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Thursday, September 27, 2018

Envision From The End

In a recent meeting with a dear friend and powerful spirit of light, she revealed to me that she often reads the last few pages of a new book before deciding to devote time to reading it in its entirety. She wants to know what message the author is attempting to convey. If it resonates with her soul, and only if it resonates with her soul will she then delve into the book from the beginning.

Similarly, those who offer instruction in the power of our thoughts and feelings to manifest our experience, teach us to envision from the end. They suggest that we connect deeply with our heart’s longing and use our power of imagination to imagine ourselves already living our desired outcome. We are encouraged to create a mental picture of what it will be like, where we will be, who will be with us and then generate the feelings and sensations we associate with our realized desire.

The third of the five basic Unity principles states that we create our experiences according to our way of thinking, feeling and acting. Experiments and studies based in theories of quantum physics are proving this as scientific fact. It is spiritual and universal law. In Unity it is known as the Law of Mind Action.

In thinking about our current fall small group book study of Brené Brown’s Braving the Wilderness – The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone, I chose to stop and envision from the end. I asked myself – What is the author’s intended message? What are we hoping to achieve by studying and applying the principles she presents in her book? What will our lives be like when we know at the depth of our being that we belong to ourselves, and we dare to “brave the wilderness?” Further, what will our world be like when we, individually and collectively, stand in our truth and with courage and conviction be who we truly are?

What is the author’s message?

Dr. Brown offers a message of hope for a world currently experiencing the fear and pain of lost connection with self and others. She offers practical tools to help us restore the bond of our shared humanity. Further, she provides encouragement that supports us in reclaiming connection to our truest selves and reaping the rewards of belonging deeply to ourselves.

What do we hope to achieve by studying the book?

My hope is that as we study the book and incorporate the support of our groups, we will reflect on our lives and become aware of the times when we have felt as though we don’t belong, those times when we have felt lonely, and when we have created bunkers in attempts to protect ourselves. Further, I vision that we will gain the courage to give ourselves and each other empathy and compassion as we face our fear and pain, and that our small group study will provide encouragement as we move through the process and reclaim our true selves.

In reclaiming, I am not talking about being who we have come to believe we are as a result of our familial, cultural and religious histories, but who we are as our essential selves, our higher selves. We can, and most often do, share our beliefs and opinions about religion, politics and social issues based upon our personal conditioning. It takes work, intention and practice to live and interact as our essential selves.

We need only pay attention to what is happening around us to observe the world we have created and continue to propagate when we stand in, as well as speak and act from, our relative truth rather than from a deep connection with our essential nature. We generate a world based from a belief in separation and we live in the fear that is stimulated by that belief.

I am talking about the vision of a world in which we embrace ourselves as the true Light that enlightens everyone. In Unity, we call it our Christ Light or simply the Christ. That is the ultimate quest for “true belonging.” For this discussion, I want to address that space between who we believe ourselves to be and who we really are.

In her book, Dr. Brown focuses on the concept of “true belonging” which arose as the main concern of participants in her research study. She says that the data she and her staff collected revealed that “a large part of the struggle most people face seeking true belonging is spiritual.” In her book, The Gifts of Imperfection, based on her earlier research, she defines ‘spirituality’ as,

“Spirituality is recognizing and celebrating that we are all inextricably connected to each other by a power greater than all of us, and that our connection to that power and to one another is grounded in love and compassion.”

Further, she states that the reason we are experiencing the level of ideological, religious and social polarization we witness today is that “We have broken that link.” She offers her perspective on how and why we broke it, and how we can mend it.

From my perspective, we have not “broken the link.” We can never break the link that binds us to that which is “greater than all of us.” We are eternally connected to that power. There is no separation. The reason we are facing such divisiveness in our world is that we have allowed our religious, political and social ideologies to define us and to separate us from who we truly are, from each other, and from all creation.

We have forgotten who we are. We have allowed ourselves to be conformed to the world. We are struggling to make sense of it. And, we are fighting to survive in it.

That is why I assert that the wilderness we must dare to brave is the one that lies between who we have come to believe ourselves to be and who we truly are. Dr. Brown says that all wilderness metaphors used by poets, writers, theologians and musicians have in common the “notions of solitude, vulnerability, and an emotional, spiritual or physical quest.” 

We are on the spiritual quest of our lives, and this quest requires us to be brave and vulnerable. We don’t have to do it alone, yet we do have to do it for ourselves. She quotes Joseph Campbell,

“If you can see your path laid out in front of you step by step, you know it’s not your path. Your own path you make up with every step you take. That’s why it’s your path.”

Every breath we take, every thought we think, and every step we take is an opportunity to remember who we are and allow the Christ Spirit to shine through us.

What will our lives and the world be like when we have the courage to be who we truly are?

When the Light of Christ dawns in our hearts and minds, we will know the perfect peace that the master teacher Jesus spoke of when he said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14:27). This is the peace that surpasses our current understanding. We will know perfect love that casts out all fear (1 John 4:18). We will live in the fullness of joy (John 15:11).

Not only will we know peace, love and joy as our very being, but we will be the peace, love and joy that we wish to see in the world. We will no longer focus on our personal needs and desires, but will hold the needs of all humanity in our hearts and minds, and we will work to be certain that we create a world where the basic needs of all persons, all beings, are met. We will live in a world where we can openly love each other even though we may disagree. We will live in a world where we laugh and cry together. We will celebrate each other’s triumphs and mourn each other’s losses. We will honor the Divine in all creation. We will respect the Earth and all her inhabitants. We will realize our Oneness and we will act in the interest of our common good.

As Dr. Brown states in the closing of the book we are studying,

“Of all the calls to courage that I’ve asked readers to answer over the last decade, braving the wilderness is the hardest…But, as the quote from Maya Angelou reminds us, it’s the only path to liberation.

‘You are only free when you realize that you belong no place- you belong every place- no place at all. The price is high. The reward is great’”

I say it is well worth the time to delve into the book and allow it to be our guide to reclaiming who we truly are and living that truth.

Join us on Sunday as we explore these ideas further. You are welcome here!

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Is Unity Christian?

I had fun this past week at Unity Spiritual Center Denver with “Ask a Minister” Sunday. I invited those present to write their questions on index cards and pass them in. I randomly chose questions to respond to during my usual lesson time. The questions were certainly thought-provoking. I hope my answers were as well. You may listen to them here. Due to time constraints, I did not get to all the questions, so I gathered them up after the service with plans to use them for future lessons and blog posts.

As I was visiting with small groups of people after service, someone said they would really have liked to hear my answer to a friend’s question. Since all the questions were submitted anonymously, I did not know which question was hers. While standing there, I looked through the stack of remaining questions. When I read this particular one, I knew it was hers.

Her question is one that many of us in Unity have had and may continue to ask. It is, “How do I respond to people who believe that Unity is not Christian, especially if we love those people and want them to understand?”

It is natural for us to want connection with the people we love. In her book The Gifts of Imperfection, Brené Brown, defines ‘connection’ as “the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued; when they can give and receive without judgment; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship.” This is what we long for with our families, friends and others we love. When connection doesn’t happen, especially around something as fundamental as our spirituality, of course it is painful. It can also stimulate fear when we think that our loved ones judge or don’t accept aspects of us.

Before we can lovingly and compassionately respond to others, it is essential that we take time for self-connection, and to receive empathy and compassion for our pain and unmet longing. I suggest we find someone who is willing and able to be with us in our pain and fear, meet us with empathy and understanding, and help us to fulfill our longing for connection. Without this, I fear that any interaction will be a reaction from pain and will most likely be received as defensive and elicit even greater disconnection from those we love.

Bringing attention and awareness to our longing to be seen and heard and to be met with acceptance, as well as opening ourselves to the pain we feel when that connection is not achieved, is a practice of self-connection and self-love. We are immensely more equipped to respond to those we love from love when we are self-connected and loving ourselves.

Further, it is important for us to be honest with ourselves. We can ask ourselves, “Am I hearing me? Am I seeing me? Am I valuing me? Am I accepting myself without judgment?” If we are not doing it for ourselves, it is unreasonable to ask others to do it for us.

Additionally, if we want others to respect our spiritual path, we must be clear that we honor and respect it as well. It’s important for us educate ourselves and ground ourselves in Truth Principles. Not so that we can prove we are right and they are wrong, but so that we are able to stand firm in love as we respond to our loved ones.

We can meet our loved ones with open compassionate hearts and minds, and help them realize their longing for connection when we respond from a place of self-connection and self-love, and when we ae grounded in Truth. We can then approach them with curiosity and empathy, rather than pain, fear and defensiveness. We can give them what we long to receive from them – to be heard, seen, valued and accepted without judgement. It is vitally important that we respect their path as well, even if we do not agree with it.

My experience has been that those who question whether Unity is Christian are thoroughly convinced of their religious beliefs. Our loved ones who try to convince us that we are not Christian are most likely concerned about our eternal salvation. They truly want to know that we are not going to spend eternity suffering in hell. I am certain that it is excruciatingly painful for them to believe that someone they love may face such an end. Even though I don’t agree, I can understand why they would be so determined to do all they can to convince us we are wrong.

It has also been my experience that it is not helpful to attempt to educate one with whom we disagree. Educating them about our spiritual path is not going to help them feel better or accept our choices. On the contrary, it will often insight a more passionate defense of their beliefs. The belief in salvation through the blood of Jesus Christ meets deeply held needs for many people. Asking them to accept something different or to even question their beliefs is tantamount to blasphemy and heresy, and endangers the safety and security they feel. It is not helpful.

Our most effective approach is to listen with the intention to connect and understand. Let us give them the connection they so desperately long for, and which we also seek. We can help them to know that they are seen, heard, and valued. We can be curious about what they believe, why they believe it, and why it is so important to them for us to believe it as well. We can let them know that we feel their care and concern for us, and that we value it. We can let them know that we completely respect their spiritual and religious path without judgment. And, we can ask that they afford us the same.

If, and only if, they are curious and ask to hear more about what Unity teaches and whether we are Christian, then we can share with them. I recently read the following in our study guide to Brené Brown’s latest bestselling book, Braving the Wilderness, which we are using for our fall small group study. It was written by Rev. Geo Downer, Senior Minister at Unity Windward. It may be one of the best concise descriptions of Unity that I have heard. If they ask, paraphrasing this would be a good place to start.

Described as a positive path for spiritual living, Unity encourages the realization of God’s good in our daily lives and in our world. With an emphasis on reflection, introspection, and spirituality rather than religion, Unity invites everyone to experience healing in mind, body, spirit, and affairs, through thought, word and action. Based in the teachings of Jesus, Unity principles actuate the shift in perception to live in the Kingdom of Heaven, already present.

Additionally, if they ask, one might also say that Unity explores the biblical account of Jesus’s teachings, as recorded in the Christian Scriptures, as a path to spiritual living. We stress that it is more important to believe Jesus than to believe in Jesus. We believe him when he said things such as, “the kingdom of God is within you,” “greater things than I have done will you do,” and “you are the light of the world.” We also believe that Jesus was the great example for us in how to live our lives in service to love for God, our neighbors and ourselves. We teach that emulating how he lived is the true defining measure of a Christian, not what one believes about his birth, death or resurrection.

I have lived it, so I understand how challenging it can be to have conversations with loved ones who cannot begin to fathom how we can believe that we are created in original blessing rather than original sin; that we are all expressions of the Christ aspiring to realize our full potential; and that we make our own heaven or hell right here on Earth as an effect of our consciousness.

The best advice I can offer is what I have delineated here. Give yourself empathy and compassion and get it from those who are willing and able to give it. Listen to and follow your inner guidance. Respect yourself and your beliefs. Ground yourself in spiritual principle. Meet others with the same level of empathy, understanding, compassion and respect that you desire to receive from them.

This a beautiful example of what Brené Brown’s book, Braving the Wilderness, is about. She speaks of loving ourselves and belonging to ourselves so deeply that we embody the courage to connect with others, even and especially those with whom we strongly disagree. Our fall book study begins meeting next week. There are still openings in several groups. If you would like more information, please email Trish Morris.

Please join us on Sunday for our service at 10:00. I will begin a series based on the book with the lesson, “Everywhere and Nowhere.” You are welcome here!

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Courage to Heal

Thursday, September 13, 2018, marks the 25th anniversary of Unity World Day of Prayer. Each year on the second Thursday in November thousands of people around the world join with Silent Unity, Unity’s 24-hour prayer ministry, for this prayer event. Unity Village Chapel hosts an opening ceremony which begins a 24-hour prayer vigil.

We, at Unity Spiritual Center Denver, kicked off our observance by inviting everyone to participate in our monthly Healing Circle on Wednesday evening. We began our 24-hour prayer vigil at 6:00 PM on Wednesday, as well. We will conclude with an interfaith service on Thursday at 7:00 featuring speakers representing Buddhism, Judaism, Islam, Bahá'í, and Christianity. Each speaker will share about this year’s theme from their tradition’s perspective.

This year’s theme is “Courage to Heal.” When I first heard the theme, I wondered why ‘courage.’ Why not say “Power to Heal?” That would seem to be more in alignment with what Unity teaches about our innate power to heal ourselves through the activity of prayer. However, after contemplating it, I have come to appreciate the choice of words.

What is healing?

When we think of healing, we often think of physical healing. The Unity movement was, in large part, founded upon the power of prayer to affect physical healing as demonstrated by cofounder Myrtle Fillmore. In fact, the New Thought movement as a whole developed out of the “mind cure” movement of the late 19th century. In the early days of the Unity movement, physical healing was a primary focus of the teaching. While physical healing is an important aspect of our teaching, for true healing to manifest and endure, it must occur in all aspects of our being – spirit, mind and body.

One definition of ‘heal’ in the Merriam-Webster dictionary is, “to restore to original purity or integrity.” Considering that definition, for healing to be necessary there must be some evidence or at least the perception of an interruption in the integrity or wholeness of that which requires healing.

This is most obvious when it concerns physical healing. The natural state of the body is homeostasis, a stable and balanced interworking of all the systems of the body to produce a state of health and vitality. When something happens to disturb this natural order, we experience disease, broken bones, torn ligaments and the like. These are all manifestations of disturbance in the natural flow of energy. Healing, or the restoration of wholeness, is facilitated in many ways, such as, prayer, spiritual mind treatment, energy work, holistic treatment, and yes, when necessary allopathic means.

Mental healing involves our thoughts and emotions. I assert that just as the natural state of the body is homeostasis, our natural state of mind is order, harmony, and balance that results from aligning with love as our guiding principle and peace as our foundation. When something, whether as seemingly simple as an unkind word or as traumatic as the death of a loved one, or abuse of any kind, is interjected, it interferes with our natural state. Healing is required to restore the natural flow. As with the body, mental healing is achieved through many modalities, such as prayer, meditation, energy work, and often with the help of a trained spiritually aware mental health professional.

We exist eternally in the natural state of unity in God. In truth, we can never be separated. Our souls are individuated expressions of the One Power, One Mind, One Life, One Spirit, One Presence we often call ‘God.’ While we know that to be our spiritual truth, we often forget, lose our conscious connection and begin to believe that we are separate and alone. This belief demonstrates as fear and often manifests as violence against others, ourselves, and our world.

We do not restore our spiritual wholeness because it was never disrupted. However, spiritual healing occurs when we reestablish our conscious connection with the truth of our being. Like physical and mental healing, spiritual healing is also facilitated through prayer, meditation, contemplation, and affirmations, as well as energy work, body work and the like. Additionally, while it may not be the sole cause, this spiritual dis-ease contributes to the loss of physical and mental equilibrium. Spiritual healing can and does affect healing of body and mind.

Why healing requires courage.

Merriam-Webster defines ‘courage’ as “mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty.” Myrtle Fillmore displayed immense courage in the face of what was at the time considered a fatal disease when she defied medical advice and the prevailing wisdom and chose to heal through prayer. I have personally witnessed the courage exhibited by people who are healing from physical disease or injury. I have seen friends, family and congregants come face-to-face with a cancer diagnosis, feel the fear, and move through surgeries, radiation and chemotherapy treatments with courage and tenacity to claim their healing. I have stood in awe as I heard stories of people who experienced skeletal breaks and with courage and resolve moved through excruciating pain and sometimes torturous physical therapy to reclaim their wholeness. And in every case, each of these courageous souls was supported by prayers, mind treatments, energy work and the loving presence of others.

I also know from personal experience that courage is required to claim mental and emotional healing. It takes courage first to recognize and admit that healing is needed. Further, it requires courage to take the steps necessary to seek the information and help required. Beyond that, courage is essential if we are to journey into the darkest places in our psyche and be vulnerable enough to share our experiences, our fears, our shortcomings, and even our dreams with another or a group of others. I have walked through it, and I continue to do so. I have also had the privilege of witnessing others do the same. We are the only ones who can reclaim our wholeness, yet we do not have to do it alone.

Claiming our spiritual wholeness may be the most courageous journey of all. In a culture that overwhelmingly promotes concepts of separation, it is imperative that we muster the strength to stand firm in our commitment to know and live the truth of our Oneness. When we can know at the depth of our being that we are God expressing in human form and make the commitment to see ourselves, others and the world from that perspective, we have truly claimed our spiritual healing and restored ourselves in consciousness to our natural state of being. From the consciousness of unity, we affect healing in our minds and bodies.

Our courage to heal affects global healing.

Not only do we experience the effects of our healing, but we also bring healing to the world. When we have the courage to claim our healing and live our Oneness, we become an example and an inspiration for those around us to do the same. Through our courage to claim our healing and live our Oneness, we bring healing to our relationships with our families, partners, spouses, coworkers, and with all whom we interact. Through our courage to claim our healing, and live our Oneness, we help to affect healing of social injustice. Through our courage to claim our healing and live our Oneness, we share healing with the planet and our environment. Through our courage to heal and live our Oneness, we can unabashedly proclaim “I Am a Healing Presence” which is the affirmation for the year’s World Day of Prayer.

I encourage us not to allow World Day of Prayer to be a one-day event that we observe and then forgot, but rather allow it to be just the beginning of our renewed commitment to gather our courage and move forward toward claiming our healing in whatever way is calling us. Please know that, while you must do it, you do not have to do it alone.

Please join us at 10:00 on Sunday for our service. I was out last week due to illness, but I have claimed my healing and will be back. Since I missed “Ask a Minister” last Sunday, I will be on hand this week to answer your questions during my regular lesson time in the service. I look forward to it.

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Booted In The Booty

We just never know where our spiritual lessons and insights are going to come from.

While at the gym this morning, I was walking on the treadmill and listening to an audiobook when my attention was drawn to a program on one of the many television monitors facing me. The program was about parking enforcement in a major city. This is not something that would normally capture my interest, yet I was intrigued. I was not listening to the audio from the program, nor was I able to read the closed captioning. Still, I had no problem interpreting the energy that was being directed at the parking enforcement officers from those being cited.

Whether it was live or dramatized I’m not sure, but it appeared to be captured live. The segment showed several incidences where the officers were “booting” illegally parked vehicles. The “boots” prevent the cars from being moved. After the vehicle has been “booted” a tow truck is called to remove it, and it is impounded. The owner must pay a fine to recover the vehicle.

Again, I was not listening to the dialog, but I could tell that in every instance the owner of the booted vehicle was indignant and treated the enforcement officers with disdain. Rather than take responsibility, each of them blamed the officers for their predicament. They were defiant in their resistance to facing the consequences of their actions.

You may be asking, “What was the spiritual lesson in that?”

I can see in me the indignant defiance of those whose vehicles were booted when I feel stuck and unable (or unwilling) to move from where I am. I can see in me the attitude of being a victim of others or of the world. I can see in me the tendency to want a quick fix for the life circumstances that I co-create through the energy of my thoughts, feelings, words and actions. I can see in me reticence to take responsibility for my creations.

It was a perfect and present reminder for me that I am solely responsible for my creations and that I must be responsive to them. While I would love to have someone else rescue me from my occasional complacency or apathy, I realize that I am the one in control, and only I can save myself. I am the only one who can take charge of my energy signature (listen to my talk from August 26 or watch it below) and make the changes necessary to move forward in my life.

The Universe, like the parking enforcement officers, simply shows up and provides me with the demonstrations (or consequences) of the energy signature I have proclaimed and the choices I have made. It does me no good to rage at the Universe. Well, it might do me a little good. Raging does help to release some of the built-up energy. As long as it is not directed at another person, raging can be cleansing.

As I said, this is not a program I would normally watch, yet I am grateful that I was open and receptive to the message it held for me this morning. I was “booted in the booty.”

When I tell myself I am stuck; when I feel a lack of motivation; when I feel disconnected from my Source, my self and from others; when I feel apathetic; when I am complacent and resigned; when I feel like my life has been “booted” by something external to me, it is time for me to stop, breathe and take stock. It is time for me to take responsibility for my thoughts, words and actions. It is time for me to assess my energy signature and take the necessary steps to shift it.

My practice this morning –

Take time to write this post as a means of self-connection and reflection.

Breathe consciously and deeply to help move energy through my body.

Align my mind with the Truth of my being by affirming -

I am now attuned to the energy of the indwelling Christ.

Moving down the body, I attune each center in the energy of Christ.
  • ·       I Know with the Mind of Christ (crown chakra)
  • ·       I See through the Eyes of Christ (third eye chakra)
  • ·       I Hear with the Ears of Christ (mouth of God chakra)
  • ·       I Speak with the Voice of Christ (throat chakra)
  • ·       I Will the Will of Christ (will center, top of chest)
  • ·       I Love with the Heart of Christ (heart chakra)
  • ·       I Feel with the Soul of Christ (solar plexus chakra)
  • ·       I Create with the Love of Christ (sacral chakra)
  • ·       I Live as the Life of Christ (root chakra)

I am the Christ of God made flesh.

From a place of connection in mind, body and spirit, I can then move forward with energy, inspiration and enthusiasm to create with passion and excitement. I join with Unity cofounder Charles Fillmore and proclaim…

I fairly sizzle with zeal and enthusiasm and spring forth with a mighty faith to do all the things that ought to be done by me.

Join us on Sunday at 10:00 for our service at Unity Spiritual Center Denver. I will do my best to answer your questions during my normal lesson time. It is "Ask A Minister" Sunday.