Time Sensitivity: none


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An optimist sees an opportunity in every calamity; a pessimist sees a calamity in every opportunity. – Winston Churchill

But, how about ordinary “real life?”

The greatest danger for most of us is NOT that we aim too high and we miss it, but we aim too low and reach it. – Michelangelo

How many of us love the experience of rush hour traffic?

Rush hour is an interesting phenomenon if you let yourself be present to what is going on. I sat in my car and watched the faces of the people in the cars next to me. Most of their faces exhibited an empty look like, “I am doing something I have to do, but my heart is not in it.” Some of them were even reading newspapers; one man was shaving, two were eating take-out, five were talking on cell phones and drinking coffee at the same time.

I do not want the fellow behind me, in front of me, or next to me to be so wrapped up in the sports page that he loses awareness of what is going on.

These are our brothers and sisters. These are God’s children. But what about the promise of fulfillment, the promise of great glory, the promise of God’s joy? What is happening to that, in regular ordinary life?

A lot of people do not feel joy in daily life. It can change.

What we need, I believe, are more examples of people whose lives are more real, even in Bible stories. You hear the story about David who slew the giant Goliath with five stones. You hear the story about Jacob who had such fantastic adventures (We will have a story about Jacob a little later.)

In the New Testament, we hear the wonderful story about the prodigal son. The young man said to his father, “I do not want to wait until you make your death before I enjoy my share of your riches, so please give it to me now.” (That sounds like something my children would say.) Can you imagine saying that in this world?

The father did, and off the son went. The son had his high times while the money lasted, but it did not last forever. (It usually does not unless you are a good steward of it.) Then he found himself deep in problems. As a matter of fact, he found himself so deep in the pits that, for a good Jewish boy, he had to endure the most humbling experience of all – feeding pigs. And he was not even allowed to eat the pig slop. That is about as low as one can get.

Then he started his journey home. He is prepared to be his father’s servant – no longer even a member of the household. His father comes out to meet him while he is approaching, puts a ring on his finger, shoes on his feet, a beautiful cloak on his back, and tells the servants to kill the fatted calf because there is going to be a celebration.

Jesus even said, “When one returns to the fold, God rejoices.” What about the ones who never left the fold?

I want to share with you a story that you may or may not remember about one of the forgotten people of the Bible – the prodigal son’s brother. He had been out in the field while his brother was approaching the house. He had been working with the servants to make sure the crops were being attended to, properly. He was on his way back to the house, probably hungry, and tired. He then hears all this racket at the mansion.

Let me read you the story from the fifteenth chapter of Luke [Luke 15:25-31]:

“Now his elder son was in the field; and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing. He called one of the slaves and asked what was going on. He replied, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fatted calf, because he has got him back safe and sound.’ Then he became angry and refused to go in. His father came out and began to plead with him. But he answered his father, ‘Listen! For all these years I have been working like a slave for you, and I have never disobeyed your command; yet you have never given me even a young goat so that I might celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours came back, who has devoured your property with wild friends, you killed the fatted calf for him!’ Then the father said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours.'”

What I want to ask you is: Was that older brother, the older son, aware that he was always with his father, and that all his father had was his? Or did he carry his relationship with his father as a burden?

It sounds to me as if there was a lot of resentment there, a lot of the older brother comparing his life with his brother’s life, and feeling he was coming up on the short end.

That is what life can be about, too. We take that hunger and we try to satisfy it with achievements, accomplishments, and things, and it does not work.

A great philosophy was expressed in the newspaper on the comic page, in the comic Ziggy. Ziggy is coming around a corner. Heading toward that corner is a man carrying a sign that says, “Happiness is just around the corner.”

Ziggy said, “Gee, I must have missed it.”

In the comic Cathy, Cathy is sitting in her chair with her diet soda thinking, “Gee, 200 symphonies, 1500 art museums, 700 plays, 33 operas, four years of college, 150 seminars, 20 workshops and 5,000 books … a lifetime of studying, reading, pushing, reaching and growing, and I have finally become one with my true potential.” The last panel shows her pushed up against the refrigerator, and she says, “Human refrigerator magnet.”

Doe’s life seem like that for us??

My answer to that is, “Probably from time to time.” Spirituality is what you make of it, day by day, becoming FULLY awake and aware. Spirituality loves the regular ordinary days as much as the extraordinary.

One woman said, “I remember the day my heart did open, and I read the words: “I am a child of God, and every moment God’s life, love, wisdom, and power flow into and through me. I am one with God and I am governed by God’s law.” I had to grab onto my chair because I felt it going through me like a surge of power or upliftment.”

Then she said, “I went back to regular ordinary life; I went back to doing those same old things, things I do every day.”

She said, “I remember other things I also read during those days. Things like: There is nothing in all the universe for me to fear, for greater is the presence of God with me than anything that is in my world. I remember believing that with all my heart and saying, ‘Wow!'”

Do you remember feeling spiritual power like that? Do you recognize that if you want to, you can feel it right now?

So we see those coffee cups and bumper stickers that say, “Beam me up, Scotty. There is no intelligent life here.” We recognize that is funny, sure, but that is the way we really feel sometimes. We feel like strangers in a strange land, but the fact is we are not.

In God, there is no absence of life, substance, or intelligence, anywhere.

Part of the problem is a learned behavior that we humans have that induces us to be overly critical. Some people call it human nature. They say it is human nature to make mistakes. We look at the mistakes we have made and we say, “This is terrible! I call myself an evolving spiritual being, and yet I do things like this. I certainly hope nobody ever finds out about it!”

I wonder what life would be like if we could read each other’s minds, what things we would see. I tend to think we would see a commonality in the things we are ashamed of that would make us smile. We all make mistakes. And because we all make mistakes, and because we criticize ourselves for mistakes, I want to share with you a story about a mistake that seemed like a good idea at the time.

The title of this is “The Far Side Comes to Life in Oregon.”

“I am absolutely not making this up,” the writer said. “In fact, I have it all on my Dish Hopper. The video is from a local TV news show in Oregon which sent a reporter out to cover the removal of a 45-foot, 8-ton dead whale that washed up on the beach. The responsibility of getting rid of the carcass was placed on the Oregon State Highway Division, apparently on the theory that highways and whales are very similar in the sense of being large objects.

“The highway engineers hit upon the plan of blowing up the whale with dynamite. The thinking is the whale would be blown into small pieces which would then be eaten by seagulls, and that would be that – a textbook whale removal.

“So they moved the spectators up the beach, put a half ton of dynamite next to the whale, and set it off. I am probably not guilty of understatement when I say that what follows on the DVD is the most wonderful event in the history of the universe.

“First you see the whale carcass disappear in a huge blast of smoke and flame, and then you hear the happy spectators shouting, “Yea! Whee.” Then suddenly the crowd’s tone changes, and you hear a sound like, “Splut.” You hear a woman’s voice shouting, “Here comes pieces of … my God.”

Something smears the camera lens.

“Later,” the reporter explains, “the humor of the entire situation suddenly gave way to a run for survival as huge chunks of whale blubber fell everywhere. One piece caved in the roof of a car parked more than a quarter of a mile away. Remaining on the beach were several rotting whale sectors the size of condominium units. There was no sign of the seagulls who had no doubt permanently relocated to Brazil.”

The writer goes on to say, “This is a very sobering video. Here at the Institute we watch it often, especially at parties.”

See, you have made mistakes; I have made mistakes. We can tell funny stories about them. As a matter of fact, I have a funny story to tell about the prodigal son story.

Sure, we make mistakes, and we think those mistakes define us, but they do not. God defined us. Do you remember how God defined us? It goes back to the first chapter of Genesis [Genesis 1:26] where God said, Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness. We forget that, don’t we?

As a matter of fact, after the great awakening (which is sometimes called the fall) what did Adam and Eve do? They hid.

People say there is not much humor in the Bible, but when you look at the third chapter of Genesis, you have to think that that is kind of funny.

If God is God, how could Adam and Eve hide from God and do it successfully? There they were, crouched behind a bush. God comes looking for them and says, “Adam, where are you?” Adam tries to keep quiet until God finally finds him. He set a pattern for humankind. We have been doing this ever since.

I know a few people who say they share all of their thoughts with God, but not very many. Most of us are afraid that if God really knew what was in our heart of hearts we might not receive God’s love any more, or that we might not be worthy of being loved.

Some people say, “Yes, but we are spiritual students.” Yes, we are churchgoers, but we are also subject, to some extent, to the thoughts that have plagued humankind, since it began to think.

I am here to tell you that there is a way through all of this. The way is the way of awareness.

Remember one thing: if God was really that upset with us, we would have been vaporized eons ago. As a matter of fact, there was a movie back in the late 40’s or early 50’s called “The Next Voice You Hear.” Do any of you remember that movie? In it, all of a sudden, God takes over the radio waves and says, “Look, folks, you have not been doing too well. I am going to give you a week to straighten things out. If you do not straighten things out … it is curtains for you.”

So, throughout the world, there are meetings and new cooperation. It is interesting how things happen like that when chaos or punishment is threatened. God does not punish; God never did. It is time we owned this truth in our mature spirituality. We as humans punish ourselves.

It is also time that we begin to be aware that the presence of God’s love is always with us. The presence of God fills this room more than we ever could. The presence of God stays in this room when we are not here. This is a holy place.

One of the things I would like you to be aware of is how holy this place is for the people who come here. But this place, holy as it is, is no holier than any other place. God is with you wherever you are, even in your car in rush hour traffic.

I want to share another Bible story with you about Jacob. This is about Jacob after his mother told him that he should get out of town, because his brother was going to kill him. Jacob stole his brother’s birthright, and his brother was upset.

He left a place called Beersheba. Spiritually, Beersheba is the place where your faith begins to take its proper role in your life, where it begins to rule. He was heading toward Haran which spiritually means a place of higher spiritual consciousness, a place of elevated thought.

That is the place where most of us are right now. Our faith has begun to take hold (otherwise, what would we be doing in church on Sunday morning?), and we are on our way to a higher awareness of God.

[Genesis 28:11-17] “He came to a certain place and stayed there for the night, because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones of the place, he put it under his head and lay down in that place. And he dreamed that there was a ladder set up on the earth, the top of it reaching to heaven; and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it.

“And the Lord stood beside him and said, ‘I am the Lord, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie I will give to you and to your offspring; and your offspring shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south; and all the families of the earth shall be blessed in you and in your offspring.'”

He has just stolen his brother’s birthright, and yet God is telling him that, by him, all the families of the earth are going to be blessed.

“Know that I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done that of which I have promised you.” This was just an ordinary place, a clearing in the road, with a stone for his pillow, and a beautiful insight. His response to the insight is what is important. Then Jacob woke from his sleep and said, “Surely the Lord is in this place – and I did not know it!

The next verse is probably even more telling. “And he was afraid, and said, ‘How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.'”

I am going to give you a challenge. I invite you to take this thought and use it in some of the places you do not consider so particularly sacred. It is written above some church doors. I saw this crudely painted above a storefront church once: “This is the house of God. This is the gate of heaven.” At the time, I was so arrogant as to not to believe in the possibility that it was so. You see, the storefront was in the midst of a slum. It was hardly an attractive place. They called that the Gate of Heaven? But maybe it was. Maybe any place can be, and maybe any activity can be.

I do not know what you are going to be doing today – whether it is something wonderful or something very ordinary and mundane – but I do know that whatever you are going to do, wherever and however you do it, God is there.

Walt Whitman said, “To me every hour of the day and night is an unspeakably perfect miracle.”

You see, that is real life. What we call real life is only a part of life because it so often leaves God out. I would like you to take the thought with you that I shared just a bit ago: I am a child of God, and every moment (when I am taking a shower, tying my shoes, washing the dishes, when I am sitting in that freeway traffic jam) God’s life, love, wisdom, and power flow into and through me.

God is found; spirituality is found, in the midst of doing ordinary things.

William Shakespeare said, “All glory comes from daring to begin.”

I give you the invitation today, and the challenge, to remember this thought in those times when it seems like nothing much is going on, like nothing of any great value is happening, and like you are not particularly worthy of being called the child of God you are.

Spirituality is all about our awareness. The gift has been given. God has said, “Child, you are always with Me, and all I have is yours.” It is up to us to respond. What an invitation! Think about it. I wish you a regular ordinary day filled with the presence of God.

God bless you!

PRAYER / MEDITATION_____________________

As we begin our time of prayer and meditation, I ask you to simply be spiritually aware of yourself and your body. What is going on in your body now? What does it feel like? Be aware of your mind. What thoughts are walking, floating, racing through in your mind? Be aware of your soul.

Be aware, and recognize that right where you are, God is.

Right where you are, God help is available.

Allow yourself to feel the power of God.

Right where I am, God is – the allness of God is your help in every need.

You continue in an awareness of God, and you add to it the awareness of constant love, help, and reassurance. You notice a restful change that begins to take place when you take your thought. When you let thoughts of God become dominant and supreme in your consciousness, things begin to spiritually change – not outside of you in the outer world, but within you. Feel that happening in you now.

Rest in the silence of prayer …

Right where you are, God is.

Feel the power of this prayer as it goes deep within you. Right where you are, God is. Perhaps you can feel the invitation of God calling you to be more completely, more deeply, aware and alive in that Presence that goes beyond all human understanding and explanation.

Rest in the silence of prayer …

Right where I am, God is. Feel it, rest in the Presence of God.

Feel the invitation as it leads you into the silence, into that deep rich quiet where there is no longer any separation or obstacle between you and a complete awareness of God.

Rest in the silence of prayer …

Right where I am, God is. Focus this thought now; let it take you into the silence.

Rest in the silence of prayer …

Out of the silence, your awareness reaches to thoughts of people you love – people who are near and dear to you; people whom you would bless in this time of prayer. Hold with me the highest thought for anyone who comes to mind: Right where you are, God is …

Rest in the silence of prayer …

Watch your thought about that person or situation change. Feel the sense of peace that passes human understanding as we hold the thought: Right where you are, God is …

Rest in the silence of prayer …

Now, even as we begin to turn our thoughts back to this moment and the work that is ours to do this day, the awareness of God stays with us. We are, vibrantly and acutely, aware of God with every breath we take and every thought we think.

Right where we are, God is.

Thank You, God, for all Your gifts, but most especially, for the glorious gift of the awareness of Your presence.

Thank You, God!

In the name of Jesus Christ … Amen.

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