Remembering the Challenge

I lost a spiritual mentor, a mother figure and a friend last week.

Margaret Stevens was the minister of the Santa Anita Church, an independent New Thought church in Arcadia, California, for 22 years during the 1960s, 70s and 80s. As one of the few prominent women ministers in New Thought during that time, she was a pioneering figure in the movement and knew and worked with some of the most notable leaders of metaphysical thought in the 20th Century.

After my family and I moved to Southern California in the early 1980s, we became involved at the Santa Anita Church, and Margaret soon reached out and asked me to become a member of the Board. Being able to work closely with her was an honor and a privilege, as well as a source of great joy and spiritual growth.

After retiring from the ministry, she moved to Ashland, Oregon, where she spent the rest of her life. We visited periodically over the years, and she came out of retirement in 2001 to officiate at my son and daughter-in-law’s wedding.

Margaret was one of the two people to whom Lessons from the Source was dedicated.

But by the time she made her transition last week at age 92, the New Thought movement had mushroomed, a whole new generation of ministers and teachers had begun sharing their own interpretations of Universal Truth, and Margaret’s name had faded from the picture. My guess is that very few of you have even heard of her.

That has gotten me thinking about the fleeting and finite nature of life’s journey. As a hospice volunteer for more than 20 years, I visited with dozens of people who were preparing to make their departures and were contemplating the meaning of their own lives and wondering how they would be remembered. The truth is that, while I remember many of those conversations vividly, I would be hard pressed to tell you the names of more than a few of the people or many details about their lives.

Have you ever visited an old cemetery and read the headstones of people who died decades, or even centuries, ago and wondered who they were and what their lives were like? In most cases, there’s simply no way of knowing.

Except for those few individuals whose lives had such an enormous impact on the world that their names will never be forgotten, the time eventually will come, long after each of us and our descendents have passed on, when no one who knew us will be around to tell our stories.

If we allow ourselves to forget our true identities as eternal spiritual beings who are experiencing a temporary adventure in the physical world, that thought could become pretty darn depressing.

But the teachings in Lessons from the Source remind us of the importance of remembering who we really are:

You are a spiritual being. You must remember and realize and accept that this is true, and then enjoy your adventure on the physical plane from the perspective of the spiritual, which is the true source of all of your good.

… the challenge of the physical plane (is) to be able to overcome its false restrictions and move beyond them and allow your being to flow gently with the current of light and love and peace and happiness.

From my perspective at this point in my own journey, that is indeed the ultimate challenge for all of us. But understanding that intellectually, and then actually living our lives based on that understanding, are two very different things.

I just this moment opened Lessons from the Source and read again the paragraph at the very beginning that is my favorite passage in the entire book. Here’s what it says:

This life on earth is a gift. It is fun. It is a training ground. It is a diversion. It is a vacation. It is an exercise in re-learning all that you already know. It is a way to express all that is good—joy and peace and love and gentleness and power and poise and wisdom and confidence and blessings and hope and security. You have chosen this set of circumstances so that you may grow. So do so. Laugh and love and live joyously. Be confident of your good and simply accept it. The physical world will change according to your will if you will just believe.

I believe we all need that reminder from time to time. My friend, Margaret, confronted that ultimate challenge just as we all do, and it wasn’t always easy for her to remember, either. But she laughed and loved and lived joyously, and her expression of her true identity touched the lives of untold numbers of people. Now she’s flowing totally effortlessly with the current of light and love and peace and happiness, and I miss her.

One Response to “Remembering the Challenge”

  1. Karyn says:

    Margaret Stevens married my husband and I 31 years ago. She was my introduction to the New Thought. I am making my way back and found a new place to worship today, in Portland OR. Driving home I have been lost in my thoughts of Margaret Stevens and how I loved to be in her presence because she exuded love. She is why I’m finding my way back.

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    About Jack Armstrong

    Welcome to my blog. I’m glad you’re here, and I’m excited about being able to visit with you in this way.

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