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Thursday, December 29, 2016

Enduring Change

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.

The white stone ceremony is another ritual that many Unity churches and spiritual centers offer, 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.

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 illusory 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 enduring 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.

Join us on Sunday, January 1, 2017 as we engage both the burning bowl and white stone ceremonies during our 10:00 service. Let us free ourselves from the bondage of our own minds and open to the voice of Spirit eternally calling us into a new vision of who we truly are.

Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Tis The Season

Tis the season. Yes, this is the holiday season. It is the season of gratitude, joy, love, hope and peace. It is a time each year when many share meals, exchange gifts, decorate homes and businesses, and get ready for Santa’s visit. It is also the time of year when Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, the one in whose name Christianity was born, grew and continues to thrive today. Tis the season, indeed.

While I honor and enjoy the traditions of the holiday season as much as anyone, I am more keenly aware this year that the season is for something more essential. Tis the season for awakening. Tis the season for the birth of the Christ consciousness in the hearts and minds of humanity. Tis the season for us to release the false notion that only Jesus was the Christ. Tis the season for us, you and me, to realize that each of us is Christ in expression. Tis the season for us to know that we are here, at this time and in this place, to be the fulfillment of the promise of Isaiah’s prophecy, to bring the reign of peace and goodwill upon the earth. Tis the season for us to accept that we are the ones anointed to be the Christ in the world, here and now.

Charles Fillmore, the co-founder of Unity, said –

“The world needs the Christ consciousness. The need implies that the attainment is near at hand. There are men and women who gaze up into the heavens for Christ, as did the early disciples, instead of looking within their own heart and mind. Only believe in the omnipresent Christ and you will behold Him sitting on the right hand of Power within your own being!” ¹ 
“The salvation of the world rests with those who join Him and thereby bring peace and goodwill to all men. When the light of Christ comes to any man, it does not confine its rays to his consciousness alone but those who sit in darkness and negation see and feel its power.” ²

The world needs us to awaken to the Christ that is our truth. When we awaken and live in the light of the Christ, others around us are touched by that light, and are encouraged and supported in awakening to their own light. The light of Christ shining in us, as us, is, “The Light of the World” (Matthew 5:14); “The true light that enlightens everyone” (John 1:9); and the fulfillment of the prophecy, “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light.” (Isaiah 2:9).

This awakening is the only hope for humanity and for our world. Only when we awaken to ourselves as the Christ are we able and willing to awaken to the understanding that all others are the Christ as well. When we awaken to that truth we know ourselves as one with all humanity, indeed, with all creation. When we truly know our oneness, and only then, will we begin to treat each other as ourselves and live as our teacher and way-shower Jesus taught us when he said that the greatest commandment is to love God, and love our neighbors as ourselves. Knowing our oneness means that we know that all people are our neighbors, not just the ones who look like, think like us, act like us, and share our religious or political beliefs.

If we are to receive salvation in its truest sense, we must welcome and embrace the Christ consciousness as our own. Tis the season. Tis the season for the birth of the Christ in our heart and minds. Tis the season for healing. Tis the season for coming together in care and compassion for each other. Tis the season for love.

Tis the season not just for some of us, but for all of us. As Mr. Fillmore said, our salvation, which we understand as freedom from the belief in separation and the pain and suffering that results from that belief, depends upon our own awakening. Tis the season for the dawning of the light of Christ upon our conscious awareness.

My prayer for each of us this Christmas is that we embrace ourselves and each other as the Light of the Christ and begin to treat each other as that.

Tis the season! This is the time. It is Now! Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you. (Isaiah 60:1)

¹ Atom Smashing Power of Mind

² Keep a True Lent

Thursday, December 15, 2016

In Service to Love

And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. – Luke 1:38

Sunday, December 18, is the final Sunday in Advent. This week we explore the attribute of the Divine that we call ‘Love.’ Like the other attributes – Hope/Faith, Peace and Joy – Love is an aspect of our Divine Nature. My friend and Unity minister, Diadra Price, refers to them in her book Grace Awakening Essence as aspects of our spiritual DNA, or Divine Nature Attributes. As such, they exist in the Absolute as who and what we are. They abide at the center of our being eternally. In our humanness, we can connect with and activate them in our conscious awareness through our active states of mind and heart.

As I contemplated ‘Love’ this week, I found it somewhat challenging to transcend my concepts of love as an emotional experience. ‘Love’ is a word we most often use to define a feeling we have in relation to something or someone. Yet, in its essential nature ‘Love’ is not dependent upon an object. ‘Love’ as an aspect of our DNA is self-existent. However, as we open ourselves to connect with it, we can experience and express Love in many varied ways.

‘Love’ as an attribute of our Divine Nature is the movement of God Energy in, through and as us. It is the Energy of the Divine that we can consciously connect with and allow to flow freely through us.

In the Biblical story, Mary, the mother of Jesus, metaphysically represents for us the state of mind and heart that each of us may embrace in order to connect with this Divine Energy of Love.

When the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary and told her that she was going to give birth, she immediately resisted. She said, “How can this be when I am a virgin” (Luke 1:34). A resistant response is typical for of us when we receive inner guidance that goes against what we believe is possible. Mary was willing to release her resistance as she delved deeper into the awareness of the inner guidance, represented by Gabriel in the story. She was open and receptive.

In order to connect with the Divine Love at our core, we must develop an open and receptive mind and heart. We must be open to hear and receive the guidance of our inner Knower. Love comes into our awareness only when we prepare a place for it. While it is not expressly told to us in the story as presented to us in the Gospels, in other Scriptures it is clear that Mary consistently prepared her heart and mind for guidance through prayer.

As she heard the inner voice telling her that she would give birth to God’s son, she was able to go beyond her rational mind and move into acceptance. She said, “Be it done unto to me as you have said. I am the Lord’s handmaiden” (Luke 1:38). Even though she did not fully comprehend what was happening, she was open to doing was she was called to do in service to a higher purpose and in service to Love and to the world, even if it meant going against the societal and religious mores of the day.

As Mary demonstrated, when we connect with Divine Love as an aspect of our being and listen to the inner voice that calls us to service, we may not always like what we hear. It may go against things that we have believed or ways the world tells us to behave. But, if we are committed to being in service to Love and to the unfolding of all that is in alignment with Love, we must as Mary did, say, “I accept. I am here to serve Love in whatever capacity I am called to.” It may not be easy. It may not be comfortable. It may not be rational. We are always at choice. We, like Mary, must make the conscious choice to be in service to love or continue to be in service to our comfort and possible complacency.

Later in the narrative when Mary visits her cousin Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist, she speaks what has become known as the Magnificat, which begins “My Soul does magnify the Lord…” (Luke 1:46). In our vernacular, she is saying that her divine self, the part of her that is created in the image/likeness of the Creator/God and which is God in expression, celebrates or makes great the “Lord.” Charles Fillmore, the cofounder of Unity, says in the The Revealing Word that the word ‘Lord’ metaphysically represents, “the activity of the spiritual I Am…”

In the state of Love, we are connecting with our soul, the aspect of us that is eternally in alignment with the Divine as Love expressing as us. In that consciousness of remembered Union, we surrender to the soul and allow it to have its life in and through us. Mary, as a representation of Divine Love consciousness is, in this passage speaking from her connection with the soul. She sings her song of love from that place.

We connect with the Divine attribute of Love when we are open and receptive to it. When we invite Love into our consciousness, Love answers our call. Love, as the movement of God in, through and as us, calls us into service to itself as our invitation to serve the Higher good of all. In the consciousness of Love, our soul sings in celebration of our ‘I Am’ - the true nature of who and what we are.

As we know, Mary did follow the call. She gave birth to Jesus, the embodiment of Divine Love, who taught and healed and brought into this dimension a new awareness of the Christ indwelling as each of us.

This week, as we embrace Mary, the mother of Jesus, as an example of one who embraced Love, let us also connect with that aspect of us that she reflects. Mary is you and she is me when we are open, willing and in service to Love.

Join us on Sunday morning at 10:00 as we explore Divine Love. I will talk more about how we can develop the state of mind and heart that welcomes the awareness of Love and how we can be the embodiment of Love and share it with the world as our way shower, Jesus, did.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Joy to the World!

And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. – Luke 2: 10-11

December 11 is the third Sunday in Advent. This week we explore the aspect of the Divine that we call Joy. Joy is a state of being. Like the other three Divine aspects that we reflect upon during Advent - Hope, Peace and Love - Joy is a natural state of the Divine self. Our souls, as expressions of the One, exist as Joy expressing. That we do not always experience the state of Joy is evidence that we have forgotten who we are. Advent is a time for remembering, a time of preparing our hearts and minds for the reawakening of the indwelling Christ.

Joy is one of the attitudes of Christ consciousness that we can embrace and embody as we awaken more fully to our Christ Light. It is also one of the attitudes of mind and heart that we can develop now in order to prepare ourselves to birth the Christ Light in this dimension.

As I say in my book, In This Moment, Joy is…

The wellspring of Life expressing in its fullness. It’s the inexplicable, inimitable Lightness of Being that is experienced as all creation.

Joy is a state of being. It is an experience that is difficult if not impossible to put into words. Like Peace and Love, Joy is an aspect of God which must be experienced in order to know it.

Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you. My peace I give you. Not as the world gives do I give you” (John 14:27). And, in his letter to the Philippians, Paul refers to “The Peace of God that transcends all understanding” (Philippians 4:7). The same can be said of Joy. The Joy of God is not given by the world and it is beyond our ability to understand it with our normal way of thinking and knowing. The Joy of the ‘I Am’ as our true nature must be expressed and experienced.

Joy is not the same as happiness. Joy is an experience of the soul that occurs in our realization of our oneness with the soul and with God. It is a state of mind and heart that can only be experienced at depth in the consciousness of Oneness.

Anne Robertson, a Methodist pastor, writer and executive director of the Massachusetts Bible Society, explains that the Greek words ‘Makarios’ and ‘chairo’ provides us with insight into the difference between happiness and Joy. ‘Makarios’ which has been translated into English as ‘happiness’ refers to the freedom from cares often experienced by the rich. On the other hand, ‘chairo’ translated into English as ‘Joy’ refers to the “culmination of being” or “the good mood of the soul.”¹

The Joy that we experience is an expression of our connection in God, yet it is but an inkling of the inimitable Joy of the Spirit.

I hesitate to admit this, but as I contemplated Joy this week, I realized that I don’t often experience it. I felt sad as I recognized that the concept of Joy is nearly foreign to me now. As I sat with my sadness, I was able to recall times in my childhood when I experienced Joy. In fact, there are many times as a child when I felt Joy. I felt Joy running through the hay barn on my Grandmother Howard’s farm. I felt Joy playing softball on the dirt road in front of our house where I spent my childhood and adolescence. I felt Joy when my grandmother Norman would come to stay with us for a few days. I felt Joy every year as Christmas approached. Not only did I get a break from school, but I was excited knowing that Santa would bring me all the things on my list. I felt overwhelming Joy on Christmas morning when I awoke before sunrise with an eager expectancy ready to see all the things Santa had placed under the tree, and there were always  the gifts from my parents and grandparents to open as well. And, my Joy was full as we drove from our home to spend Christmas Day with my favorite cousins. Childhood Joy was a frequent occurrence.

As I recalled those time of Joy, I asked my inner Knowing, “Why do I no longer have those Joy-full times?” The answer came quickly. “It is because you fear.” “What do I fear that keeps me from experiencing Joy?” I asked.  The response came, “You fear that Joy will not last or that it will only lead to harm and hurt. You fear that you do not deserve Joy. And, you fear that you will be judged for allowing yourself to express your Joy. All of these fears arise from your attachment to your limited idea of yourself. When you are attached to the adverse ego identity, fear is your constant companion. And, fear is the opposite of Joy.

So, how do I cultivate Joy in my life? I asked. My inner voice responded,

Go into the fear. As the Tao Te Ching says “if you want to get rid of something you must first allow it to flourish.” ² Allow the fear to enlarge. Do not suppress the fear. Dive into the fear and allow it to have its life. You will soon see that the fear is the illusion of the adverse ego and the true self will be revealed to you as the Light of the Christ shines brightly upon it.

Investigate the fear. Where did the thought that experiencing Joy leads to harm or hurt come from? Why do you believe that you do not deserve Joy? Whose voice is that? What are you telling yourself that would make you think you are undeserving of Joy? Who is going to judge you for expressing your Joy? And, if they do, who cares?

When you allow the fear and investigate the story that has stimulated the fear, the fear will dissipate and return to the nothingness from which it came. Then, Joy will arise naturally from your soul. You will return to Joy!

Cultivating Joy as a state of mind and heart reveals the illusory nature of fear and opens the space within the consciousness for the Christ Light to be born and take its rightful place at the center of your consciousness awareness. The Christ is born in the manger of your heart. The Christ is born again and again and again in every moment that you are willing and able to dive into and move through the fear and allow the truth of your Being to be revealed.

Metaphysically, angels represent the thoughts of God. The message of the angels are the insights we receive through our power of Wisdom and the intuition of our inner Knower. The first utterance of that voice within says “Fear not…” as it knows that you are not in Joy, the perfect state of mind and heart that God is in you. It goes on to say, “I bring you good tiding of great Joy for all people...” The voice speaks the truth of Joy that is the true nature of all people and is available to all as we awaken to it. “For unto you is born this day...” The Christ is born in you every day and every minute of every day as you are willing and open to allow it. “In the city of David…” The awareness of the Christ is born in the place of wisdom in the center of our being through the consciousness of Love. “A savior who is Christ the Lord…” The indwelling Christ, the self-existent one, the ‘I AM,’ is the Light that reveals the illusion of fear and saves us from our misperceptions and delusions that we are not worthy of Joy.

I encourage us all to explore Joy as we prepare our hearts and minds for the birth and rebirth of the Christ within us during this Advent season. Take some time to contemplate Joy and discover for yourself if you are allowing the joy of God to be your experience. If so, I celebrate with you! If not, dive into the fear and allow it to be revealed as the illusion it is. Ask yourself what is stimulating the fear in your mind. As you move through the fear, you will discover the Truth of your Being, the Light of the Christ. In that Light, you will reclaim Joy.

Joy to the world. The Lord (the self-existent I AM) has come!

¹ Anne Robertson, “Joy or Happiness?” St John’s United Methodist Church

² Tao Te Ching, Chapter 36, Translation by Stephen Mitchell

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Perfect Peace

Peace is the space where love abides
Peace is my aim, my Soul’s desire
In my willingness to be all that God is within me
I am free to be me, Perfect Peace

These are the inspired lyrics of a chant written by my friend Reverend Debi Lee. As I meditated on the concept of Peace¹, they came to mind. I say they are inspired because I believe in just a few short phrases Rev. Debi captured the essence of Peace. Peace is our natural state of being. It is the natural state of mind and heart.

We often think of Peace as the absence of conflict. But, Peace is not the absence of anything. Peace is the presence of God in every moment.

Peace is the space where love abides. Peace is the essence of the state in which Consciousness² exists. Love abides eternally within the Consciousness of Peace. It is the Consciousness from which Love is born and is expressed.

Peace is my aim, my Soul’s desire. In our humanness, Peace is our aim. The desire of our soul is for us to remember that Peace is our dwelling place. Peace is our homeland, so to speak. We are princes and princesses of Peace. When, at times we forget who and whose we are, our desire is always to return home as quickly as possible. It is the Consciousness from which we are born and in which our souls eternally abide.

In our willingness to be all that God is within [us], [we] are free. We are free to be the essence of who we are – Perfect Peace.

It is possible for us to abide in the state of Perfect Peace always. However, abiding in Peace does not mean that we do not experience conflict. It does not mean that we sit idly by and watch the world go by as if in a trance. Peace is not a passive state of being.

Peace is the consciousness² from which all loving action arises. If we are to truly demonstrate Peace and live in Peace, we must remember who we are and whose we are. When we find ourselves exiled in our own minds, we must return to the state of Peace prior to taking action or speaking our word. If we are acting from any other state, we are contributing to the conflict and the pain in the world.

What can separate us from Peace?

Nothing. Noting has the power to exile us from Peace. If that is true, then why are we at times not living in Peace? We are not in Peace because we have allowed our reactions to something or someone to pull us from our center, and we are unwilling to surrender our weapons and return to Peace. Our weapons are our judgmental thoughts either about ourselves or another. Our weapons are our words that criticize and condemn others or ourselves. Our weapons are born from our fears and our pain.

What are we using our weapons to protect?

We are attempting to defend our ego-identified self, our false self. We are attempting to protect what cannot abide in Peace, and therefore is not who we truly are. As A Course in Miracles states, “Nothing real can be threatened. Nothing unreal exists.” We are attempting to defend an illusory self that we have created.

Are we willing to lay down our weapons and return home? If so, how?

We must be willing to let it go. Let go of what we have given power to and is therefore holding us captive. Nothing can separate us from Peace, except that to which we have relinquished our power. Only we can abdicate our power. It is up to us to surrender our need to defend, lay down our weapons and free ourselves from exile in a land not your own.

How do I return to peace when I have lost my way?

Be still and know that I am God (Psalm 46:10). Stop. Be still. Quiet the mind and listen to the call of your soul. It knows the way home.

Ask for help from others, from someone you know and trust who is there to help you remember who you are, and will guide you home. There is no need to live in exile from your homeland. You are the gatekeeper at the land of Peace. You decide whether you are in or out. No one else has that power. You think they do. You blame them for it. But, the truth is, only you can separate yourself from Peace.

I recently received a message from someone who was, in my opinion, harsh and critical of me. The tone of the message was demanding and demeaning. When I read the message, I was immediately transported from my state of Peace into a land of pain, blame and judgement. My weapons of choice were thoughts of judgement about myself and about the other. I was tempted to respond from that place. My first reaction was to defend myself from what I perceived as an attack. I was tempted to return fire. It took me a few minutes, maybe more than a few, to bring myself back to a state of Peace. I got up, walked around and did a great deal of deep breathing. I focused on my breath, and I centered my awareness in my heart. I allowed myself to feel the sting of the words I had just read. I felt my pain and my fear. Then, I connected with the pain and the fear of the one who sent the message. I felt our unity and I knew that I wanted to return to Peace. I wanted to, as the chant says, be all that God is in me. I returned to a space of Peace within my heart and mind. And, I responded, to the best of my ability from that place. I don't know how my message was received by the other, but I am in Peace knowing that I did my best not to attack from my sense of separation.

As we celebrate Advent and prepare ourselves more completely for the awakening of the Christ in our own consciousness it is valuable to remember that the Christ, the true nature of each of us, abides eternally in a state of Peace.

During the busyness of the holiday season it is important for us to remember that nothing or no one has the power to separate us from our state of Peace. Amid the traffic, the shopping, the parties, the family gatherings, and the activities at home and at our spiritual home, I encourage us to take time to breathe consciously, focus in the heart, listen for the voice of the soul speaking words of peace and comfort, and know that there are many, both in the physical and nonphysical realms, who are here to remind you of your truth and help you find your way back home to Peace. I hope you know that I am one of them. If you need a reminder, please call me.

The following affirmative prayer is from my book, In This Moment. I encourage you to use it and meditate on it this week.

Peace abides at the core of my being.
Peace is the Eternal Presence.
Peace expresses in my life as Love, and I experience that Love as Joy.
Peace, Love, and Joy – Holy Trinity, Three in One.
In this now moment, as I choose to surrender to Peace, Love is my only expression.
As I express Love, it is returned to me as Joy eternal.

Peaceful blessings,

¹ I have intentionally capitalized ‘Peace’ when referring to a state of Being.

² I have intentionally capitalized ‘Consciousness” when referring to Allness. When ‘consciousness’ is not capitalized it refers to a personal state of mind and heart.