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.
So while I collect my thoughts and get ready write on some specific topics that have come up for me over the past couple of months, let me share some words of wisdom from others. I think if I had lots of money I would have a house with a huge library that would house not only lots of books, but collections of all the words that I have read over the years that have impacted me deeply or influenced me in some way. Here are a few more of those precious words.
“Everything that I think, feel,say, and do belongs to me, and everything that you think, feel, say, and do belongs to you.” (Paul Ferrini)
“I cannot think myself into a new way of living; I have to live myself into a new way of thinking.” (AnShin Thomas)
“Know that making a commitment to your happiness, to your health, to your fitness, to your family, to your abundance, to your career, to your mission in life, to your love, to your friends, to your community, to your creativity, to your spiritual life, is all the same thing. It is all a commitment to growth, to wholeness, to being your best, to living life fully and gratefully starting from where you are right now!” (Jinjee)
“Making amends without forgiveness leads to dishonesty and lies.” (Anon)
“Everyone who’s human deserves to be treated with some dignity – whether they’ve done good things or bad things, they have to be given hope.”
“When you stop resenting what anther person can’t give you, you begin to appreciate what they have to offer.” (Anon)
“There are some people who live in a dream world, and there are some who face reality; and then there are those who turn one into the other.”
“Forgiveness is the fragrance the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it.” (Mark Twain)
“The fact that Christianity is a religion of love makes every evangelizer the teller of a love story, the singer of a love song. By example as well as by words evangelizers must be teachers of love.” (from John Paul II and the New Evangelization)
“The power of a man’s virtue should not be measured by his special efforts, but by his ordinary doing.” (Blaise Pascal)
“When people envy me I think, Oh God, don’t envy me, I have my own pains.” (Barbra Streisand)
“He paints the lily of the field, perfumes each lily bell; if He so loves the little flowers, I know He loves me well.” (Maria Strauss)
“Go out into the world today and love the people you meet. Let your presence light new light in the hearts f people.” (Mother Teresa)
“He that cannot forgive others breaks the bridge over which he must pass himself; for every man has need to be forgiven.” (Thomas Fuller)
When I look back over the road map of my life I am truly amazed at the twists and turns that have occurred. Many of them were fraught with situations and circumstances that I battled and struggled against at the time. I never thought that, unbeknownst to me, miracles were taking place. Often there was much personal pain involved and I could not see that any good could possibly come out of any given event.
But despite the detours and obstacles, everything that has happened, and that will no doubt continue to happen, has made a marvelous journey and adventure that I have participated in and will hopefully continue for a few more years. The difficulties and problems that I have faced have all been gifts in their own unique way and have offered opportunities to learn lessons and to grow. There is probably not a day goes by, even the most mundane, that does not present me with some small occasion that can flourish into a moment of growth.
As I scan the past that is my history, I know that I have oft times thought I was on the path, doing the right thing, heading in a specific direction, planning a particular outcome. But then God looked down smiling and said, “What do you think you are doing, my child?” And the next thing I knew, BAM, I had walked myself right into a wall!!
I read a short excerpt from some writing by Thomas Merton the other day, and it fits right in with this particular concept.
“My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going, I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain
where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following Your will does
not mean that I am actually doing so, but I believe that the desire to please You does in fact please You.”
Just a few weeks ago I thought I was headed in one such “right” direction. The question of “going back to school” has surfaced once again through various sources. (This has been a recurring issue for me over the last twenty five years, coupled with a desire to get a degree.) Through a series of coincidences one of these sources seemed to offer itself as the right one, and the requisite degree dangled like a carrot in front of me. I pushed in that direction thinking, “at last, I’ll have my bit of paper”.
The information package duly arrived and I got duly excited, until I started reading the details. Apart from the fact that it would be an extremely taxing and intense course, albeit very interesting and in one of my prime fields of interest, the time commitment and the financial commitment were quite unrealistic for my possibilities. I remember feeling frustrated and disappointed but in my mind I hung onto “the dream” and tried to make it work. But God was smiling again.
This time, however, He decided to remove the wall before I hit it! Through another set of unexpected coincidences I was presented with another path, another school, and although it does not offer a degree it will give me a certification in a field that I already informally work in and that I love – Spiritual Direction. But more than that it will most definitely offer me the chance to grow some more in my relationship with my Creator.
The school is well within my reach both on practical terms as well as financial terms, which means my goal will be realistically attainable. There will be a lot of reading and writing, which is right up my alley! And there will also be a great deal of intimate sharing which I know always offers fertile ground for personal growth. I am excited at this chance which has shown up on my path. Let the journey continue!