African ingenuity in life and in health

photo by Linda Ross, CS

photo by Linda Ross, CS

I am a great admirer of African ingenuity.

On the wall next to my desk is a small example – an illustration of a lovely woman at work grinding meal. The work of art is entirely made of butterfly wings.

It’s not only the brilliance of the art that impresses me, but the ingenuity of keeping a family fed in South Africa with butterfly wings on paper.

A missionary friend of mine brought me another treasure for my office. It is a beautiful wood carving of a man in prayer that has been carefully crafted in minute detail. In this case the ingenuity is in the way a Liberian artist who has no hands created this work. He used his feet to accomplish the intricate carving.

The carving of a man in prayer points to another aspect of African ingenuity I admire – some great examples from the continent of the practice of healing prayer.

Today, for example, I read something by a man living in the Democratic Republic of Congo who had health worries for himself and his family. On learning of his situation, a friend felt compassion for the man. He gave him a copy of a book called Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy and explained the book’s message could inspire spiritual insights that would bring to light the solution he was looking for.

He further recalled: ‘I had become an atheist a few years before, having lost all faith in God. But the content of Science and Health immediately caught my attention.’

He was particularly struck by a passage that talked of faith ‘advanced to spiritual understanding’ as ‘the evidence gained from Spirit’ which ‘establishes the claims of God’.

He felt as if those words were talking directly to him – assuring him that instead of having to have blind faith, which was what had led him to become an atheist in the first place, he could have ‘a faith filled with results and tangible proofs that God is present in our lives’.

“I then felt impelled to pray with all my heart…On the third day, I felt particularly inspired. I knew then that God does exist, that He is our Father-Mother, and He is always responding to our needs. That very day, I experienced an instantaneous and spectacular healing of a throat infection that had been going on for a few days and had prevented me from eating and drinking normally”, he gratefully concluded. A few days later another family member was healed of a chronic condition that modern medicine and traditional African medicine had been unable to make better.

Beautiful art, overcoming the odds and an innovative approach to healing.

I love what I’m learning from the people of Africa!

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Prayer and health: the elephant in the room?



I grew up trading elephant jokes with friends.

“Why did the elephant only wear tennis shoes with yellow soles?”

“I don’t know.”

“To hide upside down in the custard. Have you ever seen an elephant in custard? No of course not!”

“You see!”

Oh the simple triumphs of childhood!

Funny thing though as adults, most of us can think of a time or two when we’ve identified elephants that after all were not in the room (or the custard!).

Take prayer, for instance.

It means different things to different people.  For some, the only context for prayer has been comforting but not too much else.  How many today being given a diagnosis of a serious problem or condition, would think to pray first?

I have a good friend who did just that. This week he told me about a recent visit to his dental hygienist.  She pointed out to him that there was a lump in his cheek and urged him have it examined.  He had been aware of it thinking he had inadvertently bitten his cheek or something like that. Driving home after his appointment, he looked at it for the first time in the rearview mirror.  What he saw made him as concerned as the hygienist!

So he prayed.  To him, this meant deciding firmly not to be impressed but, instead, he turned his attention wholeheartedly to what he understood of God as the Creator of good alone. His prayer was based on the approach described by renowned nineteenth century healer, Mary Baker Eddy, “Who would stand before a blackboard, and pray the principle of mathematics to solve the problem? …we have only to avail ourselves of God’s rule in order to receive His blessing, which enables us to work out our own salvation.”(Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures)

My friend was awed when within moments of starting to pray the lump suddenly drained and was soon completely gone.

Like many, the doubt that prayer can heal is one of those silent elephants I encounter in the “room” of my consciousness from time to time.  For example, what if one has prayed but continues to grow worse?

Most of us who regularly choose prayer as an option for our health care can list experiences where doing so has required persistence or has highlighted a need to let go of, or forgive some resentment or injustice.  For me prayer has helped in finding peace with answers that have come (not always those I’ve outlined!) and by bringing me courage to follow logical next steps. But I continue to learn that, yes prayer can heal today just as it has been evidenced to do by individuals over the millenniums.

Despite the options available, many today are still searching for health.  Can we afford to ignore the elephant in the room, healing prayer?

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Finding the thought and health connection



Martin Pistorius has a remarkable story to share. The title of his 2011 book says it all: Ghost Boy: My escape from a life locked inside my own body. The host of a recent NPR program that featured him as a guest explained: “Eventually Martin found a way to reframe even the ugliest thoughts that haunted him…And slowly, as his mind felt better, something else happened — his body began to get better, too.”

In spite of his doctors’ fatal prognosis, he eventually went to college, began working, and married.

The Martin Pistorius story resonates with me. I’m always moved by stories of recovery which seem to follow a mental shift. For instance, a landmark text on spirituality and health has a concluding chapter devoted to letters from some of those who wrote the author to say they had become well after reading and reasoning with her book.

The first letter shares the following healing of rheumatism: “I was placed under an X-ray examination… and consulted a celebrated specialist, who after a thorough examination said my condition would continue to grow worse and that I would become completely helpless. At that time a copy of Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mrs. Eddy was loaned me.”

“I read it more from curiosity than with the thought of any physical benefit… I realized that the mental condition was what needed correcting, and that the Spirit of truth which inspired this book was my physician. My healing is complete, and the liberation in thought is manifest in a life of active usefulness rather than the bondage of helpless invalidism and suffering.”

For many, such books are popular for giving hope in difficult circumstances. Reading the example of another’s recovery can often uncover practical ideas that lead to help and healing.

No wonder there is such a large, growing international discussion on the thought and health connection – it’s been found!

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Contemplating Christmas?

(c)Glow Images

(c)Glow Images

A discovery – a big discovery – happened when the first Christmas was celebrated over 2,000 years ago. Shepherds were tending sheep and praying just outside of Bethlehem. Suddenly the glory of the Lord shone around them and an angel encouraged them not to fear.

Just what is this glory that outshines darkness and calms fear?

The ancient Greek definition of glory, as used in the passage above, explains a transforming element of prayer. Strong’s Concordance has, “glory: a condition to be enjoyed now through the devout contemplation of the divine majesty of Christ… This will include not only the blessedness of the soul, but also the gain of a more excellent body.”

I experienced this glory two years ago. For weeks I had been preparing for a full day of important meetings. Early that morning I awoke rather ill. My first resort in taking care of myself or addressing any crisis is prayer. Now though I was not feeling the immediate help I needed. Despite feeling poorly I got dressed. And I continued to pray, turning my thought to the gratitude I genuinely felt for the opportunities these meetings presented.

My prayer did include a contemplation of the Christ, the goodness or God-likeness that Jesus exemplified and which we can discern in ourselves and others. For me this led to a successful day. I went to bed as soon as I reached home that evening and awoke the next day refreshed and well.

Those shepherds went on that Christmas night to bring gifts as they followed a bright star to the nativity. I wish for everyone the glory and joy they found!

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Thanksgiving..happy thanks-living!


Years ago I was struck by an article in my morning newspaper counseling not to be the turkey at Thanksgiving dinner! Apparently this holiday, more often than not, is fraught with the stress of an undercurrent of unresolved family issues.

A 19th century leader in a more spiritual approach to living and health, Mary Baker Eddy, was no stranger to adversity at home. She was the youngest of six siblings with a father known for his “iron will”. In a letter to a student she wrote, “Under affliction in the very depths, stop and contemplate what you have to be grateful for.”

Eddy discovered that gratitude lived, as well as making life more positive, often results in prayer that heals.

Many of us can relate in our own experience or a friend’s where finding gratitude helped to leap frog over something impossible to an unexpected good outcome. I have found that contemplating what I am grateful for in others (one might say thanks-living) has often led to forgiveness and common ground.

So have a Happy Thanksgiving everyone and join me in happy thanks-living!

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