Monday, March 23, 2020

"let us pause..."


"let us pause
in life's pleasures
and count its many tears;
while we all sup sorrow
with the poor..."



This James Taylor and YoYo Ma recording of Bob Dylan's "Hard Times," speaks to me on so many levels today. We are all being asked to pause from life's pleasure. We are being asked to sup sorrow with the poor -- to understand the isolation and uncertainty that they face, while we who have so much, move past with dry eyes and light hearts. I just love it.

One has to sit with the poor, to understand the depth of their hunger. And it is a hunger. A hunger that goes beyond the need for basic food, shelter, warmth and a sense of belonging. It is a hunger for peace. A hunger for freedom from worry and doubt. A hunger for a sense of one's self, that feels worthy of kindness, respect, dignity.

These are "hard times" for so many. Those of us who live in secure housing, and are blessed to have enough money to stock a pantry - have little idea of what it is like to watch your paycheck-to-paycheck resources dwindle - while the days of quarantine, and suspended work, turns into weeks. As our empathy for others increases, it might seem hard to stay awake to our collective spiritual reality.

My friend, Nancy, shared a story with me from her trip to the the grocery store early this morning:

“My husband and I ventured out to our neighborhood grocery store early today. When we first walked in, the atmosphere was so solemn. It was very busy, but No one was talking. It was almost zombie like.

I tried to make eye contact with other shoppers so as to greet them and give them a smile. But for the first 5 or 10 minutes, no one would even look at me.

Then the Father said, “love them”. So as I moved thru the aisles from there forward, and as I came to another shopper, I first thanked God for His dear child, and felt God’s love for that dear one.

The atmosphere quickly changed. I began hearing people greeting people they knew. Shoppers returned my smile. A lady who [we know] said, "Hi," and asked how I was. And when we got in line to check out, a gentleman who lives on our block came up behind us, and we had a wonderful opportunity to catch up."
 
I loved this story -- so much. It might have been hypnotic to walk into that grocery store. It might have easily felt like it all made sense in the context of this global crisis. "Why of course people are afraid, defensive, moving through their days with the weight of an unknown threat hanging like a storm in the air."

But no. Nancy did what Mary Baker Eddy encourages us to do in her textbook on spiritual healing, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures:


“Beholding the infinite tasks of truth,
we pause, — wait on God.

Then we push onward, until boundless thought
walks enraptured, and conception unconfined
is winged to reach the divine glory."
 
It is all in that pause. We can become so zombie-like ourselves. Just pushing through the hypnotic fog of despair and "well, this is just how it is for a while..."

But Nancy didn't do that. She paused. She waited on God. And to wait on God, is very different than waiting for God. Both are required. And Nancy did both. She waited for God to take hold of her thoughts, and direct her heart. But she also waited on God -- serving His purpose with the attention of the most skilled waitstaff, in the most posh restaurant. She was alert, awake, ready. And the effect of that alertness was deeply felt.

Which brings me to another point taken from this story. Nancy's willingness to pause and question what she was experiencing.  The tasks we face seem infinite.  How do we reach a global community? But the infinite tasks are not ours, but the tasks of truth -- and Truth has infinite resources for addressing them.

Nancy's willingness to pause, reminds me of another experience.  One that a friend shared some years ago during a Wednesday evening testimony meeting. She said that she had woken one morning feeling a bit "off." She decided to push through it, and go for a run. But somewhere along the trail, she started feeling worse.

She decided to take a moment to pray for herself and sat down on a log. It came to her that, even though she was up and running, she was not fully awake. In fact, if she could feel anything but the full presence of God, she was actually still asleep -- she was sleep-walking, or in this case sleep-running. She realized she needed to fully wake up. She claimed her right to be more fully alert to God's power and presence -- and soon she was feeling completely well.

This has been such a powerful example for me. Each morning -- and throughout the day -- I claim that I am fully awake, alert, and conscious of the Truth about everyone and everything. If I am seeing, accepting, feeling something that is inconsistent with my right to know the fullness of God's presence and power, I am sleepwalking and I need to wake up.

I can do this dozens of times a day. And I do. This is what Nancy did this morning in the grocery store. She experienced something that didn't align with her clear sense of God's omnipotent love. She paused, waited on God. Then she "pushed onward until boundless thought walked [through that store] enraptured" with love for God's beloved community.

If we are feeling unsettled by what we are seeing in the grocery store, hearing on the news, or experiencing in our communities -- or our bodies, we can pause, ask God to help us wake up more fully -- and then walk enraptured with love for our neighbor.

Thank you Nancy, for refusing to sleep-shop.  Thank you for sharing your story, and for being willing to pause...

offered with Love,


Kate


Friday, March 20, 2020

"never trapped..."


"such a cozy room,
the windows

are illuminated..."


Crosby, Stills, and Nash's "Our House," must be a go-to song for me these days. Obviously, since I used it in a post, only a few weeks ago. But this time, it really is about a house. A house with walls and doors and windows.

When I was a junior in high school, our family of eight moved from a large house in a small college town in new Jersey, to a 1,000 square foot carriage house in a rural estate. If 1,000 square feet is hard to imagine, let me map it out for you. There were two floors. Each was 20" X 25" with a wide staircase bi-secting each floor.

On the first floor, on one side of the staircase, was a living room -- about 7 feet by 20 feet. And on the other side of the staircase, was a kitchen with an eating area, also about 7 X 20. Upstairs, under the eaves, was one long bedroom, "for the girls," (5 of us - eventually) that was the same dimensions as the kitchen. On the other side, were two tiny bedrooms -- one for our parents and one for the three boys. And a very tiny bathroom. Yes, if you are doing the math, those numbers don't really add up. That's because soon after our move into that house, our mom would give birth to twins -- bringing our occupancy up to 10 people in 1,000 square feet.

So, why am I writing about this little carriage house today? It's because I am hearing so many instances where people are feeling trapped in their houses, and restricted from all the ways that they have historically found a sense of freedom and social range of motion.

You see, I was a girl who needed quiet. I still am - I guess. It is more important to me than air or food. But when you have ten people living in a very small space -- and two of them crying infants -- quiet is not something you ever get. In the warmer months, I could walk out the front door and into the woods, or down to the stream at the bottom of the hill, but we were not close enough to a town to go to a library or coffeehouse.

So, in the winter months -- it was all ten of us in a large clapboard box with no privacy or sound isolation. If I wanted "my own space," my only option was to go to my bed at end of our long, narrow bedroom under the eaves and read. But there were no earbuds or noise-cancellation devices to isolate yourself from the cacophony of ten people clattering around day - and night.

Some years later, when my own family of five moved into a small 1,200 square foot cottage, I felt trapped. With only two bedrooms, our own toddler twins slept in youth beds at one end of our small master bedroom, while our 11 year old daughter had a tiny bedroom under the eaves. One bathroom. Kitchen, living room, and a minuscule office for my work -- we were snuggled in tight.

One rainy, winter day, I was feeling particularly housebound. I called my mom in hopes of her commiseration. But she was having none of it. "Kate, what was your favorite house growing up?" she asked out of the blue. I didn't have to think about it for more than a second. "The carriage house," I quickly replied. "And," she asked, "how big was that house, and how many people were in it?" Without waiting for me to answer, she told me, "ten people on two 20 X 25 foot floors of living space with a wide staircase in the middle." I did the math -- 1,000 square feet, 10 people, 100 square feet per person. And that was my favorite childhood home -- of many. It brought me up short.

I have thought about that conversation so many times over the years as we have moved from rambling suburban houses, to urban flats and small town "cottages." What makes a space "home?" What makes it a place where we feel peaceful, secure, and warmly welcomed each time we open the front door? It is a question that is so important as we navigate these times of self-isolation and sheltering in space.

I think it has nothing to do with square footage or amenities, the number of bodies or the quality of sound isolation or the toys we surround ourselves with to keep us distracted. It has to do with how well we use the space within our hearts. How well we exercise retreating into the "kingdom of God," for privacy, solace, harmony, creativity, and deep inner peace. It has to do with the love we express, and the love we feel in that space.

It was what I learned, during that time as a 16-17 year old girl trying to find herself in the midst of family bedlam, that has given me the tools to navigate this period of self-isolation without feeling trapped. To know that I could retreat into myself -- and the peace of knowing that there was more to me than my circumstances -- is re-defining this quarantine. We are never trapped. We are always free to wander the beautiful space within. I was then. I am today. So are you. So are we all.

We each have a very, very, very fine house that is bulwarked in freedom, not restricted by walls. A house whose rooms are filled with opportunities for restoration and renewal. Whose windows are open wide to the music of the spheres -- songs of Soul, and the lullabies of Love.

offered with Love,


Kate


Tuesday, March 10, 2020

"you are safe..."


"One thing
I can promise you;
I promise
you're safe with Me..."



When I first heard Megan Nicole's "Safe with Me," it felt like a love letter from God.

In light of recent news reports about the latest pandemic threat, safety seems to feel fragile for many people. The other day someone asked me why I wasn't afraid. It was clear form the way she asked the question,  that there was a deep longing for peace of mind and freedom from fear.

I didn't answer quickly. I din't want to appear cavalier. I wanted to be sure that there was nothing but compassion in my heart. But they had detected something so deep that I felt a spiritual receptivity in their inquiry.

So I explained that in Scripture, when Moses is asked by God to return to Egypt -- the place he had fled for fear of his life -- and free His people from generations of slavery and bondage, Moses asks God who he should tell the Israelites had sent him to do this great thing. The ensuing conversation between God and Moses goes like this:

“And Moses said unto God, Behold, when I come unto the children of Israel, and shall say unto them, The God of your fathers hath sent me unto you; and they shall say to me, What is his name? what shall I say unto them?

And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you."
 
For me, this is the clearest name for God that I know. The Children of Israel hadn't read the chapter of Exodus. They hadn't heard this scriptural account before. So for them, "I am..." wasn't code for God.  It was simply what it was -- their own sense of conscious being.

The very fact that they could feel that sense of "I am..." was all the authority they needed for their emancipation from slavery.  "I am" indicates the presence of God, and assured their right to freedom from bondage.

And it assures the security of our health. The safest place on earth, is where the "I am..." of your being is present. Because this is where God -- the great I AM is.  Every time you say, "I am..." you are declaring the presence - and power - of God. You are affirming your oneness with divine Love.

A number of years ago, a work colleague and I were having a conversation about feeling safe. I asked him if he'd ever felt afraid. He recounted a time in the early 1970s when he'd been a young man at the height of the Viet Nam War, and his birthdate was assigned a very low draft number. He said that he was a pacifist and besides being opposed to war, he was also very afraid. He thought about filing as a conscientious objector or fleeing to Canada to avoid serving in a war that he was opposed to.

In the midst of this moral wrestling, he called a spiritual mentor who told him that since God was the only "I am.." wherever "I am" was, was the safest place on earth. It stilled his fears, and strengthened his trust in God's ever-present care for him -- and for all the boys, girls, men, and women who would be deployed to serve in Viet Nam.

Soon after that realization, his draft number was called, he showed up for his physical, went through basic training, and was deployed to Viet Nam. He was assigned to an intelligence unit and spent his entire time sequestered in the highest level of security. But every day, he prayed that each man, woman, and child - touched by that conflict - could feel safe in the presence of their own consciousness of  "I am..." -- which always points to the presence of God -- the great I AM.

We are all safe in this knowledge that God's presence is assured every time we think or say, "I am..." In Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, Mary Baker Eddy assures us:


“Security for the claims
of harmonious and eternal being
is found only in divine Science."
 
Divine Science -- the Science that overarches all other natural sciences - laws of nature -- is sovereignly self-enforcing. This Science is based on the irrefutable law of God.  The law that states God's All-in-allness. All good, in all. All purity, in all. All innocence, in all. All safety for all.

I am safe. You are safe. We are all safe...

offered with Love,


Kate


Thursday, March 5, 2020

"sending big waves into motion..."


"Like a small boat
on the ocean
Sending big waves
into motion
Like how a single word
can make a heart open..."


When Sam asked me to write a post using Rachel Platten's "Fight Song," as the keynote, I was intrigued. I'd never heard of Rachel -- or her song -- but once I did, this post gave birth to itself. I just got out of the way. Here what fell on the page:

I'd spent so many years trying to prove my worthiness. I'd chased a sense of belonging -- to family, church, and in the communities I've lived in. Enough.

I refuse to fight any longer for a personal sense of validation. And actually, I have discovered that I don't need to. I am enough. In her song, Rachel sings, "a single word can make a heart open…"

That is the line that simply took my breath away.  You see, once upon a time, not so long ago, I had a life-altering experience that supplied the "one word" I'd been waiting for. The word was "no."

I had been holding my breath, waiting for someone to to take note of my worth -- for far too many years. I'd done everything - shy of standing on my head - to get a thumbs up. Then one day, I got a clear, decisive thumbs down. And it was wonderful.

Sure, the first moment or two was filled with "what did I do wrong?" "Give me another chance -- please -- I'll try harder to win you over. I promise, I'll do better next time." 


 And there were many times in the following days - and weeks - when I thought it actually meant something about me that I didn't measure up. As if looking through any human lens could serve as an accurate assessment tool for measuring a person's merit. For weighing worth, validating value.

But I soon came to realize, that it never would. It never could. And it just didn't matter. Really. I knew I had given "it" my honest, genuine, authentic all, and it was still not enough -- for him, for her, for them.

That "no," was actually the key to my freedom. It released me.  It wasn't a "no" to my dreams and desires.  It was only a "no" to their participation in it.  I was free.  I was free to be empowered from within.   


In the wake of their "no," I could begin to look in another direction. And I chose to look towards my relationship with God for any - and all - meaningful information about my peace, my purpose, my place in the world. That relationship was intact and unwavering. My trust in His love for me was sound. 

Like a small heavy-keeled boat, I was secure in my spiritual seaworthiness. I was deeply grounded in an unsinkable certainty that I knew Him, felt His presence, and was filled with His grace.

What I also learned through this experience was that a clear "no," is sometimes the most wonderful version of "yes." To know -- without a shadow of a doubt -- that permission from others is just not going to be yours, actually frees you to stare unflinchingly into abyss of your own heart's fathomless worth. For this is the province where God is Sovereign -- enriching your affections for what is really yours.

Nothing that is truly ours, requires someone else's approval or permission. When we feel inspired and impelled by that deeper demand from within -- we are driven to find ways to live those desires moment-by-moment. We stop asking for permission.

I think that, for me, parenting has been one of the most powerful examples of this. For such a long time I thought that I needed to have a child to be a mother. But mothering is a verb. I could mother colleagues, nieces, neighbors, countries, causes. I didn't need to wait for the validation of a baby. I didn't need someone to choose me as the adoptive parent of their infant or child. I could mother -- nurture, encourage, support, cherish -- without hesitation, without apology.

Whatever it is yours to do, you know it in your heart. You don't have to think it into being.  You don't need to poll the opinions of others to find consensus.  Your purpose springs from that sacred place in you that is so deeply aligned with divine Love that nothing can extinguish its primordial fire. 


Are you impelled to heal -- then heal. Are you kept awake by a desire to write, to keep bees, to partner, to coach? Then do it -- even if the "doing" begins with simply and importunately  praying for the integrity and success of that industry, institution, activity in the world.

If you love the thought of being in a marriage and you have not met Mr. Right -- so? Love marriage. Love the office of husband so much that you would never criticize, demean, or undermine that office in any way. No matter how it is being carried out by those around you. 


 Uphold the best view of that office in your conversations, interactions, and in support of your family members and friends. Nothing can make you think of that office in any way that violates your highest sense of its potential to bless -- not even someone else's behavior. You own your right to uphold your highest sense of husband, boss, mother, friend, world leader, global citizen. Take possession of it and defend it.

Don't wait for the validation of the "right" person, place, or thing, to live your relationship with whatever God is impelling in you. Don't wait for permission from an employer's "hiring" to live your desire to do, what it is that you love -- whether it is to exercise a skill, share a talent, or support an organization's mission. Their "no," may just be your "yes" in finding a clearer, brighter path towards the realization of a deeper sense of what it means to fulfill your divinely-designed purpose, to answering your highest calling.

Mary Baker Eddy says, on the first page of her primary work, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, that:


"Desire is prayer, and no loss can occur from trusting God with our desires…"


These desires -- which she clearly identifies as prayers -- are actually:

"God's gracious means for accomplishing whatever has been successfully done for the Christianization and health of mankind."

I'm learning to trust this truth. To act upon it without permission from anyone -- but God. I am discovering that when the eyes of my heart are fixed on Him, I cannot be disappointed. I am empowered by His reign in my heart -- enriching my affections and governing them.  


You may not be a big ocean liner - filled with folks lining up to party with you.  But, you may find that you are like a small deep-keeled boat, happy to do whatever it is that small boats do.  Perhaps you will carry the Christ, or hold those who are casting their nets -- within.

Offered with Love,


Kate




Friday, February 21, 2020

"location, location, location..."


"our house
is a very, very, very
fine house..."



I could find a perfect correlation between Crosby, Stills, and Nash's "Our House," with this post -- but it would be a reach. I just love it. And it's about a house. So....

This post is about a different kind of house. A house that is not just historic and well-built, but eternal.

In this week's Bible study is Jesus' parable of two houses:

“Whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock.

"And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it."
 
As I have written about before, my first "aha" moment with this parable came some years ago, when I realized that  by building his house on the rock, it did not mean that the "wise" homeowner would not face storms. In fact, the same exact storm assails both houses. The only difference is -- one doesn't fall.

For so many years, I thought that by building my house on a rock, I was somehow insuring that I would not face storms -- or at least not as rough a storm as if I hadn't. So, when I faced the battering waves of fear, doubt, illness, lack, inharmony -- I thought I'd failed to build on the right foundation. It was somehow my fault. Back to the spiritual drawing board. This insight has helped me immeasurably. I don't go there anymore. The same storm assails both houses. The only difference - if I build on the rock, my house will not fall.

But this week's realization was just as profound for me. The parable is not about the house - at all. It has nothing to do with the builder's skill or the materials he/she has chosen. It is, in fact, all about location, location, location.

Where are you building? Are you choosing to cast about for "the right," view outside the window? Or, are you casting within -- building your house - your consciousness of things, on the gospel message of "the kingdom."

In Luke, when the Pharisees try to trick Jesus into laying the foundation of his ministry in a particular place -- Jerusalem or Nazareth, with the Pharisees, Sadducees, Greeks, Romans, Jews, Samaritans, or Canaanites, we read:


“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."
 
Where are we founding our sense of being - of actual existence? Our own, or another's? Are we seeing ourselves - or our neighbor - as being planted in this dogma or that doctrine? This party or that side? One nation, race, religion, gender -- or another? Or, are we seeing each of our fellow creatures as houses built on a Rock -- the kingdom of God? A location that is ever-constant and never-variable - within?

I have lived in 61 houses to date. Here is what I have learned about house hunting. Houses can be renovated, added on to, fixed up, torn down, and rebuilt.  New carpet, fresh paint, window boxes, and shutters.  But...

The location is changeless. If a particular location gets intense western sunlight all day -- that's not going to change. If the soil is rocky or near the ocean, surrounded by rolling hills or majestic mountains -- that's not going to change. If you are building your sense of being on what is temporary, shifting, and variable -- it will, by its very nature, change.  If you are building the structure of your life on what is changeless, within -- that will always be there to cultivate. And when the storms come, you will not fall.

Location, location, location - within...

offered with Love,


Kate


Wednesday, February 19, 2020

"you have safe passage through my heart..."


"so I'm gonna
stand up,
take my people
with me;
together we are going
to a brand new home..."



I really, truly hope that if you do nothing else after finding this post, you will watch this video of Cynthia Erivo's studio recording of "Stand Up," from her Academy Award winning film "Harriet." And if you haven't seen the film, please, please, please do.

I was first introduced to the film through this music video when it was shared with me last month. It took me apart. I felt it in my bones. All of it. The fear, the triumph, the disappointment, the frustration, the trust in God's care for each of us as we navigate an underground journey from sense to Soul, and from shackled - to free. Whether we have been bound by actual chains, self-doubt, socio-economic underprivileged, or opinions about who we are and what we are capable of rising above - this film strikes the marrow.

Yesterday my dear friend Molly posted a quote, on Facebook, that resonated so deeply with me.  It set a match to something I have been thinking about for months.  And its fervency stopped me in my tracks:

Grant people
safe passage
through your thoughts
:
no judgment,
no condemnation..."
 
It reached down into my heart and gripped me in a way that wouldn't let go.  I felt a clear, Harriet Tubman-like calling. "Yes," it said, "this is my purpose." To be safe passage. To make sure that everyone who comes through my heart - and soul and mind - is taken in, nourished, re-clothed, hidden with Christ in God, and brought to freedom -- on to the other side.

It hasn't always been that way for me. At least not as "impartially and universally," as Mary Baker Eddy insists must be true about real, genuine, authentic, spiritual love, in her primary work, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures.

God knows I tried. But often fell short. Oh, I could always hold the course pretty well on a day-to-day basis. That is, until someone said something cruel, or hurt someone I loved. Then watch out. My heart was often not a safe place for someone to wander through, if I thought their words or actions were undeserving -- unkind, mean-spirited, inhumane, etc.

But Harriet's example, and Cynthia's song, and Molly's sharing of that unattributed quote -- which she heard from a friend-of-a-friend who didn't remember where she'd heard it --  woke me up. And it suffused every mental molecule with a fresh, clear purpose statement:


“be safe passage..."
 
So, what does that look like for me? I'm just finding out.  But, I intend to get clearer and clearer about this every day. In fact, every single hour, of every single day. If I see a child throwing a tantrum in the grocery store, what am I going to do? Well, I hope will do everything I can to provide that mother/father and their child a gentle pathway through my heart, and through our individual and collective sense of community. No judgment. Only deep compassion, an open heart, willing hands, a ready smile of understanding.

But what about those whose words or actions I really struggle to understand as humane or "christian?" If I can't seem to give them safe passage, that's on me. And I better find it my heart to do so. The work may be long and arduous. I need to be able to discern the broken child behind the angry man, the wounded girl masquerading in sarcasm or disinterest.

But, I can do this. I have a fierce desire to live on purpose -- and I will find a way. For "they" are all my people. Not just the ones I like. Not just the ones who like me. Not just the ones I agree with. I will free the slave, and the slave owner. All His children are my people -- and I will take them with me to a brand new home -- the kingdom of heaven within us all. Impartially. Universally. My heart is an underground railroad. I will be safe passage.


offered with Love,


Kate


Friday, February 14, 2020

"to be known, rather than remembered.."


"memory,
i can dream
of the old days,
life was
beautiful then..."



I've never really liked this song. But, that said, it is the perfect keynote for this post. And if I have to listen to it, I would prefer to hear Barbra Steisand's version of "Memory," than any other.

This experience was pivotal in my understanding of healing. It happened over thirty years ago, but the Truth I discovered that day, is as fresh today as the day it flooded my heart.

A relationship that meant everything to me was falling apart at the seams. It would seem that whatever had drawn us together in the beginning had been lost forever. For the other person, but not for me. I wanted our relationship to continue so desperately. I loved him with every ounce of my being.

It was clear to me that he was just not remembering how good it was. How amazing it had been. All the reasons that we had come together in the first place. So I sent him cards filled with reminders. "Remember our first date? Remember those early months when we couldn't wait to meet at the end of the day and share our inspiration and insights. Remember that trip to...

The more I remembered, the farther away he moved from the closeness we had once enjoyed. I felt bereft. It was so easy for me to remember. And I thought those memories were our lifeline back to all the good we had known together.

One day, when things were at their darkest, I woke to a late spring snow storm. The roads were impassable. It would be a "snow day" for me whether I wanted to be home alone or not. And during that time, home alone was excruciating. So many reminders of "how good it had been."

I knew I couldn't "go there," so I made myself a cup of tea and pulled my books, the Bible and Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy, off of my desk and curled up in front of the wood stove for a morning of study.

I don't remember what the theme of that week's scriptural study was, but I do remember two things that shifted my heart. One, was the story of Peter's raising of Tabitha from Acts 9, starting at verse 36. Following her passing after an illness, Peter is called to her home, where he finds her friends - weeping widows who who brought him to the upper chamber where she lay surrounded by some of the coats and garments she had made while she was alive.

But it is this next passage that woke me up:

“But Peter
put them all forth..."
 
I got it. It was suddenly so clear to me. I, too, was clinging to memorials. When all along, divine Love was breathing fresh purpose into our relationship. Immediately on the heels of that realization, a statement from Science and Health came to mind:


“If a friend be with us,
why need we memorials
of that friend."
 
I knew I had to let go of all the "reasons" from the past. My loved one didn't need to be bombarded with memories, he needed to be trusted. He needed for me to release us both from the past. If we were to continue, it would be because God's purpose for our relationship was still vital to His plan for us.

Another statement from Science and Health helped me arrest that behavior. Eddy says:


"Make no unnecessary inquiries
relative to feelings or disease."
 

So I stopped. Cold turkey. I stopped asking him how he felt. I stopped wondering "what if..." I worked every day to simply show up in the presence of God's purpose for us.

This isn't about a nice, neatly tied up "healing" of a relationship. Each day we each showed up willing to discover more about our love for God, through our love for each other. But most importantly, I stopped looking backwards to affirm or define my relationships -- with God, with my loved ones, with my body. It allows relationships to evolve with purpose. It requires the discipleship of knowing -- versus remembering It's a spiritual demand that takes devout focus on loving God as the only "I am."

And isn't this what Peter was so clear about. Tabitha wasn't a memory, she was an idea of God. A reflection of divine Mind. And I love the definition of the word "reflect," as "deep thinking or pondering." Tabitha was God was thinking, not what he was remembering. And Peter knew that he too could know her, not through the widow's memorials, but through an understanding of her present identity.

This would have been so edifying for Peter -- the last thing we would have wanted, was to be remembered for his past denials of Christ, but known for the faithful man of God, the faithful apostle he was day-by-day as he fulfilled his holy purpose.

This spiritual demand to know, rather than remember, blesses everyone and everything. I once thought of myself as someone with a great memory. Now I know myself as someone who knows - not remembers - God. As someone who knows Love. It is enough.


offered with Love,


Kate


Tuesday, February 4, 2020

"i'll meet you there..."


"When the soul
lies down in that grass,
the world is too full
to talk about..."

David Wilcox and Nancy Petit's, "Out Beyond Ideas,"  gives musical form to the poet Rumi's profound invitation that we meet him in the field where healing and understanding take root and bear fruit.

Recently, my loved friend Ginny Nilsen shared this passage from an essay "Through My Enemy's Eyes" [A Journal of Positive Futures - Winter 2002.] It touches so beautifully on this "place" that is so critical to spiritual healing:


"Inmate proposes alternative to dualistic thinking:

Prison inmate and former prison-rights activist Troy Chapman, sentenced at the age of 21 to life in prison, discusses what he calls "the third side":

"I had spent most of my life splitting the world up into two sides, then fighting to defend one against the other. It was a game in which there were strategies, a clear objective, a field of play, and an opponent.

The poet Rumi pointed to something beyond this game when he said,

'Out beyond ideas of wrong-doing and right-doing there is a field. I'll meet you there.'

"When I began to see myself in other -— even in my enemies -— I found myself heading for Rumi's field. Here the game is not a game. No one wins unless and until everyone wins. The line between victim and perpetrator no longer runs between 'I' and 'Other.' It now runs right through the center of my soul. I am both, as we are all both.

"What then is left to fight for? Where does an out-of-work activist go? Well, God is hiring and God is on the third side. Not the prisoner's side or the jailer's side. Not the Left or the Right.

"The third side is that little-represented side of healing. It's the side that cares as much about the enemy as the friend, that says love is the only justice, the only victory there is. It does not want anyone destroyed. It does not want to win if someone else must lose. It wants something much larger than winning and losing."

"Through my enemy's eyes"
Yes! A Journal of Positive Futures
Winter 2002”


Isn't this the "side" that Jesus advocated for. The place from which he wrote in the dust and urged self-righteous indignation to sit in the quiet field of self-examination and compassion.

Isn't this the only place from which he could have said [as reported in Luke's gospel]:


"love your enemies and do good,
and lend, hoping for nothing again.

for He is kind unto the unthankful,
and to the evil.

Be ye therefore merciful;
Judge not,
and ye shall not be judged;
Condemn not,
and ye shall not be condemned;
Forgive,
and ye shall be forgiven..."

To gather in this field of the third side, is to listen with the heart. And to do so, without the filter of self-certainty and pre-judgment. It is to take off one's shoes and walk on holy ground.

My sister, Nancy Mullane, wrote a book titled, "Life After Murder: Five Men in Search of Redemption." In it she shares the journeys of five men who'd been found guilty of murder and sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole. She tells their stories with a journalist's clear, unbiased voice.

I remember reading one man's chilling account of the crime that had led to his incarceration. Earlier, I had met this man at Nancy's book launch event -- after he had been released on parole. He was humble, thoughtful, and gracious. Reading his story, I felt myself take off my shoes and step into that field. I was beyond my own long-held preconceived notions of what kind of man would commit murder. I was willing to hear his story through the lens of his heart -- without bias or fear.

I also remember, so clearly, the tears I shed for that young man, who'd barely been an adult, when a robbery went horribly wrong. And the sudden realization that:


"There, but for the grace of God, go I...”


How many times had I lost my temper as a teenager fighting with my sister over a shared skirt or a missing shoe. How often had I lashed out, said something unkind, pinched, or even thrown a hair brush.  In those moments I was "out of control" -- willing to act on hair-trigger emotions. But I'd also had the privilege of access to books, counselors, and an extended family of spiritual resources for diffusing frustration and feelings of helplessness.

In this field beyond the ideas right and wrong-doing -- and who is on which side -- I felt a new sense of what it meant to have "an understanding heart." This understanding wasn't about figuring out the meaning of a spiritual text. It was about standing next to someone and looking at things from their point of view for the purpose of understanding where they were coming from -- without judgment or opinion. It was the feeling of their hand in yours and the pulse of your common humanity.  It was sharing the space of the third side.

I think Troy Chapman says it so well in the above essay:


"The third side is that little-represented side of healing.

It's the side that cares as much about the enemy 

as the friend, that says love is the only justice, 
the only victory there is.

It does not want anyone destroyed. It does not want to win
if someone else must lose. It wants something much larger
than winning and losing...”

It wants healing -- for one, and for all. It is the place where, as Mary Baker Eddy writes in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures:


"Love is impartial and universal
in its adaptation and bestowals.”

I will meet you there.

offered with Love,



Kate

After reading this post, Ginny sent me a clip from Harry and Meghan's Royal Wedding with this performance of The Kingdom Choir singing "Stand By Me,"  let's stand by one another within the space of the third side.



Saturday, February 1, 2020

"stand up and show your soul..."


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


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

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

I can't remember -- in more than 750 posts on this blog, stretching over 15 years -- ever re-posting someone else's piece - in its entirety. But Estes' article, "We Were Made for These Times," copied below, says it all so beautifully - and with such profound grace - that I needed to share it with those I love. I hope it edifies your hope, strengthens your resolve, and reminds you that you, too, were made for these times.

We Were Made for These Times
by Clarissa Pinkola Estes
 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

offered with Love,


Kate

Sunday, January 26, 2020

"everything is holy..."


"When I was in Sunday School
we would learn about the time
Moses split the sea in two,
and Jesus made the water wine.

And I remember feeling sad
that miracles don't happen still.
Now I can't keep track
cause everything's a miracle --
Everything, everything is holy now..."



Peter Mayer's "Everything is Holy Now," gives form to what is in my heart today. No matter where I look, I am seeing the sacred, the divine -- the holy.

This morning it was a pair of doves sitting -- one with its winged draped over the other's back -- on a low branch just beyond our kitchen window. It was a sacred moment.  One as deserving of reverence as the cantor's call to temple, small hands folded in prayer, or a choir singing Handel's  "Messiah."

I turned from the window and there, on the kitchen counter, was a pear. A perfectly formed pear. A pear. Just a pear. But in that moment I could see the hand of God in its timeless design. I've always loved pears -- everything about them. I love their grounded shape, the changing blush of color that rises as they ripen, the texture, their scent, a taste unlike any other. Gazing at that pear I wanted to drop to my knees in gratitude.

Walking out to the mailbox I felt the first warm rays of mid-winter sun on my skin and a cool morning breeze softly lifting the stray hairs at the nape of my neck. An unseen gift. A holy gift.

Later, watching our frisky little pup standing nose-to-nose with a baby bunny in the yard, I bowed my head in prayer. I was witnessing a miracle. My very own window on the Isaiah prophesy -- a lamb lying down with a lion -- fulfilled, and I was blessed.  Everything -- every leaf turning towards the light, every flower arching its petals in a silent song of praise. Everything -- deeply, profoundly, knee-bucklingly holy.

Walking back into the house, I realized that the acute discomfort I'd woken with that morning, had dissolved in the light of this holiness-suffused day.

I love church. I love the sacredness of each opportunity to serve our community.  I love working in fellowship with others.  I cherish our unity of purpose in accepting Christ's mandate to care for our neighbors in need. But these opportunities for community worship don't start (or stop) at the threshold of our place of worship. They aren't contained by, or restricted to, the activities we -- as a congregation -- choose to support.

We can find them everywhere -- when a fellow member quietly offers a ride to a stranger on a stormy night. When a high school-age neighbor helps his friend repair the damages done to another homeowner's mailbox. We see it in acts of highway mindfulness replacing road-rage, and grocery store courtesy overcoming impatience. Every instance of goodness worthy of praise.  Every moment a sacrament. Everything holy.

Each moment of our living is a miracle. The gift of consciousness -- of contemplation, creativity, prayer -- leaves me speechless. Our capacity to love and to be loved, to appreciate beauty, to breathe, to serve others, to listen attentively to a friend's story, to sit bedside with a patient in silent prayer -- all of it -- holy.

On the first page of her primary work, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, Mary Baker Eddy, offers:


"The wakeful shepherd
beholds the first faint morning beams,
e'er cometh the full radiance
of the risen day."
 

When we are most alert -- most watchful -- even the faintest glimpse of goodness is an indication of the divine All-in-allness. Even the smallest act of kindness is radiant with God's presence. And everything is holy -- now.

We don't need to wait for things to change, to get better, or to be fixed by an alteration of circumstances, or a plea to God. When we seize each opportunity to get on our knees and look for even the tiniest glimmer of His presence -- in the persistent growth of a blade of grass, a robin's egg cradled in a fragile nest, or the tireless work-ethic of an ant -- the sacred is found in the simple. And ordinary moments become extraordinary.

Or, as Peter sings:


"so, the challenging thing becomes:
not to look for miracles,
but finding where there isn't one..."
 

When we are most alert -- most watchful -- even the faintest glimmer of goodness is an indication of the fullness of divinity touching humanity. Even the smallest act of kindness is radiant with God's presence. Each instance portends His All-in-allnes, where everything is holy -- now. Yes, everything -- every little thing is holy -- now.

offered with Love,



Kate

Sunday, January 12, 2020

"through all of it..."


"You have been
my God,
through all of it..."



Just before leaving for Sunday School this morning, I fell - deeply - into Colton Dixon's"Through All of It." It gripped my heart, and didn't let go.

We all have testimonies of witness to God's presence and power in our lives. When I arrived at church, I discovered that it was just me in the classroom today.  Me and God.  And Colton -- still singing his song in my heart.

Sitting there, I couldn't help but ask myself, "What would your witness be, Cate?" If Colton came to you, and asked you to speak your story -- what would it be?

Isn't this the question David, the Psalmist, must have been asking himself as he wrote 150 love songs to God. I think of it, every time I turn to a psalm for comfort, courage, mercy. Who wrote this song? Why did he write it? What was the story behind it?

We know much of David's narrative -- child prodigy, the one chosen by a prophet and a king, young warrior, exiled friend, husband, adulterer, father,conspirator, murderer, brother, betrayer, shamed, sorrowing, forgiven, replaced, loved, reformed, humbled child of God. Which one of these boys/men sat down -- with quill or lyre in hand -- and wept a song of love for his God?

Each time I sit down to write a post for this blog, I think of him. I don't show up in front of the keyboard as a collection of experiences. Each time, it is with one moment of God's presence in my heart -- a moment that is asking to be praised. Asking for a witness. Asking to be written so that someone else will not feel alone in their own journey.

So who is showing up at the kitchen counter today as I write? Colton's song immediately called the girl I was at 16 out of the shadows. The one who stood in the blue light of dawn at a phone booth calling her Sunday School teacher -- just to say, "I am leaving home, I can't take it anymore." I can feel that girl's terror and sorrow, the fragility of her shaking hands and her uncertainty about the future.

Not a penny to her name -- besides the dime that had been in her penny loafers for making an emergency call. And she'd used it. And she'd used it to call her Sunday School teacher. That spiritual intervention -- from a voice within -- still stuns me. Without it, I don't know that I would be alive today.

I was still a shy 16 year old girl, without skills or resources. I was unsophisticated and had been raised in the isolation of a large family that moved constantly. To be a naive, innocent girl on the streets in 1970 -- the prospects were dire. There were no shelters for runaway teens in those days. There were no hotlines or public service announcements about what to do if you were facing unthinkable alternatives. You didn't talk about these things. How did I have the courage to call her? An older woman who'd only ever seen me as part of a big, happy family.

But my Sunday School teacher didn't flinch. She listened, and then she told me that I had to go back home and "be there" for my sisters. And I obeyed. Just like that. I turned around and walked back down the long rural road, up the driveway, in the back door, and back upstairs to the bedroom I shared with my 4 younger sisters.

The abuse didn't stop that day -- but I stopped feeling like my only answer was to sacrifice myself to the streets. God was there that day. There were many times in the ensuing months when I doubted my decision, and I doubted God's love -- but never once did I think that I had made the decision to call my Sunday School teacher that morning - all on my own.

And "through it all," -- God was there. Even in what seemed to be the hardest of times -- when my family picked up stakes and left me behind to fend for myself -- God was there. I can see that now. My high school guidance counselor saw my little suitcase and intervened -- when it was my plan to just live in the school gym through the end of the term. His pastor, and his wife -- a couple I'd never even met -- offered me a place to stay until I graduated.  And on, and on, it goes.  One moment after another.

As hard as that chapter was, God was always there. Throughout my life -- through days of sorrow and days success, nights of pain and nights of peace -- God was there. Today, sitting at this kitchen counter -- five children and five grandchildren scattered across the country, bills to pay, college tuitions to navigate, a global community in need of so much love and care -- I know God is here. For all of us.

Through it all -- God is here. So, how can we keep from singing, writing, kneeling, weeping, living our hearts' praise?

offered with Love,


Cate