By Donna Waddell

This presentation was delivered to the congregation of Mountain Light UUC on 2007 October 21.

1. From Simple Abundance by Sarah Ban Breathnach

There is a wonderful Hasidic parable about the power of gratitude to change the course of our destiny in a heartbeat, the speed, I imagine, it takes for a "thank you" to reach Heaven's ears.

Once times were tough. Two men-both poor farmers-were walking down a country lane and met their Rabbi. "How is it for you?" the Rabbi asked the first man. "Lousy," he grumbled, bemoaning his lot and lack. "Terrible, hard, awful. Not worth getting out of bed for. Life is lousy."

Now, God was eavesdropping on this conversation. "Lousy?" the Almighty thought. "You think life is lousy now, you ungrateful lout? I'll show you what lousy is."

Then the Rabbi turned to the second man. "And you, my friend?"

"Ah, Rabbi-life is good. God is so gracious, so generous. Each morning when I awaken, I'm so grateful for the gift of another day, for I know, rain or shine, it will unfold in wonder and blessings too bountiful to count. Life is so good."

God smiled as the second man's thanksgiving soared upwards until it became one with the harmony of the heavenly hosts. Then the Almighty roared with delighted laughter. "Good? You think life is good now? I'll show you what good is!"

Gratitude is the most passionate transformative force in the cosmos. When we offer thanks to God or to another human being, gratitude gifts us with renewal, reflection, reconnections. Gratitude bestows reverence, allowing us to encounter everyday epiphanies, those transcendent moments of awe that change forever how we experience life (is it abundant or is it lacking?) and the world (is it friendly or is it hostile?). Once we accept that abundance and lack are parallel realities and that each day we choose-consciously or unconsciously- which world we will inhabit, a deep inner shift in our reality occurs. We discover the sacred in the ordinary and we realize that every day is literally a gift.

The downside of enlightenment no one ever mentions is that once you understand how the Universe operates, you can't play dumb. We already possess all we need to be genuinely happy. All we truly need is the awareness of all we have. Today. Not tomorrow, or next week or next year. Gratitude spiritually induces this awakening with a lover's kiss.

If our happiness and inner peace is dependent on our "ship coming in", then we are doomed to perpetual waiting. The reality is our ship is a submarine, it's an inside job, this business of being happy or having inner peace.

2. In three of the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and John) the story of feeding the five thousand is told with remarkable consistency. From historical research, this gives this event power. In every telling of the event where there were two fish and five loaves and after Jesus gave thanks, there was enough food to feed the five thousand. I don't know if this story is literally true, or if it is included to make the point that when we are grateful for what we have and give God thanks for whatever we do have, there will always be enough to meet our needs.

3. Suze Orman, the current guru of money and spirituality and author of The 9 Steps to Financial Freedom has the following recommendations:

  • Money will respond to you just like people do.
  • Show respect for your money… then your money will think and care about you in return.

Money is a living entity, and it responds to energy exactly the same way you do… Wouldn't you rather be with people who respect you and who don't want you to be something you're not? Your money feels the same way.

You must create a positive, empowering message for yourself and instill it into your powerful mind to replace the fear you're leaving behind.

By doing the right things with money, we attract money.

4. Grady Cash has posted thoughts about the spiritual aspects of money on a web site called Healthworld. He addresses the following issues:

  1. Is Money evil? The actual biblical quote which leads to this common misconception is "For the love of money is the root of all evil" Money itself is just a resource. Money can provide us with more freedom, independence, and the ability to help others less fortunate than we are. Only when money is accumulated for it's own sake does it become bad.
  2. "It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than a rich man to enter the kingdom of God." In biblical times, cities were surrounded by walls to protect citizens from invaders. One particular gate was so narrow and low only one person could pass through at a time. This gate was called "the eye of the needle" because the shape of the gate resembled the eye of a needle. It was possible for a camel to pass through this gate, but only on its knees after being stripped of its treasures. This saying was a metaphor for humility and virtue.
  3. The bottom line, says Cash, is to use your money wisely, in harmony with your goals and purpose in life. Decisions about money should follow one's deeply felt values, goals, and purpose in life.
  4. Definition of "enough". Cash says sufficient resources to achieve your truly important goals in life.

5. Neale Donald Walsh wrote a series of three books called Conversations with God. In Book 1 he discusses the problem of not having enough money with God.

N: Why can't I ever seem to attract enough money? Am I destined forever to be scrimping and scraping? What is blocking me from realizing my full potential regarding money?

G: The condition is manifested not just by you, but by a great many people… The problem is lack of understanding of the principle of abundance together, usually, with a massive misjudgment about what is "good" and what is "evil." You carry around a thought that money is bad. You also carry around a thought that God is good. Bless you! Therefore, in your thought system, God and money do not mix… Remember, thoughts are creative. So, if you think money is bad, yet you think yourself good… well you can see the conflict… So here we have this real ambivalence about money. Part of you rejects it, and part of you resents not having it. Now, the Universe doesn't know what to do about that, because the Universe has received two different thoughts from you. So your life with regard to money is going to go in fits and starts, because you keep going in fits and starts about money. Now there is only one way to change all that. You have to change your thought about it.

N: How can I change the way I think? The way I think about something is the way I think about something. My thoughts, my attitudes, my ideas were not created in a minute. I have to guess they are the result of years of experience, a lifetime of encounters. You are right about the way I think about money, but how do I change that?

G: The first thing to do is reverse the thought-word-deed paradigm. Do you remember the old adage, "Think before you act"?

N: Yes.

G: Well, forget it. If you want to change a root thought, you have to act before you think. Example: you're walking down the street and come across an old lady begging for quarters. You realize she's a bag lady and is living from day to day. You instantly know that as little money as you have, you surely have enough to share with her. Your first impulse is to give her some change. There's even a part of you that's ready to reach in your pocket for a little folding money - a one, or even a five. What the heck, make it a grand moment for her. Light her up.

Then, thought comes in. What, are you crazy? We've only got seven dollars to get us through the day! You want to give her a five? So you start fumbling around for that one.

Thought again: Hey, hey, c'mon. You don't have that many of these that you can just give them away! Give her some coins, for heaven's sake, and let's get out of here.

Quickly you reach into the other pocket to try to come up with some quarters. Your fingers feel only nickels and dimes. You're embarrassed. Here you are, fully clothed, fully fed, and you're going to nickel and dime this pour woman who has nothing.

You try in vain to find a quarter or two. Oh, there's one, deep in the fold of your pocket. But by now you've walked past her, smiling wanly, and it's too late to go back. She gets nothing. You get nothing, either. Instead of the joy of knowing your abundance and sharing, you now feel as poor as the woman.

Why didn't you give her the paper money? It was your first impulse, but your thought got in the way.

Next time, decide to act before you think. Give the money. Go ahead! You've got it, and there's more where that came from. That's the only thought which separates you from the bag lady. You're clear there's more where that came from, and she doesn't know that.

When you want to change a root thought, act on accordance with the new idea you have. But you must act quickly, or your mind will kill the idea before you know it. I mean that literally. The idea, the new truth, will be dead in you before you've had a chance to know it.

So act quickly when the opportunity arises, and, if you do this often enough, your mind will soon get the idea. It will be your new thought.

6. My personal experience:

  1. Before I started pledging, I had no savings, high credit card debt (due to impulsive spending), I was working two jobs, living from pay day to pay day. No matter how much I earned, no matter how many "things" I had, I felt lacking: financially, emotionally, spiritually.
  2. After I started pledging I was able to quit my second job, take the summers off, and accumulate savings. Today I have financial security. I am debt free. Now, I'm afraid not to pledge. In fact, out of sheer selfishness, I began to tithe. I know in my deepest heart that the more I give, the more I get. Today, every day, I feel rich. I frequently make the comment that I have more money than I know what to do with. I give God all the credit for my abundance, and give myself credit for trusting God to take care of me, for having the courage to face the fear and take the risk of making and keeping a pledge. My giving far exceeds the church. I contribute to foundations that support nursing, my alumni foundations, the United Way and others. I support virtually any cause which is in alignment with my purpose and goals. Doing this enables me to be who I really am. I live simply, but quite comfortably.

When we became a church I was one of the first to come forward and say, "You can count me in. I will give generously." How much is generous? That's very relative. Jesus referred to the widow's coins and made the point that her sacrificial gifts were more pleasing to God that the hefty contributions made by the wealthy. So, what is generous or sacrificial for me, may be far less than the amount it would take for you to be generous. On the other hand, the right amount for you to give could be far less than what is right for me. It is a decision of the heart, not pocketbook or checking account balance. The one thing which is true for all of us, if we are grateful for what we have and if we give, we will receive in abundant measures.

Now I've been speaking from the perspective of an individual. We can also look at this subject as a congregation. Are we a congregation of abundance or scarcity? We have not had a pledge drive in many years. This makes the responsibilities of the board very difficult. Can you imagine personally trying to decide how much to spend on groceries or a car without knowing what you can expect in the way of income? Nevertheless, the board members for the last several years have done just that. They have made fiscal decisions based on the belief that if the expenditure was in keeping with the goals and mission of the congregation, then the money would be there to cover the cost. I applaud all of those who have sat on the board and struggled with these decisions over the years.

Next week at our congregational meeting the near and distant future home for our church will be discussed. Do we want to rent? If so, how large a space do we need? Do we want to maintain our current level of programming or grow? Do we want to buy? How much will that cost? Will we have the financial resources to do either of these things? I know this is scary for many reasons, including financial ones. But, I challenge the membership to remember the principle of abundance. If we find the right space that will foster our mission and purpose, then the money will be there.

I know some of you think this is an irresponsible way to approach financial decisions. Thank God for you! We need to have people around who will prevent us from making impulsive and completely emotional decisions about financial commitments. We need both the right and left side of the congregation's collective "brain" to be involved.

Let's talk about this.