Living the Oil

A talk given at Fern Lodge by Linda Graser, CS on February 28, 2012

What moves a healing forward?  What loosens the log-jam in relationships?  What unclasps the seeming hold on progress?   In its spiritual significance, oil!  Are we using the oil?  Are we living the oil?  Do we know what the oil is?  Over the past four thousand years, oil has been one of the most useful commodities ever known to man!  In Bible times alone, the many uses of oil do not cease to amaze.  It was a regular ingredient in the daily diet and a basic component in bread making;  it was used for cosmetic purposes and in ointments; as an emollient to treat wounds or to soften leather;  and very commonly used to light lamps.  We know too that oil was used in ceremonies to purify, anoint, or sanctify.  These days, oil also brings to thought loosening, freeing, or clearing something. When our car is filled with oil, we expect it to run smoothly.

We’ve all read Bible stories that exemplify the healing effect from the expression of spiritual qualities like love and compassion, humility and listening, confidence, preparedness, and persistence.  And what underlies it all is the Christ, that ever important oil of seeing beyond the material picture to the perfect, spiritual idea—the man of God’s creating.  Today, the focus of our talk will be this spiritual significance of oil and how we can live it.

The Anointing Oil

First, let’s take a look at the anointing oil.  Sometimes we may doubt that we are fully prepared for the task in front of us.  But we don’t have to stay in that rut!  We have only to look at that beloved promise from Psalms 23, “thou anointest my head with oil;  my cup runneth over.” and we’re immediately assured that God, as our trusted Shepherd and loving Parent, has blessed us and is with us every moment to protect, guide, and provide for our every need.

Years ago, when feeling a bit overwhelmed with the demands of motherhood, I remember asking a practitioner if I was actually capable of  maintaining a sense of balance, peace, and joy while running a household with three active little boys under the age of four.  I will forever remember the loving look she gave me, and the words that so matter-of-factly went with it:  “Dear, don’t you know?  God anoints whom he appoints!”  Mrs. Eddy put it this way, “It is safe to leave with God the government of man. He appoints and He anoints His Truth-bearers, and God is their sure defense and refuge.” (Ret. 90:29)   I’m sure she didn’t mean we can just sit on our hands and do nothing!  But if we work out from the fact that God, Mind, is ever in control and unfolds the details of our day under His law of harmony and order, just the right steps will lead us in the most efficient way to accomplish His plan.

Those words from the practitioner that day were a huge relief and helped me realize that it wasn’t about my plan unfolding through prayer, but God’s.  I just needed to relinquish the personal responsibility I was feeling to not fail—and to be still and listen to God, and then move!  In her address on Obedience, Mrs. Eddy writes, “God is the fountain of light,” (Misc 117:27)  And, “Be sure that God directs your way;  then, hasten to follow under every circumstance.” (Misc 117: 31)

What does it mean to be anointed?  One definition for anoint is to prepare.  If we find ourselves doubting our ability to follow through in a job or activity that we feel we have been led by God to do, we can confidently accept the encouragement that God does anoint us when He appoints us.  In fact, it may be more correct to say, God anoints us before He appoints us!  After all, God is the most ample and willing provider there is—in fact, the only one—and He does not overlook blessing any one of His loved ideas, by providing the means for accomplishing what he has led us to do!  His plan for each of us is specific and unique only to us.  We couldn’t possibly take someone else’s right place nor could anyone else take ours.

Another definition for anointed is to invest with power.  In Acts we read, “God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power:” (Acts 10:38)  We know that power also means dominion.  It makes sense that as God has prepared us for whatever we need to do, that He also gives us dominion over every false claim that might be presented to us.  We can affirm this as an ever present fact under the divine law of reflection.  We are ready!

The Oil of Compassion/Love

No one could be a better example of living Love than Christ Jesus. Our textbook puts it this way, “Out of the amplitude of his pure affection, he defined Love.” (S&H 54:3-4)  In her Message for 1902, our Leader writes:  “Spiritual love makes man conscious that God is his Father, and the consciousness of God as Love gives man power with untold furtherance. Then God becomes to him the All-presence—quenching sin;  the All-power—giving life, health, holiness;  the All-science—all law and gospel.” (’02 8:29-4)

Recently, a Sunday school student asked me, “Did Jesus heal people he didn’t even know—people he wasn’t really friends with?”  We reasoned together that, yes, he did heal thousands upon thousands of people who he certainly didn’t know personally.  But he did know their true, spiritual, flawless identity as God’s child—this was the man he always saw and always loved—and, always healed!  Jesus must have so clearly understood mans’ oneness with Mind, God, and the power of this fact to heal, that no one he came in contact with could possibly entertain any form of separation from good.  This new awareness of inseparability from his original perfection enabled the one healed to instantaneously express normality—as freedom of mobility or perfect eyesight, hearing or speech, and much, much more!

Jesus promised that we, too, are capable of healing as he did, and we can realize this fact as we practice his example of living the oil in our compassion and love for all those whom our thoughts rest upon.  No one could be a better example of living loving-your-neighbor than Christ Jesus.  He even commands us to love one another as we love ourselves without exception.  So no one is left out!  The infinitude of divine Love fills all space, all the time.   Therefore, it is permanent.  There are no vacuums in Love.  No one can exist outside the influence of this Love and its infinite expression.  Therefore, we can expect that our human relationships, and the activities associated with them, cannot help but be harmonious—spiritually developing and continuing to express the presence and activity of the Christ in everyone.  We can claim this active, Christly love as present—in us—as divine influence—now!  It is proof of Love ever with us!

The Oil of Confidence

In what, exactly, do we place our trust?  Our Leader writes, “The confidence inspired by Science lies in the fact that Truth is real and error is unreal.” (S&H 368:2-4)  One definition of confidence is a firm belief in the truth, or in the reality of a fact.  Jesus said, “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” (John 8:32)  We definitely feel confident when we know the truth!  But we must claim it. Jesus so humbly said, ”I can of mine own self do nothing:” (John 5:30)  And, “…the Father that dwelleth in me, He doeth the works.” (John 14:10)   We won’t feel very confident if we are trying to rely on our own wits!  But with personal sense out of the way, we place our confidence in God alone and we will experience this promise, “…with God all things are possible.” (Matt 19:26)

When Moses felt that daunting concern that he was not in any way worthy to face Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt, God quickly and lovingly reassured him, “Certainly I will be with thee;” (Ex 3:12)  Moses must have held tight to that promise, because when the going got tough the Israelites threatened to kill him time-after-time, but the Bible does not say that Moses felt a lot of pressure, had no clue what to do, or gave in to the hostilities surrounding him and ran away!  We know that Moses humbly and continually turned to God with the utmost confidence, especially when he faced a great trial, and God delivered every time—Truth was there to meet the need in the most remarkable ways.  This is a great example for us, to see that trust and confidence in the right place can certainly provide the needed oil that carries us forward in our human experience and is sure to bless others.  Mrs. Eddy wrote in conjunction with Moses’ expression of confidence, “All God’s servants are minute men and women. As of old, I stand with sandals on and staff in hand, waiting for the watchword and the revelation of what, how, whither.  Let us be faithful and obedient, and God will do the rest.” (Misc 158:22)

Noah and the Ark is another great example of trust and confidence where there was no human experience to draw on.  The part of the story that relates to our topic today is the fact that the Ark was sealed with pitch within and without to maintain the integrity of the boat.  This in turn kept everyone inside, including the animals, dry, comfortable, and well fed.  The example of the Ark holds a special significance for the staff and patients at Fern Lodge. When I was here a couple of weeks ago, I came in through the new front entry for the first time.  I had been thinking about the Ark, and it gave me that feeling of entering into the closet—not meaning a material structure, but a mental place as Jesus spoke of to his disciples.  Mrs. Eddy refers to it:  “In the quiet sanctuary of earnest longings, we must deny sin [any belief of separation from good] and plead God’s allness. (S&H 15:16-18)

When I have visited Fern Lodge I have often seen this instruction in action expressed as: “The tender word and Christian encouragement of an invalid, pitiful patience with his fears and the removal of them….” (S&H 367:3-5)  The loving prayerful work that goes on here is marvelous and certainly is such a blessing to the community, as well as to everyone within its walls.  Those that walk through those doors each day, being mentally prepared—armed with spiritual mindedness—are ready to gracefully meet each circumstance with confidence and joy.

There’s a great line from one of our hymns that goes:

O blest is he to whom is given

The instinct that can tell

That God is on the field, although

He seems invisible — CS Hymn 87

Pitches, like that used to seal the Ark, were made from various products, but one kind came from petroleum processing—yes, oil!  (See definition of pitch,   Harper’s Bible Dictionary, p. 800)   The Ark, in the light of spiritual consciousness, hints at the fact that the qualities and purpose that originally built Fern Lodge stand firm, pitched within and without, as a refuge and a defense.  The pure and innocent thought here must be defended daily—nourished, nurtured, and cherished.  In Pulpit and Press we read, “The real house in which ‘we live, and move, and have our being’ is Spirit, God, the eternal harmony of infinite Soul.  The enemy we confront would overthrow this sublime fortress, and it behooves us to defend our heritage.” (Pul 2:22)  It is added that, “Our surety is in our confidence that we are indeed dwellers in Truth and Love, man’s eternal mansion.” (Pul 3:11-12)

The Oil of Preparedness/Readiness

A good friend of mine once shared with me how she works to  defend herself daily as we’re required to do in the Manual.  She calls it her Daily Identification Work, which she learned to do years ago when she was in the Christian Science Nurses’ training program!  The students were taught to practice identifying themselves spiritually with qualities they felt related to the different synonyms for God, and then live them and claim them in others as well.  This work is invaluable to our daily defense and prepares our thought to challenge the suggestions that may come to us, with confidence that God is on the field and with Him we are ready!

When our oldest son, Andy, was not quite two years old, we welcomed his baby brother into our family.  Andy had loved doing everything just right and being obedient and helpful.  But after a few weeks of being the big brother, Andy seemed to be ignoring us when my husband or I would ask him to do things. This was so unlike him and we felt very discouraged.  All those months before the arrival of the little one, as I prayed about the perfection of the baby, I affirmed Andy’s perfection and receptivity too, and helped him to feel very much a part of the activities.  My prayer now was to claim the gentle, all inclusive control of divine Love, the only Mind present in our home that we all reflected, and the only real Parent that we were all responding to.  Harmony, not discord, was natural.  A statement from Science and Health came to mind: “God is at once, the centre and circumference of our being.”  (S&H 203:32)  I added too, that Love is the center and circumference of our home.  And another statement I clung to was, “From Love and from the light and harmony which are the abode of Spirit, only reflections of good can come.” (S&H 280:4-6)  I claimed the authority of these statements and listened humbly for God’s direction.

When I next asked Andy to do something, I noticed him turning his head to one side to listen to what I was saying.  This happened again, and we discovered that the problem was not that he wasn’t cooperating, or being envious of the new baby, but he was not hearing out of one of his ears.  While I was thrilled to discover that he was not being disobedient, obviously the problem regarding his hearing needed to be addressed right away.  I could see that when I truly yielded to God’s wisdom and guidance, what needed to be uncovered was quickly brought to our attention.  I could build on the prayer that proceeded this uncovering, affirming that God, Good, was the only power, presence, and law in our home.  And our son could not lose or lack anything good in the pure and clear atmosphere of Love.  Fear was put down and I could see that this new suggestion was actually no more a part of him than the other was!

The healing came quickly and he was never bothered with a hearing problem again.  The oil was there!  That’s the beauty of God preparing our thought.  It’s the presence of the Christ—ever with us.  We are ready—and we can claim that fact.

The oil of Persistence and Importunity

We’re all familiar with Jesus’ parable of the middle-of-the-night, urgent, persistence of a man knocking on his neighbor’s door asking for a loaf of bread to feed his surprise visitor.  Finally, he does get the bread—not because of friendship—but because of his importunate persistence.  This story encourages us to never give up when we pray and yet don’t seem to have an immediate answer.  We do know the truth and must acknowledge that fact, hold fast to it, and not give in to discouragement.

Our son had a wonderful healing as we persisted in prayer and reversed that old lie called discouragement.  He played on the football team his sophomore year in high school.  One week, he and some friends from the team thought it would be cool to play football out on the field during lunch time, without any protective gear.  He had not told us about this.  One day, I received a phone call from the school nurse saying that he was run into during this noon-time game, by the head of another large boy, and it deeply cut open his eyebrow.  She asked that he be picked up immediately and taken to the hospital to have stitches.  I talked briefly with our son and then left to pick him up.  We assured the nurse he would be well cared for and we left.  When asked how he wanted to handle the situation, he said he didn’t want to go to the hospital, but felt confident that we could meet it through prayer.

We were able to pick up a bandage and continued affirming his completeness as God’s dearly loved child.  We agreed that the divine law of Love had been present and in operation on that football field, and it was continuing to govern him every moment.  This meant that there had not been a lapse in God’s law—which always maintains order and harmony—therefore, there couldn’t be evidence of an accident, and we could expect complete healing.

The next morning, however, we both felt very discouraged when his eye was swollen shut.  He really wanted to go to school, but it didn’t seem like a good idea since he could only see out of one eye and he felt awkward walking that way.  We decided to go back to our own rooms and prayerfully reaffirm the truths we had known and felt so sure about the day before, regardless of the physical evidence to the contrary.

Mrs. Eddy writes, “When the illusion of sickness or sin tempts you, cling steadfastly to God and His idea.  Allow nothing but His likeness to abide in your thought.” (S&H 495:14)  She also has included in our textbook a definition of idea as: “…the immediate object of understanding—Webster.”  (S&H 115:17)   That word immediate means:  instant, present, without the intervention of time.  We can cling steadfastly to the fact that as God’s reflection, we forever remain the perfect effect of a perfect cause.  Therefore, there can be no delay in the evidence of our perfection.

As we came back together, both of us had reached the same conclusion—I would drive him to school.  During that 20-minute car trip we didn’t look at the bandage, but continued affirming the absolute truth to ourselves as Mrs. Eddy guides us:  “…mentally, meekly and importunately.”  (Misc. 127:10)  When we were almost there we looked at each other.  He saw my big smile and looked in the mirror.  All the swelling had gone down and he could see perfectly.  We were so grateful we had persisted in our prayers with the confidence that Truth is always the victor!  After a few days, the bandage was no longer needed.

We can cling to the fact that the true identity of a spiritual idea can only be found by aligning thought with God’s view of His perfect, flawless creation.  We don’t want to check to see what matter is doing—that only sends us on a wild goose chase away from the spiritual facts that support our healing.  Discouragement is a trick that mortal mind would try to have us buy into—it is often the outcome of believing the false claim of delay.  But our true source being ever-present Mind, our wholeness, completeness, and perfection, is in the eternal now.  It can’t ever be delayed!  Right now, man, God’s complete, seamless, holy reflection is ever one with our perfect Principle, divine Love. The oil of persistence never disappoints!

One last word about oil to tie it all up—water birds have little sacks of oil on their bodies at the base of their feathers.  From a very young age they are taught to preen their feathers in order to clean them as well as spread the oil so that it makes them waterproof.  That way, when they swim or dive the water doesn’t soak into their feathers and pull them down.  We already include all that it takes to spiritually preen or activate the oil. We’re already anointed!

We’ve seen how living the oil of Love, confidence, humility, listening, preparedness, and persistence brings into view the real spiritual idea, the man of God’s creating—and is essential to healing.  This is actively living the healing oil of the Christ, Truth in our daily lives.  This oil blesses one and all.  So, let’s live it!

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