Church: Inclusion or Exclusion?

” Listen, here’s what I think. I think we can’t go ’round measuring our goodness by what we don’t do, what we deny ourselves, what we resist, and who we exclude. I think we’ve got to measure goodness by what we embrace, what we create, and who we include.” – Pere Henri’s sermon in Chocolat


Chocolat is one of my all-time favorite movies. I love the quirky, lovable characters.  I love the images of chocolate being sprinkled, melted, molded, and eaten. I love the movie’s wise and wonderful dialogue.  I love the setting. I love the… did I mention the chocolate? And I love the movie’s message.

If you’ve never seen the movie, Chocolat (or read the book it’s based on), let me give a brief summary: A young widow moves into a small French town with her daughter, and opens up a chocolate store.  During lent.  Yeah.  Kind of bad timing.  The mayor – a judgmental, and obsessively restrained and rigid fellow, inclined to want to control the behavior of everyone around him – is not pleased by her lack of obedience to the dogma of his church. He proceeds to make life difficult for her – trying to coerce the people of his town to shun her and her new business.

And this brings me to the gist of what I want to write about today: exclusivism; elitism; what I call “Country Club Religiousness.” In his wonderful sermon, The Greatest Thing in the World, Henry Drummond reflects on the Biblical analogy of the sheep being separated from the goats on Judgment Day : “I say the final test of religion at that great Day is not religiousness, but Love; not what I have done, not what I have believed, not what I have achieved, but how I have discharged the common charities of life. Sins of commission in that awful indictment are not even referred to. By what we have not done, by sins of omission, we are judged. It could not be otherwise. For the withholding of love is the negation of the spirit of Christ, the proof that we never knew Him, that for us He lived in vain.”

Why do you suppose we sometimes seem to have the need to cast judgment on others? Do you think we feel the need to put others down, shun them, exclude  them, and stamp them with labels because we don’t realize our own wonderfulness? – maybe we feel the need to put others down to somehow feel better about ourselves?  And do you think that maybe people who join organizations that promote exclusivity are people who have a need to feel like they belong to something “special?” I don’t know. I’m not a trained psychologist or anything, and I could just be (once again) full of baloney about this stuff.  Anyway…

We all know what Jesus said about judging others: “Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?  Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.” (Matthew 7)

In the Christian Science textbook, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, Mary Baker Eddy defines “Church” as “The structure of Truth and Love; whatever rests upon and proceeds from divine Principle.” She writes: “The Church is that institution, which affords proof of its utility and is found elevating the race, rousing the dormant understanding from material beliefs to the apprehension of spiritual ideas and the demonstration of divine Science, thereby casting out devils, or error, and healing the sick.”

Note that Eddy doesn’t say that Church exists as a place to promote dogma, or to judge others. She doesn’t say that the Church exists only for the people who attend service in a material structure, or who obey rules of a human organization. She writes that the purpose of Church is to elevate the “race” – not just some members of the race, but all.  She doesn’t write that Church exists to serve itself, but that its purpose is to “raise the dormant understanding” of the human race.

Science is inclusive: The laws and rules of physics don’t belong just to those who call themselves physicists; A geologist can’t exclude anyone else from studying geology – nobody holds exclusive rights to the study of the earth’s surface; The principles of mathematics are universal, and available to everyone who chooses to use them.  And, just as geology, physics, and mathematics are inclusive of all mankind, so the Principle of the Christ-Science is universal, and belongs to everyone – nobody has exclusive ownership of Truth; Love, God, doesn’t belong to some people, and not others; A human institution doesn’t hold exclusive rights to Love’s healing power, and can’t prevent any of God’s children from being one with their Father-Mother, Love.

The healing truths found in Christian Science are available to everyone – not just card-carrying members of the Christian Science church.  And what good news that is for humanity! 🙂

May our physical housings of Church – our human structures – be perfect manifestations of the “structure of Truth and Love,” and may they be filled with a happy fellowship, inclusive of all.


The members of this Church should daily watch and pray to be delivered from all evil, from prophesying, judging, condemning, counseling, influencing or being influenced erroneously.” – from Church Manual by Mary Baker Eddy

Thanksgiving: “What a Wonderful World”

A grateful heart a garden is,

Where there is always room

For every lovely, Godlike grace

To come to perfect bloom…


As we began planning for Thanksgiving, we realized that, due to scheduling conflicts and human limitations of time and space (we haven’t yet overcome the belief that we can’t be two places at once, but we’re working on it – we’ll keep you posted) we wouldn’t be able to celebrate Thanksgiving in our home on Thursday. We decided to move it up to today. And it feels right. Even though we may still be trying to overcome limitations of time and space, we have no limits to the time and space wherein to express our thankfulness.  Today is as good a day as any day.

And today I am brimming over with gratitude for all the good in my life: The sons are home from university and we’ve spent the last couple days watching our favorite movies together, laughing and sharing our latest news with each other – it’s good to hear their male laughter again; my husband and I are both gainfully employed in work that brings us satisfaction and contributes in a positive way to the world; we have food in the pantry and a roof over our heads. We have so much to be thankful for!


A grateful heart a fortress is,

A staunch and rugged tower,

Where God’s omnipotence, revealed,

Girds man with mighty power…

A year ago, things seemed a little bleak for me, professionally…. or they might have seemed bleak to an outsider looking “in.” But from the inside-out, I was entering a journey that I found wonderfully exhilarating and freeing.  I had no idea where it would take me, and couldn’t have possibly guessed that in a year I’d be working where I’m working today.  Today I am in the best gig I’ve ever had in my life.  Get this! – during the course of one day last week one of my high school students brought me a big beautiful bouquet of tulips; another let me hold and croon to her infant while she worked on her Social Studies – and, as I’m sure you know, there is nothing more comforting than the feel of a warm baby nestled under one’s chin; and a third told me she’d been looking forward to me reading the story of Pegasus to her and asked me if I would please read to her the last ten minutes of our session together. Yes, it’s true! – I’m actually working at a job where I get to help students with their schoolwork, read to them, and help guide them into adulthood – and how cool is that?!

Had I not stepped over the brink and trusted that God, Good, had a place prepared for me, I wouldn’t be where I am today…

As I wait for the sweet potatoes to boil to perfect softness, I am listening to Louis Armstrong work his magic on my CD player.  Louie’s What a Wonderful World is on – sweet and beautiful – thanksgiving in music:

The colors of the rainbow,

so pretty in the sky

are also on the faces

of people going by,

I see friends shaking hands,

Saying, “How do you do?”

They’re really saying,

“I love you”….

And I think to myself,

 what a wonderful world! 

Okay, time to go whip up some sweet potatoes.

And this year I’m going to remember to get the rolls out of the oven, too… 🙂

Wishing you all a most wonderful Thanksgiving with friends and family – may you and yours be enveloped in laughter and love sublime!

A grateful heart a temple is,

A shrine so pure and white,

Where angels of His presence keep

Calm watch by day or night.

Grant then, dear Father-Mother, God,

Whatever else befall,

This largess of a grateful heart

That loves and blesses all.

-Edith Wasgatt Dennis

Instructions to a First-time Mom: “Love her. Just love her.”

My mother tells me that when I was born and she held me in her arms for the first time, the weight of the responsibility of raising and caring for me suddenly filled her with great fear. She was so afraid she’d mess it all up somehow.

She looked up at the doctor and shared her fears with him. The doctor smiled at her sweet face and said, “Love her. Just love her.”

This was something my mom knew how to do – and do really well.

My brothers and I may not have had the most conventional up-bringing – but none of us could have asked for a mother with more love in her heart.  We grew up witnesses to how she expressed love to others –  seeing her voice her protest for those who were being treated unfairly, watching her take in stray animals and make them part of the family, seeing how a room would light up as soon as she entered it and smiled her love on everyone. And the love she expressed wasn’t some feigned thing, either. It came from deep inside her – true and pure. She truly loved mankind and all God’s creatures – and we saw this, and incorporated her example into our own sense of how to live a decent and moral life.

As I think back on my younger years, there’s one moment that stands out for me. I think I must have been in my early twenties, and there was some sadness about a break-up with a boyfriend or something – dashed hopes of some kind – I can’t remember the specifics now – but I was feeling lost and alone – not sure what direction I was supposed to take in my life. I was home visiting Mom and Dad, and had gone out into the backyard to look up at the stars and pray. Mom must have known I was out there, and came and stood beside me. I shared my sadness with her then – I think I shared how I was feeling like a “surplus” person – like there seemed to be no place for me. My mom reached over to one of her rose bushes and gently plucked a rose from it and handed it to me. She looked into my eyes and said, “This is you. I see you unfolding into a most beautiful rose.” And then she went back into the house.

Wow. Those simple words, spoken with perfect love, totally reversed my thoughts about myself and my circumstances. Mom loved me. Mom thought I was unfolding like a beautiful rose. How cool is that?!

I’m grateful to say that Mom is still with us here, still loving her fellow creatures, and still an example to us all of how to live a “good” life, and how to be  the best kind of mother.

As an eagle stirreth up her nest, fluttereth over her young, spreadeth abroad her wings, taketh them, beareth them on her wings…” – Deuteronomy 32: 11

A mother’s affection cannot be weaned from her child, because the mother-love includes purity and constancy, both of which are immortal. Therefore maternal affection lives on under whatever difficulties.” – from Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy

In Praise of Science and Technology

“Whatever furnishes the semblance of an idea governed by its Principle, furnishes food for thought. Through astronomy, natural history, chemistry, music, mathematics, thought passes naturally from effect back to cause… Academics of the right sort are requisite. Observation, study, and original thought are expansive and should promote the growth of mortal mind out of itself, out of all that is mortal.”

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


My dad is 94 – he  was born in 1918. It’s mind-boggling for me to think about all that he’s witnessed and lived through in his life.  He was born near the end of World War I, and two years before women in the United States got the right to vote. He lived through The Great Depression, and served in World War II. He was around for the first radio broadcast, the first flight across the Atlantic, and the first “talking picture.” When he was born people used these things called phonographs to listen to music (I did, too), and typewriters to write stories (me, too!) – and if a writer made a mistake on a typewriter, she couldn’t just “delete” it – she had to type the whole *@#$%* page over again! (Yeah, the exclamation mark indicates some personal experience with this.) Toasters, yo-yos, television (we didn’t get our first TV until I was six or seven), color television (we didn’t get our first color TV until I was a teenager), duct tape, microwave ovens, Velcro, hula hoops, calculators, post-it notes, computers, personal computers, videos, phonographs, liquid paper, DVDs, CDs, i-pods, and our first launch into space and our landing on the moon have all come during Dad’s lifetime.  He is a piece of walking history. 🙂

In Prose Works (Miscellany, p. 345), we find an interesting dialogue about science and technology between Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of the Christian Science church, and an interviewer. The interviewer asks Eddy how she feels about the “pursuit of modern material inventions,” and Eddy replies: “Oh, we cannot oppose them. They all tend to newer, finer, more etherealized ways of living. They seek the finer essences. They light the way to the Church of Christ. We use them, we make them our figures of speech. They are preparing the way for us.”

Although I myself have sometimes considered Luddite membership – usually following a skirmish with my laptop’s recalcitrant hardware, or frustration over trying to figure out which icon to push on my new cellphone – this occasional desire to chuck my phone into the nearest river is not something that comes from my study of Christian Science.  It’s just me being me.

Christian Science is not at odds with science and technology.

In the Christian Science textbook, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, Mary Baker Eddy writes: “The mariner will have dominion over the atmosphere and the great deep, over the fish of the sea and the fowls of the air. The astronomer will no longer look up to the stars, – he will look out from them upon the universe; and the florist will find his flower before its seed.” Eddy published her book in 1875 – almost 100 years before man landed on the moon – yet she seemed able to foretell some of the advances in science that we have come to see. Pretty cool, ay? (Piece of trivia here: The wife and the mother of Alan Shephard, the first guy NASA shot into space, were both Christian Scientists.)

My Christian Science mom (born in 1927) is huge into quantum physics. I don’t mean that she’s formally educated in it or anything (she was a music major – my dad was the one educated in the sciences – he was a geologist) – but the concepts in quantum physics absolutely fascinate her. She’s got tons of books and videos on the subject – and gets great joy from contemplating that stuff.

Unlike my mom, there are Christian Scientists who are actual physicists – and probably some of them are fascinated by the idea that the more you study matter the more you realize how little substance there actually is to it. From what I can gather most of the material world around us is actually filled with electrical fields and there’s more “space” between atoms than there is substance. So really, even from a physically scientific standpoint, matter doesn’t exist, or it hardly exists. (Sort of puts a whole new perspective on Mary Baker Eddy’s thought that matter is illusion, doesn’t it?) 🙂

I’ve often heard people separate religion and science, and talk about the two things like they are mutually exclusive. And I would agree that some religious people do seem to see science as the enemy.  Some religious folks have even gone so far as to consciously and deliberately make a war on science – and I find this appalling. (For a really enlightening read on this subject , you might check out wikipedia’s article on The Wedge Document – “The Wedge Document outlines a public relations campaign meant to sway the opinion of the public, popular media, charitable funding agencies, and public policy makers. According to critics, the wedge document, more than any other Discovery Institute project, demonstrates the Institute’s and intelligent design’s political rather than scientific purpose.”

But Christian Scientists are not creationists or Intelligent Design adherents. We don’t believe the first chapters of Genesis are to be interpreted literally, and don’t believe the world was actually created in seven days and seven nights. (For more about how Christian Scientists view creation, you might want to read the chapter entitled Genesis in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures.)

In the battle between religious ideology and science, Mary Baker Eddy chose science. In Prose Works, she writes: “On the startled ear of humanity rings out the iron tread of merciless invaders, putting man to the rack for his conscience, or forcing from the lips of manhood shameful confessions, – Galileo kneeling at the feet of priestcraft, and giving the lie to science.”

Mary Baker Eddy believed her discovery of Christian Science to be a scientific one, based on a provable Principle that brings healing to the world.  And, even with my own limited understanding of Christian Science, I have been able to prove – to myself – that by resting my thoughts upon this Principle (God, Love, Truth, Life), I can experience healing in a dependable and consistent way.

And I guess this brings us to medical science.

Some of the best, most honorable and intelligent people I know, are medical doctors.  They are motivated by a desire to heal the world, to use their intelligence and talents to bring wholeness and well-being to others. And I’m so glad to be able to call a number of them my “friends.”  Some of them do remarkable work for their fellow man – and it stems from their love of humanity.

But medical science is not like physics. It’s not an exact science, with dependable principles and rules. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes it seems to help people, and sometimes it kills them.  Medical scientists cannot make a guarantee that their science will cure its adherents, and that it won’t harm or kill them instead.

In the interview I mentioned earlier, the reporter asks Mrs. Eddy how Christian Scientists should look on health laws of the States regarding infectious and contagious diseases. Eddy answers: “I say ‘Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s.’ …  knowing…  that the fear of catching smallpox is more dangerous than any material infection, I say: Where vaccination is compulsory, let your children be vaccinated, and see that your mind is in such a state that by your prayers vaccination will do the children no harm.” Regarding the use of drugs, Eddy says: “I was dosed with drugs until they had no effect on me. The doctors said I would live if the drugs could be made to act on me. Then homoepathy came like blessed relief to me, but I found that when I prescribed pellets without any medication they acted just the same and healed the sick.”

The drugs we see advertised on television do not seem like something any sane person would want to get tangled up with. Loss of memory, diarrhea, dry mouth, vomiting, thoughts of suicide, depression, liver damage, rashes, death – these possible side effects of drugs do not make me want to run out and get them. I know – call me loopy –  but when my health and life are on the line, I’d rather turn to the method of healing that has consistently worked for me, than some lab-tested drug  that may or may not cure me, and could possibly kill me.  Tested with the scientific method, these drugs may be – but that doesn’t guarantee they’ll work.

Medical research has shown that certain emotions – fear, anger, hate – produce chemicals that can affect your physical health:

– and I think this research on the mind-body connection correlates well to the teachings of Christian Science which include the belief that our state of mind determines our human experience. On the first website I listed above, the research indicates that your emotions play an even bigger role than having basic needs. If I were a medical doctor I think  this is the kind of research I’d be interested in studying further. I’d be studying to learn why a placebo is often as effective as the actual drug, and looking into the connection between a person’s thoughts and emotions and their physical health.

Is Christian Science an enemy of science? Nay, nada, nope. Is Christian Science a science? Well, I guess all I can say about that is that in my own personal experience it has provided me with reliable, consistent, dependable results time after time.

To Those Who Serve Around the World

“…Jesus called them unto him, and said, Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them. But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister; And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant…” – Matthew 20: 25-27

Our heavenly Father, divine Love, demands that all men should follow the example of our Master and his apostles and not merely worship his personality. It is sad that the phrase divine service has come so generally to mean public worship instead of daily deeds.” – from Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy


On this Veteran’s Day I want to take a moment to express my gratitude to all the men and woman who are faithfully and bravely serving around the world in the armed services, the Peace Corps, the Red Cross, and the Foreign Service. I want you to know that we remember you and appreciate you. You have made a difference. Every word spoken with love, every thought of kindness and compassion, and every gesture of good will, brings mankind that much closer to “peace on earth.” Your work is not in vain, and you are not standing alone.

In the chapter titled Peace and War in Prose Works, Mary Baker Eddy writes: “The characters and lives of men determine the peace, prosperity, and life of nations.”  A little later she writes: “Right thoughts and deeds are the sovereign remedies for all earth’s woe. ” As we celebrate this Veteran’s Day I have confidence  that all those who serve around the world – in whatever capacity – have the strength, courage, and compassion to help bring the world closer to a place of  “peace and prosperity.”  And my gratitude is without measure.

There will be a time without war. There will be a time of peace. There will be a time when mankind will live together in unity and prosperity and with “good will to all.”  I look forward to that time, and I’m grateful to all those who are helping us get there.


“Bloodshed, war, and oppression belong to the darker ages, and shall be relegated to oblivion.” – Mary Baker Eddy (Miscellaneous Writings)

“It is possible, – yea, it is the duty and privilege of every child, man, and woman, – to follow in some degree the example of the Master by the demonstration of Truth and Life, of health and holiness.”

Mary Baker Eddy

“I Will” – Singing in the Car with Alison Krauss

I just had a wonderful drive with Alison Krauss. Well, okay, Alison Krauss wasn’t actually in the car with me. But her voice was. And it was lovely.

I was driving home, after a visit with my parents, and just as I got to Seattle big, fluffy snowflakes started floating down around me. It was like being inside one of those glass bubbles that has “snow” trapped inside it.  It was dark, and the snow made it even more difficult to see, but I was suddenly filled with such a sense of peace and joy, that driving felt more like a celebration than a hazard. I’d put an Alison Krauss CD in my car’s CD-player, and, as the snow started falling, her delightful riff leading into the Beatles I Will filled my car with a playfulness and a joy that was almost tangible. I realized that the cars around me were moving in complete harmony with me and with the song – it was like we were all doing a happy dance together – perfectly-timed and choreographed.

“Who knows how long I’ve loved you? You know I love you still…”  I’d always thought those words and that song were romantic – it was a song I’d sung at least once at a wedding. But now I found those words and that song taking on a different meaning for me. My mom’s sweet, smiling face came into focus in my thoughts and I held her there for a moment – just completely filled with the joy of the love we share for each other. Then my dad came through my thoughts, and I mentally hugged him; then my husband, my sons, my co-workers, my bosses, my neighbors, my friends – even those with whom I’d had conflict – one-by-one passed through my thoughts.  And as each new face appeared I mentally wrapped love and joy around my thoughts of that person.  The playful, irrepressible joy of that song, and Krauss’s performance of it, simply could not be overthrown or trampled down. Anger and frustration had no choice but to melt away before the happy onslaught of banjos and love.

It was a transforming experience for me, and when the snow finally stopped falling and the song had ended, I felt like I’d just been privileged to be a part of something magical and wondrous. The feeling of joy still lingers.

Later I thought some more about the song and its words:

“Who knows how long I’ve loved you
You know I love you still
Will I wait a lonely lifetime?
If you want me to, I will.
I love you forever and forever
Love you with all my heart
Love you whenever we’re together
Love you when we’re apart.
And when at last I find you
Your song will fill the air
Sing it loud so I can hear you
Make it easy to be near you
For the things you do, endear you to me
Oh, you know I will, I will”

And it occurred to me that God, Love itself, could sing those words to you and me. How long has God loved us? Forever and ever and for always. She loves us when we’re near Her in our thoughts, and She loves us when we’re not. She loves us when we know Her, and She loves us when we don’t. And we are dear and precious to Her. “I will, I will,” are our Father-Mother God’s words and promise to us. Unconditional, unfailing love is ours to give, and ours to receive.

(Originally posted February, 2012 and now a part of *The Madcap Christian Scientist’s Middle Book*.)


The Bible: From “Baseline Data” to a Revelation

“Definition. Baseline data is basic information gathered before a program begins. It is used later to provide a comparison for assessing program impact.” –

…our sufficiency is of God… Who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life.” – II Corinthians 3

SCIENTIFIC interpretation of the Scriptures properly starts with the beginning of the Old Testament, chiefly because the spiritual import of the Word, in its earliest articulations, often seems so smothered by the immediate context as to require explication; whereas the New Testament narratives are clearer and come nearer the heart.” – Mary Baker Eddy (Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures)


The Bible is really cool in that it’s a collection of writings from people who lived thousands of years ago and took the time to write down their thoughts and feelings about life – and their writing connects us to them – lets us see that people dealt with the same feelings that we deal with today. There’s joy in those pages, and hope, and great love. There’re stories of self-sacrifice and selflessness and courage – and there’re also stories of obsession and greed and jealousy. And it’s interesting, to me, to see how people dealt with all that stuff – as a society, and as individuals.

But there’s a distinction made in the Bible between the “spirit” and the “letter.” It says in II Corinthians 3 that “the letter killeth” – and I think when people interpret the Bible word-for-word literally they are killing the spirit, the essence, of its meaning. The Bible is chock full of symbolism. Interpreted literally, a lot of it just doesn’t make any sense – it’s full of contradictions and things that are just loopy. Interpreted literally, the story of Adam and Eve has any sane person scratching her head, trying to make heads and tails of talking serpents and a rib turned into a woman and a Creator sending his creation to hell for doing what he made it capable of doing. Interpreted literally, the book of Revelation is a complete nightmare.

And sometimes it might seem really tempting to just throw the whole thing in the trash and be done with it – there is a lot of insanity displayed in The Bible – narrow-mindedness, rigidity, misogyny, tribal warfare, chaos and mayhem and rape and murder and hypocrisy – and I can understand why I’ve sometimes heard people say they hate it.

But when I read The Bible what I see as a history major is the evolution and progress of society and mankind – gradually moving away from a god of war – a vengeful, angry, jealous anthropomorphic god – to God as, literally, Love. When I read the first chapter of Genesis I see the beauty of creation – I don’t get hung up on the whole seven days and seven nights thing – Christian Scientists don’t interpret that chapter literally – what I see is a creation made in God’s image and likeness – beautiful and good and perfect. When I read the story of Adam and Eve, it’s obvious to me that I’m reading an allegory. When I read the songs that David wrote I know I’m reading the words of a man who struggled with the same things I’ve struggled with in my life – I see his flaws and I see his mistakes and his victories, and I see him growing and maturing and I take comfort in that. Jesus’ healings are evidence, for me, of the power of our thoughts, the power of love and good overcoming the challenges we all face – and they give me hope. Revelations is totally symbolic – in my mind, at least – showing the ultimate triumph of the things of the Spirit over the illusions of matter.

I think it’s important to keep what we read in the Bible in context with the culture and times in which it was written – and to view the Bible as a work that’s not static, but dynamic – that shows us a progression from beginning to end.  When we read in Leviticus the ruling that adulterous women should be stoned, and “…eye for eye, tooth for tooth: as he hath caused a blemish in a man, so shall it be done to him again” – I don’t see this as an edict of how we should behave today – I see Leviticus as offering us the baseline data – as the “basic information gathered before a program begins… used later to show how far we’ve come…”   ( When we later see Jesus saving the woman accused of adultery from being stoned, and read his words, “Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also” (Matthew 5) – I see the progress mankind has made from the baseline given in Leviticus.

Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.” – Matthew 5

“There will be greater mental opposition to the spiritual, scientific meaning of the Scriptures than there has ever been since the Christian era began. The serpent, material sense, will bite the heel of  the woman, – will struggle to destroy the spiritual idea of Love...” – Mary Baker Eddy (Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures)

“The Scriptures are very sacred. Our aim must be to have them understood spiritually, for only by this understanding can truth be gained. The true theory of the universe, including man, is not in material history but in spiritual development.” – from Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy

“I am woman, hear me roar…”

So God created man in his own image and likeness; male and female created he them. – Genesis 1: 27

Man and woman as coexistent and eternal with God forever reflect, in glorified quality, the infinite Father-Mother God… 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. – Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, by Mary Baker Eddy


As a Christian Scientist, I believe God to be both Father and Mother, and all men and women to be made in her likeness. I believe that if we, as a society, fail to appreciate or value the expression of God’s feminine nature, we’re not appreciating the full expression of our Father-Mother God.

Tonight, as I was giving thought to the financial, political, and social challenges that women around the world are currently facing, an old Helen Reddy song came boldly bounding into my thoughts:

I am woman, hear me roar
In numbers too big to ignore
And I know too much to go back and pretend
’cause I’ve heard it all before
And I’ve been down there on the floor
No one’s ever gonna keep me down again

Oh yes, I am wise
But it’s wisdom born of pain
Yes, I’ve paid the price
But look how much I gained
If I have to, I can do anything
I am strong
I am invincible
I am woman

You can bend but never break me
’cause it only serves to make me
More determined to achieve my final goal
And I come back even stronger
Not a novice any longer
’cause you’ve deepened the conviction in my soul


I am woman, watch me grow
See me standing toe to toe
As I spread my lovin’ arms across the land
But I’m still an embryo
With a long long way to go
Until I make my brother understand…

– Helen Reddy and Ray Burton

This song was a kind of anthem for me as a young woman. It was one of the songs I hummed to myself as I climbed to the summit of Mount Rainier.  It was with me as I launched myself into my career, and it was with me as I tried to figure out my place as a woman in American society. It inspired me to be strong and brave and confident. “I am strong. I am invincible. I am woman,” sang Helen Reddy, and I sang right along with her.

I married, had children, raised a family, entered a teaching career, climbed more mountains and hiked more hills.  New songs took the place of I Am Woman.  I suppose at some point I began to think of I Am Woman as too simplistic or schmaltzy or shallow or something.  And finally I am Woman faded completely into the distant recesses of my mind.  Until today, I don’t think I’d thought about that song for years.

But today it came back to me – and it didn’t enter my thoughts in a dainty or delicate way, either – it came bursting in, all unapologetic and vibrant. I found it on youtube and listened to it again, and felt myself becoming inspired, just as I had as a young woman three decades ago.

Biologically, I have brothers, and I have sons, but no daughters or sisters.  Although I love all the wonderful men in my life – right now, today, I want to take time to celebrate women.   I’ve been blest to have a wise, wonderful mother, and, even though I have no biological sisters, I’ve had a life filled with the inspiration and support of “sisters of the heart” – strong,  courageous women who’ve been an example to me of the power of womankind. Today I want to celebrate the courage and daring of the pioneer women who helped build our country; the suffragettes who worked tirelessly so that other women, like me, could vote; and the courageous female leaders who are working right now to ensure that women’s lives and rights are protected.

And I want to make a commitment to being the best representative of womankind that I can be, too.  Today I resolve to fully express the courage, strength, and love that are attributes of my Father-Mother God.  “I am woman, watch me grow; See me standing toe to toe, as I spread my loving arms across the land…”


Christian Scientists must live under the constant pressure of the apostolic command to come out  from  the material world and be separate. They must renounce aggression, oppression and the pride of power. Christianity, with the crown of Love upon her brow, must be their queen of life. – from Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy

(This post was originally published in March, 2012  and November 2013. In celebration of International Women’s Day, I bring it up again. May Malala Yousufzai and all others who are working for women’s rights around the world see their hopes fulfilled.)

Prayer – “We Shall Overcome”

“…when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly. But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking. Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him.”

– Matthew 6

“God is not moved by the breath of praise to do more than He has already done, nor can the infinite do less than bestow all good, since He is unchanging wisdom and Love… God is Love. Can we ask Him to be more?”

– Mary Baker Eddy


I know there’s some concern about prayer in school. Some folks are concerned about prayer being taken out of school. Some are concerned about prayer being put in school.

Me? Well, I guess I’m concerned about what kind of prayer we’re talking about here, and who, exactly, would be leading these school prayers. Would this be a prayer the students have to recite out loud? Which religious group’s beliefs would be represented in this prayer? And which god or power would our students be praying to, specifically?

In Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, Mary Baker Eddy writes: “In divine Science, where prayers are mental, all may avail themselves of God as ‘a very present help in trouble.’”  Those prayers that are silent, private, heart-felt, and unspoken – within our mental “closet” – are always available to us. No one can stop us from praying silently. That kind of prayer can never be kept out of our schools. It doesn’t infringe on the conscience or beliefs of other students, doesn’t force anyone else to join in, and doesn’t distract from lessons and learning.

For me, prayer means bringing my thoughts close to the heart of Love and Truth – bringing myself, mentally, into harmony with all that is Good. It doesn’t involve pleading, cajoling, or begging some capricious anthropomorphic being to fix all my problems for me. It doesn’t involve me imposing on some finite god’s time or energies. For me God is, literally, Love –  and it’s not at all an imposition on Love to be Love, or on Truth to be Truth.

Mary Baker Eddy writes: “Who would stand before a blackboard, and pray the principle of mathematics to solve the problem? The rule is already established, and it is our task to work out the solution. Shall we ask the divine Principle of all goodness to do His own work? His work is done, and we have only to avail ourselves of God’s rule in order to receive His blessing, which enables us to work out our own salvation.” God’s work is done. And it’s perfect and beautiful and whole. It’s our responsibility to open our thoughts to Good, to enable our thoughts to be receptive to it.

What, exactly, are we praying for? Mary Baker Eddy asks us, “What are the motives for prayer? Do we pray to make ourselves better or to benefit those who hear us, to enlighten the infinite or to be heard of men?” Are we praying for material gifts, for money or material wealth, or status or power? Are we praying to look pious to other people, or are we praying to become better expressions of Good?

“What we most need is the prayer of fervent desire for growth in grace, expressed in patience, meekness, love, and good deeds,” writes Eddy.

For me, prayer starts with gratitude – a recognition of, and appreciation for, all the good in my life.

“Are we grateful for the good already received?” Eddy asks.  “Then we shall avail ourselves of the blessings we have, and thus be fitted to receive more.”

I once sent out an invitation to the folks in my community to join me for  a sharing-of-good-thoughts meeting. I was joined by an atheist, a Buddhist, a couple of Methodists, and several Catholics – all there to share their healing, inspirational thoughts. At the end of our meeting we joined hands and shared in a moment of silence together.  That moment of silence was really powerful. I felt something there – a feeling of communal support and confidence and courage. After our moment of silence we sang that wonderful old anthem of the Civil Rights movement, “We Shall Overcome.” There was hope in those words, and a feeling of surety of the power of Good and Love.

That is what I call powerful Prayer.

“We are not afraid

We are not afraid

We are not afraid today.

Oh, deep in my heart I know it’s true

we shall overcome some day.”

–      derived from lyrics by Charles Tindley

Behold, a youtube of the great Joan Baez:

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