Christmas, New Year and the expectation of good.

© Skutvik | Dreamstime.com – New Year 2015 Decoration Photo

 

As the Christmas hustle and bustle quietens down I have had some time to contemplate the spiritual connection between Christmas and New Year.

The first verse of a poem written by Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of my faith Christian Science, came to mind.

O blessings infinite!
O glad New Year
Sweet sign and substance
Of God’s presence here (Miscellany. p354)

Here I found the connection. For me both Christmas and New Year are a time for giving thanks for the good already received and the promise of good to come.

At Christmas I acknowledge and celebrate the presence of the Christ, “the divine message from God to men speaking to the human consciousness” (Science and Health p332). Jesus was the best example of how this Christ operated in humanity. He showed that this Christ was God’s perpetual gift of Love, available throughout all time and to all peoples.

New Year is not so much a time to looking back with nostalgia but, like Christmas, an opportunity to give thanks for evidence of the Christ, God’s gift of Love, over the past year and eagerly expect evidence of its presence in the future.

A blog by Terry Shoemaker showed how nostalgia in relation to Christmas can result in the belief that Christmas is under siege from other faiths or multiculturalism and that religious traditions associated with Christmas are being lost. Known as the ‘War on Christmas’ this thinking is based on fear and the perception that the past was grander, safer and holier. It imagines a battle between those of the Christian faith and others and would justify denigration of other faiths.

In contrast to this is Shoemaker’s understanding of Advent. Although it references the historical event of Jesus’ birth its emphasis is on the future, on potentiality, possibility and the expectation of good. This type of thinking encourages us to strive towards the elimination of religious violence, social injustices and inequalities. Advent does not dwell on the past but embraces the promise of a better tomorrow.

As we approach the New Year I hope you will join me in focusing our thinking on the qualities of Advent, the promise of God’s presence here now and in the future. As we look forward with an expectation of good I believe we encourage a basis of thinking that would result in a more just and equitable future for all with blessings infinite.

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A promise for now and the future.

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Mary Baker Eddy, the discoverer and founder of Christian Science writes in her major work Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, “One infinite God, good, unifies men and nations; constitutes the brotherhood of man; ends wars; fulfils the Scripture, “Love thy neighbor as thyself;” annihilates pagan and Christian idolatry, — whatever is wrong in social, civil, criminal, political, and religious codes; equalizes the sexes; annuls the curse on man, and leaves nothing that can sin, suffer, be punished or destroyed.”

This is not only a promise for the future but something I can strive for, as an individual, right now. As I work towards gaining a better understanding of God as infinite good I can demonstrate, by degree, my unity with and love for my fellow man. I can overcome the wrongs or prejudices that may be directed towards me or others. I can experience healing of sickness that would argue that I am cursed as a sinner and made materially rather than spiritually in the image of Life, Truth, Love, Mind, Spirit, Soul, Principle — seven synonyms for God.

For me this quote is not saying that everyone needs to be a Christian Scientist or even that everyone needs to be Christian. It is the understanding of “one infinite God, good” that unites us rather than a specific faith or denomination.

Although Jesus’ disciples where Jewish and he sent them to the “lost sheep of Israel” he did not confine his teaching and healing to those only of his faith— Jewish. He taught and healed all those who had a yearning to learn, whether they were Jew or Gentile. God is “the Alpha and Omega, the centre and circumference” (Eddy, 1887, Unity of Good, p10) in Christian Science theology. Therefore God’s loving embrace for all of his creation is all-sufficient, all-pervading and available to all. Jesus’ words and works epitomised this love.

One of my favourite Bible verses is from Micah 4:5 “For all people will walk every one in the name of his god, and we will walk in the name of the Lord our God for ever and ever”. This verse immediately follows God’s promise to the people of Israel that “nation shall not take up sword against nation” and that “none shall make them afraid”. Although this verse was directed through the prophet Micah to the Jewish people, and it is often interpreted as though the promise was only for them due to other nations worshipping false gods, I like to think of this verse in this way — as each of us strives to honestly understand and practice the spiritual essence of our different traditions we will see God’s promise realised in our own personal experience and collectively in humanity as a whole. Mary Baker Eddy assures as that when we realize God’s omnipotence and the healing power of divine Love, in what it has done and is doing for mankind, the promises will be fulfilled. (Science and Health p55)

Our Thinking and Pain Relief

 

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In support of the upcoming National Pain Week, 21-27th July, Chronic Pain Australia provides user-friendly research-based information and support for sufferers of chronic pain. However, one of their least discussed hints explains that helpful thinking patterns can improve our mood, which helps our body to produce feel-good chemicals thus resulting in pain relief.

Long before the many recent neurological studies into the mental nature of pain, an American woman undertook an in-depth study in this area. Following a lifetime of illness and pain, a slip on the ice proved a turning point for Mary Baker Eddy. In desperation Eddy turned to her Bible and read an account of one of Jesus’ healings. She recovered almost immediately and spent the next nine years searching for the answer to how she was healed.

What she discovered about compassion, forgiveness and her spiritual divine nature and resulting self-worth not only resulted in the healing of her own chronic illness and pain, but she also found she was able to heal others. Later she successfully taught others how to apply these principles to bring healing. Her major work Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures details and explains her discovery, which she named Christian Science.

Eddy placed importance on watching our thoughts. Her directive was to, “Stand porter at the door of thought. Admitting only such conclusions as you wish realized in bodily results, you will control yourself harmoniously” She saw that fear, anger, stress and resentment had a direct effect on health but she also emphasised the importance of the Divine Mind in healing. She did not see this Mind as unknowable or of little help in illness but understood that it was this Divine Mind which heals and that enables us to master our thinking.

A publication by the NSW Health, Hunter New England District, also outlines the importance of watching our thinking. It gives some useful strategies for recognising those thoughts that are helpful or unhelpful in controlling pain. It reminds patients that their thoughts are under their control and they can challenge unhelpful thoughts such as “what if” scenarios, feelings of lack of control, fear and panic.

In my own personal experience I have found that detecting and challenging unhelpful thoughts is most effective when I weigh up my thinking according to what I know a loving and all good God has planned for me. If it’s pain, fear, worry or resentment then it’s not helpful thinking and I can replace it with the knowledge that a loving and good God cares for and strengthens me —  “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Jeremiah 29:11(NIV) — When I  focus on filling my consciousness with God’s love I no longer see myself as a victim of illness or circumstance but feel empowered to challenge these injustices and overcome them. You can read examples of how others have found healing by challenging thought here.

For almost 150 years people from different faiths and all walks of life in many countries have   applied the principles explained in Science and Health to challenge and change unhelpful thinking resulting in effective healing and relieve of chronic illness and pain.

 

Spiritual dimensions and the treatment of alcohol and drug problems.

Chain of addiction

My calendar of community events notes this week as Drug Action Week. Drug Action Week, an initiative of the Alcohol and Other Drugs Council of Australia which was a national peak body representing the alcohol and drug treatment sector, aimed to highlight the issues accompanying drug and alcohol use and those that work to reduce it’s harm. For over 50 years they provided frank evidence-based advice to governments and organisations. In February funding to this organisation was cut by the Abbott Government forcing it’s closure and the end of Drug Awareness Week.

Biomedical research tells us that substance abuse holds us back from recognising our inherent intelligence and abilities, and facing our fears. Research by Hodges 2011 published in Social Work USA, which examined the use of spiritually modified Cognitive— Behavioural Therapy (CBT) in the treatment of a mental illnesses such as stress, depression and bipolar disorder. It was found that the results of using spiritually modified CBT was similar to or superior to traditional CBT. Although spiritual modified CBT have not been used to treat substance abuse Hodges suggests that incorporating spirituality into the treatment for substance abuse may speed recovery, enhance treatment compliance, prevent relapse, and reduce treatment disparities by providing more culturally congruent services.

Many patients undergoing treatment, work with self-statements (Ellis as cited in Hodges 2011). This helps them deal with the depression or anxiety that may precede substance use. It is thought that these statements, rephrased by patients according to their metaphysical framework have greater relevance. These statements then become more than affirmations of self-worth dependant on human agency (which has failed many) for now they have the weight of the patient’s spiritual concept of their identity.

The role of prayer and meditation has also been found to be effective in recovery from substance abuse (Elsheikh, 2008; Bowen et al., 2006; Lau & Segal, 2007;Taub et al, 1994 cited in Hodges 2011). In my own experience I have found prayer effective in overcoming anxiety and depression particularly when it goes beyond a request for God to intervene and change something in my life. When my prayer starts with a silencing of human argument and suggestion and moves to an affirmation of God’s all power and an understanding of myself as created spiritually, as state in the first chapter of Genesis, in the image and likeness of God — a God who is loving and all good, then I see results.

When speaking of mankind’s understanding of the Divine and of man’s own spiritual nature Mary Baker Eddy, a writer and early researcher into the connection of spirituality and health, states in her major work Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, that this understanding “is the sovereign panacea, giving strength to the weakness of mortal mind, — strength from the immortal and omnipotent Mind…” and that it is “impartial and universal in it adaptation and bestowals.” available to all anytime, anywhere.