Pentecost 57

Pentecost 57

My Psalm 57

We are Family!

If you are like most people ages seventy-five to forty-five, just seeing the title of today’s post has you humming. Recorded by the group Sister Sledge, the 1979 hit by Bernard Edwards and Nile Rodgers was a musical description of the group who were four musical sisters from one family. The lead vocals were recorded in one take by a then sixteen-year-old Kathy Sledge.

Contrary to the lyrics, though, not all families “are together…fly like birds of a feather.” In fact, the nuances of family relationships can be some of our most stressful and beneficial relationships. As published in the first decade of the twenty-first century, the research of Julianna Holt-Lunstad, a professor of psychology, and four co-authors at the University of Utah showed that dealing with people for whom we have mixed feelings raises one’s blood pressure. Not surprisingly, dealings with people for whom one has negative feelings can elevate blood pressure to higher and even dangerous levels.

“The conventional wisdom is that stress is bad for our health, and that personal relationships are good because social support helps us deal with our stress,” Holt-Lunstad said. “But some relationships can cause interpersonal stress, so we can’t just lump all our relationships together. Most people can think of someone they might feel ambivalent toward – a mother you love very much but who is also overbearing or critical, or a good friend who’s lots of fun yet very competitive.”

Our first social contact is within the family. It is here that one learns to deal with compromise, handle conflict, gain trust, and understand the meaning of ambiguous yet necessary contexts of love and support. The website advocatesforyouth.org lists the five “L’s” for building healthy and strong family relationships: learning, loyalty, love, laughter, leadership. Research has found that families all over the world, regardless of culture and ethnicity are deemed to be strong when they have the same basic characteristics: commitment, appreciation, communication, time together, spiritual wellness, and coping ability.

It is in the family that one learns one’s strengths and develops a personal identity. However, those lessons must be put into practice personally and used daily in order for one to develop them into personal habits. The website explains it this way: “Although each of the six characteristics of strong families is important in and of itself, one does not work in isolation from the rest. All six qualities interact, overlap, connect, and reinforce each other in complex ways that form a net of strength. For example, a person who isn’t committed to the family isn’t likely to give much time to those relationships and may not feel the need to pull together with others, in a crisis or to improve communication. Families who spend time together reinforce commitment and communication. The expression of appreciation reinforces commitment. Effective communication is necessary in crisis resolution and in expressing appreciation. Spiritual wellness is a valuable key in coping with crises, appreciating the value of people, valuing time together, and in being committed to each other.”

What we do, what we say, how we interact with others…These are all things that portray who we are and what we believe. We cannot profess to love our neighbor and then advocate the bombings of innocent people because of geographical location and certainly not because of fear or a desire for power. We can put on the finest clothes and jewels, posture in the most intimidating of poses but unless we show compassion, we have no glory as individuals.

This weekend, two Americans are returning home. They gave up vacation time, family time, to be with new family. In doing so, they contracted a deadly virus. Though they took precautions, followed established protocols, they contracted the virus and their lives suddenly were in danger. It happens. It serves as a reminder to us all that life is precious and no one has it guaranteed. We do not need to spend our time thinking of ways to inflict harm on each other. Deadly germs will do that for us. These two medical professionals recognized that we are all the family of man and should celebrate that fact instead of bickering and fighting.

After the September 11, 2001 attacks, composer Nile Rodgers established the We Are Family non-profit foundation. Its mission is dedicated to the vision of a global family by creating and supporting programs that inspire and educate people about mutual respect, understanding, and appreciation of cultural diversity – while striving to solve some of our biggest global problems at the same time. Hopefully, through such organizations as this and the efforts of those who remember we truly are all one family, we will remember to “Get up everybody and sing” – sing and live the miracle of life!

My Psalm 57
Lord, I sing of your glory!
You alone are the reason I live.
No matter where I go, you are with me.
The birds know of your glory;
Your breath gives them flight.
The animals walk in your trust.
The waters reflect your magnificence.
The land proclaims your creativity.
Though I suffer the arrows of jealousy;
Though I walk among those that attack me;
You will be my salvation, O God.
I am in your family –
We are your family of Creation.
All sings of your goodness!

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