My Great Grandfather’s Voice

It is Sunday, that ignominious ending of the weekend,  tentative start of the week, replete with crowding at the stores and lines at the restaurants.  It is Sunday.   From his tumble-down barn in Margaree Falls, Nova Scotia, my great grandfather’s voice drifts over decades.  “No work on Sundays. Honor the Lord your God.”

The summons of  that voice, of the cadence of his Gaelic tones, brings me here, to this place.   He coerces me to consider what “work” means in a digital world, what “Sundays” really are and how to “honor” God in a culture rooted in frenzied individualism and profound self-gratification.   Its urgency cannot be diminished;  there is the hint of soft and tender desire hidden in its demand.

Intentionally devoting time to what Sundays are about, can be about, is part of the process. To set aside the insistence of email, skirt the exigencies  of social media, ignore the habitual errands that might not actually need to be done,  that can all be buying into Sunday as a beginning.  Sundays can become the quiet day of focusing that can sustain all the energies of the rest of the week.

Knowing that “work” suffers so many definitons means finding what that means and then deliberately choosing something else: leisure, community presence, maybe even church.  “Something else” must be life-giving and healing, a respite from the heady rush of living out privileged roles. It must have the capacity to allow for reflection, to unchain the freedom to explore and wonder, to embrace the ordinary and sense the extraordinary.

Sundays can become that day free of the burden of proving self in a work world.  It can be the time to linger with family, to be present to the needs of others, to build the sustenance of a home.  It can be that day of discovery of what is precious and real.  It can mean noticing yellow breasted birds nestling in a winter tree branch.  Sunday can allow a challenge to the trip of virtual reality by truly living reality.  It can have the character of communal meals or the fiber of deep conversation between friends. It can be more than what it is now.

Essentially, that is honoring God.  To honor God is to recognize that the universe is whole with or without us.  It means accepting the finite and fleeting nature of human presence in the whole flow of history.  It means praciticng gratitude for the time allowed us and choosing deliberately how to best serve the needs of  others.  It means tending to self by interfacing with the divine spark within.  It means breathing deeply not in fear or trepidation but with trust and fortitude. Conscious of the promises afforded each of us, to honor God is to honor how time is gifted us, then spent and managed. To honor God is to embrace the process of reflection, of that deep breathing that produces an awareness of the divine.

I have never been to Margaree Falls, never entered that barn.  But I cannot silence nor forget two simple sentences that resonate in this complicated world.  I choose to honor Sunday, to honor God, and to explore all that means over and over.


Change  is the heart and soul of all life, the measure of days and the burdens of time.  The human struggle to grow and become more human comes through every exchange of time  for experience and memory.  That means discovering over and again the need to improve, to change.  It means being able to see and choose a path and to trust that there can be Wisdom and Knowledge beyond the scope  of human vision and ideas.   All that seems appropriate to the adventures of youth and the richness of discovery.  Truth, though, shows that change belongs to each life each day, every day.   That pertains to persons and institutions.

There is a certain humiliation, a sadness, in the wide scope of scandal within the Roman Catholic Church today.  Heartbreaking for some and faith-altering for others, the attempt to grapple with the intertwining of what is perceived as sacred with what is so basically human has deepened wounds and opened layers of scar tissue.  It has earned charges of hypocrisy and ignorance, charred innocence in generations and resulted in discrediting persons and communities.  And yet, the scandal reflects a subculture captured in the fissures of a broader culture evolving in a global community of shifting mores.   It is about change after all.

Jesus was all about change, all about process.  Like the prophets of the Old Testament, his was not a ministry or life free of conflict, re-consideration, or rejection.  The stories of Peter and Paul are peppered with the same levels of controversy as they pursued growth and change and encouraged others to do the same.  In this time of calamity, that reality is an anchor. To trust that good can come of all this is to stand at the foot of the cross with Mary and then go to the empty tomb with the Magdalene.  Most of all, it means gathering with the confused disciples in the Upper Room and breaking bread together.  That action, that imitation of Christ, in all its simplicity and grandeur speaks of the meaning of community and the power to be changed.

None of us travels totally alone but few of us are truly fully available to another.  And yet, the Eucharist is that Presence and that Promise: always available, consistent and real.  While as humans we struggle to change and grow, the Eucharist represents the Unchanging, the Love of God.  As individuals and as a Church, laying down burdens and sinfulness and embracing the need for change and reformation is essential.  Placing trust in God, in what is so far beyond human, provides a groundwork for that very difficult process.  Sitting in prayer, embracing the moment of quiet to share all that is a beginning of change within the person and the insitution.  It means allowing the Unchanging to be present to the awareness of the need for change.

The meeting of the human and divine that produces sparks of goodness and hope occurs at every liturgy and in so many encounters between persons.  Scandal can discolor illusions, but it also invites the people of the Church to hope and growth for the next generation.   We can denigrate one another, but we can also embrace the sacred. We can deny God, but we can trust that God will not deny us.  Change is the foundation of trusting in the Unchanging Presence of God.




Anger is an emotion of purpose, of significance and strength.  It is productive, acceptable, empathetic and compassionate.  It is born, breathes, takes shape  and dies.  It has a home in the passions of human life, and it has an undeniable protective instinct.  It alerts to injustice,  reacts to mistreatment,  rescues from victimization.  Somehow, sparks of anger and even its smoldering rumblings, manifest the powerful synergy  of human and divine.

Human and divine conspire in the advent of anger, introduce choices and possibility and direction.  The edgy discomfort and awkward fury  cannot dispel the strength of the goodness that impels anger.  There is meaning in its manifestation, and that is honored in its reasonable expression and resolution.

Sacred space, its quiet and its simplicity, are invitations to explore the  swirl of emotions that shape the journey of  life, to name the anger and know the moment, embrace being human.  Sacred space is the reminder that the divine infuses all that is human, all that is real, all that matters.  Sacred space is the intentionality of acknowledging the presence of a gentle and loving God whose goodness far surpasses what is humanly comprehensible.  Trusting the companionship of that God enables a humble human being to nuture the flame of the Divine in every encounter.  Those encounters illuminate the darkness of lives and open new and sacred spaces in the most unexpected places.

Anger erupts and flows from pained places; unlike soft-soled happiness or needing-comfort sadness, anger explodes with destructive capacities rarely welcomed by either the source or its targets.  And yet, its very force displays the broad continuum of personal interests, strengths, insecurities and perceptions.  Justifiable or misplaced, anger belongs to sacred space where it meets clarity and finds forgiveness and knows redemption in being touched once again by the Divine.








Love is Work

“Love is patient, love is kind….love endures all…love never gives up.”   1 Corinthians 13

The words have a kind of echo, a transparency and so a mediocrity: stitched onto a pillow, trapped in a shadow box, the meaning slips into the obscurity of the omnipresent.   The words, after all, are about the work that love is, the effort that the gift of love demands.  It is not simply about recognizing love when it is recieved but becoming distributors of love and grace.  To do that, to become conductors of grace, is to become better than who and what we are now.

Love is work; it requires a consciousness, a self-awareness  birthed in honesty and humility.  Love means practicing putting other before self, thinking of the collective good rather than the personal agenda.  It is about the ability to delay gratification rather than expereince immediate satisfaction.  Though the phrases glide together in a poetic rhythm, the behaviors and choices they suggest are nothing short of painful.  Each characteristic expressed invites the reader to embark on a lifetime of learning how to love which is, in essence, learning how to live.

Love means remembering that rumination over injury, brooding, is closer to narcissism than self-love.  Love involves letting go purposefully, moving forward without the mire of self-pity or quest for revenge.  Love is about living in a mindful, healthy way.

And in its highest form, love is so much more than gratification:  it is something that endures brokenness, fault and flaw, sorrow and despair.  Love forgives.  It is, in essence, greater than any single person, beyond emotional and physical attachments, beneath the superficial interactions of daily life.  Love transcends what is human and hints of what s divine.  Where and when we fail, Love sustains and remains.

The work of Love is the real work of human life.  It is the foundation of what it means to be alive, and yet the choices about love rest firmly in human decisions.  Daring to believe in love, to choose to love, to trust in hope, is to see beyond the suffering that so often characterizes human experience.  Love cannot exist without the full participation of human beings who choose awareness and decide to become patient,kind, calm and courteous.  Love is more than theory, far more than words.  But it is up to us to make it that way.