metaphysicalfoodforthought

POSTS

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.

Black History and the Unity Movement

GREAT MORNING BELOVED!!

Black History and the Unity Movement

We are going to do something a little different this morning. In observance of Black History Month, I thought I’d talk about that a bit and then go into some Unity history regarding the African American members of the Unity family.

First, as you know, Black History Month is an annual observance originating in the United States, where it is also known as African-American History Month. It has received official recognition from governments in the United States and Canada, and more recently has been observed unofficially in Ireland, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom. It began as a way of remembering important people and events in the history of the African diaspora. It’s surprising to me that the recognition has not gone further.

Black History Month started out as Negro History Week” back in 1926, started by historian Carter G. Woodson and the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History when they announced it would be observed the second week in February.

Does anyone have an idea why that week was selected?

It was chosen because it coincided with the birthday of Abraham Lincoln on February 12 and of Frederick Douglass on February 14, both of which dates the black communities had celebrated together since the late 19th century.
And what were the reasons behind this celebration? Recognition and importance.

In 1926, knowing our countries history, we can kind of understand the lukewarm response that was received, but, maybe surprisingly, they did gain the cooperation of the Departments of Education of the states of North Carolina, Delaware, and West Virginia as well as the city school Baltimore and Washington, D.C

By 1929, officials with the State Departments of Educations stated: “every state with considerable Negro population”, with only two exceptions, had made the event known to that state’s teachers and distributed official literature associated with the event”.

Churches also played a significant role in the distribution of literature in association with Negro History Week during this initial interval, with the mainstream and black press aiding in the publicity effort.

Negro History Week was met with enthusiastic response; resulting in an increase in interest among teachers, and interest from progressive whites. The Week grew in popularity throughout the following decades, with mayors across the United States endorsing it as a holiday.

In 1976, President Gerald Ford recognized Black History Month, during the celebration of the United States Bicentennial. He urged Americans to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history”.

So, after that little bit of history, let’s look at the Unity journey through segregation & de-segregation.

It took Unity more than several years to do some ‘practice what you peace’ consciousness. But we must remember, unfortunately, they did go with the times for a while.

It took some years for Unity to step away from city and state ordinances that didn’t allow for the mingling of the races.

Their statement, when questioned in the 1930’s after two Negro students were denied service at the on-campus Unity Inn were the students ate was: “It is not our province to force acceptance of the Negro race upon the public. We feel that we can do more to continue to help our colored friends by keeping a feeling of good fellowship between the races until full love—which we are teaching at Unity School—can be established within the hearts of men.”

A few people were instrumental in removing the restrictions that Unity had on the students of color.

One person was a Black playwright named Garland Anderson. He was planning to visit Ernest Wilson at Unity Village and while planning the trip, said: “I’ve looked forward to a meal at your famous vegetarian inn.”

And the Inn was famous. The Fillmore’s were vegetarians and the ‘farm’ at the Village provided the organic vegetables that were used at the Inn.

Keep in mind, this is still during segregation and Anderson put Wilson to the test. So, Dr. Wilson, Sr. minister of Unity and editor of their publications, had to work around the segregation laws and had Anderson go through the line to be served and then they took their food and went upstairs to eat.

Thus, the de-segregation of the Inn! One small step that led to huge results.

Another significant influence on Unity for Blacks was Rev. Dr. Johnnie Colman. Colman’s journey to Unity started with a phone call early one morning from her doctor telling her she had an incurable disease and had 6 months to live.

This is her telling the story:
As I passed the cocktail table a magazine fell to the floor. I picked the magazine up, I held it up and line jumped off the page. The line said, ‘God is your health, you can’t be sick.’ Now, I’m standing in the middle of the floor arguing with a magazine because how can you tell me I can’t be sick, and the man just told me I’m going to die in six months – something is wrong!

Her mother had been placing Unity magazines and other materials all around her home, hoping Johnnie would see them. She told Johnnie,

‘If you want to know anything about Unity School of Practical Christianity, you get on the train and you go there, and you ask them.’

I said, ‘Fine, I’ll go and ask them.’ I got on the train and went to Unity Village in Lee’s Summit, Missouri. When I walked through the gates, something hit me as I walked through, and I begin to feel a way that I had never felt in my life. The place was so beautiful. The hedges, the flowers were perfect, and the little squirrels were sitting up on their little back legs saying hello. It was the greatest place I had ever seen.”

While standing in awe, one of the Unity teachers walked up to JC, that’s what she became to be called, and began a conversation with her. JC told the Teacher that she had only a few months to live and the teacher said, “You don’t have to die.” JC told the teacher, “I really don’t want to die because I have not yet learned how to live. And the teacher said, ‘We will teach you how to live as long as you want to live.’ I said, ‘this is the place for me, sign me up.”

JC rushed back home to gather her belongings to prepare for the summer-long sessions at Unity. She continued in the program which lasted four years.

Her last year, she almost quit because of car trouble. Remember, this was still segregation time. She was living in Kansas City, about 15 miles away. Her classmates petitioned for her to be permitted to live on campus and so JC went back to classes, but they put her in a workers’ cottage at the end of the Village, making her the first African-American student to live at Unity Village.

She did received her teaching certificate and became an ordained minister.

She believed that not only was she being healed but she was also healing Unity.

Here’s another example of clearing the way for change in Unity. While in charge of the youth conference at the village, the Black children were invited. When they got there, they found out that the Black children were not permitted to swim in the pool or dance with the other children.

This is Dr. Colman’s answer to that:

“When they got there, I told everyone of them to go to their rooms and put their swimsuits on. When they came down to the swimming pool, I pushed them all in the pool! Then, I had a very lovely statement and affirmation for them at Unity. ‘Black does not come off in water! It’s all right. Be at peace.’ After that, they calmed down and the Black kids danced and swam with the white children and so it was.”

Dr. Coleman is famous for her mantra, ‘It Works If You Work It.’ She said; “If it’s not working, it’s not God’s fault it is your fault. In order for prosperity, health and peace to work, you’ve got to get rid of some things. You’ve got to let go of some things. You’ve got to stop gossiping. You’ve got to stop being jealous. You have got to let all of that go and realize that the same God that is within me is within you and can do for you the same things He has done for me.”

There are many other Black Unitics who helped to bring Unity through the de-segregation journey. Unity was, in many ways, the same as the country. But after the struggle through de-segregation, I believe they acted, often times behind the scenes, to promote equality for all.

Today, you will find Unity Centers and Churches and Study Groups all over our country and all over the world. Our Ministers and Licensed Teacher, as well as our Association Leaders are a diverse group of black, brown, yellow and white.

If you are interested in knowing more, check out TruthUnity and search Black History. There’s a neat video that ministerial students produced on the topic. You will enjoy the history.

So, what did you learn? What did you feel push back on? Take THAT into meditation.

The White Stone Ceremony & Letter to God

GREAT MORNING BELOVED!!

The White Stone Ceremony & Letter to God

Last week we participated in a sacred fire ceremony of clearing…clearing out those thoughts, habits, situations and even people that no longer serve us.

And that action brings us to this week’s White Stone Ceremony.

This time of year, where one ends and another begins, is a special time. Many of us are more open now to let go of the old and look forward to the new. It’s a time of endings and beginnings.

The monthly theme from Big Unity for January is Mystery – and the affirmation for the month is “I allow space for the unknown and the unknowable.”

That’s perfect for our next step into the New Year.

I invite you to remember the Burning Bowl ceremony, in which many of us participated, when we wrote down that which we wish to release, and we literally burned these concepts: we let them go and set an intention to rid ourselves of them. This ceremony is a profoundly impactful experience. It helps us release, which is very freeing. And when we release, we create an empty space, which will be filled with something! This morning, I invite you to consider what will fill that empty space.

Many Unity churches do a second ritual along with the Burning Bowl. It is called the White Stone Ceremony, and it is typically done as a follow-up to the Burning Bowl, as a symbol of starting anew. It can help us at the beginning of the year to claim our good for the coming year. I will invite you to do this very personal ritual in a few minutes. You have been given small white stones when you came in. We will use these in the ceremony to identify our “new name.”

Let’s put this in context. You may recall, the ceremony is inspired by a quote from the Book of Revelation: chapter 2, verse 17. Consider these thoughts: “Let anyone who has an ear listen: ….To everyone who conquers I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give a white stone and on the white stone is written a new name that no one knows except the one who receives it.”

As you can see, this passage refers to a couple of actions and promises:

The first activity is listening: otherwise known as Meditation

An ear to hear is not an outer ear, but the ear of the soul; the ear that hears the “still, small voice”. We develop this inner listening quality by getting out of our intellect and into our hearts, through meditation. It is a tool to help us quiet our busy mind and listen to the Divine Voice of Wisdom. We open our minds and hearts to a deep intuitive “knowing.”

Another activity or tool is surrender:

The passage says: “To everyone who conquers…” The conquering is not an outer war, but an inner one. To everyone who takes the time to listen to the still, small voice; to everyone who practices release and affirms inner spiritual qualities…. We realize it requires surrendering personal will to Divine Will, and the paradox is that in that surrender of the egoic self is Victory. It is a birthing of the Essential Self just as Jesus taught and demonstrated.

In this passage there are also 3 Promises:

It said, “To everyone who conquers I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give a white stone and on the white stone is written a new name that no one knows except the one who receives it.”

The first promise is “Hidden Manna:

In the days of wandering in the wilderness with Moses, the manna was sent by God. The people only had to go and collect it each day; they did not have to do anything to earn it. If they tried to save it, it spoiled.

When we are in “the wilderness” of our spiritual searching, we receive “hidden manna,” not visible to the world. We are given spiritual energy and nourishment that sustains us. Grace. It nourishes the soul and the body. It benefits the whole being.

The 2nd promise is a White Stone

Back in the time when Jesus was teaching and someone served time in prison or in bondage of any kind, they were given a white stone when they were released. It served as a symbol that they had done their time and they had been given passage to live with all the rights of a free man.

Each of us comes from the bondage of past nonsense – false limitations, old beliefs, error thinking that have been a prison. With a release from bondage, comes a sense of worthiness: we are beloved of God, one with the Divine, free and unlimited!

The 3rd promise is a New Name

In the Bible, we read of many name changes. For example, Saul – which means personal will – was struck to his knees. He was blind for three days and had to look within. He was given a new name at the time of his awakening. Saul (personal will) was transformed to Paul, which means enlightened will. He is a symbol of human will that surrenders to Divine will, and in that surrender, he claimed Divine Power.

Not just Paul, but Abram, as he grew in spiritual awareness became Abraham. Sarai became Sarah. Jacob was re-named Israel. Simon was renamed Peter.

So, when we awaken to inner Spirit, we take on a new identity, a new name so to speak. This refers to the new, higher realization of the I AM, a new awareness of our God Self. And this is where the Ceremony called White Stone” comes in. In the passage, we are told “I will give a white stone and on the white stone is written a new name that no one knows except the one who receives it.”

So, I invite you to meditate on what you’re being called to in the new year and claim that as your new name.
Now hold the stone in your hand. As you hold it, open your mind to “hearing” your new name. At any time in the next few minutes as I am speaking, if the new name comes to your awareness, you will have an opportunity to write it on the stone. If nothing comes to you during this ceremony, bring the stone home with you and continue to ask. Whenever we ask there is an answer.

Allow yourself to ask a question: Who am I or what am I called to be in this coming year? As I let go of my old habits, those I released during the burning bowl ceremony, what is it that I am called to be known as? This new character Identity that you intend to cultivate in the coming year might be connected to that which you released at the Burning Bowl ceremony.

Let your awareness drop from your head down into your heart and gut: from your intellect and into your deep inner knowing, an awareness of Divine Love and Wisdom. Listen for a moment to your still small voice.
Open your imagination, allow Wisdom to speak. give your ego a few minutes off and let that divine holy Voice in you come through.

Perhaps there is a new career, a new title, or a new quality that Spirit is pressing out through you.
Give yourself permission to know that as you release that which no longer serves your highest good, you can claim a new quality, a new name.

And so, as you are guided by Spirit, I invite you to trust in this moment, ….as Spirit gives to you …an insight into your divine purpose… an insight into your holy essence, and so in that secret place of the most high, I invite you to allow yourself to hear the new name that is speaking within you.

It may be a title; it may be something like clean and sober…or grateful…whatever.

Sometimes people who write the word peace, love, or presence, take on a new essence of who you are becoming.
If a name has come to you, remain quiet and allow yourself to ask for a deeper understanding, to ask if there are any steps to take. In this moment allow yourself to simply open to Spirit, to say, “God in me reveals my true essence. God in me reveals my next step. God as me, lives a joyous, peaceful, fulfilling life.”

As you are ready, quietly, write your new name on your stone. Please remain quiet as others receive their name or word.

Anytime you look at your white stone realize that you have the gift of choice; the gift to live differently, to live a more fulfilling life, to begin again, to connect with God and create with God.
Jesus said, “It is your Father’s good pleasure to give you this kingdom. “Accept this consciousness of ever increasing good in your life. I invite you to carry this white stone as a reminder of that promise.

Prayer:
A thankfulness flows over us as we receive our new name. Along with it comes the power and guidance to achieve all that we desire. This is our new name. We see it. We decree it. We are on the path to gaining greater insights and awareness and a new beginning.

We come before You, Divine Spirit, hearts open, minds receptive to the gifts of this New Year. We still our thoughts that we may hear Your thoughts speaking to us and through us now.

Open us to the vision of Your Divine Will at work in all we do. Let us perceive the potential of this day and every day to create for us the goodness of Your purposes.

Still the noise of our cluttered minds, as we rest into the depths of meditation and prayer, responsive to new understandings of Truth.
Amen

On the sheet of paper given to you, write your letter to the God within yourself, affirming the good we wish to see manifest in our lives between now and the end of the year.

Use this quiet time to write your intentions for this New Year. Begin to communicate your dreams in writing. Look at them in the stillness of your own being.

Ideas that are as yet dormant will awaken to the promise of this New Year.

Poems that are as yet unwritten will flow through us to touch the hearts of others.

Books that are still embryos in my mind will mature into the inspiring revelation of Your Light in the months ahead.
Friendships will strengthen in this year of transforming power. The synergy of caring enfolds me in the willingness to reach out and touch my fellow travelers along life’s pathway.

We all, each and every one of us, have a choice as to how we will live each day. We can choose peace, love, joy, compassion, gratitude. We can choose to feel Blessed for we are Blessed.

So, write your letter to yourself as if you are the God of your understanding, because you are.

When you are finished, reread your letter. Reflect on Spirit’s Truth revealed to you and be at peace with it. Place it in your envelope and address to yourself. We will collect them, and they will be mailed back to you around June.
Great things can be accomplished when we continue the work as Jesus, our Wayshower directed, when we pray believing that our prayers are answered, and live our lives in alignment with the answer we desire.

Let us prepare now for a time of meditation, followed by a period of silence and quiet reflection before we begin our writing.

Namaste

The Burning Bowl Ceremony

GREAT MORNING BELOVED!!!

The Burning Bowl Ceremony

Welcome to our end of the year Burning Bowl Ceremony. The Burning Bowl service is a sacred ritual that allows a quiet time of reflection, surrender, and release.

It is a fire ceremony that helps us release old, unwanted conditions or events in our lives.
We name and let go of the old that no longer serves us—and make way for new beginnings

Lao Tsu, wrote in the Tao Te Ching: “In the pursuit of learning, every day something is acquired. In the pursuit of Tao, every day something is dropped.”

By now you probably went through your closets and bureau drawers to make a place for the gifts that you received from family and friends. This is the analogy we use for the ‘house cleaning’ we wish to do in our hearts and minds. We wish to let go of those thoughts, habits, situations and people that no longer serve our highest and best good.

The Christmas Season has reminded us of the Christ within us. We know and are aware of that Presence. And as we continue to work towards a better connection with that inner Christ Presence, our authentic self, we now have an opportunity to release those things that have presented themselves to us over this past year that taught the lesson provided, hopefully, and we can now let them go.
pic
We can forgive ourselves for things said and done and forgive others for the same. We can release those habits that do not fit our idea of what and who we wish to be in this coming new year.

And we can let go of those words that have kept us back from our full potential. Words like can’t and try. We know that Yoda loves to say: “Do or don’t do, there is no try.”

“Trying” prevents us from ever achieving our goal. “Try” is a word that signals commitment avoidance, lack of confidence, and it undermines our success.

Another word to release: “need”, as in “I need to do X.” Use “choose” instead, because “choose” takes the activity from the realm of mandatory into the realm of choice, where it belongs.

”Want” is another word to release. Remember in the book, “Conversations with God,” it is made clear that we cannot have what we “want”! As long as we want, we acknowledge lack. So, instead of saying “I want X,” say “I choose X.”
Maybe you have a habit of saying “It’s always something” or other phrases that we say without thinking…. “This is just like pulling teeth”, “I don’t believe it”, “It’s too good to be true.”

It’s time to think before we say things out of habit.

Eliminate the words “ought,” & “should.” Use ‘choose’ in their place.

Release what Caroline Myss calls wound-ology — the sense of being permanently warped by your past; the sense of being a victim in life. Release willfulness, discontent, resistance, depression, being against rather than for, the need to know before you can move forward; let go of being a truth seeker in favor of being a truth finder; release the idea that you are stuck.

 Give up the idea that your life (or marriage, or this church, or your job, or body, your income, etc.) Is already as good as it can be. Release the current limits of your imagination. Release the idea that you can’t be who you are, that it is not safe to be fully yourself. Release the idea that what you don’t release today will never be released, release the idea that it will soon be too late to do what you have to do, that you are unlucky, that you are destined to failure, that you inherit limitations in health or appearance or opportunities.
 Let go of “poor me” thinking; release drama queen histrionics and chicken little panics.

Did I remind you of something that you need to release? We ALL have things that have been ingrained in us, mostly from the domestication brought about by family, school, religion, government and so many other influencers.
Let them go so you can accept who and what you truly are. SO you are open to the blessings of this new day and new year.

I’ll stop with the reminders and go onto the meditation. You should all have a piece of tracing paper, a writing utencil and a magazine or something to help you balance while you are writing.

Let’s get comfortable, take some cleansing breaths. Now as you connect with your higher self, your Christ Consciousness, let that higher-self bring to mind those things, people, thoughts, habits, whatever that no longer serve you.
Jot down a word or phrase to represent that thought. Continue as you are guided by that connection within….

Please don’t use this as an opportunity to beat yourself up for your perceived defects — that’s a major old pattern to release, if you still have such a tendency!

The focus this morning is on what we no longer need. It is not to give you feelings of imperfection. We are all perfect just as we are. And if there is something we choose to change we have the new year to do so!

When you have written down your items to release, center yourself again and review it to confirm your conscious choice to release these items that no longer serve.

Bless them for what they have taught you about yourself, for they have helped you clarify your values and priorities — and have helped you to better know who you really are and what you are becoming.

And so, with a grateful heart, let us all now release that which no longer serves us well, and that which has outgrown its usefulness — and watch the symbols for these ideas which you have outgrown go up in smoke.

When you are ready to burn what you have written. Please don’t fold or crumple your paper — it doesn’t burn efficiently that way. Bless your list as you see it dissolve back into the field of pure energy, and let yourself feel gratitude for the part it has played in bringing you to the point today where you are prepared to experience expanded good in your life. You couldn’t have gotten here any other way.

Please quietly and carefully, place the paper in the flame and watch that energy being released into the ethers. Everything is energy, and we are changing one energy to another.

Maybe you wish to repeat “I remove obstacles from my path that block the light.

When you return to your seat, please be respectful of others who may still be going through the process.

Prayer: Let us be thankful for this opportunity to release and prepare for the new year. We are blessed by the guidance of our Higher Self, that connection to the Christ of our Being. May this be the start of a beautiful and conscious New Year.

Welcome to our 4th Sunday of Advent – Joy

GREAT Morning Beloved!!!

Welcome to our 4th Sunday of Advent – Joy

Christmas is right around the corner, are you excited? Yes, adults can get excited too, not just the kids! And the excitement can come from all the happenings as well as the reminder of who and what we are.
So, Advent…

You can feel a progressive theme here, can you not? We started with HOPE or FAITH, which led into a feeling of PEACE, which is logically followed with overwhelming LOVE…at least that’s how I see it. Maybe you see or feel it differently.

Our faith fills us with hope. That gets us through our days, our trials, our ‘growth opportunities.’

The peace that follows that faith, that hope is the peace that goes beyond understanding. People may look at us and wonder how we get by? What are we doing that we can face whatever growth opportunity we are facing and still move on?

We find peace in that hope. Hope that the God of our understanding is there, within us, guiding us through. And in that faith, that peace, lies LOVE. We have connected with our inner Christ, that guiding light that we all possess but forget that we have.

But when we connect, that opens our hearts to LOVE, plain and simple…but not so plain, because it is overwhelming at times, that love fills us to over-flowing. It takes us through each day, always there to fall back on, if we should ever lose track or forget…because, that is something we humans tend to do.

So, this week, JOY. I believe joy is a feeling from within.

I separate joy and happiness from the source that they arrive. To me, happiness is an outside feeling. It relies on something outside of us to bring that feeling of happiness. It could be another person, a pet, nature, music, a show…

Most of us want more joy and happiness and, in our humanness, we are often deluded into looking for it from things outside of us.

Sometimes these outside happenings remind us to check in with our inner Christ, that place where we are connected with Divine Source, and that bubbles forth with joy.

The feeling of joy is much deeper, much fuller than happiness. And happiness can leave us, just as someone walks out the door.

Happiness can fade, but joy does not. Joy comes from a deeper, more profound place of connection with the Divine in all its expressions.

“Joy comes from our inner awareness of divine love’s presence and connection to God and each other. Joy embodies great-fullness,” says Brother David Steindl-Rast, the Benedictine monk who has made a life study of gratitude.

Joy is always with us, and we can experience it at any time if we allow it. We must be willing to let it flow…there’s that word again, willingness.

Even though the dictionary defines joy as the emotion evoked by well-being, success, or good fortune or by the prospect of possessing what one desires, or to experience great pleasure or delight, I still retain the definition I mentioned earlier, it’s an inside job.

The spiritual quality of joy is simply part of our nature as expressions of Spirit, as children of God. It’s in us, now and always. It’s not dependent on the circumstances of our lives.
According to Unity principle, we can experience and express the joy of God even in the most difficult times of our lives. How do you think that is possible?

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin said, “Joy is the infallible sign of the presence of God.”

Coming home to God is our deepest joy. When we open our hearts, minds, and eyes to see God everywhere and in all creation, we find joy.
Reminds me of the joy felt when we find our place, whether it’s here in Unity or with your “tribe”, where you spend your time.
In ‘The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World’ by the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the Dalai Lama explains how to cultivate joy.
“Joy is the reward, really, of seeking to give joy to others. When you show compassion when you show caring, when you show love to others, do things for others, in a wonderful way you have a deep joy that you can get in no other way. You can’t buy it with money. You can be the richest person on Earth, but if you care only about yourself, I can bet my bottom dollar you will not be happy and joyful. But when you are caring, compassionate, more concerned about the welfare of others than about your own, wonderfully, wonderfully, you suddenly feel a warm glow in your heart, because you have, in fact, wiped the tears from the eyes of another.”

Joy can be a connection with other people, with nature, and with other beings. It is the wonder, the delight, the welling up of loving energy—so that we feel our connection to God in all its forms—that brings forth the light of the soul as joy. It can be the joy of the first snowfall, the first signs of spring, the birth of a child, the stars at night. It is seeing the miracle of life and celebrating it.
The key word here is CONNECTION….the connection we experience wen we connect with these things.

So, now can you recall when you have felt joy…can you separate it from happiness?

What was it like? Do you want more of that feeling?

I thought so!
So, here are some ways to help with your joy, some ideas to help you connect, because you have joy, we just block it at times.
First, focus on qualities of God and emulate them.

God is love, be loving; (how can you do that?)

God is wisdom, be wise; (how can you do that?)

God is mercy, be merciful and forgiving. (how can you do that?)

Next, always monitor troubling thoughts and feelings and ask whether these things are really true. Forgive yourself for thinking those thoughts. (how can you do that?)

Keep a gratitude journal. This is easy, but of course, you must put the journal into use too.

Mindfully walk in nature. Don’t just walk mindlessly, but listen to the sounds, really SEE what is around you. Take it all in.

Pray and meditate on one aspect of creation. Why is this important? Creation is something you do, all the time. Be conscious of those thoughts and feelings that you are putting out into the Universe, they are creative. Maybe read the Creation stories and truly ponder them.

Be generous with time, talent, and treasure. We remind ourselves of this all the time. It is important to share our gifts. That is what this years Unity Theme is all about. So, how are you doing with this? You know what your gifts are. Time, talent & treasure…if you are a member of Unity Spiritual Center, one of your membership promises is that you share these. How are you doing?

Remember, joy is your connection with the Divine and all creation, and it is eternal. We cannot be separate from God in all its manifestations. Anything that heightens our awareness of the One will stir up the joy that is our divine nature.

Rev. Michael Gott; “In the season of Christmas, we are given the opportunity to birth the light of Christ into our lives anew. Can we find the courage to imagine living in joy—a joy that is so rich, so deep, so robust, that it carries us and sustains us through every struggle and challenge we face?”