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A Year of Generosity...


Vicky2015

 

Meet Rev. Vicky Elder

Vicky has served as Minister of Unity of Monterey Bay (UMB)  since she was ordained in 1998 by Unity Worldwide Ministries (UWM), after completing the Ministerial Education Program. She and her late husband, Rory, established UMB as a free-standing, independent church in 2000; it had previously been an “out-reach church” of Christ Unity Church in Sacramento for more than a decade. Vicky also serves as the Regional Consultant/Rep[resentative for the West Central Region of Unity Churches. In addition to ministry – Vicky’s passion is her family. She has two sons, Travis & Kyle, a daughter & son-in-law, Brianna & Salvador Leavitt-Alcantara, and two grandsons, Mateo and Joaquin.

Prior to ministerial school, Vicky and Rory, along with Rev./Dr. Harold and Dr. Jeanne Johnson, founded the Life Enrichment Center, a community-outreach psycho-spiritual counseling center affiliated with Christ Unity Church of Sacramento. Vicky also served as a Program Manager for the State of California Attorney General’s Crime and Violence Prevention Center. In addition to her seminary certificate, she has a Master’s Degree in Marriage and Family Counseling from the University of San Francisco; and a Master’s Degree in Urban Policy & Administration from San Francisco State University.

 

Minister’s Message

Our theme for 2017 is Being the Change by Living Our Truth.  And our Winter Quarter AFFIRMATION is:

Authentically connecting to Spirit within,

I speak with the voice of God –

to BE Love, Justice, and Truth in the world.

3.19 – Return to the World…week 7

This is the final week of our Winter Series – based on the book, The Seven Whispers: A Spiritual Practice for Times Like These, by Christina Baldwin (Avail Amazon)

I often share – especially when people tell me, on their way out the door, that a particular lesson was “just for them” – that “I teach what I most need to learn.” This is definitely the case with this series… as I, like many of you, am experiencing the times we’re living in, i.e., – “times like these” – as emotionally, socially, and spiritually challenging…

But here’s the good news – the greater the spiritual challenge, the greater the opportunity for transformation. In other words, as we rise above our greatest fears to see the Truth that lies beyond the Fake News of this world of appearances – we will make an evolutionary leap in consciousness…

I want to pause here to be sure that everyone’s getting my real meaning when I talk about… the Truth that lies äbeyond the Fake News of this world of appearances.

Specifically – I’m NOT referring to my own or other’s human determinations of what is “real news” (or facts) vs. “fake news” (or facts); e.g., I’m NOT talking about leaning towards MSNBC’s reporting vs. FOX’s reporting, or even NPR’s reporting…

Rather, I’m reminding myself – and all of us – that everything in our world of appearances (i.e., the physical realm that represents the manifestation of our individual/collective consciousness…could be deemed fake news.

Because, it ALL represents our human perspectives, which are based in human perceptions, which are (as we all must admit) inherently flawed – in that they don’t account for the whole Truth, or the bigger Truth. 

In fact, I’ve found this “fake-news” dilemma has actually been a powerful wake-up call; a reminder that we each create our own realities from the inside > out…through the thoughts we hold in mind… e.g.,

> our defining beliefs/paradigmboth conscious and unconscious;

> the particular thoughts dominating our daily thinking – including our fears, hopes, and the “chatter” (reflecting where we’re focusing our attention); and

> our level of awareness, which determines our capacity to mindfully choose what thoughts, reactions/responses, and resulting behaviors we allow to occupy our lives.

I can’t think of a time where this principle has been more fully evident; literally in our face: different thoughts create different realities!  Making it very tempting to fall into the trap of right/ wrong thinking (I’m right – SO – they must be wrong!) Whereas the truth is – we’re ALL limited, biased, pre-disposed AND literally created to see what we already believe… because life happens from the inside > out!

Which brings me back to “I teach what I most need to learn.” I’m happy to say that through this series, and my ongoing spiritual practice, the amount of time I’m spending in reaction (and suffering) is shrinking… I hope it’s working that way for you all too…

So, let’s do one last review of first six “whispers” or “spiritual practices” for times like these (which is actually –ANY & EVERY TIME).

As we noted last week, the first four practices call us to go within. Of course, when we remember that life happens from the inside > outgoing within is clearly, ALWAYS the starting point. Specifically, we’re called to center, to listen for guidance, to discern our highest purpose, and to surrender to “what is.”

The mantra offered by Thich Nhat Hahn is a very effective tool to enter this inner sanctuary,

One breath to let go;

One breath to be here; and

One breath to ask now what?

Focusing on our breath is perhaps the easiest and most direct way to relieve ourselves from the incessant mind chatter that occurs when we get caught up in the distractions of our senses and unchecked reactions to the outer world. (Notice how we can’t take a deep breath – and continue to stress at the same time)

This mantra calls us to Mindfulness; to consciously choosing where we focus our attention. And, as we align ourselves with the divine essence that is the Truth of our being… we establish the Peace that surpasses all understanding – i.e., that transcends our worldly perspective and understanding, based in our limited, physical, sense-consciousness.

Once grounded within this sacred Peace of Mind (Practice #1), we ask for, listen to, trust, and follow – the Inner Guidance (Practice #2) that speaks in a whisper, and always thru Love, reminding us who we are, and why we’re here.

i.e., reminding us of our divine purpose (Practice #3)how each of us–with our particular gifts, skills, and passions – can engage in the next right thing to do… which not only enhances our own journey, but lifts up those around us, and blesses all of Creation as well…

Which, by-the-way, is the most effective way to discern if we are, indeed, hearing inner guidance, OR – our egos in disguise. Inner guidance is ALWAYS grounded in Love and Oneness, whereas our egos often come from fear, lack, and/or separation.

To live at the pace of guidance, with certainty of purpose also involves being willing to engage life, and surrender to all its surprises (Practice #4), with integrity, a compassionate heart, and a courageous intention to grow…

i.e., giving up our illusions of certainty and outer control…replacing it with a capacity to intentionally shift our focus from the outer realm of chaos and ächange – back to Peace of Mind (where we started)

   One breath – letting go

   One breath – being here

   One breath – asking, “now what?”

All the while trusting that God is Good – ALL the time; and ALL the time – God is Good… 

As we come to master these mindful practices, and live more consciously from the Inside > Out … we’re able to increasingly respond to life in creative rather than reactive ways – i.e., looking beyond the world of appearances, and overriding our misdirected fears…

Practice #5: Ask for what we need; and offer what we can… begins the shift from our inner spiritual foundation TO spiritually aligned outer actions – as we engage the universal dance of reciprocity (asking and offering, giving and receiving) with an intentional awareness of our inherent interconnection with one another and all of creation. 

It calls us, especially in the West, to accountability; AND challenges us, as never before, to deeply engage this question – what do we really NEED? And what do we need to offer the world? – to re-establish a sustainable balance in our global human family…

Finally, it ALSO reminds us that, as spiritual beings having a human adventure, we also need to embrace the cycle of re-fueling ourselves by regularly going within – and then bringing our energy, gifts, and LOVE back out into the world. Which segues nicely into…

Practice #6 – Love the folks in front of uswhich is the fundamental message of our Christian heritage and our Wayshower, Jesus  Christ – who taught that “the way” to spiritual transformation and fulfillment is “to love one-another.” And NOT just our partners, families, friends, church communities, or nations – but EVERYONE, even our enemies… 

And, NOT just emotionally, intellectually, or spiritually – but in real, practical, and outer ways e.g., feeding the hungry, offering drink to the thirsty, welcoming the stranger, clothing the naked, housing the homeless, caring for the sick, visiting the prisoner…

i.e., loving our neighbors as ourselves by expanding our circles, and becoming “each others’ people” which requires transcending the current appearances of division, fear, and conflict in our society and world…

This is our opportunity to make an evolutionary leap…moving from the illusion of ME to the Truth 4of WE. It involves seeking ways to step beyond our circles of comfort to engage, invite, and connect with those who may appear “other” – from a space of curiosity and discovery rather than fear and protection

And, it requires intention, time, and follow through. If you’re looking for ways to embrace this practice, 4consider our UMB commitment to COPA. It’s a tangible venue wherein we can practice neighborly love…and collectively help re-establish healthy, connected, and caring communities. 

The final/ 7th “whisper” or practice that completes this blisscipline for spiritual transformation (that “times like these” are inviting) is “Return to the World.”

In Baldwin’s terms, this means, “return to the real world… the world of the body, the senses, the world of Nature” where we can tend to the reciprocal relationship of devoting ourselves to healing the earth – and letting the earth heal us…

She explains how these whispers work in a circular fashion. “We start by calming ourselves, seeking peace of mind by taking in breath. And what is breath? Nature

“Nature’s gift – the exhalation of trees. As long as we are alive, the journey of spirituality always returns us to the body: we are of the earth.”

The wide-scale industrialization and urbanization of the past few centuries, as well as the ever-expanding techno-structure of the past few decades – has seriously breached this essential relationship – and now threatens our very existence.

Baldwin laments, “we say we ought to realign our lives with Nature, as though this were an option. As though we were separate. As though we have dominion over the miraculous biosphere that designed us from the molecule up.”

When in fact, “Nature is the world. And we are Nature – in it, of it, and totally linked with its fate. What we do to the earth we are doing to ourselves: what we do to ourselves we are doing to the earth. Every whisper leads to this one – our invitation home.”

Where we have cellular memories of: the miracle of seeds bursting forth offering us bountiful   sustenance, beauty, shade, and healing; the embrace of the earth as we stretch out in tall grass; the refreshing coolness of a babbling creek, and the       rhythm of waves breaking on the beach the warmth of the summer’s sun on our faces; the smell of autumn air with the pungency of decaying leaves; the companionship and sacrifice of 2- and 4-leggeds winged ones, crawlers, and swimmers; the wonder of a night’s sky, illumined only by moon   and stars – blending us into the universe; and the amazing interdependent, intelligent, circle of it all.

In our remembering, may we reclaim Nature’s cycle of sprouting, growth, harvest and rest in our own lives;

May we redeem Nature’s laws of zero-waste, natural habitats, and interdependency;

May we re-invite our children (and ourselves) to escape into Nature, rather than from it; and

May we regain this sacred bond that heals us, and renews us, and is big enough to hold us in our greatest joys and deepest pains.

Our covenant with God is about leading whatever life äwe have with extraordinary attention to God’s call – and our response…AND our call and God’s response.

Let us begin each day in gratitude – for the sun, the wind, the rain, the air, and earth’s bounty that feeds and sustains us…

And let us take a moment to commit ourselves to this sacred journey…

Through our peace of mind, pace of guidance, certainty of purpose, willingness to surrender to surprise, asking and offering, loving those in front of us, and returning to the world, the earth – as we begin it all again…

It’s the perfect antidote for “times like these” – AND the perfect invitation into being the CHANGE we want to see in the world.

Namasté

 

 

 

“Creator of ALL – thank you for this day. Thank you for the sun that rises and sets, for the wind that blows, the rain that falls.

Thank you for the air that I breathe, the food that I eat, and the sustenance that You provide.

May all that I do today contribute to the healing of the world, and my heart be open enough to allow the world to contribute to my healing.”