Wednesday, December 30, 2009

When I was little my family did some 'messing about in boats' but they were small craft with oars or a motor. Recently one of my sons owned a fabulous motor boat where we all spent many happy hours. I have not spent any time on sail boats. But I am always aware of those passages in the New Testament where boats are mentioned. Peter owned boats and had partners in the fishing trade. They were familiar with being out on the water at all hours and under all weather conditions. Paul made many voyages around the Mediterranean.

As we approach a new year, it is almost like taking our craft out of the protected harbor and beginning a new voyage. One can feel a bit becalmed in the harbor, setting sail near the shore, but when the wind arises out in the open water it is a different story. Each new year is a new opportunity, a trust placed on us to use our gifts and talents, a time to grow. It may often seem like the wind is in your face, holding you back, making you struggle. And those very conditions the disciples saw Jesus walking on that same water. He was showing us that we can choose to stay above the waves and calm the storm. In one instance, when he joined them in the boat they were instantly at their destination. The Christ was with them so time and distance could not hold them back or hinder their progress.

This is the time to prepare to leave the harbor. No good sailor would launch out without being sure everything was in order and the supplies were on board. He would have charted his course. He would have chosen his destination. Make your plans for 2010 as if you were going on a cruise. Don't let negative thoughts, adverse conditions, or poor preparation turn you back.

It's going to be a wonderful trip.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The New Year and green pastures

This morning I awoke with the words of Hymn 148 singing in my mind. This beautifully written poem by Anna Waring (1830-1910) is a constant source of inspiration. I love to pray with this hymn.

It opens with the affirmation that because I abide in heavenly Love I won't fear change. To abide is to reside permanently in one place. So many are facing challenges with home and employment issues as we come to the end of 2009. Many are fearful of what lies ahead. This poem reminds us that change is a part of the continual unfolding of the good God has already prepared for us. Change does not have to be a bad or a negative thing at all. We certainly do not need to fear it. It is progress and progress and forward movement are part of Principle, God's law of good.

I love to think of the part that says 'the storm may roar without me' as 'the storm may roar without my participation'. Storms happen. It is not the storm, but how we react to it that matters. Jesus stilled storms. We never need to feel dismayed by what the world is stirring up around us.

The second verse begins with 'wherever He may guide me, no want shall turn me back'. Be sure you take time each morning to pray for yourself and to include this thought in that prayer. God is guiding you at all times and under all circumstances. Wherever He is taking you, He knows the way and would never put you in danger nor make a false promise of good that remains unfulfilled. It goes on to say that 'no want shall turn me back'. No lack shall hinder your advancement. No longing shall hold you back or keep you from seeing the good that is right at hand. Include that in your prayer as well.

Verse Three continues to echo Psalm 23 with the idea of 'green pastures'. What a refreshing and rich metaphor. Lush fields filled with tasty clover. Soothing to the eye. Abundance as far as the eye can see. A soft and comfortable place to rest and be feed. The Shepherd is on watch and you can know you are guarded and protected all day long from anything that would attempt to threaten you. You won't have to deal with it, that's the Shepherd's job. We are lead to and can rest in green pastures each and every day. We don't create them, God does that.

As this year winds to a close, it is good to reflect on all the good that has come our way. It is good to express that gratitude to friends and family. Don't leave God out. Thank Him often. Look ahead to a good year about to start, filled with promise and spiritual growth, rich with opportunites to use the gifts and talents He has given you in the ways He will open.

Expect green pastures.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

just who was he?

For unto you is born this day in the city of David, a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. (Luke 2:11)

It occured to me that none of the disciples were present when Jesus was born. They didn't even know about him until 30 years later. So where do all the details of the Nativity come from? I think we owe Luke the thanks for that. He gathered eye witness accounts of all that happended and that included Mary's memories.

Jesus was born in the humblest of circumstances but the air above was filled with an angel chorus. The little family was in a nondescript stable or cave but a bright star drew kings to honor his arrival. His birth was contrary to the laws of life, his death was contrary to the laws of death. He did not own wheat fields or a fleet of fishing ships and yet he fed multitudes...twice...with left overs. He did not own a home laid with lush carpets but he walked on water, supported by divine Love. When he died, few mourned the event, but millions know about him now. Sin never touched him. Those who tried to put him in a grave learned that his body rose again, no dust to dust but the child of Genesis One.

Was he merely the son of Mary and Joseph who lived 2,000 years ago and had a brief career as a healer and teacher? Or is he so much more than that. Is he the greatest gift we have ever been given?

Yes, he is. He did it all for us. Your burden has been lifted. Your sin has been forgiven. Your life has been redeemed. It is not about Christmas presents, it is all about Christmas presence. Christmas is all about God's gift of love. How many presents do you choose to leave unopened? Open this one and rejoice.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Bless this house

When I was a child I remember a small plaque my mom had on the wall in our kitchen. It is amazing to me that those words have stayed with me all these years. I never knew where they were from and assumed it was something from the Bible. They came back to me this week as I prayed for harmony in these final days before Christmas and peace in these final weeks of 2009.
This morning, on a whim, I typed the first line on Google and up came the entire thing. It turns out is from a song written in 1927 that was later recorded by some of the top singers of my parents era; Perry Como, Rosemary Clooney, Myron Floren, Mahalia Jackson, Kate Smith, to name a few. I don't remember ever hearing it as a song but that first line made an impressin on me all those years ago and I prayed with it in many forms all day yesterday. Here are the words to the song.

Bless this house, Oh Lord we pray
Make it safe by night and day
Bless these walls so firm and stout
Keeping want and trouble out

Bless the roof and chimneys tall
Let Thy peace lie over all
Bless this door that it may prove
Ever open to joy and love

Bless these windows shining bright
Letting in God's heavenly light
Bless the hearth, a-blazing there
With smoke ascending like a prayer

Bless the people here within
Keep them pure and free from sin
Bless us all that we may be
Fit , Oh Lord, to dwell with Thee

Bless us all that we, one day
may dwell with Thee, Oh Lord, we pray

Bless this house, Oh Lord, I pray and make it safe by night and day. Enable me to know that You bless this home and everyone in it at all times and under all circumstances, that every hour we may overcome evil with good. Let me think of 'house' as my consciousness or spiritual awareness so that I ask Your blessing on all my thoughts all day and all night. Let them all be in accord with what divine Mind is knowing. Bless this household for I dealy love everyone within it and am grateful for its shelter and protection and beauty. Help me understand how safe we all are in Your tender loving care. Bless this house today.

I am so glad this came back to thought after all those years. It is just as powerful now as it was then and it awakened the child in me.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

'Children of Israel Camp' syndrome

As we continue reading about the Children of Israel being let go from the slavery of Egypt, they have left it behind and headed for a Promised Land of their own. It isn't long before they encounter two major problems. They come to the Red Sea stretching out before them and there doesn't seem to be a way forward. They are being persued by the Egyptians who changed their mind and want the slaves back. The waters part and they go over on dry ground while their enemies are destroyed. Huge. Then.....there is a giant 'now what?'

In a very short time that wonder is forgotten and they begin to 'murmur'. How many of us seem to be in the 'Children of Israel Camp' where all we do is complain because nothing seems to be happening. You even find yourself questioning why you are on this journey in the first place. God continues to teach them lessons. They overcame an insurmountable enemy threatening them from without and now they must confront one from within, hunger and thirst. The bigger fear behind that is that their human needs will not be met. Who is going to provide food and water in the middle of nowhere? Once again divine Love provides an answer, this time one that shows up each and every day for the next 40 years. It seems it will be two generations growing up outside of the influence of slavery and false gods before they are truly ready to love their Promised Land. They need time to know and love their God. Having made the decision to rely on Christian Science, maybe even having some insurmountable problem healed, we soon find ourselves in that 'camp' mentality and questioning if we are taking the right path. We need to see this new way of life, of Life, practical and tangible day by day. Mrs. Eddy writes in the preface of Science and Health: "To those leaning on the sustaining infinite today is big with blessings." No waiting. God is a very present help in trouble.

You have found Christian Science...or it has found you. You may have hit that first obstacle that you simply could not deal with humanly and had divine intervention 'part the sea'. Now, don't enroll in Children of Israel Camp and start complaining or questioning. Continue to remember how you felt as you 'walked through on dry ground'. Believe in the promise. Believe in the Promiser.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

God preserves us - going out and coming in

Our Father not only created us in His own image and likeness, He preserves us in that perfect state. This week's Bible Lesson starts with that keynote to be strong and not to be afraid or dismayed. Many seem to be struggling with all three of these claims. That Bible verse from Joshua ends with a reminder that God, divine Love, is with us wherever we go. As we get in to the first section of the lesson, Psalm 121 says that God will preserve our 'going out and our coming in.' The New Living Translation says God will watch over you as you come and go, both now and forever. The Message Bible translates that as 'He guards you when you leave and when you return, He guards you now, He guards you always.' There is a practical thought that you can use as you go about your busy day during this holiday season. It gives you strength.

I was reading an excellent article in this week's Christian Science Sentinel about Church in Action. The author had gradually stopped attending services and soon came to feel that he had stopped growing spiritually as well. As he prayed, he felt he needed to return to his local branch church, despite all the reasons that he had stopped attending in the first place. He did but he was always late and soon he was showing up late for other things as well. One Sunday an usher took time to talk with him about his 'dismay' and assured him that he was always in his right place. No obstacle could prevent him from being where he needed to be. As he listened to the rest of the service he gained much inspiration. That was the end of the chronic lateness at church and elsewhere. God preserved his going out and his coming in.

We read a lot about Moses in this lesson beginning with his experience by the burning bush. God had an assignment for Moses. Forty years earlier, Moses had been adopted by Pharoah's daughter when all Hebrew male children were being killed. He had been raised as a prince but forced to flee for his life when he killed an overseerer who beating a Hebrew slave. He had spent those years tending the flock of his father-in-law in a rural area. Now God wanted him to go back and confront Pharoah, who was to let the Hebrew slaves go free. Moses was a bit taken aback. He was the embodiment of feeling afraid and dismayed. But God assured him that he was anointed and appointed to this task and God would be with him all the way. He would preserve his going out and his coming in.

I am going to write out God's assurance and keep it with me all day today as I go out and come in. 'Certainly I will be with thee'. It's a certain thing. I really like that idea. It can work for you as well.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

advent and the nativity

Today is the first day of the Advent season. My son Jim and his family started a tradition for me by giving me a beautiful wooden train with advent doors built right in. They present the train during Thanksgiving weekend and I set it up with my Christmas decorations. Then starting on December 1st I open the little compartments. Last year, along with a tiny hand-written scroll by family members I got a piece of Dove chocolate. This year, it appears it will be M&Ms. I store the train with my Christmas decorations and return it to them in November of the following year.

I love the whole holiday season and I hope people describing me would say 'she knows how to keep Christmas well.' Several years ago I devoted time and study to the Nativity, the story of Jesus' birth and it was a wonderful and rewarding experience. I started that because of what Mrs. Eddy says in Miscellaneous Writings: "It is most fitting that Christian Scientists memorize the nativity of Jesus." I made a list of the things I considered important about the nativity story; the angels, the shepherds, the Magi and their gifts, the star, Bethlehem, etc. I hope that in the hustle and bustle of holiday preparations everyone finds quiet moments to think about those things and feel connected with what we are really celebrating.

It fits right in with this week's Bible Lesson on God as the only Cause and Creator and the Goldent Text inviting us to 'come' and 'see'. Come to Christmas with the delight of a child and see the wonder of the season. Agree with Scrooge's nephew that this is the one time in the year when all hearts are open to the welfare of others. If you don't own a copy of Dicken's A Christmas Carol...go right out and buy one. It divides into sections as Scrooge is introduced and then has his encounters with the Spirits. Make the commitment to set aside time to read it without any other distractions. Fix a cup of hot chocolate to sip as you read. You will be doubly warmed. Incidently, it makes a wonderful read aloud book. One year we made a project out of it and recorded it as a family using a radio script complete with our own sound effects. What a hoot. There are several DVD versions of the story as well. I especially like the one with Patrick Stewart as Scrooge and the Albert Finney musical version. And I must watch the Muppet's Christmas Carol several times with Michael Caine. He may be my favorite Scrooge.

So as we move into December there are two reading assignments for you. Read the nativity as given in the Bible. Use several translations. Read A Christmas Carol, the ultimate story of a life redeemed. Savor both stories.

Hear the angels sing.