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  God’s Greatest Gift: A Fresh Start
  Reverend Bernadette Voorhees
  December 27, 2020

 All Rights Reserved



The last Sunday in December is always set aside for our Burning Bowl Ceremony and White Stone Ritual. I am including this information so that you can go through the cleansing and renewing process at home. For this ceremony you will need: Candles, a small piece of burnable paper, pen, burning receptacle, and a stone.


Many of us have loved ones who have passed beyond our physical sight this year. In the midst of our grief, we’re called by God to remember the light that is each of us can’t be extinguished, only transformed as we journey from one room of our Father’s house of life to another.

As you speak the name of your loved ones who have moved on to their next expression of Eternal Life, light a candle for them and speak a prayer of blessing saying, to your dear ones, “I love you, bless you, and see you as you are, an eternal spiritual being.  As I light this candle for you, I lovingly release you into the light from which you came and from which you will be born again.”

And we pray for everyone who has lost loved ones this year. May your sorrow be softened by the healing presence of God.  May you find comfort and support in your own inner Christ, in nature’s tranquility and in the presence of this spiritual community of caring friends. May the healing power of memory visit you often in quiet moments & nourish your soul with love.  Amen.


A burning bowl cremony isn’t a magical practice.  It is a spiritual technique which helps us become aware that much of human behavior is not inborn.  It is the result of our own thinking and cultural conditioning. For this reason, it can be changed to reflect the Truth, which is that we are designed to be positive and creative for we are spiritual beings created in the image and likeness of God. A burning brings to our conscious awareness no-longer appropriate, negative and limiting thoughts about ourselves so that we can replace them with positive and creative thoughts. As our thinking changes, our behavior changes and people’s response to us change.  In this way we revise and upgrade our sense of identity and open ourselves to the activity of God within us.

Step 1: Affirm the Omnipresence of God until you feel a sense of conviction.“There is only one Presence and one Power in the universe and in my life, God the good, omnipotent.”

Step 2: Affirm that memories are powerless to disturb or harm you until you feel a settled and grounded sense of conviction. This gives the subconscious mind permission to release material it may have deliberately suppressed.  Affirm: “I release the past and allow the healing power of love into my life."

As memories or thoughts come, jot down a word or phrase of what you want to release. As memories come, simply write the feeling, belief or attitude associated with each incident. Write whatever comes, even what seems positive; it may simply no longer be appropriate.

Step 3:  When the flow stops, fold the paper and burn it. Discard the ashes outdoors.


Our names play a large part in defining who we are, yet they are chosen for us.  The White Stone Ritual gives us an opportunity to choose a new spiritual name for ourselves that reflects a quality or qualities we desire to develop in the New Year. The inspiration for this ritual comes from the Bible passage in Revelation 2:17; “They that have an ear, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches; to they that overcome, I will give of the hidden manna to eat and a White Stone and on the stone a new name written, which no person will know, except the one who receives it.”

In the time of Jesus, when a prisoner was released from prison or from bondage as someone’s slave, he or she was given a white stone to carry, to show that they were now free live their own lives.  Take your stone into your hands and feel the smoothness of your stone. The stone represents your choice to release old ways of thinking and your freedom from slavery to limited ways of expressing your creative life force. Feel a tremendous sense of inner joy and say to yourself, “I have been given a white stone.  I am free to begin again and free to choose a new name that reflects my freedom.”

Spirit has decreed a name for you to be written on your stone. Let it come from within, to you.  Start with the words, “I am”, then silently express what you want to see happen in your life.  This is what will be written on your stone.  (silence)

And now let us close by speaking the prayer for protection: The light of God surrounds me, the love of God enfolds me, the power protects me, the presence of God watches over me, wherever I am God is.  And all is well.”  Amen.

Now sing or say the Lord’s Prayer.


In the Book of Revelation 3:8 this is written. “Behold, I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut.” Your indwelling Christ Mind knows that this open doorway exists within you and it knows how to guide you through it. Let the Christ guide you and feel yourself moving toward that inner spiritual door. See it beginning to take shape and form in your mind and becoming visible. What does your inner door look like? Is there a window in it? What is it made of?

As you examine the doorway, feel an energy pulling you toward it. Beyond this doorway is the unlimited Spiritual Power of God. Beyond this doorway is everything you need to live the life you were created to live. As you pass through this doorway you access Spiritual Power, inspiration and guidance and find yourself on a sacred path to a fuller life. The door is not locked and as you focus your attention on it, it silently swings open. Your readiness and willingness to accept the freedom that lies beyond this doorway creates a new level of life and awareness in you of your power of choice. As you prepare to pass through it ask yourself, “What is it that I choose to express as I walk through this doorway? What is your intention? Silently state it as clearly as possible. Ask God for help as you step over the threshold, knowing that any limitation or bondage you have felt in the past resides only in your own human mind and therefore can be overcome. God does not hold any limiting ideas about you or your potential. In God’s reality you are a whole and free Spiritual Being.

Once you have passed through this doorway everything changes. There is no going back to the way you were. You know Divine life is flowing through you and living through you as you. This reality is now embedded in your Mind and is guiding your every choice. Every cell of your body responds to this life force, for it knows the truth of its Creator. The cells of your body know that you are whole and unfolding in the pattern of the Divine. You experience increased prosperity as God gives you ideas to re-create your life. Spiritual prosperity is the substance of God that underlies everything. You are one with God the co-creator of your future and peace fills your mind. You are not earth bound by anything or anyone. You are free from chaos, disharmony or discord as you revel in your acceptance of your Spiritual freedom. “Behold, I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut.”

Gently bring your attention back to this time. Take a deep breath and bring the freedom that lies beyond that open door into this moment and every moment as you take the steps forward that can only be taken by you. In the name and through the power of the indwelling Christ it is done on earth as it is in Heaven. Amen


For the last lesson of the year 2020, I'm going to share some ideas that I've collected over the many years that I have been your minister. I hope that something here will move you and inspire your journey into the year 2021.

I heard a tape many years ago about a place called Lake Woebegone that really spoke to me.  Have you heard Garrison Keillor's wonderful stories about this mythical village?  Let me share a little bit about it with you now.

This is a story of Mr. Bowser who worked at the Post Office.  He hated his old Chevy, but he still had to drive it because it just wouldn't break down.  It was still running, so he had to hang onto it.  It was all rusted out along the sides and the floorboard was rusted out. He had a piece of three-quarter inch plywood on the floor so he would have somewhere to put his feet.  The Chevy's name was Henry, after his late father.  His father taught him never to throw away something if it was still working.

He couldn't get rid of it, because after fifteen years, even on the coldest mornings, all he would have to do is point at the ignition and it would start.  He drove the thing around and hated it for ten of the fifteen years that he owned it. The heater didn't work so it was freezing cold inside.  But Mr. Bowser was brought up to endure suffering and be cheerful.  So, he drove around cheerfully in this horrible car, even though it depressed the life out of him. He hung onto it until a year ago last January. He was sitting in the Chatterbox Cafe and someone said to him, "Well, that old Chevy of yours is amazing.  It's quite a starter isn't it?  What do you ever do with that thing?"

Well, he never did anything.  Lack of maintenance seemed to encourage that car.  It thrived on neglect.  He hadn't changed the oil in five years, but the car didn't seem to notice.  They said, "Lordy, we have never seen anything like it.  We've never had any kind of luck with a Chevy like you have."  In that moment, something seemed to snap inside of Mr. Bowser. He drove that car out to the hill by Haberson's farm. He stopped, put it into neutral, got out and gave it a push.  It ended its life near the second telephone pole it ran into.  He put that car out of its misery. It was a happy man who walked the nearly two miles back to town.  He now has a new Chevrolet he calls Betty.  It doesn't start all the time and he's had problems with it.  But when it does start, the heater works well.  But, better than that, there is still that new car smell.  It smells fresh.  And you get that fresh feeling when you sit in Betty.  And that's all he wanted.

It's a kind of Christmas feeling--a fresh start; a fresh hope for the world; a fresh inspiration of wonder and joy; a spark to touch us and to start us.

Have you ever held on to something you no longer wanted because you were told you had to?  Many of us are walking into 2021 all hunched over, carrying the baggage of many, many previous years.  We stand proudly at the doorway like we would at the doorway of a Holiday Inn, waiting to check into the New Year.  But the problem is that we have carried all our old junk with us; all the things we have disliked, our habits and the terrible afflictions we have afflicted on ourselves. We just don't know how to pry our fingers from the suitcase of the past.  So, we carry it along with us, all the time getting heavier and heavier.  Pretty soon we can no longer pick it up, so we just drag it along wherever we go.

God says to us, "Take my yoke upon you for my yoke is easy and my burden is light."  We don't hear that message because we have gone through so many New Year's celebrations and resolutions, still carrying all our stuff.  All the time it gets heavier and heavier.  Our ears deaf to the Truth that set us free.

The wonderful speaker Dennis Wately shares two ideas to help us to have
a fresh start in the New Year.

1. Focus on where you want to go rather than where you are coming from. As human beings, we tend to focus more on where we've been rather than where we want to go. We focus on the mistakes we're made in the past, the failures we've had; that behavior binds and limits us. It puts us in a cage. We hold the keys to the ego cage and freedom, but we stay imprisoned inside anyway.

2. Learn from your mistakes as well as your successes. Use your mistakes and begin to transcend your own biography. We all have a biography.  It's in our mind. We've written it from day one.  It began the minute we came out of mamma's womb. We decided who and what we are and then held on tightly to those opinions. Now, possibly, it's time to rewrite your biography, take the time to write a new chapter or even to close the old book and begin a whole new book.

I was talking with a very distressed friend the other night. He said, "Do you think it is possible for a human being to do a redo? I just don't think I can start over again.  I have made so many mistakes; mistakes upon mistake.  I don't even know why I'm alive, because some of my mistakes have been with drugs and alcohol and should have been fatal."

He then told me about how many drugs he had taken at one time and how it was supposed to be physically impossible for a human being to live through such an overdose. He said, "But, I did live and because I lived, I must be here for a purpose.  Do you think it's possible for a human being to do a redo?"  I told him that was the whole message of Christianity.  You can start over.

I have a friend who once wanted a car. It was 1974, and he had so much passion for this car that it was all he could talk about.  A while back he wrote me.  He said that he had seen the same exact car he had wanted so badly back then, parked on his street. He looked at it and it had big rust holes in it.  He said, "I can't believe I invested so much time and energy in desiring that car.  A car is a car.  Once it starts rusting, it just keeps on rusting.  You patch one hole and a new one emerges."

The human body is an amazing thing.  Every cell is continuously being replaced.  The only thing that we carry as we get older are the opinions of who we think we are, what we think we can do, and how far we think we can succeed or not.  We carry those things like luggage.  We spend a lot of time packing and unpacking it.

New Year's clearing out and taking a fresh start is not a one-day event.  It happens all year long. Every morning is a new beginning and unpacking useless baggage in the subconscious mind continues daily. It is going beyond yourself--not to expect the worst in 2021, but to expect the best; to know: “God is really with me and I can expect the best.”  You have the right to expect the best because you are a beloved child of God. You have the right to expect the best because you are created in the image and likeness of God and as Jesus said, “It is God’s good pleasure to give to you the riches of the Kingdom of Heaven.”

But then, that old ego voice comes up and says, "Yes, but remember what you've done in the past or how you haven't lived up to being a child of God in the past."  But since every morning is the beginning of a brand-new day, you can transcend your own biography of who you have been in the past.

I was listening to a fundamentalist minister preach the other day. He was telling a story to the Sunday School children.  Let me tell you the story.

He said, The devil had an auction in which he was auctioning off all of his tools.  People were looking around at all the tools and they came to one tool that said, "Not for sale."  The devil said, "I can't sell you that tool, because that is the one tool that I can't be without."  The people were fascinated by this.  They wanted to know what that one tool was, so they looked on the back of it and saw a label that said, "Tool For Discouragement."

Discouragement is the one tool that once it's inside of us, it's hard to overcome.  It’s hard to remember God.  It's hard for us to do what we want to do because we get discouraged.  We think that we just aren't what we need to be.  We think that we just ‘aren’t enough’ to get the job done. The word ‘encouragement’ comes from a Greek idiom meaning: ”To walk alongside in the Presence of God.” You feel ‘encouraged’ when you realized that you are not alone, and that God is everywhere present and always with you. You ‘encourage’ another when you remember that God is within and around them too. Discouragement is forgetting or not knowing that you ‘live move and have your being in the one presence and one power.”

When you catch yourself thinking down thoughts about yourself and your possibilities, remember that story and who's talking to you. Affirm: “I am one with God and God will supply.”  It's not God talking to you.  It's not your indwelling Christ, your higher self, talking to you.  It's your little self; your lower self; your human self; your lower mind; your unbelieving self that is talking down to you and telling you that you are alone.  It is your human self, thinking that you are alone and a victim of circumstances. When you catch yourself giving yourself fail messages, that is the time you need to correct yourself by shifting to a higher level of Mind within you. It is time to stop talking down to yourself and to listen to God telling you that all things are possible for him or her who believes.  God will never give you a downward message or talk to you in a discouraging way.  God will never call you a worm of the dust or tell you what you can't do.

It's the reverse that is the Truth that will set you free.  God is the giver of great ideas; not generic ideas but great ideas for you to use in your own life.  God is all good, endless good inside of you, and love.  You will never hear a negative thought or word from God.  So, when you pray, if you're beginning to get negative messages, that is the human part of you that should be quiet.  Listen to the all-positive voice of God.

Many times, as we carry our luggage into a New Year, we carry it for a reason.  It gives us some sense of comfort.  Even though it brings a hell to our world, it brings us comfort because it is familiar.  Many people would prefer known hells to unknown heavens.  Do you know what I'm talking about?

Let me tell you another story. There was a man some years ago who was a prisoner of war. It was decided to do a psychological study on him.  So, he was offered two options for death. The first option was that he could have death by a firing squad. They took him into the room and showed him where the men stood with the rifles and where he would stand against the wall.  They told him about the command to open fire and how the bullets would destroy his body.  His second option was a closed door.  They told him that he could choose to walk through that door and to experience whatever was on the other side as his fate. He asked them what was through the 2nd door and his captors told him, "Unknown hells." The man chose the firing squad and died.  He didn’t realize that if he had chosen to go through the other door, he would have discovered ‘unknown hells’ was actually freedom from prison.

So many times, we stay in a hellish existence, habit or frame of mind because it is familiar. Through the door of freedom are unknown hells (or so we think). How much better it would be if we could walk towards that door and say, "Okay God, I'm going in a new direction and I'm frightened.  But I'm going to walk with you, God.  I know that You are walking before me and I know that You are going to bring unbelievable good to me and my life.  I'm going to walk with You and I'm going to believe with a deep, deep faith."

But you say that you've failed so many times before.  Let me tell you, if at first you don't succeed, you're running about average.  It's true.  Occasional failure is the price of improvement. If you were to start a career of being a great painter, you would have several paintings that would not be up to the quality that you would want. But that would lead you to the direction of the masterpiece.  Everything you have done leads you to the masterpiece that is you.  Thank God for your failures because they will lead you in the direction of success. I love the story of Abraham Lincoln. Abraham Lincoln failed in business at 22 years of age. When he was 23, he ran for the legislature and was defeated.  When he was 24, he failed at business and went bankrupt.  When he was 25, he was elected to the legislature.  When he was 26 his sweetheart died.  This so destroyed him that at 27 he had a nervous breakdown.  When he was 29, he ran for Speaker and was defeated.  When he was 31, he ran for Lector and was defeated.  When he was 34, he ran for Congress and was defeated.  When he was 37, he was elected to Congress.  When he was 39, he ran for re-election to Congress and was defeated.  When he was 46, he ran for the Senate and was defeated.  And when he was 51, he was elected President of the United States.

This is a great story because no one would have blamed Lincoln if he had given up at any one of those times.  Of course, if he had given up you would never have heard his name and inspiring story. There are tens of millions of people whose name you've never heard because they gave up instead of beginning again and experiencing a fresh start.

A wonderful story is told of a minister who had a dream.  In it he had a sledgehammer and every day he cracked it against a huge granite monument.  Finally, he gave up, saying, "I can't do this anymore.  No matter how hard I try or how long I keep doing this I'm not making any difference."  Then he heard a voice that said, "Hit it one more time."  With the next blow, the rock cracked in half. That's the way life often is. Yes, we've all had many failures.  But we have to keep on keeping on.  The only time we get discouraged is when we think we are doing it alone and we don't know how we're going to go any further.  We don't know how we can overcome the great problems that are facing us. It is in that moment that we need to hold the hand of God inside of us and say, "I can't do it alone.  God I am walking with you.  Help me take one more step."  After that step, ask God to help you to take the next step.  Keep on asking God to help you to take one step at a time. When you do this, you will have the strength to not only endure the journey but to transform your life.

You have unlimited strength inside of you because you have God inside of you.  There is not one person in the universe who doesn't have that overcoming connectedness with God.  Whether you believe it or not, you still have it.

Our human minds can imprison us.  Our human mind can forget about turning to God. It can refuse to tap into our God potential which will release the great power and overcoming strength of God to flow through us at any moment.

There is a wonderful story about Notre Dame. In 1924 Knute Rockney had laryngitis so badly that he couldn't speak a word.  Yet, he had to give a pep talk to his players.  So, he decided that he would take his team to a room that was next to the room where the opposing team was.  Their coach was one of the best pep-talkers in the world.  He told his players that he couldn't talk, but he told them to listen to the other coach's message because it was true for them, too.  After this, they went on to win the game.

Well, I like to listen to or read the messages of other Unity Ministers because the pep talk is the same.  Sometimes I have to change some of the words to make it a vital and alive Unity message, but Truth is Truth. And the Truth is that there is an all-present, good God that is available to me and you and to everyone, everywhere including right where you are; a God that will make your now moment special and your tomorrow better than ever before. In recent months, I have heard people say that with the problems they are experiencing that they are not sure if their life is worth living. Many people feel that the weight of their problems is too great for them to go on. Some people feel that the weight of our country’s problems is so great that they can’t be overcome. Many young people are saying they don’t want to bring children into the world just to watch them suffer limitation and fail. Well, it is that mindset that makes it difficult to succeed.

As Einstein said, “You can’t solve a problem from the same level of mind that created it.” It takes a greater mind, a higher level of mind, to overcome these human created problems. That's one of the main reasons we have problems.  Problems are opportunities for us to expand into the Mind of God and to bring new energy from God as solutions to our humanly created problems. God is bigger than any problem.  I don't care what you're facing, God is bigger.  Have you ever asked yourself, “Is my concept and experience of God big enough to handle this?” God is the Source and Creator of everything so God can figure out a way when to your human mind there seems to be no way.  God can work out a solution, too, but you have to do your part.  You have to consent and allow that Mind of God to work through your mind.  Then you have to go out and work as God directs. A basic Truth Principle is that if you have a problem (a need) the solution (the supply) is already present because God is everywhere, equally present at all times.

Thomas Edison said, "Genius is one percent inspiration and 99% perspiration."  You go to God in prayer first, acknowledge the need and then ask God for guidance. Once you receive your guidance, you work and work and work as God directs.  By holding the hand of God and taking one step at a time, one day at a time, you can overcome anything. In fact, that is how life is created to work.

Edgar Allen Poe once said, "Those who dream by day are aware of many things that escape those who only dream at night."  Become a daydreamer, but not in your human mind.  Become a daydreamer who realizes that there is no lack but a lack of faith in God and ignorance of our relationship of oneness with God. There is no sickness in the soul, but a sense of separation from God.  Become the kind of dreamer who knows that you can go beyond where you have been and become something great for humanity and for yourself.

Many people die at age 21, but they're not buried until they're 91.  Don't be that way. Have a funeral in your life to end the year 2020 and bury the words "I can't" and "but." The word "but" usually has a chain attached to it, and this chain is attached to past baggage.  Some people say, "I'm doing the best I can under the circumstances."  What are you, an unlimited child of God doing ‘under the circumstances.’

You have been created to go beyond the circumstances and with God, you can go move mountains because with God all things are possible.  With God, you can have the greatest gift of all in 2021, and that is a fresh start.

God bless you!


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