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.  

Friday, March 31, 2017

Peace Is a Revolution of Love

“Peace is not just about the absence of conflict; it’s also about the presence of justice.... A counterfeit peace exists when people are pacified or distracted or so beat up and tired of fighting that all seems calm. But true peace does not exist until there is justice, restoration, forgiveness. Peacemaking doesn’t mean passivity. It is the act of interrupting injustice without mirroring injustice, the act of disarming evil without destroying the evildoer, the act of finding a third way that is neither fight nor flight but the careful, arduous pursuit of reconciliation and justice. It is about a revolution of love that is big enough to set both the oppressed and the oppressors free.  Peace is about being able to recognize in the face of the oppressed our own faces, and in the hands of the oppressors, our own hands. Peace, like most beautiful things, begins small....  Peacemaking begins with what we can change – ourselves. But it doesn’t end there. We are to be peacemakers in a world riddled with violence. That means interrupting violence with imagination, on our streets and in our world.”  Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals

There is a fine line between being a peacemaker and being passive, and being a peacemaker and being actively involved in helping to make our world a better place.  Many of us on a serious spiritual journey sometimes struggle with this line especially when it comes to politics.  We want to make a difference, fight the injustices in the world, and to help save lives, but to do so without any conflict.  On the other hand, we know that sometimes it takes that conflict in order to get people’s attention, and at times it can get a little chaotic.  It’s quite a quandary. 

We can all help humankind, animals, and our environment in various ways, whether those ways are subtle or obvious, and all of them are okay as long as we’re not hurting anyone.  Personally, my activism is in my writing and in my public speaking.

I also know that the first peace we seek should be the peace within, and to remember that we’re all connected no matter what we look like or where we live.  Black Elk said, “Peace comes within the souls of men when they realize their oneness with the Universe, when they realize it is really everywhere, it is within each one of us.”

Peace Pilgrim expressed, “When you find peace within yourself, you become the kind of person who can live at peace with others.”  Buddha stated, “The only way to bring peace to the earth is to learn to make our own life peaceful.”  And Neale Donald Walsch declared, “One simple change – seeking and finding peace within – could, if it were undertaken by everyone, end all wars, eliminate conflict, and prevent injustice.  World peace is a personal thing.  What is needed is not a change of circumstance, but a change of consciousness.” 


Published in the Cookeville Herald Citizen newspaper March 31, 2017.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Perfect Love Casts Out All Fear

“That thing isn’t even human!”  Those were the words I found coming out of my mouth when I encountered my first transgender person almost forty years ago, and I regret saying them to this day.  It pains me that I could be so heartless to even think of another human being in such a hateful way. 

Not long after, I stopped into a Christian bookstore and got into a conversation with the store clerk. To my horror, I discovered that he was a transgender male.  A few minutes later, a transgender female walked in with an acquaintance of mine.  I was about to have a panic attack when my friend suggested that we all hold hands and pray together.  Here I am holding hands with a transgender person on both sides of me, trying to keep from breaking free and running out the door, when I heard the words just as clearly as if someone were standing next to me saying, “Karen, these are my children and I love them just as much as any of my children.”  I didn’t quite understand it then, but a seed was planted.

Fortunately, I’ve since grown and become more enlightened in my spiritual walk.  Back then, I didn’t know any better.  I was ignorant about the issue and just believed what everyone else told me to believe.  In the past several years, I’ve been meeting wonderful transgender people and several have become friends.  They’re kind, loving, and good-hearted people who just want to live their lives in peace.

I get that it’s hard for many to understand this issue because we have no way of relating to those who have these experiences, especially if we’re heterosexual.  Instead of judging and dehumanizing these beautiful people, we could educate ourselves so that we can understand where they are coming from and why they go through the transgender process.

Once I really understood and embraced Jesus’ teachings to love one another (no exceptions), as well as all the other great spiritual masters’ teachings to do the same, it really helped me to open my heart to loving all people regardless of any perceived differences. I also learned to overcome my fear and ignorance.  1 John 4:18 states, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.”

Chaz Bono (formerly Chasity Bono, daughter of Sonny and Cher) recently wrote a great book titled “Transition - Becoming Who I Was Always Meant to Be,” and I would highly recommend reading it if you would like to become more knowledgeable on this subject.  You can also check out transformationjourneysww.com for more information.  I met Gabrielle Claiborne, one of the founders and a trans woman, and found her to be absolutely delightful.  If you can open your heart and get to know trans people, you’ll learn that they’re just like the rest of us.

“It matters not what someone is born, but what they grow to be.” J.K. Rowling


Published in the Cookeville Herald Citizen newspaper March 24, 2017.

Friday, March 17, 2017

It's a Wonderful Life

March 10 saw another birthday come and go for me.  Since I don’t believe in age, sometimes I have to really think to remember how old I actually am.  Age really isn’t an issue for me, but as I get older, I tend to reflect more on my life.  It’s easy to look back on our lives and wonder if they could have been different.  We sometimes even play the ‘what if’ game:  What if I had done this or hadn’t done that, would my life have been any different or better? 

Playing the ‘what if’ game can be dangerous in this respect because we cannot change the past.  Sure, there are some things I wish I would have done different.  And of course, if I could go back in time knowing what I know now, then I could probably change the course of my life and all my dreams could have come true.  But I didn’t have the wisdom and knowledge that I have now.  In fact, I’ve become the person I am because I didn’t gain this wisdom until later in life. 

All the things I’ve experienced in the past have made me who I am today and I like who I am.  I just don’t always like who I’m not.  I’m still a work in progress, still trying to figure things out, and still hoping some of my lifelong dreams will come true. 

Then there are those occasional times that I wonder if I’ve wasted my life.  Have I made any difference? Would life have been better without me?  Many of us have those thoughts including some of my friends, so we’re not alone in this thinking.

We all know the Christmas classic movie “It’s a Wonderful Life” starring James Stewart.  It’s about a man who thinks all is lost, but his Guardian Angel shows him what his life would have been like without him, and how much he really did touch so many hearts and changed so many lives for the better.

Many of us think that if we’re not doing something on a greater scale to make a difference, then what we’re doing doesn’t really matter.  But it does!  There are many who touch lives by the hundreds and thousands, and that’s absolutely fine!  We need them!  But for the rest of us, we make a lot of difference in people’s lives just by living our day-to-day existence, and it’s just as important!  We touch and change lives one person at a time, and all those one persons can really add up!  Never underestimate your ability to help others or to make a difference in their lives!

“Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.”  Leo Buscaglia


Published in the Cookeville Herald Citizen newspaper March 17, 2017.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Never Give Up Hope

It was a beautiful spring day with the sun hugging Mother Earth with her love and light.  I was taking on the weight of the world again and my heart was heavy because I was feeling the pain of so many all over the world.  Since nature feeds my spirit, I decided to go to a local state park and sit in my usual spot overlooking a gorge with a magnificent waterfall pouring from the other side.  Tears became sobs as I let the intense pain I was feeling release from my body and soul.

All of a sudden, I heard a noise behind me.  As I turned, I wasn’t surprised to see Jesus walking toward me.  Since I was crying so uncontrollably, I couldn’t speak so I nodded to acknowledge his presence.  With a look of concern on his face, he sat down beside me, put his arm around my shoulder, and my tears continued to flow as I let him embrace me with so much unconditional love that I couldn’t help but feel comforted.

“My dearest, Karen, why so many tears?” he asked. 

“Jesus, there is just so much going on in the world and I’m just taking on the weight of the world again.  My heart is so heavy because people are being torn from their homes and families, and they’re being made into refugees in other countries.  Jewish cemeteries are being vandalized, Mosques are being burned, people are being harmed just because they look different or have different beliefs, people’s lives and homes are being destroyed from wars, hate crimes have been climbing, some politicians and religious leaders are using fear to control people’s lives and to promote more hate and violence, and….  I just don’t think I can take much more!”

Calmly, Jesus replied, “Karen, the empathy you have for others is heart-warming.  Feeling other’s pain is not a bad thing.  It helps you to have more love and compassion for others which allows you to help them because you understand.  Human beings can be pretty complicated.  You need to remember that people treat others based upon the way they feel about themselves.  Humans as a whole have forgotten who they really are.  You were born innocent and pure and so full of love.  Hate is taught.  At the same time, more and more people are awakening and remembering that they are spiritual beings living a human existence.  Your love and the love of others is changing the world even if only one person at a time.  Never give up hope.”

As he dried my tears with his sleeve, our eyes met and I knew what he said was true.  We humans are evolving and we’re beginning to realize that unconditional love really is the answer.  We can’t give up. 

Suddenly, I looked up to see a hawk flying overhead, and it was then that I felt Jesus had left.  But his love for me and all of humanity remained.


Published in the Cookeville Herald Citizen newspaper March 10, 2017.