Thursday, January 1, 2009

"A Whole New World..."

"A whole new world
A new fantastic point of view
No one to tell us no
Or where to go
Or say we're only dreaming

A whole new world
A dazzling place I never knew
But when I'm way up here
It's crystal clear
That now I'm in a whole new world...
with You..."

from Disney's "Aladdin"

When all else fails...go back to Disney.  Or at least that's where my heart seems to go.  I was raised on Disney films...Mary Poppins taught me how to approach overwhelming tasks with "A Spoonful of Sugar", and Mama Jumbo gave me the song I would sing to myself as I fell asleep (after my mom was finished singing lullabies) with "Baby Mine".  So it shouldn't be surprising to anyone that New Year's Day would find me singing "A Whole New World" from Aladdin.

Our daughter received her loved "Jasmine" Barbie for that year's birthday, and within weeks of seeing Disney's Aladdin (for the first...of many times) we had all the songs memorized for singing in the car, and she and her best friend, Heather, had decided that they would be Arabian princesses that Halloween...and they were.  But not before Miss Mitzi, their tap teacher, had them tapping their hearts out on stage to "Prince Ali...fabulous he...Ali Ababwa..."  I can still see bolts of purple polyester chiffon studded with silver sequins and glitter whenever I hear that song.'s only appropriate that it would be our daughter who would take me on the magic carpet ride that would reveal a "whole new world" to me, just when I needed it most.

I needed a new view of myself and how I fit in my world.  I had lost my way and nothing I did seemed to be able to pull me out of a tailspin of self-doubt, regret, and confusion about who I was beyond the boundaries of memory. 

I had arrived in South Africa with a broken toe, and a broken sense of myself.  I had become accustomed to silently apologizing for my very existence. Whenever anyone was genuinely kind, extending a helping hand or a moment of fellowship, I would find myself on the verge of tears .   An authentic smile made my knees buckle.  A thoughtful gesture made me want to throw my arms around the neck of the person responsible and weep alligator tears of appreciation for the mercy their kindness represented.  I could be kind to others, I could be compassionate and loving...but did I deserve it myself. Did I deserve the healing that I knew with all my heart (and had seen) as a spiritual fact, an inalienable right, in the lives of others?

I was praying each day for freedom from self-doubt, but I sensed I wasn't making real progress.  I was stuck in stage two of the three stage process towards "absolute cure" in Christian Science that Mary Baker Eddy lays out in her article "The Way" from Miscellaneous Writings: "self-knowledge, humility, and love."   And I knew it. I had somewhat mastered self-knowledge in this case, and that self-knowledge had driven me to my knees in humility...but I hadn't gotten up...I was still down there weeping each time someone was me a sinner.  I'd get clear glimpses of freedom, rise to take a few steps only to run into a carnival fun-house full of distorting mirrors in every direction which sent my gaze echoing too far back and forth between memory and regret to keep from getting dizzy and stumbling...and before I knew it, I was back on my knees again.

But arriving in South Africa with a broken toe stopped me in my tracks. Sitting in the African sun one a place where no one but my daughter knew anything about me, my past, my achievements, my dreams, my mistakes, my choices...and it came to me clearly that if my feelings of self-doubt and punishment were well-deserved because I had truly offended God, it would have to be true wherever I went.  God's laws were universal and impartial.  If I deserved to be myself or anyone...then it would be true all the way around the world.  God would cause me, and others, to doubt my right to be good, to be an effective healer, to be worthy of kindness, friendship, genuine joy...right there.    But if that punitive doubt and unworthiness were not His, God's ongoing means of correcting my heart and my life...and were therefore unwarranted, then I could be free of them immediately.

As I opened my heart and my life to God, I prayed with such hope.  And I stayed on that deck looking out at the broad and endless waters of the Indian ocean stretching all the way to where the sky and sea became one most of the next two days.  I prayed for a spiritual sense of self-knowledge, humility, and most I longed for a knowledge of myself that was consistent with what God knew about me, for humility that was based in a surrender to His greatness...not just self-doubt, regret, and failure, and to live a life of love not just because it was the "right" thing to do, but because it was my right to live consistent with the love He had put in my heart.   At one point I rose to refresh the cup of roiboos tea I had been nursing and while in the kitchen ran into the housekeeper who was laboring under a mountain of dishes, pots and pans.  As one of five sisters, and the oldest of a family of ten...I had often found myself on any given evening laboring under a mountain of dishes.  But if mom or one of my sisters or brothers stood at the sink with me and we talked and laughed and they helped me with rinsing or drying, it went faster and we had fun.  So it was natural for me to pick up a dish towel and start drying while I got to know her, and learned some fascinating things about the Xhosa culture.  We didn't talk about me, my life, my work...I was not really interested in me and I was the one driving the questions...we talked about her. 

When the dishes were done I hung the dishtowel on the rack, refreshed my now cool tea with more hot water and returned to the deck for another hour or two of thinking, praying, reading, knitting, and absorbing the view. 

But within a few moments she came out to where I was sitting on the deck and said that she thought I "must know Jesus," and if she came to work a bit earlier the next day, could we talk about Jesus.  From that morning on I had an sweet moment-by-moment spiritual practice halfway around the world in a town I had never been to, with people who didn't know anything about what books I studied or what church I attended.  They barely spoke my language...or I theirs...and knew nothing of my past.  To them I was as good as my last good last kindness. And I knew that if I was unkind or dismissive that would be my "history" with them.

I learned that God is truly, and only, the GREAT I AM.  That He alone defines us by the love He puts in our hearts and the desires we have to act on that love...moment by practical ways that make a difference in the lives of other - and in our own lives. I don't know when my toes ceased to be broken...I can only remember not favoring it one bit during the hikes and long walks on endless beaches that filled our days.

I had to go halfway around the world to learn that we are not defined by our own or another's mistakes, choices, memories or opinions about us...we are defined by our last good deed.  And in this way we have the opportunity to be free of imprisoning self-doubt, regret, painful memories, or sorrow over wrong-doing...we have the opportunity to be made new every moment of every day with every good deed done, every kind seed sown. 

Or as Paul promises in Romans:

"There is therefore now no condemnation
to them which are in Christ Jesus..."

Enjoy being a whole new you every moment you that extend yourself in an act of simple kindness, live generously, care for another, feed the hungry, heal the heart...there is a "Whole New World" waiting every day.

A Whole New World
"I can show you the world
Shining, shimmering, splendid
Tell me, princess, now when did
You last let your heart decide?

I can open your eyes
Take you wonder by wonder
Over, sideways and under
On a magic carpet ride

A whole new world
A new fantastic point of view
No one to tell us no
Or where to go
Or say we're only dreaming

A whole new world
A dazzling place I never knew
But when I'm way up here
It's crystal clear
That now I'm in a whole new world with you
Now I'm in a whole new world with you

Unbelievable sights
Indescribable feeling
Soaring, tumbling, freewheeling
Through an endless diamond sky

A whole new world
Don't you dare close your eyes
A hundred thousand things to see
Hold your breath - it gets better
I'm like a shooting star
I've come so far
I can't go back to where I used to be

A whole new world
Every turn a surprise
With new horizons to pursue
Every moment red-letter
I'll chase them anywhere
There's time to spare
Let me share this whole new world with you

A whole new world
That's where we'll be
A thrilling chase
A wondrous place
For you and me"

A whole new world...for you and me,



  1. so glad my Katie is finding herself...

  2. Anonymous12:24 PM

    Thank you for this wonderful insightful
    Blog- Words clearly from the heart of Love-prayer-cmpassion-
    They help, heal, bestow Joy from songs of inspiring Truth!
    Thank you -Thank you with love,