On November 19, 2017, Rev. Peter Graham addressed those attending the Community Miracles Center's Sunday Gathering in San Francisco, California. Below is a lightly edited transcription of this talk.
Thank you to everyone here in San Francisco and on ACIM Gather for being with us. If you are going to join us on YouTube at some point later, we thank you as well. Thanks to all for coming and visiting us. You know time is an illusion so any time you get here is a good time to heal.
The title of my talk, "Be Grateful for Everything … Oh Really???" So first thing, let's give a little gratitude right now for Rev. Kelly, Rev. Tony, Rev Dusa Althea, and Lyn on ACIM Gather. They show up every week and put this Sunday Gathering on for us so we can, hopefully, get an inspirational message.
The inspiration for this talk is that it is the season of Thanksgiving for those of us in the United States. We celebrate Thanksgiving this Thursday. Rev. Tony has in the past given many talks on this. He explained to us the history of Thanksgiving in the United States. I'll give you just a brief summary. Most of us who grew up in the United States know that Thanksgiving started long ago with the Pilgrims. When the Pilgrims first got here from England, they came and settled here but they were having a hard time. It was the Native Americans in the local areas who helped the Pilgrims survive by sharing with them. So there was at one point the decision made to celebrate together.
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This was the foundation of Thanksgiving, when they shared together. That was really a healing. When you think about it, two different people from two different worlds who perhaps didn't even know the other existed came together for a time. However it wasn't until 1863 when Abraham Lincoln, perhaps our finest president, consecrated Thanksgiving as a national holiday. It's probably our most spiritual, secular holiday. As I said Rev. Tony has talked about it in the past.
Okay. So when we talk about gratitude in A Course in Miracles, it changes things up. Doesn't it? Just like A Course in Miracles usually does, it puts a twist on our understanding of gratitude. I don't know about you but for me, I've noticed that often times people express gratitude in comparison to others. One of the expressions I used to hear growing up when someone would see another who was suffering was, "There but for the grace of God go I." Right? That's a popular, secular expression. People are saying, "I thank God that He hasn't punished me with that kind of suffering." Someone might have cancer diagnosis. Someone might be homeless, or suffering from a disease. Someone was going through something hard like the loss of a child. That's what we would say. When you think about that expression of gratitude, there is a lot of fear in there. We are thinking something down the line could happen to us and God could punish us. There many sayings that are an old twist on this idea.
A Course in Miracles, especially in the reading given for us earlier today, says this, "Gratitude is a lesson hard to learn for those who look upon the world amiss. The most that they can do is see themselves as better off than others." (OrEd.WkBk.195.1) What are we doing there? We are comparing. Now later on in that lesson, it is quite different. It says, "Love makes no comparisons." (OrEd.WkBk.195.4) So the Course again is saying to us that every moment we can be grateful. Now of course, what was in my title? "Oh really???" Because we all know we have these experiences where we say "Oh really, I'm to be grateful for this? I'm to be grateful for this relationship break-up? I'm to be grateful for this financial crisis? I'm to be grateful for this disease? Oh really???"
We also know, as Course students, these moments of challenge have great potential for healing if we choose to take it. I must say as an aside that we might as well take it then because the Course says if we don't we are going to get it again. (laughter) So people, get it now. Ok! Let's do that.
I recently had this "oh really" experience. About a week ago, I learned about the transition of a very dear friend of mine, Denise Peters. I had known Denise since 1989. She was a friend of mine who I met through work. I was a new teacher and she was an English teacher at my school. We became fast friends because we shared a common love of Greek history and mythology. She was this amazing, amazing teacher. It's hard for me to imagine that she's actually gone. What is interesting when I got the news that she had transitioned or passed, I heard her voice. I heard her talk. Denise was a talker. I really felt like that was such a gift from the Holy Spirit. There is a great deal of love and gratitude that I have for her that I will always hold in my heart.
I was a new teacher. She had been teaching for several years and she was one of those teachers who was just gifted. She was no holds barred the best English teacher I ever knew and perhaps the best teacher ever that I knew. You should see on her Facebook page. There are hundreds of testimonies to her teaching. When I first started teaching, I was not a natural teacher. It didn't just come to me and she provided a lot of support for me. We became friends, and we shared our lives. She was there for me when I was coming out as gay to my family. I've shared a little about this before. There were some members of my family who didn't take it so well. So she was a real, strong source of support then.
There was another thing that was really funny too. There was one time when the students knew Denise and I were friends. The students were going to her complaining about my teaching. They were saying, "He's boring" and blah, blah, blah. Denise would counsel them, "You know he's a new teacher and .…" Then finally she just said to them, "You know what? He's a gorgeous man. Just look at him." (laughter) What are you going to do?
Before coming up here, I was thinking about this experience. I am not going to say that at this moment, I am grateful for her passing. She had a lot of health problems. She actually had to retire because of a disability. This one time, she was out walking in her neighborhood and a tree literally fell on her. That furthered her health problems. She had all these kinds of tough health situations that took place. I also really believe, and I hate to say this a little bit, but when your soul's purpose is done in this lifetime, maybe then your soul decides to leave. She was born to be a teacher, and she was no longer able to teach because of her physical ailment. In some ways I feel that pain, not just the physical pain but the psychological suffering of not being able to teach, was a great healing for her, and so she moved on.
What do we do with all this? We must take a look at our own experience and ask how we can reframe it. I think gratitude, and having gratitude even for the tough stuff in our lives, is related to purpose. A Course in Miracles says this. "A purpose is attained by means, and if you want a purpose, you must be willing to want the means as well." (OrEd.Tx.20.59) What do we do when we are challenged to be loving and to be grateful? We go back to our means. For everyone here, for everyone on ACIM Gather, for folks joining us on YouTube – we are here because we want to heal. We want to be more loving; we want to be more kind. We want to be gentle; we want to be creative. We want to be productive. We have all that but we also are very much aware of what Freud would call our defense mechanisms. Think about it in our lives. How many times do we defend against that heart inside of us? How many times do we defend ourselves against our perceived vulnerability?
I am also a coach in the San Francisco Gay Softball League. This last off season we had to make some tough decisions. Our team was competing in a division and we didn't do so well. I had to be part of those decisions. We had to release a person and deliver the news to him. He had been on the team over twenty years. It was a hard thing to do. I was pressured to do it quickly, but the way I did it, which was over the phone, I regret. I wish that I had set up a face-to-face meeting with that person and explained the circumstances, as well as have had the opportunity to hear his thoughts. This turned out to be a very, very painful experience for him. Of course, we still have to go forward through these lessons. I have to say again that we have go back to the means.
What is it that I do now? Part of me, my pride, wants me to protect myself. I don't want to admit that I could have done better. I don't want to have to go back to him and set up a meeting and say, "Hey, you know what? The way I handled this wasn't respectful. It wasn't the right way to do it." That's what I don't want to do. But Spirit is there. Spirit is in my heart; Spirit is in my mind. So that's what I'm going to do. I'm going to reach out, and if he is willing then we will meet. I will just do my part for the atonement. That is what the Course is saying. We have the means.
Sometimes the means takes face to face interaction. Sometimes we do have to go to our brothers and sisters and be vulnerable. Sometimes we do have to fess up our part. We are not perfect. We are not expected to be perfect.
I was listening to Gary Renard who has recently come out with his new book. It is about Jesus and Buddha and their lifetimes together, at least according to Gary's master teachers. Jesus and Buddha spent lifetimes together in different forms of relationship. One of the things Gary said in this book is that you will see for both Jesus and Buddha the path they had to walk, the ways they were to travel in their lives. I believe as A Course in Miracles students we have to be willing to travel our chosen paths. We have to embrace our paths, because I know for myself that my spiritual practice is better when I embrace mine. I don't have to proclaim my path to the world, or to people who don't know what A Course in Miracles is or anything like that, but I know what my true path is for me.
The Board of Directors of the Community Miracles Center just recently met together as a group. Rev. Tony has talked about that meeting. We wrote and embraced a new mission statement for the organization. I think it expresses more clearly what the CMC is about. We embraced this idea that we are here to bring a healing message to ourselves, to our brothers and sisters, to our mighty companions, and to the world. You know, we embrace that. In order to do that, we have to do all those things that Holy Spirit talks to us about. Sometimes it's what we least want to do. We can be grateful for the things we least want to do, and we know from our experience that the way we walk with gratitude is what heals us. We feel better, and we have a greater experience of love. That's what it's really all about. Isn't it? Isn't it? This is why we have our different challenging experiences.
The Course says in our minds the Love is always there. In today's reading, it talked about the obstacles to peace. When we see the world amiss as the Course says – when we see the world amiss, we are not in gratitude. We are not seeing it as part of a process and there is plenty to see amiss. Just come to my room at my home. (laughter) Rev. Tony is my inspiration for keeping my room clean though. It is easy to see things amiss. It's easy to see the tax plan, or the health care situation, or the streets of San Francisco that are increasingly pot-holed amiss. Maybe the word underneath the problems is "whole" or "holiness." You know something is there. There is some lesson in every pothole that we have.
If we want to go back to gratitude, we need to talk about being thankful and grateful for everything in our lives. Of course we are grateful for the blessings we have, right? The blessings are wonderful. Right now as I look about in this room, for me, there is no better place where I can come and feel more love, more acceptance, and more tolerance than here. When I come here and I'm not in such a good state, other people pick me up. I am sure it is the same with other folks as well who study A Course in Miracles or are on a spiritual path. They have those experiences as well.
We all come into our lives. We are present in our lives. We do the best we can even when we see the world amiss. If we see the world amiss, we are counseled and encouraged by the Course to do a simple thing. "Love makes no comparisons." (OrEd.WkBk.195.4) We don't have to compare ourselves against anyone else. We don't have to judge our lives, right? Let's remember what A Course in Miracles says.
A Course in Miracles says we are often not the best judge of what is happening in our lives. Sometimes when we think we are taking ten steps back, that is one of the greatest healings that we will experience. You know I go back to my friends and Denise. I wasn't sure I could keep it together here, but I did even though my heart feels broken. You know what it is that she taught me? She taught me that you love people however they are. I know she did by the response her students had, and that her colleagues had for her. She was real; she was professional. She showed up.
Today when we talk about being grateful for everything, let's be grateful for the love that we have in this room right now. Let's be grateful for all the love we have in our family, in our extended family, and in our family of choice. Let's be grateful for the villains. Let's give it up for the villains. (Rev. Rudy, a fellow CMC Board Member, applauds.) Rev. Rudy, you aren't my villain! Well maybe in some meetings you are. (laughter) But I bet I'm your villain then too. No? So let's be grateful for the villains. They show us that we are all one. They show us the dark side. As we heal our perceptions of them, we are healed. This Thanksgiving, we are grateful for all the blessings. We are grateful for those we don't consider blessings, because that leads us to our healing. Remember that love makes no comparisons. We are all one. We are love. Let's live it. And that's my talk for today. (applause) ♥
Rev. Peter Graham is CMC's 40th minister. He currently serves as the Secretary of the CMC's Board of Directors (11.30.21). He was ordained by the CMC on Feb. 23, 2002.
c/o Community Miracles Center
San Francisco, CA 94147
This article appeared in the November 2018 (Vol. 32 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.