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Thursday, August 15, 2019

The Problem with 'Evil'

After service this past Sunday at Unity Spiritual Center Denver, I was greeted by an inquisitive young man who is eager to understand more about our Unity teachings. He is Catholic and his girlfriend is a long-time New Thought adherent. Their spiritual beliefs are at odds, and they are searching for common ground. I gave him my contact information and asked him to get it touch if he, or they, want to schedule some time to get together and talk. I look forward to having that conversation.

During my lesson, I mentioned author, teacher, and candidate for the Democratic Party presidential nomination, Marianne Williamson, in reference to two articles that criticized her spiritual/religious beliefs. I cited the articles to make a point about how some people view the New Thought movement and to invite us to question and deepen our understanding and application of our teachings. You may listen to that lesson here.

Being familiar with Marianne Williamson’s recent debate performance, this young man asked me about her reference to the “dark psychic forces.” He asked if she was referring to evil. In alignment with his Catholic beliefs, he was adamant that there are two forces in the world, one for good and another for evil. Further, he expressed his dismay at the New Thought teaching that there is no evil, even though the evidence of it all around us. The recent mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton being prime examples. I said that my guess is that while she did not use that word, Williamson was referring to “evil” as he thinks of it. I again assured him that if he would like to discuss this one-to-one, I would be happy to do so.

He is not alone in his resistance to the idea that there is no “evil.” This question comes up in nearly every new member and foundations of Unity class I facilitate. It is often difficult for someone new to Unity to understand how we can witness all the pain and suffering in the world caused by human beings and still contend that there is no “evil.”

Just to be clear, Unity does not teach that there is no evil, but that there is no power for evil. Charles and Myrtle Fillmore, the cofounders of Unity, did not teach that evil does not exist, but that we, as Truth students, should deny the permanence of the appearances of evil and refuse to give those appearances any power. A primary teaching of Unity is that there is only One – One Presence, One Power, One Life, One Mind, One Source. Believing that evil is a power is tantamount to believing in duality.

Evil appears in the world, not because it has power, but because those who exact evil are not conscious of the One Power.

In her classic text, Lessons in Truth, author H. Emilie Cady says,

“There is no evil.

There is but one power in the universe, and that is God--good. God is good, and God is omnipresent. Apparent evils are not entities or things of themselves. They are simply apparent absence of the good, just as darkness is an absence of light.”

Charles Fillmore in The Revealing Word says,

“There is but one presence and one power, God omnipotent. But man has the privilege and freedom of using this power as he will. When he misuses it he brings about inharmonious conditions. These are called evil. Evil appears in the world because man is not in spiritual understanding.”

‘Evil’ is a word that we may use to name human behaviors which do not honor the sacredness of all people and of all creation, and which produce harmful and painful results. As Dr. Cady and Mr. Fillmore stated, evil appears because humans lack the awareness of the true light of spiritual understand. In my way of thinking, the true light of spiritual understanding is the conscious awareness of our Unity in God, with each other and with all creation.

When she referenced “dark psychic forces,” I don’t believe Ms. Williamson was referring to what some might call the “devil” or “Satan.” New Thought teaches that there is no entity or power other than God. In reference to this, Charles Fillmore stated, again from The Revealing Word,

The "devil" is a state of consciousness adverse to the divine good. Other names for this state of consciousness are the Adversary, carnal mind, the accuser, and the old man. There is no personal devil. God is the one omnipresent Principle of the universe, and there is no room for any principle of evil, personified or otherwise.

When “evil” appears in our world it is the effect of humanity’s unconsciousness and the actions that are born from it, not the result of an external power. The “dark psychic forces” exist within collective consciousness and are the result of humanity’s freewill choice not to recognize and realize our unity.  

Yes, there is “evil” in the world. No, there is no power for “evil.” We will only rid the world of “evil” when we awaken from the dream of separation and realize our Oneness. Then and only then will we think and act in ways that honor the sacredness of all creation. It will not come through the worldly laws, but only through adherence to the law of Love. Evil will cease to appear when we “Love the Lord our God with all our heart, and soul and mind. And, love our neighbors as ourselves” (Matthew 22:37) – love God as the purity of Love itself and share that love as it expresses in its many forms, including humans, animals, water, earth and sky.

Let us join together in the commitment to remember our unity. To envision a world living in unity. To do all within our power to bring forth that world through our thoughts, words and actions. And, to celebrate the realization of a “New Heaven and a New Earth where the former things are passed away” (Revelation 21:1).

Thursday, August 8, 2019

The "How" and the "What" of My "Why?"

In my post last week, I shared some thoughts about the importance of identifying our “why,” and encouraged us all to ponder that question for ourselves. In addition, I said that I had come to understand that my “why” is “to serve God.” Today, I am sharing that I spoke too soon. Upon further reflection, I realized that serving God is more about the “how” and “what” rather than my “why.” Additionally, I realized that while “Why?” is the fundamental question, “Who?” “What?” “When?” and “How?” are also important to ponder.

As I sat in meditation and contemplation last Friday morning in preparation for my Sunday lesson at Unity Spiritual Center Denver, it became clear to me that “serving God” is an aspect of how I will fulfill my “why,” or stated another way, how I will live my mission. With this realization, I went within and asked, “If it is not my mission to “serve God,” then what is it? What came was, “to co-create a world living unity consciousness.”

While I deeply resonated with those words, I recognized that even though my New Thought friends and family would completely understand, those not familiar with some of our common terminology might not. Because it is important to me to be able to relate to the entire world, and not just to those of “like mind,” I wanted to incorporate more commonly used words. After searching the Thesaurus, I landed on the word ‘engender’ in place of ‘co-create’ and omitted the word ‘consciousness,’ to arrive at my mission statement – “To engender a world living unity.”

I do not mean to suggest that my mission is to solely promote the ideology and Truth principles taught by the Unity movement, although that will be an aspect of my “what.” I mean that it is my mission to do all within my power and sphere of influence to encourage and support all people in knowing their unity in God, as well as with all humanity and all creation. In addition, it is my mission to support all people in living from the realization of unity as respects how we treat each other, our Mother Earth and all her inhabitants, and our environment.

Knowing God, loving God and serving God, which I have discussed in previous posts, are all aspects of “how” and “what” to best to live my “why.” I mean that they help to inform me of how I will “engender a world living unity” and what I will do to “engender a world living unity.”

We know God by surrendering our ego-dominated thinking and opening to higher knowing; by humbly letting go and letting God; by listening deeply to the voice of the Inner Knower; by using our power of faith to see the activity of God in and through all; and by trusting that all is working for our highest good, even in the times when it appears otherwise.

We love God by choosing love over fear. Loving God asks us to be self-aware and self-accountable. Individually, we are the only ones who can know if we are in fear or in love. We are the only ones who can make the decision to shift from fear to love. Loving God also requires that we are honest with ourselves. We must be willing not to deny when we are in fear, but to courageously admit it to ourselves and possibly to another, especially if we find that fulfilling that need helps in moving us back to love. Loving God also includes loving ourselves, even when we recognize that we are in fear and are acting from fear. It is not helpful to judge or condemn ourselves. When we own our fear-fueled thoughts, words or actions, and choose to love and forgive ourselves for them, we are more able to extend the same to others when they act or speak in ways that stimulate pain for us. Forgiveness is a key to loving God as ourselves and God as others. Through exercising these “how to’s,” we avail ourselves of the transforming power of love. As we are transformed, we help to heal and transform the world.

We serve God as we recognize and appreciate the unique and wondrous expression of God that we are. Each of us is here because we have something special that only we can bring to the world. It is important to us to own that, recognize when we are allowing fear to block us from giving of ourselves, and make the choice to move through it so that we can show up fully in our magnificence.

In addition, we serve God as ourselves by taking care of others and ourselves mentally, spiritually, emotionally and physically. It is vitally important that we care for ourselves. We can only extend to others the care that we extend to ourselves. As flight attendants remind us at the start of every flight, “secure your oxygen mask before attempting to assist others.” We cannot serve others when we are depleted.

We also serve God by choosing to consciously connect with the Life Energy that is living itself as all creation. We serve God by taking responsibility for the quality of the air we breathe and the water we drink; the same air and water that we share with all the Earth’s inhabitants. We serve God by recognizing that we are all one, and allowing that recognition to inform our thoughts, words and actions. We treat each other as Mother Theresa once said, as though we see the face of Christ in each one.

To engender a world living unity, I must do my best to show up fully in every moment, to be present for whoever or whatever appears before me, to boldly acknowledge and freely share my gifts and talents with the world, to care for those who are hungry, thirsty, lonely, sick, imprisoned, and without shelter, and to example loving kindness, compassion and empathy for others and myself.

All the forgoing helps to answer the questioning, “Why?” “How?” and “What?” The answers to “When?” and “Who?” are also imperative to define. There is no time like the present. Now is the time for us to begin to live in alignment with our deepest longing. Further, only we can do it. Each of us is responsible for making conscious choices in every moment to think, speak and act in alignment with our “why.” I borrow from first-century Jewish scholar, Hillel, when I say,“If not now, when? If not me, who?”

Thursday, August 1, 2019

What is your 'Why?'

I remember that as I child one of the most commonly asked questions from adults was, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” I don’t recall my specific answers, but I can imagine that as a young boy they were along the lines of, “I want to be a fireman, or a policeman, or a doctor.” Since both my favorite grandfather and father were railroad men, I’m sure at some point I said, “I want to be an engineer.” Later, as a teenager, I wanted to be a dentist.

As I reflect on all of these possibilities, it occurs to me that there was a deeper question that was seldom, if ever, asked – “Why?” “Why do you want to be a fireman, policeman, doctor, engineer or dentist?” Today I recognize that pondering the “why” has the potential to take us deeper into ourselves and provide us with a clearer direction and more inspired place from which to move forward and make choices.

When I was a child, I saw firemen and policemen as helpers. As Fred Rogers, shared with the children who watched Mister Rogers Neighborhood,

“When I was a little boy and I saw scary things on the news, my mother would always say ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping’”

Fireman and policemen were the ones who helped others. They were the ones who, to a young mind, were the heroes. I wanted to be them.

Any thought I had as a boy of being a railroad engineer was based on my admiration of my maternal grandfather. He was a hero. At least in my mind he was. He was warm, loving and attentive. I have fond memories of climbing up in the railroad engine and sitting in his lap as he sat at the controls. It was a special time for me. I wanted to be like him.

I also have vivid memories of my childhood physician, Dr. Duggan. Even though I was more than a little nervous about going to the doctor and feared having to get a shot, he always made it easier. He understood. He was kind and compassionate. Looking back and seeing him as my example, I can understand why I would have wanted to be a doctor. Of course, it didn’t hurt that doctors made a great deal of money and lived in the finest houses in town. That did not escape my notice, even as a young boy.

As a teenager, my desire to be a dentist had nothing to do with wanting to be a helper. It was solely based on the image. My high school girlfriend’s father was a dentist. They lived in a nice big house in the newest neighborhood in the area. That’s what I wanted. I wanted to be a dentist so that I could make a lot of money and have all that came along with it.

I did not become a fireman, policeman, doctor, engineer or dentist. Life lead me into the insurance business. I was a commercial insurance underwriter and broker for nearly 30 years. I was successful according to the prescribed measure of success, meaning that I built a large book of business and made a great deal of money for myself and for the company. However, I was never happy. For years, I tried to convince myself that I was helping people by insuring their financial stability in case of an unforeseen accident or loss. While that was partially true, it was ultimately not my “why.” I was in the business for the money and the image that came along with it.

I knew that my soul’s calling was to be in ministry, but if I am completely honest, which I always strive to be, I was not connected with the deeper “why” until quite recently. I shared in last week’s post My Soul Desire that I have recently become more consciously aware of what drew me to Unity and what keeps me coming back to Unity. It is my desire to know God. That is the “why” for my decision to make Unity’s positive, practical, progressive approach to Christianity my spiritual path. And, while it informed the “why” of my call to ministry, there is more.

When my “call to ministry” was confirmed to me in meditation early in my journey with Unity, I discussed it with my primary spiritual teacher at the time. I remember distinctly the advice she gave me. She said, “If you are doing it for yourself, don’t do it.” Of course, being the selfless person that I am (Ha!), I thought, “I’m not doing it for me. I’m doing it to serve God and to serve others.” Still, her words have continued to resonate in my mind for all these years.

Only recently have I realized what she meant. I have come to see that my initial “why” for entering ministry was more about doing it for me than about serving God and others. I saw ministry as a way for me to have more time for reading, writing, meditation, prayer, self-reflection, self-expression, and self-realization.

I’m not sharing this as a “confession” or as a way to judge myself or beat up on myself. I certainly do not believe that all of my actions since being in ministry have been completely selfish. I know that I have served others in ways that have been meaningful for them. I also know that I have served others in ways that I will never know. And, in doing so have I have served God. I am sharing it because it speaks to what I believe is the importance of honestly connecting with our “why.” 

In my post of June 27, Serving God, I shared about the revelation I recently received in meditation. I heard very clearly, “You are here to serve God.” That is my “why.” That is why I am in ministry. It may seem obvious that one who is a minister is to serve God, but as I shared in that post, that is not always true. People enter the ministry for many varied reasons. I am celebrating that my “why” is now clearer to me.

I am here on this planet at this time to serve God. I am here to serve God as God expresses through all people, and all creation, including myself. I just happen to be serving God in the role of a minister. It is my intention to keep my “why” at the forefront of my mind as my guiding principle. My hope is that being clearer about the “why” will help to better inform and direct my actions.

I believe that knowing our “why” is important for all of us, both individually and collectively. I encourage us all to ask ourselves, “Why am I doing what I am doing?” When we know the answer to that question, we can make better informed choices about our thoughts, words and actions. What is your “why?”

Thursday, July 25, 2019

My Soul Desire

Last month at the Unity People’s Convention, I attended a workshop entitled “Ask Me about Unity,” which was created and facilitated by Rev. Lori Boyd, Senior Minister at Unity of Columbia, Missouri. When I registered for the workshop, I thought that I would walk away with a succinct “elevator speech” that I could use anytime someone asked me about Unity. That is not what I got, but I walked away with something much more meaningful.

The workshop was so impactful for me that I could hardly wait to get home and facilitate it at Unity Spiritual Center Denver. This past Saturday, I did just that. I think some of the participants walked into the workshop thinking that they would leave with a 3 x 5 index card with a line-by-line description of what Unity is that they could use when and if someone were to ask them about Unity. I believe that what they received was much richer. I plan to facilitate it again in the near future. Stay tuned!

Rather than instructing on the history or the philosophy of Unity, the workshop invites participants to connect with our personal experience of Unity. The processes and exercises encourage us to answer the question “What is Unity?” from a deep personal connection. Accessing and sharing with another our own personal experience, rather than attempting to educate them, fosters a more meaningful connection. The workshop reminds us that every interaction is unique and that our opportunity in any situation is to be present with and for the other and ourselves.

The first question we are asked to contemplate in the workshop is “What brought you to Unity?” My initial response was the same as it has been for nearly 25 years, “Twelve Steps brought me to Unity.” However, we were then asked to go beyond our initial response to connect with something deeper. When I went deeper, my answer was “My search for a God to whom I was ‘willing to turn my will and my life over to’ brought me to Unity.” Again, we were asked to go even deeper. When I asked within, “What brought you to Unity?” It came to me. “My desire to know God brought me to Unity.”

The second in the series of workshop questions is, “What keeps you coming back.” Again, my answer was “My desire to know God keeps me coming back.” Even as I went deeper with the question, there was nothing more. It is my desire to know God that keeps me coming back over and over and over again.

It has taken me a while to discover that I cannot know God by reading the Bible, nor can I know God through any other book regardless of its author. God is not found in relationships, although they can be experiences that reflect God. God is not found in possessions, although God is not absent from them. God is not found in money, although money can be fun and useful. God is not found in drugs, alcohol, sex, shopping, or any other behavior we may use as an escape or as an empty substitute. God is not found in anything external. God can only be known within the depth of our own consciousness.

After all the reading, studying, praying, meditating, and seeking, I have finally come to realize that God is an experience that can only happen in the moment. We will never know God by seeking God. We will only know God by being present to God now. In every person. In every leaf. In every blade of grass. In every sunrise and sunset. In every exchange we have with another. In every breath. In every heartbeat. The presence of God is all around us when we open our eyes to see it, our hearts to feel it and our minds to embrace it.

My soul desire and my sole desire is to know God. I believe that is true for each of us, even if we are not conscious of it. I encourage us all to make it conscious and to keep that desire foremost in our hearts and minds. When we do, we will know in every moment whether we are allowing that desire to inspire us, or if we are allowing something else to direct our thoughts, words and actions. When we surrender to the desire to know God and allow that desire to unfold in us, as us, we will fulfill all that we are here to be and to do.

Thursday, July 18, 2019

The Problem with 'God' - Part 2

At the beginning of summer, we at Unity Spiritual Center Denver began a new practice of having our children come into the sanctuary at the beginning of the service, rather than going directly to their classes as was our prior practice. Following our community greeting song, we invite them to come up onto the platform where we share a blessing. We bless them, and they bless us.

This past Sunday, we added another element. One child, selected prior to the service, is invited to ask me a question. The question this week was, “If God is perfect, and I am an expression of God, then why am I not perfect?” WOW! That could be an entire workshop or class. I did my best to offer my perspective, but given the limited time, I’m sure I did not do it justice. I am sure of this because when I asked if my answer was helpful, the one who asked the question said, “sort of.” I assured him that I would be available to discuss it with him one-to-one at some point if he liked.

After service, as I was walking around speaking to people, I greeted him, his mother and brothers. I took the opportunity to ask him what prompted his question. I thought that knowing why he asked the question might give me a better perspective from which to answer such a thought-provoking question. We talked for a few minutes, but with all the other activity going on around us, it was not the best setting to have the conversation.

When I spoke with his mother, I told her that I believe that our association with ‘God’ forms the foundation for this and similar questions, such as “If God is good, and all is God, then why do bad things happen?” Additionally, I shared that any perspective I could offer in answer to her son’s question would be predicated on exploring in greater depth what he believes about ‘God.’ She agreed and said that she finds it is difficult to find a way to teach children about ‘God’ when the image of God as a man with a white beard sitting up in heaven is the concept which is accepted by many religious traditions and which continues to be promulgated in our culture.

Therein lies the problem with ‘God.’ It is not only difficult to help children learn about God; it is challenging to find ways to talk about God that speak to adults, especially those of us who have been steeped in traditional religion and who are faced with deconstructing a false image of ‘God.’ Nevertheless, deconstructing our conditioned ideas of God is necessary if we are to have a real experience of God. As Byron Katie, the founder of The Work®, says, “You must let go of ‘God’ in order to find God.” Truly knowing God requires us to question what we believe about God and be open to the experience of God everywhere present.

Although I have not been able to find a credible citation for it, I have heard more than one Unity teacher say that Unity cofounder Charles Fillmore said that he wished there was a different word we could use in place of ‘God’ because that word is so charged with misunderstanding and misconception due to millennia of ill-informed use. I concur. I wish there was a word that we could use that would capture the experience of the deep conscious connection with, in, and as the Life/Love/Light from which all arises - in which all has life, and through which all is connected as one. In the absence of such a word, I will continue to use ‘God’ but will qualify it.

After further pondering the question, “If God is perfect, and I am an expression of God, why am I not perfect?” I will share some of my thoughts.

The first entry in the definition of ‘perfect’ in the Merriam-Webster dictionary is, “being entirely without fault or defect, satisfying all requirements, corresponding to an ideal standard or abstract concept.” This is how we most often think of ‘perfect.’ When we think that God is perfect, this is the concept of perfection that comes to mind. And, we think that this is the definition of ‘perfect’ that we must achieve. We tell ourselves that we are to be without fault or defect; that we should be able to do everything and know everything; and, that we must meet someone else’s standard of perfection – appearance, behavior and accomplishment.

There is not one of us who can or will ever realize what it means to be “perfect” by that definition. Further, when we believe in a God that holds us to those standards and judges when we do not achieve them, we will continually believe ourselves to be separate and unworthy. Additionally, we will hold others to those standards of perfection and see them as separate and unworthy when we judge that they are not being “perfect.”

The third entry in the definition in the Merriam-Webster is, “pure, total, lacking in no essential detail.” I would add to that, “whole and complete.” When we think of the perfection of God as the wholeness of all creation, the totality of all that is, including everything and everyone, lacking nothing, yet not complete without everything and everyone, we can better understand what we mean when we say that God is perfect. God is the All, in all, through all, as all. God as Light/Life/Love is the eternal process of expansion and evolution active in the universe. God is not static. There is no ultimate perfect state or behavior that we must achieve. God is complete as all that is.

As expressions of the Allness of God, each of us is uniquely whole and complete as we are. Each of us is perfectly expressing the wholeness that we are in every moment. Our wholeness includes our joys and sorrows; our pleasure and pain; our love and fear; our hopes and dreams; our doubt and faith; our mind and body; and everything else that makes us who we are. Each of us is perfect right where we are. We lack nothing. We only believe we lack when we compare ourselves to others or to an arbitrary standard of appearance, behavior, or accomplishment.

Claiming our perfection does not mean that we do not strive to grow in our understanding of ourselves and our relationship to others and the world around us. As we grow in consciousness of our unity, our thoughts, words and actions will change. However, the change that we wish to encourage is not born from judgement of self and others, but of love for self and others just as we are, right where we are. 

Claiming our perfection is recognizing that we are the wholeness of God, as is everyone and everything else. Embodying our perfection is realizing our connection with all creation as we open to experience our wholeness. Living our perfection is thinking, speaking and acting in ways that reveal our conscious connection with the perfection of all that is.

‘God’ is perfect – whole and complete. You are perfect – whole and complete. Claim it!

Thursday, July 11, 2019

The Problem with 'God'

I admit it – I have a problem with ‘God.’ I mean I have a problem with the word ‘God.’ This presents a bit of a dilemma when considering that I recently received the very clear message that I am here to serve God.

Even though I have been studying New Thought philosophy and Truth principles for nearly 25 years, I am still at times uncomfortable using the word. It simulates my embedded theology, which are the associations I have about ‘God’ from my years in traditional Christianity. When I hear the word ‘God,’ it immediately evokes concepts of duality, there is God and there is me. Even though I know that as Jesus said, [God] and I are one, there is something in me that does not quite own that.

When I think that I am here to serve God, I still get images of an external power that exerts control over me. While it is no longer my intellectualized understanding of ‘God,’ my mind conjures images of a being who blesses or curses according to “his” evaluation of good or bad behavior. Everything within me resists serving a willful, capricious deity.

I have thought of rewording my recent revelation. I considered changing “I am here to serve God” to “I am here to serve Creation,” or “I am here to serve Wholeness.” I tried them out, but neither resonates with me. I don’t know why I try! I have learned by experience over the years that it does not pay to mess with a message received from the Inner Knower, as I like to call it.

I find that I am left with the option of either no longer using the word ‘God,’ which doesn’t appear to be a viable option for me, or reconcile my past associations with ‘God’ with my current understanding and experience of ‘God’ as the Light/Life/Love from which all arises, in which all lives, and through which all is interconnected as one.

I am currently immersed in Philip Shepherd’s book Radical Wholeness. In the book, he explores the interconnectedness of all life and our ability to enter into conscious relationship with it by deeply connecting in our bodies. While he expounds on the ills that we have created in our lives - and lives of the planet and all its inhabitants - by being disconnected, he also offers a vision of a world that embodies wholeness. It is a vision of a world in which we recognize that we are part of the whole, and as such we make choices for the good of all, not just in our own self-interest or in the interest of power. In short, Shepherd presents a vision of a world which embodies love.

Shepherd does not use the word ‘God’ to denote this love, or the interconnectedness he refers to as ‘wholeness.’ Instead, he uses phrases, such as “web of life” or “unified field” or “universal intelligence.” Nevertheless, in the ways that he describes his concept of “wholeness,” he has provided me with a deeper understanding of and connection to some of the concepts that we in New Thought associate with our ideas about ‘God.’ For this and many other reasons, I highly recommend this book. I believe that what Shepherd offers in Radical Wholeness has the potential to be life-altering, for us individually, collectively as humanity and for all creation.

Here are some of the ways Shepherd describes “wholeness.” See if you do not see the correlation to how we in New Thought talk about God.
  • Wholeness is unity. There is one, not two.
  • Wholeness is coherent. It is without division. The harmony of the whole renders it coherent.
  • The whole is implicit within each of its parts. Think of the ocean and wave analogy.
  • The parts have no existence independent of the whole.
  • Wholeness has no boundaries. Think of the description of God as a sphere whose center is everywhere and whose circumference is nowhere.
  • The whole expends no effort. Think of the New Thought axiom that God has no volition.
  • The whole abides in the Present. God is Omnipresence.
  • The whole cannot be known. Objective knowledge cannot contain it or define it. The mind cannot grasps its magnitude.
  • The whole can be felt. 
Shepherd outlines many other descriptors of wholeness, all of which could translate perfectly to describe what I believe about and experience of ‘God.’

My intention is to do my best to move through the embedded theology as it arises when I hear or use the word ‘God’ and relate instead to the concepts that Shepherd outlines in his book. Rather than attempting to get rid of the outdated mental images of ‘God’ and create a replacement image, I prefer to breathe into my body, feel the sensations that connect me with the whole, and experience ‘God’ first-hand. In doing that, I believe I am serving God.

I could rewrite my revelation to say something like, “I am here to serve the coherent, boundless, effortless unity which is implicit in all creation yet cannot be understood or named, but can be felt.” But, that would be too cumbersome. I’m sticking with “I am here to serve God.”

Thursday, July 4, 2019

Enjoy the Journey!

In my post last week, Serving God, I shared some thoughts about my recent meditation experience in which I received a very clear message – You are here to serve God – and what I have discerned about what that means. I am certainly not claiming to have a clearly defined path that will direct me in that way. I trust that it will continue to reveal itself moment-by-moment as I am open to it.

Even though there is an aspect of me that would welcome the comfort and assurance that might come from having a map to follow, I trust that serving God is a step-by-step process. It happens one thought, word, action and choice at a time.

As I write this I am reminded of an experience I had many years ago when a group from my spiritual community at The Center for Life Enrichment in Dallas spent some time at the Bodhi Manda Zen Center in Jemez Sprigs, NM. The center’s property borders the Jemez River. During one of our leisure times, a group of us decided to take a walk upstream in the river to a small waterfall. The river flows gently there and is no more than waist-deep in most areas, so it was not a dangerous undertaking.

Upon entering the river, I quickly discovered that even though it was not deep, it was at times impossible to see the rocky riverbed. The first few steps resulted in falls either due to losing my footing on the rocks or stepping into a hole. It became clear that navigating this trek up the river would require patience and perseverance.

I learned to take each step deliberately. This did not prevent me from falling into the water a few more times, but each time I got up, took time to regain my balance and secure my footing before taking the next step. It turned out to be a fun adventure. We made it to the waterfall and enjoyed playing in and under it.

Life is like that walk in the river. Each step offers us opportunities to move forward into the unknown as we traverse this path. Even though we may experience a fall or two (or more), we can choose to get back up, regain our balance, find our center, and take the next step. We may not be able to see where the next step will take us, but we can trust that we will be supported with every step we take. And, we can choose to enjoy the journey.

As author and mythologist Joseph Campbell said,

“If you can see your path laid out in front of you step by step, you know it’s not your path. Your own path you make with every step you take. That’s why it’s your path.”

This is how I am choosing to approach the unfolding of the revelation that I am here to serve God. I am taking it one step at a time (actually, one breath at a time). There is no prescribed path. No one has a map. Even if they did it would be futile to attempt to follow it.

I encourage us all to approach life as a fun adventure. Take time every day to consciously connect with the God of our being through contemplation, prayer and meditation. Surrender to the leading of the inner Knower. Trust the still, small voice within that is constantly and consistently guiding us to the unfolding of our highest and best, even when it may not appear so. Practice nonresistance and allow everything to be just as it is, knowing that God is in it all. Rest in the assurance that we don’t have to work so hard. As the master Jesus said, “It is not I, but the [Light/Life/Love] within that is doing the work” (John 14:10).

We simply get to follow along in joyous anticipation of what the next step will bring. Enjoy the journey!