Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Practicing the Oneness Principle

Unity offers some very powerful teachings related to healing and wholeness, realization and demonstration, and prosperity, as well as other aspects of life. For many of us, once we discover Unity, we read books, go to classes and workshops, and attend Sunday services in order to learn the principles.

Unfortunately, it often stops there. We learn the principles, continue to sign up for the next great class or workshop, but often our lives change very little or not at all. When it doesn’t seem to be working in our lives, we may begin to question the validity of what we are learning. We may question, “If all of this is true, why do I not have enough money; why am I still single; why have I not manifested the perfect job?”  

If we are not living the prosperous life we desire, it is not because the principles we are learning are not true. It may be that we are not practicing the principles that we are learning, or that our practice needs to evolve to embrace a deeper level of understanding and embodiment. I have found this to be true for me. I share more about that below.

Unity’s fifth basic principle states, “Knowing and understanding the laws of life, also called Truth, are not enough. A person must also live the truth that he or she knows.”  We live the Truth by practicing the Truth in our daily lives. Our lives are not going to be transformed simply by a mental understanding of the Truth. In order to transform our lives and live our dreams, we must be willing to put into practice what we know.

As the famous joke goes, “How do you get to Carnegie Hall?  Practice, Practice, Practice.” For most of us, anything that we have learned to do and do well has taken practice. And, with enough practice, these skills become as second nature to us. We were not born knowing how to tie our shoelaces, but after someone teaches us how and we practice for a time, we no longer stop to think about it: we simply tie them. The same applies to learning the basics of mathematics. We learn addition, subtraction and multiplication, which may seem foreign at first, but with practice, the basic principles of mathematics become a part of our consciousness, and we use them without having to think much about it.

Oneness is one of Unity’s primary principles. We teach that there is One Power/Presence which we often refer to as ‘God.’ Additionally, we teach that God is our essential nature. We are the pure potential and possibility of all that we understand God to be and our purpose in this realm of existence is to embody and express that “Allness” to the best of our ability at any given moment. Unity cofounder Charles Fillmore said,

“It is your mission to express all that you can imagine God to be. Let this be your standard of achievement; never lower it, nor allow yourself to be belittled by the cry of sacrilege. You can attain to everything that you can imagine. If you imagine that it is possible to God, it is also possible to you. Whatever possibility your mind conceives, that is for you to attain. This is the law; let none belittle himself or dwarf the Supreme by trying to annul it.”

I have recently realized that while I have been a student of Unity and other New Thought philosophy for more than 20 years, I am still evolving in my ability to truly understand the depth of this Truth. Even though I have embraced the concept of Oneness, my Unity in God, I have not completely practiced it; in part because I have not truly grasped its deeper meaning. Even in my daily practice, I was holding myself apart, but recently I have gained a deeper understanding of Oneness. I am revisiting the ways I have “practiced” it and am opening to the awareness of how I can further deepen my practice. My contemplative question has been, “How do I practice the principle of Oneness?”

As I meditated on the question this morning, the following answer came.

You must first remove your attention from the world of effect and focus solely on First Cause (God). Know your Unity in God and realize that all you perceive in the phantasmal world is an effect of your consciousness. Turn your attention from the outer to the inner and reflect upon God. Contemplate the nature of God as Peace, Love, Joy, Harmony, Order, Unity, Beauty, and all the concepts/attributes you most often associate with God. Further, focus your attention there and merge your awareness of self with those attributes. You may need to penetrate layers of self-conception that seem to refute your Oneness, but persist until you sense that there is no secondary cause, not even that which you have previously considered to be your mind, your thoughts or your perceptions. Join in awareness with the One Mind, free from attachment to the world of form. And, from there invoke your power of Imagination to envision a world that embodies all of the Divine Nature of God as the Divine Nature of you. Activate your Love center in your heart space and begin to harmonize all in alignment to Love as you attract all that is in vibrational resonance with your newly awakened Unity consciousness. Using your Faith faculty, see beyond the evidence of what is, that which is currently manifested, to perceive what is possible as you align your vision to see as God sees as you. In conscious awareness of Unity or Oneness, know that all you could ever desire is realized first as you know your Unity in God. All that you could ever desire is here and now present as Consciousness. Know, too, that you are endowed with faculties, twelve of which Charles Fillmore discerned as The Twelve Powers of Man. These powers or faculties, which include Imagination, Love and Faith, when activated, strengthened and embodied are your innate abilities that empower you to bring into manifestation all that mirrors your conscious awareness of what is already fulfilled in Spirit. The consciousness of Unity in God is the ultimate definition of Prosperity Consciousness. Living from that consciousness, intentionally using your powers, brings forth demonstrations of it. First Cause/God moves through you, as you, in order to create that which embodies the attributes of Itself.

I have distilled from the above the following:

In order to know, truly KNOW God and all the ways God manifests, I must contemplate only God and let go of any idea of a self that is separate. I must invite and allow the revelation of God and myself as one who can realize the full potential of all the “God-ness” that I Am. I must release all attachment to the world of form and trust that the power, presence and substance of God is demonstrating in perfect Divine Order in accordance with my knowing of myself as that. I also must know that I can and will only demonstrate at the level at which I know myself in Oneness. I know, too, that I will only demonstrate “God-ness” in my life as I am able to activate, strengthen and embody the Divine faculties innate in my humanity. This is how important it is for me to know that I am the Source in expression, my Oneness in God. My experience of wholeness, prosperity and all that I desire depends upon it. Practicing this principle from the perspective of the deeper awareness that I am currently enjoying will bring forth demonstrations in my life of wholeness, prosperity, love, peace and joy that I know God to be. I am sure of it. It is a knowing I have for you as well.

I hope you will join me in my recommitment to revisiting our Unity principles. My desire is that we come together to invite a deeper understanding of them so that we not only have intellectual knowledge of them, but also embody them in daily living. My prayer is that these principles come alive for us in ways that we have yet to imagine.

Join on Sunday at 10:00 as we explore together what it means to practice the Oneness principle of Unity and truly know that we are God expressing here and now in Its pure possibility and potential. Let us discover how we can live the Truth we know, individually and collectively, in order to co-create a world that mirrors all the attributes of God, the Supreme.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Strengthen Your Prosperity Consciousness

At Unity Spiritual Center Denver, we have designated August as “Prosperity Month.” In support of this, my Sunday morning lessons are focused on the topic. In addition, we will begin offering the 4T Prosperity class on Monday, August 22. Those who participate will develop a greater understanding of prosperity and raise their prosperity consciousness. You may register for the program here. We know that, as Emmet Fox said and we continue to teach, “Life is consciousness.” Our third basic Unity principle states that we experience our lives as a reflection of our consciousness. In order for us to demonstrate prosperity we must increase our consciousness of prosperity. 

Unity cofounder, Charles Fillmore said, “True prosperity is the consciousness of abundance based on the understanding of God as the inexhaustible Resource always open to man.”

We focus on God as the inexhaustible Source so that we can stand strong in the midst of what at times appears to be an expanding collective consciousness of fear stimulated by thoughts of lack and limitation - a collective consciousness of which we are a part and from which it is often challenging to separate ourselves.

Mr. Fillmore also said, “You have doubtless found that there is a spiritual law that brings into manifestation the thoughts we concentrate our attention on, a divine universal law of mind activity that is unfailing.”  We only need to look around us to observe the manifestations of the pervading consciousness.  If we are to demonstrate experiences of abundance, health and happiness, it is up to us to develop a consciousness of prosperity.

We come together in classes, workshops, and at Sunday morning services to strengthen ourselves and each other in the consciousness of God, the all-providing Source. We devote time and energy to renewing our minds with Truth and establishing a prosperity consciousness that enables us to demonstrate prosperity in every area of our lives. Mr. Fillmore stated, “If you are persistent in working this idea into your conscious mind it will become filled with it to the overflowing point, will ooze out, as it were, into all your affairs.

Unity minister, author and prosperity teacher, Edwene Gaines defines true prosperity as, 
  • A vitally alive physical body to provide a comfortable worldly home for the spiritual beings that we are
  • Relationships that are satisfying, nurturing, honest, and work all the time
  • Work that we love so much that it’s not work, it’s play
  • And all the money we can spend

Isn’t that the life experience that we would all choose to live?  The good news is that it is the life experience available for us all to choose!

Mr. Fillmore said,

The law of supply is a divine law.  It is a law of mind and must work through mind.  God will not go to the store and bring food to your table, but when you continue to think about God as your real supply, everything in your mind begins to awaken and to contact the divine substance, and as you mold it in your consciousness, ideas begin to come which will connect you with the visible manifestation.” 

Simple, right?  We assert that all we have to do is keep our minds stayed on God and manifestation will occur with grace and ease. That is correct, and it is simple, but it is not always easy. That is why it is important that we develop a spiritual practice that builds the consciousness of God and fills our minds with divine substance.

Fillmore encourages us to,

Think prosperity, talk prosperity, not in general but in specific terms, deny every appearance of failure, affirm supply, support, and success in the very face of question and doubt, then give thanks for plenty in all our affairs, knowing for certain that our good is now being fulfilled in Spirit, in mind and in manifestation.
We can begin today to develop this as our daily spiritual practice. We can make the commitment to ourselves to be aware of what we say – not just what we speak aloud, but what we say in the quiet of our own minds. After all, it is in our own minds that manifestation begins!

I invite you to join us at Unity Spiritual Center Denver as we celebrate Prosperity Month. Sign up today to participate in the 4T Prosperity Program, and join us on Sunday mornings at 10:00 as we explore ways to increase our prosperity consciousness and develop tools to strengthen our spiritual practices. We will learn together how to more fully demonstrate prosperity in every area of our lives.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Jesus and Living Prosperity

One of my favorite quotes is from Marianne Williamson, speaker, teacher, and author of numerous books, including A Return to Love, which includes the statement, "We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone." Our mission, should we choose to accept it, is to realize this truth and live from this truth, and in doing so, bring forth the kingdom of God into manifestation.

In a nutshell, this is the essence of living a prosperous life, a life in which we express our innate glory in our work, relationships, physical well being, and our finances. If we are not currently living that experience, it is not that we do not possess the capacity; it is just that we are continuing to project a false image of ourselves which is not in alignment with our Truth, the Glory of God; thereby we are drawing to us demonstrations of our unbelief.  So, what do we do; how do we move from where we currently find ourselves to where we desire to be?

What are we to do when we look at our bank balances and see that there is not enough money to pay all the bills? What are we supposed to do when a relationship that we have committed to for life changes and the person we thought we were going to grow old with decides that is no longer the plan? What about when we go to the doctor and she tells us that we have a serious illness? What do we do when we find ourselves in a dead-end, mind-numbing job? How are we supposed to pull ourselves out of these conditions, transform our experiences, and live prosperous lives?

 Do Not Worry

The master teacher and way-shower, Jesus, gives several good suggestions, not the least of which is found in Matthew 6:31 & 33 in which he says "Do not worry...but seek first the kingdom of God...and all these things shall be added to you."

First, do not worry. Worry keeps us in the cycle of manifesting what we do not want. Worry is the mental activity of resisting the condition which we want to change. Most have heard the adage, "what you resist persists." This is true because of the law of attraction which states that like attracts like. The law of attraction works by drawing us to people, places and circumstances that reflect the energy of our thoughts and feelings. It is important to remember that the law of attraction works on thoughts as well; one thought of lack attracts another similar thought and so on. When we worry, we are thinking thoughts of lack. When Jesus says, "do not worry," he is encouraging us to stop focusing on the condition, and instead focus on the Truth which is the kingdom of God present here and now.

The kingdom of God, to which Jesus refers, is as Unity co-founder Charles Fillmore says "not a place in the skies but an ideal state in creative mind, ready to be ushered into the minds of [humanity]." Jesus says, "The kingdom of God is at hand," and "the kingdom of God is within you." As Unity minister and author, Eric Butterworth, says "it is not somewhere to go, but something to be." The kingdom of God is represented by the Garden of Eden in the allegorical creation story found in the book of Genesis, a state of consciousness in which we know that we are created as the image and likeness of the One, and in which we know that all is provided in every moment.

Ask, Seek, Knock

Jesus provides further instruction as he continues to teach as stated in Matthew 7:7-8, "Ask, and it shall be given to you; seek and you shall find; knock and it shall be opened to you."

The word 'seek' can mean "to search for" or "to go in quest of" something, but Jesus could not possibly have meant that we have to search for the kingdom of God. If it is something we need to go in search of, he would not have told us that it is "within us" or that it is "at hand." In other teachings, Jesus told his disciples that the kingdom is all around, yet men do not see it. For us to ask, "Where is the kingdom of God?" is like a fish asking, "Where is water?" It is the Substance and Supply in which we live and move and have being. "Seek" in this context of Jesus' teaching means to 'look' or to 'see.' When we close our physical eyes and cease to look at the apparent condition, we can focus our awareness on the eternal Truth of our being, that which is "within" us, as us. When we remove our awareness from the five senses, and stop looking with the physical eyes, we are able to more readily see with the eyes of Spirit. This is one reason we commonly close our eyes during prayer and meditation; it helps us to change the focus of our attention. When we choose to see with spirit eyes, we can only see what is true. The eyes of Spirit only see the kingdom of God. In order for us to live a prosperous life in all aspects of our experience, we can begin today to practice seeing the kingdom of God within, and then choose to see the kingdom of God without. Practice seeing only the kingdom of God everywhere, for in Truth, it is all that is real.

I have often wondered what Jesus meant when he said what has be interpreted as "knock and the door will be opened." What follows is what came to me as I meditated on that statement. The "door" is symbolic of any thought of lack or limitation which we may be holding in our minds, a thought that we believe and which may be the basis for the demonstration of the current condition. However, this thought which seems to be separating us from our Good, once acknowledged, may actually be a passageway between where we find ourselves now and the life that we desire to live. Once we become aware of the "door," we can "knock" on the door and it will be "opened." We knock on the door of our false belief through the practice of denials and affirmations. It is important to deny the power of any thought which seems to be separating us from the manifestation of a prosperous life. We deny the reality of any thought which does not have its foundation in the Truth which is any thought that tells us that we are anything less than the expression of the kingdom of God consciousness. Once we deny the thought, we then knock on the door, not with our hands, but through the power of our affirmative thought. An affirmative thought is one that is based on the Truth, the kingdom of God within. When we deny that the "door" is real and knock through the power of affirmative thought, the door not only opens; it dissipates and a new consciousness is revealed. We are then able to walk through the doorway into a whole new way of thinking and being, thus a whole new consciousness from which to demonstrate a prosperous life.

Jesus also instructs us to "ask," but Jesus does not teach that we are to "ask" as in, "please give me," but instead to "call forth" or to "claim." Jesus did not ask God to heal the sick, or raise the dead. No, Jesus gave thanks for what he knew was already the Truth and then called forth the demonstration of it. As Jesus said, "ask believing that you have already received, and it will be given." (Matthew 11:24) We are to call forth through the power of our thoughts, feelings and words whatever we desire in order that we may demonstration a prosperous life.

We manifest the kingdom of God, the glory of God within each of us, thus, we live prosperous lives when we stop worrying about what we do not want, and instead focus on what we do want; choose to see the kingdom of God everywhere present, within and without; deny the power of limiting thoughts and affirm the Truth; and call forth what we desire through the power of our thoughts, feelings, words and gratitude.

Please join me this Sunday, August 14, at 10:00 at Unity Spiritual Center Denver as I continue my series on prosperity. Let us come together to explore further how we can live from prosperity consciousness and demonstrate the truth of Jesus' teaching in our lives.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Dare to Believe

We have designated August as Prosperity Month at Unity Spiritual Center Denver, so my mind is focusing on ways to speak about the subject. Well-known prosperity teachers in the New Thought movement of today come to mind; people like Mary Manin Morrissey, author of Building Your Field of Dreams and creator of Prosperity Plus and Prosperity Plus II, and Edwene Gaines, minister, teacher and author of The Four Spiritual Laws of Prosperity. Those who have been in the Unity movement for some time know that Catherine Ponder was a pioneering thought leader in the realm of prosperity consciousness. Her teaching is as relevant today as it was 50 years ago. If you have not yet read her book, The Prosperity Secrets of the Ages, I highly recommend that you do. There are many other prosperity teachers, but they are the ones who have, to my knowledge, had the most far-reaching and profound influence on the prosperity consciousness of our movement. 

Bestselling author, and Pastor of Lakewood Church, Joel Osteen, is a leading voice in the arena of what is commonly known as the “prosperity gospel” for those who are seeking a more traditional approach. I realize that not everyone appreciates Mr. Osteen’s teaching. Some of his peers even denounce him because he does not teach the doctrine of sin and salvation. I understand, too, that not everyone who is reading this post relates to Mr. Osteen’s approach to Scripture or even his presentation style. Regardless of what one may think of him personally or professionally, it is apparent that he is speaking to many people right where they are and to what they need in a very powerful and meaningful way. His church, the largest Protestant church in the United States, boasts an average weekly attendance of over 43,000. In addition, his televised sermons are viewed by over 7 million people weekly and over 20 million monthly in 100 countries.¹ Obviously, he is reaching people in numbers that none of those mentioned above, or probably even in the totality of our movement, have done to date.

While I do not agree with his theology, I am inspired by Pastor Osteen’s books. I truly appreciate the opportunity he provides me to reinterpret his traditional perspective into language that fits my theology. It seems that he is teaching, albeit from a traditional and more literal approach, much of what Catherine Ponder teaches from a metaphysical perspective of Scripture. In fact, there is nothing new in what Mr. Osteen teaches. He is simply teaching in a way that reaches those who still view the Bible literally. Obviously, they are a much larger segment of the population than those of us in New Thought.

As I have begun to consider my Sunday lessons on prosperity during August, I am once again drawn to read and listen to the audiobook version of Mr. Osteen’s book, Break Out! 5 Keys to go beyond Your Barriers and Live an Extraordinary Life. I used this book as the foundation for a series of lessons I gave nearly three years ago at Unity of Arlington. Not surprising to me, because it happens frequently when I revisit books, I am reading and hearing things that I missed before. I realize that what is actually happening is that I am reading and listening from a different perspective. I have grown in my consciousness over the past three years, so naturally, I am experiencing his words differently.

Although he doesn’t use the word, Mr. Osteen understands the power of ‘consciousness.’ In my first read/listen through, I was concerned that Mr. Osteen was attempting to brainwash the listener/reader into believing that some supernatural deity is going to favor him or her with great wealth and physical healing, and fulfill all of their dreams at any moment; once again, provided that they put God first in their lives. I wondered if perhaps his approach might do more harm than good as it first appears that he is attempting to convince us that this capricious God is waiting for us to win his favor, but without being specific about how to do that.  Additionally, this approach has the potential of leaving the reader/listener with shame, blame and guilt in the event that “God’s favor” does not manifest in their lives. 

However, on my second listen I heard something that I had completely missed the first time; something that altered my perspective. In the first few minutes of the audio book and on the fourth page of the printed version Mr. Osteen says,

“Sometimes you need faith and victory spoken over your life.  Words have creative power.  When you receive them into your spirit, they can ignite seeds of increase on the inside.  That’s the reason I’ve written this book…There are new levels of your destiny still in front of you.  But break out starts in your thinking.” 

When I heard that, I understood.  I understood why Mr. Osteen wrote the book and what he intended to activate in the reader/listener.

Whether he is conscious of it or not, Mr. Osteen is teaching the Unity message all the while remaining true to his traditional Christian roots.  His message, while presented in language that we in Unity would not use, is the same message that Unity has been teaching for over one-hundred years - life is consciousness. In effect, what he is teaching is the message that those of us in Unity have heard for years; namely, “what you think about comes about;” or “change your thinking, change your life.”  His statement quoted in the paragraph above echoes the words of Charles Fillmore, the co-founder of Unity, in the original Unity correspondence courses from 1909.  Mr. Fillmore stated,

“This substance of true words is seed, and the harvest will be rich with increase to all who recognize that their seed words have in them life, substance and intelligence. It is these qualities in words of Truth that make them so powerful in demonstrating prosperity, or health, or whatever is desired.” 

Later in the book, Mr. Osteen says, “The real battle is taking place in our thought life, those thoughts that say “It will not happen. You’re too old. You’ve made too many mistakes. You’ll never accomplish your dreams.”

Mr. Fillmore said, “True prosperity is the consciousness of abundance based on the understanding of God as the inexhaustible Resource always open to man.”

Both men are saying that our experience of prosperity is the effect of our consciousness, and our consciousness is the sum total of all our beliefs. When we fill our minds with thoughts that are grounded in the Absolute Good that God is, we will experience the manifestations of Good in our lives.  We must keep our minds stayed on the Truth.  Mr. Osteen’s book, albeit from a traditional Christian perspective, is filled with words of Truth, or seeds, that when “taken into our spirit,” (when received and believed in our consciousness) must produce evidence reflecting their nature.

In Unity, we do not believe in a God of caprice, but in the unchanging nature of God as Universal Law.  It is done unto us as we believe, not because God is up there somewhere judging us and determining when we have been good enough to earn his favor, but because the Law always works. That is why it is law. It is unchanging. It is known as the law of cause and effect, the law of mind action, the law of attraction, and by other names as well.  Life is consciousness. We are responsible for our individual consciousness. Ultimately, it appears that is Mr. Osteen’s message as well. As he says, breaking out of a current unfavorable condition begins with making a shift in our thinking.  We must be willing to change our thinking in order to affect a shift and change our lives.

Over the course of the next few weeks during my Sunday morning talks I will be exploring the topic of “prosperity” from many different perspectives. I hope you will join us as together we take these prosperity teachings “into our spirit” and begin to live them fully.

¹ Wikipedia

Thursday, July 28, 2016

My Story

This week, I will complete my series, The Twelve Steps of Transformation, which I have based on The Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous. As I have said repeatedly during this series, I believe that these steps offer all of us practical tools for spiritual awakening and personal transformation.

As I began pondering the twelfth step, which says, “Having had a spiritual awakening as a result of these steps, we tried to carry our message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs,” I questioned, “What really is a “spiritual awakening” and how do we live into and from that?”

I meditated on these questions and began to capture some ideas in writing, and while I was inspired by some of the ideas, they did not appear to be congealing into a coherent post. So, I decided to let it go and move on to something else. That “something else” was to review my application and supporting credo papers for Unity ordination in preparation for my licensing and ordination interview which took place on Tuesday afternoon, July 26, 2016.

As I reviewed one paper in particular, I realized that, in many ways, it captured a personal process of spiritual awakening for me. So, I wanted to share it with you to let you know more about me and my awakening process. I want to be clear that I believe spiritual awakening, making the truth of our divine spiritual nature conscious, is a continual life-long process, and that periods of awakening as well as instantaneous awakenings occur for each of us when we are open and ready. As the Buddha said, “When the student is ready, the teacher appears.”
My Story
I was born deep in the Bible belt in the small town of Washington, Georgia. I lived the first twenty-one years of my life in a culture steeped in traditional Christianity. While my parents were not particularly religious and did not attend church regularly, they too were pretty well indoctrinated in the fundamentals of the Baptist and Presbyterian creeds. Although she did not attend every Sunday, my mother believed that my sister and I needed to have a strong foundation in the church, so she would often take us to church and come pick us up after. I suppose it worked to some extent because the first time I accepted Jesus as my personal savior I was ten years old. I don’t recall fully understanding what it meant that Jesus died on the cross for my sins. In fact, I wasn’t really sure what my sins were. However, it seemed to be the thing to do at the time, so I did. It occurred during a visit from the preacher to our house. I accepted Jesus, the minister prayed over me, and I ran back outside to play. It was not a life transforming experience; at least not from my perspective. I guess the first time didn’t take because I was “saved” again at age fourteen.

Of course, I was taught in Sunday school, church services and classes that Jesus was the one and only son of God who was sent to Earth to be sacrificed as atonement for the sins of humanity. Further, that if I accepted him as my personal savior that I would be saved from spending eternity in hell after death. I was taught that believing that Jesus died on the cross and that he rose from the dead was my only hope of salvation. The church had me convinced that I was sinful just because I was a human being born of “original sin” and that Jesus was my only hope of going to heaven when I died. If nothing else, I was scared into being “born again.”

When I realized that I am homosexual, I thought I was doomed. It was, according to the church, one of the greatest sins of all. I believed that I could not be gay and still be loved by God. Not only was that well established by their interpretation of the Bible and emphatically expressed from the pulpit, there were also church members who made that abundantly clear. At nineteen I walked away from the church and from any conscious spiritual path.

In my late 20’s a friend introduced me to A Return to Love by Marianne Williamson and Out on a Limb by Shirley MacLaine. I was a bit reluctant to even read the books at first. Based on my past belief system, I thought that maybe they were works of the devil and they were his attempts to get me in his grip. However, I persisted. Both of these books began to change my life. They opened up new vistas for my mind to explore. I had never before thought of spirituality as something that might not require religious belief. I began reading A Course in Miracles, and while I am not an avid student I appreciate the teaching and most especially some of the lessons. I often refer to it when in need of some practical tools. About the same time, I friend introduced me to a “light work” and meditation program called Aquarian Practitioners of Light Energy. The lessons were channeled messages from Archangels and included working with the physical body and soul body chakras. Through this work, I became aware of the work of Alice Bailey. In addition, I read The Aquarian Gospel of Jesus Christ by Levi which also opened my eyes to alternative ways of understanding the life of Jesus. It was a fascinating three-year journey. Along the way, I became aware of the teaching of Abraham and the Law of Attraction. I attended one of their weekend programs in Dallas in the mid-1990’s and followed them for years by receiving recordings of sessions which I would listen to constantly.

Upon entering a 12 Step recovery program at age 34, I began my earnest search for a God of my understanding to whom I was willing to turn over my will and my life. It was that search that led me to walk into a Unity church for the first time. There, I found a God of acceptance, forgiveness and openness. As I began to attend church regularly and take classes, I learned more about this God, and was soon willing and ready to surrender. God was no longer a man somewhere up in the sky who was constantly looking down, keeping a record of all the things I did wrong and planning his punishment. This God was not about judgment and retribution. Rather, this God was Love.

I have struggled at times with the use of the word ‘God’ because of all of the energy around the word, not only mine, but also the energy that has amassed over millennia. When I say ‘God’ I am not referring to a being or beings. I am, instead, to the best of my ability, giving voice to that which is ineffable. I believe H. Emilie Cady stated it clearly in her book, Lessons in Truth, “God is the name we give to that unchangeable, inexorable principle at the source of all existence.” God is. God is “no thing,” yet is All. God is the Essence of all that is real. As Unity cofounder, Charles Fillmore stated, “God is the eternal verity of the universe and humankind.”

It took me some time to become comfortable talking about Jesus as well. I wanted nothing to do with the concepts of him that I was taught in the Baptist church. I felt such relief when I began to study Unity teaching and learned that Jesus was a man, similar in many ways to me. Yes, he was one who fully realized his Christ nature, thus as Charles Fillmore stated not exactly like me. He was known as Jesus Christ because he attained that level of consciousness, much in the same way as one in the Hindu tradition who is revered as holy is referred to as “Shri” or “Shri Shri” depending upon their level of enlightenment. When I learned that ‘Christ’ is not a designation reserved only for Jesus and that it is a potential and possibility for all of us, I was not only shocked but delighted and inspired. As Unity cofounder Charles Fillmore stated, “Christ is the only begotten Son of God or the one complete idea of perfect man in Divine Mind.”¹ ‘Christ’ is an Ideal in the Mind of God that expresses as each of us and that we may align with in our consciousness, as Jesus did. In that way, we too can and will be Christ embodied. I now believe that our greatest desire, whether conscious nor not, is to know ourselves in our divinity as the ‘Christ’ expressing, and to live it to the best our ability.

I know now that it is not through the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross that I am “saved” from my sin. I am “saved” and “born again” in each moment that I “repent” or turn away from my negative thinking and choose to align my thinking with a higher understanding of truth. Yes, we all “sin and fall short of the glory of God,”² as Paul said, but our “sin” is “missing the mark or falling short of our divine perfection”¹ which most of us do daily. It is by the power of my freewill choice that I can focus my mind, thus change my consciousness, so that I save myself from the “hell” of my own making and restore myself to “heaven” as I fill and expand my mind with thoughts that are in alignment with my true nature – Christ. So, in the light of new understanding, I can joyously proclaim that I am saved from “hell” through Christ and my reward is the state of “heaven” in my own awareness. I can choose heaven today.

I believe that the teachings of Jesus as we are given them in the Bible form the true foundation for empowered and abundant living. Primary to his teaching is the well-known and often quoted, “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things will be added unto you.”³ First, the Kingdom of God exists in consciousness. Jesus was not saying that we should seek to find an Earthly kingdom, but instead to look within and see that the Kingdom of God is “within you” or “at hand.” He was not referring only to the demonstration of material good, as that was never his primary focus. Jesus was, most often, teaching from Christ consciousness and encouraging his disciples and followers, including us today, to make attaining Christ consciousness their primary goal. As he said, our needs are already known and will be provided. There is no need to struggle and strain, just open and allow.

As we teach in Unity, prayer and meditation are spiritual practices that help us to align our minds in the Kingdom of God consciousness. Jesus said don’t worry about the material things. We teach the same in our practice of Affirmative Prayer. We remove our focus from the condition or circumstance and instead focus on the Truth of God expressing in and through the apparent condition. As Unity minister and author Eric Butterworth said, “The purpose of prayer is not to set things right, but so see things rightly.”5

We follow Jesus’ teaching and “seek the kingdom” through prayer. However, this is just the first step. He also said to seek “his righteousness.” This means that we are to think, speak and act in ways that are in alignment with the Kingdom of God consciousness we have attained in prayer. Jesus instructs us that in order to live an abundant life, we must not only know the Truth in consciousness, but we must keep our thinking in line with Truth, we must speak words of Truth and discontinue speaking about or complaining about the situation, and we do things that support us in demonstrating the Truth. This Jesus teaching is one of the foundational Scriptures that supports the spiritual practices of denials and affirmations. From Christ consciousness, Jesus said, “I come that you might have life and have it more abundantly.” The ‘I’ is the Christ. When the Christ comes into fullness in our consciousness and we embrace the righteousness of thinking, speaking and acting, we will demonstrate that abundance. Charles Fillmore said,

“Think prosperity, talk prosperity, not in general but in specific terms, not as something for the other fellow but as your very own right. Deny every appearance of failure. Stand by your guns and affirm supply, support, and success in the very face of question and doubt, then give thanks for plenty in all your affairs, knowing for a certainty that your good is now being fulfilled in Spirit, in mind, and in manifestation.”6

If someone had told me even ten years ago that I would be reading the Bible and quoting verses in my lessons and in my blog post, I would have laughed in his face. In my early church experience, the Bible was used as a weapon. Scriptures were interpreted and used to condemn me and to teach me about a God who would punish me just for being me. For many years, I would not open a Bible. I am extremely grateful to the classes I have had through Unity Institute where I learned about metaphysical and maieutic ways of interpreting Scripture. The Bible has come alive for me in ways that I would never have imagined possible. I refer to Scripture nearly every Sunday, and in nearly every blog post.

With all that I have learned by studying Unity’s Truth principles, exploring the work of spiritual teachers such as Eckhart Tolle, Byron Katie, Mark Nepo and others, I realize that Truth is a personal experience. I believe that we all must discern for ourselves what is ultimately true for us and allow that to be our guidepost. I am committed to not being convinced that I, or we in Unity have the Truth, or that I know what is absolutely true. My intention is to stay open to the question and allow Truth to be revealed. I am also committed to living with the mystery of life. No matter how much I learn or think I know, there is always more. I know that my human intellect cannot comprehend all of the great mysteries of the universe. I do my best to be content with not having to know, and being secure in admitting that I don’t know.

The best I can do is establish a place within my own consciousness that provides me with a foundation upon which I choose to live my life. For me, it my connection with the God of my understanding. It is my personal spirituality which I get to define, as do we all. The basic tenets of my spirituality are:

(1)  Even though I cannot fully comprehend it, there is a Power and Presence that imbues all creation and in which we are all connected as one.
(2)  This Power and Presence is impersonal and benign, yet within it the principles of order, harmony, beauty, and unity are at work.
(3)  Love is the highest emanation of that Power and Presence. I, in my human form, am here to experience and express that Love.

It is my sincere desire to allow this to be the credo that guides my life. My aspiration is to live into and from it.

So, that is my story as submitted to the Licensing & Ordination team. I am pleased to report that at the end of my interview on Tuesday, they told me that they are recommending me for ordination. It will have to be approved by the Unity Worldwide Ministries credentialing team, but they assure me that the approval is a formality at this point. I am grateful to all who have supported me and continue to do so as I traverse the path of ministry.

Please join me this Sunday, July 31, as I complete my series, The Twelve Steps to Transformation, which can give us practical tools for your own spiritual awakening and personal transformation.

¹ The Revealing Word
² Romans 3:23
³ Matthew 6:33
Luke 17:21
5 The Universe is Calling by Eric Butterworth

6 Prosperity by Charles Fillmore

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Living a Connected and Empowered Life

I am continuing with my series, The Twelve Steps of Transformation based on The Twelves Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous. This week, I am pondering step eleven which states…

Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood [God], praying only for the knowledge of [God’s] will for us and the power to carry that out.

This step is so rich with meaning, intentionality and depth that I hardly know where to begin my exploration and contemplation of it. I am certain I could write several posts on this step alone; therefore, I am choosing to share only a few thoughts on some of the elements.

Sought through prayer…

While often greatly misunderstood, the purpose of true prayer is to quiet our minds, remove our focus from our external wants and desires and allow a conscious connection with the creative life that is God moving in and as our lives. We do not engage in prayer to stir God into action. We do not enter into true prayer to change the external conditions at all. True prayer is conscious connection.

And meditation to improve our conscious contact with God…

There are many perspectives on what meditation is and what it is not. I have heard some say that prayer is talking to God and meditation is listening to God. I do not agree with that statement as evidenced by my thoughts on prayer above. In Unity, there is distinction between ‘meditation’ and ‘the Silence.’ Meditation is focused awareness. It is a way of practicing the presence of God. In this way, it is more in keeping with what some traditions call ‘contemplation’ which involves contemplating God and our relationship with God. The ‘Silence’ on the other hand is a state of consciousness in which there is no conscious awareness of God, but is God consciousness itself. It is the state of Oneness or non-dual consciousness. Meditation, as used in the eleventh step, I believe refers to the conscious activity of contemplating God and realizing our Unity in God Mind.

Praying only for the knowledge of God’s will for us…

When we consider ‘will’ from our human perspective, we most often think of our desire, thoughts and actions that stem from our personality/ego perspective. When we consider God having ‘will’ we think of it similarly. As Jean-Jacques Rousseau once said, “God created man in his own image. And, man, being a gentleman, returned the favor.” We often assign to God our human attributes.

God is Life itself expressing in perfect divine order as all. God does not want or desire in the way that we humans do. God has need for nothing including our devotion or prayers. God does not will for one to have more than another, for one to be ill and another well, or for one to live and another die.  God, as we understand God in Unity, is Love.

Further, each of us is an expression of God’s Love. There is no separation. God’s will can only be the extension of Itself as Love. Therefore, God’s will for us is the manifestation of Love through our thoughts, words and actions. When we connect consciously with God’s Love through the activities of prayer and meditation, we make contact with Love. In the consciousness of Love, we are inspired in ways to serve Love in its greatest expression through us, as us.

 And the power to carry that out…

The presence of God within us is our power to live from Love. At times it may seem as though we are being guided to do things that require a great deal of courage, strength or vulnerability. Love may inspire us to do things that are completely out of our comfort zone. We must again rely on our conscious connection with the power and presence of God within to be our source of all we need so that we may do what must be done by us in service to Love. As Unity cofounder Charles Fillmore so famously stated, “I fairly sizzle with zeal and enthusiasm and spring forth with a mighty faith to do the things that ought to be done by me.”

I am enjoying this series as it highlights that The Twelve Steps are a way of life that can assist us all in our path of spiritual awakening and personal transformation. The eleventh step, in itself, could be the only life instruction we need. If we earnestly live this step, praying and meditating only so that we may connect with and embody Love; commit ourselves to living from Love and carrying that out in all we do; and know that the indwelling Spirit is our power to do just that, we will all live empowered lives and co-create a world that reflects God’s Love. Are we up to the task? I believe we are. 

Please join us on Sunday at 10:00 as we explore in greater depth the essential truths expressed in this step. I will complete this series on Sunday, July 31, as we delve into how we can live our spiritual awakening and take it out into the world. 

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Making A Mend

Father Richard Rohr is quickly becoming one of my favorite spiritual teachers and authors. I am extremely grateful to have discovered him, I only regret that it did not happen sooner. His teaching on The Twelve Steps is one of my inspirations for my current lesson series, The Twelve Steps of Transformation. Fr. Rohr’s book, Breathing Under Water, explores the spirituality of The Twelve Step program from a Christian perspective. I find that many, albeit not all, of his perspectives resonate with much of Unity’s metaphysical approach to interpretation of Scripture.

In this book, Fr. Rohr encourages us to remember that while Jesus is our example of one who fully realized his Divinity, that he was also an example of how we can demonstrate the Christ in our lives. He reminds us that Jesus most often referred to himself as a “son of man” thereby claiming to be one of us, the archetypal human, an everyman. Fr. Rohr says,

“We have kept Jesus out of the range of actual imitation, when the very goal was to imitate him in his combined humanity and divinity. Remember, Jesus said ‘follow me’ and never once said “worship me.” The sad result is that we have many “spiritual” beings when the much more needed task is to learn how to be true human beings. Full humanness leads to spirituality by the truckload…”

This speaks to what I shared in my lesson on July 3, which you may listen to here or watch here. I recognize that I have made spiritual awakening my primary focus and the topic of most of my lessons recently. I have been giving a great deal of time and attention to growing in the conscious awareness of my Soul, my True Self. While I still believe that spiritual awakening is a vital intention, I also recognize that living our spiritual awareness in our daily lives is of equal importance. We must learn and grow in ways to live our spirituality through our human interactions. The Twelve Steps are tools that can assist us in doing that.

I reiterate that I am not suggesting that we all have issues with alcohol, drugs or any behavior that might be considered an addiction. My intention is to explore how living the practical tools of The Twelve Steps can assist us all in living more spiritually aware and conscious lives as we connect with the God of our understanding, as well as ourselves and others.

In my most recent three posts, I have talked about the first seven steps. You can read my posts and follow me here. Except for the seventh step which requires that we share our moral inventory with at least one other person, these first steps are primarily internal processes. Even step eight is mostly internal. However, step nine gives us a powerful opportunity to truly practice our spirituality.

Step eight says, “We made a list of all the people we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.”

As with the fourth step, which I talked about in my June 30 post, step eight is best undertaken from a centered space. It is important for us to center ourselves in the awareness of God’s love and to the best of our ability hold ourselves in the light of love as we begin step eight. Making a list of all the people we have harmed can, and most often does, bring up a great deal of resistance. Who among us wants to admit that we have harmed others, let alone make a list of all of them? Most of us would prefer just to stop at step seven. After all, once we have made it through the seventh step, we have received God’s love and forgiveness and we have told at least one other person about what we did. Shouldn’t that be enough? Why drag all those other people into the process?

In fact, many people who enter recovery programs, if they make it past step three, do not make it through step eight. Some of those who do, take years to “become willing” to make amends to others. It can be, and most often is, a daunting proposition. In follow up to what I shared in last week’s post, step eight allows for our humanity. It acknowledges that it may take time for us to “become willing” to make amends to all those we have harmed. It is, after all, a process.

It is imperative to remember not to use step eight as an opportunity for self-flagellation. It is a chance for us to engage in deep self-connection and honesty. It is important to our spiritual and emotional healing and maturity for us to hold ourselves accountable for the ways our actions stimulated pain for others. It is equally important for us to mourn the pain we feel when considering the effect we have had on others’ lives.

I like to think of making amends as “making a mend.” Amends are our efforts to repair something that has conceivably been damaged or broken. Love is the energy that binds all things together. Love is the bond we share with others. When we say or do things that are not expressions of love, our connection with another is often damaged.

Our willingness to “make a mend” in our relationship opens the way for love to be remembered and expressed. A mend can take many forms. The most vital element of making a mend in a relationship is openness, vulnerability and availability to the other. This is the reason we must do a great deal of inner work prior to extending an amends to someone. We must be clear in our intention to only come from love, lest we risk stimulating more pain in the other. This is very clear in step nine.

Step nine says, “Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.”

We must enter into the process of “making a mend,” not to relieve ourselves of guilt, but to repair the break in the flow of love, the break our actions created. We must be open to hearing from the other person how our actions stimulated pain for them, and also be willing to take action that will help repair the bond.

By making amends to another, we are actually giving them the opportunity to process their pain so that they can release it and experience healing. The gift is that we also get to experience healing in the process.

It is essential to be clear about our intention and the potential pain we could stimulate for another by making amends. For this reason, it is advised that one not dive into making amends before discussing the situation at depth with a trusted confidante. In a Twelve Step program, this is usually one’s sponsor. If you are not active in a formal Twelve Step program, I strongly recommend talking with a trusted friend, minister or counselor who can help you assess the possibility of additional injury before engaging in an amends process.

While making direct amends is preferred, it is not always possible or advisable. If is determined that by making direct amends, you could further injure the other an indirect amends is recommended. Additionally, if the injured person is deceased, only an indirect amends is possible.

As a process to mend a break in the flow of love, amends can help restore us to our wholeness, thereby transforming us at depth.

The Twelves Steps are a path to personal transformation through a process of spiritual recovery. They provide us with clearly defined practical tools to assist us in living our spiritual values. When approached as a way of life, The Twelve Steps of Personal Transformation can be a way to realize our Unity in God and with each other.

Please join me on Sunday morning at 10:00 as we explore in greater depth how making amends helps to free us and bring us into the remembered state of conscious wholeness.