Never was there a cosmic famine

Photo by John Reign Abarintos on Unsplash

I was watching the news the other day (never a good idea) and they were talking with a homeless woman. She’d suffered the worst disrespect, cruelty, and humiliation the world could possibly dole out — seemingly ever since she was born.

She didn’t want to live any longer. She wished she had a terminal illness so that she’d be put out of her misery sooner. Suicide had been a daily consideration for years and years.

As she stood there sobbing in front of the camera telling her story, my heart sank… Since I’ve become a father, I always think about my daughter when I see women in these predicaments. If she takes a wrong turn or three, she could easily end up alone, cold, and who knows what. I saw my daughter in this woman’s eyes. Ugh...

Listen, I know there’s more going on under the surface of the 30-second clip that I saw of her. I don’t know her story, her medical history, etc. But today, I want to take my limited representation of her into this piece. What would I say to this woman — or anyone like her — if I had a chance? Is there anything I could convey to her that would ease her pain?

I went immediately into spiritual lifeguard role. Here was someone drowning. And I was searching for a floatation device.

I’m not sure if there’s anything I could say to her, face-to-face that would help. She’d likely take one look at my skinny, Anglo, thirty-something, clean-cut, family-man face and think to herself there’s no way I could relate. Or maybe this is just my insecurities speaking.

In any case, being that I’m not a trained mental health expert nor do I have access to a home for her with all the things she needs, the best method would be to impart a spiritual download in her. I haven’t yet figured out the technology to do this yet, but if I could, this is the gist of what the download would give her the insight into (it’s actually a quote):

Never was there a cosmic famine.
Ernest Holmes

Her whole life, I’m betting that harmful people trapped in their own stories of lack and fear have projected them upon her and distracted her from the one thing that could bring her out of the darkness. This one thing, she has access to at all times, on-demand.

No, I’m not necessarily talking about healthcare, friends, family, food, or government assistance (although that’s likely all that matters to her right now, and I get it — I wish, wish, wish someone would help her in a huge way).

No, I’m not saying she must find religion. I’m not pointing to a deity ‘out there’. I’m pointing to the one that animates her and has been resting in her her whole life and will carry her along after her current body turns to dust.

I’m speaking of her uniquely human ability to reach towards the inner resource that lies beneath her story for a new thought right now, and in every moment, regardless of her circumstances.

Of realizing that her innate wellbeing lies — right damn now — underneath the wreckage. This ‘thing’ I’m speaking of has never been, nor can ever be harmed or damaged by anyone else.

There’s no such thing as a cosmic famine. She has the possibility to dip into the unlimited and take one step in the direction of the good that yearns to express in and as her. And then another step. And then another. Even amidst all the apparent stumbles she’ll make along the way.

I know it might be hard for her to see. Hell, it’s hard for me to see and I’m in a relatively safe place in life.

But who she really is — her inherent nature as a creative being — is the first mover. She must take her eyes off of her limitations as an individual ego (the world of form/effect) and gaze beneath and beyond her to this first mover placing her faith there. This is the shift she (and all of us in some way) must make from seeing/feeling only the darkness of existing circumstances to the wholeness of the unlimited potential that lies in her inherently creative, resilient, intelligent being, every present moment.

No one else can do it for her. As she’s proved to herself time and time again, she can’t look to her outside world for it. It’s an inside-job that she must parachute into. She must do it repeatedly. And she must take her steps in life accordingly. No amount of money can change this for her or anyone else.

This is both the chore and the privilege we have as humans. We must do this individually to realize it.

Reacting, reacting, reacting. This has likely been her reality her whole life. Survive, survive, survive. And it’s a damn shame.

I’d have her see that she is not tainted, no matter what her reality is showing her now. If she could grasp this one golden strand of life flowing through all of humanity — the Source of all things new and good — she’d maybe be on the way towards something new.

I hope this doesn’t make me come off as dispassionate. It makes my stomach wheezy just writing about this kind of thing. Like I’m overstepping. I’ve been through my share of tough times, but I’ve never lived on the streets or any of the circumstances she’s likely facing/has faced.

I know it may seem that I’m lacking empathy. But I refuse to keep her in the victim role. I want her to step into the power that is her birthright. I know it can be done — I’ve seen it. I know there is a way that she can make this a reality. But it has to happen in her before it happens around her.

So, yes, let’s get our hands dirty and change the structures — governmental and societal — that lead to this kind of suffering in so many. We have a lot of work to do, friends. It’s likely this work will take us a very long time.

However, we can’t wait for them to change things before those of us on the proverbial cold floor of life step into a better one. Wisdom and faith can bring us to a better place right here, right now.

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The dark night of the soul

Photo by Marcel Schreiber on Unsplash

Whenever I used to hear the term, ‘dark night of the soul’, I thought it meant a prolonged series of bad days after something horrible happened.

You lose your job, your girlfriend breaks up with you, your dog dies, and you get mad/sad/depressed/bummed out for a few days/weeks/months because of this thing.

But just the other day, I heard a description of the dark night of the soul that showed me something entirely different. It also revealed to me that I’d been in the middle of one for some time.

Michael Bernard Beckwith describes the dark night like this (my words, but his concept):

Life is ever progressive and unfolding. We can pretend like it’s not. We can hold on to old defense mechanisms and narratives of the world, but eventually, life pushes us into the darkness. The dark night of the soul happens when you’re losing your identification with your previous identity, but don’t yet have an identification with what’s newly emerging. You don’t KNOW where you’re stepping because you’ve never stepped there before. You’re in the dark. Pain pushes us until the vision pulls us into the larger vision. The universe is progressive. It’s pushing us towards a potential that’s bigger than our pain.

Right now, I feel like I’m coming out of the darkness. As I can see more clearly, I notice that I’ve gone through two overlapping dark nights of the soul — the smaller one from a vocational/life change and the other larger one from a deep loss. I hope you can relate and learn from my story.

My micro dark night

About a year ago, I essentially signed up for a new life by enrolling in divinity school to become an interfaith minister. Although it was heart-initiated, I soon began leading with my head. I made it make ‘sense’ for me. I told myself that I was mainly doing it because I didn’t have a college degree and here was a program where I enjoyed the subject matter enough to give myself the possibility of actually completing it.

I made it for me.

Little did I know that I’d be called to move across the country and get up on stage in front of hundreds of people in a new city at a new church in this role. No, I haven’t given a full sermon yet, but even the idea of getting up there as assistant minister-in-training to do my mere 5-minute intro to the congregation was enough to make my inner child run for cover.

The weeks before and just after our grand opening were hellish for me. My ego wanted no part in this. It wanted self-preservation. This was terrifying. Suddenly, my mind was taken over by a voice not of my own (but which felt enough like it for me to believe it).

You’re not a minister, you’re just a blogger. You can throw words together — big deal. Who are you to be on this pathway to ministry? I mean, really. Besides, do you want to be one of those effete, sterile, foo-foo people that you can’t stand? Do you want to be seen as a fraud trying to actually make money from spirituality? Do you want to be a part of this? Do what makes sense, Jonas. You’re a decent writer. Stay in your lane.

I could go a lot longer on its diatribe, but this is the gist of it.

I panicked. I wiped my website clean of all ‘spirituality’ verbiage. I deleted my title as ‘assistant minister-in-training’. I deleted the copy on my spiritual coaching program — this work that was truly changing people — and made it more ‘safe’.

I wanted mommy’s bosom. I wanted my old home. I wanted comfort and ease and tranquility in the midst of this seismic shift in being. But it was like wanting to take a nap during a massive earthquake: Not the time. Not the place.

I stopped blogging daily during this time. I was stuck in this place where I couldn’t go back no matter how much I wanted to and I couldn’t go forward because the darkness was too terrifying. And so I tried to stop. If I stopped, my logic went, then this chaos would stop.

But it didn’t. Something inside of me was being born and it didn’t really care about my ego. It was like the universe was swinging a big-ass 2-by-4 at my head to get me to move forward. Instead of getting the hint and moving with it, I stopped dead in my tracks. Not a good idea. Smack.

The macro dark night

The dark night I’ve been describing has come on the heels of a larger one, I also realized after hearing that definition from the good Rev. Beckwith.

My dad died in 2013 six months before my daughter was born. There were a lot of other things going on at the time that added to the agitation of this period, but this is the crux of it. Because if you knew how close I was to my dad— how much of my life revolved around that man — you’d know how much upheaval was in store for me when his heart stopped beating that one February night.

Ever since my mom died (when I was 16), it was just dad and me. Mano y mano. At the time, he was working out of state as a systems analyst at a gold mine. His initial arrangement was that he’d receive a regular living stipend for two years and then cash out with millions of dollars in stock when the company went public.

Very long story short, his regular living stipend was hardly regular. Two years turned into five, then ten, then fifteen, each year with the carrot on the stick being stretched out further. My dad and I lived together until I was 28. He was only home for a few days every couple of weeks, so it worked out.

I lived for over a decade with the promise that we’d soon be millionaires and would be able to live a life of luxury. As a teenager, when you’re told that, you naively take it at face value and base a lot of your decisions on it. I know I did.

What that meant for me was that my dad never took my passions and interests very seriously. Because one day, we’d be millionaires and he’d hire me to run his own mining operation, which he planned to start as soon as his windfall arrived.

But it never did. There were many months where we couldn’t pay the rent. When I got married and moved away, he lost my part of the finances toward the rent and bills and whatnot. A couple years later, he got sick. Very sick. I, being his only child, moved him into the basement apartment in the house where my wife was pregnant. And so, at the same time that I had birth happening upstairs, I also had death happening downstairs.

When he passed, there it was again. The cosmic 2-by-4. Swinging me into the darkness in a very deep way.

As flawed as he was, my dad was my rock (although I’m glad I never had to work for him — because that sounded horrible). I don’t have a big family. When he passed, my wife and my cousin were the only two I could lean on for healing. Which was great. But not quite sufficient for this big of a blow.

The light on the other side

And so here I am. I feel that I’m on the other side. Although it’s still a little dark, the sun is coming up just enough to allow me to see what’s happened. And for that, I’m grateful.

It feels amazing here on the other end. I have a new sense of purpose. Everything is renewed.

I learned that a dark night of the soul is not a period of intense, definable madness or sadness. That’s just a bad day/week/month/season. Those make ‘sense’. The dark night of the soul is a period of disorientation. A time when your ego has nothing to grab onto for support. A time when the next version of you is emerging.

And so my words of advice are so…

Let it emerge. Know it won’t be a cakewalk. Stay with yourself. Embrace the darkness. It’s only dark because you’ve invested your light in the old.

Shine your light now. Move with it. Know you can’t go back, and that’s fine. Ask yourself this: If this experience were to last forever, what quality would have to emerge in order for me to have peace of mind? Is it inner calm? Is it more enthusiasm? Is it joy? Is it a more robust sense of humor? When your attention focuses on that quality rather than resisting the dark night, you move through it faster.

The cosmic 2-by-4 doesn’t need to hit you as hard because you’re moving in the direction of your growth. And you’ll start to see the sun come up.

Your steps will be sure. 
And your life will be totally new. 
But you’ll still be you. 
Just more you than before.

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I got 99 problems (but not really)

I invite you to an experiment. In this experiment, when you encounter a ‘problem’, you’re not going to stop your train of thought there. You’re going to keep it open ended.

A problem only becomes a problem when we make it the end of the story in our heads.

Most problems are a small (albeit necessary) part of the larger divinely intelligent unfolding of life. Seeing them this way creates a whole new mental atmosphere that’s ripe for growth and expansion.

What’s unfolding is beyond the comprehension of the ego. Things and people break, get sick, die, and transform. The world of form is constantly changing while the ego wants things to stay the same.

But you and I both know that a static world is both impossible and unwanted.

Because with any given problem comes the solution and the ensuing expansion. Without the contrast that brought the problem that brought the solution, life atrophies.

The answer to most everything is to lighten up.

Go do something nice. 
Take a damn nap. 
Know you can’t get this wrong 
and you’ll never get it done.

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Hey God, what’s it like to be human?

What’s it like to be human, God?

Yes, I called you God. 
Weird, right?

Have you ever thought of yourself this way? Like you might be God who’s temporarily trying on this meat bag of flesh, blood, and bone for a few years?

And maybe I’m that same God trying on a different type of body suit so that we can experience this ‘being human’ thing together (wow, that’s, like, double meta, right there)…

But why would God do that, though, right?

Well, maybe God chose to be a human through you because she wants to do a kickflip. Or eat an ice cream on a hot summer day. Or look into the eyes of a child.

Maybe he wants to not just know, but experience what it’s like to bring something new into creation. Like a musical piece that’s trapped in his head. Wow, how that would feel to have that tune come out into the physical world where everyone else in their temporary bodies can hear it too!

Or even loss… What if God could feel love profoundly enough to uncontrollably sob with her knees in the gravel while blood soaked into her jeans as she gripped her fists around her hair and screamed, WHY?!?

Wow. Only humans can do that. 
Isn’t that incredible that you have the wherewithal to feel that deeply now, God?

I mean, what if, right?…

What if we were all God experiencing itself through each other’s eyes?

So let me ask you again, God…
What’s it like to be human?


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📸 And say hello on Instagram (the only other social media platform I actually like). 📸

The virtue of being ‘poor in spirit’

image: Joshua Earle

One of the downfalls of mega-religion is that they’re rich in their religiosity.

These giant, historical institutions have hefty possessions of intellectual and spiritual pride. They’re self-satisfied, arrogant and weighed down by social prestige.

And their bills every month are monstrous…

In order to keep this huge machine up, they have to make it seem like they know the answers. This is a scarcity-based strategy to get people to pitch in and keep the lights on. It says, the answers can only be found here, so pay up. And if they really want to make it lucrative, they have to make it seem like they hold the keys to an afterlife of certainty.

In my observation, fewer and fewer people today are buying it. We have quite calibrated nonsense detectors these days and are questioning organized religion more than ever (although, I have to say, I’m quite impressed by Pope Francis).

However, we’re still seeking connection with something greater than ourselves. I’d say that we’re more open to the living Spirit now, more than ever.

What I’m about to explain is that many of us today are ‘poor in spirit’. And this, my friends, tells me we’re on the right track…

Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven. 
— Jesus

The ego hates this phraseology (at least mine does)… It tries to twist it to mean something small and becomes offended by it. I don’t know about you, but I don’t enjoy being described as ‘poor’.

Now, before we dip our toes into this, there’s a couple things…

First, we have to remember that the words in the Bible are translations from far different languages and ancient dialects (no, Jesus was not Anglo Saxon).

We also have to look past the literal meaning of the words and see through to their spiritual meaning (for example, ‘daily bread’ does not mean a subscription to a baguette delivery service). They’re symbolic and poetic on most accounts. Including this one.

To be poor in spirit does not literally mean ‘poor spirited’. It means to have emptied our desire of personal self-will and previous spiritual holdings.

The poor in spirit keep an empty cup. They remain open to the unfoldment of their own soul rather than depending on an outside checklist from a doctrine or a belief.

To be poor in spirit is to remain ever hungry for more understanding.

Money, property, fear of public opinion, and the disapproval of relatives and friends don’t phase the poor of spirit. Spiritually speaking, they have nothing to lose because they keep themselves empty and ready for more.

They’re not overawed by human authority. They don’t hold firm to their opinions. They see that their most cherished beliefs have always been and will forever be overturned and renewed.

This is the power of the poor in spirit. In them lies a spirituality that’s ever-evolving and pushing the edges of its prior self.

It’s a bold move, emptying our spiritual pockets of past beliefs and structures. But in order for our soul to become replenished and grow, we have to remain empty.

And in our emptiness, we find the infinite.


Jonas Ellison is a spiritual writer, teacher, practitioner, and an interfaith minister-in-training. He helps people deepen their lives through applied spirituality while documenting his journey along the way.

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On valid spiritual leadership

Rev. Michael Bernard Beckwith at Agape

Jesus didn’t seem to care for clergy. He never called for any kind of hierarchy of officials or ritual around his teachings.

In fact, his message was anti-establishment. He railed against the religious officials of his day and was eventually put to death by them.

In him, they saw their end. With his message, people didn’t need ‘them’ to get to God (since, as Jesus stated, the kingdom of Heaven was within) and this terrified them.

His contempt for the clergy was clear…

“But be ye not called Rabbi: for one is your master, even Christ; and all ye are bretheren.”
 — Matthew, 23:8

I’ve hesitated going down the ministerial path strictly because of Jesus. Which is weird because most choose this path because they think Jesus would be all about it (apparently we’re reading two different sets of scriptures here).

But after further introspection, I understand that it’s not the title that Jesus rallied against. It’s the putrid stench of self-righteousness and arrogance that certain people of the cloth reek of.

Recently, I attended a service at Agape Spiritual Center, founded by Rev. Michael Bernard Beckwith.

A little backstory here…

The reason I’m on this path today is, in a big way, because of Beckwith. I read his book, Spiritual Liberation, many years ago where he mentioned Ernest Holmes as an early influence. I looked up Holmes, found his work, and I was forever hooked on the New Thought tradition.

It was a treat being able to shake his hand (sorry, no time for a selfie) and sit in one of his sermons (far different than live-streaming, which I’ve done off and on for years). I have to say, it was life-altering.

As I write this anti-clergy post, I think about the likes of Beckwith as well as the other pastors and ministers I’ve grown to love over the years who’ve inspired my work today. And I see a vast difference between what they do as opposed to the ecclesiastics that Jesus called out on the floor.

In fact, I’ve whittled it down to one major difference…

The great spiritual leaders throughout history have served to elevate their congregation, not to stifle them.

The ones Jesus denunciated stood above their congregation and preached DOWN to them, seeing their congregation as a lowly flock of cattle in which they’re to herd wherever they choose.

Rev. Beckwith (and those like him) stand below their congregation — and the world — preaching UP to them. They see their job as rising the consciousness and elevating the lives of those in their wake. They’re there to serve, not to control.

These are the questions we must ask before ‘following’ anyone’s spiritual direction.

Is this individual here to make me feel small and flawed for their gain and aggrandizement?

Or are they here to elevate my spirit to the highest heights and watch me soar?


Jonas writes short daily stories and preachments on the daily here in Higher Thoughts. Get one to enjoy with your coffee every morning by subscribing below.

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On the anti-theology of Jesus

Image: freestocks.org

From what I’m learning, Jesus never really entered into any kind of philosophical/doctrinal western-style conversations or debates. He taught spiritual/metaphysical lessons and asked far more questions than he gave answers.

The doctrines, theologies, rules, and dogmas that make some of us cringe started flowing in after he dropped the mic and made his grand exit.

There’s nothing wrong with theology in and of itself, but to say that theology is Christianity would be false. Theology is the naval-gazing we do about Christianity. Theology came well after Jesus from men (yes, dudes) who couldn’t find the black-and-white answers they wanted in the Bible, and so they filled in the blanks themselves.

Jesus taught from the heart-level. His sayings make very little sense to the head. But scholars, lawyers, and politicians work from the neck-up.

I’m guilty of it, to a degree, by writing about it. I try my best to avoid deep theological debates and discussions because I know how distracting they are, but I definitely try to mold spirituality into daily models that makes sense to both myself and you, the reader. It’s just what we do as humans who are used to conceptualizing things with our brains.

Approach spirituality with your heart, soul, body, as well as conceptually with your mind.

You and I both know that life is deeper than what makes sense to the head.

When we start talking about the things that matter

The meaning of life and death…
Why we make mistakes…
Why we submit to temptation… 
Why it’s so funny when someone farts in public…
Why poverty happens…
How we grow old… 
How we can grow young… 
Why some have so much and others very little… 
Why we can have so much but feel like we have so little… 
The meaning of love… 
Why we treat perfect strangers better than our family…
Why we put ourselves through the torment of becoming parents… 
Why we love our kids so much…
Why we pretend to like other people’s kids… 
The nature of forgiveness…

— and the multitudes of other things that warrant a much more robust discussion than a secular explanation, we start talking in metaphor, parable, poem, and inquiry.

Like Jesus did.

However, as Emmet Fox explains in Sermon on the Mount, here’s what theology did to his message…

Glimpsing one tiny corner of the universe, and that with only half-opened eyes, and working from an exclusively anthropocentric and geocentric point of view, men built up absurd and very horrible fables about a limited and man-like God who conducted his universe very much as a rather ignorant and barbarous prince might conduct the affiars of a small kingdom. All sorts of human weaknesses, such as vanity, fickleness, and spite, were attributed to this being. Then a farfetched and very inconsistent legend was built up concerning original sin, vicarious blood atonement, infinite punishment for finite transgressions; and, in certain cases, an unutterably horrible doctrine of predestination to eternal torment, or eternal bliss, was added.

He goes on to say…

The “Plan of Salvation” which figured so prominently in the evangelical sermons of a past generation is as completely unknown to the Bible as it is to the Koran... What has happened is that certain obscure texts from Genesis, a few phrases taken here and there from Paul’s letters, and one or two isolated verses from other parts of the scriptures have been taken out and pieced together to produce the kind of teaching which it seemed to them ought to have been found in the Bible.

This is theology. This is what happens when the ego grabs control of spirituality.

When we consume ourselves in theology, we become obsessed with persuading others to see things the way we see it rather than living better lives ourselves.

If you happen to fall victim to such energy, this is my long-winded way of suggesting you step away from it.

There’s nothing to prove. 
There’s nothing to solve.

If someone says something that doesn’t mesh well with your version of the world… smile and live better.

If someone corners you with a deeply-researched chain of logic that attacks your very way of being in the world… smile and live better.

If someone attacks you for not going to church or interpreting some sacred text in just the way they do… smile and live better.

Smile and live better, friends. 
Sure beats theology, doesn’t it?


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On receiving instead of planning

Image: Chad Madden

We’re a planning sort of species...

Even for those of us who may not consciously think so, if we look at ourselves closely, most of us see we micromanage our entire lives in our heads. We place demands on the world and ourselves and when things don’t go as-planned, we get angry. Even when they DO go as-planned, we often find ourselves disappointed or unimpressed.

It’s a no-win situation. One that we put ourselves in time and time again.

See, this planning from our small selves is based on fear. It says we don’t trust the intelligence of Life as it unfolds, so we have to constantly intervene and make it right. Our ego bolsters the vision in our minds of how amazing our plans are, but in reality, they nearly always fall short of our expectations (if they even happen in the first place).

But this little nugget flips the entire notion on its head…


Receive instead of plan. Open your life up to more than your small self could plan for.


Yes, you’re going to plan. You’re likely going to wake up at a certain time. You’re going to drive a certain direction to work. You might go to the gym and get into your program.

I’m not talking about this. I’m talking about the constant humming of stress, worry, and fear that resides in the background of our mind when we’re not even conscious of it. I’m talking about the never-ending game of chess we play with ourselves, our loved ones, and the world at large when the answers are staring us in the face.

This is a tough leap, dropping this constant gamesmanship so we can receive from Life as it unfolds…

We must believe the unknown is benevolent. We must know that we could be receiving constant help from life if we could shut our small selves up and open ourselves to receiving it. And we have to know that we’re not alone.

Life is a giant feedback loop that’s trying to get our attention. The thing is, we fail to see the subtle signals that happen within us and around us at all times. We fail to trust Life, so we make the feeble attempt of doing it all ourselves.

Receiving is what most of us need to practice. Receiving implies that something is being given and it takes a willingness to accept what is given.

This willingness is what we’ve likely been withholding from Life.


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Jonas writes short daily stories and preachments on the daily here in Higher Thoughts. Get one to enjoy with your coffee every morning by subscribing below.

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Gotta have faith

Image: adrian

There’s just something I find so endearing about people who have the quality of faith. I’m not exactly sure why, but I believe I’m beginning to put my finger on it…

If you had to choose between sitting down for coffee with one of these two people, who would you pick?

Person (A) is a little uptight and defensive. They speak of life as a static model. They’ve defined every single thing they’ve let into their headspace and have discarded the rest. They have it all figured out and love pontificating about their perfect model of the inner and outer world they inhibit. Every time you challenge that, even unintentionally, they start hammering you with dualistic, left-brained, yes/no, either/or questions and bog you down in the details.

Or…

Person (B) sits with you in the wonderment of life. They speak of the unknown. They become giddy when they start talking about the mysteries. They ask open-ended questions and let you follow the breadcrumbs of your bewilderment without judging or getting into a debate with you. Excitement builds in them when they start speaking of a future that isn’t yet present. And yet, amidst all of their uncertainty, they remain unshaken. Comfortable, in fact.

I’m all about ‘Person (B)’. But what’s funny is, a LOT of people who consider themselves ‘religious’, ‘spiritual’, or even ‘philosophical’ fall into the ‘Person (A)’ camp.

They have a buttoned-up model of the world. They claim to understand how it all works and they call this their ‘faith’.

Yet, I wouldn’t call this ‘faith’ at all.

Faith always dances with the unknown. Without the unknown, this ‘faith’ is nothing more than dogma and doctrine — the furthest thing from faith there is.

Again, I’m not faulting them.

I’m more sympathetic than anything because I think they might be robbing themselves of… more.

FAITH IS IMPOSSIBLE WITHOUT THE ELEMENT OF UNCERTAINTY.

To the ego, accepting uncertainty is weakness. But in reality, it’s strength. It allows for the growth and expansion of consciousness. Because it’s only when we don’t know that we allow ourselves open to receiving more.

I’m also not saying that we should stop seeking. I construct models every day here in this publication. But I’m also not claiming my words have the final say. I never seek out to tear down anyone else’s models. And I’m always open to more.

Certainty closes us off. It cauterizes the vein. It forms a callus.

And that just sounds like it hurts.

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In the mud

Image: Tom van Hoogstraten

I heard a story the other day that told of a pastor going to a small African village to visit a woman from his congregation who had given her life to caring for the sick. As he walked with her through this ramshackle village with raw sewage flowing through the streets, he grew deeply unsettled.

As they walked into a hut, the woman took him over to a bed. In the bed was a woman, moments from death. He started to get a little queasy and backed away, unable to handle the heft of the situation he’d found himself in.

“Where’s God now?” wondered the pastor. Where was this squeaky-clean God he’d so aptly preached about back home?

He stood and watched the caregiver from his church gather warm, clean water. She soaked a rag in it and laid it on the woman’s brow. She knelt down on the mud floor and held the woman’s hand. She spoon fed her. She looked into her eyes and spoke to her from her heart. She listened to her.

As the pastor examined his doubt, he was struck with an epiphany…

What began to overwhelm him was not the death, despair, or poverty he’d witnessed. What overwhelmed him was the compassion. In this dark place, his congregant’s love and compassion were… bigger. Brighter.

The thing that had represented hell on earth moments before now represented Holy ground.

Was God an omnipotent, supernatural being that could be hesitantly conjured to work miracles?

No…

God was an ever-present Love that could be activated in the human soul at any time. God was not working from her office up in the clouds. She was working through this woman who’d willingly opened herself to Her.

There, knelt down before him in the mud was God, alive as ever.


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To seek the divine is to find it

Image: Philipp Wüthrich

If you’ve happened to come to the end of yourself — like we all do at some point — you might be seeing that Life is much bigger than you previously thought it was. You also might be seeking connection with that thing/presence that is now being revealed in you (as painfully as it may be).

I want you to know you’re there. You’ve made it. Take it easy. This adventure is bottomless. As you sink into it, know that it’ll never totally make sense, but that’s okay.

“You would not have sought Me had you not already found Me.”
 — Pascal

Know that this coming-to-the-end-of-yourself-ness never ends. When you awaken to this notion, what happens is you come to expect it. And you welcome it. You salivate for it, in fact. A part of you must die before a new one is born. Over and over again. The resurrection of your Soul is a lifelong recurrence.

Beware…

If you come to the place where you think you fully understand life, you’ve just made life smaller than you. That, my friend, is impossible.

Life will always be bigger than you can ever imagine.

Always. And in all ways.

This is my prayer for you today…

May you find comfort in your doubt. 
May you find peace in the upheaval of your previous self. 
May you open to the mystery of everlasting life before death. 
And may you know that wonder and bewilderment are the nutrients of the soul.

If you’ve found yourself longing to seek something bigger than yourself, may you realize that you’ve already arrived.

Buckle up.


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The touchable ones

Image: riciardus

From what I’ve read, Jesus didn’t have a checklist he gave to people before they were healed. He just said something along the lines of, “Alright, friend, are you going to allow yourself to be open to your healing? If so, let’s go!”

In the Jesus story, the touchable ones are the ones who end up being healed. There’s no moral test. There’s no screening to see if they’re black, jewish, gay, baptized, or profane. There’s seems to be only one question:

Do you want to be touched by God? Do you want to be healed?

If the answer is a vulnerable, trusting one — the person is healed by Jesus leading them into the Divine flow.

Vulnerability is the entry point to healing.

Vulnerability is harder than having a strong moral stance.

Surrendering to the flow is always more threatening to the ego than digging one’s heels into dogma.

Vulnerable openness and the willingness to enter a divine relationship and be touched by Spirit is never comfortable in the sense that we’re used to, but it feels damn good to the part of us that knows the Truth.


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God, not as a being, but as Being itself

Image: Andrew Ridley

The thing with the word ‘God’ is that it personifies and objectifies... Well… God.

This is great for the human brain, which needs to be able to name and define everything (and it makes for a great coping mechanism), but it truly limits what’s on offer when it comes to Spirituality and the deeper meaning of the Divine.

A few questions come to mind…

What if God was the essential state of the entire universe?

What if, instead of gazing down on you from above, God coursed through your veins?

What if judgement was a human concept rather than anything having to do with God?

Just a few things for you to contemplate this weekend if you haven’t already…


Jonas Ellison is a spiritual writer, teacher, practitioner, and an interfaith minister-in-training. He helps people deepen their lives through applied spirituality while documenting his journey along the way.

To subscribe via email to his updates and exclusive content, click here.

Quietly joyous vs. obviously spiritual

Image: Chad Madden

For me, spirituality doesn’t make one more glib and all-knowing. It’s not work on one’s sleeve.

I don’t see the Divine in someone pontificating about how spiritual they are.

I see the divine in the old man at the park who always says hello with a smile, timeless wisdom behind his eyes.

I see the divine in the mechanic who loves her job and tells me to call any time there’s a problem.

I see the divine in someone who can sit with someone through pain rather than flippantly throw Bible verses at them.

I know, I may seem hypocritical by writing this post since I tend to write about spirituality and the such daily. But my brand of spirituality is much like many of my friend’s atheism from what I can tell. I don’t think anyone would say I’m an in-your-face spiritual guy in the obvious sense. I don’t wear my spirituality as a badge of honor, I use it as a tool for inquiry into the deeper questions of my life.

I see God in the quietly joyous. 
I see projected doubt in the obviously spiritual. 
I’d much rather hang out with the former.

You buying?


Jonas Ellison is a spiritual writer, teacher, practitioner, and an interfaith minister-in-training. He helps people deepen their lives through applied spirituality while documenting his journey along the way. To subscribe via email to his updates and exclusive content, click here.

Forgive us our trespasses

Image: Vincent Guth

This is Part 6 of the weekly series where I break down, line-by-line, the Lord’s Prayer and interpret it however I wish (because everyone should do this). This series is inspired by the book, ‘Power Through Constructive Thinking’ by Emmet Fox. If you’ve missed the previous entries in the series, you can read them all here.


And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.


The immature understanding of forgiveness is limited to letting someone get away with something bad. That was my understanding of forgiveness for years.

Although I repeated this line many times, I also felt a deep misalignment with it inside because I knew people who had done horrible things and I also knew there was no way I could be okay with it.

I’ve grown to understand that ‘forgiveness of sins’ lives much deeper than that.

I’d say, in fact, that forgiveness is central to our problems in life.

The true meaning of sin is something along the lines of, missing the mark.

It doesn’t necessarily mean ‘disobedience’ or ‘rudeness’ or ‘inappropriate behavior’ (although those can be included in the definition). It doesn’t mean that we’ve not checked off a box or two from some dogmatic rulebook a bunch of robed humans drafted up.

No…

To sin means to live out of alignment with Life itself.

I see God/Life/Source as a huge, rushing river. It’s going somewhere. For gajillions of years (give or take a few), this universe has been progressing towards something. If you zoom in and look at your life, you’ll see that it’s working the same way on a micro level.

Stand back and take a look at the rushing river of your life…

Which way is it flowing?
Have you been in that flow or bucking it?
If you’re saying the latter, this is all sin is.

No, I’m not saying to fall victim to the forces that seem to be against you. That’s not going with the flow; that’s helplessly standing in the middle of the rapids and getting knocked around against the rocks.

There we are, all alone, isolated, self-contained, wondering where God is (or whatever savior we’ve adopted).

God is right there. God is the flow. Jump in that raft and head downstream.

We are at one with this flow, undivided from Life.

We ‘sin’ (or, ‘trespass’) — when we try to make our own flow either by either playing the victim or asserting our individual will against someone else in order to get ahead — it’s an uphill battle.

The thing is, I don’t believe God cares. God just flows. We can close our eyes to it as much as we want, but it still just keeps on drifting along.

This belief in life apart from the Flow (aka, God) is an illusion. And this is where we miss the mark.

Now… When we talk about forgiveness of sins, we see that this prayer doesn’t just stop at asking God for forgiveness. It puts our forgiveness in direct relation to our forgiveness of others (AS we forgive those who trespass against us).

Again, this has nothing to do with some man in the clouds keeping score…

Has she forgiven her? No? Well, I can’t give her a point then…

If you hold on to resentment and condemnation of another, you have stepped out of the Flow and locked yourself in bondage with that person.

Setting others free means setting yourself free, because resentment is really a form of attachment. It is a cosmic truth that it takes two to make a prisoner; the prisoner — and a gaoler. There is no such thing as being a prisoner on one’s own account. Every prisoner must have a gaoler, and the gaoler is as much a prisoner as his charge. When you hold resentment against anyone, you are bound to that person by a cosmic link, a real, though mental chain. You are tied by a cosmic tie to the thing you hate. The one person perhaps in the whole world whom you most dislike is the very one to whom you are attaching yourself by a hook that is stronger than steel. 
 — Emmet Fox

Same goes with self-condemnation or resentment. This is not the Flow. It doesn’t do any good and only leads to suppression and projection.

By forgiveness, you set yourself free. Whether what that person did is wrong or right in your individual book doesn’t matter. What matters is that you set yourself free to live your life downstream.

Finally, forgiveness has nothing to do with having to like someone who has done you wrong. You don’t have to be pals with them — in fact, this has nothing to do with them at all. It has to do with you being rid of your chains.

This all might make sense as you’re reading (it sure does as I’m writing it), but in all honesty, forgiveness is hard. It’s one of the hardest things we humans can do. But I hope you see a glimpse of how vital it is to a vibrant life.


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Three stages of spiritual development

Image: Jean-Pierre Brungs

There’s many models that have been drawn about societal/spiritual development and levels of consciousness.

As for the one I’m geeking out on right now, I’ve heard explained a few different ways, but most eloquently from my personal Yoda, Richard Rohr, and it goes like this…

Stage One: Order
It’s here that we have fundamentalist religion/tribal thinking. Conservatism tends to get stuck here. Everything must fit into a neat and tidy box. The ego can handle neat and tidy.

Stage Two: Disorder
This is where liberals/progressives live. It’s where doubt starts to take hold and Stage One starts to fall apart, kicking and screaming. It’s all about taking things apart. The ego hates this, and so it tries to twist reality and make this stage of disorder into the new order of the day.

Stage Three: Reorder 
Those who break through the disorder either make it out to this stage or they fall back onto Stage One. This is the place of enlightenment or salvation and it can only be entered through Stage Two.

This applies, not only spiritually, but in many other things as well. When I was training in Aikido, Stage One was static (kata). Stage Two was taking that kata into movement (ki no nagare). Stage Three was ultimate creativity (takemusu aiki).

In music, we have Stage One where we learn the notes and read music. In Stage Two, we memorize the notes and start playing with the frustration of improvisation. And in Stage Three, we’re going Miles Davis on the world and can just flow, baby.

Here’s the catch…

There is no direct flight from Stage One to Stage Three.

Spiritually speaking, this is the role of extreme suffering and Love. They bring us smack dab into the middle of Stage Two. They shake up our world. Paradigms shift and buildings burn.

Both suffering and love are vehicles to growth.

If you happen to be in the middle of Stage Two in your life, hold fast. Know you’re just where you need to be.

This is the role of our spiritual practice... To make it through Stage Two of the journey (which, societally speaking, we’re entering now) instead of falling back into Stage One and having to start over.

Here’s a match. 
See you on the other side.


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Jonas writes short daily stories and preachments on the daily here in Higher Thoughts. Get one to enjoy with your coffee every morning by subscribing below.

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Lower-case love

Image: Elijah Hail

I’m learning that love is so much more than what our culture has made it out to be. It’s not limited to the kind of romantic infatuation that’s fleeting. This is lower-case love. It’s the kind written about in sonnets and romantic comedies. It makes for good media but is only a tiny ripple in the infinite ocean of what Love truly is.

When we get stuck in the lower-case love, we get tunnel vision and focus on… us. The ego starts having a field day. It’s all about who’s recently screwed us over, how they don’t adore us anymore, why we should hold back our enthusiasm in this certain area, etc.

Then we have our evolved brains working against us in the fact that they’re designed to focus on danger and fear while repelling the positive. We find that even good people feel more in home in hate than they do in love.

Love is a deliberate, conscious choice that we must repeat over and over until those ‘love muscles’ start to grow (I’ve been using the weightlifting analogy a lot these last few days — must be the new year).

Love is an intentional effort that pulls the heart-space open wide. It’s daily work against the fear-on-autopilot tendencies of the ego. It rails against the louder voices in our culture that tell us to judge others, lock our doors, alienate those people, and be on the defense.

If you don’t have some spiritual practice that has kept your heart open in hell, I know you’re going to be a grumpy old man or a hateful old woman. By the last third of life, negativity is all you have left.
 — Richard Rohr

If we don’t live intentionally open-hearted lives, our minds will follow the grooves that society has dug for us and resort to a place that resembles hell.


[Jonas Ellison is a spiritual writer, teacher, practitioner, and an interfaith minister-in-training. He helps people transform their lives through applied spirituality while documenting his journey along the way. To subscribe via email to his updates and exclusive content, click here.]

Automatic spirituality

Doesn’t really exist...

Beware the kind of spirituality that’s either driven purely by rote (going to [insert spiritual center of choice here] purely out of obligation/habit) or instantly gratifying (think, laughing yoga).

The best kind of spiritual practice is a deliberate, conscious one that stretches our presence. It challenges the ego and, like weight training for the soul, makes the weaker part of us uncomfortable before we start seeing gains.


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Here’s to You, 2016! From Higher Thoughts

Image: Chloe Ridgway

Well, Higher Thinkers, here’s my obligatory addition to the bloated virtual heap of New Year’s posts you’re probably seeing from just about everyone this time of year. As much as I despise cliche’, this one, I believe, is a good one (I’m not, however, going to talk about the election as I’m sure you’re up to your ears in that stuff just as I am; plus, it’s a little out of my jurisdiction). From what I can tell, ringing in the new year with some intention and reflection is nothing but healthy. So here we go…

2016 was a great year. I rounded my first year of daily blogging. I stopped fighting it and fully embraced my love for spirituality by making it a strong central theme both to this publication and my daily life by enrolling in theological school.

Although, in a couple years, I’ll be a full-fledged New Thought minister (for what it’s worth), what I’m really looking forward to is the journey and sharing it with you.

I’ve found myself in this interesting place where I’ve stepped fully into this spirituality thing, but find myself getting along better with atheists than hard core fundamentalists. After going back and forth, we find that the god they stopped believing in — I don’t believe in either. Methinks there’s a paradigm shift happening and I’ve somehow found myself in its wake. 2017 should be interesting, nonetheless.

And now, here’s some highlights from this last year…

I wrote a book in 2016. This will go down in personal history as one of the greatest accomplishments of my life. Seeing my work in a beautiful hardcover-bound book was like alchemical magic. From base metal to gold. From digital to analog. What an incredible feeling. Getting photos of happy bed-headed people in their hilarious Christmas PJ’s beside their tree holding a copy of it warmed my heart.

I opened HT up for patrons. This was a scary one. The driver behind the work I do isn’t the money, but in order to take things to the level I want to take them, I need more time. With your generous contributions, I’m buying that time so I can give back to you in bigger, better ways. Thanks for buying me a taco or two and supporting my work:)

I embraced minimalism in 2016. I’ve been dabbling for some time, reading along with The Minimalists (cheers to them on their continued success with their documentary getting picked up by Netflix this year, btw) and contributing to my friend, Brian Gardner’s wonderful minimalist blog, No Sidebar. I strayed for a couple years, but after some unexpected insights (the best kind), I’ve decided to embrace this mindset and have already noticed profound changes. In 2017, I’ll be writing more about simple, deliberate, intentional living as well as contributing to those who champion the cause.

Now, here’s looking ahead to 2017…

I want to do more audio/video. I tried a little video Q&A thing on YouTube for awhile. I didn’t feel great about it. For one, I felt it was too much. Like I was hammering people with too much content. But something in me still wants to play in this arena. I’d like to do some video, but I’m thinking about starting with audio. We’ll see where this takes me.

I want to teach more. I’ve been resisting this because I still very much see myself as a student. However, a part of me knows that one doesn’t have to know everything in order to teach. I’d love to teach a writing class of some sort since this is what I consider to be my craft. Maybe some spiritual classes too. If you have any ideas for things you’d like to learn more from me, let me know.

I want to write another book. This last one was a collection of essays from this publication. I want to write a book around a central topic. Now if I can only pick a topic rich enough to mine for a book… Again, any topics I regularly cover that you’d find interesting to read more about in-depth, let me know.

I want to contribute more. I have some friends with amazing blogs, both on and off Medium. I’d love to contribute to their work more by adding my two or three cents.

I want to get on stage. Yes, I decided to start going to my local toastmasters club next week. I’m terrified, but it’s a good fear. Been needing to slay this dragon for some time.

As for 2017, expect way more from me, both on this publication and in the world at large (subscribe to my emails if you’d like to stay posted — yes, I email daily but you don’t have to read every one; delete my posts as much as you wish).

Top 10 books of 2016

I wanted to give you the ‘Top 10’ posts from Higher Thoughts in 2016, but Medium’s stats aren’t equipped to do that. I can only sort the whole lump of my posts, not just ones from this last year.

So, I’ll do something I want to do more of in 2017: Share what I’m reading with you.

Nothing I write here is totally original. All of my posts start as seeds in something I read.

Without further ado, here’s my favorite books from this last year:

A Course of Love

Mari Perron

This one is blowing me away right now. It’s a channelled book that is meant to be a follow-up to A Course In Miracles (another personal favorite). Not as lesson-based as ACIM, this book is heart-centered and flips the way we look at love on its head and calls us out on the floor. So good.

How to Be Here: A Guide to Creating a Life Worth Living

Rob Bell

I’m a huge fanboy of Bell. Just saying. His podcast is the only one I listen to regularly. His sermons are magic and his take on Christianity, so refreshing. If you need some meaning in your life, this book is for you. I’m a sucker for creativity books and when you sprinkle in spirituality like Bell does, you have me at go. Enjoy.

Insurrection: To Believe Is Human To Doubt, Divine

Peter Rollins

Pete Rollins, the Irish philosopher, is a rockstar in my mind. Google him and see for yourself, but this dude is a hero of mine. Never has anyone tested the edges of my faith as Rollins has and I find myself shaking my head with an evil grin the more I read his work.

The Broken Way: A Daring Path into the Abundant Life

Ann Voskamp

As soon as I start thinking I’m a good writer, I read Ann and quickly see how far I have to go. Voskamp is the most fearless writer I know. Although our versions of faith differ slightly (or maybe not, I’m not sure), she’s a master. I’m just starting to dip into this one now.

Skin and Other Stories

Roald Dahl

As much as I wish to be, I’m not a huge fiction guy. My world is non-fiction, so that’s where I tend to hang out (I know, I need to mix it up — I’m working on it). However, Roald Dahl, I could read all day. He’s my favorite storyteller of all time. His dialog is unbeatable. If I ever were to write fiction, Dahl would be my go-to for inspiration. And these short stories are perfect for short attention spans like mine.

Help, Thanks, Wow: The Three Essential Prayers

Anne Lamott

What can I say? Anne Lamott… Pretty sure she’s my mother from another lifetime. I just get that vibe from her and have drawn so much inspiration from her work over the years. She provides the perfect mix of deep, non-bullshit spirituality and irreverent humor. Another goddess I look up to.

Power Through Constructive Thinking

Emmet Fox

As many of you know, I’m reading this one for my coursework right now. It’s really good. Emmet was a pioneer in New Thought and his work shows it. The dude put a lot of deep effort in mining his messages and it shows.

Love Poems from God: Twelve Sacred Voices from the East and West

Daniel Ladinsky

Daniel Ladinsky is the man. In this book, he crafted exceptionally playful renditions of ancient poetry (6 from the East, six from the West) from the likes of Rabia, St. Francis of Assisi, Rumi, Meister Eckhart, St. Thomas Aquinas, Hafiz, St. Catherine of Siena, Kabir, Mira, St. Teresa of Avila, St. John of the Cross, and Tukaram. Each one is a meditation. Enjoy.

The Optimist Creed and Other Inspirational Classics

Christian D. Larson

Another New Thought classic, this one’s thick. I’ve only read about an eighth of it, but each chapter is packed with powerful prose and affirmative thought. Christian was a man ahead of his time. If you need a boost in spirit, this one is a nice one to have handy.

The Artisan Soul: Crafting Your Life into a Work of Art

Erwin McManus

It’s really hard for me to sit through a sermon these days without my bullshit detector going off in the first few minutes. But McManus, founder and lead pastor at Mosaic in Los Angeles, is one of the best, most vibrant, soulful spiritual leaders of today. This one is another creativity book mixed with scripture for context. If you want a book to get you in the mood to go out and create, this one’s a solid pick.

Aaaand that’s it for me, friends. Here’s to 2017. See ya next year.

As Ever,

Jonas

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Our daily bread

Image: Artur Rutkowski

This is Part 5 of the weekly series where I break down, line-by-line, the Lord’s Prayer and interpret it however I wish (because everyone should do this). This series is inspired by the book, ‘Power Through Constructive Thinking’ by Emmet Fox. If you’ve missed the previous entries in the series, you can read them all here.


Give us this day, our daily bread.


That line, right there, is huge for me right now. I don’t think I’ve ever really given it much thought before, but as I go back to it, I see the seeds of an essential, transformative truth. This is something I’m really working on and I hope it brings you value as well.

First of all, notice the word ‘daily’ in there…

It doesn’t say, ‘Give us all the bread we’ll need for the rest of our life.’ It doesn’t say (in modern words), ‘Make us caked-up so we never have to work again.’

No… Give us this day. Our daily bread. 
Provide us with what we need today. 
Tomorrow, we’ll repeat.

God doesn’t work in life-long installment plans. She works in the moment. The day. The incremental. Right now is all that God provides us with, and in that, we find all we’ll ever need.

We strive so hard to fight for a life where the rest of our days will be certain. We work a hundred hours a week so that, one day, we’ll be able to look forward and see a smooth ride.

But like a heat-seeking missile, our brains have evolved to find the fear. To make a monster out of the slightest shadow. So we get to the place we thought would bring us this sense of safety and look forward only to see the monsters have not left.

Doesn’t work like this…

Today — this very day /moment— is where we find ourselves. Safety rests in knowing that we’re here, right now, and Source provides for us and through us. Not from the world of form, but in the realm of the formless.

When we seek our primary ‘bread’ from ‘out there’ — in investments, business, employers, partners, toys, etc. — we miss the point. When one of these things falls away (the nature of form), we feel hopeless. Some never get back on their feet.

We must see that these things are just the channels through which the Divine works through. When we see our true Source to be our inner Spirit and the infinite well of Love that we dip into to provide for our world and one of those channels falls away, instead of freaking out, we feel a sense of security and know that Source will find a different, better, more fitting one.

People think of their supply as coming from certain investments, or from a business, or from an employer, perhaps; whereas these are merely the channels through which it comes, God being the Source. The number of possible channels is infinite, the Source is One. The particular channel through which you are getting your supply is quite likely to change, because change is the Cosmic Law for manifestation. Stagnation is really death; but as long as you realize that the Source of your supply is the one unchangeable Spirit, all is well. The fading out of one channel will be but the signal for the opening of another. If, on the other hand, like most people, you regard the particular channel as being the source, then when that channel fails, as it is very likely to do, you are left stranded, because you believe that the source has dried up — and for practical purposes, on the physical plane, things are as we believe them to be.

— Emmet Fox; Power Through Constructive Thinking

This speaks to what I wrote about yesterday in the principle of rebirth.

It also brings the God out of the clouds and places Him, symbolically, into one of the most physical, tangible, essential forms possible in that of bread/food — our source for survival on the physical plane.

With one word, it tells the story of God being not that of another world or some grandiose after-life judgement role, but in the mundane, everyday essence of our life.

Sinking our heels into the essence of this line gets us grounded in the simplicity of our lives. It helps us appreciate what we have to get through this day and it helps us see that, although Source may have not lived up to our expectations at one time or another, it has never failed us.

Mind passing the butter?


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