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!