I Am The Vine

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Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in me, and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:4-5).

Using this simple metaphor, Jesus beautifully illustrates the relationship each individual has with his or her spiritual source. God, our creator/sustainer, is like the vine from which we grow. To abide in God is to live with the awareness of God as the source of our being.

Because we often draw our identity from external sources—job, family, social level, etc.—we may feel overwhelmed when challenges sweep through our lives. These words from John remind us to pause, and to reconnect to our source. In the seventh verse, Jesus makes this promise: “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you will, and it shall be done for you.”

How do we abide in God? Through prayer. In Unity we teach that prayer is a two-fold process. First we are to release the negative energy that appearances stir in us. This is called, denial. Let go your emotional attachments, your fears, your anger, to that which you do not want. Speak words like this: I now release all emotions of fear and doubt. Next, move into the second half of the prayer process by affirming, God is my source, God is my strength. My life is now unfolding in divine order.

Allow yourself to experience the lightness of letting go, and the infilling of assurance that your life is unfolding perfectly, according to the divine blueprint that is being imparted from within your being.

In the same way the fruit of the vine manifests from within the branch, so a spiritually ordered life will manifest through your inner being and through every facet of your life. Abide often in the awareness of God as your source, then ask whatever you will, and it shall be done for you. 

The Dynamics of Challenge

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Excerpt from: A Practical Guide to Prosperous Living

It is important to realize that every new enterprise, every decision you make to pursue your passion is going to evoke some level of confrontation between the stronger and the weaker elements of your self-image. You will set your goals based on your strengths, your talents, your interests and your dreams. In the process of manifesting them, however, you will encounter challenges that will summon all your weaknesses as well. Self-doubt, fear of failure, feelings of lack, impatience, anger, lethargy and indifference will all creep in at the most inappropriate times. Like Job, you may find yourself saying, “The thing I feared is upon me and the thing I dreaded is now before me.” Many worthy undertakings have been brought to a grinding halt by these unwelcome thieves of our creative energy.

You need not be taken by surprise when this seemingly negative side of your consciousness arises. While it may not always be comfortable or convenient, the arousal of these stifling elements is both inevitable and necessary. They arise from that limited aspect of your identity which is crying out to be redefined from the basis of your soul.

Because of the discomfort or even pain involved in dealing with them, the temptation is to suppress these unwanted elements. But unless the things you fear most come upon you, unless they are brought into the full light of your awareness, you will never be able to trace them back to their sources and permanently release the negative influence they have on your circumstantial tendencies.

Faith in The Greater Good

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While we commonly associate faith with a set of religious beliefs, it is much more than this. Faith is one of our most important faculties, one that works closely with the imagination. Consider the overall feeling that you carry about your life. Think about how you imagine it to be. If you find that you carry a feeling of apprehension, and that you often entertain a negative vision for your life, it may be time for a reset.

It is helpful to remember that any feeling of apprehension we carry is simply an accumulation of unprocessed thought and emotion. By unprocessed I mean those things we think about but do not resolve. We leave them hanging. We lay them in the mental inbox thinking we’ll deal with them later. But it doesn’t take long for the inbox to fill up, leaving us with the looming feeling that something ominous is lurking.

We can address this feeling by taking those things we have put on hold and bringing them into the light of our faith in greater good unfolding. When we can’t literally take action to resolve an issue, we can decide to resolve it emotionally. It may be helpful to revisit a book that inspired us, to read again those meaningful passages we have highlighted but forgotten. There is a reason we have stepped upon this path of faith that we travel, and we may rediscover helpful reminders that encouraged us in earlier times.  

Faith in the greater good translates as peace of mind. Faith, accompanied with any action we can take is a stress-dissolving combination. We inventory our inbox with the intention of addressing the items we have tossed in there. The simple decision to do so is an empowering act of faith in the greater good. The simplest step in this direction has a way of opening doors that we may have thought were locked tight.

If you carry any sense of apprehension, make the choice today to revive your faith in the greater good unfolding now. It doesn’t take much to change the way you feel about your life.

This Battle is Not Yours

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Do not fear or be dismayed at this great multitude; for the battle is not yours but God’s.

2 Chronicles 20:15 

Everyone has moments of uncertainty, of trial, of self doubt, and even despair. In these moments we seek help from all kinds of sources: books, counselors, ministers, doctors, friends, or family members. Any one of these may pass on some level of assurance that things are going to work out, that harmony will be restored in our body or in our affairs. With this bit of assurance, we rest a little better, regain some of our optimism, and turn our attention to more creative endeavors.

  It is a freeing thought to realize that the strength we seem to draw from others is really a process of opening our minds to our own deeper resource. In consciously returning to this inner resource we find the battle is not ours, that the great harmonizing power of God working through us is bringing about a satisfying solution. In quietness and trust in this truth, the flame of new strength is kindled.

When we are consumed with a problem, we have simply relegated our attention to one miniscule aspect of our being. Our entire universe revolves around it. There is nothing that can sever your connection with God, your limitless source of energy and inspiration that lifts you out of even the apparently tightest corners. Regardless of how far you feel you have strayed from your God center, God is still present and still flooding your being with the strength and assurance you need to move beyond this current stretch of uncertainty.

Begin now to know that whatever the challenge, whatever the battle you are involved in it is not your battle but God’s. Enter the peace of letting go your frantic search for answers. Be still and trust that the answers you need are now forthcoming. Turn from the apparent adversity and let new strength and courage rise from the core of your being.

This battle is not yours, friend. Know that God is working through you in beautifully satisfying ways right now.

A Prayer of Guidance

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“He who hath led me to this way, Still on the way will show.

He who hath taught me of this way, Still more will make me know.”

– Emma Curtis Hopkins

For many years, this has been a favorite verse of mine. In times of confusion and uncertainty it reminds me to pause and put things in a proper spiritual perspective. Life is full of surprises and challenges that at times seem to push us beyond our capacity to roll with the changes. We can become so immersed in the details of appearances that we lose touch with the bigger picture. It’s good to pause, take a few deep breaths, and affirm again that we are being guided and instructed in ways that contribute to our greater good and well-being.

In affirming guidance, it’s important to remember that your unfolding greater good is also the greater good for those whose lives you touch. How this could be true may not always be clear. But if you embrace the truth that you are indeed being shown the best and highest way, you can rest assured that the guiding hand of divine wisdom is directing your steps even through moments of uncertainty.    

And what is this way you were taught? It is the way of spiritual principle. Do not judge by appearances. Believe you have received that which you ask for in prayer. Lift your spiritual eyes to behold the fields ready now for harvest. Your faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. In other words, assume a confident and peaceful attitude that things are unfolding in exactly the right way, that every step you take is the right step.

The greatest fruit of prayer is the peace of mind that inspires in you the freedom to live your life creatively and confidently. The wisdom that brought you to this place in your life knows how to carry you forward. It knows how to impart the light of guidance that lights your path. Be at peace, and trust that your life is now unfolding exactly as it should.

Distinctively Human

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As I weigh in on the question of what makes us human, I do so from a spiritual rather than from a scientific basis. Science, as you know, is grounded in materialism, explaining human qualities by what can be measured and observed. We walk upright, we have opposing thumbs, and we have a large brain. We study our ancestor’s fossilized bones and the trail of artifacts they left behind. From these lines of evidence, we draw comparisons and conclusions on what sets us apart from the rest of the animal kingdom.

Many in the scientific community were stunned by how close the human genetic makeup is to that of the chimpanzee. Yet if our genetic makeup is the determining factor, why is it not the chimpanzee that is conducting this fascinating research?

I maintain that it is our faculty of imagination that sets us apart. While science considers this amazing ability as a function of the brain, there is mounting evidence that the reverse is closer to the truth. A growing segment of research scientists recognize the brain as a transmitting tool of consciousness. I also suspect that the ancient Hebrew was insightful enough to know it was not the physical but the spiritual aspect of our being that prompted him to state we are created in the image and likeness of God.

Jesus reminded his following of common people that they had the ability to see the completed harvest that the rest of the world would treat as an event of the future. We do not know where our faculty of imagination can lead us. While we are often prone to simply let it drift aimlessly through mental and emotional landscapes that have little transformative value, this amazing faculty remains available and waiting to carry us into new frontiers of personal discovery and deeper self-realization.

As members of the human species, you and I are endowed with a capacity that sets us in a unique position among the creatures of the world. How we use this distinctively human faculty is up to each one of us.

The Word of God

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It is clear that the author of John is not thinking of written texts when he refers to the Word of God. He states that without this Word, “… nothing was made that has been made.” He is attempting to explain the creative mechanism that directs the universal energy of life and intelligence into individual form. In this Word is life, “… and that life is the light (intelligence) of men.” In other words, John is describing God, not as a collection of written texts, but as the Creative Life Force.

In Unity, we do not tell people what to think. We teach them how to think. What does this mean? If you think of yourself as being separate from your spiritual source, limited by your present understanding, you’ll approach your life from this limited basis. If you think of yourself, as John suggests, as a living expression of God, connected with the creative intelligence that produces all that is made, you’ll open your mind to greater possibilities.

Treating the Bible as our sole line of communication with God turns our attention away from our true source of guidance. Yes, we can draw inspiration from the Bible and other written sources, but it is the living intelligence of God within that truly guides. I’m sure this is why Paul stated that “the written code kills, but the Spirit gives life” (2Cor. 3:6). The written code does not kill in a literal sense, but in an inspirational sense.

One way of directing our attention to the living Word of God within is through our use of the spoken word. Speaking words that align with what is true helps establish this truth in our thinking. Try using a statement like this throughout your day:

God, the living Word within me, is now guiding me in all ways. Affirming that every step I take is the right step, I move through my life in confidence and in peace. Thank you God, that this is so.

The living Word of God is your life, the very light that brightens your path. Call upon it in your darker moments of uncertainty, and your way will surely become clear.  

The Cradle of Humankind

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A combination of the fossil record and research into DNA indicates that the origin of our human species is found in east Africa, a region that has, in fact, been designated as the cradle of humankind. Here, some of the earliest known fossils of our prehistoric ancestors, dating back millions of years, have been discovered. Studies in human origins reveal there have been many branches of our family tree that have gone extinct.

This, I’m sure is among the reasons that prominent researchers in this field – Donald Johanson and Richard Leaky, for example – have declared themselves atheists. Their understanding of the human being is quite different from that of the ancient Hebrew, who depicts the first humans, Adam and Eve and their descendants, as a fully developed modern species.

While the literalist sees the Bible as a transmission from God to humankind, in truth it is a transmission from human beings to human beings. The shortcoming in science is found in its materialism, defining the human being by brain size and bone structure. Both systems appear to leave out a critical element that forces them into an either/or mentality, fueling the ongoing battle between science and religion. This critical element is the human soul.

The physical body is but the vehicle of the soul. That this vehicle has undergone dramatic changes through the eons can hardly be disputed. However, brain size and skeletal structure do not determine soul size. My understanding of the changeless spiritual reality from which we arise has caused me to conclude that the soul has never evolved. At any given moment in our history, it is the physical aspect of our being, not the spiritual, that has adapted to its environment. The spiritual is an infinite reservoir of intelligence that has enabled this adaptation to occur.

We can think of the physical body itself as the cradle of humankind, as it cradles the soul, allowing us to interface with the material environment as we find it. From this perspective, the notion of a complete soul inhabiting an evolving body can help us strike some measure of balance between our empirical and spiritual interests.

Mystery Rocks

Our Journey Home Series

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Some weeks ago, I mentioned a field of boulders I have observed in the desert area north of Grand Junction. I mentioned them because I couldn’t understand how they could have ended up where they are. Knowing there were a couple of geologists in a Facebook group where I often post photos, I asked if anyone had some ideas. I received many very interesting responses, including this one: “Read your Bible. The great flood of Noah’s time and its resulting runoff is responsible for most of the world’s geological mysteries.” I thanked the author, told him I’ve been a minister for 40+ years, and that I was familiar with the Bible. Then I added, “I won’t argue religion here, only to say that I cannot take Noah and the ark literally. However, the ice age floods could very well have inspired that story, since ocean levels rose 400 feet or so.” His response: “A minister who refuses to believe the word of God. Good luck with that.” In contrast, another reader wrote this: “You’re the first minister I’ve ever witnessed say something like that. I feel like you make me want to study the Bible again. Just wanted you to know.”

I share this story because it illustrates the firm belief in a literal interpretation of the Bible. I did not want to go into the fact that the flood story is a combination of two stories, one saying two of every kind of animal went into the ark, while the other says seven. Both stories appear to be based on a much older Babylonian myth – The Epic of Gilgamesh – written on clay tablets.

An important part of our journey home includes a willingness to open our minds to separate spiritual fact from fiction. As we have seen, the Bible is a rich source of spiritual truth couched in story, poem, and psalm. The writers use history as their framework for conveying their spiritual message, which always takes precedence over historical fact. As one scholar suggested, we should not confuse the writings of the Bible with journalism.

The geologists offered some fascinating explanations of how the boulders may have been placed. None of their explanations lessened my faith or undermined my interest in the Bible.   

The Messianic Dilemma

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For nearly two thousand years, the mainstream Christian community has awaited the return of Jesus and the day of reckoning that he will trigger. Upon his return, the sheep will be separated from the goats, the wheat from the chaff, the good fish from the bad, or, to put it in concise terms, the saved from the unsaved. The Jewish community has been waiting even longer.

The Christian mystic, on the other hand, has never hung his or her hope on the return of this man. Rooted in principles that predate the advent of Jesus, his appearance and the ensuing movement that followed influenced their vocabulary, not their principles. For them, the omnipresence and accessibility of God is an eternal reality awaiting recognition of the persistent contemplative. A day of judgment may make sense to the judgmental, but it has no place in one who has come to know the changeless nature of God.

Even though the writers of the gospels did so, I do not believe Jesus presented himself as the expected messiah. This designation was developed by the early followers to inspire the hope that not all was lost with the death of their leader. This is one of many instances where Jesus directed attention away from himself: “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone” (Mark 10:18).

God alone is the unchanging source of all. There is indeed a need for salvation from the poverty, disease, unrest, and discord that arise from the belief that we are separate from God. But this salvation does not come in the form of a long-haired man with outstretched arms appearing in the clouds with a fanfare of trumpets and an entourage of angels. It comes in quiet moments of inner reflection. Only here, in the sanctuary of our own being, can we discover the inner wholeness that is our spiritual core, our soul, that which is already perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect.

We can continue to wait for our savior, or we can follow the advice of one who obviously knew what he was talking about: “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened” (Matthew 7:7-8).