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

Monday, August 16, 2010

You Are A Shimmering Expression Of Love

Do you know, have you heard the good, no, great news? There is nothing that you could ever do that would make you anything less than lovely and lovable.

There is a great verse in the Bible that says: "For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God. (Romans 8:38-9)" This is one of the shining parts of this book, and there are many. Unfortunately, though, some parts of the Bible have been interpreted to mean that in our natural state, we as humankind are sullied or incomplete, even shameful. This leaves us forever reaching, forever grasping for something or someone to make us feel better about ourselves. Our relationships become needy and clingy. We search for our next "hit" of happiness as if it were a drug. We become as Mike Myers and Dana Carvey in Wayne's World: "We're not worthy! We're not worthy!"

What if, instead, you and I came into this world as beautiful, shimmering people of the Light, people of Love. What if, instead of being separate from the Almighty, we are nothing short of expressions of Her (or Him if you prefer) being introduced to this planet. Instead of striving and striving to prove ourselves worthy of God's love, we lay that to rest and instead realize that we already are what we want to be. It's just that we have believed heretofore in lies. We've bought into false messages and beliefs that we have encountered in our daily lives through the media, through religion, through other people. For this we need not beat ourselves up, no more than a little girl who, playing out in the rain, returns inside covered head-to-toe in mud. What does the parent do? She removes the little girls clothes, wipes off her face, arms and legs, and they both burst into a ball of laughter.

So it is with us still-learning but not incomplete creatures. If there are beliefs or false messages that have been caked onto us like mud, we have the opportunity time and time again to wipe off the mud and there, underneath it all, is a shimmering expression of Love in the world. The same thing goes with our "sins," or things we feel we have done wrong. These do not define us. In fact, we have the opportunity to do something that may be completely foreign to us: to be kind and forgiving to ourselves. Maybe you grew up in an atmosphere that, instead of being kind to yourself, taught you to be hard on yourself. Maybe beliefs re-inforced in you that you were bad at the core. But now we are adults and we have the power to give ourselves positive messages and to show ourselves self-love. There is another Bible verse that states "Love your neighbour as yourself." There was a time when I solely concentrated on the first part of that verse. But really, how can we truly love others, those close to us or the stranger, if we first do not love ourselves? If we love ourselves, our relationships with other people need not be clingy or needs-based. Rather, they can be relationships where we are Bringers of the Light and Love to one another.

What are the names that you call yourself? "Too fat, too thin," "Dumb, bookworm," "Ugly," "Unloveable." Whatever they are, today is the day that you can start over.

You are nothing less than a shimmering expression of God, of Light and Love in this world.

You are Lovely.

You are Loveable.

You are Good Enough Just The Way You Are.

With much love,

Mark Andrew

Friday, August 13, 2010

Grace & An End To Our Striving

"Grace means that in the middle of our struggle the referee blows the whistle and announces the end of the game. We are declared winners and sent to the showers. It's over for all huffing, puffing piety to earn God's favor; it's finished for all sweat-soaked straining to secure self-worth; it's the end of all competitive scrambling to get ahead of others in the game. Grace means that God is on our side and thus we are victors regardless of how well we have played the game. We might as well head for the showers and the champagne celebration."

- Donald McCullough

Thursday, August 12, 2010

On Accepting Ourselves

Book Excerpt "The Ragamuffin Gospel" by Brennan Manning

"When we accept ourselves for what we are, we decrease our hunger for power or the acceptance of others because our self-intimacy reinforces our inner sense of security. We are no longer preoccupied with being powerful or popular. We no longer fear criticism because we accept the reality of our human limitations. Once integrated, we are less often plagued with the desire to please others because simply being true to ourselves brings lasting peace. We are grateful for life and we deeply appreciate and love ourselves."

Monday, August 9, 2010

Recognizing Lies & Distortions

Book Excerpt - "The Fifth Agreement" - don Miguel Ruiz and don Jose Ruiz

"If your beliefs are telling you, 'I'm fat. I'm ugly. I'm old. I'm a loser. I'm not good enough. I'm not strong enough. I'll never make it,' then don't believe yourself, because it's not true. These messages are distorted. They're nothing but lies. Once you can see the lies, you don't have to believe them. Use the power of doubt to challenge every message that you deliver to yourself. 'Is it really true that I'm ugly? Is it really true that I'm not good enough?' Is this message real, or is it virtual? Of course, it's virtual. None of these messages come from truth, from life; they come from distortions in our knowledge. The truth is, there are no ugly people. There is no good enough or strong enough. There's no universal book of law where any of these judgments are true. These judgments are just agreements that humans make.

Can you see the consequences of believing yourself? Believing yourself is one of the worst things you can do because you've been telling yourself lies your whole life, and if you believe all those lies, that's why your dream isn't a pleasant dream. If you believe what you tell yourself, you may use all those symbols that you learned to hurt yourself. Your personal dream may even be pure hell because believing in lies is how you create your own hell. If you're suffering, it's not because anybody is making you suffer; it's because you obey the tyrant that's ruling your head. When the tyrant obeys you, when there's no longer a judge or a victim in your mind, you won't be suffering any longer."