Letting Go

Karen Molenaar Terrell:

Okay. So this is the part of motherhood I never thought about when I was holding my babies in my arms – the part where they are all grown-up and need to leave to start their own lives, and you know they have to do this, and you know it’s right and you know it will be a good thing for them, but it just hurts so awfully much…

Originally posted on Adventures of the Madcap Christian Scientist:

Human affection is not poured forth vainly, even though it meet no return. Love enriches the nature, enlarging, purifying, and elevating it. 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. – Mary Baker Eddy

I thank my God upon every remembrance of you… – Philippians 1:3

There ain’t no way you can hold onto something that wants to go, you understand? You can only love what you got while you got it. – Kate DiCamillo, Because of Winn-Dixie

Okay. So this is the part of motherhood I never thought about when I was holding my babies in my arms – the part where they are all grown-up and need to leave to…

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Neighborliness

Being neighborly…neighborliness 2

“Wouldn’t the world be happier, friends, if in our dealings with one another we could always truthfully say that whatever we thought or said or did expressed the nature of God as divine Love? …This may sound like an impossible goal. But it really isn’t. When we understand how to listen for divine Love’s guidance, there’s no need to be thrown off base by what our neighbor does or doesn’t do. Of course we’re all familiar with the temptations that would upset good relations… a dog or too loud radio keeps someone awake half the night; someone decides a neighbor isn’t good enough, has the wrong kind of name, or perhaps one envies the good thing his neighbor has…But whatever the temptation, we can refuse to be impulsive or spiteful, self-righteous or jealous. Through the understanding of divine Love each of us can learn to be a good neighbor. And a good neighbor doesn’t gossip, criticize, or even wish that he or the folks next door could move away. “
– The Christian Science Sentinel,
December 4, 1954

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what it means to be a good neighbor. So when I stumbled, all unexpectedly, on the article “The Remedy for Neighborhood Tensions” from an old 1954 Christian Science Sentinel, I felt the train of my thoughts come skidding to a halt as I stopped to ponder the ideas the article had to offer me.

As I’ve reflected on “neighborliness” I’ve come to understand that being a good neighbor doesn’t mean we have to “take sides” in neighborhood disputes. I don’t have to hate one neighbor to show love to another. I don’t have to criticize one neighbor, to show friendship to another. I don’t have to gossip about one neighbor, to show support for another. I don’t have to get angry or fired up or militant to take a firm stand for what is right and decent.

Being a good neighbor comes down to this one thing: I simply need to love – without exclusion or discrimination or judgment or condemnation.  That’s my whole job, right there. To love.  I need to see my neighbor as God sees my neighbor – as God’s dear child – beautiful and good and whole and happy.  If I can see my neighbor through the eyes of God, Love, then I won’t be threatened or annoyed or irritated or frightened by him – I’ll enter into dialogue with him expecting to find solutions to conflict, and answers to problems. 

Jesus told us to love our neighbor as we love ourselves.  I’m thinking that means that what we want for ourselves, we should want for our neighbors, too. If I want to be trusted, then I need to be willing to trust. If I want to be treated with consideration, than I need to be considerate.  If I want to be shown kindness, then I need to show kindness. 

…And Love is reflected in love.
– Mary Baker Eddy

“…after the fire a still small voice.”

“…I did not feel God as most people see Him. I did feel something larger than myself, something in the mountains and the glaciers and the glowing sky that, in rare moments, reassured me, and made me feel that the world was orderly and loving and good… It was simply a silence, a wholeness, an awe-inspiring simplicity. It seemed to reach me through my own feelings of love, and I have often thought that when we feel what we call love, we are really feeling our connection to this awesome presence… It wasn’t cleverness or courage or any kind of competence or savvy that saved us, it was nothing more than love, our love for each other, for our families, for the lives we wanted so desperately to live.”
– Nando Parrado, Miracle in the Andes

sun through the fog in Bellingham

photo by Karen Molenaar Terrell

It would be an understatement to say that we seem to be having a dry spell here in Washington State. I cannot remember the last real rain we had here. I really miss the rain – I miss the sloshy sound of cars rolling along soggy, sopping roads and the feel of rain on my face and the smell of wet earth and asphalt and green growing things.

The drought has brought some real challenges to my state – the biggest one being the wildfires that are roaring through our forests. The fire in the Okanagan is the biggest fire ever recorded here – having consumed more than 256,000 acres – or what would be about a fifth of Delaware (http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2015/aug/24/washington-wildfires-okanogan-complex).

I’ve sometimes heard people refer to disasters – like the forest fires we’re experiencing – as the “wrath of God” – as punishment sent down by God for our sins. But the concept of a god that would punish her children – made, according to the Bible, in her “image and likeness” – is not a concept of “God” that ever made sense to me. I mean, why would a god punish its own creation for being what she made it to be? I really like what Mary Baker Eddy says about this in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures: “It would be contrary to our highest ideas of God to suppose Him capable of first arranging law and causation so as to bring about certain evil results, and then punishing the helpless victims of His volition for doing what they could not avoid doing. Good is not, cannot be, the author of experimental sins.”

No, for me, God is Love, as John says in I John 4: “God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him… There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear.” And we see this love expressed in neighbors reaching out to help each other during catastrophes, and in the courage of firefighters and rescuers putting their own lives on the line to save the lives and property of others.

In I Kings we read: “And, behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the Lord; but the Lord was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the Lord was not in the earthquake:And after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice.”

That “still small voice” – that quiet comforting presence – THAT, for me, is God. My God isn’t responsible for earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes, or wildfires. My God is found in the love and courage that overcomes the fear and destruction. My God isn’t found in destructive material forces, but in the things of the “spirit” – in “love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance…” and “against such there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22-23) There is no law, no material force, that can over-power love and steal it from us. Love goes on. Love heals. Love brings us comfort and solace. Even after the physical forms of the ones we love are gone, the love we have one for another continues on. Not earthquake, wind, or fire can destroy the presence and power of Love – of what I call “God.”

My God is the still small voice – that quiet presence that guides, rescues, and protects us. And I don’t think this presence and power is just for a select number of us – I believe all of creation has access to this power. As Eddy writes: “In divine Science, where prayers are mental, all may avail themselves of God as ‘a very present help in trouble.’ Love is impartial and universal in its adaptation and bestowals.”

At the beginning of this post I presented a quote from Nando Parrado – one of the survivors of the plane crash in the Andes in 1972. Parrado’s description of “God” is the closest I’ve ever found to my own concept of God. Parrado writes: “I have often thought that when we feel what we call love, we are really feeling our connection to this awesome presence.” Right on! And I’m thinking that “awesome presence” is the “still small voice” – that quiet reassurance – that overcomes fear and hopelessness and discouragement in the face of disaster, and leads us to safety.

Feeling “Sehnsucht”

Sehnsucht. Isn’t that a great word?! There’s something kind of soft and gentle and feminine about the first syllable, and that last syllable sounds like something a salty-tongued handyman might shout as he crushes his thumb with a misplaced hammer. It sounds like what it is, really – sweet and painful.

My friend, Charly, introduced me to the word “sehnsucht” for the first time yesterday. I was trying to describe how I was feeling – I said I wasn’t feeling sad, exactly, but that it seemed like lately life has become one long series of good-byes – of loss and separation and endings. I said that I wish I could be with all those people I love – those who have passed on, and those who live far away. I wish I could go on one more hike with Moz and Dad. Visit with Aunt Junie and cousin Julie and cousin Skip again, hear Grandma play the piano, give real hugs to all my friends and family scattered around the globe, and feel their hugs back. And this is when Charly gifted me with the word – “sehnsucht.” Here’s part of what Wikipedia says about “sehnsucht”: “It has been referred to as ‘life’s longings’; or an individual’s search for happiness while coping with the reality of unattainable wishes. Such feelings are usually profound, and tend to be accompanied by both positive and negative feelings.”

Haven’t we all felt these yearnings for… I don’t know… something more? Not for more material stuff, but for more heart-stuff – more understanding maybe, or more patience or wisdom or kindness or love?

Maybe these yearnings have a purpose. Maybe they are a part of what gives us empathy for our fellow beings. Maybe they help impel us towards “peace on earth” and “good will to man” – towards generosity and compassion and honesty. Maybe they help us grow and rise higher in our understanding of “God” – of Life, Truth, and Love.

And if that’s true, then bring on the “sehnsucht”!

photo by Karen Molenaar Terrell

photo by Karen Molenaar Terrell

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Passages from Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, by Mary Baker Eddy –

Higher enjoyments alone can satisfy the cravings of immortal man.

Finite man cannot be the image and likeness of the infinite God. A mortal, corporeal, or finite conception of God cannot embrace the glories of  limitless, incorporeal Life and Love. Hence the unsatisfied human craving for something better, higher, holier, than is afforded by a material belief in a physical God and man.

        Simply asking that we may love God will never make us love Him; but the longing to be better and holier, expressed in daily watchfulness and in striving to assimilate more of the divine character, will mould and fashion us anew, until we awake in His likeness.