On December 18, 2016, Rev. Peter Graham 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.
I went on the internet and looked up different experiences of the winter holidays. It is very interesting that in Mongolia, they have a Mongolian New Year. I couldn’t figure out how to pronounce the Mongolian New Year. It is interesting that they light a candle for Buddhist enlightenment. What that tells me is that wherever you are in the world, whatever culture you come from, we are all celebrating this deep, deep desire to awaken.
The title of my talk is “The Christmas Star.” Earlier in the service, Steve Ibarra so eloquently read in A Course In Miracles about the Christmas Star. We all know, or at least most of us were raised in a tradition where we were taught about the star of Bethlehem. It was this beautiful, bright star in the sky. Astrologers tell us it may have actually been a combination of a planet and a star, or two planets, or different celestial bodies that lined up astrologically. Nonetheless, this star of Bethlehem guided the Magi, the three wise man, to the place where Jesus was born. They were followed the star there because they were told the Messiah was coming. They were told that this person was going to free the world from the various burdens that we have. That is the story that we are told.
Now of course, we all study A Course in Miracles. We believe that A Course in Miracles is Jesus transmitting a teaching to us. The Course is actually taking that Christmas story and twisting it. The Course is asking us to be bold enough to grasp the magnitude of who we really are. It is saying that there is God within us. We are the Christ, the extension of God’s love, and that everything that Jesus did in his lifetime, is possible for us too.
It is possible for us to bring miracles, as I said in the meditation earlier, into every moment of our day. It is possible to experience Christmas, the birth of Christ within our minds, this Christmas season or whatever your particular culture is celebrating this season. I can say that because A Course in Miracles is inclusive. A Course in Miracles embraces all people. Remember what A Course in Miracles says. It says there is no difference. There is no difference between Rev. Rudy, Rev. Ted, Leslie – all of you sitting out there today – and some African tribal person who is at this moment celebrating whatever their cultural belief system is celebrating.
Deep down the form doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter at all. There is Spirit within all of us. All of us are miracle workers. Sometimes we are the recipients of miracles at this time of joy. Sometimes we are the performer of miracles. We all know, for those of us here at the Community Miracles Center, just a couple of weeks ago Rev. Tony was talking about that. (“Depend on Miracles” 12.04.2016) Not only do we have to think about miracles, but we need to perform miracles. They are sitting there waiting for us. They are waiting to happen. In every conflict situation you have, in every distressing situation, there is a miracle that is waiting to happen.
A Course in Miracles tells us this from today’s reading. “This Christmas, give the Holy Spirit everything that would hurt you. Let yourself be healed completely that you may join with Him in healing, and let us celebrate our release together by releasing everyone with us.” (OrEd.Tx.15.103) Notice what is says there, folks. “Give the Holy Spirit everything that would hurt you.” (OrEd.Tx.15.103) It doesn’t say to hold back anything. Don’t hold back that grievance against your partner. Don’t hold back that grievance against Donald Trump. Don’t hold back that grievance against Vladimir Putin. Don’t hold back that grievance about anyone: mother, father, financial situation, unresolved conflict with a friend, a lover, a partner. It says to totally release everything.
I was fascinated as I was putting together this talk today. As many of you know, if you have ever done a talk or presentation, you get an inspiration. You get an idea and you don’t know, often times, where it is actually going to take you until you sit down and begin to put together the talk. I was amazed as I prepared to do this talk how I saw this interlocking chain of miracles that had taken place over the past couple of weeks of my life. I want to share a little bit of that with you.
I want to talk about a situation involving my work. I’ve shared this with some of you, and I’ve talked about it before in some of my talks. I work with students with disabilities. In the workplace this year we’ve gotten some students with very serious medical conditions who are now coming to our high school. In the beginning, it was a very trying time with those students. Simply, our school was unequipped to deal with those folks. There were a lot of challenges. The parents were very upset with us, very angry with us. They let us know that in no uncertain terms. You all know living in this world, the ego world, that’s just what the ego wants – separation, someone to blame. In some part, it was our responsibility. We didn’t know certain things, and there was a lot going on.
We’ve come a long way in that situation. We’ve made physical changes. We’ve made shifts in our own minds; they’ve made shifts in their minds. It was interesting. This past week we had an evacuation procedure for one of these medically fragile students. I was amazed that the parent asked me to be a part of the team that would evacuate her child in the instance that something were to go wrong. There are complications. In her wheelchair, she can’t make it out. Nor can she make it in the regular emergency chair. We decided that we would have to carry her out. So the parent actually asked me to he part of that team. This was a mother who had expressed anger with me, but we’ve come a long way in trying to work on correcting the situation.
An interesting thing happened at one point while we were doing the actual evacuation practice. Sometimes people that have disabilities, physical disabilities that are challenging, don’t have great use of their limbs. People are afraid of that. When I went up to this particular student, and was helping her with the evacuation, I was so grateful that I have A Course in Miracles. I don’t see her as any different from me. Even though physically she may have these disabilities and look differently, she’s just a sister, a Child of God. So I went up to her with a good energy.
Then it was my turn to pick her up, as part of the evacuation, take her down a flight of steps and hand her to another person. This is how these things are done. We had a great time. I was kind of kidding with her. She was in her own way communicating with me, and I could see the mother was so relieved.
That is what I think deep down the mother had wanted the whole time. She perceived that our lack of preparation and resources for her daughter was essentially us saying we didn’t love and accept her daughter. I don’t think that’s how we were perceiving it at the beginning, but now over time I see how that was. It was really a good exchange that we all had.
Now I want to talk about an interlocking chain of miracles that are related to this. After this took place, they said “Oh we need to get the wheelchair. We need to bring the wheelchair down.” When we brought her down, we had to take her out of the wheelchair. So I went up with another male on the staff and we picked up the wheelchair to bring it down. Well in the process of picking up the wheelchair, I re-injured my back. I did something to it. I don’t know what it is that I did to my back, but it was kind of significant. I was a little annoyed with myself because I thought I had done the proper thing to bend down and lift if up. Then afterwards, the other teachers that were there said, “Why didn’t you guys just take it to the elevator and bring it down?” We were like, “Well, uhhh – we don’t know. We just did what we thought we were supposed to do.” So that’s how we did it.
I was reflecting upon that and one of the things that came to me is everything happens for a reason. A Course in Miracles reminds us of this. I recalled that one time I was sharing with one of my colleagues when I had another health issue. She said, “You know that health issue can help you empathize with the students you work with.”
There are many of us who are able-bodied. Most of my life I’ve been very able-bodied. I’m athletic, and I’ve had a very healthy body. I have abused my body a lot. (laughter) I’ve done a lot of hard physical activity with my body, but it’s always been there for me.
This recent back challenge has been really interesting. Rev. Vincent knows this. Friday night we had a softball tournament. We were playing in the Toys for Tots Tournament. Our softball team was playing to raise money and to prepare for another upcoming tournament. We only had ten players. Now I am the coach of this team so this meant I had to play. My plan had been not to play all that much, but I had to play. I played with this injury in my back. I thought I did everything I could to prepare for it. Then you know what? I could barely play. I made the whole game and I played in the cold weather but there were times the ball was hit to me and I couldn’t move. I couldn’t respond appropriately at all when the ball came towards me.
First of all, being a Miracles student, I kind of laughed at this. Here it is being put in my face that my body can’t perform like it used to perform. I could have got angry, and I could have got upset. In years past I would have. Instead, I just kind of rolled with it. You know what the other miracle was? No one on my team said a word to me. They didn’t criticize me. They didn’t get upset at me. They even kind of laughed with me.
Even at one point in the game I took myself out. I was playing third base. If anyone knows or plays baseball or softball, third base can be tough. You have to react very quickly, and I was not reacting at all! (laughter) So I put myself in right field thinking that was where there was the least chance that a ball would get hit to me. Well don’t you know it. A ball comes, a screaming line drive, that was hit out to right field. I thought to myself, “I can get that!” The most I could do was lift my left arm up. I missed the ball by twenty feet. I start running back and I tell a teammate, “I could have gotten that.” He just started laughing at me. He was like, “You weren’t even close!” (laughter) We have these moments.
Let’s remember what A Course in Miracles says about our bodies. The real purpose of our bodies is to communicate. In the past I wanted my body to perform like I was a great athlete. I wanted to be able to have peak performance, to be able to get those plays, to be a jock, and all that kind of stuff. What is really funny is these guys that I am playing with are anywhere from 21 to 56 years old, and we’re just out there for the joy of the game. Even though here I am, 52 years old, not able to perform anything like I used to perform, they didn’t care. It was just all part of the whole joyful, softball experience.
The other experience that I want to share this week was a healing moment I had with my friend John who I’ve known since I was about 14 years old. He was a high school friend of mine. We played football together in high school. He’s a really, really good guy, but we have very different lifestyles. He is a practicing Catholic. He lives on the East Coast. He has four children. It just so happens that as I was driving home Friday from work, I called him. We had been trading phone messages and usually around the holiday season, I go back home. We get together with another friend of ours, Rich. We get together and have fun and just talk it up. It’s chill times. It’s really good times. They both have large families.
One of the things that happened in John’s family is that his younger sister, Theresa, was part of this international incident that took place. Her family, her husband who was also a friend of mine and her children, were poisoned in the Virgin Islands from one of their pesticides. All of the family went into seizures and were rushed to the hospital. Theresa’s youngest one has recovered enough to function, but the other ones are at different levels of disability still. It was a big national case.
They won a settlement so now they are taken care of, and they have 24 hour care. John was sharing with me what his sister is going through. He’s providing a lot of love and support, even if he doesn’t see that. However, the thing he shared with me was that he has a tremendous amount of guilt because his children, his four children, are all able-bodied and they are going to college. His kids are involved in sports and doing very well in school. Yet, he says, here were her two boys, Theresa has two boys, and they were on that same kind of path, and it was taken away from them – that trajectory of life.
Also, I actually taught John’s youngest sister Megan. She was one of my students. I had gone back to the school we graduated from and I taught her. She had two children who were born with severe disabilities. He was feeling tremendous guilt for that too. I thought to myself, “Wow.” What I said to him was, “Look John, none of this stuff – we can’t plan this stuff. It’s just part of this life. But do you realize what a gift you are to your sisters?” He has provided so much love, guidance, and support to them, sometimes just being there to help with the children and with some of their needs.
You know how it is sometimes. You just happen to be on the spot with your response to folks, you don’t even know what’s going to come up. I know I took this next idea from A Course in Miracles. I said to him, “Guilt is really a wasted emotion. It does nothing for you. It does nothing for the people around you.”
Miracle Principle 18 refers to miracles being a service. It says that we are to be of service. That’s what we do. I said to him that service is what he is doing. He is a miracle to his sisters, to his nieces, and nephews who have disabilities. I know this because I know how he is. He is always there for them. I told him, “You can just be of service to them. If you are of service to them .…”
He was sharing more with me. He thinks the middle sister Theresa, whose children were disabled because of that incident, isn’t thinking realistically. He thinks she is trying to push her children too hard. I told him, “All you can do is be there.”
In closing, I thought to myself, “Wow! If I had not had this experience with these ‘angels’ that I work with at my school, and how I see the children that have these disabilities .…” We all think that when we see these folks, “Oh my gosh.” I guess I shouldn’t say“we all think that,” but some of us have those thoughts. I look at this person, “Look how they are strapped into a wheelchair. Look at how they can’t use their limbs. Look at how they can’t speak.” All of that thinking we do, but now give yourself a gift. I challenge you go to a place where these people are, whatever the age, and you will see an angel. You will see love. You will see kindness.
I have the gift to see them every day. It doesn’t mean they don’t have their struggles. It doesn’t mean they don’t have their challenges and their egos as well. Yet there is something about people with these severe disabilities that the light shines through them. That is also what I said to John. I said that was my experience. These people, or kids, are just there to reflect to us what is really important in life.
What is really important for us in this holiday season? Is it how much money that we have? Is it where we happen to gather for service? Ha! That is not important folks. What is important is that we show up for one another. What is important is that we have this light shining within us and when we are confronted by our egos, that we can look at that Christmas Star within and we can find guidance. We can find love. We can find miracles. We can recognize who we are and who we are for one another.
So whatever your preferred holiday is this season, I wish you to have a great one. That is my talk for today. (applause) ♥
Rev. Peter Graham is CMC's 40th minister. He was ordained by the CMC on Feb. 23, 2002. He is a member of the CMC's Board of Directors for which he serves as Secretary.
c/o Community Miracles Center
San Francisco, CA 94147
This article appeared in the December 2017 (Vol. 31 No. 10) 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.