be still, understanding, Understanding the Divine

Leave the rumination to the cows…

Do you ever get stuck mulling over an idea imagining how it could play out in all the different ways… or replaying a conversation and thinking of all the ways you could have responded better?  When making a decision do you think about each option to the nth degree of all the pros and cons, shoulds and shouldn’ts…. ?

10917429_10152867405261195_383835598213814307_nSometimes when I find myself doing this, it almost feels like I’m not in control of my own
thought… I just keep turning it over and over… thinking and thinking… or ruminating on it. Rumination is a term used for cows and other ruminant animals such as sheep, goats, water buffalo, dear, elk, giraffes and camels.  These animals all have a different way to digest food than we do as humans… they have four stomachs and can store food so they can come back to it later to chew on it again… it’s called chewing the cud.

This is what we do with thoughts or ideas when we ruminate on them…  They come back to us over and over to keep thinking about or wrestle with…

So, how do we stop this cycle?  I have found a couple of ideas helpful in these situations. 1424359_10151969692561195_895510265_n One idea is what I believe is one of Mary Baker Eddy’s greatest contributions to understanding the concept of God better.  She gives several synonyms for God that are Bible based – one is Mind.  Divine Mind. Now, it doesn’t state God is Mind in the Bible, like it says “God is Love”(John 4:8) or “God is Spirit” (John 4:24)… but God is referred to as embodying many several attributes of Mind such as all-knowing, wise and possessing infinite understanding, and having good counsel and righteous judgment (or discernment).

Who has directed the Spirit of the Lord, Or as His counselor has informed Him? With whom did He consult and who gave Him understanding? And who taught Him in the path of justice and taught Him knowledge And informed Him of the way of understanding?  (Isaiah 40:13-14)

He counts the number of the stars; He gives names to all of them. Great is our Lord and abundant in strength; His understanding is infinite. (Psalm 147:4-5)

Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways! For who has known the mind of the lord, or who became his counselor? (Romans 11:33-34)

For who has known the mind of the lord, that he will instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ. (1 Corinthians 2:16)

Given that God is Mind, possessing wisdom and knowledge and infinite understanding means that we, as His/Her reflection, created in His/Her image and likeness (Gen 1:27) – we can know all that we need to about any situation if we listen for that Divine guidance of the all-knowing, and know that understanding is an inherent quality/ability within us as reflections of Mind.

How do we listen when our mind is spinning in circles of rumination?  Just as Jesus was 58 Kenya - Nairobi - Giraffe park - feeding Daisy 3able to still the storm when out on the boat with the disciples (see Matthew 8:23-27, Mark 4:35-41), we can still the storms of thought by knowing God as Mind and knowing that we reflect and express the qualities of Mind.  Can you imagine God as ruminating or having a storm of thoughts, or does God have peace of mind?  As Mind’s reflection, we can and do express that same peace.  I find it helpful to turn to Bible passages such as Psalms 46:10 – “Be still and know that I am God”.  I love breaking down that quote – Be still and know that I am God… Be still and know… Be still… Be.

So, next time you’re caught up chewing the cud, or mulling over some thought again and again…. Remember – leave the ruminating to the cows… and be still.

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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)

 

Conquering fear, healing, humanity, Love

Curiosity – good or bad?

“There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.”

As Shakespeare so eloquently put it… and so it is with curiosity.

As a professor and abroad director, I hoped to instill a sense of curiosity in my students…Cape of Good Hope (14) what I hoped for was to see a sincere desire to learn more about the world, other people and cultures and ways of life.  I think the more we turn outward and learn about others, the more we can cultivate a culture of compassion and empathy… where we can see our common humanity.

However, I’ve recently noticed that curiosity can also have a negative purpose… and I’ve see this popping up over and over lately.  This seems to happen when the motive behind the desire to know something isn’t inspired and then it seems to gravitate from curiosity to fascination or even obsession… This would be cast as voyeurism… or even “morbid curiosity” which an online dictionary defines as a curiosity which is so compelling that the curious person is driven to satisfy it, even though he or she knows or strongly suspects that they probably won’t like what they find, or otherwise find something which is irrelevant or unsatisfying…

I first noticed this notion of curiosity being possibly a negative in some cases from a story book I was reading my nephew called My Father’s Dragon.  In the second book in the series the main characters a boy and a dragon end up on an island filled with canaries that were all “dying of curiosity” because the king canary was so sick with curiosity about an ancient secret passed down over generations… anyway, it got me wondering if there are situations where curiosity could be a bad thing…

I heard it once said, “never ask a question if you don’t really want to hear the answer”… and this may be some good advice in a way… or perhaps allow us a moment to check our motive… why do we want to know?  What purpose does knowing X serve?  Will it help the situation?

You may be wondering what I’m getting at, and thinking that it is always good to know more information than less… but let me give you some examples that may help illustrate my point…

Sometimes I hear friends say they want to know more about their partner’s history with past relationships.  I get it, I’ve been there… but at these times, I’ve had to ask myself.  Do I really want to know?  Probably not… but if so, why?  Will it lead me to feel better or worse about myself, about my partner, about the other person?  Will it lead me to compare myself to others… and does that ever go very well?  (Not usually… either we put someone else down and puff ourselves up, or put ourselves down… and either way the entire premise is off because we are often basing our view of ourselves and others not as the image of Love, a perfect, whole and complete creation of the Divine … but as a faulty human)…

In another situation, someone told me that they had gotten more details than they wanted about someone’s passing and couldn’t get the images out of their head.  They said they should have stopped the flow of information, but were just so curious about it, they just let happen and now they couldn’t seem to undo it.  This is tough stuff… when someone passes, it’s tempting to want what some may call the “gory details”… but do you really want that in your thought?   And related to that, it’s easy to get caught up in the trauma and drama of a tragic event… we want to know why it happened? Who’s to blame?  What were they thinking? What are others thinking?  Why now?  Why this way?

These are all examples of what I am talking about when I say that curiosity can have a negative side…  I’m not saying it’s wrong… and some may say “human nature” to wonder about these things… and I am not saying that it is not good to be informed to learn from and prevent tragic events from happening in the future… that’s different.

It’s the bit where fear generally gets us spun up asking these questions… and we become consumed with fear in the asking… but in all of that… aren’t the real questions deeper than all that… aren’t we really wanting to know — am I safe?  Is he/she safe?  Am I loved?  Are they loved?  Am I worthy enough?  Am I good enough?  Are they?  Will I be ok?  Will they be ok?

I find that it is helpful when wondering “what if” it is good to pause and this about “what is”… What is true about me and my fellow man from a spiritual vantage point right now and always…Well for me that always starts with God, with Good, with Love… which I know to be all-powerful, ever-present and eternal.  It begins with knowing that I (and everyone else) am created by God, Good… that I am whole and complete… that Life is truly eternal and that Love is truly ever-present… and that not one of us can ever be separated from Love or Life for a single moment.  When I get present to that fact, then the questions fall away… and I feel more at peace.

I find the “what ifs” keep us in the past or the future… and to find a sense of peace and the answer to those deeper questions… it’s helpful to stay in the present… in the eternal now… and declare that Love is present and powerful and wrapping us up and keeping us safe and whole.  Paul states in Second Corinthians “For he says, “In the time of my favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you.” I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.[1]

[1] 2 Cor 6:2 – New International Version Bible

blessings, humanity, understanding

Words and their meaning…

To those leaning on the sustaining infinite, to-day is big with blessings.

I love digging into words and pulling apart sentences with definitions to get at a deeper meaning.  I set about to start rereading and studying one of my favorite books by revolutionary feminist author, Mary Baker Eddy – Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures.  But because of my love of words, etymology and looking for the deeper meaning, I literally have not gotten past the first sentence of the Preface… “To those leaning on the sustaining infinite, to-day is big with blessings.”  (It’s going to be a long read if I do this with every sentence!!!)… This is an amazingly packed sentence, and really draws you into the book… and my findings were helpful to my study, so I thought I’d share.

I will also note that I almost didn’t look up the word “big”… because of course I know what it means, as I generally know what all these words mean… but that is what I love, is finding all the variety of ways to define a word and applying them to the other words in the sentence to see all the implications, applications and meanings that are possible…

Here are the words I’m working with …

  • LEAN –
    • to rest against or on
    • to rely or depend on/upon
  • SUSTAINING –
    • to support, hold or bear up
    • to keep, to keep up or keep going
    • to supply with food, drink and other necessities of life
    • to provide for
    • to support or uphold (as valid, just or correct)
    • to confirm or corroborate
  • INFINITE –
    • immeasurably, indefinitely, or exceedingly great
    • unlimited, unbounded, boundless, endless
  • TODAY –
    • this present day
    • this present time, age or era
  • BIG –
    • large as in height, width, amount
    • of major concern, importance, gravity
    • outstanding for a specified quality
    • important, as in influence, standing or wealth
    • grown up, mature
    • magnanimous, generous, kindly
    • filled, brimming
    • having more than average flavor, body
    • loud, orotund (characterized by strength, fullness, richness and clearness)
    • with great success
  • BLESSINGS –
    • the acts or words of a person who blesses
    • a special favor, mercy or benefit
    • a favor or gift bestowed by God
    • praise, devotion, worship
    • approval or good wishes

So we could say…

To those who are willing to rest upon, rely and depend upon the boundless, unlimited, endless supply, support and provision of all that is needed, all that validates and confirms our who we are as our true, perfect selves… they will find that this present moment, this time and age, this day… is filled, brimming with large amounts of mercy, goodness, approval, kindly and generously bestowed…

What a great thought …  what are you leaning on today?

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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.”

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[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