|UNITY OF VANCOUVER
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Why We Grow
Reverend Bernadette Voorhees
October 10, 2021
All Rights Reserved
As we move into our time of meditation, do so in the realization that wherever you are God is, for that presence, power and activity is individualized within you as the essence of your being. God is ever at work within you for your highest and best and always moving you forward. Sometimes that activity seems to propel you forward rapidly and sometimes at a slow pace. Whatever the situation demands, the activity of God will perform. If you have a concern today regarding yourself, a loved one, or the conditions of the world, know that there is a part for you to play to make all situations in this world right. But you can also rest in the realization that the presence, power, and activity of God is at work in bringing about right conditions.
All you need to do is put yourself in tune with that flow of the activity of God. Be one with it, and let it carry you where it will. Know that the final destination for any endeavor upon which you embark, will be for the highest and best for all concerned. The spirit of the Lord does go before you, as the activity of God, and performs mighty works in your life. The Spirit of the Lord does go before you, and it makes smooth, helpful, and very successful your way. This is the nature of God. It is the function of the activity of God to work things out in divine order in the highest and best sense possible. So, today as you pray for any concerns you have, you can be at peace. Rest in the realization that God is at work in these situations. If there is something for you to individually do to bring about right conditions, then it will be revealed to you, through you, from the Christ within you at exactly the right time and in exactly the right way. Not only will you be guided as to what to do, but with it will come everything you need to fulfill your part in divine order. With those thoughts in mind, take a few moments now to rest in the silence, open and receptive to the guidance of your indwelling Lord. God is individualized within you as the essence of your being and is active in your life and in the lives of all people everywhere to bring about that which is the highest and the best. This we do affirm to be true in the name and through the power of that living, loving, presence of God, the Christ that we all experience and express. Amen.
“Why We Grow”
This morning I am talking about growing beyond the confines of the world we were born into and into our own glory. I’m talking specifically about the spiritual call to look deep into our complicated and sometime messy human lives and see that part of us that exists within our very core that always shines and emanates goodness, possibility, light, life, and love. The Unity Way of Life based on the first century teachings of Jesus exists to help us grow into that instead of denying or ignoring or covering up our unique light like most people in our society eventually learn how to do. Let us choose to grow as bright as that shining part within us.
Author Marianne Williamson said, “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, “Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?” Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
Every day, whether we realize it or not, in every exchange, in every action, each one of us, is preaching a sermon to the rest of the world about how we view ourselves. The question I want to ask you to consider today is, “What are you preaching? Are you preaching about what makes you shine?’ And if not, why not?”
I love to preach from that place inside me that shines. I love to feel that glowing inner feeling while I talk to you. I know I give my best when I share with you from something that’s lit up inside me to something that’s lit up inside of you. We grow from the inside out. When we really believe we are larger and brighter than we’ve been acting, nothing can keep us from growing and glowing. When we don’t believe it, no one and nothing can help us.
In an essay entitled "A Bag of Possibles and Other Matters of the Mind," author and humorist Robert Fulghum points out that “if you were to ask a room full of 5-year-olds whether they can sing, draw, or act, every single hand in the class would go up. Ask the same question to university students, most would become intimidated and defensive about their talents. If you discover what happened between kindergarten and university, you will discover what extinguished the light in so many people. And you will discover why we stop growing when we get older. These days, so many of us, have allowed our light to be blown out by carelessness or callousness or judgment that it’s hard for us to feel like we’re growing anymore. And that is a travesty because so many of us are yearning to understand growth – personal, spiritual, relational, communal growth as a life-long endeavor. And even more important, many of us are yearning just to be able to rekindle and feel that ‘inner light’ that tells us in which direction to grow.” I believe that is why so many people go in search of a good church these days – and why, specifically, they are coming to this church.’
It seems almost inevitable these days that if we hang out in society long enough and pay attention to what’s around us, read enough headlines and watch enough news and just listen to the people around us complain that we are in danger of losing our shine. Not our belief that we can – or should – shine, BUT our ability to access that ‘light’ inside of us; That part of us that feels so inherent and so obvious but also so unnoticed – and sometimes unknowable. If I’m right about this then I won’t bother asking why you go to church, that question seems to be answered. Instead, I want to know what will make you stay? What will compel you to come back? Week after week? To help to spread that light. There are people who go to church – week after week – year after year who simply want to give their light and help people who are hurting or confused, and to help people who have lost their shine to find it again. It is wonderful to see people begin to let their light shine. A good church knows how to shine and how to help people find their shine. A good church gives people something real to believe in and an open-minded spiritual path through, which to explore with fellow seekers of light. A good church has something much more valuable than appearances it has something very rare, a loving environment light to see by.
Recently I had the opportunity to listen to inspirational speaker, David Roche. David tells stories. One of his favorites involves his first-time playing spin the bottle in 5th grade. When it was his turn to spin, it stopped pointing to a girl in his class. She recoiled in horror. But at 12, David was already quite used to this. You see, David was born with an extensive and benign tumor on the left side of his face and neck. Doctors, in 1945, didn’t know how to treat him. They gave him such extensive radiation that part of his face stopped growing. He was left with only 6 teeth and a face that was covered in plum-colored burns. He even had to have his lower lip removed. So, you can understand why the girl on the other end of the bottle responded the way she did. But what does David do? He flashes his eyes brightly, offers her a huge toothy smile with plenty of debonair charm and says, “C’mon! You know you want me!”
Actually, that didn’t come out of 12-year-old David. Twelve-year-old David wanted to crawl into a hole and die. That came out of a much more mature David – much later in life when he imagines what he could have said. If we ever want to know “Why We Grow?” the difference between those two answers will tell us. In the choice of whether to live in fear and darkness or to knock, ask, seek, and find that inward place where we shine, wouldn’t you want to grow toward the light?
When David addresses an audience; he begins by suggesting that people ask him, plainly and in unison, “David, what happened to you?” When they do, he tells them about the tumor, the surgeries, and the radiation. But not with regret, Self-recrimination, or resignation, he likes to tell of wanting to form a gang of the coolest disfigured people in the world, like the Phantom, the Beast from Beauty and the Beast and Michael Jackson. They'd go places as a group like bowling or to one of the make-over counters at the next Macy's or Nordstrom’s Sale. But what he talks about most is his own movement from rejection of himself to what he calls, ‘militant self-acceptance.’ "We with facial deformities are children of the dark,” he says. The difference, however, is that ‘our shadow’ is on the outside. Because of that we can see into the darkness more easily. And we can see you. We see you turn away. But one day we finally understand that you turn away not from our faces but from your own fears of your own darkness. From those things inside you that you think mark you as unlovable – to yourself – your family – to society, and even to God.” David reminds us that it doesn’t need to be that way. “The road to militant self-acceptance begins,” he says, “whenever we are willing to look at ourselves and have others look at us. Without hiding the scary, scarred parts we grew up hoping no one would notice. Militant self-acceptance means learning, finally, that it’s not really about us. It’s about fear. What causes it and how to get beyond it. It’s about helping others to do just that.”
People listen when David speaks. They connect with him. They don’t turn away or hide their eyes – at least after the first few moments. They are amazed, quickly forgetting their fear as they hear of his journey. So that toward the end of his talk, he asks people, “I don’t look the same to you, do I?” They all shake their head, especially the teenagers. He changes lives. But it takes spending a little time with him. It takes his ability to open-up and reveal the hidden corners of his life. It’s hard if not impossible to help others when you’re worried about someone else noticing your faults and flaws. The human urge is to cover up, hide, and hold back. After a lifetime of that, David discovered that he wasn’t helping anyone, least of all, himself. But he noticed he could help when he put himself out there. And he noticed that what was most helpful to others, what helped them rise above their fears and let them shine, was the grace that emerged when he stopped using his energy to cover up his flaws and, instead, used it to let what was underneath shine through. What David uses to change lives, comes from his own ability to see past the doubt and insecurity that had placed a shroud over his ‘inner light.’
So, why do we grow? Why do we seek to learn? Why do we seek the light?
Consider again, what Robert Fulghum has to say. "If you want to have an exciting conversation about education, don't ask someone what they think of the schools. Never. Ask instead that they tell you about the best teacher they ever had. Ask instead that they tell you about the best learning experience they ever had. Ask if they wish they could sing and dance and draw. Or ask what they are learning now and what they would like to learn soon. Ask them how they go about learning something. And then ask them if they were to design an educational system to support what they've just said, what would it be like" (Fulghum, 1997, p. 90)
That’s why we grow. We grow because we are willing to build a place, we can put that ‘light’ we have been carrying around within us since the beginning of time; a spiritual place, like Unity of Vancouver that is prepared for us – and expects us – to shine and I hope that is true for everyone who is reading this. I hope you all attend and support a church that is filled with light and that freely gives that light.
So, this morning, as you prepare for another week in the physical world, let me say this: If you ever wondered how you should live – what you should do, how you should respond to a pandemic and divisions being created amongst us – while the naysayers of the world are trying to cloak you in doubt and despair – and you find yourself asking, ‘how should I respond, what can I say, what should I preach?’ Remember these words. “Preach whatever makes you shine!”
“My spiritual home and my spiritual practices remind me every day of who I am. It causes me to remember who I am.” This is “endangered knowledge.” There are all sorts of forces, especially in our culture, that cause us to forget who we really are. Television and media tell us things about ourselves that are not true. Culture encourages us to engage in habits that are not who we really are or who we are called to be. We are deceived and deceive ourselves. We are lied to and lie about who we really are. We need practices that remind us of who we are, like keeping a Sabbath, meditation, prayer, and tithing and practices that remind us that we are first and foremost spiritual beings having an occasional human experience.
Howard Thurman said, “Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive and go do it. Because what the world needs are people who have come alive.” He also said, “There is something inside every one of you that waits and listens for the sound of the genuine in yourself. It is the only true guide you will ever have. And if you cannot hear it, you will all of your life spend your days on the strings that somebody else pulls.”
What do you think?
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