Tag Archives: creativity

On the ceiling with God

There’s a painting on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel that shows God and Adam reaching out to almost touch each other. I’ve seen it a billion times, just like everyone else, but I’ve never really seen it before. The painting was brought to my attention and I used it in a talk this week – and then heard even greater perception from my friends and teachers in the congregation.

If you look at this painting, you’ll notice a few things about God. First of all, I can’t help but notice he looks a lot like Zeus. But that’s just me, right? Secondly, because I vegged out and watched HBO’s Westworld, I have learned that there’s meaning in the cloak God wears. That red cloak is shaped like a human brain. The God of my understanding is a being that expresses itself through me to the degree that I allow the Good/God to be expressed. I can limit it but can’t actually make it go away. Another thing to look at is that there’s a whole bunch of people inside that cloak with God.

So if the God of my understanding exists in my mind, who are the rest of those folks? Someone pointed out that they could be thought of as the “committee” that often exists in the back of our minds. Those voices of disapproval and doubt that pipe up just as we are about to step into our greatness are those folks sitting around God in the painting. I was relieved to hear my self say, “I fired my committee. That’s my cheering section.” I didn’t think about it, just said it. I’m so glad that the things I instinctively think and say these days are positive. Believe me, when the committee was running things, it wouldn’t have been a good thing.

Who are the folks who live in the mind of God, your mind, with you? Are they cheering or naysaying?

So that was Christmas

Today we broke down the Christmas tree and put everything back for another year. It took an hour and a half, much less time that it took to decorate. There’s no creativity in taking decorations down, unless you count fitting the tree back in the box. It’s a little sad and a bit of relief at the same time. It’s a relief because the holidays are such a busy time of year and I tend to be intensely conscious of the Christ in that time. And that’s why it’s sad, too.

As I put away all the decorations, the temptation is to go back to business as usual. All those lovely ideas about peace on earth and the light overcoming the darkness get tucked between the pages of my schedule book. The same meetings that crowded my schedule in 2017 crowd it in 2018. For some reason, this is season for transitions, so there are a lot of folks passing, some folks making major changes in jobs or homes, and of course, lots of people wanting help raising their consciousness. This is when gyms are the busiest, whether they are physical or spiritual gyms.

This is when I remember one of my favorite Christmas poems, by Howard Thurman.

Christmas cards

I’m doing Christmas cards this year. I usually do a few – the silly ones from card stores go back and forth in my family. It’s a fun tradition and doesn’t cost much. But this year, I decided to go big. So far I’ve written about 50 and I have another 40 waiting to be written. At some point I started wondering – will someone be happy to get this? Will they be upset there’s no gift card or check in there? Will this seem like an empty gesture? On the other hand, will this make someone’s day? Will they understand that I took the time to buy a stack of cards, find their address (and that’s been a hoot, finding snail mail addresses) and affix a pretty stamp? What if I forget someone?

At some point, I have to mail these suckers. I have to let that little bit of light shine on its own merits and let people receive my love as they choose to receive it. I’d love to put $100 bill in each card, but that’s not budgeted in my 2017 fiscal year. I’d love to write long, very personal notes in each one but at some point I have to go home, I have to write next week’s talk and I have a whole bunch of people to meet with. At some point it has to be enough that I tried and sent a bit of love out into the world.

Isn’t it great that no matter who you are, Spirit is excited to hear from you? Even a small card with a scrawled signature makes God’s day. When I send up a thank you for the parking space, I can feel God get the warm fuzzies. When I stop to listen to a bird singing or watch the sunset, it’s acknowledging the work of the Great Artist. There are so many small ways to be with Spirit over the course of the day, and they all send a bit more love out into the world. I’m sending you some now.

Vacuuming

One of the first “prosperity tools” that I learned was to create a vacuum. Want new clothes? Empty out your closet. Pass on those things that you don’t use. Create physical space as a means of creating space in consciousness for your good to come in. I think almost every prosperity class I’ve ever taken has had that exercise in there somewhere, if not right at the front. At few months ago, I realized that I think of giving things away as something rich people do. I don’t need to hoard stuff I’m not using, because I can always get another if I need it. So I feel rich every time I take a load of good stuff to a thrift store.

Here’s another thing that I was reminded also works. Need car repairs? Make the appointment and then tell God you need the money by that date. Create the need and then let the Divine do the heavy lifting. When that feels easy, step out for something you want but don’t need. I was offered the chance to do some traveling with friends. Buying the trip would benefit a charity I believe in and check off a point on my bucket list. It was a great deal. Do you see how I’m making an argument for something I want, as if I need a rational explanation for taking a leap of faith? I have a tendency to need to feel responsible with my money, so doing these luxurious things requires a real leap of faith for me. My faith that there is lots of good in the Universe and I can have mine is what I’m working on here. Of course, within days of saying yes to the trip, it was paid for by unexpected income. An apartment that I own was rented out, so there’s more income that I wasn’t sure about.

There is not much of a rational explanation for creating a vacuum when you are already experiencing need. It might seem irresponsible or stupid. But the thing it, it works. It’s worked every time. When I did it worried that this one time it wouldn’t work, it’s worked. When I asked for wants rather than needs, it’s worked. When I call it tithing, it works. When other people do it, it works.  Give it a shot – and share how it worked for you.

 

Guests and tenants

I’m pretty particular about who is allowed in my home. I have an apartment attached to my home that I rent out and only once did I allow someone to handle the rental. They did everything legally and right, but I wasn’t satisfied. The tenant’s energy and mine weren’t a good match. Something just didn’t feel right. I know we weren’t a good match because the tenant left after about six weeks. I bless her being there and I bless her leaving to go on to whatever is hers to do or be. And I’ve learned my lesson; who is allowed in my home must be a decision made consciously and by me. I don’t discriminate in terms of color or gender or creed, but I do prefer to pray the right person in, which generally looks like the right person getting me the application first and actually being able to pay for the apartment.

There’s a Rumi poem about a guesthouse. I welcome in those who show up, but I also remember that these are my thoughts and my own beliefs I’m welcoming in. A basic tenet of our philosophy is to watch what you believe and see if it’s true. If you can’t tell, another way to think of it is to ask yourself, “Does this belief make me more free?” We will always find evidence to support our beliefs so we may as well choose the ones that prosper us. Who we welcome in to our homes, our heads and hearts, will determine the quality of our lives. Make sure you are paying attention. Love them all as they come, and be aware of whom you offer a lease to.

Divine Timing

There’s a thing called Divine Timing. It’s not usually the same as my personal timing, or what I think I want to be my personal timing. It’s the pace at which change happens. When I was a brand new minister, I would get frustrated that folks didn’t catch my vision as quickly as I wanted. I understood the concept of church time – what I live with 24/7/365, the congregation gets for twenty minutes a week. One of my friends put it another way. She said to imagine that we’re all playing crack the whip. I’m the leader. I shift just a few inches over and think it’s no big deal. From where I’m playing, it is a minor change. For the person at the other end, the end of the whip, it’s major. It might send them flying ten feet through the air. That was the fun of crack the whip – to make someone on the end go flying. It was fun when we were kids, but it’s not way to run a Center.

It makes me wonder what God sees from the front of the line. Spirit shifts just a few inches, but my Spirit works in eons and over parsecs of space. So by the time the energy gets to me, it might feel like I’ve been flung from Earth entirely over to Jupiter or Neptune. I make a small change in my thinking, like maybe I don’t want to eat so much sugar anymore. At the other end of that chain is being spared cancer or diabetes for decades of my life. I decide to practice giving real second chances to people and end of going from actively disliking a certain teacher to having a mentor I love and trust. Spirit might have poked a hole in the earth while thinking one day, and now we have the Grand Canyon. Or maybe God got to playing with molecules, created oxygen and how we have a habitable planet.

This is what I know – discounting the small, honest changes I make in my thinking is silly. I don’t know what will roll out at the other end of that whip. Maybe nothing except the memory of a particularly good morning. Maybe everything.

 

Hold my hand

Recently, I challenged myself to play the guitar for a Sunday service. Understand, I haven’t done that since about fourth grade. Think about that. It’s been decades, although I won’t say how many. I remembered how to do the three simple chords, no problem. I was able to work hard enough over the course of the week to somewhat create calluses so that I can play the chords on the metal strings (for those of you who don’t know – ouch!!!). I could sing the song without a problem. I had the words in front of me in case I lost it and it’s not like it’s not a song I sing to myself all the time, by one of my favorite artists, Celia (check out www.celiaonline.com) Folks gave me pretty good feedback, so it couldn’t have been too terrible. It wasn’t a virtuoso performance by any means, but no one walked out and there were few actual groans.

So what was the point of this somewhat amateurish performance? Besides trying to impress my congregation with my miraculous ability? Well, that’s a longer story. Ever since I was a kid, I refused to do things in public if I wasn’t good at them. I never played sports. I never did much of anything. Well, theater stuff, but I was good at that. When I sang, I’d go hide and sing where no one could see me. Yes, I see the problem with that – it didn’t occur to me until years later that folks could definitely hear me, and seeing me was not the issue.

Yesterday I got up and played the guitar even though I didn’t feel ready. I had adrenaline zipping through me at a prodigious rate. It’s been a long time since I had stage fright, but there you go. Now, it wasn’t enough to just do one song on a Sunday. I chose Easter Sunday. I was doing one of the big talks of the year and I asked to do the music. Yes, I asked. Theoretically, our music director could have said no. If I was really bad, I’d trust him to say no and save me the embarrassment. The whole point was to challenge my belief in perfection and do something I didn’t expect to just carry off effortlessly.

The good part is I could fake strumming when I could tell my fingers were playing the wrong chord.   I think we managed to turn the microphone on my guitar waaaay down. And I had the sense to do this in front of a crowd that is loving and forgiving and knows me anyway. What surprised me was that my ego was so involved in remaining calm and spiritual during this growth experience. It bothered me that there was so much adrenaline running through me. It bothered me that they were taking so long to figure out the microphones. It bothered me that I felt I’d let the sermon preparation slide a bit in order to get the music ready. I was not able to float through the whole thing on a cloud of serenity.

In meditation that morning, I saw a child who was doing something for the first time. She was scared, but clinging to a trusted adult’s hand. The whole experience was one of fun and fear at the same time. This is how I think maybe it’s supposed to be. As children we are supposed to have a trusted adult teach us how to feel fear and do it anyway to find out if the fear changes to fun. I’ve decided that is part of my Higher Power’s job description now. If I’m going to be spiritual and live on my growing edge, then God/Goddess/The Divine has to hold my hand.

That way, if I fall flat on my butt, at least I know someone will help me up. And laugh with me afterwards too.

Meditations on a pencil sharpener

I have an electric pencil sharpener behind my desk. I love this thing. I love having a really sharp pencil for balancing my checkbook and writing out ideas. In both cases, the eraser comes in handy, but I like having the sharp point to make my numbers and ideas clear and easy to read.

I noticed as I was sharpening some pencils today that if I push too hard, the whole thing stops. There’s a level of pressure that is right between too hard and not hard enough that is perfect. It lets the machine do its work, shaving off the next level of wood and lead. Push too hard and the machine will dig too deep and break the pencil. Don’t push hard enough and nothing really gets sharpened. Isn’t it the same with creativity? Push too hard to make “art” or deep change and you end up jamming up the works. You try to go too fast and everyone feels pushed and stressed out. Don’t work at all, and you end up with no results. Eventually, the project gets boring because there’s no forward motion.

I also noticed that my pencil sharpener is a Boston product. To me, the town of Boston is my past. My family is mostly from New England and the Boston mindset (and accent) feels like home sometimes. There’s so much good back there. Of course, if it was really for me, I’d be living there. It’s not a bad place, just not my place to live all the time. When I’m in my creative mindset, when I’m living the life I’m creating, it’s important to know where I belong and what is now a part of my past. The outer layer of wood on my pencil has also served me well at some previous point. It’s not useful now because it’s covering up the lead I need to write my next chapter with.

Today I dumped out the reservoir of pencil shavings. It’s important to consciously let go of what no longer serves us on a regular basis. That might be the clothes in your closet, the relationships you’ve outgrown or the mindset that has been leading you into confusion and unhappiness. All of this benefits from regular evaluation and release.

Finally, I notice that this is an electric pencil sharpener. What a great metaphor! No matter what tools I am using, the energy behind the tool is something outside of me. As I create my world, as I sharpen my own consciousness and bring forth balance or new ideas, I’m powered by a greater energy. I don’t need to provide that power. It’s there for me to use whenever I use this machine. It will wait for me to be ready. I never feel guilty for not sharpening something in my office. The pencil sharpener is there for my use when I’m ready, as are the pencils and every other physical and metaphorical tool I have.

Isn’t it great that Spirit shows up in such beautiful, mundane ways? God is in my pencil sharpener as much as the majestic mountains and all the miracles we all recognize in our daily lives.

Working with the Law

Today is my 47th birthday. And, because I’m a responsible adult with a full time job and mortgage payments, and thus in control of my own destiny, we had chocolate cake and coffee for breakfast. That’s probably the best part of being an adult. You get to decide what you’re going to do and when you’re going to do it.

Of course, there’s this guy whose birthday we celebrate tomorrow that also talked about the joy of being in charge of your own life. Ernest Holmes, about 2000 years later, explained to us how it all works by talking about the Law of Cause and Effect. And he was right in saying that we are the Law’s slave until we understand it and then it becomes our servant.

So, for instance, I could have chocolate cake for breakfast (two pieces). I get to make that decision. It doesn’t excuse me from the consequences, either on the scale or the sudden need for salad for lunch. I can try to twist the Law, but there it is. I even split hairs with it – like the time I remembered that mom taught that if there was lots of color on your dinner plate, it was probably a healthy meal. I poured bowl of M&M’s, then called her to tell her what I was eating. Followed the letter of the law, but not the spirit, and so ended up with an upset stomach.

Knowing how the Law works helps us to live happier lives. We give from our joy, in part because we know the Law will return that joy a hundred-fold. Of course, it’s also a lot of fun. We do good for others in order to create the world that works for everyone and then we get to live in that world. That’s how it works – always and in all ways. We live in the world we create, according to the Law, whether we like it or not. There’s something reassuring about that. No matter how long it takes, my positive thoughts and choice to believe in the ultimate goodness of the human soul MUST return to me. I must experience the outpicturing of that thought/belief.

So here’s my early Christmas wish for you – may you be pleasantly surprised this year by the inherent goodness of your fellow beings on this earth. May you let that happy surprise shape your thinking about the whole world. And may you, at some point, gift yourself with birthday cake for breakfast, just because it’s fun and you can.

Go for the gold

We have cats. That’s important to know because it’s the holiday season and we celebrate Christmas in our house. Cat people have already figured out the issue. For those who haven’t caught on, let’s just say we hesitate to put up a tree and we’ve given up on decorating the bottom third. Our ornaments get sorted and stored by “breakable” and “unbreakable.” This year, my sister Kelly loaned her tree to the Center (thank you!) because, well… see the above… and the Center needed something smaller and more easily taken down than the gorgeous-but-huge tree we usually have.

The thing is, we still want the pretty lights and the Christmas spirit and the sparkle. So we are decorating the fake ficus trees that are in the living room. There are two, so we each took our best memory ornaments and put those up. We practically super-glued them on, but they are up. The carols are playing, there are decorations everywhere the animals can’t reach and we have a plan for Christmas day (mostly about food).

Have you ever really wanted to have a certain experience and had it happen in the way you didn’t expect? Maybe you’ve been praying for love and you meet a puppy. Or you make a new, wonderful friend which is great but not romantic. It can be very disappointing when you recognize that you got what you asked for but didn’t really get what you wanted. Some people don’t even realize their prayer was answered because it doesn’t look like what they expected.

When I teach prayer, that is how to do affirmative prayer, I am careful to teach to treat for an experience rather than a specific situation. Want transportation in the form of a car? That’s great – treat for Freedom and Abundance, not the car your cousin says might make it a few more miles. Want love? Treat for Love (notice the capital L) and Joy rather than for your latest crush to leave his/her current partner.

I want the joy and sanctity of the holiday season to brim up in my life. I want to sit in the deep dark silence of Christmas night and feel the starlight on my heart. I don’t care what the tree looks like or if the tree I was expecting is in the room I usually put it in. I want the reflection of the ornaments to shine on my soul and the lights to sparkle in my eyes. I want the gifts to pile up, too; the smiles and songs and snacks that feed my soul and are impossible to wrap.

If you are looking for something to happen in your life, whether it’s a financial improvement or for your love life to get steamy, think for a moment about what that represents to you. Do you want a date, or love? Do you want a bill paid or to never worry about money again? Claim the bigger experience. Go for the gold rather than the gilt. That leaves room for the Universe to be more creative. You may get what you originally thought you wanted, or something better. And you’ll definitely get the demonstration, one way or another. But don’t you think the Living Spirit that created the giraffe and roses and peppermint mochas can do something amazing for you if you let It have some fun? Make that your gift to the Universe this season, no matter which holidays you are celebrating. Give the gift of carte blanche to the Universe to create a life beyond your wildest dreams.