Why read the Bible? … Good Question!

Overview of Christian Scriptures begins tomorrow, Thursday Aug 27.  As I’ve been preparing for the course, an unexpected bonus gift has been a new way of seeing the Sacredness of Sacred Scriptures.

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One of the topics we’ll discuss is “Why read the Bible? This is question that many people have been asking lately – say in the past couple hundred years, and increasingly more in the past 50 years. Today’s modern/post-modern population is rapidly exiting the church, and closing their Bibles for the last time. I closed mine for many years because as I grew intellectually and became aware of a global spirituality, I became less and less able to read the Bible as I had been taught to read it. I could no longer see it as “God’s Word” which would have any significant message for me.

The text for this course is by beloved, brilliant Marcus Borg:  “Reading the Bible Again For the First Time: Taking the Bible Seriously, But Not Literally.”  The most  significant word in that title is Again. He explains a new way to see the Bible, using the lens of the Post-Modern world-view.

Borg suggests that we see it as “Sacred Scripture,” meaning several things: the first is that it has molded our cultural-linguistic world. He says a “sacred writing” is the “Word” even if read metaphorically. It’s all about the Divine-Human relationship.

He points out that it is used as a sacramental vehicle: many people over many years have used it for guidance, or for devotional, meditative inspiration. (“I lift my eyes into the hills, from whence comes my help.” (not literally, but spiritually: when we’re in the muck and mess of life/ego, our help/clarity comes through the action of “lifting our eyes” into a higher level of thinking/being).

And, if only from a cultural-anthropology standpoint, we could value knowing the Bible because it is a base from which we engage in dialogue. Many people didn’t grow up learning about the Bible. They don’t know the storiestriumphal-entry and their characters. Others know them only from their moralistic Sunday-School lessons. Others know the stories only from brief exposure to them, but really don’t know the message they bring. If we know the Bible’s stories and metaphors, we can engage in conversation. If we don’t know them, we’ve lost out on a big element of Western culture.

This course gives a look at the cultural background, the language and culture, the message and targeted readers of each book, as well as the canonization process that resulted in 27 books of the Christian Scriptures. (We have called it the New Testament, but in the desire to be more inclusive, many are converting to “The Hebrew Scriptures” and The Christian Scriptures.”)

Register now and  join the six already registered in our virtual classroom for the next 4 Thursdays, 7 -9:30 pm, (eastern time) Beginning tomorrow night!

And if not this time, check out the other newly listed courses at Unity SEE classes

A Spiritual Mini–Retreat in September

Join us for 3 Sunday afternoons at a virtual mini-retreat in September!   4-7:20 pm (eastern time).

Take a close look at the hours of this session. Your first impression might be overwhelm: how can we sit around for three hours and just talk, or just listen? As a former professional teacher of pre-adolescents, I know the power of changing things up: Presenting ideas in a variety of ways; Engaging your active participation; Including everyone who wants to participate; Using pictures, video and cartoons; Guiding you to answer your own questions; Holding all contributions in confidentiality; Honoring your right to change your mind…. and I know how to facilitate and build in active learning so we can honor different learning styles.

But seriously, the topics are so engaging that we’ll have to watch our discussion times so we can cover everything that is offered! I have always enjoyed the great discussions this course brings!  The topics in this course are what your Unity minister might incorporate into a Sunday talk, and this will be your opportunity to dish them onto your plate, cut them into pieces, munch on them, digest them and truly make them your own. And speaking of food, yes, you are allowed to eat during class! I build in generous breaks for you to stretch, prepare a snack, and even take a short walk outside. And all from the comfort of your own home through our virtual classroom!

Thanks to the 21st century Unity textbook  “Heart Centered Metaphysics,” this mini-retreat will present a new way to hear 19th and 20th century New Thought teachings. In our first session, we will explore through readings and conversations the idea of “God” and “humanHeart Centered Metaphysicsn” as Oneness. We will play with Plato’s idea (foundational to New Thought) regarding the Absolute and the Relative, the “spiritual universe” and the “physical universe’. And we’ll face the paradoxes that come with trying to define The Divine.

The second session helps us define traditional Christian terms in a New Thought viewpoint: the trinity, sin, evil and the devil and Jesus Christ.  Our final session explores, through head and heart, discussion and meditation, the nature of humankind; what it means to be a spiritual being in a physical world; and how to differentiate your Inner Voice from your egoic voice.

As you deepen your understanding of Unity’s teachings, and apply them in a practical way, which discuss in every session, you will realize your spiritual potential, witness your live becoming more satisfying, more vital and meaningful. You understanding shifts from head-knowledge to heart-“knowing,” where true transformation takes place!  (more details and register)

What Does Unity Teach about Jesus’ Teachings?

Can we rely on what the Gospels say about Jesus?  Why do the books of the Bible tell different stories about him? How do we know what is historical and what is myth? How can we know what Jesus really said? What about the other gospels that didn’t make it into the Bible? Many scholars haJesus-Teachingve wondered about these things, and a lot is written about this topic.

The facts about the search for the historical Jesus often don’t filter to the people through the Sunday Sermon. The message is too complicated to communicate in twenty minutes time. And since the audience is varied, many ministers don’t bother getting into it on Sundays. But with today’s information age, people’s brains are engaged. We expect to hear facts, and want clarity between what is fact and what is myth.

It’s time for everyone to take an honest look at Jesus’ teachings. Unity offers a course that does just this. It’s a newly revised course which provides updates from the scholarly search for the historical Jesus. We’ll answer these questions and much more: How do some scholars evaluate of the validity of Jesus words; what is the significance of the Nag Hammadi discovery; and what valuable insights do they bring to the study of the historical and mythological Jesus?

Learn about the historical events and cultural influences that inspired the myth.  Why was 70 AD a critical year?  How did it impact the development of Christianity?  Curtain3

With the help of Bart Erhman, Marcus Borg, Paul Alan Laughlin, John Shelby Spong and John Dominic Crossan, we’ll take a frank look at the Jesus myth. Allow yourself to rage or grieve or explore whatever feelings come up. I provide a safe place to do that in this unique virtual class platform.

What did Jesus really say? We’ll move into a heart-centered look at the one-liners Jesus might have actually said, and gain insights about his message.  We’ll  explore Jesus’ parables at the heart-level. Students will feel a balance in this class: it’s a head-and-heart approach to Jesus’ teachings.

After debunking the myth and connecting with the heart, we’ll ask reflective, reconstructive questions about the implications upon the future of Christianity, seeing it through the lens of the evolution of consciousness.

I offer this course with great enthusiasm, as I am very familiar with the gospels and am thrilled to share the latest insights about Jesus. It’s exciting to see Jesus a little more clearly, one which makes sense to my intellect and understanding, and rediscover his message of unconditional love and radical acceptance.  Previous students comments:  “very informative and enlightening” …  “I loved the combination of readings, videos, conversation and meditation!”   …  “great energy, enthusiasm, teaching and facilitating!”

Enroll now! First class is August 10. Details at Unity SEE classes 

I Behold The Christ as You

“I behold The Christ as you” is a phrase you will hear when you go to a Unity center or other New Thought centers such as Religious Science, Science of Mind, and Centers for Spiritual Living. We use the term “The Christ” in a very different way than other Christian groups.  unity wingsI came to Unity about 17 years ago, and was struck speechless when I heard that phrase. I half expected lightening to strike somewhere nearby!

 This Thursday, I begin a class on this very topic using both Hebrew and Christian scripture. For example take a look at Colossians 1:27-28  “… this mystery, which is Christ in you, your hope of glory…. so that we may present everyone mature in Christ.”  It is a teaching that head-centered Christianity ignores, but heart-centered mystics understand. I practice understanding this concept when I meditate and pray.

Eric Butterworth, Unity pioneer, explains: “‘Christ’ is not a person. It is not Jesus.  Christ is a degree of stature that Jesus attained, but a degree of potential stature that dwells in every man.”

“The Christ” is a name for our natural and true identity. We human beings are from, in and of the Divine. christ consciousnessWe are a part of the Oneness which is God, Unity, Alaha, Love.  Our True Nature is divine. We are called to awaken to that truth and develop an awareness of it minute by minute, day by day, becoming more and more aware that there is no separation, only Oneness. It is a consciousness that Jesus lived. But it is not intended only for Jesus. He, the man of Nazareth, woke up to “the Christ consciousness,” and lived it fully. He is a Way-Shower on the path to enlightenment. Siddhartha Gautama also awoke to that consciousness, which we call “Buddha consciousness.” He also is a Way-Shower on the path to enlightenment.

Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “He (Jesus) estimates the greatness of man. One man was true to what is in me and you. He saw that God incarnates Himself in man, and ever more goes forth anew to take possession of the world.”

Butterworth, in his book “Discover the Power Within You” explains that this realization is the Great Discovery. It was Jesus’ heaven is within yougreat discovery and his discovery was the beginning of the “Age of the Christ, the Divinity of Man.”  With this consciousness, we pray from a consciousness of God, not to a “God out there” somewhere. This consciousness is empowering and humbling, expanding and very much “within.” It is humankind’s greatest discovery. If we can awaken to this, we can feel the glory of being one with God, no separation, no need to be reconciled, no need for salvation, except from our own illusions.

We will explore and discuss this phenomenal thought in my upcoming course which begins this Thursday.It’s easy to register and come aboard. I look forward to exploring these ideas with you!  Register for “The Christ”

Thank you, Barbara!

Our maiden voyage of Unity New Vista Learning Center has concluded and was a smash hit!. Tonight I said “goodbye for now” to five wonderful New Thought students who attended my very first Unity New Vista Learning Center virtual classroom. Throughout the five weeks, we continually expressed avid appreciation for technology’s ability to connect us over thousands of miles. For five summer nights (winter nights for one of our students), a small group of excited, alert, dedicated, welcoming people in PA, GA, NC, KY and Australia sat comfortably in our respective homes, wearing our bunny slippers, drinking our teas, developing a spiritual connection, and enjoying  intellectual and compassionate conversation.  The technology served us well, with great video and audio!

I am reminded of  Barbara Marx Hubbard‘s lifelong question, which she asked Pres, Eisenhower many years ago, in response to nuclear weapons testing: “What is the meaning of our power that is good?”  As I listened to her repeat this question to an audience which I attended a few years ago, I internalized the question, “How can we use technology for humankind’s good?”  Barbara asks each of us to be ambassadors for conscious co-creative evolution in the world, to contribute in whatever realm we are called to serve. I felt called by this amazingly vital,  radiant, wise octogenarian woman to reply in my authentic style, with my individual talents.  I’ve always felt called to be a teacher, and I continue to be one now, as a minister. So, Barbara, I’m doing my part: using teaching and technology to serve the greater good. I appreciate your challenge and your loving reminder that it’s up to us to do our part, whatever it is, to bring about a new earth.

All of my students are returning for at least one of my upcoming classes. Unity SEE Classes I am currently planning September – December’s schedule. Metaphysics 1, 2 and 4 are on the list, as is Twelve Powers, Overview of Hebrew Scriptures and Christian Scriptures… The list goes on. ..  Follow this blog to get updates and stay in touch through Facebook.

Celebrating Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness

I just returned from a memorable week in Gaithersburg, MD, where I had a wonderful opportunity to teach Unity Affirmative Prayer at an SEE week-long intensive. Memorable not only because of the lively people who attended my class; not only because of the great freedom we felt as we celebrated an affirmative way of thinking through New Thought realizing our happinesstwo flags fall and rise June 2015 as we see ourselves whole and One with The Divine; but also because we got to talk with others about the power of love in Charleston and the descent of a flag that has become a symbol of domination. And we got to celebrate the rise of a flag that has come to symbolize inclusivity, reinforcing even more prominently the New Earth: a new era of consciousness!

And in the midst of it all, we got to grieve together and support each other as we collectively expressed an earthly farewell to Gaithersburg’s beloved young minister Rev. Jennifer Holder.  It was my privilege to be a pastoral presence for that congregation. That’s what ministry is all about, and that’s what we were to each other last week: a pastoral presence.

I received some special requests from people who are working toward their License Unity Teacher credentialing. People who are almost there and need only a few more courses. I am working with my calendar this week to plan New Vista’s future courses based on their requests. I hope to become the go-to person for LUT candidates to get their final classes before they go to the Village for Leadership Training. But these courses can be for anyone interested in learning at a deep spiritual and exciting intellectual level. These classes can be for the beginning New Thought student or a long-timer, or even a minister who wants intellectual and spiritual fellowship.

Are you wondering how the virtual classroom is going?  We have completed three virtual classes so far, and we’ve become very adept at logging in and activating our cameras and microphones. We pray together, watch videos together, listen to music or the spoken word, share documents and pictures. We feel that the distance is not an issue!

We experience spiritual fellowship and a sense of intimacy using this virtual classroom platform that we couldn’t have predicted!  unitys message follwing supremecourt

So please spread the word. Forward this to others who are on the path and let them know what’s happening at New Vista Learning Center. “like” New Vista Learning Center on Facebook, and “Follow” this blog!

Happy Fourth of July! Happy Freedom! Happy Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness!

My nerdy questions

Maybe I’m a theology/anthropology nerd, because I’ve been asking myself some unusual questions since I found New Thought. Questions that others might never dream of asking. And as I prepare to teach “Background of New Thought,” I’ve explored them further: How could the Puritans and Calvinists, (think “The Scarlet Letter,” and Jonathan Edwards’ “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God”) ever make way for New Thought and Transcendentalists? (think Emma Curtis Hopkins, Emerson and Thoreau)*   How did the strict religious environment of New England eventually birth New Thought?  How could Trinitarians birth Unitarians? How could Theists birth Panentheists?

This might not be a common set of questions in the minds of most Americans! But it has tickled my interest for years, ever since I found the New Thought philosophy through the Unity movement. Because my childhood identity was Calvinist and rather Puritanical, as I saw it from the perspective of society in the 1960-70’s!   (A full color, framed copy of this painting hung above the mantel in my childhood home.)  I went to Calvinist church, catechism, K-12 school and college. For a while, I considered attending Calvin Seminary after I finished my undergraduate degree at Calvin College!

But then I ventured into many other types of faith communities: for a while I worshiped with Charismatic Catholics, and considered myself a Jesus Freak. I taught Sunday School at an Appalachian Methodist church, attended various Bible churches and a break-the-rules Presbyterian church, joined Quaker activists, pledged to the UCC, and occasionally visited a Unitarian Universalist fellowship.  Oh, and there was a short stent with a Metaphysical Spiritualist church! I’m glad I wandered because I got to see that everyone at each stage of faith was sincerely seeking their God, by whatever design and temperament this God showed up.  I’m also glad because I got to raise my kids in the Quaker and UCC communities, so they did not adopt that awful sense of unworthiness that I learned as a Calvinist kid.

And through these stages of exposure to American interpretation of Jesus’ teachings, I stretched  further and further toward a progressive, inclusive, evolutionary, universal perspective of God and humanity. The Quakers taught me there is “that of God” within me. And by the time I stepped into Unity, I was (somewhat) ready for the concept that “I am one with/as the Divine.” Perhaps I needed such a gradual evolution over decades, after such a complete indoctrination into Calvinism. My personal evolution of thought is not unlike that of European and American evolution of thought since the reformation. From Trinitarian to Unitarian, from Theist to Panentheist is the path I walked, not unlike the path of the deliberate thinkers of the early American settlers……  (From this point on in the writing of this blog, I have done more ranting, editing and deleting than any other blog I’ve written!   Frankly, it’s been good therapy for me, as I continue to reconcile with my past, my embedded theology. That’s good stuff. but not necessary to put in a public blog! …)

As I prepare for my upcoming course “Background of New Thought,” I’ve studied early New Thought dynamics and have come up with fascinating insights, clarity, acceptance and of course, more questions to lead me deeper into the subject.

If you are interested in exploring with me, if you’re ready to process your own embedded theology, if this interests you for any reason, do join the conversation for the next 5 Monday evenings in our virtual classroom.  “Background of New Thought” is a class for anyone: brand new Unity students, and people who have been with Unity for decades, and people who are just curious about some of the terms I’ve used in this blog!

* And if you’d like to know who these people are, please join us!

Register today at Unity SEE classes