& Wife Rickie Byars Share
“The Greatest Love of All!”
By Kay Walburger
Everyone is looking for his or her perfect relationship! What is relationship? Where do I go to get one? How do I know if this is my perfect relationship? Is there life without relationship?
It seems difficult to describe, but everyone knows it when they see or feel it! You do not have to look for a relationship because it is impossible to live your life without many relationships. Everything in our life is a relationship situation. Most people use the word relationship to mean up close and very personal loving relationship that they hope is mutually exclusive!
Many hearts are broken while searching for loving relationships in all the wrong places! Rev. Dr. Michael Beckwith and his darling wife, Dr. Rickie Byars, are models of the many facets of Relationship!
They share ‘the greatest love of all!’ “Agape” is the Greek word that means highest degree of love. It is the love that every human soul is looking for whether they know it or not. It is the souls searching for Their Beloved. To find and have such a love is to live in ‘Heaven on Earth’ and so it is with the Beckwiths. This romantic story is how they found “The Greatest Love of All.”
Rev. Dr. Michael Beckwith, (DD) is the Founder & Spiritual Director of Agape International Spiritual Center, located in Culver City, California. Dr. Rickie Byars-Beckwith is Director of Agape Music Ministry and The Agape International Choir.
Love is an Eternal Dance!
Michael: “The way Rickie and I met was very interesting because a mutual friend of ours brought a song he had written with her for me to hear. I listened and it was nice, but I was intrigued by the ‘voice’ of the singer. I asked her name because I wanted her to sing for the church. He told me her name was Rickie. I said that I could feel the healing in her voice. I know her destiny. She has a big destiny to sing for God.”
“The friend started laughing and said, “You don’t know her, man! She is cynical, she’ll never sing in your church! You are hearing incorrectly!”
I said, “Give me her phone number!” I called and asked her to sing at Agape. Rickie was all he told me she was and really not interested in singing in any church. She was actively pursuing a professional career in the popular music world at that time. We had a hilarious conversation, but I finally persuaded her to come and sing at least once.”
Rickie: “Michael called and invited me to sing at his church and I let him know I was not interested! I had issues with all churches from my past associations. I was very hostile to him and I thought I could hear something in his voice that reminded me of past preachers who had angered and confused me. He finally convinced me to come as a professional and not a volunteer singer, and I agreed.”
“When I arrived at Agape to sing, two life-changing events took place. I was not connected to community and I did not feel comfortable. Then when Rev. Michael stepped to the microphone and said, “Good morning!” something in his ‘voice’ told me this man knows something and my attitude began to change about church. Next, after I sang my song, I was amazed by the way the congregation appreciated my musical gifts and embraced me with so much sincere love! I began going to Agape regularly and took classes that helped me heal my ‘issues’ one by one.”
“Sometime during my first year at Agape I started composing a new song. I got stuck trying to find the right language. I needed the exact words that could express the feelings I wanted to share in the song. I picked up the phone to call Rev. Michael because I thought of him as a master with words. I explained my song and sang the melody to him, asking him to help me with the next words. He went inside his heart and mind, and then spoke the perfect words that absolutely expressed my feeling. I was delighted with my intuitive instincts that lead me to call my pastor Michael. That was the first of many songs we wrote together over the years.”
“Not long after that Michael asked me to form a choir for a Christmas program. Well, I had healed a lot of my ‘issues’ but I was not ready for that one! I told him I didn’t know anything about choirs. He told me God would teach me. I knew Rev. Michael had faith in my abilities and that God would guide me, and so with uncertainty I began to overcome my fears and work on the choir. The choir was a wonderful success and I was the one most amazed by the vibrations of love it emanated at Agape!”
“It was obvious that the choir was going to be a ‘big thing’ at Agape because it brought so much joy to the members. I had no hidden agenda for it other that it be true to what it was meant to be. It has continued to grow from those humble beginnings in December of 1988.”
Agape International Choir began with a 30-voice holiday season presentation and has grown into a multi-ethnic group with an average roster of 160 members. With the combined writing and composing talents of music director, Rickie Byars, and founding minister, Rev. Dr. Michael Beck-with, early on the choir began performing original Beckwith/Byars compositions. As the choir has developed and grown in membership, so has the complexity of Rickie Byars’ vocal and instrumental arrangements. Over the past six and one-half years, Agape Choir music has become known for its signature sectional harmonies, counterpoint, tempo-patterns, devotional power, and energetic enthusiasm.
From the earliest visions of a destiny that included serving humankind, Rev. Dr. Michael Beck-with understood music’s power as a vehicle of transformational healing and the pivotal role it would play in the unfolding of his vision. Today, literally thousands have experienced evidence of his conviction through the transporting sound of the Agape International Choir under Music Director, Dr. Rickie Byars Beckwith.
During this same time, the “sound” of the Agape Choir has truly had an international reach. Through either live appearances, Choir Sunday tapes, or studio and live concert tapes, Agape Choir music has been heard from Santa Monica to South Central, California; all across the United States, to the United Nations; it has encircled the globe from Los Angeles, California to Somalia, from Ghana to South Africa; from Egypt to India. Agape Choir music is the power of acappella prayer to rousing rhythmic celebration and affirmation. Agape Choir music moves listeners from all walks of life, from tears of inexpressible joy to literally dancing in the aisles!
of the Heart!
Michael: “Marriage is about a way of life that includes being with the right person. Most people think ‘I’m going to get married to the right person and that will be it.’ Marriage is a subset to the way of life that is about growth, development and unfoldment. It must be about releasing your talents and your gifts. Your way of life is about transformation and service, which includes marriage. In that way marriage is a vehicle that assists you in doing what you are already doing.”
“When people get married without having a life of their own that includes growth, development, and unfoldment, this relationship can get sticky and filled with a lot of conflict. It has a hidden message, “You are going to make me happy and please don’t change!”
“When your life is about change then you find someone who is willing to go on the adventure with you. You assist each other in unfoldment. You have someone who loves you now, and will love and support you as you grow and change. A ‘Real Marriage’ has many wonderful divorces where you constantly divorce ‘who you used to be last year’ and remarry ‘who you are this year!’”
“Rickie and I encourage each other to release ‘Life Energy’ and support each other in that freedom. We believe a true spiritual marriage is what most people really desire instead of mirroring a projection of who you think the person is and hoping they will fill your needs. When a person is on a path of self-discovery and growth they bring romance, love, generosity, happiness, kindness and compassion, etc. to it! They aren’t looking for their partner to make them happy, they get happiness when it’s free flowing instead of on demand. In our marriage I get to show my natural love, kindness, generosity, compassion, and practice who I am in what I call, ‘The Adventure of the Heart!’”
“I encourage ‘Spiritual Practice’. We are in a process of becoming more of our selves and when we practice, that yields the fruits of great discovery and insights for our unfoldment. Believing followed by practice leads to ‘Knowing’. Knowing is that state of connection with the Divine Source of Love and Wisdom that dissolves the illusions of separation from All of The Life Force Energies and Eternal Love. This is our first and primary relationship with ourselves and our Source that makes all other relationships more loving and enjoyable.”
Rickie: “Our relationship is so complementary in many ways. We love and support each other’s work, because it is like a ‘dance’ as we flow well together. Michael is my best friend and his love is ever surrounding me with fun and adventure at home, at work, and at play.”
“Finding a way to say what we need to say and knowing it will be ‘OK!’ to be truthful is vital to our marriage. I have to speak up even if it muddies the water, and what I like about Michael is he doesn’t hold it. He releases it and that helps us both get clarity. I need to be clear. So we talk it out and explain what we were thinking or feeling and come to a clear understanding. We give each other space to be alone, or to create, or whatever we need.
Michael: “Our secret for being together so much of the time is: We ‘love’ each other and we ‘like’ each other. We love each other’s company, we are creative in each other’s company, we listen to each other and we honor each other’s space. When we want to be alone we don’t take it personally, we become a protector of each other’s solitude. We understand it is necessary to replenish our selves so when we get together again we have a fresh perspective to share.”
The Agape Experience
Is a Love Fest!
I asked my friend Diana to accompany me to Agape International Spiritual Center to hear Rev. Michael Beckwith and his wife Rickie Byars, the music director. I felt it would be important in writing this story. She was excited because, we have both always wanted to experience the Agape legend we have heard so much about for a number of years.
A woman noticed us and when I told her it was our first time, she invited us to sign in and pinned a ribbon on us identifying Diana and me as new friends. Everywhere we looked smiling faces greeted us.
The program began and soon Rev. Beckwith was standing before us conducting the program, his handsome face radiating charisma and compassion naturally to the audience. We were both impressed by his authentic elegance, his voice filled with genuine love for all attendees.
There was a christening that morning, the most beautiful I have ever seen. The wee babe in arms was surrounded by parents, grandparents, and godparents and Rev. Beckwith welcomed the young one. He reminded them that they would learn as much from the child as they would teach. This child would call forth their most loving self and they would live their highest principals of compassion and love setting an example for the youngster’s development. They would be his first of many relationships. Then he blessed the babe with a pristine white rose.
We were surprised when Rev. Dr. Michael asked all first-time visitors to stand and receive the official Agape welcome. He instructed the volunteers to hand out a ‘love note’ to us from him personally. Then the whole audience turned to us, lifting their hands in a blessing fashion and together speaking wonderful words of greetings, welcoming and blessing us in the name of God’s Divine Love. I saw before me what I have waited my whole life to see. “The Agape Church is one of the largest multicultural churches of its kind in the United States. Walking into a service at Agape is like walking into the Spiritual United Nations. I felt that I had come home!”
It was a sea of faces of men and women of diverse ethnicity, all celebrating the power of love to create harmony and peace that passes understanding. For me it was a life-changing moment to glimpse the model for our world, now so full of misunderstanding, hate and fear! Here was the proof that love can and will change our world and unite our hearts and minds.
Dr. Rickie Byars lead the musical program and Diana and I knew why Agape is a legend in its own time! The singing was rousing and uplifting to our spirits. I should always sound so good singing as that morning with Rickie’s inspired musical compositions.
Rev. Beckwith’s voice was stunning and full of power and majesty. He was reminding us of our divine purpose here on earth. He asked us to stop being afraid of outward appearances and effects, rather to look inside of our own soul. The Most High lives within each and every human heart of hearts and will guide us if we will listen, study, pray and meditate on Our Loving Creator’s Divine Truth. He reminded us to stop projecting our fears, doubts, and images onto others. Instead he was challenging us to see with new eyes, ‘The Agape Eyes of Unconditional Love.’ My experience is that most people confuse condoning behavior with unconditional love. As I felt the ‘Agape Effect’ it is about loving and forgiving, yet still holding one, including yourself accountable. God’s Love will show you the way to make amends and live your personal purpose.
In his closing he asked us to pray for ourselves first so we could be centered in Love, then family and friends, then our so-called enemies. It was for me a very powerful moment to feel connected to every living person, place or thing on Earth. I am persuaded that every living soul longs for this living breathing ‘Agape’ Love Relationship. Agape was more than we could have imagined. The Spirit of Love is everywhere and so many welcomed and embraced us we felt like it was a true family reunion.
Love Letter From Rev. Dr. Michael Beckwith, D.D.
“I greet you in the Spirit of Love that permeates all that is!”
“As most of you know, Agape means “unconditional love.” “Unconditional” is the love-language of the Spirit. This language is universally broadcast to every man, woman, and child whose presence lights up the world. The ground of our being is firmly planted on this universal, unconditional love of God for its creation.”
“We begin, as I mentioned, by tasting love. We have all tasted love in some form — familial love, friendships, lovers, spouses, and spiritual teachers. Our growth into deeper and more expansive forms of love deepens upon the sincerity of our desire to cultivate it within our consciousness.”
“So let us understand that the consciousness through which love manifests is what determines the quality of the love expressed. Let us determine through meditation and prayer to directly commune with the Love Source of our lives and permeate all that we say, think and do with this universal Divine Love.”
In 1986, Rev. Dr. Beckwith’s inner vision revealed a world united on an ethical basis of human-kind’s highest development spirituality, philosophically, educationally, culturally, scientifically and socially. Applying a Visioning technique originated by Rev. Dr. Beckwith, committed associates came forward to participate in his vision, resulting in the formation of Agape International Spiritual Center. Now, seventeen years later, Agape facilitates a network of twenty ministries, some of which feed the homeless, serve prisoners and their families, provide hospice and grief support, partner with community organizations and programs which advocate the preservation of the planet’s environmental resources.
Rev. Dr. Beckwith serves as National Co-chair of “A Season for Nonviolence,” an international movement founded in partnership with Arun Gandhi, founder of M.K. Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence. “Season” promotes and teaches the principals of ashimsa, nonviolence, practiced by Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King. He is a founding member of the Association for Global New Thought, which yearly convenes “The Synthesis Dialogues” with His Holiness the Dalai Lama.
Singing, speaking and writing solo, Rickie is also in demand as a solo artist. Her CD, “Deeper Love”, and the Beckwith/Byars Songbooks, were co-produced by Rickie and Rev. Dr. Michael. Her music enjoys ever-increasing popularity as evidenced by her recent concerts to sold-out audiences in Oakland, Oregon and New York. Rickie is a frequent contributor to the Agape Vision newspaper, Inner Visions daily meditation guides and Spirit Matters, an Internet magazine.
Rev. Dr. Michael Beckwith, (DD) is the Founder and Spiritual Director of Agape International Spiritual Center, located in Culver City, California. Agape is one of the world’s largest and rapidly expanding spiritual communities. The center is a pioneering organization in the New Thought-Ancient Wisdom tradition of spirituality and philosophy. Agape community has 9,000 members and thousands of friends worldwide. Agape demonstrates positive relationships with all creation and believes service is Love in Action!
The Agape International Spiritual Center is located at 5700 Buckingham Parkway, in Culver City, CA 90230. For further information, please call (310) 348-1260 or check out the website www.agapeonline.org
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