Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Behold = look until you see. Be a spiritual see-er

The first word in this week's Golden Text is 'behold'. I recently read a comment that 'behold' means 'look until you see' and I just love that idea so what fun that it is the first word in the Lesson on Reality. I went through the Lesson and circled the places where 'behold' appears and worked with those ideas yesterday.

...behold, the kingdom of God is within you.  Look until you see, truly understand that this is the reality of your being, your true spiritual identity. And look until you see that the kingdom of God is all that is within you. There is no place for anything else to lodge or intrude.

...behold, your God will come with a vengeance, even God with a recompense; He will come and save you.  Look until you see that God , as the New Living Translation puts it, your God is coming to destroy your enemies, He is coming to save you.  Or as the Message Bible translates it, God is here, right here, on His way to put things right and redress all wrongs. He's on His way and He will save you!

God saw everything that He had made, and, behold, it was very good.  Look until you see what God sees, all of His creation as very good.

Open Thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of Thy law. What a simple and profound prayer! Open my eyes, let me see only what You see, and I will behold wonderful things all around me. That is the prayer Elisha prayed when his servant was dismayed to find them surrounded by an enemy army. And the Lord opened the eyes of the young man; and he saw: and, behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha.

Jesus beheld in Science the perfect man, who appeared to him where sinning mortal man appears to mortals. Now that is how you look until you see. And the result? In this perfect man the Saviour saw God's own likeness, and this correct view of man healed the sick. Yes!

The same ( a man crippled from his mother's womb) hear Paul speak: who steadfastly beholding him, and perceiving that he had faith to be healed, said with a loud voice, Stand upright on thy feet. And he leaped and walked.  Paul beheld...he looked until he saw that man's perfection and that spark within him that was receptive to healing, even of a life long so-called birth defect.

Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed on us, that we should be called the sons of God:  Look until you see this great gift of grace bestowed on us unconditionally by our dear Father, God. This is read every Sunday at the church service and Sunday school meeting. It should never be so familiar that we don't pay attention to it.

Never stop beholding. Look until you see the reality of your oneness with divine Love.

Behold and be whole.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

She was bowed down....

I actually had this experience yesterday on campus.

Two of my 'grands' take the bus to St. Louis to attend the Lower School at Principia. I meet them coming back to Elsah every afternoon at 4:30. Yesterday I arrived early, prompted by some angel message to be there sooner. When I walked to the flag pole area I saw a student sitting on one of the benches. She has hunched over and seemed to be in distress. I sat beside her and asked if she would like some company.

She was distraught about how things were going in this fourth week of classes, unhappy with the work load and not getting her assignments done on time. This girl had always been an "A" student and now she was getting "C"s. At first she could hardly lift up her head and tears were dripping onto the sidewalk. But as we talked, and I shared some thoughts that came to me a I prayed, she was able to speak more freely.

The others who were arriving to meet students started to come over to say hello. We are a friendly bunch and usually get into conversations. But when they saw what we happening each one stepped aside and I could see that they too were praying.

The bus arrived and slowly the crowd of excited children and adults thinned out. I stayed with her until she felt she could go back to her dorm. When I got home I sent her an email with some other things to work with.

This morning I got an email back that was filled with light and joy. I had no doubt that she was 'straightened up' and ready to continue on with renewed enthusiasm and an expectation of good.

It fit so nicely with the incident in this week's Bible Lesson about the woman bowed down with a 'spirit of infirmity' who 'could in no wise lift up herself'. Jesus saw and stepped right in to offer the assurance that she was loosed from that claim. And she was.

I love what Mrs. Eddy writes about being 'bowed down'.  "We bow down to matter, and entertain finite thoughts of God like a pagan idolater". The paragraph heading is "Idolatrous illusions". And that is all we deal with, illusions that would suggest we are on our own and unable to overcome some 'spirit of infirmity', some attempt to limit us mentally or physically.  Elsewhere Mrs. Eddy writes about God's child as 'including all right ideas' and 'that which has no separate mind from God', with 'not a single quality underived from Deity'".  As we talked and exchanged emails we were affirming her divine right to those 'right ideas' available whenever she needed them. The Christ was just as accessible to her as to that woman.

Just another in the long list of reasons why I love Christian Science and am so grateful to see it in operation today just as effectively as it was back in Jesus' time.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

It isn't about getting to the pool

This week's Bible Lesson on matter includes the familiar story of the man waiting beside the Pool of Bethesda. He has suffered from some unnamed ailment for 38 years and is unable to get to the waters when they are stirred by an 'angel'. Others get there before he can. So someone has taken him to the pool but left him there unattended. Jesus singles him out from among the many hoping to be healed.

When Jesus speaks with him, asking if he wants to be healed, the man answers with all the reasons why he has not been so far. Jesus tells him to rise up, take up his bed, and walk. Immediately the man is made whole and he does just that.

Jesus did not tell him to go wash in the pool. He redirects the man's expectations from some healing that would come from the waters, as if they had the power to do that, and gives him instead a glimpse of the Christ, the activity of divine Love that brings healing. All healing comes from a change of thought. Jesus was showing that man that the healing resulted in choosing Spirit over matter. The answer was not to get to the water, but to look up to God. The following citation from II Corinthians begins....we look not at things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen'. Our reliance is not on the material, which may or may not be accessible to us, but on God who always is right at hand and ready to help and heal.

The waters had no power to heal. The healing came from the belief that they could. But that was an illusion. Such healings were based on faith in matter, not unlike taking a pill to 'heal' a headache. The headache goes away because of the individual's belief in it, one belief overtaking another. But it is not a permanent healing because it does not correct the cause. The headache can, and probably will, return. When one changes one's standpoint to a more spiritual view of God and man, the reliance is not on matter at all. The belief in material conditions yields.

What do we gain by turning to God for healing, abandoning material reliance? Mrs. Eddy says this 'confers upon man enlarged individuality, a wider sphere of thought and action, a more expansive love, a higher and more permanent peace'. Now that is worth considering.

Instead of putting yourself beside some inaccessible 'pool', waiting for an illusive solution, why not look up to the Christ, the ever-present solution. Find all in God, good. Part of Mrs. Eddy's Scientific Statement of Being reads, "All is infinite Mind and its infinite manifestation for God is All-in-all". No need to wait for help or healing. No need to rely on matter or some one else. God fills all space with His goodness. You are made in His image and likeness, perfect and whole, and live in that atmosphere. Turn from the illusion. It can't help you. See the reality and be free. Your answer is not in getting to the pool, it is in turning to God, divine Life, Truth and Love. That is where you should be looking. And you will find all you need.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Didn't you sow good seed?

Ah, there is the question.

Recently I started paying attention to the questions that appear in our Bible Lesson, both in the Bible passages and in the citations from Science and Health.  There are several good ones this week and today I will be working with one from the second section. It is found in the parable of the Sower and the Seed. A crowd has gathered around the Master and Jesus is teaching them about the kingdom of heaven. He chooses a familiar subject to make his point, the sowing of seed. This only appears in Matthew's gospel.

It was interesting to read in Dummelow's Bible commentary that perhaps Jesus foresaw the scandals and offences that would arise within the Christian movement; Peter's denial, the treachery of Judas, the quarrels among the apostles, the sensuality of the Corinthians, false brethren and false teachers, the love of members waxing cold. Couldn't some of that seem apparent in our churches and our lives today? Jesus was teaching them this parable that they (and we) might know how to deal with the tares and weeds that show up on our own spiritual journey. He was demonstrating it for himself.

That 'field' might be your own family, your body, your office, your marriage, your church. It is a call to let your own spirituality mature. Learn to respond with love rather than react with anger or frustration or blame.  Don't go on some rampage of weed removal. Be still and listen to God.  Those false beliefs and errors will become apparent and easily seen for what they are. Never people, places or things but just wrong thinking and acting. The Sower knew he was working with good seed sown in a good field. So did the Master. Anything that did not belong there would be recognized and removed, without damage to the good fruitage.

There is a wonderful letter Mrs. Eddy wrote to Frank Gale reprinted in Mary Baker Eddy, Healer, the amplified version. She tells him, "The tares and wheat appear to grow together until the harvest; then the tares are first gathered, that is, you have seasons of seeing your errors - and afterwards, by reason of this very seeing, the tares are burned, the error is destroyed. Then you see Truth plainly. and the wheat is "gathered into barns" - it becomes permanent in the understanding."  Seasons of seeing your errors. May these not be the result of dedicated prayer and study? Wrong thinking is revealed and can be replaced with right ideas. As you see it, it is destroyed in your thought and removed from your experience. The whole letter is worth reading, found on pages 398-399.

So if you are tempted to wonder, didn't I sow good seed, when some problem or challenge appears, think about this parable. Love guides us to make the separation at the right time. Nothing but blessing can be the result. That good seed will bear good fruit.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Idolizing and Idling?

This is going to be a great week to be studying our Bible Lesson on Matter. The Golden Text get right to the point, "...we know that an idol stands for something that does not really exist; we know that there is only one God." (I Cor 8:4)  This is a clear directive to be alert to idol worship, worshipping something that does not really exist, and to do that by understanding that there is only one God.

We might be tempted to shrug that off, I don't worship idols, I believe there is only one God.  And yet, we struggle with physical, emotional, financial, and other challenges. What are we idolizing? Are we giving in to some problem as real and letting it be a part of our experience? Are we idling along with a false belief about ourselves or others?

Think about graven images. They show up all the time and not just in places of worship. Stand in the check out line at the grocery store and 'idly' glance at the magazine covers. You will see images idolizing a certain body type or a certain celebrity. They are on the cover because it sells that issue and it sells that idea. What television shows do you watch regularly? Can they make you buy into some false picture of life or do you admire a certain character?  Do you actively reject it or do you take it in casually and not deny it reality. If you do it might show up as a temptation to be unhappy with your body or your job or your life style.

Mrs. Eddy writes, "The first idolatry was faith in matter".  Are we placing our faith in matter? Or are we starting each day with prayer to establish clearly in thought our true identity as the image and likeness of God, good?

I can hardly wait to dig in and work with the Bible stories in this Lesson. We have Jesus' parable of the tares and wheat, a challenge to see if a thought is spiritual or material, real or unreal, based on spirit or matter. Time to pull out those 'weeds' by the roots, clear them out of your thinking. There is the story of the man by the pool of Bethesda, waiting for his healing. Do you feel helpless to see a problem resolved?  And there is the story of the woman who had so accepted the reality of her problem that it had literally bowed her down for 18 years.  We can identify with these situations. Been there, done that. Or we can make the commitment to daily prayer for ourselves.

Familiar as they are there is always something new to learn from them. You are in a new place as you study them. You should be. Ask yourself, have I grown in my understanding and application of Christian Science since I last worked with this parable or story? What can I glean this week?

Discard an 'idol' this week. Stop 'idling' and get to work on an unhealed problem. Stand up for Truth.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Daily devotionals

I started reading devotionals years ago when a friend introduced me to Stream in the Desert by Mrs. Charles E. Cowman. It was written in 1925 and in it were thoughts, quotations, spiritual inspirations which had helped sustain Mrs. Colman during her years of missionary work in Japan and China. Reading each days passage was a great comfort and refreshment. Every once in a while I refer to it.

In 1996 I picked up a copy of Simple Abundance by Sarah Ban Breathnach, a daybook of comfort and joy.  In the foreword she wrote, "What I wanted to write was a book that would show me how to reconcile my deepest spiritual, authentic, and creative longings with often-overwhelming and conflicting commitments - to my husband and daughter, invalid mother, work at home, work in the world, siblings, friends, and community." She followed six practical, creative, and spiritual principles - gratitude, simplicity, order, harmony, beauty, and joy as she developed a manageable life style into a state of grace.  It made a good companion to Mrs. Cowman's book.

Last year a new friend suggested I read Daily Guideposts for 2013 which describes itself as a spirit-lifting devotional. It has brought out new editions for 36 years. The daily entries start with a short Scripture verse for reflection, a first person story of the ways God speaks to us, and a brief prayer. I was not as thrilled with this one but pick it up now and again. I did so this morning.

The Bible verse is Romans 12:6 from the New International Version...We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us.  (It shows up right at the beginning of this week's Responsive Reading in our Bible Lesson)The story is about a woman attending a large gathering where everyone was wearing a name tag. She asked one woman, "What do you do?", and did not get the typical response she expected.  "I bring hope to people who are hurting."  Turns out she was a clerk in a local grocery store but she didn't see her job that way. She felt it was a way to use the gift of hospitality and love God had given her to make the world a better place. So she paid attention to people who looked sad or careworn and offered them a simple word of kindness.

That made the writer look at his own job, as a seminary dean, with fresh eyes. He felt if you met him today and asked him about his work he would have a different response now. Hhe would say, "I use my gifts of administration and teaching to help prepare people for ministry and build up the kingdom of God.

Imagine yourself in that room full of people. Imagine someone coming up to you and asking "What do you do?"  How might you answer? I know my answer will be different now than it might have been before I read this devotional entry. I will look at it as an angel message and a call to lift my thinking higher about what I do and how I would describe it to someone else.

The prayer at the bottom of the page reads, "Bless the work of our hands, Lord, that it may bring glory to You."

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Turning water into wine

I come from a large family and in my childhood attended many weddings and gathering. And the wine flowed freely. As a student of Christian Science I have a different perspective on many things now. But fond memories of being with family and friends for celebrations.

John's gospel is the only one of the four that records this incident, coming so early in Jesus' ministry. It is filled with personal and eye witness details. Jesus had gone off on his own as a grown man but his mother must have kept some tabs on him as she knew how to call him to attend this wedding. She invited his new disciples to the feast as well.

When I study Bible stories I often check to see what Dummelow has written in his commentary. He says, "St. John records it, because, spiritually interpreted, it forms a suitable introduction to our Lord's ministerial work." He also notes, "Christ changes the water of Judaism into the good wine of the Gospel." It showed Jesus as Lord of matter as well as of spirit.

Wedding feasts went on for days and by the third day they were running out of wine. Dummelow comments that it was perhaps caused by the presence of so man (five or six) of the disciples so Jesus had a natural motive for working this miracle.

Another wonderful source for information is the JSH (Journal, Sentinel, Herald) site where one can look up articles from the periodicals. I found one that I will work with today, written by Ralph E. Wagers, entitled Turning Water into Wine. Mr. Wagers, a renowned Christian Science teacher, makes some wonderful points. "Jesus' presence at this marriage feast, as well as his part in the festivities, may have been more important than appears on the surface. Could it be possible that his turning the water into wine called attention to and dramatized the transforming nature of his ministry, a ministry that was to elevate the human concept of existence to a higher - a spiritual - basis?"

I liked what Mr. Wagers said about the wine. "The first wine, the wine of intoxication, might be said to typify the unreal material basis of things. The better wine, the wine of inspiration and understanding, might typify the spiritual foundation and superstructure that is real, right, and eternal. Turning water into wine could point to a more divine sense of human relationships, the result of purification and spiritualization of thought."

This also resonated. "Gratification of the senses, the pride of possession, and the competitive influences of self-will are not conductive to a happy, enduring home life. but when the participants
replace that wine with the wine of inspiration and understanding, purified, unselfed motives and aims bring to home and family of taste of heavenly bliss."

This is a reminder to me to see what it is I am 'drinking in' each day and to be aware and alert to always seek the wine of inspiration and understanding. It is also worth noting that following that miracle 'many believed on his name when they saw the miracles which he did', but he didn't want them to just be impressed, he wanted their thinking to be elevated to become more spiritually based. Inspired. Our Lesson says all things become new, then all thoughts can become new as well. We can demonstrate that same control over the nature of matter to see it purified so we can see the real man and his relationship with God.

Try it today, turn those watery thoughts to the pure reality of your status as the image and likeness of God, good. Be inspired.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Wear your pearls today

My inspiration this morning came from an article in this week's Sentinel, A pearl of great price. That is a reference to one of the ways Jesus described what the kingdom of heaven is like. It is found in Matthew 13. A merchant is 'seeking goodly pearls'. When he found 'one pearl of great price' he went and sold all he had so he could buy that pearl.

When I was a teenager my father bought me a string of pearls for my 16th birthday. It was small but lustrous and beautiful and I loved it. I still have it. But many years later I have a different string of pearls.  It is priceless to me.

When I started to study Christian Science, it was if I finally found something I had been searching for just as diligently as that merchant, the way to worship God with a religion that saw Him the way I did, as the Good Shepherd, loving His flock. On my 'spiritual' necklace that is the central and most beautiful pearl. I've added 'spiritual' pearls in the form of healings. Joining The Mother Church, then my first branch church, class instruction, serving as Second Reader, giving my first Association Address, all more 'pearls'. I would also consider some of my favorite Bible passages as well as things from Mrs. Eddy's writings, as 'pearls'. 

In nature pearls are formed when a bit of grit gets into the shell and causes irritation. A substance is secreted that covers it with a smooth layer. Layer upon layer is added and a beautiful pearl is formed. What a spiritual lesson for us as we deal with life's irritations through prayer, turning some intruding problem into a healing. Handled this way with prayer and understanding we come through the experience with our 'pearls', proofs of God's unfailing grace and loving care.

Too often I leave that 'string of pearls' hidden away. Today's article inspired me to take it out and think about how it has grown over the years. When I get dressed, I will mentally slip it on and go through the day smiling.

Be sure to take a look at your own and appreciate those pearls.