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Sunday Message for July 12, 2015


A speaker walked up to the podium to address the student body of a small college in South Carolina. After looking at the audience from left to right, the speaker began by saying:

"I was born to a mother who was deaf and could not speak. I grew up not knowing my father, and I still don't. The first job I ever had was in a cotton field."

The audience was spellbound. The speaker continued: "Nothing has to remain the way it is if that's not the way we want it to be. It isn't luck, and it isn't circumstances, and it isn't being born a certain way that causes a person's future to become what it becomes."

The speaker softly repeated, "Nothing has to remain the way it is if that's not the way we want it to be. All we have to do to change a situation that brings unhappiness or dissatisfaction is answer the question: 'How do I want this situation to be?' Then we must commit totally to personal actions that carry us there."

Then a beautiful smile came across the face of the speaker as SHE said: "My name is Azie Taylor Morton. I stand before you today as Treasurer of the United States of America."a

For those of you who don't know, Azie Taylor Morton was the first and, thus far only, African American to serve as U.S. Treasurer (she served under President Carter) and the only African American female whose signature has appeared on US currency.

This story is a powerful illustration of this month's theme: Turning Impediments into Empowerments, and we are using "The Obstacle is the Way" by Ryan Holiday as our reference book.b

Whatever we face in this experience called life, we always have a choice: We can be blocked by obstacles or we can use them as stepping stones to expressing our inherent, our innate, our Divinely implanted greatness. The choice is entirely, completely and fully ours.

There are countless individuals who have used obstacles as stepping stones to their greatness, Azie Taylor Morton being one of them. Now, it's our turn to be counted in those numbers.

This book - this month - is a roadmap for our journey of turning:
* OBSTACLES into OPPORTUNITIES to grow bigger in God;
* MISFORTUNES into GOOD - not just good, but GREAT! -- FORTUNES; and

So, my invitation to all of you was to: "Bring your biggest challenge to the table this month and let's turn it around!" And I hope that is what you are doing.

According to Ryan Holiday, moving from impediment to empowerment takes three interdependent and interconnected disciplines that can be boiled down to three words:
1. Perception
2. Action
3. Will

The first is Perception. I want to share with you a statement from Eric Butterworth in his book, Spiritual Economics, he wrote: "Take a careful look at the challenges you are facing: a possible layoff, an important career decision, the inability to make ends meet on your current income. If you identify these as your 'problems,' there is a tendency to see them as static and burdensome and with a feeling of resentment and self-pity. . . . [This] . . .simply won't work! However, see the challenges as 'projects,' and you tune in on a whole different flow of consciousness. You are faced with some opportunities to grow, but you feel secure in the awareness that, in the main, the answers will unfold from within. There is a sense of lightness, of clear horizons, and of confident expectancy. It is the same so-called 'trouble,' but your attitude is different. And according to your thoughts, your faith, and your feeling, it will be done unto you. [This] is a mystic teaching that is ages old but amazingly relevant."c

And that is the power of Perception in a beautiful nutshell!

So, just because your mind tells you something is awful or terrible or an obstruction to your good or otherwise negative doesn't mean you have to agree.

And likewise, just because other people say that something is hopeless or crazy or broken to pieces doesn't mean it is. We can see it in another way.

Let me show you something. This pot was cracked and broken to pieces. You can see that as a failure, or the opportunity for something beautiful.

The power of Perception.

And then we move our focus to the second discipline - Action.


Again, in the words of Azie Taylor Morton:

"All we have to do to change a situation that brings unhappiness or dissatisfaction is answer the question: 'How do I want this situation to be?' Then we must commit totally to personal actions that carry us there."

The fact is -- action is commonplace, but inspired action is not. And what is "inspired action"? Well, I want to suggest three distinctions between inspired action and distraction:
1. Inspired action is action in service to our greater life.
2. Inspired action is action that comes from a higher place within us.
3. Inspired action is action that is part of "The Process." And what is "The Process?" We'll get there!

Let's unpack each of those right now.


1. Inspired action is action in service to our greater life.

The greater life that is the answer to the question Azie Taylor Morton said to ask: 'How do I want this situation to be?'

Or a bigger question: "How do I want my life to be?" Is it in service to your vision for your life?

Inspired action comes from that vision - not from the obstacle in front of you!

When we focus on our greater life, we have a clearer head, and according to Holiday:d "A clearer head makes for steadier hands. And then those hands must be put to work."


2. Inspired action is action that comes from a higher place within us. Not from resentment, fear, anger at the obstacle - although you are certainly entitled to have a snit fit about it if you need to!

But don't take action from that place; that will definitely not be inspired action. Rather act from the place that sees the obstacle as an opportunity, remembering Einstein's words: "We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them."e

Inspired action comes from the place in us where we are consciously connected to the Divine Within. From that place that knows that it knows that it knows who and whose we are. From that place that has never been hurt, never been betrayed, never been lied to, never been . . . , never been . . . , never been. There is that place in each and everyone one of us, and it is from that place that inspired action comes.

And that takes us to the third idea of inspired action.


3. Inspired action is action that is part of "The Process."

The idea of "The Process" actually comes from coach Nick Saban - the head coach of the University of Alabama football, and it doesn't focus on what every other coach focuses on or at least not in the way they do. He teaches what he calls "The Process." He says to his players: "Don't think about winning the SEC Championship. Don't think about the national championship. Think about what you need to do in this drill, on this play, in this moment. That's the process: Let's think about what we can do today, the task at hand."f

You've got to a challenge in front of you. Don't focus on that. Instead break it down into pieces. Simply do what you need to do right now. And do it well. And then move on to the next thing. Follow the process and not the prize.

The process is this:
* Existing in the present
* Taking it one step at a time
* Not getting distracted by anything else.

Martin Luther King Jr once said: "Take the first step in faith. You don't have to see the whole staircase. Just take the first step."g

I know that seems almost too simple, but that is the process. We needn't scramble like we are so often inclined to do when a difficulty sits in front of us.

Remember the first time you saw a complicated algebra equation? It was a jumble of symbols and unknowns. But then you stopped took a deep breath and broke it down. You isolated the variables, solved for them and all that was left was the answer.

Do that now, for whatever obstacle you are facing. Take a breath, do the next immediate thing and follow its thread into the next action.

Remember the Psalmist's words: "Thy word will be a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path."h This seems obvious, but we forget this when it matters most.

Perhaps you are stuck in bed recovering from an illness. Well, now you have time to write.

Perhaps you lost your job or a relationship. That's awful, and give yourself time to grieve, but now you can do all those things you've been putting off.

Perhaps your emotions are overwhelmed and painful, turn it a way to support others.

You're having a problem? Now you know exactly what to approach your mentor, coach, practitioner or chaplain about - or finally to make the decision to get one.

Holiday writes: "Seize this moment to deploy the plan that has long sat dormant in your head. Every chemical reaction requires a catalyst. Let this [obstacle] be yours."i

Thomas Troward, in The Dore Lectures, said: "We must do our share in the work, and not expect God to do for us what He can only do through us. We are to use our common sense and natural faculties in working upon the conditions now present. We must make use of them, as far as they go, but we must not try and go further than the present things require; we must not try to force things, but allow them to grow naturally, knowing that they are doing so under the guidance of the All-Creating Wisdom."j

So, that is what inspired action is:

Action . . .
1. taken in service to our greater life,
2. that comes from a higher place within us, and
3. that is part of "The Process," which is:
* Existing in the present
* Taking it one step at a time
* Not getting distracted by anything else

What obstacle are you bringing to the table this month and how could you apply what we have talked about today to it?

Prayer: "I am a center in the Divine Mind, a point of God-conscious life, truth and action. My affairs are divinely guided and guarded into right action, into correct results. Everything I do, say or think, is stimulated by the Truth. There is power in this word that I speak, because it is of the Truth and it is the Truth. There is perfect and continuous right action in my life and my affairs. . . Right action alone has power and right action is power and Power is God, the Living Spirit Almighty. This Spirit animates everything that I do, say or think. Ideas come to me daily and these ideas are divine ideas. They direct me and sustain me without effort. I am continuously directed. I am compelled to do the right thing at the right time, . . . to follow the right course at all times."k

For this I am deeply grateful. And so it is. Amen

a Azie Taylor Morton (2/1/1936 - 12/7/2003) served as Treasurer of the United States during the Carter administration from 9/12/1977 to 1/20/1981. She remains the only African American to hold that office. Her signature was printed on U.S. currency during her tenure; this is an honor she shared with four African-American men.
bThe Obstacle is the Way Ryan Holiday
cEric Butterworth Spiritual Economics p. 124
dThe Obstacle is the Way Ryan Holiday, p. 60
eAlbert Einstein
fNicholas Lou "Nick" Saban, Jr. (born 10/31/1951) American college football coach, and the current head football coach of the University of Alabama
gMartin Luther King, Jr. (1/15/1929 - 4/4/1968), was an American Baptist minister, activist, humanitarian, and leader in the African-American Civil Rights Movement.
hPsalm 119:105
iThe Obstacle is the Way Ryan Holiday
jThomas Troward, The Dore Lectures, p. 131
kScience Of Mind text Ernest Holmes, pg. 56

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