After our stay with friends Greg and Sherry in Minnesota, Rich and I headed west then south through the Dakotas down through Iowa and into Missouri. We had planned to stay in a small town just outside Kansas City. This was no random choice. We were going to spend a couple of days with some very dear friends from our time in Naples, Italy. I had been a team member on many CREDO Personal Growth Retreats with Rod, and Richard and I had both been involved with the CREDO Marriage Enrichment Retreats with both Rod and his wife Trish.
Rod and Trish had made a flying visit with us about three years ago here in Jacksonville. They had been doing some east coast travelling and decided to dip down a little lower than originally planned to spend a day or so with us. That had been the first time we had seen each other since they had left Naples, Italy back in the mid-nineties. So we were very excited to be seeing them again. However, even though they were the primary reason for choosing to make Kansas City a stop on our 4,252 mile retirement ride, I had a secondary motive for wanting to stop there.
During the period 1989-91, Richard was transferred to a ship that was home-ported in Norfolk, VA. Although it wasn’t my first visit to the USA, it was the first time that I had lived here. It proved to be a very difficult time for me. The culture and way of life over here is drastically different from Europe. Everything over here involves distance and there is very little public transportation. And the distance factor enters into creating relationships with other people. In Europe everybody knows everybody. In Norfolk I found it very difficult to make friends; people seemed to live in their own boxes.
However, through a specific fellowship that I am involved with I did manage eventually to create some meaningful friendships. One lady in particular, Gert, became a very good and close friend. In the spring of 1991 Gert gifted me with a a subscription to Daily Word, a small daily reflection booklet that is published by UNITY. That booklet became my lifeline. It is the most positively uplifting daily meditational book that I have ever read. Wherever I went, Daily Word travelled with me, and I have continued to renew the subscription every year since then. I have used their twenty four hour prayer line many times over the years and it is such a comfort and a joy to make a call and get a real person on the other end who truly cares about whatever issue may be bothering me in the moment, and who is willing to pray with me and offer comfort.
Inside the front cover of the Daily Word each month there is a photo of the Silent Unity Chapel. There is always a light on in the top tower of this building and the photo intrigues me. Every time I see it I think, wow that’s where the prayer ministers are who receive all the phone calls and pray with all the callers – at any time of the day or the night every single day of every year. For the last fifteen years I have held a small dream to go there and visit. And here we were, planning to go to Kansas City and I knew that Unity Village was located somewhere close by. So when Rod asked if there was anything particular that we wanted to do/see in the area, I jumped right on it.
On Friday 26th August, we set off with Rod and Trish to go visit the Unity campus. I had no idea what a spiritual treat I was in for; God was in a most generous mood that day. Upon arrival we parked in the main parking lot right in front of the Book Store and Café. We decided to go in there because we figured that we could get information as to the layout of the campus and get directions to the Silent Unity building and chapel. The store was an absolute delight and we perused for a while. The staff was so helpful and we bought a couple of items and received a map of the campus. Imagine my joy when I found out that there was a large, handicap accessible labyrinth laid out on the ground immediately opposite the store. Rich, Rod, and Trish were quite happy to indulge my desire to walk the labyrinth and so with a happy heart I took my walk. Below is a video that Rich made and towards the end there are some still photos that he also took.
While I was walking the labyrinth, a large red-shouldered hawk came and rested at the very top of a tree on the edge of the labyrinth and watched me as I made the eleven circuits. His photo is here below.
When I had finished my walk we all went through a walkway and up some stairs to go visit the Silent Unity Chapel. Nothing quite prepared us for the beauty that lay before us at the top of the stairs. The campus buildings were laid out in a long oblong design and centered in the middle of them was a beautifully designed formal garden with fountains and pools. The whole thing made me think immediately of Europe and of St. Augustine, Florida because there was a Spanish flair in the design. I could have stayed there for hours. It truly filled my heart and soul with great happiness.
We wandered along and crossed the a small bridge over the central pool then headed toward the chapel. Trish and I went inside noting that there were two other people already there – a man and a woman. As we entered, the woman turned around toward us and said, “we are just about to do a guided meditation, would you like to join in?” We both assented, and spent the next fifteen minutes being guided through a beautiful reflection. This was another highlight of the trip for me. We spent a little more time walking around the campus and taking in the peacefulness and serenity of that place, before heading off to have a lovely lunch together.
It seems as though Spirit is nudging me along this prayer path. I think I pray quite a lot. However, in preparation for this upcoming “instructional weekend” in the Audire program that I am participating in, I was asked to prepare a “prayer history”. One of the questions that we were offered to use for reflective journaling on this activity asked, “How do you pray now? When? Where? What posture? Why?”
As I gave some serious thought to this, I came to the conclusion that maybe I didn’t pray as much as I thought. Initially I said I prayed on and off all day, that I hold a running conversation with God as I go about my daily business –which I do. However, what I really do is invite God along in my day and then I give Him a running commentary on things as they unfold. (As if He didn’t know already!!)
Sometimes, if I am dealing with some difficult stuff, I lay it all out before Him and then ask for support, comfort, courage, or maybe a solution. Other times I may have enjoyed a couple of hours with some girlfriends, and so I thank Him for the gift of friends and for the enjoyable time spent with them. Part of my volunteer work is to help in the Ministry of Consolation at my church,so frequently I am interceding on behalf of the family which is dealing with grief. And I realize that all of this is prayer of a sort, but it’s kind of “muddied up” in the middle of all my daily busyness.
I do carve out about an hour and a half in the morning when I get up and this I spend in quiet time with my Creator. On the odd occasion that I choose to rush into my day without spending time with God first, my day usually spirals downward until I slow down and catch up with Him. Then there are those times when I bring myself to a screeching halt in a mad chaotic day and I find somewhere quiet and private (sometimes that’s the bathroom!), and I say a formal prayer like the Our Father or the Serenity Prayer or the Prayer of St. Francis. Just focusing on the old familiar words, rather like a ritual, slows me down and helps me feel closer to my God and, consequently, calmer.
So here I am preparing for this weekend, the theme for which is Pray Always, Pray All Ways, and I find myself thinking deeply about how I pray, which is good because sometimes we have to shake things up a little, change things, or else it all becomes too routine. So here I share with you a prayer that we were asked to write. It is a berakah, which comes from the Judaic tradition. It means a “blessing prayer” and is based on this format: Who (are you praying to); Do (what has He done for you); You (what do you need from Him right now); Through (Jesus Christ).
Abba, Creator and Spirit of Love, who gave me the greatest gift of Your Son, Jesus, I am full of gratitude for all the blessings You have given me. You saved me from self destruction and led me back to You, filling my life with joy. Please continue to bless, protect, and grow me and lead me on the path You wish me to tread. I ask the same for my family, especially Melissa. All this I dare to ask through Your love, that is Jesus Christ. Amen!
As we are coming up to Thanksgiving, I would also like to offer you this beautiful prayer that I came across the other day.
Oh God, when I have food,
help me to remember the hungry;
When I have work, help me
to remember the jobless;
When I have a warm home,
help me to remember the homeless;
When I am without pain,
help me to remember those who suffer;
And remembering, help me
to destroy my complacency
and bestir my compassion.
Make me concerned enough
to help, by word and deed,
those who cry out
for what we take for granted.
Samuel F. Pugh
Blessings to you all.
Today I received an incredible gift. Actually I received two gifts: I treated myself to a wonderful facial and during the facial I was gifted with an amazing vision.
I believe that visions come through in very spiritual moments in our life. Moments of grace that open the heart and the mind in a very unique way that allows a connection on another level. I have experienced a few of these as I have grown on my spiritual path. Today’s was very special.
I have mentioned my wonderful massage therapist, Michael, in previous postings. He and his wife, Elisha own a studio together. She is presently about seven months pregnant (and glows with it too!!), and has chosen to take a break from giving full body massage until after the baby is born.
However, she has started offering thirty minute cleansing facials which do not tax her so physically because for the most part she is seated. For me, receiving a facial is the next best piece of heaven after massage, so I lost no time in making an appointment.
Elisha has a soft, gentle, calming spirit and it was very easy to feel comfortable with her. As soon as she placed her hands on my face I knew the session was going to be very special: I felt a golden thread connecting us. My breathing deepened immediately and I was aware of being restored on every level.
Although I was deeply relaxed under Elisha’s touch, I was also very alert. I registered the different aromas diffused in each product that she used at the various stages of the facial process. I was very aware of the changing directions of the strokes she used on my face without interrupting the flow of touch and movement, as well as the slightly different pressure she applied from time to time. And how I reveled in the warmth of the hot towels between each stage of the facial.
Then suddenly, somewhere in the middle of the treatment, I became aware of a soft golden glow that appeared in front of me. It slowly brightened until it shimmered in an incredible brilliant sea of light. And there in the middle, floating contentedly was a baby, and I knew I was seeing Elisha’s son.
The whole vision was simply magnificent and I felt almost breathless. Then in the same way that it had slowly manifested, so it faded away. I wanted to cry out, “No, don’t go yet.” But the gift was complete and I felt so privileged to have received it.
As well as feeling greatly restored and full of peace after my treatment, I was also full of gratitude. Visions do not come along very often and I truly appreciate their God-given presence in my life. And how much more of a blessing this gift was as I was able, with great joy, to share it with Elisha.