Sunday, December 30, 2012

Love for Our Animal Family


I don’t know about you, but I love animals and am very passionate about them.  In fact, I call myself an “animaltarian” because I love animals too much to justify eating them.  My pets are my children just as much as any human child is to their parents.  I know many can relate in that their pets are part of their family.

Over the years, I’ve had numerous four-legged and two-legged “kids:” dogs, cats, horses, bunnies, chickens, birds, and hamsters.  If I could, I would have all kinds of animals around me all the time whether they were wild, tame, outdoor, indoor…you name it, I would have them.  But I also know that in order to care for them properly, you have to have the means to do so in way of vet and grooming bills, food, toys, and so on.

I am very spiritually connected to animals.  I wasn’t always like this.  At one time, even though I loved them, they were just pets.  But at some point, I became more spiritually connected to them.  It may have happened when I hit a deer one day on the way to work in the mid-80’s.  She had jumped from the woods into my car so I couldn’t have avoided hitting her.  She landed in the ditch and didn’t die right away.  I was hysterical.  The next thing that happened changed my life.  I was kneeling by her side while petting her stomach, sobbing, and apologizing, when she turned her head over her stomach, looked right at me, and I literally heard these words in my head just as clearly as if someone were speaking to me:  “It’s okay.  I know you didn’t mean to hurt me.  I forgive you.”  I became a vegetarian at that very moment.  Believe it or not, but it happened. 

I know this sounds unusual, and think what you will, but I can’t even handle seeing dead animals.  On some level, I can “feel” the fear and pain that animal felt when s/he was killed.  Most times, I can also “sense” if an animal is happy or sad, and sometimes, if they are sick or in pain.

Losing one of my “kids” is absolutely devastating.  Anyone who has lost a pet who was a part of their family can relate.  Those who do not have that connection with animals cannot understand this.  Some will argue that it’s not the same as losing human children, but to those of us whose animals are our family, it is.  I’m not judging them, so I hope they will not judge us. 

My little boy (Toy Poodle) died last December and it’s still like it was yesterday.  I still can’t think about him or see pictures of him without breaking down.  I miss him so much.  Same with my horse that I lost a few years ago.  I miss every pet I ever had.  My heart goes out to anyone who has lost their beloved animal kids.  (I want to make it clear that this is not to take away from losing a human child.  It’s extremely devastating.)

I love to hear stories where animals save human lives.  Animals can also bring healing energy to those in need.  Animals are taken into hospitals, nursing homes, and such to bring comfort to the residents.  Animals know.  And all they want to do is love their humans unconditionally.  Then there are humans who will risk their lives to save animals.  Again, not everyone understands this connection of humans to animals and some even try to make something wrong with it; but those of us who have that connection understand.  We don’t question it.

Like children, our animals can bring us so much love, joy, and laughter.  At the same time, they can bring us much sorrow when we lose them.  And like children, all animals are blessings, and you never know, maybe even angels in disguise.

(Published in the Cookeville Herald Citizen newspaper December 30, 2012.)
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Saturday, December 29, 2012

Healing With Love


We’ve all heard the horrific news about the shootings at Sandy Elementary.  My heart goes out to all those affected by this heartbreaking catastrophe: the parents, children, family, friends, rescue personnel, and anyone else who has had to deal with it.  Tragedies are bad enough, but when it involves children, it’s that much worse.

What’s sad is to read many of the hideous comments that are being made in the media.  One comment was, "God is not going to go where he is not wanted."  How thoughtless can you be?  Who said that God was not wanted?  I can assure you that all the children, parents, teachers, and everyone else would not say that he was not wanted there.  Does that mean that no one in that school was a person of faith or that they didn’t believe in God?  What about the countless shootings in churches?  Does that mean God was not in those churches either?  If someone is not speaking words of love, they’re not speaking for God.

It really saddens me when I hear all these insensitive comments, how people are using God’s name to promote their personal hateful and judgmental beliefs and agendas, and then those comments hurt countless people.  God did not cause this tragedy (or any other).  Human beings make the choices.  When people make these kinds of statements, it is more a reflection on them and their character than it is on the people they are speaking about.  Instead of making such hardhearted comments, how about saying, “I’m so sorry.  How can I help?”

We saw this during Hurricane Sandy.  Many people lost everything, and yet too many people were making it political, were more intent on pointing fingers, and were trying to make points against the other “side.”  Biased news programs and politicians in particular made this into a political event rather than a humanitarian one.  I thought that Sandy would have had a compassionate impact on our country just as 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina had, where everyone put aside all differences and came to the aide of our fellow beings.  They did here and there, but we rarely heard about it. 

So, it was very interesting to me that the name of the school where the shooting took place was Sandy Elementary.  It was like we were being asked, “How many times do tragedies have to happen before you get it?  Put aside your differences and become humanitarians!” 

It’s going to take some time to heal and everyone heals in their own way and in their own time.  People need to go through the various stages of grief.  Then comes forgiveness.  That’s a tough one for many.  We need to remember that forgiveness isn’t for the other person; it’s for us.  When we don’t forgive it’s like drinking a poison and expecting the other person to die.  Some may be able to forgive within a short time.  Some may take months or years.  And some may never be able to forgive.  I’m certainly not going to judge them.

What helps me in a situation like this, I try to see the child within the person who committed the horrific act.  The man that shot these children was not born thinking that one day he would do such a thing.  What happened to this man in his life to cause him to make the choices that he made?  There will be a lot of theories, but the truth is, we will never know what was going on inside his head or what he was going through.    

Once we get through the shock of this awful ordeal, we need to start thinking how can we prevent this from happening again.  When it comes to our children, there are so many who are in so much pain.  I substitute in the schools and I’ve seen it firsthand.  Many don’t have anyone to tell them that they’re loved or that someone is proud of them.  They’re desperate just to have their very existence acknowledged.  We can start by unconditionally loving all our children.  It really does take a village to raise a child.  Whenever you see any child, say something kind.  If you can, be a positive mentor.  Let’s start loving our children so much that they will never grow up to take their self-hate on others. 

Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “As my sufferings mounted I soon realized that there were two ways in which I could respond to my situation -- either to react with bitterness or seek to transform the suffering into a creative force. I decided to follow the latter course.” Let’s not let this destroy us, but make us a stronger and better people.

Sending love and light to all those affected by this tragic event.  Love will prevail.

(Published in the Cookeville Herald Citizen newspaper on December 28, 2012.)

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Friday, November 30, 2012

The Homestretch


We’re heading into the homestretch in bringing the year 2012 to a close.  It’s been a wild ride with politics, the elections, and Hurricane Sandy, which caused an emotional roller coaster for all concerned. 

During the campaigning, we saw so much negativity in the way of hate and bigotry coming from various “sides” in both the political and religious spheres.  Tempers flared as each side claimed to be the only right way.  People lied and misconstrued the truth for their own personal agendas and beliefs.  I don’t know about you, but I am so fed up with all the nonsense regardless of who is doing it.

For several months, I kept thinking that we were about due for some kind of disaster to remind us how much a part of each other we really are and that when it comes down to it, we are all Americans and love will prevail.  Sure enough, here comes Hurricane Sandy, which was like a slap on the back of all our heads, saying, “People!  Get it together!  Have you forgotten who you really are?  Where’s the love?”

And like we’ve done in other disasters, most Americans once again put aside all differences to come to the aide of our fellow beings, both humans and animals.  As of this writing, there were approximately 110 deaths.  One death is way too many, but we were fortunate in that it wasn’t more such as the number of deaths from Hurricane Katrina and 9/11, which was in the thousands. 

As we come through the madness of politics and Sandy, we are now preparing for the madness of the holidays.  The fighting and arguing over what holiday greeting to say, whose holiday symbols should be displayed, and families in discord trying to decide whose house to celebrate which holiday, and how much money to spend.  To be honest, I don’t see a whole lot of love expressed at this time of year when the holidays are meant to be all about love, peace on earth, and good will to all.

Oh, I know the love is there.  We do see it in bits and pieces.  We just don’t hear about it much anymore because the media tends to only focus on the negative which only feeds more into that negative energy.  How many times have you said a cheerful “Happy Holidays!” to someone only to have someone snap back at you “Merry Christmas!” (or vice versa)?  People are already making an issue of it on Facebook.  To be honest, I’m just happy that anyone says anything to me at all since most times people just ignore each other; therefore, whatever they say is fine with me.

Personally, I don’t need to say a particular greeting or display a certain symbol to prove my faith.  The first half of Matthew 6 warns us about not practicing our righteousness in front of others to be seen by them.  God knows what is in our hearts.  We don’t have anything to prove to anyone.  People are complaining that others are trying to force their beliefs on them, but isn’t that exactly what those who are doing the complaining are trying to do to others?

1 Corinthians 13:4-5 states, “Love is patient, love is kind.  It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.”  The truth is that love, compassion, and kindness should be our priority to all regardless of how others celebrate.

By trying to force our beliefs on others, we are judging them by saying they are wrong and we are right.  Mother Teresa said that “If you judge people, you have no time to love them.”  I believe it’s more important to be the example of love, everything Jesus and all the other great spiritual teachers taught. 

Maya Angelou has it right when she says, “When we give cheerfully and accept gratefully, everyone is blessed.” The Dalai Lama said, “Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them, humanity cannot survive.  Only the development of compassion and understanding for others can bring us the tranquility and happiness we all seek.” 

If Thanksgiving and Christmas really are holidays based on love, then I would like to invite everyone to respond in kind and with respect.  Whatever greeting someone says to me, I will return that greeting and do so with a twinkle in my eye and a smile on my face.  I love the Spirit of the holidays.  And that’s where I am choosing to put my focus.  Love, glad tidings, peace on earth, and good will to all.

(Published in the Cookeville Herald Citizen newspaper November 30, 2012.)

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Friday, November 9, 2012

Our Essence of God


Genesis 1:26 says, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness…”  This is not a physical image, though man tends to think of it as such.  It also says “us” and “our.”  Who is “us” and who is “our?” 

People have many concepts of who or what they think this deity called God is.  Some believe that he is a man sitting up in the sky with long gray hair, white robe, and passing out judgments if someone doesn’t believe the way whoever is speaking at the time.  Some believe that God is Love.  Others believe that God is an energy that permeates everyone and everything in the Universe.  When it comes down to it, we don’t know exactly what form this deity takes; we only have our beliefs, and whatever belief you have is fine.  I am certainly not going to tell anyone that their concept is wrong.  It’s what you believe at this time in your life. 

The term “image” is more of an essence…the essence of God.  Holy.  Magnificent.  Divine.  Miraculous.  Unconditional love.  Therefore, if we were made in the image and likeness of God, wouldn’t that make us all these things, too?   We have that essence of God within us.  Some say that we have the DNA of God.

So, why do we feel less than?   Personally, I believe that when we are born, we are born from the perfect, unconditional love of God.  If we are made in God’s image and likeness, then we couldn’t be born in any other way.  Some believe that we are born into sin, but I prefer to believe that we are born into the human experience.  You’ve probably heard the phrase “We are spiritual beings having a human experience.”  The core of our being, or soul, is spiritual and comes from the divine. 

I also believe that we came into this world knowing our magnificence and we know who we are.  We start to become and feel less than because after we are born, our caretaker humans start teaching us all the lessons about being human; therefore, we start to forget our true selves.  Instead of remembering our original essence of God, we take on the image and essence of our caretakers because we don’t know any better and then we forget. 

We take on all the beliefs of those around us.  We become a product of our upbringing, experiences, culture, religion, politics, general beliefs, and so on.  Many are taught to hate others as well as themselves.  We learn from the behaviors of those around us.  Because of these negative influences, we take on feelings of low self-esteem and low self-worth.  We believe what others say we are and then those beliefs become out identity.

I substitute in the area schools and one day I had an upper elementary school class.  Sometimes, at the end of the class I like to give them a pep talk and have them repeat some affirmations such as, “I am magnificent!”  “I am intelligent!”  “I am beautiful/handsome!”  “I am the best there is and it has nothing to do with anyone else!”  After class, a young girl came up to me and said, “Miss Karen?  You know all those things you said we are?  I’m none of those things.”  Broke my heart!  I could only tell her that yes she was and she was so much more!  How many of us feel the same way?

Some may say it’s conceited and wrong to say these things to ourselves, and yet it’s perfectly okay to say negative demeaning things.  Friends, we should be saying loving and kind things to ourselves!  Would we say those cruel, unkind things to other people?  Then why to ourselves?  Would God say those things to us?

Our self-talk is what limits us and puts us in a box of self-defeat.  If we are made of the essence of God, then shouldn’t we acknowledge our inner and divine magnificence?  We need to awaken ourselves to this truth!  We need to remember who we really are!  We know that we don’t have to listen to the people who are trying to keep us down and we can go directly to God/Source who will always love us and build us up!  People will use fear and guilt to keep you down so that they can manipulate you and control your beliefs to align with theirs.  That is not who God made you to be!  We need to unlock the door of our inner prisons and set ourselves free! 

Our beliefs become our identity; therefore be careful what you believe because that will be the world you create for yourself.  You are magnificent and empowering beings!  How can you be otherwise?  You were made in the image of God!

(Published in the Cookeville Herald Citizen newspaper November 9, 2012.)
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Monday, November 5, 2012

Teachers vs Students in the Schools


One of my current jobs is as a substitute teacher.  I love kids and thought it would be a great way to supplement my income while I work towards becoming a full-time motivational speaker.  I had no idea what I was in for.  I’ll tell you, once I started substituting, I gained a whole new-found respect for teachers.  I wish I had respected them more when I was in school.  It is unbelievable to see what teachers have to deal with today. 

When I was in school, we didn’t dare even look cross-eyed at a teacher. It was in the days that paddling was acceptable and the consequences were severe if a student acted up.  Granted, I do not believe in paddling, but students no longer have any fear because the consequences of their actions and behavior do not hinder bad choices.  Many just get a slap on the hand or sent to detention where most times, they can do whatever they want because even the teachers of those classes cannot control them.

The first two years that I subbed, it was so stressful that I hardly took any jobs.  I also had other things going on in my life that were stressful at the time, so adding school stress was just too much and I couldn’t deal with it.  Plus, I hadn’t found my niche in getting control of the classes. 

My first mistake was that I went in being nice and wanting to be their friend.  Once you do that, they know they have you and the results are not fun.  And if you don’t get control and set the tone right from the get-go, you’re a goner and they know it.  Students walked all over me and they knew there wasn’t a thing I could do about it.

About that time, I read a spiritual novel that was part truth and part fiction.  In it, the main male character was a substitute teacher, and because he tried to be nice to the kids, the kids walked all over him.  It was very stressful to him, too.  Another teacher suggested to him that he be mean first, and then be nice.  A light went off over my head.  It is not my job to be their friend.  I am their teacher first and foremost.  Once I got in the frame of mind that I don’t care if they like me or not (well, I do, but it’s not my first priority), I started to find my footing in setting the tone and having control of the classes.

It’s still stressful, but most times I can control a class and it can be a pleasant experience.  And many of those times because I did have control, I and the students could find a connection to where they actually liked me and said I was a cool sub.

How do I do this?  First thing I do is have everyone sit down and be quiet, and I do not continue until they are all seated and no one is making a sound.  I then introduce myself and say that I am going to give them my expectations that I have of them so that they can know what to expect of me.  If the students do not have to work with each other on assignments, I do not allow any talking at all.  I tell them that if they talk, I’ll move them, and if they talk after that, I’ll turn in their names.  And I enforce that rule.  This will usually work for the most part.  I will still have a student or two who will try to “push the sub.”  The problem with letting them talk is that it’s then hard to control the volume level and they get out of hand no matter how many times you ask them to keep it down.

I also tell them that I am strict, but fair; and I will be nice until I cannot be nice any longer.  If it looks like most of the students have their work done in the class, I will allow them to talk the last ten minutes or so as a reward for good behavior.  It is at this time that I also try to interact with the students, showing them my nice, crazy side.  This is when I kid around, sing, dance, joke, and the kids can get the feeling that I’m actually human.

Following this protocol works most of the time.  But there are times when it doesn’t work.  There will always be those few students who are so desperate for attention that they will say and do anything to do so.  Recently, I was asked to sit in on a class for about a half hour while the teacher had something to take care of.  When I got to her class, she had one student arguing with her right off the bat. She informed me that he and a couple others may be a challenge.  Boy, were they!  I gave my opening remarks, but these several students, particularly the one, were going to be extremely defiant and they were determined not to behave no matter what I said.

I ended up having to go into aggressive mode, which I do not like to do because I do not like conflict and avoid it at all costs if possible.  There was no way I was going to be able to avoid it here.  I was dealing with the bullies of the classroom; the students whose main goal in life is to bully teachers.  Most get away with it and they know it.  But I wasn’t going to let them get away with it in my class.  It was not pleasant for the majority of the students and I felt for them. 

The one student, who was the worst, happened to be black.  Color does not matter to me as I’m color blind when it comes to people.  He was in constant act-up mode to get attention.  Some of the other kids would laugh.  I told them that they may think his behavior is funny, but it’s not; it’s actually quite sad.  Some of them got it and didn’t laugh again.  Then this student asked if he could go get a drink of water and I told him no.  He also had a full bottle of water in his hands and I showed the students.  The student next to him called me a racist because I let two white students go.  I told him that I let them go because they were behaving.  The student who called me a racist wrote a note to give to the other student.   I intercepted it and it was about me, and it wasn’t nice.

After the class, I made sure to tell the teacher what had happened and she knew it wasn’t because of me.  But what could she do?  What can you do to students who are so disruptive?  They don’t care.  Their actions and their behaviors have become their identity.  I wonder what their home lives are like?  Some of these kids have the most horrific home lives.  In other classes and schools, I learned one student was in fifteen foster homes before he was a sophomore.  I overheard another student telling how his father was drunk the night before, and he had to ride in the car with him.  Another student saw her mom murdered.  I had a five year old tell me that he wanted to kill himself and die.  These are just a few out of the thousands that teachers deal with. 

I tried subbing at a local school for troubled kids and only lasted two days.  When I turned my head, one student was half-way out the window, another student threw a chair down the hallway, and I overheard a group of boys talking about sneaking a slice of glass past the metal detectors to hurt someone.  Me?  All I knew was that minimum wage was not worth risking my life; therefore, I decided not to sub at that school anymore.  

I am constantly hearing stories from other teachers and subs who say they refuse to sub for certain grade levels because the kids are so out of control.  One friend, who is now a minister, used to ride with some of the most violent motorcycle gangs and had been in fights to defend his life.  He subbed for a kindergarten class and said never again.  Most subs avoid the high schools.  Many say they avoid the middle schools.  In my experience, it’s pretty much the same throughout all the grades.

I've also seen and heard things in the schools that are appalling.  One teacher I subbed for had a complete meltdown the previous day.  During one of those classes, I heard yelling across the hall and it turns out the class across the hall locked their sub out of the room and she was yelling at them to let her back in.  Some teachers just give up and let their students do whatever they want to do just to not have to deal with them.  This is not an inner city school system either.  I know they do the best they can, but we have got to find a way to do better in all schools across the nation.  Laying teachers off certainly doesn't help.

There are some religious groups who say they want prayer and religion back in the schools.  Why do the schools need to be responsible for their children’s religious upbringing?  Parents and politicians don’t want sex education in the schools saying that the students should learn this from the parents.   Shouldn’t it then be the parents who are responsible for their religious teachings also?  If you put religion and prayers in the schools, whose religion, whose God, and whose prayers?  Even if you want only the Christian religion, there are thousands of Christian denominations all believing something different, so which Christian religion and/or denomination? 

It’s easy for some parents and some schools to want to fluff off the responsibility of the students’ welfare.  The schools want the parents to be responsible, and the parents want the schools to be responsible (except in sex education).  So, in the meantime, who is being responsible for our children?

What’s the answer?  To be honest, I don’t know.  I do know that students need to be held accountable for their actions, and the consequences needs to be equal to the actions.  Personally, I think there should be a program for students who refuse to behave that is run like a military boot camp.  We have so many military people coming home from the war with no jobs.  This would be a great job opportunity.  Teach the kids discipline.  In no class should they be permitted to just sit around and do nothing.  Make them run the obstacle courses.  Whatever it is they do in boot camps.  Or do community service.  Let them see how much worse some people have it life than they do.  Put them in positions to be of service to others less fortunate. 

But at the same time, we need to find a way to show love to these kids.  Their behaviors and actions are a cry for love, and apparently, they’re not getting it.  We need to teach them self-esteem and self-worth.  We need to give them hope.  We need to teach them people skills and that bad behavior is not acceptable.  We need to teach them respect.  We need to lift these children up and not tear them down.  We need to help them find their purpose.  We need to give them positive mentors.  Many children do not have father and/or mother figures in their lives.   We need to show them that people do care and that their lives do matter.

I could go on and on with some of my experiences in subbing, and more ideas on how to deal with this overwhelming issue, but then I’d have a book.  I do know that we cannot sit back and do nothing.  Our schools are becoming more and more crowded, more and more teachers are being laid off, and it’s getting more and more out of control.  We cannot wait any long.  We hear the slogan “our children are our future” but what kind of future are they going to have if we don’t teach the skills (both inwardly and outwardly) to deal with life? 

We can only do what we can.  Remember when they said it takes a village to raise a child?  If you know of a child, no matter what their age, or who they are, show them love and kindness.  If you know that they do not have a good home life and you have the means to help, invite them over for some meals or on some trips and vacations with your kids.  All it takes is that one kindness to change a child’s life.  You may not see the results immediately, but you will be planting the seeds.  Plant the seeds and help cultivate them.  Then watch the child bloom and grow.

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Friday, October 26, 2012

Light vs. Darkness


For those who watch the news and read the newspapers, it would seem like our world is in great peril, and that only death and destruction is occurring the world over.  That’s what the media wants you to believe.  They propagate the negative…hate, bigotry, ignorance, crime, wars, etc.  That’s how they make their money and the more people who watch it, the more they communicate it. 

Personally, I don’t watch the news and don’t read much of newspapers.  Let’s just say, I don’t do negative and I don’t want to feed into that energy if I can help it.  Even though I try to avoid it, some of it still sneaks in and I feel a negativity attack on my being.  I can feel the difference from what I was feeling beforehand.  Then I have to work at shaking it off knowing that the negativity is not the reality that I choose.

I wish there was a news media network that communicated only good news; the good that people do.  And friends, there is a lot of it happening all over the world.  We just don’t hear about it.  There are countless websites that dedicate their news to the good that people are doing. 

One such site I found is the “Carnegie Hero Fund Commission.”  This commission honors people who “risk their lives to an extraordinary degree while saving or attempting to save the lives of others.”

Another site is called “Positive News.”  They “report news from around the world in the areas of sustainability, social equality, education and happiness with a clear message that ‘another world is possible.’”

Another site I like is the “Good News Network.”  Their mission is to “provide a ‘Daily Dose of News to Enthuse.’ The Good News Network® is a clearinghouse for the gathering and dissemination of positive compelling news stories from around the globe. Daily stories will confirm what we already believe: good news itself is not in short supply; the advertising of it is.”

So you see, there is so much good happening all around us and all over the world!  We’re just either not hearing about it, or choosing not to. 

Recently, I read a great spiritual book that is a mixture of truth and fiction.  The story tells how there are two energies at work in the world; Light vs. Darkness.  To be more accurate, we can call these energies Love vs. Fear.  The “fear” energy is full of fear, hate, bigotry, ignorance, discord, violence, separation, war, etc.  The love energy is full of unconditional love, peace, harmony, kindness, compassion, gratitude, caring, oneness, and so on.  Personally, I believe that there is only one energy and that is God energy; it is just we human beings that divide it. 

The story tells how human beings will feed into one or the other energy, and in turn, that energy feeds into people.  But we have a choice.  Once we become aware that we have a choice, we can choose which energy to feed into and which one we allow to feed into us.  I make it a conscious effort to feed into the positive loving light energy.  I don’t always succeed as I can get just as frustrated and angry as the next person.  In fact, I have to work at not judging the judgers, hating the haters, and complaining about the complainers.

How do you know which energy you’re feeding or receiving?  How does it feel?  Trust your inner Spirit or intuition.  We will have that inner knowing, and then it’s up to us which one we choose to feed.  If I’m about to say or do something that is not in love, I feel it within me.  Then I have a choice to either go through with it, or stop it and change it into something more loving.

We don’t have to do something huge to be a hero, to do good, or to feed the energy of love.  Maya Angelou said it best:  “I think a hero is any person really intent on making this a better place for all people.”  Just treat those around you with love, kindness, and compassion.  Smile.  Commit random acts of kindness.  Jesus said “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” (Matt. 25:40)   And Buddha said “Set your heart on doing good.  Do it over and over again, and you will be filled with joy.  Teach this triple truth to all:  A generous heart, kind speech, and a life of service and compassion are the things which renew humanity.”

We can renew humanity by which energy we choose.  Which will you choose?

(Printed in the Cookeville Herald Citizen newspaper October 26, 2012.)
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Saturday, October 20, 2012

Secure in Our Faith


My faith and beliefs have evolved over my lifetime causing them to sometimes change drastically over the years.  Once I learned to open my mind and take my beliefs out of the box, I gained so much more wisdom and knowledge because I was willing to receive whatever messages God (whom I call Spirit) would have for me to receive.  I learned that I could go directly to Spirit as my Source and not have to rely on man (or woman) for my teachings. 

Whenever we rely solely on man for our spiritual and/or religious teachings, we box ourselves in and close ourselves off to the greatest and most wonderful teachings that Spirit would impart to us.  This isn’t to say that man can’t teach us some things here and there.  He can.  The only issue with relying on man is that some men interpret spiritual or religious teachings from his own personal belief system filters causing the lesson to lose its true meaning.  We see this all the time when people take Bible verses out of context or misinterpret them, and then use them for their own personal religious and/or political agendas.

How do we know if a message or teaching is from Spirit or man?  Spirit’s messages are only about unconditional love for all mankind regardless of color, race, religion, politics, sexual preference, or walk of life.  That’s it.  Only unconditional love and oneness.  Man’s message is, many times, steeped in hate, bigotry, separation, and ignorance.  We say that God is Love, but we hear so many messages from people who claim to be speaking for God and those messages are about anything but love.

Personally, I am now so secure in my relationship with Spirit that I don’t feel a need to prove anything to anyone, nor do I need to try to force my beliefs on anyone else. I also don’t need a symbol to prove anything; nor do I need to say or hear a specific greeting around the holidays.  I am secure enough in Spirit’s abundant love that I am happy to share other people’s beliefs and honor their holidays.  I don’t feel threatened by them in the least because I know that God has enough love to go around for everyone.  I know that no one can take away my faith and I have no desire to take any anyone else’s.

Certain religions are complaining that other religions are trying to take over the world, but isn’t that exactly what those who are doing the very complaining are trying to do?  Take over the world with their beliefs?

I love the diversity we have in our world!  I love learning about them and sharing our beliefs with each other in love and peace.  I have friends from all over the world who have differing beliefs and I consider them my brothers and sisters in this experience we call life.  I love them dearly and accept them as they are.

If God is Love as we claim, and we were made in the image of God (and not the other way around), and if we’re going to speak of and for God, then shouldn’t they be only words of love, kindness, compassion, and oneness?

People who speak hateful words or commit hateful acts are only reflecting on themselves and not those they speak against.  Marianne Williamson states, “Love is what we are born with.  Fear is what we learn.  The spiritual journey is the unlearning of fear and prejudices and the acceptance of love back in our hearts.  Love is the essential reality and our purpose on earth.  To be consciously aware of it, to experience love in ourselves and others, is the meaning of life.  Meaning does not lie in things.  Meaning lies in us.”

God has more than enough love to go around.  When we withhold that love for others, we are withholding God’s love, and I have no right to make God anything but that love.

I’ve said it before numerous times and I will say it again.  Jesus made it very clear when he said “Love one another as I have loved you.”  He made no exceptions.  When we can really understand and embrace that statement, as well as live it, then we become secure in our faith and know that unconditional love really is what it’s all about.

“Namaste” is a Sanskrit word used by many, which means “I honor the place in you in which the entire universe dwells.  I honor the place in you, which is of love, of truth, of light and of peace.  When you are in that place in you, and I am in that place in me, we are one.”  We honor the Divinity in each other.

Namaste'.

(Published in the Cookeville Herald Citizen newspaper October 19, 2012.)

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Saturday, October 13, 2012

Thou Shalt Not Judge


I had a dream.  It was a dream I will never forget, and I will never be the same because of it.

It began with me standing in the door of a bar.  The bar was run down and dirty, and the inhabitants blended with the atmosphere.  Every person in the room appeared to be drunk.  Even though I was not told, I sensed what each did for a living.  There were doctors, lawyers, executives, factory workers, housewives....

No one spoke.  People just stood or sat around in a sad stupor.  All were dressed in their work clothes, but they looked like they were either up all night or had just gotten out of bed.  Clothes were rumpled, hair mussed up, make-up smeared, men had stubbles on their faces.  No one moved.

I waited for a moment to see what was going to take place, but nothing did.  I felt very uncomfortable and wanted to leave, but when I turned to open the door, it was gone!  There was no way out!  I began to get frightened!  I didn’t belong there!  I wanted to leave, wake up, anything, but be where I was!

Suddenly, a man at the end of the bar caught my eye.  As I stared at him, he slowly turned to meet my gaze.  His eyes were so sorrowful and empty.  I somehow knew he was a young doctor about the age of 33, and he may have been a very attractive man at one time.  His blonde hair was mussed and fell over his eyes, and he hadn’t shaved for several days.  He sat slumped over the bar with a glass of liquor in his hands.

Then it began happening.  Without wanting it, I began seeing into his past and to know all about him.  He came from a long line of successful doctors.  His father was a well-known physician who worked at all the major hospitals in the area, and he did quite a bit of traveling giving lectures to various groups.  His mother was a successful obstetrician at one of the local hospitals.  Both had high expectations of their son and expected him to take his place in high society.

There was one problem though. The son didn’t care about money or being a part of high society.  He cared about the poor and the less fortunate; those who couldn’t afford food to feed their families, let alone medical care.  He wanted to start a clinic in a poor section of town so he could give those people the quality care they so desperately needed.

Of course, his family had a fit over this crazy idea of his and would hear none of it.  Every time he would try to get the clinic started, his parents would use their influence and put obstacles before him.  They just kept pushing for him to be what they considered was a success and to make a lot of money.  Finally, he could take it no longer and he broke.  He turned to alcohol to help him forget his dreams, to ease the pain he felt for others, and maybe in a way, to get back at his parents.

Most of the others in the bar had basically the same, but different stories.  Things happened to them in their lives that they were not prepared to handle.  An executive lost his job because of his age and couldn’t find another job.  A lawyer handled a client whom he knew was innocent, but because of powerful politicians, he couldn’t get his client’s name cleared; nor his.  A housewife was constantly being beaten by her husband and her children were sexually abused.  A secretary was sexually harassed by her boss and eventually raped by him.  She couldn’t say anything about it, as her boss was well respected in the company and in the community, and there was no way anyone would believe her.

I began to feel really sorry for these people.  Not only sorry, but angered that this was even happening to them.  I didn’t know what to do about it.  Before I could say or do anything, the door appeared and I was being led out of the bar.  I wasn’t being led by a person that I could see, but more of a Force. 

Yes, this is part of a dream that I really had.  It taught me not to judge because there is always a bigger picture and you never know a person’s state of mind.  Therefore, I learned to have more love, compassion, and kindness for others. 

“Do not judge, or you too will be judged.  For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”  (Matt 7)

(Published in the Cookeville Herald Citizen newspaper on October 12, 2012.  For the full version of the dream, please go to http://kalina-spiritualoasis.blogspot.com/2012/10/the-midnight-dream_13.html.)

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The Midnight Dream


      It happened one evening in the year 1989.  It is an experience I will never forget, and I will never be the same because of it.
It began with me standing in the door of a bar.  The bar was run down and dirty, and the inhabitants blended with the atmosphere.  Every person in the room appeared to be drunk.  Even though I was not told, I sensed what each did for a living.  There were doctors, lawyers, business executives, factory workers, cooks, maids, secretaries, actors, Vietnam Vets, housewives....
No one spoke.  People just stood or sat around in a sad stupor.  All were dressed in their work clothes, but they looked like they were either up all night or had just gotten out of bed.  Clothes were rumpled, hair mussed up, make-up smeared, men had stubbles on their faces.  No one moved.
I waited for a moment to see what, if anything, was going to take place, but nothing did.  I felt very uncomfortable and wanted to leave, but when I turned to open the door, it was gone!  There was no way out!  I began to get frightened!  What was I doing there with all those drunks?  I didn’t belong there!  I wanted to leave, wake up, anything, but be where I was!
Suddenly, a man at the end of the bar caught my eye.  As I stared at him, he slowly turned to meet my gaze.  His eyes were so sorrowful and empty.  I somehow knew he was a young doctor about the age of 33, and he may have been a very attractive man at one time.  His blonde hair was mussed and fell over his eyes, and he hadn’t shaved for several days.  He sat slumped over the bar with a glass of liquor in his hands.
Then it began happening.  Without wanting it, I began seeing into his past and to know all about him.  He came from a long line of successful doctors.  His father was a well-known physician who worked at all the major hospitals in the area, and he did quite a bit of traveling giving lectures to various groups.  His mother was a successful obstetrician at one of the local hospitals.  Both had high expectations of their son and expected him to take his place in high society.
There was one problem though. The son didn’t care about money or being a part of high society.  He cared about the poor and the less fortunate; those who couldn’t afford food to feed their families, let alone medical care.  He wanted to start a clinic in a poor section of town so he could give those people the quality care they so desperately needed.
Of course, his family had a fit over this crazy idea of his and would hear none of it.  Every time he would try to get the clinic started, his parents would use their influence and put obstacles before him.  They just kept pushing and pushing for him to be what they considered was a success and to make a lot of money.  Finally, he could take it no longer and he broke.  He turned to alcohol to help him forget his dreams, to ease the pain he felt for others, and maybe in a way, to get back at his parents.
Most of the others in the bar had basically the same, but different stories.  Things happened to them in their lives that they were not prepared to handle.  An executive lost his job because of his age and couldn’t find another job.  A lawyer handled a client whom he knew was innocent, but because of powerful politicians, he couldn’t get his client’s name cleared; nor his.  A housewife was constantly being beaten by her husband and her children were sexually abused.  A secretary was sexually harassed by her boss and eventually raped by him.  She couldn’t say anything about it, as her boss was well respected in the company and in the community, and there was no way anyone would believe her.
I began to feel really sorry for these people.  Not only sorry, but angered that this was even happening to them.  I didn’t know what to do about it.  Before I could say or do anything, the door appeared and I was being led out of the bar.  I wasn’t being led by a person that I could see, but more of a Force.  On one hand, I didn’t want to leave; but then again, I didn’t want to have to see these people’s pain any longer.  I hoped I was being returned to my warm, comfortable bed so I could get on with a good night’s rest.  But there was more.
The next thing I knew, I was flying over a huge city of twinkling lights.  It was one of the most beautiful sights I had ever seen.  I thought that maybe I was going to start having some nice dreams to finish off the night.  Before I could complete that thought, we started descending downwards.  My heart began to beat faster anticipating where my dream would lead me next.  I would soon find out.
As my feet touched the ground, the Force left me there alone in a seedier part of town at night.  As I looked around, everything was quiet and barren.  I wasn’t sure if I was to stand still and wait for something to happen, or if I was to start wandering around.  Dreading what might come next, I began walking down an alley that was before me.  I remember thinking...in real life, there is no way I would walk down a dark alley at night, but since this was a dream, what’s the worst that could happen to me?  When I got halfway down the alley, I heard a rustle to my right, which startled me.  As I turned to look, I found two little huts made of cardboard and other scraps of material.  Over the handmade entrances were shreds of blankets to act as doors.  I had the feeling I was to look in the huts, so I cautiously pulled back on the blanket of one to take a peek inside.
Lying among old, rumpled up newspapers was a man fast asleep and snoring.  He was dressed in ragged cloths and hadn’t shaved in quite a while.  I don’t think he’d had a bath in that amount of time either.  Apparently, he sensed that I was there and woke with a start.  He grumpily yelled,  “Hey!  What are you doing here?!?!  This is my home!  Get out!”  Frightened, I backed out quite quickly, and as I did, I stumbled over something behind me and fell.  When I looked to see what I had fallen over, I found a dead body.  It was the man that was in the hut I had just left.  He had frozen to death in the alley.  Panicking, I got up and ran to the back of the alley and out around the buildings.
As I rounded the corner, the sight before me caused me to stop and stare.  I had come upon a large area cluttered with homemade houses made out of scraps of material, cardboard boxes, anything anyone could get their hands on to make a shelter.  People were dressed in rags and other clothes that people discarded after they had gotten their use from them.  Metal barrels were set throughout the compound with fires going in them to try and bring warmth to the area.  I hadn’t realized how cold it was until I saw these people all bundled up.
Before my thoughts could go further, several children came running out from behind one of the huts.  They were yelling and laughing while chasing each other in a game of tag.  They didn’t seem to notice how miserable their living conditions were.
The adults were different.  Most were depressed and beaten.  You could see it in their eyes and in their expressions.  Again, as in the bar, I began to see and feel these peoples’ pasts.  I had often wondered why these people just didn’t go out and get jobs.  Anyone could get a job, right?  Wrong.  One man lost his job because of cutbacks in his company and wasn’t able to find work in his field.  He wasn’t skilled in some areas or was over-qualified in others; therefore, he was unable to find work, though he tried.  Because of lack of income, he was unable to pay his rent and was thrown out of his home.  Without a job, he was unable to find housing elsewhere.  Consequently, he ended up here.
Again, the others shared the same, but different, disheartening stories.  All had reasons for being homeless.  High cost of living, unable to get work, some were mentally ill and were put out on the streets by the institutions.  Some were drug addicts or alcoholics.  Couldn’t something be done to help them?  We’re the richest country in the world and we can’t feed or house our own poor?  It’s pitiful enough to see adults living like this, but what about the children who have no say in the way they live their lives?
Tears began to fall down my cheeks, but before I could think much more on these people, I was being whisked away by the strange Force that was taking me on these horrible journeys.  I was still thinking about the homeless when I found myself in a hospital ward full of people; all men.  Some of the men were bed-ridden and barely moving.  Some were in wheelchairs.  Others walked with crutches or limped on their own.  Many were missing arms or legs.  Some were burned beyond recognition.  Again, all had eyes that were so sorrowful and void; it was as if only their bodies were in that room and their minds were off somewhere unknown.
One man in particular was lying so still in a bed I wondered if he was even alive.  His right arm and leg were missing and he had a bandage wrapped around his head.  I began to feel this man’s pain so much that it became almost unbearable.
As I looked at him, pictures began to flash in my mind as to how he came to be in so much despair.  I saw a group of men running through a dense jungle.  It was still daylight, but because of the density of the trees and foliage overhead, it was dark enough to where the men had difficulty seeing where they were going.  I had the feeling that they were being chased by someone, but I couldn’t distinguish who might be after them.
There was tremendous gunfire and you could see the flashes from the guns as they went off.  Men began dropping from being hit by the hot, speeding bullets.  Big flashes of light began to pop like huge light bulbs as grenades or bombs exploded among them.
I was right amidst the fighting, and yet everything was happening around me keeping me untouched.  As I stood horrified watching the nightmare before me, a movement caught my eye just to the right of me.  When I turned to see what it was, I saw two men running.  The look I saw on their faces was one I never wish to see again.  It was horror, panic, and fear all in one.
Before they could get very far from me, there was a big flash of light and a deafening sound.  At that point, time slowed almost to a standstill.  In the flash of smoke, I noticed objects flying into the jungle, but at that moment, I couldn’t quite make out what they were.  Then I heard a sickening scream, followed by a gurgling and moaning.
When the smoke finally cleared, the first thing I saw was a pair of boots on the ground sitting side by side.  It was then that it occurred to me...the objects flying through the air were parts of a body.  My eyes tried following the sounds of the moaning and came upon a body lying on the ground in massive pools of blood.  The man had his right arm and leg blown off, and it looked like part of his head was missing.  He just laid there staring at the boots.  He had just seen his friend blown to pieces.
That thought and the sight before me caused great upheavals in the pit of my stomach.  I knew I had to throw up, but nothing would come.  When I thought I could take it no longer, I found myself being pulled upwards, high above the trees where I could see the fighting still going on below me.  I kept climbing higher and higher into the clouds and into the darkness of the universe.  Even though I was no longer looking at the sights I had just witnessed, I couldn’t get the pictures out of my mind.  Just when I felt myself about to pass out, I found myself back in the hospital ward looking at the man I had just seen torn apart moments earlier.  I wanted to go to him, tell him I understood and that I cared, but I couldn’t move.  I could only stand there and stare.
The men in that ward all held so much pain; not only physical pain, but the emotional pain from all they had seen and been through.  Pain that would be with them for a very long time to come.  I wanted so much to be able to do something, anything, to help take that pain away.  But there wasn’t anything I could do.
I was briefly able to see and feel what some of the other men had experienced.  Some had seen their buddies killed or maimed by children planted with grenades or bombs, and some had to kill children in order to keep from being killed themselves.  Some had seen things so horrifying that merely putting them into words just wasn’t enough.  Many lost their wives and children through divorce because they couldn’t take the separation and loneliness of war.
They didn’t know why they were fighting other than the fact that they were doing their duty for their country.  They didn’t know who they were fighting, as many times it was hard to tell who were the good guys and who were the “enemies” until it was too late.
People were always saying that the Vietnam Vets were causing their own problems or using Vietnam as an excuse for those problems.  They looked down on the Vets because it was an unpopular war, and even though they were doing what was lawfully expected of them, they were being treated as if they were criminals.  Some are being treated that way to this day.  Many are still living the war even though it’s been over for years.
Just as I was beginning to get all riled up over the injustices of the Vets, I felt myself being lifted out of the room.  I didn’t know how much more pain, suffering, depression, and despair I could endure.  I hoped my dream would end so that I could just forget it and go on.  But I had a feeling this was one dream I would not be forgetting for a very long time.
Instead of landing in another situation, the Force and I seemed to be flying around the world.  I could look down and see cities and towns.  It was breathtakingly beautiful.  But suddenly, pictures again started flashing before my eyes.  Instead of any individual situation, I was seeing many.  It was like seeing a slide show, only the images were appearing over each other as they were changing so fast.  Even though I couldn’t make out the pictures clearly, I was able to see and feel the pain behind each one.
I saw the drug addicts and the reasons they turned to drugs.  I saw the husband who beat the wife and kids, and the pain of his own childhood.  There were the overly obese people who ate to try to forget their pain, or those who didn’t eat to try and change their pain.  I saw those who withdrew into themselves and ended up in asylums or committed suicide because they couldn’t handle their pain any longer.  I also saw the people with AIDS, both children and adults, and the pain it caused them and their loved ones.
Then it dawned on me.  I was seeing all those that we humans judged just because they were different from us, or whose problems we didn’t understand.  We de-humanize them, humiliate them, and pretend they don’t exist in order to justify our own feelings toward them.  We say they’re bad people and that they don’t deserve our love, compassion, understanding, or assistance.  They got themselves into their situations, let them get themselves out.
We sit in judgment because it gives us an excuse not to love them; so we don’t have to have compassion or understanding for what they’re going through.  We can sit in our own safe, comfort zones and not bother with them.
It was then that I happened to notice tears were silently falling down my cheeks.  They were tears of sadness.  It occurred to me that the tears weren’t so much for all those in my dream, but more so for myself.  Had I really been so judgmental to all my fellow human beings?  Had I really held so much disdain for those that were different from me, or for those I didn’t understand?
Only a moment had passed, but to me, it seemed like hours.  Was I dreaming?  Or had everything I just experienced actually happened?  Maybe both were one and the same.  Either way, I learned a big lesson that night.
Soon, I found myself waking up.  I guess I wasn’t surprised to find tears still falling down my cheeks onto my pillow.  I don’t know how long I lay there, but sleep would not come upon me again.  It wasn’t long before I saw a glimpse of sunshine coming through my bedroom windows.  The birds were singing their morning melodies and it was the most beautiful sound I had heard in a long time.  In fact, everything that morning seemed to be more beautiful than I ever remembered!  Life was more beautiful!
As I lay there thinking about everything that happened that night, I realized that there is an awful lot of ugliness in the this world; crime, starvation, disease, war....  But there is also a lot that is beautiful.  We can either focus on the ugliness and make ourselves and others miserable, or we can focus on the beautiful and enjoy the life that we have.  I think that what it comes down to is attitude.  Your attitude can make or break you.  It can also make or break the world we live in.
There’s so much that I can do nothing about, but I can start with myself.  I can learn to love people more and to have more compassion and understanding for what they’re going through.  I can learn not to judge people no matter how different they are from me, or how different their beliefs are.  People are the way they are for whatever reasons.
Love, compassion, and understanding.  That’s all it takes.  We are all one with each other, with the earth, and with all living things.  When we hurt someone or something else, we are only hurting ourselves.
Yes, this is a true story.  And it has changed my life forever.

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Friday, October 5, 2012

Peace Be With You


One of my favorite quotes comes from Mother Teresa when she said, "I was once asked why I don't participate in anti-war demonstrations.  I said that I will never do that, but as soon as you have a pro-peace rally, I'll be there."  

This is wonderful visual for the power of our thoughts.  What we focus on, we will manifest.  Therefore it is very important that we don’t put all our energies on what we don’t want; rather, we should direct those energies to the things we do want. 

This includes prayer.  How do we pray?  Do we pray for what we don’t want?  Do we pray against someone or something or pray for ill-will to happen to someone?  We also need to be careful how we pray because what we put out there, we will receive in kind.  Some people may call it ‘karma.’  Karma is sometimes associated with reincarnation, but it can also mean receiving the consequences of your actions.  Because of this, I’ve learned to be very careful of the energies/prayers that I send to another person or group of people. 

Our world is seeing a lot of chaos right now (at least turmoil is the media’s main focus), and it’s very easy to go into a state of fear.  I know I do, particularly with what is occurring in politics and religion.  Not too long ago, I was steeped in so much fear that I was almost paralyzed in that fear.  I was talking to Spirit about it and these are the words I heard returned:  “It’s okay, Karen.  Don’t worry about it.  I have everything under control.”  Oh.  Okay.  Since then, I’ve tried to release that fear and leave it up to Spirit.  I can only do what I can do. 

Therefore, in light of the direction we send our prayers/energies, I wrote what I call The Collective Consciousness Prayer:  “I pray for our President, not against him.  I pray for our government, not against it.  I pray for our Congress, not against them.  I pray for our people, not against them.  I pray for all people in the world, not against them.  I pray for and with all religions, not against them.  I pray for our nation, not against it.  I pray for other nations, not against them.  I pray for our world, not against it.  I pray for love, compassion, and kindness.  I pray for harmony and peace.  I pray for oneness that we can all come together as one race...the human race.”

It is only when we can pray for someone or something that we can feel at peace.  Thich Nhat Hanh said, "If we are peaceful, if we are happy, we can smile and blossom like a flower, and everyone in our family, our entire society, will benefit from our peace." 

As Black Elk said, “The first peace, which is the most important, is that which comes within the souls of people when they realize their relationship, their oneness, with the universe and all its powers, and when they realize that at the center of the universe dwells Wakan-Taka (the Great Spirit), and that this center is really everywhere, it is within each of us.  This is the real peace, and the others are but reflections of this. The second peace is that which is made between two individuals, and the third is that which is made between two nations. But above all you should understand that there can never be peace between nations until there is known that true peace, which, as I have often said, is within the souls of men.”

We cannot wait for peace.  As individuals, we need to find peace within ourselves.  As we become and feel more at peace, only then can we help bring peace to those around us, to our nation, and to our world.  We need to watch the words we speak and the actions we take because they are a direct reflection of who we are as human beings, individually, and as a whole.

Then there’s one of the greatest prayers by Saint Francis of Assisi:  “Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.  Where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; and where there is sadness, joy.  O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love. For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.”

 

Peace be with you.


(Published in the Cookeville Herald Citizen newspaper October 5, 2012.)

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Friday, August 24, 2012

The Love of Spirit


Recently, our women’s group at Unity was talking about profound experiences of love that we have felt over the course of our lives.  At first, I wasn’t sure how to answer this as the term “love” can be described in so many ways.  Everyone has their own definition of what love is or isn’t. 

I do some writing with an amazing 85 year old man in Florida who is very spiritually connected.  I once told him that we human beings are so limited in our terminology to describe anything that has to do with God/Spirit that we sometimes tend to get tripped up on expressing ourselves when it comes to what Spirit is saying to us or through us.

Wikipedia describes love as:  “an emotion of a strong affection and personal attachment.   Love is also a virtue representing all of human kindness, compassion, and affection —"the unselfish loyal and benevolent concern for the good of another."  Love may describe actions towards others or oneself based on compassion or affection.”  But does this really describe “love” to its fullest?


As I listened to the other women before me describe their experiences and concepts of love, I realized that what each of them said could also describe a part of my own experiences and/or beliefs.  One woman told of her earlier experiences with physical abuse and chemical addictions and how she learned to love and accept herself.  Another told of her experiences as a teacher and the love her students gave to her.  Another told of her love for God.   Every woman had the same but different concept of what love was to her.

When it came to my turn, I told the women how I could relate to each of them.  I wasn’t abused by anyone in my life, but I abused myself in the way of negative self-talk, low self-esteem and self worth and how I, too, learned to love and accept myself.  As a substitute teacher, I receive the love of young children, particularly the special needs kids, when they give me a hug and tell me they love me.  I also told about the total love from my four-legged “kids” (pets).  I love to walk down the country road and feel the love from nature, which is an energy that I allow to permeate my being.  When I’m among nature, I feel the most connected to Spirit as I breathe in the beautiful fragrances, listen to the music nature’s critters sing, and I absorb the beauty of Mother Earth’s magnificent landscape. 

When I have to describe the love of Spirit, I describe it as “pure, unconditional, perfect love.”  A love that is all inclusive, all accepting, and all embracing for all people.  Jesus said, “Love one another.  As I have loved you so you must love one another.  By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35 NIV)  He didn’t make any exceptions.  He didn’t say love only this person or group of people, but not that person or that group of people.  And yet we’re seeing a lot of religious leaders and politicians telling people that they have to make those exceptions.  Jesus specifically stated that we will know his disciples (those who believe and follow Jesus’ teachings) by the way they love one another.  That alone should be a good clue as to whether or not people are really followers of Jesus.

And yet we have all this divisiveness that wasn’t meant to be.  Why is it so hard to love a person or a group of people just because they appear different or believe differently than we do?  As a minister, speaker, and a volunteer Chaplain at the hospital, I get to talk to a lot of people, and so many people are saying that they are completely turned off to church, religion, and God because of the way they’ve been treated by those who claim to love God, and it breaks my heart.  So many will try going to church only to be judged, and many have been told that they’re not welcome there.  Is that the love that Jesus taught?  Is that the example that he wants us to be? 

The Dalai Lama said, “This is my simple religion.  There is no need for temples; no need for complicated philosophy.  Our own brain, our own heart is our temple; the philosophy is kindness.”   He has a point.  It’s great that we have our religions and our churches, but we need to remember that the love Jesus taught was to love all people; to be kind, have compassion, and to have “the unselfish loyal and benevolent concern for the good of another.”  

Love does not change God, but it changes the one who loves.

(Published in the Herald Citizen newspaper on August 24, 2012.)

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