This is the second Sunday in Advent. So, this week we center on Peace. The affirmation is: "I remember I can always choose peace."
So, what is Peace? It says in Isaiah 9:6
"For a child has been born for us,
a son given to us;
authority rests upon his shoulders;
and he is named
Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace."a
Then it says in John 14:27 "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid."b
So let's do today's affirmation. "I remember I can always choose peace"
So the Prince of Peace said, "my peace I give to you." Are you willing to accept it?
Many people find peace of mind an elusive quality. Many are convinced that the only peace they will attain is in death. This is untrue. Peace is possible in all hearts and minds.
We live in a good world full of good people and our God is absolute good. Peace prevails in the lives of many people; it can prevail in the lives of all. But there is a price. The price is high. To some it is too high. Will you pay the price?
Here it is: Keep God first in your life in all your ways. Follow the teachings of Jesus Christ to the best of your understanding and ability. Love God, love all the people on this planet, and love yourself. That's it. Oh, so simple. The destiny of this earth is at stake. Peace in the world is at stake. Peace of mind is at stake- yours and everybody else's.
THE STRONG HEART
I have loved our exploration of living from a place of wholeheartedness, and how living from wholeheartedness means embodying specific aspects of the four-chambered heart - one aspect per chamber.
According to many Native traditions, when we live from the four chambers, we are sustained emotionally and spiritually.
Today, we are going to discuss the final chamber or fourth aspect of the whole heart, which is Strength. The whole heart is Strong.
So, what are the qualities of a strong heart? Well, we could say, a strong heart is:
And those qualities would be absolutely accurate. A Strong Heart is those things, but, first, it is something else. Before it can truly be:
Fearless . . .
. . . it must first be:
Transparency, authenticity, genuineness, and realness -- these are the ways of the Strong Heart. And when the heart is strong in these ways, then we are resilient, courageous, bold, brave, daring, and fearless (or willing to step forward even when the fear is there!)
But I am very, very aware that being:
Real . . .
. . . may cause some of us to not feel very strong. It may feel daunting, very daunting. In fact, we may feel naked and exposed.
It reminds me of a story about the new pastor who moved into town and went out one Saturday afternoon to visit his parishioners.
All went well until he came to one house. It was obvious that someone was home, but no one came to the door even after he had knocked several times.
Finally, he took out his card, wrote on the back "Revelation 3:20," stuck it in the door and left.
For those of you who need a little Bible refresher, Revelations 3:20 reads: "Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If any man hears my voice, and opens the door, I will come in to him, and will dine with him, and he will with me."c
The next day, as the minister was counting the offering, he found the card he had left in his parishioner's door in the collection plate. Below the Bible verse he had written down was the notation "Genesis 3:10," which for those Biblically challenged, reads: "And he said, I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked."d
So I don't mean that kind of naked, but we may feel naked and afraid when we talk about being transparent, real, genuine and authentic because we are spiritually naked, aren't we?
To be spiritual naked is to be self-revealing. It means that you don't just trot out the "good," healed and healthy parts of your personality when you are with people. It means being willing to share ALL of who you are. It means being willing to be vulnerable.
I love the work of Brené` Brown. She is known as the vulnerability scientist. This is how she describes herself on her website: The official line: I'm a research professor at the University of Houston where I hold the Huffington Endowed Chair. I've spent the past sixteen years studying courage, vulnerability, empathy, and shame. I'm the author of four books: The Gifts of Imperfection, Daring Greatly, Rising Strong, and Braving the Wilderness.
The bottom line: I believe that vulnerability - the willingness to be "all in" even when you know it can mean failing and hurting - is brave. I do NOT believe that cussing and praying are mutually exclusive.
She suggests (and has shown scientifically) that when we are willing to be vulnerable, we feel alive, connected, happy and strong.
Brown's research also shows how much we resist it. And she describes in her book Daring Greatly that we put on a very heavy piece of armor to protect us from being vulnerable and we think that this armor makes us strong!e
But in reality, the armor actually prevents us from being truly strong. And it is the armor of Perfectionism.
Because we can sometimes get confused between our spiritual idea that we are perfect, and the concept of perfectionism, I really appreciated the descriptions of what perfectionism is and is not that Brown's research brought forth.
Here's the definition of perfectionism that bubbled up as a result of the research. Actually first, here is what it is NOT: It is not the same thing as striving for excellence. It is not about healthy achievement and growth. Rather, perfectionism is a defensive move.
It's the belief that if we do things perfectly and look perfect, we can minimize or avoid the pain of blame, judgment, and shame - conversely, if we do things perfectly and look perfect, we will be appreciated, admired, respected - all words for loved!
Most perfectionists grew up being praised for achievement and performance (grades, manners, rule following, people pleasing, appearance, sports). Somewhere along the line, we adopted this dangerous and debilitating belief system: "I am what I accomplish and how well I accomplish it. And I will be loved based on it. Therefore, I must perform perfectly."
Healthy striving is self-focused: How can I improve?
Perfectionism is other focused: What will they think?
In her book Daring Greatly, Brown says that: "Perfectionism is a twenty-ton shield that we lug around, thinking it will protect us, when in fact it's the thing that's really preventing us from being seen."f
It is only as we are truly seen for who we are - when we are transparent, real, authentic, genuine - that we can truly be loved and feel that love. It is only when we are seen exactly for who we are that we can know ourselves AS love and then JOIN ourselves WITH THAT WHICH EXTENDS AND COMPLETES ITS LOVE - to go full circle back to our first aspect of the whole heart which is Openness.
And it is when we are loved for who we are that we are then:
To gain freedom from perfectionism, we must make the long journey from "What will people think?" to "I am enough - more than enough, just as I am and am willing to reveal who I am, just as I am" and appreciate the beauty of the human imperfections, remembering this: we are perfect spiritual beings expressing imperfectly!
Charles Fillmore in Talks on Truth, said: "All of God's creations are perfect; . . . if you will stand aside and let his Spirit shine through, you will see that you are perfect in every part."g
And, so my friends, we bring our exploration of wholehearted living to a close.
Native traditions feel that it is important to check the condition of the four-chambered heart daily, asking:
Today, am I . . . open-hearted?
Today, am I . . . full-hearted?
Today, am I . . . clear-hearted?
Today, am I . . . strong-hearted?
Ask yourself "is my heart open today?" Does it:
Know itself AS Love; and
Does it regularly and often JOIN ITSELF WITH THAT WHICH EXTENDS AND COMPLETES ITS LOVE.
Is my heart full today? Is it, in fact, full to overflowing and therefore am I:
Fully engaged in the act of living.
Is my heart clear today? Am I:
Willing to forgive and
make no assumptions
which creates a heart that is:
Is my heart liberated and free today?
And finally, is my heart strong today? Am I willing to be:
Which makes me:
And now, to start the holiday season off whole-heartedly. We are going to have a ceremony that explores the symbolism of the Christmas tree and all its ornaments.
Each year we, like little kids, eagerly await the trimming of the Christmas tree. But let's look behind the tinsel and trimmings to what they represent.
The TREE itself is a symbol. Its branches are ever green. But they remind us that the life of God is eternal and is constantly being renewed in us. The tree, as we do, reaches up to a higher understanding of God. Its branches reach outward on all sides, as if to welcome all races of people and all creeds.
On the tree are strings of LIGHTS. How beautifully the colored lights glow, each symbolizing the Christ light. The many colors remind us that each of us expresses good in his own way, yet he draws his life and strength and wisdom from God, the source of all good. Even as Jesus Christ became the light of the world, so can we let His light shine forth through us to bless our world.
We place colored BALLS on the tree. So, now everyone who has colored Christmas tree ball ornaments come up and put them on the tree. Many colors are reflected from these shiny balls, yet the colors seem to harmonize. This is symbolic of the different races and creeds and nations and indicates that they can live together in peace and harmony. Jesus was born to point the way to peace among men. The Christ Spirit in all men will teach them how to solve their problems so that there will be justice and freedom for all.
Next, we have a tiny ANGELS for our tree. So, now everyone who has Angels come up and put them on the tree. The angel is a symbol of the Christ-like thoughts that help us to express more of the Christ Spirit. At Christmastime we can send angel thoughts or thoughts of good will to people all over the world.
Now we have toy HORNS to sound our Christmas joy. So, now everyone who has Horns come up and put them on the tree. When we hear the notes of "Joy to the World," let our hearts be filled with a deep abiding joy, the joy that comes to us when we love God and do His will.
Beside the horn we now hang a golden BELL. So, now everyone who has Bells come up and put them on the tree. For hundreds of years at Christmastime, the bells have chimed out the message, "Christ is born." "Though Christ a thousand times in Bethlehem be born, if He's not born in thee, thy soul is all forlorn."
A BIRD perches on a branch of our tree. So, now everyone who has Birds come up and put them on the tree. It is the dove of peace, reminding us that if we truly want peace, we must let peace express through us. We must live peaceably with others.
Here are long strands of bright BEADS and tinseled CHAINS for our tree. So, now if you could put those on the tree. Does it not seem that the beads are smiles that lead from one person to another? And the links of bright tinsel represent the deeds of kindness that link many human hearts in understanding and love.
Now on our tree we place SANTA CLAUS. So, now if you could put those on the tree. Here is the Spirit of giving, all dressed up in a red suit. We can express the spirit of Santa Claus in our giving, too. We can send love and a blessing along with our gifts.
We place on our tree a tiny white LAMB. So, now if you could put those on the tree. The lamb is a symbol of innocence and purity. It reminds us of the Good Shepherd who told His disciples, "Feed my sheep." As modern disciples, shall we give spiritual food to those who hunger for a better way of life?
Our tree needs a crowning touch. At the very top we place a shining STAR. What memories and thoughts that star brings to mind! We see the Wise Men who followed the star to Bethlehem, and we know that the light of the Bethlehem star still shines to guide men.
And now that the tree is trimmed, let us turn in thankfulness to the Father and know that: 'The star of God's light shines within each of us, to help us keep the Christmas Spirit through all the year.' May you have The Spirit of Christmas, which is Peace, The Gladness of Christmas, which is Hope, and The Heart of Christmas which is Love.
eBrené Brown Daring Greatly
fBrené Brown Daring Greatly
gCharles Fillmore Talks on Truth, p. 92