Saturday, November 25, 2017

"and I want to remember..."

"When children play on Christmas day
and snow is flung,

When I feel I haven't had a friend
since I was young,

When I'm feeling tired of myself
and everyone,

Lord remind me,
Lord remind me..."

This morning I was asked to repost this piece (from last year) as an invitation to join in my "advent" celebration of the 24 questions and answers from the chapter "Recapitulation" from Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy -- something I've been doing every Deember for decades. This deep, and reverent, dive has been transformative for me.  

And yes, although this post is about that "tradition," it is about so much more. It is about the meaning and power of Christmas in our lives. I hope you find it helpful -- and hopeful -- as you enter this blessed season....

I was looking for an Amy Grant song to keynote an earlier post when I stumbled upon this exquisite song by Jon and Valerie Guerra on Amy's Facebook page.

Sometimes a song comes along that begs its own post, "Lord Remind Me" is one of those songs.

The holiday season -- from Thanksgiving to the year's end -- has always been my favorite time of year. I cherish long-held traditions and nurture new ones that have found purchase in the sweet soil of our family home. The tree goes up the day before Thanksgiving, White Christmas. Little Women, The Holiday, and Love, Actually fill the screen that weekend. Then comes the Christmas music -- too many favorites to note. 

But my favorite "tradition" comes between December 1st and the 25th, when I pray with each of the twenty-four questions in the chapter, "Recapitulation" from Mary Baker Eddy's textbook for spiritual healing, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures as my version of an advent calendar. One question deeply pondered, each day, as we move towards Christmas -- and every year it transforms me.

But this year, although I have dutifully carried out each of these traditions -- as well as a few more -- I have felt a bit detached. Perhaps it's because its the first year that none of the children were here for me to lasso into choosing the tree, watching White Christmas, or baking pies.  And although I have felt a bit sad, I wasn't really doing anything about it. I was aware that the tree went up too quickly and I was alone in the kitchen while I baked cookies and listened to White Christmas, but I chalked it up to our version of empty nest syndrome after over three decades of day-to-day parenting.

That was when I fell upon "Lord Remind Me," and fell to my knees. The true meaning of Christmas came alive in me. This wasn't about trees and cookies, films and carols. It wasn't even about traditions long-loved. It was about something timeless and humbling. It was about remembering that nothing was impossible to God. It was about forgiveness and healing, about kings that kneeled before a baby, and a boy who trusted angels. It was about a girl who said, "yes," and the message of "on earth peace, good will to men."

Is there anything we need more today? Is there any message more timely, or a time more hungry for this message?

As Jon and Valerie sing with such reverence and humility:

"when I hear the news,
and hear another war's begun,
and I wonder if God's
on the side f either one,
I hear bullet, nail, or handcuff
you bore all of them,
and in the light
my heart's as dark as anyone's.

Lord remind me, Lord remind me
that the shepherds head the angels
break the silence in the field,
that the wise men found a baby
and they could not help but kneel

Lord remind me, cause its Christmas
and I want to remember..."

And I do want to remember. I want to feel the power of this story drive me to my knees. I want to feel it change my heart and break through any sense of brittle self-certainty and icy indifference that might have gathered, like frost, on the tender places where I want to feel the heartbreak of my brothers and sisters in Aleppo, or Chicago, or Washington, DC.

There is a sweet, holy cry for the Christ to enter the manger of our hearts in this song:

"Tell me, how He loves me,
tell me, how he wants me,
tell me the story
like I've never heard before..."

This is the part that broke through to the softest, deepest part of me. The words split me open and love for Him spilled from every part of my being. To think what he gave. To remember what he did. To know his love -- it is everything.

"...and I'll sing it
like the angels sing it,
with my whole heart sing it,
to Him who's worth
a thousand songs and more..."

Hymns and carols came alive in me. My heart was an angel's heart singing from the stars. I walked out into the cold night and sang for him who loves us so. I lifted my voice in praise, and hope, and humble adoration for the child who brought kings to their knees, and for the man who would be king of kings.

I sang through tears of repentance and joy:

"Glory in the highest,
glory in the lowest,
glory that shines when nothing
seems to shine at all

Glory in the highest,
glory in the lowest
glory, Immanuel..."

And isn't this the message of messages, "Immanuel..." which is translated, "God with us..." So tonight, I raised my voice to the heavens and sang, "Glory in the highest, glory in the lowest, glory Immanuel..."  Then, a flock of geese rose from the lake, circled above, and -- I like to believe -- carried that message in their own voices to the far corners of the earth.

offered with Love,


Friday, November 24, 2017

"everyone knows God..."

"Yes, I'm thankful for
the Lord above,
the gift of His unending love,
the promise kept
that there is so much more.

These are the things
I'm thankful for..."

Dillon Cate's cover of Garth Brooks' and Trisha Yearwood's Thanksgiving anthem,"What I'm Thankful For,"* was my husband's solo offering at our church service yesterday -- and it took my breath away with its simple beauty.

Because I knew the love, devotion and humility Jeff brought to sharing that gift with the congregation -- for me, it was less a performance, and more - a prayer.

Our service is a simple one that concludes with time for sharing testimonies of healing by those who are gathered in worship. We'd brought a friend who was unfamiliar with this Thanksgiving tradition, and I have to admit I was listening to everything that was shared at the service, through the lens of his heart. What was he hearing? Would it make sense, resonate, inspire?

Most of the remarks were thoughtfully shared and filled with reverence and thanks. But there was one testimony that brought me to tears. It leveled the playing field. We were no longer a congregation of church members and visitors, we were all one - in the thing most essential.

My friend, Linda Clarke, rose and began her testimony by saying that, although others in the congregation had shared how many generations of family members had practiced our faith, she was a first generation Christian Scientist. In one sentence she had swept away all sense of religious heredity, hierarchy of faith, or any distancing one might feel from the direct and immediate relationship to divine Love -- that is inherent in each of us, and unites us all.

Then she went on to share an experience she'd had at a recent Bible Workshop she'd hosted as the Adult Program Director at the Adventure Unlimited Ranches. She said that in the opening session, Bible scholar, Kristy Christian, had said:

"everyone knows God.
I want you to think about this..."

It was so simple, and so profound.  Yes! Because everyone knows love -- and God is Love -- everyone knows God.  Because everyone experiences Life -- and God is the Source of all being -- everyone experiences God. It was an accessible truth.  One that unites us all. 

Later, when interviewing Linda for this post, she said, "I always try to look at people as the image and likeness of God -- in perfection. But this was different, to see a homeless person, or someone I might not agree with, or even someone who has done something I can't support, as really "knowing God," -- able to hear His angel messages -- this has given me a lot to think about. It has made such a difference for me."

The deep love for others, that resonated through her remarks, was like the "cup of cold water," that Mary Baker Eddy speaks of "millions of unprejudiced minds," waiting and watching for. I couldn't imagine anyone - in that overflowing Thanksgiving Day gathering of friends, family, and guests - who wouldn't feel loved, honored, and included through this view of themselves and others - as knowing God.

In her remarks, Linda went on to share how trusting in this fundamental fact -- that everyone knows God -- frees us to love unconditionally.

Linda's testimony was the perfect message for each of us --from the "third, forth, or fifth generation" Christian Scientist, to our unprejudiced young guest. It lifted any sense of exclusivity -- a secret handshake or password-protected entry into the kingdom of God. It affirmed that this kingdom is within each of us.  That it is accessible, and has one Sovereign -- omnipotent and omnipresent Love -- who as Mary Baker Eddy assures us in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures is:

"impartial and universal
in its adaptation and bestowals."

What a gift to us all. This, for me, was the message of messages.  It is the basis for true individual, familial, local, national, and global peace. Everyone knows God. When we trust this Truth -- we can live fully, share generously, and love freely.    

This message of God's inclusive love is something I am deeply grateful for -- thank you Linda.

offered with Love,


*If you would like to hear Garth Brooks', Trisha Yearwood, James Taylor and Kim Taylor's performance of,"What I'm Thankful For," here is that link.

Friday, November 10, 2017

"falling in love with You..."

"take my hand,

take my whole life too.
for I can't help
falling in love with You..."

I want to tell the great love story of my life tonight. Pentatonix touching version of, "I Can't Help Falling in Love" is the perfect musical backdrop.

I love falling in love. But I also love staying in love. I have never wanted anything but the deep and lasting kind of love. The love that never wanes, but only grows fuller with time.

I have been blessed with just a few great loves - my list is short, but none have been casual or insignificant.

One of the things that I have learned, is that love changes you. Love is a power. It refuses to be contained or localized. You cannot love, without having the boundaries of your heart enlarged. Love dissolves all of the rigid outlines that we impose upon ourselves. "I can love this, but not that." "I am this kind of person." "I could never do that."

But losing in love has also changed me. Each time I have felt my heart break, I have turned to God for wisdom, guidance, strength, courage -- comfort.

Then one morning, when my heart felt shattered - again, I opened my Bible to this passage from Revelation -- and yes, it was a revelation:

"Unto the angel of the church of Ephesus write;
I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience,
and how thou canst not bear them which are evil:
And hast borne, and hast patience,
and for my name’s sake hast laboured,
and hast not fainted.

Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee,
because thou hast left thy first love..."

I had been using God, to help me through each of my relationship struggles. And in that moment, I realized that I'd had it all upside down and backwards. I could suddenly see that the love I was seeking most -- the infinite, eternal, enduring kind -- would only be found by using each and every relationship, as an opportunity to deepen my relationship with my first love -- not to get, keep, or fix my relationship with others.

Love is a funny thing. When we are in love with someone, we think of them all the time. We long for any amount of time that we might steal away with them. What they love, becomes our own love. Because the object of our affection enjoys skiing, we try to ski -- even though we really, really don't like hanging out in the cold.

When we love someone, we find ourselves wanting to do what made no human sense - only moments before. We actually find ourselves wanting to give up the right to self-indulgence, for shared responsibility. We long to do something as self-sacrificing as having children -- the ultimate exercise in self-denial. Then, through our love for those sweet children, we open our hearts to their friends, interests, school community -- the worlds they live, work, and play in.

When I fell back in love with my first love -- God, I was naturally more in love with his children, his world of ideas, his glorious creation.  The good that He delights in, became my great delight.  The Truth that occupies His Mind, filled me.

And when I trusted that this "first love" was the core influence in the heart of every one of his children, my relationships with others ceased to be my obsession, but became the opportunity that I was always looking for in order to spend time more with my first love. I stopped using God to improve or repair my relationships, but used those relationships to deepen my love for Him/Her.  My time with my first love, became the most wonderful part of my days and nights.

Just a glimpse into my greatest love story.

offered with Love,


Thursday, October 5, 2017

"darling, darling, stand by me..."

"If the sky
that we look upon
should tumble and fall,
or the mountain should
crumble to the sea

I won't cry,
I won't cry,
no I won't shed a tear,
just as long as you
stand by me..."

I am stepping away from writing a message with a moral tonight. This post is simply a recognition -- and a thank you -- to my husband. Florence and the Machine's lush version of, "Stand by Me" -- beautifully captured in this Game of Thrones-themed music video -- says most perfectly what is in my heart.

Marriage is not always "white lace and promises, a kiss for luck and be on your way" -- to quote Karen and Richard Carpenter. At least it hasn't been for me. Marriage has been many things -- but rarely has it been a stroll through a field of wildflowers, or a day on the beach.

When Jeff and I married, we were both grown ups who had been married before.  We had five children between us to love and nurture. The oldest three were well on their way to becoming independent adults. The youngest two were still in grade school. The last twelve years have been devoted to making sure that our children felt loved, believed in, and supported.

The youngest are our twin daughters, and we have had the privilege of raising them with their dad and stepmom -- as well as their birth mother who was part of our parenting dream team. The girls have been our day-to-day (and night-to-night) focus for more than a decade. Jeff, has been their advocate, college finance advisor, car/truck/horse trailer problem solver, banking liaison, etc. since the day he became their stepdad.

He has been willing to take whatever work necessary -- in addition to his primary jobs -- in order to make ends meet. He is often up well past midnight -- even when he has to be up by 5:30 the next morning -- filling out FAFSA forms, writing emails to the college registrar's office, or just figuring out phone plans.  He takes every call they make to him - asking for advice about anything from how to check the oil in the truck, to where they should go for fixing a broken screen.  He is the silent hero in the background of their accomplishments and successes. I am in awe of his tireless care for them. Within our parenting team -- he is on point for every situation.

When difficult bumps in the road threaten to send us careening around an unexpected curve, through the guardrails, and flying off the edge - into a logistical or emotional ravine of self-doubt, lack, uncertainty, or fear, he is as steady as a rock. He quietly reminds me that we've seen harder times, faced worse criticism, and weathered greater storms -- and that we will get through the current one as well. We might get wet, but we'll be together, and together we'll expect "a bow of promise."

When I am trembling, he is rock solid. When I am frantic, he is unflinchingly calm. When I can't find my way out of the pit of despair, it is his hand that is exactly where I need it to be to pull me up. He is faithful, trusting, God-focused, and unmoved by earthquake, wind, or fire. His peace cannot be taken from him, and I count on his calm to remind me that God is with us -- we will not be afraid.

Someone recently asked me why, after the end of my previous marriage -- one that brought three beautiful children into my life -- I would re-marry. You know, it was not something I ever anticipated doing. But when your best friend wants to stand by you -- well, it wasn't much of a choice. Like trees, our roots have become so entwined under the surface, that even though our closest friends and acquaintances rarely see us doing anything together, we are what stabilizes the other in every storm. We trust that we are each, always, reaching towards God first, and persistently digging deeper for a spiritual foundation in every situation.

Whereas I am a turtle and would rather do nothing, than tuck deeply into myself in a storm, he is an eagle that uses the storm's invisible thermals to rise higher in his understanding of God's ever-presence.  From that higher point of view, he gathers the bigger picture and brings it down to where I am - coaxing me out of my hermitage.

Recently, it was his strength of conviction - that we were going to be safe in the midst of a storm - which gave me the courage to love when I wanted to scream, cry, wail, and weep. It was his spiritual poise that calmed my own quaking.

In the chapter "Marriage" from her primary text, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, Mary Baker Eddy states -- with scientific certainty:

"The scientific morale
of marriage is spiritual unity."

I have seen this proven day-after-day in our marriage. When we unite in our love for God, and our love for others -- we are strong, unflinching, and resolute in our fearlessness.

Elsewhere in a collection of articles, sermons, and questions/answers titled, Miscellaneous Writings, Mary Baker Eddy asks, and answers, this question:

"What do you think of marriage?

That it is often convenient,
sometimes pleasant, and occasionally
a love affair. Marriage is
susceptible of many definitions.

It sometimes presents the most
wretched condition of human existence.
To be normal, it must be a union
of the affections that tends
to lift mortals higher."

I used to think that she was talking about different kinds of marriages. That some marriages were convenient, and others were pleasant, and yet others were a love affair.

That was until I was married myself. 

 Now I think she means that every marriage has moments when it may seem to look pleasant one second, and wretched the next. The genius of marriage is that it gives us ample opportunity for growth in grace, and and the same opportunity for monitoring our progress -- since we must do it over-and-over again, day-after-day, with the very same person.  As a scientist, it is this controlled environment - within the laboratory of our human experience - that allows for the most accurate assessment of change and growth. 

So tonight, I am writing to say thank you to the man who demands the best from me - by always bringing his best to the table. He would rather be kind than right. He is patient, tender and true. He is willing to go the extra mile for our daughters, and the people he works with. He holds uncomplaining guard over our family -- and the world.  It humbles me. His trust in the over-arching goodness of God's sovereignty is breath-taking. I am blessed.

offered with Love,


Sunday, September 17, 2017

"when I was fourteen..."

"Send me away 
with the words
of a love song..."

For the last year - or so, I have been hearing the first line of something -- but I haven't known what it was meant to become. A post, a poem, a conversation I needed to have with someone? Then today, I heard it in the context of the Hemingway quote that gave voice to the last, most recent post on this blog, "Write hard and clear about what hurts."

That was when I knew. That first sentence was a prompt, a reminder.  And it wasn't giving up.  It was saying, over-and-over again, "You need to write about this:

"when I was fourteen..."

So today, I stopped and listened. And it was like a sucker punch to my heart.  I sighed deeply.  "Yes," I thought, "this is what once hurt, and needs to be written."

A few years back, there was a song, by The Band Perry, titled,"If I Die Young," It may sound self-indulgent, dramatic, and morbid, but whenever I heard it I wanted to weep for the girl I was at fourteen. Sometimes death comes to us in ways that aren't an escape - we just have to find a path through.

When I was fourteen, my life finally felt like it was becoming livable. The abuse I'd endured since the age of four had all but stopped -- when my family began to explore a deeper understanding of our individual and collective relationship with God.  We still moved houses regularly, but I had a real friend for the first time in my life. A friend that I wasn't related to.  A friend that didn't disappear when we changed neighborhoods and zip codes.

You see, even though we changed schools, we still lived in the same town and went to the same church. I was still able to participate in the same camp-based local activities. For the first time, there was continuity in my life - one that extended beyond my family.  And there was hope for a future that included my dream of having a life-long friend -- something I'd only read about in books.

I loved my new Sunday School friend.  We rode bikes, sat by the pool, went to movies, and talked about things that mattered.

And then one day, we had a family meeting. My parents told us that we were moving -- again. But this time it was going to be out-of-state and time zones away. Spontaneous phone calls, movies, sleepovers on weekends -- were over. Long-distance phone rates would make calling impossible.

Saying goodbye that last Sunday after church was one of the most painful moments of my childhood. As our parents waited, my friend and I said goodbye and promised to write letters -- every day. Later that week my family loaded up our station wagon and we were on the road to a new state, a new town, new schools, a new neighborhood, and a new church home. I saved my babysitting money, I bought pretty stationery and postage stamps. I wrote my friend almost every day. She never wrote back.

For a year I checked the mailbox daily - the minute I got home from school. If it was empty, the first question I would ask my mother as I flew through the kitchen door was, "Was there a letter today?' There never was.

You may be wondering why I feel the need to write about this tonight -- isn't it just water under the bridge? Well, besides the fact that I kept hearing that one line: "When I was fourteen..." it is because it was a great hurt that I can now write hard and clear about.  

And if I have learned anything after six decades of living in this world, it is that we are never alone in the pain we have experienced. To feel dismissible when you are doing everything to connect with another human being is heartbreaking. It can make you want to "die young" -- as it did me.  So, if there is someone out there feeling this kind of loneliness -- I need for them to know, you are not alone.

For many people, their lives are filled to the brim with continuity and connection. They grow up in loving homes, they have the same friends throughout childhood, they are embarrassed by indulgent parents, and overwhelmed by a hyper vigilant community that knows everything about them and the details of their lives. 

 If you are one of those people, I can't tell you how much I envied you -- most my life.

But for some of us, life was lonely. We dreamed of familiarity, connection, continuity of place and people. When we finally had a friend, we were willing to do anything to keep that thread intact. And sometimes we made grave mistakes. We over compensated, we gave gifts that seem too generous, we called, wrote, texted more than we should, we hesitated to say "the hard things" for fear of being rejected or dismissed, we are too easily crushed and too quickly hurt. We take things too personally. We are too grateful one minute and too needy the next.

If you have lived a life filled with family, friendship, connection, and community you are blessed. If you have a friend who has come into your life and seems too needy, or too willing, or too eager to write, call, text -- please be patient and kind. If your child has a friend who moves away and writes them a letter - please encourage them to reply. It may be the single most important thing they do for another human being. Rejection hurts.  Childhood rejection is devastating -- even when it is done without malice or rancor -- which I am absolutely certain was the case with my Sunday School friend.  She was just a girl herself.  She just had a full life.  I was simply that extra drop that flowed over the edge of the cup.

But, I still remember the name of my friend. I still think about her all the time - almost 50 years later. I wonder if she ever read my letters -- on pretty stationery spritzed with Love's Baby Soft perfume and filled with all the details of a 14 year old's life in a strange new place where she felt more alone than ever before. 

 Did she like the four-leaf clovers I found, pressed, and tucked in with the program from my new school's homecoming festivities. Did she ever even read the poem about friendship that it took me three weeks to write and finally find the courage to send?  Did she ever wonder whether the boy I told her about was kind or funny?  

She was beautiful and popular.  She had many friends.  Her life didn't change when I left. I was just a small, shy girl who she meant the world to. A church friend. But to me, she was my first real friend. 

 Sometimes, I just think of what she may have missed -- a lifelong relationship with someone who thought she was very, very special. Someone for whom she was a refuge of friendship, in an unfriendly world. Someone who would have never let her down.

Mary Baker Eddy wrote in her autobiography, Retrospection and Introspection:

"There is no greater miracle
known to earth, than perfection
and an unbroken friendship."
I pray she knows that I would have been in her corner forever. I would have done anything to be the friend she may have needed someday - and could always turn to.

Since then I have been blessed by some amazing friendships. But being a friend is not something I am always confident about. I am often awkward in groups, I shut down if I feel insecure, I don't always know what to say, I take things too personally, I need a "job" to be at ease in social settings.  Yet I am always trying to be the friend I never had as a child, or as a teenager.

I don't think I am the only one who has ever felt "friendless."  Friendship is hard.  It requires a level of vulnerability that leaves us feeling naked in a crowd. It also requires trust in a Love that overarches those moments when we do feel alone in a world obsessed with group selfies, and accumulating "likes," on social media.  A love that can't be measured, apportioned, given, taken back, extended, or unfriended.

Elsewhere in her primary work, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, Mary Baker Eddy offers this encouragement to anyone who has ever felt lonely and friendless:

"Would existence without personal friends
be to you a blank? Then the time will come
when you will be solitary, left without sympathy;
but this seeming vacuum is already filled
with divine Love."
This statement was a promise for me as a fourteen year old girl waiting for a letter in the mail.  And tonight, as I look back at that chapter in my life, I realize God was always there in my heart.  I was filled with love and hope.  I was the one who had the courage and strength to love someone, even when there was no response.

Tonight I am writing as hard and clear as I can, about something that once hurt, but is now a memory of the sweet, shy girl I was. The girl who never stopped hoping.  I write, in hopes that it will help someone else remember how rare and remarkable it is - in this world - to be loved and believed in by another person.   And maybe - just maybe - to hold hands across the miles with someone else who feels alone.  If you write, I promise -- I will always answer.

offered with Love,


Friday, September 1, 2017

"write, hard and clear..."

"Don't cry out loud,
just keep it inside,
and learn how to hide
your feelings..."

Melissa Manchester's "Don't Cry Out Loud," was my theme song in my early twenties. Put on a smile, never let them know you were hurting, don't admit your mistakes or failures. How did that go?

It didn't work. By the time I was in my late twenties, I was bottoming out. I had a moderately successful career in education -- but that was about it. My relationships were in shambles -- all except for the ones where I held the purse strings and felt some sense of control. My body was falling apart, and I felt scattered all over the philosophical map -- s spiritual homelessness that I pretended didn't bother me. Sometimes it takes something as minute as a pinprick to burst the bubble of denial. Mine seemed like a slow leak.

Recently I came across a long-loved quote that served as a reminder that my journey back from the facade of self-certain control about my "story," came in a series of small moments. Ernest Hemingway once advised:

"Write hard and clear
about what hurts."

That statement scared me. The things that hurt were ugly. I felt exposed and broken whenever I even thought about them -- how would I ever be able to write them down? And yet, I knew writing was one of my great loves. But I also knew that if I was ever to be able to write with conviction, I would one day have to find a way to write about the darkness -- in order that it might give context to the light.

After coming back into a working relationship with God - through the study and practice of Christian Science - I felt that there was so much that I was grateful for -- and I had to write about it. My life was transforming, my heart was healing, and my hopes were soaring. I wanted that to be my only story.  

But everything I wrote felt pale to me. It was all daystar. A healing of self-worth almost disappeared without the contextual backdrop of decades filled with self-destructive behavior. To the most distant star, is the night ever too dark? I thought it was. I wanted a new setting. I longed for the beautiful, good, and true to be the only page on which my life-story was written.

The problem with that was, that it just wasn't true. 

 So, now to the purpose of this post, which is ultimately the purpose of this blog.  Here it is.  I needed to say to anyone who felt that their story was too ugly to acknowledge or own, "you are not alone."  You see, I had felt so alone for so many years. I couldn't imagine that any spiritually-inspired person -- engaged in a healing ministry -- could have a story as dark as mine. It made me feel like an imposter.

That was, until I met a woman who wasn't afraid of her truth. In fact, she used the darkness of her childhood as a platform for the brightness of the lamp that God had lit in her heart.

She reminded me that Mary Baker Eddy wrote in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures:

"The spiritual sense of truth
must be gained,
before Truth can be understood."

Note the capitalization of the word "truth." The lower case truth denotes the actuality of our human experience. The upper case Truth points to the fact that God is All-in-all. That there is no moment, situation, experience or memory that is without God's presence, power, and love. To deny my life as ugly and dismissible, was to deny that God was All-in-all. I needed to own those stories, not as human mistakes or failures, but as a divine adventure in which I could find the face of God in the most tragic moments.

I remember one very specific memory that haunted me for decades. I was being serially threatened by someone I should have been able to trust to care for me. It left me feeling like a small animal that didn't deserve to be treated humanely. But reclaiming that moment for God and recasting the story as an opportunity to find the face of God in the midst of darkness, I began to see that right there, right in those moments of terror and humiliation, I was aware that what was happening was wrong. I was clear and sure that what I was experiencing was not the way that a child should be treated.

It took me five decades to write that story. I wrote it hard and clear. I wrote it honestly and I wrote it with God - and not a frightened child or an evil grown-up - as the main character. I was able to write with complete honesty about my hurt, without having it hurt me any longer. If fact, that story elicited hundreds of notes, calls, and comments from men and women who had faced similar life-narratives. 

I found that when I write about what is hard, it suddenly becomes clear that God was always there, always with me, always giving me the courage, wisdom, strength to navigate each experience.

Elsewhere in his vast archive of advice on writing Hemingway states:

"All you have to do
is write one true sentence.
Write the truest sentence you know."
The truest sentence I know is always the one that has God as it's subject, love as its verb -- and me - as the one who has experienced the presence and power of that love - as its object. I can only write a true sentence from my own experience -- and hope it reminds others that they are not alone.

This is the reason I write, this is the reason I pick up the phone, this is the reason I do everything I do -- to let someone know that they are not along in the darkness -- or a pale insignificant star in the harsh light of their day.

Today, I cry out loud, and I listen quietly. I am grateful to have learned to write hard and clear about what hurts -- so that it is defanged and doesn't hurt anymore. Mary Baker Eddy writes:

"Think of this, dear reader,
for it will lift the sackcloth
from your eyes, and you will behold
the soft-winged dove descending upon you.

The very circumstance, which your suffering
sense deems wrathful and afflictive,
Love can make an angel entertained unawares.

Then thought gently whispers:
“Come hither! Arise from your false
consciousness into the true sense of Love,
and behold the Lamb’s wife, — Love
wedded to its own spiritual idea.”
May you feel this wedded bliss with your one true Love - the main character in every story.    

offered with Love,


Wednesday, August 30, 2017

"i've looked at clouds..."

"I've looked at clouds
from both sides now,
from give and take..."

- Joni Mitchell

I live along a river valley that runs between two mountain ranges. Each morning I rise, fill the bird feeders, water the flowers and return to the kitchen where I make a pot of tea. Then I spend a few hours studying spiritual texts, taking calls, and staring.  Yes, staring.

I've always been fascinated by clouds. As a child I couldn't wait to finish my chores and retreat to read. If the weather was inclement, I would go to my room, climb into my bottom bunk and disappear into a story about horses, a Nancy Drew mystery, a biography about strong women, or a book of fantasy. If the weather allowed, I would grab a book and head for a grassy place to lie on my back and alternate between reading words and reading clouds.

I loved watching a cloud change shapes -- from a bunny, to a dragon, to a castle -- and so on. The first time I heard Joni Mitchell's,"Both Sides Now," I thought it was the most brilliant song ever penned.

These days, I don't have to lie in the grass to watch clouds. All I have to do is look out our floor to ceiling windows, where I have a stretch of sky that reaches about 50 miles along the valley -- from north to south. I can watch a single cloud shift shape dozens of time. I can watch her start out as a puffy little thing, and over the course of a few hours, turn into a pouty, storm-sodden promise full of rain.

One day, as I watched a cloud morph, over, and over again, I realized that "the cloud" I'd been watching -- and which I'd identified as "that cloud," -- was not the same cloud, at all. Fifth grade earth science had taught me that throughout the morning, the sun had caused water molecules to evaporate up from puddles, lakes, rivers, streams, and back into the atmosphere. From there, they'd then been gathered (or condensed) into clouds. But all the while, as each cloud gathered new molecules of water, other water molecules were being released back into the atmosphere. There was a constant, ongoing exchange of water molecules.

The cloud that I had been watching move from the north earlier that morning, was actually not the same cloud I saw later in the afternoon. Even though I thought I'd been monitoring its southbound progress -- and its ever-changing shape -- there were probably very few water molecules left of what had started out as "that cloud" earlier in the morning.

And for that matter, what constituted "that cloud" anyway?  How was it so different from the atmosphere it seemed to be traveling through. The same molecules that made up that beautiful blue sky, made up the cloud. All that was different, was density. What I thought of as an outlined shape, was actually, in a constant state of transformation -- continuously changing and shifting.

For me, this realization felt -- in ways that are hard to explain -- like I finally understood Life. I could see that the atmosphere which seemed so invisible, became more visible when gathered into a denser form -- not a different substance -- just a different density. The essential elements that made up the atmosphere -- and the cloud -- were interchangeable, and changeless.

I had to ask myself, "how is this different from what I think of as my body -- a body in which each cell is replaced every seven years?" Could this be what Mary Baker Eddy is referring to in her primary work, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, when she says:

"Spirit, God, gathers unformed thoughts
into their proper channels
and unfolds these thoughts…
in order that their purpose may appear"
and that:

"Metaphysics resolves things into thoughts
and replace the objects of material sense
with spiritual ideas."

Gathering and resolving, gathering and resolving...

As Joni sings:

"something's lost,
and something's gained,
in living every day..."

I couldn't help but think of God as the atmosphere -- invisible, but ever-present. And everything we experience -- bodies, trees, houses -- as clouds. Constantly gathering into forms that allow the atmosphere to express a new sense of purpose -- to provide shade, to move moisture from north to south -- or east to west, to sort sunlight into a rainbow of hues, to resolve into much-needed rain -- in short, to bless.

I could actually feel the give and take of being spiritual -- and yet, having form -- without the membrane of duality. To be as at-one with God, as the cloud is one with the atmosphere it travels through, and exists in.

There is so much more I am learning from clouds. But for tonight -- this begged sharing.

offered with Love,


"piece by piece..."

"Piece by piece
I fell far from the tree
I will never leave her
like you left me

And she will never have
to wonder her worth
Because unlike you
I'm going to put her first..."

I've been sitting here in a quiet daze having heard Stephanie Rice performing Kelly Clarkson's "Piece by Piece," during her blind audition for The Voice. A friend sent me this link -- I don't have to hear her story, to know it. It pours, like tears, from her voice. I know the taste of those tears.

The link shared, includes the entire audition. Stephanie's performance is at the very beginning, and ends at about 2 minutes in. I was so moved by it. And please don't miss Kelly Clarkson's own emotional performance of "Piece by Piece." I hope you will give both versions a listen.

That said, I'd like to go back to the song itself. It is one of the most honest songs I have ever heard. It hit a nerve so deep, that I discovered I was weeping before a tear had even fallen.

It is a song that lifts the veil on what many girls, who became moms to their own little girls, have lived. Me included.

We compensate. And sometimes, we over-compensate. We look at the lives of our daughters, through the lens of our own longing for love, support, encouragement, and affection. We marry men who will be the fathers "who will not leave."  The kind of father who will put a child's dreams, and needs, above his own.

When we find this kind of love and support for our children, we feel the deep wounds inside of ourselves begin to open, drain, and heal. The self-protective shell we have encased our own dreams in, begins to shatter, allowing new light to warm the dark and hidden places. We start to heal from the inside out. And because we know we have given our daughters what we needed most, we feel safe. We begin to breathe in a new way. And with this softer breath, there is peace. We have the space to heal.

I see this deep desire -- to give our children this kind of love and support-- in the lives of so many of the women in my life. I see it in myself.

I was thrice-abandoned as a child. Once, when he didn't come looking, once through neglect, and once by desertion. The details and circumstances are not important. What is important, is to know is that it never hardened my heart. I never stopped wanting to be the mother of daughters. I never stopped wanting to give those daughters the kind of love -- and support for their innocence, dreams, and successes -- that I never knew.

Like so many of my friends, I never lost hope that someday my daughters would know the love and devotion of a good father. A man who would model kindness, unselfishness, respect, and integrity. A father who would not let them slip away. A father who would be present and attentive. A father who would delight in their accomplishments -- even when it required the sacrifice of his own dreams.

My daughters and I have been blessed.  And I have been blessed to be surrounded by women who have raised daughters -- alone, or with partners -- who know they are loved, supported, believed in, and adored.  These are women of courage and dignity.

God has turned our mourning into dancing. Not all of us have married. Some of us have raised our daughters in a home with two moms. But we have made sure that our daughters know that nothing will ever deprive them of their right to be respected. They know that are worthy of being loved, supported, celebrated, and heard.

I am not really sure what the "message" of this post is. I only know that it couldn't sit in my heart by itself tonight. Thank you Stephanie Rice for your powerful, and deeply moving, performance. Thank you Kelly Clarkson for writing this most honest of songs. Thank you to each of my sisters and friends who have understood my need to support my daughters unconditionally, and have encouraged me when others have told me that I try too hard, or do too much.

For all of my friends who - as girls and young women - knew the love, attention, and support of a good father -- I am so grateful for the example your relationship - with your dad - held out to me. I see the look on my daughters' faces when they know that they -- and their dreams -- come first, and I know that every sacrifice has been worth it.

I am so grateful to be a mom. I am grateful for the example of true manhood I have witnessed in so many good men. I am deeply grateful for the models of true fatherhood that our daughters have experienced. In every way, I am just so grateful. Piece by piece, I have been restored.

Here is the chorus from Kelly Clarkson's beautiful "Piece by Piece:

"Piece by piece, he restored my faith
That a man can be kind and a father could, stay

Piece by piece I fell far from the tree
I will never leave her like you left me.

And she will never have to wonder her worth
Because unlike you
I’m going to put her first
and you know, He’ll never walk away,
He’ll never break her heart
He’ll take care of things, he’ll love her
Piece by piece, he restored my faith
That a man can be kind
and that a father would stay.

Piece by piece
Piece by piece..."

Piece by piece we are building a new world view of what it means to be faithful -- not just to a person, but to a family. Piece by piece we are restoring trust, defining integrity. Piece by piece, family by family. I am grateful.

offered with Love,


Sunday, August 20, 2017

"Love has the final move..."

"if paradise has
up and flown away for now,
but hope still breathes
and Truth is always true,
 just when we think
it's almost over,
Love has the final move..."

This summer has asked a lot of our humanity. I don't know about you, but I've slept little and questioned much. I can't help but wonder if Thomas Paine was just being historically accurate, or prophetically clear-eyed when he wrote: "These are the times that try men's souls." It certainly feels as if my soul - my spiritual senses -- have been deeply tried. Chris Rice's "Love Has the Final Move," soothed my heart one recent night as I lay in the dark praying for the world.

My prayers were not complex. They were not the unpacking of deep metaphysical premises. They didn't lead me to profound moments of realization. They were simple. "God, help me practice the two great commandments -- to love and trust You - supremely; and to love my neighbor as myself."

But then my heart begged the age-old question: "But who is my neighbor?" And I remembered Jesus' answer to this question: the story of the good Samaritan. The neighbor was a stranger, a foreigner, someone whose customs and traditions were very different from those of the questioner. Well, I mused, no one could have more foreign ideas, customs, or rituals from my own, than an angry, torch-carrying neo-nazi, waving a swastika emblazoned flag, while spewing hateful rhetoric about racial supremacy. Yup, not my finest thinking.

"Dear God," I prayed, "please don't ask me to love them as myself." In other words, please don't ask me to love them in order to be my best self. But God said, "Isn't that what you have already been doing? Loving yourself in exact proportion to how you have been loving them." 

This wasn't going quite the way I'd expected.  But God persisted.  "You haven't been loving them, and you haven't been loving yourself very effectively. And since I am asking you to love them as you love yourself, it's important that you do that first.  But, you haven't been very kind to yourself. You have judged yourself based on your mistakes, your failures, your body fitness, your sense of being "less" in the world, your sense of what other people think of you."

He was right. It had been a hard summer. There were times when I'd felt awkward and small. I hadn't felt a clear sense of belonging. I felt like a square peg in a round hole. And I wasn't sure how something that had once felt so right, had come to feel so wrong. Had the square hole I'd thought I fit into -- so beautifully -- become round? Had I grown sharp edges, so that I no longer slipped effortlessly into the round, smooth hole?

Because I didn't know where I fit, I'd spent much of the summer holed up in my office, where I could focus on God -- letting my work singularly shape my sense of belonging.  It was wonderful, but I knew I couldn't stay sequestered forever.  The world was rightfully encroaching on my sublime isolation.  I had to find a way to expand my sense of loving others  -- as myself.  And this was much harder than I wanted it to be.

What I wanted was answers, I wanted a path to a solution, I wanted a way out of my own too-tight skin. Suddenly the conflicts and chaos I was praying about in far-away  Charlottesville, were really much, much closer. A small, awkward version of me was marching round the memorial I'd erected, and chanting in my head, "you will not replace us." Threatening the "me" that longed for a larger, more expansive sense of what it meant to love my neighbor as myself. It was no longer enough to feel good with (and about) those I shared a common hope -- my neighborhood was expanding.

So I held a rally within myself. The kind of rally I wanted to see happening in Charlottesville, Boston, San Francisco, and in my own community. I realized I needed to listen -- and to listen deeply, and attentively. All the doubts, hurt, fears, confusion, and anger needed to be seen, heard, and thoughtfully addressed.  I needed to lay down my weapons of self-certainty and be willing to hear something new.

For example, I had been feeling like I was no longer relevant - in my children's lives, in my friendships, in communities that I loved. 

First, I listened to the self-pitying logic that wanted to claim justification for this feeling. And then I was quiet. Really, really quiet.  I didn't just jump all over it with a slew of metaphysical quotes. I calmly looked at each of the suggestions and asked myself questions like: "Is this true? How do you know that it's true? Is it possible that it's not true? What would things look like if you didn't believe it were true? And if it is true, what are you willing to do to change it?"

I was respectful and considerate. I was not dismissive or reactive. I committed to loving myself.  Really loving myself.  Not only the me that I knew was the reflection of God, but I loved the me that felt buffeted by self-doubt.  The shift was remarkable. I wasn't afraid of my feelings. They were just feelings, they weren't necessarily facts. I could question them without feeling attacked for being less spiritual or less metaphysically "on top of it."

And more importantly, I felt real love for others the minute I started loving myself. I felt love for the journey that had brought me to this very moment of willingness, of deep self-examination.  I belonged here.  I was ready to grow from it.  And I was not alone in the uncertainty of it all.  

I also felt a genuine love for the girl in me -- the teen, woman, wife, mom, friend, healer, neighbor who had navigated this journey with courage -- day after day.  She'd made mistakes, but she was also bravely confronting those mistakes with humility and acceptance.  She was learning from those mistakes and that was all God was asking of her.

And in this loving of myself and my journey -- as full of missteps and blunders as it was -- I was able to love my neighbor and his/her journey -- no matter how little I understood of its history or its trajectory.  Regardless of how much I might not agree with the reasoning or decisions that got them there.  

Their journey was not mine to judge. It could only serve as an opportunity for me to learn to love more unconditionally.  I could learn to nurture my best self, by loving my neighbor -- regardless of the script, costume, props, or story that the ego was offering as right or wrong -- for either of us.  I could know that Love was/is working Her purpose out in every one of us.  

I began to see, I could trust that no matter how far gone the game seemed to be, Love would always have the final move -- in my life, in my neighbor's life, in my community, and in the world.  Love would always win.

offered with Love,


Monday, August 14, 2017

"cast - deep, deep within..."

"deep enough to reach out
and touch the face of
the One who made me.
and oh, the love I feel.."

Chris Rice's "Deep Enough," is the song I am singing, when I remember last summer's ephiphany. But I am getting ahead of myself.

It began early that spring. I knew that I was going to have the privilege of supporting Adventure Unlimited's summer staff during the three weeks of their pre-camp training school. I eagerly awaited the email that would announce that year's metaphysical theme. When it came, I felt -- ambivalent. Of course I was familiar with the Scripture from John:

"Cast the net
on the right side
of the ship,
and ye shall find."

I'd read it many times. I'd trusted it, wrestled with it, and pondered its relevancy. But all last spring it left me feeling flat. I didn't like the right vs. wrong -- or even right vs. left -- connotations. I was uncomfortable with their being a right side at all. It implied a wrong side. And if there was a wrong side, what was it's genesis. Certainly not God. And if not God -- who or what. And if there really was a who or what, didn't that also imply a creator other than God. You see where I'm going -- right?

Now, all this wrestling could have remained very private, except for one small thing. I was supposed to deliver an inspirational talk on the first day of training school centered on that Scriptural theme.  Hmmm -- what to do?  Of course, pray.  

So, in the weeks, and days -- and hours -- before the start of training camp, I was on my knees asking God for inspiration, clarity, a fresh perspective. Because clearly, the one I was harboring wasn't cutting it. And I couldn't fake it. It would be impossible for me to speak about this Scripture - in a winning way - if I wasn't inspired myself.

Driving up the camp road that morning, I had nothing. Really -- nothing. I was driving with my heart in my throat -- and figuratively, on my knees. "Dear God," I thought, "please help." It was that simple. Please help. And it was like the clouds parted within my heart and I was flooded with this simple message. What if the way you are looking at this question, "what is the 'right side,' -- is just another a version of 'lo, here, or lo, there' -- right or left, right or wrong, here or there, this or that.  What if the spiritual "side" is the inside -- vs. the outside.

In less time than it took me to finish my drive from the "Y" in the road to Round Up -- less than two minutes at 20 miles per hour. The entire message was written on my heart. God had been preparing it - in me - for years. It was His love that had helped me see -- even as a little girl -- that "the gospel of the kingdom," was the the good news of Jesus' message about the kingdom,  as recorded in Luke. In the account, he is demanded of the Pharisees, when the kingdom of God should come, and he replies:

"the kingdom of God
cometh not with observation:
neither shall the say,
lo here! or, lo there!
for, behold,
the kingdom of God,
is within you

Even as a child this brought me such a sense of spiritual authority in my own life.  I didn't need to find the right role model, the right book, the right teacher, the right school.  Whatever I needed to know, I would ultimately find within.  

Every answer I was seeking, the divine nudge I longed to feel, every comforting, healing, transforming thought comes from within. This is where God reigns. This is where God hold court and gives counsel. 

The books I read, the conversations I have, the inspirations that are shared with me -- should all point within. Guide me to that place of deeper oneness with divine Love. To nurture a deeper sense of trust in the I AM within.  This trust is all that I will have eternally.  And this trust is the evidence of my wholeness -- my health. 

For me, this "inside" is the side -- the only side -- where I need to cast my questions, cares, and concerns. This is where I will find all that I am searching, longing, yearning for. This is the place of deep stillness where I hear the voice of the only One who can truly affirm the All-in-allness of Truth, the eternality of Life, the infinitude of Love -- His Love.

From that moment on, this Scripture became my touchstone all summer. In fact, it still is. When I am casting about for direction, answers, comfort, inspiration -- I am reminded to turn to the kingdom within. This is where I will find the eternal, the enduring, the infinite. This is the place I can never leave, the kingdom where I will always be welcome.  Here, within this kingdom, dwells a Sovereign who is tireless in His love for me, and mine, and all. This is where I can touch the face of the One who made me for the sheer purpose of loving and trusting Him.

May you cast all your care upon Him, for He careth for you...

offered with Love,


[photo credit: Ian Forber-Pratt]