On Sunday December 6, 2020 Rev. Tony Ponticello addressed the congregation for the Zoom Sunday gathering. What follows is a lightly edited transcription of that talk.
Hello everybody. Thank you for joining us, and thank you for joining me. Great to have you here. Wonderful to be speaking here again. It's been a couple of weeks. I think it's been three or four weeks since I've spoken at the Sunday gathering. This is the first talk that I have given since Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is a great holiday for us spiritual people. It's a great holiday for A Course in Miracles students. It's a holiday all about gratitude and abundance. A quotation about gratitude that I always like to remember is, "And gratitude to God becomes the way in which He is remembered, for love cannot be far behind a grateful heart and thankful mind." (OrEd.Tx.23.4)
We have that little meme, "A grateful heart, thankful mind." This is the attitude that we all need to have all the time. That's how we remember God. We don't remember God by reading lessons from A Course in Miracles or by meditating for hours and getting our minds to be a blank. We remember God by having a grateful heart, the emotion – the energy – of gratitude, and thankful thoughts. This is what I want to remember, especially in this time of year, when things can be a little challenging. I want to, as the title of my talk says, I want to be staying focused on abundance while ... [you can fill in the blank there], while we're in the midst of this situation here that we're in, this pandemic, and the regulations that the government is issuing to us. I didn't have the big Thanksgiving dinner this year for the Community Miracles Center that I've always had, or that we've done for the last 34 years. We had a much smaller event in my own apartment. I couldn't have the big public event, but I negotiated with my apartment mates [I don't live alone], and figured out how we could have a small event that was by invitation.
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We had seven people, and I missed the big meal. I felt the lack of the other people. Plus I felt the concern, or the pain, of the other people who would have wanted to be in the big event, because they had come to the big event every year. They loved the big event. We just couldn't offer that to them, but all of those perceptions are perceptions of some kind of loss or some kind of lack. A Course in Miracles tells us, "Loss is not loss when properly perceived." (OrEd.WkBk.284.1) So I can acknowledge those thoughts and those feelings, but I also acknowledge that if I dwell on them, then I'm not properly perceiving the situation. The Course says, and this is miracle principle number 42, "42. Wholeness is the perceptual content of miracles. It thus corrects or atones for the faulty perception of lack anywhere." (OrEd.Tx.1.61)
Wholeness is that perceptual content of miracles. They correct for the faulty perception of lack. Lack is always a faulty perception. "Faulty" means "working badly or unreliably because of imperfections." Any perception of lack is not a good perception. It's not reliable; it's not working well. It's broken. In simple words, it's just plain broken! I don't want to dwell on broken perceptions. I want to acknowledge that I'm having them, but then offer them up and ask for help to have them heal. So I offered up my appearances of lack about Thanksgiving, and what did I see? What did Holy Spirit give me?
We still had a wonderful dinner and a wonderful time. Plus it was still a traditional Thanksgiving dinner with turkey and stuffing, vegetables, cranberry sauce, and yams. We still had pies, and the pies were delicious. All the food was abundant and delicious. Actually, I thought the pies, which I made of course, were amazing this year. I thought the crust was just incredible. That felt abundant. It was a lot less work. It was truly a lot less work than trying to move this large dinner into the community room of Rev. Dusa Althea's apartment complex. A small dinner in my own apartment was way easier to do. That really felt abundant. I truly appreciated that. I appreciated the abundance of that.
Thanksgiving dinner, the way we've always done it, it's a lot of work. And it's not that it's just a lot of physical work. It's a lot of mental work, holding it all together, creating this event in a locale that isn't actually set up for it. We don't have the equipment there, so we bring in a lot of equipment and tables. It's huge, and there's a lot of moving parts. I have had help doing that. Rev. Peter, Rev. Dusa Althea, other people have definitely helped, but it's a lot of moving parts to hold in my consciousness. It's a lot of physical work, and it's a lot of mental work too. It's an impressive undertaking when we do it, but it's also oppressive to have to do it. So I appreciated this year that I didn't have to do that. That felt abundant to me.
Some other abundances are going on, because I'm staying at home more. I've gotten certain things, certain house projects caught up. I've gotten my personal finances, my bookkeeping [which is very complicated] caught up. I'm determined to be able to file my taxes on time in 2021, instead of extending the stress of gathering my bookkeeping and calculating my taxes in September and October when the automatic extension ends. I'm appreciating that during this "shelter-in-place" situation that we've got going on.
We have manifested a Sunday Gathering that's usually quite a bit larger than the in-person Sunday Gatherings that we had when we were meeting in the community room at Van Ness Avenue and Market Street. I miss certain things about the in-person gatherings. That's absolutely true. I do. I miss actually being physically with the people. I miss the hugs. I miss the laughter. I miss the singing where I can actually hear the other people. It was an impressive thing that we were doing a Sunday gathering, an in-person one, at a place that we had to bring stuff in and set all this stuff up. It was impressive, but it was also a little oppressive at times. It was a lot of work. Actually, what we're doing now with the Sunday Gathering on Zoom is way less work. It's easier to put together, and we're reaching more people. So I can see that there's abundance to focus in on if I choose to. I can still acknowledge my sense of feeling the loss, but I can offer that up and ask for guidance about that.
As of tonight the city of San Francisco is going back to a much stricter "shelter-in-place" order, and "social distancing" guidelines. Actually, as of tonight, we technically have a curfew. We are all supposed to be in our homes between 10:00 p.m. and 5:00 a.m., because apparently, the virus is much stronger at night. I don't know why else they would want us home at night, not during the day. No, just joking. Anyway, that's going on. Now, I realize that these guidelines have justifications. There's new, stricter guidelines about gatherings. For example all the restaurants that were having outdoor dining can't have outdoor dining anymore. I understand why this is all happening.
I also know that these things are really hard to enforce – a lot of them. The curfew is really hard to enforce. The outdoor mask mandate is hard to enforce. Everybody's going to be thrown back to their own guidance and their own resources about how they want to interact with these guidelines. I bless everybody with their own connection to divine wisdom so that everybody will know what is the appropriate way for them to handle all of these new "shelter-in-place" restrictions that go into effect here tonight, Sunday, December 6th, and will stay in place, apparently at least until January 4th.
We now have new, "shelter-in-place," heightened restrictions. They're going to be in place from tonight to January 4th. I feel for the restaurant people, because I was in the restaurant business for years. All of these restaurants in San Francisco have done such an amazing job of manifesting outdoor seating, creating, these outdoor dining areas ("parklets") that for the past couple of months have been available to serve customers outside. I appreciate the difficulty of this having been in the restaurant business. It's one thing to be able to serve people within your indoor space, but if you have to go outside, build this facility, and battle with the elements, that's a much more difficult situation. Also, the restaurants weren't able to create [usually] the seating outside that they had inside, and it takes more time to serve people this new way. So I understand that while this was probably a help for restaurants financially, I doubt whether many of these restaurants were actually operating profitably this way. It was probably better, but all of a sudden now they can't even do that. So I feel for them.
I also feel for all of us. We're not going to be able to have the holiday celebrations that we've been having or that we're used to having. The culture and the heritage that we're used to, we're not going to be able to have for Christmas, and Kwanzaa, and Chanukah, and any other holidays that fall in this time. That's taking away a certain cultural heritage, and it's hard on people when you take away their cultural heritage.
Think of this historically. We've known this for Jewish people, for American Indians, for African-Americans. Making it difficult, or hard, for people to celebrate their culture is very devastating for those people. It's got to be a challenge for us too, but we're A Course in Miracles students, and we're going to respond to that challenge. We are going to stay focused on abundance, even in the midst of that challenge. I can acknowledge the problem, but I know what my job is. My job is to stay focused on abundance in the midst of all of this – while these restrictions are going on. As I said, the abundance is that – in many ways – it's a lot less work. It is a lot less work than to have a special Christmas potluck event in a space that wasn't designed for that, where I have to bring in all the equipment. I won't have to do that. I don't know what kind of Christmas event I'll be able to have, but I do live with Rev. Peter, and Rev. Dusa Althea is in our "pod," because she comes over here. So it'll at least be the three of us and maybe a few more. I don't know. We have to negotiate and figure out what is possible.
We all have to do that. We are all going to have to do what we can do, to claim our culture and our heritage in the midst of the current guidelines, and in line with the sensibilities that we have and that we receive through the wisdom of the Holy Spirit around all of these things. A Course in Miracle says, and Rev. Peter read this when he did the reading, he said, "Let no despair darken the joy of Christmas, for the time of Christ is meaningless apart from joy." (OrEd.Tx.15.108) It's our challenge to be joyful and to claim it. The Course teaching is a guarantee that we can, that we have that ability. The joy will be there for us to choose if we decide to choose it. We all need to keep doing this. We need to decide to choose that. Tonight, I'm going to be putting up the little table top Christmas tree that we have for our apartment with my other apartment mate, Michael. (Done. See picture on the bottom of this page.) We do it every year. I'm looking forward to that. I bought a wonderful Christmas cactus the other day that's really gorgeous and starting to bloom. It's great to see that.
Now, I understand the challenges. I feel the challenges and I understand the challenges that a lot of people are going to have. Think about it. It's one thing to say the restaurants are closing, but that means waitresses and cooks and dishwashers are not going to have their jobs through the holiday season. They didn't have jobs for many months; some of them were just able to come back to work a few weeks ago. Now, they're not going to have their jobs. Being out of work, and out of income, for the holiday season – that's kind of tough. I understand the problem of all the people who are used to their usual holiday celebrations, not being able to have them. I want to come out and say I feel that, however I know that we all have the freedom to make whatever choices we need to make with ourselves, with our guidance to stay free and joyful. That freedom will enable us to have a joyful holiday, and an abundant holiday. We can stay focused on abundance while in the midst of all of this. We have the freedom to do that. People have the freedom to do that because their freedom comes from who they truly are, holy children of Christ and Divine. All people have the freedom to find the abundance that is there.
I definitely want to side with freedom always. I want to side with freedom for people to be able to have their Christmas celebrations, and their Kwanzaa celebrations, and their Chanukah celebrations, however they feel guided and with the sensibilities that they feel guided to honor. A Course in Miracles says, "... the argument that underlies the defense of freedom is perfectly valid. Because it is true, it should not be fought for, but it should be sided with." (OrEd.Tx.7.11) As an ACIM teacher I endorse, or commission, all of you as ACIM students – think honestly about siding with freedom. Don't fight for it, but side with it. Side with everybody's freedom, especially to find their own joy over the holidays in whatever way seems appropriate from them. ACIM says, "Do not withhold salvation longer. Look about the world, and see the suffering there. Is not your heart willing to bring your weary brothers rest?" (OrEd.191.12) There's nothing wrong, or there's nothing in the Course that says we should not see the suffering in the world. It actually tells us that we should see it if it does appear to be there, because we're seeing it so that we can be a healing for it. We have to see it to heal it. If we're in denial about it, we're not going to heal it. If we're pretending that it's not there, we're not going to heal that.
Yes, I see what appears to be the suffering and the problems and the issues and everything. I see the fear that a lot of people are under, and I know many people appear ill. I see all that, and I acknowledge it – because I'm here to heal it! I'm here to be part of the healing of that. I am also here to remind everybody that the joy and abundance is always there for them to choose, regardless of what is going on. That is part of the healing. Find the joy, find the abundance in this holiday season. Stay focused on it. Find a way to bring more of that joy into the realm, and to bring more of it into our experience.
I have also seen other abundances going on through this time. I'm home more. I'm getting more house projects done. Rev. Peter has been helpful. We cleaned all the back windows of the apartment for the Thanksgiving dinner. And Rev. Peter has told me that he will help me clean all the windows in the front room. Hopefully, we can do that before Christmas. Got to let the light in, got to clean those windows. I've been able to work on my house plants more than I have in the last couple of years. I'm really enjoying my house plants again. I love having house plants. I've been exercising more, especially this past week. I got back into my exercise program. I had the time to do that. I'm feeling very healthy and fit, feeling good, feeling abundant life surging through this physical form. I'm very happy about that. I've got to say that it's been interesting that abundance has been manifesting for me in many ways at this time.
There's a woman who has a website and a mission. Her name is Robin Duncan. She produces hour-long interviews with A Course in Miracles students called A Course in Miracles TV1. She asked me to be on her program, and we did the interview. It's an hour-long interview. She completed it this week and sent it to me. I got to watch it. She wanted to make sure I watched it and approved of it before she put it up and promoted it. It's set to premiere on December 10 so be looking for an announcement. It's quite good. She did a very good interview, and she put this program together well. She participated in the interview. She asked me very good questions, and I think I come across well [and very charming and handsome] in the interview. So I was quite pleased with that.
Kelly Russell, who works with the Teachers of God Foundation – Lisa Natoli and Bill Free's organization – she wants to interview me. She does these video interviews as well. Later in the week, we're going to record that interview. We've got one more meeting to set up and review what we're going to talk about. I know she wants me to talk about Chanukah and the A Course in Miracles interpretation and interface with the traditional Chanukah teaching. I've given that sermon a lot of times and written those articles many times. So I'm happy about that. Debra Giusti, who organizes quite large conferences called Saturday Night Alive, asked me to be a presenter and bring the A Course in Miracles perspective on the pandemic to her conference. We're setting that up. That's going to be later in the month. Last night, I got to speak at a fundraiser, a Christmas Zoom celebration that was for the Sparkly Edition of A Course in Miracles and Ted Poppe. There were 43 people on that Zoom call, and another 20 or so were watching on Facebook Live. That was a great experience, and I got to speak there as well.
For all of these video interviews to come my way in the process of a couple of weeks, that's very abundant. That's not happened with me in my career that much before. So I just want to acknowledge that there's something going on. People are seeking out Rev. Tony and wanting him to participate in their platforms. I'm truly happy about that. I'm happy that we have 14 different A Course in Miracles or A Course of Love meetings on Zoom every week. I don't know any other organization that's doing 14 meetings a week. If any of you are, please tell me. I'd like to know because I think we've got the most meetings that any Course organization has got going on. Of course we were in the right place at the right time, because we were already doing a number of Zoom meetings when all this "shelter in place" started. I did have the appearance of lack with employees quitting, but now we've got Natalie working in the office and she's really great to work with and is getting trained more and more. The Community Miracles Center is actually thriving through all of this pandemic "shelter in place."
"Yeah," it's been a challenge, and there are some things that appear to be lost, or at least on hold, but the work goes on, and the energy goes on, and actually, we're thriving through it all. So, it all can be a blessing when I choose to see it that way. I can acknowledge the issues and the problems, offer them up, but I can choose something else, and I can stay focused on abundance while in the middle of "shelter in place" restrictions over the holidays. Okay. That's my talk for today. Thank you so much. ♥
Rev. Tony Ponticello is CMC's 20th minister. He currently serves as the CMC's Executive Minister (12.06.2021). He is also the President of the CMC Board of Directors. He was ordained by the CMC on Oct. 17, 1997.
1. https://acourseinmiracles.tv – A Course in Miracles TV with Robin Duncan
c/o Community Miracles Center
San Francisco, CA 94147
This article appeared in the December 2020 (Vol. 34 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.