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Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Nonviolence Is Love In Action

I recently watched a rebroadcast of Tavis Smiley’s 2005 interview with Coretta Scott King, widow of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., civil rights leader and activist.  During the interview Mr. Smiley asked Mrs. King if she thought that Dr. King’s nonviolent strategies would be effective in today’s volatile world political climate.  He specifically addressed whether she thought they would be effective in response to the events of 9/11 and in dealing with Osama bin Laden, asking her if a nonviolent response would prevail in such extreme circumstances. I was pleased to hear her unequivocal “Yes.”  In fact, she posited that if we had been practicing and promoting nonviolence in our diplomatic relations around the world in the decades since Dr. King’s assassination that there would not have been an Osama bin Laden or others like him.  Mrs. King further stated that the concept of “nonviolence” is based on unconditional love as taught by Jesus Christ and that when we embrace unconditional love as our guiding principle and respond from that consciousness, we naturally live nonviolence.  Nonviolence is not passive resistance, but active response expressed as unconditional love from the realization of Oneness. 

Jesus spoke from a realization of Oneness when he said, “The Father and I are One” and “Those who have seen me have seen the Father.”  The “Father” is the One Power and One Presence that is the Source of All.  Jesus was not talking just about himself; he taught that each of us is that One as well. 

There is only One in expression; therefore, all who appear to be showing up in human form are in reality individuations of the One. 

From the realization of Oneness, the mind-identified “conditions,” such as religion, race, gender, nationality, and sexual orientation to name a few, no longer have any meaning; therefore there is nothing to fear, thus nothing to defend or attack.  Where there is no fear, there is only Love. “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out all fear.” John 4:18.  Where there is only Love, that Love extends to all humanity through every thought, word and deed: This is the essence of nonviolence. 

When asked, “What is the greatest commandment?” Jesus replied, “Love – Love God, Love your Self, and Love the ‘other’ as the Self.  As Mrs. King stated, when we practice nonviolence we follow this – the greatest commandment of all.

Today begins the seventeenth annual Gandhi-King-Gyatso Season for Nonviolence.  It is sponsored by the Association for Global New Thought (
The annual 64 day campaign, co-founded in 1998 by Dr. Arun Gandhi and The Association for Global New Thought (AGNT), is an educational, media and grassroots awareness campaign spanning the January 30th and April 4th memorial anniversaries of Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

The purpose of the campaign is to focus educational and media attention on the philosophy of attaining peace through nonviolent action as demonstrated by legendary leaders Mohandas K. Gandhi, Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., Cesar E. Chavez, and President Nelson Mandela, as well as living legends such as His Holiness, Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet.”

Please visit their website to learn more or to download information that will assist with the practice and integration of nonviolence in our daily lives.

May we continue to live the teachings of Jesus and realize the dreams of these leaders, and others who champion nonviolence through the realization of Oneness and express that in their actions of unconditional love.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

God Is

This past Sunday I had the honor of being the guest speaker at Harmony Fellowship of Fort Worth.  As I sat in the sanctuary awaiting the start of the service, my focus was drawn to the message that is posted on the front wall above the platform.  In large beautifully scripted letters are the words, “God is…”  I contemplated those words and assumed that they are the beginning of a phrase which each one is invited to complete for themselves.  It was a present reminder of how each of us defines ‘God’ in our own way, and how our concept of ‘God’ greatly impacts every area of our lives, at times enriching it, and at other times confounding it.  To some, ‘God’ as a concept can provide comfort and peace of mind in times of need.  To others, ‘God’ can also create much suffering.  ‘God’ can stimulate a great deal of pain and guilt for one who has learned that God judges and punishes. 

Over the past few years I have participated in discussions within our Unity of Arlington community about ‘God’ and the use of the word ‘God.’ One person said, “I do not believe in God: I am an atheist.”  Another said, “I am agnostic: I do not believe that any person can know the cause of reality without firsthand experience; therefore, there is no way to know if ‘God’ exists.”  Still another questioned, “If we are not talking about the big guy up in heaven somewhere that is controlling everything, the God of most Christians’ understanding, and we have a more evolved understanding of what it is, why do we still use the word ‘God’: Why not use ‘Life’ or some other word?” 

While it is just a word and as all words are, is used to represent a concept, the word ‘God’ is imbued with centuries of meaning, not all of it in alignment with what we teach in Unity.  When one, such as I, has been indoctrinated in a religion that uses ‘God’ to judge, punish and abuse, he or she often has a mental and emotional imprinting of the word that is not conducive to feeling centered or inspired when hearing ‘God’ spoken in the spiritual community.  There was a time in the not so distant past when I chose not to use the word ‘God’ and was often disturbed when I heard others use it, especially those in Unity or other New Thought communities.   And, while I now use the word freely, I completely understand that it can be disconcerting and even confounding for some.  I am sure it can be for them much like it is for me when I go back to a Baptist church service; I find myself reinterpreting nearly everything that the minister says, as well as all the hymn lyrics.  It can be tiring and trying.

When I use the word ‘God’ today I am certainly not referring to the God of my childhood, a man with a white beard and white robes sitting up in heaven somewhere judging me and everyone else and most likely damning me to eternity in hell because I do not measure up to his criteria for admittance to heaven.  When I say ‘God’ I am not referring to a being or beings; and while I do not consider myself an atheist, neither do I subscribe to theism.  I am, instead, to the best of my ability giving voice to that which is ineffable. 

After further consideration, perhaps the words on the wall at Harmony Fellowship are not the beginning of a phrase, but a complete sentence.  The ‘God’ of my understanding today is not noun, pronoun nor verb: God is.  God is “no thing,” yet is All.  God is the Essence of all that is real.  As Unity co-founder, Charles Fillmore stated, “God is the eternal verity of the universe and humankind.”

Our concepts of ‘God’ are worthy of further consideration and exploration.  I hope you will join us this Sunday as we go “Back to Basics” and explore ‘God’ and “God is….” from a Unity perspective.  

Thursday, January 16, 2014

God says "Yes"

I have heard it said that when we pray God has three possible answers: yes, no, or not now.

The problem with that concept, especially when we don’t get what we pray for, is determining whether the answer is ‘no’ or ‘not now.’  If that’s really the way it works and we don’t get what we ask for, are we supposed to give up or keep asking?  When I was a child and my parents said ‘no’ to something I really wanted, I would beg and plead until I got it or until my parents got angry and gave me a definitive ‘NO!’  Are we supposed to do the same with God?

Lakewood Church Pastor and bestselling author, Joel Osteen, in his book, Break Out! – 5 Keys to go Beyond Your Barriers and Live an Extraordinary Life, states that we have to go through our ‘no’s’ on the way to our ‘yeses.’  He contends that the ‘no’s’ are part of God’s plan, and that God’s ‘no’s’ are often a test of our faith. Mr. Osteen says that God has ‘yeses’ in our future and that we must be persistent in our asking until we receive a ‘yes.’  He asserts that God says, “Yes is coming your way.”

The idea that God says ‘no’ or ‘not now’ does not work with my concept of God.  The belief that God says ‘no’ assumes that God makes evaluations or judgments about what we should or should not have.  That concept of God speaks of a God created in the image of humankind, a God that gives to some and withholds from others, which is the opposite of man being created in the image of God.

The concept of a capricious God, with base human characteristics, does not mesh with my current understanding of God.  God is Pure Consciousness.  God is Absolute Good, as Unity’s first basic principle states.  God, as we understand God, is Principle, unchanging and unchangeable.  God is the one Source, the one Life, the one Presence, and the one Power.  The Consciousness of God (Good) is always expressing and expanding.  God is constantly and consistently giving All as all.

I hesitate to use an anthropomorphic analogy for God because I do not wish to reinforce that image of God, but I will do so here in order to express my point. If God answered our asking verbally, God would always say ‘Yes!’  God would say, “I have given All.  It is yours to accept as you choose.  All you need to do is release from your consciousness that which is blocking the manifestation of Good (God) in your life experience.”  It is up to us to recognize it, realize it, and reveal it. In short, it is up to us to say ‘Yes!’ to God.

The Consciousness that is God always reflects back to us that which we are saying ‘Yes’ to – not necessarily verbally, but through the projection of our minds which consists of not only thoughts, but our feelings as well.  God (Pure Consciousness) only shows us the perfect reflection of our own consciousness.  Within that, God says, ‘”Yes, you are seeing in the world of form exactly what you, in your mind are saying ‘yes’ to.”

If we are not experiencing the totality of God’s Good, it is because our consciousness has not evolved and expanded to allow it and to receive it.  If we are not experiencing the manifestation of our desire, it is because our minds are blocking our awareness and acceptance of it.  We are saying ‘Yes’ to something that we do not desire.

From this understanding, the question, “Why does God keep saying ‘no’ to my prayers?” becomes, “What am I saying ‘Yes’ to that is not a match to my deepest desire to allow and receive Good in my life?”

Do you have a desire that is yet to manifest?  Are you experiencing something in your life that seems to be in direct opposition to what you do desire? If you answer in the affirmative to either of those questions, I invite you to take an honest look at your beliefs around the desire.  Are you unconsciously saying ‘yes’ to something you do not desire? Are you holding a belief that is opposing your desire?  Are you willing to release it and affirm a new belief that supports the realization of your desire?  It truly is your choice.  God never says ‘no.’ God does not say ‘not now.’  God always says ‘Yes!’  We just have to be clear about what we are saying ‘Yes!’ to. 

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Unshakable Faith

Yes, after a holiday break I am now back to considering the path to prosperous living prescribed by Lakewood Pastor and bestselling author, Joel Osteen, in his latest book, Break Out! 5 Keys to Go Beyond Your Barriers and Live an Extraordinary Life.  I am truly fascinated by his perspective.  Reading his book is helping me to discern how his teaching can integrate with New Thought philosophy in ways that I can apply to my life and help others use in their lives as well. 

What follows is the first in a series of pieces I will write in which I take chapter titles and quotes from Mr. Osteen’s book and offer my perspective on how we can interpret and use his lessons to truly live prosperous lives.  Please keep in mind Unity minister and author, Edwene Gaines’, definition of prosperity which is –
  • 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

Unshakable Faith
Mr. Osteen says, “When God puts a promise in your heart, you have to come to the place where you believe in that promise so strongly no one can talk you out of it.”

What is the promise that God puts in your heart?  It is not the promise of health or wealth, not the promise of a new job or the perfect relationship; not the promise of a new car or a grand home.  The promise that God places in your heart is the same promise that is in the heart of all.  The promise is “I Am that I Am.”  The “I” which we call ‘God,’ ‘Universe,’ ‘Divine Mind,’ ‘One’ as well as many other names is the All in all and the All as all.  The “I” is our only Truth.  That Truth is “written on our hearts.”  In other words, the Truth is recorded in our soul or etched on our spirit.
“This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel    after that time,” declares the LORD.“I will put my law in their minds    and write it on their hearts.I will be their God,    and they will be my people. – Jeremiah 31:33
That covenant is that the ‘I’ is all you need. Conditions change, people come and go, jobs begin and end, and houses are built and destroyed: “I” is changeless and eternal.  We must place our faith so strongly in the awareness of the ‘I’ that nothing can move us.  Nothing in the external can shake the faith that ‘I’ is the only Truth.  No appearance, no circumstance can move us from our firm foundation in the Truth.  It is this Truth that sets us free from the suffering caused by focusing on conditions.

Charles Fillmore, the co-founder of Unity, said,
“When we deny our attachment to matter and material conditions and affirm our unity with spiritual substance, we enter the new consciousness of real substance.  Substance is not confined to matter; it is the idea that is the firm foundation of all that we conceive to be permanent.”
Mr. Osteen says,
“If you focus on the condition, focus on the problem, you are using your faith but you are using it in reverse.”
Actually if you are focusing on your problem, if you are paying attention only to the condition, you are not using faith at all.  Unity minister and author, Eric Butterworth, defines ‘faith’ as “consciousness centered in the Divine Flow.”  If we understand ‘faith’ from that perspective, it does not follow that faith can be used to focus on a problem.  If we are focusing on the circumstance and we are not aware of the Truth in the midst of it, then we are in fear, not in faith.  Faith is keeping our minds stayed on Truth.

Mr. Osteen encourages us to, “Get in agreement with God.”  We must be honest, and ask ourselves whether we are agreeing with the medical report or the financial report, or are we agreeing with the promise of God – the Truth of our Being.

This does not mean that we have to deny the appearance or live with our heads in the sand.  It is fine to have information.  However, it is essential to not allow the information to be perceived as Truth.  The facts about a physical condition, financial situation, job or relationship are just that, facts; they are not your Truth.  Do not allow the “facts” to inform your actions.  Remove your focus from the facts before taking action and allow divine guidance to inform your actions.

Living a prosperous life is not something that happens to you; it happens through you.  Living a prosperous life results not from focusing on life’s conditions and taking action to remedy them, but from living in conscious awareness of the eternal Truth of your being - the ‘I’ that is and was and evermore shall be, the All, and taking action inspired from that consciousness. Your Good is not dependent upon any person, place or thing in the external.  Your good is dependent upon you and your willingness to make that shift in consciousness.  That is the only path to prosperous living.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Lasting Change and Enduring Freedom

Each year, many of us participate in a burning bowl ceremony on New Year’s Eve, New Year’s Day or the first Sunday of the New Year.  It is an opportunity to free ourselves from thoughts, resentments, beliefs, and situations that no longer serve our highest good; the things that we allow to keep us in bondage and prevent us from embracing our truth and living our dreams.  The ritual involves writing on a piece of paper the things we want to release and ceremoniously placing the paper into the cleansing and transforming flame of the burning bowl to be consumed by the fire, thereby freeing us from them.  Following this release, we then write down the things we choose to welcome into our lives.  It is a process of visualizing our lives in the coming year.  Many participate in this ceremony each year at Unity of Arlington and this past New Year’s Eve was no exception.

I was not there in body this year as I chose to join J in Oklahoma to be with his mother, Virgie, in the hospital; however, I was there in Spirit.  It is one of my favorite rituals and I love sharing it with my spiritual family.  Even though I felt an immediate twinge of envy when I heard the glowing reports of how amazing the ceremony was with Rev. Rebecca Rickey facilitating, the envy quickly gave way to delight and appreciation.  I am thrilled to know that the service was so well attended and was meaningful for so many.  I knew I was leaving you in very capable and loving hands.  I am also filled with gratitude for everyone who helped to make the service happen, including Bea Schindler for making sure we had a burning bowl and a lighted path to it; Glenda and Truman Thompson for readying the sanctuary; Janie Reynolds and Td Doherty for putting together the supplies for everyone; Debra Dickinson for doing all that she does on a daily basis; and, of course, Cornell Kinderknecht and Martin McCall for providing the music.  I wish I had already mastered bi-location so that I could have been in both places, but I was where I felt I needed to be.  I know it was an awesome event.  I am already looking forward to the next one.

There is another ritual many Unity churches and spiritual centers offer, the white stone ceremony, usually on the first Sunday of the New Year.  In the time of Jesus, when one was released from prison or bondage of any kind, they were given a white stone as a symbol of their new-found freedom.  The white stone ceremony is a ritual in which we symbolically release ourselves from our own internal “bondage” by means of guided meditation and imagery, and then open our hearts and minds to hear the voice of Spirit speaking a new name, a quality of the Divine Self, a new title, or other meaningful word or phrase that we write on a white stone.  The white stone is intended to be a symbol of who or what we are to become in the New Year.  We at Unity of Arlington will offer an opportunity to participate in the white stone ceremony during the 10:00 a.m. service this Sunday, January 5.

Both ceremonies can be meaningful, yet it is important for us to recognize that they are not magical. The burning bowl and white stone rituals are opportunities for us to use physical objects that assist us in grounding our awareness of powerful spiritual transformation taking place within our consciousness.  The ceremonies in and of themselves do not set us free; they only assist us in having an external experience of our inner process.

We engage in these rituals at the close of one year and the beginning of another because we have come to think of a New Year as an opportunity to begin again; a year represents a cycle of life.  We give ourselves permission to close the door on the past and open a new door to the future when we turn the page of the calendar from December to January.  There is nothing innately magical about transitioning from one calendar year to the next.  I have found that when I wake up on January 1, I am still the same person, in the same place, living the same life as when I went to bed on December 31.
No, there is nothing magical about the end of one calendar year and the beginning of another; however, it can be an empowering time if we choose to make it so.  We can make meaningful and lasting changes in our lives as we transform the way we perceive ourselves, others and the world.

Affecting enduring change in our lives requires our willingness to question everything we think we know – everything, no exceptions.  We can have no “sacred cows” in our beliefs if we truly wish to transform our lives.  Yes, questioning everything may seem frightening.  After all, what if we discover that who we think we are, we are not; what then?  What would we do if after questioning everything we think we know we no longer believe anything that Unity or any other spiritual path has taught us?  What if we discover that every belief we have based our lives on is not true?  Would we be lost?  On the contrary, we would find ourselves, and we would free ourselves.  When we question everything we believe to be true, we will discover what is truly true.  We will discover the Truth of who we are; the Truth that sets us free from the bondage of our beliefs.

We must be willing to be released from the past, the past conditioning of our minds which convinces us that we are something other than God in expression (please question that as well).  We must also be willing to be released from bondage of the future, the belief that at some point in the non-existent future we will be free and live the lives that we dream of.  The future is sometimes a stronger prison for our minds than is the past.

In order to know the freedom we seek, we must be willing to practice the presence of God in the present moment.  We practice the presence of God when we are willing to recognize that we are the presence of God.  In order that we may practice the presence of God we must be willing to be present now, not focused on some memory of the past or on some figment of an imagined future.  Freedom exists only in the present moment because the Allness of God is present in the moment and our conscious awareness of this truth is the totality of our freedom.

We do not find our freedom by turning the page of the calendar, or by closing the door on what has been and opening the door to what will be. We discover our freedom by opening our minds and hearts to the wonder of the present moment, and all that God is, in it and through it.  We embrace the freedom of our Divine Nature by accepting that we are the very presence of God right here, right now.

Rituals help us to affirm our decisions to claim our Truth and set ourselves free.  They are beautiful and meaningful outer expressions of our commitment to choose a new way of seeing ourselves, others and the world.  I hope you will join us on Sunday as we engage in the white stone ceremony and open to the voice of Spirit eternally calling us into a new vision of who we truly are.

Happy New Year!