Accepting a greater love

From the February 18, 2013 issue of the Christian Science Sentinel

This article originally appeared on

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.

Overcoming Fear on the Ocean

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.”

Finding our Worth by Seeing our True Reflection

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!

God is Holding your Hand.

I have always loved the idea of divine Love holding our hands. Isa. 41:13 “I the Lord thy God will hold thy right hand, saying unto thee, Fear not; I will help thee.” It speaks to the promise of God’s ever-present help. It brings to mind how a little child instinctively reaches for his/her parent’s hand. That childlike trust that the parent is there to hold their hand right when they need it is something that reminds me about our trust of God. A child doesn’t spend time considering whether their parent will be there to hold their hand. They don’t worry that the parent won’t be there for them when they reach up. They just do it because the child knows their parent is near and won’t leave them. Sometimes the child will reach up because they might be afraid or apprehensive about something and by that simple act of reaching up and holding that parent’s hand that thought is calmed and, as so many of us have witnessed with little ones, there’s no discussion about whether their parent loves them enough or thinks they’re worthy or whether the parent can provide that security.

Isn’t that what we need to do as adults, to have that trust that God is present and will “hold” our hand? It’s such a simple thing to do, yet it seems that so much of the time we question or don’t even think to consider whether God is governing every aspect of our lives. It’s a lesson to me about how we can trust God to be there for us at all times as we are walking down the road of life. Having that childlike trust is something that we need to have instead arguing or doubting that God loves us. God is Love and God loves each and every child of His. Childlike receptivity is something that we can all have. It is not a blind faith, but a simple trust.

I remember an experience that I had that reassured me of God’s ever-present love. Several years ago during a stressful time in my life I started feeling sorry for myself because of money troubles, job stress, and issues with our adolescent children. I was waiting for my son to finish his soccer practice and I decided to take a walk on the park’s walking path. I have to admit that for the first half of the walk I was grumbling along. Then, at one point, I said to myself “I have nothing” and immediately the message came to me, “you have me.” It was just like cold water had been splashed in my face! Of course, I realized then, “Right, I do have God.” That was the simple idea that me off on the right track and for the rest of the walk I was able to see all the wonderful things I had to be grateful for including the simple fact that I had God by my side. The more gratitude I expressed the more I was able to see the good that was already going on in my experience. As a result, I was filled with such joy! That experience was also the starting point for resolution of all the challenging things going on in our family’s life. We were able to see solutions and I was able to correct our family’s thought regarding these items.

This example of God’s ever-presence has stayed with me throughout the years and, along with this photo, I have that reminder that God will hold our hands. So..reach up! God’s already with you as you walk down your path of life.