UNITY OF VANCOUVER
Lesson 6: “The Alchemy of Gratitude”
Reverend Bernadette Voorhees
February 10. 2008
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Good morning & welcome to Unity. In traditional forms of Christianity, the season of Lent began last Wednesday. Lent is 40 day period before Easter. Christians taught to give up something that they love for Lent would probably be surprised to learn that this is contrary to Jesus’ teachings. When his disciples failed to heal & cast out evil spirits & asked why they failed, he told them because they hadn’t fasted ‘from negative thoughts & words & needed to practice forgiveness. For us in Unity, Lent means, “Let’s Eliminate Negative Thought.”
Did you know that in the middle ages, bishops often rewarded people with 40 years indulgences from Purgatory if they showed up at church & listened attentively. They kept records! So welcome home. I’m grateful that you are here to learn & grow with me.
Please extend your gratitude to our musicians, Stuart Ransom, Grace Conners & Phaedra Stahlman.
PRAYER / MEDITATION:
Turn within & listen with your heart to these words by Dr. Emmet Fox. There is no difficulty that enough LOVE will not conquer, no disease that enough LOVE will not heal; no door that enough love will not open; no gulf that enough LOVE will not bridge: no wall that enough LOVE will not throw down: no sin that enough LOVE will not redeem. It makes no difference how deeply seeded the trouble; how hopeless the outlook; how muddled the tangle; how great the mistake. A sufficient realization of LOVE will dissolve it all. LOVE enough & you will be the happiest & most powerful being in the world.
The 1st letter of John tells us twice that God is love. Allow yourself to be led by your Spiritual essence deeply into the awareness of God as love. Spiritually realize that you are tapping into that deep re-source of God-love within & around you & finding all there is to be found & that is God; you are tapping into God as the only Presence & the only Power as the Presence of good & the Power of love. Love is all there is. The only energy to express, for love is God & as the 1st chapter of Genesis tells us, we are made in the im-age & after the likeness of God & good, for this we must also reason that we are made in the image & likeness of love; You are created to ex-press God & born to express love in everything you think, feel, say & do. Attune in prayer to the Higher Way so that your every action, in some way is an act of love. As God’s mirror reflection on this side of life, being an expression of loving oneness is being ‘about our Father’s business.’ In silence, radiate Divine Love, bless others, this world, all plants & creatures & do not forget yourself. Shower blessings & you will be blessed in return.
As you bring your attention back to this time & place, remember that the personality you is just a focal point of Eternal Being, a ray of the central sun extending a hand in blessing. I am a radiating center of divine love, mighty to express love to all & to attract love to myself. Amen.
Lesson 6: The Alchemy of Gratitude
the Bible tells us there are 2 sides to God, invisible Spirit & visible Matter & thus 2 orientations to life, often symbolized by the words, right & left. The crucifixion story illustrates this metaphor of inner life.
Jesus Christ was crucified on a hill between 2 thieves. The one on his left harassed, “If you are the Christ, the son of God, why don’t you free yourself & the two of us as well.” The thief on his right, reproached him saying, “Why do you speak to him in this manner? We are guilty of our crimes & deserve our punishment. This man has done nothing but good & is innocent. Then he turns to Jesus saying, Remember me when you enter your kingdom & greet your Father.’
The 2 thieves symbolize 2 elements of our soul life. The 1st represents the intellect, unillumined by the light of wisdom. Pride, anger & lack of forgiveness are characteristics of an intellect unwilling to acknowledge the higher laws & unwilling to learn the lessons of Spirit which prevents a Soul from knowing Truth & peace.
For the intellect to overcome anger, resentment & hatred it must experience the hardships of life 1st hand & in the midst of those hardships, come to accept that a Higher Power & Law operates through humans & human events. Until then, the intellect remains arrogant, rude & angry at its circumstances; feels no remorse for its crimes & only derides Divine Principle represented by Jesus Christ.
The 2nd thief symbolizes the feeling nature. It too is guilty of anger, greed, jealousy, but because it is capable of love, it knows that it has done wrong & asks forgiveness. Through surrender, gentleness & gratitude the Heart is able to turn to the right & rise above anger & pride. When it does, the Christ immediately responds saying “This day you shall be with me in Paradise.” You are literally drawn up into higher consciousness & realms by your indwelling Christ. Our work is to make the effort of will to turn to the Christ. Right orientation of mind & heart releases the power of gratitude forgiveness & love. As we make contact with the Divine Principle within us & the Gateway to Heaven – to a higher mind & state of consciousness immediately opens. We enter into the state of consciousness referred to as Paradise or the Kingdom of Heaven.
Many people complain their fate & curse their conditions. The wise know that all events occur for a deeper reason – even if that reason remains a mystery. We speak of ‘solving’ a problem & ‘finding’ a solution. To solve a problem is to dis-solve it –the way ‘salt’ dissolves in water. Gratitude expresses a ‘higher perspective’ on events that does this. By always giving thanks in advance, Jesus was ‘lifting up his consciousness & with ‘a single eye’ seeing beyond the problem to God’s future solution.
Life’s challenges are the catalysts for our growth & often the sources of life’s greatest transformations. They create the conditions that call forth our hidden splendor, the spark of greatness that might otherwise remain dormant within us. Our innate ability to rise above a problem is responsible for the survival of humanity thus far.
For example: About 780,000 years ago, a reversal of the North & South magnetic poles occurred unleashing powerful forces that rapidly changed world climates & caused numerous species to become extinct quite rapidly. Drawing upon the mind as a tool, our ancestors rose to meet the environmental challenge & even began to flourish during this tumultuous period when other species were dying out by responding with intelligent, creative strategies such as migration. Anthropologist Desmond Mores states in his book, The Naked Ape “the brains of higher primates such as apes & us thrive on the stimulation presented when we face challenges.” Dr. Herbert Benson of Harvard Medical School said, “It seems that the higher primate brain including those of dolphins, our cousins in the ocean, were designed for challenge. Challenge, actually keeps the brain healthy and vital.”
Gratitude enables us to make the most of the wonderful things that happen to us & to intelligently & compassionately handle the harsh things by turning to the right side of our nature for the love, wisdom & the higher power to turn them into opportunities. The gospels point out that Jesus was led into the wilderness by an angel of the Lord to be tested before he entered Jerusalem. We too get tested & have to demonstrate our working knowledge of our faith in the Presence & Power of God to continue on our path of Spiritual Evolution. It’s an irritant within an oyster & the oysters response that creates the pearl. It’s extreme pressure that creates a diamond.
Our deepest disappointments & ordeals often teach us our most valuable lessons & become the stepping stones that lead to enlightenment. Life gently & not so gently nudges us onto the path of Sacred Living. Do or Die is the way Divine Wisdom governs life & insures that life moves in an Ascending Spiral. The harsh experiences of life come in order to break the shell of selfishness & to open the heart to the realities of a larger universe.
It takes tremendous will power & love & trust in the One to choose to ‘see’ things differently; to love in a more encompassing way; to commit to your own sacredness & sacred space. But, if you can do this, you will experience the Inner Awakening & from that point on by simply continuing on the Path of Gratitude you will gain a gradual understanding of the Universal Laws.
Sadness, trials & endings are all a natural part of the human experience, because all aspects of matter are temporal. It ‘came to pass’. Even Buddha & Jesus wept on occasion. Jesus wept in the garden over Jerusalem, not for himself & his fate but for those ignorant of Spirit saying, “Jerusalem, you who cry for peace & slay the prophets, weep not for me, but weep for your children.
Gratitude is a Gateway through grief. Even as our loved one returns to the light so must we. A woman’s husband suddenly died of a heart attack. She & her daughter, Kristen were able to cope & move through it, bolstered by their own spiritual life & loving friends. Then barely a year later mother, daughter & daughters’ best friend Nina were hit head on by a drunk driver. The mother was severely injured & her face disfigured. Kristen, Nina & the driver died instantly.
No one would have blamed her for being bitter. Her losses immeasurable. But as she slowly recovered from her injuries & learned to walk & talk again, she set about publishing some poems her daughter had written in her diary. Her efforts resulted in a book called, “She Would Draw Flowers.” As she poured over her daughters’ writings she found that they revealed the depth & wisdom of Kirsten’s heart, her love of life & sensitivity to beautiful things & gratitude. Exactly 40 days after her father’s sudden passing, Kristen wrote in her diary, “Sometimes I wish I could’ve remained back there—back then. But I have moved on. I will be happy no matter what happens. My tears of grief will mix with those of joy.”
The poem that followed those words is on your handout & reflects her inner resilience & ability to move beyond her grief by questioning herself & challenging herself to find beauty in the world & to express continual gratitude for life’s abundant blessings.
SHE WOULD DRAW FLOWERS - In memory & by Kirsten
Open your eyes!
Will you not smile at the purple violets
Can you not see their joy?
Our soul’s greatest challenge is to learn to see & live beyond the appearance of failure, loss, sorrow, grief, fear & death. Jesus showed the way & said, Be of good cheer for I have overcome the world. & Whatsoever you have seen me do, you too shall do even greater things. When we embrace every experience in life with gratitude, a power enters into us that can restore the goodness of the world. A power move through us, something that surpasses us, that is able to walk, speak & act on earth & live & love on.
A basic Spiritual Truth is: We come to embody ‘that’ which our minds & hearts dwell upon. Such spiritual vision was captured in these words Kirsten had written to Nina the day before their young lives abruptly ended, ‘I believe the world will be a little better because of us, even if our names are forgotten.’
From 1929 to 1968 is only 39 short years.
From 1929 to 1968 is only 39 short years, yet it’s Long enough.
It’s long enough to be chased by police dogs & lashed by the rushing waters from the firemen’s hoses because you are dramatizing the fact that justice has a way of eluding me & my brother. It’s long enough. It’s long enough to spend many days in jail while protesting the plight of others. It’s long enough to teach angry, violent men to be still while you pray for the bombers. It’s long enough.
It’s long enough to lead many to Christianity. It’s long enough to know it’s better to go to war for justice than to live in peace with injustices. It’s long enough to know that more appalling than bigotry & hatred are those who sit still & watch injustices each day in the silence. It’s long enough to realize that injustices are undiscriminating & people of all races & creed experience its cruel captivity sooner or later. It’s long enough.
It’s long enough to know when one uses civil disobedience for his civil rights, he does not break the laws of the Constitution of the United States of America--rather he seeks to uphold the principles all men are created equal; he seeks to break down local ordinances that have already broken the laws of the Constitution of the United States. It’s long enough.
It’s long enough to accept invitations to speak to the nation’s leaders. It’s long enough to address thousands of people on hundreds of different occasions. It’s long enough to lead 200,000 people to the nation’s capitol to dramatize that all of America’s people are heirs to the property of rights to life, liberty & the pursuit of happiness.
It’s long enough to enter college at age 15.
When we note how much Martin Luther King packed into 39 short years, we know it’s long enough for any man who loves his country & fellow man so much that life itself has no value--unless all men can sit at the table of brotherhood as brothers. 39 years is long enough--for any man to knowingly flirt with death each day of his life--because to spare himself heartaches & sorrow meant two steps backward for his brother tomorrow.
Martin lived several centuries all rolled into 39 short years. He like all others, would have welcomed longevity--yet when he weighed the facts, he said, “It’s not how long a man lives, but how well he uses the time that is allotted to him.” His is a light whose memory will live forever.
Step by step, prayer by prayer, lesson by lesson, dollar by dollar, we are inspired by love to release our inner slendor & to do our part as individuals & as a sacred community to bring about the coming ‘culture of light’.
Let’s take our affirmations together.
“I give thanks this day for my wonderful life and the opportunities for growth and happiness.”
“I live forever in a beautiful, marvelous creation. I give thanks to the countless beings who have made my existence possible.”
“I know that as I create an attitude of thanksgiving in my mind, I increase my ability to draw all good into my life.”
“All things are working together for good in my life.”
© Unity of Vancouver, 2004 All Rights Reserved.