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?