December 3, 2016
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.
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.
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.
June 14, 2015
Imagine with me, if you will, what happened next after the man left half dead on the road to Jericho, recovered from his injuries. (Read Luke 10:30-37 for the story)
When he first came to, the good Samaritan was long gone, and the innkeeper was in charge of his care. But the innkeeper was busy and the man was left alone a lot. He pieced together what happened from the different threads of conversation he’d overheard. But mostly he was angry and afraid – and he spent his time ruminating and plotting.
You see, he’d fallen among thieves who’d robbed him and harmed him. But that wasn’t the whole story. He was a thief too, and was transporting stolen goods to the Jericho black market. But he had been betrayed by his fellow travelers, men who disguised themselves as priests and Levites. Now, he wanted revenge. He felt helpless just waiting there. But he wasn’t strong enough to leave the inn.
In this state of mental turmoil, the innkeeper announced that he had a visitor. He knew it was his betrayers come back to finish the job because he could identify them. Instead, it was the good Samaritan returning to check on him and pay for his care.
This kindly man sat down and gently assured him that he was safe. He spoke to him of a God who is Spirit. He said that an eye for an eye was outdated and had been replaced with a higher law: love your enemies. He talked of consecration and inspiration. He promised that doing good to others regardless of the treatment received was life-saving. He suggested that the man remove the anger and revenge from his own outlook so that he could get a holier view of those who had harmed him. As he got up to leave, he said he’d always be available to help.
The injured man was transformed. After that brief conversation, he was not only well but he was a new man, no longer conformed to his old life. He quickly arose and dressed, profusely thanked the innkeeper, and offered to repay him as soon as he could. The innkeeper said the bill had already been settled, but that perhaps, he could go and do likewise. He could pay it forward.
What a startling idea! Of course!
The man headed straight for the den of thieves in Jericho, not to confront them but to forgive them. His transformation and change of heart overwhelmed his betrayers and they were ashamed of their careless and unkind treatment of him. He left them to work out their own repentance, confident that they too would pay it forward.
What tenderness and compassion has been shown to you that you can share with others? What goodness has been instilled in you that you can let shine? Even if you have been badly wronged, how can you rewrite that story line so that it no longer consumes you and harms others? We can always choose for what happens next to be good, no matter what.
Here is a sweet statement from Mary Baker Eddy that pulls it all together: “In the order of wisdom, the higher nature of man governs the lower. This lays the foundations of human affection in line with progress, giving them strength and permanence.” (Miscellaneous Writings, p. 287)
January 23, 2015
Does it ever feel like God just simply doesn’t know what’s going on with us? We pray, we plead. And yet, we still struggle. Maybe He’s too busy. Maybe He doesn’t care. Maybe He can’t do anything about it anyway. Maybe that’s just the way it is.
Or is it?
That’s not the view of God Jesus had. When he was at the tomb of Lazarus, he said for all to hear, “Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me. And I knew that thou hearest me always: but because of the people which stand by I said it, that they may believe that thou hast sent me.” (John 11:41,42)
Was Jesus just speaking of his own capacity to do amazing miracles? No, he was reassuring those gathered that God hears and responds. In fact, not long after this he said, “He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father.” (John 14:12)
Jesus started his prayer with gratitude that God could hear him. And not just an acknowledgment that God was hearing in that moment, but in every moment. This is an important point. Remembering that God hears us and responds – every time – makes our prayers more than wishful thinking. It empowers them with the spirit of the Christ, which Jesus promised would happen.
After all, he says, “he that believeth on me” – he that understands me, follows me, recognizes me – will accomplish what I accomplish. “And even greater works than these…”
Jesus knew God was listening, and loving, and caring. And his works proved it.
We must know that God is listening, and loving, and caring. And our works will prove it.
Then we can say, “God, I’m here. So are You.” Amen.
January 1, 2015
Here’s a parable about Lulu: Every morning before Lulu gets out of bed she goes over her times tables carefully, starting at zero and going all the way to twelve. 0 x 0 = 0, 0 x 1 = 0, up to 12 x 12 = 144. She’s very careful and conscientious and doesn’t miss one. And then Lulu gets out of bed and spends a little time studying her math book. She reviews a few addition and subtraction problems, even contemplates some division. Again, Lulu is very thorough and careful, and makes sure her answers are correct before she puts her math book away.
Then Lulu goes out.
Her first stop is to get gas for her car. Lulu has only $10 in her wallet, and gas is $2.50 per gallon so she wants to be sure she doesn’t go over that amount. She tells the attendant to give her 5 gallons. When the gas has been pumped the attendant comes to be paid. Lulu gives him the $10 and closes her window, preparing to drive away. There’s a knock on the glass. The attendant wants more money. Lulu’s puzzled, but the attendant explains that 5 gallons at $2.50 each is $12.50. Chagrined, Lulu hands him her debit card which he charges $2.50 and then returns. Lulu writes $2.50 on a scrap of paper and drives to her next stop, the grocery store.
Lulu needs 36 eggs for a project at work. She runs in, grabs two cartons of a dozen each, pays for them with her debit card and returns to her car. She writes $4.30 on her scrap of paper.
Lulu makes one more stop at the drive-thru of an espresso stand. She sees that her favorite hot drink is $3.75. She writes that onto her scrap of paper and quickly adds them up: $9.55. Perfect, she says. Because she only has $10 in her checking account. Lulu orders the drink.
Lulu heads to work. She drops the eggs off with a co-worker who asks, “where’s the other dozen? This is only 24.” Lulu stops to count them, and sure enough, there are only 24 eggs. Going on to her desk, she slumps into her own chair just as she gets a text from her bank that she’s overdrawn 55 cents. What??! Another co-worker comes by with some scraps of paper and says, “Lulu, I need your help. I can’t add these up.” Lulu sighs and says, “I’m not good at math.”
Thus ends the parable.
Do you ever feel that way about prayer? Even before you get out of bed, you carefully repeat your favorite spiritual ideas. Then you spend some time with your favorite spiritual texts. But once you get out the door, you don’t remember a thing. And by the end of the day you believe that you don’t know how to pray for yourself, let alone anyone else who may need some help.
Our prayers are like math: they’re actually applicable and useful throughout the day. And when relied on consistently, our outcomes are predictably harmonious. They’re not just words but statements of divine fact, and we have a right to believe and understand them. We have a right to draw on them at any moment under any circumstance.
Just as Lulu truly was good at math, we too, know what we’re doing when we pray. We know that we can reliably trust God and lean on Him, so that, at the end of the day when someone says, “can you help?” we can say, “yes. I’m good at prayer.”
November 22, 2014
According to the Bible, God is
- Good (Ps 143:10),
- Life (Deut 30:20),
- Love (1 John 4:8) ,
- Father/Mother (1 Chron 29:10/Is 66:13)
- Spirit (John 4:24),
- Truth (Deut 32:4),
- Omnipotent (Rev 19:6).
In addition to these all-encompassing facets of His character, the Scriptures imply that our Heavenly Father is intelligent, merciful, just, tender, strong, kind, and so on.
The very nature of God then, is a big NO to its opposite. Good is no to evil. Life is no to death. Love is no to fear and hate. Spirit is no to matter. Truth is no to error. Omnipotence is no to power sharing. This last one, especially, explains the reality of the rest of them. How so?
Omnipotence is from the Latin meaning all power. Not some power. Not shared power. Not occasional power. But all power. Therefore, Love must have all power leaving no room or place for its opposite. Good’s all power excludes anything unlike good. All powerful Truth doesn’t compete with any kind of error.
Jesus knew this and taught it, shifting his listeners away from believing in an arbitrary or vengeful deity. The Master raised the dead, walked on the water, fed the multitudes, and healed the sick through relying on the Omnipotent Yes of God. Isn’t that what the Lord’s Prayer makes plain? “Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.” (Matt 6:10) Mary Baker Eddy added this explanatory postscript to that line when she wrote “Enable us to know, – as in heaven, so on earth, – God is omnipotent, supreme.” (Science and Health page 17)
That Yes is still at work today although we seem to have lost site of it. But God’s power hasn’t changed or diminished (otherwise omnipotence would be the wrong word, don’t you think?). So let us regain our rightful understanding of the supremacy of the Almighty. Looking for and expecting to see the reality of the divine enables us to recognize it. And if we know He’s there we can safely and consistently rely on Him to meet all our needs.
The Yes of God is here and now and all.