Safety during wildfires fostered through prayer

The Pacific Northwest’s 2016 wildfire season gave way months ago to an early end. But the Southern California wildfire season, acting more like Oregon’s 2015 season, prompted a sobering observation. Glenn Barley, the San Bernardino unit chief of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, said, “It’s to the point where explosive fire growth is the new normal this year, and that’s a challenge for all of us to take on.” California currently has a few smoldering “incidents” and is experiencing smoky conditions. A little surprising for us West Coaster’s though was to see Tennessee’s wildfires recently hit the headlines.

Reports of the explosive and indiscriminate fires referred to as the “new normal” suggest that we are inescapably exposed to forces uncontrollable by technological and human means. Often coined “acts of God,” these natural disasters and their repetitious images in the media can escalate fear, wear down hope, and leave us feeling impotent to somehow help. But seeing that these incidents are NOT acts of God, who is Love, changes everything. For centuries, spiritual seekers have found safety and comfort, even practical action plans, in holy scripture. In fact, a growing body of current research shows prayer to be associated with tangible results. (“Science Proves the Healing Power of Prayer”), and this applies to mitigating the fear and in many cases the physical damage caused by wildfires.

An onlooker at California’s Blue Cut fire, James Webb, found prayer very helpful in the fiery battle. While the other homes in his neighborhood were charred, his home appeared to remain miraculously unharmed. He attributed his home’s safety to answered prayers. But can prayers be offered in a way that dependably results in our safety in times of natural disaster?

The biblical prophet Elijah (I Kings 19:9-13) prayed in the face of natural disaster and experienced God’s loving protection. Under attack, he took cover in a remote mountainous area where he was suddenly exposed to an earthquake, hurricane-force winds and a forest fire. Through answered prayer, he realized that God wasn’t in any of those displays of violence, but God was in the “still small voice” which followed and led him safely out of hiding and on to accomplish a lifetime of many miracles. There’s also a biblical account of three Hebrew boys who emerged from the “fiery furnace”of a Babylonian king fully robed and without even the smell of smoke on them. (See Daniel 3:1-30) The king spotted a fourth person with them, which he identified as “the Son of God.” Finally, the Bible promises us that “safety is of the Lord” (Proverbs 21:31).

What exactly happened in the case of James Webb, Elijah, and the three young Hebrews? To call their experiences miracles is to write them off, in a way, as being of no practical concern to us, certainly not something we should expect to repeat. Yet many believe they point to higher laws governing the universe–laws which, when understood, can be demonstrated to some degree here and now.

In the Laguna Beach fire of 1993, 400 homes were evacuated with no hope of anything remaining after the blaze. Unable to sleep, evacuees Lona and Don spent the night hunkered down in a nearby McDonald’s, praying not for their physical home, which seemed a lost cause, but for their greatest treasure–Christian Science, or the laws of Life, Truth, and Love. They prayed for their church family, and to understand better that the spiritual idea of their Church could not be destroyed. The next morning their house appeared on the news, standing alone, unharmed, and with the phone line still ringing. When pressed for a scientific explanation, the local fire chief reported that “because the flames had actually touched the house and the fire was traveling so fast, he “could not discount divine intervention.” Their home was dubbed the “miracle of the fire.”

Miracles are often thought of as something supremely good but inexplicable. One might ask, though: Just because something falls outside the realm of current thinking in physics, biology, or medicine, does that mean it doesn’t have an explanation? Referring to the supreme goodness of God, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy, wrote, “A miracle fulfils God’s law, but does not violate that law.” Later in her work, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, she defines miracles as “divinely natural,” but something that “must be learned humanly.”

Experience suggests that miracles are often answered prayers. More than petitions for salvation, prayers can be the catalyst for seeing God’s law of Love fulfilled. Instead of invoking “divine intervention,” they can be a means to learn more of God’s continual and always present law of supreme good and to demonstrate one’s willingness to yield to His loving guidance and new direction.

Praying from the starting point that “God is good,” and that His law of good is scientific, one can anticipate goodness in the midst of random, lawless and victimizing strikes of nature. Appealing to and affirming God’s law of Love as supreme here and now as Lona and Don did, even in the face of appearances to the contrary, can bring healthy and unexpected resolution to any experience and make practical His promises of safety and tender care.

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Divine Equity Key to Resolving the Housing Crisis

In my community the nonstop noise of new construction all around sometimes makes working from home difficult.  At the same time, however, several grocery store parking lots where older motorhomes are parked appear to host  homeless families. The staggering gap between affordable family housing and inadequate take-home-pay is unsettling. Current demographic projections show 70% of the world living in cities by 2050, and trends indicate that as cities develop and enhance their infrastructure, everything becomes more expensive. The result: many find it harder and harder to meet a family’s basic needs.

While today’s world class urban planners are aware of the bittersweet cost of growth, at least one, Don Masterson, strips away infrastructure and politics and defines a truly healthy city as one that works for all its citizens and is ultimately “about equity.”

One could surmise that an equitable community would meet all the unique needs of its citizens sufficiently.  One might also think, ”impossible”.

There are, however, numerous Biblical examples of equity regardless of circumstance.  For instance, Jesus’ parable of a householder paying his laborers the exact same wage despite the length of day worked  (Matthew 20) illustrates divine equity surpassing human expectation. Rather than differentiating those who sweat it out during the “heat of the day” from those who just showed up for the last hour of the day, God cared for every one of His children — regardless of the human tasks accomplished (some might think of that parable as illustrating inequity unless the spiritual import of God’s bestowels of attributes is understood). Paul captures a divine sense of this impartial providence in II Corinthians (KJV)  when referring to the perfect balance of supply that each of the children of Israel experienced for forty years while wandering the wilderness.  “He that had gathered much had nothing over; and he that had gathered little had no lack.”

The beauty of divine equity is that the human being is not asked to conform to an average standard and then rewarded with an arbitrary allotment from a finite supply.  God is ever-present good, always unbounded, unlimited, and it is His nature to meet the unique needs of each of His precious children with this abundant goodness.

American religious reformer and author Mary Baker Eddy experienced this loving provision despite adverse circumstances and saw that there is a divine Principle we can rely on to meet all our needs. (See Retrospection and Introspection). Her seminal work, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, correlates spiritual care to our relationship with God “as divinity embracing humanity in Life and its demonstration …reducing to human perception and understanding the Life which is God.”

Ethel Dow Wetzel found proof of this when she was faced with impending bankruptcy and certain homelessness.  Inspired by a new perspective of God as a wholly loving God, she wholeheartedly trusted His spiritual care and gained a peaceful calm amidst foreclosure and eviction proceedings.  She clung to the promise found in Eddy’s writings that “there is no power apart from God” (Ibid, p. 228), and was graced with delays in proceedings until a huge discount on her mortgage contract was presented out of the blue.  The turn of events allowed her a speedy refinance, and in deep gratitude, she remarked that her “home and equity were both restored.”

The “understanding [of] the Life which is God” lifts our focus above the picture of worldly limits and fearful outcomes, and allows us to trust Divine Love. Then we are granted the opportunity to see that God cannot and would never create lack alongside abundance, and we are blessed with practical solutions.

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Adult autistics – are they doomed to solitude?

Everyone has the innate potential to experience a loving and long-term relationship —to express the boundless capacities of love found in divine Mind.

Seldom heard are the stories of autistic adults.  And rarely do they report the challenges of those who seek companionship. It’s believed that autism blocks the ability to intercommunicate and express feelings in a normal way.  These difficulties often relegate those diagnosed with Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) to solitude.  And yet, like us all, those diagnosed as on the Spectrum deeply wish to love another.

We may think of our own relationships as pertaining to the heart, but for solutions in the field of ASD, research has focused predominantly on the brain.  Current research, though, shows that an autistic brain is “remarkably similar to that of a neurotypical person”.  Puzzling over this is not new.

In 1856, Thomas Huxley questioned the source of consciousness.  He wrote, “How it is that anything so remarkable as a state of consciousness comes about as the result of irritating nervous tissue is just as unaccountable as the appearance of the genie when Aladdin rubbed his lamp.”  A century-and-a-half later, researchers are still trying to unravel this mystery.

In fact, cognitive scientist Donald Hoffman echoes Huxley in an April 2016 article featured in The Atlantic.  He asks “how a three-pound lump of gray matter obeying nothing more than the ordinary laws of physics can give rise to first-person conscious experience.” His June 2015 TED Talk “Do we see reality as it is?” may point to hope for anyone who feels limited by a disorder of the brain. In the talk, Hoffman explains, “Brains and neurons have no causal powers.  They cause none of our perceptual experiences, and none of our behavior.” Instead, he explains that the things we call perceptual experiences or physical objects are like icons on a desktop. They are symbolic placeholders or “hacks” for reality. “And,” Hoffman says, “that reality, whatever it is, is the real source of cause and effect in the world — not brains, not neurons.”

If true, answers to ASD may lie in looking outside the brain, even to a spiritual concept of the mind and heart.

Mary Baker Eddy, a 19th-century pioneer of scientific as well as theological thought, found through her deep study of the Bible, that mind is not a pulpy mass as we think of the cortex, but something eternal and spiritual.  As St. Paul assures us that “we have the mind of Christ,” Eddy writes, “Consciousness, as well as action, is governed by Mind, — is in God, the origin and governor of all that Science (the laws of spiritual reality) reveals.”  (Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p.480).  And she defines “Mind” as  “…not that which is in man, but the divine Principle, or God, of whom man is the full and perfect expression.”  (Ibid, p. 591)

This spiritual expression of perfect intelligence as the outcome of divine Love or divine Mind reflected by man — is evidenced in a recent PBS airing of “Autism in Love.”  Challenged with, but ultimately working around, the typical shortcomings of ASD, three unique relationships involving adults diagnosed with autism, evidence the power of the “unseen” to communicate love and guide them through various stages of relationships. It gives us all hope for our own relationships, but most importantly, it demonstrates the power of love to operate way beyond mental disorder.

Although the challenges of finding a lasting relationship can be tough for anyone, symptoms of ASD make it even tougher.  But the idea that Mind is divine, perfect and whole, can bring meaningful love to any relationship. It can help us replace the notion that anyone can be isolated or solitary with the idea that everyone is embraced in divine Mind, divine Love.  As Jesus said, “with God all things are possible.”

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Environmental cleanup found in harmonious attitudes

From pictures of cows grazing amidst smouldering forests in the Amazon, to surfers cresting a wave of garbage off the shore of Indonesia, the environmental degradation and impurities evidenced on the earth are compounding. A recent World Health Organization news release says that dramatic changes are needed to protect the health and longevity of mankind. As the inhabitants of this globe, we are all being called to action, and a pure environment must be our priority.

At odds with purifying the environment, though, are a variety of cultural, individual and political attitudes regarding the planet, the vast scale of the contamination, and the pervasive feeling that there aren’t enough resources to deal with the problem. Such reports keep environmental cleanup efforts hemmed in. This is where the power found in the infinitude of God can help.

The biblical prophet, Elisha, provides a good example of Spirit’s innate ability to heal the environment. In II Kings, we learn that the city he was in was “pleasant,” but the water [was] nought, and the ground barren.” The Pulpit Commentary notes that Jericho’s brackish springs literally caused miscarriage among animals and humans. When called on, Elisha prayed and sprinkled the water with salt, which was used in purifying offerings. Practically, this would have been futile, but spiritually it demonstrated the power of purity, symbolized by salt, to meet the needs of the community. The waters were healed, and the people enjoyed a healthier life.

Is it practical to expect the same power of pure Spirit to correct the pollutants of the 21st century?

In January, 1993, when an oil tanker ran aground off the Shetland Islands, it brought dire reports for the affected wildlife. British author Dawn Lambert was led to turn off the television and seek a deep understanding of God’s loving righteousness and protection of His entire creation. Over the course of several days she rejected the temptation to blame other humans or give in to gloom. Instead, she realized her ability to witness spiritual reality or infinite goodness. When she finally turned the TV back on, the television crew panned the ocean, showing nothing but clear blue waters. The commentator reported, “…the oil has virtually disappeared.” (see: Environmental Tragedy is not Inevitable)

Infinity by nature is 100% pure. One who dearly cherished her environment and demonstrated profound understanding of Spirit as God, Mary Baker Eddy, explains, “Spirit, God, is infinite, all. Spirit can have no opposite.” (Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 278).

Without an opposite, Spirit is everything, meaning our environment must be spiritual and consequently, pure. How do we realize this though? A good friend puts it this way, “When you get down to the way God sees it, that’s the spiritual truth. When you allow nothing but Truth into your thoughts, the problems just melt away.” She is not oversimplifying the magnitude and complexity of human factors that affect the environment, or implying that we ignore the problem, but that we actively monitor our own consciousness for ungodlike — polluting — thoughts. In this way, we can each clear our own mental atmospheres of impurities and ensure that our physical environment follows suit.

“Spirituality lays open siege to materialism,” writes Eddy (ibid, p. 216). Spirituality allows us to realize divine Love’s infinitude and view creation as God sees it — crystal clear, harmonious and abundantly healthy, reflecting the nature of God and His righteousness.

What a terrific promise we have in God’s love for His creation! Infinite Spirit can wipe out the fear, bring our attitudes into harmony with the Divine, and help us glimpse right now, our existence in the already-harmonious, safe environment of Spirit. This kind of prayer is practical. It offers an effective means to bring healing to our planet, in ways that political and physical initiatives, though needed, may fall short.

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Eternal life means living spiritually

And to think I thought my life was over! I hadn't even begun to live!

There are literally hundreds if not thousands of articles on aging gracefully. In Every Man a King, Orison Swett Marden muses, ‘Better than the art of growing old gracefully is the secret of not growing old at all.” Although Marden’s 1906 “secret” focused on how mind and thought can influence one’s longevity, today’s headlines portray the “secret” as a pill which purports to extend the normal human age span an additional forty years. ( Can people really die of old age?) Not to be outdone, demographer Aubrey deGrey published in the Annals of New York Academy of Science, that “[those] born toward the end of the twenty-first century may well have a life expectancy exceeding 5,000 years.”

Science may claim the ability to prolong earthly life indefinitely, but Jesus offered eternal life as something in the present. He said, “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.”(John 17:3 KJV) His point was not so much to seek a record-breaking mortal body sometime in the future but to find one’s present and forever unity with the life that is God, Spirit.

Christian theologian Mary Baker Eddy, who surpassed the normal life expectancies of her 19th Century generation by 35 years, noted that Jesus uses the present tense when talking about eternal life. She wrote, “‘This is life eternal,’ says Jesus, is, not shall be; and then he defines everlasting life as a present knowledge of his Father and of himself, — the knowledge of Love, Truth, and Life.” (Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 410)

This approach to longevity is notably different from taking a pill. It involves turning away from human means toward a spiritual understanding of Life to support one. How is this possible? Is it really practical?

Take the experience of a very elderly woman, who had a debilitating disease and pleaded to be left to die. Her caregiver, a Christian Science practitioner, remained calm in spite of these demands and prayed for her patient, knowing the reality of Jesus’ promise, “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly”. (John 10:10 KJV) As the observer notes, within eight days, the woman was sitting up, then walking and expressing radiant joy. Within two weeks she was healed and went on to live another fifteen years. Instead of enjoying a slow and sedentary elderly life, she went to work, dedicating her life to helping others find healing through prayer, as she had.

Two years after her healing, she was quoted as saying “And to think I thought my life was over! I hadn’t even begun to live!”

This shift from being overwhelmed by symptoms and dire predictions to embracing a spiritual sense of life in God, including an attitude of blessing others, is something St. Paul counsels in his epistle to the Romans: ”To be carnally-minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.” (Romans 8:6 KJV) To me, this is about “keeping my eyes on God” rather than on the petty concerns of my day. It means looking away from the things that would attempt to drive a wedge between me and God, and focusing on His loving omnipotence. For instance, when I’m genuinely aware of God’s goodness in the people and activities of the day, I feel joyful, and His presence and power bring harmony to those daily details.

Carnal-mindedness is what ninth century Hindu philosopher, Shankara, highlights when he says, “People grow old and die because they see other people grow old and die.” (Unconditional Life, New York, Bantam Books, 1991, p. 69). Along the lines of Paul’s reasoning, I’ve found that looking for God’s spiritual goodness and love in people allows me to see beyond the signs of aging.

In the pursuit of long and meaningful lives, spiritual-mindedness does offer an alternative to taking a pill. With our eyes on God’s constant loving expression, we can realize that our life is not the monstrously long perpetuation of a matter-based body, but the representation of an already eternal life in Spirit, divine Love.

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Resolutions Rebooted

With the confidence that we can “certainly fulfill” God’s demands for our better lives, why not be willing?

It’s that time of year when somewhere around 92% of us who made New Year’s resolutions, have lost the momentum of our efforts to change and are commiserating with St. Paul, “My own behaviour baffles me. For I find myself not doing what I really want to do but doing what I really loathe.” (Romans 7:18,19 – Phillips)  Despite the promise of better days ahead, the urgent effort for reform is dropped and we return to the old ways, in many cases with feelings of remorse, failure and guilt. 

What does this say about the effectiveness of willpower? Why does willpower tend to fall short in carrying out our good intentions?

Some mental health professionals have discredited willpower, even claiming that there is no such thing.  Other research shows that willpower defined as self-control is the key to one’s success. In his ScientificAmerican article of April 2015, Roy F. Baumeister, a social psychologist, reports on decades of research–both his own and others’, demonstrating that humans who exercise more self-control generally lead more successful lives. (Willpowerandhowtomakeitworkforyou)  The caveat, though, is that it doesn’t perform reliably. 

Amid such conflicting conclusions, I wonder if that irresistible drive to keep trying could be something other than my own flaky will to be better, and that the answer to better self-control lies in discovering more about what impels real reform.

The Bible points to the idea of dropping self-will and yielding to God’s will.  It also implies that the consistent desire to do right and the self-control needed to make a change, are spiritual qualities that God imparts to everyone.  St. Paul found this true and resolved his behavioral dilemma when he thanked God for His help through Jesus Christ and rejoiced,  “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” (Philippians 4:13)

In the gospel of Luke, there’s a great story of a crooked tax collector named Zacchaeus, who sought out Jesus among a dense crowd and was surprised when Jesus chose him as his dinner host.  Before it was over, Zacchaeus had a complete change of heart and decided to make amends for his greedy, crooked schemes. 

I love this story because Zacchaeus was irresistibly drawn to the goodness Jesus represented, which caused genuine reform through a power outside of himself.  It was not willpower that transformed his character, but the willingness to yield to the spiritual attraction of goodness.  This naturally resulted in a moral change.  Zacchaeus’ transformation was beautiful and fearless.  He was lifted out of his rut instantly and was blessed with the inspiration and practical action plan to carry out Jesus’ vision of him as a son of faithful Abraham.

That’s how I want it to be for me.  I believe that the same opportunity for spiritual growth belongs to each of us. For me, there is a peaceful assurance when I pray to yield to God’s good will. Then I feel God’s love for me and I find that the motivation and stamina to implement my life changes come naturally and from a power outside of myself.

Theologian Mary Baker Eddy, whose life illustrates the limitless potential one can realize through obedience to God, writes, “…progress is the law of God, whose law demands of us only what we can certainly fulfil.” (ScienceandHealthwithKeytotheScriptures, p. 233)

With the confidence that we can “certainly fulfill” God’s demands for our better lives, why not be willing? 

My friend had an interesting experience with this kind of approach.  She writes code for web design, and in the past, resolving high-level technical issues gobbled up days of work. Although she “soldiered through” to solutions, these problems stymied her productivity and wore on her.  Rather than stay in the rut, she decided to try a new approach.  When she met with the next impasse, she reasoned that “progress is the law of God, whose law demands of us only what we can certainly fulfil.” Then she allotted a reasonably brief time to solve the issue.  When the solution did not come, she reaffirmed her relationship with God as His child, obedient to Him, and moved along to another task.  She revisited the problem later, but in the meantime consciously anticipated an inspired solution.  And that’s exactly what occurred.  Her new practice of putting aside her own will and yielding to God’s will has improved her productivity and made her freer, happier, and more willing to tackle tough jobs.

Listening for divine inspiration and acting on it fulfills God’s law of progress and brings us naturally and gently into bettered selves— “…with God, all things are possible.”  (Matt 19:26 – KJV)  There is hope for this year’s waning resolutions.  No willpower is needed, just the willingness to do God’s will.

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All I want for Christmas is a good night’s sleep

Especially now, our rest time needs to be refreshing and satisfying.

A proper amount and quality of sleep are considered essential to an active, healthy life. At the holidays, lack of sleep can be a big issue. With the season’s demands, we can be loaded with everything from sending cards, shopping for gifts and special travel, to hours of baking and decorating. Especially now, our rest time needs to be refreshing and satisfying. Despite much advice on bettering one’s sleep, many people still experience varying degrees of sleeplessness that negatively impact their waking day.

 

Recent studies call into question the physiological basis for beneficial sleep. In the May 2014 Placebo Sleep Affects Cognitive Functioning Study, Christina Draganich and Kristi Erdal, found that patients who believed they had slept well outperformed those who believed they had not slept well, when in fact, the actual quality of sleep among the participants was just the opposite.

 

Although using sleep placebos is probably not a sustainable way to get more done in a day, this research does point to the mental nature of feeling rested.  In my experience, getting rested and refreshed is not always a direct function of the number of hours I sleep.  

 

This has led me to ponder a more spiritual approach to feeling rested.  One  dictionary definition indicates that “sleep” includes the requirement to “rest”.  According to the same dictionary, however, it is not necessary to sleep in order to experience rest.  The dictionary defines “rest” as “Quiet; repose; a state free from motion or disturbance; a state of reconciliation to God.”

 

Just what does this restful reconciliation to God mean? How does it happen and how does it relate to our need to sleep? To me, a restful reconciliation to God means feeling the comforting influence of Immanuel, “God-with-us,” giving me a spiritual sense of His loving support. I feel it in that special moment, for example, when willfulness yields to the divine will and a beautiful resolution comes about, often unexpectedly.  When this happens to me I realize deep inside that the good being accomplished is not for my own glory, but for the glory of God. Then I can let go of that exhausting burdensome feeling.

 

Even with fewer hours of sleep, sometimes over prolonged periods, the spiritual refreshment that comes with such reconciliation allows me to perform without fatigue whatever tasks are on my plate. To me, this is an illustration of what Jesus referred to when he said to his followers, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)

 

In an audio podcast, “To feel rested and refreshed”, Kittie Burris, formerly with the FBI, and now dedicated to praying with people to help them experience God’s healing power, shares her experience of the practical benefit of Jesus’ invitation to the weary.  She was on an overnight assignment for the FBI; by 3 A.M. the excitement of her assignment had worn off.  She found herself petering out and dreading the 8:30 A.M. presentation and ensuing workday. In praying about the situation, Burris  was led to turn her thoughts away from her bodily discomfort and fatigue to God’s inspiring purpose for all of us of harmony and goodness. This resulted in the literal fulfillment of Jesus’ promise, “I will give you rest.”  The remainder of the night zipped by and although she didn’t  sleep, she was alert and refreshed, not only for her entire day but well into the next night as guests arrived for an overnight stay. By turning away from the temptation to dwell on her lack of sleep and the associated possible consequences, she allowed herself to dwell on the Christ spirit, which in turn blessed her with a successful assignment, an unrestricted workday, and a joy-filled evening.

 

Letting that divine influence or Christ turn us away from the frenzy of the season and guide us in God’s loving purpose, we can work extended hours while literally feeling refreshed and joyful. This verse from a loved hymn portrays the promise beautifully:  “Happy the man whose heart can rest/ Assured God’s goodness ne’er will cease/ Each day, complete, with joy is blessed/ God keepeth him in perfect peace.”

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Comfort, not loneliness, this season

For many, the holidays can bring on a sense of loneliness and isolation.  But this need not be so.  

Many advisors today encourage looking at each moment of each day to find reasons to be grateful.

Often, though, it takes a stronger anchor than positive thinking to break through loneliness. An approach that recognizes a divine Love and power always with us can actually heal loneliness and make our holidays rich and joyful.  

In the Bible’s book  of Romans, the apostle Paul defines our unbreakable relationship with divine Love: “For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  In fact, biblical heroes such as Job, Elijah, David, and Jesus found that times of isolation afforded the opportunity to develop a deeper relationship with God. And through divine comfort and inspiration, resolution and healing followed.

This healing comfort and inspiration are available today and are just as effective now as then.  In the December 25, 2000 Christian Science Sentinel, Betty Garner shared her own story of overcoming years of holiday-induced loneliness and depression.  Inspired by Christ Jesus’ instantaneous healing of the paralyzed man who had been waiting 38 years by the pool of Bethesda (John 5:1-17), she realized her own sense of hopelessness and isolation, especially at the holidays, paralleled his. “I felt such great compassion for that man at the pool,” she wrote, “and knew that like him, I could feel the touch of the healing Christ…When I saw that my spiritual identity had always been with God, who is divine Love, I understood that I’d been made spiritually whole and complete. The feeling of depression and isolation lifted, and it has never returned.”

How can such freedom come so easily?  In her textbook on healing,Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, Mary Baker Eddy shares a promise of the gentle healing power that comes with affirming our present union with Love. “The wintry blasts of earth may uproot the flowers of affection, and scatter them to the winds; but this severance of fleshly ties serves to unite thought more closely to God, for Love supports the struggling heart until it ceases to sigh over the world and begins to unfold its wings for heaven.”

Embracing our spiritual unity with divine Love can buoy us up above all sorts of stressful and/or depressing situations. By drawing nearer to God, we can experience the very basic message of Christ–Immanuel, or God with us.  In feeling His tender care and expressing more gratitude, we can find freedom from loneliness and joyfully anticipate good in each holiday activity this season.

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Change is gonna happen – blessing for all!

There have been times in my life when I thought I needed to change and then there have been times when life just shoved me out of the plane. Regardless, to make a progressive move, I’ve had to quiet fear and trust in something I believe at a deep level–that there’s a divine Love that is always going before me.

This week, Oprah Winfrey’s landmark television event called, “Belief,” encourages us to explore how our beliefs shape our experience. Wednesday’s episode, “A Change is Gonna Come,” illustrates the importance of getting beyond fearing some ominous unknown, and embracing the opportunity for spiritual growth that comes with the inevitability of change. I’ve found (most recently in a major career change,) that changing means more than complying with society’s norms and expectations. It’s an opportunity to better understand my relationship with an all-loving spiritual God. From this standpoint, I approach changes with the expectation of palpable goodness.

St. Paul promised the Romans, “… all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”

In his earlier life, Paul (then Saul) was on a fast track in his career–gaining favor with the local authorities by going after the early Christians. Enter God’s plan! Totally unexpected to Saul, it promised huge blessings for humanity. Like it or not, a change was “gonna happen”.

“Still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord,” (Acts 9) Saul was literally knocked to the ground and blinded by the bright light that accompanied a “voice from heaven” (Jesus Christ). While still blind, Saul obeyed the divine orders and experienced not only forgiveness and a healing of his blindness, but a total reformation of character, resulting in his new name, Paul.

Leaving worldly aims and trusts behind and embracing spiritual values, means and practices required courage, deep commitment, and sacrifice. What enabled Paul to do this was a new concept of God — a loving God that has revealed our actual likeness to God, an understanding that provided him inner peace and perfect harmony. With his new, unflappable trust in God’s loving purpose and direction for us to live in accord with the unselfish standard set in Christ Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, Paul repeatedly escaped persecution and overcame physical hardships while ministering to the infant Christian churches.

When asked if she believed in “change of heart,” the renowned Christian Science healer Mary Baker Eddy wrote: “ . . . there must be a change from human affections, desires, and aims, to the divine standard, ‘Be ye therefore perfect.’ … The human affections need to be changed from self to benevolence and love for God and man; changed to having but one God and loving Him supremely, and helping our brother man.” (Miscellaneous Writings 1883–1896)

In my own experience, trusting the rule of perfect harmony has meant the difference between ignoring the “call to change” and embracing it with gusto, bringing myself into alignment with God’s plan.

A few years ago, a tumultuous work environment left me paranoid, anxious and desperate for a change. When I came down with the chicken pox and was quarantined, I prayed a lot. The experience deepened me spiritually and healing came with it. In fact, a couple of weeks after my return to work, I felt led to resign and begin a healing ministry through which I could help others as I’d been helped.

But as our retirement account dwindled, I was downright scared. My dream of helping others gain health through prayer now seemed like financial suicide. The years of work to secure a sound retirement appeared to be for nothing, and I resented that. But in the same way I’d prayed through the sickness, I made a conscious effort to quiet fear and see my life from God’s perspective. Soon, I started feeling more hopeful and glimpsed our future framed in unlimited opportunity.

Beginning with a friend’s surprise delivery of my favorite chocolates, things turned around. My newfound expectation of universal goodness found me encouraging my husband to go “estate saling”. He ended up becoming a helpful resource for one couple holding a sale. Out of gratitude, they gave him a car and when sold, it made our mortgage payment. Next, he came home with audiophile equipment that paid for two more months. God’s standard of perfection lifted my love and helped me appreciate my husband’s unselfishness. My character transformed from resentment to gratitude and from emotional instability to a settled peace. Today, the retirement account is intact, and my healing practice for others is a reality.

Like Paul, we are offered opportunities to change (oftentimes unexpectedly). It helps me to know that we, too, can humbly yield to God’s purpose for us; that spiritual growth inevitably brings positive change to our lives; and that the intended effect of those changes will certainly ripple out to our world and bless us all.

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You get to keep it forever

Some of my dearest friends live in Roseburg and in the wake of yesterday’s shootings, a permeating and tangible flood of love is pouring into their community. I found this promise in my hymnal – “Earth has no sorrow but Love can remove.” With that sparkle of hope, I share my own experience of love removing sorrow and my prayers for the dear families and friends of Roseburg.

She left us abruptly and without warning. I was advised to be grateful that she didn’t suffer.

That didn’t help.

The temptation was to turn inward, to wallow in the dark side of losing my mother. I found myself anticipating and fixated on an unfillable void. The future, how would it look and feel? I sat in front of the blank computer screen with a “very loud” proverbial clock ticking off the minutes before the memorial. Friends told me I didn’t have to say anything.

But I desperately wanted to get above the emotional upheaval. I wanted to share a sense of comfort with everyone. I knew that love would win.

An email from an insightful friend appeared in my inbox.

“Karla, when I was praying about your mom, I saw that everything you love about her, you get to keep. Why? Because she didn’t create any of the qualities you love in her; she reflects those qualities. God is with you and all of His goodness and love expressed in your mom is yours forever. Just as the moon doesn’t create light on its own, but only reflects it, your mom doesn’t create love; she just reflects it. The love that she loved you with was actually God’s reflected love. God and that love is still enveloping you.”

After I read those words, the eulogy just poured out and with that, came the confidence and grace to stand up and read it to a grateful group of friends who found in it, their own comfort and healing. I too felt deeply loved.

In my experience since, I’ve learned that our culture carries high expectations for the aggrieved; expectations that we may take for granted or as a normal process. Recent findings are concluding, though, that grief is not a linear, finite project which can be summed up in a series of stages such as denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. In his January 10, 2015, NYTimes blog, “Getting grief right”, psychotherapist Patrick O’Malley, opines on the traditional grieving process. “THAT model is still deeply and rigidly embedded in our cultural consciousness and psychological language.”

Based on his own loss of a loved one, O’Malley has dropped that model and now works with an approach which reveres the deep love shared with the deceased.

I too have found that deep love is key in overcoming grief. Grief leaves little room in one’s heart for the anticipation of goodness, but unconditional love can break the stranglehold of grief and give the aggrieved a crack of light through which anticipated goodness can shine. Those simple concepts shared with me in the email helped me to break through the darkness of grief. I realized that God’s expression of love is constantly embracing us, but to experience this, especially after a death, God’s love cannot be sought in a physical body. In praying to overcome grief after my mother’s passing, I found that I had to look with faith for a reflected love that a body can’t provide. I had to look for inspiration in unexpected experiences, for moments of patient grace, for previously unnoticed outpourings of love that came in many ways. I had to get out of that negative fixation and really look for God’s tender care in every moment.

I had a faint inkling of what I needed to do. Several years prior, I lost a close companion unexpectedly and I dreaded her continued absence. In my prayers one night, I asked God to free me from obsessing about the picture memories that kept replaying in my subconscious. Instead, I cherished all of her non-physical qualities, qualities like companionship, joy, forgiveness, spontaneity, etc. It really helped me be much freer more quickly than I thought possible. I learned a valuable lesson about prayerfully seeking and being grateful for the spiritual qualities of a close companion rather than replaying the physical memories.

I’ve discovered that one of the most profound examples we have of “grief overcome” is that of Jesus’ foreshadowed departure. So tenderly, he reassures his disciples, “Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you.” (John 16:7 KJV)

By opening his disciples’ hearts to the anticipation of comfort and an even greater good, he prepared them for their futures – healing their fellow man, coming together in the Pentecost, and establishing the Christian church. Jesus blessed his disciples with the love he reflected from God, and despite Jesus’ bodily absence, they got to keep that love!

Even today God continues to guide and comfort, regardless of the circumstance.

The same Love is embracing each of us right now. It needs no physical body, it doesn’t rely on human habits or history. It doesn’t matter how we assess the stages of overcoming the grip of grief and the pain of loss. Our loved ones have always reflected God’s love – they represent God’s tender care for us.

We have Jesus’ promise, “I am with you alway” at the close of Matthew. Such Love is the all-encompassing Comforter. It is what we learn from our loved ones about Love. And we get to keep it forever.

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    Karla Hackney

    A lifelong resident of Oregon, Karla Hackney writes about the connection between spirituality and health from her perspective as a Christian Science healer. She also serves as the media and legislative ... Read Full
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