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

————————————————————————–

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 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

————————————————————————–

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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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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Courage to Welcome the Unknown

In our spiritual growth, we come to a point where we know change is essential in our lives; we’ve got rid of that false self, we’ve done with that and we’ve decided to let our true self come forth. We’ve listened, deep within; we know that something new is calling us, and we’re ready to move out. But we’re scared.

We have a fear of the unknown, a fear of moving out into something new. So I think of that beautiful scripture from Isaiah 40:31, “. . . they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.”

But we may not feel that. We still have that fear and we cling to our comfort zones. But we must move out of the old in order to experience God’s new and we only experience the new through change. If you stop and think about it, if we don’t accept change in our life we’ll always stay the same. We want to experience more good, but in order to do that we have to change.

I have a question for you: How do you know when something’s alive? When it’s growing, that’s when it’s alive. It’s only alive when it’s growing. It’s the same with a plant; it’s the same with a human being. If we are to be alive, we must be growing.

And that’s what Jesus meant when he said to the man who said he would follow him but first he had to go and bury his father, “Let the dead bury their dead, and you come and follow me.” It sounded like a callous thing to say, but he was saying that when we are not growing, then we are dead inside. We need to be growing; we need to be following that Truth of our own being, we need to be following the inner leading that we are hearing.

As we move into the realization of our true self we need to follow the dictates of that true self and move out into new experience, into new realization, into the unknown.

Everything is unknown, we’re always moving into the unknown. Nothing is really known; we think we know, but we really don’t. Every day is really unknown, because everything changes all the time. Our bodies are changing all the time; the earth is changing all the time.

We may look at a mountain and say, “Well, that’s not changing.” But it is. Boulders are being weathered and shaped. Beaches are changing shape. All the time, the earth is changing, we are changing, and everything changes. We certainly see it in the spring when that which was dead seems to come alive again. Everything is changing whether we want it to or not; whether we agree with it or not, everything changes and it’s always the unknown.

Rather than fearing the unknown, you need to be able to welcome it and have the courage to move into it, to move out of that comfort zone and follow the dictate of your inner self into those new dimensions. Every difficulty is turned to an advantage and every loss is turned to gain, and you begin to see yourself and your world in a new way.

We have the assurance of God’s presence always with us. In Isaiah, chapters 42 and 43, we read, “And I will lead the blind in the way that they know not, in paths that they have not known I will guide them. I will turn the darkness before them into light, the rough places into level ground. These are the things I will do, and I will not forsake them. . . . I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. . . . Because you are precious in my eyes, and honored, and I love you. . . . Fear not, for I am with you . . .”

So we have nothing to fear as we step into the unknown, as we move forward into change. God is with us all the way.

Perhaps the basis of our fears is perhaps not so much the unknown but whether we will be able to succeed in that unknown. If we move into new areas in our life, will we fail? The fear of failure is very much underneath our fear of the unknown.

William Saroyan said, “Good people are good because they have come to wisdom through failure.”  Isn’t failure the way we learn? Do we really learn through success? Success is wonderful and makes us feel good, but is that where we really learn?

Sometimes success makes us complacent. It’s wonderful, but it’s when we’re trying something new and maybe failing at it that we learn what to do to make a success of it. People asked Edison why he had failed so many times and he’d tried 25,000 different ways of trying to produce a battery before he succeeded. So did he fail? No. He said, “Well, I’ve produced a battery, what have you done?”

To fail is not the same as being a failure. No one is a failure as a person. We may fail at different tasks, at doing different things, but we need to do that because that’s how we learn and come to wisdom. A person who never fails never really achieves, never succeeds with anything. Anyone who has achieved anything has failed a lot, too.

That’s an important distinction, just because we fail at something doesn’t mean we’re a failure as a person. You never fail as a person, you have an inherent dignity. You are a creation of the Most High God just as you are. You have all that potential and possibility within you to bring forth good.

Many of us have fallen into a trap, and maybe you’re in that trap. The trap is called “security.” It’s a security that is based upon outer things, upon having a lot of stuff. We all accumulate a lot of stuff, houses and cars, furniture, and all kinds of things. And all of that creates an environment that seems like security, but external security is a myth because things come and go.

Jesus said, “Don’t lay up treasures on earth where moth and rust consume and thieves may break in and steal, but lay up treasures in heaven; for where you treasure is, there is your heart also.”

Where does our treasure need to be? It needs to be in the inner kingdom, or inner security, where the presence of God is there within us.

It may mean taking more time for ourselves for prayer, retreat time, and quiet time. It may mean reducing all that accumulation of stuff that we have. Or it may mean having a special place to retreat to. Only you know the ways you have to reconstruct your life to be able to live your life the way you want to live it, and to accommodate this new self that is coming forth.

I would encourage you to use your creative imagination to visualize yourself, to picture yourself bringing forth those desires you want to achieve. One of the most important words on creative imagination was by William Blake. He said, “Man’s desires are limited by his perception. None can desire what he has not perceived.” Our creative imagination is so important in picturing that which we desire.

What is it that you want in your life? What does your inner self dictate for you? The opposite of courage is not really fear, the opposite of courage is conformity, where we go along in those old patterns, those old ways that are accepted by everyone, instead of stepping out in our own way in our own life.

Listen to these words by Peace Pilgrim: “After a wonderful sojourn in the wilderness I walk again along the streets of a city. Hundreds of neatly dressed human beings with pale or painted faces are hurrying in rather orderly lines to and from their places of employment. I, in my faded shirt and well-worn slacks, walk among them; the rubber soles of my soft canvas shoes move noiselessly along beside the clatter of trim, tight shoes with high heels.

“In the poorer sections I am tolerated, in the wealthier sections some glances seem a bit startled and some are disdainful. On both sides of us as we walk are displayed things we can buy if we are willing to stay in the orderly line day after day, year after year. Some of the things are more or less useful, many are utter trash, some have a claim to beauty, and many are garishly ugly.

“Thousands of things are displayed, yet the most valuable things are missing. Freedom is not displayed, nor health, nor happiness, nor peace of mind. To obtain these, my friends, you too may need to escape from the orderly lines and risk being looked upon disdainfully.”

So step out with courage into the unknown and follow the dictates of your own being, perhaps into something that may be difficult for you, something that challenges you.

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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Mending the Hole in Your Holiness

When we talk about mending the hole in our holiness, we’re talking about recognizing our oneness with God, truly getting to know God’s presence within us. To know God’s presence within another person means getting to know the real of that person. And then we begin to mend that hole in our holiness, that leak which sometimes causes us to see ourselves and others as not whole.

“Holy” comes from the root word, “whole.” Whole and holy mean the same thing. So when we are feeling complete and whole, we are indeed holy. Our nature is wholeness, so our very nature is holiness. It’s only when we see ourselves as separate that we have that hole in our holiness. So we need to mend that hole today, and usually the greatest hole is caused by our relationships with other people.

We may often get frustrated by other people; we sometimes see them as obstacles to our feeling our oneness with God. So that frustration and concern grows in thinking that in order to be spiritual we have to be set apart, we have to be away from those people who bother us so much.

How can we be spiritual in the middle of the world? Remember Jesus said, “I am in the world but not of it.” We, too, can have a consciousness of God while we’re in the world. Then we’re able to recognize God’s presence within ourselves and within others at all times.

Holiness is found in relationship, not separate from it. That’s where our strength is, and it’s where our holiness comes into expression through us. God works through ordinary people. We find that everyone in the scriptures who began to demonstrate God’s presence did so in relationship with people. We also find that very often they were reluctant heroes.

Such a one was Gideon, in the book of Judges. He’s a young man, a farmer. The Israelites at that time were always being hounded by the Midianites and were afraid that they would always be stealing their food and so on. So here was Gideon. He was threshing the grain in the wine-press house rather than outside; he was hiding, looking around over his shoulder for the Midianites coming to steal his grain.

It says in the scripture that an angel of the Lord came to him and said to him, “Hail, Oh you mighty man of valor!” And here was this unlikely young farmer, hiding from the Midianites and threshing his grain.

There was a play about Gideon that was produced many years ago, and it was given a modern twist. As the angel of the Lord comes and says, “Hail, Oh you mighty man of valor!” the farmer turns around and straightens up, holding his back, and says “I? You cannot be serious!”

And that’s often how it is. God calls reluctant heroes; we get chosen in the midst of relationships and in surprising ways. God calls us to be something or do something that we’d rather not do.

I was talking to a man, a father, some time ago, and he was telling me about his spiritual practice and how he’d been getting up early to do his meditation. He’d taken time to read some scripture and have some meditation and then, he said, “I blew it today! I got up, I had my meditation, I was doing great. Then I came out of the room and tripped over the kids’ toys that they hadn’t put away . . . and I lost my temper . . . right after doing my meditation!”

It’s in the midst of relationships and in the midst of frustration, in the midst of all these happenings, that we are reminded of God’s presence. We are reminded not to “lose it”! We’re given many opportunities to become aware and to come back to our spirituality.

And we find God’s presence breaking through in many wonderful ways in our homes. Our homes are places of repair and sometimes we have the frustrations; but we also have the joys of realization.

Do you remember Brother Lawrence in the little book, Practicing the Presence? Brother Lawrence was a monk living in a monastery and working in the kitchen; he also found God in the kitchen. He said, “The time of business does not with me differ from the time of prayer, and in the noise and clatter of my kitchen while several persons are at the same time calling for different things, I possess God in as great tranquility as if I were upon my knees at the Blessed Sacrament.”

Now that takes a lot of doing. But that was the joy found by him, that in the midst of things he could find God’s presence. And for people who say they have trouble recollecting their mind during prayer, he had this to say: “One way to recollect the mind in time of prayer is not to let it wander too far at other times.” That’s a beautiful and gentle reminder, not to let it wander too far at other times. Keep reminding yourself that God is present, present in the situation, present in you, present in the other person.

So where do we start in mending this hole in our holiness in the midst of relationships? We have to start with forgiveness, and forgiveness starts with ourselves; it starts with acceptance of ourselves as we are. We can only accept others as we begin to accept ourselves.

That’s often the problem, we’re at war within ourselves because we don’t accept ourselves, we don’t love ourselves, and we have not forgiven ourselves. So we project that same anger, that same fear, that same destructiveness out toward others and we make their lives a misery too.

So, for any of us to become compassionate toward others we have to first be accepting of ourselves. Then we are also able to be accepting of others.

Remember, Jesus said, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” You can only love your neighbor as you love yourself, in the same way that you love yourself. So the more you’re able to accept yourself and love yourself, you are able to love your neighbor.

There are three destructive practices that we need to be aware of, which to overcome we must come into forgiveness:

The first one is blame. We tend to blame others or we blame ourselves for things that go wrong. Blaming is a really destructive practice; it diminishes the wholeness of someone. It diminishes our own wholeness, our own holiness, and it diminishes the wholeness or holiness of others. When we blame others, it ties us to that other person; the resentment that we have binds us to that other person.

Author Emmet Fox said, “When you hold resentment against anyone, you are bound to that person by a cosmic link, a real tough mental chain. You are tied by a cosmic tie to the thing that you hate; the one person, perhaps in the whole world, whom you most dislike is the very one to whom you are attaching yourself by a hook that is stronger then steel.”

When we blame, we are giving other people power and control over us, for as Emmet Fox says, we are tying ourselves to that other person with bonds stronger than steel. Say for yourself, “I am no longer going to give you control over the way I think or how I behave, or how I’ll behave in the future. I am taking total responsibility for my own life.” And that means being forgiving of yourself and forgiving of others.

The second destructive practice is revenge, the action that comes from blaming. The thoughts of blame that then move into revenge; we want to hurt that person who hurt us. But when we do it, it disappoints us. And when it’s all over, we feel mean. It’s not benefiting us at all, we still feel bad about ourselves.

You see, forgiveness is the only thing that can free. It can free us from that awful feeling of hate and of self-destructive attitudes that we sometimes carry with us.

The third destructive practice is judgment. We tend to judge others, then we get into blaming and then into revenge. Lack of judgment is forgiveness in action, when we accept others as they are rather than judging them from our point of view. Judgment really defines who we are, not who the other person is. It defines our own likes and dislikes. So we need to change from judgment to acceptance, and that is forgiveness in action.

Wayne Dyer tells a story about his sister-in-law who made a beautiful cushion for him and embroidered on there are the words, “I’m allowed.” It was a reminder to him that he is allowed to live his life as he wants it to be lived, and he’s allowed to make mistakes and allowed to learn from those mistakes.

Remind yourself of that. So many people live as though they are not allowed to do things, not allowed to make mistakes, and so they heap a pile of guilt upon themselves. Remember, the past is over; let it go. You’re allowed to make mistakes, you’re allowed to live your life as you see fit. Be gentle with yourself. Love yourself, and love yourself in relationship because it’s in relationship that we really find and experience our holiness and our spirituality.

Start today with the realization, “I am enriching my inner journey through relationships; I am mending the hole in my holiness.”

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/

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You Have the Power

You have the power to hurt or heal; you have the power to forgive or withhold forgiveness.

I’ll come back to that in a moment with illustrations from scripture and story, but first I have an important question to ask you:

Where does esteem, worth, and value come from? What is the source? Yes, God is the source of our value, and worth, and esteem, because we are created in the image and likeness of God. We are children of God, created to become the fullness of what we truly are.

So that’s where our true worth comes from. But hear this: Our esteem, our worth, and our values are nurtured in the home and in our relationships with one another. We need one another. Loving God and loving one another. So we nurture one another as we see one another in the light of God’s presence, as we recognize the Truth of one another we see where our true value lies.

Do you remember the movie Forrest Gump? Forrest Gump was a likable guy and why was that? Here was a kid with a low IQ who was a winner in everything he did; he was successful in all his relationships. He saved his buddy in Vietnam and he was faithful to his girlfriend Jenny even when she was unfaithful to him, and they came back together.

He didn’t even realize that he was the butt of everyone’s jokes, and he didn’t really care. He had a certain attitude, and his attitude was based on something his mother had taught him. He said, “Momma always said that life was like a box of chocolates.” And that’s how he lived.

I want to share with you from the gospel of John an incident that happened after the crucifixion and the resurrection. We’ll be starting in the Lenten season on Wednesday, March 5, Ash Wednesday. I want to go back and forth in all the activities of that too. But this is after the resurrection.

The disciples had locked themselves away in a room, so they would feel safe. They didn’t know what to do, and they were fearful for their own lives. And Jesus came to them.

In John 20:19 it says, “On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’” That’s the first key, the sense of oneness with all of life and no fear. “Peace be with you.” We all want peace of mind.

“When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I send you.’ And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.’” In other words, capture the full realization of your oneness in God. Capture the realization that you are one in God, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”

Then, the most amazing thing, he said this: “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” You and I have been given power by God to hurt or to heal, to bless or to curse. If you forgive anyone their sins, there will be forgiveness. If you retain them, if you hold on to resentment and bitterness and upset it will be retained.

We have a choice; we have the ability to make that choice. And the difference is in receiving the Holy Spirit, feeling and knowing our oneness in God. When we do that, when we feel the presence of God, then we know our true nature. And our true nature is love, the same as the nature of God.

We are made in the image and likeness of God, and as the nature of God is love then the nature of our own being is love. So, out of that love, we are naturally led to forgive. But we do have a choice, we do have the ability to forgive or not to forgive; we have the power to hurt or heal.

Alan Cohen tells a story of when he was doing some workshops in Washington State and he had a whole busy week of doing workshops. Someone offered him a massage and he thought that would be a great way to relax during that time. So he accepted, and that afternoon he had his massage. He closed his eyes and started drifting, and he nodded off.

The next thing he knew, the masseuse was saying to him, “Alan, it’s five o’clock!” He woke up with a start and said “Oh, my God, I have an appointment on the other side of town, half an hour away, at five o’clock.” He said, “Someone is waiting for me, in their car, to take me to my next engagement.” So he jumped up, pulls his stuff together and off they go. By the time they reach where this man was waiting for him, he had left; he’d given up and gone home.

So Alan was upset and he thought, “If this man is at the lecture tonight, how am I going to face him. I stood him up through my negligence.” He was putting himself down and dreading seeing this guy. And sure enough, there he was, one of the first people he ran into as soon as he went into the lecture hall. He went up to him and said, “I am so sorry that I stood you up. This is what happened . . .” And he told him what happened then said, “I really apologize. Can you forgive me?” The man just looked at him, smiled, and said, “Would you like me to give you a ride tonight?”

Alan said he just felt all of that tension and concern dropping away. He felt a sense of freedom, because there was no sense of condemnation at all. The man could have chastised him, could have said some things that would cut him down, but he didn’t. He didn’t even mention that, it was as nothing. He spoke words that healed and Alan was able to go on with a sense of well-being.

But we do have the power to hurt or heal, and sometimes we choose the wrong one. The mind takes the shape of whatever it grabs hold of and if we hang on to resentment then that shape is our resentment.

You see, forgiveness – for that’s what it is – is the realization of God’s loving presence in our lives. We make forgiveness difficult sometimes, we have lots of techniques which are useful and appropriate in many ways, but if we get to the core of it what we really need to do is to feel God’s loving presence, and in that loving presence it is natural for us to want to forgive.

Jesus gave a lot of examples and stories about God’s grace and forgiveness. You’ll remember one where Peter came up to him and he said, “How many times does one have to forgive someone who has wronged you? As many as seven times?” Jesus just looked at him and smiled, and said, “Seventy times seven.” In other words, as many times as it takes. We cannot really feel God’s presence if we are holding grudges toward someone.

In our families we sometimes give conditional love instead of unconditional love. We give them our blessing and our love if they live up to our expectations and withhold forgiveness from them if they’ve done something we didn’t like.

That’s conditional love. But God’s love is unconditional; there are no conditions and no strings attached. God is love, and in that love is all-forgiveness; God’s love is naturally forgiving. And we are created in the image and likeness of that love.

You have to make a decision to receive the Holy Spirit, to live in God’s love, because it’s in that love where we can forgive. Forgiveness is a natural process; it’s not something that’s difficult.

There’s a wonderful story that Jesus tells which we know as the story of the Prodigal Son. In Luke 14:20 it says, “And he arose and came to his father. But while he was yet at a distance, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.”

Parents can relate to this today. You may have a son or daughter who dropped out of college in their junior year, went off somewhere and got in with the wrong crowd and got into drugs. Just like the Prodigal Son he or she is symbolically living with the pigs.

But in that experience that he or she is going through there comes a moment where he comes to himself and says, “Gosh, I was better off at home.” A spiritual hunger begins to form within him or her.

So the boy or girl comes to himself or herself and is coming home. And the father sees him or her from a distance. The father runs and he embraces and kisses his child with total unconditional love, without expectations of what’s going to happen next. It’s a beautiful story, and one that can enrich us.

We have to become people of grace. That’s what it’s all about. Jesus said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” When you do that, “you can forgive anyone their sins and they will be forgiven. But if you retain those sins they will be retained.” You have the power, given to you by God, the power to forgive

And God is Blessing You, RightNow!

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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For Everyone Who Thirsts – (1)

For Everyone Who Thirsts is for all those people who want to know how to read the scriptures and interpret them metaphysically and spiritually. I will use the following story as an example of the process.

In the gospel of John, chapter four, we read, “So he [Jesus] came to a city of Samaria called Sychar, near the field that Jacob gave to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and so Jesus, wearied as he was with his journey, sat down beside the well. It was about the sixth hour.

“There came a woman of Samaria to draw water. Jesus said to her, ‘Give me a drink.’ For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food. The Samaritan woman said to him, ‘How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of water of me, a woman of Samaria?’ For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans. Jesus answered her, ‘If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, “Give me a drink,” you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.’

“The woman said to him, ‘Sir, you have nothing to draw with, and the well is deep; where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well, and drank from it himself, and his sons, and his cattle?’

“Jesus said to her, ‘Every one who drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst; the water that I shall give him will become in him a spring of living water welling up to eternal life.’”

Get the feeling first, get the image within your mind, get the feeling of the place, and get the feeling of the scene at the well on the warm day. It was about the sixth hour, which is about three o’clock in the afternoon. It was warm. The Samaritan woman, the only other person around at that time probably because everyone else was resting, coming down the dusty road and probably dragging a little with her head down and putting the bucket down to draw some water from the well. And Jesus saying to her, “Give me a drink.”

Do you think he was asking for a drink for himself? Jesus saw in the woman something very much lacking. He saw that she was weighed down and that she was not really in touch with the feeling she was having in the moment. And so he said to her, “Give me a drink.”

Are you thirsty? Are you feeling upset, are you feeling low, are you feeling depressed? Are you feeling that you need to get into something that will give you a sense of fulfillment, are you in need of more harmony in your relationships, and are you in need of feeling love shared between two people?

All of those needs that you are feeling are the presence of the Christ within you saying, “Give me a drink.”  Or, “Pay attention to me. Give heed to me, listen to me.” Take a moment to look at where you are now; what are you feeling now?

It says that his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food. So often we do that, too, we go into the outer, into the crowded thoroughfares to buy that which we think will satisfy our need. Yet it’s within the depths of our own being.

The Samaritan woman is still focused on the outer Jacob’s well. Jacob’s well and the field it was in is symbolic of the field of the intellect. The woman represents “feelings,” but she wasn’t in touch with her feelings at this time. She was involved in all the different worries of life and how she could handle them with her intellect. She said to Jesus, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask of me, a woman of Samaria, for a drink?” For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans. A Samaritan symbolizes a person of mixed consciousness.

There are times in our lives when we come to draw water from the well and we realize that’s not satisfying at all. Something speaks in us, and we hear. Even through our mixed consciousness, we hear. We may not be hearing clearly, but we hear. The Christ presence, that very presence of God in us, is calling us.

Jesus said to her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”

What is the gift of God that he’s talking about? It is described in Isaiah 55. He says, “Ho, every one who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come; buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread and your labor for that which does not satisfy?

“Hearken diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in fatness (that meant abundance, not fatness of body). Incline your ear, and come to me; hear, that your soul may live; and I will make with you an everlasting covenant (and here comes the gift), my steadfast, sure love for David.”

Isaiah spoke in terms of David because David was recognized as a king, as one who had brought the nations together, and who followed God in all things but still got into trouble. He didn’t do everything right, but God’s love for him was steadfast and sure. He is saying that no matter what you have done, no matter what your state of being right now, listen, because God’s love is the gift to you, and it is always steadfast and always sure.

Jesus said, “If you only knew what God’s gift is to you.” It is the steadfast, sure love that God has for you. This is a tremendous love, a complete acceptance of all that you are, in spite of your limitations and the contradictions within you, bringing forth all that you can become. It is total acceptance, a total love.

“If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” He who is saying to you, “Give me a drink,” is the presence of God within you that is saying, “Pay attention to me, and listen to me.” You needn’t fret, you needn’t worry. If you are thirsting, this is the water that will satisfy, the living water. And it’s right where you are in the story that you’re living right now.

So Jesus is saying, “Pay attention to this moment, because the Spirit within you is saying to be aware what is happening in your life. What is happening out here is a parable, a story of what is happening within you. If you get in touch with what is happening within you, then you can have some direction and control over what is happening out here.

Whatever need you have, a creative solution is available to you. It is seeking to come through you; that which you are experiencing is a symbol, an out-picturing, of something that needs to come from within your inner life.

The divinity within you is there in all it’s fullness of potential right now.  But it’s not fully out-pictured yet; you aren’t finished yet!

(To be continued in Part 2)

And Always 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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