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 )

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

Saturday, September 12, 2015

I Have a Dream

I have a dream.  I dream of the day when our world comes together and we all live in peace.  A day when we realize just how much a part of each other we really are, and that we really are brothers and sisters living on this great planet called Mother Earth.  When all wars cease and we all live in harmony.

I dream of the day when we can look into the hearts of all and see each other as human beings of one race…the human race.  When we can look past all the labels we put on each other in order to keep the illusion of separateness, when in reality, we are all one.  

I dream of the day when all people are filled with unconditional love for all living beings (humans, animals, and nature).  When we look at each with compassion and kindness, and treat each other with the utmost respect.  The day when we realize that when we hurt others, we are only hurting ourselves, but at the same time, when we help others, we are also helping ourselves.  The day when we lift each other up and look for the best in each of us.

I dream of the day when we are more than willing to take care of each other’s needs.  When we take care of the homeless, the poor, the sick, and the weary.  When we love and accept all people regardless of where they came from or how they got here.  When we realize we have enough resources on this planet to take care of everyone, including our beautiful planet.

I dream of the day when all the world’s religions come together and acknowledge what we have in common, that we can respect each other’s beliefs without fighting and arguing, and we teach each other the best our religions have to offer.  When all religious leaders teach the love and compassion that their spiritual masters taught, and are willing to love and accept people just as they are without hate, judgment, fear, or condemnation.

I dream of the day when all politicians have enough heart to want to take care of all people without any greed or selfishness. When they only enact laws that are in the best interests of all rather than for only for their personal agendas and belief systems.  When politicians and people in the media only speak the truth and don’t use fear, lies, and manipulation to control people.  

I dream of the day when all our medical and pharmaceutical communities look past making a profit and focus only on what is best for the people who are in their care.  When natural and holistic treatments are equal with any medical treatments because we know there is a place for all of them.  When people are healthy more times than they are sick, and when sickness becomes a thing of the past.

I dream of the day when all food manufacturers stop using GMO’s and other chemicals in their foods so that we can eat more healthfully.  When we know how important it is to take care of ourselves so that we can die only of old age instead of diseases and illnesses.  When we can live our lives with constant energy and vitality.

I dream of the day when we realize just how precious our children are and we step up to care for all children and not just our own.  When children are no longer being abused or going hungry.  When all children receive the best educations.  When all children feel loved and appreciated.

I dream of the day when all people finally realize just how loved, magnificent, and beautiful they really are, and that they learn to love themselves unconditionally. 

Is this all only just a dream?  Can my dream become a reality?  I believe it can!  I also believe that it is happening!  All around the world, people from all professions and walks of life (including the ones mentioned above) are joining the collective consciousness of Agape love.  Agape love is the highest and purest form of love; the love that all our great spiritual masters taught.  We’re working towards achieving world peace.  We’re working towards seeing everyone being loved and accepted just as they are.  We’re working towards seeing all people happy, prosperous, healthy, and whole.  We’re seeing humanity loving and helping humanity in spite of the illusion of any perceived differences.

Rosemary Fillmore Rhea stated, “The world we are experiencing today is the result of our collective consciousness, and if we want a new world, each of us must start taking responsibility for helping create it.”  Or as Gandhi said, “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.”

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

Friday, September 4, 2015

The Many Avenues of Prayer

As we all well know, there are many avenues of prayer in the world.  Every religion and denominations within those religions may have their own prayers or their own ways of praying.  None are right or wrong; they’re just different.

Most in the Christian religions are familiar with “The Lord’s Prayer,” but what most people don’t know is that there are countless variations of this prayer depending upon who did the translating from the original Aramaic language or those languages thereafter, when it was translated, what version of the Bible it was translated for, and who added their own thoughts and beliefs to the prayer as time went on.

The one most familiar is (with some variations):  “Our father which art in heaven, hallowed be thy name.  Thy kingdom come.  Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.  Give us this day our daily bread.  And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who have trespassed against us.  Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.  For thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory forever.  Amen.”

One of the earliest versions of the Lord’s Prayer translated from the Aramaic version to English is quite different (and again, there are numerous variations):  “Oh Thou, from whom the breath of life comes, who fills all realms of sound, light, and vibration.  May Your light be experienced in my utmost holiest.  Your Heavenly Domain approaches.  Let Your will come true in the universe (all that vibrates) just as on earth (that is material and dense).  Give us wisdom (understanding, assistance) for our daily need, detach the fetters of faults that bind us, (karma) like we let go the guilt of others.  Let us not be lost in superficial things (materialism, common temptations), but let us be freed from that what keeps us off from our true purpose.  From You comes the all-working will, the lively strength to act, the song that beautifies all and renews itself from age to age.  Sealed in trust, faith, and truth. (I confirm with my entire being).”

You can do your own research on all the diverse translations since the original version that Jesus spoke according to the Bible.  Again, none are right or wrong; it just depends on which version of the prayer you prefer. 

Many people believe in speaking a prayer that was already written and all they have to do is repeat it.  Some will say these prayers before meals for instance.  Some are repeated word for word in church services.  There are those who say that in order to get prayers answered, you have to pray a certain way or it won’t work.  I don’t think it matters as long as it comes from your heart.

Personally, I prefer affirmative prayers.  This is a process that involves connecting with the spirit of God (by whatever name you call it) and declaring positive beliefs about the desired outcome.  It is not a begging or pleading prayer or praying to someone or something outside of ourselves.  Saying an affirmative prayer means we know and believe that the answered prayer is for our highest good no matter the outcome.  Affirmative prayers reflect that we are certain that we are each being led to our highest good, despite any perceived appearances.  Sometimes I will even add “this or something better.”  

For many of us, we know the power of our thoughts, and many believe that each thought we think is a prayer to God/Universe; therefore, it is very important to watch our thoughts carefully.  Even though it is almost impossible to keep negative thoughts from entering our minds, we can be mindful of them when they do occur, honor them, and then change them into something positive.

Usually when I pray for someone, instead of using the term “prayer,” I tell them I am holding them in loving consciousness.  I rarely affirm a particular outcome because humanly, I don’t know what is best for that person’s highest good.   Consequently, my prayer could be praying against what would be best for that person.  I also surround the person with love and light knowing the prayers will be answered for that person’s best interests.

Sometimes the best prayer we can pray is just to say “Thank you!”  Count our blessings!  Feel appreciation for the good we do have in our lives. 

At Unity, we have a prayer that says, “The Light of God surrounds me.  The Love of God enfolds me.  The Power of God protects me.  The Presence of God watches over me.  Wherever I am, God is, and all is well.”  And as Gandhi stated, “It is better in prayer to have a heart without words than words without a heart.” 

Published in the Cookeville Herald Citizen newspaper September  4, 2015.