06/20/2021

Turn, Turn, Turn

Sunday, June 20, 2021
Featuring: Rev. Richard Maraj
Week #3 of an 8-Week "Songs of Life" Series

Click HERE to download this transcript.

SOLO
Guest artist Sally Jo Bannow sings the message title song, “Turn, Turn, Turn”

To everything - turn, turn, turn
There is a season - turn, turn, turn
And a time to every purpose under heaven

A time to be born, a time to die
A time to plant, a time to reap
A time to kill, a time to heal
A time to laugh, a time to weep

To everything - turn, turn, turn
There is a season - turn, turn, turn
And a time to every purpose under heaven

A time to build up, a time to break down
A time to dance, a time to mourn
A time to cast away stones
A time to gather stones together

To everything - turn, turn, turn
There is a season - turn, turn, turn
And a time to every purpose under heaven

A time of love, a time of hate
A time of war, a time of peace
A time you may embrace
A time to refrain from embracing

To everything - turn, turn, turn
There is a season - turn, turn, turn
And a time to every purpose under heaven

A time to gain, a time to lose
A time to rend, a time to sew
A time for love, a time for hate
A time for peace, I swear it's not too late!

 [Congregation whoops and applauds]

 

MESSAGE
Rev. Richard Maraj: Whooo! Sally Jo! [Congregation applauds]

So I want you to think about one thing in your life that you’d like to change. And I want you to think about something else in your life that you don’t ever want to change: that you hope it stays like that forever.

Anybody ever have a change in your life that happened, and you resisted it? And you had a hard time accepting it? Anybody ever had that experience? Overall, on a scale of 1 to 10 – 10 being highest – how well do you handle change? How well do you welcome change? How well do you roll with change?

It is said that the only constant in life is change … everything changes! From the time we are born to die, we change! Our bodies change. Our minds change. The amount of knowledge we have changes. Our beliefs change. Our attitudes change. Our awareness changes. Our interests change. Our goals change. Our relationships change. Our families change. Our friends change. Our jobs change. Our life circumstances change.

And you’d think with all this change that we go through all the time that we’d be masters … we would have PhDs on how to handle change! But it is amazing that we struggle with change. Change is not easy for us. Thomas Hardy once said, “Time changes everything, except something in us that is always surprised by change.” [Rev. Maraj and congregation laugh]

And so the question is: Why do we struggle with change? Why is it so hard for us? Why is it so difficult for us to adapt and to change? Well, there are four reasons.

The first one is, with regard to change, that there’s a survival mechanism that sees change – and anything’s that different – as something that’s unsafe and a potential threat. So when things change, we actually kind of get our backs up. We get a little nervous.

The second one is that we are creatures of habit. We like routine! We feel safe when it’s predictable; when it’s absolutely consistent, and we can depend on it that way. It makes us feel safe.

The third one is that change makes us feel vulnerable. It makes us feel nervous and uncertain. It kind of scares us a little bit. Kind of throws us off our game.

And then the final one is that change actually represents endings. When change happens, something ends … and we don’t like endings. The grief; the loss. Then we have to readapt and have to attract and create something new.

So change isn’t easy. Today is Week #3 in our eight-week series, “The Songs of Life,” where we celebrate the power of music. We use songs to allow them to teach us, uplift us and inspire us how to live life in a fuller and more joyful way.

Today we are looking at the song, “Turn, Turn, Turn” – for everything there is a season. And it was a hit in 1965 by The Byrds. It was written by Pete Seeger. And here’s the interesting thing: he wrote it in 15 minutes. Two reasons he wrote it in 15 minutes. Number one: he was ticked off at his publisher, who said that all of his other songs weren’t working, and he needed to come up with a better one. And then the second thing was: he pretty well plagiarized it all from the Bible! [Congregation laughs] The entire song, the only words he actually wrote that weren’t in the Bible were “Turn, turn, turn” [congregation laughs] and, “I swear it’s not too late.” That’s it! Fifteen minutes; big hit!

And the funny thing is: he didn’t even read the Bible much! He flicked through it once in a while, and he thought some of the stuff in it was really foolish, and some were wise. And so these are the words of the song and the Book of Ecclesiastes, Chapter 3, Verses 1 to 8:

For everything there is a season
And a time for every purpose under heaven
A time to be born and a time to die
A time to plant and a time to pluck up what is planted
A time to kill and a time to heal
A time to break down and a time to build up
A time to weep and a time to laugh
A time to mourn and a time to dance
A time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together
A time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing
A time to seek and a time to lose
A time to keep and a time to throw away
A time to tear and a time to sew
A time to keep silence and a time to speak
A time to love and a time to hate
A time for war and a time for peace

And what I think the Scripture and the song really affirm is that the nature of life is change. Life is not static; it is dynamic. It is flowing; it is moving. And the world keeps turning. Life keeps going on; life keeps moving on. There are cycles of life. There are seasons. There are changes that are always happening. There are ebbs and flows. There are highs and lows. We are seeking; we are losing. We are gathering; we are letting go. All of these different aspects are a key and vital point of change … and change is a vital part of life.

When you think about it, without change – the reason change is so valuable and important – is because it renews us! It refreshes; it revitalizes us! It brings growth and development. It brings expansion, greater awareness, wisdom and understanding. And I think it gives us a fuller, greater appreciation of life itself.

And so the question is: How do we handle change better in our lives? So here are three lessons from “Turn, Turn, Turn.”

And the first one is that you’ve got to TRUST that your life has a purpose. How many people believe that everything has a purpose? How many people that you have a purpose? There are fewer hands go up when you say me having a purpose! But the truth is: it says for everything there is a season and a time for every matter under heaven.

In the Book of Jeremiah, God says, “Surely I have plans for you: plans to prosper you, not harm you. Plans to give you hope and a future.” And the fact is: everything we need to fulfill our purpose, there is a time and a season for it in our lives. And all the experiences of our lives are actually there to enrich us and to bless you. There’s a season for all the people that we are meant to meet. There’s a season for all the experiences, all the challenges, all the losses, all of the difficulties.

Do you ever notice you don’t meet everybody? But you do meet the people you’re meant to meet! Every notice you don’t experience everything? But you do experience the things that you are meant to experience. Because everything has a purpose. And we have a purpose here, so everything in our lives is there for our purpose: to enrich us, and bless us, and to fulfill God’s will for us.

And there are different seasons. There are four seasons, and you keep cycling. And winter is a season that sometimes doesn’t get as good of press as spring and summer, except in Arizona. [Congregation laughs] And it seems like a dormant time that nothing is happening. It’s cold; the ground is hard. But that is an important cycle and season for preparing for growth. Preparing for greater possibilities. Sometimes we say, “This is my favorite season, and that is not!” But the truth is: they’re all vital and important aspects of life, of fulfillment and of growth.

And so, when these seasons happen – like the winter – that season feels cold and not happy and fulfilling, the important thing is to not fight against it. Don’t hate it. Don’t complain about it. Don’t run away from it. Don’t freak out about it. Because we need to trust it. To roll with it. To open ourselves to it, and to know that it is a part of our purpose.

Joseph believed that he had a purpose. He was one of 12 sons of Jacob. And then, out of jealousy, (his brothers) threw him in a pit and sold him into slavery. He was then purchased by Potiphar’s house, and he became a servant for him. And then his wife kind of made some advanced on Joseph, which Joseph respectfully declined. But she did not appreciate it, so he got thrown in jail. And then, while he was in jail, he interpreted some dreams for a couple of the other prisoners. And then they seemed to be accurate, and then the Pharaoh had a dream, and then he interpreted for the Pharaoh. And the interpretation was that there would be seven years of feast and seven years of famine. And, because he gave him that information – and he was able to prepare Egypt for that – Joseph was raised to being governor of Egypt.

And so, the point is that there are times in our lives … Like, if it wasn’t for him getting sold into slavery … if it wasn’t for him getting wrongly accused … If it wasn’t for him being in prison, it would have not led him to all the other parts of his life that were so wonderful. We always think those are bad experiences, and the other ones are good experiences. But, no! They were all experiences: teaching us, preparing us, growing us, increasing our consciousness to fulfill the work that we are meant to. We sometimes like to discount and minimize certain areas of our lives and situations. But they are all valuable and important.

And so Joseph knew his life had a purpose, and he knew that everything that happened to him: “God meant it for good.”

My life has a plan and purpose; God means this for good. My life has a plan and purpose; God means this for good. Let’s say that together: [with congregation] “My life has a plan and purpose; God means this for good.” Let’s say it again! [With congregation]: “My life has a plan and purpose; God means this for good.”

You ever wish you had a different family? [Congregation laughs] Ever wish you had a different body? Anybody ever wish you had different talents and abilities and circumstances for your life? We all feel like that sometimes. We just want to get rid of what’s in front of us. But the truth is: if it’s in your life, it is meant for you. If it is in your life, it is there for your purpose and your enrichment, and the fulfillment of the person you came to be and the life you came to live.

And so one of the things we need to do is stop resisting and start trusting: trusting that everything that is in our life – stop fighting against it – and realize it is there for a purpose. To bless and to help us. All the changes and things that we go through are there for us.

The second thing we can learn from “Turn, Turn, Turn” is to EMBRACE the seasons and embrace all of the changes. When you look at half of these – time for this, time for that – some of them are just not fun! Time to break down. Time to mourn. Time to weep. Time to lose. Time to tear. Time to keep silent. Time to die. I mean, these things really represent all the difficulties and challenges and the ebbs and flows of life that are kind of difficult to navigate through sometimes.

I want you to think about someone you really admire. And I would be for most of us, like myself, anybody that I admire … they didn’t just do something great. They overcame some struggle or some difficulty to rise above to do something great. They faced and embraced a certain challenge, and got the best out of it to help them rise to another level. They advanced through their adversity; they didn’t let their difficulties and challenges bring them down. They actually did it, and let it lift them up. And whether it’s a dysfunctional family or poverty or addiction or abuse or lack of education or getting fired or being told they were a failure or not good enough, the people that we admire the most in life embrace the difficulties. Don’t complain or make excuses, but the actually face it, embrace it and allow it to lift us to a higher level. And whether it’s Oprah or Nelson Mandela or Robert Downey, Jr. or Steve Jobs, we can go and on …

Walt Disney was fired for his lack of creativity! [Congregation laughs] Lee Iacocca … I always liked this example. I know it’s old, but Lee Iacocca was fired from Ford in the year when he was CEO and president and they made $2 billion in profit! He got fired in that year! He was a little devastated! And so what did he do? He went to work for Chrysler, who was losing $159 million per quarter! And, over time, he turned that around that they were making over $700 million profit a year.

On Friday I was a guest on a podcast called “Comeback Stories.” The hosts are Donny Starkins, who’s a mindfulness and personal coach, and a yoga teacher, and he does stuff for Tyrann Mathieu and some of these NFL guys – some really high level clients. And then the other one is Darren Waller, who is an NFL tight end for the Raiders. And they have like Danica Patrick and Alex Smith … just a whole bunch of people. And I felt honored to be a part of it.

But what I really like the most was that these two guys are in recovery. Their lives have almost been destroyed by addiction. They went through the 12-step programs, and they are doing great. But not just doing great for their own life, but it’s their mission to help people who are lost find their way. To help people – whether it’s an addiction or any area in their lives – to remember that you’ve got a comeback story in you. That you can rise above. But you need to face it and embrace it.

Napoleon Hill once said, “Every adversity, every failure, every heartbreak carries with it a seed of an equal or greater benefit.” And the only way we can get a benefit from the challenges and difficulties that we face in life is to embrace it! Is to face it!

And so what adversity are you facing in your life right now? What is a challenge that you wish you could just run away from or click your heels and have it disappear? And the question is: Are you willing to fully face it and embrace it and use it to awaken you? To uplift you and to open a space for even greater possibilities?

You know what I think the secret to a happy life is? Is to embrace all the experiences … Not just the good ones and the fun ones, but all of the challenges and difficult ones. It’s to embrace all of the changes and experiences that you experience in your life. Because when we embrace them all, guess what? It opens us up to the beauty, to the blessings, and the goodness that are in us; the beauty and blessings in the world; and the beauty and the blessings that we are meant to bring forth to bring more light into this world.

Les Brown says, “If you want to succeed, easy is not an option.” That you need to face and embrace all that is in your life, and use it to lift you up and enrich you.

And the final one is that we need to ENJOY the preciousness of every moment. Benjamin Franklin once said, “Do not squander your time, for time is the stuff that life is made of.” You know in that Scripture – time for this, time for that – how many times they say “time”? Okay; I’ll tell you. I counted! [Congregation laughs] Twenty-nine times they said “time.” Why? Because time is the most precious gift that we have. That anything you want to have, to create, to experience – any relationship you want to develop – all requires time. It is the raw material of anything you want to have or experience in your life.

Leo Iacocca said this: “If you want to make the most of your time, first you’ve got to know what’s important to you.” You can’t use your time well until you know what is important to you: what you value. What your priorities are.

And so my question is: Are you spending your time doing the things that are most important to you? Are you spending your time with the people who are most important to you? What are the things that you’re doing that you know you should probably stop doing? What are the things that you aren’t spending much time with that you know it’s time to spend more time with? Or the people you want to spend more time with? Who are the people you want to spend less time with? The only way to utilize our time well is to know what’s important to us, and where we want to invest this precious gift called time.

I think I’ve mentioned, a few weeks back, that my eldest brother, Derek, has pancreatic cancer, and has only been given a few months to live. It has been a particularly … So I’m number eight out of 10; he’s number one. There’s 13 years difference between us. And he’s played a huge role in my life. In a large family, you have to pass things on. So he taught me how to count. He taught me how to tie my shoes. He taught me to drive on the highway, because my father yelled at me in the driveway [congregation laughs], so he couldn’t take me on the highway.

My brother was my protector. When we first moved to Canada, we got bullied a little bit. And my brother came and had a little chat with the individuals, who never bothered us again. It was my brother, Derek, who introduced me to Toastmasters, which changed my life. He encouraged me to go speak out in the community. When I tried to start a career in speaking, I wasn’t making much money. I told him I was going to quit. And he said, “Don’t quit; it would be a sin for you to quit and not speak.” He encouraged me, and helped me market. It was him that brought me to the teachings of the Self-Realization Fellowship and Paramahansa Yogananda.

He has been a huge rock of mine, and I felt devastated recently. I’ve just been bawling: bawling my eyes out and just not knowing how to handle this. So I was praying the other day – because I’m just crying and feeling sad, sad, sad. And I prayed, and this young girl came to my mind. Her name is Kelly. She and her family have been part of this ministry.

And so Kelly was born with lungs that were not developed. She had difficulty breathing, and then they found out very quickly that she would not be available to live. And the two options they had were to take her off of the ventilator, or to try and wait and hope to get a double-lung transplant. So they decided to wait – put her on the waiting list for a transplant. And in 19 days, another child died and – at three months old – she had a double-lung transplant. And she was able to continue to live. She had episodes where she had to be taken care of, like around-the-clock care for very intense times.

But she was a bright and beautiful light! She touched and brought so much joy to everybody. And then, at 10, she started having some health issues with digestion. She couldn’t get any nourishment in. So she was actually starving and malnourished. And unfortunately, on the way to treatment for that, she died in the car in her mother’s arms.

And so there was a time when they were chatting – I think she was 10 years old – she asked her mom … She said, “Mom, why didn’t you guys take me off the ventilator? It would have been a lot easier than all this trouble I cause you guys, and have to do all this stuff for me all the time.” And her mom said to her … And, I’ll tell you: the mom and dad’s decision was not easy, because they didn’t know what kind of quality of life she would have had. So it was not an easy decision. And her mom said to her when they had this discussion – “Why didn’t you take me off the ventilator?” – she said, “Honey, I wouldn’t have missed knowing you and loving you and being your mom for the world.” Only 11 years. But 11 years of precious time that, still to this day – and it’s almost been 11 years since she’s been gone … I talked to her mom and, still, her heart is filled with so much love.

And so, remembering that, I thought about my brother and how sad and devastated I am. And then I realize I wouldn’t have missed it for the world. To have him as my brother. To be his little brother. And to have his wonderful smile, his great spirit and attitude, his great influence in my life. [Chokes up]

The Buddhists have a saying that says, “Take care of this moment, and you take care of all time.” Sometimes we want to live weeks and days and months ahead, but just take care of the moments! Enjoy these precious moments; they will not last forever! We will not be in these bodies forever. But it’s to live and love as deeply as we can, and to treasure those moments. I swear it’s not too late – as the song says – for peace, for love, for fulfillment, for connection.

You know, life changes. There are ebbs and flows and highs and lows. But change is a vital and important part of our lives: an important aspect of making us who we came here to be, and doing the work we came here to do.

Ernest Holmes says, “Nature will not let us stay in any one place too long. She will let us stay just long enough to gather the experience necessary to the unfolding and advancement of the soul. This is a wise provision, for should we stay here too long, we would become too set, too rigid, too inflexible. Nature demands change in order that we may advance.”

The best way to handle change? Trust that everything in your life is there for a purpose, including you. To embrace whatever it is in a way that allows you to see the beauty and the blessings. And then, finally, enjoy the precious moments, because they really are. Trust, embrace, enjoy. These are the lessons from “Turn, Turn, Turn.”

God bless you all!

[Congregation applauds]

 

MEDITATION
Rev. Lori Fleming
: I invite you to close your outer eyes. To take in a deep, cleansing breath, and release it slowly. To make yourself comfortable in your seat. Take in another mindful breath. And, as you release it, let go of any busy-ness you’ve had so far this morning. Begin to relax your body. Begin to relax your mind. And take in another deep breath, and move your awareness within: into your heart space. Into that very center of your being. Into that place where we are all one. Into that place of perfect, unconditional love.

Sweet Spirit, we know that life is change. And that changes come. And each change brings a new opportunity for growth and learning and spiritual nourishment. That when we go within, and commune with the Divine, that each and every moment of each and every day works out in perfection. That we are unrepeatable expressions of the Divine: God’s beloved children, created in the image and likeness of God. A spiritual image. And in that spiritual image, in every moment we are connected with Spirit. Spirit lifts us up, works in every cell of our body, bringing us to wholeness. Filling our consciousness with God’s light and illumination. Knowing that whatever we do and wherever we go, God is always there: in us and as us and through us.

And in this high and holy and exalted frame of mind, we know within our hearts that we are the beloved. And that we share that love with all that we meet, because we are truly the hands and feet of God.

And so we take just a few moments, moving more deeply into the silence, recognizing God’s love within.

SILENCE

Sweet Spirit, we come in gratitude for this time away. For being lifted up out of the old into a new consciousness. For each and every blessing that we enjoy in our lives. For the ability to ask for what we want, and to receive it. For this – and each and every blessing – we say thank you, God; thank you, God; thank you, God! And it is so. Amen.

 

Copyright 2021 Unity of Phoenix Spiritual Center/Rev. Richard Maraj

 

Location and Contact Information

Unity of Phoenix Spiritual Center

1500 E Greenway Pkwy
Phoenix, AZ 85022
Phone: (602) 978-3200

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