Friday, December 28, 2012

My best gift

We are slowly started the transition away from all the Christmas decorations, finishing up the rest of the Christmas cookies and goodies, getting ready to put away the Christmas music, etc.. I like to do this gradually and think about how Christmas went this year. So this morning I am also getting ready to sit down and write thank you notes. That started me thinking about some of the wonderful gifts I have recieved over the years. And this year was no exception.

The best gift this year started with a phone call from my Matthew in California saying he and Emily wanted to drive out to Elsah and spend Christmas here with our family. We haven't been together in a while, although we keep in contact by emails and phone calls, so this was very welcome news. They have raised Emily's daughter, Cielle, who is now a senior in college and a very busy young lady. She had plans of her own. They are not used to being around young children, like our Katie Rose (6) and Ian (9) so it was a bit of an adjustment to see how the things going on revolve around accomodating children. They also have a different work schedule and do not usually get up early, unlike our household that normally has to have the kids to the school bus at 6:45. So we did not know how early they would be over here from the hotel where they were staying. We had several strategies to keep the little ones occupied until Matt and Emily arrived.

Christmas morning I awoke at my usual 5:30 and had some quiet time for study and prayer. Part way through I decided to get some warm tea as it was cold in my room. So I went into the kitchen and then stepped into the living room to be sure the lights were lit on the tree. Imagine my surprise and delight to find the two of them sitting on the couch in their pajamas! They got up early, drove over, let themselves in and were waiting patiently to see who would be up first. We had a good laugh and I was now in on the joke so I joined them as we waited for the rest of the family. I considered that one of the best gifts and I will remember how that felt for a long time.

But I also have been so happy with this week's Bible Lesson on Christian Science. It begins with a passage from II Corinthians, written by Paul. "Thanks be unto God for His unspeakable gift".  It shows the prophecies about the Messiah in the Old Testament that were then fulfilled in the New Testament in the life and teachings of Jesus, along with his healing ministry. It continues with New Testament prophecies of the Comforter who will come. This Comforter arrived in the discovery of Christian Science by Mrs. Eddy and her own healing ministry. She has written Science and Health which all may read and study. It came into my own life and now I have a healing ministry as well.  It has changed me and blessed me and enriched everything about my life. It is indeed an unspeakable gift from God, the source of all good. And it is the greatest gift I have ever recieved. I will spend time today writing thank you notes, a nice long one to Matt and Emily, and certainly send my deep thanks to God all day today for the best gift of all, knowing that I am His beloved child and completely loved.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Fruitful fields and forests

We are experiencing the truth of Isaiah's words, Isa 29:17, "Is it not a very little while, and Lebanon shall be turned into a fruitful field, and the fruitful field shall be esteemed as a forest?"

As we all looked at our budget, along with some unexpected car repairs, we voted not to exchange presents among the adults this year, but to do fun stocking stuffers. When we moved here last summer we left behind our old tattered Christmas tree. The one we bought here turned out to be quite a bit smaller. It stands in front of a lovely picture window in our living room and that makes it seem even smaller. But this house has a real fireplace and hooks already in place for hanging stockings.

As we treasure and appreciate all the ways we are choosing to celebrate Christmas, and some of the best was seeing our little kiddos perform in their school programs, along with a community hymn sing, we are finding much to be grateful for. The focus shifted from getting to giving and I, for one, found lots of fun things for the stockings.

But just the past few days our 'Lebanon' turned into a fruitful field when box after box arrived with presents from other family members. A fruitful field indeed! In fact, a veritable forest of gifts to surround the tree and overflow the stockings. It is humbling and very, very dear to see this outpouring of love and Love.

I became aware of a need and with the Christmas money I had saved up and then not used I was able to quietly help out someone who just didn't see how they could meet an obligation.

A fruitful field returns so much more than the original seed that had been planted. It multiplied as healthy plants grew and produced bumper crops. I love the imagery of a field of plants ready to harvest that looked for all the world like a huge forest. Much more than was expected.

This is a lesson I will long remember. It can be used in every facet of my experience and I know it will expand out to bless others as well. Mrs. Eddy writes: "When man is governed by God, the ever-present Mind who understands all things, man knows that with God all things are possible". (S&H p.180)

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

What an interesting contrast in this week's Bible Lesson on Christ Jesus. We see how people reacted to learning that the Messiah had come. Joseph is not at first prepared to accept this pregnancy but is unwilling to see Mary mistreated. He gets a visit from an angel, most likely Gabriel, and is reassured that this is indeed a holy child from the Lord. The Wise Men or Magi read of his coming in the stars and immediately set out on a long journey to follow the star and pay him homage. They find him and present costly gifts, which are going to come in handy very soon. King Herod is very upset when the Magi ask him if he knows where they can find the child. His reaction once they do not return with the information is to order the death of all little boys 2 years old and younger in an attempt to eliminate this rival. Simeon, a just and devote reader of the Old Testament has been promised that he will live to see the arrival of the Messiah and he recognizes Jesus when Mary and Joseph bring him to the Temple. His response is deep joy and gratitude.

How are we reacting or responding during the days and weeks leading up to Christmas? Are we cherishing this news and eagerly anticipating more of the Christ in our own lives? It is a wonderful time to pray daily for those who are traveling over the holidays. It is a time to quiet all the Herod-like thinking we hear being expressed by those who just think Christmas is a hassle and bother. It is a time to prepare our own gifts with a renewed thought about what we are giving and why. Are we loving generously and receiving graciously? Do we spare a moment each day to ponder the Scriptural account of the Nativity?

May your day be merry and bright and filled with love for the Christ and its message of peace on earth, good will toward men.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Praying about Sandy Hook

This morning I continue to pray about what happened in Sandy Hook. It was so shocking and awful that I have had to 'pray without ceasing' to rise above the material picture into the sunlight of peace and the conviction of ever-present good. It is a normal human response to immediately reach out and gather our own little ones close, to thank God that they are with us safe and sound, and to pour out compassion for those families affected by this tragedy.

As I pray about how to respond I am reminded of Jesus being confronted with the picture of an insane man roaming around a grave yard, moaning and weeping. That man had turned violent and the authorities had even been forced to put chains on him. But in his inconsolable grief he broke those and continued to threaten anyone who came near. This did not stop Jesus from reaching out to this man with great compassion and tender mercy.

Jesus asks him for his name. Perhaps he is helping him recall who he really is, his true identity. The man's response is heart breaking. I am Legion, for the demons are many. Some Bible commentaries suggest he had been the captain of a troop sent into battle from which he was the only survivor. His guilt had driven him mad. Whatever was behind his actions, he was haunted by the demons of his past and unable to leave the place where the dead were buried. He could find no way to get past the tragic events, leave them behind, and go on.

The Bible account takes a strange turn when the man begs Jesus to cast out these demonic thoughts, letting them possess a flock of swine grazing on a nearby hillside. Jesus gives his permission for the 'demons' to depart but he does not direct them to the swine. The swine panic and stampede over the cliffs to their death. The swineherds, responsible for them, run to town and blame this tragedy on the man. It is hard to think that he needed to see physical evidence that the demons were gone before he could begin to let go and heal.

All we know is that when everyone arrives to see what has happened, they find the man, sitting with Jesus, clothed and in his right mind. I think this is what I was meant to ponder, how the Christ came to this man when no one else could help him, reminded him who he really was, calmed the guilt and shame that lead to violent actions against the innocent. I know I will be more alert to what is going on around me, more open to the one crying out for help or silently suffering some inner pain. I will not let an opportunity pass where I can help someone remember who they are as the beloved child of God, not matter how far they believe they have fallen or how desperate they are for forgiveness.

Mrs. Eddy describes it as 'earth's troubled angry sea', the violence of winds and waves that threaten to destroy.(hymn 253) But Jesus walked right over those seas, coming to those who were crying out for help and salvation. We can all see that Christ coming to us to tenderly divinely talk, to calm the storm and waves of fear and grief.

Be tender hearted to all around you today. Do not turn away when you can extend a helping hand, a word of comfort, a hug or smile. Good is not helpless, Love is present. Send a loving thought to those dealing with this event. We are all a part of that community. We can cast out the evil while saving all that is pure and innocent and good. And we need to start within our own heart.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

DNA = Does Not Apply

I got some wonderful insights from the post from CedarSCamps this week. It brought out something I had not realized before. Moses spoke about the prophet that was to come, and 'he shall ye hear in all things whatsoever he shall say unto you'.  Thousands of years later Moses got to talk to this prophet, Jesus, himself as they met on what is referred to as the Mount of Transfiguration. As Moses' face shone when he came down from talking with God, so Jesus shone when his chosen disciple saw him transform. He was talking with Moses and Eljah. What an interesting conversation that must have been! Thousands of years later we too can stand in the presence of the Christ.

The disciples were ready to build altars for all three but Moses and Elijah disappeared. Jesus remained and he was not to be restricted to the status of a prophet for God Himself tells them that this is His beloved Son in whom He is well pleased. Hear ye him.  He had told Jesus this at the time he was baptized by John and it is repeated at this momentous occasion.

Mrs. Eddy writes in Science and Health: "Jesus represented Christ, the true idea of God. Christ presents the indestructible man, whom Spirt creates, constitutes, and governs." (p. 316) When I first started studying Christian Science I struggled with the idea of 'man as never born and never dying, but as coexistent with his creator'. It is still a pretty big concept but one that has brought healing for me and others over the years. As a spiritual idea in divine Mind I never went through material birth, so I could never have birth defects or family traits passed along to me. DNA, for me, only means Does Not Apply. As a spiritual idea in divine Mind I have always existed, or coexisted with God, my true Father Mother. So I cannot age any more than God can. Time is only a mortal concept. I exist eternally. So no problems with 'terrible twos' or difficult teenage growing pains, or midlife crisis, or decline into senioritis. Never born. Never dying.

So our Bible Lesson concludes with this: "In divine Science, man is sustained by God, the divine Principle of being".  I am sustained, preserved, maintained perfectly by God. I can and do commune with God regularly. When I have relied on Christian Science for healing I have been transformed and elevated to my true spiritual identity as a child of God in whom He is well pleased. It is a pleasure and joy to learn more and more about the lovingkindness of God and the truth of my oneness with Him. I just love Christian Science.

Friday, December 7, 2012

As you 'go in and out' this holiday season

The fifth section of this week's Bible Lesson on God, the preserver of man, contains two ideas I especially love and appreciate this time of year.

The first is God's assurance to Moses, "My presence shall go with thee, and I will give thee rest." (Ex 33:14.  Isn't that just what we all want to be assured of during the holiday hustle and bustle. In all the shopping and baking and wrapping and visiting and watching of Christmas specials we can rest in the fact that God is right there with us. Just substitute 'presents' for 'presence' and see how God is giving us the gifts of grace and patience and generosity and forgiveness...all the qualities we reflect as His own image and likeness, to get us gracefully though this holiday season...and every day all year long. His presence and His presents are with us at all times and under all circumstances.

The second is from Psalm 121:8, "The Lord shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in from this time forth, and even for evermore."  I don't know about you but I seem to be doing a lot of going out and coming in right now!  We had a family meeting last night and it is amazing how many things are on the schedule for the next few weeks, many of them away from home supporting the 'grands' in their school programs and celebrating Christmas with family and co-workers. Lots of coming and going. But right in the midst of that there is peace in knowing that God is with us and preserving the harmony of all these events.

Mrs. Eddy writes: "God is everywhere, and nothing apart from Him is present or has power." (S&H 473)  This eliminates any reason to feel stressed, distracted, put upon, unhappy, or ill. God, good, fills all space....ALL there is no being outside of that protecting Love, no outside where something can be lurking and trying to gain entrance to our peace and calm. ALL space is already filled with goodness and love.

She also writes: "All that God imparts moves in accord with Him, reflecting goodness and power." (S&H 515)  This is just what we all need as we move about on our errands or as we are moved by compassion to buy that extra gift or make a donation of time or money. We are moving in accord with divine Love and that can never result in sore muscles or strained feelings or empty pockets.

Any circumstance that arises and seems like a 'Red Sea' blocking our progress can part before us through His grace and we can go right through it without anything sticking to our feet. Any time we are tempted to believe we are in a 'wilderness' experience, without a right idea, or without a friend, separated from someone, alone and without support, we can see that God is actually right there with us as a beacon of light to lead the way through.

So go 'in and out' today confident that His presence and His presents are with you.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Are you feeling 'plagued'?

The children of Israel, led by Moses, continue on their journey away from Egypt. They were preserved from the army of Pharoah, intent on bringing them back into slavery. They were preserved from thirst and hunger, as God showed them what He could do, sweetening bitter water and sending a daily supply of food. As the story continues they face a new challenge. Plague had begun among the people.

God continues to comfort and guide Moses who must deal with the huge group of people as they continue on this walk. I love God's assurance to Moses and I often turn to it on my own spiritual journey.  "Behold, I send an angel before thee, to keep thee in the way, and to bring thee into the place which I have prepared." (Exodus 23:20)

Here is God's promise to send us His angel messages to keep us on the right path, to keep our thoughts uplifted and centered on Him. To keep us moving in the right way. But there's more. These angels will bring us to the place He has prepared. God's perfect plan for us is already in place and He will see that we arrive.  If He prepared it, it must be good. Nothing can be there that would hurt or harm or weaken or distress us. So in this place that God has prepared there cannot be any sickness or disease.

Plague had appeared so Moses commands Aaron, his brother and their high priest, to take a lighted censor, fill it with incense and make an atonement for the people. Aaron runs to obey. It is not difficult to see what kind of thinking was 'plaguing' the people as they learned lesson after lesson about the One God and set aside what they had learned in Egypt. They have continued their unreasonable murmurings against Moses. The burning of the incense was symbolic of sacrifice and this is accepted. The plague stops. They are forgiven. It was not God who caused the plague but their own behavior.

Is something 'plaguing' you? Is there a circumstance causing you continual unrest and unhappiness? Where do you think it is originating? With a person, or a place, or a set of events? Maybe it is time to stop ruminating over it and replace complaining with a different type of thought. Follow Moses' example and talk to God as a friend. He is always listening.

Next time this 'plaguing' situation comes up, turn aside and open up your Bible to Psalm 91. Read verses 9-11. That whole Psalm describes the lovingkindness of God, His unconditional love for you. No one and nothing can come between you. That's His promise and His promises are always kept.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

How do you deal with bitterness?

The story of the Exodus lead by Moses continues in the third part of this week's Bible Lesson, God the preserver of man.

They have now crossed through the Red Sea and their enemies were swallowed up by the closing waters so they are no longer being chased. The reality of their decision to follow Moses and leave Egypt was setting in. They did not immediatley arrive at the Promised Land, they were in a wilderness that offered few material comforts.  There may have been times in your spiritual journey when you have left behind people or things that were limiting you or keeping you in some kind of bondage. It may have been a bad habit which you have now taken steps to break. It can feel very much like a wilderness to you. And the things you left behind may call out to be restored. You may even wonder if they were really all that bad. At least compared to where you seem to be now.

Their first challenge was the need for fresh water. (fresh thoughts?) When they came to Marah, the name means bitterness, the waters there were not fit to drink. They began to 'murmur' about Moses and asked him what they were supposed to do. Moses turns to God for answers and God shows him a tree. There are several plants whose bark and leaves are employed to sweeten bitter water. These trees did not contain magical properties. The 'miracle' was in God pointing them out to Moses, who was not familiar with them. He casts in the tree and the waters were made sweet. Their thirst could now be quenched.

They soon ran out of food and there did not appear to be anything they could eat. Instead of learning from the previous example of God's providing and preserving, they again murmur against Moses, and lament having left Egypt where even though they were slaves, they were given ample food. Moses speaks to God and now the answer comes in an unexpected form. God sends bread (manna) every morning and meat (a quail-like bird) every evening. They are being taught to leave behind their false ideas about God. This time of wandering is slowly undoing the results of all those years of reliance on other gods. This is His proof of who and what He is. And it is renewed day by day. No need to stock pile (it will not last anyway) as it is provided fresh each day.  When you are working out your own salvation, there may be times when you find the going hard. But God is there and active on your behalf. Mrs. Eddy writes: "...God knows our need before we tell Him or our fellow beings about it. If we cherish the desire honestly and silently and humbly, God will bless it...) (S&H p.13)

He provided for those wanderers and He will be with you in your 'wilderness' as well. Instead of complaining and dwelling on what you seem to be without, focus on all the good that is ever appearing around you. God will point out that 'tree' and it will take away your bitterness. Rejoice that Life, and your life, is sweet.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Moses is again provided with a new home

Moses started life with his Hebrew family but could not remain there safely, due to Pharoah's cruel decree. He is put into a little ark and then found by Pharoah's daughter who raises him as her own son, taking him into her household. But it appears that his own mother was able to stay with him as a nursemaid. He lives for many years in this second home but grows increasingly uncomfortable with how his people are being treated. A rash act of murder forces him to flee out of that household, where even a prince would be held accountable for that crime. He finds himself on the other side of the Syrian sea in Midian and there God has prepared a third home for him and a new way of life. He will spend the next 40 years there, marrying, raising a family and tending to his father-in-law's flocks. It is quite a change from the status of a prince but it is during those years with that family that he is prepared for great spiritual growth.

Many of us have moved over the years, changing houses, cities, and even states. We may find ourselves with a different family around us. We may experience a change of career path. It is not how often we move or where we end up that matters, it is how we improve our spiritual journey that counts. Moses did not appear to pine for the perks and benefits of a royal status. He may have spent those years in Midian thinking about his life and about his God, after all his father-in-law was a priest.

The people have not had a prophet for some time and are living in poverty and bondage in Egypt. But God does speak, He speaks to Moses. Out of a burning bush no less. And Moses listens. God has a mission for him and this one will take him on another journey and to another place. He will be leaving this home. Pharoah is hard of heart and slow to listen but eventually he agrees to let the Hebrew people leave Egypt. God directs Moses to lead them through a wilderness area and they end up by the Red Sea. I always loved this part.

It is there, with an angry mob pursuing them intent on forcing them back to slavery, that God opens the way. The seemingly impossible way ahead opens, the waters part, and this huge group of people cross over to the other side on dry ground. How often have we found ourselves wearily pushing through some wilderness moment, perhaps even trying to overcome some physical or financial limitation? At least we have made the effort to move on but then the way seems blocked and impassible. Our Father Mother lead us there, our Father Mother will do what we cannot do on our own. The Red Sea parted, the way opened, and they went over on dry ground. Their feet did not even get muddy!

Mrs. Eddy writes this: "Love inspires, illumines, designates and leads the way." (S&H p. 454) Wow! God, divine Love, will inspire with whatever uplifting thought you need. He will illuminate, light up the way out of your mental or physical or financial darkness. He will designate, (indicate, specify, point out), just what you need to do. And He will walk with you, leading the way. He will take you by the hand.

Moses' mother did not know where he would end up or how he would be preserved. He was and in a way she could hardly have imagined. When he cried out, he was heard by the one person in all Egypt who could have saved him and she gave him a palace to live in. When Moses fled Egypt and stopped in Midian, he connected with a whole new family and home. When he leads the children of Israel out of bondage he is continuing his own spiritual journey and he knows God is with him every step of the way.

God is with you every step of your way as well. Don't be afraid to go.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Moses' journey and our journey

I love Monday mornings and that first chance to dip deeply into the new Bible Lesson. This week it is God the preserver of man. And what a life preserver God is! My son had a motor boat several summers ago. We all wore life preservers when we left the dock. Encompassed in it we were safe from drowning for we could not sink while wearing it. God, divine Love, our true Father Mother, provides for us in ways that keep us 'afloat', unable to sink or flounder in life's challenges.

This Lesson follows Moses' from childhood, where he is preservered in a bulrush ark, lovingly shaped by his mother, to hide him from harm and Pharoah's cruel decree that all Hebrew male children were to be killed. It continues on with Moses refusing to stay in Egypt and live as a prince. He goes to Midian where he lives a very different life as a keeper of sheep. Years later he will obey God and return to Egypt to confront Pharoah and free his people. Then he will lead them away from that land and away from the thinking and worship of false gods through a 'wilderness' experience. The Lesson ends many years later with Jesus taking Peter, James and John to a 'high mountain' experience where they see him talking with Moses.

So today I will be studying that first example of preservation, the ark experience. In Science and Health Mrs. Eddy's definition of ark begins with 'safety'. Just as Moses' mother protected and sheltered her infant son in that dry enclosure and sent his sister to watch over him during the day while he floated in the reeds, our Mother protects and shelters us, as the everlasting arms of Love 'are beneath, around, above' as we read in hymn 53. Those arms are around me and mine, and you and yours, all day today. We are being watched over as we move through the day in our personal life preserver.

I will also think about those summer days when my Mom and Dad bought bushels of delicious New Jersey tomatoes and preserved homemade tomato sauce. It was always wonderful to go down to the cellar on a chilly winter night and bring up a jar of that preserved sauce to go with our pasta dinner. The aroma is a favorite childhood sense memory. Properly and carefully made the tomato sauce was preserved at its most perfect best. Our Father Mother keeps us at our perfect best as well. No deterioration, no dulling of senses, no decay....just kept at that level of perfectness.

Rejoice today that you are safe in your 'ark', bouyed by your own 'life preserver', kept perfect in the exact image and likeness of God. What a great start to the week!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Don't start with the storm

It had been a long day. Jesus and the disciples were aboard a ship, probably one of Peter's fleet. A great storm arose, great enough to frighten those seasoned sailors. It appeared that there was a power at work that could swamp the boat and send them all to their deaths. Earlier that day Jesus had preached to a great crowd and healed many. But he too seemed almost to be swamped, surrounded by a great multitude clamoring to be heard. How could one person stand against so many?

The disciples woke him and begged for him to save them. I wonder just what it was they wanted him to do? I don't think they expected what happened next. He did not panic, did not whisk them away, did not man the lifeboats. He arose (I always think of that as going higher in thought, seeing the situation as it really was, knowing there was no power but from God who is all good, no destructive force that could threaten God's child). He has already rebuked them for their lack of faith, now he directly addressed the winds and the sea. Remember that Genesis One tells us the God has given us dominion over the oceans.

The wild raging stops. Where there had been fear and danger, there is now a great calm. I wouldn't be surprised if he went back and finished his nap. But those disciples, who had already seen him heal so many supposedly unhealable diseases and defects had not realized he had this kind of power behind him. They marveled.

Recently I woke one day to find I was having trouble walking up the stairs, there was a great pain in one leg and I could not use it normally. Not good in a house with two sets of stairs. It felt something like that great storm that rose up out of nowhere and threatened to cause me pain and discomfort, not to mention limiting and restricting my movements. I had a full day planned and this needed to be addressed and healed. So I 'arose', right where I was standing, lifted my thought up to God. Reasoned out from that one Cause and Creator to see that I could only reflect what was true about the Original. It this wasn't happening to God it couldn't be happening to me. I prayed for several minutes, focusing on the allness of God, the everpresence of good, with great joy and gratitude.  I did not need to be healed of a sore leg, I only needed to see that it was not true about me. I needed to heal that though or suggestion, not my body.

Within a few minutes I was able to climb the rest of the stairs and get on with my day. I don't know exactly when the pain left but I became aware shortly afterward that it was gone and I was moving freely again. I went up and down the stairs many times that day with no further complaints. And with a wonderful sense of calm and dominion and gratitude.

Mrs. Eddy writes 'There is but one primal cause. Therefore there can be no effect from any other cause, and there can be no reality in aught which does not proceed from this great and only cause" (S&H 207)  I just love it when I can turn to God with complete trust and faith. I realized that I had not run to Him yelling, "Help me, I'm in pain here".  I just 'arose' and rebuked the claim. I told it to quiet down and it did.

So don't start with the storm.....'arise' and reason out from the one and only Cause.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Nehemiah's plan of action

I just love Nehemiah. My son and I studied this book of the Bible one year and the benefits of that study continue to bless to this day. What a delight to find him in this week's Bible Lesson about God, the only cause and creator. So how to look at this story with fresh eyes? This morning I am appreciating the way Nehemiah went about this project for it gives me such comfort and strength to see how God will anoint me and appoint me with my own tasks.

Nehemiah was captive to King Artaxerxes but obviously loved him and served him well. He had never appeared before him with sadness before and the king noticed this at once and asked the cause. Now Nehemiah knew he need to proceed with care and he prayed before he answered the king. His sadness was for his home city of Jerusalem, destroyed by invaders, left defenceless with the city gates burned away. So the king poses this question: "For what dost thou make request?"  Nehemiah was not asking for retribution, revenge, or punishment to those who had done this thing. This is such an important moment and we have all had moments like this. We are sad about some wrong and it is apparent to those around us. They might ask us this same question. It might be your spouse, your parents, your children, your boss, a fellow church member. Just what is it that you are asking for? Pray deeply and earnestly before you put that into words, much less actions.

Nehemiah asks permission to leave his duties and go to Jerusalem. At this point in our study my son and I worked with Mrs. Eddy's definition of Jerusalem found on page 589 in Science and Health. We did not want to 'see' Jerusalem as 'mortal belief and knowledge obtained from the five corporeal senses; the pride of power and the power of pride; sensuality; envy; oppression; tyranny'. This is what the mortal sense would present as something needing healing. We wanted to stay with the spiritual definiton of Jerusalem as 'home, heaven'.  That Jerusalem was already perfectly intact,  never under attack or defeated by an enemy, ruined or desolate.

Nehemiah prayed, communed with God, and then proceeded as the way opened up.

I love the way he approached the city, protecting his mission, keeping it quiet as he gathered information so that when he did speak with the inhabitants they were receptive and ready to help. He was able to tell them that God was with them. He makes a request and again it is granted.

I see this pattern often in my own life and love watching God at work. And like Nehemiah, when I am about my Father's business I encounter opposition in one form or another from those who do not understand or may even resent what I am doing. But with Nehemiah as my guide I can stand up to the error and rebuke it without personalizing it. I can always 'watch and pray' first and then the way opens up to proceed.

The city is rebuilt and those who resisted or doubted admitted that the work was supported by God. That is what I want to see with my work each and every day, each and every hour, no matter how big or small the challenge may be at that moment. I never need to present a sad face to the world for I know I can bring this request to God and my Father will open the way.

Thanks for the reminder, Nehemiah.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Seeds of peace

It was a wonderful Thanksgiving and we were just grateful all day long for our many blessings and for having so many of the college kids over to share the feast and the festivities. It was the perfect christening for our 'hot chocolate station'. Our Emily introduces us to this idea and now we set up an area with hot chocolate mixes, chocolate chips, festive and funny mugs, marshmellows, little candy canes, etc. Anyone who comes by fixes up some hot chocolate or flavared teas or hot apple cider.

This morning I woke up humming a hymn and thinking about Christmas decorating. It will take a while to put away all our growing collection of Thanksgiving things and much longer to put out Christmas but we do it slowly over this weekend and it is fun and peaceful.  I found the perfect 'theme' for today's spiritual thinking in the Responsive Reading of this week's Bible Lesson. It is from James 3:18.....And those who are peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of righteousness.  Since I think of righteousness and right thinking or Truth knowing, this is exactly how I want to approach today and the rest of this holiday weekend.

How often we slip, let down our guard, rest on our oars, and sow the wrong kind of seeds in our thoughts or our conversation. It starts innocently enough as we make an off hand comment or sarcastic remark. But unchecked it is sowing the wrong kinds of seeds and will lead to a very unhappy harvest of discord and inharmony. So I will watch what comes into my thoughts and out of my mouth. Truth and Truth only will be the goal. Good seeds of tenderness and compliments and appreciation.

I will choose to listen for the angels singing and shut out any Herod-like criticism. I will follow the star and see that it leads me to the Christ child, a journey worth taking. I will be patient when I feel like those shepherds watching their flocks day and night and cherish that role as protector and provider. I will take time to be alone with God even in the midst of crowds, crowds of people or crowded thoughts. I will be a "Mary" and spiritualize my concepts about man. I will have the trust in good of a "Joseph" as he nurtures his family.Whenever it comes to mind I will pray for peace on earth, goodwill toward men.

These are the seeds of peace and I welcome the blessings they will bring.  Happy sowing!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thanksgiving presence and presents

I know I did not realize what a blessed childhood I had. My Dad was a carpenter for many years until he fell off a roof and the resulting injuries changed everything. While he was recovering he spent many hours visiting with the owner of a local pet shop (back in the days before malls and mega pet businesses). The owner and his wife wanted to retire and move to Florida, my parents needed a new direction so they bought The Aquarium Pet Shop. It provided enough for our family of six and the assorted relatives that lived with us on and off over the years. I learned how to make change at the register and check in stock. When I wasn't working at the pet shop, I was home taking care of my younger siblings so Mom could help Dad.

They worked hard. It was not a business you could close and go on vacation and we didn't. But they managed to give us kids a great life and we lived close to dozens of relatives so there was always a wedding, shower, funeral, or someone in the hospital. We were together most weekends as a large, noisy supportive Italian family. Without realizing it, I got excellent training in how to take care of a house and little children. I also saw the value of family and spending holidays sharing traditions.

We did Thanksgiving at Aunt Juanita's house, as she had a huge dining room. Even so, we had to eat in shifts, the little kids eating first and the big kids watching them later when the parents ate. Our dinners were multi courses and we ate for hours and hours. Others dropped in and left during the day and every year I would meet relatives I did not even know I had. When dinner was finally over we gathered everyone in the living room and watched old home movies. What a riot. How I wish I still had those!

When I married, we settled in New England and then moved to California, with another move to Texas. Over the years we lived in many places and the kids changed schools until we settled at Clairbourn and then they went away to Principia for high school and college. But we always had Thanksgiving together. They opt for a very traditional menu and I try to fix their favorite things each year. Now we have six 'grands' in the mix and a whole lot of 'extra kids' from the college as no one should be alone on the holidays. Principia gave the faculty and staff large turkeys this year and our 22 pounder is in the oven right now. I expect it will be but a memory by the time the holiday weekend is over.

But there is always time each Thanksgiving Day to give thanks for all those blessings. It usually comes over me when I watch, yet again, the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade. Or when we watch Miracle on 34th Street. Or when I look around and see everyone eating and laughing around the tables. And now the 'grands' are taking part and they are the ones who ask to hear those funny family stories about when their parents were little.

The thing I am most grateful for is how Christian Science came into my life when I needed it most. It has lifted me and comforted me and supported me. I am a better person for this study of the Bible and Science and Health. And I love being in the full time practice and praying with others. 

May this day and the rest of this holiday season fill you with joy and appreciation. May the coming year offer you opportunities for spiritual growth. God is good, He loves each one of us. The windows of heaven are open wide pouring out blessings and grace.   My heart overflows.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Loving generously

On Saturday morning, the only day Mike and Ian can sleep in, they chose instead to be up bright and early to return to the neighborhoods where they had left bags for donations of canned and boxed foods. They had no idea how many might respond but by the time they returned to the parking lot where all the scouts were meeting up, everyone's cars was filled with bags. No one person made a huge donation but looking at all the bags lined up and ready to take to the food bank one could see 'loving generously' alive and well. Mike and Ian gave generously of their time and effort and they felt very happy with the results.

This week's Sentinel , Praising God, begins with an article entitled Thanks Living and Praise Giving. The author wrote something that I copied into my daily journal. He was describing the time Paul and Silas had been imprisoned, locked in stocks deep below ground. They didn't give in to anger or fear or accusations. They sang and praised God. Everyone in the prison heard them and suddenly there was an earthquake that shook the foundations and everyone cells opened. Many of the prisoners ran away but Paul and Silas chose to comfort the prison keeper who was ready to kill himself for failing in his duty. They put personal safety and freedom aside and loved generously. This active practice of their religion deeply impressed the jailer. He and his family became followers of the Christ.

I was thinking this morning about my love for Christian Science. Am I following the example of Paul and Silas and 'loving generously'?  How can we show our love for this life-changing Science of the Christ? I love our church services. I will look for more opportunities to invite others to attend with me. I love our Sunday school. I am on the substitute teacher list and will be sure I am ready and willing at a moment's notice to step in when needed. I love our periodicals and often share issues or articles with others. I recently sent the issue on praying for those who serve in the military to a young soldier I know. Our lectures have always been precious to me as I can remember how hearing a lecturer define prayer* just burned that into my mind and gave me the conviction that Christian Science was the answer I had been seeking. How could I not want to offer others that opportunity!

And most important of all, I keep copies of the Bible and Science and Health handy to offer whenever I can. I know how it changed my life and continues to bless me in so many ways. I want to love others generously by giving them their own set of books.

The article in this week's Sentinel also says, "God-praising is acting on the impulse of inspired appreciation". As we all take time to praise God during our day, we will be impelled to share our appreciation. It's a wonderful thing to know that no matter how my finances appear, I can always love generously. And so can you.

*Prayer is cultivating that state of awareness that acknowledges the allness of God.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Kindergarten Pilgrims

Katie Rose has been practicing Thanksgiving songs and learning all about the Pilgrims first year in America. Yesterday family and friends were invited to visit the classromm where the kids were all dressed as Pilgrims, sang to us, and then manned their 'stations' where they told us what they had been learning. I was struck by how seriously they behaved. It was obvious that their teacher had instilled a sense of respect for these brave people.

Katie Rose was stationed before a mural the kids had made of the early settlement in Plymouth. She solemnly pointed out their houses, their gardens, and the fact that they had to grow their own food and everyone was expected to work. There was very little there when they arrived so they had to build houses, create gardens and make furniture. And the children dressed exactly like the adults. She looked so precious in her little 'coif', collar and apron.

I thought about that on the way home, as I drove along the freeways lined with every kind of store imaginable, as I travelled easily and quickly from Illinois to Missouri, crossing over bridges, in comfort and ease. And then I started thinking about my 'arrival' into the study and application of Christian Science. I, too, was seeking freedom to worship God the best way I knew. But it was not an easy road.

Unlike the Pilgrims I seemed to have a lot of excess baggage those early years and I had to unlearn a lot of false ideas about myself and others. My personal landscape seemed a bit bleak, as I had to 'build' a new home (consciousness), as I came to understand that God, divine Love, had already furnished it with all I would need, as I learned about the true source of supply and saw it was not dependent on anything but God, good. It was all about 'leaning on the sustaining infinite'.

It's hard to imagine the sacrifices those Pilgrims faced, the courage it took to go to this new land. I think I understand it more now as I have faced and overcome many challenges in my life. I see how I can clothe myself in the panoply of Love and put on the armor of God. Every room in our house has bookshelves overflowing with volumes beloved and cherished. Those Pilgrims had one book, the Bible and there they found all they needed. We are blessed with Science and Health which explains the Bible in ways I would never have thought of on my own.

I am so grateful to have spent the morning with those dear children and been reminded of just how rich and full my life is, how Christian Science has brought healing and goodness and blessing. It was  a true feast in every sense of the word.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Tithes and showers of blessings

I have been thinking about the Golden Text in this year's Thanksgiving Bible Lesson. It reads: "Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not opoen you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there will not be room enough to receive it." That is Malachi 3:10.

Malachi is the last book of the Old Testament. At the beginning of chapter three God promises this: Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me."  This book is meant for two types of religious people, the sincerely religious who have lost heart through the prevailing wickedness of the times and are beginning to question God's goodness, and the wordly and covetous, who are religious only in name.  Malachi was an advanced thinker who recognizes Jehovah as a universal God, a Father of Nations. Jehovah has promised that He will come to His temple but that promise had not yet been fulfilled.

As I studied our Golden Text it occured to me that it is a two-parter. The first part tells us what we are supposed to do and the second part tells what God will do for us. Now, why would God open the windows of heaven and pour us out more than we can recieve if we have already filled the storehouse?

I think we are to be doing our part, that is tithing. Giving God ten percent. Of what? What can we give God when He already has all and is the sourve of all good? Our love, our gratitude, our praise, our attention. The day has 24 hours, do I devote 2.4 hours giving God my undivided attention? Hmmmmm. I spend a lot of time praying and studying. 2.4hours? Well, if you factor in all the times I hold conversations with Him, all the time I intentionally get quiet and listen for His direction, it might be that much. Am I bringing all that into the 'storehouse'? Does storehouse represent my spiritual consciousness, my reflection of divine Mind? Am I taking time each day to bring those thoughts and ideas to thought?  It is a worthy goal.

God doesn't need what I bring, He looks for my cheerful giving of those things. It's a bit like Cain and Abel, which gift was respected for its purity, which was rejected because it was not given with a full heart but grudgingly. The windows of heaven are wide open and God is constantly blessing His children. Abundantly. Overflowing. More than we can comprehend.

I guess that is what Thanksgiving is all about, that giving back to God with a willing and grateful heart. Remembering to say thank you. Following the book of Malachi are the four gospels and their good news. God has opened the windows of heaven and sent us the Messiah, His own Son. It is good to be reminded of this as we round the corner from Thanksgiving and Christmas looms on the horizon.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Have you ever wished you could change your name?

I went through a phase when a new girl moved to our town. All the other kids in the class were long-time friends. Here was someone new and everyone wanted to be friends with her. I loved her name, Judith, and I decided I wanted to change my name. My mom laughed when I asked her about it, but then she saw I was serious and we had a long talk about what was behind that request.

As we talked I came to see that what I really wanted was a fresh start, to have people see me as the new girl and want to be my friends. Judith was getting to know me for the first time and I wanted her to think I was all things wonderful. She did not know my past history or have any idea of what I was like. It was a real opportunity to have a 'do over'.

I see now that I had accepted some things about myself, was thinking and behaving in ways, that I wanted to change. And I wanted others to get to know this new me. My name did not need to change, just how I was thinking about myself. I could and did express all the same qualities I was admiring about Judith and I could do that in a way that was unique to me. Just changing my name would not accomplish that.

So I paid attention, not only to Judith, but to the others in the class as well. I think I even made a list of the things I liked about them and it gave me a mission. Those same qualities belonged to me as well. Now, through my study of Christian Science, I have gained a clearer understanding of God and of myself, made in His very image and likeness. Everything true about the original must also be true about the reflection. And it was already true, I didn't have to grow into it. I just had to recognize and claim it as truth.

Judith and I did become friends and I was sad when her family moved away a few years later. This week's Bible Lesson brought her back to thought as I studied the story of Jacob and his wrestling match with the angel. Jacob was afraid that his brother hated him and would punish him for something Jacob had done years ago. He had run away then and was only returning home now because God had told him it was time. But he was afraid that he was going to be punished. What he did not see was that he was not the same person he had been. He had been growing as he learned more about God and his true identity as God's beloved son. I think Esau had also been doing some growing because when the brothers met it was a joyous reunion. All was forgiven. As a result of this spiritual wrestling Jacob's name was changed. He was no longer a deceiver but a prince who had prevailed over that earlier personality.

You do not lose your identity by turning to God, you find it. Mrs. Eddy writes: "Breaking away from the mutations of time and sense, you will neither lose the solid objects and ends of life nor you own identity."  In fact, as she writes, this blesses us with 'enlarged individuality, a wider sphere of thought and action, a more expansive love, a higher and more permanent peace'.

That's when you find your true name.

Monday, November 12, 2012

A new week - a new lesson to look forward to

It it always interesting to see how these rotating topics can remain fresh and filled with new inspiration. We study the same 26 topics, in the same order, twice a year, sometimes for many years, and yet there is always more to learn, more to see, more to understand. A wonderful promise awaits each week. I felt that strongly this morning. I love to 'preview' the lesson on Sunday afternoon when I mark my books with the new Lesson and go over it in my full text Quarterly to see what ideas jump out. Then on Monday morning I love to start this portion of my daily study by reading the excellent column provided in the Sentinel called In the Christian Science Bible Lesson. There are always good points brought out and today I just loved the idea that I can think of 'body' not so much as my own individual body but I can expand on that thought to see all of us who are studying and practicing Christian Science as a 'body'. Like a 'body of work', God's body of work with His infinite ideas and reflections. It put a whole new spin on the sections of the Lesson. A community of ideas.

Then I listened to the Daily Lift, a free service provided by The Mother Church. It comes to me as an email, a short (usually less than 5 minutes) daily boost recorded by one of the members of our Board of Lectureship. A mini lecture, if you will. Today's Daily Lift referred to listening to a symphony and included the idea of each one of us, each individual idea of divine Mind, having something valuable to add to the symphony. I know very little about classical music but can appreciate the idea that to those who know the music, they would be aware if one of the instruments was not represented. The symphony is enriched by each one's contribution. Each having something valuable to add. I like that. It makes my little part of value to God and to a bigger circle, a wider sphere of thought and action.

How grateful I am for all the avenues open to us in this marvelous age of technology. All circling back to the revelations and demonstrations of a remarkable woman, Mary Baker Eddy. I love being part of that 'body' and I look forward to a week of seeing more about my true substance, life, and intelligence.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Fun house mirror or true reflection?

If you found yourself standing in front of a fun house mirror and what you saw was a very distorted view, would you pray to heal that picture? Or, would you laugh at how funny you look, not at all dismayed, because you know that is not the real you? How many times are we presented with a 'fun house' picture of ourselves or someone else and we buy into that false representation?

Jesus was never fooled by what appeared before him as a distorted version of God's perfect child, His very image and likeness. His disciples traveled with him for three years and witnessed first hand how he dealt with those distorted views and helped suffers see themselves as they really were and had been all along. Even those closest to him did not fully understand his teachings. I was at a talk recently where his followers were referred to as the 'duh-ciples' with their many 'duh' moments. It was a funny reference but I have to admit to 'duh' moments of my own.

Peter saw Jesus raise Jairus' daughter from what appeared to be death. They had been called to the scene, but stopped along the way to heal a woman who had an infirmity for many years. The father must have felt some impatience as Jesus healed her, especially when members of his household came to tell him that his daughter was dead. Before he could even formulate any resentment that had Jesus gotten there sooner she would have been saved, Jesus told him to fear not, all was not lost.

They arrive to find a crowd of professional mourners doing their utmost to be hired for the funeral, a common practice at that time. But Jesus dismissed them, putting them all out and bringing that chaos to quiet order. He allowed her parents and his disciples to remain. Then he took her hand and spoke to her. That would have been pointless is she had truly been dead. He knew her life was in her and she responded to his words. Years later, when Jesus was no longer with them, Peter would be called to a similar scene.

A wonderful woman named Tabitha/Dorcas had been much beloved for her many good works and selfless giving. Here too Peter arrives to find a crowd of weeping mourners. Perhaps remembering what Jesus had done, he puts them all out. Then he prays. Turning to the body, he speaks to her, probably aware of her inability to be separated from Life, God, and with every expectation that she can hear him. She does, and she opens her eyes. He is able to present her to her friends alive and well.

That same Christ, the action of divine Love, is present to calm every scene of chaos and grief. It speaks to each of us, fully expecting us to be able to hear and respond to the message of divine Principle, the law of everpresent good meeting every human need. As we pray for those affected by the recent storms on the east coast, we can know that what is being presented is not the true reflection. We can silence the weeping and wipe away the tears. Help is at hand.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Don't be out voted!

Most of our country is focused on the election taking place today. But there is another vote we can be aware of and it is referred to in this week's Bible Lesson, Mortality and Immortality. I just love it when I read a familiar passage in the Bible and find something new and wonderful. That happened this morning as I read Joshua 14. In this chapter Joshua is approached by his friend Caleb who reminds him of something that happened 45 years ago. They were 40 years old at the time and proven soldiers. Moses sent them on ahead to scout out the Promised Land of Canaan. They had arrived at its border and were unsure of what they would find there. Of the 'committee' sent to check it out, only Joshua and Caleb came back with glowing reports and a willingness to move forward. The others saw only the size and strength of those who would oppose them. They were out-voted and spent the next two decades wandering in the wilderness.

How many of us come right up to the border of a healing message? We have prayed about something and are waiting for the angel message. But the material picture is so powerful, the opposition so strong, the arguements so persuasive that this situation will not yield, that we will not be able to overcome this 'enemy', that we, too, believe we have been out-voted and we back away from the healing Truth.

Joshua and Caleb remained strong in their understanding of God and His divine plan of unceasing good. It seemed like the fearful, uncertain thinking of the others needed time to let go of all they had believed to be true about themselves during their 'Egypt' years of captivity. Don't be afraid to be lead out of 'Egypt' thinking. Remember who it is that is leading you! Trust in the place He has picked out for you. Move forward unafraid. Nothing can stand in your way, nothing can resist this good. And for heaven's sake, don't allow yourself to be out-voted by the doubts, whether they come disguised as your own thoughts or the opinions of those around you.  Stick to what you know to be true.

Joshua understood that he was not subject to that intimidating thought. You can know that you are not subject to (fill in the blank) either. God is your Father and Life is the law of your being. What you 'be' is determined by divine Mind and cannot be reversed or revert to something God never made. Be. Being is present tense. It is what is true right now.

Reach for those 'higher conceptions of loveliness', 'exempt from age and decay'. And DO NOT be out-voted.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Feeling God's presence all day long

This morning I looked at the entry for November 1st in Streams in the Desert, a daily devotional by Mrs. Charles Cowan. It is one of my favorite sources for inspiring thoughts. It was compiled many years ago when she was with her Missionary husband serving in China.  Here is an excerpt that will stay with me all day today. It helps answer that question, "How can I feel God's presence?".

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. Every little thing he does is touched with the sense of His approval and blessing. How sweet it is to feel God so close at all times, filling all space with divine Love.

Nothing can separate the two. That is how it is with us and our Father Mother God.

It just that simple. And wonderful.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

He already had all he needed.

This week's Bible Lesson, Adam and Fallen Man, includes the parable of the Prodigal Son. I have written other blogs about this one. In one I thought about which of the qualities of two brothers I might be expressing, who I identified with. As I looked deeper I found I wanted to be like the Father, not judging or condemning, just loving and waiting patiently for one child to return and change his ways and the other to see his true value in my eyes. I've found things in Bible commentaries about how insulting it was for the boy to ask for his inheritance early, as if he was saying I wish you were dead. This week I am struck by something different.

The Prodigal Son had all he needed already. His Father was not withholding any good from his son. But this boy seemed to yearn for a taste of a different life. He was looking for things his Father was not providing in the way of sensual pleasures and exposure to evil. That was the 'far country' he wanted to experience, far from the way things were at home.

Like the Adam story, what he found opened the door to shame and guilt. He lived the riotous lifestyle until he had used up all his means. Then the so-called friends he had attracted had no further use for him. He found himself in need and was reduced to working for 'a citizen of that country', who put him to work in the most demeaning way, sending him to the fields to tend swine. And he didn't even feed him, just expected him to eat what the animals ate, husks, the leftovers and remains of food. No one helped him.

It appears that only sinking to these depths would 'awaken' him to where he was and what he had chosen to do. He could have chosen to go home before he turned to that 'citizen' for help. But even then he still wanted to be in that' far country'.

But eventually he did 'come to himself', he remembered who he really was, the child of his Father. And he is now ready to leave that place and go home with an apology for his behavior. If someone had to be his master, it might as well be his Father, who treated his servants with decency and generosity. Of course, the Father who had been watching for him, hoping he will come home, runs to meet him, gives him a warm welcome and reinstates him in the eyes of the household. He throws a welcome home party so all will know that the son is back in his rightful place. He had never ceased to be his son.

What I am thinking about is how that boy already had everything he neede -  but he coveted more. He did not seem to be grateful for what he had. A different life seemed tantilizing and more fun, with less Fatherly control. We all have moments like that, when we feel like others have a more exciting lifestyle, can spend freely and experience things on the wild side. Or we covet their clothes or possessions or house or job,their wild friends, or even their freedom to do whatever they want. The older brother might have had those same thoughts, he just didn't act on them, but he had them. No wonder he resented his younger brother.

That boy came to the realization that he didn't have to stay there. He was no longer 'enthralled' with that 'far country' and he was free to go home. This is the time of year when my mailbox gets stuffed with catalogs I did not ask for and they are filled with all sorts of things I did not even know I wanted until I saw them. Or things I would love to be able to give as a gift. I will be alert to recognizing the alllure of 'far country' thinking and be grateful for what my Father is generously providing for me. I already have all I need, and will not choose to fall for 'you want this' suggestions. My Father gives me a generous nature and He will provide the means for me to purchase gifts for others this holiday season. It takes discipline. Mrs. Eddy writes: "This strife consists in the endeavor to forsake error of every kind and to possess no other consciousness but good (S&H p. 322).

I am so grateful for this gentle reminder on this Halloween day, as we turn the corner and head for Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Missed and mist

I am constantly in awe of Mrs. Eddy's insight from her years and years of Bible study. It was a revelation to me to read her explanation about the two versions of creation in Genesis. I was raised in a religion that taught the second version and accepted the Adam man as our first parent. Now I see how God, good, is our first and only parent. Each day there are opportunties to see myself and others existing in the first account of creation, Genesis One.

The second account shows me both 'mist' and 'missed', concepts that only occur in this false version of creation, the story of material existence.  This is when a 'mist' rises up to obscure truth. I remember one summer day when my sister was visiting me in California. We drove to a beach to look for shells and as we walked we talked and laughed and just loved being together. So absorbed were we in each other that we hardly noticed the fog that rolled in until we looked up and that was all we could see. My sister was frightened because there did not appear to be a way to get back to our car. I just stayed calm and suggested we walk back along the tide line and knew God would show up where to go. In a few minutes we came to the place where we had left our shoes and that meant we were close to the car but we still couldn't see. Another name for God is divine Mind, the source of all awareness, intelligence and understanding. I prayed to know that as His image and likeness I could be just as aware as He was of our surroundings, I could see through this 'mist'. Just then someone else approached us from the opposite direction and said we were only a few yards from the parking area. We soon found the car and shortly after that the wind came up and the fog cleared.

Prayer is like that. You take a moment to stop and realign yourself with God. Turn to Him in confidence that He is always aware of you and keeping you safe. He can 'see' even when our way seems clouded, we can always be guided to the right idea. When we need to make a decision or choice, divine Mind will give us clarity and direction.

Then there are all those 'missed' moments. Mis-direction, mis-communication, mis-ery, mis-understanding, mis-conduct, or just plain feeling mis-erable. If it's got 'mis' in front of it, you're probably dealing wuth Genesis Two thinking. Just recognizing this can break that misty thinking and turn you back to Genesis One.

One of evil's favorite tricks is to suggest that you have 'missed' out on something, an opportunity that might not come again if you don't act now, or that you just missed your chance for good. More lies. My sister passed on suddenly last year and I have to watch myself for any of those 'missed' suggestions. I'll be somewhere and think how much I would love to share it with her or I'll see something that reminds me of her and think, "Oh, June, I miss you so much." But she is not gone, just gone on ahead and I know she is well and happy there. The love we shared as sisters is very much alive and as I just let my love for her wash over me I feel comforted and know she still loves me too.

Today I will choose to walk in the light of Genesis One and stay out of the mist of Genesis Two. Mrs. Eddy writes of God as the 'parent Mind' and each of us as 'God's spiritual offspring'. In that relationship there is constantly unfolding good and joy. Thanks again, Mrs. Eddy. I love Christian Science!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Where do you think you are?

As I prepare to start reading and studying this week's Bible Lesson, Adam and Fallen Man, I am struck by the question in the Golden Text. Where art thou?  God is supposedly asking Adam that question in the second account of creation. In that account God has created man out of the dust of the ground. Adam and Eve have committed the first sin by disobeying and yielded to the first temptation, eating forbidden fruit. Now they are hiding from God, naked and ashamed.

That question arises through most of the stories in the Scriptures. God seems to be asking Where do you think you are? and even Where do you think I am?

Are you being asked to make the ultimate sacrifice of what you love most? Are you up against a seemingly impassable barrier, hotly pursued by the enemy? Are you trying to break down strong walls? Are you in the lions' den, apparently defenseless? In a fiery furnace of criticism?  Hiding deep in deep in a cave? On the cross?

Several things come to mind. Mrs. Eddy's hymn 160, which begins It matters not what be thy lot, so Love doth guide; for storm or shine pure peace is thine, whate'er betide. A very timely promise with the storm battering the east coast today.

I also look to two passages in First Church of Christ, Scientist and Miscellany. From an address Mrs. Eddy gave in 1899: "Beloved, that which purifies the affections also strengthens them, removes fears, subdues sin, and endues with divine power; that which refines character at the same time. humbles, exalts, and commands a man, and obedience gives him courage, devotion, and attainment (p. 131)." And another  personal favorite found on page 149-150: "Remember, thou canst be brought into no condition, be it ever so severe, where Love has not been before thee and where its tender message is not awaiting thee, therefore, despair not not murmur, for that which seeketh to save, to heal, and to deliver, will guide thee, if thou seekest this guidance."

So where I am today? As I go about the usual Monday errands I can know that I am in the secret place of the Most High, as it describes that in Psalm 91. I can know I am accompanied by angels given the specific task to watch over me all day and into the night. No matter what the human experience is showing me, I can look up, lift my thought and see God's loving hand comforting, guiding, and tenderly leading me. That's where I am. That's where I will always be. And that is true for everyone.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          

Friday, October 26, 2012

Don't ask the wrong question

As I did some research into the story of Jesus healing the man who was born blind, R.C.Trench in his book Notes on the Miracles of Jesus, shed some new light (no pun intended). He says this healing probably occured at the end of a long day for the Master. He had dealt with the issue of the punishment for a woman taken in adultery. As he left the temple he might have paused in the immediate neighborhood where beggars, cripples, and others afflicted took their station.

We can assume that some of his disciples knew this man, because they were aware that he had been born blind. They asked Jesus to address this as it was not the result of some accident or disease. It seems an odd question, who sinned, this man or his parents. To their thought such a grave punishment must have been the result of some great sin on someone's part. Jesus, of course, does not see things as they did. We all love Mrs. Eddy's description of what Jesus saw, "Jesus beheld in Science the perfect man, who appeared to him where sinning mortal man appears to mortals. In this perfect man the Savior saw God's own likeness, and this correct view of man healed the sick. Thus Jesus taught that the kingdom of God is intact, universal, and that man is pure and holy" (S&H 476). There's the next reference to purity in this Lesson.

Jesus gently rebuked that human tendency to poke into the secret lives of others, like Job's friends attempts to figure out why Job seemed to so badly afflicted. Jesus knew this was not of the man's doing or attributable to his parents actions. Seek the cause elsewhere. See this instead as an opportunity to see the works of God. Jesus goes on to remind them of his purpose and mission, to work the works of Him that sent me.  He says, "As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world".

Now he proves what he has been teaching by using saliva to create clay as a means to let the man know what he was about to do. It might have helped the man's faith, for surely he could have done this without that external help. Having anointed him, he now instructs him to go wash it off. He is to leave this place and go to a nearby pool to wash off the dust of the ground. This he does without arguements or 'buts'. He does not attempt to describe his condition or the length of time he has had it, he obeys. By the time he returns Jesus has moved on and the man, unaided, no longer needing to be lead, goes home. This is the talk of the town for never before had anyone who had been born blind been healed. So much for birth defects.

There is more to the story but for the purpose of this week's Lesson, it is another example of our freedom from any belief of an everlasting punishment.  Freedom given by the Christ. I believe more than this man were healed that day as word of this spread. Spiritual blindness dispelled by the light of Truth.

We are also followers of the Christ. When we see someone who appears to have a physical challenge do we ask the wrong question? Do we try to figure out some material answer for what caused it, or even condemn them for past behavior? Isn't that what Jonah was learning as he went to Ninevah?
Let's not get caught arguing on the wrong side. Let's look through God's eyes and see the perfect man, the idea of divine Mind's creating. Purity.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Moral courage

The Lord speaks to Jonah a second time now that he is back on dry land, repeating his mission. He is to go to Nineveh, a great city, so vast one need's three days to cross it on foot. It was the capital of Assyria. The Assyrians were great warriors who brought back many spoils and gathered a great library.  They were cruel and vicious with those they conquered. Did you ever wonder why Jonah chose to disobey God in the first place? It appears that, in his mind, these people did not deserve to be spared but should be punished for what they had done.  As we keep up with the news it seems that there are Nineveh-like places and people active in the world today. Are you guarding your thought not to judge and condemn them? Evil is not a person, a place or a thing. We pray to see evil overcome but we love all mankind.

Two earlier prophets foretold the destruction of the city before Jonah arrived, announcing that it would occur in 40 days. The Ninevites heeded this warning, from the king to the peasants and they began to fast and repent. It appears this was genuine. Jonah was spared an everlasting punishment and he in turn led the people of Nineveh to repent, change their thoughts and their ways, so that they were spared.

I am continuing to read through Education at the Principia, a collection of talks given by Mary Kimball Morgan. In one of them she writes: "What body of young people are today so prepared to respond to the challenge thrown out before them for true leadership as those who have been given a basis for true thinking? We know that thought in accordance with Principle will accomplish all that can be accomplished for the peace of the world. (Education at the Principia p.182)

This section of the Lesson incudes this citation: "Moral courage is requisite to meet the wrong and to porclaim the right". It takes moral courage to reach out to those who don't seem to want or value your words. The dictionary defines courage as the state or quality of mind or spirit that enables one to face danger, fear, or challenges with self-possession, confidence, and resolution: bravery.

Jonah might have needed moral courage to face a people who were known to dismember those who opposed them. We need moral courage to face the challenges that come up in our day at home, at school, at work, out and about doing errands, serving in the reading room. I don't often look for courage within myself as my study of Christian Science has helped me find confidence and poise but I will cultivate and appreciate that quality today.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Whale watching.

Yesterday we left Jonah in a whale belly time out. I'm pretty sure that is not where he expected to find himself when he willfully disobeyed God's assignment. Talk about the depths of despair. His shipmates had thrown him overboard and he had disappeared from sight. At first it must have seemed like no one knew where he was or cared. But God knew, the divine Love that had provided rescue knew. Now what?

Jonah did what he should have done before he ran away, what he should have done when he was on the ship, what he should have done when he awoke to a raging storm. He prayed. He opened up his end of the communication with God. He called out to his Father as he appeared to be drowning in a big problem, needing somehow to be rescued. It says that his soul fainted within him as he faced the consequences of his actions. But, like the prodigal son in Jesus' parable, he came to himself and found he wanted to go back to his Father. That sincere prayer was heard. Now he vows to do whatever God ask of him. I love what happens next, God speaks to the fish. You have to wonder what the fish was thinking about all this. It obeys and vomits Jonah out onto dry land. In a way, it is another parting of the sea so someone can go over on dry land.

Whenever this story is part of our Bible Lesson I look up several articles from past issues of the Sentinel. One is entitled There's a whale waiting by Jeffrey Hildner. (August 6, 2001)  He points out that if God prepared something, it must have been good. What a comfort to know that even in the midst of the worst storms of our making God is preparing something good to help us. The whale experience was a time for Jonah to see his true spiritual identity. This is the coming of the Christ to save us when we are ready to listen. Mrs. Eddy writes, "Christ is the true idea voicing good, the divine message from God to men speaking to the human consciousness" (S&H p.332).

There's another article that mentions a whale. It's called The Whale in the Pail, an article written for children by R.Louise Emery (August 8, 1970 Sentinel). She tells about a vaudeville act where a hypnotist called for a volunteer from the audience and put him under a spell. He seated him, handed him a fishing pole, and put a pail in front of him. When he put the hook into the water the hypnotist told him a whale had swallowed the hook and ordered him to pull it out. The man struggled long and hard to try to get that whale out of the pail while the audience howled with laughter. When the man was awakened, he wondered how he ever could have believed there was a whale in the pail.

It seems pretty foolish but we sometimes let ourselves get caught up in the suggestion that we are facing a huge problem, something way too big for us to overcome, no matter how hard we try. In Christian Science we learn that God does not create problems to test us and then sit back and watch us struggle. The answer is not to get the whale out, all you need to do is wake up and see that it was never real in the first place. The Bible explains clearly that God made all that was made and that it was very good. He is the only cause and creator and good is the only effect. If God didn't make it or cause it, it can't be any more real than the whale in the pail. We just wake up to understand that God is All-in-all, filling all space with good, present at all times and under all circumstances. Even when we feel alone in a deep dark place.

Jonah prayed. He turned to God with humility and repentance, with a willingness to go where God wanted him to go and to do what God asked him to do. He purified his thoughts and actions. There's that word 'pure' showing up in the citations again. Psalms 119:140 - Thy word is very pure, therefore thy servant loveth it. Mrs. Eddy writes "Through the wholesome chastisements of Love, we are helped onward in the march toward righteousness, peace, purity, which are the landmarks of Science." (S&H p.323)  That is what Jonah would be needing, a landmark. This was a landmark experience for him, just as it can be for us.

 Righteousness is right-thinking, Truth-knowing. That is where we want our thought to be, at one with God.  There's more to Jonah's story. I'll be thinking about those whales today and am looking forward to more insights now that Jonah is back on dry land. 

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Whale belly time outs.

This week's Bible Lesson is a reminder to choose to turn away from wickedness in any form. The Golden Text by Hosea was addressing the nation, a direct plea to turn away from the Baal worship around them. Baal worship encouraged immorality, idol worship of golden calves, and child sacrifice. An important message to those people but just as demanding today. Look at the current most popular movies and tv shows. Many of them encourage and endorse immorality. Look at the magazines at the check out counter. They want you to worship your body in both the men's and women's issues. Others focus on the pursuit of wealth - the golden calf. And all the distractions of technology would seem to try to separate us from our children, to sacrificed family life to 'screens'.

Look through the Lesson this week and notice all the references to pure and purity. It shows up right in the Responsive Reading. God is promising to 'purely purge away thy dross'. I went right to my hymnal and looked up hymn 123. I will keep it open and study verse 3.  "When through fiery trials thy pathway shall lie, My grace, all sufficient, shall be thy supply; the flame shall not hurt thee; I only design thy dross to consume and thy gold to refine." The dictionary defines dross as impurity, worthless, commonplace, or trivial matter, a waste product. Time wasters.

I wonder what Jonah was doing before that call came? Who was he? The Bible doesn't say but we can surmise that he had money and leisure time. When God gives him a mission, a job opportunity, he must have had the time and freedom to leave town. He leaves town all right, but he books passage on a ship going in the opposite direction. He turns down the assignment, and runs away. He must have been sitting around, not doing much, because God's first word is 'arise'. So off he goes to find quick passage and he is immediately able to pay the fare. He sounds like a first class passenger as he goes down to his cabin and goes to sleep.

Have you ever come up against something you don't want to face? Have you ever been tempted to 'jump into bed and cover up your head', taking refuge in oblivion? He must have fallen deeply asleep as the sailors have to rouse him despite the raging storm. This was no ordinary storm, these experienced sailors were frightened by the intensity of it. They felt it was not natural but God-driven. And it was threatening to break up the ship. They had tried everything they could, even throwing their cargo over board. And they were praying, each to his god. They come to the conclusion that it must be aimed at someone on board and they draw lots. Jonah's name was chosen and he freely admits that he had run away from God. They try to solve it themselves, is there a way they can punish him that will appease God and calm the sea. Jonah knows that won't work and he instructs them to throw him overboard, he is willing to take the blame. Over he goes and the storm ceases. They sail on, as Jonah has disappeared.

Out in the midst of that raging storm, far from land or any help, God had already provided safety. Jonah is swallowed up by a whale. Jonah will be there three days and three nights. I will study what happens next tomorrow. For today I want to be grateful that even when we have tried to run away from God, like Jonah, we will learn that God is everywhere, always present, always ready to save us from ourselves. There might be a lesson to be learned, but that can happen in a protected environment.

This is part of the purification process. The burning off of the dross. We are not harmed by this activity, only what is impure will disappear. What is uncovered is the purity that was always there, the lovely pure reflection of good. Jonah was not a bad man. When we resist the lessons we need to progress we are not bad, only acting badly. Our Parent will stand by to catch us if we stumble or fall or head in the wrong direction. Sometimes we need a 'whale belly' time out.

Monday, October 22, 2012

This week - Jonah, whales, no irreversible mistakes

I got a call Saturday evening asking if I was available to teach Sunday school the next morning for a class of 11th and 12th graders. I recently joined the church here at Elsah and had listed an interest in teaching Sunday school among the ways I was willing to be active. That means being always ready and prepared should the need arise, working with the Bible Lesson with the thought, how would I share this in Sunday school? Having found lots of inspiration in the Lesson on Probation after Death I was not at all hesitant to accept the task. It was a great class.

After we chatted for a few minutes about their week and answered a question raised about a special challenge someone was having I told them I had four things to talk about and they could choose how we would start: caterpillars, mustard seeds, how could the Shepherd leave the 99 to go after the 1, and Shinkendo, the art of ancient Japanese sword fighting. They wanted to hear about the sword fighting.  That was actually to follow the thread in the Lesson about having the faith to follow the right path. I told them about my son, Matthew, who has loved swords all his life. After college he formed a heavy metal band and played in clubs but he found he did not like that lifestyle. What he truely loved was sword fighting. He had done very well with fencing in college but that was not his favorite. He wanted to learn the Japanese method. So while he got a day job, he also researched about this ancient art and discovered that the mastser teacher or sensai of Shinkendo lives in the Los Angeles area. He met with him and applied to be his student. That lead to years and years of discipline and learning and practice until he became a Shinkendo instructor and was able to open his own dojo to teach others. He followed his path, with prayer and listening, and now he does what he loves best for a living. Faith is the substance of things hoped for.

Some of my earlier blogs are about the other things we discussed Sunday; caterpillars, mustard seeds, and Jesus' parable about the lost sheep. The time flew and we were surprised when the Superintendant rang the bell to end classes. On the way out, another teacher asked if I was available to teach this Sunday and I said I would be happy to do that. This time it will be a class of 3rd and 4th graders. So I am looking forward to this week's Bible Lesson and the story of Jonah.

Many religions teach about a God who condemns but in Christian Science we see that God is Love, and love does not condemn or punish. If we sin, we live with the consequences of that and that is a self-imposed punishment that lasts as long as we choose to continue sinning. What a great week to be studying Jonah.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Polka-dotted or pure?

When I was young I used to worry about my 'polka-dotted' heart. The religion our family practiced was not Christian Science. It was explained to me once that our sins are like black polka-dots marking our heart. We needed to confess those sins, recite prayers of contrition, recieve the host, and our 'polka-dots' would be erased. So I went to confession every few weeks but worried about what would happen if I died suddenly, went to heaven and God saw those dots. Or if someone I loved died with those 'dots' on their hearts. We were never counseled about the sins that caused those 'dots' in the first place. The slate was wiped clean and we began again.

In this week's Bible Lesson we read Psalms 51:10. "Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me."  Reading that reminded me of the childhood belief in an unclean heart. Now I would work with that verse very differently in the light of what I am learning about Christian Science. In God's eyes, my heart is perfectly clean, without blemish or stain. I have never sinned. I am and always will be His child, made in His own image and likeness. I would pray to see that the first part of that Psalm declares my purity and the second part is what I need to do to understand that. A right spirit. A right understanding of who and what I am. Just think how the world would change if everyone prayed along these lines. No more heart disease! No one would be be 'heart sick' about anything.

In the same section of the Lesson is one of the Beatitudes Jesus shared during the Sermon on the Mount. "Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God". (Matt 5:8)  I just love this one. Putting it together with that verse from Psalms strengthens the healing effect. When I pray with this Beatitude I read it substituting each of the seven synonyms Mrs. Eddy gives us in her definitions of God. Principle. Mind. Soul. Spirit. Life. Truth. Love. As I do this, I begin to see how blessed we are when we 'see', understand, God this way and how it can affect our lives, our health, our work, our relationships, etc.

Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see Prinicple. Principle is the law of ever present Good, always operating in our behalf. What protection.What a relief to be surrounded by honesty. Laws are enforced and God's law assures that we are surrounded by good, by the effect of goodness. All we can be aware of it good in ourselves and everyone else.

Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see Mind. There is only one God so there is only one Mind doing all the knowing, all intelligence, perception, understanding. That is also my mind by reflection. Mind is never absent so I cannot be absent minded. Mind always knows so I cannot be forgetful or lose anything I have learned. Mind knows all things so I can reflect that wisdom.

Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see Soul. Soul is the synonym that represents the true faculties of sight and hearing and feeling. Soul is joyous and fills me with a love for music and dancing. Soul is all about true beauty and grace. None of that can fade away or be disfunctional. We can have clear vision, sharp hearing and a wonderful compassion and gentleness as part of our  nature.

I continue on this way, working with each name for God, and the prayer becomes a treatment that brings healing for myself and others. What an empowering thing it is to recognize this purity of heart. Quite different from believing in 'polka-dots' that brand me as a sinner. I see myself and others as the pure and perfect and loving ideas of divine Mind. Such a feeling of peace and comfort.  I am also grateful to see something Mrs. Eddy wrote about purity included in this section. "We should strive to reach the Horeb height where God is revealed: and the corner stone of all spiritual building is purity." Pure without a single flaw or break or fracture or blemish. So rejoice today knowing you are not a polka-dotted child of God but pure and perfect. Delight in the law of good.