A Christian Science Perspective

When Mary Baker Eddy founded The Christian Science Monitor in 1908, she gave the directive to publish one article on Christian Science every day. Each article delivers a response to a topical issue in the news from a Christian Science perspective. These articles inspire readers to look through a spiritual lens when responding to the news and focus their supportive prayers toward an issue facing the global community. For more articles than the ones listed below, visit the Christian Science perspective section on csmonitor.com.

A few years ago I was running the last leg of the Detroit Marathon along the new Riverwalk that runs along the Detroit River. As I ran alongside hundreds of others, I watched the boats and scanned the shores of Windsor, Ontario, just across the river. Cruising past the majestic Renaissance Center, the home of General Motors, I drew close to the finish line and felt a sense of pride in my town and a great hope for the future of this city.

However conditioned we may be to look to the media for our impressions of what’s going on in the world, and however dependent we have become on computers and smartphones to give us the latest headline or viral video, we should always remember: There is something else going on.

A welcome retreat

More and more people are planning exciting summer vacations this year that consist of doing ... absolutely nothing.

The moving words of young Malala Yousafzai, the teenage girl shot by the Taliban last fall for promoting education for girls in Pakistangave the world a beacon of hope when she told United Nations officials recently that the Taliban had “failed.” “They shot my friends, too. They thought the bullet would silence us, but they failed.... We realize the importance of light when we see darkness.”

As I was considering the protests in response to the acquittal of George Zimmerman, a quotation from Martin Luther King Jr. came to mind. Understanding that violence results only in more violence, he wisely explained: “Nonviolence is a powerful and just weapon, which cuts without wounding and ennobles the man who wields it. It is a sword that heals.”

Do you feel trapped in a world where only the best and brightest succeed? Do you ever see life as a card game in which the deck is stacked against all but a precious few? Probably most of us have felt this way at one time or another – yet the Bible debunks this dour outlook.

One July, shortly after I had turned 6, my mom signed me up for swimming lessons at the town pool. I loved playing in the water with my friends. But lessons? I dreaded them. In fact, I failed the beginners’ class more than once. Not because I couldn’t swim. Actually, I was a pretty strong little swimmer. But to pass beginners’, you also had to float for one whole minute. Both skills were needed to move ahead. And no matter how hard I tried, floating turned into sinking. That was the problem. I was trying too hard.

Taming anger

The voice on the other end of the phone didn’t even say hello when I answered – just an irate “Who do you think you are?” that nearly jumped out of the receiver. 

Splash! With summer vacation around the corner, lots of people will be heading off to the pool or beach to enjoy a dip in the water or their favorite water sports.

Nelson Mandela, the former president of South Africa and anti-apartheid activist, remarked upon his release from a 27-year prison term: “As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn’t leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I’d still be in prison.” 

Are your activities constantly being interrupted? Perhaps you establish a plan for the day but telephone calls, e-mails, texts, and social media call for your attention while you try to meet demands from job, family, and friends.

See the 'halo'

In many faiths, artists have painted or sculpted halos surrounding people, symbolizing a glow of holiness, or expression of the divine nature. Abraham, Jacob, Moses, Ruth, John, Mary, Paul, and of course, Jesus, are a few of the people in the Bible’s Old and New Testaments who have been depicted with this “halo” of holiness and love.

About 11 years ago, I married a wonderful American gentleman. But I sometimes struggled to face up to the fact that I had committed to a country and culture that felt completely foreign – and this was now my permanent home.

As I write this from BoiseIdaho, where the National Interagency Fire Center is headquartered, I’m thinking of those 19 firefighters who died in Arizonaearlier this week. Our nation owes a debt of gratitude to a wide range of individuals who serve in a variety of ways. That certainly includes those who fight forest fires. Sometimes people who serve are recognized only when there’s a tragedy.

Twenty years ago this week I was on a bus headed to a Fourth of July festival in Erie, Pa., and to my new job as a deckhand on one of the famous tall ships touring the Great Lakes that summer. At the time I was celebrating my own “Independence Day” of sorts. 

"What's it to you?"

Jesus would never have said it quite like that. But I like the informality, the jovial jostling of the phrase. It’s my modernized version of the Master’s exchange with Peter about “the disciple whom Jesus loved”: “Peter seeing him saith to Jesus, Lord, and what shall this man do? Jesus saith unto him, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? follow thou me” (John 21:20–22). In colloquial terms, Peter was asking Jesus, What about this guy?

“It’s complicated!” No, it’s not a Facebook update about a relationship that’s heading south. It was a “nutshell” commentary on how difficult it is to understand the brain, from neuroscience professor Henry Markram, addressing a Brussels conferenceon European Brain Research.

My son made his first foray into team sports the summer after first grade. He had never played soccer before. I quickly saw why shinguards were vital equipment. There was no strategy. Every player on the field huddled around the ball at once, and of course the ball had nowhere to go but to bounce off the nearest shins. The coaches repeatedly explained the concept of each child playing his or her position, but so far, this just hadn’t clicked.

Many people have either participated in some kind of group or choral singing – classical, modern, theatrical – or enjoyed being part of the audience. And sometimes family and friends still gather around the piano and blend their voices to create a sound larger than they can make separately.

Two springs pour forth in the shade of the forest, one warm and gushing, the other cold and peaceful. Their waves rush joyously down over their rocky beds, then unite and glisten in the rays of the morning sun. Thus begins the symphonic picture of the Moldau River as painted in music by renowned Czechoslovakian composer Bedřich Smetana.

It’s not always easy to set aside our worries and concerns. They gnaw at thought, keeping us in a state of confusion. But right where they seem so real, right there is an ever-present, all-powerful God, ready to reveal to us what He already knows. 

If we face down the impersonal impulse to act evilly or to see God’s creation as vulnerable to evil actions, we’ll find ourselves better protected. And ultimately, we’ll find all of society itself fully secure.

During summer and fall, television reports of tornadoes, hurricanes, and wildfires are fairly common. The images can almost be overwhelming as I sit and watch, feeling concern for the affected residents and first responders. It wouldn’t be as bad if there was something we could do to help during the immediate crisis. But there is! We can follow the example of Jesus. Let me explain.

Saying no to suicide

Who that has heard about someone’s suicide has not been deeply touched? Reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicate that suicide is on the rise in the United States. Once viewed as a problem for teens and the elderly, there’s been a surge in suicide among middle-aged Americans and veterans.

“Little things mean a lot,” Kitty Kallen sang in her 1954 hit recording. In Shakespeare’s play “King Richard the Third,” the king’s horse loses a shoe in battle and throws him to the ground. Facing the enemy on foot, the king cries: “A horse! A horse! My kingdom for a horse!” For want of a shoe, a kingdom falls. Little things mean a lot.

Inside help

“Who’s your rabbi?” It’s a question often asked in the TV business, theater, and Hollywood. Although “rabbi” is loosely used there, for someone looking for a job, it really means: Whom do you know on the inside, and are they willing to look at your audition tape, listen to you sing, or watch you act? Who will stick his or her own neck out for you when the corporate doors are otherwise closed? 

A favorite Bible promise, found right toward the beginning of the book, is: "My presence shall go with thee" (Exodus 33:14). No matter where a person goes, right there is God, fully and entirely. The presence of God – whom the Bible also calls Love and Spirit – is truly an ever-presence. This divine presence never could be bounded or excluded by any thing, opinion, or decree. While it's appropriate that theology is not to be legislated by any government, that doesn't mean that this presence of God can somehow be excluded from a school building. One's knowledge and awareness of God resides within – a person takes it wherever he or she goes.

Becoming a father

I’ll never forget the day I became a dad. My wife and I had registered to adopt a child with our state’s Division of Youth and Family Services. Then one day we got a call from them saying there was someone special they’d like us to meet. A few days later little Christopher crawled into our life. When I held him for the first time, I knew he was going to be my son.

In our homes, schools, businesses, and governments there continue to be significant issues to resolve. Whether it’s a family member’s well-being and place in society, or whether it’s about a whole population, there’s a need to keep coming together to make decisions and bring momentum to our efforts for good.

As the housing market slowly recovers in the United States, people may start looking to move. Baby boomers may accelerate a current trend of downsizing to smaller homes, while younger families may begin to upsize.

As I read about the thousands of people affected by the flooding in Germany and in other parts of Europe, I can’t help thinking of a hymn by Martin Luther, which begins:

A mighty fortress is our God,
A bulwark never failing,
Our helper He amid the flood
Of mortal ills prevailing.

Is it possible for developing nations to obtain peace and prosperity, and to create a solid basis for long-lasting democracy and steady growth? Since the 1990s, efforts to establish democracy in Africa have been characterized by political unrest, but ongoing efforts have brought progress, including increased freedom of expression and better conditions for women. But there is still a long way to go to overcome major challenges resulting from the lack of transparency of some governments in the management of their affairs. Also challenging is their indifference to the well-being of their people, which fuels poverty, injustice, and corruption.

... praise the Lord! Did you think I was going to say, “Clap your hands”? Many of you may now be singing to yourself that children’s song, often popular at summer camp or on the school bus. This article however is not about that tune, but about true happiness found in and caused by God.

The news of businesses, cities – even countries – on the verge of bankruptcy, accompanied by interviews with desperate people who have lost hope, can be disheartening. Expecting failure and poverty and dwelling in a mental miasma of demoralized self-confidence is also disheartening and furthers more of the same. The good news is that there is a remedy.

Nonstop honking of horns. Incessant banging on pots and pans. This has been the nightly mesmeric din heard from my home in AnkaraTurkey, for almost a week now. Television, Facebook, and Twitter are inundated with reports and images of people throughout Turkey protesting the force used by the police against a peaceful sit-down in Taksim Square.

The way decisions are made can be pretty interesting. Here in Canada where I live, all proposed legislation needs to pass through two houses in Parliament: the elected House of Commons (lower house) and the appointed Senate (upper house). Then it’s signed by the Governor General and becomes law. The upper house has been dubbed a place of “sober second thought,” where proposed legislation is given a careful second look to see how it would affect all sectors of society before it can be passed into law. I love the idea of allowing room for “sober second thought” before making decisions. It has kept me out of trouble more than a few times.

I boarded the airplane feeling depressed and heavy-hearted. I was unhappy over several thorny family issues, and to top it off, our dog was sick. So when the pilot’s voice came over the loudspeaker announcing there was a mechanical problem and the plane would be stationed at the gate while they tried to fix it, I mentally groaned and thought: “Great! Now I’ll probably miss my connecting flight. Can’t the airlines get anything right?” My mood got even darker.

I heard a whale breathe. It was this incredible sound. My husband and I were in Antarctica. It was 10:30 at night in the deep twilight of an austral summer evening. We were on our balcony as the ship slipped noiselessly through waters as still as glass. Right in front of us a humpback whale surfaced and blew. She glided instead of submerging, and in the profound stillness we could hear her breathe. There was no visible sign. No water spouted, she just breathed.

Standing still

When the people who had followed Moses to their freedom were resting beside the Red Sea, to their surprise, they suddenly saw the Pharaoh’s chariots coming over the horizon and bearing down on them. They were terrified, fearing that this meant either recapture or death (see Exodus 14:10-13). In the midst of all the panic, Moses’ words to the huge group were: “Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord.”

No one knows who first said “Stop and smell the roses,” but most of us have been urged to do it. Ringo Starr even wrote a song about it. Like the allure of roses, my study of the Bible stopped me from rushing through life and has helped me pause to savor more of my spiritual selfhood as a child of God, to listen more to that “still small voice” (I Kings 19:12), and see that the Christ, the true idea of God, always leads the way.

For light in Somalia

There's a saying that from small acorns, mighty oaks do grow. The progress toward stability in Somalia in the last year or so may be represented by the acorn, and many have hopes that a great oak of peace, supporting a strong, stable government, will grow from it.

The fatal attack by two men on an unarmed British soldier in the streets of London last Wednesday has been severely condemned by Prime Minister David Cameron. One of the alleged attackers was filmed voicing extreme political views consistent with beliefs promulgated by a small minority of Muslims who hold radical views. Few on either side of the Atlantic could fail to be shocked by the nature of this crime. It follows not long after the bombs set off near the finish line of the Boston Marathon, also reportedly by individuals who held views consistent with radical Islam.

Watching a baseball game recently that was a tribute to the contributions of players from the Negro Leagues of the past, I was transported back to 1968 when I moved to Greensboro, N.C., to start a new job. It was three days after Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. There was tension in town, a feeling of fear and instability in the wake of the tragic shooting. Greensboro had been a site where some of the “sit-ins,” a series of nonviolent protests against racial segregation, had taken place.

Some years back a major earthquake hit Mexico City. Amazingly, many newborns at a central hospital that collapsed survived for days beneath mountains of rubble before rescuers finally reached them (see The New York Times, Oct. 16, 1985). Without diminishing the heroic efforts of first responders, perhaps the survival of those infants hints at the strength of innocence, the power of purity.

If you’ve been following the news of the devastating tornado that struck Moore, Okla., Monday, you may have stumbled across a short video online that is quickly going viral. In this video, a survivor – whose home has been completely destroyed – is reunited with her pet dog, while giving an interview to the media. The woman explains that when the tornado hit, she held her dog and hid in her tiny bathroom. After the tornado passed, she rose up from the rubble and called for her pet. When the dog failed to come to her, she knew it was trapped somewhere nearby.

I started knitting as a way to do something relaxing. But in those early days it was far from a peaceful hobby. I worried about dropping stitches and getting the yarn in knots. My stitches were tight, leaving barely enough room for the other needle to enter the loops. Total focus was required.

In business, politics, or our personal lives, instant gratification continually confronts us, and usually in the form of willful attempts to win the day with too little regard for tomorrow's consequences. Michael Burry, physician, hedge-fund manager, and a predictor of the economic collapse of 2008, addressed the 2012 University of California, Los Angeles, graduating class in economics. He said: "[M]any if not most people will do questionable things that obviously make money and earn respect from common peers....

Graduations are Life-affirming exactly because they are proofs of progress. This is a reason to rejoice! As we pause to acknowledge these outward manifestations of lessons mastered and advancing stages of growth, we need to remember the divine underpinnings of it all.

Lots of media attention has been focused on economic crises in the United States lately – from the fiscal cliff to the “sequester” to the debt ceiling. Pundits and politicians are concerned about what will happen to the economy as tax cuts expire or as spending cuts kick in. But while it’s important to understand what’s happening in the news, we can also rely on our universal Father-Mother, God, to tell us where our true source of supply comes from.

A new book titled “Lean In” by Sheryl Sandberg, chief operating officer of Facebook, is prompting much discussion. It focuses on the challenges women face in the corporate arena and how women can best be visible, impactful, and effective. As healthy dialogue continues about Ms. Sandberg’s views, much can be appreciated about the importance of bringing one’s talents and inspired leadership into the world of work. While there are indeed helpful strategies for finding work, advancing our careers, or achieving “best fit” job alignment, many people find that more than human effort and analysis is required – that God’s guidance and wisdom are needed. And for this, we must lean up.

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