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Thursday, October 30, 2014

This is a Hallowed Day

Halloween is considered by many to have its origins in the Celtic festival of Samhain which was sometimes regarded as the Celtic New Year, a celebration of the end of the “lighter half” of the year and the beginning of the “darker half” of the year. The ancient Celts believed that the veil between the physical and the non-physical realms was thinnest at this time allowing spirits, both good and evil, to pass through. They wore costumes and masks as a means of protection. Disguised as evil spirits they could “blend in” and avoid being recognized as human.

The tradition of observing Halloween or Hallowe’en, a contraction of the original “All Hallows’ Evening,” was also influenced in the west by the Christian church. It is observed as the evening before All Saints Day, a time for honoring all the saints and praying for those recently departed souls who are in purgatory and have not yet reached Heaven. The custom of wearing costumes has been linked to All Saints Day by Prince Sorie Conteh, who wrote: "It was traditionally believed that the souls of the departed wandered the earth until All Saints' Day, and All Hallows' Eve provided one last chance for the dead to gain vengeance on their enemies before moving to the next world. In order to avoid being recognized by any soul that might be seeking such vengeance, people would don masks or costumes to disguise their identities".

In both traditions there is a common theme – there are souls wandering around somewhere between the realms of Heaven and Hell, a.k.a. “light and dark” or “good and evil.”  In the Christian tradition this realm is knows as purgatory. Purgatory is understood to be a condition of purification or temporary punishment that prepares souls for Heaven.

In Unity, we believe that both ‘heaven’ and ‘hell’ are states of consciousness. Heaven is a state of consciousness often referred to as Christ consciousness, which each of us may attain. It is the consciousness of knowing Oneness with the Divine. Hell, on the other hand, is the consciousness of duality in which one experiences the suffering created by a mind that believes in separation. We are constantly at a point of choice: we can choose heaven or hell in any moment. However, many, if not most of us, walk around in state of “purgatory,” not quite in hell, but not yet enjoying heaven. We seem to believe, perhaps not consciously, that we do not yet deserve heaven, that we must be punished, tested or tried in order to demonstrate our worthiness. We condemn ourselves to living in a perpetual state of purgatory, testing and “purifying” ourselves. We are those souls who are seeking the light, attempting to reach heaven.

As with the tradition of Halloween in which we wear masks and costumes to protect us from evil spirits, we, as a daily ritual, don masks and costumes disguising ourselves as the roles we play as human beings, often times believing that we are the masks we wear, not trying to fool the disembodied spirits of the dead, but in an attempt to hide our Truth from ourselves and others. While this allows us to “blend in” and to avoid standing out from the crowd, it prevents us from coming into the full recognition of our true selves and embracing the Christ consciousness, our ultimate potential.

In order to come into the recognition of our Truth, we must be willing to acknowledge the masks we wear and investigate them to determine for ourselves if we are allowing them to hide our Light. Until we are willing to remove the masks and see ourselves as we truly are, we will continue to believe that we are unworthy. When we recognize our Truth, we will know that no suffering is needed, and we will release ourselves from purgatory and enter fully into the consciousness of “heaven.”

I encourage us all to observe this Halloween as an opportunity to free ourselves from the limitations of our masks and costumes, and as we awaken tomorrow to All Saints Day to know what we are not souls living in purgatory, but saints who have arisen in Christ consciousness to celebrate Heaven.
And all of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord, the Spirit. -  
2 Corinthians 3:18
Happy Halloween! 
Glorious All Saints Day!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Loving Yourself

This past week I returned to Texas. I attended the Unity South Central Region annual conference in Houston and a Mediate Your Life® training in Arlington. Both events presented me with many opportunities for self-reflection and growth. I had occasions to come face-to-face (sometimes literally) with the ways others perceive me and how my action or inaction has impacted them. It gave me pause to consider how I choose, consciously or subconsciously, to express love to others and how I express love for myself. I was reminded of the words of the master teacher, Jesus.

In the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 22 (NRSV), one of the Sadducees asks Jesus, “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” Jesus said, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” So, what does that mean for us today? How does it look when we live those commandments? Let’s explore it.

In The Revealing Word, a metaphysical dictionary by Unity’s co-founder Charles Fillmore, ‘Lord’ is defined as “The activity of the spiritual I AM as the ruling consciousness.  The Lord God of the Scriptures is Christ, the Spiritual Man; our divine consciousness; the creative power within us.”  To love “the Lord” is to devote time, talent, and resources to embracing and embodying Christ consciousness, and doing whatever it takes to live from the awareness that the I AM, the Spiritual Man (human), is the only Truth.  It is being committed to the practice of worshiping, as The Revealing Word defines it, “bestowing one’s love on, or identifying with,” God in every thought, word and action; God being the One Life of All expressing through Love as One Presence in and as All creation. 

To love one’s neighbor as one’s self can be interpreted in at least two ways. It can mean to love one’s neighbor as though the neighbor is the self, which is the essence of oneness consciousness. When we know that we are one, we also know that what we do to another we do to ourselves. Thus, from that understanding loving one’s neighbor is tantamount to loving one’s self. In Matthew 25 Jesus also said, “Just as you have done unto the least of these, you have done it unto me.”

Jesus could also have been instructing us to express love to each other in the same way that we expresses love for ourselves. If indeed this is the meaning of the commandment, then I would argue that most keep this commandment in that we often love our neighbors in the ways we love ourselves. Unfortunately, most often, we do not truly express love for ourselves.

We are encouraged by spiritual teachers and many self-help writers to love ourselves, but they often do not give us adequate instruction in how to achieve that goal. It is as if we are to adopt the Nike® motto and “Just do it”™.  In similar fashion, we are often encouraged to “forgive” or “let it go” and when we find that it is challenging to do so, that we can’t “just do it”, we sometimes judge and criticize ourselves. In effect, we frequently love ourselves even less than our neighbors
We are complex beings with multifaceted perspectives, deeply held beliefs and values, and intense multi-layered experiences and emotions. At times, we judge certain aspects of ourselves and do our best to resist or reject them. I offer that to love ourselves we must be willing to meet ourselves, all aspects of ourselves, with understanding, compassion, acceptance and appreciation. Only then will we be able to truly love ourselves and our neighbors completely.

We must be willing to feel our feelings without judgment, have compassion for our unrealized values and unmet needs, accept that we are doing our best, always, and appreciate all that we have achieved, the joy that we have lived, and the good that we do.

I hope you can join us on Sunday for our 10:00 a.m. service as I explore these ideas in greater depth. If you are unable to join us, please listen to the recorded message available at

Thursday, October 9, 2014

You Matter

As I have shared in my two most recent posts, I am rereading and, in fact, studying in earnest the book The Gifts of Imperfection by author, speaker and research professor Brené Brown Ph.D. I read it for the first time last year, and I am now, upon revisiting it, recommitting to consciously integrating the information and wholeheartedly engaging in some of the practices Dr. Brown offers in her book.

I am willing and ready to join what Dr. Brown refers to as a “Wholehearted Revolution - a small, quiet, grassroots movement that starts with each of us saying, ‘My story matters because I matter’.” And, I invite you to join me.

In order to live a wholehearted life, we must be willing to do the work and go through the process of discovering and working through step-by-step the things that we continue to allow to get in the way of living and loving wholeheartedly.

There is no one-size-fits-all method to living a wholehearted life. Life is continually unfolding and in order for us to live wholeheartedly we must be willing to be in relationship with it in the moment, and we must be willing to practice courage, connection and compassion in order to break free from the limited concept of self that we have taken on from the world around us. We must be willing to dare to live from a deep and abiding connection with our spirit, soul, divine self, or by whatever name or nature we understand it to be and express it fully in the world.

I have experienced it numerous times, yet I continue to be surprised when I begin to notice, after setting a conscious intention to make a change in my life, how everything that is unlike my stated intention begins to show up in some way. As I firmly declared that I choose to live a wholehearted life, I knew that I was inviting the awareness of all I have allowed to get in the way of such a life. I have discovered that the process of moving through is usually not pain-free, but experience has proven to me, and so now I trust, that greater freedom and joy await on the other side.

Today, I am keenly aware of the many of the ways I learned to suppress my joy and creativity in order to fit in and experience love, at least what I was told and believed as a child was love. It was a pseudo-love, at best. It was most certainly a conditional love. I felt loved as long as I did what was acceptable in the eyes of others. I learned that it was not safe to be vulnerable and certainly not suitable to be authentic. Gratefully, I am continuing to unlearn those things day by day.

I know that I am not alone. We are all taught by our families, peers, churches, and culture who we are to be and how we are to behave in order to be loved and to belong. Unfortunately, most of us are not encouraged to be who we innately are because others are often uncomfortable with that. Instead, we are molded to satisfy what best suits the authority figures in our lives.

We do not need to tackle a lifetime of learning all at once. We can give ourselves permission to take it one step at a time, even if those steps are baby steps. We can begin today by connecting with our creative spirits through music, art, cooking, writing, singing, or in whatever form creativity presents. We can lean into our natural state of joy by connecting with the beauty of nature all around us, expressing gratitude for all that we enjoy in our lives, or by dancing around the room to Pharrell Williams’ song, “Happy”. To explore creativity that brings us joy, and to do it wholeheartedly means we get to do it regardless of what someone else might think, do or say.

A commitment to wholehearted living requires us to be willing to connect with and have the courage to express our true nature with vulnerability and authenticity. As author and spiritual leader, Marianne Williamson said, “as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” By practicing wholehearted living we let our unique light shine, and by doing so others are encouraged to do the same. 

I support you in knowing that your story matters because you matter. You matter simply because you are. Let’s join the “Wholehearted Revolution” and commit to living and loving with our whole being.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

You Are Worthy!

Today, October 1, is my birthday. As of today, I have completed 54 trips around the sun on this beautiful planet called Earth. Each year as my birthday approaches, especially the past few, I find myself engaging in deep introspection and reflection about what has past and about what is to come.

I know that every day, in fact, every moment of every day is an opportunity to let go of that which no longer serves and to make new choices; still, for me there is something different about a birthday. As January 1 is often a time for us to make New Year’s resolutions and commit to making more life-enriching choices for the year ahead, so a birthday marks the end of one year in our lives and can be the beginning of a brand new chapter, if we allow it to be.

For much of my life, I lived from what I now know is a false belief that I am not worthy of love and belonging. I received that message very early in life from the belief system (B.S.) of the traditional Christian denomination of my youth. From their perspective, I was, as are all people, born in sin, therefore unworthy of Jesus’ “sacrifice”. Additionally, because from their perspective I chose to live a “gay lifestyle” I was told that I most certainly did not belong to the family of God, at least not to the family of God that happened to gather in that particular church. I am not suggesting that the church is solely responsible for my shame and belief in unworthiness, but the doctrine of the church and its long-standing and far-reaching influence on our culture has substantially contributed to it.

This is not intended to be an indictment of traditional Christianity, nor is it a “poor me” tirade, but a sharing of my recognition of how I allowed the deeply ingrained beliefs of my childhood to so powerfully affect the way I lived much of my life. Rather than allowing myself to be vulnerable and live wholeheartedly, I spent way too much time and energy hiding, avoiding and numbing. I believed it was not safe to be authentically me, so I tried to be whoever I thought I needed to be in order to be considered by others worthy of love and belonging. I mastered the art of fitting in, but sacrificed myself in the process.

I am thankful to now be in Unity, a spiritual movement that teaches us that we are worthy of love and belonging. We are worthy of love because we are the very nature of Love expressing in the world. We are worthy of belonging because, as Unity minister and author Eric Butterworth says, we exist as an “eachness” within the “Allness” that is God. I am inspired by our Youth and Family Ministry staff and volunteers at Unity Church of Denver who reinforce that message in every interaction with our youth. Our young people are encouraged to know their worth and to be authentically who they are in the world.

There have been many touchstones along my journey that have contributed to my spiritual understanding and evolution. I consider discovering Unity one of the most influential and momentous. Since walking into Unity Church of Dallas for the first time almost 20 years ago to the day, and hearing the words, “You are as God created you” from the minister, I have, one day at time, come to embrace and love myself more. I have learned spiritual practices that have contributed to me living life more wholeheartedly. And, I am still learning and evolving. As Unity cofounder Charles Fillmore said when he was in his 90s, “We grow old because we think old thoughts…I’m getting rid of those thoughts, gradually.” I, too, am releasing those limiting thoughts and beliefs, gradually. In addition to the Fillmores, there have been and continue to be many guides along the way. One of those guides is author and research professor at Houston Graduate College of Social Work, Brené Brown Ph.D.

I do not believe in coincidences, so I hold that it is no accident that Dr. Brené Brown’s book, The Gifts of Imperfection, reappeared in my awareness just as I was about to celebrate another birthday. Her book reminds me that I am here, as we all are, in this life to live wholeheartedly, and that living wholeheartedly requires me to practice vulnerability and authenticity.

As Dr. Brown states, “I think we should be born with a warning label similar to the ones that come on cigarette packages: Caution: If you trade in your authenticity for safety, you may experience the following: anxiety, depression, eating disorders, addiction, rage, blame, resentment and inexplicable grief.” Wouldn’t it be great if we all learned that truth early in life, rather than some of the things that we do learn? It would certainly have saved me a great deal of suffering.

The Gifts of Imperfection has given me renewed hope that it is never too late to unlearn limiting myths, messages and beliefs, embrace our worthiness, and own our birthrights of love and belonging. Calling upon her years of research and hundreds of interviews, Dr. Brown assures us that we can live wholehearted lives. Further, she offers practices that will assist us in realizing this potential. No, it does not happen “automagically;” we have to be willing to do things differently in order to realize change.

Today is my birthday, and I am choosing for it to be a new beginning. I am choosing to allow today to be the day of a renewed awakening, an enthusiastic awakening to the possibility and potential for living life wholeheartedly. I am choosing to consciously cultivate my sense of worthiness through practicing courage, compassion and connection, embracing and loving myself just as I am, and sharing myself authentically with the world. I invite you to join me. There is no need to wait for the day on your birth certificate or for January 1. Let today be the day you decide to make the commitment to living and loving wholeheartedly. You are worthy!