Never beyond God’s help

by Annette Bridges. © 2006. All rights reserved.

I was alone in my bedroom lying on the bed. The pain in my chest was so intense that I couldn’t move. My daughter was visiting for the weekend, but she was still asleep in her room with the door shut and her husband was in the living room at the other end of the house watching television. My husband was out making a delivery to a hay customer. I couldn’t cry aloud for help – but I didn’t think anyone would hear me anyway. Was I helpless? What could I do?

Words from a hymn in the Christian Science hymnal were the first to come to my rescue: “God is my strong salvation; What foe have I to fear? In darkness and temptation, my light, my help, is near. Though hosts encamp around me, Firm in the fight I stand, What terror can confound me, With God at my right hand?” (Hymn 77)

Then the Biblical promise my mother often quoted assured me: “Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you.” (James 4:8)

I immediately felt calmer. The fear that had gripped me began to subside. What came to mind next was the first sentence from what Mary Baker Eddy called “the scientific statement of being” in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures: “There is no life, truth,  intelligence, nor substance in matter.” (p. 468)

Thinking of the pain as synonymous with matter, I reasoned, “There is no life in pain, there is no truth in pain, there is no intelligence in pain, and there is no substance in pain.” I knew these statements were true because God is the only life, truth, intelligence and substance. I knew that I was the reflection of my Father-Mother God, that every part of my being reflected God. I knew there could not be a moment when I was not reflecting the absolute perfection of God.

From the time I had first started studying Christian Science, the truth that “all things are possible to God” – at all times and in all situations – had become very real to me. Mary Baker Eddy’s study of the Bible, the healings she had, and those she helped others to have, resulted in her discovery that healing was a natural outcome of acknowledging, affirming and practicing the laws of God that are found in the Bible. For the benefit of all, she explained these laws in Science and Health, telling how to apply them in the practice of scientific, mental healing.

Often in the past, when I prayed, I had found it helpful and strengthening to walk around, literally pacing back and forth, affirming the laws of God as law to my being , applicable to whatever situation I was praying about at the time. I would liken myself to a lawyer on a case, arguing for the innocence of a client.

While this time I could not do my usual walking and pacing, I argued I could still mentally affirm just as powerfully that God was governing and protecting me.

I recalled a statement from the chapter entitled “Christian Science Practice” in Science and Health: “Insist vehemently on the great fact which covers the whole ground, that God, Spirit, is all, and that there is none beside Him.” (p. 421) So although I could not move, I could “insist vehemently” that I was not alone and helpless, that God was always with me. I could “insist vehemently” that every thought, every hymn verse, every Bible passage, every statement from Science and Health, that came to me, represented laws of God coming to my rescue and affirming my innocence – my exemption from suffering.

After a short time, the pain abated. I could move close enough to reach the telephone, and was able to call my husband on his cell phone. He was just driving through the gate of our ranch. When he got to the house, he called a Christian Science Practitioner to further assist me prayerfully, because at that moment, I was leery of trying to stand and walk, fearing that the pain might return.

The practitioner assured me that I was completely safe in God’s care, and that nothing could intrude upon my perfect soundness. He also told me that I could trust the effectiveness of the prayerful work I had been doing. In that one call, the remaining doubt that I might not be totally free was completely dispelled.

I was soon able to stand and walk and get on with my family activities planned for the day. The pain did not return. I was fine and remained fine.

This experience has filled me with hope. Hope that says, “It’s never too late.” “We’re never out of reach.” “Nothing is beyond repair.” “No situation is too dire.” I truly believe there can be no extremity in our body, in our family, with our job – even on a battlefield – where the healing laws of God can’t rescue us.

Peace in times of family turmoil

by Annette Bridges. © 2006. All rights reserved.

Christmas 1968. We were on a westbound journey. I don’t think we knew what or where our final destination was. Or at least I didn’t. I was ten years old. All I knew was we had left Georgia suddenly, late one evening, to escape my dad, who, I felt was rarely happy and was almost always angry about something.

My parents had divorced after 25 years of marriage, and my dad just couldn’t seem to let go of my mom. She was like a possession that he’d had a long time and didn’t want to loose.

Now he’d begun a “cat-and-mouse” chase that lasted several months. We left everything behind us –most of our clothes, my toys, my dog. All I remember taking along were our ice cream freezer, Bible, and a blue and white paperback book a friend had recently given to my mom, Science and Health.

As we passed through Mobile, Alabama, my dad found us, and we were literally in a car chase, with Mom and me driving very fast and making lots of turns to try to shake him off. We did . . . for a while.

That Christmas found us in a mobile home in Beaumont, Texas. We stayed in mobile-home parks instead of hotels as we traveled west, so as to be more elusive as the chase continued.

There was little to no money to be spent on gifts. But my mom and I were safe – and in several ways we were happy.

Christmas in Beaumont had no glitz or glimmer. There was no family gathering, no holiday feast. We got ourselves a tiny Christmas tree. It was so small I suspect it was like the tree in the cartoon classic “A Charlie Brown Christmas” – the tree nobody wanted. We didn’t have any decorations. Not even a tree stand. So, we found a way to hang the tree from the ceiling. I remember thinking how cool that was. We strung popcorn and made paper strings. This too, I remember, was fun.

What is perhaps most remarkable as I look back on it now, is that my memory of that Christmas is not one of fear and uncertainty, but of peace. It’s almost hard for me to understand how, in the midst of such a violent and unstable time in my life, my memories could be so dear, so special. In fact, I’ve often said that was the best Christmas ever. How could that be true?

Since childhood I had been taught that God loved me. That God is good. That God is everywhere. I had learned the Bible stories of Daniel in the lions’ den and of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego being thrown into the fiery furnace. I think I was confident of God’s care, even though my life was apparently in danger and my future most uncertain and at risk.

My Bible study had begun to involve the Science and Health my mom had been given. It never ceased to amaze me by explaining and putting into words what was somehow already written in my heart. It was filled with powerful affirmations of God’s saving power and helpful explanations of the mission of Jesus. The book assured me that all things were possible to God and that I could never be separated from Him.

Certainly, the Bible teaches these things, but my study of Science and Health clarified many Bible passages for me and convinced me that what I was learning in the Bible was true. If I was ever in doubt, this book would defend the Bible’s claim and strengthen my trust.

I was not a member of a Church of Christ, Scientist. In fact, I had recently been baptized in another denomination. But it was very natural to include Science and Health with my Bible study. It provided extra assurance that I, too, could be as safe as those Bible characters.

“Love is much stronger than hate and
can dispel fear, uncertainty, and doubt”

Two years later, I did join a Church of Christ, Scientist, and have been blessed in more ways that I could ever have imagined during my childhood.

We made our way up to Dallas after that Christmas, where my mom found a job. I found myself in a new school making new friends. We established a new home, and my mom married the friend who had given her that paperback Science and Health. I even got my dog back. My grandmother had rescued him and cared for him.

And what happened to my dad? He ended his chase, went back to Georgia, and began a new life of his own. I never had the opportunity to see him again, as he passed on several months later. But I like to think that, before he passed on, he was as happy as we were in our new life.

Now, I try to take a few moments every holiday season to remember the Christmas of 1968. Our modest celebration taught me that peace and hope can be felt in the midst of threats of violence; that joy is not dependent on money and circumstances; that love is much stronger than hate and can dispel fear, uncertainty, and doubt.

Beating the New Year blues

by Annette Bridges. © 2006. All rights reserved.

Are you beginning the New Year with confidence and expectation or with dread and trepidation?

Certainly last year humanity struggled with wrenching challenges – tsunamis, hurricanes, earthquakes, fires, bombings, shocking terrorist acts. It surely does not make for a Happy New Year to start it with worries about what catastrophe will happen next in the world or in your own life.

I’ve become preoccupied lately with uncertainties in my life and anticipation of unwelcome changes in the future.

Recently, I came across a statement of promise written by Mary Baker Eddy in her book, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures:

“The divine Love, which made harmless the poisonous viper, which delivered men from the boiling oil, from the fiery furnace, from the jaws of the lion, can heal the sick in every age and triumph over sin and death.”

These words prompted me to read again one of my favorite Biblical stories about Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego when King Nebuchadnezzar ordered them cast into a fiery furnace for disobeying his orders. (Daniel – Chapter 3)

I’ve always been in such awe of this account. How even though they were bound and thrown into this fiery furnace, their lives were not destroyed. In fact, not only did they survive, the Bible says, “nor the smell of fire had passed on them.”

And they were not alone “walking in the midst of the fire”. When the King peered into the furnace, he saw four men and said the fourth was “like the son of God.”

In discussing this with a friend, she pointed out that they didn’t have to be pulled out of the fire to be saved. They were saved while in the midst of the fire. And the Christ remained in the fiery furnace with them walking by their side.

Pondering this Biblical story has brought me reassurance. It’s very comforting to know that no matter what situation I may face in the New Year, the Christ will be with me caring for me, protecting me, nurturing me, strengthening me. And I know this is true for everyone, too.

And this reassurance is increasing my confidence in a loving and all-powerful God that can conquer evil in whatever form it may appear. And encourages me to view the New Year through His eyes

Seeing through His eyes is giving me a different view than that of doom and gloom, illness and death. His vision is only that of the perfection and goodness He made.

Whether His children are walking in a fiery furnace or peacefully by the sea side, His beholds only His beloved children whom He will always care for. His sight never wearies or dims. His perception never changes. His outlook is hope-filled and joyous.

Such a view is helping me replace the New Year blues with an expectancy for a New Year of progress, restoration and healing.

Surviving the storm

by Annette Bridges. © 2006. All rights reserved.

When I think of the thousands of families displaced by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, I can’t help but travel back in time when my life was traumatized by a storm of events.

It wasn’t a hurricane. Nor a flood. But it was equally devastating and for me, just as sudden.

I was ten years old that September evening, taking my bath getting ready for bed when my mom unexpectedly came through the door. She promptly whisked me out of the tub to make a quick departure to escape from her bitter and angry ex-husband – my dad. I was never to see my home or my dad again.

There was no time to pack, so we left with what little could be grabbed in a flash. All that was once part of my life – my toys, my books, my dog, my friends – were now very far removed.

For the months that followed, we were homeless with little money.

Some have asked my mom, what enabled you to survive such terrible conditions?

Call it a can-do spirit. Perhaps a positive attitude. Or a cheerful outlook. Or a never-give-up perspective. My mom could never be brought down, stopped or hindered – for long, anyway.

Or she has been asked, how did you hold onto hope when everything you once owned was lost?

I can only explain that it had to be her faith. Her faith in a new concept of God she had recently been introduced to. A God that is good and omnipotent. A loving God who will steer His children safely amid any storm. A God who has given His children the ability to prove evil powerless. A God who sent His son, Christ Jesus, to teach us how.

With her faith, came hope and expectancy. With her faith, came the vision to see good and to find new opportunities. With her faith, came peace of mind and yes, joy.

My memory of those childhood days is not of lack, uncertainty or fear. I never even thought of myself as homeless or poor.

Some may look at my childhood experience with sympathy or regret. But those days for me transformed into a great gift. A lesson in how to beat the odds. How to overcome the insurmountable. How to begin anew when all is lost. How to find something good in every moment. And the assurance, as the old saying goes, that “The darkest hour precedes the dawn.”

And there was a “dawn.” A new home and a happy life for both me and my mom. That included me being reunited with my dog.

My mom says these words from a poem called “Mother’s Evening Prayer” by Mary Baker Eddy, brought her much needed peace and confidence during downhearted and dismal days:

“Love is our refuge; only with mine eye can I behold the snare, the pit, the fall: His habitation high is here, and nigh. His arm encircles me, and mine, and all.”

So as I now think about all those precious families struggling to regain some sense of normalcy in their lives, I want to whisper in each of their ears and say, “Don’t lose your hope. Have faith. All will be well again.”

Think your life is over? Think again!

by Annette Bridges. © 2006. All rights reserved.

In the past few weeks, newspapers and the airwaves have been filled with scenes and news of devastation and images of despair. Yet scattered among the procession of tragedies have been incredible tsunami survivor accounts. Stories that captivate the heart and fill the soul with hope. Stories that respond to the ages-old question – “How could God allow this to happen?” – with illustrations that protest, “He couldn’t. He wouldn’t. He didn’t.”

One survival story has changed my life. Before I read her story, I had been having bad dreams, almost daily, imagining myself being overcome by massive waves. I would wake up in a sweat of fear vowing there can’t be a situation where God’s helping hand can’t reach me and save me. But during my dreams my heart would again sink with doubts and little confidence.

Reading her survival account has given me encouragement to meet disaster or catastrophe in life. I thought if she can survive a tsunami of this proportion, what can I not survive, endure or overcome?

I found her story on the website, and my attention was first grabbed by its title, “From a tsunami survivor: ‘I will not die’.” It was the story of a woman from Singapore who was in Sri Lanka for the wedding of her niece, along with other family members and friends. They were, like many others I’ve read about, having breakfast in their beach hotel when the monstrous wall-high waves hit. I was immediately drawn into her experience – not knowing how to swim, being crushed by furniture and other debris as she reached out for something to save her.

It took my breathe away when she told the first thought that came to her as she tumbled in the water. Words from the Bible, “I shall not die, but live, and declare the works of the Lord.” But this promise was not at first enough to give her assurance. More thoughts came to her, some giving her direction such as “Cycle…paddle…use your legs.” Remember I said she didn’t know how to swim. She thought of Jesus calming a storm on the sea with those powerful three words, “Peace, be still.” And also the words, “…know that God is here.” And again that declaration, “I shall not die, but live…” She said that it really is true how your life flashes through your mind at such a moment of life and death.

I was comforted that in her extreme peril, she received what she described as “angel thoughts”. In her book, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, Mary Baker Eddy defines angels as “God’s thoughts passing to man; spiritual intuitions…” As I read all the “angel thoughts” this woman heard or felt, Eddy’s words, “These angels deliver us from the depths” seemed poignantly true.

I’ve decided perhaps it’s not necessary to try and explain why bad things happen or where evil comes from. But the need is to learn how to conquer evil. How even against all odds, I could be victorious. I could be saved. I could be healed. And my survival is what destroys evil by proving it powerless over me.

I think to begin, I need to know that God is not a destroyer, but a Creator. A protector. A preserver of humanity. A God of love. As the book of Job says, God is not in the wind, earthquake or fire. But God is the “still small voice” that is present no matter how dire the situation and will direct me to safety. Then maybe my prayers based on this knowledge could help others, too.

Certainly, I may never be faced with a tsunami. But there are other faces of evil that cause me fear. The threat of tornados. Death of loved ones. Illness. Accident. Injury.

Do I give up? Do I believe there is no hope? Do I resolve to a life of chance, vulnerability, and uncertainty?

The inspiration I’ve gained from one woman’s victory over a formidable foe, has strengthened my confidence and trust in the mightiest power of all – the Divine. While I may face struggles and hardships that at times bring me to my knees, I can be assured that the “still small voice” will be with me, will lift me up and guide me onward and upward to a new day. To solutions. Freedom. Peace. Comfort. Healing.

May I have the strength and faith to look at my adversities and proclaim, “I shall not die, but live…”