Soon, the wind and waves increased to the point that the kayak was starting to take on water. I was beginning to tire. For a moment, I was tempted to panic, but right then, two strong ideas came” and “God is not in the wind.” To me these ideas meant that God was always guiding me to be safe. I focused on these ideas as I navigated the waves. They gave me courage and proof that divine Love is my “refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (Psalms 46:1). I also noticed that the seal was still with me, which was precious to me. My task at that moment was to trust in God’s help and know that divine Love was meeting my need in the midst of the sea, even though the physical surroundings seemed to indicate I was in a dire situation. But was I going to accept that? As I asked myself that question, I was reminded of the first verse of a dear hymn from the Christian Science Hymnal:
In heavenly Love abiding, No change my heart shall fear; And safe is such confiding, For nothing changes here. The storm may roar without me, My heart may low be laid; But God is round about me, And can I be dismayed? (Anna L. Waring, No. 148)
The message from this hymn was strong, and I had no doubt that it was from Love. As I sang those lines out loud, I found that divine wisdom was guiding me to angle the kayak in just a way that would minimize water coming in and allow me to move forward. And it was no surprise to me that I felt a renewed sense of strength and energy. This reassurance that God was “round about me” brought me such gratitude and joy, and soon after, I made it safely to shore. I was also touched that the harbor seal, which I had come out to see, had kept me company the entire time, and once I was safely in the harbor, it turned around and left. Within a short time, a storm rolled in with gale-force winds and torrential rain that continued through the night. It was a strong lesson to me about the importance of being obedient to divine direction.
So, how was I able to hear God’s voice? I have found in my daily practice of Christian Science that remaining focused on God helps to keep thought tuned in, so to speak, to the truths that divine Mind is unceasingly communicating to all of us. Whether I’m praying for others, driving in my car, or doing projects around the house, this focus on God makes me more aware of the saving laws of God that are always in effect. It also alerts me to what does not go along with God’s laws, such as discord, illness, limitation, hatred, fear, and so forth, and the unreality of that which opposes good is more readily discerned. Then problems are corrected by yielding to the reality of divine Truth, which is constantly broadcasting the law of harmony, limitlessness, love, perfection, and peace to all mankind. We need to stay alert, though, in order to hear what Mind is saying to us and in order to determine whether the voice we’re hearing is God’s or not. Mrs. Eddy speaks of the need for this mental alertness in this way: “In a world of sin and sensuality hastening to a greater development of power, it is wise earnestly to consider whether it is the human mind or the divine Mind which is influencing one” (Science and Health, pp. 82–83).
Our ability to receive the messages coming from Mind is innate, because of our oneness with Mind. And, just as I heard a message from God and was protected from a storm in this one instance, we all can always hear and obey God and find refuge. As we get quiet, we’ll hear what God is saying and continue to be protected. We are all able to do this.
Reposted from the May 16, 2016 issue of the Christian Science Sentinel
Most of us would agree that the sight of new-fallen snow is something to behold. The pristine and fresh nature of it—white and beautiful, covering everything with a blanket of clean brightness—inspires.
The phrase “pure as the driven snow” goes hand-in-hand with the idea of newness. Mortal mind puts forth the concept that man has a material history that affects him throughout his life. In that context, the way one perceives one’s life would be dependent on that human history heaping up over time, in a cumulative manner. This could make one feel burdened with baggage of the past, tired, even cynical about one’s current situation or prospects for the future.
I’ve found that it’s so important, and freeing, to look at ourselves from the standpoint of spiritual reality—as being God’s idea, God’s spiritual child, in a perpetual state of newness, untouched and uncontaminated by any mortal beliefs. When we have the childlike trust and spiritual understanding that all really is well—that God is All and is governing and guiding, and that there is, in reality, no material history to keep us downtrodden or muddy our thoughts about ourselves—we can prove in practical ways that our life in God is as unlimited and forever new as divine Life and Love itself.
Realizing that we are that pure, fresh expression of pure and perfect Mind, we are more able to express freshness in everything that we think and do. We don’t need to feel like the hamster in a wheel, going around and around, stuck in a cycle of repeating past errors or thoughts. That is not our heritage! Divine Love certainly does not see us as worn-out material beings. In the Bible’s book of Revelation, chapter 21 verse 5, we read that John the Revelator heard the divine message, “Behold, I make all things new.” His vision of the New Jerusalem presented the new, correct view—the kingdom of heaven, including our true individuality, which is entirely spiritual, without any aspects of materiality or human history.
My husband and I have had many opportunities to prove these concepts about newness and freshness. For instance, several years ago my husband was denied tenure for political reasons that were not based on his job performance. It is the policy in the state where we live that once a teacher is denied tenure, he or she can no longer teach in that county. So the teacher’s position is terminated at the end of the school year. There was immediate outrage in the community because a handful of teachers, including my husband, had been singled out, and the feeling was that this was unjust.
During a meeting with lawyers, the teachers were informed that they could pursue legal action because of the nature of the decision made. Public protests took place as well, calling for the reinstatement of the teachers. At the end of the day, though, my husband still needed a job. He felt that it was important to move forward during that time and look for another teaching position.
As soon as he told me about the situation, I called a Christian Science practitioner for help. The practitioner’s first words to me were, “What a wonderful opportunity for you!” That comment instantly broke the mesmerism of the gloomy circumstances. Opportunity? Yes, this was a chance to see the freshness of what God had in store. The comment lifted my thought to see that God was already meeting our needs, because in reality we were never separate from Him and His goodness. Fear about the future dissipated, and we were both able to trust that Love would lead us in the right direction. That very day my husband had one job offered to him, and another soon followed.
Over the next few days and after much prayerful work, my husband decided not to pursue any legal action, because he strongly felt that he needed to be an example of grace to others instead of someone full of resentment and bitterness, rehearsing past injustices. He had been endeavoring to see that because something discordant was not from God, it could never touch him as a loved idea of Love.
During this time, it was just as important to keep my own thought purely on God, knowing that Truth was governing. I was working at the same school as he, and there were many conversations about the situation. Teacher morale had become quite low. It was crucial for me to keep my thought fresh and inspired, uncontaminated by human opinions about the situation. I had learned over the years, through my study of Christian Science, that what God knows about man’s true status is all I needed to know; human opinions couldn’t bring about healing.
The beauty of the demonstration was that every member of our family was blessed by our willingness to be obedient to divine Mind’s direction. My husband soon started teaching in a nearby county, where we eventually moved. He was also able to do more coaching in addition to his teaching. Our children were able to have new opportunities in this new area, and I was able to work full time in the public practice of Christian Science. When I later joined the branch Church of Christ, Scientist, in the area, it also met the church’s need to have a Christian Science practitioner.
I am very certain that our willingness to stay focused on God instead of allowing the human events to trample and muddy our thinking opened new doors for us in ways that we could not have humanly outlined and that not only blessed us but others as well.
Mrs. Eddy states in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures:“Trials are proofs of God’s care. Spiritual development germinates not from seed sown in the soil of material hopes, but when these decay, Love propagates anew the higher joys of Spirit, which have no taint of earth. Each successive stage of experience unfolds new views of divine goodness and love” (p. 66).
I’m grateful to always be learning that as God’s image we are forever one with divine Life, Spirit, Mind. Through the understanding of this, we are able to be constantly supplied with pure, unlimited, fresh ideas, relevant to just what we need. We live in Spirit, untouched by materiality; therefore, nothing can cause us to be burdened or trapped by circumstances. God is the source of all good, and we are given all that God has to give. This truth also applies in the case of a belief of chronic illness. Science and Health says, “Immortal Mind feeds the body with supernal freshness and fairness, supplying it with beautiful images of thought and destroying the woes of sense which each day brings to a nearer tomb” (p. 248). The effect of refusing to take a limited, material view of ourselves not only provides us with a clearer understanding of our unchanging spiritual nature, it also restores the body to health.
Through our growing spiritual understanding, Love makes us “new,” and we are each able to demonstrate this perpetual action at work in our lives daily.
Recently, when I was thinking about a familiar statement from Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy, the word all really stood out to me from the phrase “the test of all prayer.” The full passage says: “The test of all prayer lies in the answer to these questions: Do we love our neighbor better because of this asking? Do we pursue the old selfishness, satisfied with having prayed for something better, though we give no evidence of the sincerity of our requests by living consistently with our prayer? If selfishness has given place to kindness, we shall regard our neighbor unselfishly, and bless them that curse us; but we shall never meet this great duty simply by asking that it may be done” (p. 9).
We might ask, “How does this apply to prayer regarding the healing of a physical condition? Aren’t I primarily trying to see myself as the spiritual idea of God and hold to that?”
In praying for healing in Christian Science, we do start with God in order to understand our true nature as His spiritual reflection. So our prayers are primarily about healing thought, not about trying to fix a material body. We are praying to let divine Truth uncover and correct any error in our thought. And often that means praying to “love our neighbor”—other people—more. And it includes considering those questions that “test” our prayers.
Several years ago, while working in a public school, I was alerted to the popular thought that children are the biggest carriers of viruses, indiscriminately spreading dirt and harmful organisms on every surface they touch. At the time, the flu was affecting students and staff at the school, and I was listening to conversations about the issue and about how the adults needed to protect themselves.
I knew I needed to get a better perspective about the whole situation. As I prayed, I realized I was feeling annoyed by my coworkers. They seemed to be accepting that the students would just make us all sick and that we’d just have to deal with it. There seemed to be such an unloving attitude toward the students, viewing them as sick bodies instead of as people. I realized that this attitude was primarily based on fear, and that therefore my prayer about this situation needed to include how I was seeing not just the students but also the individuals working at the school.
My prayer became focused on recognizing everyone at the school as the image and likeness of a perfect, loving God, who created every aspect of the universe and saw it as good. I held my thought to the fact that God’s creation is purely spiritual, without any element of matter—harmful or otherwise—and that this creation includes each individual.
My annoyance lifted, and I had a clearer, higher view of my neighbor. I realized that this higher view, this love of my fellow man as the child of God, was a protection. I was confident that I would not become ill, and I did not. And the contagion lessened among the staff and students. Through this healing in my thought, I gained a greater love and appreciation for teenagers and my coworkers, which caused my work experience to be more harmonious and progressive.
Another time, I was praying about a physical injury. I had fallen hard on a boulder while on vacation with family, injuring my tailbone. My initial prayer was based on realizing the truth of this statement from Science and Health:“Accidents are unknown to God, or immortal Mind, and we must leave the mortal basis of belief and unite with the one Mind, in order to change the notion of chance to the proper sense of God’s unerring direction and thus bring out harmony” (p. 424). The pain lessened, and I was able to continue with our activities without hindrance for the rest of our time there.
When I got home, however, there was still some discomfort, and as I reached out to God in prayer to gain a better, more spiritual, view of God and of myself, I received an answer that brought me to tears: “You need to love her. Just love her.” Wow! Although at first that message seemed to come out of left field, I then realized that the “her” was a relative with whom I’d had a disagreement during that vacation regarding my parenting style. I had felt injured by comments that this individual had made.
Along with the realization that I needed to love my relative came the understanding that if God was telling me to love, then I was able to love her just as God does. At that moment, I was able to let go of pride and self-justification, and it was just natural to love her as God’s loved, loving, lovable child. A transformation had taken place in my thought. The pain left immediately, and I was completely healed of any sense of injury, emotional or physical. Since then, my relationship with this relative has grown stronger, and there has been a gentling between us, including a sweet thoughtfulness toward each other, which blesses the whole family.
One of the key factors in both of these healings was that I had to recognize and let go of erring, material views of my neighbor. When I was willing to rise up higher in thought—to let go of personal sense and let my thought be transformed out of a limited view of life in matter—I could see God, Spirit, and His spiritual creation correctly.
Such transformation of thought is a form of repentance. One definition of repent on Merriam-Webster.com is “to change one’s mind.” Christ Jesus told his followers to “repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 4:17), and Mary Baker Eddy defines Kingdom of Heaven spiritually as “the reign of harmony in divine Science; the realm of unerring, eternal, and omnipotent Mind; the atmosphere of Spirit, where Soul is supreme” (Science and Health,p. 590). Our willingness to change our thought about our experience and our neighbor enables us to see and experience the reign of harmony.
When we understand that loving our neighbor and healing go hand in hand, we see that prayer is not for fixing something that’s wrong. Prayer lifts us higher in our understanding of God and enables us to see all of creation—which includes our neighbor and us—as spiritual and perfect, all good and harmonious.
I ask myself the following questions from time to time: What are my expectations for church? How am I viewing the activity of my local branch Church of Christ, Scientist? Am I in my “ready position” at church?
What is a “ready position,” exactly? In volleyball, it is a stance where the players are attentively focused on the player serving the ball and ready to jump or lunge as soon as the ball is in motion. In this fast-paced sport, it’s necessary to be ready to act in a split second.
Since we probably won’t be playing volleyball at our church services, we can approach such readiness from a mental standpoint. Being in a ready position would mean being mentally alert to the needs of the congregation and the community. It means taking any personal sense of ourselves out of the equation and being receptive to the communication of God, divine Mind.
One thing that I’ve appreciated is the concept of Christian Science church services being a complete healing message. During the Sunday service we hear passages from our pastor—two books, the Bible and Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy. And during the weekly testimony meeting, the First Reader reads from both of these books and then invites the congregation to share their experiences of healing. Along with all this is the expectation that healing will take place at these services.
While serving in my church as First Reader, I have prayed to know that I am obedient to God’s messages regarding choosing readings or hymns. And I prayerfully prepare before each service so that I will be a transparency for the healing messages from God, reflecting His love clearly. I consider this work as getting me into my ready position.
To me, the main goal of each service is that people leave inspired, uplifted, and yes, healed. This moves us beyond the focus of just filling needed positions at church for each service. Instead, we can be in a ready position of thought to prayerfully, lovingly, and attentively serve as Readers, ushers, musicians, Sunday School teachers, and so forth. We can see that each Sunday service and Wednesday testimony meeting is a complete prayer that must be supported by members. This way of thinking about our services causes us to be active instead of passive, and we begin working collectively as a team for the congregation and also for the community.
A few years ago, I had a healing experience when I visited my daughter’s local Christian Science church. I had been struggling with an internal condition that felt like an obstruction, and even though I had been praying for myself, it seemed that it was taking some time for me to experience healing. That morning, when I was on my way to the church service, I declared that I was going to expect healing. As I sat in the service, a beautiful feeling of peace washed over me and I felt so touched by the readings shared. I knew that I had been healed! I felt the pain subside, and then very soon after, within a couple of days, the obstruction was no longer there.
Then I became so grateful that I wanted to give my testimony at that same church. Since my husband and I live in another part of the country, I knew it was going to be several months before I could do that, so I made a commitment to myself that I would go to a testimony meeting the next time I was out there to visit. Sure enough, I was able to give the testimony several months later. I’d felt that my healing was related to not only my expectation, but a readiness and expectation of healing on the part of the members.
After the meeting, I was able to speak with the First Reader, who shared with me that it was her deep desire that people would receive healing at every service, and that she was actively praying to know this was possible. She was so grateful that I shared the testimony, because it was proof of answered prayer.
On another occasion, as our church congregation was standing up singing the second hymn of the Sunday service, I noticed my husband leaning sideways. I helped him sit down and immediately spoke to him of the allness of God. When I looked over at him, I saw that he was crying. It was at that moment that I realized that he’d felt something so beautiful and powerful during the hymn that he was overcome. The sweetest thing was that those in the congregation expressed love to him in different ways—touching his shoulder, getting tissues, etc. We could feel the prayerful activity of the congregation going on.
After the service, the two of us sat there after everyone else had left, and he said to me, “You knew what happened, didn’t you?” And I told him I thought so. He then told me that as we were singing the hymn, he felt the Holy Spirit coming to him and washing over him, and he knew he’d been healed of some emotional and physical issues that had been weighing heavily on him. There was a lightness of thought and wonder, an awe, of God’s goodness. An emotional heaviness that he’d felt since his brother passed on was lifted away, and he also knew he was free from a previously diagnosed disease. Work-related tests later confirmed a return to physical normalcy.
A little later, when I was talking with our Second Reader, she said that before the service she had been praying with the poem “The Reader Prays” (Grace K. Sticht, Christian Science Sentinel, March 29, 1947) and felt so strongly that she would be a transparency for Truth. She told me she just knew that Truth would be heard and felt by those in the congregation. And I said to her, “Well, it definitely was felt!” As other members heard about this experience, we were able to rejoice together about the healing power of the Word.
These, of course, are just two examples from the many healings that have taken place during Christian Science church services across the globe.
Something that I have found helpful in maintaining a mental position of readiness is from a short article Mary Baker Eddy wrote in The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany: “Beloved Christian Scientists, keep your minds so filled with Truth and Love, that sin, disease, and death cannot enter them. It is plain that nothing can be added to the mind already full. There is no door through which evil can enter, and no space for evil to fill in a mind filled with goodness. Good thoughts are an impervious armor; clad therewith you are completely shielded from the attacks of error of every sort. And not only yourselves are safe, but all whom your thoughts rest upon are thereby benefited” (p. 210). Such attention to God is necessary, because it can be very easy to get caught up in the mechanics of each service, distracting us from the main purpose of it: healing.
Being in a mental ready position also means that we are alert to attempts by the carnal mind to get us to think discordant thoughts about members or about how things are being done in church. It means to keep cherishing the activity of the Christ without getting distracted by things that would pull us apart. Even while listening to other members and considering various points of view, we can keep our thoughts close to Truth and Love. And our readiness and alertness also keeps us from fixating on how many people are attending any given service.
I love to remember that, in everything, as Science and Health says: “The vital part, the heart and soul of Christian Science, is Love. Without this, the letter is but the dead body of Science,—pulseless, cold, inanimate” (p. 113).
Infinite Mind is expressing itself through us, its spiritual reflection; therefore, we are active, flexible, responsive, alert, and loving. This recognition can dispel any personal sense of self that would cause us to feel timid about talking to visitors to our church, or to think that we don’t know enough to perform needed church duties. We do know enough, because Mind is always communicating the truth, and we can be very confident of our oneness with Mind. Our readiness allows us to be mentally alert to give that “cup of cold water in Christ’s name” (Science and Health,p. 570) to any spiritual seeker, including fellow members.
Christian Science practice is Love expressed. Let’s know that we can prove this healing Love at church services.
From The Christian Science Journal – September 15, 2014
Several years ago, when our family moved to a different state, we started hearing a common theme around town: that allergies were really bad in the area, and that people would suffer from allergic reactions even if they hadn’t had problems living elsewhere. It was such a widely held belief that I knew I had to challenge that line of thinking. I’ve learned, through my study of Christian Science, not to accept the concept of a creation that is material and flawed, and I began praying to know that no one is susceptible to beliefs based on a false concept of reality.
As I prayed, I thought a lot about the concept of allergic reaction. To me that word implies that we have some say over how things affect us. In other words, when some thing or some thought or circumstance comes across our path, we choose how we deal with it. We can choose to react, or we can turn our thought to the unchanging spiritual facts about God’s creation. We can choose to accept the idea that God, Spirit, created all and called it good (see Genesis 1:31) and, therefore, that our spiritual environment is good, harmonious, and completely harmless.
The material concept of life argues that we must live in submission to matter. For example, if common public thought is convinced that certain plants cause negative reactions, we suffer accordingly. In Christian Science, though, we learn to challenge material beliefs instead of accepting them. The process of examining our thought and turning it around is prayer. In her book Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, Mary Baker Eddy wrote, “Metaphysics resolves things into thoughts, and exchanges the objects of sense for the ideas of Soul” (p. 269). So when something appears as an allergic reaction, we can find healing by taking the objects of sense—a material body separate from God that must suffer in a potentially harmful environment—and exchanging that material sense of things for the ideas of Soul: our real identity expressing the harmony of Spirit, and the spiritual universe, which is completely good. Prayer brings the sweet reminder that this is the only universe created by God.
We should expect to rejoice in the beauty of what nature represents.
Elsewhere in Science and Health Mrs. Eddy adds: “What an abuse of natural beauty to say that a rose, the smile of God, can produce suffering! The joy of its presence, its beauty and fragrance, should uplift the thought, and dissuade any sense of fear or fever. It is profane to fancy that the perfume of clover and the breath of new-mown hay can cause glandular inflammation, sneezing, and nasal pangs” (p. 175).
These ideas really helped me when it seemed that I was suffering from severe reactions to poison ivy. I started to feel that I was particularly susceptible to this problem and joked that it seemed as if all I had to do was look at a poison ivy plant and I’d get a rash! I definitely needed to get a better concept of myself and my environment. At one point the rashes appeared to be getting aggravated around the same time that I had become agitated about something going on in my branch Church of Christ, Scientist. This aggravation alerted me to the fact that my thought had become inflamed by what I was seeing and hearing, and that I was reacting to false beliefs about my fellow church members. Once I realized that these thoughts were just false beliefs about others—and not part of my own thinking—there was nothing left to react to! Very soon after, the rashes disappeared. I had realized that I had been allowing myself to react to false beliefs about God’s creation, and that I didn’t need to be influenced into believing in an evil creation of any kind. Since that time I haven’t had any reactions to poison ivy or to any allergens at all. These ideas have also helped me correct a false concept of myself as someone who can be reactive, knowing that because the one Mind is all-active, there cannot be a separate mind in opposition to that Mind.
We should expect to rejoice in the beauty of what nature represents: spiritual qualities such as grace, strength, and love. When we feel tempted by the belief that we are destined to suffer from allergies or from any discordant situation, we can challenge those thoughts with the truth that God’s allness includes only good, fills all space, and governs every aspect of our being. There can be no reaction to the action of God, omnipotent Mind, in whom “we live, and move, and have our being” (Acts 17:28). Mrs. Eddy echoes this thought when she writes: “The universe is filled with spiritual ideas, which He evolves, and they are obedient to the Mind that makes them” (Science and Health, p. 295).
When we recognize that God’s creation is the only reality, we can be confident that no matter how widely held a material belief is, it’s still only a belief—not a fact. Holding only to the first account of creation, in which “God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good” (Genesis 1:31), we can also be confident that we live in that realm of perfect harmony!
Does it seem to you that feelings relating to past events are holding you back?
That feeling of being hurt by someone else or by our own mistakes, if indulged, can stall us in our tracks and prevent us from living a life that recognizes God’s love. We may even acknowledge that we should be forgiving, but feel justified for the hurt feelings, and so we stay right there in our thought, unmoving and often refusing to budge.
How does Christian Science help us forgive? By separating the error from the person—seeing wrongdoing or wrong thinking as no part of their true identity—we allow no resentment to fester in our thoughts. This frees us to move forward in praying to love each person’s spiritual individuality and innate connection to God as God’s expression, or image. In this way, we are not excusing bad behavior or hurtful actions, but are standing up for what’s true about God’s man. Letting thoughts of love and mercy for the individuals and ourselves fill our whole being, we break free from that sense of being stuck in one place with bitterness as a constant companion.
Even though it can seem to be a very challenging thing to forgive, we can be confident that we are fully capable. This is because God is giving us the ability to do so. A verse in II Corinthians says, “And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work” (9:8). God is giving forth the love required for us to truly love our neighbor as ourselves.
If we just stay on one train of thought, holding on and ruminating about the past while attempting to move forward, it is similar to what Mary Baker Eddy describes in her book Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures on page 22: “Vibrating like a pendulum between sin and the hope of forgiveness,—selfishness and sensuality causing constant retrogression,—our moral progress will be slow. Waking to Christ’s demand, mortals experience suffering. This causes them, even as drowning men, to make vigorous efforts to save themselves; and through Christ’s precious love these efforts are crowned with success.” It is much more effective to consistently move forward with persistence, acknowledging that we are able to love and forgive, because it’s really God’s grace that is enabling us to do that.
One of the tenets of Christian Science that can be found in Science and Health is also useful as we pray to forgive and move on. It states: “We acknowledge God’s forgiveness of sin in the destruction of sin and the spiritual understanding that casts out evil as unreal. But the belief in sin is punished so long as the belief lasts” (p. 497). By letting the grace of God abound in us we see our ability to remove from our thinking anything that is preventing spiritual growth.
I have seen this take place in my own experience, even when hanging on to resentment or bitterness toward individuals who had wronged me felt justified. What I found was that by letting God’s love wash over me—fill my thought—I had such a beautiful feeling of compassion and love for each individual. As a result, my times with these individuals are now so precious, and I cherish being with them. I now see even more clearly that loving is natural to us as children of our Father-Mother God, divine Love. Resentment, or even hatred, is unnatural to us and that’s why it hinders us from progressing in life. So let’s be confident that we can live love, let go of past hurts, and move forward!
During a recent planning meeting for a women’s interfaith group that I’m a part of, one of the members raised the question of the need to know the basic religious beliefs of others. Some of us felt that in order to really understand one another, we need more information about the individual religions represented in the group. Certainly, part of loving others can include wanting to understand and appreciate their faith. That’s one of the reasons interfaith groups exist.
But the point was also made that we don’t need to know all the details about people’s faith in order to accept the people themselves. That particular issue was significant to our group because we welcome women of all faiths, some of which are quite unfamiliar to us.
That point really got me thinking. What is it about people that makes us love them as the Bible instructs us to love one another? Do we really need to know people’s beliefs in order to love the people?
I can think of everyone as my brother or sister, including those across the globe whom I haven’t met.
Certainly, getting to know someone better who is from a different religion or culture is a good thing. It helps us understand and learn from one another and broadens our perspective on the world. And the interchange that takes place face to face on a personal level is easy to grasp, but what about loving people in other countries, those whom we may never have the opportunity to meet?
I’ve needed to change how I’m thinking about these “neighbors” on a larger scale. I’ve found that when I focus my thought on God as Father-Mother of all of us, I can think of everyone as my brother or sister, including those across the globe whom I haven’t met. I can trust that because their Father-Mother loves them, I can also love them without ever needing to know about the specifics of their background.
Mary Baker Eddy, who discovered Christian Science, says it best in her book Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures: “It should be thoroughly understood that all men have one Mind, one God and Father, one Life, Truth, and Love. Mankind will become perfect in proportion as this fact becomes apparent, war will cease and the true brotherhood of man will be established” (p. 467).
Accepting and loving others is something that can be done without having to agree with or even know about an individual’s religion or culture. By challenging our thought about our requirements for loving our neighbors and including everyone in our thought as brothers and sisters with one Parent, we can see there is nothing to prevent us from joining with those of various faiths and cultures to bring about the peace that we hope for. We can actually begin to see that “there is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; … One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all” (Ephesians 4:4, 6).
My experience with the interfaith group has pushed me to see each individual as a loved and loving child of God, and I have been blessed by knowing this wonderful group of women. We have been able to work together on projects and to support one another in opening thought to include each of us in a greater love.
For several years I’ve had many opportunities to feel the presence of divine Love in overcoming fear. My brother and sister-in-law have owned sailboats and have asked us to accompany them on trips. Even though I grew up going on sailing trips with my family I found that my brother and sister-in-law’s method of sailing was quite different. I was used to cruising from port to port and only sailing during the day which was not what they usually did. The first time we went on a trip from Maine to Halifax, Nova Scotia, I found out that the plan was to sail through the night in order to reach our destination by afternoon the following day. I felt that I could do this trip and trusted my brother and sister-in-law because they had been graduates of the Coast Guard Academy and served in the Coast Guard. I knew that if they felt confident that we could do the trip safely I could trust their judgment. Then the time came for me to be on watch alone for a couple of hours before dawn. My brother gave me instructions on how to spot the tankers and fishing boats and told me that the self-steering mechanism was on and it was then that I started feeling fearful about the possibility of something wrong taking place on my watch. I decided that I needed to face this fear and know that God was with me, guiding me and that it was a wonderful time for me to understand that I wasn’t sitting there alone, but that Love was right there, governing everything and everyone. Our boat could not be in the wrong place, but only right where we needed to be. I started quietly singing any hymns from the Christian Science Hymnal that I could remember and soon found that I was able to appreciate the peacefulness out there on the ocean and was grateful for the clear night and that I could see the beautiful sky full of stars! I found a wonderful sense of God’s glory right there. Before I knew it, I was watching the sun rise and it was such a treat!
On the way home we had another opportunity to trust when we were traveling through a waterway that ran between several islands in the middle of the night. The waterway was marked but it was extremely dark and difficult to see them. We had charts and GPS loaded on a laptop computer and we could see our position but it wasn’t precise enough to tell us how close we were to the markers. It was at this time that I turned to God for the next step. The solution came to stand on the bow of the boat and call out when I saw the markers. Standing up there I could see the markers and that way we were able to make our way through the channel without colliding with any of them. I think about this experience and appreciate the lessons learned. The GPS and the charts were like the tools that we gain through our study of Christian Science and the guidance to go to the right spot where I could see the markers was the trust in God to govern and guide us even when we’re not sure about the path on which we’re traveling. Through study of the Bible and the Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary baker Eddy and her other writings we can learn how to trust God in any situation and let go of any feelings of fear that may hinder our progress. We couldn’t see the markers at first, but knew that they were there. By letting go of fear and opening thought to listen for answers we were able to see what had been there all along.
I had another opportunity to overcome fear when my brother asked me if my daughter and I wanted to go with them on the Newport to Bermuda race. My first thought was to say no, but then I asked myself if this response was due to fear about that type of race. I was reminded of the lessons that I had learned on my other experience and realized that I could trust God to guide and govern us on this trip.
We made plans for the trip, including training with the safety equipment, man overboard drills, and tracking our position on the chart. It was then that we learned about sailing through the Gulf Stream which can be quite challenging. I was tempted to be fearful about the things that could go wrong but again was reassured that each step of the way God had been guiding us and that I could continue to trust that Love would be governing. We started the race with great anticipation and began the trip with good wind and had made good progress when we entered the gulfstream. Things were going along fine until later that day and into the evening when we found that the wind and waves were increasing. The conditions were causing stress on the boat and I felt the fear creeping in. Since it was a race we wanted to use as much sail area as possible, however with the increasing winds and waves there was increasing stress on the boat. During that time I clung to the truth that God never leaves us even when things seem their worst. I was reminded of a passage in Science and Health, p. 495, where Mrs. Eddy says, “When the illusion of sickness or sin tempts you, cling steadfastly to God and His idea. Allow nothing but His likeness to abide in your thought. Let neither fear nor doubt overshadow your clear sense and calm trust, that the recognition of life harmonious — as Life eternally is — can destroy any painful sense of, or belief in, that which Life is not.” It soon became evident that decreasing the sail area was necessary and we ending up not taking on as much water as before and, yet, were still able to sail at a good pace. Later I found out that we had been encountering some rogue waves which have the potential of capsizing a boat. By “clinging steadfastly” I was able to once again conquer the fear, calm my thought, think clearly and listen. The situation was improved from that point and we finished the race in a good position.
On the return sail home I had yet another opportunity to conquer fear. We had to sail through an area on the north side of the Gulf Stream which is known for having high winds and seas. As we entered this area we encountered not only the high winds and seas but a thunderstorm as well. We quickly reduced our sail area, a difficult task given the increasing size of the waves, and those who were not on watch went down into the cabin in order to stay dry. I was one of the people who needed to be out on deck for that watch and had to work diligently not to let fear overwhelm me. I prayed to know that God was governing us and protecting us, yet I still struggled to feel calm and unafraid. Then my daughter (who was 11 at the time) came up on deck and said that she and her cousin were praying and I thanked her for that and we talked about how God was right there with us and we could be joyful about that. After a few minutes, she went back down into the cabin and said they were going to keep praying. My watch partner, who was not a Christian Scientist, said that’s really what we needed to do. My daughter’s sweet and simple thought lifted my thought and I gave gratitude for the angel message to all of us. It allayed my fear so that I was then able to feel God’s presence right there in the midst of the wind, rain, and lightning. Then the most remarkable thing happened. Even though these events were still taking place it felt as though our boat was in a calm, protected place, in the midst of the storm, but not touched by it. I had no doubt that I was feeling God’s power and presence right there where we were. I had such joy at that moment and knew that we would be absolutely fine. Shortly after this, we started edging out of the storm into calmer conditions.
I will always treasure this opportunity that I had because my daughter and I were able to see and experience things that we normally wouldn’t have. By conquering those fears I was able to witness the beauty of the moon rising over the ocean and the ocean animals swimming alongside the boat, not to mention visiting another country. Sharing the experience with family was also a precious gift that I would have missed out on if I had let fear dictate my decisions. I have found that it’s so important not to let fear do the talking when dealing with any situation. That experience of feeling God’s presence out in the ocean helped me to understand more about the fact that we are one with God. God never leaves us and no matter where we are we are being loved and protected by our Father/Mother. Psalm 139 reminds us of this: “Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence? If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; Even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me.”
Have you ever said to yourself- “I’m not smart enough, strong enough, talented enough, etc.?” We’ve probably all told ourselves that at some point in our lives. I know I’ve struggled with feeling like that at times. It would seem, sometimes, that we need to give ourselves a pep talk just to get ourselves to the point like we’re feeling up to a task or opportunity presented to us. We can picture a scene from a movie of a person standing in front of a mirror and saying, “You ARE smart enough, strong enough, talented enough…” It actually sounds a little comical, but what if we don’t feel like we’re measuring up and that we have to make ourselves, through some force of will, exhibit those abilities that we wish to see in our lives? So, there must be a better way to go about this. Some years ago I came to that conclusion through my daily study of the Bible and Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy.
In Christian Science Sunday schools, children learn very early about how God created man in his image and likeness according to Genesis 1, verses 26 and 27. “And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.” So, I’ve known that I am God’s likeness and can’t be anything unlike Him.
Often, when I’m reading the weekly Bible lesson, I like to look at various translations of the Bible. I’ve really appreciated what I discovered when I looked up one verse in particular regarding reflection. II Corinthians 3 verse 13 reads in the KJV- “…we all with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.” I then found when I looked up another translation it said, “…we all with unveiled face beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.” (New KJV) I also found one that further expanded that idea from the NLT- “…all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord-who is the Spirit-makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image.”
As I read this it suddenly struck me that we are transformed because we are finally seeing ourselves without the veil of mortal, limited beliefs. The “veil” obscures our view so what’s changed is just that view. It is unobstructed by anything. In reality, we have always been the reflex image of the glory of the Lord! This, of course, means that we are worthy and, therefore, are smart, talented, strong, etc. enough because God, infinite Spirit, has made us and He is unlimited Mind, all-powerful, all good, all-loving. We, as His reflection, express everything that God is already. We don’t have to make ourselves be better, we just need to lift that veil and see our true likeness as God’s beautiful, intelligent, strong, talented ideas now!