A gift that actually fits

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(a)glowimages

Have you ever received a gift you didn’t initially want or one which made you think, “I don’t know what to do with this?”

Life had been just fine before it came along, right?

But once we unwrap those strange gifts we pry open our thoughts to new possibilities. That’s what happened to me with my first bike, microwave, computer, laptop, blackberry, iPhone, and iPad. Often that new item can require a steep learning curve. Yet, remarkably, it soon becomes indispensable!

Should we open it, and open ourselves to new possibilities?

Dr. James Gordon and Deepak Chopra think so. In an online video they note that “we’re the ones who know for the most part what’s best for us”.

They add that having the opportunity to take care of ourselves is a “revolutionary idea” that can seem very threatening to our chronic sense of dependency on authorities. And they conclude that if we have the opportunity to take care of ourselves we worry, “well maybe I’m wrong, maybe it won’t work and maybe they’re right.”

One aspect of this new direction of taking care of ourselves is to build confidence in one’s own health decisions. Choosing Wisely®, an initiative of the American Board of Internal Medicine Foundation, helps providers and patients engage in conversations to reduce overuse of tests and procedures, and support patients in their efforts to make smart and effective care choices.

The Choosing Wisely site reports that a 2014 survey funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation found that fully three-quarters of physicians say the frequency of unnecessary medical tests and procedures is a serious problem. It campaigns for leading medical specialty societies and other non-physician organizations to identify commonly used tests or procedure whose necessity “should be questioned and discussed”. Their resulting lists of “Things Providers and Patients Should Question” are “intended to spark discussion about the need—or lack thereof—for many frequently ordered tests or treatments”.

By way of an example, as a Christian Science practitioner I was among those invited to participate in a statewide initiative charged with developing healthcare reform recommendations for our legislature. During a meeting of medical and non-medical providers, a physician made a thought-provoking remark to me. He said, “I believe prayer has a place at this table. I have had two patients with the same diagnosis. One chose to pray and the other did not. The one who prayed beat the prognosis. Over the years I have seen that prayer works, but I don’t know how.”

For me prayer begins with a yearning to listen to what some may call intuition or God’s grace. Often I turn to the scriptures to help me ponder something higher than the problem.

About five years ago I was diagnosed with a very painful condition that I was told required surgery. I appreciated the concern expressed by my HMO’s attending physician, but said I would like to pray before deciding to schedule surgery. He stressed that the condition would not go away on its own but warned me that it would continue to incapacitate me further if not attended to.

To me, though, prayer is not an absence of treatment, but a different way of actively challenging ill health. Physical transformation by focusing on, and living, the word of God was first written about several thousand years ago. For instance the book of Proverbs tells us, “My son, attend to my words; …keep them in the center of your heart. For they are life to those who find them, healing and health to all their flesh.”

And this is what I experienced. The pain disappeared and I have had no trace of that condition since.

The gift of having confidence in our own healthcare decisions may seem remarkable at first. But perhaps – like me – you, too, might eventually find it to be truly indispensable.

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Is gratitude a natural impulse?

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@GlowImages

What can nature teach us about gratitude?

It can teach us that being thankful is normal, according to the Greater Good Science Center.

This University of California Berkeley campus research center has studied the natural occurrence of gratitude in nature and one of their stories is particularly impressive.

“In December of 2005, a 50-foot, 50-ton, female humpback whale got tangled in crab lines and was in danger of drowning. After a team of divers freed her, she nuzzled each of her rescuers in turn and flapped around in what one whale expert said was ‘a rare and remarkable encounter,’” rescuer James Moskito recalled.

“It felt to me like it was thanking us, knowing it was free and that we had helped it,” he concluded.

But what if our natural “gratitude gene” seems to be lost amid life’s troubles?

According to Julie Ruchniewicz, of the Parish Nurse Ministry of Advocate Health Care in Evanston Illinois, there is something we can do about it and doing so is beneficial. She writes, “Interestingly enough, it has been determined that you can cultivate a positive attitude, with a little practice. Working on your sense of gratitude can help you maintain a more positive mood in your daily life and add to emotional well-being. People with a greater level of gratitude tend to have stronger relationships, are happier and sleep better. Since relationships, happiness and sleep contribute to your health; grateful people tend to be healthier.”

I’m also in the “cultivating gratitude” camp. It just feels natural to want to express thanks.

Recently due to a change in my personal situation, a 30 minute commute to volunteer at a juvenile detention center became a 4½ hour journey at the end of my work day. I found myself resenting that longer commute even though I loved conducting a Bible Study there. I had been doing this for several years, and although others have stepped forward to help, I was still covering a need once a month on Monday evenings.

About half way through our Bible Study, I noticed several of the kids were shivering. Apparently the heating was not working where we had been assigned to meet and they were all in short sleeves. I suggested we end the session early so they could go back to their warm rooms. “No! You must stay. You’re blessing us!” they protested.

I continued until the end of our allotted time, inspired and rejuvenated! In fact their expressed appreciation for the Bible Study lifted the resentment over the commute right out of my thought. And I still feel only joy when I think about them. I believe I witnessed what this thought from a favorite stanza in the Christian Science Hymnal describes, “And every weary child shall turn in gratitude toward Thee, the Light.”

Gratitude is a powerful antidote! A pioneer in the science of Christianity, Mary Baker Eddy commented, “Under affliction in the very depths, stop and contemplate what you have to be grateful for.” Jesus illustrated this when he gave thanks to God before what we would think of as impossible challenges. And then he went forward…

Finding a reason to give thanks can also help us progress. “If you’ve forgotten the language of gratitude you’ll not be on speaking terms with happiness.” (anonymous) A good beginning isn’t it for our holiday season?

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Learning from Malala

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@glowimages

Have you ever struggled to “turn the other cheek”, as Jesus put it?

Here’s a good example of how it is done: “I was never angry, not for a moment. Not even an atom, or neutron, or electron amount of anger.”

Unbelievably these words describe the reaction of a Pakistani teenager after a Taliban assassin shot her in the head at close range.

And the basis for her measured response? Her faith.

“Islam teaches humanity, equality, and forgiveness,” said the devout young woman.

This comment comes from a new documentary about a young girl who has become a global icon. The movie is called He Named Me Malala.  

So who is Malala?

She is an International advocate for girl’s education and human rights, who began blogging for the BBC at the tender age of 11.

A miracle, say her British doctors, because of her extraordinary survival at age 15, of that attempt on her life.

The youngest Nobel Peace Prize winner at 17 and the winner of many more accolades.

Malala is an inspiration.  I left a screening of her documentary in awe because of what she has accomplished. Her clear conviction of advocacy for the basic right of girls to have an education has already led to new schools being built in several developing countries. (Tragically, 60 million girls worldwide are not yet attending school.)

But I was also in awe at how she survived that mortal wound without the mental impairment that was at first feared. Could it be because she recognizes there is something more going on than just a material existence?  At one point in the documentary Malala said, “a consciousness exists that exists beyond all boundaries”.

As someone who has experienced such healing over many years through gaining an understanding of God as a boundless, divine Mind, I can really relate to that idea.

Anciently, another survivor of an opposite mentality that sees everything in terms of limitation – boundaries of ignorance, mortality, and hatred – also observed the effect of this greater consciousness or God, “Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake”, Jesus said.

Malala has not only been blessed, but has reached us all through her courage, motivation, and selfless, humble manner. I have been blessed by learning from her persecution and triumph.

Thank-you Malala!

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Almost an Ashley Madison encounter

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Infidelity is in the news – big time.

As a result of the recent Ashley Madison hack, thousands are waking up to find their spouse believes it’s alright to seek a quick, romantic fling on the side.

I know how that feels. It was my husband’s infidelity that ended my first marriage. In the trauma of the ensuing divorce, I made a vow never to expose myself to such suffering again. It would be far easier (or so I thought) to remain celibate – simply no more involved relationships!

But I was in for a surprise. Soon after making that personal declaration I met a man who made it completely understandable to me why 35 million people were discovered to be Ashely Madison subscribers. After our first date I felt eager to toss my new vow aside.

But that wasn’t the only feeling I had. There was simultaneously a nagging sense that something was wrong. So while I didn’t for a moment consider canceling our second date, I did decide to spend the afternoon before it trying to get back my sunny, carefree disposition.

At the time, I was in the middle of reading through Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures whose message of everyone’s innate spiritual self-worth gave me a basis for that joyful disposition. Reading the book always left me feeling peaceful. The author, Mary Baker Eddy, also had a marriage that ended in divorce after 20 years due to infidelity – just like mine. I thought reading her ideas would be the perfect way to restore my equanimity.

Thankfully, the book did restore my peace of mind but it also did more than that. As I read, I had a warm tangible sense of being blanketed with an unconditional love – a love that didn’t require someone’s presence to prompt it.

We did have that second date, but my previous hope of taking the relationship to the “next level” was soon superseded by an instinctive recognition that I should stop seeing him. At a chance meeting five years later I found out those instincts were spot on. He told me that he had been living with another woman when I had declined going to a hotel with him on our second and last meeting.

I’m grateful for that date. It led me to uncover the love that I truly desired, which I felt during that afternoon of reading. That feeling of being valued and whole stayed with me. I’m reminded of Jesus saying,”…neither do I condemn thee. Go and sin no more.” I wish the same for all Ashley Madison subscribers and their spouses.

Perhaps the Ashley Madison hack will help others similarly turn from “looking for love in all the wrong places” to finding the satisfaction of knowing they are deeply, divinely loved.

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