A room with a view

by Annette Bridges. ©2009. All rights reserved.

“All I need is a room with a view,” I told my husband, as we explored locations for celebrating our 28th wedding anniversary. The past few months had been filled with one “unexpected” or “unwanted” situation after another. Mostly, I longed for a break from all the commotion and wanted time to focus only on my marriage.

As we drove the narrow, winding road up the wooded mountain, I had no doubt that I was headed to a secluded, romantic hideaway. Then, suddenly, we reached the top, and what would become my very own Tuscan villa for the next three nights came into view. The serene atmosphere that embraced me as I walked to the front door assured me I was right where I needed to be.

The balcony view from our room provided a panorama of sky, hills, trees and lake. And almost immediately, a broader perspective took shape in my mind, helping me to see beyond challenges and dilemmas waiting at home to be solved.

I was again reminded of the prayer advice Jesus gave when he said, “Enter into thy closet.” (Matthew 6:6) I’ve thought about this many times when I’ve felt the need to get away from whatever was troubling me in order to pray, meditate and be quiet. My closet has taken many forms through the years — lying on the beach, fishing in a mountaintop lake, walking around our farm, drinking mochas at Starbucks or even shutting my eyes for a few moments in the midst of a busy day. This time my closet was sitting on an Oklahoma hillside!

Jesus’ next piece of advice to us is to “shut the door behind you” before we begin to pray. The door shut on any worries and concerns the moment I walked onto our balcony. The wide landscape that filled my gaze broke the spell that was hypnotizing me into a state of uneasiness. I knew a resurrection of my peace of mind was imminent. I was no longer preoccupied with tomorrow or next week but focused only on the present moment and the beauty, calm and love that was with me in that moment.

Now that I’m home, once again facing the “unwanted” stuff, I am trying to hang on to the peace of mind I felt on my Oklahoma mountain.

With the Easter season upon me, I’ve been wondering if the disciples were searching for peace of mind when they went fishing after Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection. Perhaps they were trying to make sense of everything they had experienced and witnessed. Perhaps they were unsure of what they needed to do next with their lives.

Jesus prepared breakfast for them, and it seems that what Jesus told them at this last meal on the shores of the Galilean Sea (John, Chapter 21) — along with everything they had witnessed and were yet to witness with Jesus’ ascension — resulted in their spiritual awakening. This awakening transformed any doubts, pride and grief into clarity, humility and repentance. And their newfound understanding and commitment changed their lives and the world forever.

I’ve started to realize the importance of a morning meal — the morning communion with our Father-Mother God — which provides spiritual nourishment and direction for our day. Certainly, the delicious breakfast each morning on our Oklahoma hillside was filling and satisfying as we prepared for our day’s activities. But even more invigorating and inspiring was the time my husband and I spent each morning studying our Bible lesson together.

The Psalmist promised, “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.” (Psalms 119:105)

I’m learning that when disappointments, fearful speculations, regrets, complaints or any of life’s miseries or pressures threatens to bury us into a tomb of despair, there is a spiritual view that will show us the way up, out and onward. There is no problem too large or daunting for divine power to remove. And this spiritual view is what we can count on in any situation — wherever we are — to inspire, encourage, reassure and guide us along our way.

I can’t always escape to that “room with a view.” Perhaps you can’t either. But we can rest assured that God’s point of view is available to us 24/7, that His wisdom will lead us to what’s good for us, and that He will give us the strength and ability we need to tackle anything coming at us.

(For those curious or interested: www.lagovistabedandbreakfast.com)

Prayer or panic

by Annette Bridges. ©2009. All rights reserved.

There is panic today in the hearts of many. Some are disheartened because they see no solution in sight. Some believe they can trust no one for viable answers.

A preoccupation with fears and worries often incites panic.

When multitudes desperately begged Jesus for help and answers, he taught them a prayer that was described by Christian healer, Mary Baker Eddy, as the “prayer which covers all human needs.” (Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures)

Prayer enables us to feel God’s presence and know we are enveloped in His love. And there is power in His presence.

I have suffered many times from panic attacks. When faced with conflict, dilemmas, or any turmoil — whether it was real or perceived — I’ve often become a physical and emotional wreck. So I can testify that when the going gets tough, leaning on God is better than panic.

Taking some deep spiritual breaths in times of crisis, pressure and immense stress, enables us to be comforted and reassured by God’s ever-presence. Panic is replaced by peace, and peace quiets fear and calms anxiety. We reach a state of mind that fosters inspiration and revelation. And then, we can see solutions realized and implemented. Problems that at first seem huge or beyond repair become small (or much smaller) and fixable.

“Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee.” (Isaiah 26:3) More than a promise, this is a fact and a lesson I have learned — and I must admit — sometimes need to relearn.

The Psalmist wrote, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me….” (Psalms 23:4) It could be said that the “valley” represents any difficult or terrifying experience we face. “For thou art with me” is an eternal Truth that dissipates fear.

The Lord makes us strong when we are weak.

Several days ago I felt like I was getting hit with one catastrophe after another. I found myself waiting for the next shoe to drop. And it did. The pressure in my head and chest was building until one night I could not even lie down and breathe normally. I felt like I was going to explode.

In my anguish, I prayed. I began with The Lord’s Prayer. As my uneasy thoughts began to calm, I let go of the internal struggle. I put aside all the details weighing on my heart. I stopped my mind from hurrying to tomorrow or next week or next year. And I focused only on feeling God’s presence.

“The Lord will bless his people with peace.” (Psalms 29:11) And He blessed me with peace. My weary night turned into restful breaths and sleep. And the next morning, I awoke refreshed and still confident of God’s ever-presence.

Stay grounded in your spirituality, dear friends. Rest your thoughts on the spiritual rock, or knowledge, that affirms God’s presence, omnipotence and goodness. Then you’ll be like that wise man Jesus told about in the parable who “built his house upon a rock. And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock.” (Matthew 7:24-25)

Panic paralyzes, cripples, blinds and stifles. Panic is a reaction — an unconscious choice — that serves no good purpose and isn’t helpful or productive.

When our first instinct is to panic, we can consciously choose to pray. Prayer reassures and reminds us that anything is possible, that possibilities are infinite, and that God is with us. And prayer will enable us to move forward, reach new heights, overcome hurdles, and break new ground.

There is no good time to panic, my troubled friends. Pray and you will persevere.

Effective disease prevention – Prayer

by Annette Bridges. © 2008. All rights reserved.

I find it encouraging to realize that a prayer response can be effective against contagion. This year’s intense media focus on influenza has at times felt overwhelming, with broadcasts simultaneously predicting longer flu seasons, speculating about next year’s epidemic, or even doubting that a cure is possible. Each report seemed to speak from the perspective that influenza is a fixed fact for all societies, for all time. Flu vaccines haven’t provided complete immunity from the disease. The US Food and Drug Administration’s chief of vaccine review, Dr. Norman Baylor, claims that this is because “influenza viruses are changing all the time” (³CDC Panel: All children up to age 18 should get flu shots,² Anna Boyd, February 28, 2008).

I’m convinced that confronting the so-called inevitability of flu epidemics from a spiritual perspective — one that refuses to accept any disease as certain — has the potential to negate the flu threat for all of us.

Consider the approach Jesus took to healing the sick. The Gospels depict Jesus regarding health as normal and God-ordained, without regard to any one disease being more dangerous or difficult to heal than another. He simply healed.

Think of the dad who brought his child to Jesus saying, “If thou canst do any thing, have compassion on us, and help us” (see Mark 9:15­27). Apparently the boy had suffered for years with convulsions. But the history of the condition didn’t deter Jesus. He cured the boy immediately.

The Gospels also say that Jesus taught his disciples how to heal (see Matt. 10:1) and that he said, “These signs shall follow them that believe; In my name . . . they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover” (Mark 16:17, 18). And there are reports that this healing continued long after Jesus’ time. For example, in the Acts of the Apostles we read that “the father of Publius lay sick of a fever . . . to whom Paul entered in, and prayed, and laid his hands on him, and healed him” (Acts 28:8).

The record of Jesus’ example and teachings, along with healing works of his followers, promise that spiritual healing is possible for everyone to practice. The record suggests, as well, that divine power and divine law irrevocably govern our lives and health.

In my own experience, I prayed during a chickenpox outbreak at my daughter’s preschool. A number of children in her class were diagnosed with the disease, and parents were warned to expect their child to become infected with it. We were told to watch for its symptoms. Then, school officials announced that one more confirmed case would close the school.

As a practicing Christian Scientist I had a concern for being law-abiding regarding infectious disease laws. I also felt that prayer for my child –prayer that would also embrace all the children — was imperative. I’d experienced the effective power of prayer many times before. Initially, I was afraid. But I remember being sure that God loves and cares for His children, that He doesn’t create or allow sickness, and that God is the only power. I was certain, too, that evil in the form of the common belief in an infectious disease (however renowned and longstanding) was not another power besides God. Rather it was only a mistaken premise, an opinion or theory. My prayers had the immediate effect of dispelling my fears and strengthening my confidence in God’s total protection and power. There were no more confirmed cases of chickenpox in the school at that time, my daughter included.

Soon the children were all back in school. I felt comforted that perhaps other parents might have been reaching out in prayer for God’s help as well. Prayer is a tried and true defense against disease when such prayer acknowledges God’s authority and the superiority of spiritual power over frightening predictions and uncertain outcomes.

Mary Baker Eddy asserted that “evil thoughts and aims reach no farther and do no more harm than one’s belief permits,” and that “good thoughts are an impervious armor; clad therewith you are completely shielded from the attacks of error of every sort” (Science and Health, p. 234; The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany, p. 210). This describes a powerful antidote to contagion, whatever the disease prediction and however persistent it might be. And as families and communities join together in prayer, the fear that flu season is inevitable can be conquered — as well as an epidemic itself.

No one can be excluded from God’s design of health for His creation!

I don’t want to give up on life

by Annette Bridges. ©2006. All rights reserved.
When our care becomes the responsibility of loved ones, they could be faced with decisions that shouldn’t be theirs to make.

During the past few weeks, we’ve heard the life ending-sustaining debate between Terri Schiavo’s husband and parents. While each side wanted a different outcome, they seemed united in motive. Both felt they were carrying out Terri’s wishes and honoring her rights.

Supporters of each position were also united by their empathy toward Terri’s family members, their saddened hearts toward her plight, as well as their passionate beliefs about life. Yes, even the argument for death was about life – the belief that Terri’s own wishes would be to end a life that had a medical prognosis for a hopeless and dismal future.

This case has received much political and media attention. Through its course, folks have been encouraged to take the legal steps required so their families will not have to endure the decision-making battle of Terri’s family.

As I give thought to such decisions, I find myself arguing on the side of life. But more, a desire to make certain my own care and healing possibilities are not necessarily limited to one source of treatment. In so saying, I don’t want to belittle medical treatment or any other source of treatment. It’s more about a “leave no stone unturned” approach in a search for cure and healing.

I’ve read of numerous cases in which medical treatment had reached its limits and still healing appeared unattainable. And in these same cases, whether quickly or slowly, healing came about through persistent prayer, treatment in Christian Science or other alternative healing practices.

Such examples strengthen my hope and fortify my consecration to live. They teach me to never give up on the possibility for a life of health, productivity and potential. I guess my desire is for no one to give up on my life. Could this be selfish of me? I have known the anguish of caring for a loved one with a medically-concluded terminal diagnosis, watching them grow worse until their passing. But I can’t help but believe and hope that healing remains possible for every one and in every case.

While I feel I’ve reached a decision for my life, I do believe everyone must come to terms for his or her own life. That no one else should have that authority —or imposition — placed upon them.

Recently, I heard a song by Christian folksinger, Mindy Jostyn, called “Pool of Bethesda.” It tells the story from the book of John in the Bible, of a man healed by Christ Jesus. What inspires me about this story is that although this man was, as the song says, “crippled for most of his life, twisted by time, dammed by despair,” he apparently still waited for healing with some glimmer of hope. And his hope was finally realized through Christ Jesus. Yet, being healed by Christ Jesus was not how he expected to be healed.

He had been waiting to be placed in the pool of Bethesda at a certain time that brought the promise of healing. But years went by with him missing that perfect time. Still, he didn’t give up. While his healing came in an unexpected way, it did come.

For me, this Biblical healing account, while teaching not to give up on life and remain firm in hope, also teaches me to remain open-minded about the method in which healing can come. Not to limit my options and helplessly accept any diagnosis or fear as the final word on my life. Mary Baker Eddy, who named the healing system she discovered and practiced Christian Science, wrote, “The prayer that reforms the sinner and heals the sick is an absolute faith that all things are possible to God – a spiritual understanding of Him, an unselfed love.”

I don’t know what the future holds for my life. Nor can I outline with certainty the source of treatment I will choose through the remaining years of my life. But my hope is that I will never lose hope. That I will never give up on life. That I will remain expectant and firm in my faith that healing is possible.

“…..all things are possible to God….”

Yes, I do choose to put my faith in that promise. And I ask my loved ones to understand, accept and see my wishes through.

How prepared are you?

by Annette Bridges. © 2007. All rights reserved.

I’ve been visiting my daughter and son-in-law these past few days. As some readers of my columns may recall, my son-in-law is in the Air Force. And I continue to be ever humbled by his and other soldiers’ willingness to protect and defend our country.

The sacrifices these men and women make as a result of their commitment are vast indeed. My recent visit has taught me there is much more involved than the accomplishment of their many responsibilities and duties, however. Their “readiness” also requires much practice. They spend countless hours in readiness exercises and mission planning before executing their respective jobs and assignments.

I can’t help but ask myself, “Am I adequately equipped for each of my days?” Or perhaps this question includes other questions. Such as, “Am I prepared for the unexpected?” Or in the wake of the recent California fires, if I had to flee my house in the next five minutes, would I be ready?

Many books and websites provide useful and practical tips and suggestions for preparing for emergencies and disasters. But undoubtedly living through a major catastrophe in one’s life will require much more than an escape plan and survival kit, good and important though they may be.

Is prayer and Bible study more important to our life readiness than we realize?

Shortly after her divorce, my mom certainly illustrated for me the benefit of prayer and turning to the Bible for direction and guidance when she and I were forced to leave our home one night. We were attempting to escape from my dad, who we were certain was en route to kill us both before taking his own life. We grabbed what we could in about “five minutes” and left, never to return. I’ve written about this experience before.

From what I can recall now, some 40 years later, losing most all that we owned was not the end of our world. Nor did experiencing this unexpected trauma cause permanent emotional scars. Yes, there were undesirable difficult times I would never want anyone to experience. But it seems my mom’s daily practice of prayer and study, in spite of grave circumstances, inspired her with hope and encouragement, enabled her to feel gratitude and peace of mind, and gave her courage and vision to start a new life for us both.

I must admit that I don’t always set aside time daily for study and prayer. Sometimes I think I’m just too busy with the many details of my day to take time for what would make me more ready for implementing the details of my day. Remembering our American soldiers, I can see the import and value of readiness practice and how this practice enables one to accomplish exactly what needs to be accomplished in the most efficient and accurate way.

Paul gives us instruction that supports the idea of our readiness practice. He says, “Study to show thyself approved unto God …. rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15). I’ve always taken this to mean that Bible study would help me to better understand God and how to fulfill my divine purpose. And he says, “Pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). I think Paul saw prayer as a daily, hourly, moment-by-moment guide to our life, not something we do only at bedtime, before a meal or on Sunday. How can we know and live God’s will for our lives without listening for His constant directing?

I’m making a commitment to be more diligent in my readiness practice each day. Perhaps some days I will spend more hours in study, but I’m going to remind myself that prayer is a constant between God and me. That no matter what is happening around me or to me, I will never forget for a moment that God is all, that God is Love, that God is omnipotent and ever-present. I’m pledging to maintain my post of spiritual observation and never desert it.

No task is impossible to do and no calamity is impossible to overcome with the divine Infinite guiding our every step. Daily readiness and preparation will keep us poised for action and equipped for progress and victory.