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Community, prayer, gift

Thursday, June 15th 2017 12:15 pm
Sister Amy Taylor, FSPA

 

With grateful hearts for your prayers, we share a few photos of our recent gathering. Community life is a gift!

 

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One by one sisters light candles during a celebration in Mary of the Angels Chapel, radiating vision for the future of FSPA.

 

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Sisters Eileen McKenzie, Laura Nettles, Katie Mitchell and Kristin Peters revel together in the gift of community.

 

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FSPA gather from as far away as Guam to create ministerial inspiration.

Let's begin with your story ... and a step

Monday, April 11th 2016 11:29 am
Sister Amy Taylor, FSPA

open book on grass

Everyone likes good stories.  My favorites demand my attention and capture my heart.  I like books, plays and movies that have intriguing beginnings carefully crafted first lines that draw you into a novel: strong messages conveyed by actors the moment they enter a scene, inviting you into the story.  These beginnings fuel my imagination and inspire my curiosity. 

We all have beginnings; from the everyday moments the start of a new day; to the deeper moments the awareness of a monumental new experience about to happen in our lives.  Without beginnings there are no stories. 

Today marks a new moment for the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration a community of vowed Catholic Franciscan women that began to write our story in 1849.  It's an every-day collective of community shaped by each one of us as we journey together.  Show me a sign is a way in which we continue to share our stories and invite you to ponder your own.  We begin this new part of our journey together and invite you to share it with us.  Let's see where it leads ... together, let's watch for signs along the way.  Your journey to religious life starts with your story ... and a step. 

(Photo credit: www.freeimages.com)

Sister Betty's Six Word Mission Story

Thursday, July 13th 2017 10:00 am
Sister Betty Bradley, FSPA


call, blessing, community, education, mission, Christ-centered, Sister Betty Bradley

Are you willing to share (post a comment below) your own Six Word Mission Story?

Sister Mary Ellen's Six Word Mission Story

Tuesday, June 13th 2017 10:00 am
Sister Mary Ellen Huebsch, FSPA

 

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Are you willing to share (post a comment below) your own Six Word Mission Story?

Sister Marla celebrates, contemplates religious life in jubilee

Thursday, April 5th 2018 10:00 am
Sister Amy Taylor, FSPA

 

Called to religious life and FSPA 50, 60 and even 70 years ago, our 2018 jubilarians are celebrating and contemplating. Show Me a Sign asked Sister Marla Lang — who embodies 60 years of ministry in education, community leadership and spirituality — to reflect on her discernment journey.

SMAS: How old were you when you first knew that you wanted to be a sister? How did God get your attention?

Sister Marla: I was 13 years old and my 8th grade teacher Sister Mary Louis, an FSPA, invited me to consider becoming a sister.

 

SMAS: How did your family and friends react when you told them about it?

Sister Marla: My parents made it clear to us as children that they wanted us to become whatever we desired as long as it was about being “good” to ourselves. They were very affirming.

 

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Sister Marla Lang, 1958

 

SMAS: Did you explore or visit different communities before choosing FSPA?

Sister Marla: Another community invited me to visit but just didn’t entice me. They were too formal, I sensed. After much pondering, I knew making final vows as a Franciscan Sister of Perpetual Adoration was a true calling for me. It remains so today.

 

SMAS: As you celebrate your jubilee, what do you recall as your most memorable moments as an FSPA?

Sister Marla: I truly enjoyed each ministry and each ministry prepared me for the next one I was led to:

  • I taught grades 3 through 8 full time for 11 years and then was asked to serve as a school principal and director of religious education, K-adult, for 10 years.
  • Those 21 years invited me to say “yes” to serving as a parish director in the absence of a resident pastor for 12 years.
  • All of these experiences led my FSPA sisters to ask that I serve eight years as community president.
  • Now, all of these ministries have enriched me to be with others at a spirituality center as a soul partner to many (serving in spiritual direction).

S-Marla-Lang

Today, Sister Marla ministers as the outreach coordinator at Marywood Franciscan Spirituality Center in Arbor Vitae, Wisconsin.

 

SMAS: What has been the most unexpected part of your life as an FSPA? 

Sister Marla: I never dreamed I would be called to serve as the FSPA president. I grew up as a mid-Wisconsin farm girl. It almost took my breath away to be a part of three other leadership teams (with 10 sisters) — the Franciscan Sisters of the Eucharist, Sisters of the Third Order Regular of St. Francis and the Tertiary Sisters of Saint Francis. Together we were engaged in reconciliation FSE, OSF, FSPA process and companioning of an African Province of Sisters. The sharing of all this took place in Assisi, Italy before 365-ish Franciscan community leaders. It was a challenge and a blessing beyond my imagining.

 

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"It almost took my breath away," shares Sister Marla (pictured here, center) of her role with Franciscan communities gathered from across the globe to celebrate the Cameroon Common Venture -- Franciscan women of Africa.

 

SMAS: What advice would you give to a woman discerning religious life today?

Sister Marla: It is a gift of challenge and blessing beyond imagining when you put your whole self into your calling. Tending to discernment of the call requires prayer, guidance and openness, plus risking the goodness when found.

*Do you know someone experiencing discernment of religious life? We invite you to share this link, www.fspa.org/showmeasign, and join the conversation.

Sister Celesta: Prayer

Tuesday, August 15th 2017 10:00 am
Sister Celesta Day, FSPA

 

“Yipes! What’s happening?”  

Startling, surprising and scary … that’s when I pray fastest. I make a fervent request to get me out of this. I’m counting on a presence that I know is there, but I don’t always pay attention. When the helping hand comes, that’s my answer.

 hand-sky

Image courtesy of freeimages.com

It is the reality in which I am surrounded. It’s the community I am a part of. Scripture says that when Jesus was touched, power went out from him. It doesn’t make things perfect but it sure helps and I am a part of it.  

That’s how I pray.

Franciscan Way is a series featuring original prayer by Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration.

 

Discernment and Advent: is your heart ready for the celebration?

Thursday, December 20th 2018 10:00 am
Amy Taylor, Franciscan Sister of Perpetual Adoration

 

"... a visual sign of what was to come."

 

red-green-paper-chain

Image courtesy of Daisies & Pie

When I was young child, we began the month of December at school by making green and red construction paper chains — learning how to mark time link-by-link until Christmas. We arrived at the classroom each morning ready to tear away another slip of red or green and inch closer to the big day. I imagine the ritual, a visual sign of what was to come, curtailed our continual Christmas count-down questions for the teacher. It was a reminder — a connection of our fervent dreams to the special time to come. Looking back at the experience I realize it also helped us learn how to wait for something together, as a group. Without fancy theological concepts in our seven-year-old brains, we became a community of believers. 

Now, in our fourth week of Advent, the readings serve as a link in salvation history. The Old Testament prophet Micah is the wise teacher reminding the faithful of a time to come. They too struggled with how long the wait would be. But hope withstands like a long, invisible chain, linking the moments until the celebration can begin.

In the Gospel, we skip ahead in time to beyond the angel’s visit to Mary and her “yes” to becoming the mother of Jesus. She wastes not a moment; runs straight out the door, bursting with excitement to share the joyful news with her cousin Elizabeth. And in nine short months, Mary beholds the face of God in the birth of Jesus. 

Each Advent, over 2,000 years after Jesus‘ birth, we recall this story and challenge ourselves to make room for Jesus in our hearts. Time is of the essence as this year the day of is just a mere 24 hours after the fourth Sunday of Advent. The moment is now upon us. Is your heart ready for the celebration you have been anticipating?

For additional pondering this week ...

How will the celebration of the birth of Jesus change your life, not just a month in your calendar of events?

How does Mary’s example of moving on God’s invitation without hesitation inspire you to take the next step in your own vocational call?
 

Are you discerning religious life? Walking with someone who is? We invite you to share this link, www.fspa.org/showmeasign, and join the conversation. And, stay tuned to Show me a sign for new videos in the FSPA discernment series!

Trying on your metaphorical lenses

Thursday, October 20th 2016 3:23 pm
Sister Amy Taylor, FSPA

 


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Image courtesy of freeimages.com

A few days ago I went to my optometrist for my annual eye exam. I knew what to expect: cover one eye; read the chart; cover the other eye; repeat the process. 

Next the optometrist put me behind a machine that precisely defines vision: a series of lenses (beginning with blanks) through which letters are revealed in quick clicks back and forth in front of my eyes while the optometrist fires off rapid questions. Repeat the process.

It’s at this point in the procedure I hit sensory overload and could not tell the difference between one lens and the next. But I had to remind myself some experiences require quick decisions. I pushed myself to squint harder; to narrow the lenses down to two that seemed to work and appeared to be similar; both potentially the right fit. 

Religious discernment also calls for scrutinization and elimination and resolution—finding the right fit. If you get stuck, perhaps between two communities that invite your interest, unable to find your way forward, perhaps a simple list of pros and cons could be a helpful tool. You will have to decide what weight each item carries as these conclusions do not work themselves out as simple math equations. Prioritize your list. Evaluate your thoughts and look for patterns. For example: are you focusing too hard on where you will live on mission instead of how you will live in ministry? Are you willing to give in to indecisiveness and shut down the process completely?  

What happens when you are called to a conclusion; that there are perhaps two communities that speak to your sensibilities? It's time for a visit. Try on your metaphorical lenses. Look up close and personal into the community’s mission, governance and many more details to see what excites you.

And once you get there remember that stepping over the threshold to a Come and See doesn’t have to be a lifelong commitment. It’s simply an opportunity for mutual discernment to begin; time for you to learn more about the community and the community—with its specific vision for mission— to learn more about you. Both parties have the right to decide if membership is a good fit or not. And other opportunities may appear: a vocation minister may suggest another community for you to explore after learning what you are looking for. It’s not a bad thing but a good opportunity for refining your discernment.

It takes courage to visit and even more to discern which way of religious life, if any, is right for you. Invite God into all the experience. Pray for wisdom and the Holy Spirit will guide you.

Are you brave enough to take the next step?

Is it time for you to send an email or pick up the phone?

 

Sister Amy Taylor is the FSPA director of membership. She invites you to call or write (1-888-683-3722 or membership@fspa.org) anytime!

 

Turn your back or open your arms to discernment?

Thursday, February 1st 2018 1:00 pm
Sister Amy Taylor, FSPA


thinking-of-you-blanket

A fleece blanket, crafted and wrapped  with care for someone in need

Lori True composed and sings a wonderful song called “What Have We Done for the Poor Ones.” This past Saturday, FSPA sisters, Viterbo University students, staff and alumni took this question to heart as they spent the morning together making blankets, scarves, hats, cards, hygiene bags and affirmation jars to be given with care for those in need. For these volunteers, each project provided a personal pathway of understanding; a way to reach out to the forgotten and the vulnerable who Scripture reminds us to look out for. We are called to provide for the child removed from violent households, for the men and women who wander our streets with no place to call home, and the elderly who wait for a sign that they have not been forgotten. How would it feel to ceaselessly long for loving memories in a strange environment (instead of the horror of being pulled away from your family)? How would it feel to get frostbite because your coat can't fend off the bitter cold? How would it feel to endlessly sit, stranded in front of a window in a nursing home, praying for a sign that someone still cares you’re alive?

How do we see these neighbors as our brothers and sisters in Christ?

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Sister Fran and students cut fabric for scarves

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Hand-made hygiene bags filled by students for homeless teens

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Sister Carrie Kirsch and a Viterbo student weave hats

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Sisters Margaret Schmolke (left), students and Sister Margaret Wagner worked as a team to create a soft, warm blanket

The day called for all to weave together a sense of community support for those who are readily seen as suffering as well as for the hidden poor; to remember that the statistics we see on TV, newspapers and social media feeds are individuals — not nameless numbers from a census taken of a faceless population. Every digit is a flesh-and blood-person who has hopes and dreams for their futures too. When we put ourselves in the experience of others, compassion and care arise along with a desire to help. And we have a choice whether to see the suffering of humanity right in front of us ... or not. Will we live with eyes wide open or avert our glance, ignoring our brothers and sisters in need? 

Discernment also comes with this choice. Will you turn your back or open your arms to your call in life?

What will you do?

*Do you know someone experiencing discernment of religious life? We invite you to share this link, www.fspa.org/showmeasign, and join the conversation.

Mary, Clare, a novice and an associate: discerning pathways to God

Thursday, August 16th 2018 10:00 am
Sister Amy Taylor, FSPA

 

This time in August marks the celebration of two wonderful and inspirational women of faith: Mary of Nazareth and St. Clare of Assisi. From this point in history, we can trace the pathways from each woman’s initial yes to the culmination of their lives, mapping what is possible with God. 

I wonder what their first days were like, after saying yes to God. When the angel left Mary and the Holy Spirit’s visit concluded, the reality of pregnancy (and not by her betrothed, Joseph) came to be. It was a yes that, at the time, was messy at best. 

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Mary of Nazareth gazes down over all from the domed ceiling in Mary of the Angels Chapel. (Photo by Sister Amy Taylor, FSPA)

What were Clare’s thoughts after escaping her family home in the dark of night, only to learn that traveling the road she envisioned to religious life would take some time? Did she hold her breath as she waited for the convent at San Damiano to be prepared? Since cloister was required for all women religious at that time, barring her from serving alongside her inspiration, St. Francis, did she even for a moment lose faith? 

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St. Clare of Assisi (Image from the Basilica of St. Clare, Assisi, Italy)

Discernment calls for a yes followed by action. The journey requires stepping forward, bravely beginning new experiences without the security of GPS or traveler’s insurance. Homelands, friends, jobs and routines of life are turned upside down as a new adventure — perhaps one with uncertainty — beckons. 

Mary of Nazareth and St. Clare of Assisi are mentors and companions for two women who in the last few weeks have put their yes to God in motion. One as an associate and the other as a novice, they are both beginning the journey of incorporation with FSPA. As individuals, their paths are uncharted territory — where God will lead them is yet to be revealed. They, like Mary and Clare, will be invited to trust God and community and to share their gifts and talents as the way forward is co-created.  

As you consider Mary and St. Clare and two women who today are entering the next passageway of discernment, ask yourself:

-    Where do these pioneers, blazing their own paths to religious life, inspire me to go?
 

*Do you know someone experiencing discernment of religious life? We invite you to share this link, www.fspa.org/showmeasign, and join the conversation.

In the spirit of thanksgiving to God

Thursday, November 28th 2019 7:00 am
Sister Amy Taylor, FSPA

 

Gather with gratitude on this Thanksgiving Day.

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As we gather around the table in a spirit of thanksgiving to God for the blessings of friends, family, community and food, may we also reach out to those who are separated from loved ones, those who are mourning losses, and those who are homeless or hungry. May we also remember in our prayers of thankfulness all those who have grown, harvested and prepared the food that graces our tables today.

Thankfulness, flaming rolls and the illusion of perfection

Thursday, November 17th 2016 2:30 pm
Sister Amy Taylor, FSPA

 

Americans are hungry to dine on the tradition of Thanksgiving next week. It’s a race to the table as young and old vie for the seats closest to the food of their dreams. The stuffing. The cranberries. I especially look forward to the fluffy mounds of mashed potatoes and homemade rolls—carbohydrate bliss! While visions of these perfect dishes dance in the heads of guests who’ve arrived, the cook may be fretting over the marshmallows on the sweet potatoes and battling against lumpy gravy. What happens if the turkey is inedibly dry? Should we all go home? In focusing mostly on the beautiful, bountiful food, is the purpose of the gathering lost on idealism and expectation?

roast-turkey

Image courtesy freeimages.com

This question conjures one of my favorite Thanksgiving memories: the year my aunt nearly burned the kitchen down. Somewhere in the hurried process of transferring rolls from the oven to a paper grocery bag (in which she put them to keep them warm—do not try this at home!) part of it touched a burner on the stove and a fire broke out. The flames that shot through the kitchen were matched in height only by the screams of those in harm’s way. Logic was lost as my aunt created more oxygen by waving the bag to put out the flames. The fire was eventually extinguished and a gush of relief and laughter took its place. While the rolls were burned—resembling nothing like the golden brown expectation we all had come clamoring for—they were still good. And the heroic effort to put them on the table made them taste even better.

Sometimes in discernment, when visiting different congregations, we carry with us notions of ethereal utopia. (Perhaps sisters in the convent that float through the air rather than walk with their feet on the ground?) Yet observing the real, making those moments matter the most, requires leaving your illusions at the door. Letting go of the idea of perfection can also be freeing as you evaluate your own feelings about who you are and why God calls you to discern religious life. Open your Bible and read the stories of Moses, Jeremiah, Elizabeth, Sarah, Peter and others. God called on the most unlikely people to accomplish great tasks. And each person had to let go of their own perceived weakness to let God lead them to the next steps in their lives.  

When you visit a community, ask the members about their vocation stories and the ups and downs they’ve experienced. Look past the image of a sister you hold in your mind and take in the reality of the person who’s sharing the gift of who they truly are with you. (Click here to "Meet Our FSPA Sisters.") Ask how it is that they seem to remain joyful on the natural roller coaster ride that is life while living as a woman religious. You might find (as they most certainly do) that the deepest spiritual lessons we learn come from the realities that don’t resemble the superlative.  

What expectations do you have about the vocation you’re discerning?  

What illusions do you carry that are holding you back from knowing the truth?

Open eyes can change world views

Thursday, January 19th 2017 11:00 am
Sister Amy Taylor, FSPA

 

This week we celebrated Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He was a charismatic civil rights leader who offered a new vision for the United States; who gave to the world “I Have a Dream.” He dared to imagine a different way of living his life to promote change on behalf of millions of others—most of whom he would never know. Those who accept his public declaration of an attentive worldview can harness that power; declare and realize their own dreams.

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Image courtesy of freeimages.com

Throughout my graduate school classes, conferences and formation studies I have continually been reminded that where we stand has a direct correlation to what we see. If you choose to perch from a place of power in order to maintain power you will not see the horizon from the vantage point of those with little control over their struggling existence. It’s a paradox starkly reflected in the refugee crisis in our world. Each time I see a photo my heart is twisted by the pain and anguish I see on the faces of those unnamed and suffering and unsafe before my eyes.

It’s these images that remind me of one of my professors in graduate school, Carla Mae Streeter, O.P. She gave us an assignment to search magazines and newspapers for an image of a person whose vulnerability spoke to our hearts. She challenged us to keep the image in a place of remembrance throughout our studies to remind us of why we were students of theology, and what the Gospel calls each of us to do. This assignment was more than just a class requirement: it continues to be a lasting life lesson. Each time I enter discernment--from ministry to volunteer opportunity--I reflect on why I am discerning and choosing action. Will the choice before me reflect Gospel tenants?

Questioning motives and desires is an important part of discerning religious life. If the dream is driven by power and recognition it may dissipate quickly in the face of challenge; crumble under the weight of commitment. Following the call of the Gospel requires not only response to the needs of others before your own, but laying down your life for the world around you.

What do you see in your discernment dream? What heart-held image inspires you? Are you responding to a need in your community, or do you envision crossing borders and oceans to give your life and service in missionary fields? I am perpetually motivated by the founders of my own religious community who heard there were people in need in the United States. They left their family, friends and comforts of their Bavarian homeland in 1849 to follow the call God placed in their hearts. Their lives were transformed in the moment they said “Yes” and their work of collaboration and co-creation with God began. Proclaiming your own “Yes,” waking up and making your own dream a reality, has the potential to not only change your life but also the lives of those you serve. Experience in the encounters will teach lessons far beyond any you could have ever imagined if you're open to mutual transformation.

What if your dream is the one the world needs now?

Are you willing to take the next steps in your discernment to make it a reality?

Resolutions and reflection in discernment

Thursday, January 5th 2017 10:00 am
Sister Amy Taylor, FSPA


“Optimism!” I declare to myself as I take in the sparkly white squares on my crisp, new desk calendar, making it officially 2017. As you turn away from 2016, perhaps scrolling to the new year on the screen of your phone, are you proclaiming your own resolutions?


calendar-pencil-freeimges.com

Image courtesy of freeimages.com

Sometimes the desire to successfully create change can be so rigid (and possibly borderline unrealistic) that even just the thought of failure leads to waning commitment or the decision to drop the idea all together. We can also cause ourselves to stumble over blocks of fast change and instant results. The successful goals I’ve reached in my own life happened because of perseverance. It has meant holding myself accountable for my behavior, but doing so in a realistic way. Some days on the calendar are better than others, but when I sit back and review them altogether I see progress. Or even a path to it. 

I remember a time, when I was teaching, that I met with the school’s principal in my classroom for my yearly evaluation. She gave me positive comments but also posed a peculiar question: was there a word I continually leaned on to move the class into the next activity? The word, I knew very quickly, was “okay” (although I was previously unaware of how it had become my prompt for each direction). That afternoon I asked my students to be visual aids during one of my class periods; to raise their hands anytime they heard me say “okay.” They willingly did, providing me with real-time proof that “okay” was firmly, subconsciously, engrained in my vocabulary.

That experience provided me with an essential tool for dedication to successful change: awareness. It’s an elemental devotion in discernment too. What consciousness are you bringing into discernment of religious vocation? What purpose will such tools help you achieve? Community can provide inspiration in commitment if you are willing to share with others personal attributions that may inhibit your discernment resolve. That said, have faith in the support of God and your circle of friends and family when you try something new. Trust—on the days you feel like you aren’t measuring up to your discernment aspirations—in the power of prayer; in visual cues from those around you.

So this week, I challenge you to write a letter to yourself full of your hopes, dreams, ideas and goals for the year ahead in your discernment. Save the letter in a safe place and set a reminder in your phone to read it after the next 365 days. If a year seems to long, try a month or two. It’s a simple but powerful tool to remind you not only of resolutions, but also the inspiration and desire and resolve you felt when putting pen to that paper—your aspirations for discernment in 2017.

~ Each year, FSPA invites the community to gather on New Year's Eve at our Mary of the Angels Chapel for a Blessing of Time Prayer Serviceall are welcome! A table graced with time-keeping devices represents the year ahead. Clocks, watches and calendars are blessed as icons that remind us where and when we are to be as God calls us to minister. New Year's Eve is the perfect time to review what has been and lean into what may come in the year ahead. In this way, our mission of heralding the Gospel is always at the forefront of our hearts and minds.

It is what we are called every day, throughout each year, to do.

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FSPA celebrates Blessing of Time in Mary of the Angels Chapel on New Year's Eve (photo courtesy of Sister Nina Shephard).

Freezing and thawing: potholes surfacing in discernment

Thursday, February 23rd 2017 12:30 pm
Sister Amy Taylor, FSPA

 

In the last few days we have been experiencing record-setting, spring-like temperatures, welcome gifts in what are normally snowy, frozen Wisconsin winters. Yet what lies beneath the ice-free roadways are side-effects of winter’s ills (seemingly worse this year) uncovered far too soon: potholes. Cavities in the pavement big enough, it seems, to swallow, chew up and spit out the tires on my car.

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Image courtesy of morguefile.com
 

These freezing/thawing streets on which we drive through snow and sunshine exemplify what rapid change brings, and the adaptations that even solid concrete is forced to make. Crews work diligently to fill in large stretches of encumbered roadways in between snow storms and bottomed-out temperatures, securing temporary fixes for much bigger issues: it will take more than a few shovels full of heated asphalt to really fix the breach of the once sturdy concrete.  

This process makes me wonder—in its own way, does a pothole break open greater insight to what we couldn’t see? 

Potholes can also emerge when you’ve just acclimated to navigating the already bumpy road of discernment. You may have become comfortable with your prayer routines, secured support from family and friends and be in great conversation with a community you’re interested in. Suddenly, out of nowhere, a figurative fissure appears, blocking your path ahead. Yet while a void in discernment (or even a series of them) can raise some anxiety it can actually spring forth opportunity for creativity. It may provide an opening for you to find your way around—a challenge that in earlier days would have forced you to make a U-turn. Detours may be necessary but, if you are willing to reflect and not run from a change, there are lessons each choice presents. 

Jesus showed us how to navigate such unanticipated challenges: how many times did he have to find another way to proceed with his message? His roadway of ministry was filled with angry temple officials, jealous rulers and nervous disciples, but also the growing faith of the people he encountered. 

What are the potholes that have surfaced in your discernment? 

Have you found a way around them?

 


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