Tuesday, October 11, 2016

"a murmured prayer…"

"If it be your will,
that I speak no more,
and my voice be still,
as it was before,

I will speak no more
I shall abide until,
I am spoken for
If it be your will..."

Yesterday I was speaking with a friend. We were trying to find a time to meet for lunch this week. I suggested a date and a place. That was when she helped me remember that Wednesday was Yom Kippur.  Yom Kippur, directly translates from the Hebrew, into English as, "day of atonement."   My friend reminded me that she would be fasting with her family that day. I apologized for not being more aware, and we made other plans.

Yom Kippur is often referred to as the Sabbath of Sabbaths. It's primary themes are atonement and repentance, forgiveness and redemption. Leonard Cohen wrote, "If it Be Your Will," as his murmured prayer. For many, it has become a sacred offering on this day of atonement -- Yom Kippur.

I love its message of self-surrender and grace.  In these lyrics, Cohen offers up his voice - his song - to God. These are the gifts that he, as a poet/singer/songwriter, has to give to the world.  But he is willing to be silent, if it be His will. 

I have been thinking about this very thing -- a lot -- lately. I love words. I mean, I really love them. The way they flutter in the heart, pour from the page, tenderly comfort in the dark, strengthen our resolve when facing demons, and encourage us when we feel most alone.

But they are only words -- symbols of something deeper than the language of lips, or paper and ink.  They are not the substance of my relationship with the Divine.  They are only my lisping attempt to describe this relationship.  And as much as I know how unwavering my devotion to God is, I there were times when I wondered, if God asked me to be silent, would I really be able to hold my tongue and my pen? I pray that I would have the courage and the meekness to yield what delights me, to what delights Him.

A number of years ago, during Yom Kippur, I was preparing the text, for a talk I had been invited to give. I was feeling confident about the message. I had humbly listened for direction in setting the tone, and honing the core elements, I'd been asked to address.  I'd typed up the final draft and it was sitting on my desk. I felt peaceful.

That was when a small volume caught my eye on the bookshelf. Its leather cover was worn and supple from use. The lay of its weight in my hand was familiar and comforting. I was drawn towards it. So many of the ideas between its covers had been helpful to me in times of confusion and uncertainty. I let it fall open in my palm and my eyes fell on a paragraph that changed the course of my ministry. The talk I had labored over, was no longer a message I could deliver.

I surrendered my words, to the Word. What I had thought I would share went into the trash, and a new message was born. It was all about trusting that "the kingdom of God is within you…" It fell into place like the petals of a flower unfolding. My contribution to that day would be simple. I would step aside and let God speak to each individual.  I would allow for a space of sacred silence.

It was a life shifting moment for me. All my desires for a platform, and a voice, dissolved. I sensed a new dance being choreographed, one of stepping aside and letting the Christ speak intimately, clearly, tenderly, and directly to the heart of each of God's beloved children.

Each year, as Yom Kippur softly lands on my calendar, and I am invited into this space of atonement, I am reminded that this holy oneness is between each of us and God. The cry for forgiveness, mercy, redemption, and reformation is whispered. It is imitate and silent. It is a murmured prayer of hope and surrender.

It reminds me of what I have come to think of as King David's most tender psalm:

"the Lord will hear

commune with your own heart
upon your bed,
and be still.

Sometimes we are asked to be silent. To give up the instrument we feel most confident in. To step aside and let the divine Voice speak, sing, pray its message in the most intimate of places - the heart.

We are asked to fast from being anything to anyone -- including ourselves. To humbly empty our hearts of self. To know our emptiness and let it be filled by the real substance of what can only, ever, be a symbol to the human mind.

This evening, as the sun sets, my Yom Kippur prayer is a simple one:

"if it be Your will..."

May your hearts hear the voice of God, and may you find peace.

offered with Love,


Thursday, October 6, 2016

"the woman who smiled…"

"Do I love my life
enough to brave it?
Do I love my life
enough to save it..."

Sometimes it only takes one phrase from a song to profoundly shift my perspective. Such as it was with Carrie Newcomer's beautiful new recording, "Season of Mercy."

I was feeling pretty dull. All the colors in me as washed out as the near-winter landscape below. I was flying from here to there and couldn't seem to rouse myself from the feeling that we were human cattle, herded onto a completely packed Boing Airbus. My seat mates were sleeping. I was staring at the bulkhead in front of me.

That was when the thought came to listen to more of Carrie's new CD "The Beautiful Not Yet." I needed her beautiful words, her turn of phrase. I wanted to immerse myself in her land of spiritual paradox.

I'd fallen in love with each of the other songs I had already heard from this collection -- a collaboration with author, educator, and activist Parker J. Palmer. I was ready for more. The next song on my playlist was "The Season of Mercy." I was immediately drawn in by the use of a banjo played like a sitar.

But it was when I heard these lines that I knew why I was listening:

"Will I be remembered
as the woman who smiled..."
You will have to listen to the song to understand the context, but suffice it to say that it changed that entire trip for me. It became my purpose. To be nothing -- but the woman who smiled.

And during the trip, two other - more penetrating - questions that Carrie posited, were answered for me:

"Do I love my life
enough to brave it? 

Do I love my life
enough to save it?"
These may seem like obvious questions to many.  But when your whole life is shifting -- from the daily demands of being a mom, a caregiver, a significant cog in the mechanism of your family's life -- to….  Well, that was the question.  What?  And the answers to those questions seemed to loom just out of reach.

Carrie's song -- at that very moment -- was just invitation I needed to consider how I would answer them.  These were not professional questions for me.  I love my work. This was about something else.  And by the end of the weekend, I could honestly and unequivocally say, "yes, and yes." But the how?  I am still listening that forward. How will I brave this next chapter in my life? What am I willing to do, to surrender, to look at in a new way, to save it?  For me, this is a question of salvation.  The salvaging of what is essential, enduring, eternal, from what was useful, necessary, beautiful, and instructive -- however temporary.

I am starting with being the woman who smiled.  I will smile, at the dark-eyed children Carrie sings about, and at myself in the mirror.

I think, that this is a good place to start. It will take a clear-eyed commitment to unwavering kindness -- not just with those I am close to, those I meet, or those I have yet to cross paths with, but with myself. In order to smile at myself, I will need to be kind to myself.

I will need to see past the past. I will need to look deeper than skin-deep. I will need to be patient with my expectations, and expect less human perfection as I navigate new platforms of purpose, vision, and creativity.

But I can do this -- I know I can. So, here we go. I will begin to brave my life by being the woman who smiled.

I love this invitation from Carrie:

"It's the time of memory
the season of mercy.
Following out the thread,
humming the tune in my head,
just out of reach
always just out of reach..."
I have time to let the beautiful tune reach me. I will be patient as next steps reveal themselves to my waiting heart. I love my life. Today I am content to be the woman who smiled.

offered with Love and a smile,


Sunday, September 18, 2016

"til I can carry on…"

"Will you remember,
and bring me sprigs of rosemary
be my sanctuary,
til I can carry on,
carry on, carry on..."

Hearing Carrie Newcomer's "Sanctuary," my heart was immediately filled with appreciation for those who have held me during dark days of doubt, pain, or fear -- and sometimes all three.

The more I thought about what made each of them a sanctuary in my darkest hour, the more I realized it was their silence. Their willingness to just sit with me, pray with me, let me weep, or simply let me be quiet without comment. To let me discover the lesson that was waiting in that moment. Yes, this is what made their presence feel like a safe place -- a place of refuge.

Too many times we try to find the right words. Words that will fix their problems, eliminate the source of their sorrow, fill their emptiness, or assuage their grief. Often, words are only a bandaid for our own fear that we have nothing to give. When so many times, what is most needed, is not found in human platitudes -- however lovingly proffered.

In those moments, what our hearts most cry out for -- is to know that we are not alone. For someone to help us wait in the silence for the real answers -- the ones that can only be found within the vast wellspring of what feels like our own breaking heart. Answers that come from this deep spiritual interiority, are the only answers that sustain us, restore our hope, and endure beyond a conversation. These are the answers we feel versus hear. These are the answers that are ours alone.

When the adoption of our first child changed course and his birthmother decided to parent him herself, there was nothing anyone could have said that would have staunched the hemorrhaging of my heart. I had prayed with him, slept with him, sung him lullabies, and fed him by the light of the moon. My heart hadn't waited.  It hadn't held back just because we we'd yet to secure the final legalization of his adoption. He was my son. I loved him.  I felt inconsolable.

After he no longer occupied his nursery, I was bereft.  One day, a very dear friend came by, and quietly helped me pack up the gifts we'd received - toys and small clothing - and send them to his mom.  Once we'd re-boxed the soft mobile, moved the bassinet to the garage, and folded the sheets, she gave me a long hug and then sat with me while I cried.   After she left, I found a notecard, with nothing but this statement from Mary Baker Eddy's Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, handwritten in her careful script.  It read:

"In the quiet sanctuary of earnest longings,
we must deny sin, and plead God's allness..."
She hadn't said more than a few sentences during our entire morning together.  But she knew my heart.  She knew, that for me, the word "sin," represented anything that would try to convince me that I (or anyone else) was separated from the love of God. My friend didn't need to say anything more.

She didn't need to share with me her own sorrow over our loss, she didn't need to assure me that another child would come along, she didn't need to remind me that I'd done nothing wrong, or that what had happened to us was terrible. She just needed to point me in the direction of that quiet sanctuary of earnest longings.

From that moment on, when the sympathy of others was too much to bear, I knew where to go, and what to do. And when the loneliness of an empty nursery crashed like waves upon my heart -- it was her quiet heart that I turned to, and found refuge in.

Sometimes the greatest gift we can give one another is the gift of silence, the gift of listening without the need to fix the problem or fill in the holes where words would seem to fit so nicely.

To every friend who has every let me weep in her arms, or has just been willing to sit by the river with me, and say nothing -- thank you.

I love this verse from Carrie's song:

"This one knocked me to the ground.
this one dropped me to my knees.
I should have seen it coming
but it surprised me.

Will you be my refuge,
my haven in the storm?
Will you keep the embers warm,
when my fire's all but gone,
all but gone..."
It's the question we ask with our tears. And it is the question that is answered by sisters, brothers, pastors, neighbors, friends, practitioners, nurses, emergency personnel, parents, teachers, residence counselors, hospice volunteers, and so many others who are willing to stop, be still, and let us feel the presence of something shared in the space of that silence. And I -- for one -- am so deeply grateful.

offered with Love and profound gratitude,


Monday, September 5, 2016

"i have this hope…"

"I have this hope,
in the depth of my soul,
in the flood or the fire
you're with me,
and you won't let go..."

When I have a deep hunger for spiritual understanding, and words alone feel one dimensional, I retreat to songs. There is something about the marriage of music and lyrics that gives life to my longing. Tenth Avenue North is one of my go-to bands. And recently it was their, "I Have This Hope," that met me right where I was, and walked me forward out of darkness.

I needed a reminder. The inner critic was persistent. It insisted that I was on the verge of letting everyone down. That even my best, just wasn't good enough. It was all up to me, and I was failing.

I had been reading for days. Turning to Scripture and the writings of Mary Baker Eddy for guidance in my search for a way out of the swift spiral I found myself drowning in. There were dozens of pointers, but nothing was penetrating the atrophy of human thinking, and reaching my heart.

That's when I turned to song. I pulled up a window on my browser and found the link to Youtube that I have bookmarked. I didn't know what I was searching for, just knew that I needed something. Tenth Avenue North, Casting Crowns, Sara Groves, and Chris Tomlin are all inspirational singer-songwriters who have never let me down. Their songs spring from a deep love for God and an honest understanding of the human experience. It was what I needed.

I love the word "hope," and so I typed in Tenth Avenue North and hope in the search field and their recording of "I Have This Hope," came up. I clicked on the window and sat back. It was just what I needed. A reminder that I was not letting anyone down, because it was not my job to hold anyone up. Even myself. That was God's job. I was dishonoring Him by thinking that he was not here, with me, and with them.

It brought me back to a fundamental spiritual promise that I'd lost sight of. One that fills Scripture and generously peppers the writings of Mary Baker Eddy and countless other spiritual thought-leaders. It answered the hope-cry in the depth of my soul:

"Lo, I am with you alway..."

This was enough to free me from fear, self-doubt, worry, loneliness, flood or fire, triumph or terror. How did I forget? How do we ever forget? Doesn't every worrisome claim boil down to this one lie about God -- that He is absent from our lives, or the lives of our loved ones, neighbors, and local, national or global leaders?

It didn't take long to say I was sorry to God. To remember that my love for Him was best expressed by my trust in His love. It was never about me or my abilities. It was always about God's nature and my trust in His unwavering care for His creation. My heart broke wide open with love for God's mercy.

As Tenth Avenue North sings,

"I don't want to live in fear
I want to trust that you are near..."

I don't want to trust God as a means to an end, but as the very "end" itself. To be so completely at peace in an abiding trust that God is near -- in flood or in fire -- that the voices of doom and doubt cease to have any information for me.   Or as Paul writes in Hebrews:

"Now faith is the substance
of things hoped for,
the evidence of things
not seen..."

Faith, translated from the original Aramaeic is "trust." This is the substance of my greatest hope: to trust God. This is the evidence I am seeking -- in myself -- moment-by-moment. A trust that isn't just tapping her foot impatiently and saying, "hey, I trust You, so where's the evidence?" But a trust that rests -- like a small child -- in the peace which passeth all understanding. A trust that is beyond the human need to understand how God's love will manifest itself. A childlike trust that yields to the love of its divine Parent.

It is enough. No, I don't know how some of the questions and concerns that I am facing will be answered. I don't have a plan, a strategy, or a solution that is giving me peace. Those may give momentary relief from worry, but they will never give me an enduring peace. And I want what is enduring, eternal. I find this only when I am resting in this truth that:

"The Lord is with me..."

As I said, this trust is enough. It is all the evidence I need. I may not understand how everything will work out. But I do know that this trust is the substance of all my hopes -- for all of us. May you feel like a child who trusts that your Father-Mother God is always with you -- in tear or triumph. I have this hope.

offered with Love,


Sunday, September 4, 2016

"i was never the same…"

"the sun's not so hot
in the sky today,
and I can see summertime
slipping away..."

James Taylor's "September Grass," takes me to a time long before it was even written. A time when JT's voice was the soundtrack of my heart. September 1971 -- Sweet Baby James, a boy who played football, and a town as quaint as a Gilmore Girls episode.

Only I was the thing that didn't fit in. I was not the confident, charming teenager living in a quaint village.  I was a misfit character from all the shows that weren't even being written in those days. Stories about self-doubt, tears that fell in rivers, and feelings that were choked back in silence.

I didn't know that things could be different for me.  I was the girl who lived in a secret.  Until one day God dropped me into the arms of a sweet town and a lovely boy.  The town was a small village that I grew to love.  And the boy was kind.  He gave me hope.   Hope that someday I might actually be a normal girl.  A girl with a family that laughed loudly and fought openly. Because he was a normal boy.  He was all about fishing and football, olds car and hands that were strong and capable and fixed things. He was safe. And believe me, safe was everything to me.

Our family had only moved to the area that spring of 1971.  We lived in a small carriage house on an old estate just outside of town. I had attended the local high school for two months before we broke for summer.  Since then I'd endured three months of babysitting younger siblings, canning endless bushels of tomatoes, pickles, and beets, and searching for places to hide and read. My mother was ripe with twins, so I became her arms, legs, hands and feet. I would make breakfast, do dishes, hang laundry on the line, take it down, fold it, and put it away. Dinner, baths, bedtime stories. The next morning it started all over again.

I had circled the Tuesday after Labor Day on a calendar that hung on the wall next to my bed. The first day of school. I would be free of it all -- small children, and mind-numbing chores, the smell of tomatoes waiting to be canned, and the weight of wet laundry.

The first week of school was glorious. I was learning to type, my english teacher was young and eager, our civics class was interesting, and I wasn't new. I'd been at the school for two months in the spring and I actually knew a few other kids. This was a rare for me.  We moved constantly when I was growing up. That first weekend there was the promise of a youth group gathering at the local community center. Basketball, records, dancing, board games, and s'mores.

My dad agreed to let me go if I took my younger sister. That was easy. She was outgoing and popular. I was neither. But entering any social gathering on the trail of her Love's Baby Soft perfume had become my mode of operation in high school. I didn't mind. If I was going to be associated with anyone, my sister was the perfect companion.  In her company I had a chance of being included.

We'd gone to the opening football game of the season that afternoon and our team had won. The air was crisp and spirits were high when we arrived at the community center that evening. There was a group of guys shooting baskets in the gym, girls on the periphery talking, and other kids playing twister and monopoly on the raised stage at one end of the long room that was used as a combined gym, theater, and town meeting hall.

The music was loud and there were as many kids playing on the swings and playground equipment outside as there were inside. I stayed in my sister's orbit as she gravitated towards a group of girls she knew. They were nice girls. I knew some of them from classes we shared. When the conversation stalled I excused myself and went to the stage where a boy was waiting for someone to play chess. That would be me -- the game geek. Scrabble, chess, backgammon, Yahtzee -- I loved them all.

Some time later -- time filled with intense strategic concentration -- I noticed that the lights had been lowered and half of the kids had gone home. Those who remained were dancing on the basketball court. These were nice kids, I liked them. I wanted to be one of them. I left the game area on the raised stage and joined my sister on the sidelines. It was a sweet moment.

Then a boy I knew from our English Literature class came up and asked me to dance. The song was James Taylor's "Fire and Rain." I was sure he was talking to my sister. But no, he was asking me. I remember the clean scent of laundry detergent on his red and green plaid flannel shirt. I remember that he was a good foot taller than I was. I remember feeling something I'd never felt before -- at home.

We became friends.  Later, we were a couple within the safe context of a larger group of kids that spent Friday nights together at the local Methodist Church -- playing games, talking, and eating pizza. He was kind. He was gentle and quiet. He had a big family that laughed and fought and took me under their wing. His mom would scold me when I needed it. His dad would give me advise on all measure of issues from applying for jobs to changing the oil in my car. His brothers teased me and his sisters were my allies.

This isn't a particularly inspired or poignant post. But for me, this moment in my life was magical. For the first time, I felt like I belonged somewhere. Home felt like crisp September air. It tasted like apples and it smelled like woodsmoke and laundry detergent on a flannel shirt beneath my cheek. Home was a community center in the middle of a small town where my sister and I stood together without our parent or siblings -- and I wasn't afraid. Home was the promise of friendship and belonging.

So even now, when September sweeps in on the cool breath of autumn's promise, I feel safe. I am in the arms of a tall boy with kind eyes. I have just discovered what it might feel like to belong, and I never want to leave. I have a glimpse of my sister and I as whole people -- not just one tenth of a family. I have begun to realize that there is more to life than being small and scared -- the new girl who is awkward and bookish.

September is my reminder of that feeling.  It says, remember that you belong. Remember that you are not small and afraid of what you cannot see, or control, or understand. You know what home feels like. You know what it means to belong -- not to a place or a person - although those are lovely -- but to something so infinite and kind that it gave you the gift of a September evening in 1971.  It let you feel the promise of something you didn't even know you were aching for.

I believe that these moments of spiritual serendipity imprint themselves on our hearts.  They never leave us and they are always there to remind us to have hope, to persist, to be patient, and to trust. September does that for me. September is not a 30 day span on the calendar. September is a promise. A promise of home, and belonging, and discovering something you hadn't even known to hope for. 

We all have opportunities to make this kind of a difference in another person's life.  It doesn't always happen in big ways.  Sometimes it is the smallest act of acceptance that leaves the most enduring imprint on the heart.  That evening a boy simply asked a girl to dance.

offered with Love,


Saturday, July 30, 2016

"between here, and gone…"

"Now I'm just wondering
how we know where we belong.
In a song that's left behind
in the dream I couldn't wake from.

Could I have felt the brush
of a soul that's passing on,
Somewhere in between
here and gone..."

For the past year or so, I've sought quiet moments alone, allowing myself to feel the passing of a friend.  When my family was off doing what they love, and I would companion with precious memories. Putting on Mary Chapin Carpenter's "Between Here and Gone," I'd give myself permission to shed a few tears of gratitude, love -- and yes, sorrow.

For such a long time, I didn't know how to do this. I'd bottle those feelings up in a shroud of guilt.  I felt guilty for my sadness. I thought that my sorrow was an admittance of failure. Failure to understand what it means that "there is no death."

My dance with the concept of death came early. A much loved puppy was hit by a car when I was 10. My dad was killed when I was 19.  At 21, a dear young friend passed suddenly. And so it went -- year after year.

No more -- or less, I have discovered -- than most of us. We all face the loss of loved ones. It is not something any of us can escape. But I believe that it's how we navigate this life lesson, that makes all the difference.

Do we see passing as death -- ending, oblivion, a dark nothingness? Or do we see it as simply a transition.  Entering a new laboratory in which we learn something new about love and trust. One classroom leading to another -- new classmates, new lessons, new discoveries.

Does this mean that I do not cherish every moment shared with someone who has gone on? Not at all. 

I remember being a young girl. I was graduating from Kindergarten.  I'd delighted in every day at our little schoolhouse in rural Iowa. I loved my teacher, Mrs. Kearns. I loved books, and learning, and her gentle hand on the top of my head as she stopped beside my desk to examine carefully printed alphabet letters.

I wanted to stay in Kindergarten with Mrs. Kearns for the rest of my life.  That was, until I learned that I couldn't check  out books from the school library -- by myself -- until I was in First Grade. I loved books. I longed to be able to go in and choose my own favorites.  To walk up to the libarian's desk, hand her my card, and carry away a stack of adventures that would inform, entertain, and comfort me in the night.

For a while I felt torn -- as if I even had a choice! Stay in Kindergarten where everything was familiar, or go on to First Grade where I had access to a library full of books - just waiting for me to choose them and take them home. I remember that summer as one of great inner conflict. And then one day, it broke. I knew it was time to become a first grader. I cried for the loss of Mrs. Kearns' daily comfort.  But I was so excited about my new relationship with the school librarian, Mrs. Abernathy.

I think of that summer often, especially when life's transitions seem to shift from the familiar to the unknown. But, I ask myself, would you deprive yourself - or a loved one - of a library card.  Would you want anyone to miss out on a new understanding of eternality, or a long-awaited reconnection with a loved one who had gone on before them?

Today I don't so much wonder "where do I belong…" I trust that question to God. I am here. That is the truth. I am spiritual and eternal. That is the Truth. I cherish my memories with great affection and gratitude. I hold them dear and look forward to seeing my friend again.  I look forward to our sharing new stories. I weep.  But mostly they are tears of joy and gratitude.  And, sometimes longing -- I wish I could laugh with him, I am grateful that I ever did, and I realize that I love him -- still. Nothing can change this enduring truth.

These feelings have taught me compassion for others,  and patience with myself. I love that Mary Chapin Carpenter sings:
"I thought a light went out,
but now the candle shines.
I thought my tears wouldn't stop,
then I dried my eyes.
And after all of this,
the truth that holds me here,
Is that this emptiness
is something not to fear."

Ah, the emptiness, that is not empty at all.  Yes, sometimes it is a cavernous feeling.  But it not empty.  It is the removal of something intractable -- the false concepts of life as limited and material.  It reveals the expansive wonder of life defined spiritually.  For me, it is an "emptiness" that represents my willingness to discover that Life is not defined by the solidness of the flesh, but the irrepressible boldness of Spirit -- of the Love that cannot be stifled or destroyed.

Today, I've taken some time to let the memories draw close. To let them blossom with a new charm.  To laugh and cry with them. To let them dance a two-step with me, and smirkingly reprove me for my left-leaning optimism. I love my friend. I look forward to seeing him again. But we are both where we belong. I am grateful for the sweet brush of his memory -- across my heart.

offered with Love,


Thursday, July 14, 2016

"lost inside a wishing well…"

"When everywhere you look,
you see regrets.

Caught up in the past,
and what might have been.

What we can never know,
will make our heads spin.

A little love, a little trust,
a lot of forgiveness..."

Every few years I seem to need to spend a day or two soaking on the message in Ellis' poignantly lovely "Right on Time." It is a musical antidote to the futility of self-doubt and regret.

There was a time when my time when every day was a battle for confidence. Not so much in my ability to carry out tasks, be creative, or express courage, but to trust my ability to pause, listen for spiritual guidance, and act with courage.

I cross-questioned every choice. I doubled back on every decision. I returned purchases within moments of leaving the store. I cancelled almost every plan. What seemed wise one day, felt foolish the next. I felt like I was on the verge of tumbling down a steep hill since every step I took had the potential for misplaced footing on loose ground.

And it all had its roots in regret. I'd been faced with a difficult choice. I'd prayed deeply. Listened humbly. Waited patiently. When clear, Love-based spiritual guidance came, I didn't question it -- I trusted and obeyed. I assumed that because the guidance felt so clearly God-impelled, that the ensuing steps would be understood and well-received. But they weren't.

Before long the doubts expressed by others, became my own. And a decision that was now irrevocable, haunted my confidence and made me question my ability to actually hear God's voice. For me, there was nothing more terrifying. If there was anything I was sure of, it was my relationship with God. I trusted it above all else. To have that shaken was beyond comprehension. I didn't know how to go forward.

It was about that time that I began to pull back from trying to be all things, to all people. I hunkered down in the silence and gave myself permission to ask all of the hard questions of the heart. I was willing to be wrong. I was willing to be told -- by God -- that I'd made an error in judgment. That I'd misinterpreted His message. That I'd been willful. That I'd made a huge mistake, and that my decision would forever haunt me. Anything but the feeling of being misled by Love.

But I got none of those messages. What I did get, was a Scriptural reminder. One that stopped me in my tracks. That on the heels of God's most precious act of love and affirmation for Jesus -- anointing him with the Holy Ghost, descending like a dove upon him and assuring him that he was His loved son in whom he was well-please -- he sent him into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil forty days and forty nights.

This may seem like a strange comfort, but it wasn't. I realized that God's love for me didn't mean that I wouldn't face temptations. Especially the temptation to doubt Him. But, that I would be given the opportunity to prove my trust that His Word - alone - was operating in my heart. No matter how others might interpret His guidance -- I knew His voice, and the language of His speaking. It was Love.

As I navigated these deep waters, I couldn't help but think of those who had been there with Jesus following his baptism and anointing. Did they wonder why he wandered off into the wilderness instead of taking up the mantle of his new ministry? Did they question the direction of his path -- shouldn't he be heading back to Jerusalem?

The timing was not his to choreograph. The direction of his path, was not his decision. How could he regret choices that weren't of his to make. He trusted -- even in the face of doubt. The temptations weren't about behaviors to avoid. They were the temptation to abandon his trust in God. He was being given a gift. The opportunity to truly trust his Father's voice.

This was my first step out of doubt and regret. I might not understand what was to come or where it would take me, but I no longer doubted that God was at the helm. I would not abandon ship.

In her compilation, Miscellaneous Writings 1884 - 1896, Mary Baker Eddy shares:

"We have nothing to fear
when Love is at the helm of thought,
but everything to enjoy on earth
and in heaven."

Little by little, I let myself trust again. I learned to listen without condition. I stopped believing that a particular outcome was the measure of God's guidance. His timing became my "right on time" -- not the other way around. I was willing to sit in the space of not knowing "why," and still trust that where the voice of Love was leading me -- however unclear to my human sense of things -- was a place where I would grown to trust God more.

I discovered that the goal wasn't to get it right, the goal was to deepen into an unshakable relationship of trust with my Father-Mother God. This became everything.

offered with Love,


Monday, July 11, 2016

"how bad we need each other…"

"life, is too far to walk alone
you can't do it on your own.
it's like bare hands
digging through stone..."

For a while now, I haven't written a post unless something really catches in my heart. Today, I heard Marc Scibilia's hauntingly lovely song, "How Bad We Need Eachother,"and broke into tears. It speaks to where I am right now, and where I think our world is.

We've become so full of our own self-reliant determinism. We have computers that give us all the information we could ever want, on any subject we can think of. We have devices that entertain us in the middle of the night. We have phones with geo-locators that can give us directions to any place on earth and help us find our way home when we are lost. But they can help us find what we are still searching for.

We are still looking for a sense of belonging.  There is a distance we are trying to bridge.  We are hungry for connection.  And all the binge watching of our favorite television series cannot replace what happens when we laugh with a friend or cry with a loved one. 

That modulated voice on Google maps will never be able to imitate your mom -- or dad -- no matter what accent or vocal tone you program into its settings. It will never be able to remind you of that crazy road trip the family took in 1968, when a missed turn took you to the edge of the Grand Canyon in the middle of the night and you ate s'mores for breakfast at dawn. It will never be able to place its hand over yours on the gear shift, singing along to Carole King's "You've Got a Friend," as you drive across Kansas.

We need each other -- badly. Facebook gives us a false positive -- all the time. It allows us to be dismissive and careless with those we see every day, and then get online in the middle of the night and have our consciences soothed by all those "likes," that just keep on coming. Who needs to be kind in the moment, when at the end of the day our latest status update, photo, or "share" leads to a stream of likes, heart icons, comments, thumbs ups, and admirations.

Recently a friend was going through hell. I mean serious human hell. Her most current Facebook profile photo showed a smiling, happy wife and mother. Her latest status update was full of personal joy, professional achievement, and showed photos of a beautiful family event where she was surrounded by those she loved. Weeks later friends were still commenting about how delighted they were for her. No one had picked up the phone in weeks to call her. Everyone assumed her life was suspended in ether of her last status update.

But it wasn't. A family tragedy had kept her from returning to Facebook, and she was deeply in need of comfort and encouragement. When I learned of her situation I called her. Little did she know that I actually needed her, to need my friendship, just as much as she needed a friend.

The desire to belong is woven into our spiritual DNA. I believe it is why the Lord's Prayer is written in the language of our, us, we. It is in our relationships -- our real, living breathing, face-to-face relationships with one another -- that we discover the depth of our humanity. And it is in the midst of this humanity, that our relationship to the divine is excavated from the ego's burial of substance, in symbol.

The other day, I was sitting at my desk feeling quite alone. I love my work. I am blessed with a career that allows me to speak, text, and email with folks in the most life-afirming way. But I hadn't heard myself laugh in a long time. I missed sister/colleague/girlfriend/neighbor/citizen of the world time. I missed beating my husband in a game of Scrabble. I missed sitting with a friend while we waited for a movie to start. I missed linking arms in advocacy for social injustice issue, with like-hearted citizens. I missed driving through a new town, stopping for breakfast in a random diner, and learning something about the life of a single mother in a small rural community.

I needed human connection. I needed to feel that I belonged to a family, a community, a cause. It just wasn't enough to know that my Facebook friends liked my most current status. I needed to make eye contact, to hear the nuances in a friend's sigh, to have someone intuitively know that I didn't have it as "all together" as I was trying to project.

I grabbed my keys and drove to the library.  Checking out a book, I found myself standing at the counter talking with Melissa about her new haircut. Then I drove to the coffee shop where I ran into a few neighbors and caught up. Wandering next door I caught up with a new friend who owns a small business, before stopping in at another friend's shop where we discussed the economic plight of women in third world countries. Running into a dear friend, who had recently lost a loved one, I shared her tears -- and her gratitude that these relationships give us access to the deepest parts of ourselves.

Then I went back to my office. I was refreshed and connected. Not just to those people I had laughed, cried, and listened with, but with a palpable sense of the divine operating in each of us. We can't fake those moments. We can't photoshop the tears out, nor can we correct the wrinkles and blemishes that make each of us vulnerable to the other's humanity. 

We can't put a perfectly crafted spin on a regrettable moment, or pretend that we aren't hurt. We are forced to see the way our words might have affected someone, feel their sadness, and do what we can to alleviate suffering. We can't just soothe ourselves with the one hundred and thirty-four "likes" on a witty status update, a new cover or profile photo,  or a recently shared inspirational meme.  

All of those likes and comments can be encouraging, endorsing, and edifying, but they will never replace the tender touch, an attentive look, the intonation in a sigh, precious times spent in silence -- together.

In times of national and international sorrow, it is so easy to feel connected by linking to of an article posted by a friend, or find a sense of community in our common take on social/political issues. But we need more. We need shared laughter, heart-to-heart conversations that  make our eyes brim with tears. We need to feel forgiveness in a touch, or comfort in an embrace. We really do need one another -- badly.

In her spiritual interpretation of the Lord's Prayer, Mary Baker Eddy wrote in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures:

"Give us this day our daily Bread.

Give us grace for today,
feed the famished affections..."

I don't know anyone who is fed by a beautifully lit photo of loaves of just-baked bread, or is refreshed by a perfectly described glass of icy, cold lemonade. We need the warm embrace, the bracing laughter, the healing touch. We need each other -- in real time.

We don't have to be afraid to honestly and candidly face the storms of being human - together. To hold one another, to listen deeply, to speak words of comfort.  Because, as Marc sings in his song

"Storms never come to stay,
they just show us,
how bad we need each other..."

And we do, we really do need each other.

offered with Love,


Tuesday, July 5, 2016

"broke wide open…"

"something changed inside me,
broke wide open, all spilled out,
till I had no doubt,
that something changed..."

I know that I have already used Sara Groves' beautiful song, "Something Changed." But it is the perfect song for this post. Actually, it is the perfect song for my life. So much has changed inside of me.

There have been so many seismic shifts in the way that I think about love. Yes, love.

Recently a friend, who has known me for most of my life, asked me what had happened to the old Kate. She said that I seemed less concerned with the way other people thought about me, and more concerned with how I thought about them. Wow, did she hit the nail on the head.

It's true. There is nothing like having a friend actually notice a conscious shift as it moves from exploring in abstract, to having it become an assimilated part of our being.

On the heels of her comment, I examined what had changed, and why. And time and time again I came back to something I wrote about in 2012 in a post titled, "to be truly debt free..."

The realization that day,  that I had held others indebted to me -- owing me respect, gratitude, reciprocated affection, consideration -- was like hitting my heart with a fire hose of self-awareness and self-questioning. What had been my motives for loving? Had I only loved to get something in return? Was I imprisoned in my sense of what I was owed by others? Did I keep a running accounting of who was in the red, and who was in the black?

It was eye-opening and heart-shifting. This wasn't about money, time, gifts, or experiences. This was about love -- plain and simple. But not so simple at all. Love had become complicated for me. I'd thought I was a generous person, but I was always wondering if the love was equal.

This stanza from a long-loved W.H. Auden poem began to come alive for me. He wrote:

"If equal affection cannot be,
let the more loving one be me."

This shift, from refusing to note who loved more -- me or the other person -- was almost immediate. The awareness was like having a light turned on in a dark room, and the picture in the mirror wasn't pretty. But as soon as I saw it, I began to change.  I started loving without reason, without the tit-for-tat reckoning that I'd been saddled with for decades, I felt free.

It didn't matter who gave more. It just didn't matter. I could love because it was my divine nature, and my divine right. No one could take that from me -- even me.

In Romans, Paul is recorded as having said:

"I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." 

Nothing could separate Paul from loving as God loved. Nothing could take from him, his right to love generously, honestly, fervently. I believe that Mary Baker Eddy defines this kind of love as the "doctrine of Christian Science, when in discussing the above statement by Paul, she writes:

"This is the doctrine of Christian Science:
that divine Love cannot be deprived
of its manifestation, or object..."

Nothing, not even our own sense of lack -- held as someone else's indebtedness to us -- can deprive us of our freedom to love without the imprisoning sense of how much they deserve, how much we have given, or how much we think we deserve in return.

These are the chains that bind our hearts. We have the right to be free. To love without measure, to give without reason, to share from the infinite well of infinite Love.

offered with Love,


Sunday, July 3, 2016

"If I survive…"

do not cry.
Queen of Heaven,
protect me always.
Hail Mary,
full of grace..."

Those words, etched on the walls of a Gestapo jail in Auschwitz, inspired composer, Henryk Gorecki's "Symphony of Sorrowful Songs." It could have been the soundtrack of my childhood.  Its tone -- low, sad, and sweet. If I had heard it then, I might not have felt so alone.

But actually, it was a small book that gave me hope, courage, comfort, and forbearance. I can remember standing in our middle school library and seeing the word, "Night" embossed into the faded cotton spine of Elie Wiesel's book, on the eye-level shelf in front of me.

I took it down with shaking hands, and opened it with trembling fingers.  I knew in an instant that it was my book. That he was my hero. I knew his story. Everyone did in those days. But to know that he had written a book about night -- the most terrifying time of day for me -- was a gift of supreme grace.

No, my monster didn't come with guns and swastikas. My family wasn't murdered. I did not live in a rat and flea-infested barrack with hundreds of other prisoners. But for me - a small girl with a quiet heart - my hell felt just as dark and hopeless.

I borrowed "Night" from the library that day and took it home in my plaid book bag. I remember slipping it under my pillow and knowing that even if I couldn't read it right away, it was there to remind me that I was not alone in the night. The fact that others had faced even more torturous events - had survived, had gone on to become advocates for innocence, and had rediscovered their relationship with a God they'd once doubted - was a lifeline for me.

With a small flashlight, deep under my covers, I read and I cried -- night after night. It was Elie's honesty that gave me the strength to hold on to my sanity. It was his survival that emboldened my hope.

You see, it was one thing to suffer years of abuse and then have it suddenly end when my abuser discovered his relationship to God. It led me believe that God was now protecting me, and that if I only kept a keen hold on that divine link -- I would be safe. But when a life-event triggered the abusers return to his old behaviors, I was deeply shaken. Where was God?   Nothing I did - no prayer I prayed - seemed to be able to arrest his steep spiral into self-hatred and the hatred for others that followed.

I had no one I could talk to.  No one except the authors I'd made my best friends in the night.  I still took all my sorrow to them.  Elie Wiesel, Charles Dickens, Jane Austin, those wonderful Bronte Sisters…   The abuser's threats to the lives of those I loved, kept me silent and compliant. I was afraid. But I was not alone, there had been millions of girls and boys who'd faced villainous torture and paralyzing fear -- night-after-night -- in places like Auschwitz, Dachau, Treblinka.

Wiesel shares in "Night," a conversation that he had with another prisoner.  It gave me a safe place to take some of my own questions:

“Why do you pray?"
he asked me, after a moment.

"Why did I pray? A strange question.
Why did I live? Why did I breathe?

"I don't know why," I said,
even more disturbed and ill at ease.
"I don't know why."

After that day I saw him often.
He explained to me with great insistence
that every question possessed a power
that did not lie in the answer.

"Man raises himself toward God
by the questions he asks Him,"
he was fond of repeating.

"That is the true dialogue.
Man questions God and God answers.
But we don't understand His answers.
We can't understand them.
Because they come from the depths
of the soul, and they stay there.
You will find the true answers,
Eliezer, only within yourself!"

"And why do you pray, Moshe?"
I asked him.
"I pray to the God within me
that He will give me the strength
to ask Him the right questions.”

I prayed for God to give me the right questions. I prayed that I could let go of the "why" question:  Why me? And instead, begin to ask questions like, What can I do to protect my sisters? How can I be brave? Who am I? Where is my goodness?  The questions themselves refocused my thoughts and gave me courage and strength.

Then, in a 1981 New York Times interview, Wiesel would again come to comfort my wounded heart, diffuse my anger, encourage my hopes, and give me a path towards the freedom I longed for. He said,

“If I survived,
it must be for some reason.
I must do something with my life.”

Once again, it met me where I was, and walked me forward out of a particularly dark chapter.  I knew that Elie had also struggled with his faith. And yet, he had persisted and prevailed.

Today, with the news of his passing,  my heart is both heavy and grateful. I will miss the dream of one day meeting him. I will miss the conversations I have imagined. I will miss asking him a million questions. But I will not allow myself to miss out on asking God to help me ask the right questions for each day's journey out of darkness and into His light-filled purpose for me.

Someone recently told me that I needed to forget the past, and move on. Like Elie, I do not believe that this "forgetting," is my path. Forgiving, yes. Forgetting, no. When I am remembering, I am holding something in consciousness. In that moment it is not in the past, it is very present. By recognizing this, I can decide how to think in that moment about that "memory." And in doing so, with Love's help, I can reclaim it for good.

I would never think to tell someone to forget -- to wipe something out of their conscious awareness -- anymore than I would tell someone to forget Jesus' crucifixion, or Mandela's imprisonment. Not when we are given the opportunity to reclaim those moments for God. To deny evil its claim as a creator. By this reclaiming -- we realign out lives with one divine Cause.

Each of us will experience something that has the potential to carve out in us a space of compassion, non-judgmental, alertness, humility, courage, patience, gratitude, vigilance. For me, the dark chapters were only context -- not content. I am made up of better things. And yes, my faith was tested -- but it was not found wanting. I have been through the valley of the shadow -- but I didn't stay there. And every step of the way, God was with me. It was all for some reason.

Thank you Elie Wiesel for being there in the night. Thank you for reminding me that every life has purpose. That every moment has a reason.

offered with Love,


Wednesday, May 25, 2016

"He will not let go…"

"what lies ahead,
I'm not sure I know.
But the hands that holds,
this flailing soul,
He will not let go..."

Blinding pain ripped through my body like a bolt of lightning. In that moment, I didn't know what to think, or how to think. When it retreated, and darkness came again, it was like slipping beneath the surface of a cool dark pond. And I surrendered.

Until it came again. A screaming. A crashing. Something sharp and raw that shattered me into a million shards of pain and fear. All I wanted to do was let go and slip into oblivion. "Yes, that's right. Go ahead, and just let go," it whispered in a taunting hiss. And I considered it.  That was until I realized that even if I were to completely give up, give in, and let go, "He Will Not Let Go." of me.

I love this beautiful song by one of my favorite inspirational recording artists, Laura Story. Her music is so honest and simple that it takes my breath away.

There have been moments in my life when I've felt like giving up on my own ability to hold on. Times when the hurt was so deep, or the hopelessness so unfathomable, that looking beyond a single step felt impossible.

I remember that night - quite a few years ago now -- when the above-referenced pain was unbearable. Living with it seemed too much to bear.  Each minute felt like an eternity. Each tick of the bedside clock was torturous. As I lay there, it occurred to me that I could just give up, let go, and slip away. It would be so easy. The thought of it was so tempting.

But it was at this very moment, that I felt the presence of something profoundly clear. The thought came, "As if! As if your willingness to let go, would change the fact that I love you, and that I am holding on to you. You are the very manifestation of Me, as Life. I will not let go."

This single thought woke me up from the lie of self-determinism. It wrested from my grip, the false notion that I was in charge of my life. That it was mine to sustain, to choose, or to throw away. I realized that I had absolutely no power to make that choice. God had all the power, and He was holding on to me. He would never let go.

With the realization that I was powerless to give up, the pain began to retreat. It no longer had the authority I'd given it.  I no longer believed it could inform me about whether to hold on, or to give up and let go.  It was a decision that I'd always thought was mine to make. But the fact was, I was here, I was conscious. I still loved my children. I could still be grateful. I was still able to appreciate beauty.  Suddenly, I was no longer paralyzed by the pain and fear.  I was enveloped in an undeniable truth -- Life was insisting Itself as conscious existence - as me.

I asked myself, "In all your life, have you ever actually been aware of being unconscious?" I had to admit, I'd never experienced the kind of deep blackness.  I'd never existed without an awareness of "I AM" -- which was the very thing that I was so fearful of.  It was what I thought pain was a precursor to.  But in fact, every night I'd peacefully yielded to sleep -- without any fear of never waking up again or being relegated to a dark mental abyss. And every day, I woke up feeling a sense of uninterrupted being.

I had always been held -- deeply and inextricably held -- intact, in perfection, in grace, in consciousness. Life had never let go of me. And whether I was holding on or not, I was being held.

The pain that had terrorized me, lost its power to inform or alarm me when I realized that it could not carry out its threat. My life was in the hands of God.  My awareness of being was under the sovereignty of Mind. My right to love, to be grateful, to pray and to bless was intact.

I've been grateful for two statements - in particular - from the writings of Mary Baker Eddy, when acute or chronic pain has threatened to hold a deeper, darker meaning:

"No evidence before the material senses
can close my eyes to the scientific proof
that God, good, is supreme."

"Spirit’s senses are without pain,
and they are forever at peace.
Nothing can hide from them
the harmony of all things
and the might and permanence of Truth."

Nothing can hide from me an awareness of God's tender hold on my life. Nothing can close my eyes to the love of my divine Parent. He will never let go.

While searching for a photo to illustrate this piece, I came across dozens of photos of us holding our daughters when they were babies.  And an online search turned up hundreds of photos of mothers and fathers holding their infants. They all looked so beautiful -- so full of tenderness, strength, and love.

Then I looked at the same photos, but imagined the parent out of the picture. The babies looked vulnerable, their positions awkward, their bodies small and fragile. It was exactly how I felt that night -- like a flailing, unsupported naked being exposed to the unknown.  Knowing that God was always there, holding me, changed everything that night -- from paralyzing fear to feeling that I was nestled in my Father's arms.  Held in a deep and abiding relationship with my divine Parent.

Whatever you might be facing, you are not facing it alone. God is holding you in perfect peace, in eternal Life, in tender love. He will not let go.

offered with Love,