Ordinary Grace

Although I’d had no trouble looking at the casket the day before, on that Saturday I did my best to keep my eyes averted. I stared instead at the stained-glass window behind the altar and imagined shooting the panes out with a slingshot.

and what I know from my studies and from my life is that there is no such thing as a true event. We know dates and times and locations and participants but accounts of what happened depend upon the perspective from which the event is viewed.

And what is happiness, Nathan? In my experience, it's only a moment's pause here and there on what is otherwise a long and difficult road. No one can be happy all the time.

And whether you believe in miracles or not, I can guarantee that you will experience one. It may not be the miracle you’ve prayed for. God probably won’t undo what’s been done. The miracle is this: that you will rise in the morning and be able to see again the startling beauty of the day.

Bobby had a secret. You know what it was? It took nothing to make him happy. That was it. He held happiness in his hand easy as if he'd just, I don't know, plucked a blade of grass form the ground. And all he did his whole short life was offer that happiness to anybody who'd smile at him. That's all he wanted form me. From you. From anybody. A smile.

Even in the darkest night it’s still within our power to hold to faith. We can still embrace hope. And although we may ourselves feel unloved we can still stand steadfast in our love for others and for God. All this is in our control. God gave us these gifts and he does not take them back. It is we who choose to discard them.

Fishing, Danny boy, is purely a state of mind. Some men, when they are fishing, are after fish. Me, I'm after things you could never set a barbed hook in.

Funerals weren't just about the dead. They were about the dead leaving this world to reside with God, someone Mother wasn't seeing eye to eye with at the moment, if she ever had, and I couldn't shake the concern that in the middle of the service she would spring from her pew and find some way to spite him.

God never promised us an easy life. He never promised that we wouldn’t suffer, that we wouldn’t feel despair and loneliness and confusion and desperation. What he did promise was that in our suffering we would never be alone. And though we may sometimes make ourselves blind and deaf to his presence he is beside us and around us and within us always. We are never separated from his love.

God never promised us an easy life. He never promised that we wouldn’t suffer, that we wouldn’t feel despair and loneliness and confusion and desperation. What he did promise was that in our suffering we would never be alone. And though we may sometimes make ourselves blind and deaf to his presence he is beside us and around us and within us always. We are never separated from his love. And he promised us something else, the most important promise of all. That there would be surcease. That there would be an end to our pain and our suffering and our loneliness, that we would be with him and know him, and this would be heaven.

God never promised us an easy life. He never promised that we wouldn’t suffer, that we wouldn’t feel despair and loneliness and confusion and desperation. What he did promise was that in our suffering we would never be alone. And though we may sometimes make ourselves blind and deaf to his presence he is beside us and around us and within us always. We are never separated from his love. And he promised us something else, the most important promise of all. That there would be surcease. That there would be an end to our pain and our suffering and our loneliness, that we would be with him and know him, and this would be heaven. This man, who in life may have felt utterly alone, feels alone no more. This man, whose life may have been days and nights of endless waiting, is waiting no more. He is where God always knew he would be, in a place prepared. And for this we rejoice.

Heavenly Father, for the blessings of this food and these friends and our families, we thank you. In Jesus’s name, amen.

He who learns must suffer. And even in our sleep pain, which cannot forget, falls drop by drop upon the heart, until, in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom through the awful grace of God.

He who learns must suffer. And even in our sleep pain, which cannot forget, falls drop by drop upon the heart, until in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom through the awful graces of God.

If we put everything in God's hands, maybe we don't any of us have to be afraid anymore.

If we put everything in God's hands, maybe we don't have to be afraid anymore.

It isn’t Easter,” he said, “but this week has caused me to think a lot about the Easter story. Not the glorious resurrection that we celebrate on Easter Sunday but the darkness that came before. I know of no darker moment in the Bible than the moment Jesus in his agony on the cross cries out, ‘Father, why have you forsaken me?’ Darker even than his death not long after because in death Jesus at last gave himself over fully to the divine will of God. But in that moment of his bitter railing he must have felt betrayed and completely abandoned by his father, a father he’d always believed loved him deeply and absolutely. How terrible that must have been and how alone he must have felt. In dying all was revealed to him, but alive Jesus like us saw with mortal eyes, felt the pain of mortal flesh, and knew the confusion of imperfect mortal understanding. “I see with mortal eyes. My mortal heart this morning is breaking. And I do not understand. “I confess that I have cried out to God, ‘Why have you forsaken me?’ ” Here my father paused and I thought he could not continue. But after a long moment he seemed to gather himself and went on. “When we feel abandoned, alone, and lost, what’s left to us? What do I have, what do you have, what do any of us have left except the overpowering temptation to rail against God and to blame him for the dark night into which he’s led us, to blame him for our misery, to blame him and cry out against him for not caring? What’s left to us when that which we love most has been taken? “I will tell you what’s left, three profound blessings. In his first letter to the Corinthians, Saint Paul tells us exactly what they are: faith, hope, and love. These gifts, which are the foundation of eternity, God has given to us and he’s given us complete control over them. Even in the darkest night it’s still within our power to hold to faith. We can still embrace hope. And although we may ourselves feel unloved we can still stand steadfast in our love for others and for God. All this is in our control. God gave us these gifts and he does not take them back. It is we who choose to discard them. “In your dark night, I urge you to hold to your faith, to embrace hope, and to bear your love before you like a burning candle, for I promise that it will light your way. “And whether you believe in miracles or not, I can guarantee that you will experience one. It may not be the miracle you’ve prayed for. God probably won’t undo what’s been done. The miracle is this: that you will rise in the morning and be able to see again the startling beauty of the day. “Jesus suffered the dark night and death and on the third day he rose again through the grace of his loving father. For each of us, the sun sets and the sun also rises and through the grace of our Lord we can endure our own dark night and rise to the dawning of a new day and rejoice. “I invite you, my brothers and sisters, to rejoice with me in the divine grace of the Lord and in the beauty of this morning, which he has given us.

It seems to me that when you look back at a life, yours or another's, what you see is a path that weaves into and out of deep shadow. So much is lost. What we use to construct the past is what has remained in the open, a hodgepodge of fleeting glimpses. our histories, like my father's current body, are structures built of toothpicks. So what I recall is a construct both of what stands in the light and what I imagine in the dark where I cannot see.

I’ve come to understand that there’s a good deal of value in the ritual accompanying death. It’s hard to say good- bye and almost impossible to accomplish this alone and ritual is the railing we hold to, all of us together, that keeps us upright and connected until the worst is past.

I was little more than a child still wrapped in a soothing blanket of illusion

I will tell you what's left, three profound blessings. In his first letter to the Corinthians, Saint Paul tells us exactly what they are: faith, hope, and love,. These gifts, which are the foundation of eternity, God has given to us and he's given us complete control over them. Even in the darkest night it's still within our power to hold faith. We can still embrace hope. And although we may feel ourselves unloved we can still stand steadfast in our love for others and for God. All this is in our control. God gave us these gifts and he does not take them back. It is we who chooses to discard them.

Loss, once it’s become a certainty, is like a rock you hold in your hand. It has weight and dimension and texture. It’s solid and can be assessed and dealt with. You can use it to beat yourself or you can throw it away.

That was it. That was all of it. A grace so ordinary there was no reason at all to remember it. Yet I have never across the forty years since it was spoken forgotten a single word.

The dead are never far from us. They're in our hearts and on our minds and in the end all that separates us from them is a single breath, one final puff of air.

The dead are never far from us. They’re in our hearts and on our minds and in the end all that separates us from them is a single breath, one final puff of air.

The miracle is this: that you will rise in the morning and be able to see again the startling beauty of the day.

The truth is that when you kill a man it doesn't matter if he's your enemy and if he's trying to kill you. That moment of his death will eat at you for the rest of your life. It'll dig into bone so deep inside you that not even the hand of God is going to be able to pull it out, I don't care how much you pray. And you multiply that feeling by several years and too many doomed engagements and more horror, Frankie, than you can possibly imagine. And the utter senselessness and the total hopelessness become your enemy as much as any man pointing a rifle at you.

They’re never far from us, you know.” “Who?” I asked. “The dead. No more’n a breath. You let that last one go and you’re with them again.

We turn, three men bound by love, by history, by circumstance, and most certainly by the awful grace of God, and together walk a narrow lane where headstones press close all around, reminding me gently of Warren Redstone’s parting wisdom, which I understand now. The dead are never far from us. They’re in our hearts and on our minds and in the end all that separates us from them is a single breath, one final puff of air.

When we feel abandoned, alone, and lost, what’s left to us? What do I have, what do you have, what do any of us have left except the overpowering temptation to rail against God and to blame him for the dark night into which he’s led us, to blame him for our misery, to blame him and cry out against him for not caring? What’s left to us when that which we love most has been taken? “I will tell you what’s left, three profound blessings. In his first letter to the Corinthians, Saint Paul tells us exactly what they are: faith, hope, and love. These gifts, which are the foundation of eternity, God has given to us and he’s given us complete control over them. Even in the darkest night it’s still within our power to hold to faith. We can still embrace hope. And although we may ourselves feel unloved we can still stand steadfast in our love for others and for God. All this is in our control. God gave us these gifts and he does not take them back. It is we who choose to discard them. “In your dark night, I urge you to hold to your faith, to embrace hope, and to bear your love before you like a burning candle, for I promise that it will light your way. “And whether you believe in miracles or not, I can guarantee that you will experience one. It may not be the miracle you’ve prayed for. God probably won’t undo what’s been done. The miracle is this: that you will rise in the morning and be able to see again the startling beauty of the day. “Jesus suffered the dark night