Saturday, September 2, 2017

Saving All Saints

“All Saints” is an amazing movie which was inspired by a true story that took place at the All Saints Episcopal Church in Smyrna, Tennessee.  It’s a beautiful faith-based story that isn’t preachy or dogmatic and is a film that can be enjoyed by people from all belief systems.

Newly ordained Michael Spurlock, along with his wife and son, were sent to the church to close it down.  Because of lack of funds and the dwindling attendance of just a handful of people, the diocese could no longer afford to keep it open.  He was to inventory the property and oversee the sale.

A week before the scheduled demolition, dozens of refugees from war-torn Burma, who are ethic Karen farmers, arrive and start attending the church with more refugees to follow.  They are very poor and to hear the stories of what they went through with the war was heart breaking.  Many lives were lost and they were left with horrendous memories of their journey.

Spurlock’s son asks about the refugees and Spurlock says, “Let’s keep them in our prayers and ask for God’s help.”  His son replies, “Aren’t you God’s help?”

Later, Spurlock believes he hears the voice of God to use the church land to grow crops to help provide food and shelter for the refugees, as well as to create an income for the church.  The Karen farmers are experienced in growing crops, and with the help of the church members, they plant a field of vegetables. 

During one tragedy, the Smyrna community, which included other religions, comes to their aid.  It didn’t matter that they were helping refugees, and color, race, religion, wasn’t an issue.  They came to help human beings who were in need.  This was a community that followed the teachings of Jesus to love and care for one another no matter who they may be. 

In a time when refugees are being de-humanized by so many, this was a brilliant movie which showed that these beautiful human beings are just trying to survive and make a life for themselves.  It also showed how these wonderful Christians embraced them and sacrificed personally and financially, and how they welcomed the Karen and showed them a love that you would hope to see come from Christians and others.  This glorious community not only saved the church, but they saved each other through the love, compassion, and kindness that was taught by Jesus.

“Don’t speak to me about your religion; first show it to me in how you treat other people.  Don’t tell me how much you love your God; show me in how much you love all his children.  Don’t preach to me your passion for your faith; teach me through your compassion for your neighbors.  In the end, I’m not as interested in what you have to tell or sell as I am in how you choose to live and give.”   Cory Booker 


Published in the Cookeville Herald Citizen newspaper September 1, 2017.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

In the Midst of Chaos

Recently, a dear friend asked if I had any suggestions on what she could do to make a difference in the midst of all the chaos that we are seeing in the U.S. right now.  There seems to be so much hate and bigotry manifesting into violent protests where people are getting hurt and some are even losing their lives.  She wants to do something, but doesn’t know where to begin.  There are many of us pondering the same question.

Some of us are fighters, some are lovers, and some are both.  Not all of us are able to join the protests and rallies.  Many of us are so busy with our lives that we don’t have time for much of anything else, but we still feel like we need to contribute to the cause of love and peace.

If we can’t join the protests and rallies, we can help by just continuing to live our lives with love, compassion, and kindness, and touching one person at a time.  Mother Teresa said, “Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier.”  Just an act of kindness can help lift someone’s spirits and even change lives.

If we do anything at all, though, let’s do so in peace.  Sometimes we feel we have to do something huge to make a difference, yet all those small things we can do add up, too.  Also, let’s not judge others when we think they should be doing more to get involved.  We can only do what we can do.  If nothing else, we can make a difference by writing letters to politicians, sending emails, and most importantly, by getting out and voting in future elections.

We’ve come a long way, but we still have a ways to go, and it’s sad that we still have to go through all of this to this day.  People are fighting for equal rights (and rightly so), and some are even fighting for their lives.  There are many who can’t speak up for whatever reasons, so many of us need to speak up for all of us.  Malala Yousafzai stated, “I speak not for myself but for those without voice… those who have fought for their rights… their right to live in peace, their right to be treated with dignity, their right to equality of opportunity, their right to be educated.”

Robert Kennedy said, “Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope.”  And Nelson Mandela declared, “No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion.  People learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”   


Published in the Cookeville Herald Citizen newspaper August 25, 2017.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Honoring Our Veterans

Recently, I watched a beautiful movie starring Kevin Bacon titled “Taking Chance.”  It touched my heart so much that I knew I was meant to write about it. 

“Taking Chance” is based on a true story about the experiences of Marine Lieutenant Colonel Michael Strobl (Bacon), who escorts the body of fallen Marine PFC Chance Phelps back to his hometown after being killed in the Iraq War.

His journey as the soldier’s escort begins at the Dover Mortuary where Phelps was being respectfully prepared for transfer.  Because of his injuries, it was to be a closed casket at the funeral.  Strobl is given Phelps’ personal affects in a velvet bag and was instructed that they were not to leave his hands under any circumstances. 

When Strobl arrived at the airport to get his ticket, the agent, knowing his mission and with tears in her eyes, upgrades him to first class.  Every time the casket was loaded onto another airplane, Strobl stood by and saluted.  Any airport personnel and passengers nearby also stood by and paid their respects.  At one point, the casket needed to stay overnight in the airport hanger, so Strobl decided to sleep next to the casket rather than stay in a hotel.

On the final leg of the journey by vehicles, an impromptu funeral procession forms on the highway as people in other vehicles realized that the one vehicle is carrying a fallen soldier.  They turn on their lights and follow rather than trying to continue to pass. 

When Strobl finally gets to meet the soldier’s family and friends, he finds out more about the life of the fallen soldier, how loved he was, and how much he would be missed.

This movie touched my heart and I cried numerous times while watching.  I had no idea that our fallen soldiers were treated with such great care and dignity during their entire journey home.  The respect that complete strangers showed towards another complete stranger in a casket was overwhelmingly beautiful.

We have many military personnel who return from the war and some are fortunate to come home healthy and sane, while others come home broken in mind, body, and/or spirit.  We need to take care of all of them, and not just the ones who arrive home in a casket.

I would like to honor all of our military personnel and to thank them for their service.  We bless you, honor you, love you, and appreciate you!  My dream is that one day, you will no longer need to sacrifice your lives in any kind of war and that the world will one day be at peace.

“All Gave Some, Some Gave All.  Some stood through for the red, white, and blue, and some had to fall.  And if you ever think of me, think of all your liberties and recall…Some Gave All.”  (“Some Gave All” written by Billy Ray Cyrus and Cindy Cyrus)


Published in the Cookeville Herald Citizen newspaper August 18, 2017.

Friday, August 11, 2017

I Got You, Babe!

The other morning I was doing a crossword puzzle and one of the answers was, “I Got You, Babe.”  Immediately after finishing the puzzle, I got on the computer and read an email from tut.com for my daily ‘Note from the Universe,’ and in the message it said, “I got you, babe.”  Coincidence?  I think not. 

On my spiritual journey, I’ve become more aware of the synchronicities in life and how they can be used by God (or the God of your understanding) to give us messages.  Seeing “I got you, babe” twice within just a few minutes of each other was more than just a coincidence.  It was an ‘in my face’ message and one I couldn’t ignore.

How many times do we have those moments when we think we may not matter, that we’re not worthy, or that God may have forgotten about us?  I’ve had my share, for sure.  Then we receive those uncanny, synchronistic messages that remind us that the Universe constantly has our back.   

We are always worthy.  If we weren’t worthy, then God would not have made us.  Every single one of us was made from the essence of God; therefore, God is always with us and within us.  It could never be any other way.  How could God create anything different?  If God is pure, unconditional, perfect love, then how can we not be made from the same source since God is the one who created us?

Some teach us that we’re unworthy and that we don’t matter.  They may use fear and guilt to control us into believing that we are alone, unworthy, that we are condemned, or that we’re a nobody.  The truth is, every single one of us has glorious value and we’re worth more than all the riches in the world!  We are all loved unconditionally and beyond measure!

“Real love has no conditions, no attachment, no request.  It only wants your highest good.  It only wants what’s best.  It would always give you freedom to be what you would be.  It would never dwell upon your faults, just your goodness it would see.  It would completely honor the journey of your soul.  It would see you in your beauty.  It would know that you are whole.  It would touch your hand with kindness.  It would softly speak your name.  It would always be supportive.  It would never “play the game.”  It would look into your eyes and, there, see the God within.  And know that Love is Who you are, and Who you’ve always been.”  (The Truth About Love by Donna Corso)

And another message from the Universe (tut.com):  “You're going to be shocked because one day you're going to look at yourself, your life, and your ways, and you're going to see that your every idiosyncrasy, quirk, folly, and so-called fault, were among your greatest assets.  Oh my, I was having such a good day when I first dreamed of you.”


Published in the Cookeville Herald Citizen newspaper August 11, 2017.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Stop It!

There is a great skit on YouTube titled “Stop It” starring the legendary actor, Bob Newhart.  Newhart plays a psychotherapist who uses tough love on a patient when she comes in looking for cures for her various extreme fears that have taken over her life. 

After listening to her go on about all her fears, Newhart answers (paraphrased), “I'm going to say two words to you right now. I want you to listen to them very, very carefully. Then I want you to take them out of the office with you and incorporate them into your life. Here they are. Stop it!”  No matter what else she said, he would reply with the words, “Stop it!”  It’s a great and funny skit and I would highly recommend that you watch it.  (Google “Stop It! Bob Newhart.”)

Stop it!  Seems so simple, right?  But is it?  We all have our fears, destructive behaviors, mental and emotional issues, limiting thoughts, habits, etc., some of which have probably been with us for years.  With some of our issues, we are able to stop immediately.  Others are not so easy and can take years to overcome, if at all. 

One of my pet peeves is when someone says, “If I can do it, anyone can do it.”  That is so NOT true.  If someone can do something, that means its ‘possible’ for others to do it, but does not necessarily mean that anyone can do it.  There are too many other factors involved such as physical or emotional traumas, as well as issues deep within someone’s subconscious mind that they may not even be aware of. 

This is where compassion and understanding come in.  We can encourage and support someone in just stopping whatever negative thoughts and/or behaviors they are dealing with, but we also can’t judge them if they are unable to do so.  We don’t know their whole story or how deep their issues are, nor do we really know their state of mind.

Anyone with any kind of addiction can tell you how hard it is to just stop them.  I’d say very few can stop suddenly.  Some struggle for years trying to overcome them, even with professional help.  And then there are those who never do win their battle.  We also never really know what one’s soul came here to experience.

Whatever our issues, we need keep trying to do our best to overcome them.  Albert Einstein said, “You never fail until you stop trying.”  And tinybuddha.com states, “One day it just clicks.  You realize what’s important and what isn’t.  You learn to care less about what other people think of you and more about what you think of yourself.  You realize how far you’ve come and you remember when you thought things were such a mess that you would never recover.  And you smile.  You smile because you are truly proud of yourself and the person you’ve fought to become.” 

Published in the Cookeville Herald Citizen newspaper August 4, 2017.

Here is the video link for those who would like to view it:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ow0lr63y4Mw


Friday, July 28, 2017

I Choose Peace

Not too long ago, I came across a quote from tinybuddha.com that said, “Today I will not stress over things I can’t control.  Today I choose peace.”

At the time I saw it, I was stressed to the gills for various reasons.  I thought that if I didn’t find some peace soon, then something was going to give as it was affecting my health both mentally and physically.  My mind was in constant chaos, it wouldn’t shut up with the negative chattering, and my spiritual life was taking a major hit.  I had given my power over to others, as well as to stressful situations, and I knew that I had to somehow take back my power for my own sanity and sense of well-being.

Then I saw this post.  I choose peace.  Somehow, just that simple phrase calmed me down, quieted my inner pandemonium, and brought tranquility to my inner spirit.  After that, whenever I was feeling overwhelmed, I would take a deep holy breath, close my eyes, and quietly say either out loud or to myself, “I choose peace.”  Every time I did so, I felt a glorious peaceful feeling embrace my whole being…mind, body, and spirit.

How often do we let others or situations control us to the point where we become so stressed that we can hardly function?  We become so engrossed in the drama of everyday life that we forget who we really are.  We forget that we have the power of the Universe within us.  We are directly connected to the God-Universal-Mind (by whatever name you use) and we have everything we need within to handle whatever comes our way.  Our souls have more power that we could ever know because our souls are a part of God and God is a part of us.  Horace Mann said, “The living soul of man, once conscious of its power, cannot be quelled.”  That’s so true!

It’s in those times that we forget who we really are that we let our ‘humanness’ take over, and that’s so easy to do.  I do this way more times than I care to admit.  But when I do remember to let my heart and soul lead, then I can remember to choose peace.  We can remember that no matter what we’re going through or how badly someone is treating us, if we can come from a space of love and peace in our hearts, we can deal with anything.  Too many of us think that only outside circumstances will bring us peace, but real and lasting peace can only come from within. 

So the next time you find yourself feeling overwhelmed with people, circumstances, or just life in general, stop, take a deep holy breath, say or think “I choose peace,” and say or think it as many times as you need.

“When you find peace within yourself, you become the kind of person who can live at peace with others.”  Peace Pilgrim  

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

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Are You Spiritually Advanced?

Ellen Debenport wrote an excellent article recently titled “Are You Spiritually Advanced?”  As I read it, all I could think was, “Wow!  I really resonate with this!”  (Ms. Debenport works at Unity World Headquarters and is also a speaker and author. Website:  ellendebenport.com/blog.)

The point of this wonderful article is that so many people “are hungry to be fed spiritually, but they don’t know where to look anymore.”  She goes on to say how so many of us have read all the books, have gone to numerous workshops, listened to countless speakers, and yet we still want more.  She goes on to say, “They want to learn something new, go deeper, feel challenged and inspired.  They want a greater awareness of their divine identity.  No, not just awareness, but an experience of, an embodiment of the truth of their being.” 

Many of us just believe whatever anyone tells us to believe, and we’re okay with what we already know and don’t want to go any further. For others, we want that inner knowing; we want to grow beyond the traditional and/or conventional religious/spiritual knowledge to discover the wisdom of the Universe.  We’re having our own inner conversations with God (by whatever name you use) and we’re listening to that inner guidance that’s always based on pure, unconditional, perfect love.  But we want to go further and deeper into a spirituality that goes beyond the ordinary.  To be clear, no matter what path someone is on, it’s all okay.  None are better or worse than the other; it’s just where we are at the time. 

We’re constantly working on ourselves to become better human and spiritual beings and to be the best that we can be.  We understand our connectedness and that what we do to another, we do to ourselves.  We continue to keep an open mind because we never know where or how that wisdom and knowledge may appear to us.  We know that unconditional love for all really is the answer.

Oprah Winfrey once asked actor Sean Penn if he believed in God and he replied, “I’m okay with the mystery of it all.”  I almost envy him with his simple belief.  But I can’t be okay with just the mystery of it all.  I’m spiritually wired to want to know more, I live my spirituality, and I want to continue to learn so that I can help others as well.

Rumi said, “God writes spiritual mysteries on our hearts where they wait silently for discovery.”  And Albert Einstein stated, “The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing. One cannot help but be in awe when he contemplates the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvelous structure of reality. It is enough if one tries merely to comprehend a little of this mystery every day. Never lose a holy curiosity.”  

Published in the Cookeville Herald Citizen newspaper July 21, 2017.

Postscript:  I'd like to clarify the "Are You Spiritually Advanced" title of both Ellen's and my post.  I can't speak for Ellen, but for me, it was not meant to mean that anyone was better than anyone else, which I mentioned in my essay above.  And it doesn't necessarily mean that anyone is more 'advanced' in an arrogant 'I know more than you know' kind of way.  The gist of both my and Ellen's articles is that we had come to the point where it seems that everything we read, the workshops we attend, and so on, tend to be the same, but different information, and we really want to go beyond what we have already learned and know.  

As she said in her article, "I hesitate to use the term "advanced" because you've heard me argue there are no advanced spiritual principles.  We just keep using the same ones over and over in new situations." 

If you want to read more from Ellen, please go to:  http://ellendebenport.com/blog.asp.