Your People will be My People

I believe in grace and mercy and that “Love heals all things and everybody”.  I believe in choosing forgiveness over revenge and that in the end the Light wins.  And I am surrounded by powerfully loving people who want the best for me and for the world.  And still, still, still I carry a hidden despair in my heart:  why is there  violence, betrayal, injustice?   I wonder how to live my privileged abundant life in the face of absolute poverty and civil wars in other countries, and continued racism, homelessness and hunger in my own country.  I do despair.

Three years ago I met a new friend, a Jewish woman intensely curious about her own healing and growth and deeply committed to peace in Israel.  Judy and I developed a fast affinity for each other and delight in each other’s company as we share our  mutual desire for peace (and luscious curling laughter).  She spends several weeks in Israel every summer working for peace.  When I told her of my congregation’s participation in a trip to Israel and Palestine to bear witness to the violence and to walk in solidarity with the Palestinians this past August she was intrigued.

Last Sunday morning, before church, I read that three of the travelers to Israel and Palestine were sharing in the service and I shot a quick email to Judy.  She slipped into the service late, missing all the delegates’ sharing and catching only the congregational sharing of prayer concerns, and the final song.  The song was all about Jesus and as I glanced over at Judy sitting a few seats away I saw her lips moving as she sang along to this song, this new song, this song about following Jesus.

When I asked her later about singing about Jesus, she told me that the moment she walked into the space  she could feel the snapping energy of a people seeking God.  She told me she felt the power of the Divine in this space that is sacred to us, that she wanted to honor this, and to be respectful in my house of worship.  She told me that yes, she can sing about Jesus for we are all moving towards, and in, the same God.

I don’t know always how to get beyond that lingering despair in my heart.   However, I do know in the moment of watching Judy sing about my Jesus, I felt such a fullness sweep through me there was no room for despair.  I still feel that palpable connection, transcending difference in belief, culture, and history.   The Spirit feels heavy, weighty,  profound and full.  Perhaps in that moment, which continues to pulse every time I visit it, we are in the very breath of God.  Perhaps this is the place where there is no room for despair.



We gathered, the Swartzes and Althouses, under the big maple tree in Tim’s yard.  When this tree and I were little(r) she  offered the best branches in the yard for climbing and skin the cat.  Now her limbs are high and wide and it was less hot under her dark leaves than anywhere else on that hot humid July Sunday afternoon.

Our families had been together the evening before to bear witness to Ted and Sue’s son’s marriage commitment; on this day we were wearing shorts and flip flops, changed from the heels and neckties of the night before.   We formed a haphazard circle of lawn chairs and benches, eating a picnic lunch, and the afternoon stretched out in easy conversation, sometimes soft words between two or three, other times shouting across the circle, including everyone. We have been family for 37 years, conceived when Ted fell in love with Sue.   The electricity of humor snapped among us, sharp wit and simple silliness at old jokes and family foibles.  Electricity grounded by the  comfort of long-time knowing, of choosing again and again to care about, be interested in, to step away from judgment, to love.

The afternoon was reminiscent of my childhood when Sunday afternoons seemed to be created solely for the gathering of family or church friends.  The day held, as it did in those long ago summer days, a golden hue of rest and respite and a security of relationship.   The hot muggy air was close, congruent with the feel among us – slow, languid, easy. When it was time to leave we lingered, reluctant to pull away.

We are different from each other, these two families, and within the families  – age, experience, education, communication style, values, fears, accomplishments.   On that afternoon we felt the bonds of kinship that started with Ted and Sue, affection snaking through the years of children’s weddings, loved one’s deaths, church events, dramatic performances, graduations, hospital visits and more.  Our connections tightening and loosening, our lives bumping against each other and sweeping apart again.  The memory of our Sunday afternoon rests deep deep within my heart; it is a moment in time that reflects the strength and joy of choosing love.  It is proof of love’s secret power to transform the edges even when we are unaware.

I caarry your heart


Did you know if you get rid of, or move on, 12 items in one day, you shift the energy in your house?  This was one of a flurry of email messages last week among my friends on the merits of cleaning out.  We were all wanting to make more space in our homes, clear out the clutter, and keep only what we love and what inspires us, and well, I guess what we think we need as well.  I wouldn’t say the vacuum cleaner inspires me, but with two dogs who merrily shed their way through the house, I do appreciate its value.

I took the concept further;  I unsubscribed to almost all my daily emails for ads and sales, and good deals.   I ended my membership with Paperback Swap, a fun way to recycle books and an additional detail to attend to.  My brain was succumbing to the weight of all the details, all the important things to consider, all the decisions to make, all the worthy causes to support. I wanted more space in my head.  I took a break from Facebook.  In my quest to stay connected with my new friends, old friends, friends of my children, neighborhood and city happenings, politics and hopeful social movements, I didn’t have enough space or time to be connected to myself.  It is easier sometimes to be noisily involved with life, than to be quietly aware of oneself.

IMG_8495This morning I stumbled upon yet another area in my life yearning for more space.  I was writing to my coach about my ongoing saga with stress and my efforts to manage it.   As my words poured out I could hear my judgment of self, my criticism, pointing out yet more areas of failure in my life.   I thought of all those harmful words buzzing around my head, poking at my skin, and eventually perching around my heart.   Negative words clogging up my heart space; I want to clean up and clear out.   I want to eradicate toxicity, pluck those seductive shady words that on the surface sound innocent, and underneath are scathing in their rebuke of self.  Words said in humor that are not loving or kind or gentle.  Words of impatience and intolerance towards myself.  A tangible way to start is to choose 12 words to remove from my vocabulary.  Words that no longer (and never did) serve me; toss ’em away and open up space for generosity and vitality and passion!