Happy New Year! (Asparagus, Paths Untrod, and the Upward Way)

We really have no choice but to progress, you know?  You and I can no more go backwards than an oak can become an acorn, or a butterfly a caterpillar.  Grow we must.

Years ago I heard a lecture titled “Grow We Must” given by a Christian Science teacher named Harvey Wood.  I don’t remember much detail from the lecture anymore – but I do remember Harvey talking about asparagus. He said that just because we can’t see progress in our lives, doesn’t mean progress isn’t happening, and he used asparagus as an example of this – Harvey said that we don’t see the asparagus growing under the concrete in our driveways,  but once it starts growing nothing can stop it – it’ll break right through the concrete in its journey upwards. (If you don’t believe this – google “asparagus growing through concrete” and take a gander at the interesting photos that pop up.)

Entering a new year is symbolic of change and progress.  We can’t stop 2012 from its relentless march to our doorstep, and why would we want to?  Let’s embrace the new and look forward with an expectancy of good towards the future.

***

A flower unblown, a book unread,
A tree with fruit unharvested;
A path untrod, a house whose rooms,
Lack yet the hearts divine perfumes.
A landscape whose wide border lies
In silent shade ‘neath silent skies;
A wondrous fountain yet unsealed,
A casket with its gifts concealed;
This is the year that for you awaits,
Beyond tomorrow’s mystic gates.

– Horatio Nelson Powers

Happy New Year, my friends!

Karen

Joy to the World!

“The time to be happy is now. The place to be happy is here.” – Robert Ingersoll

“I believe we’re on earth to delight each other, make each other laugh, and to infuse one another with His joy. Why not? What’ve we got better to do?” – Burt Rosenberg, Maryland

Stop complaining about the management of the universe. Look around for a place to sow a few seeds of happiness. – Henry Van Dyke

Happiness is spiritual, born of Truth and Love. It is unselfish; therefore it cannot exist alone, but requires all mankind to share it. – Mary Baker Eddy

Think of all the beauty that’s still left in and around you and be happy! – Anne Frank

Be happy while you’re living, for you’re a long time dead. – Scottish Proverb

People take different roads seeking fulfillment and happiness. Just because they’re not on your road doesn’t mean they’ve gotten lost. – H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

Happiness depends upon ourselves. – Aristotle

When I meet people from other cultures I know that they too want happiness and do not want suffering, this allows me to see them as brothers and sisters. – Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso

Nobody really cares if you’re miserable, so you might as well be happy. – Cynthia Nelms

You have a right to succeed in everything that it is right for you to do. – Edward A. Kimball

Out of the silent, silver moon,
Out of the mist of the Milky Way,
Out of the gleams of the sentry stars,
Out of the after-day –

Out of the wonderful songs of birds,
Out of the storm-wind’s whistling throes,
Out of the living green of fields,
Out of the bloom of the rose –

Out of the music laughter holds,
Out of the lips with kisses curled –
Boundless assurances everywhere,
Out of the joy of the world.
– Max Ehrmann

Merry Christmas and happy New Year and happy whatever-it-is you-celebrate-when-the-days-start-being-filled-with-more-light! May Life bless you with all good, and may your days be filled with laughter and love and peace and good will towards all creation, and infinite joy!

Let there be light!: “Was this not a revelation instead of a creation?”

As we celebrate our Winter Solstice, allow me to share some of my favorite quotes on “light” from The Bible and from Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy:

“Love, redolent with unselfishness, bathes all in beauty and light. The grass beneath our feet silently exclaims, ‘The meek shall inherit the earth.’ The modest arbutus sends her sweet breath to heaven. The great rocks gives shadow and shelter. The sunlight glints from the church-dome, glances into the prison-cell, glides into the sick-chamber, brightens the flower, beautifies the landscape, bless the earth.” – From Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy

“DAY. The irradiance of Life; light; the spiritual idea of Truth and Love. ‘And the evening and the morning were the first day.’ (Genesis i.5.) The objects of time and sense disappear in the illumination of spiritual understanding, and Mind measures time according to the good that is unfolded. This unfolding is God’s day, and ‘there shall be no night there.’” –  Mary Baker Eddy

“MORNING. Light; symbol of Truth; revelation and progress.” – Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy

“In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, Let there be light: and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good: And God divided the light from the darkness. And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day.” – Gen 1: 1-5

“All questions as to the divine creation being both spiritual and material are answered in this passage, for though solar beams are not yet included in the record of creation, still there is light. This light is not from the sun nor from volcanic flames, but it is the revelation of Truth and of spiritual ideas. This also shows that there is no place where God’s light is not seen, since Truth, Life, and Love fill immensity and are ever-present. Was not this a revelation instead of a creation?” –  Mary Baker Eddy

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.” – I John 1:1-5

”O send out thy light and thy truth: let them lead me; let them bring me unto thy holy hill, and to thy tabernacles.”  – Psalms 43:3

“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. If I say, Surely the darkness shall cover me; even the night shall be light about me. Yea, the darkness hideth not from thee; but the night shineth as the day…” – Psalms 139: 7-12

“Truth destroys falsity and error, for light and darkness cannot dwell together. Light extinguishes the darkness, and the Scripture declares that there is ‘no night there.’ To Truth there is no error, – all is Truth.” – From Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy

“Arise, shine, for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee. “ – Isaiah 60:1

“Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, a put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” – Matthew 5: 14-16

“Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day…” – I Thess. 5: 5

“For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” – II Corinthians 4: 6

“This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another…” – I John 1: 5-7

“Truth and Love enlighten the understanding, in whose ‘light shall we see light;’ and this illumination is reflected spiritually by all who walk in the light and turn away from a false material sense…Light is a symbol of Mind, of Life, Truth, and Love, and not a vitalizing property of matter. ” – Mary Baker Eddy

“We are sometimes led to believe that darkness is as real as light; but Science affirms darkness to be only a mortal sense of the absence of light, at the coming of which darkness loses the appearance of reality.” –  Mary Baker Eddy

“Eternal Truth is changing the universe. As mortals drop off their mental swaddling-clothes, thought expands into expression. ‘Let there be light,’ is the perpetual demand of Truth and Love, changing chaos into order and discord into the music of the spheres.” – Mary Baker Eddy

 

 

 

The Christmas Cat

In my post a couple weeks ago, I told the story of our Christmas Dog. Now I have a Christmas CAT story to share…

A few days ago my son came home from his walk with Sam the Dog, to tell me that they’d found a bloodied little calico cat on the side of the road.  She seemed to be injured, wasn’t moving much, had just enough energy to hiss at the dog, but not much energy beyond that. I grabbed a towel (the yellow Pittsburgh Steelers towel my dear in-laws from Pennsylvania sent us several years ago when the Seahaws and the Steelers were duking it out in some bowl game – I figured if any of my towels was going to end up bloody, it might as well be that one) and followed the son to the kitty.

She was curled up on the side of the road, not moving much – except for one twitchy ear. She hissed defensively when I reached down to hold her, but I wrapped her up in the towel so she couldn’t scratch and held her close to me. I told the son to get my car keys and purse and meet me at the car, and I slowly carried the kitty back to our house.

Once I was holding her, she stopped hissing and fidgeting, and when I sat down in the car with her, she relaxed against me, laid her head on my arm and began to purr as I petted her head and ears. As the son drove us to the vet’s I sang the song I’d once sung, years ago, to the Christmas Dog. “Everlasting arms of Love, are beneath, around, above…” (words by John R. MacDuff) and the kitty looked up at me with the same look of trust and love that the Christmas Dog had once shown me.

I’ll be honest, the picture was not pretty. She looked to have been hit in the head by a car. Her jaw was out of alignment, and her eyes were filling up with blood. In my thoughts, I tried to establish who this little kitty was, as an expression of God – tried to establish her in my thoughts as God’s perfect idea, held whole, complete, and untouched by accident, in the consciousness of Love.  What gave me some courage and confidence about the whole situation was the kitty herself – she seemed totally calm, totally unaware that she looked a mess, and completely content just resting on my lap, wrapped up in the towel. She was…well…she was very matter of fact about it all, to tell you the truth.

When we got to the vet’s I carried her inside (she was still purring), and the dear receptionist and assistant there immediately, but gently, removed the cat from my arms and whisked her away to a backroom. Before I left her there, they told me that a microchip had been found on her and that they’d try to contact the owners. I told them that if they couldn’t find the owners, I’d be willing to take responsibility for the kitty.  (In the short drive to the vet’s she’d already managed to capture my heart.)

The next morning I called the vet’s to get an update, and was relieved to learn that the kitty was still alive, was actually doing “pretty good,” and was still purring. The owner had come in and decisions were being made as to how to proceed regarding the kitty’s jaw, which had been shattered.

This morning, on our way to church, we noticed our next-door neighbors had a sign in their front yard that read “Slow down” and we wondered if there might be some connection between that sign and the kitty-cat we’d found near their house two days ago.  Tonight I knocked on their door and found that they were, indeed, the owners of that sweet kitty. They brought me in to look at her. She was snugly ensconced in a kitty carrier, half-dozing, and looking much better than she did when I first met her. The neighbors were happy to learn that I’d been the person the doctor had referred to as “The Good Samaritan” – “Mystery solved!” said Robert with a grin – and I was happy to learn that my neighbors were the owners of that dear kitty – I know she’s in a good home if she’s living with them.

And here’s the really cool thing:  Because the little calico cat lives right next door to me, I’ll get to see her all the time!

Joy! Peace! Good will to all (and I’m not just talking those with two legs)!

 

 

 

 

“This is where the magic is…”

First verse:

“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?”
– Laetitia Waring

Graduating, marrying, becoming a parent, divorcing, losing a job, starting a new one, retirement, moving, aging, death – life is full of changes, isn’t it? And sooner or later everyone has their own opportunities to deal with change.

Change can be really exciting. Change can also be really scary. The words from the poem above have always been a great comfort to me during times of change. They remind me that even though the external environment and circumstances in my life may change, and though my future may seem uncertain, I can always depend on some things to stay the same: I know I can always depend on the presence of God (Truth and Love) to be with me, protecting and guiding me. And the qualities that make me “me” don’t change. I know I can bring these qualities with me into any new situation. Everything I need, I carry with me – intelligence, kindness, honesty, integrity, joy – and I can always claim these qualities as my own when I need them.

In Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, Mary Baker Eddy writes, “Willingness to become as a little child and to leave the old for the new, renders thought receptive of the advanced idea. Gladness to leave the false landmarks and joy to see them disappear, – this disposition helps to precipitate the ultimate harmony.”

Think about it – for little children every day is new, every day is full of something they haven’t seen or experienced before. And the way little children approach these new things is really inspiring, isn’t it? Children look at their world with wide-eyed wonder, eager to learn new things, fearless and unself-conscious with the newness of their lives – without making a conscious choice about it, they learn to walk and talk and run. And without conscious thought or choice they leave the ”old” behind in a very natural and unforced way – one day, without thinking about it, they put down their favorite toy for the last time, and move on to something new.

***

Second verse:
“Wherever He may guide me,
No want shall turn me back;
My Shepherd is beside me,
And nothing can I lack.
His wisdom ever waketh,
His sight is never dim;
He knows the way He taketh,
And I will walk with Him.”
– Laetitia Waring

Sometimes we begin to get the sense that change is coming, and we’re able to prepare for it. And sometimes change comes so abruptly that there seems no time for human preparation. Sometimes change is a choice, and sometimes it is not.

In the last couple of years, while contemplating a change in my career, a section from Mary Baker Eddy’s book, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, has often come into my thoughts: “When the ocean is stirred by a storm, then the clouds lower, the wind shrieks through the tightened shrouds, and the waves lift themselves into mountains. We ask the helmsman: ‘Do you know your course? Can you steer safely amid the storm?’ He answers bravely, but even the dauntless seaman is not sure of his safety; nautical science is not equal to the Science of Mind. Yet, acting up to his highest understanding, firm at the post of duty, the mariner works on and awaits the issue. Thus should we deport ourselves on the seething ocean of sorrow. Hoping and working, one should stick to the wreck, until an irresistible propulsion precipitates his doom or sunshine gladdens the troubled sea.”

I’ve wondered how I would know when it was the right time to make a change. Would I be able to recognize the “irresistible propulsion” when I saw it? And how could I prepare for the career changes that might await me in the future?

Although I really had no idea what I was preparing for, or when I’d need to be ready for the change, when I look back on the last couple years I see that my path was being prepared for me. I was led to take steps that proved to be important for me when change came, although I didn’t realize the significance at the time. And, recently, when the “propulsion” came, I knew it. The “propulsion” would, in fact, have been hard to ignore.

And at that moment – the moment when I knew, with conviction and without a doubt, that it was time to leave – there was no sense of regret, no feeling that I had left something undone or unresolved, no thought that I hadn’t stayed as long as I needed to stay. The timing couldn’t have been more perfect for me, and the feeling that stood out above all others was a tremendous feeling of relief.  I knew, absolutely, that it was time for a change.

***

Third verse:
“Green pastures are before me,
Which yet I have not seen;
Bright skies will soon be o’er me,
Where darkest clouds have been.
My hope I cannot measure,
My path in life is free;
My shepherd has my treasure,
And He will walk with me.”
– Laetitia Waring

I recently went to a workshop on “form” and “essence” given by a local life coach named Laura Lavigne. I’d never done any kind of life coach stuff before, and wasn’t sure what to expect. I was a little skeptical, to tell you the truth. But oh my goodness! The thoughts that Laura shared with us were really eye-opening and enlightening. Laura talked about the “form” being the physical something that represents the “essence.” A couch, for instance, might be a form for “comfort.” Laura pointed out that when we talk with each other, we usually talk in terms of “form” rather than “essence.” We ask each other, “Do you want the red shoes or the blue shoes?” When what we might actually be asking each other is what it is we want to feel: “What will those red shoes do for you? And how will that make you feel?”  We limit ourselves to the forms, rather than focusing on the essences we want in our lives. And in doing that, we limit ourselves to the forms with which we’re already familiar, and close ourselves up to the infinite possibilities of the other forms we don’t know.  To illustrate this, Laura drew a big circle on the whiteboard and cut out a quarter of it – “This is what we know,” Laura said. She cut out another quarter – “This is what we know we don’t know.” The remaining half of the circle? “This,” she said, “is what we don’t know we don’t know. This is where the magic is.”

I love that!

In the book, Lectures and Article on Christian Science, Edward Kimball writes, “It is probable that there will come a time when you will be in quest of professional or business occupation; when you will be in want of a situation. Let us assume that you will be entitled to it and that it will be right for you to be employed righteously and profitably. Such an assumption as this carries with it scientifically the conclusion that if it is right for you to have such a thing, that thing must be in existence and must be available…One of the most influential human conditions is the one which I will call expectancy…You are entitled to the fullness and ampleness of life, but you will need to learn that gloomy foreboding never solves a problem and never releases the influences that make for your largest prosperity and advantage.”

Good isn’t a miracle. It is natural for us to have good in our lives – we shouldn’t be surprised by it. We should expect good.

So here I am – facing The Great Unknown that lies before me.  I’m still not sure, specifically, what form the future will take for me, but I know what the essence of it will be. I know there will be freedom, joy, purpose, love, and laughter. Those things can’t be denied me, and they are not dependent on a specific form. As Waring writes in her poem, “My hope I cannot measure…” – the freedom, joy, purpose, love, and laughter that I have now, and are always available to me, can’t be measured, limited, confined or restricted. The future holds boundless possibilities.

***

“God expresses in man the infinite idea forever developing itself,
broadening and rising higher and higher from a boundless basis.”
– Mary Baker Eddy, from Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures

On Guilt, Hell, Talking Reptiles, and Other Really Scary Stuff

It won’t do you a particle of good to enter upon a career of self-condemnation. Remorse never got anybody into heaven. A sense of regret and all that sort of thing is not the process. The process is reform; it is change; it is correction…There is no merit in suffering. The only merit there is is in transformation. I have found people carrying along their agony because they thought it was entirely proper to be everlastingly berating and condemning themselves. You will never get to heaven that way…There is nothing rational in self-condemnation. One may condemn the error, but not himself – never himself.” – Edward A. Kimball, Lectures and Articles on Christian Science 

I have come to believe that self-condemnation is one of the most self-indulgent of things.  It doesn’t really fix anything, you know? We sit in it, ruminate on it, live and relive scenes from our lives over and over again, full of regrets and guilt – and how, I ask you, does that make us, or the world we live in, any better?

Several years ago, when I was struggling with a depression (part hormonal and part severe job burnout), one of the symptoms I had to grapple with daily was a crippling feeling of guilt.  I felt guilt about pretty much everything – what I said, what I did, what I felt – I even felt guilty about feeling guilty. I often doubted that I’d ever make it through and find a place of peace for myself. It was hell.

When I say it was hell, I’m not being metaphorical.  Jesus said the “Kingdom of God is within” us, and Paul said that “now” was the “day of salvation.” I don’t think we have to die to experience heaven and salvation – we can have it right now. I believe when our thoughts are full of love, joy, forgiveness, and hope – voila! -we’re in heaven.  And, likewise, when our thoughts are full of fear, anger, hate, and guilt we’re in hell.

During the time of my hormonal-burntout funk, I was in hell.  I didn’t feel angry or hateful towards other people, but I sure felt it towards myself.  I felt like a failure, and I was finding it really hard to live with myself, and live with my thoughts and feelings. I often doubted that I’d ever make it through to the other side.

I should probably explain that what I was experiencing at that time was something completely new and alien to me.  Most of my life I’d been a really joyful person – I’d found it easy to see all the good going on around me, and in me.  I saw myself, and everyone else, as children of God – as children of Love, Truth, and Life – and it was easy for me to recognize and appreciate the beauty and harmony around me, and align myself with it, and wrap myself up in all that beauty.

When I was living through the depression I was in the same physical space – the same space filled with beauty, harmony, and good – but I couldn’t see it.  It was like there were two separate universes filling the same place simultaneously – right where I was experiencing hell, there was heaven – and I knew if I could just shift my thoughts, I’d be able to see it. But man, it was a struggle.

You know, I wonder if a lot of the world thought about guilt and self-condemnation can be traced back to the allegory in the third chapter of Genesis –  the chapter with talking reptiles (no, not Barney the Dinosaur – although I guess some people find him kind of scary, too) and forbidden fruit, and Jehovah booting his own creation out of Paradise because they’re unworthy to experience it.  I can see how, if someone interpreted that chapter literally, one’s future might look pretty grim.

I myself have always preferred the first chapter of Genesis: God creating man (male and female) in his image and likeness, and seeing that everything he created was “very good.”  Personally, I’ve always thought the second and third chapters of Genesis are insulting to God on just so many levels: In those chapters his “image and likeness” is a sinner, made of dust and a rib – and this would indicate that God is a sinner of dust and ribs, too – which…well, I’m not really sure that’s a god I’d want to worship, you know?;  And in the second and third chapters Jehovah condemns his own creation to eternal damnation for being what he created them to be – which makes God look like a pretty unfit parent – I mean, giving your child an eternal “timeout” in a place of fire and brimstone doesn’t speak well for one’s parenting skills, does it? No, if I have to choose between the first chapter of Genesis and the second and third chapters – I’ll pick the first chapter, thank you very much.

In his beautiful sermon on love, The Greatest Thing in the World, Henry Drummond has this to say about “sin”: “Many things that men denounce as sins are not sins; but they are temporary… John says of the world, not that it is wrong, but simply that it ‘passeth away.’ There is a great deal in the world that is delightful and beautiful, there is a great deal that is great and engrossing, but it will not last. All that is in the world, the lust of the eye, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life, are but for a little while. Love not the world therefore. Nothing that it contains is worth the life and consecration of an immortal soul…You will give yourself to many things; give yourself first to love. Hold things in their proportion.” – Henry Drummond

Holding “things in their proportion” is one of the keys to sanity, I think. I believe we make too much of “sin” – focus our energies on fighting it and fearing it.

Edward A. Kimball writes (In Lectures and Articles on Christian Science): “The fear of evil is the confirmation of it… Fear is not inspired by good… Fear serves no good purpose.”

I still vividly recall the day I told my husband that everyone was telling me really wonderful, flattering things  – what a great teacher I am, what a great writer, what a good person – but that I felt detached from all of that, likes these people didn’t really know who I was.  My husband started laughing. “Karen,” he said, “everyone else sees who you are. You’re the only one who’s not seeing it.”

That was a powerful moment for me – in that moment I think I began to wake up from the nightmare of guilt, self-condemnation, and self-hate.

If you’re struggling with that same nightmare, I want you, dear reader, to recognize who YOU really are, too.  You are the expression, manifestation, reflection, image and likeness of Love, Truth, and Life – the good that people are recognizing in you and telling you about – that’s all true! Accept it. Recognize it. Thank God for it. Enjoy your wonderfulness, and use it to help others see their wonderfulness, too.  Be part of the revolution!

At the time I thought that period in my life was the worst thing I’d ever gone through. But now, looking back, I realize it was one of the best things I’ve ever gone through.  Experiencing the depression gave me huge empathy for other people struggling with the same kind of thing, and during it I learned how to consciously shift my thoughts and see the good all around me – that was a huge lesson!  I lost myself for awhile, and then found myself again – rediscovered myself as the child of Love, Truth, and Life.

We are Love’s creation, created in the image and likeness of Good.  I believe that about you and I believe that about me, too. We are way cool.

“Behold, now are we the sons of God.” – I John 3:2

Dog Slobber and Universal Love

“Peace on earth, good will to all…”

You know how when you look up at the stars at night you get that feeling that you’re a part of something really amazing and awesome? And for me, it feels like I’m part of some big purpose, too.

So the other day I’m sitting on a big rock on the beach – I have the beach entirely to myself – and as I look out at the Puget Sound, and watch the little sea creatures in the tidal pool next to me, I get that same feeling – that I’m part of something awesome, and that I’m part of some universal purpose. And, in that moment, it came to me that the purpose of everything, the purpose of the universe, is to love. And everything else – the mistakes we make, and the struggles we have – if those things lead us to understand love better, and lead us to love more – then that’s all that matters, really.

Right after my epiphany, this family came around the corner, and their dog came barreling straight for me and leaped on me and licked my face and just showered his slobbery love on me – it was great!  – and alright, so maybe he got mud all over me and left me smelling like dog slobber – none of that matters when everything is about love.

-excerpt (edited for this blog) from The Humoristian Chronicles

“God is Love. More than this we cannot ask, higher we cannot look, farther we cannot go.” – Mary Baker Eddy

“…let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God…God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him.” – I John 4

http://www.amazon.com/Humoristian-Chronicles-Unusual-Fellowship-ebook/dp/B005MGBEJI/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1323011404&sr=