Joyful Words Blog
Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light for my path.
– Psalm 119:105
– Psalm 119:105
“This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased, listen to him.” Matthew 17:5
In the first half of chapter 17 in Matthew’s Gospel we read the magnificent story of the Transfiguration. You would think that after seeing something as indescribably amazing as the Transfiguration, Peter, James and John would never doubt or struggle with trusting the will of God again. I mean really, after seeing what they had just seen how could they ever doubt, question or stray from God again. But in his infinite wisdom I think God knew they would because they were human so as if the events of the day hadn’t been powerful enough, he included a simple and precise verbal statement, “This is my beloved Son with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” The key phrase is at the end…listen to him. I don’t know about you but I sure could use that reminder every now and again.
I had a professor in college one time that handed out a test. It was the standard fill in the bubble test that we had seen dozens of times before. As the question and answer sheets circulated around the room he strongly advised waiting until he had finished making announcements and giving directions before beginning. I’m a people pleaser so I sat there listening to him ramble on as I watched everyone around me quickly reading and filling in bubbles. I was just about ready to tune him out and get started when I heard him quietly say, if you’re still listening to my voice, put down your pencil, don’t say a word and in five minutes bring your test forward, you will receive a perfect score on today’s exam. I thought a perfect exam score was awesome but as I read this passage from Matthew, I realized what I could gain from listening to HIM would most certainly blow that right out of the water!
God demonstrates his power and presence in our lives all the time but in our weakness; we often don’t listen to him. Sometimes it’s as if God’s grand workings in our lives make us feel entitled to float along with independent holiness instead of falling to our knees in thanksgiving and submission. I’m famous for taking the “holy glow feeling” that comes from identifying God’s handiwork and using it to plug along on my own instead of truly listening to him. I have to remember to listen and look for Jesus all the time; in times of blessing as well as times of struggle. He knows what’s best, he knows what’s right, and even when I’m in the middle of a hissy fit determined to do it my own way, he just patiently waits for me to listen and do it his way!
A Seed To Plant: When do I find it most difficult to “listen to him?” Father of wisdom, show me where I need to listen and guide me to live my life like I’ve heard your voice.
Blessings on your day!
…behold, I am making all things new…Isaiah 21:5
As the calendar ticks away to the end of July, teachers everywhere are beginning to scurry. The back to school mind is beginning to plan and organize and prepare. I suppose most of the non-teacher world, sees summer for us as a multi week vacation. That would be partly true, but not completely. For me, and most of the other teachers I know, it’s a time to reflect and re-work the parts of our curriculum that didn’t quite reach the students the way we’d hoped. It’s a time to read and prepare for changes and fresh ideas, all targeted at engaging students and helping them grow. It’s also a time to catch up on projects. Today was the day I tackled my last big project for the summer; painting and redecorating the bathroom.
When I got started this morning, I was optimistic because the bathroom is the smallest room in the house so I thought I could have it wrapped up by afternoon. Well, one thing led to another and by the time I re-painted the vanity and spray painted the towel holders and light fixtures and then got to the walls, it was dinnertime. I had such high hopes for a quick and uneventful project. Well, the walls are painted, but the drawers are all out of the vanity and the ladder is still in the bathtub. The room looks like an F2 tornado passed through and there are little bits of toilet paper stuck to the floor where i bumped over my paint pan and when I stood up to wipe things up, I knocked down the toilet paper roll and it of course, rolled right through the paint splatters. I finally just turned off the light and called it a day. Instead of feeling relieved and satisfied with a job well done, I realize I get to rise and shine in the morning and give it another go! I’ll have to hold off on my shiny new bathroom until tomorrow.
As I was standing in the kitchen cooking supper I had to snicker a little. I was all huffy because the day didn’t follow my plan and turn out the way I had organized it in my mind. I had a schedule and I wanted that item checked off my list today! I wanted to look at my pretty new towels and shower curtain and clean, freshly painted walls right now…not tomorrow! I think I’ve been down that road before! It wasn’t good enough for me to realize that at some point tomorrow, I will have everything I wished for. The little toddler in me came peeking out because I didn’t get my way. Then, I felt that tender tug at my heart which was the Father trying to help me understand he had a lesson for me today.
God says “behold I make things new”. He does that with his perfectly timed answers to our prayers but we get impatient like I did with the bathroom project. If I would have rushed and re-hung everything, I wouldn’t have given the paint the proper time to dry and cure in this humid weather. I would have ended up ruining something in my haste. I realized how many times I try to rush the Father and jump to the end before I’ve allowed him the time to work things for his purpose. I will be patient and tomorrow, probably before lunchtime, I will behold a new bathroom and I will be happy. As I finish up tomorrow, you can bet I’ll take my time and do careful work knowing that the Father who loves me will be doing exactly the same thing.
A Seed To Plant: Be like Jesus, take some time to go off alone and pray. Offer your list of places you’d like to invite the Father to make you new and then patiently wait for his intercession!
Blessings on your day!
…and you gave your children good ground for hope that you would permit repentance for their sins. Wisdom 12:19
What are some of the things in this life that you can just count on? Many things in life are fluid but there certainly are things that always stay the same; it gets light in the morning, little kid giggles evaporate a bad mood and snakes scare the snot out of me are a few of my constants! We can count on lots of things and one of those “sure things” I find great comfort in is the never-ending mercy of Jesus. He will always love us and forgive us…his mercy is so much bigger than our sin; no two ways about it. We all love that thought but there is a little something that goes with his mercy that we sometimes breeze by; repentance.
Repentance isn’t a word we toss around over coffee or a cocktail too often but it’s sure an important word. The definition of repentance is “ sincere regret or remorse”. It can make us a little uncomfortable because in order to repent, we have to really stop and process what we’ve done wrong and thats really NO fun at all. We do everything fast, including this step of the forgiveness process. Sometimes the word regret is used jokingly, like when we refer to wearing a half a can of Aqua Net hair spray on our hair in the 80’s or shoulder pads that made us look like we were headed for a tryout with the Detroit Lions in our teal green rayon dress. But when we’re talking about regret, repentance and the mercy of Jesus, it takes on a whole new meaning.
Last spring I had a bouquet of flowers in the prayer corner. They were arranged in a pretty glass vase that I’ve had for a long time. It was the end of the day and one of the middle lovelies accidentally hit the vase of flowers with his backpack. He set it back up on the shelf and we moved on like nothing happened. The next morning the flowers looked a little wilted so I got a pitcher to add water to the vase and I was shocked when the water came pouring out of the vase as fast as I could pour it in. It seemed that there was a big chunk missing from the back of the vase so the water just went right from the top through the hole in the back. I laughed and found the piece of glass under the edge of the carpet. It wasn’t until recently that I realized what a great lesson that vase had to teach.
Mercy is like the water I was pouring from the pitcher. It comes without measure, without end and without cost. Jesus just loves us so much he showers us with his mercy endlessly. We are like that vase with the missing chunk. I could have stood there and poured water all day but it would have done the flowers no good because they were not prepared to hold on to and receive the benefits of the water as long as they were in that broken vase. In order for that water to be nourishing and life giving, it had to have a vessel ready to receive it. When we sin, and are in need of the Fathers mercy, we have to be ready to receive it in order to be blessed by it’s life giving benefits. If we don’t repent, we can’t fully receive mercy. If we demand the Fathers mercy but don’t express regret or sorrow and a desire to change we can’t experience the mercy that helps us grow in holiness. It took time, energy and money to purchase all the different flowers that I put in that arrangement, I sure didn’t want them to wither and die without trying to care for them. Jesus feels the same way about us times a million! I had to get my container right. It took time and I got hurt when I cut my finger on the jagged glass, but it was worth it when I saw those flowers perked up and restored to their original beauty. Truly repenting about our sinfulness can be uncomfortable and sometimes even painful but it’s the only way to prepare our hearts to receive. I hope you’ll find a few quiet minutes this week to get your container right so you can receive the life-giving mercy of Jesus.
A Seed To Plant: Ask the Father to help you make a list of the things in your life that require repentance on your part. After you’ve prayed about that list, ask him to show you how to prepare your heart to fully receive his mercy.
Blessings on your day!
We know that all creation is groaning in labor pains even until now; Romans 8:22
Those words were part of the second reading at Mass last weekend and boy did they grab my attention. Anyone who has ever been in a delivery room while a baby makes its way into the world can relate in a very personal way to that line. As I was pondering those words, I scanned the pews in front of me and counted more than a dozen babies and toddlers and marveled at the beauty those labor pains produce and asked God to show me why this verse jumped out and struck me so deeply; a few days later, He did!
Like many of you, I remember vividly and happily the day I got married. I remember Fr. Hasenkamp slowly and clearly saying the vows each of us were to repeat. I remember being so excited and nervous I was afraid I would get lost in my own thoughts and say the wrong thing. I remember promising to love and honor Dave and I remember the part about accepting children lovingly and raising them up in the faith. I thought about that at Mass as I scanned the crowd and looked at all the people there with little ones who had made the same promises I had. You’d think since we all spoke the same promises, we’d be really good at helping each other honor them…but sometimes we’re not.
I get troubled when we turn the wrong things into a competition. We’ve all been the parent of the child who does something that makes us proud and in all honesty, we’ve probably all been the parent of the child who does the opposite. I wish we weren’t so quick to judge other parents when the child falls into group two. Let’s face it, labor was hard but sometimes it doesn’t even compare to how hard raising kids can be. My babies were the size of toddlers when they were born; they all apparently adored me so much they never wanted to exit the womb, and sleeping through the night was definitely not a “thing” with the Three Little Wohlferts. They all walked, talked, whined and had epic diaper disasters at different stages and times and it seemed someone always had advice on what I wasn’t doing right. We need to give ourselves and our kids a break. Our goal is to raise our kids up in the faith and help them get to heaven and quite frankly I think we could all use a little help with that big job now and again. What if we said something kind to the lady in the grocery with the screaming toddler instead of raising our eyebrow and assuming she doesn’t know how to discipline her child. What if we entertained the notion that the fussy baby and the grumpy dad sitting in the same waiting room were sleep deprived, going through a tough time or flat out having a bad day. And just maybe that 9 year old having a melt down at the movie theater has some real struggles and truly didn’t come to ruin your day.
Making assumptions doesn’t help us raise our kids…judging doesn’t help us get our kids to heaven. The labor pains weren’t supposed to be the easiest part! Each family, each child, each parent is on a journey we know nothing about. No one ever said the world needed more competition and comparison! God has an amazing plan for each of us…even the smallest, wiggliest, fussiest, loudest, quietest little person and their frustrated, sleep deprived, proud,loving mammas and daddies. I came across a neat little story that just kind of drove this whole scripture home. It’s a story about a dog and an elephant and the genius of the Loving Father who can do whatever he wants in the time frame he chooses.
The story goes like this. An elephant and a dog became pregnant at the same time. Three months down the line the dog gave birth to six puppies. Six months later the dog was pregnant again, and nine months on it gave birth to another dozen puppies. The pattern continued. On the eighteenth month the dog approached the elephant questioning, "Are you sure that you are pregnant? We became pregnant on the same date, I have given birth three times to a dozen puppies and they are now grown to become big dogs, yet you are still pregnant. Whats going on?". The elephant replied, "There is something I want you to understand. What I am carrying is not a puppy but an elephant. I only give birth to one in two years. When my baby hits the ground, the earth feels it. When my baby crosses the road, human beings stop and watch in admiration, what I carry draws attention. So what I'm carrying is mighty and great.". Don't lose faith when you see others receive answers to their prayers. Don't be envious of others testimony. If you haven't received your own blessings, don't despair. Say to yourself "My time is coming, and when it hits the surface of the earth, people shall yield in admiration."
I think it would be a good idea to yield in admiration a little more often! If the dog had continued to compare and judge, he might have missed the amazing.
A Seed To Plant: Do one small thing to support a parent!
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!
So Jacob was left alone and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. Genesis 32:25
When the kids were little, most nights included a “wrestling match” between them and their Dad. Sometimes it was one on one and sometimes it was Three Little Wohlferts against Dad. It was always just for fun and included lots of tickling, laughing and “not so epic” moves. The wrestling in our living room was very unlike the wrestling described in Jacob’s story in the book of Genesis. If you don’t remember the story, take a peek at Genesis 32 and give it a look; it’s a powerful story. This story happened to be one of the daily mass readings this week and it really got me to thinking about the things I’m wrestling with.
If you noticed in my wrestling story I mentioned it was always Dave and the kids; I was never a part of the event. As I look back on that I’m left wondering, why? Part of me thinks it was because I wanted it to be Dad’s thing. Part of me wonders if I was just afraid to look silly or do it wrong and part of me wonders if I didn’t jump in because the kids wouldn’t think I was as much fun at it as Dad was. Either way, I realize I missed out on something. I didn’t jump in and get involved for a few pretty lame reasons. The bottom line; I got in my own way. Unlike me, Jacob fought ferociously and with a steadfast spirit. He didn’t let up, he didn’t give in and he certainly didn’t cower from the challenge out of fear or shame or doubt; he entered in and stood his ground with determination and in the end, the Angel gave him a new name. As I let these two stories weave together in my mind, I wonder what new name I’d be given based on the way I wrestle my way through my journey to heaven. Some days I’m sure it wouldn’t be a name I’d like on a T-Shirt!
There are plenty of things to wrestle with these days. I say I want a greater understanding of Scripture and I want to draw deeper into prayer but do I wrestle with the demands of the day and the distractions of my own mind in order to make that “want” a reality? Do I carve out that time and do the study consistently and wholeheartedly or do I water it down when distractions and disruptions come along?
Sometimes the things we’re called to wrestle with aren’t so big or scary but we run from the fight. I’ve asked God to help me live mercy and love more automatically but I’m not always willing to slug my way through it. I walked 500 extra steps at the grocery store today because I saw someone I know who is in great need of love and mercy but I was in a hurry so I walked past that aisle to avoid what would have been a lengthy, difficult conversation. I didn’t just loose the the wrestling match; I completely left the mat! I remembered Jacobs story and felt awful so I trotted up and down several aisles looking for this person so I could do what I should have done in the first place; be present to someone in need.
Very often I let public opinion determine the intensity of my wrestling. I have to stop and ask myself if I’m willing to be Jacob and wrestle out the tough issues that need a voice of discipleship even if it isn’t the fancy way to think. I have to wonder who the people are who need me to wrestle for them; the unborn, the underemployed, the poor. If these things are really important to Christ, they should be important to me and if I’m gonna call myself a disciple of Jesus I’d better get ready to rumble. I should probably take a lesson from the living room matches of long ago…yup, others may be lots better at it than me but God’s not calling me to be the BEST wrestler, I think he’s just calling me to hop on the mat and give it all I’ve got. So, pardon me while I say a few prayers and figure out how to get myself out of his way so I can get ready to wrestle!
A Seed To Plant: What are the things, big or small you need to wrestle intently with?
Blessings on your day!
Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts…Colossians 3:15
I was holding one of my new great nephews the other night at a family gathering and as I was staring down at his perfect tininess, I couldn’t help but remember my own kids sleeping in my arms years ago. I was enjoying my trip down memory lane as I watched this little “boy wonder” sleeping so peacefully in my arms when out of nowhere, a loud noise woke up the little man and instantly he was crying and kicking and flapping his little arms around. In a split second he went from complete peace to frightened chaos. The crazy thing was, that just as fast as he got wound up, he calmed right down and went back to sleep. In a tiny second, he had completely gone back to peacefulness. I realized it takes me much longer to settle down after someone disturbs my peace!
It has been a quiet summer and I’ve had the chance to spend many minutes on my front porch enjoying the peacefulness of a quiet country morning or evening. The morning after I held my great nephew I was sitting on my porch and I read a quote that said, “Why do we only REST in peace and not LIVE in peace too?” When I put the the two together it seemed like a recipe for change. I thought about how quickly that sweet baby boy went from calm to crazy and back to calm and I thought about how peace just seems to be reserved for vacation and those rare moments when the chores are caught up or we’re too pooped to do anything but flop into bed. That doesn’t seem quite right does it? I sat right there on my porch with a cup of hot coffee and a prayer book open on my lap thinking I was going to be all over this “peace” stuff and then it happened! I lost my peace. One second I’m all peaceful, like that sleeping baby, and then right up out of a Hosta Lilly in the landscaping came Gus Gus the chipmunk. He is never invited to sit on my porch but he just seems to be getting braver and braver. This particular morning as I was grasping peace with both hands, Gus Gus hopped up on the porch and just stared at me with his creepy little eyes. I, of course, screamed and pulled my feet up into the chair like a giant fire-breathing dragon had just swooped in to eat me for breakfast. My scream sent Gus Gus back into the landscape and my peace went flying away with him. I just couldn’t settle down again, so I packed up my stuff and went into the house. After I sorted the laundry, I realized that I was the problem, not Gus Gus. I felt a little ridiculous when I owned up to the fact that I had let a chipmunk ruin my peace. I laughed even harder when I realized I truly was in HIS space not the other way around. Isn’t that just like life, we get a wrinkle in our peace because something happens that we don't like and then we go huffing off frustrated with someone or something, presuming they messed up our peace on purpose.
I decided that if I really did want to live in peace and be like that little boy sleeping in my arms, I had to choose to be peaceful. So, I poured another cup of coffee, turned on the washer, grabbed my Rosary and went back to my spot on the porch. Knowing that God has a great sense of humor, I asked him to teach me to choose peace, even if the lesson involved a member of the rodent family. I will admit, I looked over to that corner of the porch a hundred times, you know, in case I needed to fire a cannon or call in the National Guard to protect me from the creepy invading enemy. Half way through my coffee, just as I settled down and regained my peace, Gus Gus came back…with a date! Now, before I could scream or call in a SWAT team, into my head popped a scene from the Mickey Mouse Christmas movie where Chip and Dale were trapped in Mickey’s Christmas Tree and it was making Pluto crazy. Thank you Father for that little helpful image; it was pretty clear that I was Pluto! I haven’t seen that movie since the 3 little Wohlfert’s were tiny so I knew it was the Father using the teaching tool I respond to best; humor. I smiled and thought, I get it…don’t be Pluto; Choose Peace! Needless to say, I have a new summer project.
A Seed To Plant: How will you choose to LIVE in peace this week. Make a list of the things that have put a wrinkle in your peace recently and ask God to help you make a plan to bounce back from chaos to peace quickly. Don’t worry, he’ll hear you!
Blessings on your day!
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Sheri's writing can also be found at Faith Catholic Publications and on CatholicMom.com