Thursday, July 30, 2020

"i believe..."


"I believe most folks
are doing about the best they can;

and I know there are some things
that I will never understand..."

It must be Carrie Newcomer season in my heart. I can't seem to get enough of her lyrics or her music. Her beautiful  "I Believe,"  reminds me of something my husband often says:


"Everyone is doing the best they can
with the information and experience
they have to date."

It's become an axiom for me. I return to it whenever I feel exasperated by someone's choices, words, or actions - even my own. I am doing the best I know how, based on the information and experience I have to date - at each moment.

None of us is intentionally doing our worst. I truly believe that.

I don't think I could live in a world where I thought that people were intentionally setting out to hurt, trick, use, or abuse others. Where people could "go rogue," and had the self-determinism and power to extricate themselves from God's omnipotent control.

But, there are days when holding-my-toes-to-the-fire of really living this Truth is difficult and painful. There are times when injustices feel intentional, and unkindnesses seem deliberate. When greed appears to rule over charity, and lust for power over humility. But even then, I know what I believe. And I believe that God is supreme. Always supreme - not just when someone consents to His sovereignty.

For you see, this is not about another person's choices or actions - for me. It is about my relationship to God. Do I believe that He is all-powerful? Do I trust His promise that we are all His children? Do I honestly believe that we are made in His image and likeness? Governed by love? Our affections enriched by His Word?

Anything less is a violation of my love for Him, and my trust in His care. And isn't this the most vital act of love for God - to trust Him? As a parent, there is nothing more loving than to have our children can say, "I trust you mom."

Well, I trust You, dear Father-Mother God. I trust that You have all of Your children under Your divine care. That each of us is learning lessons that may not be clear to us when we look at one another's path from the outside. Who am I to judge another person's journey.  The arrogant may be on their way to a remarkable lesson in humility. The greedy to learn something new about charity.

I have to trust our common Father to know the lessons we each need on our journey from sense to Soul. From seeing things through the distorted filter of personal sense, to experiencing life through a clear God-centered lens of love and trust.

In her Manual of The Mother Church, Mary Baker Eddy shares this "Daily Prayer" under the Article "Discipline" for members:


"Thy kingdom come let the reign
of divine Truth, Life, and Love,
be established in me
and rule out of me all sin,
and may Thy Word enrich the affections
of all mankind and govern them."

This prayer is with me all day, every day. It brings focus to my discipleship. It shows me whose sins I should be aware of, and addressing -- mine. And then it encourages me to leave the affections of others, to God's care and government.

What we love determines who we are. I can leave mankind's love for charity over greed, patience over frustration, integrity over corruption, kindness over absorbed self-interest - to God. To God's Word speaking directly to every man, woman, and child's consciousness.

This prayer, coupled with my husband's constant reminder that "we are all doing the best we know how with the information and experience we have - to date," - has brought me much-needed peace in these troubled times.

God is informing each of us, and He is giving us experiences that will soften and strengthen our hearts. And as brothers and sisters in Christ, we can inform our neighbors about value of consideration, honesty, thoughtfulness, integrity -- not by our words, but by our actions. And in shared loving company we add to to one another's library of experiences to draw upon. For, in the words of Ram Dass, aren't we all just "walking each other home?"  

This is what I believe.

offered with Love,


Cate 

Thursday, July 16, 2020

"i am the cup..."



"i am the cup,
mended and washed,
i am the true container
for all that I've lost;

"for all that i've lost
and gathered again,
is only what hangs in the air,
when the music ends..."

 Carrie Newcomer's  "Visitation,"  speaks to me today, in a much different way than it did earlier this month.

You see, I wrote a post with this song - and title - two weeks ago.  But Blogger changed it's editing and formatting platform this week, and for some reason that post disappeared.  So I have no record of what it said.  But this is the perfect metaphor for what I want to say today. 

I am not who I was two weeks.  I am new.  You are new.  We are listening to this song, writing this post, and reading it from a completely new space of spiritual discovery.  

I think about the clay that sits in the palm of my hand before a prayer takes form in a vessel - a cup - that will hold something yet unknown.  

So today, let yourself be new.  Let your prayers be new.  Let them be free of your words. Let them be the song of divine Love whispering her fresh messages to you.  As our toddler daughter once said to me: 



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

 May your prayers be full of deep listening and less thinking. 

with Love, 

Cate 

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

"in the quietness of now..."


"oh, abide with me,
where it's breathless and it's empty;

yes, abide with me,
and we'll pass the evening gently;

stay awake with me,
and we'll listen more intently..."

Oh, Carrie.

Carrie Newcomer's  "Abide,"  is a most perfect description of the shared silence I so value in our marriage.

There are many day -- and even more nights -- where we share the space of our small home without sharing words. And yet, I have rarely felt so completely heard, understood, and known.

It is this "quietness of now" which allows each of us to serve our communities in the ways that we are most inspired to do -- moment-by-moment. I feel loved and supported in the deep silence of this space we occupy together.

To know that the person I am with, is listening into the quiet - with me - is such a comfort.  And it brings great peace.

Mary Baker Eddy wrote in her 1898 communion message:


"My sense of nature's rich glooms is, that loneness lacks but one charm to make it half divine — a friend, with whom to whisper, “Solitude is sweet.” Certain moods of mind find an indefinable pleasure in stillness, soft, silent as the storm's sudden hush; for nature's stillness is voiced with a hum of harmony, the gentle murmur of early morn, the evening's closing vespers, and lyre of bird and brooklet.

“O sacred solitude! divine retreat!"

I have been so blessed to have a life partner, children, dogs, and a friend, who share my love for simplicity, solitude, and silence. In these relationships, I have found the most profound kind of companionship. They are my sanctuary - my home.

I feel blessed -- pure and simple. I feel so blessed.

offered with Love,


Cate 

Saturday, July 11, 2020

"a God for the daughters..."


"pose like a trophy
on a shelf;

dream for everyone,
but not yourself;

i've heard of God the Son
and God the Father;
I'm still looking for a God
for the daughters..."



Two weeks ago, one of our daughters sent me the link to Little Big Town's video for, "The Daughters." I watched it and wept. It had me at hello. And I know I couldn't write this post until I could watch it without putting my head in my arms and falling apart - again.

I'm still not able to watch it without tears burning, and my chest hurting, but that will come...

I don't know why this touches me so deeply. Perhaps it is because the daughter that sent it to me knows me so well. And perhaps it is because I feel, deeply, the pang of sadness for lives lived - including most of my own - within a false narrative of what it means to be a "good girl."

I remember posture lessons in high school. Walking  across the room with a book on my head, under the stern coaching of our home economics teacher. She seemed to believe that a woman with perfect posture was somehow going to make a better wife. Sitting with your knees pressed together and your ankles crossed would make you more desirable - not to a boy - but to his parents. Lipstick made you kissable. Hair that was tidy and free of split ends would actually "say" something about you -- what? I still don't know.

I was a good girl. I loved my family. I loved my school, my church, my friends. But it wasn't enough. I didn't have a perfect nose. My teeth weren't straight. I put on weight between my junior and senior years and learned to starve myself to take it off. I went further and did more than I wanted - to be wanted.

This didn't stop when I rediscovered a God who I was taught loved me as his daughter. I still ached to be "enough." I still took on rejection as "my fault." And turned myself upside-down and inside out to pretend it was all okay - just so no one would think that the not-good-enough girl, hadn't become the not-good-enough woman, wife, mother. Mostly wife.

So what changed? Because something must have changed - right? I can now watch this video and feel the pain as distant. I no longer feel it as an indictment, but now accept it as a reminder of a long ago chapter in my life. A chapter I would title, "not enough, never enough."

I am not proud of the years of bending over backwards to make people like, admire, and want me. I am sad about them. I am sad for the example of frustrated eagerness-to-please that I modeled for my daughters and their friends. And it wasn't really about pleasing a man. More often it was about giving the impression, to other women, that I really wasn't "not enough." That I would be a wise, evolved, fun friend. When in reality, I was sad, insecure, and self-deprecating.

So, what changed? I am not really sure. Other than to identify a momentary shift, a turn of the aperture, a widening of the limiting lens through which I saw myself as a self-identifying female in a very male-dominated world. A world in which women were not kind to one another - in an effort to jockey for attention, admiration, and achievement based on comparisons with one another.

I was sitting in a hotel conference room with about 50 amazing women. In my mind's eye, they had "arrived." I was there because - well, to be honest, at that moment I wasn't really sure. Was I there to support them? Was I there because I needed to hear the message in order to clarify it later for them? Was I there to take notes? It couldn't possibly be, because I deserved to be in the company of these other - more intelligent, enlightened, interesting - women. They must know something more of God's love than I did. Because I felt like a loser and was on the verge of tears.

It was a session on the history of the women's rights movement. The presenter was one of the most motherly, kind-eyed, gentle, fiercely loving women I had ever been in the presence of. I so wanted to ask her a million questions. Not about the historic thought-leader and reformers she was telling us about, but about herself. How was it that she was white-haired, soft, round, bespectacled, and brilliantly kind? And at the same time, she was smart, funny, compassionate, and wise.

The women I had been hanging out with were constantly encouraging one another to invest in the right suit, pumps, hair color/style, presentation. And I had been part of it. Coaching my colleagues on how to present themselves, as much as their message. But this lovely creature at the front of the room, was the opposite of what I had been asked to encourage in my colleagues. I was confused.

During the morning break, I stayed back in the conference room while everyone else went to grab a snack, powder their noses, or stretch their legs. I just couldn't. I knew if I joined them I would either burst into tears, or stand in a corner comparing myself to each of them. So I sat in the back, looking over my notes. Copious notes.

About five minutes later, the presenter came back into the room. She came right over and sat down next to me. She didn't say anything at first, she just put her soft, warm hand on my forearm and smiled a sad, knowing smile. I felt her sisterhood. In that moment, I knew that she had her own struggle with how to be a woman - among women. It was as clear to me as the tears streaming down my face, that I was not alone.

I don't remember what she said to me -- it wasn't a lot. But when the session resumed, her message was all about the historic struggle to understand the "God of the daughters." She shared insight into the lives of women like Mathilda Jocelyn Gage, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucretia Mott, and Mary Baker Eddy. Women who knew that knowing, and claiming, God as equally female, was more important than the fight for suffrage or a place at the table of commerce or legislation.

In her kindness, I had found my own path towards "being enough." I would - from that day forward - strive to be more kind, more collaborative, more supportive of those around me. I would seek not hard-won achievements, but softness of soul. I would work every day to model a gentle-heart, a fierce love, a sisterhood where one woman doesn't stand out alone, but one in which no woman wins the floor, until all women are heard.

I discovered that there was, in deed, a God for the daughters.

offered with Love,


Kate


Wednesday, July 1, 2020

"God is a River - let go..."


"In the ever-shifting water
of the river of this life,
I was swimming, seeking comfort;
I was wrestling waves to find
A boulder I could cling to,
a stone to hold me fast
Where I might let the fretful water
of this river 'round me pass..."



I’ve always loved stones and water -- two elements that are at the core of my being.  When I hear those two words I feel both grounded and fetter less -- free.  I love to call that space in my heart, a studio. Because it best describes my the in-vironment of my home as an artist and healer.

For me, an artist is someone who applies a principle. Like the principle of perspective in drawing. Or the law of gravity in sculpture. These principles serve as a matrix for what Robert Peel writes of as the ultimate goal for working Mary Baker Eddy’s household, “a breathtaking genius for improvisation”.

I have always loved order, neatness, form, beauty, and creativity.  The marriage of stones and rivers have always spoken to me of this concresence. 

One day while sitting on a sandy Cape Cod beach, I considered what it might look like if my “office," were an artist's studio.  The Christian Science healing practice - for me - is the perfect marriage of art and science.  I’ve never felt the balance of those two elements more than in this work.  This blog has been a chronicle of the experiential journey towards greater trust, balance, honesty, perspective, and grace.

One morning, my husband sent me this video clip from Peter Mayer’s Front Porch concert in Boulder, with this note:

“Good morning...

"Please check this out. 

I think he wrote this with you in mind somehow.”

The subject line of his email said, “An anthem for our home”. This touched me deeply.  And then I watched the video clip of Peter's performance of
God is A River and it made me weep with abandon. 

Peter perfectly and completely captures what I hope each of these posts are trying to say about what I am learning.  This song is now the anthem -- not just for our home, but for this blog, this office, and, most profoundly, what I think it is that I am learning about God.   I will let Peter’s words speak for me today.

This song is a home.  I dwell in its space of surrender and trust. I  find in its message, a security that is without the conventional walls and mortar, bricks or beams, of always knowing what’s next, or how it’s supposed to look.  I will let go of any false sense of "safety" I’ve been clinging to -- and trust the River.

“Home” for me, is a conscious power, a movement that is vital and active - it is a verb. And yes, this sense of “home” - as a verb - has often given birth to nouns: a house, a marriage, a family, purposeful work, or a posting on a blog. But it is first, and foremost, a verb.

Thank you Jeff. Thank you for honoring me by thinking -- even for a moment -- that this song was written with me in mind.

Thank you Peter -- for writing me a home -- and an anthem for my life:

“In the ever-shifting water
of the river of this life
I was swimming, seeking comfort;
I was wrestling waves to find
A boulder I could cling to,
a stone to hold me fast
Where I might let the fretful water
of this river 'round me pass

And so I found an anchor,
a blessed resting place
A trusty rock I called my savior,
for there I would be safe;
From the river and its dangers,
and I proclaimed my rock divine
And I prayed to it "protect me"
and the rock replied:

God is a river, not just a stone
God is a wild, raging rapids
And a slow, meandering flow
God is a deep and narrow passage
And a peaceful, sandy shoal
God is the river, swimmer
So let go

Still I clung to my rock tightly
with conviction in my arms
Never looking at the stream
to keep my mind from thoughts of harm
But the river kept on coming,
kept on tugging at my legs
Till at last my fingers faltered,
and I was swept away

So I'm going with the flow now,
these relentless twists and bends
Acclimating to the motion,
and a sense of being led
And this river's like my body now,
it carries me along
Through the ever-changing scenes
and by the rocks that sing this song:

God is a river, not just a stone
God is a wild, raging rapids
And a slow, meandering flow
God is a deep and narrow passage
And a peaceful, sandy shoal
God is the river, swimmer
So let go..."
 

What a gift.


offered with Love,


Kate


Tuesday, June 30, 2020

"i will sail my vessel...."


"and I will
sail my vessel..."



I woke up this morning with two things on my heart: the story of Jesus calming the sea. And Garth Brooks': "The River." And I wept.

My heart was a tumble of images. A world panicking over a second "wave," of COVID cases. A humble savior asleep in the bow of a small boat. And, four "good boys," laughing and praying in Timberline - the cabin just below mine - almost thirty years ago. Garth Brooks and Grateful Dead music mingling in my heart, as the tie-dyed colors of that summer fluttered on the clothesline behind their cabin...

So, what do all these things have in common? Good men, prayer, music, the calming of storms? Not sure. I only know that these were the gifts of the day -- and I have accepted them, and will let them lead me to the "other side," of my prayers.

It is almost impossible -- even here at camp -- to not be aware of the deep concern for human health that is washing over the land. I am so grateful to be here in this place so devoted to finding spiritual solutions while it wrestles with very human issues.

This morning's series of images and sounds were the perfect reminder of something that was shared during a Wednesday testimony meeting a month or so ago in relation to the story of Jesus calming the sea:

“And there arose a great storm of wind, and the waves beat into the ship, so that it was now full.

"And he was in the hinder part of the ship, asleep on a pillow: and they awake him, and say unto him, Master, carest thou not that we perish?

And he arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm."
 

This story has always been very meaningful for me. My husband and I had an experience many years ago while sitting on the tarmac for a flight home - that seared this story into my heart. I was alarmed by an intuitive sense that there was something very wrong with the plane and wanted to "get off," immediately.

I had heard stories of other spiritual thinkers who had had the same experience and were led to deplane. Later to find out that the flight had been buffeted by bad weather, or a failed engine, or in one instance - a crash landing.

I thought that God was urging us to take the same course of action -- "get off." But my husband, reminded me of this Bible story and said that we needed to pray - not just for ourselves, but for all the other little "ships." Jesus calming the sea, benefited everyone on the water that night. We could do that too.

I changed my mental course, and within minutes we were told by the pilot that a problem had been detected and that we would have to deplane and board another flight. It was the most harmonious and efficient change of flight I have ever experienced.

So this morning, as I was praying about camp, and the world's concern for a "second wave," I was not only grateful to be in a place that was prayer-based, and peace-inspired, but I was reminded of something that was shared in a testimony, during a recent zoom church service one Wednesday evening.

During her relating of a healing that was inspired by Jesus' calming of the storm in the above story from Mark, my friend Natalie shared this statement that has been with me ever since:


“The disciples
woke Jesus to their storm;
He woke them,
to his peace..."
 

Today, as spiritual thinkers, our camp administration and staff are not letting the world alarm us with reports of a second wave of fear or even the surging storms of doubt, that seems so riotous. They are - with every humble, active prayer - waking our brother (and sister) man, to the peace that we know and feel deeply within us -- within the kingdom of God, where only harmony reigns.

And not only ourselves, but all the other little "ships" on this sea of humanity, must feel the collective peace of this calm.

Jesus didn't dismiss the disciples' concerns about the storm. He didn't turn on his side and go back to sleep. He rose, rebuked the storm, assured all who were listening that "peace, was still - nevertheless. And he stayed awake as the surging waves ceased, and there was a perceptible calm.

Mary Baker Eddy puts it this way in her Message to The Mother Church in 1902:


“O glorious hope! there remaineth a rest for the righteous, a rest in Christ, a peace in Love. The thought of it stills complaint; the heaving surf of life's troubled sea foams itself away, and underneath is a deep-settled calm."
 

This promise stills the raging sea of human fear - individually and collectively. It gives us a shiftless position to navigate from, and anchor our hopes in.

Edwin Markham wrote a little poem. It is written on my heart and speaks to me every day:


"“He drew a circle that shut me out.
‘Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout.’
But Love and I had the wit to win.
We drew a circle that drew them in."
 

Our prayers for humanity's peace, health, and confidence in Love's ever-presence, omnipotence, and universal grace - are drawing a bigger circle. And no one is left out.

One thing I learned from that summer of Garth Brooks and the Grateful Dead, tie-dyed t-shirts and Tevas was that the prayers of a few good boys, grow into a generation of good men. And when that circle of love is pure and expansive, no one is left out - all are helped, and healed.

offered with Love,


Kate


Sunday, June 28, 2020

"sun-burned, or sun-blessed..."


"here comes the sun,
here comes the sun,
and I say,
it's all right..."



Could there be a better keynote some for this post than the Beatles' classic: "Here Comes the Sun?" I think not.

It happens every summer. Someone arrives at the door of my cabin to talk about sunburns, sunscreen, and extended exposure to the sun. I can never help myself from gazing off towards the flower beds, that hug Valerie Lodge and remember...

It was more years ago than I can remember. That summer mid-July days in Colorado had been particularly hot and dry. And although late afternoon storms offered respite -- dark clouds, strong winds, heavy downpours, it was only for a few minutes. Then back to bluebird skies and bright sun. The cycle was dependable.

Earlier that summer - before staff and campers arrived - a crew of volunteers had turned the weedy flower beds into a riot of texture and color. By late July, all that work had paid off. There were columbine, pansies, lupine, iris, bleeding heart, and my favorites - poppies.  And the poppies were thriving. I love them all - icelandic, oriental, California, Flanders. My favorite though were the pale blush petals of the Helen Elizabeth palaver poppies [shown above] that dance on their tall stems with every breeze.

This particular day - like many of the staff and campers that summer - my shoulders were particularly tender from a long day in the sun. As I listened to the young woman on my porch - concerned about her sun-burned face - I watched a lovely pale-petaled poppy swaying to the changing direction of the breeze. And in an instant I saw what would alter my sense of things - forever.

There was the most delicate flower in the garden, reaching her face towards the sun. It was a very, very hot day, and the sun was blindingly bright. But she wasn't turning away or seeking to hide behind the shade of a neighboring flower's shadow. She was actually seeking the sun. Turning - ever so gradually as she followed the sun's trajectory from east to west across a bluebird Colorado sky.

Her delicate pale peach petals were not singed or brittle from the heat. In fact, they were even more beautiful. More lovely. How were my shoulders -- or that camper's precious, freckled, up-turned nose -- any different. Any less protected by our love for the sun.

I was immediately flooded with this passage from Psalms:

“The sun shall not
smite thee by day,
nor the moon by night..."
 
I got it. It was suddenly so clear to me. We are all made of the same spiritual substance -- from a blade of grass to a star. There is only the substance of Soul. The substance of beauty. 

Mary Baker Eddy tells us that "All nature teaches God's love to man." If that lovely, graceful poppy could stand in the bright sun -- hour-after-hour without her delicate petals being burned -- so could I. And so could that beautiful camper. 

Immediately on the heels of that realization, this definition of "sun" from the Glossary in Eddy's  Science and Health came to mind:


“SUN.  The symbol of Soul
governing man, — of Truth,
Life, and Love."
 
Suddenly it seemed ludicrous that the Sun -- the symbol of Soul governing man -- could be harmful, pain-inducing, or destructive. The stinging in my shoulders completely abated. I was free. And not only was I free of the negative effects of a long, lovely day in the sun, so was the camper.

The sun - the symbol of Soul governing man - can no more injure us than it can harm the delicate petals of a poppy. Elsewhere in Science and Health, Eddy says:


"The sunlight glints
from the church-dome,
glances into the prison-cell,
glides into the sick-chamber,
brightens the flower,
beautifies the landscape,
blesses the earth."
 

We can only be sun-blessed.

offered with Love,


Kate


Thursday, June 25, 2020

"the purpose of revenge..."


"I have been in
the revenge business so long,
now that’s it’s over,
I do not know what to do
with the rest of my life."



My friend, Sandi, shared this brief clip from an interview with Mandy Patinkin, about "his favorite line," [quoted above] from the classic film, The Princess Bride.

You see, when Mandy Patinkin speaks, I listen. He is a man of integrity and courage -- in my very humble, and admiring, opinion.  Time and again, he has chosen humanity over celebrity.  That means something to me.

Revenge is not a subject I've had much experience with.  I have really known very few vengeful people.  My exposure to that way of dealing with emotional injury is very limited.  


It's only been in the last few years that I've noticed how vengeance poisons a person's nobility of character, and limits their contribution to society.

As human beings, we all make mistakes.  We say things we regret. We act out in ways that are contrary to our best intentions.  We react to things said or done - to us - in ways that undermine our highest sense of who we are.  But for the most part, I have always seen, and experienced, a return to grace.  A general forgiveness of one another.  A desire to preserve one another's humanity.

But Mandy's interview made me realize that over the course of the past few years, I have noted an alarming social acceptance of vengefulness.  I can't help but ask myself, "How have we moved from the beauty of mercy, to the coarseness of revenge?"  Mandy's final statement in the above clip:

“And I love that line - because the purpose of revenge, in my personal opinion, is completely worthless and pointless. The purpose of existence is to embrace our fellow human being, not be revengeful, and turn our darkness into light. That’s the line I love from the movie."
 
agrees with everything I believe about this wasted emotional response to injury, disrespect, or hurt.  Isn't the purpose of our very existence the expression of love - in greater and greater degrees. Aren't we called to expand the heart's capacity to forgive, to show compassion, to model grace?

In fact, in Scripture Jesus enjoins us, "love your enemies." Isn't this the very opposite of revenge.  Every vengeful thought, word, and deed is a wasted opportunity to stretch our old boundaries, and grow into a more expansive and perfect love.

Imagine how little Jesus, Gandhi, Mandela, and Eddy would have accomplished if they had been consumed with seeking revenge on those who had caused moral, physical, or social injury to them. They didn't waste their time settling old scores. They filled their lives with examples of forgiveness, mercy, grace. Today we still look to their examples when the ego seeks redress, but our spiritual selfhoods know there is a higher ground, a more enriching response.

Mary Baker Eddy once wrote, in her groundbreaking collection, The First Church of Christ, Scientist and Miscellany:


“Each day I pray:
“God bless my enemies;
make them Thy friends;
give them to know
the joy and the peace of love.”
 

What a beautiful prayer to counter the baseness of the ego's petty desire for vengeance. To arrest the base suggestion that we will find personal satisfaction in our ability to settle the score, or "show them."

May each of our hearts rise above the pull of self-justification.  May we refuse to become insensitive to vengefulness. May we grasp the opportunity for maturing affections. And may revenge never become so natural to our sensibilities that we forget our common humanity - and the right to extend the gift of mercy, forgiveness, grace to all.


offered with Love,

Kate


Thursday, June 18, 2020

"and may Thy Word..."


"they said
i would never make it;
but I was built
to break the mold.

the only dream
that I was chasing
was my own..."

- Alicia Keyes

My dear friend, Carol, posted Alicia Keyes' profoundly beautiful song,"Underdog," in celebration of the Supreme Court of the United States' landmark decision to uphold DACA today. It brought me to tears.

This post isn't about that decision per se. Its merits or political implications. I will not add to the opinions or rhetoric that will follow. I believe that the majority opinion by Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Sotomayor are worthy of their offices and stand on their own.

This post is simply a humble celebration of our common humanity. It is to affirm for myself, once again, that Love overrides even the most tightly held political and religious codes and creeds, when those certainties face the law of Love.

Here is the prayer - written by Mary Baker Eddy - that has held me in its steady assurance during the days leading up to this Supreme Court decision -- as well and through months of waiting for last week's ruling on workplace protections for LGBTQIA+ employees under the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

It is found in the governing document of The First Church of Christ, Scientist, The Manual of The Mother Church, which outlines the discipline of its members:

"Thy kingdom come, let the reign
of divine Truth, Life, and Love,
be established in me
and rule out of me all sin;
and may Thy Word enrich the affections
of all mankind and govern them."


This "Daily Prayer," as it is titled in the Manual By-Law -- that bears both its name and its purpose -- sustains my hope and undergirds my confidence in our common humanity. There are no underdogs. We are all worthy. And we are all governed by "Thy Word." Not the words of political leaders, pundits, or the opinions of others, - but the Word of Love operating in each human heart.

I will leave this here.

with Love,


Kate



Monday, June 8, 2020

"the future feels so hard, and I want to go back..."


"...The past is so tangible
I know it by heart
Familiar things are never easy
To discard
I was dying for some freedom
But now I hesitate to go
I am caught between the Promise
And the things I know

I've been painting pictures of Egypt,
Leaving out what it lacks
The future feels so hard,
And I wanna go back!
But the places that used to fit me,
Cannot hold the things I've learned
Those roads were closed off to me
While my back was turned..."

- Sara Groves

A friend asked me to repost this piece. Whether we are "looking back," in regret or relief, it's still looking back. God's name is I AM -- this is where we find Him. And it is His Voice I listen for in the music of this moment. offered with love:

Okay, so I have become a bit obsessed with Sara Groves' lyrics and music.  But, as my husband says, "she is so good at knowing you."  When I discovered her "
Painting Pictures of Egypt," it was like walking past a mirror, smiling at a stranger, and then suddenly realizing you are smiling at yourself.

I listened with rapt wonder.  She was able to put words to the feeling of knowing when you
had to leave one place -- the place where you'd lived in hunched sadness -- for a horizon that seemed to hold no oasis or refuge.  It is a journey in which you cross the desert of pain -- traversing the lonely unchartered territories of your own heart, learning to eat locust and drink dew from the crevices in stones -- only to find that you are still just standing at the edge of something even more vastly new and incomprehensible. So uncertain that you begin to dream of returning to the soft comforts of the outgrown, but familiar.

I think this is what the children of Israel may have faced at the edge of the Red Sea.  Having left behind a tortured existence of brutality and slavery, they find themselves in a place where they are free -- but free to do what, when all that stands in front of them is a roiling ocean of resistance and self-doubt.  Pharoah is pursuing them from behind and they wonder why they ever left Egypt in the first place. At least in Egypt they had the fleshpots. 

I have known this kind of questioning.  I have known the terror of "not knowing" what comes next, and the pull of what once was. "At least there were those fleshpots," it hisses. "Hey, you know how to navigate the familiar, endless rhythm of pyramid building. You know how to anticipate and brace yourself for the touch -- however hurtful -- of the slavemaster's whip."

That's when I would begin "painting pictures of Egypt" in the soft golden glow of memory.  The straw and mud pits of backbreaking labor in the fields took on a soft light -- a "Little House on the Prairie" romanticism. Why I could almost hear the swell of a James Newton Howard soundtrack if I listened hard enough.

But in those moments when my Children of Israel-self complains to my Moses-self at the edge of the Red Sea, "why did you bring us here, at least in Egypt I had fleshpots!" I remember Moses' reply, "Stand ye still and see the salvation of our God," which God rebukes with, "Why are you telling them that, tell them to move forward!"

And what those in exile could never have even imagined - a sea splitting in two so that they could cross on dryland - happens right before their eyes.

They had outgrown the lessons of Egypt, and each step forward through the sand brought them to the place where a miracle was waiting.

Like the children of Israel at the edge of the Red Sea, I too have spent far too many days sitting in the hot shifting sands of self-doubt painting romantic pictures of Egypt in the soft glow of memory. When right there, right before me -- within just a few steps of its shores -- a Red Sea was waiting to part and lead me to the promised land. 

Today I have my heart focused on the sea.  I am painting seascapes full of milk and honey, bees and blueberries, lemons and lavender. I am leaving the outgrown in Egypt where it belongs -- in the past.  I am moving forward, one step at a time -- looking for miracles in the sand and the sea.

"...I don't want to leave here
I don't want to stay
It feels like pinching to me
Either way
And the places I long for the most
Are the places where I've been
They are calling out to me
Like a long lost friend

It's not about losing faith
It's not about trust
It's all about comfortable
When you move so much
And the place I was wasn't perfect
But I had found a way to live
And it wasn't milk or honey
But then neither is this

I've been painting pictures of Egypt,
Leaving out what it lacks
The future feels so hard,
And I wanna go back!
But the places that used to fit me,
Cannot hold the things I've learned
Those roads were closed off to me
While my back was turned..."

If it comes too quick
I may not appreciate it
Is that the reason behind all this time and sand?
And if it comes too quick
I may not recognize it
Is that the reason behind all this time and sand?"

with Love,


Kate



Tuesday, June 2, 2020

"there was Jesus..."


"when the life I had,
came crashing to the ground;

when the friends I had,
were nowhere to be found;

there was Jesus..."



Dolly Parton and Zac Williams' song, "There Was Jesus," has meant so much to me.

In my faith tradition, we don't talk a lot about our relationship with Jesus. We talk more about the presence of the Christ.  We acknowledge the Christ in consciousness. But this post not about that deeply spiritual concept of Christ. It is about my relationship with Jesus.

"Why?" you may ask, would I write about this, -- especially when I was doing so well at not stirring things up. Because, it isn't honest for me to post month-after-month about the healing power of the Christ, and not acknowledge a relationship that is second only to my love for God.

You see, when everything is stripped from you, and you are left without human comfort, you find him. And once you have found him, you never let him go.

The details of my loneliness -- during a particularly challenging time -- are not important. Suffice it to say that Mary Baker Eddy perfectly described it when she wrote:

“Would existence without personal friends be to you a blank? Then the time will come when you will be solitary, left without sympathy; but this seeming vacuum is already filled with divine Love."
 
Been there. Felt that. And in that seeming vacuum, I found him. Not "him," as in a guy in a white robe, but him as a mentor, a shepherd, a friend -- the one who would lead me out of the emptiness of abstraction, and into the fullness of his living, breathing, palpating love.

In Scripture we are introduced to the man who would inspire gospel choirs to sing: "what a friend we have in Jesus."  To know his friendship is to never be alone again.

I remember well the nights that I sat alone in a near empty apartment and realized that I had no one to call. I had spent all day "taking calls," but felt undeserving of the same unconditional, spiritual acceptance that I try to bring to every call that comes into my office.

You see, I've made choices that did not always align with what others expected of me. My reservoir of trust - in my own ability to intuit divine guidance - sometimes runs low. There are times when I have taken all of my cues about myself, from the opinions of others. And those opinions have, at times, been full of derision.

Sitting in the dark, the light from streetlamps all that illumined the empty silence of an empty room, I begged God for something clear and unquestionable. If I was a bad person, tell me - so that I could repent and change. For all I really wanted was to love, trust, and honor Him - more each day.

What He sent me - however - was not a message. It was a man. It was His son. And in the dark, my heart is flooded with his story. I have felt held in the comfort of his example, his words, his self-sacrificing love.

In my sorrow -- he was there. In my self-doubt - he was there.  With the woman, taken "in the very act" -- he was there. With the mother begging for her daughter's life -- he was there. His words, his comforting touch, his trust in our Father's love -- it has been there to hold me close. It is there to whisper assurance. It was there to rebuke, to restore, to return me to our shared home in the Father's house - time and time again.

Sitting in the silence, I was sitting with him. Not with a specter. Not with a character from a story. Not with a superhero. I was sitting with Jesus. I was asking him about our Father.  Asking him to tell me about His love.  I was weeping in his arms. I was pouring out my heart's deepest questions, and he invariably turned me to his timeless message - "the kingdom of God is within you." Be still. Listen. I am here. I will not leave you comfortless. I have come to you."

Of the 809 times that Mary Baker Eddy refers to Jesus in her writings, 646 of them are without reference to him in connection with "Christ." And though she refers to Christ 868 times, only 494 of those instances are where it is not in connection with "Jesus" or "the Church of Christ, Scientist."

Her relationship to Jesus has humbled me. One night, when my family was living in the carriage house at Eddy's last former home on Beacon Street in Chestnut Hill, I offered to do the security check on "the big house," -- a condition of our residency. As I climbed the stairs - flashlight in hand - I came to her bedroom, and paused. I was curious about the "images" that she surrounded herself with during her darkest hours.

Eddy faced many dark nights in that last house. Her days were filled with writing, healing, founding the Christian Science Monitor, helping to guide church leadership, and facing a world that questioned her every move and decision. Her household would later recount how dark those nights actually were for her at times.

And that night, I noted that on the wall, directly opposite her bed - in that small modest room, were three images. A small painting of a pastoral scene, a familiar painting of Daniel in the Lion's Den, and a portrait of Jesus. One that you might see in many Christian homes of her day.

It took my breath away - to think that she would wake in the night to a painting of Daniel's unfailing trust, a scene reminiscent of her girlhood in Bow, and a portrait of Jesus. I will never forget the feeling of wanting to feel what she had felt when she looked at it. It left me with a longing for something more than just words about Jesus. I wanted to know why his portrait hung on her bedroom wall and what it meant to her.

One night sitting alone in a dark apartment, I understood.

offered with Love,


Kate


Thursday, May 7, 2020

"i am able..."


"take,
these broken wings;
and learn to fly again,
and learn to live
so free..."



Mr. Mister's 1986 hit, "Broken Wings," will always remind me of that summer.

It had been playing on the radio for over a year, so by the summer fo 1987 it was ubiquitous in our circle. We'd moved to Boston to work for our church, and had made wonderful new friends. Our home was about an hour and a half outside of the city on a large estuary "pond" about two blocks from the ocean.

We loved having Boston friends come down to escape the city heat and water ski, brunch, watch the sunset from our back terrace or during a group walk along the beach. These were magical times in our young marriage. At least they should have been.

I was distracted through it all by a aching desire to become a mother. I could barely think - or pray - about much else. Yes, I did my job, I hosted weekend parties, I prayed for those who called for help, but the longing to be a mother never left the periphery of my heart's lens.

It became a practice for me during these times to stop and readjust the aperture of my thoughts. It wasn't possible to set this longing aside. It was as deep as my every breath or heartbeat, but I had to find a way to put it outside the focal distance of my every thought.

I am a person who needs metaphors and analogies to "get" something. And the act of focusing a camera's lens has always been helpful to me. I had to pause, often, and readjust what was central to the image in my heart.

At first it was circumstantial. I would tell myself that at work I needed to put work at the center of the lens. Then on a call with someone asking for metaphysical support, I would remind myself to adjust the aperture of my prayers to put them in the center of the image.

But this wasn't really working -- that is, until I realized that everything would be in perfect alignment, when I put God -- and His presence - at the center of every moment. Then, it always felt as if my trust was clear, my vision was clear, my heart was clear.

One thing that helped, was to remember that God's name is "I AM" -- so whatever my "I am" was at any given moment - was filled with God's presence. Wondering if I would ever become a mother, or if a project would come in on time, or if I was available "enough" to those who needed support - was not focusing on God -- I am. The same with allowing past mistakes, decisions, choices to pull me into I was, instead of "I am."

Mary Baker Eddy's statement from The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany was an ever-helpful reminder:

“Goodness never fails to receive its reward, for goodness makes life a blessing. As an active portion of one stupendous whole, goodness identifies man with universal good. Thus may each member of this church rise above the oft-repeated inquiry, What am I? to the scientific response: I am able to impart truth, health, and happiness, and this is my rock of salvation and my reason for existing."
 
Not I was able - once upon a time, or I will be able -- once I become a mother, but I am able. Right here, right now.

Did this happen easily? No. It was work, work, work -- but with watchfulness and prayer, I became more aware of when my focus had shifted from the fuzziness of "I will be," or "I once was," to the clarity of "I am." With God's I AM-ness right at its center.

Whatever seems to be pulling us out of our focus on the presence -- the present tense-ness of God as "I am..." is depriving us of a clear sense of God's abundant gifts for us in this moment.

I spent most of what I call "my year of longing" in the peripheral field of "when will I become a mother?" -- or "will I ever become a mother?" When, right in front of me were friends to play with, colleagues to listen to - with a mother's attentiveness, patients to pray for, and a budding family to nurture in our young marriage.

The wings of my motherhood were not broken -- they were learning to stretch in new ways, finding strength in patience, and discovering that to trust the unseen thermals of divine wisdom was essential to flight.

I would become a mother to three beautiful daughters, and it was everything I ever dreamed. But it was learning to "mother" right where I was - in the I AM of each moment  that helped me discover who I really was.  Not someone dependent on the fulfillment of a far-off longing dream come true, but empowered by an overwhelming love within.

In these days of "waiting" -- I hope we can all adjust the apertures of our expectations to focus on the presence of God -- the great I AM, who is here, now, giving us -- each moment -- this gift of grace.

offered with Love,


Kate


Monday, April 27, 2020

"til I can carry on..."



"Will you remember,
and bring me sprigs of rosemary
be my sanctuary,
til I can carry on,
carry on, carry on..."


Hearing Carrie Newcomer's "Sanctuary," my heart was immediately filled with appreciation for those who have held me during dark days of doubt, pain, or fear -- and sometimes all three.

The more I thought about what made each of them a sanctuary in my darkest hour, the more I realized it was their silence. Their willingness to just sit with me, pray with me, let me weep, or simply let me be quiet without comment. To let me discover the lesson that was waiting in that moment. Yes, this is what made their presence feel like a safe place -- a place of refuge.

Too many times we try to find the right words. Words that will fix their problems, eliminate the source of their sorrow, fill their emptiness, or assuage their grief. Often, words are only a bandaid for our own fear that we have nothing to give. When so many times, what is most needed, is not found in human platitudes -- however lovingly proffered.

In those moments, what our hearts most cry out for -- is to know that we are not alone. For someone to help us wait in the silence for the real answers -- the ones that can only be found within the vast wellspring of what feels like our own breaking heart. Answers that come from this deep spiritual interiority, are the only answers that sustain us, restore our hope, and endure beyond a conversation. These are the answers we feel versus hear. These are the answers that are ours alone.

When the adoption of our first child changed course and his birthmother decided to parent him herself, there was nothing anyone could have said that would have staunched the hemorrhaging of my heart. I had prayed with him, slept with him, sung him lullabies, and fed him by the light of the moon. My heart hadn't waited.  It hadn't held back just because we we'd yet to secure the final legalization of his adoption. He was my son. I loved him.  I felt inconsolable.

After he no longer occupied his nursery, I was bereft.  One day, a very dear friend came by, and quietly helped me pack up the gifts we'd received - toys and small clothing - and send them to his mom.  Once we'd re-boxed the soft mobile, moved the bassinet to the garage, and folded the sheets, she gave me a long hug and then sat with me while I cried.   After she left, I found a notecard, with nothing but this statement from Mary Baker Eddy's Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, handwritten in her careful script.  It read:


"In the quiet sanctuary of earnest longings,
we must deny sin, and plead God's allness..."
 
She hadn't said more than a few sentences during our entire morning together.  But she knew my heart.  She knew, that for me, the word "sin," represented anything that would try to convince me that I (or anyone else) was separated from the love of God. My friend didn't need to say anything more.

She didn't need to share with me her own sorrow over our loss, she didn't need to assure me that another child would come along, she didn't need to remind me that I'd done nothing wrong, or that what had happened to us was terrible. She just needed to point me in the direction of that quiet sanctuary of earnest longings.

From that moment on, when the sympathy of others was too much to bear, I knew where to go, and what to do. And when the loneliness of an empty nursery crashed like waves upon my heart -- it was her quiet heart that I turned to, and found refuge in.

Sometimes the greatest gift we can give one another is the gift of silence, the gift of listening without the need to fix the problem or fill in the holes where words would seem to fit so nicely.

To every friend who has every let me weep in her arms, or has just been willing to sit by the river with me, and say nothing -- thank you.

I love this verse from Carrie's song:



"This one knocked me to the ground.
this one dropped me to my knees.
I should have seen it coming
but it surprised me.

Will you be my refuge,
my haven in the storm?
Will you keep the embers warm,
when my fire's all but gone,
all but gone..."
 
It's the question we ask with our tears. And it is the question that is answered by sisters, brothers, pastors, neighbors, friends, practitioners, nurses, emergency personnel, parents, teachers, residence counselors, hospice volunteers, and so many others who are willing to stop, be still, and let us feel the presence of something shared in the space of that silence. And I -- for one -- am so deeply grateful.

offered with Love and profound gratitude,

Kate