Joyful Words Blog
Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light for my path.
– Psalm 119:105
– Psalm 119:105
Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me…” Matthew 19:14
I saw this adorable little boy at the fair this week. His mom and grandma told me he couldn’t stop talking about all the animals. It was apparent that he was having a good time being at the fair but he stood on the edge of the pavement farthest away from the barn. I was trying to invite him closer so I could let him pet Shannon’s steer but he just gripped grandma’s hand tightly and shook his head. His mom gave me the scoop and said he liked all the animals but he was not about to go anywhere near one. I guess we could call him a distant admirer! We all shared a laugh and they headed off to see the chickens and rabbits hoping they wouldn’t be as intimidating for the little guy.
As I thought about this little boy throughout the day I realized sometimes we behave exactly the same way in our Christian walk! We say we like it, we act interested, we want to be a part of it but are we willing to go all in and walk up close enough to completely embrace it? The little guy was genuinely afraid and overwhelmed. He was sure his spot across the pavement was good enough but I wondered how much more he would have enjoyed his day at the fair if he’d been able to run his little fingers through fluffy fur or get close enough to touch a pig’s curly tail. His experience could have been so much richer…if he had been ready. The whole situation is pretty understandable since he was so young but how about us? He wasn’t ready…are we?
There is a big difference between being a Christian and living as a Christian. Living the faith takes a lot more courage and intention than simply professing it but the rewards are so much richer! I wonder what keeps us from diving in completely. Are we afraid of what we might have to change? Are we worried about what others might think or say? Are we unwilling to set aside the time to pray and worship? Or are we like the little boy at the fair…just overwhelmed and not ready to take that first big step.
Here is the really good news; all we have to do is make the decision and take the first step. It all starts with our heart…invite Jesus in and ask him to be in charge of every detail of your day and he will do the rest. If you’re like that little boy clear across the pavement, take the first step and he will come the rest of the way to you. That little guy would have had more fun at the fair if he had gone all in and the same can be said for us…life would be so much richer, blessed and fun if we would just go all in.
A Seed To Plant: Make a list of the things that keep you from going all in then pray over that list and ask God to show you how to navigate around those obstacles so you can get closer.
Blessings on your day!
It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you…John 15:16
Well, here we are beginning the last week of July and for the past 14 years that has meant one very important thing…time for the Clinton County Fair! It has always been the highlight and hallmark of summer. I can’t even remember how many animals and projects we’ve hauled to the fair over the past 14 years but the number is a big one. The number that isn’t big however is the number of times we’ve come home with the “Grand Champion” prize ribbon. In all the years with all the projects I can remember only one Grand and 2 or 3 Reserve Grand ribbons, yet the kids go back year after year and love it! When I look around the fair grounds and see the couple hundred kids who come to the fair, all hoping to get chosen “Grand Champion”, it’s a hope but not necessarily the purpose.
There are a lot of lessons and humility building at the fair. I remember standing in line with Shannon one year to have her sewing project judged. She was 10 and the outfit so proudly clutched in her little hands was beautiful but riddled with novice mistakes and flaws. She was so excited to present the judge her work…until a “big girl” took her place in line behind her holding the most gorgeous prom gown I had ever seen. It looked like something a Disney princess would wear. Shannon looked at that gown and then down at her outfit and her head drooped just a wee little bit. That 17 year old 4-Her, not missing a beat, bent down and asked Shannon if she could get a better look at her pretty yellow outfit. At that point I just stood back and watched the “fair magic” unravel. They went on to have a happy chat about first projects and practicing and all the things that make someone good at something. I have great memories of lots of frustrated and often tearful kids sitting on the bench in the barn after realizing that animal that looked magnificent in their barn, didn’t get chosen because it didn’t look quite as magnificent as the one somebody else brought. One year a neighbor girl with a naughty steer said through tears, “It’s just too hard!” I smiled and replied “That’s what makes being here so great, if it wasn’t hard, everybody would do it! It’s really about having the courage and drive to be here, not about being chosen as the best.”
Thank goodness being a child of God isn’t like competing for the Grand Champion ribbon at the County Fair! We don’t have to worry about everything being perfect to be chosen. We don’t have to size up the competition and worry about being chosen the judges favorite. In every event or category at the fair there is only one chosen by the judge…we are loved by a God who chose us and what’s more, He picked us first so we know He wants us for his own. We are his “pearl of great price!” Even though we’ve been chosen, living a life as God’s chosen is much better if we all take a lesson or two from the fair. Life is just better if we encourage each other like the big girl in the sewing line. Life is just better if we don’t compare ourselves and our talents with those of others. Life is just better if we realize it’s about the drive, courage and hard work. Sometimes life is a team sport and it’s a good idea to remember that the teammate you stop to lend a helping hand to is also chosen by the same God who loves you and that gives them great value. I suppose as we load up the stuff and head to the fair we’d all do well to remember the one Grand Champion prize that matters…heaven.
A Seed To Plant: Make a list of three things you can start doing this week to remind yourself that the competition is over…you won…you have been chosen!
Blessings on your day!
Wait for the Lord, take courage; be stouthearted, wait for the Lord! Psalm 27:14
Wait is not my favorite word! I’m more of a GO kind of girl rather than a WAIT kind of girl! I saw a great quote the other day that said “Our willingness to wait reveals the value we place on the object we’re waiting for.” It made me stop a while and think about my posture and attitude while waiting, needless to say, I didn’t really like what I discovered about myself. The last post I wrote was about patience, this quote appeared on my Facebook newsfeed and then I “stumbled” across this verse from Psalm 27 that contains the word WAIT twice…out of only twelve words total! Think there is a message there? I’m passing it along to all of you today and I sure hope I’m not the only one who needs it!
After God was done whapping me upside the head, I had to stop and figure out what I was waiting for. As I began to make my list, I realized some of the things were pretty silly. When I thought about how much I actually valued some of the things on my list I understood why waiting is hard. Most of the things on my list weren’t important enough to wait for or really even wish for so I crossed all those off the list. When it boiled down to the bottom of the pot here’s what I learned; the only thing on my list really worth waiting patiently, courageously and stoutheartedly for…is meeting Jesus. Most of the stuff on my list, like Godly spouses for my children or happy retirement will just come in Gods own time, but Heaven…that’s the one I need to focus on. I suppose if my focus is really truly there every day, everything else will be just as God desires…in his time…for his purpose and in his ultimate perfection. As I came to this conclusion my peace was interrupted by panic when I thought, what if God doesn’t give me what I’m waiting for? Then my heart answered my mind as only God can instruct it to and I heard; if he doesn’t give me what I’m waiting for, that means he’s got something better…just wait and see!
Here’s another thought I have about waiting, it isn’t work. It doesn’t require great effort like scrubbing the porch or organizing the office files or losing 40 pounds. (All silly things I’ve been waiting for…I told you there was some silly stuff on my list!) If we truly live the words of this verse from Psalm 27 our lives will get instantly calmer, more peaceful and much easier. I’d like to end this post with a passage from Jim Beckman’s book God Help Me, “Think of the image of a sailboat. The boat doesn’t do anything burdensome to respond to the wind in its sails – it simply moves forward propelled by the wind. The sailboat responds by moving forward, but it is the wind that is carrying it.” What are you waiting for? If it is something of great value than be still and know God will provide the wind to move your sailboat! I’m thinking it just might be the perfect time to wish for a sailboat instead of a speedboat!
A Seed To Plant: Make a list of all the things you’re waiting for. (Silly ones too!) Tuck it away for a day or two. When you get it back out, ask God to give you eyes to see his plan and his timing as you evaluate each item on your list and think about its value.
Blessings on your day!
Let them grow together until the harvest; then at harvest time I will say to the harvesters, “First collect the weeds and tie them into bundles for burning but gather the wheat into my barn.” Matthew 13:30
The parable of the wheat and the weeds from Matthews Gospel has so many lessons! This post could go a dozen different directions but as Father John read it Sunday my mind glued right to one part. When my mind gets stuck on one little piece of scripture like that it’s usually a pretty good sign that I’m supposed to work on something! The part that really socked me was how the land owner told the servants to be patient. What?…the enemy just wrecked his whole wheat field by scattering weeds and he said nothing of revenge or justice or retribution. He didn’t ride his donkey into town and tell everybody who would listen about the awful thing someone had done to him. He didn’t go all 007 and try to track down the bad guys, he just said be patient, we’ll sort it all out later. Wow…what a lesson! We are pretty good at recognizing the hand of God in our lives and thanking him for our blessings but how good are we at letting him be in charge of justice? We are a society that likes to “right the wrongs” when they happen to us.
Sr. Mary MacKillop was an Australian nun who was a brilliant teacer. She had an infectiously joyful disposition and those around her thrived because of her love, holiness and honesty. One of my favorite stories is about how she truly imitated the land owner in this parable. Sr. Mary’s classrooms swelled and the students achieved brilliantly because of her enthusiasm and encouragement. There were so many new students that another room was added to the school and a crabby old priest was summoned to teach the other class of students. Orders were given for an achievement test to be administered to all students to determine the worth of the teachers in the diocese. After the tests were collected, Sr. Mary’s students’ scores were amazing. As you might expect the scores from the other class were not. Before the tests were sealed and mailed to the bishop, the old priest switched the teacher’s names receiving full credit for the splendid scores. Poor Sr. Mary was sent off to a dreadful assignment in the outback. The other sisters encouraged Sr. Mary to tell the bishop what had happened but she refused and told them they were not to say anything either. She believed that she had done what God had asked her to do and justice was not hers to serve, that was God’s business. She refused to speak about it stating that she had absolutely no doubts that God would see to things in his way and in his time but in the meantime she would use it as a splendid opportunity to grow in humility.
Go Sr. Mary! I know for a fact I have a long way to go if I ever want to measure up to her standard of trust in God’s judgment. I suppose I should begin with the person who drives like a nut in traffic and cuts me off. Or, I could start with the impatient person who snatches the parking spot I’ve patiently waited for and “claimed” with my blinker. I’m willing to bet that I won’t have to look very hard to find several places in my daily life that I could be more like the land owner and his field. I can think of several folks who could use a little more patience from me. Who knows, if I was a little more patient instead of running around yanking out the weeds of “injustice” I might discover things are a whole lot easier to sort out than I thought. I guess I need to worry less about who put the weeds in my wheat and worry more about being patient and letting someone wiser and more loving than me sort things out.
A Seed To Plant: Take some time this week to read the whole parable from Matthew 13:24-30. Sit still for a few minutes and identify some of the weeds in your wheat. How and where can you demonstrate the patience of the land owner?
Blessings on your day!
For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. Matthew 11:30
Is there really such a thing as God wanting too much? I don’t know about you but sometimes I sure feel that way! It feels like as soon as I get one spiritual wrinkle smoothed out, He fluffs the fabric and then there’s another wrinkle! Then my good sense takes over and I realized it’s not a matter of God wanting too much, but rather it’s me not wanting to give something to Him.
This one little verse from Matthew’s Gospel is a doozie isn’t it! More than once I’ve read it and thought…really God…sometimes doing things your way is NOT easy or light. Sometimes it’s really, really hard and I just don’t know if I’m getting it right. I don’t know about you but I can get a little stressed out sometimes trying to do everything he asks me to do!
I’ve had these thoughts sitting on my heart a lot lately and the other day I turned on the TV to check the weather and I stumbled across an episode of Little House on the Prairie. In this particular episode Pa was busy hooking up the horses to plow the field. As Pa hitched up the horses he put a yoke around each of their necks. As the horses began the difficult work ahead the yoke and harness made it much easier for them. They stayed together and were able to keep the same pace and work together as one stronger unit. That was it…I finally got it. Jesus’ yoke is a double; one for me and one for him. I don’t have to do the work by myself, that was never his plan at all. His yoke is easy and his burden is light because he’s stronger than me so he will always take the lead, pick up the slack and do the heavy part.
Being a disciple is not always easy but it's not a solo job. Sometimes he does ask a lot of us so the next time I feel like the burden is too heavy or too hard, I’m going to think about that episode of Little House on the Prairie and remember that I don’t have to do the work alone. The next time I’m stuck in the middle of a tough decision or temptation instead of trying to worm my way out of it alone I’ll remember to put my head down and walk closely with Jesus asking him to pull ahead a little harder because I’m feeling weak. I’ll also remember we’re connected, just like Pa’s horses so I know he’ll always be right there beside me.
A Seed To Plant: Think about a burden you are trying to bear and then imagine being hitched to Jesus like Pa’s horses. Just sit there for a few minutes and imagine charging ahead and pulling that burden with the help of Jesus right beside you doing the heavy stuff.
Blessings on your day!
Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, Matthew 6:28
Shannon left yesterday morning for her last band camp. As she was busy packing I realized our last child was beginning her senior year and this trip was sort of like the “first last.” As she tossed her bag in with all the others she didn’t realize it contained a series of letters, one for each day of the week she will be at camp. Each letter contains a word for the day with a related scripture verse and a love note from home. Before I wrote the letters, I prayed that the Holy Spirit would send me 6 words that would guide her as she begins her first senior year event. The first word was “observe”.
When was the last time you really observed the world around you? The thing about observing is that it requires no speaking, just intent looking, watching, discovering and studying. Most of us are in too much of a hurry to truly observe. We often sum things up based on what we think we see instead taking the time to be still and see things accurately and without judgment. Children are some of the best observers in the world. I remember when Shannon was a little girl she found slugs the most fascinating thing ever. She would just sit and stare in awe as they took forever to cross the sidewalk and then squeal in delight as she would notice the “rainbow trail” they would leave behind. Kids will sit forever and watch bugs and rabbits or birds like they hold the secrets of the world. Maybe they do…
When I prayed about the words for Shannon’s letters I promised to take whatever words the Holy Spirit popped in to my head without doubt and I’d use them in the exact order He sent them. I’m not gonna lie, when “observe” was the first word that came I hesitated and thought, umm…Holy Spirit are you sure you understood what I meant here? Observe isn’t really a word I was going for; it didn’t seem very inspirational to me but I lived up to my end of the bargain. After the bus pulled away yesterday it began to make sense. I remembered my curly headed little girl watching slugs and realized unless we observe with that same intention we’re going to miss a lot. Not much in life seems to surprise us anymore and I think it’s because we are busy predicting instead of observing. I think maybe we take things for granted because we don’t observe how they really got there in the first place.
Perhaps the greatest fruits of observing are respect and understanding. I’m sure there have been times I would have had a greater understanding of someone or something if I had just quieted my words and my mind and taken a good look at all the tiny pieces and how they fit together. Who knows…if we become better observers we might have a front row seat to the wonder and awe of the Father and a much clearer understanding of the things he’s asking us to be a part of. It sounds too simple doesn’t it? Who would ever imagine great knowledge and understanding could come from just sitting still and watching the people and things around us carefully and without judgment. I don’t know about you but I can’t wait to see what I learn.
A Seed To Plant: Your assignment is a two-parter today! Carve out 30 minutes from this week and spend 15 minutes of it observing people. Look for the things God made unique about them and look for behaviors that demonstrate Christ’s presence. Spend the other 15 minutes outside just carefully observing God’s creation. Look at the ground, the sky the trees even the tiny vein structure on the back of a leaf or a blade of grass. Train yourself to observe with the enthusiasm and intention of a child.
Blessings on your day!
Hello dear readers!
It's "go to the lake with Kansas company week" and I forgot to let you know I wouldn't be posting yesterday...just a quick apology for an unannounced break...and a promise to be back with joyful words on Monday.
Have a great weekend and blessings on your day!
…you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to the little ones. Matthew 11:25
Most of us have taken classes, or enrolled in seminars and workshops and we may even have certificates, endorsements and diplomas to prove it. A thirst for knowledge is a beautiful thing, especially if we are thirsting to know more about our Eternal Father and the gift of our faith. However the line in this section of Mathew’s Gospel that reached up and smacked me between the eyes was “you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to the little ones.” Unfortunately “little ones” doesn’t refer to stature; it refers to the innocent trust and love of a child.
When the three little Wohlfert’s were babies and they cried because they were hungry or wet or tired they didn’t evaluate the likelihood of my response, they didn’t ask for credentials before I could feed them or change them, they just knew their daddy or I would be there to comfort and care for them. When was the last time you asked God for something with the same expectation and trust? Thank goodness they didn’t evaluate my readiness or my efficiency in the middle of the night. Thank goodness they didn’t ask to see my “mamma license” and I will be forever grateful they didn’t tally my mothering on a score sheet…they just looked at me with big brown eyes and knew I would give them everything they needed.
We spend way too many hours trying to be smart, wise adults who analyze and criticize and scrutinize everything, but God is calling us to push that aside and think, act, love and trust him like a child. As we approach God’s font of mercy, grace and love with the trust of a little one, he doesn’t disappoint; he blesses us with wisdom and understanding we can’t grab with an analytical adult mind. It’s as if he’s saying, “Come here; leave your books, empty your mind, plunk down at my feet and trust me to teach you something amazing!” Sweet Jesus, please scoop me up in your arms today and help me to love and trust you more. Help me feel the peace and joy of being snuggled like a child by someone who adores me.
A Seed To Plant: What things are going on in your life right now that you can approach with the trust and faith of a “little one” instead of the control and independence of a grown up?
Blessings on your day!
“If you are wise, you will be reservoirs and not channels” St. Bernard
When my brother Jim was young he would play for hours with his farm toys and cars in the dirt. Dad cut down a big tree and pulled out the stump one summer and it left a huge bare spot in the back yard. Jim quickly moved his stuff to that dirt spot and made roads and buildings out of twigs. That was his spot the whole summer. After a night of heavy rain he went out to the spot to discover a giant puddle right in the middle of his city. He got out his bulldozer and began to dig channels but he quickly discovered that all they did was drain the big puddle and leave him with nothing. In his mind he was trying to create rivers and a lake but in no time at all the channels carried the water away and the giant puddle dried up. It was all very disappointing to a little boy!
When I read this quote from St. Bernard I remembered that little boy and his adventures one hot Kansas summer and I realized our walk with God can be just like those channels he dug in the dirt. If all we are is a channel all we will be capable of is taking from the reservoir until we have drained it dry. Jim tried all day long to take buckets of water and re-fill the reservoir but the channels just kept sucking it dry. St. Bernard continues his thoughts by saying, “The channels let the water flow away and do not retain a drop. But the reservoir is first filled, and then, without emptying itself, pours out its overflow which is ever renewed over the fields which it waters.” In his book God Help Me, Jim Beckman adds, “We are not meant to be channels just moving things from here to there, even good things that we have heard or learned. We are designed to be reservoirs filled to capacity with the very life of God, even overflowing. It is the overflow that becomes our ministry.” I hope Mr. Beckman won’t mind me sharing that piece of his great thinking!
So, the big question…how do we become a reservoir and not a channel? It’s simple, we allow God to fill us…again and again and again until the overflow floods into everything around us. The only way I know to do that is through prayer. If the best we do is offer prayer while driving or waiting at a stoplight or while we sit in the drive-thru line the best we will be is a channel because that kind of prayer life will never fill us. If the best we offer God in conversation is a laundry list of needs and wants we will find ourselves empty and dry. If the best we offer God are our well-intended attempts to fit deliberate, consistent prayer time into our lives the best we will be is a channel. A reservoir takes work and takes time. If we think we just don’t have time for 15 to 30 minutes of reservoir building prayer then we probably need it more than we realize. Another great line from Jim Beckman’s book was in response to the excuses we make about not having time for consistent, intimate daily prayer is “no one ever died of hunger because of not having time to eat.” That screamed to me, you have time for what you make time for!
Sometimes my head spins when I see some of the crazy stuff going on in our culture! I am not a wise or powerful woman who can change much, but I know for sure there is one thing I can change and that’s me; I’m going to work on changing from a channel to a reservoir. We all have a mission to share the love of Christ and the world would be such a different place if we were sharing from the overflow of our reservoir. Just as the earth depends on life giving water, God’s children depend on HIS life giving water so let’s get to filling up our reservoirs!
A Seed To Plant: Take an honest look at your daily prayer life and ask God to show you what changes you can make to become a reservoir.
Blessings on your day!
Sheri's writing can also be found at Faith Catholic Publications and on CatholicMom.com