UNITY OF VANCOUVER
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Stories of Faith
Reverend Bernadette Voorhees
August 1, 2021
All Rights Reserved
Gently and quietly move into that secret place Jesus spoke of; into the closet of your mind and heart; into that place where there is nothing and no one except yourself and God. Nothing can disturb the calm peace of your soul in this secret place. Nothing can distract your attention. Nothing can take away your good for within you is the place from whence all good comes and the place in which your healing awaits. Here is the place of pure prayer—a total and complete consciousness of your oneness with God.
In this secret, silent place, see yourself laying the deepest desires of your heart and mind on an altar. Give them to God in the total realization that “It is not I but the Father who dwells within who does the work—the Father who brings me the realization of my good.”
That which you have been desiring, is a gift of God that is wanting to express through you. Acknowledge it and release it into the care and keeping of God. If there is a healing waiting to manifest in your life know that healing it is already yours for you are a child of God, an expression of the Christ. Acknowledge this truth. Give thanks for it and release any care or concern now and forever more, into the silence of prayer.
It is the Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. It is the Father’s good pleasure to give you the gifts of God. Though you may not know how these gifts will manifest in your life, know within your heart that they will and thank God that this is so. Rejoice and know this in the name and through the power of that which is Christ in you, your hope of glory. Amen.
Stories of Faith
Lucinda and Charles Sears lived on Lake Okeechobee in Florida. On September 16, 1928, with almost no warning one of the biggest hurricanes in up to that point in history surged up the peninsula leaving destruction and death behind. Lucinda Sears stood at the front door of her home with a troubled look in her eyes. The mounting wind was whipping dust about the sides of her home and through the door. She and her husband Charles had no idea of the full extent of the storm because in those days there were no weather reports. As they stood there, they watched the nine-foot mud dike around the lake burst. Water instantly began to surge around their home and at the exact same time the roof of their house was lifted off by the wind as if it were cardboard. In mortal danger, they didn’t know where to go or what to do so they grabbed their three children and ran outside looking for shelter. As they looked around, the only thing that they saw that could possibly give them shelter was a bent old tree that had withstood many storms over the years. Whether it would withstand this storm, they couldn’t be sure, but it was the only shelter they could find. The rising water drenched them as they ran to the tree. It made everything so slippery that one of their two little boys dropped from his father’s arms and disappeared into the raging water. Balancing his other son in his arms, Charles managed to find and pull his child out of the watery muck. Together the family pushed and pulled and climbed up into the tree one step at a time as the fury of the storm grew.
As the water level rose, the frightened family climbed higher and higher into the tree until they were clinging to the very top branches. Still, the water continued to rise until with only their heads and necks above the water and with the tree limbs beneath the water, they had no where else to go and things were looking hopeless. They had to hold up the little children so their heads would be above water, and this taxed the parents’ strength hour upon hour as the water inched higher. “Cindy, we’re all going to die,” cried Charles. “I wish that I could get closer to you so that we can all die together.” Lucinda said, “Be quiet Charles. We are not going to die this night. No matter what it looks like, God is up here in this tree with us. Just hang onto the children.” As the storm continued to rage Charles slipped again and the two boys were nearly swept away. Lucinda made their daughter, Effie Ann, lock her arms around her neck and with her legs wrapped around a branch, Lucinda reached down and pulled the boys up with her. She held all three children until Charles could get back into the tree and help her again.
“The end is near,” Charles said breathlessly. Into the storm Lucinda’s strong voice cried. “The end is not here.” Then she began to sing a song of faith and hope. As she sang out an Old Christian hymn with only her head above water, the sound of the rain nearly drowned out her voice. Yet, her children and husband listened to her voice and focused on their faith in the power of God to see them through. As she sang the song over and over again new strength came into them, and Charles was once again able to help hold up his babies. Lucinda continued singing until she saw the light of dawn streak across the eastern sky. As they held onto those branches, they knew that God was working in their lives and within hours the water started to go down. It was about sixteen more hours before they could get down from the tree. They were tired beyond anything that they had ever experienced before, but they had the strength and faith of God inside them. As tired as they were, they were able to make their way to an Aid Station where they were cared for and were able to sleep.
It is important to know that no matter what you face in your life that there is a Bible passage that says, “Even this shall pass away.” Even when a flood of that which we do not call ‘good’ is coming to us, we know that if hold on and keep our faith in God strong, there will be a time when it will pass away. Jesus taught his followers a system of prayer which he summed up in these words from Mark 11:24: “What things soever you desire, when you pray, believe that you shall receive them, and you shall have them.” The three elements of Jesus prayer are: desire, action, and belief. “What things soever you desire, when you pray, believe that you shall receive them, and you shall have them.”
1. Our desires include our hopes, our aims, and our plans whether we have ever voiced them or not. They include the things and conditions we ask for when we pray. This is true whether it concerns our desires for another or ourselves. Our desires may be voiced or held in the silence.
A waitress named Mary used these three elements as she prayed for her son. She said, “I have a little boy who is so sweet. I love him so much. His father is gone, and he is all I have left of him and our love and life together. Her little boy became very ill. He was so sick that the doctor told Mary that he didn’t think her little boy was going to live. He said, “I will do what I can but you must strengthen yourself because he is so sick that he may not even pull through the night. When Mary’s next-door neighbor heard about this, she gave her a copy of a Unity sermon and said, “Mary, take this and read it right now.” In that sermon was the suggestion that when a loved one is ill and you’ve done all you can do, the thing to do is pray: “Lord, you gave me this loved one and I give him back to You. I put him in Your hands. No harm can come to him because Your heart is so loving, and Your arms are so strong. I put him in Your hands: I give him to You.” Mary said, “I’ve never said anything like that before in my entire life. It astonished me that I could say it, but it felt like the right thing to do.” So, she prayed, “Lord, here he is. I give him to You. I put him in Your hands.” And God did give him back to me. He did get well, and I have felt a wonderful inner strength and peace ever since.”
Positive Faith in God will take care of you no matter what you or a loved one faces. When you don’t think you have enough strength left, let go and let God work inside of you and through you. It doesn’t matter who you are—God works the same way through all of us.
Now I’d like to tell you a story about J.C. Penney. J.C. Penny was very ill. One night an impression came overwhelmingly to him that he would die this night. So, he wrote letters to his wife and children telling them he loved them and saying goodbye. When morning came, he said, “I felt as if the shades had been pulled and every light extinguished. Darkness was all about me. I was utterly without hope. Blackness was in my mind.” As he lay there preparing for death, he heard a radio playing the hymn “God Will Take Care Of You,” in a room down the hallway. As he listened, he felt something come over him and he said, “God will take care of me.” He said that he had never, experienced anything like the feeling that came over him. He said, “It was as if somebody opened up the curtains and had turned on every light in the place. The room was filled with radiance. In my mind and in my heart, in an instant, everything was new. I was happy.
A minute earlier I had been lying there preparing to die but, in an instant, everything was new. He said, “I experienced an inflow of power that I never knew was possible. I discovered that if a defeated person will realize that he or she no longer has power of himself or herself and will consent to God with everything in their being and will give themselves to God in faith, a contact will be made. This contact will awaken you at the core of your being and set you free.” He got up from his bed and went about his life with more energy than he’d ever had before and went on to live to bel 96.
A lady in Indiana wrote a letter, which said: “Eight years ago in my life I was in a total negative state. I was extremely depressed. I was to the point where I could not lift myself out of depression no matter what I did. I knew that something must be done. I didn’t know where to begin, so I started reading my Bible for a regular hour of prayer and meditation every day. For two solid years I did this. I read my Bible, I prayed and meditated but nothing really happened. Then one night I cried out to God with everything inside of me. At that point, everything started to improve. Almost within an instant, a wonderful peace came over me. I knew in that moment that God cared for me. I knew. I felt it. I understood. I had reached a complete relinquishment after a period of study and prayer. From that moment on, the whole world seemed different.” “This experience changed my whole life. It was so wonderful that when I tell you about it I sometimes forget to mention the physical healing that took place. So much more important to me was the healing of my soul, but three physical ailments were healed. The next day I began a whole clean-up of every area of my life, making retribution wherever I could. Now I actually feel joy in the midst of perplexing situations. And I have a courage that amazes me. Fear is gone. God enabled me to experience a rebirth, an awakening of my soul that keeps growing and growing. How exciting life has turned out to be.” Like our co-founder Myrtle Fillmore, through struggle, self-discipline, and prayer this woman found God and unfolded spiritually beyond her wildest dreams, and you can too.
Walter F. Davis was once the world’s champion high jumper, an impossible occurrence considering that when he was eight years old, he was diagnosed with polio. But even at eight, he would not submit to the normal limitations of that disease. First with braces and then with crutches he worked to develop his legs. For ten years he worked toward his goal, which was to be the world’s champion high-jumper. Imagine, a boy who had legs withered by polio had a childhood dream of being the world’s champion high-jumper. Many of his relatives and teachers said, “Walter, you can never do this.” But he didn’t let his dream go and his belief that God would find a way to make his dream come true. He became involved in every physical therapy he could find to help his legs. He married Margaret, the girl next door and she said to him, “Listen, Walter you can never be the world’s champion high-jumper, no matter how much physical therapy you give yourself, unless you can also give your mind the therapy of absolute faith. Take your goal and put it in God’s hands. God will help you. God will put strength in your legs and will make you a world’s champion.”
In 1941, the high jump record was 6’11”. On the day of the competition, Davis stood before the bar and realized that everything he had done since he was eight years old was on the line. He felt in his legs and in his mind, the strength of his faith in God and went over the bar for the first time at 6’11”. They then raised the bar to 6’11 5/8”. As he stood there looking at the height of the bar, doubt crossed his mind, the power drained from him, and he didn’t get over the bar. As he sat there on the cushion in the pit after that jump, he realized “I was born for this. That which looks like a mountain to me is not a mountain to God. It may be a mountain to my withered legs and the disease I have faced all my life, but it is nothing to God.” He then pulled himself up, but he was a little shaky because he was so tired. As he walked slowly to the starting line he trembled. He looked over at Margaret who believed in him and who had absolute faith in the miracle working power of God and she sent him a look of positive faith. Then he thought of God in his heart, God in his mind, God in his body and God in his legs and started to run. With God given strength, he sailed over the bar at 6’11 5/8” and set a new world’s record.
Positive faith is developed on the assumption that problems help us to grow strong and spiritually and that with God we can overcome anything.
Everyday, some of us get dressed, kiss our families’ good-bye, walk out the door and get run over by cement trucks. There is no rhyme or reason to it, it just happens. I don’t mean to depress or scare you. It’s just a reality that you who are survivors understand. No matter how hard we dodge, deny, or resist, a cement truck, a hurricane or some other calamity is waiting around the corner for each of us. Eventually everyone joins the fellowship of men and women who have been knocked around and tested by life. The universe is structured so that everyone is destined to become a survivor. A survivor is ‘anyone who faces and overcomes adversity, hardship, illness, or physical or emotional trauma.’ Survivors keep going despite opposition and setbacks. They may want to quit but they still persevere. Some people even manage to excel under the worst of circumstances. They make the most of misfortune and grow in ways they never could have imagined. They don’t just exist or subsist and put one foot in front of the other to just make it through the day. They live fully and thrive whether they survive for six months or sixty years. They make the most of their time on earth.
One of the most compelling passages in the Bible is found in Ezekiel 37. In this passage, the Prophet Ezekiel has a vision where he surveys a barren field littered with dry bones. In the vision, Ezekiel has a conversation with Yahweh and the bones are brought back to life: first they stand up; then they are “enfleshed” with sinew, muscles, and skin; and, finally, the breath of spirit and soul and life reanimates them.
This morning we’re looking at people who have found the strength to move forward beyond great trauma and loss. We can learn from their examples. One dangerous consequence to the Myth of Hopelessness is that when people believe there’s nothing they can do to save themselves, they put themselves at greater risk.
Brian Udell suffered one of the most sudden and violent ordeals. He’s the only pilot ever to survive ejecting at sea level from a jet going faster than Mach 1, the speed of sound. He endured a sustained load of 45g. Given his weight, 195 pounds, he faced g-forces of nearly 9000 pounds, the equivalent of an RV trailer dropping on top of him.
During a routine training exercise on a moonless night, the instruments of his F-15 failed, and the jet plunged almost straight down into the ocean. At 10,000 feet, Sword 93 shattered the Mach 1 barrier of 1116 feet per second or 769 miles per hour. With his plane just 10,000 feet and less than six seconds from hitting the water, he ejected. He was 65 miles off the North Carolina coast in 5’ seas without a life vest when he noticed ‘green sparkly stuff’ all around him, like fairy dust. At first, he was frightened then he remembered a Discovery program on TV about ocean phosphorescence and plankton that gives off a light when it’s disturbed. The light enabled him to see well enough to inflate the one-man raft attached to his right hip as he thanked God that it hadn’t been shredded. When he tried to move his left arm, he found it was badly dislocated and pointing in the wrong direction. He tried to frog kick he discovered that both of his legs were damaged and also flopped in the wrong direction. With three of his four limbs not working, he quickly realized that swimming wasn’t an option. He tried to pull himself onto the raft but with only one functioning arm he couldn’t get any leverage. Every time he pulled himself up onto the lip of the raft, a wave knocked him off. Panic began to set in. Sharks couldn’t be too far away, and they surely smelled blood in the water. Hypothermia was another threat if he didn’t drown first. He tried again and again to climb into the raft and failed. Finally, he put his head against the canvas raft, closed his eyes and said, “This is it. I’m going to die tonight.” Body broken and battered, he cried out: “God, I need help.”
Udell says a vivid image instantly appeared in his mind’s eye that drove him to keep fighting. In October of 1993, he had married his true love, Kristi and now she was a few months pregnant. As he battled the waves, he imagined her receiving the news of his death and thought, “I can’t let that happen, I’ve got too much to do. I can’t die tonight.” Again he cried out, “God I need help.” Summoning all his strength he made one last attempt to pull himself onto the raft. This time, instead of knocking him off, a gentle wave nudged him to safety. As he lay in the raft, a calm, spiritual peace surrounded him. Even if it took hours or days to be rescued, he knew everything would be ok. Incredibly, within ten months of the accident, Udell was flying F-15’s again and went on to serve two more tours in Iraq. It would have been sooner he says, but it took a while to get waivers from the air force that allowed him to fly with thirteen pieces of metal in his body.
How much can the human body endure? Researchers say that our bodies are both strong and vulnerable. Our physical limitations mean that we can only live on 1/5 of the earth’s surface, where temperatures range between zero and 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Above 18,000 feet, we can’t survive on a permanent basis. Beyond that they say, the environment is too extreme for an organism that needs food and water daily, oxygen by the minute and heat constantly.
Today five out of six people on the earth depend on civilization to stay alive. Without eye doctors and corrective lenses, many of us wouldn’t be able to see, let alone earn a living. Without supermarkets, we wouldn’t be able to feed ourselves. Without sewage systems and water treatment facilities many of us would succumb to cholera and other diseases. But remember this, “All of us are descendents of survivors otherwise we wouldn’t be here. But with modern society protecting and sustaining most of us, we don’t really know if we have that instinct for survival anymore.”
The miracles I’ve witnessed in my life and during my ministry have deeply influenced my life. Over the years I have become more and more focused on seeing the world through a sacred lens; engaged deeply in a spiritual community and established regular times of prayer and mediation. the bottom line for me is this: Faith is the most universal and powerful survival tool. At a practical level, religion is a mind set, a collection of attitudes and behaviors for coping with life. At a higher plane, it is a mystery. The faith filled don’t need science, or studies or stories like these to support their convictions. They just believe in God and that alone gives them the strength to overcome and transcend any adversity.
Hearing stories like these someone might say, “They were just lucky.” The Hebrew word for ‘luck’ is ‘mazal’. Like the word ‘Israel’, It is an acronym composed of three different words.
Makom – meaning ‘the place;
Zman meaing ‘the time’
La’asot meaning ‘the deed.’
Combined ‘mazal’ means: the right place, the right time, and the right action. We are always in the right place, “God’, at the right time, ‘the present moment’ and when we exercise our power of faith in God we engage in right action.
Eighty percent of the world’s population is involved in organized religion. That’s 5.2 billion souls. I’ll close with this statistic:
Dr. Harold G. Koenig of Duke University says, “People who go to church regularly live around 7 years longer than people who don’t. If you go to church more than once a week your edge increases to 7.6 years.”
What do you think?
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