Saturday, June 24, 2017

Post-Traumatic Church Syndrome

Let’s face it.  There are countless numbers of people turning their backs on church, religion, and God, and many are experiencing Post-Traumatic Church Syndrome.  This is also the title of a wonderful book I recently read about one woman’s spiritual quest to heal from being so traumatized from her past church experiences. 

Reba Riley, the author, describes PTCS as “a condition of spiritual injury that occurs as a result of religion, faith, and/or the leaving, losing, or breaking thereof; the vile, noxious, icky, and otherwise foul aftermath of said spiritual injury; and a serious term intended to aid serious spiritual healing - without taking itself too seriously in the process.”

Consequently, because of PTCS, she found that she could no longer pray, go to church, or even say the name ‘God,’ and it was the reason she became one of the increasing Nones.  She stated, “I saw thousands of stories of brokenness. I see the millions of people who crash into religion when they go looking for God. I see people so tired of being spiritually bruised that they give up on faith altogether.”

Many of us have either been there or find ourselves there now.  I, too, have met countless people who have had these same experiences mainly because of the way they and/or others were treated, and because they know that the hate and judgment they are seeing in so many religions just isn’t right.  I can also say that I’ve been there so I know how they feel.

Riley knew she needed to heal from these traumas so she decided to go on a spiritual adventure and explored thirty religions by her thirtieth birthday (she was 29).  Some of the religions she visited were Christian Spiritualists, Mormons, Amish, Pagan, Pentecostals, Catholics, Baptists, Islam, Buddhism, Quakers, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and many others, all the while studying with an Eastern Orthodox urban monk.  She met many wonderful people along the way and learned the best from each of the religions. 

And she began to heal.  She learned, as I did, that it’s okay to question our beliefs and to learn from all religions without sacrificing our core beliefs.  Personally, my faith is now stronger because I opened my heart and mind, and I wasn’t afraid to question and look for answers.  Reba wrote that her faith is bigger than religion, God is bigger than any of us knows, and love is bigger than everything.  I totally agree.  I also loved her new term for God:  Godiverse.

If you’re interested in learning more about this amazing woman’s extraordinary journey of her being healed from PTCS, I would highly recommend you read it in her words.  You can also go to her website at www.rebariley.com.  

“I think God is like a round diamond with millions of facets.  You have a facet; I have a facet; everyone has a facet.  God spins in the space between us, reflecting the light in each of our perspectives.”  Reba Riley 


Published in the Cookeville Herald Citizen newspaper June 23, 2017.

Friday, June 16, 2017

The Golden Rule

The Golden Rule has been taught by countless philosophers and spiritual masters throughout time; though it seems to be a rule many have forgotten.

Living the Golden Rule means to have empathy for others, to be kind, compassionate, understanding, and to show respect.  It goes right along with the spiritual masters’ teachings to love one another.  Basically, it just means to treat others the way you want to be treated.  Sure, others will treat us badly, but we are only responsible for the way we ourselves treat others.

The rule is in just about every religion imaginable, but it has somehow gotten lost among all the other verses in the Holy Scriptures that people use to keep us separated.  To me, the Golden Rule and the verses to love one another should be front and center in any religion.   Some credit Jesus for the rule, and yet it is also in many writings that preceded him. 

Here are a few from the various religions:

Baha’i:  Lay not on any soul a load that you would not wish to be laid upon you, and desire not for anyone the things you would not desire for yourself.

Buddhism:  Hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful. 

Christianity:  All things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye so to them; for this is the law and the prophets. 

Confucianism:  Do not do to others what you would not like yourself.  Then there will be no resentment against you, either in the family or in the state. 

Hinduism:  This is the sum of duty; do naught onto others what you would not have them do unto you. 

Islam:  Not one of you is a believer until he desires for his brother that which he desires for himself. 

Judaism:  What is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow man.  This is the entire Law; all the rest is commentary. 

Native American: All things are our relatives; what we do to everything, we do to ourselves. All is really One.  

Sikhism: I am a stranger to no one; and no one is a stranger to me.  Indeed, I am a friend to all.

Taoism:  Regard your neighbor’s gain as your gain, and your neighbor’s loss as your own loss. 

Unitarianism:  We affirm and promote respect for the interdependent web of all existence.

Zoroastrianism:  That nature alone is good which refrains from doing another whatsoever is not good for itself. 

Mike Dooley said, “When you understand that what most people really, really want is simply to feel good about themselves, and when you realize that with just a few well-chosen words you can help virtually anyone on the planet instantly achieve this, you begin to realize just how simple life is, how powerful you are, and that love is the key.”  And Edwin Markham proclaimed, “We have committed the Golden Rule to memory; let us now commit it to life.”  

Published in the Cookeville Herald Citizen newspaper June 16, 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 and June 9, 2017.  (The paper accidentally reprinted an article twice within two months.  I took it that the Universe thought this message needed to be said again, especially after my article from last week where I received some hateful emails.  The Universe works in mysterious ways!)

Friday, June 2, 2017

For the Love of Cookeville

Cookeville is a beautiful city filled with wonderful, kind, caring, and loving people.  We come in all colors, races, religions, nationalities, and cultures.  As individuals, we may have our differences, especially in beliefs, but we basically get along peacefully with our neighbors. 

As everyone knows, we recently got hit by a disastrous storm that took down trees, power lines, and caused destruction to vehicles and homes.  Fortunately, no one was hurt.  Afterwards, neighbors checked on neighbors and strangers checked on strangers to make sure everyone was okay.  People are coming together to support each other and to help clean up wherever needed.  This is the Cookeville that I believe in.

On one side of the city stands a huge, white cross.  Regardless of how you feel about it, I am assuming this church means for it to stand for the love of God and Jesus.  Unfortunately, I recently learned that we have another sign somewhere in Cookeville that has been making national and international news and is paid for by the TN Pastors Network.  The sign reads, “Why Support President’s Immigration Ban?  19 Muslim Immigrants Killed 2,977 Americans 9/11.”  This sign does NOT represent me or many of us in Cookeville, yet sadly, it will reflect on our great city, and I don’t believe that’s who we are.

As of 2015, there were approximately 3.3 million Muslims of all ages in America living here in peace (about 1% of the U.S. population).  There are also approximately 4,000 Muslims in our military fighting for our country to save Americans and other lives.  Muslims around the world are speaking out against terrorism.  And yet some people hold the actions of a few against the whole religion.  When a non-Muslim commits a heinous crime, we don’t ask about his religion.  And if they happen to be Christian, we don’t hold it against all Christians (or other religions).

Time magazine reported that according to the Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security based on surveys of 382 law enforcement groups, “Law enforcement agencies in the United States consider anti-government violent extremists, not radicalized Muslims, to be the most severe threat of political violence that they face.”  Why aren’t we speaking out against these groups, especially when many in these groups profess to be Christian?

We wonder why so many are turning their backs on God, religion (particularly Christianity), and church, and yet it’s because for many, they are seeing the hypocrisy of what some religious leaders are saying and doing, when in fact, Jesus spoke of love, compassion, and kindness.  Jesus never stood for hate.  He stood only for love.

"No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin or his background or his religion. People must 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."  Nelson Mandela



Published in the Cookeville Herald Citizen newspaper June 2, 2017.

Friday, May 26, 2017

To Honor and Respect All Life

"To honor and respect means to think of the land and the water, air, plants, and animals who live there as having an equal right to be here. We are not the supreme and all-knowing beings living at the pinnacle of evolution, but are in fact members of the sacred hoop of life, along with the trees, rocks, coyotes, eagles, fish, and toads. Each performs its given task in the sacred hoop of the Great Spirit, as we have one, too."  Wolf Song of the Abenaki Tribe

According to the Bible and other religions’ holy books, God (by whatever name you use) created the world and everything on it.  We call this beautiful, magnificent world “Mother Earth.”  Since the beginning of time, she has been providing for us and she gives us everything we need to survive. 

Everything in existence is made of the exact same thing.  If you put a sample of everything upon the earth whether it’s human, animal, anything in nature, solid objects, etc., under the most powerful magnifying scope, you would find that we’re all made of the same energy, which consists of protons, neutrons, electrons, and mostly empty space.  Once we awaken to this wisdom, we realize our connectedness to each other and to all of life. 

And yet we have this illusion of separateness, and we separate each other and all things with labels.  Wayne Dyer, a well-known spiritual author and speaker, said that if you take the labels off of everything, you will realize that everything is one energy.  So, I tried it.  I stood in our front yard and looked at everything around me.  I took the labels off.  It only happened for a few seconds, but for those few seconds, I saw everything blend into each other.  That’s when I had the most amazing aha moment!  I saw everything as one energy and I got it.  Everything really is connected!  Since then, my perspective on all of life changed and it deepened my spiritual beliefs. 

I also realized that it is only we humans who separate each other from each other.  We separate ourselves from our glorious Mother Earth to the point that we don’t take care of her.  In fact, many are destroying her.  The creator gave us this magnificent being called earth and if we don’t come together to save her, we will only destroy ourselves.  By disrespecting and dishonoring our planet and everything on it, as well as each other, we are disrespecting and dishonoring the very one who created us.

“Grandfather, look at our brokenness.  We know that in all creation, only the human family has strayed from the Sacred Way. We know that we are the ones who are divided and we are the ones who must come back together to walk the Sacred Way. Grandfather, Sacred One, teach us love, compassion, and honor that we may heal the earth and heal each other.” Ojibwa Prayer  

Published in the Cookeville Herald Citizen newspaper May 26, 2017.

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.