grace

How many different ways can we be tricked?

Recently I was out walking the dog around the pond by apartment.  It had been very cold, and just the night before we had a light dusting of snow.  It was a beautiful morning, but the snow covered some icy patches on the path making them hard to see.  My dog started to slide around, and noticing this, I thought I would be safe by walking in the grass.  However, for some reason there was a huge sheet of ice that not only covered the path but the grass around it.  Next thing I know, I was on the ground.  

At this point, I’d love to say that my first thought was turning to God to know that I was safe, as ever, in Love’s warm embrace.  But that’s not what happened.  First I stood up, frustrate, even angry and check to see if I was hurt.  Nothing seemed to be too sore, other than my ego. But then my thought went to self-righteous anger at the apartment management company for not salting the path.  I thought about how I should march right into the office to tell them I had fallen and was hurt… but was I?  I checked again… not really.  Well, I could have gotten hurt, that’s what I’d say… but could I?  

Well, some might say, yes, of course you could have been seriously hurt, that’s so dangerous, they should do better.  But when I think about this through the lens of Divine Science, I know that the truth of my being as God’s perfect creation is perfection, wholeness.  Right then I started to check my thought and recognize that from God’s point of view, I could never fall from grace.  I could never lack grace – both in the sense of being graceful, and in the sense of abundant goodness, kindness and blessing poured forth from the Divine.  

In one of my favorite books, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, Mary Baker Eddy puts it this way, “When speaking of God’s children, not the children of men, Jesus said, “The kingdom of God is within you;” that is, Truth and Love reign in the real man, showing that man in God’s image is unfallen and eternal.”  (SH 476:28–32) She also speaks of man as “unfallen, upright, pure, and free”.  (SH 171:4) So, I knew I could see my self as unfallen and free.  

I started, however, to get back to my thinking about the management company and how I should give them a piece of my mind… if not for myself, for others.  What if someone else fell and got injured?  But, if God’s man can never fall from grace, doesn’t that also cover my neighbors?  It’s not to say that it’s not right to take actions that are practical and wise to keep people safe, but I had to check my motives here.  Because really, it seemed like I was looking for any excuse to justify my anger and frustration.  And the more I got angry, and rehearsed what I might tell the management company the more my shoulder began to ache.  

Well, that’s ridiculous I thought.  Why am I letting my thought get so spun up here?  I know the truth about my being and I began to hold more closely to that idea that if I couldn’t fall from grace, my thought couldn’t be filled with anything but grace.  

Later that evening, my friend came over for dinner.  I had been still dealing with some soreness in my shoulder and was feeling a bit sorry for myself.  I told my friend I had fallen on the ice.  His response… “Cool!” 

Well, here comes that anger and frustration again…  How could he say that?   But this time, I caught myself more quickly. What did I really want his response to be?  Was I looking for pity?  That’s not me!  I’m not pitiful… 

I recognized this thought was just another trick to get me to give into this story that I could fall from grace.  But no! Not a fall, not self-righteous indignation, not self-pity could keep me from experiencing God’s unending, ever-present, abundance grace and goodness!!  Enough was enough!  I would not be tricked…    And recognizing this, I felt the power behind Mrs. Eddy’s statement, “Grace and Truth are potent beyond all other means and methods.” (SH 67:23)  

That night I went to bed feeling at peace and woke up perfectly well.  

Soul, Spirit, Understanding the Divine

“Roots hold me close; wings set me free”

IMG_0330Yesterday as I was sitting by the lake with my dog on this chilly, but sunny fall day with the wind blowing through the few trees surrounding us and casting ripples upon the water, I was reminded of a favorite poem or hymn from the Unitarian faith tradition, “Spirit of Life” by Carolyn McDade.

Spirit of Life, come unto me.

Sing in my heart all the stirrings of compassion.

Blow in the wind, rise in the sea;

Move in the hand, giving life the shape of justice.

Roots hold me close; wings set me free;

Spirit of Life, come to me, come to me.

I got to thinking especially about the line “Roots hold me close; wings set me free…” and it led me to think about two of the synonyms that Mary Baker Eddy, discover and founder of Christian Science, uses to describe God in her seminal work Science and Health, with Key to the Scriptures – Soul and Spirit.

God. The great I am; the all-knowing, all-seeing, all-acting, all-wise, all-loving, and eternal; Principle; Mind; Soul; Spirit; Life; Truth; Love; all substance; intelligence.[1]

I’ve found over the years of studying this text and Eddy’s definition of God, that Soul and Spirit were at first the most difficult for me to grasp.  But since getting a clearer sense of those words, their meaning and how they apply to my life and being – as the image and likeness of God as described in Genesis in the Bible – I have found them to be two of my favorite synonyms to pray with, as I continue to learn more about God and my relationship with God in my daily life.

I love to think about Soul as the roots that “hold me close”… some of the attributes of Soul that we express as the reflection of Soul are strengths,depth, resilience, power, dominion, abundance, richness, uniqueness…  I see Soul as the source of my strength, what keeps me and my life grounded and “rooted”… It also feeds more with abundant goodness and richness, color and flavor and culture… much like a root system feeds a tree and holds it to the earth… providing stability and resources.  When I think of a soulful person, I think of someone who is rooted and has real depth and the strength and resilience to get through things, even when it doesn’t seem humanly possible.  I think of someone with the unique individuality and a richness and vibrancy, like a painting with bold colors, which makes you pause and ponder… or a piece of music that you can feel at the deepest reaches of your being and has the power to move or inspire you.

 

I love to think about Spirit as the wings that “set me free”… I think of someone who is spirited, or we may say “she has spirit”… that quality of enthusiasm, joy, life, light… a serene sense of peace… a pure sense of joy… radiance…   Spirit is what lifts me up and causes me to soar above the seeming drama and darkness of the day… it is what bring a sense of freshness and newness to life.  It is what allows us to delight in the beauty around us… in the simple joys and pleasures of a playful puppy, a cheerful child, or a budding bloom…it’s that Spirit of Life, as the song states…

 

So as you go about your day today… perhaps you can find ways to connect to a deeper and higher sense of the Divine as Soul… and as Spirit.

 

[1] Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 587

About the photos:

Baobab trees have resilient root systems (photo taken in South Luangwa, Zambia)

The Albatross has a wingspan of up to 3.5 meters or 11.5 feet!! (photo taken off the coast of Dunedin, New Zealand)

 

healing, humanity, joy, Love

Pure and simple…

“Pure and simple and nothing else…” that is what came up at the very bottom of the definition when I clicked “Look up” on the word “pure” in something I was reading on my iPad.  I love that idea! IMG_0121

Pure and simple joy

Pure and simple love

Pure and simple truth

And the list goes on… the applications are endless!  I love the idea of simplicity combined with purity… our human lives at times seem so hectic and complicated… there seems to be so much drama in the world today.  From politics, to relationships, to TV shows, to tweets, to global issues and challenges… there seems to be no end of complications and drama.  But in the one true, pure, honest relationship – our individual (and collective) relationship with God, with Divine Love… there is no drama, there is nothing complicated… it is as simple as it is profound.  We are the loved of Love.

In looking up the work pure (and purity)… I also found it means – innocence, cleanness, quality, clear, true… spotless, untainted… being that and nothing else…

It means independent of sense of experience – as in pure knowledge.

And it meIMG_2919ans absolute, utter, sheer – as in pure joy!  Pure or sheer joy… like that of a  young child playing or dancing …or a puppy frolicking or rolling in the grass… isn’t that the kind of uncomplicated joy we all truly want?  Or pure love… untainted and uncomplicated… simple, yet profound… unconditional…

There was a time when I would bristle at the term “purity”… or at least the way that I perceived it being used by religious institutions.   When I was younger, it seemed like being pure meant on the one-hand – boring –  without the flavor of experience.  It seemed like a term for “goodie-two-shoes”… not someone who really wanted to live and experience life to the fullest… experiment and try new things…  Or it was for those that were holier-than-thou and filled with self-righteous judgement of others, and it seemed that if you strayed from a life of purity, you should feel shame and guilt… as if you were unredeemable… and a bad __X__ (fill in the religion of your choice).   That certainly doesn’t sound simple… but filled with complicated drama.

When I recently dug a bit further and looked up the terms “purity” and “pure” in my Dictionary.com app … and what I found was interesting… some of the many definitions start with the word “freedom”…  I found that interesting because I think in the past, a lot of what I was seeking through experimenting with things that may be considered part of an “impure” lifestyle was a sense of freedom… freeing my mind and body… freedom from the shackles and constraints of what I “should” be doing… or from societal expectations and pressures… or an escape from the burdens weighing down my thought, putting them on hold or pausing them by filling my experience with other things that made it possible to forget or ignore them and even world around me… or the dark thoughts I would sometimes have… I mean when you read the news, there is a lot of trauma and drama in the world, let alone in my little life… and sometimes you just need to drown that out a bit… or at least that’s what I thought at the time.

I’ve found other ways to deal with these things in the many years since then, by finding a deeper connection to the Divine which brought healing and a strong sense of security.… but I still struggled with the idea of purity, in part because of my past and thinking that I was not “redeemable”… or at the very least I was judged…

So back to these definitions of “purity” and “pure”… and the fact that it’s about freedom… I made a list from these definitions… freedom from:

  • ContaminationIMG_8361
  • Pollution
  • Guilt
  • Evil
  • Foreign elements
  • Anything that debases
  • Anything inferior
  • Extraneous matter
  • Blemishes
  • Anything that tarnishes or taints
  • Discordant qualities

Wow!  Well, I do want freedom from those things!  Freedom from guilt, discord, blemish or taint… that would be great!  And it IS great!  I strive for this each day and have found so much freedom in growing and digging deeper into a more spiritual sense of joy, freedom and purity.

These ideas have given me a lot of food for thought about where I do see and desire purity in my life… pure joy… pure love… pure goodness… that sounds lovely… simple… uncomplicated… and without judgement…  With that child-like freedom to find joy in the simple things… I’ve found to be a truer, deeper, lasting and more satisfying and fulfilling IMG_0078joy… much more so than the temporary happiness I may find in complicate or dramatic elements… or finding an escape from it all… instead I seek out that pure and simply joy… in watching the hummingbirds flutter about the flowers and veggie plans on my porch, dog walks in the woods, cooking for family and friends, sitting quietly by the lake and communing with Spirit, reading a children’s story to my nephew…  Maybe it sounds Polyana-ish to some, but basking in pure and simple, spiritual love and joy can bring healing and allows us to break free of drama and love our neighbors.

That is the life I am already leading… because I learned that redemption is always possible… and it we are always able to claim our innocence and purity as God’s beloved child in whom He is well-pleased[1], because that is an unchanging fact.  Just as the moment the prodigal son turned from his life and came back to his father seeking forgiveness… the father ran to meet him and embraced him… and he was instantly redeemed by that fatherly love[2].  That is true for any and all of us… we can find that sense of freedom…

And we can all rejoice in a life that is filled with pure and simple love, joy, goodness… if we are willing to seek out the good… “pure and simple and nothing else.”

cropped-30743258_10155977619376195_4226069294653374464_n1

 

[1] Matt 3:17, Mark 1:11, Luke 3:22 – speaks of Jesus as his Son in whom He is well-pleased, but I believe this applies to each and every one of us as God’s sons and daughters… the children of God

[2] Luke 15:11 – 32

Love

Lessons from a dog walk…

I was out walking my dog, Tillie, by the lake yesterday morning, as I often do.  And one thing we are working on is her reaction and response to other dogs. Sometimes she walks by perfectly fine – keeping quiet and carrying on… other times she barks loudly at them while wagging her tail like she wants to play… and then there those times that she barks aggressively and pulls at her leash…  As a human, it is often difficult to discern which reaction we’ll get when… or why… but from what I have read, it seems dogs primarily respond aggressively out of fear.

This particular morning, we started out our walk and already the barking and pullingTillie by the lake started.  It made me frustrated and not want to continue the walk. But after pausing at a bench looking out at the lake for a little while and enjoying the stillness of the water, I decided to carry on with the walk.  I was praying about this issue as we walked… and trying to think about it from a spiritual perspective. I realized that for one, I need to forgive Tillie for just being a dog, and not harbor frustration or fear about the situation…but I also have to affirm that Tillie IS a good dog, inherently good and that that is her true nature to be good and live harmoniously with others.

I quietly declared to myself, and sometimes aloud to sweet Tillie, that harmony is a law … it is a law of Divine Love and that it is governing us and all our actions and everyone (and every dog) around us.

Often when we are coming up to another dog, I will give the command to stay quiet.  Sometimes, if it seems necessary, I will ask Tillie to sit and be still, and to stay quiet… and I remind her that she is a good girl.

I was thinking about how these commands we give our pets (and the ones we hear, if we listen, from God)… are firm commands, demonstrating the control and governance of omnipotent Principle… and yet reflect the tender and pure nature of omnipresent Love…  This is what is governing or ruling us and our actions… and our loved ones and everyone…

This particular morning, I was overjoyed that in the second part of our walk after the quiet moment on the bench, she did not bark at a single dog (and there were several on our path)… it was great to see the law of harmony in action… and this joy led to a breakthrough with another situation… which I started to see more clearly from a spiritual perspective.

This past weekend, I acted out of fear and “barked” aggressively and unkindly at someone… and I have been regretting it and feeling terrible about it ever since.  It seemed so much like the unpredictable nature of my dog, who will pass by several dogs calmly and then seemingly out of nowhere will bark aggressively at one coming along…  That was kind of what this was like… I was going along my day with this friend calmly and then seemingly out of nowhere got really upset and said some unkind, and actually untrue things… and by untrue I mean that I accused of them of things that I know in my heart they would never think or do… instead of assuming the best, I assume not just the worst but something so false and out of character of this person, it is rather ridiculous…

Since then I have been in a funk of guilt and shame, regret and remorse… replaying the incident and the various events before and after and trying to figure out how I could have gotten so upset… and envisioning the scenario a thousand different ways that would have turned out so much better if I had acted and spoken differently…

So as I was walking along with Tillie, I started to think about this again… and I so wish I had listened to the angel messages that were likely speaking to me all along but I missed them…  the message that would have been telling me to me to “sit“… or to be still and calm… to “be still and know that I am God”, as it says in Psalms 46:10…  and to get some perspective on the situation to see it for what it was… and knowing that my friend’s intentions are always good and pure and that there is no reason to assume anything less…

Because if I were still, I probably would have had heard the angel message that was likely there telling me to “stay quiet“…  or as the Bible says “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger;” (James 1: 19)… for “Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent.”  (Prov 17:28)… and “If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame.” (Prov 18:13)… well, I was the fool here and have been filled with shame at my folly ever since…

I also wish I had heard the angel message to “be good“…  and to know that I am inherently good…and so is my friend…  that is our true nature, because we are created in the image and likeness of God as it states in Gen 1… and God is all and only good…  as the Bible says “You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matt 5:48)… which I take to mean not that you must (or should) be this way, or else… but that you must be that way because God is that way… you couldn’t actually be any other way… because you reflect God, your maker who is perfect and good…   I was also thinking about that command… or that angel message that I missed, to “be good” … to mean it’s all good… it will be fine… don’t worry… but I missed that message and as a result I acted in ways that were less than my best self.

One of my favorite hymns in the Christian Science Hymnal came to mind as I was walking, “Speak gently, it is better far To rule by love than fear”…  and thought about it this way — when we are ruled by Love rather than fear, we do speak gently… we don’t bark aggressively or say unkind things we don’t really mean (and instantly regret)…  it goes on to say “Speak gently, let no harsh word mar The good we may do here.” (Hymn 315)….

I have heard it said that every action or word spoken is either done from love or is a cry for love … or put another way – out of a fear of the loss of love or a sense of lack of love…  With my harsh words, I was acting out of fear, not love, (as apparently my dog does too sometimes)… because of the situation we were in, I became afraid of a potential loss of love or the potential for lack and became overwhelmed by that fear so much that I no longer heard the angel messages that were undoubtedly being sent my way… but this fear is never true or real  because we live in Love… we are never for a moment separated from Love… we are always encircled in ever-present Love… and that is true for every single one of us… And when we are ruled and governed by Love… by Divine Love…so there is no room for fear. “There is no fear in love. Perfect love casts out fear…” (1 John 4:18)… And when ruled and governed by love, we can speak gently… and be patient and kind with one another… as it says in 1 Cor 13: 4-8

“Love is patient, love is kind. … It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.”

So, with this lesson, I began to feel uplifted and break out of my seeming funk of regret … knowing that I am governed by Love, not fear… and that I cannot fear a lack or loss of love… because Love, Divine Love, our true source of love is eternal and ever-present… and with that unfailing love we can all abide by the law of harmony that is always at work, and hear those angels messages when they are speaking to us with words of wisdom and tender words reminding us to love and that we are loved… and this love brings healing to any situation.