All posts by Lauri Boyd

The Gift of Frankincense

In the Christmas tradition, three wise men visited the infant Jesus and presented him with gifts. The second wise man presented the gift of Frankincense.
Frankincense is a fragrant gum resin used in incense and perfumes. According to the Hebrew Bible, frankincense was one of several components of the holy incense ritually burned in Jerusalem’s sacred temples during ancient times. When incense is burned, it emits a fragrant vapor which can be sensed, but not seen. As such, it is symbolic of Spirit, which also can be sensed but not seen.
Metaphysically, the gift of frankincense represents the beauty of the Spirit. Just as the incense adds a beautiful fragrance to our environment, the awareness of spirit adds beauty and color to our daily lives. Wherever we are, there is always some form of beauty. We only have to open our senses to it.

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The Gift of Gold

The Wise Men’s journey was a journey toward greater spiritual understanding. When they finally found themselves in the presence of the Christ, they gave the baby gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. These gifts represented an outpouring of their souls.

The joy of Christmas is that it is a giving season. We each have our own gifts to share. And when we give, we give both outer gifts and inner gifts. The material gift is a symbol of a deeper gift of the Spirit. With every outer gift, we also give the gift of love, of prayer, of faith, of peace. As we wrap our gifts in colorful paper and bows, we also wrap them with our love.

Metaphysically, the gift of gold represents the riches of the Spirit. On the material level, it reminds us that we are part of a living flow of divine abundance and enoughness. On the spiritual level, it reminds us that we are blessed with “Gifts of the Spirit” – knowledge, wisdom, prophecy, faith, healing, and more.

As we make our own journey to discover the Christ within us, we step into that eternal flow of giving and receiving.

Each time we give from the soul, we honor God and the sacred child of God that each person is.

Non-Resistance

Abraham Lincoln was one of our greatest presidents. He was president during a time of war in our country, and yet, paradoxically, Lincoln was a man who deeply understood and embraced the ideal of non-resistance.
Lincoln was once asked why he did not replace one of his cabinet members who was known to oppose him on every decision he made – a source of constant irritation. Typically, Lincoln answered with a story…
“Many years ago, I was passing a field where a farmer was trying to plow with a very old and decrepit horse. I noticed a big horsefly on the horse’s flank, and I was about to brush it off when the farmer said, ‘Don’t you bother that fly, Abe! If it wasn’t for that fly, this horse wouldn’t move an inch!”
Lincoln was saying that we need the difficult people and circumstances in our lives. They challenges us. They keep us moving forward. They prompt us to dig within ourselves for greater strength, creativity, and wisdom.
If we invest all our energy in resisting the difficult people and circumstances, then we miss the opportunity for growth inherent in a situation.
What are you resisting? What if you stopped?

Humility / Emptiness

The word “humility” has a bit of a mixed reputation. We typically believe that humble people are good – morally superior, even. We might think of humble people as saintly – so good they set a standard we mere mortals could never hope to achieve. The word brings to mind people like Mother Theresa and the Dalai Lama.
Yet humility also carries the connotation of a person who is meek and submissive. We might think a humble person is easily pushed around by the more aggressive people in this word. We might say that being humble is a good thing – just not necessarily good for me.
If we look at some of the great Spiritual Masters, we can see that all of them practiced humility, and yet none of them were what you might call a pushover. The Jesus portrayed in the Gospels was strong and confident and did not cower in front of anyone.

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What is Prayer?

What Is Prayer? What Is Prayer For? These would seem to be fairly simple questions. Yet, it turns out that the answer to these questions greatly depends on what you believe about the nature of God, the nature of humankind, and the relationship between the two.

If you believe that God is a Being, with thoughts and emotions, wisdom and whims, and if you believe that humankind is separated from God by our own imperfect nature, then prayer would be all about talking to God — trying to bridge that gap of separation and influence God to help us.

In Unity, we start from the premise that God is not “a being”, changeable, moved by the whims of the moment. Rather, God is all good, everywhere present. We also believe that each human being is an expression of God. In our very essence, we are One with God.

So, if God is all good, everywhere present, and we are One with God, then what is Prayer? What is it for?
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The Blues

“Don’t wish it away. 
Don’t look on it like it’s forever.” 
Elton John and Bernie Taupin

This song speaks to those times of challenge when we feel disconnected.

On the surface, the song is about a man who has been separated from the woman he loves. At a deeper level, it speaks to all of the types of disconnection we feel–from those we love, from our deepest self, from God.

In the opening lines, it reminds us of two great truths–nonresistance and impermanence.

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The Healing Power of Music

“Shower the people you love with love. Show them the way that you feel. Things are gonna work out fine if you only will.” James Taylor, Shower the People

I have always loved music. I can’t remember a time when it was not a central to my life. Music has allowed me to express my joys and my sorrows. It has lifted me up when I have felt the despair of depression. It has sung in my heart when I have felt the joy of new beginnings. It has been the bonding agent of many friendships as I joined with others in choirs, bands, ensembles, duets, musicals and in congregational songs at my spiritual home.

As a minister, I love finding spiritual messages in unexpected places. I love to seek out the sacred in the ordinary. I find pop music to be a rich source of spiritual wisdom. Many singer/songwriters use music to express their struggles and triumphs as they move through this human experience, just as the authors of our sacred scriptures used stories to do the same.

Songs like ‘Shower the People’ by James Taylor are sermons set to music, full of hard-won wisdom and the peace that comes from a journey toward self-awareness and self-acceptance.

As with all spiritual wisdom, it takes some effort on our part to seek out the lessons in these songs.
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The Practice of Spiritual Community

“For many of us, creating authentic community doesn’t come naturally. Our lives are so full of activities and distractions that we consciously have to make time for our relationships. They are no longer naturally woven into our days. Rev. Felicia Searcy Blanco, Do Greater Things

In Buddhism, they have a special word for spiritual community–“Sangha”. It is one of the three pillars of Buddhist practice. There is a deep understanding of the value of being in a mutually supportive spiritual community.

In Christianity, there is also a special word used for spiritual community–“Church”. This word is a translation of the Greek word “Ecclesia” which means “community”. Unfortunately, this word has lost its original meaning. most people think “church” refers to the building that the community meets in, rather than the people themselves.

Because of this mis-understanding about the term “church”, many of us in Unity have begun calling our buildings “spiritual centers” and our gatherings “spiritual communities”. It is a way of reminding ourselves that our practice and our relationships are more important than our building.

When we embark on an intentional spiritual journey, we often find that most of our challenges–and most of our joys–come into visibility through our relationships with other people. Our relationships are the playing fields where we get to practice and integrate the spiritual lessons we are learning.

How do your relationships support you in your spiritual practice?

What is God?

“God is the name we give to the ceaseless, restless, creative flow of energy in the universe.”  Jack Kegan

What is God?  People have been pondering this question since there were people. Humankind has always carried with it an awareness of being part of something greater than itself.

We have given that ‘something’ a name (God) and assigned to it the attributes that seemed to speak to our deepest values and needs in the moment. As we have learned and grown (both individually and as a species), our values and needs have shifted, and with them, our concept of God.

I look around and see so many different concepts of God alive in the world today that I sometimes feel overwhelmed. I am tempted to ask, what has happened to humanity that we are so divided on something that ought to unify us?

Of course, a simple internet search confirms the hard truth. Humankind has always had a wide diversity of  concepts about God. As you might expect, our concepts of God tell us more about ourselves than they tell us about God.

Perhaps the fact that there are so many different understandings of God alive today means that we are doing something right!

Advice from an Owl

Owls are known in folklore as animals of wisdom and silence. They are omens of change — the kind of change that requires us to release old ways of being.
After studying the characteristics of the owl, it is easy to see how this folklore developed. Owls are nocturnal birds known for their silent flight and their ability to both see and hear with great clarity.
From a spiritual perspective, the owl invites us to summon the courage to see the highest truth and to listen deeply, beyond the mere words being spoken.

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