Conquering fear, Love

Facing fear with love

Fear is a funny thing.  It can seem to completely overtake us and our sense of being.  I love the idea of it as an acronym – False Evidence Appearing Real.  How true that is… that it is entirely false.  In an article By Pam LeBlanc, Alex Honnold – world renowned climber – puts it this way:

Fear to me is my body giving me a warning. It’s sort of like a point of data, like hunger or something. My body is telling me I need to eat at some point. Fear is sort of your body reminding you that you’re uncomfortable. Then it’s up to you to decide if your body is in real danger or your body is being irrational. You’re the guide.[1]

To me I think fear is mental but I love the point that you are the guide and get to decide if the danger is real or if it is irrational or false evidence….  So, you get to decide if you will let fear over power you.  But sometimes it doesn’t seem that simple.

This summer I had the opportunity to overcome my fear of heights when I was serving as a Christian Science Practitioner for a high school group at a summer camp for Christian Scientists.  I had the opportunity to ride roller coasters and go zip-lining.  I didn’t know if I wanted to do either, because for some reason in recent years I seem to really fear heights.

It doesn’t even make sense because as a child I was always climbing trees, walls… being the first out on a high-ropes course and intentionally falling or jumping off… I used to rock climb, and had a pretty big fall when doing a lead climb in Thailand and never seemed to fully recover from it.  I tried to finish the climb but had to come down and have one of my group members finish it.  Then I went back to the practice wall but never felt as confident, especially on the tricky overhang.  When I moved back to the US from Thailand, I had wanted to get into climbing again but never did.  Since then this fear has festered, but mostly was dormant because I was not often in a position where it would come up.

So here I was at camp, where the campers in my group were overcoming fears and challenging themselves every day.  I was there supporting them with spiritual ideas, but felt somewhat hypocritical, if I wasn’t prepared to do the same.  So, I went on a roller coaster…twice.  And yes, I screamed my head off the first time… and then laughed my head off the second time (and still screamed a little bit).  But it was fun!  I felt silly and child-like and free.

Then it came time for zip lining… one of the campers ask if I was going to go.  I wasn’t… but then that voice came from inside saying, are you really going to let your fear get the best of you here?  So I decided to try it.  I paired up with one of the boys and we were going to go on the tandem zip lines together.  (Just two lines, side by each and you can go at the same time… and even race if you want to)…  So the countdown happened… 1…. 2…. 3…. And the camper jumped of the platform and started off…. I on the other hand was still on the platform.  I couldn’t seem to make myself do it.  Another count down and some encouragement from the counselors… still nothing.  I felt some hands on my back gently nudging me a bit (and I could tell that the person the hands were attached to – a good friend of mine – was debating if they were allowed to just push me or not… I know they wanted to)…  I decided that this fear was ridiculous… I didn’t want to give in and look ridiculous … and it was clearly fun because everyone talked about how great it was… so here we go again…. 3… 2…. 1…. Jump!  Wahoooo!!!  It was so much fun, that on the next one, I decided I would actually race the camper who had kindly wait for me at the platform in between…  It was so much fun!!

So back to that False Evidence Appearing Real… and that idea that “it’s up to you to decide if your body is in real danger or your body is being irrational…”  I bring up Alex Honnold because I just watched the trailer for the film about his free solo of El Capitan that is just coming out.  (Spoiler alert: he succeeds!!)  While watching this trailer… my body (and mind/thought) reacted… I because so filled with fear that my stomach ended up in knots, the palms of my hands (and even my feet) started to seriously sweat.  I was utterly consumed by the fear for a few moments…. (maybe that’s what the movie folks were going for… but thank goodness the trailer is only 2 minutes long)…

Did I have an actual reason to fear?  I looked up from the film trailer and I was of course sitting in my chair with my legs up on the ottoman, and my iPad on my lap watching a video.  I was not on the face of a giant cliff… I was in my study… sitting down… watching a video.  Also, I paused and looked up Alex Honnold (who I’m embarrassed to say I didn’t know much about before this) to find out that yes, he is in fact still alive…so, there was literally nothing to fear, even for the guy on the screen.  But it didn’t matter… in fact, still sitting here in my chair in my study typing up this blog post and thinking back to watching the trailer I’m starting to sweat and get nervous all over again!!

Fear is a ridiculous thing… so how do we conquer it?  How was I able to let go of it on the zip line (which now sounds sooo wimpy compared to a giant cliff face with no ropes or safety harness like I was wearing)…

Well, in the Bible it says,

“Perfect love casts out fear.”[2]

How does that work…?  “Perfect love” to me is Divine Love… unconditional, ever-present, all-absorbing, all-encompassing, spiritual love.  It is the kind of love of our Father-Mother God that says, I am right here, holding you up, embracing you… and will never let anything happen to you… I will protect you… I will uphold you and carry you and save you.

I can see some people saying at this point – yeah but bad things happen, how do you explain that?  Well, our life with this Love is eternal… and while sometimes we may find scary or bad things seem to be happening… if even in that moment, we pause and commune, or allow ourselves to be at one with that Divine Love… we can feel a sense of peace… Mary Baker Eddy speaks of it this way in her seminal text Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures… that we can

“feel the unspeakable peace which comes from an all-absorbing spiritual love.”[3]

It is what the Psalmist spoke about in Psalm 23, which Mrs. Eddy writes it this way:

[Divine love] is my shepherd; I shall not want.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for [love] is with me; [love’s] rod and [love’s] staff they comfort me.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house [the consciousness] of [love] for ever.[4]

So when we live or dwell in that consciousness of love, there is nothing to fear – real or imagined.  Love is guiding us through each challenge, if we listen and allow ourselves to feel Love’s ever-presences.  Love will guide us to break through ever fear.

“Love inspires, illumines, designates, and leads the way,” [5]

[1]“If you had no fear of heights, would you climb a 3,000-foot wall?” By Pam LeBlanc.  American-Statesman, March 25, 2018. https://www.mystatesman.com/lifestyles/recreation/you-had-fear-heights-would-you-climb-000-foot-wall/gSKgi7BXfJYgDWVnnwNdeL/amp.html

[2] 1 John 4:18

[3] Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, by Mary Baker Eddy p. 264

[4] Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, by Mary Baker Eddy p. 578

[5] Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, by Mary Baker Eddy p. 454

blessings, gratitude, hope, humanity, Love, Magnify the good

Happy National Peanut Butter Day!

In case you didn’t know, today is National Peanut Butter Day in the U.S., and to celebrate I ate peanut butter sandwich.  Why should anyone care about this obscure holiday, you ask…  Well for me it is significant because it is a reminder to pray to know that the world’s children have all they need at every moment. To know that divine Love is meeting their every need, and caring for them.  That as the reflection and image and likeness of their divine Parent, they come with infinite supply of good.

i5Each year on this day I pause to remember this and to pray in this way specifically for the children in Zambia, Malawi and elsewhere, struggling with malnutrition and a seeming lack of supply, and for the organizations such as Every Child Fed (ECF), whereI worked as the Country Director for Zambia, and their partner organization Project Peanut Butter (PPB).  These organizations help supply an enriched peanut butter paste to children who are suffering from severe malnutrition.

When I was embarking on this journey to work to support children in this way, it was not helpful to see the children as lacking anything – food, health, care – but instead to know that each idea of Life, Love, God is whole and complete, coming with its own supply – like an acorn that already includes the leaves, bark, branches and roots of a tree all within itself.   I find it helpful to know that Love is our true source of supply, and that it is constant, consistent, limitless, infinite and eternal…  this is true for everyone… the children in Zambia, as well as US government workers during the shutdown, and anyone else feeling a sense of lack or insecurity.  As Mary Baker Eddy states in her inspired text

Divine Love always has met and always will meet every human need.

She goes on to say, “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.”[1]Jesus demonstrated the ever-presence of supply by multiplying the loaves and fishes to feed the multitudes… and there were baskets left over!  (see Matthew 14:13-21)

img_2788 copy

But how do we feel and know that our supply will be there when everything points to the contrary… I have found in my experience, that a change in thought can help.  Rather than seeing lack everywhere, we can shift our perspective with gratitude for what we DO have…  Just as in the example of the loaves and fishes, Jesus gave gratitude first… “Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people.  They all ate and were satisfied…”[2]

kid w rutfHow can we feel that sense of being satisfied with what we already have and grateful for it?   Mrs. Eddy puts it this way,

“Are we really grateful for the good already received? Then we shall avail ourselves of the blessings we have, and thus be fitted to receive more.”[3]

I have found that supply for the next thing doesn’t seem to show up until I get grateful for what I already have.  When I pause and assess what I do have, and give gratitude for all the good that is present in my life, it has a magnifier and multiplier effect… and more good comes in.. like attracts like… so seeing the good already present, attracts more good to come in.  (You can check out a previous blog I wrote on supply and the power of gratitude for more on this idea… )

So today, let’s celebrate all the good… and understand our true source of supply, for ourselves and everyone, especially children… and to that, I will raise a jar of peanut butter!

g5

*Note: all of the photos I took while working in Malawi and Zambia with ECF and PPB

[1]Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures p. 494

[2]Matthew 14:18

Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures p. 3

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