Tuesday, August 11, 2015

"Nothing new…"

"Old Mr. Webster
could never define
what's being said
between Your heart
and mine..."

Alison Krauss' "When You Say Nothing at All," has been one of my all-time favorite songs for almost thirty years. But it speaks to a different place in me today, than it did the first time I heard it.

In those days, it was all about "him." Today, it is all about Him. This song reminds me that my relationship with God is not in words, but in the Word. It is not found in a particular scripture or a string of quotes -- however much I love them. It is in, as Mary Baker Eddy suggests in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, that:

"sweet and certain sense
that God is Love."

It is a feeling -- not a sentence. It is an indwelling sense of trust in the unseen.  It is that which is insensible to the senses. It is a silent, abiding confidence in His promise:

"Lo, I am with you alway…"
There are days when my heart is too full to speak -- or write. Days, when the best I can do, for everyone in my life, is to simply deepen into that sweet and certain place of abiding trust that God is Love. This is the place where my heart finds its ground in free fall. This is where I land when I completely let go of self-determinism and human thought-taking. This is my home in yielding to the divine.

Recently I woke with a heavy heart. The voices of "human reason" were relentless -- and, they made sense. Everything they suggested -- when weighed in the scale of "should haves" - left me feeling negligent, stupid, "Kate, you've-got-your-head-in-the-clouds" naive. I couldn't seem to drown them out with words, sentences, or inspired "thinking."

I lay there with a weight on my chest and a tightness in my throat that was almost unbearable. Words, words, words, -- tumbled around in me like an aggregate of stone and sand in a churning cement mixer. That is, until I remembered to feel. To just feel the power of the Word. I slowed my breathing. I closed my eyes. I moved my focus from my head to my heart and became very quiet -- silent actually. Not just silent in a "no noise" way -- but silent in a "no words" way.

And there it was -- that sweet and certain sense that God is Love. That feeling of "God with us." A feeling that -- no matter what was swirling around me or in my "head" -- God was with me, just because I loved.  Because I felt love. Period.  I let myself feel the love I have for my daughters, my love for camp, my love for my work. I didn't think about my work, I felt my love for my work -- without reason.

It was enough.

I was free. And with this freedom, came the joy of just being -- well, me. The me of God's creating. The me that He inspires, sustains, and calls according to His purpose. Moment-by-moment.

There are many statements from Mary Baker Eddy's writings that have fed and sustained this quiet sense of spiritual self-assurance in my heart.  I'd love to share just a couple of them here, with gratitude and love for her ongoing spiritual guidance.

"The infinite Truth of the Christ-cure
has come to this age through a “still, small voice,”
through silent utterances and divine anointing
which quicken and increase the beneficial effects
of Christianity.

I long to see the consummation of my hope,
namely, the student’s higher attainments
in this line of light."


"In order to pray aright,
we must enter into the closet
and shut the door.
We must close the lips
and silence the material senses.
In the quiet sanctuary of earnest longings,
we must deny sin and plead God’s allness."

I am learning that there is a quiet that is deeper than "no sound." There is a quietness of the heart. A quietness that is the felt presence of God.  It is a stillness.  Rather than a straining and a striving for the right words in "thinking about" God -- it is the actually feeling of God's presence.  It is a spiritual sense of Love that fills the breast. And there are no words -- at least none that I know of -- that can describe its meaning or weight.

In a piece that Eddy chose to include in her last collected writings, The First Church of Christ, Scientist and Miscellany, she begins with this brief statement:

"I have nothing new to communicate,
all is in your textbooks."

This sentence was a sobering discovery some years ago. Now it is a beautiful gift. If she had nothing new to communicate, why did I think I needed to find something new to say, or a new way to say it. It is all in my textbooks -- the Bible and Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures -- and this realization has given me a more laser-like focus on the richness of those source materials.

It has given me permission to be quiet - to simply share my experiences -- when it seems right. And to be so quietly transfixed on those primary texts, that perhaps anyone who walks into the room wonders, "what is she gazing at -- so lovingly." 

And the funny thing is, that these texts only send me back -- even more deeply -- in search of that feeling of "Immanuel, God with us" -- the sovereign ever-presence [that] delivers the children of men from every ill…"  

For me, this is the holy place, the healing place, the transforming and redeeming place.  The place where God and men do meet.

offered with Love,


Tuesday, July 21, 2015

"I will…"

"Who knows
how long I've loved you,
you know I love you still,
will I wait a lonely lifetime,
if you want me to, 

I will..."

This post is not for re-posting. I will not be sharing it on Facebook. And there are dozens of love songs that I could have used to keynote this piece. But none of them said enough -- and most said too much.  Allison Krauss' "I Will," comes closest to saying everything and nothing -- all at once.

This post is written to put on record the heart of a man who loves genuinely, selflessly, and intuitively. He is my husband. It is to put on record for his children -- and their children -- his legacy of grace.

He is kind -- inimitably so. He is generous -- and in this time of "me first" social politics -- it would seem, to a fault. He loves me in ways that none have ever seen, or will ever know -- until today.

When I was a child, I never knew what it felt like to have  unconditional love or support. Everything was earned. Everything was reciprocity-based. Babysit your siblings, and you were shown appreciation.  Be accommodating, and you might know some kindness. Share your wages, and you would be fed. Do unto others, or nothing was done for you. 

I became a sponge for approval. An achievement junkie. I became addicted to proving -- to anyone and everyone -- that I was likable, deserving of friendship, worthy of the company of others.

As I have sought to become a woman of integrity -- and it has been a difficult, painful journey -- I wanted nothing more than to give my daughters the kind of support that I hadn't even realized I was starving for. I dreamed of being the kind of parent who put their children's successes above their own. I wanted to be the mom of my dreams.

Asking my daughters to live through a divorce and remarriage was devastating to me. In its wake, I felt a greater sense of failure than I could ever have imagined. I almost didn't survive my own self-doubt and sorrow.  I would not be here today if it hadn't been for my husband's constant reminder that I was - by divine design - inherently good. And that I was made so, not by my own efforts, but by the very nature of my one and only Parent who loved me without variableness -- God.

Over the last decade my husband has given me a glimpse of what God's love actually looks and feels like -- up close and personal.  He has helped me discover the coincidence between divinity and humanity.  He has put our children's needs, dreams, and successes so far above his own that it has taken my breath away.

And he has put my need to parent -- in a way that redeemed my own childhood -- ahead of everything else.

He has loved the part of me that was broken, shattered, vulnerable, and fragile.  And in doing so, he has given me a view of myself that is whole -- deeply grounded in spiritual integrity. There is no part of my life that is at variance with my desire for growth in grace.

I love him for what he has taught me about selflessness. When his sense of duty and service-to-mankind urged him to take a job in a distant city, he lived out of his car so that all of his earnings could come home to serve the greater needs of our family. His weekends were spent traveling to another state to care for his mother, and he spent every spare moment working a second job to support our home, and our children's education.

He rarely takes a moment for himself, often working through the night. And I've never heard him turn away from a friend -- or stranger - in need. He listens without judgment, he gives without condition, and he serves without any need for recognition or appreciation.

If I am becoming a better friend, mother, healer, and neighbor, it is because he has given me the rich soil of his unconditional love to grow in. He never ceases to encourage me to turn to God more fully, trust Him more courageously, and love more generously.

His love for all five of our children is knee-buckling. He has never complained that all of our resources go towards making their lives better, their dreams more achievable, and their potential for blessing the world around them more possible -- every day.

I am blessed. He has given me the gift of redemption. Through his generous love, he has allowed me to walk away from self, and into an ever-higher sense of who I can be as the perfect, pure, innocent, honest child of my divine Parent.  He has shown me that I am not a product of my past -- but the promise of God's love.

This post contains no quotes, it tries to make no connections, I am not seeking to say anything pithy or profound. It is simply an utterance of love. I testament to a man of great kindness, integrity, and selfless devotion to family, friendship, community -- and to God. Most supremely to God.

I am grateful. Our children are blessed.  He has been a gift of grace.

offered with deep love and gratitude to Love,


Thursday, May 21, 2015

wait, never doubting...

"Sunshine on my shoulders
makes me happy,
sunshine in my eyes
can make me cry,
Sunshine on the water
looks so lovely..."

Here in the high Rockies we've seen very little of the sun this spring. It's hard not to miss the feeling of "Sunshine on My Shoulders," that John Denver sings about in this lovely performance.

I actually love these cloudy, rainy, snow-spitting spring days in the mountains. But I also enjoy the bone-deep warmth of the sun on my shoulders.  I know that whatever unfolds in this valley is going to be beautiful.  Often I will ask nature, "what do you have to teach me today?" And then I wait. This morning was no different.

Lowering clouds of blue-black slate, the weight of moisture in the air, the soft filtered light of an impending storm -- what was it's message. I stood silently at the reed-lined edge of our lake, and saw the play of almost-light upon the water.  Then the question came, "why don't you doubt the sun?"

Hmmm, I thought. I haven't actually seen the sun for days. All sensible evidence would point to a fading, a dissolution, a failing. But I had never even considered the possibility that the sun was in decline.

Every glimmer of light, every sprouting seed, each flower reaching towards the southwest reminded me that the sun is where it has always been. Diffused light, soft shadows, the barest warmth -- it is enough.

I have been thinking about this today in light of Mary Baker Eddy's statement on the first page of her "Preface" to Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures:

"The wakeful shepherd
beholds the first faint morning beams,
ere cometh the full radiance
of a risen day."

This is my purpose. To stay focused on the presence of light. To know -- with all my being -- that it portends the full radiant presence of the Sun. Or, as Eddy elsewhere encourages, to:

"wait, never doubting"

Why? Why, if the light seems to be fading, the warmth to be retreating, the clouds overpowering, do we not doubt?  Well, I think it's  because we know that you can't just get a little piece of the Sun. If the light is at all present, it is all present.

So it is with God's presence. If we are at all aware of the presence of good, it portends the full and undiminished presence of all good, of complete health, of undiminished joy and peace.

You can't get a little bit of God. You just can't. The only measure of the Infinite -- is infinite. The only portion of All-in-all -- is all.

So, whatever tries to convince you that God's goodness is absent in your life: illness - parading itself as the absence of health, pain - marketing itself as the absence of peace, hatred, anger, fear - suggesting themselves as the absence of Love -- don't buy it. Keep you heart transfixed on whatever glimmer of God's goodness you can see, feel, hear. And never forget what it portends.

Just as the darkest shadow is really only an indication of the brightest light -- the darkest storm is only the opportunity to feel the central calm within.

And if you wait -- wait upon (serve), not wait for -- never doubting, you will discover a light that never fades, a warmth that never cools, and an unwavering peace that comes from a deeply radiant kingdom -- the consciousness of Love's ever-active presence -- within.

with all my love -- and with Love,


Saturday, May 16, 2015

"not even that far…"

in the name
of Love.."

I woke up that morning in great pain -- again. But also with The Supremes 1965 hit single "Stop, in the Name of Love," playing in an an endless loop.  Yes!  Perfect. That was exactly what I wanted.  No,  it was what I needed -- for it to just stop.

It had been going on for way too long and I was tired, discouraged, and ready to be free. I had children to care for, calls to take, a community to support. I wanted to be purposeful and free to serve.

As I lay there in the silence of pre-dawn, I asked God what I needed to understand. What shift in my thinking needed to take place? What Truth was already present and graspable? I stilled the chatter of human thinking, and just listened.

The first thought that came was:

"Thus far,
and no father..."

I let that inspiration -- that angel message -- seep in slowly and find its ground. And because I was feeling very confident about this Michael-like spiritual assertiveness, I was a bit surprised when Gabriel gently whispered:

"not even that far." 

In Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, Mary Baker Eddy defines angels as:

"God's thoughts passing to man,
spiritual intuitions, pure and perfect;
the inspirations of goodness, purity and immortality,
counteracting all evil, sensuality, and mortality."

And then she defines two different types of angels - Michael and Gabriel - thus:

"Michael's characteristic is spiritual strength.

Gabriel has the more quiet task of imparting a sense of the ever-presence of ministering Love.

These angels deliver us from the depths.

The Gabriel of His presence has no contests. To infinite ever-present Love, all is Love, and there is no error, no sin, sickness, nor death."
Michael had been helping me hold the line, but Gabriel pulled me back from the battle. I had been wanting the pain to stop and was ready to go to war.  But what I needed to understand, was that the pain had never started.

Just as in coming out of a dream, when I woke up to this fact I no longer had a battle to wage. God had never left me vulnerable to injury, disease, or fear. God's presence had been continuous.

I could see this truth so clearly when I realized that I had never stopped loving my daughters. And because I knew that I could never have created that love myself, it was the perfect indicator that a divine power was always at hand - and at work - in my heart. God presence had been perpetual and persistent. That was enough.

I was now awake to the ever-presence of God -- of Love. The pain dissipated in the same way that the terror we feel in a dream disappears when we awaken from the dream. Just as darkness cannot survive in the presence of light, pain couldn't exist - even for an instant - in the atmosphere of Love.

In Pulpit and Press, Mary Baker Eddy reminds us of Jesus' promise:

"The kingdom of God is within you.”
"Know, then, that you possess sovereign power
to think and act rightly, and that nothing
can dispossess you of this heritage
and trespass on Love."

We are not the gatekeepers, Love is. We aren't in the business of kicking pain out of the temple, Love maintains an environment where pain cannot breathe, cannot gain purchase, cannot survive.

I did not need the pain to stop, I needed to understand that it never started. God had never left me. His ever-present ministering Love had no contests. He doesn't win the war, there is no war.

with all my love -- and with Love,


Thursday, May 14, 2015

"to love first…"

"And while others think
of reasons not to love,
we love,
because he first loved us..."

I hope you will let Cheri Keaggy's "Because He First Loved Us," touch your heart tonight.

Recently I woke knowing that it was time for a deep shift in my understanding of what it means to love. It felt like a profound un-centering, a need for an adjustment of the mental aperture. As if my oneness with God -- with Love -- was calling for greater clarity, and I was a bit out of focus.

Having felt this kind of invitation to "grow in grace" before, I knew I was standing on holy ground.  I also knew that I  needed to be still -- and listen.  And gratefully, the guidance I was seeking came gently.  I  was reminded of an experience I'd had late one December night when I needed spiritual direction and comfort. 

The memory was clear. I'd been visiting Mary Baker Eddy's last former home and I remembered seeing a framed painting of Jesus in her small bedroom.  I had been moved deeply by the realization that it was his example which she'd turned to for inspiration and encouragement during her own long, dark nights.

On the heels of this memory, came a statement from the book of John:

"We love him,
because he first
loved us."

I knew immediately where the shift in my understanding of Love needed to take place. What followed was a sentence from Mary Baker Eddy's Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures:

"The miracle of grace,
is no miracle to love."

Grace, in Webster's Dictionary, is defined as:

"The unearned and unmerited favor of God" 

In an instant the veil over my heart parted, and I could see beyond what I'd long-assumed was "enough" love.

As a child I had experienced things that, I became convinced, were unforgivable. And yet, through long nights of prayer I'd been shown how to forgive.  For years, even the very thought of being free from feeling victimized was unimaginable. And then suddenly, it wasn't.  It was my truth.  And with that freedom came the ultimate surprise -- I felt the will to love. And it was genuine. In a heartbeat, I could love those I'd feared -- something that had seemed unreasonable only moments before. It was more than I could have dreamed, and I was satisfied.

But Love's capacities are infinite, and so must be our capacity to reflect of its fathomless depth. And on that recent morning I woke knowing there was more. But I didn't know how to find it. So I became very still. I asked myself, "what represents the greatest love to you?" And without a second's hesitation, I knew.  It was "trust." To trust, and to feel trusted. 

I'd felt it in my daughters' unquestioning trust that I would always do my best for them. And even more so, I felt it every day as I considered God's trust in me, and my capacity to love and care for His precious children. I have felt it in His mercy when I have fallen short. And in the redemptive power of grace during my darkest moments of self-doubt and fear.

And yet, I had somehow thought that I could actually love, without trusting. Oh yes, I could forgive, and I was even willing to love.  But trust, when I felt that the person in question needed to earn my trust? Unimaginable. I believed that trust was something I could parcel out or withhold. But that day I found myself asking, "Kate, who do you think you are actually you withholding this trust from?" And the answer was -- myself. I was depriving myself of loving fully, extravagantly, unconditionally.

The moment I realized that there could be no real loving without trust, I felt the old boundaries of what I thought was possible shatter around me, and my heart had room to stretch into a new space.  I could love first.

Love loves. It can't be shackled by another person's behavior. Love is not conditional, it doesn't need a reason. Love doesn't wait for the permission of circumstances. Love trusts.  Love completely and unflinchingly trust the absolute sovereignty of Its own irresistible agency working within the fathomless depths of each human heart. Again, I was reminded that:

"The miracle of grace,
is no miracle to Love."

Or to us -- by reflection. Forgiveness is only the first step. But to truly love, we have to trust in the presence and power of Divinity operating as humanity. 

 Jesus taught us how to live this radical kind of trust in countless ways. Mary Baker Eddy says that he "acted boldly against the accredited evidence of the senses." 

 Everything he experienced in his last days, must have screamed that he'd surrounded himself with disciples who were undeserving of his continued faith in their fidelity. Yet he entrusted the future of his beloved ministry to these very men who had -- only days before -- forsaken, doubted, and denied him. It brings into clearer focus for me, Eddy's statement:

"Out of the amplitude
of his pure affection,
he defined love."

Tonight, I am so moved by the way Grace never leaves us self-satisfied and imprisoned within the false boundaries of what we think we are capable of. Love calls us from the chrysalis of where we have become comfortable with "enough," and shows us something we hadn't even imagined was possible. Where once we crawled -- now we stand ready to fly.

offered with Love,


Wednesday, April 22, 2015

"Slipping through my fingers…"

"I watch them go
with a surge of that
well-known sadness,
and I have to sit down
for a while..."

Confession time. I was a mess. Blotchy face, burning eyes. And although Meryl Streep's performance of Abba's "Slipping Through My Fingers," from the film "Mama Mia," does it to me every time, I didn't need a prompt that night. All I needed to do was think of the girls turning 18 on Saturday, and it hit me once again.

You see, being their (and their sister's) mom for the last 18 years has been everything I ever dreamed of. Caring for each of them, growing with them, nurturing their dreams and watching them become the young women-of-substance that they are today, has been the most extraordinary gift of grace.

And I say gift, because they are just that -- a gift. As an adoptive mom -- who was asked to return her first child to his birthmother -- I understand the heartache of surrender. And because of this, I have never taken for granted what it meant for my daughters' mothers to have chosen adoption as a parenting plan for their beloved children. I have never forgotten that the girls' first mother was - and still is - a selfless, trusting, generous young woman. And I will never forget that choosing to let me care for her daughters - as their second mom - was the greatest gift I have every received.

On Saturday, I will surrender them to their own majority.  They will be women.  They will have been in my heart's womb for 18 years. They have grown stronger in the graces of Spirit, and I have been stretched into newness of heart -- one of deeper spiritual love and trust. The shape of my place in the world has expanded. I no longer see things through my own eyes alone, but through the lens of our children's relationship with the world they will navigate, inhabit, and bless.

Yes, the are slipping through my fingers -- but like water, they will continue to carry forward their own spiritual vision for serving humanity.  They will nourish, and refresh the world they share with their fellow beings.  That said, I still needed a focal point as I moved towards this milestone in our journey together.

In Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, Mary Baker Eddy encourages her readers with this promise:

"Willingness to become as a little child
and to leave the old for the new,
renders thought receptive
of the advanced idea.
Gladness to leave the false landmarks
and joy to see them disappear, — 
this disposition helps to precipitate
the ultimate harmony. "

Today, I am holding on to this promise for dear life. Letting go of this chapter is not easy for me. I have loved it so much. I have loved being a mommy. I have loved doing their laundry, packing for camp, always knowing where they are, celebrating their victories, and sitting with them when their have hearts needed shared silence. I have loved our road trips and rodeos -- my funny little girls.  I have loved putting them first. I have loved them. I have love them with every fiber of my being. I will always love them  I will always be their mommy.

But you know, no matter how I tried to justify those feelings of melancholy, I couldn't reconcile them with what I know to be true, spiritually. In Truth, our children are not our children. They are His/Hers.  In fact, we are actually all the children of God. We are brothers and sisters in Christ. This is the relationship that is changeless. This is the timeless role that we will play in one another's lives. This is the landmark I must fix my gaze on, and walk towards.

Again, I have found clarity in Science and Health. Eddy gives me something pure and clear to chart my course. She says in her definition of "Children," from the Glossary:

"not in embryo,
but in maturity..."

We are each fully formed in Love.  This spiritual maturity has been my touchstone throughout their childhood.  It has shaped my sense of what it means to parent.  It has allowed me to trust their wisdom and my own childlikeness.  We are, none of us, "in process." We all stand at the growing tip of spiritual self-discovery. They are ready. I am ready. And like the small bluebird babies that will soon stand on the edge of their world, and leap into flight with wings poised and courage undaunted -- so will we. As Meryl says in the above-linked clip:

"I wouldn't have had it
any other way.
My, God,
look at what we've had..."

I agree, with all of our ups and downs - tears and triumphs - I wouldn't have had it any other way. I am ready for this next path on our journey together as children of one supremely wise and loving God.  I am so grateful that we have been blessed with all the spiritual tools we will need to navigate these steps forward with Grace. As Eddy says:

"Press on.
The way is narrow at first,
but it expands as we walk in it."
- Mary Baker Eddy

If the steps we have taken together - so far - are any indication of the path we cannot yet see, the view will be beautiful, the companionship rich, and the days big with blessing.

with all my love -- and with Love,


Friday, April 17, 2015

"kindness matters…."

"In the end,
only kindness matters..."

What we behold -- what we focus on, and call another's attention to -- matters. Yesterday I was overwhelmed by the volume of unkindness I was observing on Facebook.  Sarcastic jokes, cynicism, and outright mean-spiritedness in posts, shared links, and comments. It seemed as if there was a moratorium on basic human kindness. Jewell's "Hands," came to the rescue again.

Over and over again that one line, "in the end, only kindness matters," flooded my heart. How many times have I been saved by its reminder.  Even when I've felt justified in rebutting something posted that I believed was untrue or unwarranted, I have been led to ask myself, "Is what you are thinking of doing kind?" If it's not, then I know I will regret it.  Kindness -- doing unto others as we would have them do unto us -- always wins the day.

And yet, there seems to be an unwritten rule that if we believe someone has made a mistake, done something regrettable, or admitted a wrong, we have every right to call attention to it, publish remarks about it, and repost the negative opinions of experts, pundits, or journalists.

But isn't this just what Jesus addresses when the woman who was "caught in the very act" is brought to him for judgment and eventual stoning. At first he tries to stay out of the verbal and punitive fray. When asked to weigh in on the moral wrongness of her mistakes, he stoops down and writes in the dust. But when pushed to respond, he says, "He who is without sin among you, cast the first stone."

He doesn't say, "He he who has never committed this particular sin, cast the first stone." But any sin.  It's so easy to see sin in terms of a hierarchy of offense. As long as we think someone else's offense is worse than our own, we seem to feel fully justified in calling attention to it.  But isn't this act of publishing of someone's failings, the same as casting a stone at them.

And isn't this what the Master absolutely refuses to do. Even after everyone who has felt the condemnation of his own conscience leaves the square without casting a stone at the woman, Jesus himself assures her, "Neither do I condemn thee, go and sin no more." Go, and no longer feel separate from God's love, direction, protection, guidance, discipline, and care.

I have made mistakes in my life. And I have felt the stones of harsh criticism and cold disdain hit me squarely between my shoulder blades. I have known the sorrow of feeling misunderstood and judged for my mistakes. Those were lonely days.  But, I have also heard the invitation to cozy up with the jeering crowd, take aim, and toss a stone or two myself. And I have to tell you, nothing is more sickening than hearing the thud of gossip against the back of someone's reputation or peace-of-mind.

The stone lifted - and cast - is heavy. It weighs down the heart of the one who lifts and throws it. And don't be fooled. Just because our modern stones don't break bones, it doesn't mean that they don't break hearts.

Yesterday I saw something posted about a public figure that was so cruel and ugly, it -- quite literally -- made me nauseous. It was shocking to me that anyone would want to publicly attach themselves to unkindness. And sadly, it was posted by someone I respect and care deeply about. I was baffled -- it seemed incompressible to me.  I just couldn't understand why. I contacted my friend, who said, "well, it was based on something that actually did happen." 

Ah yes, "caught in the very act."

Well,  if "caught in the very act," wasn't enough justification for Jesus to join in throwing stones -- why has it become so for us? Do we think that we are contributing to the public good by calling attention to someone's failings? I am sure that the crowd in the public square that day, thought they were protecting the sanctity of their community values by stoning the adulteress and setting a public example. But Jesus didn't buy it, so why should we?

Do we think it makes us look clever, well-informed, or wise to remind the world of another's mistakes or failings? Is it okay because these people are just symbols to us -- symbols of culture, society, government, commerce? It reminds me of the young man on trial for the attempted murder of a classmate.  He said that he'd learned all about shooting-to-kill in a video game.  And that because the characters aren't real, it doesn't really hurt them. He said that after a few moments, they just get up and the game continues.

But, this is not a game. Our public figures, celebrities, the community member we watch from a distance, and then stone for their mistakes and faltering steps -- are real people. They have feelings, and families, and friendships.

Aren't we better than the self-righteous crowd in the square - standing with stone in hand. Just because someone has been "caught in the very act," doesn't mean we can't be true to who we are and respond with respect, humanity, kindness, and grace.  We have the right to our spiritual integrity -- our focus on good, our contribution to healing, and to blessing "even our enemies."  Another's behavior doesn't justify our retreat into a mob mentality of casting aspersions or stones.

When we carry those stones around in our hearts -- they weigh us down. Put them down.  Instead, let's seek out - and call attention to - the good in humanity. Let's focus on something worthy of our time, energy and devotion. 

You know, I don't believe I have ever decided to not be-friend, vote for, or welcome into my heart someone because I had read, or heard, a negative item of news or gossip about them. I can't imagine you have either.

Let's follow Jesus.  Let's refuse to get caught up in a season of stoning.  Let's turn our attention to the enduring, the good, and the true in ourselves and others. Let's appreciate what is beautiful, honest and humane in society, and watch it appreciate -- grow in value -- before our eyes. This is putting on the mantle of kindness.

And in the end, only kindness matters.

offered with Love,


Thursday, April 2, 2015

"take these broken wings…"

"take these
broken wings
and learn to fly…"

This is my favorite song. This is my favorite version of my favorite song. Sarah McLaughlin's cover  of "Blackbird," from the "I Am Sam" soundtrack speaks to something in me that is deeper than bone.

This post is all about innocence. It is about purity. It is about sorrow. It is about resurrection and redemption. It is about a spiritual path to reclaiming what seems forever lost.

When most people think about lost innocence, they think of choice. We are led to believe that staying a virgin -- staying pure -- is something that a girl/woman chooses to do. If she has lost her virginity -- her innocence -- it must have been her choice. 

But for some it is not a choice, and the losing of it happens long before they even know it is something that they have.  Long before they learn it is something to be cherished, protected, or shared.

These are the little girls who have been violated without consent. They are the children without a childhood.  The ones who mourn a ghost self.

They are the girls who weep in secret, the girls who cut to feel, and starve themselves to prove they have some modicum of control in their lives. These are the women who read about lost innocence and wonder how it must have felt -- to have ever even glimpsed something so precious in themselves. They are the women who ache when they read about abstinence contracts, chastity pledges, and purity rings.  These are the girls who feel disconnected from themselves.

These are girls who dream of what they never knew. And for them, it isn't about a moral line crossed or a physical boundary broken. It is about a deep desire to know one's self as sweet and pure. To feel full of hope and promise and innocence.

For most of their lives, many of these girls feel like that blackbird who sings with a broken wing. Yes, they have learned how to act childlike -- but to truly know and feel childlikeness, is another matter altogether. You see, when a grown man begins violating a girl before she even enters puberty, it doesn't really feel as if something has been irrevocably lost -- just never known.

She wanders through the landscape of childhood -- one that should be filled with learning, and play, and imagination -- with a cloud of dark knowing, brooding over her at all times. She feels like a liar, a pretender, a fake in the vast pink kingdom of fairy princesses and happily ever after.

Her heart doesn't leap at songs like "If you're happy and you know it clap your hands." Her heart rips open - like a raw wound - with the first strains of "Blackbird singing in the dead of night…"

These girls discover that there is rarely somewhere safe to turn. Often, when she "tells," she is not mended, but broken further. When her tears spill over onto another's pillow, she is accused of darkening their path with the underbelly of society's horror story. 

Some women report that they wonder how to protect their loved ones from the pain and distrust that seems to come out of nowhere -- the confusion and anger that percolates just below the surface. For them, disassociation, divorce, death can often feel like the only way to save those they love from the sharp shards of their own shattered hearts.  

There are countless stories of brokenness - here and abroad.  Not all are dramatic and shocking.  Not all make us turn away in hopelessness and helplessness -- or even disgust.  But these girls with broken wings live among us. And their stories need to be redeemed -- and can be redeemed.  Mine was.  The particulars of my story are not important -- only that for many years I believed it defined me as someone who was irrevocably lost.

But this was where Love, divine Love -- God, found me. This is where the story of a crucified savior and a woman who had been saved -- saved me. 

I know that there is much academic speculation about whether Mary Magdalene was actually the same woman who washed Jesus' feet at the Pharisee's house. But this scholarship doesn't matter to me.  What matters -- and what mattered then -- is what her story meant to my heart decades ago on a cloudy spring day.  A day when I had lost all hope of every being worthy of love. 

You see, I needed to believe that a weeping girl of questionable reputation and broken innocence, washing the Savior's feet, was the same woman who kept vigil at the foot of the cross, and waited at the door of the sepulcher. Her story gave me hope. It saved me.

In my secret heart, I knew that I was just like that broken girl. But I also sensed -- in that moment -- that I could be just as courageous as that expectant, grateful woman.

Throughout my girlhood, an undaunted hope had lived just beneath the surface of my secret self-loathing. I'd prayed that I could find an innocent child buried within the rubble of my broken-ness.  I'd search "before" photos for a glimmer of her childlikeness.  I thought if I could find innocence in her eyes it would be familiar and I'd be able to remember how it felt and connect with those feeling.  But I never could.  I had all but given up hope of ever really knowing what it felt like to be a child.    

That hope was was kindled into an enlightened faith with the Magdalene's story. I realized that I not only could be saved from self-destruction, but that I actually had value beyond simple self-preservation.  I glimpsed that the resurrection of my own innocence could serve Christ's timeless mission of healing and salvation.

In reading her story, I glimpsed that this woman "out of whom Jesus had cast seven devils"  actually served as a reliable, vital, and unshakeable witness to the immortality of Life -- of innocence. She must have been unwavering in her certainty that what had been resurrected from the ashes of her own deadened life, was only a glimpse of what was true for Jesus. 

 It must have been absolutely unthinkable to her that Christ's life could be destroyed by hate. The resurrection of her own crucified purity had prepared her heart.  She was able to hold watch at the cross and an unwavering vigil at the sepulcher, while she waited for the inevitability of his resurrected life.

Her once-broken wings gave flight to humanity's hopes   -- and they were lifting mine two thousand years later.

Realizing that Mary Baker Eddy launches her chapter on "Christian Science Practice," -- or metaphysical healing -- with this woman's transformation, I have clung to her story  as scriptural precedence for a life redeemed -- and purposeful.  She has taught me how to serve Christ. She has unfolded for me a well-trod path towards reclaimed innocence, purity, our individual and collective intactness as daughters of God.

So, what does this Easter story mean to me -- it means we are all innocent. It means that her resurrection, was part and parcel to his resurrection. And that his resurrection was the promise of our resurrection -- each and every one of us.  We are all untouched by evil.  Inviolable in grace. We are children of God. Just think of it -- you are a child of God.  I am a child of God. I am an innocent, a babe, a pure sweet girl in the eyes of my Father who has given me wings to fly.

In a hymn written by William MacKenzie are the words:

"she knew the Christ,
undimmed by dying..."

I know this Christ.  It is alive in me -- undimmed by dying, unsilenced by hate, unstoppable in Love. This Christ is the resurrected, ever-alive innocence in all of us.  It is the untouched purity, the inviolable hope which assures us that we are never lost, never broken, never entombed in the past.  For me, this is the Easter story that lives each day.

offered with Love,


Saturday, March 21, 2015

"Just be held…"

"You're not alone,
stop holding on,
and just be held..."

The past two weeks have been humbling. Loved ones are facing wilderness experiences that leave me standing in awe of their courage and grace. More than once, I've turned to Casting Crown's beautiful song, "Just Be Held" for fellowship in the middle of the night.

In the last twenty four hours I've found myself praying till dawn as one dear friend crosses the frozen Bering Sea with a team of sled dogs, and another precious friend -- his loved wife -- waits to welcome him through the burled arches of the finish line for the 43rd Iditarod in Nome, Alaska.

One promise, from Mary Baker Eddy, has echoed through my heart -- over and over again -- as Lach and the dogs traversed an arctic trail of almost one thousand miles, with gale force winds, drifting snow, and temperatures dipping to fifty degrees below zero at times:

"You are not alone.
Love is with you
watching tenderly over you
by day and night.

And this Love will not leave you,
but will sustain you,
and remember all thy tears,
and will answer your prayers."
-Isaiah 26:3.

Time and again, I let Love resurrect in me what I know of Lach and Linda's love, courage, and trust in God's presence and power. I turned to what I have already seen of their tireless devotion to God's care, their willingness to lean on Him for strength and encouragement in times of trial.

You see, I've had a front row seat to their day-by-day consistent practice of blue-collar spirituality.  Lach and Linda are our daughters' mentors, Polocrosse coaches, and contemporary heroes -- ours too for that matter. And there are not enough tears in my body, or words in my heart, to say what their example has meant to our children's sense of who they are, what they are capable of, and where their strength, selflessness, and courage come from.

I believe that we are taught by example -- not by rote or rhetoric. Team Clarke will not "win" the Iditarod this year with the fastest time across the finish line, but they will have won their place - forever - in our hearts. When faced with almost insurmountable challenges, they have soldiered on with quiet grace and humility.

They have taught us that winning happens each time you put the good of the team, over self-interest and ambition. They have taught us that kindness trumps triumph, that humility scales the heights of holiness, and that to "run the race that is set before you," is not about miles, but self-mastery and a profound trust in something greater than yourself.

Yesterday someone asked me why I'd become such an avid Iditarod fan. I smiled and said, "Well, I don't know that I would actually call myself an Iditarod fan, but a fan of mushers, dogs, and the sled dog community."

What I've witnessed -- by following the Iditarod this year -- are countless stories of unselfish affection, fellowship, devotion, camaraderie, humility, courage, endurance, persistence, and patience. But mostly, I've witnessed an extraordinary outpouring of love.

It reminds me of something a friend once said to me when I was looking for a mentor -- someone who would inspire me, expand my sense of the world, and challenge me to be a better person every day:

"Whenever you witness
an act of simple kindness -- patience, compassion
courage, meekness, charity, grace --
stop whatever you are doing, be still,
hold your breath, watch, and drink it in.
Then, thank God for having shown Himself to you."

Following the Team Clarke's Iditarod journey -- having a front row seat to months of profound human kindness and unselfish devotion -- has been extraordinary for me. I will never be the same.

When Lach and the dogs cross the finish line -- and Linda, Rachael and Chris greet them just beyond the burled arch -- I will be here in my office, weeping with gratitude for all that they have taught me. I will have allowed something wonderfully strange and achingly beautiful transform my sense of the world. I will have been deeply blessed.

offered with Love,


Friday, March 6, 2015

"When it happens to you…"

"And though my heart is torn,
I will praise you in this storm..."

It's no secret that I love the inspired music ministry of Casting Crowns. Their recently released "Thrive" CD is a favorite. Earlier this week their lead singer, Mark Hall, was given an unsettling diagnosis and faces surgery soon. The Casting Crowns family has reached out to their church and fan community for support through prayer. It is a privilege to join them in this way.

In a moving post written for the band's website by Mark's wife, Melanie asks,"When it happens to you, where do you turn?"  And the band offers their beautiful song, "Praise You in the Storm" as inspiration and encouragement. Both Melanie's post and the song moved me deeply.

The first paragraph of Melanie's piece reads: "The call on your cell phone from the doctor with bad news -- that's something that happens to other people, not to us. Our role, for the last 25 years in ministry, is to be there to encourage other people after the call, and to pray with them and try to bring comfort. So when it happens to you, where do you turn?"

Melanie goes on to say, "Mark and I seemed to be in a bit of a fog for several days while the news was sinking in.
Yet the whole time, the verse that kept running through my head over and over was:

"You will keep in perfect peace
him whose mind is steadfast,
because he trusts in You."
-Isaiah 26:3.

Yes. This is exactly where we turn. We turn to Scripture which floods our hearts with the Word. We rest our thoughts on these promises -- like life rafts in a roiling sea of "what if…" And as Mary Baker Eddy encourages in her primary work on hope and healing, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, we:

"cling steadfastly to God,
and His idea, allowing nothing
but His likeness
to abide in our thought..."

And then, we return to the Word - again, and again - for Love's timeless encouragement in stories of salvation, parables of promise, reminders of redemption and resurrection, and messages of healing.

And we are each writing new gospel stories of deep spiritual trust in our lives every day. These contemporary testaments of faith encourage others to remember that, as Mark sings, "You [God] are with us…" At times when we might feel as though we are alone in the storm, we can turn to one another for affirmation, and to the Bible for unshakeable precedent-setting cases of God's law in operation -- even in the storm.

At a particularly challenging time in my own life it was Jesus' parable of the house built on the sand that pulled me out of a death spiral of despair. I've already referred to this experience in an earlier post (linked here) titled,""I will give you perfect peace..." As well as in in another post, "A house that will not fall..." whick is linked at the end of that piece. And because of this personal storm, a parable now lives as part of me -- it is no longer "just a parable" -- it is what courses through my being as vitally as air and water.

The alarming "call" can come in countless forms -- disappointing test results, an upsetting report card, a lost job opportunity, a rejection letter, a health crisis, alarming global events, a child's cry in the night...

So, where do we turn -- we turn to Him, we turn to His Word, we turn to one another for encouragement. Our stories of hope and healing are critical to our neighbors and friends. Our testimonies of deep spiritual trust are vital to the body of Christ, in which we share fellowship in faith. And this is where we hear another call -- the call of Spirit urging us to turn to God, to look through the lens of His love. For it is here that, "He saw everything that He had made, and behold it was -- and is -- very good."

We are not alone in the storm. We are never alone. We have the still small Voice of God. We have the Word. We have the Gospel message of "the kingdom of God is within you." We have angels that hover in the stillness.  And we have each other. Our Father-Mother God is with us -- always. He will keep us in perfect peace.

offered with Love,