metaphysicalfoodforthought

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“The Last Week – What the Gospels Really Teach About Jesus’s Final Days in Jerusalem” by Marcus Borg & John Dominic Crossan. This week, Friday

GREAT MORNING BELOVED!!

“The Last Week – What the Gospels Really Teach About Jesus’s Final Days in Jerusalem” by Marcus Borg & John Dominic Crossan. This week, Friday

Good Friday is the most difficult day of Passion Week. Borg and Crossan state, “The day of Jesus’s crucifixion is the most solemn day of the Christian year. In Greek Christianity, it is called ‘the Holy and Great Friday,’ in Romance languages, ‘Holy Friday,’ and in German, ‘Sorrowful Friday.’

In the English-speaking world, it is ‘Good Friday.’ Good may have been derived from ‘God’s” Friday.

Either way, Jesus’ journey turned treacherous and acutely painful in these final hours leading to his death.

According to some Scripture, Judas Iscariot, the disciple who had betrayed Jesus, was overcome with remorse and hanged himself early Friday morning. Others have him receiving a horrible death. Either way, to some people, Judas did what he was to do…kind of setting Jesus up to fulfill his destiny.

Meanwhile, before the third hour (9 a.m.), Jesus had endured the shame of false accusations, condemnation, mockery, beatings, and abandonment. After multiple unlawful trials, he was sentenced to death by crucifixion, one of the most horrible and disgraceful methods of capital punishment known at the time.

Crucifixion was a Roman form of punishment to discourage dissent.

Before Christ was led away, soldiers spit on him, tormented and mocked him, and pierced his head with a crown of thorns. Then Jesus carried his own crossbar to Calvary where, again, he was mocked and insulted as Roman soldiers nailed him to the wooden post that was a permanent reminder of what could happen if you went against Roman law. That crossbar made the cross as we know it when tied to the post.

How many times have we been humiliated before friends and family…maybe at work or school? What did you do when that happened to you?
Do you think you could have taken it with little or no response as Jesus did?

In the other Gospels, it is stated that Jesus spoke seven final statements from the cross. According to Mark, which if you recall, is the Gospel we are studying, at 3 o’clock, Jesus cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
Then, Jesus breathed his last breath and died.

Many people, some of us even in our earlier years, were distressed upon hearing these words. We thought God did leave him.

Even if Jesus did say these words, and all the others, remember, this is a physical body leaving the mortal plane. Not the SPIRIT.

However, Syrian scholar, George Lamsa translates it this way, “My God, my God, for this was I kept!” This was his purpose. He was to triumph over death to show that our true being was immortal, in the image and likeness of God.
What are your thoughts on that?

At this time, the Temple curtain, which separated the Holy of Holies from the sanctuary, was torn in two. Symbolically, this is a judgment upon the temple authorities who colluded with the Romans against Jesus.

More importantly, it also means now access to God is open. Jesus mediated access to God apart from the Temple. This is our 1st Principle, that God is everywhere, for everyone.

According to Mark, only women attended the crucifixion…. Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James the younger and another named Salome. Another reminder that the disciples had abandoned Jesus.

Jesus and early Christianity gave women an identity and status they had not experienced since the time of matriarchal societies.

By 6 p.m. Friday evening, Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea took Jesus’ body down from the cross and lay it in a tomb.

Because Unity recognizes that every individual is the Christ in potential expression, fully One with the infinite wisdom of God, we don’t really have official dogma that must be believed. Rather, we affirm universal spiritual principles, and affirm the right and ability of each person to understand scripture—or anything else, for that matter—in terms of how those spiritual principles express.

One of those principles is that the true nature of every person is divine. We are not humans trying to become spiritual. We are spiritual beings engaged in a human experience through which we can bring more of the Nature of God into tangible expression.

If we are divine, then we are eternal; birth and death are mortal illusions allowing us to pass into and out of human experiences. We are expressing God as us, each individually, all the while connected as One.

So, it is not entirely accurate to say that Jesus “died” and was returned to life. He moved through the illusion of death and, by virtue of his ability to fully express his Christ Self, he was able to demonstrate to his followers that death was nothing to fear, because it had no reality.

Metaphysically, the cross represents a point at which our forward spiritual progress (the upright post) is held back by resistance from our attachment to the things of this world (the cross bar)

The crucifixion symbolizes the crossing out of all that belongs to the mortal consciousness in order that the way may be made for the coming forth of the Christ self.

Most of us grew up listening Easter after Easter, the story of Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection, all with the color of traditional Christianity. It is up to each of us to personally choose what we wish to believe about the life of Jesus. And that includes the virgin birth to the ‘death and resurrection.’

When we look at the story given to us, remember, until the ’trials’ were ended with Jesus being found guilty and sentenced to death, none of his followers were witness to any proceedings. So how do we know what happened?

Once the trials were concluded and the people were incited to crucifixion, Jesus’ fate was set. And if we believe that this is what Jesus was to do, to show us eternal life, then it is meant to be.

What, according to Unity’s belief tells us, that Traditional Christianity got wrong, probably among many other things, is that of Jesus dying for our sins. There was no redemptive atonement here. We didn’t need a substitute for God to forgive our sins.

There is nothing to forgive as far as God is concerned. We are perfect. We may have ‘missed the mark,’ as in archery, which is what the word sin means. But we are not cursed, we are blessed, from birth on and even before birth.

That forgiveness thing is a human thing on one level and a spiritual thing on another.
Jesus died to bring truth to us…that we are Spiritual beings and that we do not die. We are SPIRIT.

The Last Week – What the Gospels Really Teach About Jesus’s Final Days in Jerusalem”. This week, Wednesday & Thursday.

GREAT MORNING BELOVED!!

The Last Week – What the Gospels Really Teach About Jesus’s Final Days in Jerusalem”. This week, Wednesday & Thursday.

Great to be back with you all this morning. We are traveling along with our Way-Shower, Jesus as he makes his way through Holy Week. We are through Palm Sunday, Monday and Tuesday.

The New Testament doesn’t have any record of what the Jesus did on the Wednesday of Passion Week. Scholars speculate that after two exhausting days in Jerusalem, Jesus and his disciples spent this day resting in Bethany in anticipation of Passover.

Remember, just a short time previously, Jesus had revealed to the disciples, and the world, that he had power over death by raising Lazarus from the grave. After seeing this incredible miracle, many people in Bethany believed that Jesus was the Son of God and put their faith in him. Also, in Bethany just a few nights earlier, in the house of Simon the leper, an unnamed woman anointed Jesus with expensive oil, to the disbelief of the apostles, especially Judas.

Here, she was expressing her love of Jesus by anointing him with expensive oil while Jesus lives. She understood the teachings of Jesus’ death and resurrection. Mark considers her the first believer, the first Christian.
And, in contrast, Judas was preparing to betray him for 30 pieces of silver.

The day is sometimes called “Spy Wednesday” since some thought of it as the day Judas conspired with local authorities to betray Jesus, and not on Tuesday as others believed.

Holy Week takes a somber turn on Thursday, sometimes referred to as Maundy Thursday. It is full of drama as Jesus eats his final meal, prays for deliverance in Gethsemane, is betrayed by Judas and denied by Peter and abandoned by the rest of his disciples.

Maundy comes from the Latin word for mandate, commandment, reflecting Jesus’ words “I give you a new commandment, that ye love one another.”

Jesus sent two of his disciples into Jerusalem to find a place for them to eat the Passover meal, the pascal meal. Called this because of the lamb that was sacrificed for the blood that was used to smear over the doorways as the ‘destroyer’ killed the first born of Egypt. But if we call this the Passover meal, then the timing is off…Passover doesn’t start until Friday….

Could this be a reference to Jesus being the Pascal Lamb, being sacrificed on Friday in place of the Pascal Lamb?

Don’t know….

They found an ‘upper room’ and that is where Jesus and the 12 met. Remember, metaphysically, whenever upper, going up the mountain, look up is mentioned, it means to connect with our higher consciousness. Maybe this is why we often look up to the sky when we think of ‘heaven’. And this higher consciousness is what was happening with Jesus and the 12.

This is where Jesus washed the feet of his disciples. Much to their chagrin. Generally, when one entered a house, they removed their sandals to prevent bringing dust in from their travels. Then a servant washed their feet.
So, to have Jesus wash the feet of his disciples would be unheard of. Peter protested, but Jesus replied to Peter that if he would not allow his feet to be washed by him, then Peter would have ‘no part of me’. Peter’s response to that was, ‘not only my feet, but also my hands and my head’.

Think about that…when I do something for you, I am giving you a part of me. Even more reason to accept that gift from others!

Then Jesus speaks of equality saying, “I, the Teacher and Lord, have washed your feet, ye also ought to wash one another’s feet.”

What are your thoughts on this? Can you see that he is telling them that they are all equal and can all be the giver and the receiver?

The symbolic meaning of washing another’s feet is that, as Jesus’ followers, it is our duty to serve others by helping them to cleanse their consciousness of false beliefs and bring them to the light of true understanding.

Of course, this upper room is the place where Jesus tells Judas to do what he must do quickly.
It is also where Peter questions why he cannot follow where Jesus is going, saying “I would lay down my life for you”.
Even though Peter represents faith in our 12 powers, but until it is completely steadfast, it is changeable. So, Jesus tells him, “the cock shall not crow twice, till you have denied me three times.”

We often find ourselves questioning our faith or finding it not as strong as we would like. These are times when we need to look within, to pray and meditate. To talk with trusted friends. To remember, we are not alone.

And it was is also the time Jesus and the 12 shared the breaking of the bread and the drinking of the wine.
Metaphysically, the bread represents divine substance and the wine represents divine life. Unity does not believe that communion is something only done in church on Sunday, and we do not use the symbols of bread and wine. Unity believes that true communion may be entered into when we turn our attention to the Christ and that that divine activity is active in us now.

Jesus tells us there are ‘many mansions,’ meaning many places to abide. Could that mean he was preparing a permanent place in each of us…our Christ consciousness?

And when he tells us, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me,” it means through his teachings.

Then Jesus and the disciples left the Upper Room and went to the Garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus prayed “not my will but thine be done.” How many of us have said that, can say that? Can you put your ego aside and step into what is yours to do?

This was a time when Jesus was being tried, he is wondering if he can follow through with what he knows he must do…yet he says, ‘Thy will be done’.

We all have trying times, not like this, but times when we are at our wits end, for whatever reason. Here is a great example of what we can and probably should do…go to God, Spirit, Divine Energy…whatever you call it and find your peace of mind.

The answer came to Jesus as he prayed and that is what we can do every day for our needs.

Late that evening in Gethsemane, Jesus was betrayed with a kiss by Judas Iscariot and arrested by the Sanhedrin.
Why did the arrest have to be in the darkness of night? Why not in daylight? Why did they need a traitor?
Jesus asked, “Day after day I was with you in the temple, teaching, and you did not arrest me.”

The Jewish Leaders had to go behind his back to get him out of the way. You ever been treated like that? Someone went behind your back, maybe said something to another to mess things up for you or to get what they wanted…attention or something more maybe?

The arrest of Jesus had to be away from the crowds, stealthy and he quickly tried before the people found out. The Priests and leaders were trying to avoid riots that would make them look bad to the Romans.

Amazingly, when the 6 hundred Imperial soldiers came and asked for Jesus, and he replied, ‘I am he’, the soldiers fell to their knees acknowledging his sacredness in the use of the I AM….but then arrested him anyway.

He was taken to the home of Caiaphas, the High Priest, where the whole council had gathered to begin making their case against Jesus. Keep in mind that any account of this ‘so-called trial’ would come from someone inside where the council was held. None of Jesus’ disciples followed him once he was arrested. They abandoned him.

So, we had to hear what happened from someone inside, not necessarily a friend of Jesus.

Also, remember, those holding the high positions were collaborators with the Romans. These leaders didn’t represent the Jewish people, their loyalty was compromised.

Politics hasn’t changed much….

We know what the story was that later was presented by the early Christians. We hear it every Easter. But whether it is accurate, we can only guess.

This work by the Jewish leaders is why, for many years, people blamed the Jews for the death of Jesus. We all know that is not true. Everything was building up to these moments. Could it be fate? Divine Order? Sacred Contracts even? We all have our thoughts about these days leading to the crucifixion and resurrection.

Meanwhile, in the early morning hours, as Jesus’ trial was getting underway, Peter denied knowing his Master three times before the rooster crowed.

Imagine yourself as a disciple of Jesus through these 5 days of Holy Week…what are your thoughts?

“The Last Week: What the Gospels Really Teach About Jesus’s Final Days in Jerusalem”- Monday & Tuesday

“GREAT MORNING BELOVED!”

The Last Week – Monday

We started our Lenten Series last week discussing what we now call Palm Sunday. We are using Marcus Borg and John Dominic Crossen’s book, “The Last Week: What the Gospels Really Teach About Jesus’s Final Days in Jerusalem” as well as a few other Unity references for this Lenten Series.

We learned that there was and had been political and religious turmoil for much of the history of Israel and the Jewish people, not only from the many conquers of Israel but from the Jewish hierarchy themselves.

So, each day throughout this last week of Jesus’ physical life, that tension grew. Jesus knew and understood what his expectations were. His followers didn’t understand the type of ‘king’ Jesus was to be. And the people of Jerusalem were fickle to say the least…easily led to change from adoring him to asking for his death.

You have any time in your life when you were easily swayed? When you went with the crowd?

This week we will look at Monday and Tuesday of Holy Week, both days busy with interactions with followers and the Jewish leaders.

Monday has been called Great Monday or Holy Monday. What happened on Monday? As Jesus and his followers walked the four miles back to Jerusalem, on the way, they encounter the fig tree.

It was the custom with the Near Eastern people to not eat what we call breakfast. So, as Jesus and his followers approached the city, a fig tree was by the road. In those times and even today, fruit trees along the roads were there for travelers to enjoy on their journey.

But remember, as people traveled in Jesus’ time, there was no way to ensure food would be able to be carried with the travelers.

So, fruit trees were planted along the way for them to enjoy. And this also refers to the hospitality laws of the time. If a traveler asked for sustenance, the people were expected to provide bread and water at the very least.
So, Jesus came upon the fig tree expecting to still his hunger only to find it bare. Probably other travelers had taken their share leaving the branches bare. Or maybe it was out of season, as some scripture insinuates. Jesus cursed the fig tree, in essence saying, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.”

Some scholars believe this cursing of the fig tree represented God’s judgment on the spiritually dead religious leaders of Israel. Others believe the symbolism extended to all believers, demonstrating that genuine faith is more than just outward religiosity; true, living faith must bear spiritual fruit in a person’s life.

This reminded me of the principle, “once you know these truths, you can’t go back.” We keep feeling the nudge, that inner push that makes us keep going on, even if it’s 1 step up 2 back for a while. Eventually, it’s 2 & 3 steps up and now and again, 1 back. That is the spiritual fruits in our lives coming forth.

Keep at it and be patient with yourself.

What else happened on Monday of significance?

When Jesus arrived at the Temple, he found the courts full of corrupt money changers. He began overturning their tables and clearing the Temple, saying, “The Scriptures declare, ‘My Temple will be a house of prayer,’ but you have turned it into a den of thieves” (Luke 19:46).

This ‘temper tantrum’ at the temple was not necessarily about the money changers and sellers of sacrificial animals. It was maybe more so, about the high priestly families, who worked all too well with the governing Romans. One could say they were under the thumb of whoever was the Roman governor. And it was that governor who could fire the high priest if they didn’t agree with what the Romans wanted. So, they more often than not, did what the Romans wanted and certainly tried to keep the peace.

Of course, this action by Jesus angered the chief priests & scribes. It brought attention to them that they certainly didn’t want & they looked more for a way to kill him. However, the crowds in the temple were supportive of Jesus, which angered the priests even further.

On Monday evening Jesus stayed in Bethany again, probably in the home of his friends, Mary, Martha, and Lazarus.

On Tuesday morning, Jesus and his disciples returned to Jerusalem. They passed the withered fig tree on their way, and Jesus spoke to his companions about the importance of faith. “Have faith in God. Truly I tell you, if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ and if you do not doubt in your heart, but believe that what you say will come to pass, it will be done for you. So, I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.”

This is part of Unity’s Prayer practice; we believe it is so and have gratitude for it. We see it as we believe…not believe it when we see it.

Can you say you believe it to be so and then see it?

Back at the Temple, religious leaders were upset at Jesus for establishing himself as a spiritual authority. They organized an ambush with questions, trying to trap him with the intent to place him under arrest. Here is where Jesus is asked about giving to Caesar. His response was ‘to give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.’

What does this mean? How do you give to Caesar and give to God?

And one of my favorites stories is about the widows’ mite. A mite was a very small coin, worth about a penny. And it was all she had to give at the temple, two mites. Jesus reminded everyone how she was giving more than those who gave a small portion of their treasure saying the amount she gave was a larger amount than their portion from their wealth.

What are your thoughts on the widow’s mite?

Jesus evaded all the traps the Priests had laid out for him, in an effort to arrest him. Jesus pronounced harsh judgment on them, saying:

“Blind guides! For you are like whitewashed tombs—beautiful on the outside but filled on the inside with dead people’s bones and all sorts of impurity. Outwardly you look like righteous people, but inwardly your hearts are filled with hypocrisy and lawlessness…Snakes! Sons of vipers! How will you escape the judgment of hell?” (Matthew 23:24-33)

This is about the fact that the high priests put on a front, making a big deal about praying in public and giving donations to the temple, acting as if they are following the Torah. They are saying the words but not living them. The words are not coming from their hearts.

Is this how you are living your life?

We can help our spiritual journey as we attempt to follow our Way-Showers path by asking; ‘what would Jesus do?’ when confronted with a growth opportunity. Can you think of anything confronting you now that those words would help you with?

Later that afternoon, Jesus left the city and went with his disciples to the Mount of Olives, which sits due east of the Temple and overlooks Jerusalem. Here Jesus gave the Olivet Discourse, an elaborate prophecy about the destruction of Jerusalem and the end of the age. He speaks, as usual, in parables, using symbolic language about the end times events, including His Second Coming and the final judgment.

He used The Parable of the Two Sons, The Parable of the Tenants, and The Parable of the Wedding Banquet to talk about his coming death and how we should be preparing for it. It is here, during this discourse that he tells of God’s greatest commandment, ‘to love one another’.

Scripture indicates that this Tuesday was also the day Judas Iscariot negotiated with the Sanhedrin, the rabbinical court of ancient Israel, to betray Jesus. According to Matthew 26:14-16, ‘Judas Iscariot—went to the chief priests and asked, “What are you willing to give me if I deliver him over to you?” So, they counted out for him thirty pieces of silver. From then on Judas watched for an opportunity to hand him over.’

What is your 30 pieces of silver?

After a tiring day of confrontation and warnings about the future, once again, Jesus and the disciples returned to Bethany to stay the night.

Many people have had a hard time with Judas and his actions. And others understand that he did a duty, a job that was necessary to fulfill the prophecy that Jesus was to die so he could resurrect.

What are your thoughts on this?

Who did you relate to today?

Many questions today for your meditation and thoughts throughout the week.

You have any time in your life when you were easily swayed? You went with the crowd?

Can you say you believe it to be so and then see it?

What are your thoughts on the widow’s mite?
They are saying the words but not living them – Is this how you are living your life?

Can you think of anything confronting you now that those words, WWJD, would help you with?

What is your 30 pieces of silver?

“The Last Week – What the Gospels Really Teach About Jesus’ Final Days in Jerusalem” – Palm Sunday

GREAT MORNING BELOVED
The Last Week – Palm Sunday

This week and for the next weeks, as we go through the Lenten Season, we will use the book, “The Last Week – What the Gospels Really Teach About Jesus’ Final Days in Jerusalem” by Marcus Borg & John Dominic Crossan to discuss this last week of our Way-Shower, what it could possibly have meant to Him and what it means to us.

Many, including Charles Fillmore, have called the last week from Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday the most important week in history. This, because of the profound impact the life of Jesus has made on the world.
I hope you will listen and ponder the thoughts that the message may bring to you.

So, we will look at the days leading up to the death and resurrection of Jesus and what they may have meant in that time and what they could mean to us today.

The word lent comes from the Anglo-Saxon word lencten, which means “sprint. Lent is a time of repentance, fasting and preparation for the coming of Easter. It is also a time of self-examination and reflection.

Many of us come from traditional churches and the season of Lent was filled with guilt as we choose SOMETHING to ‘give up,’ to sacrifice for the 40 days. What we were ‘supposed to be doing is removing what interferes with our connection to God.

That goes back to what we idolize…coffee, money, sex, chocolate! These idols are representing what we are placing before our God. We may not be idolizing chocolate, but it can make us ponder that thought to see what we ARE placing before Divine Spirit.

And are you aware why the 40 days? Forty days is how long Jesus spent in the desert being tempted by Satan.
What tempts you? Money? Sugar filled treats? Skipping exercise? Maybe skipping Sunday Service?

We start with what we call Palm Sunday. Called so because of the entrance into Jerusalem that Sunday morning by Jesus and the reception he received by the crowds.

They used palms because they were plentiful in the Near East.

Others used materials plentiful in their lands. We, here in Delaware, could very easily use pine tree limbs, or oak, or maple, because they are plentiful here. In fact, in some areas this was called Yew Sunday or Branch Sunday because of the branches available for use.

In many lands in the ancient Near East, it was customary to cover in some way the path of someone thought worthy of the highest honor.

In the Greco-Roman culture of the Roman Empire, which strongly influenced Christian tradition, the palm branch was a symbol of triumph and victory.

But, to understand the importance of this, we need to look at what brought us to that Sunday morning.

Jesus’ very presence agitated the established Roman authorities as well as the Jewish leaders. Here was a man who could cast out evil spirits from the afflicted, who dined with a Pharisee without conforming to custom of washing before the meal, Jesus set aside Jewish restrictions on what they could eat, he healed a sick woman on the sabbath and, the final straw, he raised Lazarus from the dead.

Some call that Saturday before Palm Sunday, Lazarus Saturday and look at it as a foreshadow of Jesus’ Resurrection.

Quite the feat for a humble carpenter.

The chief priests and Pharisees were afraid what the actions of Jesus would bring upon them all by the Romans. Here was a man who was claiming that the Kingdom of God was at hand. He defied tradition almost at every turn. He certainly didn’t let the Jewish leaders intimidate him. If anything, they were intimidated by him.
And so, to save their necks, they conspired to aid his demise.

Yet Jesus knew he had to continue, otherwise the three years of his ministry would all be for naught. As Ernest Wilson states in, “The Week That Was,” “it would mean oblivion of the revelation which was his own particular gift to the world. It would imply a defeat of the principle of love and nonresistance which had characterized his message.”
As I’m reading over this, I am reminded of other leaders promoting love and nonresistance…can you think of any?

So, the course was set.

So, let’s look at the day. Jesus and his followers had traveled to Bethphage from Bethany. They had just come from Mary & Martha’s home where he raised Lazarus from death. Quite the setting.
He sent two of his disciples into Bethany to return with a donkey colt, one that had never been ridden.

Why do you think that is important? If no one had ridden the colt before, it still needed to be trained, donkeys, after all, are known for their stubbornness. So, this, metaphysically shows us that our I AM, Jesus the Christ will over-come the physical senses, the donkey.

Let that sink in…our I AM, our Christ consciousness is here to help us overcome the 5 senses, so we use our Christ consciousness, our Higher Self to lead our every moment.

Also, a donkey may refer to the Eastern tradition that it is an animal of peace, unlike the horse which is the animal of war.

Another thought. Jesus followed the prophecy of Zechariah “…lo… your king comes riding on a colt…” Remember, this was a man from the peasant village of Nazareth. His followers were mostly peasants. This was his way of telling the people that he was their king and was still just a lowly man. His message was about the kingdom of God.

At the other side of the city, a different procession entered with all the pomp and circumstance of a royal parade. Pontius Pilate, Roman governor on a white horse, lead a column of imperial cavalry and soldiers from the west proclaiming the power of the Roman empire.
This procession also displayed Roman imperial theology…that is, the emperor was not only the Roman ruler, but also the Son of God. This did not sit well with the Jewish people.

According to the Gospel of Mark, Jesus’ procession into Jerusalem was planned to counter that of Pilate’s display of armored forces. It was a deliberate political statement: Pilate’s procession was all about power and glory, and the violence associated with world rule.
In contrast, Jesus’ procession embodied the alternative – the Kingdom of God.

While Pontius Pilate rode to his palace, Jesus rode to the Temple. A vast difference between the two, ….one material and the other spiritual.

All the difference between the two and as the tension rises through the week, aid in the end, to the death of Jesus and two others.

But we get ahead of ourselves.

Jerusalem became the capital of ancient Israel at the time of David and his son, Solomon. This time was revered to the Jews for its glory and that all 12 tribes were under one king. It was the time that the Jews had always hoped and prayed for. And, of course, the temple was the center of their lives.

Unfortunately, the same behavior from the oppressors of the Jewish people was found in the rulers of Jerusalem. There was political, economic and religious oppression and exploitation. So, the city, the hope of the Jewish people became “the center of injustice and of betrayal of God’s covenant.”

Eventually, the dream of a Jewish city was not to be when, again, they were defeated, this time by the Roman army. Their struggle to be freed from their oppressors, whether Roman or Jewish, continued.

So, we have the contrasting processions that Sunday morning. From the west, the symbol of the Roman empire. Of violence and conquers and domination.

And from the east, Jesus on a donkey, entering amongst the crowds who were shouting praises and waving Palms. This, the symbol of peace & humility, and continuing his message of transformation through the Kingdom of God.
Now we ask ourselves, which procession are we in? Which do we want to be in?

The procession Jesus led ended at the Temple where he heals the blind and lame. The chief priests and scribes reprimanded him, and he answered them, in essence, saying that youth know more about faith than you scribes and priests do.
Jesus was openly declaring to the people that He was their King and the Messiah they had been waiting for.
They welcomed Him out of their desire for a messianic deliverer, someone who would lead them in a revolt against Rome. There were many who, though they did not believe in Christ as Savior, nevertheless hoped that perhaps He would be to them a great temporal deliverer.

These are the ones who hailed Him as King with their many hosannas, recognizing Him as the Son of David who came in the name of the Lord. But when He failed in their expectations, when He refused to lead them in a massive revolt against the Roman occupiers, the crowds quickly turned on Him. Within just a few days, their hosannas would change to cries of “Crucify Him!” (Luke 23:20-21).

And every evening, Jesus and his followers walked the four miles back the Bethany only to travel again in the morning.

This is how the last week started. Jesus continuing to move forward to his destiny, aggravating the Jewish leaders, increasing their fear of losing their position.

What has fear caused you to do? Take that question into meditation….
What person mentioned today do you relate to the most? Jesus, Pilate, Mary, Martha, Lazarus, his disciples, the crowd waving palms and shouting Hosanna?
What tempts you? which procession are you in? Which do we want to be in? What has fear caused you to do?

Taking sides—-Being Authentic

Great Morning Beloved!

Taking sides—-Being Authentic

Do you sit on the fence when in discussion with others about an important topic or do you choose for or against?
Sometimes, fence-sitting is acceptable. When, for instance, your children come to you in the midst of a heated disagreement between the two and ask for you to determine who is right.

Proverbs 18:17 states: “The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him”.
You, as the parent, must be undecided until both sides are heard. Only then can a determination as to the right and proper course of action be taken.

If the topic of discussion is an important one regarding the next president or congress person, for example, then one cannot be a fence-sitter…they will have to choose before entering the voting booth.

There are many times when one must not sit undecided on the fence. If we look back in history, the Holocaust, is a perfect example. Many of the nations, it has been proven, turned a blind eye as thousands of innocent people, men, women and children, were killed by the German guards who were their task-makers.

That is fence-sitting.

A quote from Elie Wiesel, a Holocaust survivor and writer states: “We must take sides; neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim.”

Does that make sense to you? Think about it.

It’s the same as not voting. If one holds their vote, then they have no right to complain about the results of the casting.

Over the years, many of us have seen things and wondered why? How could that possibly happen? What is the purpose of war, starvation, destruction of the earth, and so many other things that have happened through my 70 years!

And this is where one of my favorite statements would be recited. “What is mine to do?”

My class has heard this many, many, times. Usually as a challenge to them while we are discussing some of the things that are happening in our world.

I believe all this leads us to question our authenticity. Who are we, as we travel through each day?

Every day we encounter ‘choice-points’. These choice-points come along and prompt us to ask which direction we are going to go.

Sometimes it’s a simple thing. But, as we are developing and fine tuning our integrity, many times it’s not so easy to make a choice.

Those people in Germany during World War II often had to choose between keeping their families safe, or fed or warm and turning their backs on neighbors and friends. Thankfully, there were many who took a chance and aided many Jews especially, and especially children.

People like Oskar Schindler, a businessman, Carl Lutz, a diplomat, and Johan van Hulst, a teacher. These three man alone saved hundreds, maybe thousands combined, of Jews from the Germans. They each had a choice-point and determined to do what was theirs to do.

Justin Tanis, from the Pacific School of Religion tells us, “God seeks our authenticity.”

Authenticity, or knowing one’s thoughts and feelings and acting in accordance with them, is virtually synonymous with “being yourself.”

Currently, in mainstream counseling psychology, authenticity is viewed as the most fundamental aspect of well-being in that it is not just a component or prerequisite to achieve well-being but that it is the very essence of well-being.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, is attributed with saying, “To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.”

Consider that statement a moment….says something yet how many of us have strived through our years to be someone else than our true self?

Individuals considered authentic are those who generally strive to align their actions with their core values and beliefs with the hope of discovering, and then acting in sync with, their “true selves.”

There is debate over whether people actually possess an innate self and need to uncover it, or whether one’s true self is flexible and determined by the choices they make throughout their lives. Authenticity was long thought to be too difficult to define and measure.

Then in 2000, Michael Kernis and Brian Goldman developed their Authenticity Inventory, comprised of four key factors: awareness, unbiased processing, behavior, and relational orientation. Using this tool, they found that being authentic can provide a host of benefits, including a strong sense of self-worth and self-competence, a greater ability to follow through on goals, and more effective coping skills.

Being authentic involves the ability to be introspective and understand what motivates oneself. Such accurate self-knowledge can be a double-edged sword, though, if it reveals uncomfortable truths or weaknesses that one would rather not admit. However, advocates of authenticity argue that in the long run, it’s better to be accurate than biased in the long run.

Being authentic can also put a person at odds with their larger peer group if their emerging perspective is an unpopular one. However, authentic people wouldn’t look to others for approval or surrender to the social pressures of what they should or shouldn’t do. The validation they derive from within

Is authenticity a good value? Yes authenticity/honesty is good. It keeps you from misleading yourself into misbegotten ethics and allows you to answer to yourself at ease. It’s not easy to do but the hard work makes life easier

Do you know who you truly are? If someone were to ask you who is your authentic self, could you respond honestly?

I think most of us could touch the surface, at least, of who our authentic self was. But when we got past the first layers, what would we say?

Here is something I found while researching this topic, see if it helps:
Get comfortable. Take a few cleansing breaths.

Now; begin by reflecting upon your values. What is the most important to you in life? What do you value? Where does your sense of right and wrong come from? Spend the next few moments thinking about your values.

(Pause)

The values you have been thinking of make-up part of the core of who you are. If you are being true to your values, these core beliefs will drive your behavior.

It feels good to behave in ways that are consistent with your values. For example, if honesty is something you value, this could be reflected in your life by being truthful. If you value your family, perhaps your life reflects this in the time you spend with family members.

Think about how your values can be a part of your day-to-day life.

(Pause)

Now consider what else makes you who you are. Finding your authentic self involves learning who you truly are. Your authentic self is the real you, the person you are truly meant to be. Your authentic self is the person you are at the core, the person you can be if nothing holds you back.

Imagine the person you believe yourself to be right now. It’s okay if you aren’t quite sure who you are…just picture yourself going about the things you usually do in a typical day. Imagine that you are watching yourself…observing yourself going about your usual activities.

See yourself getting up in the morning…going about your day…imagine the things that you do in a typical day. See yourself doing these activities.

Picture this person…you…standing in an empty room. Imagine watching this person…observe…now imagine you could strip away all the things that hold you back from your full potential. Imagine self-doubt dissolving…being replaced with confidence and self-assurance. Picture this person before you, and imagine all the things that get in the way of success…such as circumstances, lack of resources, lack of forgiveness, illness, baggage from the past…anything that is holding this person back in any way at all…

See these problems dissolving…disappearing…going away…

Now imagine this person, standing in the empty room. What is left? Who is this person when all those barriers are stripped away?

This person is you. Imagine who you are at the core…the pure character that is left when there is nothing to get in the way of complete self-expression.

You may only have a vague picture in your mind right now…let’s allow that picture to come into focus…becoming more clear…

Think of your motivations…what motivates you? What drives your behavior? What catches your interest…or has caught your interest in the past? What propels you to action?

Think about your personality and character traits…the characteristics that are left when all barriers are removed, and all fears have gone away. At your fullest potential, your simplest form…with no fears…what traits do you have? Think about your energy…are you laid back and calm, or are you energetic? Think about your other characteristics…

Are you introverted or extroverted?

Quiet or talkative?

Are you creative?

Are you practical?

What sorts of things do you appreciate?

What do you admire?

What do you like?

Imagine something that makes you feel happy…what is it?

Think of some things you enjoy…things that you like to do…

Think about all the characteristics of the person who is left when all barriers and fears are removed.

(Pause)

Now let’s create a different picture. Imagine yourself as a young child, in a happy moment. See the potential in this child. Who is this young person? What makes this child who he or she is?

(Pause)

Think about the characteristics that you share with this child. In what ways are you similar? In what ways does the current you differ from this child? Think about how you have learned and grown since the time you were a small child.

(Pause)

Now picture yourself as the child…see the world through your younger self’s eyes.

What did you want to be when you grew up? What hopes did you have for your future self? What dreams did you have as a child?

The hopes and dreams you had as a child were probably related in some way to your authentic self. Something about your dreams was connected to a part of your true self. What do these aspirations say about who you are? What personal characteristics of yours are related to your childhood dreams?

For example, if as a child you dreamed about becoming an astronaut, you probably have some personality traits that relate to this dream…such as being adventurous, curious, analytical…

Think about your own childhood dreams and see what these dreams say about who you are.

(Pause)

Now create one final picture in your mind. Imagine, in as much detail as you can, the person you want to be. Imagine your ideal self…

How would this person behave? What does this person, your authentic self, value? What motivates this ideal self? What personal characteristics are present in this ideal version of you? Imagine all the details of the person you most want to be.

(Pause)

The image in your mind right now, of this ideal person, is you. This is your authentic self. This is who you are. At the core, beneath all of life’s getting in the way…this is you.

Spend a few moments with this image of your authentic self.

Now allow yourself to step inside this image, and fully become this person. Become who you are. For this moment, just be…simply be your authentic self.

Feel a sense of calm and serenity…secure in who you are…knowing who you are. This is you. Your authentic self.
You can take this authentic self with you…allowing this true essence of you to shine through in everyday life. Allow your values, personality, and motivations to shine though…to guide your behavior…to make up who you are.
You have always been this person…you always will be your authentic self…a positive, confident person. A person you like and appreciate. Underneath the challenges, the baggage, the demands of living life…this is the real you that will always be with you.

(Pause)

It’s time to reawaken now…to conclude this exercise…

Keep the image of your authentic self with you as you go about the rest of your day. Express this true self…and allow you to simply be you.

Wiggle your fingers, waking up your hands and arms…

Move your toes, allowing your feet and legs to wake up…

Feel your muscles reawakening…and your whole-body filling with energy.

Open your eyes and sit quietly for a moment while you reorient to your surroundings…

Welcome back….let that settle with you and share with someone if you wish to go deeper.

Agreeing and Disagreeing in Love – Part 3 In Life

GREAT MORNING BELOVED!!

Agreeing and Disagreeing in Love – Part 3 In Life

Welcome back to our third and final part in Agreeing & Disagreeing in Love. From some of your comments these last two weeks, many of you have experienced a moment where what was being presented resonated with you.
That’s good…in fact, that’s GREAT! The whole point of coming to Unity is to hear the message for the day & to put it into practice. This IS Practical Christianity after all.

That was the point when Charles & Myrtle Fillmore started their study sessions on Sunday afternoons and during the week. It was to put into practice what they were discussing in churches all over their area.
And that is what I pray for you…to have something touch some place inside you, to resonate with you and for you to go on your way throughout your week and see how it can be put into practice.

So, we talked about Agreeing & Disagreeing in Love through our thoughts and our actions so far. Keep in mind, if you wish to review any of the talks, they are posted online at my webpage: Metaphysical Food for Thought. I always post them on FB too.

This last piece of the series is Agreeing and Disagreeing in love as in our life. And the 1st commitment is:
1. Be steadfast in Love – Be firm in our commitment to seek a mutual solution; be steadfast in acting out of Principle (do the right thing); be hard on issues, soft on people. Be on your card. That’s your integrity.
If you recall from last week, we mentioned that we be willing to negotiate a solution that works for all. If we are ‘on our card’, coming from our authentic self, we have left ego behind and are willing to see another way, a third option.
Here are those steps again:
Be willing to negotiate – Work through the disagreement constructively.
• Identify issues, interests, and needs of both (rather than take positions.)
• Generate a variety of options for meeting both parties’ needs. (rather than defending one’s own way).
• Evaluate options by how they meet the needs and satisfy the interests of all sides (not just one side’s values).
• Collaborate in working out a joint solution (so both sides gain, both sides grow and win).
• Cooperate with the emerging agreement (accept the possible, not demand your ideal).
• Reward each other for each step forward, toward agreement (celebrate mutuality).

The second commitment is:
2. Be open to accept skilled help. If we cannot reach agreement among ourselves, we will use those with gifts and training in peacemaking.

Yes, there is training in peacemaking and if it is needed to resolve an issue, then that is way better than letting things continue to simmer inside each of those involved.

We even have a couple of possible classes we could present to everyone on peacemaking and getting along with others. Maybe we will look into one of these classes to present. One of those classes is based on the book, “The I of the Storm”.

This is a suggestion from that book; a 4-step process that will take you from victim to victor. Feeling like a victim is often a part of the conflict.

 1st step-Look into the mirror and love. When a situation arises that looks as though it is against you, be willing to see it as a mirror showing you the pieces you believe are missing in you. Ask yourself, “What resource do I believe is missing in me?” If we knew our connectiveness to Spirit, we would not feel defensive or attacked.

 2nd step-Bless the situation or person. To bless means to endow a person or situation with the capacity to be a source of good in your life. When we bless something, we dismantle the belief that anything can come between our good and us.

We’ve heard that to Bless the situation or person is vital to conflict resolution.

 3rd step-Do the right thing. Do good. This means letting go of our need to be right and to focus on demonstrating wholeness and worth. Our purpose in our relationship is to find a greater sense of worth and to be an avenue for God’s love. This also means we must be willing to take ownership and claim our part in the-disharmony in the relationship.

 4th step-Set you and your enemy free by praying. Jesus tells us to pray for those who persecute us. We can do this by trusting that the relationship is there to gift us. “Forgive them Father for they know not what they do.” True forgiveness is embracing the other person and recognizing that any sense of hurt is from a place of separateness and isolation. Prayer allows us to shift our attention to our center. When we pray, we lift ourselves and the situation into the peace and serenity of God.

What the Big Unity folks are telling us here is that when we have done the processes of discussing, and listening, and resolution suggesting and we have failed to come to a place where everyone involved is accepting the resolution, then a trained peacemaker can be brought into the discussion to help to come to a conclusion.

Once again, our main purpose here is to come to a mutual agreement. No one wishes to carry a disagreement with them through life….and yet, that is exactly what some of us have done.
Well, it’s time to have it resolved for all those who are involved with the issue.

The third commitment is:
3. Trust the community – Trust the wisdom of community and if we cannot reach agreement or experience reconciliation, we will turn the decision over to the congregation or seek assistance from the Ministry for Peacemaking.
• In one-to-one or small group disputes, this may mean allowing others to arbitrate.
• In congregational disputes, this may mean implementing constitutional decision- making processes (membership vote) when peacemaking assistance is unable to facilitate reconciliation.
Jesus tells us to trust community in Matthew 18:15-17, saying if you have gone to the other and cannot find a resolution, go again with one or two others to aid in the discussion.

Our 4th and final commitment is:
4. Be committed to peace making and the demonstration of Principle rather than resort to courts of law.

In the time of Jesus, there were ‘judges’ at the gates of the cities where the locals could bring their grievances to be resolved. These ‘judges’ were way less expensive and most villagers and commoners would use them as opposed to going to the courts, where it could cost much more to resolve an issue and could last days, week and even more.
A peacemaker helps us make peace with the others. According to the Enneagram, a peacemaker is: Type 9. Calm; collected demeanor; Ability to diffuse conflict with ease; Zen-like presence; Mellow and soothing voice; Wide circle of acquaintances; Generally liked by most people.
Anyone you know?

Once you see your duty as a peacemaker in the world, you’ll be looking for ways to build bridges between people and God and then to build them between persons.

By definition, a bridge can’t be one-sided. It must extend between two sides or it can never function. And once built, it continues to need support on both sides, or it will collapse. In any relationship our first

responsibility is to see that our own side has a solid base. But we also have the responsibility to help the one on the other side build his base. Both must be built on righteousness and truth or the bridge will not stand.

“Finally, a peacemaker finds a point of agreement. God’s truth and righteousness must never be compromised or weakened. But we are to contend without being contentious, to disagree without being disagreeable, and to confront without being abusive. The peacemaker should speak the truth in love.” (Eph. 4:15).

So, we’ve learned to:
Accept Conflict – Acknowledge that conflict is a normal part of our life in the Center.
Go to the other
To listen with all senses, Be quick to listen, Be slow to judge
Be willing to negotiate
Remember to pray
And today we add, Be steadfast in Love
Be open to accept skilled help
Trust the community
Be committed to peace making

And James 1:19 tells us easily and clearly – My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry,
.

Agreeing and Disagreeing in Love – Part 2 In Action

GREAT MORNING BELOVED!!

Agreeing and Disagreeing in Love – Part 2 In Action

Talking about agreeing and disagreeing in love is a perfect topic for this time in our year. We are about to plan for the 2020 year by conducting our Congregational Meeting after the regular Service today.

Sometimes people come to meetings with their own agendas. They want things as they see it. It might be that they don’t want things to change. Or maybe we aren’t changing fast enough.

Maybe they have ideas for growth that others do not agree with. Or for fundraising? Or how the Service is run?
There are many topics of possible disagreement in any group, including ours.

This is where we are asked to “Be on our Card.” We each have one. And Unity Spiritual Center’s card is our Mission,
Vision & Values.

So, I am hoping our discussions will help all of us be on that card and aid us as we walk through our plans for 2020.

Last week we took a look at the first part of Agreeing & Disagreeing in Love. I think we can all agree that conflict can be a part of everyone’s life, and it is all in how we handle that conflict as to how we come out in the end.

It’s the react; or respond choice. And that choice can be a heaven or hell choice. Reaction is reflex and there are times when quick reflexes are good, like catching a child from sticking their hand in a flame.

But reacting is probably not a good thing when in conflict with someone. In a situation like that, responding is much better…thought before action.

And what’s the difference.? Well, the example of the child going to place their hand too near a fire is a place where reacting, instinct taking over. And in the case of conflict, whether it is within yourself over traffic or with another individual, responding is the way to go. It’s thought out. It is a step or two away from the emotion involved. A pause. And it has a better chance of finding the 3rd option in the situation, making it a win-win.

So, in this series, there are three Commitments. Last week we discussed the first Commitment:

Accept Conflict – Acknowledge that conflict is a normal part of our life.

If I remember correctly, most of us admitted to experiencing conflict in our lives. And I think, we had a good look at what may be some of our part in that conflict, through some of the questions we asked during last weeks’ Message:

How do you keep your cool?

What habits would you personally, be changing to resolve conflicts?

How important is conflict resolution in any relationship?

I hope you had a chance to contemplate these questions as they pertain to yourself.

So, this week we would like to look at some ways to aid us in our responses to conflict. We touched on a few last week:

Recognize your triggers and patterns

Confront the issue – not the person

Affirm the Truth – Endeavor to see conflict as symptomatic of what’s missing in our intention to create authentic community

Commit to Prayer – Examine where we are coming from and release our need to be right.

Our Commitments for this week are:

Go to the other – Go directly to those with whom we disagree; avoid behind-the-back criticism.
What does this mean? It means if we must apologize to someone for something we mistakenly did, we go to them and say our apologies.

If we disagree with someone, we do the same thing. We go to them, not all puffed up but in the spirit of humility. Our Leadership Training from Big Unity tells us to go in gentleness, patience, and humility. Own our part in the conflict instead of blaming others and acting as if the others are responsible for how we are behaving.

This is a place where some of us may have an issue…to own our part in the conflict. We often feel justified in feeling what we do. Maybe even feel the victim. We need to find another way to look at things.

Part of the issue may be we haven’t been trained to be active listeners.
What does that mean?

It means fully concentrating on what is being said rather than just passively ‘hearing’ the message of the speaker.
Active listening involves listening with all senses. As well as giving full attention to the speaker, it is important that the ‘active listener’ is also ‘seen’ to be listening – otherwise the speaker may conclude that what they are talking about is uninteresting to the listener.

Interest can be conveyed to the speaker by using both verbal and non-verbal messages such as maintaining eye contact, nodding your head and smiling, agreeing by saying ‘Yes’ or simply ‘Mmm hmm’ to encourage them to continue. By providing this ‘feedback’ the person speaking will usually feel more at ease and therefore communicate more easily, openly and honestly.

Listening is not something that just happens (that is hearing), listening is an active process in which a conscious decision is made to listen to and understand the messages of the speaker.

Listeners should remain neutral and non-judgmental, this means trying not to take sides or form opinions, especially early in the conversation. Active listening is also about patience – pauses and short periods of silence should be accepted.

Listeners should not be tempted to jump in with questions or comments every time there are a few seconds of silence. Active listening involves giving the other person time to explore their thoughts and feelings, they should, therefore, be given adequate time for that.

Here’s a graphic that may help: pic
1. Be attentive – when someone is talking about the situation that has caused the conflict, try to not let your mind wander. Especially, do not start on your comeback when you have not let the other complete their statements.

2. Ask open-ended questions – Pic a question that requires a full answer using the person’s own knowledge and/or feelings about the topic. Open-ended questions or statements begin with the following words: why, how, what, describe, explain, tell me about…, or what do you think about…

3. Ask probing questions. Use them for further clarification to an open-ended question. Probing for completeness. Once a complete, clear answer has been given to an open-ended question, you can ask more questions to get additional information. Examples of questions that probe for clarity are “What else do you like?” or “What other reason did you have?”

4. Request clarification. If you feel you do not understand fully what is being said, use yourself as part of the question, not the person you are speaking with: “I” statements instead of “you” statements… “I need you to…” versus “You need to…”

5. Paraphrase means you want to rephrase what the other said to ensure you understand what’s been said by asking, “Is this what you said or meant”

6. Be attuned to and reflect feelings – people can be hurt, upset, angry; and we must all be aware of how the other, and ourselves, are reacting to the discussion.

7. Summarize what was said to ensure complete understanding.

Be quick to listen – Listen carefully, summarize and check out what is heard before responding. Seek as much to understand as to be understood

Be slow to judge – Suspend judgements, end enrolling others in our position, discard threats, and act in a non-defensive and non-reactive way.

Refrain from engaging in “parking lot” conversations. This means discussing the misunderstanding with another instead of the person involved in a gossiping way. This only causes more dis-harmony and nothing is resolved.
Be willing to negotiate – Work through the disagreement constructively.

• Identify issues, interests, and needs of both (rather than take positions.)
• Generate a variety of options for meeting both parties’ needs. (rather than defending one’s own way).
• Evaluate options by how they meet the needs and satisfy the interests of all sides (not just one side’s values).
• Collaborate in working out a joint solution (so both sides gain, both sides grow and win).
• Cooperate with the emerging agreement (accept the possible, not demand your ideal).
• Reward each other for each step forward, toward agreement (celebrate mutuality).
with the ‘other’ will help you when it’s time for the discussion. Praying may help you ‘see’ another way to look at the situation, and possibly change your view or give you a different insight to what actually happened.

Then, take a breath, and make time and effort to resolve the issue with the other person involved. If nothing seems to be coming to a conclusion, ask for another to help you both ‘see’ another way…the third option.

Remember, you always have help if you need it, you only need to ask….

Agreeing and Disagreeing in Love – Part 1 – In Thought

GREAT MORNING BELOVED!!

Agreeing and Disagreeing in Love – Part 1 – In Thought

Did you ever get mad at someone? Of course, you do! That’s that human side of us all that sneaks through our spiritual being and reminds us that, yes, we are experiencing a human emotion.

Maybe you’re in the middle of a conversation or meeting and you start to feel your blood boil? That vein in your neck starts to bulge. Your face turns a little red. What do you do when this happens? Do you immediately look for a quick getaway? Do you quit listening because you are too busy thinking of a great comeback?

As long as everything is going along smoothly, it’s easy to be considerate and respectful of another person’s needs. They are in no way interfering with our own. But the emergence of a conflict can changes all that–now we can feel threatened, anxious and angry. The same person whom we enjoyed working with yesterday now seems like an adversary. That’s because of our vast, past experience with conflict, most of which was negative.

We have a negative attitude toward conflict primarily because we haven’t learned constructive ways to deal with it–in fact, the converse is true: we have learned destructive ways of handling conflict. As children, as students and as employees (and too often as spouses) we have experienced losing in a conflict because parents, teachers and bosses use/d their power to win at our expense. Even though we know the feelings of resentment, anger, dislike, even hostility that we experience as a result of losing, the win-lose posture is deeply ingrained and when we get in positions where we have power over people, we often choose to win at their expense.

A great deal of research shows the damaging effects that win-lose conflict resolution has on interpersonal relationships. It creates distance, separation, dislike, even hatred. It’s the main reason people leave their jobs for new ones and marriages break up.

How do you keep your cool?

We are spiritual beings having a human experience. And when we have that human experience, it can include all kinds of emotions.
And we all have experienced, I’m sure, times when we disagree with someone, may it be someone we know or even love or someone we meet at Unity or another gathering, or work. It could be anywhere.

There are times when confronting an issue is just the right thing to do.

Maybe you have made a mistake and need to acknowledge it. Doing so demonstrates integrity and can help you further your relationships.

But if we are going to make solid attempts to be like Jesus, our way-shower, ….where love is the answer because that’s what we are – LOVE, then we need ways to connect with the person or persons that we are having a disagreement with.

So, this discussion is about some Commitments we can use when we disagree with someone within our Congregation. And they may help outside the Congregation too.

This three-week series is about ways to aid us in these types of situations.

Our first Commitment is:
Accept Conflict – Acknowledge that conflict is a normal part of our life in the Center.

Conflict is a common, inevitable part of life. It exists because people don’t always get along or agree. Because conflict is a normal part of everyone’s life, conflict resolution, or the ability to resolve conflicts effectively, is a crucial skill for everyone to have.

Many people have a negative definition in mind when it comes to the word conflict, and they certainly don’t want to deal with it. This is the dictionary’s definition: a fight, battle, or struggle, especially a prolonged struggle; strife; controversy; quarrel: a conflict of ideas.

Ever have any of these?

I’m pretty sure we all have at one time or another, maybe not so much lately as we are working on our journey to self-realization.

But, did you know that some types of conflict can actually be beneficial? Healthy conflict can lead to better relationships, increased confidence, greater respect from others, career development, and harmony within your office or home.

Can you see that?

But on the flip side, conflict can also be damaging. If handled ineffectively, conflict can quickly turn into personal dislike, and even lead to a breakdown of relationships. Has that happened to any of you? Has to me….

A common response to conflict is avoidance. Most people say they just don’t like confrontation …it makes them uncomfortable and sometimes, unnecessary emotions can come to the surface.

Have you ever heard someone say, “They don’t like confrontation as they avoid a situation or person?”

We can realize that most people would prefer to just avoid the situation just like many of us. Maybe it will just go away. The discomfort is natural. The key is, don’t let that feeling make you a victim.

Issues become more difficult with time. Problems are much easier to resolve if you address them early. Do you agree?

There are times when confronting an issue is just the right thing to do. Maybe you have made a mistake and need to acknowledge it. Doing so demonstrates integrity and can help you further your relationships. Have you ever found yourself in a situation like this?

Often, we avoid the situation until our integrity say, “Get off your butt and take care of this before you do any damage to your wellbeing!”

Everyone experiences conflict and has a choice about whether to resolve it effectively. We always have a choice, and when those choice points come up, we are making heaven or hell choices. When conflict is resolved effectively, it leads to many benefits, such as accomplishing goals and strengthening relationships.
Reaching conflict resolution can be difficult because it requires individuals to learn how to do things differently. This means they must change their habits and how they relate to dealing with conflict.
What habits would you personally, be changing to resolve conflicts?

The good news is that you can make simple changes and start resolving conflicts effectively. You can improve your assertion skills and discover the many benefits of conflict resolution. We’ll talk more about that next week.

One thing you can do is recognize your triggers and patterns. If you don’t like conflict, you may find yourself becoming quiet, sulking, or demonstrating non-verbal signals which may only fuel the fire. Stand or sit upright.
Make eye contact and speak in a confident tone. This helps demonstrate that you aren’t going to simply become prey to an overbearing personality.
A simple but not necessarily easy thing to do is to Confront the issue – not the person. Begin by using “I” statements instead of “you” statements. For example, “I need you to…” versus “You need to…” It makes it less personal.
How conflicts get resolved is the critical factor in any relationship. In fact, it is the most critical factor in determining whether a relationship will be healthy or unhealthy, mutually satisfying or unsatisfying, friendly or unfriendly, deep or shallow, intimate or cold.
As most of us are aware, there is an alternative to the win-lose posture. It’s often been called “win-win” or “no-lose” because the goal is to find a solution to the conflict that meets the needs of both people. Resolving conflicts this way requires three important attitudes and behaviors:
1) the attitude that conflict in general presents the opportunity for constructive change,
2) the willingness to engage in the process of mutually searching for a solution that meets the needs of both people,
3) the communication and problem-solving skills that it takes to make this win-win method work.

Too often, people want to resolve conflicts this way, but either are not truly willing in their heart of hearts to work for a mutually acceptable solution or do not have the skills required to work together to find one. When this occurs, the win-win method is doomed to failure.

Conflict resolution requires individuals to assert themselves while respecting others. It also requires them to negotiate in order to solve problems and find solutions. All these components of conflict resolution can build stronger relationships.

Still don’t like confrontation. Concentrate on how good you will feel after the issue is addressed. Even if you don’t like the conflict, getting it out in the open and hopefully resolved should provide a sense of relief and help to reduce anxiety.
If you already dislike conflict, you probably always will. Believe it or not, conflict management can be an invaluable tool leading to greater self-esteem, personal growth, and better relationships.

Recognizing and accepting that conflict is a part of our human life is a step-in learning how to handle it when it shows up in your relationships.

Affirm the Truth – Endeavor to see conflict as symptomatic of what’s missing in our intention to create authentic community. Peacemaking is creating a pathway to God.

And of course, part of this commitment is to:
Commit to Prayer – Examine where we are coming from and release our need to be right. Acknowledge all parties have needs and to pray for win/win solutions (no prayers for my success or for the other to change.)

Part 2 next week: Agreeing and Disagreeing in Love – In Action

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…..

Unity’s Nuts & Bolts

Great Morning Beloved!

Unity’s Nuts & Bolts

Many of you have been a part of Unity Spiritual Center from its beginning. And others have found us or even, looked for us, as they came into our area or found that they were ready for this Spiritual Path.

But what do you know about the goings on behind, or maybe it would be better to say, within Unity Spiritual Center? Since our Congregational Meeting will be in a few weeks, February 9th, I thought it might be a good idea to know what makes Unity tick.

Today we are going to learn a bit about what holds a successful Unity Church or Center together… it’s important stuff, if you wish for a successful Unity Spiritual Center.

Did you know that there were four categories of churches? They are somewhat based upon size and with the size will indicate what duties go to whom.

The smallest is a Family size, up to 50 people. Obviously, we are considered a Family Center, just based upon size, but our activities and leadership flow into Pastoral size category even though we are not between 50-150 people.
The other categories are a Program church at 150-300 and a Corporate Church above 350. Obviously, we are not either of these, and I’m not sure I would want to be attending a Spiritual Center this large, though they do have some good points, like lots of opportunities for classes and programs.
For the most part, Unity Churches and Centers are small, Family and Pastoral in size. We do have a few large Churches and Centers, like in New York and Miami, Chicago, and others.
Have any of you visited or traveled here from the larger size churches?

We, the Board and I, your Spiritual Leader; along with our other Leaders, are trying to make 2020 the best year yet for Unity Spiritual Center.
We are growing our Leaders and working hard to be transparent in all our workings.

The minister or spiritual leader is the central figure in each of these first two categories, but as the center grows, more and more leaders step up to take on more responsibility. And we see that as people volunteer to start activities like the Men’s Group and the Adopt a Highway, as well as class facilitators for the classes coming in February on Prosperity with Susan and in April on the book, “The Gathering” with Donna Joy.

But that is only two legs of the stool that represents a healthy Center…the Minister or Spiritual Leader, the Leaders and the third, the congregation. All three must be engaged in the Vision, Mission, and Values.

These three guides, the Vision, Mission, and Values, were developed not long ago during a workshop attended by just over half of our regular attendees. So, they must represent what most of us feel this Unity Center is here to do, to be.

So, if that is true, then what are my duties? What are yours if we wish to have Unity Spiritual Center be successful? And what does success for Unity Spiritual Center mean to you? What does it look like? We will come back to that.

What is my responsibility to Unity? Basically? I am responsible for the over-all administration of operations and the day-to-day fiscal management of Unity Spiritual Center, as well as Sunday Service and any classes or workshops we provide. There are 32 items listed in our manual that I am responsible for, so I think we’ll just stick with the statement above.

Then what is the responsibility of the Board of Trustees? Two things, basically: 1) to conduct the business of the Center and 2) to support the Spiritual Leader. Of course, there are a few details to that description of responsibilities.

Think of what it would take to make sure we paid our bills on time, we have the funds required to pay them, that we made choices as to what opportunities or activities we should take advantage of; that is what the Board does.

You, the congregation empower the Board to conduct the business of the Center on your behalf.
If you are interested in the details of any of these, please let me know and I can show you the details.

Of course, we have a Code of Ethics and a Covenant for all those in these positions too. These are important, although I do not see anyone on this Board or myself falling out of line with the covenants we sign.

These codes and covenants are available for you to see in our Book of Documents. Also, in this Book you can find the By-laws and Policies we currently adhere to. The Book of Documents is in the office on the bookshelf for anyone to see.
So, the third leg on the stool of Center Strength and success is you, the Congregation.
What do you think would be your part in keeping the stool on even ground?

Part of your responsibilities are attending Services regularly, participating in volunteer opportunities and classes, and additional activities like concerts and outreach opportunities.

Of course, you aren’t expected to be at every Sunday Service, though I wish that were so; or every activity. But you are asked to be willing to step into opportunities that fit your talents and where you can learn more to help your soul’s journey go more smoothly.

Time, talent and treasure…. we ask that you consider if you are following that theme as best you are able?

Now, what does success for Unity Spiritual Center mean to you?
A successful Unity Center or church is:

Of course, it means fiscally sound. And the growth of ownership of the Center. More people stepping up to fill the needs of our community.

But it also means a growth in consciousness for everyone. When we come to this Center on Sunday for Service or maybe for a class, we come with an open heart as well as an open mind. We come without preconceived ideas and attitudes but an openness so that we can learn and absorb the information presented to us.

Numbers are important, for we wish to be a success and be here long after I am gone from this pulpit. A growth in the consciousness of us all, of the understanding of the Principles and how we can apply them to us…. that is success.