Friday, May 19, 2017

A Seeker of Love and Truth

“Live righteously and love everyone; you will build up around you an aura of light and love.”   Unknown

I’m a seeker…a seeker of love and truth.  I don’t know why I was put on this path, but for most of my adult life, I’ve been on this incredible spiritual journey always looking for answers to life’s greatest mysteries.  I went from believing in a religion which said that if I questioned what they told me then I was a bad person, to opening my heart and mind to learning everything the Universe (or by whatever name you use) has for me to learn.  I may have come a long way, but I still have a long ways to go.  In fact, I usually say that in the realm of everything there is to know, I still don’t know anything.  Yet I keep learning.  I keep learning from these amazing people who have learned before me.  And I also learn by going within to listen to that still small voice that never steers me wrong and always speaks with a voice so full of pure, unconditional, perfect love.

One of the greatest lessons I’ve learned is that unconditional love really is the answer.  Love not only for others, but for ourselves as well.  If we lead with this kind of love in our hearts and lead from our souls, then that love will guide us into some of the most remarkable experiences; experiences that will not only change our lives, but the lives of those around us.  Is it easy to have this kind of love?  Not always.  The more we work on it, though, the easier it becomes.

It’s the reason I became an ordained interfaith minister.  I love to love and I’m not ashamed of it.  I’ve taken some hits for teaching people to love and to be kind to one another.  It’s hard to understand how anyone can find fault with teaching love, kindness, and compassion, the same things that Jesus and so many other masters have taught before us.  1 Corinthians 13:4-8 even states, “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.  Love never fails.” 

The Prophet Muhammad said, “There is reward for kindness to every living thing.”  He also stated, “Be kind, for whenever kindness becomes part of something, it beautifies it.”  Anita Moorjani claimed, “Unconditional love is our birthright, not judgment or condemnation, and there’s nothing we need to do to earn it.  This is simply who and what we are.”  And Alphonse de Lamartine declared, “To love for the sake of being loved is human, but to love for the sake of loving is angelic.” 


Published in the Cookeville Herald Citizen newspaper May 19, 2017.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Love is All Inclusive

At one time, Native Americans were mostly considered savages and were moved to reservations or slaughtered.  After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, approximately 120,000 people of Japanese ancestry, mostly American adults and children, were forced to live in incarceration camps in America.  Then there was the Holocaust where German authorities committed genocide on over six million Jews, Gypsies, disabled, Slavics, Jehovah’s Witnesses, homosexuals, mentally ill, and others.   Also throughout history at various times, women were considered property and men could do whatever they wanted to them, and black people were kept as slaves.  These are just a few examples throughout history. Many of these groups were even considered subhuman.

We’ve come a long way, but we still have a long way to go.  Today, Muslims, Mexicans, blacks and other people of color, women, those in the LBGTQ communities, the homeless, poor, those of particular religions, and so many others continue to have to fight the battle to equality. 

For those of us who aren’t in any of the above groups and have not yet had to experience any of these injustices, it’s hard for us to understand what they went through or are going through.  We can have an idea in order to have empathy and show compassion, but we can never truly know how anyone actually feels. 

John F. Kennedy stated, “If we cannot now end our differences, at least we can help make the world safe for diversity.”   The good news is that there are millions of people all over the world who are uniting to bring people together in spite of any perceived differences!  They’re out there practicing the teachings of their spiritual masters in that they’re lifting people up, working to bring equality to all people, and working to overcome the injustices that so many are experiencing just because of their beliefs, color, lifestyles, nationality, religion, and so on. 

Nelson Mandela said, “As long as poverty, injustice and gross inequality persist in our world, none of us can truly rest.”  He also said, “To deny people their human rights is to challenge their very humanity.”

Max de Pree stated, “We need to give each other the space to grow, to be ourselves, to exercise our diversity. We need to give each other space so that we may both give and receive such beautiful things as ideas, openness, dignity, joy, healing, and inclusion.”  Desmond Tutu declared, “Isn't it amazing that we are all made in God's image, and yet there is so much diversity among his people?”  And Gandhi said, “Our ability to reach unity in diversity will be the beauty and the test of our civilization.”  

We all share space on this great planet called Mother Earth; therefore, can’t we just learn to live together in peace and harmony?  As someone once said, “The beauty of the world lies in the diversity of its people.”  And personally, I believe that because of our diversity, we are one beautiful planet!


Published in the Cookeville Herald Citizen newspaper May 12, 2017.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Lucky to Have Friends

“If you have two friends in your lifetime, you’re lucky.  If you have one good friend, you’re more than lucky.”  S.E. Hinton

Over our lifetime, we have the opportunities to meet countless people and hopefully be lucky enough to make some good friends along the way.  The Merriam Dictionary describes a friend as “one attached to another by affection or esteem; a favored companion.”  Of course, there are numerous degrees of friends, everything from acquaintances to deep, bonding lifelong friends.  We have them in schools, workplaces, neighborhoods, churches, and so on. 

Hopefully, we can get along with most of the people who are in our lives whether they are friends, co-workers, and/or even family.  Some relationships can be a real adventure in that there can be conflict or even outright hostility for whatever reasons. These can be great lessons in learning how to deal with difficult people.  Some of these difficult relationships will work themselves out to where we can eventually get along, and if we’re really lucky, we may end up being the best of friends.  With some others, no matter how hard we try to get along or how nice we are to them, we realize that there will never be any kind of relationship; therefore, we just have to bless them and let them go.

There are many reasons why we may not be able to get along with someone no matter how hard we try.  It could be a personality conflict, they may have issues in their personal lives, they may not agree with your beliefs, lifestyle, religion, etc., and therefore, don’t want to associate with you, or it could be any number of things. 

There are some who are happy being miserable or they’re constantly surrounded by chaos and they may not know how to be friends.  I once knew someone who was consistently surrounded by chaos, and I asked my inner spirit why.  She replied, “Because that’s all she knows.”  Sometimes that chaos can become our identity.  Thich Naht Hanh said, “When another person makes you suffer, it is because he suffers deeply within himself, and his suffering is spilling over.  He does not need punishment; he needs help.” 

There’s not much we can do when people are determined not to be our friends no matter what the environment.  What I try to do is to see them embraced with love and light, to have more compassion and understanding for what they may be going through, and then I release and let them go. 

Then there are the rare friends who will make you laugh a little louder, your smile a little brighter, and your life a little better.  They lift you up, encourage you, support you, lend you their shoulders, and they’re always there to love you unconditionally no matter what.  These are the friendships we should concentrate on building.  These are the friendships that can last a life time.

“A friend loves at all times.”  Proverbs 17:17


Published in the Cookeville Herald Citizen newspaper May 5, 2017.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

The Chattering Mind

I’m a huge fan of actor Jim Carrey, who’s been on a serious spiritual journey.  I enjoy listening to his talks on YouTube and have learned a lot from him.  Recently, I was listening to a snippet of one of his talks about our chattering minds.  He mentioned specifically how he’ll have these constant conversations with people in his mind and they’re not even there at that moment.  I found myself thinking, “Wow!  Jim Carrey does that, too?!?” 

How many of us do this on a regular basis?  I know I do, especially if someone is treating me badly.  We also can go over and over certain events that have happened.  Usually these thoughts are negative.  In our minds, we argue, we fight, we stick up for ourselves when we didn’t in person, and on and on it goes.  Sometimes these thoughts are of the future about things that haven’t even happened, and more than likely won’t happen.  I know when my mind gets to chattering like this, even I get tired of hearing myself think those same repeated thoughts.   

Our thoughts are powerful and can even affect our minds and bodies with either good or ill health.  Negative thinking can also affect what we believe and the way we perceive people and things around us.  It’s not only what we think about others that matters, but what we think about ourselves.  Buddha said, “Your worst enemy cannot harm you as much as your own unguarded thoughts.”

Buddha also said, “Those who are free of resentful thoughts surely find peace.”  Is it easy to change our negative thinking so that we can have peace of mind?  Hardly.  I’m known as a pretty positive thinking person, but I struggle with my thoughts just like everyone else.  Yet I know the key is to change those negative thoughts into something positive even if I have to force myself to do so. 

If I find myself thinking negatively, I’ll sometimes yell “STOP!” in my mind.  I then replace it with a positive thought or phrase such as “Every moment of every day, I’m getting better and better!”  If the thought is about another person, I’ll try, “Sending love and light.”  I’ll even sing happy and/or loving songs either out loud or to myself.  When we think positively, it puts us in a happier frame of mind and makes us feel a whole lot better physically, mentally, and spiritually. 

The Positivity Pledge states, “I shall no longer allow negative thoughts or feelings to drain me of my energy.  Instead, I shall focus on all the good that is in my life.  I will think it, feel it, and speak it.  By doing so, I will send out vibes of positive energy into the world and I shall be grateful for all the wonderful things it will attract into my life.”  www.mindfulwishes.com

“If you realized how powerful your thoughts are, you would never think a negative thought.” Peace Pilgrim


Published in the Cookeville Herald Citizen newspaper April 28, 2017.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

The Best of Times, The Worst of Times

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.”   Charles Dickens 

“A Tale of Two Cities” was published in 1859 as a historical novel about the French Revolution that occurred in the late 1700’s. What’s interesting is that the statement above could be just as applicable today as it was back then.  We could even say the statement could very well cover every time period since the beginning of mankind.

When you look at the news today, it seems like the world is falling apart, but what if it’s really falling together?   The media tends to only communicate the negative and that’s sad because it gives us a much distorted perspective of what the world is really like.  In reality, there is so much more good in the world!  We shouldn’t ignore the negative as we do need to stay informed, but instead, we can put our focus on the positive and all the good that people are doing! By choosing to focus on the positive, the good, and the beautiful, it gives us hope and we can stay in a more loving frame of mind.   It’s a scary time for sure, and yet it’s an exciting time because we’re seeing that love really does prevail!

Throughout time, we’ve had countless spiritual leaders and masters such as Jesus, Buddha, Muhammad, Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., and so many others teach us that there is a better way.  With love, compassion, kindness, and knowing our connectedness, we can come together and live as one in peace. 

All the hate, bigotry, and violence we are seeing in the world are uniting people on a greater scale than we could ever have imagined and people are waking up!  People are becoming the change they wish to see in the world.  All this negativity we’re seeing is actually teaching us to love and to accept one another as the brothers and sisters that we really are regardless of any perceived differences.  We’ve come a long way, but we still have a long way to go.  I totally believe that so much good can come from even what seems to be the most horrible situations, and we’re seeing it happen in that people are uniting all over the world!

“No matter what, we always have the power to choose hope over despair, engagement over apathy, kindness over indifference, enthusiasm over lethargy, love over hate.  This is our true freedom.  Whatever life may throw at us, we have the freedom and ability to choose our attitude.  And I believe it is in those moments of choice that we manifest our destiny.”  Cory Booker 

Published in the Cookeville Herald Citizen newspaper April 22, 2017.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Teaching is a Work of Heart

“You have a big heart, you’re clever, and I know you’re a good boy.”  These were the words of Chen Miller, a special needs teacher in Israel, when she spoke them to a child who was convinced by others that he was ‘disturbed.’  The child cursed, spat, and screamed at her daily for weeks, but she would repeat the exact same words.  One day, she came into class and found the child had moved his chair next to hers, and he began to blossom and learn.  “There is no child that can’t; only a child that can.  Remember always that education is the forming of impressions on souls.”

One of the most important professions in the world is teaching.  Teachers, as a whole, are under-appreciated and underpaid for what they do.  When I first started working in the schools some eight years ago, I gained a whole new respect and admiration for teachers.  For about seven hours or more a day, parents and caretakers entrust their children to these wonderful individuals so that they can impart knowledge and wisdom to these precious minds.

In spite of what some people think, teaching is not just an eight to three job, nor do teachers get all these ‘vacation’ days.  Most teachers come in early, leave late, have papers to grade in the evenings and on weekends, plan their day on their own time, and many of their vacation days are spent planning, taking classes, and attending meetings.  Many spend their own money for classroom supplies, and sometimes to even buy much needed personal items for their students. 

What does this have to do with spirituality?  It’s called showing kindness and compassion to our teachers and the school administrators.  They deal with a lot to try to give our children the best education possible and to do their best to keep our children safe. 

If you can, write a note of appreciation and let teachers know that you are grateful for what they are doing for your children.  Maybe you can even help buy supplies for their classrooms.  But most of all, let’s not take our teachers and education opportunities for granted.  At any time, it could all be taken away. There are many children in the U.S. and the world who don’t have access to schools and are desperate to learn.  There are also those who risk their lives to go to school, getting beat up and maybe even losing their lives just because they want an education.

Our children ARE our future and if we don’t take care of them now and into the future, then what kind of world are we leaving them?  Nelson Mandela said, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”  And Martin Luther King, Jr. stated, “The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character - that is the goal of true education.”


Published in the Cookeville Herald Citizen newspaper April 14, 2017.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Love Through Religious Diversity

“I’m a Buddhist, a Muslim, a Christian…  I’m whatever you want me to be.  It all comes down to the same thing.  You’re in a loving place, or you’re in an unloving place.”  Jim Carrey

In the mid 80’s, because of some experiences I went through, I gave up on God and my religion.  I had a crisis of faith and didn’t want anything more to do with it.  In hindsight, I believe that I was being knocked off my holy high horse because I had gotten too high and mighty in my beliefs at the time.  I was very judgmental of others who didn’t believe the way I did, of others who were different, of those who were of another religion, and of those who lived a different lifestyle.  Even though I totally believed in Jesus, I wasn’t living the teachings of Jesus.  I was also believing what everyone else told me to believe rather than going within and listening to that still small voice of Spirit whose words are based solely on unconditional love for not only others, but for myself.

In the early 90’s, I was introduced to Unity and what is called New Thought (even though it is ancient wisdom).  The teachings of Jesus are still their foundations, but they’re also open to the teachings and wisdom of other religions.  They respect and honor everyone’s right to their own beliefs.  I also learned that God (by whatever name you use) can be in all religions and beliefs.  Once I opened my heart and mind, I learned to love all people regardless of any perceived differences.  I learned to love the diversity, to embrace the wisdom in all religions, as well as to embrace those who have no religion.  I also learned that when I’m secure in my own beliefs, there is no need to be threatened by anyone else’s.

I totally believe that we are all connected and that we all come from the same Source.  I also believe that we’re all on the same journey except we’re taking different paths to the same destination.  Many of us use the Sanskrit term Namaste` which means, “I honor the place in you in which the entire universe dwells.  I honor the place in you which is of love, of truth, of light, and of peace.  When you are in that place in you and I am in that place in me, we are one.”

Bishop Carlton Pearson wrote, “God is not a Christian, nor a Jew, Muslim, Hindu…  God dwells with us, in us, around us, as us.”  Sri Chinmoy stated, “If we live in our oneness-heart, we will feel the essence of all religions which is the love of God.  Forgiveness, compassion, tolerance, brotherhood, and the feeling of oneness are the signs of a true religion.”  And Gandhi said, “If you don't find God in the next person you meet, it is a waste of time looking for him further.”


Published in the Cookeville Herald Citizen newspaper March 7, 2017.