Not Again! Sutherland Springs, TX...

#TexasChurchMassacre #NotAgain #EnoughIsEnough #Unity #UnityLakeHouston #ULH

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"Not again," is the deafening sound pounding away in my mind and heart. I feel sick, I want to scream, I want to punch a wall to divert my pain, and I question my choice to live in a country that is so violent beyond anything I have ever experienced in my life...I want to run, run far and away.

I first learned about the shooting in Sutherland Springs, TX, yesterday, after an uplifting church board meeting on the back of an invigorating message on finding gratitude in our lives regardless of our circumstances. I quoted Paul in 1 Thessalonians 5:16–18, and I made a point on how important his instructions were to the young church in Thessalonica who just barely heard the good news about the Christ potential within them and how they could bring heaven on earth within their lifetimes. 

Give Thanks in All Circumstances

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
— 1 Thessalonians 5:16–18

How can I, after hearing the news about the shooting in Sutherland Springs, TX, tell my congregation, or anyone else for that matter, to give thanks? How can I celebrate God Love within all things, ready to be explored in even the "darkest valley?" It seems very unlikely, if not impossible. It appears to be a task not worth a second thought. And yet, it is.

Giving thanks is not about ignoring what is going on around us, but it is our consistent effort to find those things that are worthy of our gratitude. It is through such effort when we learn to to see the world differently, more pliable to what is in God Promise, a never-ending love for all. With that love in mind we are able to recognize evil, which is a simple departure of God Love, when one no longer recognizes the underlying power that drives the universe. Love can neutralize evil without much of an effort because love is a true power as opposed to evil, which is manmade based on fears, hate, and disappointments. 

How to Cope?

But how do these words help us coping with the tragedy that came upon Sutherland Springs? It seems like a fruitless effort to convince those who suffer to shy away from experiencing their loss and grief. I would agree. While I am constantly looking for the Goodness in our lives, I cannot stand there and look someone in the eye and say, your suffering is Goodness. We must stop pretending that "God is Good, all the time" to serve the purpose of deflecting from our true feelings. Instead, we should embrace the reality that Goodness can inexplicably suck sometimes because that is just how we feel.

To give thanks in all circumstances is not about denying our pain over the tragedies that came upon us over the last few weeks. To give thanks in all circumstances is an invitation to learn to recognize Goodness in our lives so that these tragedies may no longer occur. I know, it sounds like an impossible task to embark on. You might think, "How can I change what is happening in the world?" I truly believe there is power in the invitation to "be the change that [we] wish to see in the world." If we want love, compassion, kindness, and peace for the world, we must learn to be those things in all circumstances in our own lives. It all starts with our own willingness to engage in the practices we like to see others be immersed. 

What Is There Left for Us to Do?

So, what does this all leave us with when thinking specifically about those who are suffering right now because of their losses in the small town of Sutherland Springs. Yes, we can pray and meditate, and I know that us Unity folks are quite happy to do that. But, is there anything else we can do? Is there any way we can alleviate the pain of those left behind? Is there anything else we can embark on in addition to our prayer and meditation practice?

Rather than giving you an answer, because I really do not have one right now myself. I encourage you to move into prayer and meditation, not to passively make the world a better place, but to actively bring forth the one thing you (and I) can do to change this trend of senseless violence. It's not enough to say a quick prayer for the victims and their families. It's not enough to hold the Sutherland Springs community in our hearts. It's not enough to sit in Silence, hoping that it all will go away. We must act! We must embrace the opportunity! We must engage in the world that we envision it to be.

(Wise) Words

Much of what I have written and processed is based upon my studies and experiences over many years. However, I recognize how empty my words may sound when considering the backdrop of such a massacre. We may find comfort in Jesus, Buddha, Muhammad, Krishna, and many other teachers and prophets...Yet, it is not they who are called to action. It is us. It is I.

I am at a threshold whether I am willing to continue to support my own misgivings towards those that I might not feel comfortable with or whether I am finally willing to accept Paul's teachings about "[giving] thanks in all circumstances," which is not just about myself but the greater good. 

I remind myself, that

Even though I walk through the darkest valley,
I fear no evil;
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff—
they comfort me.
— Psalm 23:4

God is with me because God is me. God is Goodness and, therefore, I am Goodness. I must believe that in my core I am Goodness, ready to thrive without any distortions. That is what keeps me alive and focused on a world that may no longer feel the need to destroy other's lives in senseless acts. I hold that vision for all of us.

May our prayers go out to the Sutherland Springs community. As we feel their pain, we hold their faith and peace at heart. Whatever we are led to do and put into action, we give ourselves permission to do so. We know that our thoughts and prayers, while helpful, may not be enough, and we allow ourselves to explore what else we can do. We embrace the opportunity to become part of a different world...One that no one has to be afraid to step out into the community and enjoy themselves, worship, and be who they have always meant to be.

And so it is. Amen

Jean-Marie Schweizer, LUT

Columbus Day – A Faithful Journey

#ColumbusDay #UnityLakeHouston #Unity #Faith

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Today we celebrate Christopher Columbus' arrival in the Americas (the islands of Bahamas) on October 12, 1492. He famously and mistakenly thought he arrived in India without realizing that he just discovered new land, not to say two entire continents. One can only imagine what it must have felt like to venture out in the unknown, having faith in having enough provisions to make the journey. No one ever before attempted such a long passage before. What must have been the relief like to finally arrive even if it was not the expected destination?

In many ways, our spiritual journey is not unlike that of Columbus. Looking back at your life's experiences, how often did great learning not come from staying within familiar waters but venture out into the unknown? How often have you thought you arrived at a certain realization or understanding only to discover later that the lesson was quite a different one? And, have you embraced the deeper lesson and learning, or, have you dismissed it without further notice?

Moses and the Israelites

The story of Moses leading the Israelites out of Egypt into the promised land comes to mind (Exodus 12–28). Having endured slavery for centuries, the Israelites followed Moses into the unknown with the hope to find new land. Much happened during this journey of 40 years, but in the end the promise was kept.

Metaphysically, the story of Moses and the Israelites represents our story of spiritual unfoldment. Moses himself symbolizes the drawing-out process from the within to the without and the Israelites signify our elevated (illumined) thoughts in consciousness (Metaphysical Bible Dictionary). As such, our journey towards the promised land—the full realization of our Divinity—is to continously draw-out our spiritual side (Israelites) from bondage, negativity, and judgment (Egypt) until we arrive at the highest realization of Being (Christ consciousness)—for as long as it takes (40 years).

One can easily imagine the such a journey may not be straight forward, at least not as linear as Columbus' first voyage may have been. For sure, the journey was not straight forward for the Israelites, which is a reality for most of us who are on a spiritual path. However, with faith and guidance the destination will be achieved despite any obstacles, challenges, or distractions.

Steadfast in Faith

Very much like Columbus must have had faith in making it to land before food was running out, we must develop our faith that we are not losing our selves as we explore our spiritual nature. Becoming more of who we are, more Christ like, does not mean that we need to be anybody else but us. What we must do is to remove our error thinking or, in other words, learn to deal with our judgments, worries, regrets, etc. in a gentle and healthy way so that we can come forth with a renewed mind, expanded, and increasingly fulfilled. 

To be steadfast in faith means to take the plunge and explore our spiritual nature beyond what is already known. It means to trust our intuition, our inner guidance, and our best-possible interpretation of our experiences through the lens of Goodness, Love, Compassion, etc. Faith is a power and ability to be developed. Faith is what we can come back to at any time even if we lost it for a little while. Faith is the rock upon we can build our spiritual temple as Jesus said to Peter according to the Gospel of Matthew:

"And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it." —Matthew 16:18

Peter represents Faith, our ability to have faith, to trust, and to perceive. The Israelites had faith in Moses to be lead to the promised land. Moses had faith in God and himself to not fall astray. We must have faith in our own ability to realize our true nature.

Let us close with a denial and affirmation in honor of Columbus Day:

"We no longer give power to our fears that unchartered waters may lead us to starve before we arrive at our destination, and we affirm that we are steadfast in faith as we continue to explore our spiritual nature. We already are what we seek to be. We have already arrived at our destination. Let us wake up to that reality. And so it is. Amen."

Jean-Marie Schweizer, LUT

 

Las Vegas...

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There is a certain amount of "Ohnmacht" I experience when thinking about the horrific act committed in Las Vegas last night. "Ohnmacht" is a German word that translates into powerlessness. However, this translation does not do the word much justice as its meaning and how it impacts me goes much further than that. Even if you do not understand the word, you might experience with me what I mean—a senseless drag through a persistent sludge of an accumulation of all the hate, despair, and hurt that has ever been experienced by everyone, everywhere. 

How can we make any sense of this senseless act? And, even more importantly, how can we bring ourselves back into alignment with our human and spiritual selves so that we continue to move towards personal transformation despite these many moments of utter hatred? In moments like these, I like to take a deep breath and let myself relax into my human and Divine experience. I find comfort in meditation as I pray affirmatively for what I desire: world peace, endless compassion, comfort for those who are suffering, and understanding for those who see things differently than I.

I am comforted in the truth that "God is never absent from me." Yet, I sometimes struggle to really get it. What I mean is that I can bring up the words in my mind and I can dwell on it for a little while, yet, I might fail to bring it alive in me, with all my heart, mind, and soul. There is only one presence and one power, and I am that. I keep reminding myself that this is the truth, a truth far beyond my everyday opportunities to be right, a right that is so limited and culturally tainted, a right that is far less valuable in the end than what connects us all—that universal truth.

I am tempted to come up with a perfect scripture verse to let you all know that "all is well." Yet, I resist this temptation because it would not be honest. I don't think all is well at all. How can anyone think that killing over 50 people can ever be well? It is simply not. So, how do we cope? How do we find a way of dealing with this "Ohnmacht?" For sure, we pray, and we meditate, and deny the power we give to our fears, and we affirm the goodness in our lives...and move on. But, there is more, isn't there? I suspect you all feel it as much as I do, and I imagine you are burning to find out as much as I do.

See, I am all up for prayer and meditation, denials and affirmations. I revel in the opportunity to talk about Unity's principles and how wonderfully they apply to our lives. Whoever knows me or has ever listened to me speak on our spiritual principles would attest to that. But today, I just think it is not enough. Today, I think we need to take action. Today, I think we need to be rebels or radicals, just as Jesus Christ was in many ways. Today, we need to remind ourselves not only to love one another and love our enemies but to reach out to those who cannot bear it any longer. Today, we need to practice Unity's fifth principle—action. We need to become active.

Yesterday, I gave a message on Psalm 23. If you missed it, check out our Facebook Live recording. Together, we explored some of the deeper meanings of this psalm and how it can be applied in our lives. One of its significant revelations is about the walk "through the valley of the shadow of death" and how we will "fear no evil...[as God is] with [us]." We seek comfort on the outside. Yet, true comfort comes from within. Whenever our world seems to collide in violent ways, we still may hold onto the "peace of God, which surpasses all understanding" (Philippians 4:7). 

There is no clear recipe how to deal with tragedies such as the Las Vegas shooting. However, there are some hints as to how to be with ourselves despite our circumstances. For one, we must remind ourselves that we are a part of this wondrous world of spiritual expansion that includes all of us without judgment. Then, we must extend our experience of non-judgment, and, as a result non-suffering, to our friends, families, and beyond. We hold onto the idea that goodness is the essence of all existence, and we embrace such an idea even when we walk through the darkest valley. After all, we fear no evil because we affirm that God is not only with us but is us. And, even if we perceive evil showing its ugly face as it did last night, we recognize despite contrary evidence that we continue to be part of what life was always meant to be—evil is not to be feared. 

As I close in my contemplations about what is happening around us and what we so desperately seek within us, I am reminded of the powerful words spoken through a heavy storm: "Peace, be still" (Mark 4:39). It is a command and a comfort. It is the essence of our being. 

Let's not forget to take action in whichever way we see fit. Tragedies such as the one in Las Vegas do not need to happen. The cards are in our hands, and we are the ones called to deal them.

And so it is. Amen.

Jean-Marie Schweizer, LUT

We Are Flooded!

We finally have confirmation that we took on about 4 to 5 feet water after Hurricane Harvey came through and the San Jacinto river rose many feet above its record levels. We are still unable to access the building safely and get a closer look at the damage, but we are confident that most of our property (furniture, electronics, equipment, computers, documents) have been lost.

We have set up a special Hurricane Harvey Fund to help us with the rebuilding process. Follow this link to donate so that we can continue to be a substantial presence in the Lake Houston area.

Any monies not used to cover expenses will be distributed to other churches and charities. From our hearts, we thank you for your contributions.