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Be the Change You Wish to See in the World by Rev. Karen Laughmen

This summer I attended a One Spirit Seminary reunion…the 10 year anniversary of my graduation from One Spirit, an interfaith seminary in NYC. I renewed my personal minister’s vow to be of service in our world with peace, love and joy. This was also the summer of my 75th birthday, a time of reflection for me as I became still and pondered who I am as an elder and how I want to express my vow of service.

I love browsing in small gift shops and most often find something I like. This summer, I was drawn to a bracelet in a gift shop with the words, “Be the Change.” I believe this was a message for my spirit and spiritual journey.
This phrase is part of a quote from Mahatma Gandhi, “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” Gandhi was a humble, but spiritually powerful man who let a successful campaign for India’s independence from British Rule leading with nonviolent resistance. He inspired movements for civil rights and freedom across the world. Baptist minister, Martin Luther King was inspired by Gandhi’s writings and example, and he followed the same nonviolent resistance in leading the civil rights movement in the United States of America.

I want to begin this reflection upon Gandhi’s quote by affirming we each are divinely created to be the unique person we are with our divinely given gifts. We affirm every Sunday in our Unity Spiritual Center, “That each person is a beloved child of God. Each person is here for a special reason. When we do that which is ours to do, we make a positive difference in the world.”

So, as we reflect upon the meaning of making a positive difference in the world and being the change, we wish to see, let’s first ask ourselves, what do we want to see in the world? I invite you to name out loud some of the things you want to see in our world.

I want to see more kindness, respect and care for all beings. I want to see honesty and integrity, equality of opportunity for all people everywhere, peace and safety for all people everywhere, a healthy environment for us and future generations.

What we are describing are values…What is important to us. Peace, Love, Kindness, Respect and Fairness are basic values that are taught universally by all religions.

In Unity, a basic principle and belief is that we create our experiences and our world by what we think, feel and believe, and that we do and give our best by living the Truth of our values. The Truth is that we are divinely given the power of goodness and intelligence, and we can make a difference wherever we are by our example and by our service.

In our personal lives, we can create love by being loving, kind, compassionate, forgiving. The energy of a smile, an act of kindness with a call or a note to someone who is having a challenge, offering a helping hand… all of these actions can make a difference in someone’s day. We can help create respect by being respectful. We can help create a peaceful world by our own peaceful thoughts and actions. We can build integrity with honesty. We can save our Mother Earth with our own actions and by supporting policies that keep our environment sustainable. We can make our world a place of equality for everyone by insisting that every person be treated with worth and value, and by supporting policies that give children equal quality education and policies that promote economic justice so adults have equal opportunity to be successful in their pursuits.

When we consciously live our lives expressing our values of basic goodness, our actions have positive ripple effects, and this is how collective higher consciousness grows. We all have a part in that growing of higher consciousness.

The Truth is we are all children of God and as children of God, we are all one. In our shared humanity, we are divinely connected to each and every person by this creative force of oneness. Dr. Martin Luther King profoundly said, “We are all tied together in a single garment of destiny… an inescapable network of mutuality. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly.”

Martin Luther King led with his message of the power of love. The Truth is the essential nature of God and the essential nature of us is Love, and the quality of love attracts harmony. Through the power of love and peace in our hearts, we can expand oneness and unity with all. Jesus taught us to “Love Our Neighbors as Ourselves” and Mr. Rogers taught us that “We are all Neighbors.”

Whatever needs to be healed in our world around us can happen when we join together and pay attention to our commonalities as human and divine beings. This connection comes from that deep place within us …which is a spiritual connection of oneness with God as Spirit and with one another.

We live in a time of deep polarization which I find painful, but I also believe it is a time of possibility. Our calling at this time is to awaken our souls and commit to the creative force of Spirit and vision. Any transformation of our world requires a deep spiritual connection to our true nature as spiritual beings and our inherent connection to one another. I believe in the core of my soul that any positive change in our world happens with a spiritual awakening. Spiritual power based on love is the most profound power we have. It always has been so and always will be.

We can make a difference in someone’s life by expressing love and generosity of spirit and this always remains important. To be the change that we wish to see in the world, our personal and spiritual growth needs to expand to the outer world. It is easy to become fatigued and cynical with all the chaos and confusion, but the world is longing for transformation and the world is waiting for us!! I believe it is our responsibility to stay engaged and make a difference.

All of us have been hurt by some form of oppression…whether it be sexism, racism, classism, heterosexism, or adultism. Adultism is what all children experience from well- meaning parents, teachers and other adults who in some way invalidate the innate wisdom and power of children.

All the isms I named disempower individuals as the message of “not being enough” is internalized. Oppressive forces can wear us down and cause us to forget our oneness with our creator and each other unless we are centered in that deep spiritual place within us that is nurtured by prayer, meditation and spiritual community.

All of us know someone whose challenges seem insurmountable, but they persevere because of faith and strength of Spirit. And this is true for many of us here today. Each of us needs to remember that we are created innately powerful with divine worth and value, and we need to affirm this spiritual truth everyday within ourselves and wherever we are with everyone we meet. (Repeat this affirmation and say it to someone near you.)

Another function of oppression is to divide us from one another…again causing us to forget that we are one. If we are encouraged to only see our differences instead of our commonalties and encouraged to compete instead of cooperating for the collective good, we than create a world where a small group of people reign power and benefit from the rich resources available to the whole human race.

We need to affirm our children, teach them spiritual values and teach them to think for themselves, and we adults need to affirm one another and pay attention to our inner wisdom that tells us when something is morally right or wrong. We have economic and social injustice, gun violence and war because not enough of us believe we have the power to make a difference, and sometimes we lack the courage and commitment to be a voice for what is right. Is it right that income inequality in our country is on the level of the Great Depression in the 30’s where today an CEO can make almost 200 times more money than the average worker and many hard working people do not have a living wage because we don’t have the will to raise the minimum wage to at least $15 an hour? Is it right that in the wealthy county of America 1/5 of our children live in poverty? Is it right that we are the only industrialized country without universal health care and universal childcare? Is it right that we have the highest number of people dying from gun violence of the industrial nations….40,000 a year die from gun violence in our country and dying from gun shots is the second highest cause of death for young people aged 1-19?

In our communities and in our country, we can make a commitment to stand for what is right…that each person is treated with dignity and is given equal opportunity for quality of life and freedom from violence. To be the change that we wish to see in the world, we each need to believe in our individual and our collective power.

I am reminded of the Biblical Story of David and Goliath. As a young man, David seemed an unlikely choice to kill a giant. He was a musician, a poet, a shepherd. Goliath was a big bully and threatened the Israeli warriors. David had the power of God’s love on his side and was armored with faith, and he volunteered to fight Goliath. He was victorious over Goliath because he had the courage of faithfulness. Goliath can be the symbol of what is wrong in the midst of us. If we summon courage and faith together, we can be also be victorious in the battles to do what is right for our own lives and the values of our democracy for and by the people. We need as President Lincoln said to “choose the angels of our better nature, and we need to hold our leaders to that same standard.”

What I believe we need is what is called in many spiritual communities, sacred activism. What this means is that we take action that comes from a place of spiritual principles and spiritual groundedness. It means intentionally living our lives with spiritual principles for the benefit of all our fellow brothers and sisters, not just our individual needs. This is what Gandhi and Dr. King did.

When your think of how you want to make a difference, who are people who you think made a difference in the past or make a difference in our present times? Some of my heroines as a young woman were Eleanor Roosevelt and Rosa Parks who both made a stand for justice. Today, I admire Jimmy Carter who as an elder has the commitment to make a difference in our world, Ellen DeGereres who stepped out and claimed the truth of who she is and became victorious over discrimination, John Lewis who worked with Martin Luther King for civil rights and now serves as a U. S. congressman with dedication, Oprah who grew up in poverty and experienced some painful events in her young life which she overcame to become the powerful woman she is and giving back generously to our world.

Finally, the students from Stoneman Douglas High who gave one another support through their trauma of unbelievable violence and created a movement to end gun violence and a teenager Greta Thumberg who through her passion about saving our earth from climate change inspired a global movement of young people and adults to heal our planet. These are people who stepped out of their comfort zones and made a commitment to help make changes to benefit the greater good.

I want to also mention our Unity co-founders Myrtle and Charles Fillmore. Through their humble faith, they began circles of prayer for healing and created a spiritual community for their friends that grew into a world- wide ministry which has a powerful message to awaken and nurture our spirits and heal our world with divine love and peace.

On our path of positive spiritual living, what are some ways that each of us can take action to make positive differences for the greater good?

Here are some ways I think we can make a difference:
• We can spiritually support the people around us so we can all be the best we can be.
• We can help our spiritual community grow so more people can benefit from Unity spiritual messages.
• We can volunteer with organizations that align with our values to help and empower others.
• If it is possible, we can make a donation to organizations that makes a difference in ways that support our values.
• We can organize others to work for a cause that we believe in.
• We can join others at a rally or march that gives visibility to an issue that is important to us.
• We can participate in ways that strengthen our country’s democracy knowing that democracy is not a spectator sport.
• We can use our individual power to vote for candidates who have integrity and who exemplify the values that we hold close in our hearts and spirits.
• Elections matter and who we elect as leaders matter. When we don’t vote, we allow others to choose for us. We can contact our legislators who represent us by visiting them in their offices, by phone, letter, email. They are our public servants and they need to know what is important to us. It is not difficult on the internet to find who our elected officials are and how to contact them. If we feel strongly about an issue that affects our families or communities, we can write a letter to the editor.
• I often write a letter to the editor so it gets some visibility and then send it to my legislators.
We can be a radiating center of love in the lives of the people around us and we can take the power of our love out into the world and through our sacred activism “Be the change we want to see in the world.” Mother Teresa said, “Not all of us can do great things, but we can all do small things with great love.”

Everyone of us can shine our divine light out into the world helping to create more love, more justice and more peace for all. With love, faith and hope, we each have a role to help make our world whole.

Meditation

Still your mind and relax your body by taking in a deep breath…Breathing in through your mouth and nose and allowing the out breath to be very slow. If you haven’t already, close your eyes. Take another slow and deep breath and go to your Heart Space…Visualize that your heart space is surrounded with beautiful light and that light is flowing throughout your entire Sacred Being. Stay with that energy of light in the deep space of your inner Spirit..the place where you connect with God …the place where you know your innate goodness and power.
Now ask the question, “What is mine to do to make a difference?” Visualize yourself in the world generously giving your love. Visualize you taking action that makes a difference…what might that action be? Perhaps you are taking that action already. Perhaps your spirit will receive a message of what actions you might want to take. Be gentle with yourself. The answer doesn’t need to come in this moment. Be aware that your answer might come in the near future. Most important is to know that You are innately good and powerful, and You can make a difference.
Silence…..


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