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Drifting or sifting?

I LIVE a few blocks from a clean, wide river. This river is formed in nearby mountains, runs through our valley, and eventually empties into the ocean. In the summer there are normally dozens of people floating down the river on rafts and inner tubes. Where the river runs fast, the people drift fast. Where the river runs slowly, everyone drifts slowly. When the current swings to the left or right, so do the drifters. Occasionally I'll see someone paddling vigorously to reach the shore. Apparently it's not easy to challenge the current.

The river has become a useful symbol for me. I often think of the current as similiar to the flow of thought. Materialistic thinking, or the ''carnal mind,'' which St. Paul said is ''enmity against God,'' n1 would have one aimlessly drift , fast and slow, left and right, from topic to topic, opinion to opinion, and person to person.

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n1 Romans 8:7.

As the river flows to the lowest geographical point, so undisciplined mortal thought tends to find its lowest level. Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, explains, ''Human reason and philosophy may pursue paths devious, the line of liquids, the lure of gold, the doubtful sense that falls short of substance, the things hoped for and the evidence unseen.'' n2

n2 The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany, p. 260.

We must make vigorous efforts to steer thought Godward in order to escape the carnal mind's drift. We can do this by learning to examine our thoughts closely. Are they from God, divine Mind, the one source of all intelligence, or are they discouraging, fearful, critical suggestions of the carnal, mortal mind?

This process might be characterized as ''though sifting.'' To sift means to separate the coarse from the fine. So when we sift our thoughts, we welcome fine , useful, inspired ideas from God, and we cast out the coarse, undesirable elements of evil.

Sifting also implies a careful and thorough examination, such as sifting through evidence on a legal case. Sifting involves distinguishing the necessary from the un-necessary. In sifting thoughts one may ask himself: ''Is it really necessary for me to criticize this neighbor or family member? Is this the way that I need to be thinking about my business? Is this a constructive activity or one that will interfere with progress and purity of thought?''

Sifting thoughts, like sifting through legal evidence, demands specific effort. And this is precisely when evil tempts us to substitute drifting for sifting. Evil seeks to replace our native honesty and diligence with excuses and laziness.

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However, we have the right to live as God's offspring, naturally ecpressing perception, right action, and integrity, just as one has a right to paddle out of the river's current to the shore. It is totally normal for us to reject the coarse, joyless, disease-laden thoughts of the carnal mind. Divine Love provides each one of us with the spiritual discernment to follow the Biblibal counsel ''Believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God.'' n3 Closely examining the holiness, purity, and usefulness of our thoughts, a God enables us to do, we cannot be compelled to substitute lazy drifting for active sifting.

n3 I John 4:1.

This sifting is not an ignoring of evil, a process of merely thinking good thoughts and disregarding an evil ''reality.'' Rather, it brings us into harmony with reality, with the limitless good that comes from God.

In truth, God, univeral good, is the one and only Mind; He has not created a secondary mind to compete with Himself. God's image, man, expresses perfect Mind; he doesn't wander or drift, and this spiritual reality underlies and supports our efforts at sifting. Actually, it would be impossible for man to be set adrift because that would presume that God, man's creator was drifting or tolerating mindlessness.

To divine Mind there is never a moment of mindlessness. It's only when we insist on ''going with the flow'' of mortal thought that it seems we are adrift. But anytime we exercise our God-given intelligence to mentally sift out evil thinking, we'll find ourselves experiencing the blessings that come from listening to God. DAILY BIBLE VERSE The weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds; casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ. II Corinthians 10:4, 5

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