Joyful Words Blog
Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light for my path.
– Psalm 119:105
– Psalm 119:105
…to you who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be
saints…1 Corinthians 1:2
I often ask my students what they want to be when they grow up. I get lots of great answers to that question, and every once in a while I get the million dollar answer, “Mrs. Wohlfert, I want to be a saint.” That child may or may not be the best reader or math student, but I know they are intelligent beyond measure if they can give me that answer! As this verse from Paul’s letter to the Corinthians reminds us, being a saint isn’t just a suggestion, it’s an expectation; it’s what we are CALLED to be. God created us in His image and likeness so we could what? So we could be like Him. That’s our job on earth…to follow His example and be His hands and feet, spreading His love and peace here on earth.
So what‘s in the“saint” job description? We should present our bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God.” Whew… that’s all? While that may sound like one tall order, it really spells things out quite clearly. If we are going to rise to the expectation, we need to make sure our thoughts, words and actions are offered to, and acceptable to God. Our journey toward sainthood begins every morning before our feet even hit the floor. We should begin each day with the words; God, I offer this day to you…please help me serve and honor You in all that I do. Talk about a powerful thought to keep our words and actions on the right path. We also need to remember we are NOT in this alone. God didn’t say “I’m calling you to sainthood now go figure out how to do it on your own!” He slathers us with grace, mercy and the intercession of the entire Communion of Saints to help! The Communion of Saints is not only the saints we can name and find a picture of in a book, it’s the entire troop of all the faithful departed in Heaven and they have one job…to help you and help me join their ranks! Imagine entering a coliseum filled with more people than you have ever seen assembled in one place…multiply that crowd by 1000…that’s not even a fraction of those that form the Communion of Saints and they are all yelling and cheering for YOU as you set out on your daily journey toward sainthood.
As we celebrate our “Heroes of Faith”, let that celebration serve as a time to renew our commitment to sainthood…after all, it’s not a suggestion, it’s what we are called by God to
A seed to plant: Make a list of saints-like qualities you can strive for each day. Bravery, honesty and unquenchable thirst for the Lord are just a few to begin with.
Blessings on your day!
This is the day that the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it.
The alarm went off at 4:50 just like every morning and I slapped it off the nightstand trying to turn it off. That meant I had to get out of bed immediately so it would stop its annoying beeping before it woke my husband up. I stumbled to the kitchen to make coffee and discovered I was out of filters…amazing what you can do with a paper towel! Then I went to the shower only to discover after becoming all wet and drippy that the shampoo bottle was empty. Luckily my prayer time was free of any disaster. After prayers, I went into the bathroom to finish getting ready for the day and proceeded to drop my toothbrush into the toilet, and my open lipstick onto the bathroom rug, leaving a spot of lovely “dusty wine” for all to
see. I moved onto lunch packing. (Yes, the Wohlferts are all big enough to pack their own, but I pray for each of them while I pack their lunch so it’s a good thing) Somehow I managed to put mustard on a peanut butter sandwich and grape jelly on ham. Thank goodness I caught that before the bags left the house! I wrapped up my morning in the house by dropping my peanut butter toast gooey side down on the kitchen floor. As I made my way to the garage, I realized someone had left the garage door open and the barn cats had made a visit to the house. They had feasted on the goodies found in the now shedded bag of garbage. As I flew to the end of the driveway, I nearly barreled into a milk truck. I slammed on the brakes in the nick of time spilling my coffee all over my jacket.
I drove down the road thinking…ok God…really...this is the day you made? You need a do-over on this one! The longer I drove; the more I thought about the past two hours and my response shifted from pout and pity to pure, belly deep, tearful laughter! I couldn’t believe one morning could have so many hiccups! My morning had been like a comic strip of disaster but the second half of this verse from Psalm 118 says rejoice and be glad in it! I decided when I got to school; I’d make a quick stop at the church to ask God if we couldn’t come to some kind of agreement about the rest of the day. While I sat there in the silence of our beautiful church, I realized it was probably me who needed the do-over. I had been distracted that morning and my prayers were more of a laundry list of favors and complaints than sincere conversation. I began to realize as I slowed down a minute, He had used the events of the morning to draw me closer. He was teaching…He just had to get creative to get me attention! I walked into my classroom with a broad smile ready to start over. When I said hello to the first little lovely who came through the door, she smiled and said, “I’m so glad when I woke up today it was a school day.” I smiled and said, "Me too!" Now that was something to be glad about! That was my sign that the Lord really had made that day and that in spite of lipstick stains on the rug, a toothbrush swirling in the toilet and the coffee stain on my jacket, I had WAY more to be glad and rejoice about than to be pouty and grumpy about. He had my full attention for the remainder of the day!
A seed to plant: Make this verse a part of your morning prayers. If you begin each day looking for the stuff to be glad and rejoice about, the rest of it will seem easier to swallow. If you have a morning mess story that turned into something glad...please share it with us!
Blessings on your day!
Jesus turned, and seeing her he said, “Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well.” And instantly the woman was made well.
How often do you run across someone with a black eye? I don’t mean just a regular black eye; I’m talkin’ about a real doozy of a shiner? You might see lots of them if you work in a gym that trains boxers, but in my world, not so much. During the past week, I came across two of the biggest black eyes I’ve ever seen. To make the situation even more curious, one of the black eyes was sported on the sweet face of one of my students and the other on the lovely face of a Catholic Nun I met at a conference on Friday. Oddly
enough, both black eyes came from accidently bumping into a vehicle. When something that peculiar happens twice in the same week, it can mean only two things…God’s got a message and it’s gotta be a blog post!
If you’ve ever run into someone with a black eye, you just can’t seem to focus on anything but that. It just sort of consumes your vision, and the harder you try not to stare at it, the more captivating it becomes. You have a dozen questions running through your mind, most of which you don’t ask, but your mind just stays fixed on the subject. That black eye takes on a bit of power all its own. I got to wondering what the world would be like if our Christian behavior attracted the attention of others like a big black eye? What if our words and actions made others as curious as the circumstances that resulted in a doozy of a shiner? What if our Christian attitude was so contagious it was immediately noticed like a black eye? What if our faith was so real and present that it opened the flood gates to compassionate, gentle conversation and storytelling like a black eye on the face of someone we care about?
All too often, we see our faith as a very private matter and we miss opportunities to share the love of Christ because we don’t want to offend
or be in an uncomfortable situation. I’m not sure that’s why Jesus worked so hard during the three years of His public ministry. He lived and died so we could spread His Good News! For whatever reason, in regards to our faith, we sometimes smear on the cover makeup and try to hide our faith like we sometimes try to cover up a black eye. I’m going to suggest a different way to think of it…instead of keeping our faith quiet because we don’t want to put ourselves in an uncomfortable spot; letting a little of God’s love squeak out might save someone else from being in an uncomfortable spot. Maybe it’s not about you at all…maybe it’s about the impact your faith could have on a lost or hurting soul. Perhaps we need to try to wear our faith as visibly as a black eye.
A Seed to Plant: Think about one or two things you can do this week to make your faith stand out like a black eye! It can be as subtle as Christian jewelry or as outward as inviting someone to pray together or join you at church. Go ahead…let your faith be noticed!
Blessings on your day!
Be quick to listen. James 1:19
In our classroom, there are five student tables and in the center of each table there is a blue cup that contains pencils and erasers. Since seven year olds and electric pencil sharpener go together about as well as whip cream and onions, I am in charge of all pencil sharpening. One day this week I had carefully explained directions for a math page. I had answered all the questions and thoroughly checked for understanding, so I told the class they could begin. A few of them said something but I was busy putting a Band-Aid on a little girl’s hangnail and then the second grade teacher popped his head in my door to ask a quick favor and then I took a second
to reply to a note one of the kids had given me from his mom. After dealing with all that, I did a quick scan and noticed none of the kids were working on their math so I said, “What’s up guys? Why aren’t you working?” One of the little lovelies said, “We’ve been trying to tell you that you picked up all our pencils to sharpen them before recess and you didn’t give them back.” I wasn’t sure if I should laugh or cry…instead I told them I needed more coffee! One of the girls told me later not to worry about it because kids are
pretty used to grown-ups who don’t listen so good.
When I ran across this verse in my notebook of favorites yesterday, I knew it was meant for me. I love the way God thumps me over the head with His word sometimes. This verse seems a little strange doesn’t it? We are very quick to comment, very quick to evaluate, very quick to eat, and drive and clean and…the list goes on and on. We do almost everything quickly except listen. My mom used to say,“Girl, there is a reason God gave you one mouth and two ears…so you could listen twice as much as you talk.” After the pencil episode this week, I think I could use a little practice with listening.
One of the fascinating things about Mother Teresa was the way she lived this verse from St. James. People of every status and walk of life commented on the consistent and loving way she would listen. She had the amazing ability to listen completely and compassionately as if the person speaking was the only other person in the room. That is a gift! The thing that makes living this verse so tough is that listening requires us to slow down, be present and do only ONE thing…listen. That seems so contrary to the way we spin through our days. Sometimes it’s these Scripture “one liners” that really throw us a challenge. Are you up for a challenge?
A Seed To Plant: Spend the next few days being the second person in the conversation to speak…start with a “hello” and follow it up with a spurt of careful listening.
Blessings on your day!
And behold I am with you always… Matthew 28:20
I’m always fascinated when I see a crime show on TV and the investigators go through the process of dusting, taping and analyzing finger prints. It’s just utterly amazing to me that there are millions and millions of people on this earth yet none of us has the same fingerprint. How is that possible? We’re not talking about a large area of skin to create unique patterns…our fingertip is really small but yet each of us has a print that is completely different! When my students ask me how that can be, I smile and tell them, “It’s so amazing only God could do that!”
A couple years ago, several homes in our area were broken into; ours included. I watched as the Sherriff’s Deputy dusted many spots in our home with the grey finger print powder I’d seen the detectives use on TV. It was so interesting to watch the prints become clearly visible as the powder was brushed over an area. It was almost as if they had appeared out of thin air. I watched with such interest, I think the Sheriff’s Deputy must have thought I was nuts! He was so immune to the process, I’m sure he had done it hundreds of times but being a “first timer” I found it so interesting.
The uniqueness, with which God created millions and millions of different finger prints, is the same uniqueness with which He loves and cares for each of us. Like that Sherriff’s Deputy, it’s easy to become immune to the ways God leaves His finger print on our days. Very often His finger prints can be so gentle and slight they go completely un-noticed. We can get busy about our everyday tasks and not realize how many times God leaves His prints as He organizes every detail of our day. He guides and guards and blesses us constantly and we are often unaware. The very fact that we and those we love arrive home safely at the end of each day is a really big finger print but sometimes we need a dusting of that grey powder to make us see.
There are times when God leaves His print on us for the sole purpose of passing it on to someone else. Sometimes seemingly random people, often people I don’t even know very well, will pop into my head and I get the sense I should pray for them and maybe email or call them to tell them I’m praying for them. I start with the praying part and hope that’s good enough…but more often than not, I get a stronger sense that I need to make contact and tell them they have been prayed for. Out of the dozens of times I’ve responded to that nudge from God, never once have I had a person react negatively…the response has always been one of gratitude, joy and comfort. I sent an email once to a woman in South Dakota who I had been put in contact with when I first started this blog. We had exchanged two or three business like messages and then out of the blue one morning in prayer I got a strong sense that I should pray AND tell her I’d prayed. So, after some “toddler like” feet dragging, I sent the message and within hours she replied and said she had been “overwhelmed and overloaded” with a project she felt God calling her to do. She had prayed that God would give her assurance that she was on the right track and shortly after that, she opened the message telling her she had been lifted up in prayer. She told me later that at that moment God’s love for her was confirmed and she faithfully pressed forward with the task, recognizing God’s finger print fully stamped on her day! The next time you are tempted to say something was “good luck” or “coincidence” take a minute to thank God for what it really was…His finger print on your day!
A seed to plant: Keep a piece of paper handy today and jot down each and every time God touches your day with His loving finger print. Make sure it’s a long piece of paper because once you purposefully start looking for all those finger prints, you’ll be amazed at how many times a day it happens!
Blessings on your day!
Seek the face of the Lord always. Psalm 105:4
I asked my first grade lovelies one day what they thought God
looked like. One little boy said he supposed God would look old and tired with wrinkles like his grandpa. I asked him why he thought God would
look tired and he said, “Well wouldn’t you be tired it you made the whole world in 6 days?” Another student thought God would look beautiful like a flower and still a third thought God would look like a fancy king. Next I asked them where they thought they might see God. The standard answer was, “in heaven”. Then that one little voice said, “I think we can see Him everywhere but we have to look with our heart.” As I was tearing up and reveling in her deep and faithful insight, I was quickly snapped to reality by one of the boys who loudly said, “That’s not right, your eyes are in your head not your heart.” Ahh, life in first grade…gotta love it!
I came across this verse from Psalms a few weeks ago and it reminded me of that discussion with the kids about where God is found. If we are supposed to seek His face always, I suppose we’d better know where to
look! It’s easy to seek the face of God in the obvious, like creation, babies and children. I have no problem seeing and feeling the presence of God when I’m in my classroom! Those little ones fill my days with joy. I know just what Jesus meant when He said, “Let the little children come to me.”
It’s a bit more of a challenge however to seek His face in the unpleasant, the unfair, and the unlikable.
Seeking God’s face doesn’t just apply to people…we need to seek His face in situations and experiences. Sure we recognize God in the events that are happy and joyful like weddings and celebrations but we need to know He is present in the sad and difficult and sorrowful events as well. His love, presence and inviting spirit are there even if we recognize no apparent good in the situation. We are reminded not only to seek Him but to praise and thank Him in all situations. That’s easy to say until we’re smack dab in the middle of ugly and we have to spit out the words, “God I’m seeking you in this mess and I thank you for these circumstances…even though they STINK!” Sometimes uttering those words can taste like vinegar in our mouth but if we repeat them again and again, we can begin to see His face and feel His presence guiding and teaching and blessing us.
We like things to be simple and easy and happy and when they aren’t, we tend to think God has left us all alone. Our purpose in seeking God shouldn’t be to make us “feel good”, the purpose is to build us up for the Kingdom and a life spent with Him. Very often the things we need to learn can only be taught when life isn’t all neat and tidy and happy. But make no mistake…God is there…just waiting for us to seek Him so He can take us
by the hand and begin the next lesson!
A seed to plant: Write the words, “God I trust you, God I love you, God I will be faithful and seek your face” on a notecard and read it again and again when you’re in a situation where it’s hard to seek His face.
Blessings on your day!
He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he
increases strength. Isaiah 40:29
When my oldest son was in the fourth grade, I volunteered to help him and his friends make a piñata for their class Halloween party. The boys had a great time slapping on the newspaper strips drenched in the gooey flour paste. Each little narrow strip of newspaper was slopped on the outside of a Mylar balloon until the boys thought they’d covered every visible speck of silver balloon. After getting the boys and the table cleaned up, I picked up the piñata to set it in the sun to dry. As I reached down to grab it, I nearly threw out my shoulder the thing was so stinkin’ heavy! Holy cow…how could something made out of such tiny strips of weightless newspaper collect into a creation weighing as much as a toddler? The best laugh of all came the following week at the party when it practically took a sledge hammer to break the thing.
I had the pleasure of taking a class Saturday about using Scripture with students of all ages. It was an excellent class and the instructor was so dynamic, passionate and enjoyable. One of the underlying themes of the class was that using Scripture and helping kids LOVE IT involves lots of little things. Bringing Scripture to life is not about unveiling the complexities and all the history, it’s about revealing the little ways God uses His word to reach us, draw us in and shower us with His gifts. As I was coming home, I drove past a lawn decorated to the hilt with Halloween decorations and I remembered that silly jack-o-lantern piñata the boys made ten years ago. That 30 pound piñata took on a whole new meaning as I began to realize that our journey toward heaven is a little like that piñata. The creation of that big, strong piñata, began with something that was tiny, weightless and of little value by itself but yet, it became so much more!
We can get pretty caught up sometimes in the big stuff of life, like money, careers, politics, mortgages, position and on and on. It’s all legitimate and
needs our attention for sure, but our journey to heaven is supremely about the little stuff. Jesus worked some breath taking miracles, He did some unbelievable healings and He orchestrated some amazing conversions but His message to His followers always focused on the little things. He took more than 600 Jewish laws and condensed them into TWO commandments for us to follow…talk about simplifying things! He used parables or stories of the common, to teach and reach souls for His Father. He even pulled some children onto His lap to show us exactly who we needed to imitate. Jesus was all about the little things!
Our lives should be like that piñata…a combination of little things, done lovingly for Christ in order to make us strong enough to withstand the blows of disappointment, difficulty and discouragement tossed in our path by the evil one. During the class I was touched right to my core when the instructor was talking about the Parable of the Prodigal Son. The message of that story is simpler than greed and jealousy and betrayal. It’s not a story of good son vs bad son. It’s about a little choice with enormous consequence. I was dawn to tears when the instructor spoke in a voice so peaceful and loving and taught that the prodigal son was saying to his father, I want your “stuff” not a relationship…he was in effect saying; father, you are dead to me. In a quivering voice, the instructor reminded us that the father in the story is indeed our God and Father and many times we act just like the son demanding God’s stuff; His love, mercy and grace without wanting to work at a relationship with Him. What God demands of us is simple and small compared to what He blesses us with yet we still sometimes let days slip by without carving out that chunk of time to sit in quiet, uninterrupted prayer. He isn't asking us to live the life of a Cloistered Monk, He just wants us to invite Him into our day and trust Him.
What little things can you begin with? Can you begin with or add a few more minutes of Scripture each day? Maybe it could be a little time helping a neighbor? How about a little time praying for that crabby co-worker instead of complaining about them? If there are a hundred steps between me and God, I know that if I take the first little step toward Him, He will take the rest toward me. He's asking for little things from us so He can build us up and give us strength...and we'll be way stronger than a jack-o-lantern pinata.
A seed to plant: Do 5 little things this week that will strengthen your relationship with your Creator.
Blessings on your day!
Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, it is not rude, it is
not inflated. 1 Corinthians 13:4
October, the tenth month, is my favorite month of the year! I always get a little giddy when it’s time to flip the calendar from September to October and a little blue when it’s time to flip from October to November. I love everything about October; the weather, the colors, the smells, and the tastes. Let’s face it…you can buy apple cider any time of the year but it tastes better fresh from the orchard in October! It’s fun when it starts to get cooler and you get the box from the store room that has the sweaters and sweatshirts in it…it’s like shopping for free and everything seems new. The happiest and saddest things in my life have happened in October and through these events, this verse from First Corinthians comes to life.
Twenty-one years ago tomorrow (October 5th) I married the greatest guy EVER! His love for me and our three children overwhelms me on a regular
basis! He’s gentle and kind and humble and honest to name just a few of his attributes…all demonstrated in his quiet, inconspicuous way. It’s the
understatement of the century to say that he is the biggest blessing God ever plopped in my lap. Through this blessing came three more blessings and words can’t even describe how amazing it is to see how God can multiply the love you have in your heart and make it big enough to share with everyone in your house…even when they’ve just trampled on your last nerve and eaten all but the last five Cheerios and put the box back in the cupboard! I guess that’s where the “love is patient” part comes in. I LOVE my life! My family, my home, my job, my church, my town, all of it, but I’m reminded in the tenth month of each year that it was one of the saddest Octobers that allowed God to lead me to all these blessings.
Early in the month more than twenty Octobers ago, my Mom lost her battle with brain cancer. She was teaching and loving right up till the end. I remember during those last couple weeks of her fight, she would ask me to hand her the wooden box that contained her collection of note cards so she could write thank you notes to people who had touched her life or helped her family. She’d ask me to finish some of them for her but I had to promise to use only the words she told me to use. She said everyone deserved to know about it if they were appreciated. In those notes, she would point out something lovely about that person, like their smile or their friendly nature. She spent those last weeks being anything but rude, or inflated. I asked her one day if she ever asked God “Why me?” She honestly admitted that she had asked that question a couple of times but she said the better question was,“Why NOT me?” I can hear her voice say,“What makes me think I’m so special that something hard and sad and painful shouldn’t happen to me?” Now that was “love is not jealous” in action.
Twenty some Octobers later, I see how the sad connects to the happy so flawlessly only God could have done it. See, the truth is, I loved my mother
with all my heart and I don’t think I would have moved 800 miles away to
Michigan if she were still in Kansas. God knew…He knew that the sad chapter in my life would have an amazingly happy ending…He’s that good and He’s that loving! He even handled the travel arrangements that got me to Michigan. Through it all, I have learned to trust because I have seen and felt the way God cares for us with elaborate and intricate detail. Recognizing God’s love means understanding that you have the experiences in your life in God’s perfect time… for good reason…and they are YOUR experiences. Don’t be jealous of another person’s life because it seems easier than your own. You don’t know what you don’t know…God’s got a journey for each of us and we can’t look jealously at the “blessings or good life” of others because we have no idea what strife might have led them to it. Imitating the pure love of God means celebrating blessings and comforting sorrows with all those God puts in our path. Life on earth is a delicate balance of both! It’s October…the best month of the year… so run out and love somebody in First Corinthians 13:4 style today!!!
A seed to plant: Follow my Mom’s example of loving kindness and send a note of thanks or appreciation to somebody who has touched your life. For extra credit, send it handwritten and mailed with a stamp!
Blessings on your day!
And whosoever shall offend one of these little ones that believe in me, it is better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he were cast into the sea. Mark 9:42
I began my teaching career in junior high. That was an adventure to say the least! I have been asked many times how I became a motivational speaker and my answer is always the same, “If you can teach junior high, you can do ANYTHING!” I will forever be a more patient, joyful, compassionate and understanding person because of the time I spent in the presence of those wonderful little hormonal and emotional time-bombs!
One of the things I remember hearing daily among the kids at that age was
the phrase, “No offense but…” I tried and tried and tried to help them
understand that if they had to begin the conversation with those words, it was indeed GOING to be offensive. The remarks that followed that famous phrase were usually about something insignificant like hair or shoes, however this passage from Mark's Gospel is referring to a whole different kind of offense...a truly monumental offense.
Have you noticed how often people “water down” the truth and their own personal convictions in the name of “not offending” anyone. Sometimes we dance around the truth so many times we don’t even remember what it was! We worry about offending the political and religious ideas and beliefs of people we have never met. We worry about offending adults, children, governments, institutions and people half way around the world but yet we don’t always think hard enough about offending the very God who loves us, protects us and breathed us into being.
In a sermon a while back, our pastor, Fr. James shared a comment the had heard at a retreat. He said the speaker had told them that “The Gospel can be offensive.” What? I had to chew on that one a few weeks before it became clear. When we look at the Gospels as our directive for living instead of merely a set of suggestions, they can be offensive, especially if we’re living only bits and pieces of the Gospel message. Every time we live in a way that opposes the teachings of Jesus, we offend God. I think He must be offended on a regular basis. We live in a society that will spend hundreds of dollars to “re-word” a statement or document so it doesn’t offend someone but yet our behaviors offend the Almighty on a regular basis and we don’t seem to give it due notice. I have to pause a bit and ask myself how offended God is when I think judgmental thoughts about one of His beloved children. I have to wonder how offended He is each time I choose to spend time on the screen, instead of on my knees. I wonder if He is offended by popular music, the garbage on television or the books that depict characters and plots that do anything but uphold the Gospel message. I really wonder if the thing that offends Him the most is the way our society seems to have become immune to it all.
If Jesus came to live in our home for a day, would we feel the need to change the channel on the TV or hide the book we were reading. I wonder if Jesus would say, “I wish you’d worry more about offending my Father in Heaven and worry less about offending people of this world.” If trying our hardest to avoid offending God became the mission of every Christian, I think we’d be amazed at the dramatic change that would occur in our world. So…go ahead and read the Gospels and be offended…that’s where He begins to speak to our heart. I want to avoid that conversation where Jesus says, "Sheri, no offense but..."
A seed to plant: Draw one of the four names from a hat, Matthew, Mark, Luke or John…read that Gospel slowly and carefully over the next few days…ask God to offend you and then slather you with His Grace so you can make a change.
Blessings on your day!
Sheri's writing can also be found at Faith Catholic Publications and on CatholicMom.com