This I Believe: Katie Macke (1991)

I thank Rose Anderson and Bob Stowe for the opportunity to speak here today. I thank Rose for suggesting me to Bob for the “This I Believe” program (which I have since renamed in my head as “Here I Be”), and I thank Bob for asking and encouraging me. Rose, I think, sees something in me that I’m just beginning to see for myself. I thank her. Bob was the first person to roll out the U-U welcome mat for me. His friendly conversation, in addition to the Sunday meetings themselves, convinced me very quickly that this was the church community for me. So, after attending for a few weeks, I asked Bob ”what do you do to be a Unitarian Universalist, how do you join up?” Bob pulled out a card the size of a business card that listed the UUA principles that are listed on the back of your order of service. The card had a signature line on it, and Bob said I should sign it, and let him know, when I felt acceptance of the principles. I dutifully signed it and tried to hand it back to him. To my surprise, he refused to take it. Instead, he told me “Now, you put the card in your wallet, carry it around with you to remind yourself of your commitment.” Of course, he followed up and made sure I became a member of the church, too.

This was the first of many subsequent revelations that
the source of,
the responsibility for,
the magnificence of my spirit
in me,
with me,
within me.

Today, I want to share some of the experiences which have moved me from the state of disbelief to the state of complete belief. Belief in the divine connection that runs
through all life,
through all time and space,
through particle and wave,
through all levels of consciousness and unconsciousness,
through blood and wine, through body and bread,
through giving and taking,
through breathing in and breathing out.
Belief beyond logic,
beyond articulation,
beyond understanding.

My family is across-the-board Protestant. My mother’s father had an incredible baritone voice. Though Methodist, he sang at many churches and synagogues. He’s been dead for 32 years, and I still meet people that tell me how beautifully Ralph Mullen sang .My mother’s mother, Maggie Gross, became Episcopalian when she remarried. She attends faithfully.

My mother avoided church whenever possible. When, as an adult, I pressed her, she simply said that she was an agnostic. In the same conversation, she suggested that I find out more about Unitarians. At the end of the visit, she made a point of passing on to me her mother’s mother’s editions of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s essays. She neglected to tell me that Emerson was a Unitarian. Like most children, I filed her advice and didn’t act on it for years.

My father’s parents, Randall and Peg Klein, were Episcopalians, as are my sister and father today. Dad has been a steadfast church-goer, actively volunteering time for ushering, coffee-making, building repair, and much committee work. He has served on the vestry of three parishes and is serving even more actively now, in his retirement in northern California. My sister Peggy remains in the Episcopal church, despite her marriage to a Minnesota Norwegian. She stood up with my husband Macke and I when our daughter was dedicated in our Mahtomedi Avenue church.

Both my brothers were “born again” in the 70′s. Geoffrey has evolved from Assembly of God to the Evangelical Free Church. He and I have a lively, healthy respect for each other, and enjoy sharing some of the insights and challenges that each of our denominations brings to us.

My brother Randy was moved by the spirit of Jesus Christ to devote himself to evangelical missionary work. For over five years, he worked intensely toward his goal, while a l so working full-time to support his wife and two daughters. Randy wanted to work for Trans World Radio, an organization that maintains five huge radio towers around the world, dedicated to broadcasting the gospel 24 hours a day to every part of the world, in as many languages as possible. Even though he never made it through college, he passed a master’s level hermeneutics course. For years, he arose at 5 AM daily to study for his FCC radio engineer’s license. Randy and his wife Janie spoke and sung at probably 100 churches to secure the funding for their mission.

I tell you about my brother because not only did he reach his goal, he left to start his mission on the day of our mother’s funeral. Eleven months later, he was diagnosed with leukemia. Eighteen months and a bone marrow transplant later, he died at age 35.

Mom died of cancer in 1986. Among the final clutter of conversations we had, she absolved me from guilt for being childless. In the summer of 1987, Geoffrey donated his bone marrow to Randy, and I attended White Bear Unitarian’s offering of the feminist spirituality course, Cakes for the Queen of Heaven. The course was a clean sweep that helped me work through a long laundry list of patriarchal assumptions. That August, I got pregnant. It was the Harmonic Convergence. I was also convinced that Randy would heal.

Laura Barbara was born in May of 1988. I was bedridden for three weeks before her birth and spent the time watching the oaks and silver maples and lilacs grow into full leaf, Then, the dessicating summer drought came, as did Randy’s loss of vigor and his death. I remember that summer as sitting in our darkened, un- air conditioned home, nursing our miracle child while baking in 100 ° winds. Watching the oak leaves wither and crispen. Trying to understand the abrupt switch from fertility to barrenness, from hope to loss. Aching with the need to introduce our daughter, Laura Barbara, to my deceased mother, Barbara.

The loss of my mother had been real tough. Before I knew it, I felt it coming. Mom and Dad visited us for Christmas, our first Christmas in our home in Mahtomedi. Dad had a flu bug and was having problems with some heart medication, so everyone was pretty worried about him. But, when I went in to wake Mom from a nap, I remember sitting beside her and holding her hand for a while before waking her. The image and feel of death was so strong that I couldn’t acknowledge it then . When they left to go home, I jokingly told Dad to take care of himself because we all knew Mom couldn’t do it. Mom gave me a look that went straightinto my heart. She recognized that I knew she was dying. Back in Pennsylvania, Mom was diagnosed with an aggressive, spreading cancer. She half-heartedly tried a round of chemotherapy, to no avail, and was given three months to live. The drugs made her a bit crazy. One night, I had a particularly hard time sleeping. Sitting in the dark, rocking back and forth and sobbing, I promised to take care of Granny. Mom was Granny’s only child. The next week, I found out that Mom had been hysterical late that same night. Her words: “Who will take care of mother?”

At the burial of Mom’s ashes, I felt so incredibly alive. It was March in Pennsylvania, smells of warming earth; a sensuous spring breeze made the poplar leaves dance with joy. The returning sun reached down to dry our tears, and our singing, psalm-reading voices echoed in our minds.
For the beauty of the earth,
For the splendor of the skies,
For the love that from our birth,
Over and around us lies,
Source of all to thee we raise
This our hymn of grateful praise.

After the ‘ 88 drought, Laura Barbara’ s birth, Randy’ s death, I woke up Green. Environmentalism was a beacon to me, a directive. I pushed toward it, and when I was laid off, I plunged into working for Earth Day 1990. I worked at the regional level, and had the privilege of meeting some amazing change agents. I also worked with incredibly angry, out-of-balance people on a daily basis, and I gave them influence over my behavior. After Earth Day, I worked through a severe depression.

Finding my balance later that year, I discovered James Lovelock and Lynn Margulis’ Gaia hypothesis. According to this idea, the Earth functions as a single, self-regulating organism. The hypothesis speculates that Gaia’s regulating mechanisms eliminate unmercifully those processes that insist on disharmony. Human beings watch out. We may foul our nest and suffocate in our wastes, but the nest — Gaia — will continue with or without us. The divine, which we are a part of now, is eternal. We live in the pulse of Gaia. As she breathes, so do we. When we lose our breath, she continues, she evolves. As we seek the divine in ourselves, so we honor Gaia.
Now I walk in beauty,
Beauty is behind me.
Beauty is before me,
Above and below me.

Thank you.