Pray....And Things Happen!
Please welcome a dear friend and our guest blogger, Bill Groves, M.Div.! Bill received his B.S. in Psychology from St. Meinrad Seminary in Indiana, then completed four years post graduate work in theology, counseling, and pastoral studies at St. Francis School of Pastoral Ministry in Milwaukee where he earned his M.Div. Bill was ordained a Catholic Priest in 1980 and continued in that for ten years in Colorado, working almost exclusively with people of Native American and Hispanic culture. In 1990, he left active priesthood and began working in his home state of Oklahoma as a licensed drug and alcohol counselor. He is currently and happily the Office Manager of The Spiritual Light Center in Franklin, NC, where he has lived since 2012. We think you will enjoy his perspective.
What is it about this time of year that turns our hearts to hope? I mean, really… I look outside and I still see a gray sky and utterly barren trees. And yet, at the first sight of a little dandelion poking its sunny, yellow little head out of the decaying leaves all of a sudden my heart leaps with visions of the spring to come. It’s like the cold breeze suddenly feels warmer!
By far one of my favorite written passages about hope comes from the New Testament. I find it thoroughly profound in many ways. In Hebrews 11 Paul is recorded as saying “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” For me, that summarized the teaching of New Thought spirituality. To phrase it only slightly differently, “Our firm belief is what causes the manifestation of that for which we hope. It provides the clear evidence on a physical plane of that which we cannot yet see.” The brilliance of Dr. Ernest Holmes has some very old, deep roots.
The manifestation of what we hope for is rooted in firmly believing that what we do not yet physically see, what we desire, is “seen” as evidenced, visualized, before us. Receiving what we need is based on focusing our thought on the substance, the evidence by faith, of what we require. Effective treatments (or prayer) are not achieved by pleading hopelessly as we focus on our lack. Law of Attraction 101.
So why doesn’t the Law of Attraction work for everybody? Some folks tell me they’re really praying and what they seek isn’t materializing. Clear failure of the Universal Laws. I don’t think so! It is my personal belief, and hardly farfetched, that the unconditional love and provision of God is a universal Source, not a particular, fickle response to the individual or their assumed worthiness. The Sun shines equally on everyone. The fact, I believe, is that we DO get what we hope for. Hope and belief are always substantiated and evidenced in everyone’s life. Unfortunately, in some people’s lives, hope has been corrupted or derailed by past experience we don’t let go of.
Our first and most foundational experience of building hope, faith, and trust that we will receive what we need occurs when we are children and dependent on our parents or guardians. If we perceived that the people we relied on could not be trusted to provide our basic needs (emotional, personal safety, stability, fairness, respect, etc) then it would have been likely for us to spiral into a pattern of unbelief, refusing to trust or hope that we should trust and hope. We’d just get hurt and disappointed again. This can lead to bitterness over time. Some caught in this trap might batten down our emotional doors and develop characteristics that appear harsh, negative or abrasive. We can even manifest self-fulfilling prophecies of failure and loss to reinforce the untrustworthy world view we have become accustomed to. What we want, hope for, or expect may not be the good stuff. And that’s what we get.
If we are on a spiritual path of any sort we will eventually become aware of these self-defeating traits and begin to work on them. There’s almost always a very sensitive person beneath that armor or the armor wouldn’t have been crafted in the first place. However, becoming more socially and personally open does not immediately heal the inner core of having lost our ability to hope. That requires diving more deeply into the wound and opening to the Universe.
Hope is not just hoping “for something”. Hope is a state of being; a state that is sadly lacking in our world of instant media blasting us with “evidence” that we should be afraid. It seems clear, at least to me, that the opposite of hope is not the lack of hope. The opposite of hope is fear. Simply because we put on a tough persona doesn’t mean we are fearless. Hardly! That tough persona is the clearest evidence of fear. Just like I would remove a suit of armor piece by piece, I can only let down my guard of fears a little bit at a time. If I have been wise enough to surround myself with supportive people and I let those defenses down in a safe environment, I will slowly learn that the “war” is over and I can begin to hope and trust again. It’s not so much that I am hoping in something particular. It is more that I am opening myself to the ability to hope, allowing myself to dwell in a state of hopefulness.
OK, now back to the Law of Attraction for a moment. Why does it fail so miserably for some people?? Well, of course it doesn’t. We get what we hope for. It is always true that “faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Just like the unconditional Love of God and the Law of Attraction, these things are unwaveringly, equally true for every eternal soul in existence. Just like our Creator, they cannot fail. What can fail is our ability to hope. It may have been wounded long ago, or not so long ago. It is that wound, most certainly rooted in fear, that must be lifted up to the Source of Love. That Love alone can heal us. Love casts out all fear. As I stand in the light of love, fear evaporates. It is no longer needed. I will no longer perceive fear.
On Sunday, April 1, we celebrate Easter. Due to my own religious background Easter is for me a riotous celebration of Hope. Not accidentally, Easter is always celebrated in the spring, the first Sunday after the first full moon following the spring equinox. It is Life overcoming the cycle of Death. Alright, so what if when I look out the window I still see a gray and barren winter? In my faith I see the substance of spring hoped for. What is not yet seen is evidenced in my heart, and because of this I am able to walk in an Eternal Spring, the very state of Resurrection. It is not a single, isolated event. Hope and Resurrection are a way of life because I choose to see it and live it. My youth was hardly all roses growing up a gay addict in the Oklahoma ‘50’s. Not a cake walk. But I do NOT choose to remain there. It is my decision to live in the light and freedom of Hope. Because of this I see around me the substance and evidence of life and joy. That is resurrection, and I don’t chose to die again.
How busy are you these days preparing for the holidays? Do you have a "to do" list a mile long? Are you shopping till you drop? How about entertaining? Are you planning a party at home or at work? Are you rehearsing for choir or other activities at church? Are you planning for guests or travel over the holidays? Have you put up and trimmed your tree? How about decorating the house and the yard? You are probably a very busy person, as most of us are this time of year!
We keep hearing people in conversation or in the media talking about the "true meaning of Christmas," and, of course, this varies with your beliefs. But it also has to do with that "to do" list and how you spend your precious time. So many people are so busy DOING CHRISTMAS they forget about the true meaning of Christmas--BEING CHRISTMAS!
How can we BE CHRISTMAS instead of DOING CHRISTMAS? How can we express the joy and peace and love that this season brings? How can we let the Christ Spirit be born anew in us? Any ideas?
For me, I plan to stop amid the hustle and bustle of the season and just listen to the sounds of silence instead of all the noise. I intend to look at nature and see its bounty and look into the eyes of people and see the Christ Light shining there. I shall smell the fresh scent of the fir trees and of cookies baking in the oven. I will feel the gentle touch of my animals and feel their hot breath on my skin. I will savor the taste of hot chocolate and candy canes and enjoy the sensation.
Let's consciously use all the senses God has given us to experience in depth the Christmas gifts all around us.
Let's stop amid the chaos and confusion to give the gifts that really count.
Let's be still and give thanks for remembering the true meaning of Christmas!
GOD IS BLESSING YOU NOW, AND SO ARE WE!
One of my favorite songs to sing begins,
"There's a light emanating from my spirit,
a white light shining from my soul,
and the light emanating from my spirit,
is the light that's making me whole."
I sing it with gusto, with enthusiasm, and with conviction, because I believe it. I have experienced it--not just in myself but in others.
Today with my trio Blissing, we performed "You Can't Be A Beacon If Your Light Don't Shine," another song with power and conviction of an inner reality. There is one line in the chorus that goes, "There's a little light in all of us by God's design." That light shines from within when we let it, when we take off the blinders that keep out the light and keep us from seeing the light all around us. You see, my friends, we live in our own light, in each other's light, and in God's light, because we are all One.
So even if your light seems a little dim sometimes, our lives are always illuminated with the truth of our connection with the Divine in ourselves and in others. I remember from my early days in an Episcopalian church hearing the priest say right before the offertory, "Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify the father in heaven." Now my theology has changed, but the idea stays eternal: there's a little light in all of us, and our task is to LET IT SHINE!
As I sit to write this on the
afternoon of April 21st, my already somber heart saddens even more. On
this sunny spring day that for the first time this year feels warm even
in the shadows, I grapple with dark emotions brought on by two deaths.
One of them a creative icon known to all, the other a relatively unknown
painter. One I never met, the other I’ve know all my life. One death
took the world by surprise, the other not unexpected. Within a 36 hour
span of time I experienced the deaths of music genius Prince, and
commercial painter Reginald Carter, my grandfather.
Death has seen fit to make itself
known to my family with fairly alarming frequency this past year. Over
the past ten months we’ve lost my wife Jennifer, my aunt Olivia, and now
my grandfather. They were in their forties, sixties, and nineties
respectively. Sometimes it feels like I’m stuck in the feelings of
unfairness and loss. The truth is, they never really go away. Every new
loss compounds the previous losses. Under normal circumstances, I would
have been saddened by the news of Prince’s sudden death. His music
touched the lives of so many. Those of us of a certain age remember
where we were when we heard Purple Rain for the first time… and not just
the song, but the whole album! But today I feel uncharacteristically
deep profound sadness about the passing of a celebrity I never knew, and
I know it’s because of the losses that preceded his.
In the midst of ongoing grief, the
edges of my despair are softened. Not so much by the passage of time,
but by certain perennial truths that inform my way of being. For
example, I take comfort in knowing that they still exist. I am not
necessarily referring to the mysterious undefined afterlife. I mean in
the here and now. We may no longer experience the physical presence of
those who died, but we still feel their presence nonetheless. It may in
real feelings of love, tangible possessions, images, and memories. My
grandfather was the first person who let me drive. I could not have been
more than seven or eight as I sat in his lap and steered his pickup
truck down pot-holed roads.
Another truth is that, when we stop to
think about it, this complex tapestry we call life leaves us with no
surprises. We know there will be peaks and valleys, loves and losses,
life and death. How we navigate these depends on how well we know
ourselves, and our Divine nature. When we walk through life from a
higher/expanded level of consciousness, our emotions take a back seat to
a deeper realization...that everything, yes everything, is an
opportunity for deeper knowing of and connection with God. If we let it.
The pain of loss is a force that we can use to our benefit. Rather than
letting it squeeze us shut, we can allow it to break us open so that we
plumb the endless depths of our spirit.
From my experience over the
last few months, it would seem that we can only begin to grasp the
fullness of love in both life and death. The void created by loss has to
be filled, and if we choose love, it not only fills us but helps us
grow beyond our previously perceived capacities.
This takes time though, and being
aware of the journey doesn’t make it a smooth one. Prepare for the fits
and starts of transformation through grief. In a few days I will go home
to help bury my grandfather. Family of all ages will gather and relive
his finest moments, keeping his spirit alive for generations. And today I
will play my Prince favorites.
It may be a sunny day, but all I see is Purple Rain.
What is there to grieve but a longing in the soul for unfulfilled dreams...for passion unexpressed...for unrequited love? We grieve for what we have loved and lost or never had at all. We pine for unperceived knowledge and glory. We grieve, knowing this, too, shall pass, even as we linger in our pain.
Can we gloss over, manage, or even skip grief entirely? Can we drown it in our tears or deny its existence? Can we will ourselves to overcome it and get on with life? Or is grief part of being human?
Grief, like every other human emotion built into our earthly body suit is a touchstone, a rite of passage into maturity. Without grief, how do we measure the depth of our love? When my husband and served as hospice chaplains in and around Santa Fe, NM, we visited one man on the first anniversary of the death of his beloved wife. As we spoke, I asked if the pain of her passing was lessening. He replied, "No. Every day I give thanks that some pain remains, because it reminds me of how deeply we loved each other. I'm afraid if the pain goes away, so will the memory of the love we shared."
Grief helps us develop compassion for ourselves and others. It causes us to pause and acknowledge our connections with each other in this human experience of life. Grief joins us in the shared experience of feelings, doubts, and questions. Grief assures us that we are not alone but are connected across time and space with others. As I traced my own ancestry across many centuries down to the present time, I discovered that women in earlier times often gave birth to many children during their fertile years, but more children died during birth or from disease than survived. Something in me felt a deep grief in empathy for my predecessors. For a moment I felt a visceral response to their pain; then I felt numb. I realize I still carry their pain of loss across centuries of time whenever I see children who are sick or hungry around the world. We share our grief for hundreds of years through our spiritual DNA.
Grief is a journey through the dark night of the soul. We learn from it and we carry its memories with us as we emerge again and again into the bright light of love and compassion. Grief changes us and leaves its stigmata to remind us of the depth of our wisdom and experience; it gives us the strength and courage to follow our path. Grief is a worthy companion and guide for overcoming and incorporating the vicissitudes of life on this planet as a human spiritual being.
Fall in love with yourself? As songstress Whitney Houston sang, "the greatest love of all is deep inside of me." And it's inside of you, too. People are always looking outside of themselves to find love. Everyone needs love; it is essential to growing up living a healthy life.
Our parents, teachers, and ministers forget to tell us that
WE ARE LOVE ourselves. We are made in the image and likeness of a Creator who is the essence of love. Life may deal us difficult conditions, but once we know that we are love, we can choose to meet whatever comes to us with love.
I clearly remember when Rev. Jim Rosemergy, a Unity minister, said that the only love you'll ever feel is the love that flows forth from you. What a transformational concept. WE ARE LOVE, AND WE HAVE TO EXPRESS THAT LOVE TO FEEL IT AND ACT FROM IT IN OUR LIVES!
So, what next? How do you use this idea? In order to feel the love that we already are, you have to put it to work in everything you do, from grocery shopping, to errand running, even to big decision making. Will you be perfect at first? Probably not, if you're living in a human body. You can begin making it a habit to pause before every reaction in your day and choose to respond with love. It may change your response, which is better than reacting in a knee-jerk answer. As you practice coming from love, the habit will grow and you will notice changes in the love you feel yourself and in the way others respond to you. Falling in love and expressing the love that you are brings hidden treasures in your life.
AFFIRM: I AM LOVE, AND I EXPRESS THAT LOVE IN EVERYTHING I THINK,
SAY AND DO.
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Today, Pathfinders meets a fork in the road, and a path will be chosen. Or will it?
If we go to the left, what will we encounter? If we take the fork to the right, will it matter?
Today, Pathfinders will hold its first Sunday Gathering. Does that make it a church? Must we adopt certain beliefs to attend? What about another place I go to? Do I have to switch allegiance? The answer to each of these questions is NO!
Pathfinders was not formed be a church with a building and a staff and a creed one must recite. Rather, Pathfinders is a supportive spiritual system of people who know that Spirit lives witin them...people who are committed to a spiritual life, whatever form that may take...people who are open and accepting and growing....people who desire to express more of Spirit in their lives.
You are a Pathfinder if you know that spirituality is an important component to your life...if you love and accept others and encourage them on their paths....if you know spirituality is an inside job.
Our purpose at Pathfinders is to reveal to people their own inherent spiritual nature and to encourage them to express that in the world. Our world needs each and every soul now present on the planet to discover, explore and express the Spirit Within them, because without that the picture of our wholeness is complete. As Ram Dass said, "We're all just walking each other home."
Pathfinders seek universal truth wherever it is found---in the words of Jesus, Buddha, Great Spirit, Allah, just to name a few. We take those truths inside of ourselves and contemplate and meditate upon them. If our inner guidance is such that this is a truth for us to incorporate in our own lives for the betterment of all, then we put it into practice.
Our gifts come in many forms: healing, prayer, creative arts, visual arts, hospitality, study, writing.....and others. Each of these gifts are given so that we can bless the world. Your gift is essential; it is critical that you nurture and develop it so we can once more come into our wholeness.
Master Teacher Jesus told us that greater things than he did, we would do. Now is the time to bring that prophecy into fruition with the love and support of each other.
We will gather today, and some of us will take one fork in the road and some will take the other. It doesn't matter, for we walk in Spirit and in Truth, knowing all roads eventually converge once more in our Oneness.
Hoping to see you there on Sundays at 4 pm at Jongo Java Coffeehouse on Main Street in Hendersonville, NC. If you cannot be there in person, please hold us in the light of love and laughter.
ANNOUNCING: COFFEEHOUSE SPIRITUALITY ON SUNDAYS AT 4 PM!
Beginning June 7, we'll be gathering at Jongo Java Coffeehouse, the best coffee shop in Hendersonville, NC, at 4 pm, for a little music, a little meditation, a little reflections and discussion.
As with everything Pathfinders does, we include all people of every creed (or no creed), race, age, gender, color, lifestyle....and any we've left out...to join us.
Our purpose is to offer an opportunity to a larger population to discover and explore the Spirit within them and in each other. It doesn't matter what you call God--i call it Dear One--or if you follow Jesus, Buddha, Krishna, Mohammed or any avatar/leader/savior. What matters is that it's time for everyone to recognize that the Divine Spirit lives and breathes in everyone and to honor that in every way.
Let's erase the boundaries, blow up the box, blur the lines, and love and respect each other. It's all good. It's all God. It's in everyone of us!
Pass the word along.....until even the rocks cry out!
At our PATH CHAT this morning, we talked about times when we have felt fear. We shared stories, we looked at what kinds of fears we have experienced, and then came the question: IS FEAR REAL?
We noticed that our fears were either external or internal and usually originated with something in childhood, however we wondered if humans are hard-wired for fear and whether or not experiencing it is optional.
FEAR has been metaphysicalized by many people and groups of people. One school teaches that it is FALSE EVIDENCE APPEARING REAL. While I love acronyms, this doesn't do it for me, because I ask, If I can feel FEAR, then isn't it real? If I feel LOVE, isn't that real? How do the two, then, differ?
One person in our PATH CHAT described FEAR as "the absence of LOVE," and that has real power for me. Rather than wondering if FEAR is real, I can choose to replace it--whatever it is or isn't--with LOVE, and I know that LOVE is real. I chose to think of the key word here as FAITH, since I have faith in the power of LOVE. Whatever feels, looks, or sounds like FEAR, can be transformed to LOVE. I have FAITH that this is so.
A great spiritual teacher, Peace Pilgrim, proved time again that her FAITH in God's protection under many trying and dangerous circumstances brought LOVE, not FEAR. She withstood the elements, attackers, poverty, and isolation, but always relied on her FAITH to replace FEAR with LOVE.
Can we do the same? Of course, we can. Peace Pilgrim is no braver than any of us who have chosen different paths than hers. The task is simple: our choice must always be forLOVE, not FEAR, and knowing our power and capability to choose rightly strengthens our FAITH.
I am looking out my living room window and I see the trees, some close and some farther out, dancing in the wind. When I was a child, I thought the trees were creating the wind by pushing the trees around. Now I know that it is the wind blowing the trees around--just the opposite of what I thought I knew.
God is like the wind: we see God's effects all around us, but we may not see the way God works in the world, in us, and in all creation. The creative force of good in the world, which I call God, is always a mystery, and I want it to stay that way. I am not interested in a God that can be defined and confined by the wits of humans. My soul longs to know the unknowable, the ineffable, the ever-expanding nature of God.
I only know one way to begin to know God beyond the box that religion has constructed. That is meditation and exploration of the God that lives within each of us. It requires us to be disciplined, to be committed, and to be curious. AND, it means we have to be conscious of that Holy Spirit within us so we can begin to know the edges of God, who is without edges.
Have you seen the wind?
Have you seen God?
Where are you looking?
There are many reasons to meditate and many benefits.