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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?”
GREAT Morning Beloved!
The Second Sunday of Advent -Peace
Welcome again to our Season of Hope.
Last week we placed an insert in the Bulletin with some questions to guide you through your week. I’m hoping you took it home and looked at each question or statement for each day and pondered it through the day, maybe even discussed it with your partner or maybe some friends.
Each week we will have an insert for you to make the Season even more significant for you and yours.
And as we go through each week, I am hoping you can take the time and energy to make this Season of Hope and Peace and Love and Joy even more special for you.
So, lets light the candles for Hope and for Peace.
This week our theme is Peace. We talk so often about peace. Peace was my prayer for many, many years. And often it is my mantra as I attempt to meditate.
And peace is probably something different to each of us. For me it is all about inner peace, that feeling that all is well, that I am right where I am supposed to be and doing what I am supposed to be doing. It is a connection within myself that I can go to, to calm myself in need, to look to for guidance and to feel love that I may not be feeling at the time. Though with two loving dogs, it is hard to not feel love ALL the time.
How about you? What does peace feel like to you?
The pictures we see of how the imagined birth of Jesus seem so peaceful, do they not? It must have taken an extremely strong faith to be in such a peaceful state, considering the circumstances.
Can you think of a time when you had that much faith that you could peacefully look at a situation and know that all is well?
For me, in these later years, I can find peace knowing that all is well, that the God, the Divine Energy of my belief, is in charge and that in the end, all will be well. My growth opportunities have come in financial ways, I now need a new garage door as someone hit it, seriously, and it needs replaced. It will be expensive, but I just know somehow, I will manage.
Can you relate to that feeling that God will provide?
The root of the Hebrew word for peace, shalom, means ‘whole, complete, sound’ and it points to peace within oneself as well as peace with all life.
Nehru stated, “Peace is not a relationship of nations; it is a condition of mind brought about by serenity of soul. Peace is not merely the absence of war. It is also a state of mind. Lasting peace can come only to peaceful people.”
Do you recall the quote from Eric Butterworth when we were studying his book, “Spiritual Economics”?
“Things may happen around you, and things may happen to you, but the only things that matter happen in you.”
And that is where the peace beyond all understanding comes from.
It’s been said that what is inside must come out. Isn’t that what many of us have been telling ourselves and probably anyone who would listen, that it explains what has been happening to the social interactions of our country and even the world?
Individually, we must look for peace within ourselves before we can expect to see a change outside.
Jesus said, “My peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.” (John 14:27) Do you think he left us with his peace, so maybe we would do something with it?
WE, US…. not leaving it to someone else. We each need to be responsible for the peace we want in our lives and in the world.
We have talked about personal responsibility often. It is part of out five Principles…once we know these ‘truths’ we must do something with it. We must make the Truths a part of our lives.
Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me…these are not just words to a song we sing often. They are telling us to be the Truth we say we know and believe must be put into motion.
We believe Peace begins with one person and spreads and is returned in kind. When we are connected to our wholeness, we become peace on earth.
And how do we become peace on earth?
We forgive….70 times 7 if necessary. We all know that forgiveness is key to our spiritual growth.
There is a story that tells of two friends who were walking through the desert. During some point of the journey they had an argument, and one friend slapped the other one in the face.
The one who got slapped was hurt, but without saying anything, wrote in the sand:
Today my friend slapped me in the face.
They kept on walking until they found an oasis, where they decided to take a dip in the cool pond. The one who had been slapped got stuck in the mire and started drowning, but the friend saved him.
After he recovered from the near drowning, he wrote on a stone:
Today my friend saved my life.
The friend who had slapped and saved his friend asked him:
After I hurt you, you wrote in the sand and now, you write on a stone, why?
The other friend replied:
When someone hurts us, we should write it down in sand where winds of forgiveness can erase it away. But, when someone does something good for us, we must engrave it in stone where no wind can ever erase it.
We practice Peaceful thoughts, words and actions. Every time I am reminded of this, I can hear Rev. Dr. Paul Hasselback, my metaphysics instructor saying: “WATCH YOUR WORDS!”
Here’s an example:
Oliver Wendell Holmes was once the shortest person present at a meeting. A colleague walked up and said, “I should think you’d feel rather small among us big fellows, eh Holmes.”
Holmes said, “Well yes, I rather feel like a dime among a lot of pennies.”
We Practice the presence of God.
The Native American axiom tells us:
God sleeps in the rocks . . .
awakens in the plants . . .
walks around in the animals . . .
but knows itself in humankind.
God is everywhere. Spirit is everywhere. That Divine Energy is everywhere.
Without peace, these holidays would be devoid of spiritual meaning. It would all delve into the commercialism that we see on the Black Friday’s every day, where we humans are more concerned about pushing ourselves past the next person to make sure we get that one toy, that one electric device, that all important TV than what our heart is trying to tell us about the real reason for this season of hope and peace and love and joy.
Until world peace is based on the divine law of love and this law incorporated into the pact of peace as well as into the minds of those who sign the pact, there will be no permanent peace.
And that is where we can make a difference; by doing the work, forgiving those who we have hurt and forgiving ourselves for the mistakes we believe we have made.
Then we must watch our thoughts so the words we use are words are of integrity, that they do no harm and only help to heal and share love.
And finally, we must experience the Presence of the Divine Spirit that inhabits all and share that wonderful connection that we all desire and yearn for. God is in the yearning. Every cell in our bodies yearns for that peace, that love.
These three actions can help us all find peace…from within to share without.
“When the power of love overcomes the love of power the world will know peace.” – Jimi Hendrix.
Welcome to the Season of Advent…that wonderful time leading up to Christmas Day, and the celebration of the Christ Presence within each and every one of us.
I would like to thank you for last Sunday…for the love, the fun, the fellowship we experienced. I felt a shift in energy as I watched you all enjoying the Message, the music and the shared companionship with each other…oh, and the wonderful food too.
I hope you felt even a fraction of the love I felt as I observed you all.
And now, to today’s Message…. Advent – Hope & Faith
Metaphysically what we celebrate each Christmas is … the birth of Christ awareness. What Jesus brought to us was a spark of new light, new possibility—light that shines through the darkness of human confusion and illuminates the spiritual truth of who we are.
Has it ever occurred to you that a candle does not lose any of its power and brilliance by lighting another candle? Its ability to share its brilliance is limited only by the length of time it can stay lit. When Jesus said, “You are the light of the world,” he did so with the knowledge that we have an unlimited source of light—our inner Christ.
Like a burning candle, each one of us can touch untold numbers of others with our unique light. We can keep touching and touching many other people with our love and our light, without diminishing our own source in any way.
We frequently are unaware when we bring light to another soul. Some simple, casual word or gesture can serve to brighten someone else’s life when we least expect it. No, we never lose even a bit of our light by passing it to another. The Source of your light is unlimited and eternal. When you allow God’s light to shine through you freely and unconditionally, you are truly “the light of the world.”
That light that you are bringing to others is hope.
It is also a time to celebrate the Spiritual Gifts that are a part of this Season. So, each week we will be looking at the gifts of Advent….this week, Hope and Faith. Next week, Peace, the third week, Love and The Gift of Being Present with Pam Whitman. The 4th week of Advent is all about the Gift of Joy.
And Christmas Eve we will present the 7 Gifts of the Christ Child in our Candlelight Service. I hope to see you at 7 PM, Christmas Eve.
The real value of a gift is not determined by how much you pay for it, but by what you invest of yourself in it. A relatively inexpensive gift that has been blessed by your love and thoughtfulness will bring joy and lasting inspiration to the one who receives it.
That is part of what we are doing to these toys, investing a part of ourselves as we love them up during Service, to those who will receive them.
Eric Butterworth told us: “Whatever may be your perception of the greatest story ever told, one thing is certain: It is the story of the greatest gift ever given. … It is important to keep centered in the conviction that the kingdom of God is within you. The health you seek is within you. The substance that is the root of the prosperity you seek is within you. The love that you hunger for is within you. The golden road to receiving is in the kingdom of giving.”
So, the gifts of Hope and Faith for this first Sunday of Advent. We light the first candle of our Advent Wreath.
Christmas, for the followers of Jesus’ Teachings, is filled with hope and faith.
The telling and re-telling of this story gives hope to all who believe and follow these teachings.
We can define Hope as an optimistic state of mind that is based on an expectation of positive outcomes with respect to events and circumstances in one’s life or the world at large.
As a verb, its definitions include: “expect with confidence” and “to cherish a desire with anticipation.”
The biblical definition of hope is “confident expectation.”
So, think for a moment of what some of your hopes are for this Christmas Season…. (any sharing?)
And Faith is the ability to believe and perceive. What do you have faith in?
Our faith is at the heart of Hope.
Consider what faith would be without hope and what hope would be without faith. They go hand-in-hand.
We look at Christmas differently at this age than we did as a child. Or at least some of us do. Others of us still look at this Season with stars in our eyes and tingling through our bodies, just like when we were kids.
Our hopes then were for simpler things for most of us. If you grew up in the 50’s and 60’s, maybe you waited anxiously for the Christmas Catalogs to come from the various department stores to peruse for items to place on your Christmas Wish List.
I still remember waiting for JC Penny’s and the SEARS Catalogs. Keep in mind, with a house full of siblings, those catalogs were passed around from child to child, the pages had corners turned so we all could go back to look at the items of our dreams.
We made up lists of hopes and dreams that could never be fulfilled completely.
They were more like HOPE lists, you hoped that you could find some prized wished-for item to be under the tree come Christmas morning. And depending on the financial status of your family, it might be there….or it might not.
Christmas at our house when I was a child was filled with a mix of gleeful anticipation and unsure anxiety. Christmas was the one time my parents went a bit overboard. So we knew we were getting gifts. And with 6 kids, there were plenty of them. The down- side was, we never knew how my Father would be…sober or not.
We learned when to be kids and be excited and when to shrink back away from the anger with fear.
I always had hope that it would be a good Season, with no outbursts, no anger-only the excitement and joy of being a kid.
Hope is a spiritual muscle. And like all muscles, it must be exercised just to survive. Unused muscles atrophy. Use it or lose it.
That’s one reason why each year we have this season of Hope, which we call Advent. Though our society has made it a season of indulgence, it is meant to be a season of training. It’s time to blow on the spark of spiritual desire within us till it bursts into flame. Christmas lights are nice, but it is we who are supposed to be the light of the world.
Hope, belief and faith are not the same…hope is emotional, belief is intellectual, faith is spiritual.
Rev. Michael Jamison tells us, “Hope is focused on what we desire, and it can take the form of worrisome begging. When we are stuck in hope, we only wait. Hope pleads for a right outworking.
Belief can become passive acceptance. The mental state of belief is haphazard, as belief has the potential to be either true or false. Belief presumes a right outworking.
Faith is characterized by solid assurance. The spiritual state of faith is secure, for faith is of Spirit. Faith guarantees a right outworking.
Think of it this way: Things might work out favorably with hope. Things could work out favorably with belief. Things will work out favorably with faith, if we faithfully surrender our will to Spirit.
We all have faith, it’s where we are putting our faith that is the question. We must choose what it is we want, set our intention, develop a clear mental picture, and then walk by faith, not by sight
The birth of our Christ Consciousness is a journey to our true nature, it begins with the gift of true faith
Remember, we ALL have faith. Look within yourselves to check where you are placing that faith. Unlock the door that is holding back that faith and let it flow forth.
Where is your faith directed? Do you have faith in yourself? In your work? Your gifts?
Do you have faith in Unity and what we are doing here in this place? In this area?
If you do, if you believe in Unity and what we profess as our standards of integrity—our Mission, Vision and Values, then have you made any kind of commitment to Unity?
I have committed another 5 years to Unity…what have you committed to?
Maybe volunteering to do something….Greet, work in our outreach activities, even attending on a more regular way. Can you commit to tithing every Sunday, even those you miss?
Committing to something shows you have faith in that something, you are giving of yourself to help that something, to be a part of it and watch it grow and be successful.
Our faith is a gift to us all. And we all have that same gift. We need to unlock that door to our hearts and let it out, let it guide us to the blessings that are waiting for us to accept.
When I close my eyes and look back to the excitement of a child waiting for Christmas to come, I find that same excitement looking out at all of you. I get excited when someone gets it…understands that they are not a sinner, that they weren’t born in sin, that they are the light of the world and that they have a say in their life.
I get excited when we hear stories like Susan shared with us last week how prayer and blessing others works. It reinforces my faith, my hopes that coming here to start Unity was the right thing to do.
So welcome to the first Sunday of Advent. I hope, no I have FAITH that it is just the beginning of a powerful month for us all, with many blessings for all of us too. And the return of the childlike wonder that the Season should bring to us all. It doesn’t matter if you believe in the virgin birth and the stories from antiquity or not. What matters is our belief, our faith in the teaching of Jesus, teaching of love and joy and peace that are our gifts to share with everyone.