Magic comes from love. I can’t imagine real magic without love. We were speaking here last week about the great eternal love affair, portrayed in the second verse of Genesis: “And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.” (Genesis 1:2) That is the great love affair to be engaged in in our life, so that we open up to share something beautiful, to allow for the flow of something beautiful that ultimately is about our relationship with the eternal. But I don’t think there are many people who come to that without having a relationship with other people, and particularly someone in the flesh with whom something of the eternal can be touched.
I’d like to read this short verse from the Book of Isaiah:
“Seek ye the LORD while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near.” (Isaiah 55:6)
Seek ye the Lord while he may be found, that word “Lord” being a word for God or for the eternal, for what has supreme value in our lives. So if that experience is going to be available, it doesn’t happen without respect to people. The presence of people makes it available, and that is what the year-long Leadership Program we are launching this week is about. It’s about allowing what would otherwise be invisible to be present and available. And I must say that’s a tricky business. We would probably be suspicious if somebody came up to us and said, “I’m here to represent God to you.” That probably wouldn’t go over too big with any of us. And still, we know that when we’re in the presence of people who are open to the divine, open to the spirit of love, and allow that to be real in their living, the connection with what is otherwise invisible becomes easier.
There’s another story in the Bible that portrays this very beautifully. It’s the story of Eli and Samuel. Samuel is a boy, and he’s come to be with the priest, Eli. Samuel has gone to bed for the night, and so has Eli.
“The LORD called Samuel: and he answered, Here am I.
“And he ran unto Eli, and said, Here am I; for thou calledst me. And he said, I called not; lie down again. And he went and lay down.
“And the LORD called yet again, Samuel. And Samuel arose and went to Eli, and said, Here am I; for thou didst call me. And he answered, I called not, my son; lie down again.
“Now Samuel did not yet know the LORD, neither was the word of the LORD yet revealed unto him.
“And the LORD called Samuel again the third time. And he arose and went to Eli, and said, Here am I; for thou didst call me. And Eli perceived that the LORD had called the child.
“Therefore Eli said unto Samuel, Go, lie down: and it shall be, if he call thee, that thou shalt say, Speak, LORD; for thy servant heareth. So Samuel went and lay down in his place.
“And the LORD came, and stood, and called as at other times, Samuel, Samuel. Then Samuel answered, Speak; for thy servant heareth.” (1 Samuel 3:4-10)
What an amazing story! So here it was, in the presence of Eli, that the voice of spirit was heard, as if it were Eli’s voice. But it wasn’t—it was a voice coming out of the invisible through Samuel’s own mind and heart. That voice can be heard in a context where there are people who hold a place for the divine.
I want to go back to that other verse from Isaiah: “Seek ye the LORD while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near.” While He is near—it seems to imply that the Lord is going to be around for a while in some way, and then He’s going to go away, so we’d better pay attention, in fact call upon Him while He is available, before He goes. So I think that voice could go for two different reasons. One is that there is somebody or somebodies who makes that voice available. In the story, there was Eli around, and Eli wasn’t going to be around forever, was he? So that’s a way that the Lord can be available, and that’s a way the Lord can go away.
But I think there’s another way that the divine presence can seem to go away. If something is “near,” it’s separate from us, isn’t it? But what happens if a person truly opens themselves to the love and support of the divine and stays in that place and allows themselves to be filled with that?
We had some experience of this over these last few days, and what we came to is that as we are filled, we overflow. Isn’t that how it works? If you open yourself up to love, you become filled with love, and at some point it just flows over. In a relationship with another person, that’s how it is, isn’t it? Somebody loves you, you become filled with that love, and you start loving back. It just pours out of you to the other person or to your world. You’ve received so much, you can’t receive any more without giving, without overflowing. I’m very happy to say we had an experience of that over the last few days. It was an experience of feeling love so deeply that we knew we were in a place of loving our world.
As I understand it, that is how it happens in our lives. We receive and we receive, and there’s a time when there’s something to come through us, when we are there to be Eli. If it is our time to be Eli—to provide the context where the voice of the divine can be heard—then if we go looking for that voice, we may not find it. If that day comes to you or to me, maybe that day is the day of our initiation into priesthood. When we can’t find the Lord around, we can’t find what’s precious to us being given to us by another, neither near nor far, that may be the day of our initiation, the day to take on our mantle and acknowledge that we are Eli in that moment, that we have responsibility to provide the context in which the voice of the Lord is heard. That is what this Leadership Program is about.
I have another passage here I’d like to share. This is from what is one of the oldest pieces of writing in the Bible. It goes back at least as far as King David, to whom this is traditionally attributed. It’s from Psalm 23, and we can ponder the possibility that it is far older than King David’s time. It’s called the Shepherd’s Psalm.
“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
“Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.” (Psalm 23:4,5)
“My cup runneth over”—one of those phrases that we use commonly. It’s interesting that before that is the image of one’s head being anointed with oil, oil being a symbol of love. In some way there seems to be no relationship between the anointing with the oil and the cup running over, but there it is. When love fills this cup, it runs over.
Then there’s that whole part about the presence of the enemies. Why was it important to put that in there? Last week in the Dome at Sunrise Ranch, we had a good time talking about Mr. Problem. For most people, Mr. Problem shows up in their lives. He raps at our door and tells us with great conviction that there is a problem—I guess for astronauts, in those famous words: “Houston, we have a problem.” So there are the seeming enemies or problems.
“In the presence of mine enemies,” in the presence of Mr. Problem, there is a feast. It gets problematic for people when they leave the table because of Mr. Problem. “Wait a minute; I’ve got to answer the door.” There’s a feast there, there’s something that would be nourishing to you, there’s something that would fill your cup. But if you go answer the door and let in Mr. Problem, you’re not available to let your cup be filled. You’re not available to sup at the table. That’s how it is for many people.
And yes, the circumstance is there. We were also considering last week that there are no problems, only cause and effect. There are effects that dress up like Mr. Problem, and we have a world that is largely chasing after effects dressed up as Mr. Problem, and at the same time probably chasing after effects that are Mr. Solution. But that really takes us away from the table where our cup may be filled and we may feast.
If our cup is filled, it runs over. That running over becomes cause for our world. We become right cause, which is, in its core essence, invisible, but not so invisible anymore if we’re present with our cup overflowing.
So how are we doing on allowing our cup to be filled? It’s a very personal matter. To bring it right down to cases, how am I doing? Am I running out of gas, running dry? Are you? Are we? Some years ago, a number of us were gathered for sessions with a facilitator. The way she said it was that the creative process is like canoeing on a river: It all goes all right until the water level gets too low. If you’re going down those rapids and the water level is too low, you’re not going to be going over those rocks anymore—you’ll be hitting them. So are we hitting any rocks? If we are, we may need to fend off them and navigate through them. Her suggestion was to find a way to bring more water into the river. Maybe that has something to do with letting our cup be filled and run over.
How about for you and me? Is there a way to get a little more water in this river? Is there a way to fill this cup a little more? Maybe the world would look a little different. Maybe Mr. Problem wouldn’t look so much like Mr. Problem but just a circumstance.
It takes softness and, as represented by Samuel, the innocence of a child to open oneself to what comes from the divine. In traditional Christian circles, they speak about accepting Jesus Christ as your personal savior. There’s a lot about the way that’s typically thought about that I don’t buy into. But I think there’s a point there. It’s the “personal” part. There is something to be accepted into one’s own heart personally. It’s really not good enough to just do it all together and have an experience all together, or feel the love all together. There’s something very personal about allowing the love of the Creator to come deeply into one’s heart. It takes vulnerability and innocence and openness.
For me recently, I was thinking about people in my world and circumstances in my world. It was one of those moments of agonizing over those things. “Augh, this is happening over here, and this is happening over here, and this person is giving me a hard time, and so is this one over here.” It was one of those negative moments when I was finding myself tending to fixate on negative things and negative people. Do you ever do that? And I stopped, thinking to myself, “You know, there are a lot of people in my world who really love me and who really support what I’m about, and care about it, and who care about my well-being.” I’ll bet that’s true for each of us. In my case, there was some way I was tending to focus on Mr. Problem at the door. It is a choice to either let in the love of the people around you or to hold that at arm’s length and decide that what one is really going to drink in is all the adversity. I’m sitting here wondering why we do that.
“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death….” It may not really be death. For oneself, you wouldn’t be walking anymore if it were really death. “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death”—the appearance of death— “I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.”
So if we really are in the valley of the shadow of death, and in the presence of our enemies, could you think of a better time to receive nourishment and sustenance, and to allow one’s cup to run over? Never mind all the other times when a person may be fretting over problems that are conjured up in the person’s mind, but which are most insubstantial. But if we really are in a tough situation in some way, wouldn’t it be important to find what truly nourishes us? It seems to me that would be the first thing we’d want to do. In whatever creative cycle we’re in, all right, let’s go to the source here. Let’s go to the core of what really nourishes me; because, by the way, if there are enemies out there, I’ll need some of that if I’m going to meet them. I’ll need that support if there are challenges in life.
Keith Anderson, who’s in our Leadership Program, came here about a half year ago. He came full of the message to people here that “you’ve got to love yourself.” You’ve got to find some way of letting that love for yourself come in. I think it’s pretty hard to do if you don’t open yourself to something that seems higher or above or someplace else to you. That is a way of loving yourself—believing that you deserve that kind of love, that kind of blessing.
I know I came to that in my own life. It was a moment of realizing—probably in one of these agonizing moments—that the people around me may or may not, on any given day, be in a place where they are ready to give me support and love. But I better be prepared to give it and receive it. I realized that was my job. Job one for David was to be here for him, no matter what.
And isn’t that God’s attitude? The divine being that we are has that attitude towards us: “I will be there for you, without wavering.” That is the unwavering support. And we’re here to give that for ourselves and to receive it.
And why? Because, for each of us, we have a great gift to bring into the world, and we’re not going to bring it if we don’t receive it. It isn’t selfish in the end, because if you receive it, and you receive it fully, you can’t help but give it. You won’t be able to stop yourself. Your cup will run over.
I’d like to close by reading those beautiful words again from Samuel: “Speak; for thy servant heareth.” Here I am—speak, for thy servant heareth. Acknowledging our right relationship with the divine, we have the high privilege of acting in the name of the divine.