Psalm 133 (Psalms on the Trail)

“How very good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity!

It is like the precious oil upon the head, running down upon the beard….” Psalm 133:1-2

I have two brothers, both of whom I admire deeply and love very much.

But my youngest brother, in particular, and I have been at very different places for much of our lives.  I don’t mean location; for the last couple of decades we have lived only an hour apart,whereas the middle sibling of us three lives in Colorado.  But I’m talking about the fact that the faith communities in which each of us settled as adults were world’s apart.  When I broke out of the family mold and became a “Lutheran,” it jarred the family system.  Some things were best left out of topics of general conversation—which inevitably included a large portion of our lives and passion.

My mother had a health crisis two years ago on an Easter weekend, so my youngest brother and I each drove the several hundred miles “home” to help.  That was the weekend of a resurrection of sorts—not with my mom, who did slowly recover—but because of the conversations my brother and I started to have about our different spiritual journeys and what God was doing in our lives.  The denominational lingo and banner doctrines fell away like useless grave clothes in the empty tomb.  We met each other as brother and sister—thirsty for grace (not proving ourselves right), longing for contemplative prayer (not chatter), hungry for the communion meal (not another program), wanting Jesus himself (not another talk about him), concerned for loving our neighbors (not judging).  Those deep conversations that weekend have continued.  This past Easter Saturday, I drove the hour to be with my brother and sister-in-law attending an Easter vigil where we listened to ancient scripture stories, remembered our baptism, and heard the wonder of Christ’s resurrection—we worshiped together.  “How very good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in  unity!”

I don’t get too excited about the psalmist’s imagery of the oil running down the beard.  But I came up with some of my own images of unity borrowed from the trail:

May, 2013 Psalm 133When a brother and sister live together in unity (and share their faith), it is like discovering that the ordinary dandelion is really quite stunning.







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It’s like standing on a rock together and looking back at the two very different paths God brought you to get from the house you once shared to where you are now.





Psalm 133

It’s like bending down to discover a delightful treasure under those green umbrella leaves: the beginning of a Mayapple.

Psalm 133It is like finding a flat stone to sit and rest for a short time while dipping blistered feet into cool water.





It’s like being offered a bridge to understand yourself and your family from a different perspective.     You think I exaggerate?  Well, as far as my brother and I are concerned, in fact, as far as both my brothers and I are concerned, our conversations now with one another are truly something to celebrate.  “How very good and pleasant it is….”  What does “kindred” mean to you? Where have you found those relationships where you can share honest, supportive faith conversations?

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  1. Unfortunately, I read this during a free moment in my morning work routine at my office workstation. Grumpy old men aren’t supposed to tear up in the office, dangit. Thank you, Elaine, for this most beautiful gift – I’ll probably always look at dandelions with a smile now. Our God is so gracious to tear down all the stupid walls of self-righteousness I built in the past, and faithfully continues to do the same when my faith gets clouded. I love you, and love how God’s grace shows through you.