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Gone fishin’

July 9, 2017

That’s the sign the disciples put up after Jesus’ crucifixion.  It was the only way they could think of to cope with the fear, sorrow, and confusion of that awful event. They were soon to learn that Jesus had already equipped them with what they needed to turn those sad feelings around.

They’d fished all night and caught nothing.  Then a stranger on the shore suggested they move their nets to the other side of the boat.  Doing so, there were so many fish their net was in danger of breaking.  Had the fish been there all along and they just weren’t paying attention?

That same “stranger” had, several years earlier, turned several fishes into enough to feed five thousand.  Was that the case now?  They were struggling to remember what they had learned: “Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you.” (John 6:27)

Jumping from the boat, they swam to shore to greet the stranger.  It was Jesus, whom they thought was long gone.  But he had earlier said of himself, “I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.” (ibid v. 36) They had forgotten his promise.  They had forgotten his commitment to them.

But it all came flooding back that morning on that shore.  Everything he had taught them about God’s infinite Fatherhood and the necessity of worshipping Him in spirit and truth; of eternal life and the kingdom of heaven on earth; of doing to one’s neighbor as one hoped to receive; and of loving each other as he had loved them: it was all fresh and new and finally real.

During Jesus’ brief ministry he had been as a shepherd to all that yearned for salvation.  He had preached and healed and loved.  Now it was the disciples’ turn.  With this brief command, “feed my sheep,” he put his precious followers into their care. They finally understood what that meant.

That historical morning is worth celebrating, 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’re kidding, right?

June 30, 2017

That’s what the Chaldeans and astrologers said to King Nebuchadnezzar. He’d had a dream and wanted it to be interpreted.  But the catch was that he couldn’t remember the dream.  He thought his court smart guys should not only be able to tell him what the dream meant, but what he’d dreamt in the first place.  And they said, it can’t be done, nobody can do it, so you don’t have the right to ask.  (see Daniel 2:1-45)

But Daniel had a different viewpoint.  He humbly knew that his own sense of things wasn’t up to the task but he was quite clear that God could determine both the dream and its meaning.  And he told King Nebuchadnezzar so.  Sure enough, God not only revealed the dream but its explanation as well.  Daniel rejoiced: “Blessed be the name of God for ever and ever: for wisdom and might are his.”

The Bible is full of those kinds of stories.

Naaman came to Elisha to be healed of leprosy.  Expecting to receive royal treatment, he was instead told to dip himself in Jordan seven times. Storming off in a rage, he said, “you’re kidding, right?” However, his lieutenant encouraged him to go to the river, and sure enough “his flesh came again like unto the flesh of a little child, and he was clean.” (2nd Kings 5: 1-15)

When walking through a huge crowd, a woman seeking healing reached out for Jesus’ robe.  Jesus asked his disciples, “who touched me?”  Their response was “you’re kidding, right?  The multitude is thronging you and you are asking about one touch?”  But Jesus knew that healing had occurred and the woman stood forth and explained how her hemorrhage simply stopped after her contact with him. (Mark 5: 25-34)

One time Jesus asked his disciples to feed all of those who had come to hear him preach – more than 5000 – rather than sending them back to their own homes hungry.  Their response? “you’re kidding, right?”  No, he wasn’t kidding. So he proceeded to do what he had asked them to do. Not only was everyone filled, they even had twelve baskets of leftovers. (Matt 14: 15-21)

On his way to the bed of a very sick little girl, Jesus was told that she had died, so there was no need to come. His response was that she was only sleeping, and he would come to awaken her.  The mourners said, “you’re kidding, right?” and they laughed him to scorn.  But the Master was true to his word. He restored her life and returned her to her delighted parents. (Luke 8: 41, 42, 49-56)

You never need to fear that health and holiness and salvation are too far out of your reach.  Jesus wasn’t kidding when he healed and saved and resurrected.  His power – the Christ – came from God.  It was ever present then, and it is still present now.  And you can count on it.

No kidding!

Read here for more examples.

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.

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.

What happened next…

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)

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.

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.

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.