When I begin a new year, rather than a list of “Resolutions” that I am likely to break, I prefer to create a list of “Intentions” that can become my guideposts throughout the year. Here is my list for 2017. Care to join me?
*Love unconditionally *Listen to Spirit *Forgive quickly
*Breathe deeply *Give generously *Receive graciously
*Pray without ceasing *Cherish every moment *Laugh uncontrollablly
*Create miracles *Listen well
*Honor my body temple *Praise God always
In Scene’s January 2016 magazine issue, Unity of Venice got featured in the article “Uniting For Good”. Read it below.
A breathtaking crimson sunset…the sound of children laughing…an exquisite landscape painted by a brilliant artist…the majestic plume of a peacock. There are so many beautiful things in our world to behold and be awed by. For me, however, there truly is nothing more beautiful than experiencing or bearing witness to a moment of Namaste.
Namaste is an ancient Sanskrit word that essentially means, “The Divine in me honors the Divine in you.” There are three key components to the practice of Namaste. First, we come from a place of understanding that we are made in the image and likeness of God and that our true essence is Divine. Second, we recognize that truth for another. Finally, we not only recognize that truth but we ACT accordingly. When we come from a consciousness of Namaste, we seek to honor, to bless, to appreciate, to serve and to love others.
In my 25 years in Unity, I have experienced literally thousands of Namaste moments. In a ritual called an “Angel Wash” I have walked down the center of two lines of people that blessed me with honoring touch and whispered words of affirmation in my ear as I passed by. At retreats I have led participants in finding a partner, looking into their eyes and singing “You Are the Face of God” by Karen Drucker. Time and time again at youth events and church services I have joined in the practice of extending our hands towards an individual or group and saying, “We love you, we bless you, we appreciate you and we behold the Christ in you.” In each of these moments my heart has been opened and I have felt the presence of God. Namaste moments like these always bless me but, given the context, never surprise me.
Not long ago I was truly blessed and pleasantly surprised by a magnificent moment of Namaste. While on vacation in Orlando, I was awakened by beautiful singing coming from out in the hall. I got dressed and went out to discover that in the expansive atrium of our hotel there was a Hindu wedding taking place. The singing I heard was sacred chanting welcoming the bride down the aisle. The entire thing was an incredible sight to behold. Guests and wedding party alike were dressed in traditional finery. They wore intricately beaded saris and sarongs and a jeweled bindi adorned the center of each forehead. The ceremony was filled with rituals and traditions involving the families of the bride and groom. I wept at the beauty of the entire scene.
Many hotel guests had gathered to watch this amazing sight. On the balcony next to mine, a woman sat and watched with her eyes wide and wet with tears. I noticed that she was wearing a name badge from the convention that was taking place in the hotel. I recognized it because I had walked through the convention center from the parking lot the day before. It was a national conference for the Knights of Columbus, an organization that describes itself as “the world’s foremost Catholic benefit society”. So, here she was, a devout Catholic, bearing witness to a traditional Hindu wedding. She turned towards me and as our eyes met she said, “Isn’t it all just so beautiful?” There it was…Namaste. She could see the holiness, the sacredness and the beauty in the people and the illusion of religious separation was shattered in that moment of oneness. I felt my heart break wide open and allowed the tears of gratitude to flow. I believe we are here to practice Namaste not only in the comfy confines of our happy Unity world, but everywhere, every day, with everyone.
On Friday, June 27th I checked in at the Cape Surgery Center to have a partial hysterectomy. The doctor had planned a very straight-forward procedure that would happen laparoscopically and would be outpatient. That meant that I would only have three small (approximately one centimeter each) incisions in my abdomen and I would be back home in my own bed by lunchtime that day. As it turned out, however, there was a completely different plan at work in the universe. Because of scar tissue from a previous surgery they had to do a much more extensive procedure.
I ended up with a large (we measured it…it is BIG) incision in my abdomen and I spent two nights in the hospital so I could be more closely monitored and my pain could be better managed.
The interesting thing about all of it is that, even though my procedure was more extensive than I had wanted or had planned for, I have actually found myself feeling quite grateful for how it all went. That may sound like a strange statement but it is completely true! What I feel most grateful for are the life-changing teachings of Unity and the incredible power of prayer. Were it not for those, I cannot imagine how much I would have struggled these past 12 days. In the days leading up to the surgery I truly prayed without ceasing and continued to know and affirm that God was at work in every aspect of the experience. As we headed to the hospital my mom, my wife and I were praying the prayer I always do when medical procedures are involved: “Throughout this process I know that EVERY hand that touches me is the healing hand of God.” I held to this prayer with great vigilance through every step. From the young man who checked me in to the nurses, the assistants, the anesthesiologist and the surgeons I knew that whether they were fluffing a pillow, checking my vitals or performing the surgery itself that the mighty hands of God were indeed upon me. As it turned out, though it was a more extensive procedure, it happened easily and perfectly without any complications.
I am happy to report that 12 days into my recovery I am doing phenomenally well. My pain has subsided almost completely and I am able to move around quite easily considering the circumstances. I continue to be truly grateful for the countless prayers that have been coming my way. I know they have everything to do with my gentle and speedy healing process. I have been blessed by wonderful flowers, cards, messages and even food being sent by those that I cherish. I am joyously anchoring to the Truth that God continues to be at work in every cell in my body and in every hand, heart and prayer that touches me as I heal. I am telling you, friends, this prayer stuff…IT WORKS! Thank you, God! And now…back to my healing!
The other day I was on my way to work and drove through a huge rainstorm. I finally got through it and ahead of it but could tell it was moving in the same direction I was. When I turned down the street in front of the church I could actually see a wall of torrential rain headed right for me. I quickly pulled right up in front of the door, grabbed my things and leapt out of the car, safely making it under the covered walkway. Literally two seconds later, the sky opened up and the downpour began. Had I not actually been able to see how close the rain was I surely wouldn’t have quickened my pace or parked close to the door and I would have ended up soaked to the bone. Crisis averted…Thank You, God!
I have heard it said that “Hindsight is 20/20”. In other words, once something has happened it is easier to have a clear understanding of the event. In the case of me and the rainstorm…I didn’t benefit from hindsight after it happened but rather what I call “Clearsight” before the disaster occurred. I could see it coming, which gave me the chance to take action and avoid a negative experience. Wouldn’t it be great if anytime we were about to end up in a negative situation we could clearly see it coming and could avoid it? Yes, of course that would be great but we all know it doesn’t always work out that way. While on this human journey we are all bound to have difficult experiences. Some simply inconvenience or annoy us while others may bring us to our knees. When these things happen we often want to ask, “How could I not see this coming?”, “Why is this happening to me?” or…the ultimate Metaphysical Malpractice question…”What was it in my consciousness that created this?” These questions all keep us in a powerless place and keep us stuck in the past. I think it is time to start asking more empowering questions.
The point of power is always in the present moment and when we find ourselves in a difficult situation our work is not to bemoan how we ended up there but rather ask questions that pull us forward into healing, growth and triumph. Ask, “What is this experience here to teach me?” or “How can I know God more deeply as a result of this experience?” or perhaps “What is the gift I am meant to receive from this challenge?” These questions are the key to our freedom and to finding our divinity within the incredible human experience. The kingdom of Heaven is fully present here in the NOW moment and can be clearly seen if we look with eyes of awareness, openness and love. That’s what I call “Divine Sight”…and it is way better than 20/20!
This year my partner Linda and I decided to share some holiday cheer and bring our artificial tree to my mom’s and help her decorate. When we opened the box we were dismayed to discover that one of the four legs that hold up the tree was missing. We got creative and realized that we could use a rubber doorstop and prop it up under one side and the tree would stay up just fine…or so we thought. When we got ready to put the lights on the tree we realized it was too far away from the wall outlet and needed to be moved back. I was certain that I could accomplish this task all by myself if I held the base of the tree and moved the doorstop along with it. It turns out…I was VERY wrong. I started scooting the tree and it immediately started tipping backwards. Linda was standing right there and said, “Let me help you hold it steady”, to which I immediately replied, “I got it!” Each time I moved the tree, it listed further and further backwards. My mom and Linda both kept trying to help me but I kept confidently shouting, “I got it! I got it! TRUST ME, I got it!” Seconds after that last phrase left my mouth, I lost hold of the tree and it came crashing to the floor, sending our beautiful tree-top angel to the ground with an ungraceful plop. Needless to say, we all laughed quite hard for quite a long time.
Once the hysteria quieted down, I began to ponder the deep metaphysical truth in what had just happened. What on earth made me think I could move the tree all by myself and why in the world did I refuse the help that was being offered to me? Well, it isn’t the first time that has happened. I thought about the many times in my life when I have had something I was trying to accomplish, or learn or overcome and I decided I needed to just go it alone. How often have I stubbornly overlooked help that was right in front of my face? The truth is that we live in a supportive universe and we simply do not have to go through the difficulties in life by ourselves. Whenever we are facing a challenge, God is always there…perhaps as a supportive loved one, a divine idea, or the perfect jolt of inspiration right when we need it. Our work is to stay open and to ACCEPT the help that the universe is always offering. However, if I happen to offer to help you set up your Christmas tree…you might want to re-think that one. Happy Holidays everyone!
The holiday shopping season is upon us and we all know that can be a stressful thing as packed parking lots, large crowds and long lines can lead to short tempers and heated exchanges. I was pondering this thought just the other day as I was standing in a long line in the grocery store. I found myself thinking, “It has already started and I bet it’s just going to get worse from here…ugh!” Just at the moment that thought swirled in my head I was shifted quickly out of my “Negative Nellie” mode by the sound of a small voice beside me. I looked down to see a beautiful two year old girl beaming up at me from her stroller. Her hand was raised in a wave and she repeated what I didn’t hear the first time….a loud and joyous “Hi!!!!” I simply couldn’t help but return her smile and say “Hi!” right back. I turned back to my cart and continued to wait in line for my turn but was no longer in a place of dread or frustration. I now had a smile on my face and joy in my heart. Imagine…just TWO letters….just ONE syllable had changed my whole demeanor and shifted my experience dramatically. That precious little angel also shouted a joyous “BYE BYE!” as she and her mother headed to their car.
As I watched them go I wondered how I could follow the example of this happy little Buddha who had just made my day. It got me thinking and has caused me to make a commitment this holiday season as I am out and about in the busyness and the fray that I want to be a catalyst for good and an ambassador of joy! I’m hoping that everyone who reads this will join me in the cause. Each time I head out on an errand I am going to intentionally find ways to bless people and bring lightness to an otherwise stressful time. I can already think of countless ways to make a difference: helping someone with their bags; letting someone go in front of me in a checkout line; smiling and saying hello; complimenting and appreciating the retail staff; paying for the person behind me in the drive-thru. Oooohhhh….I am vibrating with excitement as the ideas just keep coming! So what do you say? Are you with me? If one little child shouting one little syllable can change my day…imagine the impact a whole army of joy ambassadors can have on the world! HAPPY HOLIDAYS indeed!
This past weekend was the annual retreat for the Board of Trustees at Unity of Venice. It is our time to get away and spend three days together connecting, praying, visioning, planning and listening to Spirit about the next steps for the highest good of the ministry. As the lead minister for the retreat, I spent months planning every experience, every event and every meeting down to the last detail. By the time I arrived at the retreat on Friday I had a four page agenda with the entire weekend planned down to the minute. Would you like to venture a guess exactly how much of the weekend went according to my agenda? Yep…you got it…NOT ONE MINUTE. We experienced constant shifts due to meeting space issues, time constraints, new ideas being presented and moments where the energy clearly needed to go in a different direction. The beautiful thing is that it ended up being the most amazing board retreat I have ever participated in. Each time we were Divinely detoured away from the original agenda we found ourselves in a place of even greater love, wisdom, connection and Spirit. The end result was surely nothing I could have orchestrated or planned for because my understanding of what was possible was limited by past experiences and old ideas.
The other night on an episode of “Modern Family”, I saw a fabulous example of the power of a Divine detour. The episode centered around the adults in the family trying to meet for dinner at a very upscale restaurant where they had waited literally weeks to get a reservation. Each couple experienced one hysterical mishap after another and by the time they all finally made it to the restaurant, their table had been given away. They stepped outside the door of the restaurant, all of them cranky and hungry, and caught sight of a taco truck across the street. They ate tacos and drank beer in the parking lot and ended up having an unforgettable time as they got up and sang and danced a full dramatic performance of “Midnight Train to Georgia”. They finished the day more connected and more joyous than they had been before.
If you look back on your life I imagine, like me, you will see countless times when you had a plan that got unexpectedly shifted and the end result was something more magnificent than you could have ever dreamed. If we know that Divine detours are inevitable, then we are invited to trust, surrender and go with the flow. When we do that, we create a new reality. One in which, as Peter Mayer says in his song “Holy Now”, “The challenging thing becomes, not to look for miracles, but finding where there isn’t one.” So, enjoy this incredible journey called life and remember…DETOUR AHEAD!
Our fair city has experienced over eight inches of rain in the last 48 hours and it looks to continue throughout the rest of today. There has been so much rain lately that the ground is saturated and people all over town are trying to deal with flooding in different degrees. At the very least, all the rain has been inconvenient and for some it has become rather destructive and damaging. With all of that in mind, I had a revelation this morning as I was looking out the window and found myself singing the old nursery rhyme, “Rain, rain, go away. Come again another day.” It hit me like a ton of bricks….this amount of rainfall in this short time period is NOT a good thing. It has caused and is continuing to cause a lot of trouble. So…why am I asking for that experience to happen AGAIN??????
That simple little two-line children’s poem speaks volumes of how we function at times in our lives and in our world. How often do we, either consciously or unconsciously, invite an unpleasant experience back into our lives? If a negative condition is persisting in our lives, it is an ideal response to spiritually tell that condition to “Go away”. We do this by ending unhealthy or abusive relationships, refusing to stay in a toxic work environment, or changing destructive habits. The challenge, however, is that if we do not address and change the negative thoughts and beliefs that created the condition in the first place, we are essentially inviting that condition to “Come again another day.” It may come in a different relationship, job or habit…but, “come again” it will.
So, if “rain” represents an unhealthy, negative situation in our lives, I offer an edited version of the classic rhyme:
Rain, rain…what are you here to teach me?
How can I heal and grow from you?
What do I need to do differently so that you don’t come back?
What is the blessing you have brought to my life?
Thank you…now GO AWAY!
Thank you, God, that I will now never have to experience rain again.
OK, so it doesn’t rhyme, but I think you will find it produces much better results than the original. Stay dry people…stay dry.