Saturday, March 4, 2017

"be still, be still, and know..."



"Be still, and know that I'm with you.
Be still, and know that I am here.
Be still, be still, and know..."

In the darkness, peace felt fragile. Every mistake I'd ever made seemed to parade itself across the backdrop of my closed eyes. Sleep evaded me.

I had been lying there for hours, rehashing decisions that seemed so much clearer in hindsight. I was so tired of being haunted by all the ways I could have done things differently: gone to the right -- instead of the left, paused for one minute longer, held my peace -- instead of speaking. I was exhausted from thinking and re-thinking.

I lay there awash in regret while the house breathed its winter sounds. I'd been praying -- without ceasing -- when a simple scripture from the Psalms -- and one that is central in this beautiful lyric from The Fray's, "Be Still." broke through.

Be still. And know. I am. It was the perfect reminder. I needed to get off the hamster wheel of human thinking. I needed to be still, and know. Not think, but know. I stilled, not just my thrashing, sheet-twined body, but my unsettled heart. I lay on my back, folded my hands, and took long deep breaths until I felt the sweetness of a quiet mind.

Then I asked myself: what do you know to be true? Not, what do you think is true? But what do you absolutely know to be true -- right now. Then I listened. Within moments it came. "I know I am." It was simple and pure. I know that I am conscious. I know that I am aware of loving my husband, my children. I know that I am capable of gratitude -- right now. I know that I still [always, persistently, nevertheless] love God, good. I know that I am able to be truthful, quiet, humble, loving.

It may not seem like a profound insight -- but in the dark, when the demons of regret are circling and thoughts rush around like wild creatures in an approaching storm -- it is like having the gentling hand of a divine Parent rest upon your heart.

I didn't fall asleep immediately that night. But the darkness changed from foreboding to comforting. I felt swaddled in the stillness like an infant -- it's closeness calming my heart and mind. Thinking gave way to knowing, and in that knowing there was a sweet peace.

In Scripture, John tell us:

"Yes shall know the Truth,
and the Truth shall make you free."
 

He didn't say, "ye shall think the truth, and the truth shall make you free," but know. The different between thinking and knowing is a profound one for me. There is a peace in knowing what I know vs. thinking about something.

I didn't have to do battle with those demons -- Mind, God, had asserted Its divine authority. Knowing, overwhelmed human thought-taking. Gratitude for what I absolutely knew to be true, swept away the cobwebs of speculation, regret, memory, and imagination. The final chapter of Mary Baker Eddy's textbook, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, titled "Fruitage," includes testimonies of healing. C.B.G. of Hudson, Massachusetts shares this experience - and it so perfectly describes what I felt that night -- and continue to feel, each time thinking yields to knowing:


"I closed the book and with head bowed in prayer
I waited with longing intensity for some answer.
How long I waited I do not know, but suddenly,
like a wonderful burst of sunlight after a storm,
came clearly this thought,

“Be still, and know that I am God.”

I held my breath — deep into my hungering thought
sank the infinite meaning of that “I.”
All self-conceit, egotism, selfishness, everything
that constitutes the mortal “I,” sank abashed
out of sight. I trod, as it were, on holy ground.
Words are inadequate to convey the fulness of that
spiritual uplifting, but others who have had similar
experiences will understand. From that hour I have had
an intelligent consciousness of the ever-presence
of an infinite God who is only good."
 

For me, this knowing space, is a place of such profound peace that I never want to leave it. I find myself looking for ways to return to it throughout each day. I seek the quiet spaces, the covert places, where I can curl myself into the knowing -- the I am of being, the consciousness of Love alone as Life. It is the place of stillness -- nevertheless-ness. It is the place I love.

offered with Love,


Kate

Sunday, February 26, 2017

"from You, I get the story..."



"Listening to You,  I get the music
Gazing at You, I get the heat
Following You, I climb the mountain
I get excitement at Your feet.

Right behind You, I see the millions
On You, I see the glory
From You, I get opinion
From You, I get the story..."



I have to admit, I was never a big fan of The Who.  And I never understood their 1975 rock opera, "Tommy." But recently, lines from their long-forgotten, "Listening to You," have been coming to me in the strangest moments -- stillness, silence, prayer.

And it's the song's opening lyrics -- See me. Feel me. Touch me. Heal me. -- that most often come as a dialogue with the divine.  It is as if God is inviting me into a deeper conversation.


See me [He says]: See My hand in everything. Whether it seems a blessing or a cursing. Since I am the only Cause and Creator, if it is, it is of Me. It is only your perception -- your view -- of it that needs to change. Find Me in everything. Find My presence, My purpose, My power.

Mary Baker Eddy writes in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures:


"All that is made,
is the work of God,
and all is good."
 

This is a definitive statement. It is not a suggestion to consider. It is not conditional. It is imperative and absolute.  Therefore, my "job," is to see Him -- God -- in all things.

Feel me: Stop giving this most precious sense of "feeling" to another creator. Don't let anyone, or anything, hijack your right to feel Me -- every moment. Feel love. Feel joy. Feel gratitude. Feel peace. Feel the presence of stillness. I am here. Feel Me.

Again, Eddy's words confirm this spiritual right to feel Him. She writes in Rudimental Divine Science:


"You must feel
and know that God
alone governs man..."
 

This is a promise. You must. And she starts this promise, with our right to actually feel God's government -- even before knowing it. So how do I feel this Truth -- the Truth that God alone governs me, and mine, and all? 


I feel it every time I find myself setting aside self-concern, for what is in the best interests of another. I feel it in the way that Love is able to steady my resolve in the face of fear. I felt this morning, when every thing in me screamed that I could not possibly do something I had committed to doing.  And yet, Love prevailed and I was able to rise to the occasion.

The other night, as I was praying, it was the third line that took me by surprise in my conversation with God.

Touch me: Reach for Me. Linger in My love for you. Let your heart find refuge in My hold. Rest your concerns upon My promise. There was a visceral sense to this touch. It wasn't just a word -- there was weight and substance to it.

In Science and Health, Eddy refers to this "touch" when she suggest:


"Some people yield slowly
to the touch of Truth."
 


And in her collection, Miscellaneous Writings 1883 - 1896 she writes:


"The easel of time presents
pictures — once fragmentary and faint — now
rejuvenated by the touch of God’s right hand.
Where joy, sorrow, hope, disappointment,
sigh, and smile commingled, now hope
sits dove-like."
 

Ahh, to feel this touch. To actually feel it. My heart cries out for it's weight upon my life. To feel gentled by God's right hand. To know the rejuvenating power of this touch -- like sunlight upon the frost-blighted bud.

And my response.

Heal me:  Dear Father-Mother God, show me my innate wholeness. I am not asking You to fix what is broken, for You have never left me vulnerable to breaking. You have always been with me to hold me intact. I am your image and likeness -- pixel-for-pixel. There is not one mental molecule of my being that has the power to "go rogue." Heal me. Heal me.

This time, it was the first verse of a hymn from the Christian Science Hymnal that washed over, and around, and through me:


"In speechless prayer and reverence,
Dear Lord, I come to Thee;
My heart with love Thou fillest,
Yea, with humility.
My bread and wine Thou art,
With Thee I hold communion;
Thy presence healeth me
Thy presence healeth me."
 

Because of these song-based conversations with God -- which happen more often than you might imagine -- I find myself singing songs I'd long forgotten, and listening for new meaning.

Listening to Him, I get the story. Because the story -- no matter what it may seem to be at first glance -- is always His. It is always about Him.

offered with Love,


Kate

Monday, February 20, 2017

"gentle on my mind..."




"It's knowing that your door
is always open, and your path
is free to walk..."


I love this version of John Hartford's "Gentle on My Mind" by The Band Perry. But it's Glen Campbell's 1967 recording that first caught my heart.

It was 1969 and everything felt at loose ends. Our family had pulled up stakes and moved over 2,000 miles across the country. We were living with relatives while our parents secured housing. I felt so untethered that summer. I was looking for anything I could latch on to, and call my own.

The teenage sons of long-time family friends were kind, respectful, and good. It didn't take long for me to develop a paralyzing crush on the oldest boy. Days were soon filled with tennis, swimming, berry-picking, and playing records in my cousins' basement where we'd talk, and dance, and play cards, while our parents visited upstairs.

I believe, that in his eyes - I was a child. I certainly looked like one. Three years younger, and already very small for my age, I was more like someone he should babysit rather than date. But this didn't stop me from dreaming -- the way young girls do. He was kind, but certainly not interested in dating a little girl.

It must have been obvious to my parents, aunts, uncles, and his parents -- to say nothing of my cousins. If he was coming over I was animated and happy. If he wasn't, I sat by myself on the porch, read Russian novels, and sighed -- a lot.

One day, my very intuitive aunt joined me on the porch. In her hand was a copy of Mary Baker Eddy's small volume, Miscellaneous Writings, 1883 - 1896. At first she didn't even refer to the book she was holding. She simple asked me what was on my mind. And for some reason, I was honest with her. 


 I told her that I was thinking about him.  I admitted how impossible - I knew it was - for us to ever become a couple. Not only was he not interested in dating a little girl, but we were very different. He was an adventurer, a wanderer, someone who saw a horizon and simply had to find out what lay beyond. I, as I told my aunt, was a homebody, a bookworm, someone who sought out small spaces and quiet corners.

My aunt didn't remind me that I was barely old enough to be allowed to stay up late and watch Bonanza -- much less be thinking about my future with a boy who was already shaving and planning a solo road trip to Colorado after college. She spoke with me as if I were a young woman. She addressed -- not the difference in our ages -- but the differences in our dreams.

She reminded me that my dreams were filled with visions of ivy-covered halls at a prestigious university, while his were filled with mountains, rivers, vast open highways, and endless western skies. Without saying much more, she handed me her copy of Miscellaneous Writings, and walked back into the house. Holding it in my hand, I noticed that there was a long slip of soft blue grosgrain ribbon, pressed between two pages. After she left, I opened to where the ribbon had been placed, and found that she'd marked a passage for me to read. It was perfect:


"We should remember that the world is wide;
that there are a thousand million different human wills,
opinions, ambitions, tastes, and loves; that each person
has a different history, constitution, culture, character,
from all the rest; that human life is the work, the play,
the ceaseless action and reaction upon each other
of these different atoms.

Then, we should go forth into life with the
smallest expectations, but with the largest patience;
with a keen relish for and appreciation of everything
beautiful, great, and good, but with a temper so genial
that the friction of the world shall not wear upon
our sensibilities; with an equanimity so settled that
no passing breath nor accidental disturbance shall
agitate or ruffle it; with a charity broad enough
to cover the whole world’s evil, and sweet enough
to neutralize what is bitter in it, — determined
not to be offended when no wrong is meant, nor
even when it is, unless the offense be against God.

Nothing short of our own errors should offend us.
He who can wilfully attempt to injure another,
is an object of pity rather than of resentment;
while it is a question in my mind, whether there is
enough of a flatterer, a fool, or a liar,
to offend a whole-souled woman."
 

The first thing I felt was "known." I can't tell you why, at 14-going-on-15, I was so moved by this passage, but it touched me deeply.  And, it was perfect. It was grown up and thoughtful. To think that this aunt --who I admired so much for her dignity, compassion, and grace -- would think of me as a "whole-souled woman," gave me something to hold on to. It was the very anchoring I had been seeking.

Almost 50 years later, this passage - in my own copy of Miscellaneous Writings - is always marked with a slip of grosgrain ribbon and marked with blue chalk. It has seen me through arguments with my sister, break-ups, not getting "the job" I'd thought was mine, political disappointments and dissent, as well as  countless opportunities for humility, meekness, and grace.

The boy -- he went on to become an extraordinary young man of substance and adventure. Me -- I still love books, quiet spaces, and the simple things of home, spiritual service, and family. That summer, my aunt helped me let go of the wrong anchor, to find my true grounding in what was enduring, changeless, and beautiful. I will always be grateful.  Each person that comes into our hearts, can forever remain gentle on our minds.

offered with Love,


Kate

Friday, February 3, 2017

"a sweet and certain sense..."




"God is Love,
God is Love,
if it's all I ever learn in life,
it's all I need to know..."


Outside my cabin, I could hear a group of girls serenading a boy's cabin just down the hill. Their sweet voices lifted into the night sky like fireflies turning into stars. I closed my eyes hoping to capture some of their joy as it rose over the tall pines that stood like sentinels watching over us all.

I was reaching for joy, but it seemed so beyond my grasp that night. I'd received a call earlier in the evening that shook me to my core. Sorrow and bewilderment circled like coyotes looking for a place in my heart. I was on full alert, but tired. I needed a companion in the watch. Mindy Jostyn's beautiful, "God is Love" was a friend in the dark.

I let her remind me through the night that if I took nothing away from this experience -- but an understanding of what it meant that God is Love -- it would be enough. The hope of healing was alive in me. But what that healing would look like seemed elusive. In some ways, I didn't even know what to hope for. Would I stop feeling sad? Would the pain disappear? Would my heart cease to ache? Would someone tell me that the call I'd received earlier had never really happened?

I'd been sitting in the dark for hours, when I suddenly felt an overwhelming desire to read from Mary Baker Eddy's primary text on spiritual healing, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures. I had a long history with finding healing and comfort in her pages. It was exactly what I needed at that moment. I turned on the lamp and opened my dog-eared copy randomly.

My eyes fell on these words from a longer sentence:


"...the proof of healing, 
a sweet and certain sense
that God is Love."
 

It washed over, and through, me like a dam breaking upstream. The proof of healing wasn't going to be seen in a changed physical picture. I wasn't going to hear different news, or wake up to a different report. But I would know this healing. I would have absolute proof of healing.  I would feel it in a "a sweet and certain sense that God is Love" filling my heart -- filling my life.

I turned off the lamp and returned to the stillness of the night. I listened to Mindy's voice -- and I knew I was healed. I felt it. It started as a glowing ember at my core. I felt Spirit breathe upon its presence - all the hope, trust, and affection I held in my heart. Before long, I could feel that "sweet and certain sense that God is Love" radiating, warming, and filling every dark corner of the night. I was healed. I had proof.

Elsewhere in Science and Health, Mary Baker Eddy assures us:


"The depth, breadth, height,
might, majesty, and glory
of infinite Love fill all space.
That is enough!"
 

And it really was. It was enough, just to know that, "God is Love." I could actually feel that it was the most important thing I would ever learn in life, and that it was all that I would ever really need to know.

On the surface of things, nothing had changed. But deep within my heart I actually felt it -- that sweet and certain sense that God is Love -- and it was all the proof of healing I needed.  I have returned to this experience many times since that night.

In fact, just today my heart was heavy. The news was overwhelming. One alarming report after another. One disturbing account immediately on the heels of the last. The information was coming rapid fire. It felt like I had been praying -- without ceasing -- for days. I couldn't even imagine what healing might look like when there was so much to be healed, and so many issues to be prayerfully addressing. 


 As I stood at the stove waiting for the tea kettle to boil, the strains of Mindy's "God is Love," washed through my heart like the soundtrack from a favorite film. I recalled that night, over a decade earlier, when I had felt so engulfed in grief. And I remembered -- the only proof of healing I needed to feel was:

"a sweet and certain sense
that God is Love"
 

I closed my eyes, quieting the clamor of the human mind.  And there it was -- the feeling. That sweet and certain sense that God is Love filling my heart. It was all the proof I needed. It was enough.
 


offered with Love,


Kate

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

"there's room at the table..."



"Let our hearts
not be hardened
to those living on the margins,
there is room at the table
for everyone..."



Sometimes a Carrie Newcomer song, like "Room at the Table" is all it takes to readjust the balance of things -- on the side of humanity.

Being the granddaughter of immigrants is a common badge that I share with millions of men, women, and children. I know that this does not make me "special," but for some reason I've always felt special because of it. My connection to Ireland feels less diluted because I know that I've actually been held by grandparents who'd made that long voyage across the Atlantic. I've imagined that my eyes are a particular shade of blue that is only found in tide pools at the base of the Cliffs of Moher. I dream of Irish poets and feel most "in my skin" when the the sky lowers into a sea of slate gray and is heavy with rain.  I want to believe that I would understand Gaelic at a cellular level, and that Celtic music echoes through my veins.

I know that I don't look foreign to my neighbors. My maiden name doesn't alarm anyone. I don't have to hide my ancestry, or worry that I will be called a lazy Mick -- like my grandfathers did. I rarely hear jokes about my countrymen.  And I don't have to wonder if my grandsons would be employable if their surnames were decidedly Irish.

But it is never far from my heart that I am the granddaughter of Irish immigrants. About ten years ago, my sister did research I'd never done. She traced our family tree, was able to find an early New York Times newspaper article about our grandmother, and laid out a soft map of how we'd found our way from the west coast of Ireland to Ellis Island, Brooklyn, and rural New Jersey. She photo-copied documents and photos, and sent them to me as a birthday gift. Those papers are precious to me.

But how would I be feeling today if the United States felt threatened by Ireland and my status as a citizen were at risk? What if my daughters were detained, threatened with deportation, or held for questioning about their religious beliefs -- just because our family entered this country as immigrants? Would I be proudly sharing our family tree with my children? How would I explain to them why it mattered that their Irish-Catholic great-grandparents and their Irish-Protestant ancestors may have once embraced beliefs that now put them - and their sense of home - in jeopardy.

I read news reports, watch videos, hear heart-breaking stories of immigrants being persecuted for no other reason than because of their country of origin or religious lineage.  And it takes everything in me to stay calmly focused on solutions rather than weeping with frustrated rage. So far, I am able to keep the paralyzing feelings of sorrow and helplessness at bay, and pray without ceasing.

We are all children of one Father-Mother God. I remember hearing an interview with a Messianic Rabbi some years ago. The interviewer asked him a question that I'd long-wondered about. He asked the Rabbi why Jesus -- a good Jewish boy who knew the Torah, went to temple, was known to have spent time in conversation with lawyers and rabbis, and was doing good things in the community -- was not a legitimate candidate for the Messiahship by the temple leaders of his time.

The Rabbi replied that a Messiah was more than a just good Jew. A Messiah needed to be a nationalistic leader. He needed to defend the Jewish nation as "the chosen people." He needed to believe that they alone were the rightful heirs to "the promised land," and that it should be his sole responsibility to serve "the lost sheep of the house of Israel." Whether this was a theologically accepted view of "why," or just this Rabbi's take on it, it made sense to me.

At the beginning of his ministry, it seems that Jesus is on track with this path towards fulfilling his Messianic calling. But there is a decided shift that seems to take place. In one instance, we see him dismissing a Canaanite woman who asks him for help. Yet this is a mother, and she doesn't slink away after having been rebuked for her boldness in approaching the Master. She questions him, "are not even the dogs worthy of the crumbs that fall from the master's table?" And he humbly reconsiders his response to her, saying: "O woman, great is thy faith..." 


Before long we see him referencing Samaritans -- strangers -- in his parable about how to treat others. He tells those following him that a Centurion "gets it" and that he has "not seen such great faith -- no, not in Israel."

In traveling from Judaea to Galilee, crossing through Samaria, he asks a woman to draw water from a well that he might quench his thirst, and spiritually assuage hers -- her surprise is unfeigned, the Jews have no dealings with Samaritans -- but he did. He acknowledges the gratitude of Samaritan, who who returns to give thanks when the nine others - who are healed - do not. 


He allows himself to be touched by a woman with an issue of blood, calls her out of the crowd, and celebrates her faith -- an act unimaginable in the culture and times he has grown up in. He recommends the behavior of a publican who shows greater humility than a Pharisee, and when the Romans and Greeks come seeking him during a feast, he knows his time has come. He has boldly crossed the borders of geography, ethnicity, gender, and socio-religious norms. His leadership has endured beyond his own brief span of "time in office."

I still have so much to learn from this man who, as Mary Baker Eddy writes, "defined love." I think I will be discovering new ways to love through the Scriptural record of his actions -- forever.  His admonition to "go and do likewise" in following the footsteps of a good Samaritan who cares for a wounded stranger, puts him on his own donkey, and provides for his lodging and board as he recovers -- is clear. His suggestion that if we have done "these things -- feed, shelter, care for -- one of the least among us, we have done it unto [him]," leaves no question, for me, about how we are to treat others.  The examples of his humanity never cease to humble me in my own efforts to love generously, share selflessly, and pray without ceasing.

If I am leaving the least among us out of the feast,  if my heart is hardened to the plight of those living on the margins, I have lost my way. At this table that has been prepared for us, in the wilderness of a messy world, there is room for everyone. May we never forget that we -- or our ancestors -- were once waiting to be welcomed.

offered with Love,


Kate

Monday, January 16, 2017

"we were made for these times..."


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


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

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

I can't remember -- in more than 700 posts on this blog, stretching over 12 years -- ever re-posting someone else's piece in its entirety. But Estes' article, "We Were Made for These Times," copied below, says it all so beautifully - and with such profound grace - that I needed to share it with those I love. I hope it edifies your hope, strengthens your resolve, and reminds you that you, too, were made for these times.

We Were Made for These Times
by Clarissa Pinkola Estes
 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

offered with Love,


Kate

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

"because I knew you..."



"who can say if I've been
changed for the better,
but because I knew you,
I have been changed for good..."

I was deeply moved watching Kristin Chenoweth and Idina Menzel's final performance of "For Good." What a beautiful way to circle back, bringing sweet closure to a year that has been full of opportunities for spiritual growth -- but all, for good.

I can't help but think of the experiences and people that have touched my life. Each one has changed me -- for good. Yes, each one for good.  For good [vs. for bad] -- but also for good, meaning forever. Because of you, I will never be the same shy girl, the broken waif, the bitter teen, the confused and self-destructive young woman, I once was.

It didn't happen in a flash. But it happened. Little by little, each of you has given me an insight, an experience, a perspective that has shifted my sense of things, and these shifts in consciousness have changed me -- for good.

I noticed a significant change just the other day. I was having an online conversation with another woman. She was describing a new project she was excited about. And I was just as excited for her as I would have been if I were launching a new venture. There was no comparison, no desire to respond with my own accomplishment, none of the old feelings of failure. I was genuinely happy. Not just for her, but for the world we share -- I was happy that something new and beautiful was being born, and it didn't have to have anything to do with me.

I've been thinking a lot about this since that realization. I have noticed how content I feel with my life. All the old ambition to "become" something has melted away. All the desire for having the cutest house on the block -- is gone. I feel peaceful in a way that I can't ever remember feeling before. It's lovely.

I have been changed -- for good. There is a deep contentment in witnessing the accomplishments, successes, and achievements of others. There is peace in just showing up for my life -- my family, my friends, my community, my work -- without the need to prove anything to anyone, but God.

Recently I have been looking deeply into what Mary Baker Eddy's writings contribute to my relationship with others. There are too many profound insights to share in one post, but this long-loved statement from her autobiography, Retrospection and Introspection bears repeating:


"There are no greater miracles
known to earth than perfection
and an unbroken friendship."
 

Yes, it implies the importance of sustained affection between friends. But "no greater miracle?" When I was a girl, my family moved around -- a lot. My sister was my only enduring relationship. We had our ups and downs. We shared a bedroom, clothes, friends, and interests. We fought. Because I really didn't have any other long-term relationships -- until after high school, I was ill-equipped for the comings and goings of affection in friendship. I thought everyone would be like my sister. Regardless of what we'd done, or said, to one another -- we couldn't "break up." Not so.

It took me many years to discover that my relationship with my sister was one of the most precious gifts in my life. But it also took me as many years to discover that I needed to nurture friendships beyond what was easy or even necessarily expected. If I wanted to understand the "miracle," it was incumbent upon me to invest the time, attention, affection, and forgiveness that it would take for any version of "us," to weather the ups and down of being in relationship with another human being. Over the years, I began to see the profound wisdom in Eddy's words. Each of those relationships have, and continue to, change me for good -- and that's the miracle.

But what about the other relationships in my life -- the ones that I can't file under the heading of "friend?"  What about those people who have come into my life, and for one reason or another -- or at one moment or another -- I might have had a contentious, envious, dismissive, or even just less than friendly relationship with. The people I've been hurt by -- or more tragically -- have hurt with my own words and actions. For a long time, I believed that the best thing to do was to walk away. Yes, forgive - or hope to be forgiven, but walk away. These statements - among many in Eddy's prose writings - from an article titled, "Love Your Enemies," have often called me up short:


"Who is thine enemy that thou shouldest love him?
Is it a creature or thing outside thine own creation?

We have no enemies. Whatever envy hatred, revenge,
-- the most remorseless motives that govern mortal mind --
whatever these try to do, shall "work together for
good to them that love God."
 

It has taken me years to realize that by being willing to cross swords with my own sense of being a victim, or a villain, I have become less judgmental, and more compassionate, patient, and  kind. In short, it is the relationships that I once considered "less than friendly," that have changed me the most, and nurtured the qualities in myself that I most love.

This has been particularly true in relationships where I have been the one to have made mistakes in judgment. By learning to say "I'm sorry," rather than run away from a situation rife with self-reproach, I have discovered that I am bigger than my mistakes.


I believe that each person that comes into our lives, either by example or engagement, encourages us to grow in grace -- in patience, meekness, love, and good deeds.  I believe this is why our Lord's Prayer begins "Our Father..." To discover the very best in ourselves -- humility, compassion, courage, meekness -- we need each other.  I can't become my best, without you.  

No matter who you are, where our relationship started -- or stands today -- because I knew you, I have been changed for good.

with Love,


Kate

Thursday, December 15, 2016

"Lord, remind me..."



"When children play on Christmas day
and snow is flung,

When I feel I haven't had a friend
since I was young,

When I'm feeling tired of myself
and everyone,

Lord remind me,
Lord remind me..."


I was looking for an Amy Grant song to keynote an earlier post when I stumbled upon this exquisite song by Jon and Valerie Guerra on Amy's Facebook page.

Sometimes a song comes along that begs its own post, "Lord Remind Me" is one of those songs.

The holiday season -- from Thanksgiving to the year's end -- has always been my favorite time of year. I cherish long-held traditions and nurture new ones that have found purchase in the sweet soil of our family home. The tree goes up the day before Thanksgiving, White Christmas. Little Women, The Holiday, and Love, Actually fill the screen that weekend. Then comes the Christmas music -- too many favorites to note. Between December 1st and the 25th, I pray with each of the twenty-four questions in the chapter, "Recapitulation" from Mary Baker Eddy's textbook for spiritual healing, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures as my version of an advent calendar. One question deeply pondered, each day, as we move towards Christmas.

But this year, although I have dutifully carried out each of these traditions -- as well as a few more -- I have felt a bit detached. Perhaps it's because its the first year that none of the children were here for me to lasso into choosing the tree, watching White Christmas, or baking pies.  And although I have felt a bit sad, I wasn't really doing anything about it. I was aware that the tree went up too quickly and I was alone in the kitchen while I baked cookies and listened to White Christmas, but I chalked it up to our version of empty nest syndrome after over three decades of day-to-day parenting.

That was when I fell upon "Lord Remind Me," and fell to my knees. The true meaning of Christmas came alive in me. This wasn't about trees and cookies, films and carols. It wasn't even about traditions long-loved. It was about something timeless and humbling. It was about remembering that nothing was impossible to God. It was about forgiveness and healing, kings that kneeled before a baby and a boy who trusted angels. It was about a girl who said, "yes," and a message of "on earth peace, good will to men."

Is there anything we need more today? Is there any message more timely, or a time more hungry for this message?

As Jon and Valerie sing with such reverence and humility:


"when I hear the news,
and hear another war's begun,
and I wonder if God's
on the side f either one,
I hear bullet, nail, or handcuff
you bore all of them,
and in the light
my heart's as dark as anyone's.

Lord remind me, Lord remind me
that the shepherds head the angels
break the silence in the field,
that the wise men found a baby
and they could not help but kneel

Lord remind me, cause its Christmas
and I want to remember..."
 

And I do want to remember. I want to feel the power of this story drive me to my knees. I want to feel it change my heart and break through any sense of brittle self-certainty and icy indifference that might have gathered like frost on the tender places where I want to feel heartbreak of my brothers and sisters in Aleppo, or Chicago, or Washington, DC.

There is a sweet, holy cry for the Christ to enter the manger of our hearts in this song:


"Tell me, how He loves me,
tell me, how he wants me,
tell me the story
like I've never heard before..."
 

This is the part that broke through to the softest, deepest part of me. The words split me open and love for Him spilled from every part of my being. To think what he gave. To remember what he did. To know his love -- it is everything.


"...and I'll sing it
like the angels sing it,
with my whole heart sing it,
to Him who's worth
a thousand songs and more..."
 

Hymns and carols came alive in me. My heart was an angel's heart singing from the stars. I walked out into the cold night and sang for him who loves us so. I lifted my voice in praise, and hope, and humble adoration for the child who brought kings to their knees and for the man who would be king of kings.

I sang through tears of repentance and joy:


"Glory in the highest,
glory in the lowest,
glory that shines when nothing
seems to shine at all

Glory in the highest,
glory in the lowest
glory, Immanuel..."
 

And isn't this the message of messages, Immanuel, which is translated, "God with us..." So tonight, I raised my voice to the heavens and sang, "Glory in the highest, glory in the lowest, glory Immanuel..."  Then, a flock of geese rose from the lake, circled above, and -- I like to believe -- carried that message in their own voices to the far corners of the earth.


offered with Love,


Kate

"what we hold gently...."



"We have come to believe
there's hidden good in common things,
You can't always tell
but sometimes you just know..."



The connection between Carrie Newcomer's beautiful song, "Geode," and this post may not be easy to recognize. But there is something about knowing what to hold firmly, and what to hold gently, that celebrates the remarkable, in the common for me. The hidden promise, found in the familiar.

One of our oldest traditions at the Adventure Unlimited Ranches is a practice we call, "Alone with Your Thoughts." Once, during every two week summer session, campers of all ages gather around the fire ring. The Ranch Director shares remarks offered as a springboard for inspiration. Then, she tells the story of camp founder, Cap Andrews' time on a submarine during World War II.

This activity, held at dusk, is deeply meaningful for me. Cap's practice of spending time alone on the deck of a submarine - in the middle of the Pacific Ocean - inspired his dream of founding a camp to, in his words, "teach boys to appreciate God, and learn how to turn to Him in prayer."

Cap's story begins with a night alone in the dark. What started as a desire to consciously focus on God without any distractions, became a lifelong journey towards longer and longer periods of time in quiet contemplation of the divine. 


After the Ranch Director shares her own message and tells Cap's story, campers and staff are invited to find a quiet spot in nature and silently listen for inspiration.  No books, no media, no conversation -- just an hour alone with your own thoughts.

I've heard Cap's story scores of times over the years, and it always inspires me. I've heard many Ranch Directors share their inspiration and I've taken away something special from each of them. But there is one that stands out to me -- above all the rest. And it is an idea that I find myself turning to often.

It was Ranch Director, Alison Peticolas', first summer in her new role. It had been her first year making the final hiring decisions and job offers. In late winter she felt she had assembled a wonderful team of camp directors, program heads, and counselors. But by Spring it looked as if her perfect teams was falling apart. Family demands, internships, and financial needs started whittling away at the teams' shape.

As she returned to the drawing board,  she said that it was hard.  She felt as if she'd already had a perfect team in place, and it was difficult to let go of that plan. One day, as she was praying about the situation it came to her that she needed to be clear about what she needed to be holding firmly, and what she could hold more gently.

For example, it was right for the Whitewater Rafting Program Head to be an experienced boater, have demonstrated leadership skills, be awareness of safety laws, show compassion for campers, be organized, etc. Those were the things she could hold firmly as she explored new candidates. Whether it was a particular guy or gal, their number of years of experience, camp history, etc. -- those where the things she could hold gently.

She told us that from that moment on, she approached the hiring process with less anxiety and greater expectations. And every position was filled perfectly.

I think about this often in my life. What are the things I hold firmly as I make plans, consider choices, or frame expectations. Am I holding -- too firmly -- the things that are not essential? Or am I willing to be dispossessed of my certainties about what is "perfect," and discover a solution that is inspired.

Recently, I felt I had a very clear sense of how I thought things should work out in a particular situation. I found myself getting tense when it didn't seem to be unfolding in the way that I thought it should. That was when I was reminded of Alison's talk. It brought me back into alignment.

I remembered to ask myself, "what do I needed to hold firmly?" That was clear -- God is good, His power is unquestionable, and my purpose is to serve Him. And I also remembered to ask what I needed to hold gently -- the who, what, where, when and how of the outcomes. It was such a small adjustment. But it was enough. A situation that seemed complex and fraught with detours, fell into place in wonderful new ways -- ways I couldn't have even imagined.

Geodes are actually like that. On the outside they appear as muddy-colored, almost insignificant round rocks. There's just no drama to them. They are often buried in quarries or ravines, and overlooked by rock hunters looking for the obvious. But tapped with a small hammer and "voila!" a hidden crystal world opens up to you. By holding firmly all that is spiritually essential in our hearts and tapping into the changelessness of what is deeply constant -- while holding gently the details that are unfolding before us, we often find new perspectives, solutions, pathways that are more brilliant than anything we could have imagined.

For many years, Alone with Your Thoughts has enriched my spiritual practice with new inspiration, peace of mind, and a deepening trust in the divine. It's not a flashy practice, but quiet, modest, and without drama. But this quiet time with God has become as natural to me as breathing. I am grateful for Alison's humble and inspired sharing each summer. And tonight, I am simply grateful for this particular lesson about what to hold -- firmly and gently.


offered with Love,


Kate

Friday, December 9, 2016

"fear has to face the God you know..."



"O my soul
you are not alone,
there's a place where fear
has to face the God you know..."


There are spiritual experiences that defy being framed adequately by words. Mary Baker Eddy once wrote of this inability of words that, "she lisped in numbers, for the numbers came." That is how I feel -- but I will try.

Sometimes it is more the sound of a song, than its words, that represent the heart's story. That is the case for me with this experience, and Casting Crown's beautiful "O my Soul." It speaks to the grace I felt, but can still barely hint at.  There is no way to adequately describe the full breadth of what this healing means to me.  But I will try.

For weeks I was in constant pain. Day and night. Nothing brought comfort or relief. The symptoms were aggressive and frightening. I was being bombarded with suggestions of specific diseases -- names, prognoses, timetables. And as frightening as it was, I had to get up each morning and persevere. I constantly asked myself, "What can you do -- right now?" This moment-by-moment stepping into what I could do -- was all that kept me from abject terror. I was still a mom with day-to-day responsibilities in raising our youngest children. I had work that I loved and am devoted to -- patients that I was committed to seeing spiritually. I needed to be able to go on. But it was getting more difficult. Day and night I prayed, claiming my spiritual freedom from the specific symptoms.

When I found it hard to think clearly I called a Christian Science practitioner to pray with me. Her unwavering clarity about my spiritual wellness was a lifeline. I can't tell you the specifics of what she said, but one night it became utterly clear to me that I was playing a metaphysical game of whack-a-mole. I would address one symptom, or suggestion, of mortality and physical vulnerability, and another would raise its ugly head. Each symptom brought with it, it's whole family of reasons to be afraid. I would get on top of one fear, and another would taunt me anew.

That night, as I was lying in the dark praying, the thought came so clearly, "this is not about what you think you are afraid of, it is all about the fear itself."  Typing that sentence now - and reading it - it looks so benign and so "of course -- duh!?!?!?" But in that moment,  it was such a big thought, so radical, so paradigm-shifting -- that it took my breath away.  I could see that fear existed without the symptoms, without the specific suggestions, without any reason for the fear.  Fear was the "enemy," not what I thought was causing my fear, or what I believed I was afraid of.

The symptoms, the names of the disease, the prognosis, the "what-ifs," the pain that had grabbed my attention and had not let go -- were not the cause of fear. Fear was the cause of the symptoms. Like I said, I am lisping in numbers here -- this feels so much bigger for me than what I can possibly describe.

In that moment everything took a turn. I wasn't trying to get rid of a disease, its symptoms, or its evidence -- so that I would not be afraid. I was going after fear itself. I stopped thinking that I was afraid of something. Or that fear was the by-product of a scary physical situation. Fear was the master manipulator -- gathering symptoms, names of diseases, reasons: heredity, contact, association -- and creating a story that justified its reason for having a hold on my thoughts. Keeping me focused on getting rid of symptoms that it compiled, and then added up to present as a forgone conclusion -- which it called a frightening disease -- kept me chasing after decoys. But I was no longer duped, I was going after fear itself -- not its minions.  I knew I was on the right track.

Yet that was only the first "aha" of the night -- the next one was even more vital. And it came so swiftly that I gasped. It wasn't me going after anything. This was God's "battle." God, Love, loved me. Love had never left me alone. Love had never neglected me. John gives us this promise in Scripture:

"there is no fear in Love..." 

The presence of Love in our hearts, destroys even the possibility of fear in us. Because Love is so clearly present in our hearts and lives, fear just cannot be. Love and fear can no more coexist than light and darkness. It wasn't a matter of me loving in a certain way, so that I could eradicate fear from my life.  That was God's province.  I felt love,  I knew the power of love, I had witnessed the presence of love -- therefore fear had never, could never, and would never be able to exist in this love-based environment that is my heart and fills my life. Love destroys fear -- period. And I was as sure of the presence of love in my heart, as I was of my own existence.

Each time a symptom would assert itself, each time the name of a disease would suggest that I was doomed, each time the thought would come, "I am afraid of..." I would reaffirm -- I am not fear-susceptible.  I am Love-based, Love-filled, Love-aware, Love-driven, Love-defined.

I found myself turning to Mary Baker Eddy's autobiography, Retrospection and Introspection, for courage, and confirmation that what I was glimpsing -- was true. In the chapter, "The Great Discovery," she writes:


"Science saith to fear, “You are the cause of all sickness; but you are a self-constituted falsity, — you are darkness, nothingness. You are without ‘hope, and without God in the world.’ You do not exist, and have no right to exist, for ‘perfect Love casteth out fear.’"
 

She didn't say perfect love casts out disease, pain, sickness, symptoms, etc. But that perfect Love casteth out fear. She didn't say that the patient, or the practitioner, saith to fear, "you are nothingness..." But that Science saith to fear, 'you are nothingness...'' Science is doing all the talking.  Science, the laws of God, saying to fear, you are nothing. Moment-by-moment I felt my trust in this Science -- in this law of God operating, universally and without partiality -- grow and strengthen.

All symptom-based thinking, all disease-based treatment fell away. This had nothing to do with symptoms, pain, or disease.  This was all about God saying to fear,  "you are nothing." Not me.  Fear didn't have to face me, it had to face God -- the God I know to be all-powerful,  ever-present, always knowing Love.  Silly fear. 


And yes, this symptom-based thinking is insidious.  For example:  I remember at one point thinking that I should reach out to someone -- for spiritual treatment -- who had faced the same symptoms or disease, and found healing. As if the symptoms, or the name of a disease, would lead me to a healing perspective, or a healing solution.  As if a disease could inform my search for spiritual tender-kindness, absolute confidence in the presence of Truth.  Those who needed healing hadn't sought out Jesus -- to heal their leprosy -- because he'd been healed of those symptoms himself. They didn't seek him out because he had been blind, lame, deaf, lunatic. Experiencing disease didn't recommend him -- Love did. And his understanding of Love rendered fear nothing.

The specifics of a claim -- poverty, pain, hatred, disease, anger, death -- are distractions. They are not at the root of our fear. Fear is at the root of their symptomology. And fear is nothing. It is without hope -- without God in the world.

This healing has been one of the most beautiful awakenings in my life. And yet, if you had asked me before this experience if I thought that I already understood the truth of this Truth -- I would have said, "well of course, yes..." But I hadn't -- really. And you know, as profound as this insight feels,  I know that this Truth will just continue to evolve and grow even deeper in me.  But tonight, I am just so deeply grateful for what I have begun to glimpse -- day-by-day.  As I said, I lisp in numbers...


offered with Love,


Kate

Thursday, December 8, 2016

"i'm not the only one..."



"You may say I'm a dreamer,
but I'm not the only one.
I hope some day you'll join us,
and the world will be as one..."



It always catches me off guard. Early December, gray skies flecked with spitting snow, John Lennon's "Imagine," playing on the radio.  This version by the Haverbrook Deaf Choir and the cast of Glee, is one of my favorites. It reminds me of that day, 26 years ago, when as a young teacher I wept in front of my students.

I was teaching at an state institution for children who had been diagnosed with severe or profound developmental disabilities, and had been made wards of the state by their parents. For many of these parents, this was a devastating decision, but seemed to be the only way they could secure the treatments and services their children needed. Families visited, but the longer their children were institutionalized, the less frequent their visits became.

As a faculty, we were constantly looking for ways to bring warmth and normalcy to our students' lives -- and to our own sense of what it meant to be a teacher in such a difficult setting. Holiday decorations, songs, and art projects were an important part of keeping us all motivated.

That year, I'd suggested that we hold a Christmas pageant and concert. Our audience would be made up of the residential, medical, dining, and cleaning staff, but it gave us something to work towards and brought so much joy to our students. My class was working on a singing and signing a song. We chose Silent Night and put many hours into learning every word and choreographing the dance of hands signing in time with the music.

On December 8th we added another song. The shattering news of John Lennon's assassination changed everything. John Lennon wasn't just a pop icon, or a rock star, he was someone we looked up to. His message of social responsibility and peace resonated deeply with a generation shaken by the Viet Nam war. His death was shocking.

I can't speak for anyone else, but I felt as if all my hopes for world peace and kindness had been left on that sidewalk in front of the Dakota on December 8th, 1980. I didn't know what to do. That was when it came to me -- like a mission -- to teach my students another song. We would sing and sign "Imagine."  For the rest of the month, I would go in to work early and stay late. We would rehearse, and rehearse, and rehearse -- and then we'd rehearse some more.

Some days I would find myself helping to form signs with the hands of individual students dozens of times an hour.  Moving arms and fingers into shapes. It seemed like an impossible thing to ask of these children, but I think they caught the spirit of my need to "do this."

On the night of the performance in the small auditorium that doubled as a gym, my kids performed Silent Night to our ragtag audience. They grinned when the applause burst from the folding chairs in front of them. I was concerned that all of the excitement would distract them from our surprise. But they were undeterred. Once the applause died down, they looked up at me, smiled and stood very, very tall in the party clothes we'd gathered from the donation bins.

Their performance was hauntingly beautiful that afternoon. I don't think anyone would have said that they could understand the words, or thought that the singing was in sync, but it was sincere, and beautiful, and moving. They had worked so hard to honor my love for this man, and this song. This is what I remember every December 8th, when the sky is steely gray and a recording of "Imagine" playing on the radio reminds me that I was once a very young teacher with very big dreams for a world where "all the people were living life in peace..."

I am still that girl -- I still believe that we are capable of laying aside hatred for brotherly love. I still believe in "peace on earth, good will to men." I still believe that in the end, only kindness matters -- but that's another song. This is where I am ageless. The hope I have for our world, the trust I have in Love's power to move hearts, the confidence I have in the goodness of humanity -- this is what is eternal for me. This is where I am both a child and a sage, a dreamer and a scientist, a peaceful warrior and a conscientious objector.

Yes, you may say that I'm a dreamer -- but I know that I am not the only one.


offered with hope,


Kate