Monday, December 31, 2007

Goodness has everything to do with it

Are you struggling with something today? This week's Bible lesson may have your answer. I just shared some of its ideas with someone and decided that could be the basis for today's blog. Starting with the Golden Text and running all the way through is the fact of God's goodness. It blesses all of His ideas, eliminates the presence of anything unlike good, denies power to that which would claim to be able to harm us or those we love.

There is an interesting progression in the lesson. We begin with God showing Moses His goodness, letting it pass right before him. This was not literally face to face, but to show this was different from a vision or dream. In the next section, King Nebuchadnezzar is plagued by nighmares. He calls upon all his court wisemen to tell him what they mean but they insist that no one could possible do that. He orders them all put to death, but Daniel intervenes and offers to solve the mystery if the King will give him a little time. Daniel uses this time to pray, he does not attempt to figure it out by human means or methods, he turns to divine Mind. Daniel gets his answer and in turn gives it to the King. But before going to the King Daniel gives thanks to God for His goodness. The next few illustrations concern Jesus and his ability to see good present in all of God's children.

Try spending this day thinking about God's great goodness. Ponder how good fills all space, is the force behind all action, meets every need. Look for evidence of good around you. Know that you, as His image and likeness, reflect goodness yourself. Expect a good outcome.

Go in peace.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Different versions of the Bible

Thank you, anonymous, for that comment on a study for 2008. I love your idea to read a Bible through and the Message Bible is an excellent choice. Mrs. Eddy owned many Bibles and referred to them as she studied. I have about half a dozen myself. The Message Bible in modern English makes for comfortable reading. I have never learned to read another language but am told that it is a challenge to translate things from one language to another because words can have many meanings. I have read the Kings James version right through.

In 2008 I will be giving a series of Bible talks for an assisted living facility in a nearby town. Over the years I have done this in several places, not all Christian Science facilities. This one has a small group of residents of many faiths. I look forward to our walk through the Bible, focusing on the main characters. We begin in January with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

Are any of you involved in Bible study groups? Many moons ago I went through the letters of Paul in Bible Study Fellowship at the invitation of a neighbor. Interesting to hear what others think of Paul and his writings. The best seminar I attended on Paul was given by Laura Pleming. I am also a big fan of Cobby Crisler's Bible talks.

Had a New Year's Day menu all planned but woke up this morning with a whole new concept so will redo my menu ideas. Should be a relaxed day, beginning with the traditional viewing of the Rose Parade. Our church group once got involved in decorating floats. Quite an experience.

Enjoy these last few days of 2007 and think of all the good things that came your way.

Go in peace.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

New Year's Thoughts

Are you feeling optimistic about 2008? There was a time when I would walk along the beach with son Matthew at the end of December and we would share our thoughts about the coming year. It is a natural time to set some goals that we hoped to see realized in the coming year. I remember those talks as very positive.

So, just what is optimism? How does one view life as an optimist? Optimism is usually defined as a tendency to expect the best possible outcome or dwell on the most hopeful aspects of a situation. Another definition is the belief that the universe is improving and that good will ultimately triumph over evil. That makes an optimist one who usually expects a favorable outcome. An early version of Webster's Dictionary gives this wonderful definition: "The opinion or doctrice that everything in nature, being the work of God, is ordered for the best, or that the ordering of things in the universe is such as to produce the highest good".

As a student of Christian Science, I start each day with a calming and comforting prayer for the awareness that acknowledges the allness of God, good. I stay with this until I can feel the presence of God and see how divine Love governs all situations. In a recent Sentinel article the writer felt that prayer can simply be a request to be shown what God has already supplied in abundance to everyone....since to all mankind and in every hour, divine Love supplies all good. (S&H 494) God is also divine Mind, the source of all intelligence, the answer to every challenge.

What most people want is to feel happy. Happy with themselves, the life, their career, their future. A happy person is a joy to be around as they radiate optimism. Because it is based on trusting in Good, an infallible, unfailing, reliable Good. My study of Christian Science and the ways it has impacted my life makes me happy.

After much prayer and listening I have gotten the answer for what I will be studying in 2008 for my own personal spiritual growth. As usual, having done this for over 25 eyars now, the answer was unexpected. I sometimes study Bible characters but that was not how I was directed for next year. As I listened and accepted that answer (I usually think 'that can't be right' the first few times and finally come to see that it is) many ideas came forth. This should be interesting. I will share with you in January. I hope you are thinking about how you can support your own spiritual growth in the coming year. Feel free to share that. I'd love to hear about it. If you haven't tried this, watch the blog in January and I will explain how I go about doing it.

Go in peace, with optimism.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Christmas - Giving and Recieving

As a Journal listed practitioner I get mailings from all the CS facilities around the country. They usually contain inspiring reports of the many healings taking place and the scope of that healing work. Yesterday I got one from The Leaves, located near Dallas, Texas. It included reprints of two articles written by William McCracken, originally printed in the Christian Science Sentinels in 1916-1917.

The first was titled 'Giving and Receiving' and this sentence really stood out to me. It was referring to the response from the field to a call for funds when the extension was being built to The Mother Church. Many branch churches sent the whole of their own building funds. Later they were able to raise funds in unexpected and more expeditious ways. Mr. McCracken says, "They thus proved that by breaking seeming mortal law which attempted to declare that they could not affor to give, they promptly also broke the same law which was trying to prevent them from receiving". What a marvelous statement!

In the other article entitled "Reproving Sham Poverty" he refers to Jesus parable of the talents. We all have gifts and talents given to us by Our Father, although this parable was also about supply. He writes: "This requires, not the reduction of man's dominion but its enlargement, not contraction but expansion, not paucity of ideas but their multiplication, not burying talents but putting them out to interest".

I am so grateful for this 'daily bread' that shows up from unexpected sources and gives me the ideas I need to meet the demands of each day. Another article I was reading directed thought to more spiritual levels. It is on page 387 in S&H. "The history of Christianity furnishes sublime proofs of the supporting influence and protecting power bestowed on man by his heavenly Father, omnipotent Mind, who gives man faith and understanding whereby to defend himself, not only from temptation, but from bodily suffering". Supporting influence. Protecting power. Always present and available.

Go about this final weekend before Christmas filled with the true spirit of giving.

Go in peace.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Chrsitmas and gift giving

I plan to give all kinds of gifts today. My actual Christmas shopping is already done, most of the presents wrapped, those going out of state mailed. So what I want to do today is give freely and joyfully today.

I'll start with my morning prayers and strive to see everyone everywhere embraced in divine Love. There are so many ways to give. I can help with the hectic breakfast round here, lending a hand or a happy thought. As I go about my day I can let someone else go ahead of me in line, point somewhere to where they can find something, smile at a stranger, greet a friend warmly, show kindness, be a place of calm in the midst of chaos. I can take the time to pray for comfort and joy to those who seem without home or hope. I can walk above the storm and invite others into my peace.

Some gifts are for others. Some are for myself. I can stop what I am doing and fully appreciate the beauty of a Christmas carol playing on the radio. I can savor the moment when I open a Christmas card and read the message. I can prepare meals lovingly and with a full heart. I can be so grateful that most of my family is nearby. I can know that there is a special place in my heart and daily thoughts for those who do not. I can be aware of the many gifts God has already showered on me and know that Love is infinite. I can cherish my religion and the right to practice it freely. I can be happy with who I am right now.

See how many gifts you can bestow today. It feels wonderful.

Go in peace.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Christmas and Peace on Earth

Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.

As I listened to Vince Gill sing this carol on the radio this morning, I thought about what that means. Peace on earth begins within me, within my own concept. It stars with how I view myself, my family, my community, my church, my world. It includes all the definitions of peace.

Let it begin with me. Let me have a deep understanding that my life is so much more than just the absence of war or hostility. But that is a good way to start. Overall my life is free from open warfare or active hostility, but it is my job to keep it that way. No warring emotions or motives within myself, certainly no active hostility in my thought toward any person, place or thing. No animosity toward anyone or anything. Let it begin with me.

Peace also means inner contentment and serenity. I would pray about that with the first line of the 23rd Psalm. Peace means I shall not want or be wanting. Especially this time of the year when it is so tempting to wish I had a comfortable savings account, a reliable income stream, a checkbook full enough to buy presents for those I love. I don't have any of those things and haven't had them for the last five years or more. Yet, each Christmas I am pleased with what I can do for my family and friends. This morning I am thinking that the best gift of all is to exude that sense of peace around them during the hustle and bustle of the holiday season. Like ripples in a pond, that one pebble dropped in the water spreads outward and affects everything.

Let it begin with me. If I can understand clearly that I lack nothing and in fact am abundantly blessed with all good I can spread that sense of peace outwardly as well as feeling it inwardly. I have found the way of life that brings me contentment and strength and happiness and yes, peace.

Let it begin with me....and let it begin with you.

Go in peace.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Christmas and Wonder

I hope that you are filled with wonder at this time of the year. There are two definitions of wonder. One is an emotion aroused by something awe-inspiring, astounding or marvelous. The other definition is a feeling of puzzlement or doubt. I pray you approach the holiday season with that first meaning and not the second. In the December 24th issue of the Christian Science Sentinel one writer says it this way: "To me, this quality, whether expressed by a child or an adult, indicates a thought filled with appreciation". Those who study and practice Christian Science agree with another idea she includes in the article, wonder-filled trust in God brings complete healing.

One of our local radio stations plays Christmas music beginning on Thanksgiving day and all the way to Christmas day. I listen to the carols all day long. It would be difficult to say which one is my favorite because I love so many of them. My son Jim played some new ones he found on the internet when I was over there yesterday baking cookies with grandson Sean. Some are so joyous you just have to smile when you hear them. Some are so powerful you just have to be still and listen, like hearing Julie Andrews sing Hark, the herald angels sing. This year I feel a special connection to Josh Groban's beautiful song from The Polar Express, "Believe". One lyric is 'you have everything you need if you just believe'. If you watch that Christmas special it is all about the sense of wonder.

This morning I was led to look closer at one of the Christmas carols that is found in our hymnal. Hymn 222 is O Little Town of Bethlehem. Yesterday I got an email from a Bible resource and research site. Their lead article was questioning where Jesus was born, Bethlehem or Nazareth. Eminent Bible scholars had written opposing opinions. As I read the words of that carol I can picture the scene. It filled me with wonder and also made me wonder who wrote it. So I looked it up in our hymnal concordance and notes book. The author was Phillips Brooks (1835-1893) and he is described as 'the most celebrated contemporary of Mary Baker Eddy during her foundational work in Boston'. To be honest, I never heard of him, but I am going to try to track down the biography referred to written by Bishop Lawrence, Brooks' successor. It begins with Phillips, at the age of 20, 6'4" tall, seeing himself as a failure after trying to teach boys in the Boston Latin School. His mother then encouraged him to take his first communion and then go on to divinity school. He is called to the Church of the Advent in Philadelphia. In 1865 the nation mourned Abraham Lincoln. Brooks' eloquent obituary was published. He spent Christmas of 1865 in Bethlehem, in Palestine and two years later a friend urged him to write a Christmas carol. He eventually became Bishop of Massachusetts. He said that prayer is not conquering God's reluctance, but availing ourselves of His willingness.

Today I will be thinking about wonder and keeping my sense of appreciation active.

Go in wondering peace.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Christmas and the Star

To me, the star is a beacon, a guiding light, physical and spiritual. I tie it in with the first citation in this week's Bible lesson on God, the Preserver of Man. "The Lord our God, he it is that brought us up out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage, and which did those great signs in our sight, and preserved us in all the way wherein we went, and among all the people through whom we passed". (Joshua 24:17) What a wonderful passage and how practical it is when we apply it to our human experience.

There are three distinct types of thought. Where you choose to keep your thinking determines your experience. This passage identifies that first stage, the one where we view ourselves as slaves in 'Egypt', in servitude to a situation, held in bondage to a physical or financial condition. We have all had the 'Egypt' experience. But this is not the reality of Life.

Many find a way of 'being', the system of worship that works for them, and they follow this path out of that first level into the second. It is where we find ourselves in an improved situation, something we can live with or just accept as our lot in life. We wander around at this level, our basic needs met, but still in a 'desert' setting. This is not the reality of Life either.

That third level of understanding is when we realize who we are as the privileged children of God, with all that comes with it. It is when we can feel the presence of Good and know that we stand on holy ground, are in the secret place of the Most High, the Promised Land. In this place, this state of thought, there is no illness, no unhappiness, no lack, no bad relationships, no unsolved problems. When challenges arise, we can meet them with poise and confidence. When thought changes, there is healing and the physical or any other need is met.

The passage tells us that this applies to the way we go and the people we encounter. When we need direction, the way will be clear. If there seems to be blockage of some kind, it will clear. Progress is assured. In traffice. Planning your day. If we can't figure out how to do something, Mind shows us. This passage promises fruitful, pleasant encounters with the people we interact with today. Family. Friends. Customers. Students. Teachers. Sales people. Neighbors. Strangers. Church members.

Let this be your star today and through this holiday season. Expect good.

Go in peace.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Christmas and the Magi

Magi is defined as the religious caste to which the Wise Men belonged. They traveled from the east to worship the infant Jesus. These men were not Jewish, so it is comforting right away to see that the salvation offered is for all mankind, extended to all people.

Since the early Middle Ages they have been called the Three Kings. Psalm 72:10 says "the Kings of Tarshish and of the isles shall bring presents". Isaiah 60:6 says "The multitude of camels shall cover thee, the dromedaries of Midian and Ephah; all they from Sheba shall come: they shall bring gold and incense; and they shall show forth the praises of the Lord". These Kings were given the names of Caspar, Melchior, and Balthasar. The Magi were a priestly caste, one of the six tribes of Media. They worshipped the elements, fire, air, earth, and water. The Magi wore white robes with a tall felt cap. They interpreted dreams and omens.

They are mentioned in Matt 2:1 as Wise Men come from the east. They went to the ruler of that land to ask after the child, continued the search on their own, and found the little family guided by a star. Jesus was now a young child and they were living in a house. It was there that the Wise Men presented their gifts; gold, frankincense and myrr. The gold was probably put to good use when the little family has to flee to Egypt from Herod, determined to kill any threat to his rule. The Wise Men had been warned in a dream not to return to Herod. This could well have come from the angel Gabriel. They had done what they came to do, and departed back to their own country.

Frankincense is the fragrant gum of a tree. It is white in color and was an ingredient in the holy anointing oil with which priests were consecrated. Pure frankinsense was poured upon the loaves of bread left on the altar. Most of those trees grew in India and along the coast of Africa and Arabia. The frankincense itself is a gum resin which dries into 'tears' often an inch long with a balsamic odor, reddish in color when burnt.

Myrrh is a fragrant substance, another ingredient in the oil used to anoint priests. At the crucifixion it was offered to Jesus in wine, probably to deaden pain. It was also used for imbalming the dead. The tree from whose bark it was produced grew in Arabia. These were costly and precious gifts, valuable for trading when the family lived so long in Egypt.

One wonders how this trip changed the Magi. They must have been highly motivated to have traveled so far. They wanted to see with their own eyes this special child. How devoted are we to honoring the Christ and the Christmas season? How far would we travel, even in thought, to be close to the Christ? Does it change your life to know those great tidings? How wise are we in the way we spend this day?

We move on next to the star. It had quite an impact on those who saw it and understood.

Go in peace.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Christmas and the Shepherds

Loving the 23rd Psalm as I do, I love the shepherds that are part of the Nativity. One Bible resource says that they might have been guarding the Temple's sheep. At that point in biblical life animals were sacrificed and given as burnt offerings to send a sweet fragrance to the Lord. Only those sheep that were perfect and free of blemishes, the very best of the flock, were used. They were guarded by those shepherds who were the most spiritual and devout. How appropriate that Gabriel should bring them these 'glad tidings'. No more would there need to be such sacrifices for God was sending His own son to give his life once and for all. And that life would not end in death but in resurrection and ascension.

Shepherds are watchers. Mrs. Eddy often writes that we are to watch and pray. The shepherds devote their life to the care and protection of their flock. They are wakeful shepherds through the night. They see the dawn before those who are asleep. How beautiful that night sky must have been. If you have ever been able to get away from the city and watch the stars undimmed by city lights, it is an amazing sight. One truly glimpses infinity. Imagine that sky filled with luminous stars with one very special star right over Bethlehem. My Matthew used to work at Griffith Observatory. Each holiday season they would have a display about what that star might have been. We'll be expanding on the Nativity with the Magi next and what the stars meant to them.

Gabriel, that busy angel, appears to the shepherds, who are at first fearful. He reassures them, this is not something to fear but a great and wonderful moment. Great tidings of joy. And as they listen to his message, more angels sing out in a heavenly choir. We can have this same experience as we watch for the true meaning of Christmas. The whole world changed with the arrival of that child.

The shepherds went into Bethlehem to see this for themselves. No camera crew present, no media coverage at all. Very few actually knew. And many of them kept quiet about it, protecting Jesus and his family. Those shepherds must have gone back into the hills afterward with much to think about.

When we see evidence of divine Love present in our life, when we see the good in others, when we trust God's maginficent plan, we are being good shepherds. And Gabriel can speak with us as he did with them. Good tidings. The greatest gift ever given. For you.

Go in peace.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Christmas and angels

As one studies the details of the Nativity, there are busy angels all through it. Mrs. Eddy defines angels in part as 'God's thoughts passing to man; spiritual intuitions, pure and perfect." As spiritual messages and messengers few angels are identified by name. But there are several archangels and those mentioned in Science and Health are Gabriel and Michael. Mrs. Eddy interprets their purpose in a way that helps me recognize them, even when they are not named. She says Michael's characteristic is spiritual strength, leading the hosts of heaven against the power of the enemy. Gabriel has a different task, he is the bringer of good tidings, the one who assures those in trouble the Love is a very present help.

In the Nativity, Gabriel speaks first with Zacharias and then his wife Elizabeth bringing the good news that despite years of being barren they are to become parents. Their child will be John the Baptist who will be great in the sight of the Lord and filled with the Holy Ghose. John will baptist with water and prepare thought for the Messiah. Once Elizabeth hears this news she hides herself away for five months. Surely to protect this very special thing that has occured.

Gabriel is sent next to Mary to tell her that she is the virgin from the lineage of David who has been chosen to bear the Messiah. This must have been quite a message for Mary to take in. Gabriel tells her what no one else knows, Elizabeth is pregnant, so Mary goes immediately to see her. When she greets her with joy for the news the angel brought, Elizabeth feels the baby move in her womb. Elizabeth seems to also know about Mary's own news, and that must have come from Gabriel as well. Mary stays with her for three months and then goes home.

We continue the Nativity in Matthew where Gabriel appears to Joseph, who must have been a bit surprised to find Mary three months pregnant. He is reassured, but a new wrinkle appears with the tax imposed by Caesar Agustus. They must travel to Bethlehem where Joseph registers to pay the tax. It is in Bethlehem that Gabriel visits with the shepherds keeping watch over their flock at night. He tells them not to be afraid, he is bringing them wonderful news. The long-awaited Messiah has been born!

There is no reason to think Gabriel visited the Magi. They knew of the birth of Messiah by reading the stars. We will get to the star another day. The last mentions of heavenly visitors is when Gabriel returns to tell Joseph that they must flee into Egypt to avoid Herod's murderous decree. Years later, he will let them know it is safe to return and then they go back home to Nazareth.

So can we expect to hear from Gabriel this holiday season? Yes. As you go through the holiday season there will be many times you need that quiet assurance of the presence of divine Love. At family gatherings. When you are feeling frazzled by crowds. As the list of presents you want to give exceeds your budget. Don't think for one minute that the Antichrist is not busy, especially during the Christmas season, to stir up trouble, discontent, and unhappiness. He will use every trick in his book to turn our attention away from the feelings we have for our siblings, our spouses, our parents, our children, our friends, our coworkers, our church.

Although we haven't mentioned him much, this is where Michael comes in. Know that he is ready and willing to fight those battles, to protect you and your feelings, to guard your love for family and friends, to use all the mighty power he has to help you keep Christmas. Thanks to Michael we can feel all of our goodwill to our fellow man.

Go in peace, accompanied by angels.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

drop that burden

Tis the season. If you are beginning to feel a bit burdened, this might help.

A writer tells of his Mom, who was an anxious person. He would talk with her about this, trying to convince her of the uselessness of fretting, but to no avail. One morning she came down to breakfast wreathed in smiles. He asked her what had happened, and she told him that in the night she had a dream.

She was walking along a highway with a great crowd of people who all seemed tired and burdened. They were all carrying little black bundles. She noticed there were beings dropping these black bundles for the people to pick up and carry. Like the others, she had her needless load and was weighed down. After a while she saw a man with a bright and loving face, passing through the crowd, comforting the people.

At last he came near her. She looked up and told him how tired she was. He smiled and said, "My dear child, I did not give you these loads, you have no need of them. They are just the devil's burdens. Just drop them and you will be borne on eagle's wings". At this point she awoke and was filled with a sense of peace and joy. From that day on she was the most cheerful member of the household.

Are you the most cheerful member of your household? Drop those burdens. They are not coming from divine Love. You don't have to pick them up, much less carry them. Love will carry them for you.

Go in peace.