Joyful Words Blog
Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light for my path.
– Psalm 119:105
– Psalm 119:105
Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures. Luke 24:45
I don't know abut you but I feel so much better with some laughter in my day. As I was thinking about getting ready to go back to school I realized I really needed to laugh so as I sat with my new planner I closed my eyes to remember funny moments in my teaching career and one immediately popped into my head and a blog just seemed to follow!
One spring afternoon, my students were taking a bathroom break and one of the boys came running back into the classroom and announced in a very loud voice, “Hey Mrs. Wohlfert, Johnny (name changed to protect the innocent) got his thing stuck in the thing.” My dumbfounded, “What?” was met with a grin and a “you better get in there quick!” After making sure my first trip into a boys bathroom was safe and clear, and it was established that the “stuck thing” was a commonly visible body part, I wiggled open the stall door and I was greeted by the sight of one of my most curious minded first grade boys kneeling on the floor with his arm stuck, clear past the elbow, in the double roll toilet paper dispenser. The harder he tried to pull it back out, the more tightly it became wedged by the paper divider. He was pinched, frightened and crying. Once I freed his arm, he crawled on my lap and sobbed. When he settled down a little, I asked, “So, what exactly were you trying to do?” He sniffed and said,“Well I think I just wanted to figure it out.”
I don’t know about you,but I spend a lot of time trying to figure things out myself. How many times have you heard people say,“Life doesn’t come with an instruction manual.”? I think we get busy trying to figure out how life works on our own, and like Johnny, we get stuck! The truth is, life does come with an instruction manual, and the wise Christian, spends time with it each and every day they wake up and draw breath. All the answers are there, all the wisdom is there, all the comfort, hope, peace and direction we could ever need lies right there in the Bible between Genesis and Revelations. God has spelled it all out for us, clearly and lovingly.
I remember the first time I picked up Scripture and cried out to God to get me out of a pickle. I closed my eyes, opened up my Bible to find the answer and landed right in Matthew’s Gospel, reading about the genealogy of Jesus. “How is this supposed to help?” I screamed. It turned out His help was there in that long list of names I couldn’t pronounce. He was pointing me to my family; all those people are my people! Their lives tell a story of faithfulness and mistakes and triumph and tragedy. They model what to do and what not to do. That chapter was the introduction to the Fathers love, faithfulness, mercy and discipline. They were just waiting for me to ask for help and guidance. Even when we don’t know quite what we’re asking for, God is there, ready to use His“instruction manual” to guide us. He loves us too much to make us figure it out on our own.
Many will say they don’t often read Scripture because they don’t always understand it. The key to understanding Scripture is to ask God to reveal its meaning to you. Each time you pick up His word, ask Him to open your heart and your mind so you will be ready to absorb a word or a phrase. I think we’re much better off focusing on a small passage rather than a page or whole chapter. Once you ask God to guide your understanding, read the passage slowly and carefully and then just sit and let it percolate in your mind and your heart. Sometimes He uses Scripture to help us figure something out on the spot, other times He intends for us to save that instruction for later. Either way, He’s using His word to inspire, guide and instruct.
A seed to plant: Make a promise right now to carve out 15 minutes each day for the next week. Commit to using that time to sit quietly with Scripture. Begin by asking God to open your heart and mind to understand the words He would have you read. If you aren’t sure where to begin, pick one of the four Gospels, the stories and instructions within those pages are amazing! I guarantee, these will be the best minutes of your week!
Blessings on your day!
…You are fearfully and wonderfully made…Psalm 139:14
I was looking through some beginning of the school year questions the other day and one that I’ve seen dozens of times held my attention for a long time. The question was, if you could be any animal which would you be. I pondered lots of choices and dismissed most of them for silly reasons. I didn’t want to be a lion or gator because I didn’t want people to be afraid of me. I didn’t want to be a cheetah because I hate running and I didn’t want to be a skunk for obvious reasons. I wondered about being tiny like a hummingbird and giant like a hippopotamus. After much thought I settled on a dog.
Dogs are loyal, enthusiastic, friendly and affectionate. Puppies especially are adorable and tend to bring laughter and delight. Dogs are also intelligent, helpful and easy to get along with. They don't need a lot of expensive stuff and they are usually very content. In my mind, it was the answer that made sense. The funny thing is that those are all qualities I really admire in people. I thought about this question far longer than I care to admit so then I turned it to prayer and wondered what the Father was teaching.
Animals have characteristics that are meant to help them survive and take their place in the order of creation. The same is true for each of us. We aren’t supposed to all be alike. Each of us was perfectly created by the Father who loves us to be, act and think differently. Our differences were meant to make us stronger and to help us grow in holiness. We seem to have lost sight of that. We would never expect a shark to be as cuddly as a kitten or a giraffe to snuggle up at the foot of our bed. We wouldn’t expect a tiger to help bring in the cattle and elephants perched in trees chirping delightfully would be a little terrifying. Maybe God was reminding me to open not only my eyes but my heart to the differences he purposefully designed in each of us. We have so much to learn and appreciate and respect when we walk among God’s sons and daughters but we have to open our eyes and notice.
As I pondered the silly question that started all of this I realized it helped me notice the beauty in everything God created. The next day I found this line in a prayer book and it seemed like the perfect lesson. Lord, Lord, I could learn so much if I would notice before I nag and pray before I panic.
A Seed To Plant: Spend some time this week with that line from the prayer book and if you really want a distraction think about the animal question too.
Blessings on your day!
Whoever watches his mouth and tongue keeps himself from trouble. Proverbs 21:23
This is a weird post…I have no words today. Every now and again when I’m busy or just can’t get the words right he leads me to a re-post that fits but that isn’t the case today. Today, I just don’t have words and I think that’s exactly where the lesson is. The lesson today is “Sheri, just shut up!” I think I’ve been entered into the school of silence. I think he put me there because there is too much talking…too much reading…too much listening…way too many words being hurled around…too much pontificating and judging. Maybe I’m not the only one who needs to come to the school of silence. There is so much to navigate right now and I think if I’m busy thinking and talking and planning I can’t hear him tell me how to do all of this.
Two of my favorite saints suggest that silence might be just what we need a little more of. Their wisdom brought peace to my troubled soul this morning. So I’ll do as they suggest and just be quiet and ask the Father to quiet my noisy mind, my swirling heart and my busy hands so I can remember the sound of his voice whispering his plan.
Patience, prayer and silence; these are what give strength to the soul. St. Faustina
Silence is God’s first language. St. John of the Cross
A Seed To Plant: Turn off the noise…all of it for an hour or a day and steep yourself in his silence.
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!
The Lord is my strength and my shield; in him I trust and I am helped…Psalm 28:7
A few weeks ago I said that “I don’t know” was probably my most spoken sentence. As the craziness seems to escalate and the unanswered questions keep piling up, I have tried to swap “I don’t know.” for “Jesus show me how.” It brings me peace because I know he will guide us through this whole mess but I asked for more peace, more understanding and more loving calmness for my family, my friends and my school family. As he always does, he gave me exactly what I asked for, and as usual, I didn’t pick up on it right away. Three times in the last week I have come across this prayer and finally got it. I’m a little slow on the uptake sometimes but the third time I “stumbled onto” this prayer I realized it’s exactly the balm my soul and spinning mind needed.
At a time when there have been so many lines drawn in the sand I’m not sure where to step, I needed to re-claim the truth. I needed to remember the way to heaven is paved by my trust in Jesus, not my trust in a human. “I don’t know” what the first day of school will look like but I know “Jesus will show me how” he wants me to reach my students that day. I’m pretty sure “did you wear your facemark” and “did you maintain proper social distance in 2020” won’t be on an entry exam to heaven but I’m sure every uncomfortable thing…every sacrificial thing…every difficult or ridiculous thing I’m asked to do can help me grow in holiness. When my head starts to spin about whose bossing us around and why, I have to come back to, Jesus I trust you…I know I am your beloved daughter and I know everything I do on earth is a part of my path back to you if I trust, surrender, obey and REMEMBER HOW ADORED I AM BY THE ONE WHO CREATED ME! So todays post is the balance and the truth we all need a big ole dose of today.
Litany of Trust
From the belief that I have to earn Your love … Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear that I am unlovable … Deliver me, Jesus.
From the false security that I have what it takes … Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear that trusting You will leave me more destitute … Deliver me, Jesus.
From all suspicion of Your words and promises … Deliver me, Jesus.
From the rebellion against childlike dependency on You … Deliver me, Jesus.
From refusals and reluctances in accepting Your will … Deliver me, Jesus.
From anxiety about the future … Deliver me, Jesus.
From resentment or excessive preoccupation with the past … Deliver me, Jesus.
From restless self-seeking in the present moment … Deliver me, Jesus.
From disbelief in Your love and presence … Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being asked to give more than I have … Deliver me, Jesus.
From the belief that my life has no meaning or worth … Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of what love demands … Deliver me, Jesus.
From discouragement … Deliver me, Jesus.
That You are continually holding me, sustaining me, loving me … Jesus, I trust in you.
That Your love goes deeper than my sins and failings, and transforms me …Jesus, I trust in you.
That not knowing what tomorrow brings is an invitation to lean on You … Jesus, I trust in you.
That You are with me in my suffering … Jesus, I trust in you.
That my suffering, united to Your own, will bear fruit in this life and the next …Jesus, I trust in you.
That You will not leave me orphan, that You are present in Your Church…Jesus, I trust in you.
That Your plan is better than anything else … Jesus, I trust in you.
That You always hear me, and in Your goodness always respond to me …Jesus, I trust in you.
That You give me the grace to accept forgiveness and to forgive others …Jesus, I trust in you.
That You give me all the strength I need for what is asked …Jesus, I trust in you.
That my life is a gift … Jesus, I trust in you.
That You will teach me to trust You … Jesus, I trust in you.
That You are my Lord and my God … Jesus, I trust in you.
That I am Your beloved one … Jesus, I trust in you.
A Seed To Plant: Print or write this prayer and pray it when you feel unsettled, uncertain or anxious about the world around you.
Blessings on your day!
… Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you… Exodus 16:4
I sometimes have this picture in my mind about making it to heaven and having an “orientation seminar” with God and His angels and saints. To amuse myself while driving or doing yucky tasks, I sometimes compose a list of questions I’d like to ask during the Q and A part of that meeting. Some of the questions are biggies and some are completely silly. I was weeding my big flower bed (completely yucky task!) recently and the list of silly questions got pretty long. The list topper that day was, “God, if carrots and cucumbers are supposed to be good for us, why didn’t you make them taste better than things that are bad for us like chips and cheesecake?” I love my fruits and vegetables don’t get me wrong, but seriously, there is a very good reason the summer ice cream shop on the corner doesn’t sell broccoli splits or caramel cabbage sundaes!
This silly question led me to think about the story of manna in the book of Exodus. It’s a beautiful story of God and His loving faithfulness. I wondered what it would be like to just see your food appear, morning and night with no effort on your part! Seriously…meals I didn’t have to plan, prepare, serve or clean up…that would be heaven! It didn’t happen once a week; it happened every day. The food was sent in the perfect amounts and nobody had to analyze its protein and carbohydrate ratio, dispute its nutritional density or scrutinize the label. It just came and it was perfect! If you read a little further in the story it isn’t long before the Israelites threw a hissy fit because they wanted meat…it came and then they threw another fit about being thirsty. Each time God answered their whining in a miraculous way. He made it SO easy for them! I have read that story time and time again and I’m always a little stunned that the Israelites could be so whiney and demanding. They lacked appreciation and after all they had witnessed God do for them they still experienced doubt, denial and rebellion. I’m pretty quick to think I would have been a much more faithful dessert traveler. I think I might have even been Moses right hand girl. I wouldn’t have doubted no-sir-re! I would have been awed, amazed and completely obedient. Or would I?
The “or would I” leads me back to my silly question about zucchini verses French fries! Do I have the strength to know the truth and act obediently? Do I know some choices are better for me than others…sure! Do I always make those good for me choices…absolutely not? Do I try to wiggle out of the “hard way or the right way” and settle for the “easy way”…yes I do more often than I’d care to admit probably. So you might be wondering what lettuce, cookies and the Israelites all have to do with one another and here is the connection…strength to trust and follow the will of the Father…especially when there is a choice available that seems easier or tastier or more self-gratifying. I have to be more willing to experience a little self-denial. If I really want to live as a disciple, I have to stop throwing a temper tantrum about silly little stuff that brings me happiness and comfort. I mistakenly think those simple pleasures that bring temporary good feelings matter. The truth is, they can’t even compare to what God has in store for us. It’s kinda like having a bucket of sand and thinking you have a sea shore. It took the Israelites 40 years of wandering…I wonder how much longer I’ll be wandering before I truly master the lesson of living in His will instead of wandering my easy path! The road to the Father is paved one joyfully offered sacrifice and one loving act of obedience at a time. Lord, give me the strength to get to You!
A Seed To Plant: Be consciences of little sacrifices and acts of self-denial you can offer to the Father this week.
Blessings on your day!
And he said, “The one who sows the good seed, is the Son of Man Matthew 13:37
With everything swirling around in the world today it’s easy to get overwhelmed. As I think of going back to school next month, I wonder what that will look like. When I talk to parents, I feel the uncertainty and concern bubble up into the conversation. I don’t have any answers but I do know that the Father will bring us out on the other side of all this and we will all be ok! I saw this little story the other day and it reminded me that we are in the middle of making some history. This whole pandemic…this whole weird season of our lives… will be remembered. The how is the important part…how will we remember it and how will history remember the way we lived through it. That made me think.
A man was watching his eighty year old neighbor planting a small peach tree. He inquired of him, “You don’t expect to eat peaches from that tree, do you?” The old man rested on his spade. He replied, “No, at my age I know I won’t. But all my life I have enjoyed peaches - never from a tree I planted myself. I’m just trying to pay the other fellows who planted the trees for me.”
I don’t know how any of this started…I don’t know how any of this will end, but one thing is for sure, our attitude, our actions and our prayers will have an impact on our children, our grandchildren and the folks who remember all of this. So I guess the question is, am I going to plant peach trees or thorn bushes. Both will last and both will be noticed for a long time to come but only one bears a desirable fruit that brings good. History is full of great, simple, faithful people who weathered storms and tragedy and chaos I can’t even begin to imagine. When I hear their stories I am inspired by their faith, their determination, their strength and their perseverance. Those who lived through war and economic disaster and telegrams of lost sons in war bore a burden that hurst my heart to think about but most of them planted peaches and when I read about their lives I’m filled with hope.
“I don’t know” seem to be the most frequently used words in my vocabulary these days and I suppose it’s time I remember what I DO know. I DO know that the Father loves us. I DO know I will teach and children will laugh and learn and succeed and stumble and I will be blessed to watch it all! I DO know gratitude, trust, compassion, mercy and kindness are running shorter than fear, doubt, arguing, blame and dishonesty these days. I suppose we could think of the first five as peaches and the second five as thorns. I think I’ll get busy “planting peach trees” so my students and children and grandchildren will have something good to enjoy beyond all this craziness.
A Seed To Plant: Spend some time in prayer thinking of ways you can trade thorn bushes for peach trees.
Blessings on your day!
…be confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. Philippians 1:6
Cooking brings me joy! I love to cook and feed people and entertain. My food is pretty simple but something about the act of pulling a bunch of things together to create a table full of food that brings people together and nourishes them gives me so much happiness. I’m the kind of cook that views recipes as a mere suggestion. There are a few things I don’t like the flavor of, like nutmeg, so you can be sure I will leave that out of every recipe that calls for it but every now and again, just to practice discipline I’ll find a new recipe and follow it perfectly. As I’m following the directions I often argue about it. I’m convinced there is too much of something or too little of something else but those are the times I’m usually happily surprised with the end result.
I think I take that attitude with me beyond the kitchen too. I can look at things and think, well that doesn’t go together or doing those things will never work out or look right. Our human eyes are often too quick to see the disaster instead of the grace. Whether I’m in the kitchen or the classroom or out and about in the world, I need to remember that sometimes God puts things into the mix for reasons I don’t see in the beginning. I came across this little farmers prayer story the other day and it really hit my heart. There is a lot of crazy stuff being thrown into the mix these days so this brought me peace. I read it and took a breath to remember the master mixer is in charge!
A pastor asked an older farmer, decked out in bib overalls, to say grace for the morning breakfast. Lord, “I hate buttermilk”, the farmer began. The visiting pastor opened one eye to glance at the farmer and wondered where this was going. The farmer loudly proclaimed, “Lord I hate lard.” Now the pastor was growing concerned. Without missing a beat, the farmer continued. “And Lord you know I don’t care for raw white flour.” The pastor once again opened an eye to glance around the room and saw that he wasn’t the only one to feel uncomfortable. Then the farmer added, “But Lord, when you mix them all together and bake them, I do love fresh biscuits. So Lord when things come up that we don’t like, when life gets hard, when we don’t understand what you’re saying to us, help us to just relax and wait until you are done mixing. It will probably be better than biscuits. Amen”
Today, I think I’ll just enjoy the biscuits!
A Seed To Plant: Make a list of those places you have a hard time seeing God’s good and grace, and ask him to grant you patience and trust while he finishes mixing all the parts together.
Blessings on your day!
Sheri's writing can also be found at Faith Catholic Publications and on CatholicMom.com