On November 20, 1016, Rev. Kelly Hallock gave a talk to those assembled at the Community Miracles Center Sunday Service in San Francisco, California. Below is a lightly edited transcription of that talk.
Good morning! I am glad you all made it despite the rain! I find it funny that my phone tells me when it is going to start raining. Yesterday, every twenty minutes, my phone was going "Ding! There's going to be more rain. Ding! There's going to be more rain!" It was annoying but I don't know how to turn that off. Then it rained more today than it did yesterday but the alert on my phone hasn't gone off yet. (laughter)
I am so glad that you are here! I am glad that PalTalk people are here! There are about five to six people logged on there so welcome to them! Now obviously it is Thanksgiving week which means I have to talk about Thanksgiving, gratitude or something related to Thanksgiving. I think there is a rule about that!
To me, Thanksgiving is all about gratitude. In preparing for this talk, I was looking up different definitions of "gratitude" to see what it actually is supposed to mean. I think many people think of it as a warm, fuzzy feeling. I went online to see what is the meaning of "gratitude." I typed in "gratitude definition" and Google came back with "The quality of being thankful. Ready to show appreciation." So then I asked what does it mean to be "thankful." It said, "To be grateful." (laughter) Well that didn't help me any, did it? Thankful and gratitude just kept bouncing back to each other. You have those experiences sometimes. You just have to back up and come up with your own definition. Obviously looking at the internet didn't help me much.
I decided to look at different spiritual traditions. What do different teachers say about gratitude and thanks? I came up with two which were both very interesting and I want to highlight. The first is Jack Kornfield who is an American Buddhist teacher. He says, "We've been given the extraordinary privilege of incarnating as human beings … we have the privilege of the lavender color at sunset, the taste of a tangerine in our mouth, and the almost unbearable beauty of life around us, along with its troubles … we can bring the quality of love and appreciation, which I would call gratitude, to life." He talks about gratitude being that idea of appreciating the small things around you. We get so busy and so crazy with all of our thinking, that we forget there are sunsets.
I think it was last week, Rev. Tony and I were working in the office. Rev. Dusa Althea came in and was so excited! She said, "Have you looked outside recently?" There was this huge, bright pink sky outside. I mean, it was pink in every direction you could see. Rev. Tony and I had been in the office all afternoon next to the large windows and had not even noticed it. We were working. So that is what Jack Kornfield is talking about – taking time to notice the small things that we can be grateful for.
Then the second one I like a lot. It's from Jonathan Edwards. He talks about two forms of gratitude. To me, this is what it really comes down to. There is the gratitude that we tend to think of, and then there is what I want to talk about more which is developing gratitude. Jonathan Edwards was an 18th century preacher so he's from awhile back but I think what he taught about gratitude was brilliant. He talks about natural gratitude and spiritual gratitude. Edwards defines natural gratitude as what most people think of when they say "Let's be grateful." It is the idea that I have received something and I am going to be grateful that I got it. However, there has to be a getting for that type of gratitude, for natural gratitude. Then he talks about spiritual gratitude. He says that is where it has its source in the knowledge of the goodness of God independent of favors received. You are grateful because what is, is. You are grateful because God is what God is.
Of course being an A Course in Miracles church, I had to check out what the Course said. If anyone can find a definition for "gratitude" in the Course, please let me know. I couldn't find one. Maybe it is there, and I didn't find it. However especially in Lesson 195, which was the reading today, The Course talks about walking in gratitude, about living a life walking in gratitude. I want to focus on a few different sections from that passage.
Starting with paragraph eight, it talks about "The fear of God is now undone at last, and we forgive without comparing." (OrEd.WkBk.139.8) When we walk in gratitude, "we forgive without comparing." I think that is one of the biggest blocks to forgiveness – comparison. When we are not forgiving, then we are not being grateful.
What I mean by that is if I sit here and say, "Oh, I like Rev. Peter's sweater better than mine." Well guess what? I'm not going to be grateful for my sweater. Maybe I feel good because I'm thinking "I'm so hot today! I'm looking good! I like my dress. My dress is prettier than Curie's dress." (laughter). For those on PalTalk, Curie is my dog. Curie comes dressed up every week for the Sunday Service.
Maybe I am thinking that, but guess what? I'm still saying that gratitude is conditional. Though I am happy for what I have, if I think mine is better than someone else's then that implies a ranking. Someone else is going to be better than me. Then comes fear when I start comparing. I start looking and I start saying, "You are better than .... That's better than …. I'm better than .…" You can't be grateful because there is fear that someone is going to be better than you or you are creating the thought that someone is worse than you. You can't have unconditional love if you are breaking up who is better and who is worse.
A Course in Miracles also says, and this goes with what I just spoke about, "… you will have total gratitude, for you will see that everything has earned the right to love by being loving, even as your Self." Let me reread that because it is a little wordy. "… for you will see that everything has earned the right to love by being loving .…" (OrEd.WkBk.139.8) They deserve love because they are love even as you, yourself are. Isn't that interesting? When you compare and start saying, "This person is better. That person is better. This is good. That is bad." you start creating a sense that this person is worthy but that person is not. You can't be grateful when you think there is a competition.
Maybe you think you are being grateful but you are also worried. You can't be in true gratitude, saying that you are grateful for what is, when you are competing. It says once you have gotten into gratitude, you realize why you can be grateful is because my brother or sister is love. I can be grateful because I am love. He is loving. He is going to be loving, because he is love. He is acting from love. The Course says everything comes from love, or it's a call for love. But what is our response to either of those? It is always to come back with love. We can see that the person is really loving. We can be thankful for them even if it doesn't seem that they are expressing love, because they are love.
I had an interesting experience this week. I knew I was going to get myself into a little hot water. I knew what I was doing and what would probably happen. I don't know how many of you saw my Facebook blog. I try to blog every week though it is usually every two to three weeks. I put up a blog this week called, "Why I am OK with President-Elect Trump." That was the title of the blog. I had people yelling and mad at me before they even clicked on it to see what I had said. (laughter) Just based on the title of the blog they were mad.
There are a lot of issues covered in the blog, but one of the main points that I focused on was that I'm not going to be angry and upset at President-Elect Trump now, when I don't know what will happen. I've brought this up before. So many of our fears are based on what we perceive media has told us. I was talking to Evan who helps with our bookkeeping here at the Community Miracles Center. He was talking to friends of his in Oregon and they were okay with Trump being elected. He said to them, "Didn't you see this talk that he did?" After talking more, they realized they had seen parts of the talk but here in California, we saw different parts of the same talk. Because of that, they had totally different perceptions of Trump based on what parts they were shown – but that's how media is. So the question is, "Who was right?" Well neither was, because no one had seen the whole thing. Evan and his friends had just seen the parts of it that were chosen to make the viewers have a certain response.
We go into places of fear. I've heard people saying, "Oh my gosh. This is bad. I have all these friends who are going to be deported." I am not going to say it won't happen. However, I have worked with Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE). I have friends who are agents in ICE and in immigration services department. They can't keep up with their casework now. How are they going to find two million people who are unregistered in the United States and get rid of them? They can't even deal with the 400 cases that they have now. I heard a report that said it would be at least two billion dollars a year to start the removal of all the immigrants that Trump was talking about and a billion a year to maintain the project. ICE doesn't have that money floating around so it seems doubtful to me – at least in the form it is being talked about now.
So I am looking at this part from A Course In Miracles about gratitude becoming a substitute for anger, malice, and revenge. Think of that – gratitude is the substitution for anger and insane perceptions. People were upset just at the title of my blog, "I am OK with President-Elect Trump." I don't know what he is going to do but most of the stories I heard people were upset about were "He said he was going to do this. He said this is his policy." Since when do we actually believe that politicians are going to do what they say? (laughter) Think about that. How many things have we heard on the campaign trail and then hardly any of it happens. Yet people are so riled up thinking all of this is going to happen. Since when do we think they are ever going to do what they said? We go into these crazy stories. We go into these insane perceptions.
This lesson that we read today says, "Today we learn to think of gratitude in place of anger, malice, and revenge." (OrEd.WkBk.139.9) I talked a few months ago about "The Golden Key" by Emmett Fox. The Golden Key teaches that when you get upset, when you get stressed out, you think of a characteristic of God.
I am upset. Let me think of an example. My neck is hurting today. I have a little neck ache going on, a bit of stiffness. Instead of dwelling on "Oh my gosh, my neck is hurting. Now I am going to get a headache. Then I will get dizzy. I could get sick if I get too bad of a headache." Instead of doing that, The Golden Key says to stop that thinking. Stop it. Then start thinking things like "God is the Healer of all things. God takes care of me. God is the Great Physician." Whatever works for me is what I should focus on. If I am thinking that, "God is the Great Physician," I can't focus that much on "Oh my gosh. My neck hurts." because it becomes insignificant in the light of what God is.
Today the reading stated we want, "... to think of gratitude instead of anger, malice and revenge." (OrEd.WkBk.139.9) As we are coming up to Thanksgiving, can we stop and say that we are going to give up our crazy, insane perceptions? I'm going to give up my beliefs and guesses, complete guesses, as to what is going to happen in the future. I am instead going to be in gratitude that what is, is. I am talking more here about what Jonathan Edwards called spiritual gratitude. I'm not being grateful because I'm getting what I want, but I am being grateful because there is a loving God. There is a loving Universe that is out there and supporting us in our spiritual journeys. So we move into a space of "I am going to be grateful regardless because God is good."
I do a lot of work with the Byron Katie material. I do a lot of it because I realize how much of my thinking is crazy. I ask myself, "Is this thought really true?" which is the first of Byron Katie's "4 Questions." When I am upset, it is virtually never, ever, ever, ever, ever true. Actually I'm not sure if it is ever true. Any time I am upset about a thought and I am disturbed, my peace is disturbed, and I say "Is that true?" I realize it is not. I've gone into my crazy story. So this is challenging us to move beyond the insane perception, to move beyond the anger, malice, and revenge, fear, and to say I am grateful that what is, is. I am grateful that all things are gently planned for my good. I am grateful that ….
You know there are a lot of things that might feel they are a little too far out there for me to work with at times. It might feel hard to be grateful just for God being God. That is when we can stop and go back to Jack Kornfield. Look around. Let's be grateful for the things that we do have and can work with more readily. I am grateful there was coffee this morning. Actually I was really grateful there was coffee this morning. (laughter) I am grateful that I have a bed to sleep on. I am grateful that I have a job that I really enjoy. I am grateful that I have an awesome boss who is doing our sound system today. (laughter) I am grateful for having good streets to drive on.
Think of 150 years ago. Just to get from New York to California – I don't know how long that took. I don't even want to think about that one. (laughter) Now we can jump on a plane and be there in a little over four hours. So what do we do? We complain because the guy in front of us reclined his chair on the plane instead of recognizing that we just got from New York to California in four hours. We start focusing on the negatives instead of all the good around us. So this is challenging us to take control of our thoughts and to change them. Let's look at where is the good. Let's take the gratitude and substitute it for the insane perceptions.
What happens then? What happens when we go into gratitude? It says "Our gratitude will pave the way to Him." (OrEd.WkBk.139.10) In a different spot, it says "… gratitude to God becomes the way in which He is remembered." (OrEd.Mn.23.4) How do we remember God when we are angry at God and saying, "This sucks! I don't like this." You can't remember God when you are in anger and in judgment because God is Love. God is the One who has allowed us to have this existence.
You know there are different theories as to how we got here, but at this point, God is letting us hang out here. A Course In Miracles says God hasn't woken us up violently from the dream. We are being allowed to have this experience. We can go into this space of, "I am going to be grateful" then we start to realize what the Course says which is, "God enters easily, for these are the true conditions for your coming home." (OrEd.Mn.23.4)
How do you remember that you are one with God when all you are doing is judging God? We are saying, "You didn't do this right. You didn't make Hillary Clinton win. You didn't give me …" Think of something you like and didn't get. When I am upset about something I want but didn't get, I am blaming God. I am saying that what I have isn't good enough. Now I am taking the place of God.
I can't go home when I am telling God that I am better than God. I'm telling God, "I'm going to tell you what is right because what you are doing God isn't right." So when we shift that, when we shift to gratitude, when we shift the insane thoughts and take away all the judgments – the rage, the anger, and the hurt – then it allows us to open up to our relationship with God.
I've said this before, ultimately "You need to develop your weakened ability to be grateful, or you cannot appreciate God." (OrEd.Tx.6.23) Here is the key part. "He does not need your appreciation …" (OrEd.Tx.6.23) God is good with being God. God doesn't need us to be thankful to Him. God is okay with that. "… but you do." (OrEd.Tx.6.23) Gratitude isn't for the purpose of God getting Its ego stroked. Gratitude is for the purpose of us remembering how blessed we are, of releasing our judgments, of releasing our thoughts that things aren't good enough the way they are. So yes, we express thanks to other people; we express thanks to God. Ultimately, every time we give thanks for something, it changes who we are which is the point of gratitude.
A Course in Miracles talks a lot about gratitude, especially in the lessons. Some of the things it says to give thanks for include: Giving thanks to God simply for what It has done for us. Giving thanks to our brother. Thank you Rev. Peter, Thank you Leslie, Thank you Rev. Tony, Thank you K.C. ... and thank you Rev. Rudy and Alex and Rev. Dusa Althea who is at the back of the sanctuary somewhere. Thank you to all our friends on PalTalk. Thank you for showing up. The lesson says give thanks to your brother for just showing up. Thank you for being in my life. Thank you for being here to share in my life, to support me, to heal me, and help me remember that I am Love.
What are some other things? Give thanks to the world for joining with us. One idea that I think a lot of people struggle with is that God thanks us. God thanks us for practicing and living His Word. I would say that is the living from spiritual principles and for completing Him. There is so much gratitude that we can look at. We can get tangled up with our crazy thoughts and our crazy fears about what might happen or we can take Thanksgiving as a reminder to stop and be grateful. It is a reminder of how many blessings we have in our lives.
What I read today didn't say "Love is the way in which I momentarily pause." It says, "Love is the way I walk in gratitude." (OrEd.WkBk.195) What is walking? It is a continuous process. It is ongoing. When we walk in gratitude, we are committing to release the crazy thoughts. I am going to release the anger. I am going to release the judgments. I am going to release the comparisons. I release those and I come back to understanding that I can be grateful for what is and I make that a daily practice. I make it a moment-by-moment practice.
Whether you come up with little rituals that support you in doing that or whether it is something you are able to incorporate in an on-going basis, it is the practice that leads us back to heaven and to be able to open our hearts up to one another. So, celebrate Thanksgiving! If you haven't signed up with us yet, we are having turkey and pumpkin pie together on Thursday! That is my Thanksgiving gratitude talk. Thank you! (applause) ♥
Rev. Kelly Hallock is CMC's 89th minister. She was ordained by the CMC on Sep. 13, 2015.
c/o Community Miracles Center
San Francisco, CA 94147
This article appeared in the November 2017 (Vol. 31 No. 9) issue of Miracles Monthly. Miracles Monthly is published by Community Miracles Center in San Francisco, CA. CMC is supported solely by people just like you who: become CMC Supporting Members, Give Donations and Purchase Books and Products through us.