Have you ever gotten a painting or photograph that you really like, hung it in a good spot, appreciated it for a while, and then as time goes on, almost forgotten that it is there? It becomes so familiar that you don’t really notice it anymore. Sometimes, just moving it to a new spot renews your appreciation for it. Our visit together today might be a little like that. We are going to re-examine something we all hold dear, that we have chosen, that’s very familiar, but needs dusting off from time to time. I am calling this talk Fern Lodge afresh: or, What are we doing here?
In preparation for our meeting today, each of you got a letter of gratitude for your service, recognizing the amazing nature of what we are collectively working at here. And it truly is amazing.
In this day and age of near total reliance on medical means—where invasive procedures and lengthy recoveries are often the norm; where medicines may have more harmful side-effects than the good they purport to do; where machines monitor one’s every move and breath; where health is seen to be almost entirely matter-dependent, fragile at best, subject to disease, decay, disintegration—right in the midst of all that, Fern Lodge is a place where prayer is the primary treatment, health is seen as the norm, recovery can be speedy, and complete healing a possibility! That there are folks who not only think this unusual approach to health is practical, but have proven over decades that it is more reliable than the medical mainstream, is just as remarkable. And you are those folks! All who work here, whether you are a housekeeper, a cook, working in the office, shop, or nursing floor, support Fern Lodge’s goal: to heal.
While we are looking at things freshly, what does that word heal really mean? It’s more than just a happy hope or looking for a positive outward change of bodily conditions, welcome as those are. The word heal is from the same root as whole, hale, health and healthy. Wholeness equals healing. It includes cure, restoration, forgiveness, making whole or well. Healing is the inevitable following sign of a shift of thought Godward. Healing is revealing! It’s not just trying to change a bad condition into a better one, it is recognizing clearly man’s individuality that never can be invaded, which God is determining. It leaves mind and body better, with no negative side effects, and many good ones.
It is truly remarkable that this brave group of people, you, are coming day after day to quietly stand up to the general currents of thought, to take a stand for the present wholeness of man as God-governed, loved, complete, and that this view results in practical, dependable, excellent care.
As you know, people notice that something very good is going on here. More than once, someone visiting here for some reason, knowing nothing of Christian Science but feeing the atmosphere, has said, I want my mom to come here when she needs a place! Or, I want to come here! Not long ago I had the opportunity to get a little feedback on the effectiveness of this Christian Science approach from a highly-regarded medical nursing home. A lady who has been a student of Christian Science for about a century and had lived here at Fern Lodge for a while recently moved to another state to be near her son. Her new spot was a medical nursing home. I was the practitioner on the case, and got the report back from the son that not only did the trip go smoothly, but when she got to the new place and they examined her, they could not believe that here was a woman of nearly 100 years who was taking no medicine for anything, had all normal vital signs, and virtually no physical ailments. That was pretty much unheard of in their world, and they were quite impressed to find such a person. What a tangible, practical effect her life-long study of Christian Science had had on her health! Providing a place for such individuals who need some care in line with their most dearly-held convictions is what Fern Lodge is all about.
Earlier this week I was getting ready to make some bread, and noticed on the bag of flour it said their company was “100% Employee Owned.” A major benefit of an entirely employee-owned company is that everyone feels they have a direct stake in its success. What everyone does matters to the whole, regardless of each one’s specific role. Each effort counts, so all are motivated to do their best.
Have you ever thought of Fern Lodge as a “100% Employee Owned” entity? It is not owned by the Executive Board, or by a management team, as much as they all love Fern Lodge. It is not owned by the church, nor the folks who contribute to Fern Lodge financially. It is 100% employee owned in the sense that every employee, every person dedicated to supporting its healing mission, owns that effort, and is a vital part of the success of the whole. That includes therefore all those groups, working together—every board member, every nurse, maintenance person, patient, staff member, volunteer, intern, practitioner, family member, contributor to Fern Lodge. Every thought counts, and every contribution matters. Every thought that tends in the direction of love, kindness, courtesy, and patience, supports the healing mission and ultimate success of the whole. Conversely, every thought that lapses from those nurturing qualities, tends to muddy the vision.
There is another essential dimension to Fern Lodge’s ownership that requires acknowledgement: it may be 100% employee owned in that it takes a full commitment on everyone’s part, but it actually belongs entirely to God, Love itself. Love originated it, holds it, guides it, prospers it, shelters it, furnishes it, peoples it, defends it. Love does all that, and we here are the evidence of Love’s guiding, sheltering, staffing. We here are acting in obedience to the demand to bear witness to the law of Love in cherishing our neighbor in the most Christian way we know. We all here have enlisted in this God-directed effort, or we wouldn’t be here.
At the bottom of that letter of gratitude in preparation for this meeting was an invitation to share ideas about how to improve our Christian Science nursing work, individually and collectively. We received several responses, and here are a few:
♦ I can read Science and Health from cover to cover, and Prose Works too.
♦ Reject any picture of discord or discontent and maintain that everybody is included in God’s love. No one left out. No one overlooked.”
♦ I can be a better healer! I can work to support patients and staff to be better healers!”
♦ Broaden my understanding of Christian Science nursing so I can say what it means for mankind.
♦ Don’t measure myself by other’s accomplishments—see my own value and worth.
♦ Practice more consistently the spiritual demands of being a Christian Science nurse.
♦ The thoughts we entertain while we do our work at Fern Lodge make a big difference in the end result! I try my best to keep my thinking positive and focused in the right direction.
♦ Each of us think about the other guy first, and ask ourselves each day, “did I leave my job, the patients, the facility, my relationships better than when I began my day?”
♦ Be solution-oriented and practice the Golden Rule more.
♦ Have a weekly topic for the whole staff to consider and give metaphysical treatment.
♦ Write out a treatment to be read at a change of shift meeting.
♦ Bring in healings from CS literature and read them at change of shift meetings.
♦ Post a weekly topic prominently as a reminder for all to pray specifically.
That’s a great list, isn’t it!
I’ll take a few minutes now to address a few of the problems that seem to creep in at times:
Personality, or “personal sense,” which sometimes shows up as lack of love amongst ourselves
Acceptance of limitations in our work: for instance, too little time to do work properly
Resistance to progress
I love this guidance from our Leader:
We are brethren in the fullest sense of that word; therefore no queries should arise as to “who shall be greatest.” Let us serve instead of rule, knock instead of push at the door of human hearts, and allow to each and every one the same rights and privileges that we claim for ourselves” (Miscellaneous Writings, pg 303).
How can we do that better? Serve instead of rule, knock instead of push at the door of human hearts? We often do that pretty well in our encounters with the folks that live here, don’t we? And of course, we should, as that is why we are all here, to serve as graciously as we can. But sometimes we forget to be as charitable with our fellow workers, the very ones who are bearing the heat with us. Sometimes we are tempted to react to each other’s words or schedules or actions in unkind ways. Sometimes we may even feel resentful, critical, or angry. Perhaps we forget how precious each one is. How do we get past what seems distracting or divisive, turn it around and emerge stronger for the experience?
A great place to start is to see the impersonal nature of the turmoil. These annoyances always feel personal and specific, but never actually are. For instance, we may feel hurt because So-and-So said something thoughtless yesterday afternoon in the break room. Or angry because Hummenfuffle isn’t doing her job yet again. Or dismayed because Roberticus is not doing what he said he would. It helps to disarm these pointy thoughts by being willing to step back and consider that what is causing us distress didn’t begin with that person, time, or event. It is actually an impersonal, timeless, placeless suggestion of inharmony. When we recognize that, we are beginning to move forward in removing it. Remember the disciples bickering over who shall be greatest? Doesn’t that just show how old and unoriginal this claim of difficulty in working together really is? So, in our day-to-day work, if that seems to come up in some way, we can recognize it for what it really is: a tattered claim of division, separation, fragmentation. The unattractive behavior never originated in that person. Recognizing it as an imposition on all, refusing to entertain it, we are well on our way to dismantling it and reclaiming the harmony that is natural. And after that correct identification, we replace the sense of discord by acknowledging the oneness and allness of Mind’s operation.
The enduring solution really comes to this, what Jesus said we must do: Love one another. If we are consciously doing this in every encounter with every person, it is the best and quickest way to harmony. It disarms hurts, lightens burdens, brings joy, gives strength, establishes peace, and impels progress. It keeps Fern Lodge securely on the rock of its purpose and contributes to the healing of not just our community here, but the world. The world is hungry to know that Love heals. It does! And we are in the midst of proving that.
Let’s look at this second imposition: acceptance of limits on our work, including time constraints. What is this imposition, at its core? How about lack? The suggestion may go: “I don’t have enough time to do this care properly.” Or, “I don’t have the helpers I need to do this properly.” Or, “I don’t have the resources I need to do this properly.” In each case aren’t we being tempted to look to our surroundings, including the clock, to tell us if we have enough? We may forget that we can always turn to divine resources for every need, even time issues. How does that hymn verse go? “My Shepherd is beside me, and nothing can I lack.” I love this emphatic statement from page 520 of Science and Health, which shows up in our Lesson this week: “The depth, breadth, height, might, majesty, and glory of infinite Love fill all space. That is enough!” Isn’t that a grand rebuke to the thought that comes to all of us: “I don’t have enough”? I don’t have enough time, I don’t have enough money, I don’t have enough sleep, I don’t have enough whatever…. Love fills all space, whether we think we need more space of time, space to move, or even space to be quiet. And Love is enough.
Now, this last one: resistance. Of course, Truth is irresistible. So resistance to trying new ideas, to listening to others, being willing to consider a new viewpoint, is not really our God-given thinking, nor anyone’s. We all get to keep growing individually, and therefore collectively. We don’t stay in the same place, doing things the same way forever. “Progress is the law of God,” observes Mrs. Eddy. What is capable of obstructing that? No one and nothing! Nor do we want to. And there is appropriate resistance we need to exercise: resisting error!—as in, “Rise in the strength of Spirit to resist all that is unlike good.” God has made us capable of this, capable of resisting limitations, fear, all that does not belong to us, and embracing good, love, joy, strength, wholeness.
There is a paragraph in Science and Health with the marginal heading “Condition of progress,” and we will wrap up with that, because that is really what we have been considering today. You all know it:
We all must learn that Life is God. Ask yourself: Am I living the life that approaches the supreme good? Am I demonstrating the healing power of Truth and Love? If so, then the way will grow brighter “unto the perfect day.” Your fruits will prove what the understanding of God brings to man. Hold perpetually this thought, — that it is the spiritual idea, the Holy Ghost and Christ, which enables you to demonstrate, with scientific certainty, the rule of healing, based upon its divine Principle, Love, underlying, overlying, and encompassing all true being.
Thank you, dear saints, for being here, engaging in this grand work! God bless you and keep you!
Anna Lisa Kronman, C.S., July 2015
Member of the Fern Lodge Board of Directors[:]