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Thursday, April 15, 2021

Forging Your Path

Earlier this week, thanks to the generosity of friends, I spent some time in Breckenridge, CO. 
I have been there several times during summer and early fall, but this was my first time to visit in early spring.

On previous trips, I discovered some favorite trails within easy walking distance of my friends’ condo. I have enjoyed hiking these trails many times in warm weather when the winter snow had all melted away. This visit was the first time I attempted to hike those same trails while they were still snow-covered.

I wasn’t sure what to expect, so I put on my tennis shoes, walked across the road to the trailhead to assess the situation. I soon discovered that I would need my boots before attempting the trail. Even though the open areas were fairly clear, the wooded areas were not.

Even after donning my boots and returning to the trailhead, I still wasn’t sure whether I should attempt the hike, but I was determined to enjoy connecting with nature and reveling in the quiet solitude of the forest.


As I timidly began walking toward the trial, I realized that I was not even sure where the trail was. In the snow, the trail looked the same as the rest of the forest floor. I did my best to observe the footprints of others and follow their trail, but it was not always that simple.

There were times when I took a step and sank deep into the snow. Other times, I stepped on solid ice, lost my balance and grabbed hold of a tree to steady myself. Still other times, I found a clear spot, stopped there, and searched for signs of where to go next. The trails that had been so familiar in the past were now not so obvious.

My snow-covered trail adventure reminded me of how often I look to others to define my path in life. I observe what others are doing, where they are going, or what they are creating, and I attempt to follow them and do what they are doing rather than forging my own path and doing what is in alignment with my soul.

I am challenging myself not to do that. Yes, we can learn from others, and we can look to them for guidance, but it is important for us to be open to the direction of our own soul and follow where it leads.

Forging our own path can be scary. We may be timid to even begin. We may lose our balance from time to time and need to reach for something or someone to support us. We may step in “it.” We may step deep in “it” at times. We may need to stop along the away and reassess where we are going before taking the next step.

It is good to remember that all of that is part of the adventure of life. If we do not forge ahead, blazing our own trail, we will miss out on so much of what this life has to offer us, and the world will miss out on so much of what we have to offer.

Through it all, we can trust that we are never alone. We are always guided by Spirit and the unseen forces of the Universe. I encourage you to forge your own path, listen to that still small voice, and as my friend Debra always says, “Keep on keeping on. No matter what.”

Thursday, April 8, 2021

Oh My God, It's...

I shared in a recent post, Playing it Safe?, that I enjoy watching vocal competition shows, such as American Idol and The Voice. I am entertained and often moved and inspired by them.

In one of the recent episodes of American Idol, the judges were encouraging one of the singers to have confidence in himself. Luke Bryan, one of the judges turned to Lionel Richie, another judge and said, Tell him what you say to yourself every morning.”

Lionel said, Every morning when I look in the mirror I say Oh my God, it's Lionel Richie!’”

I turned to J and said, Im going to start doing that. Every morning when I look in the mirror, I am going to say Oh my God, its David Howard!’” And I did.


As I write this, I am realizing that I have not continued the practice, but I am recommitting myself to it.

On the surface, it sounds like a statement of self-conceit which most, if not all of us, are taught to avoid at all cost. We are told, Dont be too full of yourself,” "Who do you think you are?," or Dont get to big for your breeches." Thats one that I often heard growing up in the South.

Those sorts of messages from our parents or other authority figures are often damaging. When taken to heart, they encourage us to play small, to not honor our personal power and magnificence, and to deny the wonderful and unique expression of God that each of us is.

In doing that, we withhold our gifts from the world. Not only do we suffer, but the world is deprived of the beauty that we are. In A Course in Miracles, Jesus says,

Do not withhold your gifts from the Sonship, or you withhold yourself from God! Selfishness is of the ego, but Self-fullness is of spirit because that is how God created it.”

To be selfish is to withhold from the world the expression of our unique gifts and talents. It is withholding God from God!

Self-fullness, on the other hand, because it is of Spirit is about owning who we are and extending our God-self to benefit the world. Self-fullness is confidence – it knows self as an expression of God and makes no apology for owning and living that Truth.

Unlike selfishness, Self-fullness does not hide its light under a bushel” (Matthew 5:15). Instead, from the realization of the unique individuation of Spirit that one is, it lets that Light shine brightly for the entire world to benefit.

I believe we could all do with a little more Self-fullness. Please join me in the practice of looking in the mirror every morning and saying aloud, 

"Oh my God, its (insert your name here)!"

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Happy Resurrection Day!

Sunday is Easter, celebrated in Christianity as the day when Jesus, who had been crucified and buried in a tomb, resurrected from the dead. In traditional Christianity, belief in the events of Easter as described in the Gospels is essential to one’s salvation. John 3:16, along with John 11:25-26 in which Jesus says, “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die” are often used to justify the doctrine that one must believe in Jesus as the Lamb of God sacrificed for the sins of the world in order to be “saved” from the eternal fires of hell after death.

The promise of Easter, according to traditional Christian belief, is the gift of eternal life in a place called heaven provided one believes in Jesus as the savior. So, for millions around the world, Easter is a celebration of the promise of eternal life through Jesus’ sacrifice.


We in Unity, also celebrate Easter. We celebrate not because we believe that we are “saved” through Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection. We celebrate because when understood metaphysically Easter is a dramatic demonstration of a transformation of consciousness that frees us.

In The Revealing Word, Unity cofounder Charles Fillmore says,

The belief that Jesus in an outer way atoned for our sins is not salvation. Salvation is based solely on an inner overcoming, a change in consciousness.”

We believe that our master teacher and way shower Jesus exampled for us what is possible when we are released from the bonds of our usual mind-dominated way of being and rise to Christ consciousness.

When Jesus said “I am the resurrection and the life…” he was not speaking as the man, Jesus. Instead, he was speaking from the awareness of the Christ. In other words, he was saying that the “I Am” is the resurrection and the life, and when we know that at the depth of being, we know that our true essence is eternal; it does not die.

The promise of Easter is eternal life, but we need not wait until the death of the body to realize it. We can choose to claim it in any moment, “die” to our habitual way of defining ourselves, and be resurrected in new life as one who embodies the Christ consciousness. In that way we inherit the kingdom of heaven, not a place, but a state of conscious awareness of Unity in God and with all creation.

Easter is our opportunity to stand with our brother, Jesus, and state emphatically, “I Am the resurrection and the life” as we claim our divine nature and consciously choose to free ourselves from the tomb of our limited way of thinking and live from the awareness of the Christ.

Happy Resurrection Day!


Thursday, March 25, 2021

Serving the Christ

Earlier this week as I was searching through a box for some insurance papers, I ran across an old journal. I placed it on a shelf with some other books without much thought. Later, when I was organizing my bookshelves, I decided to read some of the entries.

My first entry was dated 18 January 2014 and the last 21 March 2016. As I read through the pages, I recognized that many of the challenges I experience today are quite like those I wrote about 5 to 7 years ago.

My first reaction was “Damn! I am still dealing with some of the same stuff (not the word I used) that I was dealing with then. Have I not made any progress? What have I been doing? I should have done…! I should not have done…! My mind began to attack me trying to convince me that I am stuck.

Luckily, I quickly intervened on the mind chatter, settled into my meditation space, and went within to ask Spirit to tell me or show me more about the dynamics of why I continue to live out patterns of thought and behavior year after year.

I assumed that I would hear what I have heard many times before, that life is a spiral and that we revisit issues throughout our lives, each time from a different place in the evolution of our consciousness. And that we work through them as we are able from that point in our journey. That is what I expected to hear. That is not what I heard.

What I heard shook me, but also excited me. I heard –

You continue to experience the same challenges and issues in your life because you continue to try to satisfy an idea of self that is not who you are. You are continuing to serve a false image of self. That concept of you will never be pleased, will never have enough, will never truly know love, will never be at peace, and will never be free.

The True Self, the essence of who you are, the Christ of you delights in all things, lacks for nothing, knows only Love, is at peace eternally, and is already free. When you truly begin to embody and serve the Christ that you are, you will realize that none of the so-called issues of the past are present. There will be no need to revisit them. You will be free.

This is precisely what our elder brother and way shower, Jesus, has been trying to teach us for the past two millennia. It is what he exampled in his life and in his death.

As we begin to observe Holy Week this Sunday with Palm Sunday, we celebrate Jesus’ example of claiming his Divinity; standing firm in his resolve to speak and live his Truth; yielding to the greater will; and surrendering his physical life to dramatically demonstrate the power of releasing the idea that we are not in any way defined or limited by this human experience and showing us that we can at any time be resurrected in the conscious awareness of the Christ that each of us is. 

Our opportunity is to be aware of when and where we are serving a limited idea of self. Any time we are feeling fear in any of its many iterations, we are giving power to a false image of self. Any time we believe that we have been harmed by another; tell ourselves we have been offended; or hold on to resentment, guilt, or shame, we are giving power to that which is not our Divinity.

Each time we recognize that we are trying to satisfy an illusory self, we can yield. We can join with our elder brother, Jesus, and say, “Not my will, but thy will be done.” Not that we are giving over to something outside ourselves, but that we are choosing to let go of our personal agenda and calling upon our Divinity, our Christ, self to take charge, to assume our thoughts, feelings, and actions.

The Christ consciousness grows stronger in us each time we remember to yield to it and allow it to have its life as us. In time, we will see that we become “new creatures in Christ” (2 Corinthians 5:17) no longer bound to an idea of self that can never be satisfied.

We will then celebrate the resurrection of the Christ in our consciousness. We will ascend beyond any idea of a self that is separate from IT.  

Thursday, March 18, 2021

Come Home

In my lesson last week, I talked about how Jesus exampled for us one who fully embraced and embodied his True Nature, which we often call the ‘Christ’ or the ‘I Am.’ In doing so, he taught us the potential of that power when we allow ourselves to be used as its vessel. I shared some thoughts on how the miracles attributed to Jesus can teach us about that power and how we can use it to bring healing, harmony and life to ourselves, others, and any situation. You may watch that lesson on our Facebook page or YouTube channel.

In addition to the example of his miracles, Jesus also frequently taught using parables, short allegorical stories intended to illustrate a spiritual truth. In Luke 15:11-32 Jesus tells the story of a son who after receiving his inheritance from his father, left home to go in search of adventure. When he had used all he had been given in pursuit of worldly pleasure and possessions, then destitute, he returned to his father asking for forgiveness, thinking that his father might at least give him a position as a servant in his household.

His father, rather than chastising him or punishing him upon his return, instead welcomed him home with open arms, celebrated his return, and shared all that he had with him. This did not sit well with the older brother who chose to stay at home and continue working with his father the entire time his brother was away. He felt angry because his father had never celebrated him despite his dedication and hard work. The father assured the older son that everything was his as well and encouraged him to celebrate the homecoming of his brother who was lost but now returned.


As I recall, in the Baptist tradition, this story was used to illustrate God’s love for all his children, even for those who go astray, if they return, confess their “sins” and repent. It is, as are many parables in the religious tradition of my youth, used as a morality tale to teach right from wrong and invoke “good” behavior based on the fear of judgment and punishment.

Unity co-founder, Charles Fillmore, taught that the Bible is the story of the evolution of human consciousness and that each character in every story in the Bible represents an aspect of each of us in our own evolutionary process. Interpreting these stories metaphysically helps us to understand these aspects of our own consciousness and assists us in working with them for our own conscious spiritual evolution.

In the Metaphysical Bible Dictionary, Mr. Fillmore’s interpretation of the story of the prodigal son says that the two sons represent the “departments of the soul.” The older son who stayed at home with his father is the “religious or moral nature,” and the younger son who squandered his inheritance is the “human in which there are appetites and passions.” He seems to imply that the older son is the virtuous one, while the younger son by going in to a “far country” separated himself from the father who represents the Source. In his metaphysical interpretation Mr. Fillmore, too, seems to present the story as a morality tale.

I wholeheartedly admire and respect Mr. Fillmore and am grateful for his enlightened and inspired discernment. I would also like to offer a slightly different metaphysical interpretation, one that does not infer that one of the sons is righteous and the other wayward. I see this story, not as a morality tale, but as a story of Self-realization.

Rather than the sons being two aspects of the “soul,” they instead represent two aspects of the mind; the mind of humanity that is founded on misconceived beliefs derived from a perspective of separation. Such a mind is constantly seeking its identity in some aspect of the world of form, rather than knowing itself as Source, the “Father” in the story. The younger son represents the aspect of mind that attempts to identify itself through seeking sensual pleasure, worldly possessions and adventures, while the older son represents the aspect of mind that seeks its identity in status, pleasing others and doing what is considered “right” to be admired, appreciated and valued. Both aspects of mind serve only to further a false sense of separation.

Luke 15:17-18 says, “When [the younger son] came to himself” (Lamsa), he decided to rise and go to his father. Coming to himSELF, he had a realization of his truth. While not expounded upon in the story, I believe his realization was the culmination of his own process of self-awareness and Self-discovery.

This realization of truth is demonstrated in the story by his decision to return to his father. It is further demonstrated by his father’s embrace and the showering of abundance. When we understand that all of this occurs, not in the physical, but in consciousness, we see that as we awaken from the dream of separation, we recognize that, in truth, we have never been and can never be apart from the Allness of God expressing as us.

As in the metaphorical story of the prodigal son, we “come home” to the kingdom of God consciousness, represented by the “Father.” The “Father” is the One Source of all that we could ever truly desire. It abides here and now and is ours as we open to accept and receive it. Likewise, the older brother was also “embraced by the father,” not because of his outer expressions of dedication and obedience, which were his attempts to prove himself worthy of what was already his, but because of his openness and willingness to accept that he already possessed all that he had been seeking. He did not have to “do” anything as is often taught in traditional religions.

And, while we are not told how the elder son responded to his father’s invitation, I like to envision that he openly and lovingly accepted what was already his. I enjoy believing that he too accepted the kingdom of God consciousness as his truth. For everyone, in this acceptance of the Kingdom of God as our abiding and sustaining reality, the seeking ends: We realize that all we have been seeking is that which we have been seeking with. We realize as Jesus said, “the Father and I are one.”

The story of the prodigal son is not a morality tale, nor is it a story of the power of confession, repentance, and forgiveness. It is the story of awakening to the Truth. Each of us is, has ever been, and will forever be - abiding in the Father’s house, the kingdom of God consciousness, the Garden of Eden, Heaven. It is already ours, by whatever name we choose to call it. It is up to us, and only we can decide, to stop seeking it and open ourselves to the realization of it. When we do so, we, as did the prodigal son, awaken to our true Selves, arise in consciousness, and realize “home.”

Join us on Facebook or YouTube on Sunday at 10:00 MDT as we further explore this and some of Jesus’ other parables.

Thursday, March 11, 2021

Recognize, Realize and Reveal Truth

It seems that some lessons are more difficult for me to learn than others. One might think that after experiencing less-than-positive reactions to some of my choices as a minister that I would have learned to present potential changes with clearer communication and empathy.

During my years in ministry, is has been made abundantly clear to me that it is best to approach changes gently, present them as “experiments,” and clearly communicate the “why.”

In the past, I have stimulated upset for people by making unilateral decisions about the space, the order of service and the elements in the service. I understand that making such changes is not always comfortable, especially when we have been doing things a certain way for a long time. Still, I do it.

I promise; I am working on it.

This past Sunday, I introduced a new version of our closing prayer. I received some positive feedback. Still, I am concerned that my actions may have stimulated discomfort for some. Obviously, I made this change without stating that it is an experiment and without offering a “why.” I think it is important for me to share my thinking that prompted the change.

 

Several years ago, when I was at Unity Village taking classes toward my Licensed Unity Teacher credential, I was called upon to give a short talk. I was given a little time to prepare, so I sat in meditation seeking guidance.

 

The words ‘recognize,’ ‘realize,’ and ‘reveal’ came to me as a framework for my talk. These words have stayed with me since. My talk that day explored the equal importance of recognizing the Truth, that is making it conscious in our minds; realizing the Truth, that is taking it into the depth of our being and knowing it for ourselves; and revealing the Truth, that is expressing it through our thoughts, words and actions.



The section of the original
Prayer for Protection by Unity minister and poet laureate James Dillet Freeman that is traditionally recited in many Unity churches and spiritual centers is,

 

The light of God surrounds us.
The love of God enfolds us.
The power of God protects us.
The presence of God watches over us.
Wherever we are, God is.

 

These are statements of Truth that when affirmed as a prayer condition our minds with the Truths they assert. This is “recognizing” the Truth.

 

We, along with many Unity ministries, in an effort to support oneness language, have been using a derivative version, as follows:

 

The light of God surrounds us.
I am the light of God.
The love of God enfolds us.
I am the love of God.
The power of God protects us.
I am the power of God.
The presence of God watches over us.
I am the presence of God.
Where we are, God is.

These additions are also statements of Truth that help to connect us with the Truth of our oneness in God. These are statements of “realization.” They make the Truth personal to us.

If we stop there, as we have been doing for many years now, we miss the essential step of demonstrating these Truths in our thoughts, words, and actions. We do not complete the circle by “revealing” the Truth that we recognize and realize.

For this reason, I chose to experiment with adding phrases that encourage us to take action to ground the Truth that we know. My experimental version is,

The light of God surrounds us.
I am the light of God.

As Light, I illumine my world.


The love of God enfolds us.
I am the love of God.

As Love, I live empathy, understanding and compassion.


The power of God protects us.
I am the power of God.

As Power, I co-create a world of love, unity, and equality for all.

 

The presence of God watches over us.
I am the presence of God.
As Presence, I stand in Truth in every circumstance.

 

Wherever we are, God is.

 

As our fifth basic Unity principle states, “knowledge of Truth is not enough, we must live the Truth we know.” I am hopeful that these additions will help to inspire us to live the Truth we know.

 

Please take some time to be with this experimental change, prayerfully consider these statements, and take them into meditation and contemplation. And let me hear from you. David@UnityDenver.org


I am truly interested and eager to hear your thoughts and responses.

 

 

Thursday, March 4, 2021

Embodying the Spirit of Jesus

In observance of Lent this year, I chose to explore the daily lessons in the book, Keep a True Lent, by Unity cofounder Charles Fillmore. I was inspired to offer these lessons on Facebook and YouTube so those who desire to do so can join me. I admit that after committing to it, I had second thoughts about it. Forty days of daily virtual sessions! What was I thinking?

Now that I am into it, I am so glad that I followed Spirit’s guidance. It is proving to be a source of inspiration and reconnection for me, and I hope for others, as well. If you have not been following along, you can join at any time. You may also go back and view the previous lessons on our Facebook page or YouTube channel.

Each of the lessons includes a suggested Scripture reading and a short lesson from Mr. Fillmore. I have especially enjoyed reflecting on the metaphysical interpretation of the Scripture lessons, as well as connecting with the deeper meaning in Mr. Fillmore’s teachings.

I have been, once again, reminded of the powerful lessons of embodying our divinity and living our humanity that we can learn from studying the life of Jesus and his teachings. I share here some of the insights I have gleaned from these daily readings and lessons.

https://www.innerpath.com

The account of Jesus’ baptism by the Holy Spirit is depicted and traditionally interpreted as an anointing from an external source and the proclamation, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased” as the voice of God coming from heaven above. However, when interpreted metaphorically and metaphysically, it represents each of us opening our hearts to the awareness of the “Whole Spirit” of God as our very essence, and our minds to the knowing that we are each expressions of God embraced in perfect love. It is not something that happens to us, but something that happens through us as we become willing to accept it.

Further, Jesus’ time in the wilderness is traditionally interpreted as his confrontation with and eventual victory over an external force for evil, ‘Satan.’ In Unity we teach that there is no force for evil, but that what we call “evil” is the out picturing of our belief in separation from God.

Mr. Fillmore said that ‘Satan’ is “a state of mind formed by man's personal ideas of his power and completeness and sufficiency apart from God.” ¹ When we reflect on Jesus’ time in the wilderness from a metaphysical perspective, we understand that it represents our willingness to engage with and integrate those personal ideas that would separate us from our Truth. It is an illustration, once again, of a process that happens through us, one that we consciously undertake to embrace our wholeness.

Jesus’ ministry illustrates the ways our lives reflect how we choose to view and interact with the world. We can allow ourselves to be controlled by the subconscious and unconscious myths, messages, and beliefs, and ride the waves of turmoil that often ensue. Or we can claim our dominion over them as Jesus demonstrated and say, “Peace, be still.” We can choose to own our power, stand in our Truth, and not be buffeted by the storms of the past. 

We can allow ourselves to become paralyzed by fear, pain, resentment, or anger, most often stemming from attachments to our judgments of the past, either of ourselves or another. Or we can choose to claim forgiveness for ourselves and others as Jesus demonstrated.

When he spoke the words, “Your sins are forgiven, take up your bed and walk” to the paralyzed man, he was not providing a dispensation. He was stating a truth. What we call ‘sin’ is a misperception born from a belief in separation. No other labels need be attributed to it.

Forgiveness is not something we do for another, nor something that happens to us. Forgiveness is something that happens through us. It requires a conscious choice to clearly see the truth of ourselves and all others. When we awaken to our divine nature, when we know ourselves as the Christ, we know it for all.

When Jesus told the woman who touched the hem of his robe and was healed of twelve years of hemorrhaging, “Your faith has made you whole” he was making a statement of truth. He was not the source of her healing. She was healed because of her willingness to consciously exercise the power of faith. She was willing to open herself to see beyond the limitations of the physical eyes. She was able to perceive that which exists beyond the capacity of our physical senses to perceive.

She opened her heart and mind to the essence of life itself and in doing so, she experienced a return to the natural flow of life through her being. It was not because she touched his robe that she was healed. Faith is not something we acquire; it is something we choose to apply from within. Results are not something awarded by an outside source based on our actions. As we live from faith, through faith, results are a manifestation of connection with our spiritual Truth.

Embodying the spirit of Jesus not only calls us to a life of conscious choice and awareness, but also to a life of compassion, conviction, and courage. Jesus shows compassion for those who are suffering. In his presence, the sick were healed, the lame walked, the blind began to see, and the demons were cast out. He did it all without joining in the suffering. He stood in his truth as the Christ and responded from that consciousness.

We, too, are called to meet the needs of the world with compassion from the consciousness of truth. We are not called to join the suffering, but to stand with those who are suffering and do all we can to help meet their needs and assist them in claiming the truth for themselves.

We need not look far to see that there are many of our brothers and sisters who are suffering and in need. In her song, All the Good, singer-songwriter Jana Stanfield says it well, “I cannot do all the good that the world needs, but the world needs all the good that I can do.” Jesus did attempt to heal all the suffering in the world, but he responded to the need he witnessed.

Jesus also exampled a life of conviction and courage. He spoke out against the abuses of those in power in the church, as well as in the government. He stood up against the religious and societal elite who profited at the expense of the common people. He challenged the corruption of the temple priests and scribes. He dared to walk among and even touch the lepers, those whom others shunned. He spoke to the woman at the well, which was considered unacceptable at the time. Although they were often considered to be less-than fully human in his culture, Jesus called the children to him and blessed them. He welcomed the Gentiles and Samaritans who were unacceptable to the Jews. He stood for Truth even when he knew his life was in danger for doing it.

Embodying the spirit of Jesus, challenges us to courageously stand in our power and speak truth to those in power. There are many societal, financial and governmental structures in the world today that support the abuse of power and the exploitation of many people. We must be willing to stand up for truth, justice and equality for all.

We are not all called to surrender our physical lives for the sake of our conviction as depicted in the Jesus story. As we follow the example of our way shower, Jesus, we are asked to claim our divine essence, engage in practices that solidify our realization of it, and to do our utmost best to live in integrity with it. Each of us is responsible for and to our own awakening.

I invite us to ask ourselves, “If not me, who? If not now, when?” Now is the time; We are the ones.

¹Metaphysical Bible Dictionary