Joyful Words Blog
Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light for my path.
– Psalm 119:105
– Psalm 119:105
The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life turning one from the snares of death. Proverbs 14:27
Snakes, alligators and driving on narrow roads scare the snot out of me! I suppose we all have things that rattle us, some fears make sense and some seem pretty random but fear is something that probably touches us all. I’ve been taught to be cautious about things like big bodies of water, storms, dark parking lots and fire but those aren’t terrifying to me like snakes and gators. So where do fear, caution and fear of the Lord intersect? Fear of the Lord is a gift of the Holy Spirit and it’s something I’ve been puddling around in my mind for most of the summer. If it’s a gift, it must be important and I can be certain it is given to help us get to heaven so I figured I needed to know a little more. I’m thinking maybe you’d like to know a little more too.
At first pondering, it seems a little contrary because if God is love and He created us out of love and His ambition is for us to become saints and live eternally with Him in heaven, why would we be afraid of someone who wanted something that awesome for us? I had to take some time and dissect the word “fear” to really understand. When I think of my fear of snakes, I know my reaction upon seeing one would be screaming, running and probably an overwhelming desire to set fire to the spot where I saw it. I’m supposed to fear the Lord but that’s not the reaction He has in mind. I suppose my snake thing is probably more like terror than fear and that is not the kind of fear this gift of the Holy Spirit is leading me to.
I came across this passage that really made sense to me, “When the bible refers to fear of the Lord, it means having a deep reverence, respect and awe for the power and authority of God. Rather than being afraid of God, a proper Fear of the Lord leads us to Love Him.” With absolute certainty, God loves us and protects, defends, guides and adores us but sometimes people take that “The Father loves me” idea to the point that the Father can seem more like a buddy. Scripture is crystal clear about the mercy, grace and compassion of the Father but His ways are not our ways nor will they ever be so thinking of Him as a fuzzy buddy isn’t in our best interest if sainthood is our mission. The gift inspires us to approach the Father with awe and reverence and wonder not as equals or pals. This gift reminds me that He has authority over me and His word is to be respected and honored. That authority is exercised over me for my own good…it’s serious business and straying from the boundaries of His authority comes with consequence. If I see Him as a buddy to be reasoned with I’m thinking about it all wrong and that isn’t going to end well for me at all!
The verse from Proverbs says this gift is life giving and helps us avoid the snares of death or in other words, fear of the Lord helps us attain life in heaven and avoid hell. I’ve really had to do some praying about being respectful in my prayers, my mass participation and the ways the Gospel asks me to treat others. It’s been pretty eye opening. This gift reminds me that heaven isn’t a score card where I chalk up points for good or impressive behavior…there is no score; there is just love and respect and reverence are the greatest form of love I can offer the Father. I heard Fr. Mike Schmitz talk about Fear of the Lord and I’m going to end with the way he summed up this great gift. God is to be feared; or respected, revered and honored which is very different than being afraid or terrified of Him simply because we’re afraid we’ll go to hell if we tick Him off too many times. He put it perfectly when he said, “Fear God out of love, don’t love God out of fear.”
A Seed To Plant: Spend some time this week thinking about what Fear of the Lord looks like in your life. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you grow in this gift so you can grow in love.
Blessings on your day!
Lord, you have probed me, you know me; you know when I sit and when I stand; you understand my thoughts from afar. Psalm 139:1-2
How often do we sit still and contemplate the power of this verse? We are loved and cherished by a God who knows everything about us because He loves us and wants to help steer us right back to Himself. He is consumed with constant thoughts about us; His creatures, but I wonder how much time we spend consumed with thoughts of Him?
Wednesdays in my classroom were called “What’s He doin Wednesdays” and students had a chance to share where they had seen Christ working in their lives. The truth of the matter is, He’s constantly working in our lives but we just don’t always notice. The whole point of this activity was to make us all more aware of the ways He is constantly leading, loving and directing our lives. The fruit of this process is a greater recognition and appreciation for His constant presence in our days. As I type, I’m looking across the room at a really giant “What’s He doin Wednesday.
I’m looking at my newest grandchild Dominic David. My heart was a little heavy about the arrival of this grandbaby because he’s 600 miles away and I was just so afraid I’d miss everything but God is so fancy he allowed him to be born in time for me to spend a week here in Missouri before I needed to get to Michigan to speak at a conference. During labor, Shannon played the same Spotify Praise and Worship mix she listened to while she was pregnant and at the exact moment she gave the last push and Dominic came into the world the song “How Deep The Father’s Love” began to play. It was like a giant exclamation point to the whole experience. This just so happened to be the same song Shannon sang at her Grandma and Grandpa Wohlferts funerals. It was like God was whispering “I’m here…loving you through the struggles and the triumphs!” I have heard Shannon sing that song at Adoration and Mass so many times I just couldn’t help but be reminded that He loves her more than I do and His love is much deeper and wider than the 600 miles that separate us.
Today, I got to go to Dominic’s one week checkup and Shannon said, “wait till you meet the nurse.” I was blown away because nurse Janie was a carbon copy of my Aunt Mary. Aunt Mary was my mom’s older sister and she holds a place in my heart I just can’t quite describe. She was gentle, loving, generous and faithful. Her legs were long and her steps were quick but she listened and connected like there was not a single other person on the planet when you chatted with her. Nurse Janie was all of those things and she cooed, giggled and loved on Dominic and Shannon like they were her own family. I couldn’t believe God not only put this truly lovely woman in their life but he made her look, act, love and sound like someone who brings so much joy to my soul.
Since I’ve been here, neighbors and friends have come to celebrate Dominic’s arrival and bring food and goodies and gifts. This house has been a steady stream of friends and family who adore my grandson and his mom and dad. Again and again, God has let me know how deep his love is for this little family and it wouldn’t matter if I was 6 or 600 miles away. In a few days I will get on a plane and go home in awe of how tender and personal His love and care is for all of His children but for right now, I’ll take a turn in the wee hours of the night to rock my grandson while his mamma and daddy sleep and realize that as my heart nearly explodes with the love I have for this little human it doesn’t even come close to the depth of love the Father has for us.
A Seed To Plant: Where have you seen God working in your life. Start making a list because this simple habit will reveal more than you can imagine.
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!
Sheri's writing can also be found at Faith Catholic Publications and on CatholicMom.com