Thursday, December 24, 2015

The Way of Peace

"This is the way of peace:  Overcome evil with good, and falsehood with truth, and hatred with love."  Peace Pilgrim

From 1953 to 1981, beginning at the age of 45, a woman walked across North American, more than 25,000 miles on a mission for peace.   Her name was Mildred Lisette Norman and was she was known as the “Peace Pilgrim.”  Ms. Norman was a spiritual teacher (non-denominational), pacifist, mystic, and a vegetarian.  Regarding her mission for peace, she vowed to "remain a wanderer until mankind has learned the way of peace, walking until given shelter and fasting until given food.”  She walked across the United States for twenty-eight years.

Her fascinating journey began when she experienced a profound spiritual awakening.  She states, "Then in the midst of the struggle there came a wonderful mountaintop experience - the first glimpse of what the life of inner peace was like... The most important part of it was not the phenomena: the important part of it was the realization of the oneness of all creation. Not only all human beings - I knew before that all human beings are one. But now I knew also a oneness with the rest of creation. The creatures that walk the earth and the growing things of the earth. The air, the water, the earth itself. And, most wonderful of all, a oneness with that which permeates all and binds all together and gives life to all. A oneness with that which many would call God."

Along the way, she met thousands of people from every walk of life.  She was also interviewed on countless radio and TV stations across the country, as well as speaking at universities, high schools, civic clubs, churches, and more.  Ms. Norman was always more than willing to share her wisdom, message, and humor.

On July 7, 1981 while being driven to a speaking engagement, the car she was riding in was hit head on and she died instantly.  She was 73.  Because she was so well-loved by so many, her death was a devastating shock to all who knew and loved her.  Her message touched and changed thousands of lives. 

After her death, a small group of friends decided to put together a book about her message and what she stood for.  Writings for the book were obtained from her own words, newsletters, conversations, correspondence, and talks taped from many people over the years, as well as articles and other materials written about her.  The book is titled “Peace Pilgrim” and can be downloaded free at www.peacepilgrim.com/book/ebooks/PeacePilgrimBook.pdf.  I would highly recommend reading more about this spectacular human being.

The Peace Pilgrim set a great example for us as to how we can achieve peace in a world of chaos.  When I read of her journey, it’s easy for me to think that my journey is nothing compared to hers and that I have so much more work to do to bring love and peace to the world, but she gives me something to aspire to.  I do know that I will take her message to heart and work harder on myself because it is only when we find peace within ourselves that we can find and bring peace to the world.

There is a lot of chaos in the world right now, especially when it comes to religion and politics.  It’s easy to lose hope and to think that things will never change.  But they can change and that change begins with each of us. 

In the words of the Peace Pilgrim, I leave you with more of her beautiful messages:

“Of course, I love everyone I meet. How could I fail to? Within everyone is the spark of God. I am not concerned with racial or ethnic background or the color of one’s skin; all people look to me like shining lights! I see in all creatures the reflection of God. All people are my kinfolk—people to me are beautiful!  We people of the world need to find ways to get to know one another…for then we will recognize that our likenesses are so much greater than our differences, however great our differences may seem. Every cell, every human being, is of equal importance and has work to do in this world.”

“In order to help usher in the golden age we must see the good in people. We must know it is there, no matter how deeply it may be buried. Yes, apathy is there and selfishness is there – but good is there also. It is not through judgment that the good can be reached, but through love and faith.”

“The way of peace is the way of love. Love is the greatest power on earth. It conquers all things.”  

Published in the Cookeville Herald Citizen newspaper December 24, 2015.


Saturday, December 19, 2015

Beliefs Are Just Beliefs

When I was young, there was a TV show called “The Courtship of Eddie’s Father.”  There was an episode that left an impression on me to this day.  I cannot remember the specifics, but it must have been about what people believe and how everyone believes something different.  The son must have been asking his dad about the differing beliefs to which his father replied, “What a person believes…is.” 

Beliefs are only beliefs and they are based upon a person’s upbringing, religion, culture, experiences, and where they live in the world.  Even within those same parameters, people have varying beliefs. 

There was a time when I believed that my beliefs were the only right way and everyone else was wrong.  My religion taught me that anyone who didn’t believe the way I did was going to a place called hell.  I was told by one minister that if anyone I knew died before being saved, then it was my fault that they went to hell.  Talk about a burden!  After that, I tried desperately to force my religious beliefs on all my friends and relatives.  It’s a wonder they all didn’t disown me and I know I turned some people off. 

Then in the early 80’s, life happened and I got knocked off my holy high horse.  I had to re-examine what I believed, as I found that my past beliefs no longer worked because their foundation was not based on unconditional love.  Instead, they were steeped in judgment, fear, and separation. 

About that time, I was led from within to read Shirley MacLaine’s books.  Before then I wouldn’t even touch them because I was taught from some churches that if I read them, something really horrible would happen to me.  After working up my courage, I read all of her books.  Not only did nothing bad happen to me, but my spiritual journey began to take off at hyper-speed.  Ms. MacLaine taught me one of the biggest lessons in my life.  She taught me to keep an open mind in ALL things.  Since then, the wisdom and knowledge I started gaining was extraordinary. 

I began to learn to love and accept people as they are and to love them unconditionally.  I learned not to judge as there is always a bigger picture and we don’t always know someone’s story or what they’re going through.  I learned that people who harm others (physically, emotionally, or spiritually) are in some kind of pain and are living in fear.  I learned that no matter what our color, race, religion, culture, or sexual preference, we’re all made of the exact same energy.  I learned to respect others’ beliefs even though they may not resonate with my own.  I also learned that in the realm of everything there is to know, I don’t know anything.  By keeping an open mind, I’m amazed at all that I have been learning.  Since then, I’ve felt so much more love, compassion, and understanding for all people.

To be clear, I am so not perfect at all of this and it’s always going to be a life-long lesson.  I slip up more times than I want to admit.  I sometimes find myself hating the haters and judging the judgers.  But when I do, and if I’m listening to that still small voice within, she’ll set me straight every time and it’s always with love. 

My beliefs have changed drastically over the years and my beliefs continue to change as I grow and become more enlightened.  I can definitely learn from others, but I can also think for myself and develop my own beliefs which are always based in unconditional love.  I no longer have to believe something just because someone else told me I should.  It’s perfectly okay to question our beliefs or what others are telling us to believe.  Once I started thinking for myself, it was unbelievable how much I learned that wasn’t true (especially when it comes to what is or isn’t in the Bible and about other religions).  I learned that I can have my own beliefs while respecting and learning from other beliefs.  Talk about the truth setting me free!

Dodinsky said, “Always remember we all have our own opinions and beliefs. We have different ways in dealing with life's troubles and joys. To survive our differences without hurting each other is what GOODNESS is all about.”  And as Rumi stated, “I belong to no religion.  My religion is love.  Every heart is my temple.” 

Published in the Cookeville Herald Citizen newspaper December 18, 2015.

Friday, December 11, 2015

A Child Shall Lead the Way

Little Timmy was eight years old and both his parents, Joe and Patty, loved him more than life itself. They knew that when he was born, he would be special.  They agreed that they would raise him right, take him to church, and would always tell him the truth.  They also agreed to try to shield him from as much as they could from all that was going on in the world, at least until he was old enough to understand.

One night, they put him to bed and Timmy fell into a deep, peaceful sleep.  A few hours later, Timmy woke his parents up with the most blood curling screams.  They rushed to his room and scooped him up into their arms while trying to awaken him from whatever nightmare he may be experiencing.  After they were able to calm him down, they asked if he was having a bad dream.  He cried, “I was so scared!  There were so many bad people all around me and I was trying to kill all of them!  There was blood everywhere!  It was awful!”  Horrified at the thought that their son was dreaming about killing people at such a young age, they asked him why he would have such a dream.  Whimpering, he continued.  “I heard you talking with others at church about how bad gays, Muslims, immigrants, and others were and that we should get rid of them all.  So I was just trying to help make them go away.”

Joe and Patty looked at each other shocked that Timmy would overhear them speaking of such things and that it had impacted him so deeply.  They were at a loss as to what to say, so they decided to wait until morning to discuss it further.  After a few minutes, Timmy drifted back to sleep.

The next morning, Joe and Patty were surprised to see Timmy in such good spirits and thought maybe he had forgotten his nightmare.  Joe asked him how he slept and he replied, “After I fell back to sleep, Jesus came to me and we talked all about my nightmare.  He said it made him sad that I heard adults talking such nonsense and that it caused me to have such a bad dream.” 

Timmy was encouraged to tell them more.  “Jesus told me that it really hurts him when he sees people on earth treating each other so badly.  He even had tears in his eyes so I wiped them away with my sleeve.  He said that this is not the way he wanted the world to be and had hoped more people would have taken his teachings to heart to love one another.  But too many religions became controlled by too many men and they forgot his teachings, as well as the teachings of other spiritual masters of other religions.  I told him that I was not allowed to love people of other religions, especially people like Mohammed and Buddha, but Jesus said that even they were his brothers.  All of us on earth are brothers and sisters.”
  
Joe and Patty looked at each other dumbfounded!  Hearing Timmy speak the words of Jesus in his dream caused them to stop and think exactly what it was they were teaching their precious son.  Were they really teaching him to hate others just because of perceived differences?  They hear about so many young people going out and shooting and hurting so many people because of the hate they were taught.  Could Timmy someday turn out to be one of those?  Were they teaching Timmy to have such a dark view of others and of the world?  What kind of life would Timmy have if they continued to teach him to dislike or even hate other people just because they have a different skin color, are from a different race, religion, culture, or have a different sexual preference?

From that moment forward, they decided to really take a hard look at their beliefs.  They went back to the Bible and studied the words of Jesus for themselves and found that he didn’t say a lot of the things they were being told he said.  Jesus was all about unconditional love for all people.  This must be what having a spiritual awakening is like!  Awakening to the truth of unconditional love!

They hugged Timmy and promised him that they would work harder at loving people more and accepting them just as they are.  Smiling, Timmy exclaimed, “Just like Jesus said we should!”

“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.”   Marianne Williamson 

Published in the Cookeville Herald Citizen newspaper December 11, 2015.


Saturday, December 5, 2015

There's Good News in the World!!!

Guess what, friends?!?  There is good happening everywhere!  There are so many people doing so much good and who are being of service to humanity!  People are working hard to uplift our fellow beings in great and small ways, even if only one person at a time! 

Need some proof?  Just look at websites such as “The Good News Network” at www.goodnewsnetwork.org, “The Daily Good” at www.dailygood.org, “Positive News” at www.positivenewsus.org, “The Optimist” at www.theoptimist.com, and countless others.  There are even many video montages of film clips showing people coming to the aid of their fellow beings.

The purpose of these sites is to report the good news from all over the world. Their stories are uplifting, inspiring, hopeful, and full of positive and loving news!  They show news that is not shown in main stream media.  Main stream media focuses on the negative news in our country and around the world, and that’s sad because it gives people the impression and beliefs that there is only bad happening.  People watching or listening see and hear about all the violence and corruption and they become cynical, many losing hope that good could ever happen anywhere.  Some media and talk show hosts even promote hate and violence because they report from their own personal biased and narrow-minded beliefs and for their own personal agendas.

But there is so much more good than bad!  There are many stories of people helping each other on a grand scale.  There are stories about those from various religions all over the world coming together to promote love, peace, and harmony and who are supporting and protecting each other.  Wealthy people and corporations are using their money to help where needed.  (Not all are greedy and selfish; we just don’t hear about their good deeds.)  Thousands upon thousands all over the world are meeting together to meditate for love and peace!

People are also doing things on a smaller scale.  One story that warmed my heart was about a seven year old boy named Jack who gave all the money in his piggy bank to a Mosque in Texas which had recently been vandalized (the child was non-Muslim).  He only had $20, but to the people of the Mosque, it was a fortune.  Since then, many in the community from all races and religions have come together to help.

Another story was of a woman on a subway who saw a homeless woman with no shoes.  Even though it was cold, she took off her boots and gave them to the woman.  A man who witnessed the act of kindness took warm socks out of his gym bag and gave them to the donor to wear home.  A shoe store found out about it, they gave her a free shopping spree, and she gave everything to the homeless.

People are out there feeding the hungry, giving clothes to those in need, and shelter to those who need a roof over their head.  People from all walks of life are going out of their way to do what they can to help others regardless of a person’s color, race, religion, politics, sexual preference, culture, or whatever.  Good sees only through the eyes of love.  There are even stories of people helping animals and our beautiful Mother Earth. 

How do we see and find the good?  Look for it!  Focus on it!  The more you do, the more you’ll see.  There are countless videos on YouTube that show people doing good, many risking their lives to save the lives of others regardless of who they are. You don’t even have to search further than looking around you where you are at this very moment.  The more you see, the more you’ll believe that there is so much more good than not and that love is winning! 

It also comes down to our thoughts and beliefs.  Are they loving, positive, and optimistic?  Or are they hateful, negative, and pessimistic?  Are you addicted to and constantly watching all the bad news?  Where are you putting your focus?  What energy are you feeding?  Furthermore, it’s also important to be aware of how you see yourself.  Krishna Saagar said, “You don't see the world as it is, you see it as you are.” 

The world is a beautiful place, and you are part of that beauty, even if you can’t see it right now.  Jawaharlal Nehru said, “We live in a wonderful world that is full of beauty, charm, and adventure. There is no end to the adventures that we can have if only we seek them with our eyes open.”  As Louis Armstrong once sang, “And I think to myself…What a wonderful world.”  And that it is, my friends.  That it is. 

Published in the Cookeville Herald Citizen December 4, 2015.




Saturday, November 28, 2015

A Heavy Heart

As I sit here writing, my heart feels heavy.  My heart cries out for all the victims of the recent terrorist attacks no matter where they occurred; for their families, friends, and neighbors who are affected by these great tragedies; to all those who are living in fear, not only of further attacks, but for those who are living in fear for their lives and well-being because they are wrongly being associated with the terrorists; and my heart cries for all those who are falling victim to all the hate and fear propaganda being spread by politicians, religious leaders, and others, not only in other countries, but in America as well.

It would be hard for many Americans to even imagine what it would be like to be ripped from their families, their homes, losing everything they have, and to have their lives drastically changed in an instant.  We in America have been fortunate in that we have rarely had to experience the genocides, wars, and terrorist attacks that other countries consistently undergo.    

We know that the early American Indians experienced genocide and thousands upon thousands of Indians were forced into slavery and/or slaughtered. Those who lived were forced to move and live on Indian reservations and to suffer intolerable conditions. 

Black slavery in our country began in the early 1600’s when the first African slaves were shipped to North America.  Countless slaves were beaten, raped, and/or murdered.  Even though we’ve come a long way since then, many blacks still experience bigotry.

In the 1930’s, there was the holocaust in Germany where millions of Jews, gypsies, disabled, mentally ill, and others, were yanked from their homes, put in concentration camps, and millions were sent to their deaths in ovens and gas chambers.  Even though this didn’t happen in our country, it concerned many here who had families losing their lives in these atrocities.

In the 1940’s, here in America during WWII, over 127,000 Japanese, including women and children, were ordered to relocate to concentration camps.  Almost two-thirds were Japanese Americans and had never even been to Japan.  If they tried to flee, they would be shot.

These are only a few examples from our history and are nothing to be proud of.

Today, there are those who want to rip over 11,000 million men, woman, and children from their homes forcing them to be refugees in another country.  They want all Muslim-Americans to register with a database, and/or mandate that they carry special identification cards to note their faith, even though it has been proven over and over that the majority have nothing to do with the terrorists, and most Muslims are condemning the actions of those who are killing in the name of their religion.  There are also those who are literally calling for the deaths of others who they do not agree with just because of a difference in beliefs and/or lifestyles.

How soon we forget.  Many claim that we are a Christian nation, but the words and actions from so many are making us anything but.  I am not meaning for this to be political; instead, I’m writing this as a humanitarian and compassionate issue. 

I’ve said it numerous times before, but Jesus commanded us to love one another.  When the teachings of Jesus are taken out of Christianity, then it is no longer a religion whose foundation is Jesus.  It becomes a man-made religion based on man’s personal beliefs, prejudices, and agendas.  Jesus said, “…whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”  He also said, “Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples." 

We need to stop demonizing and dehumanizing our beautiful brothers and sisters on this great planet Mother Earth.  It is only fear and ignorance that is separating us.  Do not let those living in total fear brainwash us into destroying the lives of whole groups of people.  When would it stop?  The next time, it could be any one of us!

Even though it seems that so much ‘evil’ is happening in the world, in reality, there is so much more good happening than not, and so many people doing more good than not!  On top of that, all these tragedies are uniting people all over the globe and it’s teaching us to love!  We’re just not hearing about it in mainstream media!  Please do not give up on humanity!  Love will prevail!

Nelson Mandela said, “Our human compassion binds us the one to the other, not in pity or patronizingly, but as human beings who have learnt how to turn our common suffering into hope for the future.”  Sending love and light to all the world over! 

Published in the Cookeville Herald Citizen newspaper November 27, 2015.


Saturday, November 21, 2015

The Holidays Have Arrived!

It’s that time of year again!  The holidays have arrived!  We’re coming up on Thanksgiving and then Christmas is just around the corner!  I love the Spirit of the holidays!  People are usually kinder, they go out of their way to help others, and there are countless festive celebrations all across the globe.  The Spirit of Love seems stronger and can soften even some of the most hardened hearts. 

Sadly, also during the holidays, the drama about there being a war on Christmas rears its ugly head, people start getting nasty with each other, and the Spirit of Christmas goes right out the frosty window.  Friends, there is no war on Christmas.  The only war on Christmas is the one being perpetuated by those who are saying there is a war on Christmas.  If there was an actual war on Christmas, there would be a Federal law banning it and anyone caught celebrating in any way would be arrested and thrown into prison.  Calling it a war is an insult to anyone who has ever fought and/or died in an actual religious war where there were bombings, shootings, countless deaths, and people’s lives being torn apart. 

Starting even before we get through Halloween, Christmas decorations start going up and stores begin promoting their holiday products.  Lights go up outside of homes.  Nativity scenes and other Christmas characters are put in yards.  There are Christmas movies galore on TV.  About every other commercial is about Christmas.  Santa Clauses appear everywhere.  People wear Christmas clothes and jewelry.  Look anywhere and you will see the signs of Christmas.  (Anyone remember when none of this would start until the day after Thanksgiving?)

What we can’t do is to force a religion or holiday onto anyone else.  We can certainly have our beliefs and celebrations while at the same time showing respect for others to do the same with theirs.  It is more important to have Christmas in our hearts than all the outward trimmings.  Love, peace, kindness, and compassion are all a part of this Spirit and it comes from within.  You will know those who understand the true Spirit of Christmas by their words and actions.   Christmas should only be about the love; the love that Jesus taught.  And isn’t Christmas supposed to be about celebrating Jesus’ birth?  Isn’t Jesus called “The Prince of Peace?”  Don’t we say “Peace on earth, goodwill toward men?”  Shouldn’t love and peace be the priority during the holiday season?

If we can get rid of all the Christmas trees, decorations, movies, commercials, gift giving, Santa Clauses, etc., as well as stop fighting and arguing about whose holiday we should celebrate, what greeting we should say, and what decorations should be displayed, then we can truly understand the real Spirit of Christmas.   To be clear, there are many people who do understand the true Spirit of Christmas and can still have all that goes with it.  They know that the true Spirit means loving one another, honoring everyone’s holidays, and respecting their right to do so.  Many even joyfully share with each other their various celebrations!

There are also other holidays during this season.  Hanukkah, Bodhi Day, Kwanzaa, Ramadan, Eid al-Fitr, Omisoka, Yule, and numerous others.  Yet we rarely hear about any of these anywhere, if at all.  They know the true Spirit of their holidays and they know they don’t have to be commercialized to be enjoyed. 

Let us please stop this nonsense over the most ridiculous issues (including a red coffee cup; it’s just a cup!).  Let’s come together in the true Spirit of Christmas and all the other holidays and love one another.  Say whatever greeting you believe in saying, but if someone should say a different greeting to you, please respect their right to do so.  In the spirit of love, maybe you could even say theirs and yours together in return!  And please don’t correct them to say the greeting you think they should say.  How many of us have had someone get spiteful with us because we didn’t say their preferred greeting?  Not everyone is a Christian, nor does everyone celebrate Christmas, and that’s their right.

Ruth Carter Stapleton said, “Christmas is most truly Christmas when we celebrate it by giving the light of love to those who need it most.”  And Calvin Coolidge stated, “Christmas is not a time nor a season, but a state of mind. To cherish peace and goodwill, to be plenteous in mercy, is to have the real spirit of Christmas.”


Published in the Cookeville Herald Citizen newspaper November 20, 2015.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

In the Beginning....

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”  Genesis 1:1

There are many theories and beliefs regarding how the Universe and our Earth came into existence.  Some believe in the Big Bang Theory where life exploded into being and it just took off from there.  Others believe that there is a Supreme Being (in the form of a man) who made the Earth and everything on it and that it has nothing to do with the Big Bang Theory.  Many will fight and argue over who is right and who is wrong, but when it comes down to it, there is absolutely no proof as to how life in the Universe began.  Does it really matter?  Couldn’t it be that it’s all in some ways true? 

There are also various beliefs/theories as to how human beings came into existence.  Some believe in the Theory of Human Evolution in that man came from apes.  Others believe in the Biblical account in that we came from Adam and Eve.  Again, there is no absolute proof of either other than our beliefs.  Again, couldn’t it be that it’s all in some ways true?

Most people are not aware that there are two stories of Adam and Eve in the Bible.  In the first account, the creatures were made first.  Then God said, “Let US make man-kind in OUR image…” and he made male and female (humans) at the exact same time.  The second story is the one most people believe in which Adam was made first, then animals, and then God took one of Adam’s ribs to make Eve.  So, which version is true?  Again, does it really matter? 

Many people believe that Adam and Eve were the very first two humans on the earth, and then they had two sons, Cain and Abel.  From there, everyone else was made.  Really think about this as to how they may have multiplied.  Later, Cain killed Abel.  Cain then left Eden and went to the land of Nod where he made love to his wife.  Where did Nod come from if Eden was the first and only beginning and where did he find a wife to marry?

The reason I mention this is that everyone has their beliefs about how life and human beings began, and people are very passionate about what they believe to be true.  Since there is no absolute proof, can’t we just respect each other’s beliefs and stop the fighting and arguing?  My answer to people who want to argue about something that happened in the past (where this is no proof) is “I don’t know; I wasn’t there.”

We’re here now!  We can no longer live in the past and expect it to define us.   We are not our stories whether it’s our own generations or generations past. 

Here’s what I personally believe…  It is beyond my comprehension how anything can come into existence from nothingness.  However it started, it started from the Source of the All-That-Is (God or whatever you choose to call it).  That one Spark of the Divine blew us into existence and is within each and every one of us, as well as within everything in the Universe, and it was all made from that one Divine Spark.  That means if that God Spark multiplied, then God is in us and we are in God; therefore, that makes each of us a part of God so we can’t be anything but the essence of God!  Do you even realize how magnificent and spectacular that makes each and every one of us!?!

Some religions believe we are born into sin and are always sinners.  Did you know the original Biblical definition of “sin” was an archery term meaning to “miss the mark?”  You missed the target!  Somehow, it was adapted to mean a bad human being.  We cannot be bad or sinners when we were made from the very substance of Source!  Some also say that we need to work for God’s grace.  Friends, we don’t need God’s grace; we ARE God’s grace!!!

In the beginning, Source made everything and then said it was all good!  The only thing keeping us from believing we are good is our beliefs that we are not!  We can learn from the past, but let’s move forward knowing that we ARE the pure, unconditional, perfect love of the Universe!  Stop the fighting and arguing!  We’re all on this planet together and we really are all a part of each other.  Literally!

As Billy Fingers said, “The same intelligence that grows trees from seeds, that lets birds fly, that waves the ocean, and gives birth to new stars…that same Intelligence also breathes your breath, beats your heart, and heals your wounds.”

Published in the Cookeville Herald Citizen newspaper November 13, 2015.


Saturday, November 7, 2015

An Adventure of Blissful Transformation

One day, God was walking through the world to see how his children were doing.  He came upon an old monk who had spent his entire adult life practicing mental and physical disciplines.  Because the monk had gained a certain level of clarity, he realized that the man casually walking by was fully aware of his inner Divine Self.  Rising from his meditation pose, he bowed before God and asked, “Great-Souled One!  I see you are an illumined master!  Please tell me how long it will be before I realize my inner Divine Nature!” 

God smiled and replied, “You are doing well, my son!  At this rate, you will achieve your inner Divine Self with just one more lifetime.”  The monk was appalled at the thought of having to go through another lifetime of boredom and pain, and lashed out at God calling him a fraud.  God smiled tenderly at him and walked on.

Soon, God came upon a simpleton who was splashing in the river, laughing, and singing.  He loved God and life so much and didn’t care about his personal needs.  The simpleton noticed the stranger smiling at him, came out of the water, bowed before him, and said, “How wonderful!  God has sent to me a Great-Souled One!  I have been enjoying myself so much that I nearly forgot that I have a purpose.  My quest is to realize enlightenment, but I have become distracted by the constant joy welling up inside of me.  Seeing you reminded me.  Could you please tell me how long it will be before I realize my inner Divine Nature?”

God laughed and replied, “You are doing well, my son!  At this rate, you will realize your inner Divine Self with just seventy more lifetimes!”  The simpleton cried out with glee, “Seventy lifetimes more?!?  How wonderful!”  He was filled with so much joy at the prospect of another seventy lifetimes of such bliss that the last doubt he ever had disappeared and he attained the highest state of enlightenment instantly! 

(This story was modified from the book “Ascension!” by MSI.)

How many of us work very hard to become so enlightened that we forget to just enjoy life as it comes?  I’m sometimes guilty of this myself.  I’m a sponge for wisdom and knowledge and there’s so much I want to learn, that I sometimes forget to just let the joy flow. 

Life can be hard for so many people and my heart goes out to them.  How can we feel joy and happiness in the midst of such turmoil?  I have a saying:  “You don’t have to be happy with your circumstances, but you can be happy in your circumstances.”  Is it easy?  For some…maybe.  It’s just we humans who make it so difficult.  We think that life has to be a certain way before we can be happy, but we have it backwards.  We should feel happy and joyful, and that in turn, will attract so much more good into our lives.  Count our blessings and be grateful for all the good we do currently have and experience.

The problem is that we want everyone around us to change first before we can feel joy and happiness.  We blame the outside world for our feelings.  If you’re always waiting on someone or something outside yourself to transform, then you never will find that joy within.  Gandhi says “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”  Don’t wait for others to change.  Ride the adventure of blissful transformation!  Yes, you’ll have your ups and downs, but the more you practice, the more up’s you will experience.

I’m basically a happy person, but even I have my days where I don’t even want to face the world.  Yet I’ve experienced those moments of total spiritual bliss where I feel at one with God (Universe) and everyone and everything in the world.  I’ve felt that connection with the pure, unconditional, perfect love of the All-That-Is, which flows through all in life.  I know what it feels like even though I can’t always stay in that state of mind.  Since I’ve felt it and know what it feels like, it gives me something to aspire to.  The more I try to aspire to it, then the more I feel it.  It’s possible for all of us to be in that state, just like the simpleton in the story above who had nothing. 

Lao Tzu said, “If you want to awaken all of humanity, then awaken all of yourself.  If you want to eliminate the suffering in the world, then eliminate all that is dark and negative in yourself.  Truly, the greatest gift you have to give is that of your own self-transformation.”

Published in the Cookeville Herald Citizen newspaper November 6, 2015.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

We All Lean Towards Love

Recently, the Parliament of the World’s Religions met in Salt Lake City.  According to their website, “The Parliament is the oldest, the largest, and the most inclusive gathering of people of all faith and traditions.  Too often, religion is misused as an instrument for division and injustice, betraying the very ideals and teachings that lie at the heart of each of the world's great traditions. At the same time, religious and spiritual traditions shape the lives of billions in wise and wonderful ways. They gather people in communities of shared beliefs and practices. When these diverse communities work in harmony for the common good, there is hope that the world can be transformed.” 

Religions for Peace’s motto is, “Different Faiths, Common Action.”  According to their website, their Vision of Peace states, “Peace is more than the absence of war.  Religions for Peace advances a positive vision of peace as shared security.  It is a vision based on moral principles that are deeply held, and widely shared, by the world’s faith traditions:  the fundamental unity of the human family and the equality and dignity of all human beings.  Religions for Peace engages religious minorities and majorities in the effort to promote religious freedom, pluralism, and shared understanding. Our multi-religious coalitions cultivate respect for diverse religious beliefs and practices, and stand together in solidarity against violence and hatred.”

The Peace Council on their website stated that the Dalai Lama said, “The Peace Council is a diverse group of religious and spiritual individuals who are internationally known and respected and who have decided to come together, to understand one another and work together so that those of us who profess belief in our respective faiths can work for the common cause of humanity.” Their mission “is to demonstrate that peace is possible, and that effective interreligious collaboration to make peace also is possible. In a world where religion too often is used to justify division, hatred, and violence, and very seldom used to relieve these problems, the Peace Councilors offer an alternative:  the example of religious leaders working effectively together to relieve suffering and make the world whole.”

The Universal Peace Federation states on their website, “This age of globalization needs enlightened leaders in each faith who can examine their sacred writings and traditions and identify the aspects that can benefit all humanity as well as those that preserve each religion's identity. UPF calls on people of faith to honor the Divine indwelling in a way that encourages understanding, respect, and cooperation among people of all faiths for the well-being of our communities and peace in the world.”

These are only a few of the wonderful organizations around the world consisting of representatives and others from all religions coming together in peace and harmony.  They hold meetings and conferences where ordinary people like you and me can attend in order to meet, get to know each other, and learn about each others’ religions and faiths.  They share, laugh, learn, and are united for the greater good.

Oprah Winfrey’s TV network OWN is presenting a wonderful and informative series titled “Belief.”  The show explores humankind’s desire to connect with something greater than themselves.  It’s a fascinating series that teaches us about the diversity of our religions and how we all have a lot more in common than we know.  Per her website, ““Belief” searches the origins of diverse faiths and the heart of what really matters.”   I would highly recommend watching.  (They’re being repeated on OWN).

It’s happening, my friends!  People are coming together in love and peace from all the world religions (including those who are not religious)!  Christians, Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, and so many others, are uniting in brother/sisterhood.  The problem is that we’re not hearing about it in the media or from many pulpits.  Hate, fear, and violence sell, which also keeps people in chains under the guise of religion, and that keeps us separate.

We can come together without giving up our beliefs or our religions!  We need only open our hearts and minds to embrace diversity and know that unconditional love is really all that matters.  We can be kind and compassionate to each other regardless of any perceived differences!

Hans K√ľng said, "There will be peace on earth when there is peace among the world religions.”  Our religions should be setting an example!  We should be living the teachings of our spiritual masters!  We can unite for the good off all!   It’s happening and it begins with each of us reaching out to each other in the spirit of peace and harmony!

“What we all have in common is an appreciation of kindness and compassion, all the religions have this.  We all lean towards love.”  Richard Gere

Published in the Cookeville Herald Citizen newspaper October 30, 2015.


Saturday, October 24, 2015

The Enemy Is Fear

“The enemy is fear.  We think it is hate, but it is fear.”  Gandhi

“Fear is the path to the dark side.  Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, and hate leads to suffering.”  Yoda

In early American history, people feared the Natives so much that they committed genocide against thousands.  Those who were left were forced to move onto reservations.  When I lived on an Indian reservation in the late 70’s, I was appalled to hear missionaries still calling them savages!  The families I lived with and got to know became my family and I came to love all Native Americans, their spirituality, and their culture.

Through fear, Hitler brainwashed almost a whole country into committing genocide against Jews, the disabled, and so many others just because of a difference in beliefs.  What most don’t know is that Hitler claimed to be a Christian and was only doing the work of God.  I’ve known many Jewish people and my best friend in grade school was Jewish.

When I lived in California, I had a roommate who was Mexican.  She invited me to a very large family event.  I didn’t know who was legal or illegal, if any were illegal at all.  I just know that I fell in love with her family and their culture.

At one time, I was very homophobic and was taught to believe that all LGBT’s were evil…until I began meeting and getting to know those who were gay or transgendered.  Since then, I’ve met and known countless LGBT’s and today many are some of my closest friends.  Some say that gay marriages are a threat to traditional marriages, but I would think that divorce and infidelity would be a bigger threat than any gay marriage ever could be.  These are mentioned in the Bible, but you never hear anyone go after or try to enact laws against those who get divorced and/or remarried or who cheat on their spouses. 

Before 9/11, I was fortunate to have friends who were Muslim so I already knew that not “all Muslims are terrorists” as so many have been told to believe.  The Islamic Center in Murfreesboro used to have a monthly picnic where they invited anyone in the community to come meet and get to know them.  A friend and I went to one and we met some of the most loving and amazing people.  In 2012, I was personally invited to the grand opening of their Mosque where the Assistant Attorney General Thomas E. Perez was one of the key speakers, and it was an honor to share that moment with them.  Everyone, including the Imam, was super nice.  In fact, I have yet to meet a Muslim I didn’t like.   Extremist Muslims do not represent all Muslims any more than extremist Christians represent all Christians.

What a lot of people don’t realize is that Muslims highly respect and revere Jesus.  In fact, Jesus is mentioned more times in the Qur’an than the prophet Muhammad.  Whenever Muhammad and Jesus’ names are said or written by Muslims, they always add “Peace Be Upon Him” after both names.  I don’t mean for this to be a lesson on Islam, but after doing my research, I found we have a lot more in common than not. 

It is sad that people have to demonize and dehumanize groups of people to justify their fear, which in turn leads to hate, and all we do is end up suffering.  It’s time to stop the fear and hate!

The point is, when we get past the fear of other people, cultures, and/or religions and actually get to know people as human beings, we find that there really isn’t anything to fear and that we can find a lot of commonality.  My suggestion would be to get rid of the negative labels we put on people, open your heart, see people through the eyes of love, and get to know our fellow brothers and sisters on this great planet called Mother Earth!  All the people that I’ve met from the groups above have blessed me greatly just because they are in my life, and so many have given me the wonderful gift of friendship.

Marianne Williamson said, “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.”

“There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear.”  1 John 4:18

Published in the Cookeville Herald Citizen newspaper October 23, 2015.


Friday, October 16, 2015

Wisdom to Grow

It’s hard to believe that I have been writing for the Herald Citizen for five years already!  In that time, I’ve grown right along with everyone else, learning to practice what I teach and to walk my talk.  It’s not always easy.  I have high expectations of myself and I aspire to be the greatest expression of who I was meant to be, as we all should.  Many times, I fall short and I am harder on myself than anyone else could ever be.  Yet I enjoy sharing what I have learned in my own life in the hopes that it might help someone else along the way.  

Some friends who know me well, and know what I believe and teach, encourage me to become even braver in what I write because I take religion and beliefs out of the box.  What I write will not be received by everyone.  There are those who follow my writings and have been very supportive.  Then there are those who don’t agree, which is perfectly fine.  I will never tell anyone what to do or what to believe.  I can only share what I believe and what I’ve learned for myself.  My advice is that if you don’t agree with what someone writes, then don’t read it. 

There is so much more I would like to write, but I always hesitate because of those who might disagree.  I don’t like conflict and avoid it if at all possible.  I’m a peacekeeper.  I love people and I love life.  My purpose is to lift people up, to encourage, and to share the love I have for all of humanity.  Not everyone agrees with my beliefs and they can be quite…um…passionate in expressing their opinions of how wrong they think I am.  Bless ‘em!  You will also never hear me say that I am right and everyone else is wrong.  I can only teach what I know and believe at this time in my life, and what I know and believe changes as I grow and learn.

I’m a seeker and a sponge for knowledge to learn the wisdom and teachings from many religions and faiths.  I am also a voracious reader and have read hundreds of books about various religions and spiritual beliefs, as well as writings from many inspirational authors up through today’s day and times.  We did not stop learning and growing after the Bible was put together.  The Bibles and holy texts from the many religions teach us many wonderful things, but we don’t have to limit our learning just from these sacred writings alone.  There were thousands of other writings written in Biblical times that we are aware of and we continue to find others.  These are just as valid and sacred as those that were gathered into what we know as our Bibles today.

We continue to evolve and grow as spiritual beings.  Information is continually given to us through prayer, meditation, intuition, and many other sources.  The Universal God is always speaking to us and continues to give us messages to help us learn and remember who we really are.  We all have the spark of the Divine within each and every one of us, and that wisdom is available to all who wish to discover it.  We only need to open our hearts and minds to receive whatever is given to us freely. 

I think it is beautiful how so many different religions are coming together to love and support each other in peace and harmony.  We can either use our religions to destroy each other and our world, or we can come together and re-create a world where we live in love and peace with each other, as well as respect any differences in beliefs.

While reading “The Laws of Spirit” by Dan Millman, I came across this great quote from one of the characters:  “I’ve sat in the shining temples of the Israelites and under the glorious spires of the mosques of Islam; I’ve knelt in the great cathedrals and bathed in the light of Christendom; I’ve sat in the sweat lodges and passed the pipe, lived as a shaman on the African plains, meditated in Buddhist temples, and inhaled the sweet aroma of incense on the banks of the Ganges. And everywhere, I’ve found the same Spirit in all religions…a Divine Will that transcends time, belief, and culture…revealing the universal laws that are the treasure of God.”

James Twyman said, “I believe that each and every human being on Earth has both the responsibility and the privilege of viewing themselves as Divine beings with the power to bring about peace.”  The Spiritual Shift is happening and when we all come together as one, love and peace will prevail. 


Published in the Cookeville Herald Citizen newspaper October 16, 2015.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

The Art of Conversation


Whether people realize it or not, there is an art to conversation.  It’s a skill that isn’t normally taught and is usually learned by trial and error only by those wishing to gain those skills.  One of the greatest ‘secrets’ to the art of conversation is listening…really listening to what the other person is saying.  But how many of us actually do listen?  Typically, people are already thinking of what they’re going to say next before the person they’re talking to is even finished with what they were saying.  

How many of us have talked with someone who completely hogs the conversation, not letting you get a word in edgewise, and when you think there’s a slight gap for you to finally say something, they suddenly start in again?  Or worse, they constantly interrupt you when you are speaking.  And then there are those who won’t let you get away because they can’t stop talking! Those types of conversations are very draining to the one whose ear is being bent. What the gabber doesn’t realize is that people start avoiding them because they don’t want to be corralled into their constant gabbing, especially if it’s negative and self-serving.  I know when I’m really tired or nervous, I either get very quiet or I become quite the gabber, so even I have to be aware of my conversations.

One of the problems today is that more and more people, particularly our younger generations, are not talking face-to-face anymore and are relying on cell phones, tablets, and social media to interact with others.  It’s challenging to have conversations with people who are constantly on their cell phones even while you’re talking to them.  Look at people out in public, students at colleges and high schools, people in businesses, and you will see just how addicted people are to modern technology.  It’s not a bad thing per se, but we’re losing that intimate contact with our basic humanity. 

How does all of this relate to churches?  People who go to church still need to be heard.  They need to know that their feelings are being validated and that someone cares.  Church leaders in particular need to learn the art of conversation when ministering to their congregation, especially if it is someone in dire need of some kind of emotional/spiritual help.  We need to really listen, not only to the words they are speaking, but the emotion that is behind those words.  Being empathetic and trusting our inner Spirit will help us to discern if there is a bigger picture, which there normally is.  We need to let the person talk it out and validate their feelings, but at the same time, be sensitive enough to know when to direct them to a more positive frame of mind or to guide them to get professional help.  Compassion is the key.

Validating means saying “I understand; please tell me more.”  Let their well of words run dry before offering advice.  We need to offer them different solutions or options and let them make the final decision. I prefer not to tell anyone what to do or how to think, so I ask a lot of questions to help them think for themselves and to find their own answers.  I may also offer examples of how I handled a similar situation in my own life.  We also need to be careful not to criticize, find fault, judge, or give curt answers for what they are telling us as it could end up shutting them down or make matters worse.  If they are in the wrong for whatever reasons, there are gentler and kinder ways to point it out without making them feel judged or damaging further their self-esteem or feelings of self-worth.  People need to know that they matter and your words can make the difference between lifting someone up or destroying them further. 

Another thing that lets someone know that you are really listening to them is to keep constant eye contact the whole time they are speaking.  Do not look around, look at your watch, or answer your phone or check texts as they come in, etc.  You can also repeat things they said to let them know that you are really hearing them. They need to know that you are with them 100% and that you really care.

If we can be the listener we hope others would be for us, then we have started to master the art of conversation.

Published in the Cookeville Herald Citizen newspaper October 9, 2015.
This article was edited from an earlier version published in the Unity Journal May 6, 2015.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Our Evolving World

“There are two ways to view the world: one is to view it as fixed and established or static. The other is to view it as unfinished (undefined), creatively ongoing, both ordained and organic. It’s almost as if God is looking to partner with you personally and all of us collectively in this ongoing evolution of all that is and is becoming.”  Bishop Carlton Pearson

There is a Spiritual Shift that has been occurring over the past numerous years and many people are feeling it.  We are moving forward into higher states of consciousness and are beginning to see and understand things on a greater scale than we ever have before.  What this means is that we are able to have a greater and closer relationship to the God within (by whatever name you call it).  We are becoming aware of what is really important in life and what is not, and we are releasing those things that no longer serve us.

Many have noticed how so much that hasn’t been working in the world is coming to light so that it can be cleansed and healed.  We’re seeing this in government, education, politics, healthcare, entertainment, our personal lives, various professions, the extremes, and so much more.  To those who didn’t know better, it would seem like the world is falling apart, but in actuality, it’s falling together. 

As more people start to ‘get it,’ we become aware that love, peace, compassion, kindness, harmony, and oneness are becoming a priority among people from all over the world, from all cultures, religions, politics, races, genders, and walks of life.  We are realizing that we really are all a part of each other and when we hurt others, we only hurt ourselves. 

Many things have happened and are happening with the planets including solar and blood moon eclipses, and people have also been experiencing huge shifts in their consciousnesses.  Not everyone is going to understand what I’m talking about and that’s perfectly okay, but many will.

As our spiritual vibrations are being raised, many of us may be experiencing interesting issues in either mind, body, and/or Spirit.  It is said that this past September in particular there was an energy shift on our planet and many have felt it and are feeling it.  The first part of September, I had several extremely dizzy moments where the room spun around me and I thought I would collapse.  At first I thought it might be a health issue, but after sharing with some friends and later on Facebook, I found out that countless others were also experiencing weird symptoms that they couldn’t explain. 

What are some of the symptoms from this Spiritual Shift?  You may feel strangely out of place, being on an emotional roller coaster, sensitive to loud noise and chaotic energy, feeling overwhelmed, mind fogginess, one minute feeling very hopeful and the next depressed, dizziness, high pitched sounds or buzzing in the ears, unusual dreams, panic attacks, irregular heartbeats, headaches, fatigue, change in sleep patterns, noticing a lot of synchronicity, and various other symptoms that you may not be able to describe.

There is nothing to fear.  Those who believe in the spiritual awakening and have been experiencing these symptoms know that we are not only expanding our consciousness, but we are expanding our hearts and understanding.  We may also be feeling stronger intuitions and emotions, and any psychic gifts may seem even stronger.  This shift is also teaching people to have a better understanding of others, our world, and the way the Universe works.  As our consciousness rises, we will find our happiness within and become much happier, taking care of our bodies becomes a priority, we become more peaceful knowing that everything is in Divine Order (even though we still have the gift of free-will), and we feel a unity with all beings including humans and animals, as well as with nature and our Mother Earth.

Some of you may think I’ve gone completely bonkers.  If I was the only one feeling all of this, then I might agree.  There are countless links on the Internet in the Spiritual realm where people are writing of these very things.  Remember, Jesus said that we would do the things he did and so much more.  Maybe we’re finally coming to that realization that we can take his words to heart and rise to the greatest expressions of who we were meant to be!

As James Redfield stated, “My life has really been about a spiritual unfolding that is personal and enchanting.  I have come out of hard times to find a greater purpose; guided by a higher part of myself.  Every day I am convinced, even more, spiritual consciousness is real.”  I totally agree.

Published in the Cookeville Herald Citizen newspaper October 2, 2015.

Friday, September 25, 2015

The Man at the Religious Fair

The first time I met him, it was a glorious Sunday morning at a little church nestled in a beautiful valley in the middle of the countryside.  He was the last person I would ever expect to see, especially in the flesh in today’s day and time.  I’m still not sure if I really met him or if it was all just a dream, but it was so real and the message so powerful that it didn’t really matter if it truly happened or not. 

The second time he came into my life was when I was attending a religious fair at a university.  It was an interesting fair in that not only did they have countless booths representing the many religions and belief systems, but people were also dressing up as characters from their Bibles and Holy Scriptures. 

While I was at a booth looking at some literature, I felt a tap on my shoulder behind me.  You can imagine my surprise when I found a man dressed just like Jesus!  But something about his eyes looked so familiar.  Then it dawned on me.  It was the Jesus that I met at the country church numerous years ago! 

He smiled at me which lit up his whole face and made his eyes sparkle. Without thinking, I immediately wrapped my arms around his neck and hugged him tightly while screeching, “Jesus!  What are you doing here?”  It suddenly dawned on me what all the people around us must be thinking, but I didn’t care!  It was so good to see him again in the flesh!

In that gentle voice, he replied, “Sometimes I like attending these religious fairs just to see what people are saying and to see how everyone is getting along.  It’s quite fascinating with so many religions being represented in the same place.”  I answered, “Isn’t that the truth!  I’ve been to a few of these and I’ve seen some of the arguments that people get into trying to convince each other that they’re right.” 

Jesus looked off into the distance with a look of great sadness as a tear slid quietly down his cheek.  “Yes, I know.  And that’s not what these religions are about at their heart.  All the great spiritual masters of these religions taught unconditional love for all and to not harm anyone.  It brings me great sadness to see the way people treat each other in the name of God and their spiritual leaders.”  I totally understood what he was saying and it made me sad that he was sad.  He continued, “My greatest commandment was to love one another as I loved them.  What part of love one another do they not understand?”

We stood for a moment in silence contemplating this great mystery.  Trying to lighten the moment, I added, “But Jesus!  You know that there is an awakening occurring all over the world and people are starting to get it!  They know that unconditional love for all people really is the answer!  Of course, you wouldn’t know it by our media or from what many politicians and religious leaders are saying.  The media only propagates the negative.  You know we’re out there!”  At that, Jesus smiled slightly like he knew something no one else knew.

I then asked, “Jesus, why don’t you appear more often and let people know that you’re here?  That may speed things up some!”  Sighing, he replied, “Karen, I am all over the world and I appear to everyone on this planet all the time.  I’m the homeless man on the street looking for food and shelter.  I’m the alcoholic or drug addict looking to escape life’s problems.  I’m the hungry, the poor, the sick, the abused, the migrant, the immigrant…  I’m the gang member, the convict, the lonely, the oppressed, the depressed, and the insane.  I also appear as you and everyone here.  It has nothing to do with a religion.  I’m a part of the spark of the Divine in every living being on the planet.  It doesn’t matter what religion or what one believes or what you name it.  We are all connected by the Source that created everyone and everything.  All the spiritual masters taught this by whatever name they called it.”

I then remembered the Bible verse, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”  At that moment, something distracted me and I looked away.  When I turned back, he was gone!  He did it to me again!  And again, I will never be the same.

(This story is a sequel to a previous article, “The Man at the Back of the Church.”)

Published in the Cookeville Herald Citizen newspaper September 5, 2015.


Sunday, September 20, 2015

The Man at the Back of the Church

Never in my life did I ever dream that I would have one of those extraordinary experiences where I didn’t know if it was real or if I was just dreaming.  It happened when I was attending a country church one Sunday morning.  During the service, I heard the door open in the back and when I looked, I couldn’t believe what I saw!  The man looked just like Jesus the way he would have looked back in Biblical times!  His eyes were so full of love, kindness, and compassion that I wondered if he really could be Jesus returning in the flesh.  Others gave him dirty looks, but to me, it didn’t matter. There was just something about him.

After the service ended and everyone was leaving, I knew I had to find out more about this fascinating stranger.  I followed him out the door and kept a silent pace beside him not sure what to say to him. 

Walking along a path beside a field, I finally asked him, "Sir, may I ask your name?"  In a quiet voice, he said, "My name is Jesus."  For some reason, I didn't disbelieve him.  Then he added, "Do you believe that I am Jesus?"  I thought for a moment and replied, "I won't say that you're NOT Jesus.  Why did you come here today?"  He responded, "I visit many churches around the world." 

"You know, there's one thing I've always wanted to ask you.  There are millions of people on this earth with just as many different beliefs and thousands of different religions… how are we to know which one is right or wrong?"  Slowly he said, "Most all religions have so much good in them.  The important thing is…what do you believe?  ”

"But how do I know if what I believe is right?  Everyone says that I should believe their way.  They have different interpretations of the Bible, and each says that theirs is right.  It can all be pretty confusing."  He glanced at me for a moment and answered, "Trust your own heart. Your own faith.  The Spirit that is within you.”

We were both silent as we came to a large meadow filled with the most magnificent flowers.  Everything seemed to be so alive and spectacular!  We stopped and again I asked, "Why do people judge each other so much?  They judge the way people look, the way they dress, the way they live, the way they believe…just because someone believes differently or has different opinions."

He contemplated this for a moment and then said, "People judge what they don't understand because it is easier than having to love or to have compassion and understanding.  People fear the unknown and they wrap themselves in their beliefs like they would a blanket to protect themselves and their feelings.  It makes them feel safe that what they believe is the only right way.”

Just then, I happened to look down and found a beautiful little flower that seemed to stand out among the rest, so I bent down away from him to pick it out from the blanket of color it rested in.  While my back was to him, he spoke to me.  "Karen, there is one thing that I want you to remember.  I will always love you, no matter what."

When I stood up and turned to give him the flower, he was gone!  I looked around, but he was nowhere to be seen!  I stood there stunned wondering how he could have disappeared so quickly, but there was only one explanation.  I don't know how long I stayed there.  The first I noticed that it might be getting late was when I felt a chill from the evening air as the sun started to go down.  I looked around to be sure he really wasn't standing someplace where I couldn’t see him.  When I couldn't find him, I sighed and began walking home.

Was the man I spoke to really Jesus?  Or was he just a man off the street who thought he was?  Was it all just a dream?  I will probably never know.  I do know that I will not deny that I met Jesus and spent some time with him.  Whether it really happened or not, I believe that it was an experience that changed my life forever and I will always be grateful.

(This story is excerpted from an actual dream I had in 1989.  For the full version of the dream, please go to http://kalina-spiritualoasis.blogspot.com/2014/11/the-man-at-back-of-church.html )

Published in the Cookeville Herald Citizen newspaper September 18, 2015.