Tag Archives: connection

Combating Loneliness

A Sermon for 29 April 2018 – 5th Sunday of Easter

A reading from the gospel of John 15:1-8.  Listen for the word of God in these words from Jesus.  And remember:  they are a portion of the words recorded in the gospel of John as being on the lips of Jesus that night before his arrest and crucifixion.  When he gathered with his disciples in an upper room for the Passover meal, Jesus washed all of his disciples’ feet.  Judas left the dinner and after he departed to go betray his Lord, Jesus begins a long message to his followers about all that lie ahead.  It’s clear in the gospel that he is preparing them for his death – and for what will be expected of them after.  To ensure they are ready to carry on God’s mission in the world, Jesus gives them a charge to love one another.  He also comforts them with beautiful images such as this one.  Listen.

“’I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinegrower.  He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit.  Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit.  You have already been cleansed by the word that I have spoken to you.  Abide in me as I abide in you.  Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me.  I am the vine, you are the branches.  Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing.  Whoever does not abide in me is thrown away like a branch and withers; such branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned.  If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.  My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.’”

This is the word of God for the people of God.  Thanks be to God!

 

In the 1950s, pioneer psychoanalyst Frieda Fromm-Reichmann began to write about loneliness.  Born in Germany and escaping from Hitler, she made her home in Maryland where she spent the rest of her life working at Chestnut Lodge Hospital.  Fromm-Reichmann was a contemporary of Sigmund Freud and had studied all of his methods.  But, unlike Freud and other psychoanalysts of her day, Fromm-Reichmann spent the majority of her career working with those others believed to be untreatable.  Those suffering from “severe breaks with reality – schizophrenia, manic-depressive bipolar disorder, and patients with psychotic depression” (www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/creative-explorations/201503/dr-frieda-fromm-reichmann-creativity-in-psychotherapy%3famp).  In her musings on loneliness, she tells of a young female patient.  The young woman was catatonic until Fromm-Reichmann asked her how lonely she was.  The woman “raised her hand with her thumb lifted, the other four fingers bent toward her palm,’ Fromm-Reichmann wrote.  The thumb stood alone, ‘isolated from the four hidden fingers.’  Fromm-Reichmann gently responded:  ’That lonely?’  And at that, the woman’s ‘facial expression loosened up as though in great relief and gratitude.  (Then, ever so slightly) her fingers opened’”  (https://newrepublic.com/article/113176/science-loneliness-how-isolation-can-kill-you).

We know today that loneliness kills.  And I’m not just talking about the lone-wolf profile of a mass shooter.  Thanks to Fromm-Reichmann’s “insistence that no patient was too sick to be healed through trust and intimacy,” we now have biological evidence to prove her theory that “loneliness lay at the heart of nearly all mental illness” (Ibid.).  Thanks to her work, the new field of loneliness studies has “delved deeper into the workings of cells and nerves” to confirm that loneliness is as destructive as Fromm-Reichmann professed.  Judith Schulevitz in “The Lethality of Loneliness” writes:  “Just as we once knew that infectious diseases killed, but didn’t know that germs spread them, we’ve known intuitively that loneliness hastens death, but haven’t been able to explain how.  Psychobiologists now can show that loneliness sends misleading hormonal signals, rejiggers the molecules on genes that govern behavior, and wrenches a slew of other systems out of whack” (Ibid.).  Schulevitz continues:  “long-lasting loneliness not only makes you sick; it can kill you.  (In fact), emotional isolation is ranked as high a risk factor for mortality as smoking” (Ibid.).  Loneliness exacerbates everything from Alzheimer’s to high blood pressure to cancer as research shows that “tumors can metastasize faster in lonely people” (Ibid.).  We must remember that loneliness isn’t about feeling blue when you miss someone.  Loneliness studies define loneliness as “the want of intimacy” (Ibid.).  The lack of deep connection.

The creation stories of Genesis 1 and 2 proclaim the same truth.  Genesis 2 records the Creator as saying:  “it is not good that the adam should be alone” (Gen. 2:18).  Animals are formed from the adamah – the ground from which the adam also was taken.  Birds of the air are brought forth.  And as none of these quite did the trick; at last Creator formed ishshah, transforming the one adam into two:  ish and ishshah.  The words of Genesis 1:26 finally rang true.  Words in which Creator declared:  “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness.”  As we’re learning anew in our Adult Sunday School study on the Trinity, even God is relationship – a mutual out-flowing of self, one into the other, as the dance of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit merrily goes round and round and round.  . . .  Upon studying the results of AIDS-infected white blood cells that had been dosed in the stress hormone (that is released from the anxiety of dis-connection) only for the virus to replicate itself three to ten times faster than without the added stress hormone, one researcher wondered “why we would have been built in such a way that loneliness would interfere with our ability to fend off disease.”  He pondered:  “‘Did God want us to die when we got stressed?’’ (“The Lethality of Loneliness,” sited above).  Not quite, Genesis reminds.  God just wanted us not to be alone!  Connection one with another – to it all.  And equally to our Maker is the truth we now know in our very cells.

Jesus told his companions the same thing as they faced his pending arrest and crucifixion.  O, he didn’t talk about the stress hormone or the transformation of adam into ish and ishshah.  Instead, he put it this way:  “I am the true vine, you are the branches” (John 15:5).  “Abide in me as I abide in you” (John 15:4).  Remember that a branch can’t bear fruit by itself.  “Neither can you,” Jesus said.  “Unless you abide in me” (Ibid.).  We weren’t meant to go it alone.  Not in our physical bodies, nor in our spiritual lives.  . . .  Jesus and his friends were familiar with the image of the vine, the branches, the luscious fruit, and even the vinegrower.  After all, he’s speaking primarily to those from the fertile soil of Galilee where grapes from the vine are one of the top fruits.  In fact, one source claims that the grape vine is “mentioned more than any other plant in the entire bible.”  In biblical times, “the grape vine was very important culturally and economically” (www.bibleplaces.com/grapevines-vineyards.htm).  Grape vines were so central in everyday life that the ancient prophets often spoke of the fruitful vine as obedient Israel – thriving from its verdant connection with the vine.  Meanwhile, the empty vine often was used as the symbol of Israel’s unfaithfulness – cut off from its Source; isolated and withering; left to die alone.

If Jesus would have thought anyone – including himself – could go it alone in this world without deep connection; he never would have stolen away for prayer – times by himself with his Maker and sometimes with his closest friends too.  Connected in creation, Jesus likely went daily to commune in the quiet with God.  The gospels tell of places like the wilderness, mountains, gardens.  There he ensured his connection with the Vinegrower.  Readying himself to face the demands of his daily vocation.  But he never stayed away for long.  We learn too of times together in the synagogue, at the side of the sea, teaching and feeding a throng of 5,000 men plus women and children, even heading off with his friends to Caesarea Philippi at the foot of Mount Hermon – which was known in his day as a picturesque place for refreshing retreats.

As soon as he left his 40 days in the wilderness, Jesus took up the mantel of his mission from God by calling others to come be with him.  Certainly, he wanted to teach them the Way for God’s work to continue after his death and resurrection.  But I believe he also called disciples because he enjoyed the company of fellow human beings.  They knew too what it was like to live in a human body.  Imagine all he could learn with fishermen constantly at his side.  With the devotion of women who followed along too to provide for him out of their means.  And even from a tax collector who late at night might have sat with him around the campfire telling Jesus just what he had seen as he dutifully tried to peel Rome’s requirements from countrymen who weren’t at all thrilled about taxation without representation.  The Vine kept himself closely connected to his branches.  Like a father or mother who really wants their child to grow to be their best, the Vine expected the branches to remain firmly attached.  Freely receiving all they needed from the Vine to grow into who God wanted them to be.  “Abide,” he said.  I with you, you with me.  And if he was Southern, he likely would have said:  “and all ya’ll with each other.”  Alone the branch withers and dies.  But together – verdantly connected – we thrive.

Let those with ears hear . . . not for our sake alone; but for the sake of those around us.  For the branches that are about to ditch the Vine.  The ones who’ve never lived connected.  And the others whose circumstances have isolated them to the peril of their very own lives.  May we abide; so that they can too.

In the name of the life-giving Father, the life-redeeming Son, and the life-sustaining Spirit, Amen.

© Copyright JMN – 2018 (All rights reserved.)

 

Theophany: Encountering God

A Sermon for 11 February 2018 – Transfiguration of the Lord Sunday

A reading from the gospel of Mark 9:2-9.  Listen for God’s word to us as we hear this gospel’s account of the transfiguration of Christ.

“Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain apart, by themselves.  And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no one on earth could bleach them.  And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, who were talking with Jesus.  Then Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”  He did not know what to say, for they were terrified.  Then a cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud there came a voice, “This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!”  Suddenly when they looked around, they saw no one with them anymore, but only Jesus.  As they were coming down the mountain, he ordered them to tell no one about what they had seen, until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead.”

This is the word of God for the people of God.  Thanks be to God!

 

Scripture is filled with theophanies.  Appearances of the Divine when it’s best to take notice.  Just three chapters into the history of the people in Egypt, the man Moses is tending the flock of his father-in-law Jethro.  He goes out beyond the wilderness to the mountain of Horeb, known as God’s, with the presence of mind to turn aside when a bush was on fire but not consumed.  There God appears to Moses.  In the great theophany, Moses encounters God.  His life’s work is re-directed, as he learns the very name of the Divine:  Yahweh, I will be what I will be!  (Exodus 3:1-15)

When at last Moses leads the Hebrew slaves out of Egypt, another great theophany takes place.  This time Mount Sinai was wrapped in smoke because the LORD had descended on it in fire.  The mountain shook like a volcano waiting to erupt when God called Moses to ascend.  The LORD gave command after command, as the terrified people waiting below begged for mercy.  They could not tolerate the tumultuous event directly.  “Stand in our stead,” they told Moses, “lest we encounter God and die” (Exodus 20:18-21).  The theophany – the appearance of the Divine – scared them so.

Isaiah records a similar awe-provoking event.  When he saw the pivots of the temple shaking.  The throne of the LORD filled with the Presence as seraphs rejoiced:  “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts!  The whole earth is full of God’s glory!” (Isaiah 6:3).  And before that, again at Horeb.  When the prophet Elijah is worn out from fighting the prophets of the idol Baal who had been welcomed by the wicked queen Jezebel.  Elijah flees for the wilderness only to find himself fed that he might prepare himself to stand outside the entrance of the cave.  The winds rush.  The earth quakes.  A fire blazes.  At last sheer silence prevails from which the Voice queries:  “what are you doing here Elijah?”  The theophany instructs, until restored; Elijah returns to his post  (1 Kings 19:1-18).

Three of the four gospels of the New Testament record the theophany read of today.  Second Peter 1:16-18 refers to it as well.  Six days after Jesus has begun to teach his disciples that the Way he’s on leads to death before resurrection, the gospel of Mark records Jesus taking Peter, James, and John with him up a high mountain.  What they see stands in the long line of biblical theophanies.  Appearances of the Divine that instruct even as they demand.  In Mark’s gospel the experience is pretty straight forward, of course – as little detail as possible for this gospel’s rush to record the whole story.  Like Moses on Sinai for the commandments, a thick cloud overtakes them all.  The Voice proclaims:  “this is my Son, the Beloved.  Listen to him! – exclamation point, meaning:  emphasis intentionally added.  To be sure they don’t challenge Jesus on his teaching again.  And like that, the flash is gone.  Theophany over so that Peter, James, and John can spend the rest of their lives seeking to make sense of just what they saw.

Yes, scripture is filled with theophanies.  Times when the Divine is seen.  It’s a wonder we don’t talk about them more.  The times in our lives when God appears.  When we know deep inside that the ground on which we stand indeed is holy.  The Presence has slipped into our midst – rather we have slipped into the awareness of the One who is ever-present.  As English mystic Evelyn Underhill says:  God always is coming to us in the Sacrament of the present moment.  Carl Jung put it simply:  Summoned or not God is present.  In An Altar in the World – a book that would be a wonderful read during the upcoming season of Lent – Barbara Brown Taylor writes:  “People seem willing to look all over the place for this treasure (the treasure that is connection with God).  They will spend hours launching prayers into the heavens.  They will travel halfway around the world to visit a monastery in India or to take part in a mission trip to Belize.  The last place most people look is right under their feet, in the everyday activities, accidents, and encounters of their lives.”  She continues:  “the reason so many of us cannot see the red X that marks the spot is because we are standing on it.  . . .  The only thing missing is our consent to be where we are” (2009, p. xiv-xv).

Perhaps with our consent to be where we are, opportunities will arise for us to be enveloped by God’s Presence – even if for a mere second.  We talked about it at the most recent Renewal Team meeting.  Because whether or not the tradition has emphasized the importance of Divine encounter, the great mystics of the faith long have known.  Encounter with God is what truly matters.  Connection, as one philosopher has written, with “something greater than the self – something that is beyond human creation or control, that transcends full human understanding” (Paul Woodruff as quoted by Rev. Cathlynn Law, 20 Sept. 2015 at http://ucup.org/multimedia-archive/the-practice-of-paying-attention-sermon-series-on-altar-in-the-world-by-barbara-brown-taylor/).  It’s what the whole spiritual but not religious movement is all about.  Encountering the Divine who appears everywhere – not just in the ritual of Sunday morning worship in a sanctuary.  But, as Barbara Brown Taylor writes:  right under our feet – in things like “a trip to the grocery store . . . (or) something as common as a toothache” (An Altar in the World, p. xiv).

Perhaps God is met in various ways and places – because God’s people have been created for such connection.  “Having hearts that are restless until they rest in You,” Saint Augustine of the Fourth century professed.  No one way fits us all and no one way can sustain us all throughout all the days of our lives.  Thankfully, there are seven classic ways of encountering the Divine.  It’s best we try them all:  ritual – hence the heavy emphasis on worship, nature, art, community – which is why we Presbyterians love such times of fellowship like potluck dinners, dreams, the body, and one that life ensures we’ve got down pat:  suffering.  Ritual, nature, art, community, dreams, the body, and suffering all are ways to open our eyes to the Divine in whose Presence we are saturated – like fish that happily live in water, but whose Presence we so seldom glimpse – like fish in the water who no longer recognize that in which they swim.

We call the liturgical feast celebrated today Transfiguration of the Lord Sunday.  And long have we focused on what was going on with Jesus.  When we step into the shoes of those first disciples gathered around, to see as they might have seen; we begin to notice the theophany – the appearance of the Divine come to instruct, even as it confounds.  To connect with our restless hearts that thirst for something More.  To remember that encounter happens on mountain tops, deserts, and banks of rivers.  In dreams of the night and visions of the day.  In the process of creating and the pain housed in our bodies.  In what happens between people in community and what happens in the quiet recesses of our own hearts.  In the acts we do with intention together in here as we reach beyond ourselves for the Divine.  And in the places we walk out there as we live and move and have our being in the world.

In a few days we will enter the season of Lent.  Forty days for intentional practices that become the portal through which God appears.  We’re invited to remember the wisdom of the mystics as we choose how we’ll inhabit this Lent.  Looking for God to appear, open to theophanies of the Divine in ritual, nature, art, community, dreams, the body, and suffering.  God waits to be encountered afresh – where we haven’t yet dared to tread.  . . .  Every moment offers the opportunity to see the God who is Present.  To give thanks for the Divine who appears.  This year, may we observe a holy Lent paying attention to the God all around.

In the name of the life-giving Father, the life-redeeming Son, and the life-sustaining Spirit, Amen.

© Copyright JMN – 2018  (All rights reserved.)

To Remember the Web

A Sermon for 8 October 2017

A reading from Exodus 20:1-21.  We continue to hear of the Israelites in the wilderness and what happens when they reach Mount Sinai in the third month of their freedom.  Listen for God’s word to us.

“Then God spoke all these words:  I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; you shall have no other gods before me.  You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.  You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and the fourth generation of those who reject me, but showing steadfast love to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments.  You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not acquit anyone who misuses the LORD’s name.  Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy.  Six days you shall labor and do all your work.  10 But the seventh day is a sabbath to the LORD your God; you shall not do any work—you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your livestock, or the alien resident in your towns.  11 For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested the seventh day; therefore, the LORD blessed the sabbath day and consecrated it.  12 Honor your father and your mother, so that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you.  13 You shall not murder.  14 You shall not commit adultery.  15 You shall not steal.  16 You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.  17 You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.  18 When all the people witnessed the thunder and lightning, the sound of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking, they were afraid and trembled and stood at a distance, 19 and said to Moses, “You speak to us, and we will listen; but do not let God speak to us, or we will die.”  20 Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid; for God has come only to test you and to put the fear of the LORD upon you so that you do not sin.”  21 Then the people stood at a distance, while Moses drew near to the thick darkness where God was.”

This is the word of God for the people of God.  Thanks be to God!

 

Late in the 1980s, Bill Moyers sat down to interview Joseph Campbell.  Campbell’s forty-year career of studying the great myths of the cultures of the world was coming to an end.  At the same time, the world’s history was being impacted immensely thanks to the space race that a few decades earlier began to bring us full views of earth from nearly 40,000 nautical miles into space (https://www.nasa.gov.imag-feature/may-18-1969-apollo-10-view-of-the-earth).  These were the days before Facebook and Goggle Earth.  Campbell’s interview with Moyers regarding the power of myth even took place a year before the invention of the world wide web, which didn’t go live to the general public until August of 1991 (https://webfoundation.org/about/vision/history-of-the-web).  Nearly thirty years ago now, the interview also happened a few years before the miraculous Hubble Telescope was launched, which lets us view light images deep into space and time.  In the interview, Campbell pauses to reverence the amazing 1969 Apollo 10 and following images of the earth from space.  He’s emphatic regarding the truth of that now infamous view.  Thanks to scientific technology and the information age, we now readily can see what good theology has been trying to teach for millennia:  from space we can see that there are no boundaries between the nations of the earth.  Oceans are visible, vast and wide.  And land too.  Lakes and rivers and mountains and canyons also can be seen.  But there are no visible borders between nations at 40,000 plus nautical miles from earth.  From space we can see that everything on earth is connected – a truth that underscores the reality of the literal world wide web.

Sometimes it takes new perspectives – vaster sights for us to be moved to marvel at something that was intended to be obvious.  The design of the universe is connection.  Quantum Physics has been confirming it for a hundred years now.  The truth of our planet is one.  One intertwined web of life so that what we do here has the power to effect life on the other side of this world.  We were not intended to understand ourselves, or any aspect of the creation, as separate.  In fact, Reformed Theological Faith declares, what Shirley Guthrie writes in his classic Christian Doctrine text, that “to be a human being means to be created in the image of God.” The implications being three key factors:  that:  1. life (is) received from and lived for God in a relationship of thankful dependence and active obedience; (that) 2. life (is) with and for our fellow human beings in a relationship of mutual openness and help; and (that) 3. life that is self-affirming and self-fulfilling . . . (is lived) in community with God and other people” (Shirley C. Guthrie, Christian Doctrine, 1994, pp. 212-213).  Anything that separates us from that right-relatedness with God, others, and our deepest selves is sin.  Out of sync with how it was intended to be.

Had we the big-picture view of interconnection from space in the first place, maybe we wouldn’t have needed the section of Exodus that is before us today.  But it’s here as a gift from God so we will remember.  So our lives will reflect the truth.  . . .  The commandments of God are given to the Israelites in the wilderness some 90 days after liberation from slavery in Egypt.  It hadn’t been that long since Moses came in contact with God at Mount Horeb while he was tending the sheep of his father-in-law Jethro.  Three new moons after leaving Egypt, the text records that “they came into the wilderness of Sinai . . . and camped in the wilderness” at the foot of that other mountain (Exodus 19:1-2).  There Moses, who once had killed a man, began the lengthy conversation with God – instruction after instruction to be passed on to the people so that they would know for certain the interconnected design.  So that all of them would learn.  So that – free from Pharaoh’s rule – they would have clarity in their new life in the wilderness.  What life really was like; and how the One who set them free designed for them to be.

The commandments from God teach that we are in relationship with the Sovereign God of the Universe.  Nothing shall come before that.  Not Pharaoh.  Not a heroic leader.  Not our own hungers and thirsts and fears.  God is to be first in all our lives.  It’s a mystery why the Divine would will it so, other than the fact that God is pure Love.  Try to define the Divine any other way and we come up short of the mind-boggling reality of grace.  Don’t even attempt it; we’re told in the commands.  Just allow the One who claimed the name:  I Am who I Am to be.  Care must be taken as we live in and reflect to others this truth.  It’s to our own detriment when we forget.  . . .  The commandments from God also describe what life together looks like for those who understand the truth of connection.  We honor our parents – the wisdom of the ancestors.  We respect life and committed relationships.  We live content with what we have.  We speak only truth.  And satisfied with our own homes, families, and gifts from creation; we reverence what is ours for safekeeping and what is not.  . . .  Just to be sure we remember it all, we rest every week.  We linger long in the freedom of the Liberator as we delight in the generous abundance all around.  . . .  Remember the whole list of the don’ts; and keep the list of whys before you as well just to be sure you know what it does look like to live together as those connected – rightly-related to God, others, and our deepest selves.

I wish all would remember.  Don’t you?  ‘Cuz aren’t we tired of the fights about where which commands need to be posted while senseless separation seems to rule the day?  Can we bear one more story of a Lone Wolf who decides to take matters into his own hands?  Do we honor at all the way God intended it to be when we fail to keep the view from space before us – the view that shows the intertwined web that is life?  You know, this is the reality anyone under the age of thirty has known for their entire life.  If any of us are struggling with interconnection, then the wisest among those under thirty can lead us in understanding how to live this way.  If not tainted by a view of separation, connection is the world ethos imprinted in them since their childhoods when first they started surfing the web.  . . .  I don’t really know how not to sound kinda preaching today when the commands of God are before us in the text assigned by the lectionary for this Sunday.  These are the gifts from our Judeo-Christian tradition which taught a people how best to live together in community.  The gifts that still can guide our lives.  It almost seems like they are based on God’s assumption that our eyes would grow cloudy.  That our perspectives would be limited.  That over the years we would forget the pristine blessing of the web which is life itself.  . . .

Elsewhere in scripture, they beautifully are summed up fully in two simple statements:  Love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.  And love your neighbor as your very self (Matthew 22:37-40).  Do this, we are told.  And we shall Live.

For the sake of this entire planet, may we remember the web.

In the name of the life-giving Father, the life-redeeming Son, and the life-sustaining Spirit, Amen.

© Copyright JMN – 2017  (All rights reserved.)

 

A Most Beautiful Thing

Today I think that there is nothing more precious in this world than when two people find one another and figure out a way to become one working unit. I’m not necessarily talking about “bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh” as the second creation story of Genesis does. Rather, I mean the whole diversity of connections that happen in this world. I feel as if I have seen a little bit of it all today. And it does my heart so very good!

I had the opportunity today to meet a 92 year old woman who told me about her husband who has been dead since 1987. She said they met late in life and had just 13 years together. You can do the math and figure out she was a little over 50 when they met and married. (Is that right? If so, how remarkable for such a new beginning at that stage of life!) I had the joy today of being with those who didn’t get it quite right the first-time-around, but seem to be enjoying someone tremendously their second-go-round. I watched two old friends who seem to be almost more important to each other than even their spouses have been to them. I listened to a story of budding romance from a woman who has taken half her life to figure out who she truly is and with whom she wants to share the rest of her path. I heard of those who are together face-to-face on the weekends but share only in spirit throughout the week. Those who have committed to each other since nearly childhood and those who still are seeking to find a person in this world with whom they can journey throughout their days. Those who have side-by-side walk in closets all to themselves; and those who have a little corner of a shared one and give up most of the rest of the space for the other! No two pairings I spent time with today are exactly alike. We all have our unique stories — including the story of those who find strength, support, and love most among sisters, parents, best friends, and self.

I was a young, confused adult many years ago when one of the wisest women I’ve known told me that love always would be a part of my life — no matter what form it took. She said the key was to stop expecting love to look a certain way and just accept the beautiful ways it always is present.

In memory of her and in celebration of all the ways in which I have been pleased to witness love today: PRAISES BE!

Keep your eyes open to it this week! See the most beautiful thing that surrounds each and every day!

RevJule