A more healing response to news alerts

More often than not the news of today gives rise to fear, division, and anger. But we can challenge this pull and instead remain calm, clear, and focused on what God is knowing – which enables us to be a part of the solution, instead of the problem.

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There’s a thought-provoking story in the Bible’s Old Testament of three young men who were thrown into a burning fiery furnace. King Nebuchadnezzar had decreed that at his command – made known by “the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, dulcimer, and all kinds of music” – every subject of his kingdom had to stop what they were doing and bow down to worship a large image of gold that he had erected.

The three Hebrew men refused and were quickly sentenced to death by burning. If necessary, they were willing to sacrifice their lives in order to faithfully worship the one God. But they also expressed confidence that God could protect them. And their lives were saved (see Daniel, Chapter 3).

Nowadays, the alerts that come to us to draw our attention aren’t conveyed by a traveling orchestra, but might be as simple as the beep of a smartphone. When a breaking news message arrives, we are expected to drop everything, surrender our calm composure, and get lost in the drama of some issue. But whether these alerts come to us through a smartphone, via today’s town criers – the commercial media – or in a social media discussion venting outrage without ever suggesting a solution, I recently realized that some of these alerts are not all that different from Nebuchadnezzar’s announcement to worship his golden image.

The Bible story tells about these three men holding to the true God in the face of being ordered to worship a fake god. As then, today’s challenge is to put God first, and that can be difficult if everyone around us is upset, enraged, or fearful. Anger, outrage, and fear can spread like wildfire, and it may seem next to impossible to find the mental quiet needed to hear what God is saying. But that is exactly what news of danger requires: stillness and listening to God for the right answers.

That doesn’t mean ignoring the news or other people’s anguish. We can never turn our backs on those who fear or mourn. But we can help them better by communing with God, seeking and finding answers from God, and letting spiritual inspiration lead us forward in our prayers and lives.

So how do we keep the golden images of today’s turmoil from interrupting our focus on God and the truth of His spiritual creation? After I realized one day that I was hearing a Nebuchadnezzar-like cacophony of alerts, and was about to bow down to the worry associated with them, I started paying close attention to the source of these alerts and my reaction to them – was the looming worry or discouragement I was tempted to feel coming from the divine Mind, God?

Another kind of alert, a call to be awake to what influences us in “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures” by Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, helped me gauge the answer to that question. It says: “In a world of sin and sensuality hastening to a greater development of power, it is wise earnestly to consider whether it is the human mind or the divine Mind which is influencing one” (pp. 82-83).

It was freeing to understand that false gods – thoughts that don’t have their source in good, in the one God – have no jurisdiction over me, whatever guise they come in, such as the temptation to fear communicable diseases, terroristic threats, political nepotism, etc. I knew I was completely free to stay focused on what God, divine Mind, was telling me about each situation—that He loves His creation and will not send disease or disaster.

More than once this spiritual understanding enabled me to remain calm when others were fearful, and that calm was also sufficient to calm others. Giving in to the fear associated with feeling helpless was unnecessary. God is our help, as the three men who refused to worship Nebuchadnezzar’s golden image knew: “Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace” (Daniel 3:17).

Keeping our focus on understanding God enables us to be a part of the solution, instead of the problem, when facing the mental chaos that is constantly reported. God, good, is always alerting us to His dominion and supreme power. When we listen to God, we find freedom and happiness and can help spread them to those around us.

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About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

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The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

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