Friday, April 20, 2018

Honoring Mother Earth

This coming Sunday, April 22, is Earth Day!

National Geographic WILD wants you and me to see what a wonderful world we live in.

Maybe if we have more appreciation for our Mother Earth we will take better care of her.
We, as a species, have not been doing a very good job so far.

Did you know that plastics were invented in 1907? It seems that they have been around forever.

So here we are celebrating 100 years of the Science of Mind and 101 years of living with plastics.

When I was a kid, plastics bags were regularly re-used. My mom and grandmother could see how useful they were for storing food and taking lunches to school. We would wash and dry them, then turn the bags inside out and with a clothes pin hang them on the line. Later when I was a young, newly-married woman I took for granted all the time-saving conveniences. I was a typical consumer. When the lids no longer fit my plastic containers, I would throw them in the trash. (That was before we learned about recycling.) I believed that there would always be enough room in the dump and besides which we regularly burned our household trash. Throwing a "good" plastic bag was unthinkable unless it was unusable.

Unfortunately, that is no longer the case.

However, plastics is a huge issue. The story of three plastic bottles below:



After watching a few videos about plastics, I am committed to start refusing when I am offered any kind of plastic from bags and bottles to cups and clothing. I may need to recycle my tennis shoes. I already take reusable bags with me when I am shopping.

I also intend to watch the National Geographic Special on Sunday night so I can be reminded of the beautiful world in which we live.

I intend to be better at the commandment to honor my mother.


Friday, April 13, 2018

Taking Things Personally

Last Saturday afternoon, in preparation for my Sunday message, I re-watched some of Brene Brown's work. I love her vulnerability, her authenticity. The title of Brown's Daring Greatly book came from an inspirational Theodore Roosevelt's Man in the Arena speech:
 "It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.
The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause;
who at best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who, at worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly..." 
Brown went on to say that she used to pray that the critics would not be present when she spoke, but realized that that is a coward's action. So she plans for them to be there. She mentally gives them a seat in her arena. She says she always includes her biggest critic, herself.

I thought it was a great idea. But an idea that would take courage and confidence.

Last Sunday, in my preparation, I invited the critics, including myself into the sanctuary. (Sanctuaries, unlike arena, are supposed to be places of safety.)

It was very freeing. I felt more spontaneous than ever.

I felt as if I were sharing important spiritual principles.

I got a lot of positive feedback.

And then, Monday morning I received an anonymous note that said, "I didn't understand a word that was spoken."

I was crushed! Even though, I had consciously invited the critics to be present for my message, I really didn't expect them to show up.

What could I do? What I did was try to ignore it. (I do believe that anonymous notes are poison darts that the writer knows are poisonous!)

I attempted to become aware of who would have written it. (And I justified my choices by making the listener wrong!) Neither of these "solutions" would have moved me forward in consciousness.

Then finally, I received the gift. Of all the feedback I could have received, this was a very gentle one.
(Thank you, Divine Mind, for bringing my demonstration in a gentle way.)

So I needed to ask myself, what can I learn about myself regarding the feedback?

I am still discovering things. First, the universe always responds when I plant a seed in Divine Mind. Second, instead of feeling resistant and defensive, I could choose to watch the talk and see for myself how I could have communicated more clearly. (The truth is, I rarely watch myself because I am so self-critical. And I usually don't stop with the content of the message but also include anything else I feel self-conscious about --- my hair, my clothing, my waistline, my facial appearance, my movements, etc. So I finally made a decision to pray first and then to re-watch the video.

Again, I encountered resistance. (Maybe I didn't really want to watch it!)

I was waiting at home for a delivery and decided that watching the service would be the best use of my time. First, I tried to get the service to play on my computer. It took a little time to find it. Then I could see it, but there wasn't any sound. Next I tried my iPad. With it, I couldn't even find our website. Finally, after I charged my phone for awhile, I played the whole service on the phone.

I saw a woman (me) who was having fun with her message. I did understand most words that I used but I could see how someone might not have been able to understand them. Yes, it could have been clearer. I could have told the listeners what I intended to say, then said it, then told them what I said. I did not do that. But it wasn't terrible. Louise Hay gave the best advice about becoming a better speaker. She would gently say to herself, "Louise, that was pretty good for your first talk, and your next one will be even better!"

The ultimate learning comes from realizing that there will always be critics and that all I can do is the best I can do.

That is all any of us can do.

.

Friday, April 6, 2018

Glimpsing Heaven on Earth

Last Sunday night, I watched the television live concert performance of  Jesus Christ Superstar featuring Brandon Victor Dixon, John Legend, Sara Bareilles and many other very talented musicians. I was touched and inspired by the music and hearing the entire musical. Like all of you, I knew the story. I was moved to tears by a song sung by Mary Magdalene (Sara Bareilles) and the Disciple Peter (Jason Tam) called "Could We Start Again Please." It is sung first by Mary and then by Peter, after Jesus has been arrested but before his crucifixion. It is a song about wanting a second chance, a common theme for us human beings. The lyrics are:
Mary:"I've been living to see you
Dying to see you but it shouldn't be like this
This was unexpected
What do I do now
Could we start again please?
I've been hopeful so far
Now for the first time I think we're going wrong
Hurry up and tell me this is just a dream
Oh, could we start again please?"

Peter: "I think you've made your point now
You've even gone a bit too far to get the message home
Before it gets too frightening
We ought to call a halt
So could we start again please?"
 Evidently this number was in the original Broadway play. I must not have been ready to hear its beauty because I don't remember it at all. (And we used the music from Superstar every year for many years as our Palm Sunday message and experience.) On Sunday evening, this performance was definitely a place where I experienced the divine. I heard God. I saw God. The relative and the Absolute were dancing through each other.

When I contemplate how Jesus' disciples must have felt when he was arrested, beaten, tortured and crucified, my heart breaks. Moreover, I think there is a universal sense of wanting a "do-over," when we realize that our relationships, or our circumstances, are heading toward an ending that we didn't anticipate or desire. (I believe this is the genius of lyricists like Tim Rice, who was able transform our opinion about Judas, the synonym for betrayal as well as elicit feelings of empathy for Jesus,  Mary Magdalene and the rest of the disciples.) We know the power of words to transform. The right and perfect music helps deliver the message.

I recently read an interesting article by  Eric Weiner, who introduced me to "Thin Places." He says, "Thin places are locales where the distance between heaven and earth collapses and we are able to catch glimpses of the divine, or the transcendent or, as I like to think about it, the Infinite Whatever." He went on to explain that thin places are places in which one would have an experience of non-sequential time. Some people describe it as an intensity, not necessarily tranquil, where the power and the beauty of the Divine are experienced. He writes that in thin places we "are jolted out of old ways of seeing the world."

In his article in the New York Times, Weiner mentions places  like Iona, a small island off  the western coast of Scotland. He also mentions sacred sites like St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican City, and the Blue Mosque in Istanbul. But he stated that thin places may be something as conventional as an airport. He states that not everybody will feel the sacred in his "thin places." In fact the same place may seem thick to another person. He concludes his article with the idea that perhaps the whole world is thin and that we are too thick to recognize it. He concludes: "Maybe thin places offer glimpses of heaven on earth as it really is, unencumbered. Unmasked."

Last Sunday I glimpsed heaven on earth watching Jesus Christ Superstar. If you saw it, let me know how you felt about it.