Weekly Word

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


 

Be Led by the Light of Joy

Blog by Sr. Anne Lythgoe, shown in her pottery studio

 

 

 

Recently, my direction in glazing pots has been moving towards underglaze surface decoration: reds, blues, purple, black, greens, and a yellow that’s got a hint of orange.

 

 

 

 

More notably, I have discovered these marvelous little birds that I create that I think I must have seen somewhere — because I don’t think it’s an original idea. Regardless, I like the whimsy, I like the spontaneity of drawing them and I see them as a simple way to bring joy to the beholder. They’re just plain fun. I have also explored stylized red poppies using thin black lines to help create the shape and it is so spontaneous for me — a welcomed shift away from feeling somewhat constrained by my glaze palette of commercial glazes that I used for a very long time. So I feel like I’m in a new moment.

My deepest desire is that my pots make a connection with another human being so that when someone is using a bowl or mug or pot of mine it becomes special for them, not because I made it, but because it holds meaning for them. The real source of joy for me is the meaning-making in making art. So when Sarah, my mentor, and I talked about these cute little bird mugs, I was mildly embarrassed by them because I thought they were just fun and not to be taken too seriously. Much to my surprise Sarah saw something different than what I saw in them and I think that’s what meaning is all about — it depends on what the other person sees.

“Do you want to know what I see?” Sarah said. “I see diversity, community, and they are intergenerational.”

Wow! And I was worried people would not take my work seriously. Like most serious potters, I put so much attention and time and love into my pots that it is important to me they be valued by the people who ultimately own them. Not speaking even about monetary value, but the value of excellent pots, worthwhile objects that bring joy, that connect one human being to another.

What strikes me the most in this Advent/Christmas Season — and having just celebrated Gaudete Sunday when the pink candle is lit–that the moral of this story today is: pursue what brings you joy. Throughout this Advent/Christmas season, given all that we have been through the last two years of pandemic, we surely have realized that true joy is being with people dear to us.  Be led by the light of joy, that comes from a sense of belonging and cherishing what is truly important to you. Be led by the light of joy and take what you have learned from the pandemic that has made a positive impact on your life.  Be led by the light of what matters most to you.  Celebrate that this Christmas.

 

Posted in Weekly Word

A Joyful Mind 

Blog by Sr. Anne Lythgoe, shown in her pottery studio

A few months ago, someone shared with me a daily email published by author Richard Rohr entitled, “A Joyful Mind”.  The title alone attracted me. And as we look toward celebrating Thanksgiving Day soon, I come back to it now, I guess because this feast of giving thanks remains the one national holiday that maintains its singular purpose. We give one day to knowing that all that we have and all that we are to one another, is essentially God’s gift to us. And joy is the fruit of that realization.  

In Rohr’s book, the Naked Now, (and how’s that for a title?) he suggests ways to practice the way of a joyful mind. So I want to share some of those ways here in the hope that they might be a spiritual preparation for celebrating Thanksgiving in a way that increases the joy of our families and friends in whatever way we gather. 

A joyful mind is: 

  • When your mind does not need to be right. 
  • When you no longer need to compare yourself with others. 
  • When your mind can be creative, but without needing anyone to know. 
  • When you can live in contentment with whatever the moment offers. 
  • When your mind does not need to be in charge but can serve the moment with gracious and affirming information. 
  • When your mind follows the intelligent lead of your heart. 
  • When your mind is curious and interested, not suspicious and interrogating.  
  • When your mind does not brood over injuries.” 
  • When your mind does not need the future to be better than today. 
  • When your mind can accept yourself as you are, warts and all. 
  • When your mind does not divide and always condemn one side or group. 
  • When your mind can critique and also detach from critique. 
  • When your mind can wait, listen, and learn. 
  • When your mind can live satisfied without resolution or closure. 
  • When your mind can forgive and actually forget.” 
  • When your mind does not need to complain or worry to get motivated. 
  • When your mind can find God in all things. 

Dear God, 

Help us to begin this season of Thanksgiving as a season of joy. Help us to observe this season as a respite from tension, from worry, from excessive control. Help us to be satisfied with the light we have and learn to trust that you guide our footsteps. Help us embrace the ways of a joyful mind and enjoy each other’s company. 

Amen. 

Posted in Weekly Word

Persisting through Frustration

Sr. Pat Thomas, OP
Blog by Sr. Pat Thomas, OP

Frustration is that feeling you experience when even the most simple of task is suddenly insurmountable, and there does not seem any reason for it. From untying a knot in a chain to changing the systems that control our lives, we experience times when it seems we can do nothing to change anything. That is frustration.

But there is that one thing that keeps pushing us to try. I know someone who does this well and treats frustration like a “dog with a bone.” There will always be a way and no one can take it away from us.

Have you been reflecting on the daily Gospel passages these last weeks? Jesus is so frustrated he even resorts to name-calling; something we never advise people do. ‘Hypocrites’ is his word to describe those leaders who keep denying that they do not know who he really is. They cannot accept what they know because it will mean their lives and strategies will have to change and they see no good coming out of that. They will lose power, have less influence on people’s lives and, in general, won’t feel as important as they think they are. Jesus sort of says “Get over yourselves. There are greater needs and needier situations than you being frustrated that life as you know it has to change.” Easy for Jesus to say.

How frustrated have you been about a little thing like wearing a mask? How frustrated have you been about the lack of decision-making coming out of Washington? How frustrated have you been since the storms (they have been all over the country) when you try to get disaster relief? How frustrated have you been when your child turns to drugs or alcohol and there is seemingly nothing you can do to help. How frustrated have you been with medical issues and paperwork? How many times have you said, “I am so frustrated?”

Jesus’ frustration was real and intense, but like that dog with that bone, he persisted. He continued to speak truth to power and work towards the goals he knew were for the common good. We must do the same, and even in the simplest moments of frustration, don’t look for the easy outcome; look for the outcome that will serve the kingdom!

Posted in Weekly Word

Hope Happens

Blog by Sr. Anne Lythgoe, OP

Last week, from October 12-15, 2021, we hosted the annual meeting of elected leaders of the Dominican Sisters Conference (DSC). For most members it was a virtual experience, technically facilitated by our excellent Communication Department led by Alice Black.

What I want to share with you about that meeting is not the decisions we made or the things that took place, but its theme: Hope Happens.  So what follows are part of my opening remarks adapted to suit a wider audience of readers. The topic of hope is so important and needed, I thought you might be encouraged by a few words about hope. And how it happens.

Sr. Mary Ellen O’Grady, OP, (Sinsinawa), Executive Director of the Dominican Sisters Conference.

It seems too obvious to say that a lot has happened for all of us this past year in our families, parishes, communities.  All of us have known unexpected circumstances that challenged us and have might even made us question our path sometimes. Personal circumstances like COVID illnesses, changes in economic conditions, or other life-changing events, call to mind that life is fragile for everyone, not only those who are advanced in age or frailty or are vulnerable to COVID.

Change happens at a moment’s notice.  Hope happens when we notice it. This time is an invitation to be in a season of hope. And I dare say that all of us have been searching for sources of hope.

In many ways, our country is more divided than ever, more segregated, and more tribal than ever. And sometimes it feels like hope eludes our grasp. As I was reflecting on these realities, I came to realize how important it is for us to notice hope. To be women of the Gospel is to preach a word of hope, to be a word of hope. It is the sure and certain conviction that God provides –that God works within the choices that we make– that hope happens.

Think for a moment in your own way when you noticed hope. It can come as a surprise sometimes, doesn’t it?  Isn’t it a small miracle, that someone says something to you —the right thing to you —and hope erupts? It breaks open in you.  Isn’t it a small miracle that hope comes around an unexpected corner?  Hope happens because you are paying attention to the possibility that life can be brighter. You are open to noticing it. You lean in toward hope.

I am struck by the gesture that happens when we want to listen more carefully to another person.

Do you find yourself leaning in?  Not just to hear more clearly, but to hear more of the heart, to lean into the moment. I invite you to lean in to hope. Pay attention to what might be just around the corner, or as close as the person sitting across the dinner table. Hope happens when we notice it.

We all have been adapting to new ways of thinking and acting this year. We all have had to become more nimble, ready to act at a moment’s notice sometimes.  And yet we hold the long view in our sights.  God’s view in which we remember that all things work together for good.

And you practice the art of leaning in to hope may you know the truth of the prophet Jeremiah: “I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, to give you a future and a hope.”

 

 

Posted in Weekly Word

Saving the world—One Gourd plant at a time?

Blog by Sr. Janet Schlichting

We’ve been hearing the story of Jonah, the pouty prophet, having accomplished a great work for God, yet complaining about a withered gourd plant, sounding like a 4-year-old, “angry enough to die.”

We also have heard the disciples ask Jesus how to pray. Jesus calls God “Father.” It is a name for the love they have for each other, and for the unity they share. It is about God’s daily care, Gods everyday attentiveness to the needs of human beings and God’s goodness on and in the earth. It is about mercy, forgiveness. It is about protection, and hope.

Interestingly, Jonah knows more about God than we initially think. He doesn’t want to deal with God, or be God’s messenger—and why?  Because Jonah already knows–not at the depth of Jesus, exactly– that God (not Father, but Big Boss) is merciful and forgiving, and cares about Nineveh enough to offer a warning to its people  and a chance to repent.

 But Jonah does not want to save Nineveh.  He would like to see Nineveh, that pagan den of vice, be crushed. And he wants that more than God does. So why should he be the prophet to save them? So he runs away—sort of a triathlon of avoidance, running, sailing, swimming–causing all manner of trouble for others, and goes overboard so that God will quell that storm. An even more extreme form of draft-dodging. And then there’s the huge fish, and his three day stay in its guest-room.

Finally unable to run or swim or hide, Jonah becomes the prophet he does not want to be, and travels to and through that city. And much to hs disgust, in one day of walking  and proclaiming destruction, the ruler and the people ( and the cattle) put on sackcloth and observe a fast, and thereby call down God’s mercy..

Jonah is peeved. He pouts. He tells God he’s angry enough to die. Why? Because he’s done God’s work !?  Yes, he’s done God’s work—a mammoth conversion–and it is he who is unconverted. Probably Job’s name for God is “The Big Boss.”

But for Jesus, God is Father, Abba, deeply in love, dwelling as One, working together in bringing the holiness, the bounty, the daily bread of life, forgiveness and hope for a world reborn.  .

My guess is that you and I are somewhere between. God we say, is gracious and merciful, sweet energy, beauty, goodness, Truth. We’re half-converted, anyway. Our,  naming and our imaging have evolved over time, as we grow deeper into Gospel understanding, though on occasion we’re not entirely sure God should expend so much effort in saving the world through our labors.There are plenty of Ninevehs out there we hardly approve of, although maybe we’d settle for being assigned a gourd plant. We  butt heads with what we suspect God is asking, and we often follow our own wills and desires, sure that they are God’s, in agreement with us.

Hearing and responding to God’s voice, God’s Spirit,  often involves a name-change, an image-adjustment, a surrender. We are quite aware that saving the world is much more than God is asking us in our weakness and our hesitancy.   It’s all so enormous. So God asks from us our todays, our small acts of faithfulness, our belief in a mercy far greater than ours.And maybe a name-change or an image-alteration. Of God and of ourselves.

So from all eternity God is not the Boss, or the Judge.  He  is Love and Mercy and is calling our name. :Jesus repeats it to us in human flesh, Beloved; and the Spirit is busy bringing it from our heart to our lips. Beloved.  And we learn—over time– that our name is the same.

Posted in Weekly Word