Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Cain offering...or Abel offering?

Our Bible lesson this week, on Unreality, includes parts of the two Genesis stories of creation. Christian Science holds with the first account where God created man in His own image and likeness. God sees work is done, He sees all of His creation and pronouces it very good. The second account presents a second version of creation, this one material with a different view of God and His children.

What interested me this morning is the story of Cain and Abel, sons of Adam and Eve. Both of them prepared an offering for the Lord God. Abel, a keeper of sheep, brings him the firstlings of the flock. His gift is accepted and honored. Cain apparently throws together a basket of vegetables. The Lord God is not pleased with this. I don't think it was the offering itself that mattered. After all, they were only giving back what really belonged to Him in the first place. I think it was the spirit in which the offering was prepared and presented, the love behind it, and the gratitude. Cain made little or no effort. When chastized, instead of doing a better job, he seeks out his brother and kills him.

I have to ask myself, just what am I bringing as an offering to God today? How much time and effort am I putting in to make this gift a true 'thank you'. What am I willing to put into that basket? Those who dwell in or on matter cannot please God. Those who dwell in and on things spiritual, do please God. We must listen less to our physical senses and their opinions and complaints and more to the angel messages coming from divine Mind.

What will you offer today?

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

About 'creeping' things

I took Ian and Katie Rose to a thrift shop this morning. We hoped to find Ian a bigger tricycle. Nope. But we did find him a Batman cape and he has been flying around the house all afternoon. He has a habit of knocking Katie Rose over several times a day. Now I could say, 'super heroes don't do that', and it might make an impression. All over the thrift shop we spotted things for Halloween. I also noticed aisles of things at the supermarket. Some of the costumes are downright creepy!

I was reminded of a spiritual lesson about masks. When those little trick-or-treater's come to the door, no matter how gruesome the mask, you know who that is underneath and do not accept the outward appearance as the reality. A good reminder to not be fooled by 'creepy' things.

Today I was reading an article Jack Hubbell, a Christian Science teacher I greatly admire. In it he talks about how Christian Science views time, and aging. The concept of passing time is how we often see ourselves, or those we love, as aging. Without time, there would be no aging. Mrs. Eddy writes in Science and Health about a woman, disappointed in love, who waited every day for her lover to return. Unaware of the passing of time, those who saw her at the window mistook her for someone in their twenties, when in fact she was in her eighties.

Age seems to creep up on us. It is one of those 'creeping things upon the earth' referred to in Genesis. But God has given His child dominion over all the creeping things of the earth. Think what value that has if you apply it to a creeping waist line, a creeping up debt, or a creeping illness. You can know that God has given you dominion over this. You just have to claim it.

I keep this taped to my computer:
Answers to Questions of Inquirers in Regard to Christian Science.
by Mary Baker Eddy.
"Is it possible to change the aged form to one of youth, beauty, and immortality, without the change called death?"
In proportion as the law of Truth is understood and accepted, it obtains in the personality as well as character. The deformities and infirmities said to be the inevitable results of age, under the opposite mental impressions, disappears. You change the physical manifestation in proportion to your changed thoughts of the effects of accumulative years; expecting an increase of usefulness and vigor from advanced years with as much faith as you look for decrepitude and ugliness, a favorable result would be sure to follow. The added wisdom of age and experience is strength, not weakness, and we should understand this, expect it, and know that it is so, then it would appear.

Don't be afraid of 'creeping things', know instead that you have dominion over them.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

So that's Job's problem...I 'see'

This week's Bible lesson on Reality brings out the importance of how we 'see' or understand what is really going on. We must 'see' through God's eyes. Understand His creation as He made it, including ourselves.

Once, Job was the subject of my year-long study. I was always puzzled by just what it was that he had been doing wrong. It seemed so unfair for him to suffer all those losses and be in such discomfort. It didn't match up with my concept of God as divine Love if Job could have such afflictions just to win a bet with the devil. So, I decided to dig into the Responsive Reading part of our lesson, where first Elihu and then Job are speaking. It has helped me 'see' this story a bit better, reminding me of what I learned in the study years ago.

Elihu, one of Job's friends that has come to commiserate with him in all his distress, has charged Job with saying that there is no advantage to being righteous. Sometimes when we find ourselves in pretty dire straits and can't figure out why this is happening to us, we might be tempted to take that same line of reasoning. "I've been pretty good, I go to church often, I read the lesson during the week, I don't break any of the Commandments. I've even prayed about this situation and yet, nothing changes and here I am in this mess. Why should I be good all the time if I'm going to end up struggling this much?" Elihu responds to that in this speech, maintaining the wisdom of God's rule. God's purpose, according to Elihu, is to improve man and teach him, to purify him. Later in the lesson we will have the Beatitude about the pure in heart 'seeing' God.

Elihu has reminded Job to look up, to raise his thought, and 'see' the wonder of God in all His glory. 'See' His wisdom and strength. That is what we are to behold, not the so-called wisdom and power of evil or error. Right in the midst of our troubles we need to stand still and turn our thought to Him, away from the problem. God is real, the problem is not. He never created it, we did.

What I came to 'see' about Job was that his faults were pride of intellect and pride of his innocence. He studied the Word diligently, but did not express the spirit of it. He believed himself pure and innocent, but he spent his days sacrificing at the temple for the sins he saw in his children. He believcd in God but did not trust in His goodness. We can identify with that. We 'hear' about God, but do we really 'see' what God is, do we get the allness of Good and the nothingness of anything unlike good. If God didn't create it, then it can't be real, it can't have power, it is not the boss of us. God is. And He loves us unconditionally, every moment of every day. He does not turn away from us, we turn away from Him. This lesson is a call to turn back, look up, and 'see'.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Keeping calm watch

Things have changed here on the home front. I have agreed to 'watch' Ian, aged almost-five, and Katie Rose, turned one last July 4th, while Kristen has gone back to work full time. They are good kids and we live together so it wasn't that much of a change for them. Although it is obvious that they both miss their Mommy. The bigger change is for me, adjusting my daily activities so that I am always meeting their needs. The first week has had its ups and downs. My car is still waiting to get the battery recharged so I am using a different, unfamiliar car. This week I had several things already scheduled. This morning we went over to a book store with granddaughter Lauren and this afternoon I will be leaving them with my son, Jim, while I go out to an assisted living facility to give a talk. Every day was pretty full. Today I was feeling a bit off balance with it all and decided to use the time while Katie Rose is napping to pray. What came to me was that what I am doing is 'keeping calm watch'. What an angel message!

All day today I will be 'keeping' my watch. It is an opportunity to use the spiritual qualities I reflect from divine Love. It is seeing the motherhood of God in operation for me and for the kids. Choosing to devote the day to their needs but to also stay on a spiritual wave length is 'keeping' my watch. It means I can take whatever calls for spiritual healing might come, even if I am changing Katie Rose at the time!

The key word is 'calm'. Early in my study of Christian Science I prayed to be more patient. Not a quality I expressed previously. I looked up that word in the dictionary and love this: patience is expecting good calmly. So, no matter what comes up each day, I can deal with it calmly. The kids certainly react better when I stay calm, keep my voice level, and listen for divine guidance before I move forward. It happened all morning. I would just pause and say, "Father, let me feel Your calm around me right now" and I would. It was really neat.

In Hymn #3, the third verse is about a grateful heart being like a temple 'where angels of His presence keep calm watch by day or night'. I will add that to my prayer arsenal. I expect things will settle in a bit more next week when we have to add reading room hours into the mix and a Wednesday service.

I think I'll just stay calm and let divine Mind show the way.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

the realm of God

Started the day with a little lesson in humility. I had picked up an issue of the Christian Science Sentinel where the focus was on the new school year. Glancing through it, I didn't see anything that jumped out at me for study. Whenever that happens, I know right away what is at work. It is just error's attempt to keep me from something of great value. So I picked it up again and looked for my angel message. I found it in an article I had dismissed earlier. Written by a teacher, it is about some of her experiences with teaching over the years.

What captured my full attention was her description of being assigned to an English class, not her field of expertise, filled with unruly teen agers. She would climb the three floors to that class room with the noise of their behavior getting louder and louder. They actually threw a chair ove the banister as she was coming up the stairs. That is when she stopped and reached out to God as she hadn't before.

We all have 'chair throwing' moments. We find ourselves faced with a situation that has been slowly spiraling out of control. It might be a relationship issue, or finances, a weight gain, or an illness. Some crisis occurs and then we stand still and reach out to divine Love for help. When she did, her fear left. That is always the first thing we have to overcome. It happens when we realize that we are not alone, God is with us, right there. She remembered a line Mrs. Eddy wrote "Like the archpriests of yore, man is free to enter into the holiest, the realm of God". (page 481) She also was able to see that the only child present in that realm was the child of God. She didn't have to impose control over the situation, God did it. The kids all sat down and things turned around.

So that is the angel message for me today. No matter where I am, no matter what I am doing, I am in the realm of God. Only good is present there. Everyone there is the child of God, me included. God is in absolute control of the situation. I love to learn lessons like this. Now I feel better prepared for whatever this day will bring. Thanks to the author of that article, thanks to the editors of the Sentinel. Thanks to divine Love for showing me this truth.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Tares and wheat

This week's Bible lesson on 'Matter' contains a familiar parable, the tares and the wheat. As I prayed with this story today I decided to think of the wheat, the good seed, as truthful thoughts about God and His children. Thoughts based on the creation account given in Genesis One, where God saw all that He had made, including man in His own image and likeness, as very good. I would think of the tares as anything that presents or suggests something unlike God or good.

That puts me in the role of the person who sowed good seed in my field. That field is my own consciousness and includes my body, my home, my family, my friends, my church. So that today I am 'sowing' only good and right thoughts about myself and everyone around me. In the parable it says that something comes along while 'men slept'. To me, that would be like reading the lesson in the morning, and then letting my thoughts drift away from its teaching into a place where I was not alert to wrong ideas or bad thoughts. We need to stay awake and alert during the day. The 'enemy' would try to slip in evil suggestions disguised as our own thoughts or hidden in some tv ad or idle conversation. The 'fruits' of this may not appear at once but pop up days or weeks later.

In the parable, the sower's servants see what has happened and come to him. In my prayers I see this as someone coming to me and wondering how problems seem to have popped up in my life, when I am supposed to be only sowing 'good seed'. This is when others doubt Christian Science and press you to explain just what you are doing wrong. But the sower in the parable doesn't take personal responsibility for error. He knows that this is the work of the 'enemy', not something he himself has done wrong.

When others see us dealing with a problem they sometimes think we need to be taking some visible action. And they are usually full of advice on just what it is they think we should be doing. They are all for charging in and pulling it all out by the roots. But the wise sower knows that the leaven of Truth is already at work, he or she has chosen to rely on God and His allness. Prayer does not return to us void or ineffective. But we need to be willing to trust and be patient. As we continue to grow spiritually, as we continue to pray and listen, Truth becomes clearer to us. We see the Original and are no longer fooled by any impersonations.

As we arrive at this point of understanding we are ready for the harvest, the healing. At that time we see error for the nothingness it is, aware that it does not come from God, and therefore is without power or reality. It is as useless as weeds, and as easily recognizable. On the other hand, we see the value of the 'wheat'. This is our harvest. And at that point the error or problem disappears.

I love praying with the parables. Let me know if you are working with this one and how it is expanding for you.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

What will you profit by today?

The dictionary defines profit as an advantageous gain or return, a benefit. In this week's Bible lesson on 'Substance' each section begins with a phrase about profit. So I decided to look for just what each person gained or benefited, how they learned more of what true substance is.

To profit from an experience one must also be a prophet or spiritual seer. One must begin with God as all there really is. There is nothing else. The three Hebrew boys knew that and they chose to disobey Nebuchanezzar's law and to only obey God's law. When they were punished by being tossed into the fiery furnace they emerged unharmed. So they profitted by learning that their true life and substance belonged to God and nothing could ever take it from them.

A widow turned to Elisha for help when her husband died and she could not meet her debts. She was about to lose her sons as well to the creditors. Elisha's answer was for her to borrow more, in the form of empty pots, and to then fill these from the only thing she thought she had left, one pot of oil. Her supply was only limited by the number of pots she borrowed as she filled them all and was able to pay her debt. She profitted by learning that her reliance was not on her husband, her sons, or Elisha, but only on God, good, who supplied her needs in abundance.

Solomon contacted a neighboring kingdom to ask for the supplies he needed to build a temple for God. This could not have happened when the land was at war, but now that they were at peace, he moved forward. His offer was to send his own servants to help and to pay fairly the servants of his neighbor. The agreement blessed both sides. Solomon profitted by seeing that his substance was from God and he had all he needed plus enough to be generous to his neighbor.

The man at the Pool of Bethesda thought he was without help to get the healing he needed. He told Jesus he had no man to help him. Yet there was the Messiah, right in front of him. His healing was instantaneous. He profitted by seeing the true source of healing was not in some random act of nature or with the aid of others, nor at the whim of chance. His true substance restored harmony and health.

The story of the tribute money is only given in the book of Matthew, which is not surprising as Matthew had been a tax collector when Jesus invited him to become a disciple. The half-shekel or Temple tribute was a customary tax towards the maintenance of the Temple services. Every male Israelite above the age of twenty was required by law to pay this annually. Jesus knew he was exempt from such a tax but chose to pay it., so that the creditors, who did not know he was the Son of God, would not get the false impression that he dishonored the Temple, thus hindering his ability to convert them. Jesus tells Peter how to get the money, from a fish's mouth, and that coin was enough to pay for both of them. In Jesus' case, a condensation, in Peter's a debt. The result is that the money appeared and the debt was paid. Peter profitted by this demonstration of God's power.

Although these events took place over 2,000 years ago, they are wonderful to read about, inspiring to contemplate, and just as possible for us today...if we choose to profit by them.

What will you profit by today?

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Seven times...seven synonyms

There are many ways to handle our challenges through prayer. One of the ones that appeals to me is what I call the Jericho approach. The children of Israel had finally made it into the Holy Lands. As they advanced into the country the first big city they came to was Jericho. They were to take possession of this city but they were coming off of 40 years wandering in the wilderness. They were not a trained army. But what they had was faith in their God and His direction. Joshua was a good listener and he followed through with obedience. God's commands sounded a bit odd, but Joshua followed them to the letter. All the people were to march around Jericho with the Ark of the Covenant leading the way. March completely around the city and then return to camp. Six days in a row. One wonders how the people inside the city reacted to that? They were to repeat this on the seventh day with a few additions. Each of them carried a light, covered over. They were to march silently until Joshua gave them the signal and then shout a great shout and uncover the lights. God told them He had given them this city. He told them they already had the victory. When they did this, the walls fell down flat and they were victorious.

When we are faced with something that may seem as difficult to conquer as a mighty fortified city, when we feel like we just don't have what it takes spiritually to deal with it, we can look at this story. Imagine that you chose to become calm and still. Imagine that you worked your way around the problem using each of the seven synonyms for God; Principle, Mind, Soul, Spirit, Life, Truth and Love. Taking the time you needed to see just what each of them represent and the qualities they express in direct reference to your challenge. By the time you got to the seventh one the light of Truth is shining strongly. All you have to do is shout with joy for the problem has been handled, God has given you what you needed. Victory is yours. Those impenitrable walls will fall down flat because God is the only power there is and nothing can oppose Him and stand. Your job is to witness this, to use this as an opportunity to see God in action. Strenthen your faith. Learn to claim a present victory when there are no signs of it being accomplished. God's plan is under way, is in operation. It doesn't mean literally seven days to healing. Just seven ways to reinforce that nothing is impossible to God, at all times and under all circumstances.

So get busy and don't forget to shine your light and shout!