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Sunday Message for August 6, 2023


Even though August in Castro Valley is the perfect time to take a vacation, not everyone leaves our fair city. So, for those of us staying in town, let's take a collective vacation from those attitudes and beliefs that keep us from expressing God's Love, being God's Light and living God's Truth. One of Charles Fillmore's sayings was, "All thought is formative; all thought has its effect in our lives."a As we take a vacation from unsupportive thinking [thought] this month, we can and will change our lives!

In today's demanding world, everyone feels stressed from time to time. We feel the stress of the job, of family, of the price of gas, of the world situation - the list could go on and on. While we cannot control the outer situation, we absolutely can do something about our inner world. Today we will look at some sure-fired spiritual tools to help us take a permanent vacation from stress.

A Baptist preacher and his wife decided it was time to adopt a dog. Ever mindful of the congregation, they knew the dog must be a Baptist. They called kennel after kennel and explained their needs. Finally, they found a kennel whose owner assured them he had just the dog they wanted.

The kennel owner brought the dog to the pastor's home to meet the pastor and his wife. "Fetch the Bible," the owner commanded. The dog bounded to the bookshelf, scrutinized the books, located the Bible, and brought it to the owner.

"Now find Psalm 23," he commanded. The dog dropped the Bible to the floor, and showing marvelous dexterity with his paws, leafed through, and finding the correct passage, pointed to it with his paw. The pastor and his wife were very impressed and adopted the dog then and there.

That evening, a group of church members came to visit. The pastor and his wife began to show off the dog, having him locate several Bible verses. The visitors were very impressed. One man asked, "Can he do regular dog tricks, too?"

"I haven't tried yet," the pastor replied. He pointed his finger at the dog "HEEL!" the pastor commanded. With that the dog jumped on a chair, placed one paw on the pastor's shoulder, the other on the pastor's forehead, closed his eyes, tilted his head back and began to howl.

The pastor looked at his wife in shock and said, "Good Lord! He's not a Baptist; he's a Pentecostal!"

Today we come together with our vacation theme by taking a VACATION FROM STRESS. And laughter is a great way to do that!

More seriously, and certainly more churchlike, we are here to take a collective vacation from those attitudes and beliefs that keep us from our reason for being on this planet - to express God's Love, be God's Light and Live God's Truth.

So today we are looking at ways to TAKE A VACATION FROM STRESS. What are some things that bring on STRESS?

It's pretty difficult to express God's Love, be God's Light and live God's Truth when we are all stressed out, isn't it? What happens to us when we are stressed?

While we cannot control the outer situations that we think are causing us stress, we absolutely can do something about our inner world, which then has an effect on the outer world.

There's a subtle, but extremely powerful effect in realizing that we CANNOT CONTROL the outcome of a situation - it will be what it is! -- but we definitely CAN EFFECT the outcome by what we have going on inside of us.

Charles Fillmore wrote: "Thinking is formative - every thought clothes itself in a life form according to the character given it by the thinker."b

Religious Science founder, Ernest Holmes wrote:

"In such degree as we can control our own thinking by shifting the basis of our imagery, our belief, our emotional and mental reactions to life, we can come to a place, individually, of peace and security and happiness, then gradually as these changes take place [within us] there will be a corresponding change in our environment."c

There's one phrase out of that passage that I want us to focus on this morning.

" . . . we can come to a place, individually, of security . . ."

And, of course, the key to that phrase is the word "security." When we feel secure, we are stress free.

So, this morning, first, I want to look at what security means - really means -- and then I want to look at some steps to attain it. And when we do that, we can take this vacation from stress and therefore more fully express God's Love, be God's Light and live God's Truth.

So, first, what does security mean?

The word "secure" comes from two small Latin words, "se" meaning "without" and "cure" meaning "care." So, "secure" literally means without care, free from fear and anxiety.

We do a lot of things in our outer world to make us feel secure, and therefore not stressed, don't we?

The only person who is ever truly free from anxiety, free from stress, is the person who has built a faith in God - that essence that is eternal and changeless and yet always changing form.

When we believe that God is our security, we are not depending on external circumstances -- enough money; possessions; education; achievement; relationships.

These are fine and good, but they are never our true security. And it is the fear of losing these things that cause us stress.

The simple truth is that nothing on earth can provide absolute security. Only that which is eternal and changeless, behind all that is changing, can.

In this world of form, banks can fail; business can go on the rocks; a thief can steal your money; countries can go to war; loved ones (whether they be two-legged or four legged) will die.

But there is a realm where, as Jesus said: ". . . neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal."d

And remember these critical words of Jesus: "Strive first for the kingdom of God, and all these things will be given to you as well."e

Kingdom/realm = Our conscious connection with the Indwelling Presence.

The thief that Jesus spoke of can easily steal your wallet, but no thief can steal your knowledge of how to make money;

A storm can destroy a building, but it can't destroy the architect's ability to create another one;

Death can even take away a loved one, but cannot take away our ability to love.

That which we build in this world is temporary. That which we build within ourselves through conscious connection with the Divine is ours forever.

Let me give you the Steps to Attain Security or to Making Conscious Connection

So, what are some things to look at this morning that we can use to build this internal realm? Of course - always prayer and meditation - those are givens. In addition . . .

Three aspects of being present to the moment.

1. Be Here Now

There is a story well known in Zen circles about the Buddha and a flower.

One day the Buddha held up a flower in front of an audience of 1,250 monks and nuns. He did not say anything for quite a long time.

The audience was perfectly silent. Everyone seemed to be thinking hard, analyzing, trying to see the meaning behind the Buddha's gesture.

Then, suddenly, the Buddha smiled.

He smiled because one of the monks in the audience had smiled at him and at the flower. The monk was the only person who smiled, and the Buddha smiled back at him and said,

"I have a treasure of insight, and I have transmitted it you."

That story has been discussed by many generations of Zen students and people continue to look for its meaning.

To modern day mystic and Vietnamese Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hahn the meaning is quite simple. When someone holds up a flower and shows it to you, he wants you to see it.

If you keep thinking, wondering, analyzing, and questioning, you miss the flower. The monk who was not thinking, who was present to the moment, was able to encounter the flower in depth, and he smiled.

Thich Nhat Hahn tells of a friend of his who died at the age of 28 in Saigon about 30 years ago. After he died, people found many beautiful poems he had written. Here's one of Thich Nhat Hahn's favorites:

Standing quietly by the fence,
you smile your wondrous smile.
I am speechless, and my senses are filled
by the sounds of your beautiful song,
beginningless and endless.
I bow deeply to you.

The "you" in the poem is a flower. That morning as he passed by a fence, he saw a little flower very deeply and, struck by the sight of it, he stopped and wrote that poem.

You might think that the poet was a mystic, because his way of looking and seeing things is very deep. But he was just as ordinary as you and me. He simply was mindful and in the present. He chose to be here now and to connect with the Divine.

2. Stop Resisting the Here and Now

Ernest Holmes wrote: "All of our memories of the past will be healed . . . if our communion . . . with the Spirit becomes complete. This is why quiet and secluded spots tend to rest us. But the only quiet and secluded spot in all the universe is at the center of our own being where pure Spirit reigns supreme."f

It is said that when Thomas Edison was confronted with a problem, the solution of which seemed impossible, he would lie down for fifteen or twenty minutes, completely relaxed, letting go of the problem. This was his way of communing with the Source of All Knowledge. Often, he would fall asleep and upon awakening the solution to the problem was before him like a vision.

3. See the Beauty of God in the Here and Now

Here is a poem in two versions. In which version has the person taken a vacation from stress?

I whispered, 'God, speak to me'
And the thunder rolled across the sky
I did not hear.

So I yelled, 'God, speak to me!'
And a meadow lark sang.
But I did not listen.

I looked around and said,
'God let me see you' and a star shone brightly.
But I did not notice.

And then I shouted,
'God show me a miracle!'
And a life was born,
But I did not know.

So I cried out in despair,
'Touch me, God, and let me know you are here!'

Whereupon God reached down
And touched me.
But I brushed the butterfly off
And walked away alone.

Poem Reframed:

I whispered, 'God, speak to me'
And the thunder rolled across the sky.
My heart was filled with life.

I cried, 'God, speak to me!'
And a meadow lark sang
I said, "yes, I am listening "

I looked around and said,
'God let me see you' and a star shone brightly
My eyes were filled with light.

I shouted,
'God show me a miracle!'
And a life was born
I was filled with love.

I cried out in joy,
'Touch me, God, and let me know you are here!'
Whereupon God reached down
And touched me.

As I felt the wings of a butterfly on my shoulder
I stood in awe and wonder.

Christian Larson wrote: "There is only one place where the soul finds rest and contentment. All may find it; the secret is simple. Return ye unto God."g

Taking a permanent vacation from stress means knowing where our true security lies. It lies within in the power and the presence of God within you now and always.

Let's just be still and close your eyes for a moment
Be aware that you have energy to use for yourself.
This energy comes from
the center of the earth,
it moves through your feet and legs and
grounds you.

Imagine a color you like and
give it to this energy and
see it move,
floating and swirling in
beautiful circles.

Also be in touch with the energy that comes from
the heavens as it
moves down through your head bringing
inspiration, imagination and visions
of what can be.

As these two energies meet, see them
nurturing each other and
creating a third energy,
the energy of connectedness between
yourself and other beings on this earth.

See this energy moving out
through your arms and hands,
connecting with others when
you hug.
See its color.

Now, see these three colors as
they mingle,
sometimes shading each other,
sometimes adding new dimensions.
Always there, always a fresh supply.

Come in touch with yourself as a
There is no one exactly like you
the face of the earth.h

aCharles Fillmore
bTalks on Truth Charles Fillmore
cFreedom from Stress Ernest Holmes
dMatthew 6:20
eMatthew 6:33
fPray and Prosper Ernest Holmes
gThe Pathway of Roses Christian Larson
hVirginia Satir Meditations & Inspirations

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