids clapping and singing their guts out, passing beach balls above their heads all through the crowd and forming human trains and running through the aisles...ELECTRIC is the word that came to mind. (It’s ok if you need to take an aspirin before you read on.) But here is the amazing part, it was praise and worship music…these kids were going crazy for their Faith! Their love of the Lord is what brought them together and fed their frenzy! I was awestruck about 30 minutes later when all those teenagers dropped to their knees on the bleachers and hard gym floor in complete reverent silence to pray, praise , worship and adore the God who had created them! I watched teenagers laugh, pray, weep, and scream with delight as they drew closer, dug deeper and became more connected to Jesus! I’m not sure I even have words yet to describe what I was so blessed to be a part of this weekend. I went to help, but left with more HOPE than I can even describe.
On the 7 hour drive home, I thought about that “hell in a hand basket” phrase and realized that if those teenagers were goin’ somewhere in a hand basket…it sure wasn’t where the older folks from my childhood thought. To be quite honest…we’d all be lucky to climb in the basket with them because they’re goin’ somewhere alright, and based on what I saw this weekend, I wanna go too! The Steubenville Youth conferences will reach more than 40,000 teenagers this summer…talk about setting faith ablaze! This is the generation that will design, construct, operate, manage and decorate the nursing home I’m gonna live in! They are also the generation that is going to renew the spirit of the church and they will do it well!
In a world where bad news is pretty easy to find, today’s verse from the Prophet Jeremiah is the key to settle our troubled hearts. HOPE in the Lord is our comfort! We get worried and anxious about the woes of the day and we forget that our blessings will spring from the trust and HOPE we place in the Lord. Those teenagers I spent the weekend with get it! They renewed my hope because their faith is alive, real and contagious!
A seed to plant: Hope is rooted in God’s plan. Pick three things from your “I’m worried about” list and pray specifically for each one to be blessed by God and then replace the worry with expectant hope!
Blessings on your day!
Sheri's writing can also be found at Faith Catholic Publications and on CatholicMom.com