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,


Kate



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,


Kate

[photo credit: Ian Forber-Pratt]

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

"there's a reason for the world..."



"there's a reason for the world,
You and I..."


There are days when everywhere I turn there are reports of heartache and hopelessness. As a spiritual healer, that's what I do. I am available to help others find the softest ray of hope in the middle of despair, a glimmer of light in the midst of darkness -- the presence of God, where the evidence seems contrary.

Recently a dear friend asked my a question -- one that I have heard articulated in hundreds of ways over the last three decades, "What is the reason for it all?" The question boils down to this, "If Life is spiritual, and the ultimate reality is not defined by human existence, why are we even here?"

Today, Five for Fightings's "The Riddle," gave me words that I could hang my thoughts upon. Here are the lyrics, if you would like to read them.

Mary Baker Eddy makes this statement in her primary work, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures:

"Mortal existence is an enigma.
Every day is a mystery."
 

I have read that passage as many times as I have heard the question.  And although I have always felt that there had to be an answer -- to that enigma [riddle], I have only ever glimpsed a fleeting shadow of its truth.  But today, while listening to Five for Fighting's "The Riddle," things started to fall into place for me. And I really mean "for me." I can only speak to what I am feeling about this "riddle" - and only about today's insight.

That said, for me, it is becoming clearer that our human experience is all about relationships. It is not about succeeding at a particular career, interest, or avocation. It is not about accumulating property, money, prestige, or awards. Those are only props and vehicles. I believe that the real "reason for it all" is "you and I."

The houses we dream of building, the cars we think will define us, the competitions we hope to win, the awards we accumulate, the degrees we earn, the weddings we create, the environment we save, the celebrations we host, the money we save -- or spend, the bodies we shape, and clothe, and starve and indulge -- they are not the endgame. They are simply there as props on this stage of human experience. As vehicle to get us to where we will deepen our understanding of what is important. The real goal is to stretch and strengthen our focus on what really counts -- you and I -- and how we love.

Our relationships are the place where love either happens, or is waiting to happen. It is in our relationships that we discover the deepest sense of God as Love. But how often do we let something get in the way of that discovery. 


 We might let a competition convince us that comparing ourselves with others is reasonable - and make us feel we need to distance ourselves from the "other" in order to be competitive. We may turn away from building fellowship, because of a disagreement about policy, procedure, politics, and polarization. We might allow being "right" to trump being kind. Or we let "fear of being thought ridiculous," get in the way of saying what is in our heart.

I see it everyday. Heck, I feel it everyday. I am afraid that someone will not return my affection, so I don't reach out in friendship. I hesitate. I equivocate. I let something petty get in the way of the miracle of an unbroken friendship.

There are a million stories in this naked city of my heart's failure to say, "the heck with being right, understood, or emotionally safe -- I am going to be me, and love, love, love."

I am beginning to feel that the bravest thing we will ever do is love without fear of being rejected. That the only thing that will ever make a real difference in the lives of our children, our friends, our neighbors -- and yes, our "enemies," -- is to love, especially when everything in us feels vulnerable, afraid, and insecure. To love in a way that never leaves anyone feeling alone in this world. When we love, not in spite of how our love might be received, or how we might be treated, or thought of -- but instead of. This is our real reason for existing.

How often do we judge the deserving of others to experience our love. We weigh their words, choices, or actions, and then, we allow that assessment, to determine our own words, choices, and actions. But what if we just loved. Loved because it is who we are -- not because it is what we have decided someone else deserves. We cease to be reactionary -- and become revolutionary.

We stop basing our lives on how someone else's behavior will -  or will not - gives us permission to react. We begin to live with true courage -- to act out from the fullness of that Love which operates unspent within our hearts. 


 The heart is not a measuring stick, or a sorting hat, but a lens through which we see the world as a place where we have a reason for existing -- to love. To love without regard for self. To love without an agenda. To love without reason. To love without condition of reciprocity. To love without judgment of another's deserving -- or our own.

How often have we heard that no one leaves this experience wishing they'd bought another house, or earned more money, or won another competition -- but wishing that they'd spent more time with their loved ones, done more to improve the lives of their neighbors, forgiven a long-held hurt, said what what in their hearts.

I may be wrong. I often am. As I navigate the laboratory of this human experience, I sometimes feel fragile and small. But I am getting better at giving myself permission to be all of those things -- to not get everything just right. To make mistakes. To learn how to do it differently. Because as long as I am learning more about how to love as God loves -- more consistently, more universally, more impartially, more humbly, and fearlessly -- I am living on purpose, and with intention.  When I love freely, I am free.

In her poem titled, "Love," Eddy offers this guidance as we navigate the riddle of human existence:


"for Love alone is Life;
and life most sweet,
as heart to heart
speaks kindly
when we meet and part."
 


Yes, I think that this may be the reason for it all -- you and I.


offered with Love,


Kate

postscript: 


I had an insight this morning that took my breath away. I'd been up most of the night thinking about this post. I'd fallen asleep as the sun was coming up. When I woke again an hour later it was with a start. I'd always loved thinking about relationships through the metaphor of the sun and its rays.  

The sun, God, is like the circle I would draw as a child. The rays would branch out from a central circle -- in spokes. I've often thought of how if I were to put my fingers at the farthest ends of two of those rays, they only become closer when those fingers move towards the sun -- God.

But this morning, I realized that when two rays are closest to each other, they are closer to the Sun, God. My goal in life is to draw "nigh unto Him," I do this best when I am closest to you. Just a thought -- offered with Love.



Friday, July 14, 2017

"You do impossible things..."



"You heal the broken-hearted,
You set the captive free,
You lift the heavy burden,
and even now, You are lifting me..."


Ahhh -- friday afternoon.  A welcome milestone, set in a week that has seemed like one spiritual demand being placed on top of another. I could feel that I needed something to really lift my heart. Chris Tomlin's "Impossible Things," was perfect. I found myself singing along, hands raised, body moving -- shouting His praise.

In Chris' Facebook post, he introduces this song of praise with these words:


"During times of trial,
we must retrace the steps of our journey
and remember, God has already done
the impossible in us through His Son."
 

Yes, we have the right to remember what we have already witnessed - and experienced - of His power. I remember an afternoon almost 20 years ago when I was feeling so overwhelmed I didn't want to leave the Borders Bookstore Cafe where I was hiding out from my life. There, everything was orderly, someone made hot chocolate that was the perfect temperature, no one spilled juice on my books, or started crying to be held -- the minute I closed my eyes in prayer.

I wanted to give myself ten more minutes before heading back into the storm that was our home with toddler twins. I stood up and walked over the the nearby magazine rack. The latest edition of Oprah's magazine was on display. I picked it up and returned to my neat little table. The last page was always a note from Oprah. I liked reading them first. This one was about the past.

Oprah explained that there had been many years when looking back at her life's journey was fraught with anxiety and pain. The timeline was punctuated with milestone moments. One day she realized that each of those moments was one of abuse, heartache, and fear. There were few, if any, good milestones on that timeline. So she resisted looking back. That didn't mean that the past didn't haunt her, just that she didn't choose to visit it with intention.

That changed the day that she discovered that her timeline was not something she felt in control of. She decided that she would draw out that timeline and put those milestones in place, but that she would go right back to those memories and find something good -- some indication of God's presence in each of those "chapters," of her life.

She said that it took almost a year, but she did it. She reclaimed each of those milestones for God. This so resonated with me.

I will never forget one of the examples she gave. She said that one day she decided it was time to revisit the sexual child abuse she'd suffered at the hand of a family member. It took her a very deep dive into that chapter of her life, but she finally found it, the presence of God. She realized that even in the midst that dark time, she knew that what was happening to her was not right. She had the wisdom to know right from wrong. It was enough to redeem that dark time. Her timeline was forever rewritten.

That was enough for me. I decided to do the same thing. I drew out my timeline and I placed the milestones along the way. And like Oprah, mine were all hauntingly dark and negative. Then I took the next few years to go back and reclaim each one for God -- for good.

That chapter after my dad was killed and my family was so desperate for resources, became a chapter filled with creativity and care for one another. The moments that had haunted me with heartbreak became life pages filled with comforting friends and self-discovery.

In the book of Revelation, John promises that:



"The kingdoms of this world
are become the kingdoms of our Lord,
and of his Christ; and he
shall reign for ever and ever."
 

Right where the world has tried to stake its claim on our hearts, we have the authority to evict the usurper, cast out the trespasser, and reclaim that real estate on our timeline for God. My timeline was like a volume of Grimm's Fairy Tales when I started -- ogres, demons, bad choices, and very few happy endings. Today it is filled with parables of intuition, testimonies to humility, stories of spiritual growth, forgiveness and grace. If I can do this, anyone can.

In each of our lives, there are moments we want to forget. Moments when we coulda, shoulda, woulda -- if only we'd known better. There are moments when we have felt helpless or hopeless. But these self-repeated false versions of our life story only ratify the world's claim that we are self-creators and that God is helpless in most instances and completely absent in many. So much for an omnipotent and omnipresent God.

We don't have to consent to this hi-jacking of our lives. We can take each moment back for God. And when we do so, we bring that moment back into our present conscious experience, and rewrite it forever. This becomes the current edition. And this is the one we can remember without fear.

Yes, God has done "impossible things" in our lives. Some of those impossible things might seem like life-altering events, and others may only seem like another day when the sun rose again in the east. But it rose. It was there. And you glimpsed its light, you felt its warmth, you were inspired by its constancy -- it was enough. You don't need to have dramatic miracles -- only those moments we you felt the presence of good -- however faintly -- and you knew you were there.  The milestones have been set in order -- like cairns that stand the test of time.

Here, the timeline becomes a lens through which every moment is alive wth possibility for redemption and the promise of impossible things -- remembered.

offered with Love,


Kate

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

"my first love..."



"You are still my first love,
You're my guiding light
You're with me in the fire
You lead me through the night..."


Last week I returned from a love-affirming trip to California, where I had the honor of marrying two beautiful men, and visiting with my sister and her family.

The drive out had been an exercise in refuting the evidence of the senses. Thirty hours in the car, and all of them spent in prayer. First, because I loved having that time to commune with God. And second, because I was facing a very painful physical situation. Not going, was not an option. So prayer became the only path to getting there. By the day of the wedding, I was pain-free -- but that is another story.

This post is about my return trip -- another thirty hours in the car. And although this thirty hours was not what I'd  expected, it was so filled to the brim - with love and prayer - that it was even more beautiful than I could have imagined. All week, I have loved listening to Chris Tomlin's "My First Love." It perfectly keynotes this experience.  But I am getting ahead of myself.  This story begins on a foggy Monday in San Francisco.

As I drove away from my sister's home that morning, I was completely free of the pain that had kept me awake - and in focused prayer - for the entire drive out only days earlier. My heart was filled with humble gratitude -- for what I'd learned about my love for God, and God's love for me.  During those agonizing hours alone in the car, I'd lived my resolve to completely trust in His care. 


But now, I was looking forward to a peaceful drive home. I was thinking about the scenery I'd actually be able to enjoy this time around, about the sidetrips I was hoping to make in little towns along the way, and the music I was going to be able to sing along to. For just a moment, I indulged in a sigh of relief, after what had felt like a long siege.

Once over the Golden Gate Bridge, I parted with my sister, her husband, and their sweet dogs - Mollie and Bear. I felt confident about my trip strategy, and I had my heart set on an early evening stop in the small mountain town of Truckee where I would grab a light dinner before sunset. 


Leaving Truckee - as the sky turned from blue, to salmon, to lavender - I was a bit surprised that I had yet to fill the car with music. But the silence had been such good company.  And I knew I had a long night of driving ahead. James Taylor, Carly Simon, Linda Ronstadt, and others would get their due as I navigated the Great Basin and the Great Salt Lake under a star-studded sky.

Heading through Reno, my heart was overflowing. I recounted with gratitude, all that I'd witness of God's healing/transforming love that weekend. It had been such a beautiful time of devotion to friendship and family. I felt so blessed.

Just after I saw Reno fading in my rearview mirror, traffic came to a sudden stop. No warning, no signage, just stopped. I knew I was heading into the "wilderness" phase of my drive -- hours and hours of empty landscape from Reno to Salt Lake City with very few towns in between. I needed to do it in the dark, as the daytime temperatures had been hovering between 105 and 110 degrees across the desert that week. I had my fuel stops planned, and I knew where the best rest areas were for pulling over and napping. But my schedule was dependent on doing this portion of the drive during the cooler night hours.

After about 45 minutes of sitting at a stand still -- with only a handful of cars coming in the other direction on Interstate 80 -- a car finally pulled onto the medium and told us that there was a wildfire raging in the foothills, and that it had jumped the interstate. We were being turned around and sent back to Reno for a detour.

Heading back towards Reno, I started feeling unsettled and shaken. I knew the detour would take me completely off schedule. Besides that, I would be on a two-lane highway in the middle of the night -- a highway known as the "loneliest highway in America," -- no kidding. But, if that was where I was being taken, I would go there. All plans of listening to my favorite Pandora playlist evaporated. I was committed to a night of silence -- and prayer.

About an hour into the detour, Something told me, "take that left hand turn." So I did -- obediently. My GPS guide went a bit ballistic, so I turned her off. Now, it really was, just me and God. 


 I knew I had gone about an hour south, and then an hour east. Heading north again, I knew I would likely reconnect with the Interstate. This seemed like a tangential, but logical, plan.  Since I would be alone in the middle of the night, the Interstate seemed like the better option.

But when I reached I-80 it was almost apocalyptical. I drove through the tiny side-of-the-highway town, and followed the signs to the on ramp. The town felt deserted, and when I pulled onto the Interstate, it was absolutely empty of cars and trucks. Driving east, I realized I was the only vehicle traveling on either side of the road. Suddenly, I was engulfed in smoke. But the Voice told me to keep driving. So I did.

On my right and left, I saw rivers of flame flowing through canyons and racing down the hillside towards the interstate. "Keep driving," the Voice kept repeating, "I am with you in the flames." So I did. Mile-after-mile of dense smoke, empty highway, flames visible through intermittent breaks in the ash-filled night air. Flames that crested the hillsides to the north and south. And every once in a while, there would be a clearing above --  where stars were cradled in a bowl of midnight sky.

I was not afraid. I knew the truth -- that beyond all that smoke,  there was a clear night sky. I knew that I was not alone. Just as I had not been alone on the drive out -- when pain tried to suck any sense of peace from my experience.  I knew that I was not a fragile mortal, alone in the car driving across the Great Basin. I was with the One I loved. I was with the One who loved me even more than my husband, my children, and my community. I was with my first love -- God.  I was clear about one thing.  I only knew how to love anyone -- including my loved ones -- because of this first Love.

So, I listened the way one listens to their first love. I listened to my Beloved tell me about Him. About His love for creation. About His beautiful universe. About His love for me.  About His love for the couple I'd married earlier that week.  About His love for our children, my sister's work, my friends, the geo-political world I'd been so concerned about all winter and spring.

I'd always loved taking road trips with those I loved -- boyfriend, finance', husband, girlfriends -- and eventually, with my daughters. I loved listening to them tell stories about their lives. I loved asking things like, "when you hear this song, what is the first memory that comes to mind," or "what are your dreams, your hopes, your plans."

But that night, I listened to God with the same eager intimacy -- with a sweet sense of being alone together in the dark on an empty highway with the one I loved -- with my first love.

In the book of Revelation, John admonishes the church at Ephesus saying:


"I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy 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 smiled thinking of this verse that night. It had always been one of my favorite passages in Scripture. I just loved it, but I didn't know that I always knew what it felt like -- really felt like -- to know God as my "first love."  That night, I felt it. 


 On the drive out, the pain had demanded that I needed to turn to God -- to know Him -- in order to simply get through the night. But this was different.  This was love. 
There was a sweet intimacy to our time together in the wilderness of the Great Basin, with wildfires raging around us. Right there, in the car, we were quietly, intimately, peacefully in oneness -- amid the smoke, and the darkness, and the emptiness of that lonely highway.

Sometime during the night - after I seemed to have driven well-beyond the fires - I pulled into a rest area.  I hoped to take a short nap before the sun came up, and the temperatures in the desert rose. I curled into the backseat and felt so tenderly held by my "first love." However, when I awoke in the cloying heat, I was feeling very ill.  But it just didn't matter -- I knew I was going to be fine. I was with my Love. I pulled back onto the highway, letting only His voice speak to me, and tell me what I felt. 


Seventeen hours later I pulled into our driveway. It had been such a sweet, holy journey.  After I turned off the engine, I just sat there in the silence "for the space of half an hour." [Revelation 8:1] It had been the most beautiful road trip of my life.

I will never forget this time with my first love -- my always, and forever, and eternal  -- first love.


offered with gratitude -- and with Love,


Kate

Thursday, July 6, 2017

"all I have needed...."



"all I have needed
Thy hand hath provided.
Great is Thy faithfulness,
Lord unto me..."


There are songs that feed my soul when I am sad, or lonely, or just feeling a bit disconnected from my best self. This afternoon, it was Chris Rice's version of "Great is Thy Faithfulness." I wasn't searching for it -- it was just there. Like a reminder. Like a prayer.

I would like to think that I am immune to the way that others treat me, those I love, and those I have yet to meet -- locally and globally. But I think, that at least for me, this would signal my ascension -- the ultimate dissolution of the ego. I am obviously not there. But every day I seek the grace to let the opinions and actions of others inform me less. I am discovering that this grace is, truly, all that I need.

I've never felt this need more clearly. It has breathed new life into a favorite passage from Mary Baker Eddy's Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures:


"What we most need, is the prayer
of fervent desire for growth in grace,
expressed in patience, meekness, love,
and good deeds."
 

Yes, this grace is what I most need. But, it is also already what I most desire -- fervently.

Over the years I have written about healings I have experienced. About character traits transformed. About physical challenges overcome. About financial needs met. But, it is this wrestling match with the ego that continues to give me a run for my spiritual money. 


Why am I ever surprised by this? Isn't this what would keep us from feeling the spiritual freedom we ultimately seek? The ego -- which is never personal -- is simply that false sense of being. One which constantly asserts that we are separate entities from the one Source of all existence -- God.

The ego says, "You are special. You started from unique circumstances -- good, bad, privileged, doomed. You have the opportunity to either exploit this personal good, or overcome the unfortunate circumstances of your life. You can change it all. You are self-determined and self-created. You are the master of your own destiny. Now, mortal, go make something great of yourself -- or screw it up royally.  It's all up to you."

But this kind of thinking can also lead to self-blame, feelings of inadequacy, failure, victimization. "If only I..."

Where is God in either of these equations? The Divine is relegated to a help meet -- serving our self-determined, or self-condemning, agendas. This God is neither omnipotent, nor omniscient. This Deity needs our consent -- our spiritual buy-in -- to have any power. This not-so-all-knowing, knows only what we tell Him we want or need. This God is not the Source of our being, but the biased arbiter of our success or failure.

This is what the ego presents -- a self-determined mortal on the treadmill of his/her own design. And it is a treadmill that will never stop turning. Churning out endless scenarios of self. One minute a self that achieves, the next minute a self that can be deceived or deceiving. One day a testimony of healing, the next a nightmare of pain.  In one scene a confident spiritual healer, the next a fragile ego on the brink of tears.

Our only hope is grace. Grace, among other definitions, is the "unmerited and unearned favor of God." Ahhh -- this is where a fathomless peace lies. Not in our own efforts, but in an effortless trust in His/Her faithfulness -- in the unconditional and impartial nature of Love -- a love that is not personally circumscribed, but universally giving. A love like the sun -- that shines on the dandelion, as brightly as on the rose.

Tonight, I am leaning into that grace. I am kicking the ego out of its hiding place -- under a thin-skinned mortal sense of self. I am trusting Love to be impartial -- to pour It's grace upon us all - to refresh and renew every heart in the healing waters of God's all-presence.

offered with Love,


Kate

Sunday, June 25, 2017

"this is where we belong..."



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


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

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

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


- deepen their relationships to God

-  feel loved and valued
 

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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




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

Here's to a summer of unlimited adventures.

offered with Love,


Kate

Sunday, May 28, 2017

"I listen to the Wind..."



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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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


offered with Love,


Kate

Friday, April 14, 2017

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



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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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


"God's gracious means..."
 

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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


offered with Love,


Kate