July 26th, 2020 Sunday Service Message: Lessons from the Turtle – “Living Right Side Up”

We are as happy as we decide to be

In the eighth and final talk of her series based on Steve Goodier’s Lessons from the Turtle1, Rev. Joanne concludes the story of the spiritual unfoldment of Turtle by showing us how to “live right side up.”

We have come a long way with Turtle in the past seven weeks.  From the Gift of the Accident he has learned the ability to choose; from the Gift of the Clouds, affirmations of Truth; from the Gift of the Tree, honoring our true purpose; from the Gift of the Butterfly, being here now; from the Gift of the Mountain, setting goals and intentions; and from the Gift of Friends, raising our energy.

Last week, Turtle’s friends helped him to turn over onto his feet and begin living “right side up” again.  Turtle’s experience of being flipped over on his back served as a metaphor for when our lives are upside down, and we are flailing about trying to right ourselves.  This can manifest itself in many ways – relationship issues, health challenges, career concerns, public discourse and politics.  Whatever our circumstances and however we arrived at them, whether of our own accord or through means not in our control, the most important thing is how we choose to respond.

Rev. Joanne asks us a question that was one of the fundamental elements of the class/discussion group she led about Living Life in Transition – Has there ever been a single moment in our lives where change has not occurred?  The answer to this question, of course, depends on how one defines both “change,” and “a single moment.”  At a fundamental level the universe, and we humans who inhabit it, are changing every second of our lives.  The cells of our bodies are always dying and renewing, living and growing.  But on a longer view, as many in the discussion group observed, there are extended periods of time in our lives that are comparatively stable – we are married to the same person, hold the same job, live in the same house, have the same friends.  The main point of her talk was not to parse the meaning of these terms, but merely to point out that even within so-called stable conditions in our lives, change is always occurring – we have ups and downs in our marriage, we are promoted or passed over at work, we redecorate and repair our house, and our friends may move away.

If change is always occurring, Rev. Joanne reminds us, then we get to invite ourselves into an awareness of how we go through that change.  This statement is certainly true, but it does not imply that when we experience change that we are not expecting and do not want, that we should take things lightly and “don’t worry, be happy,” as it were.  The passing of a loved one can be painful.  A personal health challenge can be frightening.  Our children growing up and leaving home can be bittersweet.

Reviewing all of the Lessons from the Turtle, we might be tempted to think that each lesson is to be taken in turn, mastered, and only then should we move on to the next.  Rev. Joanne points out that the lessons are not a linear progression, but each is a tool that can be used as needed, separately or in concert with the others.  She reminds us that “we are called to live our lives right side up in every moment of every day because we are equipped with everything we need to do so.”   She continues, “we are expressions of the Divine, and have the Divine Power and Presence within us that allows us to meet each and every moment in grace, and that grace is part of what allows us to turn ourselves right side up again.”

It is a normal, human reaction to feel badly about negative events that have happened in our lives and to worry about the possibility of future problems.  These emotions are nature’s way of helping to protect us by providing us with a reminder of how we might modify our behavior to avoid the events that led to our sadness.  The key point is to not dwell upon the past to the point we are debilitated by grief and regret, or paralyzed by fear and anxiety of future problems that have not, and may not, happen.  That does not mean that we should not grieve, feel sadness or regret, but that we should move forward in life even in the wake of such events.  Nor does not worrying mean that we should not plan for the future, or use our experience to avoid potential problems.

Normally, we resist change only when we perceive it to be negative.  We all look forward to the changes of graduation, marriage, having children or starting a business – positive changes.  We should take care to use the same spiritual tools available to us when we manage all changes in life, not pulling them out for use only when things go south.

During this eight week series of Lesson of the Turtle we have been gathering for ourselves and learning how to use six spiritual tools.  Acronyms are one way to help us remember a set of ideas or concepts.  We can use the acronym c-h-a-n-g-e to help us with the these tools.

C is for choice – we have the ability to choose how we react to the circumstances in our lives.

H is for honoring who we are – acknowledging the Divine Spirit within us allows us to be and become our very best.

A is for affirmation – we speak affirmations not to make them true, but because we know the Truth of ourselves.

N is for be here now – the past is gone and the future is not yet written, we therefore must live in the ever-present now.

G is for goals – whether concrete goals for achievement or as how we intend to live, we keep our hearts and minds focused on living into the Truth we know.

E is for energy – with the help and support of our friends, we are energized to do what is ours to do in this life.

With most new things we learn, as we use them they will become second nature.  As we practice these tools now, the c-h-a-n-g-e acronym will help us remember those tools.  And as Unity Minister Eric Butterworth used to say, “spiritual tools work when we work them.”  Let’s get to work!


Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you.  Isaiah 60:1

Spiritual Practice:

This week, contemplate how you have been empowered to live right side up.  When you become aware of error thoughts you are holding, consider one idea that you can choose instead.  These ideas work when we work them!  Take responsibility and choose to live right side up this week.

Greg Skuderin

1Goodier, Steve, Lessons of the Turtle, Living Right Side Up, Life Support System Pub Inc, 2002.