On September 9, 2007 the Community Miracles Center held it’s third “Community Voices” Sunday. This is when we ask several of our ministers to give short presentations and then we follow things with a wonderful pot-luck celebration. Seven of our ministers accepted the invitation to speak on that Sunday.
Rev. Adrienne Bermingham:
Good morning everybody. I’ve been dodging Tony for years on this. I just decided it was time to go for it.
I thought I’d talk briefly about a few key ideas that have been important to me, helpful – the A Course In Miracles principles that have helped me greatly. I’ll start with Lesson #25, (Wk.Or.Ed.25)“I do not know what anything is for.” It says that everything is for our best interests.
I’m learning to perceive the world and everything in it through Holy Spirit’s eyes and less from the ego’s perception. It helps me to have more peace, less anxiety and less turmoil. When I have something that comes up I often use, “I do not know what anything is for.” It helps me to know I can focus my mind and get centered – because I am a control freak and I want to take over. If I just let myself go it works better. Lesson #70 is another one that is close to me, “My salvation comes from me.” (Wk.Or.Ed.70) This idea is very empowering. It tells me I have free will and I can make a choice as to how I: mir, feel, see things and think my world. I am not a victim of the world. It helps me understand that. No matter what happens I have the choice to make the change in perception. I’m not doomed in some uncontrollable fate as I once thought. “My salvation comes from me.” (Wk.Or.Ed.70) I am in charge of it and I don’t have to go to a priest or someone else and say, “Please absolve me.” I can take that on in any second that I am challenged or have a problem.
Lesson #194, “I place the future in the hands of God.” (Wk.Or.Ed.194) “Well ...” I thought, “Why not?” After 54 years of mostly doing it my way (laughter) and continually pondering why it was a little challenging and problematic I thought I might try a different way in my 55th year.
There were several events in 2006 and especially 2007 that led me to this decision. I was tired of fighting. I was tired of complaining and I was tired of the redundancy of many of the things that were going on in my mind. I thought, “What’s going on?” I saw that my will was just as tenacious and unforgiving as it was in my 20s and 30s and I was tired. I was weary. What was I not doing right? I wanted a better way. After all, wasn’t that what Helen and Bill had asked for? They wanted a better way to relate. Shortly after Helen began to channel this Course.
Why wasn’t I getting it? I have to be honest. I didn’t want it. I didn’t want it until the precise moment showed up when I really wanted to embrace it. I’ve been coming here for eight years. Only in my ninth year did I really start to want it.
One day I said to myself, “I will try one year of diligently reading the lessons on a daily basis. It’s something I never, ever did. So, I’ve been doing that. For those of us who do it, the change is profound. It makes a difference. I am learning to just let go. I used to think of being with God as a subservient role. Some kind of a place where I would lose control. I’ve decided that’s not it. It’s a loving place and it’s taken many, many years to embrace that concept. This year has been monumental for me. I had some incidents which really took me over the top in belief and understanding.
Other ideas that the Course speaks of are, “You are much too tolerant of mind wandering ...” (Tx.Or.Ed.2.75) This is something this person can’t do! (laughter) Quite simply put, if I am not thinking it, it doesn’t exist. This mind wandering – thinking any thoughts that come along – I’m engaging with using the lessons or asking for help from Holy Spirit. Things are so much better.
Lesson #193, “All things are lessons God would have me learn.” (Wk.Or.Ed.193) I used to think that God was just doling lessons out, down from Heaven. “Why do I have to keep going through this?” The Course says,“Yet it is He Who gives the means by which perception is made true.” (Wk.Or.Ed.193.2) “I will forgive and this will disappear” (Wk.Or.Ed.193.17) The lessons are just – I’m not quite sure how this works. It’s just that I don’t see it as such a punitive situation anymore. Life is here. We mir on this planet and there are other ways of doing it. I’m doing things in a different way that keeps me feeling better.
I’ll end with just talking about forgiveness. “Forgive and you will see this differently.” (Wk.Or.Ed.193.4) Forgiveness has always been a hard one. I’ve always wanted to hold things against people and keep things in my little tiny closet in the back of my mind – resentments, anger – always have that in the back of my mind. I’m learning to let that go. I will say that the gates just opened. It’s only been this last year that I’ve really embraced that.
I feel compelled to say something else. I am very grateful to be a member of the Community Miracles Center. I came here about eight years ago and I was looking for a place to study. I didn’t know where to go. If this place wasn’t here I don’t know where I would go. I am grateful to Tony and Larry for keeping this going – doing, the On-Line Discussion Group, the telephone classes the Sunday Services. It’s a small but mighty group. I’m really glad to be here. Thanks for letting me share. (applause)
Rev. Rudy Colombini:
Good morning. It’s early. (Rev. Rudy is a performer and he frequently works late performing on Saturday night.) It’s always a pleasure to be at the Community Miracles Center. For me, I thinks it’s getting close to 20 years. Always a pleasure. Speaking of constant persistent practice, this place here is constant, persistent practice in its true form. As an institution it teaches me how to keep doing what I’m doing, keep applying the principles. Almost every day I can say that “I’m here.” I’m always studying the Course. It reminds me, however small, however dimly, as the Course says, that forgiveness is the answer to our mirs. We need to give it before we receive it. It’s all about putting it out there and not expecting anything back.
I enjoy the lectures here. Tony has been a big mentor in my life. It’s a constant ritual of adding that little miracle flavor to all the other flavors that come along. For example, the new age or spiritual lectures that I pick up at Tower Records, or the study of Buddhist practice, or even any Christian fundamental thing that comes along all gets woven into the Course. The Course is the little container – no its the big jug – that I put everything into. It’s the value system that does the reconciliation of whatever gets added onto my life.
Also, important, for me, is remembering what the matter of concern is – where true matter is. I mean both matter and what matters. What really matters is what I am. The idea of not being a body and the physical universe being a hurricane that spins around the eye within. It’s on almost every page of the Course. I too want to thank Tony and Larry for just being the stable platform where we can perform our miracles. (laughter) One big miracles stage. (laughter) Thank-you and forgiveness. (applause)
Rev. Vincent Fuqua:
Good morning everyone. It’s always a pleasure to be up here and to be part of this. Once again, I would like to thank Rev. Larry and Rev. Tony for actually allowing this to continue to happen. I’m someone who’s always had a strong belief in the community process. The HIV education work that I do is very much about community. They are concerned that community be involved with every intervention that we do and with whatever strategy that we do. I think Community Miracles Center is very much of that essence. This is a good showing of that. Reverends, the ministers, actually come up to speak about our perception of how the Course has impacted us. Thank you, once again, Tony and Larry for allowing us to do this.
I’ve been trying to figure out what it is that I wanted to talk about today. Usually I’m pretty good with doing this ahead of time but for some reason it was a little harder this time to come up with something. The thing that kept coming into my mind was the whole idea and concept of forgiveness. As we are aware, one of the main principles in the Course is forgiveness – what forgiveness truly is and how do we go about using it in our every day mirs. As we know the Course teaches us how to truly let go – to actually forgive people.
Growing up, I would say, “Yes I forgive this person all of this stuff” but in the back of my head I would say, “But I will never forget what you did to me.” It was always, always, always there. (laughter) “I’m gonna get you.” (laughter) From the Course perspective, naturally, that is not true forgiveness. Forgiveness is when we truly, actually let it go and not hold on to any grievances and resentments. One of the Course quotes that I like so much is, “You who want peace can find it only by complete forgiveness.” (Tx.Or.Ed.1.89) For me, that really resonates.
There is one situation that I want to talk about regarding my work. It has to do with forgiveness and what happens when you allow your ego to get in the way as well. I work for the Department of Public Health, the AIDS Office. I am a health educator there. About two years ago we got an interim director because our regular director left the office. The interim director, a woman, was an incredible, incredible person to work with. However, eventually they had to hire a director. The City takes forever to do anything.
Two years later they finally decided to post for a new director. The word was, one particular individual had applied for the position. He was an ex-boss of mine. I used to work with him and I had a lot of issues with him. I had a lot of grievances from when he was my boss originally. The thought of him coming back to be my boss again was a huge struggle for me to go through. I had to figure out how to accept that.
When I found this out I allowed my ego to come into play by doing some things that were probably not nice Course things to do. (laughter) For instance, I know the Director of Public Health and I know the Director of the AIDS Office as well – very well. They both have always respected my opinion and the thoughts that I’ve had. In my mind I thought about how I could go to them to make sure that this person did not get hired. That’s not a very nice Course thing to do. That was my ego trying to figure out anything that I could, to try to not get this particular individual as my boss. So I did that.
I also asked my colleagues some things about this particular person to add more ammunition as to why this particular individual should not be the new boss. Through this whole process it made me realize how draining and how tiresome that really was. What was I doing? Why was I putting all this energy into this one particular person around something that had actually happened in the past instead of living here in the present? Finally I decided to do what a Course student should do and actually asked for guidance regarding this whole situation. It would have been nicer if I had done it early on, but sometimes it takes a very long process to recognize, to remember, that I am a Course student and since we have Holy Spirit behind us we are able to make correct decisions.
To show you how this ego process worked in me, I let the interim director know that if they were going to hire this person I was going to quit my job! (“Oh no!” from the audience) I love the work that I do but that’s how strongly I was hooked. I’m very much of a drama queen. (laughter) I love to get my way. This concerned the interim director because I do very, very good work. I do very good work in the African American community and they do not want to lose me. She was in a dilemma because it became very clear that this person was going to be the top candidate for our new director. Our interim director didn’t know what to do – to hire this person and potentially lose another co-worker.
She did something that I will always respect and always admire. She called me. It was right after my dad had passed away and I was on my way to the funeral in Mississippi and she called and talked to me to see how I would feel to have this person as the director. She let me know that she had spoken to him ahead of time as well to find out what had happened between us when he used to be my supervisor. She wanted to know what was going on. I thought that was very great of her to get both sides and to want to clear the air to make sure that we would be able to work together in a good space.
She mentioned to me what he had said. He recognized, at that time, some decisions were made that were not great, that were not appropriate, but we never had the opportunity to actually talk about this afterwards because it all happened so fast. I went to a different section so we never had the opportunity to communicate about everything that actually transpired. It made me realize that if we had actually taken the time to do that, I could have let go of these grievances a wa-a-a-ay long time ago. Through my prayer and through my constantly trying to figure out what it was I wanted to do, another quote came into my mind from the Course which I like, “Without forgiveness I will still be blind.” (Wk.Or.Ed.247) It made me realize that I had to forgive not only the situation but I had to forgive myself in the whole process. That was very hard for me to do. The situation that had happened in the past was very hurtful with everything that transpired. I can’t go into the details because it is confidential but it was a very painful process. To be able to recognize that, to really understand truly what forgiveness was about and to be able to let go of all those grievances that I had towards this individual made me feel much better and made me feel at peace.
This person did get hired. He actually stared a week ago as my new boss and I have a totally different perception about him. I am actually welcoming him into our section. I’m very pleased now that he is my boss and I’ve been able to recognize that whatever happened in the past is not necessarily going to happen in the future now. As long as I have been able to let go of all the grievances, to be able to accept him for who he is and if he accepts me for who I am, its making it a much better process. It’s a much more healthy relationship.
I know if I hadn’t had the Course in my life I wouldn’t have been able to do that. I would still have been very resentful and I would still have been very angry. I would have done little, nasty things to make his life miserable (laughter) as my new boss. I’m not doing that now because I have a better understanding of what my purpose is in life and in this path. That purpose is to truly learn how to forgive and to let it go and not hold onto the grievances and these resentments that we have all the time in our mirs.
The quote I’d like to end with is “Forgiveness ends all suffering and loss.” (Wk.Or.Ed.249) It’s something to keep in mind. That’s what forgiveness is all about. (applause)
Rev. Peter Graham:
Now you see the real Vincent Fuqua! (laughter) He’s not all sweetness and light. (laughter) (Rev. Peter and Rev. Vincent are long time life-partners who mir together.) Notice that he did call himself a “drama queen.” (laughter) And notice that I wasn’t a part of any of his forgiveness lessons. (laughter)
Okay. Like everyone here, I am grateful to be up here and be able to speak and I’m very grateful and thankful for Tony and Larry for keeping this thing going. For me, I had to move all the way to San Francisco to understand the Course. I had been reading it back in Philadelphia and I couldn’t make heads nor tails of it. One of the reasons I actually came out here was because there was this miracles center here. I knew there was something about A Course In Miracles that I had to learn but I just couldn’t get it. I’m very happy to be here. I want to talk about a couple of things, changes I’ve had in my life and how I’m trying to integrate the Course in them.
This year I have assumed a new position in my work life. I am a chair person for the Special Education Department of my high school. It is the first time I have every supervised adults. I have thirteen teachers under me and twenty assistant teachers. The program has 230 students in an inner city public school. Now, all of sudden, I am thrown into all these conflicts with adults.
It’s a real challenge for me and my personality. I like to get along with people. I like nice, happy, getting along kind of things. I don’t like conflict. I try to avoid it as much as I possible can. This has been a real challenge for me because now I have to manage and supervise conflict between teachers and conflict between teachers and teaching assistants and parents. The very first day at school this year I was actually tested by this.
We have construction going on at the school and it’s a big school. We have 2,300 kids. We have about 700 freshmen coming in. It’s very challenging and we weren’t really up and running because of the construction. Our computers weren’t running properly. We had lots of issues going on. It was early in the morning the first day of school, about 9 o’clock, when one of the parents came in. She was hot; she was mad. She heard I was department chair and she came right at me. She started berating me. Her child was a freshman; he was new at the school. He has been diagnosed as what is called “Mild Cognitive Delay.” He’s a “Special Ed.” student. He’s in a special class for that. The mother was irate because no one was assigned to her child, to take him around this huge school on his first week to help him.
The truth is no student is assigned a personal – well actually that’s not true. Students who have a physical disability do get someone to help them around, but this student’s disability didn’t require that, at least not according to the school district. The mother was very upset about this. Basically, I got it. I had been in church, here, Sunday the day before. I had spoken that Sunday. Here it is Monday morning and – okay, I just have to let this woman go and see what she has to say. I got it. After she was done I said to her, “I understand how you feel.” She said, “You don’t understand how I feel! Don’t you dare tell me that.” At that moment I flashed. I didn’t flash outwardly, but inwardly I could feel it. “Whoosh!” I wanted to get self-righteous and indignant and tell her to get herself out of this office and she could go ....” I heard it going on. I said to myself, “I know this is my lesson.”
I calmly went into the other room and I got her son’s schedule. I had a teaching assistant take him to his first class. I called his teachers to make sure that someone would buddy up with him to get him around the school. The truth of the matter is, it is a huge school. We’ve got three floors and we’ve got buildings outside of the school, stuck in the middle of the school. Classrooms are all over the place especially with construction. This mother was naturally concerned for her child coming there the first day. She didn’t want to have her boy traumatized. We all have experiences of what it’s like to go to a new school the first day. In an ideal world it would be easier, and students would have somebody with them. It’s just that the resources and the organization are not there. I got that and I was, in that moment, thinking about the Course and I was in a Course minded situation.
I remember this quote from the Course, “Every situation properly perceived becomes an opportunity to heal the Son of God. And he is healed because you offered faith to him, giving him to the Holy Spirit and releasing him from every demand your ego would make of him.” (Tx.Or.Ed.19.2) That’s a pretty tall order but I think, in that moment, I was able to do it. At the end of the day she came up to me and apologized. She was very appreciative about what we had done for her son. That’s one of the experiences that I had and in that moment I was able to do it.
There was another situation that took place this week that was a conflict between two adults, a teacher and a teaching assistant. I was brought in to help. What happened was this teaching assistant had signed out. He said he had finished work at 1:45, when actually he had left at 1:30. Some other people had told on this guy and so the teacher in charge did what she was supposed to do and reported him. He had actually left at 1:30.
This gentleman who did this, this teaching assistant, came to me and he was also offended and irate. He is a Russian gentleman. He had that Russian accent. This was a mark against his family and his name. (laughter) He had been publicly insulted. What they had done was “x-ed” out the time he had put down and put the proper time in the time book that they had. He was very, very upset about this whole thing.
What I did was – and I took a little risk – I said, “We’re having a meeting with the teachers soon. Will you sit down with me and the teacher to have a conversation to find out what is going on?” I didn’t have all the facts. I sat down with both of them. The teacher explained her point of view. He explained his point of view. Clearly at that point, for him, it was an issue of saving face.
We explained to him that he was responsible for being with the student who needed him. He had to wait for another assistant to come and take over the responsibility for that student. It was important for him not to leave early even if he did ask another teaching assistant to watch his student. None-the-less, he was responsible for being there. He again went off on this being a very big disgrace for him. So I said to him. “Look ...” and I was thinking about the Course at the time, “Look, this was just a mistake. That’s all it was. It was just a mistake. We see you as a valuable member of the department. You do good work with the students. We don’t think any less of you. We see that you have a valuable contribution to make. This was a mistake. It isn’t anything that we expect is going to happen in the future. Let’s just move on from here.” We had a little back and forth about it but it seemed like he put his mind to ease.
I was thinking about how that word “mistake” came to mind. My guess is that where he was coming from, this incident was a sin. He had done something and he was guilty for it, ashamed, and he had to defend himself. The Course does have passages where it talks about this correction. It’s not that we sin it’s just that we make mistakes. It’s a much less loaded word. That did it. It helped to resolve the situation. It was using a Course approach to conflict. I think that things will work out.
That is how the Course and this new job position is working for me or how I am working through it. The one thing that I still have to start asking for guidance around is when I start to have to give constructive criticism (laughter) back to my colleagues. That is going to be something that I am really going to need the Course for. I guess I’ll just have to wait and see what will happen with that.
That’s all I have to say. Thank you. (applause)
Rev. Judy Junghans:
It’s a bit of a miracle that I am even here today. (laughter) No, it really is. I have an Engaged Spirituality Group that I go to and no one was there. I was going to come here, but much later, just for the pot-luck. I got here in time to speak, but I have no clue what I am going to say.
I’ll tell you what happened recently. I went to Wisconsin for my 40th class reunion a week ago Saturday. It was great fun. It was really good to see my old classmates. We met on Big Cedar Lake. The weather was beautiful. My sister, Jackie, went with me. She knew a lot of the sisters and brothers of my classmates. It was a small school which was just great. The Course came to mind a lot of times while I was there.
I felt grateful for having the past lessons and seeing how I’ve grown. I can actually tell a story here because this is the Miracles Center. When I was a kid they called me “Beaver.” I actually instigated the reunion via email. I said, “Hey come on! Let’s have a 40th. We didn’t have a 35th.” So Howie and Kate put it together.
I was around the corner from the party where the cooks were grilling. All of a sudden it got real quiet. I said. “I guess we’re ready to eat. I better get in there.” As I come around the corner I hear, “Where’s Judy? Where’s Judy?” I came in and I said, “Here I am.” They wanted the organizers up in front to take our little bow. One of the kids I went to grade school with said, “Ah, here’s Beaver.” I was a little shocked that someone would remember that name. Later on I said to him, “We don’t use ‘Beaver’ anymore because now it has a different connotation.” (laughter) He turned beet red.
I was telling my sisters this joke the day after the reunion. My sisters and I were getting together for a week on Sunday Lake in Northern Wisconsin. I was telling this story to my sister Nancy who was driving. She did not get it. I had to explain to her what “beaver” meant. My other sisters had never heard the line from the television show Leave It To Beaver when June said to Ward, “Ward, you were a little hard on the Beaver last night.” (laughter and howls) That became our running joke the whole week. I had to re-explain the word to my oldest sister too. I had to explain the whole joke.
It was really good going back and getting all these new perceptions – reviving a lot of stuff and seeing it from a different perspective, not just “time-wise” but “Course-wise.”
One of the things that I’ve been telling my friends since I got back is that I now have official permission from my older sisters to have relationships but never get married. Geraldine and Nancy both have been married for 40 plus years, to the same men. Jackie has been married before, twice. She also agrees, “God. Don’t go through that. Relationships – suck!” (delayed audience reaction to “relationships suck”) It’s just that they all are “nee, nee, nee, nee, nee ...” about their marriages, except my sister Barrie who seems quite happy, and Cheryl who has been divorced for years. And I’m thinking, “Yeah. I am really glad I never got married.”
I still have a long-term relationship with my boss. I’ve been working for Jim Cronin for 27 years. I have all the same lessons. (laughter) It was interesting to see how they, in their long-term relationships, just got stuck in their thing. They go back and forth – what they hang on to, what they don’t want to let go of because it makes them feel more self righteous.
While I was in Wisconsin I was reading Dr. Brenda Wade’s book, Power Choices. We are going to read this book and discuss it in October at Fellowship Church so I read it during the vacation. Brenda Wade has several “power tools” to use and one is called a “family genogram.” So, I did it. I sat down with my sisters and went through: my grandmothers, my grandfathers, mom, dad ... writing down things that my older sisters who are now in their early 70s, - hard to believe – remember that I have no memory of. That was also very interesting, to get some family background and see where we are now because of some of the things and decisions that relatives had made before.
In the airplane, on the way home. I finished reading Brenda’s book. She has studied A Course In Miracles and she’s a great marriage counselor. She was saying that she feels that one of the best paths of transformation available to us is marriage because in it you learn the virtues of: patience, kindness, compassion, and how to love unconditionally. I was laughing out loud because here, on this side, I’m getting direction that marriage is a good thing and then my sister’s are saying “Don’t go there!”
I wrote a letter to my sisters sending them an article I had about Shamu the trained whale, “What Shamu Taught Me About A Happy Marriage.” I wrote to them that it was interesting that on the plane ride home I read this paragraph about marriage being a wonderful lesson, giving us these virtues. I wrote, I thought the umbrella virtue would be forgiveness. I’m surprised Brenda didn’t bring it up. Maybe it’s too overwhelming of a topic. It is. How to let go and start fresh every day with the same person?
I am applying that. That week away was so good. I came back: refreshed, clear minded, willing to let things go, looking at Jim and my coworker Aurora much differently. Of course they haven’t changed but my perception has changed. That’s a good thing.
The whole thing with Shamu is how you teach an animal different behavior by only appreciating the good things they do. You let the other things slide. If they do something bad you do not respond. The author, Amy Sutherland,* talked about her husband putting his laundry away. He did it once and she just made a big deal out of it. Then he did it more because he was getting all this positive feedback. Or, you give them the silent treatment. If someone’s going on and on and on – you might want to use this Peter – you just don’t say anything. (laughter) You let them run it out. You do. You let them run it out. Before you know it – they stop.
My sister did that once with me over the phone. I said, “Are you there?” She said, “Yea, I’m listening.” Then I totally forgot what I was running on about. (laughter) That one really works. I forget all the Shamu tricks. The bottom line is that there are some things you just can’t change. That’s what you have to understand. That’s when you get it. There are some things that you just can’t change in the other person. You have to change your mind about it and see it totally different.
That’s my story. Tony and Larry, thanks for being here. I’m really glad I could make it today. I’m glad I could show up. You think this is a small group? There are smaller groups. It is a very mighty group. We never can estimate the good that we are doing by healing our own minds. Thank you all. (applause)
*(Amy Sutherland – author of *Kicked, Bitten and Scratched: Life and Lessons at the Premier School for Exotic Animal Trainers*)
Rev. Joan Kral:
Good morning. (“Good morning.”) I’m so glad to be here because family obligations do prevent me from coming on Sunday mornings often, but I’m trying to change that. When Tony sent me an email about having people speak and would I be willing to speak I jumped at it because I had two issues that I wanted to talk about to an A Course In Miracles group. I thought, “My God. I can’t believe I’m being given this chance to do it.” I was just thrilled.
What I wanted to share with you today was a personal experience that happened to me and that impacted my life greatly. I wanted to get feedback as to whether I’m really looking at this incident correctly. This involves personal things with my family. I’m going to go back and bring you up to the present, and how I’m using this incident. What I’m going to tell you is the absolute truth. You may think that this is a little bit unusual but it actually happened.
My father, I’ll start with him, was a good guy but he was a workaholic. He spent a lot of time at work and his dedication was to the company. We spent many a Christmas day at his boss’s house because he felt that’s where we should be. He was so dedicated to his work that he ignored his own needs, particularly his physical needs. He died suddenly because he refused to recognize that he was having a heart attack. It was too important for him to get to work on a Monday morning – more important than listening to us and my mother pleading with him to please call the doctor, go to the hospital, something – but he wouldn’t do it. He got in the car and was on his way to work when he died. He had a heart attack. That was it.
It was a great shock to us. We got through all the ceremonies as a family does, sort of in a haze. About two weeks after his death I got a call from my mother at 2 o’clock in the morning. She said, “Joan, you’ve got to come over here right away.” I said, “What’s the matter?” She said, “You’ve got to come. I can’t tell you this on the phone.” I said, “Okay. I’ll be right there.”
So, I got in my car. I only mird ten minute from her at that time. I got to her house and she’s sitting in her bedroom. She says, “Joan, you’re not going to believe this but your father was here. He was standing at the door. I drifted off, had a dream. He was there and he was on his knees begging for forgiveness.” Isn’t it interesting everybody is talking about forgiveness today. She said, “He’s asked me to forgive him for all the years he did not spend with us and he was at his job.” She said, “It so startled me, I woke up and I knew somebody was still here. So I said to him ‘John, I forgive you. It’s okay. I understand what you experienced and I really forgive you.’” She said, “I said it out loud. Do you think I’m crazy?” (laughter) I said, “No Mom. I don’t. You know Mom it’s very possible. I think it’s great you said that to Dad.” This had been an issue with them for many years. I didn’t think that she ever would be able to forgive him for the time he was away from us.
Fast forward now 22 years later. My mother is in failing health. We were recovering Catholics and so she let it be known to us that she wanted to have her Last Rights. One day, as we were sitting there, I spoke to this, “Mom, you’re not going to die tomorrow but you did express this interest and father Sergio said he would come today and initiate the Last Rights with you.” She said, “He’s coming today?” I said, “Yes. He’s coming in a couple of hours.” She said, “Where’s my Shalimar. Get me my perfume. I need my Shalimar!” I said, “Mom, you don’t need to do that. Father Sergio won’t care.” She said, “Well can I have a scotch and soda?” (laughter and howls) I said, “After Father Sergio leaves you can have your scotch and soda.”
After he goes she’s sitting there sipping her scotch and soda and she says, “You know, I just don’t think God’s going to be really happy with me. I just know that God’s going to be mad at me. I’m afraid of that.” I said, “Mom, if ever there is a person who God is not going to be mad at it’s you. All the things you’ve done. All the things you’ve done for us and the home you provided.” I’m going on and on and she said, “How do you know?” I said, “You know I really believe you extended forgiveness for Dad. What makes you think God’s not going to forgive you for anything you think you did?” She looked at me. That really made an impression on her. I thought, “Thank God for letting me say that.” She thought about that and she said, “Is that that Course In Miracles stuff?” (laughter) I said, “Yes. I think it is. I think you really need to give more credit to yourself and you are a Voice of God too.” She thought about that. A couple of days later she did expire at a rest home near me and I was fortunate enough to be there holding her hand.
She wasn’t speaking by this point. The day before she had been waving to people. The whole family was there and we kept asking her, “Mom, who are you waving at?” She said, “I’m waving to Aggie and Cleveland.” Okay. “Mom. Who else are you waving at?” “Well, there’s a whole group of people behind me and I can’t tell who they are but they’re waving to me.” I said “Okay. Tell them I said ‘Hi.’” (laughter) “They said to say ‘Hi’ to you too.” Okay. This is really a fun family I’m in here.
The next day she expired. I’m holding her had and I’m saying to her, “Mom, go to the light. You’re going to be okay. Trust in yourself and God you’re going to be alright. Go to the light.” I felt really good that I was there with her at that moment. I felt maybe I helped her. It was a pleasant ending for me. I had this vision in my mind that my mother went to the light and that she was in this golden place.
That stayed with me for ten months. On the tenth month I had the most incredible dream. The dream was I got a phone call. The call was my mother. All she said to me was, “I am not where you think I am.” I woke up and it was like there was an impression on my bed. It’s like you have a dream and then you wake up and think, “Where’s the person in my dream who was so real?” I almost felt she was right there. So I said, “Mom, will you come back and tell me what that means because I thought I knew where you were and now you’re telling you are not where I think you are?”
That really messed me up a lot. I kept thinking why did I have that dream? What is she trying to tell me and so I talked about it to different people. One told me, “Oh, your Mom is caught in between two worlds” – all this kind of stuff. I thought, “No.” (laughter) No I need to think about the Course and this. What would the Course say about this?
I’ve come to understand through the years that this was saying for me to let go of my outcome and control in this whole thing. I’m wanting this outcome and that outcome. I’m seeing this golden light that she’s going to and I’m satisfied. Let that go. How can I use this for my own life? I can keep an open mind and stop trying to control stuff all the time.
I read a quote in the Course that said, “The Son of God cannot be bound by time nor place nor anything God did not will.” (Tx.Or.Ed.25.56) That helped me. Through the years I’ve told myself,. “I’m not where I think I am.” Where would the Course want me to go. How do I perceive this? What is my perception and is it correct? If it is not correct how will I make it correct?
The whole thing has had a profound impact on me. I’ve learned to remember it and to always say to myself, “We’re not where we think we are.” We need to step back every day and look at all our perceptions and how they effect what we do. Maybe in the end that was my mother’s final gift to me, to say, “Hey. Stop putting everything in categories of control by what you think is going on." Keep asking the question. I may not be where I think I am. I’m grateful for that. I think that was a gift from my mother. So I’m saying to you, “You may not be where you think you are." (applause)
Rev. Steve Whitson:
Good morning. (“Good morning.”) Fear, judgment and expectation – the judgment born of expectations and the fear born of both. I read once that success was the quality of your journey. It’s not where you are going but how you get there. I ask, “Is the destination worthwhile if it’s born of fear and judgment, or expectations in your life?” In ruminating over these thoughts and how to deal with this large question I want to talk to you about who I am, how I feel about my life and what I feel about what an amazing and wonderful journey it has been.
Before I came to the Course and started to look at the principles of the Course and started to study the Course on a regular basis I used to mir my life with great expectations. I used to mir my life in getting: getting my due, getting – or giving – that just dessert, getting my reward, getting revenge, getting love, getting respect and getting success. This was not a quality journey. I was trying to get all the things I thought would make me happy. Isn’t this what we are groomed for from our earliest moments? Isn’t getting the egoic way on the path of judgment and fear?
When we are young we expect to get fed. We expect to get cared for. As we grow we expect to get friends. We work hard to get good grades. We expect to get true love. We expect to get not only what we need but also what we want. We expect to get great success. The concept of getting is so much a part of us, so subtly ingrained that we can’t truly see getting for what it is. Getting and expectation is our egoic way of keeping ourselves from seeing the true happiness we each share in every single moment of our mirs. This is the success and quality of our journey.
True happiness we already have. It doesn’t matter what we get. It only matters what we have. We already have everything, but how do we get there? How do we get away from this getting idea, these expectations? What we need to do is only stop and realize that what we already have is good enough, truly good enough. My kids are good enough. My car is good enough. My job is good enough. My home, my life ... they are all good enough.
This isn’t a message of mediocrity or a message of denial. It’s a message that says, “Let’s be neutral here. Let’s not judge ourselves against other people’s paths, other people’s ideas. This concept is how I could let go of the ingrained idea that I needed to get something better. The idea that I needed to get more. Once I got past what I thought I needed to get I was able to start asking what could I give? Do you get love? “No.” You give it. Do you get success? Well, I’d like to answer that question with part of a quote. “To laugh often and love much; to win the respect of intelligent persons and the affection of children ... to appreciate beauty; to find the best in others; to give of one’s self.” (Ralph Waldo Emerson) In effect, success is not what you have gotten but what you have given.
I find myself at this very interesting place in my life, feeling more successful than I have ever felt before. It’s not because of what I’ve gotten. It’s because of what I’ve given. For me, this starts at understanding that all I have is already good enough. Thank you. (applause) Y
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This article appeared in the September 2007 (Vol. 21 No. 7) 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.