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!
…There is a season for everything… a time for healing; a time for knocking down, a time for building. A time for tears, a time for laughter; a time for mourning, a time for dancing… Ecclesiastes 3:1-4
It’s been pretty quiet here at Joyful Words and for that I apologize. It turns out, I though I was a little larger than life and God has used the past two weeks to serve me some patience and humble pie. I was quite sure that I would bounce right back from my knee replacement surgery. My surgeon is a phenomenal doctor and the new knee he gave me was walking without a cane by day three. I was amazed at the mobility and overall fanciness of my two new knees. I began to look at my three weeks off school and I compiled a magnificent list of things to do; I was even thinking I would probably be heading back to school at least a week early. Then things changed. It was at about the week one mark it became very clear that my body and my mind were on two very separate schedules. It seems bone healing isn’t something I can assign a time table to. I offer this observation not as a complaint because I absolutely know how very fortunate I am. I know this pain is passing and I know despite my feeling of complete uselessness right now, I will bounce back quickly and hardly remember any of this.
Last week the reading from Ecclesiastes was God telling me to stop bossing him around. I suppose every now and again I get tangled up in the belief that God loves me when I’m busy. He loves me when I’m productive and teaching, writing, reading or working. I believe that its’ my “DOING” that he loves so the better I DO the happier he is. Nothing like a throbbing femur bone at 3 in the morning to get your attention. I’ve also been schooled the past ten days in timing and deadlines and I’ve been acutely aware of my fabulous ability to compare apples to oranges! My sweet daughter reminded me that in May when I got my first knee I was teaching from home and the pace of the world had screeched to hault. I wasn’t missing my kids and coworkers so much because they weren’t at school either. I wasn’t worried about somebody picking up my slack because nobody was in the building. I didn’t have to worry about what school outfits I could wear these ridiculous compression hose with because my school outfits were sweats!
There is a time for everything…even if you don’t like it! I can’t make bones heal faster or make sleep come. I can’t crank out a bunch of work when the only thing my body is screaming at me to do is sit still and heal. This little hiccup in my September has given me the chance to re-think my puny range of control on anything. I’m beginning to realize that all he asks is all I have…anything I have…everything I have even when it’s impatience and a dented pride. Not one single thing in this world would be different if I was going back to school this week instead of next week. I’m pretty darn certain I wouldn’t get into heaven any easier if I could be back to full function by tomorrow morning. Instead of trying to be the Bionic Woman, I should shut up, sit still and practice being Patient Woman or Humble Woman or better yet, HIS Woman. I’ve had a pretty big dose of “be still” when what I think I was pushing for was a big ole dose of “The Gospel According to Sheri”. Instead of saying, in this Joyful Words silence, “I have learned” it’s much more accurate to say, “ In this silence, I’ve become acutely aware of some lessons I need to work on!” Perhaps they might just be a lesson for you too!
A Seed To Plant: Where are three places you are trying to be the boss?
Blessings on your day!
Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. 2 Corinthians 5:17
Growing up we always had a gigantic garden. I loved all the fresh vegetables that came from that garden but the potatoes were my favorite! Many things in life have changed but my love for potatoes has not! The first new little ones of the summer were the greatest. If you’ve ever looked at that first batch of new garden potatoes you’ll notice they are pretty bumpy and dimply and funny looking but they taste so good. Something about waiting so many months for a fresh new batch made them so special.
Potatoes are kind of funny when you think about it. They have to be dug out of the dirt. We spend so much time cleaning things and disinfecting things but during potato harvest you stand there looking into a big hole of dirt thinking YUM, these are gonna taste great! Sort of weird when you think of it but it’s really not so different than a lot of things in our life. God is so good at digging down through the muck and mess of our lives and scooping out the good.
I was at the grocery store the other day and saw a whole selection of baby potatoes. They made me think of new potatoes and I finished my shopping thinking about all kinds of things that are new. Some of the new things in my life have been exciting, like that first batch of new potatoes but some of the changes have been lumpy and bumpy. After nearly thirty years on the farm we moved to town. We’ve been here a month and there are so many things I like about this new address. I love the neighborhood full of kids and families. I love the neighbors who have delivered cookies and plants and the kids who have made pictures for my fridge. I love driving on pavement instead of muddy gravel roads and I’m so grateful for a new home (that’s completely clean). But I miss the noise of mooing and hummingbirds and deer I would watch from my front porch.
School is new! I’m happy to be back face to face with the middle lovelies. There are a lot of things that make teaching this year a new experience but it’s so good to be back. Going to mass outside on a beach towel and wearing a mask and eating lunch with my teacher family sprinkled many feet apart across the whole cafeteria is all new. Teaching in four different rooms in order to keep the kids safe and healthy in one spot is a very strange new. Not pulling a chair up next to a sad or struggling student or holding hands to pray together is a strange new too.
I’m getting my second shiny new knee this week and I’m grateful for that but it’s another new thing. Thinking about all this new stuff left me feeling a little old and overwhelmed. Then I remembered those great new potatoes didn’t always look so great so I thought about God looking into my life which at the time felt a little like a big ole dirty potato hole and saw things a little differently. I think I was resisting a little, wanting things to stay the same because it was comfortable but then I saw the beauty in the bumps and dimples. I began see the beauty in the new. I miss the farm but it’s a proud and happy thing to realize that Kevin was determined and successful enough to buy the farm. Yes, I will miss Shannon when she moves to Missouri after the wedding but she will be getting married to a fabulous young man and they will build a wonderful life. Then I began to think of another exciting new. New life, God’s promise that life is meant to move forward and change and in February Jason and Katie are going to have a baby that will bring so much new life and change and joy to our family.
When I see it through his eyes, I don’t see the bumps, dimples and dirt that comes with change and new stuff, he helps me see the growth, the love and my need for him.
A Seed To Plant: Make a list of “new things” happening in your lie and invite God into those new things. For bonus points, enjoy some potatoes this week!
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!
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whosoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16
Every marketing genius works their entire career in hopes of being the one who creates that slogan that catches everyones attention and makes their product a household name. Some of those slogans stick for years. I’m pretty sure I can still sing the McDonalds Big Mac song and I can still sing “I’d like to buy the world a Coke.” We know how to “Just Do It”, “Have it your way.” and “Leave the light on.” If only we could get the really important stuff in life to stick like a commercial.
I like to have the 6th graders choose a Scripture Verse to guide them through their last year at St. Mary School. I ordered a pack of scripture cards with the verses printed in really cool, eye-catching fonts and designs. As I was cutting them up and getting them ready for the kids one caught my attention. I think it just might be the most catchy slogan I’ve seen in a long time.
The card said, John 3:16…be a whosoever! I had to think about it for a minute and then I just laughed. It was a perfect one liner. One of those statements that just sort of snaps you to attention. The goal in this life is to live it in such a way we get to heaven. The question then is, who gets to heaven. The answer is right there in John 3:16; whosoever believes in God. I want to be a whosoever! The beautiful part of this verse is that I have to realize being a whosoever is possible because of what God gave us through his Son, Jesus.
It’s all here…the motive, the result and the promise. A whosoever lives like they recognize and appreciate the gift of Jesus. A whosoever realizes what they need to do and what the reward will be. The whosoever knows the promise and tries to live like they believe it! A whosoever is who I want to be. If I take control and forget to ask the Father for his plan, I’m not being a whosoever. If I gossip and behave selfishly, I’m not a whosoever. If I fumble my way through the day leaning on God’s guidance and believing in his power, then I’m on the road to being a whosoever. I think I might be saying to myself, “That wasn’t very whosoeverish!” Maybe it’s a slogan that just might help you point yourself in the right direction too.
A Seed To Plant: Make a “Be a Whosoever” sign and stick it somewhere visible this week and see if it changes your thinking and your actions.
Blessings on your day!
You have been told, O man, what is good, and what the Lord requires of you: Only to do the right and to love goodness and to walk humbly with our God. Micah 6:8
Well then, there you have it! The Prophet Micah summed it all up in one brief verse of Scripture! Do the right thing, love things that are good and walk humbly with God. So I’m wondering; if it’s that simple how do I manage to mess it up so often? I think the place where I get all snarled up is trying to make things more complicated than they need to be. I can be the “Queen of Overthinking” and it just leads me farther away from the honest, simple root of my purpose…anybody with me there? (I am seriously hoping there are readers out there nodding their head in agreement!)
Let’s see if I can back up the truck and do a better job with these three simple expectations. Step one: “do the right”. I guess I should ask myself, the “right” for whom? More often than I probably even recognize, I’m interested in doing what’s “right” for me! I have a tendency to do “Christian good” when it’s convenient for me. I’m good at helping and praying and doing nice things when it fits in the schedule but what about when I really have to go out of my way to do good? I also have to stop and ask myself about how many times I don’t “do right”. What if I know there is a conversation going on that I should keep my nose out of but I just have to listen in anyway, what do I do if the talk turns into gossip, how do I “do right” and get out of that conversation? I suppose this simple directive should keep me out of those conversations in the first place.
Step two: “Love goodness” I don’t think Micah was simply referring to lovely flowers and other good things found in creation. I think he was challenging us to something bigger. Here’s the deal with loving goodness…it isn’t always fashionable, popular or common. Loving goodness requires us to love without judgment. It means we look for the good and Christ like even in people who look very different than us. We can be pretty narrow in our description of what is “normal” in this society and turn a squinty eye at things that diverge from that vision. I believe the greatest sound and sight EVER is a child! They are the ultimate “Good” created by God. Not long ago I was visiting with a family who was joyfully announcing the upcoming birth of their 7th child and I was so excited for them and honored to share in their joy. That baby will be the most loved child on the planet! As I walked away from the family I overheard two women speaking critically about them and one woman said, “How do they think they are ever going to give that many children what they need? She doesn't even work so they are doomed to a life of hand-me-downs and Wal-Mart shoes.” I wanted to speak but the tears stung in my eyes and my heart hurt so bad I couldn’t even talk. if I had that moment to re-live I would ask when Nike’s and designer clothes became more important in forming Children of God than the overflowing love of a family. Loving goodness means having great compassion and respect for EVERYTHING God created and doing everything in our power to defend it without casting worldly judgments.
Step three: “Walk humbly with our God” The real trick with this one is to realize we can’t be in charge! It really should read, “Walk humbly BEHIND God.” We might do a better job if we remembered we can’t be first in our Christian walk, God Himself must occupy that spot. Walking humbly means coming to terms with the fact that we are NOTHING without HIM and the more we give Him credit for, the more He blesses us. God doesn’t need our approval or our praise in order to build Him up and support His ego or self-esteem…He needs praise and adoration from us so we can practice humility and submission to His will for our lives.
A Seed To Plant: Pick one of the three ideas from this reading from Micah and put it to work this week. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you choose the one your soul needs most!
Blessings on your day!
My comfort in my suffering is this: Your promise preserves my life. Psalm 119:50
I don’t always like doing hard or yucky stuff. As a kid I was more than happy to help my grandma do dishes or dust. I’m pretty sure I thought it was great stuff and I did it with a smile on my face! But when my own mom asked me to do the same things it was dreadful and I was known to occasionally insert some drama while I tried to worm my way of helping her.
This week more than 300 people I spend my school day with have been asked to do something hard and undesirable. In order to come back to in-person school the staff and 6th graders are masked all day and the younger kids are masked on the bus and while in the halls or working in groups. My classroom has been above 80 a couple days this week, making the mask even more undesirable. No matter where your opinion lands on the issue, the fact is, we do what is asked because that’s how bad we all want to be there. The kids have been amazing and so resilient! I’m so proud of them. The big lesson this week has been about suffering. Doing something hard or undesirable can be considered a suffering and the same grandma I helped dust and do dishes always said, “Don’t waste your suffering.” This week we made that our focus in an attempt to follow our friend Samantha’s advice and “Stay Positive”.
I don’t like hard stuff but I can easily do hard stuff for someone else so that’s the premise behind the question “Who are you wearing your mask for today?” It’s so powerful to pray for someone but it’s even more powerful to offer your suffering for them. It’s really as simple as saying, Lord, I offer this suffering to you. You can offer it for something or someone specific or ask the Lord to use your suffering to bless a soul in great need. We were on day two of answering “Who are you wearing your mask for?” and someone said they would wear their mask for someone who was having a tumor removed from their brain. We all agreed we would join in and offer some of our mask suffering for that intention too. The next day we found out that the surgery was such an amazing success the patient went home the same day they had surgery. When that story was shared I think every single person was touched and inspired and overwhelmed by the goodness of our God who took a simple suffering and used it in such a mighty way. As we walk into the building and put on those masks there is a change in attitude when we think or say, “This is for___.” I’m so happy to be back in school. I’m so happy to surround myself with middle lovelies who are so eager to grow in their faith and become disciples.
I hope the next time you have to do something hard or undesirable instead complaining, you’ll offer that small suffering to God. The result is great grace outpoured in powerful ways.
A Seed To Plant: Pick a suffering you can offer to God this week and before you do it, remember to think about “Who it’s for”!
Blessings on your day!
…“Come and see.” John 1:46
I’ve been going to school for decades but this morning feels like my first, first day ever! One of the amazing teachers I work with posted a meme yesterday that said starting school this year was going to feel like flying a plane while we were building it! Truth!!
Today some are starting school in person like St. Mary in Westphalia, some are starting virtually, some are starting at home and some are waiting. Each decision was made by a small group of people who are doing what they think is best for the kids they serve. What once was a universal thing, consistent across the board, has become a crazy assortment. I was feeling a little uneasy about that until I read the line, “come and see” from todays Gospel.
Even though the first day of school looks a little wonky, God is still the Father of us all. He is still bigger than a virus or any policy maker. He’s waiting to meet us in the new, the challenging and the weirdness of this new school year. He’s inviting us to dive in and do what we’ve been asked to do and “come and see” what he’s got planned. I won’t enjoy teaching in a mask all day when it’s 90 degrees in Michigan but I’m so excited to see the next crew of middle lovelies I can hardly wait to bust through the front door of school.
Today I ask your prayers for students, parents, teachers and school leaders as we all try to figure out how to live out our vocation. Please ask God to remind us to “come and see” where he’s working in all of this.
A Seed To Plant: Pray for children today!
Blessings on your day!
“Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours.” Luke 15:31
I heard someone on the radio the other day talking about the story of the Prodigal Son so I decided to give it another read and do some thinking on it. Every time I read the story I get angry with the first son. According to the customs of his time, asking for his inheritance was the same as saying his father was dead to him. As a parent I just can’t imagine what it must have felt like to be so bitterly betrayed by my own son. As I read on, I sometimes find myself cheering for the second son…the one who was obedient, hardworking respectful and never asked for anything. He seems like the good son for sure…or does he? Surely the first son is the bad son…or is he? As I prayed on this passage from Luke’s Gospel I began to see myself in both sons. I’m not gonna lie…I didn’t like that idea very much!
I saw myself in the second son but not for good reasons. Yes I try to be obedient to God’s will and yes I try to be grateful and conservative and not demanding but this wasn’t what was stirring in my heart. The second son was all about entitlement. He wasn’t concerned about his brother, he was concerned about himself. He didn’t stop for 2 seconds to see the relief or joy in his father’s eyes. He didn’t stop for 2 seconds to realize what a tremendous act of “pride swallowing” his brother had just demonstrated. And he certainly didn’t stop long enough to think about how extravagantly his father would shower him with love if given the chance. It was a gigantic open and shut case of “that’s not fair!” Why is it we have such a hard time being genuinely happy for others when good fortune comes their way and not ours? I guess I need to think more about the blessing of generosity and less about keeping score. I heard a story not long ago about a wealthy couple who had attended a fundraising event and won the big cash prize. The audience was full of second sons who whispered among themselves about how that couple certainly didn’t deserve to win. What all those whisperers didn’t know is that the couple humbly accepted the cash prize and used every penny of it to buy groceries, diapers and gas cards for two struggling young families in their church.
The first son…what could he possibly have to teach me? I smugly thought I would never be so bold, wasteful, irresponsible and disrespectful. God wouldn’t let it off my heart so I stayed a while longer and thought about that lousy first son and as I sat and prayed, he began to sprout some redeeming qualities. I began to consider things like his courage, humility and desire to reconcile. He knew he had hurt his father but something deep inside him wanted to make that right. He wasn’t asking to have everything back to normal; he was willing to be a hired man, not a son. True, his return might have been motivated by selfish reasons like hunger and pride but I can’t even imagine being brave enough to take the risk. He had to be willing to own up to every one of his mistakes and face the judgment and consequences that might come. He left home prideful and arrogant and he returned broken and weak and a complete failure, but yet he returned. As he walked down that road to his father’s house every weakness was on full display. I’m not sure I could muster that kind of honesty. I can go to all sorts of lengths to conceal my weaknesses and failures; it must have been quite a task to lay it all on the line like he did. I noticed that not once did the son offer any kind of excuse or rationale for his behavior. He just told it like it was and hoped to be accepted in spite of the brokenness he brought with him; I don’t know about you but I could take a lesson there!
I spent so much time thinking about the sons, I forgot the star of the story…the father. The father in this story is our father too. Our Heavenly Father loves us with the same unconditional love as the father in the story. He will always welcome us back no matter what we’ve done or where we’ve been and he will be so happy to see us there will be great rejoicing. He loves us even when we’re too busy keeping score to realize only he knows the perfect reason blessings are bestowed as they are. I realized he wants us to know his forgiveness and his generosity. He wants us to remember our job isn’t to focus on the behavior of his children; our job is to focus on the love of the Father.
A Seed To Plant: Pick a favorite Gospel story and give it a read with fresh eyes, asking God to put you right into the story so he can reveal his truth and love to your heart.
Blessings on your day!
For where two or three gather in my name, I am there among them.’ Matthew 18:20
The past two weeks have been a giant “welcome back”! I didn’t realize how much I missed live ministry and physical connection until it came barreling back into my calendar. I’ve been meeting with teacher friends, celebrating weddings and presenting teacher retreats. I’m typing this blog from a teeny airport in Kearney Nebraska at the tail end of a fabulous weekend spent with some beautiful Catholic women. My heart is so full and I am so grateful to have been a part of the two or three or many who have gathered!
After months of very little on my calendar, it took a bit of recalibrating to get back into full school/ministry mode. As I have been traveling this month I realize we are all readjusting. Some folks are are like labrador retriever puppies released from a basket. They are so happy and exited and they wanna hug everyone and talk to everyone and be right next to everyone. I’ve discovered some folks are fearful and nervous about being out and about. They want to keep their distance and they want others to do the same. The third group of people I notice are those who really aren’t sure what to feel. Guess what…they are all ok! Each group is right…each reaction is correct. I’ve gotten much better these past few weeks at noticing, observing and respecting. I suppose those are skills we can all work on a little.
I’d like to thank the lovely ladies in Nebraska and the beautiful Catholic School Teachers I’ve spent time with this month for some great lessons. I’ve learned that you can see people smile even if they’re wearing a mask. I’ve learned you can sense emotion and offer comfort even if you’re six feet apart. I’ve learned that we truly are made for connection. I’ve learned that despite the apprehension about a virus, most folks really want to get back to some kind of regular or familiar. I’ve learned that compassion trumps opinion and listening is more therapeutic than ever. I’ve learned that this pandemic has affected us deeply and so very differently and those differences are best handled with understanding and respect. It really isn’t a good time to pick sides because when we’re fragile, confrontation just adds to the brokenness and division we are all desperately trying to figure out and mend.
I have tremendous respect for leaders who are responsible for bringing people back together. I’m thankful for teachers who are coming back because they love kids and they know they have to figure out how to get them together because they need it so much. I’m thankful for a group of Nebraska women who choose to attend a Catholic Conference and open up their worried hearts to the love of the Father. I’m in awe of the people who shared their struggles and their burdens with me this month, reminding me that we desperately need connection so we can share and laugh and pray and sometimes cry together about the craziness that has swirled around us these past months. Mostly I have realized how important it is to pray for each other and remember everyone is trying to do the best they can and when we do gather, know He is there too.
A Seed To Plant: This week pray for school teachers and leaders as they prepare to welcome kids back to school…however that looks.
Blessings on your day!
Be still and know that I am God. Psalm 46:11
Good morning! The new house is almost ready...the old house needs some cleaning before the new farmer takes over...there are about 70hundred boxes that need to be moved and dealt with...a few schools have asked me to come help them prayerfully get ready for this crazy new school year...I need to get ready for this crazy new school year myself. My head is pretty full of lists and ideas and details so my writing will be quiet for a while. God is so busy working in all of this great stuff going on...there is so much to celebrate and be excited about...I know he will work mightily in this mess and I know I'll have so many things to write about as I stand back and watch what he does, but for now...I just need to put the laptop away and get busy. I'll be back with more joyful words soon...I just wanted to let you know it's gonna be quiet for a bit.
A Seed To Plant...drag out and pray the litany of trust I posted a couple weeks ago...we could all use it as we head into August!
Blessings on your day
Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures. Luke 24:45
I don't know abut you but I feel so much better with some laughter in my day. As I was thinking about getting ready to go back to school I realized I really needed to laugh so as I sat with my new planner I closed my eyes to remember funny moments in my teaching career and one immediately popped into my head and a blog just seemed to follow!
One spring afternoon, my students were taking a bathroom break and one of the boys came running back into the classroom and announced in a very loud voice, “Hey Mrs. Wohlfert, Johnny (name changed to protect the innocent) got his thing stuck in the thing.” My dumbfounded, “What?” was met with a grin and a “you better get in there quick!” After making sure my first trip into a boys bathroom was safe and clear, and it was established that the “stuck thing” was a commonly visible body part, I wiggled open the stall door and I was greeted by the sight of one of my most curious minded first grade boys kneeling on the floor with his arm stuck, clear past the elbow, in the double roll toilet paper dispenser. The harder he tried to pull it back out, the more tightly it became wedged by the paper divider. He was pinched, frightened and crying. Once I freed his arm, he crawled on my lap and sobbed. When he settled down a little, I asked, “So, what exactly were you trying to do?” He sniffed and said,“Well I think I just wanted to figure it out.”
I don’t know about you,but I spend a lot of time trying to figure things out myself. How many times have you heard people say,“Life doesn’t come with an instruction manual.”? I think we get busy trying to figure out how life works on our own, and like Johnny, we get stuck! The truth is, life does come with an instruction manual, and the wise Christian, spends time with it each and every day they wake up and draw breath. All the answers are there, all the wisdom is there, all the comfort, hope, peace and direction we could ever need lies right there in the Bible between Genesis and Revelations. God has spelled it all out for us, clearly and lovingly.
I remember the first time I picked up Scripture and cried out to God to get me out of a pickle. I closed my eyes, opened up my Bible to find the answer and landed right in Matthew’s Gospel, reading about the genealogy of Jesus. “How is this supposed to help?” I screamed. It turned out His help was there in that long list of names I couldn’t pronounce. He was pointing me to my family; all those people are my people! Their lives tell a story of faithfulness and mistakes and triumph and tragedy. They model what to do and what not to do. That chapter was the introduction to the Fathers love, faithfulness, mercy and discipline. They were just waiting for me to ask for help and guidance. Even when we don’t know quite what we’re asking for, God is there, ready to use His“instruction manual” to guide us. He loves us too much to make us figure it out on our own.
Many will say they don’t often read Scripture because they don’t always understand it. The key to understanding Scripture is to ask God to reveal its meaning to you. Each time you pick up His word, ask Him to open your heart and your mind so you will be ready to absorb a word or a phrase. I think we’re much better off focusing on a small passage rather than a page or whole chapter. Once you ask God to guide your understanding, read the passage slowly and carefully and then just sit and let it percolate in your mind and your heart. Sometimes He uses Scripture to help us figure something out on the spot, other times He intends for us to save that instruction for later. Either way, He’s using His word to inspire, guide and instruct.
A seed to plant: Make a promise right now to carve out 15 minutes each day for the next week. Commit to using that time to sit quietly with Scripture. Begin by asking God to open your heart and mind to understand the words He would have you read. If you aren’t sure where to begin, pick one of the four Gospels, the stories and instructions within those pages are amazing! I guarantee, these will be the best minutes of your week!
Blessings on your day!
…You are fearfully and wonderfully made…Psalm 139:14
I was looking through some beginning of the school year questions the other day and one that I’ve seen dozens of times held my attention for a long time. The question was, if you could be any animal which would you be. I pondered lots of choices and dismissed most of them for silly reasons. I didn’t want to be a lion or gator because I didn’t want people to be afraid of me. I didn’t want to be a cheetah because I hate running and I didn’t want to be a skunk for obvious reasons. I wondered about being tiny like a hummingbird and giant like a hippopotamus. After much thought I settled on a dog.
Dogs are loyal, enthusiastic, friendly and affectionate. Puppies especially are adorable and tend to bring laughter and delight. Dogs are also intelligent, helpful and easy to get along with. They don't need a lot of expensive stuff and they are usually very content. In my mind, it was the answer that made sense. The funny thing is that those are all qualities I really admire in people. I thought about this question far longer than I care to admit so then I turned it to prayer and wondered what the Father was teaching.
Animals have characteristics that are meant to help them survive and take their place in the order of creation. The same is true for each of us. We aren’t supposed to all be alike. Each of us was perfectly created by the Father who loves us to be, act and think differently. Our differences were meant to make us stronger and to help us grow in holiness. We seem to have lost sight of that. We would never expect a shark to be as cuddly as a kitten or a giraffe to snuggle up at the foot of our bed. We wouldn’t expect a tiger to help bring in the cattle and elephants perched in trees chirping delightfully would be a little terrifying. Maybe God was reminding me to open not only my eyes but my heart to the differences he purposefully designed in each of us. We have so much to learn and appreciate and respect when we walk among God’s sons and daughters but we have to open our eyes and notice.
As I pondered the silly question that started all of this I realized it helped me notice the beauty in everything God created. The next day I found this line in a prayer book and it seemed like the perfect lesson. Lord, Lord, I could learn so much if I would notice before I nag and pray before I panic.
A Seed To Plant: Spend some time this week with that line from the prayer book and if you really want a distraction think about the animal question too.
Blessings on your day!
Whoever watches his mouth and tongue keeps himself from trouble. Proverbs 21:23
This is a weird post…I have no words today. Every now and again when I’m busy or just can’t get the words right he leads me to a re-post that fits but that isn’t the case today. Today, I just don’t have words and I think that’s exactly where the lesson is. The lesson today is “Sheri, just shut up!” I think I’ve been entered into the school of silence. I think he put me there because there is too much talking…too much reading…too much listening…way too many words being hurled around…too much pontificating and judging. Maybe I’m not the only one who needs to come to the school of silence. There is so much to navigate right now and I think if I’m busy thinking and talking and planning I can’t hear him tell me how to do all of this.
Two of my favorite saints suggest that silence might be just what we need a little more of. Their wisdom brought peace to my troubled soul this morning. So I’ll do as they suggest and just be quiet and ask the Father to quiet my noisy mind, my swirling heart and my busy hands so I can remember the sound of his voice whispering his plan.
Patience, prayer and silence; these are what give strength to the soul. St. Faustina
Silence is God’s first language. St. John of the Cross
A Seed To Plant: Turn off the noise…all of it for an hour or a day and steep yourself in his silence.
Blessings on your day!
Do not be afraid…1 Kings 17:13
The other night I was making dinner and I reached in the cupboard to grab the olive oil. I pulled out the dark green bottle and began to pour, only to discover that instead of a stream of oil coming from the bottle all I was seeing was a few drips! I immediately got frustrated at the inconvenience. Instead of quickly finishing up, I had to go dig through the pantry and hopefully retrieve a full bottle. After just a few seconds of looking and re-shuffling the pantry I found a full bottle and returned to my task. As I stood there in my kitchen stirring I was wondering who it was who emptied the old one without replacing it and why couldn’t they have just taken a few more seconds to replace the bottle instead of leaving the work to me. Then like a smack to the head, I remembered the story of the widow and Elijah from the Old Testament.
If you remember the story, Elijah shows up at this widow’s house during a time of famine and asks her for some water to drink and something to eat. She looks at him and lets him know she’d love to help but can’t. She honestly reports that she has only a bit of oil and a tiny bit of flour and she was getting ready to prepare the last of it for a meal for herself and her son…get this…and then they were going to die because there was no more food. Pause there for a minute…replay…I’m going to use the last drops of oil and spoons of flour to make a cake (yum ?) for us and then we will prepare to die. Not, then I will go to the pantry and get more oil. Not, then I will run to the store and buy more oil or go to the neighbor’s house and borrow more. I will use what I have and that is the end of it all. I can’t even imagine!
As I stood in my kitchen embarrassed about my little empty oil bottle tiff and the widows story I began to see things differently. I glanced over at a full pantry. Behind me was a full refrigerator and on the counter was a bowl of fruit all of which could probably feed a village in some places of the world and suddenly the word plenty was the only one I could think of. I have plenty; plenty of food, plenty of money, plenty of clothes, plenty of EVERYTHING but yet I often focus on what I don’t have instead of what I have plenty of. All of the sudden I felt pretty small, pretty foolish and pretty ungrateful.
The widow’s story continues when Elijah tells her to go ahead and make him some food and the Lord will take care of her and her son. In an unbelievable act of faith she uses the rest of her resources to feed Elijah and as promised, her oil jug and her flour jar never ran dry. The story is about so much more than kitchen staples! God offers the same promise to us each and every day. Just trust me, I will take care of you because I love you and I will reward your faithfulness. The widow loved God more than she loved her stuff. The widow was generous and trusting to an extreme; and her generosity and faithfulness were rewarded to an extreme. It’s a story that offered me perspective and reflection. It made me think about my own gratefulness and trust and generosity. I can’t change all the crazy stuff going on in the world right now but I can’t help but think how much different things would be if we focused on a few of the widow’s lessons and figured out how to use them in our own life.
A Seed To Plant: Read the story from 1Kings 17:7-16 and ask God to help you reflect on the story and show you how he wants you to draw closer to him.
Blessings on your day!
The Lord is my strength and my shield; in him I trust and I am helped…Psalm 28:7
A few weeks ago I said that “I don’t know” was probably my most spoken sentence. As the craziness seems to escalate and the unanswered questions keep piling up, I have tried to swap “I don’t know.” for “Jesus show me how.” It brings me peace because I know he will guide us through this whole mess but I asked for more peace, more understanding and more loving calmness for my family, my friends and my school family. As he always does, he gave me exactly what I asked for, and as usual, I didn’t pick up on it right away. Three times in the last week I have come across this prayer and finally got it. I’m a little slow on the uptake sometimes but the third time I “stumbled onto” this prayer I realized it’s exactly the balm my soul and spinning mind needed.
At a time when there have been so many lines drawn in the sand I’m not sure where to step, I needed to re-claim the truth. I needed to remember the way to heaven is paved by my trust in Jesus, not my trust in a human. “I don’t know” what the first day of school will look like but I know “Jesus will show me how” he wants me to reach my students that day. I’m pretty sure “did you wear your facemark” and “did you maintain proper social distance in 2020” won’t be on an entry exam to heaven but I’m sure every uncomfortable thing…every sacrificial thing…every difficult or ridiculous thing I’m asked to do can help me grow in holiness. When my head starts to spin about whose bossing us around and why, I have to come back to, Jesus I trust you…I know I am your beloved daughter and I know everything I do on earth is a part of my path back to you if I trust, surrender, obey and REMEMBER HOW ADORED I AM BY THE ONE WHO CREATED ME! So todays post is the balance and the truth we all need a big ole dose of today.
Litany of Trust
From the belief that I have to earn Your love … Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear that I am unlovable … Deliver me, Jesus.
From the false security that I have what it takes … Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear that trusting You will leave me more destitute … Deliver me, Jesus.
From all suspicion of Your words and promises … Deliver me, Jesus.
From the rebellion against childlike dependency on You … Deliver me, Jesus.
From refusals and reluctances in accepting Your will … Deliver me, Jesus.
From anxiety about the future … Deliver me, Jesus.
From resentment or excessive preoccupation with the past … Deliver me, Jesus.
From restless self-seeking in the present moment … Deliver me, Jesus.
From disbelief in Your love and presence … Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being asked to give more than I have … Deliver me, Jesus.
From the belief that my life has no meaning or worth … Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of what love demands … Deliver me, Jesus.
From discouragement … Deliver me, Jesus.
That You are continually holding me, sustaining me, loving me … Jesus, I trust in you.
That Your love goes deeper than my sins and failings, and transforms me …Jesus, I trust in you.
That not knowing what tomorrow brings is an invitation to lean on You … Jesus, I trust in you.
That You are with me in my suffering … Jesus, I trust in you.
That my suffering, united to Your own, will bear fruit in this life and the next …Jesus, I trust in you.
That You will not leave me orphan, that You are present in Your Church…Jesus, I trust in you.
That Your plan is better than anything else … Jesus, I trust in you.
That You always hear me, and in Your goodness always respond to me …Jesus, I trust in you.
That You give me the grace to accept forgiveness and to forgive others …Jesus, I trust in you.
That You give me all the strength I need for what is asked …Jesus, I trust in you.
That my life is a gift … Jesus, I trust in you.
That You will teach me to trust You … Jesus, I trust in you.
That You are my Lord and my God … Jesus, I trust in you.
That I am Your beloved one … Jesus, I trust in you.
A Seed To Plant: Print or write this prayer and pray it when you feel unsettled, uncertain or anxious about the world around you.
Blessings on your day!
… Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you… Exodus 16:4
I sometimes have this picture in my mind about making it to heaven and having an “orientation seminar” with God and His angels and saints. To amuse myself while driving or doing yucky tasks, I sometimes compose a list of questions I’d like to ask during the Q and A part of that meeting. Some of the questions are biggies and some are completely silly. I was weeding my big flower bed (completely yucky task!) recently and the list of silly questions got pretty long. The list topper that day was, “God, if carrots and cucumbers are supposed to be good for us, why didn’t you make them taste better than things that are bad for us like chips and cheesecake?” I love my fruits and vegetables don’t get me wrong, but seriously, there is a very good reason the summer ice cream shop on the corner doesn’t sell broccoli splits or caramel cabbage sundaes!
This silly question led me to think about the story of manna in the book of Exodus. It’s a beautiful story of God and His loving faithfulness. I wondered what it would be like to just see your food appear, morning and night with no effort on your part! Seriously…meals I didn’t have to plan, prepare, serve or clean up…that would be heaven! It didn’t happen once a week; it happened every day. The food was sent in the perfect amounts and nobody had to analyze its protein and carbohydrate ratio, dispute its nutritional density or scrutinize the label. It just came and it was perfect! If you read a little further in the story it isn’t long before the Israelites threw a hissy fit because they wanted meat…it came and then they threw another fit about being thirsty. Each time God answered their whining in a miraculous way. He made it SO easy for them! I have read that story time and time again and I’m always a little stunned that the Israelites could be so whiney and demanding. They lacked appreciation and after all they had witnessed God do for them they still experienced doubt, denial and rebellion. I’m pretty quick to think I would have been a much more faithful dessert traveler. I think I might have even been Moses right hand girl. I wouldn’t have doubted no-sir-re! I would have been awed, amazed and completely obedient. Or would I?
The “or would I” leads me back to my silly question about zucchini verses French fries! Do I have the strength to know the truth and act obediently? Do I know some choices are better for me than others…sure! Do I always make those good for me choices…absolutely not? Do I try to wiggle out of the “hard way or the right way” and settle for the “easy way”…yes I do more often than I’d care to admit probably. So you might be wondering what lettuce, cookies and the Israelites all have to do with one another and here is the connection…strength to trust and follow the will of the Father…especially when there is a choice available that seems easier or tastier or more self-gratifying. I have to be more willing to experience a little self-denial. If I really want to live as a disciple, I have to stop throwing a temper tantrum about silly little stuff that brings me happiness and comfort. I mistakenly think those simple pleasures that bring temporary good feelings matter. The truth is, they can’t even compare to what God has in store for us. It’s kinda like having a bucket of sand and thinking you have a sea shore. It took the Israelites 40 years of wandering…I wonder how much longer I’ll be wandering before I truly master the lesson of living in His will instead of wandering my easy path! The road to the Father is paved one joyfully offered sacrifice and one loving act of obedience at a time. Lord, give me the strength to get to You!
A Seed To Plant: Be consciences of little sacrifices and acts of self-denial you can offer to the Father this week.
Blessings on your day!
And he said, “The one who sows the good seed, is the Son of Man Matthew 13:37
With everything swirling around in the world today it’s easy to get overwhelmed. As I think of going back to school next month, I wonder what that will look like. When I talk to parents, I feel the uncertainty and concern bubble up into the conversation. I don’t have any answers but I do know that the Father will bring us out on the other side of all this and we will all be ok! I saw this little story the other day and it reminded me that we are in the middle of making some history. This whole pandemic…this whole weird season of our lives… will be remembered. The how is the important part…how will we remember it and how will history remember the way we lived through it. That made me think.
A man was watching his eighty year old neighbor planting a small peach tree. He inquired of him, “You don’t expect to eat peaches from that tree, do you?” The old man rested on his spade. He replied, “No, at my age I know I won’t. But all my life I have enjoyed peaches - never from a tree I planted myself. I’m just trying to pay the other fellows who planted the trees for me.”
I don’t know how any of this started…I don’t know how any of this will end, but one thing is for sure, our attitude, our actions and our prayers will have an impact on our children, our grandchildren and the folks who remember all of this. So I guess the question is, am I going to plant peach trees or thorn bushes. Both will last and both will be noticed for a long time to come but only one bears a desirable fruit that brings good. History is full of great, simple, faithful people who weathered storms and tragedy and chaos I can’t even begin to imagine. When I hear their stories I am inspired by their faith, their determination, their strength and their perseverance. Those who lived through war and economic disaster and telegrams of lost sons in war bore a burden that hurst my heart to think about but most of them planted peaches and when I read about their lives I’m filled with hope.
“I don’t know” seem to be the most frequently used words in my vocabulary these days and I suppose it’s time I remember what I DO know. I DO know that the Father loves us. I DO know I will teach and children will laugh and learn and succeed and stumble and I will be blessed to watch it all! I DO know gratitude, trust, compassion, mercy and kindness are running shorter than fear, doubt, arguing, blame and dishonesty these days. I suppose we could think of the first five as peaches and the second five as thorns. I think I’ll get busy “planting peach trees” so my students and children and grandchildren will have something good to enjoy beyond all this craziness.
A Seed To Plant: Spend some time in prayer thinking of ways you can trade thorn bushes for peach trees.
Blessings on your day!
…be confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. Philippians 1:6
Cooking brings me joy! I love to cook and feed people and entertain. My food is pretty simple but something about the act of pulling a bunch of things together to create a table full of food that brings people together and nourishes them gives me so much happiness. I’m the kind of cook that views recipes as a mere suggestion. There are a few things I don’t like the flavor of, like nutmeg, so you can be sure I will leave that out of every recipe that calls for it but every now and again, just to practice discipline I’ll find a new recipe and follow it perfectly. As I’m following the directions I often argue about it. I’m convinced there is too much of something or too little of something else but those are the times I’m usually happily surprised with the end result.
I think I take that attitude with me beyond the kitchen too. I can look at things and think, well that doesn’t go together or doing those things will never work out or look right. Our human eyes are often too quick to see the disaster instead of the grace. Whether I’m in the kitchen or the classroom or out and about in the world, I need to remember that sometimes God puts things into the mix for reasons I don’t see in the beginning. I came across this little farmers prayer story the other day and it really hit my heart. There is a lot of crazy stuff being thrown into the mix these days so this brought me peace. I read it and took a breath to remember the master mixer is in charge!
A pastor asked an older farmer, decked out in bib overalls, to say grace for the morning breakfast. Lord, “I hate buttermilk”, the farmer began. The visiting pastor opened one eye to glance at the farmer and wondered where this was going. The farmer loudly proclaimed, “Lord I hate lard.” Now the pastor was growing concerned. Without missing a beat, the farmer continued. “And Lord you know I don’t care for raw white flour.” The pastor once again opened an eye to glance around the room and saw that he wasn’t the only one to feel uncomfortable. Then the farmer added, “But Lord, when you mix them all together and bake them, I do love fresh biscuits. So Lord when things come up that we don’t like, when life gets hard, when we don’t understand what you’re saying to us, help us to just relax and wait until you are done mixing. It will probably be better than biscuits. Amen”
Today, I think I’ll just enjoy the biscuits!
A Seed To Plant: Make a list of those places you have a hard time seeing God’s good and grace, and ask him to grant you patience and trust while he finishes mixing all the parts together.
Blessings on your day!
I write to you, children, because you know the Father… 1John 2:14
As I continue on my closet cleaning and packing quest this summer, I was getting a little grumpy about the whole process. It isn’t my favorite way to spend summer days but every now and then I run across a treasure hidden in a box or on a top shelf that adds some joy to the job. One day last week I found a bundle of letters and cards all tied together with a ribbon. Some of them were from decades ago and it was fun to look through them and remember.
Looking through that bundle of notes and letters I felt so loved and appreciated. I was touched not so much by the words on the page but by the investment of time, energy and thought that went into that bundle. There was shopping, writing, looking up an address and getting to the post office to buy a stamp and pop it into the mailbox. Today, we do things so differently. I remember my mom and my aunts had a drawer full of cards to choose from and a trip to the post office was a daily event. It isn’t often that I go to the mail box and find something truly exciting that I can’t wait to rip open. Today, we communicate mostly by email or text and the process is certainly more efficient, cheap and speedy. I love my pile of letters but if I think about all the communication I send and receive in a week and having to do it all by hand and mail it would require a whole extra day in the week to keep up…plus another side job to pay the postage and buy the cards! Things change!
As I sat with the pile of letters on my desk I found one from my dad. My dad isn’t one for flowering things up or using more words than necessary so when I found one that simply said, “I love you,. Your Mom would be proud.” I realized it didn’t matter how the message was sent, it was all about how the message was received. I moved on to another closet all the while wondering if Jesus would communicate through a long lovely letter or if he was more like an email or text. I began conjuring up in my mind all the messages I thought he’d like me to hear and what they might look like. I suppose sometimes he’d be gentle with a long poetic love letter. I’m sure there are days he would give me a direct loving message of truth like my dad and I’d be lying if I didn’t admit there would be days he’d like to send me a few word text in all caps with some exclamation points at the end.
It was great to look through that stack and be reminded of peoples thoughts but the Father is sending us message all day, every day to direct, love, instruct and encourage us. He communicates through Scripture, through people and through those little whispers and nudges we get when we call his name and invite him to come into our mess. My prayer as I tucked that treasured bundle away in a box was that I’d pay more attention to his communication with me. I pray I’ll be a better listener and live his words not bundle them up and tuck them away forgetting what he really wants me to know. His basic message to all of us is the same…”I love you more than you are capable of loving.” “I will always be right here waiting for you to invite me in.” and “Make me the one thing you love more than anything or anyone and all will be better than you can imagine.”
A Seed To Plant: Write two messages this week. Write one to someone who needs to hear something good. Send it in any way you’d like, just share some love and encouragement. The second letter is to your Heavenly Father. You can tell, ask, wonder and offer your plans, just spill our your heart in writing as if writing to your very best friend.
Blessings on your day!
Why do you notice the splinter in your brothers eye but not notice the wooden plank in your own? Matthew 7:3
I sure have a knack for overcomplicating things sometimes! It’s easy to get tangled up in the stories and happenings in other peoples lives and forget that we aren’t saddled with the job of deciding and judging and sorting it all out. Thank goodness that’s the work of the Father. I’m simply called to love God and to love others. Seems simple but rest assured, I can goof up even that very simple instruction. God always has a way of yanking me back when I’ve wandered too far off. This week he did it with a teeny little story.
A wise, old middle-eastern mystic said this about himself. “I was a revolutionary when I was young and all my prayer to God was: ‘Lord, give me the energy to change the world.’ As I approached middle age and realized that my life was half-gone without my changing a single soul, I changed my prayer to : ‘Lord, give me the grace to change all those who come in to contact with me. Just my family and friends and I shall be satisfied.’ Now that I am an old man and my days are numbered, I have begun to see how foolish I have been. My one prayer now is: ‘Lord, give me the grace to change myself.’ If I had prayed for this right from the start, I would not have wasted my life.
A Seed To Plant: Just read that little story a few times and ask the Lord to let it wash over you and change you. I think the world will look a whole lot different if we get this one little prayer right!
Blessings on your day!
So the last will be first and the first will be last. Matthew 20:16
How long would it take you to come up with a list of chores you really don’t like to do? If you’re anything like me you often try to get somebody else to do those. Let’s face it, some tasks are just awful and nobody wants to do them. Today I’m going to suggest that those are exactly the jobs we should be doing before anybody else gets a chance. Now before you quit reading thinking I’ve lost my marbles let me explain what I mean.
I think sometimes we get things a little backwards and forget the importance of humility and the blessings that flow from simple humble service. I heard a story not long ago about a man who makes it a point to always pick up the paper towel from the floor any time he goes into a restroom. You might be surprised to learn that the man is a famous executive. His car needed a repair while he was traveling on business one day so he pulled into a small gas station for the repair. He waited patiently and as usual, after using the restroom he picked up all the stray paper towel that littered the floor. When he was paying his bill he offered his kind thanks, included a tip for the repairman and his check was met with a question from one of the station employees. The young man said he knew what the restroom looked like before and he knew this man was responsible for its transformation and he wanted to know why a man who was rich and powerful would feel it necessary to do a job even he didn’t want to do. The man smiled and told the young man it was a simple task to keep him aware of how important humble service was. As he was leaving the station he looked at the young man and said, “I don’t ever want to get too big for my britches or think I’m better than someone else. We all have to find ways to take care of each other.”
I think as a society we are insulted and offended too easily. It’s easy to think things “aren’t our job” or that some tasks belong to those with less seniority or authority. Sometimes following the example of the executive is more beneficial for us than it is for anybody else. The most powerful thing about humble service is that it completely removes us from the picture. We don’t do those nasty little tasks like picking up restroom paper towel in order to advance in our career or get a raise in pay, we do it simply to serve others and it is in those simple acts of selflessness we may truly serve God. I can pick something up even if I didn’t drop it, I can give someone the closer parking spot, I can hold the door or distract a frazzled moms fussy toddler while she pays for her groceries. It’s all humble service…now I just have to remember to do it!
A Seed To Plant: Take a couple days to pray with this thought then like the executive, pick something you can do as an act of humble service.
Blessings on your day!
Gentle words bring life and health; a deceitful tongue crushes the spirit.” Proverbs 15:4
Eight years seems like a long time. Eight Junes ago I was the mama of a college student and two high schoolers. I didn’t have any gray hair, I sported fewer wrinkles and I didn’t qualify to belong to AARP. Eight years ago I finally said yes to the Holy Spirit’s prompting and started writing the Joyful Words Blog and eight years ago I could never have imagined we’d still be at it. Two blogs a week for eight years is a lot of words and I thank the Holy Spirit for all of them. As I was on my porch thinking about the blog I pondered the power of words, especially in these crazy days and realized how much power our words have. They have power for great good and power for great harm. As I was thinking and praying about the words we use with our family, our friends and on social media I came across this great story about St. Philip Neri.
A lady once went to St. Philip for confession and she confessed that she had been gossiping and speaking unkindly about others. For her penance he told her to go to the market and buy an unplucked bird. On her walk home she was to pluck the bird and scatter the feathers along the way and then come back to see him the next day. She did as he told her and returned the following day feeling a bit foolish about the whole event. He praised her for her obedience and then told her for the completion of her penance she was to walk the same path and collect all the feathers she had tossed along the way. She gasped and pointed out the impossibility of the task. “ Father, the wind has scattered the feathers in all directions and I will never be able to capture them all.” she said. The saint replied, “Quite true. Neither can you recall the damaging words about your neighbors which by this time have passed from mouth to mouth far beyond your reach. Be careful in the future and watch every word you utter.”
Our words have great power and each day the Father puts people in our path who can either be lifted up or squashed down by our words. Sometimes those very people live in our house and need our good words more than we realize. For eight years I have prayed to the Holy Spirit every time I sit down to my laptop asking for the words someone needs to be lifted, cheered, encouraged or comforted. I’ve prayed for words of peace and healing and insight. I’ve asked for words of light and truth and joy. The biggest request of all, is that he will help me speak those kinds of words all the time and not just in print twice a week. I’ve asked for the grace to live the words I type here and over the past eight years I can see some places I’ve gotten it right but I am also aware of all the “feather chasing” I need to do.
I’m grateful for those of you who log on and read and I pray for all of you each time I hit the “publish” button. I promised the Holy Spirit when I started this thing eight years ago that I would continue to write as long as people continued to read so thank you for your support and your prayers as we all joyfully navigate our way to holiness.
A Seed To Plant: Find someone this week who really needs some good words and be the one to lift them up!
Blessings on your day!
A false balance is an abomination to the LORD, But a just weight is His delight. Proverbs 11:1
I had a wonderful kindergarten teacher named Mrs. Justice and she was a gem! Seriously, if I can remember gobs of things about her after nearly a half century; lets face it, she must have been awesome! I loved her laugh, her kindness and the way her room felt so much like home. There was however one thing in our classroom that I hated…the balance beam. The silly thing sat just a couple inches off the floor but it terrified me. I would step up on it and instantly begin to sway and stagger like I’d been drinking for a week. Looking back I have no idea why I had such a lousy sense of balance. I’m sure I just thought too much about it and the lack of balance was all in my head but I still remember that confusing, out of control sensation.
I haven’t been on a balance beam since kindergarten but I sure can relate to that same out of balance feeling for different reasons. The funny thing is, when I was trying to walk on that silly beam, it was all my issue; I was the one responsible for that fuzzy, tippy feeling so all I had to do was hop down and balance was restored. Today it’s not so simple. Today the imbalance is usually served up at the hands of others and it can make us a little crazy.
Fake news leads us to imbalance. People with narrow minded, black and white “hell or high water” thinking and speech can lead us to imbalance. Companies or folks who only tell the slice of truth that helps them market their stuff lead us to imbalance. Last week my school computer screamed at me and flashed warnings that it had been attacked by some kind of trojan horse, worm, scorpion, flaming dragons virus thingy. It scared the snot out of me! I didn’t really want work on curriculum in the first place but then to have my computer tell me that my credit cards and possibly my first born offspring were in danger (ok, maybe that’s a little dramatic!) made me feel a little out of balance. It ended up being a pretty simple fix but as it turns out the voice coming from my computer wanted to sell me some kind of product to perfect my potentially attacked computer. Wasn’t that helpful of them! Once I found out everything was ok, I breathed a sigh of relief and then I got a little irritated that it was so easy to be thrown off balance; I was right back in kindergarten facing down that silly balance beam.
After the whole virus debacle, I happened to find an article on a health and nutrition blog that outlined some of the fabulous things good black coffee can do for a person. I of course agreed enthusiastically with every word and felt very affirmed in my coffee habit. Not two hours later, I was checking email and stumbled onto an article telling me my morning “nectar of the Gods” was going to have me lame, forgetful and sick as a dog if I didn’t dump it out and never take a sip again. Of course I took that entire article as a big pile of horse pucky! Again though, I was surprised at how easy it is to loose our balance when everyone with a laptop or access to social media can flip the truth completely out of balance and leave us scratching our heads.
Since I’m not Queen of the Universe and I can’t control all the ridiculous stuff people like to spit out as truth, I had to give it some prayer and thought and this is what I came up with. Logic and common sense may seem be a bit out of fashion but we can all make an effort to bring them back. Think first ;speak later (or not at all) seems to be a good idea sometimes. Don’t believe everything you hear (read) is sound advice. Trading media time for prayer time would be splendid for many reasons. The final thing; it’s a big one…pray for balance and truth. We get so sucked in to the craziness but what if we just didn’t. What if we refrained from replying to something just so we can have our voice heard. It just might be better for the whole planet if we worried more about simply having our voice heard by the Father who gave us that voice cause I’pretty sure he didn’t give it to us and instruct us in scripture to “go forth and make an ugly, controversial, half baked truthful noise”. When all else fails, do what I did in kindergarten when that silly balance beam threw me off balance…just hop off and go do something better!
A Seed To Plant: The next time you read something that throws you off balance, stop right then and there and pray for the person or folks at the root of it. Something mighty will happen if we all get a little better at that!
Blessings on your day!
I could not get a post to come together today...my mind was blank and the Holy Spirit was quiet so I put things away for a couple of hours. The words, "the work is done" popped into my head. I ridiculously kept trying to write and when I tried to post a writing the Lord clearly didn't approve of I ended up on the archive page. When I tried to click out of the archive page, I landed on this post from 2015...I'm smiling through tears at the timing and wisdom of the Lord...seems like 5 years later, we haven't changed as much as we thought.
In my distress I called to the Lord…Psalm 18:6
If our high school would have had a debate team, I would have been absolutely the last person picked to be on it! I’m amazed at the way some people can eloquently deliberate a topic with conviction and finesse. Still others can bark an opinion and slam you with a defense that leaves your head spinning. I simply smell controversy or conflict and nearly trip over my own feet trying to get away from the conversation! We all have our own opinions and we all have the ability to make choices but that doesn’t mean we are obligated to yell them out. As Christians, it’s up to us to make sure our opinions and choices are based on truth and rooted in Scripture and Church teaching. Seems simple enough right?
As a society we don’t like to be told what to do. We aren’t so good with rules and regulations and I wonder if that is because there are so many voices yackin we can’t even hear the truth anymore. I’m not sure what happened to right and wrong; good and bad but we seem to live in a world full of clauses and sub-groups and exceptions. Some days I think gray is the most popular color in America. A very wise man I know always used to say, “Just do the right thing and keep your mouth shut.” Imagine what would happen if everyone was told to follow that advice for a day! What would happen if everyone was told they couldn’t say one thing for a day unless it was based in truth and steeped in Scripture?
A person could get pretty upset and discouraged with the state of affairs we seem to be in right now; but then that’s exactly what Satan wants. He would be delighted to think he’s reduced us all to a society of bickering, selfish, self-centered, slandering, lying, cheating, stealing idiots. He would be delighted to think we’ve forgotten our mission to seek the truth, live the truth and love the God who created us. Well news flash…WE HAVEN’T! I have come to realize a couple important truths of my own in the last couple days that seemed to yank me right out of my disappointment with our current state of affairs. The first; when we get to heaven we won’t present a summary of our best earthly actions nor will we be judged in groups. We are flying SOLO so it is our sole responsibility to make sure the choices we make and the opinions we base our actions on are in line with the will of the Father. One thing that is not gray…following the will of the Father is often very hard! He cares about our character not our comfort. The second; God is bigger than anything going on here on earth! He’s mightier than any ruling, leader, mandate or current event. He’s the one we should be aligning ourselves with, seeking protection from, gaining wisdom from and hanging on every word from. In order to do that well; to really follow His lead; we need to spend time in conversation with him. What would happen if the next time we see a post, or hear a news report that bubbles up our blood we stopped before reacting and spent a moment or two in prayer. Before we spout off our opinion what if we asked the Holy Spirit to inspire our words to be truthful and steeped in Scripture? God is bigger, richer, stronger and mightier than any of us combined but in order to see all of that clearly revealed to this hurting world, we have to live like we love him and become a world that prays first before anything else!
A Seed To Plant: Make a list of three “things”, “people”, or “groups” that seem to bother you most. Your task for the next week is to pray consistently for those three things. In your prayer, ask God to guide your actions and reactions to those three things.
Blessings on your day!
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