Joyful Words Blog
Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light for my path.
– Psalm 119:105
– Psalm 119:105
...then he looked up to heaven and groaned and said to him, “Ephphatha!” that is “Be opened!” Mark 7:34
It’s funny how memories from long ago flood back at random times. As the middle lovelies all came back to school this week and we began to talk about all the things we would do and learn I explained that we had to be open to what the Lord wanted to teach us and speak to us. One of the middle lovelies remember the Gospel reading from Sunday and we began to talk about the word “Ephphatha” which means be open. This particular Gospel is about Jesus healing a deaf man. I was impressed with the memory and connection from something he had heard several days earlier. I realized I needed to bring my A game to school this year! As we were in the middle of a great discussion about being open and being ready I remembered Shannon’s baptism and a piece I had written about being open. In honor of one really smart middle lovely I decided to share it with everyone today.
The day our daughter Shannon was baptized is a day I’ll never forget! The day was memorable for some very obvious reasons like the religious significance and the celebration with family but it had an even greater significance in my life as a Catholic mom. I remember standing at the Baptismal font feeling very uncomfortable in the panty hose and skirt that were too tight on my “just had a baby” body. I was distracted by Shannon’s 2 and 4 year old brothers who were being wiggly and silly sitting on big cousins laps watching. I remember worrying about the meal I would soon be serving to 40 people and then I heard the word, “Ephphatha!”
The word was spoken to my baby girl but it seared my heart! It bolted me to attention and drew me to task with shock. God was inviting and commanding the newest member of his church to be open to his Word and his Will but I felt him speaking those words to me that Sunday morning and suddenly it seemed like the whole world melted away. I didn’t notice my pinched waistband or my noisy boys, all I noticed in that moment was openness and a burning desire to stay opened. Shannon began to squirm in my arms as she lay there wrapped in an abundance of beautiful white slippery fabric and I realized that it was my great task and honor as a Catholic mother to fill her tiny open ears with God’s word and life. I realized that morning it was my responsibility to protect my children’s open ears from harmful words, and ideas. They were open and it was my job to see that they were filled and in his infinite goodness that day he gave me the awareness of his grace so as not to be overwhelmed by the task!
A Seed To Plant: Write the word Ephphatha at the top of a blank page of paper. As you sit and pray with that word, ask God to show you where you should be more open to his Word and his Will.
Blessings on your day!
Every man, whatsoever his condition, desires to be happy. St.
After the Saturday I had, I probably have enough thoughts to write a dozen blogs! I spent the day at the Diocese of Lansing Made for Happiness Assembly and it was an absolutely spectacular day. I sat in the MSU Breslin Center with more than 13,000 Catholics and prayed, sang, laughed and praised! The energy, the speakers, the unity, the communal prayer…it was overwhelming! We gathered as Christ’s people; members of an imperfect church but followers of a Perfect God! There was happiness, grace, healing and glorious HOPE! If I wrote about everything that’s on my heart the blog would be thousands of words long and to quote a phrase that makes me laugh, “Aint nobody got time for that!” It’s impossible for me to pick a favorite part of the day but there is a line from Fr. Mike Schmitz, priest extrodinare, that hit me like a ton of bricks. I’ve come to understand that when something hits me that hard I’m probably supposed to pay attention.
Fr. Mike was talking about Santa Claus. He spoke about the times as a child he begged his mom to take him to see Santa. He didn’t want to just write a letter, he wanted to SEE Santa. Looking back he realized that he didn’t really care about the man Santa, he only cared about what Santa could do for him. Seeing Santa meant asking in person for presents and then receiving them simply because he asked for them. He had no real regard for Santa himself, only what he could give him. As he was talking I could vividly remember my brothers and I getting ready to go to White Lakes Mall in Topeka, KS to see Santa. I remember what an outing it was and how exciting it was. It was probably the only car trip all year where the boys and I didn’t argue and poke each other and irritate the snot out of our parents. The memory made me smile. But then came the bombshell, he asked how many of us ever saw God that way. Ugh! The reality of my answer was heavy. I’ve been reflecting on this for over 24 hours and it’s definitely become something I realize I need to work on.
I get excited about the idea of God. I spend time in prayer and I try to do things that please him but I have to ask myself why? Am I just trying to win his favor so he will give me what I ask for in prayer. Do I go to him trying to “butter him up” so I can make up for the times I truly don’t pick up my cross? Do I turn to him when things are hard and disappointing and temptation knocks loudly or do I do what I want and then go to him a few days later and act all “buddy buddy in my prayer.” It left me asking myself where my true intentions and commitment were. I truly do want to join him among the Communion of Saints but do I work for it, I mean really work for it or do I expect heaven to be his great gift to me even if I haven’t been a loyal disciple. Do I want him enough to defend him or share his story in public? Do I love him enough to trust him and follow him and be uncomfortable as he works in my life? Do I listen for his voice or drown him out with my own thoughts? Am I willing to surrender everything to him and admit I am perfectly made and adored by my creator? I can’ just be excited about the idea, I have to live the idea. I have to love him above all because of what he HAS given me, not just for what I want him to give me. Sheesh, thank you Fr. Mike for a big heap of stuff to work on…it might not make me FEEL better but it sure will make me BE better. (thanks for that line too!)
A Seed To Plant: If the Santa story touched your heart, please spend the week praying about it and see where he leads you.
Blessings on your day!
What your hands provide you will enjoy; you will be blessed and prosper. Psalm 128:2
Growing up we always had a gigantic garden. The garden was the work of the summer. There was always something to do, planting, weeding, picking or preserving. My mom canned and froze enough produce for the whole year; green beans, carrots, potatoes, corn, tomatoes, peas and beets. It was a complete drag during the middle of the summer when it was 100 degrees and my brothers and I were sitting in the back yard shucking corn for hours but fresh sweet corn in January made it all worth it. I can’t begin to count the times my folks reminded me of that while they handed me another bucket of green beans to snap. It isn’t always easy to see the blessing that comes with the investment at the time. All these years later, I still plant a garden and can tomatoes. True, I can get a can on sale for less than a dollar but it just isn’t the same. The problem is, by the time spring finally comes in Michigan and I get to a point with the end of the school year chaos and I finally get them planted it’s always September before they are ready to pick and can.
This is a particularly busy time of year with speaking and school but I came home Wednesday to a basket of tomatoes staring me down. I knew they had to be canned or they would spoil and even though I had a dozen other things to do, I reminded myself how good they would taste in chili and soup when the snow was flying so I got to it, but not without plenty of eye rolling and muttering under my breath, “really…now…I have to do this now? Why can’t they be ready before school starts, that would be much more convenient! As I stood at the kitchen sink washing jars and peeling tomatoes I asked myself why I even bother at all. But as I sit here typing, drinking a cup of coffee, I hear the canner bubbling and the soft clink of the seals setting on the jars fresh from the canner and I realize how satisfying it is and how connected I feel to my mom when I do what she did. It’s worth it, but it always takes me a while to remember that.
If I’m being honest, canning tomatoes is a little like my faith life. I love the end result, but more often than I should, I grumble about the effort and the time it takes. I want the relationship and the grace but I don’t always want to invest the time necessary. I want to head to the pantry in January and grab what I need but it takes effort to make sure it will be there when I need it. Sometimes my prayer life is like that. I cry out to God with my list of wants and needs and I just expect to grab what I need. I take his mercy and his goodness for granted way too often. It will be a sad day when I go to the pantry and there are no more tomatoes but it would be an unfathomably devastating day if I went to the Lord and he wasn’t there. I very well may run out of tomatoes but I can breathe a sigh of relief to know as long as I run to the Father and truly seek him, his grace and compassion will never run dry. Out of all the things I needed to do besides can tomatoes, I had to make the tomatoes a priority. I wonder how much better my attitude and perspective would be if I remembered to put the Father and his plan as my top priority every day. Timing is important. No matter how hard I wish, I can't make those tomatoes ripe any sooner. Patience is such a key and these tomatoes are a reminder to trust in Gods timing is perfect. As I sit back and admire the jars of warm tomatoes all lined up on my counter I’m pretty sure there are many times the Father lines the events of my days up in perfect order and I don’t even notice it or thank him for it. Funny how much you can learn from putting tomatoes in a jar!
A Seed To Plant: Make a list of three things you can do this week to invest in your relationship with the Father. Say a prayer of thanksgiving for someone who taught you something important.
Blessings on your day!
For we walk by Faith and not by sight. 2 Corinthians 5:7
Sometimes scripture can reach right up off the page and punch you in the nose! This verse socked me hard just as I was getting ready to throw my own little pity party. I’ve had several “careful what you wish for” moments this week and instead of throwing a fit, I decided to see what my Father had to say about things and this is right where I landed!
We follow a mighty God and he always leads us perfectly but sometimes we freak out a little when we realize we can’t see Him, or the path He has for us. I had to remind myself that my sight and His work were not necessarily a package deal. I have to live like I trust Him and live like I love him. This fall He has asked me to do some pretty crazy stuff and my heart has wound up in a twist several times but through it all I know He leads me.
It’s crazy how we go through warps of time where we are called to question everything we do. There are seasons of life where change seems to come at you like rapid fire from a Nerf gun. They aren’t all painful but they just keep coming. My role as a mother and wife has changed as the kids have all moved out. My role as a teacher has changed as education standards and practices have changed, my speaking ministry has blossomed and provided exciting travel opportunities and another ministry opportunity appeared from nowhere. I’m doing crazy fun things like meeting amazing people, doing radio interviews, not cooking every night because there are actually leftovers and helping 6th grade football and volleyball players learn to lead school prayer services. I’m beginning to realize that I’m not so young anymore. Several times recently I’ve been at meetings or events and found myself the oldest person in the room. My hair is sprouting some gray and my eyes have led me to be the owner of multiple pairs of reading glasses stashed everywhere! I’ve wondered a hundred times lately if I’m smart enough, funny enough, dedicated enough, energetic enough, young enough, old enough, prayerful enough and compassionate enough.
When I read this verse from Corinthians I realized I’m asking too many questions and trying to apply logic to God and that never works. I’m trying to SEE when He’s asking me simply to believe. That is so much easier! I don’t have to have answers to any of those silly questions, I just have to remind myself that I AM HIS and none of the rest of it matters. He will put me where I should be, doing what I should do, the way He wants it done, when it’s time. I just have to remember to walk by faith and find the joy He’s so generously sprinkling along the journey.
A Seed To Plant: Sit a while and pray about those spots you are having trouble navigating by faith and not by sight.
Blessings on your day!
In God we trust
There is a scene from a movie I love and one character says, “nothing really surprises me anymore” and the other character looks at him in shock and says, “that’s too bad because things surprise the heck out of me every day!” From the very first time I saw that movie, I try to make it my mission to be on the lookout for surprises every day. I’ve discovered if I’m not looking for them I become complacent and cynical. Those are two qualities I think the world could use a whole lot LESS of for sure.
Earlier this week the VFW came to visit our 6th graders to teach them how to appreciate and fold our American Flag. It was Patriot Day and they came in uniform. They come every year because hanging and taking down the flag each day is a 6th grade job and they need to do it properly. This year the men from the VFW taught the kids about the folds of the flag and even though I’d heard it before, the correlation between our faith and our flag surprised me. I thought I’d share in hopes of surprising you too. Our faith is such a part of the foundation of our country that it’s pretty hard to separate two things that started out so very connected. The flag is folded thirteen times, each with a powerful symbolism.
The 1st fold of the flag is a symbol of life.
The 2nd fold is a symbol of our belief in eternal life.
The 3rd fold is made in honor and remembrance of the veterans departing our ranks who gave a portion of their lives for the defense of our country to attain peace throughout our world.
The 4th fold represents our weaker nature, for as American citizens trusting in God, it is to Him we turn in times of peace as well as in times of war for his divine guidance.
The 5th fold is a tribute to our country, for in the words of Stephen Decatur, “Our Country, in dealing with other countries, may she always be right; but it is our country, right or wrong.”
The 6th fold is for where our hearts lie. It is with our heart that We pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with Liberty and Justice for all.
The 7th fold is a tribute to our Armed Forces, for it is through the Armed Forces that we protect our country and our flag against all her enemies, whether they be found within or beyond the boundaries of our republic.
The 8th fold is a tribute to the one who entered into the valley of the shadow of death, that we might see the light of day.
The 9th fold is a tribute to womanhood, and Mothers. For it has been through their faith, their love, loyalty and devotion that the character of men and women who have made this country great has been molded.
The 10th fold is a tribute to fathers, for he, too, has given his sons and daughters for the defense of our country since they were first born.
The 11th fold represents the lower portion of the seal of King David, King Solomon and glorifies in the Hebrew eyes, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
The 12th fold represents an emblem of eternity and glorifies in the Christians eyes, God the Father, the Son and Holy Spirit.
The 13th fold, or when the flag is completely folded, the stars are uppermost reminding us of our nations motto, “In God We Trust.”
This isn’t new information…it isn’t just made up…it’s as old as the flag itself and within the folds of the flag are the reminders of so many things we believe and are supposed to stand together and celebrate. Motherhood, fatherhood, eternity, Jesus, the Trinity and God the Father of all. I was surprised all over again Monday afternoon as I watched some proud and honorable veterans teach 40 twelve year olds what the Flag of their Country really stands for. I was surprised at how much I forget and take for granted the ways God really does want to bless America.
A Seed To Plant: Share this information with someone who might also be surprised about the way our faith and our flag are connected.
Blessings on your day
"Teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:20
I’m still trying to adjust to seeing just two toothbrushes in the bathroom toothbrush cup. I remember when there were five and three of them were short and chunky with cartoon characters on the handle. The other morning as I looked a little sadly at the two lonely toothbrushes standing in the cup, it served as a reminder that everything changes and that’s as it should be. As I stood there brushing my teeth, staring at a the toothbrush cup I contemplated getting a smaller container, one that wouldn’t show so much empty space, but then, as he often does, in a completely random place, God began to teach.
I know with absolutely certainty, the three little Wohlferts I love so much were never intended to stay here on Pratt road forever. I know with absolute certainty Dave and I enjoy the young adults they have become and we find great joy watching them discover their own path. Sometimes it’s hard to keep quiet about thing. We’d like to offer advice we hope is steeped in wisdom and experience, but like all parents, we realize that some lessons are best learned by living. Our kids know we are always here if they need advice or help but we try to let them ask first before we just spit it all out. I’m sure the Father is sitting there anxious for us to ask for help too! Like earthly parents, he’s waiting in the wings with wisdom, experience, love and a way to navigate a situation with much less difficulty if we’d only ask.
Those two little toothbrushes screamed a powerful message about my relationship with the Father. Although three toothbrushes are absent from the cup, my kids aren’t absent from my life. I don’t see them, I don’t hear them everyday but I know they are there. I suppose the Father needed to remind me of that, I may not see him or hear him but he reminded me he’s always there. As I thought about each of the kids who now have their own toothbrush holder, I realize I’m not responsible for providing the vessel, thats their job. We were each given a free will and we have the opportunity to make dozens of choices a day. We’ve been given a body or a vessel to get us through this earthly life but the choice to listen to and follow him are our responsibility; he won’t barge into our lives uninvited and take control of the vessel. How we fill it is up to our own choosing. It’s our job to remember he will always fill our vessel with the best stuff imaginable but it needs to be empty enough to make room for him.
I always bought the toothbrushes. As far as the kids were concerned, they were just always there and were probably taken for granted. Let’s face it, unless you are the mom, not much thought goes into toothbrush supply. I stood there brushing, wondering how much money I had spent on toothbrushes over the decades and I couldn’t think of one single time anyone thanked me for providing a toothbrush. Just as I was about to feel a teeny bit unappreciated, I realized how many dozens and dozens of gifts, graces and blessings God provides without my notice or proper acknowledgement.
The last thing that popped into my head before I spit and swished was the fact that I reminded, even hounded my kids to use those toothbrushes at LEAST twice a day and more often when they ate something sticky or gooey. Since those toothbrushes aren’t in my bathroom anymore, I have to trust that they remember what I told them. If they don’t, obviously there will be dental consequences. My mind quickly shifted to prayer. I hope we remember to pray more times than we brush…did I teach them that…will they remember that…will they realize that when things in life get sticky or gooey they need to add a little extra? Will they realize the consequences of a life without him? And of course, will I remember that myself? I’m sure God was reminding me that prayer should be as automatic as tooth brushing and hopefully a lot more frequently. He also made me realize that the time I spend brushing my own teeth would be a perfect opportunity to pray for the kids who have toothbrush holders of their own now. As I wiped my mouth and put my toothbrush in the cup with Dave’s, I thanked him for the lesson and for the gift of all those years with five toothbrushes in the cup.
A Seed To Plant: Think of five people to pray for this week each time you brush your teeth.
Blessings on your day!
Do you want to be well? John 5:6
Who remembers the commercial jingle that said, “Hold the pickle, hold the lettuce. Special orders don’t upset all we ask is that you let us serve it your way. Have it your way at Burger King.” It may have worked with your Whopper but it’s not exactly the motto for growing in holiness. Even though that jingle is 45 years old too many of us expect our relationship with Jesus to be just like ordering the perfect burger. The truth is, most of us aren’t even sure what it is we really think we want.
Someone recently pointed out that we have so many choices it can be really tough to figure out what we want most. We seem to chase thing after thing. We buy stuff and more stuff trying to figure out what that one thing really is. How many times have we eaten four or five snacks before we really even figure out what we’re really hungry for? I read a question not long ago that made me giggle and think. The gentleman asked, “What do cats like most? Mice, right? So if mice is what the cat really wants why is cat food made from chicken, pork, beef, lamb and fish instead of mouse?
I’ve given it a lot of thought and I think sometimes I don’t figure out what I really want because its easier to just try several options and complain when they aren’t what I really wanted than it is to really stop, pray and ponder what I want, examining all the consequences and unintended consequences that go with my choices. Jesus’ question to the crippled man in Johns Gospel was a bit strange but it really digs down to a deeper level; a level I think I need to visit more often. The lame man had been there on his mat crippled for decades. Actually being healed would require responsibility and change for the man, after 38 years Jesus asked a very fair question. I’m sure it made the man wonder how much he really wanted the change that meant moving, pain, work and responsibility. Jesus wanted to know if it was really worth it to him.
Blessed Santia Szymkowiak had the perfect answer to the question, “What do you want?” She lived her entire life with one motto, “Jesus make me want whatever you want.” She believed what Jesus wanted most for and from her was holiness. I don’t know about you, but that isn’t my usual thought process, but it sure should be. If I want what he wants then I can’t always have it my way. If I do things his way, it means change and being uncomfortable; two things we don’t readily sign up for! Burger King made a fortune off making customers feel like they could have anything they wanted and there was happiness because of it. I guess that leads me to ask myself the big question; where do I want happiness; on earth so it can last about as long as that delicious burger or do I want the bliss for all of eternal life? My way will be temporary, his way will be eternal. It’s really what I want most but what am I willing to do; what changes am I willing to make in order to want what he wants?
A Seed To Plant: Make a list of all the things you want, and make a list of all the things you’re pouting about because they didn’t go your way. Pray with that list and ask God to show you what he wants for you.
Blessings on your day!
Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, Colossians 3:23
Happy Labor day. It’s an early morning as I sit typing on my front porch watching the sun come up and I’m so very thankful! So thankful to be sitting on my porch drinking coffee watching God paint in the sky; thankful for the last summer weekday morning to enjoy my porch and thankful for labor that I love. Dave just pulled out of the driveway on his way to work and it reminded me of the three things I’d like us all to pause a minute and do today.
First, pray in thanksgiving for the work we do. Whether we make a little or a lot, whether we love our jobs or not, today is a good day to be thankful for a chance to use our gifts and make a little money to support those we love.
Second, pray for those who don’t get today off. Some folks, like the farmers who feed us, never get a day off. If you know one, thank one! If I think about all the folks going to work today they are probably going off to a job to serve those of us who don’t have to go to work today. Thank you God for them!
Third, pray for those who are unemployed or underemployed. The stress, the worry, the disappointment they feel can be overwhelming. Let’s pray for the single parents working two or three jobs trying to make ends meet. Let’s pray for those, who for a dozen different reasons we don’t know anything about, make up the ranks of the working poor.
There you have it…your tasks for the day! Happy Labor day!
A Seed To Plant: Do the assignment above!
Blessings on your day!
Sheri's writing can also be found at Faith Catholic Publications and on CatholicMom.com