Wednesday’s Word

Be inspired and encouraged with a weekly reflection on God’s Word and every day life.


 

Starting Over

Blog by Sr. Anne Lythgoe, OP

Have you ever baked cookies or a pie and realized that after all your preparations and work — that the delectably sweet thing you created burned to a crisp in an overly hot oven? Cookies are susceptible to overbaking, so I suspect that most of you have eaten an extra crispy cookie or they came out of your own oven, making you ready to pitch them in the trash.

Then you start over. Sooner or later, you find yourself back in the kitchen, ready to start again and pay attention in a different way.

I love cookies and I never met a pie I did not like. But I do not bake – I throw clay. Recently, over the Christmas break, my kiln load of four months’ work overfired. By a lot. So my beautiful large serving bowl — my favorite of the whole group – looked like a cake whose icing had melted and the flowers and swirls of color dripped down like rain on sidewalk chalk art, into an unredeemable mess. Other pieces that were supposed to be a bright and cheerful aqua celadon were dull greyish green. I was devastated and felt like I wasted a precious week in the studio, a time for renewal of spirit, mind and body. Like I said, it took me four months to create enough work to fill the kiln and most of it was a disappointment. To say I was grumpy is to put it mildly. I was baffled and obsessed and found myself talking about it way too much.

The problem was I did not know why the kiln fired so extremely hot since there was no evidence of anything wrong until after it had cooled. It takes about ten hours for the kiln to get to the desired 2228 degrees and then another 12 hours to cool, so we are not talking about an afternoon. It took me a while to figure out that I needed to get a kiln technician to examine my equipment and help me find a way out of this enormous funk.

Enter Chris Powell, a former production potter, teacher and genius kiln fixer. He saw the problem right away and with a few adjustments to the digital readout on the control box, all was well. This avoided my worst nightmare — that I would need to replace essential parts to the kiln.

After an hour of stimulating conversation about the technical aspect of our common craft, Chris left and I had a new leaser on my potter’s life, as well as a plan to make some corrections in my studio practice.  A new start, another chapter was about to begin.

Starting over can happen any time under any circumstances: baking cookies, making pots, in our spiritual life, in our relationships. Starting over is the beautiful thing about being a human being. Mistakes do not have to define us, they help us become more of who we are meant to be. Starting over is a gift we give ourselves, and a gift we can give each other. Starting over says that what I made is not really all that bad, it’s not the end of the world. Just do it again, better the next time and don’t torture yourself over small things. Encourage each other.

Starting over gives everyone another chance to get it right, whether it be in cookies, clay or people. So the next time you bite into an overly crispy cookie, tell the baker, “It’s delicious.”

Posted in News, Wednesday's Word

God is Watching Us…From a Distance?

Blog by Sr. Janet Schlichting

Bette Midler sings the song “From a Distance”, seeking to make the point that the world and God’s view of it are much larger than our differences, disagreements, and divides “here below” look to us; that we are one with a shared humanity in a world community, and if only we could see ourselves as part of that  bigger harmonious reality, as God does, we would stop the hating and the warring.

There’s one problem in the refrain, one which we who have been celebrating the Incarnation and the Manifestations of Jesus can notice right away: God is not distant. God is not distant. God is ineffably “beyond”– so much larger than our hearts and our limited relationships, and far surpassing our capacity to grasp—but God is also ineffably near. The consoling and challenging truth for Christians is the “hereness” of God, a reality that permeates the world and our most intimate selves.

St. Nick and Santa Claus have had their season of seeing our good and bad behavior and judging our worthiness for presents. So we return to ordinary time, when parents and teachers and various moral authorities warn people that God sees and knows all and is tallying our vices and virtues for the day of our final reckoning. This may be momentarily effective in curbing bad behavior, but as we all know, this particular version of God has only limited successes and for the most part, very little to do with the conversion and ownership of our hearts.

We are in the midst the mystery we celebrate at Christmas, the free choice of God to enter the heart of the world and the stuff of humanity, in mercy and love beyond our ken.  We are also in the midst of a pervasive darkness that spans homes and schoolyards and city streets and brutal prisons and the rubble remaining where towns once bustled with human activity, their inhabitants now refugees in camps where as the psalmist put it, “My tears are my food day and night.” And that is only human cost, also borne by the rivers and forests and innumerable and precious species threatened and poisoned through human ignorance and greed.

“The Word became flesh and made a home among us.” This is not past tense. The Light shines in the darkness and the darkness cannot overcome it.  Present tense. Future tense. These are the lines we are given to speak, the words of witness we not only give voice to, but invite to grow in us, welcome in our own flesh. What good is it, asked Meister Eckhart, for Mary to give birth to Jesus if we do not bring him to birth in our lives?

God is not distant. And God is not just watching. There are times we might prefer a bit of Divine disinterest, when daily we’re bumping into or tripping over Jesus who calls to us in human need, slight as a mere bother, or vast as a starving nation.  As the story goes, he began his journey in poverty, bore his own and others’ humanity, lived in trust, responded to the needs of those around him, preached fearlessly, and gave his entire being over for love. That Love carried him and lifted him up, and abounds and multiplies, invades and possesses, impels and energizes us in a thousand ways for the needs of our brothers and sisters. And sometimes we notice, and are amazed, so small and needy and distant we seem to ourselves. But God—distant? No, God—Emmanuel!

Posted in News, Wednesday's Word

BEST FRIENDS FOREVER (BFF’s)

Blog by Sr. Pat Connick, OP

Today is the feast of Saints Basil the Great and Gregory Nazianzen, both from Cappadocia in Turkey.  Basil and Gregory were best friends from the time of their initial studies in their early 20’s.  In their later lives they were pivotal in defending the Church against the Arian heresy.  I would suggest in honor of their feast today it might be a good time to thank God for our best friends.

Thank you, God, for my best friend in life…
Who has helped me believe in myself and accept myself as I am,
Who has helped boost my self-confidence.
Who has been unswervingly encouraging
And has fostered my personal growth.

Thank you, God, for my best friend in life…
Who has taught me how to respect differences
And to honor still my own beliefs.
Who has been my best sounding board and listener
And a place where honest opinions about anything can be shared.

Thank you, God, for my best friend in life…
Who has been a shoulder to cry on, providing comfort,
Yet open to being needed in a mutual way.
Who is understanding
To the point where many words need not always be spoken.

Thank you, God, for my best friend in life…
Who connects me to a world wider than of my own devices
And who has taught me to live more intentionally,
To laugh more deeply,
And to love more profoundly.

Thank you, God, for my best friend in life…
Who is always loyal and protective,
And yet who has taught me new things by a challenge of my status quo.
Who always has been, is, and always will be available,
For unconditional love and support, which reveals to me the face of God.

I pray I have been a best friend to you too!

Posted in News, Wednesday's Word

Women Who Glow

Blog by Sr. Anne Lythgoe, OP

On Saturday, I drove from Columbus to Dayton in a wicked rainstorm, the kind that involves giant blinding sprays of mist flying off tractor-trailer trucks; and cars that whizz by as if they were speeding to a hospital. It was a tense white-knuckle trip.  I had hoped to spend some easy quiet time in the car to contemplate my blog topic that was coming due.   Instead, I kept reminding myself just to breathe.

I safely arrived at a clay supply shop— a heaven for potters, offering every tool, gadget, glaze, clay, book, or equipment you can imagine. A small Home Depot for potters. My mission was to purchase clay (200 pounds), find a liner brush I needed, and talk about a project I am thinking about with Erin, the owner, who stood behind the counter.

We talked about brushes and underglazes, and a workshop I might attend, and the subject turned to her due date — I realized Erin is pregnant, due in April. Then I saw it. Her glow.  You have probably seen this in pregnant women too, or maybe you have experienced it yourself as a mother.  Women who glow have a wonderful and mystical light within them. Erin was glowing as she anticipated the day she would give birth. I felt gifted by her light. I thought of Mary: My being proclaimed the greatness of God and my spirit finds joy in God, my Savior. Joy, the authentic expression of God with us. That is what I experienced in Erin.

Frequently in religious art, this glow is depicted with Mary surrounded by light. This special glow, this captivating energy and light, accompanied Mary and Elizabeth as they shared a precious few months together. Mary came to visit and to help Elizabeth in her pregnancy. What did they talk about? Did they smile together as they described to each other the reaction of Joseph and Zachariah to the news of their pregnancy? Mary probably did the heavy lifting of firewood, or carried water from the well for her elderly cousin. Did she milk the goats for Elizabeth? Elizabeth might have shared with Mary some of her kitchen secrets. Two pregnant women— whose life inside was mysteriously given and known to be of God—talking about herbs and spices.

When did Zachariah notice the glow in Elizabeth when her pregnancy began to show? Did the innkeeper see the glow in Mary when she and Joseph arrived in Bethlehem looking for shelter?

Would we be here if it were not for the power of the relationship between these two women centuries ago? Would Mary have had the courage and capacity to be the mother of Jesus if she did not have the companionship and wisdom of Elizabeth? Elizabeth, who, in a much more hidden and secondary way, was pregnant by the same kind of miracle. An old woman, who probably had given up on having children thinking to herself —what had she done that God would give up on her? Then she felt her child kick when Mary appeared at her door. Joy!

Two women —who glowed with inner light, basking in the joy of knowing God with them —two women who changed the world. So a word for this Christmas Season could be: never underestimate the transformative power of these two women, whose trust in God reaches across centuries inviting us to the same faith, the same trust that God is with us.  May you glow this Christmas.

Posted in News, Wednesday's Word

Advent: Seeing Promise in the Meanwhile

Blog by Sr. Janet Schlichting

An amazingly long time ago, in high school, I began learning guitar. For us starry-eyed “boomers”  there were a number of folk songs that were relatively simple chord-wise so could be learned quickly—and had social messages: “ Where have all the flowers gone,” “Blowing in the wind.” One I loved playing (three easy chords) was ”I can see a new day, a new day soon to be/where the storm clouds are all past/ and the sun shines on a world that is free…”

It was, like our Advent scriptures, a presentation of a vision. And the Hebrew scriptures, especially the prophets and the psalms, are replete with hopes rendered in concrete images. The wolf shall be the guest of the lamb—or as the painter Rousseau rendered the Peaceable Kingdom—a host of God’s creatures, predator and prey,  lying serenely together, surrounded by verdant jungle. More images: valleys made high and mountains made low, the crooked ways straight. The people streaming from East and West to God’s holy mountain, the shining city and the bountiful feast of rich foods and choice wines.

“Blessed are the eyes that see what you see….many prophets and kings desired to see what you see, but did not see it, and hear what you hear, but did not hear it.” (Luke 10:24)

Sometimes, in the increasing toxicity of the world we inhabit today, we’re tempted to close our eyes to all but the small safe havens we’ve built for ourselves, or to surrender to the endless battering from a world of troubles, and view the future as threatening darkness and use the present for simmering in resentment;  abandon our capacity for envisioning  peace and reconciliation, or the coming together of enemies—sheep and wolves, Palestinians and Israelis, Saudis and Yemenis, Republicans and Democrats….

But the truth is, we can and must see.  Our widening, deepening vision is a gift and task of our Baptism and our Dominican profession.  We see the weapons, the rubble, the starvation, the pollution and ruination of earth. But our Christian vision allows us the perspective of hope, that capacity to see beyond, to see more deeply, and recognize that even now, as we wait, Christ comes to us, among us, through us, in simple shimmerings of Incarnation and Redemption—small graces in words and actions of love and mercy, everyday kindnesses, contrition and forgiveness, a bandaid, a kleenex.  We view life with “gospel-tinted lenses.”  And we announce the Good News.

Advent is longing and yearning, hunger and thirst, darkness expecting sunrise, the mystery of “already and not yet.”  A Holy Interim between the First Pentecost and Last Advent, the dawning of creation and the dawning of New Creation. Advent bids us to preach God’s promised future, and to bring hope and joy to voice, even as we contemplate our own weak faith and eroding patience. Advent bids us not to turn away from the world but to trust that light can be found there, and to stand firm in our common human struggle for truth, take it to heart, and preach it from the housetops.

 Come Lord Jesus, come Compassionate Lover, come, Spirit who makes all things new. Come, be incarnate in us, among us and through us, stir up our hearts, prepare the feast, sing the song of salvation, and  shine through our expectant faces as we wait the day when “kindness and truth shall meet, justice and peace will kiss.”  When sorrow’s chains are broken, and the sun shines on a world that is free.

Posted in News, Wednesday's Word