Sunday, November 4, 2018

"I have drawn thee..."


"not because if who i am,
but because of what You've done.

not because of what i've done,
but because of who You are..."

Casting Crowns'  "Who am I" found its way to the top of my mental playlist this morning.

Here's how it started. I was reading this Scripture from Jeremiah 31:3:


The Lord had appeared of old unto
saying, "Yea, I have loved thee
with an everlasting love,
therefore with loving kindness
have I drawn thee..."

Now, I've long-loved this particular Scripture for its use of the word "drawn."

As a child I imagined God with a box of crayons, drawing a picture of me. With a chimney-topped house and lollipop trees in the background.  A bright yellow sun overhead. God was designing me -- and my life.

Then, some years ago that image shifted. I would read the passage and think of God as turning on the tap.  Like drawing a bath. Drawing, from the infinite well of His infinite resources -- whatever He needed me to be. I was not coming into the demands of any given moment with a set of skills, gifts, or talents that are personally circumscribed, but with an open willing heart. And from the spigot of that willingness, God draws forth whatever is needed in service to Him -- and his creation.

But earlier this week, as I was reading this oh-so-familiar passage, a different image crossed my heart. It was of an archer drawing an arrow. It, quite literally, stopped me in my tracks. Now, I am not an archer. I don't have much experience with archery -- other than the fact that my husband teaches it at camp, and I read "Zen and the Art of Archery," many years ago.

But as that image came into focus, so did the spiritual implications of being the arrow that God is drawing.

An archer draws an arrow with intention. He takes aim. I actually felt that I could trust that God was aiming me with a precise aim -- or purpose -- in Mind. It moved me very deeply. I had been feeling -- since the girls left for college -- a clear sense of my work, but very aimless when it came to any interests outside of the office. I thought of myself as the person who used to spend all of my discretionary time following my daughters' soccer, school, camp, Polocrosse, Cowboy Mounted Shooting, etc. interests.

I loved to knit, but I'd knitted items for everyone I knew and had become the woman who knitted and then unraveled her knitting just to save money of yarn since I couldn't think of anyone who wanted another scarf, skirt, or hat.

I loved to bake, but without the girls here to eat or share what I baked, it just sat there. I love to write, but after 750 of these posts, I wondered if I was just speaking to myself. And anyway, I had begun to realize that if I couldn't communicate a concept in five short lines of poetry, I should probably sit with it a bit longer.

I have always know that a sustainable life is one that is Love-impelled. It is why I do the work that I do. I have no desire to ever retire. I love it so much. And I better, because it is what I do all day, every day, because it brings me so much joy. But what else should I be doing? I kept thinking I had to find something, decide to pursue something.

This image of the archer shifted all of that. It wasn't up to me to figure anything out. I could trust that every moment of every day the Archer was drawing me with perfect, precise aim. I would hit my target, not because I had decided to "follow my heart," but because I was an arrow in His quiver. Drawn for a purpose. Never a randomly flung arrow from the Archers bow.

In talking with our Sunday School class this morning, about this image this morning, another insights was shared. When an archer draws His bow back, it is to give perspective. I could trust that when I was drawn back - by divine Love -- into recalling a past experience, insight, or lesson learned, it was for a purpose. I could trust that. It was never without a precise purpose. Again, there was no random or reckless flinging of arrows by the divine Archer.

Suddenly the definition of "sin" that I'd never fully gotten behind made a bit more sense. I'd always felt perplexed when someone shared that "sin" was defined as "missing the mark." My favorite etymological definition of sin was "to sunder, or to separate."

I didn't like the "missing the mark" definition because it ratified the false (for me) view of man as self-determined. A mortal who could "go rogue." Someone who could separate himself from an all-powerful, all-knowing God and make mistakes, bad choices, and wrong decisions.

But this view of God as the Archer changed that for me. Mary Baker Eddy states in Science and Health with Key the Scriptures that:


"The believe in sin is punished,
so long as the belief lasts..." 

And elsewhere she writes:


"Silencing self,
alias rising above corporeal personality,
is what reforms the sinner and destroys sin."

I am not the archer. I cannot miss the mark, because I was never given a arrow -- I am the arrow. I am what God is drawing into precise purpose and given accurate focus to. I can't help but hit His mark.

I don't have to decide to be -- or do -- anything. I just need to be a ready arrow in the Archer's quiver. Divine Love with use me with perfect accuracy. The peace that this has given me is deep and satisfying.

In her poem, "Satisfied," Eddy assures us:


"It matters not,
what be Thy lot,
so Love doth guide..."

In the hands of the Archer -- I am guided each moment towards the mark for which I am intended. I am drawn for a holy purpose. And He never misses. Whether the target is college, a new hobby, job, community, or relationship. You are a perfect arrow in Love's quiver.

offered with Love,




Kate




Friday, November 2, 2018

"to know, know, know You..."



"to know, 
know, know Him,
is to love, love, love Him;

and I do..."

 Sometimes, when I read the Psalm, "Be still, and I know that I am God," I hear Linda Ronstadt, Emmylou Harris, and Dolly Parton's To Know Him is to Love Him," as the background music -- when it's not The Fray's "Be still, be still and know..."  Not all the lyrics, usually just those first few lines.

I love that the Psalmist encourages us to know God. For most of my life I confused knowing God, with thinking about God. But knowing is very different from thinking.

Webster's defines "knowing" as: 


"to have developed 
a relationship with (someone) 
through meeting 
and spending time with them; 
to be familiar or friendly with..." 

Thinking about God, is not the same as really knowing God.  Relationships require something more than just thinking about the one we love.  They require listening, the sacrifice of one's own self-certainties, exploring common ground, and spending time together in discovery.

In the context of this kind of knowing, it is incumbent upon us to make space for a relationship that isn't just cognitive, but experiential.  The Psalmist encourages us to discover how it actually feels to know God.  To allow ourselves to feel our oneness with divine Love.  To let ourselves experience the sweetness of carving out time each day for communion with our first love -- God.  To trust God -- a little more -- with each challenge.  


Jesus -- who, more than any other, gave us an example of what it means to be "in relationship" with God -- encourages this kind of knowing when he said:


"Ye shall know the Truth, 
and the Truth shall make you free."  


God is Truth.  So, if we know -- are in relationship with -- God, we are made free.  Free of fear, because we are in relationship with Someone who we know loves us, has all the power in the Universe, and is always present.  With that kind of a Father, why would be ever be afraid? 

We are free of the need to figure things out -- in hopes of avoiding the discomfort of feeling exposed and vulnerable to all the "what ifs" of human thinking.  For this is what the human mind does -- it thinks.  It thinks about things.  The human mind does not have the capacity to know.  Only to think about.  It remembers, imagines, speculates, and wonders about.  It is never really at peace.  It is always mulling things over, adding up pros and cons, figuring out a plan, imagining a strategy, wanting, wishing, worrying.

For me, knowing is a feeling.  It is the way a child feels when she is lying in the arms of Someone with whom there is no need for words.  It is the feeling of not needing to think about anything -- just feel.  In her "little book," Rudimental Divine Science, Mary Baker Eddy assures us:

"You must feel and know
that God alone governs man..." 

Not think about and then hopefully feel.  But feel and know.  the integration of the affection and intuition -- of Love and Mind.   To feel the love of God is to know the love of God.  Knowing is synonymous with feeling -- not thinking about.  And this feeling -- and knowing -- is a promise, not a suggestion.  She lovingly states that we must experience God in this way.

To know God is not an activity of the human mind, it is a feeling of the heart.  It is what we experience when we stop all the thinking, and discover that we are always being held in the arms of a loving parent who we know -- loves us beyond measure.

offered with Love,


Kate

Thursday, November 1, 2018

"So like still water..."



"bring the wind and bring the thunder
bring the rain till I am tried
when it's over bring me stillness
let my face reflect the sky
and all the grace and all the wonder
of a peace that I can't fake
let me always be wide open,
wide open like a lake..."



Sometimes, on a day like today -- raindrops streaming down the sides of the birdfeeder outside the kitchen window like giant tears falling from heavy gray clouds, the bare black branches of still leafless trees reaching out with dark knuckled fingers, pointing to an empty heaven...on a day like this, there is no time or space for me.  In an instant, I find myself on a tender journey back to an early spring morning over three decades ago, and I am as empty as a discarded barn swallow's nest.

It is in the sanctuary of this space that Steven Curtis Chapman's "Be Still," reminds me that, as Kahlil Gibran wrote:


"The deeper sorrow carves into our being,
the more joy we can contain."
  

That spring, the son we were in the process of adopting had been taken back by his birthmother, relationships seemed shattered, my body was riddled with pain, I'd given up my career to be a full-time mother, and we lived in a remote summer community that was practically empty until June. 

As I sat on the sofa in the living room, looking out at the lake our property sloped down to, I wondered why my body still had the ability to function and move.  I moved my fingers and was surprised to see them express life.  I felt absolutely empty and lifeless within, and I wished something would hurry up and put me out of my misery. 

I'd called a friend, who was also my teacher in Christian Science, the night before and told him that I didn't know why I was still alive.  He had chuckled kindly, and suggested that I sit quietly and listen for God's desire in my life -- since, as he reminded me,  I
was still living, so I might as well live with some sense of spiritual reason.  I agreed that this might be a good idea, and promised to give it my whole heart.

And I did.  I sat in the same place, practically in the same position, all night long with my eyes closed just listening and praying.  I heard nothing.  Nothing.  It was an inspiration-free zone.  My thoughts felt as empty as my body and my life. Deteriorating health, all alone, no job, no purpose -- and most devastating, no baby.

Dawn came, and with it the realization that I hadn't heard anything and I was just as empty and in pain as I had been the day before.  I felt exhausted and hopeless.  That was when Winnie, our sweet puppy "daughter," sidled over and nudged my elbow with her nose -- over, and over, and over again.  No matter how many times I suggested she "just go lie down,"  she kept returning.  So, I gave in and pulled on a pair of jeans under my flannel nightgown, a pair of boots over my wool socks, and opened the breezeway door leading out into forest just beyond the brick-paved walkway. 

Winnie was a hunting dog, so her normal path from "here to there" was to weave her way through the brush and bramble -- stopping every few moments to point a squirrel or flush out a bunny.  But this morning she made a b-line for the lake's shoreline.  And once she arrived, her nose was down and her entire attention was focused on whatever was at the water's edge.  And no matter how many times I called to her, she ignored me and kept her complete focus on whatever she saw in the shallow water at the edge of the lake.

I made my way down the hill, reached her side, and got down on my haunches to see what had her attention.  But all I could see was my own face clearly reflected in the still surface of the lake at dawn -- and everything that was just below the surface -- tiny minnows, pebbles, and bits of grass. 

That was when a divine message finally came through, and it came through with such striking clarity that I was knocked back onto my bottom.  "
This is what I want you to be -- as still as this water -- just "like a lake*" -- this lake.  In this stillness you will be able to see what is true within yourself, and anyone who is in your presence will be able to see the truth of who they are in the stillness of your being -- a stillness that only reflects truth and never attracts attention to your ego -- or their's."   

And then, on the heels of that message,  in that very moment, a strong wind picked up and within seconds the entire lake was choppy and disturbed.  And at the water's edge, all was foamy and what lay within, obscured.  I couldn't see my own reflection on the surface, or anything below the surface, for that matter. 

The message continued, "And this is what happens when you allow yourself to be stirred up by emotion, anger, and drama."  The message was as clear and pointed as it could have been.  As Winnie wandered off into the nearby bramble to search for bunnies, I stayed at the water's edge transfixed on the moment, begging for direction.

"But just tell me what you want me to be, and I will be the best "it" there has every been.  If you want me to be a mom send me a child.  If you want me to be a wife, bring my husband home.  If you want me to be a career woman, tell me what job to focus on.  If you want me to be a healer, a poet, a lawyer, a writer, an artist, a publisher, a teacher...just tell me, and I will be it, and I will give it my everything.  Just tell me!"

But God said, "You aren't supposed to be just one thing forever.  You are my All-in-all.  You have all that it takes to be whatever I need you to be at any given moment.  You can be all that you have asked, and more that you can ever even imagine.  Just like the water in the lake -- just as every single drop of water is made up of H2O.  Two hydrogen molecules and one oxygen molecule, you, as my reflection, as my child -- my direct heir -- are all that I am.  You have the same elemental balance that I have -- I am Principle, Mind, Soul, Spirit, Life, Truth, and Love to the
infinite degree and measure, so are you.  You are not a portion of my being, but the allness of all that I am."

I was suddenly reminded of a statement in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy which assures each of us that:
 
"As a drop of water is one with the ocean,
a ray of light one with the sun,
so God and man, divine Principle and idea,
are one in being."

I got it.  I could be anything God wanted me to be in any moment.  Just as a drop of water could be refreshing, nourishing, cleansing, purifying, buoying, serve as ballast, revive a man thirsting in the desert -- depending on the demands of the moment -- I had all the qualities and attributes as part and parcel of my being in infinite measure, just waiting to be drawn upon.  In a fishbowl a drop of water is the breath of life to a little goldfish. On the tip of your tongue the same drop of water is refreshing, on a child's dirty face it is cleansing, It's individuality and identity are defined by the demands of a moment and the context it finds itself in.  The water doesn't decide to be refreshing, it doesn't get a degree in being cleansing and then is only capable of serving in that capacity.  Any drop of water is able to do any water-like function.

God was telling me that this was true of my identity -- and not only mine, but it was the truth about each of us -- impartially and universally.  We are all identical with God's character and nature.  We don't bring a measured portion of God's allness to each moment as our unique identitiy,  talent base, or skill set.  The moments and opportunites themselves, draw from our infinite individuality what is needed or required of us in any given moment or situation.   And sometimes it is what we least feel we have to give, that we most need to learn about ourselves -- humility, grace, patience, meekness, kindness, non-judgment -- which we find being  called forth.

All I needed to be was still -- not just peaceful, quiet, and motionless, but constant, changeless, and nevertheless. N
evertheless than the allness of God's being in each and every moment.  This never-the-less-ness was the being -- the selfhood and identity -- I would one day realize as my only purpose and calling.  That was over two decades ago, and I think that I am just starting to "get it".

A friend recently gave me this poem by poet, William Butler Yates, as a blessing...and as a gift:
"We can make our minds
so like still water
that  beings gather about us
that they may see,
it may be,
their own images,
and so live for a moment
with a clearer,
perhaps even with a fiercer life
because of our quiet."


Thank you dear friend...

In stillness, 

Kate


*And here are the lyrics to Sara Groves' "Like a Lake" (linked above):


"so much hurt and preservation
like a tendril round my soul
so much painful information
no clear way on how to hold it

when everything in me is tightening
curling in around this ache
I will lay my heart wide open
like the surface of a lake
wide open like a lake

standing at this waters edge
looking in at God's own heart
I've no idea where to begin
to swallow up the way things are

everything in me is drawing in
closing in around this pain
I will lay my heart wide open
like the surface of a lake
wide open like a lake

bring the wind and bring the thunder
bring the rain till I am tried
when it's over bring me stillness
let my face reflect the sky
and all the grace and all the wonder
of a peace that I can't fake
wide open like a lake

everything in me is tightening
curling in around this ache
I am fighting to stay open
I am fighting to stay open
open open oh wide open
open like a lake "


[photo credit: Gabe Korinek 2010 all rights reserved]


Sunday, October 28, 2018

"what if..."


"What if I gave everything?
What if I stopped holding back from You?

Starting now,
I'm stepping out onto deeper waters

Ready to give everything..."

Casting Crowns' "What If I Gave Everything," reminded me of something I heard at a recent gathering of spiritual thinkers and healers.

In referring to lessons learned over the past year, one participant shared that -- like most of us -- they'd been buffeted by "what ifs.." I was silently nodding my head in agreement.  "Me too," I thought.

However, it was what they shared next that has stayed with me since that day. They said that they realized that it was an opportunity to ask some very different "what if" questions. Questions like: "What if I prayed?" Or, "What if I listened to God?"

I loved this.  It is a reclaiming of "what if" for God. Instead of the insidious voice of darkness hissing, "Yes, but what if you fall off this cliff? What if you never find your wallet?" Or, "What if this spot on my body means something?" 


We can immediately turn these "what ifs" around and ask ourselves, "What if God is All-in-all, as the Scriptures promise?" "What if I just take a moment to be still and recall all the ways that God has cared for my family?"

In Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, Mary Baker Eddy reminds us that:


"The starting-point of divine Science
is that God, Spirit, is All-in-all,
and that there is no other might nor Mind,
— that God is Love,
and therefore He is divine Principle."

This happens to be one of my favorite statements. Especially her use of the word "might." Might doesn't just mean power or strength, but also possibility. What might happen. What might be true. Eddy promises us that in divine Science -- or in the science of God's allness -- there is no other possibility, than that which is consistent with God's All-in-allness.

We can return to this "starting point" over and over again throughout our day.  This statement takes all the hypothetical possibilities, all the speculative theories, and all of the "what ifs" about what "might" be true - or happening at any given moment, and puts them right where they belong: "in the hands of God, in the keeping of Spirit."  In fact, on page 521 of Science and Health Eddy clearly states:


"All that is made is the work of God,
and all is good. We leave this brief,
glorious history of spiritual creation
(as stated in the first chapter of Genesis)
in the hands of God, not of man,
in the keeping of Spirit, not matter,
joyfully acknowledging now and forever
God's supremacy, omnipotence, and omnipresence."

Next time the dark voices begin to taunt you with their "what ifs," turn them around -- with confidence.  Ask yourself, "What if I trusted God supremely?" Or, "What if this moment is really just my opportunity to step into deeper waters, and be held in the buoying arms of divine Love?" And when you answer, answer with your whole heart. You may find that those bullying taunts simply turn tail and run -- scurrying into their dark native nothingness when questioned in the light of your love for God.

offered with Love,



Kate


Thursday, October 25, 2018

"counselor, comforter, keeper...."


"counselor,
comforter, keeper;
Spirit we long to embrace.

You offer hope
when our hearts have
hopeless lost their way..."

Yes, this is the same song from the previous post. But sometimes a song begs to be heard, until every word has blessed the listener. Selah's "Wonderful, Merciful Savior"  is one of those songs for me.

I have written about this song's lessons of redemption and mercy before. But tonight, it's all about "counselor." As someone who loves camp and couldn't be more grateful for the counselors that have nurtured my daughters over the years - I've always thought of a camp counselor when I've heard Christ referred to as "counselor."  And over the years, I thought I'd fully plumbed that relationship.

But listening to its message again tonight, I was touched by the song's call to revisit its  Scriptural inspiration -- Isaiah 9:6:


"For unto us a child is born,
unto us a son is given:
and the government
shall be upon his shoulder:
and his name shall be called
Wonderful, Counsellor,
The mighty God,
The everlasting Father,
The Prince of Peace."

But this time it wasn't a camp counselor that came to mind, but the defense counsel in a court of law.

I've written before about my love for law, my desire to enter the practice of law as a human rights attorney, and the moment I discovered that the word "comforter," -- as it appears in Scripture -- is translated from the original Aramaic as:


"counsel for the defense"

It was a pivotal moment in my life. One that clarified the course of my life's purpose -- forever. In that moment, I realized that as a Christian Science practitioner, I was already in the practice of law.


I had already been to law school -- through Christian Science class instruction.  I had a copy of Science and Health withKey to the Scriptures -- which continued to teach me everything I needed to know about the practice of spiritual law.  I had the Bible -- filled with every precedent-setting case I would ever need.  Yes, I was already engaged in defending the spiritual rights of humanity in my work serving the chief Counsel -- Christ.

I was not a partner in the firm -- partnership was never going to be an option.  There was only one "Counselor." At any given moment, I was the receptionist, the law librarian, the paralegal, the billing clerk in this sacred office. But the Christ -- operating in the hearts and minds of each client -- was the only "Counsel for the defense."

Since that day, almost thirty years ago, I have arrived at work each day with a clear sense that I serve in a law office. I have not modeled its operation after a clinical practice, but a law practice. This clear sense of what is practiced here has never failed to provide the structure and discipline for an office that is engaged in defending innocence, rather than fixing brokenness. Here, the Christ rests each case on cited Scriptural precedence.

Yet, even after thirty years of serving in this law office, I had not seen the reference to "counselor," -- in the passage from Isaiah -- as scriptural validation. The prophet's vision for Christ's promise, was not one of reparation, but of spiritual exoneration -- defending innocence and freedom -- for all.

The real comfort of the Comforter, is found in its coincidence with the law-based activity of the "Counselor." Isaiah prophetically brings the operation of the Comforter into partnership with the office of the Counselor.

We each face times when we are falsely accused of being mortal -- of being born into heredity, predisposed to poverty through socio-economic "beginnings," forever defined by our mistakes and choices. But Christ's love frees us from bondage. Stands with us in the court of Spirit, and defends our pre-existent, God-established, invariable perfection and purity. Christ lifts our hearts to hear the God-proclaimed verdict, "You are innocent. You are free."

Serving in this office is a joy. Opening the door each day, researching precedence, answering calls and taking messages, listening for guidance, and helping to prepare briefs [or treatments] for court - it is my greatest joy. Each client's innocence is constitutionally guaranteed under the higher law of Love. And the Christ never loses a case.


offered with Love,



Kate



Friday, October 19, 2018

"to love mercy..."


"wonderful,
merciful Savior;
precious redeemer,
and friend..."

Sometimes I listen to Selah's, "Wonderful, Merciful Savior"  just to remember - and to give thanks.

For so much of my life, I seemed to live from mistake-to-mistake. It was never intentional. But it did seem to be the path I walked.

When I returned to the study and practice of Christian Science, I was so grateful for this passage from the book of Micah:


"He hath shewed thee,
O man, what is good;
and what doth the Lord
require of thee,
but to do justly,
and to love mercy,
and to walk humbly with thy God..."

I loved these clear and simple instructions. I could do this. But it was the "to love mercy," part that felt like a bit of a "no-brainer" to me. Who didn't "love mercy?" Why would that be a requirement. It seemed so natural.

That was until the first time I wasn't the biggest mistake-maker in the room. It happened. It was a small injustice. But I felt it, and I was a bit [okay, more than a bit] self-righteous about the other person's misstep. Shouldn't there be consequences, repercussions? But no, there was mercy.  Really?

Thank goodness for the Weekly Bible Lesson outlined in the Christian Science Quarterly. That week's collection of citations from Scripture, and from Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy included the above referenced spiritual instruction from the book of Micah. 


Reading it, in the context of my self-righteous indignation about the other person's mistake, was when I finally "got it."  It was easy to love mercy, when the mercy was being shown to you. But what about the mercy that is being shown to another -- when a mistake has been made or a wrong felt? Not as easy.

In these times of "he said, she said," and deep polarization -- with accusations flying like flaming arrows in the battle scene from Braveheart. It is always easy to see - and feel indignant - when the guy from the other side seems to be shown unmerited forgiveness.  We sometimes feel even further wronged by a lack of consequence.

This is when "to love mercy" becomes a rigorous spiritual imperative. It requires the exercise of our utmost trust in divine Love's overarching justice, oversight, and correction according to the operation of Principle -- not a personal sense of right and wrong.

To love mercy is to trust that our Father-Mother God has "got this." This summer, I walked straight into the fire of my own past mistakes. This passage from Mary Baker Eddy's autobiography, Retrospection and Introspection, perfectly describes that chasm of self-sorrow:


"Into mortal mind's material obliquity I gazed, and stood abashed. Blanched was the cheek of pride. "

It wasn't the mistakes of a young girl that I saw in this obliquity of self, but the pride, self-righteousness, and self-certainty of a woman who had lost sight of what it meant to live in a state of, as Eddy suggests, "constant self-immolation."

But I didn't look away. I gazed into that space with a deep trust in divine Love's ability to mercifully correct and restore Her child's innocence and humility. And that is when the remainder of that paragraph, from Retrospection and Introspection, came alive for me:


"My heart bent low before the omnipotence of Spirit, and a tint of humility, soft as the heart of a moonbeam, mantled the earth. Bethlehem and Bethany, Gethsemane and Calvary, spoke to my chastened sense as by the tearful lips of a babe. Frozen fountains were unsealed. Erudite systems of philosophy and religion melted, for Love unveiled the healing promise and potency of a present spiritual afflatus. 


It was the gospel of healing, on its divinely appointed human mission, bearing on its white wings, to my apprehension, “the beauty of holiness,” — even the possibilities of spiritual insight, knowledge, and being."

Here was the mercy and redemption that brought hope, promise, and purpose. This was the Love that silenced self-hate. The Truth that vanquished error. The Soul that leaves us feeling worthy of our work, not relieved from duty.

I think I will leave this here. Let us strive to not only do what is good, and walk humbly, but to truly love mercy. Love it for everyone. Love it with all of our trust.  Our trust in the Source of its power -- to redeem and reform.

offered with Love,



Kate



Friday, October 12, 2018

"dreaming of elephants..."


"Oh dreamer,
leave thy dreams
for joyful waking..."

My sister-in-law, Lisa Redfern's recording of "Oh, Dreamer,"  is the perfect accompaniment for this post. And, I so love her voice.

Two weeks ago I was facing a demanding travel schedule. In order to be at the airport early on the day of my departure, I made plans to drive over the pass the day before, have dinner with my sister, and stay the night with her and her sweet husband.

After a lovely evening we all turned in and I was grateful to fall asleep quickly and peacefully -- as I was anticipating very little sleep during my 25 hours of in-flight travel the next day.

About two hours later I woke with a start. I was feeling the symptoms of something coming on. The symptoms were aggressive and the thought of heading into that demanding weekend-- so physically challenged -- was alarming. Immediately I began praying for clarity and freedom. Although the symptoms persisted, my prayers were actually quite joyful.

At some point I must have dozed off in the middle of my prayers because again, I woke with a start. This time I was drenched in a cold sweat. "Oh my gosh," I thought, "I don't want to disappoint Alison." Alison is the Ranch Director at a summer camp near our home in the mountains. I'd dreamed that I was supposed to bring two elephants from camp to the Denver airport for her, and I couldn't figure out how to fit them in my car. The feeling of panic was visceral. It had woken me up, and I was actually -- physically -- covered in damp perspiration.

Then, within moments, I was fully awake. Whew!  I was in my sister's house. There were no elephants. I had not promised Alison that I would bring two elephants to the airport.  Because, there were no elephants. I sat up and giggled quietly. It was just what I needed.

There were no elephants -- and there were no symptoms. Both were dreams that I could wake up from. Within a few moments the perspiration had dried, and I realized that I was also fully free of all of the symptoms that had seemed so real only an hour before.

Over the course of that weekend, there were many issues that presented themselves for healing. Each time I reminded myself:


"there are no elephants..."

And each time it broke the mesmerism -- the suggestions that tried - over and over again - to convince me that whatever I was "dreaming," was actually going on. I simply needed to wake up - more fully - to the truth of God's omnipresent goodness and harmony.

It was helpful to remember that panic I had felt that night in my sister's house -- it had felt so real. The perspiration that had drenched my nightgown -- it too had felt so real. But it was all based on a false premise -- the premise that there were elephants that needed to be taken to the airport. And from that premise, the human mind had projected a whole story about how I wouldn't be able to get them in the car,  and how, if I couldn't, Alison would be disappointed in me, and then I would feel horrible for disappointing her. When, in fact -- there were no elephants. Without the elephants, my car wasn't too small, and Alison's disappointment in me vanished.

It's the same when we find ourselves feeling symptoms of fever, or pain, or depression. The human mind thinks those feelings are as real as the perspiration that drenched my nightgown, or the rapid beating of my heart. Then it -- the human mind -- works backwards searching for a cause. But just as there were no elephants to legitimize the cause of my panic and perspiration, there was no legitimate cause for the symptoms of illness -- that seemed as real as the perspiration on my nightgown. When I could see that both were a dream, the symptoms disappeared even more quickly than the perspiration dried.

One of the "dreams" I had to challenge on this trip was the one that said, "Kate, you never sleep on planes. It is impossible. Your legs are too short to reach the floor, and the angle of the seat makes it impossible to find a comfortable position.  And since you will have no time to sleep, once you get to your destination you are going to be too tired to do what you are going there to do.   And that doesn't even account for jet lag."

But, as I sat in my seat on the plane that night I thought, "there are no elephants." What that meant to me was that there was no reason -- no basis for -- why I could not rest peacefully on this flight. So I found the small travel pillow in my bag, laid my head back, and within minutes I was fast asleep. And according to the woman in the seat next to me, I slept peacefully -- and without fitfulness -- for the next nine hours. When I awoke, I was rested, and could hardly believe that we were being told to prepare for landing.

So much of our lives are spent in a semi-wakefulness. We go about our day like sleepwalkers. Lulled into believing that we are supposed to transport elephants, over a mountain, in the back of a Toyota. When there are no elephants!

In her primary work, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, Mary Baker Eddy offers this profound observation:


"Lulled by stupefying illusions,
the world is asleep in the cradle of infancy,
dreaming away the hours.”

And in her Miscellaneous Writings 1883 - 1896 she further assures us that:


"Waking from a dream,
one learns its unreality;
then it has no power over one."

Sleeping can be lovely, and dreaming fun. But when we are awake, we have the right to be fully awake, and to know that we are awake. It's important to claim our right to leave those dreams for joyful waking.  To rise and sing, "I am free."  We have the inalienable right to know that there are no elephants.

offered with Love,



Kate




Saturday, August 4, 2018

"the third side..."


"When the soul
lies down in that grass,
the world is too full
to talk about..."

David Wilcox and Nancy Petit's, "Out Beyond Ideas,"  gives musical form to the poet Rumi's profound invitation that we meet him in the field where healing and understanding take root and bear fruit.

This morning my loved friend Ginny Nilsen shared this passage from an essay "Through My Enemy's Eyes" [A Journal of Positive Futures - Winter 2002.] It touches so beautifully on this "place" that is so critical to spiritual healing:


"Inmate proposes alternative to dualistic thinking:

Prison inmate and former prison-rights activist Troy Chapman, sentenced at the age of 21 to life in prison, discusses what he calls "the third side":

"I had spent most of my life splitting the world up into two sides, then fighting to defend one against the other. It was a game in which there were strategies, a clear objective, a field of play, and an opponent.

The poet Rumi pointed to something beyond this game when he said,

'Out beyond ideas of wrong-doing and right-doing there is a field. I'll meet you there.'

"When I began to see myself in other -— even in my enemies -— I found myself heading for Rumi's field. Here the game is not a game. No one wins unless and until everyone wins. The line between victim and perpetrator no longer runs between 'I' and 'Other.' It now runs right through the center of my soul. I am both, as we are all both.

"What then is left to fight for? Where does an out-of-work activist go? Well, God is hiring and God is on the third side. Not the prisoner's side or the jailer's side. Not the Left or the Right.

"The third side is that little-represented side of healing. It's the side that cares as much about the enemy as the friend, that says love is the only justice, the only victory there is. It does not want anyone destroyed. It does not want to win if someone else must lose. It wants something much larger than winning and losing."

"Through my enemy's eyes"
Yes! A Journal of Positive Futures
Winter 2002”


Isn't this the "side" that Jesus advocated for. The place from which he wrote in the dust and urged self-righteous indignation to sit in the quiet field of self-examination and compassion.

Isn't this the only place from which he could have said [as reported in Luke's gospel]:


"love your enemies and do good,
and lend, hoping for nothing again.

for He is kind unto the unthankful,
and to the evil.

Be ye therefore merciful;
Judge not,
and ye shall not be judged;
Condemn not,
and ye shall not be condemned;
Forgive,
and ye shall be forgiven..."

To gather in this field of the third side, is to listen with the heart -- and to do so, without the filter of self-certainty and pre-judgment. It is to take off one's shoes and walk on holy ground.

My sister, Nancy Mullane, wrote a book titled, "Life After Murder: Five Men in Search of Redemption." In it she shares the journeys of five men who'd been found guilty of murder and sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole. She tells their stories with a journalist's clear, unbiased voice.

I remember reading one man's chilling account of the crime that had led to his incarceration. Earlier, I had met this man at Nancy's book launch event -- after he had been released on parole. He was humble, thoughtful, and gracious. Reading his story, I felt myself take off my shoes and step into that field. I was beyond my own long-held preconceived notions of what kind of man would commit murder. I was willing to hear his story through the lens of his heart -- without bias or fear.

I also remember, so clearly, the tears I shed for that young man, who'd barely been an adult, when a robbery went horribly wrong. And the sudden realization that:


"There, but for the grace of God, go I...”


How many times had I lost my temper as a teenager fighting with my sister over a shared skirt or a missing shoe. How often had I lashed out, said something unkind, pinched, or even thrown a hair brush.  In those moments I was "out of control" -- willing to act on hair-trigger emotions. But I'd also had the privilege of access to books, counselors, and an extended family of spiritual resources for diffusing frustration and feelings of helplessness.

In this field beyond the ideas right and wrong-doing -- and who is on which side -- I felt a new sense of what it meant to have "an understanding heart." This understanding wasn't about figuring out the meaning of a spiritual text. It was about standing next to someone and looking at things from their point of view for the purpose of understanding where they were coming from -- without judgment or opinion. It was the feeling of their hand in yours and the pulse of your common humanity.  It was sharing the space of the third side.

I think Troy Chapman says it so well in the above essay:


"The third side is that little-represented side of healing.

It's the side that cares as much about the enemy 

as the friend, that says love is the only justice, 
the only victory there is.

It does not want anyone destroyed. It does not want to win
if someone else must lose. It wants something much larger
than winning and losing...”

It wants healing -- for one, and for all. It is the place where, as Mary Baker Eddy writes in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures:


"Love is impartial and universal
in its adaptation and bestowals.”

I will meet you there.

offered with Love,



Kate

After reading this post, Ginny sent me a clip from Harry and Meghan's Royal Wedding with this performance of The Kingdom Choir singing "Stand By Me,"  let's stand by one another within the space of the third side.



Tuesday, July 31, 2018

"you can close your eyes, it's alright..."


"Well the sun
is surely sinking down,
but the moon
is slowly rising.

And this old world
must still be
spinning 'round;
and I still
love you..."

I've always loved James Taylor and Carly Simon's, "Close Your Eyes."  It feels like a lullaby from divine Love.

The fact that most nights we close our eyes and surrender control of our lives to the Unseen, is such profound evidence of our trust in something Divine.

Remembering how peaceful it felt to watch my new babies drift off to sleep -- without any concern that they would not wake in the morning (or later in the night) -- is still something that takes my breath away.

Perhaps, without realizing it as a young mother, I was witnessing in myself an innate trust in God as the Source and substance of all life. I can honestly say that I never worried that my daughters would take their next breath. I watched the rise and fall of their little chests with such an unwavering trust in Life carrying itself out -- breath-by-breath.

This week I read a passage from Scripture that brought this trust into clearer focus:


"In quietness and confidence
shall be your strength;

Ye shall have a song,
as in the night
when a holy solemnity
is kept...”


It is this trust in the presence of God as Life, that feels like a holy solemnity to me. A promise made and kept between a Mother and her child:


"Lo, I am with you alway...”

We are never alone.  Not in our waking and not in our sleeping.  Elsewhere in Scripture we are assured:


"When thou liest down,
thou shalt not be afraid;
yea, thou shalt lie down,
and thy sleep shall be sweet.”


This promise doesn't need to be read from sacred texts to be known. Every child knows that he/she can lie down and closer his/her eyes - surrendering, without fear, to the presence of something felt, but not seen.

As children everywhere seem to be facing so much -- violence in war-torn countries, family separations in immigration detention centers, economic uncertainty, educational inequity -- this one thing brings me peace and provides a springboard for my prayers. No matter what my child may be facing, he/she knows that she can close her eyes and trust that morning will come, the sun will rise, her consciousness of being -- simply being -- will greet her when she wakes from sleep.

Nothing can touch this quiet confidence. Nothing can shake the presence of "I am..." from the core of her being. Tonight I will sing this precious lullaby from our balcony, into the vast velvet of a Colorado night sky.


"Close your eyes,
you can close your eyes,
it's alright.”

And I will pray. I will listen for the peace that passes all understanding. The peace that each of us can rest upon. The peace that fills the "I am..." in every man, woman, and child -- regardless of gender, socio-economic privilege, nationality or geo-physical location. This deeper peace is based on God's presence.  A divine Voice that reaches us in the darkness of a warm bed or under an aluminum blanket on a concrete floor.  A voice that silently sings the song of songs:


"And I still love you...”

May we each feel this promise, and our rest be sweet.

offered with Love,



Kate


Tuesday, July 10, 2018

"on the brink of everything..."


"All the things
that used to matter,
they don't mean so much today;
Toss the seeds and watch them scatter.
The birds and wind take them away,
till there is nothing in my way.

I can't see past this horizon,
I can't say what's waiting there.
I never sang 'cause I knew something,
I sang because it was a prayer.
The finest one that I could bear..."

Carrie Newcomer's new song, "On the Brink of Everything," inspired by Parker J. Palmer's book of the same title, had me at hello. Partly because it is Carrie, but also because it is so enigmatic and paradoxical.

The first time I listened to it, I was sure she was referring to being on the brink of self-discovery. Then I looked at the subtitle for Palmer's book, On the Brink of Everything: Grace, Gravity, and Getting Old, and I wondered if it wasn't a reference to on the brink of passing. Finally, I gave up trying to figure it out. In truth, it just didn't matter. I only had to listen to it from where my own heart was. And for me, it was about being on the brink of a new horizon.

So I stepped back, and surveyed my own heart. I'd been climbing hard for a number of months. Bushwhacking through a jungle of self. Scrambling through a scree field of ego -- the ground constantly shifting as I uncovered yet one more instance of self-preservation - my awkward stumble through I/me/mine-thinking. But I was above tree-line now. I could see the summit. I was on the brink.

But of what?

Absolutely nothing new.

Metaphorically, the air I was breathing was made up of the same elements -- oxygen, hydrogen - Truth, Life Love. The Source of my thinking was unchanged. I was the reflection of the one Infinite Mind. All that this Mind included - intelligence, inspiration, insight - was still, nevertheless, present and probe-able to me. I was not going to find more of anything -- anywhere.

All the Love that I had ever known was still with me. Love was never more present, more powerful, more attentive or embracing in one moment or place, than another. The spiritual climb I had been on, had not made Love more accessible or intense. The view of the summit seemed closer. But in fact, if I could see it, it was really a false summit. Was I ever going to reach a place where I could rest from my desire to know more of the infinite nature of God's love.

So, what was I on the brink of? Perhaps this. Just this. The inscrutable knowing that every footstep taken, puts us on the brink of the next footstep. There is no "arriving." We are already there.

We live at the standpoint of our oneness with divine Love. Every moment is another opportunity to look -- not above us, or ahead of us -- but next to us. To see, hear, feel, taste, and know that:


"the Lord is with me,
blessed am I...”


I remember the first time I fell in love. I didn't care where we went. I didn't care if we did anything. I didn't care when we got "there," or even if we returned. I only cared that my hand was in his. I only cared that it was his voice I heard, his presence I was in. Wherever we were, whatever we were facing -- it was all good, because we were together.

Each step we took, we were on the brink of everything. We were on the verge of a moment where we would see something, and it would be new because we would be seeing it together -- through the lens of "us."

For me, this is this moment.

This very moment. For all of us. We are not on the brink of new careers, new relationships, new adventures -- big events and grand accomplishments. We are on the brink of one more step with our hand in the hand of the One we love. The One who loves us more than all the world. Because in our relationship with Him, there are no others. We are "all the world" to Him -- and he to us.

Just as a mother completely loves each of her children. So God completely loves each of us. We are not loved by God, in the context of "others." To divine Father-Mother Love, there are no others. When I am with one of my daughters, I am not thinking of her in the context of her sisters.  I am absolutely and completely with her. I am delighting in her.  I am focused on her.  And it is the same with her sisters.  As Hymn 237 promises, we are:


"one with Him, forever near...”

No comparisons. No competition. No rushing ahead to get out in front of the crowd. No scrambling through scree fields to be the first to plant our flag. Just step-by-step, hand-in-hand with the One we love.  And the One who loves us. Our eyes, not on "the summit," but on the face of our Beloved.  Together with Him, on the brink of everything -- one step at a time -- a whole new world of living love together. 


And if we really love Him, we will love what he loves.  We will look at ourselves with great affection.  We will spend time with His children - seeking to discover about them, what He knows and loves. Not rushing on to the next false summit.  We will linger in the moment -- listening to them in the same the way that we listen to Him.

offered with Love,



Kate