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No regrets

January 8, 2017

Especially at the start of a new year, the tendency can be to look back and feel bad about something that happened – or didn’t happen; something you wished you’d said or done, or perhaps wished you hadn’t said or done.  It’s natural to review one’s decisions and circumstances for the purpose of making them better.  Dwelling on them, however, tends to impede progress.

A desire for improvement can certainly be fueled by not wanting to make the same mistakes, and an examination of “what went wrong” is useful if its purpose is to bring about a better future.  Wishful or wistful thinking and regret, however, often tend to have the opposite effect: keeping one unproductively stuck in the past.

A good example is of Christ Jesus following the resurrection.  He appropriately chastised his disciples for being afraid and doubting what he had told them. But he didn’t rebuke them for not saving his life.  Instead, he encouraged them to come out from hiding and share the good news of life eternal – news he had equipped them to tell. (See Mark 16)

While our own missed opportunities may not be so dramatic, they certainly can be as consuming as they were for the disciples before Jesus opened their eyes to the wonderful possibilities the future held.  And it’s likely that we may have some wrongs to right somewhere in our past.  But the best way to do it is to look forward and upward.

The author of Hebrews writes “…let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us…”  (12:1)  In other words, we all have things that would distract or even waylay us, but instead of giving in to them, let us be ready to tackle what lies ahead, knowing that we are capable and willing.  This certainly doesn’t mean we should ignore unresolved difficulties.  But it does mean that we should face them with the expectancy of healing, and hope for a brighter tomorrow.

Jesus never told any of his followers, “sorry, you’re just stuck with it until you get to heaven.”  What he did say was, “the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matt 3:2).  We can expect that our regrets and sorrows, our shames and unfinished business can be made right, right here because the remedy is at hand.  That holier viewpoint of our past is a guarantee that whatever appears to hold us back or down will dissolve as it comes in contact with the light of Christ.

This sweet and tender assurance of hope and health and harmony is the natural consequence of knowing that “all things work together for good to them that love God…”  (Rom 8:28)  And though it seems that loving God may be a caveat for this progressive outcome, the fact is, loving God is what you and I are designed to do.  Acknowledging it, giving it more attention than our unhappy past, simply reveals the goodness of the kingdom of heaven that’s already at work on our behalf.

And that’s a pretty good reason for no regrets.

Melissa Hayden is a Christian Science practitioner in Salem, OR. You can find more information and additional articles at this link.  If you like what you’re reading, click the “add me” button.

That is my prayer every day.  It’s not to find more reasons to love, but more occasions to love.  And without condition. I’ll admit I’m not always successful. Still, making the effort keeps me pointed in the right direction.

Jesus said that anyone can love those that love them – that’s easy.  (Luke 6:32) But he asked us to love everyone.  And that would be how others would know we were his followers – because of our willingness and followthrough on loving all.  (John 13:35)

The Master saw his fellow man as beloved and necessary parts of God’s creation.  They weren’t good and bad, deserving and unworthy, keepers and tossers.  Instead, Jesus understood that all, every man, woman, and child, were created in his heavenly Father’s image and likeness, in the likeness of divine Love.  It was this understanding that enabled him to heal the sick, cast out sin, and raise the dead.

Looking for more opportunities to love – especially those who are different than us, or who disagree with us – ultimately opens the door to finding things that we have in common.  And there are so many when we take the time to look for them.  And that’s the point.

Is it easy?  No.  My prayer often includes asking for help in doing it: help to be willing, help to be consistent, help to be sincere, and to be effective.  Because love at its most effective is selfless.  That kind of love blesses all without regard to circumstances or participants.

Mary Baker Eddy wrote a wonderful treatise on love (Miscellaneous Writings, page 249).  I’ve excerpted a part here: “Love is not something put upon a shelf, to be taken down on rare occasions with sugar-tongs and laid on a rose-leaf. I make strong demands on love, call for active witnesses to prove it, and noble sacrifices and grand achievements as its results. Unless these appear, I cast aside the word as a sham and counterfeit, having no ring of the true metal. Love cannot be a mere abstraction, or goodness without activity and power. As a human quality, the glorious significance of affection is more than words: it is the tender, unselfish deed done in secret; the silent, ceaseless prayer; the self-forgetful heart that overflows; the veiled form stealing on an errand of mercy, out of a side door; the little feet tripping along the sidewalk; the gentle hand opening the door that turns toward want and woe, sickness and sorrow, and thus lighting the dark places of earth.”

May your day be filled with giving – and receiving – love in all directions.

Melissa Hayden is a Christian Science practitioner in Salem, OR. You can find more information and additional articles at this link.  If you like what you’re reading, click the “add me” button.

Are you dismayed?

August 7, 2016

It seems as though there are so many disconcerting things going on in the world today: terrible violence; political negativity; famine; fire; fear.  And we may feel helpless to do anything about it, let alone make a contribution to any kind of improvement.

But there is something you can do.

If the situation seems hopeless, then bring to bear what you know about hope.

If you’re feeling helpless, then look for someone to be helpful to.

If the conditions are frightening, then introduce love into the mix.

If all seems lost, then share the good that you have found.

If you are only hearing lies, then tell the truth.

Does all of this seem counter-intuitive?  Jesus didn’t think so.  He fed the hungry, healed the sick, and raised the dead.  No situation was too far gone.  Not even his own crucifixion.  He overcame that too.  He told his followers (including us): “In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.”  (John 16:33)  And this, he said, is why he could: “With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.”  (Matt 19:26)

We can remember that when it seems as though the human circumstances are overwhelming and the human solutions too feeble.  Our own resources may be limited or exhausted; our strength diminished or gone.  But God is infinite good, infinite help, infinite hope.  God’s power doesn’t yield to evil or fear or lack or even death.

Jesus promised that “He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do.”  In other words, if Jesus could overcome all of those issues by trusting God, then so can we as we take to heart his teachings; not through human strength but by relying wholly on the divine.

There is something you can do.

This beloved hymn (361 from the Christian Science Hymnal) has a wonderful promise:

Trust all to God, the Father,
Confide thou in none other,
He is thy sole defense;
He cares for thee past measure,
Seek Him who has thy treasure,
Thy helper is omnipotence.

Melissa Hayden is a Christian Science practitioner in Salem, OR. You can find more information and additional articles at this link.  If you like what you’re reading, click the “add me” button.

Jesus said, “if ye love them which love you, what thank have ye? for sinners also love those that love them.”  (Luke 6:32)  It may be old fashioned language, but the point is if you only love those who:

  • agree with you;

  • look like you;

  • vote like you;

  • go to your church;

then your world probably feels pretty small and scary.

Jesus said love everyone and yourself.  Love those:

  • with whom you disagree;

  • who look different – maybe very different – than you;

  • who voted for the other person, or other party, or didn’t vote at all;

  • who go to a different church, or a synagogue, or mosque, or no church at all.

The Golden Rule doesn’t dismiss fear, it heals fear.  In fact, it requires its users to give up fear.

That is the best solution of all, where fear doesn’t separate us and love binds us together: brothers and sisters.  Neighbors.  People.

Melissa Hayden is a Christian Science practitioner in Salem, OR. You can find more information and additional articles at this link.  If you like what you’re reading, click the “add me” button.

Facebook?  Media?  Friends?  Church?  Gut?

With the election season in full swing there are lots of sources for “truth” but how do you know what’s actually true?

Jesus famously said, “ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” (John 8:32)  He wasn’t speaking at a political rally, but his words helped shape history nonetheless.  Jesus knew that the seeming truth of circumstances and events, of human ways and means, would ultimately pass away.  Yes, it was important to be well informed.  But he was speaking of truth that was larger than just the conditions of his day.  He was speaking of Truth itself, God, that would break the bonds of ignorance, illness, sin, and even death.

Our Master’s simple statement put forth a universal fact: Look to God and strive to know Him.  Doing so will help you sort through all the confusion and find a useful solution for moving forward.

Whether it’s who to vote for in this or any election cycle, or how to overcome fear, or even when seeking renewed health and vigor, turning to God, divine Truth, will reveal how to think deeply and with hope on these and all topics.

To be clear, God is not manipulating human circumstances to get a specific outcome.  But He is bringing forth order, harmony, safety, satisfaction, and usefulness as right components of His creation.  Endowed with those qualities of thought, we – His beloved children – can rightly determine and bring resolution to, any issue that comes to our attention.

This kind of spiritual thinking is the truth that makes you free – free from anger and apathy, or free from illness.

The Bible explains, “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.  In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.”  (Proverbs 3:5,6)

Mary Baker Eddy lived this, and encouraged others to “Pray for the prosperity of our country, and for her victory under arms; that justice, mercy, and peace continue to characterize her government, and that they shall rule all nations. Pray that the divine presence may still guide and bless our chief magistrate, those associated with his executive trust, and our national judiciary; give to our congress wisdom, and uphold our nation with the right arm of His righteousness.”  (Prayer for Country and Church, Pan p.14)

The wisdom you need to find your way through today’s issues is yours.  God is pouring it forth and it won’t return unto Him void.  (See Is 55:11)

Melissa Hayden is a Christian Science practitioner in Salem, OR. You can find more information and additional articles at this link.  If you like what you’re reading, click the “add me” button.

…and not to leave the other undone.  You may recognize Jesus’ admonition to the Pharisees.  (Luke 11:42)  He was encouraging them to not just perfect their understanding of the letter of the law but to live and love the spirit of the law as well.  He wanted them to do both.  His own life was a great illustration of knowing the law inside and out, but tempering it with love, using it to bless, not punish, his fellow man.

For example, when the Pharisees brought a woman to him whom they’d caught having sex with a man who wasn’t her husband, they rightly told him she should be stoned.  Jesus didn’t contradict their verdict.  But he did ask them to examine their own hearts to see which one of them was pure enough to throw the first stone.  Their anger and self-righteousness dissolved and they left the woman unscathed.  Then, Jesus pardoned her, changing her life forever.  (John 8)

In another instance, when a lawyer hoped to ensnare him in some false teaching about eternal life, Jesus asked him to recount what the law said. (Luke 10:25-37) The lawyer rightly quoted the Old Testament: love God with all your heart and love your neighbor as yourself.   Jesus praised him and reminded him that doing so was eternal life.  Still trying to trip him up, the lawyer asked how to identify one’s neighbor.  The Master told a poignant story that has come to be known as the parable of the Good Samaritan, making the point that one’s neighbor is anyone we come in contact with.  It was a startling but valid interpretation of the law that the lawyer couldn’t challenge.  Neither can we.

The Pharisees repeatedly chastised Jesus for healing on the Sabbath day.  And he repeatedly pointed out that freeing his fellow men and women from sin, disease, and death on the Sabbath was in keeping with God’s law of love.  In fact, he told them “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.”  (Mark 2:27)  Jesus powerfully challenged the letter of the law that enabled a man to save an animal from danger on the Sabbath, but not a person.  Surely a person was worth more than a beast, he said.  (Luke 13:11-17) The spirit of the law was freedom for all.

We too can understand the freedom that comes from knowing the law inside and out and practicing it for healing and helping, rather than condemning or belittling.  Only in this way are we actually following the teachings of Christ Jesus.  We can do both.

Melissa Hayden is a Christian Science practitioner in Salem, OR. You can find more information and additional articles at this link.  If you like what you’re reading, click the “add me” button.

Pharisee or Christlike?

August 26, 2015

There’s a wonderful story in the book of Luke in the Bible (Chapter 7:25-50) about an interaction between Christ Jesus, a local prostitute, and Simon the Pharisee.  Simon had invited Jesus to dine with him, and the prostitute had come to show her gratitude for his healing of her.  Simon was aghast that Jesus would allow such a thing, since it flew in the face of all the rules.  But Jesus overturned all those human rules and operated at a more spiritual level.

So the question is, do we look at the world like Simon did, saying “here are the rules and if you don’t follow them you’re wrong?”  Or do we see the world through the eyes of grace as Jesus did, letting compassion be our guide?  Do we ask ourselves, “what would be the most progressive and helpful thing to do at this moment?” or do we simply say “no room for that kind of thing here.”

The Pharisees had a very rigid and harsh system of rules that maintained a sense of order but excluded spiritual insight and regeneration.  To their viewpoint, any deviation from their structure was sinful and to be punished. This closed the door on innovation, insight, and healing.  And it rejected the very Messiah they had been waiting centuries for, because it didn’t fit there confining model.

How are we doing the same thing?  How narrow and proscriptive are our views of ourselves and fellowman?  With that kind of outlook, there is no option but to fail since no one can measure up to those harsh restrictions.  But Jesus came to throw off those limitations.  He came to set the imprisoned thought free.  He encouraged his followers to be thinkers, not just automatons.  Isn’t the Golden Rule a perfect example?  And the rest of the Sermon on the Mount?

Jesus loved the Ten Commandments and encouraged obedience to them.  But his ministry disrupted the officious regulations of the Pharisees. He accused them of hypocrisy because they only strove to appear to be law-abiding.   He said, “ye tithe mint and rue and all manner of herbs, and pass over judgment and the love of God: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone.”  (Luke 11:42)

Although it’s not clear if the Judaic sect of the Pharisees still survives today, certainly legalistic pharisaism is alive and well!  But it’s not too late to purge it from our churches and governments. our communities and our homes.  Jesus’ model of love, compassion, forgiveness, and expectation of reform all stemmed from his understanding of God’s unyielding love for him, and for us.

That kind of love heals.  Then, and now.

For a great exegesis of the story in Luke referred to above, click here.

Melissa Hayden is a Christian Science practitioner in Salem, OR. You can find more information and additional articles at this link.  If you like what you’re reading, click the “add me” button.