Friday, February 27, 2015

Being There For One Another

Looking out my window during Winter Storm Octavia, I was tickled to see our neighbors sledding down the slight hills of their yard, screaming in delight, and then doing it over and over again.  The temps were freezing with a wind chill of way below zero, but they didn’t mind.  They were enjoying this rare snow storm!

The snow was beautiful as it flowed softly to the ground casting a wonderment of white across the land.  Many people were excited to see the snow and all the fun it brought with it.  But for many, it was very stressful as people tried to get to work and then had to deal with all the damage the storm caused. 

Yes, there was a lot of devastation, but many Tennesseans pulled together and got out to help one another.  It didn’t matter what a person looked like, who they were, what religion, or whatever.  It was human beings helping human beings.  And friends, that’s what it’s all about…our being there to help each other. 

Why does it take a tragedy to bring people together on a greater scale?  During and after 9/11, people from all over the world banded together to help those affected by this horrendous disaster.  The same with Katrina.  And not just events that occur in our country, but when things happen in other countries, people everywhere unselfishly go out of their way to assist anyone who is in need.

But then things settle down, people get back into their daily routines, and we forget.  We stop going out of our way to help others.  Not everyone…but many.  There was still a lot to be done after 9/11, Katrina, and other disasters, but when the media stops reporting, people think nothing else needs to be accomplished. 

What’s worse is that some religionists come out of the woodwork and claim that God made these things happen to punish people, and it’s usually in accord with that person’s beliefs and God is punishing whomever that particular person disagrees with.  S/he uses God to back up their personal judgmental and hateful agendas and that’s very sad. 

God does not cause bad things to happen to anyone!  What kind of loving God would do such a thing?  Not the God that I believe in!  According to many beliefs, God made people to have free will.  That means we make the choices as to whether or not we are going to help or harm.  People blame God for so many things in this world, but we as human beings have the power and the ability to make changes for the better!  There is no reason for anyone in the world to go hungry, but do we feed them?  There is no reason for anyone to go without healthcare, but do we cover them?  There is no reason for people to be homeless, but do we house them?  Some are trying!  It’s interesting to hear some complain that they don’t want government in their business, but when it comes to caring for others, they’ll say that it’s the government’s problem. 

Sometimes I think that these tragic events happen to remind us that we really are a part of each other...that what affects one affects all.  All the great spiritual teachers throughout time have taught us to take care of one another.  Jesus even said, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”  So why can’t we do this consistently?

Many do!  There are many people and organizations that do get it and are out there living the Golden Rule!  The Golden Rule in some form is in most, if not all, Holy Books and writings!  I so wish we could stop all this hate/bigotry nonsense and know that we are all the same.  We’re all children of God, the Universe, the Cosmos.  We were all made equally; it is only man that makes us different based solely on our beliefs.

In the book “The Afterlife of Billy Fingers, Billy says, “If people could see each other’s souls, all war would end, and everyone would go feed the hungry children.”  If we could really see each other’s souls, we would see a reflection of ourselves, and we would really know the true meaning of loving and caring for one another.  And the Dalai Lama said, “Our prime purpose in this life is to help others. And if you can't help them, at least don't hurt them.”

Thank you to all who have been out there helping others during this crisis whether you are a professional or neighbor helping neighbor!  We love you and appreciate you!

Published in the Cookeville Herald Citizen Newspaper February 27, 2015.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Love Is The Only Answer

I am a Chaplain at my church and each Sunday one of our Chaplains has the pleasure of being able to share what’s on our hearts for a few minutes, and each of us brings something special and meaningful to the service.

Recently, my topic was about how we need to honor and embrace the dark times that we may go through.  It’s so important that we love ourselves through those dark periods just as much as we do through the good times.  All of a sudden, tears started flowing freely down my cheeks as I spoke about how important it is to love not only others, but to love ourselves…unconditionally. 

There are so many people going through the darkest of times in their personal lives.  It could be because of an illness, financial or relationship issues, grieving over the loss of loved ones, a catastrophic event, or anything else that may happen to us.  My heart became overflowing with love and empathy for those who are struggling just to get through each day.

I also thought of those who have to deal with hate and bigotry just because of their color, race, religion, sexual preference, or whatever.  I read and hear stories of violence being committed towards others because of this and I could only think what are we coming to as a species that some have become so hateful? 

We claim to be a Christian nation, and we claim that God is Love, but we sure aren’t seeing it much especially from so many pulpits or from many politicians.  To some, in fact, Christianity as a whole is now being seen as a very hateful religion!  When you hear some Christians speak, are they speaking of loving our fellow man?  Or are they tearing people down and encouraging us to hurt others just because of our differences? 

So many young gays and transgendered people (as well as young children!) are committing suicide because they have been so demonized, and some Christians and others celebrate their death!   We also have news programs and radio hosts who propagate hate and bigotry and even encourage people to hurt others just because of a difference in beliefs, and they do so in the name of God and Christianity!  This is NOT what Jesus or any other spiritual leader throughout time has taught! 

There are those who are also trying to make Christianity the law of the land, but if any other religion tried to do this, it would cause an outrage!  How about if we made Love the law of the land instead?  Can you imagine?
I want to make it very clear that I am definitely not criticizing Christianity as a whole.  There are many, many wonderful sincere Christians out there who do practice the teachings of Jesus which was unconditional love for all and caring for our brothers and sisters on this beautiful planet of ours.  They want to live in peace and harmony with all people and they take very seriously the instructions of the Bible to love and not to judge.  We just don’t hear too much from this side and it’s not their fault.  Hate in the media sells.  All religions have good and bad in them. 

I am so grateful that I have friends who are gay, transgendered, Muslim, Hispanic, Jew, Buddhist, Hindu, Christian, black, white, brown, and from all colors, races, and religions!  I love the diversity of my friends and the many people I have had the absolute pleasure of meeting and getting to know!  They’ve taught me so much!  One of the biggest things they taught me was to not hold the actions of a few against the whole.  If I had, I would have missed out on some of the most amazing relationships!

If our religions are not teaching love for all people, then what is the purpose of them?  So many religions have gotten so far away from the teachings of their spiritual masters that they’ve pretty much become man-made religions.  We need to get back to the teachings of these masters which was love, compassion, kindness, peace, and harmony for all regardless of any perceived differences!

There’s a great quote that says, “Buddha was not a Buddhist.  Jesus was not a Christian.  Muhammad was not a Muslim.  They were teachers who taught love.  Love was their religion.”  This is so true.  They all taught love and to harm no one.

We all search for God mostly through our religions, but Gandhi stated, “If you don’t find God in   the next person you meet, don’t waste time looking for him further.”

Unconditional love really is the answer and I can’t say it enough.  Namaste!

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

Friday, February 13, 2015

Ignorance is Not Bliss!

In today’s day and times, we live in a state of instant information via new technology such as the Internet, news, and social media.  On one hand, this is a good thing.  Information is at our fingertips and we can get it in an instant.  On the other hand, anyone can write or say anything and it gets communicated as the truth.  The problem with that is that way too many people will believe whatever they read and/or hear and will not make an effort to research as to whether that information is even true or not.  We tend to only believe whatever agrees with our own personal beliefs.

This brings me to the word ‘ignorance.’  According to an on-line dictionary, ignorance means lack of knowledge or information.  The synonyms for this word are unawareness of, incomprehension of, informal cluelessness about, and unconsciousness of.  We can all be guilty of ignorance at various times in our lives, me included. (To be clear, I am not pointing my fingers to any individuals.)

From the time we are born to the time we die, we are in a constant state of learning.  Those teaching us teach based upon their beliefs, their experiences, and from what they were taught.  It’s as if their knowledge is genetic, it just gets passed on, and we trust that the information is correct.

The majority of us learn and believe according to our beliefs at the time of whatever it is we learned.  I know that may sound confusing, but it’s true nonetheless.  For example…  In my younger years, I was an extreme fundamentalist and only believed what matched my extreme fundamentalist beliefs.  Anyone who didn’t believe or think the way I did was wrong and I totally believed they would go to a place that some call hell.  Many hold that belief regardless of whether or not it is associated with religion, politics, cultures, race, and so on.  We tend to only believe what resonates with our own personal beliefs. 

When I started my spiritual journey, I learned to open my mind to learning all things new.  Once I opened my mind, that’s when my spiritual teachings went into hyper-speed.  Because I opened myself up to new teachings, God/Universe/Spirit/God of your understanding, was able to teach me so much more than it could if I had continued to keep my beliefs taped up air-tight in a box.  I basically took my beliefs out of the box and learned to look at the world through the eyes of love.

When we refuse to open ourselves up to new information just because it doesn’t jive with what we believe, even if that new information is the truth, then that is where ignorance enters the picture.  I have seen postings on Facebook, in the media, in letters to the editor of various papers, and so forth, where if the person had done their research from a legitimate source, they would have learned that what they have written was not true, or at least it wasn’t the whole story. 

I see ignorance when it comes to writings/communications about Islam/Muslims, gays, undocumented immigrants, our President, politics, the healthcare issue, education, cultures, and so much more.  We need to research legitimate sources and not just from people’s personal blogs, personal websites, or other illegitimate sources that may just agree with our beliefs.

Ignorance has been used as a catalyst for propagating so much hate and bigotry.  We all have our beliefs and most people are very passionate about their beliefs to the point that they try to force those beliefs on everyone else.  But what happened to truth?  Is that not important anymore?  It is said that the truth will set us free.  But whose truth?   Most people will say “my truth is the only truth!”  But is it?  Personally, I base my own truth on unconditional love, kindness, compassion, and oneness, and it is my guide to all other truths.  My truths also change as I grow.  My truth may not be another person’s truth, and that’s okay.  So instead of judging, condemning, and demonizing others because their truth may be different than ours, how about if we respect and honor their truth?  Yes, lies need to be revealed, but we can do so without attacking and being mean-spirited about it.

Wayne Dyer stated, “The highest form of ignorance is when you reject something you don’t know anything about.”  Marcus Aurelius said, “Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact.  Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth.”  And Leo Tolstoy declared, “Truth, like gold, is to be obtained not by its growth, but by washing away from it all that is not gold.”

Published in the Cookeville Herald Citizen February 13, 2015.