Monday, December 1, 2014

"Low, sad and sweet…"

"O'er waiting harpstrings
of the mind
there sweeps a strain
low, sad, and sweet,
whose measures bind
the power of pain..."

I love music. I love songs that evoke deep feelings. I love that they break me open, shatter my fragile shell of self-comportment, and leave me borne again in a new, softer form.

One such song is James Taylor's version of "In the Bleak Midwinter." It stops me in my tracks and takes me apart. It's like a good cry -- I am better for having felt that deeply.

The other day someone asked me if I thought it was okay to be sad. I didn't have to think very long. Eddy's lyric (quoted above) came to me instantly. "Yes," I said, without hesitation. But I really didn't have anything very inspiring to say after that. I just knew it was true.

I thought about the woman who wrote that poem. I considered the depth of her own sadness. Widowed as a young pregnant bride, separated from her young son by her father and second husband, betrayed by loved ones, rejected, sued by trusted friends and family members, crucified in the press, maligned by those she'd helped and healed, and then widowed again.

One account shares, that following the passing of her third, and beloved husband, Asa, she went into isolation and wasn't sure she would be able to return to her work -- work that was drawing people to her writings by the thousands.  Work that left her held in such high esteem that she would eventually be recognized as one of the most famous women of her time.

So, when this woman says that measured strains of sad, sweet music bind the power of pain, I trust that she is speaking from experience.  And the next line from that same poem:

"and wake a white-winged angel throng
of thoughts illumined by faith
and breathed in raptured song…"

is such a holy promise. I have rested my hopes upon its encouragement countless times.

Some years ago I was navigating a heart-breaking life-chapter. I'd decided that I would do it with joy. Whatever sadness I felt I would "just not feel it."  I would not let myself descend into the depths of despair that loomed like a vast dark hole. I would not walk towards the edge of that abyss, and fall into a sea of tears.

I was doing pretty good. I was proud of my resolve. Then one afternoon I was sitting in a local coffeehouse when James Taylor's "In the Bleak Midwinter" came floating through the air on a cloud of freshly roasted coffee beans.

It wasn't the words that did it. It was the music itself - the sound of his voice, the poignancy of his interpretation. At first I refused to "give in." That was, until I heard the lines:

"what then can I give Him,
empty as I am,
if I were a shepherd,
I would bring a lamb.

If I were a wise man,
I would know my part.

What then can I give Him,
I must give my heart..."

It was too much to bear.  Suddenly there was the realization that my emptiness was a legitimate spiritual feeling that I needed to fully experience. And more importantly, that my very, very empty heart was a gift -- and I was holding it back from Him -- well, it broke something wide open in me. I wasn't giving Him my honest feelings.

I'd been so sure that joy was the only reasonable gift of devotion and worship. But that song sent the first fissures of honest emotions through my fragile resolve.  And in the shattering, I gave myself permission to actually feel my sadness. I allowed myself to "go there," and to weep.

And through the lens of my tears I began to see that I wasn't actually empty at all. I was full of hope. I overflowing with deep feelings of love. The sorrow I'd been feeling wasn't because I was empty, but because I was full of yearning, longing to be understood, and accepted.

A white-winged angel throng of thoughts were released from where I'd held them prisoner behind a bulwark of pretense. My tears had melted those walls.

Sometimes, those measures "sad and sweet," can dissolve the very walls that would deprive us of seeing beyond a painful experience. Our tears provide a lens in which we discover something yet unseen about the experience itself. Perhaps through it, we have grown in humility, compassion, grace. Often we can find that we are less judgmental, or we realize that we have loved and been loved very deeply.

So, is it okay to be sad? I can only speak for myself. I welcome anything that reminds me that I have a heart, that I care, and that I feel deeply. I embrace those measures -- low, sad, and sweet -- that bind the power of pain and wake within me, a throng of angels to comfort, instruct, guide, and lead me home.

offered with Love,


Monday, November 10, 2014

"i am a good child - healing moral injury…"

"I am a good child,
born of God's grace,
whatever would try to claim
deliver me, Almighty One…"

Today, I discovered this post, "Beyond PTSD to Moral Injury," on Krista Tippet's On Being site, and it "had me at hello."

I love the word "moral." Especially since discovering Mary Baker Eddy's definition in her textbook for healing,  Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures:

"Moral. Humanity, honesty, affection, compassion.
hope, faith, meekness, temperance."

Immediately I wanted to call Krista on the phone and say, "No. No, no, no - hope can't be injured. You cannot wound compassion." I wanted to send her a link to Michelle Armstrong's beautiful song,"Unfallen." A song that speaks so gently to the heart of both the wounded -- and the wounder.

Eddy's definition of "Moral," has helped me in so many ways. It continues to bring me to my knees in gratitude.  Realizing that no matter how deep the wounds, nothing can deprive me of my right to act with moral courage -- right now -- has been an untold gift of grace. No matter what I may have done to another -- or what may have been done to me -- I cannot be kept from acting with compassion, meekness, hope and faith -- today.

A few years ago I wrote a piece titled, "An active Moral Imagination." Writing the piece was very healing for me. It provided a space for revisiting memories that had always brought me sadness. It gave me a lens through which I could reclaim the word "moral," as a vital part of my daily ministry.

To be moral, is to be dynamically hopeful. To be moral, is to be actively humane, to have a living faith [trust], to be temperate, meek, honest, affectionate.

To be "moral," was not about what I was not doing -- lying, cheating, lusting, abusing substances, being vengeful.  To be moral is to be engaged in doing something that serves God, and blesses others. And nothing on earth can injure or violate my ability to do that.

In fact, if I were lying in a bed, unable to move a muscle or even speak a word, I could still express compassion in my prayers for others. I could still think with affection, I could still bless my neighbor by holding out hope for the future of our planet, I could still be temperate in my thoughts, consciously meek.

Reading the above article, "Beyond PTSD to Moral Injury," I was flooded with so many opportunities to actually engage my moral compass -- to be moral. As I read each comment at the end of the article, I was absolutely filled with compassion, overflowing with faith, eager to reach out to others with an honest response about my own healing of "moral injury."

The world will tell you that those who have been abused, violated, or exposed to severe trauma are broken. Broken in a way that is almost impossible to heal without scarring. The deeper and longer the wounding, the harder to heal. The bullied, become the bullies. The hurt, hurts others. The abused, turn into abusers. But I am here to tell you that is just not true.

Every abused, bullied, traumatized, wounded, or angry man, woman, and child hopes that they will find freedom from the guilt, and shame, and terror associated with the injury. And the presence of that hope is the power of moral courage asserting itself. You can't just get a little bit of hope. If it's there, it represents just the tip of the iceberg -- and it, hope, is always there. To quote Emily Dickinson:

"Hope is the thing with feathers,
that perches in the soul,
and sings the tune without the words,
and never stops, at all..."

Resilient hope, persistent faith, unwavering compassion, relentless honesty...

I've seen the most wounded teen hope that she will someday be a loving mother. I've held a weeping soldier who's humanity won't let him forget that he was once a boy, who loved his brother. I've listened to the broken spirit of a convicted child molester, who wanted to help others from the confines of a state prison cell. I've watched while the most hardened among us, kneel to nurse an injured animal.

There is no moral injury -- perpetrated or felt -- that can't be healed. There is no shame so sharp and pointed that it can burrow it's way deeply enough to trespass on who we are at our spiritual core. There is no act of violence that can corrupt our essence. No regrettable choice that can undermine our right to be moral, right now -- to treat others humanely, to be honest, to show affection, to extend compassion, to be hopeful, to have faith, to be meek, to live with temperance.

And sometimes, that seeming broken-ness gives birth to a new light. From the depths of the shattering comes a new compassion, a deeper willingness to understand another's heartache, a gentling of pride, a fathomless humility.  A more profound desire to of care for animals, children, the broken-hearted among us.

No matter which side of the injury you (or a loved one) seem to be on -- the wounded, or the one who regrets having wounded others -- this line from Michelle's song is a prayer of hope:

"I am a good child…"

That's the truth for each of us. We're all just children. There are no "adults of God." And we all have a divine Parent who holds us tenderly, loves us unconditionally, and gives us an infinite number of ways to express our freedom from moral injury -- every moment, of every day. We never run of reasons to hope.

with so much affection....


Monday, November 3, 2014

"be extraordinary…"

"you have so many
extraordinary gifts,
how can you expect to live
an ordinary life…"

I have a small confession to make. From my first reading of Louisa May Alcott's classic "Little Women," I didn't dream of being the writer, Jo -- too bold. I didn't want to be the feminine beauty, Amy. I'd already lived the life of big sister: Meg -- thanks, but no thanks. And as much as I loved shy, retiring Beth, piano wasn't my forte. I wanted to be Marmee -- but I wanted to be the Susan Sarandon version of Marmee.

I wanted to be wise, rather than smart. I wanted to be the one to encourage, rather than lead. I wanted to seek inner loveliness, before fashion. Charity over wealth. I wanted to have daughters who would be little women. Daughters who would be devoted to one another, and improving the world they lived in. Daughters who would be amazing sisters. Daughters who sat tall in the saddle, and worked hard for what was right. We have been blessed with four daughters and a son. They are each extraordinary.

This weekend, our seventeen year-old twin daughters went to a local football game. In one photo from the event, they are with another friend -- someone they've known since preschool -- and in the lower corner of the photo you can see that our daughters holding holding hands. I was so moved by this precious reminder of how much they love one another.  They are amazing daughters, sisters, and friends - amazing global citizens.

Yesterday I pulled out our family's copy of the 1994 film version of "Little Women," with Susan Sarandon and Wynona Ryder. The above quote is from that film. It is what Marmee says to Jo, when Jo yearns to feel more at peace with the 19th century expectations for women. When she expresses her frustration with "not fitting in."

Jo just wishes she could be the kind of person who would be satisfied with domestic obscurity. But she isn't. She wants more. And Marmee encourages her to honor her desire for a more expansive life, with this remarkable statement:

"you have so many
extraordinary gifts,
how can you expect to live
an ordinary life…"

I have been thinking about it all day. Isn't this what every mother thinks about her daughters -- and sons. She sees each of them as having such extraordinary gifts. And isn't this what our divine Mother feels about each of us. That we are remarkable, amazing -- extraordinary. For Her children, there is no ordinariness to be lived -- not in Her household. Every child is wise, beautiful, talented, and called to a holy purpose.

I don't believe -- for an instant -- that God sorts us into children of great promise or children of mediocrity. I can't imagine any mother, saying about her yet-to-be-born infant, "hmmm, I wonder if this one is going to be great, or just so-so?" Every mother thinks that her child, is a child of promise. We learn how to mother, not from humanly perfect or fallible parents, but from our divine Mentor. She teaches our hearts to see what she sees.

We can all learn to see every child of God through Marmee's eyes.

offered with Love,


Wednesday, October 29, 2014

"You will miss these days…"

there's a shadow
hanging over me…"
- Lennon/McCartney

"There will come a time, when you will miss these days," he said with a sigh. I was sure he was either as mad-as-a-hatter, or worse yet, just-plain-mean, for saying this to me.

When I think of that conversation, and my mentor's sigh, it's not so much the lyrics from Lennon and McCartney's, "Yesterday," that come to mind, but its tone that rings true.

I'd called my friend because my life was falling apart. Everything -- my marriage, my career, my body, my dreams -- were all coming loose at the seams and I couldn't hold it together. I was afraid and empty.  And the only thing that took away that feeling of total panic and hopelessness, was a book: Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy.

I'm not saying that everything between the book's covers made sense to me, just that reading it seemed to lift the fog that engulfed every other moment.  I was tired, I'd been very ill, and I was feeling more alone than I'd ever felt in my life. I didn't have a job, and I didn't know how to navigate this landscape -- at all.

I needed to be useful, so I begged a friend to let me volunteer in her department.  Those hours spent in service to others, kept me from going mad. I sat at a desk outside her office, answered her phone, did odd office jobs, and read from the copy of Science and Health that I kept in the top right drawer  - laying open on top of pens, pencils, paper clips, and rubber bands.

It helped, but I wanted more than relief. I was hungry for healing. I was aching to find peace from the pain. I was starving for the Truth that would make it all go away -- the sorrow, the confusion, the emptiness.

All the truths I'd thought I understood -- about being a good human -- had just dissolved before my eyes. I couldn't believe that I had studied scripture, prayed daily, served my church faithfully, and was still facing such a "dark night of the soul."

But I was. And my friend was right. There would come a time when I would miss those days. There would come a day -- in the not too distant further -- when I would miss the raw ache of wanting a deeper spiritual understanding, in the midst of human delusion. And there have been days, since then, when I have yearned for the kind of "on my knees, begging for spiritual nourishment"  moments which I so sorely felt in those weeks and months of spiritual hunger. But there have also been days when I wondered why I missed them so. 

They still come, but today, I know enough to not be so afraid when I am facing the darkness. I have discovered that these are "the best of times," in what my human sense of things calls, "the worst of times." 

And I understand my mentor's sigh now. I think back to how every word of Scripture felt like a drop of water on my cracked and thirsty heart. I tear-up with gratitude for having walked that path, and for having found the waymarks left along the way by Biblical (and contemporary) spiritual travelers who must have known that others -- like me -- would follow, and need their encouragement to keep going.

And I did find a new view of things. It's funny, recently someone told me that I never remember to say, "and the healing came…" I am often remiss in acknowledging that there was a shift in my experience because I get so caught up in the stark beauty of the spiritual journey.  But there was a shift -- many shifts.

And I am so very grateful. There were so many fingerposts along the way. Small messages of encouragement that kept my head above water, and saved me from drowning in despair.

For example, I remember the first time I read this Beatitude, from Jesus' "Sermon on the Mount," in the book of Matthew with new eyes:

"Blessed are they
which do hunger and thirst
after righteousness:
for they
shall be filled."

To realize that the primary blessing was in the hungering and thirsting. And that the "being filled," was almost an after thought -- "oh yes, and they shall be filled." This gave me such a sense of peace.

And then there was that moment when I read this note of encouragement from Eddy's Science and Health:

"Our disappointments
and ceaseless woes
turn us like tired children
to the arms of divine Love,
then we begin
to learn life in divine Science.”

and realized that facing disappointments and ceaseless woes wasn't the end of my spiritual journey -- the equivalent of a rejection button on my failed prayers. But that these moments were actually the beginning of learning something new about life in divine Science -- now that was a big sigh moment.

Today, having faced many moments of disappointment and woe -- my own, or another's -- I've come to accept and embrace them with less fear, and more grace. They can still shake me, but they can't touch what I know to be true: that these are not days of failure, but days filled with spiritual hunger.  And these are the days that I will miss. Because these are often the days when the light of Truth is most clearly seen in the context of human disappointment and woe.

I've also discovered that I have it in me to really love this hunger. I know that I want these experiences that lead me deeper and deeper into the fields of the Lord -- gleaning every fallen seed.  So now, it is me that is sighing - with a sweet, sober sense of expectation and love.  I sigh, because I know, that when my world seems to be falling apart, I am just beginning a new journey.

offered with Love,


Thursday, October 23, 2014

"never to let them fall…"

"they were true love,
written in stone,
they were never alone,
they were never that far apart…"
- James Taylor

This is the kind of relationship I dreamed about, prayed for, gave my everything to. And it is the kind of relationship that I believe we all hope to find, love our way into, grow up within, and be known for.

I first heard the lyrics to JT's,"Never Die Young," in 1988, and I just knew they were written about "us." I thought we were that couple. I thought we could overcome anything. I thought we would be those cute little old people walking hand-in-hand through town at sunset.

But we weren't. And we aren't -- at least not with each other.  However, I do believe that we are a testament to the power of love and hope.  I digress.  This isn't a post about divorce - or remarriage. This is a post about Taylor's admonition to "hold them up, hold them up, never to let them fall…" This is an open letter to the residents of every "tough town" he is singing about. This is my plea, and my prayer.

A relationship is not a reality show, playing itself out in real time. It isn't meant to be conversation fodder for neighbors over coffee, or subject to community Nielsen ratings. It shouldn't be the topic of Siskel and Ebert-like thumbs up/thumbs down assessments. A relationship -- whether it is a marriage, a domestic partnership, or a very good friendship -- is not there for our entertainment. No one is asking us for our vote of confidence.

Sometimes, we get caught up in what others think of us. In the midst of our day-to-day living, it is hard to separate what is our own reality, from the stories that are being projected onto us.  And sometimes, being in a relationship is just plain hard.  It is especially difficult to navigate when we begin to feel the weight of human opinions, speculation, or just the boredom-based chatter that happens when people aren't engaged in service to others -- the kind of life-expansive charity, social advocacy, and unselfed community service that keeps us from the chocolate cupboard of gossip.

As I sit here today - listening to this much-loved song - my heart cries out for social self-restraint. For an end to what JT refers to in the lyric: "everyone used to run them down: 'they're a little too sweet, they're a little too tight…"

Please, please, please -- let's just stop it. Instead let's:

"Hold them up,
hold them up,
never to let them fall
prey to the rust, and the dust,
and the ruin that names us,
and claims us, and shames us
and ruins us all..."

Because it does you know. When we participate in knocking down someone's relationship or marriage with the kind of so-called harmless comments, speculation, criticism, sarcasm that reality TV promotes as entertaining conversation, we name ourselves as unkind, we claim our friendships as small-minded, we shame ourselves with gossip and mischief-making, and we ruin our sense of identity as a loving, supportive community -- a place to grow and thrive in.

And that dust, and rust, and ruin. It's never in them. It's never attached itself to a person, to a couple, to a family, or to a friendship. It's only on the lens that we are looking through. We can wipe the lens clean. For everyone's sake.

It's time to stop looking for the first crack in a person's spiritual poise, the first fissure in a relationship, the first (or second) mistake -- and jump on it. It's time to stop saying -- to ourselves and others, "see, I told you so." It's time to stop celebrating the widening rift in relational fault lines with self-congratulatory silent (or audible) surprise, and disdain.

This is not an easy journey. We are all doing it, with as much grace, love, trust, and courage as we know how. The last thing anyone needs is to have the acid of gossip, speculation, and "i knew it all along…" thrown in.

The Golden Rule is precious and practical. It keeps us safe from becoming another character in a reality TV show of our own making. When we think, speak, do unto (and about) others what we would want thought, said, or done unto (or about) us -- and our partner, spouse, children, family, home, business, we are on safe, holy ground. 

 And in the course of living this Golden Rule, we may just find that leaving other people's relationships alone -- or supporting them by trusting them to Love's wise guidance and protection -- we improve our own relationships, foster new ones, and strengthen our ties to the source of all love.

I love this brief statement from Mary Baker Eddy's last published work, The First Church of Christ, Scientist and Miscellany:

"No mortal is infallible, 
— hence the Scripture,
“Judge no man.”

We're all a work in progress. We all make mistakes in this laboratory of loving. But those mistakes don't define us. And, we are all in this together. We are all trying to find, and live, the kind of love that is a little too sweet, and not too tough. The kind of love that rises from among the detritus of human drama like a big balloon and soars over it with grace. I know I do. I want my relationships to inspire, not entertain.

offered with all my Love -- and prayers,


Monday, September 15, 2014

"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...

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,


Saturday, May 10, 2014

"Just as long, as you stand by me…"

"If the sky that we look upon
should tumble and fall,
all the mountains should crumble to the sea
I won't cry, I won't cry, 

no I won't shed a tear
Just as long as you stand, stand by me

Whenever you're in trouble
won't you stand by me,
oh stand by me,
stand by me,
stand by me..."

- Ben E. King

Disclaimer: I am re-posting this piece, as much because I want to share the above photo, as the following message. Today I've been humming the song "Stand By Me," and I can't hear it, without thinking of the girls.

Have you ever raised a pair of kittens from the same litter?  They can be curled up together and purring one moment, then pouncing on each other, rolling across the floor, hissing and snarling, the next!  

 Weekends at our house are sometimes like that.  Emma and Clara, our almost eleven-year-old twins [at the time of this writing], are like a pair of kittens.  They are at the same time one another's best friend and the other's most reliable opponent in board games, rodeo events, soccer scrimmages, and every race for the front seat of the car.  

When the decibel level in the house gets particularly high, and emotions run hot, I remember that these are the same two little girls, who - as babies - had to be close enough to be touching when they slept.  Even today Clara sleeps with her head at the foot of her bed so that she is closer to Emma's bed through the night. 

I have learned so much about identity and love from these two amazing little women.  From the moment I first saw them it was clear that - although they were absolutely identical visually, they were -- and are -- very, very individual in every other way.   And yet, there has never been any sense of opposites to their natures.  No good twin, bad twin.  Outgoing twin, shy twin.  Athletic twin, clumsy twin.  Never.  Their natures have been complementary -- not opposite. 

I think it is the same way that God's nature -- as Love -- is not balanced through a battle of strength and weakness.  But through the complementary qualities of strength and flexibility.

 And in the same way, the girls' natures have complemented - not opposed - one another from the start.  While Emma's lively, sparkly approach to each moment almost redefines the word "happy," Clara's deep, settled sense of being is the very expression of "joy." 

One is a rapidly flowing mountain river while the other is the deep, wide, langorous Mississippi.  And as they have matured, I am noticing that they have discovered the other's gifts, in themselves. 

When they were little, Emma was known for her gifts of speed and deftness, while Clara brought a thoughtfulness and care to the planning and execution of any project they shared. But today I see those qualities flowing more freely between them.  Working together, they have learned to bring a greater sense of balance to the interests and projects they share.  

They learned, that in any given moment they may be asked to switch roles within their partnership.  When needed, it is Clara that brings the deftness and agility, while Emma brings depth of consideration.  And there are moments, when one's sense of order, is complemented by the other's spontaneity.  

It is not order balanced by chaos, or strength balanced by weakness, but good balancing good -- different facets of the same brilliant, light-filled diamond.

Being with them -- and learning from their example -- I have discovered that I can expect this same sense of balance in myself and others.  

Individually -- and collectively -- we are not a mass of conflicting opposites, but complementary qualities, natures, and talents.  

 Within each of us is the twin natures of strength and flexibility -- never weakness.  Joy and sobriety -- not sorrow.  Compassion and wisdom -- not cruelty.  Hope and practicality -- not pessimism.  Beauty and simplicity -- not ugliness.  Grace and structure -- not clumsiness.  

We live as full-spectrum spiritual ideas -- individually and in community.  Our complementary natures stand side-by-side -- within us -- strengthening our core sense of being. And these complimentary qualities challenge one another.  They say, "come on, let's shine brilliantly and do our best -- together. 

Strength, kisses flexibility, and says, "Yes, we are different, but we are both good."  Always - and only - good.  God made us that way.  By being together, they've learned that they are each complete -- within.  They will take this with them wherever they go -- together or alone.

Just one of the lessons I've learned from my sweet little kittens.

I am so blessed to have had them as teachers.  And I am so grateful to be their mom,


Monday, May 5, 2014

"If you lose the moon, then be a star…."

"If you lose the moon,
then be a star.
It's not what you have,
it's who you are..."

It's the first weekend in May. It's the Kentucky Derby. And every first Saturday in May, I remember my first Derby.  I remember what it meant to me, then -- the horses, the riders, the trainers and owners -- and what it means to me still.  

It's been decades since I discovered that a horse could inspire a young girl to never give up. It's why I love the song, "It's Who You Are" from the Disney's "Secretariat." 

As a girl - and young woman - legendary horses like National Velvet, Seabiscuit, Secretariat, and Seattle Slew filled my dreams.  Theirs were the stories I'd cling to each time my world fell apart. These were horses that -- early on -- were marginalized and dismissed by the elite horse racing community. And yet, each one rose from obscurity to become who they were meant to be.

As a child, I thought my circumstances destined me to be less. Not less than someone else, just less -- in every way. I thought that only girls who came from families of privilege and opportunity had promise -- would go to the right schools, marry good and kind men, and become women on note -- women who would make a difference in the world.

I didn't want to be wealthy or famous, I just wanted make a difference. But the cavernous yawning - which I perceived - between my family's means, and my hopes, seemed insurmountable.

But then I started reading books, seeing newsreels, and hearing stories about dogs and horses who were given the opportunity to rise above their early starts in life.  Having someone believe in them, seemed to give them opportunities to prove their worth.

I loved these stories.  I devoured them. But I didn't know how to find someone to believe in me. And it didn't help that for many years, I didn't even believe in myself. 

But reading -- and hearing about -- these courageous creatures gave me hope, courage, and confidence during many dark days when I felt like giving up on my dreams. And the more I started believing in their stories, the more I gave myself the right to believe that it might be possible for me - to make a difference in the world - too.  

And when I opened my heart to that possibility, I started to see that I did have people in my life who cared.  Teachers, mentors, family members, counselors, neighbors, co-workers, friends who were willing to encourage me when my belief in myself faltered.

I began to look at myself as a spiritual being -- not as collected bits and pieces of circumstantial human evidence.  I started to explore what it meant to be the image and likeness of God.

 I started to wonder: What if it's actually true -- that each of us has the fullness of God's goodness to work with, in fulfilling our purpose?  Well, then there would be no creature on earth who is "less." I began to see, that how we look at ourselves -- and others -- can make all the difference in what we believe is possible. We just have to know where to start, as Paul says, in "running the race that is set before us…" That point of departure was the key.

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

"The starting point
of divine Science is,
that God, Spirit is All-in-all,
and there is no other might..."

The word "might" doesn't just mean power, but also possibility. As in, "what might happen…" When seeing the All-ness of God's goodness -- in all of His creation -- is our starting point, the possibilities for each of us is limitless.

And in this All-in-allness, there is no "less." No lesser being, no lesser potential, no lesser starting point. 

This spiritual potentiality is not based on human circumstances -- socio-economic opportunity, breeding, early education, geographic predictions, genetics, birth order, race, gender -- but on our eternal oneness with the Source of all good, God.

And the race that is set before us, in never against someone else, but with ourselves.  It is a race in which we discover more of who we are, not less.  The race is not a race of comparisons, but of spiritual self-discovery.

We have a little puppy.  We love her with all our hearts.  And when I look at Tessie, I am reminded of how silly any limitations on our potentiality really are. 

Tessie was an extremely tiny puppy. She was not able to fend for herself among her littermates and needed to extra care.  She wasn't doing well and wasn't expected to thrive.  When we took her into our home as a foster puppy we had no idea how limitless her abilities were.

Who could have imagined that a rejected, one-and-a-half pound puppy would make the kind of extraordinary difference in our home, that she has. Who would have thought that she would inspire each of us to be kinder, gentler, less selfish, and more loving -- more of who we were meant to be.

Each of us -- as spiritual beings -- has the fullness of infinite individuality to draw upon as we explore our divine purpose and potentiality. 

We don't have to become famous to make a difference in the world.  We only need to become ourselves.  We are already wonderful, amazing, extraordinary men, women, children, horses, dogs and creatures with divine purposes that are written on our hearts. 

 We can deepen that self-knowledge and become magnificently compassionate -- remarkable for our ability to recognize the good in others and celebrate their beauty and the bounty of their spiritual gifts. We can be notably humble, full of grace, abundantly kind.

We can learn from each other, and inspire one another. If we are willing to open our hearts -- and our eyes -- we can find encouragement in all of creation. We can learn to let ourselves blossom into the fullness of God's holy purpose for us.  Not because we are ambitious, but just because it's who we are. It's simply who God needs us to be -- His Allness, in all. 

This year a horse named California Chrome brought us an inspiring Kentucky Derby story.  Our little girl, Tessie, teaches us something new every day.  Our daughters are learning remarkable lessons about trust and selflessness from her and the extraordinary horses they are riding.  And I am learning from them.  Each of us is a sweet reminder to the other.  

All of nature teaches us, that we each have the potential to run the race that is set before us with confidence and grace, when we start from the right starting point -- because, it's who we are.   

offered with love,


[photo credits: Clara and Tessie by Emma / Emma and Tessie by Clara]

Thursday, April 10, 2014

"a full-orbed promise…"

"A dream is a wish your heart makes
When you're fast asleep
In dreams you lose your heartaches
Whatever you wish for, you keep
Have faith in your dreams and someday
Your rainbow will come smiling thru
No matter how your heart is grieving
If you keep on believing
the dream that you wish will come true..."

- David/Hoffman/Livingston

I love it when a Disney song, like Cinderella's "
A dream is a wish..." speaks to me of God's redemptive, transformative love. Here's the story that goes with this song.

It was a cool, cloudy day in Boston. It had been a very long season of heartache, and I was ready for the quietness of the soft air and less brilliant light.  I took solace in its promise. I needed time to sift through the ashes of the year, and find the gold -- lessons to glean after so many firy trials. 

That year, I'd been stripped of every dream I'd ever cherished. And yet, I was still standing, still breathing, still dreaming.  I was grateful that hope was still alive in me -- that there were desires I still cherished. The devastation hadn't destroyed my ability to dream.  And yet, some days were easier than others.

For the most part, I could navigate all that came in the wake of that year's deep disappointments -- as long as I kept my hand in God's, and my sights on the tasks at hand.  In truth, there was so much to be grateful for. And this space of gratitude became my resting place. Especially when I grew weary of the constant ache -- a longing for the joys of motherhood and family. 

The insidious disease that had lain waste to my body -- earlier that year -- was healed.  The job I'd loved -- but had given up in order to parent our son -- was mine again. And although my husband and I were finding our way through some dark days, we
were finding our way. Each day brought us closer to God, if not to each other.

On this particular day, I was truly happy.  I loved my job. I was immersed in projects that stretched me professionally, made great demands on me as a spiritual thinker, and brought me immense joy. 

That morning, in the midst of negotiating a contract for outside services, I realized that I needed a signature from a member of our Board of Directors. The Executive Assistant in our office was not at her desk.  But, it was a gorgeous, blustery day in Boston. So I took her absence, as an excuse to wrap myself in a sweater and scarf, and drift across the plaza for the needed signatures myself. 

I took the elevator to the ground floor, and exited the large brass doors that stood sentinel over our building. But as I rounded the steps of the large church to my left, I caught a glimpse of something that stopped me in my tracks.

There, sitting on the curbing that hemmed a rare stretch of urban lawn, was a young family.  Mom, dad, and preschool-age daughter taking time out for a midday visit.  It was easy to see that these were adoring parents. Their hearts were devoted to this precious little girl.  And the look on her face, as she smiled up at them, was something I'd long been dreaming of. 

It stopped me cold.  In one heart-wrenching moment I went from the joy of feeling purposeful and mission-filled, to heart-broken and hopeless.  Envy flooded my being.  You aren't really happy it screamed."  "You want

I did. I did want what they had. I wanted a child. I wanted to be a mommy. I wanted to be a real family -- not just two people trying to make it work. 

But I was also bone-tired. I felt like I'd been through a war -- within, and without. I was battle weary and sad. This feeling of emptiness -- this gaunt want -- just couldn't continue. It had to stop.

So I plopped myself right down on the marble steps of that church, and tried to get a grip on myself.  I was so tired of that feeling.  I was so ready to be free of baby-envy.  It had been going on for too many years.  I really didn't want to want something I couldn't have.  I wanted to be happy with my lot in life.  I was tired of this feeling and I wanted it to stop. 

In my desperation I said to God, "I am not moving from these steps until you heal me of this envy.  I'm going to stare at that family until I can look at them, and not want what they have." 

And then I just sat there watching them.  I couldn't help but notice how tender this young father was with his daughter. It was impossible to not see how devoted this mom was to her young family. 

The love in the child's eyes, the trust in her reach, the joy in her laughter -- as her daddy lifted her up in his arms -- was undeniable.  I could almost feel it from across the gray pavement where I sat perched on the cold marble steps.  

They were oblivious of me -- and my envy.  While I sat there feeling so utterly helpless -- unable to banish my love that image of family and parenthood sitting squarely and heavily on my heart -- the thought came with such tenderness, "If you are able to be conscious of how wonderful and good that picture is, then it is already in your consciousness. And if it is in your consciousness, you already include it -- it is already yours."  I "got it" instantly. 

If I could appreciate something. That it was good, lovely -- and love-able -- it was already mine.  I included it.  Since, as Mary Baker Eddy says, "Consciousness constructs a better body..." The good that I was clearly conscious of, was already present within me. And it was constructing a better body of family, motherhood, life -- moment-by-moment -- in me.

No one could take, from me, what I was conscious of. Nothing could deprive me of my right to appreciate good -- in any form.  It was mine.  Everytime I saw a young family, a happy home, a satisfied professional, a charitable colleague and appreciated that "picture," I was realizing it in my consciousness. Therefore, I already included it. 

And as I appreciated (realized the value of, and was grateful for) each instance of good, that good appreciated (grew in value -- just the way money placed in an interest bearing account "appreciates") in my own life.  I could trust this law of appreciation.  I could rest my hopes upon it. 

As I unfolded myself from the cold church steps, I found that I was actually warmer than I had been in a long time.  My heart was full of appreciation for that young family -- who were now becoming a distant blur as they walked "daddy" back to his office at the far end of the plaza.

It didn't matter whether there was a young family right in front of me, or just the memory of them that I held in my heart, I included what they represented. It was already mine and no one could take it from me. I was pregnant with the promise.

I have spent the ensuing years exercising my right to be conscious of good.  To realize that what I am conscious of, 
is mine. And by virtue of its presence in my thought, is already part of my experience.

For me this has been the key to having all of my dreams
already come true. 

Everytime I appreciate seeing girlfriends laughing at a cafĂ© table, I feel closer to my own friends -- even though they may be hundreds of miles away.  Everytime I see a mother and her teenage daughter shopping, I know that I include that unique mother-daughter joy -- even though my own daughter is now living half a world away.

Whenever I am suddenly aware that a checker at the supermarket, or a customer service representative at the other end of the phone, is happy in her work -- helping others as she carries out her job -- I feel that "job satisfaction" as part of my own work.

Mary Baker Eddy, in her short volume, Unity of Good, says:

"Everything is as real as you make it, and no more so. 
What you see, hear, feel, is a mode of consciousness,
and can have no other reality than the sense
you entertain of it….All that is beautiful and good in
your individual consciousness is permanent."

Walking through life is an amazing adventure.  I now know that what I appreciate of a husband's tenderness, a child's respect, a mother's devotion, a family's security, a home's warmth, an executive's integrity -- is all of my dream's coming true -- wherever I see it. It is mine. I am conscious of it. It is part of the body of my thinking. 

What a vastly wonderful world we live in. What promises there are for us as we walk out the door and commit to seeing good everywhere. And when we do, we are having our part in the wholeness of impartial and universal good --Love's full-orbed promise.

offered with love,


Friday, March 28, 2014

"spiritual biodiversity…"

"This is the sound of all of us.
Singing with love and the will to trust.
Leave the rest behind it will turn to dust.
This is the sound of all of us."*

The relationship between the inner landscape, and Alan Savory's principles of Holistic Resource Management, have fascinated -- and inspired -- me for over two decades. 

My first introduction to HRM was through Byron Shelton, who at the time was the Ranch Director for the Adventure Unlimited Ranches in Buena Vista, Colorado. Byron's enthusiasm for Holistic Resources Management was contagious.

I remember that sunny afternoon in June. I'd asked Byron to walk me through the fundamentals of HRM.  He explained that native grasslands did not need protection from large herding animals, but thrived in symbiosis with them.

He went on to explain that the practice of fencing off our agri-delineated land so that it would not be trampled on by cattle -- thus leaving it undisturbed and fallow -- was actually depriving the land of its most vital relationship. A relationship that could transform our global landscape. A relationship between the land its inhabitants that had potential for reversing the desertification of grasslands, pastures and prairies worldwide.

He showed me a beautiful -- but fenced off -- high country pasture.  Upon first examination it was lovely.  Filled with small clusters of flowering plants.  He explained that those arrestingly lovely flowering clusters were called forbes.  And that each forbe -- although beautiful to look at -- represented a self-seeding cluster that was surrounded by arid, dry, cracked, earth devoid of organic plantlife.  He explained that, in fact, each cluster -- however beautiful -- would continue to grow smaller and smaller as it self-seeded.  And as each cluster grew smaller all that would remain would be a pasture of dry, arid, useless soil.

He explained that by removing the fences and allowing the large herding animals -- cattle, elk, bison, etc -- to trample on and break up the hard, dry soil we would be taking the first step in renewing the land. This breaking up of the soil allows the rain water and snowmelt which washes through the pasture to collect in the broken up land, to penetrate more deeply, and thus rebuild the natural water table far below the surface topsoil.

He also explained that when the large herding animals ate the nourishing grasses, their digestive system (including natural, efficient waste management) would spread the seed throughout the pasture by way of their dung.  Thus providing a warm germinating medium for the seed, and preventing it from blowing away in the wind. 

I was fascinated.

This all made so much sense to me then. And it still does today. 

And I've loved considering its implications for other landscapes -- community, church, family. And for me, most importantly, the invironment -- the inner pastures of the heart and mind -- where the most vital transformation can take place.

How often do we think that the best way to protect our principles -- our values, traditions, or dogmas -- is to fence ourselves off from anything that would trample on our precious, beautiful, well-patted-down ideals?  We self-seed. And we become thrilled with the beautiful flowering plants that begin to spring up.  But on closer examination those flowering clusters are growing smaller and smaller as their re-population within the pasture becomes less and less frequent.

How do we "save" those ideals we love so dearly, and care for with such fervor? I believe it is through rigorous spiritual biodiversity.

Mary Baker Eddy, advises, in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, that:

"All nature teaches God's love to man." 

If we look at nature -- and at what the Savory Institute has tested and proven in sub-Saharan Africa, as well as in agri-communities throughout the world -- we begin to learn that we must begin by taking down our self-preservationist fencing. We can start by removing the mental boundaries we constructed between "us" and "them." Just as in Holistic Resource Management principles, the pasture lives in symbiosis with the cattle, each providing an important counterpoint to the other's survival -- so do our most loved ideas grow by being challenged and investigated by others. We did deeper for fresh water and our roots grow stronger in being tested.

I am beginning to think that we must allow our much-loved, well-protected, and self-certain belief-landscapes to be questioned, reasoned through, and tested. In doing so, that the soil will be broken up and aerated. This well-turned mental soil is then ready to receive and drink in the healing, nourishing, refreshing waters of inspiration. This is soil that receives new seed eagerly. This is fertile ground for sustainable growth. 

And when we share the seed without restraint, we allow those precious flowers to be eaten --  taken in, chewed on, digested -- and yes, spread both on the wind, and through the process of bio-elimination.

Yes, our well-loved beliefs may get stirred up with the soil, but so will the self-certainty and cultural mis-interpretations that come with decades of self-preservation.

I've been exploring the principles of Alan Savory's Holistic Resource Management to govern the care of my in-vironment -- my inner landscape -- and my sense of community.  I have learned to welcome those "others" who are willing to challenge my self-certainty. I am not afraid to have my beliefs examined and turned upside-down by genuine inquiry. It is often through this exchange that I receive fresh inspiration, find that the soil of my heart is less fallow, and my inner water table renewed.   

And I love it when the flowers of my pretty forbe-like thought-clusters are chewed on by those who are interested -- not just in hearing about the beliefs that I cherish -- but are willing to share their own in spiritual symbiosis. 

Yes, sometimes this leads to my beliefs being rejected -- eliminated from their system of thinking. But it is also true that through this process, the essence of those same ideas will be shared more broadly, and foster new growth. 

These are just some thoughts that have been absolutely critical to the vitality and sustainability of my own inner ecosystem.   I admit, I may have taken what Byron shared that day and unwittingly walked all over it -- I sure hope not. These principles transformed my sense of what it meant to live and think in a diverse spiritual thought-community. It has made such a difference in the way I see the world, and my place in it.

Recently The Savory Institute was honored by TED as having produced one of the "
TED Ads Worth Spreading". 

I am not surprised.  Their video was produced by Foresight Media, under the direction of Laurie Benson. Its purpose is to introduce a larger audience to principles that have the potential of reversing devastating environmental concerns and giving thought leaders, ranchers, and spiritual pioneers around the globe a model for sustainable inner health and viability. 

Thank you Alan Savory, 
The Savory Institute,  Joel and Laurie Benson, John and Alison Abdelnaur at Foresight Media. And thank you Byron Shelton. Your willingness to take an afternoon and explain these principles to an eager listener was life-transforming.

with Love,


*Please enjoy the Wailin' Jennys "
One Voice" -- it speaks to me tonight.

Friday, February 21, 2014

"Like a circle in a spiral…."

"Like a circle in a spiral,
like a wheel within a wheel.
Never ending or beginning
in an ever-spinning reel..."

This hauntingly beautiful version of Alan and Marilyn Bergman's 1968 classic, "The Windmills of Your Mind," by Barbra Streisand leaves me speechless. For this song so closely mirrors how it felt. But I am getting ahead of myself.

In my late teens and early 20s a series of tragic events left me feeling as if my well-planned future was no longer my own. I felt as if all I'd come to count on had been yanked out from under me. And even though I may have seemed to be rolling with the punches on the outside -- on the inside, I was spinning out of control. I was terrified.

I needed to find my ground. But the landscape was foreign. I felt a quiet desperation roiling within. It was like being chased in a dream, but not being able to scream. I didn't know where to turn. Everything I had grown to trust -- hard work, obedience, patience, even God -- seemed to have let me down or disappeared. So I turned to what I knew -- patterns of order and repetition. It was the one thing I felt I could control. Keeping things tidy, and being hyper-vigilant in my habits and pursuits felt soothing. I made lists -- of everything. I had routines -- for everything.

One day, a work colleague -- who also happened to be the school psychologist -- casually observed that I always repeated the same series of steps while carrying out a task. She casually accused me of being obsessive and compulsive. But there was nothing casual about it for me. From that point on, she would just say, "O.C.D." whenever she saw me trying to control my environment or self-soothe through repetitive or perseverant behaviors. She thought it was a bit crazy, but endearing. I felt exposed and vulnerable. But again, I coped by trying to hide the behaviors under the cloak of a love for "order."

When I returned to the study and practice of Christian Science, I prayed deeply for freedom from what I had come to accept as a case of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. I'd vacillate between feeling truly free of the anxiety that seemed to trigger my need for control, and a blind self-justification for my odd routines and peculiar habits. Citing the rigorous personal demands of thought-leaders I admired brought little comfort. I was ashamed of my frantic need for control, yet couldn't seem to live without it.

Then one afternoon I was reading a paragraph from the "Preface" of Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures. It was one that I'd loved deeply from early childhood:

"The physical healing of Christian Science results now,
as in Jesus' time, from the operation of divine Principle,
before which sin and disease
lose their reality in human consciousness
and disappear as naturally and as necessarily
as darkness gives place to light
and sin to reformation.
Now, as then, these mighty works
are not supernatural, but supremely natural.
The are the sign of Immanuel, or "God with us,"
-- a divine influence ever present in human consciousness
and repeating itself..."

Something shifted in my heart. For the first time in years I wasn't fighting the anxiety. I glimpsed that I didn't need to hypnotically repeat behaviors to soothe my anxiety. I didn't need to perseverate. I didn't need patterns to assure me that things were under control. Truth was repeating Itself, Truth was asserting Its control in my life, Truth would persevere without my help, Truth would insist, Truth would not let go.

Trusting in the active, ever-operative presence of Truth started to bring peace in ways that I'd never felt before. Whenever I would begin to feel frantic and need to self-soothe, I would remind myself that I could trust that God was with me as:

"…a divine influence ever present in human consciousness
repeating itself, coming now as was promise...."

Truth -- God -- is insistent, demanding, relentless, untiring, determined, perseverant, importunate, relentless, continuous, perpetual, incessant in Her love for each of us. She whispers,

"Peace, be still..." 

to our hearts. She is an alert Mother who never loses sight of her children. She is tireless and watchful of us and knows our need. She urges us to rest in Her Love. And because I love Her, I trust her. Isn't this the most perfect expression of love -- to trust and be trusted.

By giving those qualities of repetitiveness, persistence, perseverance back to God, I found my freedom from the identifying them as "mine" -- as negative features of a personality separate from God.

I am so deeply grateful. It wasn't about destroying or fixing a broken me, but realizing that, as John promises in the book of Revelation:

"The kingdoms of this world,
are become the kingdoms of our God
and of His Christ,
and He shall reign forever."

The control was never mine to lose. Taking it back was not the answer -- trusting God was. She holds us, like a circle in a spiral.

shared with affection,


[photo of Jess and Ava Norsic by Jason Norsic]