“Peace, be still…”

“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…” – I Kings 19

“And he arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.” – Mark 4

***

Earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, hurricanes, tornadoes, floods – I’ve sometimes heard people attribute these destructive events to God – using them as examples of “God’s wrath” towards his children.  And when I hear people doing this it becomes apparent that they and I do not share the same concept of “God.”

The God I worship is the God defined as “Love” in I John 4. There is no wrath in my God. There is no anger, envy, or rage. The God I worship loves Her creation, and recognizes Her creation as good and lovable.

The God I worship is all-good – another name for Truth, Life, Mind, Principle, Soul, Spirit, Love.  Just as light doesn’t create darkness, Truth doesn’t create error. Life doesn’t  create death. Mind doesn’t create ignorance. Principle doesn’t create chaos. Soul doesn’t create ugliness and disharmony. Spirit isn’t responsible for matter.  Love is not to blame for hate. And God doesn’t cause hurricanes, earthquakes, floods, or fires.

And as darkness disappears when the light touches it, so error disappears when Truth is revealed. Ignorance is destroyed by the intelligence and understanding of Mind. Hate  is destroyed by Love. And evil is destroyed by the presence and power of  Good – by the “still, small voice” of God.

I know that God is guiding, guarding, and caring for her Creation – that each and every one of her children is safe, enveloped in Love’s protective power, never separated for a moment from the power and presence of Good.

Everlasting arms of Love

Are beneath, around, above;

God it is who bears us on, 

HIs the arm we lean upon.

From earth’s fears and vain alarms

Safe in His encircling arms,

He will keep us all the way,

God, our refuge, strength, and stay.

— John R. MacDuff

 

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One Christian Scientist’s Views on Health Insurance

And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise.” – Luke 6: 31

 ***

A few years ago a dear friend shared with me that she was told the drugs she’s been prescribed to take while she’s in cancer remission will cost $30,000 to $40,000 a month.  She did not have health insurance at the time.  I was floored by the financial burden her family was going to be expected to bear while she recovered from cancer, chemo, and radiation, and tried to find a way to pay for the drugs she was told she needed to take to stay alive.

Health care, in my opinion, should be considered a basic necessity of life – in the same category as food, water, and shelter; I don’t believe anyone should be denied access to the care they believe they need simply because they lack the financial resources.  (Nor should they be denied the care they need simply because it’s not the type of care of which their elected officials personally approve or disapprove – determining whether a type of health care is “acceptable” should not be the job of politicians.)

I myself rarely use the health care insurance that I pay into through work. But, as a member of a community, and as a responsible citizen, I have no problem contributing to a pot of money that will help others who find themselves in the same circumstances as my friend recovering from cancer.  There are ways we can provide for each other as a community that we can’t provide as single individuals. I can’t give my friend $30,000 a month – but I can share my part of a collective health insurance pot with her, and I’m happy to do so.

***

“Then went the Pharisees, and took counsel how they might entangle him in his talk.And they sent out unto him their disciples with the Herodians, saying, Master, we know that thou art true, and teachest the way of God in truth, neither carest thou for any man: for thou regardest not the person of men.Tell us therefore, What thinkest thou? Is it lawful to give tribute unto Caesar, or not?

“ But Jesus perceived their wickedness, and said, Why tempt ye me, ye hypocrites?Shew me the tribute money. And they brought unto him a penny. And he saith unto them, Whose is this image and superscription?

“They say unto him, Caesar’s. Then saith he unto them, Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s.

“When they had heard these words, they marvelled, and left him, and went their way.”

–   Matthew 22

On Politics, Voting, and Separation of Church and State

“Do the unexpected. Take 20 minutes of your day to do what young people all over the world are dying to do: vote.” – Rick Mercer (Canadian Wit Extraordinaire)

“Mrs. Mary Baker Eddy has always believed that those who are entitled to vote should do so, and she has also believed that in such matters no one should seek to dictate the actions of others.” – from Prose Works by Mary Baker Eddy

I appreciate that in the Christian Science movement there’s no official authority telling its members how to vote on issues, or which politicians they should try to elect.  Members are expected to vote as individual conscience and understanding dictate.  And this, I believe, is as it should be.

Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of the Christian Science church, was a strong believer in separation of church and state.  She writes, in Miscellaneous Writings: “Progress, legitimate to the human race, pours the healing balm of Truth and Love into every wound. It reassures us that no Reign of Terror or rule of error will again unite Church and State, or re-enact, through the civil arm of governments, the horrors of religious persecution.” (No and Yes, p 44) And, warning against the tendency of religious institutions to try to dictate the workings of government, she writes: “It is the pulpit and press, clerical robes and the prohibiting of free speech, that cradles and covers the sins of the world, – all unmitigated systems of crime; and it requires the enlightenment of these worthies, through civil and religious reform, to blot out all inhuman codes. It was the Southern pulpit and press that influenced the people to wrench from man both human and divine rights, in order to subserve the interests of wealth, religious caste, civil and political power.”

Although there’s no one within the Christian Science church telling its member which political candidate should get their vote, Mary Baker Eddy did describe, in Prose Works, the type of individual I want representing me: “The upright man is guided by a fixed Principle, which destines him to do nothing but what is honorable, and to abhor whatever is base or unworthy; hence we find him ever the sane, – at all times the trusty friend, the affectionate relative, the conscientious man of business, the pious worker, the public-spirited citizen…He assumes no borrowed appearance. He seeks no mask to cover him, for he acts no studied part; but he is indeed what he appears to be, – full of truth, candor, and humanity. In all his pursuits, he knows no path but the fair, open, and direct one, and would much rather fail of success than attain it by reproachable means.”

My conscience and understanding lead me in the direction that points towards individual freedom and choice. One of the guiding questions for me, as I vote on ballot issues, is: “Is this any of my business?”  As the Bible says, we all need to work out our own salvation. We all need to be allowed to have our own experience, and to make our own choices – so long as those choices do not cause harm to others.

In the Bible, Peter had pretty strong words to say towards those inclined to be a “busybody” – putting it in the same category as “murderer” and “evildoer”:  “But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evildoer, or as a busybody in other men’s matters.” – I Peter 4: 15

(Whoah, right?)

And when considering the workings of politics, and separation of church and state, I’ve always found these passages in The Bible helpful:

When Jesus therefore perceived that they would come and take him by force, to make him a king, he departed again into a mountain himself alone.” – John 6: 15

“Then went the Pharisees, and took counsel how they might entangle him in his talk.And they sent out unto him their disciples with the Herodians, saying, Master, we know that thou art true, and teachest the way of God in truth, neither carest thou for any man: for thou regardest not the person of men.Tell us therefore, What thinkest thou? Is it lawful to give tribute unto Caesar, or not?

“ But Jesus perceived their wickedness, and said, Why tempt ye me, ye hypocrites?Shew me the tribute money. And they brought unto him a penny. And he saith unto them, Whose is this image and superscription?

“They say unto him, Caesar’s. Then saith he unto them, Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s.

“When they had heard these words, they marvelled, and left him, and went their way.”

–   Matthew 22

Amen.

I love this!:

http://www.upworthy.com/this-is-what-theyre-teaching-the-kids-in-schools-these-days?c=upw6

The Time I Thought God was Leading Me to Atheism

Did I ever tell you about the time I thought God was leading me to atheism?

Yeah. That probably tells you something about how my pointy little head works, eh?

I’d discovered on a religion forum that I seemed to have more in common with the forum’s atheists – many of whom became and continue to be dear friends – than I do with most of the people who identified themselves as “believers.” I came to realize that I probably actually WAS an atheist when it came to the concept of “God” that most people were describing.  The concept of God I was raised with in Christian Science was much different than the anthropomorphic wrathful, jealous, angry, vengeful, send-his-children-to-hell god that so many people seemed inclined to follow on the forum.

In the textbook for Christian Science (Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures) Mary Baker Eddy writes: “The word anthropomorphic, in such a phrase as “an anthropomorphic  God,” is derived from two Greek words, signifying man and form, and may be defined as a mortally mental attempt to reduce Deity to corporeality… The ideal man corresponds to creation, to intelligence, and to Truth.  The ideal woman corresponds to Life and to Love. In divine Science, we have not as much authority for considering God masculine, as we have for considering Him feminine, for Love imparts the clearest idea of Deity.” When I’d share this concept of God with my forum friends, I was often asked why I even bother to call God “God” then – why not just say “Love” or “Truth” and be done with it?

What they were suggesting made a kind of sense to me.  And I wondered if God was leading me to atheism.

So I put atheism on and tried it out for a couple weeks. Walked around in atheism and tried to look at the world as I thought an atheist might see it. It was interesting. It wasn’t horrible. I didn’t feel like the spawn of Satan or anything.

But the thing is… well, the thing is that in the end I realized it just wasn’t me. It felt really silly and dishonest for me to deny the presence of God in my life, and to deny the wonderful things I’ve witnessed that, to me, are proof of God.   God is Love, yes. And Love is God, too – a presence and power – a verb AND a noun.

So there you have it. I am a theist. Do I think I’m in any way better than my atheist friends? Nah. I think we all find the path that makes the most sense to us – and for some of us that will include a belief in a god, and for some of us it won’t.  I can’t force myself to NOT believe in God, any more than my atheist friends can force themselves TO believe in God. And it’s all good. As my beloved Aunt Junie used to say: “Whatever makes your socks go up and down.”

“God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him.” – I John 4

Cognitive Dissonance and Proof of God

“Sometimes people hold a core belief that is very strong. When they are presented with evidence that works against that belief, the new evidence cannot be accepted. It would create a feeling that is extremely uncomfortable, called cognitive dissonance. And because it is so important to protect the core belief, they will rationalize, ignore, and even deny anything that doesn’t fit in with the core belief.” – Frantz Fanon

I love this quote by Frantz Fanon. I think at one time or another we’ve probably all experienced some cognitive dissonance in our lives – times when, because of our own world view, background, and experiences we simply can’t accept the evidence set down in front of us.

Now and then I’ve been asked to share evidence and proof of “God.”  Now, for me, “God” is not a supernatural anthropomorphic being who throws thunderbolts from the heavens and sometimes chooses to help us and sometimes chooses to not. For me “God” is supremely natural – simply another name for Love, Truth, and Life – the power of Good.  And I experience healing by bringing myself into harmony with this power – by filling my thoughts up with Love, joy, hope, and courage, and cleansing my thoughts of fear, anger, hatred, and so on. So, when asked to offer evidence and proof of my God, I might say that kindness, honesty, and intelligence are all evidence of God. Or I might share healings I’ve experienced through bringing my thoughts close to God.  I might, for instance, share the following healings as proof of God, Good:

  • I witnessed my little brother healed of doctor-diagnosed mastoiditus when he was 7 – one minute he was screaming in pain, the next he was snoring. Healing confirmed by a medical doctor the next day.
  • A couple years ago my optometrist found a melanoma on my eyelid – he showed me a picture of it and had me set up an appointment with a surgeon right then – two weeks later the eye surgeon could find no trace of the melanoma.
  • After my hand inflated to twice its normal size, I went to a doctor. The doctor told me I probably either had a serious infection or rheumatoid arthritis. The doctor sent me in for blood tests. After the blood tests I went home and called a CS practitioner for prayerful support. By the third morning my hand had completely deflated and I was fine. The blood tests came back. One of the markers indicated rheumatoid arthritis. The nurse was shocked when I told her I was fine. That was several years ago. No return of the condition.
  • I was taken to the OR to have an emergency c-section with my second son. I asked my mom to call a CS practitioner for support. Just before they were going to slice me open, the surgical team got surprised looks on their faces, and starting telling me to push. The baby was  born naturally. One of the OR nurses was crying because it was all so beautiful, and she’d never been able to see a natural delivery before. The midwife told me they don’t know what happened. It was a surprise to all of them.

The response I get from friends after I share these experiences is really fascinating to me. Some friends – those who are open to the evidence I share with them, will celebrate and rejoice with me. But there are others – often friends who were raised as children with a different kind of a “God” than mine and rebelled against that thunderbolt-throwing god (and who can blame them?) – who seem unable to accept what I’m sharing.

I’m told by these friends that I can’t just go around making up my own definition for “God.” I tell them I didn’t come up with this concept of God on my own and that it’s not a new concept – that in the Bible we’re told “God is love” (I John 4) and that as far back as the late 19th century Mary Baker Eddy listed these synonyms for God – “Principle, Mind, Soul, Spirit, Life, Truth, Love.”

Okay, but these healings are not proofs of a supernatural being, these friends tell me – my body would have healed itself naturally, anyway. I agree with them – as Mary Baker Eddy writes in the Christian Science textbook, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures: “Now, as then, these mighty works (healings) are not supernatural, but supremely natural.” Later she writes, “God is natural good… Truth should not seem so surprising and unnatural as error, and error should not seem so real as truth. Sickness should not seem so real as health.”

At this point my friends will often tell me that, although I am, of course, a very nice person, I’m also completely cracked to trust my health to this power of good, rather than depending on the laboratory-tested workings of medical science.

Ahem.  Soooo… do I go there or do I not? If I go there

I might point out that, according to the American Medical Association, medical science is the third-leading cause of death in this country. I might share the countless stories of people who have died from medical treatment, rather than the original malady that brought them to the medical doctors. I might point out that just a few weeks ago Newsweek’s cover story was about the unsafe care Americans receive in our nation’s hospitals. Author Marty Makary writes: “Bad doctors. Prescription errors. Surgical slips. Medical mistakes injure or kill hundreds of thousands of Americans every year… When I was a medical student medical science began to seem as dangerous and dishonest as it was miraculous and precise. The defining moment came when I saw a sweet old lady I cared about die after a procedure she didn’t need and didn’t want.” (http://www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek/2012/09/16/are-hospitals-less-safe-than-we-think.html)   I might point out all the side effects (nausea, vomiting, dry mouth, depression, thoughts of suicide, weight gain, liver damage, heart attacks, death) listed on those drug commercials we’re all familiar with on television don’t instill in me an urgent desire to race to the nearest pharmacy. And then I might ask them, after all this, if it really seems logical or reasonable to question the sanity of thinking people who choose not to see medical science as the panacea for their health challenges.

But because my world view is so different from theirs, these friends often experience a “cognitive dissonance” – an inability to recognize the healings I’ve experienced through my understanding of the power of God, Good, and the flaws in the system that they’ve come to depend on. The idea of not turning, first, to medical science and, instead, trusting in the power of Love, Truth, and Life, is so foreign and alien that they simply can’t seem to grasp the idea of it, or to acknowledge my healings as proof of God.

I am not averse to visiting optometrists, dentists, and doctors when I feel the need to do so – I have no worries about being ex-communicated from my church or raising the wrath of God or anything – and I’m grateful for my doctors’ training, intelligence, and humor (all my doctors have a sense of humor – it is one of my requirements).  But I have also proven, for myself, the constant, unchanging power of God when I’m able to draw near to Love and Truth – and I have found this power to be a dependable and effective one in my life.

In divine Science, where prayers are mental, all may avail themselves of God as “a very present help in trouble.” – Mary Baker Eddy

Here’s a youtube clip of a healing of scarlet fever – had to share this:

Lifted Up by the Waves of Change

“…progress is the law of God, whose law demands of us only what we can certainly fulfill.” – Mary Baker Eddy

 ***

I kind of surprised myself yesterday. A friend was sharing some of the challenges he’s dealing with in his life right now – telling me about some really absurd glitches in our legal system that seem to have wreaked havoc on his financial situation. And my first reaction was to get angry at the injustice, inequity, and unfairness of it all. But – and this is the part that surprised me – as he told me about his circumstances – low on funds, looking for steady income, his livelihood depending more and more on his part-time gigs as a musician, rather than on a typical “day job” – I found myself actually starting to feel excited for him.

I recognized that he’s in that incredible place of change and growth, possibility and opportunity, that have marked the last year for me – and I felt really happy for him. I know. That must sound weird, eh? But I just knew, as I listened to him, that he has been brought to the brink of something really amazing.  He is at the cusp of change.

***

It’s been a year now since I encountered my own “cusp of change,” and it has been one of the most amazing years of my life.

Twelve months ago my life appeared to be in crisis. The underpinnings for my financial security were on the brink of being pulled out, my twenty-year career was coming to an end, and I was looking at unfairness and inequity that left me reeling, emotionally.  When the boat finally capsized, figuratively, I found myself washed up on an unfamiliar shore, stripped of financial security and purpose, and with no clear solution to the challenges of my situation. I really had no choice but to start over and rebuild from the bottom up.

And it was awesome!

For the first time in years I didn’t have to try to fit my life into a rigid schedule and a tight structure.  My life was my own to create as I felt led. Creativity danced up to the front of the line, and concerns about conformity, pleasing others, and money retreated to the rear.  Opportunities that required my skills and talents as a writer presented themselves; photography became a big part of my life; and a position at a local alternative high school opened up for me.

And I had a sort of epiphany: I never want to be paid so much money that I no longer own my own “soul.”  I want enough to live and be comfortable and to share with others – but I don’t want so much that I become dependent on it, and feel the need to give up my own sense of right and wrong to keep getting it. I never, again, want to feel beholden to a company or business or system, for my security.

The inequity and unfairness that my friend is experiencing right now, and that I experienced a year ago under somewhat different circumstances, are actually a blessing, I think.  “Trials are proofs of God’s care,” Mary Baker Eddy writes in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, and later she writes, “The very circumstance, which your suffering sense deems wrathful and afflictive, Love can make an angel entertained unawares.”

Love, God, has always been with me – through the good stuff and the “bad” – leading and guiding me, and opening up new doors ahead of me, as other doors have closed behind me. In the last year I’ve come to recognize that Love will always provide for me and mine, and that I never need to fear what the future holds; It holds nothing but good – because even the “bad” is transformed into something good when we put Love at the helm.

Things are starting to settle in my life now. The wave of change has carried me to a place where I have the opportunity to express God more fully and completely than I could from my former position in life.  There is freedom here, and great joy. I kind of miss the wild, heady exhilaration of the wave of change that brought me here. But I’m going to enjoy all that I’ve gained from the wave, and the place where it’s brought me.  I expect other waves are waiting for me in the future, and I look forward to them.

___

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

“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God…” – Romans 8: 28

Or, to paraphrase: We know that all things work together for good to them that love Love.