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Thursday, January 26, 2017

No Greater Love

I am on vacation this week, so I am taking a break from writing. On Sunday, January 29, I will begin a series of lessons focusing on Unity Spiritual Center Denver’s five core values – Loving, Oneness,Inspiring, Inclusive and Integrity. I will begin with ‘Loving,' and the title of my talk is "Living From Love."

In thinking about what it means to live from love, I was reminded of something I wrote on the subject a while back. I have chosen to re-post this piece from my archives. It is something I wrote and published on my blog in 2014 about what Jesus might have meant when he said, “Greater love has no man than this; that he lay down his life for his friends.” I welcome your comments.

In the gospel of John, chapter 15, Jesus is speaking to his disciples when he says in verses 12 & 13, 

“My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no man than this; that he lay down his life for his friends.” (NIV) Later, in verse 17 he repeats himself saying, “This is my command: Love each other.”(NIV) 

We might think that is all well and good for Jesus, after all he was Jesus. Surely he was not saying that we have to be willing to die for our friends to prove that we can love the way he loved. Or, was he?

Was Jesus speaking literally or figuratively? Given what we know about his life, it would seem that Jesus was speaking about himself in literal terms. He did lay down what appeared to be his physical life. 

However, does this suggest that in order for us to truly love we must do the same? And, when referring to his “friends” was he talking only about the disciples? Who are our “friends” for whom we must be willing to lay down our lives in order to express the degree of love embodied by Jesus? 

An even more compelling question is, “Do we have the capacity to love so much that we would be willing to lay down our lives for anyone?” 

When explored figuratively, the “life” that we must be willing to lay down is the so-called “life” of the ego-dominated mind. All of the stories we have created about who we are, who others are or are not, what we do, what we should do, and so on, constitute our so-called “life.”  This is what must die in order that we may express the unconditional Love to which Jesus referred. We must allow the ego-identified self to die away so that we can fully live in the awareness of the Christ as Jesus did. 

As Paul said in a letter to the church at Corinth, “I die daily.” This “dying” occurs every time we release our limiting beliefs about ourselves and the world, and surrender to the Truth of who we are as expressions of the One Life of God. When we realize that we are the One Life and embrace all others as that One Life as well, we awaken to Love, and we can consciously allow Love’s awareness to transform us at depth in order that we might fully express as Love.

Very often, if not always, the physical body is the concept of “life” to which we are most powerfully attached. 

We believe that we experience life through the sensations of the body; therefore, without the body, we would not have life, or so we believe. Thus, the thought of giving up the body is tantamount to death according to the ego-identified mind. However, when we know who and what we truly are, we accept that we are not this body and that this temporal experience is just that, temporary and not the eternal expression of Life that we are. 

This does not mean that we must experience physical death in order to know the kind of Love that Jesus was teaching, but it does mean that we must be willing to do so. The willingness to move beyond the dream of reality that we call “life” is the freedom to experience the Life of God that is truly our Life.  

Again, it is as Jesus said in John 8:32 (NIV), “You will know the Truth, and the Truth will set you free.”  Knowing the Truth of who we are; knowing that we are eternal Life expressing and experiencing Itself, gives us the freedom to Love unconditionally now. There is nothing to fear, not even death.

It would seem that in John 15, Jesus is referring to the disciples as his friends when he says, “I have called you my friends because everything I have learned from my Father I have made known to you.” (NIV) So, when read literally, it appears that Jesus is saying that the greatest love he can show is to lay down his life for the disciples. However, when we look at this metaphysically with the aid of Charles Fillmore, the co-founder of Unity, we can see that the disciples represent many things, including what Fillmore refers to as The Twelve Powers of Man, or the twelve faculties of man. 

In the beginning of his ministry, when Jesus called the twelve to come with him, they were ignorant of the law of Love and the ways of the “Father,” thus they were Jesus’ students and “servants” as he refers to them. At this point in John’s narrative, Jesus has taught the disciples all he had “learned from the Father,” meaning that he had developed them in spiritual understanding. They were no longer his “servants,” but ready to serve with him in Love. 

The disciples or “friends” represent the faculties that have been transformed. From this perspective “friends” does not refer to our buddies or pals, but to the developed faculties of the Christ that each of us embodies as potential. 

Each of us is an expression of the full potential of the Christ, the Self that Jesus fully realized and embodied; thus, each of us has the potential to express the Love of Christ just as Jesus did. 

In order to realize this Truth and reveal this Truth, we must “die” to the false image of the “self” in service to our greater awareness of our true Self.

Perhaps the English translation, “Greater love has no man than this; that he lay down his life for his friends” is not quite correct.  The following could be a more direct translation, “Man cannot know greater love until he lays down his life for his friends.”  

We will know the greatest Love when we are willing to die to the ego-dominated “life” including the illusion of the body, and awaken to and live from the realized Christ potential.

That is a command worth living.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Thank you!

I begin this post with a heartfelt Thank You!

I am overwhelmed with the outpouring of love and support that I received from so many in response to my ordination as a Unity minster. I was moved by your expressions of congratulations and encouragement. I was humbled by your words of praise. And, I was delighted by your cards, flowers and gifts.

Most especially, I was honored by those from my loving Unity Spiritual Center Denver community who were able to be present for the ceremony and bless me from your hearts with blessings that were both spoken and unspoken. It truly was an amazing, inspiring and heart-opening experience.

I had an opportunity this week to speak briefly with one of my first ministers, teachers and guides in New Thought, Rev. Dr. Kay Hunter. She is currently under hospice care and not expected to be in this earthly plane much longer. It was a special treat to hear her sweet voice and have her tell me how proud she is of me. It was like the voices of my mother, grandmother and sister, who are no longer on this plane, all combined into one precious loving sound.

She told me that she had just watched a video of one of my Sunday talks, and expressed how much she enjoyed seeing me in action. She said how pleased she is that one of her own is doing such good work in the world.

I don’t know how much good I am doing in the world, but I know that hearing those words from her inspired me to want to do more.

It was such a gift to me to be able to tell Rev. Kay how much I appreciate all that I learned from her and to thank her for all the encouragement she gave me very early on in my consciousness spiritual journey.

I also told her that there have been times when I could “kick her in the fanny” for encouraging me to go into the ministry. She got a good chuckle out of that. But, she assured me that in spite of the struggles, when you are called to ministry you are equipped for the challenge.

She reminded me of quote which originated with Smith Wigglesworth, “God does not call those who are equipped; He equips those whom He calls.” I take great comfort in this knowing  as I frequently have the thought that I am not equipped for the call. However, I trust that I am given what I need when I need it.

Thank You, Rev. Kay for all that you gave to me and to so many whose lives you have touched over these many years in the ministry. You are and will ever be a blessing to this world.

I wish I had the time and space here to extend my gratitude individually to each one who has contributed to my spiritual journey and to my path to becoming an ordained Unity minster. I would not attempt it as the list is lengthy, and I fear that I would inevitably miss someone.

So, I will simply say, Thank You!

When I was speaking with Rev. Kay I said, “I wish I could be there to give you a big hug and kiss.” She said, “Honey, I just received it over the phone. It’s all energy anyway.” Yes, even now she continues to be my teacher.

For all who have loved, supported, encouraged and cajoled me along my journey, please except this virtual hug and kiss. I trust that in the Unified Field of Consciousness in which we all live and move and have being, you receive it now.

My pledge to you is that I will give it all I have and all that God is as me to continue to grow and expand in my spiritual understanding and to serve to the best of my ability as I live my mission.

I love you. Or, better stated, God loves you as me.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Are You God Enough?

Are You God Enough?

No, that is not a typo. I did not mean to title this post “Are You Good Enough?” The message and the title became clear to me this week as I was composing a post about my upcoming ordination.

Yes, on Sunday, January 15, 2017, I will be officially ordained a Unity minister. I can hardly believe it myself. It has been a vision and a goal for many years. I knew it would happen someday, I just didn't know until recently that it could or would be now.

I received my approval from the Unity Worldwide Ministries credentialing committee last September. I have had several months to develop and plan for the ordination ceremony, but I gave very little time, attention or thought to it until last week.

Last Monday it hit me: This is happening and it is happening in less than two weeks! This is a big deal in my life. I have not been honoring it. I have been discounting its importance. Why?

I told myself that I have been busy and focused on other things. After all, I am already doing the work of a minister, and I had Sunday, Wednesday, Christmas and New Year’s services to plan and facilitate. I was busy doing God’s work! Who had time to focus on an ordination service? In the depth of self-honesty, I know that I had time, I just chose not to devote time to it. When I realized that, I wondered why.

Last week during a time of quiet contemplation and introspection, I recognized the importance of this event. This is a rite of passage in my life, and one that I do not wish to take lightly. Since then, I have had several opportunities to speak with others about my ordination. I found that I could not talk about it without sobbing.

Even today, as I began writing this post, tears welled up and I cried even more. I was curious about the tears. I wanted to truly connect with the emotion behind them, so I stopped and allowed myself to go with the feelings and surrender to them.

They were not tears of joy. They were not tears of sadness. As I allowed myself to be present, it came to me. They were tears of shame. REALLY, SHAME?! I will not include in this post the other thoughts that went through my mind at that recognition. Suffice it to say that the blog would have to receive at least an ‘R’ rating by the parental rating board should I include those thoughts. After sobbing once again at the recognition that indeed it was shame rearing its ugly head, I was able to acknowledge it.

Yes, the tears were tears of shame. Somehow, on some level, I have continued the belief that I am not worthy of receiving the recognition as an ordained Unity minister. Damn! I thought I had dealt with all of that.

Journaling has been and continues to be a beneficial spiritual practice, so I decided to spend time writing. When I began to write about it, I intended to begin with the question, “Why do I believe I am not good enough?” I was using my iPad and keyboard which I love because of the spellcheck function. The program automatically checks for misspelled words and when it finds them, it automatically chooses words that are a close match. When I looked back at what I had written, it said, “Why do I believe I am not God enough?”  I often feel frustration with spellcheck, but in that moment it proved to be a greater blessing than I could have imagined.

Indeed, who am I or any one of us to believe that we are not God enough? The master teacher Jesus reminded us that “you, too are Gods” (John 10:34)? He also said, “I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you” (John 14:20).

Great teachers of ancient wisdom have all taught us that we are One. We are in Unity with God. We are in Oneness as God. Yet, in our humanness we have not yet accepted that truth.

The traditional Christian church has done a great deal to convince us that we are anything but that. Who we are, so they have told us, is not God enough, not God enough to deserve our good. Unfortunately for many, this belief is reinforced by our families, schools and society.

This belief not only prevents us from receiving our good, it also sets us up to seek our worthiness outside ourselves, often in ways that are damaging to our mental, spiritual and physical well-being. It also drives us to medicate our pain in ways that are often self-destructive.

I know from personal experience about seeking love, appreciation and approval from external sources. I know, too, from personal experience about engaging in self-destructive behaviors in order to mitigate the pain stimulated from the belief that I am not God Enough.

It is staggering to consider the pain that shame can cause us individually as well as the damage it can create in the world as a whole.

I am so grateful that my search for God led me to Unity in 1994. The message I heard from the platform the first day I walked into a service was, "You are as God created you, and God loves you just as you are." That message changed my life. 

I could not have imagined then that my path would lead me to become an ordained Unity minister. I celebrate everything and everyone who has supported me along this journey. And, I celebrate myself for being willing to say 'Yes, here I am; use me."

So, will I allow shame to prevent me from accepting my ordination with a grateful, and open, heart and mind? NO! I refuse to allow shame to keep me from experiencing my good. I am willing to face shame head on, name it, and rise above it, just as David did in the battle with Goliath.

Goliath was the giant with great strength who put fear into the hearts of men, yet little David was able to slay him with a slingshot and a stone. I am David. Yes, like David of the Bible, I am a perfectly imperfect vulnerable human being. I often fall short of my intention to live my highest values, yet my heart is sincere and I am committed to my mission.

My mission is to support humanity’s awakening to
and expressing of the transforming power of Love.

With determination and focused thoughts, words, and actions that support my knowing of who I truly am, I can do battle with shame. And win. It begins with loving myself right where I am, just as I am, and knowing that I am God Enough!

On Sunday when I receive my ordination certificate, stole and blessing, I may express tears, but they will not be tears of shame. They will be tears of joy. They will be tears of celebration for all that has gone in to this moment – by me and so many others. They will be tears of recognition that I am indeed God Enough. I will take that mantle of Unity minister and do my best to help others know that they too are God Enough. As we know and claim the Truth that we are God Enough, we are set free (John 8:32) to be the fullest expression of God that we are intended to be. We are all ministers to each other, to the world and to ourselves. Yes, you are God Enough!

Join us on Sunday at 10:00. Our service will include great music from Lauren Shealy, Sheryl Renee, Marcy Baruch and J Johnson. Rev. Scott Schell will officiate my ordination during the service. If you are in the Denver area, please come and share your positive, loving energy with me on this very special day. If you are not in the area, I welcome your prayers, thoughts and positive vibrations on Sunday from wherever you are.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Ever Becoming

Each year as December approaches I feel excitement about decorating for Christmas, both in the sanctuary at Unity Spiritual Center Denver and at my house. The bright red, silver and gold decorations add a celebratory energy to the spaces and enliven my spirit. I especially enjoy getting up in the morning, turning on the Christmas tree lights and having my cup of coffee sitting in their glow. The decorations and lights help me to connect with the magic, mystery and wonder of the season.

And, each year as the New Year approaches I feel dread when I think about taking down the tree, gathering all the decorations and putting them away. We did that this past Sunday after service at USCD. I felt a bit sad looking at the bare platform once the tree, poinsettias and crèche were removed. It was a foreboding of what I knew I would have to tackle at home.

In the past I have just “sucked it up” and tackled un-decorating without much introspection or contemplation. This year, however, I chose to be with my discomfort and question it, rather than just get the job done and move on. It turned out to be an opportunity for me to connect with and be reminded of some valuable lessons.

You may not be aware of this, but I like for things to be neat and orderly. I do not like messiness. J has often joked with me about how I don’t enjoy “process” because it can be messy. I often hesitate to start projects because I know that projects are processes that often require things to be a mess for a while. I recently realized that this is one reason I don’t cook more than I do. I don’t like dealing with the mess. When I do cook, I clean it up as quickly as possible. When I return from traveling, I cannot rest until my suitcase is unpacked and things are put away. I want to “git er done” and have everything neatly arranged and tidy. Order is very important to me, so when things are out of order or things are messy I feel anxious until order is restored.

I knew that I would miss having the lights in the morning, and I was not looking forward to the room seeming empty without the tree and decoration. The key, however, was identifying the Christmas cleanup project as a “process.” When I recognized that, I had more clarity. I knew that I would be creating a mess. Taking down the decorations and putting them away require things to be in disarray. I knew it would take some time to restore order.

In the process of taking down the Christmas tree and putting away the decorations, I connected with the value of what process can teach us. Process requires an intention for change. For anything to transition from one state to another, process is required. Process is rarely clean and orderly. Process often takes time. We can often learn a great deal through the process.

Process begins with a conscious intention for transformation. My intention on Monday was to return my living space to its pre-Christmas state. While I experienced some resistance, I recognized that my desire to have the decorations down and put away was stronger than my resistance. I was ready to move past the holiday season so that I could move into the next season.

To achieve that, I needed to remove the ornaments from the tree; gather the other decorations from around the house; bring the storage bins in from the garage; find a way to place it all securely in the bins; dismantle the Christmas tree; put in back in its box; and return the bins and the Christmas tree box to the storage locations in the garage and the basement.

Just the thought of all the mess and disorder I was about to create made me cringe and resist beginning the process. So, I strengthened my resolve with another cup of coffee and began. Once I started, the process went easily and smoothly. In fact, I was surprised when I finished and realized that it hadn’t take long to complete.

The process of clearing away the Christmas decorations reminded me that life itself is a continual process of change and transformation. We are constantly in the process of transitioning from one season of life to another. We are ever becoming and ever evolving. Sometimes the process is messy. Sometimes things are disorderly. Sometimes we feel anxious in the process.

Yet, when we have a clear intention for our lives, we can strengthen our resolve and allow ourselves to be with the process even though it may not always be pretty.

I am reminded of the metamorphosis of the caterpillar into a butterfly. In the transformation process, the caterpillar completely dissolves inside the chrysalis so that the butterfly can form. I imagine that if the caterpillar was conscious of the messiness of the process it might be resistant.

Each of us is a butterfly, a being of unique and wondrous beauty, here to express the glory of the Divine. We are ever becoming and ever evolving into greater embodiments of who we have come here to be. We are meant to fly. We are meant to shine. We are meant to share our innate beauty with the world. When we are focused on that intention, we can trust that we are moving toward the evolution of our greatest unfolding, even in the messiness that change and transition often create.

As we move into 2017 and begin a new year, it is an opportune time for us to renew our intention to be all that God is in us. Unity cofounder, Charles Fillmore said that our mission is “to express all that [we] can imagine God to be.” We must ask ourselves if we are ready to accept that mission, both individually and collectively. Clarity of our mission is the first step toward setting a clear intention to fulfill it.

It means that we will go through a process; it will require transition. It may be messy and disorderly. But, what I know is that we must stay focused on our mission and move through transitions knowing that we are ever becoming all that we are here to be and do all that we are here to do in this community and in the world.

Join us on Sunday, January 8, as we explore together what it means for us to live our mission and embrace the process of ever becoming who we are here to be.