An Instrument of Hope – 1

Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace;
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;

In this article we’ll consider this last instruction: “Where there is despair, hope.” So where there is despair, let me become and instrument of hope.

Have you ever felt despair? Many of us have, most of us probably have felt despair at one time or another, at different levels of course. There are different levels of despair.

In 2005, Kathryn and I flew to California for a few days to attend a family reunion in honor of the sixtieth wedding anniversary of Kathryn’s sister, Laurie, and her husband, Art. The family was gathering in a place called Twenty-Nine Palms, which is in a desert area about 60 miles or so from Palm Springs, where we had landed.

It was dark and it was pouring rain, which it generally never does. But it was, and not only rain but hailstones. We rented a car, and I asked the guy at the rental place which way to go and he said, “Oh, you just go down here, and down there,” and so on.

So, we set off. The directions had been a little skimpy, so when I saw a taxi stopped by the side of the road I stopped to check with the cab driver if we were going in the right direction. “Oh, no,” he said, “it’s the other way.” So I went back the other way and I just knew I was going the wrong way, so eventually I stopped again at a gas station and the man said, “No, you need to go back the way you were going before and you’ll go right over the freeway. Stay on that road and that’s highway 62, which will take you all the way to Twenty-Nine Palms. It goes through Marengo Valley, Yucca Valley, Joshua Tree and Twenty-Nine Palms.

So, off we go. It was dark and raining really hard. The roads were washed out with all the rain, grit and pebbles and little boulders were washing from the desert across the road and whenever there was a dip in the road there was flooded water. We came to a crossroads and opposite us, where we were supposed to go, there was a barrier with a sign that said “Road Closed.” There were no signs about any detour or anything like that. So I said, “OK, God, now you’re in charge. Which way do we go?”

I had an intuitive feeling to go right and a little farther down there was another crossroads and there was a man stopped, helping another man in a car. I stopped and asked him, “How’s the best way to get back on route 62 to go to Twenty Nine Palms?” He said, “Well, let’s see. If you go down here and you turn left and then right, then straight, then left again and right, you should be back on that road.”

I followed his directions, going through all the washed out areas and we got back on the road. But there were still a lot of washed out roads all the way and it was dark and still raining. Every so often we were getting a sense of despair that we’d ever get there because what was normally an hour’s ride turned out to be a couple of hours.

When we arrived there we were staying in a place called The Twenty Nine Palms Inn. It’s a very rustic place with some small adobe cottages. It was late by the time we got there, but the lady in the office pointed to a little map and said, “Oh, you just go over there and that’s where it is.” We finally got to bed about 11 pm California time, which was 2 o’clock in the morning our time.

But when we woke up in the morning it was bright and sunny and the sun was hitting the beautiful mountains around us, and we had a wonderful three days with family.

I wanted to share that experience with you because that’s one level of despair, anxiety. From there it goes in different levels from anxiety to despair, and sometimes into depression. So that was one experience. But let’s look at another level now.

Another, much deeper, experience I had was when I first went to ministerial school, or seminary, in 1969. My first wife and I had been going through some troubled times and when I got into ministerial school it seemed like everything was even more problematic. I was getting focused on my ministerial school and my studies, and my wife wanted to go back to England. Finally she took our four children and went back to England and that culminated in our divorce.

Just a month before that, my dad had died in England and I hadn’t heard right away. After three or four weeks I got a letter from my mother. I had a feeling it was something special when I picked it up in the morning from the mail box in the student lounge, so I waited until break time and then I went outside to read it. It was about my dad, and my mother asked why I hadn’t responded to the telegram. Strangely, I had never received the telegram.

So there was that, and just after that my wife left with the children and we were divorced, and I thought, “What is happening here? Here I am devoting my life to God’s work and everything is falling apart, everything is in chaos.”

At that time there were beautiful orchards around Unity Village, and I walked up in the orchards where it was quiet and I shouted and screamed and yelled at God. Why was this happening? I had thought that when I devoted myself to God everything would come together and it would be wonderful. But it was falling apart, it was chaos. So I yelled and screamed at God that evening, in the dark, in the orchard.

Then I came back to where I was living, in a little room at what was known as The Annex. The men were on the lower floor and the women were on the upper floor. Prior to that, my family and I had been living in a cottage on the grounds but then I’d been able to move to this tiny room, like a cell, in the Annex. Later on I got a larger room on the ground floor there at the Annex.

Some time before I had purchased a 1959 Cadillac, with the big wings and big tail-lights on the back, from an outgoing student. Every time I pulled into the parking lot the big tail-lights would come on. My fellow ministerial student, Kathryn, and her daughter, Celeste, had a room overlooking the parking lot, and the lights would light up their room.

When I came back from the orchard I got in my car, and Kathryn knew I was either coming or going when the lights came on. She looked out of the window and called out to me, “Where are you going?” I said, “I’m going to see Sig Paulson, to talk to him; I’ve got to talk to somebody.” She said, “It’s ten o’clock, you can’t go and wake up Sig Paulson.” He was a long-time Unity minister, very well-known in the movement. She said, “You can’t go there at this time of night. Come on up and I’ll talk to you.”

So I went up and we talked a while, then she said, “Look, just hold on and everything will work out for you. You know where your source of good is, so remember to look to that.” So she gave me a little talking to and I felt a little better.

(To be continued in Part 2 of An Instrument of Hope)

Know that God is Blessing You, Right Now!

Rev. Alan A. Rowbotham

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Rev. Alan Rowbotham, a Unity minister for over forty years, invites you to enjoy more articles and/or subscribe to his free inspirational newsletter, Spiritual Solutions, at www.spiritualsolutionsblog.com

You can also go directly to the blog, at http://spiritualsolutionsblog.com/blog/

Feel free to share this article in its entirety with a friend. You may also reproduce and publish this article if you also include this reference box. Thank you!

If you’d like to receive the very popular Rich Words, featuring weekday inspirational quotes, you can subscribe above to the right on this site.

Special thanks to those of you who have sent tithes or love offerings for Spiritual Solutions. I am very grateful for your generosity.

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An Instrument of Faith – 2

(Continued from Part 1)

Carolyn Myss, in her book Invisible Acts of Power, says this: “Many times I have wished I could convince others of this immeasurable invisible force that surrounds and protects us. I feel profound bliss in knowing that even in the direst times our prayers are heard and answered.

“I have seen and experienced far too many miracles to believe otherwise. Like you, I’ve had to move many mountains in my personal and professional life. Whenever I am striving mightily on my own, pushing and getting nowhere, I usually realize that it’s time to step back and remember that ‘If you have faith as a grain of mustard seed, you shall say unto this mountain, “Move hence to yonder place,” and it shall move and nothing shall be impossible to you.’”

She speaks also about the awesome power of conscious prayer. She said, “Prayer is the purest aspect of this invisible act of power.” How important prayer is. She talks about the use of our faith as an anchor, the faith that we can move through any circumstance, through any situation.

In Hebrews 1, we read that “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, and the conviction of things not seen.” Then it goes on to say, “For the things that are seen are made from the things that are invisible.” In other words, everything comes into visibility from the invisible. So we have to look first to that invisible realm of being.

We all have times in our lives when difficult things come along that we have to face. If this is a time of fear for you then this is also a time of faith. Move from that place of judging by appearance and open yourself to the possibility of knowing that you are never ever alone, for God is always present with you. “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil; for thou art with me . . .” So if it’s a time of fear, it’s also a time of faith for you.

Is this a time of illness for you? If it is, then it is also a time of faith, of knowing the Truth that God-life is mighty in the midst of you, and of looking past that appearance of how things seem to be to the Truth of that life. No matter what seems to be happening, God-life is expressing in you.

Recently I sat at the bedside of a very dear friend who has been diagnosed with a tumor in his brain. At the time we didn’t know whether they could operate or not. He and his wife are very well steeped in Unity principles and as we sat down and prayed together and cried together, we affirmed together that this is a time of faith.

When you are faced with something as challenging as this, sometimes it takes someone else to just be there and to know that Truth for you. So we affirmed the Truth that God is in the midst of this situation, and that God’s healing power is mightily at work. Then we released the outcome to God, to the activity of God. We don’t have to be concerned about the particulars; we only have to look to the Truth of God’s presence

Is this a time of lack for you? Then it is also a time of faith, because if you are experiencing lack it is an opportunity for you to prove the presence and power of God in your life, that God is your source. There may be many channels for your good, but there is only one source and God is your source.

And this is your opportunity to prove it. We read in the scriptures, “Prove me now, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you an overflowing blessing.” (Malachi 3:10) So you can prove it for yourself; you don’t have to prove it for anyone else, you’re just doing it for yourself, exercising your faith.

Faith is action, it’s not just thinking about something or talking about something; it’s moving into action based upon the knowing of God’s presence and power. It’s not just believing in something that someone has told you, but a knowing. There’s a difference between a belief and a knowing, and you know that difference. So, if this is a time of lack for you, it’s also a time of faith.

If this is a time of grief for you, it is also a time of faith. If you are experiencing grief, you can also know that in the darkness there is the light of God’s presence and that light is always there and available to you. You can begin to switch your view from the seeming darkness and the loss to the light and the realization that there’s only eternal life.

The appearance is that there’s an ending, a death, a separation; but there is no separation in God, there is only eternal life in different expressions of that life. So you can experience a new relationship with your loved one as you get into that kind of awareness, as you get into the kind of knowing that is the faith in God’s presence within us and within our loved one.

Is this a time of doubt for you? Then it is also a time of faith, because whenever we doubt we have the opportunity to utilize our faith and to bring that faith into our doubt and to transform it into a deeper knowing of God’s presence. God provides us many opportunities; life provides many opportunities for us.

We all come into those moments of doubt, but in those moments we can catch ourselves and stop affirming our doubts where we keep saying, “Oh, there’s no way I can get over this,” or “How can I possibly achieve this?” or “Where’s the money going to come from?” or “My relationship with this person is ending and there’s nothing I can do about it.”

We often get focused on what’s wrong instead of what’s right; we have to stop affirming our doubts and begin to affirm the Truth and our faith in God’s presence. No matter what is happening in your life, affirm, “God is mightily at work in my life right now, bringing new possibilities, new openings, new realizations, new joy, a new sense of who and what I am; I have something to give and I am important to life. I bring myself, as an instrument of God, to life.”

The most important thing we can do to have this realization of God’s presence is meditation. Take time for meditation, move into the stillness and listen to that still, small voice. For just as Jesus said, it’s not the quantity of something, the largeness of something, but it’s the quality and the clarity and the perception that comes through listening to the still, small voice.

That still, small voice is truly inwardly the most formidable and the most significant thing in the entire world. And we come to that as we take time for meditation, as we take time for prayer, as we take time to move into the Silence. We begin to listen, and we hear that little nudge, that movement forward of God in us, then we take those steps that bring us into a deeper experience of God’s presence and a deeper expression of faith.

So, truly, as we take these steps and move into that time of meditation and take, as Ecknath Easwaran says, a holy name for ourselves for when we forget, it will remind us of our oneness with God, that communion. And the holy name can be anything that really brings you back into that consciousness of God’s presence. It can be “Jesus, Jesus;” It can be “Christ” or the “Holy Spirit,” or “Father,” whatever it is that brings you back into that consciousness of oneness with God.

That’s the most important thing, to be aware of that level of our being, to listen to that still, small voice; in the midst of all appearances that seem to be happening, listen in that deeper awareness. And we know, that somehow, some way, we have an important work to do in life; that we, too, by our faith, consent to shine the greatness of God through us.

So let your light shine; let it shine!

For God is Blessing You, Right Now!

Rev. Alan A. Rowbotham

————————————————————————–

Rev. Alan Rowbotham, a Unity minister for over forty years, invites you to enjoy more articles and/or subscribe to his free inspirational newsletter, Spiritual Solutions, at www.spiritualsolutionsblog.com

You can also go directly to the blog, at http://spiritualsolutionsblog.com/blog/

Feel free to share this article in its entirety with a friend. You may also reproduce and publish this article if you also include this reference box. Thank you!

If you’d like to receive the very popular Rich Words, featuring weekday inspirational quotes, you can subscribe above to the right on this site.

Special thanks to those of you who have sent tithes or love offerings for Spiritual Solutions. I am very grateful for your generosity.

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An Instrument of Faith – 1

The next three lines of the prayer of St. Francis all begin with “D” and they sort of escalate in intensity. This article focuses on doubt, the next one is despair, and the next one is darkness. And the last line of the seven is on sadness and joy; remember that joy is always the recognition that the presence of God is there. Joy is the recognition and the demonstration of the presence of God in you.

Then the last part of the prayer is the recognition and understanding of that process, and again it goes in threes. God, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console, etc. As you come into the next three you to come to “it is in giving that you receive, pardoning that you are pardoned,” and the last line is “it is in dying to self,” or the transcending of ego, “that we are born to eternal life.” Notice it’s not “into” eternal life that’s somewhere else, but to eternal life that is right here, and not somewhere afterwards but right now. Eternal life is what we are living now; that life is thrilling through us at this very moment.

So I invite you to join with me and speak the words of the prayer of St. Francis once more:

Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace;
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness, joy.

O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console,
To be understood as to understand,
To be loved as to love:
For it is in giving that we receive,
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
It is in dying to self that we are born to eternal life.

For me, as I say that prayer, it’s as though I’m walking, I’m taking steps. And you can in fact utilize the prayer that way as a walking meditation and it can be very powerful for you. It’s just a tool to use, but it’s a reminder of our need to recognize our oneness in God and that we are instruments of that life force, instruments of God’s presence and God’s peace in our world.

Instead of living just in our sense world, we can live in our spiritual world. You see, there are two levels of being. There’s our sense world and the appearances that are around us all the time and that we are so involved in and get so caught up in. But at the same time there is a much vaster level of being that is present and that we can consciously belong to, the level of spiritual awareness.

Jesus talked about the kingdom of heaven as being like a mustard seed that a farmer sowed in his field. Now that would be an unusual thing for a farmer to sow mustard seed, especially in this region where the mustard seed is so prevalent and takes over everything. Wherever things are being planted, you find mustard plants, bushes, growing up too; so it sometimes becomes a bit of a nuisance.

But it’s significant in that the kingdom of heaven is like that, because wherever you plant it, it expands, it grows. So as we focus on the presence and power of God within us, it expands within us, it grows within us, just like the mustard seed. And we experience more and more of that which Jesus called the kingdom of God or the kingdom of heaven, that level of spirituality that is always present wherever we are. So the prayer helps us to move into that consciousness.

There’s a story based on an actual event when a young minister who was ordained not long ago had a DVD where he was explaining a point and he had four volunteers come up onto the platform. He chose the four volunteers by asking the congregation if there was anyone who had never tasted a cumquat and the four people were among the ones who put up their hands.

Then, there on the platform, he had each one taste a cumquat. They pulled various faces as they tasted it. And, of course, when they tasted it they had the experience of it. His point was that each of those four had a different experience, and he went on to talk about the different experiences that caused the gospel writers to write the gospels in different ways.

But I have a different point to draw from that story and that experience. The point that I would say from that experience is that if you have never tasted a cumquat, you could never express what it tasted like. So you have to have the experience of tasting a cumquat, but even then you can’t describe it in words. You can only say things like “It made my mouth pucker,” or whatever your experience was, but you cannot really give the taste of it. A person has to experience it.

And that’s the very same thing with faith in God. You cannot really describe it for another person, you can tell them, “Oh yes, you must have faith, you must have faith in God for this will get you through all kinds of experiences,” and so on. But to really have that faith you have to experience the presence of God in your life.

You can know about God and you can know about faith, but unless you’ve experienced it, unless you’ve experienced God’s presence, unless you’ve experienced putting faith into action in your life you cannot really share that experience. But once you’ve tasted it, then you can share the experience out of your own being because now you know; it’s something you know.

It’s just like riding a bicycle, you can tell someone how to ride a bicycle but until they’ve ridden a bicycle themselves they haven’t got into the bicycle-riding consciousness. They haven’t found out how to balance. But once you’ve ridden a bicycle, you never get out of that consciousness; it’s always there.

The same thing is true of faith. Once you’ve experienced faith in God in your life, it’s always there, you never lose it, you can always draw upon it, and it grows in your consciousness.

Jesus used that idea of the mustard seed another time; you’ll remember he talked about it being the smallest of seeds. He said it was the smallest of seeds, but it grows into a tree and all the birds come and nest in its branches. He was really drawing an analogy of the cedars of Lebanon, mighty trees that grow there in the Middle East. He was talking about a mustard seed and relating it to the kingdom, which grows in us in that same way.

It seems insignificant. However, it has all the power of God within it to grow into the promise and potential it has within, just like the acorn has the oak tree within it, and just like we have the Christ within us.

The Spirit of God is within us as the Christ, and we have the potential to grow into that; it’s already in us from the beginning, we don’t have to get it from somewhere else and it’s always there.

Faith is within us, too, but we have to exercise it. Just as you have to exercise your faith if you’ve ridden a bicycle, you have faith you can ride a bicycle now because you know it. There’s a difference between believing and knowing. Beliefs are often put on us in our younger days, by our parents, by our teachers, our ministers, or whatever. We may know about them, we may say “Oh, yes, I have this belief.” But it’s something we’ve put on ourselves. Yet once we know something, once we’ve experienced it, we know it for ourselves; we don’t need anyone to tell us what it’s like, what it feels like, what it can do, because we know it and we can draw upon it for ourselves.

Remind yourself that the presence and power is always with you; have faith in the awareness of that invisible realm of life and that still small voice within that seems so insignificant and yet is the most formidable and significant thing in all the world. The awareness of this inner world is all-important.

Thomas Merton said, “Life is this simple; we are living in a world that is absolutely transparent and God is shining through it all the time. This is not just a fable or a nice story, it is true. If we abandon ourselves to God and forget ourselves, we see it sometimes, we see it maybe frequently. God shows himself everywhere, in everything, in people, in things, in nature, and in events. It becomes very obvious that God is everywhere and in everything and we cannot be without him; it’s impossible. The only thing is that we don’t see it.”

You see, just like the mustard seed, it’s not in the quantity, in the largeness, but it’s in the quality and the clarity and perceptiveness that we have that we can see this other level of being and not just the appearance of things.

(To be continued in Part 2)

So remember, God is Blessing You, Right Now!

Rev. Alan Rowbotham

————————————————————————–

Rev. Alan Rowbotham, a Unity minister for over forty years, invites you to enjoy more articles and/or subscribe to his free inspirational newsletter, Spiritual Solutions, at www.spiritualsolutionsblog.com

You can also go directly to the blog, at http://spiritualsolutionsblog.com/blog/

Feel free to share this article in its entirety with a friend. You may also reproduce and publish this article if you also include this reference box. Thank you!

If you’d like to receive the very popular Rich Words, featuring weekday inspirational quotes, you can subscribe above to the right on this site.

Special thanks to those of you who have sent tithes or love offerings for Spiritual Solutions. I am very grateful for your generosity.

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An Instrument of Pardon (Forgiveness) – 2

(Continued from An Instrument of Pardon – 1)

When I went to England for my son’s wedding some years ago, it was a wonderful time and some of my children were there. But one of my children was not there; that was my eldest child, my eldest daughter. She has separated herself from the family, from me, from her mother, and from her other siblings. She didn’t show up, didn’t even call or write or anything.

So you can sow seeds of love and forgiveness, but you do not have to worry about the outcome; our responsibility is simply to sow the seeds. You are not responsible for how the other person responds; you just have to keep sowing the seeds and keep the door open, but you don’t have to decide to do something if the other person doesn’t respond. You leave that in God’s hands and know that one of these days she’s going to respond; that seed will take root.

You have to realize that you cannot control another person’s responses. But Jesus gave this parable to show the different kinds of responses, saying in effect, “Which response would you choose? Would you be generous in your forgiveness or would you be stingy and not give your forgiveness?” And he’s giving you the comparisons of the one who forgave a debt of $10 million and the one who had been forgiven but did not forgive the debt of a hundred dollars. So he’s giving you a choice there and saying, “Which one would you choose? Which is the right attitude for you to take for yourself?”

Then that part at the end of the parable, which seems so harsh, where the person is thrown into prison until it’s all been paid is to illustrate Jesus’ teaching that forgiveness cannot be compromised without undesirable results. If you hold unforgiveness, if you hold resentment, if you hold bitter thoughts, you’ll always have undesirable results, because you cut yourself off from the source, you cut yourself off from God’s presence.

Lord Herbert said, “He that cannot forgive others breaks the bridge over which he himself must pass.”

St. Francis understood this, and he went to great measures to encourage people to forgive. St. Francis was always giving away his clothes; he would give away his hood on his habit, and he even gave away his trousers. His followers said they couldn’t keep clothes on his back because he kept giving them away to everybody.

One day he came to this place in Perugia and met a man whom he’d known before and the man in this instance had sunk down into utter poverty. The man was grumbling and complaining about his master who had brought about this condition of his life, that whereas before he was comfortably off and fairly wealthy, now he was in utter abject poverty. He was complaining, he was mad, he was bitter, and had a lot of resentment.

St. Francis said to him, “I will willingly give you my hood if you will go and give forgiveness to your master who gave you injustice.” The man opened his heart, and he did indeed go and give forgiveness to his master and experienced that sweetness of forgiveness. Forgiveness is sweet because it lets go. When you don’t forgive you bind that other person or circumstance to you with chains of steel; your emotions are binding that to you. It’s so important to realize the need to let go. So we have to learn to forgive, and we have to learn to give.

The greatest example Jesus gave about forgiveness was in his own life when he was on the cross. He looked at all the people there and he said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

And that’s true of anyone who does harm to another; they really do not know what they are doing, to themselves. They are cutting themselves off from the experience of God’s love and God’s good.

It’s like if you had a little child who was misbehaving; you may discipline the child in some way but you don’t hold unforgiveness against them, do you? You love them; you love them even more sometimes to get them to behave.

If an adult is being angry and upset you can think of that adult as throwing a tantrum; and if you do that, you don’t have so harsh a judgment about that person. “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

St. Francis was very focused on forgiveness, just as Jesus was, because he knew that anyone who was not forgiving was cutting themselves off from God. At the end of his time as being head of the order, he had to give over his place to another monk, Brother Elias, who then became very keen on improving the conduct of the brothers. He was not as easy-going, not as loving, and not as forgiving, as St. Francis.

It says in the book, Love Never Faileth, by Ecknath Easwaran, that when Elias came to him with complaints and plans to penalize some of the brothers, Francis gave him strong advice: “See to it that no brother in the whole world, however he may have sinned, is permitted to go from you without forgiveness if he asks for it. And if he does not ask for forgiveness, then ask him if he does not want it. And even if he comes before your eyes with sin, love him more than you do me that you may draw him to the Lord; for the healthy need no physician, but only those who suffer illness.”

Ecknath Easwaran says, “The forgiveness Francis is describing here is not a matter of saying, ‘I forgive you, let bygones be bygones.’  And no amount of talking can prevent the seed of resentment from taking hold in our hearts. True forgiveness requires that we only not take personally any harsh thing said or done to us, but that we make an all-out effort to understand the other person’s situation. Then that resentment really does not stand a chance.

“But Francis is zealous in his recommendation that we follow up this forgiving with concrete acts of love, which can actually cure the impulse of the other person to say or do something harsh again.”

You see, it’s not enough just to say it, to talk about it, you have to follow up. So ask yourself today if there’s something you need to do. Is there maybe a letter you need to write, maybe a letter of apology, maybe a letter asking for forgiveness, maybe a letter of explanation, or a letter of understanding? Understanding is the first step to true forgiveness.

Think about it, if there’s a letter you need to write then write it. And don’t be concerned about the probable response, put that in God’s hands; that’s God’s business, not yours. You just have to sow the seed, that’s all.

There’s a woman I remember who had a great sense of bitterness toward another whom she held partially responsible for the death of her sister. She became very, very bitter. She had been a very pleasant person but she turned sour and was filled with resentment and bitterness.

Then a friend of hers introduced her to Unity, and after she’d learned some of the principles of Truth taught in Unity she began to put the principles of love and forgiveness into practice in her life.

Slowly but surely that seed of forgiveness began to take root, it cast out that ugly weed of resentment and took its place, and the flower of forgiveness began to bloom. She is now one of the sweetest persons you could ever know.

We can replace resentment with forgiveness. Love and forgiveness connect us with the source of all good through our giving and forgiving, giving love for whatever happened.

In his book, Ecknath Easwaran says that when you plant just one kind word with somebody who has been unkind to you, though it is only a tiny seedling, it is going to bear a rich harvest. A lot of people get the benefit – second hand, third hand, and fourth hand – from our little kindnesses. Little things like kindness catch on and spread.

I really want you to know these Truths. Take them and practice them in your own life. Remember that giving and forgiving go hand in hand and they connect you to the source of all good and abundance.

And know that God is Blessing You, Right Now!

Rev. Alan A. Rowbotham

————————————————————————–

Rev. Alan Rowbotham, a Unity minister for over forty years, invites you to enjoy more articles and/or subscribe to his free inspirational newsletter, Spiritual Solutions, at www.spiritualsolutionsblog.com

You can also go directly to the blog, at http://spiritualsolutionsblog.com/blog/

Feel free to share this article in its entirety with a friend. You may also reproduce and publish this article if you also include this reference box. Thank you!

If you’d like to receive the very popular Rich Words, featuring weekday inspirational quotes, you can subscribe above to the right on this site.

Special thanks to those of you who have sent tithes or love offerings for Spiritual Solutions. I am very grateful for your generosity.

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An Instrument of Pardon (Forgiveness) – 1

Have you already memorized this prayer of St. Francis? If not, I encourage you to do so because that will better help you use it for your meditation. Then you don’t have to be reading it as you go into your meditation and you can focus more directly on the words. Just let each word drop into your consciousness in an ever deeper and deeper way. I invite you to say it slowly and with feeling right now:

Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace;
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness, joy.

O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console,
To be understood as to understand,
To be loved as to love:
For it is in giving that we receive,
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
It is in dying to self that we are born to eternal life.

As you use this prayer, line by line, in meditation, you will indeed actually become an instrument of peace in your world. Remember, to be an instrument we have to let the music play through us and as an instrument of God’s peace we allow the music of God’s peace to flow through us. We are letting that very presence and power of God flow through us and as us as we become that instrument of God’s peace.

And God’s peace most often moves us into action. It moves us into action in any circumstance and it brings that peace into whatever that situation or circumstance needs. For instance, in the last article we used the example of the peace of God bringing love into a situation where there is hatred. You notice that is says, “Where there is hatred, let me sow love.” Sowing love is like sowing seed, seeds of love. We remember Jesus’ parable of the sower, and our understanding of that as God sowing seeds of divine ideas all the time and there being different qualities of receptivity or “soil.”

The parable says a sower went out to sow and scattered the seed on the ground. Some seeds fell on the path and, because the path was hard, the birds came along and ate them. Some seed fell on stony ground and the soil was not deep enough for the seed to take root. And some seed fell among thorns and the thorns choked out the seed. But some seed fell on good ground and it produced some a hundred fold, some sixty fold, and some thirty fold.

As an instrument of God’s peace, then, we become the sower of seed, seeds of love, seeds of pardon, and seeds of faith. When you sow seeds of love, or pardon, or faith, or whatever it might be, the recipient may not always be ready to receive it. You may have noticed that.

Now we come to the next portion of the prayer “Where there is injury, pardon.” Pardon means forgiveness, total forgiveness, it means absolution. We absolve the person or circumstance from any blame; we’re not holding them to an old grudge or grievance. We let it go completely, it’s as though the situation had never happened; we pardon, we forgive, we absolve.

I would say that of any skill that a follower of the Christ path has to learn and develop, there is no more important skill, no more subtle skill, no more delicate skill, than the one of forgiveness. Jesus stressed the importance of forgiveness throughout his life in many different ways, in many different sayings and many different examples. Here’s a parable on forgiveness he gave, recorded in Matthew 18:

“Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. When he began the reckoning, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents (you could compare that today with about ten million dollars); and as he could not pay, his lord ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made.

“So the servant fell on is knees, imploring him, ‘Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ And out of pity for him the lord of that servant released him and forgave him the debt.

“But the same servant, as he went out, came upon one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii (a denarius was about a dollar in comparison with today, so that was about a hundred dollars); and seizing him by the throat he said, ‘Pay what you owe.’ So his fellow servant fell down and besought him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ He refused and went and put him in prison till he should pay the debt.

“When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their lord all that had taken place. Then his lord summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you besought me; and should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?

“And in anger his lord delivered him to the jailers, till he should pay all his debt.” Quite a parable, isn’t it?

Jesus gave that parable in response to a question put to him by Peter, who said to him, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Peter was being a little self-satisfied, because he knew the Old Testament law, “An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.” But he also knew Jesus’ teachings that it’s important to forgive, so he said, “As many as seven times?” Jesus responded with a much more radical suggestion, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven.”

Seven is a number of completion, and seventy times seven is to eternity; it’s never-ending forgiveness. You have to keep forgiving as often as is necessary; you never stop forgiving, just as in the same way God never stops forgiving.

Actually, you could say that God doesn’t forgive, because God never had any unforgiveness in the first place. We think of God forgiving as we think of the love of God; God’s love and forgiveness is consistent and constant, so we don ’t ever have to wonder if God is ever going to forgive us of all those things we’ve done in the past. God always forgives, always loves, it’s consistent and constant.

(To be continued in Part 2)

Remember, God is Blessing You, Right Now!

Rev. Alan A. Rowbotham

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Rev. Alan Rowbotham, a Unity minister for over forty years, invites you to enjoy more articles and/or subscribe to his free inspirational newsletter, Spiritual Solutions, at www.spiritualsolutionsblog.com

You can also go directly to the blog, at http://spiritualsolutionsblog.com/blog/

Feel free to share this article in its entirety with a friend. You may also reproduce and publish this article if you also include this reference box. Thank you!

If you’d like to receive the very popular Rich Words, featuring weekday inspirational quotes, you can subscribe above to the right on this site.

Special thanks to those of you who have sent tithes or love offerings for Spiritual Solutions. I am very grateful for your generosity.

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An Instrument of Love -2

(Continued from An Instrument of Love – 1)

What is your relationship with others? Is it a loving relationship, is it based on love; does it come from your heart? Or is it based on fear, fear that perhaps the other will not do the things that you want them to do? Do you love enough to let your loved one go, to be themselves?

That maybe the greatest love of all, to let your loved one be himself or herself, and not to hold them back, not to be controlling but to be loving toward them. What is your relationship with your loved one? What about when someone you care about hurts you? Do you hold on to those resentments, those hurts, or do you let them go?

It takes courage to love. Those of you who have children, you know it has taken courage for you to love your children, because not everything is plain sailing. You have tough times, and you have to rise above those tough times to love.

There’s a musician by the name of David Roth who has as his signature tune, Love Rising. Instead of falling in love, he sings about rising in love. If we come into the awareness of love, then we come into a higher viewpoint of ourselves and of others. We don’t fall into it; we rise in love, we come to a higher level of being, and we’re able to see the Christ in others. We’re able to see the Truth of them; we’re able to see the true nature of them.

We say love begins in the heart, the heart center of our being. Ask yourself then, what is in the heart of love, what is love’s essence? Sometimes we say, well, God is love. But that’s still abstract. What is love’s essence, how does it act, what is it like?

Cosmologist Brian Swimme says that love is like gravity that holds the whole universe together. He wasn’t the first one to say that. Charles and Myrtle Fillmore often talked about love as being “the divine glue” of the universe, that which holds everything together, that which binds everything together and draws us into the source, which is God.

So what is your relationship with yourself, with God, with other people, or with the earth? Is it a loving relationship, do you care for the earth or do you disregard it and treat it with disdain? We all share this planet, so how are we going to treat it, what is our relationship with the earth?

What is your relationship with your work, with your colleagues at work? Do you have a loving relationship with your work, or do you hate going to your work? Is it feeding you, is it sustaining you, and are you giving love to it so that it gives love back to you?

In I Corinthians 13, it says “love is patient and kind.” Sometimes it’s hard to be patient with our loved ones and perhaps with our own lives.

But what causes impatience? Impatience is caused by repeating impatient feelings. If we keep repeating impatient feelings, for instance if we’re driving and we want to get somewhere and there are several cars in front of us; if we get impatient and start blowing our horn or start giving them the finger or whatever, we grow in impatience.

And impatience leads to anger, and anger leads to terrible feelings within ourselves and takes away our energy; it takes away our love energy. It takes away the Truth of our being; it takes away our true nature. So we must learn patience and give loving-kindness to one another.

Ecknath Easwaran, who wrote the book Love Never Faileth, speaking about different people like St. Francis, Mother Teresa, and St. Paul, said he grew up in a village called Kerala, in South India, and when he was growing up there all around him he would hear the sounds of the workers who were going to plant the rice seedlings in the rice paddies. They would plant the single seedlings in rows, but when they were all planted it was like a carpet of brilliant green.

He said it always reminded him that just as those seedlings had to be planted by hand labor, so our seedlings of loving-kindness have to be planted by hand labor. It’s in the little things of life where we plant the seeds of loving-kindness that make all the difference in our lives and make our life like a green carpet of love.

St. Francis De Sales said, “There are many who want me to tell them of methods and secret ways of becoming perfect, and I can only tell them that the whole secret is a hearty love of God and the only way of attaining that love is by loving. You learn to speak by speaking, to study by studying, to run by running, to work by working, and just so you learn to love God and man by loving. Begin as a mere apprentice, and the very power of love will lead you to become a master in the art.”

So if you want to become a master in the art of loving, you have to begin as an apprentice and begin with those little acts, those little seeds of loving-kindness that you spread.

Let us begin to learn some of those seeds, ways of awakening the love within us and of expressing that love within us. And in our daily lives, to take this understanding of the prayer of St. Francis and rise above those negative feelings we hold onto, and to let our lives be lives of love that flows from us in a very natural way.

Begin to pay attention to your heart. Put your hand on your heart right now. Bring the mind into the heart. We’re often in our head all the time; we get caught up in our thoughts. That’s where worry begins, in our thoughts. So bring your mind down to your heart and feel the love in your heart.

Pay attention to your heart and feel it. Begin to love yourself. Imagine that there is a sun in your heart and as soon as it begins to shine in your heart it dissipates any dark clouds you may be experiencing. Bless yourself in that way.

As you go about your daily life begin to speak from your heart. Pay attention to your heart, and then let your voice come from your heart. You don’t have to struggle with it; just pay attention to it, and let your voice be linked to the feeling from your heart. You don’t have to make it happen; just let your voice, your words, be attached to your heart, so that the words you speak are loving words, kind words, thoughtful words, understanding words.

As you learn to speak from the heart, also begin to visualize from the heart the inner speech so that you can send blessings of love to other people. Think of someone you know right now. Put your hand on your heart and feel your heart, then send a blessing of love. Visualize that person surrounded by light and imagine that light as being love. You are sending a blessing of light and love to that friend, to that loved one.

You can also do that with those you have problems with, if you’ve had disagreements or upsets with anyone. If you have any “enemies,” then do the same thing. Pay attention to your heart, feel it, see them surrounded in light and love. And let that light and love be reflected back to you.

Begin also to listen with love, to listen with your heart. Often when we’re listening, we’re not really listening; we’re just waiting for the person to finish so we can speak and we’re thinking of what we’re going to say instead of listening to them. That’s often why we don’t remember people’s names because we’re not paying attention to them. So listen with your heart, go into your heart and just listen.

Touch with your heart, too. Put your hands out now. Just feel from your heart; just feel that activity from your heart flowing through your hand and fingers so that whenever you touch someone you’re touching them with love. Whenever you make a meal, then you’re making it with love. Whenever you’re doing your work, you’re doing your work with love. Let the love express through your hands.

Begin to see with love. James Dillet Freeman wrote a little book called Look with the Eyes of Love, and that was a real awakening for me and I began to practice what he said about looking with the eyes of love. I began to see things I had not seen before. Look with the eyes of love, see with the heart and you’ll see things differently. You’ll see the Truth of people instead of just the appearance of them. You’ll see the beauty around you; you will even see the beauty in seemingly ugly things.

So see with the heart, listen with the heart, touch with the heart, and that will bring healing to you; you will let go all of those feelings of fear, and sorrow, and anger, and pain.

“Where there is hatred, let me sow love.”

And remember, God is Blessing You, Right Now!

Rev. Alan A. Rowbotham

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Rev. Alan Rowbotham, a Unity minister for over forty years, invites you to enjoy more articles and/or subscribe to his free inspirational newsletter, Spiritual Solutions, at www.spiritualsolutionsblog.com

You can also go directly to the blog, at http://spiritualsolutionsblog.com/blog/

Feel free to share this article in its entirety with a friend. You may also reproduce and publish this article if you also include this reference box. Thank you!

If you’d like to receive the very popular Rich Words, featuring weekday inspirational quotes, you can subscribe above to the right on this site.

Special thanks to those of you who have sent tithes or love offerings for Spiritual Solutions. I am very grateful for your generosity.

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An Instrument of Love – 1

Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace;
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness, joy.

O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console,
To be understood as to understand,
To be loved as to love:
For it is in giving that we receive,
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
It is in dying to self that we are born to eternal life.

Last week I invited you to take the first line of the prayer of St. Francis, “Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace,” and to use that as the basis for your meditation during the week, to take that into your heart and contemplate it. What does that mean to you? Let it bring up things for you. I hope you did that.

This week I want to extend that and take in the next line of the prayer, so that gradually you can build up a consciousness of the whole prayer. So this week let us take the next line:

“Where there is hatred, let me sow love;”

So here, today, we are looking at how to become an instrument of love. This is really the great key that Jesus taught in his ministry, the key of love. It is central to his whole message.

The Dalai Lama tells a story of going to Spain, to the monastery in Montserrat. He met a Benedictine monk there with whom he talked. He had been told that this particular monk spent two or three years in the mountains behind the monastery, meditating in solitude. So the Dalai Lama asked him, face to face, “When you were alone, praying and meditating, and contemplating, what was the focus of your contemplation?” The monk looked at him and smiled and said, “Love, love, love.”

You see, love is really the core of all of the religious and spiritual traditions throughout all of history. In all of the spiritual traditions you find that as the basis of everything. Love is right there at the core.

Remember, Jesus when was asked about the two greatest commandments, what did he say? He said, “The first commandment is this, thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy soul, with all thy mind, and with all thy strength; and the second is like unto it, thou shalt love thy neighbor as thy self.” Love of God, love of self, and love of others.

Sometimes we forget that in those commandments, in that directive of the underlying spirit of the spiritual life, is the realization that we must love ourselves. Love God, love ourselves, and love others. He amplified this in other ways, and I’d like to share with you some words that sometimes may take a little more work than just the idea of loving. Because we’re not talking about just an idea of loving, we are talking about being loving.

He said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist one who is evil. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek turn to him the other also; and if anyone would sue you and take your coat, let him have your cloak as well; and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to him who begs from you, and do not refuse him who would borrow from you.” (Matthew 5:38)

Here he is focusing upon the necessity for patience and tolerance as we seek to walk this path of the heart, this path called love.

And he goes on to say, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.

“For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you salute only your brethren, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You, therefore, must be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

In understanding the Hebrew terminology, the word “perfect” is really better translated as “whole” or “complete.” “Be complete as your heavenly Father is complete.” “Be whole as your heavenly Father is whole.” We are talking about wholeness.

So to love is to move us into that consciousness of wholeness. And what does a consciousness of wholeness mean? It means that we are not isolated beings; we live in connection with one another.

Remember these words: “Neither height nor depth nor anything else in all creation would be able to separate us from the love of God.” (Romans 8:39) Again, it’s talking about wholeness; and wholeness means being connected, it means feeling our connection with God.

But it also means feeling our connection with one another. We are all connected; we do not live in isolation from one another, we are interdependent upon one another. What you do affects my life and what I do affects your life. What happens in this country affects the world; what happens in another country affects this country. We are realizing more and more that we live in what is called a global village, so what we do sends ripples of energy around the world. We are connected, and we must realize that connection.

So wholeness means connection; and if it means connection it also means relationships, for what does connection mean but to bring us into relationship.

As we look at our relationships, are they loving relationships? Is there a connection of love? What is our relationship with God? How do we view God? Is God still out there somewhere, is God still punitive; are we afraid that if we do something wrong we’ll get zapped? Or is God a loving God, is God an ever-present loving energy that is with us at every point in space and time at all times and all places?

Someone once asked Albert Einstein what is the most important question that anyone could ask themselves? He said, “This is the question: Is the universe friendly, or is it not?” You see, if you feel you live in a friendly universe then you’re going to act out of that consciousness; you’re going to feel safe and secure and at home in this universe.

If you feel the universe is not a friendly place, then you will feel insecure, you’ll feel isolated; you’ll feel a sense of fear and trepidation in everything that you do. You won’t be able to trust, you won’t be able to risk, because you feel a sense of isolation. But the Truth is that nothing can separate you, as the scripture says, from the love of God; not anything, not height nor depth, not anything, can separate us from that love. It is always there and always available to us.

So what is your relationship with God? Maybe as a young child you were part of a culture that said you had to fear God, it was a punitive God. Unfortunately, that is still preached in many places; rather than seeing God as a loving God, we hear about a punitive God. And, generally speaking, it’s those people that are focused on hell-fire and brimstone and damnation that perhaps experienced abuse as a child and unloving parents. So the punitive parent is also projected on God, and they preach that kind of God.

But the Truth is, as Jesus teaches us and as the scriptures teach us, that God is a loving God. And we read in I John that God is, in fact, love; that the very nature of God is love. And if we are created in the image and likeness of God then our true nature is also love; we are created in the image of love. That is our true nature.

So what is your relationship with yourself? Do you see that Truth about yourself, that you’re a child of God, that you are created in the image of God and in the image of love? Or do you put yourself down? We generally find that people with a good strong self-image usually experience God as a loving God, because if you love yourself you will generally love God. And if you see God as a loving God, you can generally also love yourself. It goes both ways; there is a divine connection because there is no separation.

But how do you see yourself? How do you speak about yourself? Do you put yourself down? When you do something that is not in divine order do you tell yourself, “Oh, you’re stupid. What a stupid thing I just did”? Do you do that? That’s not a loving thing to do, is it? No. You probably wouldn’t say that to someone else. So don’t do it to yourself, don’t put yourself down, and don’t humiliate yourself or others. Treat yourself lovingly.

(To be continued)

Know that God is Blessing You, Right Now!

Rev. Alan A. Rowbotham

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Rev. Alan Rowbotham, a Unity minister for over forty years, invites you to enjoy more articles and/or subscribe to his free inspirational newsletter, Spiritual Solutions, at www.spiritualsolutionsblog.com

You can also go directly to the blog, at http://spiritualsolutionsblog.com/blog/

Feel free to share this article in its entirety with a friend. You may also reproduce and publish this article if you also include this reference box. Thank you!

If you’d like to receive the very popular Rich Words, featuring weekday inspirational quotes, you can subscribe above to the right on this site.

Special thanks to those of you who have sent tithes or love offerings for Spiritual Solutions. I am very grateful for your generosity.

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An Instrument of Peace – 2

(Continued from Part 1)

Let’s take a look at that line, “Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace.” The first word, “Lord,” is sometimes thought of as “Law.” We realize that “Lord” is the movement of the creative spirit of the universe that is always moving through us bringing about divine order in all things. It is bringing the highest good; the Lord or Law is always in action. It’s not something that can quibble and say, “Oh, yes, I can do that.” Or I can do this but I can’t do that. It’s always in action, it’s always moving, it’s that creative movement of Spirit that is the presence of God flowing through you.

“Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace.” We have to give up our ego and turn it over to God; we have to be willing to express the divine will. So we are saying, “Lord, make me . . .” I can’t do it of myself, but “make me . . . an instrument of thy peace.” I can’t make it happen myself, so I have to turn it over to that Spirit which is moving through me, saying “Make me and mold me as you will according to your divine will, not my ego will.” Because the ego will has to diminish as the Christ self becomes more and more manifest in your life.

“Make me an instrument . . . “Think about an instrument; the instrument is played on or played through. And the instrument that you are is played on or played through by God’s peace; God’s peace is the music. “Make me an instrument . . . of God’s peace.” God is the musician that is playing you, the instrument bringing forth the music of peace wherever you go. As you bring that peace to someone who is in despair, then you bring hope to them. If you find someone who has doubt in the mind, you’re able to share faith with them just by your being, just by your very presence of peace you are expressing.

So that’s the process. “Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace.” Remember, it’s thy peace, not your peace. Your peace might be “Oh, I can’t be bothered with that.” Or, in other words, “I have peace when I’m not being bothered by anyone.”

Martin Buber talked about “I and Thou.” The “Thou” or the “thy” has a sacredness about it. So it’s thy peace, and thy peace moves us into action. It’s not just getting rid of what’s bothering you that’s causing you not to be peaceful, like the lawnmower guy outside the window, or the traffic noise, or somebody cutting you off. But it’s thy peace, God’s peace flowing in and through you. That’s what we focus on.

Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace.”

It means really training ourselves in meditation. It’s a training process. And it’s not always easy, because our minds are very busy, aren’t they? So we have to have that one-pointed attention, which focuses on a lofty ideal to the exclusion of everything else around it. Then we’re in that meditation process. And during the day when things come up, we use a holy name to bring us back into that same consciousness.

The words that you are saying, the words in meditation, become like a sword that penetrates your heart to diminish the ego.

In closing, let me tell you a story, a Zen story, called “The Teaching.”

There was a farmer in the marketplace in Kyoto early in the morning. It was crowded and the farmer, accidentally, bumped against a samurai.

The samurai was greatly offended, because it was a tremendous breach of etiquette to bump against a samurai and he immediately turned around and said, “I must retrieve my honor from being bumped by you, that offense you’ve committed against me. And to retrieve my honor, I demand that we have a duel by sword at noon tomorrow in this marketplace. If you are not here at noon, you can be sure that I will find you.”

The farmer was appalled; he’s just a humble farmer and not a swordsman like the samurai. He thought, “What am I going to do?” He didn’t know anything about swordplay but he did know that there was a retired sword master who lived outside the city gates. So he went to him and told him the story of what was going to happen.

The sword master said, “Well, you must know that there’s no way you can survive this. But I can tell you that the best you can hope for is that if we work together you may be able to come to the point that you’ll be able to kill him at the same time he kills you. So at least your honor will be saved. Go home and meditate on this and decide whether you want to go ahead with it or not and I’ll give you some instruction.”

So he goes home for a while and he meditates and he comes back and said, “I’ve decided I’d better go ahead with this because there’s nothing else I can do and he’ll come and find me anyway and slay me. At least I will retrieve my honor, even if I have to give my life to do it.”

The sword master agreed that he would give him some instruction. He said, “We don’t have time for me to tell you how to hold the sword, but I will take the time to show you how to move, and that’s the most important thing.”

In Japanese swordplay, there’s a particular move that is like the final move that is fearful and even masters fear it, because the move is that the swordsman has to come under the thrust of the other one who is just thrusting forward with his sword. They have to come underneath that to pierce the heart and it has to be done in such a swift action, and remember the other sword is coming toward that person. So it’s scary, and sometimes the hesitation is the fatal thing, because as the saying goes “he who hesitates is lost.”

So the sword master told the farmer, “Now, we have to focus on the moves. Let’s go down to the marketplace where you’re going to be.” So they go down to the marketplace and he looks around and the master finds a patch of ground that has a reddish tinge. He said to the farmer, “This is where you will stand; it will be a good place for you to stand. On this spot you put your left foot. Tomorrow at noon, when you come down here you come early, you put your left foot on this spot and you’re there with your sword when the samurai comes. He’ll take his position and then you are to make your moves.

“And these are the moves: there are two giant strides you have to make in this swift thrust with your sword. You have to make giant strides. You’re there with your left foot, and you go forward and forward and thrust. I’ll show you how to do it.” So he took giant strides. And he let out a loud shout, “Uhuh!” He said, “That’s how you do it.”

So he had him practicing these giant steps, going farther and farther, then part way through he said, “Just keep practicing, I’ll be back in a minute.” And he goes round the corner and finds a couple of pebbles. He rubs the mud off them and puts them in his pocket and comes back to the farmer and says, “Now, what I’m going to show you here is . . . you’re doing very well but you have to make a great leap here, a greater stride . . . and these two pebbles are where you’re going to put your feet, one here and one here.

“When you stride, these are the pebbles you have to aim for. And these are magic pebbles, and as you step on them they will give you a sense of renewed power within yourself; you know you will be confident and you’ll be able to overcome and you’ll be able to save your honor. But don’t be distracted by the thought of your life at all, just think about stepping on the pebbles and making that final thrust.”

So he has him practicing and eventually he’s able to step on the pebbles each time and he’s satisfied with that and the master tells him to go home now and come back tomorrow and remember what we’ve gone through today.

So he comes back the next day and finds that discolored piece of grass, stands on it with his left foot, the samurai comes swaggering into the marketplace and he steps so many feet away where he’s supposed to be and he starts to get ready with his sword.

Then suddenly the farmer, without any hesitation, takes two giant strides and shouts “Uhuh!” and he pierces the samurai’s heart even before the samurai had a chance to position his sword properly. He was overjoyed at the wonder of it, and that he had survived this.

Now, what’s my point in all this? :)

Well, the point is that meditation takes even more training than it does for the swordplay. The samurai represents the ego. The sword is the word, the word of the prayer. It penetrates the heart and the ego falls away. And the Truth of your own being stands there victorious. The two giant steps you have to take are the meditation and the use of the holy name.

Just Remember, God is Blessing You, Right Now!

Rev. Alan A. Rowbotham

P.S. I will be speaking at First Unity Church in St. Petersburg, FL, on Sunday, March 23, at 9:30 and 11:30 a.m., on the subject This IS the Moment. If you live in the Tampa Bay area I invite you to come and be with me on that day for a great Sunday service.

————————————————————————–

Rev. Alan Rowbotham, a Unity minister for over forty years, invites you to enjoy more articles and/or subscribe to his free inspirational newsletter, Spiritual Solutions, at www.spiritualsolutionsblog.com

You can also go directly to the blog, at http://spiritualsolutionsblog.com/blog/

Feel free to share this article in its entirety with a friend. You may also reproduce and publish this article if you also include this reference box. Thank you!

If you’d like to receive the very popular Rich Words, featuring weekday inspirational quotes, you can subscribe above to the right on this site.

Special thanks to those of you who have sent tithes or love offerings for Spiritual Solutions. I am very grateful for your generosity.

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Make Me an Instrument of Peace – 1

Today we start off on a remarkable extraordinary journey together, a journey where we can, if we so choose, experience a transformation of consciousness. A vehicle we will utilize for that transformation of consciousness is the prayer of St. Francis of Assisi. That prayer goes like this:

Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace;
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness, joy.

O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console,
To be understood as to understand,
To be loved as to love:
For it is in giving that we receive,
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
It is in dying to self that we are born to eternal life.

This is the prayer we will be using, a prayer that will deepen our experience in our relationship with God and bring about that transformation of consciousness if we really focus on it and put our attention on it and seek to use it in an appropriate way.

First, I’d like to share a little bit about St. Francis himself. Born in Assisi, as a young man he was what might be known as a troubadour. He was a lover of songs and poetry; he was the life and soul of the party. He wasn’t prepossessing in appearance, he was a small man with a round face, not what one would call attractive in any way, but yet he had a magnetic quality about him and he brought a spirit of joy wherever he went.

When he was twenty-two years old he had a serious illness which took him out of that kind of action and he began a period of self-introspection. Coming out of that he realized there was something of a cause that he was feeling within himself. He had a mission in life and some cause was beginning to express itself, and he thought it was to join the armies and to become a knight. So he equipped himself with the helmet and breastplate and the leg shields and all the heavy equipment of armor in the turmoil of the thirteenth century. He rode off to become a knight, to join the armies.

He’d been gone two days on his way to meet the armies and he was resting overnight in a barn. He woke up with a vision and a voice echoing in his mind, saying “What are you doing? This is not what I require of you.” So he thought, “Oh, it must not be that I am to be in the armies then.” He turned around and went back home and got rid of all of his armor. He went into a deeper sense of recollection, of introspection within himself, a deep searching. He would often meditate in an old, ruined church just outside of Assisi, called the church in Damiano.

He was twenty-five years old by this time, and one day a voice came to him and said very plainly within him, “Go, rebuild my church.” His response was literal and immediate; he sprang up and realized he had is mission. He went out and in that first two years he rebuilt three churches that had fallen into disrepair, until he realized that the true message was not actually to rebuild buildings but was to rebuild the church itself, the people. It is we who pray, not the church in which we pray.

As he began to rebuild the church he felt a great sense of joy within him. People said to him that he must have a lady friend since he was expressing so much joy and was so radiant. He said, “Yes, I have.” And he began to think about that and began to talk about her as “Lady Poverty” and he embraced poverty, and in that he was just as exuberant as a bridegroom with his Lady Poverty and he had a sense of joy. In fact, he said the path to peace is through expressing spiritual joy, prayer, and perseverance; those three things put you on the pathway of peace.

He attracted other people to be with him and gradually he formed a monastic order, called The Little Brothers of Christ. A woman called Clare was his first disciple and he helped her formed an order for the women called The Poor Clare’s. Then he formed a third order, which wasn’t a monastic order. Any man or woman could join it, and they were to help in caring for people in supplying food, money, clothing, and all those kinds of necessary things.

St. Francis became a magnet for people and he brought a sense of worship where the worship had fallen away in that thirteenth century, and he brought a new sense of God’s presence to all those whom he met.

So, the way that we move into this transformative presence that he experienced is through meditation; that’s the method that we use, and in this case the method will be to use the whole prayer of St. Francis in meditation. The idea is first that you memorize the prayer; and then when you memorize it you don’t have to be thinking, “Oh, what’s the next part of it.” The important thing is it’s not just reading the prayer, or even discussing it with others. That’s not going to get you into that deepening of your spiritual path; certainly it will help and gets us focused, but the thing that really makes the difference is meditation.

Take time each morning and perhaps each evening for no more than half an hour of meditation each time, that’s plenty. Once you begin to memorize it, focus on the prayer; let each word just sink into your consciousness as you very slowly and silently speak the words of the prayer. Let it become a part of you, a part of the essence of your very being. That’s the process of the meditation.

Ecknath Easwaran, who wrote the book Love Never Faileth, says it also helps during the day when you forget, when you forget you’re an instrument of peace, perhaps when something happens such as the kids spilling orange juice all over the tablecloth in the morning, or someone gets in your face at work or someone cuts you off on the road, whatever it is that sets you off. Then the thing to do is to have recourse to a holy name.

A holy name is the name of God, and the name of God can be Jesus, or Christ, or God, or Father, or Holy Spirit; whatever feels right for you. But you choose the name that brings you into the consciousness of God’s presence; then don’t change the name that you choose because, as Easwaran says, it’s like digging little holes everywhere and never going deep enough. So you need to choose one name, and every time something comes up during the day recall your consciousness of God by repeating that holy name.

I recall that Stretton Smith, who wrote the course on the 4T program, tells the story of the time when he was ministering in Sacramento, California, and he had an office over the bookstore. One day he heard a ruckus going on in the bookstore, someone was cursing and shouting, saying Unity was of the devil and all kind of things.

Stretton came down the stairs and there was this man, waving his arms and just carrying on. Stretton calmly walked up to him and said, “Shall we pray together?” The man stopped in his tracks and said, “Well, all right.” Stretton said, “Then you choose the focus of prayer, using either the word Jesus or Christ.” And the man said, “Jesus.” So Stretton closed his eyes and he started saying softly, “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, Jesus,” over and over and over again, then finally tapered off and opened his eyes and the man opened his eyes and smiled, nodded, and left.

So there is power in a holy name, it carries a consciousness; whatever name it is that is right for you and that recalls the presence of God in your life, is the holy name. So, they work together, the meditation where you are truly focusing on a lofty ideal to the exclusion of everything else and then during the day when you are calling on the holy name when you forget that focus of attention. You are bringing yourself into a great focus on this path of becoming an instrument of peace.

For this next week you’re going to focus on the first line of this prayer, “Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace.” In the following weeks we will focus on each of the remaining six lines that form the first part of the prayer.

When you become an instrument of peace, what happens is that you carry that peace with you and that peace affects different situations in people’s lives in different ways. It affects them according to the situation they are in. For instance, if a person has experienced injury then the peace that you carry with you will bring forgiveness or pardon; if a person has experienced a sense of hate from people around, you bring love. So, the peace that you carry is love in action, as it were, from your meditation time into your everyday life. The deeper you go into that meditation time and letting those words sink into your consciousness, the greater will be the effect that you’ll bring into your daily life.

(To be continued)

Remember, God is Blessing You, Right Now!

Rev. Alan A. Rowbotham

P.S. I will be speaking at First Unity Church in St. Petersburg, FL, on Sunday, March 23, at 9:30 and 11:30 a.m., on the subject This IS the Moment. If you live in the Tampa Bay area I invite you to come and be with me on that day for a great Sunday service.

————————————————————————–

Rev. Alan Rowbotham, a Unity minister for over forty years, invites you to enjoy more articles and/or subscribe to his free inspirational newsletter, Spiritual Solutions, at www.spiritualsolutionsblog.com

You can also go directly to the blog, at http://spiritualsolutionsblog.com/blog/

Feel free to share this article in its entirety with a friend. You may also reproduce and publish this article if you also include this reference box. Thank you!

If you’d like to receive the very popular Rich Words, featuring weekday inspirational quotes, you can subscribe above to the right on this site.

Special thanks to those of you who have sent tithes or love offerings for Spiritual Solutions. I am very grateful for your generosity.

————————————————————————–

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Bringing Fire Out of Ashes

Some years ago, I went on a retreat. There were people there from different backgrounds, some priests, some nuns, and some business people. One evening we had a program in a lodge on the retreat grounds; it was quite cool so there was a nice fire burning in the fireplace.

We had a good shared experience together then afterwards a man and I were sitting by the fire, talking. He shared with me what he was going through in his life. He said that his minister and his wife had urged him to come to the retreat because of what he was going through and because of the way he was relating to them. They felt that he needed some help and some relief from the pressures of his everyday life and his work.

He recounted how he worked every day and he was feeling so discouraged because, he said, “Nobody cares like I do, and nobody is as responsible as I am, and nobody can do what I do.” He had become really discouraged and would then work even harder to make up for the fact that he thought nobody else could do what he could do.

We may sometimes find ourselves in this syndrome. We become critical of others when they don’t live up to our expectations, and we become critical of ourselves for not living up to our own expectations either. So this man had got himself into this syndrome. It was affecting his work, and he was just shocked because his superiors were not really seeing the work that he was doing or appreciating the fact that he worked so hard.

It was also affecting his marriage, and that’s why his wife had urged him to come to the retreat. All of his energy was going into his work, so he had no time for his marriage and his children. In fact, he said to me, “I don’t know why they can’t arrange their crises to my time and my availability. And why they can’t just keep my home life trouble-free so I can focus on my work. After all, I’m doing it for them.” I felt the deep ache inside him because of that pit of discouragement in which he found himself.

He said, “If God cares for me, why did he allow this to happen to me?” You see, he was expecting God to do something for him instead of realizing that he needed to open a way for God to work through him. So we talked about his faith, about his relationship with God. He was a man who believed in God but never really made a commitment of his life to God; he’d never let God run his life, as it were. He’d always run it himself. He felt he was doing things for God, but he didn’t really open himself to let God work through him in his work or in his married life or in every other aspect of his life.

So we talked about that possibility, of what it would take. I asked him to visualize himself as though he was already in the flow of grace and acceptance and as though he was already feeling the sense of God’s presence. I asked him what it would take in his life to bring that about for him, what would it take in his work, what would it take in his marriage? What would be the specific steps he would have to take to bring about an adjustment in his life so he could feel the flow of God’s love and could feel a sense of acceptance of himself as he was?

So often we think God loves us for what we do, instead of what we are. And that’s where he was. So we explored what would it take to be able to fully accept himself? What would it take with his family, what would it take in his marriage to bring that sense of romance and delight back into his marriage? He realized it would take a lot of time and tenderness. Also in relating to his children; they needed him. What was he going to give up to be able to take time to devote to them and to be able to give them the attention that they needed at that important time in their lives?

We talked about some specific steps that he could take. And we talked a long time, and the fire gradually died down in the grate. He looked at the ashes in the grate and said, “You know, my life is like those ashes, all burned-out.” After we talked a while and considered the possibility that God hadn’t left him, and that the assurance of God was there with him and all things would work together for good if he could rearrange the priorities of his life, he said he wanted to pray about it.

So we prayed together. And as we prayed together, there was a sudden crackling from the fireplace and we both opened our eyes and looked. Some unburned logs had caught fire there and they were beginning to blaze. And I said, “See, God can bring fire out of ashes.” And that’s true in your life too. When you’re in the pit of ashes of discouragement, God can rekindle that flame in your heart, that flame of knowing God’s presence.

He had a realization about it at that point. It was like a parable for us. And I tried to emphasize the parable by asking him to join with me in putting some more logs on the fire. As we did, with each log we put on the fire I asked him to think of each specific step that he needed to take in his new commitment of seeing himself in a new way.

As we put those logs on the fire we saw it blaze even brighter than it had before. I said to him, “That’s how God can rekindle the flame within you, that sense of courage and joy, just like the fire that has rekindled from the ashes.”

That’s true of our lives, too. Discouragement is something that comes to us sometimes and just takes all the energy out of us and makes us wonder what life is all about and whether it’s worthwhile or not.

I would like to share with you some steps, not only to help yourself but to be able to help your loved ones in recognizing some things that are also going on within them and to help them come out of their own discouragement.

First, we need to take time to have that recreating spirit move through us, we need time to draw apart for sleep, for rest or recreation, for exercise, whatever it takes to draw apart from that which has driven us.

When we are faced with challenges we need to focus on letting go rather than complicating things further. If we get still and we are rested, then we hear those simple directions from within.

The next thing is a very critical and important point in any healing that we experience. We must answer this question for ourselves: “What are you doing here, and what has brought you to this point?” Very often it helps to answer that question to someone else, and not hold anything back.

We need to examine that question and express ourselves regarding it. That’s a part of the healing process, to express your frustration, to express your grief, to express everything that you’re feeling inside. So we need to ask ourselves that question. In any time of discouragement or distress, ask yourself, “What are you doing here? What has brought you to this point?” And let yourself express either verbally or maybe writing it down in a journal, or expressing it to a loved one or to a counselor, not holding anything back.

The next step is to re-establish your relationship with God, to stand forth in a high consciousness. It means to meditate and pray and feel an awakening, the stirring of Spirit within your soul, and the assurance of God’s presence. The spiritual fire within burns away the chaff of despair and rekindles that flame of willingness to serve again as you feel God’s presence in your heart.

The next and final step is that God says to you, “It’s time to go to work again, but to work in a different way, and to recognize that I work through you in every aspect of your life.”

God always gives us things to do to move forward again as that healing process happens in us. God can bring us out of those ashes of discouragement and can move through us as we take time for ourselves. We begin to see things in a new way as we let God’s Spirit move through us to do the work that is ours to do.

And Remember, God is Blessing You, Right Now!

Rev. Alan A. Rowbotham

————————————————————————–

Rev. Alan Rowbotham, a Unity minister for over forty years, invites you to enjoy more articles and/or subscribe to his free inspirational newsletter, Spiritual Solutions, at www.spiritualsolutionsblog.com

You can also go directly to the blog, at http://spiritualsolutionsblog.com/blog/

Feel free to share this article in its entirety with a friend. You may also reproduce and publish this article if you also include this reference box. Thank you!

If you’d like to receive the very popular Rich Words, featuring weekday inspirational quotes, you can subscribe above to the right on this site.

Special thanks to those of you who have sent tithes or love offerings for Spiritual Solutions. I am very grateful for your generosity.

————————————————————————–

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