Friday, December 23, 2011

Loving the Spirit Within

I have been writing for the Herald Citizen’s Religion section for about a year now and have enjoyed sharing with everyone my thoughts, beliefs, and what I have learned on this great journey called life.  As I read other writers’ articles, I embrace the diversity of our beliefs, and it’s great that we can share what we believe with grace and in peace.  I honor whatever anyone believes because I know that we’re all on this journey together.

As an Ordained Interfaith Minister, I love the diversity and goodness that I see in all religions.  When we can come together in Love, we find that we have so much more in common than not.  I’ve written this numerous times, but my favorite verse in the Bible is John 13:34 where Jesus says, “A new command I give you:  Love one another.  As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”  That’s the one I try to live by.  To me, that means that I should love everyone unconditionally regardless of who they are, what they are, what they believe, or what they’ve done in their lives.  My purpose is to love that person, and the rest is between them and the God of their understanding.   Loving one another in the way Jesus loved is the lesson that Jesus taught.  Is it easy?  Goodness, gracious no.  Even with my best intentions, I still have troubles with that one.  One of my biggest challenges is in not judging the judgers, hating the haters, or complaining about the complainers.

I’m learning more and more the importance of going to Spirit (which is the name I use for God) directly and listening to that still, small inner voice within.  John 4:24 says, “God is Spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.” Sometimes that voice is just a quiet, gentle nudge.  Other times, it’s like having someone scream in my ear, especially when I’m not paying attention, and Spirit gives me what I call that “love smack on the back of my head.”  But when I listen to Spirit’s voice, it never steers me wrong.  I can always count on it to be just, loving, and nothing but the Truth so help me God.

It’s great that we have churches where we can learn from others what they learned on their journey.  It’s also great to be able to fellowship with like-minded believers.  Books and CD’s/tapes are another great way to grow spiritually.  I’ve learned, though, that no matter what I learn from whom, that I always need to check it with Spirit directly to see if it is true and right for me.  Spirit will always guide me and direct me as long as I listen.

There are many ways to connect directly with Spirit if we are not feeling connected all the time.  I’ll be honest…there are times in my life when I feel lost and alone, and I don’t feel Spirit in my life, although I know it’s always there.  I just lost my little boy (Toy Poodle) and it absolutely devastated me. I was feeling so much pain and grief that I felt like I was all alone.  It’s okay to have those spiritual temper tantrums.  We can scream, swear, cry, beat a pillow... whatever we need to do to get through it.  Spirit is right there waiting saying, “It’s okay.  You go right ahead and have your temper tantrum, and I’ll be right here waiting for you and loving you through it.  Then we’ll continue right where we left off.”  There are many ways to “feel” that relationship once again if we feel we’ve lost it.  Prayer, meditation, fasting, and getting out in nature are great ways to again feel that all loving feeling of Spirit.   

I also like to use affirmations to continuously repeat until I can clear all that negative clutter out of my brain.  “Life loves me and supports me, and keeps me safe and well.”  “In the sanctuary of my heart, I feel the peace and love of Spirit.”  “I experience life with optimism and confidence.”  “The wisdom of Spirit lies within me.”  There are so many others you can use. 

So, as we move into the year 2012, let us remember the most important commandment Jesus gave us:  “Love one another.  As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”  When we do this, we all win.  And so it is.

(Published in the Herald Citizen newspaper December 23, 2011.)

Monday, December 5, 2011

If We Didn’t Have Holidays

If we didn’t have holidays…

Would there be all this arguing and fighting that occurs at this time of year?

Would families be fighting over whose house to go to for which holiday?  

Would there be all the stress and anxiety over making preparations, meals, buying and wrapping gifts, traveling, having to spend time with in-laws and other not-so-liked relatives and friends, or even having to spend it alone?

Would we be eating too much food, much of it unhealthy, gaining weight, getting the flu, colds, or worse?  Would there be as many deaths at this time of year?  As many people in the hospitals?

Would we be spending too much money, sometimes money that we don’t have, putting us further in debt, or upset because we couldn’t spend what we wished we could have spent?

Would there be arguing over who should get what for Christmas, if anything?  Would people, particularly children, be angry and upset if they didn’t get what they thought they should get? Or if they didn’t get anything at all for Christmas?

Would people be fighting and arguing over whether or not they think Christ is being taken out of Christmas?

Would there be fighting and arguing over whether or not we should be saying “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays?”

Would there be fighting and arguing over whose holiday should be celebrated, and whose decorations should be put up where? 

Would there be much of a holiday if we took the commercialism out of the celebrations?

Would there be hate, bigotry, and intolerance over holiday issues just because someone celebrates in a different way or believes in something different?

I think not.  We have gotten so far away from what Jesus and all the other great spiritual masters have taught, and the holidays have become something so far removed from what they were meant to be, if at all. 

These are just my thoughts as I’m pondering the holidays when I remember that Jesus said, “Love one another.  As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”  Or when the Dalai Lama said, “My religion is kindness.”  Or when Gandhi said, “Gentleness, self-sacrifice and generosity are the exclusive possession of no one race or religion.” Or when Muhammad said, “Kindness is a mark of faith, and whoever has not kindness has not faith.”  Or when Sri Sri Ravi Shankar said, “Spirituality is allowing compassion and love to flourish.”  Or when Buddha said, “Have compassion for all beings.”  I could go on. 

Personally, it doesn’t matter to me at all what holiday people celebrate at this time of year, or any time.  It doesn’t matter to me what decorations are put up or where.  It doesn’t matter to me if someone says “Merry Christmas,” “Happy Holidays,” “Happy Hanukkah,” “Happy Kwanzaa,” or whatever greeting someone wishes to use.  In today’s day and time’s, when people mostly ignore each other, I’m just happy that someone would even wish me anything, or to just acknowledge me at all!  The rest doesn’t matter.

Therefore, at this time of year, I don’t so much want to celebrate a holiday as I do to celebrate the teachings of the great masters who taught us to love one another.  I choose love, to celebrate love and kindness, and to celebrate this beautiful world we live in with everyone living together as one.  That is the kind of world I choose to believe in.   I choose to celebrate a holiday of love, which should be celebrated each and every day of the year. 

I choose to go within to connect directly to the God of my understanding.  I don’t need a holiday to do that.  I don’t need a particular greeting to do that.  I don’t need to see particular decorations to do that.  And I certainly do not feel threatened when I see how others celebrate.  Of course holidays can be a good thing, but we should really examine why we are celebrating them in the first place.

Again, these are just my thoughts and what I believe, and has nothing to do with anyone else.  Nor am I trying to tell anyone what or how to believe, or that anyone is right or wrong.  I am also not trying to start a debate or get anyone up in arms, especially if what I write threatens anyone’s personal belief systems.  Because I choose love, that means that I also choose to love people enough to also be open-minded with what they believe even though it may differ from my own beliefs.   I love and embrace our diversity.  And I love that the God of our understanding made us in order that we can learn to love.  Because, my friends, that’s really what it’s all about, isn’t it?


Friday, November 25, 2011

Diamond in the Rough

"I allow creativity to express through me.  According to legend, Michelangelo insisted that his part in creating David – his masterpiece of sculpture – was only to carefully chip away at the marble, uncovering the David that lay within.  Within me there is also a masterpiece awaiting expression.  As I chip away at limiting thoughts that hinder my creativity, beauty and innovation flow froth.  Something within me is waiting to emerge.  During my prayer time, I listen for what is seeking expression; then I joyfully engage with whatever surfaces.  Creativity takes many forms:  writing, music, art, dance, business ventures and inventions.  The possibilities are limitless.  As I quiet my inner critic, I invite my creativity to come alive and I create my masterpiece.  ‘Everything created by God is good.’ 1 Timothy 4:4.”  (Daily Word, a Unity Publication)

You’ve probably heard the saying, “Don’t give up on me; God isn’t finished with me yet.”  Or that you’re a diamond in the rough, which the Urban Dictionary defines as, “Someone (or something) that has hidden exceptional characteristics and/or future potential, but currently lacks the final touches that would make them (or it) truly stand out from the crowd. The phrase is metaphorical and relates to the fact that naturally occurring diamonds are quite ordinary at first glance, and that their true beauty as jewels is only realized through the cutting and polishing process.”

From the moment we are born, we are uncut diamonds who spend our whole lives being cut, sanded, and polished.  The only problem is that most of us just aren’t even aware that we have that magnificence within each and every one of us just waiting to emerge.  Perhaps, we’re told our whole lives that we’re ugly, have no talent, will never amount to much, and so on.  We believe it and, therefore, that beauty remains hidden for most, if not all, of our lives.  We develop a poor self-image, self-esteem, and self-worth, and then these become our identities and the way that we see ourselves. 

But the Bible states that we are made in the image of God; not in physical form, but the essence of who and what God is.  We were put on earth to learn to be the greatest expressions of who we were meant to be!  For some, we learn this lesson early and our lives are filled with wonderful adventures, joy, satisfaction, and great accomplishments.  We control life.  For others, we seem to struggle our whole lives because we let life and others control us, and no matter what we try to do, we’re just always struggling. 

Many lose hope and give up, because they believe they do not have a choice.  Anthony Robbins, a well-known motivational speaker, once said “Never take away a person’s hope because that may be all they have left.”  But as long as people do have hope, they’ll keep on trying. 

Life is a process of ever unfolding lessons, surprises, and adventures.  If every person could just know the magnificence that is within, because it is the magnificence of God who put it there, then think of what we could accomplish in our lives!  No matter what we went through in the past, we know that it doesn’t have to dictate our future.  I like to say that you can either be a victim of your past, or a hero of your future. 

I love to read celebrity autobiographies and it’s amazing how so many of them had to go through such hardships in their lives before seeing their dreams come true.  Some had the most horrendous childhoods.  Many of them have grown to be the most gracious humanitarians who give of themselves and their money unselfishly.  I think of Angelina Jolie (actress), who did not have an easy childhood at all, and how she’s grown into one of the most beautiful women in the world, as well as one of the most respected humanitarians.   Ashley Judd (actress) also had a hard childhood, and today, she is involved with so many humanitarian organizations.  Oprah Winfrey is another one.  They don’t just pay lip service or only give their money.  They go to the people and walk among them.  They discovered their magnificence!

It is my wish that each and every one of you can go within and discover that inner brilliance, majesty, and grandeur, that is the truth of who you really are.  You are a masterpiece waiting to become the greatest expression of who you were meant to be.  A diamond in the rough!  Believe it!  Know it!  See it!  And let your splendor shine!  As it says above, “Everything created by God is good.”  And so it is!

(Published in the Cookeville Herald Citizen newspaper.)

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Everything is in Divine Order

“My life is unfolding in perfect order.  If I am feeling overwhelmed, I may have difficulty recognizing that divine order is at hand.  I remind myself to release my need to know how things will work out and trust the Universe for right outcomes.  I turn to nature for an example.  A soft caterpillar plods through countless hazards to find food.  Over time, he wraps himself in a cocoon, transforms his body, and pushes himself through a tiny opening to stretch and fill out his new butterfly wings.  Observing the process, I see why each phase is necessary.  I see order in his unfoldment.  My evolution is even more complex and miraculous.  With renewed calm and appreciation for the order present in all life, I continue on my path of transformation.  ‘Put things in order…and the God of love and peace will be with you.’” (2 Corinthians 13:11)  (Printed from The Daily Word, a Unity publication.)

Through my writing and speaking, I can only share what I believe.  Everything I think and believe is based upon my own life experiences, the wisdom I’ve gained, and how I see things through my own perspective lenses.  It’s that way for each of us.  What we believe…is.

I believe that everything is in divine order.  Everything happens for a reason and everything is as it should be.  Or as some in Unity like to say, “We are in the right place, at the right time, right now.”  Everything I experience in my life is for my own soul’s growth.   I believe that God is in every one and every thing.  That’s hard for some to comprehend, but once I got it, I understood.  God doesn’t cause what we go through because we have free will, but S/he’s still in the midst of it all. 

I also believe that there is always a bigger picture; things we can’t know or see.  Since I believe that God is in all that is, I know I can look for the good that is in or may come out of every situation.  We may not see it at the time, if at all, but it’s there.  When we get to the ‘hindsight part,’ we can look back and say, “Oh, now I see why I went through that!”  I know that it’s made me a stronger and better person because of it.  I gained so much more wisdom and knowledge, and learned a little bit more about myself.

It’s not always easy.  Sometimes, when I’m going through something, I feel like I’ve stepped into a spot of quicksand, and I’ve sunk so far in that I can’t see above the muck.  I call it “being stuck in the muck.”  But it’s my choice whether I want to stay in the muck, or reach in to that infinite wisdom and power that is within me, and pull myself out of it.  Sometimes I have to ask for help, but I make the choice.  Some people feel they don’t have a choice, but even that is a choice.

Our souls are here to learn, to remember, and to help each other on the path that we have chosen here on earth.  People (and situations) come in and out of our lives doing what they came here to do.  Not all of it feels good.  In fact, at times, it can appear outright ugly. 

One thing I learned that made a huge impact on me is that everything is one energy:  good/bad, ugly/beautiful, right/wrong, and so on.  It is only when we humans attach a label to it that makes it what it seems to be.  Nothing has meaning except the meaning that we give to it.  The thoughts we choose will make or break us, because it is those thoughts that assign those labels.

Not too long ago, I started to go into fear by what I’ve been seeing in our religion, politics, and other world situations.  Then I heard the words from Spirit say, “It’s okay.  I’ve got it all under control.  Let me handle it.”  I have to trust those words to be my truth.  I have to trust that we, as a nation, a people, and a world, are in a birthing process, and like any birth, we have to go through the birthing pains.   We can kick and scream as much as we want, but that will only give us more kicking and screaming.  Or we can look for the good, know that we are in the cocoon stage of life, and that soon, that beautiful and miraculous butterfly will soon emerge.  It is then that we can look back and say, “Oh!  Now I see why I/we went through that!”  It’s all in divine order, and all is well.  God is in charge.

(Published in the Cookeville, TN Herald Citizen newspaper.)


Bless the Children

Jesus said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these."  (Matt. 19:14)

I believe that Jesus is the epitome of pure, unconditional, perfect love.  I also believe that when children are born, they are also born of that same love.  They were born geniuses, and they came into this world knowing who they were. 

Then as they began to get older, they began to learn something completely different.  One of the first words they learned was ‘no’ and they began to learn what they couldn’t or shouldn’t do.  They began to learn that their identity was something completely different than what they knew when they were born.  They began to be “humanized” by the adults who raised them. 

This “humanizing” is part of the process of life that we learned from our parents and others around us, who learned it from their parents, and on back through the beginning of time.  Parents, and other caregivers, teach their children based upon what they know, what they were taught, and many of those lessons came from their own experiences and perceptions of what they believed life to be.  Many had great upbringings.  Many didn’t.  Parents can only do the best they can with what they know at the time.

Jesus, as well as all the other great Spiritual teachers throughout time, knew the value of children and how precious they are.  When Jesus’ disciples tried to keep the children away from Jesus because they didn’t think He could be bothered by them, Jesus rebuked them by telling them in a parable of the sheep, “See that you do not despise one of these little ones.  For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven.”  (Matt. 18:10).

So many of our children are suffering in ways we never could have imagined in our time.  Child abuse is at an all-time high.  Bullying is out of control and is causing some children to commit suicide.  Many children do not feel safe at school, and in some areas, children have to go through metal detectors.  Gang activity is high.  Many children are not getting enough to eat.  The number of children on antidepressants and other mood altering drugs is unbelievable.   Depression is being diagnosed in children as young as three!  And there are one to three million runaway and homeless kids living on the streets in the United States alone!  Buddha said, "What's done to the children is done to society."  It’s true.  Our children become adults and the cycle starts all over again. 

Some say that our children have it so much easier than previous generations.  Maybe; in some ways.  But children today have a lot more distractions than when we were in school.  My generation only had three TV channels, kids played outside most of the time, we could walk to school and play in the neighborhood because parents didn’t have to worry about us, and most of our outside activities were school related.  Today, kids are bombarded with countless high tech products, which include iPods, cell phones, computers (games, internet, etc.), they have easier access to drugs and alcohol, the divorce rates are high and many kids come from a one parent family, and when there are two parents, both of them work, and the list goes on.  It comes at them from all directions and from many sources.

So, what’s the answer?  It seems so overwhelming that it’s hard to come up with any one answer.  But we can start small.  How many times a day do you tell your child that you love them, that you’re proud of them, and that your life is blessed because they are in it? How often do you listen to them without judging, and really show an interest in their interests?  Do you encourage them to be who they want to be or do you try to make them be who you want them to be?  How much time do you spend with them? Even if you and your children aren’t getting along at the moment, you can still begin with just saying the words, “I love you.” 

Just as Jesus saw all children as blessings, it is up to us to see all children as blessings, and not just our own children. You can say an encouraging word to any child of any age.  Help other children who may need it.  There are children all over the world making a difference because they had someone to believe in them.  Sometimes, all it takes is one person to change a child’s life for the better.  Could that person be you? 

(Published in the Cookeville, TN Herald Citizen newspaper) 


Saturday, October 1, 2011

“Hollywood” Marriages

One of my pet peeves is to hear people say that marriages don’t last, particularly in Hollywood, and I hear it said on entertainment shows quite often.  I would think, “Come to small-town USA and see how long marriages last here.  They don’t have a long track record there either.”

Then it seemed that whenever I heard someone from Hollywood on a talk show, they would tell how long they’ve been married, and they had been married for many years.  That got me to thinking.  So, I got on the internet and tried to look up as many marriages as I could and found the list below.  I think this proves my point in that there are a lot of Hollywood people who do have long marriages; we just don’t hear about them.  We only hear about those whose marriages don’t last.

The below list was accumulated from a quick search; therefore, they are as accurate as I could find in recent reporting’s.  There may have been a few who have been divorced since the last posting; I just didn’t see it.  Also, the years are calculated by year only (not taking the month into consideration, so some could be off a year).

I will continue to stand up for “Hollywood people” in that there are countless who have been married for many years.  In the same vein, there are countless “Hollywood People” who are good, decent, loving, and caring people who just happen to have a job in the entertainment industry.  Again, you just don’t hear about them.

If you know of any mistakes or corrections from my list, please feel free to let me know.  Or if you can add any names, please let me know, too.  I would love to continue adding them on.

Gene Hackman & Betsy Arakawa                  1991                20 years
David Keith & Nancy Clark                           2000                11 years
Julie Roberts & Danny Moder                        2002                9 years
Richard Gere & Carey Lowell                        2002                9 years
Brooke Shields & Chris Henchy                     2001                10 years
Dolly Parton & Carl Dean                              1966                45 years
Tommy Lee Jones & Dawn Laurel                 2001                10 years
Adam Sandler & Jacqueline Titore                 2003                8 years
Samuel Jackson & LaTanya Richardson         1980                31 years
Ed Harris & Amy Madigan                            1983                28 years
Sigourney Weaver & Jim Simpson                 1984                27 years
Simon Baker & Rebecca Rigg                        1998                13 years
Marlee Matlin & Kevin Grandalski                 1993                18 years
Renee Russo & Dan Gilroy                            1992                19 years
Sylvester Stallone & Jennifer Flavin                1997                14 years
William H. Macy & Felicia Huffman               1997                 14 years
Della Reese & Franklin Thomas Lett              1983                28 years
Denis Leary & Ann Lembeck                        1989                22 years
James Earl Jones & Cecilia Hart                    1982                29 years
Forest Whitaker & Keisha Nash                    1996                15 years
Jeff Daniels & Kathleen Treado                     1979                32 years
Sean Connery & Micheline Roquebrune        1975                36 years
Bob (deceased) & Dolores Hope                  1934                77 years
Helen Mirren & Taylor Hackford                  1997                14 years
Kate Blanchett & Andrew Upton                  1997                14 years
Judy Dench & Michael Williams                    1971                40 years
Hugh Jackman & Deborra Lee Furness         1996                15 years
Stephen Lang & Kristina Watson                  1980                31 years
Tom & Lois Bergeron                                   1982                29 years
Susan Lucci & Helmut Huber                        1969                42 years
Jaclyn Smith & Brad Allen                            1997                14 years
Sidney Poitier & Joanna Shimkos                  1976                35 years
Celine Dion & Rene Augelil                           1994                17 years
Lisa Kudrow & Michael Stern                       1995                16 years
Donny Osmond & Debra Glenn                    1978                33 years
Paul Hogan & Linda Kozlowski                    1990                21 years
Kelly Ripa & Mark Consuelos                      1996                15 years
Regis Philburn & Joy Senese                         1970                41 years
Benjamin Bratt & Taliso Soto                        2002                9 years
Dan Akroyd & Donna Dixon                        1983                28 years
Kevin Kline & Phoebe Cates                        1989                22 years
Tom Selleck & Jillie Mack                            1987                24 years
Ted Danson & Mary Steenburgen                 1995                16 years
Henry Winkler & Stacy Weitzman                 1978                33 years
Kyra Sedgwick & Kevin Bacon                    1988                23 years
Alan and Arlene Alda                                    1957                54 years
Will Smith & Jada Pinkett                              1997                14 years
Michael Douglas & Catherine Zeta-Jones      2000                11 years
Larry and Maj Hagman                                 1954                57 years
John Travolta & Kelly Preston                       1991                20 years
Suzanne Somers & Alan Hamel                     1977                34 years
Matthew Broderick & Sara Jessica Parker    1997                14 years
Phil Donahue & Marlo Thomas                     1980                31 years
Denzel & Paulette Washington                      1983                28 years
Kirk & Ann Douglas                                    1954                57 years
Bill & Camille Cosby                                    1964                47 years
Tom Hanks & Rita Wilson                           1988                23 years
Kurt Russell & Goldie Hawn (not married)   1983                28 years
David Kelly & Michelle Pfeiffer                    1993                18 years
Michael J. Fox & Tracy Pollen                     1988                23 years
Annette Bening & Warren Beatty                 1992                19 years
Tim McGraw & Faith Hill                            1996                15 years
Jay Leno & Mavis Nicholson                       1980                31 years
Kate Capshaw & Steven Spielberg              1991                20 years
Ron & Cheryl Howard                                1975                36 years
Martin Sheen & Janet Templeton                 1961                50 years
Steve & Nancy Carrell                                1995                16 years
Antonio Banderes & Melanie Griffith           1996                15 years
Sam Elliott & Katherine Ross                      1984                27 years
Paul Newman (dcd) & Joanne Woodward  1958                53 years
Dustin Hoffman & Lisa Gottsegen                1980                31 years
Meryl Streep & Don Gummer                     1978                33 years
Jeff Bridges & Susan Geston                       1977                34 years
Sissy Spacek & Jack Fisk                           1974                37 years
Christopher Plummer & Elaine Taylor          1970                41 years
Julie Andrews & Blake Edwards (dcd)        1969                42 years
Bruce & Kris Jenner                                   1991                20 years
Tina Fey & Jeff Richmond                           2001                10 years
Ann-Margret & Roger Smith                       1967                44 years
Clint Eastwood & Dina Ruiz                        1996                45 years

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Powerful Beyond Measure

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

For some reason, we think that in order to be loved by God, we have to keep ourselves small and insignificant; that we really don’t matter, and that God can’t be bothered by someone so unimportant.  But is this true? 

Genesis 1:26 states, “And God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness...”  We were made not in the physical form, but in the essence of God.  Jeremiah 1:5 states, “Before you were ever formed in your mother’s womb, I saw you and approved you.”  You came to this earth pre-approved!  By God! 

God wants us to be happy, successful, healthy, prosperous, and whole!  John 10:10, Jesus states, “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly. .”  Jesus came to show us how to become the greatest expressions of who we were meant to be.  In John 14:12, Jesus states, “Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these….”  We can believe that Jesus did these miraculous things, and we can believe Him when he says that we can do them also.  It doesn’t matter what faith you belong to, we can all become the best that we were meant to be.

It comes down to the thoughts we think.  Our thoughts become us.  Buddha said “With our thoughts, we create the world.”  Your beliefs, thoughts, and the words you speak have power!  Albert Einstein said, “The world we have created is a product of our thinking; it cannot be changed without changing our thinking.”  And Norman Vincent Peale stated, “The person who sends out positive thoughts activates the world around him positively and draws back to himself positive results.”

The book “As a Man Thinketh” by James Allen states: “‘As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he,” not only embraces the whole of a man’s being, but is so comprehensive as to reach out to every condition and circumstance of his life.  A man is literally what he thinks, his character being the complete sum of all his thoughts.”

Beliefs can be changed.  Mine have changed drastically over the years, and when I trust Spirit, they get better and even more loving.  Not all beliefs are the Truth, but they are true for you in that moment.  Remember, man used to believe that the earth was flat and that the sun revolved around the earth!  People were imprisoned or put to death because they changed those beliefs to another truth.  So, it’s okay if our beliefs change.

So, how do we change the negative and self-defeating thoughts we have towards ourselves and the world around us?  Michael Jackson said it very well in a song he wrote: “I’m starting with the man in the mirror.”  Gandhi said, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”  If we want to change our inner and outer world, it begins with us. 

We begin by going within...trusting that inner voice of Spirit who loves us so much.  Stop listening to your egoic thoughts, or those of others who are only trying to bring you down, including those who say they are speaking for God.  How do you know the difference?  God only knows pure, unconditional, perfect love, because that is who God is.  You can tell the difference by asking yourself this:  are you or the other person coming from a place of fear…or love?   If it’s from fear (hate, bigotry, disgust, etc.) and doesn’t feel loving, then it is not from God.  If it is from love (compassion, harmony, uplifting, peaceful) and feels loving, then it is from God. 

I say, “You are the best there is and it has nothing to do with anyone else!”  Believe it!  Become it!

(Published in the Cookeville Herald Citizen newspaper on September 23, 2011.)


Saturday, July 9, 2011

Who is God?

This question has been asked since the beginning of time.  Who is God?  What is God?  Is there a God?  What form does God take?  Does God cause all the tragedies we experience on earth?  How can God make children suffer?  Is God a man who sits up in the clouds on a throne with long white hair, beard, long robe, and punishes us when we’re bad?  Is He a man or woman?  Genderless?  Is He a God of love, or a vengeful God who is full of anger and judgment?  Add your own question(s), and you have asked the greatest mystery questions of the ages.

What does God looks like?  I don’t know.  And neither does anyone else.  In the thousands of books and magazines that I’ve ever read regarding religion and spirituality, I have never read where anyone has seen the actual face of God.  There are verses in the Bible that say someone did see the face of God, but didn’t describe his actual features.  Then again, Jesus says in John 5:37 states: “And the Father who sent Me, He was borne witness of Me.  You have neither heard His voice at any time, nor seen His form.”   Some people today say they have seen the face of Jesus, but they usually see the image of the man that was depicted in an artist’s vision of what he thought Jesus looked like.    

If you look up all the different names for God, you will find thousands of variations depending upon the religion, culture, and belief system.  Traditional Christianity has collectively called this Deity “God,” but even within the Christian faith, the names can vary. It also depends upon which nation and/or culture the Christian lives in as to what name is given.   I could give a list of the thousands of names from all religions, but they could fill a whole magazine alone.

When the Bible was written, it was a patriarchal society.  It is said that all but two chapters of the Bible were written by men. Women didn’t have a voice in Biblical times (with few exceptions).  Therefore, God is depicted as male.  In the New Testament, Jesus talks about God as being His Father.  But did He only say “Father?” I don’t know; I wasn’t there. Genesis 1:26 states:  “Let us make man in Our image…”  Who is Us?

We can fight over who or what we believe God to be, and forget why there is a God in the first place.  Many Holy wars have been fought over people trying to defend their beliefs as right and others wrong.  We do this to this day, though in America the fighting is more in words.  People have been killed in America over religious beliefs, and continue to be to this day, albeit not in a military war as in other countries.

So, does it matter who or what God is, or what name we call Him or Her?  Does it matter what gender God is?  I don’t think so, and I really believe it doesn’t even matter to God.  (For those who don’t believe in God, just add an “o” and call it “Good.”)

Personally, here’s what I know about God.  I don’t know.  But here’s what I do believe.  It doesn’t matter the name you give to God.  It doesn’t matter the form or the gender that you give to God.  I no longer believe that He is a man sitting up in the clouds pouncing on us every time we do something someone else here thinks we did wrong.  God is Love.  God is compassion.  Good is all good.  God is in everything.  I call God a He, and other times I say She. Usually I say Spirit or Universe.  I believe that God is an all embracing energy of pure, unconditional, perfect love.   She is all inclusive and loves every single one of us regardless of color, race, religion, or walk of life.  He doesn’t judge, nor punish us for our interpreted sins.  Take the love you feel for your newborn baby, multiply it by billions, and you still only have a smidgeon of the magnificent love that God has for us.

You can disagree with me on this.  That’s okay.  I honor and respect whatever you believe.  This is only what I believe, and I choose to believe God as a God of love and compassion.

(Published in "Our Journey," a Cookeville, TN magazine.) 


To Live a Magnificent Life

There was a woman who was extremely frustrated and feeling overwhelmed with her life.  Not knowing what else to do, she went to her spiritual teacher for advice.  After listening to her story, he replied, “The answer is obvious:  get rid of everything that is bad and keep only what is good.”

So she went home and evaluated what was and wasn’t working in her life, and she released everything that wasn’t working or what wasn’t bringing her joy.  Her life changed for the better and she found a little peace.

A year later, she again felt overwhelmed, so she went to her spiritual teacher for more advice.  He replied, “My answer to you is to let go of the good and keep only what is great!”

She returned home and again re-evaluated her life, and she released what wasn’t good and only kept what was great.  She made the decision to live simply from joy and participate only in those activities that she found empowering.

Approximately another year went by and she was feeling stuck in the muck, and since her spiritual teacher had given her such good counsel in the past, she again went to him for advice on how to make her life better.  He replied, “From here on out, really practice what you have been learning, only now, let go of the great and keep only what is magnificent.” 

When she began practicing looking for and keeping only what was magnificent in her life, she found her life improved beyond measure.  She found she could live in joy, was happy, and she found peace of mind.

How many of us are struggling to find peace in our lives, to find a little joy and happiness, and to know that our lives have meaning?  I think that covers most of us (including me at times).  Life can sometimes get away from us and we find that life controls us instead of our controlling life.  We can’t always control what happens to us, but we can, with practice, control our thoughts about what happens to us.  We really do have a choice about the thoughts we think.  We can choose to be positive and optimistic, or we can choose to be negative and pessimistic.  Some will say, “But Karen, if you think positive and optimistically all the time, you’re not living in reality!”  I say, “I choose my reality by the thoughts I think.”

There’s another great story about a little girl who was constantly bugging her parents for a pony, but they couldn’t afford it.  One day, the parents had a truckload of manure delivered to their house and it was dumped in one pile in the yard.  Soon after, the father went out and found the little girl enthusiastically digging at the pile of manure.  The father asked, “Honey!  What on earth are you doing?!?”  To which the little girl replied, “I KNOW there’s a pony in her somewhere!” 

I say, “You don’t have to be happy with your circumstances, but you can be happy in your circumstances.”  Wayne Dyer has a book called, “Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Life” and I would highly recommend reading it.  For one day, I would also recommend that you be aware of the thoughts you are thinking.  Are they positive or negative?  What words come out of your mouth?  Are you always complaining about what you think is wrong with your life, or are you counting your blessings and finding what’s good?  Are you focusing on the problems, or are you focusing on the solutions?

Even in the worst of circumstances, we can find ways to think good thoughts.  I am certainly not saying that it’s easy.  It takes practice and constant focus.  Our thoughts and the words we speak have a lot of power, and we will attract that which we are thinking.  We also become that which we are speaking. 

Philippians 4:8 states: “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”

Buddha says, "The thought manifests as the word. The word manifests as the deed. The deed develops into habit. And the habit hardens into character. So watch the thought and its ways with care. And let it spring from love, born out of concern for all beings." 

And Mahatma Gandhi stated, "Always aim at complete harmony of thought and word and deed. Always aim at purifying your thoughts and everything will be well." 

To be empowered, we need to think and speak empowering words.  You can change your life.  “Life is beautiful, life is good, life is what you believe it to be.”  And so it is.

(Published in The Herald Citizen, a Cookeville, TN newspaper.)


Wednesday, June 1, 2011

It Pays to Be a Woman

The other day, I needed some make-up, so I went to a local department store to buy what I needed. I was shocked at how high the price was! Twice as what it was the last time I bought it!  Then it got me thinking. We women pay a LOT of money to look our best. Here is what I came up with (men…pay attention here!):

When it comes to our faces… First we need a toner to make sure that our face really is clean. Then we need a face lotion to smooth over our face and neck. Of course, we have to use a day cream and a night cream.  My question is, do these lotions know when it's day and night?  But that won’t do for the eyes, so we need an eye cream. Of course, these lotions and creams must be anti-wrinkle, anti-aging, and have an SPF to keep us safe from the sun. To add color to our faces, we need a foundation to smooth out the blotches and uneven areas.  Add to this, the cover-up make-up to cover up any blotches or scars.

We also need to be able to take off the make-up so we have eye make-up remover and regular make-up removers. And who can forget the night creams and eye creams to work on our faces while we are sleeping, again all to remove wrinkles and keep us from aging! (Ha! Like THAT’s going to happen!)

We move on to more color. A good blush can make our faces look slimmer and our cheekbones more pronounced. If we need it, we can use several colors to achieve the perfect cheeks. Then comes the eye color. There are hundreds of colors so that you can shape your eyes to almost any shape you desire. If we need to make our eyes stand out a little more, we can add eyeliner, or even fake eye lashes. We also brush on mascara, but it can’t be any ordinary mascara; it’s the ‘extend the lashes five to seven times the length’ mascara.

After we have all that applied, there is face powder to set everything else in place that we have already put on. We also have to have a compact that we carry with us so that we can keep the shine off our faces and do those little touch-ups.

This is just the face. Now on to the hair. If you go down the isles of any store, you will see rows and rows of shampoos, conditioners, gels, mousses, spritzes, sprays, volume lifters, and the list goes on. If our hair isn’t the color we want, there are hundreds of hair dye products to choose from. If we dye our hair, we have to have the special products to use on colored treated hair.

Then there are the body lotions with anti-aging, anti-wrinkling, and fragrances to keep the rest of our skin smooth and silky. Don’t forget just the right deodorant, too! And deodorant for places you never thought you would have deodorant for! Must smell good in ALL places!

What woman doesn’t shave her legs? (Okay, you can always tell the extent of my social life by how long the hair is on my legs, but we won’t go there. Grin.) There are all kinds of razors to choose from in a variety of colors. Add to that the shaving gels to keep us from nicking ourselves, as well as keeping our legs silky and smooth.  And I'd like to know who on earth came up with waxing!!!  That's like yanking every nose hair out of your nostrils!

Of course, we also need to keep our nails looking good. There are creams and lotions for the nails, the nail primer, nail color, topcoat, files, buffers, fake nails, and now little stickers to put on the nails. And then you need to be able to take all this off, so there are nail polish removers. Once that’s done, we need hand lotions to keep our hands looking young and smooth.

Who can leave out the perfumes? We love our perfumes. I have a dresser top full of perfumes of all shapes, sizes, and smells. We women MUST smell good!

Now we have our make-up, hair, and bodies done, and we’re smelling good, so now on to the underwear. We have push up bras, bras with padding, gel, bubbles of water to pump up our size, lace, and under wire. Our bras are just as pretty as our outer clothes with lace, patterns, and they come in all shapes and sizes. AND we must keep our fat in place, so we have girdles, Spanx, Dr. 90210, and other torture items that we squeeze and stuff ourselves into. Who cares that we can’t breathe! We look an eighth of an inch thinner! (I admit it. I wore one a few weeks ago. I literally had to squeeze my body into it, and now I can’t find my bellybutton. I think it’s now on my back hip.)

We then have the outer clothes that we wear, and what a variety we have to choose from! Of course, most of the sizes nowadays will only fit a Barbie doll, but how we try to squeeze into them! Or we buy the lesser sizes because we are determined that ONE DAY we WILL fit into them. (Goodness knows I have a half a closet of those types of clothes!)

And who can forget the shoes? The pointier the toes, and the taller the heals, the better we’re told our legs and feet look! Women are out there walking on stilts JUST to make our legs look a little slimmer!

Of course, we need to accessorize! Earrings, rings, watches, bracelets, necklaces, toe rings, ankle bracelets, hair ornaments, hair ties, hair bows…

Men! Do you not know what we go through to look good and how much money we spend?!?!


Now on to the men…. If you go down any isle of any department store, the sections for just men are few and far between. There’s a small selection of razors usually in just a couple of colors, as well as some electric shavers. A selection of shaving creams and aftershaves. Do you ever see the creams and lotions with the anti-aging, anti-wrinkling- and SPF in them for men? I think not! (At least I haven’t, or maybe I haven’t looked recently.)

Are shampoos and conditioners marketed towards men? Men will choose from a selection of shampoos, and possibly conditioners, but what man will walk out with a hot pink bottle with lovely fragrance?

There is a selection of deodorants with some manly fragrances, but not as many as there are for women. And again, you won’t see the flowery, brightly colored, perfumed deodorants. How many commercials do you see men wearing short sleeves dancing with their arms up in the air showing off their armpits? (Personally, I would like to just have armpits again. I know they’re in there somewhere!)
Men might use some body lotion if they have dry skin, but it’s not pushed on them like it is for women.

Ever see men wear girdles? Men have jockey shorts and boxer shorts. (I will wear an under wire bra when men start wearing under wire in their jockeys!) Do men’s underwear come with padding, gels, water balloons, or push-ups? I think not. (Okay, maybe they exist somewhere. It wouldn’t surprise me anyway. I’m still waiting for Hannah Montana men’s underwear. It’s in everything else!)

And clothes? Men just put something on to get out the door. For work, most wear suits and a tie. They may be able to play a little with colorful and cute (okay, manly) ties, but suits are usually dark. How many outfits do you think a man tries on before going out, wondering if what they are wearing makes them look fat?

Do they paint their toes? Wear toe rings? Yes, I realize that some men do now wear jewelry, but not like we women!

Men will wear cologne, and who doesn’t love a nice smelling man, but you don’t usually see the large selection as in women’s fragrances.

Other than that, men do not have nearly the upkeep we women have!

Women, and especially young women and young girls, feel the pressure to do all this to look good. How often can we women just walk out the door without our make-up or having our hair looking just right? It took me years before I could go anywhere without make-up. Okay, so just a few years ago, but I had to literally force myself to do so.

Personally, I’m tired of the hype. I’m tired of women having to look a certain way to feel loved and accepted.  I’m tired of the moneymakers making us feel worthless if we don’t buy their products! I say let’s strike the beauty and fashion industries! Okay, okay, I know that’s not going to happen. But let’s start looking at this for what it really is. The industries are there to make money. They don’t really care about us. They know they have us from the word ‘anti-aging!’

What can we do? Let’s work at loving and accepting ourselves as we are, and not be brainwashed into thinking we’re anything less than magnificent if we don’t conform to those ideals that don’t serve our highest good. We are magnificent! We are fabulous! And we are awesome just the way we are! (Please tell that to me the next time I go out without make-up, no bra with my cupcakes down below my belly, and in rags. Grin.)

We go, women!