on a mission to embody grace and compassion in all relationships

Heartsong–Opening My Eyes

One participant's art work at HeartsongI experienced Jesus’ “Sermon on the Mount” (Matthew 5:1-12) in a new way at the Alabama Heartsong Retreat last week.  I realize now I had been blind, but now I see in a new way.  Let me explain.

I moved around the circle of 50 placing my hand on a different head in random order as I read a verse or blessing.

5:1 When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him.

I saw Arreba and Keyona who rode a Greyhound bus from South Alabama to Birmingham, and waited half a day before they got in the van from the clinic without complaint in order to attend Heartsong.

2Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying:

I looked into Janet’s eyes who had been given a 72 hour pass from her nursing home so that she could could be here one more time.

3 ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

I placed my hand on Jessica’s head who said she had not felt a sense of peace in her life since she was 8 years old, 24 years ago.

4 ‘Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

I looked at Joe with misty eyes whose wife, Carolyn, of 57 years had died the previous month.

5 ‘Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.

I made eye contact with Eric who had taken it on himself to acquire fifty devotional books from a publisher so that all participants could have a free book to draw them closer to God.

6 ‘Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.

I saw Wayne who announced this would probably his last Heartsong because he was going back to work full-time, and had realized the dream of seeing his daughter graduate from high school when he didn’t think he would live this long.

7 ‘Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.

I could see Cleveland smiling who has overcome mental health challenges that would hold most people back.

8 ‘Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.

I looked at Jackie and remembered the Support Team of volunteers we had created for her thirteen years earlier, which she no longer needs.

9 ‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.

I smiled at Greg, nicknamed Hillary (that’s another story), who walks with a cane and has a sweet spirit, and is always making others laugh.

10 ‘Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

I could see Shannon who has had a rough year in relationships but did not let that stop her from showing up.

11 ‘Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.

I could see Wendell who finally got the courage to tell his pastor that he is HIV positive and thankfully, also received support from his church.

12Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

I also thanked God for Mary, Joyce, Gregory, Michael, Daniel, Misty, Greg, Tony, Darryl, Robert, Michael, Clarence, Gregg, Steve, James, Brett, Jimmy, Paul,  Tony, Robert, Jeff, Wes, Gina, Kelly, Barbara, Charles, Tommie, Brandon, Guy, Clarisa, Sharon, Tory, Ceonte, Joe, Richard, and Alan.  Each one of them have remarkable stories to tell.  Each one is blessed, and is a blessing to others.

I was blind.  But now I see.


  1. Beth Cook

    Hi Malcolm,
    Nikki Chenault sent me a link to your blog. I met you and your wife at Jerry Wright’s workshop on Celtic Spirituality at St. Stephens in Huntsville in March. Your blog entries about Heartsong have made me weep. I’m glad to know that you and your wife are here in Alabama, adding to what often seems like our small number of progressive voices. (I’ve checked out Mary Bea’s blog, as well.)I am a counselor in private practice in Huntsville and have a particular interest in working with and advocating for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered folks. I was happy to be the 2nd person to vote yes on your legalizing gay marriage poll! Just wanted to say thanks for the work you do and for your willingness to publicly speak your support. Hope our paths will cross again on the journey.

  2. Malcolm

    Thanks so much Beth!

  3. Tony E. Haynes


    I just wanted to say you were and are a blessing to us as well. Having been my first heartsong retreat I wasn’t sure what to expect. You and all the leaders did an amazing job. I know also that I needed it to renew my spirit, make new friends, and be there for others. I left there a renewed spirit ready to face whatever God or life had for me.

  4. Malcolm

    I appreciate your comments a lot Tony!

  5. Guy


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