07/04/2021

Dream On

Sunday, July 4, 2021
Featuring: Rev. Richard Maraj
Week #5 of an 8-Week "Songs of Life" Series

Click HERE to download this transcript.

SOLO
Guest artist Sean Mullaney sings the message title song, “Dream On”

Every time when I look in the mirror
All these lines on my face getting clearer
The past is gone
It went by, like dusk to dawn
Isn't that the way
Everybody's got their dues in life to pay

I know nobody knows
Where it comes and where it goes
I know it's everybody sin
You got to lose to know how to win

Half my life's
In books, written pages
You live and learn from fools and
From sages
You know it's true, oh
All the things come back to you

Sing with me, sing for the year
Sing for the laughter, sing for the tear
Sing with me, if it's just for today
Maybe tomorrow, the good Lord will take you away

[Instrumental]

Sing with me, sing for the year
Sing for the laughter, sing for the tear
Sing with me, if it's just for today
Maybe tomorrow, the good Lord will take you away

Oh, dream on
Dream on
Dream on
Dream until your dreams come true

Dream on
Dream on
Dream on
Dream until your dreams come through

Yeah, Dream on
Dream on
Dream on
Dream on
Dream on
Dream on
Whoa, ah

Sing with me, sing for the year
Sing for the laughter, sing for the tear
Sing with me, if it's just for today
Maybe tomorrow, the good Lord will take you away

Sing with me, sing for the year
Sing for the laughter, sing for the tear
Sing it with me, if it's just for today
Maybe tomorrow, the good Lord will take you away

 [Congregation whoops and applauds]

 

MESSAGE
Rev. Richard Maraj: Whooo! [Congregation applauds] Sean Mullaney!

Sean Mullaney: Thank you; thank you!

Rev. Richard Maraj: Fabulous job! Whooo! Can we hear it for the band, too? Rockin’ out! Whooo!

[Congregation whoops and applauds]

Wow! Ahhh. [Rev. Maraj and congregation laugh] So how many people have an area in your life where you’d like to have and experience more success? Anybody? Okay … And how many people believe that a key component of being successful requires that we have goals and dreams?

Okay. So what is the dream that you would like to come true in your life right now? And the fact is that every single one of us wants to be happy. Everybody wants to be successful. Everybody wants a full life. And everybody wants to have their dreams come true.

And so today, as we observe the Fourth of July, it reminds me of a time when someone shouted out to Benjamin Franklin – who was giving a speech – and said, “So where’s all this happiness that we are guaranteed?” And Franklin said, “The U.S. Constitution doesn’t guarantee happiness; what it guarantees is the right to pursue it. You’ve got to go catch it yourself.” [Congregation laughs]

And so today we are giving thanks for our freedom to catch it ourselves! The main freedoms that we have that allow us to pursue happiness, to pursue success, to pursue our own dreams, to pursue a better life. As we celebrate the American Dream, I thought it would be good with “The Songs of Life” to do a talk about dreams. And so “Dream On” obviously is the song that we are talking about today.

It was on the debut album for Aerosmith. It was released in 1973. So today’s talk is inspired by the unlikely duo of Benjamin Franklin and Steven Tyler. [Congregation laughs] And so, ha ha! So “Dream On” was their first major hit – probably the song they’re best known for. And you know that opening part on the piano? That actually came because, when he was 3 or 4 years old, he used to lay under the piano. His father was a classical pianist. And so that kind of little rhythm thing was something that he felt in him. He actually wrote the song when he was about 17 years old, is when he started writing it … four years before Aerosmith was even formed. And they actually completed as a band. But he really wrote the majority of it.

When asked what it was about, he said, “It is about the hunger to be somebody. The drive to be successful.” He said, “This song sums of the stuff” – he didn’t use that word, but I did ... [Congregation laughs] – “the ‘stuff’ you have to go through to be a successful band, or be successful in any area of your life.”

When they first came out, they were criticized for ripping of the Rolling Stones: that they were “a Rolling Stones wanna-be band. They had a lot of haters. They had a lot of pressure. They almost got dropped from their label, but this song – even though it only peaked at 59 on the Billboard charts – actually saved their career right off the bat. I have to admit, I was not really much of an Aerosmith fan, and when I heard “Dream On,” I was just waiting for that note to be hit. That was my favorite part; it was just, “Wait! And when do we get there?” Because it was such a great note!

But I’ve really come to appreciate it. Because, particularly this week. The first time Sean did it was about five or six years ago. But also this week: reading the lyrics more made me realize this song is a song about more than just dreams. It is about a way to live in pursuing happiness, pursuing success and pursuing our dreams.

You know, the great Arthur Ashe once said, “Success is not a destination; it is a journey.” And I think this song talks about the fact that life is a journey. Success is a journey. Living a fulfilling life is a journey. Pursuing our goals and dreams is a journey. And the importance is to enjoy that journey! Enjoy the journey of success! Enjoy the journey of fulfilling your dreams.

So today we’re going to talk about the lessons for living from the song “Dream On.”

First, I’m just going to give you some of the random lines that I just want to talk about. It says:

“Everybody’s got their dues in life to pay.
“You’ve got to lose to know how to win.
“Live and learn from fools and sages.”
“All the things come back to you.”

And I think what this is saying: that life isn’t easy. We all have our dues to pay. We all have our work to do. We all have our struggles to go through. That losing and failing are a part of success. They’re a part of getting better. And “all these things come back to you” is not just about the Law of Attraction; but all these things come back to teach us things. Everything in our past is there to teach us if we are willing to learn. Some of our greatest lessons in life are the tough things that we go through.

I saw this interview with all these famous comedians: Jay Leno; Jerry Seinfeld; Chris Rock. And they said that, when they get together – even from the time they were young to now – they don’t just brag about all their successes. They talk about all the hard stuff they went through! They reflect on the dives they had to play in. They reflect on the places where people heckled and booed and threw things at them. They reflect back on the places that promised them some luxury accommodations; they had to stay in some roach-infested place. They reflect back on all of the difficult things: the hard and difficult gigs.

Chris Rock says, “You can’t be a successful comedian until you have really bombed big!” Because isn’t it the “tough gigs” in our life, and the hard times, that really bring out our best? They give us more strength and more confidence. They give us more hope, greater awareness. And the help make us better at whatever it is that we do. The tough times really teach us the most if we are willing to learn.

You know, every single great rock composer and songwriter all said they didn’t know how to write songs. Glen Frey said it. Jackson Brown said it. I have a list of interviews of all these guys. Steven Tyler said it, too. But they learned one thing, and this is the basic thing they learned: the best way to write great songs is to write a whole bunch of bad ones first. [Congregation laughs] Because that is the time and the mistakes and the process and the learning that gets us to be better. You have to go through the process.

Everybody heard of the 10,000-hour rule? You know, Malcom Gladwell? What it says: it takes 10,000 hours to become a genius in any area. What that means is: you have to put the time, the effort, and the intention, and it progresses over time. And you get better from all those experiences: the successes as well as the failures.

The fact is: every one of us will lose and will fail and will fall and will make mistakes and misjudgment and will do and say the wrong things. It’s just part of life! It’s a part of the process of living!

I have said many times before: if we all wrote our autobiography, we would all have a chapter in it entitled, “It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time.” [Congregation laughs] I know we all have those! Those are those “What-was-I-thinking?” moments! “What was I thinking dating that person?” “What was I thinking investing in that ridiculous business idea?” “What was I thinking inviting the in-laws to come stay with us indefinitely? What was I thinking?” [Congregation laughs]

Mistakes and failing, falling and getting back up, are a part of the deal. They’re a part of the dues we have to pay. And they are part of learning how to lose so we can know how to win.

I love the opening lines:

“Every time I look in the mirror
All these lines on my face getting clearer.
The past is gone.”

You know, sometimes we get stuck in the past. Sometimes we keep living and dwelling in the past. And the past can be our friend or it can be our enemy. The past can hurt us or help us. How many people ever got stuck in the past? Held a grudge or resentment, or something you just weren’t able to get over?

You know, the fact is, the two most important question that we have to ask ourselves to get the best out of our past is: What do I need to learn from this? What is this trying to teach me? What is it that I’m not seeing that I need to see? What is the message here for me? What is the gift? What is the new perspective or awareness that this came here to show me?

And then the second question from the past and our mistakes is: What do I need to let go? What have I been holding on to that it is time for me to release? What in my past do I need to free myself from? What in my past do I need to heal? What in my past do I need to forgive? Life is a journey, and a part of that journey is to learn from the past, but also to be able to let the past go.

The next thing. I love the chorus:

Sing with me, sing for the year
Sing for the laughter, sing for the tear
Sing with me, if it's just for the day
Maybe tomorrow, the good Lord will take you away.”

I think it’s hard to even say or sing those and not feel happy! Sing with me! And sing for the year! Sing for the laughter, sing for the tear! You know, singing is an expression of joy. It is an expression of joy! And so the second thing from that verse, I think, we learn is: to rejoice and celebrate your life now.

In the Bible it tells us to rejoice. That means express joy! A hundred and fifty-four times it mentions rejoicing. Here are a few:

“Rejoice in the Lord always.”
“Again, I say rejoice.”
“Rejoice in everything you put your hand to.”
“Rejoice in all things.”
“Let the people rejoice.”
“Let the nations rejoice.”
“Let the heavens rejoice.”
“Rejoice in goodness.”
“Rejoice in you.”
“Rejoice in your enemies.”
“Rejoice in those who rejoice!”

And then my favorite:

“This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.”

So my question is: How much are you rejoicing in your life? How much are you celebrating your life? Rejoicing in your relationships? Rejoicing in your health? In your work? In the laughter and the tears?

So on Thursday I had kind of a full day. And one day a week I just … at least I’ve got an afternoon of quietness and solitude. So my Thursday was way fuller than I expected, and so I thought, “Well, Friday is going to be quiet. Friday afternoon.” So I did some stuff in the morning – on Friday morning. Then I went to work out. And while I was at the gym, I got a call from a friend’s son, Brandon, who is going to install a ceiling fan. And he could do it within the hour! So it was short notice. So I said, “Well, I’ll be home in a few minutes; you can come over.” And then I got a text from this angel who does cleaning and laundry for me saying … and the text said, “Richard, big problem! Shower drain overflowing in the master bath from the washing machine. Need help. Get a plumber!” [Rev. Maraj and congregation laugh]

So from the parking lot of the gym, I called, and the plumber … the earliest they could get there was three hours, maybe four hours. So I get there, and then there are towels all over propping up from the master bath, to block it from the master bedroom. The little area rug I have at the foot of my bed was wet, and I kept thinking, “Oh, no! He’s going to do the ceiling fan, and it’s going to be close to this floody thing. Should I cancel?” I decided not to cancel.

So I’ve got two angels bailing and ringing out towels in the backyard and bringing it … trying to get the water level down. And then Brandon comes over and starts working on the ceiling fan. There’s just a lot of confusion and energy just going on. A lot more activity than I was hoping for! And then waiting for the plumber. And then someone texts me and says, “So how’s your day going?” [Rev. Maraj and congregation laugh] And I wrote back, “Well, it’s kind of sucky, if you want to know the truth! It’s hectic and way busier than I’d planned and expected.”

And the funny thing is: all this activity is going down all at once. And I’m labeling this: what a sucky day! Not the day I wanted. Not the day I desired. And yet, in the middle of all that, I realized: I’ve got three people in my house right now who are helping me. Who are bailing and taking care to make sure this flood doesn’t get worse. Taking care of my ceiling fan; I haven’t had one for a year, so I’m so happy. I love ceiling fans! And then, also, I’d never met Brandon before. He is the son of a very dear friend of mine. And so we began to chat. And he’d been through a process – a very inspirational life – and that he’s a horse trainer. And horses, over the last three years, have saved his life. And what an inspiring story! And we hit it off so well he said, “Hey! You want to maybe watch a football game when the season comes?” And I thought, “Yeah!”

So here’s a day I was labeling as “sucky.” I had three people showing me love and care and support. I met a new person I’d never met before, and had an inspiring conversation. And then met a potential friend. The plumber only charged me $45! [Congregation laughs] Later on – two hours later – I got the quiet time I wanted. And then I had a wonderful Friday evening.

You ever had a day that didn’t go your way? Ever had a “sucky” day? I should think of something far more spiritual than “sucky,” but that’s what I use, and that’s what I felt! But … In moments, sometimes we resent … We resent moments. We resent a day for not going the way we expected it to. And yet, if you sing with me, sing for the year, sing for the laughter, sing for the tears, you realize: it’s not to resent, but to rejoice in your life. Even when things aren’t perfect, there’s a lot to be thankful for if we will open our eyes. A lot of things to be rejoicing in.

Growing up, my sister, Maria, would often do little “surprise” things, and give you cards or a flower or a gift or special food. And we’d always say, “Oh, you didn’t have to do that!” Or, “There’s no special occasion; why’d you do it?” And she’d always say, “For no particular reason.” She did so many things “for no particular reason.” Sometimes we think we need a reason to do something nice or to celebrate. And she taught that you don’t need a reason to rejoice in life, in love, with family or friends. You don’t need a reason to celebrate and appreciate.

So here’s what I want us to do. Here are some suggestions to celebrate and rejoice in our lives. So tonight – even if you’re having hot dogs or mac-and-cheese – do it on the finest china you’ve got. Make it a celebration! [Congregation laughs] No; for real! [Laughs] Second: any time you drink from now on – whether with somebody, with orange juice or water or a soda or a glass of wine – drink a toast to life. Just acknowledge, just clink your glasses together all the time. Maybe you could have a bed picnic and stay in bed and watch movies all day. Like yesterday was a good day to do that!

You know, one thing I like to do – and only for a special occasion – I’d eat brie and tapenade and pate and a baguette and a glass of wine. I did it last week for no reason! Just to be able to enjoy it. Sometimes put flowers in the house or balloons in the house for no reason. Or maybe celebrate the little things, like: have you ever said, “No” to somebody when you had a hard time saying, “No”? Or you just set a new boundary? Or someone really complimented you at work?

It’s important for us to celebrate all these things! The big things, the small things, the many things and the anythings! One thing I’ve come to realize is: happiness is a habit. You have to make a habit of happiness. Because what we tend to do is defer happiness, waiting for that great thing to happen. And we train ourselves to often to wait for happiness, it’s hard to actually be happy when those things come. Joy is a habit. Rejoicing is a habit. So we need to practice rejoicing and singing and expressing joy in all areas of our lives. Enjoy our lives! Because it will go by quickly. It goes by quickly. Maybe tomorrow the good Lord will take you away. So sing and rejoice now.

And the final thing: that “Dream On” to me means keep dreaming. When I was a kid, the phrase “Dream on” meant something different. You know, like: “You want to get an A in chemistry? Dream on!” [Congregation laughs] “You want to date Sue Ellen? Dream on!” [Congregation laughs] “You want to be the starting quarterback on a football team? Dream on!” That “dream on” meant, “Only in your dreams!” It meant, “You don’t have a chance!” It was a discouraging, negative thing to say, to tell someone to, “Dream on.” “You’ve got no chance!”

But this “Dream On” seems, “Keep dreaming. Keep striving. Keep believing. Keep seeing possibilities. Keep looking for opportunities. Keep setting goals. Keep developing a vision.”

You know, they did a study of centenarians. Is that correct? Centenarians? Hundred-year-old people? And they said, “Besides genetics, what are the four things you would attribute to you living so long?” Four. And here are what they are. Number one was a positive attitude. They had a positive attitude. Number two was good social connections. They had good friends; people they hung with. Three was: they were able to let go of the past. Let go of the grudges, the mistakes. And the last one was: they always had something to look forward to. They always … it was a birthday; it was a celebration; it was some milestones. Something to look forward to.

You know, dreams kind of help us channel our creative energy. They help us focus our ideas and our thoughts and our actions. In Proverbs it says, “Where there is no vision, the people perish. But he that keepeth the law, happy is he.” What perishes when there is no vision? When you don’t have a vision or something to look forward to? What perishes? Our joy perishes. Our energy perishes. Our motivation perishes. Our creativity perishes. When there is no vision, our spiritual abilities and that life force in us perishes. But when there is a vision, guess what? We prosper. We progress, because we’ve got something to direct our energies towards.

The Apostle Paul said, “Forgetting what is behind, I press on towards the goal to win the prize for which I’ve been called heavenward.” To press on is like to dream on: to keep looking ahead, keep looking forward, keep seeing something greater and better in your life. That keeps us alive and energized and motivated.

I went to a Super Bowl house party this year, where I met an 82-year-old gentleman named Jack. He was one of the most fun, bright guys I ever met. I had a great time. And I got to learn a few things about Jack that really inspired me. He was drafted into the Army in 1959. He served in the Army by serving in the band. He played brass instruments, especially the trumpet: his favorite. He said his “15 minutes of fame” came; he played the Radio City Music Hall. Performed there and sang in the Army choir. When he left the Army, he then – instead of going to college – he worked for the Scheaffer Pen Company for four years. Said he made great money. And he had a really good time travelling all over selling fountain pens and cartridges. And I said, “Wow! You made a career out of pens?” He said, “No, Richard; I made a career out of selling writing instruments.” [Congregation laughs] I said, “Okay.” [Laughs]

And then, when he left that after four years, he went to work in the music industry. He worked for Mercury Records, MGM Records and London Records. He had four stores he oversaw, and they were all in college towns. So selling to kids these new records. He also sold to jukebox operators, as well. And then, when he retired from that, he started a gold company: buying and selling gold, and making gold and diamond rings. Twenty years he did that all over the United States. When he retired from that after 20 years, he created a beignet truck. A beignet truck! He used to drive around … In fact, he did the Phoenix Culinary Arts Festival for four years. And the reason he did it was: when his dad took him to New Orleans when he was a young kid, and he went to Café Du Monde and he had a beignet there, and he loved it. His mom taught him a lot about cooking. And he did that with his dog for a number of years.

And then he said, “And then I sold everything.” And I said, “What are you doing now?” He said, “Living happily ever after.” [Congregation laughs] He said, “I love fishing; I love hunting. I’m going to South Dakota to do some hunting in the fall.” I talked to him last night while he was dog sitting – one of his many hobbies and activities. One of the things I love about him is that, when one thing seemed to end, his success and happiness didn’t end. He just created a new dream. He said, “I was always looking for new possibilities; always looking for some new and better ways.” He would dream on! Dream on! No matter what’s going on. He would keep dreaming, keep seeing new possibilities for his life. He’s 83, still going strong. And I think he’s got many years ahead of him.

I also think the phrase “Dream on”  … when it says, “Dream until your dreams come true,” talks about persistence and patience. Things do not always come easy, and they don’t always come fast. We need to hang in there, and keep doing it until our dreams come true.

So my question is: What is your dream? Or maybe it’s time for a new dream. What would be a new dream for you? It’s a powerful gift that God has given us: the imagination. The ability to see with our spiritual eye. To create a vision. To have these goals and dreams. The question is: What are the goals and dreams you have? What are the goals and dreams that you want for your life?

One thing about life: it’s not easy. That’s a fact. But you know what else is a fact? Life is full of unlimited possibilities. The question is: What are your possibilities? What are the possibilities that you want?

As we celebrate our freedom, I really encourage you to remember to learn from the past mistakes and challenges and experiences, and to let go of the past, as well. Secondly is to rejoice and not resent. And don’t let a “sucky” day [congregation laughs] stop you from celebrating how good your life is, because there is a lot of good to acknowledge and celebrate. And, finally, keep dreaming! Keep hoping! Keep believing! Keep your head up high! And keep seeing something greater than you’re currently experiencing. These are the three amazing lessons from the song “Dream On.”

God bless you all!

[Congregation applauds]

 

MEDITATION
Rev. Richard Maraj
: Surely the presence of the Lord is in this place. And I invite you right now just to close your eyes and take a deep breath, and just open your heart to God. Take another deep, cleansing breath as you expand and open your heart even further to the living, loving Spirit of God that is in you and all around you. Again, one more deep breath. Just feel your body and your mind just relaxing. Feel how good it feels just to let go and let your body rest in that chair. In the same way that you trust that chair is supporting the entire weight of your body, I want you to trust that God is supporting the entire weight of your life.

So I want you to just let go of any concerns. Let go of any problems. Let go of any challenges. And just rest in the loving care of God. Just know that God’s got you! That, in this moment and every moment, God is always loving you. God is always guiding you and providing you with all you need to live life, and to live it more joyously, more peacefully, and more abundantly.

Again, another deep breath, expanding your heart, your mind, your lungs and your awareness of the fullness and the presence of God in you and all around you. For, in you, there is a light that shines that no darkness can ever overcome. There is a light that is always leading us and seeking us to express more of its light in and through us. In and through our words and our thoughts and our actions. In and through all the work that we do. In and through all of our relationships to bring more light and love into this world. For we are the hands and feet and faces of God. We are the channels and instruments of God. The question is: How much of God are we willing to let through us?

And so, in the Psalms it is written: “Be still, and know that I am God.” So, for the next few moments, we’re going to sit in the silence and be still to feel the living activity of God in us. Allow God to heal what needs to be healed. Allow God to reveal what needs to be revealed so you can step into the fullness of the person God has brought you here to be, and to do the amazing work God has called you to do.

Peace; be still!

SILENCE

And now that we’ve allowed our hearts to be ministered to by God, let us turn our thoughts and prayers to our loved ones. If you have a family member or a friend, a neighbor or a co-worker in need of healing or guidance, I invite you to just bring them into your heart right now. I want you to see them in your mind’s eye, encircled in God’s healing light. And we bring into this light all the prayer requests that have come into our ministry this week. And to each of these beloved souls, let’s affirm that the living activity of God – the miracle-working power of God – is bringing about the right healing and comfort, the right order and outcomes, in each of these individuals’ lives. And we hold for them the greatest prayer we could ever pray, and that prayer is: “Thy will be done.” We pray that God’s will – which is good and only good – will be done in these individuals’ lives that will not only bless those individuals, but everyone involved in their lives and situations. So we release these prayers to God, knowing that God has already set things in motion, and good things are already taking place.

So we just give thanks for the gift of life. For the blessings. For answered prayers. And for all the good we know that is still to come. We pray this and affirm this all through the name and the power of the Living Christ Spirit. 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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