This interview aired the morning of my lecture for Stroud, Gloucester, UK. While the interview was conducted as a QA, it was edited to include my responses only, which maximized the content in the alloted time.
When one encounters injustice or something else just plain wrong, it can stir a protest from deep within. To take exception to and challenge evil is a normal response, but are some methods of protest more effective than others?
I have found that an approach based on Christ Jesus’ teachings can help move protest beyond mere outcry to a fruitful healing stand that supports and even impels positive change.
Years ago at work I encountered a policy that I felt could negatively impact clients. I brought the problem to the attention of my superiors, but to no avail. The policy remained. Undeterred, I decided to raise these concerns with my colleagues, hoping that a collective protest among us could force management’s hand and lead to course correction. But this only resulted in the censuring of my colleagues. After all this, I stood alone in my protest.
Frustrated and disheartened, I reached out to a friend who was a Christian Science practitioner to help me know what to do next. Christian Science practitioners don’t offer advice, but they do encourage and support one’s prayers to find spiritual solutions to problems. This practitioner pointed out to me the emphasis that Christian Science places on the power of unspoken thoughts. Monitor founder and Christian Science discoverer Mary Baker Eddy wrote: “Thoughts unspoken are not unknown to the divine Mind. Desire is prayer; and no loss can occur from trusting God with our desires, that they may be moulded and exalted before they take form in words and in deeds” (“Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” p. 1).
I began to realize that while I had been resting all my expectations of change on whether or not my perspective was being heard and accepted by other people, God always hears the sincere heart’s desire. This realization enables us to elevate our concept of “protest” from a mere argument to a deeper understanding of and trust in God – the one true Mind of His creation, including each of us – as good.
I saw that a more Christly, prayerful approach to protest could bring the needed healing to the situation. Jesus’ teachings helped me see that in the attempt to solve problems it is important to pray for oneself, not just for the desired outcome, because what we perceive as another person’s (or an organization’s) problem may be a “mote” or speck of dust compared to an enormous “beam” that is impeding our own clear vision (see Matthew 7:3-5).
I recognized that the “beam” in my eye was the fear that a bad policy had more power than God did. I realized that I could protest against that fear rather than the policy. I didn’t want to ignore the policy, but for the moment this seemed the more pressing need. So I prayed to more fully understand God’s presence and power to care for His creation.
I found peace as I realized that everyone’s safety and security, including that of the company’s clients, rests in our inviolable relation to God, who cares for all the conditions requisite for our well-being. I further recognized that the company’s management was also safely cared for by the one divine Mind. This Mind sends inspiration to each one of us in a way we can understand.
Soon a client found a workaround that completely exempted her from the effects of that particular policy. Other clients followed her lead – a fact observed by management, precipitating a change in policy that ultimately benefited the company and clients alike.
Prayer isn’t a sidestep to protest. It isn’t a cop-out or a backup move when actions don’t seem to be producing the change we would like. Devoted, heartfelt prayer that opens one’s heart to God’s good governance and care of His creation is a unique, powerful, and Christly form of protest. It can lift us out of an excessive focus on problems, bringing the inspiration that comes from a greater awareness of Mind, God, as the source of right and just solutions.
This article was published February 11, 2019 on csmonitor.com
Dear Blog readers, you did a wonderful job sharing this web lecture. Word spread quickly and many, many people joined in live. Thank you! Here is a link to the replay on YouTube if you would like to see it again or share it with others. It will be online until April 10, 2019.
Over the centuries stepmothers have generally gotten a bad rap. Fairytales casting poor, beautiful children opposite nasty, vengeful step-parents, haven't much helped to break the negative stereotype. Think of Julia Roberts in an updated take on the story of Snow White. Now I love Julia and thoroughly enjoyed seeing her in all her nasty glory on the big screen. But given a choice of which of her films best portrays the realities of step-parenting, I would mostly likely vote for "Stepmom" (1998). In this story, two women, played by Susan Sarandon and Julia, struggle with their respective parenting and step-parenting roles. Both learn painful, and sometimes funny, lessons and ultimately discover that what counts in parenting is an unselfed love.
Step-parenting is not an easy role. In many cases, there is a lot of baggage when co-parenting children of divorce, or those who have lost or been separated from a parent. It would be helpful to see more examples of the love that can guide a step-parent through difficult situations, so that ultimately children grow up feeling whole and ready to fulfil their individual missions. Here, the Bible can be a help.
Now, I know that the story of Sarah and Ishmael can be read as one of tension building to an exploding point over years between a woman and her step-child. But I think this is based on certain inaccurate assumptions. I would like to offer another angle because I believe it is ultimately a love story.
Background: Abraham and Sarah were married for quite some time and had no children. Knowing of God's promise to Abraham, - that he would be the father of nations, - Sarah suggested that her handmaid, Hagar, should act as a surrogate and give birth to a child for Abraham. Hagar became pregnant.
Before the baby was born, the Bible points to jealousies and strife that developed between the two women who would both be a parenting influence on the child. Hagar mocked Sarah for being unable to conceive. Sarah abused her position of authority over Hagar. Eventually things settled down between them when both women received reassuring messages of God's care. God told Hagar that her family would grow strong and large. Sarah received a message from God, through Abraham, that she, too, would be a mother. (See Genesis 16:4-10)
Then, Hagar gave birth to a son and named him Ishmael. The child's arrival can also be seen as a product of Sarah's love for Abraham and her trust in good. Ishmael was conceived and brought forth in this love.
The blended family continued together. Then, fourteen years after Ishmael, the new baby Isaac arrived on the scene and, as sometimes happens when families expand, the dynamics changed. Ishmael was having problems and his birth parents weren't picking up on it. Sarah was the one that observed him mocking his younger brother.
Some Jewish scholars interpret this word "mocking" as involving acts of wickedness and physical abuse. Later, Paul interpreted it as a form of persecution. (See Galations 4:29) In any case, Ishmael was between 15 and 18 years old and his brother was a toddler. The behavior was not healthy.
On the subject of parenting, Mary Baker Eddy wrote, "The good in human affections must have ascendency over the evil and the spiritual over the animal, or happiness will never be won. The attainment of this celestial condition would improve our progeny, diminish crime, and give higher aims to ambition. Every valley of sin must be exalted, and every mountain of selfishness be brought low, that the highway of our God may be prepared in Science." (Science and Health, p. 61)
Sarah picked up on the fact that the teen needed help, and needed it fast. Being raised in the same camp with his baby brother wasn't bringing out the best in Ishmael. So Sarah pointed out the necessity for a big change. She insisted that Abraham force Hagar and her son to leave the family camp and find their way. I can't imagine it was an easy decision. They had a long history together as a family and she knew how much her husband loved his eldest son.
No doubt, here is where Sarah gets pegged as a wicked step-mother by some readers. Artists over the centuries have painted Sarah as cruelly turning her back on her stepson. But what happened next shows the contrary.
Abraham was grieved, terribly grieved, to have to let his oldest son go. But when he prayed, God told him that Sarah was right. She had perceived the step that was best for Ishmael - the need for a drastic redirection in his experience to assure he would grow up strong and ready to be the father of a nation. While Ishmael may never have acknowledged it, his step-mother's insight was essential to his progress.
Abraham obeyed God's command; and in the first days outside of the camp, Hagar and Ishmael had a life-changing, purpose-defining experience with God that would establish them both, mother and son, on solid spiritual ground.
Only love - a pure mother-love - could have perceived the need and courageously stood up for the progress of Ishmael.
Not all decisions in step-parenting are so heart-wrenching. But when they are, the success of a tough child-rearing decision is determined by the selflessness of the love of the parent, or step-parent, and the humble desire to bring out the best in, and for, the child.
Sarah loved her stepson. And that love opened a way for him to go forward to find and fulfill his unique mission.
"Gender balance and power – a spiritual discussion" - By Mark Sappenfield and Michelle Boccanfuso Nanouche
"From a record number of women in US Congress, to the Women’s March, to the #MeToo movement, balance of power is a topic that’s front and center these days. Today’s column is a podcast in which the editor of the Monitor speaks with a Christian Science practitioner and teacher about the impact an understanding of God can have on this subject." (The Christian Science Monitor's Christian Science Perspective Audio Edition for January 17, 2019)
As the much-loved Christmas account goes, a radiant star flickered persistently in the deep shade of night to guide the wise men to the baby Jesus.
We all need a guiding light when we find ourselves in a dark place, and Christian Science has shown me that we have one. It explains how turning to God in prayer can open us to the divine light of understanding that shows what God is and does for us. This spiritual light or divine enlightenment is the Christ, or Truth, that heals.
One Christmas I experienced the healing power of this guiding star – of God’s light of pure love leading to hope and healing. It was shortly after my first husband had passed on, and the weight of grief and deep sadness enveloped me. My future felt bleak and meaningless.
As midnight approached on Christmas Eve, I reached out with the deepest heartfelt longing for God to show me how to go forward. As I did, I felt the impetus to become completely still. In total silence I listened inwardly for a response. In this mental stillness, a shift occurred. Instead of pleading for help, I felt as if I was being filled with the spiritual light of divine Truth.
Christian Science also teaches that Truth, God, is divine Mind, the only true Mind of each of us, God’s spiritual creation. This Mind reflects in its creation all true thought, and God’s thoughts don’t include anguish and pain. Jeremiah, a Bible figure who glimpsed something of this, wrote, as The Jewish Publication Society’s 1917 version of the Hebrew Bible, Tanakh, puts it, “I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11).
As I considered these ideas in prayer, I realized that Mind, God, doesn’t fret and fear for me or any of His children. He already knows and gives each of us what is necessary for us to thrive.
Acknowledging God’s “thoughts of peace” toward me, I saw a future of good – of great possibilities of a new life full of love and fresh opportunities, because God is expressing His goodness in all His spiritual offspring, at every moment. I knew I could trust God to lead me forward, and I fell into a peaceful sleep. Upon waking on Christmas morning, I felt a clear sense of God’s love and guidance. The mental darkness was gone and didn’t return. I was healed.
In a Christmas message, Mary Baker Eddy, discoverer of Christian Science and founder of the Monitor, wrote, “The star that looked lovingly down on the manger of our Lord, lends its resplendent light to this hour: the light of Truth, to cheer, guide, and bless man as he reaches forth for the infant idea of divine perfection dawning upon human imperfection, – that calms man’s fears, bears his burdens, beckons him on to Truth and Love and the sweet immunity these bring from sin, sickness, and death” (“Miscellaneous Writings 1883-1896,” p. 320).
The radiant beams of divine Mind, God, are ever with us, bearing the good news that darkness has no real power to displace or repel the divine light of God’s goodness. May this guiding star light your way to peace and healing this Christmas season.
Read it on csmonitor.com
Delivered in The Mother Church, original edifice, on December 10, 2018.
Sponsored by First Church of Christ, Scientist, Dayton Beach, FL
I have practiced Christian Science professionally in
some form since 1979.
But my journey with
Christian Science started
in a Sunday school
where as a young child
I was taught the Scriptures and some simple basics
of Jesus' method of
scientific Christian healing.
A significant experience
at the age of twelve
opened my eyes to
the great potential
of this practice.
After impaling my foot
on a nail,
I prayed the way I had learned
in Sunday school.
the pain stopped
and healing began.
By the next morning the wound had disappeared completely.
the great potential
of Christian Science,
there would be no