Shady Ladies of the the Bible: Hagar

Sunday Message by Rev. Pat Bessey

This past Sunday was another great one. I have begun a new series called “Shady Ladies of the Bible” and I started with Hagar. Who was Hagar? She was an immature, petulant slave of Abraham and Sarah. The story of Hagar is found in Genesis chapters 15 – 21. She is called into service to be the surrogate mother of the heir to Abraham’s inheritance. After she conceives she begins to gloat that she is pregnant while Sarah couldn’t become pregnant. This didn’t go over very well with Sarah. It wasn’t long before Sarah told Abraham that he needed to get rid of Hagar. And he did. I will get back to this in just a moment.

Abraham was told by God that he would be the father of many, many offspring. Time and years went by with still no heir. Both Abraham and Sarah’s faith waivered. Then once again God told them the next year it would happen. Sarah laughed uproariously and got into trouble with God. However, it did happen and Sarah had a son. They named him Isaac, which means “laughter.”

Now back to Hagar. When she was pregnant and in the desert, the Angel of the Lord came to her and told her to go back to Sarah and Abraham. She did that and had her baby, named Ismael. The two children began to grow up together; however, Sarah didn’t like that and once again turned Hagar out. Hagar went back into the desert and found herself without water for her and her son. Listen to the talk and hear the metaphysics of this story and the meaning of these three Bible characters.

This coming Sunday, Rev. LeRoy, Steph Plourde, Kim Cowperthwaite, Janice Murphy and I will be going out to a Peace Literacy training with Paul K. Chappell. Some of you may remember when Paul came to Unity of Greater Portland in March of 2016. He left his mark on this community with his message of Peace Literacy. Here is what Paul says: “During an era when humanity has the technological capacity to destroy itself, peace literacy means survival literacy. As a child in school I spent many years learning to read and write, but I did not learn peace literacy skills. Peace literacy educates us on solving the root causes of our problems rather than merely dealing with symptoms, which is another reason why the survival and wellbeing of our country and planet depend on peace literacy.” – Paul K. Chappell, West Point graduate, Iraq War veteran, former Army Captain, Peace Leadership Director for the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation.

As we continue to work toward fulfilling our vision of a spiritually transformed world, we believe this work is an important tool for our tool bag. We are looking for the guidance as to how we apply what we learn in this training to our work here at Unity of Greater Portland.

This coming Sunday, Matt Purinton will be speaking at the 8 a.m. service and Rev. Todd Glacy will be speaking at the 10 a.m., service followed by a Gong Journeywork workshop.

You are a blessing in my life,
Rev. Patricia Bessey

Celebrating Our Interdependence

Sunday Message by Rev. Pat Bessey

Happy July 5th! I am writing this to you on a perfect summer day in Maine — it is finally, truly, the beginning of summer.

Weather is a great teacher for us as a metaphor to life. Rev. LeRoy and I live in Casco and many of you probably know that on Saturday we had tornado warnings in our area. Actually, there were a couple of tornadoes that hit. While a student at Unity and living in Missouri and Kansas tornadoes were common, however, not in Maine. We had torrential rain along with the warnings. It was a crazy day.

Now, haven’t you experienced times in your life when it seemed like a tornado was landing right where you were? Everything seemed to have turned upside down in your world. And then comes Sunday when the sun comes out and puts a new look on everything. I trust if you are going through a tornado experience that you remember this from the gospel of John: “The light shines in the darkness, yet the darkness did not overcome it.” The sun will come out again as it did on Sunday.

The message on Sunday was “Celebrating our Interdependence” rather than our independence. In 1776 – 241 years ago – we declared our independence from England and America was a country. However, it took the coming together of 13 colonies to come into agreement and have their delegates vote to make this happen. Because of this act of interdependence, we have freedoms and independence that many others on this planet do not have just because we were born on this soil. We have the freedom to go where we want, to say what we want, to worship where we want. But freedom is different from independence, and I’m wondering if it might be time to start celebrating interdependence day. After all, interdependence is a more accurate description of the true nature of our existence.

For a moment, think about how dependent we are on each other. As an example: take one thing you do each day – such as eating dinner – and trace all the people who are involved in making that happen.

Perhaps there’s no greater system of interdependence than the human body, whose complex network of organs and functions seem to find a way to coexist for the ultimate benefit of the larger organism. Our freedom is largely a result of this interdependence.

Gregg Krech has a great quote that speaks directly to this topic: “When we reflect on our personal freedom, we can’t help but see the interdependence of life. We depend on people. Lots of people.”

Jesus said, “Where two or… more gather in my name, there I am …” meaning there is a groundwork of interdependence. Interdependence is a heart-sharing of co-operative effort to complete what we want to do. When we come together in his “name” (the manner/nature of God) with joined hearts, the divine energy moves through us all. It carries us through in a way that is good for everyone. Here in this community we are gathering with joined hearts to allow the divine energy to flow through us and work together to fulfill our vision and mission.

Here is an affirmation to affirm our interdependence: Today I celebrate my Interdependence and I am truly FREE!

I closed with this acronym for freedom:

Fearlessly we live:
Resting in God.
Expressing joy and peace.
Enfolded in sheltering love,
Doing God’s will,
Omnipresence is our home.
Mind omniscient is our perfect light.

Adapted by Rev. Pat from: This Then is Freedom. (B. L. Wolfe)

Next Sunday I will begin a new series called “Shady Ladies of the Bible.” This will tickle your fancy!

You are a blessing in my life,
Rev. Patricia Bessey

The Practice Of Encountering Others: Community

Sunday Message by Rev. Pat Bessey

Has this ever happened to you? You sit down to write an article and draw a complete blank. That is what I am experiencing right now. I usually start my writing with a weather update; however, that seems trite today. Oh, I know what I can start with — celebrating our wonderful Bill Taylor. Bill turned 95 on Sunday, and he is still in active sacred service. Bill does the mowing of our grounds on the riding John Deere mower weekly, he is at church on Sunday morning making the coffee at 8:30 a.m., and he also serves as a greeter and in our choir. Additionally, he volunteers at the Preble Street soup kitchen the second Monday of the month with others from Unity of Greater Portland.

Aside from volunteering, which we know keeps one healthy and productive, Bill says the secret to a long life is to keep moving. If you want to follow Bill’s prescription, we can help you out! We have numerous opportunities for sacred service here at UGP. To learn more, contact Steph Plourde.

On Sunday, the message was “The Practice of Encountering the Other: Community.” George Fox, founder of the Quakers, said: “Walk joyfully on the earth and respond to that of God in every human being.”

With different words, he is saying exactly what we say when we teach that the Christ is in every one of us. This is not always easy to remember, however. I shared the story of the Amish community who exemplified this for the whole country to see during the time when six of their little girls were brutally murdered. If you remember this when it happened in 2006, the whole Amish community came together and reached out to the family of the shooter with compassion and forgiveness.

The talk also gives an example from the Desert Fathers of how to live in peace with each other. The theme of the talk was asking you to look and see if your heart is open or closed. The Monks in the example demonstrated what keeping your heart open looks like.

Barbara Brown Taylor writes this in her book An Altar in the World in the chapter “The Practice of Encountering Others: Community”:

“The wisdom of the Desert Fathers includes the wisdom that the hardest spiritual work in the world is to love the neighbor as the self – to encounter another human being not as someone you can use, change, fix, help, save, convince or control, but simply as someone who can spring you from the prison of yourself, if you will allow it. All you have to do is recognize another you “out there”- your other self in the world – for whom you may care as instinctively as you care for yourself. To become that person, even for a moment, is to understand what it means to die to yourself. This can be as frightening as it is liberating. It may be the only real spiritual discipline there is.”

Your assignment: Love the God within you with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind and love your neighbor as if that person was your own self. Do this and the doing will teach you everything you need to know.

This coming Sunday (July 2) the message will be “Celebrating Our Inter-dependence.” I know it is a holiday weekend, so perhaps the 8 a.m. service will fit into your plans. Should you miss us altogether, you can continue to support our work even when you can’t be there.

You are a blessing in my life,
Rev. Patricia Bessey

A Salute to Fathers

Rev. LeRoy Lowell

Rev. LeRoy Lowell

Father’s Day Message by Rev. LeRoy Lowell

Message from Rev. Pat Bessey:

We are nearing the end of June and school is out and summer officially kicks into gear today. Rev. LeRoy and I returned from the Unity People’s Convention in San Antonio, as did our Board President, Matt Purinton, and we had a great time. It is extra special when we have members of our community at the convention with us. Mark your calendars to come with us next year to Unity Village and Olathe, Kansas from June 11 – 15, 2018. If you can’t make that, then you might want to come to the Eastern Region Conference this fall at Ashworth by the Sea in Hampton, New Hampshire from Sept. 25 – 28, 2017.

A huge thank you to Steph Plourde and Rev. Amy Cousins for sharing their messages with you on June 11. I got several comments of how good the messages were. This is always music to a minister’s ears when they are away.

Sunday Rev. LeRoy spoke and the Father’s Day message was about his relationship with his father. He shared how our perception of how we think people should act keeps us from the love that is always there for us. He shared about doing the forgiveness work that was necessary for him to reach out to his father, whom he had been estranged from for several years.

There is a lot I want to share with you; however, I also know that this needs to be brief, as I will lose you if too long. The theme for this year’s convention was “Keep Unity Wide Open: Freed by Truth, Moving with Spirit.” The keynote speakers were Rev. Sylvia Sumter from Unity of Washington, DC; Fr. Gregory Boyle from Los Angeles, CA; and Sharif Abdullah from Oregon.

Each of these speakers called us into service. They called us to get off the sidelines and take action to bring into creation a world this is spiritually transformed and works for all.

Rev. Sumter is noted for her uncanny ability to take the most fundamental teachings and principles of spirituality, and many of life’s experiences to develop her messages. Her call is to inspire individuals to transform their lives through an awareness of their innate divine potential.

The Rev. Gregory J. Boyle is the founder and executive director of Homeboy Industries in Los Angeles, the largest gang intervention, rehabilitation and re-entry program in the world. The website is www.homeboyindustries.org.

Shariff Abdullah is a consultant, speaker, author and advocate for societal transformation. His mission is to bring currently dysfunctional systems and structures into alignment with our common human and spiritual values, to create a world that works for all living things. His website is www.commonway.org.

Although each speaker had a different message, the underlying theme was we must awaken and become spiritually mature. We are in the most interesting of times and we must keep our minds and hearts open to walking our talk as Truth students. What was interesting was to hear a call to action in ways that we at Unity of Greater Portland are already doing.

Here is a joint statement on Social Action Position between Unity Worldwide Ministries and Unity Worldwide Headquarters: “Any proposal or action that seeks to discriminate against individuals or classes of individuals based on prejudiced, stereotypic profiles of national origin, class, creed, race, ethnicity, physical ability or sexual orientation is in opposition to the core beliefs and values established by our founders.

We choose Unity. In harmony with the divine Spirit we stand, so we may live in a spiritually awakened world that is continually evolving. This is our prayer and our decree. Through our actions, we let it be.”

It was nearly four years ago that we began implementing the Season for Non-Violence and that was followed by the Season of Interfaith and Intercultural Celebration and then the Season for the Earth. Each of these Seasons are designed to inspire, educate and create a larger community experience. They are also aligned with this recent joint statement from UWM and UWH. So, my friend, you can see we are ahead of the curve. It is my greatest desire that we continue evolving and educating our community so we are recognized as a beacon of light in the Greater Portland community.

Fr. Boyle said, “Our kinship with each other quenches God’s thirst.” Let us work together in our little corner of the world to make it a place where we are “freed by truth and moving with Spirit.”

Join me on Sunday as we continue with this theme of community and teachings from the book The Altar of the World written by Barbara Brown Taylor. We will explore The Practice of Encountering Others: Community.

You are a blessing in my life,
Rev. Patricia Bessey

Sacred Service

Amy Cousins

Rev. Amy Cousins

Sunday Message by Guest Speaker Rev. Amy Cousins

Follow-up message from Steph Plourde: This week’s letter is coming to you from me, Steph Plourde, as Revs. Pat and LeRoy are away at the Unity People’s Convention in San Antonio, TX.

This past Sunday, I did the 8 a.m. talk on Edwene Gaines’ Four Spiritual Laws of Prosperity. These laws are: tithing, goal-setting, forgiveness, and living your divine purpose.

If these principles had not had a profound impact on my life, I wouldn’t feel nearly as compelled to share them. All of the information below is directly from her book.

For starters, it’s important to define prosperity. Edwene’s definition, to me, reflects the scope of the abundance we hope for:

  • A vitally alive physical body to provide a comfortable worldly home for the spiritual beings that we are
  • Relationships that are satisfying, nurturing, honest, and work all the time
  • Work that we love so much that it’s not work, its play
  • And all the money we can spend

The spiritual laws Edwene outlines for us, she explains, “are just as much a force in life as is the law of gravity. They are very simple laws, but none of them are optional, and it does not matter a whit if you believe in them or not. They play a powerful role in your life regardless.”

Law One: Tithe. The law of tithing says you must tithe 10 percent of all that you receive to the person, place, or institution where you have received your spiritual food. What is “spiritual food”? Anything that inspires us and causes us to remember what we are – children of the living God with infinite possibilities for expression and with no end of joy in our lives.

Charles Fillmore says that when we begin to tithe, out faith increases a thousand-fold. He says this giving is based on a law that cannot fail, and “it is the surest way ever found to demonstrate plenty, for it is God’s own law and way of giving.”

Edwene explains that tithing represents “a dynamic act of courage. When we tithe, our faith and ability to stretch, to move forward, and to expand your vision of yourself and your life increases a hundred-fold.”

Law Two: Set Goals. You must set clear-cut, tangible goals. Setting concrete and practical goals creates a vessel with which you can catch the new wealth and good fortune that tithing brings you.

We are invited to imagine what our life would be like if you could do anything we wanted without any constraints or limits. Without worrying about how, because God knows how.

Once the message has been sent, ask in earnest: is there anything I could or should do. Listen. Stay in tune. Setting goals is directing faith.

Law Three: Forgive. Edwene says, “You must forgive everyone all the time, especially yourself”. Unity teaches that we are all original blessings – innocent in the eyes of God. If it is true that one of the greatest gifts we’ve been given is the power to choose our thoughts, then we must remember, as A Course in Miracles reminds us, that we can choose peace instead.

Edwene goes on to say, “On a spiritual journey, we are aspiring to a forgiveness that’s so deep, full, and complete that no traces of any bad feeling at all will remain in us. Very gently and very lovingly, we open our hearts so there is truly no condemnation in us. Even toward the people who do truly bad things. We must strive to feel no disapproval. You can get on a train ride of condemnation, finding fault, and assigning blame, but you don’t want to be on that train. Because riding that train will make you sick, and you don’t want to be sick. You want to be well.”

Unity Minister and Prosperity writer Catherine Ponder offers another perspective: “Since other persons are children of God, there is really nothing to forgive. If they have crossed our pathway, it was because they needed and wanted our blessing. They were unconsciously looking to us to be steadied and set right. Our progress has not been hindered, no matter what they did or did not do. They did not, they could not, keep our good from us. They crossed our path by divine appointment, even though they seemed to hurt us for a little while. When people bother us in any way, it is because their souls are trying to get our divine attention, and our blessing. When we give them that, they no longer bother us. They fade out of our lives, and find their good elsewhere.”

Law Four: Commit to Finding and Fulfilling Your Divine Purpose. Seek, discover, and follow your divine purpose. Every single one of us has some special gift, some special interest, some special talent, and some special way of impacting this world so that it becomes a better place for everyone. We are asked to hold fast to our divine purpose prayerfully, persistently, and patiently.

The premise here is that when we make 100 percent commitment to do or be something, and take every step with integrity, the universe will open up a way where before there was no way at all; the universe will rush in to support you. We find our great spiritual commitments by following your passions, by seeking to identify the one thing that you really, really are committed to changing for all humanity.

After looking carefully at the world, we must pick out one thing that we feel needs transforming, something that would be fun for us to get involved in repairing, shifting, restructuring, fixing, and perfecting. Edwene says this should be fun! It isn’t about martyrdom or great personal sacrifice. It’s about focus, joy, and a sense of purposeful possible achievement. Once we’ve identified it, we must take a bold step and make a 100% commitment to “fixing” the problem we have identified, followed by devoting our energies, time, talents, skills and money to transforming that one piece of the earthly puzzle.

I cannot recommend this book, these teachings, and their affiliated practices highly enough. I truly hope you will find in here a nugget that resonates with you!

Rev. Amy Cousins did the 10 a.m. talk on Sacred Service. She did a beautiful job of sharing her personal experience and passion for service, and inspiring us to find the same within ourselves.

This coming Sunday, Father’s Day, Rev. LeRoy will be sharing a special message about fatherhood.

Please join us!
Steph Plourde
Sacred Service Coordinator