Thursday, January 24, 2013

"Casting the beam..."

"If there's a shortcut
I'd have found it.
But there's no easy way around it.
Light of the world shine in me,
Love is the answer.
Shine from us all
set us free.
Love is the answer."

I have to tell you now, I loved the 1970's soft-rock sound of England Dan (Seals) & John Ford Coley. Their classic, "Light of the World," is still a "go to" song for jumpstarting my day.

And not so long ago, there was a day when it meant more to me than ever. At the beginning of summer I'd committed to participating in TMCYouth's Radical Acts project. As a spiritual community we took 18 of Jesus' most radical "acts" and vowed to actively live them.

Each day I'd choose an act or two to focus on. That morning I'd chosen "Cast the beam out of your own eye..."  A brief visit to a local coffeehouse was the perfect launch. Standing in line waiting to order I got my first opportunity to put it into action.

A young woman, just in front of me, had opened the bakery case and was rooting around in the shelves of scones and cookies.  I couldn't help but notice she was touching every item on her way to making her selection.  I was ready to say something, when I realized "This is it.  This is a perfect opportunity to practice what you've committed to."

So, I closed my eyes and thought of all the ways I could be more respectful of others. I committed to being more self-aware and less focused on the missteps of others.  That set me free to trust her to God's loving correction.

Throughout the morning I had more than enough opportunities to cast beam-sized splinters out of my own eyes.  And as grateful as I was for this self-awareness, it left me feeling sore and tired. I hadn't realized how active I'd become in assessing the correctness of other people's behaviors. This realization didn't leave me very happy or peaceful inside.  I didn't like what I was seeing in myself.

I decided to find a place that was virtually human-free, and take time to ponder what I was discovering about myself through this radical act. I drove to a wide section of the river that runs through our high-country valley, and made my way to a large boulder at its bank.

I closed my eyes against the searing light of late morning, leaned back against an larger adjoining boulder, and asked God, "what do you want me to see here?"

The thought immediately came, "open your eyes." So I did. Scanning the broad stretch of river I noticed a fly fisherman not 20 yards from where I was sitting. And as I watched him, I realized, he was "casting." Over and over again he carefully sent his fishing line out into the water.

The peace, joy, focus, and contentment on his face was unchanged by an empty hook. He was enjoying the beauty of the day, the dance of the line along the surface of the water, the hope that the fly he'd chosen was perfectly suited for the fish living in that stretch of the river. There was fluidity, precision, and alertness. It was a perfectly balanced and choreographed act of intention.

Then I thought about the word "beam." And as I stared into the middle distance over the river I saw it -- the beam of light that broke through the first bank of late morning clouds rolling in from over the mountains to the west.

The stanza from Mary Baker Eddy's poem, "Christmas Morn," which reads:

"Thou gentle beam
of living Love,
and deathless Life!
Truth infinite,
so far above all mortal strife
or cruel creed,
or earth-born taint:
Fill us today
with all Thou art..."

came alive for me.  As the fisherman's line, or filament, caught the sunlight and danced along the top of the water, so the light of love dances, without the need for reciprocity, on the changing waters of our day.  It is unmoved by how it is received.  It lights on the water for the pure joy of casting light.  

Jesus spoke to his disciples -- some of whom were fishermen -- in a language that would be meaningful to them.  Casting was a fishing term.  Elsewhere he is reported as having suggested to them that they "cast their nets on the right side..."  He wasn't asking them to throw their nets away.  He wasn't suggesting that they get as far away from their nets as possible.  He was reminding them that casting was a purposeful and rewarding activity. 

Casting the beam out of my own eyes wasn't just an act of self-awareness, self-correction, and fraught with self-disappointment. It was, in fact, an act of generosity based on my nature as the reflection of the one true light, God -- the light of living Love.  The light that is my life.

Instead of using my eyes to take in a false picture, apply spiritual truths to it, and spit back out a better sense of things...hoping that others would "get it."  I could see out from the heart of truth.

I could be the light of vision. Vision is different from sight.  Vision looks out from the universal Truth of things. It doesn't try to manipulate a false picture, it radiates -- it casts light, illuminating the beauty of what is true. It calls attention to what might not be obvious, but is very much there.

And this light, is heart-light. It shines from the depth of Love. It refuses to call attention to anything but the beautiful, good, and true.

Casting the beam out of one's own eye can be the most empowering and transformative thing you do today. I'm loving this last chorus from England Dan & John Ford Coley:

"And when you feel afraid
Love one another
When you've lost your way
Love one another
And when you're all alone
Love one another
And when you're far from home
Love one another
And when you're down and out
Love one another
And when your hopes run out
Love one another
And when you need a friend
Love one another
And when you're near the end
We've got to love,
We've got to love one another

Light of the world,
Shine from me, 
Love is the answer..."

It is the answer. A radical answer. 

offered with Love,



  1. Anonymous11:07 AM

    this is lovely. thank you kate.
    I saw this quality in someone else recently, and it moved me deeply. We were talking about another persons repeated rejection of a meeting that to us seemed needed and appropriate. What struck me is that while she was willing to articulate a difference of opinion, she would not be drawn into criticism of the other person ... no personalizing, no judging. She would ONLY say what good the other woman brought to the organization we were part of. This was not a church related activity ... it was a community service organization, which made it even more impressive (to me anyway). I learned so much from that.

  2. Anonymous8:35 PM

    I forgot to mention how helpful this blog was for me to read. I have been acutely aware of the judgmental thoughts which have been swirling around in my thought as of late. It came to me very strongly that I needed to stop entertaining these thoughts and instead focus on blessing. The thoughts you shared here were helpful and inspiring. I will be working on calling attention to only "the beautiful, good, and true." thank you...