STORIES worth the read
THIRD Quarter 2016 Edition
If you’re paying attention to the news—and who isn’t?—your heart has to be broken. Daily we see riveting accounts of violence and racial strife and enflamed rhetoric, anger and distrust on all sides.
So how do we pray to break down the barriers of intolerance, distrust and lack of compassion in our communities? In our country? In our own hearts?
I think our prayers have to find an entirely different level – a more spiritual altitude and perspective — where we quiet the clamor of human events and start to see everyone more the way God sees us – as his image and likeness. We also need to realize that God (or Divine Love) is in control and the more we listen for God’s message and change our way of thinking and feeling away from human reactions to embrace God’s love and peace and joy and harmony, our lives and our world will be transformed.
Tumult, fear, hate, violence and distrust necessarily disappear when we open our hearts to Divine Love just the way darkness disappears when you turn on a light. I am not talking about positive thinking. This transformation through prayer is so much more than some exercise of the human mind. I am talking about spiritual transformation brought about through God’s power and grace.
But just how do we do that?
Here’s an example. It comes from a Facebook posting by a young African American woman. She had just entered a convenience store. Off to one side of her were two white police officers talking to the clerk. As the woman entered the store the police officers became silent. The woman said she walked down the aisle looking for an item when one of the police officers approached her. He said, “How are you doing?” She replied that she was “Okay.” But the police officer asked again, “But how are you really doing?” (Obviously referring to the recent shootings). The woman said she was “tired.” And the officer said, “It’s not easy being either of us right now.” And then he gave her an embracing hug. At which point the woman said she just “cried.”
Is this “living” prayer? In this case we’d have to say yes—this is prayer that’s visible, sweet and sympathetic in the way that must have touched both hearts.
Here’s another example of someone “living” their prayer in order to bless another. But the setting is totally different.
In this case the story is told by a Christian Science Chaplain ministering to a man in one of our State prisons.
He writes, “Presently I am visiting on a one to one Sunday School style session with an inmate. This inmate (referred to me by his also incarcerated brother), will be released in 6 months and has been reading the (Christian Science) literature and the weekly Bible Lessons with the expectation of growing in strength to resist returning to his gang life.
He has been making good progress in resisting the temptation to fight others. He also has asked for help in freeing himself from feeling that the tattoos—that cover his face and head—are not going to limit him in access to acceptance and a possible job when he is released.
He is making great progress in his spiritual journey, and shared an experience this last visit. Apparently another inmate challenged him to fight and said some very derogatory comments to his face. The man said, “I had full right to take him out, finish him off.” However that night he said he battled in his prayer all night, not sleeping until a few hours before light. He said he felt like Jacob, wrestling, searching, and grabbing hold of the truth that he had left behind ‘the old man.’
When he awoke, he said he felt a peace that he had never felt in his entire life and wanted to speak with this other inmate. During that meeting he told the other man how he had prayed and forgiven him, how he was on a spiritual path that was leading him out. He told the other inmate he was done with the hate, and that he was going to pray for him. The other inmate shook his head and walked away.
This inmate’s stand is inspiring. And I am deeply grateful for his progress.
These two stories are encouraging because they are solid examples of what it takes to “be” one’s prayer to bless another.
If you liked these stories keep reading. Because in this edition we’re also including a deeply heartfelt poem written by a young man serving time in a youth detention center. And that’s followed by a series of short stories of transformation that produce physical healing and redemption.
How to help youths get un-involved in crime?…
No, there’s no simple answer to the question. And for the majority of youth in our detention centers, what glues them to criminal activity is “poverty”—simply having to fight others and struggle just to survive. One of our “youth” chaplains submitted the following poem written by a young man whose “ghetto eyes are wise.” While it expresses the human tragedy associated with poverty, it’s also a prayer of deep desire to know the peace of God. The reality out on the “streets” for many youths is simple: you fight to survive. Yet in their hearts kids only want peace and inner-contentment. As a chaplain, or even as a parent, you have to know the forces pulling on our kids—like the forces expressed in this lamenting poem. But more than that you need to be prepared to stand with them to defeat these negative social forces.
A Small Town Cemetery
A child is born, within that breath a man dies.
Daughters become widows before beautiful brides.
Adolescent years reflect trouble and pain,
My environment is stagnated by guns and powder cocaine.
Molly is a designer drug for youth,
Troublesome teens are sometimes too quick to shoot.
Liquor stores govern every corner in the hood,
Only the prelude goes misunderstood.
That Aztec sister traded her soul to get high,
Still behind that pipe is a queen in disguise.
My hood is precious, and I cherish its worth—
Yet how can I be guided correctly when it’s revenge I thirst?
Brothers don’t correlate brotherly love no mo—
Your closest companion becomes your full time foe.
Friends are few and loyalty is sacred,
Follow your intuition and you just might make it.
I pray faithfully that I will outgrow and transcend these streets,
And clutch peace and wisdom because the game is deep.
An exceptional few raise and stand tall,
But most of my homeboys are hidden minds behind prison walls.
The elements of the ghetto is like a rude disease,
Ignorance and murder have killed divine seeds.
My ghetto eyes are wise, yet they remain teary,
East Palo Alto California the Small Town Cemetery.
12 Short Stories/Good Endings
Every month we receive stories from our volunteer Christian Science Chaplains ministering in our State Prisons, County Jails and Youth Detention Centers. We love reading these abbreviated stories of spiritual transformation and resulting healing, and we hope you do too…
- An inmate said he likes how the Bible lessons are structured with lots of Bible passages, instead of (as he’s used to, in his church) just one Bible passage, and lots of human preaching about it. He read thoughtfully the Sentinel the chaplain gave him, and it contained a healing of back pain (something he’s struggled with for 1-2 years.) He applied the ideas to himself, and is now free of back pain. He said, “I thought it was a bunch of hocus pocus, but it works!”
- One man asked the chaplain for prayer regarding a heat rash on his arms which he seems to suffer from every year when the weather heats up. He has used an ointment in the past but wanted to use prayer this time. He reported to the chaplain on the next visit that the rash was completely gone, in fact, he said he had even forgotten about it entirely.
- One woman told the chaplain that she had had an initial screening and it indicated that she had breast cancer. After praying with the ideas she was learning in Science and Health and the Bible, she later returned to see the doctor who then gave her a clean bill of health.
- At a building where a chaplain took literature to the cell fronts she noticed one of the inmates waving who had asked for prayer regarding “carpel tunnel syndrome” saying it doesn’t hurt anymore.
- An inmate who was sentenced to 47 years in prison had a testimony to share. It had to do with the belief of severe loneliness and subsequent depression. Sustaining companionship was found in a divinely natural way, and in the form of a “pen pal” that was a complete surprise to him.
- The chaplain and a female inmate “returnee” had been praying about her child. The woman soon told the chaplain that she was happy that her young child, who had cancer, was reported to now be “free” of it.
- A man who is reading Sciencia and Salud is finding it very inspiring. He and the chaplain talk about Jesus’ commands to love one another in our daily walk. Other inmates have commented on his calm demeanor…which is quite a change from the angry, reactive man he was a month ago. When the chaplain visited last week the man said his “cellie” asked if he could read the textbook as he was suffering from an abscess or boil on his mouth. After reading Sciencia and Salud for several days, the abscess drained and he was healed. This so impressed the man that they are now reading and discussing the truth together.
- An inmate who had been meeting with the chaplain for 2-3 years had been transferred from an upper tier cell to a lower tier cell due to a painful and swollen leg. The chaplain spoke about the man’s true spiritual identity that could never be touched. He told him he would pray for him and check back with him in a couple of weeks. On the chaplains next visit the pain in the leg and swelling were gone. The chaplain asked him what thoughts had come to him over the last two weeks. He said, that one day he realized that the swollen and painful leg “is not me”. It was clear to him that it was something separate from him and had no part of his being. In two days the condition was healed.
- An inmate had become very stressed about comments that prison guards were making to him. This had been going on for a while and he was feeling a bit desperate. The chaplain told him that he would pray for him and that he could not be affected by evil thoughts and words which God had never created. The two also spoke about how Jesus loved others. When the chaplain returned in two weeks, the inmate noted that he felt the effect of the prayer and that he was much more relaxed and calm.
- A chaplain met with a newly-transferred inmate who had been praying with another C.S. Chaplain for help with Hepatitis C. In deep gratitude the man explained how the former chaplain had encouraged him to study the definition of “Man” (in Science and Health), and continue this study. He said that when he transferred he was given a physical when he arrived, but the doctors could find no trace of what was showing on his record. He is on fire with Christian Science and was so grateful for this beautiful healing.
- Another inmate on the main yard has expressed such deep appreciation for what she has discovered in Christian Science. She had a workplace injury of a torn muscle and through her study and Christian Science treatment, regained the use and freedom in that arm, without the recommended surgery.
- An inmate reported to the chaplain that when she had entered the prison, her heart was hard as stone, she was so bitter and hurt from the past abuse and experiences in her life. The chaplain remembered her from the induction yard and had noted how angry and vicious she appeared. But she kept coming to services and shereports that her heart has been completely reformed and she has found the pearl of great price. She speaks with such conviction and clear testimony of the transforming power of the Christ. She says she has faced her crimes and repented deeply and no longer blames others. This has been a wonderful thing to witness. Her face has softened and she expresses care for others.
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