Saturday, July 11, 2009

The Gift of Friendship

Today has been a good day spent among friends. In the morning I had a visit from Louis Chase, pastor of Hamilton UMC and former president of ICUJP. A native of Barbados who studied at Oxford, Louis is a fascinating and charming man--full of humor, joy, and a passion for justice. He came to check out my wife's laptop, which he wants to purchase, but we spent quite a long time in leisurely conversation about family and friends and even politics. I feel blessed to have Louis as a friend.

Roger Eaton came for lunch and we talked about the "Never Again Campaign" and his efforts to build connections with the Iranian community in hopes of resuscitating the sister city relationship between Tehran and Los Angeles. I've only known Roger for a short while, but am already coming to see him as a friend. He is a smart, funny, gentle spirit--a computer wizard who cares deeply about peace and people. What a gift!

In the afternoon I worked on my talk on "Interfaith Peacemaking" which I am supposed to deliver tomorrow at Grace Presbyterian Church in Long Beach. I found a lot of interesting stuff about preventing war at the FCNL website which is an excellent resource.

In the evening I went with my landlady Cathleen (who is also my friend) to a dinner party at the Bel Air home of Elfie and Jim Shuman, two Quaker friends. Jim is a birthright Friend and a journalist who worked for Gerald Ford and is conservative in a good way. Elfie is a Swiss artist with a big heart and a gift for hospitality. Jim and Elfie met at a grief support group when Jim lost his son and Elfie her husband. They arranged the party to cheer me up after the loss of my Beloved. I was very touched and pleased. And I had a lot of fun at the party as we shared stories and had some good laughs together.

Friendship is such a precious gift. I am glad I belong to the Religious Society of Friends, and to what Martin Luther King called the "Beloved Community." I often think of the story about the Buddha and friendship. One of the Buddha's disciples asked him if friendship was an important part of the spiritual life.

"No," the Buddha replied. "Friendship is not a part of the spiritual life, it is the whole of the spiritual life!"

I've been reading Henri Nouwen's book, "Life of the Beloved," which was given to me by my friend Cathleen. I have found it very inspiring bedside reading. Last night I was moved by what Nouwen had to say about giving ourselves to others, in life and in death. He writes:
"I know now that we are called to give our very lives to one another and that, in so doing, we become a true community.
"Secondly, we are called to give ourselves, not only in life, but in death as well. As the Beloved Children of God, we are called to make our death the greatest gift. Since it is true that we are broken so as to be given, then our final brokenness, death, is to become the means to our final gift of self...
"For the Beloved Sons and Daughters of God, dying is the gateway to the complete experience of being the Beloved. For those who know they are chosen, blessed and broken to be given, dying is the way to becoming pure gift...:
As I read this passage, I of course thought of my Beloved and how she gave herself so freely to others both in life and in death. What a testimony her memorials were to how much of herself she had given, and how grateful her community was for the gift of her life.
Nowen goes on to say: "The death of those whom we love and who love us, open up the possibility of a new, more radical communion, a new intimacy, a new belonging to each other. If love is, indeed, stronger than death, then death has the potential to deepen and strengthen the bond of love. It was only after Jesus had left his disciples hat they were able to grasp what he truly meant to them. But isn't that true for all who die in love? It is only when we have died that our spirits can completely reveal themselves..."
Kathleen, I am so grateful to you for your continuing presence in my life. Although I miss your voice and your laughter, I know that you are with me, you still love and care about me, and you are still living in my heart. And I am sure that I will learn even more about you as I draw closer to the One who created us....
Thanks be to God for this day of friendship and love!

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