Friday, February 5, 2016

The Man in the Forest

Being in nature is a passion of mine.  When I’m in nature, I feel closest to Spirit.  One day while walking a path through a beautiful forest, I was coming up on a clearing when I noticed some movement in the distance.  I quietly moved closer to see what was going on and saw about a dozen deer standing around a man.  The man was petting them and it seemed like they were having a conversation. 

Moving forward to try to hear better, I stepped on a twig causing it to snap.  Suddenly, the herd looked in my direction and then fled into a grove of trees.  The man slowly turned to see what startled them and our eyes met.  It couldn’t be!  I started to walk towards him and sure enough it was!  Excitedly I squealed, “Jesus!  What are you doing out here!?!”  In his quiet voice he replied, “I like to come out into nature to commune with the wildlife and enjoy Mother Nature’s energy.  What are you doing out here?” 

I paused searching for the right words and then answered, “I love nature and it brings me so much peace.  When you’re in nature, it’s hard to imagine that there are any problems in the world.”

With concern on his face, he asked, “Are you experiencing problems?”  I knew that I couldn’t get anything past him, so I continued honestly.  “Mine are minor compared to so many, so I can’t complain.  I’m just worried about what’s happening in our world and in our country right now.  There seems to be so much turmoil and chaos, especially in some of the political and religious realms, as well as others.  We could be doing so much to help people and to alleviate people’s suffering all over the world.  But right now, there just seems to be so much hate and anger among some groups of people, and there are those who are promoting it and getting people all riled up.  It can really put me in a state of fear sometimes.”

Jesus contemplated what I said and then responded. “Yes, I know.  I see it, too, and it makes me really sad.  When I first walked the earth, I thought people would take my teachings to heart, and that the love I taught would continue to grow and spread to all people.  But that’s just part of being human.  Humans have free will and can choose what they believe and how they treat others, and many times, it has nothing to do with me even though they may say it does.  It breaks my heart.”

At that moment, I really felt what Jesus must be feeling and my heart ached for him.  With a tear running down his cheek, he continued.  “You know, Karen, even though I see so many of my brothers and sisters in so much pain that they cause pain to others, I still love them unconditionally.  I don’t play favorites.  That was the focus of my messages…to teach people to love one another unconditionally and to care for each other.  There is no reason for anyone to suffer, but because many choose greed over humanity, suffering happens.  I even said, ‘Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’  Compassion and kindness goes a long ways.  Too many people have covered up the light within themselves and are living in darkness.  I and many other religions’ spiritual masters have been trying to reach people’s hearts, and our teachings have lived on in many.  I also know that love is strong and the light always overcomes any darkness.  I see many of you spreading that love and light.  Soon, all the darkness you are seeing in so many and in the world will fade and you will see that love and peace will prevail.”

“Jesus, do you think the various religions will ever stop fighting over who is right and who is wrong, and who has the only one God?”  A smile came across Jesus’ face and he answered, “Karen, God is big enough to be in all religions and speak through all people.  Remember, he created all life on earth; all people are his children, and he loves every single one of them…including you.  As do I.”

Suddenly, a noise caught my attention and I turned to see what it was.  When I turned back to say something else, he was gone.  He did it to me again!

“Peace is what I leave with you; it is my own peace that I give you. I do not give it as the world does. Do not be worried and upset; do not be afraid.”  John 14:27  

Published in the Cookeville Herald Citizen newspaper February 5, 2016.


Saturday, January 30, 2016

Sharing Our Humanity

“When we see others as the enemy, we risk becoming what we hate. When we oppress others, we end up oppressing ourselves. All of our humanity is dependent upon recognizing the humanity in others.”  Desmond Tutu

I’m a people person.  I love people.  It doesn’t matter what color, race, religion, politics, culture, sexual preference, nationality, or so on.  I admit there are those who make it very difficult for me to love them, and there are those I have a really hard time understanding where they are coming from, but I try.  On those occasions when I can’t find it within me to love someone because of the words they speak or because of their actions, I at least try to see the little infant within them that was born innocent and knowing nothing but love.  And then there are those who I just have to bless and let go because no matter how hard I try, I cannot love their human side so much, if at all, because of the harm they do to me or to others. 

How amazing would it be if people could look past their differences and actually see what they have in common?!?!   Look for what’s good and beautiful in someone rather than immediately judging and condemning them because of what we were taught or what we were told we have to believe about that person or group of people.  If we could get to know people first rather than instantly putting up a wall between us, then we might just get to know some really wonderful people and make some new, meaningful friendships. 

If we could get past the fear, which is mostly propagated by others, and trust our inner Spirit whose foundation is always unconditional love, then we might be able to really distinguish who might be those who would cause us real harm or not.  What saddens me is when there are those who would hold a whole group of people accountable for the actions of a select few when the larger majority are good, loving, kind-hearted people.  I’m so glad that I learned that lesson early or I would have missed out on knowing a lot of really beautiful people.

There are many who use fear to control the masses into agreeing with their ideologies and/or beliefs, and many times, it’s against a person, group of people, or even a nation.  What’s worse is that some of these same people will declare that they are speaking for God.  If someone is not speaking words of love, compassion, kindness, and mercy, then they’re not speaking for God; they’re speaking for themselves and their own personal agendas.  These very principles were taught by Jesus and other great Spiritual Masters throughout time as well, as by those who teach them today.

There’s a lot of chaos occurring in the world and we’re seeing and hearing a lot of words of hate, bigotry, and ignorance coming from some of our religious leaders and politicians (not all), and they are using fear to separate us and to tear us apart.  As people of faith (whatever religion you believe in), we have got to remember the teachings of our Masters who taught love and compassion.  We cannot give up on people.  As Buddha said, “A generous heart, kind speech, and a life of service and compassion are the things which renew humanity.”

Whenever there is a disaster, no matter where it is, people from all over the world come together to lend a hand and to help each other.  There are no boundaries or differences.  We see each other as human beings helping human beings.  During the recent blizzard, I saw videos of people in New York City having snow ball fights and having a grand old time.  They didn’t care what the other person looked like or what they believed.  They all came out to experience Mother Nature’s grandeur and to have fun together. 

If we can look past our differences in these moments, then why is it so difficult to look past them in our everyday lives?  We’re all on this planet together as brothers and sisters, as well as sons and daughters of the Almighty.  I agree that it’s not always easy, but we can at least try.

Peace Pilgrim said, “What we fear we tend to develop an unreasoning hatred for, so we come to hate and fear. This not only injures us psychologically and aggravates world tension, but through such negative concentration we tend to attract the things we fear. If we fear nothing and radiate love, we can expect good things to come. How much this world needs the message and example of love and of faith!”  I know I do! 

Published in the Cookeville Herald Citizen newspaper January 29, 2016.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Dynamically Divine

“I am a dynamic spiritual being!  The word ‘dynamic’ is used to describe someone with an outgoing, energetic personality.  The Greek origin of the word, ‘dunamis,’ means miraculous power.  So in the truest sense of the word, those who study and apply Truth principles can be considered dynamic.  When we tap into Truth, we connect with our own miraculous power.  We are dynamically alive!  Our spiritual power energizes further through prayer and meditation, forgiveness, and love.  We may see tangible results or simply gain a profound sense of peace.  The important thing to remember is this:  We are dynamic spiritual beings expressing divine power through our oneness with God.  Then God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion.”  Gen. 1:26  (Printed from the Daily Word, a Unity publication.)

One of my life’s missions is to teach people about their Divine Magnificence.  If everyone knew who they really are, we would be living in a much different world.  There would be no fighting, no killing, no war….  Instead, unconditional love would be bursting forth like fireworks to everyone and everything around us.  We would not only be sending love out to others, but we would be so filled with unconditional love for ourselves. 

We say that God (by whatever name you use) is love, so if God is love and we were made in the image (essence) of God, then we can’t help but be anything but love!  Since we came from God, then we are a Spark of God, which means that the love God has for us is constantly filling and embracing us with the most glorious and spectacular, pure, unconditional, perfect love!  That’s who we are!  That’s our Divine Selves!  It’s true for every single person on earth because we ALL came from God! 

Father Joseph Langford (no relation) stated, “If we were to take all the love in every heart of everyone on earth, and add it to all the love of all those who ever existed throughout history, then add the love of all saints in heaven, and all the angels, seraphim and cherubim, and pour all that love into one heart, and direct that love on ourselves, it would still fall infinitely short of the love God is pouring out on each of us right now.  Because God is infinite, his love is not divided, with each of us receiving but a portion.  We each receive the totality, the fullness of divine love, twenty-four hours a day, every day of our lives.”

But how many of us know and believe this with all our heart and soul?  How many of us live our lives from a place of unconditional love?  I know it’s something I aspire to, but I fall short many times; not only for others but for myself.  I love it when I am in that ‘unconditional love zone’ where I feel so much love for all living beings and all of life.  I know what it feels like in those moments and it’s an amazing feeling, one I wish I could stay in 100% of the time.  But the human side of me has a hard time and will sometimes argue with the Spirit within.  It’s easy to lose sight of the fact that our lives are miracles and we are the miracles living those lives!

I know I write a lot about unconditional love, but I really believe this is so important for us to understand.  I see way too many people in the world who have such low self-esteem and self-worth.  They have no confidence, some have no hope, and too many are lost.  I’ve been there.  I know what it feels like.  Sometimes I still go there.  Yet my Spirit is always gently prodding me to embrace my Divinity.  Jesus came here to teach us all of this!  He told us the Kingdom of Heaven is within and that we could do all the things he did and more.  We just have to believe it! 

Stop listening to others who try making you be who they think you should be.  Stop letting people rule you with fear or letting others put you down.  People treat others by the way they feel about themselves and they want company.  There are many books and classes to help you overcome the negativity that sometimes takes over our minds, and it really is all about our thoughts and beliefs.   

“Love is our true essence.  Love has no limitations of caste, religion, race, or nationality.  We are all beads strung together on the same thread of love.  To awaken this unity, and to spread to others the love that is our inherent nature, is the true goal of human life.”  Amma 

Published in the Cookeville Herald Citizen newspaper January 22, 2016.

Friday, January 15, 2016

False Evidence Appearing Real

Can you feel it?  It’s in the air and it’s everywhere!  If you’re not careful it can pounce on you and consume you to the very core of your being.  It’s already consuming too many people and it guides almost all their decisions.  Some people use it to manipulate others into obeying their every command.  Some use it to get people to use violence against others because of any perceived differences.  Some politicians use it to get you to follow and vote for them, and some religious leaders use it to control your beliefs.  Many corporations use it, especially in their commercials, to get you to use their products.

Just like in the movie “Star Wars,” it can send people to the dark side faster than Darth Vader can push the button on his light saber.  It keeps you in the dark.  It keeps you in a state of mind where you can be easily manipulated and controlled.  And it can keep you from receiving your good.  But with some faith and courage, it can be controlled, it can be silenced, and it can be overcome.

What is this dark force that affects every human being at least at some point in their lives?  It’s called fear.  We’ve all experienced it.  Many may even be experiencing it right now.  Of course, there are different degrees of fear.  Some fears are minor…just small burps in life and we overcome them without giving them a second thought.  Other fears are major and take over our lives, keeping us in bondage so that we can’t move forward to do what we want or to see our dreams come true.  I look at the world today and I see where so many people are in a state of consuming fear on so many levels, and if we aren’t aware, that fear can be catching. 

Yoda said, “Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.”  Those who control with fear know this.  They know that they can manipulate people with fear because fear grows into hate, violence, and ignorance, and too many people will believe anything and follow anyone out of fear.  Consequently, this leads to everyone suffering in some way.  As Gandhi stated, “The enemy is fear.  We think it is hate; but it is fear.” 

Personally, I experience fear more times than I’d like to admit.  There are so many things I’d like to do in life and I fear I will never get to see the places I want to see or do the things I want to do before it’s time for me to leave the earth plane.  I fear for my finances, health, family, friends, animals, community, and all those on our beautiful planet. 

But I also know that when I focus on being in a state of unconditional love, for myself and for others, then love will always overcome fear.  Focusing on and being grateful for all the good I do have, as well as all that is good in the world.  It’s important to use my faith to keep my thoughts positive and optimistic.  It really is all about our thoughts.  It’s also important that fear doesn’t become our identity.  As James Allen said, “As a man thinketh, so is he.”

Fear is actually an illusion.  Fear can also be defined as ‘False Evidence Appearing Real.’ Will Smith’s character in the movie “After Earth” said, “You must realize that fear is not real.  It is a product of the thoughts you create.  Do not misunderstand me.  Danger is very real; but fear is a choice.”  And it is.  Fear really can be changed by the thoughts we think.  We can choose fear or we can choose love.  Choosing love over fear does sometimes take courage.  Choosing to go within and listening to the inner voice of Spirit and learning to think for ourselves.  Nelson Mandela stated, “I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it.  The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”  Are you willing to overcome your fear and to instead choose love?  It won’t always be easy, but it can be done!  We can work on it together!

Marianne Williamson said, “Love is what we are born with. Fear is what we learn. The spiritual journey is the unlearning of fear and prejudices and the acceptance of love back in our hearts. Love is the essential reality and our purpose on earth. To be consciously aware of it, to experience love in ourselves and others, is the meaning of life. Meaning does not lie in things. Meaning lies in us.”  

Published in the Cookeville Herald Citizen newspaper January 15, 2016.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Healthy Intentions

The holidays are behind us and many of us have made our New Year’s Resolutions…and many of us have already broken them.  According to statistics, the top resolution people make is to lose weight.  They start the year doing just fine.  They’re eating healthy and working out.  And then it gets old, the temptation of all our favorite foods starts wearing on us, and then we’re right back where we started from.   I’ve been on this merry-go-round many times over the years myself and the only thing my resolutions gave me was a sense of disappointment and frustration. 

We think that the coming of each new year has some kind of magical quality to it and if we start something January 1 of each year, then we will magically be transformed and accomplish whatever it is we are hoping to do.  Actually, there is no such thing as time.  Time is just a man-made system to control…well…time.   In reality, what we think of as time is all the same to the Universe.  Therefore, we can really start any time we choose.

According to Vocabulary.com, the word resolution means, ‘a decision to do something or to behave in a certain manner.’  We make a die-hard resolution, but when we blow it, we give up and go back to our old ways because we think it’s too hard to follow through.  What happens if instead of using the word resolution, we used the word ‘intention?’  Vocabulary.com describes it as ‘an anticipated outcome that is intended or that guides your planned actions.’  The word intention doesn’t have the desperation or finality of resolution; therefore, it gives you a little more wiggle room to just try your very best.  If you goof up, you can just start over without the thought that you blew your New Year’s resolutions so you’re done with them until next year.

After just experiencing a bout of bronchitis over the holidays that left me hacking until I had a headache and broke out into a sweat, I’m more determined to get my health in order this year.  Like many, I ate way too much holiday junk food with the excuse that it’s the holidays, so if I want to enjoy the holidays, I have to eat all the holiday food.  Also, when I’m under stress and eat too much sugar, I usually get sick.  I have an Associate’s Degree in Natural Health and Nutrition; I know better, but I still do it. 

I also see way too many people around me who are struggling with the most awful health issues and they spend a lot of time and money at the doctor’s offices and/or hospitals.  Some get better, but many don’t.  Why?  It’s simple really.  We’re not being proactive in our own healthcare.  We’re eating and drinking whatever we want without any thought to consequences of ill health.  Many have become addicted to unhealthy foods and drinks and have no desire to eat healthier.  I’ve had an addiction to sugar and chocolate most of my life, so I know how it feels, and it can be just as difficult to overcome as alcohol or drugs.

On my spiritual journey, as I’m learning more about just how wonderful and magnificent we are as spiritual/human beings, I know how important it is to take care of these vessels that we were given while here on earth.  We’re only given one body in this lifetime and it’s up to us to take care of them.

Many know that I’m a vegetarian and I believe this is the healthiest way to eat, but I certainly won’t tell others what to do.  There are countless websites and health books out there and you can find one that resonates with you.  But we all know to cut out the high fats, sugars, white flours, fried and processed foods, and so on.  We also need to get our bodies moving.  If you don’t have time to work out but you do watch TV, then just get up during commercials and do a vigorous walk in place for each commercial for just one show. 

We can only do the best we can and we’re going to slip up here and there.  Being healthy mind, body, and spirit should be a priority in our lives.  Buddha said “To keep the body in good health is a duty…otherwise we shall not be able to keep our mind strong and clear.”   Our body’s health definitely affects our state of mind.  When we’re healthy physically, we feel better mentally and emotionally, and it even affects our spiritual life for the better.  As the Arabian proverb states, “He who has health, has hope; and he who has hope, has everything.”  

Published in the Cookeville Herald Citizen newspaper January 8, 2016.

Friday, January 1, 2016

The Beauty of Our Divine Magnificence

Happy New Year everyone!  It’s almost hard to believe that we actually made it to the year 2016!  I remember in my younger days believing that the world would end in the year 2,000. The year 2,000 came and went and we’re still here! 

We’ve come a long ways since before then, and we still have a ways to go, but we’re getting there.  People are starting to awaken to the truth of who we really are.  We are literally a spark of the Divine!  As Billy Fingers said, “We don’t really have even a vague idea of the ravishing beauty of our divine magnificence.”  It is only until we learn to go within and listen to that still small voice of God/Life/Love/Universe that we begin to open our minds to see that we really are made in the image of God…the pure, unconditional, perfect love of the All-That-Is.  Not in a physical way, but the essence that makes up our souls.  Our souls are not separate from God, but are an extension, always connected, always there, even if at times we can’t feel it or see it. 

We are living, breathing, walking miracles!  Think about it…  These bodies shouldn’t even be working.  It’s beyond my comprehension how our bodies stay alive.  We’re just a heartbeat away from death, but the heart keeps pumping.  The life force that is in everyone and everything is the same force that keeps our hearts beating!  Do you realize just how amazing that is?!?

The sad thing is that most people don’t have this realization and rarely feel this way about themselves, if at all.  We feel less than, unworthy, have low self-esteem and low self-worth, we live in constant fear, some may even hate themselves, and there are those who want to give up their lives because they can’t find a reason for living.  How on earth do we get that way?

When we are born, we are born knowing our magnificence!  We come in screaming “I’m here!!!”  Or if you believe in reincarnation, we scream, “I’m back!!!”  Many of us then learn otherwise through what we are taught and from our personal experiences. 

One thing we’re taught is that our identity is outside ourselves rather than within.  It is only when we do go within that we discover the truth of who we are and our purpose in life.  Billy Fingers also said, “If there’s a secret I could whisper and you could keep, it’s that it is all inside you already, every single thing you need.”  Learn to listen to and trust the voice within you that is always based in unconditional love. 

As we go into the New Year, let’s work on ourselves to be the greatest expressions of who we were meant to be.  Let’s fill ourselves with so much unconditional love for ourselves that it can’t help but overflow to all those around us and into the world.  Let’s join the collective consciousness of love, peace, harmony, kindness, compassion, and oneness so that we can see all on our planet, as well as Mother Earth herself, healed of all hurts and pains.  Instead of allowing all the hate we’re seeing in the world to influence us, let us turn that hate around to teach us to love.  Let’s follow our Spiritual Masters’ teachings to love all and to harm no one.   Let’s remember that we do have the light of the Divine within us and every time we remember it’s there, it will grow and touch the lives of all those around us.  Let’s spread random acts of kindness and bring a little joy everywhere we can and to everyone we can.  It’s okay to feel good, happy, and wonderful!  And let’s remember who we really are.  We won’t be perfect at it, but it gives us something to aspire to.

As Marianne Williamson said, “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.   Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God.  Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone.  And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

Published in the Cookeville Herald Citizen newspaper December 31, 2015.



Thursday, December 24, 2015

The Way of Peace

"This is the way of peace:  Overcome evil with good, and falsehood with truth, and hatred with love."  Peace Pilgrim

From 1953 to 1981, beginning at the age of 45, a woman walked across North American, more than 25,000 miles on a mission for peace.   Her name was Mildred Lisette Norman and was she was known as the “Peace Pilgrim.”  Ms. Norman was a spiritual teacher (non-denominational), pacifist, mystic, and a vegetarian.  Regarding her mission for peace, she vowed to "remain a wanderer until mankind has learned the way of peace, walking until given shelter and fasting until given food.”  She walked across the United States for twenty-eight years.

Her fascinating journey began when she experienced a profound spiritual awakening.  She states, "Then in the midst of the struggle there came a wonderful mountaintop experience - the first glimpse of what the life of inner peace was like... The most important part of it was not the phenomena: the important part of it was the realization of the oneness of all creation. Not only all human beings - I knew before that all human beings are one. But now I knew also a oneness with the rest of creation. The creatures that walk the earth and the growing things of the earth. The air, the water, the earth itself. And, most wonderful of all, a oneness with that which permeates all and binds all together and gives life to all. A oneness with that which many would call God."

Along the way, she met thousands of people from every walk of life.  She was also interviewed on countless radio and TV stations across the country, as well as speaking at universities, high schools, civic clubs, churches, and more.  Ms. Norman was always more than willing to share her wisdom, message, and humor.

On July 7, 1981 while being driven to a speaking engagement, the car she was riding in was hit head on and she died instantly.  She was 73.  Because she was so well-loved by so many, her death was a devastating shock to all who knew and loved her.  Her message touched and changed thousands of lives. 

After her death, a small group of friends decided to put together a book about her message and what she stood for.  Writings for the book were obtained from her own words, newsletters, conversations, correspondence, and talks taped from many people over the years, as well as articles and other materials written about her.  The book is titled “Peace Pilgrim” and can be downloaded free at www.peacepilgrim.com/book/ebooks/PeacePilgrimBook.pdf.  I would highly recommend reading more about this spectacular human being.

The Peace Pilgrim set a great example for us as to how we can achieve peace in a world of chaos.  When I read of her journey, it’s easy for me to think that my journey is nothing compared to hers and that I have so much more work to do to bring love and peace to the world, but she gives me something to aspire to.  I do know that I will take her message to heart and work harder on myself because it is only when we find peace within ourselves that we can find and bring peace to the world.

There is a lot of chaos in the world right now, especially when it comes to religion and politics.  It’s easy to lose hope and to think that things will never change.  But they can change and that change begins with each of us. 

In the words of the Peace Pilgrim, I leave you with more of her beautiful messages:

“Of course, I love everyone I meet. How could I fail to? Within everyone is the spark of God. I am not concerned with racial or ethnic background or the color of one’s skin; all people look to me like shining lights! I see in all creatures the reflection of God. All people are my kinfolk—people to me are beautiful!  We people of the world need to find ways to get to know one another…for then we will recognize that our likenesses are so much greater than our differences, however great our differences may seem. Every cell, every human being, is of equal importance and has work to do in this world.”

“In order to help usher in the golden age we must see the good in people. We must know it is there, no matter how deeply it may be buried. Yes, apathy is there and selfishness is there – but good is there also. It is not through judgment that the good can be reached, but through love and faith.”

“The way of peace is the way of love. Love is the greatest power on earth. It conquers all things.”  

Published in the Cookeville Herald Citizen newspaper December 24, 2015.