New Vistas

My ministerial class reads emails from some Religious Science ministers that I copied from our chatter group. The discussion is on New Vistas or what we believe about church and state issues.  My class concludes that there are an amazing variety of opinions and they all make valid points.  Next week my students will bring in their own position statement to class.

 

Certainly, issues of church and state are relevant and ministers in training need to be thinking about how they will guide themselves and their churches through the complexity of attitudes about social action.

 

Should they speak out about same sex marriage laws? Or should they stay quiet and do their prayer work?  Is it a New Thought minister’s place to talk about supporting the Occupy Wall Street groups? How about anti-war marches? What about contraception? Abortion? Migrant workers? Privacy and anti-terrorist measures? The list of issues is long.

 

While most of us in New Thought would agree about most of these issues, I know for a fact that we wouldn’t agree about all of them. But we do agree that we want our New Thought churches and centers to be open to people of varying opinions – don’t we?

 

Whether we are ministers or not, if we are citizens of the US, we are up to our necks in church and social action issues right now. We are aware of this, I’m certain. Last Monday, I posted a blog about women’s rights and how I didn’t think the “old boys” should push us backward. I got more favorable responses to that blog than any I’ve written so far.

 

I obviously hit a nerve. Since women have always been a big part of New Thought leaders and followers, I wasn’t surprised. It turns out that my blog was part of a bigger picture that is hitting a nerve all over the nation.

 

This week, the news is full of the question, “Where are the women?” Most women are against the proposed laws designed to whittle away women’s access to abortion and possibly contraception. These laws are in play for many reasons but at least partly because of religious convictions. We are, once again, dancing between our right to religious freedom of expression and our belief that religion has no place in government policy.

 

The United States was founded on the idea of separation of church and state, yet, our history is riddled with change based on religious meddling. I don’t like that fact when my side loses. I liked it just fine when my side won so it really comes back to consciousness of the individual and how it is formed.

 

Here’s something I know about consciousness. I believe in things that I know – mostly through personal experience. For example, I’m a woman so I really get women’s issues. I’ve had black and gay friends since I was very young and so I get most of their issues. I’ve never been a hunter so I don’t understand why anyone would want a nation with enough guns to start a revolution. And so it goes.

 

Church and State are obviously separate and obviously intertwined. Our country will continue to have opposing sides to any question and the majority will win in the long run. One thing that means tome is that we need to elect more minorities to the government at local, state and federa level. One thing that the election Pres. Obama is teaching us is that one guy isn’t enough.

 

Meanwhile, our country is based on the idea of individual liberty and I will continue to believe that everyone has a right to his or her voice.  Though I am pro-choice and I believe small families are a good idea, I would honestly hate to see anyone forced to use birth control or forced to abort at any stage in the pregnancy. I truly do believe in choice.

 

At the same time, I believe in social activism. We need more women, more ethnic minorities and more openly gay people in our government. Since most people find it easier to identify with issues they have personal experience with, it would make votes more representative and equal.

 

My state is blessed with three large cities. One has a Hispanic Mayor, one has a gay Mayor and one has a City Manager who is a straight white male. Our two Senators are women and right now, we are fortunate. I’d like us just to be normal. I look forward to the day when no one will even think to ask, “Where are the women?”

 

By the way, here’s my position paper. If Mitt Romney can say, “Corporations are people” then I can say, “Clergy are people”. Which puts me behind the eight ball because I don’t agree with most of the more traditional ministers who are actually speaking out. I do agree that they have the right but I would love to hear more opinions from New Thought clergy. I don’t want to fight but I do want a voice.

 

We need to grow for many reasons and one of them is that we would have a stronger public voice. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if New Thought were so large and powerful on a day to day level that we were routinely called to testify in State and National capital hearings? Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could show people how to respect both sides and continue to love each other while we listened and then decided?

 

I understand that our primary way of getting things done is to pray for it. On the other hand, I have heard from the beginning, “Treat and move your feet.” I’d love to see us move our feet in the direction of social action.  Wasn’t it the Dali Lama who, speaking of the environment, said something like, “We should take care of the earth because it is where we live.”

 

Let’s not space out and ignore our activities here on Planet Earth. It’s where we live and we need to be part of the conversation about what happens.

 

Ask Yourself

Is the issue of church and state important to me?

Do I have anything to say about current events?

 

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Asleep At The Wheel

 

Back in the early 1960’s when I was a respectable widow and school teacher pretending to be celibate, a Catholic colleague of mine called and whispered, “May I come talk to you?” Turned out, she wanted to borrow birth control pills because she didn’t want her husband to know…

I woke this morning thinking about what it was like before abortion was legal and contraception was easy to obtain. Unwanted pregnancies were a nightmare.

Women of my age have seen many changes and we tend to differ about which are good or bad – that’s fine because we are a diverse nation.  But I believe women are pretty clear on the issue of who’s in charge of our bodies.  I don’t hear women saying things were better back in the days when we had fewer choices.

I think the nation is in for a great awakening as women react to the current crop of conservative candidates for President and the many laws that are being proposed at the state and national level. I think that birth control should be covered by insurance just as Viagra is. I think that women should not be for forced to endure vaginal probing and humiliation when they seek an abortion. I think the Taliban has no place in the USA.

This is a major issue and we should wake up and speak out. Remember the testimony of Anita Hill? This country was rocked back on it’s heels when women came out of their silence and told about what they endured at work. Judge Thomas was confirmed but things definitely changed in the workplace.

Wait till women wake up and start talking about the “good old days” when they were told it all depended on them to say no. In my day, we were told to be good girls and keep our knees closed, at the same time we were trained to believe our total worth came from the men who loved us.

Girls were supposed to be great teasers, advertising the product but not delivering until paid up front with a marriage license. Once obtained, they were supposed to have a few kids, be good cooks, be happy, and be pretty when their husbands came home. If he didn’t come home, they were supposed to cry a little, put on some lipstick and smile as he arrived later and later.

If you lost in the marriage game, you were trash. If you had a brain – you learned to use it by helping your husband behind the scenes. Remember Nancy Reagan?

Women of my day didn’t hate men, they loved them. That’s what caused most of the trouble. Not the loving, but the tight space of the gender role.

In my day, spinsters were a joke. Being an old maid was the true “fate worse than death”. I had a brain but I dropped out of college at 18 and got married. After my husband died, I went back to college under great hardship and neatly avoided marriage for 10 years. But I did love men.

At 78, I don’t remember it all. But I obviously remember enough not to want to go back sixty years.

I realize there is a taboo about New Thought ministers speaking out about political issues but I’m retired from active service. Besides, I consider this a mental health issue for every one of us – male and female.

I am very proud to belong to a denomination that started with as many women leaders as men. We have always had great equality in our leadership because it is the basis of our teaching. If God lives everywhere, including in women, then I have a right to say what I think. And I think we should speak out about women’s rights.

We can help. We can recognize that it is difficult for people to change and that there is always a group of powerful old guys with billions who think they know what other people should do. We can speak up.Let’s not be asleep at the wheel.

Let’s tell the truth about the good old days. Let’s say that sexual activity between consenting adults, married or single, straight or gay, is normal and natural. Let’s say that times have changed and if a few people can’t keep up, we can love them but not let them slow us down. Let’s say that all human beings are Divine and each of us gets to make his or her own choices.

Ask Yourself

Do I resist change? How?

Is there anything I need to speak up about?


Measuring Progress

I am reading a nice note from a friend who visits me once a year in January. In the note, she raves about how much healthier and happier I seemed this recent visit as compared to the year before. It couldn’t have come on a better day because I was feeling frustrated about my progress toward greater health.

Most people get an idea or vision of how things can and should be and then they set a goal. They work toward the goal for a while and hope to see big results. If they don’t get the dream right away, they can get anxious, despondent, or frustrated because change doesn’t happen overnight.

I can be a lot like most people. How about you?

Whether it’s writing a book, healing a marriage, losing weight, or building a career, healthy and solid change usually takes time. That old saying, “Rome wasn’t built in a day,” applies equally to muscle tone as marble. However, it can be difficult to stick to the creation of your vision when you don’t see the desired progress.

If you have ever had the experience of dieting all week and not losing a pound, or doing your level best to get along with your boss only to be reprimanded, you know what I am talking about. The short term lack of progress is apt to erase the truth of your general climb toward success.

Those of us in New Thought who believe in the power of prayer learn that our directed thought and prayer can create magnificent changes in short order. We also learn that it is important to back our prayers up with action. If you are looking for a job, send out resumes. If you want a perfect right partner, get out of the house and meet people.

Following up prayer with sensible activity in the direction of our dreams is important. It cements the dream in day-to-day reality and tells God you mean business. You should take reasonable steps after you pray if you possibly can.

In many cases, change happens gradually. I’ve never known anyone to lose 30 pounds overnight but I have known people to lose craving for sugar and fattening food overnight.

Prayer is powerful. I have had things happen so fast that it might look like a miracle to an outsider. When I put on the prayer power, I’ve seen change arrive at lightning speed. On the other hand, sometimes even with a lot of prayer, change happens slowly.

When change happens slowly, it sometimes is difficult to see it. That’s why keeping records is so important. A chart of your weight, or your bank balance over a longer period than your daily memory bank can be very useful. Since we seem to be programmed to always want more, we need help remembering how much more we have already gained.

Change doesn’t happen at all if we give up. Right now, we are about six weeks away from setting our New Year’s resolutions and some of us are losing patience and slacking off. This is exactly the time when we should be putting on the extra power.  When change seems to be avoiding us, it is not smart to give up. It is smart to pour on more power.

With God, all things are possible and prayer is the way we are most significantly with God when it comes to goal achievement. Prayer can bring about major changes in short order but sometimes we have a lot of resistance and there are hidden beliefs that take a while to dissolve.

It is pointless to spend a lot of time digging out the reasons why we are resisting. It is straight to the point to continue praying and to continue our planned program of success. How long should we pray for change? How long should we continue working toward our goals? The answer, according to Dr. Ernest Holmes, is until we see the desired result.

We should also try to see progress over a period of time rather than day by day. My friend’s note was a Godsend because it reminded me that compared to a year ago, my progress is marvelous. The note came on a day when I was discouraged about my exercise class and thinking about quitting.

One thing I have learned in my years on this planet is that people tend to give up too soon.  The most important gift we can give ourselves is to hang in there, do our prayer work on a daily basis, and follow our plan until we achieve our dreams.

Ask Yourself

How do you keep track of your progress?

How do you keep your dreams enthusiastically alive?

How are you doing on those resolutions?

Do you need more God power?


Times Change

This week two wonderful Religious Science church organizations – RSI and UCORS come together as one. I didn’t make the trip to New Orleans for the historic convention but I am truly celebrating in my heart.

When I started taking Religious Science classes, many years ago, I was shocked that there were two separate organizations. A mysterious “split” took place in the 1950’s and it has taken this long for us to get back on track. I’m very glad and I also have to say, “It’s about time.”

         I remember when the first Committee for Cooperation was created in the 1980’s. It was a small, but important breakthrough because we began speaking officially again. Of course, there was some suspicion and mystery. No one seemed to really understand the origin of the split. It certainly wasn’t about the teaching because we used the same books and taught the same principles.

I can remember thinking the whole thing was embarrassing and wishing we would just get together. After all, we taught that we are all one in God and that we could choose peace, love and freedom. So why the split?

The reasons we heard were organizational mostly. There was some sense of competition among some of the old timers. None of that seemed to me to be more than standard resistance to change.

Now all the perceived problems seem to have dissolved in good will and we are truly one. In retrospect, this historic coming together seems inevitable. I’m glad I’m around to celebrate the healing.

I’ve seen a lot of healings in my lifetime of both a personal and cultural nature. Our founder, Dr. Ernest Holmes was correct when he said it was not a healing but a revealing. We see and accept the perfection that is already there in God’s Truth and it comes into being in our world.

In God’s truth, our two organizations were never apart when it came to the important work we were doing. “Stuff” needed to be resolved but our differences were never as important as the magnificent teaching that shows humans how to use spiritual laws for their personal good.

As we change our thinking and change our lives on a group or individual level, it is normal to encounter a certain amount of resistance. Whether it is wanting to lose weight but resisting making new diet and exercise choices or wanting good schools but resisting paying teachers well, the resistance looks important in the beginning. We begin by looking at the problem and it seems very real. As we focus on the solution, the problem seems to diminish very quickly (or sometimes not so quickly).  As we move along with the healing of whatever we are focusing on, it is revealed that there really isn’t a problem at all.

I’ve seen so many good things happen in the past 60 years. People have more equality under the law; People are truly committed to saving the planet. People are much more concerned and connected globally. These are just a few of the many social changes we’ve brought about through changing our collective minds.  I do believe in progress. I try hard not to resist change. As a woman, I am very aware of the increased opportunities for women. We are making progress in so many ways and there is much to celebrate.

I still see things I’d like to see move from problem to solution. There is a wider gap between rich and poor in this country. Rights for same-sex couples are in need of much work. Our volunteer armed services are becoming an unidentified lower class. The prisons need reform. So do the schools. I am a liberal living in the United States and I can go on and on about what I want to see changed.

It is all too easy for me to get stuck looking at the problem instead of the solution. Yet, the healing is in the steadfast attention to the goal without letting “stuff” distract us. That’s how we get things done by using scientific mental healing. We switch our minds from looking at the problem and saying “Ain’t it awful” to holding the vision of the solution firmly in place.

I try to recognize even small bits of progress and say, “Thank you God,” because I know about the law of attraction. On a personal level, my health is better than last year, at least partly, because I am making a habit of saying “Thank you God”.

I use a gratitude list to start my mornings and you can too. Do you try to stay away from thinking about the negative? Do you celebrate what you see that is right, whenever you see it? This is a good week to start. You can join me in celebrating the union of our two Science of Mind organizations.

I look forward to a new trajectory of teaching Science of Mind throughout the world. We have a beautiful, practical spiritual teaching that can be of value to everyone.  Now that we are not spending our energy on our differences, and living in the solution, I expect we will have much more to give the world.

Ask Yourself

Can you see progress in your personal life?

Are your ready to heal any old splits?

 


Good Books

 

I love to hear from friends who are not a part of my daily life. A while  ago, a friend called from another state, mostly to thank me for recommending a book I loved. My friend reads widely and she loved The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver just as well as I did. There is nothing better than a good historical novel unless it is hearing from a good friend.

I write a lot about the value of good friends but today, I am writing about the value of good books. Not the ones that contain valuable information but the stories that touch your heart, open your eyes and stay with you for years.

There were many times in my early life when I felt closer to books than to real people. Even now, when I have so many wonderful relationships with so many wonderful people, I treasure my reading time and the characters I find in my favorite novels.

I remember discovering the pleasure of historical fiction when I was in third grade as I read Hitty, Her First Hundred Years. Hitty was written in 1929 and it is the story of a wooden doll who was carved on a Yankee Clipper ship in the early 1800’s. She travels through many adventures, and she was my first heroine who went all the way to India. Like many great books, her story widened my world.

Another childhood favorite of mine was Adam of The Road, which was written by Elizabeth Janet Gray in 1943. Adam is an 11-year-old minstrel who wanders all over England during the Middle Ages. That one created a desire to know all about castles and such.

I still love books set in India and Medieval England. Now I read scads of historical romances novels set in those places, just for entertainment. My choices sometimes distress some of my friends and relatives because they think I should read more intellectual fiction. It is a free country and we all need light entertainment.

One of the most brilliant men I ever knew read lurid Science Fiction every night before he went to sleep. We used to tease him about his, “bug books”. I’m sorry I was such a snob in those days since I truly enjoy my “category” books now.

The Lacuna was a cut above a lot of my current reading and it was historical fiction but set in more recent times. It began in Mexico during the fascinating artistic explosion of the Thirties. The fictional hero interacted with Diego Rivera, Frieda Kahlo and Leon Trotsky. Then the hero moved on to wartime in the United States and ended in the McCarthy era. I’ve loved all of Kingsolver’s novels but the Lacuna was definitely the best. It was amazing and so beautifully written.

There are some great historical fiction writers out there right now who are both current and entertaining.  Allison Weir, and Phillipa Gregory are brilliant women who write about England’s history.  Jane Feather is officially a romance writer but her books are also enthralling. At least one great mystery writer uses historical settings – David Liss.

There are so many well known historical novels set all over the world, including E.M. Forester’s , Passage To India. Charles Dickens’s Tale of Two Cities is mostly set in France. A little known favorite of mine, The Road To Wellville by T.C. Boyle, is about the rise of health food in the United States in the 1800’s. And don’t forget that all those Westerns are historical fiction. The list of entertaining historical fiction is endless.

I’ve shared some of my favorite titles and writers in the hope that you will consider novels – especially well written, well-researched historical novels – as a pleasant free time activity. There is great joy to be had by reading a great book. It’s all very well to drift through the bookstores and buy gadgets, calendars, kindles, and the latest political  “tell-all”.  It’s quite another thing to select books that provide hours of happy reading time.

Let me remind you that you can share some of your favorite titles by commenting on this blog. Why not give the rest of us a gift of your recommendations?

 

Ask Yourself

What were some of my favorite books as a child?

What are some of my favorite books now?


Now Is The Time

Thirty-nine years ago when I first got sober, I was given a great tool to lead a happy, productive life. I was told to live 24 hours at a time. Since I was willing to go to any lengths to be sober, I tried to do exactly that.

Living in that 24 hour time frame was truly an adventure for me. At first, I thought I was losing my mind because my thoughts were so simple. Soon, I discovered that what I was losing was not my mind, but a lifelong habit of worry about the future and regret for the past. I do honestly believe that up until that time, I spent most of my thinking life in the past or future timeframe.

Living in the now seemed awkward and strange in the beginning. In retrospect, I see that it was the first step of a grand spiritual adventure. The tools I used were simple, practical and direct. There was no theory involved.

It meant noticing things I’d never really paid attention to before. I loved the way the bubbles in the dishwater popped and jumped. They almost hypnotized me when I really paid attention. The birdcalls were gorgeous, the texture of the tree and the scents of the flowers were equally thrilling. The simple things of life, which had never appealed to me, suddenly became rich and rewarding.

My life was also simple. I did what I was told. I got up in the morning and made a gratitude list. Then I made a to-do list for that day. When I accomplished something, I crossed it off the list. At the end of the day, I threw the list away and went to sleep, knowing that there would be a new list tomorrow.

Amazing things began to happen to me. I stayed clean and sober because I had always been able to lay off the booze for one day. Now that I was living one day at a time, I didn’t have to worry about anything else.  I forgot about worrying that I would never have another drink and simply went to a meeting that day. I paid my bills on time because going to the post office was on my list. I wrote my books because my list included three hours in front of the typewriter. My life became much more satisfying as well as easier.

I stopped worrying about things I couldn’t control by staying in the present day. If some worry came up for me, I would ask myself, “Is there anything I can do about that today?” If there was something, such as a letter of apology to make amends or a visit to the market to buy healthy food, I did it. If there was nothing I could do that day, I released the worry and went on with my simpler tasks.

I discovered the power of NOW because I wanted to stay sober. Other people have discovered the wonders of being in the present moment when they begin to meditate or when they take SOM classes and learn that the power of God is always in the NOW. However we learn this beautiful lesson, it opens us up for a greater experience of life and much more happiness and peace of mind.

The Serenity Prayer remains the keystone of my spiritual understanding. God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.

Because I now know that all things are possible with God and I am always with God, I now understand that the things I cannot change exist only in the future or the past. Certainly, I cannot go back and rewrite the past. I can only attempt to make amends where necessary today. I also cannot guarantee that I will build a great fortune or win an award for my writing. All I can do is work toward the direction of my dreams one day at a time.

I also understand that I cannot make other people change in the way I want them to. I am only able to change myself. It is true that when I change, others may change in response but that is not to control. They have their lives and I have mine.

There was a period when I thought the serenity prayer was kind of tricky. I would laugh and say, “The trick is in having the wisdom to know what you can change and what you cannot.” Once I thought it through and gained a little experience, I saw that I can change anything I can envision, believe and accept in the Now. That means that I must act on my dreams one day at a time and I can do it.

I am so grateful to the tool of living one day at a time. Over the years, I have achieved quite a bit including a big writing career, a successful church and a weight loss of over 100 pounds. In every case, I employed the use of staying in the Now to accomplish my goals. It worked for me and it will work for you.

 

Ask Yourself

Am I willing to keep my thoughts in the present today?

What’s on my gratitude list today?

What shall I do today?