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A word about this blog

Daily News and Prayer is inspired by The Christian Science Monitor, one of the most important (and most underappreciated) newspapers in the world. Posts are usually (but not always) responses to articles in the Monitor about events and trends that call for prayer.

The blog's aim is to help strengthen humanity's collective confidence that we can triumph over even the most deeply entrenched evils, in ourselves and in the world.

Notifications: If you would like to be notified about new postings, please send an email to kscollins@gmail.com, with "Blog mailing list" in the subject line. I'll be sure to let you know each time a new item is posted.

Note on submissions: If you would like to contribute to this blog, I would be happy to consider your submission. It should be 500 words or less, well written and fit the topic. Read several postings to get an idea of the subject matter and tone. It should also fit the audience, which is general, international and non-denominational.

Please email your submission to me at kscollins@gmail.com. I will get back to you as soon as I can. Please be aware that, while I appreciate the interest and efforts of anyone who wishes to write for the blog, publication is not guaranteed. If I feel your piece is promising but needs revision, I will let you know. Nothing will be published without your seeing the final copy.

Daily News and Prayer

"Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free."

Christ Jesus

 

“We must not expect the world to improve much faster than ourselves.”

Will Durant

 

Thursday
Sep032015

Refugees and home

"Pilgrim on earth, thy home is heaven; stranger, thou are the guest of God.”

The words of Mary Baker Eddy, founder of The Christian Science Monitor, speak to the longing that is pulling millions of refugees out of Syria and other war-battered homelands in search of a country where they and their families will be welcome. The longing is not just for a national resting place. It is also for home in the deepest sense, for love and peace that cannot be uprooted.

Of course, this is not just a refugee issue. We are all pilgrims, whether we are rooted or rootless on earth, because we all are looking for that love and peace, our present home in heaven. Is it there for the taking? “In my Father's house are many mansions,” Christ Jesus promised: “if it were not so, I would have told you.”

The welcoming warmth of generous prayer, realizing the power of God’s ever-present love for humanity, can help to guide the refugees to their new homes. If roadblocks are erected by fearful nations, if refugees are exploited by unscrupulous human traffickers, no one has the authority to negate God’s love. None of us is foreign to God.

Perhaps this as an opportunity for humanity to begin outgrowing altogether the concept of foreignness. As the Apostle Paul observed, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.”

I have found a new clarity about this refugee issue for myself by looking past a sense of national origin to a sense of heavenly home. Thanks to one particular reader, who wrote me after my last post, I have a new understanding of place that has nothing to do with nation or location but simply with my own understanding of God. Patriotism and emotion are no substitutes for real prayer.

 

Friday
Aug282015

Unselfed America

Is America in decline? There are lots of reasons to think so. But we may be looking at the wrong things. The state of government and the economy, or statistics of wealth and health, don’t give the whole story. There’s also the spirit of the people. There’s an underlying strength in America that won’t easily be dislodged.

America exists to model freedom. Not just the freedom to do whatever we want, which has led to a kind of brutal life in parts of America, where the rich get richer, everyone else feels vulnerable, and government looks the other way. The freedom that really defines America is the freedom to do good no matter the consequences. If the government isn’t permitted to exercise that freedom very often, at least domestically, individuals can, and society supports the idea. In 2014 charitable giving  by Americans hit an all-time high. The country is the only one ranked in the top ten in the world in three key areas of giving: the percentage of people who donate in a typical month to charity, who volunteer time and who help a stranger.

That last area is telling: Americans are the clear leader in helping strangers. Look at the three Americans who hog-tied a terrorist on a French train, with the help of a Brit and two Frenchmen. It’s an understatement to say they made many people’s lives better.

You don’t have to be American, of course, to do good. Myanmar tied with the U.S. in overall giving and was the leader in giving to charity. But for Americans, doing good is almost a religion. When someone is in trouble, Americans tend to want to jump in. Last year I was at a grocery store in France, and a little lady was trying to reach the top shelf to pull down a bottle of shampoo. People were walking by and ignoring her. She was starting to step on the bottom shelf to climb up, which didn’t look very safe, and a man near her was watching her, mouthing words to himself, apparently practicing what to say. As she stepped on the shelf he went up to her and said, in French, “Can I help you get that?” He had a strong American accent, and the words weren’t in the right order, but he managed to get himself understood. He pulled the bottle down for her, and she couldn’t stop thanking him.

I’ve met many kind and generous people of different nationalities during my six-plus years in Europe. But very few of them would say their purpose in life is to do good. That sounds naïve to a lot of people, making selflessness a life purpose. Americans, on the other hand – not all, but many – will say without embarrassment that their purpose in life is to do good. Lincoln’s words, “With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right . . .” sum up well the attitude of many Americans toward the world and its problems.

Maybe that’s one reason I really respect The Christian Science Monitor, with its purpose “to bless all mankind.” It’s published by a church, but it’s also firmly rooted in America (Boston) and American attitudes of good will.

America will do fine, as long as we don’t forget who we are. Government of the people, by the people and for the people cannot perish from the earth as long as a nation that values unselfed love exists.

 

Monday
Aug242015

Defending America

The other day a friend of mine, not an American, said, “I love America, but it’s such an embarrassment now.” She was referring to things like presidential candidates who seem far less than presidential, a political process driven by money and locked into permanent anger, a reputation for “bomb first, ask questions later” as a foreign policy, and seemingly regular mass shootings by troubled men.

The world is desperate for an America that works. Recall that back in 2009 President Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize almost before he had gotten a tour of the White House. He had done nothing to earn it; he only promised an America that the world could look up to.

The world needs America because America is exceptional. Italy is exceptional, too, just for different things. So are China and Cuba and Kenya and a host of other nations. America’s uniqueness is the mandate to model freedom – freedom from tyranny, limitation, fear and anything else that would oppress. The guys who brought down the terrorist on a French train Friday were being quintessentially American because they broke free from fear and acted in the interest of everyone on the train.

Where America runs into trouble is when we (I’m American) interpret “exceptional” to mean “superior.” It’s rather like a religion that believes its understanding of God is the right one, and then assumes that this gives its adherents the right to push their theology on others in the name of helping them. We have been acting superior for a long time, although I think it got out of hand with the fall of communism and the assumption that we won the right to lord it over the world. We’ve lost our sense of humility.

Humility is a major part of America’s spiritual DNA. Abraham Lincoln understood that. Talking from the winning side as the bitter experience of the Civil War was winding down, he said:

With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.

This is the humble America people love. It hasn’t been lost, but it’s in trouble. Everyone who loves freedom, no matter what color his or her passport, needs to come to America’s defense. We are all Americans now. If we can find more humility in ourselves and defeat some of the tyranny of pride, we can help to strengthen the America we need. (If you prefer to be Italian, do something so beautifully creative it will bring a smile to someone’s face.)

In the words of the Bible:

Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.

This is what we can have if we defend the true nature of America.

Thursday
Aug132015

Waking up to climate change

Americans have been one of the last groups of people to deny climate change on a mass scale and refuse to deal with its consequences. I was one of them. I remember in 2009 coming to Europe and getting a job with a non-profit organization whose mission was to raise awareness of the human impact of climate change. “This will never sell in the US,” I told the CEO. “Climate change is a non-issue for Americans.” This meant me, too. To my mind there were about a thousand things more important for an organization or a nation to worry about.

I was wrong, and a lot of Americans are realizing they were wrong, too. Climate change is a huge issue for millions of Americans now, and billions of people around the world, even if many voters and government officials still deny its importance. As Doug Struck shows in this week’s cover story in The Christian Science Monitor weekly, many US state and local officials are realizing that the evidence is too obvious and the consequences of ignoring the problem potentially too catastrophic to ignore it any longer. As Struck quotes Miami Beach mayor Philip Levine, “We may not have all the answers, but we’re going to show that Miami Beach is not going to sit back and go underwater.”

It’s tempting to be astonished at the continued resistance of some government leaders, political candidates and campaign donors to the obvious. If there were broad political agreement, progress would proceed much faster. But the issue isn’t really recalcitrant individuals. It’s the general resistance to progress. It has happened, I’m sure, since the first person decided to cook with fire.

Look at Nehemiah in the Bible. He wanted to rebuild the wall of Jerusalem, but people who saw their interests threatened tried to undermine him at every turn. The same resistance faces humanity as we try to build a wall against climate change.

For readers of this blog, our role in this process is a necessary one: to help create the mental climate that will enable humanity to coalesce around a clear strategy for dealing with the issue. The best tool we have is prayer, because it brings to the process the power of the divine Mind, the all-encompassing Love, without which the human mind is far less capable of intelligent, creative work.

What to pray about will come to each of us individually. For me, at the moment, it’s the claim that there are opposing interests that are capable of undermining unity and putting humanity’s welfare at risk. Nehemiah handled his opposition by knowing he had the authority and means to erect the wall and by keeping alert – and keeping his laborers alert – to the lies, distortions and threats that would get them to let down their guard. His big weapon was prayer, and it’s ours, too.

The God of climate is the God of humanity, and His law of harmony must govern, from the slightest breeze to the knottiest global negotiation.

Saturday
Aug082015

The ripple effect of moral victories

Moral breakthroughs tend to have a ripple effect. When humans discover that certain fears, personal desires and firmly held convictions in one area are not so justified or deeply rooted after all, then breakthroughs in other areas can suddenly seem more possible. If I think yelling at my kid will help her learn to do the right thing, for example, and then I realize one day that it’s only teaching her that when she wants to change someone’s thinking she should yell, maybe it will help me see that calm reason and prayer are more effective than will power in a lot of areas, such as work relationships, commercial disputes or even just writing a blog.

That is what seems to be happening with the UN Security Council resolution to determine who is using chemical weapons on Syrian civilians. Why suddenly do we have a breakthrough, with Russia willing to join the US and others in uncovering a fact that may point a finger at the Assad regime in Syria, which Russia, along with Iran, has backed from the beginning? As Howard LaFranchi points out in a perceptive article in The Christian Science Monitor, there is strong indication that it was the breakthrough achieved by Iran and the US to limit development of the Iran nuclear program, a breakthrough with heavy involvement from Russia, that opened the way to these parties working together again on Syria. Solving the Syria problem would enable the Middle East to take another huge step toward peace.

While ideological and political opponents of the Iran agreement have their say in the US Congress and elsewhere, the agreement itself continues to bear fruit in changed thought. Russia, the US and Iran – who would have thought? – seem to be finding a way to work together. It’s being shown again that diplomacy is far more capable of achieving human progress than bombs.

Peace and moral progress always have their opponents, who see change as a threat to their fears, personal desires and firmly held convictions. But everyone has the ability to feel the healing influence of a moral and spiritual breakthrough. No one is excluded from the right to light.