Sunday, September 17, 2017

"when I was fourteen..."

"Send me away 
with the words
of a love song..."

For the last year - or so, I have been hearing the first line of something -- but I haven't known what it was meant to become. A post, a poem, a conversation I needed to have with someone? Then today, I heard it in the context of the Hemingway quote that gave voice to the last, most recent post on this blog, "Write hard and clear about what hurts."

That was when I knew. That first sentence was a prompt, a reminder.  And it wasn't giving up.  It was saying, over-and-over again, "You need to write about this:

"when I was fourteen..."

So today, I stopped and listened. And it was like a sucker punch to my heart.  I sighed deeply.  "Yes," I thought, "this is what once hurt, and needs to be written."

A few years back, there was a song, by The Band Perry, titled,"If I Die Young," It may sound self-indulgent, dramatic, and morbid, but whenever I heard it I wanted to weep for the girl I was at fourteen. Sometimes death comes to us in ways that aren't an escape - we just have to find a path through.

When I was fourteen, my life finally felt like it was becoming livable. The abuse I'd endured since the age of four had all but stopped -- when my family began to explore a deeper understanding of our individual and collective relationship with God.  We still moved houses regularly, but I had a real friend for the first time in my life. A friend that I wasn't related to.  A friend that didn't disappear when we changed neighborhoods and zip codes.

You see, even though we changed schools, we still lived in the same town and went to the same church. I was still able to participate in the same camp-based local activities. For the first time, there was continuity in my life - one that extended beyond my family.  And there was hope for a future that included my dream of having a life-long friend -- something I'd only read about in books.

I loved my new Sunday School friend.  We rode bikes, sat by the pool, went to movies, and talked about things that mattered.

And then one day, we had a family meeting. My parents told us that we were moving -- again. But this time it was going to be out-of-state and time zones away. Spontaneous phone calls, movies, sleepovers on weekends -- were over. Long-distance phone rates would make calling impossible.

Saying goodbye that last Sunday after church was one of the most painful moments of my childhood. As our parents waited, my friend and I said goodbye and promised to write letters -- every day. Later that week my family loaded up our station wagon and we were on the road to a new state, a new town, new schools, a new neighborhood, and a new church home. I saved my babysitting money, I bought pretty stationery and postage stamps. I wrote my friend almost every day. She never wrote back.

For a year I checked the mailbox daily - the minute I got home from school. If it was empty, the first question I would ask my mother as I flew through the kitchen door was, "Was there a letter today?' There never was.

You may be wondering why I feel the need to write about this tonight -- isn't it just water under the bridge? Well, besides the fact that I kept hearing that one line: "When I was fourteen..." it is because it was a great hurt that I can now write hard and clear about.  

And if I have learned anything after six decades of living in this world, it is that we are never alone in the pain we have experienced. To feel dismissible when you are doing everything to connect with another human being is heartbreaking. It can make you want to "die young" -- as it did me.  So, if there is someone out there feeling this kind of loneliness -- I need for them to know, you are not alone.

For many people, their lives are filled to the brim with continuity and connection. They grow up in loving homes, they have the same friends throughout childhood, they are embarrassed by indulgent parents, and overwhelmed by a hyper vigilant community that knows everything about them and the details of their lives. 

 If you are one of those people, I can't tell you how much I envied you -- most my life.

But for some of us, life was lonely. We dreamed of familiarity, connection, continuity of place and people. When we finally had a friend, we were willing to do anything to keep that thread intact. And sometimes we made grave mistakes. We over compensated, we gave gifts that seem too generous, we called, wrote, texted more than we should, we hesitated to say "the hard things" for fear of being rejected or dismissed, we are too easily crushed and too quickly hurt. We take things too personally. We are too grateful one minute and too needy the next.

If you have lived a life filled with family, friendship, connection, and community you are blessed. If you have a friend who has come into your life and seems too needy, or too willing, or too eager to write, call, text -- please be patient and kind. If your child has a friend who moves away and writes them a letter - please encourage them to reply. It may be the single most important thing they do for another human being. Rejection hurts.  Childhood rejection is devastating -- even when it is done without malice or rancor -- which I am absolutely certain was the case with my Sunday School friend.  She was just a girl herself.  She just had a full life.  I was simply that extra drop that flowed over the edge of the cup.

But, I still remember the name of my friend. I still think about her all the time - almost 50 years later. I wonder if she ever read my letters -- on pretty stationery spritzed with Love's Baby Soft perfume and filled with all the details of a 14 year old's life in a strange new place where she felt more alone than ever before. 

 Did she like the four-leaf clovers I found, pressed, and tucked in with the program from my new school's homecoming festivities. Did she ever even read the poem about friendship that it took me three weeks to write and finally find the courage to send?  Did she ever wonder whether the boy I told her about was kind or funny?  

She was beautiful and popular.  She had many friends.  Her life didn't change when I left. I was just a small, shy girl who she meant the world to. A church friend. But to me, she was my first real friend. 

 Sometimes, I just think of what she may have missed -- a lifelong relationship with someone who thought she was very, very special. Someone for whom she was a refuge of friendship, in an unfriendly world. Someone who would have never let her down.

Mary Baker Eddy wrote in her autobiography, Retrospection and Introspection:

"There is no greater miracle
known to earth, than perfection
and an unbroken friendship."
I pray she knows that I would have been in her corner forever. I would have done anything to be the friend she may have needed someday - and could always turn to.

Since then I have been blessed by some amazing friendships. But being a friend is not something I am always confident about. I am often awkward in groups, I shut down if I feel insecure, I don't always know what to say, I take things too personally, I need a "job" to be at ease in social settings.  Yet I am always trying to be the friend I never had as a child, or as a teenager.

I don't think I am the only one who has ever felt "friendless."  Friendship is hard.  It requires a level of vulnerability that leaves us feeling naked in a crowd. It also requires trust in a Love that overarches those moments when we do feel alone in a world obsessed with group selfies, and accumulating "likes," on social media.  A love that can't be measured, apportioned, given, taken back, extended, or unfriended.

Elsewhere in her primary work, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, Mary Baker Eddy offers this encouragement to anyone who has ever felt lonely and friendless:

"Would existence without personal friends
be to you a blank? Then the time will come
when you will be solitary, left without sympathy;
but this seeming vacuum is already filled
with divine Love."
This statement was a promise for me as a fourteen year old girl waiting for a letter in the mail.  And tonight, as I look back at that chapter in my life, I realize God was always there in my heart.  I was filled with love and hope.  I was the one who had the courage and strength to love someone, even when there was no response.

Tonight I am writing as hard and clear as I can, about something that once hurt, but is now a memory of the sweet, shy girl I was. The girl who never stopped hoping.  I write, in hopes that it will help someone else remember how rare and remarkable it is - in this world - to be loved and believed in by another person.   And maybe - just maybe - to hold hands across the miles with someone else who feels alone.  If you write, I promise -- I will always answer.

offered with Love,


Friday, September 1, 2017

"write, hard and clear..."

"Don't cry out loud,
just keep it inside,
and learn how to hide
your feelings..."

Melissa Manchester's "Don't Cry Out Loud," was my theme song in my early twenties. Put on a smile, never let them know you were hurting, don't admit your mistakes or failures. How did that go?

It didn't work. By the time I was in my late twenties, I was bottoming out. I had a moderately successful career in education -- but that was about it. My relationships were in shambles -- all except for the ones where I held the purse strings and felt some sense of control. My body was falling apart, and I felt scattered all over the philosophical map -- s spiritual homelessness that I pretended didn't bother me. Sometimes it takes something as minute as a pinprick to burst the bubble of denial. Mine seemed like a slow leak.

Recently I came across a long-loved quote that served as a reminder that my journey back from the facade of self-certain control about my "story," came in a series of small moments. Ernest Hemingway once advised:

"Write hard and clear
about what hurts."

That statement scared me. The things that hurt were ugly. I felt exposed and broken whenever I even thought about them -- how would I ever be able to write them down? And yet, I knew writing was one of my great loves. But I also knew that if I was ever to be able to write with conviction, I would one day have to find a way to write about the darkness -- in order that it might give context to the light.

After coming back into a working relationship with God - through the study and practice of Christian Science - I felt that there was so much that I was grateful for -- and I had to write about it. My life was transforming, my heart was healing, and my hopes were soaring. I wanted that to be my only story.  

But everything I wrote felt pale to me. It was all daystar. A healing of self-worth almost disappeared without the contextual backdrop of decades filled with self-destructive behavior. To the most distant star, is the night ever too dark? I thought it was. I wanted a new setting. I longed for the beautiful, good, and true to be the only page on which my life-story was written.

The problem with that was, that it just wasn't true. 

 So, now to the purpose of this post, which is ultimately the purpose of this blog.  Here it is.  I needed to say to anyone who felt that their story was too ugly to acknowledge or own, "you are not alone."  You see, I had felt so alone for so many years. I couldn't imagine that any spiritually-inspired person -- engaged in a healing ministry -- could have a story as dark as mine. It made me feel like an imposter.

That was, until I met a woman who wasn't afraid of her truth. In fact, she used the darkness of her childhood as a platform for the brightness of the lamp that God had lit in her heart.

She reminded me that Mary Baker Eddy wrote in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures:

"The spiritual sense of truth
must be gained,
before Truth can be understood."

Note the capitalization of the word "truth." The lower case truth denotes the actuality of our human experience. The upper case Truth points to the fact that God is All-in-all. That there is no moment, situation, experience or memory that is without God's presence, power, and love. To deny my life as ugly and dismissible, was to deny that God was All-in-all. I needed to own those stories, not as human mistakes or failures, but as a divine adventure in which I could find the face of God in the most tragic moments.

I remember one very specific memory that haunted me for decades. I was being serially threatened by someone I should have been able to trust to care for me. It left me feeling like a small animal that didn't deserve to be treated humanely. But reclaiming that moment for God and recasting the story as an opportunity to find the face of God in the midst of darkness, I began to see that right there, right in those moments of terror and humiliation, I was aware that what was happening was wrong. I was clear and sure that what I was experiencing was not the way that a child should be treated.

It took me five decades to write that story. I wrote it hard and clear. I wrote it honestly and I wrote it with God - and not a frightened child or an evil grown-up - as the main character. I was able to write with complete honesty about my hurt, without having it hurt me any longer. If fact, that story elicited hundreds of notes, calls, and comments from men and women who had faced similar life-narratives. 

I found that when I write about what is hard, it suddenly becomes clear that God was always there, always with me, always giving me the courage, wisdom, strength to navigate each experience.

Elsewhere in his vast archive of advice on writing Hemingway states:

"All you have to do
is write one true sentence.
Write the truest sentence you know."
The truest sentence I know is always the one that has God as it's subject, love as its verb -- and me - as the one who has experienced the presence and power of that love - as its object. I can only write a true sentence from my own experience -- and hope it reminds others that they are not alone.

This is the reason I write, this is the reason I pick up the phone, this is the reason I do everything I do -- to let someone know that they are not along in the darkness -- or a pale insignificant star in the harsh light of their day.

Today, I cry out loud, and I listen quietly. I am grateful to have learned to write hard and clear about what hurts -- so that it is defanged and doesn't hurt anymore. Mary Baker Eddy writes:

"Think of this, dear reader,
for it will lift the sackcloth
from your eyes, and you will behold
the soft-winged dove descending upon you.

The very circumstance, which your suffering
sense deems wrathful and afflictive,
Love can make an angel entertained unawares.

Then thought gently whispers:
“Come hither! Arise from your false
consciousness into the true sense of Love,
and behold the Lamb’s wife, — Love
wedded to its own spiritual idea.”
May you feel this wedded bliss with your one true Love - the main character in every story.    

offered with Love,


Wednesday, August 30, 2017

"i've looked at clouds..."

"I've looked at clouds
from both sides now,
from give and take..."

- Joni Mitchell

I live along a river valley that runs between two mountain ranges. Each morning I rise, fill the bird feeders, water the flowers and return to the kitchen where I make a pot of tea. Then I spend a few hours studying spiritual texts, taking calls, and staring.  Yes, staring.

I've always been fascinated by clouds. As a child I couldn't wait to finish my chores and retreat to read. If the weather was inclement, I would go to my room, climb into my bottom bunk and disappear into a story about horses, a Nancy Drew mystery, a biography about strong women, or a book of fantasy. If the weather allowed, I would grab a book and head for a grassy place to lie on my back and alternate between reading words and reading clouds.

I loved watching a cloud change shapes -- from a bunny, to a dragon, to a castle -- and so on. The first time I heard Joni Mitchell's,"Both Sides Now," I thought it was the most brilliant song ever penned.

These days, I don't have to lie in the grass to watch clouds. All I have to do is look out our floor to ceiling windows, where I have a stretch of sky that reaches about 50 miles along the valley -- from north to south. I can watch a single cloud shift shape dozens of time. I can watch her start out as a puffy little thing, and over the course of a few hours, turn into a pouty, storm-sodden promise full of rain.

One day, as I watched a cloud morph, over, and over again, I realized that "the cloud" I'd been watching -- and which I'd identified as "that cloud," -- was not the same cloud, at all. Fifth grade earth science had taught me that throughout the morning, the sun had caused water molecules to evaporate up from puddles, lakes, rivers, streams, and back into the atmosphere. From there, they'd then been gathered (or condensed) into clouds. But all the while, as each cloud gathered new molecules of water, other water molecules were being released back into the atmosphere. There was a constant, ongoing exchange of water molecules.

The cloud that I had been watching move from the north earlier that morning, was actually not the same cloud I saw later in the afternoon. Even though I thought I'd been monitoring its southbound progress -- and its ever-changing shape -- there were probably very few water molecules left of what had started out as "that cloud" earlier in the morning.

And for that matter, what constituted "that cloud" anyway?  How was it so different from the atmosphere it seemed to be traveling through. The same molecules that made up that beautiful blue sky, made up the cloud. All that was different, was density. What I thought of as an outlined shape, was actually, in a constant state of transformation -- continuously changing and shifting.

For me, this realization felt -- in ways that are hard to explain -- like I finally understood Life. I could see that the atmosphere which seemed so invisible, became more visible when gathered into a denser form -- not a different substance -- just a different density. The essential elements that made up the atmosphere -- and the cloud -- were interchangeable, and changeless.

I had to ask myself, "how is this different from what I think of as my body -- a body in which each cell is replaced every seven years?" Could this be what Mary Baker Eddy is referring to in her primary work, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, when she says:

"Spirit, God, gathers unformed thoughts
into their proper channels
and unfolds these thoughts…
in order that their purpose may appear"
and that:

"Metaphysics resolves things into thoughts
and replace the objects of material sense
with spiritual ideas."

Gathering and resolving, gathering and resolving...

As Joni sings:

"something's lost,
and something's gained,
in living every day..."

I couldn't help but think of God as the atmosphere -- invisible, but ever-present. And everything we experience -- bodies, trees, houses -- as clouds. Constantly gathering into forms that allow the atmosphere to express a new sense of purpose -- to provide shade, to move moisture from north to south -- or east to west, to sort sunlight into a rainbow of hues, to resolve into much-needed rain -- in short, to bless.

I could actually feel the give and take of being spiritual -- and yet, having form -- without the membrane of duality. To be as at-one with God, as the cloud is one with the atmosphere it travels through, and exists in.

There is so much more I am learning from clouds. But for tonight -- this begged sharing.

offered with Love,


"piece by piece..."

"Piece by piece
I fell far from the tree
I will never leave her
like you left me

And she will never have
to wonder her worth
Because unlike you
I'm going to put her first..."

I've been sitting here in a quiet daze having heard Stephanie Rice performing Kelly Clarkson's "Piece by Piece," during her blind audition for The Voice. A friend sent me this link -- I don't have to hear her story, to know it. It pours, like tears, from her voice. I know the taste of those tears.

The link shared, includes the entire audition. Stephanie's performance is at the very beginning, and ends at about 2 minutes in. I was so moved by it. And please don't miss Kelly Clarkson's own emotional performance of "Piece by Piece." I hope you will give both versions a listen.

That said, I'd like to go back to the song itself. It is one of the most honest songs I have ever heard. It hit a nerve so deep, that I discovered I was weeping before a tear had even fallen.

It is a song that lifts the veil on what many girls, who became moms to their own little girls, have lived. Me included.

We compensate. And sometimes, we over-compensate. We look at the lives of our daughters, through the lens of our own longing for love, support, encouragement, and affection. We marry men who will be the fathers "who will not leave."  The kind of father who will put a child's dreams, and needs, above his own.

When we find this kind of love and support for our children, we feel the deep wounds inside of ourselves begin to open, drain, and heal. The self-protective shell we have encased our own dreams in, begins to shatter, allowing new light to warm the dark and hidden places. We start to heal from the inside out. And because we know we have given our daughters what we needed most, we feel safe. We begin to breathe in a new way. And with this softer breath, there is peace. We have the space to heal.

I see this deep desire -- to give our children this kind of love and support-- in the lives of so many of the women in my life. I see it in myself.

I was thrice-abandoned as a child. Once, when he didn't come looking, once through neglect, and once by desertion. The details and circumstances are not important. What is important, is to know is that it never hardened my heart. I never stopped wanting to be the mother of daughters. I never stopped wanting to give those daughters the kind of love -- and support for their innocence, dreams, and successes -- that I never knew.

Like so many of my friends, I never lost hope that someday my daughters would know the love and devotion of a good father. A man who would model kindness, unselfishness, respect, and integrity. A father who would not let them slip away. A father who would be present and attentive. A father who would delight in their accomplishments -- even when it required the sacrifice of his own dreams.

My daughters and I have been blessed.  And I have been blessed to be surrounded by women who have raised daughters -- alone, or with partners -- who know they are loved, supported, believed in, and adored.  These are women of courage and dignity.

God has turned our mourning into dancing. Not all of us have married. Some of us have raised our daughters in a home with two moms. But we have made sure that our daughters know that nothing will ever deprive them of their right to be respected. They know that are worthy of being loved, supported, celebrated, and heard.

I am not really sure what the "message" of this post is. I only know that it couldn't sit in my heart by itself tonight. Thank you Stephanie Rice for your powerful, and deeply moving, performance. Thank you Kelly Clarkson for writing this most honest of songs. Thank you to each of my sisters and friends who have understood my need to support my daughters unconditionally, and have encouraged me when others have told me that I try too hard, or do too much.

For all of my friends who - as girls and young women - knew the love, attention, and support of a good father -- I am so grateful for the example your relationship - with your dad - held out to me. I see the look on my daughters' faces when they know that they -- and their dreams -- come first, and I know that every sacrifice has been worth it.

I am so grateful to be a mom. I am grateful for the example of true manhood I have witnessed in so many good men. I am deeply grateful for the models of true fatherhood that our daughters have experienced. In every way, I am just so grateful. Piece by piece, I have been restored.

Here is the chorus from Kelly Clarkson's beautiful "Piece by Piece:

"Piece by piece, he restored my faith
That a man can be kind and a father could, stay

Piece by piece I fell far from the tree
I will never leave her like you left me.

And she will never have to wonder her worth
Because unlike you
I’m going to put her first
and you know, He’ll never walk away,
He’ll never break her heart
He’ll take care of things, he’ll love her
Piece by piece, he restored my faith
That a man can be kind
and that a father would stay.

Piece by piece
Piece by piece..."

Piece by piece we are building a new world view of what it means to be faithful -- not just to a person, but to a family. Piece by piece we are restoring trust, defining integrity. Piece by piece, family by family. I am grateful.

offered with Love,


Sunday, August 20, 2017

"Love has the final move..."

"if paradise has
up and flown away for now,
but hope still breathes
and Truth is always true,
 just when we think
it's almost over,
Love has the final move..."

This summer has asked a lot of our humanity. I don't know about you, but I've slept little and questioned much. I can't help but wonder if Thomas Paine was just being historically accurate, or prophetically clear-eyed when he wrote: "These are the times that try men's souls." It certainly feels as if my soul - my spiritual senses -- have been deeply tried. Chris Rice's "Love Has the Final Move," soothed my heart one recent night as I lay in the dark praying for the world.

My prayers were not complex. They were not the unpacking of deep metaphysical premises. They didn't lead me to profound moments of realization. They were simple. "God, help me practice the two great commandments -- to love and trust You - supremely; and to love my neighbor as myself."

But then my heart begged the age-old question: "But who is my neighbor?" And I remembered Jesus' answer to this question: the story of the good Samaritan. The neighbor was a stranger, a foreigner, someone whose customs and traditions were very different from those of the questioner. Well, I mused, no one could have more foreign ideas, customs, or rituals from my own, than an angry, torch-carrying neo-nazi, waving a swastika emblazoned flag, while spewing hateful rhetoric about racial supremacy. Yup, not my finest thinking.

"Dear God," I prayed, "please don't ask me to love them as myself." In other words, please don't ask me to love them in order to be my best self. But God said, "Isn't that what you have already been doing? Loving yourself in exact proportion to how you have been loving them." 

This wasn't going quite the way I'd expected.  But God persisted.  "You haven't been loving them, and you haven't been loving yourself very effectively. And since I am asking you to love them as you love yourself, it's important that you do that first.  But, you haven't been very kind to yourself. You have judged yourself based on your mistakes, your failures, your body fitness, your sense of being "less" in the world, your sense of what other people think of you."

He was right. It had been a hard summer. There were times when I'd felt awkward and small. I hadn't felt a clear sense of belonging. I felt like a square peg in a round hole. And I wasn't sure how something that had once felt so right, had come to feel so wrong. Had the square hole I'd thought I fit into -- so beautifully -- become round? Had I grown sharp edges, so that I no longer slipped effortlessly into the round, smooth hole?

Because I didn't know where I fit, I'd spent much of the summer holed up in my office, where I could focus on God -- letting my work singularly shape my sense of belonging.  It was wonderful, but I knew I couldn't stay sequestered forever.  The world was rightfully encroaching on my sublime isolation.  I had to find a way to expand my sense of loving others  -- as myself.  And this was much harder than I wanted it to be.

What I wanted was answers, I wanted a path to a solution, I wanted a way out of my own too-tight skin. Suddenly the conflicts and chaos I was praying about in far-away  Charlottesville, were really much, much closer. A small, awkward version of me was marching round the memorial I'd erected, and chanting in my head, "you will not replace us." Threatening the "me" that longed for a larger, more expansive sense of what it meant to love my neighbor as myself. It was no longer enough to feel good with (and about) those I shared a common hope -- my neighborhood was expanding.

So I held a rally within myself. The kind of rally I wanted to see happening in Charlottesville, Boston, San Francisco, and in my own community. I realized I needed to listen -- and to listen deeply, and attentively. All the doubts, hurt, fears, confusion, and anger needed to be seen, heard, and thoughtfully addressed.  I needed to lay down my weapons of self-certainty and be willing to hear something new.

For example, I had been feeling like I was no longer relevant - in my children's lives, in my friendships, in communities that I loved. 

First, I listened to the self-pitying logic that wanted to claim justification for this feeling. And then I was quiet. Really, really quiet.  I didn't just jump all over it with a slew of metaphysical quotes. I calmly looked at each of the suggestions and asked myself questions like: "Is this true? How do you know that it's true? Is it possible that it's not true? What would things look like if you didn't believe it were true? And if it is true, what are you willing to do to change it?"

I was respectful and considerate. I was not dismissive or reactive. I committed to loving myself.  Really loving myself.  Not only the me that I knew was the reflection of God, but I loved the me that felt buffeted by self-doubt.  The shift was remarkable. I wasn't afraid of my feelings. They were just feelings, they weren't necessarily facts. I could question them without feeling attacked for being less spiritual or less metaphysically "on top of it."

And more importantly, I felt real love for others the minute I started loving myself. I felt love for the journey that had brought me to this very moment of willingness, of deep self-examination.  I belonged here.  I was ready to grow from it.  And I was not alone in the uncertainty of it all.  

I also felt a genuine love for the girl in me -- the teen, woman, wife, mom, friend, healer, neighbor who had navigated this journey with courage -- day after day.  She'd made mistakes, but she was also bravely confronting those mistakes with humility and acceptance.  She was learning from those mistakes and that was all God was asking of her.

And in this loving of myself and my journey -- as full of missteps and blunders as it was -- I was able to love my neighbor and his/her journey -- no matter how little I understood of its history or its trajectory.  Regardless of how much I might not agree with the reasoning or decisions that got them there.  

Their journey was not mine to judge. It could only serve as an opportunity for me to learn to love more unconditionally.  I could learn to nurture my best self, by loving my neighbor -- regardless of the script, costume, props, or story that the ego was offering as right or wrong -- for either of us.  I could know that Love was/is working Her purpose out in every one of us.  

I began to see, I could trust that no matter how far gone the game seemed to be, Love would always have the final move -- in my life, in my neighbor's life, in my community, and in the world.  Love would always win.

offered with Love,


Monday, August 14, 2017

"cast - deep, deep within..."

"deep enough to reach out
and touch the face of
the One who made me.
and oh, the love I feel.."

Chris Rice's "Deep Enough," is the song I am singing, when I remember last summer's ephiphany. But I am getting ahead of myself.

It began early that spring. I knew that I was going to have the privilege of supporting Adventure Unlimited's summer staff during the three weeks of their pre-camp training school. I eagerly awaited the email that would announce that year's metaphysical theme. When it came, I felt -- ambivalent. Of course I was familiar with the Scripture from John:

"Cast the net
on the right side
of the ship,
and ye shall find."

I'd read it many times. I'd trusted it, wrestled with it, and pondered its relevancy. But all last spring it left me feeling flat. I didn't like the right vs. wrong -- or even right vs. left -- connotations. I was uncomfortable with their being a right side at all. It implied a wrong side. And if there was a wrong side, what was it's genesis. Certainly not God. And if not God -- who or what. And if there really was a who or what, didn't that also imply a creator other than God. You see where I'm going -- right?

Now, all this wrestling could have remained very private, except for one small thing. I was supposed to deliver an inspirational talk on the first day of training school centered on that Scriptural theme.  Hmmm -- what to do?  Of course, pray.  

So, in the weeks, and days -- and hours -- before the start of training camp, I was on my knees asking God for inspiration, clarity, a fresh perspective. Because clearly, the one I was harboring wasn't cutting it. And I couldn't fake it. It would be impossible for me to speak about this Scripture - in a winning way - if I wasn't inspired myself.

Driving up the camp road that morning, I had nothing. Really -- nothing. I was driving with my heart in my throat -- and figuratively, on my knees. "Dear God," I thought, "please help." It was that simple. Please help. And it was like the clouds parted within my heart and I was flooded with this simple message. What if the way you are looking at this question, "what is the 'right side,' -- is just another a version of 'lo, here, or lo, there' -- right or left, right or wrong, here or there, this or that.  What if the spiritual "side" is the inside -- vs. the outside.

In less time than it took me to finish my drive from the "Y" in the road to Round Up -- less than two minutes at 20 miles per hour. The entire message was written on my heart. God had been preparing it - in me - for years. It was His love that had helped me see -- even as a little girl -- that "the gospel of the kingdom," was the the good news of Jesus' message about the kingdom,  as recorded in Luke. In the account, he is demanded of the Pharisees, when the kingdom of God should come, and he replies:

"the kingdom of God
cometh not with observation:
neither shall the say,
lo here! or, lo there!
for, behold,
the kingdom of God,
is within you

Even as a child this brought me such a sense of spiritual authority in my own life.  I didn't need to find the right role model, the right book, the right teacher, the right school.  Whatever I needed to know, I would ultimately find within.  

Every answer I was seeking, the divine nudge I longed to feel, every comforting, healing, transforming thought comes from within. This is where God reigns. This is where God hold court and gives counsel. 

The books I read, the conversations I have, the inspirations that are shared with me -- should all point within. Guide me to that place of deeper oneness with divine Love. To nurture a deeper sense of trust in the I AM within.  This trust is all that I will have eternally.  And this trust is the evidence of my wholeness -- my health. 

For me, this "inside" is the side -- the only side -- where I need to cast my questions, cares, and concerns. This is where I will find all that I am searching, longing, yearning for. This is the place of deep stillness where I hear the voice of the only One who can truly affirm the All-in-allness of Truth, the eternality of Life, the infinitude of Love -- His Love.

From that moment on, this Scripture became my touchstone all summer. In fact, it still is. When I am casting about for direction, answers, comfort, inspiration -- I am reminded to turn to the kingdom within. This is where I will find the eternal, the enduring, the infinite. This is the place I can never leave, the kingdom where I will always be welcome.  Here, within this kingdom, dwells a Sovereign who is tireless in His love for me, and mine, and all. This is where I can touch the face of the One who made me for the sheer purpose of loving and trusting Him.

May you cast all your care upon Him, for He careth for you...

offered with Love,


[photo credit: Ian Forber-Pratt]

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

offered with Love,



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

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

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

Friday, July 14, 2017

"You do impossible things..."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In the book of Revelation, John promises that:

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

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

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

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

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

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

offered with Love,


Tuesday, July 11, 2017

"my first love..."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience...
and for my name’s sake hast laboured, and hast not fainted.
Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee,
because thou hast left thy first love..."

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

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

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

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

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

offered with gratitude -- and with Love,