I watched President Obama deliver his final State of the Union speech last night. I was not only interested in what he had to say, but wondered about the divided house to whom he was speaking. On one side were people dressed in colorful clothes, standing and cheering, smiling and enjoying themselves as if they were at a wedding party. On the other side people were dressed in dark suits, some bored and some somber as if they were at a funeral. (In other years, the house could have been divided in just the opposite way, some partying and some restrained and reserved.)

I thought, “What would it be like to speak to such a divided house?”

And then I thought, “I know what that is like. I do that everyday, several times a day.” Sometimes I make decisions and one part of me celebrates the action. For example, Deb and I bought a new I pad. Part of my internal house celebrated as we moved from the darker ages. The other side of the house sat on its hands and questioned the actions as it wondered if we were being too extravagant. A divided house lives in me.

President Obama suggested that the divided house before him needed to figure out how to work together if the nations problems are going to be addressed. He suggested that each respect the other and that the two parties not accuse each other of being unpatriotic. All are working for the good of the whole even though they disagree with what is good.

I think that internal respect is what must be nurtured if an individual self doesn’t want to be paralyzed and unable to take action for its own physical and mental well-being. The divided parties need to hang out with each other when they are not trying to make decisions. They need to get to know each other as fellow members of the same household. In my internal house those who partied at the purchase of the I pad need to enjoy it, because on other occasions the reserved side of the house will win the day and I will hold on to my money.


Sitting in the stillness of a rainy morning, Deb and I were reading. She read a story of the conflict in in our country between Democrats, Republicans and the Tea Party.  The paper seemed to suggest the Tea Party wanted to turn over the whole establishment where as the Democrats and Republicans wanted to govern. 

Across the coffee table, I was reading about the devastation of the civil war in Syria.  Images of a city virtually destroyed stared out at me. 160,000 people have died in this protracted war. (In the midst of a statistical culture, I have to remind myself that each 1 represents a soul, a heart-beat, a loved one.) 

As we sat in our dry little bungalow, I had a deep sense of gratitude for our ancestors in this country who had the wisdom to design a governing process which allowed freedom of speech. While I often weary of the speech that I sometimes hear (when I find it hard to comprehend how people could actually believe such things), I think it really is better to allow the anger and frustration to be expressed verbally than with guns and bombs. 

 And sometimes I get tired of all the propaganda that is spread by media biased in multiple directions, I can’t help but think the right to express ourselves is far better than to restrict speech and drive it deep underground. For long buried anger and frustration can explode in destructive  violence. It seems better to allow the steam to escape from the pressure cooker than to allow it to build up and explode. 

So, I swallow hard as I read and listen. And I express my own frustration and prejudice, grateful that I can wrestle with those with whom I disagree in a verbal battle rather than pulling out weapons of destruction that spread mayhem and death far beyond the bounds of the initial controversy. 


We stood, gathered in a church courtyard. There were about 30 of us standing around a plot of ivy covered ground. A hole in the dirt is waiting for the ashes of my big sister, Kay. We were her family gathered from around North America to honor a woman who had blessed so many. Her husband, David, had asked me to say a few words on behalf of the family. How do you sum up the life of one who has lived a rich and full life?

As I stood and looked out on the gathered family, I realized that words could not do what the community who encircled her ashes did by its very presence. There before me were people with northern European heritage, African heritage, Native American heritage, Vietnamese heritage, Guatemalan heritage. They were all in Kay's family. We had come from Vancouver BC, Vermont, Rhode Island, New York City, Virginia, Indiana, Southern California, South Dakota, Kentucky, Alabama, Texas, Illinois, Ohio. 

And we who were gathered were from every walk of life: grocery clerk, chef, teachers, business women and men, unemployed, nurses, professionals of all kinds. Some of us had multiple degrees, others had wisdom learned on the streets. Some lived with physical challenges, others with emotional complexities. Some were gifted in speech, others in music, others in compassion, others in empathic presence. All of us were there together, in all our diversity, because we were loved by Kay and we loved her.

What more needs to be said. Kay and Dave lived a life of generous hospitality. They always made room for more. Their family expanded the longer they lived, opening to people who were seeking home. There was always more room in Kay's heart even if she didn't have any more room in her home. Kay and Dave grew a global family and discovered the challenges and gifts of creative diversity.

It seems to me that the world needs more people like my sister Kay and her husband Dave. If we are going to learn to live together in this shrinking planet, we have to become family where all are honored whether they are like us are very different. As I say good-bye to my big sister, I say "Thank you Kay, for allowing me to see in you and Dave a taste of the reign of God. May your spirit infect us that we too might honor all as you did."