Sunday, June 25, 2017

"this is where we belong..."



"I hear the wind across the plain.
A sound so strong that calls my name.
It's wild like the river,
its warm like the sun.
Yes, it's here -- this is where I belong..."


Bryan Adam's soundtrack for Spirit - Stallion of Cimarron is my go-to when I am missing my daughters. When they were little girls we would watch it on rainy Saturdays, or on long winter days when our dreams of summer, horses, and camp seemed too far in the future. The other night, it was "This is Where I Belong," that sang through my heart.

I've just finished three weeks at camp. There is no place on earth that means as much to me as the Adventure Unlimited Ranches. I know I am not alone. This place is the heart's home to many generations of campers, counselors, staff, families, and volunteers.

At the beginning of training school Ranch Director, Alison Peticolas, encouraged the summer staff to join with the full-time staff in embracing a number of key results that the organization had identified - and agreed upon - earlier in the year. Each of them would give greater clarity and focus to our individual and collective purpose this summer. The first two really spoke to my heart -- articulating an over-arching organizational desire to help constituents and stakeholders:


- deepen their relationships to God

-  feel loved and valued
 

There was something so simple and profound in these desired outcomes. I kept coming back to them throughout training school as I interacted with, encouraged, and supported staff, evaluated my own thoughts, and assessed the soundness of my actions at the end of each day.

These questions helped me clarify whether or not my expectations were consistent with the goals of an organization I felt so honored to serve: "Were my words and actions encouraging a deeper relationship with God? Did I leave others feeling loved and valued?"

They were questions that stayed with me throughout the day. They gave structure - and breadth - to each opportunity for service.  They brought greater focus to our collective preparation for receiving campers - and families - at the end of the month.

For example, each time that I was asked to speak, I had to ask myself, "Will what you are saying, make others think about you and your relationship to God, or will they be encouraged to deepen their own relationship with divine Love -- through their own prayer and listening?"

The same kind of clarity came with the second key result. I found myself examining my thoughts and words throughout the day -- asking questions like: "If someone could actually see your thoughts would they feel loved and valued? Are your words and actions leaving others feeling loved and valued?"

Then on the last night of training school, after the annual Heritage Night banquet, my friend Heather gave a talk in which she honed in on three promises for staff to cherish -- for themselves, and for their campers:


1. You belong here.
2. You are ready.
3. You are not alone.
 

I couldn't help but think of how it had all come together so beautifully. Between the key results, and those promises, everyone had all that they needed to go forward with confidence, humility, and grace.

We each belong here -- exactly where we are -- in the cabins, programs, roles, responsibilities, and the relationships we are in.  No one is out of place.

We are ready for whatever presents itself as a platform for spiritual growth, healing and adventure. We are prepared -- but so are our fellow staff members, and the campers -- we will be working with throughout the summer. Everyone has been graciously prepared. We can trust this truth. Everyone is the very manifestation of the promised "kingdom of heaven within" -- inspiring, governing, guiding. 


We are not alone. Scripture promises that, God is with us always, everywhere.  So, not only are we always "with the Lord," -- individually.  We are also part of that "us." -- collectively.  Yes, we each have the "kingdom of God" within us.  But we also have each other -- to encourage, inspire, listen with, and appreciate.

What a wonderful three weeks of training school. The staff is focused on deepening relationships with God, and helping others feel loved and valued. They know that they belong, they are ready, and they are not alone -- and neither are their campers.  Thank you for this succinct reminder, Heather.    

I can't help but think of the passage in Mary Baker Eddy's The First Church of Christ, Scientist and Miscellany from which the name Adventure Unlimited comes:




"This day drops down
upon the glories of summer;
it is a glad day,
in attune with faith’s fond trust.
We live in an age
of Love’s divine adventure
to be All-in-all."
 

Here's to a summer of unlimited adventures.

offered with Love,


Kate

Sunday, May 28, 2017

"I listen to the Wind..."



"I listen to the wind,
to the wind of my soul.
Where I'll end up,
well, I think only God really knows..."


It's been forty-six years since I ran my thumbnail down the edge of the cellophane wrapping on the Cat Steven's "Teaser and the Firecat" album I'd gotten for my 17th birthday.

Within days I'd memorized every word. Within weeks my dad was threatening to break that album into a million pieces if my sister and I played it one more time.

Today, I can still listen to that album and know which song comes next, remember the exact moment when the next track will start, and anticipate the momentary pause in his voice during a poignant verse. "The Wind," is still my favorite song, and it's lyrics still leave me feeling both hungry and satisfied all at once.

Why did he not want water -- even once? Why was not wanting water important? What was the devil's lake?  Like I said, there are some songs that it will take me a lifetime to understand. And yet, for all of its mystery -- and perhaps because of it -- I love this song.  Always have, always will.

Some songs reveal themselves in bits and pieces. About 25 years ago I had an experience that helped me gain some insight into this song, especially the lyric:


"I listen to my words,
but they fall far below..."
 

Our daughter was about 4 years old. It was a snowy morning and I was in a hurry to get her to preschool before heading back to my office for a full day of calls and appointments. I buckled her into her the passenger seat of our old car and came around to the driver's side.

When I say "old car," I really mean old car. We were a very young family with a very modest income. The car I was driving - although clean and reliable - was rather rusty, worn, and road weary. I'd patched the floor with cardboard, and the clutch pedal had lost its rubber pad.  


That morning, as I hurriedly pressed down on the clutch to start the car, the snow-covered sole of my shoe slipped off the pedal.  Its metal edge popped up suddenly and caught my ankle bone.  I heard -- and felt -- a sharp crack.

Our daughter loved to pray. She knew that was what her mommy did for other people, and so she would sit at her little desk and pray for her dolls and her stuffed animals. But sometimes, she would also pray for her friends and our dog. 


In that moment - sitting in the silent car - I knew that I couldn't walk back into the house and call someone to help me, so I turned to her and asked her to pray for mommy.

Immediately she closed her eyes. Within seconds I realized that all of the pain was gone and I could freely move my ankle. I have to admit I was surprised at how instantaneously the situation changed.

I turned to our daughter and exclaimed that I'd been healed. I thanked her, and asked, "When you were praying for mommy, what were you thinking?"

I will never forget her response -- or the look of exasperation on her face. It was as if she was repeating something to a child she'd been instructing on the same subject for years.  And I still hadn't gotten it. She said:


"Mommy,
when I pray
I don't think,
I listen."
 

It literally took my breath away, and then it changed my sense of what it means to pray -- forever.

It also explained -- for me -- something Mary Baker Eddy writes on the first page of her primary work, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, in the opening chapter, titled "Prayer":


"Prayer, watching and working,
are God's gracious means..."
 

Prayer is not my means for reaching out to God. It is God's means for communicating Truth to human consciousness. Prayer is not my means for mentally rehearsing scripture, inspiration, or quotes. Prayer is God's means for reaching deep into my heart with His/Her Truth -- revealing whatever I need to know in, and about, any given situation.

My job was not to think, but to listen. To listen from a very humble, deep place of surrender.  To listen with the childlike trust of a toddler attentive to her parent.

Earlier, in the Preface of Science and Health, Eddy states that:


"The human mind is not a factor
in the Principle of Christian Science..."
 
Silencing the human mind is a constant discipline. For over twenty-five years now, I have been humbly reminding myself that "to pray," is not to think, but to listen.  

The human mind so desperately wants to be a contributing factor, a collaborator, a partner with the divine -- it wants to believe that it can create a prayer, an environment ripe for a miracle, a thought that will flip the switch on a situation.  Silly ego mind -- you are not a creator.  You are not a factor in the Principle of Christian Science -- the law of God. 

So, over and over again, throughout each day and into long nights, I arrest the human mind's desire to be heard, silence its running dialogue with itself, and quietly listen for the voice - the Word - of God.  And where I'll end up -- where it will take my heart -- only God really knows.


offered with Love,


Kate

Friday, April 14, 2017

"beloved, it is time for you to rise..."



"Beloved, it is time
for you to rise..."


This morning as the sun crested Sleeping Indian, I couldn't help but think about another Easter weekend. It was over a decade ago, but the memories are as fresh as this morning's dew.

David Wilcox's "Rise," brings it all back. And along with the memories, tears of gratitude.

I wrote about the experience in 2006 when it was still quite fresh.  Revisiting that post, this afternoon, was profoundly moving for me. Here is an excerpt:

"Depression which had only been a far-off land - visited by other people - became my prison. Escape seemed to come only with dreaming, and sleep was the vehicle for getting to this place of reprieve. I lived in limbo between the waking reality of my sadness, and the hypnotic invitation to escape from that sadness, through sleep.

"Depression -- and the constant invitation by pharmaceutical companies to join the club of millions who suffer from countless symptoms that only their drug can relieve -- invites its victim to let go, and sink deeper. To give in to the weight of its pull, like a tired swimmer in an endless whirlpool of overwhelming emotions.

Wilcox's "Rise" was a life preserver thrown to me when I was most exhausted from that downward spiral..."
 

Today, that depression seems like a nightmare I simply woke up from. But at the time, I couldn't even imagine rousing myself, much less breaking free.

Recently, someone suggested that depression was something  a mutual friend just needed to "snap out of." I tried to explain that -- when you were in the midst of it -- it wasn't as easy as that.  It felt very ominous and real.  Depression felt like a living thing.

I remember the feeling of being caught under a heavy cloud of darkness. And at the time, I found myself thinking about that feeling a lot -- what did it mean, when did it start, how had it changed?  But it was the feeling of heaviness which gave me my first clue that -- perhaps -- there was a way out. 


I realized that I could only be aware of the heaviness,  because I had experienced something else - something lighter. I was aware of the difference.  That meant that the lightness was still part of my consciousness. And somehow, I knew that lightness and joy were better - more natural - than the heavy darkness.

This realization was like the sun breaking through. In fact, I remember one day in particular when a shaft of sunlight coming through the bedroom window was like an invitation. I engaged with it. I let it call me out from under the bedcovers and onto the back deck where I delighted in the dance of a pair of mourning doves. 


As I watched them, it occurred to me that I actually cared about them. I wanted to get up and fill the bird feeder. Love for these gentle beings was giving me a sense of purpose, and it was bringing me such pure joy. I held on to the fact that I could actually feel and experience that simple joy -- for many days.

Someone once asked me if I had forgotten how to pray during that time. No. Actually, I prayed without ceasing. In fact, I think I learned something very beautiful about prayer during those dark days. Prayer was not something I did.  It was not my thinking. Prayer was/is, as Mary Baker Eddy says on the first page of her primary work, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures:


"God's gracious means..."
 

Because I didn't trust my own thinking, I stopped thinking -- and started listening more humbly, attentively, hungrily for the voice of my Father-Mother God. The inspirations that came were not "of me," -- that was clear.  They were so pure and lovely that they often brought me to my knees in abject gratitude.

Depression was my tomb. Depression was the lonely place where I began to strip away the false sense of human endeavor, and accomplishment. I didn't trust "my mind," but I trusted the Mind that held the stars in order, that called the leaflet to the sun, that poured inspiration into my waiting heart.

I was sad, but I was alive. I was sad, but I wanted happiness and goodness for my daughters. I was sad, but I was able to get up and make breakfast for my family. Yes, I was sad, but that was just a feeling -- and feelings weren't necessarily facts. They didn't define me. I was sad, but I could love.  This defined me -- even to myself. 


These small moments of love lived, were like a kind stranger calling a frightened kitten out from beneath a dumpster. Before long, I was drinking the milk of the Word from the hand of the Divine.

As I ponder the Easter story tonight, I can't help but think of how many small resurrections we each face. For some of us, these resurrections come in the form of a renewed sense of wonder. For others it may come in the form of new love. For many, it appears as healing in a relationship that held no hope. And for others, it is the stone of sadness being rolled away from the where we have "buried our fondest earthly, [and heavenly] hopes" -- as Eddy suggests.

Jesus' resurrection was an event of unprecedented import and opened an entire new world of spiritual expectancy for the human race. Life triumphed over death, love over hate, and hope over despair. For each of us, this event -- which took place over 2,000 years ago -- offers the promise of freedom from the depressing thought that we are mortals subject to laws of heredity, history, and psycho-social theories of chance and unpredictability. 


 In her, First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany, Mary Baker Eddy writes:

"A great sanity,
a mighty something buried
in the depths of the unseen,
has wrought a resurrection among you,
and has leaped into living love. "
 

This "great sanity" of being -- is living love. This is the sanity that lays waste to depression. This resurrection - this mighty something - may seem buried within the depths of the unseen, but it is there. It is the kingdom of God within each of us.  And it leaps into action at the call of love.

May your heart feel the joy of this Easter promise. May you feel the peace of this mighty something -- and may it work a resurrection among you, and yours, and all -- leaping, and singing, and living love.


offered with Love,


Kate

Saturday, March 4, 2017

"be still, be still, and know..."



"Be still, and know that I'm with you.
Be still, and know that I am here.
Be still, be still, and know..."

In the darkness, peace felt fragile. Every mistake I'd ever made seemed to parade itself across the backdrop of my closed eyes. Sleep evaded me.

I had been lying there for hours, rehashing decisions that seemed so much clearer in hindsight. I was so tired of being haunted by all the ways I could have done things differently: gone to the right -- instead of the left, paused for one minute longer, held my peace -- instead of speaking. I was exhausted from thinking and re-thinking.

I lay there awash in regret while the house breathed its winter sounds. I'd been praying -- without ceasing -- when a simple scripture from the Psalms -- and one that is central in this beautiful lyric from The Fray's, "Be Still." broke through.

Be still. And know. I am. It was the perfect reminder. I needed to get off the hamster wheel of human thinking. I needed to be still, and know. Not think, but know. I stilled, not just my thrashing, sheet-twined body, but my unsettled heart. I lay on my back, folded my hands, and took long deep breaths until I felt the sweetness of a quiet mind.

Then I asked myself: what do you know to be true? Not, what do you think is true? But what do you absolutely know to be true -- right now. Then I listened. Within moments it came. "I know I am." It was simple and pure. I know that I am conscious. I know that I am aware of loving my husband, my children. I know that I am capable of gratitude -- right now. I know that I still [always, persistently, nevertheless] love God, good. I know that I am able to be truthful, quiet, humble, loving.

It may not seem like a profound insight -- but in the dark, when the demons of regret are circling and thoughts rush around like wild creatures in an approaching storm -- it is like having the gentling hand of a divine Parent rest upon your heart.

I didn't fall asleep immediately that night. But the darkness changed from foreboding to comforting. I felt swaddled in the stillness like an infant -- it's closeness calming my heart and mind. Thinking gave way to knowing, and in that knowing there was a sweet peace.

In Scripture, John tell us:

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

He didn't say, "ye shall think the truth, and the truth shall make you free," but know. The different between thinking and knowing is a profound one for me. There is a peace in knowing what I know vs. thinking about something.

I didn't have to do battle with those demons -- Mind, God, had asserted Its divine authority. Knowing, overwhelmed human thought-taking. Gratitude for what I absolutely knew to be true, swept away the cobwebs of speculation, regret, memory, and imagination. The final chapter of Mary Baker Eddy's textbook, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, titled "Fruitage," includes testimonies of healing. C.B.G. of Hudson, Massachusetts shares this experience - and it so perfectly describes what I felt that night -- and continue to feel, each time thinking yields to knowing:


"I closed the book and with head bowed in prayer
I waited with longing intensity for some answer.
How long I waited I do not know, but suddenly,
like a wonderful burst of sunlight after a storm,
came clearly this thought,

“Be still, and know that I am God.”

I held my breath — deep into my hungering thought
sank the infinite meaning of that “I.”
All self-conceit, egotism, selfishness, everything
that constitutes the mortal “I,” sank abashed
out of sight. I trod, as it were, on holy ground.
Words are inadequate to convey the fulness of that
spiritual uplifting, but others who have had similar
experiences will understand. From that hour I have had
an intelligent consciousness of the ever-presence
of an infinite God who is only good."
 

For me, this knowing space, is a place of such profound peace that I never want to leave it. I find myself looking for ways to return to it throughout each day. I seek the quiet spaces, the covert places, where I can curl myself into the knowing -- the I am of being, the consciousness of Love alone as Life. It is the place of stillness -- nevertheless-ness. It is the place I love.

offered with Love,


Kate

Sunday, February 26, 2017

"from You, I get the story..."



"Listening to You,  I get the music
Gazing at You, I get the heat
Following You, I climb the mountain
I get excitement at Your feet.

Right behind You, I see the millions
On You, I see the glory
From You, I get opinion
From You, I get the story..."



I have to admit, I was never a big fan of The Who.  And I never understood their 1975 rock opera, "Tommy." But recently, lines from their long-forgotten, "Listening to You," have been coming to me in the strangest moments -- stillness, silence, prayer.

And it's the song's opening lyrics -- See me. Feel me. Touch me. Heal me. -- that most often come as a dialogue with the divine.  It is as if God is inviting me into a deeper conversation.


See me [He says]: See My hand in everything. Whether it seems a blessing or a cursing. Since I am the only Cause and Creator, if it is, it is of Me. It is only your perception -- your view -- of it that needs to change. Find Me in everything. Find My presence, My purpose, My power.

Mary Baker Eddy writes in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures:


"All that is made,
is the work of God,
and all is good."
 

This is a definitive statement. It is not a suggestion to consider. It is not conditional. It is imperative and absolute.  Therefore, my "job," is to see Him -- God -- in all things.

Feel me: Stop giving this most precious sense of "feeling" to another creator. Don't let anyone, or anything, hijack your right to feel Me -- every moment. Feel love. Feel joy. Feel gratitude. Feel peace. Feel the presence of stillness. I am here. Feel Me.

Again, Eddy's words confirm this spiritual right to feel Him. She writes in Rudimental Divine Science:


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

This is a promise. You must. And she starts this promise, with our right to actually feel God's government -- even before knowing it. So how do I feel this Truth -- the Truth that God alone governs me, and mine, and all? 


I feel it every time I find myself setting aside self-concern, for what is in the best interests of another. I feel it in the way that Love is able to steady my resolve in the face of fear. I felt this morning, when every thing in me screamed that I could not possibly do something I had committed to doing.  And yet, Love prevailed and I was able to rise to the occasion.

The other night, as I was praying, it was the third line that took me by surprise in my conversation with God.

Touch me: Reach for Me. Linger in My love for you. Let your heart find refuge in My hold. Rest your concerns upon My promise. There was a visceral sense to this touch. It wasn't just a word -- there was weight and substance to it.

In Science and Health, Eddy refers to this "touch" when she suggest:


"Some people yield slowly
to the touch of Truth."
 


And in her collection, Miscellaneous Writings 1883 - 1896 she writes:


"The easel of time presents
pictures — once fragmentary and faint — now
rejuvenated by the touch of God’s right hand.
Where joy, sorrow, hope, disappointment,
sigh, and smile commingled, now hope
sits dove-like."
 

Ahh, to feel this touch. To actually feel it. My heart cries out for it's weight upon my life. To feel gentled by God's right hand. To know the rejuvenating power of this touch -- like sunlight upon the frost-blighted bud.

And my response.

Heal me:  Dear Father-Mother God, show me my innate wholeness. I am not asking You to fix what is broken, for You have never left me vulnerable to breaking. You have always been with me to hold me intact. I am your image and likeness -- pixel-for-pixel. There is not one mental molecule of my being that has the power to "go rogue." Heal me. Heal me.

This time, it was the first verse of a hymn from the Christian Science Hymnal that washed over, and around, and through me:


"In speechless prayer and reverence,
Dear Lord, I come to Thee;
My heart with love Thou fillest,
Yea, with humility.
My bread and wine Thou art,
With Thee I hold communion;
Thy presence healeth me
Thy presence healeth me."
 

Because of these song-based conversations with God -- which happen more often than you might imagine -- I find myself singing songs I'd long forgotten, and listening for new meaning.

Listening to Him, I get the story. Because the story -- no matter what it may seem to be at first glance -- is always His. It is always about Him.

offered with Love,


Kate

Monday, February 20, 2017

"gentle on my mind..."




"It's knowing that your door
is always open, and your path
is free to walk..."


I love this version of John Hartford's "Gentle on My Mind" by The Band Perry. But it's Glen Campbell's 1967 recording that first caught my heart.

It was 1969 and everything felt at loose ends. Our family had pulled up stakes and moved over 2,000 miles across the country. We were living with relatives while our parents secured housing. I felt so untethered that summer. I was looking for anything I could latch on to, and call my own.

The teenage sons of long-time family friends were kind, respectful, and good. It didn't take long for me to develop a paralyzing crush on the oldest boy. Days were soon filled with tennis, swimming, berry-picking, and playing records in my cousins' basement where we'd talk, and dance, and play cards, while our parents visited upstairs.

I believe, that in his eyes - I was a child. I certainly looked like one. Three years younger, and already very small for my age, I was more like someone he should babysit rather than date. But this didn't stop me from dreaming -- the way young girls do. He was kind, but certainly not interested in dating a little girl.

It must have been obvious to my parents, aunts, uncles, and his parents -- to say nothing of my cousins. If he was coming over I was animated and happy. If he wasn't, I sat by myself on the porch, read Russian novels, and sighed -- a lot.

One day, my very intuitive aunt joined me on the porch. In her hand was a copy of Mary Baker Eddy's small volume, Miscellaneous Writings, 1883 - 1896. At first she didn't even refer to the book she was holding. She simple asked me what was on my mind. And for some reason, I was honest with her. 


 I told her that I was thinking about him.  I admitted how impossible - I knew it was - for us to ever become a couple. Not only was he not interested in dating a little girl, but we were very different. He was an adventurer, a wanderer, someone who saw a horizon and simply had to find out what lay beyond. I, as I told my aunt, was a homebody, a bookworm, someone who sought out small spaces and quiet corners.

My aunt didn't remind me that I was barely old enough to be allowed to stay up late and watch Bonanza -- much less be thinking about my future with a boy who was already shaving and planning a solo road trip to Colorado after college. She spoke with me as if I were a young woman. She addressed -- not the difference in our ages -- but the differences in our dreams.

She reminded me that my dreams were filled with visions of ivy-covered halls at a prestigious university, while his were filled with mountains, rivers, vast open highways, and endless western skies. Without saying much more, she handed me her copy of Miscellaneous Writings, and walked back into the house. Holding it in my hand, I noticed that there was a long slip of soft blue grosgrain ribbon, pressed between two pages. After she left, I opened to where the ribbon had been placed, and found that she'd marked a passage for me to read. It was perfect:


"We should remember that the world is wide;
that there are a thousand million different human wills,
opinions, ambitions, tastes, and loves; that each person
has a different history, constitution, culture, character,
from all the rest; that human life is the work, the play,
the ceaseless action and reaction upon each other
of these different atoms.

Then, we should go forth into life with the
smallest expectations, but with the largest patience;
with a keen relish for and appreciation of everything
beautiful, great, and good, but with a temper so genial
that the friction of the world shall not wear upon
our sensibilities; with an equanimity so settled that
no passing breath nor accidental disturbance shall
agitate or ruffle it; with a charity broad enough
to cover the whole world’s evil, and sweet enough
to neutralize what is bitter in it, — determined
not to be offended when no wrong is meant, nor
even when it is, unless the offense be against God.

Nothing short of our own errors should offend us.
He who can wilfully attempt to injure another,
is an object of pity rather than of resentment;
while it is a question in my mind, whether there is
enough of a flatterer, a fool, or a liar,
to offend a whole-souled woman."
 

The first thing I felt was "known." I can't tell you why, at 14-going-on-15, I was so moved by this passage, but it touched me deeply.  And, it was perfect. It was grown up and thoughtful. To think that this aunt --who I admired so much for her dignity, compassion, and grace -- would think of me as a "whole-souled woman," gave me something to hold on to. It was the very anchoring I had been seeking.

Almost 50 years later, this passage - in my own copy of Miscellaneous Writings - is always marked with a slip of grosgrain ribbon and marked with blue chalk. It has seen me through arguments with my sister, break-ups, not getting "the job" I'd thought was mine, political disappointments and dissent, as well as  countless opportunities for humility, meekness, and grace.

The boy -- he went on to become an extraordinary young man of substance and adventure. Me -- I still love books, quiet spaces, and the simple things of home, spiritual service, and family. That summer, my aunt helped me let go of the wrong anchor, to find my true grounding in what was enduring, changeless, and beautiful. I will always be grateful.  Each person that comes into our hearts, can forever remain gentle on our minds.

offered with Love,


Kate

Friday, February 3, 2017

"a sweet and certain sense..."




"God is Love,
God is Love,
if it's all I ever learn in life,
it's all I need to know..."


Outside my cabin, I could hear a group of girls serenading a boy's cabin just down the hill. Their sweet voices lifted into the night sky like fireflies turning into stars. I closed my eyes hoping to capture some of their joy as it rose over the tall pines that stood like sentinels watching over us all.

I was reaching for joy, but it seemed so beyond my grasp that night. I'd received a call earlier in the evening that shook me to my core. Sorrow and bewilderment circled like coyotes looking for a place in my heart. I was on full alert, but tired. I needed a companion in the watch. Mindy Jostyn's beautiful, "God is Love" was a friend in the dark.

I let her remind me through the night that if I took nothing away from this experience -- but an understanding of what it meant that God is Love -- it would be enough. The hope of healing was alive in me. But what that healing would look like seemed elusive. In some ways, I didn't even know what to hope for. Would I stop feeling sad? Would the pain disappear? Would my heart cease to ache? Would someone tell me that the call I'd received earlier had never really happened?

I'd been sitting in the dark for hours, when I suddenly felt an overwhelming desire to read from Mary Baker Eddy's primary text on spiritual healing, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures. I had a long history with finding healing and comfort in her pages. It was exactly what I needed at that moment. I turned on the lamp and opened my dog-eared copy randomly.

My eyes fell on these words from a longer sentence:


"...the proof of healing, 
a sweet and certain sense
that God is Love."
 

It washed over, and through, me like a dam breaking upstream. The proof of healing wasn't going to be seen in a changed physical picture. I wasn't going to hear different news, or wake up to a different report. But I would know this healing. I would have absolute proof of healing.  I would feel it in a "a sweet and certain sense that God is Love" filling my heart -- filling my life.

I turned off the lamp and returned to the stillness of the night. I listened to Mindy's voice -- and I knew I was healed. I felt it. It started as a glowing ember at my core. I felt Spirit breathe upon its presence - all the hope, trust, and affection I held in my heart. Before long, I could feel that "sweet and certain sense that God is Love" radiating, warming, and filling every dark corner of the night. I was healed. I had proof.

Elsewhere in Science and Health, Mary Baker Eddy assures us:


"The depth, breadth, height,
might, majesty, and glory
of infinite Love fill all space.
That is enough!"
 

And it really was. It was enough, just to know that, "God is Love." I could actually feel that it was the most important thing I would ever learn in life, and that it was all that I would ever really need to know.

On the surface of things, nothing had changed. But deep within my heart I actually felt it -- that sweet and certain sense that God is Love -- and it was all the proof of healing I needed.  I have returned to this experience many times since that night.

In fact, just today my heart was heavy. The news was overwhelming. One alarming report after another. One disturbing account immediately on the heels of the last. The information was coming rapid fire. It felt like I had been praying -- without ceasing -- for days. I couldn't even imagine what healing might look like when there was so much to be healed, and so many issues to be prayerfully addressing. 


 As I stood at the stove waiting for the tea kettle to boil, the strains of Mindy's "God is Love," washed through my heart like the soundtrack from a favorite film. I recalled that night, over a decade earlier, when I had felt so engulfed in grief. And I remembered -- the only proof of healing I needed to feel was:

"a sweet and certain sense
that God is Love"
 

I closed my eyes, quieting the clamor of the human mind.  And there it was -- the feeling. That sweet and certain sense that God is Love filling my heart. It was all the proof I needed. It was enough.
 


offered with Love,


Kate

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

"there's room at the table..."



"Let our hearts
not be hardened
to those living on the margins,
there is room at the table
for everyone..."



Sometimes a Carrie Newcomer song, like "Room at the Table" is all it takes to readjust the balance of things -- on the side of humanity.

Being the granddaughter of immigrants is a common badge that I share with millions of men, women, and children. I know that this does not make me "special," but for some reason I've always felt special because of it. My connection to Ireland feels less diluted because I know that I've actually been held by grandparents who'd made that long voyage across the Atlantic. I've imagined that my eyes are a particular shade of blue that is only found in tide pools at the base of the Cliffs of Moher. I dream of Irish poets and feel most "in my skin" when the the sky lowers into a sea of slate gray and is heavy with rain.  I want to believe that I would understand Gaelic at a cellular level, and that Celtic music echoes through my veins.

I know that I don't look foreign to my neighbors. My maiden name doesn't alarm anyone. I don't have to hide my ancestry, or worry that I will be called a lazy Mick -- like my grandfathers did. I rarely hear jokes about my countrymen.  And I don't have to wonder if my grandsons would be employable if their surnames were decidedly Irish.

But it is never far from my heart that I am the granddaughter of Irish immigrants. About ten years ago, my sister did research I'd never done. She traced our family tree, was able to find an early New York Times newspaper article about our grandmother, and laid out a soft map of how we'd found our way from the west coast of Ireland to Ellis Island, Brooklyn, and rural New Jersey. She photo-copied documents and photos, and sent them to me as a birthday gift. Those papers are precious to me.

But how would I be feeling today if the United States felt threatened by Ireland and my status as a citizen were at risk? What if my daughters were detained, threatened with deportation, or held for questioning about their religious beliefs -- just because our family entered this country as immigrants? Would I be proudly sharing our family tree with my children? How would I explain to them why it mattered that their Irish-Catholic great-grandparents and their Irish-Protestant ancestors may have once embraced beliefs that now put them - and their sense of home - in jeopardy.

I read news reports, watch videos, hear heart-breaking stories of immigrants being persecuted for no other reason than because of their country of origin or religious lineage.  And it takes everything in me to stay calmly focused on solutions rather than weeping with frustrated rage. So far, I am able to keep the paralyzing feelings of sorrow and helplessness at bay, and pray without ceasing.

We are all children of one Father-Mother God. I remember hearing an interview with a Messianic Rabbi some years ago. The interviewer asked him a question that I'd long-wondered about. He asked the Rabbi why Jesus -- a good Jewish boy who knew the Torah, went to temple, was known to have spent time in conversation with lawyers and rabbis, and was doing good things in the community -- was not a legitimate candidate for the Messiahship by the temple leaders of his time.

The Rabbi replied that a Messiah was more than a just good Jew. A Messiah needed to be a nationalistic leader. He needed to defend the Jewish nation as "the chosen people." He needed to believe that they alone were the rightful heirs to "the promised land," and that it should be his sole responsibility to serve "the lost sheep of the house of Israel." Whether this was a theologically accepted view of "why," or just this Rabbi's take on it, it made sense to me.

At the beginning of his ministry, it seems that Jesus is on track with this path towards fulfilling his Messianic calling. But there is a decided shift that seems to take place. In one instance, we see him dismissing a Canaanite woman who asks him for help. Yet this is a mother, and she doesn't slink away after having been rebuked for her boldness in approaching the Master. She questions him, "are not even the dogs worthy of the crumbs that fall from the master's table?" And he humbly reconsiders his response to her, saying: "O woman, great is thy faith..." 


Before long we see him referencing Samaritans -- strangers -- in his parable about how to treat others. He tells those following him that a Centurion "gets it" and that he has "not seen such great faith -- no, not in Israel."

In traveling from Judaea to Galilee, crossing through Samaria, he asks a woman to draw water from a well that he might quench his thirst, and spiritually assuage hers -- her surprise is unfeigned, the Jews have no dealings with Samaritans -- but he did. He acknowledges the gratitude of Samaritan, who who returns to give thanks when the nine others - who are healed - do not. 


He allows himself to be touched by a woman with an issue of blood, calls her out of the crowd, and celebrates her faith -- an act unimaginable in the culture and times he has grown up in. He recommends the behavior of a publican who shows greater humility than a Pharisee, and when the Romans and Greeks come seeking him during a feast, he knows his time has come. He has boldly crossed the borders of geography, ethnicity, gender, and socio-religious norms. His leadership has endured beyond his own brief span of "time in office."

I still have so much to learn from this man who, as Mary Baker Eddy writes, "defined love." I think I will be discovering new ways to love through the Scriptural record of his actions -- forever.  His admonition to "go and do likewise" in following the footsteps of a good Samaritan who cares for a wounded stranger, puts him on his own donkey, and provides for his lodging and board as he recovers -- is clear. His suggestion that if we have done "these things -- feed, shelter, care for -- one of the least among us, we have done it unto [him]," leaves no question, for me, about how we are to treat others.  The examples of his humanity never cease to humble me in my own efforts to love generously, share selflessly, and pray without ceasing.

If I am leaving the least among us out of the feast,  if my heart is hardened to the plight of those living on the margins, I have lost my way. At this table that has been prepared for us, in the wilderness of a messy world, there is room for everyone. May we never forget that we -- or our ancestors -- were once waiting to be welcomed.

offered with Love,


Kate

Monday, January 16, 2017

"we were made for these times..."


"there at the table
with my head in my hands..."


I know I have used Carrie Newcomer's beautiful, "You Can Do This Hard Thing before. But it is the only song that feels right for keynoting this guest post by Clarissa Pinkola Estes, which speaks so perfectly to the challenge of these times -- and what we are capable of.

I am sitting here at the kitchen table.  It is well before dawn on the day of Martin Luther King's birthday. I just couldn't sleep. This week will make unique demands upon us for a deep spiritual poise.  I could almost feel the heart of humanity pulsing in the quiet. I believe that many of us are wrestling with some hard questions about this moment in history.  After hours of prayer, I opened my laptop, only to discover this remarkable piece. It was the perfect answer.

I can't remember -- in more than 700 posts on this blog, stretching over 12 years -- ever re-posting someone else's piece in its entirety. But Estes' article, "We Were Made for These Times," copied below, says it all so beautifully - and with such profound grace - that I needed to share it with those I love. I hope it edifies your hope, strengthens your resolve, and reminds you that you, too, were made for these times.

We Were Made for These Times
by Clarissa Pinkola Estes
 

"My friends, do not lose heart. We were made for these times. I have heard from so many recently who are deeply and properly bewildered. They are concerned about the state of affairs in our world now. Ours is a time of almost daily astonishment and often righteous rage over the latest degradations of what matters most to civilized, visionary people.

You are right in your assessments. The lustre and hubris some have aspired to while endorsing acts so heinous against children, elders, everyday people, the poor, the unguarded, the helpless, is breathtaking. Yet, I urge you, ask you, gentle you, to please not spend your spirit dry by bewailing these difficult times. Especially do not lose hope. Most particularly because, the fact is that we were made for these times. Yes. For years, we have been learning, practicing, been in training for and just waiting to meet on this exact plain of engagement.

I grew up on the Great Lakes and recognize a seaworthy vessel when I see one. Regarding awakened souls, there have never been more able vessels in the waters than there are right now across the world. And they are fully provisioned and able to signal one another as never before in the history of humankind.

Look out over the prow; there are millions of boats of righteous souls on the waters with you. Even though your veneers may shiver from every wave in this stormy roil, I assure you that the long timbers composing your prow and rudder come from a greater forest. That long-grained lumber is known to withstand storms, to hold together, to hold its own, and to advance, regardless.

In any dark time, there is a tendency to veer toward fainting over how much is wrong or unmended in the world. Do not focus on that. There is a tendency, too, to fall into being weakened by dwelling on what is outside your reach, by what cannot yet be. Do not focus there. That is spending the wind without raising the sails.

We are needed, that is all we can know. And though we meet resistance, we more so will meet great souls who will hail us, love us and guide us, and we will know them when they appear. Didn't you say you were a believer? Didn't you say you pledged to listen to a voice greater? Didn't you ask for grace? Don't you remember that to be in grace means to submit to the voice greater?

Ours is not the task of fixing the entire world all at once, but of stretching out to mend the part of the world that is within our reach. Any small, calm thing that one soul can do to help another soul, to assist some portion of this poor suffering world, will help immensely. It is not given to us to know which acts or by whom, will cause the critical mass to tip toward an enduring good.

What is needed for dramatic change is an accumulation of acts, adding, adding to, adding more, continuing. We know that it does not take everyone on Earth to bring justice and peace, but only a small, determined group who will not give up during the first, second, or hundredth gale.

One of the most calming and powerful actions you can do to intervene in a stormy world is to stand up and show your soul. Soul on deck shines like gold in dark times. The light of the soul throws sparks, can send up flares, builds signal fires, causes proper matters to catch fire. To display the lantern of soul in shadowy times like these - to be fierce and to show mercy toward others; both are acts of immense bravery and greatest necessity.

Struggling souls catch light from other souls who are fully lit and willing to show it. If you would help to calm the tumult, this is one of the strongest things you can do.There will always be times when you feel discouraged. I too have felt despair many times in my life, but I do not keep a chair for it. I will not entertain it. It is not allowed to eat from my plate.

The reason is this: In my uttermost bones I know something, as do you. It is that there can be no despair when you remember why you came to Earth, who you serve, and who sent you here. The good words we say and the good deeds we do are not ours. They are the words and deeds of the One who brought us here. In that spirit, I hope you will write this on your wall: When a great ship is in harbor and moored, it is safe, there can be no doubt. But that is not what great ships are built for."

I am so grateful to Clarissa Pinkola Estes -- author of Women Who Run with Wolves -- for sharing her heart, her wisdom, and her compassion with us through this piece. I will let it seep into my heart and refresh my holy purpose.  We can do this hard thing, because we were made for these times.

offered with Love,


Kate

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

"because I knew you..."



"who can say if I've been
changed for the better,
but because I knew you,
I have been changed for good..."

I was deeply moved watching Kristin Chenoweth and Idina Menzel's final performance of "For Good." What a beautiful way to circle back, bringing sweet closure to a year that has been full of opportunities for spiritual growth -- but all, for good.

I can't help but think of the experiences and people that have touched my life. Each one has changed me -- for good. Yes, each one for good.  For good [vs. for bad] -- but also for good, meaning forever. Because of you, I will never be the same shy girl, the broken waif, the bitter teen, the confused and self-destructive young woman, I once was.

It didn't happen in a flash. But it happened. Little by little, each of you has given me an insight, an experience, a perspective that has shifted my sense of things, and these shifts in consciousness have changed me -- for good.

I noticed a significant change just the other day. I was having an online conversation with another woman. She was describing a new project she was excited about. And I was just as excited for her as I would have been if I were launching a new venture. There was no comparison, no desire to respond with my own accomplishment, none of the old feelings of failure. I was genuinely happy. Not just for her, but for the world we share -- I was happy that something new and beautiful was being born, and it didn't have to have anything to do with me.

I've been thinking a lot about this since that realization. I have noticed how content I feel with my life. All the old ambition to "become" something has melted away. All the desire for having the cutest house on the block -- is gone. I feel peaceful in a way that I can't ever remember feeling before. It's lovely.

I have been changed -- for good. There is a deep contentment in witnessing the accomplishments, successes, and achievements of others. There is peace in just showing up for my life -- my family, my friends, my community, my work -- without the need to prove anything to anyone, but God.

Recently I have been looking deeply into what Mary Baker Eddy's writings contribute to my relationship with others. There are too many profound insights to share in one post, but this long-loved statement from her autobiography, Retrospection and Introspection bears repeating:


"There are no greater miracles
known to earth than perfection
and an unbroken friendship."
 

Yes, it implies the importance of sustained affection between friends. But "no greater miracle?" When I was a girl, my family moved around -- a lot. My sister was my only enduring relationship. We had our ups and downs. We shared a bedroom, clothes, friends, and interests. We fought. Because I really didn't have any other long-term relationships -- until after high school, I was ill-equipped for the comings and goings of affection in friendship. I thought everyone would be like my sister. Regardless of what we'd done, or said, to one another -- we couldn't "break up." Not so.

It took me many years to discover that my relationship with my sister was one of the most precious gifts in my life. But it also took me as many years to discover that I needed to nurture friendships beyond what was easy or even necessarily expected. If I wanted to understand the "miracle," it was incumbent upon me to invest the time, attention, affection, and forgiveness that it would take for any version of "us," to weather the ups and down of being in relationship with another human being. Over the years, I began to see the profound wisdom in Eddy's words. Each of those relationships have, and continue to, change me for good -- and that's the miracle.

But what about the other relationships in my life -- the ones that I can't file under the heading of "friend?"  What about those people who have come into my life, and for one reason or another -- or at one moment or another -- I might have had a contentious, envious, dismissive, or even just less than friendly relationship with. The people I've been hurt by -- or more tragically -- have hurt with my own words and actions. For a long time, I believed that the best thing to do was to walk away. Yes, forgive - or hope to be forgiven, but walk away. These statements - among many in Eddy's prose writings - from an article titled, "Love Your Enemies," have often called me up short:


"Who is thine enemy that thou shouldest love him?
Is it a creature or thing outside thine own creation?

We have no enemies. Whatever envy hatred, revenge,
-- the most remorseless motives that govern mortal mind --
whatever these try to do, shall "work together for
good to them that love God."
 

It has taken me years to realize that by being willing to cross swords with my own sense of being a victim, or a villain, I have become less judgmental, and more compassionate, patient, and  kind. In short, it is the relationships that I once considered "less than friendly," that have changed me the most, and nurtured the qualities in myself that I most love.

This has been particularly true in relationships where I have been the one to have made mistakes in judgment. By learning to say "I'm sorry," rather than run away from a situation rife with self-reproach, I have discovered that I am bigger than my mistakes.


I believe that each person that comes into our lives, either by example or engagement, encourages us to grow in grace -- in patience, meekness, love, and good deeds.  I believe this is why our Lord's Prayer begins "Our Father..." To discover the very best in ourselves -- humility, compassion, courage, meekness -- we need each other.  I can't become my best, without you.  

No matter who you are, where our relationship started -- or stands today -- because I knew you, I have been changed for good.

with Love,


Kate