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Thursday, May 28, 2015

Minister, Heal Thyself

Over the past week my body has been exhibiting symptoms of a cold. I detest having a cold. In addition to the stuffy head, coughing and headache, I have had very little energy for anything. Besides that, my mind has been foggy and my thinking muddled. I have been tempted to play the victim and tell myself that I am helpless to do anything but wait for the virus to run its course. I also find it tempting to make myself feel better with the notion that the Universe is forcing me to get some much needed rest, an idea I do not give credence to by the way. I do not subscribe to the belief that the Universe (another New Thought name for God) is trying to teach me something. Nor do I believe that I draw illness or anything else into my life so that I can learn a lesson. I do, however, believe that I can choose to learn from every experience. While it is a subtle shift in perspective, I think it is an important one. I am feeling much better and with a clearer mind am able to reflect on what I can choose to learn from this experience.

I have often heard the adage, “Physician, heal thyself.” It is a proverb quoted in Luke 4:23. In our common usage today it infers that one should follow his own prescription and do what he would advise others to do in a situation. In reflecting upon this past week, it occurs to me that I might say to myself, “Minister, heal thyself.” I wonder if I am like the physician who is good at prescribing for others, but does not heed his own advice. In light of this past week, as I reflect on what I believe to be true about healing and wholeness, I must honestly admit that I can choose to more closely live the Truth I know in order to demonstrate healing and wholeness in my life.

Through the words of our co-founders, Charles and Myrtle Fillmore, the Unity movement provides powerful teaching on healing and wholeness and how to demonstrate it in our lives.  Myrtle Fillmore’s Healing Letters, a collection of letters Mrs. Fillmore wrote in response to prayer requests that were sent to Silent Unity, is a valuable resource for these teachings.  I was particularly struck by one of her letters that affirms the power of prayer, but seems to dissuade the writer from the belief that it is somehow magical.  It affirms that while prayer is a powerful practice, it is not magic, and one must take personal responsibility for his or her own demonstration of wholeness.

In her response to two statements from the writer in which he asks to be “sent some healing vibrations” and “to relieve us through Silent Unity healing,” Mrs. Fillmore reminds us all that the path to healing and wholeness is three-fold, involving all aspects of our being: spirit, mind and body.  This three-fold path to healing and wholeness applies to all aspects of our life experiences, including physical health, financial well-being, our relationships with others, and self-expression through our chosen vocation and avocation.  If we are to demonstrate the full expression of all the Good that God is as us, we must realize our Truth in spirit, mind and body.

We know that the spiritual Truth is that each of us is an expression of Divine Intelligence, Substance, and Supply, that which we call “God.”  As the allegorical story in the book of Genesis tells us, we are created in the image and likeness of God. God gave all of Itself at the moment of creation, and we eternally exist in this state of wholeness and perfection.  We only “separate” ourselves from this state of being as we hold the belief that we can be separate. It is a state that can only happen in our minds. Thus, we must keep our minds stayed on the Truth.

The mind, as we understand it, is more than our thoughts - it also includes our feeling nature.  Since our thoughts and feelings are so closely interlinked, it is difficult, if not impossible to determine which comes first. There are those who assert that thoughts elicit feelings, and others will argue the reverse. Because they happen almost simultaneously in most cases, it is of little concern which arises first. For the purposes of healing and wholeness, it only matters that we are aware of our thoughts and feelings and that we intervene on those that are not in alignment with our Truth. Often, our feeling nature will alert us when we are out of harmony with our spiritual Truth. Any feeling that does not have its foundation in peace, love or joy can be our signal that our thoughts are off track and are in need of investigation and realignment.  We establish a consciousness of healing and wholeness as we keep our thoughts and thus our feelings in alignment with the Truth of our being. It is this consciousness which establishes the foundation for the demonstration of life experiences that embodies the fullness of our Truth as it opens us to receive the divine ideas that we are to bring forth into manifestation and sets the stage for our action.

The body, or the physical, is the final aspect of establishing the demonstration of Truth in any aspect of our lives. From the consciousness of Truth, we open ourselves to the wisdom, understanding and imagination, as well as other faculties of our nature which co-founder, Charles Fillmore, identified as “The Twelve Powers of Man.”  We open to the guidance that is available to us in the quiet of our peaceful, loving, joyous minds and we use our powers of strength, will, and power to move forward and take the action that we are called to take in order to bring forth into the physical realm the manifestation of a body, career, relationships, and bank account that mirror the Truth of our nature as God in expression. 

In reflecting upon my week, I think I did a pretty good job at claiming my spiritual Truth through the practice of prayer and meditation. However, I admit that I find it challenging to keep my mind stayed on my spiritual Truth when my body is experiencing anything other than health and vitality. My awareness is easily drawn away from my divine Truth and to the condition instead. I am reminded that it requires commitment to keep the mind focused on the divine idea of wholeness in the midst of the appearance of illness. I affirm, however, that it is an important step in demonstrating wholeness in our bodies and in the body of our affairs. Sometimes, we need help from another who is willing and able to remind us of our Truth when we can’t do it for ourselves. I have often encouraged others to reach out to me and to our prayer chaplains for support. I regret that I did not follow my own prescription.

When we are willing to allow another to hold sacred space for us and invite us into the consciousness of wholeness, we are often amazed and delighted by the insight that comes. In that space of conscious unity and in the clarity of connection we are more open to the guidance of Spirit and are able to hear what is ours to do in the outer to help affect a change in the condition. In my case, that could be going to the doctor, consulting with a nutritionist, knowing which herbal remedies to take, or any number of things I could do to help restore my body to its expression of wholeness.

The most powerful lesson for me through this experience has been the reminder of the value of daily practice. Myrtle Fillmore encourages us to, “Daily declare that your spiritual life and world, your mental life and world, your physical life and world are unified and that you are expressing harmoniously the ideas of the Christ Mind on these three planes.”

Thus, spirit, mind and body must be three-in-one, as one, in order that we may demonstrate healing and wholeness in all areas of our lives.  Minister, heal thyself. Live the Truth you know. Practice what you teach.

Please join us on Sunday for our 10:00 service as we explore further how we can live and demonstrate the Truths we know.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Remember the Sabbath

Recently, I was speaking with a dear friend. She and I have worked together more than once, continue to collaborate on projects, and share personal details about our lives, so she knows me pretty well. During our conversation, seemingly out of the blue, she asked me why I don’t often take vacations. She commented that many ministers and spiritual leaders that she knows take time off to rest and renew themselves, and she was concerned for me since I don’t. I was surprised by the question and didn’t immediately have a rational answer. I don’t recall what I said, but upon reflection I am sure I was defending and justifying. After our call, I contemplated the question, and realized that taking infrequent vacations is only one manifestation of my lack of honoring the need for rest and renewal. And, my guess is that I am not alone.

We all need rest. Our need for rest is as important as our need for sleep. It is an aspect of the natural rhythm of life. While extended time off from our daily activities is often enriching and necessary, we also need to create the space for rest amidst the busyness of our lives on a routine basis.

The conversation reminded me of one of my favorite books, Sabbath: Finding Rest, Renewal, and Delight in our Busy Lives, by Wayne Muller. I have highlighted passages on nearly every page in my printed copy. I also have the electronic and audible version of the book. I refer to it when I become aware of the need to be reminded to stop and reconnect; apparently, not frequently enough. Reverend Muller reminds us that “Remember the Sabbath to keep it holy” is the only commandment that begins with the word ‘remember,’ denoting that it is something we all know, but have forgotten. In the hurry of our active lives, we forget.

‘24/7’ seems to have become a modern-day mantra in our culture. We have access to just about everything we desire 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. We have access to information on the internet anytime day or night. Some of us can work around-the-clock from our home offices if we choose. We can bank, shop or be entertained whenever the urge strikes. We can do most of it without ever leaving the comfort of our own homes. Some wear ‘24/7’ as if it were a badge of honor – “I’m working 24/7 to get this project finished or to drive this deal home”. “I’m BUSY” is now a common response to the question, “how are you?”  Have we accepted constant activity as a part of our value system? In our efforts to accomplish, achieve and accumulate, have we lost the value for rest, renewal, and remembrance? Have we completely abandoned the value of observing the Sabbath?

Throughout time, there have been social taboos, and even laws to restrict activity on the Sabbath. While not as prevalent in many states today, legislators in our country still artificially enforce keeping the Sabbath by imposing “blue laws” which make it illegal for businesses to open, or restrict the items sold, on Sundays. It is currently against the law in Colorado to sell a vehicle on Sunday.

We have attempted to make the Sabbath about what not to do, rather than try to understand its true purpose. As Jesus said, “The Sabbath was made for humankind, not humankind for the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27 NRSV). Regardless of how it has been misunderstood and misused in the past, Sabbath is a sacred concept that, when observed, can serve us well.

Muller says,

“The Sabbath is not a burdensome requirement from some law-giving deity – ‘You ought, you’d better, you must’ – but rather a remembrance of a law that is firmly embedded in the fabric of nature. It is a reminder of how things really are, the rhythmic dance to which we unavoidably belong.”

The observance of Sabbath, in its highest intention, does not limit activities that one may engage in on a specified day, nor does it mandate setting aside an entire day. Sabbath is time we consciously choose to set aside to honor ourselves and our unity in God. According to the creation story in Genesis, God rested on the seventh day. God didn’t get dressed up and go to church, or catch up on what was missed during the six days of creating the world. God rested. The story reminds us that rest is an integral aspect of our spiritual, as well as our human experience.

It seems, in our culture, we may have lost sight of the value of resting in conscious connection in the One. I affirm that it is time for us to return to observing Sabbath. It is time for us to stop the violence of pushing ourselves beyond our limits. It is time for us to begin to care for ourselves. When we begin to take time to care for ourselves we will begin to take a little more time to care for each other and for our world. Perhaps an archaic concept, such as ‘Sabbath,’ can help save us from ourselves. It is certainly a concept that I intend to explore for myself beginning now.

I invite you to join us this Sunday as we explore and experience Sabbath. It will be a time to rest, renew and remember. Our service will include extended periods for quiet contemplation and meditation. Discover how remembering the Sabbath can make a difference in your life.

In observance of Memorial Day, we will also have an opportunity to remember and give thanks not only for the men and women who have served in our armed forces, but also for those individuals whose lives have touched ours.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Get Out of the Way

As I sit here staring at the blank computer screen, hands on the keyboard, struggling for what to write, the thought comes, “You have to write something.” I immediately feel tension in my body, my stomach churns, and my mind is flooded with thoughts of incompetency and unworthiness. These thoughts are NOT HELPFUL!

I close my eyes, take a deep breath and smile as the thought arises, “Get out of the way!” The still, small voice for God tells me to move aside. I am reminded of Jesus’ teaching in which he encouraged his disciples,

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life…Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them…Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these… And do not keep striving for what you are to eat and what you are to drink, and do not keep worrying. For it is the nations of the world that strive after all these things, and your Father knows that you need them. Instead, seek the kingdom of God, and these things will be given to you as well. – Luke 12: 22-31

I am astounded when I reflect on all the times I get in the way of the flow of God in and through my life. I am astonished when I become consciously aware of all the worrying, toiling and striving I engage in on a daily basis. I worry about not being good enough or having enough. I toil and spin in order to achieve success, by whatever measure I choose to define it at that particular time. I strive for prosperity. And, I create anxiety for myself in the process. “Oh, you of little faith! Get out of the way!” says the voice of God within.

As I stop to consider the raven and other birds, I notice that they seem to be guided by an internal sense of knowing. They alight on a tree branch, take flight often without provocation, build nests when needed, and eat when they are hungry. They live seemingly by instinct. They don’t appear to worry about even their basic needs - where the next meal will come from or if they will have the materials needed for their nests. They are simply being birds.

Likewise, the lilies of the field grow from the seeds or bulbs that are planted in the ground and nurtured by the soil, rain and sun. They take root where they are planted, then sprout and flower at the perfect time in concert with nature. They share their beauty and fragrance with the world. They are not concerned with whether or not they are appreciated or how they may compare to the roses or other flowers.

Some might think it unfair, however, for Jesus to compare us to birds and lilies. They know nothing of our human concerns, such as money, health, relationships and the like. They don’t have to get out of the way because there is nothing in their way. Oh!

Jesus’ comparison was intentional. He was not being flippant. His lesson was calculated. Jesus embraced and embodied the Kingdom of God consciousness, the consciousness of Oneness in God. He knew, as Unity’s first basic principle states, that there is One Presence and One Power expressing in all life. He knew that the same power that inspires birds to build nests and find food, is the same power that moves in and as each of us to guide us to all we need in every moment. He knew that the same power that enfolds the beauty and fragrance of the lilies in the seed is the same power that enfolds within us the potential flowering of our true selves.

His encouragement to his disciples and to all of us to seek (and find) the Kingdom of God within us is to know our unity in the One Presence and One Power, the Source of creation, and to allow ourselves to be inspired to act in alignment with the inner knowing of our True Nature. In other words, he is instructing us to get out of the way and allow the Kingdom of God to express through us. This does mean that we are to just sit back and trust that everything will come to us. It does not mean that we do not act. The birds still seek out food and build nests; they just do it without stress and struggle.

We seek (and find) the Kingdom of God through the practices of prayer and meditation, centering our awareness in the conscious knowing of the One Power and One Presence. In the silence of our hearts and minds, we listen for the still small voice of God. We then follow, and act on the inspiration we receive. And from that knowing, we do so in peace, letting all else just be as we move in harmony with what already is.

Join us on Sunday for our 10:00 service as we identify some of the ways we get in the way and explore some of the practices that can help us get out of the way.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Motherly Love

Each year as Mother’s Day comes around, I think of my mother who died in 1976. I was 15-years old at the time. We were always very close. I guess you could say I was a “mama’s boy.” As a child, I never wanted her to be too far out of sight. I would be highly upset if I was playing at a friend’s house and came home to find that she had gone to the store without me. She was my “safety zone.” I always knew that no matter what, she was the one person I could depend on to take care of me.

She was always the fun mom. I have vivid memories of her playing kickball and softball with me and the other kids in the neighborhood. There were no other moms playing ball out in the middle of dirt road we lived on.  Everyone wanted to play at Miss Judy’s house.

She was a stay at home mom, so she was always there when we left for school in the morning and when we got home in the afternoon. I recall very few mornings when she did not have a pot of grits, fried bacon and eggs ready for breakfast, whether or not any of us wanted to eat them. I shudder to think how many pots of congealed grits were either thrown in the trash or fed to our dogs. Yes, we fed table scraps to our dogs! It was a special treat to come home from school occasionally to a freshly made lemon meringue pie or chocolate chip cookies.

Every other year she was a “room mother” during my elementary school years. She did the same for my sister on the alternating years. If you are not familiar with the “room mother” concept; a “room mother” was one who helped to plan and present the class parties during the year. They made cookies and cupcakes and brought them to the classroom for all of us to enjoy. I felt such joy and pride when my mother would show up on those special occasions and share some of her love and joy with my friends at school. When I went to middle school and later to high school, she was present for every choir concert, every church program, and while there were only a few, for every little league baseball game.

I was devastated when she and my sister died tragically in a car accident. She was 35 and my sister was 16. In an instant, all of that love, care and safety were gone. At least, it seemed so at the time.

I was soon to discover that the gift of Motherly Love is not restricted to the one who gave me birth. Many loving, caring people were there to surround me with love and support, but one in particular. Her name is Kathy. She is the mother of the first friend I met when we moved into the house I lived in for most of my youth. Her daughter, Janet, and I became fast friends in our inflatable pool that summer. She and I spent many hours playing in our adjoining yards. Our mothers became good friends as well.

After the accident, Kathy embraced my brother and me in love and care. She opened her arms and her home, and we became part of her family. Today, nearly 40 years later, she still considers me her son. Her daughters often joke that I am her favorite. They plead with me to come visit because they say she is much happier when I’m around. I don’t know if that’s true, but it makes me feel good to think it is.

I don’t mean to suggest that my life was ideal, or that my mother was a saint. She could get angry, and be very vocal about it. She punished me with spankings, which today some might consider child abuse. She was not always jovial; she was often sad and lonely. She, like the rest of us, was dealing with her own “stuff,” and my siblings and I were caught up in all of that. Then, later, Kathy was often over-protective and, at times over-bearing, especially for a 15-year old boy. I have spent many hours and a great deal of money in therapy working through “mother issues.” Still, I had a good childhood.

I know that I have been fortunate. I realize that there are many who did not have the experiences of motherly love that I enjoyed. I realize that many of you who are reading this had very different experiences with your mother. I recognize that there are many children in the world, indeed many in our city, who do not have someone to show them motherly love. Like me, many no longer have their mothers in physical form. Also, there are many mothers who wanted children that never came to be, or have experienced the loss of a child. For some, the grief is still very present and new. For others, the grief remains, yet not so fresh or intense. Regardless, I recognize that Mother’s Day can be a painful reminder for many of what is lost or what never was. My heart breaks open with empathy and compassion for you.

It is good to honor our earthly mothers for giving us life and for being the expression of the Divine that each of them is; even if they were not able to see it within themselves, thus not able to reflect it to us. As children, we were dependent upon someone else to give us love and attention, to teach us that we matter and to acknowledge our worth. Now that we are adults, we can choose to know and claim that we matter and are worthy of love simply because we are. No one can bestow it upon us, and no one can deprive us of it.

This Mother’s Day, I encourage us to recognize and celebrate that the energy of Motherly Love is our divine inheritance. It is who and what we are. It is not something that comes to us from another, although others may demonstrate it for us: Motherly Love comes through us and lives as us. It matters not whether we are currently embodied in a female or male physical form, each of us is the energy of the Divine Mother in expression. Motherly Love is the Divine Feminine as us, and we must awaken it within ourselves.

Begin by thinking of one person, female or male, who embodies the energy of Motherly Love for you. It may be someone you know personally, or someone you have read or heard about. Spend some time contemplating the qualities of this person. Accept that those qualities are innate within you as well. Allow yourself to ruminate on those qualities and bring your vibration into resonance with them. Feel the energy of them and experience every cell of your being imbued with the energy of them. See yourself filled with this energy and radiating it out into the world. Know that through the power of intention it is done. Use this mediation to embody the energy of Motherly Love. Envision yourself going into every interaction filled with the radiant energy of Motherly Love. Allow Love to show you the way. Let Love guide every thought, word and action.

I encourage us not to discount the significance of realizing this Truth. The expression of Motherly Love has the power to transform the world, and we have a role to play. We must consciously choose to embrace and embody the energy of Motherly Love and immerse ourselves in it so that we can reflect it to each other, especially the children. We are the ones who are here to share Motherly Love for ourselves, and with all - through our care, compassion, nurture and giving.

As Gandhi said, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” We must know ourselves as Motherly Love in expression and choose to be it. Together we can change the world.

Please join us on Sunday at 10:00 for our service as we celebrate Motherly Love inherent in each of us.