You all know the story of the Good Samaritan found in the 10th chapter of Luke in the Bible. Here’s a quick recap: in response to a question about being a neighbor, Jesus tells this story: a traveler is attacked, injured, and left for dead.  Two church workers see him but don’t stop to help. A Samaritan traveling along the same road does stop, cleans him up, transports him to an inn and pays for his care. The punchline is, he who showed mercy was the neighbor.

For lots of reasons many of us are like the ones who pass by on the other side.  We don’t want to get involved, we don’t know what to do, there is some kind of legal prohibition, we don’t have time, someone else will do it, it’s not our job, we’re afraid, and on and on and on.  We’re good people and we do good things, but we just won’t do that – whatever “that” is.

Jesus knew that tendency of human nature, which is why the story resonates with so many of us.  To be fair, many of us do stop and help – under certain circumstances.

Here’s a way that we can all be more consistent in being a neighbor: you may recall that the Samaritan used oil and wine to clean and dress the wounds of the injured man. Those words – oil and wine – have spiritual definitions, found in the Glossary of Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, by Mary Baker Eddy. She defines oil as: consecration; charity; gentleness; prayer; heavenly inspiration; and wine as: inspiration; understanding.

If we mentally bathe ourselves and others in those qualities found in the two definitions we’ll find that all of those reasons for passing by on the other side simply won’t be so compelling. Just like a tough callous responds to a good soaking in oil, a tough situation also responds to expressions of gentleness and understanding. Those mental attributes bring a natural lubrication that smooths the way to solutions perhaps thought impossible.

There isn’t a definition of donkey in the Glossary of Science and Health, but it could represent our willingness and ability to move forward to a useful resolution.  Developing an inclination to help, leaning towards having a heart prepared to give aid, opens our eyes to countless opportunities to pour in oil and wine.

This kind of mental work is not just useful in obvious situations where physical assistance is necessary.  It’s also valuable when we have political disagreements, or family upheavals, or community divisions.  If we take our oil, our wine, and our donkey with us everywhere we go – whether it’s across town or just on to Facebook, we’ll be more ready to be generous.  We’ll be more neighborly.

Jesus said to the questioner after he identified what a neighbor is, “go, and do thou likewise.”  Still good advice, don’t you think?

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.

You may recognize that as a line from the old hymn, Onward Christian Soldiers by S. Baring-Gould.  It’s not sung much anymore but that sentiment is still valid.  Especially today.  Especially every day.  Because every day, we live side by side.

As the same hymn also says, we are “one in charity.”

That’s the assignment for all of us today: to be united in finding a way to be charitable towards one another, to extend courtesy, to give grace.  Regardless of who won the election, regardless of the color of your skin or the neighborhood you live in, regardless of the church you go to or don’t go to, regardless of your education or your income, let us remember that we’re all neighbors and that united we stand.

Show your charity today, show your kindness today.  Don’t let today be about the election, but let it be about neighborliness.  Let it be about compassion. Let it be about the fact that administrations come and go, but we will always be one.

I don’t care about who you voted for.  I care about you.  Today and every day.

Join me.

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 (according to law) 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.

Give a fish or teach to fish

September 6, 2015

You’ve heard the adage: give a person a fish and they eat today; teach them to fish and they’ll eat every day.  It’s a good plan most of the time.  But you’ll recall that there are stories in the Bible of Jesus doing both, and both are important.

There are several instances in which Jesus fed thousands of people with just a few fishes.  Most of the people gathered probably already knew how to fish, and maybe even made their living doing so.  But they were hungry then and there, and Jesus, through understanding his heavenly Father’s abundant provision, fed each one of them.  And not just fish but bread too.  There were even leftovers.

Jesus was always meeting the need of the moment whether it was healing the sick, feeding the hungry, raising the dead, or encouraging the downtrodden.  And he expected nothing in return, not even gratitude.  He simply gave, and gave graciously.  It was his way of sharing the good news of Immanuel, or God with us, promised by Isaiah several centuries earlier (7:14).

At the end of his ministry, after his resurrection, he directed his disciples to shift their nets from one side of the boat to the other after they had fished all night in vain.  It was actually counter intuitive for these trained fishermen to do this, but they obeyed and found their nets overflowing.  This was the kind of teaching Jesus had provided to his closest followers throughout his time with them.  He challenged them to look at the things they thought they knew and perhaps took for granted in a different and deeper way.

Just as Jesus didn’t accept the outward appearance of things as the final verdict, neither did his disciples once they learned that God’s power was available to all, for good.  After Jesus’ ascension, they each had extensive healing ministries, touching the lives of thousands through their words and works.

The Science behind that early Christianity is still active today, still requiring its followers to look deeply beneath the human circumstances, to the safe and holy truth naturally abiding there.  Jesus promised his works would be done by us today, tomorrow, and forever.  And to the extent that we practice his Christianity will we accomplish those works, and greater works.

Give a fish or teach to fish: both are part of meeting the need.

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.

 You’ve heard the joke: a policeman pulls a driver over and takes them into custody.  After a few hours at the jailhouse, the officer releases the individual with an apology and an explanation: “when I heard you lean on the horn, and saw you flip that other driver off and curse them, and then saw the fish emblem and Jesus is Lord bumper stickers, I thought you must have stolen the car.”

Do we justify that kind of behavior by saying, “I’m not perfect, but I’m forgiven,” and then make no effort to live more perfectly, just doing things that need to be forgiven instead?

Christians have an example before them of the kind of behavior that is expected, in Christ Jesus himself.  He set the standard, and he set it very high. And he accepted no excuses for not measuring up.  How many times did he chastise his disciples and the Pharisees, both who should have known better, for not “getting” it?  And yet, he tenderly, patiently, and persistently encouraged his disciples to measure up.  His encouragement of the Pharisees was of a different sort, but no less persistent, even compassionate: if he could only awaken them to their hypocrisy he could show them the Kingdom of Heaven.  And he wanted everyone to know the Kingdom of Heaven.

As Christians, we want everyone to know the Kingdom of Heaven too.  That’s why it’s so important to be an example of it, to point the way as tenderly and patiently and persistently as he did, through kindness and affection and humility.  And healing.  What better way is there to let others know how awesome it is?

Here’s a step you can take right now.  Ask yourself if the things you post on Facebook actually reflect your Christianity.  Are they demeaning of anyone? Of a political party, politician, or celebrity?  Or race or gender or culture?  Are you willing to give them up in order to more rightly influence the world?  That doesn’t mean you have to flood Facebook with Scripture.  Just don’t flood it with unkindness.

Jesus said, “You will know my disciples because they love one another.”  (John 13:35) Let’s show the world that we know what that means and then live as if we agree with it.

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.

Thank you and I love you

March 28, 2015

Gratitude and affection are two of the greatest cures for just about anything.  Especially when neither of them is our first choice.  Often we’d rather withhold them and be resentful or self-righteous or unhappy instead!

But those qualities of thought and their ensuing actions, only serve to extend the problem and alienate the participants.

What did Jesus do?  And why is it important to know?

First of all, Jesus was the Way. (John 14:6)  That means that his words and works were a way of redemption and salvation, a way of being one with his Father, just as he was.  (John 17:21)  But he also was a model, an example; a way of behavior for his followers.  (John 14:12)

Did Jesus practice or preach resentment or self-righteousness or any other of the numerous expressions of fear and hate?  No, of course not.  He was the master of love and compassion, under all circumstances.  That deep affection, for both God and man, brought health, calm, sustenance, and safety at all times.

And his gratitude to God for every healing transaction, large and small, determined a more holy outcome.  He never failed to be blessed by his heavenly Father, and to bless those around him as a result.

Think back to when you had a misunderstanding with someone that wasn’t resolved.  It’s easy to replay that event over and over, to imagine saying or doing something different. Often, we picture telling them what we really think.  But the truth is, the only cure is gratitude and affection.  In your mind’s eye, replay the event with you saying thank you and I love you.  And expecting nothing in return.

This is not a gimmick when based on the power of God, as Jesus based it.  It’s the natural outpouring of God’s own love for His creation.  Realizing your spiritual relationship with Him, and its effects, gives your gratitude and affection authenticity.  Then, regardless of the other’s response, you’ve moved the conversation in a new direction, one with a holier basis.

This takes practice and patience.  And in the face of occasional lack of improvement, it takes persistence.  But every effort to give in this way is a shift in the conversation.  And blessings will follow.

I wish to say to you – dear readers, known and unknown – thank you and I love you.

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.

As much as this season is about the brightness of Jesus’ birth, for many it is a dark and lonely time, filled with stress and sorrow, want and woe.  The appearance of God’s “only begotten son” (John 3:16) centuries ago, was a gift of the highest love for all mankind, and it continues to give to hungering hearts today.  The good Jesus did then, still shines across time and space to meet the needs of all, here and now.

Mary Baker Eddy, Christian theologian and author, once wrote, “It is not well to imagine that Jesus demonstrated the divine power to heal only for a select number or for a limited period of time, since to all mankind and in every hour, divine Love supplies all good.”  (Science and Health, p. 494)  That powerful good is available to each one of us so that we can reflect the light of the world into the darkest of places.

Our neighbors, our family, even the strangers amongst us, need the deep affection that comes from the great heart of God.  Let us strive to set aside our own troubles and use the power of the season – the power of Love – to lift one another.  An outstretched hand of kindness, a sweet smile, gentleness instead of anger, gratitude, crumble walls of fear, prejudice, loneliness, and sorrow.  Whatever would say “there is no Christmas” is wiped away by the very spirit of Christmas that imbues us all.

Isaiah prophesied, “The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined.” (9:2)  This promise of life and joy and salvation is ours to delight in and prove today.  We can bless and be blessed.  We can love and be loved.  We can be about our Father’s business.

The title comes from a spiritual insight Mary Baker Eddy had about this line of the Lord’s Prayer: give us this day our daily bread.  She wrote: give us grace for today; feed the famished affections. (Science and Health, p. 17)

Grace, light, affection.  For everyone.

Who do you know that could use a little light?

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.

Sometimes we do things.  They’re not us – at least we don’t want them to be us.  But we do them, we regret them, we don’t mean for them to be who or what we are.  Yet, there they are for all to see and remember.  And in remembering those sometimes awful things, we forget about all that really is good and pure and hopeful.  We – and those who remember with us – think we are those awful things, and the truth of our being and nature becomes opaque.

But those moments of unkindness or uncertainty or insensitivity or (fill in the blank) are just snapshots and not the whole movie – even if the snapshot feels feature-length (or someone else tells you it is)!

Jesus said, in what has become known as The Lord’s Prayer, forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.  (Matt 6:12)  I don’t think he was talking about financial transactions.  He knew that the human tendency is to focus on the problem.  But a good solution never comes from that.  The best results happen by looking away from the issue.  This enables thought to be more expansive and fresh.

And so it is with our life snapshots.  As with any photo, it never tells the whole story, even if it records a moment – or moments – in time.  The whole story is told by God.  And learning more about what God is saying helps to redeem those moments that seem ungodlike.   The Bible says that “God saw everything that He had made, and behold, it was very good.”  (Gen 1:31)  If we look away from our snapshots or even greater spans of time, into that view God holds of “very goodness,” aren’t we bound to see ourselves and others differently?  And isn’t that new, higher view a wonderful standpoint from which to forgive?

Back to Jesus’ prayer: you’ll note that he didn’t just ask his Father to forgive us, but required us to have some skin in the game too.  He said as we forgive our debtors.   That means that we must participate in the process by relinquishing the negative snapshots we hold of ourselves and others, removing them one by one from our mental photo albums.  Doing so lets in a whole lot of divine light which wipes away the hurt and fear and resentment.  And aren’t we ourselves better people when we’re not filled with such darkness?

We can – we must – do this for each other.  Even if it seems hard, or impossible.  Because it’s the only way to move forward into real life, real happiness.

Mary Baker Eddy adds a little postscript to that line about forgiveness from The Lord’s Prayer: she says that to her it means that Love [another name for God] is reflected in love.  (Science and Health p. 17)  Sweet and simple.

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.

Pray it forward.

April 3, 2014

That’s a new take on an old theme.  We’ve all heard “pay” it forward, a wonderful way to take the good you’ve received and keep it moving on and out through deeds of kindness.  Pray it forward is simply building on that theme.  Add a special prayer to your actions to keep the good alive and well as it makes its way into the world.  Bless it with wings of healing that its good may grow and its worth blossom.  And know that your fellow doers are encouraged and benefited to keep this sweet, strong prayer going.

This is our gift to each other – regardless of who each of us is.  Does it matter?  To bless one another through prayer is the highest gift we can give and the dearest way to love our neighbors – both local and global – as ourselves.  And to know that hungry hearts are fed, and the poor in spirit lifted, gives our prayers special impetus where the need is greatest.

It doesn’t take much more to follow-up your helping gestures with a happy prayer.  Nor would it be unusual to hope that the good done to you was prayerfully forwarded, as well.

And when it feels as though there is nothing else to do or give, that is when our prayers are most needed.  Gentle arms of prayer-filled care can wipe away the hardest knocks and the deepest sorrow.

Keep it going, pray it forward.  It will only bless you.  And then, do it again.

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.

Complaint? or Gratitude!

January 16, 2014

Even before either one takes form in words or deeds, there is an attitude of thought behind it.  Complaint tends to reflect a preoccupation with self, accompanied by fear and apparent lack.  Gratitude is more outwardly oriented, overcoming both fear and lack.  Which sounds more productive to you?

A loved poem by Vivian Burnett puts it this way: “Our gratitude is riches, complaint is poverty, our trials bloom in blessings, they test our constancy.”

Is there a dearth of joy in your life?  Are health and happiness missing?  Are you struggling financially?  Perhaps the solution is as easy as adding a bit of gratitude to your routine.  In fact, if you Google the phrase “effects of gratitude on health” you will find nearly 30 million responses to its positive effects.

Gratitude doesn’t create abundance, but it does reveal it.  The fact is, God is pouring forth absolutely everything we need all the time without exception.  (see Is 55 for example)  A grateful heart recognizes it and rejoices.

Just as there is likely something to complain about in every life, there is just as surely something to be grateful for as well.  A close examination of one’s circumstances will reveal a compelling list for both outlooks.  Consciously choosing gratitude effectively diminishes every reason for complaint. The Apostle Paul, writing to the church in Thessaloniki said, “in all things give thanks.”  (I Thess 5:18)  He gave no caveats – just “do it.”  And he further explained it to be God’s will to do so.

And Jesus’ consistent effort to be thankful no matter what the issue, transformed the lives of those around him.  He raised Lazarus after giving thanks.  He fed multitudes after giving thanks.  He allowed himself to be crucified after giving thanks.  Yet, each of these powerful acts changed the world forever – and revealed a more stunning and salvific outcome than complaint ever could.

Gratitude can even have the powerful effect of healing the past, as Mary Baker Eddy states here: “What is gratitude but a powerful camera obscura, a thing focusing light where love, memory, and all within the human heart is present to manifest light.” (My p. 164)

It is a mistake to think that circumstances determine one’s attitude.  Rather, one’s attitude determines circumstances.  Choose an attitude of gratitude and watch the blessings flow.

You might enjoy this post along the same lines: http://www.northernreflectionsonhealth.ca/2224/3-steps-exercise-gratitude-muscle/

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.