"Your life is an occasion. Rise to it!" - Mr. Magorium

Saturday, June 27, 2009

My First Mexican Barbecue

Yet another week has gone by, and I don't know where it went. I seem to remember cleaning my windows and taking my car in for its 175,000 mile service. That set me back a bit in the financial department. But if I can get another 100,000 miles out of the car (and it looks like I should), it will be money well spent.

The last couple of days were largely taken up with shopping, cooking, and setting up for a special friend's birthday party. The party took place last night and was, by all accounts, a huge success. Of course, I'd planned for twelve people and only seven showed up. I grilled three large chickens, and there was a lot left over.

The birthday lady's favorite food is Mexican. So grilled chicken seemed to be a logical choice for a Mexican barbecue. I did a web search for "Mexican marinade" and found this recipe. Everyone liked the chicken, so there was no problem with the leftovers... almost everyone took some home.

Even though I'm still on a mostly liquid diet, I managed to eat one drumstick. I sort of felt like I had to; after making the marinade and grilling the chicken I had to know what it tasted like.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

A Grand Day Out (With Apologies to Nick Park)

My gosh! Where did the week go? I've been so busy cleaning around the house and yard that I didn't realize that I hadn't posted since last Sunday. Still much left to do though.

So why am I apologizing to Nick Park? He's the creator of Wallace and Gromit. I'm a big W&G fan. (Gromit is my hero). "A Grand Day Out" is the title of the first W&G short film. I have the first three W&G short films and the feature length Wallace and Gromit in The Curse of the Were-Rabbit on DVD. I have yet to see the latest two W&G adventures though. Something to look forward to.

Anyway, today I went with a couple of friends to the Irish Fair in Irvine Meadows. It's a long drive down to Irvine and back, but it was worth it. My friends did a lot of walking around. I did a little walking, but spent most of my time watching the dancers. When the only accompaniment is one accordian it doesn't quite pack the punch of Riverdance. But it's still fun to watch. Especially the young people, many of whom seem ready to audition for Riverdance.

If you've been following my blog for a while you may remember me telling about a woman who ate eight mangoes and then called a Christian Science practitioner complaining of a stomach ache. The practitioner told her that CS didn't just stand for Christian Science, it also stood for common sense. Along those same lines, I saw a wonderful ceramic tile wall plaque that read, "God is good but don't dance in a small boat." I'd have bought it, but I thought $40 was a little steep for a ceramic tile in a wood frame.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Pride and Hubris

In my previous entry I listed the seven deadly sins, which include the sin of pride. However, pride is often praised as a virtue. Why the disparity?

In its definition of "pride" Merriam-Webster gives us as choices for the meaning "inordinate self-esteem : conceit" and "a reasonable or justifiable self-respect" (among others). The word "hubris" they define as "exaggerated pride or self-confidence".

Because anything exaggerated isn't going to be reasonable or justifiable, I prefer to differentiate between justifiable self-respect and the sinful form of pride by using the term "hubris" for the latter. So, to rephrase something I said in my previous post, hubris has led us into wars.

I believe that almost all Americans are proud of their country. For many of us this pride is a reasonable or justifiable self-respect for the precedents our country set in its Declaration of Independence, its Constitution, and its Bill of Rights. Sadly, for many of us this pride takes the form of hubris that presumes our country is always right in its foreign affairs and the use of force to further its own ends.

Here I risk being condemned for not recognizing the humanitarian agenda of our nation's foreign policy. I would be the first to concede that the agenda of most of our military men and women around the world is indeed humanitarian. But government leaders throughout history have led people into wars by promoting a humanitarian agenda when an economic one existed thinly veiled from human view.

Our own civil war was fought on the moral issue of slavery. But it ultimately imposed the economic agenda of northern businessmen on the South, and the result was devastating for the South. Ironically, had the South been wise enough to abolish slavery on their own they might have spared themselves the economic misery. Without that moral agenda popular support for the war among northerners would have evaporated. As I've discussed in recent days, sin brings its own punishment.

The males of our species like to talk about what they think makes a "real man". I've always said a real man walks the fine line between self-confidence and arrogance, between justifiable self-respect and hubris. A female friend of mine said she believes that this also makes a "real woman". So I believe that we all need to be watching constantly to make sure we don't cross the line. I think this is an aspect of what Mary Baker Eddy meant when she wrote in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, "Stand porter at the door of thought."

Friday, June 12, 2009

Sensuality and Sin

Yesterday I talked about how in our society many people seem to immediately associate the the word "sin" with sex. Sensuality is another word that is frequently associated with sex as well. However, both words have a much wider range of connotations than just the sexual one.

Sensuality actually deals with gratification of the senses; all of the senses. From that standpoint eating, listening to music, looking at art, and smelling perfumes are all forms of sensuality. As I've discussed before, Christian Science healing requires us to develop a spiritual sense. In order to do this we work to silence the physical senses. So you can see how sensuality would be counter productive in this line of effort.

It's hard to imagine looking at art or smelling perfumes as sins. But it's easy to see how the sense of touch relates directly to sex, and obsession with eating carries undesirable consequences. When not indulged in "properly" and in moderation these forms of sensuality are commonly looked upon as sinful. If you read my post for yesterday, you'll recall that I discussed how God doesn't punish sins; they carry their own negative consequences.

So, not all forms of sensuality are necessarily sinful. Music and art can uplift our thinking and inspire us with spiritual insights. "By their fruits ye shall know them."

Conversely, even by traditional standards, not all sins are sins of sensuality. The early Christian church identified "seven deadly sins". According to Wikipedia, the seven deadly sins were originally: gluttony, fornication/lust, avarice/greed, sorrow, wrath, acedia/despair, vainglory, and pride. Today the seven deadly sins are commonly listed as: pride, envy, anger, sloth, greed, gluttony, and lust. So you can see how they've evolved.

The sin of pride has led us into wars. The sin of greed has pushed us into economic recession. And even if we as individuals haven't committed these sins, we still suffer for them. Just as Jesus, who was "without sin", suffered because of the pride, greed, and lusts of others in his day.

I find it interesting that Miriam Webster defines acedia, one of the original seven deadly sins, as "apathy, boredom" which to me has nothing to do with despair, the word it is paired with. I can see how acedia, as apathy and boredom, could have been changed to sloth. But it omits the significance of despair. Today I don't know of anyone who talks of despair as a sin. But to a Christian Scientist, despair absolutely misses the mark in someone trying to live a Christian life. It entails a lack of trust in God.

Back in my teen years, when I was aspiring to be an actor, my acting teacher had monologues he would have us read for each of these seven deadly sins. I remember playing sloth for the class. For effect I kept falling asleep during the monologue. It was fun to laugh at ourselves playing at being personifications of these sins. It might be sobering to consider how silly we look to others when committing them in our daily lives.

Our acting teacher told us at the time that there were also seven godly virtues. But that he didn't have monologues for them because he said they weren't as interesting.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

What's a Sin?

I believe what causes many people to shy away from religion is the guilt associated with sin. (And the first thing most people think of when they hear the word sin is sex). However, the original meaning of the Greek word "sin" (translated from the Hebrew "het") was "to err", or "to miss the mark". In its original usage, it referred to behaviors that that needed to be abandoned in order to attain a Christian lifestyle. The idea of eternal damnation came along later. But can you imagine an archer being damned eternally because he shot at the target and missed the bullseye? I don't believe that a God who is Love could treat his children that way.

In his lecture "Why Healing Spiritually is Crucial", Christian Science lecturer Ron Ballard points out that God's love for us is unconditional, and unconditional means we don't have to deserve it for the giver to give it. This is in keeping with Jesus saying, "Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom." (Luke 12:32)

What's confusing to people is that the Bible, and for that matter Mary Baker Eddy in her writings, talks about sin being punished. But if God loves us then what is the source of the punishment?

For an answer we turn to Jesus parable of the prodigal son, found in the book of Luke, chapter 15. The prodigal, the younger of two sons, went to his father and said in essence that he didn't want to wait until is father was dead; he wanted his inheritance now. The loving father gave it to him and the prodigal took off for another country, where he promptly wasted his inheritance on "riotous living". When he was broke and going hungry, he figured out that if he'd stayed home with his father he'd he wouldn't be hungry and homeless. So he went home with the idea that he'd ask his father to hire him as a servant, and at least he wouldn't go hungry. But, as you probably know, his father took him back and forgave him. Through this parable Jesus illustraited God's love for us.

It wasn't the father that made the prodigal go hungry. It was his own foolish, selfish behavior. But he went hungry until he returned to the father.

In Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, Mary Baker Eddy wrote repeatedly about the "belief in sin". On page 497 she gives as one of the tenants of Christian Science, "We acknowledge God's forgiveness of sin in the destruction of sin and the spiritual understanding that casts out evil as unreal. But the belief in sin is punished so long as the belief lasts."

In an online discussion (where I use a screen alias), someone asked what the source of the punishment was if it wasn't God. I responded by saying, "The belief in playing in a cactus patch is punished so long as one plays in the cactus patch... but God never made the cactus patch, so he's not responsible for the thorns.

More tomorrow...

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Busy Days

If you've been following my journal, you've probably noticed that I'm not writing posts as often as I was. This is not because I've suffered any kind of relapse. To the contrary, I'm so much better that I'm busy cleaning my house. Yesterday I even helped my friend work in her yard.

I've never been able to keep my house clean. I always bring too many material things into it, and then there's no place to put them. But as my healing has progressed, my house is naturally becoming more orderly and clean. And I find I'm also better able to make more objective decisions about what to keep and what to get rid of. It's not because I've set out to make a huge effort; doing that in the past always proved futile. It's because I've been listening to the one Mind, the Mind that was in Christ Jesus, and at His direction over the last couple of weeks one thing after another has fallen into place. There's still a lot to do. But for the first time in I don't know how long, it feels like it's getting done.

Yesterday I went through my closet, got out all the old clothes that don't fit me anymore, and donated them to Goodwill Industries. Back in '07, before my surgery, I have to admit that I was rather overweight by human standards. My spiritual identity, in the image and likeness of God can never be overweight or underweight. But in the six weeks surrounding my surgery I lost 60 pounds. This brought me down to what is considered a "healthy weight" for me. In the span of nearly two years since then I've kept the excess weight off. From the human standpoint, being on a liquid diet has made that fairly easy.

Oh, and speaking of the liquid diet... a few days ago I ate two Chicken McNuggets. It wasn't easy, but it was progress. Still a long way from the steak and potatoes I want though.

So, thank you all for reading. I'll try and post every couple of days or so.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

For Love of Money

"Money is the root of all evil." This is probably the most famous mis-quote of the Bible in common use today.

The correct quote is, "For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows." (I Tim. 6:10)

Over and over we hear that the root of our economic problems is greed. Ironically, if you watch some of the old movies from the 1930s (made during the great depression) you'll hear the same assertions.

In one of my favorite movies, "Give 'em Hell, Harry" (made in 1975), U.S. President Harry Truman is portrayed as having said while serving in the United States Congress, that the cause of our problems was that Americans worship mammon. "The millionaire," he said, "is better in the eyes of the people than the public servant who works for the public good."

Sadly, we can't legislate greed away. And when economic pundits insist on misinterpreting 18th century Scottish economist Adam Smith and claiming "greed is good" (as in the movie "Wall Street") instead of considering the wider view of 20th century American Nobel Prize winner John Nash Jr. (as portrayed in the movie "A Beautiful Mind) we simply repeat our mistakes and suffer the resultant economic downturns.

This leads me to the conclusion that the old saying, "the more things change, the more they stay the same" is absolutely true. Some people question the relevance of the Bible to our lives today. But even though we have cars, computers, HD TVs, and microwave ovens, we still are prone to the same mistakes people have been making since the beginning of recorded history.

As Mary Baker Eddy says on page 327 of Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, "The way to escape the misery of sin is to cease sinning. There is no other way." There's a statement that needs to be considered not only in terms of the individual, but in terms of society as a whole.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Adam, Eve, and Original Sin

When I was around sixteen I happened to be the only student in my Sunday School class one Sunday. My Sunday School teacher started the class session by commenting that the story of Adam and Eve was in that week's Christian Science lesson sermon. My disinterested response led him to ask me if I knew what it was about. I was surprised at the question; I'd expected him to ask why I disliked the story.

"It's about sex being bad," I replied. (I don't think any teenage male wants to hear about sex being bad).

"No," he replied, "That's what most people think it's about."

He want on to explain that the central point of the whole story is when God asks Adam, "Who told you that you were naked?" (Gen. 3:11) You see, God had given Adam and Eve everything they could ever need right there in the Garden of Eden. But after eating the forbidden fruit, suddenly Adam thinks he lacks something. My teacher told me the real question God was asking was, "Who told you that you lack?" To my teacher, the real original sin was the belief that we needed something God didn't provide for us.

Today who tells us that we lack? Every twelve minutes or so our televisions tell us that we aren't attractive enough, slender enough, or driving the right vehicle. Frequently television commercials plant the seeds of discord by describing the symptoms of some disease or disorder, and then telling us to ask a doctor about their prescription product. And besides that, we unconsciously accept the lie that our nation's economy depends on our sense of lack.

In Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, on page 494, Mary Baker Eddy tells us that, "Divine Love always has met and always will meet every human need." People get themselves into trouble when they can't distinguish between a need and a want.

This doesn't mean that we have to make do with worn out clothes and cars. The quality of our possessions is a reflection of our sense of self. We have the right to decent food and clothing, a comfortable and secure home, reliable transportation, and fulfilling employment. Jesus said, "In my Father's house are many mansions..." (John 14:2). If we seem to be lacking any of these fundamental things in our lives, then perhaps it's time to start listening more closely to God. He doesn't come knocking on our door to deliver the things we need. He will, however, lead us to the means to have them; but only when we're listening.