“How does fear (and its related egotisms) hold you back from being your true and truly alive self and from sharing yourself and your gifts … and, with the knowledge that fear can sometimes be painfully extreme, are you ready for the heroic struggle (a battle royale) to overcome it and live beyond it?” (Jeff Goldblum, actor, Performances Magazine, October 2012).
Last year I was challenged by Goldblum’s rhetorical question in the theater program for the play Seminar. While it may not have been intended as a spiritual musing, my thought at that moment turned to something that was. It was a letter, attributed to St. Paul, to Timothy: “Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine” (II Timothy 4:2). According to The New Living Translation, “In season and out of season” translates as “at all times and at all places.” And Barnes Notes makes a significant addition, “ … whether it be convenient or not.”
In other words we need to be ready, whether it be convenient or not, to present what we know to be spiritually correct according to the truth taught by Christ Jesus, and do so as though it were an emergency (exhort). And we need to continue in this manner with the authority of law (doctrine). That, to me, is the “heroic struggle” which characterizes the way in which the spiritually inspired do the right thing for the right reason.
Knowing something is wrong and doing it anyway is what Psalm 19 refers to as “presumptuous” sin. However, it is equally presumptuous to know something is right and not do it. Perhaps it isn’t convenient, or maybe it’s a decision that will arouse criticism. Or maybe fear and its “related egotisms” cause us to shrink from the truthful, principled argument required at the moment.
When we humbly turn to God in prayer, inspiration appears at the time it’s most needed—and most needs to be heeded. Acting on inspiration is an essential element of all spiritual progress and healing. Unimpressed by popular opinion, human reasoning, and material evidence, the spiritually courageous obey Paul’s requirement to its fullest degree. We indeed overcome and live beyond the “battle royale.” Through prayer, we rise above the material evidence to declare and witness the spiritual identity of ourselves and others as God’s loved children. Referring to Second Corinthians ( 6:17), Mary Baker Eddy instructs us to “ … live under the constant pressure of the apostolic command to come out from the material world and be separate” (Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 451).
In both business situations and health matters I have had to choose between the spiritual perspective resulting from prayerful listening, versus human willfulness and expediency. The latter has never proved successful or a permanent answer in my experience. In humility I’ve needed to turn completely to God to find the answer that had always been waiting. On one occasion, I was the young president of a growing restaurant chain employing about 12,000 people, and I was needing to look for new ways to meet part-time hourly staffing needs. I looked to the developmentally disabled community as a source of manpower. I named the program “Hire and Higher” and employed a number of disabled individuals, only to learn that upon their earning more in wages than the threshold allowed (the amount below which they receive Medicaid payments), they were dropped from the system and lost thousands of dollars in benefits.
In humility I needed to turn completely to God to find the answer that had always been waiting.
How could that be? It seemed to me that if the threshold could be raised, we could turn tax takers into tax payers and provide mainstream employment to individuals heretofore relegated to sheltered workshops—and all without increasing governmental costs.
I had to resist the temptation mindlessly to accept the “law” as it stood and instead demonstrate the courage of my convictions. But wasn’t I just one person? What effect could I possibly have on the system? I appealed to our congressman, who understood the contradiction and encouraged me to talk to our senator. The project quickly evolved from my attempt to find affordable labor to challenging congressional labor policy.
I needed to transform my thinking from seeing government as a bureaucratic maze and from seeing the developmentally disabled as somehow incomplete—or worse—as victims—and myself as being intimidated. Mrs. Eddy once quoted the American abolitionist Wendell Phillips, when he said, “One with God is a majority” (Miscellaneous Writings 1883–1896, p. 245). This simple idea took the project out of my hands and put it into God’s.
I made the decision to go to Washington, DC, and speak to as many lawmakers as would listen. This was against the advice of many experts who assumed the task was impossible. Without any appointments I met with a number of my representatives in Congress, and, with the help of the Department of Health and Human Services, I was introduced to congressional staffers who specialized in this area of law.
They were actually encouraged that a lone employer with no political ties showed an interest in their work and was willing to get to the bottom of a problem they had long acknowledged. In the end, a single congressman agreed to sponsor a “demonstration project” (a temporary trial program) designed to raise the earnings threshold
to a level equal with that of a Social Security recipient. It turned out that this project had been sitting on a shelf in a staffer’s basement office just waiting for someone to offer up a “real world” need.
Once adopted, it allowed several hundred thousand people to join the ranks of the employed and be taken off the welfare rolls. About ten years later I was listening to the news on the car radio and heard the announcement that, after many extensions, our demonstration project had become permanent law. I pulled off to the side of the road, where I sat, a bit teary, in silent gratitude to God.
A verse from the Christian Science Hymnal sums up my experience:
Be firm and be faithful; desert not the right;
The brave become bolder the darker the night.
Then up and be doing, though cowards may fail;
Thy duty pursuing, dare all and prevail.
( No. 18)
Even in the depths of what looks like an impossible challenge—when we feel all is lost—we can rise above the fear, demonstrate divine Mind’s ever-present guidance, and rejoice in victory.
Ever know anyone who has failed a driving test? How about someone who failed a driving test twice? Three times? Four, five, six times? Well, greetings, now you do!
I’ve been driving for over 50 years. When I moved to England from the United States a few years ago, I was required to take a driving test, and I passed the written part with flying colors. When it came to the on-road test, though, about halfway through—each time—I’d hear the examiner say, “Excuse me, Mrs. Vincent, do you realize you’re driving on the wrong side of the road?”
Dejectedly and anxiously, I’d head back home and practice, practice, practice. My 50-year-old habit, my long-established driving reflexes, took over each time I’d get in the car with the examiner. Each time, without realizing it, all of a sudden I was driving on the right hand side of the road when I should have been on the left. After all, driving on the right, back in the US, was what I’d done all my life.
I finally did get my driving license in England, and now I keep to the left, but it takes constant thoughtfulness and alertness. Thankfully, it’s working, and I drive freely in England now. (OK, fine, parking lots—excuse me, the British say “car parks”—are still particularly tricky!)
Over the years I’ve pondered lifelong habits, lifelong beliefs, which we may need to be alert to, and which we may need to challenge or change. A popular saying, variously attributed to Gandhi, Gibran, The Talmud, Lao Tse, Frank Outlaw, and others, reads:
“Watch your thoughts; they become your words.
Watch your words; they become your actions.
Watch your actions; they become your habits.
Watch your habits; they become your character.
Watch your character; it becomes your destiny.”
It is well to watch our thoughts, especially long-held thoughts. Mary Baker Eddy writes in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, “Stand porter at the door of thought” ( p. 392). Challenging lifelong beliefs and habits, and even our own sense of personality and identity, can be a profitable thing to do.
For example, when I was eight years old, a required, routine tuberculosis skin test proved positive. About ten times since then, at various times throughout my life, required skin tests for TB also proved positive. Each time I then had to have a chest X-ray, which always showed that there was no evidence of any active tuberculosis. I was always given a certificate to confirm that I was not contagious. No treatment was ever recommended nor was any follow-up required.
But several years ago, I applied to join the Peace Corps (while I still lived in the US). I knew I would have to take a TB skin test again—and if it was positive, I would be required to get treatment before I could join the Peace Corps. However, I decided that the test didn’t have to prove positive, no matter how many times it had in the past. I could “stand porter at the door of thought,” as Mrs. Eddy says. After making that statement, she goes on to say, “Admitting only such conclusions as you wish realized in bodily results, you will control yourself harmoniously.”
We should demand more than a counterfeit version of ourselves, and insist upon a higher, more truthful model.
I pondered what had become a lifelong “habit”—expecting a particular medical result—and prayed to know that the results of the skin tests had never been part of my real being. My being was pure, wholly good, Godlike—in short, spiritual, not material.
By the time I had the test, I wasn’t at all surprised that the result was negative, and I didn’t have to get any treatment. (For the full testimony, see The Christian Science Journal, July 2007.)
This incident showed me that we can, and should, challenge lifelong beliefs about ourselves that don’t serve us well. How? One place we might begin is with the first tenet of Christian Science. It reads: “As adherents of Truth, we take the inspired Word of the Bible as our sufficient guide to eternal Life” (Science and Health, p. 497).
Pondering the “inspired Word” of the Bible helps me find a spiritual meaning behind Bible stories, which in turn gives me a more inspired sense of myself. For example, the first chapter of Genesis, the story of creation, helps me identify my family tree—knowing that God is my Father-Mother, who made creation perfect, who made it not only good, but “very good” ( Genesis 1:31).
The second chapter of Genesis reads like a counterfeit of the first chapter. It’s full of mystery, and it’s wholly material in declaring that creation comes from dust. For me, this false, counterfeit version of creation only points to the truth, the reality, of the first chapter of Genesis. As “adherents of Truth,” you and I shouldn’t be satisfied with this false record of creation, or with anything that isn’t Truth. We should demand more than a counterfeit version of ourselves, and insist upon a higher, more truthful model of who we are.
If we ever hear ourselves saying, “Yes, but …” or, “All my life I’ve … ,” which is then followed by a less than perfect description of ourselves, we can, and should, challenge that saying. Anything that does not identify us as the perfect child of God, the one created in the first chapter of Genesis, should be challenged and denied.
This takes practice, constant thoughtfulness, and alertness, just like driving. But that practice, that devotion, that change in thought, can change one’s entire path in life, bringing harmony, abundance, peace, and health.
Sometimes it may seem
that we are forced (or led) into situations that may cause us to feel out of our element or comfort zone. This can often be good, as we have an opportunity to embrace new things and are challenged to grow. Other times it can seem frightening and cause us to feel uncertain about ourselves and doubt if we are up to the task. But can we really ever be separated from God or lack anything? No, not for an instant, because either God is all-presence and all-power, or He is not.
Once we come face to face with this realization, the butterflies, fear, or nervous sweat stops, and we are brought into alignment with Mind, which informs us of what we need to know in a current situation; with Principle, which guides us and keeps us safe; with Soul, which enlightens us with the perfect qualities and ideas we need to express in this new situation; with Truth, which informs us with right thinking and acting; with Life, which invigorates and energizes us; with Spirit, which gives us strength; and with Love, which provides comfort and compassion to handle any situation we face. These seven synonyms, or names, for God help define God for us in those tough moments and bring a calmness to the situation.
When I was a college sophomore, I decided to transfer because of my major, from a smaller nurturing college in Illinois, which I loved, to a larger more diverse university in Virginia. I had been there only a few weeks when a growth appeared on my neck. I had just had Christian Science class instruction the summer before, and I prayed as I had been taught to do. The growth became noticeable and alarming to my roommates despite my best efforts to conceal it. My parents came to visit me and thought it was best to bring me home. My father suggested that perhaps we should see a doctor at the university that I was attending, which was well known for its medical facilities. After we’d seen numerous specialists, no conclusions were reached, although surgery was suggested as an option.
We thanked them, went home, and engaged a Christian Science practitioner. She visited me several times. This time at home provided a quiet oasis in which to pray. Some of the thoughts that came to me suggested that I had made a mistake in transferring to this university. I was required to take a health class, and the one in which I was enrolled was very medically oriented in describing diseases. I felt so out of my comfort zone that I wrote out Christian Science treatments and prayers during class to fill my thought with spiritual ideas instead of these maladies.
I knew that as long as God was a palpable presence in my life every moment, it didn’t matter what I was doing or where I was working.
Although the university to which I’d transferred was highly thought of, it also had a reputation as a party school, and weekends were sometimes wild. In fact, there were often bottles and cups sprinkled across the lawn of the church I attended—evidence of parties the night before. Once again, the suggestion of being out of my element reared its head and said I’d made a mistake in leaving my former college.
One night when I could no longer take the pressure from the growth on my neck, I read a sentence in Mary Baker Eddy’s Unity of Good, which changed the way I was thinking in a split second. It reads, “The true man, really saved, is ready to testify of God in the infinite penetration of Truth, and can affirm that the Mind which is good, or God, has no knowledge of sin” ( p. 2). It was the sureness of this statement that made me feel the closeness of Truth and my at-one-ment with Jesus’ declaration, “I and my Father are one” ( John 10:30). And I knew that not only was this true for me, but for all the students on that campus.
That night, the growth drained. What I felt was an indescribable, crystal purity, and a sureness of my inseparability from God. I went back to school, was able to drop the health class, and happily finished my degree a year later.
Fast forward many years. After raising three children and enjoying a successful career in education, I found myself transplanted into a new career that seemed totally out of my element. I left a position at a university and joined the Executive Staff in Counterterrorism Division with a government agency in Washington, DC, soon after 9/11. Although I felt I could offer something in this position, I was in a state of shell shock from the events of 9/11 the first weeks and months in the new job.
Sure of God’s perfect plan for me, around the same time I accepted election as First Reader in my church. It was evident to me that I needed the reading in church to help me with this job. I felt so out of my comfort zone that I literally ran to my Bible and the writings of Mrs. Eddy each morning before I left for work, and often spent my lunch hour in a nearby Christian Science Reading Room. Needless to say, I had many topics to choose from for Wednesday night readings!
Through the help of a church member, I met a colleague who worked at the same place as I. Her words rang like an angel message that woke me to what I needed to see. She said, “You have an opportunity to make a difference in this organization at a time when they really need someone like you.” Her message made me turn directly to God because I knew there was nothing I could do personally for this agency. It was only God who would lead me to do the right thing.
As it turned out, I was able to use my education background to initiate new ideas and develop a range of learning opportunities for this agency. I grew to appreciate and love the people I was working with. I no longer felt separated from God because I knew that I was united with my Father-Mother God every moment of every day. I knew that as long as God was a palpable presence in my life every moment, it didn’t matter what I was doing or where I was working—I was witnessing God doing the work. What a joy this was! Instead of feeling doubtful and out of my element in a new situation, I felt comforted and assured that I could never be separated from Mind, Principle, Soul, Life, Truth, or Love.
And now, when feelings come suggesting that once again I might be out of my comfort zone, they trigger in me the next thought—there is no situation out of God’s control, and, therefore, I cannot be out of control, either. I love the statement from Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures where Mrs. Eddy says, “You command the situation if you understand that mortal existence is a state of self-deception and not the truth of being” ( p. 403).
We are assured that our tender loving Father has already been there before us and is leading us each step of the way, because it is God who guides every event of our careers and brings us into our comfort zone.
Recently, I was in a bind. I was late leaving the house because my dog had dawdled on her walk, and it looked as if there was no way I would be at my next destination in time. Frustrated, I decided to challenge this circumstance through prayer. My desire to be prompt was a good one, as was my patience with the dog. I reasoned that both desires were intelligent, and therefore their source was God, or Mind. And if I accepted the premise that God governs His universe of intelligent ideas in harmony, then I must also admit that those ideas do not conflict.
Embracing this line of thought as I drove to my appointment, I rejected the temptation to speed and to cut off a slower vehicle at a light. Promptness, patience, courtesy, and obedience to the law are all intelligent qualities and therefore must work together to produce good results. Instead of looking at the clock in the car, I mentally insisted that God was in control of His universe, including my tiny corner of it, and that I moved according to His timetable. I arrived at my destination two minutes early.
This small experience has stayed with me. It impressed on me the value of checking my attitude frequently and letting it be reshaped, moment by moment, with what I understand to be in line with divine Principle, God. In his letter to the early Christians in Rome, the Apostle Paul put it this way: “Don’t let the world around you squeeze you into its own mould, but let God re-make you so that your whole attitude of mind is changed” (Romans 12:2, J. B. Phillips, The New Testament in Modern English, Revised Edition).
Mary Baker Eddy describes what was at work at the heart of my experience in her groundbreaking book Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures: “Belief in a material basis, from which may be deduced all rationality, is slowly yielding to the idea of a metaphysical basis, looking away from matter to Mind as the cause of every effect” ( p. 268).
By my challenging material circumstances with higher spiritual law, what looked like an unavoidable negative outcome—arriving late to where I was headed—never materialized.
More than 2,000 years ago, Christ Jesus challenged material circumstances with God’s law and taught his followers to do so as well. How else could Paul have shaken off a poisonous viper (see Acts 28:3–5) or Peter walked out of a well-guarded prison (see Acts 12:1–11)?
I am learning that you don’t have to be a Bible prophet to apply divine laws to your daily life and to experience improvements. Each of us can begin today to mentally challenge the myriad assumptions imposed on us by the world, whether it be the limitations of time, the stress of circumstances, or a negative medical prognosis. We can even challenge any mental darkness that tries to threaten world peace.
“Instead of blind and calm submission to the incipient or advanced stages of disease, rise in rebellion against them,” writes Eddy (Science and Health, p. 391). In the degree we challenge the “dis-ease” of material circumstances, letting Christ re-make our attitude, we experience better health, greater peace, more joy, and maybe … we even arrive where we’re going two minutes early.
—Robin Engel, Canyon Lake, Texas, US
Mary Baker Eddy states in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, “Christ’s Christianity is the chain of scientific being reappearing in all ages, maintaining its obvious correspondence with the Scriptures and uniting all periods in the design of God” ( p. 271). Have you ever wondered about this “design”?
As a mechanical engineer, I often write design specifications. A product’s specifications encompass the full nature and essence of that unique product. They outline requirements of what can and cannot be included in the creation of the object to ensure that it is of equal quality to the original design. Once manufacturing is complete, the product will perform according to specifications. This is not because of a set of rules or laws imposed on the product after the fact, but because specific qualities and functionality were built in by design.
So I wondered, what do the Scriptures say about the “specifications” for God’s design of His idea, man? In Genesis 1, we learn that God not only made everything good, but that man is made in God’s image, after His likeness ( verses 26, 27). Recently, I came across another unique set of specifications in the Bible— Exodus, chapter 20, verses 3–17. I know what you’re probably thinking. Doesn’t everyone know the Ten Commandments, and that they are the laws of God which He requires man to abide by? Yes, that is one way to read them. But they can also be seen as depicting man’s true nature and essence as created in God’s image, and as subject to God’s unchanging law and care.
Similar to the language of the Ten Commandments, when engineers write specifications, there are two common phrases used to ensure that all requirements are met. These terms are “shall” and “shall not.” For example, specifications for a bicycle frame might require that “the frame shall be constructed of double butted chromoly steel tubing,” or it might specify that the complete bike “shall not weigh more than 18 pounds.” This language guarantees that these specifications are built into the product and are not subject to change or deviation.
God’s design for His creation is established before we even see our day unfold.
The First Commandment in the Bible specifies, “Thou shalt have no other gods before me” ( Exodus 20:3). How do I know this is a specification? Because it contains a form of the auxiliary verb shall. In this case it is the “shalt have no.” To me, it means that God created man without the nature or capability to worship other gods. Or to put it in the positive, man’s spiritual nature is to worship the one and only, God. According to this first specification, no other possibility is allowed.
The Second Commandment further specifies that God’s man is created without the ability to make graven images or to worship false deities. God gives His creation the ability to discern the difference between Truth and error, and to avoid the pitfalls of worshipping false gods. Man’s ability to choose how to worship is not limited, but rather God blesses man with the understanding that there is no value in worshipping false gods.
As we go through the Commandments, we learn just how complete God’s design is. For example, we read about the “Sabbath,” and this means that God gives us the time to rest and commune with Him and not be distracted (see Exodus 20:8). With the command “Thou shalt not kill” ( Exodus 20:13), we see that man is created without the ability to harm, hurt, or destroy any of God’s creation.
To me, the specification that man shall not commit adultery is truly amazing. I tend to look at this specification in a much broader spectrum. The word adultery comes from the word to adulterate which means “to make impure.” Using this definition, we begin to see that man is made pure in nature and essence—not just free from sexual immorality, but from all forms of adulteration which would try to limit man from receiving and expressing God’s love. In God’s image, man is made free from immorality, addiction, hate, dishonesty, pride, and anything else that would adulterate his purity.
The Commandments further specify that God designed His children not to steal, covet, or bear false witness against their neighbors (see Exodus 20:15–17). This is because every need of man has already been supplied by God. As the Apostle Paul explains later in the Bible, “My God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus” ( Philippians 4:19). And part of that supply includes the ability to see God’s creation accurately. God blesses man with ability to see all of creation in its infinite, spiritual glory, beauty, and grandeur. This complete supply eliminates any possibility for man to be dissatisfied with God’s creation.
These specifications can be a useful tool with which to start the day in prayer because they acknowledge our perfection as God’s children. God’s design for His creation is established before we even see our day unfold. Sometimes it feels easier said than done, but we really don’t need to try to control our day because each aspect of our lives is as God designed it.
I often use the Commandments to help me understand how to see not only myself, but everyone I interact with as under God’s loving care. Whenever I’m presented with a situation where it seems as if man has qualities that do not meet these specifications, I look back at the Commandments, acknowledge God’s perfect design, and pray to align my thought with this spiritual truth. This allows me to be open to seeing God’s creation as He sees it. Striving to better understand that God created all His children never to deviate from their innate perfection opens thought to see that we are lovingly, divinely “engineered,” made to our Creator’s exact specifications.
“The moment we get tired in the waiting, God’s Spirit is right alongside
helping us along. If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t
matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our
wordless sighs, our aching groans. He knows us far better than we know
ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before
God. That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love
for God is worked into something good” (Romans 8:26–28, Eugene
Peterson, The Message).
1.The act or state of sticking, or being united and attached to; as the
adhesion of glue, or of parts united by growth, cement, and the like.
2. adherence, union or steady attachment; firmness in opinion
1.The act of sticking together; the state of being united by natural
attraction, as the constituent particles of bodies which unite in a
mass, by a natural tendency; one of the different species of attraction.
2. Connection; dependence; as the cohesion of ideas. But in this sense, see Coherence.
1.The power in bodies which is supposed to draw them together; or the
tendency or principle which inclines them to unite or cohere; called by
This power, principle or tendency in bodies to unite, is distinguished by philosophers into attraction of gravity or gravitation
2. The act of attracting; the effect of the principle of attraction.
Attraction may be performed by impulse or other means.
3. The power or act of alluring, drawing to, inviting or engaging; as the attraction of beauty or eloquence.
1.To draw to; to cause to move towards, and unite with; as, electrical
bodies attract straws, and light substances, by physical laws.
2. To draw to or incline to unite with though some cause may prevent the union; as, the sun is supposed to attract the planets.
3. To draw by influence of a moral kind; to invite or allure; as, to attract admirers.
4. To engage; as, to attract attention.
"The material so called gases and forces are counterfeits of the spiritual
forces of divine Mind, whose potency is Truth, whose attraction is Love,
whose adhesion (to unite) and cohesion (to connect) are Life, perpetuating the eternal facts of being." (SH 293:13-16)
“adhesion, cohesion” are adjectives which how God gently draws, attracts us to
Him, divine Life. Material gases and forces don’t have any power to
attract because they don’t have any actual reality. This passage under
the marginal heading “All force mental” helps with the explanation. (by D.H.)
“Adhesion (to unite), cohesion (to connect), and attraction (to draw, to engage) are properties of Mind. They belong to divine Principle, and support the equipoise (equilibrium) of that thought-force, which launched the earth in its orbit and said to the proud wave, "Thus far and no farther."”
“What we most need is the prayer of fervent desire for growth in grace,
expressed in patience, meekness, love, and good deeds” (SH p. 4
“The habitual struggle to be always good is unceasing prayer.” (SH p. 4
“The highest prayer is not one of faith merely; it is demonstration” (Science and Health, p. 16
Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion;
shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh unto thee:
he is just, and having salvation.