Lenten Devotion for March 7, 2023

We like to watch some competitive reality shows. Our current favourites include The Great Canadian Baking Show, and The Great Pottery Throwdown.

On the pottery show, amateurs are challenged to push their creativity and pottery skills to new heights. We grow attached to them, and it’s always a bit sad to see one of these kind souls eliminated at the end of an episode. We know they have a full existence beyond tv, but still.

There is another moment on the show that has some of the life, death, and new life vibe of the scripture that was part of today’s devotional reading from Good Courage. The quote was from 1 Corinthians, and it’s a fairly well known one about “treasure in clay pots”.

On the pottery show, competitors are often asked to complete a technical challenge- to throw as many pots of a certain style in a brief allotment of time. They are judged on how well they match the example they were given, the consistency in size and shape and stylistic features, and the sheer number of successful pots.

As they approach each competitor’s work area, one of the judges carries a metal bucket. When he sees a below standard pot, he mashes it with a quick slap of his palm and scoops the flattened clay into the bucket. Presumably the clay will be used again, fashioned into something wonderful.

We know it’s just clay. We know that each potter on the show has likely done the same to their failed pots, in their own workshop, many times.

Still, to see anyone’s creative efforts summarily reduced to be recycled is a little heart-breaking. (I feel that way about some of the sentences I cut from pieces that I write- it’s called “killing your darlings”.)

There is comfort in the assurance that beyond affliction and despair we have the promise of a life beyond this one. But I still flinch when I see some one, or something I care about being flattened.

Lenten Devotion for Day 14 March 8, 2023

The Good Courage writer for today was pretty candid about her reluctance to write about despair. She comes around to the realization that in spite of herself, she can look back, and track a path from despair to renewed life.

I’m glad she got there. I think having lived through terrible things, and come out the other side, strengthens us for whatever may lay ahead. This is not an original thought (are there any?) on the topic.

One person who I think has said it very well is Sr. Joan Chittister, who is a Benedictine Sister in Erie, Pennsylvania, and a well known author, speaker, and leader. Here is an excerpt from a post she wrote on Hope:

“Hope is not insane optimism in the face of palpable evil or dire circumstances. It is not the shallow attempt of well-meaning but facile friends to “cheer us up” in bad times. It’s not the irritating effort of ill-at-ease counselors who work to make us “reframe” our difficulties so that everyone around us will not have to deal with them, too. No, hope is not made of denial. Hope is made of memories.

Hope reminds us that there is nothing in life we have not faced that we did not, through God’s gifts and graces—however unrecognized at the time—survive. Hope is the recall of good in the past, on which we base our expectation of good in the future, however bad the present. It digs in the rubble of the heart for memory of God’s promise to bring good out of evil and joy out of sadness and, on the basis of those memories of the past, takes new hope for the future. “

Chittister’s view of hope, which I would sum up as, “God brought us through in the past, so we can trust God will be there for us this time,” is helpful. It’s also the kind of counsel I hesitate to offer. I”d be more inclined to ask the person what they’d been through in the past, with the “hope” that they’d reach a similiar conclusion after digging through the rubble of their own memories.

I also totally understand when people don’t want to talk about it!