by Beverly Hutchinson McNeff
When our son Jeff was a toddler of about three or so, Paul and I would take him to restaurants that were child-friendly. As many of you know, three-year-olds don’t have a long attention span, so most restaurants are wise to provide crayons and place mats with puzzles and games on them. I remember loving the connect-the-dot puzzles on the mats. No matter how simple the dot-puzzle was, it was still difficult to see the figure among the dots until you actually connected them.
I remember helping Jeff draw the lines between the dots, and it would become apparent that the figure we were connecting was a frog or a fish or a dog. Jeff and I would be delighted by our masterpiece! The dot-puzzle seems a semblance of our lives: a series of seemingly disconnected happenings. But, if we allow the Holy Spirit to help us connect the happenings (the dots), we begin to see the bigger picture that was always present, but not seen.
A Course in Miracles gently poses this question…
“What could you not accept, if you but knew that everything that happens, all events, past, present and to come, are gently planned by One Whose only purpose is your good?” (W-135.18)
This quote does not mean that God is arranging the physical events in our lives, but in the events of our lives, no matter how horrendous or just annoying they might be, we can awaken to His healing power. His awareness can release us from our pain and suffering, so we can experience His loving Answer for us.
Now, this is a complete reversal of how the world looks at life. But then isn’t that the point of the Course: to reverse our thinking? Unless we look honestly at our pain and suffering in the light of the Holy Spirit’s understanding, we cannot be released to a new awareness. And, unless we are released to a new awareness, we will continue to experience the cycle of pain and suffering that is the hallmark of this world.
How does this work in the world?
September 11, 2001, is a date that is etched in our history. It is the date that changed the way we thought and did things in this country. Perhaps we felt we lost our innocence, but perhaps we actually found it. It brought the idea of terrorism to the forefront of our minds, but it also brought the necessity of joining, helping, and reaching out to “strangers.” The barriers of separation were fading in the light of the truth that we were connected and that we share the innocence of truth. We were not alone, each of us was linked in some way (physically, emotionally, or spiritually) to the events of 9/11. And we could let this event be used in such a way as to allow us to grow closer to the help and power of God’s love for us.
Just this past December, Paul, Jeff, and I were in New York City. We went to the 9/11 memorial, and as we stood at the memorial fountains established for those who died, I remembered the words of a minister who shared this powerful statement not long after the actual event:
“Two bullets went into the towers, but only love came out.”
Two bullets of hate (represented by the two planes) may have destroyed a structure, but what came out of this hate would be the power of love to help people come together. Those fountains, the new One World Trade Center, the statues surrounding it, and the kind and caring way people act around these places are the expressions of love in action. When humanity is rallied in service, we can do wonderful things.
We now have another event that can rally us to joining, love, and service. COVID-19 has been called an enemy and something we need to fight, but is that really the best approach?
From the perspective of A Course in Miracles, we are not asked to fight the world or our ego thinking, but to look at it with the help of the Holy Spirit. When we fight something, we give it power to affect us. But, when we understand something, when we look at all the facts, we can solve anything from our higher perspective – a connect-the-dots perspective.
Therefore, listening to health officials and scientists who are explaining the virus, its effects, and how the public should respond (social distancing and stay in their homes) should not be a scary thing or an unpatriotic idea or a dangerous idea that could tank our economy, but rather a way to understand this virus, deal with it, and finally solve it.
As the Course so beautifully reminds us, the miracles we seek are here now. We cannot deny the place we find ourselves at the moment; we must acknowledge the illusions and move past them to our Answer, the miracle …
“This world is full of miracles. They stand in shining silence next to every dream of pain and suffering, of sin and guilt.” (T-28.II.12)
This section goes on to say that if we understand what this thought is saying then the dream of pain and suffering in this world (and all of its affects, its illusions) can be undone. By recognizing that the answer stands next to every seeming problem of the world, our job is then to focus on the answer, the solution. If we can see our fear and worry as mistaken thoughts of misguided focus, then we can make another choice instead. We are not victims of the world, and the situations in the world are opportunities for us to make another choice for freedom instead of suffering.
“And thus the mind is free to make another choice instead. Beginning here, salvation will proceed to change the course of every step in the descent to separation, until all the steps have been retraced, the ladder gone, and all the dreaming of the world undone.” (ibid)
So, yes, we must look at every step in the descent to separation, until no dark thoughts remain to have power over us. This is how the world is “undone,” how the illusions of the world (viruses, war, hate of others, etc.) are “undone.” We do not attack them, hate them, or fear them, we stop feeding them.
We withdraw our loyalty to hate, projection, separation, and fear. When we see it being spread by people, we look at what it brings up in us and ask for Help to move past the darkness to the miracle that stands in shining silence right next to it. That is how the illusions are finally undone; they are given no power. Our focus instead is on the shining miracle that stands next to it. Isn’t that a better focus to have?
What can I do right now?
Well, you are “armed” with the truth, not to attack fear, but to undo it. If separation is the mistake, then joining is the answer. If fear is the opposite of love, then a focus on love and helping is the answer. If attack perpetuates our powerlessness, then forgiveness is the answer to the awareness of our real power.
What should you personally do in your life now? I ask you to take time each day to quiet your mind and ask how you can be truly helpful.
In our weekly live stream meetings (which can be watched for free every Wednesday at 7pm Pacific Time), I have been sharing how important it is to have, as the Course suggests, a “problem-solving repertoire.” (W-194.6) These are a collection of thoughts from A Course in Miracles (or whatever spiritual truth nourishes you) that become “a way of quick reaction to temptation” (ibid) when your thoughts start down that old rabbit hole of fear. If you are doing your daily lesson from the Course, then you have those, as well. But, it can’t hurt to have some great thoughts and prayers (and the Course has a lot of them) at your disposal as needs arise.
The following is one that many of you know, and now is the time to memorize it, if you have not already done so. Why? Well, for two reasons. First, it is a great reminder of why you are anywhere and should be a part of your “problem-solving repertoire.” Second, it takes about 20 seconds to say, so you can affirm it while you wash your hands!
I am here only to be truly helpful.
I am here to represent Him Who sent me.
I do not have to worry about what to say or what to do, because He Who sent me will direct me.
I am content to be wherever He wishes, knowing He goes there with me.
I will be healed as I let Him teach me to heal. (T-2.V.18:2-6)
What does this prayer mean for me?
#1) I am here only to be truly helpful.
One of the perennial questions of mankind is: why am I here – what is my purpose? This prayer answers it. You are here to be truly helpful. This means wherever you find yourself and with whomever you find yourself, you have something to give: helpfulness, kindness, love.
As we see in this current situation, people are finding unique ways to be truly helpful. Certainly our healthcare workers, first responders, grocery employees, delivery companies, and so many others are on the frontline offering direct help, but there are others who are offering support while adhering to social distancing, which is critically important to stop the spread of the virus.
Many are using the internet to connect choirs and orchestras together to create incredible inspirations of music for all of us. People in Italy are physically leaning out of windows and singing to their community to inspire and celebrate the human spirit. In New York City, they have set a time of 7pm each day for people to go to their windows and applaud and cheer the doctors, nurses, and everyone involved in the health care emergency.
And, this crisis can prompt us to do another very important thing for our world: take time to quietly turn within. Prayer changes the world because it changes you. And, even though you don’t need a time or place to pray, the Center continues to have a Prayer Ministry that has an international daily prayer time of 4:30pm (Pacific Time).
Remember, being truly helpful is a willingness to step back and let Him lead the way. After all, teachers of God are needed now more than ever before and you are a teacher of God.
#2) I am here to represent Him Who sent me.
This section in the text gives us a very clear way to enact this thought. It says…
“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.” (T-4.IV.2)
Representing God would be to join your mind with His thinking about all creation (which includes yourself).
#3) I do not have to worry about what to say or what to do, because He Who sent me will direct me.
This is a statement of trust, but not one that is unfounded. We actually are God’s treasure and worthy of His constant support, as we are assured in the text….
“Listen to the story of the prodigal son, and learn what God’s treasure is and yours: This son of a loving father left his home and thought he had squandered everything for nothing of any value, although he had not understood its worthlessness at the time. He was ashamed to return to his father, because he thought he had hurt him. Yet when he came home the father welcomed him with joy, because the son himself was his father’s treasure. He wanted nothing else.” (T-8.VI.4)
Therefore, if we trust in this truth, then this second point makes so much sense. God wants us to come home to this awareness, and it is only our own thinking that keeps us from experiencing the Help that is all around. “Only your own volition seems to make deciding hard. The Holy Spirit will not delay in answering your every question what to do. He knows. And He will tell you, and then do it for you.” (T-14.IV.6) He doesn’t even make us do the heavy lifting!
#4) I am content to be wherever He wishes, knowing He goes there with me.
Wow! This is a powerful line of trust. In my on-demand seminar on the Course, “Getting God’s Guidance,” I gave attendees an actual mustard seed with the following quote:
“It is quite possible to reach God. In fact it is very easy, because it is the most natural thing in the world. You might even say it is the only natural thing in the world. The way will open, if you believe that it is possible.” (W-41.8)
When I was a girl, my mother gave me a necklace with a little vial on it that contained a mustard seed. I wore that necklace as a reminder of faith in the power of God to work miracles in my life. Every time I read the above quote, I think of the mustard seed and its message of the little willingness of faith we are asked to have so we can experience the power of God in our lives. He has never left us; we simply need to move past the illusionary clouds that seem to block us and remember we always abide in “His loving Arms.”(W-267) Now, more than ever, we need to have faith in this truth, for our “faith is always justified.” (T-19.I.9)
#5) I will be healed as I let Him teach me to heal.
This line reiterates what Einstein said:
“Everything is energy and that’s all there is to it. Match the frequency of the reality you want and you cannot help but get that reality. It can be no other way. This is not philosophy. This is physics.”
The Course says it like this:
“To give and to receive are one in truth.” (W-108)
Whatever we extend or give energy to in our lives becomes the environment in which we live. “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.” (T-14.III.5) Therefore, it makes sense to extend healing (through the power of God’s love that teaches us to forgive) because we want to be healed.
We can do it together!
Every morning when I wake up, I am a mess. No makeup, my hair is sticking up from sleeping on it crooked, my eyes are puffy, I have a crease across my face from the pillow, I AM a mess! And, so is my mind … it has had eight to nine hours (on a good night) to run wild. But, every morning, I know my husband and son love me even though I look like a mess, and every morning the Holy Spirit welcomes me, messy thoughts and all. He is simply grateful that I am there, turning to Him for help.
“Do not despair, then, because of limitations. It is your function to escape from them, but not to be without them.” (M-26.4)
During times that challenge us, do not despair. We have a mighty Companion Whose only purpose is our good. Let us be committed to healing now. After over four decades of Course study, I am still making mistakes. The difference now is that I don’t want to hold on to the mistakes … I want help … I want to be healed … therefore, “I am willing to let Him teach me to heal.”
Let’s connect the dots…
If we want to hear God’s Answer and Help for us, we must stop the cycle of attack, hate, and fear. We have to stop reacting as we have always reacted. We must rise above the battleground of the world and choose for a miracle instead of murderous (fearful) thoughts. We cannot do this alone; we must turn to God for Help. This world will continue to be a place of horrendous nightmares until we allow it to be transformed in our minds into an experience of forgiveness and peace.
Let us all continue to join together in love and not allow the illusions of fear to lead the way. Let us become aware of all those small concessions we might make daily to anger and fear, and instead turn them over a little quicker to the Holy Spirit. Let’s not let those unforgiving thoughts fester inside of us, but bring them to the light of love where we will see they are not worth the cost of our peace. Through love, through the Holy Spirit, through any crisis, the dots are connecting, and we can see the miracle that is standing in shining silence as we approach the gates of Heaven.