Wednesday, January 14, 2015

"How great Thou art…"

"Then sings my soul,
my Saviour, God, to Thee
how great Thou art,
how great Thou art..."

We approached this Christmas break with open hearts and willing hands. Our children would be celebrating the holidays with family in other parts of the country, and Jeff and I would be working Adventure Unlimited's Christmas Ranching program. It's one of my favorite programs offered at camp, and it was the perfect answer for us --  spending Christmas together in a meaningful way.

We would be surrounded by people we loved, programs we believed in, and a mission we cherished -- offering a quiet, sacred manger-like Christmas for our guests. And the Christmas Ranching metaphysical theme couldn't have been more perfect, or practical: "Dear Christ, forever here and near…" from Mary Baker Eddy's poem Christmas Morn.

At the last minute my sister-in-law, Laurie, and her daughters -- Kristen and Lily, decided to join us at the ranches. What a blessing it was to share this precious, healing time with them. And it was a healing time -- for everyone. You can't focus on Christ's forever dear-ness, here-ness, and  nearness, and not experience wholeness, wellness -- healing.

For me,  it felt -- from the very first moment staff arrived -- that we were in for a holy week. And as each guest came through the door of the lodge for dinner that first night, it was clear we had each been sent, called, drawn forth -- like shepherds, wisemen, lambs, and doves -- to discover something blessed during our time together.

Each day -- morning scripture study, activities in the lodge, adventures in the snow, traveling in the vans, breaking bread together at meals -- sparkled with promise.  "Dear Christ, forever here and near…" rang through the brisk mountain air.  The fire crackled with it. It was in the whinnying of the horses, the laughter of children, the sound of a hockey puck rushing across the ice.  Each moment gave new birth to a fresh sense of Emmanuel, or "God with us…"

Christmas Eve, while navigating the path from my cabin to the lodge, I took a hard fall on the ice. Immediately, I felt strong arms under me, and a voice saying, "God is Love, you are loved." Moments later, a young man I knew well, was at my side assuring me that I was fine. With his help I made my way to the lodge.  

During the evening's activities, I remembered the promise in our metaphysical theme: "dear Christ, forever here and near." It helped me let go of the false story. It was abundantly clear to me that God was with me, had always been with me, and that I had never fallen out of his care.  Holding to this fact, I stayed conscious and upright. I wrote about this experience in an earlier post, but as I have thought about it further, there were a few other details that I remembered.

For example, the next day I grateful to be able to do everything I needed to do in caring for our guests. And a quote by A.W. Tozer kept coming to my heart:

"What comes into our minds
when we think about God,
is the most important thing about us."
Throughout the day, I tried to be consciously aware of what came into my mind when I thought about God.  And I was also conscious of what I felt, when I thought about God. I took moments throughout the day to find a quiet space -- even for a few moments -- to sit still, and let myself feel deeply the peace, awe, joy, wonder, and trust that I was actually experiencing when I thought about God.

And later that day -- after a beautiful meal -- we gathered for a Christmas program that included scripture, carols, inspiration, and this beautiful performance of "How Great Thou Art," by my niece Lily, with my husband on guitar and singing harmonies. This pure focus on God's greatness touched me deeply -- and I felt it.

As I've pondered all that we shared and experienced together during that Christmas week -- staff, volunteers, guests, horses -- I keep coming back to our theme, "dear Christ, forever here and near…" As well as Christ's dear message of "God with us…"

On the first page of her primary work, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, Mary Baker Eddy defines the prayer reforms the sinner and heals the sick as:

"an absolute faith
that all things are possible to God,
a spiritual understanding of Him,
an unselfed love..."
Not a spiritual understanding of our human circumstances or of our thoughts, a spiritual understanding of our human histories or of the motives and intentions of the people around us -- but of God, of Him.

And later in this same book she reminds us that:

"“Truth and Love
come nearer in the hour of woe,
when strong faith or spiritual strength
wrestles and prevails through
the understanding of God."
How often have I been distracted into thinking that I needed to understand where I've gone wrong -- where my thinking was out of alignment, how was I identifying myself, what mistakes did I need to correct, what sin needed to be repented of, or what was someone else was thinking about me?  What did I need to fix, in order to experience healing, transformation, redemption, salvation? And how often did I fall prey to this mental hunt for what was true -- or false -- about the human picture?  Too often.

But it's never about me. And it's never about you, or her, or them. It's never about our mistakes, circumstances, or our thinking -- it's always about God. If anything is pulling our focus off of the allness and goodness of God -- we need to pull it back.  It's an understanding of God that brings healing.  It's what we know about Him that makes all the difference.

I believe that what comes to mind -- and what I feel in my heart -- when I think about God, is the most important thing about me.  So that's where I'm training my focus -- on Him.

I can't say enough about our week together during Christmas Ranching.  There -- in the sacred manger of "dear Christ, forever here and near…" -- something holy was born, and  took root in our hearts. God was with us. God is always with us - each of us - individually and collectively.

Oh Lord, my God, how great Thou art…

offered with love,


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