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Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Surrender to Truth

Earlier this week I recognized that I had spent the previous few days going through the motions of my life as if sleep walking.  I was showing up and doing what I needed to do to take care of tasks, but I was not really present.  I realized this only after a friend asked me about it, and pointed out that I seemed preoccupied and withdrawn.  Once I was willing to admit to myself that I had been unavailable and detached, I became aware that I had fallen back into old patterns of thinking and behaviors that are based in fear.  It amazes me how quickly and easily I can sometimes revert from being connected to the powerful being I know I am, back to acting as if I am the limited ego-identified human being that my family and society conditioned me to be, and that I accepted in order to fit in and feel safe.  And, I feel dismayed at times that I don’t yet immediately recognize when I am doing it.  My greatest desire is to know the truth of me and live from that truth every moment of every day.   When I don’t fulfill that desire, I feel the negative emotional impact. 

We are conditioned from birth to accept a limited concept of ourselves, and we often suffer because we are in bondage to it, whether or not we are conscious of it.  Through realization of truth we enjoy freedom from the limiting myths, messages and beliefs that our families, society and churches often thrust upon us, and to which we can become enslaved.  As Jesus said,

“You shall know the Truth, and the Truth shall set you free.”
-- John 8:32

And, knowing the truth is not enough; as Unity’s fifth principle tells us, we must also live the truth we know.

When we do not live from our truth we withhold, not only from ourselves, but also from the world; the unique aspect of the only begotten of God that each of us is.  I am reminded of the words of Jesus, 

"For this I was born and for this I came into the world; to bear witness to the truth.”
-- John 18:37

The truth is that each of us is the Christ in expression and we bear witness to that truth as we realize it and commit to living it in the world. 

This is yet another reminder of the reason I chose my current Sunday morning series, “Wake up with Jesus” and why I believe it is so valuable to our understanding.  The purpose of this series is to help us connect with the transcendent reality of being.  Our freedom, both individual and collective, lies in the realization of our true nature.  As we review the Jesus story as presented in the Canonical Gospels in the Bible, we can see a man who realized his truth, stated his mission and lived it.  His story, as a metaphor for our own awakening, reveals how we can relate the events in Jesus’ life to our own similar experiences, and we can choose to know our truth and set ourselves free as we bear witness to the truth of our divine being.

This past Sunday, we explored Jesus’ baptism by John the Baptist as a metaphor for our willingness to stand against the societal mores and religious dogma and lay down the limiting concept of ourselves, to surrender it, and to welcome the cleansing and clearing of Spirit represented by water.  And, once cleansed, to allow ourselves to accept and embrace the transcendent life of Spirit that is our truth.  Jesus’ baptism was not simply a baptism by water, but also a baptism of the Holy Spirit.  Just as Jesus was “anointed” with the Holy Spirit as he came up out of waters of the Jordan River, we too are “anointed,” not by an external power or force, but by the innate presence and power of the Holy Spirit within our own consciousness.  The Holy Spirit is eternally present and awaiting our acceptance and recognition of it.  It is the guiding principle for our lives in Spirit.  Charles Fillmore, co-founder of Unity, said in describing the Holy Spirit,

“It is the movement of Spirit…it is through the help of the Holy Spirit that humankind overcomes.”

As we accept that we are anointed with the Holy Spirit, we can choose, moment by moment to surrender to it and to overcome our limited beliefs about ourselves.

Receiving our baptism and anointing does not mean that we will never again be faced with life’s challenges.  On the contrary, we will continue to be in the world and we will be met every day with opportunities to choose how we will respond.  We bear witness to the truth when we are willing to stand in the power and strength of who we are, and respond by speaking and acting from that place.

Please join us this Sunday as we continue to “Wake up with Jesus”.  We will explore his forty days in the desert facing the temptations of Satan, and we will see how Jesus’ experience mirrors our own.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Answering the Call

For the past few days Jami Lula’s song, “Something’s Calling Me,” has been running through my head.  Could it be that something is calling me?  Could it be that something is calling you?  Could it be the same “something” calling us?  Yes.  It is our true nature calling us to a place of remembrance.  It is the voice of the Divine at the center of our hearts calling us to let go of limited concepts of ourselves and accept who we truly are.  It is saying, “Wake up.  Wake up.  Wake Up!” 

I am convinced that whether we are conscious of it or not, our deepest desire is to awaken to our true nature; to know ourselves as the Divine; to live in conscious awareness of the One Power and One Presence expressing in, through and as these human forms.  We desire to experience what in some Eastern traditions is known as “awakening” or “enlightenment.”  In the Christian tradition it is referred to as “salvation.”  In other words, our hearts’ desire is to be saved from the illusion that we are our bodies, beliefs, emotions, or possessions, an image of self that often stimulates suffering.  We are saved from this illusion by awakening to the awareness of who we truly are.

Traditional Christianity teaches that we receive salvation through the belief that Jesus Christ sacrificed himself to save us from an eternity in hell, and to give us the promise of an eternal afterlife in heaven; provided, of course, that we accept his atonement.  The theology is that Jesus is the source of our salvation.  In Unity, we believe that the source of our salvation is our acceptance and realization of our Christ nature.  It is not Jesus but the Christ that is the source of our salvation, and the Christ is the eternal essential nature of each of us.  Awakening to and living from our Christ nature is our salvation.

In the Metaphysical Bible Dictionary (MBD), Unity co-founder, Charles Fillmore offers an expansive explanation of “Christ.”  The following is a short excerpt.

“Christ is the only begotten Son of God, or the one complete idea of perfect man in Divine Mind. [Christ] is the embodiment of all divine ideas, such as intelligence, life, love, substance, and strength. This Christ, or perfect-man idea existing eternally in Divine Mind, is the true, spiritual, higher self of every individual. Each of us has within him the Christ, just as Jesus had, and we must look within to recognize and realize our sonship, our divine origin and birth, even as He did.”

While we do not view Jesus as the source of salvation, we see him as one who awakened to and lived fully from his Christ nature.  His life experience serves as a road map which can lead us to our own experience of salvation; if we choose to follow it. 

Last Sunday, I began a series of messages entitled “Wake up with Jesus.”  I am experiencing a great deal of enthusiasm for this series because it speaks to where I am and where I believe many of us are along life’s journey.  My hope is that this series will help us see Jesus as a metaphor for our own potential and possibility and that we will commit to following his example.  We are saved by our willingness and commitment to walk his path. 

Please join us on Sunday for our 10:00 a.m. service as we follow the call, encounter John the Baptist and experience the baptism of water and of the Holy Spirit.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013


Do you have a personal relationship with Jesus? 

Oh, what memories that question stirs in me.  Having lived all my life in the “Bible belt” I have heard that question asked far too many times for my comfort.  And yes, there was a time in my life when I also asked that question. However, my question today is not whether you have a relationship with Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior.  Instead, I ask, “Who is Jesus and what does he represent to you at this point in your spiritual journey?”

Christianity is the predominant religion in this country. Christians have a relationship with Jesus through the story of his birth, death and resurrection, the foundation for Christianity.  A recent survey by Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life shows that more than 78% of Americans identify themselves as Christian. Christianity is pervasive in our culture; therefore in America there is no escaping a connection with Jesus, regardless of what we believe about him.

My personal relationship with Jesus has evolved considerably over the years.  It began when I was 10-years old.  The minister at the church where my family was attending came to our house, and after he convinced me that I needed to accept Jesus as my savior, I did.  As I reflect back on that day now, I can honestly say that I “professed” to accept Jesus.  I was baptized sometime soon after.   “Great!  If that’s all it takes,” I thought; “I am good to go.”

My family didn’t attend church regularly, so I soon lost my personal connection with Jesus through religion even though I continued to live within the Christian culture of small town Georgia.  However, at fourteen, when I got to high school, I became involved with a group of “church-goers,” so I started going to church again.  The preacher soon convinced me that I was a back-sliding sinner, so I repented of my sins, confessed my belief in Jesus and was baptized – again!

I swallowed the whole Jesus story hook, line and sinker.  I felt guilt when I thought about anything that even hinted of sin, and since that’s about all fourteen year old boys think about, I was feeling a whole lot of guilt and doing a whole lot of praying for forgiveness. 

To make a long story shorter, I went through many years believing that Jesus was Lord and Savior and that he died on the cross for my sins.  And, I harbored a great deal of shame and guilt as a result of my belief that I was not worthy and that I could never be worthy.

Fast forward to my late twenties and early thirties when I began exploring the concepts of the New Thought movement through Unity and Religious Science; I was introduced to a Jesus that I had never before considered.  He was a brother, a way-shower, a guide.  He was grace and love. He was no longer the great exception, but the great example of the possibility and potential for me.  He was one who had awakened to the Christ – the Divine Idea of each of us.  This new vision of Jesus inspired hope for me.

I do not claim to know the truth about who the historical Jesus was, what he actually said and did, or whether the narratives presented in the Canonical Gospels or the letters of Paul in the Bible are fact or mostly fiction.  Even those who have researched the topic for years do not agree.  I have come to the decision that it really does not matter how much, if any, of the Jesus story is factual.  What matters is one’s personal relationship with the Jesus story.  My personal relationship with Jesus today is one of pupil to teacher.  My desire is to allow the Jesus that we meet in the Gospels to teach me the path to my own salvation; salvation from my limiting thoughts and life patterns.

I am currently exploring the Jesus story as the story of awakening which we can, if we choose, allow to serve as a template for awakening to the Truth of who we are.  We are the Christ. That same presence is within each of us.  When we explore the Jesus story though this lens, we see that Jesus experienced the steps of awakening that we all must take. His path was in a dramatic fashion that most of us will not experience, but there are day-to-day analogies we can learn from even in his spectacular moments.  As we explore the journey of Jesus from his baptism to his ascension, we will discover that he outlined a path for us to walk.  If we adhere to the path, we will know our truth – the Truth that sets us free. 

I hope you will join us on Sunday mornings, beginning August 18, at 10:00 a.m., as we walk together the path that Jesus walked; the path that leads to awakening.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Choose Happiness

This Sunday I will complete the series of lessons based on Michael A. Singer’s book, The Untethered Soul, with a talk entitled “Unconditional Happiness.”  In his book, Mr. Singer posits that life is actually quite simple, that we only need to make one choice in life; that choice is whether we want to be happy or not.  He asserts that, “Once you make that choice, your path through life becomes totally clear.” 

My assumption is that every one of us, if asked, “Do you want to be happy?” would respond with a resounding “Yes!”  If it is indeed a choice, and I fully believe that it is; why do we ever choose to be unhappy?  We would certainly choose happiness over unhappiness.  Or, would we? 

No one consciously chooses to be unhappy.  However, we routinely place conditions on our happiness.  We choose happiness as long as everything in our world goes according to our predetermined set of conditional criteria.  Even though we resolve to choose happiness, when we lose a job, our significant other leaves us, we get sick, or something else occurs that might conflict with our plan for a “happy” life what happens to our happiness?  In these instances, happiness is often fleeting.  In order to live a life of unconditional happiness we must be willing to choose to be happy even in the midst of a life event that we consider unwanted or judge as unacceptable.  When we allow external conditions to determine whether or not we are happy, we abdicate our power to something or someone other than ourselves, and we live lives of conditional happiness.

In choosing unconditional happiness it is important for us to realize that it is not the events in life that cause us to be unhappy; it is our resistance to the events that stimulates unhappiness.  Life happens, things change, people leave, jobs end: It is the way of life.  We are either present in the moment, experiencing life and appreciating “what is” which demonstrates happiness; or we are standing in a place of pushing against what has come before or reaching for what has yet to be, thus stimulating our own unhappiness.

Happiness is a choice, and choosing unconditional happiness is a spiritual practice.  As Mr. Singer says, the path becomes clear once we make the choice to be happy.  The path to unconditional happiness requires that we practice nonresistance, acceptance and gratitude.  In order to follow that path, we must be willing to release our preconceived ideas about how life should or should not be.  Life is not going to conform to our prescript, so we are best served to “Let go and let Life;” to accept things as they are and express gratitude in every moment. There really is no other path to a happy life.

Please join me on Sunday as we explore how to traverse our individual paths and discover what it means to live a life of “Unconditional Happiness”.