Purpose: The Workbook is assuming you have made some real progress on your journey to God, with the result that your journey will now be smoother because much of your resistance has subsided. You are to devote today to giving thanks for these gains. You do not realize their full extent. Only by giving thanks for them will you appreciate how great they really are.
Morning/evening practice: Two times, for fifteen minutes.
You spend these fifteen minutes giving thanks to God and receiving His thanks to you. What exactly are the things for which you give thanks? I detect three classes of things. First, God's gifts to you in Heaven: His eternal Love for you; the fact that He created you changeless, so that none of your mistakes can taint your Identity. Second, His gifts to you on earth: that He has not abandoned you but is always with you, speaking His saving Word to you; that he has given you a special function in His plan. Third, the gains you have made as a result of His gifts: the fact that the Holy Spirit is gradually saving you from your ego.
You also spend time receiving God's thanks to you. What exactly is He thanking you for? He is thanking you for hearing His message, applying it, and speaking it to others. He is thanking you for healing others through your demonstration of greater sanity, health and security. He, in other words, is thanking you for your application of His truths, just as you are thanking Him for this same thing. Take time to open your mind to the idea that God is not judging you, but thanking you, wholeheartedly and with total sincerity, and that His thanks to you and yours to Him join as one.
Remarks: God will take your gift of thanks to Him, multiply it hundreds of thousands of times, and return it as His immeasurable thanks to you. This multiplication of your gift will give it vastly increased power to save you and the world. Each second that you give will be returned to you in the form of years of progress, enabling you to take eons off the world's journey to God.
Frequent reminders: Every hour, for an unspecified time.
Repeat the idea and spend some time thanking God for all His gifts to you.
Today's lesson causes me to reflect on all my Father's gifts to me, personally. I think that is what it is intended to do for each of us, sort of a day to count your blessings. So bear with me as I share some of my personal reflections with you, and take it as inspiration to do the same for yourself.
I think I've been on a spiritual journey most of my life, perhaps all of it. I can remember certain incidents as a very young boy that seemed to say my direction was already set, way back then. I wrote a poem once for my babysitter; I think I was in second grade at the time. I can still recall the words:
Thank Thee for the sun and fields,
Thank Thee for the bush and tree,
Thank Thee for the things we eat.
Thank Thee, Lord, Thank Thee.
I remember one Monday after school, when I was about ten, gathering three of my friends around me on a street corner and trying to explain to them why I was so impressed with the Sunday School lesson I'd heard the day before. It was a lesson on Ecclesiastes 11:1, "Cast thy bread upon the waters, for thou shalt find it after many days." I was so struck by the principle involved, that what you give comes back to you, and that our wealth could be measured by how much we give, rather than what we acquire. It is a message that I heard again, very clearly, many years later in the Course.
I had a deep spiritual hunger and desire for God all through childhood, although I veered off in other directions for some time, getting into trouble for youthful pranks, even police trouble, and being horribly embarrassed at being caught shoplifting by a store owner who had offered me a summer job (which of course I did not get). I had experiences of what I would now call a holy instant several times, a sense of the nearness of God, and yet I couldn't seem to find Him most of the time.
At sixteen I had a "born again" experience, and I became, for the next twenty-two years, a fundamentalist Christian, although never firmly aligned with any religious denomination. Something kept me breaking out of all the molds people tried to cast me into. I read the mystics, I read the heretics, as well as the Bible. I didn't want anyone to draw me a map of the New Jerusalem; I wanted to walk its streets for myself. I spent years in a typical Western religious pattern, "fighting against sin" as Jesus calls it in the Course (T-18.VII.4:7). As he says in that sentence, "It is extremely difficult to reach Atonement" that way!
All through those twenty-two years, I hungered for God. All through those twenty-two years, I was miserable most of the time, disgusted with myself. All through those twenty-two years, I wondered if I would ever "make it." Finally, at the end of those years, I gave up. I laid aside my Bible and let it gather dust. I decided that Christianity was, for me, a dead end. I despaired of ever "crossing Jordan" and "entering the promised land." I decided I was just going to have to accept life as it was, and learn to live with it.
About six years went by. I was still seeking something, but no longer seeking anything spiritual. Or so I told myself. My relationship with God was in a holding pattern, and we weren't talking. I read psychology. I did the est training. I read Zen books and tried meditating a bit. I studied Science of Mind. I also enjoyed the world thoroughly, as I'd never allowed myself to do before, including some great sex, and making more money than I'd ever had in my life. I began to realize that the things which spoke to me in the psychology, secular philosophies, and Eastern religious writings that I was studying were all exactly the same things that had really spoken to me in Christianity. There was a "perennial philosophy," as Aldous Huxley called it, that ran through everything, a central core of truths that everyone who ever "made it," regardless of their religious background or lack of one, seemed to agree on. And the more I got clear about it, the more I realized it was all stuff I'd always known somehow. Like "cast your bread upon the waters."
Then, in January 1985, I found A Course in Miracles. Ever since, I've been reading and studying these books, and practicing as best I can what they say. And as I look at my life today, I can see that somewhere along the line my life underwent a major shift. I moved from a gloomy certainty that I would never find real happiness to a steady conviction that I have found it.
So as I read today's lesson, a deep sense of gratitude washed over me. As I read the first paragraph, I felt I could honestly say it applied to me very well:
There is no thought of turning back, and no implacable resistance to the truth. A bit of wavering remains, some small objections and a little hesitance, but you can well be grateful for your gains, which are far greater than you realize. (W-pI.123.1:3-4)
A few days ago (in 1995) a friend of ours, Allan Greene, passed away at 51. He was a quadriplegic who moved to Sedona just over a year ago to take part in the ACIM classes and support groups of the Circle of Atonement. Our support group met in his home, since he was almost completely immobile. He could move nothing but his head and his shoulders, the latter just slightly. Within the last two years, a leg and a hand had to be amputated. He used to say that he was giving up his identification with his body piece by piece. Allan was a long-time student of the Course, one of the very few I know who actually knew the Course's scribe, Helen Schucman. He argued with it for a long time, but had settled in to a steady determination to realize all that it taught. Under adversity far greater than most of us can imagine, Allan maintained an amazing sense of humor and a joyful determination to heal his mind, whatever happened to his body. Miracles happened around him regularly; he took them as a matter of course. Last month, when he was having his gall bladder removed, he took no anesthesia because he had no feeling in his lower body at all, but a nurse held a screen during the operation so he would not have to watch himself being cut open. During the whole operation, Allan was conversing with the nurse about A Course in Miracles!
Last night (May 2, 1995) we had a memorial meeting for Allan. A very large number of people attended, and one after another shared how Allan had touched their lives, including a half dozen or so of the professional caretakers who had administered to him over the last year. It became evident that Allan's life had impacted scores and scores of people. I am sure his gains were, as our lesson tells us, far greater than he realized. I know Allan did not think of himself as particularly advanced. He lamented almost to the end about what a slow learner he was. He often argued with his caretakers, and had one or two walk out on him in a rage. He had his doubts. But from the evidence tonight in people whom he loved and people who loved him, he had advanced much farther than he thought.
I hope that is true of me; I believe it is true of all of us. We cannot know now, although I'm sure we shall at some point, all the positive impacts we have had on those around us with things as little as a smile, a small act of kindness, or a gentle, loving touch at the right moment. Perhaps, as it often was with Allan, nothing more than our laughter, or making someone else laugh. Last Thursday, when Allan was in the hospital, we paused in our ACIM evening class and had a few minutes of silence for him. The next day, the day before he died, one of our students phoned him in the hospital and told him about our minutes of silence. Allan said, "It would have been more appropriate if you'd had a few minutes of telling jokes."
Let me then, today, take time to express my gratitude to God for all His gifts to me. I thank Him for this Course, which has become my certain way home. I thank Him for the relief from all those years of quiet desperation. I thank Him that, when I wandered off, He never deserted me. I am so grateful for His Spirit within me, my Guide and Teacher, and for all the loving friends and companions on the journey He has brought my way (especially, tonight, for Allan). I am so grateful for all of you, and for the opportunity He has given me to share with you all, and to receive from all of you. I thank Him that I am beginning to remember my Self. I thank Him for the steadily increasing assurance that I will find my way all the way home.
I thank my Father for His gifts to me!