“We should remember that the world is wide; that there are a thousand million different human wills, opinions, ambitions, tastes, and loves; that each person has a different history, constitution, culture, character, from all the rest; that human life is the work, the play, the ceaseless action and reaction upon each other of these different atoms. Then, we should go forth into life with the smallest expectations, but with the largest patience; with a keen relish for and appreciation of everything beautiful, great, and good, but with a temper so genial that the friction of the world shall not wear upon our sensibilities; with an equanimity so settled that no passing breath nor accidental disturbance shall agitate or ruffle it; with a charity broad enough to cover the whole world’s evil, and sweet enough to neutralize what is bitter in it, – determined not to be offended when no wrong is meant, nor even when it is…” – Mary Baker Eddy
Healing feels like…
“Wouldn’t the world be happier, friends, if in our dealings with one another we could always truthfully say that whatever we thought or said or did expressed the nature of God as divine Love? …This may sound like an impossible goal. But it really isn’t. When we understand how to listen for divine Love’s guidance, there’s no need to be thrown off base by what our neighbor does or doesn’t do. Of course we’re all familiar with the temptations that would upset good relations… a dog or too loud radio keeps someone awake half the night; someone decides a neighbor isn’t good enough, has the wrong kind of name, or perhaps one envies the good thing his neighbor has…But whatever the temptation, we can refuse to be impulsive or spiteful, self-righteous or jealous. Through the understanding of divine Love each of us can learn to be a good neighbor. And a good neighbor doesn’t gossip, criticize, or even wish that he or the folks next door could move away. “
– The Christian Science Sentinel, December 4, 1954
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what it means to be a good neighbor. So when I stumbled, all unexpectedly, on the article “The Remedy for Neighborhood Tensions” from an old 1954 Christian Science Sentinel, I felt the train of my thoughts come skidding to a halt as I stopped to ponder the ideas the article had to offer me.
As I’ve reflected on “neighborliness” I’ve come to understand that being a good neighbor doesn’t mean we have to “take sides” in neighborhood disputes. I don’t have to hate one neighbor to show love to another. I don’t have to criticize one neighbor, to show friendship to another. I don’t have to gossip about one neighbor, to show support for another. I don’t have to get angry or fired up or militant to take a firm stand for what is right and decent.
Being a good neighbor comes down to this one thing: I simply need to love – without exclusion or discrimination or judgment or condemnation. That’s my whole job, right there. To love. I need to see my neighbor as God sees my neighbor – as God’s dear child – beautiful and good and whole and happy. If I can see my neighbor through the eyes of God, Love, then I won’t be threatened or annoyed or irritated or frightened by him – I’ll enter into dialogue with him expecting to find solutions to conflict, and answers to problems.
Jesus told us to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. I’m thinking that means that what we want for ourselves, we should want for our neighbors, too. If I want to be trusted, then I need to be willing to trust. If I want to be treated with consideration, than I need to be considerate. If I want to be shown kindness, then I need to show kindness.
…And Love is reflected in love.
– Mary Baker Eddy
“…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
It would be an understatement to say that we seem to be having a dry spell here in Washington State. I cannot remember the last real rain we had here. I really miss the rain – I miss the sloshy sound of cars rolling along soggy, sopping roads and the feel of rain on my face and the smell of wet earth and asphalt and green growing things.
The drought has brought some real challenges to my state – the biggest one being the wildfires that are roaring through our forests. The fire in the Okanagan is the biggest fire ever recorded here – having consumed more than 256,000 acres – or what would be about a fifth of Delaware (http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2015/aug/24/washington-wildfires-okanogan-complex).
I’ve sometimes heard people refer to disasters – like the forest fires we’re experiencing – as the “wrath of God” – as punishment sent down by God for our sins. But the concept of a god that would punish her children – made, according to the Bible, in her “image and likeness” – is not a concept of “God” that ever made sense to me. I mean, why would a god punish its own creation for being what she made it to be? I really like what Mary Baker Eddy says about this in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures: “It would be contrary to our highest ideas of God to suppose Him capable of first arranging law and causation so as to bring about certain evil results, and then punishing the helpless victims of His volition for doing what they could not avoid doing. Good is not, cannot be, the author of experimental sins.”
No, for me, God is Love, as John says in I John 4: “God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him… There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear.” And we see this love expressed in neighbors reaching out to help each other during catastrophes, and in the courage of firefighters and rescuers putting their own lives on the line to save the lives and property of others.
In I Kings we read: “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.”
That “still small voice” – that quiet comforting presence – THAT, for me, is God. My God isn’t responsible for earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes, or wildfires. My God is found in the love and courage that overcomes the fear and destruction. My God isn’t found in destructive material forces, but in the things of the “spirit” – in “love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance…” and “against such there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22-23) There is no law, no material force, that can over-power love and steal it from us. Love goes on. Love heals. Love brings us comfort and solace. Even after the physical forms of the ones we love are gone, the love we have one for another continues on. Not earthquake, wind, or fire can destroy the presence and power of Love – of what I call “God.”
My God is the still small voice – that quiet presence that guides, rescues, and protects us. And I don’t think this presence and power is just for a select number of us – I believe all of creation has access to this power. As Eddy writes: “In divine Science, where prayers are mental, all may avail themselves of God as ‘a very present help in trouble.’ Love is impartial and universal in its adaptation and bestowals.”
At the beginning of this post I presented a quote from Nando Parrado – one of the survivors of the plane crash in the Andes in 1972. Parrado’s description of “God” is the closest I’ve ever found to my own concept of God. Parrado writes: “I have often thought that when we feel what we call love, we are really feeling our connection to this awesome presence.” Right on! And I’m thinking that “awesome presence” is the “still small voice” – that quiet reassurance – that overcomes fear and hopelessness and discouragement in the face of disaster, and leads us to safety.
Samples from the recently published, Adrift, Starlight, by the ever-amazing poet, Xander Terrell (who just happens to have the same last name as moi – what are the odds, right? 🙂 ):
Desire for Fire
If there’s a hell,
do you think there’s room
there for volunteers?
I’m not quite sure
I could bear not burning,
if this “God” ’s other
just for being what
he made them, too.
A Humble Heart
no one else
knows these words.
Maybe if you stop
we can start
Adrift, Starlight can be purchased here:
I had a visit with my optometrist today, and, as usual, I left feeling like I’d just participated in a stand-up comedy act. My optometrist and my dentist are two of the funniest folks I know. If I wasn’t paying for their health care services, I think I might pay them just to make me laugh.
Today’s fun started when the assistant asked me if I’d be willing to have my eyes dilated. I do not like having my eyes dilated, but if it’d help the doctor see in my eyes… “Okay,” I said. As she was putting the drops in I asked, “So why don’t they dilate the eyes of pregnant women?” The assistant said she wasn’t sure, but they didn’t put the eye drops in the eyes of pregnant women, nursing women, or people with one kidney.
That last bit sort of caught me up short. The assistant left to find out more, and came back a few moments later to say that apparently the chemicals in the eye drops could interact with the medicines that a person with kidney problems might be taking, and cause kidney failure. But otherwise the eye drops were alright.
This was reassuring.
Enter the doctor. He asks me how I’m doing, and I say something like, “Well, other than possible kidney failure, I’m doing alright, I guess.” He starts laughing and brings me back into his examination room. He puts on this helmet thing with weird tubes and gizmos sticking out of it. “You look very dapper in that,” I observe. He grins and wonders aloud if he should take it out of the clinic and strut down the street in it.
I tell him that I didn’t bring my sunglasses with me, and that – since my eyes have been dilated – I’m really looking forward to getting a pair of their special dorky sunglasses for my drive home – I always look so good in those things. He smiles and promises that a pair of dorky sunglasses will be mine.
He has grown a rather substantial beard since I last saw him – it’s about a foot long and nicely rounded at the bottom. I tell him he looks sort of like Santa Claus. He says being Santa Claus would be alright as long as random strangers didn’t try to sit on his lap or ask him for candy. I tell him about my friend who grew a beard down to his waist. “He said food would get stuck in there – he sometimes found whole sandwiches in that thing.” My optometrist notes you wouldn’t need a lunchbox with a beard like that.
All this time he’s examining my eyes, looking into them with his little flashlight dealie. He says they look pretty good in there. No signs of macular degeneration or anything. I mention that in a recent photo it looked like one of my eyes was sort of looking off to the side while my other eye was looking straight ahead, and he asks me to look at him while he shines his light on my eyes. “No,” he says, “everything looks good. Ah… yes, I see.” I ask him what he sees. He tells me that one of my eyelids is more saggy than the other, which makes it look like I have one eye that’s looking off to the side.
“Oh! Is that all?! Heck… I lost my vanity long ago. A saggy eyelid is no big deal.” He laughs and says that at our age we have more important things to worry about… like, say, breathing.
I remind him of the time when he saw a melanoma on my eyelid. I tell him that totally freaked me out. Of course, the more freaked out I get, the more I start cracking jokes. I reminded him that I went out to his receptionist and started making her laugh and then when they called the eye surgeon’s office for me, I started making THAT receptionist laugh – and then he had walked in, heard me joking about my impending death and had said, “Don’t start ordering caskets just yet” – and that had totally had me in stitches.
“That broke the fear for me, ” I tell him. “And then I went home and prayed and two weeks later when I went to the eye surgeon the melanoma was gone!” He checks his records and sees that my story rings true, and he likes that.
We talk about prayer then. I’ve been going to him for more than twenty years, but for the first time I confide to him that I am a Christian Scientist, and – to his credit – he doesn’t freak out or anything. He nods his head and waits to hear more. I tell him that when I pray I’m not, like, pleading with some guy who looks like him – with a long beard – sitting in the clouds. But that I’m just trying to bring myself close to the power of Love. And he nods and says he believes there’s a Higher Power, too, and he believes that there’s more beyond the life that we’re experiencing here.
We start talking about other religious beliefs then – and those who try to bring their religious beliefs into politics and government – not just in America, but elsewhere. The conversation about religious extremism ends with him saying, “I don’t want 70 virgins if I have to feed them and buy them bling and stuff. Can I pass on the virgins, and killing other people, and just be a kind and humane person instead?”
He walks me out to the receptionist’s desk, and tells her that I’ll need some of the special sunglasses they give out to patients. Then he turns to me, and tells me my eyes are looking really good – very nice and healthy. I tell him that’s probably the best compliment I’ll get all day. He smiles, and says, “Not with those sunglasses!”
He shakes my hand and tells me how much he always enjoys my visits. And I tell him how much I enjoy my visits with him.
And in another couple weeks I’ll be going to the dentist! I’m so looking forward to that… 🙂
A staffer at NPR recently asked me if I’d be interested in doing a segment on Christian Science for NPR’s Interfaith Voices. It sounded like a great opportunity and I agreed to do a pre-interview. I had a nice chat with the senior producer of Interfaith Voices. I talked about what prayer means for me as a Christian Scientist (not pleading to some anthropomorphic god to fix everything for me – but drawing my thoughts close to Love), and she shared what she’d heard about research that shows human thoughts and feelings play a huge part in healing. But then she asked me, “Why would a Christian Scientist choose Christian Science over medical treatment for her children?” and I realized that that’s what the whole segment was going to be about – Christian Science versus medical science. I told her that I’d sometimes taken my sons to doctors when I felt the need, and that maybe I wasn’t the right fit for this show. She graciously agreed that I probably wasn’t the right person for this segment, and let me off the hook.
I was hugely relieved to be let off the hook, but I guess I was also a little disappointed about the focus of the proposed segment. I wish that one day someone would ask me to talk about Christian Science just for itself – not as something in opposition to something else – but as a way of looking at life and a way of living. Sometimes it seems that the only thing people THINK they know about Christian Scientists is that they’re the ones “who don’t go to doctors.” As I’ve mentioned, there have been times when I felt the need to take my sons to doctors when they were youngsters. I was not conflicted about this or anything. I wasn’t worried about being ex-communicated or losing my Christian Science friends or making God angry – I don’t believe in a wrathful, vengeful god – in Christian Science “God” is another name for Principle, Mind, Soul, Spirit, Life, Truth, and Love – and Love doesn’t get angry at parents for doing what they feel they need to do, humanly, to keep their children safe and healthy. An angry god is not the kind of god I could ever worship.
Getting back to the producer’s question, here are some reasons why I might choose Christian Science treatment over medical treatment for myself –
- Christian Science is always available – even if I’m in the middle of the wilderness on a back-packing trip, far away from civilization. As Mary Baker Eddy writes in the Christian Science textbook, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures: “In divine Science, where prayers are mental, all may avail themselves of God as ‘a very present help in trouble.'”
- Christian Science treatment doesn’t involve any invasive or intrusive procedures – there are no scalpels or knives, or drugs that might have harmful side effects.
- When I experience healing in Christian Science my whole nature is transformed – not only do I come out of the experience better physically, but I come out of the experience a better person – less fearful, stronger, kinder, more responsive to the needs of others. Christian Science healing is uplifting. It brings me into at-one-ment with the Consciousness of Love. And that is something I haven’t experienced in medical treatment.
But I think asking Christian Scientists why they would choose Christian Science over medical treatment is the wrong question to ask, really. It’s akin to asking people who go to doctors why they don’t choose Christian Science instead. It’s setting up Christian Scientists to be in a defensive position. A better question might be: “What is it about Christian Science that appeals to you?”
And here is my answer for THAT one: Christian Scientists believe that Jesus’ mission here was to teach us how to love and how to heal. I like the idea of that – that I can use my understanding of God as Love to help heal the world. It’s a way of life that I have found practical and useful. I have been able to prove the teachings of Christian Science in my own life and have experienced some wonderful healing through my understanding of it. I am a Christian Scientist because it has enriched my life and helped make me a better person.