"Nothing real can be threatened. Nothing unreal exists.
Herein Lies the peace of God."
A Course in Miracles

The Simplicity of Salvation

III. The Self-Accused

26 Only the self-accused condemn. As you prepare to make a choice that will result in different outcomes, there is first one thing that must be overlearned. It must become a habit of response so typical of everything you do that it becomes your first response to all temptation and to every situation that occurs. Learn this and learn it well, for it is here delay of happiness is shortened by a span of time you cannot realize. You never hate your brother for his sins, but only for your own. Whatever form his sins appear to take, it but obscures the fact that you believe them to be yours and therefore meriting a "just" attack.

27 Why should his sins be sins if you did not believe they could not be forgiven in you? Why are they real in him if you did not believe that they are your reality? And why do you attack them everywhere, except you hate yourself? Are you a sin? You answer "yes" whenever you attack, for by attack do you assert that you are guilty and must give as you deserve. And what can you deserve but what you are ? If you did not believe that you deserved attack, it never would occur to you to give attack to anyone at all. Why should you? What would be the gain to you? What could the outcome be that you would want ? And how could murder bring you benefit?

28 Sins are in bodies. They are not perceived in minds. They are not seen as purposes but actions. Bodies act, and minds do not. And therefore must the body be at fault for what it does. It is not seen to be a passive thing, obeying your commands and doing nothing of itself at all. If you are sin you are a body, for the mind acts not. And purpose must be in the body, not the mind. The body must act on its own and motivate itself. If you are sin, you lock the mind within the body, and you give its purpose to its prison-house, which acts instead of it. A jailer does not follow orders, but enforces orders on the prisoner.

29 Yet is the body prisoner and not the mind. The body thinks no thoughts. It has no power to learn, to pardon, nor enslave. It gives no orders that the mind need serve nor sets conditions that it must obey. It holds in prison but the willing mind that would abide in it. It sickens at the bidding of the mind that would become its prisoner. And it grows old and dies because that mind is sick within itself. Learning is all that causes change. And so the body, where no learning can occur, could never change unless the mind preferred the body change in its appearances to suit the purpose given by the mind. For it can learn, and there is all change made.

30 The mind that thinks it is a sin has but one purpose—that the body be the source of sin and keep it in the prison-house it chose and guard and hold itself at bay, a sleeping prisoner to the snarling dogs of hate and evil, sickness and attack, of pain and age, of grief and suffering. Here are the thoughts of sacrifice preserved, for here guilt rules and orders that the world be like itself—a place where nothing can find mercy or survive the ravages of fear except in murder and in death. For here are you made sin, and sin cannot abide the joyous and the free, for they are enemies which sin must kill. In death is sin preserved, and those who think that they are sin must die for what they think they are.

31 Let us be glad that you will see what you believe, and that it has been given you to change what you believe. The body will but follow. It can never lead you where you would not be. It does not guard your sleep nor interfere with your awakening. Release your body from imprisonment, and you will see no one as prisoner to what you have escaped. You will not want to hold in guilt your chosen enemies nor keep in chains to the illusion of a changing love the ones you think are friends.

32 The innocent release in gratitude for their release. And what they see upholds their freedom from imprisonment and death. Open your mind to change, and there will be no ancient penalty exacted from your brother or yourself. For God has said there is no sacrifice that can be asked; there is no sacrifice that can be made.

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A Course in Miracles

Part II
What is Creation?

1 Creation is the sum of all God's Thoughts, in number infinite and everywhere without all limit. Only Love creates and only like Itself. There was no time when all that It created was not there. Nor will there be a time when anything that It created suffers any change. Forever and forever are God's Thoughts exactly as they were and as they are, unchanged through time and after time is done.

2 God's Thoughts are given all the power that Their own Creator has. For He would add to Love by its extension. Thus His Son shares in creation, and must therefore share in power to create. What God has willed to be forever one will still be one when time is over and will not be changed throughout the course of time, remaining as it was before the thought of time began.

3 Creation is the opposite of all illusions, for Creation is the truth. Creation is the holy Son of God, for in Creation is His Will complete in every aspect, making every part container of the whole. Its oneness is forever guaranteed inviolate, forever held within His holy Will beyond all possibility of harm, of separation, imperfection, and of any spot upon its sinlessness.

4 We are Creation---we the Sons of God. We seem to be discrete and unaware of our eternal unity with Him. Yet back of all our doubts, past all our fears, there still is certainty. For Love remains with all Its Thoughts, Its sureness being theirs. God's memory is in our holy minds, which know their oneness and their unity with their Creator. Let our function be only to let this memory return, only to let God's Will be done on earth, only to be restored to sanity, and to be but as God created us.

5 Our Father calls to us. We hear His Voice, and we forgive creation in the name of its Creator, Holiness Itself, Whose holiness His own creation shares; Whose holiness is still a part of us.

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A Course in Miracles

Lesson 328
I choose the second place to gain the first.

1 What seems to be the second place is first, for all things we perceive are upside down until we listen to the Voice of God. It seems that we will gain autonomy but by our striving to be separate and that our independence from the rest of God's creation is the way in which salvation is obtained. Yet all we find is sickness, suffering and loss, and death. This is not what our Father wills for us, nor is there any second to His Will. To join with His is but to find our own. And since our will is His, it is to Him that we must go to recognize our will.

2 There is no will but Yours. And I am glad that nothing I imagine contradicts what You would have me do. It is Your Will that I be wholly safe, eternally at peace. And happily I share that Will which You, my Father, gave as part of me.

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Sarah's Reflections

Lesson 328
I choose the second place to gain the first.

 Sarah's Commentary:
In this Lesson, we are asked to see that the ego always wants to be first in everything. This includes its wish to be above God. It demands autonomy by maintaining separation from God. I remember when my grandchildren were little, often the reason for their tears was that one didn't get to sit in the front seat, someone got a bigger piece of cake, or they felt that they were left in second place one way or the another. The ego is competitive and wants first place in everything, all the time.
I was listening to a lecture on Buddhism a while ago. One of the precepts of the teaching was that one should step back in any activity and let a brother go first. We were at a celebration of Buddha's birthday and given this orientation, everyone waited, not wanting to be the first to get a piece of birthday cake. Everyone wanted to let the brother go first and not be seen as violating this injunction. The Course teaching is not about behavior, but what is held in the mind. It is to recognize that to put a brother first is to gain rather than lose. His gain is our gain. We go together. "I would but teach you what is yours, so that together we can replace the shabby littleness that binds the host of God to guilt and weakness with the glad awareness of the glory that is in him." (T.15.III.9.4) (ACIM OE T.15.IV.31)
In the world, second place seems to be a losing position. What about me, we ask? If I don't look after myself, I will lose. This is the principle of one or the other. If I gain, someone must lose. Jesus says that we are deceived if we believe that to gain at a brother's expense is a gain at all. He teaches, God is the Cause and we are the effect, but this is not second place to God because there is only Oneness. Thus, there is no second place. In that sense, second place is first. To take second place is to recognize that God is in first place, and we can’t be separate from the only place there is. So when we choose with the Holy Spirit, we gain the first place, which is all there is.
Our decision for autonomy and independence have put us in competition with God. We believe that we have won our autonomy from God because we believe that we have a separate will. When we identify with our separate will, it appears that we have taken over God’s throne and kicked Him out. Now there is no God in our experience. He had to be destroyed to put ourselves in the number one position. This is what we experience in the dream. Since we feel we gained at God's expense, we now try to gain at everyone else's expense. Now we are in competition with everyone and with it comes control, manipulation and various strategies to gain power. It is a world of trying to get what we can in order to fill our sense of lack that comes with the choice for the ego and an alien will. It is a place of separation, neediness, and lack, reflected in our special relationships, whether of special love or special hate. Now we try to gain through bargaining, competition, and strife with each other. Our agenda is always about having our needs met as a priority in our lives.
We think we like our independent position. We think we like to make our own decisions. However, there is no such thing as making decisions alone, since we make them either with the ego or the Holy Spirit. To submit to the Holy Spirit's guidance seems challenging if we believe we will lose something through surrender. How this shows up in our experience is when we challenge those in authority and try to gain through power struggles and manipulative strategies, but what have we really gained? All that is reflected through competition is our original struggle with God. Nothing is gained except the pain of separation and powerlessness.
Jesus says there is a tremendous cost to us in "sickness, suffering, and loss and death," (W.328.1.3) but until we see that this is the cost that we pay when we choose the ego, we will continue to strive to have our way. Yes, we have gained our kingdom, but Jesus says it is a sorry kingdom of nothing but suffering, limitation, powerlessness, loss, sickness, and ultimately death. He tells us, "The devil deceives by lies, and builds kingdoms in which everything is in direct opposition to God." (T.3.VII.2.6) (ACIM OE T.3.IX.73) When we see what the results are in suffering, we call out for help and recognize that there must be a better way. When we accept that God is the Cause and we are the effect, then we reclaim first place, which is to claim our Christ Self. In Oneness, there is only love.
When we choose the second place, we choose to become dependent on God, and thus we join with God's Will. "To join with His is but to find our own." (W.328.1.5) This puts us in a position where we are no longer in competition with His Will and recognize that we gain our freedom and our happiness by seeing how wrong we have been about everything. This is the beginning of the willingness to be taught. Our own will, that we exert daily, does not even exist. In fact, the self we think we are is just a character in the dream. Indeed, Jesus says, "This is not what our Father wills for us, nor is there any second will to His." (W.328.1.4) It is only the illusion of a separate will that we believe in and identify with. The character in the dream with which we identify is just a projection of the mind. The mind is outside of the body.
  "It is Your Will that I be wholly safe, eternally at peace." (W.328.2.3) It is a process where we turn more and more to the Guide within. It requires that we give up the "I know" mind and recognize that we can't judge anything on our own. The mind that thinks it knows what it needs and wants and how to get it will not surrender because to surrender seems like loss. It feels like we are giving up what we value. It may feel like some kind of submission, especially to us overly-independent types who have always prided ourselves on our self-reliance. Yet Jesus assures us that the only thing we give up is our fear. The only thing we "sacrifice" is illusion, which has brought nothing but suffering.
Anything I try to do my way, or anytime I think I know what is in my best interests, it always brings more fear. As Jesus says, we really believe that maintaining "our independence from the rest of God's creation is the way in which salvation is obtained." (W.328.1.2) We choose to be right rather than happy. We believe that we know best what will make us happy. Yet he again reminds us that the only way we will ever experience happiness is to recognize that there is only one Will. "To join with His [Will] is but to find our own." (W.328.1.5) His Will is our own will.
As we confront issues and problems in our lives, it is important to keep asking, "God, what is your Will for me in this situation?" "What would you have me do or say?" "Where would you have me go?" We happily choose to follow. We commit to our brothers and join with them, recognizing our same nature.
A friend told me recently that he has been whining and complaining a lot about his life and his status in the world. He believed that he had not sufficiently gained the things he determined were for his salvation as he defined it---a relationship, more money, a home of his own, and a job he loves. Yet, in a moment of realization, when he stopped defining his own happiness, he saw that none of these things he thought he wanted ever brought him deep peace and joy. He thought he knew his own best interests, and so he did not turn to a higher authority and ask what would best serve him. We get so focused on defining the way things should be for our safety, security, and happiness that we fail to see the perfection in the way they are.
Anytime we want anything, we suffer. When we want things to be different than they are, we are expressing our inner sense of lack and loss. To recognize what does not matter, and nothing does, is the key to happiness. When we hold grievances, we demand that life be different than it is. We even have grievances about the weather when it is not warm enough, cool enough, nor humid enough. It is all about our agenda for how things must be for us to be happy. There is nothing that must happen for us to open to God's Will and His Will is only for our happiness. There is no book that must be written. There is no building that must be built. There is no place we must visit. There is nobody in our lives that must do anything for us. There is nothing that must be different than it is, and there are no demands or expectations we need to hold of anyone. There is only surrender to God's Will by turning to Him for guidance. My experience is that when I let go of my perceived needs and expectations, only then can I recognize the miracle. Indeed, it does not matter what happens, as it all becomes an amazing gift when we get out of our own way.
Eventually, we are all brought to our knees one way or another. If this does not happen dramatically, then it happens in small doses of an ever-increasing sense of malaise. "What is it all for?" we ask. It is not until then that we have some willingness to find another way. The Bible talks about this when the disciples leave everything to follow Jesus. Jesus tells them, the first will be last and the last, first. In other words, he is saying that to follow him and join with him may look like last place, but in fact, it is to gain the first place. "Not my will but Thine" are words of humility. Yet the irony is that His Will is our own true will. Our false will, that wants to exalt itself above God's Will, is an alien will.
We enter the kingdom as little children. We acknowledge that we don't know. We learn to ask in everything. How do we hear the prompts of the Holy Spirit? How do we know which voice we listening to? It takes great discernment and a willingness to question our motivations. Clearly, we have become confused about where our guidance comes from. Ask in everything and keep acknowledging that you don't know and be willing to surrender. Finally, take time in deep listening, confident that He hears and answers all your prayers, remembering that when you pray for things of the ego, you are actually asking for nothing. Today, we are asked to realize that by choosing second place, which is to choose to follow God's Will, we are actually gaining the first place. This is when we join with the power of His Will, which is our own true will. Why would we continue to fly with the wings of a sparrow when the wings of an eagle are constantly available to us?
"Those who choose freedom will experience only its results. Their power is of God, and they will give it only to what God has given, to share with them. Nothing but this can touch them, for they see only this, sharing their power according to the Will of God. And thus their freedom is established and maintained. It is upheld through all temptation to imprison and to be imprisoned. It is of them who learned of freedom that you should ask what freedom is. Ask not the sparrow how the eagle soars, for those with little wings have not accepted for themselves the power to share with you." (T.20.IV.4.1-7) (ACIM OE T.20.31)
"When this power has once been experienced, it is impossible to trust one's own petty strength again. Who would attempt to fly with the tiny wings of a sparrow when the mighty power of an eagle has been given him? And who would place his faith in the shabby offerings of the ego when the gifts of God are laid before him? What is it that induces them to make the shift? " (Manual for Teachers.4.I.2.1-4) (ACIM OE M.4.4)

Love and blessings, Sarah


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