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My September Celebration

As I drove across the bay on the San Mateo Bridge to my two-day “stay-cation” spot, I was amazed as the sky eerily got darker and darker. There was no sunlight! “What is happening?” I thought. “No, this can’t be,” I lamented. Then I snapped out of it and decided my birthday celebration would NOT be dampened by this gloomy atmosphere. 

You see, the fires on the West Coast had caused smoke to blanket the entire Bay Area (and beyond). My best laid plan to book a room with a view overlooking the Bay was crumbling, and all I could see was grey everywhere. I could barely see the water. Finally, though, I reached my destination, checked in, and relaxed in my room. At last, I could settle in and finally write this overdue blog.

It’s been almost 6 months of sheltering in place for me since the pandemic began sweeping across the country. You might have seen my social media posts with my feet “pounding the pavement” – – I have been walking, walking, AND walking. It’s one of the healthiest things I’ve done throughout the pandemic. I’m not in competition with anyone; I just like it. It’s good for my brain, my heart, and mentally, it’s quite relaxing and meditative. It relieves stress. My day job starts around 8 a.m. (I’m working at home), so I like to get outside and do some walking before my workday begins. (But not this week. Egads! We’ve got all this SMOKE!)

I haven’t blogged for a while…for a few reasons, not excuses, just reasons. For one thing, I’ve been dealing with some stuff, you know …stuff, …like everybody else at this particular time. We might have different stuff; however, there’s been this BIG major stuff going on in society these days. You know what I’m talking about, right?

I don’t ascribe ALL the things happening to a particular year (like it’s the big bad 2020 boogey monster or something). 2020 didn’t just decide to jump up and clobber us. To me, I see it as a season, a transitional season…a culmination, a big build up, a colliding of lots of unchecked, unexamined, unconscious decisions in human society, globally and collectively, and yes, individually. What will we bring to the world in this moment? Something different? Or more of the same? There’s lots to ponder! Ponder, pray, reflect…and take constructive, divinely-guided action. That’s what I’m doing.

Ok, so I’m not going to get all philosophical. I am still a person of FAITH – – and my faith is lifting me through all this. With the eyes of faith, we can see new possibilities. For me, limiting social media consumption has been helpful, especially while grieving this year. I know there are those who will never understand what it’s like to walk in my shoes. I even started setting a timer and limiting intake of social media. It’s not the source of true connection. I believe those who are really in genuine connection with me will contact me to see how I’m doing. I’ve been reaching to others out as well. I believe we all desire real connection. It’s part of our humanity. We must continue encouraging one another.

I’m not one to go and stick my head in the sand either and just wish away these challenging times. I feel that we must engage, otherwise we just feel powerlessness. I pray and ask what is mine to do. My intention is to show up and be present with the best version of myself as much as I possibly can. That’s my goal. What’s also been helpful for me is remembering to be extra, extra kind, empathetic, and compassionate. Most everyone is feeling a weight of some kind. If not, then great for you! Now is a good time to lift up others!

So, yes, it was my birthday on 9/11. As always, I celebrate AND I commemorate. I am grateful for family and friends, and I am so very grateful to be here on planet earth! A special shout out and much appreciation for all the birthday wishes coming my way and for my sister and my fellow seminary classmate joining me for dinner on my birthday!! BIG PARTY OF THREE – MASKS and all!!

Just so you know, I will not be silent on things that matter. I am here to be light, love, wisdom, and joy, and that’s what I plan to keep being and doing. I cannot worry about those who are throwing “virtual” sticks and stones when I speak up, trying to shout me down. Joy is my strength. Joy is YOUR strength, if you so choose. Don’t let anyone steal your joy! It’s time to shift into high gear and release the power of true joy! If you seek the true source of joy, you will find it. Ok, so where are my JOY warriors? Let us keep marching, y’all, and standing for the truth! We know where our help comes from!!

That’s my check-in! That’s all for now, folks! Carry on.

Love  & blessings,

Rev. Dinah

Who is wise and understanding among you? Show by your good life that your works are done with gentleness born of wisdom.  – James 3:13

But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an overflowing stream.  – Amos 5:24

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.  -Romans 15:13

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A Powerful, Lasting Impact of Rev. Dr. Johnnie Colemon

In June 2012, I stepped into my call to ministry while attending the Unity Peoples Convention in Detroit, Michigan. Little did I know some 8 months later, I would be quitting my job, emptying my apartment, throwing my household furnishings into storage, and driving my loaded down car from California to Missouri to go to seminary. I’d heard people say, “you won’t know until you go.” That’s the way it is sometimes when we are following our guidance. We often don’t see the next step until we make the first step. Something inside me said to leap and I did…into a full residential seminary program. 

It was an adventure for my oldest sister and I to drive across country. We stopped at the Grand Canyon and took pictures. I figured there was no sense being that close and not stop to see one of the world’s wonders. We stopped each night for dinner and checked into a hotel. We had great weather all the way, for March anyway. We plumed through Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, and at last we drove into Missouri.  Funny thing is…the closer we got to Unity Village, the harder it snowed and it started to stick on the roads… but finally we made it. 

I couldn’t wait to get the keys to my room I was renting on the grounds of Unity Village. I considered it a miracle! I was told there was no housing available at first, and I was put on a waiting list. But through a turn of events, here I was, settling down in my warm, toasty room, with the temperature of 20 degrees outside and seven to eight inches of fresh fallen snow on the ground. As I lay in bed on the first night in the Women’s Annex, I was gazing out my window looking up at the famous landmark Unity Tower. In that moment, I remembered and gave thanks for Rev. Dr. Johnnie Colemon, who broke the color barrier at the Unity School of Christianity and was permitted lodging on grounds in the late 50s.  Unity village had been segregated. I honored her in my prayers that night and drifted off to sleep. “Because of her, and many others, I am here,” I thought to myself. She was the first African American to stay on grounds, and here I was sleeping overnight as a residential seminarian on these grounds. We must never forget those who have paved the way for us. 

While growing up as a little girl in the midwest, I had heard talk about this “woman preacher” in Chicago who had this BIG church. Oh yes, there was talk of her, but I knew very little about Unity and was fascinated to hear of big city news such as that. Our family had made many trips to Chicago, but we were in another denomination and I don’t recall ever venturing out to see her church. But in the Black community, she definitely had some notoriety and had appeared in Jet and Ebony magazine. Who knew decades later I’d come to this same place of beginnings? 

I went on to do more research about Rev. Colemon’s life and her experience while I was studying at Unity Institute and Seminary from 2013 to 2016. She made her transition in 2014. In 2016 as I walked across the stage to graduate and be ordained, I had pinned a picture of Rev. Johnnie Coleman inside my robe near my heart. I had to find a way to carry her across that stage with me for I knew she paved the way for me to be there. Because of you, Rev. Dr. Johnnie Colemon, we can all follow the truth in our hearts and live courageously. Thank you. We celebrate you this Black History Month of 2020. Many stories have been written about her, but this is mine.

To celebrate Black History Month, see Gems of Wisdom from Black Leaders of New Thought:

https://www.unity.org/publications/resource-materials/black-leaders-new-thought

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My Summer Sabbatical

Greetings!
Well, in April I decided to put myself on a “summer sabbatical” to reflect, to be still, and to listen to my heart. Yes…I gave myself permission to not take any speaking or singing engagements this summer 🙂 However, I’m still working my day job. So, the weekends are filled with opening myself up to whatever I’m inspired to do that feeds my soul.
Easter Sunday, April 21, was my final service as the minister of Unity of Tri-Valley, after serving for 14 months in a labor of love with a lovely spiritual community. It was bittersweet but necessary for me to do some truth-telling to myself and step aside. Prior to that, I served as associate minister at Unity of San Leandro in Northern California for two years. And prior to that, I worked to earn my Masters of Divinity at Unity Institute and Seminary from 2013 to 2016 and was ordained in 2016. I am grateful for the privilege of serving and learning so much in church ministry! Now, it’s time to shift my focus a bit.
Reflections
Over the past few weeks and after several long walks, I’ve come to realize I’ve been going full speed in various ministry endeavors for quite some time. I made a decision in 2005 that I would live the next decades of my life a lot differently than the first few decades of my life. #1- I would live intentionally in alignment with a vision for my life and in alignment with my values. So, I had to do the work of asking myself those hard questions and writing down what I wanted in life and then begin to think/act/behave in alignment with those things. The most important things for me were spiritual growth and to being in integrity with myself.
One thing that was out of whack was my finances. I found myself in over $100,000 worth of debt in 2004. By putting Truth first in my life and gaining a greater awareness of abundance, I began to manifest an abundance consciousness and things began to turnaround. From 2008 to 2012, I studied to become a Licensed Unity Teacher, diving deeper into the spiritual teachings that had helped save me from spiraling into depression. They helped shift me into greater fulfillment, abundance, emotional healing, and a sense of purpose.
This particular spiritual path was working for me; I could see and feel the change; I felt more peace, more satisfaction, and more love and compassion for myself and others. By 2009, I was completely out of debt! It took a commitment to my spiritual practice, discipline, forgiveness work, and greater self-awareness to leave behind the judgmental, critical, self-defeating mental habits that were leaving me feeling empty. 
I’ve come to realize that our thoughts lead to our emotions and our actions.  One of the key principles I discovered says, “thoughts held in mind produce after their kind.” I took it to heart and focused on Spirit. Somehow, a renewed sense of resiliency began to surface. I watched myself like a hawk. I focused on loving life, loving God, and every day being a clear transparency for God’s love to flow through me. I had to face myself and “do my work,” which is still my continual work, to release and let go of that which no longer serves me in a positive, constructive way and make room for new, expanded ways of expressing. I think we all want to grow, get better, and expand. When we do, we give others permission and encouragement to do the same.
So, I just wanted to check in, catch you up, and give you a few highlights of my summer. In a nutshell, I’ve been walking, getting out into nature more, keeping up my regular contemplative prayer practice and meditation work, reflecting, reading, re-connecting with friends, enjoying podcasts (like the Home-brewed Christianity’s Radical Theology summer series with Jack Caputo and Tripp Fuller), spending time with family, and working on improving my sleeping and eating habits.
Slowly, as I roll out of sabbatical mode this fall…I will ramp up my on-line presence for Unity JOY Abundantly Expressing Ministries, and sharing JOY in our world wherever I can. Since its inception in January 2018, I’ve had other priorities that needed my attention:) But this desire to share my JOY has never left me! I plan to continue to my singing and speaking talents as I am led by Spirit. More to come!
For now, I will enjoy the rest of this summer cozying up with one of my favorite books, Sabbath, Finding Rest, Renewal, and Delight in our Busy Lives by Wayne Muller. I love this quote from it:
“Sabbath is more than the absence of work; it is not just a day off, when we catch up on television or errands. It is the presence of something that arises when we consecrate a period of time to listen to what is most deeply beautiful, nourishing, or true. It is a time consecrated with our attention, our mindfulness, honoring those quiet forces of grace or spirit that sustain and heal us.”
I am so grateful for all my life lessons and how important it is to be authentic and to be true to myself.  If we don’t do this, we will never be happy (at least that is my experience). I encourage you to do the same; hang around those who will support you in being your highest, best self. BE JOY, BE LOVE, BE PEACE…and BE the force of good that you want to see in the world. We need YOU. We need the unique light and the JOY you bring! Please know that I am so very grateful for YOU and the love you bring. Enjoy the rest of your summer!
Love & joy,
Rev. Dinah
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Reclaiming Your Joy

7 Tips for Reclaiming Your Joy

Sometimes we can get bogged down in life. We drift, we can get stagnant, and we can sometimes feel no sense of direction or purpose. I have come up with these reminders to help me reclaim my joy.  I’ve used them over and over. This is not an exhaustive list, but it’s a great start! In the book, The Revealing Word, it says that joy is “the happiness of God expressed through its perfect idea in [humankind]…and that joy and gladness are strength-giving.” Wow, did you know that joy and gladness can give you strength? (Nehemiah 8:10)

Joy is more than a fleeting moment of happiness.  For me, it is more like an underground reservoir that shoots up warm springs of living waters in my soul whenever I need them.  True joy arises from within as we focus on all the good that is in our lives and the Source of our good.

When you claim and reclaim your joy, it does not mean you are not compassionate with others or that you don’t notice the challenges of life that are going on around us or in our world. We are not side-stepping anything. But with joy, you will have the strength and energy to be up for the tasks that lie before you.

So here are some of the tips I use for reclaiming my joy all the time and help me keep it stirred up!

  1. Stir up love, and you’ll stir up joy. Joy stems from divine love, unconditional love, the God-kind of love (agape love). I call it loving “just because.” Boost up your love with kind thoughts, words, and deeds, and walk in the wisdom of divine love and you will find your joy meter rising. When you feel your joy is at a low point, consider how are you doing in the area of expressing and manifesting unconditional, inclusive, non-judgmental love…to everyone! Stir up love, and let joy rise! “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” – John 13:35 NRSV
  2. Praise is the language of joy.  Whatever we praise, bless, or magnify grows! Gratitude and thanksgiving multiplies, germinates, and fertilizes everything in our lives and affairs. We can express our appreciation and gratitude to those around us each day. In prayer, we can give thanks. With a heart full of thanks, joy automatically rises. “I will bless the Lord at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth.” – Psalm 34:1
  3. Prayer, Meditation, and Contemplation fills up our reservoir of joy.  When we consciously commune with the Divine and tap into the Presence, we are continually filling ourselves up with joy. Allow yourself to get still and go into the Silence…and be filled with the spirit of joy.  “You show me the path of life. In your presence there is fullness of joy; in your right hand are pleasures forevermore” – Psalm 16:11 NRSV
  4. Set your mind on God’s good. Think on all the good that God is unveiling and expressing in your life and all around you and joy will rise in your heart.  “Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. – Philippians 4:8 NRSV
  5. Go and do good for others. Find a way to serve joyfully in community, in your spiritual community, at your school, in your neighborhood, or globally. Selfless service without thinking about reward and benefit can open up your heart to more love and joy. Your giving becomes the gift, and the joy of giving is its own reward. “So then, whenever we have an opportunity, let us work for the good of all, and especially for those of the family of faith.” -Galatians 6:10 NRSV
  6. Play, engage in creative fun. Go dancing, …yes, dance! wave your arms in the air, like you just don’t care! Play music. Go to an art festival, a museum, or do some art! Go sailing, go to a play or a concert, and find a way to get in a good belly laugh (not at others, of course, but with others). Proverbs tells us “A merry heart makes a cheerful countenance.” (15:13); “but he that is of a merry heart hath a continual feast.” (15:15); and “A merry heart does good like a medicine.” (17:13).
  7. Find your tribe.  Find and share your joy in a community that is inclusive, accepting, loving, non-judgmental, uplifting of one another, and supportive of you finding your spiritual highest good. It may not be a traditional brick and mortar church. It can also be some collective group that enhances the individuals involved with it. “And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” – Hebrews 10:24-26 NRSV

Add a SPLASH of JOY to everything you do this week! Share more JOY tips with us online at: Facebook Page and Discussion Group and like our Page.

Blessings & love,

Rev. Dinah

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