“An active moral imagination…”

“Imagine there’s no heaven
It’s easy if you try
No hell below us,
above us only skies…”
– John Lennon

I’ve spent 40 years thinking about the lyrics to John Lennon’s 1972 peace anthem, Imagine. I love the hope for humanity it offers. But sitting in the parking lot, just before church on Sunday, it all came alive for me.

Thank you Krista Tippett…thank you, thank you, thank you. Talk about redemption. I am deeply grateful. So, here’s the story:

I was about 4 years old. I remember sitting in my grandmother’s office, telling stories to a stuffed bunny and my favorite doll. When, out of the corner of my heart, I overheard my great aunt in the kitchen. She was speaking rather disparagingly to my grandmother. “Tskk tskk, that child certainly has a vivid imagination…” she blustered.

I don’t think I had any idea what the phrase, “vivid imagination,” meant at the time. But based on the tone of her voice, I was certain it was a character flaw. It was obviously something I should file away and feel badly about identifying myself with. And it became a pocket of shame that held dark, dank worries about my relationship to reality.

She made it clear, over the years, that having an imagination was notthe same as “knowing the Truth.” And since “knowing the Truth” was good, was spiritually strengthening, and brought freedom, the implication was that having a vivid imagination was a waste of time. An active imagination was something flaky, silly, and the selfish indulgence of a mind less scientifically inclined, and fact-based. Hence, it was a quality I shouldn’t celebrate, or honor, in myself.

But Sunday, Krista gave me back my dignity as an imaginative being. And for that, I am so deeply grateful.

Sunday morning she interviewed John Paul Lederach. Lederach is the author of The Moral Imagination: The Art and Soul of Building Peace, during her NPR program, On Being. As a Mennonite, Leterak continues in the footsteps of a rich community of Protestant reformers who took on the Christian demand to be peacemakers, with a special passion. Wherever there is war in the world, Mennonites can be found as mediators and medics, fire fighters, and mental healthcare givers. But more about that in another post.

This Sunday morning, it was simply the title of the book that lifted my soul. For a number of years now, I have cherished Mary Baker Eddy’s definition of the word “moral,” in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, with great spiritual purpose. It has informed my sense of moral courage, my own standard for moral behavior, and given me guidelines for moral reasoning. Eddy offers as her definition:


Moral. Humanity, honesty, affection,
compassion, hope, faith, meekness, temperance.


Well, during Krista’s interview, Lederach explores the worth, and value, of having a “moral imagination.” He offers that those who exercise an active moral imagination are able to imagine solutions that go above and beyond systems, paradigms, techniques, and processes which have become the norm for socio-political behavior.

For example, peace builders that have a vivid moral imagination can imagine their enemies as friends. They can imagine a solution to conflict which refuses to choose a side — in a dualistic “right or wrong” battle of wills –and seek to discover new,uncharted ground for forging relationships of understanding and compassion.

I love having an active, vivid moral imagination. I love imagining a world where former spouses partner lovingly in parenting their children. Where neighbors can find joy in one another’s company without the need for compromised values. Where fathers can embrace their sons, without the need for either’s consent to specific “healing” outcomes on issues of gender, politics, or religion. I love imagining a hospital filled with fearless spiritual healers, and churches filled with physicians seeking understanding.

It’s been such a joy to let my moral imagination run rampant. I can imagine radical humanity in the face of inhumane disinterest. Dream freely about honesty that dances nakedly in the dark alleyways of fear and self-doubt. I can indulge in visions of richaffection walking boldly, where disquiet tiptoes along the edges of judgment and rejection. I can cherish images of revolutionarycompassion inhabiting the courtrooms of shame.

I relish my right to celebrate the totalitarian rule of a divinely-defined faith within each man, woman and child. A holy, uplifting faith asserting itself where apathy would lull our world into resignation and pessimism. I lean into the the distant strains of ameekness so sweet, and deep, that it sings its song of peace unchallenged by the spectres of anger and resentment. And I can sense the presence of a breath-taking temperance so clearly informed by the reign and rule of God — the one Sovereign of “the kingdom within” each of us — that it is undeterred, or shaken by the opinions of others, or the extremism of culture.

I love having a rich moral imagination…and, as Ian McEwan once wrote:

“Imagining what it is like to be someone other than yourself
is at the core of our humanity.
It is the essence of compassion and the beginning of morality.”


Forty years ago, John Lennon offered us a window on moral imagination…looking through it fills the heart with “new views of divine goodness and love.”

What can you imagine?

with Love,


Kate
postscript: Someone just sent me this Percy Bysshe Shelly quote. It speaks so beautifully to this message:


“A man, to be greatly good,
must imagine intensely and comprehensively;
he must put himself in the place of another and many others;
the pains and pleasures of his species must become his own.
The great instrument of moral good is the imagination.”



“silence…”

“Hello darkness my old friend
I’ve come to talk with you again.
Because a vision softly creeping,
left its seeds while I was sleeping…” 

I think the first verse of Simon & Garfinkel’s “Sounds of Silence,” says it all for me today.

Mother Teresa once wrote:

“We need to find God, and he cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature – trees, flowers, grass- grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence… We need silence to be able to touch souls. “ 

Whether this is a Truth, or just true for her…I do not know.  But something about it calls to me.  It’s an inviation that I can’t ignore.  It seems like a living, pulsing something asking for space in my life. I glimpsed its promise this summer, when…quite serendipitously…I had some time to just sit with myself. And what did I do with it?

Well, I ended up finding that I couldn’t seem to silence the “self” that always wants to record it all in my journal, try to immediatelymake sense of what I was “hearing,” and then search for the words to make it “make sense” for others.  In doing so, something was “lost in translation.”  Besides which, I seemed to lose the true chord each time I tried to give it a name, a form, or put the substance of its message into words.

And in the midst of it all, I kept coming back to something I have long-loved, but have always been too busy trying to “find words” to explain it to others, to let its message move in, unpack, and take up real residency in my own hungry heart. Mary Baker Eddy suggests inScience and Health with Key to the Scriptures:

“The infinite Truth of the Christ-cure has come to this age through a “still, small voice,” through silent utterances and divine annointing which quicken and increase the beneficial effects of Christianity.  I long to see the conssumation of my hope, namely, the student’s higher attainments in this line of light.”

I want to understand this…more than I can say.

There is a seed of something growing in my heart…I don’t know what its voice will sound like…or if it will even have a voice that reaches beyond the silence.  But I want to sit with it, and let it take whatever shape God wants it to take.   I don’t know if its song will have lyrics…but I know I have to listen.

This time, I dare not…

“…disturb the sound of silence….” 

with Love, 


Kate 


“and now You gently break me…”

“My heart is so proud.
My mind is so unfocused.
I see the things You do through me,
as great things I have done.
And now, You gently break me,
then lovingly You take me
and hold me as my Father
and mold me as my Maker….”

Maria sent me this Youtube clip of Laura Story’s “Grace,” the other day.  Thank you.  I love it and have thought about the first verse over and over again.   Of how easy it is for the spiritual servant to forget.  And how immediately her Father steps in to realign her sense of being, with His power…and the gift of grace.

I couldn’t help but think of Christ’s reference to himself as “the bread.”  I love baking bread.  In fact, it hapens to be one of my favorite things to do.  But do I bake much bread these days…nope.   Bread takes devotion, focus, care.  Can you make quick, auto-pilot bread?  Sure.  Breadmakers and frozen dough have made the scent of freshly baking loaves of sourdough, or crusty loaves of wheat bread ubiquitous.  But for me, bread baking is more about the baking, than the bread.

I love it all.  The dissolving cake of yeast in warm milk, a pile of whole grain flours on a marble slab waiting to accept yeast, milk, egg, etc..  I love the waiting, the kneading, the rising up…and the punching down.  I love each step of the process and when I reach the final forming of the loaf for the oven…I feel like a mother.

Pulling a golden, grainy loaf of seeded bread from the hot oven has only one end….sharing it.   That constitutes one amazing day of total attentiveness.

So, as I listened to this Laura Story song about “grace” I thought about myself as bread.

You know, I had one pretty great, amazing, wonder-filled summer.   If I hadn’t had more than twenty of them, I might have gotten caught up in thinking my great summer had something to do with a “great” me.  Not!!

But God loves me so, so, soooo much.  And I welcome his attentiveness to my spiritual rising.  So, I am never alarmed when I feel him breaking me….it’s necessary for the baking of a beautiful loaf of bread. One of my favorite parts of bread baking is watching that first rising.  You’ve mixing your ingredients, the dough is now a perfect consistency, you feel its weight in our hands, form it into a lovely ball, tuck under all the edges, place it back in the oiled bread bowl, cover it with a lovely blue and white checked cotton towel…and wait.

It will puff up to more than double its size.  It will be smooth, fragrant, and beautiful.  And that’s just when you punch it down and start manhandling it.  But this manhandling, or kneading, is necessary.  It breaks down the big, puffy, more dramatic bubbles of air, so that more consistent, smaller pockets of air can form throughout the loaf, leading to lovely slices of yummy bread.

After an early summer that rose into something big and beautiful…full of dramatic first rising bubbles, I’ve spent some time in the punch down, knead, and rise…punch down, knead and rise stages of my summer’s more quiet late August.   But, for me, this only means that my Father is an attentive Baker, and that He loves me enough to want me to be consistent, humble, and to know the gift of grace…to know that it’s all, always, been in His hands.   And besides, all that punching down, kneading, and forming means His hands have been all over my life..that’s always the best feeling!!   And as for the connection between baking and Mary Baker Eddy’s use of the term, “self-immolation”…well, that’s for another post.

I think there’s a reason why we say “grace” before we break bread….

with Love…and hopefully, more grace…  

Kate
 


“Nowhere else I’d rather be…”

I’m runnin’ down that mountain pass at midnight, 
Those truckers they all flash their lights at me. 
This highway ain’t the very best companion, 
’cause I know there’s somewhere else I’d rather be…”

I love Dan Fogelberg, and his High Country Snows album has been my companion on many a drive through the winding, narrow roads that criss cross the Rocky Mts., over the past few decades.  And it was this song, “Mountain Pass,” that played through my head during one late night drive a couple of weeks ago.

My girlsfriends and I had driven from camp, over Independence Pass, through Aspen, and up in to one of the most beautiful  high valley pastures I’ve ever seen for a polocrosse match my daughters, one freind’s husband, and a handful of our beloved counselors and campers were competing in that weekend.

The drive up was glorious.  Absolutely perfect…in every way.  Cloud-dappled Colorado blue skies, shimmering moutain lakes, the underflash of aspen leaves scattering light across the loam-rich forest floor.   Tears fell listening to Carrie Underwood’s “How Great Thou Art,” on Linda’s ipod, and the scent of August’s promise…cooler September days, aspen golds, sweaters, and hot cocoa were palpable in the air.

Once at the tournament, we were smitten…lost in the day.  Riders from Australia, Alburquerque, Durango, and beyond.  The dance of horse and rider…more intimate than a tango.  Old friendships, new acquaintances that would someday be old friendships.  The laughter of teens who share a love for horses and competition, the whinnying of horses who love “the game,” and can’t wait to parry on the field.  And the greenest grass I’ve ever seen inviting us to “relax, lie back, close your eyes and listen, stay….”   So we did.

By the time we left we’d enjoyed watching our kids (and Lach) scrimmage in more than a dozen chukkas.  The fast-paced, precise, extraordinarily beautiful choreography of horse and rider…spinning, racing, turning on a dime, dipping to retrieve the ball, tearing down the field, cutting in front of an opponent…it took my breath away.  And all this without eating any of the ubiquitous dust that flavored every other polocrosse tournament I’ve been to.   Heavenly.  Sigh.

By the time we tore ourselves away…riders still on the field playing as the sun turned the sky a shade of lavender-tinged salmon…we were wondering why we had to go.  oh yes, work…we reminded ourselves.

A quick dinner in Aspen, and we’d be “home” by midnight.  The food was great, and an hour later we hopped into the car under a quilted black sky scattered with a million stars.  It was going to be a lovely, cool ride back down the mountain…

Not.

I was the one I’d designated to do the driving, and it didn’t take long before I was so ill I could barely speak.  This highway was not a good companion…at all.  Dancing headlights, shimmering snow reflectors, endless switchbacks….I wasn’t doing so well.  A couple of emergency stops along side of the road helped…a bit, but there was a part of me that groaned inside, “I can’t go one more mile, what if we just stopped here, and slept until the sun comes up?”

But it was my friends’ love for me, and their trust in God’s love for me, that kept me going.  They prayed for me…and I could feel it.  I could actually feel their prayers, their love, their willingness to laugh with me.  And I could feel it more viscerally than I could feel the nausea or dizziness.  So I focused that, on feeling their love…which I knew, with all my heart, was an expression of God’s love…and before we reached home, it was all I could feel.

And you know what? Right where the highway didn’t seem like the very best companion, I was already surrounded by the very best friends I could hope to be loved by.  Their love was all I needed to remember that the day was blessed, and all was well.

Thank you Linda and Maree…and thank you God…how great Thou art!

There is nowhere else I’d rather have been that night.

It was the best!!  

Kate 


“Everyday miracles….”

“It’s the everyday miracles
that keep my hope alive.
It’s the way you move in little things,
that helps me survive…”

I am so loving the message in Sara Groves’, “Everyday Miracles,” tonight.  It speaks to me of what is most essential.

I’ve begun to realize that it’s the little things which take my breath away these days.  The everyday, the common place, the simple acts of unsought grace found in unexpected places.

One recent weekend was filled with them.  A friend’s willingness to put self aside and take me to the airport before dawn, another’s offer to transport a fragile item back home so that I didn’t have to worry about it surviving two flights…one lovely moment after another…

For the most part, I was aware of these unexpected miracles, because they were directly in my path.  And I was deeply grateful for each instance of blessing.

But, it was what I was privy to on my last flight that I’d like to write about tonight.  A delayed flight out of Chicago put a large group of us in the boarding area for a few hours.  One fellow wheelchair-bound traveler, was obviously very advanced in years and unaccustomed to his circumstances.  He sat quietly, but it wasn’t hard to note his concern about making his connection in the next city.  He politely asked the ticket agent, over and over again, if we were going to make it in time since his son would be waiting for him at his final destination, and he did not have a cell phone to alert him of the delay.

When we finally boarded, he was whisked down the jetway first, and by the time I followed along with my later boarding group, he was already seated next to a young woman and her daughter.  I took the seat directly in front of them.

During the course of our two hour flight, I was brought to tears more than once by his seatmate.  She was so genuinely interested in his welfare and comfort.  She asked him questions about his life, his family, his concerns.  She made sure he had refreshments and helped him when he needed to leave his seat.  She intervened for him with the airline staff so that they called ahead and had them hold his next flight for ten minutes so that they could get him off of our plane and through the terminal so that he wouldn’t have to spend the night in a strange city because of a missed connection.

When we landed I couldn’t help but talk to her daughter, since mom was still busy caring for her new friend.  I asked her if she knew what a kind and generous mom she had.  I won’t forget her response for a long time, she said, “that’s my mom…she is always like that.”  There was such a sense of “why, of course..” to her reply.

It made me realize that this was not a rare moment in her mother’s life…this was her life.  And her daughter knew it.  It was clear that she was witnessing miracles everyday in her mom’s presence.  Miracles of kindness, seremdipitous acts of grace.

I felt blessed.  No less so than if I’d been on the shores of the Gallilean Sea with the Master, on a Lynn, Massacusetts beach with Mary Baker Eddy as she ministered to a lame boy, or seeing a terminal diagnosis reversed through prayer.

I’m on the look-out for everyday miracles…and, like the heart-shaped stones my sisters and I collect, I seem to be finding them around every corner.

with Love,

Kate


“Love, not of me…”

“…Love, not of you,
Love, not of me…
Come hold us up,
come set us free.
Not as we know it,
but as it can be.
Love’s reality…”

Since writing Monday’s post, “There is no difference...” I have been mulling over the questions it  posed for me.  Not just about mother-love, but about love in general.  And Sara Groves’ “Love,” which I used to keynote another post, earlier this year, has been a helpful reminder…on a number of levels.

Are there different “kinds” of love?  Are there veriables in love?  Can you have a “lesser” version of Love?  Can human affection, which has its source in divine Love, the only Cause and Creator of all that bears Its name, be diminished by who, where, or how it is expressed…i.e. can love that is expressed by an aunt, camp counselor, or neighbor, be less than the love that is expressed by a mother or father?

If the Source is the same, can its derivitive be compromised, adulterated, diluted, watered-down by “how” it is expressed, or by whom?

After reading Monday’s post a friend shared this:

“I read your post today. I am hesitant to mention this but a very,very wise friend of mine has told me, on more than one occasion, that there are not different kinds of love.”

Hmmm…I know this…I have worked with this Truth, spoken it, applied it to so many situations…trusting Its veracity with deep spiritual convition.  I have experienced the healing impact of this Truth in my own life…on countless occasions.  So, why then have I struggled so mightily with this question when it comes to motherhood?

I don’t think there’s a good reason…just more of the same old lie of “less that All, in all” and I got snookered into considering it as reasonable…again.  Sigh.

So, instead of starting with an unreasonable question, I’m going to start with what I know about Love.  I know that Love is God.  And I know that God has only one measure, portion, variable…All…nothing less.  Period.

Just like water is water…a drop, a cup, or a bathtub full.  Love is always, at its essence, Love.  Mother love, the love we feel for our friends, the love that moves us to live generously, to care for our global neighbors unselfishly…its all just Love in action as love.

Just as a drop of water can be a snowflake, a jet of steam, a refreshing beverage, ice to skate on, the breath of life to a fish, while never losing its essential purity, clarity, and integrity as H2O…water.  Likewise, love, is never less than all Love, only Love…completely Love.

So…is there a difference?  A variableness in quality or quantity?   No, I really don’t think its even possible.   How could there be a lesser version of love, and still bear the name of Love?  For love to be love, it must be as infinitely All, as its Source.

But, I also believe that Love is capable of expressing itself in infinitely individual (a word that comes from the root: not divided) forms of usefulness and beauty…like water expressing itself as steam, ice, clouds, rain, lakes, baths…etc.    However each of these forms is, and must be, fully, wholly, completely true to the essential allness of Love…never less.

with all love…

Kate 


“There is no difference…”

“There is no difference….” 

This piece is a departure for me.  It strays away from the safe space of song lyrics and inspiration, and wanders blindly into the somewhat foggy lair of my heart, the place where I often find myself when the lights are out, and sleep is evasive.

So, I was watching a film the other night.  I’d never heard of it before…which didn’t surprise me. I don’t get to watch many movies these days.  But, I needed to stay awake…right up until it was time to leave for a long drive to the airport for a pre-dawn flight…and a movie seemed like just the right thing.

Yet this movie wasn’t entertaining for me.  It was more like an emotional ambush.  One I didn’t see coming.  The cast seemed perfect for a light-hearted romp through romance and family dynamics, but whoever cast this one was playing mind games with me.

Helen Hunt, Colin Firth, Bette Midler, Matthew Broderick…you see what I mean?  Happy, funny, a bit wacky….nope.  Not at all!!

Fr me, “Then She Found Me,” was anything but light-hearted…it was deeply moving, and profoundly thought-provoking.

Especially the scene in which a newly-married, and eager to parent but not yet pregnant, Helen Hunt engages in an argument with her elderly adoptive mother about whether there is a difference between the way a mother loves her biological offspring, and the depth of love she feels for her adopted child.  Hunt is convinced that she must bear a child biologically to feel “real” mother love, whereas her mother emphatically declares through hot tears, “there is no difference…”

It took me apart.  I will not ruin the rest of the film for you, but suffice it to say, they had me with this scene, and never let go.  Never…

So, what do I think? Without equivocation, I agree with elderly Jewish mother, “there is no difference.”  But do I really know this.  No.

I wish I did.  I wish that I could state, as categorically and without reservation, as she did, that “there is no difference…” (her character is also the mother of a biological son)   But since I have never carried a child to term, I can only speak from what I feel so certain about in my heart.  My love for my daughters…and, for that matter, my stepchildren…is no different than the love I would feel for a child that I’d given birth to.

If there are any differences in the way I love my daughters, I would say that it has to do with my confidence about my role in their lives.  I believe that a birthmother knows, without a doubt, that she has been divinely appointed to be her child’s mother.  As an adoptive mother, I feel this, in every fiber of my being, on a deeply spiritual level, but I can’t say that I don’t worry, every day, that my children wonder, that, if by being adopted, some divine order has been abrogated.

For me, motherhood has nothing to do with biology.   And I don’t say this to demean my daughters’ birthparents, or, for that matter, their step parents.  I know, with all my being, that we love our daughters completely, absolutely and imperatively….nothing less.   I do believe, however, that motherhood has everything to do with caring for a child…whether it starts at conception and continues for the rest of that child’s experience…or, nine months, nine years, or nineteen years after his/her birth.

I can’t imagine loving anyone or anything more than I love our children.  If it’s possible, I don’t know if I could stand it.  This love is already too dissembling and all-encompassing. It has dissolved everything I thought made me who I was.   This is a good thing though…I needed to change.  Self-absorbed, myopic, and critical behaviors couldn’t exist in the atmosphere of love that motherhood requires, and calls forth from the depth of our being.

But is it different? I sure hope not.  I pray with all my being that my children have not experienced anything “less,” having grown up in an adoptive family.   Because, more than anything else in the world, I want my children to know the best, the fullest, the most extraordinary love that life has to offer.

And perhaps, by encouraging and nurturing their relationships with all their mothers..and fathers, they have been able to experience justthat.

I hope…I pray…

Kate



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