The Truth About Forgiveness

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Regarding the subject of forgiveness, a powerful illustration of the core principle is found in the story of Joseph and his brothers who sold him into slavery. After a long ordeal, from which he finally emerged triumphant, Joseph confronted his brothers with this statement: “You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good (Gen. 50:20).

In our attempt to take the spiritually correct position with forgiveness, we may try to ignore the negative actions of others by treating our reaction to them as the central issue. While there is some wisdom in doing this, it often results in buried resentment. To the world, we appear to have taken the high road and moved on. But the embers of resentment toward the perpetrator continue to quietly smolder.

Joseph brings directly into the spotlight the destructive intention of his brothers. But he doesn’t stop there. He recognizes that their evil intentions became, for him, part of the path to his greater good. He wasn’t commending them for their brilliance, or crediting them for the role they played in catapulting him to the second most powerful position in Egypt. His focus was on the bigger picture.

Those who do us harm, usually really do mean us harm. In the name of forgiveness, we may attempt to dismiss their intention by simply saying they were having a bad day when, in truth, they, like Joseph’s brothers, schemed for weeks and months to find the perfect way to act out their resentment.

But we can’t afford to stop with simply identifying motives. We, like Joseph, want to grasp the bigger picture that worked out for our highest good. This may take some time. We may still be reeling from the thing that was done to us. We can’t yet see how any greater good can possibly come of it.

Yet holding to this possibility is the key to forgiveness. The time will come when you, like Joseph, look back and see that if his brothers had not sold him into slavery, he never would have become the second most powerful man in Egypt. As such, he rescued the entire nation of Israel, including his brothers (now quaking in their sandals), from famine. With a single word, he could have ordered their imprisonment, or execution. But he didn’t need to do this. He had found his center of power by understanding the higher process that had brought him there.

When you’re fixated on the negative actions of another, think of Joseph and his ordeal. Despite those who would do him harm, he came out on top. And so will you.

It Sells, But is it True?

If you pick up a Daily Word or a Unity Magazine published in the 40s or 50s, you’ll find a level of spiritual substance that’s missing from today’s publications. This absence won’t be noticed by many of today’s readers, largely because we’re experiencing a culture that has traded actual substance for “likes” and “hits.” If it sells, it must be true.

The deterioration of a spiritual movement is a deterioration of spiritual values. The original value system is grounded in the soul level. Over time the system migrates to the more surface, easily accessible interests of the popular culture. We move from cultivating our own orchard to settling for plucking the low hanging fruit from another’s. We try to re-dress the core values in the latest fashions, but it isn’t long before the latest fashions become the basis of the core values. Genuine  values either take a back seat or go into the trunk. It’s no longer about the message. It’s about the rock band or the coffee and donuts.

It’s safe for me to say that my ministerial career has reached an all-time low. Nationally and locally, I’ve either exposed or said “no” to so many people and situations that I’m no longer welcome in the circles I used to hang with. This, of course, has been my choice. My decisions were always based on knowing the difference between what sells today and what is true forever. I do not lament my choices. I lament the fact that I invested my life in a spiritual movement that clearly has lost the ability to discern the difference.

I am deeply grateful that I could pursue a career that allowed me to explore and teach the universal principles that are the key to a meaningful life. I’m even more grateful for the spiritual teachers who instilled in me the courage to go it alone.

High and low moments come and go. Sometimes it’s a lively party and sometimes it’s a lonely, dark night of the soul. In the right season, people will tell you how great you are, but you really don’t find your soul’s greatness until you’re plunged into the dark night. We find our greatest strength when we become willing to confront our greatest weakness. We rarely do this at the party.

My career is not over. To the contrary, it’s just beginning. I’ve discovered that if I can find my strength alone, I can share it at the party. I don’t believe I came into this life to run with the slickest, most popular herd. I came to bear witness to the Truth as it’s given to me.

The teachers I admire the most did the same. They knew what it was to walk alone with their God, with their principles. Their ability to do so inspired others to do the same. If we don’t do this ourselves, no one else is going to do it for us.

The Truth About The Spiritual Path

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A path is defined as “a way or track laid down for walking or made by continual treading.” We’re all familiar with paths or hiking trails, a means of getting from one place to another.

Most people think of the spiritual path in a similar way. We tend to see it as a process of soul development, of moving from one place in our soul’s growth to another more advanced condition. A literal path involves time and space. You’re at a given point on the path–a point in space–and as you walk, time passes and you’re in another place.

While this seems an applicable analogy to spiritual development, there’s another way to think of our experience on the path. Regardless of how long the path is, and regardless of where it leads or how long you’ve been on it, you can only say, “I’m here now.” You can think about some point ahead or some place you passed, but you can only be at the point you presently occupy.

This is the key to understanding the spiritual path. There’s no point you can reach in the future when your soul will be more than it is now. Neither were you something less in the past. The full force of life is concentrated as you, at this moment, right where you are, regardless of your circumstances.

Your soul is not subject to time and space. You don’t have a set of required lessons to learn that will take you further down the spiritual path. If right now you think you will gain more of your soul in the future, then in the future you will still think the same. You’ll always be plagued with the false notion that something essential is lacking.

Hold the thought that you are spiritually complete right now. Yes, you’re on a path, a series of circumstances that you call your life. But you won’t find more of who and what you are in more and different circumstances. You’re here now, you’ll always be here, and you’ll always be spiritually complete.

 

 

 

True Prosperity

Jesus referred to the lilies of the field and the birds of the air as prime examples of the prospering life. These do not reach out away from themselves for the knowledge to successfully interface with their environment. Nor do they stockpile that which, for them, is the wealth that will comfortably sustain their future existence.

Every plant and every creature is naturally attuned to the preservation of the body. They don’t possess the creative imagination that allows them to invent a false sense of self, or to consider that which sustains it as the epitome of prosperity. Prosperity is that sustaining element embedded in each moment. They flourish in their world, build their homes, reproduce, and feed their families by being true to what they are right now. The robin does not need to soar like the eagle, and the eagle does not pluck worms from the earth. (from The Complete Soul)

The Las Vegas Incident

A very respected friend asked if I would speak Sunday about the Las Vegas shooting. She wanted me to address three questions: Why does it happen? When will it end? How can I rise above it? I’d like to address these questions here.

Q: Why does it happen?
A: There are a lot of very messed up people on this planet. We like to think that most see the world as we do, that we make mistakes, and we try to correct them. We may have a flawed, even painful history that we work to correct. We’re probably right in thinking that most people are trying to do the same. But most is not all, and it only takes one deranged individual to grab the headlines by committing mass homicide. How many deranged individuals are there in the world? All the numbers and statistics generated by the professionals probably don’t include that person next door that actually ends up pulling that trigger.

Q: When will it end?
A: It won’t. Since the beginning of recorded history, human beings have committed senseless atrocities against other human beings. These things happen and our leaders stand up and declare we must pass laws that guarantee such things will never happen again. Yet, even after all of these countless declarations, we’ve just witnessed the worst mass shooting in recent American history.

Tim McVeigh, in his Oklahoma City bombing, killed 168 innocent people with a fertilizer-based bomb, simply because he hated the U.S. government. If we can appease every beef that every individual has with whoever affected them at some strange point in their life, then we may be able to end the human-on-human atrocities. Personally, I don’t see this happening any time soon.

Q: How can I rise above it?
A: A truly empathetic person will never rise above the shock or the pain of loss that this kind of situation generates. We all think: What if my kid was there? We can’t imagine a concert, intended for pure entertainment, turning into a struggle for survival. We can’t imagine the shock families and friends must experience when they’re given the horrible news that a loved one has just been killed by some self-loathing guy with a death wish. How do you rise above it? You don’t. And you shouldn’t even try. At least not now.

We’ll all put this in perspective. We’ll get on with our lives. And … we’ll all meet that moment when we step from this body. The death of the body is not an end. I don’t think any one of us will condemn the means by which we leave our body. We’ll all be grateful for the adventures we had on this planet. But, relatively speaking, none of us will be here all that long. We won’t stop the killers. But the killers will never stop us.

From, The Complete Soul

Our prodigal awareness, forever trolling the reef-laden shallows of the material domain, never quite forgets that our real home has no shores. We sit in the safety of the harbor with our books, our teachers and our sacred scriptures. We visit the beach, gaze in reverence and wonder into that mist-shrouded horizon that stirs in us a strange mix of mystery and primordial familiarity. With our values, our house and our affairs orderly and firmly established in harbor life, we think a certain way, the starting point always from these surrounding beaches. We contemplate and read about the sea and we seek to reconcile the fact that we are so deeply moved by this boundless vista, this restless living thing that stirs before us.

Then, at some unexpected moment, a profound revelation breaks into our awareness. Our house may indeed stand in the harbor, our ship, safely moored at the pier, but our true home is the open sea. This incessant longing that keeps bringing us back to the wonder we behold from this beach, to the feel of cool waves washing over our feet, is that completed part of us that never has and never shall leave the unconditional freedom of this eternal sea. To know this truth and to value it above all is to put our heart in the Truth that makes us free.

The Truth About Miracles

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Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people.  They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over.  The number of those who ate was about five thousand men, besides women and children (Matthew 14:19-21).

If we consider Jesus our spiritual example, if we take him at his word that the works he did we can do also, and greater things, a story like this, meant to inspire, can inadvertently discourage. How many of us are even close to being able to perform such a miracle? This type story forces us to conclude that Jesus was either a different kind of human, or we have a very, very long way to go in our quest for spiritual understanding.

I have heard the concept of a miracle described in two ways. The first is “a surprising and welcome event that is not explicable by natural or scientific laws and is therefore considered to be the work of a divine agency.” The second sees the miracle as “the fulfillment of a natural law we do not yet understand.” A prehistoric people who witnessed a jumbo jet flying over their heads, for example, would undoubtedly conclude they had witnessed a miracle. Yet the laws that allow a multi-ton craft to fly were as much in place then as now. A miracle to one is routine to another.

If we focus on this story as a miracle, we miss the principle it teaches. There is a condition of lack and apparently not enough supply to meet the need. Jesus, looking up to heaven, took his eyes off the appearance. He gave thanks for the answer before it was apparent. He then took the action of passing out the little he had. In other words, he began giving in the very face of lack, a clear act of faith. One writer suggested that as he began to give, others, following his lead, brought out food they surely would have taken with them. After all, five-thousand desert dwellers would not be foolish enough to venture into the wilderness without proper provisions.

Such stories, passed down orally for decades, undoubtedly suffer from excessive elaboration. God incarnate, after all, must be shown to wield power over nature. The problem is that we place our faith in the so-called miracle worker and miss the transforming principle that we can apply to our own situation. In most cases, it doesn’t take an inexplicable breach in natural law to bring a desired change. Action based on trust in God is the real change agent demonstrated by Jesus. This is certainly a thing he did that we can do as well.