On “Faith Healing”

We went to the local university to watch Gleason the other night. It was a pretty intense movie. Uplifting in parts. Depressing in others. There were three scenes, in particular, that were really uncomfortable for me to watch – two of them because it felt like I was intruding on very private, very personal, moments in another person’s life; and one because it involved a scene of faith healing that made me want to get out of my chair and scream, “Stop it!” to the church people who were making a spectacle of a man with ALS – using him in a way that seemed cruel to me.

People often mistake Christian Science for faith healing. It is not.

Christian Science healing doesn’t involve spectacle or miracle. It’s not showmanship. It’s not a public display. It’s private – sometimes the only person involved is the person who experiences the healing. There’s no begging or pleading with some anthropomorphic god who might choose to heal you, or might choose to not. Although sometimes it’s dramatic, other times it’s just a gentle unfolding – a quiet change of thought – a recognition of Love’s perfect creation. In Christian Science, healing isn’t some supernatural event, but a natural manifestation of Love, Truth, God. In the textbook for Christian Science, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, Mary Baker Eddy, the discoverer of Christian Science wrote: “Now, as then, these mighty works are not supernatural, but supremely natural.”

Sometimes I’ve known I was healed before the healing was made apparent, physically. This happened once when I was dealing with a puffed-up hand – there came a moment when the fear completely lifted from me and I knew I was fine – even though my hand still appeared ballooned to twice its size. The next day the hand was back to its normal appearance. (Later, blood tests that had been done on the first day of the puffed-up hand came back from the doctor’s office that indicated rheumatoid arthritis. The doctor’s office wanted me to see an RA specialist – but I told them my hand was completely fine now. The nurse said she guessed I didn’t need to do anything more then – but to let them know if things changed. That was six years ago, and there hasn’t been a return of the condition.)

Other times the physical manifestation of healing has been immediately obvious – the time my little brother was diagnosed by a doctor with mastoiditus, for instance – one moment he was screaming in pain, the next moment he was snoring in peaceful slumber, completely healed. He never had to return to the doctor for treatment, and there was none of the surgery the doctor had predicted he’d need.

There’s no pleading or begging or “in Jesus’ name”-ing in Christian Science healing. Christian Scientists aren’t asking God to do something She isn’t already doing. Mary Baker Eddy wrote in the Christian Science textbook: “The mere habit of pleading with the divine Mind, as one pleads with a human being, perpetuates the belief in God as humanly circumscribed, – an error which impedes spiritual growth… God is Love. Can we ask Him to be more? God is intelligence. Can we inform the infinite Mind of anything He does not already comprehend? Do we expect to change perfection?” A little later she wrote: “Asking God to be God is a vain repetition. God is ‘the same yesterday, and to-day, and forever;’ and He who is immutably right will do right without being reminded of His province… 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.”

Christian Science healing doesn’t come from a blind, emotional faith in Jesus or a man-god. For me, healing comes hand-in-hand with a growing understanding of the power of universal divine Love, and of myself as a perfect reflection of Love. And you don’t have to belong to any particular religion to have access to this healing power of Love, either – it’s available to everyone, regardless of religion or non-religion. Mary Baker Eddy wrote: “In divine Science, where prayers are mental, all may avail themselves of God as ‘a very present help in trouble.'”

Anyway. After watching Gleason the other night, I just felt the need to share my thoughts about all of this today. I have huge respect and admiration for the manner in which Steve Gleason and his wife have faced the challenges they’ve faced in the last five years, and for the decisions they’ve made during this time. Their decisions have come from their love for each other and their families. And Love, in Christian Science, is God.

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

healing

Prayer

“God is Love. Can we ask him to be more?” – Mary Baker Eddy

It’s not, like, an imposition on God’s time to pray or anything. I mean, how can it be an imposition on Love to be Love or on Truth to be Truth? Just draw your thoughts close to Love, and wrap them all up in Love’s inspiration – et voila! – that’s you – praying!

Prayer

photo of the beach at Lincoln City, Oregon, by Karen Molenaar Terrell

Hear what Love is saying…

Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.  – I John 4

***

I’ve been performing a sort of experiment the last couple days.  The experiment started when I was conducting the service yesterday morning, and reading with my way cool podium partner, Liz.  Yesterday’s Bible Lesson was on the “Doctrine of Atonement” – or, the doctrine of “at-one-ment” – the concepts of Love and unity and one-ness filled every section of the readings.  And, as I was listening to Liz read her citations from The Bible, I found myself mentally replacing the word “God” in the citations with the word “Love.”

Liz read (from Deuteronomy 6): “The Lord our God is one Lord: And thou shalt love the Lord they God with all thine heart, and with all they soul, and with all they might… Ye shall not go after other gods, of the gods of the people which are round about you…” and I heard: “God is one Love: And thou shalt love Love with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might… don’t pursue, seek, follow, or desire anything but Love…”.

Liz read (from Ezekiel 33): “Come, I pray you, and hear what is the word that cometh forth from the Lord.” And I heard: “Come, I pray you, and hear what Love is saying…”.

Liz read (from Psalms 77): “Thy way, O God, is in the sanctuary: who is so great a God as our God. Thou art the God that doest wonders…” and I heard “Love’s way is the way to find peace: who and what is so great as Love? Love performs wonders.”

Liz read (from Jeremiah 32): “…the Great, the Mighty God, the Lord of hosts, is his name, Great in counsel, and mighty in work…” and I heard “Love is mighty, strong, and powerful.  To follow the counsel and course of Love and to perform the work of Love gives us power.”

This experiment has been a revelation for me.  It has added, for me, a new depth to the First Commandment: “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.”   If you think of “Love” as the “me”, then what that first commandment is really saying is “Don’t put anything else before Love. Don’t make anything else more important in your life than Love. Don’t worship any power but Love.”  And duh, right? Haven’t we all found that when we pursue money, prestige, position, material possessions, political power – when those things are our goals – we’re never really satisfied.  I have learned through my own life experience that to follow after anything but Love is not going to bring me joy, or peace, or wholeness.

In the Christian Science textbook, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, Mary Baker Eddy writes: “Dost thou ‘love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all they soul, and with all thy mind’? This command includes much, even the surrender of all merely material sensation, affection, and worship. This is the El Dorado of Christianity.” And in Matthew 6Jesus tells us, “But seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” Replace “kingdom of God” with “Love” and see where that leads you. Whoahhh…. right? 🙂

Jesus tells us (Luke 17: 21), “Behold, the kingdom of God is within you.” Love is within us.  We don’t have to die to experience the kingdom of God.  It is ours to claim right now. Love lived is heaven on earth.

I know this has been said a gazillion times before, but that doesn’t make it less true:  It – everything, life itself – really is all about Love, isn’t it? Love is the purpose. Love is the solution. Love really is the answer.

I used this hymn – with words by Mary Baker Eddy – during the service yesterday.  I believe Eddy’s words totally capture the power of Love:

Brood o’er us with Thy sheltering wing,
’Neath which our spirits blend
Like brother birds, that soar and sing,
And on the same branch bend.
The arrow that doth wound the dove
Darts not from those who watch and love.

If thou the bending reed would break
By thought or word unkind,
Pray that His Spirit you partake,
Who loved and healed mankind:
Seek holy thoughts and heavenly strain,
That make men one in love remain.

Learn, too, that wisdom’s rod is given
For faith to kiss, and know;
That greetings glorious from high heaven,
Whence joys supernal flow,
Come from that Love, divinely near,
Which chastens pride and earthborn fear.

Through God, who gave that word of might
Which swelled creation’s lay:
“Let there be light, and there was light.”
What chased the clouds away?
’Twas Love whose finger traced aloud
A bow of promise on the cloud.

Thou to whose power our hope we give,
Free us from human strife.
Fed by Thy love divine we live,
For Love alone is life;
And life most sweet, as heart to heart
Speaks kindly when we meet and part.

“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*.)

 

“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

 

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