Right now there is a powerful article from NPR that I highly suggest you go and read if you want to have a bit of hope in humanity in the midst of this terrible, brutal war between Israel and Hamas that is shattering life after life. This quote from the article is spoken by Oded Adomi Leshem:
"Think about a small flame of a candle," he suggests. "If the room is lit with daylight, then the light from this small candle doesn't really influence anything. But when the room is dark, then suddenly the light of the candle has some meaning."
We need candles in these times. My brain needs candles. My anxiety levels have been creeping higher than they’ve been in a long time. Intrusive thoughts about shooters and bombings and threats to my children zing around leaving trails of adrenaline. I am blessed with, or suffer from, depending on the situation, extremely high levels of empathy for others in pain. This naturally orients me toward prayer: good. Being unable to function well from the pain of what I hear and see of Palestinian and Israeli “normal people” suffering: really hard. Images of what Israeli families suffered on Oct 7th and the images of suffering Palestinians now seer my heart. The normal people who love their families and kids and want to live in peace and work and eat and go to the beach. The majority, in other words, not the zealots and fundamentalists and terrorists who are the minority but hold all the weapons.
Some people may disagree with me about anyone over there being “normal” and longing to live in peaceful coexistence with the “enemy.” You can go back and read that article and decide if you believe the polls. I’m going to believe my friends on the ground in these places who long for peace and friendship with their fellow normal people on the other side, though who knows how these events of this last month have affected them, will affect them, after all is said and done? It would be completely understandable for them to be feeling hostility and fury at this point. And yet, this article shows us that some are choosing differently. Refusing to be pulled into hatred, steadfastly holding to empathy by the teeth while every reasonable factor suggests they should be consumed by bitterness.
I’m taking a break from my obsessive news consumption for a bit. I bought a book of Mary Oliver’s nature poems at the thrift store today and I read them this afternoon with the golden light streaming through the forest canopy and squirrels rustling in the fallen leaves. The air is still but directly above my head, high in the sky above the giant tulip poplar, a hawk circles on the thermals with utmost laziness.
I want to make poems while thinking of
the bread of heaven and the
cup of astonishment; let them be
songs in which nothing is neglected,
not a hope, not a promise. (Mary Oliver)
Yesterday I took the bread of heaven and the cup of astonishment into my own soul at the altar, given by the blessed stand-ins for the Lord himself, women of our church dressed in white robes, speaking eternal truths to my heart of Who I belong to forever, bound in unbreakable chains of love to his side. Week after week these men and women dressed in white give me this spiritual food and tell me not to lose hope. Stand fast, take courage, remember, remember, whose body and blood this is, given for me. The storming waves crash on the sharp rocks in the night but I am held fast. It is written on my heart and your heart that love and goodness and joy will win.
Maoz Inon, Oded Adomi Leshem, Dr. Lina Qasem Hassan, Robi Damelin, Yousef Bashir and his parents- thank you. Thank you for being candle-lights of shalom for us in these dark days. May the light and peace of God surround and uphold you through every day to come.