Saturday, August 4, 2018

"the third side..."

"When the soul
lies down in that grass,
the world is too full
to talk about..."

David Wilcox and Nancy Petit's, "Out Beyond Ideas,"  gives musical form to the poet Rumi's profound invitation that we meet him in the field where healing and understanding take root and bear fruit.

This morning my loved friend Ginny Nilsen shared this passage from an essay "Through My Enemy's Eyes" [A Journal of Positive Futures - Winter 2002.] It touches so beautifully on this "place" that is so critical to spiritual healing:

"Inmate proposes alternative to dualistic thinking:

Prison inmate and former prison-rights activist Troy Chapman, sentenced at the age of 21 to life in prison, discusses what he calls "the third side":

"I had spent most of my life splitting the world up into two sides, then fighting to defend one against the other. It was a game in which there were strategies, a clear objective, a field of play, and an opponent.

The poet Rumi pointed to something beyond this game when he said,

'Out beyond ideas of wrong-doing and right-doing there is a field. I'll meet you there.'

"When I began to see myself in other -— even in my enemies -— I found myself heading for Rumi's field. Here the game is not a game. No one wins unless and until everyone wins. The line between victim and perpetrator no longer runs between 'I' and 'Other.' It now runs right through the center of my soul. I am both, as we are all both.

"What then is left to fight for? Where does an out-of-work activist go? Well, God is hiring and God is on the third side. Not the prisoner's side or the jailer's side. Not the Left or the Right.

"The third side is that little-represented side of healing. It's the side that cares as much about the enemy as the friend, that says love is the only justice, the only victory there is. It does not want anyone destroyed. It does not want to win if someone else must lose. It wants something much larger than winning and losing."

"Through my enemy's eyes"
Yes! A Journal of Positive Futures
Winter 2002”

Isn't this the "side" that Jesus advocated for. The place from which he wrote in the dust and urged self-righteous indignation to sit in the quiet field of self-examination and compassion.

Isn't this the only place from which he could have said [as reported in Luke's gospel]:

"love your enemies and do good,
and lend, hoping for nothing again.

for He is kind unto the unthankful,
and to the evil.

Be ye therefore merciful;
Judge not,
and ye shall not be judged;
Condemn not,
and ye shall not be condemned;
and ye shall be forgiven..."

To gather in this field of the third side, is to listen with the heart -- and to do so, without the filter of self-certainty and pre-judgment. It is to take off one's shoes and walk on holy ground.

My sister, Nancy Mullane, wrote a book titled, "Life After Murder: Five Men in Search of Redemption." In it she shares the journeys of five men who'd been found guilty of murder and sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole. She tells their stories with a journalist's clear, unbiased voice.

I remember reading one man's chilling account of the crime that had led to his incarceration. Earlier, I had met this man at Nancy's book launch event -- after he had been released on parole. He was humble, thoughtful, and gracious. Reading his story, I felt myself take off my shoes and step into that field. I was beyond my own long-held preconceived notions of what kind of man would commit murder. I was willing to hear his story through the lens of his heart -- without bias or fear.

I also remember, so clearly, the tears I shed for that young man, who'd barely been an adult, when a robbery went horribly wrong. And the sudden realization that:

"There, but for the grace of God, go I...”

How many times had I lost my temper as a teenager fighting with my sister over a shared skirt or a missing shoe. How often had I lashed out, said something unkind, pinched, or even thrown a hair brush.  In those moments I was "out of control" -- willing to act on hair-trigger emotions. But I'd also had the privilege of access to books, counselors, and an extended family of spiritual resources for diffusing frustration and feelings of helplessness.

In this field beyond the ideas right and wrong-doing -- and who is on which side -- I felt a new sense of what it meant to have "an understanding heart." This understanding wasn't about figuring out the meaning of a spiritual text. It was about standing next to someone and looking at things from their point of view for the purpose of understanding where they were coming from -- without judgment or opinion. It was the feeling of their hand in yours and the pulse of your common humanity.  It was sharing the space of the third side.

I think Troy Chapman says it so well in the above essay:

"The third side is that little-represented side of healing.

It's the side that cares as much about the enemy 

as the friend, that says love is the only justice, 
the only victory there is.

It does not want anyone destroyed. It does not want to win
if someone else must lose. It wants something much larger
than winning and losing...”

It wants healing -- for one, and for all. It is the place where, as Mary Baker Eddy writes in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures:

"Love is impartial and universal
in its adaptation and bestowals.”

I will meet you there.

offered with Love,


After reading this post, Ginny sent me a clip from Harry and Meghan's Royal Wedding with this performance of The Kingdom Choir singing "Stand By Me,"  let's stand by one another within the space of the third side.

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

"you can close your eyes, it's alright..."

"Well the sun
is surely sinking down,
but the moon
is slowly rising.

And this old world
must still be
spinning 'round;
and I still
love you..."

I've always loved James Taylor and Carly Simon's, "Close Your Eyes."  It feels like a lullaby from divine Love.

The fact that most nights we close our eyes and surrender control of our lives to the Unseen, is such profound evidence of our trust in something Divine.

Remembering how peaceful it felt to watch my new babies drift off to sleep -- without any concern that they would not wake in the morning (or later in the night) -- is still something that takes my breath away.

Perhaps, without realizing it as a young mother, I was witnessing in myself an innate trust in God as the Source and substance of all life. I can honestly say that I never worried that my daughters would take their next breath. I watched the rise and fall of their little chests with such an unwavering trust in Life carrying itself out -- breath-by-breath.

This week I read a passage from Scripture that brought this trust into clearer focus:

"In quietness and confidence
shall be your strength;

Ye shall have a song,
as in the night
when a holy solemnity
is kept...”

It is this trust in the presence of God as Life, that feels like a holy solemnity to me. A promise made and kept between a Mother and her child:

"Lo, I am with you alway...”

We are never alone.  Not in our waking and not in our sleeping.  Elsewhere in Scripture we are assured:

"When thou liest down,
thou shalt not be afraid;
yea, thou shalt lie down,
and thy sleep shall be sweet.”

This promise doesn't need to be read from sacred texts to be known. Every child knows that he/she can lie down and closer his/her eyes - surrendering, without fear, to the presence of something felt, but not seen.

As children everywhere seem to be facing so much -- violence in war-torn countries, family separations in immigration detention centers, economic uncertainty, educational inequity -- this one thing brings me peace and provides a springboard for my prayers. No matter what my child may be facing, he/she knows that she can close her eyes and trust that morning will come, the sun will rise, her consciousness of being -- simply being -- will greet her when she wakes from sleep.

Nothing can touch this quiet confidence. Nothing can shake the presence of "I am..." from the core of her being. Tonight I will sing this precious lullaby from our balcony, into the vast velvet of a Colorado night sky.

"Close your eyes,
you can close your eyes,
it's alright.”

And I will pray. I will listen for the peace that passes all understanding. The peace that each of us can rest upon. The peace that fills the "I am..." in every man, woman, and child -- regardless of gender, socio-economic privilege, nationality or geo-physical location. This deeper peace is based on God's presence.  A divine Voice that reaches us in the darkness of a warm bed or under an aluminum blanket on a concrete floor.  A voice that silently sings the song of songs:

"And I still love you...”

May we each feel this promise, and our rest be sweet.

offered with Love,


Tuesday, July 10, 2018

"on the brink of everything..."

"All the things
that used to matter,
they don't mean so much today;
Toss the seeds and watch them scatter.
The birds and wind take them away,
till there is nothing in my way.

I can't see past this horizon,
I can't say what's waiting there.
I never sang 'cause I knew something,
I sang because it was a prayer.
The finest one that I could bear..."

Carrie Newcomer's new song, "On the Brink of Everything," inspired by Parker J. Palmer's book of the same title, had me at hello. Partly because it is Carrie, but also because it is so enigmatic and paradoxical.

The first time I listened to it, I was sure she was referring to being on the brink of self-discovery. Then I looked at the subtitle for Palmer's book, On the Brink of Everything: Grace, Gravity, and Getting Old, and I wondered if it wasn't a reference to on the brink of passing. Finally, I gave up trying to figure it out. In truth, it just didn't matter. I only had to listen to it from where my own heart was. And for me, it was about being on the brink of a new horizon.

So I stepped back, and surveyed my own heart. I'd been climbing hard for a number of months. Bushwhacking through a jungle of self. Scrambling through a scree field of ego -- the ground constantly shifting as I uncovered yet one more instance of self-preservation - my awkward stumble through I/me/mine-thinking. But I was above tree-line now. I could see the summit. I was on the brink.

But of what?

Absolutely nothing new.

Metaphorically, the air I was breathing was made up of the same elements -- oxygen, hydrogen - Truth, Life Love. The Source of my thinking was unchanged. I was the reflection of the one Infinite Mind. All that this Mind included - intelligence, inspiration, insight - was still, nevertheless, present and probe-able to me. I was not going to find more of anything -- anywhere.

All the Love that I had ever known was still with me. Love was never more present, more powerful, more attentive or embracing in one moment or place, than another. The spiritual climb I had been on, had not made Love more accessible or intense. The view of the summit seemed closer. But in fact, if I could see it, it was really a false summit. Was I ever going to reach a place where I could rest from my desire to know more of the infinite nature of God's love.

So, what was I on the brink of? Perhaps this. Just this. The inscrutable knowing that every footstep taken, puts us on the brink of the next footstep. There is no "arriving." We are already there.

We live at the standpoint of our oneness with divine Love. Every moment is another opportunity to look -- not above us, or ahead of us -- but next to us. To see, hear, feel, taste, and know that:

"the Lord is with me,
blessed am I...”

I remember the first time I fell in love. I didn't care where we went. I didn't care if we did anything. I didn't care when we got "there," or even if we returned. I only cared that my hand was in his. I only cared that it was his voice I heard, his presence I was in. Wherever we were, whatever we were facing -- it was all good, because we were together.

Each step we took, we were on the brink of everything. We were on the verge of a moment where we would see something, and it would be new because we would be seeing it together -- through the lens of "us."

For me, this is this moment.

This very moment. For all of us. We are not on the brink of new careers, new relationships, new adventures -- big events and grand accomplishments. We are on the brink of one more step with our hand in the hand of the One we love. The One who loves us more than all the world. Because in our relationship with Him, there are no others. We are "all the world" to Him -- and he to us.

Just as a mother completely loves each of her children. So God completely loves each of us. We are not loved by God, in the context of "others." To divine Father-Mother Love, there are no others. When I am with one of my daughters, I am not thinking of her in the context of her sisters.  I am absolutely and completely with her. I am delighting in her.  I am focused on her.  And it is the same with her sisters.  As Hymn 237 promises, we are:

"one with Him, forever near...”

No comparisons. No competition. No rushing ahead to get out in front of the crowd. No scrambling through scree fields to be the first to plant our flag. Just step-by-step, hand-in-hand with the One we love.  And the One who loves us. Our eyes, not on "the summit," but on the face of our Beloved.  Together with Him, on the brink of everything -- one step at a time -- a whole new world of living love together. 

And if we really love Him, we will love what he loves.  We will look at ourselves with great affection.  We will spend time with His children - seeking to discover about them, what He knows and loves. Not rushing on to the next false summit.  We will linger in the moment -- listening to them in the same the way that we listen to Him.

offered with Love,


Monday, June 25, 2018

"every little bit of it..."

"There it is,
just below,

 the surface of things;
in a flash of blue
and the turning of wings..."

It's Sunday night. I am sitting here in the near-dark reviewing the sweetness of a week filled with simple and profound moments.  Moments of love, trust, and courage lived. Carrie Newcomer's "Every Little Bit of It,"is a perfect benediction song.  I hope you will take a moment and listen to it.

The other day I was sitting at my desk hungry for something I could not put my finger on. It wasn't just a want, it was a need. I needed to feel the presence of divine Love guiding my prayers.

I closed my eyes and bowed my head. I let every self-directed thought slip through the fingers of human insight and reasoning. I was suspended in the silence when something touched the periphery - like the darting of a hummingbird.

I stayed very still. I waited. It came again. First a glimpse of light. Then more focus. I barely breathed. It wasn't words. It was a feeling. It hovered and then it landed -- just long enough for me to see into the eyes of its undeniable truth.

I didn't think. I didn't move. I held on to the feeling of its brief brush against my heart. I let it rest.  I felt it sink deeper. I let it become what it was for me -- a moment of Truth. A moment when I knew the face of God.

I had been feeling undeserving. I'd been yearning for His mercy and grace. I'd been reaching through the darkness for a glimmer of light. When it came, it's touch was so tender. It's message so clear. It's Source so undeniable. That in a moment's sharp intake of recognition, I felt the actual presence of these four words from a much-loved hymn by John Goss:


The message was so simple. So simple that I still don't have words for what I felt. Perhaps someday. But for now, it was enough to feel its flutter against my heart. To feel the whir of its heartbeat throughout my being. The promise of His mercy in its grace.

I didn't need to see a changed human situation. What I needed was to feel the undeniable presence of divine Love. In Pulpit and Press, Mary Baker Eddy defines "proof of healing" as:

"a sweet and certain sense
that God is Love...”

And that is exactly what I felt. It was more than enough.

offered with Love,


Thursday, May 31, 2018

"Your voice calls me..."

"Your voice
would rise above,
and carry me..."

Sometimes a song just won't let go. It steeps in the heart and stirs the soul. Kate Edmundson's  "A Voice,"has been one of those songs. If you were hoping for a new song today -- you might want to return later. Even though Kate's song was the keynote for a post earlier last week, it's still moving me.

The other day someone shared an excerpt from an interview with Parker Palmer. It took my breath away. How could I not have seen the connection between voice, hearing, vocation, and calling:

"Vocation does not come from willfulness.
It comes from listening.

That insight is hidden
in the word vocation itself,
which is rooted in the Latin for “voice.”

Vocation does not mean a goal I pursue.
It means a calling that I hear.
I must listen for the truths and values
at the heart of my own identity.”

Wow. Just wow. How often do we think that we are striving to make it in the world. That finding our vocation, and reaching our potential, is something that takes human effort. That we have to decide what we want to pursue, and then we have to throw ourselves into it.

The word vocation -- according to Webster -- means "a strong feeling of suitability for a particular career or occupation; a calling." Isn't this what we all want to feel? The strength of our suitability for a particular career, occupation (what we are occupied with) or calling?

But this isn't something we can search for in career guides or find in success-probability research polls. It is something we hear. But we don't hear it on the latest installment of Business News Nightly, or from a career counselor. We won't find it at a job fair, on LinkedIn, or in the pages of Forbes. We can only hear it in the deepest place - the place where Love speaks to our hearts. Paul refers to this "calling" in II Timothy:

"God hath saved us, and called us
with an holy calling, not according
to our works, but according to His own
purpose and grace,”

I love that. Not according to our works -- our efforts, our striving -- but according to his purpose and grace. I love the definition of grace that reads: "the unmerited and unearned favor of God." We are called into our holy purpose. We find it in the quiet space of listening for what is true and enduring in our hearts.  And sometimes, that calling may surprise us.

In referring to this calling, Mary Baker Eddy writes:

“We know that all things work together
for good to them that love God,
to them who are the called
according to His purpose.
What shall we then say to these things?
If God be for us, who can be against us?”

What a beautiful assurance. If we listen for our calling, and follow Love's behest in our hearts, who can be against us? Not even us. There is no self-sabatogue in the exercise of our calling. There is no resistance to our Love-impelled purpose. There is no sense of self-importance of self-doubt when we realize that this calling is not according to our works, but according to His own power and grace.

I will leave you with this passage from Eddy's earliest collection of published works, Miscellaneous Writings 1883 - 1896:

“We have nothing to fear
when Love is at the helm of thought,
but everything to enjoy
on earth and in heaven.”

When our vocation aligns with our calling -- there is a clear sense of purpose, there is joy. We can sustain this vocation for an eternity, because it is Love-impelled. We rise each morning with a sense of being given the gift of grace. And who wouldn't want to do what they love each day?

offered with Love,


"at times you'll lose your faith in me..."

"You will lose
your baby teeth,
At times, you'll lose your faith in me.
You may lose a lot of things,
but you cannot lose Her love..."

As you probably noticed, I took lyrical liberty with Sara Groves'  "You Cannot Lose My Love"  in the epigraph above. God's love - and all that goes with it - is the one thing I am certain that we can never lose.

Being mom is not easy. There is absolutely no way to know how to do it -- until you are doing it. I am the oldest of eight children. I was the big sister. I helped my parents raise my younger siblings from the time I was old enough to hold my sister's hand as we crossed the street. I learned how to make Cream of Wheat for eight people, by the time I was ten. I could change a diaper at six, and keep toddlers entertained for hours by before I was eight. But I was not prepared for motherhood.

Motherhood is not about tasks and responsibilities.  It just includes a lot of them.  Motherhood is about surrendering everything for another person's needs, wants, hopes and dreams.

Motherhood is the most intimate relationship I have ever been in -- and I never saw the depth of it coming. From the moment my daughters were in my arms, I ceased to have a body of my own. There was not a square inch of my being that they didn't have access to. I no longer had the freedom to disappear into my own little world. Every penny I made, was for them -- first. Every choice I faced, went through the filter of what was best for them. Every decision was colored by how it would effect them. And believe it our not, it all gives me such joy.

But it has also made me very sad at times. I have made mistakes. Considerable ones. I know I have disappointed them, and myself. But I can honestly say that each time, I was doing the best I knew how with the information and experiences that I'd had to date. Every mother does. Of this I am most sure. We are all just showing up each day wondering if our words will help, confuse, humiliate, or inspire. We pray that we will make the right choice. We wonder if this will be the day that we will finally feel like we are doing it right.

And that is the one common denominator in my every day -- prayer. I pray each day that I won't let our children down. That I won't do or say something that makes them lose their faith in the reliability of my love for them. But I don't always succeed. So here is what I know. It's not about me -- or my ability to always do it all right.

It's about God -- the one Mother that will never let them down. All I can do is model a radical trust in Her. All I can do is be an example of what it means to pray, do my best, perhaps fail -- and if so, seek her mercy, because She is merciful.

They may fail as parents. They may not always make the decisions that will make their own children happy. But if I can show them that even in the midst of our failures we are still loved, we can still hope, and that we are capable of persevering in our desire to do right by our children -- then, I will have succeeded in turning them towards a Mother-figure who will always be there for them.

There was a point in my life when I felt that I had failed them terribly. I wrestled mightily with self-doubt and regret. Had I made the right decision? Did I even deserve to be their mother? Would this "chapter" in our lives leave them doubting the wisdom in trusting God?

And then I thought about all the examples of motherhood that I most admired. These were not perfect humans. They were persistent examples of turning to God, models of forgiveness, and humble mentors of grace.

Today, I am moved by all the ways that divine Love is parenting us all -- as parents. To know God as Love, is my one goal. When I know how God loves, I will know how to love others more consistently. When I have failed, God has always loved me forward out of the pit of self-doubt and despair. It is this kind of love - in the midst of my human failings - that has taught me most about the love that uplifts, transforms, and heals. And it is this Love that never fails.

My children may lose their faith in me. But my prayer is that they never lose their faith in God. Her love will never leave them. Her love will never fail them.

offered with Love,


Wednesday, May 23, 2018

"to know You..."

"To know You,
is to want to know You more..."

Sometimes a song brings me back to a moment when the scene shifted so completely that I could never see the world, or hear a word,  in the same way again. Casting Crowns'  "To Know You"  did that for me this morning.

It was over three decades ago. I was ready. I was taking the step I'd been yearning for since high school. I was taking primary class in Christian Science. I was eager to discover more of what it meant to heal as Jesus healed.

But I was also nervous. I knew that I could only take this course once. I wanted so badly to understand what I was being taught. But by the end of the second day's class I felt like I was in a mental fog. I knew I was intellectualizing it all, but I didn't know how to get out of my head.

It occurred to me that it was still early in the class, and that if I quit now, I could possibly retake the course when I was more ready -- whatever that meant. I called the teacher and explained how I was feeling. He encouraged me to be very still that night and listen for direction. Either way, he told me I should come to the next morning's session -- whether it was to continue, or to say goodbye to my fellow classmates.

The next morning I felt even more confused about what I needed to do. I walked to the hotel where our class was being held with a heavy heart. There was nothing I wanted more than to contribute to the world as a healer, but I also wanted to be able to do that work effectively. I knew that understanding the fundamentals of Christian Science being taught in the class was vital to doing that work honestly and with integrity.

As I sat in class that morning, my heart was as hungry as I'd every felt it. I listened to every word as if it were my last meal. But by lunchtime, I was still feeling detached. My heart sank low. Just as were were gathering our books and materials, our teacher stopped for a moment and returned to addressing us. We had spent the morning talking about man as the reflection of God. And man reflecting God.

I was sure we'd plumbed the depths of that concept in Sunday School as a child. We'd stood in front of mirrors and talked about how the image in the mirror, could do nothing that the original in front of the mirror did. We'd often talked about how man reflects, with accuracy and precision, everything that is true about God, and included in His nature.

It was all so familiar. I'd gotten it as a child. I'd felt like crying all morning. But as I was putting my books into my satchel, I heard our teacher say -- in the most casual way, "Did you ever think of the word "reflect" as a verb -- meaning to "ponder deeply." It was like a lightning bolt passed through me.

In an instant, a dozen sentences from Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures flooded my heart. For example:

"Reflecting God’s government, man is self-governed."

Man reflects infinity, and this reflection is the true idea of God.

Man is not absorbed in Deity, and man cannot lose his individuality, for he reflects eternal Life; nor is he an isolated, solitary idea, for he represents infinite Mind, the sum of all substance."

I felt like time stood still. Reflection wasn't just a noun -- it was a verb. It was something I did. In a moment I could see that to ponder the nature and character of God -- was everything. It was the "work" of a healer. I was the reflection -- the deep pondering of God. And I reflected -- deeply pondered God. That was who I was. That was what I was. It was all I was. I was -- and am -- my consciousness of God.

Everything came alive for me. I knew what I loved most in the world. To be still and know that [my] I am -- my consciousness of being -- was, is, and always would be defined by my consciousness of God. I had a way of being in the world.  I could stop anytime, anywhere -- connect with this deep sense of being -- and know my purpose intimately.  This reflection -- like that of the little girl in the photo above -- allows for the deepest conversation with the Divine.  In it, we see and know, as we are known.

I walked to lunch in a daze that day. I was on fire. I couldn't wait to get to the restaurant with my classmates, put my bag down, excuse myself, find a quiet corner and ponder God -- deeply. I still can't wait to do that wherever I am. It is still everything for me -- decades later.

I am God's reflection -- I am what God is deeply pondering. And I reflect God. I deeply ponder Him. This is the most intimate space in my life. It is where I find my oneness with my first love -- divine Love. This is where I cease to think about God, and am living in conversation with Him.  Everything springs from this. Everything. It is my life. It is my purpose, It is what is eternal, and enduring, and fills my being. It is what I bring to the table of family, church, community, parenting.

In that moment, that moment when our teacher asked us if we'd ever thought of "to reflect" as a verb, my life changed -- forever. It is a moment I will never forget.

I could sit here and write about how that moment has radiated and grown in me over the past three decades. But I will let this be enough tonight.

Mary Baker Eddy writes:

"The Divine Being must be reflected by man, — else man is not the image and likeness of the patient, tender, and true, the One “altogether lovely;” but to understand God is the work of eternity, and demands absolute consecration of thought, energy, and desire."

This is our great opportunity and it is an eternal joy. To understand God. To ponder God -- deeply. To listen to the heartbeat of the Divine within us -- to be at one with God's deep pondering of His own name and nature as our identity.

On the very first page of Science and Health, Eddy assures us:"

"The prayer that reforms the sinner and heals the sick, is an absolute faith that all things are possible to God, a spiritual understanding of Him, an unsolved Love."

Ah, the work of eternity.  19th Century pastor and author, A.W. Tower once wrote:

"What comes into our minds
when we think about God
is the most important thing
about us."

I believe this with all my heart.

offered with Love,


Tuesday, May 22, 2018

"a voice..."

"Numbers and photographs
do not a person make.

I'm more than what
a page can say of me.

My identity is not
in my history..."

I was in the middle of writing another post when my friend, Scott - a brilliant musician - shared a new video of Kat Edmundson performing her hauntingly lovely  "A Voice,"and from that moment on, it was all I could write about.

Some songs, like Ellis' "Right Time," and Sara Groves' "Less Like Scars," stop me in my tracks and send fissures all along the fragile shell of what I think I know and feel at the moment.

This song was composure-shattering for me. First, it took my breath away -- literally. Once the last note sounded, I felt a shudder of air, and tears, and a tender tightness in my throat and chest. It took me by surprise. A good song will get stuck in your head. A great song will break your heart open so that all the world can fall in - and find hope.

I've been waiting for this moment for months now. I've tiptoed through my days like a once-broke teacup held together with flour paste and baling twine. "Don't bump into anyone who you know might see the cracks. Be the love -- don't let yourself be loved. Too much kindness and the tears might start falling and who knows if you will be able to make them stop."

I knew I was getting close to this moment when I hugged a friend goodbye on Sunday, and the warmth of her hug sent a new series of fine cracks through the veneer of my equanimity. I quickly excused myself, mentally touched up my mask of self-possession and hurried to the car. I knew I was postponing the inevitable, but at least it didn't have to happen with an audience.

Jeff is out of town. I've had wonderful days - and nights - in the office. Caring for others, holds the hounds at bay. But tonight, just when I thought I could take a deeper breath and not have it end in a sob -- Kat's song found me.

It wasn't just the words -- which are so poignantly beautiful. It is the sound of her voice -- the clear, raw honesty, her unflinching willingness to speak to the demon that "names us, and claims us, and shames us all," -- to quote James Taylor. And that demon is relentless.  It is the ego. The small "I" that screams we are not enough.

I don't know about any of you, but no matter how many wonderful people I am surrounded by, when that demon starts hissing its self-hate, the only voice that can truly silence its hideous sound, is the voice of The One that speaks from within. The Voice of divine Love. The Voice that speaks out from the fathomless depths of the kingdom of God - within us all.

It is the Voice of the Friend -- of the friendless. And it never fails to reach us when we think we are on our last leg, don't have a breath left to hold, and the rope is fraying at the edge of the abyss. It is the voice that says, "I love you, I've got you, you can do this hard thing..." And we realize -- we can.

In fact, we realize, we are. And we have. And we will.

I am so thankful for all the ways we are pointed to the Truth of this voice within. A song, a story, a hug, a beautiful sunrise -- it all reminds us that there is something within us that hears, listens, sees -- is aware of the presence God. This thanks is the marriage of divinity with humanity.

So. On an ordinary day, when the world might seem cold, unfeeling, dismissive, greedy, and sarcastic -- someone shares a song. And we listen. And we break. And through the cracks, the light shines through. And then we begin to feel the warmth of that light - the light of divine Love seeping into the darkness -- into places that, only moments before, felt cold and fragile.  And so, we go a little deeper.  And we discover a little more. We let the shell shards go.

We are humans. We sing to find the humanity in one another. And in ourselves.  And that thread of humanity leads us to our divinity -- what can't be shaken or taken.  The light within.

Thank you Scott.

offered with Love,


Tuesday, May 8, 2018

"i was a free man..."

"I was a free man in Paris,
I was unfettered and alive..."

Whenever I hear Joni Mitchell's  "Free Man in Paris"  I think of a story that was shared with me over a decade ago. It was related to me as a true story, that has led to more than a few healings since I first hear it.

As the story goes, there was a slave who was promoted to the position of valet. He served his confederate, industrialist master faithfully. He was quiet, elegant, and unassuming. When his master would go on business trips, he would travel with him. Because he was a slave, he didn't sleep in the hotels where his master stayed, but remained outside or in quarters provided for servants.

Soon he was traveling the world with his master. On a particularly cold Parisian night, he finished his duties and returned to the entrance of the hotel where his master was staying, expecting to wait till morning for his master's first call. Bundled up at warmly as he could be, he huddled out of the cold in the alleyway next to the hotel.

Soon the doorman wandered over to where he was and asked him what he was doing. He explained that he was a slave and that his master was a guest in the hotel. He went on to say that he would wait there until his master needed him the next day.

The doorman looked at him and said, "Sir, this is Paris. Slavery is illegal here. You are free." The slave, waking up to the reality of his freedom, walked away. He never went back. He accepted his freedom.

You see, slavery was still legal in the United States. But in France, slavery had been abolished in 1794. He was not in a place where laws of slave ownership would be enforced. He was -- quite literally -- a free man in Paris.

How often to we walk around thinking that we are in a "country" that has laws that we are enslaved to, and under the enforceable jurisdiction of? That we live in a body with laws of decay and decline. That we operate in a world where laws of socio-economic privilege and penalty prevail. That we are under the thumb of educational hierarchies and intellectual tyranny?

We stand huddled against the cold wall of a building, thinking we are slaves and that if we were to leave, we would be hunted down, shackled in chains, and imprisoned for life. When in fact, we live, move, and breathe in Him. We are not citizens of a land where "enslavement to the most relentless masters" is enforced, or enforceable.

We are citizens of the kingdom of God. We are free men, women, and children in this safe place where slavery has been abolished. We do not live under the tyranny of laws that say we must subscribe to heredity, caste, class, health-predictions, educational hierarchies, socio-economic predestination.

We are free. We can walk away without looking back. I promise.

Not long ago I was struggling with a physical challenge that seemed to make movement very difficult. I was mentally slammed with all the reasons why this was not only reasonable, but expected -- at my age.

One Saturday, as I started a cleaning project, I put a favorite Joni playlist on my iPod - and yes, I still have one of my daughters' old discarded iPods. The first song that came up was "Free Man in Paris." I immediately thought of the story shared above. At the same moment, I bent down to clean under a table, and felt an all too familiar pain.

But this time I didn't just keep moving through it. Or huddle in the cold light of acceptance next to it. I decided to walk away from it. I was not mortal. I did not live in a "country" where the laws of birth, maturity, decay, death were enforced. I was not trapped in a body that was defined by those laws - or enslaved to them. I was a free woman in the kingdom of God.

Every step, every bend, every swipe of the dust cloth was a step away from the feeling that I was waiting for a false master to tell me where I could go what I could feel, and how I could experience my life.

In Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, Mary Baker Eddy assures us:

"The enslavement of man is not legitimate.

It will cease when man enters into his heritage of freedom, his God-given dominion over the material senses. Mortals will some day assert their freedom in the name of Almighty God."

We answer to one Sovereign, one Law-giver, who is Love. This Love is omnipotent. There is no opposition to His supreme statutes of freedom and liberty. This is where we live. This is the country of our citizenship.

offered with Love,



Wednesday, May 2, 2018

"it's holding tight, and letting go..."

"it's holding tight,
and letting go;
it's flying high,
and laying low..."

Clint Black's 1997 hit  "Something That We Do,"  is something of an anthem for me. So much of the success stories we hear - in regard to love, are about holding on. But there was a time in my life when I really needed to hear that love was also about letting go

As a family steeped in adoption, this was a theme in our lives.  The bittersweet paradox of love. For us to be able to be a family, a birth mother -- or birthparents -- had to let go. And yet, I believed that through the path of open adoption -- the ongoing relationship between birth families and adoptive families -- letting go could also include holding on. I still do.

But when it came to marriage, for me it was all about holding on. Holding on for dear life. And this holding on was not always gentle. Sometimes it was frantic and desperate. In fact, it was often like that for me. I would not be a quitter. And I wouldn't let anyone else quit either.

But I have learned that sometimes love is letting go. After decades of refusing to "give up," one day God asked me, "do you love him enough to let him go?" It had never occurred to me that loving someone could mean not trying harder. But as I let that question sink in, I thought about how much I loved my daughters and what loving them had looked like - from the moment they came into our family.  And it was more about letting go, than holding on.

It started with letting go of my dreams of how I would become a mother.  Then it was sharing them with others: placing them in the arms of family and friends who loved them, trusting a babysitter, leaving them in the Children's Room during church services.  Before we knew it, we were dropping them off at pre-school, sports events, sleepovers, camp, international service projects, expeditions, college...

Letting go wasn't about giving up with our daughters, and it wasn't about giving up on my marriage. It was about loving enough to trust God's tender, constant, unfolding care for each of us. I can only speak for myself, but for me, it was about surrendering self-will and pride for spiritual growth and humility. It was about holding on to my highest sense of living love, while letting go of what I thought it should look like.

For those who think that this is some version of self-justification, I can assure you that it is not. I have spent countless nights rehearsing that day -- when after years of trying harder and praying more -- God broke through my self-certainty, with piercing clarity, and asked me to love enough, to let go.

It was not the first time God had spoken to me in this way -- so it wasn't a foreign language. Some years earlier, when my husband and I were in the process of adopting our first child -- a son -- his birthmother was prayerfully led to reconsider her decision to surrender. Our adoption agency had made it clear that since he was already in our home, we could contest her change of heart.

But that was the thing -- it was all about hearts. The night before she was to give us all her final decision, I was sitting alone praying about what to do.  And out-of-the-blue God asked me, "Some day that baby will be a boy of twelve. Will you be able to say to him, "your mother wanted to raise you, but we fought to keep you."

My heart surrendered in a moment. And as painfully hard as it was, I never regretted that surrender. Years later, the Voice, and the feeling, were the same -- and I knew. I felt it pierce all the disappointment and pride. All the human will and hardness. I knew it had nothing to do with not loving him -- but loving him more.

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

"The sharp experiences of belief in the supposititious life of matter, as well as our disappointments and ceaseless woes, turn us like tired children to the arms of divine Love. Then we begin to learn life in divine Science. Without this process of weaning, "Canst thou by searching find out God?"

For me it read, "Then we begin to learn love in divine Science. Each time I have been asked to let go, my understanding of Love has expanded beyond anything I could have ever imagined.  I have learned more about love, and my relationship to God -- the Source of all love -- by the weaning, more than by the holding on.

And in truth, we never really let go of what we love - only of our sense of personal attachment and possession. We are not the arbiters of love in our lives -- of its presence in our hearts. We love, who and what we love by divine appointment. We can't control that. But we can let God define how we relate to one another, moment-by-moment.

Love is a verb. Nothing can keep us from being love. Nothing can deprive us of our right to love.  It is the one real power we have. Think of it.  No one can stop you from loving them -- from being conscious of, seeing, and calling attention to the best in them. Every relationship in our lives is the ebb and  flow of holding on to what is true about another -- and letting go of what isn't.

Whether it is in the day-to-day surrender of our children to teachers and friendships, or the letting go of what we think define us, and how we live, love, and work together. We are never separated from those we love. We hold them forever in our hearts - as tenderly remembered experiences, through co-parenting, and in our genuine hopes for their future joy in loving -- and perhaps, loving someone new. In this way, there really is no separation, only the surrender of outlines and attachments.

Letting go in love is not a failure. It is just another way of loving someone. Every moment of loving is a remarkable moment of success over self. In this, there is no failed love. Time doesn't validate love. Loving validates love.

I love these lyrics from "Something That We Do":

"We help to make each other
all that we can be.

Though we can find
our strength and inspiration

The way we work together
is what sets our love apart."

Life is eternal. There will be an infinite number of loves in our lives. May each one bring you nearer to God - the Source of all love. May you know the eternity of loving without possession or attachment. May you feel the power of love as an active, unstoppable, irresistible verb. May you know the love that is both holding tight, and letting go.

offered with Love,


[photo by Katariina Agnes Fagering - used with permission]

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

"I knew..."

"I knew
I loved you
before I met you;

I had been waiting
all my life..."

The first time I heard Savage Garden's,  "I Knew I Loved You,"  it touched me in a place that was all about motherhood, and being a girl who loved horses.

Today, our daughters turn 29, 21, and 21. April 25th is a day that takes me apart - and puts me back together in new ways - every year.

As a girl, I wanted to be a mother -- even more than I wanted to be a lawyer. And I wanted that a lot. I didn't imagine my children, I felt them. I couldn't accept that they would never find their way into my arms. Years of infertility and fore-shortened pregnancies left me confused, angry, empty. Why would God put this love in my heart from early childhood, and not give me a way to live it out in my daily experience?

There are dozens of posts on this blog about my journey from empty womb to full arms, but this post, is about knowing, really knowing the presence of something, when everything else is telling you that you are delusional.

It's about refusing to give up, even when all the cards are stacked against you and your bank account screams, "are you insane?" But I knew. I knew that the love I felt in my heart, was not something I could create -- and therefore it was not something I could destroy. And believe me, I tried. There were moments in a lonely bathroom - once a month - when I just wanted the heartbreak of not being pregnant - again, to go away. Moments when I watch another hopeful trimester end in pain and heartache.

But I knew. I knew my God, because I knew this fierce love for these girls.  They were inextricably linked.  When I wasn't sure if there was a God, I was sure that I loved my daughters -- even before I met them. When I wasn't sure there would be daughters, I knew that God was Love and that this all-powerful, ever-present, all-knowing Love would not put that love in my heart without a plan for its fulfillment.

Someone recently asked me if I didn't think that perhaps I was too in love with my daughters. Well, if you ask it that way... No. There is no "perhaps" about it. I love them completely, utterly, unflinchingly.  This love has given me a sense of God's presence that cannot be shaken. A mother loving her children too much? If it were possible to even fathom that concept, then I could conceive of God loving us too much. And if there is "too much," then there would have to be some measure considered "enough."

In her primary work, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, Mary Baker Eddy gives this definition of enough:

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

That's my only definition of enough. When I have loved them with as much devotion, clarity,  joy, and delight as I know God loves all of us, well, then -- perhaps -- it will be enough. But too much? Never.

Loving these girls has been the thing that has given me the best of myself.  Loving them has been a profound gift of purpose, reason, focus, and joy.  Oh, such joy. Unfathomable joy.

Before I actually met each of them, I held them like the feather of a small bluebird in my heart. And I held that hope tenderly and fiercely - knowing that I would someday hear them sing -- and fly. When it was suggested that I might just want to be content with being an aunt, I refused to accept that being an aunt was a compromise.  I knew that I could be a loving, devoted aunt and a good mom. Because you see, I didn't just want to be a mom, I needed to be a mom. I needed to know that the hope within me wasn't separated from its Source -- divine Life and Love.

Three passages from Mary Baker Eddy's writings were my constant companions:

"Do human hopes deceive?
is joy a trembler?
Then, weary pilgrim,
unloose the latchet of thy sandals;
for the place whereon thou standest
is holy ground."

"God grant that the trembling chords
of human hope shall again be swept
by the divine Talitha cumi,
“Damsel, I say unto thee, arise.”

"When the real is attained,
which is announced by Science,
joy is no longer a trembler,
nor is hope a cheat."

Over and over again I would arise from the bed of pain, of  another disappointment, of the death of my dreams. I would find the fragile pulse of that hope, and breathe fresh purpose into its frail presence. It was not about "getting a baby," it was about trusting God to be the only Source of my hopes, my dreams, my desire to live less selfishly.

When I look at this date on the calendar - April 25th, the day that I finally met all three of our daughters - albeit eight years apart -- I can actually feel the way hope whispers in the heart. I remember looking down into each of their little faces and having my breath taken away, my knees buckle, my inner mother-tiger roar. I could feel the pulse of divine Life. I knew them before I met them -- and I know God.

offered with Love,


Tuesday, April 24, 2018

"the privilege of probation..."

"Let my life
be the proof,
the proof of Your love..."

I'd never heard of the group For King and Country until hearing their worship song,  "Proof of Your Love,"  but now that I have, I will seek out their music.

Listening to it this morning, I couldn't help but remember an experience from decades ago. It was a turbulent time within our church. In the middle of it all, a dear friend and colleague had been put on probation for three years. I was confused. I had friends on both sides of the issue. I called someone who was familiar with the situation, and whose wisdom and judgment I trusted.

He didn't get into the weeds of it all, but asked me a question I will never forget:

"Do you love and value
the privilege of probation?"

I got it. This wasn't about the rightness or wrongness of someone else's choices or actions. It was an opportunity to examine my own relationship to the concept of "probation." The etymological root of which is "to prove."

He then went on to explain to me that, for each of us, there are times when we are given the opportunity to demonstrate our persistence, our patience, our devotion to something we love, because we have been asked to step away from it for a period of grace.

In my faith tradition, we have weekly Bible lessons. Twice a year the subject of the lesson is "Probation After Death." As a child I distanced myself from the reason for that particular theme when it came up -- it seemed morose. I would read the suggested scriptures and their correlative passages from Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy. But I didn't try to see the connection between the dark-sounding subject title, and the beautiful readings outlined.

After that conversation with my friend, I began to notice how those readings encouraged a deeper sense of humility, courage, and grace. I looked for ways that I could proven my love for God following the cessation - or death - of any negative way of thinking or acting.

But I also noticed that my relationship to the concept of probation included a bit of fear. I was terrified of doing something wrong and being "put on probation" for my mistakes. I was vigilant about always doing the right thing. I hoped that if I was alert I could avoid probation, which I still thought of as punitive.

Of course God loved me too much to let me live in fear of something that is so beautiful. And when the opportunity came, I was ready -- if not eager. I'd made what I thought was good decision. In hindsight, I realized it wasn't. No one knew the background or the details. They only knew how it looked to them. And although my decision was broadly questioned, I was not subjected to any kind of disciplinary intervention.

But I knew.  I knew that had I listened more deeply for divine guidance, I might have made a different choice. I thought a lot about probation during the ensuing days, weeks, and months. But this time it wasn't out of fear, but out of love for God. I needed to prove to myself -- and to God -- that I had the wisdom and patience to listen longer, more deeply, more humbly for His voice.

So, I put myself on probation. And it was one of the best gifts I ever gave to myself.  I "imposed" a three year probation on activities that I thought I needed to bring a deeper sense of listening to. Once a week, I checked in with my probation officer - Christ. I would set aside specific quiet time for looking - prayerfully - at the choices and decisions I'd made that week. I would examine my motives, revisit moments where I needed to exercise patience and humility, and review my actions through the lens of spiritual self-surrender.

Over the course of those years, I could actually see a difference in my subsequent responses to each demand for wisdom and grace. And I can honestly say that it was a privilege to be "on probation." Every day was a day of proving how much I loved God and was willing to set aside the ego, and put Him first.  I think I became kinder, more patient with myself -- and others, and less judgmental.

This passage from Mary Baker Eddy's Science and Health took on new life and relevance:

"As death findeth mortal man,
so shall he be after death,
until probation and growth
shall effect the needed change."

Even though I had walked away from the corpse of what I felt was a less-than-optimal decision, I still had the right to prove that I was free of its hold, its regret -- its grief. Each week I was given the opportunity to sit with Christ and review my thoughts, words and actions. To celebrate my ultimate freedom.

Probation is no longer a punitive, threatening concept for me, it is something I cherish deeply. I try to practice my love for probation, as an expression of my love for God, for good. It is not something that anyone else needs to impose upon us -- it is a gift we can give ourselves. It is an opportunity to say "I love you," to our first Love.

offered with Love,


Saturday, April 7, 2018

"what am I worth..."

"I look to You,
I look to You..."

Selah's cover of  "I Look to You"  returned to my playlist this morning.

I was talking with a dear friend recently and she asked me a question that touched a very tender nerve:

"perhaps it's a self-worth issue..."

I heard her, but I couldn't imagine how what we were talking about - my desire to be of better support to those I loved - had anything to do with self-worth. But I trusted her and I knew she loved me. So I filed her question away for "someday when."  Someday, when I have the time. Someday, when I am willing to probe more deeply. Someday, when I am unable to breathe because I feel the walls crumbling around me - again. Then I will revisit self-worth.  But for now, I'm okay -- but thanks.

Then, a few days later I received a thank you card with this message on the front:

"One day she woke up
and decided she was worthy,

and her soul cried out
with joy"

"Hmmm," I thought, "today is the day to plumb this question."  But I had to start with another question. What defines worth?

First I turned to the dictionary. It said what I already knew: "the level at which something or someone deserves to be valued, is fit for, capable of, or suitable for." It's etymology however stopped me in my tracks. From Old English roots, the word "worth," hearkens back to the word, "woerp" which refers to "an enclosed space, or a homestead."

I sat back in my chair and let that sink in. Was I at home in my own sense of worth? Do I feel at peace with the value of what I bring to humanity? Has my sense of home been directly impacted by my sense of worth? Has my sense of my own worth been been informed by my home -  or more pointedly, my housing? What correlation might there be between home, value, and worth? It took me a few moments to take the next breath.

As I thought about the concept of worth, I realized that a thing's worth is not defined by the thing itself, but is based on its perceived value. For example, gold is intrinsically worth no more than lead or silver. We have assigned a higher value to gold. The same with sports heroes over teachers. Or celebrities over mothers. Those who have advanced degrees over craftsmen, or those in the trades. It is society that assigned that value. There is no intrinsic higher value in one, over the others.

I needed to have a clear sense of what I valued in order to see my own -- or another's -- worth. So, I dug deeper. What clues could scripture give me in finding a truer sense of worth. I looked at what prophets, disciples, apostles, and Christ himself valued. Humility, meekness, self-sacrifice, patience. These resonated with me, but I still couldn't feel the deeper  shift that I know comes with a transformation of thought. Then something I found in Mary Baker Eddy's Science and Health with Key to the Scripture hit that nerve again -- and this time, it was like a tuning fork. She writes:

"let worth be judged according to wisdom..."

It rushed through me like a lightning bolt. A few weeks earlier my Sunday School class had been examining the difference between intelligence and wisdom, and one of the girls said:

"Wisdom is intelligence
used with love."

When I heard it, I knew it was true. It immediately became my go-to definition for "wisdom." And here was Eddy saying that worth should be judged according to wisdom -- the loving use of intelligence. It all shifted into place. If I was feeling less than "worthy," I needed to examine how I was using the God-bestowed intelligence that filled my consciousness throughout the day.

For example:  Was I reading scripture, and delighting in every word, but not bringing these vital truths into Christian practice? Was I consciously bringing wisdom -- intelligence used with love -- to bear on every interaction? Was I vigilant in my daily defense of the wise use of intelligence? Did I affirm throughout the day that intelligence could only be used for good, for the benefit of humanity. Did I refuse to believe that intelligence could ever be corrupted or used "against" others?

Elsewhere in her Message to The Mother Church for 1902 Eddy assures us that:

"Conscious worth satisfies the hungry heart
and nothing else can..."

To be conscious of my worth -- my right to engage in the loving use of intelligence -- was all that would satisfy my hunger for peace. My worth is not based on an irreversible history of personal mistakes, failures, choices, or accomplishments. It is not defined by how others perceive me. My worth is founded on my day-to-day practice of wisdom. This is what has value. This is practice of wisdom is something I can monitor throughout the day.

It's not surprising that this "loving use of intelligence," aligns with a conscious application of The Golden Rule: "do unto others as you would have them do unto you."  The Golden Rule is not a human choice, but a divine imperative.  It is a law that operates unspent throughout the deep collective root system of humanity. It is ever-establishing our ever-active spiritual worth -- moment-by-moment,  heart by heart.

We are worthy of this intelligent view of ourselves and others. We are worthy of the peace and joy it brings. We are worthy of being conscious of our worth,  and the worth of being conscious.  Conscious of what we know, and how we use it.  This is a place we can homestead and abide in -- forever.

offered with Love,