Monday, April 20, 2009

No Walk in the Park

(In my continuous reading of Jesus' words marked in red in one of my Bibles, this statement from John 16:2 has stayed with me. Sobering to think about. This poem came as a result, and thought it might be of help to some of my fellow "soldiers of the Cross".)

No Walk in the Park

(c) By: Sharon Slaton Howell

Doing what God requires
is of course no lark.
Jesus never even hinted
it'd be a walk in the park.

In fact, Jesus left no doubt
just what could lie ahead
in these words to those
God-called men he led:

"...whosoever killeth you will
think that he doeth God service."
(John 16:2)

Doesn't need to be put
plainer than this for me.
Nor I suspect for you who
love Christ unconditionally.

But becoming more like our Saviour,
the most obedient-to-God man on earth,
shouldn't this some all out,
go-for-broke commitment be worth?

For we know, disobeying the God
we are taught to adore
is, sooner or later, sure to
cost us so much more.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

In Praise of Flowers

On a lighter note, for any of you readers who are into gardening, want to post a little poem written a couple of years ago inspired by a wonderful truth I had read in Mary Baker Eddy's masterwork, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures. I came across a most thought-provoking statement she makes on page 508: "The only intelligence or substance of a thought, a seed, or a flower is God, the creator of it." Couldn't stop thinking about the profundity of this (naturally it's profound!) and realized it could be applied to planting flowers. Since coming down south where flower-growing is all pervasive, have gotten into this pastime, with great joy and satisfaction. Therefore herewith in hopes it gives a lift to fellow flower lovers and planters. The teachings of Christian Science are so practical, I am finding, and can be applied to just about every area of human endeavor. To all areas, I guess I should say.

"Talking to my flowers"

(c) By: Sharon Slaton Howell

"How do you grow such flowers?"

My neighbors would ask.

I used to say, "feeding and watering?"

Lest they think I'm a bit odd.

But now I come right out and say,

"I talk to them,

Tell them how pretty they look,

How well they're doing."

After all, don't you like a little praise

Every now and then?

But in the final analysis,

It is truly feeling that

It is God Himself who is

The substance of a flower.*

*Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,
p. 508, by Mary Baker Eddy

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Thinking about Energy...

...not this moment conserving it, which is vital to our planet, but expressing more of it in our everyday lives. Two comments have come recently that have caused me to ponder, whence our strength for life's work? Was in Walmart and a greeter said, "I've seen you before. If I just had half your energy". This was a surprise, but then recalled earlier a friend said, "You have the energy of a 20-year old." This was amazing, since according to human calculation, I clearly am not that age. Then she added, "It must be in your genes." To myself, I said, Oh no, it is due to what my religion is teaching me about the source of energy and agelessness and what we need to manifest to be about His work.

There was a remarkable Christian Science practitioner we knew when we lived in Wellesley, MA and this man was an unending source of inspiration to so many of us. Some of you readers will know to whom I am referring. Anyway, his demonstration of radiant energy and optimism (in a right sense) and activity was a marvel to witness. One day we were in the parking lot of the church and he was off some way away. My first thought was, who is that college kid new to our church? Then I realized who it was. I'm not making this up. His posture and whole demeanor bespoke such dominion over human beliefs of slowing down, gloomy thoughts, debililty--you name it. Clearly, this student of Christian Science understood to a great degree that man is entirely spiritual and thus exempt from mortal beliefs of time and ageing.

Now for those who will tune in to this blog and hear about Christian Science for the first time, I want to give some of its truths bearing on this important issue:

-- In the New Testament, Paul makes this striking statement: "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me" (Phil. 4:13). But how many people these days are trying to do all things without Christ! This is sad to me, for not only does such a spiritually weakened way of life go against God's will for His children; it deprives us of utilizing the incomparable strength and energy of divine power.

-- One doesn't have to live this way another day. Not when looking to God as the continuous giver of vitality is so energizing. Depending on our heavenly Father, God, is the obedient thing to do. It glorifies Him. And in turn, it empowers us to get so much more done every day.

-- Turning to God as the only creator brings into manifestation the qualities already ours as His spiritual offspring. The result is more physical stamina with which to carry out life's demands, increased zip and zing--in short, a greater expression of God's infinite capacities. The Christian Science textbook, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, points out how natural it is for God's creation to express vigor. "All that God imparts moves in accord with Him, reflecting goodness and power," writes Mary Baker Eddy.

--Conforming our thoughts and deeds, day by day, to the Christly model Jesus exemplified will give us more resilience and stamina, more pizazz. The Bible states: "Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness" (Isa. 41:10)

--Because you and I are God's child as Jesus showed, God's reflection, we have continuously within ourselves all the vigor we need. All we have to do is learn to lean on God for it as our Master did.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

God's Infinite Resources

Those who are conversant with Mary Baker Eddy's major work, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures will recognize the premise of this blog post today, that our heavenly Father has unlimited channels for blessing His children. Indeed, I've often said, and do believe, that if He didin't already have unlimited channels for showing His love and care for us, He could make new ones this moment.

But what has given rise to this blog post is an unexpected means of presenting Jesus and Christian Science. The way God does work at times. And what just happened has application to anyone out of work, feeling unneeded, wondering where he or she can serve (and serve is the operative motive here). Because someone found one of my books in a local bookstore and shared it with a contractor working on her house, this man has extended an invitation to speak to a worldwide group he formed of Christian business people. He felt the fervency shown for Christ Jesus in some of the poems was just what his group needs to hear. But the exciting part, to me, is that I very naturally will be able to bring in Christian Science, since this is the work I'm involved in. Not there to promote my religion, but can be brought out. While part of me isn't sure I want to do this, I will to get His Word out to those who need to hear it in their day-to-day business dealings.

I know from my own father-in-law who ran an office supply store in the southwest that by putting Christ's teachings first in one's business, things can't help prospering. When he was starting out, could not afford an office. Could scarcely find a place in that tiny house with no air conditioning to fill orders. But the business grew and grew, everyone felt because he conducted it in accordance with Jesus' principles. In fact, he used to give out rulers painted in gold with these words on them: "Our Aim -- To Apply the Golden Rule in our Business Daily." And he lived these words. Was not just a marketing gimmick. This man would not have enriched himself at the expense of his Christian principles. (A devout Baptist at that time, but he later became a Christian Scientist.)

Knowing that there will be new visitors to this blog who may not be thinking of Biblical teachings, I hope they will take away with them this statement from our dear Master: "I am among you as he that serveth." And this promise from Paul: "God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye all, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work."

These are divine truths that no recession can have any effect on. A desire to glorify God is exempt from economic downturns. Of course it is!

Friday, April 10, 2009

Caring about all God's creatures

One might think I've got a Christian Science/New York Times blog going here! But as a comment I made yesterday on a Nicholas Kristof column on animal rights--"Humanity Even for Nonhumans"--is generating lots of feedback, some from surprising sources, thought I'd repeat it here. Let's see what you are led to say. Some will agree, some will not. But it is an important topic, in my view.

"Dear Nicholas,

You can bet your life there will be a whole lot of soul-searching going on because of this column, which the comments already are showing. Tell me it isn't an ongoing struggle for my husband and me who dearly love animals and devote every spare cent we can to help dogs and cats who can't say "I'm suffering, I'm starving, help me, please!" to a balance a la meat eating. Growing up in Texas where one couldn't go out to dinner without consuming a huge steak, I now eat very little meat. But as you admit, I still do it and it bothers me. About the only way I can manage it is to just not think about where it came from. What shot me forward years ago toward a more humane attitude toward all forms of life was coming across Albert Schweitzer's "Reverence for Life." It changed mine dramatically. But I can do more to show compassion for God's creatures. I'm working on it.
Thanks for stimulating thought on a vital topic.

Sharon Slaton Howell
Farragut, TN"

Now, dear readers, have at it!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Compassion and Healing

There are so many reasons why I thank God for the teachings of Christian Science. Could never pay off the sense of indebtedness I feel, and this is a happy feeling to have. But what I'm thinking about this morning, in fact, for the past few days with a couple of blog postings on the importance of loving our neighbor, is the connection between compassion and healing. It occurs to me it might be helpful for someone new to Christian Science reading this blog for the first time to hear more about this.

That there is this connection Jesus, God's Son, makes abundantly clear in his teachings. I do believe, and have experienced, that our Master's commands to "heal the sick" and "love thy neighbor" can't be separated. Christly loving of our fellow beings is the basis for spiritual healing, as the life of Jesus demonstrated. His healings exemplified the nature of God as tender, understanding Love, who knows what we have need of before we ask Him. Christ-healing is based on this knowledge of God and man. And faith in and understanding of divine Love constitute the healing power of all prayer in Christian Science.

Let me give just one of the examples of this from my own life. There are many I could cite that show what happens when more love replaces the opposite states of thought making a person ill. Several years ago when we were living in Boston, went through a difficult time with a throat condition that caused sudden outbreaks of uncontrollable coughing. I was feeling weak and frustrated. Being a student of Christian Science, I was praying about this problem earnestly. But no relief was in sight.

Then one night, after unusually severe coughing, I was sitting there on the sofa in the dark, feeling at an impasse. I reached out to God to show me what more I needed to know, or do, to be free. I actually said to Him, I'll do anything You want me to do! Quietly the answer came. There was someone--a former co-worker I hadn't thought of for a long time--whom I needed not only to forgive but feel love for as well. It seemed clear to me that spiritual progress was demanding that the unkind feelings lodged in thought be removed. The healing began to take place with my willingness to allow divine Love to uplift thought and clear out what didn't belong there.

Someone reading this might say, "Well I would have taken some medicine, or a pill. While this wouldn't have cured the problem I realize, it would have given me some relief." To this I would say, "But how could a pill get at the unloving states of thought?" I wanted, and had gotten in other instances, complete freedom from the difficulty.

And this is precisely what I got. The Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy points out in her book, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures" (page 404): "Hatred, envy, dishonesty, fear, and so forth make a man sick and neither material medicine nor Mind can help him permanently, even in body, unless it makes him better mentally, and so delivers him from his destroyers." Certainly, what I had been harboring toward this individual was an aspect of hatred, and this was what needed to be replaced with Christlike compassion.

No doubt many people feel that there is something a little weak about being warm and loving--something that strong, self-reliant people just don't do. But think about Jesus. Where have we ever had an example of a more courageous yet tenderhearted person? Having a heart that overflowed with compassion didn't interfere with his moral courage or healing power or dynamic spirituality one bit.

To be caring and compassionate toward others can demand great spiritual stamina at times. Tell me about it! But even if we have to pace the floors in prayer in order to conform to what our Lord and Saviour requires of us, through the power Christ gives us, we can gain forgiveness and healing love.

To help ensure that I do not deprive myself and those around me of the Christly compassion the world so needs right now, I have resolved to ask myself every day, "How much of God's love is reaching others through me?" Not only do others need this desperately, my own continued good health depends upon it.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Loving thy neighbor vs. selfish greed

Want to share this morning something that shows how God can work to get a worthwhile message out to the world. In this case, individuals who might not otherwise come into contact with Jesus' call for loving others. Yesterday I read the columnists in The New York Times (yes I a Republican do this). Find these thinkers quite stimulating and not to be missed. Nicholas Kristof had a piece I felt led to comment on, "At Stake are More than Banks" about the G20 conference being held in London. Well, would you believe out of the many comments people around the world made, the Editors of the Times chose 8 and mine was among them! I print it below, FYI for my readers.

Dear Nicholas:
I feel you're almost a friend since I have commented on your excellent columns several times. The Times has the most wonderful writers, and I put you at the head of my must-reads. About your latest: I realize not all your readers are Christian, much less religiously inclined, but what I want to say in response to your compassionate concern for humanity's suffering is this: we who reverence the Name, who are trying to follow what Jesus says to do, can't allow the shame of feeling indifferent to our fellowman. You are helping mightily to correct this situation, and I thank you. I don't know if your readers recall a wonderful film with Jimmy Stewart, "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" but it has a lot to say to me about these times. After being on his feet for countless hours trying to defeat an inhuman bill, Stewart turns to Claude Raines, a greedy, crooked politician and says, in effect, "Whatever happened to Love thy neighbor?" and collapses. A stricken look passes over Raines' face and he goes out and shoots himself. But the key point to me is we have got to put caring for others before selfish greed.

Sharon Slaton Howell
Farragut, TN

(Note to my readers: no comment expected on this, merely FYI.)

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Keeping the Connection

Last month as some of you know, a friend of ours in Arizona put on my blog a guest column. It gave some helpful information about a computer program available from Ark Publications through Longyear in Boston, which contains the Bible Lessons as well as articles from the Sentinel and Journal from 1908 to 1922.

Anyway, one of the commenters on this blog post referred specifically to one of those early, powerhouse writers, Samuel Greenwood, that she discovered in a reading room while living in Hawaii. I, too, have found a goldmine of wonderful metaphysics from this man's writings. And one of the gems I've been recalling this morning revolves around the need to be wired to Love.

In one of his pieces, he talks about his many years in the public practice as a Christian Science practitioner and something most interesting he had found: what was it? that almost every problem someone brought to him for divine healing pointed to a lack of love! Either love expereinced or especially, love expressed. I found this most arresting and revealing at the time, and actually penned some lines on the topic last year. It was shared over the Internet and many of the fellow poets commenting on my poem from various parts of the globe found it helpful. Although not one of these friends is a student of Christian Science, they agreed that disease can be caused by insufficient love. This was encouraging to me. And with the thought that other people not acquainted with our religion may come across the following lines and be enlightened, I offer it. (And it just might be helpful to Christian Scientists, too!)

"Keeping the Connection"

(c) By: Sharon Slaton Howell

We who follow Christ,
who reverence the Name,
can't allow the shame
of feeling indifferent
to our fellow man.
I hope this fellow traveler
is learning when loving
others starts to slip,
it's more than a blip
on the heavenly screen:
it's deadly serious,
and needs to be gotten at
as quickly as possible.
The worst thing about
such blatant disobedience
is estrangement from Him,
not that He ever stops
caring about us, but
our Father Who is all love,
is not going to indulge us
while we indulge in a little hate!
Do we want to lose the
look of approval on His face?
If nothing else, a concern
for our own well-being
should impel a return to
Him before it's too late.
(How many diseases can
be traced to lack of love.)
With the armor of the Word,
and no-fooling praying,
this need not be the case.
First John puts it clearly:
"God is love; and he that
dwelleth in love dwelleth
in God, and God in him."
Just think of the healing
power inherent in this!