Thursday, December 30, 2010

What If?

What if when we are born, we are born as pure, unconditional, perfect love, and we are born knowing all the answers to the Universe?  What if when we are born, we are born with the potential to become the greatest expression of who God wants us to be?  What if this was true, but we’ve somehow forgotten?

You see, I believe that all the above is true, right here, right now.  When a parent looks at their newborn child, they feel that pure unconditional, perfect love for that child.  It’s a feeling like no other.  Some say they never truly knew what real love was until they had a child.  It’s the love that we should be feeling all the time, throughout our lives, for ourselves and for everyone around us.  If you could take that love and multiply it a thousand fold, a million fold, it would still be just a smidgeon of the love that God has for us regardless of who we are or our situation in life.  This is the love that Jesus and all the great Spiritual teachers taught.

As infants, we have yet to learn labels.  We have yet to learn the word ‘no.’ We have yet to be taught that we are less than, that we aren’t worthy, that we can’t accomplish what we want in life, or that our dreams can’t come true.  We haven’t yet caught what I call the ‘can’tz disease.’  (Can’t do this; can’t do that.)

We haven’t yet been taught to hate, that people are different, that some people are bad or good, right or wrong, or that we’re less than because we don’t measure up to other people’s expectations of us.   Hate, bigotry, prejudice, intolerance are all learned behaviors either by those around us, or by our experiences. 

It is said that God is love and that “God created man in his own image and likeness” (Gen. 1:27)  What if that image is not in the physical sense, but in the “Spiritual sense?”  The essence of who we are.  I know that many people believe that God has a human form, living in the clouds, sitting on a throne, in a long white robe, and long white hair.  And if that’s what you believe, that’s okay.  But what if He were more than that?  If God is love, and we are in the image of God, then that makes us love, too.  If that makes us love, that makes everyone around us love.  If we could only see ourselves as God truly sees us, it could change our whole perception on who we are meant to be and that we really can be the greatest expression of God in our everyday lives.  1 John 4:8 says, "Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love."

Can we really see God’s love in our fellow man?  Can we love them as God loves them?  1 John 4:20-21 says, “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother."

It’s so easy to judge others because it’s easier than loving them.  We have certain belief systems that actually teach hate and intolerance.  We can pick out Bible verses and interpret them to back up our personal beliefs, but I think Jesus said it best in John 13:34-35:  "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

As for judging, James 4:11-12 states:  “Do not speak evil against one another, brothers.  The one who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks evil against the law and judges the law.  But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge.  There is only one lawgiver and judge; he who is able to save and to destroy.  But who are you to judge your neighbor?”

What if we live the example of Jesus and all the other great Spiritual leaders?  What if we come into the New Year and change the world with our love?  Is it easy?  Hardly.  But the great Master, Jesus, commanded us to love one another as we love ourselves.  The more loving we are towards others, the more loving will be our experience of God.  It begins with us. 

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Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Humanity's Hope

In this new year, we have the most glorious opportunity to make the choices to be the grandest vision of who we can be…as a nation, as a world, and as a people. 

We are in a state of miraculous transition, and it is our choice as to how we want to see our future unfold.  We can no longer continue to hate others and be intolerant just because someone is different than we are, whether it’s a different belief/religion, skin color, nationality, race, or walk of life.  We’re all in this world together.

The greatest spiritual leaders and teachers throughout history have taught unconditional love:  Jesus, Buddha, Gandhi, Mohammed, the Dalai Lama, and many others have all taught unconditional love as the Golden Rule.   But from the beginning of time and throughout the ages, people began to argue, fight, and go to war over who had the only true religion, whose God was better, and who was right and wrong. 

So what is unconditional love?  I looked to Wikipedia on the Internet to see what it had to say and I found the following:  Unconditional love is a term that means to love someone regardless of his actions or beliefs.  Unconditional love separates the individual from his behaviors. The individual is loved unconditionally as a "perfect" child of the Higher Power.”  (I do want to add that this does not excuse someone’s harmful behavior, as people always need to take the consequences for their actions.)

All religions and Bibles teach some form of the Golden Rule.  A few are:

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:  “No 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.” 
Taoism:  “Regard your neighbor’s gain as your gain, and your neighbor’s loss as your own loss.” 

If we could all live by the Golden Rule and practice it in our daily lives, think how we could change the world!   Gandhi said, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”  I say, “Be the love you wish to see.”

There are times when I feel such an overwhelming sense of love for my fellow beings that I feel like I’m just going to burst into a ball of love energy.  We really are all made of the exact same stuff, but we just appear in different forms.  That doesn’t mean that I’m feeling this way all time.  I still have to constantly work on myself.

I know that the world can sometimes look like a very scary place.  There is a lot going on that can cause fear in the best of optimistic thinkers.  I cannot worry about what I have no control over.  I can only work on myself, my own attitude, and the way I wish to see the world.  I choose to look for the good in humanity.  We human beings are so much more than we give ourselves credit.  We’ve overcome the worst adversities throughout history, and we will continue to prevail.  But we can only do so if keep hope alive and work towards the greater good of all.

So, who or what is humanity’s hope?  WE ARE!  Each and every one of us.  Don’t worry about what the next person is or isn’t doing.  Be the change.  Be the example.  Be the miracle.  We may not always get it right, and we’ll still have our moments of negative feelings toward someone or some thing.  Imagine if we could get enough people to work on adding to the collective consciousness of unconditional love and to live the Golden Rule….we could change the world!  It’s up to us.  Choose love and never give up hope.

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What a Person Believes...Is

In 1969, a new TV show hit the airwaves called “The Courtship of Eddie’s Father” starring Bill Bixby.  There was one episode that made an impact on me, and it wasn’t so much the show as it was the words that Bill Bixby’s character said.  I don’t even remember the story line, but the profound words were, “What a person believes…is.”  The magnitude of that statement didn’t really hit me until many years later when I began my spiritual journey and became an open-minded believer in all things that are good.

It is so true.  It doesn’t matter what a person believes; to him/her it is their truth, and for most people, you can’t tell them any different.  They are right and everyone else is wrong.  It doesn’t matter what religion you are, what political party you belong, where you live, how you live, or your walk of life.  You believe what you believe for whatever reasons based upon your upbringing, your experiences, and everything you were taught.   

Many years ago, I attended a Native American Sweat Lodge (you sit inside a dome that contains extremely high heat and you sweat).  Afterwards, I was talking to the Ceremonial Singer and out of the blue, he made the statement, “There’s no such thing as right or wrong.”  I replied, “Killing is wrong!”  He countered, “What happens if that person had to kill to save himself or a family member, or those at war?”  We batted back and forth on various topics, but he continued to have a reply to everything I said.  It took me a good two weeks of constantly pondering that statement before the light bulb went off over my head and I got it.  In other words, I changed my beliefs.  There really isn’t any such thing as right or wrong, good or bad; it’s our perception that makes it so.  Nothing has meaning except for the meaning you give to it.

Some people will argue that they have facts to back up their beliefs.  I can guarantee you that there will be someone else who has facts to back up the exact opposite beliefs.  That is one reason I take the title “expert” very lightly.  For every expert on one subject, you will find another expert who can prove the exact opposite of the first expert. 

We used to believe that the earth was flat and that the sun revolved around the earth. People were put in prison or killed because of those beliefs.  Certain cultures were believed to be sub-human and genocide occurred to get rid of them (this continues in some countries today). 

Just because someone believes something different than you does not mean that they are right or wrong.  It’s just what they believe at this time in their life.  I always tell people that I refuse to argue religion, politics, or opinion.  If people want to share and discuss their beliefs, I can discuss with the best of them; but I will not argue and try to make me right and them wrong.  Think about how some of your beliefs have changed over the course of your lifetime.

A belief is just a thought that you keep thinking and our thoughts can change, which changes our beliefs.  Johann Goethe said “Man is made by his belief.  As he believes, so he is.”  Proverbs 23:7 says “For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he.”  The Buddha states: “All that we are is the result of what we have thought.  The mind is everything.  What we think, we become.”  James Allen wrote a book titled “As a Man Thinketh,” which I would highly recommend everyone read.  (It’s available free at www.asamanthinketh.net.)

I totally believe that our core belief should be based on unconditional love and build from there.  Embrace the diversity that is in our world.  We are all the same but different.  Allow people to believe whatever they want to believe and respect their right to believe whatever that want to believe (as long as they are not hurting anyone; they still need to be held accountable for their actions).  If we could just accept those who believe differently, think how much better we could get along as a people, a nation, and as a world. 

Even though life can be really rough sometimes, it’s our thoughts about those experiences that will make or break us. I would like to close with a quote I came up with several years ago.  “Life is beautiful, life is good, life is what you believe it to be.”

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Saturday, December 4, 2010

The Magical and Miraculous Holiday Season

The holiday season is here and for many of us, it is a season of magic, miracles, joy, and laughter, spending time with friends and family in love and companionship, and eating holiday food to our heart’s desire. We look forward to the holidays and always see them pass with fond memories. Seeing the holiday decorations brings warm feelings, and people feel a connectedness to everyone that is not normally felt outside of the season. Charities see a boost in giving, people go out of their way to see that the hungry are fed, children are given toys, and we are a little kinder to neighbors and strangers alike. Even the holiday movies are festive and always have a happy ending.

On the other side, there are those who do not experience the magic and miracles of the holidays, but instead, the holidays are something to dread and fill them with much anxiety. Family gatherings are a nightmare, and it tends to be an extremely stressful time. There are those who are suffering sometimes more than the average person should have to suffer. I have so many friends who are going through the most awful stuff right now. We all know family, friends, neighbors, and strangers, who are struggling just to get through each day, let alone another holiday season.

So how can we bring a little magic and maybe a miracle or two to those who are not as fortunate as we are this holiday season? There are so many ways we can reach out and touch someone, and possibly change a life, even if just for the moment. Sometimes just a smile can brighten someone’s day. A hug, a kind word, a compliment…. That may be the only kindness that person has received in days, weeks, months, or even years.

I remember many years ago, I was working with an older woman and she was having a bad day. I gave her a hug, and afterwards, she commented, “Gee, I don’t even remember the last time someone hugged me.” A friend in college told me that before we met, she was considering taking her life, but after we became friends, she changed her mind. All I did was become her friend.

We never know how we touch someone’s life. We may even unknowingly save a life. It doesn’t take much. There are countless ways to help people. The smaller ways are to smile, offer a friendly hello, commit random acts of kindness, send a card of encouragement, call someone and tell them you were thinking about them, or ask if there is anything you can do to help. If you are financially able, take a box of food to someone who is in need, take them out to dinner once in a while, offer to babysit or sit for an elder to give someone a break; the ways are endless.

It’s so easy to sit in judgment of what others are going through because it is easier than having to love, have compassion, or understanding. Some think a homeless person is lazy, a depressed person can just snap out of it, the unemployed only need to go out and get a job, the addict only needs to stop the addiction… There is always a bigger picture. People are the way they are for whatever reasons, based on their upbringing, their environment, experiences, and beliefs. We never know a person’s state of mind.

But maybe we can start the healing. Maybe we can be the spark that starts them on their road to having a better life. Sometimes all a person needs is to feel validated as a human being, that their life means something to someone, that someone cares, to know that someone loves them. You don’t know how much the words “I love you” can mean to someone.

So, this holiday season, let’s reach out and touch someone with love, kindness, compassion, and understanding. Even better…let’s continue throughout the year and see how we can make this world a better place. Jesus said… “whatever you do for the one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you do for me.” (Matt. 25:40) It begins with us. Be the magic. Be the miracle. Be the love. Isn’t that what Christmas is all about?

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Friday, November 12, 2010

The Well of Depression

As the commercial says… “Depression Hurts.” But for those experiencing the bottomless, dark well of depression, it goes much deeper than that. I call it the “well of depression” because when someone is acutely depressed, they feel like they are caught in this great, dark abyss with no sight of light anywhere to be found. With no light, they lose hope. And with no hope, they lose their will to live.

According to some statistics, over 15 million people in the United States are suffering from depression. From what I see, it is one of the most misunderstood disorders we can experience. Most people have the idea that you can just snap out of depression. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Depression is real and it affects people of all ages, races, and cultures in some form or another. And unless you have experienced depression, you do not have a clue what it is like. I also want to make it clear that there is a big difference between feeling depressed, and being in a depression. All people have periods of feeling depressed, but they can come out of it just as easily as they went into it. For depression, it’s not that easy.

Over the course of my adult life, I have experienced depression to varying degrees. Because of my happy-go-lucky personality and a great ability to hide my feelings, no one ever knew the extent of what I was feeling. For those who are good at sweeping things under the rug, we know that at some point, the bump in the rug is going to become large enough that we are going to trip over it, and trip over it I did. After years of swallowing my feelings and hiding the depression, it finally manifested itself as a total breakdown in 1997. I was living in an apartment on my own at the time, but since I was now unable to function, my parents had to move me in with them.

Unfortunately, at the time, my parents didn’t understand depression and thought like most people, that all I had to do was snap out of it, get a job, and I would be fine. As I said, it’s not that simple. For the next couple of years, I did a lot of crying and sleeping. I also swallowed a lot of anger because no one seemed to understand what I was going through, so I continued to swallow my feelings. Because my mind was so busy all the time, I also suffered from insomnia. At one point, I took two many pills three times (though not enough to cause harm, but enough to scare me}, not to hurt myself, but I just wanted to stop thinking. At that point, my doctor suggested that I admit myself to a psychiatric hospital where I stayed for four days. I thought “finally, I’ll get the help that I need.” Didn’t happen. I didn’t get any counseling or therapy. The hospital just kept me until my insurance company said no more. In fact, the day after I admitted myself, I was feeling okay, and ended up counseling the other patients.

The good thing was that I had begun delving into spirituality before the breakdown and had begun to learn about the power of our thoughts. The first couple of years I was with my parents, I read book after book about spirituality, self-empowerment, motivational, and any other book I could find that might help me get out of that deep dark well. I kept an open mind in all things. I started to work on my thoughts. And I started to get better and heal. I also started taking anti-depressants which would help balance my “brain critters” until I could get a good handle on life.

At one point, I did start seeing a therapist, but she told me I was only paying her to tell me the same things that I was telling myself, and that she never had a patient like me because I knew what to do to get better. I was looking forward and not back. You can’t move forward if you’re always looking in the rearview mirror.

Granted, my depression wasn’t as severe as many who have gone through it. I didn’t experience any traumatic events that spiraled me into the abyss. Therefore, I wasn’t as deep in the well as most. I saw the light at the top and had a point to move towards. And I moved into that light to wellness.

It’s amazing to me to see how many people are experiencing this awful disease. For a time, I worked in the medical records department of a mental health center and was surrounded by thousands of files filled with many stories of people who experienced the most horrific and traumatic periods in their lives. I would walk through the waiting area filled with people, and since I’m so sensitive to people’s energies, I could “feel” their helplessness and desperation.

Recently, I watched an episode of “Oprah” when Marie Osmond was the guest, and she talked about her son’s suicide when he jumped off the balcony of his apartment complex to his death. In all outward appearances, her son seemed happy and well-adjusted. But he was, like me, good at hiding what he was feeling.

Suicide is an extreme result of depression and another issue that people don’t understand and are very judgmental about. People don’t want to commit suicide. They just want to end the pain, and in that one split second of desperation, they make that rash decision to end their life.

So…what’s the answer? Why are so many people experiencing depression? Why has it grown to such epidemic proportions? There are probably just as many answers as there are symptoms and reasons, but as of now, no miracle cure. In my case, I was able to heal by really working on my thoughts. At one point, I hated myself with a passion. I hated everything about me. I also ate all the wrong foods resulting in a eating disorder. Too much sugar, processed foods, chemicals, etc. My belief is that the foods we take in are one of the biggest culprits to depression (outside of dealing with the aftermath of a traumatic experience}. I was already a vegetarian, but I cut out most all fake foods. I’m still working on the sugar, but I’m a lot better than I was. I also began a serious spiritual journey and worked on listening to that still inner voice within. The voice of Spirit. And that voice will never fail you.

At this point in my life, even though I’m not always happy with my life circumstances, I can say that I am probably the best I’ve ever been. I’m happy within, I have a very positive and optimistic outlook on life, and I want to help others to overcome their own life struggles in order to be the happy and joyful person they were meant to be. I am now a motivational speaker and my intention is to teach people to learn to love and accept themselves as they are, and to share my own life experiences so that maybe, they too, can learn what I learned.

I also really believe that a great part of overcoming depression is to learn to love yourself unconditionally, to know that you were meant to be, and always were, this wonderful, beautiful, magnificent being. You were meant to have a healthy self-esteem and feelings of self-worth. We were born that way! Somehow, though, along the way of growing up, we’ve forgotten.

For anyone who is experiencing depression, or knows someone who is, my heart goes out to you. If you or anyone you know is suffering from any signs of this dark illness, please get help. Do not think that they are just going through a phase and will snap out of it. Don’t take chances. It only takes that one split-second decision to make that rash decision to take a life. Stop it before that happens. There’s always hope. Anthony Robbins once said, “Never take away a person’s hope because that may be all they have left.”

For those who are reading this and are in that abyss, know that you are loved. You are worthy. You are a wonderful, magnificent child of the Universe. Never give up. Hang in there and keep looking for the answers until you find them. They are there. I promise.

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Sunday, October 3, 2010

The Man at the Back of the Church

In 1989, I had a dream. Or was it? I woke to remember every detail and wrote it down. It begins:

It happened one beautiful spring Sunday morning when the daffodils were blooming and the grass was an emerald green. The sun was shining so warm and bright that it made everyone want to be out playing in its golden rays. It is also an experience I will remember for a lifetime.

The church was one of those little country churches that sits in a valley with little houses spread among the countryside. It had a large steeple, which held the huge bell that rang when the services were about to begin. Under the steeple were the double doors that welcomed its visitors into the comfortable interior of pews, which faced the small stage at the front. There was one isle down the middle of the pews. The sun shined through the beautiful stained glass windows on each side of the church walls and cast a wonderment of colors over the congregation.

On this particular Sunday, I had gone to church and was sitting near the front like I usually do. It was a good Sunday attendance with people filling most all the seats except the very back two and the front pew. The youth choir was going to put on one of their programs; so all the moms, dads, sisters, brothers, grandparents, and others were anxiously awaiting to see their loved ones have their moment of stardom.

Pastor Drew was really into his sermon that morning and had everyone’s’ rapt attention. Hardly a fidget was noticed in the congregation. Even the children were behaving themselves as if they understood every word the preacher was saying.

Suddenly, a man walked in the back door. Out of normal curiosity, people began turning around to see who would be so rude to walk in late. What they saw shocked even the most liberal of churchgoers. The man had long, shoulder length brown hair, a beard and mustache, his clothing was a long, dark, purple robe, and he wore brown sandals on his feet! The man stood for a moment looking over the people in the congregation and then quietly took a seat in a pew at the back of the church.

Murmurs and whispers were heard around the congregation as people wondered why this street vagrant would walk into their church. Others wondered where he came from and why he would even show up in their little town. Why was he dressed like that? Who did he think he was? Old Mrs. Simmons, the church gossip, was being sure to take everything in so she could let all the ladies in the church group know exactly what went on this Sunday morning. Children snickered and a few pointed at "that man."

Pastor Drew noticed the man, and seeing the way he was dressed, caused him to stutter over his words. But being the professional that he was, he was able to compose himself rather quickly. Actually, inside he smiled as he thought it was wonderful that this man felt comfortable enough to walk in as he was. But heaven forbid if he let any of the church people know. Why, they would vote him right out of the pulpit and get someone else whom they knew they could control and who saw things their way. No, he'll keep his thoughts to himself.


Right now he needed to get the attention of his congregation again, so just at the right moment he THUNDERED his voice to make his point, and sure enough, people began to turn their attention back to him (except for a few of the little ones whose parents had to nudge them to get them to face front again).

Through all this, the man at the back of the church just sat quietly listening to the sermon as if it were the most natural thing in the world to come in off the street, walk into a strange church, and sit down.

After things quieted down, my curiosity began to get the best of me, and I slowly turned around to look at this strange man. He seemed so content, and his eyes…. There was something about his eyes. I didn't mean to stare at him, but I just couldn't stop watching him. Suddenly, he turned his gaze towards me and he smiled. Not a big smile, but just enough to let me know that he knew I was watching him.

Again, those eyes. They were so full of love, and peace, and compassion. I felt myself being drawn towards this man like I was in some sort of trance.

Finally, I couldn't stand it any longer. I slowly got up from my seat, and while a few turned to see me get up, I walked towards this man at the back of the church. When I got to him, he quietly stood up to let me sit next to him. He looked at me and smiled that smile again, and then he turned his attention back to the preacher. I did the same, and we sat like this for the rest of the service.

When the service was over, people got up from their seats and began walking back the isle to leave the church. The man and I just sat there, while people stared and whispered as they walked by us. Not one person greeted this man, nor welcomed him to our church. All along, the man just sat there and didn't seem uncomfortable at all. I had the feeling it had happened to him so many times before that he was used to it.

When every last person had shook hands with the preacher and had left the building, the man stood up and began walking out the door with me following on his footsteps. When he came to the preacher, he took the preacher's hand in both of his and quietly said, "It was a nice sermon. Don't be so concerned about what other people think. Do what comes from your heart." At that, he left. I gave the preacher a quick shake of the hand and followed after the man.

I didn't know where he was going, but I kept a silent pace beside him. I wasn't afraid at all. I just felt I had to be near this man, speak to him, find out what he was about; but I was apprehensive about speaking. I didn't know what to say.

We found a country path that led into the woods and began following it. I knew I was taking a chance walking into the dense trees with a man I didn't know, but still, I followed. Finally, in a meek voice, I asked him, "Sir, may I ask your name?" In a quiet voice, he answered, "My name is Jesus." I just had to ask, didn't I? I mean, who else would he claim to be dressed the way he was. For some reason, though, I didn't disbelieve him.

We walked a ways more when he spoke in what I've come to think was his naturally quiet voice. "Do you believe that I am Jesus, the Son of God?" (When he spoke, it reminded me of David Carradine in the TV show "Kung Fu.") My goodness, what was I to say? I didn't want him to think I thought he was just some nut that happened into our part of the woods. I mean, what if he really was the Son of God? It could happen, you know. I thought for a moment on how best to answer this and replied, "I won't say that you're NOT the Son of God."

A few moments went by and the man didn't say any more. If he really was the Jesus, there was so much I wanted to ask him, to talk to him about. But if he was just some guy who thought he was Jesus, then I'd be making a real fool of myself asking him all my most innermost, sacred questions. Then I got to thinking… What did I have to lose? No one would know I was asking him these things. This was just one chance I could not pass up.

Well, here goes. "Sir, please forgive me for doubting. You have to understand that there are hundreds of people all over the world who claim to be you. How are we to know if one of them was really you? Or if you're really you now?" Oh, that's a great start, girl. Real intelligent questions those are. Now who's the nut? This man who claims to be Jesus, or me for following him and believing he is?

Again, I ventured at making intelligent conversation. "Sir, why did you come here, to our church, today?" He replied, "I visit many churches around the world."

I continued. "You know, there's one thing I've always wanted to ask you. There are millions of people on this earth with just as many different beliefs and thousands of different religions, how are we to know which one is right or wrong?"

Slowly, he said, "The important thing is, what do you believe?"

"But how do I know if what I believe is right? What am I supposed to believe? Everyone is always telling me I should believe their way. I can't really even trust what the Bible says any more. It seems that everyone has a different interpretation of what it says and means, and each says that their interpretation is the right one. It can all be pretty confusing."

He glanced at me for a moment and replied, "Trust your own heart. Your own faith. The Spirit that is within you. Do you not try to believe what is right? Do you seek me with all your heart the same as you seek righteousness?

"Yes, I do. I'm always searching for answers and I always try to do what's right. I also try to leave myself open for what you would have me to believe."

We were both silent for a few moments as we continued walking up the path to a large, open meadow surrounded by trees. The meadow was filled with the most beautiful yellow and purple flowers. It's funny, but I noticed that as we walked, everything seemed to be so much more alive and beautiful. It could have been my imagination, but I could swear that animals of all kinds would peek their heads out of the bushes to watch him go by.

I continued with my questions. "Sir, whey do people judge each other so much? Sometimes, it seems as if some Christians are the worst. They judge the way people look, the way they dress, the way they live, the way they believe… Just because someone believes differently or has different opinions…."

He seemed to contemplate this for a moment and then said, "People judge what they don't understand because it is easier than having to love, having compassion, and understanding. People fear the unknown and they wrap themselves in their beliefs like they would a blanket, to protect themselves and their feelings. It makes them feel safe that what they believe is the right way.”

We stood in the clearing for a few moments just enjoying the breathtaking sight before us. My mind was going a mile a minute trying to think of things I wanted to ask this man, but at the moment, everything seemed so jumbled up, and I couldn't think straight. So, I just stood there, enjoying being in his presence.

A few minutes passed when I happened to look down and found a beautiful little flower that seemed to stand out among the rest, and I bent down away from the man to pick it out from the blanket of color it rested in. While my back was to the man, he spoke to me.

"Karen, there is one thing that I want you to remember. I will always love you, no matter what. Remember this always."

Just as he finished speaking, I stood up and turned to give him the flower, but he was gone! I looked around to see if he had wandered off on his own, but he was nowhere to be seen. He couldn't have gone off into the woods that quickly. I stood there stunned, wondering what happened to him, how he could have disappeared so quickly. There was only one explanation, one that I was almost afraid to admit, but hoped that it would be so.

I really didn't want my time with him to end. There was so much more I wanted to ask him. I wanted just to be in his presence for a while longer. Not knowing what to do, I sat down on the ground where he last stood and smelled the flower I had just picked for him moments earlier.

I don't know how long I sat there. The first I noticed that it might be getting late was when I felt a chill from the evening air as the sun started to go down. I felt like I could sit there forever, but I knew it was time to be getting on home.

As I stood, I looked around to be sure that the man really wasn't standing anywhere where I could see him. When I couldn't find him, I sighed and began walking back towards the church.

Thoughts continued to run through my mind as I thought back on what had happened to me that day. Was the man I spoke to really Jesus, the Son of God? Or was he just a man off the street who thought he was? Did I really touch a bit of heaven and share in the presence of our Holy Spirit? Or was it all just a dream? I will probably never know the answer to these questions.

I do know that I will not deny that I met Jesus and spent some time with him. But I also know that I don't think I am going to go around telling people that I actually met and spoke with him. No, I think that this will be an experience that I will keep for myself. My very special secret. One that I will remember through eternity. A secret that has changed my life forever.

Copyrighted 1989
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Sunday, September 12, 2010

Choose Love

Lately, I have been working at choosing love every moment of every day of my life. Is it easy? Hardly. Can it be done? Mostly.

Over the past several years, I have also been working on the thoughts I choose to think. Do I think positive thoughts? Or do I choose to live in the mire of negativity? I find that I am much happier if I choose positive, optimistic loving thoughts. Once I learned that it’s my choice, then I’m more aware of the thoughts that I entertain in my brain. I love the saying: “You may not be able to stop a bird from landing on your head, but you sure can stop it from building a nest.”

I haven’t always been able to keep my thoughts in a positive frame of mine, and there are times when I still struggle with it. It depends on how I’m feeling and what’s going on in my life. I know there are life issues that I or anyone else may be dealing with that can greatly influence the thoughts that go through our heads. I used to think really horrible thoughts about myself. I’m fat, I’m ugly, I’m worthless, won’t amount to anything, why try because it won’t work out anyway… Now I know that those thoughts are lies. Outright lies. I don’t think those thoughts about other people, so why on earth would I think them about myself?

The saying is true: “Change your thoughts; change your life.” This morning on the Joel Osteen televised service, he talked about if we change our perspective, we change our life. And it’s true. I always say: “There is nothing right or wrong, good or bad; it’s just our perspective that makes it so.” Changing your perspective will change your thoughts which will change your life.

Most of what we know, believe, and/or think is taught to us. We believe it because someone told us it was so. Once you learn that you have a choice over what you believe, think, or know, then you can search for the Truth, that Truth is within everyone one of us, and that Truth is always in Love. Not everyone will see the same Truth, but it will be their Truth nonetheless, and that’s okay.

So, how am I choosing love? My first challenge was to change the thoughts I had upon first awakening. It used to be that as soon as I opened my eyes, I would think, “Oh, Shit.” Honest! It took awhile to change that one. Now I am working on my first thoughts being: “It’s a beautiful day! I am going to have a great day! Life is good! All my dreams are coming true! I am prosperous and abundant in all things. I love my life!” And then I go into my gratitudes: “Thank you for my home, that I have a warm bed to sleep in, food to eat, my health, my body, my babies (animals), my parents, friends….” I try to do this no matter how I’m feeling physically or mentally. Sometimes, it’s a challenge. But I can sure tell you it’s a whole lot better than “Oh, shit!”

Next is how I can I spread that love? One of the easiest ways to spread love is to do random acts of kindness. Just be kind to people. Ask yourself, “What can I do to brighten someone’s day?” Just smiling and saying hi to someone can make a world of difference to that person. It may be the only smile they’ve received in days, months, or years. I’ve read stories where just a smile or word of kindness can impact a person’s life greatly. Be kind even if you don’t receive any response. You’re not being kind to be thanked. You’re doing it to give and spread love. I remember giving a woman a hug one time because she was having a pretty rough day, and she responded by saying, “Gosh, I don’t even remember the last time someone hugged me!”

I like shooting people with “thought wads of love” (like a spit wad). As I pass them, I shoot them a love wad. On the physical level, they don’t know it, but spirit to spirit, they do. Or maybe they do feel it on some level and they all of a sudden have a good feeling, but don’t know where it came from. We’ll never know. But I do it anyway.

Also, who are we choosing to love or to send love to? All the great spiritual leaders throughout history ~ Jesus, Buddha, Mohammad, Allah, Gandhi, the Dalai Lama, Martin Luther King, Jr. ~ have taught that we are to love ALL living beings unconditionally.

I work as a temporary in the medical records department of a mental health center, and most days, the waiting room is filled with people who are in the most horrible pain. As I see any of these patients, I quietly bless them, smile, and say hello. Many times, they just stare at me. But that’s okay. You never know how you may touch someone’s life.

We can all think back to where someone’s kindness touched us deeply and we remember it for the rest of our lives. Are you going to be one of those who touches someone in a positive and loving way so that maybe, just maybe, you made their life a little better because of your touch? Or are you going to be mean spirited, grumpy, and bring someone down? Remember that there is a domino effect. You pass on a kindness in love, and then they pass on a kindness, and they pass on a kindness…. Or you pass on grouchiness or meanness and then they pass on that feeling to someone else and on down the line. We also need to remember that what we give out, we receive in return in some way or some form. It may not be immediate, but it is the law of the Universe that it will return.

Therefore, my friends…. Choose love. Because it has already chosen you.
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Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Surviving a Genocide

Last night, I went to Tennessee Tech University to hear Immaculee Ilibagiza speak. For those of you who are not familiar with Immaculee, she is a survivor of the 1994 Rwandan genocide. I first heard of Immaculee at a Louise Hay “I Can Do It” seminar I attended in Orlando, Florida several years ago. This woman has influenced my life like no other. I would highly recommend reading her books “Left to Tell” and “Led by Faith.”

To give a brief overview of her life…. She was attending college at the time, and during an Easter holiday, she went home to visit her family. That’s when all hell broke lose…literally. The Hutu’s stormed the country slaughtering all Tutsi’s regardless of whether they were friends or family. They were doing what they were told to do. Hate reigned. Immaculee’s father insisted she go to the home of a Hutu minister for safety. The Hutu minister hid Immaculee and seven other women in a small bathroom measuring 3’ x 4’. That’s eight woman (actually, one was a seven year old child) in a tiny room. They stayed hidden in this tiny space for three months. They weren’t allowed to talk and could only flush the toilet when the toilet on the other side of the wall was flushed. Not even the minister’s family knew they were in there.

Every day, hundreds of Hutu’s would go through the home looking for them. The minister put a dresser closet in front of the door to hide it. The women could only eat when the minister was able to slip them scraps of food. When Immaculee went into the bathroom, she weighed 115 pounds. When she came out, she weighed 65 pounds.

During her time in the bathroom, she prayed using her rosary beads. She would go through the beads a couple hundred times a day, trying to make sense of everything, and trying to deal with her fear. It wasn’t easy, but she began to come to peace with everything. What is even more amazing was that she was able to forgive those who murdered her family, friends, and relatives. No one was left of her immediate family except for one brother who was out of the country at the time of the genocide.

When the women were able to finally come out of the bathroom and escape to a refugee camp, they had to walk on a road where piles of dead body lined both sides. Can you imagine seeing something so horrendous!?! How she was able to come through all these experiences sane is amazing. This is the power of love and forgiveness.

Later, the “magic” of serendipity led her to meet Wayne Dyer, and when he heard her story, he said she had to write about it, and what’s more, he would see that it got published. What he didn’t know what that she had already written about her experiences, but just didn’t know how to go about getting it published.

Immaculee is a great example of forgiveness. I don’t know if I could be so forgiving if anyone slaughtered most everyone I knew and loved. What Immaculee taught me was not only the power of forgiveness, but to count my blessings. When I think of what she went through, I have no problems (though you can’t swallow those problems; you still have to deal with them). I am very blessed in spite of what I consider to be lack or obstacles in my life. Her story also helps me keep things in perspective.

During the question and answer session after her speaking, several members stood up in the audience and told of their own experiences with genocide. They, too, had lost members of their family. One gentleman mentioned that he just lost his brother recently in the genocide which is still occurring in Africa.

Today, Immaculee works with the United Nations, is married and has children. She also began a charitable organization called “The Left to Tell Charitable Fund” that helps orphaned children from the genocides, to relocate them to better places, takes care of them, and helps them with their education and the pain from their ordeals.

One of the men at TN Tech and I got to talking about the conditions of other countries. Most Americans do not have a clue how good they have it here, no matter how depressing their circumstances may seem. People in other countries have nothing and have no access to even the simplest things that we have in our country. If we’re hungry, we at least have options. In other countries, they don’t even have any of the resources that we have. Genocide is still occurring in some countries of the world! How America and other countries can turn a blind eye to these atrocities is beyond me.

I often think it would be great if we could establish a program where seniors in school could spend a semester doing humanitarian work in one of these challenged countries. The students would come back changed beyond their imaginations. They might learn to appreciate what they do have. They might choose to be of service to others. They might learn to count their blessings and not turn to drugs, alcohol, sex, or other addictions to try to escape the situations they find themselves in. It would teach them that life isn’t all about ‘me’ and they would choose professions where they can actually help change the world for the better.

Immaculee, you’ve changed my life and I’m a better person because you live. I’m a better person because I learned from what you went through. And, I’ve learned the power of love and forgiveness. Thank you, Immaculee.

For more information about Immaculee, please go to http://www.immaculee.com/

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Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Being Our Brother's Keepers

What is happening in Haiti is both tragic and heart-wrenching. It is only by fate that this didn’t happen to us here in America. As Americans, we’ve been very fortunate to have very few catastrophes in our history as compared to other countries. For this, we should feel very fortunate and grateful.

Dealing with these types of tragedies where there has been a great loss of life, as well as countless injuries, can be very difficult and depressing. My heart goes out to all the Haitians and those who are affected by the destruction of these precious lives. I wish there were some magic formula to make everything better at an instant. But there isn’t. Other than providing prayers and aide, we just have to trust the process here on this planet.

Everyone has their way of dealing with horrible situations. I have my own theory that I’d like to share with you, though it’s just a theory. Others have written and spoken about this belief system. All I know is that it helps me and gives me peace in the midst of chaos.

I believe that before we come to this earth in human form, on a soul level, we choose everything we want to experience on this planet. We choose our parents, we choose the date and place we want to be born, we choose the conditions we wish to experience, and we choose the date and way we leave wish to leave.

When my grandmother died, which devastated me as I loved her so much; it brought me some peace to believe that her soul chose to leave at that time. After our souls serve their purpose (reason for being here), they go back home. Some call it making out a contract and when that contract is completed, they leave.

Let’s look at a possible scenario where a soul is choosing what s/he wants to experience on the earth plane. Soul Sue decides that she wants to take a trip to earth to go on all kinds of exciting adventures. She has a contract in front of her (or on a heavenly computer) that lists thousands of scenarios to choose from. Sue chooses parents who don’t get along and fight all the time because she wants to experience what that is like. She also chooses to have a difficult childhood because she wants to glean the wisdom that comes from having to grow up so quickly. Sue knows Joe on the other side, and they get together to contract that they will meet on earth to get married and have an abusive marriage, because she wants to learn to become empowered and take back control of her human life. She also checks off that after she gets divorced, she meets the man of her dreams who treats her with great respect and loves her dearly. A few years later, she become pregnant, but experiences several miscarriages, until she has the beautiful child who was meant to be. She grows old and happy with her family. She also checks off that she wants to die at the age of 101, but she chooses to die healthy and at peace. After her purpose on earth was fulfilled, she comes back to the other side full of exciting stories about all her adventures and everything she learned.

So…how does this relate to Haiti? Not only can just a couple of people contract to share experiences on earth, but so can numerous groups of people. Let’s say that the millions of Haitians contracted to experience this before they came to earth. They not only want to have the personal experiences, but they want to be teachers for their fellow man. They see ahead of time that people on earth are in chaos and need to be reminded what is truly important, and they want to be a part of this very important mission. They look at the United States and see how they have gotten so caught up in arguing and fighting over politics, and they’ve forgotten how important it is to really take care of each other.

I truly believe, as awful as the situation in Haiti is (as well as 9/11 and others), that they happen as reminders to we humans how we really are our brothers keepers. It seems that in only times of tragedies do we remember that it’s not all about us (individuals, groups, etc.). It really is about having love, compassion, and understanding for those around us at ALL times. When there is a tragedy, people and nations put aside their differences to come to the aid of our fellow beings. We assist in the way of money and personal aide, and we realize that we really are one.

Why must it take a catastrophe of significant circumstances for us to remember this? When there isn’t a disaster occurring, we tend to get complacent in our own problems and we forget to care and love for one another. How many times do we have to have these extreme reminders?

Let’s learn from Haiti and not let this be just another human disaster. There are people all over the world, including our own country, who need help now. Let’s put aside our differences and learn that we really are our brother’s keepers. Now and forever more.

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Wednesday, January 13, 2010

"Avatar"

Have you seen the movie “Avatar” yet? If not, I would highly recommend it. At first, I wasn’t going to see it. I had asked myself, “Self…if this movie wasn’t in 3D, would you be interested in seeing it?” Then Self replied, “Probably not.” Except for one thing. All my friends were telling me, “You have GOT to see this movie!!!!” Rather than feel left out on what could be something really big, I relented and went to see it. I’m glad I did! It was a magnificent movie!

I love message movies anyway. Apparently, “Avatar” is being touted as one of the biggest, most recent, message movies in the Spiritual communities. The message I received is that mankind is continuing to ravage our earth while destroying complete cultures of people. That was the negative message. The positive message was that the Spirit of people (and aliens) will prevail.

It was a beautiful movie in that it was a message of love, compassion, understanding, and a loving tolerance of those who are different than we are. It is also a story of the goodness of mankind (and aliens). Several of the main human characters realize that destroying the Na’vi beings, their homes, and their land in order to get the precious resources was wrong, and they come to their aid at great expense of loss of life.

What is disturbing is that some people and organizations are actually politicizing this movie! I was watching “The View” recently and was appalled that two of the show’s cast were trying to make a military issue out of the movie (and I love “The View”). What they saw was “white, ex-marines” being the bad guys, and that this was a direct reflection on our own military and making them look bad. That had never occurred to me. What I saw was mankind, no matter what color, race, religion, or what part of the earth they came from, full of greed and selfishness, were destroying another culture for its resources and/or their land.

It was done to the American Indians in the early history of America. It was done to the Jews by Hitler and others; it’s being done in Iraq, Africa, and various other parts of the world. Genocide is still occurring even to this day to destroy a people whom we don’t agree with just because they’re different and/or to get their resources. We’re destroying the Amazon and cultures/animals just for the resources the Amazon offers.

What this movie says to me is that it is a wake-up call. It’s time we stopped the genocide, the hate, the greed, and the selfishness, and start embracing those who may not look like us, believe like us, or live like us. The greatest teaching in all the Bibles is to love one another. And yet it is one of the most ignored teachings, even here in America. And it’s time we start taking care of our earth and appreciating Her for giving us life.

Let’s stop focusing on our differences and begin focusing on what we have in common. Let’s love and embrace the good in all people and in all things. Let’s start practicing the teachings of our great spiritual teachers. Love really is the answer.

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