One Penny at a Time

In 1995 I was a member of a Seventh Day Adventist church in the Bronx. I was a sincere, devout follower of the bible teachings, church doctrine, and the interpretations of scripture as put forth by church history and its arbiter the church hierarchy. bible teachings as I had always been whenever I chose to belong to any religious group. From beginning of my spiritual journey began (in this lifetime) around the age of 5 or 6, when I attended my first Catholic mass, all I ever desired was to be ‘close to God’, to be perfectly at one with Creator.

One summer night in 1995 I was visiting my mother who was living in the Bronx neighborhood where I grew up. At the end of my visit I headed back to my place. In order to travel back and forth between my mother’s home and mine I had to take a couple of buses.

I started the 7 to 8 block walk up Freeman Street toward the bus stop. I counted the change I had in my pocket to make sure I could cover the bus fare which was $1.50 at the time. I had exactly $1.40 and that was all the money I had with me.

Because I always had a deep desire to live purely at one with Creator by unquestioning faith, to rely solely and directly on Creator to fulfill my needs, I consistently sought to prove to myself that I was indeed faithful in my desire and effort to be one with Creator. My yearning for Creator is an ever-flowing continuum, a ticking constant in all spheres of my life. Like my ceaseless breathing and pumping blood I relish the exercise of it my mystic faculties like a runner that has to run.

So on this occasion I found an opportunity to have an experience with Creator, a confirmation that we are indeed in relationship. I whispered a prayer as I walked and the prayer went something like this:

“Father, I have $1.40 and I need 10 cents more to get on the bus. You see and know all things and You know I cannot get on the bus to get home unless I have the full fare. If it be Your will, please send me 10 cents somehow. Or else, the only other thing I can think of is to borrow the 10 cents from Shawn (a childhood friend who lived near the bus stop where I was headed), and I don’t want to do that because it will give the impression to him that Your children are not taken care of by You. Yet, I will borrow the money from him unless, somehow, You send me that dime between here (Freeman St and West Farms Rd) and the bus stop (at Freeman and Southern Blvd).”

I prayed in silence as I walked through the dark, desolate street and continued toward the bus stop believing with all believing and with total confidence that my prayer would be answered.

As I neared the corner of Freeman St. and Vyse Ave., the street where Shawn lived and where I’d have to take the right turn to head toward his apartment, gently, in thought only, prayed, “Ok, Father, I’m trusting in You.”

Reaching the crossroad I started turning right when a glint caught the corner of my eye. I happened to look down. Lying there,on the street about a foot from the curb was a shiny……penny.

I smiled and chuckled, praying within, “Father, I see. You’re going to give me the 10 cents one penny at a time. Thank You, thank You, thank You!

In that moment I can only say that I knew like I knew like I knew with complete faith that I was going to continue one more block toward Shawn’s apartment and find 9 more pennies before reaching it. I bent down to pick up the penny, feeling tremendous gratitude and joy for finding this penny.

I bent low to the ground to pick it up and grabbed it with 2 fingers when a glint caught the corner of my eye. I turned my head left and there, sitting all alone on the black asphalt street on the corner of Freeman and Vyse was a shiny, perfectly placed……dime!

I almost had an out of body experience! I felt all of life explode within me. Mystery and revelation, and elation, swirled about me in flurried of waves. I felt acknowledged by Creator and present to Creator in a way not experienced before, not like this. To say that I felt total gratitude would be a severe understatement. I felt safe, heard, valued, provided for and protected.

This small experience offers some profound lessons, both personal and universal, that I’m sure will continue to unfold in meaning for years and years to come.

One is that faith is an energy force in the Universe. It is real, the way electricity and gravity are real, their effects observable. Faith, when properly understood and handled, can be harnessed like electricity and gravity. Imagine knowing, understanding and applying the law of faith to achieve both pragmatic and stupendous results when fully known and utilized through learning the spiritual sciences the way electricity and gravity are harnessed through the understanding and application of laws of physics and thermodynamics?

Faith- it is Creator. I’m not sure, then, how much it matters what you place your faith in because faith works no matter what. But faith in Creator calls for love, for relationship, and trust. Faith is Creator in expression as faith just as Creator expresses as gravity and the bear and the cloud and the  imagination. All is Creator, all is consciousness, all is love, all is energy and spirit and matter and more than my language can say.

When I read the stories of Jesus performing healing on the sick or restoring sight to the blind I take careful note of the words when they read, ‘Your faith has made you whole.’ It doesn’t say, ‘I made you whole,’ or ‘God made you whole,’ or ‘Your faith in me/god/the weather made you whole.’ It says simply, ‘Your faith has made you whole.’

This suggests to me that faith is a means of developing intimacy, spiritual intimacy, with the Universe the way attraction facilitates the initiation of love and procreation. Spiritual intimacy, whereby the 2 become one in intention and will, is the mystic way, the way of knowledge through mystery and experience so that one comes to understand oneself as being one and the same as Creator, an expression of Divine Consciousness as Human consciousness and form. It’s a way of connecting and uniting with the unseen, within us and around us, which responds in ways that evade scientific understanding or rational, logical sense. Faith leaves room for the mystery of life, the unanswerable, and the undefinable.

Second, prayer is communication. This may seem absurdly obvious and simplistic except that it isn’t to me, at least not in the way that I’ve always understood the dynamics of communication to be which is one party conveying and another party receiving. Following this basic structure, then, I am speaking when praying. Listening would be the other part, which in a spiritual context you might call meditation or contemplation.

However, I have come to believe in a Universe in which Creator and creation are one and the same in substance, energy, and will in that all things seen and unseen comprise the Ultimate Reality, Source, Creator, Originator of consciousness infinitely varied and expressed through self-modulation of intention and energy frequency channeled and filtered through will and choice.

One Thing becomes all things.

All things ultimately comprise the One Thing.

All things work together for good to them that love the One expressing in all, through all, as all, for the good of all.

Prayer then becomes not praying to Creator but praying as Creator for all are one in Creator – the one praying, the one prayed to, the supplication and the answer. All are one life, one consciousness, one voice, one event, one invigorating force. You can entreat or declare, both effectually, as it is grace that opens the doors to the answers in response to faith and gives way to law in manifestation.

I love  of Creator is Creator’s humility and grace expressed as an answer to any prayer in whatever context.

Prayer, then, is most moving, most effective when it’s imaginative and coursing with gratitude, with heartfelt sincerity and simplicity. Reciting liturgical prayers, as I learned to do during my Catholic childhood, never engaged all of me, never was as dynamic for me because they were not my words, my thoughts, my feelings. Yet, reciting prayers can be done as a form of concentration or active meditation, like dancing, sex or art. But I prefer the wordless nature of dance and art for active meditation.

Praying to Creator through internal focus brings me to deeper intimacy and mystery, as contrasted with the old structure where focus was externalized on a distant god who desired worship and sacrifice.

Another profound lesson I value in this experience is that of humility. When I saw the penny I could have kept walking. I could have because a penny does not equal a dime and it was a dime I asked for, not a penny. I could have continued on my way with my focus on finding and settling for nothing less than a dime. I could have reasoned, successfully mind you, that it was only a penny and could have rejected it on the grounds that my faith was being tested, that faith in this instant could only be properly exercised and fulfilled by my persistent prayer and request for a dime and nothing less. I could have rejected the penny and continued to Shawn’s house secure in my presumption of finding a dime.

I could have, but I didn’t.

Instead, I saw humor and irony in finding the penny, and accepted it and felt and expressed sincere gratitude for it. Finding humor in life, in pain and disappointment, is a special alchemical skill. Growing up in chaotic conditions in the South Bronx during the 70’s and 80’s, I, like my family and friends, always find reasons to laugh and celebrate in the presence of pain. This exercise of spirit transforms the soul’s suffering into joy, iron into gold.

I bent low to pick up the penny. The picture of me bending low is an appropriate image to symbolize the low points in life we must traverse in order that we might learn humility, repentance, grace, forgiveness and re-birth. We must be willing to humble ourselves, to be humbled, in order to find our way back. The only way to harvest the fruit is by burying the seed.

In the bible story of Jacob, Jacob had to experience exile, alienation, and karmic adversity before he found redemption. Because he took only shortcuts in his youth and developed a character lacking integrity, Jacob became a hunted man. Ultimately, he had to endure being lied to and cheated for many years before receiving his reward.

And it was his inspired love for a woman that sustained him, prospered him, and helped produce a  character befitting his desire for harmony and favor with Creator.

There are many other lessons and insights to be gained from this experience which I will not get into here. What I share is enough wisdom to be gleaned over a thousand lifetimes.


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