Joyful Words Blog
Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light for my path.
– Psalm 119:105
– Psalm 119:105
…“How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” Romans 10:15
I’m getting old and my brain can’t always remember the three things I needed to run into the store and grab, but as a mom, there are some events that happened years and years ago that I remember like it was yesterday. One of those events happened on a snowy January afternoon LOTS of years ago. I had successfully gotten all three little Wohlfert’s down for a nap and I plunked into the chair with a cup of coffee to just enjoy a few minutes of peace and quiet before I started to tackle the kitchen, which looked somewhat like the aftermath of a tornado. About 15 minutes and one cup of coffee later, I began to feel guilty for just sitting around and I was mustering up the gumption to get to the kitchen when a loud, slow, steady sound began approaching. I remembered being startled and frozen with fear because I could not identify the sound. I kicked off the blanket, sat down my coffee cup and carefully walked toward the sound. As I peered around the corner I realized the noise was being made by my two year old son Jason. There he stood in the middle of the kitchen floor, wearing nothing but a diaper and his daddy’s new cowboy boots. The sound was him trying to walk in those boots which went nearly as high as his diaper. I’m still not sure how he even hiked his pudgy little legs into those boots and managed to walk at all. I also wondered where his clothes were and how he’d managed to get out of bed and sneak downstairs all the way into our bedroom closet and find the boots.
I’ve listened for the sound of my children’s footsteps for nearly twenty five years. I listened for footsteps to come into my room in the middle of the night to complain of a sick tummy or sore throat. I’ve listened for the sound of footsteps on Christmas and Easter morning creeping toward the living room to see what goodies might await them. I’ve listened for the sound of footsteps into the kitchen to ask for food or into the office to ask for help with homework. Probably the most prayerful waiting came at the stage of life when I waited for the sound of footsteps that carried teenagers safely into the house at curfew time. With each sound of footsteps there is emotion. Sometimes it’s excitement or anticipation, sometimes it’s joy and sometimes it’s flat-out sheer relief!
I read this verse in one of my morning prayer books last week and I’ve been pre-occupied with the sound of footsteps since then. I remember my mother-in-law (who is the mother of 10) talking about the distinct way each of her kids entered the house late at night. She could identify each of them without even being able to see who had just come home. I think our footsteps say a lot about us. Do we have an angry stomp or a lazy shuffle or are we so frazzled and rushed we nearly run everywhere we go? Sometimes we can even tell by the footsteps what a conversation is going to be like as a person approaches us.
I wonder what my footsteps sound like. I wonder what people expected to hear when they noticed my footsteps approaching. Do they expect good news or whining? Do they expect to be lifted up with something positive or drug down with something negative? I realize it’s a pretty silly little prayer but I found myself asking God to help me make sure my feet were the feet that brought good news! It’s been my challenge this week to make sure that if someone heard me coming they could expect to hear good news; God’s good news of love and compassion and truth.
A seed to plant: Listen to your footsteps. Make it your personal challenge to bring the Good News to three people in the next 24 hours. Ask God to put beauty in your footsteps each morning before your feet even hit the floor.
Blessings on your day!
Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. Matthew 13:7
When I was a little girl I hated wearing turtle neck shirts. I felt like I was going to choke with that fabric all the way up my neck. Many a battle was waged between my mom and me on cold winter mornings due to my turtle neck phobia. I thought of a few of those battles when I read this scripture from Matthew recently. I will admit I’m happy that turtle necks are no longer very stylish but this passage made me stop and think about the things that choke me more than high necked sweaters.
Jesus explained to his disciples after telling this parable that the seed sown is the word of God planted in our hearts and the thorns are the things in life that snuff out or diminish the work of God. It made me stop and think about the thorns in my life; what’s choking my faith and making it hard to receive and grow God’s word and presence I wondered. I started to make a list of all those thorns and I came up with television, immoral thinking, lack of values and work ethic and social media right away. I tell ya what though, the more I thought about it, the more I realized I couldn’t just blame it on “the world”. Most of the thorns choking me were of my own doing. It’s easy to place the blame on other people or influences but it became obvious after a wee bit of thinking that I had plenty of thorns of my own that I needed to trim away.
Each time we gossip or tell even the tiniest lie the thorns start closing in. Each time we judge others based on their appearance, status or income, the thorns squeeze a little tighter. Each day we put our personal and social needs ahead of our prayer time, those thorns take away a little more life. Each time we fail to see others through the eyes of Christ, we stunt our spiritual growth. Complaining, criticizing and being disrespectful are also like prime fertilizer to those thorns that choke out Christ’s light in our life. They are the noxious weeds that ruin the beautiful life we were created to be.
We need to tend our seed. God put us here on earth to share His love and His light. If there is something that’s choking that seed and preventing us from doing what He put us here to do, it’s time to get out the tools and get to work on the thorns and weeds! I suppose it’s also important to remember that we need to take care of our own thorns and weeds instead of worrying about somebody else’s. When my life on earth is complete, and I stand to be judged by God, I really don’t think He will ask me about the thorns among my neighbor’s seed. I’m quite certain I’ll be accountable only for my own. When I think about the choking thorns I need to start hackin away, it makes turtle neck shirts almost seem comfortable!
A Seed To Plant: Identify the things that are thorns in your life and ask God, the Master Gardener, to help you figure out how to up-root them so His love can sprout and grow in your life.
Blessings on your day!
Jesus said, “Come follow me and I will make you fishers of men.” Mark 1:17
Growing up, Sunday was a great day. Mom and Dad made sure it was a day we slowed down. It was often the day we would take a drive and go visit my Grandmas or play games at the kitchen table. Winter Sundays were great but spring, summer and fall Sundays often involved a relaxing activity that I hated…fishing! Everyone in the family except me loved to go, so not wanting to spoil anyones fun, I never said anything but man I hated it when it was a fishing Sunday. To me, it was completely ant-social, totally uneventful and absolutely boring! You couldn’t talk or you’d scare the fish away, the hook began and ended with something wiggly and gross and if I actually ever sat still enough to catch something, the great prize was eating it. Since I don’t like fish, even the prize wasn’t a good deal. The only Sunday fishing trip I ever really enjoyed was the one where I convinced my mom that some boys at school told me Chocolate Chip Cookies were great fish bait. I told her that if I used those as bait, nobody would have to help me or listen to me complain about spearing a poor, little, slimy worm with a hook. It was a great day. I left my empty hook in the water all afternoon while I laid in the summer sun slowly nibbling on my two cookies and then announcing at the end of the afternoon that those boys had no idea what they were talking about! Any good fisherman will tell you, it’s all about the bait.
I love this verse from Mark’s gospel even if it does remind me of fishing Sundays. These words Jesus spoke two thousand years ago were not just meant for the disciples; they were for us in this place and this time as well. It’s one of those verses we read and think…oh no…he’s not talking to me! I’m not qualified to preach the Gospel or evangelize and lead others to the Lord. That’s for religiously smart, holy people who know lots of stuff about faith and the bible. If that’s what we’re thinking then we’re making a big mistake. Sharing the good news of Jesus’ love and mercy is a job that belongs to each of us. After all he’s done for us, he’s asking us to be willing to publicly “show him a little love!”
The most important part of this verse is the phrase “and I will make you”. Those five little words take all the pressure off of us. He's saying very clearly that he will give us what we need to do what he’s asking us to do. If we follow, he will arrange the situation and circumstances perfectly. He isn’t asking us to convert a continent or preach an eloquent sermon to thousands, he’s just asking us to take him with us wherever we go and share him with others. If you’ve ever asked someone to “put in a good word for you” then you understand what he’s asking. He’s asking us to make the introduction and he’s so amazing, he’ll even point out the folks he’d like us to introduce him to if we agree to follow and help him make a difference in peoples lives.
If we agree to let him make us fishers of men the best part is the bait! The bait he’s asking us to use as we “fish for men” is love. It isn’t knowledge or power or strength. We don’t have to buy any equipment or supplies, he’s given us everything we need to do this work. He has loved us abundantly and if we share that love with others, hearts will be changed, lives will be changed and the world will be changed. This is one fishing trip I can get excited about! The request is clear so pick up your pole, spend some time in prayer so you can load up on his love and then take that bait and tell a true fish story about the things you’ve seen him do when people grabbed onto the bait and let him change their life.
A Seed To Plant: Take this verse to prayer with you this week and ask the Father to show you where to take some of his famous bait!
Blessings on your day!
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. Philippians 2:3-4
It’s funny how different messages or thoughts seem to “randomly” pop into my head when I really need to hear them. A couple of years ago I read in several places that we should know our place in the grand order of things. I since have been reminded several times in the past couple of months that my place is 3rd. Sounds weird right! But it’s simple, God first, others second and myself third. I think if I searched the archives I’m sure I’ve actually written about being 3rd before but that message has been whappin me over the head more times than the anvil hammered Wiley Coyote in the Roadrunner cartoon. The reminder came loud and clear back in September when we took the 6th graders to camp. One of the camp counselors that the kids enjoyed the most sat down to visit one night and I noticed a tattoo on his forearm. It said, “I am third”. We had a nice chat about it and I realized he lived those words and that’s why he was such a delight to be around. I didn’t give it much thought after that thinking it was just a little reminder. Have you noticed that when you miss his message the first time he doesn’t hesitate to send it again and again until it clicks? In the last two months I’ve done several new talks and no matter what the topic, this thought of being 3rd just keeps coming up again and again. Sometimes I have to laugh and think; how in the world can I make that connect to this topic and when I ask, he always answers.
He’s lovingly helped me include this concept in almost all of the talks I’ve done this fall but in my heart I thought it was for others to learn. I foolishly thought I had a pretty good handle on the concept and did a fairly decent job of living it, but the last few days he’s been all about showing me in LIVING COLOR how I really wasn’t living it as well as I thought. The first was a sweet happening that whispered, “Sheri, I really am speaking to you, please pay attention.” and the second was a flat out UGLY, “I came unraveled, lost it and went screeching into first place instead of third” kind of event that has me face palming in embarrassment.
My word is joy. It’s in all my stuff, it’s in the name of my Ministry, it’s something I pray for every day, I talk about it, have scripture quotes about it everywhere…it’s my center of balance word. It’s kinda “my word”. After a presentation last Friday a truly lovely lady gave me a postcard. She told me a story about a speaker she had heard. He taught the audience to remember our place is 3rd by using the word JOY. I loved it. The postcard clearly spelled out that the J was for Jesus, the O was for Others and the Y was for you. Perfect sense, lovely visual aid and all delivered with a hug from a lovely lady in Saginaw Michigan. That was my whisper.
The UGLY came Tuesday at school. Looking back it wasn’t a really big deal but my reaction made it awful. It seems lately that my to do list is never under two columns and keeping all the plates spinning takes a lot of skill and balance. I know it’s a season; not permanent and I secretly enjoy watching how God manages and balances everything he asks me to do in amazing fashion but Tuesday I truly lost my way. My days are a bit like a house of cards this fall so if one thing gets shuffled five others fall out of line so when a surprise announcement came first thing Tuesday morning that totally changes the flow of the day and required 4 emails and 2 phone calls to “fix everything” before 8:20 in the morning I abandoned third place at rocket speed. I was anything but joyful and prayerful and I did everything but invite Jesus to meet me in the mess and keep me calmly in 3rd place. I spit and sputtered and focused on all the ways a decision that affected 300 other people inconvenienced me. I’m just gonna tell ya’ll I gave myself a BIG OLE first place medal that morning and as I crawled in bed that night all I wanted to do was give it back! I put myself in first place and felt miserable.
As God always does when we let him in, he gently pointed out that the day had actually turned out perfectly. He also made it clear in my heart that I needed to visit with all those caught in my spitting and sputtering and reclaim my 3rd place spot. The one thing I realized looking back over the event was how beautifully everything just fell into place in spite of the “alternate plan I wasn’t in charge of” and how much better the day would have been if I had just stood on bronze to begin with and shut out the noise and asked him for peace. I also made a note to remind myself that bronze is my favorite color…not gold!
A Seed To Plant: Prayerfully ponder the places you try to be first and ask God to show you how you can strive to be 3rd.
Blessings on your day!
The peace of God will guard your minds and hearts. Philippians 4:7
Have you ever had one of those crazy moments when you nearly did something completely ridiculous and then stopped and said, “WHOA, I better step back and take a breath, I’m loosen it”? I had that moment last week. It’s been a little hectic lately but God is good and I was clippin along with everything he was asking me to do and then came the God thump. It came when I was in my kitchen which is the place that centers me in the chaos. In my kitchen, I am happy because I love feeding people; it’s good for my soul! It brings me joy when people enjoy what I serve them and it always gives me a time to pray for my family and those who will eat what I’m whippin up in my kitchen. I love the feeling of serving that bubbles in my heart when I’m busy in the kitchen. When the God thump came, I was making a batch of cinnamon rolls for somebody who needed a little lovin and a little lift. Like usual, it was late and I was trying to cram one more thing into the day. I had the dough all rolled out and it was smeared with warm butter and sprinkled generously with brown sugar and in a quick twist to the cupboard I grabbed and was about to sprinkle a big ole dose of cinnamon on top of the sugar. Thank goodness the thump came and I paused a nano-second to realize that I was about to plaster the buttery, sugary dough with CHILI POWDER instead of cinnamon. After finishing up with the appropriate spice, and putting the rolls in the pan, I decided to close the kitchen and just be still.
As the rolls raised and baked, I had a chance to sit still and I asked God for a dose of peace as thick as the brown sugar I’d just piled on those rolls. He obliged, and I sat there and soaked up the gift of his peace. It gave me a chance to think about how nutty the pace of life can get. It gave me a chance to think and pray about how we use our time. I’m very grateful that I don’t get rattled easily but I began to do some thinking about how we handle stress. Just for fun, I googled stress and one of the first thing I found was a list of the top 100 books on stress. Top 100; I was floored…if there were 100 on top, how many more were under that 100? Next, I found 33 Scripture verses about peace. There was the answer! We were ingenuously created with an amazing immune system. That system works round the clock fighting off germs, and other microscopic stuff to keep us in balance. We have a stress relief system like that too. That system goes into action when we tap into God’s peace. In John’s gospel Jesus tells us his peace surpasses the worlds peace. It is greater, deeper, more conquering than anything we can get from a book. It comes with free, instant delivery; it always fits perfectly and it is precisely customized to fit all your worries, fears and anxieties.
There is a prescription for strengthening your peace system. It’s a three step process; take a dose of scripture reading, follow it with some quiet stillness soaking up the wisdom of those words and repeat! Nowhere in scripture does it tell us to go forth and be crazy. The book of Genesis doesn’t say that on the eighth day God created stress and worry. Those things are not of God and anything that is not from him is something we can ask him to help us avoid and remove. I don’t know about you, but sometimes I get all tangled up in it and forget to remind myself that it’s not his, but he will sure take it away if I ask him. It will require sitting still and applying the three steps, but for me, it’s a much better thing to do than making cinnamon rolls with chili powder.
A Seed To Plant: Write yourself a note right this minute scheduling the time today you will strengthen your peace system and do those simple three steps. It will be the most important thing you do today!
Blessings on your day!
God proves his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us. Romans 5:8
I love living in the country; it has so many perks! I love the fact that we have fresh beef that we raise ourselves (I can’t lie…Dave does the raising) we have fresh pork, vegetables and flowers from my gardens that sit on the kitchen island most of the summer and fall and my niece and her family raise chickens so there are plenty of eggs to share. When school started this fall, I instituted a tiny holiday (at least it’s kind of a holiday for me) called “Egg Day With Aunt Sheri!” When I’m out of eggs, my three great nieces come to my classroom after school and I take them home so I can get eggs from my niece. The girls like it because they don’t have to ride the school bus home and because we absolutely have to make a stop and get a treat! These three little girls are such sweeties and they always remember to pick out a treat to take home to their brother. The other day as we were driving home with their treats, I had to laugh because they were busy making trades. I’ll give you 3 Combos for a gummy worm or I think a gummy worm is worth 4 mini Oreos were the sounds that entertained me all the way home. As I picked up my eggs and dropped off the girls I couldn’t help but think of this verse from Paul’s letter to the Romans.
The girls were all about negotiating a trade that was fair for everyone, but God made the most epic, lopsided trade of all time. I’m not sure I fully comprehend the power of this verse so I’ve been puddling it around in my heart for a few days. We toss around the words fair, just and equal quite a bit, but I for one don’t spend much time thinking about how the Father must process those words. Our relationship with him is anything but fair, just or equal. He can’t be outdone or undone or even partially matched in love and mercy and I’m not very good at thanking him for that.
I think the power in this verse lies in the five words “while we were still sinners”. It wasn’t a negotiation. It doesn’t say, after you got your act together Christ died for you. It doesn’t say, when you stopped sinning Chris died for you. It doesn’t say if you do x, y and z then I’ll consider sending my Son to save you. He did it before we got it all together. It wasn’t about scoring enough points to get the reward. It was a matter of; I love you so much, I’ll take you right in the middle of your messy, goofy, sin riddled life and send my Son to show you once and for all how extravagantly I love you. I need to get that through my thick noggin because I go through most days thinking I can trade my measly little gummy worms or Oreos for a life in heaven. He isn’t there to bargain or negotiate with. He takes my puny little attempts at holiness and gives me the grace I need to do better. I think he whispers to me, I did this so you would be able to come home to my loving embrace; I want your love, your trust and I want you to put me in first place. It’s a gift my child; not a trade!
A Seed To Plant: Take a few minutes to thank God for his love and ask him to help you see a couple of things he’s inviting you to do so you can grow in holiness.
Blessings on your day!
Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction and faithful in prayer. Romans 12:12
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I'll be back tomorrow morning with a regular post but before I close this one out I'd like to offer a HUGE Thank you, Thank you, Thank you to the very talented Debbie Hengesbach for the great new design, to Jessie Lynn photography for capturing my smile with her photography talents and to a delightful former student, Aidan Flynn for the video on the home page.
Blessings on your day!
Sheri's writing can also be found at Faith Catholic Publications and on CatholicMom.com