Monday, January 16, 2017

"we were made for these times..."


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


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

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

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

We Were Made for These Times
by Clarissa Pinkola Estes
 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

offered with Love,


Kate

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

"because I knew you..."



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

with Love,


Kate

Thursday, December 15, 2016

"Lord, remind me..."



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

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

When I'm feeling tired of myself
and everyone,

Lord remind me,
Lord remind me..."


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

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

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

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

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

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

As Jon and Valerie sing with such reverence and humility:


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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

I sang through tears of repentance and joy:


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

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

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


offered with Love,


Kate

"what we hold gently...."



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



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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


offered with Love,


Kate

Friday, December 9, 2016

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



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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"there is no fear in Love..." 

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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


offered with Love,


Kate

Thursday, December 8, 2016

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



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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


offered with hope,


Kate

Thursday, December 1, 2016

"lean in toward the light..."



"the shadows of the world will say,
there's no hope -- why try anyway.
every kindness large or slight,
shifts the balance towards the light..."

I am living in a Carrie Newcomer-scored world of hope these days. Her recording of "Lean in Toward the Light." is my get-up-and-go song.

This afternoon my husband and his friend let me crash the tail end of their weekly deep dive into all manner of wonderful subjects. One of the things they were discussing was the concept of sacred truths. I was enthralled.  I could have listened for hours.  As I drove home, I thought about my own sacred cache of truths -- those things that I know to be true in my deepest part of my heart.

Over the last few years, I've done a lot of spiritual housecleaning. I've begun to differentiate between ideas that I find fascinating, stirring, and inspiring -- ideas that I like to ponder and explore, and those that I absolutely know -- and trust -- with every cell of my being. It's a small cadre of spiritual laws, but I lean into them without reservation.

One of those laws is something I think of as "spiritual tropism." As a teacher I remember learning about tropism in order to substitute for a fifth grade plant biology class. I was fascinated.  How did I miss this lesson when I was in middle school?  Webster defines tropism as: "the involuntary turning of all or part of an organism in a particular direction in response to an external stimulus." Think of a leaf turning towards the light, or roots reaching towards water.

This is not a choice made by the plant -- it's leaves, or its root system. It is not something that the plant can resist. It just is. It is a law.

For me, spiritual tropism is the involuntary movement of humanity towards God, Love.  It is seen in an involuntary turning towards goodness, beauty, order, honesty, kindness -- any manifestation of God's presence. This gives me great hope. Because if there is anything that I am absolutely certain of, it is this law. It is a sacred Truth for me -- the irresistible law of Love calling us into alignment with Itself.

This has been especially important to me as a mom. If I were to allow myself to think about my children going out into a world full of moral uncertainty and random unkindness, I would be paralyzed with fear. But when I think of this irresistible law, I am filled with a mother tiger-like fierceness.  For me, affirming the self-enforcing nature of this law -- for every human being on earth -- is a sacred demand.

This was never more powerful for me than when our daughter went to live in post-apartheid South Africa. This was a country in transition. Our daughter was still a teenager. Reports of angry young men preying on young women were ubiquitous. But spiritual tropism was a law. I leaned into it with all my heart. Trusting that the inner qualities of honor, integrity, innocence, and purity were more compelling than anger or lust was a lifeline to my peace. It still is.

As a neighbor and global citizen, I know I must stay firm in my defense of man's inalienable right to be governed by this law.  I cannot afford the luxury of believing that this involuntary call to goodness is a human choice, rather than an ever-operative law.  No matter how much it may look like a plant may have turned away from the light and twisted itself towards the dark, I know -- without a doubt -- that this is only an illusion.

I know that the plant is unable to turn away from the light. Because I understand phototropism as law, I never wonder if suddenly the sunflower will turn away from the light. It has no self-volition. I never worry about rogue flowers or trees.  I am confident in the power of light to draw every plant cell to itself. And because I understand the law of hydrotropism -- the roots of a plant will always seek out water -- I never wonder if the roots of a tree will suddenly start poking through the ground and reaching for the sky.

I feel the same way about each of us. We are impelled to grow in grace, to seek out good, to reach for love, to love honesty, to appreciate beauty, to trust truth.  I trust this law with all my heart.

It is one of my most treasured sacred truths. In its presence I feel secure. In its presence I rest.


offered with Love,


Kate

Saturday, November 19, 2016

"if not now, tell me when..."



"it will take
a change of heart
for this to mend,
but miracles do happen
every shining now and then,
if not now,
tell me when..."


I spent a week grieving. Then I realized it was time to accept the gift of this moment in history.  To embrace the opportunities we have to be emboldened by love.

When I want a musical kick-in-the-bumm, I turn to Carrie Newcomer. She always reminds me that self-indulgence is not allowed in the heart of a spiritual warrior. I love her recording of "If Not Now." It reminds me that "everything that happens -- happens not to us, but for us."

I needed this reminder. I was on the verge of doing what we nesting creatures do. I wanted to pull into my shell, hide under the covers, slip beneath the wings of someone wiser.

But only for a while. And it was there in the silence, and in the remembering of who I am and what I am capable of accomplishing in service to my God and His children. I found the courage to do something more. I could build nests. I could be someone who quietly gathers the discarded bits and forgotten pieces of this  movement, and builds a safe place for the incubation of dreams.

This doesn't need to be a time of disappointment, but greater appointment. We have been called into this moment for a holy purpose. And it is upon this landscape of stark realization -- that there are millions of people hurting and angry --  that we can find our voice. There is a song to be sung, a message to deliver, a gift to give. And we are that gift. As Scripture assures us:

"prove me now herewith,
saith the Lord of hosts,
if I will not open you
the windows of heaven,
and pour you out a blessing,
that there shall not be
room enough to receive it..."
 

Will there ever be a time like this one? A time when kindness stands out in such stark relief against the backdrop of hate. A time when clear integrity is seen in a sea of gray uncertainty. A time when acceptance - based on impartial, and universal Love - is felt where bigotry lurks in the darkness. This is our time. This is our calling.

Recently someone asked me if I didn't feel the hand of an earlier doctrine of racial-purging, religious registry, and white nationalism reaching into this time. Yes, I have -- the comparisons are pretty insidious. But we are not the people of that time. We are wiser, more aware, and we are empowered by what we now know - about where this kind of thinking leads. And we are ready to say "no."

In her collection of addresses, articles, and letters titled Miscellaneous Writings 1888 - 1896, Mary Baker Eddy writes:


"Be “of one mind,”
“in one place,”
and God will pour you
out a blessing such as you
never before received.
He who dwelleth in eternal light
is bigger than the shadow..."
 

This is our time. This is our "now." We can be of one mind in this place. We can unite in the Principle of all unity -- Love.   Or as Kahlil Gibran writes:


""In friendship, or in love,
two, side-by-side, raise hands together
to find what one cannot reach alone."
 

Whether we are marching in peaceful protest, creating sanctuary cities, refusing to let our Muslim neighbors register alone, or dancing, praying, petitioning and singing our love -- we are not alone. We are in this time together. We will not hide. We will love boldly and courageously.

I love thinking of this statement from Eddy as a benediction on our place in this historic hour:


"There is with us at this hour this great, a great blessing;
and may I say with the consciousness of Mind
that the fulfilment of divine Love in our lives
is the demand of this hour — the special demand..."
 

We are not being imposed upon by hatred, hatred has been exposed by Love. The demands that are being made upon us are the demands of Love. Love is asking us to shine like stars against the backdrop of a midnight sky. Love is demanding that we step up and be counted.  Darkness cannot hide the light. This is our time to be the light of Love. To shine. To be our most brilliant selves. To be a candle in the storm.


offered with Love,


Kate

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

"with kindness drawn…"



"You are more
than the choice that you've made, 
you are more than the sum 
of your past mistakes, 
you are more than the problems 
you create..."

This post is my prayer in keystrokes.

As I lay there in the early morning darkness, it was Tenth Avenue North's "You Are More," that comforted my aching heart.

I'd spent the whole evening "raging against the dying of the light." As state-after-state on the electoral map turned red, I felt like I was going into shock -- heavy tears fell on my now-wrinkled pantsuit, my hands shook.  I found myself hoping that I'd somehow fallen asleep and was trapped in a nightmare I'd soon wake from.

Yet, long after the man I swore to my daughters would never be their country's leader, was crowned President-elect, I was still weeping. Falling to my knees in the dark, I prayed for grace. I prayed for wisdom about how to help my daughters feel safe and hopeful about the future of the country they lived in. I prayed for a glimmer of light -- something to call me forward out of the pit of despair I was feeling.

The only thing that brought peace was trying to help others.  I listened, posted, answered texts and emails, and sought inspiration in Scripture and the wisdom of the wise.  


When I finally took my broken and tired heart to bed, the light was just breaking over Sleeping Indian. And as I lay there trying to quiet the demons that were trotting out every ugly word he'd said on the campaign trail, and every terrifying article I'd read touting his inexperience and lack of readiness, I thought I would be ill.

This was the man who considered it acceptable to sexually assault women, mock the disabled, displace refugee families, demean heroes, and deport our immigrant neighbors and friends. How could he possibly be the Commander-in-Chief of our military, the face of our nation, the heartbeat of our body collective.

That was when God broke through with a brief reminder: "with loving kindness have a drawn him," and asked me this one question? "Is this about what you think he is (or isn't) bringing to this office -- his qualifications, human history, tweets, mistakes, temperament, irrational behavior?  Or is this about what I am able -- through the appointment of him to this office as President -- to draw out from the infinite well of spiritual resources that exist in him as my image and likeness?"

I knew immediately what God was asking of me. How often had I been hired to do something that I knew I wasn't the candidate most humanly qualified or experienced for? More times than I can say. But it has always been this one Truth -  that the kingdom of God is within me - that has given me the courage and humility to accept those jobs, appointments, projects, and tasks without fear of failure and humiliation. 


 I have trusted that I am not bringing a limited (or even humanly grand) set of skills to a particular office, but that the office itself is drawing something new from within me.  Each opportunity is the pump by which God is going to draw from the infinite well of His goodness.  From which something fresh and new, that I need discover about myself as the infinite image and likeness of His infinite individuality, will pour forth.

I love a definition of the word "image" that was shared with me by a physicist and photographer friend: "Pixel for pixel, an image reflects the original. Not one pixel less, not one pixel more." Immediately I could begin to accept that even our president-elect -- a man who seemed so terribly flawed to me only moments before -- had within him the full measure of God's All-in-allness.  He was fully capable of discovering a fathomless well of goodness, intelligence, compassion, humanity, honesty, affection, faith, meekness, temperance, hope, discipline and grace within himself.

This office of president-elect is God's way of priming that pump.   There is a measureless well goodness waiting to be plumbed in him.  I could expect to see this even in this man who, to me, had been a most flawed candidate. Just like turning a spigot to draw a bath, Love was drawing out the best in all of us -- individually and collectively.

I can't help but think of King David, the beloved Psalmist, who was also a flawed character. And yet, God uses him, and his path as a leader,  to show us the value of mercy, the power of humility, the design of Love -- which is to reform and to heal.

Or what about dear devoted -- but confused and conflicted -- Peter. So willing, but so ambitious.  This disciple was distracted for so long by the success of others, vacillating in his allegiance, scolded for his competitiveness, and yet he becomes one of the most prolific early Christian healers.

Or me... 


We are all, as Tenth Avenue North sings, more than the sum of our past mistakes.  We are constantly being remade, renewed, reformed in the likeness of the original -- divine Love.

So today, I am going to stand on my spiritual tiptoes, eager to see what God -- through the offices of president-elect, citizen,  conceding nominee -- will drawn from that deep well of impartial and universal good within each of us. What am I willing to bear witness to? Will I celebrate the first sputterings of grace, applaud the humility which necessarily flow from the demands of leadership. Am I be willing to let something new rise from within me as I accept my office as citizen under the leadership of this new president.

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


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


I was very disappointed.  I felt like we could be facing a ceaseless series of personal and societal, local and global woes. But here's the deal. I want to learn Life in divine Science. I want to learn more about Life as Love. So if this is the beginning -- count me in.

This afternoon, my post-election prayer is a simple one -- one I pray daily:


"Thy kingdom come,
let the reign of divine
Truth, Life, and Love
be established in me,
and rule out of me all sin,
and may Thy Word
enrich the affections
of all mankind
and govern them."
 

This Daily Prayer by Mary Baker Eddy brings me great peace. I know that I can no longer afford the luxury of continuing to see anyone as separated from God's allness (the claim of sin) and that I must trust that His Word is enriching our president-elect's affections for good -- and governing them. The government is upon His shoulders, not his. He will reign with loving kindness and with mercy -- I trust Him.

offered with Love,


Kate

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

"a murmured prayer…"



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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


"the Lord will hear


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

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

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

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


"if it be Your will..."
 

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


offered with Love,


Kate

Thursday, October 6, 2016

"the woman who smiled…"



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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


"Do I love my life
enough to brave it? 


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

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

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

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

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

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

I love this invitation from Carrie:


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

offered with Love and a smile,


Kate