Sisters in Scripture
The Outrigger in Your Canoe
07/14/2021  Kathleen MacInnis Kichline

"Don't stand up in the canoe!" It's on the list of famous last words. And it is usually followed by folks getting wet--both the speaker and the stander. While light and nimble in the hands of seasoned paddlers, canoes are notoriously unstable for the uninitiated. At best, canoes are confined to relatively calm, small bodies of water. And they operate well with just one or two aboard.

Contrast that with the outrigger of the South Pacific. In the outrigger, Polynesians were able to traverse thousands of miles across open Pacific Ocean, the world's largest body of water. The basic design has but one alteration to the canoe, the addition of an outlying, attached hull that gives the craft its name. That addition keeps the boat from tipping to the opposite side because of its weight and prevents tipping in the other direction by its buoyancy. The added stability allows the now-transformed "canoe" to respond to the strokes of muscled paddlers, mount towering waves, and travel vast distances. It allowed a whole civilization to people far-flung islands.

Thankfully, I've spent some hours this summer both at water's edge and on the water. These days, I mostly paddle a kayak or board, but in the past, I've ventured out in canoes and learned the lesson of "don't stand up!" I have also had the thrill of being the passenger in an outrigger that sped toward the beach on surging waves off Oahu. Wary, tippy canoe / intrepid, powerful outrigger. I've done them both. That experience has given me an image that I turn to frequently for another kind of navigation, the unpredictable waters of relationships.

How do we accompany someone through the capricious course of life's twists and turns? As a friend, a confidant, or the parent of an adult child, what is our role when we see their craft faltering? We want so much to be helpful, to bring about good for them. But we also know that this natural inclination can backfire in a variety of ways. What are the do's and don'ts that are actually beneficial? 

Recall the difference between a canoe and the outrigger. If you climb inside somebody else's canoe, there's a very good chance you will both get wet, and you probably will not help them go very far. But if you can be the outrigger to their canoe, providing them with some stability, they are enabled to mount and move through the very waves that threaten to swamp them. 

To be the outrigger to somebody's canoe, means to hang on tight for the ride, to be alongside, to go through what they go through, to be steadfast and dependable, to be there. But it also means that you are not in their canoe, in their life, in their "stuff," doing things "for" them. It is their life. Each of us is the captain of our own canoe. We may not even always like where their journey takes us. But when we get there, it will have been their journey, not ours, and that's what we signed on for. We will have journeys of our own to make. 

When we make those journeys, let us hope that we, too, will have trusted friends and mentors willing to serve as outriggers for us. Most of us can look back and identify those who have done exactly that for us. Who has been the outrigger to your canoe? 

My guess is that it was someone who did not question you or give directions, but someone whose confidence in your ability actually contributed to that ability. They may, in fact, have had question or concerns, probably unspoken. There may even have been times when those uncertainties were shared as part of the "hanging on." And if you were wise, you took what was said to heart, for you had come to trust their reliability and they saw, at wave-level, what you could not see. 

So, yes, it's about relationship. And relationships are "complicated." But so worth it. To have a share in the happiness of another, to enjoy the easy company of mutual respect, to be loved by another who will half your sorrows and double your joys, to make memories that last a lifetime--these are the dividends of investing in others. They are worthy of the cost involved. 

For the fun of it, this outrigger clip will take you for a short ride.  cool
Sisters in Scripture is all about the transformative power of relationships, particularly among women (thus the subtitle of my first bible study, "Exploring the Relationships of Biblical Women"). In this month's newsletter, we focus on retrieving the voice, the role, and the wisdom of women. Most of us are gifted with lots of contemporary examples, but it is worth looking deeper into the past. These gifts from women have not always been honored or remembered. I've added some resources to this month's newsletter that I recommend to you and I'd love to hear if any of these strike a responsive chord in you...
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 Assisi Follow-up: More Good News

MAGDALA is the online journal born of the Assisi Colloquy that could not convene due to Covid-19. The website for that is now up and running and can be accessed here:  MAGDALA. There is much more still to be added--including the first journal edition in November. That edition on the Holy Spirit will include my article on Teresa of Avila and Her Poetry. I'll let you know once that appears. Meanwhile, MAGDALA has provided a link to my website--nice. The journal comes out of Italy and will be offered in three languages: English, Italian and French. Guess we've now gone international! 

Spiritual Direction

A more apt name might be "spiritual companioning.”  I often think of the disciples on the Road to Emmaus when doing Spiritual Direction.  On life's road, Christ draws alongside, unseen but ever present, though we are often only partially aware.  Spiritual Direction is intentional attentiveness to that Presence in the company of an other who walks that same journey.  To read more about this gentle disciple, go to the Spiritual Direction page on this website.
Spiritual Direction with Kathleen is also available via phone/Skype or in person at either of two locations: Lynnwood, WA (occasionally) and Bella Vista, AR (regularly). For more information on Spiritual Direction please contact Kathleen! 

 Bible Studies

Sisters in Scripture offers a variety of studies available for purchase from this site. Each study seeks to prayerfully engage the scriptures to arrive at meaning for today and in our everyday lives.  To do so, we enter the story through the lens of various biblical characters using both biblical scholarship and our own creative imagination. 
Each chapter includes Background, Prayer, Reflection Questions, and a Closer Look at the Text.  To see the full line of studies, go to  the Bible Studies page or the Purchase Books page on this site.

 What is Sisters in Scripture? 
Sisters in Scripture began as a bible study for women and while it still is that today, the ministry has grown into much more.  Bible Studies were followed by workshops and presentations which evolved into a full line of retreat offerings—some as short as a partial day, others over several days, on a rich variety of topics. 
Recently, online retreats have been added to in-person retreats

 Retreats and Presentations

As with the interactive focus in my studies, the retreats are also designed to help participants enter into and experience the theme through a variety of modalities: prayer, silence, presentation, discussion, music, art, poetry, etc. 
In addition to leading retreats, for the past four years, I have been co-teaching a course on Spiritual Retreats in the School of Theology and Ministry at Seattle University, a sacred task that allows retreat ministry to expand through the future ministries of those I teach.

 Upcoming 2021 Retreats


Once Upon a Time In a Town Called Nazareth

 An Advent retreat with Betsey Beckman, Using scripture, art, music, dance, poetry and our creative imagination we go back to a time and place and a young Jewish girl named Mary.

 Witness On The Way

A Lent retreat and interactive Stations of the Cross, again presented with Betsey Beckman. Together we created stories around each of the 14 stations, stories that centered on the lives and witness of those who were there.


 Encounters with the Risen Lord

Let us go back to those first days after He rose. What was it like to encounter the Risen Lord? Using the various post-resurrection appearances, we will break open these scripture stories with creative imagination, song, prayer, and faith-sharing--closing with a unique Stations of the Resurrection. 

 Available Retreats
A partial list of retreat offerings would include:
  • Once Upon a Time in a Town Called Nazareth,
  • The Women Who Follow Jesus
  • Four Women Doctors of the Church 
  • Giving Voice to Our Hearts
  • Women of the Early Church
  • Two Theresa's
  • The Devotional Life of Biblical Women
  • At the Foot of the  Cross
  • Rachel and Leah: At Odds with Ourselves
  • God's Gift of Abundant Time (also a book!
  • Mary Magdalene: Fact and Fiction - What Would Snopes Say?
  • Teresa of Avila: Her Poetry as Window Into Her Life
  • Hildegard of Bingen: A "Contemporary" Contemplative
  • Prisca: Paul's Right-Hand-Woman
  • Miriam of Exodus: the Girl Who Watched by the Nile
  • Grandparents of Jesus (also a book!) 
  • The First Supper
  • Witnesses on the Way: an Interactive Stations of the Cross
  • Encounters with the Risen Lord
  • Grandmother God: Loving as God Loves (also a book!)
  • An Evening with Esther
  • Wisdom from Tobit
To View Photos of a previous Retreat, Once Upon a Time in a Town Called Nazareth, click on the link.  

 Comments from Retreat Participants

Thank you so much for the Saturday session. It was informative and also fun! I liked the way you involved all of us. I am always impressed by your knowledge and the obvious love you have for teaching. - LF, Arkansas

I really appreciate your gentle welcoming presence. I benefit not just from the content of your sessions, but from the gems you drop along the way. - MW, Washington

I think the audience participation was the best I have seen. I also think that your detailed knowledge of the multiple subjects was truly impressive. – KB, Connecticut
I feel it is such a privilege to read the materials and then hear your lectures and to be with such equally interested and interesting women. What a great experience it has been for me. Thanks for being the wonderful scholar and teacher you are. – PH, Minnesota

This is one of the best things that I have done for myself in months. I thoroughly enjoyed the time. It was well spent. I was very satisfied with the content and would be very interested in more courses like this. - KW, Washington 
A comment from Julie Joslund, Pastor:
Kathleen and Betsey’s Advent Retreat Once Upon a Time in a Town Called Nazareth is fabulous! The story and the inspiration of young Mary becoming the mother of our Lord - with all the incumbent questions, joys and fears - comes to life with the images, colors, words, songs and dances from long ago Nazareth…. right up to today. Participants are involved and included in the retreat experience. It is hands on and fulfilling. Everyone goes away with a full heart, ready to engage the season of Advent and the coming once again of Christ into our days. 

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