PRESENTATION OF SPEAKER TREVOR YATES
Christian Science nurse
HOW TO GATHER, SOW AND FEED THY SHEEP; CHRISTIAN SCIENCE NURSING'S ACTIVE EXPRESSION
I’m so grateful to be with you all today.
Having lived on the New Hampshire border for ten years in the Vermont town of Brattleboro, I’ve always felt a closeness to New Hampshire. I now call Carlisle, MA home which is less than 20 miles away and I get to take my daughter to New Hampshire every Sunday for her voice lessons. I love New Hampshire for its diverse beauty - from the beaches to the mountains - and I know this state holds a special place in all of our hearts for being the birthplace of our Leader and the place here on earth she could most easily call “home”.
I’m so grateful this state has the wonderful work of the Christian Science Nurse Service of New Hampshire - it’s a beautiful expression of church. I have a fondness for this Service. I attended one of these meetings about 20 years ago at the Concord church, back when Pat Cameron was the Visiting Christian Science nurse. And that was when the seeds were planted for my love of Christian Science nursing. If you’d told me then that I’d be addressing you all as a Christian Science nurse, I’m not sure I would have believed it, so thank you so much for inviting me.
I also have a soft spot for the New Hampshire Service due to a healing that came about during my Christian Science nurses’ training a few years ago, I had the opportunity to spend a couple days with Paula mentoring me. It was a wonderful learning experiece that I’ll tell you more about a little later.
I love Christian Science nursing and in particular visiting Christian Science nursing. As Kelly mentioned in her introduction, my Christian Science nursing ministry is based in Princeton, NJ and more recently has been taking me into New York City. What our Leader writes in Miscellany (or Miscellany) has been a guide for me in this work. She writes, “The students in New York and elsewhere will see that it is wise to remain in their own fields of labor and give all possible time and attention to caring for their own flocks.” (My 243:15) This feels like God-directed work for me to support those workers in our Movement who wish “to remain in their own fields of labor” (and in their homes) in our nation’s largest city, and I think it’s wonderful that this Service is providing those in the Granite state and beyond to do the same.
I thought we could begin by reading a few familiar lines in Mary Baker Eddy’s Feed My Sheep poem: “Shepherd, show me how to go O'er the hillside steep, How to gather, how to sow, — How to feed Thy sheep; (Poems, Mary Baker Eddy, p. 14:1 Shepherd)
I’ve always loved these lines because they remind me that, in order to turn to God as our shepherd, we have to willingly be part of His flock, “to follow where thou leadest” (Hymn 245), and this expresses the humility that Ms. Eddy said is required in healing. In Miscellaneous Writings she writes, “Humility is the stepping-stone to a higher recognition of Deity.”(Misc 1:15–16) and, “Experience shows that humility is the first step in Christian Science, wherein all is controlled, not by man or laws material, but by wisdom, Truth, and Love.” (Misc 354:22)
So it’s in this spirit of humility that I invite you to join me this evening in looking at how we might gather, sow and feed God’s sheep - our brothers and sisters.
SECTION 1 - Let’s start with “gather”. One dictionary defines “gather” as to collect or bring together. What are we gathering? Well, it seems if we’re humbling appealing to God, as our shepherd to guide us over the rocky obstacles we encounter in life, the way in which God helps us over these steep hillsides is by giving us the thoughts we need to address these challenges. Whether we’re dealing with a relationship, workplace, financial, physical or emotional issue, God is either giving us, or preparing us, to hear the thought we need right in that moment that’s needed to heal the situation. So what do we do if it’s the latter and we’re waiting for a healing to occur? We gather these good thoughts from God knowing that each of these thoughts are a healing thought both for you and others.
As a Christian Science nurse, I found spiritual growth in learning how to handle mortal mind’s imposition as it relates to bathing female (and male) patients or clients. One morning, very early in my Christian Science nursing ministry, I had a client say to me, “Gee, you’re not very good at this, are you?!”
And you know, she was right!
I felt awkward and uncomfortable, because that’s exactly where my thought was, rather than having my thought focused on the gracefulness, gentleness and love that’s being expressed.
I learned that there’s nothing embarrassing for the individual or the Christian Science nurse, and actually there is no gender in the expression of Christian Science nursing. We’re just expressing His qualities and we’re shedding our mortality and our belief in it. I learned that as expressions only, neither I or this individual have a personal selfhood with which to feel self-conscious. Thoughts of self-consciousness are not from God because they don’t take our thought higher but keep it stuck in a limited sense of mortal being.
I’ve also come to discern something about preferences. For example, a simple food preference, such as someone preferring apple juice instead of orange juice is fine! Of course, anyone of us can have these preferences and why wouldn’t we lovingly support this preference when possible. The preference of a female rather than a male Christian Science nurse (or the other way around) is also something we can support when possible but the difference, for me, is realizing that it - while we can do this - it is a limited imposition that each one of us is growing out of. Mrs. Eddy writes, “Anatomy declares man to be structural. Physiology continues this explanation, measuring human strength by bones and sinews, and human life by material law.” She continues by explaining, “ Man is spiritual, individual, and eternal; material structure is mortal.” (Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy 173:17)
She also writes, “Soul is the substance, Life, and intelligence of man, which is individualized, but not in matter.” (SH 477:22) We’re here to reclaim our identity in Soul, not in anatomy, physiology or body parts. While we may need to meet the individual’s comfort-level and need for care where they are, we might want to consider in our own thought that a preference for a female vs. a male Christian Science nurse is no more sensible than the desire for a black-haired nurse over a blonde nurse, or for that matter a brown-skinned nurse for a white-skinned nurse, or the other way around.
Mrs. Eddy says, “Look away from the body into Truth and Love, the Principle of all happiness, harmony, and immortality. Hold thought steadfastly to the enduring, the good, and the true, and you will bring these into your experience proportionably to their occupancy of your thoughts.” (SH 261:2) Isn’t this what Christian Science nurses are really doing, for themselves and for their patients or clients? We’re looking away from the body...holding thought to the good and the true…
Albert Einstein is reported to have said: “I want to know God's thoughts – the rest are mere details.” This thing, us being a man or woman, are just details. The sooner we can stop identifying our spiritual reality with bodily organs, the sooner we shed a sense of corporeality. And the sooner we can do this for ourselves, the better and more effective healers we’ll be in our churches and in our communities.
From Galatians we read, “For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. 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.” (Galatians 3:26, 28)
As I’ve gathered these thoughts, they led to healing for me, supported healing for others, and enabled my Christian Science nursing ministry to be a greater blessing.
SECTION 2 - And just as we gather thoughts of our spiritual being, they’re being sown in our consciousness -our understanding of being - where they grow as we nurture and cherish our own spiritual growth. Jesus shared, “The kingdom of heaven is like to a grain of mustard seed, which a man took, and sowed in his field: Which indeed is the least of all seeds: but when it is grown, it is the greatest among herbs, and becometh a tree, …” (Matt 13:31, 32 (to 3rd ,))
The least and most seemingly insignificant thoughts that tell us of how dearly loved we are, are not insignificant. Each of these are seeds being sown which lead to great growth and sometimes we have to remind ourselves that growth is good. A friend told me that on a pecan tree (or pecan if you prefer) that unless the tree has new growth, that it won’t bear any fruit. The fruit is only born on the areas of new growth. I know it’s hard but when challenges do arise, I try to see it less as a challenge and more as an opportunity for prayer, and an opportunity for new growth.
Our Leader writes of Jacob wrestling with the angel, “Jacob was alone, wrestling with error, — struggling with a mortal sense of life, substance, and intelligence as existent in matter with its false pleasures and pains, — when an angel, a message from Truth and Love, appeared to him and smote the sinew, or strength, of his error, till he saw its unreality; and Truth, being thereby understood, gave him spiritual strength in this Peniel of divine Science.” (SH 308:16–23) And in the book of Genesis, Jacob says to the angel, “I will not let thee go, except thou bless me.” (Gen 32:30) Notice Jacob didn’t say to the angel “Can we get this over with already?” or “I just want it to go back to the way things were...” The human mind wants to go back but “...progress is the law of God.”(SH 233:5) And Ms. Eddy also writes, “In Christian Science there is never a retrograde step, never a return to positions outgrown.” (SH 74:29–30)
Our forward progress is like being in a motor boat. We can sit in the aft or rear part of the boat, looking back at all of the turbulent, tumultuous water. It, like life’s challenges - big and small - can be mesmerizing. But the fact is, no matter how fixated we are on all of the problems and things that need to be overcome, the boat is still moving forward. We can spend all of our time focused on the drama of life’s rich experience - and I get it - we all have it. But the fact remains, the boat (and your life) - and the lives of every individual who is blessed by this Christian Science Nursing Service - is undoubtedly moving forward.
So how do we get from staring off the back of the boat, to the front where we can stand up on the bow as if we’re in the movie “Titanic”? Well it starts by not grabbing ahold of the rope that error is dangling in front of you. The drama of lack often tries to be the most aggressive - whether it be lack of health, lack of money, a lack in our human relationships, a lack of time, or lack of inspiration. We have to shut the door on these thoughts of lack if we’re to gather the good thoughts and sow them in our consciousness.
I was once told “your thoughts are your friends. And if they don’t feel like your friends, then they’re not your thoughts.” And we can throw them away - we can toss them overboard. The good thoughts from God, we gather and sow, moment by moment, day by day. Not just in church on Sundays and Wednesdays, and not just while reading the Bible Lesson, but throughout our day when we witness to the evidence of God in our lives and attribute each kind act, each protection, each apology given or accepted, each moment of grace - as expressions of God. Not because that’s a nice way to spiritualize our daily lives but because that’s actually the reality of our daily lives. The substance (or essence) or reality of our lives is in the expression of God’s spiritual qualities manifested in your and my and everyone’s lives.
And as these thoughts of God, these thoughts of good, are sown in our consciousness, they can’t help but be made manifest in the acts we do.
I can share a story related to this. About ten years ago - before I was a Christian Science nurse - I felt a slight soreness in my knee, particularly as I walked up and down stairs. It wasn’t painful - just a slight discomfort and something I didn’t take seriously (and I didn’t address it in prayer.) Within the context of my busy life, not valuing my own spiritual (and physical) needs was not something out of the ordinary. I carried on, hoping it would go away.
One evening when our family arrived home late at night, our 11 year old son was asleep in the car. Now I should say, ever since he was 5 years old, I said to myself, “This is the last year I’m carrying him upstairs to his bed.” Yet each year, despite his growing size and weight my heart went out to this “sound sleeper” in the car and my desire to lovingly support his rest would take over and I would carry him up the stairs from the car to his bed.
One night I was in the process of doing so when on my way up the stairs I felt my knee buckle. It felt as if it bent in a direction it was not meant to bend. I regained my footing on the stairs -maintained hold of this precious cargo - and completed the task carrying my son up to his room and tucking him into bed.
The next day and those that followed, my knee grew more painful and I became less and less mobile. It began with having difficulty walking up and down stairs, then I could only take one stair at a time and I found myself enduring a great deal of pain on stairs - I even began walking with a severe limp on flat surfaces.
During this time of discomfort and awkward mobility, I recall wondering how I would possibly have time to pray for this. I was working full time, I had two children with their schooling and activities and I was in an intensive graduate school program with a heavy amount of coursework each week. I felt I was doing my best just to read a section of the Bible Lesson each day and I wasn’t sure where praying for healing was supposed to fit into my busy schedule.
I should mention that in my early 20’s, prior to learning of Christian Science, I received a sports injury on the other knee for which I had surgery. While I didn’t diagnose this apparent injury, it seemed to be showing all of the signs of that previous injury. This time I was eager to rely on Christian Science treatment. It was clear this apparent “injury” wasn’t going away on its own and still I really couldn’t see how I’d possibly fit putting several hours of consecrated prayer into the context of my life. A Christian Science practitioner told me that the main accusation is that my life is overextended. (This struck me since I thought the physical claim was that my knee was overextended.) She reminded me that I don’t take a step ever throughout my day alone. And that my deepest desire is to know and do the will of God. There is one will.
I was asked if God would punish me for carrying my son up to his bed? I had been struggling with feeling silly for having carted an 80 pound boy up the stairs and error was trying to suggest to me, “It serves you right,” I knew that my motive had been nothing but to be the expression and clear shining of Love itself. So I knew those voices of condemnation had no claim on my life. Loving is part of our life purpose and I was in the act of expressing my life purpose so no harm can come from being the clearing shining of God. This was helpful.
I was reminded that there’s no sin in carrying a child up the stairs to bed. That’s my innocence and protection, and I was reminded that there’s also no sin in any of my activities. Somehow we’re tried to be made to believe that good competes with good. Graduate school vs. family vs. work. Health is good. Work is good. Family is good. School is good. All of these activities are good. I was reminded that I have an innocent foundation and it’s clear that I made the choice years ago of Christ rather than sin, and that my life is a testament of one who wants to know and do the will of God. It’s funny how sometimes we all need to be reminded of this…
Even though it appears that our lives are like this game of marbles in which all of these activities in our lives are bouncing off each other, the truth is we’re each Soul’s expression and God has a purpose for each of us. Our lives are not constituted of rearranging marbles but expressing this life purpose that God has for each of us each day.
The other thing shared that really struck me was that the belief of being overextended is a belief in too little time, and the belief about this healing that I was holding on to that it might take too much time. We live in the kingdom, not in a time constraint. God lives in the spot of each healing right now, and that our lives are rhythmic and ordered.
I was reminded that the Principle of all good holds every element of good in perfect balance and order. And even if we don't think we experience this, it’s still true and we can thank God for this fact. There was no malicious animal magnetism to distort or exaggerate any element of good in my life and I could thank God for holding me, securing my substance in a way that I was protected and safe to fulfill my mission.
On one Saturday morning, I had some time without any other commitments and decided to spend as much of the day as I could praying and studying in bed. In feeling overwhelmed about the time I thought it would take to properly address this seeming knee injury through prayer, I asked myself if I was willing to quit business school in order to focus on this opportunity for prayer. As much as I didn’t like the idea of quitting, I was reminded of Christ Jesus’ statement “nevertheless not mine will, but thine, be done.” (Luke 22:42) I knew if it was God-directed that I quit graduate school, then I would do it. And as I started thinking about it, and started thinking about how much I would learn and grow if I dedicated those same 20+ hours each week to my daily study of Christian Science rather than the subjects in business school, I actually started getting pretty excited about the prospect of giving it all up to study and learn more about my perfect sonship with God.
Well it happened on that Saturday morning - with all of these constraints beginning to be lifted off of me one by one - that my leg began to improve. The next day the swelling went down and I began walking without a limp. Within a week I was walking down stairs regularly, though with some discomfort, and two weeks later all signs of this knee injury were gone. Since then (and today) I consider myself an avid runner and have never been bothered by my knees since.
And just as a follow up, I did listen for whether God did want me to quit graduate school and in the stillness of my prayer, I was told to keep up my Christian Science study and keep up my business school studies, that good does not compete with good. I think it was in the practitioner’s prayers and in my willingness to leave it all for God, that I found healing, not just physically but my relationships were transformed and I approached my work and studies with more grace and calm, knowing that all of life is God-directed.
It can be helpful to know that time only exists in our thought of it. I allowed myself to gather and sow unhelpful thoughts of time, such as not having enough of it for the activities in my life - and then, as I mentioned, the concern that this healing was going to take too much time to heal. Mrs. Eddy writes, “Evil is temporal: it is the illusion of time and mortality.” (Misc 93:13) and “ Organization and time have nothing to do with Life.” (SH 249:19–20 (to 1st .))
A physicist has said “space and time are in the eye of the beholder." And Einstein went further. He came to believe late in life that time isn't merely relative or in the eye of the beholder — time is unreal. ("Christian Science, Time Masters", Aug 3, 2009)
The absolute fact and reality is that there is only today. There is the memory of yesterday and the expectation of tomorrow but all that there is is now.
This is all that’s going on.
Why do we need to concern ourselves with tomorrow. God’s got it. As a Christian Science nurse who, like Paula, spends a good deal of time driving in the car - in my case in New York City - I’ve come to appreciate looking at time differently. Rather than thinking of driving as a means of getting from point A to point B - as if good only happens outside of the car, I’ve come to find (as most visiting Christian Science nurses can attest to) that the kingdom of heaven is in the car as well.
Now I know for some of you the idea of sitting in traffic might conjure up the beatitude, “Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt 5:10) (PAUSE) But I liken it to this line also from Matthew, “for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matt 3:2) Yes, the kingdom of heaven is in New York City rush hour traffic and is in a blizzard in the White Mountains on a backcountry road. The kingdom of heaven is everywhere we are to witness to it, and that’s what we visiting Christian Science nurses are doing on our drives from one client to another.
SECTION 3 - So let’s talk about feeding the sheep… gathering and sowing good ideas so they’ll ripen into the fruits with which these good spiritual ideas will help us move forward.
To feed can be defined as to nourish, to cherish, and to supply. A Christian Science nurse, practically speaking, provides nourishment sometimes in the form of a meal, a drink or smoothie and sometimes its just encouragement and suggestions for food or menu ideas; always providing the hopeful expectation - not for the meal - but for the healing. Some of the ideas I’d been gathering and sowing throughout my Christian Science nursing ministry bore fruit in a healing that’s fed me spiritually and I trust enabled me to bless others as well. It began here with the Christian Science Nurse Service of New Hampshire when I was being mentored. I observed a cleansing and bandaging need and after paying very close attention for a few minutes, I began feeling light-headed. I’d never felt faint before, so this was quite a surprise.
Since the sensation didn’t go away, I stepped away and asked God what I needed to know. An article about fear immediately came to thought. But I wasn’t afraid so I wondered, what’s this got to do with being overwhelmed by what I’m seeing?
I was then reminded of an acronym for FEAR: False Evidence Appearing Real. That’s what was happening. The fear was the false evidence appearing real, and we know from I John that “... perfect love casteth out fear.” And so this love cast it out. At that moment, I felt refreshed, restored and I had dominion. I was grateful for this growth, and thought the healing was complete…
A month later, I had the opportunity to be mentored with another Visiting Christian Science Nurse Service. On my first day there, the Christian Science nurse told me we would be first visiting a client with an aggressive claim so I wouldn’t be surprised. I was grateful for this and since I thought I’d moved beyond this challenge, I wasn’t at all concerned. I was therefore really surprised when observing the care with this dear client that I began feeling light-headed again. However, before I could step away this time, my feet gave way and I fainted for a very brief moment. Thankfully, the client and the other Christian Science nurse simply thought I slipped and lost my footing. I rose and quietly excused myself. The Christian Science nurse came to check on me after a short time and then realized what happened. I regained my composure after a couple minutes, but she nursed me by taking me to lunch and excusing me from the rest of our visits for the day. I was eager to spend the rest of the afternoon and evening praying about this to see what God wanted me to learn.
The Christian Science nurse told me of a testimony in the Christian Science Sentinel. I looked it up and it included this line from Science and Health, “The spiritual essence of blood is sacrifice.” (SH: 25). I asked God, “What am I being asked to sacrifice?” Not my life, happiness or well-being for Christian Science nursing (Christian Science nursing wouldn’t require this kind of sacrifice) but… the sacrifice of the belief that I am physical. Am I willing to sacrifice that I live in matter? That I react to matter? I was being asked to sacrifice this in order to move forward in my Christian Science nursing ministry. I quietly and happily agreed to sacrifice this.
A friend told me of the term “Associative Animal Magnetism” which is simply a term for the error that would have us associate one thing with another, such as the sight of a physical challenge with a reaction on my part. And I also found a passage on page 377 in Science & Health in which I realized there is actually nothing connected between seeing a picture and a reaction, aside from the thinking associated with it.
Another insight I gained is that there is no reaction! This passage from Science and Health further helped illumine this: “Matter and its effects — sin, sickness, and death — are states of mortal mind which act, react, and then come to a stop.” (SH 283:8–10 (to 1st .)) This idea that reaction can come to a stop caught my attention. It stops, not by human effort, but once a belief in reaction is revealed - once it’s exposed - any action other than the One cause is stopped by Principle.
The nothingness of the material picture for our client was also true for me as well. There’s nothing for our client to be impressed by in this physical challenge, and there’s nothing for me to be impressed by, not only in the sight of this, but also not being impressed by the challenge trying to present itself in me.
I called a practitioner who helped me see that we’re not impressed by “the dream” in any way: good, bad or otherwise. For example, she offered that we’re not impressed by a millionaire sitting on a yacht, or a client with a physical challenge (or me seeming to have a response to this client) -none of these reveal the substance of our being. We’re not deceived. It’s mortal mind. Not me. And we can turn it off anytime, because it’s not MY thinking. This idea of being able to turn it off was particularly helpful. Finally, as I thought about the next day and the next two weeks with this Visiting Christian Science nurse service, the passage from Science & Health “Emerge gently from matter into Spirit.” (SH 485:14–17) was shared with me. It was so clear to me what an attempted imposition this was to my Christian Science nursing practice, and rather than being alarmed by the aggressive mental suggestion trying to thwart the good that I might do, I knew if it took two days, two weeks, two months or two years... to overcome this challenge of reacting, then it would be time well spent. I felt God gently shepherding me as I emerged from matter into Spirit
The next day, on our way to visit this same client and attend to the cleansing and covering again, the practitioner I was working with shared from that week’s Bible Lesson: “Rise in the strength of Spirit to resist all that is unlike good. God has made man capable of this, and nothing can vitiate the ability and power divinely bestowed on man.” (SH 393:12). A Board member and practitioner of the visiting Christian Science nurse service also shared (from that week’s Responsive Reading): “Let the beauty of the Lord...” He pointed out that “Let” is a word about allowing. It’s not a word about doing. With this, I realized that I don’t have to rise in strength and be strong, I just have to allow strength to be expressed in me. This was so much easier; to know that the strength needed to avoid fainting was not in me doing the work. I’m not strong. It’s God who’s strong and I just allow that strength to be reflected in me. This, along with accepting God’s timing to emerge gently from matter into spirit, took all of the pressure off.
While observing the Christian Science nurse attending to this covering need with this dear client, I felt dominion and there were two moments in particular that I knew that false suggestion of reaction had been conquered.
One, when I was conscious of my own thinking. I had a moment when I felt as if I was looking down on those of us in this room and I was simply fully aware of my thinking. I did not react, and over those next two weeks, I observed more and began attending to the cleansing and covering needs myself. Today, my Christian Science nursing ministry is free of this any limitation of reaction.
Oh, and the second moment of dominion on that day happened when I had a moment in which I just felt so moved by how blessed I was to have so much metaphysical support! Two practitioners (the service’s and my own) were both lovingly supporting me and this important work.
So in closing, I can’t thank you all enough for your prayerful support of visiting Christian Science nursing and of this Christian Science Nurse Service. It is so important and it is felt. To support individuals’ desire to radically rely on Christian Science for healing is worthy of support as is their desire to remain in their homes if at all possible - where it truly is the most natural place for a church member to be making their demonstration. These lines from the Christian Science Hymnal, Hymn 49 might say it all: “Innocent one, sinless and pure, Nothing can ever divide thee. Governed by Love, you are secure; I am forever beside thee. So rest and know wher-e’er you go, Home and heaven cannot be denied thee;” Thank you.