Wednesday, March 21, 2018

"but even if..."

"I know You're able,
and I know You can;
save through the fire,
with Your mighty hand;

but even in You don't,
my hope is You alone..."

This week's Bible lesson includes the story of the three Hebrew boys -- Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego -- and their time in the "fiery furnace." I love this story. I love these boys.

Mercy Me's recording of  "Even If"  always brings their story alive for me.

My favorite part of this story happens even before they are tossed into the flames to walk about unsinged - with "the form of the fourth." It happens in a conversation they have with King Nebuchadnezzar who has confronted them about their resistance to bowing down to his idols whenever they hear music -- even at the expense of being tortured and burned in a furnace:

"Is it true, do not ye serve my gods, nor worship the golden image which I have set up?

O, Nebuchadnezzar, we are not careful to answer thee in this matter. If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us out of thine hand, O king.

But if not..."

Yup, that's the part I love. "But if not..."

Theirs is not a blind belief. It is not about, "God will deliver us from the fire -- we just know he will." It is about loving and serving God -- even if that means the immolation of their bodies.

There are two things that have inspired me in a new way from this story. The first is the king's demand that, "at whatever time you hear the sound of the the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, dulcimer, and all kinds of music, ye fall down and worship the golden image that I have set up. And whoso falleth not down shall be cast into the midst of a burning fiery furnace."

Isn't this what false laws about health, finance, relationships, government - threaten every day. At what time you feel pain, fall down and worship - listen to and heed the advice of - materials laws, or you will be cast into the furnace of death.

At what time you see a smaller number in your bank account, fall down and worship the golden image of false economic forecasts, salary projections, working for "the man," -- or you will be cast into the fire of poverty, hunger, homelessness.

At what time you hear the sound of alarming news, rumors, or opinions of any kind -- bow down to anger and resentment, or you will be vulnerable, thought ridiculous, or cast into a pit of despair that you will never get out of.

But these arrogant ultimatums have no power behind them. They can only attempt to threaten and bully us into capitulating to their demands. They cannot stop us from loving, extending our compassion, trusting in good, refusing to become bitter or hopeless. There is so much more to this insight -- but I will leave it there.

The second insight has to do with the boys' experience after having refused to bow down.  The story follows that, "Then these men were bound in their coats, their hosen, their hats and their other garments, and were cast into the midst of the burning fiery furnace." And Nebuchadnezzar seeing them walking about in the fire says, "Did we not cast three men into the furnace? Lo, I see four men loose..."

I have written before about this fourth man who is, as Nebuchadnezzar exclaims, "like the Son of God." But today's inspiration is about the men being loose from their bindings.

They cast these sweet boys into the fire, bound. But then, they are walking loose of those bindings. And later we learn that although they are still in the fire, loosed from the bindings -- coats, hosen, hats, and other garments -- those very bindings are not changed, nor do they even carry the smell of fire.

Even those bindings - which were used by the king's men to hold them captive - were spared from the effects of the fire. Because their original purpose was good -- providing cover from sun, protection from the elements, covering their nakedness -- they could not be transformed into the trappings of their captors, used for restraint, or contribute to their destruction.

Even the fire itself was good and pure -- cooking meals, providing warmth, heating water, giving light. It's goodness could not be bound up in a false garment of pain and destruction -- or have its purpose twisted by fear and hatred.

In her primary work, Science and Health with Key to the Scripture, Mary Baker Eddy writes:"

"The everlasting I am
is not bounded nor compressed
within the narrow limits
of physical humanity..."

Not only were they not bounded by their garments, but neither was their sense of "I am." Their consciousness of Love -- of being, was never bounded nor compressed within the narrow limits of physical humanity. They knew that neither the demands of the king, or the belief that their lives were bound to bodies, garments, or physical laws -- could constrict their right to love and trust God.

And when their trust in the "form of the fourth" was apparent, even the king and his princes, governors, captains, and counsellors saw that God was with them -- right in the midst of the fire. Nothing they had done to those boys, could separate them from God's loving presence. They had always known it, now everyone else knew it too.

The last six months have given us ample opportunity to say, "but even if..." Not as a means to an end: "if we say no to the king, we will be lifted out of this fire." But with a sweet sense of "God is here -- with us all -- in the fire." We are loose from the bindings of fear, false laws, and the demanding dictates of personal sense.

I love these boys. I am so grateful for their example of a deep-centered knowing, an unwavering sense that God was with them -- wherever, whenever, whatever -- always.

offered with Love,


Saturday, March 17, 2018

"know, just 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.  I curl into the consciousness that "Love alone as Life."  And it is in this place of stillness --  this nevertheless-ness that I remember what I know. It is the place I love.

offered with Love,


"I'm barely breathing..."

"I'm falling apart,
I'm barely breathing;
with a broken heart
that's still beating.

In Your name
I find meaning
so I'm holding on,
I'm holdin' on,
I'm holdin' on,
barely holding on to You..."

I was looking down at the delicate white scar that runs from the wrist on my left arm three inches towards my inner elbow, when Lifehouse's  "Broken"  came on my Pandora station. The coincidence took me by surprise -- but in a gentle, self-compassionate way. I wanted to hug the girl I once was.

I've had dark chapters in my life, but this was one of the darkest. I'd driven over 3,000 miles across the United States -- leaving everyone I knew, in hopes of a fresh start. But the second largest city in the country was not the land of milk and honey I'd hoped for. Hours after reaching the first outskirts of the metropolis, I finally reached my destination. I felt lost in a dystopian abyss.

Within a few months, I was more alone than ever. I had a temporary job -- just waiting for the school year to start so that I could begin teaching again.  But everyone I met seemed obsessed with body image and partying. I was living with a roommate who brought a different "date" home every night. My commute consisted of 2 hours - each way - on the freeway in bumper-to-bumper traffic. Nothing felt familiar and I was lost.

But, I was a survivor -- or at least that was what I told myself.  I would persevere, I would forge on, I would not give up. On the outside I was focused and determined. On the inside I was barely breathing. When I left my academic, social, and professional roots 3,000 miles behind, I felt like I also left my spiritual lifeline.

One evening, while helping a friend prepare for a party, I was cutting strawberries, kiwis, and apples for a fruit salad when I suddenly realized that I had better get in the shower before they arrived home. I had already undressed when I remembered that I'd forgotten to add the pineapple. Since I was alone in the apartment, I walked to the kitchen and found a large butcher knife in the drawer. Holding the pineapple with my left hand, I hurriedly attempted to lop off the top of the pineapple. The knife slipped and suddenly I was standing there naked - with a butcher knife stuck deeply in my forearm. Had it really been an accident? Or had I sub-consciously intended to put a stop to the emotional pain I was in? These were the questions that flashed through my mind in the blink of an eye.

Graphic, I know. But I still remember the slow motion stillness of that moment as if it happened yesterday. My life was in such a complete shambles that I wondered whether it was even worth trying to get help. Maybe I should just sit down on the kitchen floor and let the quiet peace that had suddenly come over me,  continue to spread throughout my body.

But in an instant, I woke up from the hypnotic pull of just giving in -- and chose to live. I pulled the knife from my arm, grabbed a towel from the counter to put pressure on the arterial wound, and walked calmly out the front door to knock on the door of a person I'd never met. Seeing me standing there naked, covered in blood, she sprung into action. She found my panties on the bathroom floor, helped me into them, wrapped me in a bath towel, forced me into her car, and drove me to the very nearest hospital emergency room, only two blocks away.

Within minutes I was rushed into surgery. Because they needed for me to remain conscious - so that I could respond to questions about movement and feeling - I watched the surgeon place layers of tiny stitches in my arm, reattaching flesh, nerves, and blood vessels. I don't remember any pain.  I think I was still just so surprised by my clear choice to live.

The next months of physical recovery were a blur. As a child, I had learned to pray. I began to pray again in earnest. I amazed the surgeon, the orthopedic specialist, and the physical therapist by regaining full use of my hand and fingers within six weeks of the injury. My professional life blossomed when school started, but my emotional and spiritual life continued to free fall. I didn't know how to find my way back. I knew I wanted something real and sustainable, but it seemed as far away as the outskirts of that city's limits -- green and verdant beyond the smog and industry.

One day, while walking home from a local park, I passed a Christian Science Reading Room. I looked in the window with such longing. I wanted to go home, but I felt broken and stained. I read the marked Scriptural selection in the window with a sense of sorrow. The next Sunday morning, I walked past the Christian Science church - just as their services were starting. But I was too afraid to walk in. What if someone who knew my mother or sisters and recognized the family resemblance?  What if they asked me questions? I continued down the sidewalk with tears in my eyes.

I wasn't ready yet. But I now see that each step, taught me something. The injury taught me that I wanted to live. My calm, clears sense of peace during the surgery taught me that I really had learned something about trusting God during my childhood. My recovery showed me that I knew how to pray. My hunger for Scripture helped me see that I really did know where the answers lay. My sorrow when walking past the church showed me that I wanted spiritual nourishment and fellowship.  I just couldn't see the forest for the trees - yet.

A few months later my sister would force me to join her for a family reunion in another state. Once there, something finally broke open and I asked my mother if I could borrow her Bible and Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures that first night.  The rest is history -- and another long story.

Tonight, when I looked down at that hairline scar that runs up my forearm -- I smiled. I couldn't help but think of Mary Baker Eddy's promise in Science and Health:

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

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

“Come hither! Arise from your false consciousness into the true sense of Love, and behold the Lamb’s wife, — Love wedded to its own spiritual idea."

Sometimes it takes distance to see the path that was laid out for you all along. I was never alone. I was never forsaken or hopeless. The waymarks were there -- every step of the way. I am so grateful.

offered with Love,


Thursday, March 15, 2018

"I've had a crush on you..."

"It's not
that you're attractive,
but, oh my heart grew active
when you came into view..."

I've been teary for the past 48 hours. It's caught me off guard. I couldn't find the place where that sadness was springing from. Until I heard Linda Ronstadt's  "I've Got a Crush on You"  -- and I knew. I was grieving the loss of one of my biggest crushes -- Stephen Hawking.

I know -- without a doubt -- that Life is eternal. I know that his wisdom, humor, and intelligence continues to bless the universe -- but that said, there was something about knowing he was "out there" - the promise of meeting him, hearing of another new insight - that kept me on my toes. I loved him.

I am probably one of the few people who binge watched "The Theory of Everything," and has read A Brief History of Time -- just to hear his "voice' -- more than once.

When I was in second grade, I was an awkward bookworm  who had already been to four school since kindergarten. Second grade was especially difficult because we moved after the school year had begun. Everyone had best friends by the time I showed up in a hand-me-down plaid skirt and scuffed saddle shoes -- polished to a spit shine.

I wanted to fit in, to find my place, to belong. But everyone was already paired off into BFFs and crushes. I had neither. There was the cutest boy that all the little girls liked, and then there were the almost cutest boys that all the little girls -- who didn't have long blonde hair that hung to their waist -- pretended to "like." And then there was Geoffrey.

Geoffrey was quiet, awkward, and extremely smart. And I adored him. He was nice to me -- the new girl. He was funny -- in a way that kids who laughed at knock-knock jokes didn't understand. But I understood - and that made me special in a brand new way. He was scrawny, had a big head with floppy brown hair, and enormous horn-rimmed glasses with coke-bottle lenses that magnified his very blue eyes. We were two peas in a pod. He made me laugh and was willing to play chess with me during recess. I was so happy to have a friend.

That didn't mean that I wasn't teased by the playground's own Princess Buttercup and her plain-Jane ladies in waiting, but I didn't care. I liked Geoffrey. One day it occurred to me that they would like him too, if only they could see how amazing he was. So I started talking about him to the other girls as if he was the smartest, funniest, most amazing boy in the world -- because to me, he was.

Before long, they saw that too.  And in that moment, I had discovered my super-power -- calling attention to the best in others. I quickly realized how willing the other girls were to see Geoffrey through my eyes. I just had to be willing to find all of his amazingness, and call attention to it every chance I got.

We moved about six months later, and I wasn't able to stay at that school till the end of the year, but by Christmas most of the other girls - including Princess Buttercup with her long blonde curls - were eager to learn chess and read Dickens to impress Geoffrey.

I left that school with a clear sense of my greatest talent -- seeing and calling attention to the good in others. I also left with Geoffrey's imprint on my heart. I would always fall for the smartest boy with the biggest glasses.

In Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, Mary Baker Eddy writes about Jesus:

"Jesus beheld in Science the perfect man, who appeared to him where sinning mortal man appears to mortals. In this perfect man the Savior saw God's own likeness, and this correct view of man healed the sick."

My favorite -- hugging the dictionary to my chest -- definition of the word "behold" is:

"to see,
and call attention to"

That is my super-power. Seeing the hidden good in others, and then calling attention to it. It is my favorite thing to do. It is like walking into a party where all the people have paired off, or are in conversation groups, and just standing quietly in the room and staring -- with absolute, transfixed attention and wonder -- at a place on the wall. Eventually everyone in the room will be looking to see what I am so focused on, and delighted by. This, for me, is what healing is all about.

I get to walk into someone's "room" and see the presence of God in their lives. Soon they are looking in that direction too -- and so is everyone else.

So back to my crush. After second grade, I knew better than to trust the opinions of my classmates.  Their version of who was "amazing" was their version. And they were more than eager to share it with me whenever I got to a new school.  It usually ratified their own place in the social hierarchy.  If they convinced me that Billy was the cutest boy in the school, and they were dating Billy, well -- that meant something about them.

But, I looked for Geoffrey. Unfortunately, at the high school level, Geoffreys were either too interested in physics to pay attention to the new girl, or I was too gob-smacked by their intelligence to ask them to play chess in the cafeteria. I can still remember the names of all the "Geoffreys" I dreamed of having conversations with -- in every new school.

Then one day I came across A Brief History of Time in the local library. I saw Stephen Hawking's photo on the flyleaf. He was Geoffrey all grown up. I didn't see the wheelchair, the physical toll that ALS had taken on his sweet face. I just saw humor, intelligence, floppy hair, and a big pair of horn-rimmed glasses. I checked the book out and read it twice. I didn't understand much of what I was reading the first time through, but I could hear his "voice."

I loved knowing that he was in the world with me. I loved thinking that he was surrounded by people who loved him, and cared for him. I loved that he was humanly flawed, and emotionally available enough to fall in love, to be a father, and to make mistakes. I didn't care that we didn't share the same beliefs about God, we shared the same love for big questions.

I will miss a man I have never met -- a man I knew at the very core of my being. I will miss thinking we might meet someday and "talk" about what it was like for him in the second grade. I will miss asking him if there was a mousy little girl who believed in him and played chess with him while the other boys chased Princess Buttercup on the playground and threw balls at small children.

I will miss you Stephen Hawking. May we meet in the next chapter. I still have so many questions...

offered with Love,


Wednesday, March 14, 2018

"womanhood - never taken out of man..."

"No, no, they can't
take that away from me.
They can't take that
away from me..."

I woke up this morning with Judy Garland's  "They Can't Take that Away from Me"  bubbling around in my head. This particular video makes me happy -- her exchanging the female models for male dancers makes me smile and seemed an appropriate keynote for this post. The song -- well, only the title is relevant.

I thought I'd written about this experience years ago, but a deep dive into the more than 700 posts on this blog didn't turn it up. So, in light of Women's History Month I thought I might revisit it.

Our daughter was just a tiny infant. It was my first week in south Africa and after a challenging start to our adoption journey together, we were peacefully settled on a friend's game farm near the Botswana border. We'd arrived during a hunting party and one morning after the men and boys left on safari, our host and I settled in to read the Bible Lesson together.

I sat with my new daughter in my lap, listening to my new friend read from Scripture, and from Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy. It was a deeply peaceful moment for me. At one point her middle school age son came in to explain that he had decided not to join his dad, brothers, and their guests but would be heading down to the watering hole to spend time birding. He was sad that his older brothers had teased him about not being man enough to go hunting.

I could tell that this was sad for him -- and for his mom. After he left the room, we resumed our reading of the Bible Lesson. The very next verses from Scripture were from the story of Adam and Eve -- an allegory in the Book of Genesis that as Mary Baker Eddy explains in Science and Health is:

"a statement which is the exact opposite
of of the scientific truth as before recorded...

a false history in contradistinction to the true."

The true that Eddy is referring to is the First Chapter of Genesis account of creation where God makes man in His imagine and likeness -- male and female. An account which closes with the benediction:

"And God saw everything that He had made
and behold it was very good.

Thus the heavens and the earth
were finished, and all the host of them."

Then my friend read this passage from the Second Chapter account of Adam and Eve -- the false story:

"And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof. And the rib, which the Lord God had taken from man, made he a woman.

And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called woman because she was taken out of man."

I think my breath stopped rising in my chest for just a moment. Everything became very, very still. I will never forget hearing - as clear as a bell:  "Man's womanhood was never taken out of him. This is a lie."  I shared this with my friend and we sat there for a very long time talking about this remarkable truth.

As I looked down at my sleeping baby, I could see -- and feel -- her wholeness.  She was not just a beautiful baby girl -- she was everything in the universe.  She was the very expression of God's completeness.  And I was not her "mother" I was her parent.  I was the expression of that Father-Mother wholeness -- and so was her dad.

We are all whole. We are not male or female, but male and female. We are each complete. This wholeness is the key to our health -- a word whose etymological root is in the word "whole." An etymology which it shares with the words well, wealth, wellness, holy. We are all whole, wholly intact and holy. Each of us. We are not parts of one another, or portions of the divine. We reflect that All-in-allness of God's being.

Later that day my friend's young son came in happy and eager to share that his brothers had spontaneously offered to stay back from the afternoon shoot, and help him work on his birding stand near the watering hole.

There is not a day that goes by that I do not think of that moment in a colonial South African kitchen when I saw with absolute clarity the imposition on man -- men and women -- of that false account of creation in which man has his womanhood removed from him.  What a lie. Claiming the wholeness of man, is every woman's divine right.

We are not defined physiologically, but spiritually. We are the direct -- pixel-for-pixel -- image and likeness of God who is Father-Mother, Love. There is nothing missing from any one of us. Just because I have white hair, and my sister has brown hair, doesn't make us different "kinds" of humans. Physiology has no bearing on our wholeness as children of God. God is All-in-all, we are each that likeness -- All-in-all of us.

As we celebrate National Women's History Month, I hope we can begin to recognize and celebrate the spiritual wholeness of man, woman, child. Son, daughters, fathers, mothers, aunts, uncles,he, she, child, parent, them, they... We are all whole -- we are not parts, we are not defined by our parts. We are defined by Love, reflected in love.

offered with Love,


"love has no pride..."

"Love has no pride,
when there's no one left to blame.
And I'd give anything
just to see you again..."

My friend George posted this video of Bonnie Raitt singing her hauntingly beautiful  "Love Has No Pride"  with David Crosby and Graham Nash at the 25th Anniversary of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Concert in 2009. It took me apart. I am still sniffling.

This will be one of those posts that you will only find if you are looking beyond what is right at the top of this blog. I do that when I need to say something, but don't really know how I feel about it being read. I will write another post right on the heels of this one and post it quickly. Most people will not scroll further.

Here is what I need to say. I have loved three men in my life.  Two of them were men I hoped I would love for the rest of my life. And I will. I will not be married to them -- but I will love them.  The third I hope to be married to for the rest of "time."

The reasons that those relationships were not my "last great love" is not important, other than to say I was not an easy person to love or live with. I was afraid of being rejected and abandoned -- every day. And without intending to, I made sure that I'd have a reason for that rejection when the time came. Jeff will tell you that it has taken much spiritual self-examination to realize this -- and to heal it.

What happens -- at least for me - is, that when I see through the tangle of my own emotional forest, I get clearer views of what was always true, at the very heart of things. And what is true about each of these men is that they are deeply good. They are kind, honest, beautiful men of integrity. I was blessed in each case.

Have I ever told them that. No. At least not the first two. Why? Because I am afraid. Yup. I am afraid that I will be thought ridiculous. I am afraid that they will think, "a little too late." I am afraid that I will be rejected and dismissed. It is all about pride.

I have a bigger fear though. That bigger fear is that one of us will leave this chapter of our eternal lives without my having said what is in my heart. I am not "in love" with either of my earlier loves, but I do love them. I love them for the kindness they showed a fragile, skittish woman-child who tried so hard to seem confident, smart, and whole. I love them for the patience they showed each time I reached the fight-or-flight stage of my anxiety. I love them for believing in me when I didn't believe in myself. I love them for loving themselves enough to move on -- into relationships and marriages that were so much better for them. And I just love them for being the men I love.

I don't expect either of them to read this or to understand how I could love them so much, and not be able to say what is in my heart. I don't understand it either.

When my grandfather was very ill and it was likely that he would pass away in a hospital -- far from where he'd become a man, married my grandmother, and raised their children -- it was my grandmother who he'd divorced decades earlier, that he asked to see. His current wife was by his bedside, but he asked to see my grandmother. She refused. He passed without that reconciliation. That story always broke my heart.

Years late when my grandmother was facing serious memory-related issues I spent time with her in prayer. One day we were sitting in her room, at the care facility where she was living, and I asked her about my grandfather. She was silent for the longest time before she began to weep. She wept the tears of the broken-hearted. I sat quietly by her side.

After some time, I asked her again to tell me about my grandfather and their young marriage. She smiled the smile of a girl, and began to tell me about falling in love, courtship, the early days of becoming a family with the three small children they raised in a lovely neighborhood.

As far as I know, my grandmother did not have any memory-related episodes again after that conversation. She would soon leave the care facility and spend time with all three of her children and their families before her peaceful passing. Her heart was lighter, her laughter was sweeter, her peace was deeper.

I take great comfort in something Paul says in his epistle to the Romans:

"Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?
Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution,
or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?

Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors
through him that loved us. For 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..."

Love doesn't weaken us. Love empowers us. Love has no pride. It is not afraid of looking ridiculous. It is not afraid of failing. It is not afraid of being rejected. I pray that I can more fully realize this love in myself.

I know that nothing can keep me from loving the people I love -- whether they feel the same about me, or not. Perhaps someday I will have the courage to tell them how much they have meant to me -- even after we were no longer together. If I do, I will tell them how much I love them -- and their new families. I will tell them how grateful I am for their wives, who love them in ways I seemed incapable of loving when I was a younger woman.

Until then, I will pray for their happiness, I will see them through the purest eyes, I will delight in their accomplishments and weep with their sorrows. And mostly, I will be grateful that I have known great men who have helped me grow into this woman who is learning what it means that Love has no pride. Thank you.

offered with Love,


Sunday, March 4, 2018

"is there no balm in Gilead..."

"Sometimes I feel discouraged
and think my work's in vain,
but then the Holy Spirit
revives my soul again..."

This video recording of The Adventist's Vocal Ensemble singing  "There is a Balm in Gilead"  was shared with me recently, and it reminded me of two experiences that I now see are related.

When I was in 7th grade, I had a friend whose family was very devoted to their church. They had services on Saturday afternoons -- as well as Sundays. Because our family attended church and Sunday School at the same time as their Sunday gathering, I could only join her for their Saturday services.

One Saturday their choir sang, "There is a Balm in Gilead." I was familiar with the Scriptural passage from Jeremiah which reads:

"Is there no balm in Gilead;
is there no physician there?

Why then is not the health of
the daughter of my people recovered?"

There was something about having read that passage earlier in the week - as part of my own faith's Bible study - and then hearing the same gospel message sung in my friend's church. It made it feel as if the whole world was "at one."

But I always found that passage from Jeremiah both comforting and confusing. How could God be everywhere, but not in Gilead? Where was Gilead anyway? Etymological research was helpful -- sort of. "A rocky mountainous region, the grandson of Manasseh, a name given to a male child that means eternal happiness and joy."

Each time the passage would surface, I would seek deeper meaning, I would remember the gospel song I'd heard, and I would pray for inspiration. But it remained a beautiful, yet confusing passage for me.

That was, until our toddler daughter was struggling with an illness that seemed to be lingering. I'd been on-my-knees in prayer for over 24 hours when that passage flooded my heart:"

"Is there no balm in Gilead;
is there no physician there?

Why then is not the health of
the daughter of my people recovered?"

Yes, I thought, that is my question, too. And on its heels came the answer:"

"And when he was demanded of the Pharisees,
when the kingdom of God should come,
he answered them and said,
The kingdom of God cometh not with observation:
Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there!

for, behold,
the kingdom of God is within you."

That was when I "got it."  The balm, salve, the answer - it wasn't in Gilead, an inspired passage, a wise person, or a well-written article. No, they were only waymarks -- pointing us towards the true location. The balm was not in Gilead, it was in "the kingdom of God" which was always, already "within" the daughter -- and her mommy.  Within minutes, the symptoms completely disappeared and our daughter was playing happily.

I love Mary Baker Eddy's definition of "Children" from Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, which reads, in part:

"not in embryo, but in maturity"

My job wasn't to go searching for the balm -- in Gilead or anywhere else. It was my privilege to realize that the balm was already within the daughter -- the King's daughter -- who, as the Psalmist says, "is all  glorious within."  This was simply my opportunity to recognize her spiritual maturity. To see that our spiritually-wise daughter was ever-conscious of the presence of that spiritual "balm." She had every right to feel the fullness of its promise in her life -- as health, strength, wisdom, intelligence, purity -- the all-presence of infinite good.

The balm is, never was, and never will be in Gilead. It is, and has always been, in the kingdom of God, which is always within you, and me, and "the daughter" -- and son. This rhetorical question:

"Is there no balm in Gilead;
is there no physician there?

Why then is not the health of
the daughter of my people recovered?”

stirs the human heart to ask -- where am I looking? And where do I place my trust?

God is All-in-all. Not All-in-some, and the rest of us need to go searching for one of those wiser pilgrims. Not Some-in-all, and we all need to find the someone, some place, or some institution with more "some" than others. But All-in-all. The kingdom of God within us all -- impartially and universally.

So the answer, for me, is, "no," the balm, the physician, the answer is not in Gilead -- or anywhere else. It is within you, and me, and her, and him, and all.

offered with Love,


Friday, March 2, 2018

"beyond the veil...."

"I look to You,
I look to You..."

I know that I have used Amy Kelly's version of  "I Look to You" recently, but it is the song that was singing itself to me today.

As a bride, I never wore a veil. But I have designed and created many. As a little girl I was fascinated with all things bridal. I dreamed in shades of white and the palest blushing pink. Helping other girls plan their weddings, design their wedding dresses, making veils -- helped to vicariously fulfil many of those little girl dreams.

One afternoon, as I carefully sewed the last seed pearl on the gossamer edge of a custom fingertip veil --one that I was gifting to a dear friend for her wedding -- I decided to try it on to see if it fell evenly on both sides. I stood in front of the mirror and for the first few moments I couldn't see anything but the layers of soft illusion tulle. As I stood there, my preschool-age daughter came in the room with a hurt finger. Immediately my focus shifted from the pattern in the fabric -- just inches from my eyes -- to her sweet face. Suddenly, I was no longer aware of the fabric - just her need.

I remember in that moment having two insights. The first one was that when someone with a need was before me, I wasn't at all aware of the veil. The second was that when I actually loved what was beyond the veil -- more than wearing the veil and being a bride -- my sense of things shifted drastically.  It was one of those epiphanies I have never forgotten.

A few weeks later a friend and I were driving back from a meeting in another city when rain started falling. At first I couldn't see anything but raindrops on the windshield, and I reached to turn on my windshield wipers. My friends suggested that I wait just a moment. She explained that her husband had shared with her that "looking beyond the veil" was like driving in the rain. At first you can only see the raindrops, but within a few moments your eyes adjust and you look beyond them and can see the cars on the road, the taillights in front of you, and the signs on the highway. She was right -- I could.

When I am focused on what I truly love -- and what I truly need to see -- the veil, the raindrops, the "in your face" sense of things - dissolves from focus.

Recently this was made very clear to me. After a stop-me-in-my-tracks realization about my relationship to God as  "my first Love..." last Fall, one alarming situation after another seemed to present itself. I felt bombarded by personal demands and responsibilities. But I wasn't fooled this time -- at least not for the most part. This analogy of the veil was with me every day.

I saw myself as a bride, looking for her groom at the end of the aisle. As long as I was focused on what was "in my face" -- the details of each of the challenges I was facing -- I felt trapped by a quandary of decisions and obstacles. But when I was looking beyond my immediate circumstances, for the face of my first Love -- God, I was at peace. I wasn't distracted from my one true "goal," -- to know Him, to love Him, to trust Him.

Everything else was like the train behind a wedding dress -- it would come along.  And it did.  The more I focused on God, the less the "veil of matter" was even perceptible to me.

In Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, Mary Baker Eddy has this to say in a paragraph with the marginal heading, "within the veil:"

"The nature of Christianity is peaceful and blessed, but in order to enter into the kingdom, the anchor of hope must be cast beyond the veil of matter into the Shekinah into which Jesus has passed before us; and this advance beyond matter must come through the joys and triumphs of the righteous as well as through their sorrows and afflictions. Like our Master, we must depart from material sense into the spiritual sense of being..."

As long as I was focused on myself as a bride -- all of my attention placed on how things were going to effect me and mine -- I wasn't going to see the real beauty of being wedded to my first Love. But the minute I sought His face -- continually -- the veil disappeared from my focal distance.

Elsewhere Eddy speaks of this shift in focus when she writes:

"Mortals must look beyond fading, finite forms if they would gain the true sense of things. Where shall the gaze rest but in the unsearchable realm of Mind?"

Just as a bride looks beyond the veil to find the face of her beloved, so I am looking beyond the veil to rest my gaze on the "face" of my first love. Not as a means to an end. Not to rend the veil. But to feel at one with my greatest love.

And the great Love of my life is - well, Love -- pure and simple. Later in Science and Health Eddy writes:

"The very circumstance, which your suffering sense deems wrathful and afflictive, Love can make an angel entertained unawares. Then thought gently whispers: “Come hither! Arise from your false consciousness into the true sense of Love, and behold the Lamb’s wife, — Love wedded to its own spiritual idea.”

This is the wedding feast that never ends. This is the "place" where the Christ turns water into wine. This is the never-ending moment where we are robed in white and held in bliss.

offered with Love,


Friday, February 23, 2018

"a little girl, and a smooth stone..."

"At the end of the day
I will hope they will say,
that my heart looks like Your heart,
that my heart looks like Your heart..."

Chris Tomlin's  "My Heart" came as the soundtrack to this memory of my experience with school violence.

Anyone who reads this blog knows that I spent my childhood being "the new girl." We moved so often that instead of counting sheep when I can't sleep, I try to remember addresses, telephone numbers, floor plans, zip codes.

I was not the pretty, confident new girl -- that was my younger sister. And as long as I was with her, I wasn't afraid. But she was in the grade behind mine and although our classrooms were near one another in every school, she wasn't in the room with me.  I was the bookworm, the shy girl, the just-pretend-I-am-not-here girl.

For the most part, my love for learning made every classroom a safe, happy place for me. Teachers generally love a new student who lives for the sheer pleasure of doing well in any subject. And even though I dreaded the playground, I loved the classroom. Desks that were textured by years of use, the scent of fresh chalk on the blackboard, the sound of a pencil sharpener -- I loved it all. It was familiar and safe.

That was until I reached sixth grade. We'd moved to a new neighborhood. I was excited to finally be in the oldest class of elementary school. Yes, I was terrified about junior high. But that wasn't for another year. For now, I was happy to be in the graduating class.

But all my dreams of a wonderful school year -- one filled with awards, opportunities to shine, a teacher who would help me get ready for junior high - evaporated on the first day of class.

I was small. I was a bit of a timid mouse. I didn't like attention. But I liked being smart. I wasn't a child who raised her hand. I was the student who proved that she knew what she knew by doing well on tests, essays, assignments turned in at their completion -- not by speaking out.

From the second I entered Mr. S's classroom I felt threatened. His was a reign of terror. Everything was based on his experience as the immigrant son of nationalist Germans who felt misunderstood and persecuted in post-WWII America. He was a man who proudly declared that his father had served in the German Army during the war, and that his mother had been an "officer" in the Bund Deutscher Mädel - Hilter's Youth organization for girls.

I was terrified of Mr. S. And my response to that terror was to try even harder to win him over. Little did I know that - for some reason - this was the opposite of how to survive in his world order.

Mornings in Mr. S's classroom began with the playing of the music (only the music -- not the lyrics -- he wasn't a fool) to "Deutschland über alles"  - the German National anthem under Hitler's regime. We would, strangely enough, follow that musical prelude with the Pledge of Allegiance, and then an examination of our hands, faces, and the bottoms of our shoes for cleanliness.

One day, during the playing of Hayden's "Austria," - the music that underscores "Deutschland über alles" I must have had a peaceful smile on my face that was disarming to him. He came to stand in front of my desk -- paunchy belly, thick, heavy straw-colored hair flopping over his eyes, jowly chin and asked, "well, well, little rat, what is making you so happy today?"

I replied that I loved that piece of music. He narrowed his eyes at my prim, mousy little self and asked why I like it so much. I said that it was one of the hymns in our church's hymnal. This must have piqued his interest, because he asked me, "and what church do you go to that sings Deutschland über Alles as a hymn?" I told him I didn't know those words, but that, at our Christian Science church, we had a song that had the same music.

Suddenly he exploded. He grabbed me by the collar, dragged me to the very front of the room, pulled a desk right under the American flag and pushed me into a chair. He went on to rage - to the rest of the class - that I was not a Christian. That "these Christian Scientists" were not followers of Jesus. That I needed to be humbled in the sight of "our Lord."

From that moment on, my sixth grade classroom became a torture chamber. I was humiliated daily. Forced to say the Pledge of Allegiance alone, outloud in front of the class, and if I hesitated or made a mistake, I would have to say it again. I was called little rat girl. I was tiny and I had a slender face and when I smiled my eyes were all squinty. It seemed to give him pleasure to attach that name to a small child. And when the mean boys in the class took up his new nickname for me with enthusiasm, he encouraged them.

But his harshest act would be his most silent. Mr. S carried a keyfob with a small bottle of cognac encased in a resin block at the end of a short chain. He would take it out of his pocket and swing it in circles until the cognac inside of the little bottle frothed. When he was ready, he would walk over to my desk and hit me sharply on the head with the corner of the little resin square. Then he was say, in front of the class, "Well little rat, how did that illusion feel?  Can you pray it away?"

For hours I would be dizzy and in pain. This went on for weeks. I was afraid to tell my parents because I thought that if they told the principal, my life would get harder. There was only one sixth grade class in that school. And as much as I wanted to be safe with my brave sister, I didn't want to go back to fifth grade.

Finally, one Friday his sharp attack broke the skin on my head, left another huge lump, and I could barely think straight for the rest of the day. I knew I couldn't go on like that for the rest of the year. On Sunday, I waited until after Sunday School to talk with my Sunday School teacher. She was a Christian Science practitioner and one of the things I knew about Christian Science practitioners, was that they had to keep whatever you told them a secret -- just between the two of you.

I told her what had been happening and she held me close and cried. I didn't expect that. On the one hand, I was completely horrified that I had made her cry, and on the other, I was so grateful to know that someone cared about me.

When she had composed herself, she reminded me of the story of David and Goliath. We talked about David eschewing the King's weapons and armor -- even a helmet.  And I could have really used one of those!  Instead he had taken five smooth stones from a brook. And with just one of these stones, he had smote the giant.

She explained that I, too, had five smooth stones. Spiritual ideas that I had worked till they were well-honed. And that I could use them as my armor and my response to Mr. S's goading, humiliation, and painful abuse. She also told me -- and this was long before health-care professionals were legally required to report child abuse -- that she would have to speak with my parents.  I kinda knew that was coming.

She asked me what I thought my five smooth stones were. I remember two of the five I came up with: I love God. I am smart. She then told me that I should pick one to use the next day in class. I should hold it in my heart and be willing to let it fly in the face of rage, hatred, and violence. I chose: "I love God." I know she talked to my dad later that dad -- but I was not part of that conversation.

The next morning, as I stood in front of the classroom to say the Pledge of Allegiance - all by myself - I almost screamed the line: "one nation under God..." It seemed to shock him. This meek, little mouse of a girl roaring about God. Then I sat down. When he came over to my desk during math, swinging his keychain, I looked up at him and said, "I love God." He didn't say anything, but he also didn't slam that keyfob on the crown of my head.

Within a week we had a long-term substitute for the rest of the year. I don't know if my parents or my Sunday School teacher spoke with the school, I only know that my sister did not have to have Mr. S for sixth grade the next year.  We moved before the following year so I don't know if he ever came back.

Teachers are people. I was one. I loved being in the classroom with children. Most teachers have the noblest motives for doing what they do. But some teachers are carrying around stories, memories, and hurts that haven't been healed or resolved. For these teachers, a classroom can be used inappropriately. We need to provide healing support to both teachers and students who are facing demons they haven't exorcized.

When I think of teachers being armed in the classroom, I am reminded of Mr. S., and I am grateful that he was only carrying a bottle of cognac encased in a block of resin. His rage was sudden, and his willingness to take all that unresolved angry hurt out on a small child, was without any perceivable sense of self-knowledge or remorse. His willingness to teach gentle little boys and girls to model his violent, humiliating behavior towards another student -- was unchecked. He needed to be protected from himself -- and his stories.

We need to love the bully enough to separate him (or her) from settings that allow them to act out their rage with the social weapons of sarcasm, humiliation, harassment, revenge, and violence.  This separation is not dismissive.  It does not ignore the issue, but provides a setting conducive to counseling, compassion -- and yes, healing.

This experience actually made me love Hayden's "Austria" even more.  Lyrics to that hymn read:

"On the Rock of Ages founded,
What can shake thy sure repose?
By salvation’s walls surrounded
Thou mayst smile at all thy foes...."

For me, the Rock of Ages is not a big boulder, it is a smooth stone. With one smooth stone in our hearts, nothing can offend us. Nothing can reach within the walls of what we know at the very core of our being. Nothing can shake the sure repose that comes from a Truth that we have used, and proven.

And then, we actually can smile at our foes -- because, in Truth, we have no enemies. Even as a little girl, I could see that Mr. S's stories about his parents and the war -- were not filled with pride, but the confusion and hurt of a little boy trying to make sense of it all, while still find his way in the world.  I can't imagine what it was like to live in this country as a German after the war. I can only hope that by reminding him that I was a real girl - who loved God, he was able to find a smooth stone of his own to smite the giant in his own stories.

offered with Love,


Monday, February 19, 2018

"i am a mental traveler..."

"A mental traveler
hasn't the need to eat or sleep..."

The experience I am sharing today includes another person's insights and words.  But this is really about my experience with what she shared. I am not attempting to interpret her experience or her conclusions.

That said,  years later I asked her if she wouldn't mind my sharing how her example had impacted me. That permission was given in hopes that it would lead to less judging of another person's experience, and a deeper trust in the presence of God. This is my best recollection of conversations that took place decades ago:

Today's inspiration isn't a song -- it is a moment from one of my favorite films of all time -- "Out of Africa." Karin is entertaining Denis Finch-Hatton and Barkley Cole, when Denis asks her about her life travels. She responds that she is  "a Mental Traveler."  I remember seeing this film for the first time in 1985 and falling in love with Isak Dineson as a writer, a woman, a dreamer -- and yes, a mental traveler.

I was madly in love with everything about this film -- especially its characterization of Karin Blixen. "Me too, me too" -- I wanted to say from my theatre seat. I, too, am a mental traveler. I, too, dream of Africa. I, too, have no need to eat or sleep -- just to dream in stories.

I didn't know how precious this insight - about mental traveling  - would be for me, until later. I'd grown up having known a beautiful active woman of my mother's generation. She was the kind of wife and mother one dreams of having or being. Hiking, riding, leading campfires -- she was someone I admired and loved. Her family called her blessed -- and so did everyone else I knew.

One day - after only having spoken by phone for years - I saw her at an event, and she was in a wheelchair. I was heartbroken for her -- and her family. I could only imagine all the things she would no longer be able to do. I also knew her as a devoted spiritual healer, and her situation seemed to scream -- to me, in my immaturity -- that there was something she had not healed.

In the meantime, I was also aware that her husband and children remained extremely active -- mountaineering, world travel, concerts, trips to see friends. I was so sad that she was not able to join them in many of these activities.

She was also someone I looked up to professionally as an experienced spiritual healer, and over the years, I had often called her to talk about our shared love for this work. One day, when we happened to find ourselves alone together, I asked how she was doing. She must have sensed my sympathy, and pressed me to be more clear about my concern. So I did.

I asked her how she was coping with being trapped in a wheelchair, and if she was disappointed that her "healing" hadn't happened yet. She looked at me as if I had absolutely lost my mind.  I could tell that my sense of her situation, was completely inconsistent with what she herself was experiencing.  When she realized what I was asking, she smiled, and then, leaning into the space between us and said, "Oh darling, I am exactly as I need to be. I love what I do, and now, no one expects me to do anything else. I get to be still, take calls, and pray all day."

I asked her if she didn't miss traveling, hiking, going places with her family. She was even more gentle with me as she explained that she was "a mental traveler," and that she prayed with her family - through every activity and adventure. She wasn't missing anything. And in this she was firm. She was content and happy. I was the one who was projecting my concerns about what I was seeing, onto the screen of her beautiful, peace-filled life.

I immediately understood that I had been mal-practicing her joy. Disappointment hadn't touched her at all. But it had distorted my own view of her situation, and what I thought happiness should mean to her. I was the one who was trapped in my version of things.  She was satisfied, free of concern, and at peace.

She would later explain to me that she had fully enjoyed her chapter as a physically active mother and wife. But that this was her current calling as a mom and life-partner -- to be completely focused on the spiritual support that she was giving to her family -- and the people who called her for that same spiritual support each day as a Christian Science healer.

I have never forgotten this conversation. What actually needed to be healed was my sense of what I was seeing -- not her sense of her experience. And I could not be manipulated by a false sense of things. I had the right  -- and the responsibility -- to see that God was with her, and that nothing had touched her ability to be true to her purpose.

In referring to Paul's epistle to the Romans, Mary Baker Eddy writes:

"It is ignorance and false belief, based on a material sense of things, which hide spiritual beauty and goodness. Understanding this, Paul said: “Neither death, nor life, . . . 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.

This is the doctrine of Christian Science: that divine Love cannot be deprived of its manifestation, or object; that joy cannot be turned into sorrow, for sorrow is not the master of joy; that good can never produce evil; that matter can never produce mind nor life result in death. The perfect man — governed by God, his perfect Principle — is sinless and eternal.

Harmony is produced by its Principle, is controlled by it and abides with it. Divine Principle is the Life of man. Man’s happiness is not, therefore, at the disposal of physical sense."

This statement always makes me think of my friend. She taught me that nothing could have ever separated her from her right to be loving, grateful, satisfied. She taught me that it wasn't my job to assess a situation through the lens of what I believed things "should" look like, but to simply see God's hand in every moment. To trust God's all-power at every juncture in Life's beautiful, unfolding journey. To see only His love at the helm of each unfolding opportunity.  Opportunities that would serve to draw me high unto Him. And, above all, to do His will -- which we learn in I Thessalonians is:

"In everything give thanks;
for this is the will of God
in Christ Jesus concerning you."

I can do that. I can be grateful in every moment for the only thing that is true -- God is with me. I am not alone. Wherever I am, whatever my circumstances are -- God is there. For, as the Psalmist asks, "whither shall I go from Thy spirit, or whither shall I flee from Thy presence..."

I am a mental traveler -- whether that traveling is articulated in movement through geo-physical space or by leaps and bounds through the pages of sacred texts, through time zones and across continents or bridging the abyss between human hearts -- I am satisfied, complete and my life is divinely fair.

offered with Love,


Sunday, February 18, 2018

"belonging, or just fitting in..."

"How can I be sure,
in a world
that's constantly changing,
how can I be sure
where I stand with you..."

The Young Rascal's  "How Can I Be Sure," at first blush sounds like the angst-filled insecurity of a teenager in love. But for me, it meant so much more. This song came out in 1967. I was 13 years old. I didn't have a boyfriend. I didn't want one. What I did want, was to belong. And this song spoke to the girl in me that never felt like she belonged anywhere -- to anyone.

A few weeks ago, a dear friend shared Brene Brown's new book, Braving the Wilderness, with me. I can only read a few pages at a time without needing to stop and process all the ways it is opening old wounds for a deeper cleansing. And I am letting the balm of understanding it leaves in its wake - penetrate deeply.

Today I was reading the transcript from Krista Tippett's February 8, 2018 interview with Brene' Brown. In it, Brene' shares this moment from her research on belonging with a group of middle school students:

"I was asking these middle schoolers what the difference was — what they thought the difference was between fitting in and belonging. And they just had these incredibly simple and profound answers: “Fitting in is when you want to be a part of something. Belonging is when others want you.”

It stopped me in my tracks. I was back there -- in middle school, and high school, at camp, in the faculty lounge, the staff dining room, the office, PTA meetings, neighborhood HOA meetings -- my family. Here is the thing:

"Fitting in is when you
want to be a part of something.

"Belonging is when others want you.”

It's not just about letting someone be among us. Its about letting them know that we want them with us. What an "aha" moment this has been for me. This is what I always longed to feel -- and always worked to hard to earn.  And you can never earn someone wanting you.  That's not about you, it's about them.  But I didn't understand that.

Later in the interview, Krista Tippets responds to Brene with this insight:

"This observation is so helpful. You said, “We are hardwired for belonging and connection. We’re hardwired to want it, and need it so much -- yet, the first thing we do is sacrifice ourselves and who we are to achieve it.”

Oh my goodness, that was me. I wanted so badly to belong. But because I had conflated belonging with fitting in, I thought belonging was something I could "achieve."

You see, I knew how to make myself indispensable. I could mold myself to accommodate any social need. Do you need a fan -- I will be your fan. Do you need someone to help you with your homework -- I will study that section so hard that even though I might have failed it earlier myself, because you need for me to know it, in order to help you -- I will become an expert on that subject. I was a social, professional, relationship chameleon.  Put me in a group of girls with green eyes, and I would try to make my eyes turn green.

But the problem was, I was what you needed, not who you wanted to be with -- and I knew it. At school, I was a scholar for the teachers, the over-eager-to-be-accepted chum - with other girls, and I was the all-too-willing cheerleader - for the boys. Whatever you needed, I was your girl.

In her interview with Krista, Brene' addresses the deep loneliness that comes from morphing into something inauthentic, in our efforts to just belong::

"What if loneliness is driven in part by our lack of authenticity — that I can go to a party, and I can be the belle of the ball and come home completely disconnected, lonely, anxious, because never once during that experience was I myself? I was who I thought they wanted me to be."

This is the kind of loneliness I felt for many years. In my striving to belong with others, I failed to belong to myself. My morphing into what I thought someone else wanted/needed me to be, wasn't leading to any real connection, It was really just about fitting in. And for most of my life I didn't understand why -- even though I could make myself fit in -- I had never felt a true sense of belonging.

That was, until the house of cards I'd been carefully building -- for many years -- fell apart. The particulars of that story are not important to this post. Going from being adored and admired to judged and rejected  - in the space of a moment - will humble all false confidence, and teach you a lot about where your true worth lies. It was a hard lesson, but one I needed and am now deeply grateful for.

I'd molded myself to fit what I thought were the expectations of the community I'd become a part of. When something needed to change -- there was no room for that adjustment. I hadn't been wanted for who I was -- I had just made myself fit a particular open space in the puzzle. As long as I stayed in that shape, everything was okay. But that was just me trying to fit in.  It was not that unconditional sense of belonging that we all hunger for.

And I didn't know the difference. I'd been doing it so long -- in my family, classrooms, work-places -- that fitting in had become my modus operandi.

After that difficult time of being "not wanted" -- when I no longer fit the shape "they" needed, I stepped back. It wasn't long before I realized that I needed a spiritual sense of what it means to really "belong."

Over the past forty years I have had a nagging suspicion that most of our societal ills come from an underlying sense of not belonging. As a teacher I could see it on the faces of students of every age. I have watched it at camp, in women's groups, at coffeehouses. And I've always thought that if we can just find the right "fit" for our gifts, idiosyncrasies and talents -- the right place to serve, the right school, the right family, the right relationship -- we would feel this belonging.

But it isn't enough to find the right space -- and then alter ourselves to fit that space.  Nor is it enought to simply let someone join our group, gathering, family. We have to help them feel wanted - for who they are, not for who they think we want them to be.

I was once in a relationship I'd worked very hard to make work. And it wasn't.  It just wasn't working.  At one point the other person said to me, "I don't know that this can be healed, but I can tolerate you." No joke. I felt more defeated and alone by being told I could be tolerated, than if the person would have said that they just couldn't love me anymore.  

There is no real love -- or belonging -- in tolerance. Tolerance is not spiritual. Its starting point is not God. It starts from the premise that there is something lacking in another that we --in all our generous human nobility -- can tolerate.

But this is not how God loves. And it certainly wasn't how Jesus modeled his Father's love. Mary Baker Eddy reminds us that:

"Jesus beheld in Science
the perfect man who appeared
to him, where sinning mortal man
appears to mortals.

"In this perfect man,
the savior saw
God's own likeness..."

Jesus wasn't just nobly tolerating a somewhat flawed mortal -- he was loving the man he knew to be the only possible version of God's child. And who wouldn't want to be with that man -- or woman.

This post is not about whether we fit-in with the group we have chosen, or a family we have been born (or borne) into. It is about belonging. It is about wanting each other. It is about leaving each encounter with a feeling of having been with someone we want to know and knowing we were wanted -- for ourselves, not the fitting-in version of that is inauthentic at best, and leaves us feeling even more alone when "it" is loved and accepted into the circle.

I truly believe that when we understand the universal desire to belong, our privilege of making others feel wanted, and the countless opportunities we have each day to really be with someone -- for a moment or a lifetime -- we will know how to:

"transform our earth,
to heaven..."

We are not just flotsam and jetsam being randomly blown into the immensity of human drama -- we belong in every moment. God wants us there. We have been sent there for a holy purpose. It is our privilege to open the eyes of our hearts and see who is in front of us -- and want to be there, to help them feel wanted. This is our security.  To know that wherever we are, whoever we are with -- we are wanted there by the One who holds the wind in his grasp and orders the stars in the courses.

What a difference it would make in the lives of our children, our elders, our seemingly used-up and discarded soldiers and servant-leaders, our tolerated -- to know they are wanted - truly wanted. There is no love in tolerance.  There is no real love in just letting someone join our group, enter our space, or be a part of our family. Being tolerated -- or even appreciated for finding a way to fit in -- is not the same as belonging. When we know the difference, we can make a difference.

offered with Love,