Friday, August 13, 2021

"above all things..."

 


"somebody with a hurt that I could have helped,
somebody with a hand that I could have held,
when I just can't see past myself,
Lord, help me be...
"a little more like mercy, a little more like grace
a little more like kindness, goodness, love, and faith
a little more like patience, a little more like peace
a little more like Jesus, 
"a little less like me..."
The above lyrics are from Zach Williams' song, "Less Like Me," and speak to the kind of hope I see as a natural part of the camp experience each summer.  Let me explain.
From January first, throughout the summer, and into the cooler days of autumn, I pray for camp(s).  Part of that prayer is looking for relevant spiritual insights and precedent-setting cases of divine law in the weekly Bible lessons that include passages from Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy.
This morning's study of scripture included two prayers that were like bookends, holding the camp experience in the middle between them.  
The first is a passage from I Chronicles that has often been referred to as "the Prayer of Jabez:"
"And Jabez called on the God of Israel, saying, "Oh that Thou wouldest bless me indeed, and enlarge my border, and that thine hand might be with me, and that Thou wouldest keep me from evil, that it may not grieve me." 
This prayer has been lauded in song, sermon, and in a popular book by that title.  It's a prayer that has always puzzled me in its popularity.  Of course I can seen the attraction to a prayer that would bring fulfillment to the promises that Jabez is asking for.   
The other prayer is from III John in the New Testament: 
"Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health."
This prayer, although familiar, has never reached the level of spiritual pop culture recognition that the "Prayer of Jabez" reached in the early days of the 21st century with the publication of its namesake book.
Seeing these two prayers together in this week's lesson, was eye opening for me.  And what I see at camp sits right in the middle of those two prayers.  
As campers our children arrive at camp as guests to be, as a favorite hymn promises, "cared for, watched over, beloved, and protected," -- by staff, counselors, nurses, practitioners, and camp/bunkhouse moms/parents. Their context is one of being the recipient of blessings. 
But exposure to the very nature of camp, starts to nurtures the seed of Christ-like selflessness in them.  They watch a counselor -- tired from a full day of mountaineering or sailing -- rise in the middle of the night to pray with a homesick camper.  The experience the power of selfless service, generosity of heart, extraordinary patience, and seamless grace.  
And their lives begin to take on the purity of John's prayer for others.  Their greatest desire becomes," I can't wait to be on staff."  I know with our daughters, even though they had the opportunity of staying campers for two more years - and being served.  They couldn't wait to be on staff - and serve.  
What happens in their lives -- and in Scripture -- between those two spiritual bookends?  For me, it is the presence of Jesus - and his followers today. It is his Christly example of unselfed love that shifts our prayers from "enlarge my borders," to enlarge my heart.  From bless me, to one of "that thou may prosper and be in health."   
It astounds me that of all the things that John could have wanted for himself, those closest to him, the church he has grown, the community he was in fellowship with -- he would pray for the health and prosperity of one of Paul's followers -- not even his own "tribe," -- as what he wished for above all things.
I will leave this here -- but not before giving thanks for every counselor, staff member, director, facilities technician, and camp mom/bunkhouse parent I witnessed living John's prayer every day this summer. 
thank you. 
offered with Love, 
Cate

"if a picture paints a thousand words..."


"If a picture paints 
a thousand words, 
then why can't I paint you?
the words will never show,
the you i've come to know..." 

I remember the cover to this "Best of Bread" album, as if it were the face of a loved one.  I played it over and over again.  David Gates' beautiful vocals on "If," were filled with the kind of melancholy I was feeling that year. 

I was thinking about this song, recently, after my niece took a photograph of me.  

We were at a camp social and she had just received a new instamatic camera.  She quietly snapped a photo, waited for it to come out of the slot and then walked over and placed it in my shirt pocket for processing, and said, "I took a photo of you while you weren't looking."  I was in the middle of a conversation, and completely forgot about it until later that night. 

I have never liked having my photo taken.  It's hard to explain, but every photo I have ever seen of myself feels like a picture of someone I don't know.  Even photos of me, doing what I love most, feel like I am looking at someone else - a familiar face that I don't feel connected to. 

So it was strangely beautiful - when remembered my niece's photo in the pocket of my shirt - to find the perfect portrait of "the me" that I have come to know.  It wasn't a face, or a form -- it was a color.  

The entire image was a shade of blue.  A deep, achingly beautiful shade of blue.  And I felt it.  I felt so connected to that photo that I gasped, and then I cried - just a bit.  This little instagram photograph captured how I feel about myself.  It felt accurate and perceptive. It felt as if my niece had bored into my heart and discovered something hidden.  

And for the past few weeks, it has had me thinking about identity, perception, and image.  I have long-resisted identifying with a face in the mirror, the shape that I put clothing on, or the changing features that look back at me from my driver's license -- or any profile photo on Facebook or Instagram.  

Perhaps some of us aren't capable of simply being outlined by a layer of skin punctuated with features - eyes, nose, shoulders, etc.  What if we are not "that," -- whatever that is.  And what if, instead, I am best identified as a color, and you are a sound that makes birds sing, and someone else is the scent of cedar or cinnamon -- or both.  

Just as we often think that answered prayer will come in the form of words -- and so we let the deep feelings that have no words, or the sounds that cannot be described, pass through us without noting their message, while we wait for the illusive English text to float across the mental page.  In the same way, what if our faces and body shapes and hair color, are not necessarily the way we experience ourselves as God's image and likeness - most clearly.  What if it's a shade of blue, or a minor chord, or the taste of grapefruit, or the touch of a breeze, or the silence of a prayer...

In her compilation, Miscellaneous Writings 1883 - 1896, Mary Baker Eddy refers to a "fourth dimension "when she writes:  

"Christian Science translates Mind, God, to mortals.  It is the infinite calculus defining the line, plane, space, and fourth dimension of Spirit. It absolutely refutes the amalgamation, transmigration, absorption, or annihilation of individuality."  

and elsewhere she states: 

"Comeliness and grace are independent of matter.  Being possesses its qualities before they are perceived humanly. Beauty is a thing of life, which dwells forever in the eternal Mind and reflects the charms of His goodness in expression, form, outline, and color." 

What if our sense of who we are, and how we are defined to one another, that has been limited by a collectively agreed upon expectation that we are three dimensional humans form made up of lines, shapes, and features.  Or that this is the only way of experiencing and communicating our identities - our truth and beauty.  

What if deepening our color, or perfecting the pitch of our voice, or enriching the scent that we leave upon everything we touch, were as important to being known, as the cut of our hair, or the shape of our eyes, or the tilt of our head?

These are the questions I am in tonight.  In the meantime, I am so grateful that my niece was able to capture what no photographer has ever been able to do -- a photo of "the me I've come to know."  A perfect shade of blue.

Disclaimer:  if this post seems a bit abstract or out in left field -- i completely understand.  

offered with Love, 

Cate 

  












Thursday, August 5, 2021

"in a dream..."



"o dreamer, 
leave thy dreams 
for joyful waking..." 

I am a lucid dreamer.  There, I have said it. I always have been.  I don't know of a time when I have not had very beautiful, promising, inspiring dreams.  The above lines, from one of my favorite hymns, "o dreamer", has always made me question the validity of those dreams.  

I do not have lucid nightmares.  I do not have nightmares.  At least not since I started paying attention to my sleeping moments and thoughts, as vigilantly as I am to my waking thoughts.  

But still, I have always wondered about the place of dreaming in the life of a spiritual thinker. Do we just dismiss anything that happens when we are sleeping -- good or bad -- as if it is simply an illusion?  Do we accept that whatever happens in our "waking" moments as more real, more worthy of our active conscious acceptance or dismissal. 

These are questions that have poked at me for most of my life.  

Just the other day, I glimpsed a bit more of the truth (for me) about these questions.  It came in the form of a Bible story -- from I Kings 3 -- that is probably very familiar to anyone who might have stumbled upon this blog.  

It is the story of Solomon's encounter with God in a dream -- yes, in a dream.  God asks him what He can do for him.  And Solomon first thanks God for his care of his father, David the King, and then he asks for "an understanding heart..." which God gives him -- in a dream. 

This was such a beautiful gift for me.  And an admonition.  How many times have I encountered good, the promise of divine purpose, a loved one, an expansive sense of community, spiritual gifts -- in a dream -- and have woken in the morning to dismiss them, as "just a dream," -- beautiful, but not real.

How many times have I glimpsed the promise and turned aside in morning to return to my "real life," -- in which that same beautiful promise seems untenable and beyond reach or comprehension?  How many healings have I had in a dream that I did not accept or acknowledge in the morning in the light of a new day?  How much good have I dismissed as just a dream? 

I am vigilant about preparing my heart for the silencing of my head -- the human mind -- before going to sleep, so that I can experience the restfulness of an active conscious sense of God's presence in my life.  I redeem the "day" I have just completed with attentiveness and gratitude.  I nourish my heart with passages of Scripture and the writings of Mary Baker Eddy, I claim my right to consciously rest in the presence of Mind. 

But time after time, upon awaking, I shake myself from the dream and often sigh with sadness that it was just a dream.  I might wonder about the message, or consider the symbolism, but I have never given myself permission to be blessed, bestowed, healed, transformed -- for good -- through a dream

No more.  The Bible gives us precedence for the acceptance of divine good.  If Solomon could have that encounter with God in a dream and accept God's bestowal of a wise and understanding heart - so can we.  So can I.   So can you.  

Scripture encourages us to "try the spirits whether they are of God."  This is required of us whether awake or asleep.  Is it good?  Will it bless?  Is it self-absorbed or humanity-enriching? 

Mary Baker Eddy gives some sense of this new view when she asks: 

"Is there any more reality in the waking dream of mortal existence than in the sleeping dream?"

I would ask is there anymore reality in the waking dream of spiritual existence than in the sleeping dream?  

Not long ago I had a beautiful sleeping dream in which I was doing something that I could not do in my waking life because of a physical challenge.  In that dream I had been healed through Christian Science treatment and prayer.  When I woke, in the morning, I was able to move very freely -- for about fifteen minutes -- before I "remembered" that it was "just a  dream."  And suddenly all the symptoms surfaced.  I had dismissed the healing as being "just a dream," and got back to work in addressing the claim as if that healing experience had not happened. 

The healing came along.  But, what if I had been more aware of the uninterrupted presence of spiritual good operating in consciousness -- whether waking of sleeping -- and had defended that healing with the same clarity about God's love, that I defend every Christian Science treatment, its healing effect on human experience.

Solomon didn't wake up from the dream and say, "wow, that was cool, but it was just a dream.  Maybe some day God will bless me that way in my waking moments."  He accepted the spiritual good -- and acted out from that new view of himself. 

Whether in our waking or sleeping moments -- we can accept all good and dismiss what does not align with God's love. We can reject the nightmare -- waking or sleeping -- with the same confidence and relief that we feel when we wake in the morning and realize that the monster was not really chasing us up the stairs.

And we can accept the good we experience in a dream with the same joy that we feel rising from the bed of pain, having realized God's healing presence in our lives.

"O dreamer, leave thy dream for joyful waking..." now means something very different to me.  I now know that I can leave a dream-sense of the good I have experienced in a dream for a realization that God's presence knows no bounds of sleeping or waking.  If I have experienced a sense of God's love -- it is real, it is never to be dismissed or discarded as just a dream.

Thank you Solomon.  I have read your story countless time and not seen the gift in it.  How many more of these Scriptural promises are waiting in the stories of other spiritual pioneers and teachers?  The classroom is vast - the lessons are endless.  

offered with Love, 

Cate


Saturday, July 31, 2021

"as i write this letter..."


 
"as I write this letter,
send my love to you, 
remember that i'll always 
be in Love with you..." 

People often ask me how many children we have.  For many, this would be an easy question.  For me, it is a balancing act between what is true in my heart, and who would appear at an immediate family reunion.  

There are the three daughters that my former husband and I became family with through adoption, and the son and daughter that my husband brought into my heart through marriage.  So, the somewhat easy answer is five.  

But that is not really true.  It leaves out the son who we were adopting - many years ago - before his first mom decided to parent him herself. And it doesn't acknowledge the daughter I carried, but who passed before her birth.  It also doesn't take into account all of the children that my heart has loved as nieces, nephews, students, campers, counselors, neighbors, our children's friends, and the "third twin" who always made Emma and Clara's childhood more of a joy than I can say.

Today, I am holding our daughter, Jane, tenderly in my heart.  She passed before her birth, but there is not a day that goes by that I don't pray for her spiritual growth and journey in grace, as her mom -- as one who has loved her dearly and deeply.  She is the one that makes me hesitate - most viscerally - when asked how many children I have.

As I thought about her this morning in prayer, it occurred to me that, unlike her sisters and brother,  she is not "of an age," in my heart.  She just is.  I no longer speak to her with any sense of how many years it has been since her passing.  I write to her as an equal.  As a child of God.  Not a child of Kate -- or any other person.  Loving her has taught me so much about shedding a personal, or proprietary, sense of motherhood.  I pray each day that she is with someone who mothers and cherishes her as much as I do.  

This is also something I have learned as an adoptive mother.  I have never known what it feels like to think that I am someone's "only mother" -- I share each of the children in my life with other mothers.  Birth mothers, step mothers, grandmothers, camp moms, corral moms, mother-in-laws.  So this sense of release comes without the heartache of "but I am her only -- her real mom..." 

Somedays, I find myself writing letters to these beautiful children in my heart, on paper, and in the wind.  This morning it was a letter to Jane that prompted this post.  The song that came with it was the Beatles' classic, "p.s., i love you..." I know this song was probably written as a romantic love letter, but for me it is all about the love we feel for those we don't see everyday, but who live and breathe in our hearts.  

dear jane, 

this morning i am thinking about you, and the beautiful strong women that i am absolutely certain God has brought into your experience.  Women for you to e cherished by -- and to learn and grow with.  i pray you know, that from where i am, i hold you close each day -- and, i let you go.  

this always feels like breathing.  drawing my sense of you close -- to cherish each of your remarkable spiritual qualities, then releasing you -- to bless and be blessed -- over, and over, and over again. 

i am at camp -- again.  this is often where i see you in a timeless, ageless flow of spiritual maturity.  I can feel your innocence and your wisdom.  Your playfulness and your purpose -- all around me.  I try not to wonder or speculate about what you would have enjoyed here -- horses like your sisters, or water skiing like your dad.  I find the most peace when i allow myself to just love it all -- and you, in the midst of it.  

it is time to go do what I do here.  be with the children of other mothers.  this, too, makes me think of the moms who have always nurtured you where you are.  it makes me deeply grateful for their care for you -- and it makes me more devoted to my life here at camp. 

with all my love... 

As i write this letter - sharing it with you - i hope you see what sustains and strengthens my heart each day -- loving the children that i have been entrusted to love.  Ageless children of one divine Parent.  

offered with Love, 

Cate

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

"i love to tell the story..."

 

"i love to tell the story
of unseen things above
of Jesus and his glory
of Jesus and his love..." 

I love to tell stories.  But it is the stories that have God as the main Character, and Jesus as the protagonist - well, those are my favorites. That is what delights my soul.  Finding this video of Emmylou Harris and Robert Duvall singing "I Love to Tell the Story," made me smile this morning.  It is simple -- and it is real.  

As an essayist -- or storyteller -- I have wrestled with the "why" of writing these posts -- for the past 16 years.  Over seven hundred essays later, I still wake up wanting to tell the story of Jesus and his love.  Of God's unfailing law.  Of how deeply and profoundly I have felt the power of grace:  "the unearned and unmerited favor of God" [Webster.] 

My wise, kind, and brilliantly talented sister-in-law shared a book with me as I headed out from a short visit with her earlier this month.  It is a collection of essays by Maine writer - and author of the children's book, "Charlotte's Web," - e.b. white.

White writes, in its Foreword:

"The essayist is a self-liberated man, sustained by the childish belief that everything he thinks about, everything that happens to him, is of general interest.  He is a fellow who thoroughly enjoys his work.  Each new excursion of the essayist, each new "attempt," differs from the last and takes him into new country.  

"The essayist, unlike the novelist, the poet, and the playwright, must be content in his self-imposed role of second-class citizen. A writer who has his sights trained on the Nobel Prize or other earthly triumphs had best write a novel, a poem, or a play, and leave the essayist to ramble about -- content with living a free life and enjoying the satisfactions of a somewhat undisciplined existence.  

[But] "there is one thing the essayist cannot do, though -- he cannot indulge himself in deceit or in concealment...."  

I understand what White is saying so clearly.  Without a clear sense of purpose, these posts -- "you are not alone in your search for God," -- they could become, as White continues:  "self-absorbed and egotistical."  I still worry that they come across as self-absorbed.  But, that said, I wake up each day with so much gratitude for how God has shown me his grace.  And how his son, Jesus Christ, has inspired, guided and encouraged my every step -- every hour, of every day.  And I don't know what to do with it all.  So I write.  

Mostly I write little poems that start out as big poems that I whittle down to their most distilled essence over the course of the day. But I also journal, and make notes from Scriptural study,  and take notice of how grace is moving my heart, and observe how nature is teaching me about God's love. 

In short, I love to tell the story -- but it has to be, "of Jesus and his love."  His love for God.  And God's love for each of us.  

So, if you ever read one of these posts and think to yourself, "wow Cate, do you really think that your personal experience, observation, story is worth reading?" I can tell you -- I have probably asked myself that question thousands of times over the course of these past 16 years.  But, I can't seem to stop myself from wanting to tell the story of Jesus and his love.  And of how all nature is teaching me about God's love.  Every facet of God's presence is beautiful to me -- and rich with wonder.  So, if this seems self-important -- please forgive me.  

offered with love -- always with Love, 

Cate


Friday, July 23, 2021

"hold them up..."



"hold them up, 
hold them up, 
never to let them go..."

Walking back up the hill from Newfound -- to Owatonna -- this morning, I was pondering a few things.  One, my gratitude for the beauty of this place - lush with love and filtered light.  Two, an upcoming wedding - that I had just heard about from a friend.  Three, God.  And not in any order -- but more about how these three things coincided in my heart.

And as I continued up the hill, a favorite James Taylor song, "Never Die Young"  came to mind.  It's always been a reminder that we have a spiritual responsibility to wrap our mental arms around every relationship, and hold them close -- hold them in hope, hold them up. 

Just before I reach the top of the hill, I looked to my right and saw the above image.  It made me cry.  I had to ask myself: do I twine myself around every couple I know and hold them that dearly and tenderly in my heart?  Do I uphold the highest sense of partnership, friendship, marriage, family - when I think of them?  

I remember when my husband and I were first married. There were so many people that questioned our union.  Too soon?  Too many opinions to overcome?  Too old to start over?  

I remember one person lamenting that I'd never reach a 50th anniversary, starting over at "this point in your life." As if time -- measured by a number of years -- validated love.  

Rather than feeling like our community was wrapping its arms around us, it felt like an axe hacking away at our prospects. But rather than letting it put distance between us, we leaned in closer and grew stronger.  After that, I swore I would model a different kind of response to hearing about someone else's "new love."  Have I been consistently faithful to this vow? I hope I have.  I pray I have.  I am sure I can do better. 

Coming upon those two trees wrapped in a single vine was a most profound reminder for me.  To love God, is to love what He loves -- His child, His children, His plan.  We are each planted by our divine Parent to grow in proximity to those whose lives we will bless and be blessed by -- whether it is for a moment, a season, or a full life chapter.  

Some relationships will be like trees with roots entwined so deeply, that they hold eachother up in a storm.  Couples whose branches are so interlaced -- as they reach for the sun, day-after-day -- that you cannot tell where one stops, and the other starts. 

Other trees are not root-tied, but provide shelter to one another during tender growing years.  And others are like an aspen grove that covers the side of a mountain -- a single organism that only appears to be ten thousand individual trees.

And when we twine our loving prayers around those who are in loving relationship, we are included -- as encircling vines -- in that tenderness, collaboration, joy, unity, and affection. We are no longer looking at something from a perspective outside of the goodness it represents.  But are, in fact, actually - now - part of that beautiful love, because we are embracing it within us.   

It is not our job to figure out how, or why, individuals find their way to one another.  It is our job to trust the divine to plant each of us in a place, and within an ecosystem, that it will bless us -- and that we will be blessed by -- for however long it takes to learn and grow in partnership, fellowship, community -- Love.  

It is our privilege to wrap every relationship in the purest expectation for each blessed union.   Since: 

"our expectation is from Him." 

Today, I am sending each parent and child, mother and daughter, husband and wife, boyfriend and girlfriend, sisters, brothers, partners, colleagues, friends -- so very much love.  

Mary Baker Eddy assures us that: 

"all nature teaches God's love to man..." 

Today, nature is reminding me to hold them up, and hold them close -- all of the "thems."  

offered with Love, 

Cate

Saturday, July 17, 2021

"catching the unseen..."



"and He will raise you up
on eagle's wings..." 

Watching a lone eagle this afternoon reminded me of how it feels to settle in to the place of prayer - listening for God's voice to lift me higher.  An eagle doesn't just sit on the edge of a branch or a cliff, with her wings tucked -- waiting for the thermal to lift her up.  There is a moment of reciprocity.  A moment when she lifts her wings and steps off into what cannot be seen, but is felt.  It is as real for her, as the granite beneath her talons.

Once there is this moment of connection -- the opening of her wings and stepping forward, uniting with the ever-present current of air (or thermal) she catches -- there is flight. There is a choreography that cannot exist without this unity.  The thermal cannot be seen without the form of the eagle to give it visibility, and the eagle is motionless without the invisible current that lifts her.

I love this relational aspect of prayer.  Yes, God is ever-present and always speaking, guiding, directing, protecting us -- and for this I am so forever grateful. But there is something so beautiful, and sweet, and powerful about the "dance" of opening my heart, and stepping into the "presence" -- of actively listening.  This is not a petitioning, but a celebration of Soul.  It is song, and dance, and poetry. It is the marriage of lyric with melody and movement. It is pure and refreshing.  It is both comforting and inviting. 

This kind of prayer isn't asking for anything. For why should we need to ask,  when our all-powerful, Father-Mother God already knows all -- and loves us, so much. This prayer wants nothing but to be one -- to dance -- with the Divine.  This is not the day-to-day "rushing about madly,"  while knowing that God is "in charge" kind of praying.  It is something quite different. 

This is the prayer of sitting quietly in the lap of the Father just to feel His arms around you.  It is feeling your heart beating along with His. It is to be so still that His breath stirs the downy hairs at the nape of your hopes. It is to be known - with such tenderness that you sigh more deeply into His care with each trusting release.

I never doubt that the thermals of Spirit will be there when I step off the ever-crumbling ledge of human control or worry -- the undulating edge that my life often looks and feels like.  Those moments when thunderheads blacken the horizon, and I think I can neither see a divine plan -- before or behind. When it looks as if lifitng my wings will put them right into the path of a lightning bolt.  I do it anyway, and there is a rush of peace when I feel that invisible current under my heart -- lifting it above doubt and despair.  It is not unlike the rush of love I feel when I look into my daughters' faces and remember that God trusted me with His precious child.

When it seems as if I'm falling out of grace.  I pause for just a moment, and shift in this space of listening.  And I can feel yet another current of God's love carrying me out of the descent. 

This is what prayer feels like to me.  I love riding these thermals of Love -- in joyful celebration of Her unseen ever-presence.  It is how I remind myself that what is unseen is often more powerful than what is not. It is to be raised up, "on eagle's wings."

offered with Love, 

Cate



Friday, June 11, 2021

"only Jesus..."

 

"and I, 
I don't want to leave a legacy,
I don't care if they remember me;
only Jesus..."

I just wrote an entire post about my evolving relationship with Jesus over the past twenty five years -- and how the Angel Studios production of The Chosen has impacted that relationship -- and  it disappeared.  So...

God must have wanted me to hold it close and only share it one-on-one, or in a much more intimate setting.  I will do that. If you have not watched The Chosen, I can't recommend it highly enough.  If you have questions about my own journey - please feel free to call.  In the meantime, I hope you will enjoy this link to Casting Crown's beautiful song, "Only Jesus."  It says it all for me today.

Sending each of you -- all my love, 

Cate


Sunday, May 23, 2021

"we're not that different at all..."



 "Why can't they understand 
the way we feel?
They just don't trust 
what they can't explain.
I know we're difference, 
but deep inside us, 
we're no that different at all.."

Dateline: May 20, 2021.  Religion News Service. "Sixty years after she stepped into the jungle to observe chimpanzees in their natural habitat, Jane Goodall, the world-renowned primatologist and conservationist, has won the 2021 Templeton Prize, established by the late investor and philanthropist Sir John Templeton to honor those who use science to explore humankind’s place and purpose within the universe."

I felt tears spring to my eyes as I read the news this morning.  Jane Goodall has had a profound impact on the way that I live my life and how I few all conscious beings. 

I remember thinking of her groundbreaking work as a primatologist, while sitting in a darkened theater with our young daughter watching the Disney's animated film, Tarzan. and I always think of whenever I hear Phil Collins' beautiful song, "You'll Be in My Heart," from that same movie. 

As Sir John Templeton's granddaughter, Heather Templeton Dill, wrote of Goodall: 

“Her discoveries have profoundly altered the world’s view of animal intelligence and enriched our understanding of humanity in a way that is both humbling and exalting. Ultimately, her work exemplifies the kind of humility, spiritual curiosity, and discovery that my grandfather, John Templeton, wrote and spoke about during his life.”

Humility, spiritual curiosity, and discovery.  Aren't these the defining attributes of every great thought-leader.  

My own spiritual heroes, Jesus Christ and Mary Baker Eddy, brought these same qualities to their desire to understand the law of Love and the impartial and universal application of that law in the lives of all conscious beings.  

I am so deeply grateful for the progress that humanity has made in recognizing that although, on the surface, we might seem so different, we're really not that different at all.  Spirituality dissolves the differences we define as race, gender, species, genus with the consciousness of God's All-in-allness. 

I have learned more about unconditional love from our non-speaking family members -- the ones who navigate this experience on four legs -- than I have from most humans.  

So today, I am deeply grateful for the legacy of respect and compassion for all creatures, that Jane Goodall has left to us as a record of our ever-evolving history of what it means to be conscious beings sharing the same spiritual landscape. 

offered with Love, 

Cate


Friday, May 14, 2021

"it's all i need to know..."




"God is Love,
God is Love,
if it's all I ever learn in life,
it's all I need to know..."


Outside my cabin, I could hear a group of girls serenading a boy's cabin just down the hill. Their sweet voices lifted into the night sky like fireflies turning into stars. I closed my eyes hoping to capture some of their joy as it rose over the tall pines that stood like sentinels watching over us all.

I was reaching for joy, but it seemed so beyond my grasp that night. I'd received a call earlier in the evening that shook me to my core. Sorrow and bewilderment circled like coyotes looking for a place in my heart. I was on full alert, but tired. I needed a companion in the watch. Mindy Jostyn's beautiful, "God is Love" was a friend in the dark.

I let her remind me through the night that if I took nothing away from this experience -- but an understanding of what it meant that God is Love -- it would be enough. The hope of healing was alive in me. But what that healing would look like seemed elusive. In some ways, I didn't even know what to hope for. Would I stop feeling sad? Would the pain disappear? Would my heart cease to ache? Would someone tell me that the call I'd received earlier had never really happened?

I'd been sitting in the dark for hours, when I suddenly felt an overwhelming desire to read from Mary Baker Eddy's primary text on spiritual healing, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures. I had a long history with finding healing and comfort in her pages. It was exactly what I needed at that moment. I turned on the lamp and opened my dog-eared copy randomly.

My eyes fell on these words from a longer sentence:


"...the proof of healing, 
a sweet and certain sense
that God is Love."
 

It washed over, and through, me like a dam breaking upstream. The proof of healing wasn't going to be seen in a changed physical picture. I wasn't going to hear different news, or wake up to a different report. But I would know this healing. I would have absolute proof of healing.  I would feel it in a "a sweet and certain sense that God is Love" filling my heart -- filling my life.

I turned off the lamp and returned to the stillness of the night. I listened to Mindy's voice -- and I knew I was healed. I felt it. It started as a glowing ember at my core. I felt Spirit breathe upon its presence - all the hope, trust, and affection I held in my heart. Before long, I could feel that "sweet and certain sense that God is Love" radiating, warming, and filling every dark corner of the night. I was healed. I had proof.

Elsewhere in Science and Health, Mary Baker Eddy assures us:


"The depth, breadth, height,
might, majesty, and glory
of infinite Love fill all space.
That is enough!"
 

And it really was. It was enough, just to know that, "God is Love." I could actually feel that it was the most important thing I would ever learn in life, and that it was all that I would ever really need to know.

On the surface of things, nothing had changed. But deep within my heart I actually felt it -- that sweet and certain sense that God is Love -- and it was all the proof of healing I needed.  I have returned to this experience many times since that night.

In fact, just today my heart was heavy. The news was overwhelming. One alarming report after another. One disturbing account immediately on the heels of the last. The information was coming rapid fire. It felt like I had been praying -- without ceasing -- for days. I couldn't even imagine what healing might look like when there was so much to be healed, and so many issues to be prayerfully addressing. 


 As I stood at the stove waiting for the tea kettle to boil, the strains of Mindy's "God is Love," washed through my heart like the soundtrack from a favorite film. I recalled that night, over a decade earlier, when I had felt so engulfed in grief. And I remembered -- the only proof of healing I needed to feel was:

"a sweet and certain sense
that God is Love"
 

I closed my eyes, quieting the clamor of the human mind.  And there it was -- the feeling. That sweet and certain sense that God is Love filling my heart. It was all the proof I needed. It was enough.
 


offered with Love,


Kate

Saturday, May 8, 2021

"all you have to do is call..."




 "you just call out my name, 
and you know wherever I am, 
I'll come running to see you again.
 
Winter, spring, summer, or fall
all you have to do is call,  
and I'll be there;

you've got a friend..." 

This Mothers' Day, I am thinking about a dear friend and mentor. I am celebrating her in my heart of hearts.  Her recent passing has been one of the hardest losses in my life.  She taught me what it meant to mother a world -- as well as daughters, sons, those who call this office for support, neighbors, and "strangers" on the street.

There were so many times over the course of our friendship when I felt very alone in the twenty-four/seven demands of this work.  There were so many Mothers' Days -- both before and after children joined our home and family -- when my heart was confused or broken, hopeless or overwhelmed -- and she was the calm voice at the other end of the phone.  

Today, I would have given anything to hear her voice.  I listened to favorite songs, hoping to find some comfort, and it was finally Carole King's "You've Got a Friend" that unlocked my heart and allowed my tears to flow freely.  

I could tell you hundreds of stories about her kindness and grace.  I can't open a page in my life's story - at least not in the past 35 years - that she hasn't touched.  And I am not exaggerating, not one bit.  Whether directly or indirectly, her voice left its soft imprint on almost every facet of my heart since we met.  

And the lovely part is, she never tried to do that.  She never asked me to give her credit -- in fact, she would have been horrified if I had.  But I am more compassionate, less self-focused, infinitely more kind and honest because of her love, example, encouragement -- and gentle rebuke.  

And in all the years of our friendship, I never felt special to her -- or even wanted to.  I felt peace.  I felt hope.  I felt seen.  I felt innocent in her heart and in her eyes. 

There was a time, many years ago, when I was so lost and frightened that I didn't know where to turn.  The situation was beyond imagining.  I was a young mother with very young children, no money, and suddenly facing homelessness -- I was paralyzed with fear. We hadn't spoken in a couple of months, but at that time things were simply wonderful.  Soon after however, our family circumstances had shifted drastically.  And I was embarrassed and overwhelmed.  No one knew how bad things were -- and I wasn't about to tell them.  In my life, I was supposed to be the one helping others - it felt beyond the pale of the ego to imagine asking anyone for help.  

Then one night, when we were at the end of our options, God said, "call her."  Oh how I wanted to.  I just wanted to hear the calm in her voice.  I wrestled for hours with: Should I? Could I? What would I say?  This was long before cell phones, and I was grateful that our temporary housing had a phone in the room.  The children were fast asleep and I was alone in the dark.  I picked up the phone and dialed her number.  

When she answered I couldn't speak at first.  I just started weeping.  For the first time in almost a month I felt not-so-alone.  Without asking any questions, she spoke to me of God's love.  She encouraged me to trust.  She said that she knew how much I loved and trusted God.  Then we hung up because it was a long-distance call and I didn't think I could pay for more than a few minutes.  

But it was like Love had switched on a lamp in the room.  I felt peaceful and calm.  I knew the answers would come.  I knew God had brought us together as a family and would sustain us. I could feel the trust that she knew was there all along. 

The next morning, a cashier's check arrived by courier.  My friend had sent enough money to give us room to breathe.  We had never talked about money the night before.  I had not shared with her our financial circumstances.  But she knew.

That same morning, I was led to a solution that completely turned our situation around.  Within days we were back on our feet, housing restored, and a path forward that only hours earlier I could not have even imagined.   It was a pivotal moment in our lives -- and it was filled with clarity, purpose, and an opportunity to serve in ways I hadn't considered before. 

I was soon able to pay my friend back the money she had so generously sent.  But, as often as I told her how grateful I was for her generosity, kindness, and compassion that dark night - she always reminded me that it was God who had moved us both towards eachother in a moment of Love's opportunity.  Her humility and grace were unbounded.  

Since her passing, I have felt every emotion I never expected to feel.  I have felt loss.  I have felt sorrow.  And, I have felt a broader sense of Life and a deeper sense of what eternity is. I have wept tears that have had no clear reason or meaning -- except that when they have dried, and my breathing returns to "normal," I feel a love that is present and substantive.  I feel as if my feet have been washed with those tears. 

I am not going to include quotes in this post. I am going to let its message pool in my heart.  

For all the ways she nurtured, and corrected, and encouraged the best in me - I am more grateful than I have words to say or write.  

offered with Love,

Kate 




Tuesday, April 27, 2021

"the hope experiment..."



"hope has a way 
of turning it's face to you
just when you least expect it.

you walk in a room,
you look out a window,
and something there 
leaves you breathless..."

Last night, my sister and I were asking ourselves - and eachother -  how it was, that a child could go through horrific experiences, and still retain a sense of hope, curiosity, and compassion.  Long after we'd ended our call, I continued to ponder this question.

I couldn't help but think of Sara Groves' beautiful song, "It Might Be Hope" . I woke with it playing in my heart this morning.  

I think hope is one of my favorite words - perhaps because it feels like the most profound expression of Life to me.  And, I love the shape of it in my mouth.  It settles my heart.  It allows me to breathe when I have been holding my breath for too long.  

It is the word that sustained me through a challenging childhood.  Later it would keep my dreams of motherhood alive, in the face of unimaginable loss. It has given me the courage to continue "showing up" when I have wanted to give up and just disappear.  

Why?  What is hope?  Where does it come from? These are the question that kept me awake under the light of a full moon last night. 

Then, this morning, someone shared this: 

"During a brutal study at Harvard in the 1950s, Dr. Curt Richter placed rats in a pool of water to test how long they could tread water.

On average they'd give up and sink after 15 minutes.
But right before they gave up - due to exhaustion, the researchers would pluck them out, dry them off, let them rest for a few minutes - and put them back in for a second round.
In this second try - how long do you think they lasted?
Remember - they had just swam - until failure - only a few short minutes ago...
How long do you think? Another 15 minutes? 10 minutes? 5 minutes? 

No! 60 hours!
That's not an error. That's right -- 60 hours of swimming.
The conclusion drawn was that since the rats believed that they would eventually be rescued, they could push their bodies way past what they previously thought impossible."

It hit me with such a profound sense of clarity. This is where indominable hope finds it ground - in the heart of someone who has faced drowning and has, in some way, been saved. The saved never forget that they have had the experience being saved - however briefly or incidentally.

Each healing -- big or small -- leaves a seed of hope in us. Each fear overcome, each time a hand reaches down and lifts us from the bottom of the well, dries us off, and allows us to catch our breath again -- we have been given the gift of hope. And the next time we face a moment when we feels as if we are drowning, we will remember. We will hold that memory of being "saved," and tread water a little - or a lot - longer. And our becomes a more resilient and insistent.

As a child, it was my younger sister who always gave me a reason to hope. Time and again she would lift me up and remind me to breathe.

Today, I am realizing that each time we encourage a friend to stay the course, each time we show kindness to a stranger, lift the lonely, bind up the broken-hearted, remind those who feel like giving up - that the are not alone -- we give the gift of hope. Hope that perseveres. Hope that sustains. Hope that heals. Hope that treads water until it is saved again. Hope that teaches us how to swim on our own. Hope that buoys our faith and enlarges our trust -- in God.  

I will leave this here. May you feel hope. 

offered with Love,

Cate