Thursday, December 27, 2012

SlingShot Control

Now what is this? What could this possibly be, all wrapped up so nicely, but such a strange shape for a Christmas gift. It happened a couple of years ago. It was Christmas morning and I had received a gift from my son-in-law, Bob. Wonderful guy Bob but we can’t say that because some years ago he indicated he was tired of everyone saying “Bob is such a nice guy.” So we just call him Bob now. But what was this crazy thing? As the wrapping came off I could now see… a SLINGSHOT!!

What a unique gift. I loved it. I hadn’t had a slingshot since I 
was a really young guy. What memories flooded in, the scrounging around for an old inner tube, finding a small piece of leather, maybe the tongue of an old shoe, to hold the small stone or whatever ammunition we could find. Funny, but you don’t see many inner tubes any more since tubeless tires came in. How can the world even operate without old inner tubes, what can you make a really good slingshot of nowadays? We used to whittle down a small fork from a tree branch, cut the rubber strips from the tube to make the sling and fasten it all together. We were “armed”.  

With a slingshot you could feel invulnerable, protected, safe and secure. Nobody is going to with fool with a guy that has a homemade slingshot.

Just recently, with all of the news of gun violence, reports of the killing of over 10,000 individuals by guns in the year 2012, day after day, incident after incident, and after a tragedy in Connecticut where 20 children and six adults were killed, ironically , inconceivably, thousands of people flocked to gun stores to buy even more weapons.
I began to think back to those seemingly better days. How a slingshot provided all of the armament and mental courage a young boy needed. What has happened to our world? There is constant talk in the media and even on the street of more gun control, better gun control, and also talk of No gun control, some think that everyone should be armed, that teachers should all have weapons… and of course, the old standard… “guns don’t kill people, people do.” My humble observation is that people without guns don’t kill nearly as many as do people with guns. 

I have a solution and I am officially proposing it today. The solution is Slingshot Control… or, as it really should be called…FEAR CONTROL.   
Guns should be outlawed and we should all have slingshots.

My solution, Slingshot Control, is soundly based on lessons from the Bible.  I have learned over the years that we can take advantage of what people have learned through the centuries as recorded in that wonderful book. 

The lesson of significance here is the record in I Samuel of David and his encounter with a giant of a man representing the Philistine army. The Philistines who were forming for battle against the army of Israel and the army of Israel was terrified. Out of the Philistine army stepped the giant, Goliath of Gath, nine feet tall and an experience warrior. He challenged the Israeli army to a "one-on-one" battle to determine victory. He said,”
Choose you a man for you, and let him come down to me. If he be able to fight with me, and to kill me, then will we be your servants: but if I prevail against him, and kill him, then shall ye be our servants, and serve us.”**

With the army of Israel frozen in fear and nobody stepping up to the plate, young David the Shepherd boy, armed only with a slingshot and some stones but with plenty of courage and a sense of God’s protecting presence, accepted the challenge. Goliath, the fearsome giant, equivalent to a “human assault rifle” by today’s standards, scoffed when he saw that he was being confronted by a young boy armed with only a slingshot and whose only battle experience included struggles with bears and lions. But undeterred, David, trusting in God’s power and the rightness of his cause said , “Thou comest to me with a sword, and with a spear, and with a shield: but I come to thee in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom thou hast defied. And all this assembly shall know that the Lord saveth not with sword and spear: for the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give you into our hands.”** 

Now that’s all well and good but is it relevant to today’s problems? We realize that most Americans that have a weapon or a license to carry a weapon are law-abiding responsible citizens, good people that believe that carrying a self-defense weapon is perfectly sane, a good idea, maybe even necessary. But don’t we each need to look deep within our hearts to reevaluate whether the sacrifice of our innocent citizens is worth the risk of having the whole country heavily armed.

Is it indeed time to consider whether our lives are so threatened that we have become a citizenry that lives in fear of guns and evil. What many consider to be the greatest nation in the world sets a bad precedent when we are not even close to the top of the “good country” list in terms of deaths caused by guns in peacetime. 

In perspective, considering David’s victory over the forces of evil, it appears that maybe the size of our armaments should be inversely proportional to our faith in God, the God of love, peace, forgiveness, the God whom the Master Christian reflected so perfectly in his life. The bigger our faith and understanding of God as Life, the more constant our love and the smaller our "slingshots" need to be. 

Despite some seriously troubling quotes from gun advocates, like “ The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun”, history has shown that love and trust in God are more powerful weapons than guns.

To quote the apostle Paul as recorded in II Corinthians,
“For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds; Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;

And religious pioneer Mary Baker Eddy : “Judas had the world’s weapons. Jesus had not one of them, and chose not the world’s means of defence. He opened not his mouth.” The great demonstrator of Truth and Love was silent before envy and hate. Peter would have smitten the enemies of his Master, but Jesus forbade him, thus rebuking resentment or animal courage. He said: “Put up thy sword.”

“Choose Ye this day whom ye will serve.” ****

**   I Samuel                                                                                 
*** Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures 
****Joshua 24

Monday, December 24, 2012


The plane arrived ahead of schedule. In that sometimes quirky system in the Arab world, delightful really, but unusual, the Kuwait Airways jet left half an hour earlier than the scheduled departure time because the passengers were all there,  the plane was loaded so we left. Pretty logical I thought.

The taxi ride from the airport into the city of Amman, Jordan was uneventful. Wait, it WAS “eventful”!! As we drove the relatively short distance into town I saw the most delightful site. Along the road, up on the hillside, I saw a shepherd with a flock of sheep. Such a peaceful scene, it seemed so natural and so right somehow, even though I guess I had never actually seen a shepherd and a flock of sheep.  I’ve seen plenty of sheep in my time but never a scene like this where the shepherd was guiding and protecting them

Living in the Middle East and traveling frequently among the Arabian Gulf states, I’ve seen my share of sights which were new and unusual for me.  In particular, the camels roaming freely among the sand dunes on the drive from Abu Dhabi to Dubai,  a scene straight out of the Arabian nights. Those wide stretches of sand with the undulating dunes always made me feel so at peace. None of the hustle bustle of city life but just seemingly endless expanses of shimmering sand and sun, a gentle breeze, a calming sense of peace.

But on this day near Amman, the city named Philadelphia in Roman times and described in the Bible as the City of Brotherly Love, the shepherd with the sheep struck a chord.  It brought thoughts of shepherds abiding in the field watching their flocks by night as described in the story of the birth of Jesus.  In this peaceful setting even though it was close to the city, that Bible scene became very real to me. How wonderful that the birth of the Herald of God’s love, Christ Jesus as he would become known, appeared first to simple shepherds.   

While a few “Wise Men” had indeed received the angel message that there was to be a significant event, this first close-up glimpse of the divine idea, heralded by Angel Voices came not to astronomers, not to priests or other religious leaders, not to King Herod or the secular higher-ups but to simple shepherds, those whose minds were perhaps childlike and trusting, as shepherds must always trust, in a power greater than themselves. Those stalwarts who face dangers every day with only a staff and sling shot to protect them and their charges.

At this Christmas time may your heart and mind be as humble, expectant, receptive to the Christ spirit and as full of peace and love as those early shepherds watching hopefully on the hillside.  And, may your flock, large or small, rest comfortably and abide with you, or in your thoughts, during this holiday.

Merry Christmas ... from Gail and Pat Collins

Monday, December 17, 2012

Christmas Without or Within – A Review of a Tradition

Christmas is a time of  celebration, worship, gift giving and wonderful hymns describing the JOY which came to the earth centuries ago as a result of the birth of Jesus.  Many hymns proclaim the wonder of that day, the birth of a babe that, even at the time of his birth,  was to be recognized as a sign from God, one who would enlighten the understanding, bring peace and healing  to thought, lead the nations, deliver Israel from bondage  and become King of  Kings

But, as part of my "Review",   I must admit that I am troubled by some of our traditions today.   The first part of my review I call  "Christmas from Without".

"Christmas from Without" is seeing Christmas as a time for "getting", maybe even a little selfishness cranked in.  Now I certainly have no problem receiving presents, and I love the excitement of thinking of great gift ideas,  imagining that wonderful moment on Christmas Day when the eyes of our loved ones open wide as they unwrap their gifts and see all the wonderful things we have selected for them.    But there are many struggling families do not have that privilege.  Okay, there’s troubling Problem Number One.   Our celebrating with gifts while others have no gifts, perhaps even going hungry and with little to celebrate, weighs on our hearts. 

Another  thing that bothered  me  while raising a family of four children, was  lying to my children about  Santa.  Now you are really going to cast me in the role of SCROOGE on this one!!! Such an innocent "white lie" you may say.  But listen and consider.   We tried to be good role models and to teach our children to always tell the truth, to be honest.  As a matter of fact, if they acted dishonestly, stealing a piece of gum or candy from the grocery for example, we took them down and had them meet face-to-face with the manager to tell them what they had done.  Tough Love!!

These practical lessons were beneficial, showing our "little angels" that  being honest, even if it means facing up to something we've done wrong,  brings a sense of relief and joy, guilt giving way to a peaceful conscience.   Then comes that horrible moment when you have to admit to the children that there IS no physical Santa Claus, confessing that you misled them all those years.  It can undermine a lot of trust and credibility.   That’s the Second Problem.  And I am not even going to go into detail about  the fact that one of my children could hardly sleep at night for weeks before Christmas, fearing that Santa was peeking through the window, spying.  I had never really considered the consequences of “He sees you when you’re sleeping, he knows when you’re awake”, planting a fear in a child’s mind.  But how can you tell them no one is peeking in the window when you have told them Santa "knows all"?

Problem Three.  The building of expectation about the gifts the children want and hope to receive.   The wonderful old movie, The Christmas Story, tells  the tale of Ralphie, a small boy whose heart was set on receiving a BB Gun.  The entire story encapsulates the scene I am describing here of a Christmas based on “getting things”!!  For weeks the children dream of receiving all kinds of wonderful things and so many times it results in some sort of disappointment.   Generally on Christmas Day, at least in our little family which I really believe was as loving as any, there were tears when gifts that were not really wanted were received… “MOM… You got me UNDERWEAR?????  I wanted  a cosmetic kit!!!”   A pile of gifts under the tree representing money spent that we didn’t really have,  and a most disappointing moment was when one of my children, after the kids had opened many hundreds of dollars worth of gifts said, “Is that all?”

I guess similar things may happen in many households.

But all in all, the season is joyous and wonderful and our Christmas days were fun.  We loved each other and we frequently met with other family members exchanged gifts or enjoyed a meal together with many hugs and well wishes.  But there were still those underlying concerns, about truth telling, about those who couldn’t celebrate like we were, like ingratitude amidst  the pile of presents.     But even these things pale in comparison to the fact that the real meaning of Christmas was sort of overlooked, inadvertently.

And now for “Christmas From Within”.   The real meaning and joy of Christmas is in realization that Christmas day celebrates the birth of the most spiritually gifted man ever to trod the earth. His life was a demonstration of God’s presence in his consciousness,  God’s influence and guidance  in his life and everyday activities.  Jesus’  life and teaching  reflected how life can be for ALL OF US as we come to understand that we are spiritual beings, not little blobs of matter with legs, that we can rise above materiality as he did, that “life in matter” is  a dream that results from our own thinking.  AND, that spiritual joy beats "material things" every time.  This celebration of Christmas requires NO gifts, no hustle bustle, no last minute scurrying and pressure.  It is a celebration from Within. 

We may not have sheep and donkeys living in our bedroom or wise men coming from afar,  probably no frankincense or myrrh under the tree, but we can all receive that most precious gift that God provided centuries ago.   God’s Love, Peace, Joy, Spiritual understanding… gifts which cost nothing but moments of listening, praying, trusting.  They are free... to give and receive.

Christmas to me is the reminder of God's great gift, — His spiritual idea, man and the universe, —a gift which so transcends mortal, material, sensual giving that the merriment, mad ambition, rivalry, and  ritual of our common Christmas seem a human mockery in mimicry of the real worship in commemoration of Christ's coming.

I love to observe Christmas in quietude, humility, benevolence, charity, letting good will towards man, eloquent silence, prayer, and praise express my conception of Truth's appearing.

This time of year our thoughts turn naturally to the healing Christ. It’s sweet refreshment  amidst the “mad ambition, rivalry, and ritual of our common Christmas.  In fact, this is the perfect time to reflect with gratitude on the past year’s healings—for ourselves, for friends and family, in our churches and communities, and in the world."  (Mary Baker Eddy, The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany, p. 262).


Sunday, December 9, 2012

Lesson from a Snake

 As I sat watching the evening news recently I was shocked at the breaking news story revealing several important government figures  being caught in extramarital affairs.  In just that one newscast there were also several other reports concerning  people in various compromising situations including infidelity, cheating, stealing, lying, fraud and other problems, illegal and/or immoral.   In particular the CIA Chief in the U.S. was featured on every newscast for having an extramarital affair.

How greedily we sometimes latch onto these situations, waiting in eagerness for the next juicy detail, impatient for complete information on exactly what happened, and the media is only too willing and eager to supply the complete, sordid story.   

My heart goes out to all of the individuals involved in these stories, but particularly the head of the CIA and the woman involved in the incident, as well as both of their families.  After 35 years of service to this country,  serving in dangerous war zones, separated from family and friends for months or years at a stretch, enduring the hardships that maybe only military  veterans can appreciate, the man is pilloried for an act of indiscretion and the woman with whom he was involved has had her life jolted as well.   I am sure their personal suffering is sufficient to make them examine their actions.

As I watched this story unfold I suddenly had a 
mental image of Jesus kneeling, clad in his tunic and sandals, thinking, writing in the dust, as the group of self-righteous “Scribes and Pharisees”, holy men,  displayed  a woman who had been caught in adultery, asking Jesus what should be done with her.    Even centuries later, human nature has not changed very much.  His compassion for the woman resulted in an answer to the accusers to look within their own characters to see if they too might have sinned.  They all walked away considering their own shortcomings and let the woman go free.

While I knew that what our government official and the woman had done was wrong according to our moral standards, I felt that the press and all who were judging them so harshly,  holding them up in front of the world as spectacles,  as people to be judged, certainly paralleled those self-righteous men of centuries ago. Sort of a “look what I found” experience. Throwing stones of shame and blame.

In another incident just recently a radio station team in Australia, innocently playing a practical joke, caused the suicide of a dedicated nurse who felt she had let her patient down by disclosing unauthorized medical details to a hoaxer.   Those responsible have been taken off of the air and I am sure they are very distressed at the results of their actions.   

All such broadcasting incidents can have far reaching effects.   But, you may be wondering where the snake comes in, since this piece is titled Lesson from a Snake.

Well, here he slides in now…  He is the devious little guy that is responsible for so much distress and heartache in the world.  The snake made his first Bible appearance in the allegory of creation contained in the second version of creation in the Bible.  You will probably recall that Creation was described in the first chapter of Genesis, where God created everything in His image and likeness, spiritual and perfect.  And He saw that it was very good.  But the writer of the material version of creation, a slightly different view as presented in the second chapter of Genesis, told a story very similar to the mythical Pandora’s Box.  There God somehow made man from “matter”.  He man out of dirt, then made woman out of man and finally  made their children out of a woman.  And there the snake enters… Stage Left.

Now no offense to snake lovers but my observation is that snakes hide, move silently, can strike without warning.  They are usually camouflaged so that we don’t readily see them for what they are, they have no hands, no arms, no feet, no voice… so how could they harm us?   What a great vehicle the writer of Genesis 2 used to convey the image and appearance of evil.   Evil, clothed as a snake, suggested to Eve that sin and disobedience were quite okay, what could go wrong?!!     He seemed like such a friendly sort!! Saying all of the things that Eve wanted to hear.   Oh how subtle is the snake, how tempting his suggestions, how innocent his arguments,  and oh how  hard it can make us fall.

Recently, I heard a story about a man that saw a snake in a pet store.  It was a poisonous snake, but beautiful.  He handled it in the store and fell in love.  The snake seemed to love him too.  It wrapped itself around him, let him caress it, they were a “couple”!!  For a long time the snake and the man were best friends, inseparable,  sleeping together, traveling together, the snake was a real pet owner’s dream.  Then one day the snake bit the man.  The man was aghast.  How could you bite me?   I can’t believe it, we’ve been friends for years.”   The snake looked up with glassy eyes and said, “Well, you knew I was a snake when you bought me.”

The Lesson from the Snake is twofold:   
For broadcasters and those who enjoy wide national audiences for their commentary, remember that the story you are telling has repercussions in the lives of others.   Reporting the facts is one thing but when glorying in the drama, secretly shooting pictures through kitchen windows to see if you can see guilty husband and shattered wife struggling to repair the damage done, deep in the despair and grief that the snake has left in his wake,  "Remember the Pharisees."   When you go home at night, are you happy about your contribution to life and love?     

For the rest of us:  Instead of listening in fascination to every detail of the evils that befall others, passing judgment, falling for what the snake did to others,  we would be well advised to watch out for the snake that may be coming to tempt us, that innocent looking situation that seems so harmless,

In Matthew 7,  Jesus gives us sage advice about “snake talk” when he said:   “Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.” (Watch out for the snake in your experience!!)  And, "Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets." (Don't be a judgmental Pharisee!

Religious pioneer Mary Baker Eddy, a devoted student of Christ Jesus, aware of how stealthily the snake can disguise itself as a harmless thought, then tempt us,  alerts us to watch our thought, before we buy the snake and take it home.  She says:  
Wrong is thought before it is acted; you must control it in the first instance, or it will control you in the second.   To overcome all wrong it must become unreal to us: and it is good to know that wrong has no divine authority; therefore man is its master.  * 

* Message to the Mother Church 1901 -  page 14

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Play Ball

Well, here it is the first week of December and I’m already receiving notices from Major League Baseball about next year’s season and Spring Training. I really love baseball and especially love going the spring training games in Florida where you can get close to the action and see how the teams are forming up for the season.

If you read my earlier article, Discouraged?  Lessons From a Would Be Athlete (Click to read), about my early days trying to be a baseball player you will understand why I am primarily a spectator.  

I have followed baseball since I was very young.  I remember listening to the Cincinnati Reds games when I was just a small boy.  My big sister Carolyn and I shared the upstairs bedroom in our house on Jefferson Avenue in Chillicothe, Ohio.  We had a small white Crosley radio that could pick up Cincinnati stations and Carolyn was so understanding, letting me listen, radio turned low. 

Waite Hoyt
Waite Hoyt was the baseball broadcaster, after a career that included being one of the dominant major league pitchers in the 1920s, and the winningest pitcher for the New York Yankees during that decade and a Hall of Famer. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1969.    He was known for entertaining radio audiences with anecdotes during rain delays and his stories were so fascinating that sometimes you wished that it would keep raining while he finished his stories.

Waite Hoyt with Babe Ruth
and Lou Gehrig

 What a delight it was then when I finally got to go to a live game in Cincinnati.  My friend Ronnie Hines and I were able to talk our parents into letting us take the B&O Baseball Excursion Train from Chillicothe to Cincinnati, about 100 miles down the track.   What an exciting adventure for two young boys to take that train so far by ourselves and spend the whole day at Crosley Field, watching a doubleheader, then taking the train back home in the evening. What a thrill to watch my Red's heroes,  including big time hitter, Cincinnati first baseman Ted Kluszewski,  one of the best, in person. 

"Big Klu
Ted Kluzewski

 At these games sometimes I wondered what it   would be like to be the son of a baseball player, maybe Big Klu’s son. What fun it would be, watching the game from the stands, relying on Dad to do the work while I ate popcorn and hot dogs.  

There came a time some years back when that thought struck me,  made me think about the son watching the father play, and to realize how much baseball parallels  life’s journey.     

We start out in life as a young player, a rookie.  There is so much to learn, life's equivalent of how to bat, throw, catch; how to play your “position”; how to get along with the manager and the teammates.    Most of these things take some training… but a LOT of experience.   Most of life is like that.   Sometimes we feel like that young Rookie, so much to do, everything depending on our doing the right thing at the right time in order to succeed.

As a “player” in life, I have often felt like a “rookie”, even after playing for a number of years.  Sometimes not confident in my abilities, concerned about the lack of education, about supporting my family, worried about my career, pressure in almost every aspect of my life.   This resulted in my being plagued by a burning desire to CONTROL situations.  Not that I was feeling overly important, just RESPONSIBLE!! 

 You’ve probably heard the saying; “If it is to be it’s up to me!!!”  Well, I fell for that line, that kind of thinking.   Now I did many admirable things I suppose.  I worked in a number of companies,  many hours a day in some, up to 100 hours in one miserable never to be forgotten week, hardly made it home for a nap before I was called back to the office.  Early data processing guys weren’t supposed to sleep!  I took on the responsibility for making everything work and come together in every aspect of my life, had to have my finger on the pulse, ear to the ground, nose to the grindstone.... WHEW!!   There were times when the pressure was almost unbearable, my feeling inadequate but still knowing “it was up to me".

At a point in my life when I was finally ready to grow spiritually,  to let go of “self” and find a better resource, a friend introduced me to a different view of The Bible and how God, the infinite intelligence, is close at hand, available, there to be leaned on and trusted in.

I began to study how an itinerant prophet and  teacher named Jesus, a man who through an incredible grasp of the spiritual nature of life,  an inseparable closeness to God, was able to demonstrate life far above his contemporaries by healing sickness, uplifting the downtrodden, feeding the hungry, overcoming all manner of material obstacles.  As a man who had no formal education and little religious training, he actually turned to and relied on God as a present help.  And he didn't seem "pressured" at all. That sure is what I needed!!!

Several of his statements gave me a lot to think about:   He said, “I can of mine own self do nothing’ * and, “ The Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works.  **

He also said, “The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise.” ***

This humble man was able to see so clearly the fact that life is really spiritual that he could calm a storm, walk on water and heal every adverse "material" circumstance.  Definitely someone  I wanted to know more about and to emulate to the extent possible.    If someone like that could let the Father do the work, what was I waiting for??

Relating back to baseball, and wondering what it would be like to sit in the stands and watch my father play.   Here was the answer.   God, as our Father, takes the field for us every day and we can enjoy watching the Father play the game of life, take the pressure off of ourselves, turn over the burdens, see that life is not about worry, worry, scurry, scurry.    That doesn't mean that we don’t do anything, but our job is to do what all good children do, live the kind of life that makes the Father proud.  That same Jesus gave us this instruction, indicating that following his pathway,  would truly free us from worldly pressures, lift us to the understanding that Life is Spirit:  "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." ****

It takes effort to let go.  At least it did for me, I had to overcome  the fear of turning loose of the wheel, learning to trust, to put my hands in my lap and let God control the situation.   But I can vouch for the fact that sitting in the stands watching the Father play is wonderful!!   We can trust God  to take the stress, to handle the fast pitches, the curveballs that are thrown at us.   I personally have seen Him hit a lot of home runs!!!

It’s a new season.  This is "Our Year"!!   Play Ball!!!!!!

*     John 5:30
**   John 14:10
*** John 15:12  
*** Matthew 11:28