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Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Affecting Change

In my article two weeks ago I mentioned that I had recently begun reading the latest book by Lakewood Church Pastor and bestselling author, Joel Osteen.  Actually, I had begun listening to it as an audio book.  My road trip to and from Unity Village last week gave me the perfect opportunity to finish my first complete listen and begin my second.  I have since purchased the printed hardcover book and have begun reading it.  I guess you could say that I am officially “studying” Mr. Osteen’s latest book.

My initial interest in the book which is entitled, Break Out! 5 Keys to go beyond Your Barriers and Live an Extraordinary Life was to gain a clearer understanding of Mr. Osteen’s approach to what many have termed his “Prosperity Gospel.”  It is the first of his books I have read.  Given that he purportedly is currently the most famous pastor in the world with a congregation of thousands, a television audience of more than ten-million in America alone with an additional audience in another 100 countries around the world, plus five books that have been number one national bestsellers, I realized he just might have something beneficial to share.  Seemingly, his message is having a positive impact on millions worldwide.

My renewed interest in the Prosperity Principle is in no small part due to the fact that I am observing demonstrations of something other than prosperity consciousness, not only in my personal life, but also in the life of Unity of Arlington.  Therefore, I am planning a series of Sunday morning talks on the subject.  As the adage goes, “We teach what we need most to learn.”

When I decided to purchase Mr. Osteen’s book, I was prepared for and even expected to encounter a traditional Christian perspective that would include literal interpretations of the Bible.  In this regard, Mr. Osteen did not disappoint; he delivers precisely what I expected.  He speaks of an external God who favors those who put Him first in their lives; although, not much is said to clarify what “putting God first” entails.  However, I was pleasantly surprised that unlike the traditional Christian preachers of my youth, Mr. Osteen does not mention a God of retribution.  He does not purport that the lack of money, illness or misfortune of any kind is God’s punishment.  Instead, he speaks only of a God who loves his children and wants to bless them with all the riches, health and love they can accept.  This is a refreshing departure, and although we in Unity speak of God within rather than an external deity, Mr. Osteen’s portrayal of love and abundance is in alignment with Unity teaching.

In my first 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 because initially it appears he is attempting to convince us that this capricious God is waiting for us to win his favor, yet he is not specific on how to do that.  So my concern grew because this approach has the additional 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 with 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 knew 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, this is what Mr. Osteen is saying, “What you think about comes about;” 1 or “Change your thinking, change your life.”2  His statement also echoes the words of Charles Fillmore, the co-founder of Unity, in the original Unity correspondence courses from 1909,
“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.”
Likewise, 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” must produce evidence reflecting their nature, in accordance with the universal law of cause and effect.  We take these words, these seeds, into our spirit by receiving them and believing them in our consciousness.

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, that is Mr. Osteen’s message.  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 Mr. Osteen’s five keys to going beyond our barriers and living extraordinary lives.  While I do not resonate with the God of his understanding, I do find universal truth in his teaching.  I hope you will join us as we discover our common ground and ways that we can apply these truth principles, take them into our spirit, and manifest them in our lives.

1 Mark Victor Hansen, "Chicken Soup for the Soul"
2 Brian Tracy, “Change Your Thinking, Change Your Life”

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Music Heals

“In time, probably, there will be schools of healing based on music, where patients will be taught how to center themselves in the harmonious Christ mind. The body will then respond, for it is mind, has its foundation in mind, lives in mind, and is moved upon by mind.” – Charles Fillmore

Charles Fillmore, the co-founder of Unity, was a man of his time in many ways, yet a man ahead of his time in others.  In the quote above, Fillmore postulates that music has healing power, a theory which modern neuroscience is now proving to be true.  According to a paper published in Nature Neuroscience, a team of Montreal researchers discovered that music triggers the release of dopamine in the areas of the brain associated with the feeling of pleasure.  Music has also been found to boost the immune system, lower stress and decrease the heart rate in cardiac patients.  Additionally, researchers at Cal State University found that children who are hospitalized were happier during music therapy than during other play activities.  This research shows that music affects the brain, and that the effect is most often a greater sense of happiness and emotional well-being.

Studies, such as the one conducted by Carnegie Mellon University Psychology Professor, Sheldon Cohen, show people who are happy, lively, calm or exhibit other positive emotions are less likely to become ill when they are exposed to a cold virus than those who report few of these emotions. There are many studies that show the correlation between emotions and physical health and healing.

It follows, that since music produces a neurological response in the brain which promotes the feeling of happiness and the feeling of happiness contributes to physical well-being, then music, whether directly or indirectly, contributes to physical as well as emotional health thereby proving that Charles Fillmore’s postulate was correct.

Fillmore also said, “The spirit of music is within all of us. When we have developed and brought it forth; when the quickening, harmonizing life has entered the physical, by the union of God with man, then we will realize that there is a power in us which will produce harmony. And harmony is health. Bring harmony into your life by singing and praising. Everybody should play and sing. We should rejoice in the divine harmony. We should sing songs of joy and of love and of peace and of the unity of the Spirit.

There is currently a Facebook page entitled “World Singing Days 2013” which is the brainchild of Scott Johnson from Boulder, Colorado.  In addition to the Facebook page, there is a Facebook Event that he and our very own, Dennis Persons, created and co-manage.  Scott’s premise is simple - music has the power to heal and help join the world together in peace.  The invitation is to join others from all over the world in singing.  It involves no sponsorships, endorsements or commercialism, just a joining together of people in the joy of music and singing.  We at Unity of Arlington are accepting this invitation and will participate during the 10:00 am service this Sunday.  Join us as we explore, through message and music, Charles Fillmore’s lessons on the power of music and singing.

Come sing with us!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Imprisoned Splendor

Today I began reading the latest book by Lakewood Church Pastor and bestselling author, Joel Osteen.  The book is entitled, Break Out: Five Ways To Go Beyond Your Barriers and Live an Extraordinary Life.  Mr. Osteen inspires and encourages with the message that our first break outs must occur within our own minds: "When you break through in your mind, believing you can rise higher and overcome obstacles, then God will unleash the power within that will enable you to go beyond the ordinary into the extraordinary life you were designed to live."

On the surface it sounds like a message that one might hear from any Unity or other New Thought teacher.  However, what strikes me about Mr. Osteen’s message, and it is not in alignment with our teaching, is his reference to a God somewhere ‘out there’ who is eagerly waiting to bless us, provided we increase our faith by utilizing the five practices outlined in his book.  Further, that “he” (God) will take us beyond our own self-imposed limitations provided that we put him first.  Mr. Osteen says that God will “favor” us by taking us beyond our current condition, whether physical, financial, relational, or other.  Admittedly, I have only read the first three chapters, but it seems clear that his message is that when we win God’s favor he will reach down and perform a miracle for us.  As evidence for his assertion, Mr. Osteen cites examples of physical healings, job promotions, unexpected encounters that lead to increased prosperity or notoriety, as well as others.  His message speaks of a capricious deity whom we spur into action through our devoted worship.

I would be in complete agreement with Mr. Osteen if he had instead stated,
“When you break through in your mind, believing you can rise higher and overcome obstacles, God, the power within, will be unleashed enabling you to go beyond the ordinary into the extraordinary life you were designed to live.”
In Unity we teach that God is “the power within,” and that power is unleashed when we release our resistance to it.  As Unity minister and author, Eric Butterworth, states in Spiritual Economics,
“The important Truth is that you are a spiritual being with the Allness of Infinite Mind within you.  Whatever your need may be, the answer is not to get God to give you more through some divine slight-of-hand process, but rather to uncover and release your own “imprisoned splendor.”
While I am eager to continue reading Mr. Osteen’s book and discover more about the “five ways to go beyond [my] barriers and live an extraordinary life,” which I presume are five ways to “increase our faith,” I propose that Unity also provides us with five ways to increase our faith and move beyond our self-imposed limitations and live life extraordinarily: they are known as the Five Basic Principles of Unity.  Although they are not traditionally presented as action steps, these five truths can serve as guiding principles for our lives if we know how to put them into practice.

I would like to offer the following restatement of the five basic principles of Unity as positive action statements.  Each is followed by an affirmation I offer that may help us make them an integral part of our daily spiritual practice thereby unleashing our “imprisoned splendor” allowing us to live extraordinary lives.

Please note that ‘Good’ as used here is not an evaluative word, as in ‘good or bad’; nor is it meant to represent anything of form, as in “goods” that we might receive.  Instead, it is used to represent the nature of the Divine.

First – Dare Bravely to believe that there is only God, the Absolute Good, and none besides God. 

I believe that there is one power and one presence.  I believe that the nature of that power and presence is absolute beauty, order, life, harmony, love, unity, abundance, and all the Good that I can imagine.  I believe! I release my unbelief.

Second – Claim Unabashedly the Truth of your Divine nature.

I am created in the image and likeness of the one power and one presence endowed with its nature; therefore, God is all the Good that I am.

Third – Believe Fearlessly that you experience life according to the thoughts you think.

I consciously choose to release all limiting thoughts and choose positive, constructive thoughts that allow manifestations of Good in my life.  I make conscious choices that support my well-being – physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.  I actively practice Self Love and acceptance.

Fourth – Claim Boldly through the practice of affirmative prayer that only Good manifests in your life experience.

Through the power of prayer, I claim my Good and I open to the flow of Divine Spirit and Substance in and as my life. 

Fifth – Give Courageously from the awareness that God, the Absolute Good, is all that I am and all that I have to give and all that I am open to receive.

I give freely from the eternal fount of Divine Substance and Supply.  I know that as I give, I receive.  I trust that I cannot out-give, nor can I ever deplete the one Source of all that I am.

I encourage us all to look at the Five Basic Principles, not as simply a stated belief system of the Unity movement, but as universal truth principles that can serve as spiritual practices for increasing our faith and expanding our consciousness so that we may rise above what we perceive as obstacles and live fully empowered and extraordinary lives.

Unleash your “imprisoned splendor” and shine!

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Christ is Born

As I bring my Sunday morning series, “Wake up with Jesus” to a conclusion, I am struck by the realization that we have come full circle.  We began with Jesus being born in human form while simultaneously coming into the world as the Christ, a full and complete expression of the Divine.  Exploring the Jesus story as a metaphor for our evolution of consciousness, we recognize that through Jesus, as through each of us, the full potential of the Creative Life Force (God) poured itself forward into creation in order that it might be revealed.  To put it simply, in all its complexity, (God) was revealed to itself, as itself.  Jesus exampled this by awakening from attachment to the human conditioned consciousness, and realizing his Oneness with God, whom he referred to as the ‘Father,’ he courageously exclaimed, “I and Father are one.” (John 10:30)

In every moment, we come full circle in our journey with Jesus as we acknowledge that the same potential to accept and realize our Oneness is inherent in each of us and as we willingly surrender to it.  In fact, it is only due to our belief in separation that we can ever see a distinction between ourselves and God, the Creative Life Force that is constantly and consistency living itself in us, through us, as us.  As the writer of the book of Acts says, “In [God] we live and move and have our being.” (Acts 17:28 NIV)  God is pouring itself into the world every moment of every day as you and me.  It is ours to choose to awaken to that Truth, realize our Oneness, and live from that Consciousness.

Earlier in the series, I presented that one of the foundational Scriptures of Christianity is John 3:16 & 17,
“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish, but have eternal life.  Indeed, God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” (NIV)
This Scripture has traditionally been interpreted to mean that God sent Jesus to atone for the sins of the world by sacrificing him on the cross.  Further, that if one believes that Jesus was God’s only son, then he or she will be saved from what would otherwise be an eternity in hell.

Unlike traditional Christianity, we in Unity do not view Jesus as the only son of God sent into the world to redeem it, but rather as one whose life may serve as an example for the potential within each of us to recognize, realize and reveal our Oneness.  Jesus was a human being who experienced the conditioning of family, religion and society; similar to what each of us is subjected to, yet through a process of awakening he recognized, realized and revealed his Christ potential and his Oneness with God.  The same potential and possibility is inherent in each of us.

Interpreted from a metaphysical perspective, John 3:16 & 17 might read something like,
“God, the Creative Life Force, loved itself into creation as the Christ and gave itself to all, as all, so that whoever exercises the power of Faith (consciousness centered in God) will know that God is eternally living and giving itself to the world and will realize their oneness with it.  God did not love itself into the world to condemn it, but so that the world could save itself through its own recognition, realization, and revelation of Christ expressing.
From the realization of Oneness, we might even say,
“I, being one with God, am giving my Self to the world so that the world can be redeemed as I show the way and model a life lived from the conscious awareness of Christ as the only Truth of all creation.”
Through our realization and revelation the world is redeemed, or to use the traditional Christian word “saved.”  The world is saved through each one of us awakening to the glory of the Divine that he or she is.  And, as we awaken, we assist others in awakening as well.  Christ redeems the world through the world’s conscious recognition and realization of itself as the Christ.  And, as Christ is recognized and realized, anywhere in any moment, it is revealed as all creation.

Redemption, or salvation, happens in the instant that we are willing to let go of the idea that we are separate from the Creative Life Force (God) and surrender to and realize our Oneness.  Then, from the consciousness of realization, Christ is revealed as we choose to know it for ourselves and for the world.  We have come full circle in the realization that Christ was born not only through Jesus, but Christ is born every moment that we are willing to surrender and allow God to have its full, undiluted, unencumbered expression in us, through us, as us.  The Christ is in you today.  Allow Christ to be born and revealed as you today.

Let us affirm together:

“I give all of my Self, the Christ of my being,
in every moment so that the world might awaken
to the Divine expression of Christ that it is.”