Friday, November 30, 2007

Oh, I see

I wondered why the story of Philip and Simon of Samaria was in this week's lesson. Well, of course, it was because Simon was a sorcerer. According to Dummelow's Bible Commentary the graphic details of Philip's ministry were obtained from Philip himself. Most of the Book of Acts are eye witness accounts and interviews that Luke collected. Luke stayed at Philip's house in Caesarea and met his four daughters, who were considered prophetesses. Paul spent three years in prison at Caesarea and that may have been when Luke stayed with Philip.

The people of that city had long been in awe of Simon's sorcery and believed him to be powerful. But once they heard Philip speak the good news of Jesus' life and resurrection, they chose instead to follow his teachings and were baptised, washed clean of their former beliefs in sorcery. This change occured because of the healing works Philip performed, what appeared to them to be miracles.

There are any number of public figures these days who seem to generate public worship. More and more we are seeing their immoral acts brought to light and they are being held accountable for their behavior. Those who formerly admired them, even patterning their ideas of success or beauty from them, begin to rethink their models. It is easy to be 'bewitched' by some new fad diet or get-rich-quick scheme, presented with sincerity by a spokesperson. But we need to stay awake and alert to such as Simon. Yet, even Simon was changed when he came into contact with the real thing.

The nativity is the real thing. Cherish every aspect of it as Christmas is less than a month away.
It has relevance in your life. Are you a wakeful shepherd or a Maji, studying to find deeper truth? Are you awaiting the birth of a new idea? Are you singing hymns and Christmas carols in honor of the season? Are you excited about what it all means?

Go in peace.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

The Nativity - Prophecy

T0 appreciate all the details of the Nativity it is interesting to see just what prophecy was given in the Old Testament. If you read this story in Matthew's Gospel, you can see how he follows each occurance with a reference from earlier writings. Many things were foretold about the Messiah and his appearing. In Isaiah's writings he tells that the Lord will give a special sign, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son. Isaiah also said that the Messiah would be born of the stem of Jesse, David's father. Jesus was later referred to as the son of David because of that prophecy. That would indicate his lineage and prepare them for Mary's part in the story. In Micah 5:2 we are told where the birth would happen with this prophecy:...thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel.

Matthew's Gospel was written for the Jews and includes hundreds of references to the Old Testament. Luke's Gospel was written for the Gentiles who would have had no familiarity with the Old Testament or Jewish beliefs. Mark's Gospel is the memoirs of Peter and opens with Jesus as an adult. John's Gospel is the most spiritual and does not give the details of the nativity.

So I studied this story with Matthew and Luke, a nicely balanced telling. Matthew writes what he gathered from the years he spent as a chosen disciple of the Master. Luke was a physician and historian. His gospel is made up of first hand accounts. He no doubt spoke with Mary and could add things Matthew did not know.

The average Jewish man would have been schooled in the prophecies concerning the Messiah and his much anticipated appearance. Jewish women were not allowed to study scripture but attended Sabbath services hidden behind screens. They would have heard things the Rabbi taught as well as things that were discussed in their household. They believed the Messiah would come, that he would be born of a virgin in Bethlehem and be of the lineage of David. All this would verify the gospels.

I have to ask myself what I believe about the Messiah. Two thousand years later his name and message has spread all over the globe. It's hard to imagine the actual event happening so quietly and humbly, with so few witnesses. It would be many years before this blessed child grew to manhood and began his work. Yet I can feel the wonder of it every December. Some part of me wishes I could have been there. I'd like to think I would have recognized him. No matter. I know him now and honor him. Like a reformed Scrooge, I can say truthfully that I try to 'keep Christmas' in my heart all year long.

Tidings of comfort and joy.

Monday, November 26, 2007

The Nativity and the Christmas Season

We had a wonderful Thanksgiving day, with a sweet church service, a delicious feast, and dessert with more family and friends. It was the start of a great weekend. The kids went camping and I had the house to myself for some quiet reflection. Then I put away Thanksgiving and set out Christmas decorations as I listened to Christmas music.

A few years ago I came across Mrs. Eddy's reference to the Nativity in Prose Works. She wrote: "It is most fitting that Christian Scientists memorize the nativity of Jesus". I took that to heart and spent the next year reading the nativity as it appears in the Gospels, the references from the Old Testament, and what Mrs. Eddy had to say. It was a year of appreciation for this holiest of stories. So I think I will share some of what I learned in the Blog over the next few weeks, along with insights from studying our weekly Bible lesson.

When I did my study I wrote down the elements of the Nativity and then each month studied parts of it. For me, the essence of the Nativity is the prophecies, the angels, the shepherds, the Magi, the star, Mary and Joseph. Tomorrow I will start with the prophecies.

This week's Bible lesson is all about "How Not to be Fooled' by the suggestions of mortal mind or what Mrs. Eddy calls animal magnetism. Hypnotism was very much the rage in her day and was studied by scientific committees with members like Benjamin Franklin. Mesmerists attracted huge crowds. Seances were a popular evening entertainment. Mrs. Eddy helps us handle the power of suggestion twice a year, when this topic comes up in the rotation.

This time the emphasis is on seeing that there is one God and His creation and nothing else. No other power. We are reminded of how He protects us with selections from the 91st Psalm. I worked today with the references to 'noisome pestilence' and 'snare of the fowler'. Those are malicious speech or the destroying word, that which cuts and stings. We don't want to be on the receiving end or, heaven forbid, the one speaking that way. Nothing else is present but good and with good filling all space nothing evil can happen to you. You also cannot be caught by subliminal advertising, or blantant efforts to influence your spending. You cannot get caught up in some soap opera view of life, for yourself or for your friends. You cannot be tempted to try fad diets.

My favorite sentence this week is "God is everywhere, and nothing apart from Him is present or has power". What an amazing concept.

Go in peace.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Acts 3:1-10

This week's Bible lesson is about Soul and body. I like to think of Soul as awareness. And what Soul is aware of is perfection, goodness, wholeness, untouched by accident or birth defects, time or space. A wonderful example of this is given in Acts. We read about a man who has been unable to stand or walk his whole life. We are not given specifics but he was unable to support himself physically or financially. So his whole life he had been carried to a place outside of the temple, a gate where others were able to enter and pray. He sat there all day begging. Everyone in the city knew him. One day he sees Peter and John approaching and he asks them for money . But Peter asks him to look at them. This was a demand for his undivided attention. It says he did this, expecting to recieve something from them. But Peter is offering him something of lasting value, the ability to make his own way. Now I am assuming that this man must have heard all about Jesus; his life, his healing (including making the lame walk). Peter, by referring to Jesus Christ by name, is giving this man a frame of reference for the type of healing that was done in his name. Peter wants this man to 'rise up', not just physically but mentally, to lift his thought and see himself as Jesus would have seen him. To, in effect, be reborn and freed from the belief of birth defect or accident. To make his point, Peter takes him by the hand and lifts him up. The words are immediated followed by action. It's clear what Peter's expectation was. He must have seen Jesus do this many times. And the results were immediate. No need to learn how to get his balance, no physical therapy needed for those muscles, no time to build up strength to support his weight. His feet and ankles were perfect and he stood. Now it was important to move out of that place and he walked and then he leaped and then, for the first time in his life, he went into church. What a scene it must have been. All those who had seen this man grow up in the shadow of the temple, now saw him praising God inside it. They were filled with wonder.

Such healing is possible today. We need to look at the Christ, the Comforter who has come to show us our true identity as the child of God. We need to reach out for the healing, and when we feel the change we need to take a stand. We need to see that our life is in perfect balance, no lack of time or money or health. Stable on a solid foundation. We need to accept our strength, our full ability to understand Truth and demonstrate it. We need to move forward, and as we do so, to joyously thank God. It starts with admitting what is possible, in fact, inevitable. Truth is powerful and undeniable. What an awesome healing to dwell on today.

Go in peace in full awareness.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Sarah's fault

As I studied this week's Bible lesson, I was a bit surprised to see the story of Abraham and Sarah. I read the passages about Abraham and Sarah, 85 & 75 years old, on their way to the Promised Land. Abraham does not seem to have had second thoughts about obeying God's direction to do so. But he is not as confident that they would have any children. Have you ever had to wait a long time for something you believe God will grant you to show up? Has it ever seemed like that window of opportunity had closed? Surely Sarah's ability to have children seemed unfruitful. One way was possible. If Sarah held her servant while she bore the Master a child, Sarah could claim it as her own. She presents this idea to her husband, they promote Hagar to second wife and the desired child, Ishmael, is born. But their lack of faith in God's promise led to very unhappy consequences. Has that ever been the case for you?

We pray and pray, asking God for something, feeling like He is going to grant it, and then run out of patience waiting for it. We have outlined how this thing will happen, what avenue, what person, what event. When it doesn't appear in that form, we take matters into our own hands. The result rarely satisfies.

In this story the real issue is in a false sense of man as the creator. The expected child is God's idea, already formed in Mind, perfect and complete, with a unique place in the divine plan. 13 years after Ishmael's birth, God reminds Abraham of the original promise and a child comes to them who is Isaac. The promise was kept in God's own time and way.

I often use the definiton of patience - expecting good calmly - when giving Christian Science treatments. The process of refining gold is also mentioned in this section of the lesson. Great heat is applied to the raw gold causing the dross to rise to the surface and disappear. It can be quite a show of sparks. You may have encountered something like that when you are working out a problem. Right in the midst of prayer, the situation seems to accelerate, get worse. But it could just be this process of seeing the impurities and worthless or trivial thoughts being removed to leave behind the pure gold, precious metal. Mrs. Eddy tells us the result of this is 'enlarged individuality, a wider sphere of thought and action, a more expansive love, a higher and more permanent peace'. Good rewards. Worthy of a little patience.

Go in peace.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

I just finished reading The Copper Scroll by Joel Rosenberg. It is the fourth in a series of books about the Dead Sea Scrolls and this one focuses on the famous copper scroll found in the same area but entirely different from the Scriptural fragments found. The copper scroll is a mysterious listing of the treasures from the first and second Temple built in Jerusalem. Among the things sought is the Ark of the Covenant. This book is about following the clues and what is in the Scriptures. It was a good read. I had seen a special on the history channel about that scroll and how archeologists are working to decipher its meaning. I've long felt that if only we could find a way for peace in the Middle East so that those ancient sites could be excavated, there are probably many things that might come to light.

I do not have to see the Ark to believe that it existed, and probably still does, somewhere in the world. I do not have to see the original tablets to believe in the Ten Commandments. I don't have to see God to believe that He is very real and that He cares deeply about me. I know this and have known it all my life. But my study of Christian Science has opened up so much of the Scriptures and shown me how to make their teachings practical in my day to day life.

I am a different person than I was in my twenties, thirties and so on. Everyone once in a while something comes up to show me how far I have advanced in my spiritual journey. Everyone once in a while I see how far I have yet to go. But it is a wonderful passage.

go in peace

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

It's not how many talents you have

Jesus told a parable about three men entrusted with talents by their common master. Later they were called to account for what they did with those talents. The first two went right to work and doubled their master's investment. But the third, given one talent, buried it because he was afraid he might lose it. The point of the story is not to worry about the talent you've been given. Instead, focus on making the most of what you have got. Mrs. Eddy wrote "In order to apprehend more, we must put into practice what we already know....If faithful over a few things we shall be made rulers over many.

Are you wishing you were taller or wealthier or smarter, that you had more responsibility, that your talents were recognized by others? Don't be made to overlook your unique gifts and talents. Comparing yourself to others, feeling we don't measure up to other's achievements or successes, leads down the wrong path of thinking. In fact, it can become a dead end.

Being faithful over what you do have and have to give helps silence negative thinking and discouragement. We must deal with this or it leads to envy, jealousy, and general unhappiness. Remind yourself of just who you are trying to please, and it should be God. Accepting the suggestion that you are inadequate is criticizing God's creation. It is accepting an imperfect image and likeness. If you want to move forward, be sure your steps are upward.

God is not comparing you to anyone else. He is very satisfied with His work and He loves you just the way you are. Return the favor and learn to love yourself for His name's sake.

Go in peace

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Never take 'no' for an answer

A woman once came to Jesus to ask for healing. She was a Canaanite. Now there was a history here, two races that hated one another. The children of Israel had attempted to wipe out her people when they arrived to settle the Holy Lands. A thousand years later that enmity was as strong as ever. So it says something about her that she believed in this man and his ability to heal enough to leave her comfort zone and go to him. But when she finds him, she asks him to have mercy on her for her daughter is grieviously vexed with a devil. I can sympathize. I raised three kids and am currently caring for my 4-month-old 'grand' during the day. Maybe she was asking for the patience and love to deal with the situation. Whatever her motive, Jesus does not answer her. That seems so unlike him. Yet, surely he knew the need. His disciples didn't show either compassion or patience. Their recommendation was for him to tell her to go away. He doesn't do that either but reminds them that he had come to save those lost sheep of the Children of Israel. She must have heard that but still she did not give up and go away. She comes closer and worships him, addressing him as Lord. He says that it would not be right to take what is meant for the Jews and give it to those who do not believe. But her answer to that is given in true humility. He has just compared her to a dog and yet she is willing to take whatever crumbs of comfrot he will give her. At last, her persistence is rewarded because her faith was so great. Rewarded beyond what she may have envisioned, for instead of granting her fortitude to deal with a possessed child, he healed the child and removed the source of the problem altogether.

In the same section of this week's Bible lesson there is a quote from II Corinthians: "If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature; old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new". That is one of the things I love about Christian Science. All those old habits and long held ideas can be changed, they can just drop away. That woman's child was healed in that very hour of something that must have been there for a long time. I am always alert to any place in the Scriptures where 'behold' is used. It is a call to really pay attention, because what is going to be said next is of major importance. Behold. See this. Turning to the Christ, choosing to see ourselves as God sees, makes things new.

This time of the year, many trees drop their leaves. An article I read explained that it happens because the new bud that will develop into a new leaf, is now formed and it pushes the old one out of the way. The old one drops off and the new one is established in its place, ready to come to full bloom at the right time. Things become new.

Don't take 'no' for an answer, persist with your prayers, God hears you and He keeps His promises.

Go in peace.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Japhet - and an enlarged sense of home

An article from this month's Journal gave me much food for thought today. I especially liked it because it focused on a Bible character I knew little about. Japhet is one of Noah's two elder sons. He was with him in the Ark and later, with his brother, covered their father's nakedness out of respect and love as he lay asleep. As a result, Japhet recieved a special blessing - the promise of an enlarged dwelling place. Mrs. Eddy included Japeth in her glossary and defines him as a type of spiritual peace, flowing from the understanding that God is the divine Principle of all existence, and man is His idea, the child of His care.

The writer of the article worked with this definition at a time when he needed to enlarge his concept of home, having an urgent need to find a new place. He had made this kind of demonstration in the past and was confident he could again but weeks passed and he was becoming discouraged. Our family moved often when the kids were small and we always found just the right place to meet our needs. I credit my study of Christian Science with making those many moves (24 in 33 years) smooth and harmonious. God's provision for us was unfailing and it may have helped the kids when they later went to Principia for high school. They knew how to fit in with new friends in a new place. A sense of home has always been important to me and I work on my spiritual concept of what qualities it should include.

The need was met for the author in an unexpected way when a small furnished flat became available. He had restricted his search to unfurnished places but the prospective landlord like him so much that he agreed to store the furniture.

I've studied many aspects of the story of Noah and the ark, but never really thought about what it must have been like to settle in a new place and set up a new home. I look forward to the holidays in this new home and have enjoyed setting out my holiday decorations for all to enjoy. In this last move I actually have an enlarged bedroom/office, an enlarged bathroom (all to myself!), and an enlarged closet/storage area. God is good. There is even an enlarged yard, although it presents challenges of its own. Houses are being completed and slowly neighbors are moving it. It feels very much like home already.

I have no idea at this point what further moves lie ahead for me, or where that might lead, but as I continue to cherish a right idea of home and all it contains I know there are no backward steps and Love will keep me dwelling in the house of Lord. Like Japhet, we are promised the blessing of an enlarged place. And that can apply to relationships, family, career, finances, and church as well.

Go in peace, child of His care.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Our boundless basis

This week's Bible lesson includes this sentence from Science and Health: "God expresses in man the infinite idea forever developing itself, broadening and rising higher and higher from a boundless basis". That really stood out to me this morning and I'd like to share how I might work with this statement as I pray with others today.

For example, if the challenge were a financial one, using this idea let's see what God is doing for us today. God, good, is expressing in (insert your name here) the infinite idea of supply. God is the source of all good and there is no way we could ever use up all of something that originates with Him. This idea of supply and abundance is forever developing itself, that means it isn't something we have to do or be responsible for. That's God's job. One definition of develop is to bring from latency to fulfillment. Another one is to aid in the growth of. God is forever developing this idea of supply and expressing it for us, to us and through us. It broadens, spreads out, increases. The concept of income is not limited to one source, such as a regular paycheck. Divine Love supplies our needs in an endless, exciting and amazing number of ways. Broaden your thought of that income stream. Lift your idea higher. We'd all like to see our check book balance higher, our savings account higher, our return on investments higher. Just what is it you are investing in? God is investing in you. I love Lego's. I loved watching my kids and now my 'grands' build intricate structures. They could make them as big as they wanted by simply adding more Legos to the foundation. They understand that they are building on a boundless basis. Think of your source of supply that way.

Now this whole concept can be applied to health, relationships, abilities, understanding, confidence, patience. Whatever it is you are dealing with right now. Recognize that God, who loves you more than you could ever imagine, is doing this for you today. He is expressing Himself by pouring out endless blessings on you. Do you think divine Mind will ever run out of ideas? No, because there is an infinite number of them available and they will continue to develop forever. And you are the beneficiary. You are the beloved heir. You are the cherished child.

Remember to say thank you.

Go in peace.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Dreamer, leave thy dreams for joyful waking

In working our way through a problem using prayer and expecting healing we are learning something about God and our relationship to Him, coming to understand His great love, care and tenderness. I read once that in taking shelter from the storm under a tree, one may find on its branches unexpected fruit. Fruit one had not even been looking for. In seeking shelter under the shadow of God's wing we find more about God than we knew before, revelations of what had been true all along. Sometimes this prayerful wrestling allows us to see Him face to face.

This week's Bible lesson is about Adam and Fallen Man, the second account of creation given in Genesis. In that version, after God creates Adam from the dust, He puts him into a deep sleep. We are never told that he awakens. In Christian Science pray using the first account of creation where God saw everything that He had made and it was very good. Each of us has to decide which version we accept as the real one. It has a direct bearing on what we believe to be true about the Creator and His creation.

When someone calls me as a Christian Science practitioner to pray with them and for them about a problem, we are praying to understand just what it means to be the image and likeness of God and to know that He sees us as He created us, not just good but very good. We have not somehow fallen out of this state and need to be returned to it, but pray for the revelation that we have never been less than the child He created. Taking a lesson from that second version we might wonder just who or what is it that is telling us something different. That 'serpent' thought that whispers and argues for the presence of something God did not create, the opposite of good.

Just how did that temptation overpower Eve? Three suggestions. It tempted her by saying that if she believed the lie it would make her better, that this was a good idea to take into her thought and her body. Are you dealing with suggestions along those lines? A second suggestion was that this was pleasant to the eyes. Wouldn't we all want something that looks really delicious, even if we don't know what it is? Most of the diets I hear about promise you wonderful tasting shakes or meals as part of their plan. It might be in a new form or certain portion but they strive to make it look really good. It went on to promise some new knowledge that would make her smarter than she had been, inform her of something she did not already know about. As the true image and likeness of divine Mind we already include all right ideas. Why would we ever choose to become familiar with something coming from another source? But, faced with all that clever advertising, Eve gave in...and took Adam with her.

Remember, interesting as their history is, we are not part of the Adam dream. We stay in the first account of creation. No whisperers there, no false temptations, no promises of something not having its source in good. We have never fallen from grace so there is no reason to pray to be returned to that state. We're already there! We don't pray for all diet methods to disappear, we just pray to see that they cannot falsely tempt us to rely on them for happiness or wholeness or health.

You have never been put to sleep, so to speak. There's a good beginning for your prayers.

Go in peace.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Pray without ceasing - and then what?

Yesterday I spent the day 'praying without ceasing'. It was an amazing day. This morning I remembered an incident in the Bible that seems the perfect follow up and answers the above question.

In Chapter 12 of the Book of Acts things had been heating up and Herod began persecuting members of this fledgling church. He arrested Peter, their leader, and put him in prison. He assigned many soldiers to keep him there, intending to have him put to death the next day. While this was going on 'prayers were made without ceasing' on his behalf.

Peter, bless his heart, had fallen asleep. He was chained between two soldiers and several more were on guard duty. An angel comes to him, bringing light into the prison. Light chases away darkness and fear. But, bright as it was, it did not awaken Peter. The angel had to poke him in his side, telling him to arise quickly. Lift up your thought as well as your body. And as he did so, the chains fell off. Wouldn't you love that! Here is another result of prayers made for you without ceasing. Whatever it is that is binding you, holding you captive in thought or body, falls away. The angel has more instructions, as Peter must have been just standing there. He is to put on his shoes and his clothes. This prepares thought for action, get ready to move! Expect to be lead forward. Dressed and ready, Peter is told to follow the angel, but he seems to have thought it was all a dream.

They left the prison and came to the gate of the city. Prayer without ceasing lets you leave that which seems to confine you. When Peter was awake and aware, the angel left him. Peter can see clearly that he has been freed from Herod's threats and from those who wished him harm.

What happened next is actually pretty funny, but continues the lesson about praying without ceasing. Peter arrives at Mark's house and knocks on the locked door. A little girl, actually named, which is unusual in the Bible, recognizes his voice. But she doesn't open the door! She runs to tell those who are busy praying. Do they rejoice in this evidence of healing? No. They tell her she is mad. Meanwhile Peter continues pounding on the door until they go to who it is. And they were astonished. Astonished? Why? Isn't this what they had spent all day and night praying for? There must come a time in your prayers that you expect results, and rejoice in the evidence of your healing.

Mrs. Eddy writes that prayer is the constant, conscious capacity to understand God. So praying without ceasing isn't really that difficult. If fear has gotten the better of you, call for some support. A Christian Science practitioner is committed to answering those calls 24/7/365. With a little practice, you will find yourself aware of God's presence. You will see that Principle's laws are always operating on your behalf. Mind is constantly knowing you as whole and happy. Soul keeps all your faculties working perfectly. Spirit is your true substance so you can never lack anything. Life is ever active and you reflect all right activity. Truth instantly cancels any error that tries to insist you are separated from God. Love is cherishing you, protecting you, and comforting you at all times and under all circumstances.

Go in peace.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Talking with God

Yesterday, I spent much of the day in communication with God. It was a concerted effort to keep my thought uplifted and at one with the presence of divine good. I thanked Love often for the many evidences I saw around me of Love's provision. I was grateful for the evidence of divine Mind where I saw intelligence, wisdom, a knowing of good. There were moments of pure delight in the little things and deep appreciation for the big things as well.

It reminded me of two articles I read long ago. One was about a woman's ability to pray without ceasing. That comes from one of Paul's letters where that is the instruction he gives to one of the fledgling churches. This woman turned every simple act of her day into a prayer. When she awoke, she thanked God for life; when she brushed her teeth, she prayed for a clean mouth without angry or judgemental words utterly all day and sweetness going forth. When she put on her makeup, she affirmed that the 'lines were fallen unto her in pleasant places'. As she got dressed, she knew she was putting on the 'whole armor of God' from another of Paul's messages. She went through the whole day aware of Love's presence in all she did.

The other article described how to be in Our Father's presence all day, even if we cannot stop and be quiet in prayer. The writer said, "It is not necessary to be always speaking to God or always hearing from God, to have communion with Him; there is an inarticulate fellowship more sweet than words. The little child can sit all day long beside its busy mother and, although few words are spoken on either side, and both are busy, the one at his absorbing play, the other at her engrossing work, yet both are in perfect fellowship. He knows that she is there, and she knows that he is all right".

What is important is to be conscious that every thing I do is touched by divine Love and that I have Love's blessing and approval. God loves me just as I am. And He should. He made everything wonderful. God made me. So that makes me (and you) wonderful too.

Go in peace.