Remembering Iona

One year ago today, I was full of excitement. I was about to embark on a much planned for and much anticipated pilgrimage to Scotland and particularly the tiny island of Iona. My bags were packed and my walking stick was nestled among warm layers of waterproof clothing. I had spent the months previous in conversation and worship with the others who would also make the journey. I remember spending this final day before leaving tending to the little details one needs to accomplish before any effort to leave home and work for awhile. By day’s end, the list I had made was all crossed off.

Today I have been thinking about the pilgrimage itself and the year that has passed. I have been reflecting on the fact that, I believe, not one day has gone by when I did not think of my time on Iona at least once during the day. I will be in traffic and a thought will fly across the movie screen of my brain reminding me of the beauty of green, rolling hills covered with the burnt-orange of bracken. Sitting in meetings that may last too long or are filled with agendas that do not feed my spirit, I will once again imagine myself sitting in the pews of the ancient stone cathedral where ferns could be seen growing randomly out of the moist, cold walls. Yesterday, as the winds blew around my car on the freeway,I felt my tin-can container move slowly side to side and thought of the night on the island when the wind made such a whooshing circle around the abbey that the Presence of the Holy Spirit was known by each of us who worshiped together. The smallest thing can connect me with the gifts of this time of intentionality looking for God’s presence in a place known to be sacred to so many, for so many years.

What makes a place sacred? What makes our experience of a place sacred? I have pondered this question many times over the last year. Each of us on the pilgrimage brought our expectations and hopes, all of them different. We each had our motivations for making this trip, for setting aside the time and resources to be on a walk together in a land that was foreign to us, in pursuit of an encounter with the Holy. Perhaps an element of the sacred nature of any place are the expectations we bring.

But I do believe there are places where the very ground, the air, the people and beings create a container in which others experience the movement of the Holy. On Iona, perhaps the sacred ground is tilled by the hundreds of thousands of prayers that have been said on this tiny piece of earth. Prayers of joy, sorrow, grief, hope, water the soil. Certainly the prayers of expectation each pilgrim carries as they step from the ferry nurtures the garden that will become that person’s experience of the One we call God and plant seeds for those who will come after.

I know that, for me, my experience of the Holy was made manifest by those whose work it was to welcome. Volunteers and residents of the island clearly understand their life’s work is to welcome the pilgrims who arrive daily, weekly, monthly, yearly, as the waters of the sea that surrounds allows. As we were welcomed and sent on our way by those we had only met, I knew that God was in that place. It was holy ground.

And so tomorrow, I will once again remember the gift that last year’s pilgrimage was and how it travels with me still. I will remember and give thanks. For sacred places and for those who welcome.

Is this place really nearer to God?
Is the wall thin between our whispers
And God’s listening? I only know
The world grows less and less-
Here what matters is conquering the wind,
Coming home dry shod, getting the fire lit.
I am not sure whether there is no time here
Or more time, whether the light is stronger
Or just easier to see. That is why
I keep returning, thirsty, to this place
That is older than my understanding,
Younger than my broken spirit.
~ Kenneth C. Steven, Iona



These are days that call us to be vigilant. I am not talking about any particular political or social vigilance. Nor am I speaking of a vigilance toward justice or even compassion. Though all these forms of living a vigilant life are important and needed, I am not speaking about the kind of passion about an issue or situation that pulls us into that focused, often single-mindedness I often think of as vigilance.

Instead, I am speaking about a vigilance that keeps us awake to the ways the world is being transformed around us. Those of us blessed to live where the pattern of seasons brings a colorful landscape to autumn know that in the blink of an eye, or a strong wind, the beauty of reds, oranges and yellows that are now dotting our yards and parks can disappear. It is important to be awake and aware so as not to miss a moment of the passage, this visible metaphor of the rhythms of life.

I have tried to remember this as I have been driving about the Twin Cities this week. On the North Shore of Lake Superior last weekend, the colors were just beginning to show themselves. The birches were screaming their brassy, yellow song as they stood nestled in the stable evergreens. One needed to go off the beaten path to see any sight of the red of maples dwarfed by these taller trees who love the colder climates. But the color is emerging with each passing hour throughout the city. It can be a full time job to watch it all happening!

This year I have been aware of the numbers of trees that have shown their colors in a distinctive way. Instead of an ‘all over’ showing of their autumn colors, these trees that have caught my attention remain green on one side or section while another part is showing ruby, gold and topaz colors. The contrasts of a tree dressed is such segmented colors stops me in my tracks. Maybe it has always been this way and I have just not noticed.

It brought to mind a report I heard the other evening that once again explained the process by which trees ‘change’ their color. The point was made that trees don’t really change color. They have the colors we see in autumn already in their leaves. The reds and yellows and oranges have been there all along and just emerge with the changes in sunlight, temperatures and climate.

This idea, this truth of nature, made me smile. It did so because the same is true of each of us, isn’t it? I have always been stunned by the idea that each of us is born with a uniqueness that travels with us throughout our lives. Sometimes parts of us buried deep within rise to the surface and we are seen, and see ourselves, in new ways. We carry all these gifts that need the right light, soil, environment to be given the power to emerge at a time that is often beyond our control or even awareness. Like the leaves that carry these rich colors that startle and amaze us in autumn, we also carry surprises we have yet to discover. This very idea makes me feel so hopeful.

I love knowing that there is within each of us a deep red of passion and its sister, compassion, waiting to emerge when the need and light are right. It calms me to know that there is a warm, yellow swath of courage flowing just under the skin. When it no longer seems possible to hold forth in a green, growing way, it brings me peace to know that a glow of orange will carry each of us to a place of rest. All these colors, and so many others, have been with us all along. Just as it is with the trees who now are making their own transformations in their own sweet time.

May we each have the patience and wisdom and vigilance to embrace what lies at our depths and to give to the world the beauty we posses.


Regenerating Force

Thank you Father for your free gift of fire.
Because it is through fire that you draw near to us everyday.
It is with fire that you constantly bless us.
Bless this fire today,
With your power enter into it.
Make this fire a worthy thing,
A thing that carries your blessing.
Let it become a reminder of your love.
A reminder of life without end.
~Masai Prayer

Today I read with interest an article about what is already happening in our beloved Boundary Waters Canoe Area as the fires that have been burning there begin to die out. Jim Williams who reports on birds in the Star Tribune spoke of the numbers of winged ones that are being seen in the charred forests. While many will not return for some time, others like the Black-backed woodpecker are already hard at work eating up the insects that follow a fire. According to ornithologists, others will show up in spring: Eastern bluebirds, Wilson’s warblers, kestrels, flickers, common yellow-throats. These birds will flock into this recently burned area in numbers higher than usual.

It is often difficult for us to realize that this area loved so for its pristine beauty and wildness gets its life,or rebirth of life, from fire. While humans may have built houses and other dwellings in these places that can be threatened by fire, the forest itself needs the fire to continue to be the place we know and love. It is strange to think that what we often consider destructive is what really brings new creation. While some of the wild life will move on, much will return and still others will arrive to surprise the land with their presence. It is how it all works.”Fire has been the dominant regenerating force in those forests for tens of thousands of years.” says Gerald Neimi an ornithologist with Natural Resources Research Institute.

Imagining the regenerating power of this fire nudged me to think of all the many times rebirth comes out of what seems like fire and chaos. While not literal fire, these experiences can threaten to overwhelm us. How often in organizations, what seems like a ‘fire’, rushes through the ways we’ve always done things and sets us on our heads. While it seems the flames are lapping at our feet, it is difficult to feel anything but panic and fear. But when the experience of fire begins to ebb, we can often have the capacity to see things in new ways, welcome fresh ideas or new people in, let go of growth that no longer serves us well. I’ve certainly seen this happen in schools, government, churches, any organization that can dig its heels into the soil of what they believe to be tradition or stability.

Out of the trail of the fire, often known as change, we begin to see things in ways that might serve us better than we ever imagined before. Like the newly introduced birds who will call the BWCA home in a few months, we can have the opportunity to look around and see things we’ve never seen before. We have the chance to build new nests, maybe ones that fit who we are now more than who we once were.

Any of this make sense to you? Is there a place in your work life or spiritual life that could benefit from a cleansing fire? The Masai prayer speaks of fire as blessing. It is a challenging notion but perhaps a useful one. Where, in you, is new life longing to rise up out of what has been destroyed?

I offer this prayer for all who are in need of the new creation: May the One who comes to us sometimes as a gentle breeze and other times as a cleansing fire, be present this day and all days.

Blessed be.

Hanging Out

A few days ago I picked up a book based solely on its title and book cover. I was drawn to it like a moth to a free swinging light bulb. The title of the book? Where The God of Love Hangs Out. It is a series of short stories by Amy Bloom, stories that paint the picture of love and loss, of lives intertwined and torn apart or so says the jacket cover. I haven’t started to read it yet. But I was too intrigued by the title to pass it up. I’ll give an update later.

Where The God of Love Hangs Out. What comes to your mind when you hear those words? Where have you seen the God of Love hanging around? The phrase causes my imagination to spin. It also causes me to take stock of the many places where I have seen the God of Love hanging out.

I am certain the God of Love hangs out in nurseries or any place a baby is born into the world. I can imagine this Being dancing about, celebrating another ‘yes’, blessing the moment and the life of yet another possibility. I am also pretty sure the God of Love hangs out in most preschool and kindergarten classrooms, willing the young ones to hold onto their deep awe and curiosity, allowing their giggles and hushed surprises to splash about the dance floor bringing unspeakable joy.

The God of Love also walks the halls of hospitals and stands at the bedsides of those in hospice care. I know this to be true because I’ve witnessed that hanging around through the hands and hearts of caregivers, washing pained and weary bodies, drying tears that roll down cheeks. I’ve felt the space being held in peace and tenderness.

In homeless shelters and soup lines across this wealthy, privileged nation, the God of Love walks around with a look of confusion. Moving among the mats lying on cold, hard, gym floors, serving up thin, tasteless soup, the God of Love pours slowly over those who have had a hard luck turn in their lives, have fallen off the wagon, have lost their way. I image that, as the lights are turned out and the mats become filled with fitful sleepers, the God of Love stands watch over these beloved ones as a parent perhaps did once.

While I have never been on a battlefield, I imagine the God of Love walks silently among those whose work is war, chosen or not. I can almost see the God of Love trying to help hands reach out across political, ethnic, racial, religious lines, hoping beyond hope that the sight of eyes looking into eyes will mend hearts and make enemies into companions.

As I reflect on it, the real trick is to imagine where the God of Love does not hang out. Even in the darkest, fearful, hurting places of the world, I can still imagine the God of Love standing by, waiting patiently to be noticed, to be known, to offer healing.

The truth is that I don’t usually like short stories. I always feel as if they are over too soon, that I have just begun to give myself to the story, just truly connected with the characters, and then it ends. There is something poignant about them that creates a melancholy for me so I avoid them.

But at least this once I will read this book of short stories with anticipation. Anticipation for more ways I can see the God of Love hanging out in a world that is often fragile, rarely simple, and always fleeting. Perhaps the more this God of Love becomes visible, the more I can hang out in the places where I can nudge those around me, encouraging each of us to be awake, encouraging each of us to just hang out together.

Sweet Memories

Perhaps I have never mentioned in this space that at several times in my life I have been a waitress. I am sure that I have never mentioned that it truly is one of my favorite jobs. Waitressing provides those who like it with a constant stream of people with which to interact. It allows you to offer hospitality, to feed people not only with food but with attention. It allows you to earn cold, hard cash in ways that, for the most part, is commensurate with your ability to do your work. If you feel good about the food you are serving and like the people you work with you can leave at the end of your shift tired but fulfilled. And you rarely take your work home with you or stress out about the work itself. As I see it, It is work ideal for the extroverted person addicted to welcome and hospitality.

This morning I recognized another element of this service profession which I may have intuitively known but had never articulated. It happened at a little Grand Marais stronghold known as The World’s Best Donuts. Ever been there? I am not much a donut eater but this place lives up to its name and it is always good to stop by there. I figure a donut once a year or so is a good thing.

In the past I have only bought donuts to take away to a cabin or house where I was vacationing. But today my husband and I walked into a little side room where the tables were filled with people having their donuts and morning coffee. The room was a-buzz with activity and conversation. Clearly these regulars loved being with one another and loved their donuts!

Sitting at the tables crammed into this little space, my eyes fell on what lay beneath the glass covered tabletop. A jumble of pictures, comics and letters filled the surface. There was an image of a fresh faced young girl taken in 2005 whose reflection I recognized as the now young woman who sold us our rings of sweetness. In another photo, holding up a coffee mug with the donut’s shop logo, stood another young woman in her graduation cap and gown. She was proudly poised in front of the sign for the Harvard Business School. A relative of the owner or a former employee? Who knows? But this little establishment was important enough in her life’s story to warrant making it a part of the history of her important day. Still another photo was of an older man, the dates of his birth and death printed under his name. A short phrase ” the place won’t be the same without you” explained the importance of this place in his life and that he would be missed.

The entire table was covered in similar photos and as I turned to leave I made a point of looking at the other tables covered in coffee cups and donuts in various stages of being eaten. They, too, held the same kinds of photos of yet others who had shared in food and friendship around these tables. I left feeling so full, not so much of sugar, but of the beauty of life itself and the precious nature of the relationships we forge together. Often around a table. Often over a cup of coffee or tea. Often around a food that has meaning beyond its taste or nutrition.

I began to think of the tables I have served as a waitress. I remembered the people who would come into a place I worked and always sit at the same table. How I looked forward to their presence, to catching up with lives! And I thought of the table in my own house and the house of my childhood and all the many people who have, over the years, sat in those chairs. I was struck with the power of tables, how they can hold the stories and the lives of all who take the time to stop, sit and share food. Each table in some way continues to hold the memory of that presence. That was my experience this morning.

And so as I continue on my way into this day and this week and the next month, I want to hold this experience in my consciousness. I want to remember that,as I take a place at nearly every table, I am only one person who is sharing a space so many others have done before me. Their stories, their lives, also occupied this place. Though I may not be able to see them as I could those who had left their mark through photos and writings on the table I sat at today, we are somehow connected by virtue of having sat in the same place.

Perhaps this was something Jesus knew as he gathered his dear friends around a table so long ago and said: ” Take, eat, remember.”

Tingling Fingertips

“Our spirits would stretch out the way the light of the sun spreads through the sky. Our breaths came out, through our lungs, throats, soles, skin; we exhaled from our tingling fingertips. We breathed; we lived.”
~Tan Twan Eng, The Gift of Rain

I began this morning staring out at Lake Superior. As I quietly watched the sun’s light come up on this powerful and beautiful body of water, I was struck with the ways in which the wind moved upon the water creating patterns that moved both toward the shore and away. The dancing of this unseen force moved this mighty lake in ways it has no power over. Under the water a similar force united with the force above to create the waves that dashed against the unmoving rocks. I could hear the sound of the crashing as it formed a rhythm not unlike the one beating in my own chest, rising with my breath.

That is when I realized I had a short chant we have often used in worship echoing in my head. “The wind blows where it will, you know not where it’s coming from or where it’s going to.” This chant written by Trisha Watts carries a tune that resembles the flowing in and out of a wave. I allowed the music that came from my unconscious to flow over me, becoming a morning prayer.

The words of this chant, of course, come from the scriptures. It is an attempt to describe how the Spirit moves in and out of our lives and the life of all Creation. This breathing, this unseen yet powerful force, is like our breath. It is that which brings life. Even a life we have very little control over. Even a life that can surprise and befuddle us. Even a life that can become chaos and be filled with tumultuous questions.

Many cultures honor what we refer to as the four elements: earth, water, fire, air. The first three are visible to us, in some ways, easy to grasp. But air…..breath, spirit…can only be known by its effect. As I continue to look out the window at this enormous body of water, I see the trees and water animated by the unseen force of wind. Just a few miles north, the fires that are moving through the beloved forests of the Boundary Waters, are fueled by the air that fans the flames. Flames that will not only destroy but will also eventually bring new life to the earth through seeds that are scattered and soil that is renewed.

What to make of all this? For me, it is that unseen power of Spirit that is always present. In the Hebrew scriptures the word ‘ruach’ is one and the same for Spirit, breath, wind and air. It is the same word used to describe the Holy’s moving across the initial waters bringing life, in all the forms known to us, out of the teeming waters of chaos. Unseen yet life producing.

An encounter with the waters of Lake Superior never ceases to restore confidence in me. Its sheer presence reminds me of the largesse of the world of which I am only a tiny part. Somehow this makes any problem or distress I may be experiencing seem manageable. It is, in that sense, a grounding presence, I guess. And the wind that moves, always moves, over its surface and under its waves grounds me in the reassurance of the Spirit’s presence moving in my life. In ways I understand and that are visible. In ways that are unseen and surprising.

And yet always in ways that lead to life……..all the way to our tingling fingertips.

Bud or Blossom?

“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in the bud was greater than the risk to bloom.”
~Anais Nin

These evolving autumn days are urging me to reflect on the summer that is now only a memory. This reflection is enhanced by the small notebooks and pieces of paper on which I have jotted down words said or read, ideas that came to me in the humidity and heat. You see, I have this habit of writing down things that, at the moment, seem paramount but on further reflection can cause me to furrow my brow.

I do this ‘jotting’, I think, in a concerted effort to keep myself from writing in a journal as many people do. I guess I think that if I simply write these things down on 3×5 notecards or on the back of a napkin, I won’t give the thoughts too much weight or take myself too seriously. After all, what might happen if someone would find my journal and read words I found important? So, while I may have started countless, beautiful journals, they are mostly left free of any real, important thoughts in favor of the jotting,scrap method.

So on this autumn day I took the opportunity,while under the guise of cleaning out my book bag, to look over the little bits of this and that that has grabbed my attention, lifted my spirit or just seemed like something I should spend more time with. The quote of Anais Nin above was tucked among those scribbles, some of which have lost their meaning to me as the temperatures have turned cooler.

Risk. Frankly, I don’t like to think much about risk. And yet it infuses all our lives and is the stuff of growing, of deepening our lives in any significant way. I probably like to stay in ‘bud’ form rather than take the risk of blooming. It is safe. I know the landscape, understand the soil. Blooming requires being seen, being known for what I really am. And sometimes I don’t like the petals I can put on display in the world. Petals that are less than kind. Petals that make judgments and are gossipy. Petals that don’t make room for other bloomers around me. It is easy to focus on these more negative blooms.

But I have been thinking about risk these past several days. Our older son is having a life adventure, camping and surfing up the West Coast. He is traveling with his dog and making it up as he goes along. It seems, from the mother-point-of-view, to be filled with risks. And yet, it is so much a part of moving from bud to blossom, finding the next thing in his life after college. The adventure has allowed him to have rich and enlivening experiences which have included surfing while seals looked on as he was surrounded by a pod of dolphins. This is not a ‘bud’ but a ‘blossom’ experience.

As I think about our faith stories they are all about people who could no longer stay in the bud. Moses. Esther.Abraham. Mary. Ruth. John. Paul. Jesus. Each came to the point, over and over again, when staying in the bud would have been to deny God’s call on their lives.

And so they took a risk. Many times blossoming led to beautiful and rich experiences. Other times it led to tragedy and hardship. The same holds true for us. To remain in the bud means never coming into our fullness. Each breath, each moment, each day, each year, holds out bud and blossom.The question is, what will choose?

What is longing to blossom in your life these autumn days? What risks are held in the promise of the bud? As the leaves begin to turn and fall, may the buds you are holding find the courage to take a risk.

The Other

“There are nights that are so still
that I can hear the small owl calling
far off and a fox barking
miles away. It is then that I lie
in the lean hours awake and listening
to the swell born somewhere in the Atlantic
rising and falling, rising and falling
wave on wave on the long shore
by the village, that is without light
and companionless. And the thought comes
of that other being who is awake, too,
letting our prayers break on him,
not like this for a few hours,
but for days, years, for eternity.”
~R.S. Thomas(1913-2000)’ The Other’

Reading this poem by Welsh poet R.S. Thomas, I once again connected with a feeling that can sometimes be disturbing and other times reassuring. His image of the one who lies awake at night thinking of ‘the other’ who is also awake on a far flung shore is one I have wrestled with most of my life. While I believe Thomas was probably speaking of his understanding of the Holy, what this poem dredges up in me is that deep sense of connection I often have, at fleeting moments, to those I have never met, those who live ‘across the sea’ of my experience.

This feeling often comes to me in large groups of people. Looking out across a wide expanse of humanity at, say, a sporting event or concert, I think about the fact that I do not know these people. I have no idea of the intricacies of their lives, what they love, what troubles them. I search the faces to look for familiar features that do not materialize. At the same time, I realize that the faces that look back do not know me. They do not know that my favorite color is green, that I love poetry, that I will choose pie over roast beef any day.

And yet here we all are. In this mix of people traveling the Earth together at the same time. Each of us making decisions and hoping for the best. Each of us seeking meaning and a way of being known, of being loved, of being heard. We all do it in different ways but the desire still wells up in us in similar ways. This somehow brings me great comfort when the specifics of my personal problems or the weight of my daily rounds threaten to overwhelm my sensibilities.

While R.S. Thomas thinks of the ultimate being that waits at the edges of the sea of prayers, I think of all those other beings, much like myself, who lie awake in the night worrying about their children or dreaming of a solution to a hovering problem. I think of the mothers, in the wee hours of the night, nursing their infants as I once did, trying to keep awake through sheer will. I also think of those mothers who cannot feed their children, who don’t know where the next meal will come from, and the despair that lives in them.While the poet imagines the prayers washing up on the shore of the Sacred, I imagine the person, on the other side of the world, looking into the night sky, gazing at the full, white moon, just like I am. Are they imaging a person who lives a life unlike their own yet with the same hope for a better world for their children, their grandchildren? Are they imagining me?

This may all sound silly but it is something that swooshes in on me every now and then. This feeling of traveling on this spinning planet with so many fragile, yet hopeful, beings seems such a gift. To feel the rush of the realization of all ‘the others’ that are spinning with me, seems rich, deep, not unlike a prayer.

Have you ever had this experience, this feeling? If not, I offer this to you: The next time sleep eludes you in the middle of the night, begin to think of all the people on the other side of the world who are already living a day you have not yet been given. Imagine them moving about their daily lives, just as you will when the sun rises. Imagine the ways their lives are so different, yet similar, to your own. Imagine sending them all the hopes you have for goodness in your life and the lives of those you love. Allow the prayers of your heart to connect with the hearts who, perhaps,do not speak the same language or share your faith tradition. Allow the rising and falling of your breath, the words of your prayers, to wash upon the shore of ‘the others.’

It is my suspicion that in doing so, those same prayers will also break upon ‘The Other’ for this hour, this day, this year, for eternity.


Glory Be

“Love divine, all loves excelling,
Joy of heaven, to earth come down;
Fix in us thy humble dwelling
All thy faithful mercies crown!”
~Charles Wesley

I have been visited by an ear worm, one of those songs that gets stuck in your head and seems impossible to shake. Songs that find a home in the deep unconscious of waking in the morning and become a mantra when trying to find the keyhole of sleep at night. Songs that create a soundtrack for washing the dishes, eating lunch, walking to and from the car. You know those songs. Ditties like ‘It’s A Small World’ and  ‘Feelings’. Tunes that can drive you to the edge of reason.

But my ear worm for some reason is this old Charles Wesley hymn of my childhood. I can’t even remember the last time I sang it in worship or any place else. So why did it come to me? In fact the whole hymn did not come to me. What has been floating through my brain was my favorite phrase as a child: ” Changed from glory into glory, till in heaven we take our place, till we cast our crowns before thee, lost in wonder, love and praise.”

I loved, I should say I love, the idea of being changed from glory into glory. Don’t you? The crown part is not too bad either. After all, to cast a crown must mean wearing one! But it is the glory I want to stand in. By definition glory means ‘great honor, praise, or distinction accorded by common consent, to be renowned.’ Somehow this definition does not do the word glory justice. When I say glory, I think of shimmering, of shining. To me, the idea of being changed from one shimmering glory-being to another is a lovely thought.

As I reflect on this hymn, I wonder what was going through Charles Wesley’s mind when he wrote the words. I have to also admit that I don’t often think of him as someone who might think that, as humans, we are glory that can then be transformed into even greater glory. It makes me feel more warmly toward him knowing he wrote these words.

As a little girl I remember certain older people use the phrase ‘Well, glory be!’ These people were mostly older women in flowered aprons with ample bossoms who hovered over church dinner tables and served up mounds of mashed potatoes and fried chicken. At the sight of something they thought amazing, like a new baby or a perfect cherry pie, their voice might rise above the supper din, ‘Well, glory be!’ Heads would turn and take in the glory recognized in the moment.

What does glory feel like to you? Have you had an experience of glory these days? How are you moving from one glory to the next?

More importantly, how are you be-ing glory? The world needs more shimmering and shining. I expect we all best get busy.


Artists of Our Days

“Each of us is an artist of our days; the greater our integrity and awareness, the more original and creative our time will become…..”
~John O’Donohue

Today I met with a young couple whose wedding I am conducting in a few weeks. They have been a delightful pair with which to meet. I have to admit to finding something intriguing and fun in the relationship that happens with each couple whose wedding I participate in but this couple has been particularly enjoyable. Partly it is that they are so sure of what they believe to be important in their relationship and the words they have chosen for the ceremony reflect that. It is a great thing to witness.

It is also rare to have a couple show up with words of someone like John O’Donohue for their wedding. This beloved Irish poet, theologian and wisdom figure is dear to my heart. I hadn’t thought about his work for awhile. His words bring a groundedness….always a good thing. His untimely death three years ago at age 54 is still heart-breaking.

How often do you feel like an artist of your days? How often do you even feel like you are the driver in the car of your days? If we allow our days to flow out one after the other, doing the things on our lists, driven by some outward sense of ‘what must be accomplished’, it is easy to come to the end of a day exhausted but with no art to hang in the gallery. Ever have that feeling, that experience? I know I have.

And yet if I allow myself to be challenged by O’Donohue’s words, I begin to feel a sense of exhilaration. What if I paid more attention to the canvas on which I am painting my life than to the handwritten list of paints I never take the time to buy? What if the song that is waiting to be sung through me is the one that someone needs to heal the hurt that is killing them? What if I move from the chairs that line the wall to the center of the floor and begin to dance the joy, or the sorrow, that lurks just beneath the surface? What if?

To be the artist of our days requires we know ourselves well. It requires we put aside the masks we wear to feel safer,in control. It demands we become aware of the gifts the Spirit is birthing through us with every breath we take. This can take some digging but if we want to become artists of our days it requires getting dirty, sometimes requires even making a mess.

What is the art the Great Artist is calling forth from you this day? How are you listening for that sometimes quiet voice that urges you to the awareness of the gifts the world so needs, the gifts only you can offer? This art….. that is our lives…… is not for the faint of heart. But it is for everyone. Everyone who has the courage to be their authentic self, to pick up the paints in whatever form they arrive at the door, and to paint with brushstrokes unique and enlivening.

On this day I am thankful for the art created by John O’Donohue. For his challenging and inspiring words. And for the art that was his living.