joy, peace

True source of joy and peace

Sometimes in life it can seem like everything is good and going well and the next minute or hour or day, that is a distant memory and doubt or fear or frustration or other negative thinking creeps in and takes over.  I remember this happening once when I was feeling down and talking to a friend, whom I had spoken too just hours before when things were great and he said, “Seriously – what changed??”  

What he meant was that if we know that God, Good, Love is the source of all good and the true, constant and permanent source of our joy and peace – what could change?  I know God to be the source of joy and peace and that those are qualities we inherently possess, because we were created in God’s image and likeness (according to Genesis 1).  So they are a part of us and must be constant and permanent because those are also qualities of God that we reflect. I thought of his comment about “what changed” one morning as I was trying to figure out how the day before I went from having a great day to a lousy evening.

That day, I was so sure of my source of good and joy and felt totally at peace when I started my day, and that carried throughout my day of service work.  But then in the evening I chatted with a different friend who said some things that really bothered and frustrated me, and then I got mad and down on myself for being so bothered and frustrated… and in all this my thought was definitely not very focused on God, my true source of good.  

So while reflecting back on this, I came across this statement from Mary Baker Eddy which appeared in that week’s Bible lesson:

“Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” (Exodus xx. 3.) The First Commandment is my favorite text. It demonstrates Christian Science. It inculcates the tri-unity of God, Spirit, Mind; it signifies that man shall have no other spirit or mind but God, eternal good, and that all men shall have one Mind. The divine Principle of the First Commandment bases the Science of being, by which man demonstrates health, holiness, and life eternal.

Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 340

I thought about the first commandment in a different way… what was it that I making another god?  Was I saying that this friend who had said those things was my source of joy or peace (and they failed)?  Wouldn’t that be attributing power, cause, source to something other than the one all-powerful, all-loving God?  

When I realized that, I started to feel more peaceful and more joyful.  I realized that this person had no control over my happiness.  And the more I focused on God, as the true source of joy, the more I felt closer to God and more at peace.  So now I’m on the lookout for what I might be making false gods – friends, sleep, money, home… basically anything that at any moment I give power to or think of as my source of some quality – love, energy, supply, peace… and turning it around to realize that God is our ultimate source of all good.

What are you making a false god?  

Conquering fear, healing, joy

Complete freedom and joy!!

Last year, while serving at a summer camp I had a wonderful experience overcoming the fear of heights on a zip-line.  (You can read about it in an article in the Christian Science Monitor here) Before publishing an article about this demonstration, the editor had asked if I thought this was a complete healing of my fear of heights, or if we should just leave it with this particular incident. At the time, I felt more comfortable just leaving it about that particular situation, but this left me feeling a a bit sheepish.  And part of me felt like maybe I needed to test it out to know whether or not I was truly completely healed.  I knew this wasn’t exactly how healing works, but I dismissed the thought a moved on.  

When the article was about to be published, I was asked to do an audio recording of the article.  In doing so, I reread the article several times to practice.  I was struck by the power of the truths that I had worked with at the time about the ever-presence of God, Love and how that love eliminates all fear.  It made me realize that I never needed to be afraid of being separate from Love or outside of Love’s care.  Could I ever be too high up for God to reach me?  That seemed ridiculous.  

At the time I recorded the audio piece, I was actually in Japan and the next day I had the opportunity to visit the Tokyo Skytree with my friend and her kids.  One of the landings was 350 meters high and there were places were you could lean out on an angle and look down at the sprawling city below, as well as a part of the floor that was made of glass so that you could walk over it and see the buildings underneath.  The kids and I did both of these things and I didn’t ever feel a twinge of fear.  I thought about the ideas that I had worked with on that zip-line and knew that they were true for me then and there as well!  We also ventured to the top platform at 450 meters, which give us an even more expansive view of the city, which was a beautiful sight. 

Then a this summer, I had the opportunity to go zip-lining in Costa Rica with a group of high school students on a service trip.  This zip-line was much longer and higher than the one the previous summer, and consisted of 12-15 lines that passed across a valley, over a river and through a rainforest canopy.  I was overjoyed at the freedom and sheer child-like joy I was able to experience and express in doing this activity.  I was even able to share ideas with a couple of kids that were a bit nervous about it and they too had a great time.  I was completely free from fear and embraced every moment of the experience. I am so very grateful for the opportunity to feel the presence and power of Divine Love that truly “casts out fear” as the Bible states in 1 John (4:18).

Also, as a fun side note – I watched the entire Free Solo movie, mentioned in the article – and really, really enjoyed it!!!

joy, Soul

Pop of color, spark joy

Looking out the window at the bright red cardinal in the bare, leafless tree, was like a pop of bright happy color in a scene of wintery, grey… like a little spark of joy (to use the famous Marie Kondo term) in the midst of dreariness.  Pioneering spiritual thinker and writer, Mary Baker Eddy describes God with several synonyms.  Pondering the synonym of Soul this morning, I was thinking about the many attributes or qualities of Soul – creativity, individuality, joy, radiance, beauty, color, grace, uniqueness…  And as an expression of God, made in Her image and likeness (as it states in the first book of the Bible), we reflect Soul, so we reflect and express all the qualities of Soul.  

So it got me thinking, how am I bringing color to a dreary palate?  How can I spark joy and hope in a world that seems at times overrun with negativity and pessimism?  How can I be a haven of peace and a fount of love in a world that at times feels engulfed in fear?  What is my unique, individual expression of Soul that radiates with beauty and light?

Well, that cardinal doesn’t DO anything to be a pop of color, or a spark of joy… it’s just who he IS… So I just have to BE who I truly am… the beloved reflection of God, Soul…and I will naturally express the inherent qualities of Soul….

 See, we don’t have to go out and attain or obtain more joy, more beauty, more uniqueness, etc… we just have to be willing to pause, be still and listen deeply to our heart, to those intuitions or angel messages from God that are telling us the truth about ourselves, telling us each and every moment who we really are as God’s reflection… and see that it is already there within each of us… 

And when we realize that, we can’t help but radiate all the joy and beauty and color and grace that is built right in.  It’s how God made us.  

So how are you going to radiate beauty and grace?  How will you be a pop of color that brightens someone’s day?  How can you spark joy today?


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

joy

“The joy that none can take away”

camp2I just returned from two weeks at a summer camp, where I served as a Christian Science Practitioner to a group of 34 teenage junior leaders, and nine staff members.  This means I had the privilege of supporting the spiritual growth and development of the group as well as supporting Christian healing… and healings were abundant during this two weeks.  What is it about the atmosphere at camp that supports rapid and even instantaneous healing?  This morning I listened to a Daily Lift podcast entitled The healing power of humor by Joel Magnes, CS, from Vancouver, Washington, USA – in which Joel quotes the Common English Bible as saying

“A joyful heart helps healing.”[1]

Well, joy was something we talked about a lot during this session at camp.  We reflected on how it is an inherent quality within each and every one of us, because it is a quality of Spirit.  It isn’t dependent on external factors, but comes from within and from our Creator… and therefore it cannot be taken away when circumstances in our lives or our environment change.  Joy is often associated with child-likeness…  not childishness which is different.  Child-likeness is that quality that Jesus talked about:

“He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”[2]

I love this idea that we all must be as a little child, and express that child-like innocence, purity, goodness, whole-hearted trust in our Father-Mother… and joy, exuberant joy that is natural to each of us!!

Just today I saw a post on social media that talked of the joy in the little things, showing a small child playing in the rain and puddles in a duck jacket/umbrella…  and shortly thereafter, a clip from a TED talk about joy and the need for color in our lives, in our schools and work places.  The world is crying out to be more joyful and yet it is right there within each of us to express.

It was fun embracing my own child-likeness at camp trying new things like zip-lining and wake-boarding for the first time… and riding roller coasters at an amusement park for the first time since I was a teenager.  At summer camp, the joy spreads and catches and carries us with it but we have to remember that it is not our surroundings that are the cause of joy… it is our reflection of Spirit, of Life, of Love that allows us to express joy no matter where we are or who we are with.  We can all be that radiant light of love and laughter, anywhere and everywhere!

When a camper was down I often referenced the bold lines of this favorite hymn, knowing that there is nothing that can take away our joy, when we walk with Love!! 

I walk with Love along the way,

And O, it is a holy day;

No more I suffer cruel fear,

I feel God’s presence with me here;

The joy that none can take away

Is mine; I walk with Love today.

 

Who walks with Love along the way,

Shall talk with Love and Love obey;

God’s healing truth is free to all,

Our Father answers every call;

’Tis He dispels the clouds of gray

That all may walk with Love today.

 

Come, walk with Love along the way,

Let childlike trust be yours today;

Uplift your thought, with courage go,

Give of your heart’s rich overflow,

And peace shall crown your joy-filled day.

Come, walk with Love along the way.[3]

 

 

[1] Proverbs 17:22 (CEB)

[2] Matthew 18:2-4 (NIV)

[3] Christian Science Hymnal 139:1-3

 

humanity

Soccer breaks through barriers

FIFA World Cup soccer (or football as most of the world calls it) is one of my favorite events and I look forward to it every four years.  This year, while I was telling my five-year old nephew about it, I pulled out an old atlas and found a map of the world.  I showed him where all the countries were that were playing that day, and that they were coming from Australia and Peru, which were on opposite side of this particular map, and meeting in Russia which was kind of in the upper middle of the map, and then I pointed to all the other countries from Senegal to Iceland to Saudi Arabia and South Korea.  We talked about how amazing it was that people from all over the world, who speak different languages and have different cultures and customs come together in one place, just to play soccer together!  Our conversation got me even more excited about the whole event, and I felt a bit of child-like wonder that it could happen at all, especially in today’s climate where some of the countries don’t always play well together when it comes to politics.

The idea that soccer can be an equalizer and even community builder, and that people who speak different languages can come together to play reminded me of a few times when I’ve used soccer as a way to connect with others who I couldn’t otherwise communicate with, particularly children.  One example was when I was working in a refugee camp in Thailand for refugees from Burma.  I was in an area of the camp where many children stayed alone because their parents were either still in Burma, in Thailand trying to find work, or who had died in the conflict.  Most of the children spoke little or no English.

Often, the boys would come together on a soccer pitch, that was really a patch of rocky dirt, put a couple of markers down on either end for goals – sometimes a sandal, other times a shirt – and just play.  A few lucky ones had gotten cleats or boots from an aid worker or volunteer, but most played barefoot.  Having played soccer in the past, I decided to join them.  Since I didn’t have anything but sandals, I too played barefoot.  Initially I was not totally accepted, but after I got the ball once or twice and was able to make a few plays, they let me join in anytime.  I enjoyed playing with them often.  We couldn’t communicate through words but we had soccer.

I found this to be a useful tool again when I was in a remote village in the dry dusty plains of the Western Province of Zambia.  During a field Soccer 2visit to this part of the country, I had the opportunity to spend the night in the village.  There was a translator on the trip because no one from this area spoke English.  There were many children around, and it appeared they did not get too many visitors that looked like me.  Some were Soccer 1curious, others seemed a bit nervous.  One had a “ball” made of bunched up plastic grocery bags bound with string and was showing off his juggling skills bouncing it from one knee to the other.  Once when he dropped it and it rolled my way.  Much to his amazement, I scooped it up with my foot, juggled it a few times and then kicked it back to him.  From there, he and I and several other children spent the next hour running around playing soccer.  There was plenty of laughter and comradery.

What makes these experiences meaningful, was not the game, but the love and joy and kinship and laughter that was shared.  It was this love that spoke to each other, connecting us heart-to-heart, when words were meaningless.  Though it was challenging conditions, and I was surrounded by seeming lack, loss and suffering at times, it was in this remote dusty village and that isolated camp in the mountainous jungle, where I saw that the power of love can break through any barrier even that of language.  Perhaps it was the love of the game, the sheer childlike joy and love of play, the shared laughter, but I think these are expressions of a larger more encompassing Divine Love that is embracing each and every one of us each moment.Soccer 4