A Cat in My Lap

I was in some pain last night – I think it was from the digging and planting and hauling I did yesterday- and I couldn’t sleep. I came downstairs and sang the hymns Mom used to sing to me when I was a little girl and wasn’t feeling well. I could picture her face and hear her voice and feel her love as I sang to myself and it was comforting. I began to feel better and the pain faded away.

And as I was feeling full of gratitude for that, Sparky Cat suddenly jumped up and lay down next to me, leaned his head against my lap, and let me pet him. For you to understand what that meant to me you need to know that Sparky was a feral kitty when Scott brought him into our house five years ago, and he’s still very wary of being too close to people. He likes belly rubs from Scott and sometimes he’ll sit next to my chair and let me pet his head, but he’s not one of those cats that jumps in your lap and will allow himself to be picked up. He is skittish about too much contact. So this was huge!

Finding Peace

the instinct is to fold in on myself
hide away in a dark corner somewhere
away from the cacophony and the bells
and whistles – in a quiet padded lair
away from worry, stress, and care
just close the door to my closet
and pray a silent prayer
hoping to feel hope again
hoping to find stillness in the din
to find a place where we can all win
and find peace
-Karen Molenaar Terrell

One of the Two Best Days of My Life

I thought this Mother’s Day weekend might be a good time to share, again, one of the two best days of my life (the other best day being the birth of my eldest son) :

“O gentle presence, peace and joy and power;
O Life divine, that owns each waiting hour,
Thou Love that guards the nestling’s faltering flight!
Keep Thou my child on upward wing tonight.”
From the Christian Science Hymnal, words by Mary Baker Eddy

I’d hoped that with the birth of my second child I would have a full night’s sleep before going into labor (having experienced a sleepless night in the birth of my first son) and that, unlike my first birthing experience, this time the process would be quick and easy. Having taken no pain medication in the birth of my first son, I’d also decided that I would ask for an epidural with this one, reasoning that even Christian Scientists usually get Novocain before letting dentists drill their teeth.

It all began as I’d hoped it would. I got my full night’s sleep, started feeling labor pains at nine in the morning, and, according to the midwife who met my husband and I at the hospital, was proceeding very smoothly and quickly through the birth. I asked for the epidural and was given one. Life was looking pretty good. Even the nurse attending me commented on how great it was to have a nice, normal couple to work with and to have a nice, normal birth to witness.

But not long after I was given the epidural, something started to go wrong. Apparently the baby’s cord was wrapped around his neck and he was in distress. It was decided to give me a caesarean section to get the baby out quickly.

As they wheeled me down to the operating room (my rear sticking up in the air in a very undignified position), I called back to my mom, who was following behind the gurney, to phone the Christian Science practitioner at the Christian Science Reading Room and ask her to pray for us.

Once they got me down to the O.R. I was attached to machines to monitor the baby’s heart rate and blood pressure, the staff took Scott away to don him in surgical garb, and the surgical team prepared to slice me open. Everything was happening very quickly, and there was a lot of bustling activity surrounding me, but, strangely, I felt very calm. I knew that no matter what happened, God was in control and the baby was moving at Her direction and guidance.

Now I was surrounded by a team of medical staffers whom, aside from my midwife, I’d never before met. Their eyes flicked from the monitor to my belly and back to the monitor again. I saw they were all puzzled by something. There was a moment of quiet. Then suddenly they all began yelling, “Push! Push!” – like they were spectators at a sporting event. I felt surrounded in Love – love from the medical staff who only wanted the best for my baby, love from my husband, and love from God. In a matter of moments our son entered the world in the old-fashioned way and the medical staff whooped like their favorite team had just won the championship. One of the nurses was crying. When I asked her why, she said that as an operating room nurse she’d never before been able to witness a baby being born naturally, and she felt she’d just witnessed a rare and special thing.

When I asked my midwife what had happened that had enabled my son to be born without a caesarean section, she said, “We don’t know.”

Later my mom shared what the Christian Science practitioner had told her when she reached her on the phone: “Life loves that baby!”

***

For a few hours we called our son Pieter Dee. Then we tried out the name Nicholas Piet. Finally, after a day in his company, we realized that this baby had big presence – his body was small, but something of his irrepressible identity was communicating itself to us – and we knew he needed a big name to match that identity. So we named him Alexander Raymond Dee Terrell. His name had more syllables than he had poundage, but it fit him just right all the same.

-Karen Molenaar Terrell (from Blessings: Adventures of a Madcap Christian Scientist.)

(Below, my mom with her grandson Xander.)

Praying for My “Enemies” Is Praying for Myself

Praying for my “enemies” is praying to be healed.
Recognizing the God-child in those who would harm me
is my own salvation, protection, and shield.
To see all of God’s children as She sees them –
innocent and good –
lifts a heavy burden of fear from my shoulders
and gives me freedom to love beyond borders.
-Karen Molenaar Terrell

“For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.”
-II Timothy 1

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father-Mother in heaven. She causes her sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father-Mother is perfect.”
-Matthew 5:43-48

Prayer for Today

(The audio podcast for this post can be found at this link.)

Feel Love’s presence.
Feel the power of Love.

Listen to Love’s voice:

You are so loved.
You are My precious child.
You are always with Me.
And I am always with you.
You are Love be-ing.
The belief that you can ever be separated
from Me is a lie,
for you are embodied in My Body.
You are one with Me.
You are in the womb of Love.
There is no power that can usurp My government
or the governing of My own ideas,
for I am ever-present,
all-powerful,
glorious,
magnificent,
never-ending Love.

Amen.

A Prayer

(Click here for audio.)

Feel God as infinite Love, infinite Truth – all-power, all-presence, filling all space; protecting, guiding, guarding. There’s nowhere and no one living outside of Love’s embrace. No one is ever separated from Love’s power and presence and protection. No one is ever outside of Love’s realm.

Know yourself as God’s child. You are God’s reflection, expression, manifestation, image and likeness. All you can be is what Love made you to be. All you can know is Love’s presence and power. You are strong and brave and whole and beautiful and healthy and confident. You are what God made you to be.

Love is all-in-all.

“Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.”
– Isaiah 41: 10

“For with God nothing shall be impossible.”
-Luke 1:37

May: Sunrise over Skagit County, WA

The Christmas Dog

It is time, once again, for the telling of “The Christmas Dog” story:

“This is the doctrine of Christian Science: that divine Love cannot be deprived of its manifestation, or object; that joy cannot be turned into sorrow, for sorrow is not the master of joy; that good can never produce evil; that matter can never produce mind nor life result in death.”
From Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy

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.  It had foam and blood around its 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 me and my husband 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 a 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, from Blessings: Adventures of a Madcap Christian Scientist and The Madcap Christian Scientist’s Christmas Book

Climate Change

“The physical universe expresses the conscious and unconscious thoughts of mortals. Physical force and mortal mind are one.”
-Mary Baker Eddy

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 19:11-12

“God quieted the storm to a whisper; the sea’s waves were hushed.”
-Psalms 107:29

From a human standpoint, our planet is in a bad way and in need of urgent care. Some of our most important heroes today are those people committed to saving our planet and its inhabitants from environmental destruction : Greta Thunberg and David Attenborough come immediately to mind. And I’m thinking the planet needs us ALL to be heroes right now.

We all know that there are things we can do, humanly, to help our planet: reduce; reusue; recycle; compost; buy local; get hooked up to solar or wind-powered energy; use an electric or hybrid car; use reusable shopping bags; and etc. (A good resource for ideas can be found in Columbia Climate School‘s article “The 35 Easiest Ways to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint”).

And, as a Christian Scientist, I also believe it’s important to align ourselves mentally with the power of Truth and Love to help our world. Mary Baker Eddy writes in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, the textbook for Christian Science: “The physical universe expresses the conscious and unconscious thoughts of mortals.” If Eddy is right, when our thoughts are full of fear, greed, carelessness, and apathy – that’s what we’re going to see expressed in the physical universe. And, contrariwise, if our thoughts are full of kindness, gratitude, appreciation, and the desire to nurture what’s good in the world – THAT’s what we’ll see manifested in our physical environment.

Maybe one thing the human race has to work on is the problem we have with taking good for granted. I believe it’s a positive thing to have an “expectancy of never-ending good” – but part of that expectancy should include gratitude for the good we already have. Mary Baker Eddy writes: “We plead for unmerited pardon and for a liberal outpouring of benefactions. Are we really grateful for the good already received? Then we shall avail ourselves of the blessings we have, and thus be fitted to receive more. Gratitude is much more than a verbal expression of thanks. Action expresses more gratitude than speech.”

The race in our culture to acquire and accumulate more matter has not led us to a healthy place. It seems to me that if we really trusted in God, in Love, to supply our daily need, we wouldn’t be driven by fear to hoard matter. In the Bible, Jesus tells his followers: “Take therefore no thought for the morrow, for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself.” (Matthew 6.) And Mary Baker Eddy begins Science and Health with this line: “To those leaning on the sustaining infinite, to-day is big with blessings.”

As a Christian Scientist, I believe it’s possible to use the power of Love (God) to control our environment and to bring health to our planet – to transform the world. I believe nothing is impossible to Life, Truth, and Love – to God. I believe it is never too late to change our mental environment, and so change our physical environment. But I also believe it is never too EARLY to change our mental environment. As Anne Frank says, “How wonderful it is that nobody need waste a single moment before starting to improve the world.”
-Karen Molenaar Terrell

“Through discernment of the spiritual opposite of materiality, even the way through Christ, Truth, man will reopen with the key of divine Science the gates of Paradise, which human beliefs have closed, and will find himself unfallen, unpright, pure, and free, not needing to consult almanacs for the probabilities either of his life or of the weather, not needing to study brainology to learn how much of a man he is.

“Mind’s control over the universe, including man, is no longer an open question, but is demonstrable Science.”
– Mary Baker Eddy (p. 171)

“Is there no divine permission to conquer discord of every kind with harmony, with Truth and Love?”
-Mary Baker Eddy (394)

“When Jesus got into a boat, his disciples followed him. A huge storm arose on the lake so that waves were sloshing over the boat. But Jesus was asleep.
They came and woke him, saying, “Lord, rescue us! We’re going to drown!”
He said to them, “Why are you afraid, you people of weak faith?” Then he got up and gave orders to the winds and the lake, and there was a great calm.
The people were amazed and said, “What kind of person is this? Even the winds and the lake obey him!”
– Matthew 8:23-27

“My doctrine shall drop as the rain, my speech shall distil as the dew, as the small rain upon the tender herb, and as the showers upon the grass…”
Deuteronomy 32:2

“Adhesion, cohesion, and attraction are properties of Mind. They belong to divine Principle, and support the equipoise of that thought-force, which launched the earth in its orbit and said to the proud wave, ‘Thus far and no farther.'”
-Mary Baker Eddy

“The true Logos is demonstrably Christian Science, the natural law of harmony which overcomes discord, — not because this Science is supernatural or preternatural, nor because it is an infraction of divine law, but because it is the immutable law of God, good. Jesus said: “I knew that Thou hearest me always;” and he raised Lazarus from the dead, stilled the tempest, healed the sick, walked on the water. There is divine authority for believing in the superiority of spiritual power over material resistance.”
-Mary Baker Eddy

Genesis 9:
11 And I will establish my covenant with you, neither shall all flesh be cut off any more by the waters of a flood; neither shall there any more be a flood to destroy the earth.

12 And God said, This is the token of the covenant which I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for perpetual generations:

13 I do set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a token of a covenant between me and the earth.

14 And it shall come to pass, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the bow shall be seen in the cloud:

15 And I will remember my covenant, which is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall no more become a flood to destroy all flesh.

16 And the bow shall be in the cloud; and I will look upon it, that I may remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is upon the earth.

“In atmosphere of Love divine, we live and move and breathe…”
Christian Science Hymnal #144

Endless Joy; Forever Love; Never-Ending Truth

A prayer.
Love, Truth, and Life fill all space. Love, Truth, and Life fill every moment. Love is always with us. We are never outside the reach of Truth. Life never ends. Love, God, is the only Mind, the only Intelligence, the only power.

Mankind is the expression, reflection, and manifestation of Life, Truth, and Love. All we can know is what Truth knows. All we can feel is what Love feels. All we can be is infinite Life living Itself.

The belief that bureaucracy can interrupt the flow of Truth is a lie, for Truth is the only power – nothing has power over Truth. The belief that disease can stop Life is a lie, for Life, God, is never-failing, never-ending, always present and full – nothing has power over Life. The belief that cruelty can touch any of God’s children is a lie, for all of Creation lives safe in Love, hid with Christ in God.

There is no spot where Truth is not. There is no moment when Love is not. Nothing can usurp Love’s control over Her own Creation. Love is here right now, forever and always: Endless joy; forever Love; never-ending Truth.
Amen.

Sunset over flooded fields in Skagit County, Washington State. Photo by Karen Molenaar Terrell.