Wednesday, February 19, 2020

"you have safe passage through my heart..."


"so I'm gonna
stand up,
take my people
with me;
together we are going
to a brand new home..."



I really, truly hope that if you do nothing else after finding this post, you will watch this video of Cynthia Erivo's studio recording of "Stand Up," from her Academy Award winning film "Harriet." And if you haven't seen the film, please, please, please do.

I was first introduced to the film through this music video when it was shared with me last month. It took me apart. I felt it in my bones. All of it. The fear, the triumph, the disappointment, the frustration, the trust in God's care for each of us as we navigate an underground journey from sense to Soul, and from shackled - to free. Whether we have been bound by actual chains, self-doubt, socio-economic underprivileged, or opinions about who we are and what we are capable of rising above - this film strikes the marrow.

Yesterday my dear friend Molly posted a quote, on Facebook, that resonated so deeply with me.  It set a match to something I have been thinking about for months.  And its fervency stopped me in my tracks:

Grant people
safe passage
through your thoughts
:
no judgment,
no condemnation..."
 
It reached down into my heart and gripped me in a way that wouldn't let go.  I felt a clear, Harriet Tubman-like calling. "Yes," it said, "this is my purpose." To be safe passage. To make sure that everyone who comes through my heart - and soul and mind - is taken in, nourished, re-clothed, hidden with Christ in God, and brought to freedom -- on to the other side.

It hasn't always been that way for me. At least not as "impartially and universally," as Mary Baker Eddy insists must be true about real, genuine, authentic, spiritual love, in her primary work, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures.

God knows I tried. But often fell short. Oh, I could always hold the course pretty well on a day-to-day basis. That is, until someone said something cruel, or hurt someone I loved. Then watch out. My heart was often not a safe place for someone to wander through, if I thought their words or actions were undeserving -- unkind, mean-spirited, inhumane, etc.

But Harriet's example, and Cynthia's song, and Molly's sharing of that unattributed quote -- which she heard from a friend-of-a-friend who didn't remember where she'd heard it --  woke me up. And it suffused every mental molecule with a fresh, clear purpose statement:


“be safe passage..."
 
So, what does that look like for me? I'm just finding out.  But, I intend to get clearer and clearer about this every day. In fact, every single hour, of every single day. If I see a child throwing a tantrum in the grocery store, what am I going to do? Well, I hope will do everything I can to provide that mother/father and their child a gentle pathway through my heart, and through our individual and collective sense of community. No judgment. Only deep compassion, an open heart, willing hands, a ready smile of understanding.

But what about those whose words or actions I really struggle to understand as humane or "christian?" If I can't seem to give them safe passage, that's on me. And I better find it my heart to do so. The work may be long and arduous. I need to be able to discern the broken child behind the angry man, the wounded girl masquerading in sarcasm or disinterest.

But, I can do this. I have a fierce desire to live on purpose -- and I will find a way. For "they" are all my people. Not just the ones I like. Not just the ones who like me. Not just the ones I agree with. I will free the slave, and the slave owner. All His children are my people -- and I will take them with me to a brand new home -- the kingdom of heaven within us all. Impartially. Universally. My heart is an underground railroad. I will be safe passage.


offered with Love,


Kate


Friday, February 14, 2020

"to be known, rather than remembered.."


"memory,
i can dream
of the old days,
life was
beautiful then..."



I've never really liked this song. But, that said, it is the perfect keynote for this post. And if I have to listen to it, I would prefer to hear Barbra Steisand's version of "Memory," than any other.

This experience was pivotal in my understanding of healing. It happened over thirty years ago, but the Truth I discovered that day, is as fresh today as the day it flooded my heart.

A relationship that meant everything to me was falling apart at the seams. It would seem that whatever had drawn us together in the beginning had been lost forever. For the other person, but not for me. I wanted our relationship to continue so desperately. I loved him with every ounce of my being.

It was clear to me that he was just not remembering how good it was. How amazing it had been. All the reasons that we had come together in the first place. So I sent him cards filled with reminders. "Remember our first date? Remember those early months when we couldn't wait to meet at the end of the day and share our inspiration and insights. Remember that trip to...

The more I remembered, the farther away he moved from the closeness we had once enjoyed. I felt bereft. It was so easy for me to remember. And I thought those memories were our lifeline back to all the good we had known together.

One day, when things were at their darkest, I woke to a late spring snow storm. The roads were impassable. It would be a "snow day" for me whether I wanted to be home alone or not. And during that time, home alone was excruciating. So many reminders of "how good it had been."

I knew I couldn't "go there," so I made myself a cup of tea and pulled my books, the Bible and Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy, off of my desk and curled up in front of the wood stove for a morning of study.

I don't remember what the theme of that week's scriptural study was, but I do remember two things that shifted my heart. One, was the story of Peter's raising of Tabitha from Acts 9, starting at verse 36. Following her passing after an illness, Peter is called to her home, where he finds her friends - weeping widows who who brought him to the upper chamber where she lay surrounded by some of the coats and garments she had made while she was alive.

But it is this next passage that woke me up:

“But Peter
put them all forth..."
 
I got it. It was suddenly so clear to me. I, too, was clinging to memorials. When all along, divine Love was breathing fresh purpose into our relationship. Immediately on the heels of that realization, a statement from Science and Health came to mind:


“If a friend be with us,
why need we memorials
of that friend."
 
I knew I had to let go of all the "reasons" from the past. My loved one didn't need to be bombarded with memories, he needed to be trusted. He needed for me to release us both from the past. If we were to continue, it would be because God's purpose for our relationship was still vital to His plan for us.

Another statement from Science and Health helped me arrest that behavior. Eddy says:


"Make no unnecessary inquiries
relative to feelings or disease."
 

So I stopped. Cold turkey. I stopped asking him how he felt. I stopped wondering "what if..." I worked every day to simply show up in the presence of God's purpose for us.

This isn't about a nice, neatly tied up "healing" of a relationship. Each day we each showed up willing to discover more about our love for God, through our love for each other. But most importantly, I stopped looking backwards to affirm or define my relationships -- with God, with my loved ones, with my body. It allows relationships to evolve with purpose. It requires the discipleship of knowing -- versus remembering It's a spiritual demand that takes devout focus on loving God as the only "I am."

And isn't this what Peter was so clear about. Tabitha wasn't a memory, she was an idea of God. A reflection of divine Mind. And I love the definition of the word "reflect," as "deep thinking or pondering." Tabitha was God was thinking, not what he was remembering. And Peter knew that he too could know her, not through the widow's memorials, but through an understanding of her present identity.

This would have been so edifying for Peter -- the last thing we would have wanted, was to be remembered for his past denials of Christ, but known for the faithful man of God, the faithful apostle he was day-by-day as he fulfilled his holy purpose.

This spiritual demand to know, rather than remember, blesses everyone and everything. I once thought of myself as someone with a great memory. Now I know myself as someone who knows - not remembers - God. As someone who knows Love. It is enough.


offered with Love,


Kate


Tuesday, February 4, 2020

"i'll meet you there..."


"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.

Recently, 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;
Forgive,
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,



Kate

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.



Saturday, February 1, 2020

"stand up and show your soul..."


"there at the table
with my head in my hands..."


I know I have used Carrie Newcomer's beautiful, "You Can Do This Hard Thing before. But it is the only song that feels right for keynoting this guest post by Clarissa Pinkola Estes, which speaks so perfectly to the challenge of these times -- and what we are capable of.

I was sitting there at the kitchen table.  It was well before dawn on the day of Martin Luther King's birthday. I just couldn't sleep. This week would make unique demands upon us for a deep spiritual poise.  I could almost feel the heart of humanity pulsing in the quiet. I believe that many of us are wrestling with some hard questions about this moment in history.  After hours of prayer, I opened my laptop, only to discover this remarkable piece. It was the perfect answer.

I can't remember -- in more than 750 posts on this blog, stretching over 15 years -- ever re-posting someone else's piece - in its entirety. But Estes' article, "We Were Made for These Times," copied below, says it all so beautifully - and with such profound grace - that I needed to share it with those I love. I hope it edifies your hope, strengthens your resolve, and reminds you that you, too, were made for these times.

We Were Made for These Times
by Clarissa Pinkola Estes
 

"My friends, do not lose heart. We were made for these times. I have heard from so many recently who are deeply and properly bewildered. They are concerned about the state of affairs in our world now. Ours is a time of almost daily astonishment and often righteous rage over the latest degradations of what matters most to civilized, visionary people.

You are right in your assessments. The lustre and hubris some have aspired to while endorsing acts so heinous against children, elders, everyday people, the poor, the unguarded, the helpless, is breathtaking. Yet, I urge you, ask you, gentle you, to please not spend your spirit dry by bewailing these difficult times. Especially do not lose hope. Most particularly because, the fact is that we were made for these times. Yes. For years, we have been learning, practicing, been in training for and just waiting to meet on this exact plain of engagement.

I grew up on the Great Lakes and recognize a seaworthy vessel when I see one. Regarding awakened souls, there have never been more able vessels in the waters than there are right now across the world. And they are fully provisioned and able to signal one another as never before in the history of humankind.

Look out over the prow; there are millions of boats of righteous souls on the waters with you. Even though your veneers may shiver from every wave in this stormy roil, I assure you that the long timbers composing your prow and rudder come from a greater forest. That long-grained lumber is known to withstand storms, to hold together, to hold its own, and to advance, regardless.

In any dark time, there is a tendency to veer toward fainting over how much is wrong or unmended in the world. Do not focus on that. There is a tendency, too, to fall into being weakened by dwelling on what is outside your reach, by what cannot yet be. Do not focus there. That is spending the wind without raising the sails.

We are needed, that is all we can know. And though we meet resistance, we more so will meet great souls who will hail us, love us and guide us, and we will know them when they appear. Didn't you say you were a believer? Didn't you say you pledged to listen to a voice greater? Didn't you ask for grace? Don't you remember that to be in grace means to submit to the voice greater?

Ours is not the task of fixing the entire world all at once, but of stretching out to mend the part of the world that is within our reach. Any small, calm thing that one soul can do to help another soul, to assist some portion of this poor suffering world, will help immensely. It is not given to us to know which acts or by whom, will cause the critical mass to tip toward an enduring good.

What is needed for dramatic change is an accumulation of acts, adding, adding to, adding more, continuing. We know that it does not take everyone on Earth to bring justice and peace, but only a small, determined group who will not give up during the first, second, or hundredth gale.

One of the most calming and powerful actions you can do to intervene in a stormy world is to stand up and show your soul. Soul on deck shines like gold in dark times. The light of the soul throws sparks, can send up flares, builds signal fires, causes proper matters to catch fire. To display the lantern of soul in shadowy times like these - to be fierce and to show mercy toward others; both are acts of immense bravery and greatest necessity.

Struggling souls catch light from other souls who are fully lit and willing to show it. If you would help to calm the tumult, this is one of the strongest things you can do.There will always be times when you feel discouraged. I too have felt despair many times in my life, but I do not keep a chair for it. I will not entertain it. It is not allowed to eat from my plate.

The reason is this: In my uttermost bones I know something, as do you. It is that there can be no despair when you remember why you came to Earth, who you serve, and who sent you here. The good words we say and the good deeds we do are not ours. They are the words and deeds of the One who brought us here. In that spirit, I hope you will write this on your wall: When a great ship is in harbor and moored, it is safe, there can be no doubt. But that is not what great ships are built for."

I am so grateful to Clarissa Pinkola Estes -- author of Women Who Run with Wolves -- for sharing her heart, her wisdom, and her compassion with us through this piece. I will let it seep into my heart and refresh my holy purpose.  We can do this hard thing, because we were made for these times.

offered with Love,


Kate

Sunday, January 26, 2020

"everything is holy..."


"When I was in Sunday School
we would learn about the time
Moses split the sea in two,
and Jesus made the water wine.

And I remember feeling sad
that miracles don't happen still.
Now I can't keep track
cause everything's a miracle --
Everything, everything is holy now..."



Peter Mayer's "Everything is Holy Now," gives form to what is in my heart today. No matter where I look, I am seeing the sacred, the divine -- the holy.

This morning it was a pair of doves sitting -- one with its winged draped over the other's back -- on a low branch just beyond our kitchen window. It was a sacred moment.  One as deserving of reverence as the cantor's call to temple, small hands folded in prayer, or a choir singing Handel's  "Messiah."

I turned from the window and there, on the kitchen counter, was a pear. A perfectly formed pear. A pear. Just a pear. But in that moment I could see the hand of God in its timeless design. I've always loved pears -- everything about them. I love their grounded shape, the changing blush of color that rises as they ripen, the texture, their scent, a taste unlike any other. Gazing at that pear I wanted to drop to my knees in gratitude.

Walking out to the mailbox I felt the first warm rays of mid-winter sun on my skin and a cool morning breeze softly lifting the stray hairs at the nape of my neck. An unseen gift. A holy gift.

Later, watching our frisky little pup standing nose-to-nose with a baby bunny in the yard, I bowed my head in prayer. I was witnessing a miracle. My very own window on the Isaiah prophesy -- a lamb lying down with a lion -- fulfilled, and I was blessed.  Everything -- every leaf turning towards the light, every flower arching its petals in a silent song of praise. Everything -- deeply, profoundly, knee-bucklingly holy.

Walking back into the house, I realized that the acute discomfort I'd woken with that morning, had dissolved in the light of this holiness-suffused day.

I love church. I love the sacredness of each opportunity to serve our community.  I love working in fellowship with others.  I cherish our unity of purpose in accepting Christ's mandate to care for our neighbors in need. But these opportunities for community worship don't start (or stop) at the threshold of our place of worship. They aren't contained by, or restricted to, the activities we -- as a congregation -- choose to support.

We can find them everywhere -- when a fellow member quietly offers a ride to a stranger on a stormy night. When a high school-age neighbor helps his friend repair the damages done to another homeowner's mailbox. We see it in acts of highway mindfulness replacing road-rage, and grocery store courtesy overcoming impatience. Every instance of goodness worthy of praise.  Every moment a sacrament. Everything holy.

Each moment of our living is a miracle. The gift of consciousness -- of contemplation, creativity, prayer -- leaves me speechless. Our capacity to love and to be loved, to appreciate beauty, to breathe, to serve others, to listen attentively to a friend's story, to sit bedside with a patient in silent prayer -- all of it -- holy.

On the first page of her primary work, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, Mary Baker Eddy, offers:


"The wakeful shepherd
beholds the first faint morning beams,
e'er cometh the full radiance
of the risen day."
 

When we are most alert -- most watchful -- even the faintest glimpse of goodness is an indication of the divine All-in-allness. Even the smallest act of kindness is radiant with God's presence. And everything is holy -- now.

We don't need to wait for things to change, to get better, or to be fixed by an alteration of circumstances, or a plea to God. When we seize each opportunity to get on our knees and look for even the tiniest glimmer of His presence -- in the persistent growth of a blade of grass, a robin's egg cradled in a fragile nest, or the tireless work-ethic of an ant -- the sacred is found in the simple. And ordinary moments become extraordinary.

Or, as Peter sings:


"so, the challenging thing becomes:
not to look for miracles,
but finding where there isn't one..."
 

When we are most alert -- most watchful -- even the faintest glimmer of goodness is an indication of the fullness of divinity touching humanity. Even the smallest act of kindness is radiant with God's presence. Each instance portends His All-in-allnes, where everything is holy -- now. Yes, everything -- every little thing is holy -- now.

offered with Love,



Kate

Sunday, January 12, 2020

"through all of it..."


"You have been
my God,
through all of it..."



Just before leaving for Sunday School this morning, I fell - deeply - into Colton Dixon's"Through All of It." It gripped my heart, and didn't let go.

We all have testimonies of witness to God's presence and power in our lives. When I arrived at church, I discovered that it was just me in the classroom today.  Me and God.  And Colton -- still singing his song in my heart.

Sitting there, I couldn't help but ask myself, "What would your witness be, Cate?" If Colton came to you, and asked you to speak your story -- what would it be?

Isn't this the question David, the Psalmist, must have been asking himself as he wrote 150 love songs to God. I think of it, every time I turn to a psalm for comfort, courage, mercy. Who wrote this song? Why did he write it? What was the story behind it?

We know much of David's narrative -- child prodigy, the one chosen by a prophet and a king, young warrior, exiled friend, husband, adulterer, father,conspirator, murderer, brother, betrayer, shamed, sorrowing, forgiven, replaced, loved, reformed, humbled child of God. Which one of these boys/men sat down -- with quill or lyre in hand -- and wept a song of love for his God?

Each time I sit down to write a post for this blog, I think of him. I don't show up in front of the keyboard as a collection of experiences. Each time, it is with one moment of God's presence in my heart -- a moment that is asking to be praised. Asking for a witness. Asking to be written so that someone else will not feel alone in their own journey.

So who is showing up at the kitchen counter today as I write? Colton's song immediately called the girl I was at 16 out of the shadows. The one who stood in the blue light of dawn at a phone booth calling her Sunday School teacher -- just to say, "I am leaving home, I can't take it anymore." I can feel that girl's terror and sorrow, the fragility of her shaking hands and her uncertainty about the future.

Not a penny to her name -- besides the dime that had been in her penny loafers for making an emergency call. And she'd used it. And she'd used it to call her Sunday School teacher. That spiritual intervention -- from a voice within -- still stuns me. Without it, I don't know that I would be alive today.

I was still a shy 16 year old girl, without skills or resources. I was unsophisticated and had been raised in the isolation of a large family that moved constantly. To be a naive, innocent girl on the streets in 1970 -- the prospects were dire. There were no shelters for runaway teens in those days. There were no hotlines or public service announcements about what to do if you were facing unthinkable alternatives. You didn't talk about these things. How did I have the courage to call her? An older woman who'd only ever seen me as part of a big, happy family.

But my Sunday School teacher didn't flinch. She listened, and then she told me that I had to go back home and "be there" for my sisters. And I obeyed. Just like that. I turned around and walked back down the long rural road, up the driveway, in the back door, and back upstairs to the bedroom I shared with my 4 younger sisters.

The abuse didn't stop that day -- but I stopped feeling like my only answer was to sacrifice myself to the streets. God was there that day. There were many times in the ensuing months when I doubted my decision, and I doubted God's love -- but never once did I think that I had made the decision to call my Sunday School teacher that morning - all on my own.

And "through it all," -- God was there. Even in what seemed to be the hardest of times -- when my family picked up stakes and left me behind to fend for myself -- God was there. I can see that now. My high school guidance counselor saw my little suitcase and intervened -- when it was my plan to just live in the school gym through the end of the term. His pastor, and his wife -- a couple I'd never even met -- offered me a place to stay until I graduated.  And on, and on, it goes.  One moment after another.

As hard as that chapter was, God was always there. Throughout my life -- through days of sorrow and days success, nights of pain and nights of peace -- God was there. Today, sitting at this kitchen counter -- five children and five grandchildren scattered across the country, bills to pay, college tuitions to navigate, a global community in need of so much love and care -- I know God is here. For all of us.

Through it all -- God is here. So, how can we keep from singing, writing, kneeling, weeping, living our hearts' praise?

offered with Love,


Cate


Friday, January 10, 2020

"time after time..."


"if you're lost
and you look,
you will find me,
time after time..."



If this post had no other purpose than sharing my sister-in-law, Lisa Redfern's gorgeous recording of Cyndi Lauper's timeless "Time After Time," it would be enough. I hope you will listen to it in a quiet space -- when you want to feel something deeper than time.

I first heard Lisa share -- to say "perform," would cheapen what she gave us that day -- this beautiful ballad during a loved friend's celebration of life. I can't speak for anyone else who heard it, but for me, it was transcendent.

All sense of time and space receded. All that existed was our friend and her love for each of us -- and ours for her. I felt like only my skin itself was holding me in shape. For all that I knew, and all that I loved, was dancing in the air, like dust motes in the sunshine, with our friend and her friends -- and humanity itself.

Humanity felt like a verb, rather than a noun -- a collection of bodies with independent minds and stories. The dance was one of complete unity - and a dissolution of personal sense. There was not one being who had completed a "life cycle" and had passed on, and the rest of us still bumping around in skin-contained bodies -- we were all released from things of time and space. We were spiritual. And I felt it.

Later on in the celebration, we danced as a collective -- and the singing prayer, that we prayed as we danced, left me feeling cleansed, and healed, and full of childlike hope for each of us and the human mechanism we would each return to, when we folded ourselves back into skin, and clothes, and cars, and planes -- for the trip "back home."

Ram Dass once wrote:

“We are all
just walking
each other
home."
 
I've never felt the truth of that statement more clearly than during our Lisa's celebration of life and especially during Lisa Redfern's singing of "Time after Time."

I still feel it. Every day. The clock ticks, but it tells us nothing about the eternality of Life. The immortality of all beauty, and love, and grace.

We traverse space. We count steps. We measure the mass we take up. We drive miles and fly kilometers. We own acres, and build square footage. But do we? Is this all part of the distortion that says we are isolated, solitary ideas with stuff that we have accumulated -- and will one day leave behind?

Lisa's singing of "Time after Time," left me with a much different feeling. I glimpsed the substance of it all. All of those dust motes of consciousness that dance and swirl -- are simply gathering and coalescing in moments of purpose. We are not isolated solitary ideas with personal minds that control a limited number of those dust motes under a membrane of skin.

We are so much more -- and we are, "one with the earth and the sky" -- and each other. We are constantly shifting like water molecules that become visible as a cloud or rain -- but then invisible as steam and mist. One form no less - or more - substantive and real than another. We are not static, but ever-evolving. We are not born into a shape, defined by a mind that accumulates stories and stuff -- starting with a birth story and continuing with a false narrative of mistakes and accomplishments, successes, accidents, surprises, and failures. We are so much more, than what appears to be.

Through love, we are drawn into, and released from, limited and limiting forms -- existing only in shifting shapes of purpose. But we exist eternally as spiritual substance -- changeless, infinite in scope, as eternal as Love itself.  We are as irrevocable as a molecule of water's capacity to be drawn into purpose as steam, mist, rain, river, sea, breath for a fish, sacred for a Savior's last lesson, humble in falling, exalted as a prism for revealing a bow of promise.

I have, as a friend would say, "gone off the rails." I could write about what this feels like -- at the depth of my heart and soul --  for hours and hours.  Listening to Lisa singing again this morning brought it immediately into focus. But I will leave this here. If it's something you would love to ponder together -- give me a call. Or text. Or email. Or just sit quietly in a sunny corner, listen to it again -- we will hear it together. And we will dance, like dust motes in the gathering space.

Thank you Lisa.

offered with Love,


Kate


Thursday, January 9, 2020

"bend me, shape me..."


"bend me
shape me,
anyway You want me,
long as You love me,
it's alright..."



The chorus from The American Breed's 1968 hit, "Bend Me, Shape Me,"   was what came to me this morning, as I thought about my return last night to the warm cocoon of the pottery studio.

I had already spent an hour at the studio, before dinner and church -- letting a couple of vessels find their form in my hands. So, there really wasn't a reason to return. But on my way home from church -- through the dark, cold, streets of our empty mid-winter mountain town -- I felt drawn to that space again.

It was exactly where I needed to be. There is a peace there, one that is holy for me. The kiln was running, the room was warm, the steam flowing through the hot water pipes gave a soft hum to the room. And there is a lovely order for me in that space. I know which tools to collect and place on the workbench. My movements feel choreographed as I turn on the vacuum and extruder - to gather clay from the pug mill. I lay mats on the slab roller. I am ready.

It is not like any other part of my life. I have no planned outcome. I am not lining up tools to cook a meal - that I have imagined, or books to study from. I am waiting, in a quiet readiness. I am completely free of self-design. I really do let the clay speak to me about how it should drape, fall, curve, sit in my hand.

Yesterday was full and demanding. Church was inspiring and emotional for me. From the opening notes of the prelude, through the scriptural selections, hymns, prayer, and testimonies -- I felt drained of self. I didn't have a stitch of "me" left to navigate a conversation or interaction. It wasn't a bad feeling. It was just a feeling.  A feeling of being so fully emptied, that "Kate" had little left to give at that moment.

I was deeply grateful for a friend who didn't need words. He just put his arm around my shoulder and squeezed. It was perfect. As I drove away from church, I asked myself, "what do you need right now?" Well, I knew that I probably needed to make sure that the bowls I'd worked on earlier that day, had stable bottoms that wouldn't wobble after they were fired. So, since that was all I knew was needed at that moment, I headed to the studio -- assuming I would be in and out in less than five minutes.

But from the moment I arrived, the thought of holding a waiting lump of clay in my hands -- felt like a moment of sanctuary offering itself up -- like a chalice during communion. I didn't even take off my coat. I just began gathering the tools of my sacrament. My vestments were an old clay, and glaze, splattered flannel shirt.  There is something so beautiful in this simple ritual. It all leads to that exact moment when I am waiting -- letting my fingers smooth, and mold, and shape the clay into what it is asking to become.

The prayers that flow in that space are as pure, and free of self, as any I have ever known. They are a sacrament: "an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace."

My hands cease to be "my hands" and are, as St. Francis prayed, "an instrument of Thy peace." These are moments so holy that by the time I am finished, I am completely surprised that "time" has even passed.

Sometimes a friend shares this space. Our time together is as balanced as a church service, or the shared sacrament of communion - kneeling, praying, silence, movement, rising, singing, praying -- together. We work side-by-side. We let the quiet be as deep as the conversation. I am always moved by these times of fellowship, while serving the beauty of Soul with our hearts and our hands.

Last night I was particularly moved by how that space of sanctuary was calling me into shape. It wasn't just that I was listening for the shape of the vessel forming in my hands, but I was being shaped by the clay itself. There was a moment when the surface of the clay felt dry and intractable. Rather than becoming frustrated, I stopped and asked what I needed to be. God clearly said, "softer." So my hands and my heart softened their touch, on the clay and in my prayers.

The vessel that birthed itself was as lovely in my hands as any I have ever held. The prayer that formed in my heart was as full of gentle self-compassion, and impartial tenderness for humanity, as any I have every "heard."

We are not of this world. But we are in it. We navigate streets of asphalt. We hold hands that are soft with youth, and burled by experience. We sit at tables that have been crafted in hearts, before they are carved in wood.

I hope you will let your love for God lead you to a deeper love for all that you see, hear and feel beneath your fingertips -- whether it is the soft hair of an infant, or the clear lines of a sculpted stone. I hope that the things you love -- what your hands have handled of the word of God -- lead you deeper into the kingdom of heaven -- where all things are His. There is, in fact, no matter. All is spiritual. For, "all is infinite Mind, and its infinite manifestation."  God, truly is, All-in-all.

offered with Love,


Kate


Wednesday, January 8, 2020

"I and my Father -- are one..."


"i know,
i know,
i am, i am;

i and my Father,
are one..."



Sometimes it starts with a statement of Truth - and then I go looking for the song that I sense must be out there. Today's post happened that way. I woke up with Jesus' declaration "I and my Father are one," filling my heart. And then, Kathy Sarada's, "I am,"  found me. I'd never heard her voice before -- I will not forget it.

The world seems so divided. But it isn't. Don't be fooled. The "friend" who posted a meme that hurts your soul, is as much you, as she is herself. The hatred that fills the news each night is begging for you to give it an identity -- him, her, them, theirs -- but the only identity available is your brother or sister in Christ. Refuse to name it. Refuse to claim it.

For the last few years, one word has tried to take up residence in my heart. That word is, "idiot." It is not a word that I could ever remember saying aloud, or silently to myself -- about anyone. It has always been an offensive word to me. And yet, it has hissed like a snake almost every day for months.

When it first started, I wasn't as alert to its tactics as I should have been. It seemed justified. It seemed like the only outlet I had for venting my sorrow and frustration. It had a name. It had a face. It had a history of reasons for letting that word live. But it wasn't living in "that person," it was taking up residence in my heart. And it was an ugly tenant.

Evicting it was not as easy as you may think it should have been.  It was there banging on the pipes when I woke up each morning.  And it tried to be the last one to turn off the lights at the end of the day.  But I have been vigilant.

Once I realized that my mental or audible voicing of the word "idiot," -- to vent sadness and frustration -- was not stinking up anyone else's "home" -- only mine, I was more alert to its disguises as it approached my door. It would often come in the mask of alertness.  As if I needed to be alert to how ugly the world had become.  But I didn't need to be alert to the stench of cruelty.  That was the lie. What I really needed to be aware of, was beauty, kindness, holiness, honesty. Then anything unlike a beautiful thought, was clearly inadmissible.  And I could start with the word, "idiot." What an ugly word.


To "voice" that word -- silently, or audibly -- was my admission that I was detached from Truth.  To even think it about someone else, was to be detached from another being -- one that I shared a consciousness of our collective humanity with.  It was to separate myself from humanity itself, and thus, to feel detached from my own humanity. And it always felt like I was flailing in space without a tether.

My tethering, which was only, always, ever to God, was found in claiming that "I and my Father were one." This meant that I needed to see every being as an extension of my own family. To feel oneness with God was to feel oneness with those I had cruelly dismissed as "idiots." I am embarrassed to even type that sentence. But to completely and irrevocably evict this word from my house -- my "consciousness of Love," -- I must name it, and claim it, as the mental trespasser it is.

To be one with my Father is to be one with His heart -- to love what, and who, He loves. Impartially, universally, unconditionally. It is to know "grace" -- the unearned and unmerited favor of God.  This is where Christian Science has been a haven of rest for my weary soul. I don't have to figure out who to love. I don't have to determine what is lovable. Christian Science has taught me that love isn't a sorting hat, it is a lens through which everyone and everything is seen in its true nature.

I keep coming back to the story of the Prodigal Son and how often I have sorted myself - or others - either into the younger son's "I am a screw up, but I am so humbly grateful for Your mercy" camp, or the older son's "what about me -- I've done everything right - where's my party" camp. When who I really needed to identify myself with -- the Father.

To be one with the Father -- to feel the beating of His heart -- is to be unconditionally loving.  To love both of your sons with all that you have in your heart. To be waiting for the younger to come home to receive his inheritance, and to be sitting with your lap piled high, just waiting for the older son to realize that "all that you have is already his" and always has been. And to remind him that it is his own brother that had come home.

No matter how his younger brother had behaved, that boy was still his own Father's loved son. It didn't matter how justified the older brother felt by his younger brother's choices. Nothing could deprive him of his own expression of grace. He had every right to know himself as a faithful son -- standing at his Father's side, celebrating the return of a beloved member of His family.

So, although I could write about the healing of this crack in my heart's door all day, suffice it to say that the only five letter word - that starts with an "i" -- I am now admitting into my heart is, "image." There is only the image of God. The image and likeness of Love.  Anyone else doesn't belong here.

Everyday, I still have to ask myself, "What is the image you are admitting? What are you image-ining about your Father's son or daughter? What image is taking up residence in your heart?" And if that other "i" word is banging around, I can't afford the luxury of enjoying its rental income -- and I can't hesitate in serving an immediate eviction notice.

I will leave this here. We are one. We cannot be fooled by the lie that man -- any man -- is a liar. The lie and the liar are one -- that is because, the only lie is, that there is a liar to call ugly names. Man has only one name.  He is the image of Truth. Period.

offered with Love,


Kate


Tuesday, January 7, 2020

"it's all a part of sacrament..."


"it's all a part
of sacrament,
as holy as
the day is spent..."



Oh Carrie, you never let me down. When I need a song to speak my heart, I can always find one in your catalog. Thank you for "Holy as the Day is Spent," It is perfect.

I don't know if there will eventually be a song to go with this post -- if one come, wonderful. I will have posted it above, if you are reading this.  However, this piece is not song-driven, but love-demanded. It is a post of gratitude.

Sometimes a friend's contribution to the color of our lives is profound, but deeply subtle. Her impact on me is just that -- profoundly subtle, but infinitely rich.

You see, when I met her, I was older, but she was wiser and more sophisticated in ways that I didn't even know existed. The woman I am today, wears the impress of her love for all things beautiful.

I grew up in a house without art. Or at least that is my memory. I remember there were two paintings on canvas boards that were hidden away in a box.  They were from my mother's brief exploration into the world of painting as a child. But I cannot remember any other artwork on our walls, save the refrigerator art of 8 children.

By the time I met her, my collection of artwork was limited to a few framed prints and a wooden deer that an old friend had carved from a piece of maple he'd found in the Maine woods. I didn't know, what I didn't know. And I didn't know what it meant to love -- what I'd rarely been exposed to -- original works of art in a private home.  Oh, I was very aware of museum art.  But real people didn't own paintings, they only owned prints of paintings that hung in museums.

But my friend knew that original art was accessible, and rather than make fun of my "collection," she began to introduce me to her love for the way light catches the texture of actual paint on canvas. She sowed in me a love for the rich colors found in textile antiquities.  She cultivated in my heart a hunger for original works of sculpture that could be touched and held in your hands -- rather than just look at from the other side of a velvet rope at the Museum of Fine Arts.

We never talked about it. Her cultural awareness, my naivety -- but it was always there.  This actually surprises me today.  I was shy, but I was also quite eager to learn. I think that by the time we could have discussed it, I was too embarrassed to tell her that the framed Sargent print I'd purchased at the MFA Gift shop, was the finest piece of art I'd ever owned. So, I just watched her navigate the world of real art. And I watched with the absorbed interest of an acolyte.  I wanted to know everything, and she was generous with her sharing.

I remember the first original piece of art I purchased for my own space. It was a small oil on canvas by a young artist whose work made my heart tighten -- and I loved it. From there I branched into larger pieces with a bolder confidence in my own preferences for color, subject-matter, texture.

Before I knew it, I'd discovered the joy of patronage. To find a young artist whose work delighted my soul, and to begin  collecting, or gifting, his/her original work.

I remember asking my husband once if there was anything that he had always wanted -- thinking he might describe for me a particular model of car, or a signature guitar. But he became very quiet and told me that he had always wanted to own a painting by a childhood friend who had become a fine artist. He loved his work. That sealed eternity for us in my heart. And although gifting him with that painting took a couple of years, it is still one of my favorite moments in our marriage.

Now you may think that this is a strange post for someone who writes about the intersection of the spiritual and the visceral. The collision of the inner landscape with the outward experience. But that is just what this post is about.

For me, art is a sacrament. Webster defines "sacrament" as:

“an outward and visible sign,
of an inward or spiritual grace..."
 

Yes, this is what this post is all about. It is about a woman who introduced me to the sacrament of beauty. The "beauty of holiness.:  She could have left me to my own sensibilities. But instead she shared with me her love for what had life and texture, visual pathos and poetry.  I love her.  I think of her each time I escape into the deep and sacred space of a Brooks Anderson landscape, a Melissa Miller sky, a Caitlin Heimerl vista, a Debra Myers abstract, a Nancy Pollack "equation," a Carol Carter bird-in-flight, a Lillian Sly floral, or a Duncan Martin shoreline.

Today, our few walls are lined with the paintings of artists we love -- and believe in. Some have been purchased on a "whim" and others on installment plans. While we drive old cars, and buy most other things at resale/consignment shops, we invest in art. We invest in the birth of beauty, rising from the hearts and hands of those who are boldly and courageously willing to share their inner landscape with us. 


I cannot begin to say how grateful I am for the kindness my friend showed me in taking me to her favorite galleries, lunching with me at the Museum of Fine Arts - while discussing a recent exhibit, allowing me to hang her textile fragments in my office, introducing me to Shaker simplicity, or sharing her love of texture and color with me as if I were her peer in appreciating art. It changed me.

And yes, there is now a song. You may have noticed.

offered with Love - and fathomless gratitude to you -- my dear friend,


Kate


Thursday, January 2, 2020

"it's all right..."


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



There are so many version of this JT classic on YouTube. This morning I got lost while watching covers of it, by artists like Sting, Linda Ronstadt, and others -- but it's James Taylor and Carly Simon's version of "You Can Close Your Eyes," that I always come back to. It brings me such peace.

I have been thinking a lot about how naturally we trust God -- without even realizing it. We lie down at the end of a long day, close our eyes, and surrender the mechanism of the human mind's whirring, to the peace of conscious knowing. We watch our children and grandchildren drift off to sleep, without a concern that they will not wake up. We release ourselves from worry, and rest our hopes, concerns, uncertainty on the presence of Something unseen.

There is grace in this level of trust. It is not something we earn. It is not something we have to work at. It comes so naturally to us. We know it from birth. As a mother, I would lay my tiny infant daughters down for a nap, and the go take a short nap myself. There was no "what if," in the complete surrender I felt, to the rest that I knew would come. I trusted.

This week's Bible study is all about Who and What we trust. It is all about God, and His love for each of us. It is about the grace that doesn't demand some kind of intellectual understanding about the "why" of our trusting.  It is all about the inherent trust that comes from being a child, in the arms of his/her divine Parent.

I remember some years ago feeling like I was in an uncomfortable position -- physically and socially. My body hurt, and my heart hurt even more. Everything felt twisted and upside down. I prayed to feel right-side-up and in control.

That was when I came upon a photograph of a father holding his infant. The baby was being held in what is sometimes referred to as a "football hold."  The baby's head was in the palm of the dad's hand, with her arms and legs draped on each side of his arm. His other hand was supporting both his own arm, and the infant. The child was upside down, and her eyes were closed and her face couldn't have been more peaceful.

I looked at that photo, and for a split second, I could see the baby without the dad in the photo. "Wow, what an awkward position," I thought. It looked as if the baby was hanging upside down in mid air, with no visible means of support. I immediately "got it."

My Father's love for me was just as attentive, tender, and firmly supportive as that infant's. And He loved, not only me, but our children, grandchildren, global neighbors, strangers, and friends -- with the same kind of tender care. I could close my eyes and rest in the constancy of that love. My life might seem awkward and I might feel as though I am hanging in mid-air -- arms and legs dangling -- but I am not. None of us are. And, at the deepest level, we know it.

We can close our eyes -- and its alright.

Whether you are feeling under-supported, or you just aren't seeing how it will all work out, remember that in the deepest part of yourself, you do trust that there is Something or Someone that will hold you while you rest. At the deepest level, you know that you can:

“close your eyes,
it's alright..."
 


Rest your heart here.

offered with Love,


Kate


Saturday, December 28, 2019

"oh, i wish I had a river..."


"oh, i wish
i had a river
i could skate
away on..."



I hope this Sierra Eagleton cover of Joni Mitchell's "River," gives you some hint of how I was feeling the other night. Not so much the lyrical meaning -- but the "feel" of it. A bit of melancholy. A bit of "why?"

It wasn't that I was unhappy or feeling a lack of purpose. It was something unreachable. I felt detached. Not only from those around me, but from the meaning of the feeling itself. It felt deep and full of message, but in a language I couldn't understand.

That was, until a friend I hadn't seen in quite a few years, caught my eye across the room. As I walked in her direction, something said, "listen."

We embraced. We talked about "how long it had been..." And then she said the "something" that I knew was the message I was being asked to listen for. I felt it stir the fallow space in my heart.

"Thank you for your blog."

Really, I thought. I didn't even know she read this blog. Then, I stopped. She was giving me something profoundly dear. I realized what a gift her words were to me that night. I had been feeling like a stream overflowing her banks. Flooding a filed that was already saturated. I had been feeling as if all the words that spill from my heart, had nowhere to go.

In that moment, I realized that if there was only one reader who found companionship in what I was writing -- it was enough. This blog is a conversation about God's love and how I have experienced that love. And that each post was as vital and relevant as a call from a patient, or a meeting in a coffeehouse, or an appointment in my office.

I have been sharing those experiences in words that feel as real as the clay in my hands in the studio - palpable, honest, and beautifully taking shape in sentences, paragraphs, epigraphs, font colors, a photograph, a title. They were as real as each prayer and treatment God unfolded in my heart throughout the day.

So, thank you -- if you are reading this, I hope you realize how much you blessed me the other night. I hope you feel the gift that you gave to me -- relevance.

I don't know how this will inform the future of this blog. I've been writing for it since June of 2005. That's almost 15 years of unlacing my mental corset and letting my heart be laid bare. A young friend, Megan Neale, once wrote these lyrics for a song, "You're a Good Man," that she performed in her senior presentation:

“I'll write you a letter,
my heart is dripping ink..."
 
For that is how I feel everyday. I take calls, I see patients, I pray, I give treatment, I listen deeply for God's messages of Love, and Truth, and healing -- of divinity's coincidence with humanity, but all day long my heart is dripping words. I have often wondered, "how many little pomes can you post, how many experiences can you share in one day? When will you reach that point - each day - where you seem self-important and arcane? So I have retreated into a place of restraint.

I am realizing that this is not what God wants of His daughter -- to give he,r beautiful experiences and the words to describe them, but asks her to hold them back like a river restrained by self and saddened with unshared views of goodness and grace.

I don't know how this will inform the next chapter of my blogging journey. But if you are the only one reading these posts, I will be here for you -- and with you. I will be honest. I will be as "laid bare" in my sharing as I think I have always been. And I will be faithful to the God who puts words in my heart -- words that beg to be shared. Even if just with you.

I will be the river that I, too, can skate away on -- if just long enough to let myself feel the words fly from my fingertips like sparks from the blades of my skates. And, perhaps, by writing them down, they willfind another heart to be in conversation with.

Thank you dear friend -- you gave me a great gift the other night. Your words were the voice on the other side of the conversation - and I needed them more than you knew.

offered with Love,


Kate