Eric Butterworth was a minister, author and spiritual icon in the Unity movement who made his transition in 2003. Eric’s widow, Olga, told me a story of Eric’s childhood, which she said made a powerful impact on his faith and subsequent ministry.
During the Great Depression, Eric’s mother, a Unity minister, found a way to give her children a stable home and the best public school education available, despite the family’s tenuous finances due to her husband’s long absences and gambling problem. Eric’s mother would find an abandoned mansion in a wealthy neighborhood and look in the county records to see who owned it. She would then offer to move her family in as caretakers, rent-free.
One day, when the family had only a few pennies and no food, Eric had an idea, based on the principles he’d learned from his mother. He gathered the family in a close circle, holding a small wicker basket into which he had sprinkled the remaining pennies. Then he prayed a gratitude treatment, giving thanks that the pennies would attract heavenly spiritual substance out of the ethers as he threw them up in the air and they would come back down into the basket multiplied many times over.
The family indulged him in this lighthearted visualization, thinking it couldn’t hurt. But soon after, the doorbell rang unexpectedly, and in came the neighbor’s servants, carrying silver tureens of hot food from an under-attended dinner party they had held.
When have you put God to the test? Have you ever exercised the kind of uplifting childlike faith Eric exhibited as a boy? Have you offered, “Thank you, God; thank you, God; thank you, God” in the face of an impossible situation? Would you?
In 1978 I returned home from ministerial school to see my father. He had melanoma that had migrated to his brain. The day I arrived, the doctors gave him six months to live. They told us we should place him in a care facility because of his terrible prognosis. Later that day I went to a nearby supermarket, where on a rack of religious books a title jumped out at me: Praise Works. The checkout line moved very slowly as I began to read it, and when I reached the cashier, I purchased the book.
It suggested that miracles could be created by simply giving thanks in any situation, no matter how dreadful. I tried it and found that it “held my mind above negation,” to paraphrase Unity co-founder Myrtle Fillmore.
At home, my dad was complaining of a severe headache. I prayed the “thank you, God” prayer, and he fell asleep peacefully. I retreated into his study to continue my prayer of gratitude, despite what he was facing. I found myself unintentionally walking over to his bookcase and pulling down a book written by a meditation teacher with whom my father had been studying. It opened to a question: “What should you do when your loved one is dying?” The author suggested holding your loved one, giving him or her permission to leave, and saying “I love you.”
I took the book downstairs to my mother, anticipating that she would think this was a weird thing to do. But instead, she enthusiastically agreed to it. We went upstairs, climbed into bed with my father, held him in our arms, and told him that he was free to go, we’d be okay, and that we loved him. He opened his eyes, whispered “I love you too” and fell asleep for the very last time.
Praise works. “Thank you, God” can be your most powerful prayer. Never mind if it doesn’t make sense to do it. It doesn’t matter. A childlike faith is all that is needed.
Jesus said, “Become as a child.” What could be more childlike and trusting than “Thank you, God”? It lifts us up into a higher atmosphere, where heavenly spiritual substance is ours for the asking.