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

Sunday, September 18, 2016

"til I can carry on…"



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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

I love this verse from Carrie's song:



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

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

offered with Love and profound gratitude,

Kate

Monday, September 5, 2016

"i have this hope…"



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


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

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

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

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

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

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

"Lo, I am with you alway..."
 

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

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

As Tenth Avenue North sings,


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

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


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

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

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


"The Lord is with me..."
 

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


offered with Love,


Kate

Sunday, September 4, 2016

"i was never the same…"



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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


offered with Love,


Kate

Saturday, July 30, 2016

"between here, and gone…"



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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


offered with Love,


Kate

Thursday, July 14, 2016

"lost inside a wishing well…"



"When everywhere you look,
you see regrets.

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


offered with Love,


Kate

Monday, July 11, 2016

"how bad we need each other…"



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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

"Give us this day our daily Bread.

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

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

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

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

And we do, we really do need each other.

offered with Love,


Kate