Tuesday, December 23, 2014

MERRY CHRISTMAS - A Shepherd's View 2014!!!

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, one observes many sights which are perhaps new and unusual for them.  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 ... and Love...  Pat Collins

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Fitting In and the Chameleon

Fitting In and the Chameleon

As we sat in our lawn chairs in the backyard enjoying the late afternoon sun, I was startled by the sound of splashing water. I quickly turned to see what was making that noise since our little Pekin ducks, which had been playing in the wading pool, were now out and walking around the back of the lot.

The source of the noise was quickly seen to be our dog Lucy, jumping around and splashing noisily in the pool like she was a duck.

Lucy was our loved Corgi that had come upon the scene  a
few years earlier, first appearing as a small head with big ears, dark eyes barely peering out from the woods. She obviously had no home and was living off the land as best a small dog can do. She soon became our dog and seemed happy enough to have a regular meal schedule and a warm bed.

Lucy quickly appointed herself mother and protector of our ducks and she was always with them, guarding them from the occasional coyote and from the hawks which flew overhead peering down at a possible duck dinner!  Lucy  seemed to love mothering and watching over the little quackers and the praise we gave her for being such a good guardian.  

On this day, she had been watching the ducks as they did their joyous “duck things”, frolicking and diving underwater, then surfacing and shaking, flapping their stubby wings, swimming, diving back down underwater, and repeating the process.  As the ducks finally got out of the pond and wandered away, apparently little tinges of jealousy started pulling at Lucy.   When we looked back at the pond, there she was  in the pool, ducking under the water, getting up shaking, diving again into the water mimicking everything that the ducks had done except her quack quack sounded more like a bark, bark.

She was trying to “Fit In”.

She wanted to be accepted and loved  like the ducks were, I guess, even to the extent of changing her behavior and normal inclinations since she had never shown an affinity for water.  She must have thought those actions caused us to love those ducks and she wanted part of that love!.

In my own experience I have faced the temptation to ”Fit In”, to go outside of what I knew was right for me, to act contrary to what I believed in and what I stood for, and what I knew about myself. I wanted to  “Fit In”  and not stand out as different from the group as an “odd ball”, to not draw attention to myself, my ideas, my principles.   How much easier it seems to be “one of the gang” than to stand for something. It wasn’t very comfortable but it was EASY. Doing the wrong thing can be Easy but it isn’t very satisfying or comfortable.

 I remember a helpful slogan I heard years ago that said, “If you don’t stand for something, you will fall for anything”.

In recalling some of those moments from years past I was reminded of the story a friend, Howard, told me long ago.  He cautioned me about being a Chameleon and explained how Chameleons change their color to “Fit In” with their environment.  He made it pretty clear that I should avoid that temptation and stand up for what I believed in, that I should reflect on the outside the qualities that I cherished in my heart.   
 While appearing to be one thing while you are actually something else inside, just to “Fit In”,  is good for a lizard, but it is often a treacherous trap  for humans

In a world where the lure of drugs and alcohol, the temptation to shortcut, stretch the truth, discuss with heated temper politics and social issues, to gossip about and show no respect for others…  so many temptations, we sometimes edge more toward being the Chameleon, perhaps hiding our true nature and feelings rather than standing firm on principle.

The Bible contains many wonderful examples of Chameleon disguises versus standing firm with honesty and integrity, and also shows that things don’t change very much from century to century, as the same temptations we face were present in Jesus' time as well.

In the lifetime of Jesus many people undoubtedly discussed disease, blindness, physical disability, deafness, leprosy, immorality, and many other issues.   Jesus didn’t fall in with the group and talk about how terrible it was that these diseases were present, didn’t spend time criticizing the government nor gather with the group to pass judgment and cast stones at sinners. . He stood firm with his understanding that God, who he understood to be Divine Love, the Mind that created ALL, did not create evil, disease or death,  but Life Eternal. He didn’t worry about being “different” and healed and uplifted those in need in spite of those who resisted or ridiculed him. 

In contrast,  Judas, one of the 12 disciples, typified the Chameleon in the most hurtful way. While in his chameleon outfit he was outwardly loyal to Jesus, but he betrayed him to the soldiers, an attempt to Fit In with the authorities.  Matthew 26

And, even Peter,  a loyal disciple who loved and was loved by Jesus fell into the trap.   He wore  the chameleon outfit when Jesus was arrested and taken to the high priest,  and tried to Fit In with those who claimed they did not know Jesus, and denied being a disciple.  He was later so ashamed of his actions but he did prove that even those with high ideals and standards can fall victim to the lizard influence!  Matthew 26  

So, whatever the motive, we can and must drop the "act".  Mary Baker Eddy in her Miscellaneous Writings sums up helpful guidance for the principled individual. Urging integrity and sincerity in each of our lives, she counsels:  "The upright man is guided by a fixed Principle, which destines him to do nothing but what is honorable, and to abhor whatever is base or unworthy; hence we find him ever the same,at all times the trusty friend, the affectionate relative, the conscientious man of business, the pious worker, the public-spirited citizen.

He assumes no borrowed appearance. He seeks no mask to cover him, for he acts no studied part; but he is indeed what he appears to be,full of truth, candor, and humanity. In all his pursuits, he knows no path but the fair, open, and direct one, and would much rather fail of success than attain it by reproachable means. He never shows us a smiling countenance while he meditates evil against us in his heart. We shall never find one part of his character at variance with another.  Miscellaneous Writings pp147

And so, Dear Lucy, your  efforts were all for naught. Even though your attempts to Fit In were innocent enough, you
didn’t need to be a duck with stubby wings, web feet or a cute quack, quack.   I loved you for who you were.  

Just so, our dear Father/Mother God, loves each of us as we truly are, no frills needed, no change of costume or color,  no false pretences about who we are. We can be ourselves, the spiritual self we were created to be… the individual reflection of Life, Truth and Love that are ours as God’s perfect image.  As Jesus counseled:  "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect. " Matthew 5

Wednesday, July 2, 2014


I could feel the floor starting to tremble under foot, first a jolt and then a gentle tremor. I saw my office door begin to swing slowly, then I realized...  Here we go again, still another earthquake. 

I happened to be on an important telephone call at the time and as the senior manager in my building I knew I should set a good example and evacuate immediately but, even though the ceiling tiles were falling, books being jostled from the bookcase and there were sounds of screaming in the hallway, I stayed on the phone for the a couple of minutes to finish the conversation. The guy on the other end, one of my staff members, was laughing at my plight as he was safely in his office in Oklahoma, far from my Southern California location. The screaming continued, I left the office for safety outside.

When the dust settled and we received an “all clear” from Security, we all returned to the offices and I addressed the source of the screaming. I called my administrative assistant
into my office. One of her duties was “Building Safety Coordinator. I told that I had seen her grab her “hard hat” and run out into the hall as the tremor started. That was good. But, we also discussed how that it was probably not appropriate for her, as the Building Safety Coordinator responsible for an orderly building evacuation, to run down the halls screaming “Run for you life! We’re all gonna die”!!!

I suggested that perhaps it would be better for her to give up that additional duty position and to accept another duty that was less stressful.

Now I personally know a lot about FEAR. I have sampled various fears many times in many of its disguises and know it intimately.

For example, Fear comes in many disguises. What is frightening to one may not be to another. 

SKEERD?  Not Me!!!!!
Panic Sets In!!!!

Fear is irrational. I have felt perfectly safe on a very bumpy flight, experiencing heavy turbulence, while the person next to me was reduced to crying and shaking. And, I have felt inexplicable fear in a packed elevator while others crammed in next to me laughed and talked, oblivious to what was frightening me, while I was about to implode.

If fear were rational, we would all fear the same things, which proves to me that FEAR is individual and within our own consciousness.

Courageous Burmese political figure, Aung San Suu Kyi is
quoted as saying: “The only real prison is fear, and the only real freedom is freedom from fear.”   
Intellectually, we know that it is important to stay calm, and we should exercise caution. Author Neale Donald Walsch says:“Caution is what causes you to look both ways before crossing the street. Fear is what keeps you frozen on the curb forever.” 

When FEAR lifts its ugly head, we all react differently. Fear and confusion often block intelligent actions, sometimes we seem to become immobile. A Flying Safety magazine article some years ago reported that the Landing Gear warning horn was so loud and insistent as his jet fighter aircraft approached the runway, creating fear and confusion in the pilot’s thinking, that ironically, he landed without lowering the landing gear.

Since fear is subjective, in our own thinking, I have often contemplated Job’s observation and its relevance to myself. In the Bible, in the Book of Job, we find:" For the thing which I greatly feared is come upon me, and that which I was afraid of is come unto me." *1  

Is the fear, that "Gear Warning Horn" so loud and insistent,   “coming upon me” because I am entertaining it, giving it place, honoring its presence by believing it? If I didn’t fear, would the “thing” happen?

Now I am not saying that my Administrative Assistant caused the earthquake!! But her reaction certainly reflected a fear that was personal to her.   BUT, what causes fear? How can we conquer it? 

It seems that FEAR is a feeling that somehow we have become separated from our Creator, that we are alone without support. We may we feel that we are adrift in this world, vulnerable to something that is about to happen, or may happen, or will happen!! We feel a lack of firm foundation, and we ACCEPT those fearful, threatening thoughts and cling to them!

But do we have to believe everything that comes into our thought, everything we see, hear and feel? Are we “authorized” to sort the thoughts that come to us, do we have permission to keep the good ones, discard the bad ones, the fearful ones?

In her book, Rudimental Divine Science, Mary Baker Eddy cautions that :
“Accepting the verdict of these material senses, we should believe man and the universe to be the football of chance and sinking into oblivion'.”*2   In her Bible companion book*, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, she challenges us, when threatened by belief of disease or any erroneous belief, to guard the door of our thought: She counsels: " Reverse the case. Stand porter at the door of thought. Admitting only such conclusions as you wish realized in bodily results, you will control yourself harmoniously." *

God’s plan for us is never frightening, never leading to danger, doubt, discouragement, disease. We are never separate from our divine Source, never out of the Mind that holds us in His consciousness never threatened by God, who is LOVE.

Jesus of Nazareth, the humble preacher centuries ago, knowing that he was ALWAYS hand in hand with his heavenly Father, faced every situation fearlessly. He said, “I and my Father are ONE.”*4   And the apostle Paul comforted us by assuring us of our inseparability from God when he said:   “In Him, we live, and move and have our being.” *5   Definitely a statement of our true, spiritual existence.

Regardless of how solid, or shaky, material foundations may seem, they are really not “the rock” that we need as
security. The assurance and peace of mind of being “at one with the Father” comes to us in a way that some of us hav
e experienced as children when, unexpectedly separated from a parent and experiencing that sinking feeling, looked desperately for their comforting presence. Then, reunited, hand in hand with our parents, we once again felt safe and secure. That same comforting presence of our heavenly Father/Mother is always available, here and now, and will bring that same sense of peace and well being.

This poem speaks of feeling God's everpresence: 

I walk with Love along the way,
And O, it is a holy day;
No more I suffer cruel fear,
I feel God’s presence with me here;
The joy that none can take away
 Is mine;  I walk with Love today.

Come, walk with Love along the way,
Let childlike trust be yours today;
Uplift your thought, with courage go,
Give of your heart’s rich overflow,
And peace shall crown your joy-filled day.
Come, walk with Love along the way.*6

*       The Holy Bible  - Job 3:25
**      Rudimental Divine Science - Mary Baker Eddy (MBE)
***     Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures (MBE)
****    The Holy Bible  - John 10:30
*****   The Holy Bible  - Acts 17:28
******  Christian science Hymnal 427

Tuesday, June 10, 2014



CRASH!! I felt the shock through my whole body!! What started as a fun experience on a Teetor Totter turned out to be a lasting life lesson for me.

My young friend from across the street and I had gone to the school playground to use the equipment and do what 8 year old boys do, running, jumping, recklessly enjoying the playground equipment.

We had been having a good time on the teetor totter, first balancing each other and then taking the ride up and down. As daring young men, of course, we went up and down as fast as possible, but suddenly, when I was at the top, my friend thought it would be funny to jump off. I came plummeting down hard on the concrete with a resounding crash. I was shocked and couldn’t believe that he did that.

But I soon recovered my pride and my sense of humor, and that experience has been a helpful reminder to me through the years that life sometimes hands us these “jarring” experiences.

More than just playground pranks, these situations reflect the precariousness of our joy, our attitude, our income, our career, our relationships, and other aspects of life when based on merely a material sense of the human experience.

Many of us may have received that jolt just when everything seems to be in perfect balance, just as we are experiencing success, the “top of the teeter”, so to speak, the bottom drops out and we come crashing down, and it hurts.

Recently, in the wake of several severe JOLTS in my own experience, a friend was talking to me about the challenges of maintaining a balance in our daily lives. We are constantly faced with balancing, trying to maintain a leveling of the perceptions of sickness and health, success and failure, poverty and adequate supply, life or death, happiness versus sadness. When this idea of balance gets out of skew, we come crashing down as I did on the teeter totter.

Apparently the modern versions of teeter totters now

have “safety springs” which can stop the riders from abruptly hitting the ground, gently cushioning the fall. But are there “safety springs” for us in our life experience? Can we soften the blow of “out of balance” situations? Can we make our “playground of life” a safe and happy one?

Students of the Bible have found that, through the rich and courageous experiences of those who have gone before, we can gain a better understanding that life is spiritual, and not based on the fickle nature of matter and its inherent problems. We can prove that balance need not be a factor in our lives.

In the Old Testament we learn of challenges faced by Moses, Daniel, the three Hebrew children, Elijah, David and others. These strong believers knew that God was protecting them. Understanding that this mortal, material existence is not the baseline of reality, they threw the entire weight of their trust on the spiritual side of the equation. They did not weigh their fate in the “Scales of Justice” or human logic, which are traditionally shown as weighing a cases’ support versus opposition. They trusted in the power of God, good, to save them.

Christ Jesus, a man who more nearly reflected God, his Father, than anyone in history, showed that there IS only one side.

Rather than weighing the good versus the evil, he
demonstrated the Allness of God, his Father, our Father, and consequently the nothingness of sin, sickness, death, materiality, poverty, hunger, all of the woes of mankind. In so many instances he was faced with the pleas of the material world to balance things, to acknowledge the reality of matter, disease, sin and even death. But, he was unwavering in his understanding that life is spiritual, PERIOD. His view is reflected in his admonition, “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.” (Matt5:48) No wavering. No compromise.

He proved the unreality of disease, he healed leprosy by understanding that man is the pure image and likeness of God, Mind, untouched by the ravages of illness. He gave sight to the blind by his understanding that man’s vision is for seeing spiritually, seeing God and the effects of God’s radiance in our human situation.

In a world where sin seemed to attach itself to mortals, Jesus saw purity and forgave and lifted the burden of the false concept of sin from those who suffered under its illusion. He raised the dead by understanding that Life HAS no opposite. Life IS!! He dealt solely with spiritual truths.

He didn’t “teetor” about complete understanding of and placing his reliance on God, the divine intelligence in which "we live and move and have our being", as described by the Apostle Paul (Acts  17:28). Nor did he weigh whether a person was good or bad, whether they “deserved” to be healed, whether they were worthy of being fed or released from bondage, whether they were deserving of his teaching and counsel. His clear vision and understanding of God, described as LOVE, looked beyond the frailty of the human conditions and saw each person as God’s loved child.

How refreshing that model is in an age where blame, criticism and judgment are so common and widespread.

Not only did Jesus heal and support, he taught his disciples to heal also, to understand this total reliance on spirit. And they went about the countryside healing, uplifting, blessing.

And, he challenged us to do the same, and to do even greater works than his, because he was being lifted up above this dream of life in matter when he said:” Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father." (Jhon 14:12)  His "instruction manual" for us to follow can be found in The Bible, Matthew chapters 5-7.

We need no balance, no scales, no teetering, we need only to begin to understand that this material life is a fickle, poor substitute for the spiritual life, the love, the intelligence, the purity, the gentleness and kindness that is our heritage and the truth of our being.

And so, with all due respect and my deep love to my wonderful friends in the news media and medical fields who sincerely and loving practice their crafts, as the television blares out advertisements selling us on how sick we might
be,how that pain in our leg could be serious, how this pill or that surgery will cure our ills; and as the news readers sadly comment on the ravages of war and storm, the unkindness of man to man, the immorality of this singer or that movie star, we can choose to teetor with those stories and their tragedies, OR we can hold to the Truth as practiced by those early examples from the Bible, and of folks today who are living a spiritually rich life based on demonstrating love, and trusting in God’s gift of life that is spiritual. 

Mary Baker Eddy, early religious pioneer, who founded a

religion based on the teachings and healing practices of Christ Jesus, states in her 
book, Science and Health with key to the Scriptures: “Jesus of Nazareth was the most scientific man that ever trod the globe. He plunged beneath the material surface of things, and found the spiritual cause.” *(p 313)

And in perceiving how he used this Science in healing, she wrote: “Undisturbed amid the jarring testimony of the material senses, Science, still enthroned, is unfolding to mortals the immutable, harmonious, divine Principle,  — is unfolding Life and the universe,ever present and eternal.” (p306)

So Mr. Teeter Totter, you can stay on the playground of the mortal dream, and provide a fun time for many, but as for me, I have decided to stay on firmer ground of Spirit!!

Saturday, May 17, 2014


The klaxon rang loudly across the flight line at the U.S. Air Force Base, located some miles south of the North Pole.  At this air defense operation, well north of the radar net that is the Defense Early Warning system protecting North America,  our job was to protect the North American Continent while our citizens were sleeping soundly, or going about their daily routines, unaware that we were even there, or of our mission.

On this dark and frigid day, the alert came through our radio speakers loudly… Red Alert.. Red Alert.. Scramble Red.   

As an air traffic controller realizing that dense ice fog clung to the ground, visibility and ceiling were below legal landing “minimums,  my heart began to race.  The young fighter pilots did not have a choice, they had to go, the country was depending on them.

As the alert hanger doors opened and the 2 F102’s interceptor aircraft, Razor Red One and Two,  began to taxi, the lead pilot, voice stressed, yelled into the microphone that he couldn’t see anything, outside of the cockpit canopy.   He was led out to the runway by a Follow Me truck  and the two jets  made their turn, hopefully to line up with the long runway, then lit off the afterburners, pushed throttles completely forward,  and streaked down the runway  through the ice fog and darkness, climbing to meet the intruders.

At this northern most air base, the nighttime and total darkness lasts for many months and these pilots, depending on their ability to precisely follow their instruments and on the skills of the controllers, those calm voices guiding them, took off and climbed out.

Thinking back to that day recently,  it reminded me of another early experience.  Two years before the far north incident, stationed at an air base in Mississippi, situated just a few blocks from the U.S. Gulf Coast, we received reports of an approaching  hurricane.

The base aircraft were all ordered to leave immediately and to fly to a safer location hundreds of miles north of the coast. As I watched them take them depart I was amazed at their rate of climb. The winds had already picked up to about  60 mph and as the aircraft took off into the wind they climbed almost vertically, not nose up but just being lifted vertically by the force of the headwind, as if they were on an invisible elevator.

Also noticeable  was that as their landing gear left the runway,their last contact with earth, and the gear retracted into the fuselage, they climbed even higher, faster.   

As I left the base that day and went home to await the storm in a very small mobile home in a trailer park that an "airman last class" could afford, very close to the coast, I learned more about demonstrating courage and overcoming gloom and darkness.  Most of the airmen on base were protected in the concrete  barracks but I lived off-base with my wife and we had nowhere else to go. 

Through the hurricane, which devastated a lot of the coastal area, my
wife and I clung to each other, praying, as the mobile home shook and rattled on its flimsy foundation.  We made it safely through and felt God’s presence throughout the storm.

All of these experiences have been so helpful to me in relating them to how God provides protection and uplift in times of gloom and doom. They help us better understand God and our protection, in proving that we can trust more and be less frightened by conditions outside of our control. 

Here’s a summary of what I have learned.
·     That God, the Creator, our Father, as described in the Bible by Christ Jesus, is a very present help in trouble.  That God is Spirit, not material, not a human form sitting somewhere in space, but the essence of Spirit, unseen perhaps, but FELT by everyone who turns away from material sense of existence to seek the spiritual reality.    (God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.  (John 4:24)   

·       That we can listen to the quiet voice of the controller for takeoff, climb and a safe landing.  Turning to God, that still small voice that calmly guides us through the fog of materiality, giving a clear signal when the outside noises of matter are silenced, is a safe navigation aid. (And thine ears shall hear a word behind thee, saying, This is the way, walk ye in it, when ye turn to the right hand, and when ye turn to the left. (Isaiah 30 :21))

·       That we can face headwinds of trouble; lack of finance, love and understanding; illness, fear, sin and death because the once frightening headwinds put lift in our wings and help us climb higher spiritually. Those winds are an earthly phenomena, but God is Spirit, Love, untouched by matter and the whirlwind of mortal reasoning.  Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. (Proverbs 3:5))
    That when our landing  gear comes off the runway, when we turn loose of that last contact with earthly thinking, stop clinging desperately to a material sense of life,  and reach out to fly higher spiritually, we are lifted up even faster, higher.   As we release our tight hold on a material sense of life and existence, we begin to soar into an atmosphere of thought where fog dissipates and the sunshine of clear thinking reveals our true sense of life.

We can rejoice in our inevitable growth spiritward, to understand our own true identity as “the image and likeness” of God, knowing that we are not separate from God, but that  in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring.  (Acts 17:28)    as the Apostle Paul observed. 

We don’t have to go somewhere else, at some other time or to some other place to be God’s image and likeness, we are there NOW.  Safe, Guided, Serene.

I love a poem written by John Greenleaf Whittier contained as a hymn in the Christian Science Hymnal.   It often helps me clear my thought in times when I seem to be flying “on instruments”, almost written for a pilot or air traffic controller, or anyone who feels that they are flying blind in the face of earth’s storms.  

Just for a moment, please sit with me here in the cockpit with those courageous young fighter pilots as we race down life’s runway, and sing with them:

Lead, kindly Light, amid the encircling gloom,
Lead Thou me on;
The night is dark, and I am far from home,
Lead Thou me on.
Keep Thou my feet; I do not ask to see
The distant scene; one step enough for me.

So long Thy power hath blest me, sure it still
Will lead me on
O’er moor and fen, o’er crag and torrent, till
The night is gone,
And with the morn those angel faces smile,
Which I have loved long since, and lost awhile.

Safe flight and happy landings.  God is whispering in your ear...  "Life is eternal, TRUST ME!!!"

(I loved a blog written by Kate Robertson that showed her love for this special poem as well.  Here is a link:  http://stoneriverstudio.blogspot.com.br/2013/08/proceed-as-way-opens.html     )

Thursday, May 1, 2014

VICTORY - Finishing Last

I saw him sitting on the bench after the game, head down, weeping silently while the arena went wild with applause and cheering. The camera stayed on him for just a moment, a very tall young man, nice looking, apparently exhausted,  a college basketball player whose team had just lost their game in the United States collegiate basketball finals. 

The camera quickly swung on to members of the winning team, exultantly jumping in the air, fists raised, smiling and laughing, and the camera then panned to the crowd, cheering wildly and  celebrating Victory.

But my thoughts returned to that young man who was still feeling the sinking feeling of losing the big game. 

It brought to mind a statement by Sharon Pollock,  Canadian playwright who said: "There is nobility in the struggle, you don't have to win."

In today’s experience, we live in a world of competition, a general atmosphere of “Who is the best”?  “Who will be the greatest”?
Of course in sports that is a natural instinct.   But in business, politics, game shows, even on television cooking shows, it is always one person or group pitted against another!!    Everything seems to be a contest… a test to determine who is the smartest, most capable, most talented, best looking, funniest, and we even judge dogs to see which is the “best in show”!!  Never mind the nobility in the struggle, it is WIN or else!!

As I thought about that young basketball player I considered how tragic it is that we sometimes miss out on the important things in life, limit ourselves and others, maybe even our own children by focusing only on the winners.  This young man had played his heart out, persisted, played well, fairly and with enthusiasm, yet he seemed defeated.

It brought to mind the Iditarod dog sled race in Alaska. This grueling race covers approximately 1050 miles across the frozen tundra  from Anchorage to Nome, a trip that takes from 8 to 35 days, depending on the weather and the team’s progress.    Teams generally race through blizzards causing whiteout conditions, sub-zero temperatures and gale-force winds which can cause the wind chill factor to reach −100 °F (−73 °C).  With dogs pulling their sleds, fighting against the elements, they endure hardships all for the sake of being named the winner.

But, interestingly enough, in that race, realizing how rigorous it 
is, they also honor the last team across the Finish Line!!  Finishing last at the Iditarod means that the “Musher” wins the Red Lantern award.   Indeed, finishing last means that the Musher and dog team persevered, kept going despite the odds, kept the faith, demonstrated strength and endurance. Aren’t these the Winning qualities we all strive for?

For those who are open and receptive to lessons learned and written for our benefit by our ancestors, the Bible has some solid counsel.   Jesus of Nazareth told a story about humility.  It was about a man being invited to a feast.  Jesus said:   “When someone invites you to dinner, don’t take the place of honor. Somebody more important than you might have been invited by the host. Then he’ll come and call out in front of everybody, ‘You’re in the wrong place. The place of honor belongs to this man.’   Red-faced, you’ll have to make your way to the very last table, the only place left."

 “When you’re invited to dinner, go and sit at the last place. Then when the host comes he may very well say, ‘Friend, come up to the front.’ What I’m saying is, if you walk around with your nose in the air, you’re going to end up flat on your face. But if you’re content to be simply yourself, you will become more than yourself.”  *1

Mary Baker Eddy, writing on the subject of personal pride, the potential downfall of winners, said:  “Two personal queries give point to human action: Who shall be greatest?  And, Who shall be best? Earthly glory is vain; but not vain enough to attempt pointing the way to heaven, the harmony of being. The imaginary victories of rivalry and hypocrisy are defeats.“ *2

As we contemplate winning and losing in this human experience,  it is well to think of this counsel.  If we live our lives humbly, with the goal of loving one another, being faithful, kind, selfless, generous, with persistence and courage, we ARE winners.  Living our lives so as to be a reflection of our Father’s infinite qualities of Love, Principle and intelligence, even if we finish last in the daily contests, we will still be a Victor!!

Jesus, who when choosing between winning or finishing last in a human sense, was tempted in his own thought, the temptation came that he could be King of the Jews, that all of the kingdoms of the world could be his,*4  but he told that Satan of evil suggestion to "Get Thee Hence" and he chose to be a servant, a foot washer of his disciples,  humbly serving mankind and his Heavenly Father.  And, he was the Victor.  

In  Jesus own words: “... many that are first shall be last; and the last shall be first." *3 

* 1  LUKE 14: 7-11 (The Message Translation)
* 2  Miscellaneous Writings 267:3-7 Mary Baker Eddy
* 3 Mark 10:31  

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Trying to Quit…

I spotted a small folded piece of paper on my seven year old son’s bedroom dresser and was in the process of picking it up to throw it in the waste basket, but curiosity made me unfold it to see what it was.   The paper was so wrinkled… it must have been folded, opened and refolded 100 times.   As I opened it I was shocked to see a scantily clad young woman’s picture, a centerfold picture from an “adult” magazine.  

My son had spent the night with a young friend earlier in the week and upon discussing this with my son I learned the boys had found some of the dad’s "adult" magazines and he tore out this page.

As I showed him the picture and talked about how it looked like it had been folded and  
refolded many times, I asked him if he had been looking at that picture a lot.  He said, “Yes Dad, but I am trying to quit.”   Those sad eyes looking up at me, that regret at doing what he knew was not something he was proud of, that self-disappointment showing on his little face, made my heart melt.

As I looked within myself at that moment, I thought, ‘ 'Yes, my boy, Dad knows that sinking feeling of guilt and disappointment,' not a necessarily a sneak peek at racy pictures but the awareness of doing something, maybe a lot of things that I was ashamed of, or not happy to have as part of my character, longing to quit, to change for the better.

Haven’t many of us been in that situation?  Maybe experiencing disappointment with ourselves for not “measuring up”, for doing things we regret, painfully aware that what we are doing is inappropriate, unwise, impure, perhaps not necessarily hurtful or really bad, but something beneath our standards.    But we continue to be powerless to resist the attraction to the wrong actions.  We are Trying to Quit!

It seems fashionable today to “Go to Rehab”, that mecca where an endless stream of celebrities, elected officials and maybe even the person next door go for a miracle cure.  So many wonderful people seemingly chained to bad habits of drugs, alcohol, sex addiction, abuse or maybe just being excessively critical, hurtful, “slightly dishonest", or just falling short of the mark we have set for ourselves.    They are “Trying to Quit”.

The Bible, that historical record of mankind’s efforts to rise higher in spirituality and to escape the downward pull of materiality has many examples showing this is not a new phenomenon.  Even for those whose life mission was to follow the teachings of Christ Jesus, sin was still a struggle. A Bible quote from Paul’s Epistle to the Romans  reflects his struggle where he writes:  For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not.  For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do.” *  He was “Trying to Quit.”  

Anyone who has tried to quit smoking or the use of alcohol and drugs knows that Quitting is difficult!! But maybe Quitting is not the answer after all, and perhaps Starting is a better solution. Instead of trying to extract the unwelcome and undesirable habits and activities, filling their place with good ones is easier and more profitable. After all, in our schools we don't try to pull out ignorance, we pour in "learning"!

Recently while cleaning our duck pond I remembered how in the past I had used every method in the book to get the dirty water out of the pond including  a pump, suction
devices, a shovel and anything at hand.  Getting the sludge, feathers and dirty water out was a real chore.    This time  I began filling the pond with clean water which eventually forced out the dirty sludge, replacing it with clean, sparkling water.   How much easier it was to let the clean water do the work of purging the impure contents rather than spending hours dredging out the unwanted dirty water. And, the added benefit was that the dirty water fertilized the land around the pond.  Best of all,  when I had used the old method of emptying and draining I only ended up with an empty vessel. By filling with clean water the end result was a clean and sparkling pool, delightful to the eye and welcoming to the ducks.

In the Holy Bible we see where Christ Jesus shared a story** with his followers that held the key to our freedom.  He described how a  farmer had planted good seed in a field but someone had overnight planted some bad seed in that same field.  That "someone" described as an “enemy”, perhaps was the same enemy that plants those bad ideas in our thinking, those temptations, selfish ideas, greed, sensuality, insensitivity which cause such pain, distress and discouragement.   Jesus told how the landowner advised against pulling up the weeds, but instead nurturing the good seed,  faithfully cultivating and encouraging the good until the bad could be rooted out at harvest.

Religious pioneer Mary Baker Eddy, the discoverer and founder of Christian Science, counseled that "The way to extract error from mortal mind is to pour in truth through flood-tides of Love. Christian perfection is won on no other basis."***

Each of us can decide how best to "Stop Quitting and Start Starting"!!!  But for me, the straightforward lesson in Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, contained in what are termed the Beatitudes, provides an excellent starting point.   This is a daily challenge,  but the results are surely worth it. 

For starters I am going to practice living these initial steps, several Beatitudes paraphrased from the King James version of the Bible and the Message translation:
·       Blessed are those who are gentle. 
·       Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for God’s approval.
·       Blessed are those who show mercy.
·       Blessed are those whose thoughts are pure.
   Blessed are those who make peace.

This is a start, and the rest of the list can be found in Matthew, chapter 5. 

So,if we become discouraged  “Trying to Quit”, to leave behind some unwanted habit, personality trait, or hurtful way of thinking, we need not despair nor wrestle endlessly in a futile effort to extract the bad qualities. Rest assured that diligent and sincere efforts to pour in love, meekness, purity and other good qualities will soon clear out the “dirty water” of our lives.  And, best of all, we will not end up an “empty vessel”, but will reflect more of God's goodness and float more peacefully on life's waters. 

*    Romans 7:18
**    Matthew 13:13-24
***   Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy