Tag Archives: faith

Are You Ready?

23 Dec

It is 3 days before Christmas, preparations are well underway. Houses are decorated, kids are out of school, and traffic around anywhere that shopping happens has become a test of patience. I hear a familiar refrain wherever I go “Are you ready?” There is, as the song goes, “parties for hosting, marshmallows for toasting, and caroling out in the snow.”

I’ve always (at least in my mind) responded, well, ready or not, Christmas will come and I don’t HAVE to do anything except be present. Growing up Christmas was usually just our family. It was this way in part by design and in part because my extended family lived states away. This was normal for me and it worked. My favorite parts of Christmas was the candlelight service and our Advent ritual. The one year we had Christmas a couple days early because of weather taught me that good results can come from being flexible (after I was quite resistant to the idea.) My mom, being a super mom, did of course manage to get the message to Santa and we got an early delivery.

In my twenties I moved far away from my family and got to make new traditions. All of this to say, when someone asks me if I’m ‘ready’ for Christmas I kinda shrug.

Because to me being ready for Christmas doesn’t have much to do with buying presents, preparing food, traveling places, or the exact right kind of chocolate (I’m looking at you Christmas with the Kranks).

To me Christmas is about preparing my heart to be filled with the Joy of the remembrance of the divinity within myself. Christmas is about witnessing humanity remembering each other and reaching hands across imaginary lines used the rest of the year to divide. Christmas is about lifting my voice and my hands in song to celebrate the rebirth of the light in the darkest time of the year, and remembering that it is within each being. Christmas is about sharing love and memories with our dear ones, and making new memories.

I am not saying that Christmas can’t also be the things that make it special and fun for others. I got my picture with Santa this year and there are presents under my tree. But those things are not required for me to be ‘ready’.

A heart filled with Faith, Peace, Love, and Joy. That is all I will ever really need.

Yes, I am ready.

PS As a minister of a church being ‘ready’ does take on a few more tasks than it has in the past, but I wouldn’t want it any other way.

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2015 Christmas Tree

Positive (all the time?)

19 Jun

The other day I was chatting with someone I hadn’t seen in a while who I know casually. We were catching up and I was telling her about the interesting possibilities I’m nurturing. She looked at me quizzically:

“Are you always this positive?”

Hmmm. Good question. My first response, “I have practiced” my second response, “I have a good friend who is very sick and other things like that on my mind, but it cannot be the story I’m always telling.”

I have heard criticism of Unity for being a happy feel-good religion. Which I think is a laugh, as I feel it’s far far from it, though I have heard the feel-good sermons cover-it-over affirmations. Unity to me is about personal responsibility. About acknowledging the shadowy parts, taking them out and making friends with the hidden depths. Honestly seeing your part in your world and life and taking action to heal, improve, reconcile, and make amends.

This kind of authenticity is not the norm for our society. Numbing out feelings so fear, unworthiness, sadness etc so they don’t have to be experienced also numbs joy, love, and connection. This according to the research of social researcher Brene Brown and my own observation. She also says that “in order for connection to happen, we have to allow ourselves to be seen.” And to do this we must allow ourselves to be venerable.

I was so happy when I came upon her TED talks (see below) because it made so much sense to me and her she had real data!

You see, I live in this world of fullness that she describes. So when someone asks me if I’m always this positive, the answer is usually yes. I can live in the place of sadness about the imminent demise someone I care deeply about and still be very excited about the interesting opportunities unfolding before me. I strive to be present to the people and feelings that are here now. I don’t have a positive spin to place on this loved ones death, except that there is no more pain or suffering.

While it can mean these things, being positive or optimistic doesn’t mean you are faking it, inauthentic, or clueless. Being optimistic means that with the cards I have, I am doing the best I know and also knowing through faith that the cards I need will show up.

It means loving deeply knowing that people and relationships are not permanent. Boldly following dreams when the path is not clear. It means saying yes when your heart says yes even if your head says no. Garth Brooks sings in The Dance:

“Our life, is better left to chance, I could have missed the pain, but I’d a had to miss, the Dance.”

So I will dive in, knowing I’ll get hurt sometimes. I will be stubbornly optimistic, I will love, I will dance, I will follow dreams and cheer you in following yours.

And yes, I will cry. My tears will keep my heart soft, ready to love again.

Pilgrims

12 Nov

The Pilgrim season is winding down now that fall is really kicking in. What you say? Thanksgiving is still 2 weeks away!

yeah sure of course… That’s not the kind of Pilgrims I’m talking about.

I’m talking about the folks who make a pilgrimage to Unity Village.

In my role at the Unity Village bookstore I meet a lot of the people who have ‘just arrived.’ Their stories range from ‘last time I was here was 30 years ago’ to ‘I have been getting daily word for years and I was in Kansas City on vacation’ or the very popular ‘I’ve been going to Unity for 20 years and have always wanted to visit.’ These are the stories I hear every day, and I love it every time. I love sharing Unity Village and telling them the insider places to visit.

This week I’ve met two folks whose stories are different than the above ones, though not unusual. Neither of these folks had any idea they would be standing in my presence at the Village a week or even a couple of days before they were here. Since I don’t have permission to share their stories, I will tell you in general that they both had choice points, major life kind of stuff, and they followed their gut/wisdom/spirit. When they made that choice they both had another choice, which brought them each to Unity Village.

People come here for all sorts of reasons, to be healed, to learn, to find themselves, to teach, to ‘go apart for a while’. Sometimes people don’t know why they are here. (And there is of course the folks who are looking for the retirement village down the road)

I enjoy all the pilgrims, I love their excitement to be here, their wide-eyed wonder. But I do have a favorite. They are the ones who have taken a leap of faith to show up here. Maybe it’s taking a huge step to authenticity and accepting an invitation, maybe it’s moving here because once you visit you have to stay, maybe it’s taking a class though your calling to leadership scares the bejezus out of you.

It is always a compelling story, I am inspired by these fresh faith-filled folks. Maybe my preference for them is because they remind me of my own journey to Unity. It’s been an adventure for sure, and I’ve run through every feeling you could imagine. And yet I continue to take the leap and find that the next step is always there.

I hope that I am a helpful step on each of these pilgrims journeys. Sometimes they return again and again and become friends. Most of them I will probably not see again after they walk out the door. I wish them all well, I know no matter how accidental it seems, there is a blessing in their arrival here.

This is true for all our lives journeys. There is a blessing in each thing, no matter how accidental. The other option is that nothing is a blessing, and I can’t get on board with that.

These faith filled folks are open and ready for the blessing, they are ready for something amazing, they seek it out and grab on with all they have. They are an inspiration.

Be the Blessing, live the Blessing, claim the blessing.

Namaste

The Inner Tower

19 May

The other day I took this picture outside the Unity Village Tower. The tower was completed in 1929 and after many Missouri summers and winters it needs a good deal of repair. It hosts a 100,000 gallon water tank that is the primary water source for the entire Village and originally had offices and the visitor’s center. Now for a couple years it has been surrounded by a fence because of the potential of masonry falling from the top. It is a Kansas City landmark and can be seen from all over. It is strong in the memories and hearts of many.

Last year there was a lot of excitement and energy put into the renovation of the central courtyard and activation of the new fountains. When I hear people talk about the fountains and how beautiful they are they often say in the next breath, I can’t wait for the tower to be fixed. I am on-board with that, the last (and as far as I can remember) only time I was in the tower was only in the main floor where my YOU (Youth of Unity) family group was assigned to meet. I have had brushes with almost getting to go up and had it not quite happen. So, to say the least, I am right there with everyone who is highly anticipating the reopening of the observation deck. I was infinitely grateful to learn that there was a fabulous couple who are donating a significant chunk of the money to make the renovation happen.

Like I have a tendency to do, I started asking questions of the folks who actually know what’s going on. What they told me was that the work had already begun, but that we wouldn’t see much of it until it was almost complete.

Which is why I took this picture in the first place. The tower is mostly behind the tree, and there is in the middle of the ground a dirt pile. It is the only obvious sign that anything is going on.

Then I got to thinking, that’s kinda like life. There is a deterioration of an old belief, the weather of experiences is saying ‘hey! this is not viable anymore’ so you put a fence around it. Then you think, ok, I need to come up with a plan… tear it down? make condos? renovate? shore up the structure with newer technology (aka ideas)?

Then the committee gets involved. Maybe it’s naysayers in the form of friends or family who want you to be a certain way, maybe it’s the naysayers in your mind who haven’t figured out to believe yet. You can stay there for a while, but the problem is:

The Tower is still crumbling!

You decide on a direction.  But it doesn’t happen overnight, and the results are not immediately obvious. The inner work is happening bit by bit over days and weeks and years. Walls are being shored up and new elevator equipment installed. Each day some old mortar is removed and replaced by new. You think you’re almost there and then oh no! another remnant from the past.

And then finally, after you have hauled in buckets of new ideas to replace the buckets of stuff-that’s-not-working you hauled out, you unveil. In what looks like a blink of the eye to the casual observer you have shifted your whole way of being. Your close friends, the ones who have been witnessing you dump out the ickyness buckets and helping fill them with confidence when you’re short, they know. They are as happy for the new unfenced you as I will be the day the tower is reopened.

But then, what will be next? Before the fountains were even finished we were looking to the next project. Stop, take a moment to bask in the beauty of what you have done, and then, as the Zen proverb says,

Before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood, carry water.

The work is a continual process, just as physical structures must be cared for, maintained, and sometimes completely overhauled, so too is our inner process. Sometimes we can’t see it, but it’s happening.

I hope that you keep hauling those buckets so that the tower within you can always take you to whatever height you desire.

Peace,

Rachel