Joyful Words Blog
Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light for my path.
– Psalm 119:105
– Psalm 119:105
My soul makes its boast in the LORD; let the humble hear and be glad. Psalm 34:2
One Sunday a few years ago I heard a priest give a homily that contained a line I will never forget. For weeks I wanted to prove his line wrong but I finally resigned myself to the fact that he was exactly right and I just didn’t want to believe it. He said, “The root of EVERY personal sin is our own selfish pride.” At the time, I was quite sure I didn’t even have any of that! Looking back I realized that my selfish pride is precisely what allowed me to think that, so I set out on a journey to fix it! The opposite of selfish pride is obviously humility and that’s a lot harder. Humility can’t exist if we’re in the way and boy do I seem to get in the way a lot! I’m still on that journey; sometimes I only travel a few minutes before I trip over myself and have to try again. Trying to be humble is sort of exhausting!
During the past months I’ve had some really exciting opportunities and have been praying extra, extra hard to trade selfish pride for humility. I love it when I deliver a talk and get positive feedback and get a sense that His words spoken through me have touched a heart or two but then I have to say some extra prayers for humility because like Psalm 34 says, I need to boast in the Lord not in the “Gospel according to Sheri.” The more speaking jobs I have the harder I pray for humility but this fall I also requested that He please be gentle with the lessons because I was trying so hard to get it right. He listened and the lessons in humility have been swift, direct and funny. God really does have a great sense of humor! Some of the lessons have been too funny to keep to myself so today I’d like to share three of my favorite lessons on humility from the Father who loves me so much!
A wise woman once told me to “be wary of occasions that require new clothes because they often test your humility.” At the time I had no ideas what that meant. Now I get it and I try to remember that I don’t need a new outfit for a big presentation, I have enough. I ignored that advice though and the day before I flew to Nebraska in September, I bought a new outfit. After I checked into my hotel I began to get ready for the event and realized I had packed black dress shoes to go with my skirt but I had packed two completely different shoes. No problem I thought, I had some flats that would work but as I pulled the new three piece outfit from my suitcase I realized that I had only packed two of the pieces. There wasn’t a scarf big enough to make up for the fact that I had forgotten my shirt! Well played God…point taken, He made sure I traveled in kakis that day and it worked.
Lesson two happened the day I had given a talk and I was walking toward the auditorium to deliver a second talk and this sweet little woman was running behind me shouting my name and waving her arms. Bless her heart I thought, she must really want to speak with me. I quickly said a prayer to the Holy Spirit so I would be ready to have a good conversation and offer whatever counsel or prayer she might be seeking. I stopped and smiled and asked how I could help and she said, “Oh I don’t need anything but I thought you’d like to know you have toilet paper stuck to your shoe before you walk onto the stage and talk to a few hundred women. You’d look like a real nut if that happened.” Humility smack down right there in the hallway! Funny God…really funny!
The last one was completely shocking and snapped me right to attention. Last weekend I had the privilege of speaking at a women’s conference and it was an incredibly positive and powerful event. I was still floating on the experience a few days later. Yesterday I had been asked to give a presentation at the Catholic Writers Guild retreat. It was a drizzly windy fall day. After I loaded my hands with stuff for the presentation, I headed across the parking lot toward the building. I was feeling pretty confident and still a little jazzed up from the weekend when all of the sudden a giant wet leaf whipped off a branch and smacked me right in the face. The leaf was so huge and wet it actually stuck to my whole face. As I tried to peel it off I dropped one of my bags, tripped over it and fell down right in the middle of the parking lot. I popped back up so fast I’m sure I looked like I was simply practicing the Ninja moves the first graders taught me at recess last week. (At least that’s what I’m telling myself.) As I got to the glass entry door, I saw my reflection and noticed the wet leaf had smeared my mascara so bad I looked like a raccoon! Luckily I made it to the bathroom before anybody even saw me and fixed my face up then humbly walked down the hall to the meeting room.
Father was right; humility is the key to heaven! I’m laughing as I type realizing how lucky I am to be loved by a God who listens and responds to my prayers and failed attempts with great humor, perfect timing and never fails to provide a backup plan. He’s really something to boast about!
A Seed To Plant: Take father’s homily line to prayer with you and pray with it for a few days. Take an inventory of your attitude and actions and see where God might be calling you to add a bit more humility to your days.
Blessings on your day!
What a weekend! The Holy Spirit really cranked it into high gear beginning Friday afternoon when the 6th grade football team lead Eucharistic Adoration and it just kept going from there!
Friday night and Saturday it was my great honor to hang out with about 1,000 beautiful women and speak at the Diocese of Lansing Women's conference. There was so much power in that room I can still feel the sizzle! Saturday night I got to see beautiful witness to the love of God as I attended the wedding reception of two wonderful young adults. Grant and Hanna each have overcome some big obstacles in their young lives yet they smiled and danced and celebrated their love and their faith in a completely contagious way.
Sunday night it was off to talk at a gathering of wonderful men and women who came out to grow in their faith rather than camp out on the couch. They were a great crowd of faithful and their love of the Lord was inspiring! I've been so lucky this weekend to be in the presence of so many amazing people. God has allowed me to be a part of so much that is good and I am humbled! I also seem to be at a point where I'm still searching for the words to describe the weekend so for today...this is all I have! I'll be back on Thursday with some joyful words and maybe by then, I can put some of the experiences from this amazing weekend into words.
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!
Every man shall give as he is able, according to the blessing of the Lord your God which He has given you. Deuteronomy 16:17
There are a few things in life I think everyone should try. My latest entry to this list of things is popping 300 bags of popcorn and sorting and washing a couple bushels of apples with the help of 35 twelve year olds! Some things are just good for the soul! The Young Disciple group decided to host a popcorn and apple sale to raise money to purchase gifts for the prayer corners in each classroom at St. Mary School. It seemed simple enough; little did I know how much could happen in a couple of hours.
I learned that a different environment can change people. As we made our way across the street to the Parish Hall where the popcorn popper and the giant sinks for apple washing were, the middle lovelies began to change right before my very eyes. Even the reserved, quiet ones sprouted a volume and an enthusiasm I’d never seen before during school hours. It made me wonder…when things get tricky or stagnant why don’t we just change scenery for a little new perspective.
I learned that some people are impulsive and respond vividly to new sights, sounds and smells. The “don’t eat the popcorn because other people are going to buy it” warning was about as effective as telling the wind not to blow! The feel and smell were too much. It made me wonder…what if I said the same thing differently; so I said anyone who packs 9 bags of popcorn gets a giant handful of their own when they finish. No more nibbling. I guess it really is more about how you say it than what you say.
I learned that elbow deep sinks of water are the greatest! There was as much laughter coming from those sinks as there would have been coming from a swimming pool in August. It was simple, it was different, and it was fun. We had a lot of apples to wash and sort but everyone wanted their turn at the bath-tub sized sinks. It made me wonder…do we really outgrow the loves of childhood like splashing in the tub or do we just listen to society and grow up? It made me wish I’d spent more time playing in the sink with my kids, even if it did cause puddles on the floor. I guess I’ll save that thought for grandbabies some day!
I learned that sorting apples involves a lot of perspective. We had a wonderful family pick up a couple bushel of apple “seconds” at a nearby orchard for us. They were beautiful, delicious apples but they weren’t the perfect ones and they needed some inspection. I laughed as I listened to the lovelies take their turn at the sink and discuss the quality of the apples. I heard things like, “these look weird”, “these are shaped goofy”, “these have spots”, “these look so good”, “that spots no big deal, whoever buys that can just bite that part off and spit it out”, “the funny looking ones always taste better and people usually don’t know that so maybe they’ll be left and we can eat ‘em”, “some people are just too picky, they taste good no matter what they look like”, and my favorite, “kids should be happy to get these and the tiny ones are perfect for the little kindergartners, these are all different and just right for our school”. It made me wonder…do we judge people the same way we judge apples.
I learned that if you give twelve year olds a pouch full of quarters they think they’re rich! The money counting phase was my favorite as I watched them enthusiastically discuss how many things they would be able to buy for the classroom prayer corners and what causes they might be able to donate their profits to. You would have thought they had a million dollars to spend instead of a hundred. It made me wonder…when did things get so complicated in life and why have we lost sight of the thrill of giving a three dollar gift, purchased with quarters completely out of love.
It was a great project. I can’t say that I’m in a huge hurry to do it again any time soon, but it was a great adventure for me and for the lovelies. This week they will present some of the gifts they purchased to each classroom and that will truly be the happy ending to a great story. Once again, all I had to do was show up and let them teach me!
A Seed To Plant: Purchase a three dollar gift with quarters and give it randomly to someone motivated completely out of love. Don’t forget to say a prayer of blessing for the receiver of the gift.
Blessings on your day!
…Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her. Mark 10:42
Do you ever feel like you are at war with yourself? You try to do the right things and live up to the expectations but some days it just feels like you fall short…I hope that’s not just me! I had a lousy day; one of those look under every rock of your life and not really like what you see kind of days. I suppose it’s good to take an honest inventory of your life from time to time but sometimes it’s painful to be honest with yourself. What I came to discover is that I’m probably like everybody else with some good qualities and some not so stellar ones too. As I was thinking about this “battle with self”, I remembered a Gospel story about two sisters who had a battle right in front of Jesus. I could relate so perfectly to this story and the constant struggle to do the right thing for the right reason. As I re-read this Gospel I realized that I can be both sisters; Martha and Mary.
This epic sister conflict reveals the perfect model for our lives as faithful servants! It’s easy to read this Gospel and take sides, but the truth of the matter is we all have an inner Martha and an inner Mary. It’s also easy to read this Gospel and make Martha out to be the “bad guy” sister. Really, can you imagine having the guts to whine to Jesus about cooking and serving! In Martha’s defense, the most important guest of all time was in the living room and there sat the chief helper star struck, completely shirking all sense of responsibility and duty, I’m not gonna lie, I think I would have been a bit irritated myself.
As a Disciple of Christ our vocation includes the Martha stuff like cooking, cleaning and serving. It also includes the Mary stuff like devotion, attentiveness and focus on the better part. This Gospel should inspire us to be a balance of both sisters. We need to realize that when the cooking and serving are done as a prayerful offering to God, it is a powerful form of prayer and devotion. We also need to realize our Mary moments of complete and uninterrupted prayer have to be carved into our daily schedule. I need to read this Gospel several times and balance my Mary and Martha! I need to read this Gospel several times to realize my battle is normal and as long as I keep plugging along trying to do the right thing and keep it all in balance, God will notice, and thank goodness he rewards us for attempts and not just perfection!
A Seed To Plant: How can I make my Martha tasks like cooking and serving more of a prayerful offering instead of complaining about it and feeling unappreciated? How can I be more attentive and focused on Jesus like Mary? How can I find balance and have patience with myself?
Blessings on your day!
He must increase, I must decrease. John 3:30
One of the many things I miss now that the Wohlfert house is so quiet is practice. For more than a decade and a half there was always some kind of practice going on. It didn’t matter if it was reading, math facts, band, sports or even target practice for hunting season, it seemed like somebody was always practicing something. There is nothing more humbling than a good hard practice at whatever it is you are trying to get better at. The problem was nobody really enjoyed practice except me. I loved seeing my kids work hard, sweat, be frustrated and eventually trade in frustration for sheer determination. Practice is good for you no matter what it’s for but human nature leads us to desire perfection or success without the work.
Stop for a minute and think of something you need to practice. A little tricky wasn’t it! If you had a hard time coming up with something to practice I’ve got just the thing. I was reading in a prayer book the other day and came across a fabulous one liner that was too good to keep to myself. This simple thought is so power packed it’s going to make for a very short post today. Before you read it though, I want you to think for another minute about three things you’ve been frustrated about recently. If my guess is correct at least two of the things that frustrated you involved another person. So much of our negative energy stems from a reaction or comment or behavior from another person that doesn’t line up with our personal expectations or desires. In the spirit of being frustrated with others and tugging along the negative energy that goes with it; here is that great thought I promised. We all need to practice the art of self-forgetfulness! Pope John Paul II.
Holy cow…how’s that for a show stopper! I think maybe we spend so much time worrying and fussing about how other people see, value, appreciate and honor us that we lose track of the only desire we should be motivated by; pleasing God. If I were to forget my own desires and comforts more often I think I would certainly have more time for faithfulness. If I stopped worrying about who saw me do what or who noticed this or that I wouldn’t have anything to be disappointed about when others didn’t register the “wonder and awe” I thought I deserved. I don’t’ know about you, but I think I just found my new thing to practice… thinking about the Father more and myself less The art of self-forgetfulness isn’t something our culture promotes but since when does our culture promote things that will get us to heaven? I think I’m gonna go with JPII on this one and get my “self-forgetfulness” in motion, how about you…are you up for some tough practice?
A Seed To Plant: This week when you feel frustrated, stop and ask yourself if you are practicing the art of self-forgetfulness. Get ready for some good hard practice!
Blessings on your day!
I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work in you will continue to complete it until the day of Christ Jesus. Philippians 1:6
I just got home from spending three days at camp with 40 twelve year olds. I spent my 24th wedding anniversary tromping through the woods, sleeping in a bunk bud and laughing with the middle lovelies and the terrific crew of grown-ups who were brave enough to come with us! There were canoes, live animals, shelter building, drumming, zip lining and teambuilding challenges. We shared bunk rooms, meals, prayer, Mass, both tiny and huge spaces, and thankfully coffee! There were kids who were brave and kids who were apprehensive. There were kids who were intimidated and kids who were confident. There were kids who took risks and those who played it safe. We learned a lot, we laughed a lot and we returned home dirty, tired and a little bit different.
The nature center where we camp is a beautiful place and the staff is awesome. This was my third trip to camp and even though the activities, property, menus and lodges are the same, it’s different every time. It’s a great experience to observe nature and soak in the beauty of God’s creation at camp. It’s beautiful to watch the fog or the sun roll over the lake right outside the lodge but the most beautiful thing I love to watch at camp is the way relationships unfold while we are away. It’s great to watch kids who seemingly don’t have much in common wind up in a group together trying to help each other paddle a canoe across the lake. It’s fun to watch kids practice the art of hospitality as they take their turn serving and cleaning up after a meal. It’s great to see them work together to create and preform and build and accomplish. There are lessons at camp that don’t come in the classroom and each fall I get a front row seat to the beginning of adolescence complete with dirty hands, muddy shoes, frustration, satisfaction and lots of fun!
As I spent the days observing the middle lovelies and paying careful attention to the behaviors and conversations I learned a lot. This verse from Philippians came to mind several times. Sixth grade is a tough year because everything from height, friendships, voices and emotions change at warp speed! There is so much to figure out and most of them are just on the edge of trying to really let God into their lives to help with all the plans and changes. There were some moments of amazing holiness. Those moments didn’t involve halos or flaming chariots; they were tiny, simple, heartwarming flashes of the greatness God’s expects from all of us. In those moments I thought most about this verse and realized God has begun some amazing work in these children and some of them are beginning to take it and run! Some of the moments melted my heart and as the “senior citizen” at camp made me very hopeful. The most amazing moments came in a flash almost as instinct that required no thought; Christ’s hands and feet sprung into motion instantly and it was so cool to see. One of those moments involved the S’more making campfire. Each camper went excitedly to the campfire with their allotted ONE marshmallow and one camper sadly watched as his plopped directly into the fire and without a second of hesitation, another camper had offered hers in its place before he even had a chance to be sad or disappointed. There were several instances where kids would purposefully hang back when campers were being divided into pairs to make sure nobody got left out or felt unwanted. There was the group of boys who enthusiastically offered to be the “choir” at Mass which meant singing in front of all their peers. There were those who took the top bunk instead of the bottom just to make someone feel safer and less homesick. There was the camper who stood patiently holding back a branch on the trail so nobody got smacked in the face even though it meant all his buddies would be far ahead of him. I watched a middle lovely give up his brownie to the friend who didn’t really like dinner all that much so he wouldn’t get hungry later.
I saw kids who decided to stop being who they thought others wanted them to be and felt happy being just who they really were. It also made my heart happy to see the kids cheer when Fr. Eric arrived at camp to say a special Mass just for them. They were grateful and cheerful and enthusiastic and I was overwhelmed at the possibilities of all the things Christ will do to bring them to completion. Many of them demonstrated that God has begun a marvelous work in them and when the words of this verse are lived fully the world will be changed. As I type I’m tired, I need a shower and I have a bag of dirty clothes to unpack and wash but I’m so happy to have seen firsthand all the good works God has begun in these middle lovelies!
A Seed To Plant: What good work has God begun in you that you need to let him complete?
Blessings on your day!
…you should aspire to live a tranquil life, to mind your own affairs, and to work with your own hands…1 Thessalonians 4:11
Do you remember the WWJD bracelet craze from a few years back? What would Jesus do became the big question for a while. It was a great idea but I think it might be time for a new question. I don’t know about you but I seem to notice a whole lot of folks who think they know what everybody should be doing and they aren’t afraid to tell you. During Pope Francis’ recent visit there were plenty of folks who evaluated everything he did and proclaimed it right or wrong. We seem to be running a little heavy on arm chair quarterbacks! Everywhere we turn these days somebody is evaluating somebody else’s words or actions like they are the expert on everything. Nobody seems to be safe from the commentary; not a nurse in a beauty pageant or a presidential hopeful or a person trying to take a stand for something they believe is right or wrong. It’s as if seeking out or guessing about the motives behind everything is a new national pastime and it’s making me nuts.
Free speech is awesome but it doesn’t mean you always have to use it or that you can use it with careless regard. Some day’s one sentence can turn into an entire segment on the evening news. Two things my mom always said make a whole lot of sense these days. 1) If you can’t say something nice don’t’ say anything at all and 2) Keep your nose in your own business. We seem to be spending a whole lot of time evaluating the thoughts, words and actions of others so that leads me to wonder if it’s time for a new question. I think the new question and bracelet should be WSID? What should I do?
Mother Teresa once asked a group of very influential people what needed to change most in this world to make it better, and more Christ like. Each person answered profoundly with things like; less greed, an end to world hunger, an end to violence and a variety of other truthful answers but she said the correct answer to that question is…ME. What should I do? The reason I think this is the great new question is because in order to know how I need to change and what I need to do I have to depend on God for the answer. If I’m calling out to and depending on Him, I’m less focused on others. I can’t be in charge of anybody else and heaven knows I’ve done enough stupid stuff myself so maybe if I worried less about what everyone else was doing and saying and more about what I was doing and saying I think that would be a very good thing. What if everyone started to ask WSID?
It probably won’t sell any bracelets but it sure would make the world more pleasant and holy. We won’t be judged in groups and we don’t get to weigh in our opinion on anyone else’s final judgement so perhaps we’d be better off just taking care of our own affairs instead of spending hours each day trying to get involved in someone else’s. It’s just a little question but it could have a marvelous answer.
A Seed To Plant: The next time you feel inclined to jump into a conversation or blurt out your opinion, stop and ask yourself WSID?
Blessings on your day!
On October 3rd, my brother, Jim would be celebrating his 54th birthday. As I was thinking about, and missing him this week my mind flew back to the memory of visits to Grandpa's store and then I remembered this post I wrote in the first year of the blog. I hope you don't mind a re-post because it's a fun memory with a lesson for us all.
Pray without ceasing. 1Thessalonians 5:17
One of the things that made me feel so lucky as a little girl was the fact that my Grandpa Ted owned a store. It had a gas pump out front and inside there was a grocery store and the town post office. The counter was lined with big glass jars filled with different kinds of candy but the greatest thing in the store was the pop machine. I was amazed that all you had to do was deposit a coin and then open the narrow glass door, grab the pop bottle by its top and pull it out. The biggest problem life presented at that age was trying to decide whether my brother, Jim and I were going to share a Squirt or a Root Beer. Life was simple!
Lots of years later, life isn’t always quite so simple! I’ve discovered the the days that seem to be the most complicated and crazy are usually the ones when I haven’t deposited as much into my daily prayer. I think sometimes our prayer life can be a little like Grandpa Ted’s pop machine. We simply make a little investment and expect to have God open the door so we can pull out any flavor blessing we pick. He wants more from us than a quick “shout out” when we want something or when we need Him to rescue us from the mess we’ve made by not trusting Him completely. He lovingly demands more from us. But Paul told the Thessalonians to pray without ceasing...really…how do you do that?
I think the passage is challenging us to put Christ in the forefront of our thoughts, our words and our actions; consulting him throughout the day with everything. One of my first grade lovelies said one day, “But if you pray like that won’t you run out of stuff to talk to God about?” I said “Not if you pray with WOW, OOPS, THANKS and GIMME.” You can imagine the puzzled looks that followed and so the lesson began. Each time we stop to pray, start by telling God what He’s done that is amazing. (Wow) Next ask His forgiveness for all the faults and failings of the day. Don’t forget to call them out by name. (Oops) Then have a long talk with Him about all the things you are thankful for and for all the blessings received. (Thanks) And finally, ask for His blessing on those people and situations that need Him.(Gimme) Those four words are a great starting point for personal prayer. If you cover all four each time you call upon His name in prayer, you’re not likely to run out of stuff to say and you have gotten a lot closer to “without ceasing.” God’s calling us to make more than a tiny deposit, and when we do, the blessings we’ll receive are going to be far more amazing than anything ever pulled out of Grandpa’s pop machine.
A seed to plant: Write wow, oops, thanks and gimme on a notecard. Practice praying with those 4 categories for a few days and see if you enjoy a prayer time that is more focused and fulfilling.
Blessings on your day!
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Sheri's writing can also be found at Faith Catholic Publications and on CatholicMom.com