CELEBRATING WHAT WAS AND WHAT IS
This month we will spend our time celebrating and commemorating our personal, individual spiritual growth and expansion by looking at where we've been, where we are and where we are going.
And I can assure you that this will be a powerful month for you if you would like to see your past, your present and/or your future in new ways -- ways that support and empower:
* the value of your past,
* the incredible nature of your now and
* your amazing future . . .
all of which are (of course!) part of your journey of expressing the God of your Being in the highest possible way.
This month will be very personal . . . and we are going to start that right now.
I'd like you to think back to before you found your spiritual path, before you really began your spiritual journey. Perhaps that was 50 years ago, perhaps it was 30 minutes ago when you walked into these doors this morning - or, for most of you, it will be somewhere in between.
And then right here, identify the time period or perhaps the moment in your life when you started to take your spiritual life seriously, when you said in one way or another something to the effect of "I need to do things differently. What I'm doing isn't working to bring peace, joy, love, abundance [you fill in the blank] in my life."
I will never forget mine. It was after husband number 7, when I walked out the door. Yet another relationship was over. How could that be? I'm a good person. I'm fun. I'm relatively smart and attractive. Why can't I get a relationship - which is really the only thing I wanted in my life - to work?!
As I slumped down into a depression, knowing that I had given myself the ultimatum that if this one didn't work, I wasn't going to try again., I cried out "Oh God, why is this happening to me again?"- no more.
That question was the moment that forever changed my life. Well actually, the answer I got in my head is what changed my life forever. The answer was, as clear as if God were standing in the room, "What's the one common denominator in all those failed relationships?" It didn't take a rocket science degree to know the answer, and that answer was "me." That led me on an emotional journey, which quickly led me on my spiritual journey, and what an amazing journey it has been. I had no idea, no idea, then that I would be standing here before you today. Never in my wildest dreams did I think that!
So, today is going to be about being grateful for putting our feet on that path and celebrating who we are TODAY because we said "yes" to the spiritual journey.
One Sunday, a visiting minister gave a sermon about celebrating and being grateful for all the special moments and experiences in our lives. During the lengthy talk on gratitude, he spoke of many things in his life he had to celebrate, including his college graduation, his marriage, the birth of his children, his ordination and so on and so on.
Then, with a microphone on, he moved into the congregation to ask congregants about the blessed moments they would like to celebrate in gratitude that morning.
"Sir," he cheerfully addressed one gentleman, "can you tell us about a special moment in your life that you would like to celebrate right now?"
"Yes," came the quick reply. "I would like to celebrate the one time I went to church and we had a short sermon and got out on time!"
In case you are interested, the longest sermon on record was delivered by a minister in West Richland, Washington, in 1955. It lasted 48 hours and 18 minutes. A congregation of eight was still present at the sermon's end.a
Well, today won't be the shortest, but we don't want it to vie for the longest either, so we better get to it!
1. GRATEFUL FOR WHAT GOT US TO OUR SPIRITUAL PATH
First is being Grateful for What Got Us to Our Spiritual Path. I warned you that this is going to be a very personal month, starting with today.
So, take a moment to think about your spiritual journey and the moment that put you on it. If you are anything like me, it was pain that put you on it. That is often a motivator for us, isn't it?
So I would love to invite you to feel into with deepest gratitude whatever event or experience or time period, or whatever it was, that got you on your spiritual journey.
Now you may never have felt gratitude for it before, because it could have been a deeply challenging experience. I absolutely understand that, I truly do! And, this morning, I am inviting you into a new way of being with it. Just for this moment - you can pick up your pain and anger and upset and whatever other emotions you may have about it later if you want to - but just for this moment, I ask you to recognize and feel grateful that that experience put your feet on the path of your spiritual journey.
Just for a few moments, feel gratitude as you sit there in the silence.
2. GRATEFUL FOR WHAT IS NOW
Second is being Grateful for What Is Now. Feeling grateful for what got us to our spiritual path prepares us to be deeply grateful for what is now!
I've made an interesting observation about myself over the many years I've been practicing this amazing faith, philosophy and way of living as I have shifted, grown and emerged, becoming more and more and more of who I really am.
And I doubt that I am unique in this phenomenon that occurs. See if you recognize this in you as well.
As I traveled on the journey of awakening, I would have a particular way of being or of looking at the world or of speaking or of thinking or of feeling that I realized wasn't really serving me.
It wasn't helping me create the God-filled life I desired. It wasn't reflective of the Truth of my being. And so I intentionally set forth to change it; to align myself with Spiritual Truth; to "Change my thinking and change my life."
And I did this through my spiritual practices of self awareness, prayer, seeing a practitioner, meditation, taking a class or engaging in self study, tithing, service, etc., etc. With me so far? Can you relate to this? Good!
And then I shifted and I changed - now pay attention - here's the phenomenon. When I became a more evolved version of myself, I instantly forgot the old self, the old way of being, behaving, thinking, feeling and therefore actually didn't even realize I had changed.
I simply became the new me - with this evolved or expanded way of looking at the world, or of speaking or of thinking. This now was simply who I was. And then I would be happily on my way to my next opportunity to evolve. Can you see yourself here also?
We make huge, monumental, life-altering shifts and changes but we don't realize we've done it. Let alone take a moment to celebrate it in gratitude.
And it is only in those moments when we consciously chose to reflect on where we've been and where we are now that we are stopped in our tracks and, frankly, often bowled over -- holy cow! Look at the changes!
* I am completely different.
* I don't have those old thoughts running through my head any more. They are gone. When did they go?
* When did I stop being so afraid?
* When did I start responding to life differently?
* I feel so much better about life than I did.
* I now have a stronger relationship with God!
How cool is that!? Can you relate?
Dennis Merritt Jones in his book, "The Art of Being," writes: "Give yourself the gift of a sacred moment in the now. With great and clear intention, contemplate and connect with the miracle of life, where God is always present. Celebrate your unity with God . . . and truly be in awe. The word awe is the root from which the word 'awesome' comes . . . and that is what you really are. Not because I say so but because God is awesome, and what God is, so too are you. It's just a matter of taking time to think about the wonder of it all."b
I want us to take a few moments now to think about the wonder of it all - actually the wonder of you and celebrate what is.
So here is what I will ask a few people to do. This is congregant participation time, and I know I run a risk like the preacher in my story earlier, but so be it!
In 25 words or fewer, tell us one thing you celebrate about who you are today. One area where, as you look back on your journey of evolution, you see you have so shifted and expanded. We don't need the story about the journey, just how are you different? More expanded? Clearer about who you are?
This is not a time to be shy and retiring. Toot your own horn! It's ok to do it here. In fact, it is wonderful to do it here!
And after each person shares, we are going to collectively say, "Yes, you are!"
Dennis Merritt Jones, "The Art of Being,": "Sangha is not a building, it is a consciousness held by a collective group that welcomes, celebrates, and honors you just the way you are. You'll know it, because it's as if you have walked into a wall of love, immersing you in it in the most amazing way."c
I trust those of you who shared feel that way and merely by experiencing it, we all do!
Now, we are going to pause for just a few moments and celebrate, in community, one another.
Everyone, stand up, please. Hold your hands out as an extension of your energy, your love, your joy, your celebration, your gratitude for where you are right now in your life and for where the people in this room are in their lives.
Fill the room with the energy of your gratitude and celebration; feel yourself sending it out to one another; feel yourself receiving it. Breathe it in. Several times. Now - give yourselves a standing ovation!
And I want to say thank you, thank you, thank you to every single person who has had a hand in any way, shape or form in creating who this community is! Turn to the person next to you and say:
"Thank you for having a hand in bringing us to this moment."
And when you receive that, just say "you are welcome." You don't have to go into a long story about how you really haven't done anything, or that much, because your presence here is enough!
Gratitude is such a powerful thing. Such a powerful, causative emotion.
In reading Wallace Wattles' great work, "The Science of Getting Rich," there is a passage in Chapter 7 that stays with me. He says gratitude does bring you more good, but that is not the only reason to practice gratitude. Gratitude is preventive, because without gratitude it won't be long until our thoughts will flip into "what's wrong?" - "what's missing?d".
Gratitude not only invokes the law of increase of our greater good, but it prevents the downdraft of moving into the ideas and feelings of what's wrong, and thereby creating more of that.
When we really get into the stream of gratitude, there is a natural pull to a higher life -- a life with more meaning and purpose. This is a higher consciousness, feeling love and appreciation, and all the things that begin to attract themselves to us are in harmony with that gratitude.
I love the words of Ernest Holmes on gratitude: "An attitude of gratitude is most salutary and bespeaks the realization that we are already in heaven."e
So thank you for participating in that gratitude bath this morning!
I want to bring our time together to a close by sharing with you a writing called "I Put My Hand in Yours" (author unknown) that speaks to the power of the collective that we have experienced here this morning, and that we experience every time we come together in community.
I invite you to join hands as I read it:
"I put my hand in yours and together we can do what we could never do alone. No longer is there a sense of hopelessness; no longer must we each depend on our own unsteady willpower. We are all together now, reaching out our hands for power and strength greater than ours, and as we join hands, we find love and understanding beyond our wildest dreams."
aJames Meyers, Mammoth Book of Trivia, p. 255
bDennis Merritt Jones The Art of Being, p. 203
cDennis Merritt Jones The Art of Being, p. 32
dWallace Wattles The Science of Getting Rich Chapter 7
eErnest Holmes Science of Mind, p. 497