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.)


Saturday, August 18, 2012

Karen’s Adventure with a Snake and a Goat

Picture this!  I went for one of my long walks down the country road enjoying the scenery and in my own little blissful world.  A small pick-up truck is coming toward me so I get off the side of the road as much as possible (I do that regardless of what direction the car is coming in), and just as I do, I see a humongous black snake just a few feet in front of me!  I motion to the truck to move over so it doesn’t hit it and the snake slithers into the woods.  The guy in the pick-up backs up to try to find it.  I told him that it was in the woods already and thanked him, cuz if he hadn’t have come along, I may have just gone ahead and stepped on it, or gotten bit, eaten, or strangled.  (Okay, I watch too much TV.)

Now.  On I go.  A little ways up, I hear what sounds like an elder person screaming at the top of their lungs “HELPPPPPP!”  I’m thinking, ‘okay, now what am I going to get myself into?’  As I get closer to the sound and hearing it again, I see that it’s one of two goats that I pass when I walk.  So, I kept walking thinking if it’s still yelling coming back, I’ll check on it.  On the way back, I’m hearing “HELPPPPP!” and I look up to see that one of the goats is caught in the barbed wire fence.  Since the owner was the one who saved me from that humongous snake, I thought I’d go up to see if I could help the goat.  Well, the goat is NOT a happy camper and wasn’t too interested in helping me help him (or her).  Plus, the little dog that was on the property wasn’t happy about me being on the property, so it bit me on the ankle (fortunately, not breaking the skin…much). 

So.  Here I am wrestling with this goat, trying to get his wire that he’s tied to untangled so that I could get him out of the barbed wire, but he’s butting me in places no one should ever be butted, pushing and shoving, and covering me in goat hair.  At one point, he butted me (again where no one should ever be butted) and I fell backwards landing my butt on a pile of twigs.  Fortunately, no twig twigged me where no person should ever be twigged.  On top of that, I had to put my water bottle and phone on the ground, and his little buddy kept trying to steal my water bottle and my phone, so I'm not only wrestling with the one goat, I'm having to swoosh the other little goat away from my things at the same time!  After sweating up a storm (which goat hair loves to stick to; the sweat, not the storm), I FINALLY get the little guy untangled while he’s still butting me (did I mention where no person should ever be butted?).  Feeling a sense of triumph, I start my trek back home.

THEN, I start thinking…  Should I have risked my life for that little goat?  I mean, I didn’t really know the people there.  I could have gone up to the door to make sure no one was home, been grabbed, and ended up in someone’s basement where the person would proceed to chop me up in little pieces and…feed me to the goat.  (Did I mention that I watch a lot of TV?)  I could only hope that my act of kindness towards that little goat will be rewarded somewhere, sometime.  Like not letting me get tetanus after I discovered that I had a couple of little gashes from the barbed wire or rabies from the little dog. 

What did I learn from all this?  I never knew that goats could scream “Help” in the English language.

(Okay, this really isn't a story in the spiritual realm, but if you can't find the humor in every day things, then we're missing part of what it means to be spiritual.)

Copyright 2012

Friday, August 3, 2012

Our Thoughts Make Our World

Every once in a while when I’m feeling the most vulnerable, I tend to take on the weight of the world.  I look around me, see all the turmoil, people in so much pain, hungry, sick, and dying, the suffering, and all the negativity, and it weighs me down to the point that it feels hard for me to breathe.

I see all the fighting and arguing, the hate and bigotry, particularly in religion and politics, and it seems like our world is on the brink of destroying itself.  When I am in this negative state of mind, life can become almost unbearable.  It’s easy to lose hope and to think, “Why bother?” 

But I know better.  I know better than to allow my thoughts to go into that deep, unending abyss of darkness.  I can have control of my thoughts.  One of my favorite quotes is “you may not be able to stop a bird from landing on your head, but you can stop it from building a nest.”  We may not be able to keep those dark, negative thoughts from entering our mind, but we can keep them from taking up residence.  We can kick them out and replace them with something good, loving, and positive.

Sometimes I find myself wishing I could just snap my fingers or wave a magic wand and make everyone in the world love one another.  I love to write, and so many times I wish I could find it within me to write that one article that will make a huge difference; the one that will change the world and make everyone love one another.  But so far, I haven’t found the key that will open the hearts and minds of all people the world over.  I know there are millions of people who wish the same thing; people who are doing whatever good they can to try to make a difference and to help make people’s lives a little better, even if it’s only one person at a time. We have a lot of obstacles by way of people who are greedy, selfish, and could care less about their fellow beings here on this wonderful planet called Mother Earth; people who seem more concerned about personal gain than helping our brothers and sisters in the human race (as well as animals and Mother Nature). 

Am I perfect in loving all people?  Far from it.  I have my moments where I get so angry and frustrated with people because of the harm they cause each other or to me.  I certainly have some very “unspiritual moments” of my own.  But again, I know better.  In those moments, Spirit will give me a good talking to and will let me know that is not who I am.   That is not who we are. 

We all have the Divine Spark within each and every one of us; the spark of Divine Love.  Some of us have just buried it deep within our beings for whatever reasons.  Life happens.  Because we don’t always have the tools to cope, we deal with everything in the only way we know how.  We can only do the best we can with what we know at the time.

Even though there seems to be a lot of “bad” in the world, I refuse to do a broad stroke in my thoughts.  In other words, when you say, “All ____________(s) are ___________,” you’re doing a broad stroke, and those statements couldn’t be further from the truth.  To give an example:  All celebrities are drunks, drug addicts, and sleeping with one another.  This statement is not true.  Try playing with this statement and see how you fill in the blanks.  If you can fill them in, then you’re playing with thoughts of judgment and bigotry, and those are dangerous thoughts.

There is so much good in this world and there are a lot of good people all across the spectrum regardless of color, race, religion, sexual preference, politics, or walk of life.  Personally, I look at a person’s heart and I don’t care about their labels or what they call themselves. 

In reading near death experience books, one common theme is that once we cross over, the one question we get asked is “How much did you love?”  That’s what I try to live my life by.  How much did I love?  How many acts of kindness did I commit?  How many smiles did I share?  How many times did I tell people I loved them?  The answers are what will make up our character and our legacy. 

It really is all about the love, my friends.  The pure, unconditional love of Spirit.   And you are so loved.

Copyright 2012
Published in the Herald Citizen newspaper August 3, 2012