Got God?

by Beverly Hutchinson McNeff

We are a slogan society. Commercials, as much as we sometimes hate them, really do grab our attention. They must be of some value. After all, this year’s commercial time on the Super Bowl cost $7 million for a thirty-second spot!

We have all been prey to the commercial slogan frenzy. Remember those ingenious milk commercials that asked the perennial question, “Got Milk?” The advertising agency that came up with that one really succeeded in making the public think and want milk. I started wondering why we, as a society, don’t have that same fervor and desire for God. After all, God “does a body good,” too, and actually does it better than any product on the market.

We might see the value of milk but are not so sure about the value of God. As the commercial said, milk supplies needed calcium, nutrients, and energy for that busy lifestyle of yours — see, those commercials did leave a mark on my brain! But I have also been a student of A Course in Miracles for forty-seven years and have felt and experienced the mighty power of God’s love and strength working in my life. However, a part of us doubts His power or value because we often see Him as a “fair-weather friend,” here one minute and gone the next. Or are we really the ones who are inconsistent?

“You may complain that this course is not sufficiently specific for you to understand and use. Yet perhaps you have not done what it specifically advocates. This is not a course in the play of ideas, but in their practical application. Nothing could be more specific than to be told that if you ask you will receive.” (T-11.VIII.5)

A Course in Miracles repeatedly tells us that there is nothing God will not help us with. The Holy Spirit is available to us and has been given to us as our Helper and Comforter, and that is what He will do: help and comfort.

The other day, I streamed a movie based on the life of Ruby Bridges. I watched this television movie in 1998 when it first appeared on “The Wonderful World of Disney,” and it is still very powerful today. During the integration period of the 1960s, Ruby was one of the original African American children to be placed in an all-white school in Louisiana. You can imagine the persecution and hatred thrown at this little six-year-old girl, but the one thing that carried her through was her belief that God loved her and that He would take care of her.

One poignant scene takes place on the steps leading up to the school, where she was brought every day under the guard of the U.S. Marshals. The marshals had always instructed her not to engage with the shouting crowds when she walked into school, and not to look back. She obeyed them every day except one. As she walked up the steps, taunted with vulgar words and symbols, she broke away from the marshals, ran back down the steps, looked directly at the crowd, and silently said something. When asked later what she said and why she disobeyed the marshals, she said she had to pray. She said that she usually prayed in the car on the way to school, but she had forgotten that day. So, she had to stop and pray for them. They did not know what they were doing and needed to remember that God loved them as much as He loved her. It was noted later by a child psychiatrist working with Ruby that she did so well under such adversity because of her strong belief and faith in God to help her and carry her through.

That kind of certainty is what we all want, but how can we know we “Got God?” It certainly seems to be easy to get milk; most of us can either walk or hop in our cars and go directly to our local market. We know how to get there, we know the directions, and we could probably get there in our sleep. But those internal directions to God have us a little more baffled.

Since slogans catch our attention, I’d like to offer a few catchy phrases to help you remember that you “Got God!” Here goes:

1. “He loves me … He really, really loves me!”
In 1985, when actress Sally Field won the Academy Award for her performance in “Places in the Heart,” she accepted her Oscar by saying to Hollywood, “You like me, you really, really like me!” She was surprised that Hollywood really liked her, and like Sally, we doubt most of the time whether God really, really loves us. The question of our worth and value is at the root of every problem we face and every solution God is holding out for us. Worth isn’t something we earn; it is an awareness. Of course, we have made mistakes in our lives; by ourselves, we are frail, insecure, and uncertain, but there is a power in us that is available to us and that we are worthy of. As the Course tells us:

“The recognition of your own frailty is a necessary step in the correction of your errors, but it is hardly a sufficient one in giving you the confidence which you need, and to which you are entitled. You must also gain an awareness that confidence in your real strength is fully justified in every respect and in all circumstances … It is not by trusting yourself that you will gain confidence. But the strength of God in you is successful in all things.” (W-47)

I remember when our goddaughter Lauren was about two years old and had just gotten new shoes. I had not noticed them, so she was kicking under the table where we sat. Her mother whispered to me that Lauren wanted me to notice her shoes, so I looked under the table and exclaimed, “New shoes, for Heaven’s sake!” To which Lauren, looking puzzled, replied, “No, for Lauren!” Those shoes were not “for Heaven’s sake” they were for Lauren. She did not doubt that she deserved them and was worthy of them, and she would say so. Let us have that same belief when it comes to God, and all else will be given unto us.

“He will never ask what you have done to make you worthy of the gift of God. Ask it not therefore of yourself. Instead, accept His answer, for He knows that you are worthy of everything God wills for you. Do not try to escape the gift of God He so freely and so gladly offers you … You need not decide whether or not you are deserving of it. God knows you are. Would you deny the truth of God’s decision, and place your pitiful appraisal of yourself in place of His calm and unswerving value of His Son? Nothing can shake God’s conviction of the perfect purity of everything that He created, for it is wholly pure. Do not decide against it, for being of Him it must be true.” (T-14.III.11)

2. No Pain. Yes Gain.
We have all heard, “No Pain. No Gain”; this thought seems to be the status quo in this world. We sure love our pain and our problems; we talk about them endlessly, and we sing about them sweetly. We do everything but find a solution. I think it is partly because those problems seem more glamorous and more interesting than the solutions. But the Course tells us,

“You made the problem God has answered. Ask yourself, therefore, but one simple question: Do I want the problem or do I want the answer?” (T-11.VIII.4)

The Course tells us that we feel we are in competition with God. Our egos tell us we want it “our way” no matter how painful it may be, and God, with all His high and mighty help stuff, only wants us to be happy. Well, to me that sounds pretty good. God does not want to take anything away from us, whether it be our glamorous dramas or our pity parties. “You may be afraid of His specificity, for fear of what you think it will demand of you. Yet only by asking will you learn that nothing of God demands anything of you. God gives; He does not take.” (T-11.VIII.5)

I streamed the movie A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood the other day. It is based on the life of children’s television visionary Fred Rogers. The 2019 movie is not a biopic of Mr. Rogers, who died in 2003, but rather a moment in his life that shows the power of his healing approach to life that not only affected children but adults as well. Actor Tom Hanks portrays Mr. Rogers, and he delivers all the humanity, patience, and kindness embodied in this incredible man. Hollywood movies usually focus on big action and suspense, but this was a departure from that approach, and it found an audience desiring a practical and healing approach to life’s problems, which this movie embraced.

Screen time in a movie is a valuable commodity and is usually filled with action, but in this movie, one full minute of screen silence is given to make a point. In a pivotal scene in a Chinese restaurant, Rogers asks the troubled reporter sitting with him to stop for one minute and think of those people who loved him into being. As they are both silent, the entire restaurant quiets, with the customers seeming to intuitively participate in the process. Then the film does an amazing thing: Hanks, as Mr. Rogers, turns to the viewing audience and stares straight at us, asking us to consider the most important people in our lives as well. I have seen this movie a few times, and that scene is always so powerful. With each viewing, I am visited in my mind by new people who have touched my life.

Hollywood and the media, as is said, reflect the focus of society, and evidently, they are starting to see that there is a market for healing kindness and not just pain and suffering. A Course in Miracles supports this focus on finding gain, not pain. It is not asking us to deny our problems but simply not to want them more than the solution or our healing.

“Stop for a moment now and think of this: Is conflict what you want, or is God’s peace the better choice? Which gives you more? A tranquil mind is not a little gift.” (M-20.4)

3. “Don’t touch that dial!”
The old radio and television serials would always caution the audience, “Don’t touch that dial,” because something exciting was coming up next that you wouldn’t want to miss. Now, as the audience, we didn’t know what that was, but we knew it would be something we wanted to experience, so we trusted and stayed tuned. The Course asks us to give God and His plan for our lives the same confidence we would give those serials.

The Course tells us that we are not asked to do what lies beyond our abilities, but what self-respecting ego wants to hear that? Of course, we know what to do, and so we go ahead and make a mess of things and then turn to God and blame Him for not stopping us. We are like children who keep picking at our scabs even though our mothers tell us not to. We know better, but we want to get rid of that ugly thing, so picking it off seems logical. We all know what happens when we do that: we get a scar to remind us of our “rightness.” If we simply let the scab heal, it falls off itself, leaving new skin, much like a new awareness when we allow God to heal our problems. The Course is asking us to, for just a moment, withdraw our judgment of the situations in our lives that cause us pain so God can fill the space with His healing awareness. In the Course’s workbook, we are given a prayer to help us leave space for God’s real purpose:

“… I do not recognize its [the world’s] real purpose. The purpose I have given the world has led to a frightening picture of it. Let me open my mind to the world’s real purpose by withdrawing the one I have given it, and learning the truth about it.” (W-55.5)

It is so easy for us to judge situations as good or bad and think we need to rush in and do something about it. The life of Christopher Reeve is a good example for us to review. As you may remember, this actor, best known for his portrayal of Superman, was involved in an equestrian accident. The fall from his horse resulted in his paralysis from the neck down. The public might view this situation as a terrible, hopeless event, but Reeve did not. He did not sit there “picking at his scab.” With great strength and faith, he decided he did not need a body to express himself. Even though his career as an actor was best known for his physicality as the “man of steel,” he was showing that he was really the man of a “limitless mind.” Before his death in 2004, he continued directing, developing movie projects, and working as an advocate for spinal cord injuries and organizations aimed at improving the quality of life for people with disabilities.

We have the ability to transcend our limits if we join our minds with the unlimited power of God. I have found this prayer from the Course to be a helpful reminder to repeat when I think I need to be in control:

“Father, my mind is open to Your Thoughts, and closed today to every thought but Yours. I rule my mind, and offer it to You. Accept my gift, for it is Yours to me.” (W-236)

4. Love Will Find a Way.
When we drive to our Holy Encounter Retreats in Lucerne Valley, I am always inspired by how trees and plants grow right through the seemingly solid rocks of the mountains. They find the smallest crack, forge their way through and flourish. That is what love can do in our lives. It’s sort of like that R&B song by Lionel Richie, “Love Will Find a Way,” where he sings,

“Is it hard this life you’re living;
Does the world seem so unkind;
Don’t you worry love will find a way.”

That’s the faith we need to have that love will find a way through the seemingly impenetrable blocks in our lives. It only takes, as the Course says, “…your small willingness combined with the unlimited power of God’s Will.” (T-18.IV.4) For so little, God gives us so much!

I remember when my mom died. I thought I had lost the love and support she gave me so freely and abundantly. Who would tell me that I was wonderful, that nothing was impossible, that I was so loved, and all my mom-type things? I felt moments of deep despair over her loss, but I couldn’t stay there for very long. Love found a way. I could hear my mom in my mind telling me that if I wanted to cry for myself, I could. But don’t cry for her or think I’d lost anything because she had gone nowhere. And, if I would dry my tears and get out of my own way, I would see the love that was all around me. It was there in the care and support of my family, friends, and so many of you; the void that I thought was there was filled. Your love, her love, found a way.

I have heard from so many of you who have experienced the passing of a loved one. You have also experienced the same healing awareness because love will always find a way. If we can step back from our pain and seemingly impossible situations just for a moment, love will find a way.

God loves us so much that He keeps showing us the way to Him. He has never stopped or taken a coffee break in His relentless determination that we know Him and feel His love. He is on, as the Blues Brothers said, in the iconic movie of the same title, “A mission for God.” And His mission cannot and will not fail.

“You whose mind is darkened by doubt and guilt, remember this: God gave the Holy Spirit to you, and gave Him the mission to remove all doubt and every trace of guilt that His dear Son has laid upon himself. It is impossible that this mission fail. Nothing can prevent what God would have accomplished from accomplishment. Whatever your reactions to the Holy Spirit’s Voice may be, whatever voice you choose to listen to, whatever strange thoughts may occur to you, God’s Will is done. You will find the peace in which He has established you, because He does not change His Mind … The Will of God can fail in nothing.” (T-13.XI.5)

So, the next time you pour that glass of milk (or whatever you might pour into a glass), ask yourself, “Got God?” I think you’ll know the answer!

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