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.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Pondering pathways

I am a list maker. Always have been. It seems to help me focus on the needs of the day to write down what I want to accomplish or where I need to go. Yesterday I started a journal about my bread making and included a list of all my bread books. This morning I woke up thinking of today's errands and felt much more peaceful once I had written it into a list. It may not all get done but at least there is a plan. A path. Orderly steps.

The Golden Text of this week's Bible Lesson is about orderly steps. "The Lord makes firm the steps of the one who delights in Him". (Ps 37:23)  That is a great comfort to us list makers. It is an assurance that God is in control and will help us get through that checklist.

There are many references to paths and pathways in the Responsive Reading as well. "In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths".(Pro 3:6) Put God first, let God go ahead of you, then it is always safe and right to follow where He is leading.  It goes on to say "...the path of the just is as a shing light, that shineth more andmore unto the perfect day". (Pro 3:18)  That is just what I want to see today, my path clearly shining before me. Just the right order in which to do all those errands and chores. When I think about that I remember seeing moonlight reflected on water, creating a beautiful bright line.

Reading on....."Ponder the path of thy feet, and let all thy ways be established." (Pro 4:26)  I like that word 'ponder'.  It seems like quiet and thoughtful time spent considering something. The dictionary defines ponder as to weigh in the mind with thoroughness and care.  So here is good advice, to pause and think about your path, where you are going, how you will get there. Then expand on that to know that your ways are established in divine Mind's wonderful plan.

Some days that list gets so long, there is so much that should get done, so many needs to be met not only for me but for those I care about. If I start to take on that responsability personally, it can seem daunting and a heavy burden. But if I ponder, think about these tasks as a gift, as a way to use the qualities God has given me, see that it is all established already, the weight lifts and I can move freely through the day. Following that shining path.

So I will work with the Golden Text and be sure that as I see the path before me today I am also delighting in God. In His wonderful guidance and control. In my place in His orderly creation. Whatever it is that I am to do or accomplish today, I can delight in it.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Insights about caterpillars

Today I am inspired by something in the first section of this week's Bible Lesson, Probation after Death. How appropriate that it is a reference to a chrysalis. There is much to learn from a caterpillar's journey. This is what I am pondering:

1. the caterpillar and the butterfly are not two.
2. the caterpillar does not die, it transforms.
3. change is necessary and good, it is a divine activity, spiritual progress.
4. the caterpillar doesn't sit around and wait, it eats and eats. (Remember The Very Hungry Caterpillar story?) We don't sit and around and wait for healing, we study and pray and listen.
5. the caterpillar puts aside its limitations for butterfly thoughts.
6. the butterfly pushes on the walls of the chrysalis until it yields.
7. every caterpillar is born knowing what to do.

Mrs. Eddy writes: "Faith is higher and more spiritual than belief. It is a chrysalis state of human thought, in which spiritual evidence, contradicting the testimony of the material senses, begins to appear, and Truth, the ever present, is becoming understood". (297)

So let's respect the lessons of the caterpillar and apply them to our own spiritual journey and transformation. This whole section of the Lesson is about faith, faith to walk in the path where God is leading us. Many of the Bible characters did and they accomplished amazing things. Let's shrug off our self-imposed limitations and soar to new heights of understanding.

Mrs. Eddy also writes that 'every trial of our faith in God makes us stronger'. It's not the is the trial of our faith in God. As I face today's challenges I will think about my faith in God, in His ability and willingness to comfort, guard and guide me. And I will think about the chrysalis. That time of quiet isolation when I am alone with God, protected from any outside interruption. Something is happening, even if it is not apparent from the outside. There is change and progress. That is what I need to have faith in.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Faith - Don't be afraid to break the seal

This week's Bible Lesson, Probation after Death, is once again packed with wonderful promises for our spiritual progress and growth. Having just started to work with it I see a focus on faith, faith in God that leads us in the pathway to unceasing good.

It's funny how insights come to us, often from some unexpected source. As I reached over to a revolving tabletop bookshelf for one book, I picked up another instead. I was holding a devotional, Streams in the Desert. I love devotionals and worked with many over the years.Out of curiosity, turning to the entry for today, I did not think it would be relavent until one phrase stood out. It was listing those Biblical characters who 'broke' through something and prevailed. Like Moses hitting the rock to provide water in the deser or when Gideon's soldiers broke their pitchers and let the hidden light shine forth to confound their enemies. The list goes on and on but what stopped me short was a reference to the poor widow broke the seal on her little pot of oil. She may have been hording that for emergencies, reluctant to dip into their last reserve.  But it was her faith in the prophet and in God that allowed her to break that seal.

How often are we called upon to show our faith? Is there a 'seal' on something in your life? As I thought about it I remembered a time when I had a little nest egg tucked away in a saving account. I was not adding to it, but I had promised myself I would not dip into it either. At that time I was fearful that if I did start to use it, it would trickle away and be gone. Now I understand, by my faith in God's endless supply for me, that I do not need to fear lack. That was the seal I needed to break, a sealed up belief in material supply or material sources.

This week I will study carefully the descriptions of faith and the steps and pathways that lead to a better understanding of the allness of Good.  I can hardly wait!

So today, don't be afraid to break those seals. You put them there, not God. You can never lose anything He has given you and, as His child, you have infinite resources to call upon. Examine your faith this week and I will be doing the same.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Are you waiting by 'the pool of Bethesda'?

I love this story.This week's Bible Lesson, Doctrine of Atonement, includes the story of the man lying at the pool of Bethesda. This account is from the gospel of John who may have been an eyewitness to what happened. It does not say if Jesus was alone or if the disciples were with him.

Those in need of healing gathered around this pool by the sheep market in Jerusalem. Many had to be carried there. They were all hoping for a miracle so they must have been sorely afflicted, beyond the help of the medical practitioners of their day. This gospel describes them as impotent folk, blind, halt, withered. They watched for the waters of the pool to be moved by an angel. They believed that whoever could be first into the water would then be healed. Desperate measures for desperate people.

Walking by the pool Jesus notices a particular man who had suffed with an infirmity 38 years. Everyone there was in need of healing but Jesus singles out this one man. He knew that he had been afflicted for a long time. This man could at least see and hear so he was aware of Jesus standing before him. Jesus asks him a question we all need to consider when we are 'waiting' for a healing that seems long overdue. "Wilt thou be made whole?". The New Living Translation says, "Would you like to get well?". The Message Bible interprets that as "Do you want to get well?".  It is an important question. Are you ready for this healing? Are you ready to no longer be idenfied and limited by this claim? You've had it with you for some time, are you ready to let it go?

You'd think the man would answer with a resounding 'Yes!" but instead he starts to list all the reasons why this won't happen. He has no one to help him. Well, no one stayed there with him, but someone had cared enough to bring him there. He isn't fast enough. This lingering problem has left him weak and limited in his movements. Have you ever caught yourself thinking "I can't do this". There's more. Someone else always gets there first. Does that sound familiar to you? At least he makes the attempt. At least he returns to the pool with some hope of success.

It's ironic that he thinks he has no one to help him when the best helper of all time is standing right in front of him and has just asked if he wants to be not only helped but healed! Is this how you work with a practitioner? Listing all the reason that you haven't gotten your healing. If you are dealing with a challenge that has not yielded? Try writing a list of the reasons you think that is the case. Then list next to each reason the truth about your relationship to divine Life, Truth and Love. Remember that the Christ is present here and now, ready to lift you up and out of that circumstance.

Jesus does not sympathize with the list of complaints. He sees this man as already perfect and complete, he knows this so-called ailment is without foundation or truth. It is only a lie and he sees right through it. He knows what this man is capable of right then and he tells him to rise, take up his bed, and walk. We saw this same thing in a recent lesson with the man healed of palsy. Jesus is telling him to lift himself up because he knows he can do this. He is telling him to take up that bed, carry the very thing that had been used to carry him by others. He is telling him to walk, something he has not done unaided for 38 years. And the man does all of that.

We catch a further glimpse of his total turn around when Jesus later finds him in the temple. He has gone there to pray and be grateful for his healing. But Jesus knew he needed to keep that gratitude for more than a few days. He affirms that the man is now whole but he cautions him to sin no more. He is not to return to his old ways but to be a new man.

Paul describes it in II Corninthians 5 - "if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature; old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new". If you are struggling with a challenge that has seemed to stay with you for a long time, what a promise! That old lie passes out of your experience, you are a new creature. Good as new. Good as when God first created you, whole and perfect.

If you have been 'waiting' for healing, wait no longer....recognize the presence of the Christ, believe what he has done for you, elevate your thinking, take control of the lie, and walk away, free and healed. Be whole...and don't sin any more.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Lost sheep and grace

How often do you connect with God? Once a week during the church service, twice a week if you attend the Wednesday night service? Once a day when you read the Bible Lesson? Several times a day if you stop to pray with the daily duties? God is ever present and we can feel connected with Him 'at all times and under all circumstances'. It can be for just a few moments as you are getting ready to leave the house or on your commute. It can be at random moments as you are moved to turn to Him for guidance or direction. It can be whenever you pause for a break or before a meal. Jesus appeared to be aware and tuned in all the time. Sort of like Paul's admonition to 'pray without ceasing'.

I once heard prayer defined in a Christian Science lecture as 'cultivating that state of awareness that acknowledges the allness of God'. That was early in my study of Christian Science and I was just learning a whole new way to pray, so different from the simple multiple repetitions of the prayers I learned as a child. This was a deliberate, open communication with God, my Good Shepherd and I could feel the presence of Love. It was a whole new way to deal with the temptations that crop up all day long, temptations to see and believe in the presence of something other than good. Since God is good and He fills all space, there can't be anything else present or operating but good. Since man is God's image and likeness, he or she cannot reflect anything but what is true of the Original.  But what happens if we fall for the lies about His creation? That is sin. What if we are believing someone else is a sinner? How should we treat them?

Jesus often chose to sit down with them, right at the same table, or to ask them to join him where he was sitting with his disciples. Have you ever thought about doing that? Jesus did not worry about what others might think, he just loved everyone he met and he reached out with compassion to those who needed it most. He told those who condemned this behavior, "they that be whole need not a physican, but they that are sick".  The Message Bible translates this verse "Who needs a doctor: the healthy or the sick! Go figure out what this Scripture means: "I'm after mercy, not religion.' I'm here to invite outsiders, not coddle insiders." He recieved them graciously. How gracious are we?

He follows up with a parable about a shepherd and one missing sheep in a flock of 100. Sheep can be a bit silly at times and tend to wander away from the flock if not watched carefully. In a parallel, sinnes sometimes don't even realize that they are losing their way, following a wrong path. Without the Shepherd going out to find themt and bring them safely home they would be lost forever. I used to think it was unfair to leave the 99 'in the wilderness' while he went off to rescue one. But that wilderness was just their ordinary familiar pasture.  What I love about this sweet parable is the fact that when the Shepherd finds that sheep he doesn't punish it or drive it home with a stick, he picks it up and carries it on his shoulder. Haven't you done that with a tired child? Haven't you felt that child just relax into your arms, safe in your protection and care? What grace.

There's more! Once he gets back he calls his friends and neighbors to come rejoice with him. He is inviting everyone to see and support the return of the lost one, to welcome them back, to include them, forgive them. More grace.

Take some time today to connect with your Shepherd...and to look around you for any 'lost sheep'. Invite them to your 'table'. Welcome them, even as the Christ loves you, carrying you on His shoulder and rejoicing in you as a member of His flock. Be gracious and feel the gift of grace in return.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Atonement and temptation

As we delve deeper into this week's Bible Lesson, Doctrine of Atonement, we continue to see just what it is we are being called upon to do. The early Bible characters worshipped God with burnt offerings and a strict code of laws. Eventually that thought was elevated as Jesus came to bring grace and truth.

In the custom of the times, Jesus went to John the Baptist to be baptised in the river Jordan. If he had any doubts as to his true identity and mission, he now hears directly from God, "Thou art my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased". With this afffirmation comes a series of trials as Jesus has a wilderness experience. He needed that time to process what had happened, to wrestle with the temptations that must have come when he realized his full potential.

Tempted by Satan, he overcomes each suggestion, all starting with the word 'if'. If you are the son of God. Has error ever whispered to you an 'if'? If you are the child of God. Jesus always responded with Scripture, the Word of God he had studied all his life. We can respond the same way with a relevant insight from the Bible or from Mrs. Eddy's writings. At the successful conclusion of this wilderness experience Jesus is ministered to by angels.

I'd love to share something wonderful that was included in a testimony at yesterday's CSO meeting. A testifier spoke to the story of Daniel in the lions' den that had been in the readings. She said that someone had once told her that the lions had been fed. I never thought about that before. Daniel was protected and guarded by the angels who came but now I wonder if they did not also minister to those lions as they had ministered to Jesus. The hungry lions were fed. What a neat thought! It brings out how what blesses one blesses all. Daniel did not want to kill or punish those lions. Maybe part of his prayer had been to know that they would be taken care of even as he was. What an example of at-one-ment.

Being a student of Chrisian Science does not mean you will no longer be tested or tempted. But it does mean that when that happens you are prepared with just the right ammunition to overcome it and gain a little spiritually in the process. Gaining a better understanding of our at-one-ment with God.

Tomorrow I will be studying the parable of the lost sheep.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Are you atoning?

What an interesting Bible Lesson this week on the Doctrine of Atonement. As Christian Scientists we read that as at-one-ment with God but to others it seems to be about atoning for sins. We have all made mistakes in judgement at one time or another. In the process we may have hurt others, or we  may have been hurt by others. How does one 'make up' for that or what does one expect someone else to do to correct a wrong? Is there an unforgivable sin?

Sometimes it is about giving up something that has taken over our lives, a habit or behavior that seems so important that we put it before anything else. Screen time with television or computers or the latest hand-held device, texting even when you are in the same room. It can become an obsession and it leads to isolation. Is that something you or someone in your family deals with? Once it is seen, is there a willingness to voluntarily change that pattern? What takes its place? Can you do this for God, to be a better reflection of His child? Would you give it up for Him? Do you trust Him enough to believe your life will still be filled with good and purpose if you stop doing it?

At the end of the Responsive Reading the author of Hebrews has some advice: "Let us hold tightly wihtout wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep His promise. Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. (Heb 10:23, 24)

The Lesson starts with how God directed Moses and Aaron to make an atonement for the sins for the priests and all the people. But the prophet Samuel soon asks; "hath the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord?" Why would God want burnt sacrifices? I loved that line in one of the Star Trek movies: "Why would God want a starship?" He wants us to be obedient to His commandments and our covenant with Him. He will be our God (no one and nothing else will) and we will be His people.

Mrs. Eddy writes; "Let us rid ourselves of the belief than man is separated from God, and obey only the divine Principle, Life and Love. Here is the great point of departure for all true spiritual growth." (S&H 91)

So that is our point of departure this week. Obey God. Follow His guidance. Take a careful look at how you are spending your time and focusing your attention. The kingdom of God is at hand.

Tomorrow - more about temptations.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Jesus, Mary, Martha and a crowd of witnesses

Hard to believe it is Saturday already. So I will wrap up this week's blogs about our current Bible Lesson which asks; "Are sin, disease, and death real?"

The third account addresses the unreality of death. Jesus has already demonstrated the power of divine Love to heal blindness, deafness, leprosy, insanity, the ability to walk on water and still storms, and to overcome a multitude of other challenges. He has raised a young girl who had just been reported dead, he had restored a young man who had died the day before to his widowed mother, and now he is going to bring someone out of the grave. I am sure he knew that not only could he do this for others but he was going to demonstrate it for himself. He was paving the way for the world to believe in this. Look at the cover of Science and Health and read his personal message to each of us: Cleanse the lepers, cast out demons, heal the sick, raise the dead. He did. And he expects us to make these demonstrations as well.

Jesus loved everyone but he also had some special friends; Mary, Martha, and their brother Lazarus. Word reaches Jesus while he is travelling that Lazarus is sick. Did the sisters generate that call for help? We don't know but his response may seem surprising. He does not leave immediately to go to this family. He began the treatment however by stating that the sickness was not 'unto death', but for the glory of God. He already knew what was going to happen. The Son of God would be glorified and many would believe this undeniable overcoming of death. Neither the young girl nor the young man had been buried. By the time Jesus returns to Bethany Lazarus will have lain in his grave four days. There is no way anyone could say he just appeared to be dead and then revivied.

His disciples were reluctant for him to go at all as the last time he was there the Jews tried to stone him. But Jesus knows what he needs to do and I'm sure he spent those days in prayer preparing. He is going to wake Lazarus from sleep just as he will awaken himself after the crucifixion and burial.

 Mrs. Eddy writes; "God does not cause man to sin, to be sick, or to die". (S&H 206). Those who believe Jesus to be the Son of God will not see death either as they gain the true idea of infinite Life.

So Jesus arrives where many have gathered to comfort Martha and Mary. He speaks first with Martha. From what we've read about her she would be the one up and busy, tending to this crowd of friends and neighbors gathered at her home. She says that if Jesus had been there here brother would not have died. I like to think she says that as a positive affirmation and not a reproach. He assures her that her brother will rise again and she agrees, but at the time of resurrection. He tells her plainly that he is the resurrection and the life.  Word of his arrival has reached Mary where she has been mourning. She comes to him - note he does not go to her - and falls at his feet, weeping. She says the same thing Martha had said, if you had been here my brother had not died, but it is plain that she is overcome by the loss. Jesus sees Mary and the other Jews weeping and he groans in spirit.

I wrote an article for the periodicals about Jesus next question - where have you laid him? - you can access this article on the new Journal, Sentinal, Herald site or find it in the bound volumes at the reading room. (Journal, April 2011). In that article I addressed that question and urged you to see just where you have 'put' someone who appears to be in a serious challenge. Where do you see them right at that moment in your own thought about them? Martha was feeling the loss but she believed she would see her brother at the resurrection. Mary was too caught up in her grief, she had already laid him in his grave. They answer his question with 'come and see'. Remember that because it is the same invitation the angel will make to Mary when she once again comes weeping to where she thinks Jesus has been buried. What was she expecting to see? What are you expecting to see?

You know what happens next. Jesus calls to Lazarus and Lazarus answers that call from the Christ. It would have taken a few minutes for him to get to his feet, bound hand and foot, and make his way out of the tomb. Jesus had already ordered the stone blocking it to be moved away. (There will be no one there to do that for him). When Lazarus does appear it seems that no one rushes to help him so Jesus instructs them to loose him and let him. Loose him from the claim of death and let him go.

We read this in Science and Health, "If Jesus awakened Lazarus from the dream, illusion, of death, this proved that the Christ could improve on a false sense. Who dares to doubt this consummate test of the power and willingness of divine Mind to hold man forever intact in his perfect state, and to govern man's entire action?" Do you doubt it?

So after a week of study and prayer I hope you are confident in being able to answer the question posed this week. We get there step by step, doing our best and highest sense of right day by day. What am amazing journey we are all on!

Friday, October 5, 2012

Jesus heals the palsied man - Part Two

Continuing on with our Bible Lesson this week, today I am studying the second part of this healing. Jesus had been teaching at Peter's house to a capacity crowd when four men arrived bearing their palsied friend on a stretcher. Unable to get into the courtyard because of the people they climbed the outside stairs to the roof and lowered him down. Jesus, appreciating their faith, addresses the man as son and tells him that his sins are forgiven. The account continues in section four.

Following the pattern of this lesson we see Jesus tend to the one needing healing and then address those around him who are there to challenge his Messiahship. Here again the scribes are present and it sounds like they are sitting in the front row. When they hear Jesus tell the man his sins are forgiven they are ready to accuse him of blasphemy as only God can forgive sins. Jesus was always aware of the thoughts of those around him. We have had similar experiences when you can just tell what someone else is thinking, and it is usually not positive. So he asks them a question in return.  Do they think it is easier to say sins are forgiven....or to tell the man to rise and walk? Just to show that the Son of man has this power on earth he is going to do just that. He turns to the sick man, who had already been told his sins were forgiven, but apparently did not equate that with freedom from his physical problem. He is to arise, take up his cot, and go to his house. And the man, who moments before had been unable to move, stands up, picks up the cot and goes out.

Notice all three things. First, he arises. That would have been impressive physically but it is even more impressive on a metaphysical level. When we feel under pressure or depressed how easily do we just shake that off and rise up healed when we have called for support from a Christian Science practitioner? This man did not get this healing on his own, he needed that kind of assurance and support. Sometimes we do as well. He believes what Jesus has told him, he has been forgiven and all the effects will disappear. Remember to rise up!

Next he takes up that cot. No one will need to carry him around now. That symbol of his disability no longer has control of him, he is not trapped on it nor does anyone have to see him any longer in that condition. He is able to carry what he had been carried in on. Can you just imagine the joy and rejoicing his friends must have felt! Can you imagine what the scribes must have felt? Once again Jesus deals with the atmosphere and thought around this healing. The healing is complete and no one can put this man back on that cot.

Finally, he goes forth. Yesterday I wondered if his former actions that resulted in this condition had caused his family to cast him out. Now he can return home, forgiven and restored. Is there any doubt that he will not return to those bad behaviors or habits? He has caught of glimpse of his true home in the kingdom of heaven with his Father Mother God.

The account says that all were amazed and glorified God. Gratitude and acknowledgement of God's wonderful love and protection should be present at every healing. They had never seen anything like this before. Sometimes this is true in our own experience where those around us have never seen this type of spiritual healing, this total reliance on prayer. Put the praise where it belongs, on God. As the Psalmist says: "Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits: who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy disease; who redeemeth thy life from destruction; who crowneth thee with lovingkindness and tender mercies."

Arise. Go forth. Go home to God.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Jesus heals the palsied man - Part One

In the next two-parter from our Bible Lesson (Are sin, disease, and death real?) we have the account in Mark's gospel of Jesus and the man 'sick of the palsy'. Mark's gospel is Peter's memoirs and Peter would have precise memories of this event as it took place in his house.

Many were being drawn to Jesus for his teaching and his healings as he travelled around. He returned to Capernaum and the word flashed around town that he was there and in Peter's house. Immediately crowds formed filling the courtyard completely. No one would even get in the door. Four men arrive, bearing their friend on a cot. Their friend was suffering some sort of paralysis and was not able to move. These men must have absolutely believed that Jesus could heal this. They refused to be discouraged or deterred when it did not seem that they could get anywhere near the Master. Do we have that kind of belief and faith when we actively seek prayerful help but run into obstacles?

At that time houses like Peter's had a stairway along the outside wall that led to the roof. That was a place one could go to sit and watch the sunset or catch whatever breeze was blowing. The men made their way up to that roof and then took apart the covering over the patio area where Jesus was addressing the people. That would have made an impression on Peter as it was his roof! They they lowered their friend down. Jesus must have smiled upon their determination and faith. He speaks to their friend and I am always touched by his words: "Son, thy sins are forgiven thee". We do not know what the man had been up to but it had been sinful behaviour that had destroyed his health. I wonder if that prolonged life style had caused his familly to shun him, cast him off. They were not the ones who had been caring for him, they had not brought him to Jesus. It may have been some time since he had been called 'son'. And who knows how long since he had been forgiven.

In the earlier story of the woman taken in adultery Jesus did not say that she was forgiven her sins. He defused the angry accusers and saved her from punishment by stoning. Then he told her to go and sin no more. The implicaton being that if she did not repeat her offenses but repented she would be forgiven. This time he lets the man know immediately that his sins have been forgiven. By his heavenly Father through his beloved son.

Once again we see that we are forgiven our mistakes when we turn from them and sin no more. We need to do this and then quit bringing them up again and again. Ruminating. Going over and over what we said and did. Shake it off and move to a higher place.

Jesus was not in the condemning business. I used to think maybe he was writing names or sins in the dust but he did not condemn so I think he may have been writing the true qualities that God's children reflect. What is true about us as God's image and likeness. In that incident he dealt with the atmosphere around the woman and her accusers. Tomorrow I will be studying what happens next with the palsied man and how Jesus dealt with the atmosphere in that courtyard where the scribes had gathered to hear him.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

The woman taken in adultery - Part Two

Continuing on from yesterday's post with the story of the woman taken in adultery and brought before Jesus. He dealt with her accusers by simply asking that 'he who was without sin should throw the first stone'. Interestingly enough, he was the only one in the room who qualified and her accusers slunk out one by one until "Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst'.

I like to read that several ways. Jesus was left alone. Those who had been taunting him to make a theological decision, hoping to trap him into a choice that would give them a reason to accuse him, were suddenly accused within their own hearts. And they left him alone, the badgering stopped. They also left the scene....but the room was not empty.  The woman was still there, standing in the midst.  I think that meant that now she was surrounded by the disciples who had witnessed the whole thing.

Jesus had been stooping down, doodling in the dust, and now he 'lifted up himself'. He stood upright but he also continued to elevate his own thought about what was really going on and who was before him. He lifted up himself. Do we pause to do that when dealing with some situation? Perhaps we should.  There she stood, probably shaken and shaking, from her ordeal, and her sudden recovery. She may have feared she would not have lived to see the next day. This man had saved her from an angry mob without lifting a finger.

I love what is recorded in John next: 'he saw none but the woman'. He saw that those others had left, but I also believed that as he looked at her he saw none but the perfect child of God, he was seeing her as God sees her. She certainly was not seeing herself in a good light at the moment. She would need some lifting up in her own thought. He asks her, "Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee?"  Saved by the Christ there are no accusers left, but now there needs to be no reason for condemnation.

One can only imagine what she must have thought as she looked at this man. She must have sensed the Christliness about him for she replies, "No man, Lord." She was not quite sure who and what he was but he seemed more than just a man to her. His reply to that was, "Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more."  She was saved, she was redeemed, her purity and dignity restored. Now she was to learn from this and not repeat the offense. What tenderness, what mercy, no lecture, no chastising, just pure love.  Would she sin again? Probably not.

Do we? Have we ever been like the scribes and Pharisees, looking for a way to show up someone we think deserves it? Self-righteous? One who is without sin doesn't want to 'throw stones' or punish others. Have we ever been like the woman, doing something we know is not our highest sense of right? We can turn away from that behavior and act as the pure and perfect child of God.

He spoke to the men, he spoke to the woman, and he speaks to us...go, and sin no more,.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

The woman taken in adultery - Part One

I am very intrigued by the format of this week's Bible Lesson. As we study the question it poses, Are sin, disease, and death real, we will be working with three biblical stories. What makes this lesson so different is the way that we deal with each of those stories as a two-parter. In each case something is being handled and forgiven or healed. Jesus heals the one struggling with sin, disease or death. He expands that treatment to those surrounding the individual and heals, forgives, redeems them as well. This is a strong reminder of how we are to be expanding our prayers beyond our own personal experience to bless the world.

Our Golden Text sets the tone for these healings. You should always begin your own prayers with gratitude, giving thanks to God for His goodness. He redeems us from our enemies and is merciful  to all.  Be sure to impersonalize the error you are dealing with. It is never someone, it is always just a suggestion from error, that big liar. So, is it real? No!

So today and tomorrow I will work with the account in John's gospel of Jesus and the woman taken in adultery. John was probably an eye witness of what happened. A woman is dragged before Jesus by the scribes and Pharisees. She is accused of committing adultery. (notice they did not bring the man) She was only betrothed, not married, otherwise her punishment would not have been stoning but strangulation. This 'law' was obsolete by Jesus' time and this incident may have been a set up to force Jesus to make an unpopular decision. They refer to Moses' law and ask Jesus what should be done with her.  Should he order her death he would then be in trouble with the Roman authorities.

So picture the scene with Jesus at the temple surrounded by those who had come to him for teaching. Error often confronts us when we are taking time to listen and pray. How do you deal with it when you are suddenly confronted by those who want to discredit you or make you look bad? He had been sitting down to teach but must have stood up when the men came in with the woman. Now he stoops down and with his finger writes on the ground. He does not chose to interfere in civil disputes. Writing on the ground was a symbolic action well known at that time signifying an unwillingness to deal with the matter at hand. But they persisted. When they continued to badger him, he 'lifted himself up' and I'm sure we can see that as a spiritual uplifting, taking his thought to its highest level, turning to God for the right response. He simply says that whoever is without sin should cast the first stone at her. Then he stoops down and doodles again in the dust. What did he write? Names? Sins? No one knows but his words struck home and the men 'being convicted by their own conscience' went out one by one. He forced them to look within themselves and they did not like what they saw. He did not change their minds as we do not attempt to change the minds of those who trouble us. He simply dealt with the error.

Mrs. Eddy writes:  "A sinner is afraid to cast the first stone." (S&H 447) and "A dishonest position is far from Christianly scientific." Those accusers had much to think about after that and if it awoke them to their self-righteous behavior they could be redeemed and forgiven.

So Jesus dealt with the atmosphere surrounding the woman. Much as he would send away those mourning a young girl that had died on another occasion. He quieted the tumult with calm words and the anger and grief were removed so the healing work could go forward.

I'll be pondering that response today and tomorrow will share some thoughts about what happened next.  I love the verses from Psalms in this section as they point out that the law of God is perfect and that it converts, makes wise, rejoices the heart, is pure. We can pray to be kept from 'presumptuous sins' so they do not have dominion over us.

Here in Elsah we are working with the metaphysical theme 2012-2013: "Delight in the law of God" (Romans 7:22)  So I will be watching for evidence of that law of ever present good being in operation and available 'at all times and under all circumstances' so we can be lifted up to see that good.