How to Be Safe

ACIM Workbook Lesson 244 – for Thursday, September 1, 2011

Affirmation:  “I am in danger nowhere in the world.”

“Your Son is safe wherever he may be, for You are there with him.  He need but call upon Your Name, and he will recollect his safety and Your Love, for they are one.  How can he fear or doubt or fail to know he cannot suffer, be endangered, or experience unhappiness, when he belongs to You, beloved and loving in the safety of Your Fatherly embrace?

“And there we are in truth.  No storms can come into the hallowed haven of our home.  In God we are secure.  For what can come to threaten God Himself, or make afraid what will forever be a part of Him?  (WB415)”

Reflections:

We are a part of God.  And many others have explained a metaphor of God and His universe as a hologram.  We find God within, and we project the world of illusions without, making it clear, from a theoretical point of view, that we are in control of our destiny.  ACIM also makes this point in slightly different context, assuring us that we are in control, in the center of things, and that we cannot blame another for our plight.

The prayer above is an example of a level of understanding A Course in Miracles for which all individuals are not ready.  It takes great learning to realize that our suffering is all illusion, as is our unhappiness.  We seem to live in a very real world, though we are told that most of us inhabit an illusion of a world.  We find the real world when we come closer to union with God (an interpretation, not stated in ACIM).  Until we know salvation more intimately, we must see these words in the prayer as a goal toward which we reach.  We must not fall into dismay if we are not ready.  ACIM says this, in slightly different words.  If we fight the words of ACIM, we are not ready (a Text tenet).  We are told in the Text not to “fight” ourselves.

The embrace of God (in this passage, above) is akin to the embrace of Jesus in A Course of Love, which some view as a sequel to ACIM.  Both are comforting in the extreme.  We are not meant to wallow in our misery, but to ask for help, and to know, ahead of time, that that help will be forthcoming.  We may experience pain, but we do not have to experience suffering.  Learning through pain is temporary, Jesus tells us, and only learning through rewards is lasting.  Let us ask for the way to learn through rewards today.

Prayer:

Dear Father/Mother,

I would be safe today.  I would think of Jesus often, for he gives no indication in the New Testament that he was ever afraid, despite the horrendous end to his earthly life.  Help me to recall Jesus’s example, and to feel and to act on my own safety.

May I reach inwardly to You frequently today.  Doing so allows me to feel Your presence, and is there a better way to spend a day?  Help me to spend today wisely, with calm, serenity, peace, and tranquility.

Amen.

I Will Judge Nothing

ACIM Workbook Lesson 243 – for Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Affirmation:  “Today I will judge nothing that occurs.”

“I will be honest with myself today.  I will not think that I already know what must remain beyond my present grasp.  I will not think I understand the whole from bits of my perception, which are all that I can see.  (WB415)”

Reflections:

If we do not have “present grasp,” then how do we know anything?  We do not know from our perception, for perception is projected from within and is illusory.  We can “know” when we have invited the Holy Spirit to show us the real world.  This real world will arise before our eyes, and it is composed of joy, truth, beauty, happiness, peace, and the like (an interpretation, not stated directly in ACIM).

Perception and knowledge are quite different.  And it is knowledge that we seek.  May we turn to guidance of the Holy Spirit for that knowledge.  And let us not be misled by egoistic thinking that parades as guidance.  We need to test the indications that we receive to be sure that they pass the test of love.  Do nothing that fails this test, for it is not of God (an interpretation, not stated in ACIM).

We are not to be the judge of what may happen.  We are to leave this judgment to the Holy Spirit, Who alone can see the whole picture.  We do not know all from the past, the present, or the future.  And we have been wrong many times, when we thought that we were right.  Would we use such faulty reasoning as our own judgment to make decisions?  No, we would not.  (These are all paraphrases from the Manual.)  Turn all decisions over to the Holy Spirit, and we will walk in peace.

Prayer:

Dear Father/Mother,

May I judge nothing today.  May I recognize that there is One who knows all the circumstances–past, present, and future–and it is only He Who therefore can judge wisely.  This is Your Communicator, the Holy Spirit.  May I not fall into judgment, for to do so is surely to invite the ego into my doings.

Be with me today as I seek to lead a good life amid individuals I love, some of whom have reason not to forgive me for the mistakes that I have made.  May I be patient, knowing that You will right my errors, and also bring my loved ones into an acceptance of me as a person who tries, but sometimes fails.

Amen.

I Am Not Alone

ACIM Workbook Lesson 242 – for Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Affirmation:  “This day is God’s.  It is my gift to Him.”

“I will not lead my life alone today.  I do not understand the world, and so to try to lead my life alone must be but foolishness.  But there is One Who knows all that is best for me.  And He is glad to make no choices for me but the ones that lead to God.

“And so we give today to You.  We come with wholly open minds.  We do not ask for anything that we may think we want.  Give us what You would have received by us.  You know all our desires and our wants.  And You will give us everything we need in helping us to find the way to You.  (WB414)”

Reflections:

The point for all of us is to return to God, knowing that we are One with Him.  As A Course in Miracles makes clear, we did not in actuality separate from God at all; this was part of the illusion in which we live.  But of course we live that illusion, and so, until we have awakened, we think that we are separate.  And we suffer from feeling apart from God.  It is unnatural, as ACIM makes clear, not to communicate with our Creator.  He knows that our channels to Him are closed, and He would awaken those who sleep.  (These are paraphrases from ACIM.)  We would awaken also, if we knew that it were possible.  And it is possible.  We do not know the time nor place, because God Himself reaches down (metaphorically) and lifts us up to Himself.  He makes that decision of timing; we do not.  All of the thrashing about that we might do to bring the time of Awakening in for naught.  The best that we can do is to learn the means, and ACIM gives us those means.  We learn in ACIM that moments of revelation may reveal the end to us, but to get there the means are needed.  And Jesus is carefully explaining the means.

If we would be home in God, we need to commune with Him–and “communing” means prayer.  This is explained in the 50 opening principles of miracles in the Text.  We are communicating with God when we are communing or praying.  Then He knows that we are with Him.  We can imagine that this makes the God within very happy.  Certainly we can know from experience that this communicating with God makes us very happy.  And we are meant to be joyous.  We are not meant to carry solemn faces.  Before we awaken, in order that the Awakening be gentle, we are given the “happy dreams the Holy Spirit brings” (a quotation from the Workbook).  May we come to understand that happiness is not an inferior goal for all of us.  “Saving the world” will not be done by solemnity, though reverence is a  laudable trait.  We must first know salvation ourselves before we will be in a position to heal others.  Otherwise, we are unhealed healers attempting the impossible (a Manual implication).

Prayer:

Dear Father/Mother,

I thank You that since I became a believer, I have realized that I am not alone in all the universe.  This was a very long time ago, now, but there is still much that I am learning.  I am not through with learning yet, as You are not through with creating me as You would have me be.

I still make many mistakes, and I know that as soon as I can forgive myself, and the others in my life forgive, then all is well.  Help me to reduce the number of mistakes that I make.  May I find today a glorious day, spent in Your presence.

Amen.

Holy Instant = Salvation Comes

ACIM Workbook Lesson 241 – for Monday, August 29, 2011

Affirmation:  “This holy instant is salvation come.”

“The day has come when sorrows pass away and pain is gone.  The glory of salvation dawns today upon a world set free.  This is the time of hope for countless millions.  They will be united now, as you forgive them all.  For I will be forgiven by you today.

“We have forgiven one another now, and so we come at last to You again.  Father, Your Son, who never left, returns to Heaven and his home.  How glad are we to have our sanity restored to us, and to remember that we all are one.  (WB414)”

Reflections:

When we forgive others, including Jesus for what he and they have not done, then we are freed.  Jesus is particularly keen on the idea that we forgive him for what he has not done, for we often hold negative feelings toward him.  We may not even be aware of the extent to which we are ambivalent toward our savior.  We may not realize that this is our own downfall, and that it will delay our homecoming by much time.

When we forgive, our thoughts affect “millions.”  The passage says this, but we do not really believe it.  We do not believe that our minds are that powerful, because we are really afraid of that power (an ACIM tenet).  But the psychic nature of our world is true.  Salvation, Jesus says in the Manual, would be impossible if only the channels that the world recognizes were true.  When we become more psychic, we are merely becoming more natural.  There are no unnatural powers.  And knowing this is not a cause for a greater egotism.  (All of these sentences are paraphrases from the Manual.)

We are united with our brothers and sisters when we have forgiven them.  Let us forgive today, that we may know the joy that Jesus holds out to us in this day’s lesson.

Prayer:

Dear Father/Mother,

I would choose holy instants today.  I would choose salvation in its most pristine form.  Be with me as I seek You grace today.  Do not lead me into a dark night.  I would ask for the felt presence of Your Being.

Thank You for the holy instants that I have known over my lifetime.  Some came before I studied A Course in Miracles.  I did not know what lay ahead, and I am particularly thankful today for those early holy instants.  

I would invite holy instants today.  Be with me so that I am not tempted to turn this holy experience into something ego-driven.

Amen.

Fear Is Deception

ACIM Workbook Lesson 240 – for Sunday, August 28, 2011

Affirmation:  “Fear is not justified in any form.”

“Fear is deception.  It attests that you have seen yourself as you could never be, and therefore look upon a world which is impossible.  Not one thing in this world is true.  It does not matter what the form in which it may appear.  It witnesses but to your own illusions of yourself.  Let us not be deceived today.  We are the Sons of God.  There is no fear in us, for we are each a part of Love Itself.

“How foolish are our fears!  Would You allow Your Son to suffer?  Give us faith today to recognize Your Son, and set him free.  Let us forgive him in Your Name, that we may understand his holiness, and feel the love for him which is Your Own as well.  (WB412)”

Reflections:

So many of us are caught in fear.  It is the normal condition of mankind prior to seeing the light of salvation.  And fear may return even after experiences of being “saved,” though perhaps not of being Awakened.  Eckhart Tolle (The Power of Now and A New Earth) declares that no thought has brought him pain since his Awakening (from a compact disk entitled, “Even the Sun Will Die”).

If this be true, perhaps all of us would wish for Awakening in great haste.  But the time of Awakening, ACIM says, is God’s Own choice.  Metaphorically, He will reach down and lift us up when we are ready.  We are prepare for this revelation by understanding the means of getting to this culmination (a Text tenet).  The means are carefully explained by Jesus in A Course in Miracles.  In the meantime, we may have instances of revelation that do not last.  But perhaps they are meant to point the way to what awaits us at the end of our journey (the “journey without distance”–a quotation from the Text).

We are Sons of God, so-called not because Jesus or God is sexist, but because the language of the sixties, when ACIM was channeled, included the feminine within the masculine.  Now we can readily say “Sons and Daughters” of God, and this will be more accepted by our culture.  When “Son” is capitalized, it means the Self that belongs to God in innocence.  It is not the little self that has been consumed by the ego.  We would leave the ego behind as we open to the God within.

Prayer:

Dear Father/Mother,

I would experience no fear today.  May I realize that the stress of daily living is actually a form of fear that what we find facing ourselves, or what we have just been through, is fearful in its essence.  We are afraid of being hurt by some circumstance, but it is usually a circumstance that we cannot control in its entirety.  May I turn over the day to the Holy Spirit, and may my daily stress be lessened by the guidance that He gives me.

Be with me today as I pray for a relinquishment of the fear that I once knew.  I am thankful that stress in my life is currently reduced, and I pray that this circumstance will continue.  May I do nothing to increase the stress that I must face.  And since I know that projection makes perception, I have it in my power to see that the circumstances that I face do not make me fearful.  I have this power, but I do not always use it, because I am fallible.  Guide me, therefore, as I walk the pathways of this earth.

Amen.

False Humility

ACIM Workbook Lesson 239 – for Saturday, August 27, 2011

Affirmation:  “The glory of my Father is my own.”

“Let not the truth about ourselves today be hidden by false humility.  Let us instead be thankful for the gifts our Father gave us.  Can we see in those with whom He shares His glory any trace of sin and guilt?  And can it be that we are not among them, when He loves His Son forever and with perfect constancy, knowing he is as He created him?

“We thank You, Father, for the light that shines forever in us.  And we honor it, because You share it with us.  We are one, united in this light and one with You, at peace with all creation and ourselves.  (WB412)”

Reflections:

The ego would have us believe that all sense of justification by God is prideful; ACIM calls it “arrogance.”  But we are not being arrogant when we proclaim God’s choice of us to lead others to salvation (with ourselves coming to salvation first, or else we are “unhealed healers”–a quotation from ACIM).  We do not have to feel the false humility that this lesson warns against.  We can be genuinely strong in our understanding that we are beloved of God, and that He will keep us from the pride that is ego-driven.

We have made mistakes, which can be corrected, but we have not “sinned.”  We are at base purely innocent beings, doing the best that we know how at any given moment.  Of course, we slip, but we can correct our course as soon as we become aware of it.  Then we can forgive ourselves for the slip.  God does not forgive, because He has never condemned (an ACIM tenet).  We need our forgiveness, because only then can we feel justified by God.  This is part of the dream that we find ourselves caught in.  Forgiveness is unnecessary in Heaven, and we can know a Heaven on earth, given time to assimilate God’s Word to ourselves.

We would be at peace on any given day by forgiving ourselves of all the perceived mistakes that we have made.  There is no attraction to a mistake, as there is to sin (an ACIM tenet).  Mistakes do not call for continuation, as do sins.  We simply move to make correction, and we are freed thereby.

Prayer:

Dear Father/Mother,

I have made mistakes today.  Indeed, I make mistakes constantly when I dip into egoic thinking and fail to remain attuned to the Holy Spirit and His guidance.  May I forgive myself for the mistakes that happen, that seem to happen almost against my will.  I get angry and attack when I am stressed.  Help me to see the value in remaining calm and quiet, and with such serenity I am not tempted to feel anger nor to attack.

Be with me in the upcoming day as I try again.  I know that when a day goes badly, I can always start again, have a new beginning to that day.  I would have a new beginning today.  I would be comforted by the fact that You love me, and that You have provided the Holy Spirit to guide me, even as I misperceive.  Help me to have cleansed projections today, so that I perceive aright.  And then may these cleansed perceptions lead into knowledge of You.

Amen.

Salvation Rests on Us

ACIM Workbook Lesson 238 – for Friday, August 26, 2011

Affirmation:  “On my decision all salvation rests.”

“Father, Your trust in me has been so great, I must be worthy.  You created me, and know me as I am.  And yet You placed Your Son’s salvation in my hands, and let it rest on my decision.  I must be beloved of You indeed.  And I must be steadfast in holiness as well, that You would give Your Son to me in certainty that he is safe Who still is part of You, and yet is mine, because He is my Self.  (WB411)”

Reflections:

We are One.  Our brothers and sisters are our Self.  This is an idea that Conversations with God, by Neale Donald Walsch, also develops.  There is no place that we leave off and our brothers and sisters begin.  Yes, we are all One.

We do not have to understand this concept fully to accept and to live it.  This concept gives the best assurance that we will be there for others when they need us, because we will understand, on a practical level, that we are showing up for ourselves as well.  Likewise, they will be there for us, once they too realize that we are One.  What a glorious way this is to run a universe!

We are needed by God to bring others to Him.  This has long been a tenet of religions worldwide.  Certainly the Bible makes this clear as well, especially the New Testament.  In many ways we can see that ACIM is the next step for Jesus beyond the instructions he gave while he walked this earth.  His disciples were bade to take his message into all the world.  And churches have been doing this in all the years since.

It is extremely comforting to know that we are beloved of God.  Often we forget this, because we tend to see God in our own image, and we often do not love ourselves.  But we must realize that we can love others only to the extent that we, non-egotistically, love ourselves.  The love that we feel for others first originates in our own hearts, and if it is not there in our hearts, it will not be there for others.  (These last few sentences are not ACIM interpretations, but are my own thoughts.)

Prayer:

Dear Father/Mother,

Help me to fully comprehend and live the truth that my brothers and sisters are one with me.  May I be there for them, and I ask today that they be there for me.  We need each other in this very troubled world.

Help us to be doers of salvation.  For this, for us, we need to read A Course in Miracles with real attention.  Help me to give my full attention today to my meditations and prayers surrounding my devotional time with ACIM.

Amen.

End the Bitter Dream of Death

ACIM Workbook Lesson 237 – for Thursday, August 25, 2011

Affirmation:  “Now would I be as God created me.”

“I bring the world the tidings of salvation which I hear as God my Father speaks to me.  And I behold the world that Christ would have me see, aware it ends the bitter dream of death; aware it is my Father’s call to me.

“Christ is my eyes today, and He the ears that listen to the Voice for God today.  Father, I come to You through Him Who is Your Son, and my true Self as well.  Amen.  (WB411)”

Reflections:

The dream of death is indeed bitter.  I remember a short story read in my high school, in which the refrain of a man who was to be put to death was, “Cowards die many deaths.  The brave never taste of death but once.”  Before we read A Course in Miracles, we may indeed fear death.  We may not truly believe what we have been taught in church, or we may believe that hell is a real possibility that we must fear.  Have we been saved from hell?

A Course in Miracles indicates that guilt is hell (a Text tenet).  And who among us is free of guilt, unless we have awakened?  We need not fear the hell that previous generations tried to avoid going to after death.  ACIM would not have just clutter our minds with this ego-inspired dark dream.

Ruth Montgomery’s Guides (from automatic writing) say that death is like walking through an open door.  And we can avoid suffering (though not always avoid pain) by rising above the ego’s idea that we deserve what we get before death, in illness.  These dark thoughts do not need to destroy the happiness of our days.  We will be cared for by God.  We will walk salvation’s pathway into the joy that is our birthright.

Salvation can be thought of as a “game that happy children play” (a quotation from ACIM).  We do not have to take life nor ourselves so seriously.  Perhaps we make a mistake we do not lighten up in the midst of our trials.  Trials, says the Text, are a time to revisit past choices, and, this time, to choose a new and better way.  Previously we had made a faulty decision, but we do not have to make that same mistake again.  We can choose again.  Always we can choose again.  Even if a given day starts badly, we can choose to begin anew at any point.  Such is the power of the Holy Spirit to redirect our course.

Prayer:

Dear Father/Mother,

Thank You for ending my fear of death.  I do not wish for death, but I am ready, so far as I know, if it comes.  I would not hurry death, for there may still be work for me to do on earth.  And happiness in that work.  Salvation, Jesus says, is play.

May I come to look upon anything that I do for my brothers and sisters as “play.”  May I lighten up, beginning today.  I do not wish to take this world too seriously.  God is above the fray, and He will lead me there, in my mind and spirit, if I listen to His Guide, the Holy Spirit.

Amen.

Guidance of the Holy Spirit

ACIM Workbook Lesson 236 – for Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Affirmation:  “I rule my mind, which I alone must rule.”

“My mind can only serve.  Today I give its service to the Holy Spirit to employ as He sees fit.  I thus direct my mind, which I alone can rule.

“Father, my mind is open to Your Thoughts, and closed today to every thought but Yours.  I rule my mind, and offer it to You.  Accept my gift, for it is Yours to me.  (WB410)”

Reflections:

These two short passages from the lesson for today capsule one of the most important goals of taking A Course in Miracles unto ourselves.  We must follow the guidance of the Holy Spirit, or we are lost on our pathway.  He will guide us very precisely, and we will be told all that we need to know (a Text tenet).

Following the Holy Spirit does take flexibility, though.  We must be willing to turn on a dime, to change directions as soon as our intuition (or other ways that guidance reaches us) tells us.  There can be some confusion, even after years of praying for guidance on following the Holy Spirit.  We can think that we “hear” a given directive, only to find some minutes or hours later that the direction pointed out to us has seemed to change.  In my own thinking, this means that our own emotion has intruded.  We are too invested in a given decision, and we may not even like the direction that the Holy Spirit has pointed out to us.  So we imagine a different direction, and then we get confused.  At base this is ego.

On the other hand, circumstances may have changed.  And we as well as others do have free will.  So there are no hard and fast rules.  Emotion may have interfered with the directive that we first “heard” as guidance, or we must follow new directions, new guidance, because we are living in a changing world.  We would do well to turn our hearts to silence when genuinely confused by the guidance that we think we have received.  The Holy Spirit will find a way to get through to us.  We will not remain confused.  But we must be genuinely trusting and genuinely non-directive ourselves.

We may also have decided first what we want to say or do, and then be unable to “hear” correctly (a Text tenet).  We need to prepare ourselves not to decide first, because, as the Manual points out, our judgment is so faulty.  We do not know all that impinges upon a given direction that we want to take.  And in the past we have been wrong many times (also stated in the Manual).  Who among us would choose our own decision-making process when we might have the greater judgment of the Holy Spirit?  There is no contest.  We choose for the Holy Spirit.

To capitulate:  If the direction seems to change, I normally assume that emotion has intruded, and I go with the first indication–the one that seems in line with the immediate Answer given by the Holy Spirit.  If I do not go with the first indication, I am believing that circumstances have changed, that a new probability has intruded, and that I really do need to change directions (an interpretation, not stated in ACIM).  This understanding is not yet fully accomplished.  God is not finished with me yet, as many have said about themselves.

Prayer:

Dear Father/Mother,

May today’s guidance be clear and pristine.  May I not be tempted to insert my own wishes, when Yours are what I wish to know and to follow.

If my understanding of Your guidance changes, may I become silent and listen in the depths of my heart.  I would not be confused today.  I would follow only You.

Amen.

Happy – Saved – Safe

ACIM Workbook Lesson 235 – for Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Affirmation:  “God in His mercy wills that I be saved.”

“I need but keep in mind my Father’s Will for me is only happiness, to find that only happiness has come to me.  And I need but remember that God’s Love surrounds His son and keeps his sinlessness forever perfect, to be sure that I am saved and safe forever in His Arms.

“Father, Your holiness is mine.  Your Love created me, and made my sinlessness forever part of You.  I have no guilt nor sin in me, for there is none in You.  (WB410)”

Reflections:

We don’t have feel ourselves as “holy,” but here Jesus is declaring, in a prayer to God, that we do have holiness–indeed, the holiness of God.  This does not mean that we are equals to God, of course.  But we are meant to be co-creators with God one day, once the separation has been healed.  (This is a tenet of New Age thinking, of which ACIM and A Course of Love are two examples.)

The Love of God that created us means that we will never be satisfied until we are as fully capable of returning that Love as receiving it.  Actually, giving and receiving are one (a tenet of ACIM), and until we give as we receive, we will not know completeness.  Knowing that God is Love is built on statements made in the Bible, and so there is continuity here between biblical tenets and ACIM.  But we do not fully comprehend what it means to say that God is Love.  We are deficient this way, because we have not walked the whole pathway back to Love.  So this Love remains a mystery that we seek to feel emotionally and spiritually, but which the mind cannot grasp in its entirety.

We are not sinful, but we do make mistakes (an ACIM tenet).  We can ask that those mistakes be corrected, and we will receive guidance about what we need to do to correct our mistakes.  We can make amends whenever possible.  We can ask forgiveness, of ourselves, our brothers and sisters, and God.  The Holy Spirit will guide us in this process of undoing mistakes.  The solution is found with the problem (an ACIM tenet).

Let us try today to walk the pathway to God with high spirits and filled with joy.  We are asked in the Text to feel “limited release” and “pure joy,” and these are states of mind and spirit that will give us the best possible day.

Prayer:

Dear Father/Mother,

I would know limited release and pure joy today.  I would be easy with myself and others, not struggling to make my way in this world.  Struggle, for me, often means the ego is reigning, and I would not have this so.  Be with me as I gently let the ego wither away.

I would be happy today, save and secure in Your love.  Your blessings keep me on the right pathway when I am careful to turn to Your Guide on a consistent basis.  Keep me flexible today, to follow the guidance of the Holy Spirit without exception.

Amen.

A LIBRARIAN VIEWS A COURSE IN MIRACLES

by Celia Hales

Previously published under another title in The Reference Librarian, 2003.  Copyright permission granted for web reposting from the following web site:

http://www.informaworld.com/smpp/title~content=g903962956~db=all

NoteI prepared to write this library-oriented article by first taking notes form the early work of both Hugh Prather and Jerry Jampolsky, work that was based on ACIM.  Their books provided, at the time, a remarkable summary from which I could steep myself in Course-related ideas that applied to my daily work life as a reference librarian.

SUMMARY:  The reflections penned in this article began as a single paragraph contributed several years ago to Charles Anderson’s “The Exchange,” a column in RQ (now Reference & User Services Quarterly) (Anderson, 1995).  I elaborated upon the concept through further reflection and augmented the ideas through a literature review.  These ideas are meant to spark interest among library school students, new reference librarians, and veteran reference librarians who perhaps need new reason to show up with a positive attitude at that next reference shift.  The thesis is that this moment in time within a given reference interview occurs only once, regardless of how many times a librarian has heard the question.  We as librarians must always be alert to respond appropriately to the distinct contributions that the given library user brings to that question.  In the process, we are equals in that the librarian knows more of the research technique to uncover the appropriate sources, but the library user knows more of what his specific slant on the topic will be.  We would be wise to stay diligent, to listen well, and to take nothing for granted.  The reference interview then becomes a lively, energetic, and stimulating discussion meant to lead to library research at its best.

KEYWORDS:  Reference service, reference interview, reference desk

INTRODUCTION

Arguably the most important part of reference service, if the librarian is past the initial phase of gaining her skill, is the reference interview–the way that librarian and user interact to bring about a successful experience for both.  Several years ago Thomas P. Slavens (1994) wrote a definitive monograph that is still useful and ought to be consulted by anyone interested in this topic.  In addition to Slavens’s monograph, there are a number of aspects to this relationship that have received attention in the literature over the years.  The following more fully explores these aspects.  User and librarian are essentially a partnership, and nothing good will ultimately come of something that is perceived in any way but equality between these two  individuals, meeting in time in one moment.

There is a great abundance of scholarly analysis of the reference interview available:  In the last ten years, these authors include (in addition to Slavens, described above) Marilyn Domas White (1998); Sara F. Fine (1995); Carol Kuhlthau (1994); Catherine Sheldrick Ross and Patricia Dewdney (1994); Karen Williams, Janet Sue Fore, and John Budd (1993).  (Other seminal articles are included in the bibliography.)  For the most part, the philosophical underpinnings of the reference interview are not covered explicitly, and only a careful reading suggests the underlying philosopphy.  In this article, I would like to make explicit that which has gone unstated, perhaps because we fear that our understanding of human nature will in some way undermine our rationality and our objectivity.  It is my belief that our personal philosophies (whether purely secular, scientific, religious-attuned, or eclectic) are the prime framework within which we operate, and until these concepts are examined, we will not be fully aware of why we do what we do at the reference desk.  I will also argue that a model of partnership is the very best philosophy upon which to base a reference service, and to this end will draw upon the model of cooperative learning in public education that is popular in the United States.

COOPERATIVE LEARNING AND THE REFERENCE DESK

Cooperative learning is a method used increasingly in classrooms across the United States, from kindergarten to graduate school.  Its chief proponents, Roger and David Johnson, have conducted extensive research across the country to prove that cooperative learning meets the needs of students better than the traditional lecture (1998, 1994, 1991, 1989).  (For an extensive discussion of cooperative learning as one of the “greatest success stories in the history of educational research,” see Slavin, et.al., 2003.)  In cooperative learning, students meet as groups to discuss the lesson, and in so doing can often learn as much from each other as from the teacher per se.  Yet it is the teacher who guides the learning at every point.

The cooperative learning model applies well as the reference desk.  The librarian currently knows more about the library, but the user knows more about his research need.  As Hicks has pointed out, we work together in a “mediated” setting (1992).  working cooperatively, we will be much more likely to handle the reference interview in a manner consistent with good reference practice as well as genuine encounter on a personal level.  We need to examine three areas primarily:  (1) the expectations that each brings to the encounter and, particularly, how the initial interaction determines the outcome of the interview; (2) the fact that both librarian and user are actually equals in the process; and (3) the important point that we are engaging in a single moment in time that will not recur, a moment of which we are advised to consider not lightly.  Many of these concepts relate to the emotional tone of the interview, and it is largely up to the reference librarian to take the initiative in adopting the right modus operandi  in the exchange.  The reference librarian is the information intermediary, the one who really makes the difference in what will result (White, 1992).

WHAT ARE LIBRARIAN/USER EXPECTATIONS?

The librarian and the user have brought to their encounter a set of assumptions that will determine the fate of their discussion.  It is clear that there are steps that we can take at the outset to be sure that the encounter will work for the best of everybody involved–librarian, user, and even reference colleagues and other library users who observe the encounter.  It is sometimes said that one makes an impression in the first 15 seconds of interaction; if true, it is no less true in the reference interview.

It is sometimes thought that dress, manner, and the first words that one speaks are the most important indicators of the impression that one makes.  But there are many other aspects.  S. D. Neill (1985) relates a complex model of user/librarian characteristics that influence the reference interview.  Among these, for the inquirer as well as the librarian, are the following:  character, personality, values, age, education, cognitive abilities, communication abilities and style, appearance, perception of and assumptions about libraries and librarians, etc.  We will focus on appearance first.

If in an academic or school library, the librarian is likely to be less casually dressed than the user; this is frequently true for public libraries as well, but generally not true for special libraries.  In that opening instant the user decides whether or not someone dressed so differently (i.e., professionally) can be on the same wave length as herself.  The dress may suggest authority that will need to be de-emphasized by manner and words if the encounter is going to be empathetic.

The “manner” of the reference librarian–that she is open and approachable–is probably the most important aspect of those crucial 15 seconds.  This involves body language, an open posture and an inquiring face and friendly smile.  We will duscuss in detail below the assertion that the librarian and user are actually equals in their exchange; yet equality of librarian and user is the most important aspect of the interaction to be made clear at the outset.  Let the user know that you respect her question and that you are giving it your full consideration.  Listen for the tone of the words that the user uses; if she is hesitant or timid, you must do what you can to put her at ease.  You too must be at ease, to allow an answer to arise from the subconscious mind, where all that education and experience for reference work resides.

As the above illustrates, it is primarily up to the reference librarian to influence the course of the interview.  As White (1981) says, the dimensions of the reference interview are “influenced by decision made during the interview, usually by the librarian.”  The user will determine if he has found a sympathetic listener in you.  Nearly every user wonders internally if he dares to express ignorance (which in class might get a lower grade).  Is this librarian a friend to me in my information need?  Virtually none of this internal conversation is at the conscious level, but it affects the entire exchange.

The first words are crucial, in that the right type of open question will ensure that the librarian correctly elicits from the user her “real” question.  Going fairly slowly at this point is recommended, because to forge ahead is almost to ensure that the wrong question has first been aske and answered, while the “real” question goes unrecognized.

As one moves past the opening 15 seconds, it is important to listen carefully, but not so carefully as to make the user uncomfortable.  Also, it is quite possible that too much intensity will break your stride.  One works more easily if one is relaxed enough to listen to all of the mind, subconscious as well as conscious.  You will probably begin thinking of your strategy very quickly as the question unfolds.  But this is not the time to jump to conclusions, because the research supports the fact that a careful interview is vital to a successful reference encounter.

Many years ago, Braun (1977) published an impressive short piece that illustated the role of  Transactional Analysis in the reference interview.  this focuses on the librarian, the user, and the various ways in which the “Parent,” “Adult,” and “Child” interact to bring about a successful or unsuccessful conclusion.  We will emphasize mostly staying in the “Adult” frame of reference, keeping the content on a rational plane.  To this end, hear out the user; ask questions; move fairly slowly so that he has time to think of the right response.  If you are too quick in these moments, or try to put closure on the question too early, you may find an answer, but the interview may have failed because it is not the answer that is needed.  And the user may never tell you!  That is how intimidating libraries and librarians can be to the typical user.

As you begin to frame an answer, let intuition rise to the surface.  We all have it, even if it has been let to lie dormant in our all-too-rational world, and it can be a vital link to those storehouses of reference knowledge that have come from library school and some years of reference experience (Neill, 1985).  It is likely that you will respond to intuition when needing to know how much information to impart, and how fast to impart it, rather than what the specific information might be.  Look into the user’s eyes; the familiar “glaze-over” is, of course, certain evidence that you are losing her.  Sometimes this intuitional response will indicate giving less information that you might think best; but it is also very possible at this point that you are giving all that the user can absorb.  Each person will receive the maximum that she can at a given moment.

Your intuition can not only give you clues about the user’s rate of absorption, but it will also give you hints when you are simply giving the wrong information–without realizing why consciously (Burton, 1990).  Remember that we do in reference work have that research finding of approximately 50 percent inaccuracy (Benham, 1987).  We can improve our average by being more attentive to the moment, conducting a thorough reference interview.

It is suggestive to realize that this encounter is not necessarily a coincidence.  Why did the person select you rather than other colleagues at the desk?  While it may often be that you are the available person, there are also many times when the user has a choice of whom to ask.  There is something about your manner or your appearance that is attracting to this particular person.

One should note how often a question seems to be tailor-made for the knowledge that you yourself personally has.  How many times has your best short-answer librarian picked up the phone and gotten the question that she is most equipped to handle?  How many times have you felt an empathy for the reference question that you are asked–the reference question that picks up on your own interests and is startlingly apt for you?  When one develops an easy flow in reference work, one will be aware that these types of “highs” occur daily.  It is far better not to look on your reference encounters as purely “chance,” but to tentatively hold the hypothesis that there is meaning to be derived for both of you from this encounter.

GETTING HELP

In the best reference settings, it is not a demerit to ask for help if one does not know where to find the answer.  Cooperative reference service is the best way to go (Orgren, 1994).  If this acknowledgement seems to be a demerit in your setting, then perhaps change is required.  If we do not work cooperatively, asking for assistance as needed, the patron gets poor service.  if we are too afraid to ask for help, perhaps because asking appears to be too threatening, then the climate of opinion in a given reference service is fearful.  There are many causes for this attitude, but peer evaluations are one major cause.  Certainly this method of evaluation is widely used in libraries, but if it sets up individuals as competitors in the reference process, it has gone too far.

When reference staff cooperate, the reference service is strong.  Eventually we will have a truly expert group of individuals, ready to handle diverse questions.  In trying to gain the courage to express ignorance about various questions and to get help from colleagues, remember that reference is set up to be a very humbling experience.  We have our entire minds on the line every time that we say, “May I help you?”  That takes a special kind of courage, and support from one’s colleagues goes a long way toward making the pressure bearable.

The best reference librarians are keenly aware of how much they do not know, and usually they are quick to acknowledge their weaknesses (perhaps in part because of their confidence that in many areas they are strong).  The reference librarian who covers for a lack of knowledge by never referring a question is frequently new to reference.  Yet we must help such colleagues to feel welcome in our reference setting, and this includes acculturating them to the advantage of saying, “I don’t know, but I will find out.”  This, after all, is the best automatic response when faced with a question that one cannot answer, and one of the best ways to learn.  Such a response also does not ill-serve the reference user (Pauli, 1992).

If we take the time to think about our reference interview, it becomes obvious that we are in a teacher-learner relationship.  It is not obvious, however, that we both learn from each other, and it is not obvious that what we “teach” (i.e., what we answer in the reference interview) is what we reinforce in our own minds.  We are both learning from each other in every encounter, and the content of the learning is nonverbal as well as verbal.  We as reference librarians also learn even better than the listener, because we are learning from our own words by reinforcement.  This phenomenon is an aspect of cooperative learning that is just now being explored in education at all levels, and it is a powerful argument that the better students do not lose in a setting of cooperative learning (Johnson, 1989 and 1991).

Moreover, we are not teaching solely the content of our answers, the words that we use and their meaning; we are making an impact by the nonverbal aspects of the exchange.  These nonverbal aspects frequently have a stronger impact than the reference answer itself; they correspond to the manner and style that we demonstrate.  If we do not convey patience and kindness, but seem hurried or impatient, we will be “teaching” that the question (and, by extension, the user) is not very important in our eyes.  what librarian wants to let such an attitude spill over to the students in an academic library, or the citizens in a public library?  None!  We are expressing opinions about another in virtually every nuance of our public stance; it behooves us to be as benign as possible.  The content of the reference question/answer may only be the vehicle for teaching greater truths about living–truths such as patience and tolerance.  We rarely think about such intangibles in our mundane daily activities, but would we not be better off if we did think about such issues a little more?

It is sometimes true that we look at our users with fear, and that we impugn  negative traits in them that they do not have (or if they do, that should be overlooked).  This fearful stance is caused by our sense of being threatened; it is informed, to a great extent, by project of our own inadequacies and insecurities.  In an academic setting, for example, the approach of a faculty member who has previously been demanding in regard to her reference assistance will cause a tightening of emotions and an immediate bracing for the worst (Baker, 1995).  If, instead of seeing this person as a demanding and hostile user, we instead see someone who is fearful pof failing to get tenure, our attitudes will change.  We will smile in warmth, trying to assist him indeed to “make the grace” with his peers.

It is also never helpful to attempt to correct another person who is being difficult.  We do not usually do this in an obvious way, but we may subtly express our disapproval of a public library user who seems to have some hidden question that she does not want to share.  We think, “How can I help if she won’t tell me what she wants to know?”  We may then turn testy, and this type of behavior is some of the worst that can be observed at the reference desks across the land.  (It also, not incidentally, has the tendency to spread among colleagues, so that one testy librarian breeds another, and eventually the service itself has taken a downward turn.)  We can abrasively ask leading questions, and  then “turn off” ourselves if the user doesn’t “open up” to our satisfaction.  This type of behavior is quite counterproductive.  Just let the person “be,” keeping a tolerant air always, seeking to answer as much of his question as th elibrary user is willing to share.  If the user recognizes that he has a friend in you, it is almost certain that more will be shared, making it possible, actually, to answer the “real” question.  Even though you may appear to be only helping the user in such a situation, you will actually be yourself as well.  Any teacher-learner situation works in both directions, as we have suggested.  What will you be teaching yourself?  Certainly, two aspects that troublesome interviews bring out in the librarian are patience and forbearance–traits that good reference librarians always have in surplus (Gothberg, 1987).

As the interview gets underway, and you are sorting through ways to answer the question as well as seeking to be empathetic, always seek to find peace in the moment.  One never does her best when under pressure that is frequently tinged with fear or anger.  When relaxed and at peace, though, the encounter is beneficial to your user as well as yourself.

WE ARE ALL EQUALS

We need to emphasize that librarian and user are actually equals in the interview process.  Although the librarian knows more about the library, the user is the expert in what she needs to know about the subject.  This “expert” status even includes the bewildered student, who can be helped to understand her information needs by careful questioning.  She may not come to the reference desk with a caarefully-worded statement of need, but the student still has attended the class and knows more about the instructor’s assignment than does the librarian.  The degree of information that we have varies; yet iinformation does not set us apart as adversaries, nor does it suggest special favor  And the student is always particularly reluctant to express ignorance, which in the classroom might mean a poorer grade from her “class participation.”  As Cummins says, “They [the students] must go to a relative stranger who knows things that they do not know.  They must admit ignorance and ask for help”  (Cummins, 1984).

Even though we have the M.L.S. and one or more other college degrees, and we have (likely) years of experience as a reference librarian, it is well to note that an egalitarian attitude works best at the reference desk.  The user is not “less” than you because at this particular moment, you are in the position to be of help because of (presumably) greater knowledge.  To invite the reverse attitude is to suggest an authoritarianism and an arrogant air that will undermine any empathetic attitude that might develop o therwise.  At this moment, you temporarily have more, perhaps, to give than to take; but you are not superior to him.  The two of you are in this together!

Moreover, you are certainly NOT the expert in what the user needs.  If you even attempt to second-guess her, you will be in for rather rude awakenings.  The user wants the information that she has requested; this is important.  Even if you don’t think that it is the “right” information; or if you think that she is taking a wrong tack, these judgments should not be the immediate part of your assistance.  Sometimes you can offer a given reference book that has been asked for, and then turn the conversation to “But do you need something more specialized, or more advanced, than magazines?”  You do the user a service when you acknowledge her question with a response, and then, if necessary, steer the dialogue to something that might assist more.  Note the word “might”; and remember that it is up to the user to make this assessment.

Remember that in this exchange the user is “teaching” you as well.  He is telling you more about particular needs, and you are learning how best to help.  He is also influencing your day by the emotional tone that is being developed between the two of you.  Mutually you have come together with this other person to make a change, move toward improvement of some kind, and all the while simply to enjoy each other’s companionship.  Anything less than this optimism will not have formed a good exchange

As mentioned, it is truly that the “two of us are in this together”  In the model of cooperative learning, teacher and student come together to learn; the teacher looks to the student’s contribution as good in and of itself.  The teacher is not trying to get the student to regurgitate the comments given by her as the superior in the relationship.  It is not necessarily a matter of the librarian “fixing” the problem of the student–much as one might take a car to a mechanic or your body to a physician.  You are there as a consultant, surely, but the contribution of the user is very, very important and will lead to the optimal outcome for the encounter (Lucas, 1993).  All too often a user is likely to try to “hand over” the problem (the reference question) to the librarian and, in effect, ask her to “fix it” (provide the detailed answer to the need) without making substantial contribution at all.  This is particularly true in the academic setting, wh en the student may not even havae read her assignment very carefully, and comes with assignment in hand, so that the librarian can read it and give a “diagnosis.”  In the best world of reference, this simply would not happen.  But since it does happen, and with some regularity, we must be ready to turn the question back to the user and ask for her best judgment about what is really needed.  The responsibility is to be shared equally between librarian and user; no abdication on either side is allowed!  As described earlier, the librarian knows more about the resources available in the library, but it is up to the user to know more about her particular research need as well as the particular slant to the topic that she wants to explore.  So the user is teaching us as well, factually in regard to the reference question as well as in more subtle ways that approach a relationship to life itself.  Obviously, this attitude does not foster a “winning” or “losing” approach to the interaction; both are equally winners or losers–depending on the success of the mutual encounter.

It is likely apparent that we are viewing librarian and user as “joined” in the sense that their goal is a shared one (to find the right information to answer the need); their emotional tenor affects each, many times in subconscious ways; and they will take away from the exchange a better attitude toward their living that day–or a mixed jumble of negative emotions that will hinder the living of the rest of the day.  If you as an experienced reference librarian, think a moment about how many times an unsatisfactory exchange has colored the rest of the reference service desk slot?  If you are so affected, think how much more will be the user, who is likely somewhat intimidated by the process anyway?  (As we all know, many users appraoch a reference desk only a very few times in their whole lives.)  This joining, therefore, takes many forms, but at its base is the fact that communication goes on through many channels.  The right kind of communication will produce peace of mind; the wrong kind, a wastebasket of negative emotions that will include defense, attack, fear, and retaliation.  Sjurely we want to avoid the latter and seek for the former at every possible junction!

What aspect of interaction that we want to avoid at all costs is our own sense of judging the question, and, by extension, the user who asks that question.  Judging, or evaluating the worth of a question, is absolutely none of our business!  It is true that if a student has selected a point of view that will be hard to support from the literature, or (more frequently) has selected too broad a topic, we can suggest alternative ways of handling the same material.  But the question itself and the person asking it need to be respected at all costs.  This is particularly important when questions of religion and politics come up.  It is quite typical to encounter an international student who wants to research a political question from the standpoint of his country’s point of view; we will personally not always believe that various countries take are defensible, but this does not allow us to engage in influencing that student (Lopez, 1993-94).  This opinion is an age-old reference maxim:  Give the information asked for!  And don’t insert personal opinion.

Here, though, is another aspect highlighted that is slightly different from that age-old maxim.  We may, like a good reference librarian, not seek to alter a person’s attitude, but we may be more prone to judge it if we do not agree with it.  It is very important to realize that that sense of judgment will be felt by the user, whether or not we actually say anything aloud.  This is why judging another is so destructive.  We certainly don’t change people in this way, and we set up a situation which is adversarial.  Because so much of this behavior may be subliminal, we may never realize (nor may our user) why we are having difficulty communicating.  The user is likely simply to feel that she “doesn’t like” that librarian.  And we will feel rejected thereby.  We need to give peace away, not judgment, and join with our users in a oneness that means that both of us have the same end–a satisfactory exchange that will give the user the means to find the information that she needs.  To give peace away in the exchange means that we honor the exchange; we see the relationship as an “I-Thou” relationship (as Martin Buber might say) (Buber, 1970) that is respectful in the extreme.  To do so may challenge us to greater acceptance than we normally know how to give, but it is a vlid exercise in accepting our fellowmen and women.

Remember, too, that the individual who holds a different political or religious opinion than yourself, even an opinion that feels (to you) morally objectionable, is truly a seeker in her heart.  The seeking may at times take a tack that seems contradictory to morality, but that is not for us to say.  Respect the rights of others in ways that you don’t personally take in your life.  Maybe you are wrong about your own values; or maybe you are simply actualizing a different set of values that are in no way better (or lesser) than those of your neighbors (and users).  As a librarian, it is likely that you place great value on the things of the mind–the intelle3ctual practice of book learning and greater education.  Try saying that to the sports figure on campus, who has won great kudos for his athletic ability and his point-scoring!  Society itself is more likely to reinforce his values than your own.  This small example illustrates the dangers of expanding one’s personal view to the whole wide world.

If we don’t judge, if we seek always to help, it is likely that from time to time we will enjoy a brief moment in time that indeed is existential in nature.  But we don’t have to subscribe to existentialism to recognize that the Now of a given reference exchange is all the time that matters.  If we don’t answer the question well right now, there is no other opportunity.  And we can’t answer the question well if we are judging it or its asker.  Step back ad let the library user show you the way; take your cues from him; and your answer will fall more in line with that library user’s real need.

THE PRESENT MOMENT IS A UNIQUE EXPERIENCE

Let us explore the thesis that the present moment is a unique experience–never before met and never to be met again.  If the librarian keeps this fact in mind, she is less likely to be subject to burnout as she answers those repetitive questions.

The best way to approach the reference desk experience is to realize that you are “caught” in a series of moments of Now–a string of isolated moments in time that will never recur (Sartre, 1968).  This particular instant in time is all any of us have, but it is all too infrequently that we live in the present.  For the best reference service, it is essential that we try to let go of the past and the future (i.e., one might say the past reference question and any reference questions yet to come) and focus on the particular need directly in front of you.  This involves slef-awareness, which Charles A. Bunge suggests is the most important antidote to the “cycle of unhappiness and frustration in reference librarianship” (1984).

How does living in the present mitigate against burnout?  It is very, very helpful to recall that even though you might have answered this question (e.g., How do I find periodicals on the OPAC?) a thousand times, for the user it is the first time that he has ever asked the question.  Your job is to fall in line with the emotional tone that he has, to answer as fully as possible (but not so fully as to “lose” the user), and in terms that the user seems to be comprehending.  This requires much feedback from that user, and you should be attune to nuances of body language and eye contact that tell you if you are getting through at all.  (We are familiar with the “glaze-over” that tells us that we have lost him!  This is the just the most extreme example.)  If we are able to see the experience as unique for the patron and to focus on those aspects of the interchange that make it unique to you, then the interview says “fresh,” challenging, and not the kind of boring interchange that cries for retirement to arrive soon!  Remaining interested in one’s work is a primary way to avoid burnout.  It is only the stale and the stressful that moves us toward that undesired end (Miller, 1992).

Seeing the Now of reference service means that you will close off all past and close off all future during the moments of excchange with your user.  Practically-speaking, you focus ono her needs only, and you forget the details of what has just preceded, and you don’t look ahead to what will follow.  This makes for a real experience in the present, an experiment tailored to what your user needs most–not by theory what you think that she might need..  And, if the person appears befuddled, and unable to articulate what she needs, you quietly forgive the confusion and dodn’t hold it against her as you try to help.  You are patient in the moment, because you are not trying to get through it quickly to answer the next person in line.  Remember–just this one instant–to be lived through and enjoyed!  The future is only a string of these moments, and if each one in turn is handled well, the future will take care of itself.  This will make all the difference in keeping reference fresh and a new experience each time that you take a turn at the desk.

In order to live in the Now, a librarian must give undivided attention to the person before him.  All too often we resist this, and sometimes interrupt the user because we are pressed for time (or just impatient) and think that we have caught the gist of what he has to say.  (After all, we have answered this question before!)  Big mistake!  The best that we can sometimes do for another is to listen quietly, and not with the intention of just waiting out the words so that we can add some of our own.  Really listening takes practice, but the rewards for a reference librarian are many.  All the knowledge of reference materials in the world won’t solve a given  user’s problem if we give him books that don’t meet the precise need; hence, the importance of listening carefully to determine what that precise need really is.

I also counsel listening to one’s intuition in the reference encounter.  If you suspect that going on and on about a given source, even though it is the “best” one, is not going to meet the need of this person, then stop!  You are probably picking up on messages of body language or facial expression that tell you that you are giving her more than she can absorb, or what she doesn’t really want at all!  I have learned that the user usually wants to be shown, at least, the source that has been asked for.  If the user comes in asking for The Readers’ Guide to Periodical Literature, I automatically show it to her, but all the while I am plying her with more questions that might ensure that she actually gets the best tool to answer her research need.  This is an obvious response, to be made on a regular basis.  Intuition about the interview can take other, less obvious forms, though.  Learning to listen with the inner ear is eminently rewarding, and one will find that one gives the best service when this is the habitual modus operandi.

SUMMING UP

With these concepts in mind, it will be cleaer that the interaction between librarian and patron is essentially a partnership, and nothing good will come of something that is perceived in any way but equality between these two individuals, meeting in time in one moment.  We do out users a tremendous favor by “honoring” them as individuals, not seeing them as “just” so many reference questions.  When we truly see another, we are open to all aspects of their interaction to us, and thus we are ready to offer the best service because we are more aattuned to the whole of the encounter.  We are leaving aaside our personal prejudices, viewing the person with an open mind, and bringing to bear upon this moment all of our experience and education to date.  It should be obvious by now that an understanding of human nature can make or break the reference encounter.  Our sensitivity to these issues of partnership as equals and meeting in the present moment are a prime way to avoid the negatives that may pile upon us as we gain years of experience in the field.  Living in the Now is the most powerful way to keep one’s living fresh and untarnished by the wounds that come upon just by living in this difficult world.  Carry a bit of optimism with you as you go about your reference desk duties, and see if it doesn’t rub off on your users, your colleagues, and yourself as well.  Above all, keep humanistic your experience of reference by concentrating on the Now as pivotal to right living in this age of conflict-riden, technologically-oriented information.

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Orgren, Carl F. (1994), “Cooperative Reference Service,” The Reference Librarian, no. 43, 63-70.

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Sartre, Jean Paul (1968), Essays in Existentialism.  New York: Citadel Press, 1968.

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White, Herbert S. (1992), “The Reference Librarian as Information Intermediary:  The Correct Approach Is the One that Today’s Client Needs Today,” The Reference Librarian, 37, 23-35.

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Our Memory of God through ACIM

ACIM Workbook Lesson 234 – for Monday, August 22, 2011

Affirmation:  “Father, today I am Your Son again.”

“We thank You, Father, that we cannot lose the memory of You and of Your Love.  We recognize our safety, and give thanks for all the gifts You have bestowed on us, for all the loving help we have received, for Your eternal patience, and the Word which You have given us that we are saved.  (WB409)”

Reflections:

We tried in the separation to lose the memory of God and His love.  But we cannot actually be separated from God; we can only forget.  And with His help and the help of masters of spiritual traditions, we will find our way to remembrance again.  Indeed God must be patient, for we are like children who do not know when to go to sleep (an idea lifted from the Text).  We flounder about, losing our way, finding pain that leads all too often to suffering, and then, ultimately to the realization that there is “another way.’  This realization is what led Helen and Bill to co-scribe ACIM.  Their pathways brought them together to a miraculous conclusion.  Helen did the writing, listening to an interior voice that she believed was Jesus; and Bill, each morning at work, closed the door, pulled down the shade, locked the door, and typed the dictation that Helen voiced.  It was a secretive endeavor.

Years later, A Course in Miracles is anything but a secret.  More than two million copies of ACIM have been sold, and many translations into languages other than English are available or currently being written.  It has been an amazing journey of more than 30 years.

ACIM is one Word to which we can refer.  It is impossible to refer to these volumes without receiving a blessing, unless we are so distracted as to be unable to follow the beautiful iambic pentameter (a poetic device).

ACIM is our Way.  As Jesus says in the Text, why choose other ways, when our way is through the special-turned-holy relationships that we have with our brother (and sister)?

Prayer:

Dear Father/Mother,

Thank You for A Course in Miracles.  I have benefited greatly from the blessing of reading this work.  Thank You for Your children, Helen and Bill, who were instrumental in bringing ACIM to the world.

Be with me today as I seek to gain ever greater meaning from Your work.  May ACIM lead me, through my holy relationships, to come home to You, even though I may remain on earth.

Amen.

May God Be My Guide

ACIM Workbook Lesson 233 – for Sunday, August 21, 2011

Affirmation:  “I give my life to God to guide today.”

“Father, I give You all my thoughts today.  I would have none of mine.  In place of them, give me Your Own.  I give You all my acts as well, that I may do Your Will instead of seeking goals which cannot be obtained, and wasting time in vain imaginings.  Today I come to You.  I will step back and merely follow You.  Be You the Guide, and I the follower who questions not the wisdom of the Infinite, nor Love whose tenderness I cannot comprehend, but which is yet Your perfect gift to me.  (WB409)”

Reflections:

This is an invocation for guidance throughout all the big and little events of one’s day.  It is the very best way to talk to God, to ask Him into our lives.  Not that He has ever been absent, but when we initiate a conversation, He is right there for us.  In the Text, Jesus says that God is lonely when the minds that He created do not communicate with Him.  God notes that His children are asleep and need to be awakened.

This need for a comprehensive Awakening is the greatest need in our world.  If the world were ready for such a rebirth, what a different world we would find our earth!  Let us pray today that we might do our part to bring about such a rebirth.  Of course, the impetus comes divinely, but we, it is said, are the hands and feet of the Divine.  We take our marching orders from God (when we listen).  Let us listen to God today.

God is our Guide, and this passage makes this clear.  It does not show a contradiction with many other passages which discuss the role of the Holy Spirit.  Without getting into theology, there is no contradiction.  The Holy Spirit is the Communicator between God and ourselves.  Having said that, let us be humble enough to admit that here are mysteries that are beyond our minds.  They can only be understood from the heart, a point made clear in A Course in Love (perhaps a sequel to ACIM).

ACIM contains very beautiful language, and our meditation today shows us just how beautiful.  It would be enough to contemplate the lovely prayer, quoted above, and then be silent.  God will do the rest.

Prayer:

Dear Father/Mother,

I am silent today before the prayer of A Course in Miracles for this day.  Be with as I acknowledge You as my Guide.

Amen.

The “Felt Presence” of God

ACIM Workbook Lesson 232 – for Saturday, August 20, 2011

Affirmation:  “Be in my mind, my Father, through the day.”

“Be in my mind, my Father, when I wake, and shine on me throughout the day today.  Let every minute be a time in which I dwell with You, and let me not forget my hourly thanksgiving that You have remained with me, and always will be there to hear my call to You and answer me.  As evening comes, let all my thoughts be still of You and of Your Love.  And let me sleep sure of my safety, certain of Your care, and happily aware I am Your Son.  (WB408)”

Reflections:

1 – Joy in Spending a Day with God

This is an especially lovely description of the joy that awaits us when we spend a day with God.

2 – Eckhart Tolle

The “felt presence of Being,” described by Eckhart Tolle, seems especially relevant here.  Eckhart is a current spiritual teacher not associated with one particular tradition, but her quotes of A Course in Miracles upon occasion in his books (The Power of Now and A New Earth are primary).  He experienced Enlightenment spontaneously around the age of 30, and eventually became well-recognized for his teaching.  The “felt presence” is the sense that we can have of “God with us,” not sometimes, but all the time.  It assumes that dark nights of the soul are not being experienced currently.

3 – Turn to God

If we turn to God in prayer or “communing” (as the Text calls prayer), then we will know what the prayer, quoted above, is all about.  There are great practical benefits to living this way.  We stroll through our days in flow, with an inner sense of what to do next.  We are not left to our own devices.  We live in grace, and by “grace” is meant the good will of God as our Heavenly Father.

4 – Follow Guidance Moment-by-Moment

Following guidance on a moment-to-moment basis is extremely rewarding.  We must be flexible enough to easily change directions if we move awry.  We must also be willing, as ACIM says, of starting the day over, if we make mistakes in attitude that spoil the good feelings.  But, Jesus says, there are obvious advantages to starting each day right in terms of saving time, and time is an early emphasis in ACIM.

4 – Let’s Go to Sleep with Peace on Our Eyelids

When the day is over, a day given to God, we go to sleep with peace on our eyelids.  We have done all that we can.  We let God handle the nighttime.  And then we realize, just before falling asleep, that a one day, just over and spent with God, is the best assurance that the next day is going to be good also.

Prayer:

Dear Father/Mother,

I would spent this day with you, feeling Your presence as I go about my activities.  I would feel anxiety for nothing, as You have assured me I need not.  I would begin the day with a thought of you, walk in peace with You as the day unfolds, and go to sleep, sure that You are still awake and keeping me safe.

Help me always to thank You for Your attention to me.  I never have to feel along.  Not only are there mighty companions surrounded me, companions I cannot see, but You are within me–directing the vision that I have of what surrounds me, outside of my body.   May all of my sights today be benign.

Amen.

God’s Love Is the Only Thing I Seek

ACIM Workbook Lesson 231 – for Friday, August 19, 2011

Affirmation:  “Father, I will but to remember You.”

“What can I seek for, Father, but Your Love?  Perhaps I think I seek for something else; a something I have called by many names.  Yet is Your Love the only ting I seek, or ever sought.  For there is nothing else that I could ever really want to find.  Let me remember You.  What else could I desire but the truth about myself?  (WB408)”

Reflections:

We long for God.  Even when we don’t realize Who it is for which we long.

This prayer explains the dynamic in lovely words.  We want God’s Love, and we will have it.  We will have it now.  If we feel alone, we must know that we are not alone.  A Course in Miracles says that the solution is always with the problem.  The solution to our “aloneness” is to know that, however solitary our lives may be, there is One with us always.

We can deduce from ACIM that we are surrounded by mighty companions.  We walk with them throughout our day.  They see us, but we do not normally see them.  These mighty companions are never described in any details, but “Teachers of teachers” are described.  These are the ones who have known Awakening and do not return to earth, but whose images may appear to us, or, if we are too frightened by that prospect, whose ideas may be given us.  (These are paraphrases from ACIM.)

We would know the truth about ourselves.  We are not introverted enough to need no human companionship, but the greatest companionship is from God Himself.

Prayer:

Dear Father/Mother,

I ask for Your love today as the only thing that I really want.  I have been deluded by the ego when I have sought worldly goals, goals which did not mean anything to me shortly after I reached them.  These egoic goals turned to ashes in my mouth.  I would stop all this nonsense immediately.  I would seek You only.

Be with me today.  So often I ask for Your felt presence, and once again today, I ask for this great blessing of sensing You with me everywhere I walk.

Amen.

I Need but Call on God to Find the Peace He Gave

ACIM Workbook Lesson 230 – for Thursday, August 18, 2011

Affirmation:  “Now will I seek and find the Peace of God.”

“Father, I seek the peace You gave as mine in my creation.  What was given then must be here now, for my creation was apart from time, and still remains beyond all change.  The peace in which Your Son was born into Your Mind is shining there unchanged.  I am as You created me.  I need but call on You to find the peace You gave.  It is Your Will that gave it to Your Son.  (WB406)”

Reflections:

Actually what we want most in all the world is God’s peace.  We experience this as the “peace that passeth understanding” (New Testament) or “peace of mind” (more mundanely).  According to A Course in Miracles, we are being led to be “perfectly calm and quiet” all the time.  This is the ultimate peace.  And the greatest obstacle to peace is the “desire to get rid” of it (a Text tenet).

Why do we thrust off peace, when in our quiet moments of contemplation and prayer, we feel the most at home?  We are addicted to drama, to the adrenaline rush (said by Marianne Williamson).  We move so fast in this world.  Often it seems that we have to do so to keep our jobs and our livelihoods.  But cannot we find some time each day for God?

That time does not have to be lengthy.  Jesus says that we can give only a minute to God, and in that minute join with Him completely.  Conversely, we can sit an hour in contemplation and accomplish nothing.  (These are paraphrases from the Manual.)

So, today, begin a new habit of finding time for God each and every day.  Sleep is not as important as finding God.  Yet we will, once committed, find that we do not normally lose sleep when we seek God.  He will make the space for us to reach inwardly to the depths where our God is found.

Prayer:

Dear Father/Mother,

I promise that I will spend time, quality time, with You today.  I need the peace that only You give.  When I am calm and quiet, and I experience Your peace, then I know that regardless of what this egoic world can do to me, I will be alright.  Thank You for this assurance, which I know comes from You.

We are not at home in this world.  When we think about it, we all know that this is true.  I would find peace in this world as I carry out the function that You would have me fulfill.  I ask only that, from time to time, I return in my mind and spirit to a real world of which You have given me glimpses.  Thank You for the glimpses.

Amen.

My Untouched Identity

ACIM Workbook Lesson 229 – for Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Affirmation:  “Love, Which created me, is what I am.”

“Father, my thanks to You for what I am; for keeping my Identity untouched and sinless, in the midst of all the thoughts of sin my foolish mind made up.  And thanks to You for saving me from them.  Amen.  (WB406)”

Reflections:

This prayer affirms that our Identity in safe in God.  Elsewhere we read that our Self is innocent, that this Self never separated from God, and even now this Self is at home with Him.  We have departed into feverish dreams (a Text tenet), and in our misery and pain, we have realized that there is another way to live.  We do not have to learn through pain (a Text tenet), but, being human, we often do.  Eckhart Tolle learned this way, before his spectacular Awakening around the age of 30 (see The Power of Now; this blog has a review of the book).

We know that we do not have to learn through pain, though.  If we are flexible enough, we will learn through rewards.  Jesus says that learning through rewards is more lasting, and that pain can induce only a temporary effect (Text tenets).  We can ask today that we learn through rewards.  And it will be so.  The power of our word is that great.  God would not have us suffer; that is our contribution to living in this world.  And the world is very weary and worn now (a Text tenet), and our brothers and sisters in it are very dejected.  We need to free ourselves so that we can better help others.  And we need to free ourselves time, which miracles can do.  They collapse time, making changes that might have otherwise taken thousands of years (Text tenets).  Jesus is in charge of miracles, and we are asked to let him be in charge.  Consciously selected miracles on our part can be misguided (a Text tenet).

We offer gratitude to God, not because He has an ego to accept it (He doesn’t, which is a Text tenet), but because we need to feel that gratitude.  We will be the better for giving thanks.  It will open our minds to accept more blessings.  And the blessings will overflow.  A single purpose, consistently followed, will lead to miracles beyond our greatest dreams.  And these will be something more than the “happy dreams the Holy Spirit brings” (a quotation from the Workbook).  These will indeed be the forerunners of Awakening.

Prayer:

Dear Father/Mother,

It helps me to read today that my Identity is untouched.  This helps me to understand how I can be innocent, even though I have made many mistakes over my life.  Help me to forgive myself, especially for the mistakes which cannot now be changed in any good way.  Help me to know that You do not condemn me for my mistakes; You simply love me as Your child.  For that I am blessed beyond anything that I can say about it.

Help me to lead a day free of conflict, attack, anger.  In the troubled world that we inhabit today, help my brothers and sisters to live safe and secure in Your love.  May they know that regardless of how miserable the world might become, the world can never depart fully from You.  You set the limits on how far we could stray.  And we will all find our home in You eventually.  May that time be sooner rather than later.

Amen.

My Mistakes about Myself Are Dreams

ACIM Workbook Lesson 228 – for Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Affirmation:  “God has condemned me not.  No more do I.”

“Father, I was mistaken in myself, because I failed to realize the Source from which I came.  I have not left that Source to enter in a body and to die.  My holiness remains a part of me, as I am part of You.  And my mistakes about myself are dreams.  I let them go today.  And I stand ready to receive Your Word alone for what I really am.  (WB405)”

Reflections:

We live a dream, or maya (as Eastern thought calls it).  The Holy Spirit changes our frantic dreams to peaceful ones before Awakening happens, because if He did not do so, we would be too frightened to welcome Awakening at all (a Text tenet).  We would, in fact, be terrified by the novel experience.  These peaceful dreams are happy, and we would do well to rest in this knowledge, for it is in fact knowledge and not perception (which is variable).

The knowledge that God loves us is indisputable, and we live that knowledge everyday that we feel His presence.  His felt presence is one of the surest ways that we know that we are on the right pathway.

“Your Word alone” actually means the intuitions that rise to the surface of our minds when we have turned to the Holy Spirit for clarification.  We then have a single purpose to our practicing the Workbook lesson for the day, and we will be blessed thereby.

Prayer:

Dear Father/Mother,

I thank You for the workbook lessons, practiced daily.  Be with me as I practice.  I would not live in dreams any longer.  I would awake to the knowledge of You.  This is my fervent prayer.

Help us to be patient as we seek to overcome the insanity that is this world.  May we get the madness out of our own minds.  May we live in the real world of Your love, exemplified in the attitudes that we show to our brothers and sisters.

Amen.

Holy Instant of Release

ACIM Workbook Lesson 227 – for Monday, August 15, 2011

Affirmation:  “This is my holy instant of release.”

“Father, it is today that I am free, because my will is Yours.  I thought to make another will, yet nothing that I thought apart from You exists.  And I am free because I was mistaken, and did not affect my own reality at all by my illusions.  Now I give them up, and lay them down before the feet of truth, to be removed forever from my mind.  This is my holy instant of release.  Father, I know my will is one with Yours.  (WB405)”

Reflections:

Let us ask today for our “holy instant of release.”  This prayer, like all of those in this section of the Workbook, is written with a loving and kind message of Awakening, waiting for all of us.

We have a free will because we recognize that our real will and the will of God are the same.  The Holy Spirit tells us what that real will is; we would be wise to listen to Him.  We live in an illusory world, and so we have made mistakes rather than “sinned.”  This is a departure from the Bible, an important departure in A Course in Miracles.  We can ask that our mistakes be removed, that we be cleansed of all unrighteousness, and we can rest in the assured promise that these mistakes will, in fact, be removed.  We will not be attracted to repeat the same mistake again (though sometimes we will do so), but we would be attracted to that mistake if we regaled ourselves with thoughts that we had sinned.  Misdeeds which we characterize as sin, according to ACIM, have an inherently attracting feature about them.  We may not understand this, but the ego is not honest.  It does not mean us well (an ACIM tenet).

If we would be free of mistakes, we must lay them at the feet of truth, as this passage says.  We would be honest (which actually means “consistent,” according to the Text), and we would eliminate our wrongdoing from our repertoire of words or deeds.  Turn to the Holy Spirit when tempted to do that which we know to be wrong in God’s sight.  Know that our conscience can sometimes mislead us, but the Holy Spirit, if listened to rightly, will never deceive.

Prayer:

Dear Father/Mother,

I would know, today, a holy instant of release.  May I be cleansed of my past mistakes; may I choose aright the next time a decision is called for.  Be with me today as I try to be kind and good to all those whom I meet.

I would not make the same mistakes again, but I know that dwelling on the past is not what You recommend.  My present confidence directs my way, as A Course in Miracles says.  May I live in the present, making plans only when directed to do so by the Holy Spirit.

Amen.

Heaven Can So Easily Be Mine

ACIM Workbook Lesson 226 – for Sunday, August 14, 2011

Affirmation:  “My home awaits me.  I will hasten there.”

“Father, my home awaits my glad return.  Your Arms are open and I hear Your Voice.  What need have I to linger in a place of vain desires and of shattered dreams, when Heaven can so easily be mine?  (WB404)”

Reflections:

This passage does not mean that we invite death.  Death is indeed nothing (an ACIM tenet).  This passage refers to the Heaven on earth that we can know, instead of the “place of vain desires and of shattered dreams” to which the ego always leads us.

We know joy when we let the ego wither away.  By the “ego,” we do not mean a stable core (which we all need).  The ego, as outlined by A Course in Miracles, is defined somewhat differently from the way in which the psychologist Sigmund Freud, defined it.  The ego is a part of our belief about ourselves (a Text definition), but it is not a valid belief.  It represents the detour into fear that we believe we took when we believed that we separated from God.  (These are ACIM paraphrases.)  We did not actually separate from God, for this would be impossible, since we are living out a physical manifestation of the God within (in our better moments).  God is the All, the One, and in that sense everything is God.  He is not various gods, as pantheism would say, though.  In fact, it might be better if we refrain from trying to define God, for who could do so successfully?  And the attempt would only divide us, as theology is likely to do.

We are concerned only with what everyone can accept, which is an experience that ACIM leads us to have.  We are usually concerned with the practical, with what works in daily life.  And when we focus on what everyone can accept, we do not focus on the divisions among us.

Heaven can “easily” be ours.  Let us take to heart this promise!  We may not fully understand, but Jesus will take us by the hand and lead us the Heaven.  This is not an “idle fantasy” (a quotation from ACIM), but the greatest good sense.  It is the promise that we are meant to claim in our lives, day-by-day.

Prayer:

Dear Father/Mother,

May I know Heaven on earth, and may I not know it in a far-off time, but immediately, today.  Help me to ready my mind and spirit for this experience.  I believe that it is Your will.  Help me to spend today in a constructive way, among individuals who affirm me as I affirm them.  This camaraderie of our brothers and sisters is a great step forward to Heaven on earth.

Be with me today.  Do not let me attack for any reason.  Take anger from me.  Neither of these actions/thoughts can allow Heaven on earth.  And I would do what I can to allow that great blessing today.

Amen.

I Do Love God

ACIM Workbook Lesson 225 – for Saturday, August 13, 2011

Affirmation:  “God is my Father, and His Son loves Him.”

“Father, I must return Your Love for me, for giving and receiving are the same, and You have given all Your Love to me.  I must return it, for I want it mine in full awareness, blazing in my mind and keeping it within its kindly light, inviolate, beloved, with fear behind and only peace ahead.  How still the way Your loving Son is led along to You!  (WB404)”

Reflections:

These prayers, in this section of the Workbook, are all meant to lead us gently to a God of love rather than judgment.  The prayers are comforting in the extreme.  The God of A Course in Miracles is like the God of the New Testament, rather than the sometimes vengeful God of the Old Testament (or Hebrew Bible).  Jesus’s message is therefore consistent from the New Testament to A Course in Miracles, and even onto A Course of Love (which some view as a sequel to ACIM).

We have nothing to fear from God.  If we are not at first inclined to follow the guidance of the Holy Spirit, to follow His way as the great Communicator from God to us, the Holy Spirit will be patient with us.  We will gradually come to know, as did Helen and Bill, that there is another way, and we will be led to discover, if we are true students of ACIM, that this another way is being abundantly laid out for us in its pages.  We are seeing the means to Awakening, or, as A Course of Love says, Christ-consciousness.

The only way that we can have consistent peace is if we turn to God consistently.  This means moments at the beginning and end of each day, as a minimum, in turning to God through contemplation and communing (prayer).  We are led by this stillness, this time when we are not stressed from the many activities of the day.  In quiet and stillness do we find our way home.  If we do not take the time to devote these moments to God, we will continue to walk the old pathway, led by egoistic thinking.  And we will not be happy, not on any consistent basis.  The “happy dreams the Holy Spirit brings” (a Workbook quotation) will elude us.  We will indeed lead charmed lives when we turn to the Holy Spirit, the Universal Inspiration, as our mentor through life’s tortuous turns.

Prayer:

Dear Father/Mother,

I wish to have the “happy dreams the Holy Spirit brings,” knowing that they are the harbinger of consistently viewing the real world, which leads on to Awakening.  The means are spelled out in A Course in Miracles.  Help the revelation to come.  That is entirely up to You, and I know that when I am ready, revelation will come–showing the end, Awakening, to me.

May I consistently spend moments at the beginning and the end of the day with you, in contemplation.  This does not mean that my holy relationship will mean less to me; I will be more likely to fulfill my half of the relationship in a good manner if I have devoted time to You.  Be with me today, again I ask.  Thank You for walking along beside me daily, and carrying me when times get tough.

Amen.

I Am Weary of the World I See

ACIM Workbook Lesson 224 – for Friday, August 12, 2011

Affirmation:  “God is my Father, and He loves His Son.”

“My Name, O Father, still is known to You.  I have forgotten it, and do not know where I am going, who I am, or what it is I do.  Remind me, Father, now, for I am weary of the world I see.  Reveal what You would have me see instead.  (WB403)”

Reflections:

The Text says that when we say, “I do not know who I am,” that we have reached the highest understanding of which we are capable.  We are then open to the Holy Spirit to tell us who we are.  We are no longer depending on ourselves.  We have left behind images of ourselves, as described in the Text.  We must go beyond all images (or personas), if we are to live peaceably in this world.  The images are of the ego, and the ego does not mean us well (an ACIM tenet).

We often are weary of this world.  But it is not up to us to abandon it.  We will not find happiness here, but we can find happiness in the real world (which can be experienced here).  The real world is a world of intangibles (love, hope, joy, consolations from God, etc.), and it is the distinct opposite of the world shown to us by the ego.  Indeed, egoistic notions of the world always end as ashes in our mouth.  We are constantly having our own ego undone by the happenings in this world.  We have paid for our inconstant pleasures by having them turn against us all the time.  If we reflect a bit, we will know that all pleasures of this world have been bought with tears; there is no joy that does not turn into its opposite (an ACIM tenet).  But the real world is different, and here joy is constant.  We may not stay in the real world consistently, but we will see glimpses of its peace and happiness.  And these glimpses will be enough to sustain and keep us on the pathway of salvation.

We ask God, in this passage above, to reveal to us what He would have us see.  We cannot read God’s Mind, but we can imagine what He would have us see.  And A Course in Miracles and A Course of Love tell us the means toward Awakening and Christ-consciousness.  It would behoove us to stay close to our means to true salvation.

Prayer:

Dear Father/Mother,

I would see what You would have me see.  I would, in my mind and spirit, leave this world from time to time to see the world that You will for me.  This real world is my goal.  May my experience of the real world that You will show me come soon.  I thank You for the glimpses that You have already given me.

Help me to love deeply and purely.  May I leave fear behind.  I know that the more love I can give and receive, the closer to You I will come.  May Your Being make Itself known to me today.

Amen.

I Am Not Apart from God

ACIM Workbook Lesson 223 – for Thursday, August 11, 2011

Affirmation:  “God is my life.  I have no life but His.”

“I was mistaken when I thought I lived apart from God, a separate entity that moved in isolation, unattached, and housed within a body.  Now I know my life is God’s, I have no other home, and I do not exist apart from Him.  He has no Thoughts that are not part of me, and I have none but those which are of Him.

“Our Father, let us see the face of Christ instead of our mistakes.  For we who are Your holy Son are sinless.  We would look upon our sinlessness, for guilt proclaims that we are not Your Son.  And we would not forget You longer.  We are lonely here, and long for Heaven, where we are at home.  Today we would return.  Our Name is Yours, and we acknowledge that we are Your Son.  (WB403)”

Reflections:

Guilt is hell (an ACIM tenet).  And all too often we feel guilt when we have failed, in our own sight, to measure up.  That we do not have to “measure up” on a constant basis is something that we overlook, especially when we have been on the spiritual path for a long time.  We need to be ever ready to turn our mistakes over to God for rectification.  He will erase them.  We need only to ask.  And we need to realize that we do not want to categorize these mistakes as “sins,” because sins, perversely, have an attracting aspect (a Text tenet).  When we categorize our misthoughts or misdeeds as mistakes, we will automatically want to change.  We will want to leave the mistakes behind, making amends to others (and ourselves) when it is possible to do so.

When we see the face of Christ in all of our brothers and sisters, we will know that we are home.  Jesus did see this face in other people, and he is our example.  We do not have to relive his life, we do not have to be crucified–but we do need to let him be our leader in all things.  In ACIM, he is our elder brother; in A Course of Love, he is our companion, our teacher no longer.  He has completed his task, in A Course of Love, and it is now up to us to complete ours.  ACOL says that this does not involve learning again, over and over.  We have learned all that we need to know.  We need only accept the unity and relationship that is the purview of the elevated Self of form.  We are united as One with our brothers and sisters, and our relationships are pure.  Even our own Self is consistent within; it is honest (a Manual tenet).

We are indeed often lonely in this world.  But it need not be so.  We can enjoy Heaven on earth, even in the midst of troubles.  We can rise above the conflict that troubles us by turning, over and over, to the God within (and without).  This constant turning to God is the only way to live that will sustain us permanently (an interpretation, not stated in ACIM).

Prayer:

Dear Father/Mother,

May I rest in surety that Your Word is true, that You live within me and that I have no need ever to feel lonely–believing that I am a solitary being.  Be with me today as I seek to find the companionship that I can find only in You.  Help me to remember to pray, to commune, on as nearly a constant basis as my frail self can sustain.

Help me to know that my Self is strong.  There is nothing in this world that will ever come between us.  That is enough for me to know.  That will keep me serene in Your presence always.

Amen.

Quietly into God’s Presence

ACIM Workbook Lesson 222 – for Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Affirmation:  “God is with me.  I live and move in Him.”

“[God] is my home, wherein I live and move; the Spirit Which directs my actions, offers me Its Thoughts, and guarantees my safety from all pain.

“Father, we have no words except Your Name upon our lips and in our minds, as we come quietly into Your Presence now, and ask to rest with You in peace a while.  (WB402)”

Reflections:

This is a respite from the toil and trouble of this world.  The Name of the Father is ineffable, and indeed in the Bible is often not spoken, but only indicated (“Yahweh” is an approximation, not the exact Name of God).  When we come into the presence of God, we will often have that quiet reaching for God that is described by the anonymous author of The Cloud of Unknowing, a medieval manuscript that is well-recognized in mystical circles.  Our longing for God becomes a dart toward Him, and He does respond, except when we are in the Dark Night of the Soul (also a stage in the journey to God through mysticism).  The Dark Night of the Soul, coined by St. John of the Cross, is a period in which we try to remain faithful to our knowledge that God loves us, but we feel nothing.  Our consolations have departed from us.  Mystical writers speculate that God is honing our faith, wanting us to seek Him for Himself alone, and not His consolations.

We rest in God’s peace when we allow the noises of this world to depart.  We are so busy!  But if we are to have peace, we must find a way to quiet the world.  It does not take vast swatches of time.  Only a few minutes (Jesus says in the Manual “a minute”) can lead us to rejoin completely with God.  We may, on the other hand, waste an hour with eyes closed and accomplish nothing, an idea that is given in the Manual.

If we come quietly, we will be satisfied.  The point is to drop everything else from our minds, and to actually come quietly.  In this stressful world, this often seems an impossibility.  But we must try.  And when we truly try, we often succeed in finding quiet–and in finding God in our innermost hearts as a felt Presence.

Prayer:

Dear Father/Mother,

I would be still and quiet today.  The world has been too much with me.  The difficulties of this world weigh heavily upon my mind; please give me respite from my worries.  May I know that all of my brothers and sisters are people who often struggle also.  When we reach out to help one another, we are on the way to doing God’s will.

May I soothe myself today even as I reach out to others.  May I know that no amount of busyness in this troubled world will be solved unless I become still and quiet on the inside, unless I reach inward to You.  Help me to remember, throughout the day, that the greatest blessings are those that are found within, in my mind, heart, and spirit, where You reside.

Amen.

Let All My Thoughts Be Still

ACIM Workbook Lesson 221 – for Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Affirmation:  “Peace to my mind.  Let all my thoughts be still.”

“Father, I come to You today to seek the peace that You alone can give.  I come in silence.  In the quiet of my heart, the deep recesses of my mind, I wait and listen for Your Voice.  My Father, speak to me today.  I come to hear Your Voice in silence and in certainty and love, sure You will hear my call and answer.

“Now do we wait in quiet.  God is here, because we wait together.  I am sure that He will speak to you, and you will hear.  Accept my confidence, for it is yours. (WB402)”

Reflections:

The “Voice” is called elsewhere, and repeatedly, the “Holy Spirit.”  He is described in the Text as the “Communicator” from God to us, as well as the Universal Inspiration.  He is our guidance, the way that we live when we give up our own judgment (as proscribed in the Manual), and let Him lead the way.  We are told in the Manual that we cannot know all of the factors, past and present, influencing a decision, and that our best decision is to give that judgment over to the Holy Spirit, Who does know all the factors.

We often think that we know best, but if we consider for awhile how wrong we have often been when we have applied our best judgment to a situation, the truth of A Course in Miracles will become apparent.  This idea is elaborated upon in the Manual.

This passage, this prayer, indicates that we come to know guidance in silence.  Yes, this is one very important way, and we come to this only when still and quiet.  Let us be still and quiet today.

Prayer:

Dear Father/Mother,

I would be still and quiet today.  I would not get agitated if any stress seems to reach into my life.   Your way is best, as always.  Be with me as I seek to live simply and peacefully in this sometimes troubled world.

I would listen to Your guidance.  Help me to distinguish between guidance that is sure and direct, and guidance that seems to change as time passes.  Help me to know whether or not my mind is planning tricks on me.  I would not listen to the ego that has not entirely withered away.  I would follow the Holy Spirit, Your Voice.

Amen.

God’s Peace = the Only Peace

ACIM Workbook Lesson 220 – for Monday, August 8, 2011

Affirmation:  “I am not a body.  I am free.  For I am still as God created me.”

“There is no peace except the peace of God.  (WB397)”

Reflections:

God is primary to our life, even when we do not recognize this truth.  All of us want peace, even when drama seems to be at the center of our life.  This drama means that we do not recognize our real desire.  And God’s peace is the only true peace that we have.

The “peace that passeth understanding” (from the New Testament) is surely the peace of God.  What else could it be?  There are peak experiences there for all of us who ask for this peace.  And eventually the peace of God (upon our Awakening, or Enlightenment) will be a constant state for us.  Eckhart Tolle, in a CD entitled “Even the Sun Will Die,” says that since his Awakening, no thought has made him unhappy.  It was quite different before his sudden awakening at the age of 30.  He was constantly depressed and carried with him the ever-present anxiety of depression.

But, before Awakening, we can still know many moments, however fleeting, of this peace.  We need to cast aside all attack and anger, not by stuffing it down deep inside ourselves, but by genuine forgiveness of the wrongs that we think we have done or have had done to ourselves.  Forgiveness is the way of ACIM to all the great boons that await us.

Prayer:

Dear Father/Mother,

I would find peace today.  I know ahead of my day that there will be times when I will be tempted to get upset.  I may find that this undercurrent of stress will try to come out as attack or anger.  But I would have none of that today.  I would turn inward and experience the peace that only You can give.  I would turn to You when tempted to attack because of my stressful inclinations.

May all of those with whom I interact today see a person who is poised and serene and secure in a deep faith.  May I serve the individuals in my circle in the way that You deem best.  If the day turns fretful, may I remember, as often as possible, the fact that the only peace is the peace that You grant.  And this peace is always a possibility when I let You influence my mind and heart.

Amen.

We Are Not Bodies

ACIM Workbook Lesson 219 – for Sunday, August 7, 2011

Affirmation:  “I am not a body.  I am free.  For I am still as God created me.”

“I am not a body.  I am free.  (WB397)”

Reflections:

1 – We Are Spiritual Creatures

We are, first, spiritual creatures inhabiting a body temporarily.  The fact that this affirmation is given repeatedly is, in all likelihood, meant to impress upon us this fact.

2 – To Be Free

What does it mean to be free, not being a body, but inhabiting a body?  It means that we do not have to look to our various ailments a defining our identify.  We do not have to look to our weight or our height as indicative of the real person.  We are free of all such attachments, if we wish to be so.  Marianne Williamson’s book, A Course in Weight Loss, makes clear this assertion.  We are spirit first and always.

3 – No Imprisoned Will

What does it mean just to be free?  We are no longer bound by a “imprisoned will” (a quotation from ACIM).  When the ego is in ascendancy, we are in fact bound by an imprisoned will, and we suffer as a result.  Sooner or later, we reach the point that co-scribes of ACIM, Bill Thetford and Helen Schucman, reached, and we decide, as they did, that there must be “another way” (from the introduction to ACIM).  Helen agreed, with Bill, to try to find this other way, and A Course in Miracles was the answer.  And these volumes (Text, Workbook, Manual) have been helping several million people since.

4 – Our Real Will vs. Our Imprisoned Will

It is important to note that an “imprisoned will” is not following our real will, the will that is shown to us by the Holy Spirit.  An imprisoned will is not a punishment from God; it is simply the cause-and-effect relationship of following a way in this world that will not work.  The threshold for pain, Jesus says in the Text, may be high, but it will not remain so forever.  We will turn, and the sooner we do, the more smoothly our lives will flow.  This is the practical result of turning to the Holy Spirit for guidance.

Prayer:

Dear Father/Mother,

Thank You for this good day.  May I not rue it with meaningless fears and anxieties, pain and suffering.  You are with me, and regardless of how bad things get, objectively, You will be there with me, ready to lift me above the fray.  May I learn more today about what it means to be free, to be a spirit–not a body.  May I walk lightly in my spirit.

Help us all to be there for one another.  We need each other in this world, as I am sure we need each other on the Other Side.  May we take the better way that A Course in Miracles point out, and adapt its tenets wholly to our lifestyle.

Amen.

Avoid Condemnation

ACIM Workbook Lesson 218 – for Saturday, August 6, 2011

Affirmation:  “I am not a body.  I am free.  For I am still as God created me.”

“Only my condemnation injures me.  (WB396)”

Reflections:

This passage expresses a severe warning.  “Condemnation” is attack, and we are told in A Course in Miracles that attack is never warranted.  Why not?  It is inherently unfair, for we are creatures of the God who is only loving.  We are innocent (a concept that we may have a hard time wrapping our minds around).  If innocence seems not a self-image to which we can subscribe, then let us dwell on the fact that we live in a world of illusion, where bad things only seem to happen.  Of course, we experience these bad things as reality, and this experiencing can bring us much pain and suffering.  But the Higher Self has not been affected.  And if we commune with God, He will help us to rise above anything that this world can throw at us.

Our condemnation of these “bad things,” though, would be what would injure us.  We must be accepting, first of all, and then try to improve on what we have experienced.  This is an oft-repeated refrain in self-help literature, first espoused by Dale Carnegie (How to Stop Worrying and Start Living).

May we leave condemnation aside today, once and for all.  It can only exacerbate the conflict within us.  It is, at its base, a blaming of God for what has happened.  And God is not to blame.  His love outshines any negativity that we have invited into our lives.

Prayer:

Dear Father/Mother,

Forgive me, and help me to forgive myself, for condemning the wrongs that I see in this world.  Sometimes the wrongs may be valid, but my condemnation of them is still unwise–even if I am right in seeing where there is injustice.  I realize, actually, that You do not forgive for You have never condemned.  May I turn to You for my Model of non-condemnation.

May this day be good.  May I respond with tolerance to the wrongs that I perceive, being aware that it is my ego that is seeing these wrongs.  Love would not even perceive a wrong, but would note the insanity, and therefore see the innocence in these thoughts and actions that so disturb me.  May today’s lesson be something that I take to heart.  Help me.  I surely need You now.

Amen.

Gratitude

ACIM Workbook Lesson 217 – for Friday, August 5, 2011

Affirmation:  “I am not a body.  I am free.  For I am still as God created me.”

“It can be but my gratitude I earn.  (WB396)”

Reflections:

Mainstream society believes this affirmation, without knowing, in most cases, where we find it.  Many have recommended keeping “gratitude journals,” including Sarah Breathnath (Simple Abundance) and Oprah (the television personality).  A Course in Miracles, though, as is typical, takes this understanding of being grateful a step farther.  We earn our own gratitude toward ourselves by being grateful to God for our many blessings.  It has also often been said that God does not need our gratitude, but that we do need the exercise of expressing our gratitude.  This too is a step beyond what the normal gratitude journal is all about.

We “earn” the gratitude that we express.  It is a free gift, though, not anything that we struggle to earn.  ACIM, in fact, as we may remember, never counsels struggling to reach our salvation.  The way is described as “easy,” though on first reading (second and third, etc.) ACIM can seem anything but easy.

What we do get in exchange for our gratitude?  We may look upon gratitude as a form of love, and love gives far more than it ever gets.  We are encompassed by love, and we come to know this ever more clearly when we express gratitude for our blessings on an ongoing basis.  Even The Secret, a book that commanded much attention, counseled that its contributors made gratitude a daily exercise, suggesting that this in itself will get us what we want, what we draw to ourselves by our thinking.  Let us look to a higher purpose than just material things, though, for they will only satisfy the ego, and then only briefly.  Let us ask for the intangibles, and let us express gratitude for these when they come.  And they will not be long  in coming.

Prayer:

Dear Father/Mother,

I want to express my gratitude for the day just lived, even though I know that You do not need my gratitude.  I do need to express it, though, and this expression will expand into a love that will help me through today.  Yesterday, today, and tomorrow will merge into a life lived in Your presence, aware of Your presence, when I live those days in gratitude for the love you shower on me constantly.

May my brothers and sisters benefit from the gratitude that I am expressing.  Let me not forget to express my gratitude to them for their helpful ways.  I could not manage without them.  Let me tell them that today.

Amen.

To Crucify Myself

ACIM Workbook Lesson 216 – for Thursday, August 4, 2011

Affirmation:  “I am not a body.  I am free.  For I am still as God created me.”

“It can be but myself I crucify.  (WB395)”

Reflections:

We do not affect others truly, though we need to be sure that we do not go out of our way to anger or attack them–or to hurt them.  We are all One, and so when we hurt another, we have actually hurt ourselves.  So it is “but myself I crucify.”

We do not often understand this truth from A Course in Miracles.  We still, although we may be long-time students/teachers, think of ourselves as somehow different and separate from others.  This is the illusion in which we are caught.  It is not meaningful in itself, because we are not separate.

An additional truth is that what we do to others makes us feel guilty, and at one point, ACIM calls hell “guilt.”  We are therefore, in that sense, crucifying ourselves when we hurt another–prompted by the guilt that we feel.  This experience is particularly felt in those on a spiritual pathway, because we have sensitized ourselves.  We have more “heart” in our day-to-day interactions, and this leads us to be more attune to the hurtfulness that we cause, whether deliberate or inadvertent.

May we not crucify ourselves today.  There is no need.  We do not have to follow Jesus’s pathway (a Text tenet) in the sense that we are crucified as was he.  His was the example life (a tenet from A Course of Love), and we would do well to emulate his example, but not to duplicate it.

Prayer:

Dear Father/Mother,

I would not “crucify” myself today by agonizing when faith and love instead are indicated.  We wear ourselves down when we agonize.  Let us look to guidance, follow it precisely, and thereby walk the easy pathway back to You.

May I remember to be grateful for my many blessings.  You have often given me great joy that I have attributed to my own thoughts or actions, my little self that seeks aggrandizement.  I would not seek to support the ego’s way today.  I would not be crucified anymore.

Amen.

Love / Gratitude: the Good Life

ACIM Workbook Lesson 215 – for Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Affirmation:  “I am not a body.  I am free.  For I am still as God created me.”

“Love is the way I walk in gratitude.  (WB395)”

Reflections:

Keeping a gratitude journal has become a mainstream pop culture phenomenon, especially for those of us on the spiritual pathway.  When we do so, we are attuned, most of the time, to the love in our lives.  We find, in all likelihood, that we value most the intimate relationships that we treasure in our hearts–our brothers and sisters with whom we may have “holy instants” (an ACIM term).

When we feel love, it is easy to feel gratitude.  Even in the midst of difficult times (which come to all of us, despite the “happy dreams the Holy Spirit brings” that the Workbook describes), we will rise above our difficulty when we feel only gratitude for the good in our lives.  We are not being a Pollyanna when we feel this way.  It is supreme good sense.  If we don’t feel gratitude, we will probably wallow in self-pity, and this makes a reality that we would choose not to have.  We have that much power, as ACIM makes clear to us throughout virtually all of its pages.

When we feel love, we are seeing life at its best.  When we feel gratitude, we are inviting love.  The two are best linked, and then we will know the good life that A Course in Miracles was channeled for us to assume as our rightful heritage.

Prayer:

Dear Father/Mother,

I do feel gratitude for the many blessings that I have experienced in my life.  I welcome the moments when I feel especially loving, but I am not consistent in that yet.  I would ask You to make me consistent in both gratitude and love.

Be with me today as I contemplate the uneasiness of life in this world.  So many of us struggle on a daily basis, and therefore need our assistance to get through the day.  May we be there for our brothers and sisters whose needs are greater than our own.  May we thank You for leading us to the places that we can give where giving is needed.

Amen.

How to Handle the Future

ACIM Workbook Lesson 214 – for Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Affirmation:  “I am not a body.  I am free.  For I am still as God created me.”

“I place the future in the Hands of God.  (WB394)”

Reflections:

This passage emphasizes one of the three actions that are cautions:  don’t attack; don’t judge; and don’t make plans against contingencies to come (a Text tenet).  The latter is the important one when we place the future in the Hands of God.  We do not need to make plans, in most cases, but we don’t often realize this.  It seems to our minds that the prohibitions about attacks and judgment are somehow different from the planning that we all do as a matter of course.  Of course, realistically, some day-to-day, and even long-range plans are needed to keep us on course.  This is just common sense.  But Jesus is talking here about the many plans that we make that try to protect us from the acts in the future over which we have little or no control, and from which we are trying to protect ourselves.

We do not need to protect ourselves inordinately.  We do wear warm clothing in the winter, and we try to eat well, but most of our planning is not about this.  It is about the attempt to predict what our brothers and sisters might do that would harm us.  Alternately, it is about what we ourselves might do if we don’t remember all the mistakes that we have made in the past, mistakes that we don’t want to repeat because they brought hurt.

We do not need such mental gyrations.  God is our protector, and the Holy Spirit as our Communicator from God is here to give us the guidance that we need as we need it.  This latter point, “as we need it,” is important.  The Holy Spirit does not run ahead to tomorrow.  He is like Jesus’s words in the New Testament, “Take no thought for the morrow.”  So A Course in Miracles shows itself once again to be a continuation of Jesus’s earlier message (an interpretation, not stated in ACIM).

So, to live well, it is best to leave the future to God.  We will be guided very specifically (a Manual tenet).  We will be told all that we need to do (also a tenet).  We need, therefore, to be careful for nothing.

Prayer:

Dear Father/Mother,

I would place the future in Your hands.  I would not run about today trying to make everything suited to my little personal needs.  This is such a petty way to live, and, moreover, it contradicts Your indication that we are to let the Holy Spirit guide us.

May today be a good day.  May I not make plans against contingencies to come, meaning those pesky problems that I anticipate but rarely see to fruition.  May I also not attack nor judge.  These three tendencies separate me from You, which is the last thing that I want.

Amen.

Lessons

ACIM Workbook Lesson 213 – for Monday, August 1, 2011

Affirmation:  “I am not a body.  I am free.  For I am still as God created me.”

“All things are lessons God would have me learn.  (WB394)”

Reflections:

In ACIM, we are viewed still as learners.  (In A Course of Love, we are seen to have completed our learning.)  If we find our greatest affinity for ACIM, then the passage for today will make the ways of this world most understandable for us.  We are in a schoolhouse here, after all, which most New Age thinking says.  (Neale Donald Walsch in his Conversations with God is a notable exception.)

Turning to our day, as we awaken each morning, as a learning experience will make the day more manageable.  We will realize that life, however difficult it can sometimes seem, is teaching us something, and these lessons (according to the Manual) differ from day to day.  There is a learning goal each day, though the lessons also change each day (a Manual paraphrase).

We can also pray for the “happy dreams the Holy Spirit brings” (a quotation from the Workbook).  This in itself will lighten our perceived “load” of difficulties.  And the Holy Spirit will respond.  If He does not change the conditions, He will alter our perception of them.  We will find ourselves better able to cope.  Turn to the pages of ACIM for inspiration.  We will not be disappointed.  Even a quick opening of the book may provide just the Word that we need at the time that we need it.  This is not magic.  Any page will do; ACIM is just that powerful.

Prayer:

Dear Father/Mother,

I would still perfect the lessons that You would have me learn.  I look ahead to the time when I will no longer be a learner, but I am not consistently in that frame of mind and spirit.  Lead me to progress to the level that You would have me find.  

Thank you for A Course in Miracles.  The solution is always with the problem, as ACIM says, and I have found many solutions to my various problems within the pages of Your inspired writing.  Be with me today as I seek to have a good day, a day I seek to spent in league with you to help in some small way to bring a better way of living to this sometimes difficult world.

Amen.