Sermon Transcripts – Unity in Greensboro

 

A TIME OF HARVESTING

Penneybyrn, July 19, 2012

 This month I turn 67 … not old really … but then, no spring chicken either.  This birthday has got me to thinking – and feeling — a lot about aging.  For example, lately I’ve experienced some regret about getting started in ministry so late in life – I was 53 when I went to seminary and was ordained at 55.  It helps to think of my friend E.J. Niles.  When she retired from her 30-year government career and told people she was going to seminary, some said to her. “Why E.J. are you crazy? Don’t you know you’ll be 58 years old by the time you’re ordained. To which she replied, with that dry wit of hers, “I’ll be 58 years old whether I’m ordained or not.” Ah, the wit and wisdom! 

I love this story about the great Pablo Picasso. There was this retrospective showing of his work in the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. Nearly a thousand of his works were displayed in chronological order beginning when he was a young boy. The early works were traditional landscapes and still-lifes. Then, as the artist advanced in age, brilliant colors began to emerge and the still-lifes were no longer very still. Finally, of course, the work evolved into the kind of bold, zesty abstractions for which Picasso is best known. One art critic who saw the show recalled that once, when Picasso was about 85, he was asked the reason his earlier works were so solemn and his later works so ecstatic and exciting. “How do you explain it?” asked the interviewer. “Easily,” Picasso responded, his eyes sparkling. “It takes a long time to become young!” 

Don’t you know what he means?   Don’t you know old people who are youthful in their thinking and who love to play and laugh?  Conversely, haven’t you known young people who thought and acted like old foagies?

As for my friend EJ … well, she’s living proof that It’s never too late to get on with the life you’ve been dreaming of.  After 18 years of service as a church minister, she retired … but by no means was her life work finished.  At 72 she married a brilliant, loving man and at 75, she and Harv moved to Kansas City so she could teach at the Unity seminary and finally find the time to finish her PhD dissertation.

EJ was my spiritual advisor as I prepared for seminary 15 years ago … she was my mentor as a church minister … she taught me that it is never too late to fall in love … she taught me to never stop learning new things … and now that she’s in her 80’s, she’s teaching me what how to age gracefully.  I can see her now, hands on hips, saying to me:  I’m not just an old person, I am all the ages and all the different selves I’ve ever been.  And there’s more to come.

We live in a world that reveres speed, strength, physical perfection … and all things external.  Our culture is obsessed with youth.  Why people will do almost anything, swallow almost anything — to “not look, act or feel their age”.  But, despite all efforts, aging inevitably takes its toll on our bodies.  No matter how many nips and tucks we undergo, deep down we know where the whole process is leading.  The old cowboy philosopher, Will Rogers said it best I think.  He said: If I survive this life without dying, I’ll be surprised.

But more ancient, more mature cultures than ours have taken a different view. The Celtic people, for example, see all of nature in terms of rhythms and cycles. They see a person’s life, not as a chronological, straight line from birth to death, but as a recurring cycle of soul seasons – each bringing its own wisdom and guidance. 

This makes so much sense to me.  Wouldn’t we be happier if, rather than resisting and fighting, we would lean into the seasons of our lives and allow each to enrich our soul.  Then we could peacefully cycle through these seasons … over and over again … continuously learning and deepening … growing our way to physical, emotional and spiritual wisdom.

We all know what Wintertime in the soul feels like – those times when we are troubled, depressed or confused.  Modern medicine says – no need to feel that … just swallow this pill and you’ll feel better.  I’m not knocking this … sometimes it’s necessary.  But what if we were to heed our natural instinct to become quiet – slow external activity … be more introspective and kind and gentle with ourselves?   Compassion and love tell us to take very tender care of ourselves when it’s Wintertime in the soul.

When it’s Springtime in the soul, our energy is high and new ideas are flowing.  We instinctively know it’s a good time to try new things … take a risk.  In the soul’s Springtime, we are full of optimism and courage.

Summertime in the soul is a season of productivity.  We know what we know and we’re good at what we do!  We know who we are … self-confidence blossoms.  Whether moving to a new city, overcoming a bad habit, inventing a new widget or perfecting our bridge game, in Summer, we have the confidence and inner power to go for it!

But then, Summer gives way to Autumn.  We may be nervous about what feels like a loss of energy.  But, if we are wise, we allow ourselves to slow down a little … and look back over the territory covered so far.  Autumn is a time to take stock – to savor the joys, ponder the sorrows and understand the deeper meaning in both. 

Autumn is also the season of harvest … a time to gather in the fruits of our labors.    Sifting thoughtfully through our memories, we might see that, without a doubt, every single thing that has ever happened in our lives fits.  It all fits … the ups and downs, successes and failures, gains and losses … were not random and meaningless.  With the maturity of Autumn, our spiritual eyes are wide open, and we can see that there is a kind of order and unity to the whole thing … central themes … central lessons that have played out again and again throughout our lives.  Reflecting on these patterns, we may come to understand more deeply who we are and why we have made the choices we have made.  Perhaps we came to this life with a soul assignment … something we were to learn at a very deep level.  At least, that’s what I believe.

In Autumn, we are offered the grace to see our lives clearly … how we’ve grown over the years … and what great gifts we’ve gathered along the way.  This perspective allows us to finally stop obsessing our mistakes … let go of regrets and see that even our difficulties and so-called bad choices have brought us a blessing. 

When you think about it, you will probably recognize that you have been through all these cycles a number of times.  Seeing this … seeing how life keeps on moving … you may be able to relax into them more. 

For the last few weeks I’ve been in an Autumn cycle myself, blending toward Winter.  I’ve been worried about why I don’t hear from kids and grandkids more often.  I’ve been reflecting on my choice to become a minister later in life … leading a church takes a lot of time and energy.  Should I have retired and allowed myself more time for family?  At moments, I’ve experienced feelings of self-doubt and even regret. 

But you know, I can feel myself coming out of this now.  It’s like my head and heart are clearing.  With a renewed sense of perspective … I realize how busy my kids and grandkids are.  I remember what it was like having a demanding job while steering teenagers in the right direction and working out how to pay multiple college tuitions.  As Winter fades, the dark thoughts fade with them and I am so ready to let them go.  Right now, there are signs of Spring.  New ideas for our church are coming through and I am more optimistic. 

Funny how being disgruntled with my kids has turned into gratitude that they are independent, productive and strong.   But that’s the lesson of the seasons … that our thoughts and feelings are not facts … not Truth necessarily … but reflections of our soul cycles.  Nature says “wait” … “be still” … soon the season will change.

Some of you may have heard of Ram Dass – he is a well-known modern-day mystic, author and spiritual teacher.  Ram Dass was a fine figure of a man  — incredibly powerful of body, mind and spirit – seen by many as indestructible.  Well at 55, he had a terrible stroke, which left him slow of speech and bound to a wheelchair – totally paralyzed on one side of his body.  After a long recovery, he remained saddled to his wheelchair but was able to return to a light schedule of teaching – mostly in small groups. In one such group, a young woman declared to him, “I was shocked when I heard that you had a stroke.  How could this happen to you – of all people?”

Ram Dass replied, “I had the same reaction initially.  I was mentally screaming at God, “Why have you done this to me?   Don’t you know who I AM?”  And then this great realization came to me — the stroke happened to my body. It didn’t happen to ME.

With a twinkle in his eye, he told her of an encounter with his doctor in the hospital. The doctor came to his room to examine him and said, “I’ve never felt peace like I have felt in your room. How can you have had such a terrible stroke and be so peaceful?”

Ram Dass replied to him, “You can use your instruments and powerful machines to examine me, but you won’t find ME. Things have changed in my body but I don’t happen to be those things. Nothing about who I AM has changed at all.”

One of the gut-level, powerful realizations that can come during an Autumn season is:  I AM NOT MY BODY.  IT IS MY SOUL THAT IS HOLDING MY BODY, NOT THE OTHER WAY AROUND.  I AM SPIRIT, AND SPIRIT IS ETERNAL. 

As our bodies begin to give us indisputable evidence of the passage of time – we are called to let go of our obsession with the external and focus on deeper truths.

We have the opportunity to become more familiar with who we are on the inside.  Our challenge turns from doing great things to becoming the most loving person we can.   It’s time to understand our inherent value and realize that our greatest gift to the world is WHO WE ARE … not what we have done or produced or how much money we’ve made. Autumn is the Age of Wisdom.  

Our wisdom … our perspective … our depth … our way of seeing things have tremendous value.  I love the myth of Psyche (a name which, by the way, means “soul”), a beautiful young woman who falls in love with Eros.  Well, it seems that Psyche incurs the wrath of her jealous mother-in-law, Aphrodite. Aphrodite, wanting her son all to herself and wishing to be rid of Psyche, forces her to face a series of seemingly impossible tasks for which the price of failure is death.  One of these tasks is to draw a single goblet of water from the River Styx which is surrounded by treacherous terrain and guarded by terrible monsters. 

Well, instead of focusing solely on the problem at hand, Psyche calls out to the greatest of all the gods, Zeus.  In response to her sincere and humble plea, Zeus sends his eagle to the rescue. From where the eagle perches, high above the River Styx, it sees no dilemma at all.  From his perspective, it’s easy to see the place in the river where the waters are calmest … then dive down and effortlessly retrieve a single goblet of water.

The time for us to have Eagle Vision has come.  It’s time to change the way we see things.   It’s time to let go of concern about how things look to other people or what they think of us   We have earned our freedom … freedom to see things the way we see them and say the things we need to say. 

But then, the time for being stubborn is also past.  It’s time to look at everythinand everyone, including ourselves – no especially ourselves — with the soft eyes of compassion and forgive everyone for everything.  It’s time to let things go … accept things as they are … and be at peace. 

I’d like to end with a beautiful poem by Jane Kenyon – Let Evening Come:

Let the light of late afternoon

shine through chinks in the barn, moving

up the bales as the sun moves down.

 

Let the cricket take up chafing

as a woman takes up her needles

and her yarn. Let evening come.

 

Let dew collect on the hoe abandoned

in the long grass. Let the stars appear

and the moon disclose her silver horn.

 

Let the fox go back to its sandy den.

Let the wind die down. Let the shed

go black inside. Let evening come.

 

To the bottle in the ditch, to the scoop

in the oats, to the air in the lung

let evening come.

 

Let it come as it will, and don’t

be afraid. God does not leave us

comfortless, so let evening come.

 Won’t you join me now for a few moments of quiet reflection:

We are now in the presence of Pure Being and immersed in the Holy Spirit of Life, Love and Wisdom. 

Right here, right now.  The Spirit of God is all around us … inside us and outside us.  We open our hearts to it … we listen for its voice … divine wisdom flowing from the Mind of God into our human awareness. 

We claim the great power of spiritual understanding and experience the presence of God as the beauty of nature … as the heart of every person … in every situation … at every moment.

We affirm complete trust in the Holy Spirit working in and as US.  We are ready to leave limiting beliefs behind, accept the Truth of our Being and be who we came here to be.  In faith, we live wide open and full out. 

Thank you God for bringing us all together here this morning.  As we prepare to leave this place, let us go remembering who we really are – knowing that your power and strength and wisdom live in each of us.  May we keep our ears tuned inward for guidance and our hearts centered in love.  May we be strengthened and comforted and alive with your Spirit.  And may we never forget, O God:

Your light surrounds us, your love enfolds us, your power protects us and your  presence watches over us.  We know, O God, that wherever we are, you are there and all is well.  And so it is …                AMEN

 

How to Let Go, Jan 1, 2012

Psychologists and spiritual leaders agree on at least one thing – that we human beings have something important in common.  The thing we all most desire is to be happy.

The problem is we are sometimes rather misguided about what will make us happy.   We think material things will make us happy – relationships will make us happy – more education … more money … more time … more … more … more.  Most of us travel this path … only to find that it has no end … there is always   something else that seems to be missing or wrong …

My life experiments have brought me to the belief I hold today — that what makes me happiest is living in a state of integration or Oneness with my True Self.  What this means to me is to live from the inside out.  For example, instead of constantly seeking something … to be that thing instead.  Instead of seeking love, be love.  Instead of seeking prosperity, be prosperity for myself and other people.  Instead of seeking appreciation, express appreciation.

So this is how I want to live.  Excellent.  BUT knowing what I want is just the beginning of the journey.  Now I have to learn to BE these things.  And I’ve upped the ante … because now, when I am NOT BEING love, it’s very disturbing.   When my actions don’t line up with my beliefs and intention, I am out of integrity with myself.  This is very painful indeed.  The good news is that the discomfort itself is a blessing … it is a powerful incentive to enter into the process of restoring inner peace, love and appreciation.

So, where do we start?  This week I’ve been reflecting on a word we heard a lot in Catholic school.  That word is conscience.  When we went to confession for example, the process began with an examination of conscience.  Today I prefer to think of this process as self-observation … but I believe the idea behind it is sound, both spiritually and psychologically.  Happiness begins with the ability to look honestly at ourselves … to face up to our negative patterns … face up to our mistakes … face up to our shortcomings – and take responsibility for them.

And then … to set an honest intention to stop behaviors that are damaging to my spirit or anyone else’s.  Now, this honest intention does not mean that I think I CAN stop them or that I KNOW HOW to stop them.  In fact, the inability to change using our ego or intellectual power alone is both the human condition and the foundation for establishing a true, working faith in a power greater than ourselves.

I admit … it’s painful to see myself doing or saying things that I have resolved not to say or do.  But the answer is not to push away the pain by blaming someone else or justifying my actions.  You remember St. Paul’s classic lament … why is it that the things I would not do, are the things I do.  And his prayer, Dear God I believe, help thou my unbelief.  We are all paradoxes.  Mixed bags.  A bundle of ambiguities.  But running away is not the answer.

Now, I don’t know about you, but I can feel pretty stubborn when it comes to having things the way I want them.  Most of us deal with … at least to some extent … the illusion of control.  That’s why we don’t like change … it makes life feel out of control.  And we hold own to attitudes like resentment and anger because they make us feel less vulnerable … than say, sadness or grief.

It can feel very frightening indeed to let go of our self-righteous stand … or an old way of life … or a disempowering belief like the very common one that says “someone is supposed to rescue me …or make me feel happy … or make me feel secure.

I understand this fear.   Letting go of unfamiliar ways of being or thinking or living  launches us into unknown territory.  I guess we have to face it – letting go takes courage. But listen, as long as minds and hearts are chock full of pre-programmed ideas and automatic responses, there is really very little room for love and appreciation.  For true love and appreciation can only happen in present moment awareness.  You must be present to win this prize.  Only a mind that is free is truly present.  Free of what?  Free of the past.

Holding on to resentments … trying to control life and other people – is like paddling a canoe upstream – it is downright tiring and discouraging.  But like everything in life … the experience can be useful.  Sometimes, I think we do things the hard way – and believe me – holding on to our so-called justified anger and resentment is living the HARD WAY – we suffer these states of mind  for the sheer purpose of learning … without a doubt … how we DON’T want to feel.  I’ve noticed a major connection between pain and the willingness to let go, haven’t you?  Today’s burning bowl ritual can be a doorway to a new life for you.  If you’ve really had enough emotional pain … if you are now ready and willing … you can begin TODAY to lay it all down.

By taking an honest look at ourselves … what within us is holding us back and making us unhappy … we can begin to turn our lives around.  We can step into the flow of Life TODAY by setting the clear intention to let go of our … let’s face it … primitive … survival strategies and begin building our faith in God-Power.

Aligning with God-Power means being awake … as my Zen teacher told us … knowing what we’re doing while we’re doing it.  It means setting the intention to be a blessing in this world.  Setting the intention to turn within for guidance and to follow what we hear in the quiet space of prayer.  It means setting the intention to do the right thing, even when it’s hard … to own our anger, even though it’s easier to blame someone else for it … to be kind even when we don’t feel like it.

Will any of us be perfect … probably you will be … I will not be.  But the path starts today with questions like these:

What, within me, is blocking my joy?  Anger, fear, resentment, self-centeredness, pride, guilt, greed?  What names do my masks wear?

As part of our New Year’s celebration this morning, we have the opportunity to pause, take a deep breath – and reflect on the ways in which we have gotten in our own way.  We will write them down on paper and burn the papers up in the fire.

Fire is a symbol of purification.  Burning up these papers symbolizes that, through the miracle of sincere willingness, our hearts and minds are being cleansed.  Though we may not always show up as perfect love, this is our intention … and this intention is a powerful, powerful thing.  It is the stuff that makes miracles.

 

Candlelight Service 2011
The Christ Is Reborn in You: Are You Ready to Be the Light?

You’ve heard a lot about rebirth in the Christ consciousness this evening. You’ve certainly felt the emphasis on Light. And I know you’re familiar with Jesus’ challenge from the Gospel of John, You are the Light of the World. But what does it mean to “be the light”?

When I think about light, I think of 4 things:

Warmth   Awareness   Illumination   Energy

Can you imagine yourself being these things? Can you see yourself walking around in the world …

With a heart so filled with warmth that people feel comfort and safety in your presence.

So aware and awake that you continually notice the miracles that are all around you

With a mind so brilliantly illuminated by Truth that it automatically repels everything else

And so filled with life energy that you are a magnet for and a channel of abundance.

What would life be like? What would be your impact on the world? Imagine ….

Anyone who comes into your presence will experience a sense of healing … and I don’t necessarily mean a cure for their difficulties and woes … I mean a lift for their weary spirit … I mean a subtle renewal of hopefulness … I mean just feeling a little bit better about themselves … I mean a little less focused on their aches and pains and troubles.

If you’re at all like me, you’re probably thinking … well yes, I can imagine this. In fact, it IS me SOME of the time. Other times, not so much. Well, that’s OK … because that means the seed is there … the seed that, with attention, will develop into a full-blown, lovely flower. All we need to do is nurture the seed.

Nurture the seed … pause to appreciate yourself when you know you’ve been a blessing for someone. No need to tell anyone or brag about it … and I’m not talking about congratulating yourself necessarily. I just mean take time to feel the sweet inner joy of knowing you made a positive difference.

Lots of times we think that if we can’t fix what’s broken … or can’t give exactly what the other person is asking for, we’ve failed. Well, we can’t always do these things. But notice, I am not talking about DOING at all. I am talking about BEING. And here’s the thing … to BE the Light, we are going to have to give up something so common … and so unnecessary. We’re going to have to give up our GUILT.

Shopping this week, I felt such admiration for the Salvation Army bell ringers. They are everywhere and they always have a smile and a friendly greeting. How many hours a day do they do this … how many people do they greet?! It’s amazing!

In fact, they are so giving and kind, I feel a little guilty when I don’t put money in the kettle. Don’t you? Truth is, I just can’t put money in every one of the red pots … I can’t give every time I go in AND come out of a store. And here’s what I notice about this little bit of guiltiness … it makes me avoid contact. I want to look the other way or stare at the ground or walk very fast.

But give up the guilt and what happens? I am freed up to BE the Light. I smile back at each one … I offer my own warm greeting … I express my appreciation for their generous service. Do you think these responses make their day better? I know they do.

It’s a good thing to help when we can, but if we’re honest with ourselves, there is really very little most of us can do to fix other people’s lives. Sometimes we can’t even give what they’re asking us for. Sometimes, we have to say “NO”, even to legitimate requests.

Without GUILT sweeping through our consciousness, we are able to stay present to our DESIRE to be a blessing … we are able to feel and express our LOVE … we can be such a warm presence that they know they are not alone with their difficulties … and we can express such confidence in them that they might just find the courage to carry on … and trust that, with the help of the ALL-GOOD GOD, they can find the solution themselves.

So, that’s really all I have to share this evening. BE THE LIGHT …

BE a heart so filled with warmth that people feel comfort and safety in your presence.

BE so aware and awake that you continually notice the miracles that are all around you

BE a mind so brilliantly illuminated by Truth that it automatically repels everything else

And BE so filled with life energy that you are a magnet for and a channel of abundance.

You CAN BE this … you were MADE to BE this. Christ in you … your hope of glory, remember …..

This holy night, I honor the Light in every one of you. I bless the day I met you … I give thanks for the community you have built. And I appreciate, deep in my heart, all that you give me personally. Your love … your gratitude … your warm hugs … your attention … your service … your talent … your faith … your desire to grow. These things that you are fill my heart to overflowing.

 

MY CUP RUNS OVER, 10/16/11

Give, and it will be given to you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap.  For the measure that you give will be the measure you get back.          Luke, 6:38

The Quest this week tells a story about how an old-time sailing ship, exploring and trading in new lands, would often find itself becalmed in the doldrums just east of South America.  A Spanish galleon could sit for days or even weeks, baking in the torrid tropical sun off the coast of what is now Brazil.  With their ship unable to move in the windless sea, unable to reach land and a supply of fresh water, the men were doomed to dehydration.

If they were very fortunate, a vessel carrying local seamen might eventually drift near one of these pitiful foreign ships.  The appeal from the dying sailors was always the same:  “Please, give us some of your water!”

At this, the local seamen would deliver an amazing piece of information … they were sitting in the mouth of the mighty Amazon … where it empties into the Atlantic.  Although they couldn’t see land, the ship with its crew dying of thirst were floating in FRESH water!  All they had to do was lower their buckets over the side.  They believed themselves to be helplessly in need, but they were literally surrounded by … floating in … all the fresh water they needed.

I know all of us have, at one time or another, felt “at sea”, adrift and helpless.  When we are in the midst of these “doldrums”, we think there is no way out of the lack we’ve gotten ourselves into.  Well, these are the exact times when we are called to stop and re-examine the situation and see where our thinking has drifted away from the truth.  What truth?  That, since God’s will for us is absolute good, having our needs met is a foregone conclusion.  In fact, it is our right by divine inheritance.

From the gospel of Mathew, chapter 6:  Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?

We are created to have an abundance of everything we need to feel secure and comfortable, so that we are able to focus attention on our spiritual development.  Now obviously, this abundance does not come to us by God throwing money at us or leaving it under our pillows while we sleep.  No … prosperity comes as creative ideas … divinely-inspired, creative ideas which we can then translate into the actions which will bring us prosperity.  The more in tune we are with God, the more opportunities for prosperity come to us … maybe as an exciting new awareness or creative thought … maybe through being at the right place at the right time … or perhaps through a conversation with someone who can help us.  When we live in the awareness of God’s presence within us and the abundance all around us, prospering things continually happen.

So, you ask, if this is true, why aren’t my needs being met right now? The answer is the same for all of us … Old Beliefs … Erroneous Beliefs.  It’s not that there is any lack of abundance … we are wading around in it.  The problem is that we are not letting it in!

One of the most prevalent erroneous beliefs in our world is that there is not enough abundance to go around, and so … if you get yours, you take away some of what is available to me.  Or, if I have a lot, I am depriving someone else of theirs.  Our whole capitalistic system rests on this belief … it is a system of competition based on a belief in limitation and lack.  I have to get mine before you get it all … I have to get to the top before you do.  There is constant talk of “market share” … we live as though we believe that there are only so many customers … only so many jobs … only so much money, fuel, energy, time, clean air available in the world and that they are all on the verge of being used up.  Do we not hear something like this every single day?  How do these ideas make you feel?  Excited about life?  Optimistic about your future?  How in the world can anyone ever hope to prosper from this mindset!???

And the thing is … it is not the truth!  If we are to prosper, as individuals or as a nation, we have to re-educate our minds to realize that God is the Source of all Good and this Source can never be used up … It is limitless.

Belief in limitation and lack causes us to become protective of ourselves … to hold on to what we have … our energy contracts and we live small.  And this way of living thwarts a basic premise of natural law … that the key to prosperity is the realization that abundance doesn’t come by getting more; it comes by giving more.  A pretty challenging idea when you feel you yourself are on the brink of disaster, isn’t it?  But still, the law is the law … and the law of prosperity is actually 180 degrees from what most of us have been taught.  We prosper not by concentrating on what we are getting, but by focusing on what we are giving.  There is simply no way to circumvent this law … AND it will likely take a quantum shift in your thinking to bring yourself around to believing it.

But the good news is that this is one of the easiest spiritual laws to prove.  Once you start living the enormously exciting idea that you will prosper in accordance with what you give, evidence of increased prosperity will pour into your life.  In fact, good things may start happening so quickly that at first you may be tempted to dismiss them as mere coincidence.  That’s why, especially at the beginning, it’s great to journal … to make gratitude lists.  It’s all about paying attention.

Who here is in the Financial Abundance Group?  Notice who these people are … talk to them at fellowship.  Because I know they will be more than happy to share with you what has been happening for them since they commited themselves to helping each other prosper.  Am I right guys?

A second old, erroneous belief which keeps many people from thriving is the idea that it is wrong to be prosperous.  You may not be aware that you are thinking like this.  But … have you ever felt guilty and apologetic for having more than you absolutely need?  Have you, for example, ever felt apologetic about buying a new car or a bigger house in a nicer neighborhood?  Do you ever find it hard to admit that you are wearing a new outfit or expensive shoes?  Have you ever understated your talents?  Do you find it hard to save or accumulate money?  All of these are symptoms of the unconscious belief that it is wrong to be prosperous.  For many of us, the religions of our childhoods continually sent the overt or covert message that it is pious to be poor and a sin to be rich.  They often quoted Scripture to make the point … what a travesty!

The truth is quite the opposite.  Jesus never preached poverty … but my church loved to.  How often we heard about saintly martyrs who sacrificed everything for the love of God … how often we heard the Scriptural passage where Jesus told the rich young man that in order to be saved, he had to sell all he owned, give the money to the poor, and come follow him.  This was interpreted to mean that poverty is holy … but this is not the meaning of the story.  The story is another way of saying:  Seek first the Kingdom of God and all things will be added to you.  In other words, keep your priorities in order … put your spiritual life first … maintain perspective on your money and possessions … and you will have everything you need.

You will not find any suggestion of possessions being a bad thing anywhere in the Scriptures.  On the contrary, Jesus preached over and over again that all of our needs will be met.  It is the “Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom” he said.  What a beautiful legacy!

Jesus himself lived a life-style which required few possessions, but there’s no indication that He was ever in need.  In fact, you will recall that He wore a seamless robe.  This was a specially-made and very expensive garment, so valuable that lots were cast for it when He died.   The difference between how Jesus lived and how the prosperous often live today, is that the accumulation of possessions was never an end in itself.  There was never a hint of the idea that Jesus hoarded anything … he lived in the understanding that everything he needed to do the work he came to do would be provided … and, of course, it always was.

It’s really important that we rid ourselves of these old, erroneous beliefs about the evils of prosperity.  They have no foundation in truth and will, if embraced, keep us walking on the edge of financial and emotional disaster.  To change them, we’ll have to pay attention because they were implanted so early in our lives and so deeply, that we are probably not conscious of thinking them.  The only way to become aware of them is to notice our attitudes, feelings and actions when it comes to wealth … AND, most of all, to notice what is showing up in our lives.

This is not to say that all of our needs are the same.  What one person needs in order to be comfortable can be vastly different from what another person needs.  Each of us has a unique abundance quota.  For instance, a monk in a priory has very simple material needs.  He might be quite satisfied with a few books, his daily food, and a Spartan room in which to sleep.  The great composer Richard Wagner, on the other hand, insisted he could not create music (let alone survive) without velvet clothes, lavish furnishings, sumptuous meals, and a palatial house.

With his simple needs met, the monk is able to devote himself to a fulfilling life of prayer and service.  With his extravagant needs met, Wagner was able to devote himself to the creation of some of the most soul-satisfying music the world has known.  Your needs, no doubt, fall somewhere in between these two extremes.

The point is that the best way to define prosperity for yourself is to see it as the amount of money and stuff which allows you to be free to pursue whatever helps you grow spiritually … without fear of not having your basic needs met.

This is essential to the happiness of every human being because there is a craving deep within us all to attain greater spiritual awareness.  Often we cannot identify this craving … this void we feel … and so we try to fill the emptiness with “things” or “constant activity” or “drama”.  If you’ve tried any of these things, you know they don’t work.  No matter how many material possessions we own … no matter how many distractions we create, our craving is not satisfied.  In fact, the ache inside only grows larger and more painful as each new remedy we try disappoints us.  Ever tried having a drink to quell your anxiety?  Ever created drama in your relationship?  How’d you feel the next day?   We’ve all tried to quiet that painful sense of “something missing” in artificial ways, but it never works, does it.  That emptiness inside is a yearning that only Spirit can fill.

So … how do we start creating greater prosperity in our lives?  Well, it’s sure not by sitting around waiting for it to come.  Because, like the fresh water of the Amazon, it already exists.  In order to experience prosperity, we must first be aware that it already exists … all around us.  Then, we must ask for it … not by begging God for it, but by living from a consciousness of abundance.

What does this mean?  Well, it means thanking God … in advance … that everything you need is being provided.  It means KNOWING that If you are not experiencing abundance, it’s not because it’s lacking … it’s because you haven’t yet accepted it.

Jesus thanked God in advance on numerous occasions.  He also demonstrated what it means to build on what you have.  When he fed the 5,000, he started with only a few fish and a few loaves of bread, hardly enough to feel a huge crowd.  He began with what he had, gave thanks for it, and used it wisely.  Perfect advice for us today if we want to demonstrate prosperity RIGHT NOW.  Notice the assets you already have, give thanks for them, and use them wisely.  When we use our gifts and talents and resources wisely, we are making a demonstration of how valuable they are to us.  From this mindset of appreciation and value, more will always be given when it is needed.

It’s like this church … the visioning team is dreaming of a new, larger facility so that we can give even more to each other and our community.  Where do we start?  By being grateful for what we have … by taking excellent care of it … by maximizing its potential … by using it wisely – in ways that further our mission and vision.

And speaking of church, the subject of prosperity almost always brings up the topic of tithing.  Most church-goers know that the Old Testament teaches the principle of giving back to God ten percent of your assets.  Many people are faithful ten percent tithers and believe deeply that this practice is a vital part of their abundance.  And, so it is.

When Jesus came on the scene however, emphasis on the letter of the law was replaced with emphasis on the spirit of the law.  Emphasis on love and kindness replaced rules and obligation and fear of the Lord.  Turning the other cheek replaced an eye-for-an-eye as the way to deal with conflict.  From this new consciousness, we know that rather than give ten percent out of obligation, it is far better and more meaningful to give whatever we can from a heart of love and gratitude … because it just feels good to give … whether it’s ten or five or twenty percent!  Robert Colgate, founder of Colgate Palmolive got so into this, that he ended up giving away over 50% of his company’s earnings while his company grew into one of the most profitable in the world.

It has been proven over and over again … once you get into the habit of lovingly and unconditionally giving your support to the source of your spiritual nourishment, you will see a phenomenal increase in the flow of abundance in your life.  And, as you notice this … and feel your appreciation for it  … you will automatically want to give more and more.

It is one of the fundamental laws of life that the more you give, the more you receive.  It’s as certain as gravity – step off the roof of a building and 100% of the time the same thing will happen, right?  It’s just like that.  Lovingly and unconditionally give of your assets, financially as well as time and assistance wherever you can, and the results will always be the same … more abundance.  If you are living the laws of life and working with them every day, you can trust them completely … they are infallible.

There is one other piece to the prosperity puzzle … forgiveness.  Forgiveness is essential to permanent prosperity.  By self-forgiveness, we get rid of our guilt, and by forgiving others (actually recognizing that there was nothing to forgive in the first place), we get rid of anger and resentment.  A mind cleansed of such emotions opens us to receive our good.

We need to rid ourselves of what we don’t want so that we have room for what we do want.  Life requires both an inlet and an outlet.  Imagine not being able to breathe out after inhaling.  Or think about the Dead Sea in Galilee. It takes in fresh water but has no outlet, and so it is too salty to support life.  It is dead.  We too, become dead if we do not continually let go of negativity and give from our love and abundance.

We live in an opulent universe.  We can never run out of supply when we look to the true Source of our Good.  This source is not a certain job or a certain person.  They are only channels through which prosperity can come.  God works through an unlimited array of channels … it would be a mistake to think we can only survive and prosper if our good comes through one particular channel, be it a job, or a customer or a life partner.

So, once again, here are the 5 surefire tips for experiencing greater abundance:

Realize that you are floating on a sea of abundance.  There is no lack.

Recognize God as your unlimited Source

Bless what you have

Forgive yourself and everyone else

Lovingly give

That’s it … don’t make it so complicated.  This process will open you up to all the creative ideas you need to be prosperous.  Immediately, you will feel freer and happier … and soon you will know what it looks like and feels like to inherit the Kingdom.

 

GRATITUDE IS A LIVING THING, Sunday, Oct. 9, 2011

Once upon a time, there was a young man named David who was diagnosed with juvenile diabetes two weeks after his 17th birthday.  He responded to this news with the rage of a trapped animal.  He flung himself against the limitations of his disease, refusing to hold to a diet, forgetting to take his insulin, until his parents feared for his life.

Then one night David had a dream.  In the dream he found himself sitting in an empty room with four walls and but ceiling, facing a small stone statue of Buddha.  David was not a spiritual young man, but he had seen a number of pictures of Buddha.  However, the statue in his dream was different.  He felt a kinship toward it, perhaps because this Buddha was a young man, not much older than himself.

This Buddha was extraordinarily still and peaceful – he seemed to be listening to something very deep within himself.  The peacefulness of the Buddha seemed to fill up the room and David found himself more and more at peace.

Then, totally without warning, a dagger was thrown from somewhere behind him.  It buried itself deep in the Buddha’s heart.  David was profoundly shocked – he felt betrayed, overwhelmed with feelings of despair and anguish.  From the depth of these feelings emerged a single question:  “Why is life like this?”

And then, the statue began to grow – so slowly that at first David was not sure it was really happening.  But it was, and suddenly David knew beyond doubt that this was the Buddha’s response to the knife.

The statue continued to grow, its face as peaceful as ever before.  The knife did not change in size.  Gradually, it became a tiny black speck on the breast of the enormous smiling Buddha.  Watching this, David felt something release within him and found he could breathe deeply for the first time in a long while.  He awoke from the dream with tears in his eyes – tears of gratitude.

This story has been on my mind for days … I trusted that it was to be part of my message on gratitude today … I do think it’s a good story … yet I was not connecting with it in a gut-level way for some reason.  It seemed rather remote … I wasn’t getting the relevance to the here and now.  I needed a bridge.  I knew it was there … I’ve come to trust ideas that hang around in my mind that way.  Well, Friday night I got my bridge.

Remember the movie we watched last week … Celebrate What’s Right with the World.  Remember the part where National Geographic photographer DeWitt Jones was talking about having the patience and faith and willingness to look for the very best in something – in his case, until the really outstanding shot appears.  Remember?  Good frame – a beautiful morning glory… Great frame – that same flower 6 inches closer in a little different light.  Good frame – a distant shot of a modern-day cowboy out on the range … Great frame – that same wizened cowboy at the end of the day gazing out across the prairie looking like he had been there for centuries – as old as the land itself.  Remember the one of the sunset on the Golden Gate Bridge with the new moon overhead – that was a good frame alright – but then, a half hour later when it was nearly dark except for the blood red glow the sun’s last few minutes.  Great frame.

That movie … it’s lesson affected me deeply.  It’s main message – if you believe it, you will see it – kept coming to mind all week.  Certainly it was not a new idea – it’s really a core Unity idea.  Yet, I knew there was something more for me  … what was it???!  And Friday night, I found out.  Bingo Night … for me … was all about waiting to see the Great Frame.  Here’s what happened.

So, only 20 people showed up for Bingo that night, and I felt upset … I had been expecting 80.  And frankly I felt a little worried.  After all, we pay out $750 every Bingo Night … the last thing we wanted was for the church to LOSE money.  Besides, remember … we had an offer of matching funds on the profit … up to $1,000.  This was going to make a major dent in our credit card bill.  And how about all the people who volunteered their time and effort to set it up and make it work so smoothly?  Yeh, I was baffled and upset.

Yet, I kept working with the upset … all throughout the evening … and gradually Faith in Divine Order settled in my heart – I just knew there would be a gift in the situation somewhere – and relaxed … settled into the evening … and had a really fun time … why, my sister Nancy even won some money.  Good frame.

So, after the games ended and Rick and Brenda were doing the accounting, I hovered around … wanting to know how much of a loss I would have to report to you this morning.  Knowing it would be okay … but still, with a cloud of disappointment hanging ’round.

Then a Giant Gift appeared!  Of the $750 that we paid out in prizes, $510 was donated by the winners back to the church!  Tears filled my eyes … I was so touched.  Where does that happen?!  What an incredible community we have here!  Great Frame.

Well, we ended up with a couple hundred dollars in profit after all … matched … $400 – but now the money and the credit card bill were mere details.  The miracle, as usual, was in the beauty and generosity of the people there.  The woman who won the grand prize of $250 gave the whole thing back to the church!  And this is NOT a wealthy woman!  Awesome … awesome.  I felt the presence of God so strongly … I could hear in my heart – don’t worry Catherine – I will always take care of this church.  I have sent the sweetest of people to handle the job for me.

But that was not the end of the gifts …the Buddha story came into vivid focus for me that night.  You see, a knife went into my heart that evening, and not being a fully realized Buddha … YET … I did not smile when the pain came.  Yet, working through it with the help of our Unity principles and DeWitt’s film, it did not take long to get my smile back … and my peace of mind.

You know how the Buddha grew in the story … well, because of being willing to look at my reaction honestly … because of being willing to ask myself what I was so upset about, I grew through this situation.  I saw that the potential financial loss was not the biggest reason I was upset – the biggest reason was that I felt like a failure … my project had not succeeded and I was ashamed.  I was taking it personally … like it was a reflection of my worth.  And I saw how often I do that in my life … I saw fear of failure, fear of letting people down, fear of criticism … fear, fear, fear.  Facing that was not easy … yet it was the doorway to freedom.  As I looked my insecurity squarely in the eye … it began to loosen its grip on me and drift away.  Ah, I thought … okay … that was nothing – just ego kicking up a storm – let it go.  Anybody here identify with this process?

As anxiety fell away, gratitude took its place – filling me up completely.  And through eyes of gratitude, I saw beauty everywhere throughout that Bingo Night.  I went to sleep with images of Travis … Tony … Brenda  … Emily … Barbara … Renee … Billy  … dancing in my mind and heart.  Would you all please stand up?  The joy and energy with which these folks went about preparing for the evening was truly touching.  Travis brought his partner Tony with him here to church for the first time and within 3 minutes Tony was working up a sweat hauling cases of soft drinks.  It was like he had been here for years and we were old friends.  It was Billy’s first time calling the game and he did a wonderful job.

Glen … Chewan … where are you?  These two just show up in the afternoon to make sure the room is set up properly – no one even asked them to.  And then, as always, there’s Rick … who doesn’t even play Bingo but just came to handle the bookkeeping for us.

And then there’s Alex Stanley, who took the night off work to set up our video, sound system and music … with her energy and expertise, she brought the CLC to life.  And Chris Rachal, who couldn’t be there at all, but who made us a fabulous party CD and lent us his sound equipment.  And all the time we’re playing Bingo I have in my mind the two Joe’s – as in White and Klein – out in the front yard building new, safe railings up the front steps.  I tell you, the place was abuzz with generosity on Friday night – you could feel the spirit of it everywhere.

And yet another image was dancing in my mind as I waited for sleep to come … Angela, who came to the game with her friend April and April’s daughter Julianna, age 8.  Now Angela really wanted to go hear the Indigo Girls Friday night, but decided to come support the church instead.  And as a result, little Julianna was given a chance to SHINE.  She stayed in her seat as long as she could but, after a while she just couldn’t stand it any more … life energy was busting out of her and she just had to strut her stuff.  She ran up front to the mic, to “help” Billy call the numbers, she sang, she encouraged, she joked, she danced – boy did she dance — and her Mom said … well, I see all that money for ballet and tap lessons hasn’t gone to waste.  The joy in that child absolutely lit up the room.  Yes, I went to sleep Friday night filled with gratitude — and admiration — and more deeply in love than ever before.

Is abundance counted in dollars?  Yes … but not by any means only in dollars.  Is Bingo really about playing a game?  Yes … and so much more … it’s about people coming together – family joined by their love of each other and this church.  It’s about kids … it’s about laughter … it’s about service … it’s about generosity.  It’s so much more than we imagined when we began doing it.

Once again I learned the profound lesson that Gratitude is a natural state for us –whenever we choose to open up our eyes and see what’s right with the world.

I was reminded that a grateful heart is a humble heart … one that does not insist on its own way.  A grateful mind is a humble mind … one that does not insist on understanding “why”.  A grateful person is one who has discovered that if he is willing to have faith, he will find a blessing hidden within every difficulty.  When you believe it, you will see it.

The Buddha dream brought David a vital lesson … life is about growth.  When we resist life, we contract, withdraw – our heart becomes tight like a closed up flower – our mind is in torment … there is tension throughout our body.  While the difficulty may be short-lived, the stress of our resistance to it may be life-threatening. Yet … we still have that tendency, don’t we?

Sometimes it’s quite easy to see that we human beings are descended from primates.  The indigenous peoples of the rain forests know that all one has to do to capture a monkey is set out a small bowl of rice, fasten the bowl to the ground and then conceal oneself in the dense undergrowth to silently wait.  Monkeys are drawn to the sweet smell of the rice. They all dip their human-like hands into the bowl and soon discover something very upsetting. They cannot withdraw their hand from the bowl while they have a fist full of rice. Some of the monkeys, hearing the natives moving out of their hiding places, immediately let go of the rice, withdraw their hand from the bowl and run. These monkeys nearly always escape.  But other monkeys refuse to open their fists and let go of the rice. In their determination to have what they think they MUST have, they are stuck and, of course, very easy to capture. Instead of having dinner, they end up being dinner.

Gratitude is about living – really living.  Not just coping but entering totally in – with trust – with faith – with eyes and heart and mind wide open.  It’s about relaxing our balled-up fist – our fear of lack – and lettin’ er rip!

Wouldn’t it be great to feel happy and grateful, no matter what is going on?   Wouldn’t it be wonderful to ride life like a wave in the ocean … to wear it like a light cloak.  Not weighed down by struggle, but free and soaring like the beautiful spirits we are.

You all know my favorite Bible story – I talk about it all the time.  It’s the one where someone brings a blind man to Jesus and asks:  Why was this man born blind?  Did he sin or did his parents sin?  And Jesus says … neither he nor his parents sinned.  He was born blind so that the glory of God could be seen in him.  When we smile into life – into the face of the dagger – we are living, walking examples of the power of the Christ within us to overcome – no, not just overcome – but soar through difficulties.  And the power and presence of God shines out into the world.

Buddhist teacher Cheri Huber says that lots of people live as though they believe there is a parallel Universe somewhere – another reality besides the one we’re living in – a reality where things are the way they are supposed to be.  We cry out like young David, Why is life like this?  We have trouble accepting the idea that the way things are IS the way they are supposed to be.

Do you remember what Jesus did before he performed every miracle?  He paused and in absolute faith, offered a prayer of thanksgiving.  Before the miracle, not after.  Jesus wasn’t grateful for the miracle – it hadn’t occurred yet.  He wasn’t grateful for what he had – he had nothing material.  He was grateful for who he was – for the power of God flowing THROUGH him.

Do you need a miracle in your life today?  Try gratitude — for who you are – and for a life that brings you exactly what you need to grow in the awareness of who you are.  Open up your eyes … you’ll see — your life is filled with miracles – so many that all you can do is laugh and cry at the same time.  So many that your whole prayer life ends up consisting of Thank You God … Thank You Universe … Thank You Life.  It’s a real time-saver, believe me.

 

RELATIONSHIP MAGIC:  NAMASTE  9-25-11

 

From the Gospel of Luke, Chapter 12: 11-12

Do not be anxious how or what you are to answer or what you are to say:  for the Holy Spirit will teach you in the very hour … in your own house … what you ought to say.

Do you want a better relationship with your partner … more harmony between you and your child … better understanding between you and your parents … greater understanding and connection between you and your friend?

I know the answers in all our hearts to these questions is “Yes, absolutely”.  Yet, we can react hostilely to one another can’t we?  Families members can feud with each other … nations battle each other.  At one time or another virtually all of us have had the experience of just not getting it right with someone … often those we love the most.  When you think about it … it’s pretty strange how often we harbor resentment and build walls around ourselves … when we know that connecting with someone soul to soul is one of the most joyful experiences on this earth … when, in fact, connection with others is absolutely essential to our existence … when we know we just cannot thrive without love.

It’s not hard to document how much trouble we have with our personal relationships … just take a stroll through Barnes and Noble and count the number of books, cd’s and dvd’s devoted to helping us improve our relationships.  How many workshops have you attended on the subject?  Most of this “help” tells us  that for every personality type these is a particular strategy which must be employed if we would have harmony with another.  However, I remain skeptical about how much good any of this help actually does.

To me it seems that the harmony these ideas create is not genuine harmony at all.  Often, the relationships we foster with these strategies come with an agenda … like … how to get you to do what I want you to do … or how do I get you to love me … or how can you help me heal the wounds of my past – you know – like me, you’ve probably tried a few.

I know there are those who would vehemently disagree, but I believe that trying to find successful ways of dealing with people according to their personality traits is marginally successful at best.  I suppose any attempt to get along is better than out-and-out hostility, but I just haven’t seen self-help strategies result in long-lasting peace and happiness.  In fact, I don’t believe they can … because they are based on personalities rather than essence … you could say they foster something akin to a temporary truce between people – perhaps greater tolerance for one another – something other than real peace and heart connection.

 

Imagine for a moment all the time and energy we would save if we weren’t having to work so hard to figure out what words to say to appease someone … or quench a fiery outburst … or soften a hateful attitude.  I’ve seen decades-old relationships built on this sort of effort and I’ve gotta say, I just haven’t been very impressed with the results.  One person always trying to get it right for the other … lots of walking on eggshells … lots of co-dependency.  Not much genuine, relaxed happiness.  I just don’t sense true friendship and intimacy in these relationships.

 

Perhaps there is a better, easier way go handle relationships and that is not to “handle” them at all. 

 

Since each one of us is part of THE ONE, there is an underlying sameness to us all.  No matter how much conflict we may experience with one another, there is still within us all a deep longing for close contact and intimacy.  Regardless of what our personalities are doing with or to one another … my heart … my essence always seeks to connect with yours.  Parts of THE ONE naturally seek to connect with other parts of THE ONE.  It’s a magnetic force of nature that draws us toward one another.  It’s ego that pushes us apart.

 

Sometimes, when I get really honest with myself, I see that the difficulties I cause in my relationships have almost nothing to do with the relationship itself.  Lots of times, I see that I create a struggle with someone else because it’s just too painful to look at and, God forbid … share, a doubt or fear or need that’s going in me.  For example, I’m feeling empty and lonely and so I accuse you of working too much or not loving me enough.  Know what I mean?  It’s the knee-jerk reaction of someone who, at least in that moment, is not in touch with herself.

 

There is a level in every human soul which knows no conflict, competition or contempt at all … a level which knows only peace, harmony and love.  In fact, it IS peace and harmony and love. Because it is the CHRIST essence of us all.  It is our innate divinity and, on that level, there is no division between you and me or between any two people on this planet.  It is an unbreakable golden thread weaving all of us together.  If we will allow ourselves to open to it, every one of us can feel that place in the heart that is united with all humanity.  We have so much in common at this level of soul … in fact, we have everything of any importance in common.  We all love … we all long to be loved … AND the essence of us all is a well of kindness and goodness longing to express itself.  Yes, it’s true … the Christ lives in every single person who lives or ever lived or ever will live.

Is there a relationship which has you upset or frustrated or depressed right now?  No matter if it’s with a partner, child, friend, relative or acquaintance, the way to improve it is the same.  Lift yourself up in consciousness.  Lift yourself out of your negative emotions and reactions and become aware of the presence of God within you.  It is as simple as that!  This will always restore harmony because when you genuinely feel this Presence within you, it will automatically radiate out from you and connect with the very same Presence in the other person.

Your awareness of the Christ presence in you will cut through all of the hurts, angers and fears which have built up in this relationship, even in the midst of a sudden flare-up.  You will be connecting from Christ to Christ.  Relating to another at this level is magical.  Years and years of unforgivenesss and hardened attitudes can break up and dissolve in a matter of minutes!  The Christ love, sincerely radiated, is truly irresistible.  No one is left out of this field … it is totally and absolutely inclusive.

In the space-time continuum, the normal “worldly dimension, society teaches us to differentiate ourselves from others … to look for and accentuate the differences between us.  We are steeped in competitive and comparison thinking.  But, in the spiritual dimension, we are deeply aware of our oneness with others.  Operating from the space-time continuum, it is all too easy to see others as threatening to us.  We create rigid boundaries around ourselves … we exclude people from our lives who seem too different and therefore too scary.  But operating from our spiritual center, we see all others as part of ourselves … we realize that walls are not needed … we become more open and hospitable of spirit.

Scientifically, we know that the molecules of our bodies are in a continual process of exchange with the molecules of other bodies.  Each time we inhale, we breathe in new molecules which were once part of someone else.  Each time we exhale, we release molecules which had taken up temporary residence in us, sending them forth to be inhaled by other people.  Even physically, we are One.  In Genesis, chapter 4, Cain asked, “Am I my brother’s keeper?”  The truest answer to this question is “No, I am not my brother’s keeper … I AM my brother.”

So, if you want a better relationship with someone in your life, put that relationship on a Christ-to-Christ basis.  Cut right through the façade … the personality level.  The books and teachers we follow tell us a lot about the work of relationships.  They don’t tell us about the ease and relaxation that is possible between us when we know we are connected at the soul level.

If there is work to do, it is with ourselves, not the other person.  We are the ones who have to learn to be faithful to our spiritual practice so we can manage our emotions, put aside old hurts and angers and risk reaching out despite fear of disappointment or embarrassment.  But you know, it’s just worth it, that’s all.  There is simply too much at stake to allow our lives to be run by our wounds or old negative emotional patterns.

In Unity we are a union of individuals … we all have different spiritual practices.  The one that is right for you is the one that helps you to stay awake, be aware … in the moment … of what you are doing and abide in connection with your Christ center.  From this place, we look out at other people through eyes of love.  Nothing can help a relationship as much as a loving tone of voice, a gentle touch or looking into the other’s eyes with love and understanding.  Souls melt … and reach for each other.  That’s just how we are made.

Sounds beautiful doesn’t it?  And yet, we shy away from being this deeply connected.  I remember how hard Sepp’s and my first year was.  We were so scared … we’d been disappointed before … and we knew we were stepping into a field of connection that would not leave us immune to one another’s pain.  We did not reach this age without having experienced the powerlessness of being unable to help someone we love.  I remember one of our earliest conversations after we realized that we had something special together.  We were sitting on the wall up on Skyline Drive and we talked about how, if we got together at our age, we were going to be together at the end of our lives.  We talked about how much courage we would need to step into this level of intimacy and pain with each other.

At this very moment, I strongly suspect there is someone in your life whom you want, perhaps desperately want, to help.  You know who it is.  It’s the person with a great challenge:  a life-threatening illness or a grieving heart or a consuming addiction or a crippling financial lack.  Sometimes, we feel so helpless in these things that it’s excruciating to even be around the person … or if we are, we put a protective shell around our hearts.

Looking at someone’s difficulty through human eyes only often gives us the idea that the person is less than whole … that he or she is lacking in some way and therefore needs us to step in and fill that lack.  We think we know what is right for that person … we want to jump in with our money or our advice or some other temporary fix.  Then we get upset when it’s not gratefully received or when we find that more and more help is needed.  We get depressed when we finally accept there is nothing we can do to relieve the situation.

The thing is … when we try to help someone out of a challenge by working only from a human level, we are acting out of desperation.  Our actions are motivated by fear or worry.  If we are really honest with ourselves, deep down we believe we can’t trust God to help … the situation’s too serious or urgent for that … something must be done … BY ME … RIGHT NOW!

Well, what the person is really needing is not material help but spiritual direction.  He or she needs someone who sees him or her as complete and whole … someone who is calm and centered and full of faith … someone who helps them look beyond the appearances to the Truth – that God is present and active in the situation and that what’s best for them is being worked out.  The Truth — that the answer lies in seeing the situation differently rather than trying to fix conditions to meet their preferences.  The Truth — that God is bringing through that very situation a GOOD greater than they are able to imagine at that moment.  The Truth –- that they have within them all the power they need to meet any challenge.

Seeing … through the problem … to the Truth is seeing with the eyes of Spirit and it is the only way we can ever truly help someone else … or ourselves for that matter.  A situation can only change when the change comes from within the person involved.  A change in a person’s consciousness is what changes his or her life.  There is absolutely nothing we can do on the material or physical level to make this inner change happen … no matter how brave or dramatic or drastic … no matter how much we love the person … no matter how much we want him or her to be happy.

The ONLY effective help we can give is spiritual – by lifting our own consciousness … our own eyes – by believing in the Christ within us and the other person.  By knowing without doubt that Christ power can help, guide, heal, prosper, comfort – provide everything necessary.  When we truly believe in the Christ power within us, it is easy to believe in the Christ power within our loved ones.

The idea that the way to help another person is by centering ourselves, will seem ridiculous to anyone who looks at the situation only from the human vantage point.  Most people will think it can’t possibly work because no direct effort is being made to help.  But we’re Unity.  We know better.

One more quick story … I’ve always wanted Sepp’s daughter Katie to come to Unity.  I just sense she is a seeker and that she would absolutely love it.  But, for whatever reason, Katie will not darken the door of our church.  Finally, I just accepted there was nothing I could do about this.  So, on Monday, September 12, the day after Shari Claire spoke to us about Radical Forgiveness, Sepp is visiting his Katie and his grandson Eli.  And Katie says to him, through teary eyes … Dad, you just won’t believe the phenomenal book I got at Earthfare yesterday.  I’ve been crying ever since I opened it.  It’s changing my life.  What do you suppose the book was … you got it … Radical Forgiveness – at Earthfare!  So, guess who’s in the Radical Forgiveness class … Right again – Katie.

If you are thinking right now of someone who needs your help, reach out and touch them with your soul and spirit.  Shine the light of your high consciousness … your faith in the power of the Christ within them … and KNOW that you are helping them heal.  See through their problem to their inherent power and wholeness.  Know that God is doing for them what no human power could ever do.

By the way … how are you all doing with your relationship with Jesus?  Is he still present and real in your life?  Because, as always, he has shown us the way here.

Remember the Bible story when Jesus is rushing to heal a sick girl … with a huge  crowd around him.  And suddenly he says … Stop – who is it who has touched me?  Now listen, there is no way this can be taken literally … what Jesus felt was someone touching reaching toward his consciousness.  In the story, It turns out to be a woman who has been hemorrhaging for months.  She had heard that Jesus was passing by and left her bed and ran out to him because she knew absolutely that by touching him she would be healed.

Metaphysically, the lessons are so clear.  That when we live in connection with the consciousness of Jesus — we will see reflected back to us the image of our own innate perfection.  That we will heal other people, not by what we do, but by who we are and who we KNOW they are.

No one wants to be around someone who sees them as broken and weak – they already fear that they are these things.  Is that what you really want to affirm for them and reinforce in them?  No … let them see and hear your faith in them … let them feel the radiance of your Christ light and the warmth of your love … let them hear your assurance that they need only turn within to their Christ center to receive guidance, direction and healing.  Then let go … stand back … and watch the miracle unfold.

 

The Creative Life, 9/4/11

The week coming up is an interesting one.  Tomorrow, of course, is Labor Day … and Thursday is World Day of Prayer.  It occurred to me yesterday that these two occasions always happen in the same week … one on the first Monday of September and the other on the first Thursday.  AND, it also dawned on me that the last sentence of our Mission Statement speaks to them both … “through affirmative prayer and inspired action, we help to heal and enlighten the world.”

Today, I’m wishing we could reverse the order of this week’s two special days … make Monday World Day of Prayer and Thursday Labor Day.  I’m thinking we’d live in a more civilized society and have happier and more peaceful lives if we would put prayer before action.

 

In our Mission Statement, which is, when you think about it, a restatement of the 5th Unity Principle about living the truth we know, we’re pledging, not just any old kind of action – we’re pledging inspired action.  Inspired – from the Latin word, inspirare which means to breath into.  Through affirmative prayer, we breathe creativity into the action we’re thinking about taking.  We pause first … make sure that we are in the right state of consciousness … or as my Mom would have said, the right frame of mind … to do what we are thinking of doing.  We pause first … to consciously connect with the Source of Life, Love and Power.  Doesn’t this just make sense!

The pause is the thing.  When I act impulsively, it’s because I feel driven by something … usually something I’m afraid will happen or something I don’t want to feel.  The mental conversation usually includes such words as “I have to” or “I must”.  The feeling is intensity and a sense of urgency … which, of course, are other names for fear.  Pausing for a moment of affirmative prayer is simply re-centering in the Truth … Truth I may not be FEELING in that moment … Truth like “God is and all is well”.  Breathing into the assurance of the presence of God feels like a breath of fresh air blowing through my mind and heart.  It helps me to relax … it opens up space for a new idea.

Inspired action is motivated by only one thing – love – not necessarily romantic love, but the desire to bring peace and healing to a situation.  Inspired action is intentional action – it arises out of the stillness – it is the opposite of reactivity.  Inspired action is creative action – a way forward that is new and fresh.  This is what it means to live the truth we know.

The other day I was listening to a CD by Leo Buscaglia – do you know about him?  He’s a man who wrote wonderful books and who spent the last years of his life going around talking to huge audiences about the power of love and laughter to heal.  He delighted in telling stories about how love leads to outrageously creative and inspired action.  Sometimes he made his point by first describing “un-inspired action”.

I love the story about the Valentine’s Day eve Leo was in the card store in front of a beautiful display covered with hearts looking for cards for his two secretaries.  He wanted to take the occasion to let them know how much their dedication meant to him.  In rushes a man, obviously in a hurry, who begins digging frantically through the valentine cards while muttering under his breath:  This Valentine’s Day thing is so stupid – I hate it.  Now Leo agrees in one way – he thinks, too bad we have to set aside a day to express our love of one another – we ought to do that every day.  But then, anything that causes us to be more aware of how much we care … anything that inspires us to express our love … is pretty much okay. 

So, anyway, Leo … since he’s kind of a kook … says to the frantic, angry man.  “If you hate Valentine’s Day so much, why do you celebrate it?”  “Are you kidding”, the man says, “if I didn’t bring home a card and gift my wife would kill me” … and then rushes out.

Right after he leaves, a pleasant-looking young woman joins Leo at the card display.  They make eye contact and she says, “know why I’m here”? I’m here because my boss sent me over to buy a Valentine’s Day card for his wife.  Can you imagine that?  If my husband ever did that, I’d kill him.” 

Hmmm, Leo thinks – 15 minutes in the card store and I hear about two possible murders.  If this is love, it’s downright dangerous!

Now, I don’t care how nice a card these two pick out, they will not convey love to the receivers.  Inspired action is always creative … always healing … because it is motivated by love.  And conversely, no action is truly creative unless it is inspired by love.

It’s almost miraculous how much this is true.  Our words can be sugar-coated, complimentary … simply glide out of our mouths, but if they are not motivated by love, they will not be heard as love and they will deepen the mistrust in the relationship.  On the other hand, we can say something confrontive or challenging … out of a desire for truth and healing … and these words will inevitably bring about right outcomes in the long run.

Think about this … we’ve always been good people – we’ve tried to do good things for others.  We thought we were doing them out of love.  So why don’t they always bring about the outcome we intended?  I’m proposing that perhaps, upon closer reflection, we might find something other than love … some underlying motivation like guilt, obligation or fear.  Interesting ideas to reflect upon are that fear of losing someone is not the same as loving themAnd fear of appearing to be a bad person is not the same as loving ourselves.

Unity’s co-founder Charles Fillmore says that spiritual enlightenment is a word that describes what happens when we become “individualized expressions of the Divine.”  What he means is that we have become highly creative.  We have learned to act from our essence.  When we do this, we can be assured that we will make a powerfully positive difference – a difference that no one else could make.

This Labor Day weekend, I’m thinking about the struggle we are facing in this country around unemployment.  And since I’m prone to think metaphysically, I’m not satisfied with the reasons and interpretations I hear on the news.  From a broader and higher perspective, I see a society that is in the process of a tremendous leap forward.  I see people who can no longer tolerate the old models for employment and work.  That is certainly true if our church community is any example.

When I listened to the conversation in our Financial Abundance Networking Group a week and a half ago, I heard people saying things I have always dreamed of hearing in the workplace.  I was inspired by this group of creative people who want to offer their gifts in service and who want to work from a foundation of spiritual principles.  This group embodies the spirit of our Mission Statement … they are truly a reflection of the 5th Unity Principle.

Most of them are not yet reaping large financial rewards from their efforts.  They are following a higher call … to live and work without fear … to live and work creatively … to live and work in loving partnership with each other, their clients, even their competitors.  These are not people who are willing to comply with the compromises of life as a typical corporate employee.  They are truly individualized expressions of the divine.  And so, it is inevitable that they will prosper … in friendship … in personal satisfaction … in peace of mind … in joy.  Can there be any doubt that money sufficient for all their needs will flow toward such consciousness?!  What was it again that Jesus said about the birds of the air and the lilies of the field?…..

Think what it might mean in your life if you knew that the reason you were in any situation – whether it be in your family or on the job – was that you were there to be a healing presence.  Might you approach your customer differently – or your boss – or your partner – or your child?  This is an incredible concept to grasp … that you and I have the potential to be healers … simply by showing up and being our true, heart-centered, loving selves.

What if we were to think of our work, whatever it may be, as a vehicle through which we can develop our healing power?  What if we saw our clients as people whose paths have crossed ours so that we can make a positive difference in their lives?  What if the money we make was seen for what it is … the way the Universe tends to our needs while we are doing the real work of loving, serving and healing people.  This is the heart of Unity’s 5th principle and the basis for a creative life.

There is a wonderful Buddhist story about an ant in a rain barrel.  The first person goes in and sees the ant in his rain barrel and says, hey, this is my rain barrel – you have no business in there and scoops the ant out and squashes it.  That’s selfishness.

A 2nd person goes in and sees an ant in his rain barrel, and says – you know, it’s a hot day and you’re not really hurting anything.  Go ahead and stay in there for a while.  This is tolerance.

A 3rd person goes in and sees an ant in his rain barrel, and spontaneously feeds it a spoonful of sugar.  This is love.

Don’t think about love, Leo Busgaglia says.  Don’t analyze it.  Act on it.  Spontaneously.  Someone needs to get in line ahead of you, let them; someone’s upset, ask if you can help. Someone asks for money or a ride, give it to them.  It will do more for you than it does for them.  People may say you’re crazy … well, I love being called crazy … it give me a lot of leeway for behavior.

Like the time I hugged the Dean of the college where I was teaching.  Now you do know, don’t you, that you just don’t go hugging the Dean.  But, anyway, here’s what happened ….

A few other professors and I were in a meeting in the Dean’s office one day.  The Dean, as usual, was looking very powerful and official seated behind his huge desk.  Well the Dean said some very nice things about my work and I thought, “What a sweetie!  And stood up and charged forward and threw my arms around his neck and gave him a big hug.  The Dean, who had been sort of thrown back into his swivel chair, was so startled he cried out.  Well, my colleagues were literally staring in disbelief – you could almost hear them saying, My God, he’s crazier than we thought. 

But, you know, once you’ve jumped in, you can’t back out.  So, from then on, every time I saw the Dean on campus, I  gave him a big hug.  And you know what … I knew he liked it … because after a while, when I would hug him, he began to cuddle.

Unity author, Eric Butterworth says in his book, Spiritual Economics – that the world’s wisdom is 180 degrees opposite of spiritual truth.

The world says:  defend yourself

Truth says:  in your vulnerability lies your strength

The world says:  conserve what you have, lest you run out

Truth says:  give what you wish to have

The world says:  you’re not good enough

Truth says:  you are goodness itself; now act like it.

This would be a great week to pick up the practice of being crazy, unreasonable love, don’t you think?  It would certainly do more for your family … and your clients, than a card or a gift.

Come to think about it … maybe affirmative prayer and inspired action … are one and the same thing!

 

Jesus, A New Kind of Leader  8-21-11

Last week we talked about Jesus – our Way-shower — a person who demonstrated through his life and work the power of the Divine working in and through a human being.  Realizing that the Spirit of Jesus must still be present in the world, the challenge presented was for us to use our spiritual faculty of imagination to bring him up close – personal and real.

The experiment was to find out whether, by imaging Jesus standing or sitting right beside us and by interacting with him – asking for guidance, power, comfort – we would actually experience real, noticeable help.

I know that some of you have taken up this experiment.  I’ve also heard that there have been some intense conversations among you.  Some have told me that the very topic of Jesus brought up memories of former religious affiliations and beliefs … some very positive memories and empowering beliefs … some rather confusing and conflicted.

Nothing could be more exciting to me than to hear that so many of you are calling forth your great spiritual faculty of imagination and that you are engaging your questions and beliefs  … because it tells me that your heart and soul are reaching for greater understanding and growth.  Such sincere seeking is very inspiring

So this morning I want to invite you to share for a few minutes.  What did you discover?  Who is Jesus to you?  What relationship, if any, do you have with him?  Is he a real and personal Way-shower for you?  Did you have any experiences this week in which you asked Jesus for help and received it?

Dialogue

So, let’s keep it up this week … let’s continue to develop a personal relationship with Jesus and receive what every great friendship has to offer – support, guidance, inspiration, love.  In the quiet of our own inner space, we can become intimate friends with Jesus.  We can begin to experience the invisible realm of Spirit which is so present for us … and so alive in us … but which is usually rendered powerless by our belief that the only things that are real – and thus deserving of our attention – are tangible, material and visible.

As we – through our intention and attention – develop an intimate connection with Jesus, we will be ushered into a new and greater level of existence.  The world will expand for us … possibilities will become evident that we’ve never imagined before.  We will see that there are tremendous parallels between Jesus’ life and our own.  We will see what he meant when he said … the things that I do, you will also do and greater things than these.

Jesus was a conscious evolutionary.  By this I mean that he was aware of the fact that he was different than the other people in his world.  He was aware that he had a different perception and interpretation of events and circumstances.  He was aware of the power of God was working through him and that he had come with a divine purpose — to raise the consciousness of the world.

Have you had the experience of going home to visit your parents, siblings or old friends … after having a significant spiritual experience?  Perhaps you discovered a 12-step program … perhaps you found Unity.  You knew you were changing, but only when you tried to re-engage the people from your former life, did you realize how much you were changing.  Did you feel like a fish out of water?  Have you felt as if you were now speaking a different language from them?  Did you find yourself unable to fully engage in the old conversations?  Did you feel confused – even sad – because you no longer fit in … no longer even perceived the same way or interpreted events the same way.  This can be an unsettling and lonely experience … but it is a very important one.

Jesus must have felt this way.  He must have been faced with the inner conflict of wanting to “fit in” and “be accepted” while knowing that, in order to be “one of the gang”, he would have to surrender the most significant and powerful part of himself.  This price was too high for Jesus and it’s too high for you and me.

Everywhere Jesus went he was seen as a radical.  His view of life, religion, God, ethics, morality, culture, the past and the future was completely different from the version of reality rendered by the existing power base.  Unity’s co-founder, Charles Fillmore called Jesus “the template for the new race of humankind”.  His life and message were cataclysmic – and the start of the tremendous paradigm shift that is, I believe, coming to a climax today.

You know all the stories – how Jesus empowered the common people and how this undermined and threatened the established economic, cultural and religious power structures.  His message – that the Kingdom of God is within – was the clarion call of a new world order … one that has been slowly evolving for the last 2000 years.

Why is this new world taking so long to unfold?  Why has the evolution of human consciousness been so violent?  Because Jesus’ message of love, personal power and the equality and unity of all people was simply too terrifying.  It called for every person to give up his most precious survival strategies. The “Haves” in the world were challenged to find a heart – to realize their oneness with all people – to release their stranglehold on power and control; the “Have-Nots” were challenged to realize the power within them  – give up lack thinking and victim consciousness and take responsibility for their lives.   Obviously, these are evolutionary leaps that had to first be taken by individuals.  And it’s been stormy … because those who have the economic, political and social power are afraid to give it up … and the rest of us fearfully cling to the belief that we are power-less and must, therefore, be taken care of.

Some of the most violent resistance to Jesus’ message has ironically come from  religion.  Outlandish interpretations of scripture were taught through the ages – the most prevalent one being that of the depiction of God as a strict parent who would send anyone not following the church’s rules into eternal damnation.  People fear was heightened even further by the image of Satan, going around in the world trying to make one do bad things.  What a catch-22.  The only thing that could save a person, was, of course, close connection with the church.  Jesus was created as a God-Man – ONLY son of God — Savior of mankind – thus fostering the idea that our only hope was to be rescued from the horrible fate we awful sinners deserved.  What damage this belief system has done – because it took from people their sense of personal power and worthiness – the belief that they could do something about the suffering in their lives and in the world.  People without a sense of their own power and worth, are very easy to control.

Jesus’ example of the divine in humans – his message of personal empowerment – caused a tremendous 2nd force reaction.  We have been living this conflict for over 2000 years.

And yet, the evolution of consciousness has continued to unfold.  Each century seems to have contained both dark periods AND periods when thought has taken a giant leap forward.  And, there have been many powerful Way-showers besides Jesus who have been on the forefront of these leaps … other conscious evolutionaries who have served as prophets and harbingers of hope … people who knew and taught the potential of human beings to create a better world.

We stand on the shoulders of these great ones also – people like The Buddha, Confucius, Mohammed, Lao Tzu, the dozens of great philosophers who showed up in the 16th & 17th centuries, great visionaries and change agents like Jefferson and Franklin in the 18th century, the great artists and writers of the transcendentalist period in the 19th century … people like Whitman, Thoreau and Emerson … as well as great pioneers in the field of human psychology like Freud, Jung, Erickson and William James.  While there has always been great resistance to change, there have also been great leaders who moved humankind forward anyway.

You and I are living another of those periods of great shift and growth.  But this one is different.  Instead of depending on and trust one great leader to carry us through, we are awakening to the Christ power within us.  Those of us who are awakening to the Truth of who we really are have a new sense of what is real – our values are based on belief in the worthiness and equality of all people.  We are beginning to awaken from the dream that power and control gained through divisiveness, violence and hierarchical systems … can … or should … prevail.  We are smack dab in the middle of another cataclysmic shift … and it has become very apparent that the consciousness which created the world as we now know it cannot create or sustain the world that is rapidly unfolding.

This is both a global phenomenon and a very personal one.  For example, the scientific, religious, societal and economic systems that have made our country great … that for many of us brought the realization of the American dream … are no longer working … or appropriate.  Nor are they adequate or effective in meeting the challenges of a global world.  The world our children and grandchildren will inhabit is one we are only catching a glimpse of.  They will live in a world that totally interconnected.  They will be challenged with the realization that a “me first”, “I’m special”, “not in my back yard” mentality will spell disaster.  They will know that humankind is totally interdependent … that life can no longer be only about personal success … that they must care about the rest of the world because humankind is either going to survive together or perish together.

You can tell we’re in the midst of a cataclysmic shift because of the amount of resistance there is.  Despite all evidence to the contrary, many still think they are powerful enough to live as an island.  They think they can hoard their wealth and power and thereby remain insulated from the suffering of others.  If you judge totally by outer appearances, it would appear that they can do so … but the die is cast … there is no way back to the pre-internet world.

So … here’s the thing … whether we like it or not, we – you and I – are living at this time … and are being trained in New Thought philosophy because we are the conscious evolutionaries of today’s world.  We are the prophets and leaders of the new world order.  We are the ones who have been drawn to this place and this message.  We are the ones who have entered into this new way of being with one another – this new conversation – this interdependent, inclusive spiritual community. We are the ones who have heard Unity Principles and nodded in agreement and resonance.  We are the ones.

It’s time to step into our power as leaders – this is no time to be complacent or passive.  We must take spiritual classes, join in small group discussions, get involved politically and socially, free ourselves by getting rid of debt and learning to live more simply.  It’s time to forgive and heal so that we can speak and act with confidence.  This church is all about supporting one another in becoming who we are meant to be … conscious evolutionaries.

Don’t be dismayed or deceived by the hateful rhetoric you may hear on TV or the internet.  This is just the last gasp of a dying consciousness.  Hang out with people who help you hold the vision of an interdependent world where no one ever again dies of starvation or lack of basic hygiene or from easily preventable diseases.  There are more people than you think holding this vision.  Remember, the world has been awakening all along … and it’s always been a grass roots evolution.  One person awakens who teaches one other … these two teach two others … these 4 teach 4 others … these 16 teach 16 others … these 256 teach 256 others … these 65,536 teach 65,536 others – you get the picture.  This is the Facebook/Internet age – growth is exponential – until a veritable tidal wave of awakening emerges, laying the groundwork for a whole new Reality.

Yesterday in Impact Greensboro, we were talking about how hundreds of teenagers are gathering in City Center Park each weekend.  With their I-Phones, using Facebook and Twitter, they can create huge gatherings in minutes.  Immediately I saw both the positive potential for enlightened people to gather … and the danger of unenlightened people converging.

Jesus spent only three years teaching about that the Kingdom of Heaven is within.  Only 3 years … walking from place to place … speaking in stories and parables to small crowds of people who had never heard anything remotely like it.  Imagine what we can do using the media of communication and connection we have at our disposal!

In the new reality there is no sense of separation … the kingdom of heaven is a united kingdom.  Our work is to bring this sense of inter-connectedness into the busy city, into the marketplace, into politics — and to live in the serenity of oneness amidst the warring factions of the human mind and heart.  In this way, we serve as catalysts for evolution and help the world give birth to a new reality – based on love and unity rather than fear and separation.

Jesus showed us the pathway to this new reality – his only commandment … “Love one another as I have loved you.”  He demonstrated this with the life that he lived, and he is present for us now … in the new age.  Who knows … perhaps by tapping into the divine power within us – the same power that allowed Jesus to make the difference he made … perhaps we will live to see the day, when the prophecy of the great philosopher Teilhard de Chardin comes true:  The day will come when, after harnessing space, the winds, the tides, gravity itself, we shall harness for God the energies of love.  And on that day, for the second time in the history of the world, man will have discovered fire.

 

 

JESUS AND YOU, Sunday 8-15-11

So … in a time when there are so many wonderful spiritual books … in a time when the Bible is kind of “out” as required reading … why do we need Jesus?

What difference does his life make?  And is it possible, or even desirable, to have a relationship with Jesus, someone who lived over 2,000 years ago in a completely different culture?

Unity’s teachings about Jesus are very profound, AND they set us apart from most Christian denominations.  In fact, some debate whether Unity is even Christian  — or a denomination for that matter.  In Unity, we call Jesus our Way-shower rather than our Savior.  There is an ocean of difference between the two and that difference says much more about the nature of human-kind than the nature of God.  You see, we do not equate Jesus with God … we might even say that worshipping Jesus was like worshipping the finger pointing to God rather than God itself.  Why?  Because we understand Jesus as the ultimate expression of divinity in human beings.

So, what is a Way-shower?  A leader … a guide … an example.  Since, in Unity we do not believe we have ever been condemned, we do not see the need for a Savior.  However, we definitely see AND FEEL the need for a Way-shower …  because … in this complex world, we can get very, very lost.

This “lost-ness” is often a quiet thing.  Oh sure, we have our moments … but most of us are not Jeffrey Dahmer or Adolph Hitler.  No, our “lost-ness” is more akin to an inner “orphan-hood”.  We are searching for ourselves … our true selves … that which is really authentic and true and clear.  Our souls are restless … we may feel vaguely discontent … or chronically lonely.  It’s like our soul knows that there are fragments of it that have broken off – maybe because of some wound or trauma – maybe because we were taught to believe these parts were bad or unacceptable.

Life on this earth-plane has truly done its best to whip us into shape.  It has given us a myriad of rules to live by … shown us thousands of images of what a good and worthy person looks like and acts like.  Most of us have tried to be good – we’ve tried to follow the rules and live up to the images.  Some of us have succeeded better than others – but we’ve all tried.  Let’s face it, love and acceptance are like air and water to us … we must have them to survive and so, most of the time we try our best to do what we need to do to get them.

But you know, it’s interesting – in a heart-rending sort of way – whether or not we’ve succeeded in achieving the world’s dream, at some point in our lives we all find ourselves in the same spot – lost and lonely.  It’s called by many different names – this lost-ness – this soul fragmentation.  Mid-life crisis – dark night of the soul – ADHD – depression – addiction – anxiety.

Again, the world we live in has offered us an amazingly wide selection of solutions, most of which include some sort of little pill to swallow.  These may take the edge of the pain – relieve it enough to allow us to get on with doing what we’ve always done … living the way we’ve always lived … thinking the way we’ve always thought.  But if we’re honest, we would admit that the pain stalks us like a beast in the night – and it will continue to do so as long as we seek the solution in anything of this world.  The right medication won’t fix it … the right career won’t fix it … retirement won’t … vacation won’t … money won’t … a love affair won’t … neither will the end of a love affair.

So …here’s the thing … if we’re honest with ourselves, we do desperately need a Way-shower … a guide … a model … a light … to show us the way home.  We do not need another temporary fix – we need something solid, reliable and true – a way that will hold up under life’s pressures and stand the test of time.

Well, Jesus has stood the test of time.  For sure there have been many other great teachers and philosophies.  Most Unity people have accepted some aspect or practice of another tradition – like Buddhism or Native American spirituality.  But Jesus is someone we can relate to.  He didn’t sit in a cave or on a mountaintop … he, like us, lived in a world of upheaval, stress, change and violence.  He too tried to do his work in the face of great opposition.  He too was challenged to hold on to his values and his heart under enormous pressure.  So what kept him from getting lost?

The New Testament stories show us a picture of a very human person.  Like us, Jesus struggled with temptation – the lure of power, prestige and wealth.  We see him angry and judgmental … fearful and weak … sad and disappointed … weary and discouraged.  At other times we are awed by his courage and strength and compassion and wisdom.  Jesus had a very human personality … like us, he was a mixed bag.

But the thing we do not see when we look at Jesus’ life is confusion.  There was a clarity about him – a confidence in who he is and what he came to this earth to do.  No matter what … he knows he is the beloved of God and that his presence on the planet matters.  He knows that he matters.  He does not seem to get distracted, even by his own bad behavior.

Can you imagine Jesus, after losing his temper and throwing the merchants out of the temple, being wracked with guilt?  Can you imagine him saying to his friend Peter … oiy-vey … I shouldn’t have done that … I’m a terrible person … what’s the matter with me?

Can you see him leaving the Sermon on the Mount and saying to his disciples … how do you think it went … did I do okay … did I look okay???  Damn … I should have said this or I should have said that.

Can you even picture him getting caught up in mundane concerns … like what to wear, what route to take, where to stay for the night or what restaurant to go to?  Can you imagine him arguing with the disciples about money?

Jesus demonstrated what it looks like to live a life of clarity, confidence, compassion, power and focused purpose.  He knows it makes a difference if he shows up … how he shows up … what he says.  He is intuitive and awake – zeroing in on the truth of each person’s heart like a laser beam.

Remember the story of the rich young man who asks Jesus what he has to do to be saved.  And Jesus says to him … give away all that you have and follow me.  And do you remember that the young man walked away, sorrowful?  Jesus watches him go and says compassionately … truly, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for the rich to enter the kingdom of heaven.

He is speaking directly to us … telling us what Mother Theresa told us again — only a decade ago – that what keeps us lost – what keeps us from peace and happiness … what keeps us on this emotional roller coaster … are distractions – detours – minds so clogged up with material concerns and the drive for physical pleasure that the essence of who we are has been covered up and all but forgotten.  We think holding on to all that we have or striving to get more is our purpose in life.  Well … we are not right about that.

Again, Jesus shows us the way.  He says:

Do not worry about your life, what you will eat, or about your body, what you will wear.  Life is more than food and the body more than clothes.  Consider the ravens … they do not sow or reap … they have no storeroom or barn … yet God feeds them.  And how much more valuable are you than birds?  Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?  Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?

I know, you say, I’ve heard this so many times … and I believe it deep down … but I can’t seem to stay clear about it … I just keep getting caught up in my fears and concerns and busy-ness.

So, what if you had help?  Real help.  What if you knew that Jesus was walking beside you every moment?  What if you could see him … feel him … reach out to him … talk things over with him?  What if you could hear him telling you which way to go, what to do about your problems?  What if you could use his strength to help you do the right thing or get through something difficult?  What if Jesus was up close, real and personal?  A tremendously wise friend and companion for the journey?

You know that in physics, the axiom is that energy is never lost, only transformed.  So, okay … Jesus’ body died a long time ago … but his energy … his essence … his spirit — the most real part of who he was … is still alive – right here and right now.

The struggles of survival in this world may have caused us to abandon one of our greatest powers – the power of imagination.  We have been conditioned to believe that nothing is real unless we can see, hear and feel it.  Well, through the power of spiritual imagination, we can see, hear and feel the invisible.  You know that – you sense energy all the time – use energy you can’t see every single day.  If we choose to place our trust in the presence of Jesus by our side, we will sense him there.

OK, we’re all skeptics – that’s okay – the proof is in the results.  For one week – imagine you can see and feel Jesus standing beside you.  Talk to him – even out loud – even in the grocery store.  Don’t worry, people are way too distracted to notice you … besides they’re so caught up in their own minds, they don’t care if you’re crazy as long as you don’t bother them.

When you are down on yourself for something – when you think you’ve failed to do your best … talk it over with Jesus.  Ask him to remind you who you are and how much you are loved.

When you are worried, ask him for comfort.  When you can’t decide what to do or say, ask him for guidance.  When you feel too weak to do what you know you should do, ask him for strength and courage.  Ask … in your prayers … in your journal … in your meditation.  But not just then … ask, whenever, wherever you are.  It only takes a momentary pause in the action to ask for help.

Yes … we are powerful, beautiful children of God – inheritors of the kingdom of heaven.  We are wading around in God-Intelligence.  Our birthright is self-love.  But we get lost … we forget … we can use some help.  For one week, let’s let Jesus be our help, and see what happens.

Concerned you’ll forget to do even this?  Yeh, I know … me too.  Our ego wants us to rely only on it for help and uses a pretty powerful tool called oblivion.  So, I’m going to try to help with this – I’ll take responsibility for sending out a reminder every morning this week.  You can also set the alarm on your watch or computer to go off once each hour or two – calling you back … reminding you to notice what’s going on inside you … reminding you to connect with your friend Jesus.

And the Universe will help too … like for instance, the old child’s hymn, What a Friend We Have in Jesus … will NOT stop running through my mind.  All I remember is the first line – what a friend we have in Jesus — but it’s all I need to remember isn’t it?

Next week, we’re going to continue this experiment.  It will be your turn to talk – to report the results.  So, stay tuned …

Now, will you join me in today’s affirmation.  Pasted on the refrigerator or bathroom mirror, it just might help us remember why we need Jesus by our side:

Today I give thanks that the same Presence and Power that was the essence of Jesus is the essence of me.  May I think, speak and act from this awareness every moment of my life.

 

FULLY PRESENT – FULLY ALIVE, 8-7-11

This week Sepp and I went to the mountains for a few days R & R.  We had found a beautiful little log Tree House in Hot Springs and spend the first day enjoying the house and the mineral waters.  On Thursday, we headed out to visit Joyce Kilmer National Forest in the Smokey Mountains.  Several years ago, Steele had told me how very lovely it was, thousands of acres of 300 year-old hemlock rising high into the air and forming a canopy of cool shade.  Besides, my love of poetry was tweaked by the knowledge that this was the place that had inspired young Joyce Kilmer, to write one of the most famous poems of all time …

I think that I shall never see

A poem lovely as a tree

A tree whose hungry mouth is prest

Against the sweet earth’s flowing breast;

A tree that looks at God all day,

And lifts her leafy arms to pray;

A tree that may in summer wear

A nest of robins in her hair;

Upon whose bosom snow has lain;

Who intimately lives with rain.

Poems are made by fools like me

But only God can make a tree.

The guidebook said that the trail through the park was 1.8 miles and easy.  Great, I thought, conjuring up images Muir Woods in California, where wide pathways led you into the incredible beauty of the giant redwoods.  Even with my knee problems I can manage that.

OK … the park was about 50 miles from Hot Springs, but, as it turns out, there is no easy route … the only way was a 2-1/2 hour slow ride through the mountains – beautiful and tedious.  Finally arriving, we read the plagues at the entrance which told how the hemlock trees had been plagued by aphids for the last few years.  Hmmm … too bad we thought, but undaunted … set out on the approach to the trail head.  It was nearly ½ mile to the start of the trail, uphill but not too hard.  At the trail head, Sepp noticed … “Look someone has left a walking stick here.”  It was a beauty, stout and strong – a lovely bonus.

Well now, I’m pretty sure that Alpine hikers would consider this trail easy.  But for me – not so much.  Right from the start, it was steep and rocky and narrow with drop offs on one side or the other – no resemblance whatsoever to the paths of Muir Woods.  And the beautiful hemlocks – almost totally devastated.  Tiny mouths had eaten their way through the entire forest, killing hundreds and hundreds of the majestic trees … the sight was heartbreaking.  Tears blended with the sweat pouring down my face.

I started to feel angry.  How could they let this happen to this beautiful place?  There must have been something they could have done.  And … what idiot had described this trail as easy – I would not have started out if I’d known how difficult it was.  I was in over my head, but there was no turning back … the way down the mountain … yes, the mountain … would be every more difficult than the trail up.  How would my knees ever handle the strain?

With that, Sepp reached back and took my hand and with utter kindness and not a shred of judgment in his voice, said:  Don’t worry honey, we’ll make it.  Whose anger could hold up to that?!  Mine melted and I put one hand on his shoulder … took firm hold of my stout walking stick with the other … and followed him up … and then down … the treacherous path for over an hour.

Sepp … the walking stick – gifts from a benevolent Universe — just the reassurance and support I needed.  I was not alone.  My physical limitations were more than compensated for.  What I could not have done alone, I could do with the help of God and a dear friend.

Nothing on this little adventure turned out the way I had planned it … absolutely nothing.  The abundance of blessings I received was immensely greater than anything I could have ever imagined.

You see, my childhood prepared me to be self-reliant.  Sepp’s did too.  Perhaps you got the same message we did: “If anything good is going to happen for you, you’re going to have to make it happen.  You’re on your own.”  My whole life I have carried with me … this fierce independence … this belief that my own competence was the only earthly help I could rely on.

Well, my birthday just passed … I turned 66.  And I have begun to feel my age a bit … the issues with my knees, for example, cause me to feel an unfamiliar sense of vulnerability and limitation.  These feelings were very incompatible and uncomfortable companions to my long-practiced, deeply-honed survival skills of independence, self-reliance and personal competence.  Recently, I became aware of a vague but troubling sense of anxiety about the future.

But you know what I found out in those poor, devastated woods?  That, before I could even fully articulate this fear, even to myself, the Universe was healing me … of wounds from the past and anxiety about the future.  I saw that I had a great capacity for focus as I carefully placed each foot on a solid surface.  I saw that my husband loved me without judgment and was truly glad to help.  I saw that I was stronger than I thought.  And who placed that stout walking stick at the trailhead anyway?

Perhaps trust, love, surrender and humility were even greater strengths than independence, self-reliance and personal competence.  Perhaps, just as I had been given the right tools for surviving and thriving through the first 2/3 of my life … I was being shown the new tools that would see me through the last third.  I just had to open the eyes of my heart to see them.

Show video clip  (from The Celestine Prophecy)

Another coincidence that Sepp and I watched that movie just the night before we left for the mountains?  The understanding I received on that forest trek was like the man’s in the film.  It was the deep awareness of being part of something far greater than me … something vast and impersonal, while, at the same time, totally personal and intimate.  God … the Universe … had been in direct communication with me all week … perhaps it was all the time … perhaps all I needed to do was slow down and really pay attention.

At first I was grief-stricken at the death of the beautiful hemlocks – was it their death that was grieving me or the reality of my own aging?  Who knows … they were all mixed together.  But soon the grief passed and the thought came … well, 300 years really is a good, long life.  I imagined that the great trees had just lain down when their time came … as humble in the end of life as they had been majestic in their prime.  Both are stunning, I thought.

And where the forest had looked ugly at first, a deeper look revealed beautiful new plants poking up through the forest floor now that more sunlight could reach them.  What would nature recreate in that forest?  One thing for sure, the cycle of life would continue – nothing ever lost, only transformed.

On the long trip back to our cabin, we passed through town after town … small, impoverished – factories and shops closed everywhere … economic decline evident everywhere.  It was hard to witness – but then, the forest had just spoken the possibility of new life springing up out of the old.  I am supposed to see this, I thought.  It is time to trade in the rose-colored glasses of youth for sincere compassion and deep gratitude.  It is time to put worry aside and start kissing the ground every day.

So this is what I want to share with you today … Divine Order is present and active in your life.  God has your back.  Give thanks.  Whatever your past was like … whatever you are struggling with today – whatever the future holds – it’s going to be OK.  Open the eyes of your heart and see the beauty.  Give thanks.

We love to segment things … divide them into parts.  We talk about ourselves as mind, body, soul, spirit.  We say we are both human and divine, material and spiritual.  We think of ourselves as a bundle of weaknesses and our strengths.  We talk about past, present and future. The truth is, none of these distinctions exist in the greater reality.  The human is divine; the physical is spiritual; the spirit is fed when the body, mind and soul are fed.  We are, at the same time, both young and old.  The past, present and future all exist in this moment.  In fact, they ARE this moment.

The things that happened to us as children equip us perfectly to grow through the next leg of the journey.  When the path takes a turn and the old equipment no longer serves, if we are wise, we discard it and accept new tools … much more suitable for what lies ahead.

We all seek healing, but most of the time when we call upon the help of a healer what we are looking for is someone to fix something that we perceive has broken down.  We want our bodies restored to youthful strength … our finances restored to former levels … our relationship problems resolved … our emotions cleared of pain.  We want our lives and the lives of our loved ones to be Muir Woods, rather than Joyce Kilmer Forest.

This is not healing … this is holding on to some imaginary idea of perfection.  True healing is letting go.  It is more than acceptance … it is trust.  It is knowing that we are not alone … that the conditions of our lives are perfect for our growth and that we will always have the help we need.  It is seeing, clearly and without fear, that death and life are constantly cycling through our days in perfect order and that they are merely flip sides of the same coin.

You and I have designer lives, but we can only see the design by looking closely with eyes of the heart.  This intricate web of past, present and future … of strength and weakness … success and failure … prosperity and poverty … beauty and ugliness … young and old – life and death — ALL exist together in this one, utterly perfect and deeply poignant moment in time.

From the 1st Insight of the Celestine Prophecy:

Look not from the mind, but from the soul.  For the Life that is coming is already here, waiting to open you to the world..  Just look more closely.  Find the eyes to see.    THIS MOMENT … THIS MOMENT … THIS MOMENT.

 

 

Love and Guidance, 7/24/2011

Why do you think we’re so afraid to love?

Day after day, people tell me about their struggles with relationships.  I can always relate.  Maybe some of the insights that have come to me about this question will awaken something in you.  Since we are one in the human condition, I’m pretty sure we have a few things in common when it comes to loving.

What I see in myself is that I am afraid to love because it makes me feel so vulnerable.  What if you don’t love me back … what if you take advantage of me … what if you leave me?  It feels a whole lot safer to hold back than to put my heart on the line.  Hmmm … TRUST issues.

Do you have TRUST issues?  And don’t they manifest in heart questions like these?  I have trouble trusting that you not to hurt me.  If I open my heart to you, will you break it?

These questions hurt.  For years I’ve wanted to help people … help myself … overcome trust issues.  I’ve often been baffled about why we hold on to them when they’re so painful … why we allow mistrust of our partners and friends to stand in the way of the closeness and connection we all want.  You may be a bit shocked at the insight I’ve received about this …

We don’t trust other people because we know they are not trustworthy … that is, if my trust in you is dependent on your doing what I need you to do … giving me what I want … making me feel good … doing things my way … or being who I want you to be.  The only thing I can trust in other people – and in myself for that matter … is that, in the long run, each of us will do whatever we believe we need to do to take care of ourselves and feel safe.

Our TRUST ISSUES have accumulated throughout our lives … one disappoint-ment after another has deepened our cautiousness … and left us wondering if we will ever be able to completely open our hearts again.

Observation of and reflection on my own “reserved-ness” and the struggles of others has led me to the awareness that our entire perception of love is OFF — way OFF.  We have been conditioned to believe that love is a commodity we are supposed to get and exchange with one another … that love is a prize to be sought … and that the key to happiness is finding someone who will give us enough love.  Oh God, the lengths we have gone to …

Some of us have gotten so enmeshed with another … so co-dependent … we no longer know who we are or what we want.  Some of us have put a shell around our hearts … withholding … withholding … doling out our love as reward for “cooperation and obedience”.  Some of us cannot distinguish between love and the roller-coaster called emotional drama, and so we create relationships that are exhausting.  Some of us cannot tell the difference between sexual attraction and love – yep, now that one’s led us down the jungle path a few times.  And these are only some of the places the drive to find love has taken us.  Believe me … I got stories – mine and yours – so don’t mess with me!

The point is … we have given up our dignity … our integrity … our self-esteem … all manner of financial, spiritual and emotional well-being in the hopes of being loved.  And it starts in the criband I don’t mean your apartment – I mean the crib you slept in when you were a baby.

It’s a familiar story … well-documented in research journals:  infants in orphanages tend to be lethargic, smaller in stature than normal, and have weaker vital signs than other babies.  They are given the physical necessities – food and drink and medication if needed – but these are not enough to keep them well.  However, if someone holds and caresses these children … if someone regularly rocks them in their arms, gently talks to them and loves them, the children begin to thrive … their general health steadily improves.

Conventional wisdom would say that these children get better simply because they are given massive amounts of love, and that love is the medicine which released the natural hormones and enzymes needed for normal growth and health.

On the surface, it does seem that neglected children suffer because they desperately need love and are deprived of it.  Yet, how can this be when we know that we are all beloved children of God, created and born whole and complete.  We know that nothing needs to be added to us in order to make us whole because we already are.  Here’s the incredible NEW THOUGHT … What if it’s not so much  that these children need to be loved … what if they need to release the love that they are?

What if the children got healthier, not because they were given love, but because they were given the opportunity to give their love.  This is a crucial distinction!  Holding, rocking and cuddling the babies was the catalyst that allowed them to release their love.  Have you ever rocked a baby?  Have you ever cuddled a puppy or a kitten?  Was it the baby or the kitten or the puppy that made you feel so good – or was it expressing your love that made you feel so good?

We are all familiar with Charles Dickens’ story of Scrooge, an unloving, mean-spirited, unfeeling, cruel man who was completely unloved because he hoarded everything … his feelings, his possessions, his time, his money, his energy.  Then the spirits of past, future and present came to him and made him take a long look at himself.  The sheer shock of seeing the truth about himself woke him up and he made a complete turnaround.  Immediately he began loving everyone, helping everyone … every way he could and became ecstatic with joy, remember?

Now Scrooge did not feel this joy because people loved him back.  At first, they were still too suspicious of his motives to reciprocate.  His joy was immediate because it came from releasing the love within him … all the love that he had been holding back.

No, love is not a commodity to be acquired and hoarded … love is our very nature and it must be released in order for us to thrive.

You might feel some resistance to this idea.  Yes, I understand.  We have always given love so that we could receive love.  How often people tell me how much they long for someone to love them … to make them feel like a king or a queen.  Others come grieving because over the loss of a loved one.  Their sadness is deep because they believe they have lost the source of the love they need.

Come on now … be honest.  If we step back a bit, most of our relationships – with the possible exception – AT TIMES – of those with our children – contain a lot of deals.  I give you something and in exchange you give me something.  I love you as long as you love me.  I express my love toward you as long as you express your love towards me.  The problem with this is that we can’t always hold up our end of the bargain.  When something interferes with one partner’s ability to express love – could be anything … illness, depression, anger, ignorance, exhaustion — the deal pretty quickly falls apart.

What we miss in this equation is that when I withhold my love because you have withheld yours, I suffer … not from what you are doing – though that is what I tell myself – but because the love that I am is not being released.  Children instinctively know this.  When they are upset, the may grab a favorite teddy bear or dolly to hug.  Those toys are just heaps of wool and cotton and thread.  The teddy bear cannot love or comfort the child.  The child is comforted by the love he or she is pouring into the bear.

I’ve experienced this with my dog Daisy.  I hug her a lot …  and truth is, judging from the way she squirms, I don’t think she likes it much.  I, however, feel great because I expressing the love that I am.  We dog lovers tell ourselves how great it is that our puppies love us unconditionally.  Why look at the way they greet us – even if we’ve left them alone in the house all day.  But our dogs aren’t really loving us.  They are excited in anticipation of our affection and approval coming toward them – they are equally excited about the prospects of dinner and a trip outside.  We love our animals, not because of how they love us, but because of the wonderful way we feel when we are loving them.

But then, what if you come on into the house and find all the trash cans turned over and the contents strewn everywhere, like I did the other day.  Daisy is still just as excited to see me … I am no longer as excited about her.

Now, we all have heard a lot about the concept of unconditional love.  We were talking about it in our group the other day, and most of us admitted we’re not sure if we’ve ever loved totally unconditionally – or at least not for more than a minute or two.  Again, I think we’re misunderstanding what love is.  We’re confusing it with approval.  I think we love unconditionally a lot.  What we call conditional love is really approval.

Because we are human “works in progress”, we often feel disapproving.  We have these ideas, you know, about how people are supposed to be … and how they’re supposed to treat us.  And when they don’t live up to these expectations, we disapprove – often loudly.  But do we really not love them?  While we disapprove of an action, do we really disapprove of them?  Love and approval are not the same thing.

The inability to make this distinction causes a lot of heartache.  I can dislike something you’re doing and still love you with all my heart.  I can judge your action as unpleasant or even unworthy of you, but I am not judging you unworthy.  And if we could let go of our insatiable need for constant approval, we might not get so bent out of shape when we don’t get it.  If you will make the clear distinction between love and approval, I believe you will see that you love … and are loved … unconditionally a lot!

When you get right down to it, disapproval is very simply and honestly … not a very big deal.  Truth is, by the time I get finished expressing my disapproval, the action I dislike has probably shifted or stopped.  What does matter is that I return my focus to the love in my heart as quickly as possible.  Because being in judgment and disapproval is what is making me feel unhappy – much more so than what you did.

Love is a divine activity.  It is a cosmic force.  It is our divine nature.  It is who we are … and expressing it is as natural as breathing.  I had an amazing experience last week – I’ve thought about it constantly.  There is a person who regularly comes to see me for spiritual counseling.  Last week, she told me she had been asking herself, “why does Rev. Catherine give me so much of her love?”  She told me she had spent time meditating on that question until she finally knew the answer … which was … Rev. Catherine gives me all that love because she can’t help herself.  Wow!  I think that’s true.  I had never thought of it that way.

Often we hear it said … in fact, the Quest says it too … we can’t love others until we love ourselves.  I’ve always found that confusing … mostly because I don’t know what it means to love myself.  Here’s what I would say instead … I naturally and effortlessly express compassion toward myself and everyone else when I realize that I am love.

There are things about myself I disapprove of.  There are things other people do that I disapprove of. But what has this got to do with loving myself or them?  I am breathing in love, breathing it out, looking through its lens, swimming in an ocean of it.  Love just is who I am … and who you are.  If I were 50 pounds lighter, I would approve of myself more, but I would not love myself more.

Here’s another amazing … and little understood thing … the love that I am does not need a specific focus.  It is like a floodlight that brightens the entire room, rather than a flashlight which illuminates only where it is pointed. It shines out in all directions.  Yet, most of us believe that love begins when we find someone to love.  We haven’t been taught that love is an indwelling faculty … a spiritual gift … which will shine more brightly and more inclusively the more it is practiced … no matter where it is practiced.

If you find that you are out of practice, that you have trouble expressing love, know that loving is not something you have to master.  It is innate within you … all you have to do is allow it to come out.  Put your fears and trust issues aside for one minute, and it come pouring out.  The only intentional action we need to take is to make the decision to loveMake up your mind to love, and then let love do what love will.

That’s right … let love do what love will.  Have you ever stood at a major crossroad in your life?  A time when you knew the decision you made would determine the course of the next phase of your life?  If you’ve ever chosen a life partner, you have.  If you’ve had a child you have.  If you have ever been offered a new career opportunity you have.  If you’ve ever moved to a new city or country you have.

Well, we can go through all the advice-seeking, list-making and sign-searching, and in the end, we are going to need to get still and go within.  For me, the power question to ask in the silence is, “what is the path of love here”.   That’s it … then I can release all the obsessing and feel deep in my heart that I will know what to do … that the way will be clear when the time is right.

With the decision to follow love wherever it leads, I relax.  And then, at some point,  a sign does come.  Not an external sign … an internal sign … a sense of peace … an inner knowing … a feeling of rightness and order for everyone involved.  With love leading the way, there is never a winner or a loser.  There is never a feeling of having been pressured into something.  There is never a sense of “having had no choice”.  There is never guilt or shame.  With love leading the way, we can face the most difficult choices because we can feel that we are in the flow of grace.

The Gospel of John is the only one that defines God.  It says simply.  God is Love. On every piece of American money it says, “In God We Trust”.  It does not say, “in the president we trust” or “in the congress we trust”.   In God We Trust.  When you get home today, take out a dollar bill.  Look at these words and imagine them to be, “In Love We Trust”.  Ah … now that might change a lot, when you think about it.  Maybe, just maybe, if we all began thinking more about how to best love one another and less about money.  Hmmm, I got a feeling the mood in this country – and in our lives – would change — a LOT!


FORGIVENESS: GATEWAY TO LOVE 6-26-11

Gerald Jampolsky in the classic, Love Is Letting Go of Fear, says, The unforgiving mind is full of fear.  It is certain of the interpretation it places on the words and actions of others and on the events and conditions of the present and past.  It is certain that its anger is justified and its judgments correct.  The unforgiving mind sees the past and future as the same, is rigid and resistant to change.  In fact, it does not really want the future to be different from the past, for that would interfere with its perception of things.  The unforgiving mind sees itself as innocent and others as guilty.  It thrives on being right.  It perceives everything and every person as separate from itself.

These words were written in the 1980′s.  Yet, they seem eerily prophetic to me.  Don’t they explain a lot about the state of politics, religion and world affairs today?  The unforgiving mind run rampant … everywhere we look!   No wonder we are stuck in a recession.  The unforgiving mind is not a creative problem solver.

The Quest this week makes it personal.  It says:

You have come to a crossroad in your journey.  A gate now stands before you.  Beyond the gate lies a path which will bring you major breakthroughs and great spiritual progress.  The abundance, joy and peace your soul longs for can be found on this path.  There is only one access to this path, and that is through a narrow gate.  If you cannot go through this gate, you will find yourself at an impasse and your spiritual journey will come to a standstill.  You can make no further progress without going through this gate.  Every turn you take will lead backwards or sideways, not forward, eventually bringing you back to where you are right now.  The gate you must pass through is the gate of forgiveness.

In my studies this week, I came across a number of wonderful definitions of forgiveness, and, by the way, none of them had a thing to do with continuing to tolerate abuse or evil in our lives. So let’s get THAT clear.  One of my favorite definitions is from How To Forgive When You Can’t by Avery’s friend Dr. Jim Dincalci.  He says:  The act of forgiving is letting go of what you feel another owes you.  It is letting go of any physical or emotional debt you expect to be paid.  Dr. Gary Simmons agrees and raises the ante even further by saying in The I of the Storm that forgiveness means correcting within ourselves the misperception that anyone or anything has harmed us at all.

This feeling of being “owed” something … reparation, apology … at least an acknowledgement of wrongdoing … these can be hard to give up.  It is true that sometimes we get in the way of another person’s pain.  It is true that people do not always keep their word.  It is true that most people are unskilled when it comes to handling conflict.  It’s certainly true that people often don’t meet our expectations or live up to who we want them to be.  But, you know, if we get really honest with ourselves and look a little deeper … it’s not so much what another person actually does or doesn’t do that upsets us the most – it’s our judgment of these things as wrong or evil and the fear that something we hold dear may be taken from us.

I been reflecting lately on how upset I feel when someone doesn’t approve of me or speaks to me in a way that I perceive as disrespectful.  I suffer when I fear losing someone’s respect or friendship … when I think someone is trying to harm me … when I judge that things should be different than they are.

Henri Nouwen in Life of the Beloved explains these reactions.  He says that the painful things people do and say cause us to suffer when we experience them as confirmation of our negative feelings about ourselves.  This really lands for me.  I am most hurt when your judgment of me matches my own – usually deeply buried – judgment of myself.  Makes me wonder if what really upsets me the most is not being opposed but being exposed.

Yet it’s vital that these unhealed places within us be exposed – brought to light so they can be restored to wholeness.  Though it’s sure hard to see this in the moment of upset, upon reflection, the people who upset us the most are the most important people in our lives.  I had a mentor once who called them his “gurus”.

Remember the Old Testament story of Joseph, whose brothers sold him into slavery but who became a rich and powerful man in Egypt?  Despite betrayal, abject poverty, torture and imprisonment, Joseph managed to prosper.  Because his mind and heart did not become warped by bitterness and anger, he was able to be amazingly creative in solving his problems.  Remember the famous words he spoke about his ordeal:  They (meaning his brothers) may have meant it for evil, but God meant it for good.

The Truth is … we live in a benevolent Universe that has only our good in mind.  This is spiritual law, and it is far more powerful than any individual or situation you or I might encounter in this life.   We have no way to really know another person’s motivation or intent … but one thing we can know without a doubt – God’s intention for our good is constant and far more powerful than any human being or condition.  The tricky part is that we have to be willing to see God in action in our difficulties.

Challenging people and experiences are not going to stop coming our way.  Sorry, they’re not – no matter how hard we try to control them.  So, the ONLY way to experience life as rich and abundant is to look below the surface of our discomfort and challenge the stories we are telling ourselves.

Rachel Naomi Remen in Kitchen Table Wisdom writes about a beautiful ring that she designed and cast.  It had been technically difficult to make and she was very proud of it.  The ring had attracted a great deal of admiration and attention, and since Rachel was in medical school and in need of a stream of income, she decided to take it to a craftsman near her home in Esalen, CA to duplicate so she could sell copies to others.  She spent a beautiful afternoon at a gallery by the sea, talking about art with the jeweler, a gentle man and gifted artist and then headed home with a light spirit.

On the way home it began to rain heavily and by nightfall the rain had turned into a wild and violent storm.  The next morning, Rachel received the shocking news that during the night, a section of Route 1 north of Esalen, had been literally swept away into the Pacific ocean.  The gallery where she had left her ring had been washed into the sea also.  The gallery – and her ring – were gone forever.

Immediately, voices inside her head began running commentary on the loss.  The loudest voice was her father’s saying, “This never would have happened if you hadn’t been so greedy as to try and make money from your ring.  How stupid can you be … and you a doctor?”  And then her mother’s, “You are so careless!  You can never be trusted with anything valuable – you always lose things.”

In anguish, Rachel went to the edge of the cliffs and stood looking at the Pacific, still wild from yesterday’s storm.  As she watched the ocean hammer the cliffs, it came to her that nothing unnatural had occurred here … pieces of land had been falling into the ocean for millions of years.  Maybe all the familiar blaming voices in her mind were wrong.  Just maybe the time had finally come for her to question their validity.  Could something greater be at work in her life….

Rachel studied the empty place on her finger where the ring had been, feeling her loss deeply … but also feeling something unfamiliar … something different … Along with sadness, there was an awakening sense of curiosity.  What would come to fill up this space on her finger?  Would she make another ring?  Or would she find another ring in a secondhand shop, maybe even in another country?  Would someone she had not yet met some day place a ring on that finger?

An amazing revelation dawned on Rachel in that moment …  Empty spaces do not remain empty.  Losses create openings for something new.  Sadness can open our heart and cause us to grow in wisdom and compassion and maturity.  Rachel realized that up until that moment, life had always been about holding on to what she had … her feelings … her past experiences and imbedded impressions.  Yet, in the space of just one hour, the empty space left by the loss of her ring had taken on all the anticipation and excitement of a wrapped Christmas present.

By for-giving – that is, letting go of her perception of how things were supposed to be and questioning the self-immolating voices in her head – a greater wisdom arose and, though some sadness remained, Rachel’s suffering came to an end.  We human beings so need to find meaning beneath our difficulties.  Instead of making the painful things that happen to us mean that life is hard … or people are bad … or we are unworthy …would it be possible to wonder …what opening has this loss created? … what will fill it?… what good is on its way to me?

The thing is … it takes willingness to make this shift.  And sometimes willingness cannot come until terribly hurt feelings have subsided.  Every one of us has, at one time or another, felt stuck in anger and bitterness toward someone and thought, how can I ever forgive them?  It feels impossible.  Well, I don’t believe forgiveness is possible as long as we perceive another person as “out to hurt us”.  But when we see beyond our own pain – see the other person as a struggling human being, driven by their pain into destructive behavior, we see … well, we see ourselves … and seeds of understanding and compassion are born.  Then … and only then … can there come an opening in the mind — space to imagine that what was lost was meant to be lost to make way for something greater to take its place.

One of the greatest paradoxes I know, is that self-righteousness, anger and blame bind us to a person or situation, while forgiveness and compassion set us free.  I KNOW this is true … I experience it every time I find myself obsessing about something someone said or did.  That person or situation has possession of my mind and heart during those times.  I know forgiveness has happened when I am once again able to breathe freely.  It’s as though the constricting shell around my heart has broken open and the joy of living has been restored.

The other day I saw a teenage boy wearing a bright red t-shirt with bold white letters that said, I have no idea what is going on.  Don’t you just love it!  I do because it’s so TRUE!  The minute we go beyond the simple recounting of the visible facts of a situation, we are into story and analysis.  What would it be like to live more simply?  We could simply feel our feelings.  We could simply say what we like or don’t like … prefer or don’t prefer … without shrouding everything in confusing drama.  We could learn to watch our own reactions and become curious about them, instead of making up stories about the other person — or GOD for that matter.  We say, “why did she do that to me” … We say, “why did God let that happen?”  There’s no answer to these questions … all they do is throw us into obsession and suffering.  We think our stories will shield us from pain … but all they do is prolong it.

There is a man named Jim who lives in a house near a mountain with a back yard which is actually a small meadow.  Jim is very blessed … because all throughout the summer and fall, a beautiful stag visits his meadow at dawn and at twilight.

Here’s the thing – Jim never planned to have a stag.  He planned to have a rose garden.  He had planted with great care 15 beautiful rose bushes in the meadow – each one a housewarming gift from a friend.  For a time, the rose garden was glorious … then the roses started disappearing.  Puzzled, Jim became determined to catch whatever was eating his roses in the act.

Getting up one morning at dawn, he looked out the window at his garden and was transfixed by seeing the magnificent, six-pointed stag for the first time.  As Jim watched, the great creature unhurriedly crossed the yard, browsed for a while among the roses, and then delicately ate one of the Queen Elizabeth’s.

Every year since then, Jim has had a choice to make.  Should he build a high fence and have a beautiful rose garden, or should he have a stag 10 feet from his back door.  Each year he chose the stag, and for two years they watched each other through the window pane … until this year, that is.  This year, Jim was able to sit outside in the yard as his stag dined on sumptuous roses.

Jim’s friends cannot believe he cultivates his roses only to allow the stag to eat them.  He just smiles and says to them, “You see, it’s like this.  I thought I was planting roses to have roses.  It now seems I was actually planting rosebushes in order to have ½ hour of silence with a magical animal every morning and every evening.”

No … things don’t always go according to our plans.  People don’t always take care of us the way we think they should.  And we don’t react very well when they don’t, do we?  We say and do things we don’t feel good about.

Oh God … are we the ones most in need of forgiveness … for our lack of compassion … for judging situations and people evil or wrong to begin with?  Are we the ones most in need of forgiveness for having expectations of others it wasn’t ever their job to fulfill?  Are we the ones most in need of forgiveness for not accepting and loving ourselves and others … for demanding our way all the time … for clouding our eyes with resentment and anger so that we cannot see the beauty and abundance right in front of us.

NO, we don’t really know what is going on at all … because God’s plan for us is far greater than we can imagine.  If we could only trust that, perhaps we would not suffer so much.  Perhaps we would really BE HERE in the present moment, free of contamination from the past.  Perhaps we would feel more joy and peace.  Perhaps …

OK, let’s call forth these possibilities.  Won’t you say with me today’s affirmation:

I pray to be forgiven for all the times I have judged another bad or wrong and now release from my heart all judgment of anyone for anything.  I now release from my heart all judgment of anyone for anything.  Only compassion remains.  I am free. 

 

FAITH IS A GROWING BUSINESS

Father’s Day, June 19, 2011

Father’s Day is a holiday rich with meaning for many of us.  Perhaps you are feeling love and gratitude toward your father or male role model or protector today.  Maybe you have mixed feelings because some of your experiences with father figures have not been altogether positive.  Perhaps you are celebrating being a father today.  Or, if you are a more esoteric type, you could be celebrating the Divine Masculine in yourself and in the world.  Regardless … Happy Father’s Day.

So, I’ve been wondering … what is the essence of fatherhood?  According to Scripture, Jesus called God, Abba, an intimate term for “father”.  Yet surely he did not mean that he thought of himself as the actual physical progeny of God.  No, he was using a name that described his relationship with God.  The heart … the essence … of fatherhood holds the key that unlocks the mystery of what it means to have an intimate, personal relationship with God.

The other day Deborah and I were talking about Bible stories and she said … the one story I simply can’t understand is the one about Abraham and Isaac.  Yes, it can be puzzling … even upsetting.  You may recall …

The delight and joy of Abraham’s heart was his son Isaac.  In the story, God tells Abraham that he must demonstrate that his love for God is greater than his attachment to anything of the earth, even greater than his love of Isaac.  God instructs Abraham to place Isaac on the altar and give him up as a burnt offering – a sacrifice.

You see, Abraham had been chosen to be the patriarch of all the Nations of Israel, and God needed to test the depth of his Faith.  Well, Abraham passed the test … he took Isaac and bound him and placed him on the altar.  Abraham demonstrated that he was willing to put God first … above anything else … and … you know the story … having demonstrated this, the actual sacrifice of Isaac was not necessary.

The metaphysical meaning of this story is unmistakable.  The key to an intimate, life-altering relationship with God is Faith.  Enormous Faith … Courageous Faith.

Okay, you might say … I understand.  But I just can’t imagine myself having enough faith to take the kind of risk that Abraham took.  The Quest this week says that the issue is not having enough faith … we all have tons of faith.  The issue is where and in what is our faith invested … In the appearance of things or in the absolute power and goodness of God?

Faith is not believing in God … faith is the deep inner knowing that God’s will for us is ONLY good.  Abraham did not just believe in God … he could never have placed Isaac on the altar because of a belief.  No, the only way he could possibly have done this was to KNOW that God’s complete and utter love for both him and his son would keep his son safe.  This was not a mental or intellectual exercise of a belief for Abraham … this was gut-level, emotional EXPECTATION of Good.

I’ve often asked myself when looking at this story … what was going on with Isaac?  Did he just say “okay, Dad” and jump up on the altar.  I can’t imagine this … Why, my dog runs away from me if she sees me pull out the dog shampoo.  The thing is … Isaac had to have the same gut-level knowing that he was safe in Abraham’s care as Abraham had in God.  Abraham was Abba to Isaac.  Intimacy is Trust.

Now, here’s the tricky part …

Over the years, every one of us has created a detailed picture of who we are.  This image of ourselves … at work, with family, at play … how we look … how we act and react … has been finely honed by repetition.  That’s why we are so reactive when other people don’t see us or treat us in a way that jives with that image.  We also have a detailed picture of what our life ought to be like.  This image too was created early on and refined over a lifetime.

These images are so deeply installed, they run our lives despite every intellectual effort to see or be something different.  They are powerful enough to create our future.  Intellectual faith in God is not sufficient to overcome them.

That’s a good name for belief — intellectual faith.  It’s characteristic is that it is waiver-able … it can be altered by circumstances.  There was nothing intellectual about Abraham’s faith.  It was rock solid and gut-level.

Haven’t you ever wondered why is it that one person gets every new cancer treatment there is and still dies of the disease while another person just as sick goes to Lourdes, bathes in the holy water and is completely cured?  The difference is not in the approach to treatment.  The one receiving conventional medical treatment sees that lots of people receiving the same treatment are dying and so he harbors doubt that the treatment will work for him.  Well, the pilgrim to Lourdes must see that most of the people who bathe in the holy water are not cured either but her faith is not altered in the slightest.  She looks right past these outer appearances … she ABSOLUTELY EXPECTS healing and so it happens.

Each of these people has the same amount of faith … but one invests his faith in the appearances of things around him while the other invests her faith in the Goodness and Healing Power of God.

What are you KNOWING and FEELING IN YOUR GUT today?  That God is in charge of your life and therefore you will be led to the perfect means of healing?  That wonderful blessings will come out of the heartache you’re feeling over the breakup of a relationship?  Or are you KNOWING AND FEELING that cancer almost certainly kills or that you’ll never have enough money because your family has always been poor?  Where are you investing your faith?

 

Do you KNOW AND FEEL that there is a power at work in your life that is greater than your human power alone … a power that multiplies the effect of your every good intention and right action?  If so, you move confidently in the direction of your dreams.

Do you KNOW AND FEEL that you are guided by divine wisdom?  If so, you go within before taking any action and then trust the divine direction that comes through you – trust it AND act on it.

Do you KNOW AND FEEL that your life is more than a series of random events … that the people and situations you encounter are more meaningful and profound that you can understand at the moment?  If so, you accept all that occurs with an attitude of positive expectancy.

Faith takes us where reason and intellect alone cannot.  The spiritual journey will bring us again and again to the edge of our faith.  We’re like Abraham leading Isaac to the altar … or Indiana Jones standing at the edge of that precipice.  We hesitate … we tremble … and in the end we either invest our faith in God’s Good and take the action that will move us forward or invest it in Fear, step back from the edge and stay right where we are.

The journey into the unknown awakens all our senses and causes us to vibrate with the promise of greater life.  Stepping back from the edge leaves us shaking with unspent nervous energy and a feeling of having died a little.  Faith is the voice inside that knows that, while the unknown may threaten our image of ourselves or even our physical life, shrinking back from the precipice threatens the life of our soul and spirit.

It’s not that all our ventures turn out great … not all our children are Einsteins – not all our business ventures are successful … not all our relationships work.  Faith says, “Don’t worry … it was never about the outcome anyway”.  Faith comes with a promise, “the outcome you were hoping for is small potatoes … there is much more to be gained.  Follow your heart – trust – and you will discover who you really are … and you will experience the joy of intimacy with your God.”

The heart of the Father is faith.  Just as a good earthly father believes in his children, God the Father – the unlimited wellspring of life, substance and intelligence within us and all around us — has faith in us.  We are not here by accident – the Universe has birthed each one of us as an act of breathtaking creativity.  Just as a good earthly father does everything he can to help his child grow, Life supports our growth by bringing us, again and again, to the edge of the precipice where we have the opportunity to leap into faith.

Is your life calling you to make the leap now?  Does it seem that the life you imagined for yourself is falling apart?  Reminds me of the man who said:  I prayed to God when the foundations of my life were being shaken … only to find that it was God shaking them!

Whatever we place our faith in other than God’s Goodness must collapse or we will become dependent on it.  We will keep chasing rainbows until we come home to what’s real and true.  We will keep investing our faith in people and circumstances … in our bank account … in our employer … in the government.  They will all let us down … they have to … to ensure that we return again and again to the crossroad where we have the opportunity to LEAP into faith and KNOW that God is always unfolding our highest and best good.

It’s painful when the old image of ourselves or of life collapses.  It’s painful because we resist it so strenuously.  We think something is terribly wrong.  With RADICAL FAITH we surrender this resistance … we give way to the flow … knowing that something even greater is always being born.

Surrender does not mean giving up or quitting.  It is not about being weak or passive.  We can say and do what is necessary to protect and assert ourselves …. we can behave in a sane and responsible way … and still be fully surrendered internally.  We can do what is appropriate for our well-being and that of others while completely letting go of the outcome.

When we are standing on the edge of the precipice … the limits of our faith … we experience a life crisis.  Listen to what the great futurist, Barbara Marx Hubbard writes about this:

Crises precede transformation.  Before every quantum leap, “problems” emerge – perceived limitations, stagnations, unmanageable complexity, impending catastrophes, disintegration of old systems.  From all appearances, mistakes –  deadly errors — are occurring.  But from the perspective of quantum transforma-tion, these problems are seen as evolutionary drivers … vital stimulants which trigger astounding design innovations.

And what does Hubbard, who, by the way, is not a religious person, say that this astounding design innovation will be?  Faith in the magnificent processes that created us and purposeful cooperation with them in co-creating the future.  She calls this design innovation conscious evolution.

Now, the thing is … not all crises lead to transformation.  It’s possible to go from one crisis to another without giving birth to a new consciousness.  If we insist on running away from our pain … if we insist on directing our energy toward the re-creation of the old image of ourselves or our life … we will go from crisis to crisis to crisis.  It is Faith that allows us to surrender to the process of change.  In faith, we allow God to unfold our life plan – one day – one creative thought – one encounter – one situation at a time.

Can you find your father’s heart today?  Can you hear its call to action?  Can you feel it encouraging you to step forward?  Do you sense it reassuring you that you are not alone … that you will be okay no matter what?  Can you hear the inner voice that says “you are far more powerful than you think you are”?

Listen … Listen to this voice.  You can trust it.  You can rely on it.  Nothing can take it away from you.  It will not fail you.  It is the voice of your Father Heart.

Now, please join me in today’s affirmation:

My life, my relationships, and all my affairs are governed by Divine Order.  Trust in the process of my own spiritual evolution gives me hope and patience in the midst of difficult circumstances.  My life is NOT a series of random events, but a beautiful tapestry in which every single thread fits.  I KNOW beyond the shadow of a doubt, that God’s plan for me is unfolding perfectly. 

AND so it is.

 

WHO DO YOU SAY I AM, 6-5-11

So … this morning I’d really like you all to do something for me.  I’d like you to pretend … pretend you are all little kids … and I am your kindly grandmother, who has called you to gather round because she is about to tell you a story.  It’s a sweet little story … a parable really … but make no mistake … it is a powerful story.  So sit back, relax and listen as a 5-year-old listens to a beloved and  magical grandma.

Once upon a time children, you and I existed as Spirit Souls in another dimension – a dimension quite different from the way it is here on earth.  At that time and in that place, we heard exciting, marvelous stories about a journey that could be taken – a journey called “life on earth”.  It was said to contain many adventures and so we were filled with desire to go on this journey.

So we went to God and asked to go to earth.  God said, “Are you sure you want to go little ones?  Life on earth is very different from life here.  In this place, all we know is the Light of Truth, but the earth isn’t finished yet.  It’s still engaged in the creative process, and it is easy to get confused there.  People sometimes wander in the darkness and experience trouble there.  Are you sure you want to go?

We responded to God with an enthusiastic, YES. YES.  We’re sure.  Please let us go.  We don’t care if earth isn’t finished yet. And God said, OK then, you can go.  But your journey is not without purpose.  Your mission is to dispel the darkness by expressing the Light of Truth everywhere you go.

Now, here is some advice for you.  Do not resist anything that happens on earth, for as foggy as things may seem sometimes, everything has meaning for you.  Embrace each experience in your heart, and you will receive the gift it has for you.  Don’t be afraid little souls.  Your hearts will keep you from getting lost.  So, goodbye – on your way.  Oh, one last thing … don’t forget to keep in touch.

Oh, so we all chose to be here!  Right here, right now, having the exact experiences we’re having.  It’s exciting alright … and sometimes downright  overwhelming.  We do get confused and lost sometimes.

As we mature, we begin to want to distinguish between what is real and not real.  At some point, most of come face-to-face with questions about our true identity.  Who Am I really? Am I these roles I’ve taken on? … like mother or father, doctor, accountant or musician?  They do seem to define me … and yet, somehow they don’t.  Am I my body? Well, that’s kind of depressing.  It seems to be deteriorating every single day.  It doesn’t make sense that I was born just to get sick and die?  Am I my pain or my struggles or my dis-ease? Sometimes it sure seems like it … I’m so consumed by it all.  Am I the son or daughter of my parents … product of my upbringing or my past?  If so, then much of my future is pre-ordained.  Whew … this “life on earth” assignment really is confusing sometimes!

Unity’s 2nd Foundational Principle speaks to these existential questions.  It tells us that this body and all the things we experience on earth are like coats we wear … they are not our core essence.  It says that the core essence of every human being is spiritual, not physical … and names this divine essence The Christ.  It tells us that this essence is pure and whole and good – always has been and always will be.  This rings true in our soul, and explains why a concept like original sin feels like the concocted explanation of a child.

Unity’s 2nd Principle tells us that we are spirits who have chosen to incarnate upon this planet to fulfill a purpose.  We are “from spirit … of spirit … and will inevitably return to our spiritual source”.   This rings true also, and makes stories like the rapture … or heaven … or hell … seem childish also.

If you’ve been in Unity for a while, you’ve often heard and spoken out loud the 2nd principle.  But I wonder how many of us have really thought deeply about its implications. How do we begin to grasp the huge idea that we are divine humans … given that most of us have the tendency, when we look within ourselves, to notice not divinity, but imperfection of one kind or the other?

For me, these implications continue to unfold even after 25 years in Unity.  Slowly over time, however, the realization of my divine essence has settled into my heart and soul and sits there as a constant healing presence.  It is my home place … where I can return whenever I find myself caught up in my roles … or what others think of me … or unloving behavior … or negative self-talk.  In other words, when I get confused about who I really am.

We all have faults.  At any given time, under a certain set of pressures, we may express our divinity to a greater or lesser degree.  But our faults and imperfections are not who we are.  Regardless of how divine … or not …our actions are at any given moment, our core essence does not change.  And so, in any instant, we can snap out of it, return to that core and make a more enlightened choice.

The Quest this week teaches about the importance of how we use the words “I AM”.  It reminds us that the words “I AM” are the way we express our true identity.  Often we are careless about this.  We say, “I am sick”, or “I am weak”, or “I am stupid”, without even thinking.  But would we say, “My core essence is sickness” or “my true nature is weakness or stupidity”.  Of course not.

As a child, we learned the Ten Commandments.  The third one says, “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain”.  Most of us took that to mean that we should not curse using the name of God.  But the ramifications of this commandment are much, much greater than that.

When Moses stood before the burning bush and was told by God to come out of hiding and return to Egypt and lead the Israelites out of slavery, he was very afraid.  He felt inadequate to the task.  He didn’t think the Israelites would follow him.  So he asked, “Who shall I tell them has sent me?”  And God said, “tell them I AM has sent you … this is my name forever.”

I AM is God’s name … because God is Life Essence.  I AM is the name of God – or Life — in you and me.  And what is the nature of this God-essence?  Love … peace … joy … goodness … power … life … wisdom.  Isn’t it the most amazing and wonderful thing to know that these qualities are our true nature also?

It is no coincidence that God’s name is the very same name we use when referring to ourselves … I AM Judy or I AM John.  Jesus taught repeatedly that the Kingdom of God is within.  He insisted that the Father and we are one.   He made statements like I AM the way … the truth … and the life.  People misunderstand … they take this statement to mean that Jesus is the way.  NO, NO … what he meant is that I AM is the way, the truth and the life. I AM … our salvation is not Jesus … it is the awareness that God-ness is our true essence.  Because what is driving our bad choices and negativity is not knowing who we are.  What did Jesus say at the moment of his crucifixion?  Forgive them Father, they don’t know what they’re doing.

It is of utmost importance what words we say after the words “I AM”.  Because, what we attach to our “I AM” is a statement to the Universe of who we think we are, and the Universe responds by bringing to us life experiences that match that perception.  So … if you don’t like what you are attracting into your life … there is only one way to change it — learn to think and speak the Truth about yourself.

I hope everyone leaves here today with a heightened awareness of this … so that the next time you make a mistake, instead of saying, “how could I be so stupid?”, you say, “I am wisdom” – or the next time your doctor says, “You are sick”, instead of accepting that statement into your soul, you immediately say to yourself, “sickness is NOT who I AM; I AM life” – or the next time you find yourself thinking how messed up you are, you stop the cycle by saying “I AM love, goodness and power”.  Because you see, this is The Truth.

I know — your feelings are not always aligned with the Truth; often they are products of our mis-perceived identity.  So, rather than believing our negative self-talk, we’ve got to learn to speak the truth, especially when negative feelings seem to be driving the boat.

Claim your true essence! When Jesus asked Peter, “who do you say I am”, Peter replied, “you are The Christ, the son of the living God.”   Sepp, you are the Christ, son of the living God.  Elaine, you are the Christ, daughter of the living God.  I AM the Christ, daughter of the living God.

The way we see and name ourselves plays out in the way we see the world around us and other people.  In How Then Shall We Live, Wayne Muller tells the story of a man whose ax was missing and who suspected that his neighbor’s son had stolen it.  Every time he saw the boy, he was more certain.  Why, couldn’t everyone see that the boy skulked around like a thief, acted like he had something to hide, even spoke in an evasive way?

One day, while digging in his garden, the man found his ax hidden beneath a bush.  The next time he saw his neighbor’s son, lo and behold, the boy seemed to walk, look and talk as normally as any other child.

The identity “thief” was in the man’s mind, and so he projected it upon his young neighbor.  The more intense the projection, the guiltier the boy looked.  When the ax was found, the identity “thief” left the man’s consciousness and the boy seemed to be transformed.  The sole element that determined the boy’s character in the eyes of the man was his own projection.

So, I wonder, what makes us see others a certain way?  Is it really an accurate perception of who THEY are?  Or is it a mirror of who we think we are?  What mistrust or dishonesty was in the man’s consciousness that made him jump to the conclusion his ax had been stolen instead of simply misplaced?

The way we see ourselves – the names we call ourselves – determine the way we see and thus, the way we live.  “The eye is the lamp of the body”, Jesus said.  “If your eye is sound, your whole body will be full of life.”

 

You and I always have the freedom to align our will either with our core essence or with our ego.  It’s not hard to tell the difference.  Core essence asks sincerely, What would be the most loving action I could take? Ego asks sincerely, How do I get my way? Core essence asks, What is true about me? Ego asks, What do I want people to think is true about me? Core essence claims spiritual power.  Ego claims insecurity and victim-hood.

The most personally empowering teaching in Unity is the belief that our core essence is the Christ spirit – totally good and perfectly whole.  I implore you today … embrace this idea with your whole heart … give up any belief in your unworthiness.  We may not always feel like The Christ, but we can always know it is true.  And if we know the truth about ourselves, it sits in our hearts as a platform of strength, comfort and love, even while our feelings take us on a crazy, wild ride.

When we have made a dis-empowering choice, it is not because we are bad or sinful people.  It is because some pressure or other has caused our ego defense to come up.  And when that happens, we need comfort and reassurance, not criticism, guilt and shame.  Love and Truth are the only things that will reassure the fearful ego and get it back into its right place – as servant and not master.

Outer conditions change with the wind.  The one thing that can help us keep our balance is the awareness that challenges serve our purpose for being here.  Remember our little story?  We came to this earth with one purpose — to grow in the awareness and expression of our Christ light.  We didn’t come here to raise perfect kids … or make a certain amount of money … or to have a perfect body.

The other night Sepp and I watched a documentary on Ram Dass’s life, called “Fierce Grace”.  It is the story of his life after his devastating stroke.  It is an incredibly intimate look at the challenges he faced … the feelings and frustrations he went through … AND how, over and over again, he returned to the realization of what an incredible path to God his stroke is.  He called it “being stroked” by God … called higher in consciousness than ever before.

“Fierce Grace” he called it – this path of being empathy and comfort for others while in pain himself – of facing his feelings authentically, not shutting down or rising above – of seeing his own and other people’s incredible heroism under terribly trying circumstances – of allowing his humanity to cry out and reach out for help – of surrendering his physical independence at the same time as his spirit learned to fly free — and ultimately of embracing the whole overwhelming experience with joy.  Sitting there in a wheelchair, 80 plus years old, physically ravaged by life and illness, he ends by saying, I have never felt so at peace. I’m telling you … you won’t want to miss the opportunity of being in this man’s presence on June 18th.

Some people say, nothing ever changes.  Maybe not … maybe the world is always showing up as the world – painful things will always happen.  But maybe it doesn’t matter – because we have changed.  We have become stronger … our character has been refined and forged in the fire … we have come to know and trust what is real about us.  And so, our lives are filled with a peace and happiness and prosperity that nothing and no one can take away because it does not come from outside us.  It pours forth from the I AM — that beautiful, powerful core essence within us.

I leave you this morning with some of the most beautiful and powerful words ever written.  They surely came from Walt Whitman’s Christ voice.  They are taken from his epic poem, Song of Myself:

Swiftly arose and spread around me

the peace and knowledge that pass all the argument of the earth;

And I know that the hand of God is the elder hand of my own,

And I know that the spirit of God is the elder brother of my own,

And that all the men ever born are also my brothers …

And the women my sisters and lovers,

And the essence of all that I AM is love.

 

And now, please join me in today’s affirmation:

I am grateful for the richness of my life.  I am wholeness … I am peace … I am prosperity … I am joy.  I am God’s beloved offspring; God’s kingdom belongs to me.  And so it is.

 

Hero’s Legacy  5-29-11

We human beings are sure mixed bags!  We are capable of creating glorious symphonies, magnificent works of art, innovative technologies to solve every problem, and of selflessly devoting our lives to helping others.  On the other hand, we are also capable of creating weapons of mass destruction, plundering and pillaging whole countries and selfishly stepping on others to get what we want.

From one end of the spectrum to the other, there’s one thing all our creations have in common:  each one began as an idea, a thought.  How would you characterize the state of global affairs today?  How about the affairs of your life?  Beautiful?  Awful?  Regardless, all of it … every bit of it … began as a thought.

There is nothing … no thing … that did not begin as a thought.  The universe was brought forth from an idea in God-Mind.  People and everything else in this universe began as an idea.  All that is, and all that has been and all that ever will be, began or will begin with a thought.

Just as God brought forth the universe and everything in it with a thought, we bring forth our world with our thoughts.  God creates people and people create their conditions.  But whereas in God-Mind all ideas are for the good, we take the good … this unlimited, pure substance of ideas from God-Mind … and filter them through our minds to create our world.  That can be a marvelous thing, except when our minds are choked with lack thoughts, bitter emotions and false beliefs.

The thoughts, emotions and beliefs we consistently hold on to systematically draw to us the people, places, and circumstances that eventually become our reality.  Each thought is like a living brick that, piled one on another, constructs our future.  We have the power to create and to destroy.

Unity’s third Principle is called The Law of Mind Action.  It says in short:  Thoughts held in mind produce after their kind.  What this means is that our bodies and our life circumstances are faithful portraits of the consistent and persistent ideas we hold in our minds.

If you’re new to Unity, the Law of Mind Action will explain a lot about the life you’ve been experiencing.  It is absolutely essential that you understand this law, because, if you really reflect on it and embrace it, your life will change completely.  I hope you will buy the recording of this message and play it over and over again.

If you have been in Unity a good while and know this teaching well, you have a golden opportunity today.  Look at what’s going on in your life right now and see the Law of Mind Action playing out.  If you are experiencing a situation that is not what you desire, notice where you are directing your thoughts and energy.  Are you working hard to fix the outer structure of the situation?  Or have you remembered to slow down and go deep … to understand and accept that you have created the condition out of your consciousness.  Go deeper than simply looking at your mistakes and taking responsibility.  Realize that those were not mistakes … they were the faithful out-picturing of thoughts, feelings and beliefs you are holding in mind.  With true willingness, prayer and surrender, you can interrupt these patterns … and create something entirely new.  This is the only way to keep from creating the same situation again and again.

Now, here’s something very important to understand … when we are talking about thoughts and ideas in the mind, we’re talking specifically about the subconscious mind.  We are usually not aware of the thoughts we are holding in our subconscious mind.  But nevertheless, they are running our lives.  The good news is that the conscious mind has the power to direct the subconscious mind.

 

We program our subconscious minds with what we accept, unchallenged, from the world … what we accepted, unchallenged, from our parents and teachers when we were children … what we accept every day from the news.  Which one of us can claim to have been unaffected by the constant talk of the terrible economy … the jobless rate … falling property values.  Which one of us has not been affected by the seeds of fear planted through continual stories of terrible violence?  This kind of programming is everywhere, and the only way to keep ourselves from absorbing it, is by the conscious, intentional decision to reject it.  It is the responsibility of the conscious, rational mind to decide what to accept, retain, and dwell upon. This is an immense power and an immense responsibility.

Too often we are careless about this.  We let a barrage of negative, destructive, erroneous ideas flood, unchallenged, into our minds.  The conscious mind can act as a gatekeeper, or a filter, but too often, we leave the gate wide open, allowing in whatever junk comes floating by!  All the stale beliefs of the human race about age, the false idea that wars bring peace, the negativity spouted all around us by people who don’t know its destructive power … things like these can come pouring into us if we don’t keep our filters in place.

Whatever the conscious mind allows in goes directly to the subconscious.  If we are constantly and persistently letting in and entertaining destructive ideas, how can our actions be constructive?  If we received abuse in childhood and do not consciously reject the negative self-image and self-talk left over from that experience, how can we ever be successful or happy in life?

There is a wonderful story in The Quest about a wise teacher of truth who was walking through the woods with his students when they came upon the partially decomposed carcass of a dead deer.  The students, in an attempt to protect their teacher from seeing such a repulsive sight, tried to steer him around it.  But the teacher would not alter his direction.  When he came upon the deer, he looked it over carefully and said, “My, what beautiful antlers.”  He chose to look past the ugliness and focus his attention on the beautiful.  We all have the ability to choose what to take into our minds.

There is no way to overstate the power of the subconscious mind. Every deep-seated conviction, expectation and emotion held there is eventually going to show up in the tangible world.  Even fact-obsessed scientists accept this.  It is well documented that strong thoughts and emotions morph into hormones and chemicals in the body.  These chemicals and hormones directly influence our health.  Thoughts and emotions determine, not only our physical health, but our total life experience.  Uh-oh, you might think … then I’m a cooked goose.  But there’s more good news. We have the power to change the direction of our thoughts.  We can use our conscious mind and power of choice to counteract negative subconscious programming and create the life we want.

This is incredible, life-transforming knowledge.  It means that you do not have to accept your lot in life.  You do not have to be a product of your upbringing.  If you are willing to reject your negative thinking and self-talk … if you are willing to accept new beliefs and a more positive and loving attitude toward yourself and your life, things will turn around for you.  Maybe not over night … maybe not as quickly as you would like … but they WILL turn around.  They have to.  It’s the law.

There are a number of questions about the Law of Mind Action that commonly come up for people.  Here are a few:

But how do I know what’s in my subconscious mind? Well, it’s not hard to know, but it may be hard to accept.  Listen to the words you speak and your tone of voice.  Notice the way you react … the things you do … the people you choose to hang out with … the way you take care of your body.  These don’t lie.  They are mirrors of your subconscious mind.

So, how does the Law of Mind Action work in real time?  If my thoughts and feelings make my world, does that mean I had been thinking “car crash” before I had that accident?”  Or, does it mean I’d been dwelling on cancer before I got my diagnosis?  Or, one I personally have struggled with … did my thoughts and feelings cause my son’s death?

The answer to each of these questions is “yes” and “no”.  No, we don’t necessarily draw specific events into our lives, although it can happen that way with enough focus and concentration.  However, through the power of our thinking, we are continuously drawing certain kinds of events into our lives.  You could say it this way.  Our consciousness … our attitude toward life … our way of thinking … our state of mind … create favorable conditions for certain things to happen.  Did you know, for example, that it’s difficult for anyone who takes depression medication to get health insurance?  Why?  Because the actuarial tables show a tremendous rise in the rate of accident and illness among depressed people.

None of us is in complete control of the thoughts and feelings we hold in our subconscious minds.  Therefore, we all attract some difficulty into our lives.  But there’s more good news!  When these difficulties arise, we have complete control over our reactions to them.  We are constantly creating our world through how we deal with our world. Each action or reaction is the seed of a future circumstance.  As a matter of fact, it is often the work of dealing productively with our difficulties that opens a window to the subconscious thought beneath it.  And once these ideas are revealed, they can be healed, interrupting the cycle of dysfunction for good.

So, what about emotions?  Seems to me I’m more driven by my feelings than my thoughts. You are right!  Our feelings are strong dictators.  In fact, whenever you pit a strong feeling against a thought, the feeling will win 100 percent of the time.  We are driven by our emotions.  Why, we won’t even get up off a chair and cross the room unless our emotions prompt us.  If we just don’t feel like it, we won’t do it.

But attach an emotion to the thought of crossing the room and off we will go.  If we see our child about to stick his finger into an electrical outlet, we are up and out of that chair.  It is love that urges us to get up and hug a friend.  The thought of getting off the chair and crossing the room is not enough.  It must be energized by an emotion.

When you think about it though, emotions are really thoughts … a complex mix of sensory perceptions and judgments that have formed strong patterns.  You could say that feelings are thoughts that have reached critical mass.  Thoughts underlie our feelings and these feelings live entirely in the subconscious mind … which means they are automatic.  BUT, good news againnew thoughts, beliefs and perceptions held consistently over time, will eventually cause our feelings to change.  And when our feelings change, our life changes.

This is where a positive spiritual community comes in.  We speak loving words to each other, hold healing energy for one another, sing spiritual songs, teach truth, serve each other …  All these things, over time, will change the negative programming that has held us back.  They raise us up out of our negativity, plant seeds of creativity and surround us with feelings of well-being.

This is why we teach, meditate and sing in our services.  Through truth talks, we plant new, positive thoughts in the mind … through meditation, we allow the space for these new ideas to be integrated … through stories and songs, we open our hearts to positive emotions, like empathy, praise, hope and joy.  When positive thoughts and feelings are congruent and integrated in this way, we know we can do anything!  That’s why we leave here on Sunday feeling so good.

But then there are the times when our thoughts say one thing and our feelings another. Like, “Yes, I know prayer heals, but it’s really no use.  I’m never going to get well.”  Thought going in one direction … emotion going another.  Inner conflict.

There is a wonderful old story about a young Native American man named Thunder Heart, who lived in Arizona in a community dedicated to non-violence.  If you visited this community you would feel this commitment.  You would experience it as you patronized a retail store, or watched the children play, or asked someone for directions.  In this community, there was established a Council of Elders where two people who were involved in a dispute could come, sit down in the circle, lay their concerns on the table and talk them out with the help of the elders.  Thunder Heart deeply believed in the values of his community.  In fact, he was clearly headed for a position of leadership.  He was a beautiful, strong, athletic, articulate young man.

But Thunder Heart was troubled.  Seems he carried in his heart a hard core of rage.  This rage would sometimes explode into violence, especially when he witnessed some sort of injustice.  One day, after a terrible incident in which he had gotten into a fist fight with another brave, Thunder Heart went to see a tribal elder.

I don’t know what to do about this, he confessed.  I so believe in the principles of this community, but sometimes I am overcome by my rage.  It’s like there are two dogs inside me fighting for control of me.  Can you tell me, wise one, which dog will win? It’s quite simple, the elder said … the dog that wins in the dog you feed.

The human mind, with its thoughts and feelings, is the mightiest and most wondrous of all creations.  When fed truth and beauty … love and respect … we are unlimited in our ability to change our world for the better.

Now a word to the wise … don’t feel you have to invest a lot of time and energy figuring out what specific thoughts and feelings caused specific circumstances in your life.  If you are lost and stop at a gas station for directions, you don’t have to know how you got to the gas station.  All you have to know is how to get from where you are to where you want to go.  Know that you are creating your tomorrow with the thoughts and emotions of today and proceed from the present.

One final thought.  This is, of course, Memorial Day weekend.  It is a time of remembering those we have lost … especially those who have given their lives protecting our way of life.  What better way to honor their sacrifice than to create peace in our lives.   The Law of Mind Action tells us that we can create peace … we can think peace, meditate on peace, establish peace in our hearts, speak words of peace, and help create peaceful families and neighborhoods.

It is sad to think that we have allowed the terrible ravages of war without learning anything.  War can be useful as contrast.  Its horrors demonstrate, in no uncertain terms, the inestimable value of peace.  May we in this church use the power of our Minds to Be Peace and may our consciousness of peace spread throughout Greensboro, North Carolina, the United States and around the world … so that these millions of precious young men and women will not have died in vain.

 

New Wineskins 5-15-11

 

Karen was only fourteen when her mother died.  Less than a year later her father met and married Jean.  Right from the start, the stepmother-stepdaughter relationship was a disaster.  As hard as Jean tried, her efforts were fruitless.  Karen was overtly hostile to her stepmother and took every opportunity to sabotage the marriage.  She belittled Jean at home and in public.  She screamed at her for inconsequential matters.  She “accidentally” broke some of Jean’s most treasured possessions.  No matter how Jean tried to make things better, they only got worse.  In one year’s time, Karen’s behavior was so bad that Jean was ready to leave the marriage.

At the end of her rope, Jean sought spiritual counseling.  She was told the obvious:  she was powerless over Karen and would have to surrender the situation to God.  For some reason these words impressed her.  On an intuitive level, she knew they were true and so, she was able to completely let go of the situation.  At that moment of surrender, she experienced “a transcendent happiness.”  These were her words.

After I made the decision to let go, I immediately felt such a tremendous release.  I had finally surrendered the problem that was consuming my whole life, and I felt a transcendent happiness.  I didn’t know what was going to happen with Karen or Bob or this whole mess.  All I knew was that I was going to be okay.

 

Karen came home a few hours later and must have been puzzled by how happy I was.  But it didn’t stop her from starting in right where we had left off that morning.  She yelled and cursed me for going into her bedroom to get her sheets.  She was enraged.  But for the first time, I was able to see the hurt little girl in her.  She reminded me of a wounded animal.  Her world had fallen apart.  Her mother had died just a few years before, and, long before she was recovered from her grief, she had been forced to share her daddy with someone else.  For the first time, I really thought about and understood her pain.

 

Suddenly I felt such love for Karen … I longed to hold her in my arms.  So I reached out and hugged her.  She stiffened up but it didn’t matter.  I wouldn’t let go of her.  She began sobbing quietly, trying not to let me see, but then the dam broke.  She grabbed onto me and cried and cried and cried.  We both did.  When she stopped, we sat and talked for five solid hours.  We even missed dinner.  When Bob came home, we stopped only long enough to send him out to eat.

 

Now Karen and I are becoming closer and closer.  Oh, we still have our moments, but there is an underlying love and respect … and none of the terrible bitterness and resentment that was there before.  We’re not quite mother and daughter, but we’re way more than just friends.  Something really wonderful is taking shape between us.  In my wildest dreams, I never could have imagined we would be where we are today.

 

What I love the most about this story from The Quest is how real it is.  Why do you suppose it is that no matter how often we realize it’s fruitlessness, we still work so hard at trying to change situations and people.  This is the illusion of control — that if we just try harder … do or say just the right thing – we will be able to make things work out.  Even when our motivations are completely benevolent, it is still controlling.  And controlling does not work in the long run.

We’ve all been on diets … or tried to quit smoking.  And who hasn’t started out the New Year with a resolution to exercise more?  And how often do we fail after only a short time?  The resolution is a good one … we really do want to do the right thing – but willpower alone will never bring about a permanent change.  If we truly desire the change, we will begin spending time with people and in places that support that change.  They can help us change … and when we change, the things we do will change on their own.

When I notice that someone has quit smoking or lost weight … when I see a relationship get better, I might ask people what made the difference.  If they say something like:  Nicorette gum … that’s what did the trick … or I am on this new diet … or we found this great marriage counselor, I’m not very hopeful that the change will last.  Because as long as we EITHER blame the problem OR give credit for the solution to someone or something outside ourselves, we’re on shaky ground.  It says we still think the problem is the problem.

Imagine this … imagine that the issues or situations that come into your life are the way the Universe communicates its love for you.  Sound weird?  It will until we really understand Unity’s first principle – there is only one presence and one power in the Universe, God, Absolute Good.  Integrating this great principle is the inner knowing that we are always getting exactly what we need. So is everyone you love.

See, it’s a matter of natural law – everything in nature must either grow or die.  The Universe wants only that we grow and thus … live and thrive.  Absolute Good – Divine Order – The Universe is not going to let us “kill off” the problem until we “see it right” – until we see that the problem is not something to get rid of – but something to listen into.  Here’s something I’d love for us all to remember:   We can trust our problems to paint us a perfect picture of what in our consciousness is longing to grow.

I’ll bet the last thing Jean thought when struggling with Karen was that Karen had come as a blessing – a messenger pointing her toward a greater experience of life.

What was the turning point in this story?  Most would say it was when Jean made the decision to turn the problem over to God.  I say it came before that … I believe it was the moment she reached the “end of her rope” and decided to seek spiritual counseling.  The end of our rope is a pivotal place. If we still think the problem is the outer condition, we’ll do something to change it.  This is the bandaid path.  BUT, if we listen to the part of us that sincerely wants to understand the root cause of the problem, we seek spiritual support.  This is the path of transformation.

Any counselor worth his salt, does not allow the client to go on and on about what the “other” person did or how the other person needs to change.  A good counselor listens to the story, not to understand the details of the crisis, but to understand the character and heart of the person telling it.  A good counselor is a growth coach, so he or she is looking for their client’s growth path.

When people treat us badly, it’s human nature to be insulted, angry, resentful.  When they threaten something or someone we hold dear, it natural to feel outraged and do everything we can to fight back.  Just ask your friends  — they’ll tell you — you had every right to feel or do or say what you did.

And when a loved one is suffering and comes to you for help, it’s also human nature to want to do everything you can to make her feel better, and, if at all possible, help solve the problem?  It’s what any good person would do.

These are both reasonable, and very human, ways to respond.  So, why don’t they work?  Why couldn’t Jean win Karen over?  Because, as Einstein told us, “we will never solve the problem at the level of the problem”.  The first principle takes this idea a step further.  It tells us the problem is not the problem.  It is only an indicator of the problem.  If the gas gauge in your car is registering empty, the answer is not to disconnect the gas gauge is it?  Well, you can try this but …..

You see, we’re not simply human beings … we’re spiritual beings having a human experience.  I know – you’ve heard that before.  So why do we insist on taking our problems literally?  Why do we continually struggle to fix the symptoms of spiritual dis-ease rather than the spiritual dis-ease itself?

When Jean turned to spiritual counseling, she followed the call of her soul.  Either consciously or unconsciously, she did two very important things:  acknowledge that what was occurring was a spiritual problem and acknowledge that it had come to show her where her soul was longing to grow.

If we’re not awake, we can miss magical moments like these.  Moments when we give up the struggle and shift into a higher gear.  You know these turning points –  when you quit licking your wounds – quit fighting and blaming and get still.  When you stop obsessing and turn to prayer … when your heart opens and you wonder what the other is feeling … when you stop feeling sorry for yourself and ask the magic question, “what if nothing is wrong here?”  “What if this person or situation is not against me, but FOR me in some way?  In THIS moment, we turn toward the light … into alignment with God-Power.  The Christ within is speaking.

Enormous power flows from our Christ nature.  When we are trying to defend ourselves or handle a problem from our “very natural” human selves, it’s like going into the ring with one arm tied behind us and our legs bound together.  When we surrender control, and lean into our oneness with God, the battle is instantly won.  The problem, i.e., the symptoms, abate – not because God took them away – not because we won the fight – but because the messenger is no longer needed.  We have gotten the message.

Surrender is not quitting … it is not giving up … it does not mean letting the other person win.  Spiritual surrender may be the most important thing we ever learn.  Because until we can stop trying to control outcomes … admit we really don’t know what we’re doing … get our ego out of the way and allow the immense power of a benevolent Universe to flow through us, we will never be happy.  We will have to fight the same battle over and over and over again until we change the way we see it and the way we respond to it.

We are one with the power of the Universe.  I know you’ve heard this often … but do you feel it in your gut?  And can you imagine that every problem in your life has come as an opportunity to trust this power and surrender to it?  Whether we decide to tackle the problem head on or simply pray about it, peace, healing and happiness are hallmarks of a surrendered spirit.

For example, have you ever realized that the secret to a great relationship is doing less and being more.  It’s not about making the other person happy; it’s about being happy yourself.  It’s not about doing everything you can to maintain peace; it’s about being a compassionate, peaceful presence.  It’s not about making the relationship last; it’s about learning to BE an authentic expression of your Christ Self.  This is the task, whether we’re with the same person for 50 years or 5 different people over that same 50 years.  This is the task whether the relationship is lover, friend, parent, co-worker, leader or follower.

No … surrender is not giving up … it’s giving way.  Remember in our offering dedication where we say … joyfully give way to the flow of life, substance and intelligence within us….  This is an incredibly powerful statement.  There’s a huge difference between giving up and giving way.

From the gospel of Matthew, Chapter 9:

And no one puts a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, for the patch tears away from the garment and a worse tear is made.  Neither is new wine put into old wineskins; if it is, the skins burst, and the wine is spilled, and the skins are destroyed.  But when new wine is put into fresh wineskins, both are preserved.

The consciousness of one who joyfully gives way to the flow … IS a new wineskin.  It’s easy to tell when we’ve put on that wineskin … we are happy … we are at peace …we feel connected to others and supported by the Universe.

Haven’t we all been in Jean’s shoes?  People do unkind or unskilled things and our first reaction is to take it personally … be angry … argue … defend our position.  This can go on for a long time.  A woman recently told me she has been in a stalemate with a “friend” for nearly 10 years.  Made me tired just hearing about it.

Jean’s story is no exaggeration.  The MINUTE we:

1)  stop obsessing about our hurt feelings

2)  soften our hearts

3)  stop working so hard to fix things, and

4)  open to the spiritual message the issue has come to deliver

we Instantly become happy again.  The issue itself may still there … I still may not know what to do about it.  But, since the problem was never the problem to begin with, healing has occurred.  The “problem” no longer has control of my spirit.  My energy is restored; compassion has returned; gratitude fills my heart.  I walk in grace.

And here’s the other amazing thing … when we walk in grace, the other person and the situation have room to shift.  They are washed in our healing energy … they have air and freedom and safety.  They have nothing to push against or fight with.  Flow is restored for them too.

Not long ago another woman … we’ll call her Helen … came for counseling.  She had made up her mind to leave her husband Steve.  She told me she could not stand him anymore and she was moving into her own apartment.  Some weeks later, I saw her again and asked how she was doing … how she liked her apartment.

You know, she said, it’s really strange.  It seems that the moment I said out loud that I was giving up fighting with Steve, that I was willing to move out rather than continue the same old pattern, everything seemed to change.  Steve’s pretty much the same, but I am no longer so disturbed by the things he does.  In fact, I seem to understand why he does them.  I know I can move out if I want to … I’m no longer afraid to … but it just seems unnecessary now.  We’re getting along so much better.

Transformation has occurred … and surrender was the catalyst.  Helen, like Jean, had reached the end of her rope – the signal that things are about to change.  She decided to stop fighting even if it meant moving out.  Aligned with her Christ power, she knew she would be okay.  She had returned to her Self.  She no longer felt compelled to leave, but she was not afraid of leaving either. Helen had been transformed. Funny, Steve seems a lot happier these days too.

How do we know we’ve been transformed?  When we see ourselves respond differently … not because we’ve made greater effort … but naturally and effortlessly.  Happiness and peace are more consistent – not so dependent on outer things.  It’s easier to allow other people to be themselves because they are no longer seen as our source, either of pain or well-being.  Sweet, sweet freedom is ours.

So just to put the icing on the cake, won’t you join me in today’s affirmation:

Today, I embrace a new way of seeing my problems.  I now realize that as long as I am focused on trying to change circumstances or other people, I will not be happy. I accept with compassion that my life is a perfect match for my consciousness.  I am attracting the very situations and people who can awaken me and cause me to reach for a higher level of BEING.   Divine Spirit, give me a heart so full of compassion that I can accept responsibility for my life without blame or shame.  Give me a soul of courage so that I can let go of the old me and allow the new me to emerge.  Today, I surrender to the upward, forward movement of spirit within me.  I am willing to be changed at depth.

 

The Resurrected Life, Easter, 4-24-11

Sometimes we human beings make things so complicated, and Mrs. Green, Presbyterian Sunday School teacher of 4-year-olds, was no exception.  All throughout Lent, she had been working very hard trying to get her students to understand the meaning of Easter.  On Easter Sunday morning, she asked her class if anyone knew what Jesus’ said to the angels when he first stepped out from the tomb.  Little Jennie immediately started waving her hand in the air, “I know, I know”, she called out.  “Okay Jennie”, said a hopeful Mrs. Green, “what were Jesus’ first words?”  Jennie leapt joyously from her seat and with a huge grin, said, “TA –DA”!

 

The Scriptures often seem somber don’t they?  I like Jennie’s Easter story better.  I think it captures the spirit of resurrection perfectly.  And you know what … Easter is not only a remembrance of Jesus’ resurrection; it is a celebration of our own.  Today is a day to know … beyond the shadow of a doubt … that our lives up to this point are over.  No matter what has happened … no matter what we’ve done, it’s gone … leaving behind only the good … the learning … the growth.  This is a brand new day.  We are back from the grave of the past, and ready to start a whole new life.

So, everyone please stand.  Perhaps life has gotten you down lately … maybe you’ve had some pretty big challenges to deal with … maybe you’ve been distracted … you head not completely in the game.  But now it’s Easter morning and you’re back – all the way back.  It’s the first day of the rest of your life.  What do you have to say to the world this morning?  Together …

TA – DA.  OK, that was a little weak.  Let’s try again.  What do you have to say to the world today?  TA – DA.  Right!  Here we are world.  Get ready!  We are no longer seekers.  We have found what we were looking for.  We are no longer broken souls in need of salvation.  We are glowing with life.  We’re not waiting for anything anymore.  BECAUSE … everything we could ever want is HERE NOW.   THIS IS IT!!!  So, let’s party!

But wait, wait you say, I still don’t have everything I want.  My job is not perfect … my marriage is not perfect … my kids are not perfect … my health is not perfect … my bank account is really not perfect.  I AM NOT PERFECT!

YES YOU ARE.  IT ALL IS.  Everything is perfect in your life.

You know why?  Because it’s YOUR life … designed to the exact specifications you have called out.  It is not anyone else’s life, so don’t bother comparing.  Like absolutely everything else in God’s world, we are all built for growth.  And grow we will … until the day we leave our bodies behind.  The circumstances of your life and mine are soil and fertilizer … in just the right proportions to make us bloom into brilliant, colorful expressions of … you got it … OURSELVES.  By the way … you do realize that the best fertilizers have … shall we say … a rich and pungent odor.  Yeh, some of the stuff in our lives kinda stinks too, but it sure gets the job done!

But … AND … today is a day to pause … to see what’s right in your world  … what’s beautiful about you.  All that fertilizer has certainly grown something wonderful.  Why did Jenny think Jesus would say “ta – da”?  Because kids don’t complicate things so much.  There was a big job to do and it was done really well.  Congratulations Jesus … you deserve a hand.

As for the people who meant to harm him … they thought he was out of the picture for good.  Surprise!  TA – DA!   He was alive … not just alive, but  transformed … into a being of light.  And his legacy would change the world.

Well, you know what … you’ve done a great job too.  You’ve learned a lot and grown a lot!  You’ve learned to love well, and you’ve taken really good care of your loved ones.  You’ve accomplished a lot … contributed a lot … served where you could.  You’re a shining star … filled with light.

And you too, have been creating a lasting legacy.  All the people you’ve loved … or helped … or taught – they are like ripples in a pond … continually taking your touch outward.  One touching one, touching another and another.  You have no idea what an influence you have had on the world.

So, let’s take the day today to savor our lives so far.  Some things haven’t been easy, it’s true … but everything HAS been in perfect order.  Only looking back can we see how every single thing fits like colorful thread in a beautiful tapestry.  Nothing about your story or mine needs to be rewritten … just rightly understood.  Each conversation has been like a grain of sand … thousands of grains of sand mixed together have formed relationships which, like sturdy bricks, have been building your house … your life … moment by moment.

So, how will you celebrate?  What would you most love to do with the rest of this beautiful day?   Wherever you spend it … I hope you will take a little time to recall some of your stories of triumph and victory.  Stories of … challenges met … fears overcome … people loved … risks taken … service rendered … betrayals forgiven … wounds and illnesses healed … creative solutions found.   Recall your kindness to strangers, patience with children, hospitable welcome and comforting touch.  Imagine how much positive energy has gone out into the world from all the hugs and kisses each one of us has given to someone.  Awesome thought isn’t it?

These things are the mosaic, the fabric of your life.  Each time something has taken you into the dark tomb, you have risen into the light … more luminous, loving and powerful than ever.  This is your resurrection day.  So what do you say?  OK, stand up.  Ready?  TA – DA!!

Well done … well done you good and faithful servants.  And guess what?  The best is yet to come because you are more today than you have ever been.  Now there’s another awesome thought!   Happy Easter everyone!

 

God’s Will and You:  Palm Sunday 4-17-11

When Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead it was the last straw.  It happened just before Passover … the Jewish people were pouring into Jerusalem, and it was the first thing they heard when they arrived.  Everyone was talking about Jesus.  Those who had personally heard him speak were boasting about it and telling everyone how practical and clear and powerful his message was.  Jesus had definitely become a celebrity.  This was getting out of hand … more than the temple high priests could stand.  They met to discuss the situation.

“What are we going to do?”, they asked each other.  “This Jesus has become way too powerful.  People are already starting to pay more attention to what he says than to what we say.  We’ve got to do something about him before the whole nation turns away from us and follows him.  If we lose control of the people, all our agreements with the Romans will be null and void and they will surely crack down on us … maybe even destroy us.”

Now Jesus and his disciples were laying low in the village of Ephraim … out in the country.  They had gotten wind of the buzz in Jerusalem and wondered if they even dared show up for Passover.  The disciples were very afraid for Jesus … they knew how threatened the Pharisees were by his power and popularity.  They urged him to stay in hiding.  But to no avail.  Knowing full well what was ahead for him, Jesus prepared to leave for Jerusalem.  The disciples were distraught … they cried and they begged … but in the end, when Jesus set out for the city, they followed him.

Now a full day before he arrived, news reached the people that Jesus was on his way.  Excitement grew to a fever pitch.  Meanwhile, on the outskirts of town, Jesus had one of the disciples bring him a young donkey, and it was upon this humble beast that he rode slowly into Jerusalem.

Hundreds of people ran out to meet him.  They lined the road waving palm branches and laying them before him, calling out:  “Praise God!  Bless the one who comes in the name of the Lord!  All hail to the King of the Jews.” The Pharisees watched sullenly from the sidelines muttering to one another, “Look, the whole world is at his feet.”

Jesus did not react to all the fanfare, and, though he was very aware that he was in grave danger, he did not show fear either.  Instead, he rode at a slow and steady pace into the center of town – in fact, straight into the temple courtyard.  And far from keeping a low profile, drew even more attention to himself by driving out the merchants and tax collectors he found doing business there.  The Pharisees seethed with anger.

The political sub-text of the story explains why the temple leaders were so concerned. It seems that two processions entered Jerusalem on that spring day. One was a peasant procession; the other an imperial procession.  From the East, Jesus rode into town cheered by the Jews.  From the West, Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor of Judea, entered Jerusalem at the head of a column of imperial cavalry and foot soldiers.  Jesus’ procession proclaimed the power of God; Pilate’s procession proclaimed the power of the empire.

You see, at Passover, Jews remember how, during their exile in Egypt, God saved them from their oppressors – oppressors who seemed far more powerful than they were.  On Passover, the Jews celebrate the fact that with God on their side, they cannot be enslaved by any human power.  This idea threatened the entire societal structure and balance of Jerusalem … which depended upon Roman control and political superiority.  And so, Pilate’s troops entered Jerusalem as a police presence – a show of force meant to remind the Jews that Roman power was insurmountable.

Across town, Jesus was making a contradictory political statement.  Riding into town on that donkey, he demonstrated by his vulnerability, that he was unafraid – in fact, unimpressed by Roman military might.  He demonstrated what he had been teaching people – that real power has nothing whatsoever to do with military strength … but comes from God through one who speaks the Truth.

Jesus was also confronting the authority of the Scribes and Pharisees.  His message was that God was everywhere present – within every person – not just in the temple.  He taught the humble people that they had direct access to God’s guidance and power.  This was not good for the temple business.

All of this tension was seething under the surface as Jesus simply rode up to the temple and sat down and began to teach.

Seems super-human doesn’t it … this calm and centered demeanor in the midst of such turmoil.  Can you imagine?  In this powerful wisdom tale, our hero Jesus is showing us what it looks like to be free.  His ego did not need the approval of the crowd.  Nor, could he be driven underground by fear of what his enemies could do to him.  Jesus’ spirit was whole …his life and his mind were centered in God. As a result, he had become uncontrollable.  And this drove the establishment crazy.

What would it be like to live this free?!  What would it be like to be influenced only by the guidance of Spirit within and NOT driven by anything or anyone in the outer world?  What would it be like to live from such a place of personal power?

I guarantee you, only the most healed around you would be able to stand it.  You would not be manipulatable … nor seducible.  Neither flattery nor coercion could make you do anything.  Your discernment would come from within.  And this would present a challenge to the traditional power structures … whether they be within your family, the organizations you belong to, or the country you live in.

For me, one of the most touching stories of the entire Holy Week saga, is when Jesus stood silent before Pilate.  Pilate was very confused by Jesus because neither torture, threats or intimidation had been able to cause him to cringe or cower or admit any wrongdoing.  He said to Jesus, “Speak up man … don’t you know I have the power to crucify you?”  To which Jesus quietly replied, “You have no power over me.”

To live in an orderly society, we sometimes allow certain authority over our behavior, like paying taxes and driving the speed limit.  But no one has power over our Spirit  … unless we give it over to them by forgetting the truth of who we are.

The Quest this week teaches us about the will of God.  Even that phrase brings up resistance in me.  The will of God got an awfully bad rap in the religion of my childhood.  The phrase itself conjures images of passivity and resignation.  I have heard well-meaning people say to the parents of a sick child, “If it’s God’s will, he will get well.”  I have heard God’s will blamed for all kinds of pain and disaster.  Some people even said that 9/11 was God’s will … punishment for our evil ways.  What nonsense!

God is absolute good and God’s Will can only be deeper love, greater wisdom, more ecstatic joy.  God’s Will is always continuous growth in spiritual power, autonomy and freedom.  The path to these incredible gifts looks different for each one of us, but of this I am certain … when we detach from the human influences around us … go within to the center of peace and faithfully listen for guidance, the choices we make will lead us in the direction of our highest good.

It’s true that sometimes life brings pain and difficulty … and it’s true that the choices we have before us do not always include control over our circumstances.  But we always do have control over how we interpret and respond to circum-stances.  Remember, in order for anything or anyone to have dominion over our Spirit, we have to turn it over to them.

Jesus had a dream.  He wanted the Jewish people, his people, to know a different God than the one of the Torah.  The God of their understanding was an all-powerful being who caused and controlled everything that occurred or didn’t occur.  It was the will of God that made them victorious in battle; it was the will of God that caused them to be defeated.  God’s will determined that one person died of his illness while another got well.  This God rewarded good deeds and punished evil-doing.

The Old Testament God required constant sacrifice and devoted homage.  All of life was about pleasing God to keep him pacified and happy.  This was done by following the letter of the Jewish law – which included instructions for everything from religious practice to what, how and when to eat, what to wear, who to marry … and yes, the 10 commandments given to Moses.

Jesus’ mission was to help people evolve in their faith … beyond the idea of a BIG GOD watching them from UP THERE with one hand on the SMITE button … beyond mere OBEDIENCE, SACRIFICE AND HOMAGE.  What Jesus taught was a cataclysmic shift of consciousness in which hierarchical forms were abolished.  Beyond the paradigm of insignificant, weak, sinful humans cowering in fear and supplication before an All-Powerful and unpredictable God, came an entirely new idea.  ONENESS.

Jesus wanted everyone to know that they were living, breathing, moving in God-Life and God-Power … that through conscious awareness of our oneness with God, it is possible to be, not just victims trying to cope with life, but co-creators of life.

Jesus came into this world with a deep passion in his heart and soul that caused him to give his all.  In the process, he shook the very foundation of the existing religious, social and cultural system.

Through simple, down-to-earth stories and by amazing demonstrations like the raising of Lazarus and that first Palm Sunday, he opened people’s minds to the possibility that, by tapping into the God power within them, they could change their lives, step out of lack and victim consciousness, and discover true joy and peace.

BUT … and here’s the co-creation part … in order to do this they had to be willing to let go of their need for the approval of other people and their need to control and manipulate other people.  They had to be willing to get quiet … go within … listen for the voice of Truth … and learn to distinguish it from the voice of fear.  And, they would need to develop the courage to follow the voice of Truth, no matter what.  Here was the formula for a well-lived life.  Not complicated, but certainly not easy.

I’ll never forget the day over 25 years ago, when I went in tears to my Unity minister, Helice Greene.  I told her that I was dreaming of becoming a Unity minister, but I knew it couldn’t be God’s will because I had a business to run and kids to raise.  Surely I couldn’t abandon these obligations.  Besides, my greatest fear in all the world was speaking in public.  Even my sisters thought I was crazy.  One told me to “bloom where I was planted” … be content with what I had.  Another told me I wasn’t the minister type … why, I wasn’t even particularly religious … whatever that meant.  My mother had reminded me, in no uncertain terms, that our family was Catholic, implying that leaving the Catholic Church was the same as leaving the family.  Helice simply listened, giving no advice at all, until I had it all out.  Then, she looked straight into my eyes and said the most life-changing thing I had ever heard.  “Cathy” she said, “the desire of your heart IS the will of God for you.”

What!  Such an incredibly profound idea … so different from what I had been taught.  I was speechless.  All I could do was go home and lay down.  My mind was reeling.  Sooo, there was no separation between God and me?  Sooo, the opinions of my family might not be right?  I could trust the longing of my heart because it was God speaking?  Wow!  WOW!

From that day, I was on track for Unity seminary.  I continued to build my business and raise my kids, AND, at the same time, take every Unity class offered.  I would complete the life I had WHILE preparing for the life to come.  In the 7 years that followed, I got my kids through school, saw them all married and accumulated Unity credits.  My youngest son walked down the aisle of a Unity church in  September of 1997.  In October, I put my application for seminary in the mail.  By then I had all prerequisite credits I needed for acceptance, AND all the money I needed to pay for school.  In June of 1998, I began my studies at Unity Village.  On ordination day, June of 2000, I looked out from the stage and saw all three of my sons, their wives and one grandbaby smiling back at me.  You know, you really can have it all!

My dream was made possible because a very wise lady told me that the desire of my heart was God’s will for me.  As each obstacle faded away … as each door opened, this became my core Truth.  Oneness with God no longer seemed like a vague and esoteric principle.  It was a here and now, practical reality.  So now, I’m passing that Truth on to you.  My dear, dear friends.  Go within … Listen … and Trust what you find there.  The desire of your heart IS God’s will for you … there’s nothing more to say.