Saturday, September 27, 2008

Favorite Poems

A Psalm of Life

Tell me not, in mournful numbers,
Life is but an empty dream ! ~
For the soul is dead that slumbers,
And things are not what they seem.

Life is real! Life is earnest!
And the grave is not its goal;
Dust thou art, to dust returnest,
Was not spoken of the soul.

Not enjoyment, and not sorrow,
Is our destined end or way;
But to act, that each tomorrow
Find us further than today.

Art is long, and Time is fleeting,
And our hearts, though stout and brave,
Still, like muffled drums, are beating
Funeral marches to the grave.

In the world's broad field of battle,
In the bivouac of Life,
Be not like dumb, driven cattle!
Be a hero in the strife!

Trust no Future, howe'er pleasant!
Let the dead Past bury its dead!
Act,--act in the living Present!
Heart within, and God o'erhead!

Lives of great [ones] all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of time;

Footprints, that perhaps another,
Sailing o'er life's solemn main,
A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,
Seeing, shall take hear again.

Let us, then, be up and doing,
With a heart for any fate;
Still achieving, still pursuing,
Learn to labor and to wait.

(by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow 1807-1882)
haptip to Jennifer


With the drawing of the Love and the voice of this Calling

With the drawing of the Love
and the voice of this Calling,
We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
. . . .
Quick now, here, now, always—
A condition of complete simplicity
(Costing not less than everything)
And all shall be well and
All manner of thing shall be well
When the tongues of flame are in-folded
Into the crowned knot of fire
And the fire and the rose are one.

[T.S. Eliot, Little Gidding]



Thresholds
Many times today I will cross over a threshold.
I hope to catch a few of those times.
I need to remember that my life is, in fact,
a continuous series of thresholds:
from one moment to the next,
from one thought to the next,
from one action to the next.
Help me appreciate how awesome this is.
How many are the chances to be really alive...
to be aware of the enormous dimension
we live within.
On the threshold the entire past and the endless
future rush to meet one another.
They take hold of each other and laugh.
They are so happy to discover themselves
in the awareness of a human creature.
On the threshold the present breaks all
boundaries.
It is a convergence,a fellowship
with all time and space.
We find You there.
And we are found by You there.
Help me cross into the present moment --
into wonder, into Your grace:
that “now-place,” where we all areunfolding
as Your life moment by moment.
Let me live on the threshold as threshold.
by Gunilla Norris



Now I Become Myself

Now I become myself. It’s taken
time, many years and places,
I have been dissolved and shaken,
worn other people’s faces,
run madly, as if Time were there,
terribly old, crying a warning,
“Hurry, you will be dead before – “
(What? Before you reach the morning?
Or the end of the poem is clear?
Or love safe in the walled city?)
Now to stand still, to be here,
feel my own weight and density!
The black shadow on the paper
is my hand, the shadow of a word
as thought shapes the shaper
falls heavy on the page, is heard.
All fuses now, falls into place
from wish to action, word to silence,
my work, my love, my time, my face
gathered into one intense
gesture of growing like a plant.
As slowly as the ripening fruit
fertile, detached, and always spent,
falls but does not exhaust the root,
so all the poem is, can give,
grows in me to become the song,
made so and rooted so by love.
Now there is time and Time is young.
O, in this single hour I live
all of myself and do not move.
I, the pursued, who madly run,
stand still, stand still, and stop the sun!

by May Sarton

When Death Comes

When death comes
like the hungry bear in autumn;
when death comes and take all
the bright coins from his purse to buy me,
and snaps the purse shut;
when death comes
like the measle-pox;
when death comes
like an iceberg between the shoulder blades,

I want to step through the door full of curiosity, wondering:
what is it going to be like, that cottage of darkness?

And therefore I look upon everything
as a brotherhood and a sisterhood,
and I look upon time as no more than an idea,
and I consider eternity as another possibility,

and I think of each life as a flower, as common
as a field daisy, and as singular,

and each name a comfortable music in the mouth,
tending, as all music does, toward silence,

and each body a lion of courage,
and something precious to the earth.

When it’s over, I want to say: all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.

When it’s over, I don’t want to wonder
if I have made my life something particular, and real.
I don’t want to find myself sighing and frightening, or full of argument.
I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.


by Mary Oliver



The Holy Longing
Tell a wise person, or else keep silent,
because the massman will mock it right away.
I praise what is truly alive,
what longs to be burned to death.
In the calm waters of the love-nights,
where you were begotten, where you have begotten,
a strange feeling comes over you
when you see the silent candle burning.
Now, you are no longer caught
in the obsession with darkness,
and a desire for higher love-making
sweeps you upward.
Distance does not make you falter,
now, arriving in magic, flying,
and finally, insane for the light,
you are the butterfly and you are gone.
And so long as you haven’t experienced
this: to die and so to grow,
you are only a troubled guest
on the dark earth.

—by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
I Want to Live in the World
I want to live in the world, not inside my head.
I want to live in the world.
I want to stand and be counted with the hopeful and the willing, with the open and the strong,
with the voices in the darkness fashioning daylight out of song,
and the millions of lovers alive in the world.
I want to live in the world not behind some wall.
I want to live in the world where I will hear if another voice should call to the prisoner inside me,
to the captive of my doubt, who among his fantasies harbors the dream of breaking out,
and taking his chances alive in the world
To open my eyes and wake up alive in the world
To open my eyes and finally arrive in the world with its beauty and its cruelty, with its heartbreak and its joy,
with its constantly giving birth to life and to forces that destroy,
and the infinite power of change alive in the world.
To open my eyes and wake up alive in the world
To open my eyes and finally arrive in the world
by Jackson Brown
You Are the Work of God
It is not you who shape God;
it is God who shapes you.
If then you are the work of God,
await the hand of the Artist
who does all things in due season.
Offer the Potter your heart,
soft and tractable,
and keep the form in which
the Artist has fashioned you.
Let your clay be moist,
lest you grow hard and lose
the imprint of the Potter's fingers.

Irenaeus, 2nd century

Thursday, September 25, 2008

The Key is the Present Moment

Lately my understanding of the importance of the present moment has grown.

I've seen my spiritual director and my therapist several times in the last couple of months, trying to understand why I've gained so much weight. Well, of course I know why--It was given a major boost by being on steroids for two months last year--I was ravenous! It's hormonal changes. I'm 52--it's time for my metabolism to slow down. It's the little fractured vertebrae in my back that kept me from any exercise.

But I've been vaguely aware of a deeper reason. All those little physiological jumpstarts were easily overcome, had I just worked at it.

I'm aware that thoughts of food have filled my mind. My therapist asked me, "So what are you trying to avoid?"

"I really can't think of a thing," I replied. "My marriage is good. My family life is good. My work is good."

"Doesn't have to be anything big," she responded.

That's when I realized that I do live my life rather stressed. Eckhart Tolle has a line that struck me a couple of weeks ago: "Stress is simply feeling you'd rather be somewhere else. You'd rather be finished with the task. You'd rather already be there. So the present moment becomes an enemy!"

It kind of hurts me to realize that I've lived most of my married life (all four years of it) with an underlying expectation that D would be the man of my dreams. My fantasy man. I had dreamed of marriage for so long, that I didn't realize how insidious my dreams and fantasies about it really were. So I have missed out on some fantastic things, I'm sure. The point here, though, is that these EXPECTATIONS = STRESS.

My work is my vocation. I'm meant to be a minister, pastoral counselor, spiritual director, preacher, etc. etc. etc. -- And that's the point---all those "etc's." I counsel people on how to say "no" all the time, but didn't realize that once again I need to take my own advice! My previous job was in an incredibly conflicted congregation where I witnessed the dark underbelly of the church, so when I came to this fabulous and healthy UCC congregation, (yes!) I just dove in head first. It's the tradition in my current church that we have no Christian Education during the summer. Zero. That seemed strange to me, but instead of resting a bit, I implemented three new projects! And then there is always that "demon of external validation" sitting on my left shoulder whispering lies to me:

You must do everything perfectly, Katherine.
You must please everyone, Katherine.
Of course, I've defeated that "demon of external validation" many times, but it's still there. Smaller and weaker, but still there. And when I get a new job, it very much tends to wake up. Some of my taking on too much is because I'm genuinely eager to do these projects--I love them! But some of my taking on too much, I admit, is out of a need to prove myself. ~sigh~
The point here is that TAKING ON TOO MUCH WORK = STRESS

And stress is an enemy of the present moment.

I began to reflect on all the times I've lived in the present. I had a couple of weeks in the summer of 1994 when I lived in present, aware and awake. It was truly amazing. I had been sitting in Zen meditation for over a year. I had found the courage within me to resign from ARCO, but I had not as yet left my job and entered seminary. My mother was going downhill that summer. (She died September 25, 1994. Today is the 14th anniversary of her death.) But for two weeks or so that summer, I was SO ALIVE. AMAZINGLY ALIVE. I remember feeling the touch of the steering wheel in my hands as I drove to work each morning. I remember feeling love for those I worked with. Oh, I loved them so! I remember walking into my house from the garage and the REALITY of my awareness hitting me. Everything just stopped as I felt my awareness. Those were glorious weeks.

The effect of those glorious weeks has stayed with me, of course. That kind of experience never leaves you. But immediacy faded. When I entered seminary I stopped going to the Zen center. And I think that my way of thinking about the present moment changed a bit.

It's actually not all that uncommon for me to let go and open up to what I've been calling THE DEEPER REALITY. I'm very kinesthetic. When I try to talk about this I make a double motion with my hands. "I let go," moving my hands outward from my heart, and "I open up," moving my hands toward my heart but also outward, like I'm parting the waters. I see now that I rarely do this in my marraige or when I'm rushing to accomplish some administrative task at the church. It's the in-between times when this happens:
  • When I'm in a counseling or spiritual direction session--it happens a lot then.
  • Or at the lectio divinia group I'm part of--it happens nearly every time there
  • During worship--the minister I work with is a very thoughtful person and his sermons often help me move into this DEEPER REALITY.
  • My work at HeartPaths--oh, I love that work because it's all about this movement to open up and let go.
But lately I'm seeing that God is calling me to be more intentional about living in the present moment.

In the present moment, I am stress free...I allow God's love to flow through me to the world....I experience NO FEAR....I seem to be more easily in touch with Wisdom...and I am above (or is it behind?) all those thoughts about food! :-)...I experience being distinct from my thoughts.

Ah yes, the Present Moment is key.






(All photos from flickr. I think. Or maybe Google Images:-)

Thursday, September 18, 2008

To protect its citizens, government should limit greed. Yes, I'm angry.

I was just about to write something on what's happening on Wall Street, but checked my email first and found this excellent article from Sojourners. It is an excellent read---I've copied it below.

I don't know about you, but I'd hear a story about all these financial failures, and I'd think, either: Oh, this is too complex to understand or Oh, everything will be alright. But then I listened to Terry Gross interview Michael Greenberger on Fresh Air yesterday, and the way he explained what was happening was so helpful.

And terrifying.

When I began to really understand what was happening, I thought: Oh, we need to take out all our money--take the tax hit--and hide what's left under the mattress! But then Greenberger ended the interview by saying that would be exactly the wrong thing to do. He said Congress will not let the FDIC fail. And he said there are people in government who understand all this and will do the right thing. Robert Rubin, for example, who is Obama's advisor on the economy, "gets it." Even though Reuben made some mistakes about all this in the Clinton administration in the 90's, he has seen the error of his ways, said Greenberger, and he'll do the right thing.

McCain, on the other hand, has always promoted deregulation. In fact, it was McCain's good buddy Phil Gramm who was the force behind the legislation to let all these complicated financial instruments (like the "credit-default swaps" in which AIG is awash) run amok with no regulation whatsoever. So now the government can't even really know the extent of this "shadow financial system" that is now wreaking havoc, although estimates are that it totals $62 trillion, more than the stock and bond markets combined.

Greenberger also explained clearly what "credit default swaps" are. They are underhanded legalese for "insurance." The legislation couldn't say "insurance," though, because insurance is regulated. So they called it "credit-default swaps" which allow all these financial institutions to provide "insurance" WITHOUT ANY CAPITALIZATION whatsoever! No funds to cover what they have promised they will insure! It boggles the mind. So, of course, when people who couldn't afford homes in the first place began to default on their loans, the house of cards begins to crumble, and eventually all these huge institutions are in danger of defaulting as well.

The Sojourners article calls on pastors everywhere to call people to account for the greed and hubris and sinful sense of entitlement and privilege at the root of this behavior.

It's part of the paradox at the heart of what it means to be human. We are generous and humble AND we are greedy and full of hubris. And we are amazingly susceptible to self-deception, somehow justifying in our minds that it's okay for us to make $12 million dollars on a single deal while most working-stiffs struggle to make ends meet. We need the governement to LIMIT HUMAN GREED. Sojourners makes that point, and it is a good one.

Oh, and that's another thing. David was saying how we "working stiffs" are on both ends and in the middle of this whole thing. It was our mortgages and our bank accounts that these Wall Street whiz-idiots wanted to get their hands on. And when the wall separating banks and investment banks was taken down (thank you, Congress -- and whichever President signed that piece of glorious legislation), we had no protection. And now that the government is bailing out these huge firms---which it must do now in order to protect my bank account, my brother's AIG annuity, my house---it is doing it on the backs of working stiffs like me and David who'll pay for it through increased taxes, and who wonder every now and then whether we'll have enough for retirement.

Yes, I'm angry.

In my deepest heart I know that no matter what happens, things will be okay. That knowledge comes from my profound trust in God and God's goodness. At the cellular level I believe that goodness prevails, and indeed outweighs that which is evil. The threat I feel, and therefore the anger, comes from the flagrant disregard for ordinary Americans--ordinary people the world over, actually---who could easily be very hurt by this evil behavior. I value treating people with respect. I value the idea that we are all in this together, a community. I'm angry because I CARE that these values have been trampled.

Wouldn't surprise me if God were angry, and shedding a tear or two, as well.

Here's the Sojourners article:
_________________________________
GREED IN THE ECONOMY: IT'S THE MORALITY, SINNER

Everyone has heard the famous phrase, attributed to James Carville, which supposedly won the 1992 presidential election for Bill Clinton: "It’s the economy, stupid!" It’s still good advice, especially as the shocking collapse of the financial markets has turned the election campaign into a much more serious and somber discussion than lipstick on pigs.

But the issue is deeper than just the economy. I would now rephrase Carville and say, "It’s the morality, sinner!" And I would direct it to the people who have been making the decisions about the direction of this economy from Wall Street to Washington. Here is the morality play: Aggressive lending to potential home-buyers using subprime and adjustable rate mortgages ledto "mortgage-backed securities" being sold to investors at high returns. Ashousing prices dropped and interest rates rose, homeowners got caught, fellbehind on payments, and millions of foreclosures followed. That resulted in the mortgage-backed assets losing value with banks unable to sell the securities. So the subprime lenders began to fail. Asset declines then spread to investment banks. We have now seen the sale of Bear Stearns brokered by the government, and last week the government took over Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac as mortgage defaults threatened them. Then Lehman Brothers fell into bankruptcy and Merrill Lynch was sold. Now another bailout, this time of AIG, the largest insurance company in the country --whose potential demise threatened the whole financial system even further.

During the height of the lending frenzy, many people got very rich, as they did during the previous technology bubble. Now with the collapse, experts say the most likely result will be further tightening of credit and lending standards for consumers and businesses. Home, retail, and business loans will become more expensive and harder to secure. And the consequences of that will spread to most of America.

In the accounts and interpretation of these events, a word is slowly entering the discussion and analysis — greed. It’s an old concept, and one with deep moral roots. Even venerable establishment economists such as Robert Samuelson now say, "Greed and fear, which routinely govern financial markets, have seeded this global crisis ... short-term rewards blinded them to the long-term dangers."

The people on top of the American economy get rich whether they make good or bad decisions, while workers and consumers are the ones whosuffer from all their bad ones. Prudent investment has been replaced with reckless financial gambling in what some have called a "casino economy." And the benefits accruing to top CEOs and financial managers, especially as compared to the declining wages of average workers, has become one of the greatest moral travesties of our time.

In the search for blame, some say greed and some say deregulation. Both are right. The financial collapse of Wall Street is the fiscal consequence of the economic philosophy that now governs America — that markets are always good and government is always bad.

But it is also the moral consequence of greed, where private profit prevails over the concept of the common good. The American economy is often rooted in unbridled materialism, a culture that continues to extol greed, a false standard of values that puts short-term profits over societal health, and a distorted calculus that measures human worth by personal income instead of character, integrity, and generosity.

Americans have a love-hate relationship with government and business. The climate seems to shift between an "anything goes" mentality and stricter government regulation. The excesses of the 1920s, leading to the Great Depression, were followed by the reforms of Franklin Roosevelt. The entrepreneurial spirit and socialinnovation fostered by a market economy has benefited many and should not beoverly encumbered by unnecessary or stifling regulations. But left to its own devices and human weakness (let’s call it sin), the market too often disintegrates into greed and corruption, as the Wall Street financial collapse painfully reveals. Capitalism needs rules, or it easily becomes destructive. A healthy, balanced relationship between free enterprise on the one hand, and public accountability and regulation, on the other, ismorally and practically essential. Government should encourageinnovation, but it must also limit greed.

The behavior of too many on Wall Street is a violation of biblical ethics. The teachings of Christianity, Judaism, and other faiths condemn the greed, selfishness, and cheating that have been revealed in corporate behavior over decades now, and denounce their callous mistreatment of employees. Read your Bible.

The strongest critics of the Wall Street gamblers call it putting self-interest above the public interest; the Bible would call it a sin. I don’t know about the church- or synagogue-going habits of the nation’s top financial managers, but if they do attend services, I wonder if they ever hear a religious word about the practices of arranging huge personal bonuses and escape hatches while destroying the lives of people who work for them.

We now need wisdom from the economists, prudence from the business community, and renewal courses on the common good from the nation’s religious leaders. It’s time for the pulpit to speak — for the religious community to bring the Word of God to bear on the moral issues of the American economy. The Bible speaks of such things from beginning to end, so why not our pastors and preachers?


Tuesday, September 16, 2008

What is spiritual growth?

I've always thought this quote from John Cobb was especially powerful. It's from his "Theology and Pastoral Care"...

"The work of God within us is to quicken us, to give us life -- new life, and more abundant life. Today we talk of the movement of human life toward its own enhancement and intensification as personal growth…It is always God who is the call to growth and the giver of growth. The growth occurs through the divine incarnation. The more we understand about life and growth, the better we can discern God at work within us and among us.

"Growth is never the simple addition of something new to what is already present. If it were, it would not be resisted so strongly. Instead, to add the new is to change the old. That does not mean that the old is simply wiped out or cast aside. That would not be growth but mere change. It does not mean that the old is transformed in the renewing of our minds. It must receive, quite literally, a new form. Because we identify ourselves with what-is, with what we have achieved, with what we already are, the opportunity for growth is always also a THREAT. We can let the not-yet transform us only by letting go of what we are. And we must let go of what we are without knowing in advance what we will become. Growth is not the working out of a pattern that we have planned for ourselves. It does not follow lines that we can predetermine, for it involves the emergence of ways of thinking and feeling that are new….To allow growth to take place is always a risk. This is why trust is so important. We cannot grow without surrendering the effort to control the future. But to surrender this effort is not to become passive, just to let the powerful forces of the world buffet us about. That would be the opposite of trust in God. That would be to let the world determine everything. That is the way of death. Christian existence is a life of constant decision in the context of the gift of God's presence; it is the continual choosing of life.

"When we think of our life with God in this way, the commitment to God and the sense of God's effective presence moves to the heart of the counseling situation. Counseling for growth is direct service of God. The counselor is observing God's working in the counselee, helping to remove some of the barriers to that working, and encouraging the tentative steps toward openness to life, and therefore to God, that have brought the counselee to seek help from a fellow human being. Pastors above all will know that they are at most midwives of God's grace. They do not cause the growth. It is not for them to predetermine where the growth will lead. They can counsel rightly only if they trust God. "

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Les MisBarack (this is priceless)

Security?

"Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of humanity as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure or nothing." ~Helen Keller

Thursday, September 11, 2008

I can only bow in gratitude

I continue to listen to Speaking of Faith podcasts with great interest. Krista Tippett interviewed Eckhart Tolle in a way that elicited so much from him...questions about how his new-found fame is challenging him, for instance. Really fascinating.

She asked him about God, and he said he rarely uses that word because it has been so abused and carries so much dead weight with it (my term). But he does believe. He believes in a power, an energy in the universe that is constructive, life-giving, creative, beautiful (again, these are my words). As I listened to him I found myself in that place again. That place where I experience something un-name-able, the utter mystery of what is.

This constructive, life-giving, creative and beautiful power/energy is within all that is, including human beings. Once again I felt myself move to that place where I vaguely sense the essence of human being, that place where there are no separations; all is one, yet 'the many' are at home there as well.

How could human beings not be part of this beautiful energy? It's the only thing that makes any sense to me.

We are part of Creation--part of the Universe, the All That Is, that somehow comes into being and lives and breathes and moves and sometimes reproduces and always changes and never ends. We are part of this universal Pattern, seen from the sun to the black hole to the subatomic particle to the puppy to the rose. An inexhaustible, perpetual, powerful-beyond-all-imagining Pattern. Sunrises that take my breath. Wrenching world poverty that I, in my Western lifestyle, help create. Love for my husband and children and friends. Little false egos that hurt us and those we love. Economic systems that support us and lie to us. Addictions. The color Purple. Self actualization. Bicycle rides in the park. Tiny yellow flowers breaking through solid concrete. Exploding stars. All of it. EVERYTHING. NOTHING is not part of this Universe, the All That Is. And All of it is part of this inexhaustible, perpetual, powerful-beyond-all-imagining Pattern of Creation.

Being human and part of this gigantic Pattern helps me taste a tiny morsel of the Mystery of what it means to be human.

We are free. And not free.
We are unique individuals, but just the same as everyone else.
We are whole, yet fragmented.
We are empowered, but vulnerable.
We love, and we fear.
We are embodied. And spiritual.
We know so much. And there is nothing we really know.

I can only bow in gratitude.

Monday, September 8, 2008

HeartPaths


HeartPaths is an organization that trains spiritual directors in the North Texas area. A friend of mine on the staff asked me to become part of the faculty, just to co-lead one of the 1st year groups and to see a few people for spiritual direction (all students must be in direction). All of this will take place on three Friday mornings each month. Plus I'm asked to attend a seminar on one Saturday a month. After I pay for gas--it's a 45 minute drive--I'll make a few dollars. But I'm not complaining about that. Being part of this organization not only allows me to see my friend on a regular basis (I've missed her since our seminary days together) but also to benefit from learning the HeartPaths method of spiritual formation and direction. The curriculum is impressive. And the way they conduct these groups is very similar to the Courage to Lead model in the sense that cross-talk is restricted--very helpful in listening for the Spirit's movement. I went to the first Saturday seminar this weekend. It was mostly an orientation, although we did experience one group, and they were supposed to have read Soul Feast by Marjorie Thompson.

I wouldn't be able to be part of HeartPaths if I weren't part-time at my church; I'm so grateful for that. It's really opened up such a rich variety of experiences for me.

As Beautiful Genuine Musician likes to say: It's all good.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

New Blog

I hope everyone will soon take a look at a friend of mine's new blog, Light and Free. Please leave her a comment of welcome.

She is a wonderful person who's on a real journey of awakening. So exciting! You'll enjoy sharing her important journey!

Monday, September 1, 2008

Beautiful Genuine Musician, listening to the Spirit within her

My youngest daughter-by-marriage is 18 today.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, BEAUTIFUL GENUINE MUSICIAN!

When I first met David's children, Beautiful Genuine Musician (BGM) was 12. David and I had driven to City to the South to pick her up, and on the drive back I asked her about her life. I was STUNNED to hear how articulate she was! Such a young girl, but so mature in her thoughts and opinions and ability to speak. And so able to enjoy life--she was bubbly, but also had a real depth to her.

I'll not forget how she so quickly invited me to play a video game with her. We sat together on a small couch as we played, and when I utterly failed at this game she was quick to want to help me not feel badly about it. She is always eager to help others feel okay about themselves.

She turned 13 a month after I met her, and I was part of the birthday party at David's house. Cake and presents. Lots of laughter.

Soon after that she met a couple of my friends who were visiting for the afternoon. I couldn't believe how easily she spoke to them, telling us all about her life in junior high school and what she thought about this and that. She was "just one of the girls," and, believe me, my friends were impressed.

And so was I. Being so impressed, I made sure to tell her--we were sitting in my car, having driven into the driveway after running a short errand somewhere. I don't know whether she consciously remembers that conversation, but if not, I trust that somewhere within her it is doing the good work that such conversations do.

We all went to City to the South for her graduation from high school last May. She also had a "senior piano recital" that we all attended. Wow. I mean, WOW. We all sat there amazed at her musical gift. And she was so poised. I was so messed up at 17 (depressed, with little sense of self), so to see her so confident is a real joy for me.

She is an amazing person with a bright future ahead of her.

Every time I think about Beautiful Genuine Musician, and Lovely Passionate Feminist (LPF) as well, and how they are both moving into adulthood so well, I compare it to how difficult the process was for me.

Young women face so many pressures, and mine was complicated by a family of origin that included my father's alcoholism and all the enmeshment/denial/triangulation that entailed, plus a Depression-era mother who was frightened of the future (among many other things) and wanted to use me as insurance against the possibility of a bleak future. BGM and LPF are children of divorce, so they have their own issues, but they seem to have weathered that better than I handled an intact but highly dysfunctional family unit.

In the Fall of 2003 The Journal of Pastoral Care and Counseling published my paper about "Courage in the Development of Self in Women." That paper was one of my continuing attempts to understand what's really involved in becoming whole, how we heal and mature.

My article used Robert Kegan's The Evolving Self to look at the stages of development. His book starts with this quote from Hegel: "The spirit is never at rest but always engaged in progressive motion, in giving itself a new form.” Using my own sense of what the "spirit" is (Hegel had a much more involved definition, of course!), I see the truth of that statement as absolutely key. The spirit, i.e., the Holy Spirit, within us is always at work, churning and pushing us out of the status quo and toward becoming the person God is calling us to be.

All that churning and pushing is a painful process, and, as the title of my article says, one that requires a great deal of courage. It's easy to stay stuck in fear because fear of the unknown can be far greater than the fear with which we are already familiar.

Thinking back, among other things I was afraid of being seen. I remained unseen and unacknowledged as much as I could. Even in college and later during my initial years working for oil companies, I did well but always tried to manipulate things so that I didn't have to make speeches or get noticed. BGM and LPF are stage actresses, both having won awards for their acting ability. They are not afraid of being seen, and I think that is just SO extraordinary.

For myself, I could have remained inside that fear, increasingly acclimating myself to it and never really moving toward my potential, but the Spirit within me was horribly and fabulously restless--its job, after all, is to always push us toward realization of who we authentically are. As the restlessness grew it caused me such pain that eventually I simply had to start taking the risks that accompany growth toward authenticity.

I'm sure that the Spirit is restless within Beautiful Genuine Musician as well, but I don't know what form it is taking. I do have a real sense of confidence that she will listen to it and follow its calling toward authenticity and joy--and much more quickly than I did!!

Happy Birthday, Beautiful Genuine Musician. You are a blessing beyond measure.