by Beverly Hutchinson McNeff
I have vivid childhood memories of my dad always carrying a handkerchief. Whether he was dressing in a suit or work clothes, the last thing he would do is tuck that hankie into his back pocket. It was there whenever he needed it. He knew it was there. He never left the house without it. It was a part of him.
Even now, when I see a handkerchief, I smile thinking of him. The fact that he always had that hankie in his back pocket makes me feel confident even today, because that is how I feel about the presence of love. It is like a hankie in my back pocket. It has been placed there by God, and whether or not I am always aware of it, it is there. That presence is there to help me whenever and wherever I need it, and, if I choose to forget about it, it is still there waiting for me to remember.
The fact that he always had that hankie in his back pocket makes me feel confident even today, because that is how I feel about the presence
At our retreat in September, one of our thoughts for the weekend was from A Course in Miracles’ workbook lesson 285: “My holiness shines bright and clear today.” The Course gives us 365 powerful hankies for our back pockets, and this is just one of them, but it is one that I am particularly empowered by.
It is often hard for us to use the word holiness when it comes to ourselves, but that is the truth of our being as creations of God — not only for us, but for all living things. Therefore, to not accept and allow our holiness to shine bright and clear today is to deny the truth of who we are as children of God and side with our ego self over God’s Will for us. We may not understand how to let our holiness shine today, but the Course reminds us that our understanding is not necessary, only our willingness is necessary.
I think of it this way: I really don’t understand the technical theory behind how an oven works, but I do know if I turn it on, pre-heat it, pop the preparations of a meatloaf into it, and cook for a specific period of time, my family has a delicious meal! I don’t need to know the exact details, but I must be willing to do my part for the delicious outcome!
Our part is to turn to love, to the Holy Spirit, and be willing for a new understanding to come to us. Perhaps you are tired of traveling down that same old road of disappointment, fear, and frustration. Perhaps there is a new route you can take that will give you a new perspective. Are you willing to give it a try?
What stops us?
The Course tells us that we have a lot of “ancient learning” and mistaken thinking that we have substituted for the truth, but those substitutes cannot stop truth unless we choose to make that the atmosphere in which we dwell.
According to the Course, this “ancient learning” consists of a mistaken identity. We think we are all alone, no one knows what we are going through, there is no real help for all the problems we have, etc. We have assumed a lot of this mistaken thinking based on our heritage and personal past as well as the collective consciousness of the world’s past. From this perspective it seems almost impossible for another approach to break through. And yet we are assured in the Course that each day, each moment is an opportunity for a miracle – a shift in our perception from hopelessness to faith, fear to love.
The Course starts out by asking us to simply think of it this way: “You are what God created or what you made. One Self is true; the other is not there.”(W-93) It tells us everything we have built our “ancient learning” on is not only not the truth, but it simply is not there. Meaning, we have given a lot of importance to a way of thinking that has no substance, which is why we spend so much time defending it.
You might remember the old saying, “Oh, what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive.” We all know that lies have a way of catching up with us, and how it is so much easier to be honest from the start. This is where we find ourselves now. The deceit has become such a part of us that it is the truth we don’t believe because we are so used to the lie and the chaos it brings.
But, the light has come, we have begun to question the world and our place in it. As the Course tells us, “…this course was sent to open up the path of light to us, and teach us, step by step, how to return to the eternal Self we thought we lost.” (W-Review.V.5) If you are a student of the Course, then the ego’s days are numbered, because once the light has come, darkness has no place to hide and will eventually disappear into the nothingness whence it seemed to come.
What do we do now?
Again, this lesson is hard for us only because we have traveled down a road of confusion for so long, and, therefore, the confusion seems normal to our twisted minds”
We need to ask for Help. Even though we think we are alone, that has never been the case. A light came with us into our dream of pain and suffering to help us. This light of Help, the Holy Spirit offers this awareness…
“The Holy Spirit seeing where you are but knowing you are elsewhere, begins His lesson in simplicity with the fundamental teaching that truth is true. This is the hardest lesson you will ever learn, and in the end the only one. Simplicity is very difficult for twisted minds. 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.” (T-14.II.2)
Again, this lesson is hard for us only because we have traveled down a road of confusion for so long, and, therefore, the confusion seems normal to our twisted minds. But, keep bringing yourself back to this truth: “You are what God created or what you made. One Self is true; the other is not there.” (W-93)
This continual refocusing of attention is your willingness which unlocks your mind that has been so long kept hostage by the distortions and distractions of the ego. We have become institutionalized to pain and suffering, much the way a prisoner becomes comfortable to their prison cells. As the Course puts it, “Prisoners bound with heavy chains for years, starved and emaciated, weak and exhausted, and with eyes so long cast down in darkness they remember not the light, do not leap up in joy the instant they are made free. It takes a while for them to understand what freedom is.” (T-20.III.9)
This is us. It takes us a while to begin to question the seeming reality of the painful world we have dwelled in for so long, but once we do, the healing can begin.
What would you see?
“What would you see? The choice is given you. But learn and do not let your mind forget this law of seeing: You will look upon that which you feel within. If hatred finds a place within your heart, you will perceive a fearful world, held cruelly in death’s sharp-pointed, bony fingers. If you feel the Love of God within you, you will look out on a world of mercy and of love.” (W-189)
No one in their right mind would choose to live in a world held cruelly in death’s sharp-pointed, bony fingers, right? And, yet we daily dwell in hateful, angry, guilty thoughts. It seems almost automatic to see ourselves (and perhaps others) as unworthy and wrong.
So are we hopeless? Absolutely not! As lesson 189 says, “The choice is given you. What would you see?” Is your choice a fearful world or “a world of mercy and of love?”
If I buy the makings for a cake, follow the directions, pop it into that oven (that I don’t need to understand how it works), I would expect a cake, right? I certainly don’t expect a meatloaf to be the result of my efforts.”
I like to think of it this way. If I buy the makings for a cake, follow the directions, pop it into that oven (that I don’t need to understand how it works), I would expect a cake, right? I certainly don’t expect a meatloaf to be the result of my efforts. So, if my world is not showing me love and mercy, perhaps I better look at the ingredients I am mixing together within.
Lesson 285 invites this type of awareness, “Today I wake with joy, expecting but the happy things of God to come to me. I ask but them to come, and realize my invitation will be answered by the thoughts to which it has been sent by me.”
You have it within your power to move past the pain and suffering of your life and world, but it does require you to clearly look. Survivors of abuse understand that they cannot overcome the trauma unless they seek help to look clearly at it and heal. On their own, the fear and blame can be so great, but joined with another they learn to slowly move past it, and give, as many have stated, “not one more minute to the abuse.” They don’t have to analyze the reasons for the experience or dwell in blame or guilt. They are ready to move to a place of peace and empowerment.
This is where we all want to get to in our lives. We may not have the same kinds of abuse that others have faced, but we have all felt a sense of fear, loss, and emptiness that has robbed us of our power. Love is our power, but we have given it away in favor of anger and fear.
An attendee at our recent retreat shared in the Sunday healing circle that he had literally made himself sick so he could avoid the retreat. He said he was afraid of not being accepted. He did not arrive until Saturday morning, but the experience of Saturday began to change everything. He said he always felt like an imposter: People saw him as an adult man, but he was really a frightened child inside. In that moment, the frightened child was accepted and a healing took place for all of us. He reclaimed the awareness of God’s loving presence in his life; it was his hankie in his back pocket.
Reclaiming the power of love.
“You who have tried to banish love have not succeeded, but you who choose to banish fear must succeed. The Lord is with you, but you know it not. Yet your Redeemer liveth, and abideth in you in the peace out of which He was created. Would you not exchange this awareness for the awareness of fear? When we have overcome fear — not by hiding it, not by minimizing it, and not by denying its full import in any way — this is what you will really see. You cannot lay aside the obstacles to real vision without looking upon them, for to lay aside means to judge against. If you will look, the Holy Spirit will judge, and He will judge truly. Yet He cannot shine away what you keep hidden, for you have not offered it to Him and He cannot take it from you. (T-12.II.9)
And so, we look clearly at the blocks to the awareness of the love and peace that “liveth, and abideth in you” and offer those blocks to the Holy Spirit so they can be healed. As we do, we replace the lie with the truth, and we accept our holiness instead.
“And I will ask for only joyous things the instant I accept my holiness. For what would be the use of pain to me, what purpose would my suffering fulfill, and how would grief and loss avail me if insanity departs from me today, and I accept my holiness instead?” (W-285)
A few months back, Aretha Franklin died. This legend of music and icon for civil rights and humanitarian issues was remembered over a four-day celebration with a full day of television coverage for her memorial service. President Bill Clinton was one of the speakers, and his message was not only perfect for Aretha, but a powerful lesson for us. He said:
“… she [Aretha Franklin] lived with courage. Not without fear, but overcoming her fears. She lived with faith, not without failure, but overcoming her failures. She lived with power, not without weakness, but overcoming her weaknesses.”
We are not here in this life because we have it all together; we are here to heal. As the Course tells us, the ego always answers first, and its voice is always the loudest. Our goal now is to recognize that we do not want this, and that the seeming failures, fears, or limitations do not define us but are instead pointing us to our real power and transformation. This is the step-by-step process that the Holy Spirit will lead us on when we are willing to reclaim the power of love that is just as secure as that hankie in our back pockets. Therefore, let us join the journey…
“We are therefore embarking on an organized, well-structured and carefully planned program aimed at learning how to offer to the Holy Spirit everything you do not want. He knows what to do with it. You do not understand how to use what He knows. Whatever is given Him that is not of God is gone. Yet you must look at it yourself in perfect willingness, for otherwise His knowledge remains useless to you. Surely He will not fail to help you, since help is His only purpose.” (T-12.II.9-10)
Another attendee in our Sunday healing circle shared that she noticed the socks she was wearing that morning were mismatched. She said her husband of many years had recently passed and those mismatched socks represented how she felt. She really didn’t know how she fit in without him; she felt mismatched, but over the weekend she realized that everything actually did fit. It was different than it was before, but she was okay, it was okay. The light had come; she could forgive him for leaving her. Her holiness shown bright and clear and it became a beacon for us all.
“Father, my holiness is Yours. Let me rejoice in it, and through forgiveness be restored to sanity. Your Son is still as You created him. My holiness is part of me, and also part of You. And what can alter Holiness Itself?” (W-285)
Your love is ensured. Your holiness is guaranteed. That hankie is securely placed in your back pocket, and nothing can change that eternal truth.