Wednesday, February 7, 2018

refuse to jump

Preparing readings for a Wednesday night service I was praying about confronting the flu prayerfully. Dire predictions are everywhere about contagion and the symptoms and inevitability of getting sick.  There was a posting online about an article from the February 2004 Christian Science Journal entitled You don't have to get sick by Judy Wolff. I loved the article and something in it really inspired me.
When the writer's community was warned of an impending flu epidemic she prayed to overcome her fear and instead to trust in God's protection. She wanted to follow Jesus' example and she remembered the time he was tempted in the wilderness. One of those temptations was a test of God's care. The devil took him to a high place and told him 'if thou be the son of God, cast thyself down: for it is written, He shall give his angels charge concerning thee." The writer pointed out that the devil, or his evil suggestion, couldn't actually push him off; it could only urge him to do it himself. Isn't that just like those subtle and not-so-subtle suggestions to 'cast ourself down', to give in to the belief that getting sick was inevitable.
What is striking about this episode is that clearly the devil did not have the power to harm Jesus or to harm Jesus himself. He could only make the suggestion.

Jesus refused to jump.

That is true power. He recognized where this wrong idea was coming from and refused to take part in it. He did not buy into the idea that some other power was lurking out there that could affect him. No on and no thing can actually make us sick. God is the only power and everything He creates is good. There is no law of His insisting on disease or illness being present. What a blessing to learn that sickness in not inevitable, it is nothing at all. No matter what it claims to be able to do.

Jesus refused to jump.
And so can I,
And so can you.

go near, and join yourself...

There is a wonderful account in this week's Bible Lesson about Philip and a man from Ethiopia. It is in Acts, chapter 8. Jesus has left his disciples and followers and they are being hunted and persecuted in Jerusalem by Saul. Some of them scatter abroad preaching and Philip went to Samaria where he was well received and did miracles. There was great joy in that city. An angel speaks to Philip telling him to go down into Gaza which is desert. He is not the only traveler on this road. A Eunuch of great authority under Candace Queen of the Ethiopians who had charge of all her treasure had been in Jerusalem to worship and was now on his way home. He was sitting in his chariot reading Esaias the prophet. Philip gets another angel message telling him to run to him and join himself to the chariot. It must have been moving right along and he did have to run to catch up and when he hears the man reading he asks him if he understands what he is reading. Can you picture it? The man tells him he cannot understand without some guidance and he invited Philip to join him, to sit beside him. Philip is able to use this opportunity to teach him about Jesus. Eventually they come to a place where there was water and he asks Philip if he can be baptized. Once he declares that he believes that Jesus is the Son of God Philip agrees to baptize him and does so. Right after that it says that the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip that the eunuch did not see him anymore and the man goes his way rejoicing. Philip goes on to Azotus and preaches along the way until he gets to Caesarea.
The thing about this story that has me pondering it today is how Philip got that angel message of where he was to go and he immediately obeyed. Then he got further instruction to run and catch up to that chariot. Many times over the years I have gotten what I believe to be angel messages telling to go to a place or to do something. When I have obeyed that directive I have found myself coming in contact with someone who is open and receptive to hearing about Christian Science or wanting someone to explain a puzzling Bible citation. What a joy and privilege to be a part of God's plan bringing us together. I would love for that to happen on a daily basis.
This Philip was not one of the apostles but he was an evangelist, one of 7 men of good report chosen to be deacons to look after the Greek-speaking widows and others in the church in Jerusalem. He was doing good works where he was and that lead to expanding his preaching and healing to others as well.
How willing are we to 'go near, and join' ourselves to others? There is sometimes a hesitation that we will be rebuffed but if they are honest seekers for Truth it can be such a blessing. We can include all our neighbors and those we encounter each day in our willingness to share the Word of God. We have the complete support of divine Love in this work.
Be listening for angel messages.
Run when you see the opportunity.
Go near with out fear.
Join with someone to share the Gospels.
Do so in the spirit of love.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

we are not responsible for finishing everything we begin.

Are you struggling with a sense of failure because something you have prayed for diligently and deeply has not come to pass? Taking on false responsibility can lead to feeling burdened down, like the woman in the Bible with a 'spirit of infirmity'. She was so overwhelmed by whatever it was that had not been resolved that she was physically bent under its weight. All who saw her could see her belief in dragging around some burden by herself.

A little boy tried hard to lift a heavy object. His father saw what was happening and asked him, "Are you using all your strength?" The boy said that he was. "No, you are not," his father said gently, "You have not asked me to help you." If a burden seems too much, have you asked God for help? In
I Corinthians it says, "God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that you are able; but will with the temptation also may a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it."

We sometimes feel like we have failed when the answer does not come or the healing occur. Our job is to not give up but to wait patiently. The prayer is effective, we might not understand the timing.  The healing must be complete and sometimes there are pieces at work that we do not see.

1. The woman with the 'spirit of infirmity' was not so far depressed that she took to her bed. She was out and about despite appearances. She must not have given in completely.
2. When Jesus saw her he may have been in the Temple. The account in Luke says that the ruler of the synagogue was a witness to what happened. Others saw it as well and rejoiced when they saw what was done.
3. Jesus was present. The Christ was right there bringing them together. She would not have approached him as Jewish custom did not think women should speak to men in public. But he sensed that she was spiritually receptive to his healing message. He called her to him. She must have obeyed because she was then close enough for him to put his hands on her, maybe even on those very shoulders bowed down. He was not daunted by an eighteen year history. He only saw her bound by Satin, shackled with believing in mortal laws. In his sight, these did not apply to her. She needed to be told that she was 'loosed' from it.

What an example of divine Love's grace toward us. No situation, no matter how serious it appears to be or how long it has been present, can resist the power of Love. Love which fills all space leaving no room for a belief in illness or misfortune. Think of what this healing must have meant to Mrs. Eddy in her deep study of the Bible during the years she was struggling with chronic back pain and illness. Writing about this incident she says, "Then classify sickness and error as our Master did, when he spoke of the sick, "whom Satan has bound," and find a sovereign antidote for error in the life-giving power of Truth acting on human belief, a power which opens the prison doors to such as are bound, and sets the captive free physically and morally." (S&H 495)

Do you believe yourself to be bowed down with an incomplete resolution or healing? Remember who is responsible for your health and well-being. Divine Love. Always present and operating, even if we do not see how the healing is moving forward. What would have happened if she had just stayed at home?

Rejoice that you are free to walk in the Truth all day today and every day. That Truth will make you free.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

An assignment for 2018 with your input

Every year we get assignments from our Christian Science teachers or speakers with suggestions for thing to be working on to further our spiritual journey. We should never stop striving for a deeper and clearer understanding of God, Christian Science, and our Leader, Mary Baker Eddy.
Many years ago, when I first started studying Christian Science, I found the textbook a bit of a challenge. Working with our daily Bible Lesson was opening up the Scriptures in new and exciting ways. But when I began visiting the reading room on a regular basis, I peppered the patient librarians with questions about Mrs. Eddy. It seemed important to understand who she was and what she accomplished in an age where women's rights were struggling to be acknowledged. What had brought her to her discovery? How did she overcome her many challenges? I asked them to recommend a biography that would get me started on appreciating her life. I found it fascinating that a woman could found a  movement like Christian Science. I was coming from a different religious background, one I had turned from because I could not agree with their view of God. Most of my childhood I struggled with health problems and the idea of finding not only relief but complete healing appealed to  me. She had chronic health problems and tried all the remedies available in her time. Her family did not think she could raise her rambunctious son and sent him away without her permission, she had been widowed and then her second husband was unfaithful to her and abandoned her. When she wanted to share her discoveries women were frowned upon as public speakers. She wrote the textbook and struggled with many editors to get it published, revising it many times as her own understanding increased. She healed the cases the physicians of her day considered incurable. She founded a church, established its Manual and fulfilled her vision of an international newspaper with the Christian Science Monitor. She faced lawsuits and came away victorious. What an amazing achievement for someone who grew up homeschooled in New England in the 1800's. She was one of the most famous women of her times, greatly respected, with many influencial people and publications soliciting her opinion on world events.
I read my way through the reading room's lending library, starting with the biography aimed at very young readers and ending with what was a recent publication made with deep scholarship.
Others in the church were interested in learning about Mrs. Eddy and I wrote to Principia College and got permission to use a syllabus about her life and works for leading a study group. It was centered around the three biographies written by Robert Peel. Each book had 10 chapters so we read one chapter each month and then met to discuss it, working with the questions in the syllabus. We completed it in three years, taking the summers off. Then I lead another group through it but stopped after the third time. Nine years seemed like enough focus!
That was some time ago and several biographies have come out since then. So, this year I am going to pick one to study. Right now I am deciding between Come and See, The Life of Mary Baker Eddy by Isabel Ferguson or the We Knew Mary Baker Eddy extended version.
Have you read a biography about her lately? Or do you have a favorite from years past? Being in the full time practice of Christian Science, I want to feel prepared to recommend a biography to those sincere seekers who would like to know more about her life and discovery. I would love to hear your thoughts.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

...and there arose a great storm

Those prophetic words could have been written for today. Here in Texas there were dire predictions for dangerous conditions as the result of a cold front that brought with it freezing sleet and icy roads. Schools announced last night that they would be closed today and many businesses have told their employees to stay home and be safe. Looking outside, it is quite pretty with the flakes flying through the air. The heater is on in the house, our kitty is inside and all are safe and warm.

But that was not the case for the disciples one night as they struggled with wild winds and high waves on the Sea of Galilee. The gospel of Mark sets the scene. Jesus had been teaching a great multitude and he told them the parable of the Sower. Jesus himself is the Sower and the seeds are the Word of God. He illustrates how those 'seeds' fall on different types of soil, much as the Word of God falls on different hearts. His disciples must have soaked up every word he spoke but hours later they would be put to the test. Following his day of teaching and healing he told them to send away the multitude and go into a ship, probably one of Peter's fleet, as they were accompanied by a few other ships. A great storm arose with strong winds and high seas. These men were experienced fishermen and this was not their first encounter but this storm frightened them. The ship filled with water and they feared for their lives. Jesus was in the back of the ship, asleep on a pillow. Nothing about that storm seems to have disturbed his rest. But they awakened him saying 'Master, carest thou not that we perish?"
Had they grasped the full import of who he was, God's own beloved son, how could they have thought that God would let that boat sink with him aboard?
Rembrandt painted this scene in 1633. It shows Jesus calming the waves. It is the only seascape he ever painted. It is widely believed, because of the fourteen people in the boat, that Rembrandt painted himself into the boat along with the twelve disciples and Jesus. The crew member looking out towards the viewer of the painting may be a self-portrait.
Jesus arose. He lifted up his thought even as he lifted up his body. He was secure in His father's care and aware of his dominion over all the earth and the sea. He said, "Peace, be still" and there was a great calm.
Perhaps some of the tumult was a reflection of how the disciples were feeling, their shifting thoughts as they spent time with the Master hearing his words and seeing the miracles that he did.
Some 'storms' come upon us as we spend sincere time in prayer working out some challenge in our lives. We have read the many authenticated healings published in Science and Health and in the Christian Science periodicals for over 100 years. And yet, when faced with something that seems like an overwhelming force we cannot control or overcome, we fearfully turn to God for help. What we need to pray about is not the situation which seems so real, but our fear of it, as if something could exist that God could not and would not cause. God will never let you sink!
I recently came across a poem by Edith Mapes. One verse reads: When the thunder's roarin' and the torrents pourin' and sweeping in the tide, when we're rowin', rowin, and our courage goin', O Lord, support us, on the leanin' side."
That reminds me of the first line in Science and Health, "To those leaning on the sustaining infinite, today is big with blessings."
If a 'great storm' seems to loom over you, choose to lean on God, knowing He is there for you, loving you and keeping you safe by His mighty power and love.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Get a bar of DIAL soap

I was standing in the cosmetic aisle at my supermarket, staring at a wide array of soap products. Many of them were liquid but I wanted to replace my bar. As I ran my eye over the various brands, I saw one that reminded me of something and made me smile.
A few years back, a bought bars of Dial soap, wrapped them in festive paper, and put one in everyone's Christmas stocking, along with a note. "When you use this bar of soap, take a moment to look at what is written on it."
What is written on it are the letters "D" "I" "A" "L".
Let this be a reminder of who you are, your true spiritual identity as the true reflection of God, make in His image and likeness, as we read in the Creation story in Genesis One.
Divine. Some of the definitions of the word divine are sacred, supremely good or beautiful, magnificent, extremely pleasant. It should be part of our daily prayers for ourselves to claim those qualities because they belong to God and therefore to us by reflection.
Image and likeness. Something exactly resembling the original. A mental picture of something.
I also like the think about how truth washes away all error, removes anything that is not made by God, cleansing the body. Mrs. Eddy writes "We should strive to reach the Horeb height where God is revealed; and the corner-stone of all spiritual building is purity. The baptism of Spirit, washing the body of all the impurities of flesh, signifies that the pure in heart see God and are approaching spiritual Life and its demonstration." (S&H 241)
So, the next time you are buying a bar of soap, consider Dial, and let it be a friendly reminder of who you are, the divine image and likeness of God.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

It seemed carved in stone...

I love the Christmas stories and specials. Every year I delight in reading Charles Dickens A Christmas Carol. It never gets old. What a beautiful illustration of reformation and renewal. Near the end of his visit with the Spirits Scrooge finds himself in a grave yard. The brushes away the snow and sees his own name carved in stone. He had profited by the lessons shown him that night, looking back at the choices he had made in his life and he pleads with the Ghost for those words to be erased. Nothing can seem so inevitable as something carved in stone. He has had an altered thought, a new way of seeing himself and his fellow man, and is resolved to live his life with love and generosity.  This will change the outcome. To his new way of thinking, until his name was carved in stone proclaiming his death, it would be possible to live a more spiritual life. It would be possible to right wrongs. There could be friendship and fellowship. He could become a better a man, a better master,. He not only had a reformation...he had a revelation of his true nature.
A few days ago many religions celebrated the Epiphany, the Three Kings visit to the Christ Child to honor him with gifts. A time to put our worship first and recognize the wonder of the Christ. We should seek every day epiphanies. New opportunities to express our true identity as God's beloved child, made in His image and likeness. Ways to practice the Golden Rule of showing love as we would have love shown to us.
God is Life, without beginning or end. Each of us are the reflection of that Life. Our name is written in heaven, not in material stone. When Scrooge realizes he has been given that chance he literally jumps for joy. He revels in his childlike happiness. We can do that too.
There is plenty of time today to uplift thought, to take a fresh look at our family and friends, to appreciate our co-workers, to support our church activities, to show tenderness.

God bless us, every one.