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Friday, November 25, 2016

The Promise of Hope

The Lord himself will give you a sign: the virgin will conceive and give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel – Isaiah 7:14

This Sunday begins the Advent season. Advent is the period leading up to the celebration of the birth of Jesus on Christmas Day. For us, it is a time of preparation for the birth of the Christ, represented by the birth of Jesus of Nazareth.

As we observe Advent this year, we will be utilizing the qualities of Hope, Peace, Joy and Love which are traditional in Christianity. Our children will also be observing Advent by exploring these concepts. In many traditional Christian churches these are celebrated as the virtues that Jesus brings to us, but we honor them as attitudes of mind and heart and states of consciousness. They are states we can embrace during Advent to open ourselves more fully to the birth of the awareness of the indwelling Christ.

This week, we begin with Hope. One definition of ‘hope’ is: A feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen.

As I meditated on this definition, I activated my power of Imagination, and I imaged myself as a Jew in Ancient Israel. The following is what came to me.

I have heard the reading of the Scripture at temple since I was a boy. Today, I am especially remembering the words of the prophet Isaiah who foretold of the birth of a child born of a virgin and of the house of David who would be called Immanuel; the promised and long-awaited Messiah. This Scripture always fills me with hope, for I am one of a people who have been persecuted and enslaved by invading empires for centuries. I am one of a nation who longs for peace, equality and freedom. I am hopeful that the Messiah will soon come to deliver us from our bondage and return us to our place of honor and prosperity. I have lived with this desire, as has my father and his father before him. We are a people of hope. We live in expectation that the prophecy will be fulfilled. And, still we wait.

This is the essence of the attitude of mind and heart we call ‘Hope.’

Hope begins with a promise of a desire yet to be fulfilled. In the case of my imagined self, it is the desire for freedom from bondage and to enjoy peace and equality. That is a desire we all share. We all want to experience freedom. We all want peace. We all want equality. We all want to be valued simply because we are.

Unlike my imagined self or many who still await the coming of a savior to deliver them from bondage, we in Unity know that our freedom is not dependent upon the birth of a man or the coming of a long-awaited deliverer. Our freedom from enslavement, the bondage of our own limited thinking and beliefs, comes from the birth of the Christ, the one true light of God, in our consciousness.  We can invite the birth, or awakening, of the indwelling Christ in every moment.

I am reminded of an analogy that Eckhart Tolle uses in The Power of Now when speaking about the power of our presence. He says that we should approach every moment with the same attention as a cat watching a mouse hole waiting for the mouse to emerge. I compare that image to the anticipation we feel as we embrace the attitude of ‘hope.’

Hope is living with eager expectancy of the discovery of the Christ born in us every moment, and the acceptance of the Christ expressing in each person we meet. The birth, or awakening, of the Christ in our hearts and minds is our deliverance from the bondage of the limited self and our belief in our separation from God and from each other. From that perspective, the Christ is our savior, the Christ revealed as us.

This week, as we begin Advent, we embrace ‘Hope’ as our attitude of mind and heart as we honor our desire for freedom and live with the expectancy of the freeing power of the indwelling Christ born as us in every moment.

Join us on Sunday at 10:00 as we explore together the power of a mind and heart filled with Hope.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Is It All In Divine Order?

I realize that not everyone is mourning the outcome of the Presidential election, and that many are in fact celebrating it. I honor that. However, it is also vitally important that we acknowledge that there are many who are grieving.

I have heard and read some say, in response to those who are upset, things such as, “Just get over it. It’s not a big deal.” But, for those who believe that something essential about our humanity was wounded by the election, it is a big deal, and it is painful. I encourage us to allow our brothers and sisters to have their feelings and not ask them to “get over it.”

In addition to that, and I spoke about this briefly in my lesson on Sunday (listen here) or (watch here), I assert that it is not helpful for us, in Unity, to say, “It’s all in Divine Order.”

I often hear people in Unity say, “It’s all in Divine Order” when something happens that one might judge as “negative.” It seems to be our New Thought version of the more traditional Christian phrase, “It’s God’s Will.”

“It’s all in Divine Order” seems to imply a predestined plan. It suggests that there is a power or deity out there somewhere calling the shots. Further, it indicates that we are in no way responsible for what happens and that everything is being controlled by a master puppeteer.

“Divine Order” in its proper use is another way of saying that everything happens under the orderly operation of universal laws, such as the law of attraction and the law of cause and effect. These are two of the primary spiritual laws under which all comes into being. These are foundational to the teaching of Unity and other New Thought movements. In Unity we often refer to this as “Mind – Idea – Expression” or the “Law of Mind Action.” We also use the phrase, “What you think about comes about.”

Everything is always in “Divine Order,” not because God out there somewhere is deciding what should or should not happen, but because you and I are deciding much of what happens according to our consciousness and the actions we take.

In their book, Get Over It, former Dean of Spiritual Education and Development, Dr. Paul Hasselbeck and Bil Holton, Ph.D., Spiritual Leader at Unity Spiritual Life Center in Durham, NC say this about the concept of “Divine Order,”

Most people get Divine Order out-of-order! There is no such thing as Divine Order as we ordinarily use it. This idea has been poorly understood and misused over the years. This phrase is used more as a statement of resignation rather than the statement of power it is meant to be.

In his book, The Twelve Powers, Charles Fillmore, cofounder of Unity, defined Divine Order in the following way:
“[We] can never exercise dominion until [we] know who and what [we are] and, knowing, brings forth that knowledge into the external by exercising it in Divine Order, which is mind, idea, manifestation.” (Pg 113)

It is clear that Charles Fillmore did not see Divine Order as a divine fiat or divine proclamation. He saw it as a Divine Process, a point of power. In other Fillmore writings we learn that everything comes into expression through the process of Mind-Idea-Expression (Divine Order). It is a universal process.

Further, we do not teach a doctrine of predestination. There is no Divine Plan that we are playing out. The Divine Plan, as we understand it, is for each of us to realize our Divinity and live it, so that we bring forth into manifestation all that is in alignment with Peace, Love and Joy, the essential nature of the Divine, thus of each of us.

How we do that is not dictated by a “Divine Plan,” but by how each of us chooses to embody our divinity and live from it. The “Divine Plan,” if we want to use that phrase, for humanity is that we co-create a world in which the needs of all human beings are met; where we respect and care for our environment, our planet, and all its inhabitant; and where we treat each other with respect, compassion and equity. This Divine Plan unfolds according to the choices we make each and every day.

As Unity minister and author Eric Butterworth said,

The only predestiny in life is the ultimate unfoldment of the divine creature you are. But the direction you take in realizing this outforming of the Christ indwelling will always be determined by your consciousness.¹

We are mistaken if we believe that there is a “Divine Plan” working itself out in “Divine Order” and that we are to accept whatever happens as that. Think about it in terms of your physical body.

I venture to say that few, if any of us when we feel a pain or experience an imbalance or dis-ease in the body, say to ourselves, “It’s in Divine Order” and choose to do nothing about it. On the contrary, when we feel a pain, most of us immediately do something to alleviate the symptoms. If the symptoms persist, we take action to treat the cause. There are not many of us who upon breaking a leg would simply say, “It’s in Divine Order,” and leave it at that. No, we do what is needed to mitigate the pain and treat the injury.

I assert that aspects of the body of humanity are broken and in pain and that we must do something to ease the pain as well as to assess and treat the cause. We cannot simply observe the suffering in the world, our brothers and sisters who are in pain because of economic, food or social injustice and say to ourselves or to them, “It’s all in Divine Order “and just go about our business. No, we say, ‘It’s in Divine Order,” because it has manifested according to our consciousness and resulting actions, and then we do what we can to soothe the pain and assess the cause.

We take action to connect with those who are in pain, listen to them, hear them, and treat them with respect and compassion. But, we do not stop there. We must also do whatever is needed to determine the cause of the pain and treat it. There are political and societal structures in place that support the brokenness and contribute to the pain. We must do what we can to be sure that they are not allowed to continue.

We, in the Unity movement, unlike in many other spiritual and religion traditions, all too often shy away from engaging in the political process. I have heard many say that it is not our purpose; that we are about spiritual development and not about social change. But, I assert that we must be about social change. We must act from our spiritually awakened consciousness to help affect change in our social, political and cultural structures so that those who are hurting and in pain have the opportunity to get the help they need, ease the suffering and heal.

This Presidential election reveled to us, if we are willing to open our eyes to see it, a great deal of pain being felt by the people of this county. Pain was and is being expressed on both sides of the issues. This election revealed a cry for healing from many within our society. Now is our opportunity to respond. It is our opportunity to help soothe the pain, investigate the cause, and begin an honest healing process.

The body of humanity is feeling the pain of our brokenness. We cannot continue to stand idly by and say with resignation, “It’s all in Divine Order” and do nothing. Yes, “All is in Divine Order.” It is in “Divine Order” because it is the effect of our thoughts, beliefs and corresponding actions.

We are not witnessing the unfolding of a “Divine Plan.” We are witnessing, as A Course in Miracles says, a call for love and a cry for help. Are we listening? We must not continue to turn a deaf ear and closed mind to the suffering of our brothers and sisters. We must take action.

Please take a look at the initiatives being sponsored by Interfaith Alliance of Colorado. I would love to see us at Unity Spiritual Center Denver join the Interfaith Force for Good and have a presence with this group. Are you with me?

Now is the time and we are the ones.

¹ In the Flow of Life, Eric Butterworth, page 77

Thursday, November 10, 2016

God's Hands

I wrote the majority of the content of this post prior to election night; however as I read through it again just now, I realize that it is relevant. Whether you are one of the millions who felt sad and disappointed at the results of the election or one of the millions who celebrated, this applies equally.

While I hesitate to anthropomorphize God as I do not wish to support the concept of God as a deity, I believe it is apropos to say – you and I are the hands of God on Earth. In fact we are the expressions of God on Earth who are here to care for the manifest world. In the creation story in Genesis we are told that God gave humans dominion over the “lower” life forms. This does not mean that we are to have control over them, but that we, as the “higher” life forms, are to care for them. These include animals, plants, water and our environment.

It also includes our human brothers and sisters. Those of us who are blessed to enjoy privilege in America and the freedoms and bounty provided to us must care for those among us who are not as privileged as we. We, as God’s hands on Earth, are not intended to only be concerned with maintaining our own well-being and positions of privilege at the expense of those who are not like us. This applies to all who differ from us in physical or mental abilities, nationality, race, gender, religion, and sexual or gender orientation.

We must awaken to the awareness of God in and as each of us and know our unity. We must hold each other in the Truth of our Oneness. We must speak and act from our awareness of our unity, so that we can truly manifest the kingdom of God – Peace, Love, Joy, Equality and Equity – upon the Earth. We must accept that God – Love, Life, Harmony, Order, Peace and Love – can only be demonstrated through our will and actions.

In light of the above, I trust that what follows will not seem trite. I share it as an example of how something simple can be a source of awakening.

Last Friday, I decided it was time to rake the leaves in the front yard. Those who know me know that I do not like doing yard work. When I asked my inner Knower why I don’t like yard work, it came to me that I was shamed and guilted into doing yard work when I was a teenager. And although I begrudgingly did it when my father gave me little option, I resented every minute of it.

That seems to be a common reaction among humans. When we do something motivated by shame or guilt, we feel resentment.  As I reflected on my leaf raking experience, I recognize that as I began my endeavor, I was indeed being motivated by the demons of guilt and shame.

I was having friends over for dinner on Friday, and I felt embarrassed that they would drive up and see the leaf-covered yard. I had the thought that they would judge me negatively for not keeping the yard clean - further evidence that guilt and shame were my motivators. And, yes, initially I resented spending part of my afternoon raking leaves.

However, as I progressed in my leaf raking, I realized that I could have a different attitude about this project. It was one of those ‘V8’ moments. You know the ones when you smack yourself on the forehead at the realization that you could have made a completely different and more life-enriching choice.

I was reminded of what my friend and Unity Minister, Karen Romestan, who serves Unity on Greenville in Dallas, said about giving attention to their aging building and the amount of time it was consuming. She referred to it as “ministering to the building.” When I thought of my leaf raking as ministering to the property and to the Earth, I had a complete change of mind and heart. In that moment, I saw my effort as an act of service.

I saw my leaf raking as serving the Earth, the neighborhood and Unity Spiritual Center Denver as the property adjoins the parking lot and is owned by the center. My change of mind allowed me to see my efforts as serving order and beauty, as well as giving to something greater than myself.

As I continued to rake the leaves into piles, I witnessed the beauty of the leaves waiting to be bagged and placed with the compost collection bin. My heart felt lighter knowing that the leaves were going to be composted, as I see that as being of service to our planet and the environment.

The simple act of raking leaves last Friday proved to be a valuable life lesson for me. It reminded me that I am here to be in service. I am here to be in service to God, the Source of all creation, as I serve creation. This includes serving humanity, animals, the Earth and our environment.

I am also here to be in service to God as the Truth of my being. Every act, when approached from the desire to be in service to God, takes on an entirely new dimension. Nothing is done from a sense of shame or guilt. There is no resentment. There is only the free-flowing of love through acts of kindness and service as expressions of the God I am and in service to the God in and as all life. It truly is God serving God.

Keeping in mind that she wrote her books in the early twentieth century and used language in referring to God that we most likely would not choose today, H. Emilie Cady, in her book, How I Used Truth, states this idea eloquently. She says,

Your hand is God’s hand. My hand is God’s hand. Our Father reaches out through these, His only hands, to give His gifts. We have nothing to do with the supply. Our part is to pass out the good freely and without ceasing. This we can do only by making a complete consecration (so far as our consciousness goes) of our hands, our entire being, to the service of God, the All-Good. When we have given anything to others we no longer consider it our own, but recognize it as belonging to them. So, this conscious consecration of our hands to God, helps us to recognize them as God’s hands in which is (no longer “shall be”) the fullness of all things.

As we move though this coming week, I encourage us all to ask ourselves…How can I serve today? How can I serve God as me? How can I serve God as you? How can I embrace more fully the God I am, so that I am giving freely from the eternal flow of Source that is the essential nature of who and what I am?

I encourage us to think less about the ways we can be served, less about how we can get what we think we want or need. Instead, give what you would like to receive. We can only truly know that we have something once we are free to give it away. We can only know love when we know that we are love, and we can only truly experience love when we dare to give it away without expectation of return. As Unity minister and author Eric Butterworth said, “I can only know myself as I know myself as the self-livingness of God. I can only really know myself when I know I am ‘in the flow of life’.” ¹ God can only flow freely as me in service when I cease asking “What’s in it for me?”

Let us consider more what we can give, rather than what we can get.  May we affirm as the prayer of St. Francis states, “It is in giving that we receive. It is in pardoning that we are pardoned, and it is in dying [to the needs of the adverse ego ²] that we are born [into the awareness that we are] eternal life.”

Join on Sunday morning at 10:00 as we explore together what it means to be in service as God’s hands in the world.

¹ In the Flow of Life, Eric Butterworth

Thursday, November 3, 2016

L' Chaim

This week I am wrapping up the lesson series on Divine Audacity, the book by Reverend Linda Martella-Whitsett in which she explores The Twelve Powers of Man from a practical perspective as tools that we each can use to strengthen our awareness of our divinity, our Christ nature, and more fully embody and live as that. It has been a powerful series for me. I have learned a great deal about The Twelves Powers, which I honestly found confusing until I read Rev. Linda’s book. She presents the information in a clear and concise manner that has helped me to embrace my powers and learn ways to use them in my daily life. I am eternally grateful to Rev. Linda for writing this inspiring and informative book.

The final lesson is on the Power of Life. Rev. Linda says “The principle of Life, our life faculty, expresses as animation, vitality and presence.”

This is a timely message for me and as I re-read the chapter on Life, I felt energized and inspired. I received it as confirmation of an experience I had just the day before.

During a session with my spiritual teacher/guide, Sophia, I had an amazing experience. Or as my friend Debra says, an “AWE-mazing” experience. Sophia lead me through a visualization process that began with us creating together the vision of a meadow filled with light, plants of light, trees of light and vibrant colors of radiant energy streaming into the space. I was reminded of a framed print I have had for many years. It is entitled “Homecoming.” I have included a photo of it below. It is my image of “home,” a place beyond space and time, a place that only exists in my mind and heart, but a place that I go to when I want to encounter the sacred or visit another dimension.

With Sophia’s guidance, I envisioned us in this place surrounded by angels and archangel, St. Michael, St. Uriel and others, who were there to assist in holding the safety and sanctity of the space. She asked me to imagine that we were seated in this space with an empty chair to my right and her in a chair to my left. She then asked me to envision a doorway leading into the space from another dimension. Then, to invite my soul to appear on the other side of the door awaiting my invitation to enter. As I allowed my imagination to expand, I felt an overwhelming sense of exhilaration and anticipation. Sophia asked me to tell her when I felt my soul’s presence beyond the door. When I informed her that he was there, she asked me to go to the door, open it and invite him in. As I opened the door, I was amazed at the energy I felt from my soul. He danced into the room with exuberance and delight. He appeared to me as a bright, red-orange energy full of vitality and enthusiasm. He seemed ready to play and to delight in all that life on this plane offers.

As I do not see myself embodying that energy, I was curious about the incongruence between my way of being in life and his way of being on this spiritual plane. I invited my soul to sit down in the seat next to me. Then, I asked him why I am not living life with the vitality, courage and enthusiasm that he so obviously possesses. He said to me,

You have forgotten who you are. You have believed what others have told you that you are or who they believe you are supposed to be to be accepted. You have conformed to their way of being so that you would be loved. But, what you are receiving is not love, it is conditional acceptance at best. You must begin to love who you truly are, accept who you truly are, and live as though you know who you are. As the saying goes, ‘Dance like nobody is watching, sing like no one is listening and love like you’ve never been hurt.’ You must dance with life in every moment to feel the vitality of life that is flowing through you. That is who and what you truly are, and in doing so you not only serve your highest good, and remain true to your soul, you also serve the world in even greater ways. Allow me (your Soul) to live through you. Allow the exuberance you see and feel right now to be at the forefront of your consciousness. See me as you look in the mirror. Think as me. Feel as me. Act as me. And, claim who you truly are. Not everyone in your world will like it. They will fear it. Others will gravitate to you. They will be drawn to our light and they will be supported in your glowing.

I sat in the radiance of my soul’s presence for twenty minutes or more just soaking up the energy and bringing it more consciously into my mind so that my mind would be renewed and refreshed in that powerful presence. Even now, I am joyously radiating that energy as I write these words.

As I re-read Rev. Linda’s chapter on the power of Life my heart leapt with recognition. That experience with my soul provided me with a visceral connection to the vitalizing energy of Life, the eternal stream of Life that flows from the Godhead into and through all creation. And, I am a channel through which it follows. I am an individuated presence of the Life principle that is God. And, so are you and everyone else. We are the presence of God living in this third dimensional “reality.” As we awaken to ourselves as that, we become more fully empowered by Life. Life animates every aspect of our being. When we understand that we are that Life, created in the image and the likeness of that Life as unique souls - individuated expressions of Life - we know that are here to experience and express that Life to the fullest. We are, in fact, here as creative Life to animate more life, to bring greater demonstrations of that life through us as we use our powers of imagination, wisdom, understanding and all the other powers that we have studied over the course of the past few weeks. The animating power of Life gives energy and vitality to all the other powers.

Life surges through us every moment of every day. We are Life in form. Let us direct that Life through us in service to the highest and best that we are so that we are serving the highest and best in each other and bringing into manifestation a world that reflects the vibrant Life of God. May we use the Life Principle to create a world that works for all.

I encourage you to use the following to assist you in consciously activating the power of Life.

I breathe into the area at the base of my spine and envision a bright red light spinning there. I awaken to my power of Life. Life surges through me as vitalizing energy. I know I am the Life of God in form. I am the Presence. I am animated by it, and I animate my creations with this power of Life. I consciously direct this energy in service to my Christ nature and the Christ nature of all creation. I am the Light of Life.

Join us this Sunday, November 6, for our 10:00 service as we come together celebrating our animating, vitalizing power of Life.