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,


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,


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,


*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,


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,


Sunday, November 1, 2015

"you don't belong to me…"

"You belong to me,
you belong, you belong,
you belong to me..."

No, not anymore. Not really ever.  But there were so many years when I thought that having someone belong to me was the essence of true love. To be mine exclusively. To be my husband, my daughter, my friend. Carly Simon's "You Belong to Me," was my anthem.

I played it loud.  I sang along with it on car trips. It was my weapon of choice -- I fought with it, coiled in my heart's back pocket. I wept to it in the shower. I believed it was my right to hold on.  What was I thinking?

For all those years, if you had asked me if thought I understood the nature of Love, I would have said, "yes."  But, it took having all that I loved wrenched from my death grip, to discover that Love doesn't possess -- it surrenders. Love doesn't seek to own. Love doesn't need to control. Love trusts.

For such a long time, the penultimate model of human love was knowing that someone belonged to me, and to me only. To be in an exclusive relationship meant I was special. But I have learned that true love is inclusive, not exclusive. Love never leaves anyone out. Everyone belongs in the all-embrace of true love, not to others.

My daughters have taught me more about inclusive, all-expansive, surrendering love than any other one thing in my life. From the get-go, as an adoptive mom, I've had to surrender any possessiveness -- any sense of them being "my daughters." They have always been our daughters -- their birthmother, their dad -- and, eventually, their step-mom and step-dad.  And that was only the beginning.  They have beloved friends, coaches, aunts, uncles, grandparents, teachers, counselors.  Rather than them belonging to me, I belong with them in this incredible sense of family.

In fact, just when I begin to think that we have the family tree trimmed into another neat shape, it grows new branches, sprouts new leaves overnight.  And what I am discovering is that we will never be a neat, trim little bonsai tree.  We are messy and wonderful.  We belong to a constantly unfolding, ever-expanding family of love.  I've long-since thrown the tree-trimming tools in the dumpster. 

The world is constantly parading a version of love in front of us that is full of ownership and possessiveness.  Some of those traditions, provisions, and contracts of partnership are beautiful and practical.  But they don't give us the right to enslave one another.

I remember well the day that God answered my prayers for help in "fixing" a relationship I'd clung to for dear life.  His message to me was:

"Do you love him enough, 
to let him go?" 

The answer was immediate. I did.  And so, I did.  I let go.  Since then, actively letting go of "owning" the people, places, and things that I love, has been the most perfect sense of living in grace for me.  

Letting go has also given me the gift of an infinite, and eternal, sense of love.  A love that is not based on sharing time or proximity of space -- but a love that is fully defined by what I hold dearly in consciousness.  This is where love is timeless, invulnerable, and fearless.  I can't help but remember what Paul says in Scripture:  

"neither height, nor depth, 
nor any other creature can separate 
us from the love of God..." 

This is the love that I seek in myself -- to love the way that God loves.  To love without permission, and without condition.  A love that, as Mary Baker Eddy states in  Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures:

"cannot be deprived 
of its manifestation or object." 

I cannot be deprived of it, because it was never "mine," never owned, never personally possessed. 

Lately I've been working to change my language when it comes to love.  Rather than referring to the girls and Jeff as my daughters or my husband, I am using their names.  These small shifts have allowed me to step back from everything passing through the filter of "my" relationship with them, into a larger sense of their relationship with God and their world

Rather than thinking of this as my home or my town, I have been thinking of it as a wonderful place that I am blessed to share with my family, friends, and neighbors.

Today I realized that I no longer want someone to belong to me.  I want each of us to belong to God, and to the vastness of His infinite, eternal love for all of us.  

with all my love -- and with Love,


Wednesday, September 16, 2015

"You can do this hard thing…"

"You can do this hard thing,
you can do this hard thing,
It's not easy I know,
but I believe that it's so,
you can do this hard thing..."

When I first heard Carrie Newcomer's "You Can Do This Hard Thing," I was reminded of how much it means to have someone believe in you.

Sometimes we are placed in situations where we don't have the time or the space to decide how or when to act. These are the moments when doing the hard thing is not hard at all. We race to the bed of a loved one. We stop the bully in his tracks. We swim, because sinking isn't an option.

But there are other times when we must choose. Times, when presented with a course of action that is not urgent, we hesitate, justify, or simply avoid doing that hard thing -- because it is hard.

I have been on this threshold many times. In some cases, I've stood there paralyzed for many years. I've convinced myself that if it were "right," it would be easy. If it were right, I wouldn't be hesitating. If it were right, I'd be eager to do it.

I remember, some 40 years ago, standing on the precipice of a decision for many months. I had been offered the opportunity to move to a new city -- a move which had the  potential for wonderful professional and personal growth. On one hand, I was very afraid of leaving all that was familiar. And on the other hand, I knew it was time. That said, driving away from a town I loved - one that had become home for me - was painful. I remember the night before I was to pack my car and get on the road. I sat in the middle of my empty apartment and like Jacob, wrestled with the decision until the breaking of the day.  And like Jacob, I felt as if something in me was out of joint.

When I finally loaded up the car, and began the 3,000 mile trip across country, I could barely see through my tears. I made it over the first state line,  and pulled into a small inn for the night. I was sure that by the next morning, I would turn back towards "home." I could imagine unlocking the door to my old apartment and curling up in a ball in the corner of the bedroom until I could refurnish it.

This was many years before cell phones, and the closest thing to "call a friend" was a pay phone in the lobby of the inn. At midnight I padded down in my robe and nightgown, dialed the now long distance number of a loved one, and quietly placed the required number of quarters in the slot -- hoping that the sound wouldn't wake up the other guests. When she answered, I burst into tears and explained that I just couldn't do it. I thought she would be thrilled to hear I was coming home. But instead she said, "you can do this, you need to do this, i believe in you."

We talked for another few minutes until she said that I should call her when I'd reached the next state line sometime the following afternoon. I did. Her belief in me was exactly what I needed to find my courage in continuing along the long, hard miles in front of me. In the months that followed, whenever I felt overwhelmed in that very big city where I knew no one, it was that call which echoed in my heart.

Whether it's been a decision I knew had little support, facing a serious illness, navigating a heart wrenching disappointment, or an unexpected sorrow,  it's the feeling I had that late September morning as I headed west -- that I seem to go back to - over, and over again.

The hills of eastern Pennsylvania were a patchwork of green and gold, russet, and a red so deep you could almost taste apples and cinnamon when you looked at it. The sky was a brilliant September blue and the air was brisk with the promise of a first frost. I slipped the sound track from The Sound of Music into the 8-track on the dash and found Julie Andrews' singing "I Have Confidence." I sang it at the top of my lungs as I put the car into gear and hit the interstate.

I was so young, so uncertain, and so naive -- but someone believed in me, and they had faith that I could do this hard thing -- and I did.

Since then I have come to discover that there are a host of Biblical pioneers encouraging us from the pages of scriptural history. I think of Ruth, who ventured, with her recently widowed mother-in-law, into an foreign country and culture. Moses, who returned to what was familiar but as a new person with changed values and allegiances. Or Mary, who witnessed faithfully at the foot of the cross during her son's crucifixion.  These men and women are my heroes.

I turn to their stories - often - when facing the hard things. I like to think that they believe in me. That they know me as  their sibling -- sharing an indissoluble relationship with our common Parent. They have put their journeys on record as encouragement to all of us. And each time we do the hard thing -- in the face of resistance or fear -- we contribute to that chronicle of courage.

I love this verse from Carrie's song:

"here we stand breathless
and pressed in hard times
hearts hung like laundry
on backyard clothes lines.
Impossible just takes
a little more time.

From the muddy ground
comes a green volunteer.
In a place we thought barren
new life appears.
Morning will come whistling
some comforting tune for you:
You can do this hard thing ..."
We all have a divine Parent who believes in us, encourages us, and knows we can do all thing through Christ who strengthens us. Our lives bear witness to this. Our stories -- like those of spiritual pioneers before us -- lift a lantern to those who are standing on that threshold, feeling paralyzed by fear and self-doubt. We can be their: "you can do this hard thing…"  And they will.

offered with Love and with encouragement,

offered with love,


Friday, September 11, 2015

"Like a small boat…"

"Like a small boat
on the ocean
Sending big waves
into motion
Like how a single word
can make a heart open..."

When Sam asked me to write a post using Rachel Platten's "Fight Song," as the keynote, I was intrigued. I'd never heard of Rachel -- or her song -- but once I did, this post gave birth to itself. I just got out of the way. Here what fell on the page:

I'd spent so many years trying to prove my worthiness. I'd chased a sense of belonging -- to family, church, and in the communities I've lived in. Enough.

I refuse to fight any longer for a personal sense of validation. And actually, I have discovered that I don't need to. I am enough. In her song, Rachel sings, "a single word can make a heart open…"

That is the line that simply took my breath away.  You see, once upon a time, not so long ago, I had a life-altering experience that supplied the "one word" I'd been waiting for. The word was "no."

I had been holding my breath, waiting for someone to to take note of my worth -- for way too many years. I'd done everything - shy of standing on my head - to get a thumbs up. Then one day, I got a clear, decisive thumbs down. And it was wonderful.

Sure, the first moment or two was filled with "what did I do wrong?" "Give me another chance -- please -- I'll try harder to win you over. I promise, I'll do better next time." 

 And there were many times in the following days - and weeks - when I thought it actually meant something about me that I didn't measure up. As if looking through any human lens could serve as an accurate assessment tool for measuring a person's merit. For weighing worth, validating value.

But I soon came to realize, that it never would. It never could. And it just didn't matter. Really. I knew I had given "it" my honest, genuine, authentic all, and it was still not enough -- for him/her/them.

That "no," was the key to my freedom. It released me.  It wasn't a "no" to my dreams and desires, only a "no" to their participation in it.  I was free to be empowered from within.   

In the wake of their "no," I could begin to look in another direction. And I chose to look towards my relationship with God for any - and all - meaningful information about my peace, my purpose, my place in the world. That relationship was intact and unwavering. My trust in His love for me was sound. 

Like a small heavy-keeled boat, I was secure in my spiritual seaworthiness. I was deeply grounded in an unsinkable certainty that I knew Him, felt His presence, and was filled with His grace.

What I also learned through this experience, was that a clear "no," is sometimes the most wonderful version of "yes." To know -- without a shadow of a doubt -- that permission from others is just not going to be yours, frees you to stare unflinchingly into abyss of the heart. This is the province where God is Sovereign -- enriching your affections for what really is yours.

Nothing that is truly ours, requires someone else's approval or permission. When we feel inspired and impelled by that deeper demand from within -- we are driven to find ways to live those desires moment-by-moment. We stop asking for permission.

I think that, for me, parenting has been one of the most powerful examples of this. For such a long time I thought that I needed to have a child to be a mother. But mothering is a verb. I could mother colleagues, nieces, neighbors, countries, causes. I didn't need to wait for the validation of a baby. I didn't need someone to choose me as the adoptive parent of their infant or child. I could mother -- nurture, encourage, support, cherish -- without hesitation, without apology.

Whatever it is yours to do, you know it in your heart. You don't have to think it into being.  You don't need to poll the opinions of others to find consensus.  Your purpose springs from that sacred place in you that is so deeply aligned with divine Love that nothing can extinguish its primordial fire. 

Are you impelled to heal -- then heal. Are you kept awake by a desire to write, to keep bees, to partner, to coach? Then do it -- even if the "doing" begins with simply and importunately  praying for the integrity and success of that industry, institution, activity in the world.

If you love the thought of being in a marriage and you have not met Mr. Right -- so? Love marriage. Love the office of husband so much that you would never criticize, demean, or undermine that office in any way. No matter how it is being carried out by those around you. 

 Uphold the best view of that office in your conversations, interactions, and in support of your family members and friends. Nothing can make you think of that office in any way that violates your highest sense of its potential to bless -- not even someone else's behavior. You own your right to uphold your highest sense of husband, boss, mother, friend, world leader, global citizen. Take possession of it and defend it.

Don't wait for the validation of the "right" person, place, or thing, to live your relationship with whatever God is impelling in you. Don't wait for permission from an employer's "hiring" to live your desire to do, what it is that you love -- whether it is to exercise a skill, share a talent, or support an organization's mission. Their "no," may just be your "yes" in finding a clearer, brighter path towards the realization of a deeper sense of what it means to fulfill your divinely-designed purpose, to answering your highest calling.

Mary Baker Eddy says, on the first page of her primary work, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, that:

"Desire is prayer,
and no loss can occur
from trusting God with our desires…"

These desires -- which she clearly identifies as prayers -- are,

"God's gracious means
for accomplishing whatever
has been successfully done
for the Christianization
and health of mankind."

I'm learning to trust this truth. To act upon it without permission from anyone -- but God. I am discovering that when the eyes of my heart are fixed on Him, I cannot be disappointed. I am empowered by His reign in my heart -- enriching my affections and governing them.  

You may not be a big ocean liner filled with folks lining up to party with you, you may find that you are like a small deep-keeled boat, happy to do what boats do.

Offered with Love,


Saturday, September 5, 2015

"I shall not want…"

"From a need to be understood,
from a need to be accepted,
from a fear of being lonely,
deliver me, O God..."

It was long before dawn, when I woke with this one truth, "I shall not want…"

It came before sentience. It came in the space of a silence deeper than "no sound." It came as conscious existence. It was not thought, but known. And it brought with it a feeling of being deeply satisfied.

I let my heart steep in it for a very long time. It felt like the purest truth I had ever known.

When I finally rose to greet the day it refused to be put aside for other thoughts and concerns.

After a few hours, I opened my computer and launched my browser. Going to Youtube, I typed in "I shall not want," and this beautiful song by Audrey Assad, "I Shall Not Want," brought me to tears. It spoke to every feeling I'd experienced in the stillness of that early morning.

As I stood on the back deck watching the first migrating birds arrive on our lake, I was reminded of Jesus' encouragement to:

"Behold the fowls of the air,
for they sow not,
neither do they reap,
nor gather into barns;
yet your heavenly Father
feedeth them."

What tender care for the human heart. That morning, I didn't need food, or clothing, or shelter. I needed ideas that would inspire, spiritual facts that transcend the evidence of the senses. I needed the gifts of grace, the compassion that heals, and the mercy of a loving Parent.

On the heels of that sweet avian reminder, I heard this promise from Romans:

"O the depth of the riches
both of the wisdom
and knowledge of God!

How unsearchable
are his judgments,
and his ways
past finding out!"
I didn't need to "want" a knowledge of Him, or His wisdom.  It was not something to be searched for - and found. It was not something I lacked, and needed to go hunting for.  It was mine by simple reflection -- in stillness.

And so I did just what Jesus suggested. I watched the fowls of the air. They circled the lake, and then flew directly into the stillness of the water.  All that they needed lay just beneath the clear surface -- and it was immediately evident and available to each of them from that vantage point. They weren't landing thoughtlessly and then digging around -- stirring up surface and muddying the waters.

It occurred to me how often my frantic "searching" had muddied my own spiritual clear-sightedness.

But when I stand still -- nevertheless -- in the simplicity of one simple spiritual fact, such as: "God is All-in-all," and I allow that Truth to inform every other question or concern -- there is no want.

My freedom from want comes, not from what I think I know about my circumstances and resources, but from what I know to be true about God -- our divine Source. There is no want, because there is no lack in the Allness of All. Where there is no absence of God, there is no absence of good.  Realizing this one fact, I am consciously holding good in my experience - immediately.

In the All-in-allness of Mind, there is no lack of wisdom -- in anyone. In the All-in-allness of Love, there is no lack of acceptance. In the All-in-allness of Life, there is no loneliness or loss. In the All-in-allness of Truth, there is no dishonesty or misunderstanding. 

 In the All-in-allness of Soul, there is only beauty, peace, and the discernment of truth. In the All-in-allness of Principle, we can only experience the ever-presence of balance, order, and fairness. And in the All-in-allness of Spirit, we trustingly yield to the one divine Source of all motivation, intention and action.

Filled with an abiding conviction that our divine Parent loves and cares for us, we are playful. The "future," is not something to worry about, but is a divine surprise unfolding right before our eyes from an unfathomable well of goodness. And we are free from the finite wants, which will always fall short of His more abundant, infinite plan for us.

I think of the young King David, the Psalmist, who wrote those words, "I shall not want." His own path from ambitious self-volition to childlike trust was lovingly chronicled for us in Scripture. I am humbled beyond measure by his courage and honesty. What a journey of grace.

And since all fear has it's basis in the supposition: "what if God is absent," to be free of lack-based want is to be delivered from fear. To be free of want is to dwell in the spaciousness of God's immanence. To be free of want, is to rest our hopes in His eternal kingdom. A kingdom of still waters, tender mercies, and amazing grace.

offered with Love,