Beverly is an international lecturer and author on A Course in Miracles. She became a student of the Course in 1977 and, with her brother Richard, founded Miracle Distribution Center (MDC) in 1978. Next to the Course’s publisher, MDC is the longest running organization based on A Course in Miracles and is respected for its service and commitment to students’ understanding and application of the material. Its popular publication, The Holy Encounter, of which Beverly is the editor and primary writer, is read by thousands around the world.
Bringing the Course into practical day-to-day living is Beverly’s hallmark. Audio and video recordings of her weekly lectures are sent to subscribers around the world each week.
In 1983 Steven Halpern and Beverly created the first in a best-selling series of recordings (seven in all) with readings from the Course underscored by Halpern’s world-renowned healing music.
Lead Articles by Beverly Hutchinson McNeff
These articles by the president of Miracle Distribution Center have appeared as front cover features of The Holy Encounter.
Click on a title to open that article.
The Light Has Come
By Beverly Hutchinson McNeff
If there is light in the soul, there will be beauty in the person.
If there is beauty in the person, there will be harmony in the house.
If there is harmony in the house, there will be order in the nation.
If there is order in the nation, there will be peace in the world.
– Chinese Proverb
Can all of this truly come from light? Yes, according to every great spiritual teaching. The light is not some external illumination but instead an internal affirmation of the truth, power, and presence that abides within each of us. I remember how I saw the light leave my dad’s body when he died. It was not something I could see with my physical eyes. It was something I felt with my heart. But I could also feel that the “light” — the energy that he truly was and is — was not gone, but rather now a part of everything and certainly part of me.
That is the light that workbook lesson 75 from A Course in Miracles is referring to. And, yes, the light has come. This thought will be the focus of Miracle Distribution Center’s international conference this year, and I think it comes at a very appropriate time. With so much turmoil in the world (and perhaps in your own life) we need to be reminded of the power that abides within us right now to heal our lives and thereby the world.
Our healing answer will never dawn on our mind when we think this person or that situation needs to change. Healing will only occur as we focus on the truth: the light within each one of us – the light that connects us to each other and to our Source. The darkness of our lives has become the focus for many of us today. The media shows us devastation around the world, we hear of shootings in our neighborhoods, and we experience our own acts of anger and judgment. What can we do? A Course in Miracles offers us a powerful and simple thought: The light has come. We need to lift our vision from the problems of the world, not in denial, but in healing. To focus on the truth is not a denial of what is happening; it is finally looking at what is happening and seeing it for what it is: a call for love and healing.
This lesson says, “We do not want to see the ego’s shadow on the world today. We see the light, and in it we see Heaven’s reflection lie across the world.” It then asks us to practice this thought: The light has come. I have forgiven the world.
When we dwell in darkness (feelings of anger, depression, fear, guilt, etc.) we allow the shadow of the ego to permeate our view of the world. How can we hope for peace when we dwell in darkness? Even if peace were present (which we are assured it is), we would not see it, for our focus is distorted and clouded by the darkness.
The 23rd Psalm in the Bible is such a beautiful and comforting thought. One part of it says…
“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for thou art with me. Your rod and Your staff they comfort me. …”
During the time of the Bible, there was great darkness and despair. For the shepherd (whom this psalm is addressing) the things most important to him in his life were his rod and staff. Those things, though, could only truly comfort him when he knew God was with him and that God was the purpose in those things. And so it is with us. Today our comfort items might be our cell phones, computers, iPads, cars, etc., but they can only comfort us if we know God – our Source, the Light – is with us. Otherwise, we will be an empty black hole searching the universe for something to fill us up, experiencing only fear, destruction, and finally death.
When our son, Jeffrey, was in second grade, he learned about dinosaurs, and so we all learned about dinosaurs. When you look back at an extinct species you can see how everything seemed to have a purpose. Even though humans were not around when dinosaurs ruled the earth, we have learned quite a bit from their fossils. We know, for example, that the T. Rex (the top of the food chain) had parallax vision, as we do. This means that its eyes were closer together so its vision could cross and thus experience depth perception, which was necessary for it to hunt its prey. The animals it feasted on did not have this vision. They had eyes on each side of their heads, which gave them the advantage of a wider range of vision. They could then notice more quickly when a predator was near. So, each had what it needed to have for its survival on the earth.
This is the same for us! We each have exactly what we need for our real “survival.” The particular job we do, family we have, background we find ourselves a part of, is exactly what we need for our awakening. As we read in A Course in Miracles, “It takes great learning to understand that all things, events, encounters and circumstances are helpful.” (M10)
Every relationship and encounter has the potential for our awakening – our healing. Terrorist attacks, wars, and the unforgivable acts of others can be our doorways to heaven … but, as the Course says, it takes great learning to understand this. So, we start again every day, every moment, and even every second to awaken to the truth … to the light that has come.
Steps in faith…
When we are faced with a challenging situation, workbook lesson 75 from the Course gives us some steps to follow in helping us to experience the light that has come:
1) Do not dwell in the past. Whether it be a person or a world event, try to keep your awareness in the moment. This may be the hardest thing we do. It is very easy to get pulled into the past, so we simply try again. When we forget, we try again. When we fall into anger, try again. We simply try again. Be gentle on yourself. When we feel guilty about our inability to let the past go, we do ourselves no service. It is a practice, and practice does mean we will make mistakes. But, mistakes can be corrected. So, choose once again and try to enjoy the process.
Here’s an example… When Jeffrey was in middle school he experienced some bullying. His school became aware of it, and the bullying at school stopped. One child, though, moved to the level of cyber bullying. Jeffrey just laughed it off, but schools take this more seriously and so did Paul and I. The school probably went further than we would have, but it’s their policy to find out who did it and either expel or transfer the student. The boy was not expelled from school, but he was transferred so he was out of everyone’s hair for that year. I knew, though, that this boy probably would be at the same high school Jeff would attend the following year, so I wondered how that would all work out. I had thought of telling the high school counselor about what happened in middle school, and the boy’s name, etc., but another part of me said to just let go of the past, allow healing to take place, and simply be aware. Stepping back is probably the hardest thing a parent can do, but I felt “carried” in this choice. It seemed like all my years of practice were there for me when I needed them.
When Jeff started ninth grade this past year, I remember at some point asking him if he had any classes with this boy, and he said no. I felt relieved. At the semester break, Jeffrey joined the golf team which caused his classes to somewhat shift. I didn’t think anything of it until Jeff came home saying casually that this boy now sat next to him in his new health class. My mother-antenna went into high alert, but I did my best to ask him how he was feeling about it without dragging my past perceptions into the situation. Jeffrey seemed pretty okay with the boy being there. He even said, “Yeah, he doesn’t seem to hold anything against me.”
“Hold anything against you!” I exclaimed, “You didn’t do anything wrong!”
“I know, I know, Mom, he got himself in trouble,” he reassured me. “But you know how people try to make it your problem. I just don’t make it my problem, and we all seem to get along.”
I felt so relieved. I knew he probably would see this boy and Jeff didn’t need my past fears messing up his clear decision to see this boy as he was now without his past mistakes. Jeff also told me this boy was in a small group with him, and they were doing their first project together. I swallowed hard because that seemed like a recipe for disaster, but my son seemed to know what he was doing and he did. His group actually got 50 out of 40 points on this project. I think the extra credit points were inspired by the Holy Spirit to show me that not only can He work miracles, but He gives “bonus points,” if I am willing to release my past perceptions!
2) Keep an open mind about what is happening. Put aside past ideas and all the judgments you have made about what is occurring. This does not mean that you condone or justify what has happened. We want to be truly helpful and we need God’s help to do that. God cannot get through our judgments if we value them more than His peace.
Here’s an example… My husband, Paul, was brought up in a very evangelical family. He began his evolution away from that thought-system many years before we met. His family still has trouble with what he believes, and it often flares up in some very unkind ways toward him. For some reason he has no trouble with them believing the way they choose to believe, but they can’t seem to tolerate what they think he believes. So they are actually upset with him for things they think he believes and not for what he actually believes, but there’s no convincing them they’re not right. Paul has tried to explain himself, but if someone doesn’t want to listen, at some point you just have to stop talking. I’m very protective of my family, so when someone is unkind to them, my inner “lioness” comes out. I have not said anything to this one particular family member, but I have to admit I have not had very good thoughts about him – no open mind here either! But, it’s interesting how the Holy Spirit can seem to get through the most closed mind at times.
While I was meditating recently, my anger about this person (let’s call him Joe) popped up yet again. I started to fall into my litany of judgments about Joe when “a little willingness” (as the Course reminds us is all that is needed) came into my mind, and I honestly asked to see Joe as God sees him. Immediately I saw the image of a photo I had taken of Joe and Jeffrey when Jeff was about eighteen months old. Jeffrey’s little arms were wrapped around Joe’s neck, giving him a big hug. Joe’s eyes were closed but the expression on his face was radiant. It’s amazing how the love and innocence of a child can bring out our true nature. Now, every time I think of Joe and his unfounded judgments toward Paul, it is quickly replaced by this vision God gave me. I truly know that this is how God sees him, so my judgments (even though they still try to take root in my mind) no longer have the same power over me. My forgiveness has entitled me to a new vision.
3) Look at the situation as if you never saw it before. You don’t know what the outcome will be or how it will look and you simply wait to be shown. We may not feel that we have succeeded at all today, but we have no idea of the great strides we make whenever we step back from the clashing dreams of the world and rest in God.
Here’s an example… Deb in upstate New York is one of our weekly study group members. The other day she shared with us a dream she had that perfectly illustrates how we can lift our vision and see things for the first time. Here’s her story:
“I recently had a very vivid dream where I found myself walking near the lily pond in a park I have visited many times; in fact, our daughter held her wedding there. I found a path which I had not seen before. I followed it and came to a beautiful little garden. It was so perfect! There was a little Asian gardener working away at clipping dead flowers, and I asked how was it he kept the garden so free from weeds? He said, ‘Oh, you see in this garden there are no weeds because all the plants are welcome. What you call weeds where you are, why in this garden they are just another kind of flower.’ I looked around and realized many of the plants were in fact ones I would consider weeds in my own garden but here they looked beautiful.
“Beverly often talks about that process of weeding, of having to get the whole root up and out. I don’t think my dream means negativity should be left alone, just that it can be seen in a different way. The many challenges going on in our lives right now can be like those ‘weeds’ — something that creates a beautiful outcome if we look with the right Vision.”
…your forgiveness entitles you to vision
As we are told in the Course, forgiveness entitles us to vision; and, isn’t that what we all truly want? But, we can’t experience forgiveness or light until we step back and take off the glasses of the past. We need to be willing to keep our minds open and clean of our judgments so we might see through the eyes of Christ. We want to see the truth. We want to be healed. We want to be bringers of light.
The light has come today – in just this moment when we were together willing to find another way, a way out of darkness, the light has come. If we can join in this one moment, we can do it in the next and the next and the next. Until our only goal is to remember the light has come – we have forgiven the world.
Let us keep our focus on the light within each individual, each situation, and within ourselves. And, if we find we are drawn back into darkness — caught once again in our anger or judgments about someone or thing — let’s affirm:
The light has come. I have forgiven you.
The light has come. I have forgiven the world.
“We dedicate this day to the serenity in which God would have us be.” May we all do our part to focus on the truth that “the light has come.” Wherever we may find ourselves and whatever may be our function, may it be our united will to focus on the light in every person and situation and allow the darkness to fall away.
An Opinion that Heals
Have you ever noticed how everyone has an opinion? With our new blogosphere, everyone is sharing something and many times the information is totally inaccurate. I constantly receive emails warning me to be wary of a new scam or a dangerous product that will cause cancer. They sound very real until you check them out at a website like snopes.com which acts as a detective investigating this plethora of fear-based emails. I think the most telling story to come out about the inaccuracy of these opinion blogs and emails (trying to appear as fact) was the recent one that caused a lady to lose her job.
Shirley Sherrod, an employee at the Department of Agriculture, had given a speech earlier this year at a NAACP conference where she made some racial remarks regarding an event that took place more than two decades ago. A rush-to-judgment website posted a two minute video that left the opinion that Sherrod had deliberately not helped a white man save his farm when she worked for a non-profit organization in Georgia. The video went viral, causing a storm of reaction from the blogosphere, to conservative news outlets, to the NAACP and finally the White House.
The NAACP called her comments “shameful,” and Agricultural Secretary Tom Vilsack asked for her resignation as did Bill O’Reilly. The only problem was they were all wrong. Had they checked their facts or watched the rest of the video, they would have found that this woman was sharing her own internal, personal conflict with racism. She said that with all the black people who had lost their farms, she was reluctant give this man the “full force of what I could do.” But, her interaction with this man taught her that all poor people in this situation needed her help, which she resolved to always give. Her story was one of redemption, but it was almost stopped before the “pay off.” As a matter of fact, the man she helped has come to her support and said she helped him in every way possible. He was very grateful to her.
Sherrod received apologies for the unfounded charges and was quickly offered a new job at the Department of Agriculture. This story, though, should give us all pause.
We just don’t have all the facts when we make opinions and judgments. And, even if we do have a lot of what we think are accurate facts, do we really know people’s “back story?” Do we really know what makes people act the way they do? The Course doesn’t tell us that we should give up judgment, it tells that we really cannot judge.
“Remember how many times you thought you knew all the “facts” you needed for judgment, and how wrong you were? Is there anyone who has not had this experience? Would you know how many times you merely thought you were right, without ever realizing you were wrong? Why would you choose such an arbitrary basis for decision-making? Wisdom is not judgment; it is the relinquishment of judgment. Make then but one more judgment. It is this: There is Someone with you Whose judgment is perfect. He does know all the facts; past, present and to come. He does know all the effects of His judgment on everyone and everything involved in any way. And He is wholly fair to everyone, for there is no distortion in His perception.
Therefore lay judgment down, not with regret but with a sigh of gratitude. Now are you free of a burden so great that you could merely stagger and fall down beneath it.” (M28)
Many times in my life I have felt like Atlas. Remember him? In Greek mythology, he was sentenced by Zeus to carry the world on his shoulders. I not only felt that way by all that I had to do but by my opinions and judgments (I think the line between those two is pretty blurry). As I have matured and grown with the Course, I have found less value in my opinions and my need to share them. The other day, I found myself in a situation where I could have “enlightened” quite a few people with my “opinions,” but for some reason, I didn’t open my mouth. And, you know what? The world didn’t fall apart, “right” didn’t perish and I was able to offer silent grace to those who were speaking and I felt lighter.
Maybe that’s why the Course tells us that a quiet mind is not a little gift and that peace comes quietly into the mind that stops an instant and is still. We diminish the power of stillness and quiet, and we might even dismiss it as a nice new age thought but perhaps not practical in this world with all its pressing issues. Yet we’ve been told this “new age-y” idea for a long time in the old saying “when your mouth is open your ears are closed.” That is literally and metaphorically true. When we still our participation in the world for just a moment, we can actually experience what is really occurring. We were lost, but now we are found, as the old spiritual Amazing Grace reminds us.
This does not mean that we become impotent or docile in the world and our lives. It means that we actually become productive. The Course reminds us that when we don’t think with God we are actually doing nothing. The point is the ego has talked us into believing that all our nothingness is doing something. But, no matter how busy you are with nothing, it is still nothing.
When our son Jeffrey was learning his multiplication tables, he never had trouble multiplying two numbers together, but when he multiplied a number with a zero, it seemed to stump him. We would have fun coming up with fantastically large numbers and then multiplying them times zero to come up with zero! We would always laugh about how huge a number could be and how it could be disintegrated by a zero! The same is true for our illusions. No matter how huge or seemingly valid the fearful problem or worry may be, the presence of God, the presence of love in our minds, shows us its nothingness and helps us to see the call for love that it really is.
This is a process. We are bound to rush to judgment or project our opinions, but they don’t need to find “fertile ground” in our minds any more. As the Course tells us,
“Tolerance for pain may be high, but it is not without limit. Eventually everyone begins to recognize, however dimly, that there must be a better way. As this recognition becomes more firmly established, it becomes a turning point. This ultimately reawakens spiritual vision, simultaneously weakening the investment in physical sight. The alternating investment in the two levels of perception is usually experienced as conflict, which can become very acute. But the outcome is as certain as God.” (T22)
It’s interesting that the Course tells us that this process of awakening can seem conflicting in our minds, and isn’t that true?! Many people have shared with me how they just love the Course and experience such wonderful, peaceful awareness and then everything stops! They become frustrated and stymied. But, if perceived correctly, this can be seen as great movement and healing. We are detaching from the physical sight and seeming reality of this world and embracing a spiritual vision. This path is new to us and it may challenge us, but we need to keep reassuring ourselves that “the outcome is as certain as God.”
It is similar to birth. When babies are born, their whole world in the womb is destroyed. They die to the only life experience they have. But, to the rest of us, that “death and destruction” is worth it, since now they truly are born to experience life in this world with us. They have to detach from one existence — the only one they know — to experience what we see as them fully living their lives. In our minds their temporary “pain” would be well worth the final outcome. We even slap’em on the rear to welcome them “home!”
The point is that it is impossible to really determine what is best for us or for anyone. What we can gather is that peace must be our goal and love needs to lead the way, if we are to truly live. Any other approach is just a poor substitute of what we are entitled to and not worthy of a child of God.
Let’s get there together! We all need help to awaken; help from the Holy Spirit and from each other. The Course reminds us that the “ark of peace is entered two by two” and that “salvation is a collaborative venture.” Our relationships keep us accountable and help us to awaken faster. It’s sometimes so easy to be in a peaceful state until we open the door and walk outside and deal with those people! Those people help us to look at ourselves and decide that peace is more important than our judgments. Many times I find that I make more of an effort to be vigilant for God because of our son Jeffrey. I realize he is watching me and I want to be the example I speak about. Much like the basis of the anonymous programs, joining together gives us the support, accountability and a purpose to keep in mind.
Oprah Winfrey started a movement online to take a pledge to not text while driving and nearly 400,000 people have taken that pledge. What if we took a pledge to remember our purpose? So, that’s what I have started. If you go to our Pledge for Peace Page, you can join me and countless others around the world in remembering that the peace of God is our one goal. Now, that’s an “opinion” that heals!
The New Adventures of Old Time Religion
Through the ages, Christianity has painted a picture of God as jealous, vengeful and with righteous wrath. The Bible is filled with stories that told us we’d better watch out or God is gonna get us. Even the most beloved stories have a dark cloud hanging over them. The story of Noah and his ark, for instance, fill many children’s books, and parade through practically every nursery on blankets, mobiles and wallpaper. But no matter how cute the story may appear, it still harkens to a God that made a mistake about His creations and decided to righteously kill them off by flooding the entire world.
God does decide to save a few (Noah, his family and the animals of the world) but imagine the guilt those few must have felt being saved when the rest of the world perished. As a matter of fact, we find out later in the Bible that those who were saved went on to have the same foibles as those whom God blighted from the earth.
If God was a poor judge of character when it came to Noah and his family, He was also a little impetuous in flooding the earth. We find in the story that God felt bad about what He had done and put a rainbow in the sky as a promise to Noah that He will not destroy the earth again … by flood. With a wink, wink, God leaves the door open for the possibility of apocalypse by wind, fire and earthquake if we don’t keep on the straight and narrow.
But think about it for just a moment. God evidently made the mistake when He created man. He evidently didn’t do a very good job. Why should mankind have to pay for His poor manufacturing job? That would be like saying that a manufacturer of a faulty product should be able to say, “Hey my product is lousy. It’s not my fault. You should never have bought it. You’re to blame!”
What has kept churches full for many years was not the love of God, but the fear of God. We have read about God’s terrible mood swings. Just look at poor, long suffering Job. But that fear is also what now turns people away from formalized churches. It no longer makes sense to our hearts to think that a God of love would be so vengeful and erratic.
Is religion bad?
When we find holes in religion, our tendency is to point our finger and say it is bad. But how does that help us? As A Course in Miracles would counsel, we cannot make ourselves right by making another wrong. Nor can we know ourselves as God created us if we hate or attack another. We will lose ourselves or find ourselves in how we deal with every holy encounter we experience, even with religion.
We don’t have to agree with everything a religion does and we don’t have to condemn it. Every great religion has a perennial truth, meaning there is a vein of consistency that can be found in every spiritual teaching. Instead of looking for the differences in Christianity, Buddhism, Judaism or Islam, we can look for that perennial truth that ties them all together. Perhaps it is our eternal nature or the fact that we were intended for something greater than this world. Perhaps it is the basic truth that there is a God that is good and loves us, and our purpose in this world is to live a life that exemplifies that God. Beyond that, the dogma of religion steps in, and we find separation. It can be creeds that are spoken, paths that must be followed or deeds that must be done to secure one’s place in heaven. But that is the world; it is constantly looking for differences to perpetuate its purpose.
Religion has a place
It would appear that the real purpose of religion is to give us rules to live by to make us more compassionate and accountable in society. Just as we have traffic lights that prevent us from crashing into each other, so do we have moral codes and ethics provided by religion that are meant to save us from our baser instincts and teach us to follow a higher standard lest we pay the consequences. For some this is the real purpose of religion – to keep society on the straight and narrow. For others, this is its downfall: setting up moral standards that hurt, separate and focus on damnation.
Again, we need to understand instead of just condemn, no matter what side of the debate we are on. Religion and its rules have brought us to where we are in our society, but maybe we have outgrown its limitations. I think this is what we are seeing in today’s society. Unless religion makes sense to the heart, people will question those long unquestioned rules and beliefs.
Can we talk?
As every parent knows, the final answer to a child’s ongoing “whys” is, “because I said so!” But, this reply is only good for a while. As children grow up, they are no longer satisfied with this answer. We are no longer satisfied with our questioning feelings being answered with, “Because the Bible says so,” as if that should be enough. Thoughtful discourse about the inerrancy of the Bible should not be met with declarations of heresy. Why can’t we bring some of these long held beliefs to the light of our current experiences and new findings of lost gospels like those of Mary, Judas and Thomas? After all, the word “heresy” means choice, and should not be demonized. What is wrong with letting people choose if the tenets of the Bible make sense without telling them if they don’t follow this path they’re not welcome for communion at His table, to marry in His church or to go to Heaven? We cannot question God because …. why? Isn’t He God? Can’t He handle the scrutiny?
The 200th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s birth was February 12. This has not only been a time to celebrate this great leader, but for some it was a time to bring to light some of his shortcomings concerning racism and tyrannical rule. Should the conversation be silenced in deference to our icons, or can we learn something when we listen?
I have often thought that the infallible images of any of history’s heroes would be hard for them to live up to if they were alive today. I liked what W.E.B. Du Bois (one of the original activists who formed the NAACP) wrote about Lincoln in 1922: “The scars and foibles and contradictions of the Great do not diminish but enhance the worth and meaning of their upward struggle. Of all the great figures of the 19th century, Lincoln is to me the most human and lovable. I love him not because he was perfect but because he was not and yet triumphed.”
Why can’t this same approach be applied to the Bible without it being seen as heretical? Why can’t we allow the Bible to change and allow some of our assumptions about what we think it has said to be seen in view of our changing times, society and new information that has come to light?
Most followers don’t adhere to many of the Bible’s cultural rules any longer. For instance, women are no longer required to cover their heads to pray and are free to “adorn” themselves and even wear pants (women shall not dress like men according to the Bible). What happened to the inerrancy of the Bible there? Why aren’t the architects of those changes going to Hell? The response is that we need to reinterpret scripture in light of the changing times. So, is it heresy or a natural progression of Christianity’s need to change and grow as we as a society change and grow? It is not sacrificing the truth to be more tolerant and loving, is it?
A change is a comin’
We are in a time of change; change for our financial world, change for our environmental responsibilities and change for how we treat each other. President Barack Obama has said that we are not a red and blue America or a black and white America, but the United States of America. Well, we are not a Christian or non-Christian world, but a world where we are to be Christ-like. That Christ mind is not limited to the Bible or just Christians, but is within us all, regardless of race, religion, sexuality, or nationality.
Last year, comedian and satirist Bill Maher debuted his movie, Religulous (a combination of the words “religion” and “ridiculous.”) You can pretty much guess from the title that he doesn’t think highly of any religion and goes forward to paint a very silly picture of them all. The movie is fairly one-sided in characterizing all religion as hypocritical, but there is one poignant scene that I felt fairly depicted the way we can heal on both sides.
Maher was visiting a chapel for truck drivers. Inside the little chapel sat about five stereotypical truck drivers. The scene picks up with the leader of the group offering to give Maher a chance to speak. Maher shares a few of his questions about the contradictions of Christianity and its at times unloving nature. One of the devotees decides that Maher should not attack his God and is pretty angry as he leaves. The leader and the rest of the group are really not Bible scholars and don’t feel like they can answer Maher’s questions, but they do ask in a very sweet and naïve way, “Can we pray with you?” Maher agrees. Their heartfelt prayer is that God answers the questions in his heart and that’s it. No need to convert, save or change, just to be of service and minister in love as best they could. As he leaves, Maher said thank you for being christian.
That certainly was the message of Jesus some 2,000 years ago, but somewhere along the way that message got stuck in dogma. A change is a comin’, though, because we can change. The Course reminds us that if we seek controversy we will find it, but if we seek clarification we will find that as well. We must be willing to overlook controversy and focus on where we can join, from that point we can experience miracles. Miracles occur, forgiveness makes sense, and ancient hatreds can become present loves.
Destination Up Ahead!
Technology continues to astound me. It used to be that you got in a car to get to a destination. Not any more! Now, we get in a car to watch movies on DVD players, listen to commercial-free satellite radio, and sit back while your car parallel parks for you. Plus, there are now GPS systems that have eliminated the need for maps and the age-old jokes about men not wanting to stop and ask for directions. Although, men do come by this tendency honestly … remember Moses? He wandered in the wilderness for 40 years! You would have thought someone would have asked him to stop and ask for directions. Anyway, I digress.
We have a new car that is equipped with a GPS Navigation System. So, all you have to do is put in your destination and it maps out your route, displays it on a little screen and even tells you in a lovely, calm voice to turn left or right. It is amazing! You can listen to whatever you want on the radio and when you need to turn, the volume on the radio automatically turns down and this angelic voice mellifluously announces, “Right turn ahead.” It is truly miraculous, in the worldly sense of the word.
Now, my eight-year-old loves to program the navigation system even if we are just going down the block to the store. Since he doesn’t know the address of the grocery store, he sets the system for Miracle Distribution Center which is in the opposite direction. Our lovely angel directs us to turn left, but that is not the way we go to the store. So, I drive in my direction, totally disregarding her. Now if someone ignored me when I was giving directions, my voice would get louder and louder, and I probably would say some snide remark like, “Is there a problem with your ears?” But, our angel never talks like that, nor does she ever say I am wrong. She simply recalculates the directions for the turn I just made and tells me again when and where to turn. Sometimes she will repeat in her calm, reassuring voice, “Make a U turn, if possible.” Of course, I keep ignoring her, but that does not stop her from continuing to recalculate, without judgment, and offering me a new route to follow.
Every time we start the navigation system, I think about the Holy Spirit. Isn’t He always guiding us? Even when we seem to make the wrong turn, He lovingly recalculates our position and offers us another route. He never judges us for our unloving acts or hateful attitudes. He simply says to us, “Is conflict what you want, or is the peace of God a better choice?” (M51) If we choose conflict, He simply continues to offer us His way over and over again. He never tires of presenting us with the route to peace no matter how long we delay.
Inputting our Destination
If you have ever input a destination in a GPS system, you know that it almost knows where you are going before you do. For example if you are going to a particular city in California and you start to spell in the name, it basically figures it out for you, fills in the missing letters and asks you to confirm or cancel its choice. It always gives you free will to change your mind, but it is usually right on its decision.
Again this reminds me of God. It is His great pleasure to help us within the parameters that we have set up to accept His help – that is our free will. He daily offers us the Kingdom, but we so often ignore His gift. In A Course in Miracles it tells us that we have thrown away the keys to the Kingdom – the awareness of our oneness with God. But we have not lost them, for God gave them to our brother and as we allow our feelings of separation (judgments, angers and irritations) to drop away, we will not only find each other but our true destination.
When I get “off route” with our GPS system, it never tells me I am bad, wrong or guilty. It simply offers me another way. It recalculates from my new position and gently begins again.
The Course reminds us that we are on a journey without distance to a goal that has never changed. So, if our destination is the awareness of our oneness with each other and thereby God, and we don’t feel like we are moving in that direction, then we have clearly gotten off route. This thought harkens back to the question I have heard many times, “How do I know if I am listening to God’s guidance?” And the answer is: How do you feel? If we are feeling a sense of peace about an answer that has come to us, then it is the right answer for us. Will it be the right answer for another? That you cannot know, nor is it really any concern of yours. You can only know what is right for you at any given moment. The form of the answer may change with time or circumstances, but the content won’t. God’s will for us is only peace and happiness. If that is not in our awareness, then we have gotten off route and we can be lovingly redirected. As we read Jesus’ assurance in the Course . . . “If you want to be like me, I will help you, knowing we are alike. If you want to be different, I will wait until you change your mind.” (T145)
Make a U Turn, if possible
The Course tells us that this world is the complete opposite of truth. It says that our upside down thinking is ruinous to our peace of mind. It also quickly tells us that we can learn to change our minds to think with God. The Course assures us that this is not only possible, but actually the only way we truly can think. Thinking against our reality has kept the ego together but has literally split our mind and totally confused us about our oneness with God and His creations. It is sort of like the story of the ugly duckling that could never fit in because it was really a beautiful swan. We have believed in the limited, fearful and fragile image that the world says is us when God is holding out to us the eternal, loving and invulnerable truth of our being!
The Course offers us a simple recipe to this awareness. It says that whenever we are not joyful it is because we are holding an unloving thought against another. It may be someone you know well or hardly at all. It may be intense rage or just a slight irritation or annoyance. Either way, it is robbing you of your joy and your awareness of heaven. It goes on to say, “Think honestly what you have thought that God would not have thought, and what you have not thought that God would have you think. Search sincerely for what you have done and left undone accordingly, and then change your mind to think with God’s.” (T63)
We have been trying to swim upstream by our acceptance of a false image, but this thought is a simple and direct path for turning that image completely around and thinking with God. We definitely need to make a U-turn. It is not only possible, but very necessary.
Destination up ahead
No matter what route I take, or how many wrong turns I make, my GPS system seems genuinely thrilled when I arrive at my destination. Its lovely voice actually seems happy as she says, “Destination up ahead!”
I feel this same reassurance throughout the Course. It keeps reminding us that we are already Home in the light, joy and peace where God would have us be; we simply need to wake up to that awareness. This year the Center produced a 12 month wall calendar with beautiful photos and Course quotes for each month. April’s quote is, “Heaven is here. There is nowhere else. Heaven is now. There is no other time.” (M61) I chose that thought for April because Easter is in April this year, and Easter represents another choice for resurrection or rebirth. A Course in Miracles tells us that resurrection is: the return to knowledge, the awareness that nothing can destroy truth, the symbol of sharing and the complete triumph of Christ over the ego. And, it says that resurrection is simply the dawning on your mind that all of this is already yours. You are home, you are safe and you are loved.
When my son, Jeffrey, started kindergarten, we read together the delightful children’s book, The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn. It is the story of Chester the little raccoon who is going to his first day of school. Chester was very frightened to leave his mother and his home, but his mother offers him the help of a secret, passed down from generation to generation. It was called the “Kissing Hand.” She spreads open his tiny fingers and kisses him right in the middle of his palm. He feels the warmth of that kiss go up his arm into his heart. He loves his kissing hand and knows now that his mother’s love will go with him everywhere he went. Even to school. But that was not enough; he turned to his mother and asked for her hand. There he gently kissed her palm to give her a kissing hand.
And now you have one, too. God has placed the truth within our hearts, the promise of resurrection, and our home in heaven. We merely need to open our hands and hearts to each other. Chester truly knew he was loved and he wanted to give that knowledge to his mother. We are truly loved and the way to that knowledge is to extend it to all we meet.
You will not find peace until you have removed the nails from the hands of God’s Son, and taken the last thorn from his forehead. The Love of God surrounds His Son whom the god of crucifixion condemns. Teach not that I died in vain. Teach rather that I did not die by demonstrating that I live in you. (T208)
Our destination is here – right now! The peace, safety and happiness for which we all seek stands before us in every forgiven relationship we offer to each other.
It’s Time to Grow Up
Last year, A Course in Miracles celebrated thirty years since its publication in 1976. This year will be my thirtieth year of study with the Course, since I found it in 1977. And, next year Miracle Distribution Center will turn 30 years old.
Three decades seems like a long time, doesn’t it? So, you might look at me with my years of study and think one of two things: “she’s pretty enlightened” or “she’s a very slow learner.” I tend to feel the latter is true. But, when you think of great spiritual teachings, thirty years is not a great span of time. Christianity is about 2,000 years old. Buddhism, founded by Indian Prince Siddhartha Gautama, is 2500 years old. The oldest of the top four religions is Hinduism, heralding back to 6000 to 3000 BCE (Before Common Era). Islam is considered the youngest of the top four, being only about 1400 years old.
The Course is much more of a spiritual practice than a religion. It really does not set down any rules for behavior nor adhere to a dogma. It asks that we accept responsibility for our experiences and live a life allowing forgiveness to lead the way, which is more challenging than following rules and repeating words. Perhaps that is why, after 30 years, we are still just infants in our study of the Course.
The Course is at once uncompromising in its premise …. “if you want peace, you must give up the idea of conflict entirely and for all time.” (T125)….. and yet very gentle in its approach …. “If you forget [your daily thought], try again. If there are long interruptions, try again. Whenever you remember, try again.” (W62) Some have seen this as inconsistent, and yet it is anything but inconsistent. As a matter of fact it has been evaluated by people much smarter than I to be “irritatingly” consistent and one of the most profound spiritual teachings since the Bible. The Course can comfortably take its place among the great spiritual teachings of the world.
So, what’s that to me?
We have in our hands a tool for our own healing. Unlike the Bible, we have the Course as it was scribed. We don’t have four pre-chosen gospels to represent the teachings of Jesus. We have the entire teaching in Jesus’ own words. Now, that is something!
But instead of sitting down and digging into the material presented before us, we complain about how hard the Course is to read and how we can’t remember our workbook lessons. “It is too hard to understand and I just don’t have time to do my lesson in the morning, so I gave up,” is the type of comment I have heard more times than I would like to say.
But, let’s think again for just a moment. We have the words of Jesus in our hands. When asked that proverbial dinner party question: “If you could have dinner with anyone in the world living or dead, who would it be?” Besides Oprah, most people in the western world choose Jesus. We all want to know, “WWJD (What Would Jesus Do)?” Some even wear the question on their wrists. So, why are his thoughts not worth a little study and effort on our part?
Through the text of A Course in Miracles, we are given a theoretical thought system to explain our purpose in this world; and we have a how-to workbook to train our minds to apply the principles of love and forgiveness into our daily lives. Then we are presented with a manual to explain major terms found in the Course and answer some of the questions that arise for students who study the Course. We actually have it all in the Course! So why do many of us have so much trouble reading and doing this practice?
A Classic Idea ….
The Course is like classical music. It may take time to acquire an appreciation of it, but it is universally accessible to anyone. Classical music is used in movies, commercials, television shows and children’s songs. Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star is a Mozart composition. It has survived the test of time because it is timeless. Other styles of music come and go, but classical music is the backbone of all music. The same is true for the Course. Its message and style of writing is timeless. The trendy way of speaking in our pop culture might be easy for us to “get” today, but it wouldn’t have made sense to those living a few hundred years ago. Even twenty years ago, no one would have known what it meant to “google” something.
There may be books on the market that explain the Course in simple terms and sometimes more sensational approaches, but, in the end, if we truly want to know what the Course is saying, we need to study it! The Course is classic and will be around long after those other books are replaced by the next “cutting edge” approach.
It seems to me that we as students of the Course need to grow up. We need to stop making excuses as to why we can’t do the Course and start doing it one paragraph at a time, one page at a time and one lesson at a time. We need to stop whining about how hard it is to understand, how we wished we had come across it when we were younger, how we try so hard to do the Course but this person or that situation just makes it almost impossible and our endless list of excuses. But why should our practice of the Course be any different that the practice of our lives? If we sit around whining about our circumstances, playing the victim role in life and affirming “poor me,” we are stuck.
Last fall at my son Jeffrey’s school there was a Halloween party. There were chocolate pumpkin cookies with chocolate sprinkles and vanilla pumpkin cookies with orange sprinkles. Every kid wanted the vanilla cookies with orange sprinkles – after all, that is how a pumpkin looks! Jeffrey was the last one to get a cookie because he was busy with something else. By that time, all the vanilla cookies with orange sprinkles were gone. He was so upset. He did not want that chocolate pumpkin cookie. With a pouty look on his face he quietly said to me, “It’s not fair.” I told him I was sorry and that I understood he was upset, but when he was busy doing something else, all the other kids were eating. It would have been nice if there had been a vanilla pumpkin cookie with orange sprinkles for every child, but there wasn’t. “So now, honey, you have to decide if you want a chocolate cookie, or not; and if you want to have fun at the rest of your party, or not,” I said as compassionately as I could. He decided the fun outweighed the cookie and he went back to playing with his friends.
If we are whining about how unfair people and situations are or the dirty deals we have been dealt by life and circumstances, we will find people who will support us in our victim attitude. After all, that is what keeps this world going – the idea that the world and others need to change or atone for us to be happy. Or, we can decide that our peace of mind and our happiness are more valuable than being right and getting what the world says we deserve.
Now that is a challenging lesson to learn in this world because it is the lesson that begins to dismantle the world of separation. It requires that we take responsibility for our lives and circumstances — not so that we can feel sorry for ourselves and blame others, but so we can actually break the cycle of victimization and take control of our attitudes and thereby our lives. Most people are used to taking sides in an argument. If instead someone offers you a way to be happy in the midst of what is happening, that can seem a little unsettling and even perhaps unwelcomed at first. As it becomes a practice, though, we begin to understand that happiness and peace are far more beneficial than being “right.” That is certainly what the Course offers us when it asks, “Do you prefer that you be right or happy?” (T617)
It’s a practice.
Whether it’s practicing A Course in Miracles or living our lives, it is all a process. We have to stop evaluating the outcome and start enjoying the journey. We all remember the teacher in school who made learning fun. We seemed to learn more because we enjoyed being there. The same is true for life, the more we “enjoy” and embrace the process (or at least stop whining about what we are going through), the more happy and aware we become. As the Course reminds us, “All things work together for good. There are no exceptions except in the ego’s judgment.” (T65)
The Course tells us that we are where we need to be to achieve our healing. “Heaven is here. There is nowhere else. Heaven is now. There is no other time.” (M61) If Heaven is here now, and you are not experiencing it, doesn’t it stand to reason that perhaps you might be part of the block to that awareness as well as part of the solution? It really comes down to your choice.
A few weeks ago I presented a sermon at the Unity Church in Brea, California. This is such a wonderful church with the most loving congregation. In the social hall after my sermon a lovely woman, whom I’d visited with many times at the church, told me she was now residing in an assisted living home. “I did not like the idea of living there,” she said, “but circumstances were such that there was no other choice. I was not happy. Then, one day, I decided if I was going to live in an assisted living home, I would start assisting the living. Instead of feeling sorry for myself, I started helping others – assisting the living – and now I feel great!” She truly became the answer to her seeming challenge.
Just my suggestions…
So, where do we start? At the beginning of each new year many people start the Course or make a commitment to be more committed to their spiritual practice. It is easy to “fall off the wagon” with our study. I want to offer you three things to think about the next time you begin to stray.
1. Value it … The Course does not portray itself as a better or more exceptional spiritual path. It tells us it is simply part of the universal curriculum – differing only in its form. But that is some form! Not only do we have a thoroughly consistent, multi-layered spiritual tome, but we have 365 daily lessons to reinforce our understanding through actual practice! It is the workbook that makes the Course unique among other spiritual practices. From that standpoint, this is a unique spiritual path that can help you to experience miracles in your life. In the end, though, you will not need it or any external tool, as we are told, “Forget this world, forget this course, and come with wholly empty hands unto your God.” (W189) But, while we are still holding onto the hope for a better outcome in the world, perhaps we should hold on tight to the Course.
2. Study it …Take time to read the Course daily. I know that many think it is very difficult to read, but let’s just start. The more you stick with it, the easier it gets. When I first started reading the Course, there were passages that were tough to understand. Other people offered suggestions and insights, and that really helped. That is why Miracle Distribution Center (MDC) spends a great deal of time and resources on coordinating and updating our international study group listings. Most of us need support in our study. We need to hear how others have applied the principles of the Course in their daily lives. It helps to motivate us when someone else reaches out to us in unconditional love and support. That is what a study group on the Course should be for us – support. If you would like to find a group, contact MDC by phone or go to our website. If you are not able to find a study group for some reason or would like some additional help, you might consider becoming a listener to the Center’s weekly study group meetings. These recorded lessons have been a great help to many.
Support can make all the difference in our study. The Course tells us that we need each other. “The ark of peace is entered two by two.” (T433) Salvation is a collaborative venture.” (T69) And, it powerfully tells us, “It is impossible to remember God in secret and alone. For remembering Him means you are not alone, and are willing to remember it.” (T295)
Group support is not a substitute for our personal study, but it can augment it. In the end, though, whatever spiritual path we are on, we need to study it. No one else can do it for us.
3. Practice it … “Nothing is needed but today’s idea to light your mind, and let it rest in still anticipation and in quiet joy … a glow that travels from your fingertips to those you touch, and blesses those you look upon. A vision reaches everyone you meet, and everyone you think of, or who thinks of you. For your experience today will so transform your mind that it becomes the touchstone for the holy Thoughts of God.” (W157)
Wouldn’t you want the experience that this lesson from the Course’s workbook is offering? If so, it is time to begin the practice. And, remember, it is a practice. You don’t have to be perfect, that is what practice is for. The Course tells us that we are not perfect or we would not be here, but our goal is to become perfect here. And so we practice, but not alone.
“It cannot be that it is hard to do the task that Christ appointed you to do, since it is He Who does it.” (T518) To all of us who complain about how hard it is to do the Course, perhaps the answer is we don’t do it — Christ does. We are asked to simply turn toward Him. We are asked to look at our blocks to the awareness of love, be willing to question the value of those blocks in our lives and allow Christ to take them from us. Every step of the way, we are supported. Yes, we must be vigilant in our study and value the goal of peace above conflict, but we are never left alone on our journey.
We will grow up to God
As difficult as our lives may seem or the circumstances of the world may look, God’s love will succeed. We are like a crock pot cooking. It may seem like a slow, slow process, but things are transforming in our lives. As we accept that we are worth the effort through our study and vigilance on whatever spiritual path to truth we have chosen, we will awaken to the miracles that are present in our lives. For in the end, that is all there is. As we are assured in the Course . . .
“Forget not once this journey is begun the end is certain. Doubt along the way will come and go and go to come again. Yet is the ending sure. No one can fail to do what God appointed him to do. When you forget, remember that you walk with Him and with His Word upon your heart … Illusions of despair may seem to come, but learn how not to be deceived by them. Behind each one there is reality and there is God. Why would you wait for this and trade it for illusions, when His Love is but an instant farther on the road where all illusions end? The end is sure and guaranteed by God.” (M91)
Smile! Only Truth is True
Many years back, comedy legend Jack Benny was being honored with a distinguished humanitarian award. “I don’t really deserve this award,” Benny said in his acceptance speech, “but then I have arthritis, and I don’t deserve that either. Thank you very much.”
Every time I think of that story, it makes me smile. Benny didn’t get out of his problem; he just learned how to look at it with humor. And, in that way, the problem did not have the same hold on him. Humor has a way of lifting us out of the “seriousness” of life and giving us perspective.
A Course in Miracles tells us that the world of separation became real to us because “the Son of God remembered not to laugh. In his forgetting did the thought [of separation] become a serious idea, and possible of both accomplishment and real effect.” (T586) And so began what the Course calls our descent into hell. This world became a madhouse and a distorted caricature of life.
When I was young, we used to go to the county fair where they would have a fun house. As you can tell from the title, it was supposed to be fun, but I always thought it was scary and disorienting. There were loud noises, moving hallways, mirrors that distorted your image and mazes to block your escape. Looking back now, it was the best analogy of this world. This world is not fun, nor can we really experience any joy or happiness by dwelling in the insanity of the world. The world is constantly changing, our thoughts are distorted, and things cannot be trusted or counted on. Everything is upside down. In this insane world we cannot even count on God, for He is seen as cruel – punishing generations upon generations because of an apple! Actually it wasn’t the apple, but the pair on the ground. Did I get a smile?
Am I dreaming or what?
When we really look at the world of illusions, we see that it makes about as much sense as a nighttime dream. Have you ever noticed how insane your dreams are? Even the ones that you like make very little sense in the light of the day. Kids can even see the senselessness of dreams. The other day, my son Jeffrey was explaining to me his elaborate dream.
“Wow,” I said. “You dreamed all of that?”
“Well, I added some stuff so I could understand it,” he answered.
That is our problem. The world really doesn’t make sense, but we keep adding stuff so we can “sort of”, “to the best of our ability”, “hopefully” understand it! But the Course tells us the world is meaningless because our thoughts are meaningless. The world is not the cause of our pain and suffering, it is the effect of our choice to value illusions (meaninglessness) rather than the truth. If we are willing to let our illusions be healed, they will be collected up “with a little laugh, and gently laid it at the feet of truth. And there they disappear entirely.” (W249)
Our problem seems to be that we don’t want to let our suffering go. We feel comfortable in our pain and guilt. We don’t feel that we are entitled to happiness or joy. And, yet A Course in Miracles seems to differ from this opinion. It tells us that it is not humility to say you are not as God created you, i.e., entitled to miracles, entitled to love and happiness, entitled to peace and fulfillment. Indeed, it is arrogance – and arrogance is always of the ego. It tells us that joy and happiness are as much our function as is forgiveness, “while we abide where we are not at home.” But we cannot have one without the other. We cannot be joyous, if we are holding judgmental thoughts about another, nor can we truly forgive and not feel that “light and joy and peace abide in me.” (WL93) Each is the natural result of the other.
How do we get to our natural state?
If we are entitled to a life of joy, how do we walk through a world that seems to show us war and suffering? The Course would always tell us to be gentle with ourselves and others. It does not tell us to deny the world or what we and others may be experiencing. It asks us to take the Holy Spirit’s hand and together “look straight through the thousand forms of illusions that we believe in, the self-accusing shrieks of sinners mad with guilt and with quiet eyes the Holy Spirit says, ‘My brother, what you think is not the truth.’” (W249)
But, the fact is, we think we know. We think we know what our problems are. We think we know what we are here to do. We think we know what will make us happy. We look for leaders who we think know what to do. We study, read and try to figure out the world. And yet even the greatest thinkers end up saying that they just don’t know. When I was in Chicago for our last Miracle Weekend, my husband Paul, Jeffrey and I went to the Field Museum. What an incredible place! The knowledge that abides there is beyond belief. And yet, as we walked through the museum reading the well-researched and thorough explanations about the theories of man’s beginnings, the plaques would finally end with this thought, “but we just don’t know for sure.”
Nothing outside yourself can save you. Nothing outside yourself can bring you peace. (W119)
There is no surety in the world, and I think that is the uneasy feeling we all have when we look to the world and the things of the world for our fulfillment and happiness. And yet the above thought “also means that nothing outside yourself can hurt you, or disturb you, or disturb your peace or upset you in any way.” (W119)
We have to start accepting responsibility for our joy, happiness and contentment in life instead of waiting for life to happen and then crying about it. The other day, we were sitting at the kitchen table with Jeffrey having a snack. Paul and I were talking and instead of eating, Jeffrey got up and started playfully running his hands up the wall. The next thing we knew, he had accidentally knocked a picture off the wall. It came down with a crash and startled all of us.
Jeffrey has had some challenges in school with his focus, and we have all been trying to help him with this. He has gotten so much better, but this was just another example of how his lose of focus and getting off task can get the better of him and cause him problems. This became a good opportunity for me to use this as a focus lesson.
“Jeffrey,” I said calmly, “I know that you didn’t mean to knock that picture down, but you did knock it off because you were not doing what we asked you to do. You were supposed to be eating your snack and not running your hands up the wall. I am not upset with you, honey, but I want you to use this as a lesson to learn from. That picture did not accidentally fall off the wall. It fell off because you were over there running your hands up the wall, instead of sitting and eating your snack. I know you did not intend to knock the picture off the wall, but that’s the kind of thing that happens to you when you get off task. Things happen that you did not intend to have happen, but that you still need to take responsibility for.”
Even though I said it in the most loving way I possibly could, he started to cry. I put my arms around him, told him I loved him and that it was okay. Not more than a few seconds passed, when I felt those loving little arms around my neck and saw those eyes turn from tears to smiles.
I could so clearly see that this scenario is what we all go through in the world. We have lost focus and forgotten the truth of our creation. We are loving children of a loving father who only wants the best for us. But, we have wandered away from His wisdom and have allowed our meaningless thoughts to show us a meaningless world. But, this is not God’s will. God is the Source of all meaning and everything that is real is in His Mind and shares that meaning. As the Course tells us, “It is in my mind too, because He created it with me. Why should I continue to suffer from the effects of my own insane thoughts, when the perfection of creation is my home? Let me remember the power of my decision, and recognize where I really abide.” (W87)
The power of “my decision” is our choice to no longer feel victimized or guilty by the choices we have made, but to take responsibility for our choices so that we can let them go. In the light of God’s love these choices are seen as nothing more than clouds to be passed through. They have no more power to stop the Son of God in His healing, than clouds can stop you as you walk through them.
The pain and suffering of the world is not our home. We may tarry there for a little while, as Jeffrey did with his momentary tears, but any instant we can awaken to the truth that God loves us and is welcoming us home to our joy and happiness.
How do we get home to happiness?
This year for our annual international conference on A Course in Miracles, I wanted us to celebrate the joy of God. So, I have entitled this conference, The Happy Learner. It is based on the section in the Course’s text of the same title. In it, it says, “The Holy Spirit needs a happy learner, in whom His mission can be happily accomplished.”(T272) He needs us to begin to realize that we don’t have to settle for pain and problems in our lives. We can look through the insanity of our lives and with a lightness and laughter see beyond it to the joyous truth in every situation.
It then goes on to say, “The Holy Spirit seeing where you are but knowing that you are elsewhere, begins His lesson in simplicity with the fundamental teaching that truth is true.” (ibid)
This means that he does not discount your pain or what you think you are going through but he knows it is not true. And, because he holds the truth for us even when we cannot see it for ourselves, we will inevitably experience it because only truth is true. This is the only lesson we will ever have to learn, but it is the hardest one because simplicity is “difficult for twisted minds.” (ibid) We have placed great value in the complexity of our problems and our need for the things of the world to give us our value and purpose.
“Consider all the distortions you have made of nothing; all the strange forms and feelings and actions and reactions that you have woven out of it. Nothing is so alien to you as the simple truth, and nothing are you less inclined to listen to. The contrast between what is true and what is not is perfectly apparent, yet you do not see it. The simple and the obvious are not apparent to those who would make palaces and royal robes of nothing, believing they are kings with golden crowns because of them.” (ibid)
If you remember the tale by Hans Christian Anderson, The Emperor’s New Clothes, you will see the similarity here. As the story goes . . .
There once was an emperor who valued his clothes above his people and the state of his empire. One day two rogues came to the kingdom saying that they created the finest clothes in all the lands, but only those who were worthy of their office or those who were not fools could see the fabric that they used. Of course, the emperor wanted only the best and also saw it as a way to see who were the fools and the unworthy ones of his kingdom, so he hired these rogues at a high price to make him a most wonderful set of robes.
Finally the day came when the emperor would wear the “garments.” As he put them on, he, of course, saw nothing. But, again, he did not want to admit so, afraid that he would appear foolish and unworthy of his office. So, he paraded through the kingdom in his underwear acting as if he were in roya
Well, the rogues worked away weaving illusory fabric on empty looms and every person the king sent to view the progress saw nothing, but would not admit to it. They did not want to appear a fool or not worthy of their office in the kingdom, so each one reported back to the emperor the beautiful colors and style of this garment as they were told by the rogues.
None of the kingdom wanted to appear foolish and so they “oo-ed” and “ahh-ed” at how magnificent he looked. All except one little, innocent child who cried out, “But he has nothing on!” The crowd all repeated what the child said, and the emperor thought to himself that they were right, but he did not let on. He continued on with his procession through the kingdom and so did his staff who carried the train that did not exist.
The fear and suffering of this world can be passed by, but not by us alone. We, like the emperor, have bought into the lies of the ego and have a great investment in those lies. We need help from God’s Answer in the Holy Spirit, who holds the truth about us but still perceives our worldly investments. He can help us to gently loosen our grip on the world and show us that we don’t need to be afraid of this world of nightmares for in the joyous, innocent light of truth they are seen for what they are: lies and nothing more.
Only truth is true: we are God’s beloved child in whom He is well pleased. It is time for us to joyously arise and dust off the years and centuries of sorrow, suffering and fear, with the happy thought, “I share God’s Will for happiness for me and I accept it as my function now.” (W184)
“Spiritual” Games People Play
“Up high, Daddy,” my two-year-old boy was saying to my husband. It is a little game they play where Paul lets Jeffrey climb up on him and then do a backwards somersault landing feet first on the ground. Jeffrey loves playing this game….it’s fun!
We all love playing games. Life is a game…and it should be fun and joyous! But when we start to take our games seriously…..when we forget to laugh at the insanity…. we can run into real problems.
In his book Love Does Not Condemn, Ken Wapnick, Ph.D. tells the story of a man who came up to him at a workshop he was giving on A Course in Miracles and said, “Dr. Wapnick, I know you are a very spiritual person because you don’t smoke, you don’t drink much coffee and you don’t go to the bathroom very much.”
We all chuckle at this ridiculous explanation of spirituality and yet this is often the game we play with our study of A Course in Miracles – we confuse the form of the study with the content, or purpose, of the study, which has nothing to do with how one’s study looks. We think that if we live in a community of Course students, associate with Course people, read only Course inspired authors, attend only Course retreats that we are doing A Course in Miracles. There seems to be a belief that these “forms” in some way will bring us salvation and perhaps make us “more spiritual.” A Course in Miracles says, “Forget this world, forget this Course and come with wholly empty hands unto your God.” (T350/360)
There may be value in one attending workshops and retreats on the Course or reading books on the Course to help clarify and inspire, but these forms should never become a substitute for one’s own internal work and willingness to come to God to heal our lives.
It may seem so much easier to go to people who proclaim to know the “answers” for us. They may be exulted as channelers, seers or masters of truth, but in the “famous” words of Swami Beyondananda, “Enlightenment is not a bureaucracy, so you don’t have to go through channels.” No one can do your own internal work for you or tell you what you need to do for your growth or participation in the world – that is between you and your Internal Teacher. A good friend of the Center and long time student of A Course in Miracles tells a story that highlights this point. His name is Milton Friedman. No, he is not the renowned economist. As Milton puts it, “I’m not the one who solves economic problems – I’m the one who has economic problems!” Milton is the former speech writer for President Gerald Ford and lives in Washington D.C. He used to lecture regularly on the Course, so people knew of him and would sometimes write him and on rare occasions reach him on the phone. One time a Course student called Milton and said he was in Washington and that Holy Spirit told him to call and ask Milton to give him money and a place to stay. Milton responded, “Well, I respect your guidance and I assume that the Holy Spirit also told you that I would say ‘no.’”
No one can know another’s guidance, nor can they know what another needs for their growth. In answer to those who proclaim to be “the way, the truth and the life” for students of the Course; the Course tells us to remember that when we make idols to replace God (or God’s guidance in our lives) those idols become god to us. And, as we worship those gods we deny God’s presence in our lives and in essence deny our Self. “An idol or the Thought God holds of you is your reality. Forget not, then, that idols must keep hidden what you are, not from the Mind of God, but from your own.” (T588/633)
The sooth-sayers and elites of the Course may have their corner on the “form” of the Course, but not on the content. Certainly God is not found in secret or alone, but that does not mean one has to live in a community, attend a particular conference or follow a self-proclaimed guru to feel joined with his brother. Scott Peck, author of the very popular The Road Less Traveled, talks in his book A Different Drummer about the idea of community and joining. He basically says that joining or community does not look any particular way. In the 60’s people who were “living together” were considered the commune-hippie crowd. Now joining together in community means that we are among the brotherhood of humankind and that we express ourselves like brothers even though we may not “live” in the same neighborhood, talk the same lingo, follow the same teacher or may never physically meet.
Let us learn to respect all paths and all forms, but let us also not allow the path or form to replace the purpose or content of our lives. We are here to accept the atonement for ourselves, and that process, guided by Jesus and the Holy Spirit, is one that shows us the teaching beyond the teacher, the joining beyond the community and the content beyond the form.
Adapted from an article that first appeared in the September/October 1993 issue of The Holy Encounter.
Lost Gospel … Found Self
I grabbed a pair of scissors off a shelf, causing a small stamp pad to fall onto the mess that is known as my desk. From the side of my desk where I was standing, I could not see the stamp pad. It had disappeared from my sight. Of course it had to be there. I just knocked it over. But, it was not visible from my perspective. As I shifted my angle, moved a few stacks of books and papers away and looked again, I saw the pad. What had seemed lost, was found.
It made me realize that nothing is ever lost. Things may go missing for a while but they eventually show up. And so it seems with the latest discovery of the Gospel of Judas. After 1,700 years, this text has surfaced to shed a new angle on the relationship between Jesus and Judas. But, perhaps the most interesting angle is the perspective it offers us on our relationship with God.
This gospel is just one of many such writings that have surfaced, shedding a deeper perspective on the message of Christianity. Major discoveries such as the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Nag Hammadi Library, and gospels like Thomas and Mary Magdalene seem to indicate that all is not as clear-cut as what we have been told in the literal interpretations of the New Testament.
Dr. Elaine Pagels, a professor of religion at Princeton who specializes in studies of the Gnostics said, “These discoveries are exploding the myth of a monolithic religion and demonstrating how diverse – and fascinating – the early Christian movement really was.”
In Judas’ gospel, we are told of a secret conversation that Jesus had with Judas just days before he celebrated Passover. According to the gospel, Jesus tells Judas that he will “exceed all of them [the other disciples]. For you will sacrifice the man that clothes me.” Scholars of Gnosticism (sometimes considered a pre-Christian religion) say, “Jesus meant that by helping him get rid of his physical flesh, Judas will act to liberate the true spiritual self or divine being within Jesus.”
This new gospel paints Judas as the only one of the twelve disciples who understood the meaning of Jesus’ teachings. Then was his act a betrayal or an act of love? The Gnostics, which most of these newly discovered texts are being attributed to, believed in a secret knowledge of how people could escape the prison of their material bodies and return to the spiritual realm from which they came.
Gnostics were viewed by the early church leaders as unorthodox and often denounced as heretics. It is speculated that many of the seeming Gnostic-like texts such as the gospels of Judas, Mary and Thomas were probably suppressed. During those times, if you wanted to eliminate a text, you simply didn’t have it recopied and let nature take its course. But in this case (and a few others) those seemingly lost writings have been found.
So what do they mean to us and our lives? Perhaps not much to those of us who are a little more “Gnostic” than we realized. Even though the Gnostics were fanatical in their denial of the world, they weren’t all wrong. As A Course in Miracles tells us, this world of form is not our reality. It also tells us that we cannot escape this world through death, but rather through life. As the truth of who we all are – the Christ – begins to dawn on our minds, we will wipe away the sleep of dreams (our judgments and fears that limit and separate us) and see the love that connects us. It is not by denying the world or cherishing the world, but walking a path between the two that we will awaken to our salvation.
“If truth demanded you give up the world, it would appear as if it asked the sacrifice of something that is real. Many have chosen to renounce the world while still believing its reality. And, they have suffered from a sense of loss, and have not been released accordingly. Others have chosen nothing but the world, and they have suffered from a sense of loss still deeper, which they did not understand. Between these paths there is another road that leads away from loss of every kind, for sacrifice and deprivation both are quickly left behind. This is the way appointed for you now.” (Workbook Lesson 155)
From this passage we see that the message of the Gnostics – the unreality of form and the need to shed its bonds – becomes a realistic and achievable path, but not through denial or what we call death. This workbook lesson in the Course asks us to look clearly at the things we have given more value to than the peace and presence of God and decide whether or not that is where we want to dwell. If we want to dwell in peace, then we are asked to spend time each day with the Holy Spirit allowing Him to show us the love that is always present in every situation as we step back and let Him lead the way.
The discovery of the Gospel of Judas simply becomes another example that the world of illusions is constantly changing – things are lost and then found, the absolute authority of religious doctrine is canonized and then questioned. If we look to the world for answers, we will be confused and frustrated. But when we turn within and feel the peace of God, when we take a moment to dwell with Him, we are freed.
This Gospel of Judas gives us another look at Jesus. For many it will cause fear, for it will go against the status quo. For others it will make little or no difference. For Course students perhaps it will just be another opportunity to heal our perceptions. Judas is the only disciple mentioned in the Course and the passage is really more of a commentary about the entire New Testament. It says that there are many examples of upside-down thinking in the New Testament and confusion as to how Jesus responded to Judas is just one of such thoughts.
“Nor could they [the disciples] have described my reaction to Judas as they did, if they had really understood me. I could not have said, ‘Betrayest thou the Son of Man with a kiss?’ unless I believed in betrayal. The whole message of the crucifixion [teach only love, for that is what you are] was simply that I did not.” (T95)
But even with all the corrections offered in the Course to New Testament teaching, Jesus says, “its gospel [the New Testament’s] is really only the message of love.” (T95) And that is what we all need to remember, the message of love. For that message of love is all there really is. In the midst of the controversy on both sides that is bound to occur, our focus must be love. As we read in the Course, “The best defense, as always, is not to attack another’s position, but rather to protect the truth.” (T36)
Within the illusions of the world, we are given yet another opportunity to remember the truth. Lost gospel, political debate, war or a stamp pad. What is lost for a moment in the illusions of the world can become the doorway to the truth that will lift us out of this world of separation so that who we truly are may be found at last.
Glorious Creations of a Glorious Father
They stepped out from behind the curtain with little grace or order, but every face in the audience glowed with delight and approval as if they had seen the Joffrey Ballet. They were the Webby Dancers, the little 3,4 and 5 year old girls in pink tutus from my son’s holiday pre-school performance. As they stood in their crooked line with their crowns precariously atop their little heads, they squeaked out Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star as they accidently flung their hands into each other in an attempt at synchronized dance. It was all at once adorable and bedlam but no one seemed to mind. We all smiled and applauded their every awkward movement. We knew they had worked hard, we knew the goal they wanted to achieve, and we were appreciative of how far they had come. It wasn’t perfect, not yet. But, who knows? Perhaps we were watching a future prima ballerina!
When it comes to children, we all see the potential. When Jeffrey comes home with a drawing that looks like scribbles and tells me it is a picture of us as a family, I proudly put it on the refrigerator for everyone to see. And, if I squint enough, I can even see what he sees.
Using these experiences as analogies, I can imagine that’s how God see’s us. He takes our smallest attempts at healing and proudly points to them saying, “That’s my child!” It is hard for us to have that kind of opinion about ourselves or each other, but the Course would say that is because we do not know ourselves. We have already judged our valuelessness and convicted ourselves by our imperfect actions. But God is lovingly holding the truth about us unviolated by all that we have made or think.
“Be quiet in your faith in Him Who loves you, and would lead you out of insanity. Madness may be your choice, but not your reality. Never forget the Love of God, Who has remembered you. For it is quite impossible that He could ever let His Son drop from the loving Mind wherein he was created, and where his abode was fixed in perfect peace forever.” (T258/278)
So again we are reminded that God’s opinion of us far exceeds our actions or intentions. He does not value or judge the way we do. Does that make His opinion naive or does it make it wise?
With all that is going on in the world, no wonder our minds are spinning. First off, in this country we are entering a presidential election year. Now the ads begin for each party. Do we believe what we hear, read or see? It’s always so confusing. One person says one thing, and that sounds right. Then someone says something else and that sounds right. What do we do?
Remember that the goal of the ego is to distract us, to prevent us from our healing and the awareness of who we are and who our brother is. The ego wants us to believe that we are valueless, so it keeps us preoccupied with the past and our judgments about our actions. But that is not how God sees us. If we continue viewing each other from an opinion of judgment, we will continue to experience pain. But, if we, for just a moment, withdraw our support of the ego’s view (which is one that values attack and fosters separation), we allow the possibility of another way (the way God views us) to be revealed.
“The best defense as always is not to attack another’s position, but rather to protect the truth.” (T32/36) I think this statement is a key for us. We are constantly tempted to attack….whether it be of ourselves or another. An attack can be as subtle as a thought that you or another haven’t done enough, aren’t worthy, have had a lot of “bad breaks.” Or it can be as blatant as hating or projecting guilt for this problem or that situation. When we listen to our ego’s voice, these thoughts may seem to be the truth. But in the mind of God where the truth of who we are is held inviolate, these thoughts are not true. And if we believe in the things of the world, we will have the things of the world. But, if we believe in the truth and protect the truth of who and what we are as children of God, we will open our minds up to the awareness of another way.
A Course in Miracles was born because two people joined together to find a better way to live in the world. We now have to decide to render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s. We are God’s creations, and if we truly want to live a life of peace and healing, then we must render Him our willingness to see His creations as He sees them.
Einstein said that no problem can be solved from the level of consciousness where it is perceived. We need to reach a new level or have a willingness to experience people and ourselves from a new perspective. Okay, that all sounds good. How do we do it? I believe the Course is a process …. that is why we are given 365 lessons and over 700 pages in a text and manual. We begin each day making a choice to allow the Holy Spirit into our minds and let Him decide for God for us.
“So is that it,” you might ask? Well, not exactly. We do have to look at our lives and what is painful and confusing and realize that we want to be healed, that we want another way. There are so many passages in the Course that can be helpful, but I want to share one that I have found to be particularly helpful — especially in this current political frenzy.
“When your mood tells you that you have chosen wrongly, and this is so whenever you are not joyous, then know this need not be. In every case you have thought wrongly about some brother God created, and are perceiving images your ego makes in a darkened glass. Think honestly what you have thought that God would not have thought, and what you have not thought that God would have you think. Search sincerely for what you have done and left undone accordingly, and then change your mind to think with God’s. This may seem hard to do, but it is much easier than trying to think against it. Your mind is one with God’s. Denying this and thinking otherwise has held your ego together, but has literally split your mind. As a loving brother I am deeply concerned with your mind, and urge you to follow my example as you look at yourself and at your brother, and see in both the glorious creations of a glorious Father.”(T57/63)
Would God see George Bush or Hillary Clinton (or pick your “favorites”) as the diabolical and hateful images that many have painted them as? The above passage in the Course is not about condoning actions or denying a need to act, it is about lifting us into a vision that we share with God — thinking about His creations as He would think. In that awareness we can stop the cycle of hate begets hate and war begets war, and start living as the glorious creations of a glorious Father. We will be lifted to an awareness that will lead us in a new direction with new hope and possibilities.
You may think that this will take a lifetime, but the journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step. Who knows what might happen to this world if we were to collectively see the innocence of our political leaders? Again, this does not mean that we have to like or condone what someone does, we are simply asked to step back from the anger and hatred so our minds may be at peace and then opened to new awareness.
I think back to those little Webby Dancers. It was so easy to see that their slinging hands and little pushes were not purposeful. And, even if some of them were, their goal was to help the little girl next to them do the dance move as they had been taught. There was so much compassion for every gesture — we all could see that they were motivated by wanting to make this the best performance they could. Perhaps we can see that same motivation behind the actions of others. After all, behind all our actions, judgments and “hateful” acts, we are told we are “glorious creations of a glorious Father.” It might not hurt either, to imagine Hillary Clinton and George Bush in a pink tutu!
A Story of Resurrection
As we approach the Easter season, I want to share with you a story of my resurrection: My experience of life in what we call death. February 19 of this year marked five years since my mother made her transition from this worldly experience to the next. As I remembered her life and all that she imparted to me, there was no sadness. I feel her all around me and I do shed a few tears now and then, but they are really tears of joy for what she taught me and continues to teach me.
My little boy, Jeffrey, never met my Mom in person, but I think he has met her. I have shown him photos and told him that Grandma Tona is an angel who watches out for him all the time and especially at night when he sleeps. Many times when I least expect it, Jeffrey will say, “Grandma Tona angel is watching us.” I have passed it off as him just parroting my words, but I suspect he may know more than I think.
The Course tells us there is no death; the Son of God is free. I do believe what it says and I do believe there is no end to life. But, like all of us, I get caught up in the day to day activities of life and find myself falling into old patterns of thinking that when someone dies they are not around to help anymore. Fortunately, I am starting to catch these old patterns so that they can be turned over to the Holy Spirit to be healed, but I was also given an experience that has helped me so much that I wanted to share it with you on this special occasion in my life.
A few months back, I had a dream where my mother and I were sitting in a restaurant talking. We used to do a lot of that, so it seemed quite natural. In the midst of our conversation, I realized that she was dead. I knew she was dead because her eyes looked dead. Now, frankly, I don’t know what dead eyes look like (just what I have seen in those vampire movies), but that is what my mind said they were: dead eyes. As I continued to listen to her, her eyes suddenly transformed into the beautiful eyes that were my mother’s trademark. I was so excited that I said to her, “Mama, your eyes are alive…you are alive!”
She smiled at me and lovingly said, “I was always alive. You were the one who saw me as dead.”
That thought has stayed with me and continues to seep down into my mind and heart. The Course tells us there is no end to life and so did my mom. But, whether or not we see life is really our choice. How often do we find ourselves caught in dead thoughts: thoughts of anger, fear, depression, attack, judgment and separation? These are the thoughts that cut us off from our experience of God….our experience of our true life: A life that shows us our connection and continuation.
How arrogant of us to think that what God created as eternal can end! Just because we can’t see or understand how we could be connected to each other beyond our bodies or how life can continue without a body does not mean it cannot be true. Our understanding is not necessary for God’s truth to prevail. But if we want to feel God’s peace and joy in our lives, we must allow His healing truth into our hearts. How? Start by becoming aware of those “dead thoughts.” Become aware of the temptation to wander into thoughts of separation: anger, fear, attack, depression, etc. When you are tempted to dwell in these emotions, remind yourself that these thoughts are not worthy of the Holy Child of God. Invite the Holy Spirit into your thoughts so that you might experience the life of God’s Son and not dwell in death.
We don’t have to create the presence of God in our lives; we just need to release the blocks to that presence. It was said that when Michelangelo was asked how he could carve such masterpieces out of a block of marble, he said that he simply chipped away everything that was not the masterpiece. The masterpiece that God has created is within us now; we merely need to let the thoughts that are not worthy of God’s Holy Child have no more value to us…drop away.
Certainly, this is a practice. We need to nurture the awareness of God in our minds and that is where the workbook lessons for the Course are valuable. It gives us a daily practice. The Course is not the only way, but it is a way that provides a daily practice. If you find the Course to be your path, then you need to do it. It is time to take it off the shelf and make a commitment to your life, to your healing.
Join with me in not just celebrating the resurrection but in living the resurrection. Let your life reflect the resurrecting spirit of love and life. As we read in the Course:
“Each day, each hour and minute, even every second, you are deciding between the crucifixion and the resurrection; between the ego and the Holy Spirit. The ego is the choice of guilt; the Holy Spirit is the choice for guiltlessness. The power of decision is all that is ours. What you can decide between is fixed, because there are no alternatives except truth and illusion. And there is no overlap between them, because they are opposites which cannot be reconciled and cannot both be true. You are guilty or guiltless, bound or free, unhappy or happy.” (T255/275)
Let us place our attention on the life we share with God and the guidance of the Holy Spirit who will show us the guiltless, free, and joyous Child of God that we and our brothers are. Allow thoughts of death to fall away and embrace the masterpiece that God has created.
“Paka did it,” laughed my son, Jeffrey, when the little magnet fell off the refrigerator. It has become the saying around our house when anything seems to fall by itself, that it is my Dad who is knocking it over to get our attention. As many of your know, my Dad died suddenly last March after a fall that cause a severe brain trauma. This was the first death of a family member that our seven-year-old had experienced. I told Jeffrey that when someone’s body dies their spirit lives on in our hearts. So, no one is really ever gone, for they are a part of us — living in our hearts and minds. Every time we think of them, we feel them with us.
So, what started the legend of Paka knocking things over? Well, a few weeks after my Dad’s passing I framed and hung a large painting of my dad up on our wall. It was done in the 50’s by an artist friend of his and is a great caricature painting that really captures my Dad. It is so large that the only place to put it is on a wall that shares space with a rattan room divider — half of the painting was covered. One day I heard a large crash downstairs. I thought Jeffrey had knocked something over, but he was upstairs too. We both walked cautiously down stairs and found the rattan room divider had fallen over to uncover the complete painting of Paka. I laughed and said, I guess Paka didn’t like that divider in front of his face, so he knocked it over. Jeffrey thought that was so funny that since that day we say anything that falls is Paka’s way of getting our attention to remind us that he is always around.
When it comes to these types of matters, my son’s faith in me is so strong. If I tell him that life is eternal or that our essence is love, he believes me. He is always quick to remind me that Paka is near – that Paka and grandma Tona angel (the name for my mom who died in 1997 before Jeffrey was born) live in his heart and are always watching out over him. His faith bolsters mine when I start to feel so oppressed by the “reality” of the world.
So many people I know have recently experienced the death of a loved one. Each one causes me to remember again how miraculous and beautiful my Dad’s death was. His death brought me to a level of experience about the eternal nature of life that has no counterpart in this world. Nevertheless, that does not stop me from feeling disconnected at times from them and my eternal connection. I fall into the trap of feeling we are separated because I can’t see their bodies. The other day I was feeling that sadness, and Jeffrey knew why I was sad. He took the pad of paper that was in front of me and drew two smiley faces. One he labeled “Your Dad” and the other “Your Mom.” He then wrote the words coming from both their mouths, “Hi Beverly!”
That piece of paper hangs by my desk as a reminder of eternal life – a connection beyond the form. I am not looking for a ghostly visit or a message from beyond; the message of eternal life is found when we reach out to each other in love. As we come upon the Easter season once again, the message that rings true for me is not that of Jesus’ death, but of his life filled with expressions of love. And I felt God’s love and my parents’ love, when my child reached out to me in help and joining.
There is such a tendency to be bound to the forms of this world in a very literal way. We try to find meaning and understanding for our lives in the things that happen. And yet, the Course tells us that we will never find true meaning in the things of this world, for this world was not made for clarity but rather confusion. Does that mean that we deny the world or the things in it? Of course not — but we don’t cherish them either. We use them as steppingstones to the awareness of peace, love and our eternal unity.
The job of the Holy Spirit, according to the Course, is to mediate between the seeming duality we see (i.e., love and fear, ego and spirit) and side in favor of the truth. “The Holy Spirit is in the part of the mind that lies between the ego and the spirit, mediating between them always in favor of the spirit.” (T132) The Holy Spirit sees everything we see and gently guides us to see that experience not in a literal context but in a universal context – one that emphasizes an eternal message.
When I think of the stories of the life of Jesus, I don’t think of them so much as literal but metaphorical. Did Jesus raise Lazarus from the dead as the Bible reports? Or, did he raise the dead thoughts (our thoughts of fear, judgment and anger) of the people. Did he feed the masses with a few loaves and fish? Or were the people hungry for a message of truth that truly filled them so their aimless searching was fed. Did Jesus die on a cross to have his body rise up three days later? Or did he show us that the body is not our reality and that his universal message of love and forgiveness would rise up past the limits of this world
A Course in Miracles says, “A slain Christ has no meaning. But a risen Christ becomes the symbol of the Son of God’s forgiveness on himself; the sign he looks upon himself as healed and whole.” (T425)
My son’s note helped me to rise up and remember my eternal connection. When something falls in our house, I am reminded that love never ends. Every experience becomes a window that shines in the miraculous light of God’s love to transform our lives or not. We can turn away and wander into valleys of darkness and suffering, but we can’t stop God’s Will for us: our peace and healing.
The Course so beautifully tells us in the following passage that the Easter week is not a static, historic event but the story of our emerging life’s journey and the salvation that is promised us…
“A week is short, and yet this holy week is the symbol of the whole journey the Son of God has undertaken. He started with the sign of victory, the promise of the resurrection, already given him. Let him not wander into the temptation of crucifixion and delay him there. Help him to go in peace beyond it, with the light of this own innocence lighting his way to his redemption and release. Hold him not back with thorns and nails when his redemption is so near. But let the whiteness of your shining gift of lilies speed him on his way to resurrection.
Easter is not the celebration of the cost of sin, but of its end.” (T425)
We hold in our hands the opportunity to heal the Son of God. As we reach out to each other in love and kindness, we become God’s hands and heart on earth. Our own forgiving thoughts and simple acts of kindness take the “thorns and nails” out of the collective brow and hands of humanity. We thereby see no difference between our journey and another’s – and know that their healing is ours as well. For it is together, past all the seeming differences of the world, that we enter into Paradise and know the peace of God.
The “Peace on Earth, Good Will to All” Perspective
We have recently come through our election season and since this article was written before the election, I don’t know the specific outcome. What I do know is that whoever has won, it is now time for us to come together in peace. It is appropriate that elections are held so close to the holidays of Thanksgiving and Christmas because we seem to be nicer during those times of year and as political campaigns can be somewhat vicious, we need all the reminders we can get.
Peace on earth is not just a nice idea, it is an imperative for our very survival. This certainly makes sense on a worldly level. If we do not globally come together with peace foremost in our minds, there may not be a world. The United States of America and a few other superpowers are no longer the only ones who have the capability to destroy the world, or make it pretty darn unlivable. Now that ability is available to any number of unstable foreign governments. We can no longer bully countries into “towing the line.” We need to stop our boasting that God is on our side, as if to say that God is only supportive of Christian faiths. Instead we must pray, as Abraham Lincoln said that we are on “God’s side.” It is time for us to come from a new perspective.
I think the answer is to keep peace foremost in our minds and hearts and to extend “good will toward all.” The challenge for us is we are not sure how to do that, how it will look, or if we really want to do it. A Course in Miracles tells us that the first two concerns will be done for us, for that is the job of the Holy Spirit who is in our minds, simply waiting for us to step aside so the answer may be given. As we read, “All that is asked of you is to make room for truth. You are not asked to make or do what lies beyond your understanding.” (T449) Well, that sounds pretty easy, and it is, but, there is one real block to this simple formula: Us. We need to decide if we really want it. “Is conflict what you want, or is God’s peace the better choice?” (M51)
Come on, we all want peace…don’t we? Well, yes, we say we do, but are our actions in line with our thoughts?
There is a Peanuts comic strip where Charlie Brown’s sister Sally walks into the room and says, “I hate the world. I hate everyone!” Charlie Brown responds, “But I thought you said you had inner peace.” Sally answers back, “I do, but I still have outer obnoxiousness.”
In the Course’s Manual for Teachers, there are ten characteristics a Teacher of God. These are wonderful ideals to begin practicing now since we are all teachers and students learning together. One of the characteristics is honesty. From the Course’s perspective, honesty is defined as consistency. Nothing that you think, say or do contradicts who you are. From this standpoint our living becomes honest because we are consistent in what we say and how we live.
Media mogul Ted Turner was recently interviewed on CNN and asked about his environmental views. He said it was important for those who have the means to become part of the answer for our environment by helping through their financial support. He went on to say that he also does one simple thing more that anyone could do. Each day when he walks the streets of New York, he picks up at least one piece of trash and puts it in the trash can. “If everyone picked up just one piece of trash, there wouldn’t be any trash on the streets,” he said.
So the idea is we would pick up the trash we see, and then we would soon realize that we don’t need to litter in the first place. The same principle holds true for everything we do. See the problem, decide whether we want the problem or the solution, and then move toward the solution. As the Course puts it, “Behold the problem, ask for the answer, and then accept it when it comes.” (M65)
If our goal is peace, and we realize that we must extend peace if that is what we want to experience, then it is time for us to move toward that solution. In the above example it would be to pick up one piece of trash a day. For students of the Course, it is to do our workbook lesson daily; to watch the thoughts of judgment that come into our minds about circumstances or people and give them to the Holy Spirit. It is to begin in small, tangible ways to be consistent for peace.
“Slow and steady wins the race” is the moral from Aesop’s fable The Tortoise and the Hare. That simple moral is as true today as when it was written. Let’s not allow the confusion of the world to make us think that truth is difficult and our answer is unachievable.
It’s simple: get our action in line with our thought and our thought in line with our action. We think that changes need to look big to make any difference, but it is the consistent, everyday action that will transform the world. Water cuts through rock not because it is physically stronger than rock, but because it is consistent.
We are like water. When faced with our desire to withhold peace and goodwill because we think the other person is wrong or the situation is bad, we must quiet our minds, turn to our strength (God) and let His answer of insightful peace cut through that thinking. God’s peace will triumph not because we become naïve to the world happenings but because we focus on the truth. That focus will allow us to evolve past our need to attack because we will see that attack breeds attack and that is no longer of value to us.
Everyday when my son Jeffrey goes off to school, I quickly pray this thought from the Course’s workbook with him: “I will arise in glory, and allow the light in me to shine upon the world throughout the day.”(Lesson 237) My purpose is to focus on our truth, which will in turn make us able to handle anything that comes our way. We will see the circumstances of the day as opportunities to focus on peace and extend goodwill to all because we will see no other purpose. As this thought becomes more firmly set in our minds as our only function, the things that distract us from this purpose (thoughts of anger, judgment or fear, which are illusory anyway) will begin to lose interest to us. For, who would waste time focused on these distractions when the awareness of God is so near?
Peace on earth and goodwill to all can reign in our hearts, we just need to make it more important than the confusion, depression and anger we have gotten used to. To focus on the truth is not a denial of the world, it is an aligning of our minds with the power within us that can literally move mountains.
God asks of everyone only question, “Are you ready yet to help Me save the world?” (M82) The answer is up to you.
We wish you all a peace-filled holiday season and a miraculous new year. You are entitled to it!
A Crisis to Faith
The financial crisis is all over the news. We hear of the record-breaking drops in the U.S. stock market almost daily. The international markets are also dropping as if in sympathy. Then the next minute, the Dow shows a record rise in one day. If you have a 401(k) or any stocks at all, you have seen losses on paper that you have never seen before.
What’s going on? That’s the 700 billion dollar question, since that is how much we have now pumped into our failing financial market in hopes of raising its dying pulse. Will it work? How much is this going to cost the American tax payer? What will this mean for our future? There are lots of very good questions, but very few good answers.
A Course in Miracles does offer us a good answer in the midst of any crisis. It tells us not to focus on the world outside of us for that is constantly changing, but rather to focus within on the kingdom of God where our real, constant safety lies. The Course says, “What the world is, is but a fact. You cannot choose what this should be. But you can choose how you would see it. Indeed, you must choose this.” (M29) The world and its circumstances are neutral, but we become the decision makers as to how we will react to those circumstances. We have all heard of the old saying that you can see the glass as half full or half empty, but do we realize that this is a spiritual truth with incredible benefits for us? The glass is a glass and its contents are its contents, but how you react to the contents either empowers you or diminishes you.
Once we realize the power of our choice, the Course adds another element. It tells us that the purpose of this world is not amassing wealth, property, things, etc, but to heal the son of God (to be kind, helpful and forgiving in all our interactions). With that awareness in mind, everything that happens either brings us closer to that goal or not. Where are you living now? Are your thoughts and actions bringing you closer to peace, joy, happiness and healing or not? If not, then this is where you need to begin.
Once we realize the power of our choice, the Course adds another element. It tells us that the purpose of this world is not amassing wealth, property, things, etc, but to heal the son of God (to be kind, helpful and forgiving in all our interactions). With that awareness in mind, everything that happens either brings us closer to that goal or not. Where are you living now? Are your thoughts and actions bringing you closer to peace, joy, happiness and healing or not? If not, then this is where you need to begin.
How do we find what is missing? Our limited thinking would say that if something is lacking we need to fill our lack and protect what little we have left. But God would say just the opposite. The more we clutch to ourselves the more we lose and the more we extend the more we find. We see this in nature all the time. When a stream is dammed up, it begins to die. But when an opening is made (no matter how small) to allow the water to flow freely in and out, life begins again.
Into our fearful or lacking thoughts, we need to let life begin again by focusing on the strength within and extending from that strength. In A Course in Miracles we read that God extended Himself and created us — that He needed to create in order to know Himself. It tells us that we need to extend ourselves to know who we are. As best we can understand this spiritual truth, it would mean that we must extend in love to all we meet or who cross our minds. We must give in truth to know ourselves. As A Course in Miracles says, “The cost of giving is receiving. Either it is a penalty from which you suffer or the happy purchase of a treasure to hold dear.” (T275)
What are you giving now? Are you afraid and angry, or are you ready for a paradigm shift? During this time of world crisis, we have a responsibility to be part of the solution and not the problem. As Gandhi said, “Be the change you want to see in the world.”
Let us make healing our goal and extend from that goal in order to strengthen it within ourselves. During this difficult financial time, our tendency maybe to fearfully draw in, but it is our giving from the truth of our being that will be our salvation. This form of giving, as the Course says, “will be a purchase of a happy gift you will hold dear.” Or you will “give” from fear and lack and experience “a penalty from which you will suffer.” You will give because that is your basic nature, but only one way brings you life.
A Course in Miracles says, “Only what you have not given can be lacking in any situation.” We have a mighty responsibility and can make a mighty change in this world as we change our minds to think with God and extend from our abundant thinking. Do not diminish the power of God that abides in you. It is the power that inspired man to sail around the world when everyone else thought the world was flat. It is the power that inspired flight and our quest to journey to the moon. It is the power that inspires us to reach out and help someone in need, to forgive when it is not easy and to pray without ceasing.
The next time you feel lack or limit, remember Who walks with you and realize the mighty gift of love that you have to give. The dividends will benefit not only you but the world. “All that I give is given to myself.” (Workbook Lesson 126)
I’m Rubber, You’re Glue
The other day I was talking to my son, Jeffrey, about life on the playground in the fourth grade. I was curious if things had changed from my experience forty years ago. Some aspects seemed to be the same, but how the kids handled conflict was different. They now call it a “peaceful playground.” If kids get into conflict they are supposed to “walk, talk, or rock” to resolve things. That means you walk away, talk it out or play “rock, paper, scissors” to find a winner. It seems to work pretty well at his school, but that’s because everyone is of the same mindset.
Kids today are taught (at least at our school) the importance of a peaceful resolution to problems, and that kindness and courtesy to one another should be the standard and not the exception. Sounds pretty reminiscent of “do unto others what you would have them do unto you.”
When I was a kid, the playground was a very different place, but we did have our own way of solving problems. I often heard kids saying, “I’m rubber, you’re glue. Everything you say bounces off of me and sticks onto you!” When you think about it, that is a very deep, spiritual truth. What we do or say to another really “sticks” to us, not to them, and can only affect them if they decide to participate in the experience.
In A Course in Miracles we read, “The cost of giving is receiving. Either it is a penalty from which you suffer, or the happy purchase of a treasure to hold dear.” (T275) When we bless or offer kindness to another, we feel good: “a treasure to hold dear.” We might not, though, fully understand how our attack thoughts or judgments towards another really hurt us. When we attack or condemn another, we do not escape the experience. Even if we feel our attack is justified in our minds, we are never at peace.
I remember reading a quote from the Dalai Lama who was asked why he did not fight back when the Chinese exiled him from Tibet. With a chuckle, he said, “War is obsolete, you know.” Then with a more concerned tone he went on to say, “The mind can rationalize fighting back, but the heart would never understand. Then you would be divided in yourself, the heart and the mind, and the war would be inside you.”
A Course in Miracles tells us that we are inextricably connected to each other. That’s a nice idea, but it is hard to wrap our minds around that thought. The Course uses the analogy of a drop of water to the ocean. We think we are a separate drop instead of part of the mighty ocean. We see ourselves as alone, isolated and in need of protection from the mighty ocean. And yet, the ocean is not our enemy but our source. We would be nothing without it, and it is actually impossible to keep ourselves separate. In fact, arrogance would say that this drop is autonomous from the ocean.
This goes back to our basic nature. From the Course’s perspective, you are as God created you, and that cannot change. That is why it tells us over and over again in many different ways that we are the answer we are seeking. It says that deep within us is everything that is perfect, ready to radiate through us and out into the world because God goes with us wherever we go. It is our free will to experience this now, or not. The fact is we will return home to the loving awareness of God because there is nothing else. But, when we will experience that, is up to us.
Our Map Home to God.
Before the Internet, personal computers, cell phones and GPS systems, there were maps. Remember those? But now when I need to get somewhere, I simply Mapquest the address through the Internet or program the address into my car’s GPS system. I am then given step-by-step directions to my destination. It is so easy! I wrote an article in this publication (March/April 2007 issue) about how my GPS system reminds me of the Voice for God in the way that it so compassionately helps me maneuver through this world. When I make a wrong turn from what my GPS system directs (and, yes, I still do make the wrong turns), it never tells me I am wrong but just lovingly recalculates a new route. It doesn’t point out my mistake (making me feel guilty for not being able to follow a GPS system – how easy can it get?!) It simply tells me I am “off course,” and then offers me another way to my destination.
God’s Voice is constantly offering us a map home, and the map it offers is forgiveness. Forgiveness from the Course’s perspective is not an action, but rather an awareness. You may feel guided to do something in this world as a result of this awareness, or not. Forgiveness does not condone the actions of others; it helps us to see with clarity and compassion so that we all may be healed. Holding anger or resentment towards anyone (justified or not), imprisons us and causes us to be blind to the awareness of God. There is a saying that goes, “Not forgiving is like drinking rat poison and then waiting for the rat to die.”
A Course in Miracles reminds us that we cannot be set free while we imprison anyone with our judgments. As it says,
“A jailer is not free, for he is bound together with his prisoner. He must be sure that he does not escape, and so he spends his time in keeping watch on him. The bars that limit him become the world in which his jailer lives, along with him. And it is on his freedom that the way to liberty depends for both of them.
Therefore, hold no one prisoner. Release instead of bind, for thus are you made free. The way is simple. Every time you feel a stab of anger, realize you hold a sword above your head. And it will fall or be averted as you choose to be condemned or free. Thus does each one who seems to tempt you to be angry represent your savior from the prison house of death. And so you owe him thanks instead of pain.” (W366)
I owe WHO thanks
“And so you owe him thanks instead of pain.” Remember it says “thanks,” not that you have to have lunch with them, have them over to the house, give them a hug or loan them money. Healing happens in the mind, not through manipulating the world. If forgiveness is dependent on changing something in the world, then it is not forgiveness. Again, that does not mean that we may not do certain things in the world or do them differently. We certainly may be guided to do that. Remember, forgiveness is an awareness, not necessarily an action.
Inner connectedness is our salvation
Forgiveness allows us to experience our inner connectedness. As the Course says,
“Forgiveness takes away what stands between your brother and yourself. It is the wish that you be joined with him, and not apart.” (T555)
Most of the time, we see in fragments. We think someone’s actions are separate from us. We have a difficult time understanding that our judgmental thinking about another actually hurts us. Yet, at a deep level, we know it to be true. We have all watched the troubled lives of child actors and now young adults like Lindsey Lohan and Britney Spears. They seem to be on self-destructive cycles. We can’t imagine some of the escapades these people have done, and yet we are connected to them. We cannot be healed as long as we see them as separate from us. Our disgust over their actions or wastefulness keeps them in the prison of our judgment and us as their jailer.
Becoming aware of our connectedness is not a “new age” idea. The Native American Indians spoke of our connection to every living thing. Chief Seattle, leader of the Suquamish tribe, is quoted as saying that our world is like a web and what you do to one part of the web you do to the entire web.
The other night, I was flipping the channels (yes, women do this too) and I caught the end of the movie Phenomenon starring John Travolta. I saw it years ago, but it had even more meaning to me now. In the movie, Travolta’s character, George, has a “light” experience that seems to give him supernatural powers. The people of the small town where he lives are very frightened by his change, but George is really no different, although he can spin sunglasses and lift them off the ground, to name a few of his feats. He tries to explain it by telling about the largest living organism in the world, which is a grove of Aspen trees in Utah (this is actually true … I Googled it!) This grove covers 106 acres and is connected by a single underground root structure. Some trees are large; some are small. Some trees have beautiful foliage and some are barren, but they are all connected. By focusing on that connection, we can create miracles because the power of God lies in all of us but not in any of us alone.
We are all connected. No matter how different we may look on the surface, we are connected. When we look in disgust at another, we see ourselves. When we attack another, we attack ourselves. And, when we ignore this awareness, we lose ourselves. Everything we think is like a boomerang heading right back towards us, but not in some distant future, right here and now.
Forgive, and you will see this differently.
You may be nodding your head right now in agreement. If you are a student of A Course in Miracles or have been on any spiritual path for a while, these are probably not new thoughts What becomes overwhelming to us is not that we do judge and attack, but how often and casually we do it. The helpful thing about becoming aware of this fact is not so we can feel guilty about it, but so we can become aware of it and allow healing to begin. Unlike the theories of karma or reincarnation, the Course tells us that we can undo the effects of our wrong thinking through the gift of forgiveness right now.
The Course would tell us that this is a course in undoing: undoing all the mistaken concepts we hold about the world and ourselves and instead relearning the truth. The Course does not aim at teaching the meaning of love, but rather how to remove the blocks to the awareness of love, which is our true inheritance. And, that is what forgiveness does. It asks us to bring those unforgiving, attacking and seemingly indifferent thoughts to the light of love, the Hands of God, to the Helper God has given us, where they will be gently and lovingly healed for us.
Our job now is to become aware that we want to be healed. For some reason, to do this, we feel we need to figure out how forgiveness should look; who needs to atone before it can be bestowed. I have often said that we all have a “back story” for the things that we do and the way that we are. Knowing that “back story” can give us understanding and compassion for people and circumstances, but that still does not justify their actions. The Course tells us that forgiveness would be unjust indeed if it asked us to overlook the actions that we believe to be true to justify forgiveness. We are not asked to overlook actions but rather to look through their actions to the truth that abides within them.
One of my favorite movies is Forrest Gump. Whenever it comes on TV, I have to stop and watch it. In one scene, Jenny, Forrest’s childhood friend and lifetime love, returns home to Alabama to recuperate from her painful, worldly life of external searching. As they walk among the countryside, Jenny comes upon the dilapidated shack where she grew up with a father who molested her. Recognizing that the pain of her life stemmed from that horrible upbringing, Jenny begins to throw rocks at the house until she throws so hard she falls down sobbing. Forrest’s character may be that of a “slow” person, but his wisdom cuts through the complexity as we hear him say in a voiceover of the scene, “Sometimes there are just not enough rocks.”
Sometimes there are just not enough rocks.
The only thing that will ever give us peace is love. Forgiveness becomes the expression of love in action, but it is an action that is not bound by the world – it is an expression from the heart. I go back once more to the movie Forrest Gump. What ended up being Jenny’s salvation was not her attack but her surrender, her surrender to love. Forrest’s character always loved her. Through all of her escapades, he always loved her and she knew it. Most of the time she turned away from that love, but in her mind and heart, she knew it was there, waiting for her return.
So it is for us with God. He is waiting for our return, not in form but in heart. And even in this, He helps us. He has given us a helper in the Holy Spirit who understands our seeming need to “throw rocks” and yet quietly sits with us as we sob, offering us another way.
It is time for us to accept His help. Let us bring forgiveness into our hearts by stepping back from the wrongs and rights of the world and allow healing to come. But remember, healing can only come if we do not block the door. If we hold anger, judgment or indifference in our hearts for another, we have blocked the door to our salvation. Then let us begin again by allowing forgiveness to rest on our minds that we might see and think of our brothers as God would. When we forget, we will try again. If there are long interruptions, we will try again. Whenever we remember, we will try again. Our awakening and healing has been preordained. Now all that is needed is our awareness.
“Look gently on your brother, and remember the ego’s weakness is revealed in both your sight. What it would keep apart has met and joined, and looks upon the ego unafraid. Little child, innocent of sin, follow in gladness the way to certainty. Be not held back by fear’s insane insistence that sureness lies in doubt. This has no meaning. What matters it to you how loudly it is proclaimed? The senseless is not made meaningful by repetition and by clamor. The quiet way is open. Follow it happily, and question not what must be so.”(T456)
“It’s Okay. Don’t Be so Hard on Yourself.”
“Jeffrey did not turn in his math assignment, so he missed a recess today.” That’s what the note said that was attached to my nine-year-old’s homework folder. It suddenly dawned on my over-extended memory that I had forgotten to put his math assignment back into his folder after I had taken it out to tell the babysitter how to help him study for his upcoming math test. I felt terrible! It was totally my fault. I was the one who should have missed the recess – the one school activity my son absolutely LOVES!
As my guilt rose, I saw how quickly I began to project my guilty feelings outward. Why did that teacher take his recess away without checking all her facts? Why did I have to leave my son with the babysitter when I should have been home? Why am I pulled in so many directions that I need a babysitter? Why, why, why? Oh, I didn’t leave one person or circumstance out, as I spewed my guilt and felt more and more alone in my self-made prison.
I dragged my “wretched” self upstairs to tell my “poor” child how sorry I was and how unfair the world was to him (can I be more dramatic?). He listened to me and then quietly said, “It’s okay, Mom. Don’t be so hard on yourself.”
His words, “It’s okay. Don’t be so hard on yourself,” stuck in my mind. It was almost as if they were spoken to me by God Himself. In this world, things happen. We will never heal if we are attached to the outcome of the world. Our focus has to be on how we handle the “things” that happen.
Each situation presents us once again with an opportunity to heal or not, to remember the peace of God or to fall into our endless pit of guilt. I saw how easily I could project my anger onto the world, but I also saw how easily my child washed it all away with his simple words.
A couple of weeks ago, our backyard neighbor decided to cut down the nine beautiful pine trees that are planted on his slope. He had just redone his backyard and didn’t want pine needles falling into his pool anymore. Some of these trees were nearly thirty years old! I was in tears. He killed an entire ecosystem! What kind of monster am I living next to? I remembered my son’s words and thought, “It’s okay. Don’t be so hard on him.”
It seems as if the world gives us countless opportunities to find injustice and insanity. We could so easily spend all of our days in disgust over this situation or that person, but God is calling us to a different purpose. He is not asking us to deny the issues of our world, but to handle them from a different perspective.
Einstein said that we cannot solve our problems at the level of thinking we were at when we created them. In A Course in Miracles, it asks us to rise above the battleground. The ego thought system wants us to keep playing the game of blame and guilt because that is how the world of separation and suffering is maintained. And yet, heaven stands right here, as well, and heaven will be our awareness when we step back from the blame and ask for Help, ask for a miracle.
In A Course in Miracles, we read a very powerful thought. Jesus tells us, “There is nothing about me that you cannot attain, I have nothing that does not come from God. The difference between us now is that I have nothing else. This leaves me in a state which is only potential in you.” (T7)
Jesus is trying to help us see that what we are being distracted by is costing us our power to create miracles, to heal the sick and to raise the dead. The Course tells us that when we choose to “worship” the gods of guilt, fear, judgment and separation, we can’t hear God’s Voice calling to us. We have found our other gods much more interesting than God Himself.
In the Course we are told, “You have ‘given’ your peace to the gods you made, but they are not there to take it from you, and you cannot give it to them. You are not free to give up freedom, but only to deny it.” (T188) So, even though God has not distanced himself from us, we have turned our backs on love’s presence. But because of God’s infinite love for us, we can never lose our peace. Any moment, we can reach the same awareness as Jesus – we have that potential within us. We must, however, stop worshipping at the altar of our guilty, unworthy thoughts about ourselves or others.
When we look at the world as the reason for our suffering, we are focusing on the effect of our thinking, not the cause. This makes about as much sense as blaming a chair for being in our way when we stub our toe. We either need to move the chair or be more aware of its presence, but we are the cause, not the poor old chair. We wouldn’t give the chair more power than it deserves. It is the same with the world; it is an effect of our thinking. Let’s not give it more power than it deserves.
When I forgot to put Jeffrey’s homework in his folder, it was my mistake. Now this mistake started a whole barrel of effects, but I was the cause. Knowing this gave me the power to take responsibility and stop the projection of blame and guilt, but I needed a little help.
“The Kingdom cannot be found alone, and you who are the Kingdom cannot find yourself alone.” (T143)
The Course tells us over and over again that we need each other, that we are inextricably connected. If we are to find the “Kingdom” (the peace and happiness we are seeking), we must find it in every encounter — every holy encounter. Jeffrey’s words woke me from my sleep of separation and reminded me that my guilt (or my need to make others guilty) was not necessary.
Jeffrey’s willingness to forgive me gave me the power to stop the cycle of attack and reminded me, once again, how exhausting and valueless attack is. Wasn’t that the example of Jesus some two thousand years ago? His message was not one of justified attack, but forgiveness in the face of all worldly justification to the contrary. No matter how justified your attack may seem, it is costing you the awareness of the “Kingdom” because it is costing you the awareness of your brother’s worth, which is your own.
“Ask not to be forgiven, for this has already been accomplished. Ask, rather, to learn how to forgive, and to restore what always was to your unforgiving mind.”(T279)
This really is the crux of the Course: forgiveness. But it is not the traditional approach to forgiveness that we have come know. The Course does not ask us to focus on the “sins” and then offer forgiveness, but to focus on the love that is our reality and allow the mistakes to gently fall away. Here is how the Course expresses the idea of forgiveness:
“Forgiveness takes away what stands between your brother and yourself. It is the wish that you be joined with him, and not apart.” )(T555)
“To forgive is merely to remember only the loving thoughts you gave in the past, and those that were given you. All the rest must be forgotten. Forgiveness is a selective remembering, based not on your selection.” (T354)
“Would it be possible for you to hate your brother if you were like him? Could you attack him if you realized you journey with him, to a goal that is the same? Would you not help him reach it in everyway you could, if his attainment of it were perceived as yours?”(T501)
It is quite clear then, that the act of forgiveness is an act of love that, in the end, is really given to ourselves. If we are to feel the joy and peace we are all seeking in our lives, we must forgive.
With this in mind, the following section in the Course seems to offer the most clear-cut guidelines for forgiveness. It tells us that whenever we are not joyous or peaceful, it is because we have thought wrongly about another. Then it counsels us:
“Think honestly what you have thought that God would not have thought, and what you have not thought that God would have you think. Search sincerely for what you have done and left undone accordingly, and then change your mind to think with God’s. This may seem hard do, but it is much easier than trying to think against it. Your mind is one with God’s. Denying this and thinking otherwise has held your ego together, but has literally split your mind.” (T63)
I don’t think God would be “kicking” me or judging my brother for making a mistake, so why should I? I do think God would be loving me and all my brothers who walk this world with me, so, perhaps, I should as well.
“It’s okay. Don’t be so hard on yourself.” Simple words from a nine-year-old, or wisdom beyond years? Either way, I am a bit more aware because of it, and for that I am grateful.
“Awake and be glad, for all your sins have been forgiven you. This is the only message that any two should ever give each other.” (PPP21)
What’s Our Niche?
With the recent announcement by Billy Graham that his latest worldwide crusade would be his last, the media has been speculating about his successor. Many remember that Billy Graham rose to fame in the 50’s as the evangelist of choice who rubbed shoulders with presidents and world leaders. Scholars monitoring the U.S. religious scene say that no one currently preaching seems likely to take over as the “nation’s pastor.” But that doesn’t stop the hunt.
Scholar Randall Balmer, professor of American Religion at Columbia University, calls the new approach to evangelism “niche evangelism.” He says, “The analogy would be the transition from network TV to cable, where you have this extraordinary fracturing of audiences and people stepping up to speak to each particular audience.” So you have Texas evangelist Joel Osteen relating to a suburban self-help genre, Bill Hybels’ Willow Creek ministry in Chicago speaking the language of corporate culture, Greg Laurie with his Harvest Crusades in southern California packing an easy-going style to appeal to the surf crowd (along with his motocross-and-rock nights to attract the youth) and Rick Warren, southern California pastor who has found a more diverse audience through his mega best selling book, The Purpose Driven Life.
Who is going to be the next biggest and best? Isn’t it interesting how the world finds value? Whoever sells the most books, has the highest rated TV show or gets the biggest numbers at their crusade, must be the one with the best answer for our ailing world.
I wonder how Jesus would stack up with today’s standards. From what history tells us, Jesus didn’t have a very “successful” ministry. He didn’t have much of a following –twelve kind of so-so followers, who ended up abandoning him. Crowds would sometimes show up and they always wanted to eat. He didn’t have a best selling book — well, at least not yet. And he certainly didn’t speak exclusively to any one niche. Guess he missed the memo on that one!
Jesus probably would not have been in the running for evangelist of the year, but his message is what every evangelist is hanging his hopes on. The true message of Jesus was and is one of inclusive love that cuts across all niches. It is not one that stresses success in the world, but peace in your heart. Does that mean we cannot have success in the world? Certainly not! But unless we have peace in our hearts and live from that peace in our lives, no success in this world will give us what we want.
A Course in Miracles cautions us that we cannot evaluate how we are doing in our growth when it says, “Some of your greatest advances you have judged as failures, and some of your deepest retreats you have evaluated as success.” (T383) So we really don’t know what is best for us and neither does someone else. There is no person out there who has the answer for you. Every true teaching points us back to ourselves.
Jesus tells us that the Kingdom of God is within. It is not in a spiritual community, a best selling book or the teaching of any self-proclaimed expert. If a teaching or “teacher” is expressing that they have the “right” way or “pure” way, you might want to take the highway! No one can do the work of our spiritual growth for us and there are no short cuts. We are going to have to sit down with ourselves and stop, look and listen.
My son, Jeffrey, just finished kindergarten. It was fun to watch his wonder and excitement over the little seed in the cup and the snail and his belly foot. He loves to stop, look and listen. He doesn’t care if it seems like (to Mom) he is taking hours to study something. He enjoys the process. How many of us are enjoying the process?
When I travel around lecturing or even in our weekly study groups, I always hear the same thing: I started the Course and the Workbook lessons but I stopped doing them. The reasons given for stopping were pretty much the same: they forgot to do the lessons, they didn’t have time or they didn’t think they were understanding them. If my son gave me those excuses in regards to his homework, my response would be, “Well, you need to make an effort to remember, make the time to do it and ask for help if you need it. Because you MUST do it.”
And, that is pretty much my answer to those who are complaining about what a mess their lives are, but they have not done the Workbook lessons or have put the Course down. Think of it. We have wonderful truths and lessons given to us from Jesus to help us heal our lives. Everyday we can practice a new gem. Why would we not want to make every effort possible to do it?
Jesus is so much more patient and understanding than I would be with my own child. If we forget our lesson, he does not get mad at us, but simply says start again. If we push the Course aside because we don’t feel we have the time, he simply waits for us to start again. And, if we don’t understand, he has given us a Teacher in the Holy Spirit that is available to us 24/7 for free!
It is time for us to dig in with the same excitement about learning as that of a kindergartener. We are told in the Course that it is but one path in the universal curriculum and that we all must take a course in love whether it be this form of it or another. Why MUST we? Because love is our essence, it is the truth about us. We spend so little time embracing our true essence and living from it, and that is why we feel so overwhelmed, confused, stressed and frustrated. That is not the life God intended for us to experience.
So let’s stop griping over who has the right interpretation, right version or biggest crowd — that’s the stuff of the world. It is time for us to roll up our sleeves and start doing the work of forgiveness and love.
The Course is set up as a self-study program — just look at the book. We don’t need to wait for a teacher to come to us before we can begin the Course or do it “right,” but rather we need to recognize the Teacher that is within us now. There are people who can help us along the way, but the function of every true teacher, according to the Course, is “to give his students so much of his own learning that they will one day no longer need him.” We are told that the goal of the Course is to absolve us of the need for a teacher. “This is the opposite of the ego oriented teacher’s goal.” (T54)
We will not know if we are doing the Course “right” by what the world shows us but rather by how we feel in the midst of what the world is showing us. In the Course we read, “How can you know whether you chose the stairs to Heaven or the way to hell? Quite easily. How do you feel? Is peace in your awareness? Are you certain which way you go? And are you sure the goal of Heaven can be reached? If not, you walk alone. Ask, then, your Friend [Holy Spirit] to join with you and give you certainty of where you go.” (T494)
As parents, we try to give our children the values they need to handle the world on their own. We hope that we have taught them well enough that they won’t give into peer pressure — that they will live from their own values. Well, then we must teach by example and not give into what the world says is valuable, but hold fast to what God tells us is true value — the peace that does pass all worldly understanding.
I have told the following Chinese Taoist story many times. It illustrates the changing nature of the world and how we cannot look to the world for affirmation of success or failure.
There is a story of a farmer whose only horse ran away. That evening the neighbors gathered to commiserate with him since this was such bad luck. “Your farm will suffer, and you cannot plow,” they said. “Surely this is a terrible thing to have happened to you.”
He said, “Maybe yes, maybe no.”
The next day the horse returned but brought with it six wild horses, and the neighbors came to congratulate him and exclaim at his good fortune. “You are richer than you were before!” they said. “Surely this has turned out to be a good thing for you, after all.”
He said, “Maybe yes, maybe no.”
And then, the following day, his son tried to saddle and ride one of the wild horses. He was thrown and broke his leg, and he couldn’t work on the farm. Again the neighbors came to offer their sympathy for the incident. There is more work than only you can handle, and you may be driven poor,” they said. “Surely this is a terrible misfortune.”
The old farmer said, “Maybe yes, maybe no.”
The day after that, conscription officers came to the village to seize young men for the army, but because of his broken leg the farmer’s son was rejected. When the neighbors came again, they said, “How fortunate! Things have worked out after all. Most young men never return alive from the war. Surely this is the best of fortunes for you!”
And the old man said, “Maybe yes, maybe no.”
The Course always points us back to our own internal Teacher for help. It tells us that the Holy Spirit is evaluative. He sorts out the true from the false in our minds by teaching us how to look at every thought that enters our minds in the light of what God put there. “Whatever is in accord with this light He retains, to strengthen the Kingdom in you. Whatever is partly in accord with it He accepts and purifies. But what is out of accord entirely He rejects.” (T109)
Success in the world is constantly changing, but the Holy Spirit simply looks through the complexities of the world to the truth. He helps us sorts through our confused thinking, much the way a trusted friend might help us sort through an overflowing closet . . . “This thought looks good on you. Let’s keep it. That one needs some mending. This one does not suit you at all. It needs to go.” That is the Holy Spirit’s niche — sorting through your judgments and fears to heal your life. But, for Him to fill his niche, we must fill our niche. We need to stop the endless search outside ourselves. It is time for us to stop and look at our lives right here, right now — and listen. His answer is waiting for our willingness to hear It — and only It.
Tuning to the Truth
The other day, my husband was driving in my car with me and I turned on the radio to one of my favorite AM stations. He asked me how I could listen to that station with all the static on it. That station has never come in very well in my car so I have just tolerated it. I had gotten so used to the static. I didn’t even notice it anymore.
“The ego depends solely on your willingness to tolerate it.” (T178)
It hit me that this story is really a metaphor for life. We have gotten so used to the “static” of life — the fear, anger, frustration, judgments, feelings of worthlessness, depression, etc., that we don’t even think there can be another way. We lament about politics, war, gas prices, global warming and who is and is not responsible for all these issues. We chew on this side of the problem and then that side of the problem, but like a useless piece of gristle, it needs to be spit out — and not tolerated anymore.
“You who identify with your ego cannot believe God loves you.” (T61)
We tolerate the pain, suffering and problems of life because we don’t think we deserve anything else. We don’t realize that there is another station transmitting clearly an alternative to our pathetic opinion. It is time we tune into the truth. We have made a mistake about who we are. A Course in Miracles would tell each of us that we are God’s holy child, we are the light of the world, we are the Kingdom of Heaven, but we have let a belief in darkness enter our minds and so we need to be reminded of who we are.
Like the story of the prodigal son, we feel we have left our Father’s home for what we thought the world could offer us. Now the world and all its problems seem very real to us and we find it hard to believe that our loving Father would accept us back after we have forsaken Him for the world. And yet, like the prodigal son, when we come Home to our Father (when we turn to Him), He welcomes us with open arms. For to God, we have never forsaken Him or left Him — we were always with Him.
When our son Jeffrey was about three, he went through the stage where he would wander away from us. At that age kids are exerting their will and often go in the direction they want, even if the parent says no. One time my husband Paul let Jeffrey wander away in hopes of teaching him a lesson. Instead of immediately going after him, Paul watched from a distance. When Jeffrey thought he was all alone, he began to cry. Paul quickly appeared to him. Even though Paul told Jeffrey he was always watching him and Paul was with him now, Jeffrey still continued to cry. It took Jeffrey a while to finally be comforted.
We think we have wandered away from God’s love and care. Yet we have never left God’s awareness. The moment that we are willing to identify with the truth of who we are, we will know ourselves again. But just as Jeffrey was still afraid and crying after he was found, so we often feel lost in this world even though God is holding us. We need to remove the barriers that we have built up against His love and presence in our lives.
“What you believe is true for you. In this sense the separation has occurred, and to deny it is merely to use denial inappropriately. However, to concentrate on error is only a further error. The initial corrective procedure is to recognize temporarily that there is a problem, but only as an indication that immediate correction is needed.” (T32)
The Course tells us that the ego is nothing more than a mistaken thought. It is a thought that we could be separate from God, from His safety and love. But even though it is nothing, we have made its nothingness seem pretty real. The world with all its devastation and beauty . . . our bodies with all their strengths and frailties. . . and our relationships with all their challenges and opportunities — they are all reflections of the thought of separation — of our egos.
It would make no sense to deny this world or its effects on us, since we still believe in their reality, and A Course in Miracles does not ask us to do this. Instead it asks us to look straight at every event, situation or person who causes us pain and tune into the truth instead of the illusion. The Course tells us, “The best defense, as always, is not to attack another’s position, but rather to protect the truth.” (T36) We will never escape from our suffering by denying that we think we are these physical bodies or by ignoring the things of the world. But, by focusing on the truth in every situation, we will be placing our attention on love, which is our Source and the only thing that can transcend this illusory world.
When Jeffrey was just learning to walk, he would pull himself up by our black lacquer piano. He would move all around that big piece of furniture leaving little handprints all over the place. Before Jeffrey came into our lives I never would have tolerated a smudge or mark on our beautiful piano. But now I didn’t see those handprints as distractions to the beauty of the piano but rather as what made the piano beautiful. Those little marks reminded me of love. Oh, I cleaned the piano, but now I did it in gratitude for the life of the one who made those marks.
Perhaps there are people or situations in your life that have made an unpleasant mark. You will never heal those situations by denying them or attacking them, but only by transforming them in love. The key to healing is where we place our focus — what we are tuning in to. Unless we embrace this truth of who we are and who they are, we will continue the world of pain and suffering.
“The ego’s opposite in every way, we call a miracle.” (M81)
We no longer need to be satisfied with the “static” that the world offers us. It is time for us to live the life God intended. We were created to be heirs to the kingdom and we need to accept that inheritance. The world and its myriad of problems cannot change the truth of who we are or the love that God has for us. We need to start looking at these problems and look through them with God’s Help to see the answer. That is the miracle God wants us to experience.
A Course in Miracles tells us that whatever the distress in our lives or the world, it is a call for help. No matter whether we think the deed was done maliciously, purposefully or accidentally, the answer is always the same. “The only judgment involved is the Holy Spirit’s one division into two categories; one of love and the other the call for love.” (T294) The Course goes on to say that we are too bound to our perceptions to recognize love or a call for love and therefore we do not really respond to what a person or a situation is really offering us. But we can, with God’s Help, allow a miracle to shift our perception to see the gift of every person and situation in which we find ourselves.
When Jeffrey was just learning to speak, he would talk all the time. When we would drive around in the car, he would be busily looking out the windows taking in and commenting on each thing that caught his eye. I would always try to comment on what he said and help him say the words. But one day his words were far better than mine. We drove by the scene of a terrible accident. The car was squashed up like an accordion. Not a word came out of Jeffrey’s mouth as he looked, and I wasn’t quite sure what to say but the obvious. Before I could say a word, Jeffrey put his arms out towards the car and said, “Hug!” He saw the hurt and his instinct was so right.
“When a brother acts insanely, he is offering you an opportunity to bless him. His need is yours.” (T127)
We need to look with the innocence of a child and that is what the Holy Spirit can help us do. The Holy Spirit’s vision looks through the form of the problems in our life straight to the truth. He lifts us out of our desire to sit and dwell on what we think was done to us, so that we might be healed. He sees every block to our peace as an extension of love or a call for love, and therefore knows that the only answer is love. The Course reminds us that this way of seeing cannot be hard to do, since it is not we who do it — that is the Holy Spirit’s job. Our job is to want it to be done.
We have that opportunity now. Every time we enter into the holiday season, our thoughts seem to turn to the possibility of peace and love for our lives and the world. It all depends on us. Where will we dwell? Will we remain in the static thoughts of judgment and fear? Or, will we recognize that we deserve more and tune into God’s love to lead the way in all our actions?
I am hopeful. I read the newspaper and listen to the news; and when I allow God’s love to lead the way, I am grateful that into each situation I encounter, I can offer a blessing. I have another chance to be a miracle worker and bring the awareness of love to my mind by extending that as my gift to the world. As the Course requests, “Let us be glad that we can walk the world, and find so many chances to perceive another situation where God’s gift can once again be recognized as ours!” (T668) If we can tune into this truth, this will truly be a holy season.
An Answer for the World
A few years back, a group of theologians came together in an attempt to go through the Bible and decide by group consensus what were the actual words of Jesus. Entitled The Jesus Seminar, they were to look at the few hundred words attributed to him and determine what did or didn’t seem consistent with his message. As you can imagine, when you get a group of people together to decide on anything it can take years. Even though Jesus in the Bible did not say many words, the words that have been attributed to him have varied between the different translations. So these theologians, with their vast ecclesiastic knowledge, voted by the use of different colored beads as to what really sounded like the words and message of the Messiah. In the end there was only one quote that all the theologians totally agreed upon and that was, “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” (Mathew 22:21)
As I pondered that line, I realized how consistent that thought was with the core message of A Course in Miracles. In the Bible, Jesus asked us to be in the world not of it. In the Course we read, “the sole responsibility of the miracle worker is to accept the Atonement for himself.” (T25) We are not asked to try and change the world but to heal our minds. Render unto the world (to the people of that time, “Caesar” was the symbol for world) what is the world’s . . . all the toys and trinkets of the world . . . and render unto God what is His . . . our minds and hearts. The Course is constantly asking us to lift our attention from the effect of the world and look to the cause (our own thinking). Isn’t that what the Course is telling us when it says, “What the world is, is but a fact. You cannot choose what this should be. But you can choose how you would see it. Indeed, you must choose this.”?(M29)
The ego is alive and well in controversy!
There has been a lot of concern in this country after the re-election of George W. Bush. Sides have seemed polarized either for or against. If you are on the side whose candidate won, you feel vindicated and pleased. If your candidate lost, some have felt deep despair. This dualistic thinking is what keeps the world going. Where would we be without conflict and sides? The answer might be: peace. But, then that is not very satisfying to our ego and probably too simplistic.
The ego looks for controversy. To the ego, we need to divide and separate — that is how it looks at everything. Yet the Holy Spirit looks at the same things and seeks only to find unity and healing. There is a powerful line in the Course that says, “. . . you believe that without the ego, all would be chaos. Yet I assure you that without the ego, all would be love.”(T312) We think we need the ego and its judgments to keep the world going, to clarify things, to get things done. But it’s not working. I don’t feel my thinking is clearer or more productive when I am judging. As the Course tells us, when we think with the ego, we are really doing nothing. The ego has just made its “nothing stuff” look like something, and we have all fallen for it!
Even the Course has not escaped controversy. But, why should that surprise any of us? The Course itself is part of this illusion, but it is a part that can lead us out of this illusion if we so choose. Our ego can use the Course to divide and separate, or it can be used by the Holy Spirit to lift us out of this world to a place of peace and comfort. I have watched many controversies with the Course come and go over the twenty-eight years that I have been a student of it. Everything from people using the quote “I am not a body. I am free” to mean, “you should have sex with me or you aren’t very spiritual”– to others creating a cult around the Course. But, this again should surprise no one. The Bible or any spiritual thought system can be used by our ego for many hateful and hurtful purposes.
The ego can use the guise of being “a good student” of the Course as a way to promote guilt. I can’t tell you how many times I have heard students say, “I try to do the workbook lessons, but I feel so guilty when I can’t remember to do it or don’t do it for the prescribed time every day.” Our ego takes a tool like the Course that was intended to lead us out of guilt and turns it into a way to bury us in more guilt. We need to remember that the ego is “learning” this course right along with us and will use it against us to make us feel unworthy and separated.
It’s time for the universal experience
Whether it be controversy concerning the Course’s copyright, who has the “correct” interpretation of what the Course is saying, or the seemingly “different” versions of the Course — what is really going on is the ego’s need to maintain its existence by keeping us divided. Nothing is beyond the ego’s grip — not even A Course in Miracles. The Course itself says that in the end we must forget this world, forget this Course and come with wholly open hands unto our God. As we read in the Course, “. . . those who seek controversy will find it. Yet those who seek clarification will find it as well. They must be willing to overlook controversy recognizing that it is a defense against truth in the form of a delaying maneuver. . . A universal theology is impossible, but a universal experience is not only possible but necessary.” (M77)
I sometimes think that the so-called religious thinkers of the world, whether they be Christian, Muslim or of A Course in Miracles, need to get their hands a little dirty in the world instead of just writing and talking about it. We need to bring our theology to life.
I have been working with inner-city kids for the last eight years. They don’t care that I teach or talk about A Course in Miracles or that I have run a Center based on it for twenty-seven years. They care that I love them; that I am there for them when their families can’t be or when the world has regarded them as “not worth the effort.” Frankly, I learn and teach more in those encounters with them than all the meditation times I have had. We all need to get out of ourselves more and live these principles if we want to make a quantum leap in our consciousness. Trying to get everyone to think our way or finding the right version of the Course that will unlock the secrets of Jesus is meaningless, but living the message of love, compassion and forgiveness that was the experience of Jesus is not only meaningful but necessary.
So, how do we do it? I go back to the Biblical quote that I began this article with: “Render unto God what is God’s and to the world what is the world’s.” If we truly live this calling, then we must step back from our judgments of the world and all that is going on in the world. It is time for us to look at the world and stop trying to fix the problems of the world at the level of effect or we will only get more effects.
A friend once told me that she had come home to find her husband in a panic as he tried to clean up an overflowing toilet. When she walked into the river of flowing water, the first thing she did was turn off the toilet tank water. That stopped the problem for a moment so the effect could be cleaned up. Then they could deal with the real problem.
We are drowning in the river of our own making, but trying to clean up the mess while the mess is still swirling in our minds will do no good. We cannot clean up the effect (all our problems) when we are still bombarded by the problems. We need to rise above the battleground, as the Course puts it, and place our attention on the level of the cause (our minds) where correction can be made — we must render unto God what is His: our minds and hearts.
But then we shout, “I have to do something!” And, my answer is, “Yes, we do — but not alone.” We can do nothing alone, but our ego has convinced us that we can.
Believe me, I am a doer. I, for many years, have believed that I could do it all and simply pulled everyone else along. But now that I have a very active six year-old boy added to the mix, I cannot. I actually never could and now I realize I really don’t want to do it all anymore. There is so much more joy in joining with another and there is so much more wisdom. Now imagine joining with the power and wisdom of God when you are faced with the challenges of life — now we have a winning combination and the power of the universe to help us.
Help that passeth understanding
My mom was (and now I know she still is) such a part of my life. She worked at the Center answering the phones and helping in such wonderful and needed ways. She was my friend and my shopping buddy. When she died, I wondered how that void would be filled; how would I go on? This was one situation that I could not control. I had no choice but to surrender and the moment I did, I was carried by God’s love. People and circumstances happened that I could not have orchestrated. I had no choice but to render unto the world what was the world’s — I could not stop my mom’s death. But as I did surrender and turned to God, I received a peace and support that truly did passeth all understanding.
As long as we focus on the problems of the world, we will have the problems. As long as we focus on what we have lost, we will feel lost. As long as we focus on pain and suffering, that will be the world that reflects back to us. The moment that we stop playing the world’s game and start embracing God’s will for us, we will be transformed.
Faith and shoes
It takes faith and faith is a process. Maybe our faith is weak. After all, we don’t exercise that muscle very much except when we are in trouble. So as much as we need an exercise routine for our bodies, we need an exercise routine for our faith. When we commit to an exercise routine, we begin to see the change, and the same is true for faith. When we commit to living our lives as if God is our partner, we will begin to experience a transformation.
My son is learning to tie his shoe. We all take that for granted, but in this day and age of Velcro, most kid’s shoes don’t have shoelaces, so he really has had no need or desire to learn. Now he has a pair of shoes he likes and they have shoelaces, so there is more desire to learn. But I am finding it is not that easy to explain, it is easier to show him. But, even that is sort of challenging. I notice that he gets frustrated when he can’t do it and walks away. I try to come up with all sorts of ways to make it fun and interesting — I even recorded the SpongeBob SquarePant’s episode on tying shoes! I know he will get it, but it will be in his own time. And, like all of us, when he finally does learn, it will be so easy and natural that he will wonder why it seemed so hard before.
Faith in God and His power to transform our lives is like tying our shoes. It may seem hard and we may get discouraged and turn away, but we will get it because in truth He is all there is — He is the Answer. God continues to be there to help us — making life fun, joyous and exciting, but if we choose to turn away from Him because our faith is weak, that is our choice. It does not lessen Him, but it does cause us to experience the world of pain and suffering we see. When we finally begin to experience the benefits of faith in our lives, we will be more inclined to turn to Him again and again until we realize that God is all there is. It will be as natural as tying our shoes!
In the end . . .
Rendering unto the world what is the world’s is not living in denial, being naïve or giving up. It is finally correcting our focus. No politician, religious theologian, Course-based teacher or version of the Course will save you or answer your needs. The only answer to that emptiness and confusion in your life is to remember the presence of God. “I am as God created me.” (WB lessons 94,110,162)
So when we are faced with the impossible situations of the world or our lives, let us not dwell in the effect, the problem, the “battleground” of the world. Let us “dust off” the world and render unto God what is God’s — our minds and hearts and let Him lead the way.
A Course in Miracles for the Purpose Driven Life
A few years ago, Rick Warren, an evangelical pastor at one of the nation’s largest mega-churches, wrote a book that has been on the non-fiction best sellers list ever since. His book, The Purpose Driven Life, has been a phenomenal success. I have read his book and, even though it does not necessarily “feed” my soul, I think the book speaks to a deep need and desire in each of us; we all want to know our purpose. We want to know how we fit in — how we can make a difference. We want to feel our contribution is valuable.
We often call our purpose our profession — what we do for a living. Our profession can be what we get paid for or what we do without pay, which can be just as important, like being parents.
This last Mother’s Day, our son told me how important I was in the card he gave me. It said:
Mom, I can’t imagine what life would be like without you. I’d probably be eating candy I got from a stranger, talking with my mouth full and waving around sharp objects while I sit too close to the TV in yesterday’s underwear.
Our work is part of our purpose, but it is not all. Things will always change. Our jobs get downsized at work and even at home — as our children grow up and no longer need us reminding them about yesterday’s underwear. And, that makes us feel uncertain and purposeless in this world.
I think the plethora of reality television shows is a symptom of a deeper societal desire. Reality shows propel the everyday Joe and Jane into stardom. And we live vicariously through their experiences. It seems to give our lives purpose as we call in and vote for our favorite American Idol. I used to be so irritated with the overwhelming amount of reality shows, until I realized the deeper purpose of their appeal. These shows speak to our longing to make a difference in the world . . . to be purposeful. But we need a purpose that is eternal. Otherwise, when the reality show is over, we feel empty until the next installment.
That is why it is so important for us to have a spiritual path. A spiritual path gives us purpose and direction that is “in the world but not of it.” It has been said that we are mind, body and spirit. As we start our day, we may plan our schedules and set our goals. We make sure our hair is right, our clothes are on and everything is zipped, but we will walk around with little thought of our soul’s spiritual yearning. We would never leave the house looking a mess, but we don’t think twice about leaving our minds a mess. We think no one will see that, but the world we experience is the direct result of our unmade, purposeless minds.
In the Bible we are told a very important truth: “Seek ye first the kingdom of Heaven and everything else will be given unto you.” This thought answers the struggles of the world and sets us in line with our real purpose. When we start inviting God’s presence into everything we do, making that our purpose, we will see the world, as we know it, begin to transform.
In the sci-fi movie thriller The Matrix, our world has been taken over by computers and now humanity is at the verge of extinction. Mankind is looking for the “One” who will be their “messiah.” Well, the actor Keanu Reeves comes along as Neo (clever how if you move the letters around it spells “one”) and he ends up being the “One” they are looking for. But for him to become the “One”, HE must realize that he is the “One.” In the final scene, when he realizes his true identity and purpose, the Matrix (the thing that holds the computer world of control together) begins to dismantle itself. Neo doesn’t have to necessarily destroy it (although we do have the big movie fight scene for the sake of ratings); it falls apart all by itself.
So it is with our experience of this world. A Course in Miracles reminds us over and over again that we are not here to change the world but to change our minds about the purpose of the world. Once we do that, the world, as we know it, will be no more. It will be transformed by the power of God. The Course tells us what the purpose of the world is:
“Forget not that the healing of God’s Son is all the world is for. That is the only purpose the Holy Spirit sees in it, and thus the only one it has. Until you see the healing of the Son as all you wish to be accomplished by the world, by time and all appearances, you will not know the Father nor yourself. For you will use the world for what is not its purpose, and will not escape its laws of violence and death. Yet it is given you to be beyond its laws in all respects, in every way and every circumstance, in all temptation to perceive what is not there, and all belief God’s Son can suffer pain because he sees himself as he is not.” (T512)
I truly believe this is one of the most powerful, straightforward and practical passages in the Course. If we do not use the world for the purpose that the Holy Spirit sees in it, which is to heal ourselves and those we think of or come in contact with, then we will be misusing the world and will suffer under its laws of violence and death. Where are we living right now? Do we see violence and death all around us? Or, have we changed our purpose about the world? We have the ability to escape the world’s laws entirely, but we must change our minds about the purpose of the world and how we fit in.
We think we are the ugly duckling when we are actually the beautiful swan. If you remember the children’s story, the baby swan is accidentally left with the duck family to be raised. The poor little swan never fits in. His feet look funny and his neck is too long. His life is one of suffering and sadness because he is trying to be what he is not. It is only when he finally sees the other swans that he realizes that he is not a duck after all.
We are trying to be ducks when we are actually swans. We are trying to fit into the world and make it work. But it will never work, since the world was made to exclude God and the awareness of our spiritual purpose.
So you might be wondering, “Does that mean that if I function in this world, i.e., have a job, have a relationship, make money, etc. that I am excluding God?” No, not at all. We must be “in this world but not of it” to truly make a difference. We can do everything in this world, but with a new and revitalized purpose.
It is time for us to live like secret agents. We do everything that everyone else does — get up every morning, make meals, take care of our kids, go to work, put money away in a savings account, pay our bills, etc., but we do it with a deeper purpose. Knowing that we are nowhere by accident and that our “secret” purpose is to heal the Son of God (which is everyone we come in contact with), gives us great purpose to get out of bed everyday! The world may tell you this is a “mission impossible,” but to God it is a very possible mission. Actually it is a “mission inevitable,” because it is God’s Will that we heal.
A Course in Miracles reminds us of the purpose of our learning:
“The purpose of your learning is to enable you to bring the quiet with you, and to heal distress and turmoil. This is not done by avoiding them and seeking a haven of isolation for yourself.
You will yet learn that peace is part of you, and requires only that you be there to embrace any situation in which you are.” (W80)
So we must not deny the world or our place in it, but walk through this world bringing the peace of God into every situation where we find ourselves. How do we do that? By embracing every situation in which we find ourselves, realizing our deeper purpose and remembering that we are not alone.
Therefore, as God’s Presence leads the way in our lives, “every relationship becomes a lesson in love.” (T312) And, He “sees the world as a teaching device for bringing you home.” (T80)
It is time for us to reevaluate the world and the things of the world. In the midst of tragedies, we see opportunities to express God’s healing love instead of a reason to sit in feelings of pity and powerlessness. It is time for us to accept our true purpose and ask God what he would have us do for His beloved Child.
The other day, Bob, a member of the Center’s study group, was sharing that he had finally asked his adult son to move out. His son had been out for quite a while, but needed a little help during a tough time and Bob offered him a place. After a few months, Bob felt it was time for his son to be on his own again. There were hard feelings. When the son moved out he did some things that were not very kind — in fact, very nasty. Bob found, that in his son’s haste to leave, he left his laundry in the dryer. It was important laundry since it included a lot of his work clothes. Bob’s first thought was “payback,” so he put the clothes in a trash bag and put them in the trashcan. But that night, he could not sleep. It didn’t feel right. The next morning before work, Bob took the trash bag out of the trash and put it on the front porch with a note saying, “You left these in the dryer. I thought you might need them. Love, Dad.”
The world would say Bob needed to teach his son a lesson, and quite frankly he did: He taught him a lesson in love. That lesson will transform the world because Bob joined with the Presence of God and sought a deeper purpose.
There is a wonderful poem that has been attributed to Mother Teresa because it was found on the wall of her children’s home in Calcutta, India. But, she did not write the poem. Kent Keith wrote it in 1968, but do you think it would have had much influence were it not attributed to Mother Teresa? And, for some reason, Kent Keith didn’t seem to mind “anyway.” The message is what is important.
Do it Anyway
People are often unreasonable, illogical and self-centered. . .
Forgive them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives…
Be kind anyway.
If you are successful, you will win some false friends and some true enemies…
If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you…
Be honest and frank anyway.
What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight…
If you find serenity and happiness, they may be jealous…
Be happy anyway.
The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow…
Do good anyway.
Give the world the best you have and it may never be enough…
Give the world the best that you’ve got anyway.
You see, in the final analysis, it is between you and God…
It was never between you and them anyway.
We are here for a deeper purpose. We need to move past the pettiness of the world and hold on to the truth. We are here to heal the Son of God and we are given a chance every day in every holy encounter to do just that. And, when we do, we will experience a purpose driven life.
A Focus on Life
“Why did Jesus have to die?” asked my five year-old, looking at me with his big blue eyes. I was shocked! How could such a sophisticated thought be coming out of his mouth? And, how would I answer? I asked him where he came up with the question and he said he read it on the cover of Time Magazine. My pride over the fact that my five-year-old could read the magazine cover was quickly overshadowed by my parental desire to be honest, but not frightening; clear, but not complicated. I asked him if he would like to sit down and talk about it. He looked at me and said, “No, I’d rather watch SpongeBob.”
I felt a sigh of relief, but the question lingered in my mind. The world does not really answer this question nor did the Time Magazine article, but in the Course we are given an answer that makes a lot of sense to me. The Course tells us that Jesus’ death was only part of the mix. The example of him being betrayed, beaten and killed could not truly affect the Son of God. Jesus tells us that he did not share in the perception of persecution or death. “My one lesson, which I must teach as I learned it, is that no perception that is out of accord with the judgment of the Holy Spirit can be justified. I undertook to show this was true in an extreme case [the crucifixion], merely because it would serve as a good teaching aid to those whose temptation to give in to anger and assault would not be so extreme. I will with God that none of His Sons should suffer.” (T94)
He used the most extreme example of death to show us that nothing in this world is more powerful than the love of God. He undid the illusion of the world by showing us that what we call death — the end of a body — did not end life. He showed us that the greatest fear of our ego, our finality, is an illusion. Jesus’ physical death was not the end of his life. He lived on. That is why Jesus in the Course is asking us to not focus on the crucifixion but to move on to the resurrection.
The journey to the cross should be the last “useless journey.” Do not dwell upon it, but dismiss it as accomplished. If you can accept it as your own last useless journey, you are also free to join my resurrection. Until you do so your life is indeed wasted. . . . Do not make the pathetic error of “clinging to the old rugged cross.” The only message of the crucifixion is that you can overcome the cross. Until then you are free to crucify yourself as often as you choose. This is not the Gospel I intended to offer you. We have another journey to undertake, and if you will read these lessons carefully they will help prepare you to undertake it. (T52)
As you read the Course, it becomes clear that the “Gospel” Jesus intends for us to accept is our oneness with God; to heal the thought of separation between our Creator and us, which is how the Course defines the atonement. He stresses that the only way for us to heal that thought of separation is by using the relationships that stand before us . . . each person we meet becomes our “holy encounter.” The encounters we have with each person, either physically or mentally, become the way we either remember our oneness with God or lose that awareness — whether we experience crucifixion or resurrection.
When you meet anyone, remember it is a holy encounter. As you see him you will see yourself. As you treat him you will treat yourself. As you think of him you will think of yourself. Never forget this, for in him you will find yourself or lose yourself. (T142)
Last year, Mel Gibson’s movie, The Passion of the Christ, stirred up a lot of “passion.” From the perspective of the Course, the filmmaker focused and paused his lens on only one aspect of the life of Jesus. And that aspect is not the focus of the Course. Nonetheless, The Passion began a conversation that has put Jesus on the front page of magazines and newspapers and made us all look at what we think is the message of “why did Jesus have to die?”
In Christianity there are at least two schools of thought on this question of the atonement: substitutionary and exemplary. In substitutionary atonement, Jesus is seen as paying the price for our sins. Because Jesus (the innocent lamb of God) suffered and died on the cross, we are given new life. This guilt-inspiring approach has kept Jesus and God distant to many people, and is certainly not the Course’s approach.
In exemplary atonement, however, we find a closer fit. Exemplary atonement states that the mission and purpose of Jesus’ life was to model for humankind the power of God’s love and forgiveness. As one proponent of exemplary atonement said, “it is not Jesus’ death that can save us, but his life!”
Why did Jesus have to die? Well, from the Course’s perspective, he didn’t die. Nothing can end what is eternal, and life is eternal. Can a body be destroyed? Yes, it is not eternal and it is also not you. From the Course’s perspective, the purpose of our body is only for communication. As we read in the Course, “As you let the Holy Spirit teach you how to use the body only for purposes of communication, and renounce its use for separation and attack which the ego sees in it, you will learn you have no need of a body at all.” (T324) It would appear from the life of Jesus that this is the experience he had. He used his life on this earth to further the message of love and renounce thoughts of separation and attack. He, therefore, finally had no need of a body.
Now, we may be far from having “no need of a body at all,” but we can still follow Jesus’ example. He used an extreme example of betrayal, abandonment and death to show that there is no justification for attack. He saw “attack” as a call for love and says that “the message of the crucifixion is perfectly clear: Teach only love for that is what you are.” (T94)
From what we know of the life of Jesus, that message does seem to be consistent with his life. The question now is: How consistent is that with our lives? It is not easy to “teach only love” in every circumstance, which is why, I guess, Jesus used such an extreme example. It may not be easy, but it is the lesson we must learn and therefore teach.
Let me repeat this quote from the Course:
“My one lesson which I must teach as I learned it, is that no perception that is out of accord with the judgment of the Holy Spirit can be justified. I undertook to show this was true in an extreme case [the crucifixion], merely because it would serve as a good teaching aid to those whose temptation to give into anger and assault would not be so extreme.” (T94)
Well, there you have it. He really had one lesson to teach in regard to the crucifixion: nothing that is not in accord with the judgment of the Holy Spirit can be justified.
The Holy Spirit’s judgment in every situation is that everyone is either extending love or calling out for love. This is very hard for us to understand because we see bodies, actions and focus on the form of the world and its happenings. That is where the Holy Spirit comes in. If we don’t protect our fearful judgments (our need to be right, whether it be righteous or not), the Holy Spirit will step in and reinterpret it. (paraphrase T217) We are not asked to be docile and weak in this world, but rather strong in the power of love guided by the Holy Spirit. After all, have your fears and judgments really made you feel safe?
The Course tells us that teachers of God are needed now more that ever before — and that God’s Voice (which is a synonym for the Holy Spirit) asks of everyone one question only: “Are you ready yet to help Me save the world?” (M82) That does not sound passive to me. It sounds like a call to action — an action that will finally stop the cycle of fear, guilt, judgment and hopelessness that is the current condition of our living in this world.
It can be done. Jesus did it in a very extreme example to show us that it is possible, even then, to teach only love. We are not alone. We have help during our own “crucifixions.” We must stop protecting our judgments, our fears and our rightness and allow the Holy Spirit to reinterpret them. It can be done, but it will take our willingness . . . and it may take some time. But what is wrong with that? That is the purpose of time: to learn to “render the need for time unnecessary.” (T246)
I am in my twenty-eighth year of study of the Course and I still have times when I feel crucified. The difference is that it doesn’t last as long as it used to, I more quickly ask for Help and with that I see things in a more clear perspective — and, with a lot more humor.
At our last Holy Encounter Retreat, there was a participant who told me I was “trivial.” He said the whole retreat was trivial several times. I didn’t feel that way and since I have been called much worse in my lifetime, I just sort of laughed about it. Frankly, I could see he needed a lot of attention and he was really rather frightened. Whenever I saw him or thought about him, I simply sent him a silent blessing and then went on my “trivial” way. He never changed (at least I never saw any difference), but it changed me — and it seemed to help others. I have received numerous comments from those in attendance who told me that they were very irritated by his constant disruption, and that the way I “dealt” with him helped them to release him and their anger toward him. They were actually able to see him as a child of God in need of love, not judgment. As one person put it, “You were a tremendous role model for seeing past his cries for love and recognizing who he truly is. You helped several of us do the same.”
It is the living of the message of Jesus’ life that needs to be our focus, not his death. In the Course he is giving us tools to refocus our lens and steer a new course. From the section in the Course entitled The Holy Encounter, from which this publication derived its name, we find a very powerful thought: “Whenever two Sons of God meet, they are given another chance at salvation.” (T142) It is not the death of Jesus that gives us salvation; it is allowing the message of his life to reinterpret our relationships with each other into holy relationships. How we see, think or treat each other in every encounter becomes the way we either find or lose our salvation.
I remember reading a story once of a young man who had been raised Christian and had converted to Buddhism. He tried to explain his new faith to his mother, but she would hear nothing of it. She thought he was going to hell. Every time they talked, it became an argument and an attack. He wanted her to respect him and his belief, but she could not. This went on for quite a while until in prayer one day, he found another way. His relationship with his mother began to transform and their time together became a joy instead of a pain. His friends wanted to know the secret. He simply answered, “When we talk about the Buddha, my mother hates it. But when I am the Buddha, my mother loves it.”
What painful relationships are robbing you of your salvation? Isn’t it time to allow the Holy Spirit to reinterpret them for you so you might experience your resurrection instead of “clinging to the old rugged cross”? Allow this Easter not to be about the death of Jesus, but about his message of love and forgiveness expressed through you to all your relationships. “Salvation is a collaborative venture.” (T69) Jesus is simply waiting to help us complete our part.
Death is never convenient. You can’t schedule it in on a calendar so you can prepare everyone and everything for it. It happens in many cases when you least expect it, and even if you are expecting it, it is still a shock. Death interrupts our busy lives. But it is in the interruptions of life that we find God.
My dad, Clarence Howard Hutchinson, interrupted my life on March 17, 2005, to show me the power of God’s love and His infinite care. My dad was 83, but he was a vital and active 83-year old. He was still doing what he loved: working and traveling with my brother. The morning of his accident, he was in Sacramento, California (about 400 miles from me), and had just finished breakfast with my brother and a friend. As my brother paid the bill, Clarence left the restaurant and climbed up the three concrete steps that lead to the motel where he was staying. When he got to the top of the unleveled steps, he lost his balance and fell backwards — he must have attempted to catch his balance because everything he had in his hands went flying. His head hit the bottom of the last step and he suffered a serious brain trauma.
My dad was in the trauma care unit for a week and his family was by his side — praying with him, singing to him and loving him. He never regained consciousness during that time, but we did for a while have some hand squeezes and closed-eyed blinks to direct questions, so I knew my dad’s wishes.
All during the week that my dad was in trauma care a bluebird would come to visit, tap on the window, and then fly away. He loved the thought of the bluebird of happiness — so it seemed appropriate.
When my dad finally made his passing, it was a gentle release. Physically, he looked radiant. His skin was free of wrinkles; the nurses thought he looked better than someone with Botox! His hands were supple — he looked glorious.
At the moment when my dad took his last peaceful, gentle breath, he opened his eyes (the first time he had done so since the accident). With beautiful blue eyes, he looked straight ahead as if to say, “I am in this world but not of it. I am with Christ.” He then gently closed his eyes again. The thing is, his eyes were brown, not blue. And a few moments later, that bluebird was back tapping at the window and then flew off. We never saw it again.
After I shared this story in our study group meeting at the Center, a listener e-mailed me to tell me that, according to Native American belief, a bluebird is a totem or power animal that symbolizes a passage of time and movement into another level of being. And, that is definitely what I felt.
My dad’s death was beautiful, gentle and glorious. He was now free to fly, unencumbered by the world. Through his death, he reaffirmed and recommitted my faith in such a way that I have no doubt that life is eternal. And I think he is offering that to all of us right now to sort of give us a “faith lift!”
I want to share with you what A Course in Miracles says about death in its supplemental pamphlet, The Song of Prayer:
“This is what death should be; a quiet choice, made joyfully and with a sense of peace, because the body has been kindly used to help the Son of God along the way he goes to God. We thank the body, then, for all the service it has given us. But we are thankful, too, the need is done to walk the world of limits, and to reach the Christ in hidden form and clearly seen at most in lovely flashes. Now we can behold Him without blinders, in the light that we have earned to look upon again.
“We call it death, but it is liberty. It does not come in forms that seem to be thrust down in pain upon unwilling flesh, but as a gentle welcome to release. If there has been true healing, this can be the form in which death comes when it is time to rest a while from labor gladly done and gladly ended. Now we go in peace to freer air and gentler climate, where it is not hard to see the gifts we gave were saved for us. For Christ is clearer now; His vision more sustained in us; His Voice, the Word of God, more certainly our own.”
My dad had true healing, for his transition was a gentle release. His labor is done and now he goes on to freer air and gentler climate, where he knows that all the gifts of love and support that he gave were saved for him…and he is experiencing that now.
My dad and mom were both vital to the beginning of Miracle Distribution Center. If it had not been for my dad’s seeking and searching for a spirituality that would truly “feed” him, I don’t know if my brother and I would be the people we are today. When I was five or six, I remember my dad’s decision not to go to church anymore. He had been raised Methodist and my mother, Lutheran, but he could not take the “hell-fire and damnation” of the traditional church. He knew there was something more. It took my dad about six years to find Unity with its metaphysical approach to the Bible. Then he felt like he found a home. With Unity as a base, there was fertile ground in all of us to accept A Course in Miracles when it came into our awareness in 1977.
As a family, we all became students of the Course. When I look back now, I see what an amazing thing that was, but at the time it just seemed natural and normal. My parents loved the Course and offered their physical, financial and emotional support to the beginning of the Center. Anyone who has benefited from the work of the Center has been touched by the love and commitment of my parents.
If you remember the classic movie It’s a Wonderful Life with Jimmy Stewart, you might recall that the angel that helps Stewart realize he had a wonderful life was named Clarence. In life, through the work of the Center, my dad helped many to realize their “wonderful life.” And, now through his death, he is doing the same.
As I mentioned previously, I shared about my dad’s death at our meetings at the Center. After listening to the CD of the experience, a long-time friend shared a miracle with me. Her mother died about eight years ago and she had always had such guilt over the fact that she was not with her mother at her passing and that her mother had suffered so much pain. After she listened to the recording of my experience with my dad, she had a dream of her mother. In the dream, her mother was beautiful (make-up and hair perfect) and radiant. She told her mom how beautiful she was, as if that was such a surprise since her mom had been in such pain at the end of her life. Her mom gently chuckled off the comment with a wave of the hand as if to say there is no pain, there is no guilt. That was just an illusion — the beauty and the radiance is all that is real. She told me this vision of her mother, that has brought her so much peace and comfort, was directly related to the sharing of the experience of my dad’s death. I am so honored to be a part of her healing and I know that my dad is, too.
There is no greater gift than to touch another’s life in a healing and helpful way. Truly, that is what it means to succeed. Emerson said it best when he wrote:
To laugh often and much;
To win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children;
To earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends;
To appreciate beauty;
To find the best in others;
To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition;
To know even one life has breathed easier because you lived.
This is to have succeeded.
My dad’s life was a success, not because he did great things in the world, but because he did as Mother Teresa said, “Small things with great love.” Through my dad’s life and now through his death, he has taught and continues to teach so much. So, thank you, Daddy, I appreciate the interruption and the lesson of your life!
Above the Battleground
As we were planning this year’s international conference on A Course in Miracles, the section from the Course entitled “Above the Battleground” (T461/496) popped into my mind. I did not pick this title for the conference because I wanted us to talk about battles or war; I picked it because I wanted us to talk about and experience peace.
If you have ever read this section, you quickly realize that the battleground is the everyday experiences of our lives in which we see ourselves as separate and at odds with each other. Every day we arm ourselves for war, so to speak, with our defenses, grievances, and judgments. We do not see ourselves as one with our brother or one with our Father. That sort of perception is seen as naive or perhaps hoped for in some future experience when we have all “evolved.” We don’t see that we have made a choice for “murder” instead of “miracles.” We have murdered the awareness of the Son of God (who we truly are) and settled for the pain and suffering of the world instead of the healing miracle God is holding out to us.
The Course tells that we don’t even know we have done all this. We are not even aware of what we have “sacrificed” for this world of pain. All we know is the pain and suffering — it has become a habit, the “norm,” that we expect. And, from the perspective of the battleground of the world, it is what we deserve.
So how do we “win” this “war?” Well, not by fighting or attacking, but by transcending. We are to allow ourselves to be lifted up above the battleground, to a higher place where we can look from a new perspective at the situation we are experiencing. As the Course tells us:
“Here in the midst of it [the struggle and battles of life], it does seem real. Here you have chosen to be part of it. Here murder is your choice. Yet from above, the choice is miracles instead of murder. And the perspective coming from this choice shows you the battle is not real, and easily escaped.” (T462/497)
In The Holy Encounter and at the Center’s study group meetings, I have been asking you to send me your favorite quote from the Course and perhaps share the reason it is your favorite. I recently received a favorite quote and explanation of how it has affected her life from Sudie Shipman in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. I feel her story highlights the point above. She wrote:
“I had lunch with The Holy Encounter today and decided to write and let you know my favorite quote from the Course. How could I possibly have just one? But, here goes. ‘Sickness is a defense against the Truth.’ (Workbook Lesson 136)
“It took me a long time to really come to terms with that lesson. Every time I was feeling sick, I would pick up the Course and read that passage. One day when my ego was not getting in the way and I had stepped out of my fear, Holy Spirit really had me understand that sickness is a choice I make. The lesson says that we choose sickness and then forget that we do, but on this particular day I could actually see, like a stack of dominos falling backward, what past decision had brought me to this point of suffering. In that instant (yes, a Holy one) I was able to ‘choose peace instead of this.’
“My illness didn’t go away, but the suffering that usually comes with it did. To this day I still get sick and yet I’m sick in a whole new way. I don’t dread it and I’m not frightened by it, I merely recognize that I am defending against God. That somewhere in my past few hours, days or weeks I made a choice to listen to fear instead of love, and then I make a conscious decision to choose love again. The illness may disappear, or not, but my suffering does. My attitude becomes one of acceptance and I am at peace with the illness, not fighting it or figuring out what I’ve done wrong to get myself in this situation (I recognize analyzing is a function of the ego and stop). I let go and let God and once again I am at rest in His arms.”
Sudie allowed herself to be lifted above the battleground and let the Holy Spirit start the healing process. She did not have to struggle to figure out what she had “done” — that was not the issue. She just wanted to experience healing — healing of the mind — so she joined her will with the Holy Spirit, accepted her responsibility for her choice for pain and not peace, and chose again. The result was a miracle (a holy instant) that healed her mind.
We are asked to accept responsibility for our choices, not guilt for our choices. Accepting responsibility allows the Holy Spirit to lift us above the battleground. Feeling guilty for the situations or experiences we find ourselves in “murders” the awareness of peace in our lives. We have chosen attack. Attack of ourselves, our brothers and God. We are separate and our guilt reinforces that choice.
Accepting a miracle instead of the murderous thoughts, allowing the Holy Spirit to lift us above the battleground, lets us experience right now a world of peace that is God’s will for us. It does not mean that anything in the “form” of the world changes, but the way we experience that “form” has been transformed. We have no idea from our limited perspective how to make that transformation, but then that is not our concern. Our focus is on rising above the cloud of confusion that the world so often shows us so that we might experience the world of clarity that God has promised us.
It reminds me of how worked up my little boy gets when he is overtired. Nothing satisfies him, not even his favorite toys or activities. He becomes so confused that he “attacks” everything. He doesn’t want to go to sleep and yet he does. It is how I get when I am caught in the confusion of the world — when I am trying to figure everything out, whether it be my personal experiences or my global perceptions. Attack fills my mind; I judge myself and I judge the people and world I see. In that moment, I need to stop. I need to rest from my perception. I need to be lifted above the battleground of my mind to a place of peace and understanding.
Having this awareness is the start. Knowing that there is another choice we can make is very important. But, also recognizing when we are falling into the confusion is important. As the Course reminds us:
“When the temptation to attack rises to make your mind darkened and murderous, remember you can see the battle from above. Even in forms you do not recognize, the signs you know. There is a stab of pain, a twinge of guilt, and above all, a loss of peace. This you know well. When they occur leave not your place on high, but quickly choose a miracle instead of murder. And God Himself and all the lights of Heaven will gently lean to you, and hold you up. For you have chosen to remain where He would have you, and no illusion can attack the peace of God together with His Son.” (T462/497)
“A stab of pain, a twinge of guilt, and above all, a loss of peace,” all of these, the Course is telling us, are warning signs that we are being tempted to leave the world of peace that God is holding out to us in favor of the painful, suffering world of the ego. Let us not “leave our place on high, but quickly choose a miracle instead of murder.” And we are told that this choice will be supported by God Himself. Is there a better support or help?
So, that is what I want us to talk about and experience at our conference in June. I want us to commit and live together our choice to rise above the battleground, to become aware of the temptation to assault love and the truth by cherishing attack, and to support each other as we make together the choice for miracles. I hope you will join us, but if you cannot do so in person, remember, healing is just a thought away.
Misinformation: Opportunities for Healing
“The trouble with the world is not that people know too little, but that they know so many things that ain’t so.” Mark Twain
When I first read this quote by Mark Twain, I was struck by how true it was. With the number of talk shows and news programs on television and radio (not to mention the bevy of inaccurate information that floats all over the Internet) it is no longer surprising how much information is out there that just “ain’t so.” Whether it be the president’s sexual misconduct or JFK Jr’s tragic plane crash, there’s a lot of inaccurate information out there being touted as truth. An interesting example was reported recently in Time magazine. It had to do with the last movie by directing legend, Stanley Kubrick. Starring Tom Cruise and wife Nicole Kidman, the long awaited movie Eyes Wide Shut had caused a lot of speculation and interest because of its content and how closely guarded it was from the media. But our ever- pervasive curiosity was not to be restricted. If the media could not get the inside scoop they would make up the “scoop.” Time reported a list of rumors and truths about the movie and, of course, the rumors that had been reported as truths out weighed the actual truths.
This really should not surprise any of us; we have seen it done time and time again. We all have a deep desire to know. The problem is that in our desire to know we have filled in the blank spaces with our own assumptions, and now our assumptions have become fact with the actual truth in a far second place. The world we have built is one based on a lie: the thought that we could be separate from our Creator, God, and thereby separate from each other. And even though this may be a lie, we have built a good case for it in the world of separation. We prove separation with differences we see in our bodies, our ideologies, our feelings of right and wrong, justice and injustice and the list goes on. So even though this world is built on a faulty premise the justifications we see all around us seem to make sense and justify the lie. Now the lie has become our truth and even if we wanted to change, it seems almost impossible to stop the insanity and make that change.
“The separation is merely a faulty formulation of reality, with no effect at all.” (T241/258)
The Holy Spirit knows that we have accepted a faulty formulation of reality and His purpose is to help us gently undo the mistake. He will not attack the mistake, for that would give the mistake reality; rather, He merely shows us another way so that we might make a better choice instead.
“Now you are being shown you can escape. All that is needed is you look upon the problem as it is, and not the way that you have set it up. How could there be another way to solve a problem that is very simple, but has been obscured by heavy clouds of complication, which were made to keep the problem unresolved? Without the clouds the problem will emerge in all its primitive simplicity. The choice will not be difficult, because the problem is absurd when clearly seen.” (T540/581-2)
“If you could recognize that your only problem is separation, no matter what form it takes, you could accept the answer because you would see its relevance. Perceiving the underlying constancy in all the problems that seem to confront you, you would understand that you have the means to solve them all. And you would use the means, because you recognize the problem.” (WB139/141)
The Course tells us over and over again that there is only one problem: the thought of separation. And that if we could identify this one problem in the myriad of problems in our lives, the problem could be solved. The only reason that we don’t seem to see this constancy is because we have devised such elaborate issues to deal with that to simply say that the problem is our thought of separation between us and God seems naive. And yet, that is exactly our ego’s plan. It wants us to believe in the complexity of the world, our lives and our problems so we would never believe that a simple mind change (which, as we all know, isn’t necessarily a simple job) could make any difference at all. So the ego sends us on a wild goose chase looking for our answers in the world: a better, more exciting job, a more caring relationship, anything new and intoxicating, more money, food, alcohol, sex, drugs. But at our journey’s end we are left wanting more and feeling alone. And our ego tells us, “What did you expect? God doesn’t care about you (or that He is not there, has little time for you, or has abandoned you because of this or that). You’re alone and you only have the little happiness that I will give you mixed with a lot of pain and suffering that you know you deserve.” This message — or a message similar to this — plays in our minds and throughout our experiences in this world unless we stop all the misinformation and start relearning the truth.
The Answer Part 1: Who we really are.
First off we must remember who created us. We are not self-created, but created by a Creator who has endowed us with everything: an abundant and loving spirit, a strength of holiness and eternal life. Our Creator, God (or whatever name you give it) loves and cares for us more than we can imagine. Now I suppose we will need to at least have faith in these basic premises, but once we are willing to allow these basic premises into our minds and hearts (whether or not fully believed), miracles begin to happen. The miracles or shifts in our awareness (from fear and loneliness to love and joining) are natural if we get our rightness, fears or stubbornness out of the way. No matter how justified we may feel in our opinions or views about a person or situation, we must be willing to stop and question whether they allow us to be as we were created and to be loving and caring to ourselves or another. Our goal is not to find more support for our opinions, but rather to heal. And we cannot heal when we are so locked into what we think is right or even the ways we should heal. We heal when we allow the Answer that God has given us, the Holy Spirit, to remind us who we are.
One of the activities at the Center is our weekly study group on the Course. We record this group meeting and send tapes to listeners around the world. At every meeting we share “miracle” experiences — everyday experiences wherein we choose to: “Behold the Son of God and look upon his purity and be still.” (T247/265) The following miracle sharing came from one of our tape listeners, Tina Ramsden in New York. She wrote:
“First I wish to thank all of you for offering a tape listener program – it helps me stay motivated in keeping with the Course. I wanted to share a miracle (shift in perception). I was grocery shopping and went to check out, the cashier was young and delinquent looking. I also judged him as rude and indifferent with several earrings throughout his ear. Lucky for me I caught myself directing my self-righteous attitude at this young man and realized what I was doing: Making him bad and me good. I looked at him after I acknowledged my judgment and in my mind said, “You are a child of God.” I kept repeating it to myself. Well, the whole dynamic changed, we joked around a little and both ended up smiling. The shift was a whole new perspective. It was a humbling experience to see how wrong I was. I realized that what I originally saw in this young man was not really there. I understand that I could and we all could have days filled with peace by simply remembering each encounter is with a holy child of God.
Thank you again for being a wonderful reminder to me that there is another way to be in this world and also for reminding me of my true function, to bless and acknowledge the truth in each person I meet. Life is so much better when I can remember to do this. Thanks for being a light in a dark world.”
Tina’s story helps us to see the simple truth that can be experienced when we silence the ego’s misinformation and concentrate on who we really are. We are angels with amnesia and we simply need to re-remember who we are — and the Holy Spirit is there to help us do just that — that’s His job.
The Answer Part 2: We need each other, because we are each other.
“Your brother is the mirror in which you see the image of yourself as long as perception lasts. And perception will last until the Sonship knows itself as whole.” (T118/127)
If we believe what the Course is telling us, that separation is the basic problem from which all our pain and unhappiness stems, then it would make sense that the way to correct the problem would be to join. That may be easy to say, but not so easy to do. This again is where the Course lends us a helping hand. It tells us that we merely need to look at the problems we have made (in all their complexity and justification for separation) and recognize that healing the thought of separation is the answer. That’s it. We are not asked to do the healing or tell God how the healing should be done. We are just asked to identify it. We are asked not to do what lies beyond our abilities — healing is the Holy Spirit’s job, not ours. And when we try to do what only He can do, He merely waits for us to change our minds.
A few years back Rev. Robert Schuller on his television program, The Hour of Power told about a time when he and his wife were in Hawaii on vacation and they had stopped at a market for some groceries. His wife went inside while he stayed in the car enjoying the breeze with the windows rolled down. Wanting to enjoy the breeze even more so he opened his car door and accidentally bumped the car next to him. The man in the car (even though no damage was done to his car) leaned out of his window and yelled his disgust in some pretty rough language. Tempted to respond in anger, something reminded him of what he always says to his television audience of over 20 million: “God loves you and so do I.” Well, he said that he didn’t feel like saying that, but he was willing to say to himself, “God loves you and I’m trying.”
We must be willing to “try.” We must be willing to remember that no matter what another says to us, does to us or tempts us to do, they are God’s holy child — not necessarily in deed and action, but in truth. And the more we hate them or hold them in the prison of our anger, we stay there with them affirming ourselves as unworthy of love or help. We break free of our prisons of isolation as we are willing to let the Holy Spirit help us to see the perceptions of separation we hold against our brothers and allow Him to release us from them.
The Answer Part 3: “The ark of peace is entered two by two.” (T404/433)
I have heard some people say that relationships are so painful that it is just best not to have them, and that truly spiritual people don’t need relationships. Well, that is just foolish and more a form of denial than help. We cannot hide from relationships; they are all around us. Our relationships are the closest thing in this world to the awareness of God’s love and healing.
I was so moved to read the story of William Wilson (known now in AA circles as Bill W.), founder of Alcoholics Anonymous and the 12-step program. Growing up in an alcoholic family, Wilson became a soldier and then a businessman and drank both to alleviate his depressions and to celebrate his successes on Wall Street. He married in 1918 and by all appearances he and his wife looked like a prosperous, promising young couple. By 1933 they were living on charity in his wife’s parents’ home in Brooklyn, New York. Wilson had become a drunk who disdained religion and panhandled for cash. Finally he was inspired by a friend who had stopped drinking to attend some meetings of the Oxford Group, which was an evangelical society founded in Britain. He also underwent a hospital procedure which was state-of-the-art in alcoholic treatment at the time called “purge and puke.” While incarcerated for the fourth time at Town’s Hospital in Manhattan, he attended group meetings and read Carl Jung’s writings and William James’ The Varieties of Religious Experience. It was during that stay in 1934 that Wilson had a “spiritual awakening, ” a flash of white light, a liberating awareness of God, that would not only transform his life, but the lives of millions around the world.
A few months later, still sober, Wilson went on a business trip to Akron, Ohio. There, one night after a deal had fallen through, he was tempted to drink. Drawn to the sound of the hotel bar where he was staying, he suddenly became convinced that by helping another alcoholic, he could save himself. Through a series of desperate telephone calls, he found Dr. Robert Smith. Smith was a skeptical drunk whose family persuaded him into talking with Wilson for at least 15 minutes. Their talk went on for hours. A month later Dr. Bob (as he is now known in AA circles) took his last drink, and that date June 10, 1935, is the official birth date of Alcoholics Anonymous. AA is based on the idea that only an alcoholic can help another alcoholic. As Bill W. wrote, “Because of our kinship of suffering, our channels of contact have always been charged with the language of the heart.”
I was touched by those words by Bill W: If we are in this world, we all have a “kinship of suffering.” Our suffering, pain or problems may look different than another person’s, but beneath the ego disguise is the same problem that we all suffer from — the thought that we are alone, apart from each other, separated from God. But we are not alone and apart and we need each other to remember that and to heal “with the language of the heart”. The profound impact of AA on lives is a living testimony to this truth. Aldous Huxley called Bill W. “the greatest social architect of our century.”
The awareness and work of Bill W. does give us a scaffolding to work from — we need each other. Those that walk this earth in pain (and that is all of us) can and must help each other. We can become beacons of light to each other, helping each other to see that our acts of kindness to another helps us and the world. We journey together in this life and the road we take is so much more blessed if we remember we are together and not alone — one with each other and God.
In closing let me share with you a beautiful passage found in the Course’s Workbook for Students in lesson 315 that I feel also gives us a scaffolding to work from:
“Each day a thousand treasures come to me with every passing moment. I am blessed with gifts throughout the day, in value far beyond all things of which I can conceive. A brother smiles upon another, and my heart is gladdened. Someone speaks a word of gratitude or mercy, and my mind receives this gift and takes it as its own. And everyone who finds the way to God becomes my savior, pointing out the way to me, and giving me his certainty that what he learned is surely mine as well.”
Let us not allow the misinformation of the world to cause us to turn away from God or each other. A faulty premise, a lie, is nothing to build a life on. Let us look clearly at the ego’s lie of separation and not be distracted by its artificial web of complexities. And together let us allow the Holy Spirit to do His job by showing us the opportunities and way to join with our brothers. We are, together, our way out of pain — let’s not miss another opportunity for healing.
What You Truly Deserve
The late comedian Jack Benny was once honored with a distinguished humanitarian award. Upon receiving the award he said, “I don’t really deserve this award, but then I have arthritis, and I don’t deserve that either. Thank you very much.”
Even though Benny was being funny, there was a vein of truth in what he said. When tough things happen in our lives, most of us don’t feel we deserve it. Just as when good things happen in our lives, most of us don’t feel we deserve it. It is not a question of whether we “deserve” the things that we experience in life; but rather, “How will we handle them, now?”
A Course in Miracles‘ counsel would be: don’t handle them alone. This entire classroom of life is teaching us our purpose and our function. In the Course we read that the proper function of the mind is to be in service to the Holy Spirit. (T11) And this makes perfect sense from the Course’s perspective. Since the Course reminds us that our function in this world is forgiveness, it would only be logical that we would need to allow the Holy Spirit to direct our minds and thereby our actions. After all, when was the last time extending or accepting forgiveness was an easy thing for you? We all have areas of our lives in which we have no trouble extending forgiveness: “Please forgive me for stepping on your toe,” or “I’m sorry for this or that small infraction or that little error in thinking,” etc. But we also have areas in which we feel justified in our feelings of anger, injustice or attack: biggies like war, murder, robbery or even personal slights, disrespect and plain rude behavior. It becomes clear that we can’t handle this process alone. We need help.
Many of us have read workbook lesson 193 from A Course in Miracles, “All things are lessons God would have me learn.” This lesson is not saying that God is putting lessons in our way. What it is indicating is that every experience in life is an opportunity or “lesson” to remember the presence of God. Every event is a stepping stone to the awareness of God and His peace for us. All things, therefore, are an opportunity to allow forgiveness to lead the way (meaning: allowing our minds to be dedicated to the Holy Spirit). All experiences are an opportunity to remember the unity we share with another.
Perhaps there is a situation in your life right now where you can’t see forgiveness to be the practical answer. And yet the Course is telling us it is the only answer that will finally transform our lives and end the cycle of pain we (and the world) seem to find ourselves in. As we read in lesson 193:
“Each lesson has a central thought, the same in all of them. The form alone is changed, with different circumstances and events; with different characters and different themes, apparent but not real. They are the same in fundamental content. It is this:
Forgive, and you will see this differently.
Certain it is that all distress does not appear to be but unforgiveness. Yet that is the content underneath the form. It is this sameness which makes learning sure, because the lesson is so simple that it cannot be rejected in the end.”
It is not up to us to figure out how forgiveness could work in this or that situation. We are asked to trust God’s Voice that assures us that forgiveness is the answer and allow Him to show us the way. Forgiving does not mean that the situation will magically change, but the way we view the situation will be transformed. A willingness to forgive opens our hearts and minds and allows us to see as God would have us see a situation or person — with love and compassion. “Forgiveness is the only thing that stands for truth in the illusions of the world.” (W249)
The following article was sent to me by a reader of The Holy Encounter who lives in Cortland, New York. A story ran in a newspaper in New York about a woman who had struck and killed a little boy with her car. There had been a lot of negative press and letters about this woman and the incident, so much so that the mother of the child who was killed finally sent the following letter to the Editor of the newspaper.
To the Editor:
I am very distressed by the letters I have read and heard aired by the news media concerning the death of my son, Russell. I am afraid that many people are using this tragedy as license to express their lower instincts.
My small son is dead. There is no waking moment that I am not acutely aware of this. The only relief I feel in my grief is in finding some kind of positive action to occupy my days. There is little I can do now for Russell except in spiritual ways, but this letter is written to ask everyone who is aware of this tragedy to help me safeguard the memory of my little boy.
Please try not to be judgmental concerning the person whose car struck my son. Being compassionate and non-judgmental toward her does not mean condoning her action; it is simply accepting her humanity with an awareness of our own weaknesses.
Please expend your energy and release your feeling of helplessness in the face of this irreversible tragedy by doing something positive. Please hug your children more or stop smoking, give your beer money this month to UNICEF, or rake an elderly neighbor’s leaves. Just do something in a spirit of love for little Russell’s memory instead of letting his death be the cause of vindictiveness. If you need inspiration to help you change your attitudes, look to Christ’s teachings or the Baha’i writings.
My little boy was so full of light and love. Help me to spread the joy of his life to light up the world a little bit. Let me know what you are doing. Seriously, it will give me strength to go on.
We can forgive, because we do not do it alone. The strength of God awaits our little willingness to let Him help us. Let us together forgive by allowing the Holy Spirit to enter any confusion or unpeaceful issue, and begin the process of seeing the world differently. Let the miraculous transformation of the mother in the above story, the example of the life of Jesus and the many seemingly small awarenesses (miracles) I know you have had, be the igniting spark to let forgiveness find a home in your heart.
Whether or not we feel we “deserve” the things that happen to us in this world, we all are entitled to the peace of God. Forgiveness is the means by which we escape the pain, suffering and random happiness of the world and find the eternal peace and consistent happiness God has promised us. Is there really any anger or seeming “rightness” worth the peace of God?
Let us affirm: “I will forgive and see this differently.” When anger begins to find a home in your heart, say: “I will forgive and see this differently.” When feelings of injustice cause you to question the value of God’s children, say: “I will forgive and see this differently.” When you begin to value the projection of attack over the extension of mercy, say: “I will forgive and see this differently.” The words are not magical, but what they do is allow you to stop the frenzy of your mind for just a moment; cause you to question the value of maintaining anger and separation; and allow the presence of God to return to your awareness to help you even when you may see no hope.
The goal is not to change the world and the circumstances we find ourselves in, it is about being willing to change our minds and allow God to show us a peace that passeth all understanding. And that is what you truly deserve!
A Holy Instant on the Playground
“That’s not fair. You said you’d share!” shouted Jeffrey in a sad voice. He had been playing with one of his best friends, but as five year olds will be, she did not want to share. The swing set only had one black seat and three blue seats, so naturally everyone wanted the one that was different. Jeffrey started on the black one, then they both got off to play somewhere else and when they started to swing again his friend Laura was on the black one. That was okay, though, because they were sharing. But then the deed occurred. When it was time for Laura to share, she didn’t want to. Jeffrey walked away sad and then Laura shouted to him that he could swing on the black one. He happily ran back, but then she changed her mind — she still did not want to share. And so started the episode.
Laura’s mother and I watched. I was quietly waiting to see what mom would do. She yelled to Laura, “YOU SHOULD SHARE!” Laura looked at her and in a defiant voice said, “NO!” To which the mom said to me, chuckling, “Oh, she’s just like her dad.”
I watched two sad little children: One who felt like he had “lost” and one who had “won,” but who had “lost” her playmate. They were both alone. Laura on her prize swing with her head hanging down and Jeffrey, head hung down, walking over to the Jungle Gym.
My first inclination as a mother was to defend my son, but I paused. And that pause was enough to restore my sanity. I asked for help within. I knew I needed help before I could be of help. I needed a holy instant on the playground.
A Course in Miracles tells us that the holy instant is any instant and every instant but we will only recognize it as we are willing to gladly give over every plan for finding “magnitude in littleness” and accept God’s plan instead. We think we know what will make us happy — and we usually think that “winning” or triumphing is the way. Laura wanted to win over Jeffrey and my first impulse was to make sure my son “won” by my defense of him. But, just as I saw she was not happy even though she had “won,” I realized that if I tried to do the same thing in just a different form, I would fail as well. “Help me Father to accept the holy instant that is before me so that I may follow Your Will for me and share that with Your Children,” was my prayer.
I calmly walked over to Laura and asked her if she was happy. She said no. I said to her, “You have the swing you want, but you are not happy because your friend is unhappy. Wouldn’t you like to be happy together?” She sadly nodded yes. I continued, “When you share, your heart gets bigger and bigger and bigger and you feel happy. But when you don’t share, your heart feels really, really small and you are sad. Wouldn’t you like to share and make your heart big and happy?” She nodded yes. By this time Jeffrey was back at the swings listening too. He wanted to make his heart big as well. Laura did share, and then Jeffrey shared. Peace again settled on the playground.
“Call forth in everyone only the remembrance of God, and of the Heaven that is in him. For where you would have your brother be, there will you think you are. Hear not his appeal to hell and littleness, but only his call for Heaven and greatness.” (T309)
We all need to be reminded of who we truly are, no matter our age. We all have the potential to live and play in love and peace. We can all get along on the great playground of life. And getting along does not mean we are giving in or losing. Getting along means we are sharing and joining. What good is it to have everything if you are alone and unhappy? I saw this so clearly with Jeffrey’s friend Laura. She had what she wanted, she had won, but she was not happy because she was alone.
A Course in Miracles says,
“The holy instant is the Holy Spirit’s most useful learning device for teaching you love’s meaning.” This is so because its purpose is to help us suspend our judgment of a situation so that we might see what is truly happening. To look past the seeming rights and wrongs and look with a healed perception on this moment. The Course tells us that the holy instant “becomes a lesson in how to hold all of your brothers in your mind, experiencing not loss but completion. From this it follows you can only give. And this is love, for this alone is natural under the laws of God.” (T315)
How are you playing on your playground? Has peace found a home in your heart? Are you choosing to be happy and experience a holy instant of release or are you caught in your rightness and a world of judgments?
It seems scary to us to have faith, turn to God, and let go of our investment in the outcome of our life situations in this world. But remember God is not asking you to sacrifice the world or your life, only the investment you hold on it. We think that if we let go of our investment we would lose, but we are assured in the Course that is not the case:
“You are afraid of this [releasing your investment in the world] because you believe that without the ego, all would be chaos. Yet I assure you that without the ego, all would be love.” (T312)
It is time for us to stop living from a fear of littleness and loss, and start living from the magnitude of love. We are so afraid to let go of the little we have (our ego’s view of the world), that we are missing the infinite experience of love that God has guaranteed us. But this is a practice. Little by little we see that releasing our investments in fear (whether it be sharing a swing or releasing our “rightness” in an argument) brings us more peace and a happier life.
But this is a process. And that is why I am so excited about this year’s conference in August. We are going to be focusing on the practice of the holy instant and the gift that will bring to our lives — learning that we do want God’s Will for us and that it is possible and practical in this world. I am so excited about the speakers we have assembled and especially the opportunity we have to listen and learn from Jerry Jampolsky — a man who has truly realized the value of choosing to live in the holy instant. His work with attitudinal healing — which is based on his study of the Course — has transformed the minds of thousands around the world on the concept of healing and death. His original work with children with catastrophic illnesses was groundbreaking. He showed that healing was of the mind. The wisdom of those children he worked with who were able to release their bodies in peace because they knew that they were not their bodies became a step in faith that helps us all.
We all need to practice our willingness to live from love, to practice the holy instant. We need to join together in support and community. We have been told in the Course that there is a celestial speed up going on in this world and that teachers of God are needed now more than ever before. We need to do our part to heal this world by healing our lives, so I hope you will join me in August, for I know “we go together, you and I.” (SP7)
Looking at Distractions
The other day I went to the grocery store, but I forgot my list. Well, it wasn’t a very long list so I should be able to remember it, I thought. But when I went into the store there were such great decorations all around for the holidays, some super special sales, and some much needed items that I didn’t know I needed until I saw them. When I got home, with my car full of all my “needed” items, of course I had missed a few items on my list that was sitting on the kitchen counter where I had left it. Nothing too important, just the staples like: milk, butter, bread.
I was a little upset with myself. How could I get so distracted? I pride myself on being a self-thinker. Am I really that influenced by mass marketing? Or am I really that forgetful? The temptation to beat myself up was, well, tempting! It was also just as tempting to project my blame onto the store, the seductive world of marketing, and the fact that with age comes loss of memory cells. But the interesting thing was that none of those projections, the ones toward myself or the world, gave me the things I forgot. If I wanted to get my milk, butter, bread, etc., I needed to get into my car and go back to the store. I simply made a mistake, I forgot, and all my angry projections would not solve the problem. It would just delay my inevitable trip back to the grocery store and make me miserable.
It occurred to me that this is exactly how my ego wants me to think about the distractions of the world. It wants me to be so distracted by the distractions that I will never see the easy solution that lies before me. The Course reminds us…
“The distractions of the ego may seem to interfere with your learning, but the ego has no power to distract you unless you give it the power to do so. The ego’s voice is an hallucination. You cannot expect it to say “I am not real.” Yet you are not asked to dispel your hallucinations alone. You are merely asked to evaluate them in terms of their results to you. If you do not want them on the basis of loss of peace, they will be removed from your mind for you.” (T138)
It is my choice to be distracted. The distraction may come in the form of me blaming myself, the past, the world or a myriad of things that seem to be beyond my ability to control. My goal is not to control my distractions but rather to look at them for what they are: a choice for pain instead of peace. They cannot stop me from experiencing a life of peace and joy unless I give them a power that they (being hallucinations) do not really have. No matter how real those distractions seem to us, they cannot stop us from the fulfilled life that God is holding out for us.
The Course tells us, “The past is over. It can touch me not.” (W442) It is from our thoughts about the past that the power of our distractions come. The ghosts of our past seem to have a powerful ability to stop us from the blessings of our lives now. I am reminded of the holiday classic by Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol. It is the story of a man named Scrooge, a bitter, angry person who feels justified in his hateful nature because of his painful past and the world it causes him to see all around. But when he looks at the distractions of life (his past and his actions) with the help of a few ghosts (perhaps they could be called “Holy Spooks”), the process of healing begins. He sees with a new “lighted” vision the world around him now.
We are asked to let the healing begin. We are not asked to deny our past or the distractions they bring us in our lives. We are asked to look directly at them and see that they have no power over us except the power we give them to distract us from the peace of God right now in our lives.
The Course tells us that the sign of Christmas is a star, a light in darkness. It asks us to see that light as not outside of us but shining in the darkness within our own minds, and to let that be an awareness that the time of Christ is now. The time for our healing is now — not some time in the future when we understand the Course better or when we finish our workbook lessons — right now. We are asked to look at or to shine a little light on all those dark, distracting thoughts from the past, and to see that our healing will not come by changing anything in the world, but by changing our minds about the world and its purpose. (T327 paraphrased)
As I have quoted many times from the Course, the purpose of the world is to heal God’s Son (that’s each one of us). That is the only purpose the Holy Spirit sees in the world and therefore the only purpose it has. See another purpose for the world and you are distracted. You will therefore give the world a power it does not have and you “will not escape its laws of violence and death.” (T512) Not because the laws of violence and death are real to God, but because you will believe they are real and therefore they will have power over you.
The world is here right now. We believe in the laws of violence and death. We have made a mistake about the world and its purpose; we need to correct our thinking. Looking at the darkness of our past may be a painful experience. No one wants to look at his or her mistakes. But we are not looking at our mistakes so that we can get stuck in the shame and guilt, but so we can be healed. Let’s not get distracted and believe the hallucinations of the ego are real. Let us look with God and see His miracle.
Einstein said, “No problem can be solved from the same consciousness that created it. We must learn to see the world anew.” We can do this now. Let us not be distracted. We have the formula; let’s put it to the test. Look directly on what is causing you pain, sadness or anxiety. Perhaps you don’t even know what it is that is causing you the upset. That does not matter, just be willing to look at the unrest, the unhappy feelings in your life and invite God’s Answer in. You want to use this world for its purpose: to heal the Son of God. You are willing to do your part and look — you will not be distracted. And, then you will let God do His part. Healing is not your job; your job is to let the healing presence that is in you now come forth.
This is the time of our rebirth — for ourselves and the world. We can do it. After all, we are being assured of it: “This is the time in which a new year will soon be born from the time of Christ. I have perfect faith in you to do all that you would accomplish. Nothing will be lacking, and you will make complete and not destroy.” (T329) “You do not walk alone. God’s angels hover near and all about. His Love surrounds you, and of this be sure; that I will never leave you comfortless.” (W488) It is now time to enter this new year, this new moment with His perfect faith in you, the knowledge that you are holy and complete, and the awareness that you are surrounded by the Love of God. With this holy “shopping list,” your distractions are doomed!
Blessings for a peace-filled, distraction-less holiday!
As Time Goes By
When Jeffrey was around two or three years old, he became fascinated with clocks and telling time. Now, he really does not comprehend the concept of time (do any of us really?), but he is sort of getting the idea of telling time on the hour or half hour and that is about it. The first “o’clock” that he learned was 4 o’clock. So for a while every time he looked at the clock, the time was 4 o’clock, whether it was or not. When friends would visit, they were amazed at how Jeffrey could tell time at 4 o’clock, but when the time ticked on and it was now 5 or 6, they quickly noticed that my child was not the amazing genius they thought; he was still saying 4 o’clock. At that point in Jeffrey’s growth, time was all the same. Of course, being a good mother, I had to help him learn that was not so. Time changes, it marches on, it passes and a moment from now it is in the past. But perhaps my child was on to something. Maybe time really is the same. Maybe I’m the one who needed to learn something.
This year the Center turns twenty-five years old. I am amazed to think that twenty-five years has passed. Certainly things have changed. When I think about the Center and the changes that have occurred I am stunned. How did we ever get along without computers and the Internet? We used to type (on an electric typewriter) the mailing list onto carbon paper sheets. So at any given time I had five labels per person, but when those five ran out, I had to type the list all over again. That probably could work with a few people on the mailing list, but can you imagine that now with thousands on the list? The study group information was the same with the lists being retyped each time a change occurred. In the beginning, I answered the phone, typed the lists, stocked the shelves, sold the books, dusted the Center, wrote the articles, cleaned the toilets, talked and counseled people on the phone, lead the study groups and classes, vacuumed the rugs, stuffed and mailed each envelope, and coordinated and put on the conferences.
Wait a minute! I’m still doing all of this — but now in a different way. Nothing really has changed very much. And, frankly, isn’t that the way with everything? Time passes, but what is of real value is eternal. It’s the same with the Center. Its purpose to be of service to students of the Course in their study is primary in our work, and our goal is to carry that out with great love and caring.
Over the Thanksgiving weekend, Darin (the Center’s Administrator who has been here for 21 years — he’s getting old!) was at the Center finishing up the copies of the tapes and CD’s of the Center’s study group to mail out to the weekly listeners so there would not be a delay in their meeting experience. I came in for a little while and there he was with his two daughters. He was making the copies and the girls were stuffing them into the envelopes. As they sealed each one they gave a blessing by saying, “Happy Miracles to (and then said the name of the person on the envelope).” I was so touched by their caring and it took me back to the days when we would put together in boxes the three volumes of the Course to send out. As we put hundreds of sets together, we blessed each book as it went in and off to its new “owner.” It was just our little way of reminding ourselves of what our true purpose was, not to just put books in a box, but to remember our essence by extending our blessings to others.
Time seems to march on; things seem to change. But, nothing really changes. Yes, the form seems to change, but what is real and lasting is eternal. If you look beneath the surface of your life situations, the needs are all the same. We all want peace. We want love, to be accepted, to feel connected, to join. It is in us realizing the common need in our lives and the situations of our lives that healing is possible. Not that God needs our understanding to heal us, but we do. To allow His healing Answer into our lives, we must look at the blocks we have built up against His Answer. Once we have looked at them (with the help of the Holy Spirit) we can see the common thread in all our lives — the common need for peace and love. That awareness (that our needs are the same — that we are the same) will heal the world.
So, when Jeffrey was saying everything was 4 o’clock, everything was the same; maybe he is a genius after all. Or at least he helped his momentarily spiritually-challenged mom stop for an instant and become aware that every illusion (even time) gives her an opportunity to find the deeper truth and to heal.