Thursday, January 17, 2013

My Friend Moved Away


My  good friend David moved away this week.   I was really surprised, shocked actually.  I just had lunch with him last Thursday and he didn't mention that he was leaving.  It was so like David to just quietly slip out of town.

I will sure miss meeting him for lunch or seeing him around town.   He got around, that guy.  I could always count on finding David at a luncheon meeting spot, usually arriving  ahead of me, most likely leaning up against a doorjamb over in the corner someplace with that wry smile on his face, maybe a little rumpled looking,  looking sort of lost in a  heavy plaid over shirt, a real comfortable looking guy.  David was always ready to talk politics, a dear subject for him, or share a story, a joke and most likely a PUN deftly inserted into the conversation.  I’ll miss all of that now that he’s left town.

Oh, the newspaper will probably run an obituary with his name over it. It will describe his successful career and interests and tell a little about wife Kelly and his family.  But it would not be possible in a brief write up to tell of the humanity, the sense of humor, the wisdom, the depth of thought and the originality of this dear guy.

What has helped me so much in situations like this is an experience I had some years ago. I was sometimes called upon to perform funeral services in several funeral homes around my small town in Massachusetts.

Sitting in the “pastor’s room”  at the funeral home on this early afternoon, I could hear the sad dirge playing in the chapel, even surrounded as I was by  heavy red curtains that lined the small closet like room furnished with a comfortable chair, a  kneeling alter and dim lighting.  I could feel the downward pull, the emotional drain pulling at me.  Someone had passed away.  The room was  dripping with sorrow.  

As I waited in this room for the time to enter into the chapel, I had been praying to feel God’s presence, for comfort for the family and friends, for guidance,  remembering Jesus’ counsel that if we follow his leading, accept his understanding of Life, we shall not see death.   As we all do, I sought to more fully understand his assertion and promise  that Life is eternal, that death is a lie, and the father of lies;  that evil and “the world” tries to close our eyes to health, prosperity, God’s goodness, which is ever present and available.

As I glanced up I happened to noticed that the heavy red velvet curtain covering the walls was partially open, some type of wire showing.  That’s when curiosity got the best of me.   I just had to see what was behind that red curtain. I pulled it back slowly and noticed that the back wall was completely covered with electronic devices, the sound system and wiring, a lighting panel, switches and dials, all hidden behind the curtain... like the wizard of OZ. 

Strengthened by this “uncovering”, this revelation of how we can so easily be pulled down mentally,  how truth of our life as spirit can be conveniently hidden behind a cloak of matter,  I became alert!!!   Reminded of how through the centuries the mortal, material scene has always tried  to drag us down, to discourage, to frighten, to depress, to lull us into a sense of loss, sorrow, despair and helplessness,  the loss of our friend's daily presence was enough, it needed no added weight of gravity.

Grateful for this uncovering of the subtle methods of the  material-based "sin, disease and death" thinking that we face every day,  I prayed more in earnest for the world to begin to see the light shining in the darkness.  Walking down the aisle to the podium to give the service, I could actually feel the mood of the attendees lifting.    


And he came and touched the bier: and they that bare him stood still. And he said, Young man, I say unto thee, Arise.       And he that was dead sat up, and began to speak. And he delivered him to his mother.   *1

Religious pioneer and dedicated follower of Jesus teachings, Mary Baker Eddy noted:
In the illusion of  death, mortals wake to the knowledge of two facts:
(1) that they are not dead;
(2) that they have but passed the portals of a new belief.
Truth works out the nothingness of error in just these ways.   Sickness, as well as sin, is an error that Christ, Truth, alone can destroy.    *2

For David, I want to share one last thought in his memory,    I read this last night in The Message translation of the Holy Bible.   This is sort of the inspiration we discussed during lunch  last week,  the excitement of the people who actually were with Jesus and knew him and his work, this is the excitement that we too can and should have as we follow his teaching and example:

Disciple John is speaking: From the very first day, we were there, taking it all in—we heard it with our own ears, saw it with our own eyes, verified it with our own hands. The Word of Life appeared right before our eyes; we saw it happen! And now we’re telling you in most sober prose that what we witnessed was, incredibly, this: The infinite Life of God himself took shape before us.
We saw it, we heard it, and now we’re telling you so you can experience it along with us, this experience of communion with the Father and his Son, Jesus Christ. Our motive for writing is simply this: We want you to enjoy this, too. Your joy will double our joy!     *3

Here’s the hymn from our Hymnal that goes with it...

O come and find, the Spirit saith,
The Truth that maketh all men free.
The world is sad with dreams of death.
Lo, I am Life, come unto Me.
   *4


1.     Luke 7:11-152.      Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures – Mary Baker Eddy   2513.      I John 1:1-24.      Christian Science Hymnal  188 

Saturday, January 12, 2013

AMOS & ANDY - and the BIG PRINT


Years ago, watching television shows in the fledgling industry was such a treat.  We were blessed with such good programs,  clean, solid entertainment It seems that today even with hundreds of channels, the viewing selection is limited if you have had enough killing, crime and brutality just from watching the evening news. 

60 Years "On the Air" Amos and Andy
In those earlier day I enjoyed shows such as Amos and Andy.  That program, a wonderful comedy series with such talented professionals,  was set in Harlem, New York and focused on the scheming, conniving, and plotting life of George (Kingfish) Stevens, who had a knack for looking for fast and easy ways to make money.    The other main characters included his Lodge brothers, Amos, a na├»ve but honest, hard-working family man, and Andy, a self-assured dreamer with somewhat overinflated self-confidence.   

Stevens got his nickname, “Kingfish” from his position as leader of the Mystic Knights of the Sea Lodge.    Kingfish was always either trying to lure the other two into get-rich-quick schemes, especially the gullible Andy, or else tricking Andy into some kind of trouble.,  Other brothers included Algonquin J. Calhoun, the animated and colorful attorney-at-law who had his hands full defending – and sometime joining – the Kingfish’s antics and scores of fizzled schemes.

Andy, Kingfish and Amos
While many of the plots did contain, very obvious to even this young viewer, ingenious crooked or underhanded dealings, generally by the slick Kingfish, the viewer was able to see through the larceny, comedy and hilarious situations to the underlying lessons to be learned.   Kingfish and his schemes always backfired and what seemed like good, but somewhat devious ideas had their inevitable failure and humiliation for Kingfish. 

Algonquin J. Calhoun, Attorney
Lessons learned through comedy have always seemed to stay with me longer than others because I have a tendency to remember funny things.   One example from that show, in a scene that has remained with me for years, Attorney Algonquin J. Calhoun was counseling Kingfish about a contract about to be signed.  He said, “Be careful of this contract Kingfish, they give it to you in the BIG PRINT and the small print takes it away.”

What a great warning!!  Isn’t that a STATEMENT OF FACT, a perfect description of the illusory nature of mortal, material existence?     How life tries to fool us into believing the “something for nothing” lie, falling for the deceiving belief of happiness in material things, money, status, lottery, fame, wealth, self-indulgence. 



Recent stories of lottery winners, competitive bicyclists, baseball stars, concert artists, Hollywood personalities, financial kingpins and even government officials, whose popularity was heralded in the BIG PRINT of the media, accounts of exceptional accomplishment and victory, have fallen to the small print section of financial ruin, humiliation and personal shame. 

And... who among us has not been fooled by BIG PRINT thinking and acting in our own lives?

My old guidebook, the Bible, has given some examples that prove the BIG PRINT-small print story is not a new phenomenon.   I suspect the aforementioned Algonquin J. Calhoun was a Bible reader himself, based on the sound advice he gave to Kingfish.

In one instance, Jesus related to his disciples the story of a young man, called ever after “The Prodigal Son”, who was so tempted by the Big Print, the thrill of life far away from home, the allure of distant places, seeking his own riches, that he took his portion of his inheritance and  left home and family.   He soon discovered that all of those Big Print items didn’t pan out.  He ended up spending all of his fortune, only to end up working hard in the grain fields and eating with the hogs, trying to find enough to eat.  He finally gave up that life and returned home to the welcoming arms of his father when he realized that he had been better off at home where even the servants had plenty to eat. 

In this simple analogy, Jesus was pointing out the parallel of leaving the security of God’s guidance, comfort and care, and striking out for parts unknown, the allure of sensuality, affairs, dishonesty, immoral living, the plethora of things that promise but don’t deliver. 

As a perfect example of a perfect example, Jesus himself wasn’t fooled by the BIG PRINT promises.  When tempting thoughts came to him when he was alone in the wilderness praying, thoughts characterized as coming from the (D)evil, that evil influence that comes to our thought, suggestions that he could fling himself unhurt from the top of the temple, turn stones into bread to feed himself, or even inherit all of the world and its riches, if only Jesus would bow down to evil, as if the Devil really could deliver anything!!!!   Jesus didn’t fall for the Big Print.  And the Devil, his BIG PRINT promises ignored and shunned, disappeared without a trace.  The lesson is that EVIL CAN’T deliver happiness, wealth, security or happiness. 

That experience in the wilderness proved Jesus knew about the allure of the BIG PRINT and the resulting small print.     Speaking to a group of followers he said: Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.  *

Family Closeness Time
When I hear of talented college athletes delaying big salary sports contracts to stay in college, instances of professionals leaving high pressure, high paying positions to take jobs which give them more time to enjoy the closeness of their children and family, fun jobs,  they have always wanted to do, it is encouraging. 

More and more we see the wisdom of Mary Baker Eddy’s observation that:  “Beauty, wealth, or fame is incompetent to meet the demands of the affections, and should never weigh against the better claims of intellect, goodness, and virtue. Happiness is spiritual, born of Truth and Love. It is unselfish; therefore it cannot exist alone, but requires all mankind to share it.**


Love and Caring
Trading the BIG PRINT allure for the simple pleasures that come through following God's leading, loving and forgiving each other,   with a selfless caring, provides full time employment!  Offer a smile and helping hand to someone today.   And be a small print person!!

Be sure to watch every day for more lessons like this one that we learned from Amos and Andy!!  

*   Matthew 7
** Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy  page 57

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

The Closet and the Motorcycle


I admire people that can pray extemporaneously and uplift the listeners, but when I am asked to give the blessing, or an audible prayer in a group setting,  I almost always invite everyone to join me in the Lord’s Prayer, that wonderful gift from Jesus that covers all our needs for God's blessings, putting the prayer in his words and getting me out of the way. 

To me prayer is a silent, solitary thing, a close communion with the Divine Mind, a very private, heart to heart connection, a "privileged communication" in today’s legal jargon. Jesus told his followers to pray in secret. He counseled not to make a big show of praying,
 
“But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly” and… “your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him.” *



The Quiet Closet... Birds Optional


"Closet prayer", earnestly communing with God in the privacy of our own thoughts, working to silence the material senses, shutting out the clanging bells of worry and concern, silencing the ceaseless demands of the world to “conform” and to accept the mortal view of a temporary life experience  is healing in and of itself.

This quote from the chapter on Prayer in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures*, a book used by many as a companion to the Bible while delving into the deep spiritual message the Bible gives us, says, speaking of “the closet” referred to by Jesus, “The closet typifies the sanctuary of Spirit, the door of which shuts out sinful sense but lets in Truth, Life, and Love. To enter into the heart of prayer, the door of the erring senses must be closed. Lips must be mute and materialism silent, that man may have audience with Spirit, the divine Principle, Love, which destroys all error”. **

Even though the closet Jesus describes is a quiet mental place, a place where we can enter, shut the door and be in God’s presence, it doesn’t mean a small cloakroom with a dim light!!!   It can be anywhere as long as you are alone with God's thoughts. Jesus often went up into a mountainside or desert place to be in his "closet", but for me it can even be on a motorcycle.

Recently I had a very painful condition in my foot. It had been bothering me for weeks and it was at the point where I could hardly walk. I had prayed to see myself as God’s perfect reflection, remembering Jesus statement  
"Be Ye therefore perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect."*  But the pain persisted.    This day it was really troubling me and today was the day that I was scheduled to be at a Pet Adoption event about 60 miles away.

It was a beautiful sunny day and I decided to ride my motorcycle.  All the way to the event my foot was painful and I questioned the wisdom of making the trip as I was becoming concerned. I did manage to work at the event for several hours, sitting down as often as I could. Finally the pain was really getting to me so I started for home. 

Now riding a motorcycle can be a perfect “closet”  scene. The sun was shining, the air warm, the motor was throbbing, I relaxed into that state of mind that maybe only motorcyclists can understand and appreciate. In the closet of thought, alone with God in my consciousness, I reached out for healing, expressed my love for the day, for the wonderful dogs and cats we had taken, my appreciation for the people who were working the event,  the kind people who came to look at the animals, and for PetSmart who let us hold the event at their store. 

As I rode down the interstate I remembered a meaningful quote from Science and Health.  The quotation said:      "If we look to the body for pleasure, we find pain; for Life, we find death; for Truth, we find error; for Spirit, we  find its opposite, matter. Now reverse this action.   Look away from the body into Truth and Love, the Principle of all happiness, harmony, and  immortality. Hold thought steadfastly to the enduring, the good, and the true, and you will bring these into your experience proportionably to their occupancy of your thoughts." **


Encouraged by those words,  I acknowledged that as God's image and likeness I was a spiritual idea, that matter and foot had nothing to do with my happiness or well being. My heart was overwhelmed, filled with gratitude and Love for Life and life’s lessons, , I was steeped in a sense of peace and oneness with the Father, feeling in harmony with God’s universe and knowing that “All is Well”.

I soon arrived at home, got off of the bike, completely healed. The pain never returned. I will never forget that simple example of being in the closet, feeling God’s presence, experiencing the Love and caring, and walking away free.

Another example of how God's presence brings healing to our daily lives.

* The Bible - Matthew 5

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Ike and the Final Approach


Driving across Kansas is a wonderful experience, no matter the weather or time of year. We’ve made the trip from our North Georgia mountains home to Boulder Colorado a number of times and I always look forward to that leg of the trip, driving through Kansas.   

We always drive, not wanting to fly over this wonderful land thereby missing all of the breathtaking views, the interesting sites, and the people along the way. The long expanses of prairie and farmland, the majestic wind turbines turning slowly atop the higher ridges, the intriguing silos way off in the distance, eagles perched on posts along the highway, sometimes a large number of eagles congregating together like attendees at a convention, and to me a feeling, maybe strange to others, the comfort of the loneliness of the expanse, the feeling of God’s presence, seeing that faraway point on the horizon where earth meets sky, heaven meeting earth.

But one of my favorite stops along the road is Abilene, Kansas, the site of the Dwight Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum. 

On a recent trip we included in our travel plans time to stop by and visit this wonderful facility. On this afternoon we pulled in to the parking lot and entered into the reception lobby of the museum.  There weren’t many visitors in the lobby area and we looked around at the items for sale, a typical museum venue with items of interest, trinkets, all the usual things.

I approached the ticket window and the lady told me the tickets to the museum were $9 each.   I was surprised since I felt like I was visiting an old friend and being asked to pay to get into the parlor.

As I took a step back and looked searchingly at the lady, my wife, a veteran of my talking to anyone and everyone, whether I know them or not, and having somewhat less of a forward (pushy) personality, took several cautious steps backward,  turned and fled to the safety of the postcard rack. Why, I was just beginning. I felt it was indeed necessary to let this lady know that while General Eisenhower was a boyhood hero, President Eisenhower was my Commander-in-Chief, someone who counted on me,  that I even had his life in my professional care at one time.   She gave me a quizzical, somewhat disinterested look but I continued, as is my habit.

 Well, I told her the straight scoop, how on a blustery night in the middle of winter in the late 1950s, the President was flying to Europe for a meeting. I was then stationed at Harmon Air Force Base in Newfoundland, serving as an air traffic controller. During those times passenger aircraft were propeller driven and Newfoundland was a common stopover point for refueling on trips from the United States to Europe. We were very busy and the dicey weather kept air traffic controllers very busy.

On this particular night the conditions were pretty treacherous. There was a high wind blowing with  heavy snow, visibility was very limited and runways were snow-covered and slippery, braking action nil, not a great night, even for the occasional moose that wandered  out of the woods just off the runway.

We knew that Air Force One was on its way and we were watching the weather carefully.

PRECISION RADAR SHOWS
GLIDE SLOPE AND CENTERLINE
Just past midnight, Colonel Draper, the pilot of the Columbine,  Ike’s plane, the Presidential Air Force One of that day, made contact with Harmon Approach Control.   On this night I was working as the Final Controller, that position in Ground Controlled Approach that "talks the pilot down" in inclement weather.  The controller picks up an aircraft on radar at about 10 miles out on final approach, then guides the plane, keeping it on the extended runway centerline and on the radar indicated "glide path", advising the pilot to increase or decrease the rate of descent or to correct left or right as we call off the mile markers. My voice might have been a little shaky,  feeling the weight of responsibility, talking down the President of the United States in this weather, as I spoke into the microphone, "Air Force One, Final Controller, how do you read me?"    Col. Draper was the best of the best and together we brought that Super Constellation in like it was on a wire!!    

I was ecstatic when, after parking the Columbine, that beautiful big Super Constellation, just outside of our Radar Approach Control Center, Colonel Draper actually came in and thanked us for a great approach. I asked if the President was coming in and Col. Draper started laughing,  and maybe due to the relief of pressure after that "hairy" landing,  he could hardly stop laughing!!  He finally calmed down and  advised that the President was sleeping soundly aboard the aircraft and he would not be coming in to see me.  Me, the naive nineteen year old airman with the red face.


When things settled down it was nearly  2 o’clock in the morning,  the wind was howling, the blizzard was in full force and it was cold, and  I mean cold, I put on my parka and went outside.   The Columbine was parked there on the ramp, just outside the facility.   Of course the plane was surrounded by armed air police so I stood back a little way and looked up at the aircraft's windows where the President was probably sleeping.  I came to attention, saluted, and talking softly to myself thanked him for all that he had done for our country during the war, for his steadfast courage and selfless contribution, and also for his service as President of the United States. I told him I was proud to be under his command.   After my solemn salute I returned back to the warmth of the building.  

Back at the Museum, as I finished my story, the lady behind the counter was looking at me with rapt attention, her mouth moving wordlessly, probably unconsciously.    I said quietly, "Ma'am, I just wanted you to know that I know quite a bit about President Eisenhower."

The lady looked at me respectfully, maybe brushing a tear from her eye… she said softly, “Sir, that’s all very interesting but the tickets will still be nine dollars each.”  My wife who, feeling the end of the story was near, had returned, whispered, “Nice going McGee!!!”   That’s my middle name and serves as a nickname when sarcasm is in order.

As we entered the museum it was eye-opening to see the memorabilia of Ike’s progress through his career leading to his eventual position as Supreme Allied Commander and then President of the United States.

Ike was a great General, a brilliant tactician, and  he was a humble man, unassuming, an officer that a military man can look up to with respect.   One example of his integrity is how he took responsibility for his own actions, never blaming others.  On the eve of the crucial D-Day invasion which was to deliver the final blow to the war in Europe, a battle that was so crucial and yet could go either way, Ike wrote two statements.  Not knowing what would happen, but very concerned, he prepared one statement claiming victory and giving credit to his officers and the allied forces for all their work in bringing about the victory. The second statement, written in the event of the unthinkable, the defeat of the allied armies on these beaches at Normandy, placed all of the blame for defeat upon himself and his decisions.   Quite a contrast with some of the country's current leaders.

Today, as a nation experiencing violence that racks our society, killing children and other innocent victims across the country, and as a world power that is so involved around the globe with our military stationed in  174 countries, Dwight Eisenhower ‘s wisdom should be remembered and heeded.  This man who knew war, confronted the hatred, evil and mindless forces that slaughtered citizens of the world had a clearer view of the value of life.    
PLACE OF MEDITATION - EISENHOWER LIBRARY

This man, who reached the highest military and civilian positions of leadership in the United States,  conveyed his humility and peaceful nature in these words, which are engraved in the Place of Meditation at the Presidential Library site:   Every gun made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.  This is not a way of life at all… Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron”     Dwight David Eisenhower -  April 1953