Friday, July 26, 2013

Our Brothers' Keeper

Imagine you have a well paying job with excellent benefits.  Your family lives in a beautiful home in a nice neighborhood; your children are healthy and doing well in school.  Your family has many friends and a great social life.  Your spouse has some health issues, but because of the insurance at work, everything is manageable. 

Now imagine one day you go into work and your boss calls you into his office.  Because the company is experiencing financial issues, they have to downsize many of their employees and you are one of them.  You are asked to collect your things and leave that day.  They give you a small severance package and you can take COBRA, the extended insurance coverage, but you have to pay full premiums which runs over $1,500 a month for your family. 

You arrive home and break it to your spouse.  You have a little saved up and the severance package will hold you for a few months, but the insurance premiums, mortgage, and other bills are going to take a big chunk out of your finances.  You try to get another job, but jobs are scarce.  Months go by and your money starts to dwindle.  COBRA runs out and you can’t get insurance because you cannot afford it and your spouse can’t be covered because of pre-existing conditions.  Because there is no health care, your spouse’s health rapidly declines.  Your children are complaining because you can no longer afford to pay for their cell phones and other gadgets. 

Soon, you can no longer make your mortgage payments and you lose your home.  Your family and friends start forgetting about you.  Without any other place to go, you live either out of your car or in homeless shelters.  Eventually, you end up on the street.

Many of us judge the less fortunate thinking that all they have to do is get a job, stop eating, stop taking drugs or drinking, all they have to do…..   It is only by fate that we are not in those same situations.  It can happen to any one of us.  Think it can’t happen?  Ask anyone who thought the same thing and yet it did happen.  No matter how hard people try, sometimes life just happens and they end up where they never thought they would end up.

In 1989, I was given a dream.  In this dream a “force” took me into various scenarios:  a bar filled with alcoholics and people who had given up on life, a homeless camp filled with adults and children, and a veterans’ hospital, filled with broken men and women.  As I looked at these people, I was able to see into their lives to see what they experienced and what they were feeling. Many lost hope.  Ever since then, I learned that there is always a bigger picture, and I learned to have so much more love, compassion, and understanding for those who are experiencing life at its worst.

How many of us look at the less fortunate and throw them by the wayside not caring about them or wanting anything to do with them?  We think they have nothing to do with us so why bother?  Yet they are still human beings and they still matter. 

How many politicians, religious leaders, and others want to completely push so many of these aside and not care for them?  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).   When we don’t care, what does that say about us as human beings, as Christians (or whatever your religion), as a society, or as a country?

Jesus, as well as all the great spiritual masters throughout time, taught us to be our brothers’ keeper and to be ambassadors of love, faith, hope, and charity.  When we turn our backs on the less fortunate, we are turning our backs on everything Jesus and these other masters taught and stood for.

We humans have the greatest capacity to be the ultimate humanitarians.  We are at our best when we take care of each other.   Will you be that humanitarian?  Will you help care for the less fortunate?  Will you be their advocate?   Will you speak up for them?  It is only by fate that we are not in their shoes.  Remember, it could be you in their shoes.

Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them humanity cannot survive.”  Dalai Lama

Published in the Cookeville Herald Citizen newspaper July 26, 2013.


Friday, July 19, 2013

Thou Shalt Not Judge

The other day I stopped at a bookstore and there was a gentleman sitting at a table on the patio.  I gave him a cheerful greeting and a smile.  He glanced at me quickly and didn’t say a word.  My first thought was to call him a very unspiritual name (yes, even I have my moments). As usual, Spirit gave me the spiritual smack on the back of the head and gently said, “Karen, you don’t know what’s going on in his life.  He may be severely depressed and just barely able to function, he may have gone through something traumatic, lost someone, or he could have been so taken back that someone would acknowledge his existence that he didn’t know what to say.  Remember, there’s always a bigger picture.  Be careful with those quick judgments.”  Yeah, I know, but sometimes those judgmental thoughts just sneak right on in there before I can stop them.  There’s a saying: “You may not be able to stop a bird from landing on your head, but you can stop it from building a nest.”

We all have those judgments that just pop right on in there.  It’s what we do with them after they do their popping.  Do we expound on them, or do we allow Spirit to gently guide us back into alignment with the consciousness of love?

Jesus said, “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. 7:1-2)  Jesus makes it very clear that we are not to judge others, and yet how many of us do?  So many think it’s our job to cast judgment on others and to tell others what God thinks about them.  We all do it to some degree.  Even me, though I know that spiritual smack will follow! 

We judge people because they may not believe as we do, they may look, dress, or live in ways we don’t approve, or they may come from a different religion, culture, political viewpoint, or whatever.  Many believe it’s up to us to set them straight; to live up to the way we think they should be.  That is not what Jesus or any of the other great spiritual teachers throughout time have taught!

It seems that so many people who call themselves Christians have taken Jesus’ teachings out of Christianity.  I want to make it clear that I’m not making a broad sweep statement.  There are many wonderful Christians who do follow the teachings of Jesus and who walk the talk.  It’s the ones who are speaking such hate towards others that are doing more harm than good.  I don’t know how many people I have spoken with who say they want nothing more to do with God or religion because of the hypocrisy they see in those who say they are speaking for God yet spew forth such negativity. 

When people judge, gossip, or bad mouth other people, whether on the airwaves or in print, it is more of a reflection of them than it is of those they are speaking about.  The barometer that I use is that I ask if they are speaking words of love, peace, kindness, and compassion.  If not, then they’re not speaking for the God whose foundation is love who is everyone’s God.

I love the diversity in this world and I thrive on it.  I have friends from all across the world who represent this wonderful diversity and I love every one of them.  My friends are Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, white, black, brown, red, gay, straight, Democrat, Republican, and many more representing all areas of this beautiful diversity in human beings.  They are the most decent, kindhearted, loving people I know.  I’m certainly not going to judge them because of our differences.  In fact, I embrace it and focus on what we have in common!  Mother Teresa said, “If you judge people, you have no time to love them.” 

There was a great YouTube video of Dustin Hoffman talking about how all his life he judged women by their appearances.  He even got teary-eyed when he mentioned his regret of all the great women he could have known if he would have seen past their looks.  I thought this was so inspiring!  How many of us miss out on the chance to meet some really wonderful people because we are sitting in judgment of our differences? 

It’s my sole responsibility to love all people unconditionally.  I may not be perfect at it, but I choose to follow Jesus’ teachings when he commanded us to love one another.  It’s all about the love, my friends.  All about the love.

Published in the Cookeville Herald Citizen July 19, 2013.


Friday, July 12, 2013

Being a Good Samaritan

Recently, I was driving down 111 when a car went racing by me just as a young deer started to cross the road.  The driver wasn’t paying attention and hit the little guy full on causing it to go flying high into the air and landing on the median shoulder.  The car kept going.  I stopped, and of course, I’m hysterically crying and called 911.  The little guy didn’t die so I went over to him as he struggled to get up.  I’m waving at traffic trying to warn them not knowing what side of the road he might try crossing.  It looked like he either broke his hip or leg.  He crossed the road from where he came and went into the woods.  A couple of officers stopped and they went into the woods to see if they could find him (for which I thank them profusely for being so kind to me and for trying to find the young buck).  They said they saw him, but he kept running from them; therefore, they couldn’t do anything.   The incident was extremely traumatic for both me and the young deer.

To add to this story, even though people saw me frantically waving to slow them down, not one person stopped to see if I needed help or to see if I was okay!  Granted, I know many people are afraid to stop and help anyone anymore.  On the other hand, have our lives become so busy that we can’t take the time to stop and help someone in need?  I always try to stop to help people, but I will admit that there have been times when I was afraid to stop; therefore, I called 911 to let them know of the situation.

The other day I was on Facebook and saw a great video that showed one person showing kindness to someone, and it started a domino effect where the people kept paying it forward.  Imagine my surprise when I read the comments under the video saying that there is no kindness in the world anymore!  I reposted the video with a comment saying that if you don’t see any kind acts anywhere, then stop complaining and start being kind!  Gandhi said “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”  So many of us complain about what’s wrong in the world, and yet we don’t help contribute to what’s right.  When did it become a rarity to be kind? 

The Bible tells a great parable about the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37).  Jesus had told an expert in the law to “Love your neighbor as yourself.”  The neighbor asked who his neighbor was, and Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’  Jesus then asked, “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”   The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”  Jesus then told him, “Go and do likewise.”

William Penn stated, “I expect to pass through life but once.  If therefore, there be any kindness I can show, or any good thing I can do to any fellow being, let me do it now, and not defer or neglect it, as I shall not pass this way again.”  And even Dr. Seuss had something to say on the subject:  “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better.  It’s not.”

It doesn’t take much to be a Good Samaritan.  Just start with one kindness, one person at a time.  You’d be surprised how all those kindnesses can add up and you’ll be making a huge difference in the lives of others and in the world.

Published in the Cookeville Herald Citizen newspaper July 12, 2103.


Friday, July 5, 2013

Universal Language of Love

Love (luh-vuh; English), Amor (ah-more; Spanish), Ask (ash-keh; Turkish),  Liefde (leaf-deh; Afrikkaans), Liebe (lee-buh; German), Gra (grah; Irish), Cinta (cheen-tah; Indonesian)…  No matter in what language you say the word “love,” it means the same thing.  Or does it?

The Oxford Dictionary defines love as, “an intense feeling of deep affection; a person or thing that one loves; feel a deep romantic or sexual attachment to (someone).”  Of course, even the different dictionaries have varying definitions. 

Then there is the concept of the four kinds of love that have been credited to C.S. Lewis’ book “The Four Loves.”  Based upon his writings, these are “Storage” (affection), Eros (romance), Phileo (friendship), and Agape (charity or unconditional love).

To take it even further, many say that God is love.  The problem is that many people put conditions on that love.  These conditions are man-made, and man (or women) will tell you who you should or should not love based upon their particular belief system and say they are speaking for God.  When Jesus spoke a new commandment for us to love one another, and to love our neighbors as ourselves, he never made any exceptions. 

When we say that God is love, we really don’t have the human terminology to explain just how infinite, magnificent, and wonderful this love really is!  It’s unconditional!  It’s all inclusive!  And this love is for everyone!  Trying to explain this love is like trying to explain God.  We all have our diverse definitions based upon our experiences with God and love. 

Recently, I read a great concept of love that really resonated with me.  The author suggested that love is a frequency.  You can call it the pure, unconditional, perfect love of Spirit, you can call it the “Christ Consciousness,” or you can call it God.   Again, let’s not get hung up on human terminology.  But once you become aware that you are this love, it changes your whole perspective on your life, on people, and the world around you.

If you take a sample from every single thing on earth (people, animals, nature, inanimate objects, etc.) and put it under the most powerful microscope, you will find that everything…and I mean everything…is made of the exact same “stuff.”  Energy.  That’s it!  Energy!   

Wayne Dyer once suggested taking the labels off of everyone and everything, and when you do, you realize it’s all one energy.  I tried this once.  I looked around me, took off all the labels, and it happened.  It only lasted for a second or two, but everything blended into everything else.  It was enough to make a really big impression on me as to how connected we all really are.

The Bible says “Let us make mankind in our image.”  Image meaning essence.  It was never intended to mean physical form.  God’s love is an essence/energy through everyone and everything!  We are made of the same energy!  We are made of and from that love! 

Father Joseph Langford (no relation) stated, “If we were to take all the love in every heart of everyone on earth, and add it to all the love of all those who ever existed throughout history, then add the love of all saints in heaven, and all the angels, seraphim and cherubim, and pour all that love into one heart, and direct that love on ourselves, it would still fall infinitely short of the love God is pouring out on each one of us, right now. Because God is infinite, his love is not divided, with each of us receiving but a portion. We each receive the totality, the fullness of divine love, twenty-four hours a day, every day of our lives.” 

For those who read my column, you know that I write a lot about love and how important it is to love everyone unconditionally regardless of color, race, religion, politics, sexual preference, walk of life, and so on. This is what all the great spiritual masters have taught throughout time.  I know it’s not always easy; trust me, I know.  But with everything going on in the world right now, I’m learning more and more just how important it is.  (This doesn’t mean that we condone harmful actions; people still need to be held accountable.)  It is only through love that we will achieve peace in the world.  Therefore, the more people who realize how much we really are that love, then maybe, just maybe, we can let our love shine and let it embrace all those around us.  And that, my friends, is God’s love.

Published in the Cookeville Herald Citizen newspaper July 5, 2013.