by Annette Bridges. © 2007. All rights reserved.
A few years ago, I took part in an exercise with a group of other people in management jobs that really changed my thinking. We were each asked to pick out a Bible character and discuss his or her leadership and management qualities and skills. Ultimately, the plan was for us to discover skills that we could apply in our own jobs, wherever we worked. I chose Nehemiah.
Reading the story of his life in the Bible, I was intrigued at the strong connection between his reliance on prayer and his many accomplishments. As a Christian Scientist, it was natural for me to pray to God when I was ill, and I’d had lots of physical healings. But now I realized prayer could help me in my work, too. And Nehemiah provided a good management model.
Nehemiah was serving as a cupbearer in the palace of Artaxerxes, King of Persia, when he got word of conditions in Jerusalem, and the fact that the city walls were all broken down and the people there were in a very sorry state. He felt called to go to Jerusalem to help them, but to do this he needed permission from the king. Anxious as he was to get started with this work, he knew that he had to wait for the right time, and he prayed for guidance about when to ask as well as for the right words to say. Mary Baker Eddy wrote in Science and Health, “Desire is prayer; and no loss can occur from trusting God with our desires, that they may be moulded and exalted before they take form in words and in deeds.” It seems to me that Nehemiah’s desire to help his people was proof that he lived this statement. And his desire to go to Jerusalem was granted.
Rebuilding the wall would not be an easy task.
Even after Artaxerxes agreed that he could go to Jerusalem, Nehemiah knew rebuilding Jerusalem’s wall was not going to be an easy task. It would be a massive architectural undertaking. At first, he was uncertain how to inspire the people of Jerusalem to help him.
But again, he didn’t act impulsively or hurriedly. He prayed for guidance. And his prayer resulted in knowing just what he needed to do and say in the right way at the appropriate time.
Nehemiah was frank and forthright in talking with the people in Jerusalem, but he was also patient with their fears and discouragement. Under his guidance, they became united in their common goal.
As I compared Nehemiah’s actions to my own, it occurred to me I was often too impulsive in my work. I didn’t always fully consider the consequences of decisions made and actions taken. Nehemiah’s example showed me that prayer can bring clarity of vision—as well as tact.
The more I learned about Nehemiah, the more I was impressed by his humility. And I knew I needed more of this quality in my own work. There were too many times when I arrogantly insisted on “my way.
Mrs. Eddy wrote about humility, “One can never go up, until one has gone down in his own esteem” (Miscellaneous Writings 1883–1896, p. 356).
Nehemiah turned to God and kept his own ego in check.
Nehemiah frequently went to God in prayer to seek guidance, direction, wisdom. By looking to a higher authority for answers, he kept his own ego in check.
Nehemiah was never impressed by gossip, criticism, or doubt—he stayed on task and focused. His enemies tried to persuade him to stop his work many times. But his prayer-inspired clarity kept his focus on the work God was directing him to do.
This part really grabbed my attention. Too often, I allowed gossip or criticism to hurt my feelings and distract me from my work. Mrs. Eddy’s article “Taking Offense” is full of good advice for such times. She wrote, “It is our pride that makes another’s criticism rankle, our self-will that makes another’s deed offensive, our egotism that feels hurt by another’s self-assertion” (Mis., p. 224).
I could pray to God to guide me.
The more I studied Nehemiah’s example, the more I realized I could exhibit the same leadership abilities he expressed. I could pray to God to guide me. From then on, prayer became an important part of my management plan. And I soon had a chance to put my new understanding into action.
I was part of a management team that created and designed products for use both in the office and by the public. Consistency and clarity of message was crucial. Tight deadlines were routine and there was no time to placate sensitive egos. We needed to work together harmoniously without losing sight of our purpose and ultimate goal.
Before this Biblical management study, I often anguished over projects. I dreaded working with some of my colleagues and the tension resulted in daily headaches. I didn’t enjoy my job, and often thought about quitting.
But Nehemiah helped me to understand how to stay focused on the ultimate goal. As I tried to express more humility, I quit letting personalities and opinions—mine included—stop progress. In fact, I began to welcome fresh and new ideas. The willingness to be flexible became natural. The daily headaches ceased and the joy I experienced at work returned.
I’ve started to think of the Bible as a textbook for every area of my life. Whether as a business manual, a health guide, or a parenting and relationship workbook, I’ve found the Bible is a great reference book for all of life’s questions and problems. Mary Baker Eddy wrote, “The Bible contains the recipe for all healing.” I’m finding this to be true, at work and at home.
by Annette Bridges. © 2007. All rights reserved.
The name of my birth state in The Christian Science Monitor headline grabbed my attention — “Georgia may OK Bible as textbook.”
The National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools, with headquarters in Greensboro, N.C., reported the Bible is already being referenced in as many as 1,000 American high school courses of study. The U.S. Supreme Court has long allowed the Bible to be utilized in public education as long as it is presented objectively.
A spokesman for the Georgia bill’s sponsor said there are misconceptions regarding the bill. He said that the proposed bill would use the Bible as a primary text to teach a course in history and to teach literature influenced by the Bible.
A recent conversation with a high school English and world history teacher of 20 years revealed that using the Bible in the classroom is hardly a new idea. She, and many others, have used Bible passages, stories and historical characters to teach history and to help students understand literary allusions — a natural thing to do, since much of American and English literature has been heavily influenced by biblical references to stories, writing style and language, as well as by allusions to lines in the Bible.
The current question seems to be whether public school curriculum decisions — in this instance, approving the Bible as a textbook for a course of study — should be made by state legislatures or individual school districts.
I do love thinking of the Bible as a textbook, a term I think fits it well.
Mary Baker Eddy, author of “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” spent years studying the Scriptures before writing her primary work. Her writings make many references to the Bible, describing it as “her sole teacher,” as “the chart of life,” as her “only authority,” as her “guide” — and, yes, as her “textbook.”
The Bible has long been my textbook, a reference book I’ve searched to find answers to countless life questions and problems. Granted, my use of the Bible as a textbook goes well beyond classroom perusal and comparison.
In her chapter on “Christian Science Practice,” Mary Baker Eddy writes, “The Bible contains the recipe for all healing.” I’ve always found this to be so.
A few years ago the company I worked for did an exercise in which each manager was to pick a Bible character and discuss his leadership and management qualities and skills. I chose Nehemiah.
I was impressed with his vision for rebuilding Jerusalem’s wall. He illustrated tact when he made his request to the king to be sent to Judah. He showed good organizational skills and attention to detail as he collected everything needed for his journey and goal.
Throughout his work, there were times when he needed to pause and go to God in prayer to seek guidance, direction, wisdom. In this way he kept his own ego in check.
He had great people skills. He inspired people working with him to feel united with a common goal. To feel empowered. To understand the importance of cooperation. He was frank and forthright when needed, while also patient with people’s fears and discouragement.
He wasn’t a time waster, but a man of action. He had a “let’s do it” attitude. Not impressed by gossip, criticism or doubt, he stayed on task and focused.
Nehemiah’s example of trust, faith, courage, persistence and purpose made the people working with him rally to do what was needed to accomplish the shared goal.
In my job, this turned out to be a great exercise, and I think all who participated in the exercise learned much on how to improve their management skills. I felt like I did. The Bible was a management textbook that day.
Whether the Bible is used in public education or not certainly doesn’t keep parents and students, businesses — anyone — from using it as a textbook, a guide, a manual, a workbook and an exercise book for their lives.
The Bible is the oldest textbook I own. It remains at the top of my recommended reading list.
by Annette Bridges. © 2006. All rights reserved.
The Bible in My life
How well I remember the Bible stores read to me as a child! Daniel in the lions’ den. Joseph with his coat of many colors. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the fiery furnace. David and Goliath. And many others.
Throughout my life, the Bible has been my life coach. If I need guidance of any kind, I know I can find it in the Scriptures. And Science and Health assures me that “the Bible contains the recipe for all healing” (p. 406). Again and again, I am finding this to be so.
Not long ago I learned a lesson from the account of Daniel’s interpretation of King Nebuchadnezzar’s dreams, in chapters one to four of the Old Testament book of Daniel. The king sought advice from magicians, astrologers, and sorcerers, about the significance of these dreams, but they gave him no satisfaction.
Eventually Daniel – who had prayed that the “wisdom and might” of God might be revealed to him –was brought to Nebuchadnezzar. Daniel offered an interpretation, but the king feared that the humility called for in Daniel’s response, which pointed to God’s supremacy, would threaten the “power, and strength, and glory” he had worked so hard to attain.
It was Nebuchadnezzar’s pride that caught my attention. At the time, I was working on a variety of projects. I enjoyed what I was doing, but I was feeling that I was the only person on the job who could accomplish the tasks efficiently. Many days, I felt burdened and overwhelmed. I should have asked for assistance from other members on my team, but I didn’t – mainly because I didn’t think anyone else could get the job done as well as I could.
Soon, I began to suffer from severe headaches. I couldn’t sleep at night, because I would lie in bed thinking about all that I had to get done the next day. Some nights I suffered constricting pains in my chest that were so severe I could hardly breathe.
It was during one of my sleepless nights that I reread that story about Nebuchadnezzar. Suddenly I realized that I was expressing a similar kind of puffed-up pride. I had been thinking my skills were indispensable and irreplaceable. Self-righteousness and self-justification controlled my reasoning and actions.
Then it struck me that it wasn’t until Nebuchadnezzar had humbled himself before God and learned to “praise and extol and honour the King of heaven, all whose works are truth,” that his life was restored and renewed (Dan 4:37).
Reading about Nebuchadnezzar’s experience made me feel humble, too – even a bit ashamed of myself. I was reminded of Jesus’ words, “I can of my own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me” (John 5:30).
Gradually I came to think of the Bible’s characters as friends who shared not only their trials and challenges with me, but also their triumphs and the lessons they had learned. It was encouraging to know that others had walked down similar paths, surmounted roadblocks, and gotten back on track when spiritual insight called for a change in direction.
“Throughout my life, the Bible has been my life coach” H Mary Baker Eddy explained that we have the ability to improve our circumstances when she wrote, “If you believe in and practice wrong knowingly, you can at once change your course and do right” (Science and Health, p. 253). So that’s what I did. After praying to better understand God’s power and His government of our workplace, I became more of a team player – delegating tasks and sharing responsibilities. I stopped judging and criticizing others’ efforts. In fact, I gained an appreciation of my fellow co-workers and their talents that I didn’t have before.
I stopped taking myself so seriously, too. I started seeing my work in a new light, viewing it as an essential element in the business of glorifying God. Thinking with God. Seeing what God sees. Knowing what God knows. From that point on, work was handled so harmoniously that it was like watching musicians playing a symphony.
The headaches stopped, as well as the chest pains. There were no more sleepless nights. Joy and lightheartedness filled my days in the office. My Bible friends had helped to rescue me!