Friday, February 12, 2021

"farther along and further in..."

 


"farther along and further in;
I think I'm finally listening,
to some kind of spirit murmuring;
I've never heard before...

Mary Chapin Carpenter's new CD, The Dirt and Stars, includes a song that I've loved every time I hear it.  "Farther Along and Further In" speaks to me in a very profound way. 


About 5 years ago, I struggled mightily with the gospel invitation to "cast your net on the right side."  I've written about this in another post, but I thought I'd revisit it today as a follow-up to how that single spiritual injunction has shifted my entire life and work. 

The story (from 5 years ago) goes like this -- the Cliffnotes version:  I was asked to give a talk about that scripture, but I just couldn't, in good faith, speak inspiringly about a citation that I felt forwarded a sense of reality that was filled with dualism.  

Right or left, right or wrong -- it just went against everything I had learned through the study and practice of Christian Science.  

As I drove the last quarter mile to where I was scheduled to give that talk, I turned to God with my whole heart.  "If you want me to give this talk, you will need to inspire me - now."  

With that God said to me, "what if casting your net on the right side, is not about right or left, but about inside..."  I got it immediately.  It is about casting your net deeper - in the kingdom within.  

Within 10 minutes I knew exactly what I needed to share.  But it wasn't just about giving a talk, it was about changing my life - my moment-by-moment responses to the call to decide, choose, respond.  But also my professional life.  To turn to the books that I love -- and that define my practice of spiritual healing -- not as the place where I will find Truth, but as encouragement for turning more deeply within for those answers of Truth.  

Since then, my life, my practice of Christian Science, my every response to the call to live with grace, is about turning within.  Entering the still space of the kingdom within.  This is where I find the "I am..." of the I AM.  This is where the Spirit dwells.  

Not in someone else's inspired writings or words, but in the only place where real revelation, reason, and the demonstration of Truth is cultivated and takes root. 

Does that mean that I don't read the Bible, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, and the other writings of Mary Baker Eddy?  No.  I love reading how others - who were seeking a deeper and more centered relationship with God -navigated that same path.  But their writings, and the words of other inspired spiritual seekers, should be sending me deeper into the kingdom -- the only place i will find God - the I AM. Not drawing me out.   

17th Century Japanese poet and Zen master, Matsuo Basho, once wrote:

"Do not seek to follow in the footsteps of the wise, seek what they sought."

I read their writings, not to follow in their path, but to find encouragement for staying true to my own path in seeking a deeper relationship with the Divine.  To know God myself.  My search is for God, not for a fellow searcher.  I love the company on the path - but the journey is mine alone.  

So, I go deeper.  I go further in -- and in going further in, I find I am farther along.

offered with Love,

Kate 

"impossible things..."



"You heal the broken-hearted,
You set the captive free,
You lift the heavy burden,
and even now, You are lifting me..."


Ahhh -- friday afternoon.  A welcome milestone, set in a week that has seemed like one spiritual demand being placed on top of another. I could feel that I needed something to really lift my heart. Chris Tomlin's "Impossible Things," was perfect. I found myself singing along, hands raised, body moving -- shouting His praise.

In Chris' Facebook post, he introduces this song of praise with these words:


"During times of trial,
we must retrace the steps of our journey
and remember, God has already done
the impossible in us through His Son."
 

Yes, we have the right to remember what we have already witnessed - and experienced - of His power. I remember an afternoon almost 20 years ago when I was feeling so overwhelmed I didn't want to leave the Borders Bookstore Cafe where I was hiding out from my life. There, everything was orderly, someone made hot chocolate that was the perfect temperature, no one spilled juice on my books, or started crying to be held -- the minute I closed my eyes in prayer.

I wanted to give myself ten more minutes before heading back into the storm that was our home with toddler twins. I stood up and walked over the the nearby magazine rack. The latest edition of Oprah's magazine was on display. I picked it up and returned to my neat little table. The last page was always a note from Oprah. I liked reading them first. This one was about the past.

Oprah explained that there had been many years when looking back at her life's journey was fraught with anxiety and pain. The timeline was punctuated with milestone moments. One day she realized that each of those moments was one of abuse, heartache, and fear. There were few, if any, good milestones on that timeline. So she resisted looking back. That didn't mean that the past didn't haunt her, just that she didn't choose to visit it with intention.

That changed the day that she discovered that her timeline was not something she felt in control of. She decided that she would draw out that timeline and put those milestones in place, but that she would go right back to those memories and find something good -- some indication of God's presence in each of those "chapters," of her life.

She said that it took almost a year, but she did it. She reclaimed each of those milestones for God. This so resonated with me.

I will never forget one of the examples she gave. She said that one day she decided it was time to revisit the sexual child abuse she'd suffered at the hand of a family member. It took her a very deep dive into that chapter of her life, but she finally found it, the presence of God. She realized that even in the midst that dark time, she knew that what was happening to her was not right. She had the wisdom to know right from wrong. It was enough to redeem that dark time. Her timeline was forever rewritten.

That was enough for me. I decided to do the same thing. I drew out my timeline and I placed the milestones along the way. And like Oprah, I discovered that mine were all hauntingly dark and negative. Then I took the next few years to go back and reclaim each one for God -- for good.

That chapter after my dad was killed and my family was so desperate for resources, became a chapter filled with creativity and care for one another. The moments that had haunted me with heartbreak became life pages filled with comforting friends and self-discovery.

In the book of Revelation, John promises that:



"The kingdoms of this world
are become the kingdoms of our Lord,
and of his Christ; and he
shall reign for ever and ever."
 

Right where the world has tried to stake its claim on our hearts, we have the authority to evict the usurper, cast out the trespasser, and reclaim that real estate on our timeline for God. My timeline was like a volume of Grimm's Fairy Tales when I started -- ogres, demons, bad choices, and very few happy endings. Today it is filled with parables of intuition, testimonies to humility, stories of spiritual growth, forgiveness and grace. If I can do this, anyone can.

In each of our lives, there are moments we want to forget. Moments when we coulda, shoulda, woulda -- if only we'd known better. There are moments when we have felt helpless or hopeless. But these self-repeated false versions of our life story only ratify the world's claim that we are self-creators and that God is helpless in most instances and completely absent in many. So much for an omnipotent and omnipresent God.

We don't have to consent to this hi-jacking of our lives. We can take each moment back for God. And when we do so, we bring that moment back into our present conscious experience, and rewrite it forever. This becomes the current edition. And this is the one we can remember without fear.

Yes, God has done "impossible things" in our lives. Some of those impossible things might seem like life-altering events, and others may only seem like another day when the sun rose again in the east. But it rose. It was there. And you glimpsed its light, you felt its warmth, you were inspired by its constancy -- it was enough. You don't need to have dramatic miracles -- only those moments we you felt the presence of good -- however faintly -- and you knew you were there.  The milestones have been set in order -- like cairns that stand the test of time.

Here, the timeline becomes a lens through which every moment is alive wth possibility for redemption and the promise of impossible things -- remembered.

offered with Love,


Kate

Sunday, February 7, 2021

"i was a free man in Paris..."


"I was a free man in Paris,
I was unfettered and alive..."

Whenever I hear Joni Mitchell's  "Free Man in Paris"  I think of a story that was shared with me over a decade ago. It was related to me as a true story, that has led to more than a few healings since I first hear it.

As the story goes, there was a slave who was promoted to the position of valet. He served his confederate, industrialist master faithfully. He was quiet, elegant, and unassuming. When his master would go on business trips, he would travel with him. Because he was a slave, he didn't sleep in the hotels where his master stayed, but remained outside or in quarters provided for servants.

Soon he was traveling the world with his master. On a particularly cold Parisian night, he finished his duties and returned to the entrance of the hotel where his master was staying, expecting to wait till morning for his master's first call. Bundled up at warmly as he could be, he huddled out of the cold in the alleyway next to the hotel.

Soon the doorman wandered over to where he was and asked him what he was doing. He explained that he was a slave and that his master was a guest in the hotel. He went on to say that he would wait there until his master needed him the next day.

The doorman looked at him and said, "Sir, this is Paris. Slavery is illegal here. You are free." The slave, waking up to the reality of his freedom, walked away. He never went back. He accepted his freedom.

You see, slavery was still legal in the United States. But in France, slavery had been abolished in 1794. He was not in a place where laws of slave ownership would be enforced. He was -- quite literally -- a free man in Paris.

How often to we walk around thinking that we are in a "country" that has laws that we are enslaved to, and under the enforceable jurisdiction of? That we live in a body with laws of decay and decline. That we operate in a world where laws of socio-economic privilege and penalty prevail. That we are under the thumb of educational hierarchies and intellectual tyranny?

We stand huddled against the cold wall of a building, thinking we are slaves and that if we were to leave, we would be hunted down, shackled in chains, and imprisoned for life. When in fact, we live, move, and breathe in Him. We are not citizens of a land where "enslavement to the most relentless masters" is enforced, or enforceable.

We are citizens of the kingdom of God. We are free men, women, and children in this safe place where slavery has been abolished. We do not live under the tyranny of laws that say we must subscribe to heredity, caste, class, health-predictions, educational hierarchies, socio-economic predestination.

We are free. We can walk away without looking back. I promise.

Not long ago I was struggling with a physical challenge that seemed to make movement very difficult. I was mentally slammed with all the reasons why this was not only reasonable, but expected -- at my age.

One Saturday, as I started a cleaning project, I put a favorite Joni playlist on my iPod - and yes, I still have one of my daughters' old discarded iPods. The first song that came up was "Free Man in Paris." I immediately thought of the story shared above. At the same moment, I bent down to clean under a table, and felt an all too familiar pain.

But this time I didn't just keep moving through it. Or huddle in the cold light of acceptance next to it. I decided to walk away from it. I was not mortal. I did not live in a "country" where the laws of birth, maturity, decay, death were enforced. I was not trapped in a body that was defined by those laws - or enslaved to them. I was a free woman in the kingdom of God.

Every step, every bend, every swipe of the dust cloth was a step away from the feeling that I was waiting for a false master to tell me where I could go what I could feel, and how I could experience my life.

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


"The enslavement of man is not legitimate.

It will cease when man enters into his heritage of freedom, his God-given dominion over the material senses. Mortals will some day assert their freedom in the name of Almighty God."

We answer to one Sovereign, one Law-giver, who is Love. This Love is omnipotent. There is no opposition to His supreme statutes of freedom and liberty. This is where we live. This is the country of our citizenship.

offered with Love,




Kate



 



Tuesday, January 19, 2021

"we have done this hard thing..."


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


I wrote the following post on the day of the inauguration in 2017.  I was bereft.  Clarissa's message of hope has given me courage and patience throughout the last four years.  These were some of the hardest years of my life.  There were times when I didn't think I would survive them.  I have.  We have.  

I have had my trust in human decency tested.  I have wept in horror, and I have felt deflated by the complete disregard for our responsibility to one another.  I have prayed through long nights of pain and sorrow over the separation of children and their parents at the border.  I have been on my knees more than on my feet.  But through it all, I have trusted that with God, only good was possible.

Returning to this post today - four years later - has been important.  I am not the same person who wrote it.  I am softer.  I hope I am kinder.  I pray I am more resilient,  I know I am more trusting.  I made it.  There were times when I didn't think I would.  But here we are.  We have done this hard thing.  

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, November 11, 2020

"and when I don't belong..."


"and when
I don't belong,
you say
I am Yours..."



Lauren Daigle's "You Say," was the fire that drew me to her side this morning -- as the first snow of the season, fell gently on the last of summer's roses.

Some days I wake up without a sense of belonging in the world. Not just in big abstract ways, but in the details of the day. I look in the refrigerator for something to eat and nothing seems right -- and not just "not right," but foreign. I walk out the front door and I feel detached from the community I have loved and cherished for decades. I feel like a stranger in a strange land.

I have to yield a sense of who I am based on context -- the where I live, who I know, what I do version of my self-- to something invisible and indivisible in me. This lyric from Lauren's song really spoke to me this morning:

“The only thing that matters now
is everything You think of me..."
 
It doesn't feel disorienting or disassociating when I yield to this one "thought of me," but I actually feel more connected, more fully engaged, more at peace with my place in the world. I am able to sit for hours and hours in my office and feel the presence of a community so inclusive and universal that all those feelings of "not belonging" drop away.

As I was pondering this line her song:


“You say I am loved,
when I can't feel a thing..."
 
I realized that it does not feel at all personal for me. How often do we pray that our children, friends, colleagues, neighbors, strangers on the border, or soldiers and refugees in a far away land can actually feel that they are loved -- truly, viscerally loved, deeply held, completely protected and defended.

How many times have I felt empty and bereft of love in my own life? Too often. But no matter how loudly it feels like that emptiness is echoing in the cavity of my longing, it is not true. And I can know it is not true. In fact, I can actually prove that it is not true.

For example: I, myself, am filled with love.  Even though it may not feel that it is coming at me, or towards me -- from someone else at that particular moment -- but it is always radiating from within me. My love for my daughters, my love for beauty, my love for honesty, goodness, innocence. These are always there -- ready to be called up as a reminder that I am not "without love" in my life.  This is consciousness of the presence of Love, is the I AM of divine Being.

Mary Baker Eddy gives us such clear direction in our search for identity, belonging, an invariable sense of who we are in the world -- and how we fit -- when she wrote:


“How shall we reach
our true selves?

Through Love."
 
What God -- divine Love -- says about me, or you, is all that matters. Everything else that might be said about us is lovely -- or not. Whether those voices are from others, or just the false voices that hiss in the night.  Either way, they don't matter.  They can just as easily bring us joy and comfort one minutes -- and the next, drive us to our knees with the weight of insecurity and self-doubt. They are fickle and unreliable sources.

But we are not limited by those voices of admiration -- or dismissal.  We each have the right to ask ourselves, where is this "message" of grandeur or smallness, belonging or emptiness, success or failure, love or fear -- coming from. If God isn't saying it to us -- we can question it.  We can decide to sit with those feelings a little longer, and let them instruct us in compassion, or we can listen more deeply until we hear the voice of divine Love reminding us:


“you are not alone,

what I say about you
is all that matters,
and you are Mine..."
 
It is enough to lift us up, to dissolve our fears, to humble our ambitions, to walk us forward...

offered with Love,


Kate


Thursday, September 24, 2020

"leave a tender moment alone..."





"and if that's how i feel,
then it's the best feeling 
i've ever known; 

it's undeniably real, 
leave a tender moment alone..."

 I was in a friend's waiting room this morning and Billy Joel's  "Leave a Tender Moment Alone,"  came on her office playlist. Because I didn't have a book with me, I sat back and listened to the lyrics. I hadn't heard that song in twenty years. But today, it really spoke to me.

I can't tell you how many times in my life I have felt like I had to say something -- and often, it came out so wrong -- "just to have something to say." 

If there is any one thing that I am most grateful for in this last decades of spiritual growth, it is a willingness to "leave a tender moment alone."  To be at peace with having nothing to say.  To be comfortable with a pause in the conversation so that we - regardless of who I am with -- can listen more deeply for what is right, kind -- truly worthy of saying.  

These "tender moments" are not empty -- they are filled with humility and grace.  They are not full of uncertainty, but rich with confidence. Confidence in our mutual trust -- in the other's deeper conversation with God.  In the silence that informs every next word.  

What a gift this is in a marriage, my relationship with our children, my friendships and my communities of care.  I have never felt that more peacefully than in a recent meeting with a friend.  

It had been weeks since we'd been able to sit across the table from one another.  But with the promise of a beautiful, early autumn day -- and the gift of an outdoor seating area at a nearby cafe, we were able to drop our masks and share a smile.  

We caught up on eachother's "news." We laughed over tea and shared inspiration.  And then there was that pause.  It was so filled with gratitude and love -- that we let it linger.  There was a deep, shared willingness to: 

"Leave a tender moment along..."

 When our conversation resumed, it was with the purest kind of heart-rich wonder.  That tender pause had made space for even more beautiful sharing.  

May all of your conversations today include a pause.  Even the ones that you carry on -- completely within.  As I think about it, I wonder if perhaps this is what I have learned from spending so much quiet time with our dogs.  How to listen-- and how to enjoy tender moments without the need to fill them with words.  Leaning into an interlude of grace.  Poised in the pause. 

with Love, 

Cate 

Saturday, September 19, 2020

"let us pause in life's pleasures..."


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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

offered with Love,


Kate


Thursday, September 10, 2020

"i am not my story about me..."


"there is a reduction
of identity to biography..."



Krista Tippett interviewed John O'Donohue before his passing in 2008 and the above quote stood out to me as he spoke in measured, but lyrical stanzas.

Let me make this very clear. I love this man. I love his poetry. I love his heart. I love his wisdom. I have no objectivity when it comes to his words. I love them. His books of prose and poetry some of my dearest companions.

There is not a song to keynote this post - at this moment. But, the above statement plays in my heart like a song. To hear John's voice - lyrical and resonant - is a gift that sings to my heart.

t As for the content of her interview (which I have to admit I would have listened to even if he had only been reading of the Dublin telephone directory) well, took my breath away. Not because it is something new, but because it so nails what I believe to be true at the deepest level of my being.

We are not our stories. Yes, we have stories -- just like we have bodies -- but they do not define us. They are instruments of language for communicating what we think we know about our selves -- but they are not "us."

If you have this blog, you know from over 750 posts, since 2005, I have a bunch of stories. In fact, each of these posts is based on an experience. I am not a rhetorical writer. I do not know how to speak or write from the standpoint of thesis. But I can tell you what I have experienced -- a story -- and how that experience was meaningful to me, and further awakened in my a deeper spiritual understanding.

So, to say that I am not my story -- here on this blog -- might seem a bit (or a lot) paradoxical. But it is what I know to be truer than true. And to have it in John's words and spoken by his voice is only more wonderful than i can say.
We are not our stories. Sandy Wilder once shared an exercise with me that stsopped me in my tracks. It shook me -- the storyteller -- to the core. I felt that false sense of who I was shatter and crumble to the ground like a statue turning to rubble at a feather's touch.


I use these stories to illustrate some spiritual awakening in my heart. But I no longer think that these stories define me or are the historic construct of who I have become, or foundational to who I have yet to discover about the "I am." One that is continuously welling up from the depths of a spiritual wellspring in divine Love.

In thinking of this story-free spiritual identity, I can't help but remember that Mary Baker Eddy wrote her own autobiography, Retrospection and Introspection, in 95 pages. And that at page 54, she stops telling "her story," and the last half of her autobiography includes nothing of her human story, but is all about sharing her love for the Science she had discovered as Life itself.

In the last chapter of this autobiography, Waymarks," Eddy offers:

"Hear this saying of our Master:
"And I, if I be lifted up from earth,
will draw all me."

The ideal of God is no longer impersonated
as a waif or a wanderer..."
 

Without saying it, she says it all. Having been lifted up from her own earth-story -- by the cross of experience -- she was no longer the once-sickly child, or the homeless women who had lived in over 60 homes -- she was spiritual. Her story was "immovably fixed in Principle."

I will leave this here. I hope you feel the depth of your own spiritual identity. I hope you know -- at the very core of your being -- what is pre-existently and eternally "you" as the reflection of the "I AM," -- ever-unfolding, ever-fresh, ever-new. I hope that you can look at your stories as narrative language for sharing what you have discovered, not as an accumulation of experiences that define you.

And since I can't stop a song from scoring a post in my heart -- after I start writing -- I will share Kate Edmonson's beautiful recording of "A Voice." Perhaps our stories are simply the songs we sing to each other to say, "you are not alone."

offered with Love,


Kate


Thursday, July 30, 2020

"i believe..."


"I believe most folks
are doing about the best they can;

and I know there are some things
that I will never understand..."

It must be Carrie Newcomer season in my heart. I can't seem to get enough of her lyrics or her music. Her beautiful  "I Believe,"  reminds me of something my husband often says:


"Everyone is doing the best they can
with the information and experience
they have to date."

It's become an axiom for me. I return to it whenever I feel exasperated by someone's choices, words, or actions - even my own. I am doing the best I know how, based on the information and experience I have to date - at each moment.

None of us is intentionally doing our worst. I truly believe that.

I don't think I could live in a world where I thought that people were intentionally setting out to hurt, trick, use, or abuse others. Where people could "go rogue," and had the self-determinism and power to extricate themselves from God's omnipotent control.

But, there are days when holding-my-toes-to-the-fire of really living this Truth is difficult and painful. There are times when injustices feel intentional, and unkindnesses seem deliberate. When greed appears to rule over charity, and lust for power over humility. But even then, I know what I believe. And I believe that God is supreme. Always supreme - not just when someone consents to His sovereignty.

For you see, this is not about another person's choices or actions - for me. It is about my relationship to God. Do I believe that He is all-powerful? Do I trust His promise that we are all His children? Do I honestly believe that we are made in His image and likeness? Governed by love? Our affections enriched by His Word?

Anything less is a violation of my love for Him, and my trust in His care. And isn't this the most vital act of love for God - to trust Him? As a parent, there is nothing more loving than to have our children can say, "I trust you mom."

Well, I trust You, dear Father-Mother God. I trust that You have all of Your children under Your divine care. That each of us is learning lessons that may not be clear to us when we look at one another's path from the outside. Who am I to judge another person's journey.  The arrogant may be on their way to a remarkable lesson in humility. The greedy to learn something new about charity.

I have to trust our common Father to know the lessons we each need on our journey from sense to Soul. From seeing things through the distorted filter of personal sense, to experiencing life through a clear God-centered lens of love and trust.

In her Manual of The Mother Church, Mary Baker Eddy shares this "Daily Prayer" under the Article "Discipline" for members:


"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 prayer is with me all day, every day. It brings focus to my discipleship. It shows me whose sins I should be aware of, and addressing -- mine. And then it encourages me to leave the affections of others, to God's care and government.

What we love determines who we are. I can leave mankind's love for charity over greed, patience over frustration, integrity over corruption, kindness over absorbed self-interest - to God. To God's Word speaking directly to every man, woman, and child's consciousness.

This prayer, coupled with my husband's constant reminder that "we are all doing the best we know how with the information and experience we have - to date," - has brought me much-needed peace in these troubled times.

God is informing each of us, and He is giving us experiences that will soften and strengthen our hearts. And as brothers and sisters in Christ, we can inform our neighbors about value of consideration, honesty, thoughtfulness, integrity -- not by our words, but by our actions. And in shared loving company we add to to one another's library of experiences to draw upon. For, in the words of Ram Dass, aren't we all just "walking each other home?"  

This is what I believe.

offered with Love,


Cate 

Thursday, July 16, 2020

"i am the cup..."



"i am the cup,
mended and washed,
i am the true container
for all that I've lost;

"for all that i've lost
and gathered again,
is only what hangs in the air,
when the music ends..."

 Carrie Newcomer's  "Visitation,"  speaks to me today, in a much different way than it did earlier this month.

You see, I wrote a post with this song - and title - two weeks ago.  But Blogger changed it's editing and formatting platform this week, and for some reason that post disappeared.  So I have no record of what it said.  But this is the perfect metaphor for what I want to say today. 

I am not who I was two weeks.  I am new.  You are new.  We are listening to this song, writing this post, and reading it from a completely new space of spiritual discovery.  

I think about the clay that sits in the palm of my hand before a prayer takes form in a vessel - a cup - that will hold something yet unknown.  

So today, let yourself be new.  Let your prayers be new.  Let them be free of your words. Let them be the song of divine Love whispering her fresh messages to you.  As our toddler daughter once said to me: 



"Mommy,
when I pray
I don't think,
I listen."

 May your prayers be full of deep listening and less thinking. 

with Love, 

Cate 

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

"in the quietness of now..."


"oh, abide with me,
where it's breathless and it's empty;

yes, abide with me,
and we'll pass the evening gently;

stay awake with me,
and we'll listen more intently..."

Oh, Carrie.

Carrie Newcomer's  "Abide,"  is a most perfect description of the shared silence I so value in our marriage.

There are many day -- and even more nights -- where we share the space of our small home without sharing words. And yet, I have rarely felt so completely heard, understood, and known.

It is this "quietness of now" which allows each of us to serve our communities in the ways that we are most inspired to do -- moment-by-moment. I feel loved and supported in the deep silence of this space we occupy together.

To know that the person I am with, is listening into the quiet - with me - is such a comfort.  And it brings great peace.

Mary Baker Eddy wrote in her 1898 communion message:


"My sense of nature's rich glooms is, that loneness lacks but one charm to make it half divine — a friend, with whom to whisper, “Solitude is sweet.” Certain moods of mind find an indefinable pleasure in stillness, soft, silent as the storm's sudden hush; for nature's stillness is voiced with a hum of harmony, the gentle murmur of early morn, the evening's closing vespers, and lyre of bird and brooklet.

“O sacred solitude! divine retreat!"

I have been so blessed to have a life partner, children, dogs, and a friend, who share my love for simplicity, solitude, and silence. In these relationships, I have found the most profound kind of companionship. They are my sanctuary - my home.

I feel blessed -- pure and simple. I feel so blessed.

offered with Love,


Cate 

Saturday, July 11, 2020

"a God for the daughters..."


"pose like a trophy
on a shelf;

dream for everyone,
but not yourself;

i've heard of God the Son
and God the Father;
I'm still looking for a God
for the daughters..."



Two weeks ago, one of our daughters sent me the link to Little Big Town's video for, "The Daughters." I watched it and wept. It had me at hello. And I know I couldn't write this post until I could watch it without putting my head in my arms and falling apart - again.

I'm still not able to watch it without tears burning, and my chest hurting, but that will come...

I don't know why this touches me so deeply. Perhaps it is because the daughter that sent it to me knows me so well. And perhaps it is because I feel, deeply, the pang of sadness for lives lived - including most of my own - within a false narrative of what it means to be a "good girl."

I remember posture lessons in high school. Walking  across the room with a book on my head, under the stern coaching of our home economics teacher. She seemed to believe that a woman with perfect posture was somehow going to make a better wife. Sitting with your knees pressed together and your ankles crossed would make you more desirable - not to a boy - but to his parents. Lipstick made you kissable. Hair that was tidy and free of split ends would actually "say" something about you -- what? I still don't know.

I was a good girl. I loved my family. I loved my school, my church, my friends. But it wasn't enough. I didn't have a perfect nose. My teeth weren't straight. I put on weight between my junior and senior years and learned to starve myself to take it off. I went further and did more than I wanted - to be wanted.

This didn't stop when I rediscovered a God who I was taught loved me as his daughter. I still ached to be "enough." I still took on rejection as "my fault." And turned myself upside-down and inside out to pretend it was all okay - just so no one would think that the not-good-enough girl, hadn't become the not-good-enough woman, wife, mother. Mostly wife.

So what changed? Because something must have changed - right? I can now watch this video and feel the pain as distant. I no longer feel it as an indictment, but now accept it as a reminder of a long ago chapter in my life. A chapter I would title, "not enough, never enough."

I am not proud of the years of bending over backwards to make people like, admire, and want me. I am sad about them. I am sad for the example of frustrated eagerness-to-please that I modeled for my daughters and their friends. And it wasn't really about pleasing a man. More often it was about giving the impression, to other women, that I really wasn't "not enough." That I would be a wise, evolved, fun friend. When in reality, I was sad, insecure, and self-deprecating.

So, what changed? I am not really sure. Other than to identify a momentary shift, a turn of the aperture, a widening of the limiting lens through which I saw myself as a self-identifying female in a very male-dominated world. A world in which women were not kind to one another - in an effort to jockey for attention, admiration, and achievement based on comparisons with one another.

I was sitting in a hotel conference room with about 50 amazing women. In my mind's eye, they had "arrived." I was there because - well, to be honest, at that moment I wasn't really sure. Was I there to support them? Was I there because I needed to hear the message in order to clarify it later for them? Was I there to take notes? It couldn't possibly be, because I deserved to be in the company of these other - more intelligent, enlightened, interesting - women. They must know something more of God's love than I did. Because I felt like a loser and was on the verge of tears.

It was a session on the history of the women's rights movement. The presenter was one of the most motherly, kind-eyed, gentle, fiercely loving women I had ever been in the presence of. I so wanted to ask her a million questions. Not about the historic thought-leader and reformers she was telling us about, but about herself. How was it that she was white-haired, soft, round, bespectacled, and brilliantly kind? And at the same time, she was smart, funny, compassionate, and wise.

The women I had been hanging out with were constantly encouraging one another to invest in the right suit, pumps, hair color/style, presentation. And I had been part of it. Coaching my colleagues on how to present themselves, as much as their message. But this lovely creature at the front of the room, was the opposite of what I had been asked to encourage in my colleagues. I was confused.

During the morning break, I stayed back in the conference room while everyone else went to grab a snack, powder their noses, or stretch their legs. I just couldn't. I knew if I joined them I would either burst into tears, or stand in a corner comparing myself to each of them. So I sat in the back, looking over my notes. Copious notes.

About five minutes later, the presenter came back into the room. She came right over and sat down next to me. She didn't say anything at first, she just put her soft, warm hand on my forearm and smiled a sad, knowing smile. I felt her sisterhood. In that moment, I knew that she had her own struggle with how to be a woman - among women. It was as clear to me as the tears streaming down my face, that I was not alone.

I don't remember what she said to me -- it wasn't a lot. But when the session resumed, her message was all about the historic struggle to understand the "God of the daughters." She shared insight into the lives of women like Mathilda Jocelyn Gage, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucretia Mott, and Mary Baker Eddy. Women who knew that knowing, and claiming, God as equally female, was more important than the fight for suffrage or a place at the table of commerce or legislation.

In her kindness, I had found my own path towards "being enough." I would - from that day forward - strive to be more kind, more collaborative, more supportive of those around me. I would seek not hard-won achievements, but softness of soul. I would work every day to model a gentle-heart, a fierce love, a sisterhood where one woman doesn't stand out alone, but one in which no woman wins the floor, until all women are heard.

I discovered that there was, in deed, a God for the daughters.

offered with Love,


Kate


Wednesday, July 1, 2020

"God is a River - let go..."


"In the ever-shifting water
of the river of this life,
I was swimming, seeking comfort;
I was wrestling waves to find
A boulder I could cling to,
a stone to hold me fast
Where I might let the fretful water
of this river 'round me pass..."



I’ve always loved stones and water -- two elements that are at the core of my being.  When I hear those two words I feel both grounded and fetter less -- free.  I love to call that space in my heart, a studio. Because it best describes my the in-vironment of my home as an artist and healer.

For me, an artist is someone who applies a principle. Like the principle of perspective in drawing. Or the law of gravity in sculpture. These principles serve as a matrix for what Robert Peel writes of as the ultimate goal for working Mary Baker Eddy’s household, “a breathtaking genius for improvisation”.

I have always loved order, neatness, form, beauty, and creativity.  The marriage of stones and rivers have always spoken to me of this concresence. 

One day while sitting on a sandy Cape Cod beach, I considered what it might look like if my “office," were an artist's studio.  The Christian Science healing practice - for me - is the perfect marriage of art and science.  I’ve never felt the balance of those two elements more than in this work.  This blog has been a chronicle of the experiential journey towards greater trust, balance, honesty, perspective, and grace.

One morning, my husband sent me this video clip from Peter Mayer’s Front Porch concert in Boulder, with this note:

“Good morning...

"Please check this out. 

I think he wrote this with you in mind somehow.”

The subject line of his email said, “An anthem for our home”. This touched me deeply.  And then I watched the video clip of Peter's performance of
God is A River and it made me weep with abandon. 

Peter perfectly and completely captures what I hope each of these posts are trying to say about what I am learning.  This song is now the anthem -- not just for our home, but for this blog, this office, and, most profoundly, what I think it is that I am learning about God.   I will let Peter’s words speak for me today.

This song is a home.  I dwell in its space of surrender and trust. I  find in its message, a security that is without the conventional walls and mortar, bricks or beams, of always knowing what’s next, or how it’s supposed to look.  I will let go of any false sense of "safety" I’ve been clinging to -- and trust the River.

“Home” for me, is a conscious power, a movement that is vital and active - it is a verb. And yes, this sense of “home” - as a verb - has often given birth to nouns: a house, a marriage, a family, purposeful work, or a posting on a blog. But it is first, and foremost, a verb.

Thank you Jeff. Thank you for honoring me by thinking -- even for a moment -- that this song was written with me in mind.

Thank you Peter -- for writing me a home -- and an anthem for my life:

“In the ever-shifting water
of the river of this life
I was swimming, seeking comfort;
I was wrestling waves to find
A boulder I could cling to,
a stone to hold me fast
Where I might let the fretful water
of this river 'round me pass

And so I found an anchor,
a blessed resting place
A trusty rock I called my savior,
for there I would be safe;
From the river and its dangers,
and I proclaimed my rock divine
And I prayed to it "protect me"
and the rock replied:

God is a river, not just a stone
God is a wild, raging rapids
And a slow, meandering flow
God is a deep and narrow passage
And a peaceful, sandy shoal
God is the river, swimmer
So let go

Still I clung to my rock tightly
with conviction in my arms
Never looking at the stream
to keep my mind from thoughts of harm
But the river kept on coming,
kept on tugging at my legs
Till at last my fingers faltered,
and I was swept away

So I'm going with the flow now,
these relentless twists and bends
Acclimating to the motion,
and a sense of being led
And this river's like my body now,
it carries me along
Through the ever-changing scenes
and by the rocks that sing this song:

God is a river, not just a stone
God is a wild, raging rapids
And a slow, meandering flow
God is a deep and narrow passage
And a peaceful, sandy shoal
God is the river, swimmer
So let go..."
 

What a gift.


offered with Love,


Kate