In my practice I encounter the need for change, for progress, for renewal - mostly of myself, but also of others. It may sound like "I need more colors in my life, every day the same, all monochromatic" (that is one single base hue only). This morning cycling through a huge gorgeous park to a reading room of a library, I drove through lawn sprinklers of gigantic proportions, producing the most glorious rainbows under gigantic beech trees. And seeing a rainbow is always very special, don't you agree?
This year I will spend part of my summer time at Arc-en-Ciel in Switzerland, a Christian Science summer camp in its 50th year now. This camp offers a mix of togetherness, fun, development (from Bible exploration to sustainability, art, and more), most of all spiritual refreshment and empowerment. I was asked to be the Christian Science Practitioner on site. The organizing team is fantastic and we are ready to roll.
The theme of this year's camp is from Paul: "...walk as children of light!" (Ephesians 5:8). It is a wonderful motto and you might already have an idea what that could mean in your own life. Certainly Paul knew what he was writing about but evidently also perceiving the need to give more specific ideas to live by in order to heal the question mark on his readers' foreheads. So he sent the light of his spiritual teaching through a prism, dispersing the beam of light. A prism separates the long wavelengths from the shorter wavelengths and makes light visible, in a way - that's how we see colors. Paul gatheres nine qualities of light, from the other side of the prism, and these nine qualities, you might say, are the essence of a spiritual life, a life as "a child of light". They show the concrete uplift, relevance, and richness of spirituality in action. To walk as a child of light means that to be alive, productive, and truly content. It means making a difference in material concept of world - much as light does in darkness. Here are the nine qualities Paul mentions, in the translation of J.B. Phillips (Galatians 5: 22,23), writing from experience:
"love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, fidelity, tolerance and self-control."
In the Message these same qualities are related this way:
"But what happens when we live God’s way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely."
Arc-en-Ciel means "rainbow" in French, and along with the campers we all are made for a colorful life, a rich life, an abundant life, in every land, in every culture. Spiritual living is light, no darkness at all - the total absence of light - which enables us to stop the repetition of the same story over and over again. There is a startling openness and surprising immediacy of the Spiritual. As the properties of visible light are intensity, direction, frequency or spectrum, so is it with our experience. The qualities Paul invites us to live present an infinite array of possibilities, opportunities of healing practice: kindness, generosity, and self-control can be explored, intensified, be given a direction, can be more frequent and display a larger spectrum.
There is no obligation to stare into the dark of materialism, every day. It is not our duty to live pressured lives in a hamster wheel or to bear the boredom of days without purpose. We can stop agreeing with the shadow of an existence and lift our thought towards spiritual living - which Jesus showed to be the only existence there is. We can turn thought to the elegant, beautiful order of the universe under the control of divine Principle. We can acknowledge that divine Love is present, embracing us with tender care and comfort and filling our days with --- light! And we respond by opening our eyes and acknowledging the warmth all around. All the good you are experiencing today is divine. All those lovely qualities of light are divine to start with and belong to Soul, God. They are not human accomplishments - they show forth in beauteous ways what light is: The essence of Life.
I picked one quality in particular to give my own "walk as a child of light" direction and to explore the spectrum of this quality in a more specific way. I intend to see the results very soon. I am looking up the word, write up a small concept and I am defining aspects of my thinking and living which will benefit from this discipline - to let my light shine more brightly and more consistently than before. Do you have one, too?
There is a beautiful thread running through Mary Baker Eddy's writings. It is the thread of caring, sharing ideas how to put into practice the laws of Spirit, how to be most useful to humanity, and how to live a life which is rooted in divine Love. She writes, for example, in her message for 1900:
"Our Master saith to his followers: "Bring forth things new and old." (...) Usefulness is doing rightly by yourself and others. We lose a percentage due to our activity when doing the work that belongs to another. When a man begins to quarrel with himself he stops quarreling with others." (Message for 1900, p.8)
What a blessing for our world - for this small portion of humanity which is "our world" - when we quarrel with ourselves instead of with others. When we wrestle with our own weaknesses and resistance, instead of blaming others for the fact that things don't go well. Synonyms for "quarrel" are "to cross swords, to disagree, to battle, to draw into a controversy", all words which not only sound spiky and bristled, but allude to those actions towards others which in a way say, that there is no God - no Love, goodness, Life.
Sometime ago I woke up early with this, for me, astonishing question: "It will be either one Mind, and one alone, or billions. Which will it be?" I understood this question to move me forward to a decision to stay in the oneness of goodness, which meant questioning any other mind or life separate from the oneness of God, including my own sense of "who I am." In Science and Health by Mary Baker Eddy I was reading: "Divine Science explains the abstract statement that there is one Mind by the following self-evident proposition: If God, or good, is real, then evil, the unlikeness of God, is unreal. And evil can only seem to be real by giving reality to the unreal. The children of God have but one Mind." (p. 470) I understood that the question needed to be carried over into the question whether I was willing to let go of a sense of life separate from the oneness of Mind, let go of a sense of evil - the diametrical opposite of God - and humbly and quietly start questioning and quarreling with this ego, mortal selfhood which claims to be "me". For where, after all, does a sense of separation reside?
So quarreling with ourselves, what do we quarrel with? Reading the fifth chapter of Galatians and observing our world I think it is selfishness, self-interest, uncontrollable temper, selfish ambition, hostility, envy, jealousy, idleness, unwillingness to be spontaneous. In the Message we read in this chapter about "divided homes and divided lives; small-minded and lopsided pursuits; the vicious habit of depersonalizing everyone into a rival."
Since that question "It will be either one Mind, and one alone, or billions. Which will it be?" I have been living differently. I try to focus and magnify good where ever I find it, I don't write down, in an email or letter, anything negative, any criticism, I don't give unsolicited advice (and if I do, my children promised to tell me) and have eliminated "pity!" from my vocabulary. If we have to mention anything that needs improvement we should earnestly pray for the right words and talk from a position which knows the ability to achieve all good in each one.
After all: We only quarrel with ourselves and stop quarreling with the world (with other drivers in the road, with neighbors who are different, with family members, who simply don't understand, with a world that just doesn't get it), if we truly and unequivocally accept ourselves as we are. This may sound like a paradox, but the position to quarrel with ourselves is a position of power, not of weakness, and the greatest power in the universe is love, unconditional love. This is the opposite of selfishness, it is unconditional self-acceptance, or, as a recent book title by a German philosopher has it, it is being our own best friend. A real friend, who tells us the truth, who works with us, who helps us to be better, who doesn't lie or betray. Being your own best friend enables you to overcome a sense of loneliness (just in case) and will give you plenty to do each day. As any work of art was at some point a work in progress, so a little progress each day adds up - quarreling with ourselves has an aim. Remembering this rule of everyday happiness and progress, by Mary Baker Eddy: "When a man begins to quarrel with himself he stops quarreling with others." And later on, in the same message she gives this counsel:
"Hold in yourselves the true sense of harmony, and this sense will harmonize, unify, and unself you." (Messsage for 1900, p. 11) Doesn't this sound like friendship in a nutshell?
Who is writing?
In my work as Christian Science practitioner and writer I draw on listening to God and listening to people.
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