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SENTINEL WATCH

ALWAYS, WE CAN THINK CLEARLY

From the October 9, 2006 issue of the Christian Science Sentinel

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The range and frequency of news coverage today provides a stream of updates and discussion on issues for which answers are not always obvious. In fact, some issues seem so large and complex they almost defy resolution.

But even events that seem outside our control are in fact never beyond the reach of our conscious thought — and therefore they are not beyond our ability to influence them positively. We can always choose to think clearly, wherever we are. A friend once said, "If you have time to think about it, you have time to think rightly about it."

Recently, I heard reports of two airline crashes in one week — a large passenger plane that went down in Russia and a regional jet that failed in its takeoff from an airport in Kentucky. While statistically infrequent, the loss of life and destruction involved in a downed airliner seem particularly violent and unthinkable. But these two events reminded me that even in the face of such disasters, we are never without access to clear, healing ideas.

Some years ago I worked with a small group of graphicartists artists responisble for laying out master type fonts. The production masters we created were used to reproduce typefaces for graphic designers. We employed every tool and process available to us to ensure that our masters were perfect, because any error we built in would cause problems in large numbers until eventually detected.

Our work environment was comfortable, with lots of light and the best equipment. But one afternoon that peaceful environment was interrupted by a radio report of a plane crash in South Africa. The description of the scene was so arresting and disturbing that it took our attention off our work. As we absorbed the information from half a world away, a sense of helplessness filled the room. If we'd been on the scene, I'm sure we would have run onto that airfield to help pull survivors to safety.

WE ADDED TO SUM TOTAL OF CLEAR THINKING THAT WAS GOING ON IN THE WORLD AT THAT MOMENT.

But it's important not to undervalue the effectiveness of prayer in moments like these — even from a distance. To allow ourselves to feel helpless or insignificant in the face of such events is to doubt our natural expression of God and His goodness. It reminds me of the "one talent man" from Jesus' parable — whose master entrusted him with a single "talent," or valuable sum of money, to improve. When the master later asked for an accounting, the servant admitted he'd buried the talent in the ground out of fear that he couldn't achieve the results he'd hoped for (see Matt. 25:14-30).

As I thought about the uneasy state of mind at work that afternoon, it was suddenly clear to me that we weren't, in fact, helpless. I said, "I know one thing we can do. We can lay these letters down straight." Maybe we couldn't directly minister to the victims of that tragedy tens of thousands of miles away by pulling them to safety, but by refusing to allow the crash to render us ineffective, we had the opportunity to maintain order and precision right where we were. By doing so, we could improve our own "talent." Not only would this eliminate the potential for future disasters in our own work, but it would allow us to put our weight on the side of good, on behalf of everyone in the world. To me, this represented the spirit of Mary Baker Eddy's words: "Know, then, that you possess sovereign power to think and act rightly, and that nothing can dispossess you of this heritage and trespass on Love" (pulpit and Press, p. 3).

We resumed our work, and were able to perform our various functions with accuracy. Beyond this, I felt that by refusing to become stymied in the chaos of that news report, we added to the sum total of clear thinking that was going on in the world at that moment. The power of clarity of thought should never be underestimated.

In the book of Revelation in the Bible, we read, "Thou hast a little strength, and hast kept my word, and hast not denied my name" (3:8). There is always something we can do, and our efforts are never too insignificant or unpracticed to have a healing effect in the world. Our God-given ability for right thinking and acting is a precious gift. It's not one to be buried or left unimproved.

Dave Hohle is a contributing editor who lives in Weston, Massachusetts.

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