UNITY OF VANCOUVER
“Everything Happens for the Best”
PRAYER / MEDITATION
Let us take a prayer journey to God. In your mind’s eye, create a scene high on a mountain, overlooking a valley. See a scene of great beauty, a restful, serene scene. Sit yourself down safely amongst the flowers, the grass, the sweet-smelling herbs & the trees & look out at this natural vista.
Look out high above the world & contemplate what is going on down in the valley, & in the towns & villages, & in the businesses, schools, churches & homes. From up here, it is lovely & good & there is great peace. Could it be that, truly, it is also the same down there as well? Could this great peace, also be right where we live?
Take a deep breath in, then slowly release it & let it carry the truth of God’s goodness deep into your heart & mind. Affirm silently: “God is good & I express God’s vision.” As you breathe in, affirm, “God is good.” As you breathe out, affirm, “I express God’s vision.” Now sit for a few moments, just breathing & affirming this great truth. On the in breath, affirm, “God is good,” & on the out breath, affirm, “I express God’s vision.”
Carry this affirmation with during this day & throughout your life. Down in the world, carry your mountaintop vision of God’s good with you. For this vision and this peace, we do give thanks. In the name of Jesus Christ . . . Amen.
EVERYTHING HAPPENS FOR THE BEST
I grew up in the Fifties & one of my favorite memories is the day my daddy brought home our first T.V. I remember it so vividly. I was 5 years old. Daddy was working nightshift & that meant he didn’t go to work until 5pm. Mom & daddy went out & took my baby brother with them & left me at home with grand pap. My sister Janice was 9 & in school. My parents planned their outing so that they’d get back a few minutes after my sister got home from school. Mom came in 1st & she gathered the 3 of us in the living room & said, “Daddy has a great, big surprise for you.” Then Daddy came through the door carrying a huge box. I couldn’t imagine what could possibly be in a box that big. When he got it out, I still didn’t know. I’d never seen a T.V.
In my mind, I still see my parents, as they were on that bright October day, young & full of dreams. Daddy was 37 & mom just 34. They laughed as daddy set up the rabbit ear antenna & tried to get a clear picture. He & that antenna formed a love hate relationship in that moment that went on for years! The 1st show we watched was the Mickey Mouse Club.
Growing up, I didn’t get to watch a lot of TV. My grandfather laid claim to it & parked his chair right in front of it. & Daddy pulled the plug on it every summer. We could either play outside or read a book inside. Since I didn’t get to watch a lot of TV, what I did watch, stuck with me. I can remember my family sitting together & watching “Ozzie & Harriet,” “Leave It To Beaver,” “The Honeymooners”, “Perry Mason” & “Lassie,” in black & white on that little screen. Looking back, those shows were very sweet. No matter what happened within 30 minutes there was always a happy ending. At 5, I was still gullible enough to believe that life really was that simple. & my overly protective parents did nothing to discourage my innocent outlook.
The guy in the white hat was good & always saved the day. The guy in the black hat was bad & always got punished. Children like Wally & the Beaver made mistakes but in doing so they learned important life lessons & regardless of what they’d did or didn’t do they were always loved & forgiven by mom & dad. I didn’t think of them as actors or entertainers. To me, they were real people in real families. But as I grew up, I learned that family members aren’t always nice or honest with each other, or loving or forgiving. Life isn’t a matter of black & white. It’s a little of both & a lot of gray.
In time, I went off to college & got married. But my life wasn’t turning out to be fairy tale perfect & I couldn’t figure out why. All men, especially my husband weren’t like my dad. He’d joined the army right after college to avoid the draft & Viet Nam. He was always angry & took his anger out on me & later the kids. I couldn’t ‘make’ my marriage work & after a 10 long years of trying, I concluded that something must be wrong with me. After all, I was the 1st in my family to get a divorce – an obvious black sheep! After the shock of my divorce wore off, my parents helped me talk to Bishop Wright & apply for an annulment. It was granted & I was ‘forgiven’ by the church. I could get married in the church.
In 1977, I started attending Unity. One of the many reasons Unity appealed to me was the people I met at Unity. They didn’t ask probing questions or judge me for being a single mother. The message I heard at Unity was a message that I had longed to hear; “God is good; Life is good; You are good; God loves you unconditionally & everything, absolutely everything in life happens for the best.”
It’s impossible to tell you how much I needed to hear that message. It was a major turning point in my life. I thought, “If there is only God & good. Everything happens for the best. I really haven’t done anything ‘wrong.’ I haven’t screwed up my life after all & ruined my children’s lives.” Like Wally & the Beav, I had learning experiences along the way that would make me a stronger & better person. So, now I could forgive Life for not living up to my imagination & I could forgive myself for being gullible & naïve enough to think my life would be a bed of roses & that I would never have any real conflict in my life.
When I entered Unity for the first time, I felt that I had come home because I thought I had finally found a place where everyone was always loving & forgiving. I thought that once I learned how to live the Unity way of life, life would no longer be a struggle. It would be as easy as counting 1, 2, 3. I soon learned that wasn’t the case. Now I couldn’t figure out whether I was failing to understand the Truth ideas I was being taught or maybe I was misapplying those ideas somehow because no matter what I affirmed or denied, really challenging things continued to happen. Was I doing something wrong? & if so, what?” It took a lot of reflection, meditation, prayer & risk taking & letting other’s at Unity who were further along on the path, really get to know me & what I was dealing with to find my answer. That & a sign on the wall in the Unity Bookstore that said, “I pray to God, when the foundations of my life are being shaken, only to find that it is God who is shaking them.” I wasn’t misapplying Biblical principles. In fact, things in my life were perfect & unfolding in Divine Order. & I thought, “Maybe the good that I want to give to my children will only come when I am shaken until my old, crusty beliefs break open, so some light can shine through them & so there’s a space where God & good can come into my life.”
There is a story told about 2 men named Sam & Jed. Sam & Jed were determined that they could become wealthy by hunting & capturing wolves because in their part of the country a live wolf was worth a $5,000 bounty. So they went out & searched for wolves’ day & night until they were exhausted. In all their searching they hadn’t seen a single wolf. Then one night they fell asleep & when Sam woke up, he discovered that they were surrounded by about 50 wolves with flaming eyes & bared teeth. Sam gently nudged his friend & said, "Jed, wake up! We're rich!"
Now that’s a funnier story than my life story & it illustrates the kind of Positive Attitude Unity teaches; the kind of attitude you need when things don't look so good to your 5 senses. True Faith knows that with God, somehow, someway, everything happens for the best. A man named Evinrude wanted to propose to his girlfriend in a very romantic way. So he made a gallon of ice cream & invited her to go for a ride in his rowboat. Well, by the time he’d rowed them over to the small island where he planned to serve her ice cream, maybe sing a little bit & then propose, the ice cream had melted all over the bottom of the boat & the girl. It’s hard to be romantic when you have sticky, smelly, homemade ice cream melted all over you. Poor Evinrude’s plan didn’t work out & he never married. But he made an important vow on that faithful day. He vowed to spend however long it took & whatever resources & money it took to make his rowboat move faster. Evinrude went on to invent the 1st outboard motor so that anyone could make it to the island by boat fast enough to get there with frozen ice cream.
If you are in a situation today & it appears like nothing good could possibly come out of it, turn it over to God in prayer. When you give it to God, God may give it right back to you, BUT God never gives it back to you the same way. God may hand it back to you & say, "Ok, you want to travel with frozen ice cream? Here is my Divine Idea for an outboard motor." God doesn't do the work of building it or putting it on your boat for you, you have to do it. But every step of the way, every moment of the day & night, God is right there with you. God guides you, helps you & shows you the way to get there when there appears to be no way.
Imagine for a moment that you’re a caterpillar crawling across a Persian rug. From a ground level point of view, you see a constantly changing, unorganized, mish-mash of colors that make no sense. But you keep crawling & one day, you have a turning point. God works through you, using an orderly process called ‘growth’ & following specific laws of nature that you don’t have to understand or even know about, evolution happens. You unfold from the inside out transforming into a beautiful butterfly. & once you have your wings, you can use them to soar high over that same rug & to see something completely different. From the higher point of view, now available to you, you see patterns of color actually make up a rug & it all begins to make sense. There was a cosmic design, a Divine Order in that mish-mash of colors all along, even though you couldn’t see it. This is why it is so important to pray, develop your spiritual vision & affirm, “Everything happens for the best.” There is always an underlying design or pattern of growth to the apparent madness of our lives. “Be not afraid & trust in God” is one of the most beautiful & challenging ideas in the Bible.
There was once an apple grower who was very proud of the apples he grew & sent out by mail order to customers all over the world. His business was thriving because people knew if they ordered apples from him, the apples would always arrive juicy, delicious & perfect. Then one year, there was a freak winter hail storm that left every apple with a hail marks. He looked at his apples & thought, "If I send out these apples, people will complain & send them right back for a refund. What am I going to do?” Instead of just looking at the bruised apples, he looked up to God & prayed. He said, "God, give me an idea because I have thousands of orders to fill. If I fill them with blemished apples, people are going to complain & send them back. They may never order from me again. But if I don't fill the orders, I’ll go out of business because I don't have any other money & I have bills to pay. Dear God, help me; guide me; show me what to do & I promise to do it!"
He was given an idea in prayer & he acted on it. First, he tasted the apples & discovered that they tasted better than any apple he’d ever tasted. He confidently filled all the orders & with each shipment he enclosed a card. It said, "The minor skin blemishes on these apples are proof of their growth at a high mountain altitude where sudden chills from hail storms help firm the flesh, develop the fruit sugars & give them an incomparable flavor." Not a single order came back. But now he had a new problem. The next year, 90% of the orders placed, were for hail-damaged apples!
At the French Academy of Sciences, a shoemaker's awl is on display. It looks like any other shoemaker's awl, but behind it is a story of both tragedy & victory. One day that awl fell from the shoemaker's table & it put out one eye & damaged the other eye of the shoemaker’s 9-year old son, Louis. Within weeks Louis was blind in both eyes. He had to attend a special school for the sightless. At that time, the blind read by using large carved wooden blocks, which were clumsy & awkward to handle. When the shoemaker's son grew up, he devised a new reading system with punched dots on paper. Using the same shoemaker's awl that had blinded him, Louis Braille used his tragedy & with God's help turned it around into a victory benefitting thousands. That’s what the power of God can do in your life & any life.
There was once a failing business in a small town in Wisconsin. The owners practiced the Christian principles taught by Unity. They prayed & affirmed & yet their business was going bankrupt. One day both partners got down on their knees to pray & at that exact moment a car drove straight through the front window & over their heads. Rather than thanking God that they were alive & unhurt, they said, "Thanks a lot God. Now the front of our store is destroyed." & The car wasn’t easily extracted from the store so it was there for several days. The evening news covered the story & their business picked up as people came to see the car parked inside their store. After it was removed & the picture window repaired, they painted a big sign on the window that said, "Drive-in closed. Walk--ins welcome." That clever line made the national news & the whole story was reprinted again in USA Today. That’s the way God works.
Isaiah 5:1-4, "My beloved had a vineyard on a very fertile hill. He dug it & cleared it of stones & planted it with choice vines; he built a watchtower in the midst of it & hewed out a wine vat in it; he expected it to yield grapes, but it yielded only wild grapes. & now, all the inhabitants of Jerusalem & the people of Judah, judge me by my vineyard. What more was there to do for my vineyard that I have not done in it? When I expected it to yield grapes, why did it yield wild grapes?"
In his book, “Illusions,” Richard Bach wrote: “The mark of your spiritual ignorance is the depth of your belief in injustice & tragedy. What the caterpillar calls the end of the world, the Master calls a butterfly. It is just when we think it is all over that it is really just the beginning.”
You must go on believing & living & trusting God the good Omnipotent to work out the details. If you reading on to Isaiah 9:6-7 it affirms God’s promise: "For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; & he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. His authority shall grow continually & there shall be endless peace.” Jesus spoke powerfully & often on this subject. He said, “Love your enemies, bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you.” In other words, “If God brings you to it, God will bring you through it.”
There’s one final story I want to share with you this morning. It is an old Sufi story. There was once a king who had a beautiful ring & 3 wonderful sons. Each of his sons wanted the ring so when the old king died, he left 3 rings for his sons with a note that said, "My dear sons, one of these rings is real & two are fake. The way you will know who has the real ring is the son with the real ring will always be kind and generous to all people." Each of his 3 sons spent the rest of their lives proving they had the real ring. It is the same with religion. We can go throughout the community, talking about God & about our religion, but that doesn't change anyone & it certainly doesn't change us. What changes us is when we live it-- when we become our religion; when we become the Truth that sets us free.
Then when people look at us, they will see that there is something in us they would like to have too & perhaps they’ll pray about it like the Prodigal Son & arise & come home to us.
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