joy

Cherish the Moment

Discovery House   is a service based gap year experience for individuals ages 18-24. Participants can select commitments of one month, a semester or a full academic year.

Discovery House is a service based gap year experience for individuals ages 18-24. Participants can select commitments of one month, a semester or a full academic year.

We’re back!  It is that time of year, the time that I like to call “stress season.” Unlike most seasons, that only last for a few months, this season lasts for nine months.  And August is the kick off. The month where the summer lifestyle starts to drift away, and the school schedule starts to get into full swing. It’s the time that, whether school has started or not, the stress for the awaiting year starts to brew. There are books to read, school supplies to be bought, practices to attend, and for me—and many others seniors—the time to start applying to colleges. For me, once school starts I never stop working until the semester ends. I am always studying for a test, writing a paper, attending a rehearsal, or trying to catch up on sleep. Although I love Dominican, the transition back is never easy.

Now, one week into the school year, my to-do list already stretches a mile. Unlike every other year, I love my overbearing tasks! I have finally realized before my senior year how precious my time is in high school, because in one year there will not be an opportunity to redo it. With this in mind I am trying to soak up every experience and engrain it in my memory, because soon I will be walking across the Dominican High School stage receiving a diploma and throwing a cap in the air.

Learn to enjoy every minute of your life. Be happy now. Don’t wait for something outside of yourself to make you happy in the future. Think how really precious is the time you have to spend, whether it’s at work or with your family. Every minute should be enjoyed and savored.”
— Earl Nightingale

However, it is not just high school, or college, any other event I should cherish, it is every day—ordinary or extraordinary.  This past summer I have truly appreciated the simple gift of life. A gift we all take for granted that God has magically bestowed upon us. It is a true miracle that you and I are alive, and at any moment it can be taken away from us. Today I could land a big part in a musical, but tomorrow I could get in a car crash. Every second that God grants us is a second to savor. What becomes sad is when people disregard their gift. All people—whether they have a disability, disease, or are healthy—have something to learn, something to experience, and something to teach the world or an individual person. Do not assume you will have the same opportunities today that you will in ten years, go out and see all the things life has to offer.

This, my FINAL year of high school, I am reminding myself to love every minute. That includes dances, football games, performances, papers, tests, and even, lots of homework. I encourage you to savor every moment: of parenthood, your job, being a college student, or simply being alive; In addition, try something new! Whether you are faithful or not, life has the same significance.

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Questions for Reflection

  • What makes you happiest in life? Do you take it for granted? How can you spend more time doing that?

  • Is there anyone or anything that causes unnecessary stress or problems in my life? Is it worth continuing with that person or thing?

  • What is something that you would like to try or experience? How can I make that happen?

  • What is something I can teach someone about the world? What is something they can teach me?

 
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Amira Elsafy, a rising senior at Dominican High School, lives in Whitefish Bay, Wisconsin.  She attended the local public schools until high school where she has become active at Dominican.  She has been the class Student Council President,  a member of the honor roll for the past four years and loves to volunteer.  Outside of the academic world, you will find Amira on the stage, recently winning an award for playing the Witch in “Big Fish”. In the next year, she will share her experiences of failure and success, friendships, family her senior journey through the college process and ultimately how all of this impacts her faith.

Dad Jokes and Blackberry Joy

Apparently, I smile a lot.

Not that this is a bad thing.  My students, back when I was a classroom theology teacher, used to tell me that I smiled all the time.  While I certainly didn't feel this way, they insisted that they could not imagine me getting angry because I just seemed so happy all the time.  I would tell them with a wry smile that they should talk to my children because they definitely knew that I get angry at times!  But it is with a bit of wistfulness that I do remember feeling a general sense of happiness and a more-or-less pervasive positivity in the not-too-distant past.

            Sadly, it's been awhile since I have felt that way.

I think there are many reasons for this.  I have traversed some unexpected personal and emotional terrain during the past couple of years that have taken my soul by surprise.  The trek through this tundra, although necessary and meaningful, has been arduous, painful at times, and wearing on my spirit.  Additionally, I think the nearly continuous news streams of distressing societal events has similarly taken a toll on my spirit.  There have definitely been moments when I've been near despair and have had difficulty hanging onto a thread of hope, despite being a person of deep faith.  I also think that, if I'm honest with myself, I've fallen into one of the traps of being a "good person," which is to lose sight of the very good that I'm hoping to embody.  Elizabeth Gilbert, in an interview with Krista Tippett from The On Being Project, shared, "And you know, you have to be careful about this, especially when you have an impulse to be a good person — a “good person,” and your definition of a good person is somebody who gives everything to others. It's a beautiful impulse, but if it's done from a place of only giving darkness and suffering your attention, then you become somebody who's very difficult to be around. [laughs] There's a lovely line that this British columnist said, one time, that “You can always tell people who live for others by the anguished expressions on the faces of the others. [laughs]”[1]

            This is not what I want for myself.

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So, with the awareness that I am experiencing a disconnect between the person that I hope to be (and perhaps even the person that I project to others) and the person that I perceive myself to actually be, I have decided to pray during these summer months for the gift of joy.  Ironically, it's with a little internal chuckle that I acknowledge that this is not the first time that I've prayed for joy.  I distinctly remember starting a journal at the 2015 New Year with the first page boldly reminding myself to, "Choose Joy!"  Then, only a year and a half later, as I turned 40 years old, I found myself purchasing a daily reminder in the form of a bracelet that says, "LIVE joyfully."  I still wear that bracelet almost every day.  Clearly, living joyfully has not been my natural impulse for a number of years!

But I read something recently that might just become a game-changer for me.  I have begun to experience unexpected joy from reading about...

                                    wait for it...

                                                            the incarnation! 

                        "Huh," you might be thinking?

I mean, yes, yes, of course the incarnation (God becoming human!) is a reason for joy.  Yes, certainly this is true.  But is it really a practical, game-changing experience for someone's real, everyday life?  Surprisingly, I think that it is! 

I have been reading Ronald Rolheiser's classic book on spirituality, The Holy Longing, and my entire perspective on prayer has shifted... and it's all because of the incarnation.  Here's what Rolheiser writes,

"When we pray 'through Christ' we are praying through the Body of Christ, which then includes Jesus, the Eucharist, and the body of believers (ourselves) here on Earth. We are praying through all of these.  Thus, not only God in heaven is being petitioned and asked to act. We are also charging ourselves, as part of the Body of Christ, with some responsibility for answering the prayer."[2]

This is a game-changer.

Learn more about   Discovery House  , a Gap Year experience for participants between the ages of 18-24.

Learn more about Discovery House, a Gap Year experience for participants between the ages of 18-24.

While I have long believed that God desires our action in the world as co-creators of the Kingdom of God, I now have a clearer sense as to why this is so.  It's because we are part of the Body of Christ.  We are implicating ourselves towards action whenever we pray.

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I've taken this to heart.  I've realized that if I'm going to pray for joy that, more than simply "choosing" joy, that I must "work" for joy!  As a result, I've downloaded a couple of apps on my phone... apps with titles like, "Corny Jokes" and "Dad Jokes," to strengthen my punny muscles.  I've finally started paying attention to the wisdom of my very funny husband who loves to listen to comedians... and is our raising our children to love comedians too!  Life definitely becomes lighter when one takes time to laugh!  Finally, I'm training my eye to look for delight!  I find it easier in the summer to be delighted... in a colorful community garden, in spotting a beautiful mural on the side of a building, or in discovering wild blackberries along a favorite hiking trail... but I also know that the dreary days of February will return.  So, as best I'm able, I'm taking little snapshots of these moments of delight.  While I hope that my delight-sight will be sufficiently strengthened after a summer of joy-workouts, I also take comfort in knowing that if I need a little vision boost mid-winter or when times get rough, that I'll have some images to which I can return.

            The incarnation.

                        What a game-changer.

God is with us.  God is with us in our every day, as we pray our every prayer, and as we work towards answering those prayers as part of the Body of Christ.

                                    What a reason for joy.

Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy.
— Thich Nhat Hahn

[1] Source: https://onbeing.org/programs/elizabeth-gilbert-choosing-curiosity-over-fear-may2018/

[2] Rolheiser, Ronald. The Holy Longing: The Search for a Christian Spirituality. New York: Image, 1998.

 

Questions for Reflection

  • What brings you joy?

  • What are strategies you can try to be joyful? 

  • Reflect on the idea of the incarnation.  Where do you see the presence of Christ embodied in creation

 
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Laura Gilmartin Hancock is delighted to be a campus minister at Messmer High School.  She takes joy in companioning young people on their journeys of faith, service, and leadership.  She is married to her husband, Erik, who has made her laugh for more than 25 years and is mom to two very punny kids.

Do You Want to be Well

Scripture (John 5:1-16)

There was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.
Now there is in Jerusalem at the Sheep Gate
a pool called in Hebrew Bethesda, with five porticoes.
In these lay a large number of ill, blind, lame, and crippled.
One man was there who had been ill for thirty-eight years.
When Jesus saw him lying there
and knew that he had been ill for a long time, he said to him,
"Do you want to be well?"
The sick man answered him,
"Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool
when the water is stirred up;
while I am on my way, someone else gets down there before me."
Jesus said to him, "Rise, take up your mat, and walk."
Immediately the man became well, took up his mat, and walked.

Now that day was a Sabbath.
So the Jews said to the man who was cured,
"It is the Sabbath, and it is not lawful for you to carry your mat."
He answered them, "The man who made me well told me,
'Take up your mat and walk.'"
They asked him,
"Who is the man who told you, 'Take it up and walk'?"
The man who was healed did not know who it was,
for Jesus had slipped away, since there was a crowd there.
After this Jesus found him in the temple area and said to him,
"Look, you are well; do not sin anymore,
so that nothing worse may happen to you."
The man went and told the Jews
that Jesus was the one who had made him well.
Therefore, the Jews began to persecute Jesus
because he did this on a Sabbath.

The things of the past shall not be remembered
or come to mind.
Instead, there shall always be rejoicing and happiness
in what I create;
For I create Jerusalem to be a joy
and its people to be a delight;
I will rejoice in Jerusalem
and exult in my people.
No longer shall the sound of weeping be heard there,
or the sound of crying;
No longer shall there be in it
an infant who lives but a few days,
or an old man who does not round out his full lifetime;
He dies a mere youth who reaches but a hundred years,
and he who fails of a hundred shall be thought accursed.
They shall live in the houses they build,
and eat the fruit of the vineyards they plant.

Reflection

In today’s Gospel Jesus asks the ill man a simple question, “Do you want to be well?”  That simple question can be a very profound one for all Christians, do we WANT to be well.  Being well, having fulfillment in our lives, and growing in a spiritual relationship with Christ begins with our own desire.   What is it that we want?  Are we willing to make that simple choice and say yes to Jesus’ question?  Yet, that simple question does not mean that coming to the answer is an easy process for any of us.

I am blessed to work in a Catholic high school and get to experience the world through the eyes of teenagers.   The trials and joys of life hit young people in fresh ways as so much of their life is a first experience.  High school often presents young people with their first big disappointment, their first deep friendship, and their initial awareness of real pain or fear.  What is inspiring about working with teenagers is that more often than not they respond to life’s challenges with a joyful willingness to say yes to Christ.  Teenagers see the glass as half full and their future is a place of promise and hope. They are not jaded by past experiences or flawed hurtful memories.  Teens may make plenty of mistakes, but their willingness to say yes to Christ in the face of difficulties is inspiring.

During Lent we should all reflect on Jesus’ question, “Do we want to be well?”  In prayer search for a teenager’s sense of joy and fun before responding.  My prayer is that I can put aside my adult weariness of the world and the stress of daily challenges and renew my efforts to listen for Jesus’s call.  Not only should we respond that yes, we want to be well, but we should do so with a teenager’s passion and excitement and shout out that “Yes! We want to be well.”

 
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These Lenten reflections are written by friends of 12plus1, Inc.  Discovery House a service-based gap year experience for participants ages 18-20 will begin August 2018.  Please share this information with an individuals who may want to participate or support this new ministry.

 

Questions

  • How has Jesus called out to you?  Are you actively listening for God’s call?

  • In what ways do you need healing?  What do you need to be well?

  • How can you adopt a youthful sense of joy and excitement when facing the troubles in your life?

 

Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire
— Catherine of Siena

Action 

Pray that you can respond to the challenges of the world with joy and excitement.

 

Author

Edward Foy is the principal at Dominican High School in Whitefish Bay, WI

If Only . . .

Scripture (Isaiah 65:17-21)

Thus says the LORD:
Lo, I am about to create new heavens
and a new earth;
The things of the past shall not be remembered
or come to mind.
Instead, there shall always be rejoicing and happiness
in what I create;
For I create Jerusalem to be a joy
and its people to be a delight;
I will rejoice in Jerusalem
and exult in my people.
No longer shall the sound of weeping be heard there,
or the sound of crying;
No longer shall there be in it
an infant who lives but a few days,
or an old man who does not round out his full lifetime;
He dies a mere youth who reaches but a hundred years,
and he who fails of a hundred shall be thought accursed.
They shall live in the houses they build,
and eat the fruit of the vineyards they plant.

Reflection

One advent at Inspirio we decide to offer a day of reflection.  I suggested to the staff that the theme should be joy.  There were a few odd looks that day because joy is not always my mode of being.  Too often, while acknowledging there are many good things in my life, I can be a person who hears the phrase (at least internally) If only . . . If only I was thinner… If only we had more money . . . If only I was more articulate . . . If only I could ‘play the game’ better. . . If only my writing was more inspirational . . .

if only….

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Then I would be good enough, happy, and fulfilled.  Sometimes I wish I played football and at least once, scored a touchdown!  I would do the dance and know, if only for a moment, I had reached the goal.  Paraphrasing the Dalai Lama: humans sacrifice health in order to make money . . . use money to recuperate health. And then being anxious about the future . . . do not enjoy the present; the result being that we live in the present or the future; living as if he is never going to die, and then dies having never really lived.

The world of if only . . . is living in a world that seeks validation, acceptance and affirmation.  It is a world that clings to guilt and shame for past offenses, sets conditions on our value, and has anxiety about the future.  It is world that uses order, control and perfection as validation. Unfortunately, order, control and perfection are the enemies of grace and forgiveness.  God tells Isaiah, “I am creating a new heaven and a new earth.”  Our past will not matter.  The future is secure, and the present is full of joy.  It is not necessary to be thin or to have money or to be more articulate to be loved.  We have been made new and forgiven by God’s grace- not by our meager efforts at control and perfection.  While we are punishing ourselves in trying to be something we are not, God delights in our very existence as we are.  Isaiah tells us:

Instead, there shall always be rejoicing and happiness
in what I create;
For I create Jerusalem to be a joy
and its people to be a delight;
I will rejoice in Jerusalem
and exult in my people.

 

You are Jerusalem!  (substitute your name in the passage above for the word Jerusalem.) Allow God’s grace in to permeate your being.  Then the phrase

If only . . .

would be eliminated from our vocabulary and the present would be full of joy. 

 
Discovery House ad.png

These Lenten reflections are written by friends of 12plus1, Inc.  Discovery House a service-based gap year experience for participants ages 18-20 will begin August 2018.  Please share this information with an individuals who may want to participate or support this new ministry.

 

Questions

  • When do you live in the world of “if only?”
  • What will help you to let go of the past, work through anxiety and worry about the future and live in the present with joy as a new creation of God?
  • When are you aware that God delights in and exults you?
Let’s not be afraid to receive each day’s surprise, whether it comes to us as sorrow or as joy It will open a new place in our hearts, a place where we can welcome new friends and celebrate more fully our shared humanity.
— Fr. Henri Nouwen

Action 

FAST:  from living in the past or future.  Be in the moment of the day.

PRAY: God of all new things.  Make me a new creation.  Help me to live in the moment with joy and gratitude.  Amen.

GIVE compassion

 

Author

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Joe Nettesheim is the founder and director of 12plus1.  He has been involved in Church ministry since 1991.  He is the founder and director of 12plus1.  12plus1 is designed to make a positive impact in the world through service, community and faith.  He and his wife Maribeth, have been married for almost six years.  Their blended family consists of 5 children, 2 sons-in-law, 6 grandchildren and TS Eliot, the golden doodle.