A Unity Lesson

I talk about my church, Unity Eastside, a great deal on this blog.  A few people have asked about Unity or made remarks about wishing they could find a church or minister like mine.  There are Unity churches all over the country.  If you visit their website you can see if there is a church near you.  Over the next year I am going to be teaching the kids at my church and Unity lesson plans are going to be on my mind a lot (particularly on Sundays).  I thought it might be nice to share some of those lessons here for anyone who wants to learn more about Unity.  So here goes my first such post…

Sunday morning,  I taught my first real lesson to the 5-8 graders in my group at church.  Our first unit of study is on the Unity Basics.  I find myself getting stumped when I try to explain the beliefs and ideals of my church to people so I am really excited about the opportunity to learn as I teach.  Although I feel that most of the time I live the Unity principles, I couldn’t quote them for you if you asked me.

Yesterday’s lesson was an introduction and overview of the 5 Basic Unity Principles.  They are as follows:

1.  There is only one Presence and one Power active as the universe and as my life.  God the Good.

2.  Our essence is of God, therefore we are inherently good.  This God essence was fully expressed in Jesus, the Christ.

3.  We are co-creators with God, creating reality through thoughts held in mind.

4.  Through prayer and meditation we align our heart-mind with God.  Denials and affirmations are tools we use.

5.  Through thoughts words and actions, we live the Truth we know.

The lesson quoted the scripture Matthew 7:24-27.  This is the section where Jesus talks about building your house on a foundation of rock verses sand.  The house built on rock withstands winds and floods, the house built on sand does not.

How does this relate to the 5 principles?  Well because in Unity, those principles are the rock on which we build our spiritual life.  Basically if we face difficult times in life and we know that at our core we are connected to God, that God is the only real power (Omnipotent), then we will take the time to get quiet and make that connection.  We will listen for the still small voice or the inspired idea that gives us the answers we need.  Another illustration of this is to imagine a lost child in a grocery store.  The child goes into full-on panic mode.  They are running, calling for their mom or dad as tears stream down their face.  But usually the minute an employee or helpful bystander stops them and reminds them their parents are still in the store and they will find them, they calm down.  If your spiritual life is built on the idea that God is always there and all you need to do is be still and experience it, life will run more smoothly and effortlessly.

The other very important aspect of this foundation that Unity offers is the idea of paying attention to your thoughts.  Like I’ve said in here before and it is also a song we sing at church…our thoughts are prayers.  Whatever we give our energy and belief to is created in our life with God’s help.  God is more or less the Super-Conscious.  If we give enough energy to a thought it goes from our conscious or unconscious mind out to God’s and pulls to us, like a magnet, whatever it is we are focused on.  So when your egoic mind (which is as close as you get to a Devil) is thinking crazy thoughts, it is good to say “No that’s not real” and replace the thought with something that brings you feelings of peace and love.

I’d say that the most important of these principles is number 1.  All we really need to know is that.  If that is where our thoughts lie, life will be easy breezy.  Even when things are tough you can get through.  The other principles, in my opinion, reiterate that one and give you tools that help you get to the place where you are living number 1 to its fullest.

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Catching Up

Aside from what  I wrote for Owning Pink, this is my first blog post after returning from our trip to visit family.  After three years we finally made it back up to Maryland to see my mother-in-law.   I have to admit I resisted the trip with everything in me.  As much as I wanted the girls to spend time with Grandma, it came down to me just NOT wanting to drive up there.  Three years ago we flew, but this time that just wasn’t in the cards.  In May,  after a lot of “flip-flopping” I made the final decision that we were NOT going to go.  I told Mark it was my decision and I would call his mother to inform her.  I knew she was going to be upset but I rationalized it all.  (There were a few more issues a long with the drive.)  Before I made the call I meditated and got very peaceful.  I set the intention to be open and loving and for our conversation to go smoothly.  It turned out to be one of the best conversations we’ve had in years.  We talked for an hour and a half and when I hung up the phone, I told her we couldn’t visit in August but we’d try our best to visit.  I listened to her with an open heart and she changed my mind.  Once we found out she wasn’t working in June we began to plan our trip.

We left on Wed. the 23rd at 4:15am and arrived at her house at 8:15pm.  We traveled with the girls and our two mini dachshunds and amazingly enough there were no problems at all.  I never imagined the drive could possibly be that peaceful, but it was.  The trip was great.  We went to Assateague Island one day.  The waves were rough and cold, but once I got used to it I tried out the boogie board.  To my surprise I was pretty good at it and as we were packing up a woman approached me and said she and her family had voted me “best wave rider” of the day.  Another day we went to the nearest zoo, which will be a whole other not-so-cheery blog post.  The girls reveled in their time with grandma and I did some reading and relaxing.

On the way back home we stopped in NC and stayed at my parents’ house for one night.  My sisters, one brother-in-law,  and nieces were all there to greet us.  We had a wonderful few hours of catching up before going to sleep and waking early to hit the road once more.  We made it home in the evening of the 29th.

Since we got back I spent the week preparing for a big event on July 4th.  Some of you may remember a blog post I wrote where I was considering volunteering to speak at Unity Eastside (my church).  July 4th was the day I chose for my talk.  I chose that day assuming everyone would be out of town, but to my surprise most people were in attendance.  So, I gave my first morning message to a full house and it went pretty well.  I learned that I can handle public-speaking just as well as public-writing.  Since the topic of my talk was “living the questions” I’m not going to try to figure out what will become of my new found ability.  Instead I’ll just peacefully wait to see what unfolds…

Thank you guys for sticking around while I was away.  I hope “fiction week” was entertaining enough.  I’ve got a few post ideas brewing, so hopefully I will get them out over these next two weeks!

Be Like A Child

I stopped going to church when I went to college.  I was finally own my own (sort of) and could make the decision without any consequences.  Except for a brief period where I visited and joined the church I would eventually get married at, I chugged a long without the assistance of ministers or Sunday school teachers.  I was happy with that decision, relieved even.  The battle I’d fought (inwardly if not outwardly) every Sunday was now non-existent.

For the most part the people in my life left me alone on matters of religion until I had a baby.  When Bella was born I started to hear “You need to find a church.  It is important for children to be raised in church.”  I didn’t know if they were right or wrong, I just knew I didn’t want to set foot in a church.  When I finally discovered and began attending Unity Eastside, some people were happy for my girls.  Others were not because Unity was not the right kind of church.

This week I started reading “The History of God” by Karen Armstrong.  While reading, this idea (from Jesus) came to mind:   “Unless you become like little children, you cannot know the meaning of Life, for your minds must be cleared of the falsehoods of this realm if you are to be taught Eternal Truth.” Another thought that came to mind was something my friend @darkwulfe stated in a comment a couple of weeks ago.  He said this:  “So just out of curiosity…would this support my theory that God did not create man in HIS image, but rather MAN creates god in HIS image? Would it not indicate that the concept of God is influenced by the ebb and flow of society? Just a thought :-)

I think that young children are about as close to God as you can get.  They are empty vessels, open channels.  They acknowledge the mystery and wonder in things.  They live and love like the only moment is now.  As time goes by they start to learn the ways of the world.  They begin to emulate the people that surround them.  We decide then that we must show them what is right.  We start to teach them about God, assuming they require our knowledge, without even considering they only recently emerged from God.   The problem that comes with this is that everyone has their own personal definition of God.  We create God in our image and then introduce him to our children.

These days, I take my daughters to church because they love church.  The people there are family to them.  The focus in our Unity church is a God of love.  That is what I want my girls to learn, whether they name it God or not.  I want to teach them love, compassion, and forgiveness.  I want my every action to represent those qualities.  I don’t want them living by the rules of an organization, but by the golden rule.  There are certain things I have to remind myself of.  I know that my girls are always watching me, even when I think they are not.  I don’t always get it right, which is of course why I can write about it here…because it is my lesson too.

The Feminine Energy

I am pretty certain that at some point in my life I believed God was a man living way off in the Heavens watching us.  He would judge our actions and answer our prayers accordingly.  The men that stood up and preached before the congregations of the churches I attended were an extension of God.  They were the voices that made real the rules of God.  The roles of women in those churches were limited to Sunday school teachers and secretaries.

In 2001 one of my best friends was married by a female minister.  I remember being surprised.  It had never occurred to me that a woman could not only be a leader in the church but could be the leader.  In 2007, I started attending Unity Eastside.  At the time of my first visit, Rev. Jean was returning to the “pulpit” after recovering from breast cancer.  It was the first time I’d listened to a female minister since my friend’s wedding.  I was unsure of what to expect and had to quiet the voices of my past that didn’t think it was the place for a woman.  Before the hour was up those voices were silenced for good as Rev. Jean was amazing.  Spiritually speaking, it was as if I was a tiny babe being cradled by my mother, fed warm milk, and lulled to sleep.  Instantly I was introduced to a whole new side of God.

I no longer believe that God is a man.  I believe God is a force that moves through everything.  This force consists of energies, both masculine and feminine.  At various times in history societies have emphasized just one of those sides.  There was a time when people worshipped the “Mother” God and only focused on the creative, nurturing, sensual, and loving energies.  Then of course there was a shift to the “Father” God.  That is the God I learned of as a girl.  This is the God who judges, sets standards, leads with a firm hand, and is all powerful.  At all times, the spiritual leaders represented whatever “God” the people worshipped.

It seems these days there is another shift happening.  I like to believe it is a movement towards the balance of these two energies.  I am finding there are many churches and spiritual organizations with women as their leaders.  Many of these women (like Rev. Jean) express the qualities in both the feminine and masculine faces of God.  Also more and more there are men leading churches and offering new messages of a loving and nurturing God.  I think we are taking strides to spiritual equality.  I think we are opening our hearts and minds to the idea that God is too big to be limited.  The all-powerful and always-present nature of God can not be contained, but moves through everyone and everything.  God’s message is too valuable to be withheld from half of the entire population just because they are not the preferred gender.

As a woman who is also a spiritual seeker I hope to continue to watch this shift.  I hope that the women who now believe that “rules” are being broken when a woman takes a leadership role in a church will begin to let go of those old beliefs.  I hope that women who feel they are being called by God will answer, instead of staying in the spiritual boxes their religious organizations have provided them with.   I believe God intends for his (I use the pronoun he/his/him because it’s less confusing) children to be brave and follow the path carved out for them even if it isn’t always easy.

2009 in Review

Today I got home from my trip to NC.  I didn’t do as much as I’d planned to on the trip (sorry if I flaked on you and you’re reading), but did get to spend time with my family, my best friends,  Amy’s mom and the baby boys.  We arrived home this evening two hours later than planned, thanks to some terrible traffic in SC and GA.  Mark just brought in the mail and something very special was in it.  Every 1st Sunday of the year at Unity Eastside, we write a letter to God describing the vision that we hope to create in our life for the year.  So I thought I’d share last year’s letter dated 1-4-09.

Dear God,

I set aside the little I and now focus on the big I.  I keep my mind on you, with you, and in you.  My life shows forth that which you have planned for me.  I am an instrument and I am fulfilling your purpose for me.  I am propelled to do that which is of service to others and is directed by you.  Thank you, thank you, thank you!  I am aware and awake.  My life is in you.

Leslee

I was a bit surprised to read the letter.  I remembered it being more of a “surrendering to the plan” rather than setting goals for myself, but it was still interesting to read almost a year after writing it.  I don’t think I’ve been successful at setting aside the little I (the ego) as much as I’d hoped.  This year has certainly had it’s share of drama and I’ve let myself get caught up in it at times.  I do think that so much of what has happened this year has been a part of the plan and I feel like I am following an inner guidance that, despite how it feels at times, has everything in control.

I plan to write a similar letter this year (despite lots of “resolutions” that I may write about tomorrow).  The best thing I can do for myself is to just let go of the wheel.

A lot has happened this year.  I’ve healed and made stronger some relationships, while others have experienced blows.  I’ve dealt with the death of one of my oldest and dearest friends, but was able to hold her baby boys just two days ago.  I started this blog and have exposed my inner thoughts, gone out on a limb, and stepped on a few toes along the way.  I’ve learned both easy and hard lessons here.  I’ve met some amazing writers and bloggers who inspire me daily.  I’ve continued to ask questions and take notice when the answers present themselves to me.  I have been incredibly human and also had beautiful moments in communion with God.  I’ve reminded myself far too often to “be present” and stop thinking about the past and the future!  Mostly I’ve tried to be the instrument as often as I can.  If even one person received something from my words or my deeds this year than I succeeded in that!

Happy New Year everyone!  Have fun tonight and be safe…

Namaste

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The common definition I have been given for the greeting “Namaste” is “the light in me greets the light in you.”  That “light” is the spark of divinity within all of us.  It is also called our Christ Consciousness.  I’d say it was a huge moment in my life receiving this information.  I am not just this human body and mind, but within me lies a light and that light is God.  My view of life has not been the same since.

I am grateful to have found an amazing church that is supportive and encouraging of the search for truth.  I go to church not to gather with friends (although they are an amazing group of people) or out of duty or obligation, but for spiritual food.  Some Sundays I stay home because my nourishment that day is meant to come from loving time with my family, time in nature, or reading spiritual literature.  But most Sunday’s I feel a pull to go.  It never fails that when I respond to that pull and show up, I receive “my message.”

Today I received a few messages, but the most important one came in a song.  From time to time our music director will have us sing the song “The Face of God.”  This particular song, I believe, expresses the same sentiment as the greeting “Namaste.”  The lyrics are as follows:

You are the face of God.

I hold you in my heart.

You are a part of me.

You are the face of God.

Usually after 2 verses of the song, we are asked to turn toward someone next to us, look into their eyes, and sing the song to them.  I will admit that often this is an uncomfortable feeling.  I think it has a lot to do with the quote I posted yesterday.  It is hard for us to accept our own divinity.  Many of us have had lifetimes of being told we are miserable sinners.  We also have a difficult time truly connecting with other people on a soul level.  So to look in the eyes of someone you either don’t know or don’t know well and acknowledge their spark is quite the challenge.  Today when the song started, I felt a bit nervous.  Who would I sing to and how would it feel?namaste welcome

When it came time to find a neighbor, the friend sitting next to me had stepped out.  I turned around and saw a visitor, who was there with her daughter.  The woman was probably in her 80’s.  I reached for her hand and looked into her eyes as I sang the song.  She had beautiful blue eyes and I watched as they welled up with tears.  By the end of the verse the tears were streaming down her cheeks.  Her daughter looked at her and began to cry as well, then I also began to choke up.  It was a beautiful moment.  We had gone past the superficial level and experienced the true meaning of “Namaste.”

I put this video up so you could listen to the song if you want to.  Hearing it gives a little more meaning to the post.  It seems the video must have been put together in the aftermath of Katrina as it contains a lot of those images.

Book Give-Away #2

When I first started attending Unity Eastside, I asked the minister to recommend a good book for me to read.  She recommended “Discover the Power Within You” by Eric Butterworth.  She described it as “The Secret but with Jesus.”  It is one of my favorites, I’ve read it about 6 times.  This book was the one I would always go back to when I was short on new reading material.  Butterworth is a Unity minister and author.  His insight into Jesus’ teachings is really very fascinating and helpful.  It’s been over a year since I picked it up, so I thought it was time to pass it on.  I also have noticed a few people have found my blog by searching “Eric Butterworth.”

Please comment on this post to be entered.  I will put all the names in a hat and pull one out at 9pm (eastern time) on Saturday, September 5th.  I will announce the winner on Sunday the 6th.

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