`I'M watching Florence run with a stick through my garden. She's just a common mixed-breed farm dog, but she and her brother Dominic have a special story. Shortly after they were born, they were deprived of their mother. When I heard that, I took the puppies home with me to raise. They have become part of our family. I remembered my own mother's loving protection for my brothers and me as we grew up. And I recalled as well my father's love, wisdom, and care. They were always there for us. Well, after all , I thought, we were family. That's what a family does. That's what a family is for.

But a quick scan of today's news tells us that in many cases throughout the world today, the concept of family can mean far less. We read of broken families, of families torn apart by warfare, of people that are families in name only, with children who are abused, neglected, abandoned.

Is the concept of loving parents, whose presence symbolizes protection, wisdom, and loving support, only available in some cases? Or is there a family for all of us? I wondered about this until I realized that the idea of God as our constant, divine Parent--God as Father-Mother, as divine Truth and Love--assured me that everyone does indeed have access to His care and love. God is really everyone's divine relative. In the Bible, in the book of Malachi, we read, ``Have we not all one father? hath not one God created us?''

My mother was the first to teach me the Lord's Prayer, which Christ Jesus gave us. It's in the New Testament, in Matthew's Gospel and begins: ``Our Father which art in heaven . . . .'' She also showed me the spiritual interpretation of it, found in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science. Mrs. Eddy says of that first line: ``Our Father-Mother God, all-harmonious . . . .''

I could see that God, as our Father and our Mother, our divine and permanent Parent, will always embrace us, protect and guide us, under all circumstances. God and His ideas, His children, make up the most wonderful family we could ever have. And understanding the immediate, potent result of turning first to God as our eternal Father and Mother has the effect of correcting whatever in our human history is troubling us. Reaching out to God sets us free to reflect the God-given qualities that we have as Hi s offspring. It reveals fresh, new ways to help others that we might not have previously considered.

Arguments of heredity, racial or tribal concerns, reduced economic advantages, blocked or limited educational opportunities, are silenced by an appeal to the highest possible authority, God. In this unlimited, spiritual family, where we are all the children of God, we must and can see others' needs. And we can know what to do to be helpful in a harmonious, timely way.

We often hear someone refer to a friend lovingly with words like ``Why, after all, they're family!'' Love has made the relationship into something so special it's linked to our thought of family itself. When we do this, we are accepting God's parenthood as literally true, as it is, and sharing it with others easily, gladly.

Mrs. Eddy writes in Science and Health: ``With one Father, even God, the whole family of man would be brethren; and with one Mind and that God, or good, the brotherhood of man would consist of Love and Truth, and have unity of Principle and spiritual power which constitute divine Science.'' Embracing this highest sense of family, we can see that none are excluded. We are all brothers and sisters--God's family.

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