Years ago, when serving as First Reader in the local Christian Science church, I put together readings from the Bible and the Christian Science textbook (Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures) on “Healing.” Something caused me to think about those readings again yesterday, and, flipping through my old Reader’s binder, I found the citations I’d read that Wednesday night, 25 years ago.
I’d started off the readings with this citation from Genesis 1: “And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness… So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them… And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good.” The citation that followed was from Ecclesiastes 4: “I know that, whatsoever God doeth, it shall be for ever: nothing can be put to it, nor anything taken from it…”
I’d followed with citations from Mark in the Bible that showed examples of healing: Jesus’ healing of the leper; the healing of Jairus’s daughter; and the healing of the woman with “an issue of blood.”
I’d begun my readings from Science and Health with Mary Baker Eddy’s scientific statement of being: “There is no life, truth, intelligence, nor substance in matter. All is infinite Mind and its infinite manifestation, for God is All-in-All. Spirit is immortal Truth; matter is mortal error. Spirit is the real and eternal; matter is the unreal and temporal. Spirit is God, and man is His image and likeness. Therefore man is not material; he is spiritual.” Later I read this passage from Science and Health: “The divine Mind that made man maintains His own image and likeness.” I ended the readings from Science and Health with Mary Baker Eddy’s interpretation of the Lord’s Prayer.
I usually put together readings on a topic that I was grappling with myself, and, almost always, I found that there were folks in the congregation who were grappling with the very same issues.
And because it’s come to me to re-look at my readings from that Wednesday night 25 years ago, I figure it might be helpful to others to look at those readings, too. I’ll include a photo of the readings below, and attach a Spotify audio recording of the readings to this post.
At the age of 51 I went insane. I did not like it so much. But I learned a lot from it.
Eckhart Tolle tells us: “Life will give you whatever experience is most helpful for the evolution of your consciousness.” He asks, “How do you know this is the experience you need? Because,” he says, “this is the experience you are having at this moment.” I really like how he puts that. My thought is that something is only a challenge to us when there’s a lesson to learn from it. Two people, in other words, might find themselves in identical situations – and one of those people might coast through the situation, and the other might stumble through it – depending on where each individual is in her spiritual progress.
I did a lot of stumbling during The Year of Insanity, and I learned a whole lot of lessons. It was, in essence, my last hurrah – my final experience with the lessons of “callow youth” and ego, before I could move on to the next stage in my development.
During The Year of Insanity it seemed I was confronted with temptation at every turn. I had to come face-to-face with ego, vanity, pride, insecurity, and addiction to praise. It was a really difficult time for me. It felt like I was at the bottom of a deep, dark pit, and I didn’t know how I was going to get out of there. I lost weight, couldn’t sleep, had a constant dialogue going on inside my head about the past and the future, had to keep moving – trying to get away from myself, I guess – and had an actual physical heartache from the sadness I felt. There were times when I just wanted to hide myself away from the world, and not have to deal with this stuff anymore. There were times when I was so full of guilt about the feelings I was having that I just wanted to kill myself, and be done with it. There was a constant battle going on inside me, and it was really wearing.
If somebody had tried to talk to me about mental illness before I’d had this experience, I wouldn’t have had a clue what they were going on about. Mental illness was something that happened to “other” people. Mental illness was not something a madcap Christian Scientist would ever know anything about, right?
I might have chosen, with good reason, to seek professional help during this time. I might have chosen, again with good reason, to take anti-depressant medications. And after having been through this experience, I can tell you – without any hesitation – that I do not fault anyone, at all, for seeking professional help and using medication if they think it’ll help them get through the kind of thing I went through during that year. And I can also understand why it might be hard for people to cogitate why I didn’t do those things in an effort to help myself.
All I can tell you, really, is that there was some part of me that felt I needed this experience – that I needed to feel the full depth and breadth of it – and there was a part of me that believed if I could survive this, I would come out of it much wiser and stronger than before I went into it. I guess I calculated the costs and rewards and decided the rewards would be worth it. If I could survive.
I give credit to Christian Science, and to my Father-Mother God, for getting me through this time. I absolutely know I wouldn’t have been able to make it without the understanding of God, Good, I’d gained through my study of Christian Science.
I also need to give thanks to three authors whose writings meant a great deal to me while I was working my way through that year. I’ve already quoted one of them – Eckhart Tolle – a contemporary thinker who’s had his own experience with depression, and has generously shared his wisdom and insights about that in several recent best-sellers. The second of the three authors was a liberal Christian minister of the late 1800’s named Henry Drummond. His book, The Greatest Thing in the World, was chock full of wise and wonderful thoughts on love – “the greatest thing in the world.” The third author was a man named Edward A. Kimball, an inspiring and mentally-rousing Christian Science lecturer and teacher during the late 1800’s and early 1900’s.
Regarding my desire to hide myself away from temptation, Henry Drummond had this to say to me: “Above all, do not resent temptation; do not be perplexed because it seems to thicken round you more and more, and ceases neither for effort nor for agony nor prayer. That is your practice. That is the practice which God appoints you, and it is having its work in making you patient, and humble, and generous, and unselfish, and kind, and courteous.” Drummond goes on to say: “Therefore keep in the midst of life. Do not isolate yourself. Be among men and among things, and among troubles, and difficulties, and obstacles… Talent develops itself in solitude – the talent of prayer, of faith, of meditation, of seeing the unseen; character grows in the stream of the world’s life. That chiefly is where men are to learn love.”
Drummond’s admonition to “keep in the midst of life” was really helpful to me. His words helped me look at the challenges I was facing as blessings and needed lessons in my path towards progress, rather than as proof of my weakness, or a reason to feel guilty.
Edward A. Kimball, too, was helpful to me in dealing with the feelings of guilt that seemed to be a symptom of the depression. In his book, Lectures and Articles on Christian Science, Kimball writes, “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…”
Kimball writes, “…a purely human giving up endeavor does not give up, but does involve the scientist in a sense of greater fear. Evil is never disposed of as though it were something. It cannot be given up as though it were something…Try to realize that through Christian Science, you are constantly gaining that which will do everything for you, and that you will succeed according to the gaining process.”
This thought helped bring me peace – the insight that trying to fight an addiction by turning it into A Big Obstacle and using human will to force myself to “give it up” wasn’t the way for me to be healed – but that I needed to fill up the holes and emptiness I felt in my life by gaining an understanding of what constitutes true happiness and filling my life up with that. As my friend, Sabra, pointed out to me, we don’t remember the last time we laid down our dollies and moved on to other joys – giving up my toys was not a Major Event or something I had to force upon myself – it was a natural step in my forward way. And it can be that way with every forward step we take – we aren’t so much “giving up” something, as we are gaining something.
Here’s some of what I gained during this time: a new understanding and appreciation of love; a greater sense of gratitude for the power of a moment, and of a good, deep breath; a greater appreciation for choice; renewed gratitude for all the beauty in Nature and mankind; greater humility, empathy and compassion; and a greater commitment to my own spiritual journey. I’d entered The Year of Insanity an untested “youth” – gliding through life’s challenges on a kind of cavalier, simple joy, without really having to put much work or effort into my mental frame of mind. By the time I exited that year I had a much deeper understanding of God, and who I am, as God’s expression.
The more I think about that delightful phone conversation with the IRS lady yesterday, the more I appreciate the magic of it. (See yesterday’s blog post.) I mean… here’s this thing I’m dreading – one more task I have to take care of. One last thing I need to do to take care of Dad’s business – and I thought I’d already done the last thing when I’d had his 2020 tax return sent it. I’d heaved a huge sigh of relief that I was finally done with my duties. After four years of paperwork, of forms, calls to hospice and doctors, Veterans Administration people and financial institutions – that last tax return felt, to me, like I’d finally crossed the finish line and finished the marathon. And then to get that letter from the IRS, telling me that now I had to verify his identity for that 2020 tax return… it felt like it was just too much, you know?
But it ended up being this incredible gift to me! A gift from Dad. A gift from Love, God. I’d needed this. This was the EXACT thing I’d needed yesterday. But it was the LAST thing I thought I needed. I was feeling sick from the vaccine, frustrated by life-stuff, and cranky. And Love gave me this gift that forced me to go a different direction – that forced me to draw close to Love and allowed me to meet a new friend.
“The very circumstance, which your suffering sense deems wrathful and afflictive, Love can make an angel entertained unawares.” -Mary Baker Eddy
Some powerful (and really unexpected) magic happened today.
I woke up feeling unwell. Yesterday I’d had my second Pfizer vaccine and it had hit me hard. I did not feel on top of my game. I drove to the post office to mail off a package and to pick up my mail from the post office box. There was a letter from the IRS in there – telling me I needed to verify my deceased father’s identity (he’d died in January, 2020, at the age of 101).
The last couple of weeks have been crazy with paperwork: Papers to notarize; papers to co-sign; papers to attest to this and papers to attest to that. So when I got this letter from the IRS, I felt my heart sink. I wasn’t sure I could handle even one more piece of paperwork. And, because of the vaccine, I wasn’t sure I was strong enough to take that on today, anyway. But I figured I’d give it a try and see how far I could go.
I tried going to the website the letter told me to go to – but in order to verify Dad’s identity there I’d have to provide numbers for his credit cards/mortgage/student loans/etc. – and… Dad is dead. He doesn’t have any of that stuff anymore. So I called the number that was given on the letter. The first time I called I was told to try again later – maybe tomorrow – because the IRS is really busy. But when I gave it a chance and called again half an hour later, I was given the option to put my phone number on a waiting list and was told the IRS would call ME back in half an hour.
I used that half hour to prepare – not just gather all the tax stuff I was going to need for the phone call, but to prepare myself with prayer, too. I made a choice. I was going to see this phone call as an opportunity to make a new friend – to connect with another someone who was calling to help me. I would be cheerful. I would be friendly. I would be kind. I would be grateful. I would find healing.
When my phone rang and I answered it I heard a voice on the other end that was warm and rich and a little southern – she sounded kind of like Viola Davis. I explained my problem to the IRS lady and, as she asked me questions, we began to share laughter with each other. She asked me my Dad’s birthdate and when I told her Dad was born in 1918 and said, “Isn’t that crazy?!” – she laughed and agreed that it WAS crazy. She asked me my name and I said, “Well…ummm…this is not a good time to have my name, but I’m Karen.” She started laughing and told me she was sure I wasn’t THAT kind of “Karen,” and when I assured her that I wasn’t that kind of “Karen” – that I actually have marched in a BLM rally – she thanked me for doing that. When we’d started our conversation it hadn’t sounded like I’d be able to verify Dad’s identity right then – that I’d maybe need to fill out other forms first – but by the time we’d ended our conversation the IRS lady had led me through the verification process and I was done! I told the IRS lady that she had been “delightful” and thanked her so much for all her help. “God bless you!” I said.
She said, “God bless you, too!”
Isn’t that lovely?!
I have no idea what this woman’s name is or where she lives or what she looks like – but I felt the love coming through the phone today, and I felt like I’d met a new friend.
And after I hung up the phone I realized that I was feeling much better physically, too. Love heals.
I went for a drive as the sun was rising this morning and pondered the concept of Love. I put in a CD of Alison Krauss’s music, listened to her sing the Beatle’s “I Will” – and let the music lift me up into that magical place where there’s no anger or fear, enemies or hate – where all of creation knows nothing but joy and good will. This poem and these pictures are what I brought back…
If I open myself up to Love I avail myself of all the power of Love – the warm, healing presence of Love.
Love isn’t some fragile thing. It’s not destructible. It’s not pretty in a Christmas tree glass ornament way. It’s enduring, dependable; as solid as a mother’s lap; as strong as a father’s rescuing arms; as beautiful as the sound of Beethoven’s “Joy”- indestructible, and perfect.
Love fills all space – every corner, hole, and crevice – the collective consciousness of universal compassion and kindness nurturing and reaching out to the love in all of us. And the love in all of us can’t help but respond.
And that’s how we heal. -Karen Molenaar Terrell
Click here for a link to a video I filmed of the sunrise.
Photos of the sunrise over Skagit County, Washington, this morning. Photos by Karen Molenaar Terrell.
Christmas Eve, 1988. I was in a funk. I couldn’t see that I was making much progress in my life. My teaching career seemed to be frozen, and I was beginning to think my husband and I would never own our own home or have children. The world seemed a very bleak and unhappy place to me. No matter how many batches of fudge I whipped up or how many times I heard Bing Crosby sing White Christmas, I couldn’t seem to find the Christmas spirit.
I was washing the breakfast dishes, thinking my unhappy thoughts, when I heard gunshots coming from the pasture behind our house. I thought it was the neighbor boys shooting at the seagulls again and, all full of teacherly harrumph, decided to take it upon myself to go out and “have a word with them.”
But after I’d marched outside I realized that it wasn’t the neighbor boys at all. John, the dairy farmer who lived on the adjoining property, was walking away with a rifle, and an animal (a calf, I thought) was struggling to get up in the field behind our house. Every time it would push up on its legs it would immediately collapse back to the ground.
I wondered if maybe John had made a mistake and accidentally shot the animal, so I ran out to investigate and found that the animal was a dog. She had foam and blood around her muzzle. She was vulnerable and helpless – had just been shot, after all – but instead of lashing out at me or growling as I’d expect an injured animal to do, she was looking up at me with an expression of trust and seemed to be expecting me to take care of her.
“John!” I yelled, running after the farmer. He turned around, surprised to see me. “John, what happened?” I asked, pointing back towards the dog.A look of remorse came into his eyes. “Oh, I’m sorry you saw that, Karen. The dog is a stray and it’s been chasing my cows. I had to kill it.”
“But John, it’s not dead yet.”
John looked back at the dog and grimaced. “Oh man,” he said. “I’m really sorry. I’ll go finish the job. Put it out of its misery.”
By this time another dog had joined the dog that had been shot. It was running around its friend, barking encouragement, trying to get its buddy to rise up and escape. The sight of the one dog trying to help his comrade broke my heart. I made a quick decision. “Let my husband and me take care of it.”
“Are you sure?”
I nodded and he agreed to let me do what I could for the animal.
Unbeknownst to me, as soon as I ran out of the house my husband, knowing that something was wrong, had gotten out his binoculars and was watching my progress in the field. He saw the look on my face as I ran back. By the time I reached our house he was ready to do whatever he needed to do to help me. I explained the situation to him, we put together a box full of towels, and he called the vet.
As we drove his truck around to where the dog lay in the field, I noticed that, while the dog’s canine companion had finally left the scene (never to be seen again), John had gone to the dog and was kneeling down next to her. He was petting her, using soothing words to comfort her, and the dog was looking up at John with that look of trust she’d given me. John helped my husband load her in the back of the truck and we began our drive to the vet’s.
I rode in the back of the truck with the dog as my husband drove, and sang hymns to her. As I sang words from one of my favorite hymns from the Christian Science Hymnal – “Everlasting arms of Love are beneathe, around, above” – the dog leaned against my shoulder and looked up at me with an expression of pure love in her blue eyes.
Once we reached the animal clinic, the veterinarian came out to take a look at her. After checking her over he told us that apparently the bullet had gone through her head, that he’d take care of her over the holiday weekend – keep her warm and hydrated – but that he wasn’t going to give her any medical treatment. I got the distinct impression that he didn’t think the dog was going to make it.
My husband and I went to my parents’ home for the Christmas weekend, both of us praying that the dog would still be alive when we returned. For me, praying for her really meant trying to see the dog as God sees her. I tried to realize the wholeness and completeness of her as an expression of God, an idea of God. I reasoned that all the dog could experience was the goodness of God – all she could feel is what Love feels, all she could know is what Truth knows, all she could be is the perfect reflection of God. I tried to recognize the reality of these things for me, too, and for all of God’s creation.
She made it through the weekend, but when we went to pick her up the vet told us that she wasn’t “out of the woods, yet.” He told us that if she couldn’t eat, drink, or walk on her own in the next few days, we’d need to bring her back and he’d need to put her to sleep.
We brought her home and put her in a big box in our living room, with a bowl of water and soft dog food by her side. I continued to pray. In the middle of the night I got up and went out to where she lay in her box. Impulsively, I bent down and scooped some water from the dish into her mouth. She swallowed it, and then leaned over and drank a little from the bowl. I was elated! Inspired by her reaction to the water, I bent over and grabbed a glob of dog food and threw a little onto her tongue. She smacked her mouth together, swallowed the food, and leaned over to eat a bit more. Now I was beyond elated! She’d accomplished two of the three requirements the vet had made for her!
The next day I took her out for a walk. She’d take a few steps and then lean against me. Then she’d take a few more steps and lean. But she was walking! We would not be taking her back to the veterinarian.
In the next two weeks her progress was amazing. By the end of that period she was not only walking, but running and jumping and chasing balls. Her appetite was healthy. She was having no problems drinking or eating.
But one of the most amazing parts of this whole Christmas blessing was the relationship that developed between this dog and the man who had shot her. They became good friends. The dog, in fact, became the neighborhood mascot. (And she never again chased anyone’s cows.)
What the dog brought to me, who had, if you recall, been in a deep funk when she entered our lives, was a sense of the true spirit of Christmas – the Christly spirit of forgiveness, hope, faith, love. She brought me the recognition that nothing, absolutely nothing, is impossible to God.
We named our new dog Christmas because that is what she brought us that year.
Within a few years all those things that I had wondered if I would ever have as part of my life came to me – a teaching job, children, and a home of our own. It is my belief that our Christmas Dog prepared my heart to be ready for all of those things to enter my life. -Karen Molenaar Terrell
Season of Shameless Plugs (Day 4): At the age of 51 I went insane. I did not like it so much, but I sure learned a lot from that experience. I wrote about my journey through depression in The Madcap Christian Scientist’s Middle Book. The Middle Book has six ratings now – all five stars! Here’s an excerpt:
On New Year’s Eve, 2007, I was hit particularly hard by the belief of depression – caught up in weird and intense feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness. I don’t know what led me to check out my book on Amazon that night, but when I clicked on Blessings: Adventures of a Madcap Christian Scientist I found that just that day someone had added a new review for my book. The review read, in part: “Karen becomes your friend, someone you know and love and you know if she knew you, she would love you the way you want to be loved.” I read those words and was so touched by them I began to cry. This was exactly the message I needed at that moment. If I could love others, I had worth. If others could love me, there was hope. I’ve always felt that the man who wrote that review had been listening to the voice of Love that day. He’d been guided by Love’s direction to take the time to write a review for my book – and, because he did that for me, he helped to bring me out of a place of deep despair.
We all have access to an incredible power to bring good to other people’s lives. That day my book’s reviewer had tapped into that power. *** My eldest son, Andrew, understood that I desperately needed to get away from “myself” – needed to get away from the routine of my life – and volunteered to go with me to the Oregon coast during our Spring Break. His willingness to accompany me on a fourteen-hour drive (round trip) meant a great deal to me and, frankly, surprised me. What sixteen year-old young man do you know who would volunteer to go with his mom on a road trip? We had such a great time. We’re both kind of easy-going when it comes to traveling. Sometimes I would wander, accidentally or on purpose, off the beaten track, and it would take me awhile to find my way back to our route – but Andrew never panicked about any of this. He just let me take him wherever I ended up going, without worry or concern about it. I remember one time we pulled over at a “scenic viewpoint” to find ourselves looking down on a sawmill and pulp mill that was belching up great plumes of smoke. Without saying a word, Andrew and I looked at each other and started snickering – I knew what he was thinking – scenic viewpoint?!
On the way down, we stopped to visit with my beloved Aunt Junie. Here’s what I wrote in my journal about that visit: “Spent the night with Aunt Junie. She is so amazing. She’s like Yoda. I was all weepy, told her I’d made mistakes and had lost close friends who told me I was a bad friend and a bad person. Junie was appalled. She said I am a good person – all her intuition tells her that I am a good person and she has no doubts about that.” Junie believed in me, had faith in me, and trusted in me. And I really needed that at the moment. She told me that “there are no unrightable wrongs, no unforgiveable sins, no fatal mistakes, no fatal diseases, only the eternal now.” To be given hope and a fresh start is incredibly freeing.
The Season of Shameless Plugs (Day 3): In 2005 I published my first book, Blessings: Adventures of a Madcap Christian Scientist. It now has 33 reviews on Amazon – and 4.7 stars! I’ve made some really good friends through that little book, and it’s introduced me to people all over the world.
Here’s an excerpt from the Introduction: Years ago an old boyfriend said to me, “I can’t see that Christian Science has made you any better than anyone else.”
“I know!” I said, nodding my head in complete and happy agreement, “But can you imagine what I’d be like without it?!”
He raised his eyebrows and laughed. What could he say? He was looking at a self-centered, moralistic, stubborn idealist who saw everything in terms of black and white. But I could have been worse. I believe without Christian Science I would have been worse.
Let’s get one thing clear from the start: I am not the best example of a Christian Scientist. I’m not as disciplined as I could be. I have fears and worries and doubts. I’m a little neurotic. I am the Lucy Ricardo of Christian Scientists.
God bless our country. God bless the whole world. No matter who wins this election we still have a long road of healing ahead of us. May God, Love, help us all – each and every Republican, Democrat, Libertarian, Green Party, Black, Brown, White, polka dotted, atheist, Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Jewish, gun-toting, unarmed, flag-waving, anthem-kneeling, F and M and LGBTQ one of us. Amen. -Karen Molenaar Terrell
13 years ago I went insane. I did not like it so much. But I learned a lot from it. It occurs to me now that the experience I had during The Year of Insanity helped prepare me for the challenges our world is facing right now.
I believe mankind is experiencing a collective insanity today. And recognizing that is what is going on is giving me some compassion for my world and its inhabitants. I understand what this feels like. I understand that shaming someone who is mentally ill is not going to make things better. Laying guilt on someone going through a massive clinical depression – as I went through – is not going to heal that individual, or the world. Hating someone who is not herself or himself or their self, and is already contemplating suicide, is not going to fix the problem.
Having personally experienced mental illness I know the one and only thing that can reach through the fog of insanity and heal mental illness is love.
We need to recognize that those individuals who are experiencing and exhibiting mental illness right now are not themselves. This isn’t THEM. Their real identity – OUR real identity – is secure and safe – “hid with Christ” in Love – where goodness and purity and intelligence and wisdom and kindness and honesty are eternally, indestructibly qualities of who we ALL really are.
13 years ago I wasn’t sure I was going to make it to today – I contemplated suicide daily. But look at all I would have missed if I’d given up on life then! – All the beautiful new friends I wouldn’t have met! The sunsets and sunrises I wouldn’t have seen! The lessons I wouldn’t have learned! The changes I wouldn’t have been able to make! The love and laughter I would have denied myself! When I was deep in the depression I couldn’t imagine a happy ending to my story. I couldn’t imagine I’d ever get out of it. Couldn’t imagine it ever ending.
But then one day the fog lifted and I awakened from the nightmare. I looked out on the world and I was connected again – connected to the joy and the beauty and a sense of well-being. I had myself back again. Now I’m really grateful for that year of learning – that year of shedding the chrysalis (and that feels like what the whole world is doing right now). I learned a new appreciation for the power of love; gained a new appreciation for the power of a moment and a good, deep breath; I came to appreciate the power of choice; and gained renewed gratitude for all the beauty in Nature and mankind; I gained greater humility, empathy, and compassion for others; and a stronger commitment to my own spiritual journey.
I learned I can be happy even when I’m sad. – Karen Molenaar Terrell
“There’s nothing in a caterpillar that tells you it’s going to be a butterfly.” – Richard Buckminster Fuller
“The very circumstance, which your suffering sense deems wrathful and afflictive, Love can make an angel entertained unawares.” – Mary Baker Eddy