Wednesday, May 25, 2016

"He will not let go…"



"what lies ahead,
I'm not sure I know.
But the hands that holds,
this flailing soul,
He will not let go..."

Blinding pain ripped through my body like a bolt of lightning. In that moment, I didn't know what to think, or how to think. When it retreated, and darkness came again, it was like slipping beneath the surface of a cool dark pond. And I surrendered.

Until it came again. A screaming. A crashing. Something sharp and raw that shattered me into a million shards of pain and fear. All I wanted to do was let go and slip into oblivion. "Yes, that's right. Go ahead, and just let go," it whispered in a taunting hiss. And I considered it.  That was until I realized that even if I were to completely give up, give in, and let go, "He Will Not Let Go." of me.

I love this beautiful song by one of my favorite inspirational recording artists, Laura Story. Her music is so honest and simple that it takes my breath away.

There have been moments in my life when I've felt like giving up on my own ability to hold on. Times when the hurt was so deep, or the hopelessness so unfathomable, that looking beyond a single step felt impossible.

I remember that night - quite a few years ago now -- when the above-referenced pain was unbearable. Living with it seemed too much to bear.  Each minute felt like an eternity. Each tick of the bedside clock was torturous. As I lay there, it occurred to me that I could just give up, let go, and slip away. It would be so easy. The thought of it was so tempting.

But it was at this very moment, that I felt the presence of something profoundly clear. The thought came, "As if! As if your willingness to let go, would change the fact that I love you, and that I am holding on to you. You are the very manifestation of Me, as Life. I will not let go."

This single thought woke me up from the lie of self-determinism. It wrested from my grip, the false notion that I was in charge of my life. That it was mine to sustain, to choose, or to throw away. I realized that I had absolutely no power to make that choice. God had all the power, and He was holding on to me. He would never let go.

With the realization that I was powerless to give up, the pain began to retreat. It no longer had the authority I'd given it.  I no longer believed it could inform me about whether to hold on, or to give up and let go.  It was a decision that I'd always thought was mine to make. But the fact was, I was here, I was conscious. I still loved my children. I could still be grateful. I was still able to appreciate beauty.  Suddenly, I was no longer paralyzed by the pain and fear.  I was enveloped in an undeniable truth -- Life was insisting Itself as conscious existence - as me.

I asked myself, "In all your life, have you ever actually been aware of being unconscious?" I had to admit, I'd never experienced the kind of deep blackness.  I'd never existed without an awareness of "I AM" -- which was the very thing that I was so fearful of.  It was what I thought pain was a precursor to.  But in fact, every night I'd peacefully yielded to sleep -- without any fear of never waking up again or being relegated to a dark mental abyss. And every day, I woke up feeling a sense of uninterrupted being.

I had always been held -- deeply and inextricably held -- intact, in perfection, in grace, in consciousness. Life had never let go of me. And whether I was holding on or not, I was being held.

The pain that had terrorized me, lost its power to inform or alarm me when I realized that it could not carry out its threat. My life was in the hands of God.  My awareness of being was under the sovereignty of Mind. My right to love, to be grateful, to pray and to bless was intact.

I've been grateful for two statements - in particular - from the writings of Mary Baker Eddy, when acute or chronic pain has threatened to hold a deeper, darker meaning:

"No evidence before the material senses
can close my eyes to the scientific proof
that God, good, is supreme."

"Spirit’s senses are without pain,
and they are forever at peace.
Nothing can hide from them
the harmony of all things
and the might and permanence of Truth."
 

Nothing can hide from me an awareness of God's tender hold on my life. Nothing can close my eyes to the love of my divine Parent. He will never let go.

While searching for a photo to illustrate this piece, I came across dozens of photos of us holding our daughters when they were babies.  And an online search turned up hundreds of photos of mothers and fathers holding their infants. They all looked so beautiful -- so full of tenderness, strength, and love.




Then I looked at the same photos, but imagined the parent out of the picture. The babies looked vulnerable, their positions awkward, their bodies small and fragile. It was exactly how I felt that night -- like a flailing, unsupported naked being exposed to the unknown.  Knowing that God was always there, holding me, changed everything that night -- from paralyzing fear to feeling that I was nestled in my Father's arms.  Held in a deep and abiding relationship with my divine Parent.

Whatever you might be facing, you are not facing it alone. God is holding you in perfect peace, in eternal Life, in tender love. He will not let go.

offered with Love,


Kate

Thursday, May 12, 2016

defining humanity….



"me and you,
and you and me..."

I almost don't know where to start. I have been staring at the screen since watching Ethan Wylie's film school project, "Asdamora." Yes, it includes songs that I love. And yes, the images are lovely. But it is the over-arching message that has me holding my breath wondering what comes next. I hope you will find it as moving as I did.

ASDAMORA is an acronym for Analytic System for Differentiating Mankind and Other Relatives. Quite a mouthful. The concept of the film is brilliant -- at least for me.

I love definitions, and like the filmmaker I am often frustrated when the definition of a word includes the root word itself. For example, when the definition of humanity, includes a reference to being human. I want a stripped down definition that takes me deeper, higher -- in a new direction.

One of my favorite definitions includes the word "humanity." In her primary textbook for spiritual healing, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, Mary Baker Eddy uses it to define the word "moral." She says:

Moral. Humanity, honesty,
affection, compassion, hope,
faith, meekness, temperance."
 

This definition turned my life upside down. Discovering that  "hope," was an act of moral courage, was empowering. To realize that there was moral strength in "meekness," brought a new sense of dignity to my life. As each of these words became more profoundly practical, their own meanings became more important.  Over time, "humanity" became as much a verb, as a noun.

I love the word. There is something so grounded in it's practical relevance, while still holding the promise of its coincidence with divinity.

I will let Ethan's video speak to you without editorial. I hope it touches your heart. Each of the songs he has chosen, has had profound meaning for me. Each has contributed to my understanding of myself, and to my place in the greater human family.

When one of Ethan's friends shared this video on Facebook, the "cover" photo was from The Turtles' 1967 performance of "Happy Together" on the Ed Sullivan Show. For me, this song was a perfect reminder for how music can help us discover the deeper humanity within ourselves.

I was 13 years old the summer of 1967. You couldn't turn on the radio, and not hear "Happy Together." I loved this song. My girlfriends and I would sing it at slumber parties with hairbrush microphones in hand. It was as close to "our song" as we would get at 13. 


Since the neighborhood pool often played "mom music" over the loud speaker, we could often be found slathered in iodine-laced baby oil, lined up on the hot cement of the pool apron, with a transistor radio nestled between every two bikini-clad girls. And when "Happy Together" came on, we closed our eyes to the world of chlorine and popsicle-smeared toddlers, and sang loudly -- and with feeling.

So, you can imagine my horror later that summer when our family took a road trip, and the first time "Happy Together" came on, my parents started singing every word with just as much joy, passion, and animation as we did.  Albeit, without the hairbrushes. The creepy part for me was clear -- they loved it too. I couldn't believe they knew it -- much less loved it.  It shook me to the core.

I had a lot of time to think during that car trip. It was two adults and six children under the again of 13, stuffed into a station wagon with luggage, food coolers, games, and books. I thought of myself as a wise, intelligent almost-adult.  I couldn't imagine interacting with that passel of toddlers and children still in grade school.  So I read and I thought. My reading arsenal was full of Proust, Cather, Harper Lee, and my first forays into Steinbeck and Camus -- with Nancy Drew on the side for intellectual relief.

Since I was in the middle of my short-lived career as a child journalist, this seemed the perfect opportunity to observe others without notice. My parents were in my most direct line of sight for hours on end.  So why not dissect them. And here is what I discovered. They were people too. They loved singing, They loved harmony. They loved thinking about being in love. And I could tell by their faces that the song touched something in them that I'd never seen before. Today I would call it melancholy or sadness. But since I never talked with them about it, I can only guess.

By the end of that trip, my parents weren't just my parents. They were human beings with feelings.  With memories of love felt, and love lost. I started to look at others through that same lens and it changed the way I felt about my place in the world. It wasn't always comforting. At times it was very unsettling to think that the people I relied on for every decision and security -- were sometimes sad, and often uncertain about their choices. But something had begun to shift in me.  I was beginning to understand that everyone - regardless of history, circumstance, or privilege - has an inner life.  I was discovering my humanity.

with Love,


Kate

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

"just turn around…"



"there's no need to feel defeated,
don't let it get you down;
sometimes the only way to get back
home, is to turn around..."

I was searching for the link to another - more familiar - song to keynote this post, and serendipitously came across Anthem Light's, "Turn Around." It spoke to me, I hope it does to you.

The other day I woke up feeling a nagging sense of futility about a situation. I'd reasoned, examined, and weighed the human details. I'd prayed for direction in choosing one course, over another. I'd listened for guidance -- but I wanted the guidance to be clear: Do I do this, or do I do that. Period.

I moved to my favorite spot at the kitchen counter, trying to still the anxiety that was building inside, when a small mountain bluebird -- one of the first of the season -- began flying into the windows that face our lake, and the mountains to the west. He was feet forward, as if to grasp a branch. His  was not a violent crashing, but more like a frustrated attempt to reach a goal. Time and again, I went outside to dissuade his futility. And each time he returned.

Then the thought came to me, "watch, and learn." So first, I watched him from my side of the glass. Then, I walked outside and watched him quietly from his point of view. And I got it. He was looking at the reflection of trees, sky, lake, and mountains in the glass. In fact, at the very spot on the window that he kept flying into, was the reflection of a beautiful piñon pine that sits just beyond our deck.

I wanted to clasp him gently in my hands, and show him that all he needed to do was turn around. Then, instead of banging himself against a two-dimensional -- although beautiful -- reflection of the original, he would be flying freely towards the real deal. He'd be able to curl his toes around the branch he was seeking, feel the shade of the pine boughs, drink from the water in the stone birdbath, and reach the feeders -- full of sunflower, nyjer, and millet seed -- prepared just for he and his friends.

I returned to the kitchen counter and asked again. What do I need to learn from this? And it was so obvious. I'd been trying to find direction by looking at the human situation, details, cast of characters, and the unfolding story. I need to turn around and consider what Mary Baker Eddy suggests in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures:

"Breaking away from the mutations
of time and sense, you will neither
lose the solid objects and ends of life
nor your own identity.

Fixing your gaze on the realities supernal,
you will rise to the spiritual consciousness
of being, even as the bird which has
burst from the egg and preens its wings
for a skyward flight."
 

And elsewhere she says:


"we must first turn our gaze in the right direction,
and then walk that way. We must form perfect models
in thought and look at them continually,
or we shall never carve them out
in grand and noble lives."
 

I had been looking at the reflection, when I could have been looking to the original -- to God -- for the information I needed.  The truth about God was all that would really give me confidence in/about any situation.

I began to ask myself a series of questions that morning. Did I trust that God is Love? Was I planting my hopes on His care for me, and mine, and all?  Or was I measuring His love by what I was experiencing each time I flew into the window? Was I building my nest in His invariable nature as infinite, Eternal Love?  Or was I frustrated by the changeable nature of human sense, with its subjectivity -- personal opinions, cultural mores, shifting policies? 


These questions helped me turn -- and turn again.  Until I stopped being distracted by the pretty reflection, and actually felt the real deal.  It was just the reminder I needed.

Since then, I have been actively "turning around," as I move through my days -- and nights. It's made such a difference. And the little bluebird? Well, He finally did just turn around. Now he, and his partner, are building a nest in the bluebird house we put up to welcome them each spring. They feed from the feeders, drink from the birdbath, and rest - from their nest-building labors - in the cool branches of our piñon pine.

I love that we can always stop flying into the window, be still for a moment, remember where our gaze should rest, then turn towards God, and find the spiritual good that is always waiting -- just to bless.

with Love,


Kate

Thursday, March 10, 2016

"where shall the gaze rest…"



"It is well,
it is well,
with my soul…"

When I consider the Truth behind the following healing, I can almost hear Amy Grant's, "It is Well," echoing in my heart.

This healing starts with my friend Emily. One Wednesday evening, she stood up at our mid-week testimony meeting and shared a recent healing she'd experienced.

She said that during an overseas expedition she broke her collarbone. The injury required that she return home early and have it attended to by a physician. She was grateful for his/her kind care. After the initial examination and stabilization of the shoulder, Emily thanked him -- moving forward in praying, exercising movement, expecting healing, and expressing freedom.

And yet, when she later went back for a follow-up visit, the physician was not surprised by what new x-rays reported. The healing was proceeding according to his expectations. There was no exclamation of a miraculous healing. He was not at all surprised by the progress that had -- or hadn't, in his assessment -- taken place.

You may think that this sounds a bit anti-climatic, but for me it was amazing.  It was exactly what I needed to hear. Emily was fine. Emily was the one that was somewhat surprised his assessment. She was pain-free and was able to hike and bike with full range of motion. She was surprised that the x-rays and the doctor's evaluation didn't reflect the freedom that she was feeling.

But isn't that wonderful!  To realize that there was little, or no, correlation between the freedom that Emily was actually experiencing, and the x-rayed image of the bone, or the doctor's opinion. It didn't change the fact -- Emily was free.

I can't even begin to express how much it meant to me that the "body" could be reporting -- through an X-ray -- that nothing had really changed, and yet Emily was free.

It begged the question: "Where are you getting your information from?" and "What evidence are you letting inform your prayers, your hopes, your confidence?"

This realization had an immediate effect on a physical situation I'd been praying about for weeks. Yes, I'd felt the power of the Word in my prayers. I'd felt freedom from the paralyzing fear that this situation was persistent and incurable. I'd felt inspired and clear. But each day when confronted with persistent aggressive symptoms, I'd be on  my knees wondering what more I needed to know, pray, feel. 


Emily's healing gave me the courage to, as Mary Baker Eddy suggests in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures:

"Look away from the body,
into Truth and Love…"
 

Suddenly it became ludicrous to me that I had been looking to the body for an "all clear." I'd been listening for its report, waiting for it to tell me whether I was whole, sound, strong, and free. 


Instead I began asking Truth and Love -- God -- what was true, and what I was capable of. Could I love? Yes. Could I pray? Yes. Was I capable of answering the phone, walking to my office, being still, helping others? Yes.

The body and it's reports of discomfort, weakness, exhaustion -- the chronic rehashing of symptoms -- was no different than that x-ray Emily had been shown, or the doctor's  interpretation of its message.  He assessed it based on his best thinking, but was it true?  In like fashion, I had been looking at, listening to, assessing, and interpreting what my body was saying -- but was it true?

When I stopped asking it for information -- and then giving weight and meaning to that information -- I was free. Free from taking the pulse of the situation, and then determining my peace, my capabilities, or how to pray, based on its report.  I stopped trying to read meaning into that report. And at some point, I realized that I was free from believing that it told me anything about my life.

Elsewhere in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, Mary Baker Eddy asks:

"Where shall the gaze rest
but in the unsearchable
realm of Mind?

We must look where we would walk,
and we must act as possessing all power
from Him in whom we have our being."
 

I realized that I could - at any given moment - get my information from God, and immediately act as possessing all power from Him in whom I have my being. And I did.

This deeper, Soul-sense has changed everything.  When we are willing to be still -- nevertheless, constant, consistent -- we are going to God for our information, and we know exactly what we need to know.  This report is changeless  -- I am well, you are well, we are well -- whole, pure, complete, strong, kindly-affectioned, God-sent, free.

offered with Love,


Kate

"I knew I loved you before I met you…"



"I knew I loved
before I met you.
I think I dreamed you
into life…"



Savage Garden's, "I Knew I Loved You," keynotes this post. It perfectly evokes the way I have felt every day since she cantered into my heart, and then off to a place I could not follow.

It's been over a month since I stood in the bathroom of our Sunday School, hoping to take a quick call before opening exercises and heard the words, "Your horse, she's just gone." I didn't have time to process what I was hearing. I just thanked the caller -- who was herself crying -- and walked back in to join my class for the opening hymn.

When it finally hit me, it hit so hard I thought I would shatter into a million tiny bits of hurt. I have struggled with missing her every second of every day since them. If I allowed myself to even consider what it means that she is not here, I am a mess. I know she is fine. I know that her life is eternal. I know that I have been blessed by every second that she has lived in my heart as a promise kept. But I have been sad. Deeply, profoundly, heart-achingly sad.

And it hasn't gotten much better, or eased up with weeks of prayer and spiritual reasoning. It has only become more profound -- not the grief, but the love.

You see, she was all my childhood dreams come true. And when she came along - all 14.2 hands of soft tan coat, black mane, forelock and tail -- it was as if God was saying to me, "See sweetie, all you needed, was to be patient. I heard your cry, I knew your heart, I've always loved you -- and I knew your dream." It was as if God was giving me back a childhood I never had.

I was like a girl for those months -- waiting for her to come home from where she was wintering in a southern Colorado pasture.  Letting her spend those months pasturing in a more temperate climate, had felt like a sacrifice.  But I knew I could wait to be with her, if it meant that she could avoid the harsh winter temperatures of our higher elevation mountain valley.

I had saved my pennies, nickels, dimes, and dollars to buy my own horse. I had named her, loved her, dreamed of our first night in the personal pen together -- where I would defend her right to join the rest of the herd. I dreamed of grooming her, saddling her, mounting her, and riding down through the lower 280, then up through the south woods.

I was eager to lift anything heavy I came across -- hoping to build up strength before she arrived so that I could carry her saddle, and heave it onto her back -- in one swoop along with her saddle pads.

She wasn't just a horse. She was everything I thought I'd missed as the little girl.  A little girl who had to prove her right -- every day -- to be sheltered, clothed, and fed. Having my own horse often seemed like a dream too big -- but it was my dream.

There have been days when I haven't known how to move forward. It's one thing to have a dream and wonder if it isn't just a silly girlhood desire.  It's another to have it come true and then have the reins snatched from your hands before you've ever even felt her breath on your cheek or the coarseness of her mane between your fingers.

On difficult days, I miss her so much it feels like a limb has been cut off. I wake up wondering what to do once the blue of dawn has colored the sky. My daughters are all grown-up. And they have cares and responsibilities of their own. I love my work with all my being, but that is nothing new -- I have always loved my work. I have never had a reason, beyond my work and my family, to get me out of bed. I am not one of those women who likes to shop, or do yoga, or redecorate, or go to a spa. 


I was looking forward to have someone need me -- rain or shine, snow or sleet. I dreamed of us silently knowing one another's heart. I wanted a soft neck to bury my face in.  A place where I could breathe deeply -- a place to pray, or cry. I wanted a reason to get up and head to the corral in a pair of dirty mucking boots.  I needed to feel my own breath mingling with hers -- enveloping  us in a pre-dawn cold mantle of oneness.

And if there is a spiritual silver lining in this moment, it is this. I have learned that there is no age when it comes to a young girl's dreams.  Especially when it comes to horses -- or dogs.  We never stop loving them, and we never get over our dreams of them. Every tear I have shed, has been a reminder that I am alive, that I love beyond the veil of what I can see. 


 And every time that I remember that I got "this close…" it tells me that the hardships of my childhood and the heartaches of adulthood have done nothing to diminish my capacity to hope. 

 Every single time someone tells me that I need to let go of this "image" of a buckskin mare waiting for me in the pasture -- I want to crawl into a stall and weep for her, for me, for us. I want to tell them that she is as alive and real to me today as she was in my dreams when I was a girl, and as she is in my hopes for tomorrow.

I know that prayer is the only way to navigate finding her again. And even though I am still scouring Craigslist for buckskin mares one minute, the next I am telling myself I need to trust that if she is going to find her way to me again -- that I need to be still and wait for a "miracle." I go to sleep dreaming of someone seeing a little buckskin mare in a pasture, and thinking of me.

I know, I know -- it sounds ridiculous, and silly, and more than one person has told me that we only get one perfect horse miracle. But the heart doesn't know how to stop dreaming, how to stop hoping, how to stop weeping.

I can't help but share this recording of Amy Grant's, "Better Than a Hallelujah," in closing. I don't have answers. But I do know that I trust that God accepts "the honest cries of breaking hearts." So, I bring Him my tears. I bring Him my humble hopes. I bring Him my broken heart. I bring Him all that I am, and all that I will ever be. He is at the core of my desire to love, and give, and hope. I trust this.


Postscript:  
Since writing this post I have experienced so many ways that my love for horses is being realized every day.  The sorrow is gone.  Rather than searching for "my horse," I am letting myself love every horse that comes through my life with the same devotion and joy that I once thought I was saving for "her."


offered with Love,


Kate

Saturday, March 5, 2016

"we are each other…"



"we are the daughter,
we are the sisters
who carry the water.
we are the mothers
we are the other,
we are each other..."



I don't know where this post is headed -- really. I just know that when one of my daughters sent me this video of Lissie's, "Daughters," I had to show up in front of the keyboard -- and let it rip.

So, here goes. For me, this is all about having each other's back. Not just as sisters, daughters, best friends, and neighbors, but as fellow citizens on a very small planet. And yes, you are right. There is nothing new about this message. Maya Angelou, Mother Teresa, Eleanor Roosevelt, Betty Friedan - most great women - have encouraged this one thing in all the women they hope with forward their legacies: Be kind to one another. You will not achieve anything on your own.

And yet, I see this terrible pattern repeating itself throughout history. Women hurting women. It breaks me. More than most, this is the one thing can make me feel like crawling under the covers for a few days, and never come out. To hear that a woman has thrown another woman under the bus. To hear women encouraging each other to unload a pile of hurt on another woman - behind her back. To hear the drone of gossip -- and trust me, there is no other sound like it -- from another table at the local coffeehouse.

Do men do this? I can't tell you -- I am not a man in a relationship with other men. I don't know what they do or don't do. This is about us. Girls, women, sisters, mothers, friends. We must stop it.

We are each other. That's not just hyperbole. Think about it. To criticize another woman is to fill your own heart and mind with a lesser sense of  womanhood.  This lowered consciousness of any woman, effects the way you feel about all women -- yourself included.

What you hold in thought is projected upon the screen of your own body, face, family, interaction with the world. If I feel disdain for someone -- even when I think it is perfectly justified and reasonable -- everything I look at through that lens is going to be colored by speculation and doubt.

So, today I am holding myself accountable. And yes, I am taking it one day at a time. I can easily attain this better version of me, in a calm, clear hour of prayer -- but can I sustain it for weeks, months, years? I hope so.  I have written a symbol on my hand - with a Sharpie - to remind me that, "Love never loses sight of loveliness," as Mary Baker Eddy promises. Even if I have to rewrite it daily, it will remind me to stop and take stock. To examine my own heart through the lens of a simple axiom:

"When you point a finger at someone,
three more are pointing back at you."
 

Whenever I think I am thinking something about someone else, it's not really about them. I am the only one actually harboring those thoughts. I am the one populating my inner landscape with those thoughts. It has nothing to do with the other person. They are just the screen I am projecting my own thinking on. The same with the words I speak, or the negative reactions I allow myself to indulge in -- based on what I think is someone else's behavior.

I love that Mary Baker Eddy gives us this great filter in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures:


"In a world of sin and sensuality
hastening to a greater development of power,
it is wise earnestly consider
whether it is the human mind
or the divine Mind
which is influencing one."
 

The human mind loves to reason. It loves to find reasons. It loves to compare, criticize, and contrast. It loves to sort and compartmentalize -- to file people, places, and things into hierarchies. The human mind wants -- desperately -- to feel important. It's opinions are its greatest currency. 


 The divine Mind on the other hand simply knows. It just knows what is true. It doesn't need to convince, debate, discuss, and pat itself on the back. What is true, is true about everyone. What is a lie, is a lie about no one.

This morning, I read this passage from, In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts by Gabor Maté, and it awakened a new place of compassion in me:


People will jeopardize their lives,
for the sake of making the moment livable.
Nothing sways them from the habit -- not illness,
not the sacrifice of love and relationship,
not the loss of all earthly goods,
not the crushing of their dignity,
not the fear of dying.

The drive is that relentless."
 
I am standing up to this drive. I am going to do everything - in my own life - to not be driven by a need to just "make a moment livable." I will not say something that is not kind, just because it might make me look or feel better -- in that moment. I will not capitulate to pressure, just to make an awkward moment end more quickly. I will try to never -- ever again -- let a harsh word slip, or sarcasm spill, just because it will break the tension. 

 And I will be more patient with you, because I now have a clearer sense of how demanding, and insidious the need to just "make the moment livable" can be.

We are each other. And what I want for my daughters, I want for your daughters. What I want for myself, I want for you. If I want my daughters to have clean water, I must do as much to achieve clean water for a young girl in Burkino Faso, as I would for my own sweet girls. If I want my sister to be treated with respect and dignity by her colleagues, I must treat every woman I interact with, with that same respect and dignity. If I want my dearest friend to be heard when she speaks, I must listen more deeply to my neighbor when she speaks.

There is no you and me, us and them. We are one. We are each other.

offered with Love,


Kate

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

"look on us…"



"it's easy,
all you need is love,
all you need is love,
all you need is love, love,
love is all you need..."



Thomas Gray's cover of the Lennon and McCartney classic, "All You Need is Love is the perfect keynote for this post. Simple, pure, unvarnished.

So it is my hope, that this post will be just as simple.

My Bible study this morning started with this Scripture from Romans:

"Love is the fulfilling of the law..."
 

It took my breath away. I don't know why I hadn't seen it before -- it was certainly a familiar passage. But this morning it was as if all the pieces fell into place. Love isn't a means to an end. Love is the end. It is everything. Love isn't something we "use" to accomplish perfection -- or anything else for that matter. Love is everything.

I've been sensing this for some years. But this morning I think I "got it." The healings and demonstrations that Jesus witnessed, were not the main event. They were just the encouragement toward the great awakening -- the realization that -- it's all about Love.

One of my favorite relationships in Scripture is that of Jesus' disciples, John and Peter. Talk about two guys who struggled with "who shall be greatest." John, as much as I love him, was a bit passive-aggressive. Take his referencing of himself as "the disciple whom Jesus loved," -- oh my. And sweet, over-earnest Peter. One minute he is the Rock on whom Jesus will build his church, and the next, Jesus is rebuking him with a resounding, "get thee behind me Satan." Comparisons, competition, contradiction -- all for the love of the Master.

One of Jesus' last recorded acts was his rebuke to Peter, when Peter asks him, "what shall this man do?" referring to John.  Jesus' reply -- and I can't imagine that it wasn't without just a touch of exasperation -- was, "what is that to thee? follow thou me."  Which, of course, was recorded for posterity by John.  Oh, these guys. 


When I think of all the healings they had witnessed -- the raising of the dead, the loaves and fishes, the water into wine. And yet, Jesus' final moments with them are not a recap of "how to" perform the "miraculous."  They are, in fact, filled with an urgent plea that they learn to love one another -- the washing of one another's feet, and finally, this admonition to stop competing.

So back to my favorite moment? It comes in the book of Acts, third chapter. Peter and John are together. Jesus is no longer the personally present sun around which their lives orbit. And yet, here they are. Together. Going to temple to worship -- together. A lame man stops them and asks for help -- for healing.  And this is it -- the moment that makes me weep:


"And Peter, fastening his eyes
upon him with John, said,
'Look on us."
 

It gets me every time. It's almost as if he is saying. "Listen man, if we can be together, anything is possible." The greatest healing was not the lame man walking, the restoration of Malchus' ear, or even the return of vitality to the body -- the greatest healing is love.

Re-reading the gospels, I have realized that this is the "aha," I have been sensing for decades. It's not about using love to get better, feel more peaceful, find abundance, or demonstrate happiness. Love is, in fact, using us to be Itself -- to fulfill Itself. Love is the fulfilling of the law. It is everything, and as Mary Baker Eddy says in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, her textbook on this law of Love:


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

Love is the fulfilling of the law -- the law of Love. We don't love in order to have a more perfect life -- body, bank account, home. Love uses our lives as a platform for Its fulfillment -- love. We don't "use" love to improve our bodies. We have bodies so that we can express love -- willing hands for helping, strong arms for holding, beautiful lips for smiling, clear eyes for beholding.

It's not "all you need is love," in order to heal the world, fix a problem, or clean up your heart/mind so that you can finally see perfection. It's "all you need is love" -- period! This love, is perfection.


I can't help but think of John Lennon and Paul McCartney.  We think of their songs as the fulfilling of their relationship.  But, perhaps, the songs were just the platform on which these two brilliant artists forged a relationship of mutual respect and warm affection.  This is the question I am living in today.

And today -- at least for me -- this is enough.

offered with Love,


Kate

Monday, January 25, 2016

"in restless dreams…."



"in restless dreams
I walk alone,
narrow streets
of cobblestone…"



Emiliana Torrini's hauntingly beautiful recording Simon and Garfunkel's "Sound of Silence," was waiting for me when I woke this morning. This may not be an obvious "spiritual" post. And I am not really even sure I will be able to make the written connection that I feel in my heart. But this blog is all about speaking from experience -- honest experience -- and this is mine. So here goes.

I am a prolific dreamer. This is not something I am alarmed by -- at least, not any longer. As a child I was what is referred to as a lucid dreamer. I only had to close my eyes and I would dream. Often two or more dreams at once. I was aware I was dreaming. I could turn my head and change from one dream to another -- depending on the level of terror, or joy, a particular dream was evoking at that moment. When I'd return to the dream, whatever had disturbed my peace would have passed, and I could re-engage with what brought me respite from reality.

No, I am not kidding. My childhood was pretty scary. These dreams were my escape from the "real" terror of being me, in the world I was living in.

I became very adept at initiating these dream-retreats from reality. I believed that they saved me from madness. I still do. As I grew up, and discovered prayer, I was less inclined to disappear and more willing to stay in the moment, where I would pray for clarity, courage, and a calm trust in the power of good to overthrow evil.

But there was one dream scenario that I hoped would never fully disappear from my life. In it, I walked the narrow stone streets of an ancient village. The pages I held were not in book form, but in scrolls. I read hungrily, as the sun warmed my shoulders, and the scent of lavender swarmed like honey bees around my head. 


I was often alone, but occasionally I sensed someone by my side. If I turned to look at my companion, the dream would end, and I would be back in my bunk bed, alone in the dark -- facing the terror of a long night, just waiting for dawn. If I continued -- without turning, I stayed in the warm sunshine, reading from fragile pages, until morning. At some point, I just stopped turning to see who was with me.

As childhood turned into young womanhood, the presence of this "other," was something I actively sought out when darkness threatened. If I thought that I would even catch a glimpse of "him," I would close my eyes to avoid waking. I wanted nothing to interrupt those hours of peace where I was wise, innocent, and free.

Then in 1971, I was hiding away -- tucked into the crooked arm of a tree, my little aqua transistor radio playing as I read -- when Simon and Garfunkel's 1965 hit, Sound of Silence, came on. I can't explain why I'd never caught the lyrics before -- perhaps because I'd really only heard it on the car radio with 5 other siblings talking and screaming in the backseat with me -- but for the first time they spoke directly to me. I'd been there too -- on those narrow streets, during restless dreams. I felt known.  And I felt not so alone in the universe.

I can't tell you what all this means. I only know that, suddenly,  I wasn't so lonely and afraid of my life anymore. You see, no matter how many times I'd been told that God loved me, I didn't believe the person saying it really knew what they were talking about. They were referring to a God that I could accept was loving and good. But they didn't know me, and all the darkness I had faced.  


They didn't know all the terrible things that had changed me from a little girl, to a creature who escaped her nightly terror by retreating into dreams of ancient villages and make believe stories.  I could believe all they said about God, but not that He could possibly love me.  But the "other" that I walked with in my dreams was warm, kind, quietly present.

It would be another 30 years before I would have the courage to open my eyes in a dream, and look into the face of the person who'd shadowed me during those long walks down the narrow streets of a warm village. I was not disappointed.

I guess what I am trying to say is, don't be afraid. You are not alone. In Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, Mary Baker Eddy makes this remarkable -- and deeply compassionate -- statement of encouragement:

"Whatever inspires
with wisdom, Truth, or Love 
— be it song, sermon, or Science — 
blesses the human family
with crumbs of comfort
from Christ’s table,
feeding the hungry
and giving living waters
to the thirsty."
 

Those dreams, and later the song that made me feel "understood," were crumbs of comfort from Christ's table for me. Now, when these dreams come in the night -- they are sweet reminders of God's love for the little girl I was, and the woman she was allowed to become.

You see, you just never know where someone is, what they are facing in the darkness, how they are navigating the narrow streets, or who they are being chased by in the night.  And you never know whether it is the "waking dream or the sleeping dream," that seems more terrifying to them.  But if you can just "be there." Silently when needed, and sometimes without a face -- but always with a prayer, there will come a time when they will find their way into the light. And they will remember -- and give thanks. I promise.

offered with Love,


Kate

Friday, January 22, 2016

"grateful for it all…"



"All that I am,
all that I see,
all that I've been,
and all that I'll ever be..."


The other day someone asked me why I would encourage our daughters to work as camp counselors this summer -- long days, modest wages. I was stunned. I can't imagine encouraging them to do anything else. The above chorus from "Grateful: A Love Song…"  by Empty Hands Music, sprang into my heart. I hope you will take a moment -- or two -- and give it a listen.

Almost everything I am, and all that my children have become, I directly attribute to our years as campers, counselors, volunteers, and staff members at the Adventure Unlimited Ranches -- and to the opportunities for spiritual growth, wonderful mentors, and programs it offers. I do not say this lightly. I mean it with every ounce of my being.

Do I hope that my daughters will devote the rest of their lives to supporting and contributing to this organization and the programs that it provides for children, adults and families? Actually, yes. But, as much as I would hope that their hearts remain aligned with this extraordinary place -- one that lives in each of us -- my encouragement that they return to camp as counselors this summer embodies a larger dream for them.

It is gratitude. I dream that our children grow into global citizens that understand the gift of gratitude. Gratitude is much more than an "after the fact" feeling of thanks. It is a way of life. It is an empowering, healing, and sustaining way of being in the world.

No one -- and nothing -- can deprive us of our right to be grateful. And it is a right. A divine right. In the midst of the most trying times -- while facing poverty, homelessness, pain, disappointment -- we can become still enough to recognize that there is always something to be grateful for.

This gratitude is a upwelling power within us. When we realize that we are actually aware of some small measure of good in our lives -- good that we can be grateful for -- we bring that good into conscious being. And when we appreciate [are grateful for] this good, it begins to appreciate [grow in value] in our lives.

To live with this attitude of gratitude is to live in a state of conscious good -- of grace.

So back to camp. Yes, our family could find "jobs" that might let us sleep in later each morning, or that might recompense us in larger measure, but we will never -- and I mean never -- find a greater opportunity to nurture and develop the best in ourselves. To discover the full depth of our identities as grateful children of a generous Father-Mother God.

To give a summer -- or a lifetime -- to this "place" that has shown us our best, our most unselfed, and spiritually trusting selves is the greatest gift we can give to ourselves. To wake each morning knowing that we will have countless opportunities to say, "thank you," through providing the same encouragement and support to a new generation of campers and camp colleagues, that we have experienced, is to live a life of beauty and joy.

Each summer morning that we rise in the semi-dark of dawn for staff inspirational, and every time I hear a knock on the door of my cabin after midnight, or see a camper and counselor praying together on their porch -- long after lights out -- I am grateful. And each time I catch a glimpse of a counselor alone in the corral caring for horses, when the rest of camp is at dinner -- I am immeasurably grateful.  Not only for what they are doing to support our horse program, but for what they are learning about their own ability to put self aside, in caring for the needs of another creature first.

Our daughters may have opportunities to pursue internships that could forward their professional careers.  They may be offered jobs that would contribute more significantly to our very modest college savings account.  But nothing will contribute more - to them becoming their best selves - than a summer steeped in gratitude for what camp has done in their lives. A summer filled with appreciation for the spiritual values that have nurtured their "clear sense and calm trust," in God's love for them. A recognition that this same Love has afforded them priceless opportunities to attend camp every summer since they were big enough to sit on a horse.  And still, this Love is giving them another summer in which to say "thank you," to an organization that has so deeply blessed their lives.

So, why would I encourage our daughters to work at camp this summer? Because I can't imagine a job that would lead to a greater -- more fulfilling and satisfying -- life of enduring gratitude, service, and joy. 


The friendships they will make, and foster, are friendships steeped in selflessness and spiritual strength. What more could I want for my children, my husband, myself -- the world?

Thank you Adventure Unlimited*. We are grateful. We are grateful for it all.


offered with love,



Kate


*for some families "camp" is represented by a school, the Peace Corp, another summer camp, or the many non-profits that serve humanity in countless ways. This post celebrates the practice of selfless service to our common purpose -- the blessing of others, as we have been blessed.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

"the babe of healing..."


"I am waiting
in a silent prayer..."


A friend's recent post on Facebook reminded me of an early December night, many years ago.  It was a time when all I wanted was a baby to love, to hold, and to cherish.

I'd called a friend and mentor during one of my darkest moments. I poured out my heart's sorrow. I could actually feel the compassion that filled the pregnant silence. It was as palpable as a hand reaching through the darkness. Soon, my weeping stilled, and my breathing evened.

Then, when he knew I was ready to listen, he asked me if I was ready to give birth to the most precious babe on earth -- the babe of Christian healing. I knew he was referencing a passage by Mary Baker Eddy from an article titled, "The Cry of Christmas-tide," published in her collected Miscellaneous Writings 1883 - 1896:


"Unto us a child is born,
unto us a son is given.

"In different ages the divine idea assumes
different forms, according to humanity’s needs.
In this age it assumes, more intelligently
than ever before, the form of Christian healing.
This is the babe we are to cherish."
 
He reminded me that, more than ever before, this was the babe I needed to cherish -- not just for myself, but for the world.

Then, he gently suggested that I return to a series of twenty-four questions and answers that make up the entire curriculum for Eddy's course on Christian Science healing. Questions that are found in the chapter "Recapitulation," from her primary work, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures. Beginning on page 465 and concluding on page 497 we are given a path for seeking -- and finding -- healing. Twenty-four questions on thirty-two pages.

He told me that each December, he did this himself. He took one question per day and studied her answer. Then he pondered how he might answer that same question, based on what he had experienced as a healer throughout the year.

He assured me that these next precious days of gestation would bring forth this "babe," and I would be ready to cherish it with my whole life's purpose. These questions would prepare my heart. They were the promise of a new birth.

So, I did. And I still do. Each December 1st, I begin with the first question: "What is God?" I deeply consider Eddy's simple, cogent, complete, and profound answer.  Then I ask myself, "Based on what you have learned this year, what is God to you?" 


You see, I long to know God, myself.  

I am profoundly grateful for Mary Baker Eddy's waymarks as she chronicled her own journey towards a deeper understanding of what it means to "know the Lord." 

But I don't want to simply read her travel diary, and look at her photos -- I want to go where she has gone.  I long to feel that landscape under my feet.  To breathe that holy air.  And by revisiting those questions -- and then searching my heart for answers that ring with a true tone -- I align myself with the I AM THAT I AM.  For me, it is one of the most holy traditions of the season.

Last night, I couldn't wait to begin this year's season of expectancy, gestation, and birth. In fact, I was so eager that I rose just after midnight and took up that first question. The brevity and clarity in her answer took my breath away:



Question. — What is God?

Answer. — God is incorporeal, 
divine, supreme, infinite Mind,
Spirit, Soul, Principle,
Life, Truth, Love.
 
And as I pondered my own journey --  with that question as a spiritual waymark -- my heart opened to new views. What a revelation! Everything that I've discovered about God's allness, power, and grace this year has deepened my trust in the spiritual reality of all things.  It has informed my understanding of healing.  Over and over again, it has been my spiritual anchor in moments self-doubt and uncertainty. I wrote down my most current answers to that first question, and filled page-after-page, long into the night.

Tomorrow I will take up the second question. Then the third. And each day I will feel this babe grow stronger in me -- again.

For me, this Christmas exercise -- first practiced over 25 years ago -- was (and is) life-transforming. It has continued to renew and refresh my understanding of how to realize the healing presence of God. In fact, I find myself repeating it throughout the year.  And although I've been blessed with inestimable joy in parenting each of our children, it is this "babe of Christian healing," that has filled my heart with purpose, and brought unfathomable peace when my womb felt empty.

From experience, I know that on December 25th I will be looking into the face of this beloved babe. I will see this healing Christ in the unwavering spiritual innocence of universal humanity. This is the babe that I will hold close, and never let go of.  This is the babe that will never let go of me.

And each day as I ponder these questions I will be waiting, as Amy Grant sings in "Breath of Heaven," in a silent prayer for the birth this babe in my own heart.

For me, this is the great gift -- healing.  It is what we all seek.  To know that we are whole, well, complete in the All-in-allness of God's great love.   Or, as Mary Baker Eddy promises in "The Cry of Christmas-tide:"



"This is the babe we are to cherish.

This is the babe
that twines its loving arms
about the neck of omnipotence,
and calls forth infinite care
from His loving heart."
 
offered with Love,




Kate




Tuesday, November 10, 2015

"the cost of freedom…"


"Find the cost
of freedom,
buried in the ground..."


I need to forewarn regular readers -- I don't know where this is going.  I only know that I have to write it while my heart is still broken wide open, and the words can find their way out on the crest of a tear.  That said...

I love to disappear most days, and have breakfast at a small cafe. I like to sit at a small table and read, journal, listen, and sometimes I am gifted with a conversation with a stranger -- or two. Today was one of those days. A lovely couple sat down at the table next to mine, and wished me a good morning. I noticed immediately that he was wearing a cap with a Vietnam Veteran's insignia on it.

While they waited for their breakfast, they asked if I was a local -- I never get tired of answering that question with a resounding "yes!" And then I learned that we'd all graduated from high school about the same time, and that they were both veterans.

We talked about "those times." The 60s and 70s, Vietnam, Nixon, the draft, sit-ins, Woodstock and such. I smiled at the serendipity of it all. Only the night before, I'd been on a magical musical journey that had started with new group, Darlingside's cover of Joni Mitchell's "Woodstock,"and meandered through the protest songs of Neil Young and Buffalo Springfield, before turning onto the shadowed path of Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young's "The Cost of Freedom."

What had started out as a sunny trip down memory lane, quickly turned dark.  It has stirred up very fallow ground. I lay awake, praying through the night for my own freedom from an overwhelming sense of sadness about those days. They'd left their mark on my heart. 


I knew that gratitude for good was my only hope of salvaging those songs and the youthful memories they resurrected in me.   I searched my "soul" for moments of nobility, grace, dignity, and honor from that time, that I could  be grateful for. And I found many. When I finally rested -- just before dawn -- I was resting upon the good I'd seen and experienced, rather than from the tragedies I'd been haunted by only hours earlier.

So, I was prepared when, what had started out as a simple conversation between strangers, turned into a deeply meaningful discussion about healing, and veterans, and war. My new friends shared with me that they'd recently driven across country and had stayed at a hotel near Kent State University. She said, with tears in her eyes, that she'd had those ominous, repetitive words "four dead in Ohio," from Neil Young's "Ohio" in her head, from the minute she saw the Kent State sign.

My heart seemed to melt into hers at the thought of these two precious veterans -- who had given their service to our country, during one of the most difficult times in the history of our nation -- facing that kind of inner conflict. Here we were, the Vietnam war protestor and the veterans -- and I prayed that we might find healing in one another's company 45 years later. And, I think we did.

We talked about the power of Love to bring people together. We talked about how his re-entry into American culture following his discharge was devastating, until he took time to return to nature. We talked about the importance of working with animals, plants, and the land, in returning a sense of humanity to those who had witnessed -- or been made to participate in -- inhumane acts of war.

And we talked about family. About the inner call to redemption. About a time that was fraught with confusion, with the hunger for connection, and with humanity's insatiable need for forgiveness, understanding, and redemption.

Our checks came, we paid, rose, and reached for one another to shake hands -- and to embrace. I couldn't help but feel somehow that we'd been given that hour in one another's company, as a gift of grace. The war protestor and the veteran. I was saddened by what it must have been like for her to lie on a hotel bed and hear, over and over again, the words to a song I'd sung loudly during the summer of 1970:

"four dead in Ohio,
four dead in Ohio...."
 

My heart weeps for them. And for all of us. We were just children facing questions we were ill-prepared for. We were raised by "the greatest generation," on a wonderful diet of patriotism, dignity, and service. But we were not equipped for watching our brothers, boyfriends, and classmates drafted right out of high school. We were not ready for the pain of attending memorial services for our peers. We couldn't process knowing 18 year old widows. 


How does one go from watching a after school cartoons to war footage on the evening news? From singing songs about wearing flowers in our hair, to laying flowers on the graves of boys we'd had crushes on? How did they go from throwing footballs to throwing grenades?  We were confused. We were frightened. We were angry.  We took it out on one another. I am sorry -- deeply sorry.

I only pray that we can be the generation that is not afraid to redeem ourselves by learning from the lessons of the past. That we can be known for bringing unity, compassion, and dignity to our own returning sons and daughters -- while still honoring the sensibilities of those who oppose global oppression, but without military engagement.

I can't help but think of Mary Baker Eddy's beautiful promise in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures:



"One infinite God, good,
unifies men and nations;
constitutes the brotherhood of man;
ends wars; fulfils the Scripture,
“Love thy neighbor as thyself;”
annihilates pagan and Christian idolatry, 
— whatever is wrong in social, civil,
criminal, political, and religious codes;
equalizes the sexes; annuls the curse on man,
and leaves nothing that can sin, suffer,
be punished or destroyed."
 

We must have compassion for one another. Love doesn't have sides. Love doesn't pull us apart, but draws us together where we can work together, deepen our humanity, and find solutions.

offered with Love,



Kate