Monday, February 9, 2009


Okay, I admit it, you've got me--guilty as charged. I started this piece with just a title because it is a title I can't resist. In fact, I love it. And I didn't even come up with it--a Unity minister by the name of Sonya Milton did. And by an amazing coincidence, she decided to do a sermon about that debilitating concept, "I can't afford it," the day after I had written the essay just before this one, about...and a drum roll would be appropriate here...the concept of "I can't afford it."

This fascinates me for a whole bunch of reasons. First of all, because the reason I've been attending Unity San Francisco at all is because of my treasured friend Dr. Rachel Harris,
a brilliant clinical psychologist in Princeton, New Jersey. I first met Rachel, a real kindred spirit, when she was with and assisting Mark Shane, my Rolfer (a former of deep tissue manipulation designed to realign the body in harmony with gravity) in Miami, Florida in the 1970s. She's written a number of books, including a great one entitled, 20-MINUTE RETREATS, which served me well during my prison stay. We had been out of touch for a few years when I rediscovered her by reading her essay in the MY TURN section of NEWSWEEK, coincidentally enough again on the subject of the importance of friendship. I had included her in the acknowledgements of my early book, FRIENDS: The Power And Potential Of The Company You Keep."

So when Rachel told me a few months ago that a woman, whom I had met way back when in Miami, was taking over as interim minister at Unity, and I must go and see her, I was, not being much of a churchgoer or synagoguegoer (I just like the way that last word runs together), surprisingly nonresistant to the idea. It helps that Rachel is one of those rare people in my life who has never steered me wrong. Her clarity and commonsense know no bounds. She is often the friend I will first show something I've written Her opinions are always right on target, and she is willing to tell the truth even if it hurts my feelings in the moment. Boy, is that a rarity nowadays! So I went to Unity and Sonya and I found each other vaguely familiar, but we couldn't remember exactly the situation where we had met so many years ago, though we had Rachel in common and it felt as if we had known each other all along for all those years.
And Sonya's a Rolfer, and a Jewish girl from the Bronx (one of the things I really like about Unity, and also about Unitarianism, and the Church of Religious Science, is they are the embodiment of ecumenism, and were so long before most traditional churches ever heard of it.), and one of those people who epitomizes one of my favorite descriptive phrases,
"down-to-earthiness," meaning she has her feet very firmly planted on the ground (she's "grounded" to use one of the most popular terms from the 1970s) with a special spicy zest for life, and as such, a gifted speaker.

Unity is not a "superchurch", though it is a super church. It only has about a hundred members, though slightly more than that show up each Sunday, it's mission statement is "We Empower The World through Spiritual Growth." It's had its financial struggles, but it feels like a place of abundance. Part of that is due to Sonya, but a big part of it is the people it attracts. And the most opulent spread of food downstairs in the lounge of any church in the world I've ever visited doesn't hurt. I know some great and generous folks are responsible for that delicious repast, but I really would rather imagine it appearing by magic every Sunday. I found myself this past Sunday almost uttering a sacrilegious exclamation out loud, "Oh my God--crabcakes?"
(I have found myself not telling friends about this feast for fear they would think it was the main reason I go to Unity, and they would be only partially right. And isn't it all the same, the way we choose a church, a friend, a favorite restaurant--we avoid the one who leaves us with an empty feeling, we embrace the one that makes us feel "full.")

I was first attracted to Unity by the writings of one of its most famed teachers, Catherine Ponder, who wrote extensively and brilliantly about prosperity long before I ever conceived MONEYLOVE. Catherine Ponder was writing and talking about The Law Of Attraction long before it became fashionable to do so. I became friendly with another great Unity minister and teacher of prosperity, Edwene Gaines, often quoting her in my seminars, even inviting her to appear on a prosperity video with me.

And Sonya Milton carries on that tradition, her sermon with the great title was about prosperity and about the concept of tithing, giving back to your source of spiritual sustenance.
I remember Zig Ziglar, that legendary motivational speaker, telling me that he liked MONEYLOVE, but was disappointed that I didn't talk about God in it. And I said to him,
"But Zig, it's all about God--isn't everything?" I 've never believed that the amazing higher power that created this magical universe is ever going to reach down with a celestial finger, tap me on the shoulder, and say in the voice of James Earl Jones, "Jerry, I'm really disappointed--you didn't mention me today."

I've written before about how much serendipity, defined as "fortunate or valuable things you discover accidentally, sometimes while looking for something entirely different," seems to be happening in my current life. Sonya's choosing THE SERMON ON THE AMOUNT just as I was choosing to write about a similar subject is just one of those many events that convinces me of one thing.
And I think this is true whenever a lot of these kinds of things keep happening for any of us, I think it means we are in the right place at the right time doing the right thing.
Oh, and I just got an e-mail response from Reverend Sonya, after I had sent her one telling her how much I enjoyed the sermon and the title:
I do believe I "borrowed" that title - I seem to recall hearing it years ago and
parking it somewhere in consciousness.

Well, that's O.K., Sonya, I had already decided that I would definitely borrow it for something I write or speak about in the future myself. Don't you find that it isn't whether or not, as Ray Bradbury once said,
something is original with you, but your knowing how to use it in a new way--in other words, again, being at the right place at the right time, doing the right thing.
Jerry Gillies

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