Tuesday, December 28, 2010

I Believe In Miracles...Or Do I?

Uptown Waterloo

I've gone back and forth over the years on what I've thought concerning the "miracle stories" in the New Testament - y0u know, the ones where Jesus makes a blind man see or tells his disciples to go back out onto the lake fishing, at which point they haul in a record haul of fish.

What to do with these stories? For a long time I took the whole Bible to be true and without fault, and I took these miracle stories to be literal. Jesus actually did heal the sick and did walk on water. Then I moved away from much of the faith of my youth and I considered these stories to be allegories or symbols of some truth Jesus or the gospel writers were trying to get at.

Now, while I'm not sure, I think many of these stories are true. Jesus did break the loaves and fishes and fed 5, 000. But...are they miracles?

Author Eric Butterworth argues that these are not miracles at all but are the natural way of things as pointed out by an enlightened person, Jesus. The universe, I think he would say, bends towards health (Jesus healing blind men and lepers, etc) and abundance (multiplying the loaves and fishes and telling his disciples to cast out their fishing nets, etc).

Some of it has to do with perspective. Do you think that Life is set out to get you, or that Life is always a hard struggle and will be til the day you die? Or do you believe that Life is abundant and that there are infinite possibilities of good open to you? I firmly believe the latter. It's not just about a positive attitude, though that has a lot to do with it. I believe that there is a Spiritual Force at work, creating the Universe and unfolding it. And that Force - call it God, Spirit, Life, Love, Father, etc - desires health in every way - mentally, physically, emotionally. She desires abundance and peace - peace of mind and peace of heart.

Life, then, is not about struggling against a Universe that "has it out to get you." No matter how dim our lives have looked like up until right now, no matter what we have faced, we have a powerful choice. And that is to raise the consciousness of our minds to connect with God who lives inside of us. To connect with this power and learn how to trust fully. God will not let us go. Or, if you wish, God will not let you sink. There is of course the powerful "miracle" story of Jesus telling a disciple in a boat to step out and walk on the water with him. The disciple is fine as long as he keeps his eyes on Jesus, but he starts to swim when he starts doubting.

So if the Universe/God is all about health and abundance, how do we connect with that? How do we tap into it? Well, let's look at what Jesus had to say about this. On more than one occasion when he supposedly healed someone, what did he say? "I have made you well?" No, he didn't say that. "Your faith has made you well." That's more like it. Jesus, and I believe God is always willing to heal and always willing to pour out abundance. It's not too good to be true. As Divine Beings ourselves, we inherit these things from God. It is our job to have the faith, to raise our minds and believe, even in the midst of doom and almost overwhelming gloom.

We don't need a miracle, we just need to raise our consciousness and tap into the rich inheritance that is ours. No matter if we've been wandering like the prodigal son in the Bible, our Father (our Divine self) is always waiting to take up back and to throw us a party.

Blessings on you this moment,

Mark Andrew

Sunday, December 19, 2010

I've Got "U" Babe

Leading up to this morning I had 3 choices in mind when it came to attending a Sunday service.

I could attend the Unity Centre where I have been regularly attending for months now. (But I could skip a week since I'll be there on Wednesday night for a candlelight service.)

I could attend First Unitarian, where I attended for quite awhile - and I still have an affinity for the congregation. This particular Sunday a retired Anglican priest was speaking. Very tempting.

But at the last moment I decided on First United Church, at the corner of William and King in Uptown Waterloo. Why did I choose United this morning? My friend Felicia, the former minister at First Unitarian, is now the minister at First United. We once led a book group at First Unitarian; the book was The Heart of Christianity by Marcus Borg.

My first impression when I walked into the sanctuary was "My goodness this is big!" The service was full of music, with the choir in the balcony, a children's choir, a youth ensemble, and a handbell choir; all did a good job, though I have to admit I kept thinking Saturday Night Live could do a great spoof on the handbell choir - call me a dingdong but it just looks funny!

There was very little in the service that didn't sit well with me, except for the prayer of confession, that, although not as offensive as I've heard in many Christian services, still asked God to forgive us for our disbelief.

The sermon, or homily, was the best part of the service. It was wonderful to see my friend in her usual ministerial stoll (like a religious scarf) complete with the Unitarian chalice symbol on it!

The gist of the sermon was that God is not some celestial being who is distant from us. Rather, in the birth of Jesus we see God connecting with humanity. Rev. Felicia took it further (much to my inner applause) by saying that each of us - not just Jesus - is born without sin and has divinity "stamped" upon our very DNA. Bravo! I loved it! It went along well with the book I am reading by the late Unity minister Eric Butterworth, "Discover The Power Within You."

3 choices. Unity, Unitarian, or United. I'm glad that this Sunday I chose the latter.

...And oh, tonight I'm going Anglican for a traditional carols and lessons service. :)

Blessings from Cafe 1842 in Uptown Waterloo,

Mark Andrew

Sent from my Tricorder.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

When The Soul Felt Its Worth

Long lay the world in sin and error pining,
Till He appeared and the soul felt its worth.

One of my favourite Christmas carols is O Holy Night. I think it is beautiful and the way the song rises to a majestic crescendo raises one's spirits this time of the year. That is, if your spirit needs raising.

For me, there are so many things this time of the year that raise my spirit. The tree, the wreaths, the ice skaters in front of city hall, the egg nog, the music, the movies, time spent with family and friends.

I found myself singing O Holy Night in the shower this morning, and heard a line in an entirely new and different way.

Long lay the world in sin and error pining,
Till he appeared and the soul felt its worth.

As I've mentioned in a previous post, in the last several years I have struggled to find a new meaning of Christmas that aligns with my ever-evolving beliefs. This year I can once again appreciate the birthday of Jesus as way-shower, as well as the Christ presence within me and all of humanity. Christ was not Jesus' last name, it is that divine spark that dwells in the hearts of every man and woman, if only we would recognize it.

Till he appeared and the soul felt its worth.

The image comes to mind that since the beginning of humanity the soul in everyone has wanted to rise up and exert its power, but perhaps there hadn't been all that many stellar examples of what this kind of life would look like. And then Jesus comes along. Jesus came along to show the way to live. What's more, while many Christian theologians assert that Jesus was sent "down" to earth from a literal Heaven, and became less (a man) for our sakes, I am coming to believe that Jesus did not come down to tell us how sinful we are and therefore in need of salvation from Hell, but that his message was this: "The divine, the spark of God lives within all of humanity, each and every one of you. I have not come to tell you how bad you are, but instead to help you realize that you are one with the Divine." Through his life, Jesus went on to show how powerful a difference it could make in the life of a human if she realized that God was not "up there" or "out there" somewhere, but that each of us has that power within us. The soul finally felt its worth, stood up and shouted "Finally! I've been waiting for this my whole life!" Jesus emphasized what kind of power was already within us when he said things like: "The Kingdom of Heaven is within you," and "You will do greater things (than even me)."

The late Unity minister Eric Butterworth writes in his classic Discover The Power Within You, that Jesus came to be a window by which humanity could look through and see an example of divinity at work in humanity. But what did humanity do? Humanity instead worshiped the window, put it on a pedestal, and for the large part, missed his point entirely. They admired the frame, the smoothness of the glass, the windowsill. And missed the point entirely. We love to worship people and things. We worship singers, actors, models, athletes, anyone who possesses a quality that we find admirable or extraordinary. But this, in my opinion, was not what Jesus wanted whatsoever. Jesus did not live so that a religion would be named after him, so that churches and denominations would exist in his name. In fact, he deflected praise when someone dared call him "Good Teacher." 'Why do you call me good? Only God is good." That doesn't sound like someone who desired to be worshiped.

Jesus wanted to show humanity the way. He wanted us to look through the window. He wanted to show us what it looked like to live a divinely inspired life, a life at one with God.

I pray that this Christmastime your soul will feel its worth as someone who is a beloved Daughter or Son of God.


Mark Andrew

Monday, December 13, 2010


Unity's Daily Word for Sunday, December 12th, 2010


I open my heart to the all-powerful love of God.

The love of God is a powerful force for good. Divine love mends differences, creates joy and opens hearts and lives to unlimited blessings.

Love is the foundation of all unity. Where love is, there can be no differences, separation or inharmony. Divine love allows us to hold to the truth that only good is at work and that only good prevails.

Love is "the fulfilling of the law," the assurance that there is something greater to experience, something more to enjoy. Love is magnetic. It draws to itself every good thing.

I am developing a love consciousness. I feel divine love at work within me now, causing me to see myself and others in the right light, the light of love.

Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law.--Romans 13:10

Sunday, December 12, 2010

An Old Hindu Legend

...hewn from the Prologue to Eric Butterworth's "Discover The Power Within You."

According to an old Hindu legend there was a time when all men were gods, but they so abused their divinity that Brahma, the chief god, decided to take it away from men and hide it where they would never again find it. Where to hide it became the big question.

When the lesser gods were called in council to consider this question, they said, "We will bury man's divinity deep in the earth." But Brahma said, "No, that will not do, for man will dig deep down in the earth and find it." Then they said, "Well, we will sink his divinity into the deepest ocean." but again Brahma replied, "No, not there, for man will learn to dive into the deepest waters, will search out the ocean bed, and will find it."

Then the lesser gods said, "We will take it to the top of the highest mountain and there hide it." But again Brahma replied, "No, for man will eventually climb every high mountain on earth. he will be sure some day to find it and take it up again for himself." Then the lesser gods gave up and concluded, "We do not know where to hide it, for it seems there is no place on earth or in the sea that man will not eventually reach."

Then Brahma said, "Here is what we will do with man's divinity. We will hide it deep down in man himself, for he will never think to look for it there." Ever since then, the legend concludes, man has been going up and down the earth, climbing, digging, diving, exploring, searching for something that is already in himself.

Two thousand years ago a man named Jesus found it and shared its secret; but in the movement that sprang up in His name, the Divinity of Man has been the best kept secret of the ages.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Christmas 2010: Awakening To The Christ Presence Within

The lights, the trees, the music - Bing, Frank, Boney M, the movies - It's A Wonderful Life, White Christmas, Rudolph. The tinsel, the wreaths, the church services. I love everything about Christmas.

But what does it all mean? My first thought is that I admit I try to dig into the deeper meanings of almost everything; I admit that I use my brain too much. If Christmas were just about what I mentioned above, I think I'd be happy with that. There would be plenty to be joyful about.

However, Christmas used to be so shrouded in religious meaning for me for twenty-some-odd years that now I still grapple with what deeper, more spiritual meaning it could have.

My beliefs about Christmas have evolved as I have evolved. For those twenty or so years Christmas was about the Son of God, Jesus, being sent down to earth and being born of a virgin, sent to be the Saviour of all humankind. However, those beliefs began to shift - it was more like an earthquake, as my beliefs changed. I no longer believed that humanity's nature is sinful, thus we didn't need someone to sacrifice himself for our sins in order for us to be acceptable to God.

Two years ago I wrote an article for this blog called Before, When I Had A Saviour. The title itself was perhaps slightly antagonistic to Facebook friends who were evangelicals, but in re-reading it just now for the first time in months, I really enjoy the article. The crux of the article is that when we reach outward for a saviour, we dull our own ability and our own powers within us.

Which brings me to this year. The last couple of years I have softly tried to find my reason for Christmas. There wasn't the Saviour notion anymore, so I mainly concentrated on those movies, and music, goodwill, peace, eggnog (mmm...eggnog.)

This year there is a new idea coming to mind. And that is that perhaps at Christmastime we can concentrate on the Christ-consciousness within each and every one of us. There is the popular phrase that many Christians like to use that "God's last name is not Dammit." Well, I would also say that Jesus' last name was not Christ. The Christ consciousness, to my understanding, is that spark of divinity and connection with the Divine that each of us has. So at Christmastime we can celebrate the birth of this man who obviously realized humanity's divine nature and taught us many invaluable lessons, but we can also celebrate our own divinity, our own Christ consciousness. I was part of a group on the subject of prayer at my spiritual centre recently, and the leader went around the circle calling each of us "the Christ." Mary The Christ, Robert The Christ, Mark Andrew The Christ. I believe that this is not scandalous at all, but it is our birthright. The meaning of Jesus was not that one man would come down and do miraculous, powerful things, but that this man, who realized his Christ nature, would show us ours as well. He believed that we could do powerful, powerful things. "Ask and it will be given to you," "“Truly I tell you, if you say to this mountain, “Be taken up and thrown into the sea”, and if you do not doubt in your heart, but believe that what you say will come to pass, it will be done for you," "Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these."

So what is our job at Christmastime spiritually speaking? I believe it may be to let every heart prepare the Christ consciousness room. To rid ourselves not only of malice, unforgiveness, anger, bitterness, but also of small-minded thinking that we are merely powerless human beings. Charlotte Shelton, President and CEO of Unity World Headquarters, writes: "Will you let the Christ consciousness be fully born anew in you this Christmas? As we do so, we will create a world of peace and plenty, but first we must awaken to our potential. Are you ready? Do you feel the labor pains? Let's start preparing the manger of our hearts because a new day is about to be born … first inside of us … then in the material world."

This Christmas, may we celebrate the birth of Jesus the Christ, and realize anew our own Christ presence.

Merry Christmas!


Mark Andrew

Getting Back In Touch With Our Hidden Innocence

There's something about this time of year that can sometimes make me feel like I'm 5 years old again. Tonight, an Enya Christmas song called The Spirit of Christmas Past is doing the trick. But sometimes it is the Christmas trees, the wreaths, the strands of lights weaving around the trees Uptown here. And it's the music and the movies, like It's A Wonderful Life and Rudolph.

Somewhere underneath everything we've become in order to be grown-ups is that inner 5-year old, giddy on Christmas Eve with anticipation of Santa's arrival. We'll put out cookies and milk for Kris Kringle, and carrots for his reindeer. We'll have written him a couple weeks prior to tell him what gifts we want, and we'll line up to sit on his knee in the shopping mall. Even if our childhood was less than ideal, there is still that magical dreamer in us that loves this time of the year. And this time of the year it is allowed to come out. As we shop in bustling malls, as we actually smile and say "Hello" at the passerby on the street, as we belt out Hark The Herald Angels Sing at church.

It is that part of us that has been untouched by cynicism, anger or bitterness. It is the dreamer in us, and when we get in touch with it, it is as if we could sprout wings and fly as high as the Bethlehem angels.

Maybe this year we'll learn that we don't have to shove that 5-year old dreamer back inside our hearts once this festive season passes. Dreams, having a wonder-ing, awestruck heart are good things. Playfulness and broad smiles are things we never have to grow out of.

I hope that during this busy Christmastime, when that feeling of innocence and joy hits you, you will revel in it and give it plenty of breathing room. And that when this time of the year has passed, you will keep part of that with you all throughout the new year.


Mark Andrew

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Do You, Or Should You Love Yourself?

It's a simple question really. Do you, or for that matter, should you love yourself? My answer to this question is a loud and enthusiastic "Yes!"

What is the first thing that you think or say when you look at yourself in the mirror in the morning? There are many options:

"Man, my hair sucks today." "Look at the bags under my eyes; I look 10 years older than I actually am." "I'm a fat pig." "Who could love and accept me the way that I am right now?"

I offer that more people than you think say or think such things to themselves each morning. And what are the consequences? The day begins on a negative note, with self-rejection and even self-loathing. It's no wonder then that the rest of the day only brings more reasons and opportunities to dislike or be disgusted by oneself.

What I would like to say to you is that you are worthy to be loved. You are loved and lovable. Try looking at yourself in the mirror each morning and saying that, regardless of any of the other negative voices that may be trying to fill your mind. Stand there, look into your own eyes and say "I am so loved, and I am so lovable."

I think that many people come to loathe or dislike themselves from a fairly early age. Perhaps this is because of pressure from their peers at school, or maybe they don't hear positive messages of reinforcement from their family of origin. But I think there's almost nothing more powerful in the world than self-love. When you come from this place, you are able to give and receive love throughout your day. Often we are far kinder to people around us than we are to ourselves. It's time to stop this nagging bad habit.

Perhaps some would say that this view I'm taking is arrogant or over-the-top. To that I would simply say no. When we love others or ourselves, powerful vibrations in us occur, vibrations that are sent out into the world and attract even more love toward us. Love spreads throughout our world.

For some reason we often believe that it's perfectly natural to love the people around us, but it's not so clear when it comes to ourselves. But I would encourage you today, the next time you walk past a mirror, to state: "I love myself the way I am, and I am lovable."


Mark Andrew

Monday, December 6, 2010

Coming Out Of The Depression Closet

The 50 or 60-something character Saul from the ABC drama Brothers & Sisters is sitting in his nephews car, dejected and still a little inebriated. A few minutes before he had called Kevin to come bail him out of jail after driving under the influence and ramming his car into a tree. And then he said something to his nephew that he had admitted to almost no one, including himself. "I'm a gay man Kevin, and I don't know what to do, I've wasted my life," (presumably hiding his sexuality.) Fast forward awhile into the episode and he comes out to the whole Walker family. It is like a wave of fresh air has spilled through the room and even into my living room as I watch. At the end of the episode, Kevin - who has been out for many years - is tying the knot with the love of his life Scotty.

And now it is my turn to come out of a closet, in the hopes of helping someone or a number of people. I am not gay, but instead have suffered often in silence for many years with the silent tormenter - depression.

There are benefits and runs being held all over the continent each year for various causes. There's a run for breast cancer, there are telethons for multiple sclerosis. Most recently, the "Movember" movement spread like wildfire which offered that it was in existence to raise awareness of prostate cancer. These are all worthwhile causes and I applaud their efforts.

But there is another epidemic sweeping through our world that often goes unspoken. It is just as debilitating as a cancer diagnosis or a degenerative disease. It is mental illness, specifically depression. I write this article in the hopes that someone suffering from this disease will realize they are not alone. Another popular movement in the last several months there has been another popular movement, most noticeably on YouTube, called The Trevor Project. Scores of celebrities as well as other members of society have recorded short videos in support of young gay, lesbian, transgendered and bisexual youth who have been bullied by their peers for their sexuality. The message sent to these youth: "It Gets Better." It is this same message I believe scores of people suffering from depression need to hear as well.

I liken depression to a cancer of the mind, only there is no clear-cut course of treatment such as radiation, chemotherapy or surgery. I will discuss some of the treatment options in a couple of minutes. But first, a little of my story.

I have knowingly suffered from depression since I was about 15 or 16 years old (that is for 15 years or so.) Anxiety is often a kissing cousin of depression and I remember going into a panic while sitting through a Christmas Eve church service when I was 15 or 16, and I thought I was losing my mind - literally. That is when I was first prescribed medication.

I realize now that there are various causes of depression. Some are physiological, chemical, or genetic, and others are environmental and social causes, such as trauma. For myself I believe it a combination of a few of these.

Let me share just a few of the ways that this disease called depression has adversely affected my life:

- lack of energy to pursue the things one is passionate about

- lack of energy to get out of bed until late in the day, therefore missing out on most of the day

- a racing mind

- anxiety about almost everything

- lack of concentration

- lack of memory

- it has affected very important relationships to me, to the point where they've fallen apart

- isolation ("I have this big secret that no one knows about and if they did they wouldn't accept me anymore")

Now let me discuss some of the frustration of dealing with the mental health system here in Ontario. I have seen scores of therapists and psychiatrists (though getting an appointment with the latter often takes months, not weeks, then when you finally do they talk with you for 15 minutes and simply send you off with a new concoction of medications.) I have been on many many anti-depressants/anti-anxiety drugs, many with side-effects. And with these particular medications, there is no telling whether they will be effective or not, so it's a crapshoot, you just have to keep going back to your shrink and adjusting doses or completely changing them up. And then you're back to square one. I have been part of group therapy that has been a positive experience. I have in the past tried to self-medicate with alcohol, which on the other hand has not been a positive experience.

Christmas is often a very hard time for people who battle depression, perhaps because of the gloomy weather, but also because everyone expects you to be happy around this time of year, so you stand out like a sore thumb when you're not. (Thankfully for me, I don't find this to be a problem, as I love Christmas and find joy in it.)

I am writing this article now for a couple of reasons: The more people I share my illness with, the more responses I get such as "I've struggled with it to," or "I have a loved one who battles depression." Secondly I want to encourage those suffering from depression or other mental illness that there is help and there is hope.

I can not stress enough how debilitating this disease can be. Again I compare it to a cancer that will not let you go. Perhaps the worst part of it is the isolation that you feel from those around you or society in general.

You don't have to go through it alone. I implore you to reach out to professionals in your community. Doctors, psychiatrists, therapists (for instance in Kitchener-Waterloo there are agencies that provide counselling services on a sliding fee scale). Medication may very well be a necessity for the time being or perhaps long term. Group therapy can be reassuring, just knowing that there are so so many others who have this disease.

Let me speak about what is helping me the most right now. Firstly, being around friends and family who love me and accept me exactly as I am, people I can share my struggles with who will not judge or would never reject me.

Secondly, developing my spirituality has been huge. God, or the Divine,  has always been part of my life, but as my beliefs have evolved, I have went from an evangelical Christianity to a more liberal,  inclusive spirituality. I am happy to be part of a spiritual community that is inspiring and loving. I think getting in touch with the Divine, which is pretty much getting in touch with yourself, can be very helpful.

I would encourage you who are reading this right now to think if you have a family member or friend who might be wrestling with this awful disease in silence or on their own. Read again the point-form list of how depression has affected my life. Kindly and softly reach out to them, letting them know that while you may not have any easy answers, you will never leave them and are there for them.

If it would help, I'd encourage you to either share this article on your Facebook page, or e-mail the link to anyone it might help.

You don't have to go through it alone anymore. Even though you can't see it now, you can have a bright and fulfilling future. There are professionals, there are friends who will not shun you. Also, it is important to continue to pursue things you are passionate about as you battle this, as hard as it is. This can be a light in the darkness. For me, it's singing, writing, and hanging out with friends.

Bless you wherever you are on your journey,

Mark Andrew

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Is There A Place For Faith In Our Lives?

6:18 pm

As I ask this question, I hear a collective "Yes, but..." And to be fair I also hear a few "No's." I am one who believes there is a place for faith in our lives in today's world, but I would be one of those to add the word "but" in there too. Because faith can mean so many different things to different people. Other questions come into play too. "What is the basis for our faith?" "Who or what do we have faith in?"

For me, faith used to mean placing belief in an outward God, someone who cared for us yet was still separate from ourselves. What I believed in primarily was that if I had faith in the person Jesus - who I considered to still be alive - that I would go to heaven.

But to me now, faith has to be more than that. It's not just fire insurance, or making sure we don't end up in hell. What's more, I don't believe that Jesus is still alive or that there is even a Hell, so what then do I mean by faith?

Firstly, I believe that we must have faith in ourselves, faith that we are not a part from God but are a part of God. Faith in ourselves means that we are not sinful, depraved people at our very core, but that we are wondrous expressions of the Divine him/herself. If we believe in this, then faith can become a much more personal matter and not merely something we place on someone or something outside of ourselves. If we are one with God and divine in nature just as Jesus Christ was, then we can have faith in a power that is inside ourselves. When we pray our prayers can go inward rather than outward. So I believe faith in ourselves is crucial.

But what happens when we can't find the answers to our questions or concerns inside of ourselves? That is where faith in God, who is both transcendent and imminently close, comes in. We may call this God Father, Mother, Spirit, Love, or the Universe among many other things. If things are up in the air in one or more areas of our lives - jobs, relationships, family to name a few - I believe that we can utilize that faith-power that is inside ourselves. This is where faith in the transcendent God comes in. I believe that God knows what we need before we even ask. The line from O Holy Night comes to mind right now: "He knows our needs, to our weakness He's no stranger." Faith in this respect, at least to me means letting go and letting God. This requires a trust that God, or the Universe is working everything together for the good of those who love Him/Her.

Each time we are faced with a seemingly insurmountable problem or crisis, we have the choice: to be wracked by worry and anxiety, or to "Step Out of The Boat." I am referring of course to the story in the gospels when Jesus' disciples are out on a boat during a storm, and Jesus appears before them walking on the water. He calls on Peter to step out of the boat, keep his eyes on Jesus, and walk on the water himself. Peter steps out of the boat, keeps his eyes on Jesus and starts walking on water, then he gets scared and looks down at the water and begins to sink. I believe this can be a powerful lesson for us today. If we have faith, step out of the boat and keep our minds on God (whoever that may be for us) we can make it through. How are we to walk on water or step over all the difficulties or crises in our lives? That's not our job to figure it out. We simply need to keep our eyes, our faith on God and She will figure out the rest.

It is easy to have faith when things are going all peachy keen in our lives. It is another thing entirely to actually have faith when things are tough and our pathway isn't clear at all. But this is where real faith kicks in.

In closing, I encourage both you, and myself because I need it so badly, to step out of the boat and walk by faith, not by sight.


Mark Andrew

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

From Worry To Thankfulness


Are you like me in that you are one who falls into worrying very easily? How much of your day do you spend worrying about, well, you name it. Money, health, relationships, your job, your family. As soon as we wake up in the morning our minds almost automatically go to worry and anxiety. "What will I do if?" "How will I cope when?" And the list goes on and on. Before we even get out of our comfy beds our minds are already caught in the drama of worry, and if we don't stop it worry will hold our mind hostage for the rest of the day. Worry can make us depressed and overly tired even if we are young and should be full of strength. Worry dims our outlook and fills up so much mental space that there is little room left for our dreams, aspirations and goals. There is little room for the Spirit of God to speak her words of truth an encouragement to us.

One way to counter worry and anxiety is by gratitude. When we stop and consciously think about the things we are thankful for, there is less room for worry and negativity to take hold. For example, I've had a pretty shitty day today, December 1st. I often let worry and anxiety get the best of me, to the point where I don't want to get out of bed. By the time that I do, anxiety has such a hold on me that I can barely hear the Spirit of God whispering words of encouragement and life to me. Thankfully, now that I'm up and around I am calming down and hearing that voice again, spurring me on to "step out of the boat" and walk on water like the disciple Peter.

Back to gratitude, though. It's hard to stay negative if you live a life of gratitude. It's easy to cultivate this, and only takes a minute or two. It can be done any time of the day. For example, here at the coffee shop I am thankful for many things. I am thankful for my sweater which is comfortable and is keeping me warm on a cold December night. I am thankful for my glasses by which I can see clearly. I am thankful for this coffee which is warming me up and pleasing my tastebuds. I am thankful for this comfy red chair that I am sitting on. I am thankful for the yellow Christmas lights on the tree outside the shop here, its limbs swaying in the wind. As I look around me at the other people in the café here, I marvel that no two people are exactly alike; in a world with billions of people, this is wondrous. You see how easy that was? And I was only listing things immediately present here at the coffee shop. During that whole time of listening off what I am thankful for, not a thought of worry or anxiety crept into my mind, it was too occupied with being grateful.

Let's try to raise our minds to a level of continuous gratitude and we'll see more peace and calm in our lives.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Life Is Best When Shared

441pm. Starbucks Uptown Waterloo

I'm sitting here at Starbucks on a rainy end-of-November afternoon, and I just got together with a friend from my spiritual centre. We had an enjoyable time talking about our lives, religion, spirituality, etc.

As I sit here with my now-cold grandé decaf coffee, I am thinking how life is so much more enjoyable when shared with others.

I used to spend a lot of time alone. Find the nearest Tim Hortons to where I lived and you would most likely find me sitting there, with journal and pen or self-help/spiritual book in hand. I'd stay there for hours. And part of it is because I have an introverted part of me. I'm not saying that it is wrong to spend time by yourself, but there have been many times in my life when I've overdone it. Perhaps I did this -and continue to do this sometimes - because you don't have to be vulnerable when you're all alone; there's less chance of being hurt. So instead of vulnerability and the chance of being hurt you instead settle for the pain of loneliness.

But there are so many things that are best when shared. Walks through a park or down a trail, coffee at a café, movie-watching, sex. I think we are meant to be relational, that's how we were created. We aren't meant to be alone. This is the point of the movie Into The Wild if you've seen it. The title character - it's a true story - goes off into the wilderness by himself to figure life out, only to come to the conclusion that life is best when shared.

It can be hard to break out of my pattern of spending hour upon hour at coffee shops by myself, but when I do make the effort I am rewarded. I just came off a wonderful weekend spent with friends, and today even though I felt kinda bad I had a really good conversation over coffee with a friend.

We are beings of Love, and Love is relational. If we want to live in Love, we will live in relationship.


Mark Andrew

Monday, November 29, 2010

Something Old, Something New On The Verge Of Christmastime

4:17pm Café 1842 Uptown Waterloo

As Christmastime is fast upon us even though it's not yet December, I am appreciating things familiar and things new.

Today is a crash day after an unusually long weekend of traveling and getting together with good friends. I allowed myself to sleep in till the early afternoon. Soon after getting up I found myself here at 1842, among the familiar. There's the all-day breakfast, a skillet of homefries, onions, peppers, and ham, with 2 eggs done how you like them and toast. There's the Javanilla coffee that is yumalicious. And there's the Toronto Star, with an almost mandatory article on the scoring woes of the Toronto Maple Leafs, and another article discussing Justin Bieber's hairstyle. I like the familiar, it makes me feel nice and warm. Ohhh...Tony Bennett just came on the music system, singing Santa Claus Is Comin' To Town. I like the familiarity of old Christmas carols like Hark The Herald Angels Sing, Away In A Manger, and Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Fire. Traditional versions, not all pop-y by current artists. Tonight I will bus down to my spiritual centre for a meditation class, where there'll be the familiar sanctuary and cozy library and a cup of mint tea at break-time (perhaps with a splash of egg-nog if there's any left over from the other night's decorating party.)

I am also thinking about being with someone you love and the calming, warm familiarity that so often comes with that. Holding or being held by that someone you love as you caress each other's skin and give each other gentle kisses.

Now on to something new. I am still struggling with finding a personal meaning of Christmas, several years now after leaving evangelical Christianity. Back then I believed that Christmas was about Jesus coming down from heaven as a baby who was also God, who came to be the sacrifice for humankind's sins. In the first few years after leaving these beliefs I simply said that Christmas was about family and friends and peace on earth. And still this is what Christmas is about to me. But this year another possibility is arising, that Christmas can be a celebration of the Christ-presence, or God-presence, within each and every one of us. It can be a celebration of our divine nature that allows us to have immense power and to dream big dreams. At Christmas we remember Jesus, but we can remember our own Christ-presence within.

A few thoughts on a nice Autumn Monday afternoon.

Mark Andrew

My Evening At The Church...But Not-Church


It's the end of a busy weekend filled with friends and Christmas tree admiring and decorating among other things. And now I'm finally able to relax on the couch in my pj's with my jar of No Name Crunch Peanut Butter and unwind.

This morning I went to my spiritual centre Unity, and though I mentioned this in my last post it is worth repeating - actually a couple of things. I love Unity, don't get me wrong, but this morning after singing Deck The Halls and Go Tell It On The Mountain, the band led us in My Favourite Things from The Sound of Music. This had got to be on my list of 10 Most Hated Songs of All Time. I don't want to sing about mittens on kittens or warm apple streudal!!! Secondly, these days at Unity there is a designated "Hug" entrance, and a "Hug-Free" entrance. Seriously. I suggested today that there be a designated kissing entrance (tongue or no-tongue). Not sure how that's gonna fly.

Last night I got a text (or wait for it..a Blackberry message 'cause we're cool) from a good college friend, Dan Grace. Other than the fact he once stole a girlfriend from me years ago and read the love poetry I had written for her, he's a great guy! Anyways, Dan invited me to go with him and his lovely wife to a worship night at The Meeting House, a self-described "church for people who aren't into church." It's one of these contemporary churches (oops...places!) that meets in auditoriums or movie theatres (just a question, but is it ok to sit in the back row on Sunday mornings and make out with your significant other?) Anyways, I had heard of this movement for quite some time and wanted to check it out, and this was a good opportunity. On the last Sunday of every month they hold a worship (music) service called The Attic (sadly there were no bats or owls present.) This evening, an artist from out west named Jodi King was leading worship as well as singing a few of her own songs.

I am glad that I went tonight. In particular it was very good to spend time with Dan and Faith again. Also, it was an interesting exercise to observe myself in how I was reacting to the messages that I was receiving during the evening. I have two predominant feelings whenever I go to a Christian church service nowadays. One is a feeling of nostalgia - I am taken back to my days in the church and the worship music scene. My life was so filled with both for 20-some-odd years that I find myself having feelings of familiarity when I am in those settings again. Secondly, I find myself wanting to "build bridges" or find common ground between what I used to believe (evangelical Christianity) and what I currently believe.

First of all, the things that I liked about this evening's service. I like the passion that is put into the songs; it is palpable and authentic (not just a show). Also, the quality of the presentation was excellent (acoustic, electric and bass guitars, drummer, keyboard, vocalists).

Now on to the content of the lyrics. I like how relational evangelical Christianity can be, that is, singing to God as if he is someone you are close with, like a very close friend or family member. I believe that the Divine is relational and that we experience the Divine when we are relating to people, nature, who we'd call God. A lot of the songs sung - actually probably all of them - were sung as if to someone who was in the auditorium.

Now on to some of the theology that I don't believe in and why I couldn't sing along. (And I am NOT trying to antagonize anyone or belittle anyone's faith. These are just some observations.)

1) In a couple of the songs there was language about darkness being driven away by the light, by God. This immediately brought to mind a conversation that I had with my friend Ken over Starbucks yesterday about darkness. He said that Christians can't seem to deal with their own darkness, so they objectify it, remove it from themselves and call it the Devil. I highly agree with this. Today I find it much more useful to "love my darkness," to love the parts of myself that previously I had thought unlovable.

2) The Trinity - There were a couple of songs talking about the "Three In One" and they weren't talking about a combo from Wendy's. Rather it was Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Personally, I find this confusing and I just don't see the Divine that way. I see God as One, period. 'Nuff said.

3) There were songs that talked about how "undeserving" we are to receive of God's grace because of our sin. This is what I disagreed most strongly with and is one of the first beliefs I jettisoned when I started heavily questioning my Christian faith. This view of God is that we as humans are born with a sinful nature, there is a separation between God and us as a result, and we need someone to build that bridge back to God and make us worthy. I do not agree. I believe that we have a divine nature, are already one with God, and that we are indeed deserving of God's good gifts in our lives. I've mentioned this in a blog quite a long time ago, but evangelical Christianity can go a long way in reinforcing a person's low self-esteem issues.

4) Jesus - There were many songs about Jesus tonight, including an old hymn I used to really like called All For Jesus. Christianity is a religion based on Jesus' teachings (duh! I'm smart!) but evangelicalism takes it one step further and, in my opinion, makes an idol out of the person Jesus (wasn't there a commandment about making idols?) I have been thinking more and more lately that if Jesus were to walk into most Christian churches today, I think he'd say "Why the hell are you still talking about me?" (Then he'd go to the gymnasium and munch on chocolate chip cookies and coffee after the service.) I doubt that it was ever Jesus's intention to have people worship him the man. Rather, he was always teaching a way of living your life (peace, taking care of the poor and sick, etc) and talking about the kingdom of God (which he said, is within you!) I think he'd find it baffling that people were worshiping his name. He'd just be concerned whether the widow or the orphan was being looked after. Also, instead of realizing our divinity (not just his), we're more comfortable or used to putting one man on a pedestal. I personally believe that we need to spend more time concentrating on our own divinity and what that means in terms of the power we have at our disposal. God doesn't want worshipers as much as he wants co-creators.

Anyways, phew! That's a long blogpost at the end of a busy weekend. Again, I am glad that I went tonight, and my aim is not to "nit-pick" and critique everything, but I love talking about religion and thought I'd jot down a few thoughts.

Blessings as you start out a new week!

Mark Andrew

Sunday, November 28, 2010

The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year

5:01pm Starbucks Uptown Waterloo

This morning the alarm on my Blackberry went off at 9am, and it was one of those mornings when I wasn't sure whether I'd get up and go to my spiritual centre or if I'd go back to bed. But I wanted to make it to Unity for the first Christmad themed service, so I got up. It was nice to sing Christmas songs like Deck The Halls and Have a Holly Jolly Christmas. I appreciate the band at Unity, but if I hear the song My Favourite Things (from The Sound of Music - and it has nothing to do with Christmas!) I will remove my eardrums with a spoon and boil them with my tea. :) Oh well, what made it all tolerable was that after the service I found some left-over egg nog in the refridgerator and added some to my coffee...mmm.

At Unity now there are designated "Hug" and "Hug-Free" entrances. What's the deal? No "Kissing" entrances for "tongue" or "no-tongue?" I feel gipped.

This afternoon my good friend Millie came over and helped me set up and decorate my Christmas tree, to the sweet carolling sounds of Bing Crosby, The Rankin Sisters, Sinatra, Bruce Cockburn, and Boney M among others. We had a grand time. Now we're at Starbucks, but not before making a snow angel (see pictures on Facebook). It made me feel like I was 5. We were going to watch a movie, such as The Bishop's Wife with Cary Grant, but alas we didn't have time.

Anyways, that's all for now,

Mark Andrew

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Opening A Walled-Up Heart

930pm - Bay & Dundas, Toronto

It's the end of my day in Toronto and I've had a wonderful time with my best friend Ken. I've enjoyed walking around looking at the Christmas decorations and drinking Starbucks. I am wonderfully blessed, and tomorrow will be the same!

I have learned a couple things today as well as been reminded of a thing or two.

1) I like Starbucks' Pumpkin Spice Latte, but not as much as something chocolatey.

2) When a friend tells you that there will be provocatively dressed waitresses at the restaurant you'll be going to, don't necessarily believe him. (Actually to be fair they showed up later, and the place was called W Burger Bar. They serve Bison Burgers there too.)

3) I've been reminded again how bless-ed it is to have a friend you can tell absolutely anything to without judgment.

I'm also thinking of how wonderful it is to open up a closed heart. I think we can close up our hearts for many reasons. One reason may be because we think we're too fucked up for someone to love us. And we make up excuses like "when I have this figured out" or "when I've fixed that part of me" then I'll open up my heart. And to be truthful, sometimes we do need to work through issues before entering into friendships or relationships. But guess what:

1) To one extent we're all fucked up somehow, and...

2) It's ok to need other people. This is an important one for me to keep learning. For quite awhile I was afraid to need someone too much, probably because of relationships I have witnessed in my life. But then you can go to extremes and wall up your heart because you don't want to be too needy. To this line of thinking I would say "Trust Yourself. You aren't as fucked up as you think. You are worthy to be loved." In fact, we deserve to be loved, you and I.

Being alone may indeed be safer, but it isn't as satisfying. As my best friend said today, it's in relationships that we learn. We are made for relationships. It's ok to want that someone to curl up on the couch with, to lay beside on a cold winter's night that can be so deep. Sure you make yourself more vulnerable, but no risk no reward. And the reward can be so rich. As you give love your heart opens up and feels the way you have so wanted to feel.

Let's tear down the walls around our hearts. I'll try my best.

Sent from my Tricorder.

An Irish Lyle Lovett, & Other Things

Blogging via Blackberry - who knew? This is a first.

it had been forever since I'd written a blog just about the goings on of my days, and now here is the 2nd in as many days; it's an epidemic!

I hope you are well today. Perhaps you're still snug in your bed on a chilly late fall day.

This is the first morning I've awakened to step out of my apartment building and find snow on the ground. Thank God for a warm coat and scarf. I bussed downtown, grabbed an Irish Cream coffee and banana nut muffin from Matter of Taste, and now am happily on my way to Toronto to see my best friend Ken. It's been several months since I've made the trip into the city.

What do you think the function of our imagination is? We all have one. Is it merely to drift away daydreaming? An escape from the humdrum of our everyday lives? Perhaps it can function that way sometimes. But I'm thinking that we can, by the power of intention, use it for something far more powerful. In imagining we become aware of our deepest dreams, whether that be in regards to careers, our futures, relationships. Often our truest and purest selves come out through our imaginations. Our imagination raises our consciousness to anothe level, we can almost feel our inner selves flying out of our bodies.

I think the trick is to lasso or coral our imagination and use it to actually create a better future for ourselves. This is far better than merely daydreaming. In this way the sister or brother of imagination comes into play - visualization. The things that we imagine and then consciously visualize in our minds are the things we will see come to pass in our lives. Caught in the humdrum of everyday life? Have your expectations of how happy your life could be dimmed? If we hold limiting, negative thoughts in our mind, we will most likely see a limiting negative future. Imagining a happy, fulfilled life? Visualize it, create a picture in your mind of what that will look like, and PERSIST, day in day out, and there is a very good shot you will see happiness and fulfillment. We have a very powerful tool at our disposal - our minds. We have the power to create our own lives each and every day - we are not merely bystanders in our own lives. I challenge myself, and you, to start using your imagination and visualizing what you want your future to look like. Think powerful, positive thoughts and see the results come flowing in. Let me use myself as an example. I seemingly have a few reasons to be down and out right now. I've been off work for months with health issues that I've battled for years. When I am ready to work again I don't know where that will be. Money is low as I've been off work. Christmas presents will have to be foregone this year. But how am I feeling? What is my outlook? It is one of thankfulness for the many gifts that I already DO have. I have family and friends who love me, I have an apartment and food, I am part of a vibrant spiritual community where I can learn and grow. And I love Christmas, for reasons that do not include gifts. It's a struggle some days, but I am using my imagination and my mind to visualize a more prosperous future for me. I have faith as I sit here on this bus that I will have that future.

Just a few words as the bus towards Toronto rolls on. Now it's off to sip some more Irish Cream and to listen to the King of Cool, Lyle Lovett.

Love to you,

Mark Andrew

Sent from my Tricorder.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Ramblin's: A Magical Weekend Ahead

Good afternoon. It is 440pm and there are only about 20 minutes left of sunlight, which I still haven't quite adjusted to. But that's ok, because: IT'S A MAGICAL WEEKEND AHEAD!

Right now I find myself at Matter of Taste coffee shop downtown Kitchener. The flavour of coffee I am about to enjoy is Chocolate Butter Crunch, which tastes like...give me a second to sip...chocolate and nuts...mmm. The muffin is banana nut, which shall be followed by one of the gingerbread variety. There are two workers (or should I call them baristas) working today. One of them seems to be of middle eastern descent, the other is wearing a hat that looks as if it previously was employed as a pot cover at my great Aunt Myrtle's. It's yellow and all quilty-like.

In a couple of hours I will be at my spiritual centre, called Unity for an evening called Deck The Halls. This will be my first year at this event. There's a turkey dinner (I can't remember the last time I had turkey this early!!!), followed by everyone helping out to decorate the centre for Christmas. That will be followed by Christmas carols.

Tomorrow morning i am heading into Toronto for the first time in a long time. I am very excited, I am going to see my close friend Ken. First I will visit my old friend the huge Christmas tree at the Eaton Centre, then I will find a comfy coffee shop to sit and read or write for awhile. Apparently there's this restaurant that sells interesting burgers that we'll be going to for dinner, and the selling point: apparently the waitresses dress slightly revealing. Don't worry, I'll cover my eyes. :) I'm really looking forward to it...the visit that is. I like the sights and sounds...and smells of Toronto.

I'll head home on the 1130 Greyhound and be back home around 1. It's debatable whether I'll get up for Unity on Sunday morning, but I always miss it when I don't go, and who knows, we may even be starting to sing Christmas carols. Who wants to miss that? In the afternoon I shall be putting up my tree while listening to the sweet sounds of Bing, Frank, Dean, The Ranking sisters, Amy Grant, etc. Then I'm planning on watching The Bishop's Wife, a holiday movie starring Cary Grant.

This gingerbread muffin is to die for by the way. Still, I haven't been checked out by any of the women in here...yet. This differs from a couple months ago at Starbucks when this girl and her boyfriend came in and our eyes met...on several occasions. Next time I'll slip my number...

I have a lot to be thankful for. A warm coffee shop, great coffee, yummy muffins, a nice sweater, a nice apartment. Friends and family that love me, a centre where I can go and be with spiritually like-minded people. And oh, egg nog. Who can forget egg nog?

'Tis going to be a magical weekend. I hope yours is too,

Mark Andrew...or for those who know me from before a year or so ago, simply Mark.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Do We Actually Believe That Our Prayers Will Be Answered?

"Truly I tell you, if you say to this mountain, "Be taken up and thrown into the sea,' and if you do not doubt in your heart, but believe that what you say will come to pass, it will be done for you." - Jesus in Mark 11:23

There were two thoughts that I had when I would read or hear about this verse as I grew up within Christianity. The first was "Come on, Jesus must be speaking figuratively here. The second was, "Perhaps miracles such as this happened in Jesus' time but they sure don't happen anymore! Certainly not in our time!

But I am coming to believe that these are cop-outs and that he wasn't pulling our leg or talking only of his specific time with history when he said these words.

Surely a taking of these words literally could change our lives, indeed our world. Jesus wasn't speaking in riddles, rather he was speaking plainly. There's also the well-known verse that says "Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you." - Matthew 7:7 But somehow throughout the years our faith has become weak, or we've added "ifs" or "buts" to this verse and others.

"If it be God's will" is one such "if." "But God may want me to be struggling and suffering right now" is one such "but." Sure, some people can be selfish, I get that, but I would wager to say that the majority of prayers that go out to God are not meant in a selfish way at all. "God, I ask that you would remove cancer from my friend." "God, please help me to find the right and perfect job for me." These are not selfish prayers. "God bring people into my life that I can be in loving relationship with" is another. Still we get caught up in "ifs, buts, and timidity." Are we meant to be timid when we pray? I don't think so.

I think we are meant to be bold when we pray. How do we do this? We not only ask, but begin to expect the outcome as already having come true. We shift our minds from a place of lack and want to a place of expectation and acquisition. The key word in that sentence was our "minds." We can switch from a place of lack to a place of extreme and total faith. We do this by our thoughts. The law of attraction states that those thoughts we harbour in our minds ultimately attract positive or negative things into our lives depending on which way we're persistently thinking. Think about lack, disease, family discord, unemployment day in and day out, and guess what, you're probably going to see these things manifested into your life. The key is to change your way of thinking to an mind focused on faith and trust. The reason that many people were healed by Jesus was not only because he had healing power within him. He repeatedly said to those he healed, "Your faith has made you well." We have a huge part in our own healing and what we see in our lives.

In conclusion, we can have just as powerful of a prayer life as Jesus did. We can see miracles happen, and we can bring them about. Don't believe me? Here's another teaching of Jesus himself:"Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father." - Jesus in John 14:12

Let's learn to have an unshakable faith when we say our prayers, and we will see magnificent things happen.


Mark Andrew

Sunday, November 14, 2010

It's Time To Live

It is amazing how, just when outwardly it looks like you're done for, you are finally just beginning.

It is funny how when everything seems to be falling apart that things are really starting to come together.

It is something how just when something about you is dying, something is being born in you that has wanted to come out for a long long time.

There's a line in a song that Rich Mullins wrote that says, "I can't see how you're leading me unless you've led me here, where I'm lost enough to let myself be led." You were always meant to be a person of faith, but for one reason or another you've always thought it was too good to be true, something in theory not reality. Still your soul has longed for this kind of life. And thank God your soul is finally seeing it come true.

Your dreams are never too big, never too lofty. The things that make your soul dance are the things you should be - no, must be - doing. Not engaging in those passionate things can only lead to decay. Decay and hardness.

Your dreams were placed in you for a purpose. Not so you could theorize about them or daydream endlessly. They were meant to be born into the world.

Each and every part of life is a miracle, something to be marveled at; this includes you. You bring something to the table that no one else can. So settling for less or trying to copy anyone else is a crying shame. You have more to contribute to the symphony.

This is only the beginning of your life. You have a long road of success ahead of you. A road filled with smiles and joy, and a happy happy heart.

It's time to live.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Touching Trees

When I am walking down the street and I simply take the time to stop for a minute and touch a tree, wondrous, magical things happen.

When I touch a tree I am connecting with something that is very old, perhaps older than me.

When I touch a tree I am coming into contact with something steady and stoic, which is comforting to me and my varying emotions. Though its branches may sway with the wind, its trunk never wavers.

When I touch a tree I feel at one with all of the nature around me.

When I touch a tree I often say "Hello brother," and it responds.

When I touch a tree I have a short but comforting conversation. I say "Hello" and it says, time and time again, "You are fine. Everything's going to be alright. You're on the right path."

When I touch a tree.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Are You Worthy Enough To See Your Dreams Realized?

Are you worthy enough to see your dreams realized?

Are you like me in that you've harboured dreams about what you want to do and what you want your life to look like for a long time, but for some reason you're not seeing those dreams come true? Why is that? I think that one reason could be because we don't feel worthy enough to see these dreams realized. For one reason or another we've been held down, suppressed, either by others or by ourselves. Happiness and success are for other people, better people, people who have their shit all together. But for us? Nah, can't be so. We're not talented enough, not strong enough. We are the second-class citizens who are meant for a life of the mundane, simply working 9 to 5 in a job that gives us no joy or fulfillment. Some of us live this way - if you can call it living - for years and years, perhaps their whole lives.

The antidote for such negativity is self-acceptance. This is something that perhaps we heard a few times as we were growing up (I'm thinking of Mr. Rogers and his repeated message "You are special exactly the way you are) but as "real life" hit we drifted farther and farther from it. Perhaps because we grew up in less-than-ideal family situations, or because we began to compare ourselves to our peers and found ourselves wanting. We bought into self-denial or even self-loathing, so of course we wouldn't believe we were worthy enough to see our dreams realized. Instead we learned to settle. But now, yes, now we are adults and we have a choice to accept ourselves and love ourselves in a way perhaps never realized. As we get into this habit, we will see, and perhaps it will take time, that we are worthy of realizing our dreams.

Along with unworthiness being a reason that we don't see our dreams realized, I think that trust and confidence are also issues. Even if we practise self-acceptance, we can still see our dreams as being too lofty, unrealistic, or even stupid. Take someone whose passion is dancing, for example. They grow up dancing as a child, but as they grow up they are told by society or someone around them that "Well, dancing is well and good but you need to get a real job, be more practical." This person, if not confident or trusting in Life, may very well give up their dreams and end up working a job that, sure, pays the bills but leaves their soul empty. I think we need to trust and have faith that as we pursue our passions, which is our purpose here on earth, doors will open and opportunities will arrive. Who do we trust? Some may call it God, others Spirit, still others simply Life. I believe that there is a divine energy at work in this world and in our lives that is working and directing all things together for good. This divine energy is both the source of our dreams, and the avenue by which we see our dreams realized. How powerful this is that there is an energy in us and around us that is working things together for good for us. This is much better than a vindictive, aloof, or even ambivalent God. As we trust this God and take steps forward, we will see Life open doors for us and our dreams.

In closing, you are worthy enough, you are beautiful enough to see your dreams realized. And you can trust that there is an energy at work that wants you to trust it and wants to open doors on the way to that realization.


Mark Andrew

Monday, November 8, 2010

Diving Off The Cliff

Sometimes you just have to take the plunge.

Have you ever been in a situation where you knew you were meant to make a decision but the material things in front of you make you say "That's crazy! Why would you ever do such a thing?" Let's use moving for an example. Have you ever felt in your heart, in your soul, that you were not meant to be living where you are and instead should be moving to a new location? You hear this voice inside you (which I believe is the Spirit of God), while "common sense" would tell you the exact opposite? Perhaps even friends or family have tried to convince you that this is a dumb, unthought-out idea. But still inside you hear that small voice, a whisper but a voice that seems so true.

I think that at moments like this we have to take the leap. We have to be like the diver who stand at the top of a high cliff who knows she wants to jump, and has every reassurance that the water below is deep enough for her to proceed. She could spend all of her time second-guessing herself, and the safety of it, but inside she knows these are just false voices. What is she to do? Take the leap, or be held back by her fears, which are just shadows?

Lately in my life certain things are up in the air that are challenging me as to if I actually trust Spirit or not. Do I trust Spirit's voice, which I hear many many times throughout the day, the voice that says "Trust me," "Walk by faith not by sight," "I will take care of you," "You have nothing to fear." Or do I give into my lower voices, which encourage me to panic and fill my days with anxiety and fear?

It's your choice, and it's my choice. For me, I know that life has led me to this point where I am being called to place absolutely all of my trust in Spirit. It is what I was made for, it's the kind of relationship with the divine that I've always wanted to have. But Spirit can't make me do anything. It's my decision.

And today, I decide to jump off the cliff, knowing that the cool water of Spirit is there to gather me up and protect me.

Blessings today my friends,


Mark Andrew

Friday, November 5, 2010

This Holy Moment

The World English Dictionary defines the word "holy" in this way: "endowed or invested with extreme purity or sublimity." If this is true, then we can have holy moments wherever and whenever we are.

If you would have asked the average person 50 or 60 years ago when and where holy moments occurred, you may very well have heard responses such as "in a church," "while on my knees praying," "while singing hymns." These are all valid responses, but I think more and more people all the time are realizing that holy moments can occur anytime, anywhere.

Why can we experience holiness at any time? Because you and I are one with the creative, Divine Energy, and as such we are one with this holy God. Wherever we walk, God walks. Wherever we go, God goes. Nothing can separate us from the divine. As a result, each moment is a holy moment, it's just a matter of whether we're conscious of it or not.

I experience moments of "extreme sublimity" while I am in the shower singing old jazz tunes, for example. At other times I may be reading the newspaper and having coffee in a café and a feeling of holiness may come over me. I may be walking through the park watching the ducks. Also, one thing that I am learning is that holiness may be more palpable when it is experienced with others. This may happen while conversing with a friend, or running your fingers through your lovers hair. The holiness within you touches the holiness in them, and sublimity is experienced in a powerful way.

How can we experience this holiness more regularly, rather than them being sporadic or irregular? I think that we cultivate holiness and our experience of it through set-apart times. I believe prayer and meditation can be most helpful with this, even if you spend 10-15 minutes at the start of your day focusing on holiness and your divine nature. Surely we all can spare 10 minutes at the start of our day. Or, perhaps you're a parent and it may work better in the afternoon when the kids are napping. When we spend quiet time focusing on God within us, our consciousness is raised and we can experience times of pure ecstasy throughout the day.

Wishing you moments of "extreme sublimity" today,

Mark Andrew

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Bob Dylan On An Early November Afternoon

Do you believe that there is a divine power at work in the universe that is always working for good in your life? This is something I have been learning over the past several months, something I continue to learn on this lazy November afternoon with Bob Dylan piping through the speakers at the coffee shop.

It is easy to believe that there is a power at work in the universe, a power that is life-giving and life-growing. We see this every spring when the leaves reappear on the trees. We see it when someone we know gives birth to a beautiful new baby boy or girl. We see the majesty at work when we stand under a hundred-year-old tree.

Why then do we doubt that this power is at work in our lives? I believe that Spirit (or God, or Life, whatever name you use to refer to the divine) is unchanging and constant, and that Spirit has our best interests at heart. A Bible verse that speaks of this is "God works everything together for good for those who love him." What's more, we don't have to beg God to bless us with good things in our lives: "It is the Father's pleasure to give you the kingdom," which consists of love, peace, joy, prosperity. Therefore, it is not our job to beg, but instead to tune our minds into the frequency that God operates on. In the face of our problems we get bogged down. Instead, we should walk by faith. If we are sick, we should think thoughts of health. If we are lacking financially, we should think thoughts of abundance. And on and on it goes.

God is not capricious or even ambivalent. God wants to bless us with many good gifts, if only we would set our minds on higher things.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Listen To Your Highest Voice

Sometimes the answers are closer than you think.

Have you ever prayed and wondered when or if you will receive an answer? What's more, where are you directing your prayers when you pray?

My answers to these questions have changed radically in the past few years. For the first 2o-some-odd years of my life I prayed to a God who, I thought at the time, was primarily a Supreme Being who resided outside of myself, in a Heaven above the earth. I am thankful that I was introduced to spirituality from as far back as I remember, but there came a time when these beliefs started to change, and I have never looked back.

Let me give you my answer to the second question first. Where am I directing my prayers when I pray. Nowadays when I take time to pray, I am praying not to a God who is disconnected or separate from me, but to a God I am one with. God's home is within my soul, so when I pray I often find myself directing my prayers inward. This brings a power to my prayer life that I hadn't known. This of course radically changes how I experience answers to my prayers. I have been learning that God speaks to me through my Highest, or Best Voice.

When facing a predicament or problem there are often 2 sets of thoughts that go through your mind. Lacking in money? You can listen to the voice that says that you face certain ruination, OR you can listen to the voice that says "I will take care of you, you don't have to worry about your finances. Facing a dire diagnosis from a doctor? You can listen to the voice that says "I face a lengthy illness or even death," OR you can listen to the voice that says, "You have access to great healing power and I want to pour that out on you." Facing loneliness? You can listen to the voice that says "You are unlovable and deserve to be alone," OR you can listen to the voice that says, "I am here, I will take care of you and I will bring the people into your life who you need right now."

There are countless examples. The question is "Which voice will you listen to?" Now I know some people may be uncomfortable with this, but I believe that when we are attuned to Spirit within us, when we are aligned with Her, She speaks directly to us through our Highest Voice. Scripture is great, books are great, spiritual leaders are great. But if we face times when we don't have access to them, whether we're on the bus, commuting to work, in the shower, walking through the park - heck, even if we found ourselves on a deserted island - we would still have access to the Highest Voice.

Even in the face of excruciating hardships, we are not alone. Spirit lives within us and speaks to us through our Highest Voice. Listen for it today, and then walk by faith and put it into action. Step out of the boat and walk on the water, just as the disciple of Jesus did. Walk by faith, not by sight.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

october twenty-third, two thousand and ten.

There's just something about the fall.

The smell of fallen leaves in the air. The yellows, oranges, reds and browns as you walk the trail behind your apartment.

The sound of Ol' Blue Eyes piping through your earphones: "These little town blues are melting awaaaay."

The aroma of a toffee latté behind concocted at Starbucks as you order your decaf, an oat fudge bar, and then sit down on the comfy seat.

The gathering of friends - family really - at your spiritual centre. The joy of knowing that even as we are on our own journey's, we are inextricably linked.

The sensation of a light rain falling on your face.

The sight of almost-too-gorgeous women in their sweaters and scarves, the kind that make you wish you were snuggled up on the couch watching Jimmy Stewart or Bing.

There's just something about the fall.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Turning Point

Daily Word from Unity for Sunday, September 19, 2010

Turning Point

I recognize and accept the good that awaits me.

In anticipation of an upcoming change, I may wonder what my life will look like. Will it ever be the same? The truth is that every day is filled with change. Some changes are major turning points and others are small adjustments.

Instead of worrying about what may happen in the moments, days or weeks ahead, I choose to remain calm and confident. I know that good is always present, because God is always present. Attuned to God, I am aware of everlasting good.

I welcome the turning points in my life that bring new opportunities to recognize, accept and experience the good that awaits me.

Every generous act of giving, with every perfect gift, is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.--James 1:17

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Autumn Is Coming

It's one of the best times of the year. Next to Christmas, this is it. Autumn.

The trees are already starting to change colours.

It's sweater weather.

The coffee shops are starting to advertise such beverages as Ginger Snap Latte's and Caramel Apple Cider.

It will only be a month or so before stores start displaying their Christmas merchandise. This used to annoy me to no end (the commercializatin of Christmas blah blah blah) but now I enjoy it. I will have my tree up the first of November.

It is the perfect time of year for a walk in the park to see the ducks, geese, and herons.

You say farewell to the fullness of summer, only to soon say hello to Father Christmas, with Bing and Frank and Jimmy Stewart.

And this vanilla coffee tastes all the better. For fall is upon us.

Thursday, September 16, 2010


The sound of birds tweeting and of ocean waves lapping up onto the shoreline.

The laughter and inquisitive look of wonder in a child’s eyes as she discovers something for the very first time.

A majestic blue heron coming in for a landing while a gaggle of Canada geese tiptoes on a nearby hillside.

The friendly greeting of a bus driver as you plunk your change into the slot and head downtown.

The wavy, long-flowing hair of the stranger in the soft white buttoned-up sweater sitting across from you in the library.

Knowing that even though we are strangers, we aren’t that different after all; that there is a common bond between us.

The sound of an oboe and piano intermingling with each other in a simple song.

Every heartbeat, pumping both blood and a life-force as ancient as the stars.

Each inhalation breathing in peace and comfort. Each exhalation breathing out calm and tranquility.

Knowing that my desires and needs will not go unmet, that in this moment Divine Spirit is working on my behalf.



The Rising Of The Fall

It could hardly be a more wonderful day. Autumn is almost upon us, summer is saying “uncle” as the leaves start to change colour and the fall coolness settles in. A gentle rain falls down from a cloudy sky. And it all looks so lovely from the vantage point of a big picture window here at the downtown coffee shop with the pretty waitress with the even prettier smile. It occurs to me that God is both imminent, right here, and transcendant, more than we can fully fathom. God lives within me and I am in fact an expression of the divine, but He is also more. Having a relationship with this God means that I have access to levels of power that sometimes we only dream of. God is all good, and every positive attribute that we see in existence comes from Him (or Her if you prefer.) Beauty, energy, life, healing, music, love. As we are in relationship with God, we need only to ask for these things to show up in our lives. Too often, I think, we settle for less than that. We settle for sickness, depression, fear, brokenness, worry. As people in relationship with God we can ask for and expect more. There are scores of verses in the Christian Scriptures where Jesus points to this great truth. He says that God is like a parent who desires to give good gifts to his children, and that whatever we ask for in prayer, believe that we have received it and it will be done. This is not magic, some sideshow busker act. This is connecting with the Power that brought the universe into existence and who knows our needs even more than we do, for He made us. It is when we are in harmonious relationship with God and are experiencing these gifts - peace, joy, love, health, that we can also become conduits of God’s power. We can be love and peace to those people in our immediate circles and beyond. God’s energy can flow through us to other people in need. As we talk with others we impart power to them. As we hug them we are God touching them in a soothing way.

As Autumn approaches and we shuffle through our closets to find our sweaters and scarves, let’s learn to ask for and expect more. More love, more energy, more peace, and more healing.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Thank You For Life

Thank you for each new day, for the opportunities they hold for new understandings, growing faith, and connection to You. Thank you for the friends and family whom I love and who love me no matter what. Thank you for my cup of vanilla-flavoured coffee and for dark chocolate. Thank you for butterflies, twittering moths and bunnies. Thank you that You are right here in my heart and all around me, if only I take the time to stop and be aware of it. Thank you for the smiles in the faces of children and for their laughter. Thank you for my niece Rachael who is 5 and my nephew Josh who just turned 3. Thank you for the look of pride on Rachael's face as she showed us how she can now ride a bike with no training wheels. Thank you for the sunshine, and for the coolness in the air on a late summers day. Thank you for faith communities who embrace diversity, places where I can gain new or forgotten insights, with people who uphold me in prayer. Thank you for good books and soothing music. Thank you that I have never seen war or famine. Thank you for new friends and old friends.

For all these things and more, Thank you Life.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

On Grieving & Trusting

Currently I am looking at a picture of my Grandmother Betty and me that was taken on Mother's Day 2009. As it is for a lot of people who lose loved ones, it just doesn't seem real that she's gone, even though it's been a year ago as of August 27th. In the picture she is sporting a smile and leaning into me, with my arm around her. It just seems so unnatural for someone who has forever been a part of your life to suddenly be gone. It is even harder to believe when a person isn't old when they pass on. Such is the case with my Aunt Darlene, someone I loved very much who has been gone almost 4 years now. I remember playing pool with her, just sitting and having conversation, get-togethers at her house. I liked her smile and her laugh, and her strong personality.

I think that it is important to let yourself grieve and grieve hard. I remember after the death of someone at the Bible college that I attended, someone getting up in chapel and trying to explain to a grieving congregation that we need not grieve as others grieve because we have faith in God. While perhaps he was well-meaning, I wanted to go over and slap him in the face. Jesus himself is said to have wept at the death of his friend Lazarus. And during a sermon he declared: "Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. (Matthew 5:4)" That sounds a lot different than "Buck up, people, why are you crying?" It is important to grieve what we have lost; the friendships, the relationships, the talking on the phone til 2am, the hugs. It is only by walking through the pain and grief that we can come out to the other side, where, though some pain will still remain it won't dominate us as freshly as when we first lost our loved one.

My second point is that while we grieve and afterwards, we need to trust. When a baby is born it is often said that they have been sent by God, and that all the days of their lives have been ordained by God. During a lifetime, a person of faith may seek a strong relationship with the divine. In the Bible it is even said that we are ambassadors of God on earth. But what then about death? I believe that grief is real, but it is so not for the one who dies, but for those of us who are left behind. Once we have grieved and grieved hard, I believe that we can trust that, just as the person (my Grandma Betty, my Aunt Darlene, etc) was sent into this world by God and had a relationship with the divine throughout their lives, so too can we trust that they pass from this world back into the hands of God. They are being taken care of and are being embraced in an immense peace.

I miss my Grandma and my Aunt very much and I wish I could have just one more conversation with both of them. I continue to grieve for them, but at the same time I trust that they are being well taken care of in the hands of God.

I love you Grandma and Aunt Darlene.

Blessings to you today, friends,

Mark Andrew

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Living On A Prayer

“God is a creative process that is forever in search of avenues of expression. We are those avenues. To spend our prayer time asking God for something ... is to deny the full magnificent scope of God in our lives. Doesn’t it make more sense to trust that this Power which created the entire universe knows what is best?” — Mary-Alice & Richard Jafolla

I like this quote and I understand what the authors are saying, but can't we do both? I love how the quote starts off in saying that we are God's avenues of expression within Her creative process. I used to think that prayer was something that I (a person apart from God) did in order to get in contact with God (a Person apart from me.) But if I am nothing less than an expression of God, prayer is something far more personal for me. When I pray, I am not directing my prayers just outside of myself, but deeply inside of myself where God also forever resides.

I also agree with the latter part of the quote, that we can trust that the Power that created the universe knows what is best. These ways are often a mystery to us, but we can trust that God, who is forever Good, has the best at heart for our well-being.

The part of the quote I disagree with is the part that says that asking God for things is to deny "the full magnificent scope of God in our lives." Here I would instead agree with the Bible verse that says, "Ask, and it will be given to you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. (Matthew 7:7-8)" I believe that God is in this way an intimate Power who delights in listening to our prayers and is ready to answer when we ask for things. It's an old cliche that Her answer may come differently than we expect, but that could be the case. Also, prayer puts us consciously in touch with God and raises us from the hum-drum that our daily lives can often become.

Finally, again, God has our best interest at heart and when we pray this Power that exists both within and around us is moved.


Mark Andrew

Monday, August 23, 2010

Live Today

from Unity's Daily Word publication for Monday, August 23, 2010

I live this day one precious moment at a time.

I choose to be at ease with the present moment whatever form it happens to take. This is a moment I do not want to miss.

If I let my mind linger in the past or stray into the future, I might miss the fullness of what life holds for me right now. I am unable to change the past, so I gently let it be and focus on living. I realize I have plans to make for the future--but I do not live there. I live right here in the present moment.

Right now, I have the opportunity to say "yes!" to life, to be alive and aware of the wondrous energy of God coursing through my body.

I live this day one precious moment at a time and enjoy the life I've been given. I am grateful for the fullness of my life and for each golden opportunity to live it well.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Every Thing Breaks Down

The last couple of days I've been thinking about, no, seeing how fading and passing material things really are. Among the "things" in my life that have been breaking down: my Blackberry, my earbuds, my clock radio, my can opener; there's probably more examples but they escape me at the moment. But it again brings to light the harsh fact.

Every Thing Breaks Down.

I think the reason that so many things have been breaking down on me lately is so that I will learn to place value on the immaterial things in life rather than the material ones. There are a couple of wonderful Bible passages in Matthew chapter 6 that deal with this. The first starts at verse 19: "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." How do we store up treasures in heaven? I think that we set our sights on heavenly, or higher things, the things of God. These things of God include Love, Life, Faith, Trust. When you think about it, when we concentrate on these heavenly things, our relationships and friendships flourish. What do our friends desire from us primarily? Is the answer gifts and physical presents? Of course not. It is love and presence (nice...took me a good half-second to come up with that one.)

The second verse in Matthew 6 that deals with this is verse 24: "No one can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth." This doesn't mean that we are all meant to sell every possession we have and live out in a desert somewhere, but we need to remember what the important things in life are. And how do we serve God? We love more, others as well as ourselves. We live out the fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). When you think about it, what would the world look like if only each one of us was brought up to practise these traits? Would we have oppressive regimes in Iran and North Korea? Would we have famine in Africa? Would we have deep divisions between family and friends? Would there be members of society who feel abandoned and completely alone?

So, as some of the material things in my life fade away and rust, let us set our sights on higher things. Let us start by loving.


Mark Andrew

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Learning To Trust All Over Again

Good afternoon. The word "trust" has always been one of those important words in my life. As I was growing up it was right up there with the words "faith," "pray," and "saved."

What did the word "trust" mean to me back then? Growing up I was taught to trust in God, but it was trust in His son Jesus that was most important. It was a trust that Jesus had come down to earth from Heaven in order to show me the way to live, and of utmost importance, to take the punishment for my sins by dying on the cross. However, the words "trust" and "myself" never went together. You see, I believed that all of us have a sinful nature and we shouldn't trust in ourselves. It was through prayer and the Bible that we received instruction from God.

Fast forward to today, and trust has an entirely more personal meaning. I must preface this my saying that my beliefs on the nature of God have changed. Rather than being separated from God, I believe that all of creation lives within God,we are expressions of God, and rather than a sin problem we have an awareness problem.

I deeply believe in God, though I may use other words to address the Almighty, such as Life, Love, Mother, and Spirit. I believe I am connected to this God, and so trusting God ultimately means trusting myself. By trusting myself, I mean that I can trust my whole being, and in doing so I communicate with the divine. These days, God most often speaks to me through simple messages She plants in my mind. In this way, God is my Highest Thought or my Best Thought. But God is also in my body, my emotions, and my sexuality. As I learn to trust all of these things, which God created and inhabits, I am more connected and aware of Her. And my relationship with myself becomes healthier as well. Rather than seeing the body and human nature as originally sinful and untrustworthy, I learn to embrace myself, love myself, and trust myself.

Of course, God is not confined to me personally. That is the beauty of it all. Each person that we meet in our day is a living, moving Breath of God, and as such God may choose to speak to us through them, and to them through us. I think we all have a Higher Consciousness and a Lower Consciousness, and through prayer and steadfast trust in our Highest Thoughts and feelings, we can be raised to that Higher Consciousness. There is a verse in the Bible that refers to praying with ceasing. It is through prayer - both asking and receiving - that we can become more aware of God's will for our lives.

In short, Your mind is a Good Thing; it is a God Thing.

Your emotions are a Good Thing; they are a God Thing.

Your body is a Good Thing; it is a God Thing.

Your spirit, your soul is a Good Thing; it is a God Thing.

Trust God: Trust Yourself.


Mark Andrew