Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Exploring our relationship with God

       As I write this, it is snowing! Granted, not much, and its nowhere near freezing, but the big fluffy flakes are the real deal nonetheless. (sigh) May 10.  No wonder Spring comes late here. 

Spring at the Manse...that's Larry, working on a project.
       I have been buried under a couple of projects, and to my delight, have been producing a couple of articles for our local newspaper, not to mention outdoor projects and (ahem) turkey season, so I'm a bit behind with everything. Below is my latest article for the paper, plus some recent photos of spring (such as it is) here and a trip to Sedona. I hope you like it!
           "I am, to some extent, like many seekers. I seek the happiest, healthiest life I can have, and the most spiritually satisfying one as well. But how do I find my personal path to spirituality, and the practices and guidelines that fit my own heart? Out of the 21 major religions and hundreds of variations on them, there are a dizzying array of choices.            
From the Christian heritage, we have the Bible, with its Ten Commandments, revered for 3,300 years, but even the guidelines in the Bible aren’t clear-cut. In addition to the Ten Commandments, Moses brought a number of other ordinances from Mt. Sinai (Exodus 21), and the 613 Mosaic laws, most of which we do not follow today. Did you know “an eye for an eye” is among those edicts from Mt. Sinai? Exodus 21:23-25. Some of those laws are horrifying to us in today’s world, like rules for slavery and selling one’s daughter, but they must have been a vast improvement over the absence of law in those ancient times. 
            Humanity’s social consciousness wasn’t very well developed during the Bronze and Iron Ages when those laws were written. Even the Ten Commandments, current then, aren’t enough for living spiritually today. They are more focused on what we shouldn’t do, not how to deepen our spiritually. We honor and respect them, but we need more.  We need spiritual truths.
            So lets take a different look at some universal, spiritual truths that might answer the needs of this world 3,300 years later.
            Unity teaches five basic principles, or what are considered to be universal truths throughout the world about spirituality. We begin with the statement of faith: There is only One Presence and One Power active in my life and in the Universe: God, Goodness, Omnipotence.  There is only One Presence, acknowledged by many names around the world. In the view at Unity, the One Presence we call God has also created and is incorporated into every part of this world, every bush and tree, every animal, every rock, every human being. God isn’t just Up There, God is within everyone and everything as well. God is everything, right down to the smallest atomic particle and empty space full of energy. The energy itself speaks of God.
            That’s pretty powerful stuff, and indeed it has been said that Unity’s choice of the other four spiritual principles exist only to further explain the ramifications of that one.

            What are we in this relationship?  The second basic truth is: We are created by and our essence is of God, therefore we are inherently good. This God essence, called the Christ, was fully expressed in Jesus. The concept of the Christ being the God essence within each of us is a cornerstone of Unity’s teachings; in fact, it is an essential part of New Thought beliefs. The direct connection with an indwelling God is a major theme throughout New Thought, quite different from those religions that use priests or other religious figures as the ways to connect with God. We “go direct to Headquarters,” to quote Charles Fillmore, co-founder of Unity. We teach that everyone can have a direct relationship with God.
            The other New Thought idea in this universal truth is the goodness of God’s creation, namely, us. We are not born in sin but born of a divine nature.  Jesus didn’t say sin, Paul did. There is no essential evil in us, or original sin for that matter, for we are of God, created by God. Would God have created a flawed expression of Itself (Himself/Herself)? We are only flawed by how we exercise our free will, not by an inherent quality. We are inherently good! 
            It makes sense. When we reach for our best, when we strive to be the best we can be, we reach within us, not to the heavens. When we think or feel about God, again, that feeling is palpably within us. And as many students of meditation or “the silence” can attest, when we sink deepest within ourselves, again, we become more keenly aware of that Christ essence. Is it within us or is it us?  Sometimes the noise of living this life makes us forget that the Christ essence IS us. We can’t be separated from it. We are of God as the wave is of the ocean.
            This Christ essence is in everybody, not just Jesus. It was expressed and called forth in Abraham and Sarah, Eli and Samuel, Moses and Aaron, long before Jesus was born. We see the hint in that wonderful passage from Jeremiah 31:33, 34: “I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.” Jesus knew, and lived the Truth of that God essence in his everyday life – and his death.

            Yes, there are people who don’t seem to be “good,” according to our definition. Human history is peppered with people who we could regard as evil, even when they are acting out of what they feel is right, or owed them, or what is “normal” in their lives. God also gave us free will, and sometimes in the exercise of that, we do things that are not in the best interest of ourselves or others. We choose. That is free will.
            Charles Fillmore wrote some hundred years ago, “There is a relationship with God into which we can enter where He seems “closer . . . than breathing, and nearer than hands and feet.” When we enter into this relationship, we become acutely aware of God as a living presence and we are lifted up by His love.” Again, we choose to become aware of the Christ presence within us. I suspect God loves us anyway, even if we don’t, at least if God is this truly omnipotent, good, omnipresence we think he is. But why not enjoy the deepest feeling of connection you can? Not just in prayer or meditation, but in everyday living? If you want to pursue this thought, Joel Goldsmith wrote a wonderful book, “Practicing the Presence.” It’s illuminating.
            Lets take another look at what this concept can mean to us: if indeed God is everywhere, within everyone, then we are one with God on the deepest level of our being. When we look at someone else, that person has God-spirit within him or her as well. That “Presence” within insists on respect, even when we disagree. It is safe to say that if we were all conscious of our Oneness with each other, we would find more peace in the world.
            In the words of Karen Drucker, New Thought composer and songstress,
You are the face of God,
I hold you in my heart,
You are a part of me,
You are the face of God.”
            The presence of God in me recognizes the presence of God in you, and therefore the Christ in me recognizes the Christ in you.
            And so it is."
            The above is an article written for the Religions page of our local newspaper, the White Mountain Independent. It has been edited by Rev. Michael Brooks, minister at Unity of the White Mountains.

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