Friday, December 30, 2016

Embracing 2017 in Love and Light

As we go into 2017, my heart and mind are filled with so many conflicting emotions.  On one hand, seeing what’s happening in the world, especially with our politics, I can sometimes be consumed with so much fear that it’s almost debilitating.  On the other hand, most times I am filled with so much hope because I see people all over the world who are uniting for the common cause of love, peace, and harmony, and are standing up for all Earth Beings, including our Mother Earth.  It warms my heart to see how people are loving, supporting, and encouraging each other in these times of darkness, and who are spreading their love and light to everyone around them. 

Because I have felt that fear, my heart goes out to all concerned who literally fear for their lives in the coming years.  Men, women, and children who fear that they or their loved ones will be yanked from their homes and made into refugees in another land.  Those who fear losing their health insurance when that health insurance may be the only thing keeping them alive.  Those who fear they will once again have to hide their true selves.  Those who fear we will have to live the Civil Rights era all over again.  Those who fear another Holocaust.  Those who fear we will be led into nuclear war, and whatever other fears people may have.

Even though we can’t ignore the darkness that causes the fear, we can choose to try to bring light to all concerned.  In this New Year, I am choosing to try to be even more loving, compassionate, and understanding, to have more empathy, to lend an understanding heart, ear, and shoulder to those who may need it, to be of service to others, to spread more random acts of kindness and smiles, to shine my light so brightly that others can’t help but feel it, and to be the change I wish to see in the world. 

I choose love.  The same love that Jesus and all the other wonderful Spiritual Masters taught.  I choose peace.  The same peace that Gandhi, the Dalai Lama, and Martin Luther King, Jr. taught.  I choose compassion.  The same compassion that Mother Teresa taught.  Will it be easy?  Not always.  But I will set my intention to do so upon every waking morning and will do my best to lift others up and to light up the darkness.  Remember…darkness is only the absence of light, and it only takes one candle to light up the darkness.  Just imagine…if enough people all over the world let their light shine, we could light up the world!

“The way of peace is the way of love. Love is the greatest power on earth. It conquers all things.
This is the way of peace: Overcome evil with good, falsehood with truth, and hatred with love.”  Peace Pilgrim

Published in the Cookeville Herald Citizen newspaper December 30, 2016.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Collateral Beauty

“Collateral Beauty” is one of those movies you would like to see again and again just so you can memorize the many wonderful quotes that are scattered throughout this beautiful film.  Right from the beginning, I wished I could dig into my purse in the dark and find a pen and paper so that I could try to write down many of the things the actors said.  Yet I knew that without any light to see what I was writing, I’d be good to read any scribbles that might try to later pass as quotes.

“Collateral Beauty” is about a successful New York advertising executive who suffers the loss of his young daughter and ends up retreating from life to the point of cutting off his friends and co-workers.  They’re at a loss as to how to help him and they become desperate.

Trying to cope, Howard (played by Will Smith) writes letters to Love, Time, and Death.  His friends find out about this and they hire actors to play those three roles by visiting him and trying to help him through his pain.  Or are they really actors?  They not only help Howard, but end up helping his friends with their issues as well.

Before his daughter dies, he tells his employees in a meeting, "We're here to connect. Love, time, death. Now these three things connect every single human being on earth. We long for love, we wish we had more time, and we fear death."  Little did he know how prophetic these words would be to him and how they would help him deal with his grief. 

The actress who appears to him as Love tells him, “Love is the reason for everything.  I was there in her laugh, but I’m also here now in your pain.  I’m the fabric of life.  I am the reason for everything.  If you can accept that, then maybe you get to live again.”

The actor who plays Time tells him, “I’m time. You wrote me because you need me.  I’m a gift, and you’re wasting it.”

The actress who plays Death tells him, “You’ve been given a gift, this profound connection to everything.  Just look for it and I promise you it’s there…the collateral beauty.”

And one of his friends asks him, “What if love, death, and time are trying to help you?

“Collateral Beauty” is more than just a movie.  It’s a beautiful message to us from the Universe and it really touched my heart.  There’s even a possibility it may bring comfort and peace to those who need it most.  

If given a chance, what would you say to Love, Time, and Death?  To all three, I would say thank you because they’ve given me so much more wisdom and understanding, and they’ve made me a better person because they are a part of my life.

“In the most difficult circumstance, there is something beautiful to be seen.”  Helen Mirren

Published in the Cookeville Herald Citizen newspaper December 23, 2016.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

The Gift of Obstacles

“With everything that has happened to you, you can either feel sorry for yourself, or treat what has happened as a gift.  Everything is either an opportunity to grow, or an obstacle to keep you from growing.  You get to choose.” 

Wayne Dyer said the above quote and I totally agree with it.  We do have a choice as to the meaning we put on everything that happens to us in life.  Nothing has meaning except for the meaning we give to it.  It’s a great quote to live by and to keep in mind whenever we’re going through our heavy-duty-life-doo.

That said, I also want to be clear that it isn’t always easy.  There are times when life can become so overwhelming that it’s hard NOT to feel sorry for ourselves.  I’ve been there more times than I’d like to admit.  In fact, I recently went through one of those times where I was feeling sorry for myself.  Some stress I was experiencing from various issues had become so overwhelming that I went into a dark place.  I couldn’t help it.  It was hard to keep from constantly crying. The darkness consumed me and I also became very quiet, which is how I deal with things.  That and doing a lot of stress eating.  If I could have eaten a brownie the size of an elephant, I would have.  But I also know that it will pass, so I’ve learned to embrace those moments in time and try to love myself even more.

One thing I have learned in life is that we may not always be able to see the gift of what we’re going through at that time, but if we can make it to the moment of hindsight, it can all become clear.  When I look back on my life, I can see how all the darkness I went through, no matter what it was, became a great gift.  Because I went through those things, it taught me to have so much more love, compassion, empathy, and understanding for others who are going through it.  I no longer judge others because I can say I’ve been there.  I even found that I became a stronger and better person because of those experiences, as well as gaining a great deal of wisdom that I can use to help others who are going through their own dark moments.

Sometimes people do need professional help whether it’s physical or mental assistance, and that’s perfectly okay!  It doesn’t mean that we’ll need it for long periods of time, but it can help us get through those dark times until we can once again see the light and get back to feeling like our better selves once again.

Christopher Reeve said, “A hero is an ordinary individual who finds the strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles.”  And Matshona Dhliwayo stated, “Your darkest experiences often lead you to your brightest fortunes.” 

Published in the Cookeville Herald Citizen newspaper December 16, 2016.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Defending Your Life

Recently I watched an older movie called “Defending Your Life” starring Meryl Streep and Albert Brooks.  The movie was about two people who died and arrived in Judgment City, the place they go before advancing to another level or being sent back to earth for a do-over.  While there, they stand trial by reviewing events in their lives where they had let their fears rule their decisions.  Did they overcome their fears or did they let their fears overcome them?

I’ve read a lot of near death and afterlife books, and most, if not all, have said that people who have crossed over and come back to life have said that they had to watch a review of their lives.  Many were asked if they had loved enough. After we make our transitions and it’s time for us to review everything we did or didn’t do in our lives, how would we feel?  How did we treat others as well as ourselves?

This movie got me thinking about fear, particularly my own fears.  Fear is a huge issue in all of our lives.  Many people don’t live the lives they want or are meant to live because of it.  We’re afraid to take chances and go for our dreams; therefore, we live our lives trying to please everyone around us.  We’re afraid to stand up for ourselves because we’re afraid of what others might think; therefore, we let people walk all over us and treat us badly.  We’re afraid of success and we’re afraid of failure.  We’re afraid that nothing good will happen so we don’t even try.  Fear can become all consuming.

People also use fear to manipulate and control us.  They use it to propagate hate against others who may seem different than us.  There are media sources and talk show hosts who are consistently promoting fear against others and people buy into it.  This type of fear almost becomes like a contagious disease that spreads to all who are conned into believing whatever they say.  There is also an extreme amount of fear in today’s political climate with how much harm some politicians want to do to our country and the world.

How do we overcome fear?  We can only keep working at overcoming it.  We can ask ourselves, are we choosing love…or fear?  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.”

I can only hope that when it’s time for me to cross over and I watch my life review, I hope I chose love more times over fear.  I’m still a work in process.

Published in the Cookeville Herald Citizen newspaper December 9, 2016.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

It's That Time of Year Again!

Tis the season of bringing good tidings of great joy!  Children look forward to Santa’s visit bringing them delightful gifts.  Adults attend parties and buy presents for each other and their families.  Homes, stores, businesses, schools, towns, and cities are brimming with holiday decorations, and lights sparkle in an array of colors everywhere you look.  In other words, Christmas is upon us!  People love the Spirit of the season!  They’re a little kinder, more compassionate, and they give a little more generously to those in need.  This is the bright side of Christmas and the holidays and I love that loving Spirit!

Unfortunately, there’s also a dark side to Christmas and the holidays.  Not everyone looks forward to them for whatever reasons.  Some experience depression, may feel alone, and some may have lost loved ones during this time in previous years and it brings up too many sad memories; therefore, it is a very difficult time for many. 

It is also the season of fighting and arguing and it can bring out the worst in people.  They fight over whose holiday greeting we should use and they get nasty if you don’t say their greeting of choice.  They fight over whose decorations should be put up and where.  And then there’s the argument that always goes around that there’s a war on Christmas.  There is no war on Christmas.  If there were, it would be illegal to celebrate Christmas at all.  Just look around during this season and everywhere you look, all you see is Christmas!  On TV there are countless Christmas movies and TV shows, Christmas commercials, and decorations galore everywhere!  Also, there is no law saying you can’t say Merry Christmas. 

Christmas has become so commercialized that sometimes I think it should be called ‘Commercialistmas.’  Just look at the way people behave on Black Friday!  Many people go into debt buying gifts for their families and friends because they don’t feel they can have a Christmas without presents.  And add all that stress!

The Spirit of Christmas is supposed to be about the celebration of the birth of Jesus, the very one who taught us to love one another unconditionally.  If we really want to celebrate this holiday, then let’s practice those teachings.  Bless and honor other’s holidays and maybe even share them with your friends.  Greet people with the same greeting they give you and do so with love and kindness.

I have rarely seen any decorations or mention of any other holidays during this time such as Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Bodhi Day, and so many others, and these deserve to be celebrated as well!

W.C. Jones said, “The joy of brightening other lives, bearing each others’ burdens, easing others’ loads, and supplanting empty hearts and lives with generous gifts, becomes for us the magic of the holidays.”      

Wishing everyone a wonderful holiday season (whatever holiday you celebrate) with much love, peace, happiness, prosperity, joy, and magic!

Published in the Cookeville Herald Citizen newspaper December 2, 2016.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Building Beliefs On a Foundation of Love

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if everyone believed and thought exactly the way we do?  If they did, the world would then appear to be a much better place and we could all get along well with each other.  Except that’s not our reality.

All our beliefs and ways of thinking differ and that causes us stress because others aren’t living up to our expectations of the way we think they should be.  We feel that those who don’t believe, think, or live the way we do are wrong.  The thing is those on the ‘other side’ think and believe that we’re wrong because we’re not thinking, believing, or living the way they think we should. 

Most of our beliefs are either taught to us by our parents or caregivers from the moment we are young, or they are learned through our experiences.  Then as we grow into adulthood, we put those beliefs in a belief box and we wrap them up very tight with invisible duct tape because we don’t ever want to think that we could ever be wrong in some of our beliefs.

I will be the first to admit that my beliefs have changed drastically over the years; therefore, I’ll usually tell people that this is what I believe at this time in my life.  Even then, as I grow and gain wisdom and knowledge through Spirit, my beliefs will change again.  What I’ve found, though, is that those beliefs are now based more and more in unconditional love for all of humanity and for all living beings, including animals and our Mother Earth.  I know that love is the only answer, and I’ll know if I’m truly living my Truth by how love leads or doesn’t lead in my everyday decisions. 

There are some people who think I should believe the way they do and will tell me that I’m wrong just because I don’t.  Some people will even try to chastise me in public forums.  I will never tell anyone what to believe or that they have to believe the way I do.  I also will not argue with people over beliefs.  If we don’t agree, we’ll just have to agree to disagree.

In fact, as a minister and inspirational speaker, my purpose is to try to help people find their own beliefs based on a foundation of unconditional love.  I can only plant the seeds and it’s up to God, the Universe, Life, or whatever name you use for the All-That-Is, to see how they grow.  I can also only share with others what I have learned for myself.  In my talks I always tell people that it’s okay if they don’t agree with me; just take what works for them, ignore the rest, or even just ignore the whole talk.  People can even do this with my writings.

People particularly hang onto their beliefs when it comes to their religions.  As of 2014, there were an estimated 4,200 different religions in the world, all believing something different.  Just within Christianity alone, it is estimated that there are approximately 41,000 Christian denominations and organizations in the world, and the difference in those beliefs vary sometimes to the extreme.

Remember that at one time, people believed the earth was flat and that the sun revolved around the earth.  People were imprisoned or killed if they believed anything different.  Later, we found out that what they said was true.  Therefore, even ‘facts’ can change.  If you think about it, facts have changed continuously throughout history.  Another thing is that anyone can pretty much write anything they want anymore whether it’s true or not.  It’s even interesting how many people will believe information from the countless fake news sites on the Internet, and they will blindly believe them without doing their research.  Therefore, their beliefs are then not based in truth.

There is so much turmoil in our country and the world right now all over differences of beliefs.  These range from unconditional love to outright hatred of others.  Billy Graham stated, “Racial prejudice, anti-Semitism, or hatred of anyone with different beliefs has no place in the human mind or heart.”  

We are each responsible for what’s in our own hearts and how we treat others, and one day when we cross over, we will all have to answer the question, “How much did you love?”  Personally, I would like to answer that at least I tried my best.  When the foundation of our beliefs is built on love, it can’t help but raise humanity’s consciousness.  As our consciousness expands, love and peace will prevail.

“When we quit thinking primarily about ourselves and our own self-preservation, we undergo a truly heroic transformation of consciousness.”  Joseph Campbell

Published in the Cookeville Herald Citizen newspaper November 25, 2016.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Loving So Much It Hurts

Feeling overwhelmed, I went into the woods and sat on my favorite rock by a stream.  Listening to the water flowing down the hill, as well as all of nature’s music, brings me peace and comfort.  But this time was different.  My heart was heavy and I couldn’t help but break down sobbing, my tears falling into the creek and being carried to who knows where.  It’s like my very core was being torn from my body and the pain was unbearable. 

All of a sudden, I heard a rustle of leaves behind me and then a snap of a twig.  Startled, I turned around, and of course, it just had to be him.  “Jesus!  I don’t think I’m up to talking right now.”

With compassion in his eyes and voice, he gently replied, “It’s okay.  You don’t have to talk.  We can just be together.”

After a few moments, it all came pouring out of me.  The pain, the fear, the anxiety…everything I was feeling.  “My heart is aching so much for so many people right now, Jesus!  I just can’t imagine the fear they are feeling.  Many are being beaten, harassed, picked on, people are calling them the most horrific names, telling them to go back to where they came from, and some of the most vitriolic words and pictures are being written on walls and windows toward these people.  Even little children are feeling the fear.  Children!  What’s the world coming to?!?!”

Jesus sat down on the rock next to me and cradled me in his arms while wiping my tears with the edge of his long-sleeved shirt.  Brushing a strand of hair from my face, he said, “Karen, I understand.  I, too, am feeling the pain of the way people are treating each other, and I feel it deeper than you could ever imagine.  You would think that after so many thousands of years, people would finally understand my greatest commandment to love one another.  But they don’t.  Sure, some people say they believe in me and follow me, and yet they are doing everything but love one another.  And that breaks my heart.”

Looking into Jesus’ eyes, I sobbed, “But what can we do?  We’ve got to be able to do something!  I feel so lost, disillusioned, and my faith has taken a real hit in all this.  The pain I feel for what so many are going through has just become so excruciating that I feel like I’m about to fall apart.”

“Karen, never lose faith.  I am always here, and I am here through all this turmoil.  Man has free-will so he does what he does based on his beliefs.  Know that I am here in the midst of love.  The pure, unconditional, perfect love that I’ve always taught.  Now is the time for all of you to raise your loving vibrations so high that love can’t help but embrace others.  It’s happening.  People from all over are coming together to share the love, to stand up for each other, and support one another.  It doesn’t matter what they look like, what they believe, or what they represent.  They’re standing for love.  That is the love that we should build upon.  That is the love that will change lives and change the world.  That is the love that all spiritual masters from all religions have taught.  And many are taking that love and light in their hearts and becoming the light in other people’s darkness.  Remember that hate teaches us to love.”

Taking a breath, I asked, “You mean there’s hope?”

Jesus smiled and replied, “Yes, Karen, there’s always hope.  Never give up on hope and never give up on humanity.  They’ll always surprise you.”

At that, Jesus gave me a handkerchief to wash my tears with the cooling water of the creek.  When I turned back, he was gone.  When I looked to where he had been sitting, I found a sparkling crystal rock in the shape of heart.  I don’t know what’s going to happen, but my faith that love would always prevail was renewed and I felt at peace.

Note:  Many are wearing safety pins to show their love and support for their fellow sisters and brothers on this planet.  If you see someone wearing this pin, it means, “I am safe.  If you are Muslim, a woman, LGBQ, person of color, Latinx, trans, an immigrant, disabled, afraid…I am here.  Speak…I’ll listen.  I’ll hold you.  Stand up for you.  Sit down for you.  Shut up for you.  Do what I can to let you know…I love you.  This sign is how you’ll know me.”

“I see a world where our love of cooperation is greater than the fear that drives us apart.”  Gregg Braden

Published in the Cookeville Herald Citizen newspaper, November 18, 2016.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

The Power of Your Thoughts

I accept and receive unexpected good, unexpected money, unexpected love, unexpected kindness, unexpected generosity, unexpected offers, unexpected prosperity coming in unexpected ways from unexpected places in my life and the life of others.  I am constantly guided and boldly empowered to receive the lavish abundance of the Universe.  I accept the principle that abundance and prosperity have already been given to me.  My acceptance makes it real and opens the space for manifestation to rush in!  I open wide the doors of my consciousness to receive and to give!  It is done now!  (Author unknown)

I recently saw the above posted on Facebook and immediately printed it so that I could read it over and over to have it become part of my every day mantra

Thoughts have power, a lot more power than we have ever known.  Peace Pilgrim said, “If you realized how powerful your thoughts are, you would never think a negative thought.”   Buddha stated, “We are shaped by our thoughts; we become what we think. When the mind is pure, joy follows like a shadow that never leaves.”

I’ve been a student of New Thought for some time now, except it’s not really New Thought…it’s more like ancient wisdom, which has been around since the beginning of mankind.  I have read probably hundreds of books about the power of our thoughts, so I know the information; except knowing and doing are two entirely different things. 

People who know me know that I’m pretty much a very positive and optimistic person.  The thing is, they don’t know that there are many times when I’m not thinking so positively.  In fact, I sometimes go into that deep pit of negativity and fear, and I go there more times than I care to admit.  I just don’t show it outwardly because I don’t want to be responsible for bringing others down with me. 

When my mind is filled with positivity and love for all as well as for myself, my life is so much better and brighter, things go better, and I feel like I can take on the world.  I know that everything is going to be all right, that I can rest in the knowledge that everything is in Divine Order, and that I don’t have to worry about a thing.  One thing about being an impath, though, is that I tend to take on the energies around me, and those energies aren’t always so positive.  Therefore, it just takes constant monitoring of my thoughts by overcoming the negative with the positive and loving. 

Wayne Dyer wrote, “Begin noticing and being careful about keeping your imagination free of thoughts that you do not wish to materialize. Instead, initiate a practice of filling your creative thoughts to overflow with ideas and wishes that you fully intend to manifest. Honor your imaginings regardless of others seeing them as crazy or impossible.”  Confucius said, “The more man meditates upon good thoughts, the better will be his world and the world at large.”  Gandhi stated, “Always aim at complete harmony of thought and word and deed. Always aim at purifying your thoughts and everything will be well.”

James Allen wrote a great little book titled “As A Man Thinketh” and I would highly recommend reading it (free at  He writes:  “‘As a man thinketh in his heart so is he,’ not only embraces the whole of a man's being, but is so comprehensive as to reach out to every condition and circumstance of his life. A man is literally what he thinks, his character being the complete sum of all his thoughts.

Man is made or unmade by himself; in the armory of thought he forges the weapons by which he destroys himself. He also fashions the tools with which he builds for himself heavenly mansions of joy and strength and peace. By the right choice and true application of thought, man ascends to the Divine Perfection; by the abuse and wrong application of thought, he descends below the level of the beast. Between these two extremes are all the grades of character, and man is their maker and master.

Of all the beautiful truths pertaining to the soul which have been restored and brought to light in this age, none is more gladdening or fruitful of divine promise and confidence than this - that man is the master of thought, the molder of character, and maker and shaper of condition, environment, and destiny.

As a being of Power, Intelligence, and Love, and the lord of his own thoughts, man holds the key to every situation, and contains within himself that transforming and regenerative agency by which he may make himself what he wills.”

“Change your though - change your life!”  Wayne Dyer 

Published in the Cookeville Herald Citizen newspaper November 11, 2016.

(Picture is from website [self-help for people who wouldn't be caught dead doing self-help])

Saturday, November 5, 2016

The Power of Now

There is something to be said for living in the now.  Not the past or the future, but in this very moment.  But how many of us can do it?  It’s definitely not easy.  It takes work and lots of practice.

Most of us live either in the past or in the future.  Our beliefs, words, and actions of today are usually influenced by things that happened in the past.  On the other hand, we are also constantly thinking or dreaming of the future and wishing how we would like for things to be.  When we live in the moment, this very second kind of moment, the past and future disappear and we are just ‘being.’

Suffering, stress, and fear only occur when our minds are in the past or in the future.  We’re stressed, angry, or upset because of something that happened or because of what someone said or did to us, and we re-live those experiences over and over in our minds as if they just happened.  We allow our past to dictate our present moment and that can lead into what manifests for us in the future. 

Yes, things in the past actually happened, but in the present moment, they’re just a memory and can no longer control us unless we let them which most of us do (including me).  When we live in the future, we can become upset because our lives aren’t going the way we think it should; consequently, we can become depressed and some become even suicidal because we don’t think we have any control over our lives.

Some experts say that our minds don’t know the difference between what’s real or not so whatever we think upon becomes our reality.  People can change their lives and have even healed their bodies and minds of illnesses and diseases just by the power of our minds and the thoughts we think.  There are those with split personalities whose individual personalities can even change the way someone appears just by the power of their thoughts.  Thus, our thoughts have more power than we could ever imagine.

If you think about it, we’re always thinking.  For some of us, our minds never shut up!  There are times, though, that thoughts are quieted such as when we’re watching a movie or TV show and we’re in the moment of what is happening on the screen.  We could be listening to music and we’re in the moment of the lyrics and melody.  We could also be meditating where we clear our minds of all thoughts and just sit in the moment. 

There’s a lot to be said about meditation.  I wish I liked to meditate more than I do, but I can only meditate for a few moments here and there (sometimes longer), and that’s okay.  When I quiet my mind, I become aware of my loving consciousness and of my connection to everything around me.  On those occasions when I can just be in the moment, all the stress that I feel of the past and future goes away and I can feel completely at peace with my life.  It happens more when I’m in nature and connected to Mother Earth.  It also happens when I’m listening to meditation music.  I wish I could live in the present moment all the time, but in reality, it’s almost impossible for the average person to do so, especially when our lives are so busy. 

When I do have troubles quieting my mind in meditation, I have found that if I smile even slightly, my mind stops chattering.  I’m not sure of the connection, but I do know that smiling gets the feel good critters going in our brains so it must help put the mind at ease.

If you are interested in learning more about living in the now, I would highly recommend reading “The Power of Now - A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment” by Eckhart Tolle.  It was recommended by Oprah Winfrey, has sold millions of copies, and has been translated into over 33 languages. 

Tolle states, “As soon as you honor the present moment, all unhappiness and struggle dissolve, and life begins to flow with joy and ease. When you act out the present-moment awareness, whatever you do becomes imbued with a sense of quality, care, and love - even the most simple action.”  He also said, “Enlightenment is not only the end of suffering and of continuous conflict within and without, but also the end of the dreadful enslavement to incessant thinking. What an incredible liberation this is!”  And lastly he wrote, “Realize deeply that the present moment is all you have. Make the NOW the primary focus of your life.”

Published in the Cookeville Herald Citizen newspaper November 4, 2016.

Friday, October 28, 2016

It's Time for a Lovelution!

Is anyone else tired of all the human nonsense occurring in our world right now?  The hate, bigotry, ignorance, lying, fighting, arguing, separation, and on and on it goes?  I know I am!  Therefore, I think it’s time for a Lovelution!  A Lovelution is different than a Revolution in that a Revolution tends to be violent and promotes more of the same because it gets people riled up to commit even more violence.  Violence doesn’t get anyone anywhere except to harm great numbers of people even further. 

A Lovelution uses unconditional love to unite and bring people together for the greater good of all.  If I had to come up with principles for this Lovelution, I think the Peace Prayer of Saint Francis would do very nicely.  “Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.  Where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy.  O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console, to be understood as to understand, to be loved as to love. For it is in giving that we receive, it is in pardoning that we are pardoned, and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.”  (You can change the word ‘Lord’ to Universe, Life, Love, or the God of your understanding, as it doesn’t necessarily have to be of a religious nature.)

Lovelutions aren’t new.  They’ve been occurring since the beginning of time.  Our great Spiritual Masters such as Jesus, Muhammad, Buddha, Moses, Gandhi, the Dalai Lama, Mother Teresa, and so many others throughout history (and today) have been teaching and promoting Lovelutions.  These Masters are the epitome of Love.  Their values are peace, kindness, compassion, loving one another, understanding, honesty, integrity, diversity, humility, spirituality, acceptance, generosity, forgiveness, truth, righteousness, non-violence, taking care of each other, and so much more. 

Sometimes I wonder how we as a human species can be so hateful and violent, and yet we’ve always had that segment of our societies since the beginning of time.  It just seems worse since there are now more people on this planet and because of easy access in the media with modern technology.  Something happens in the world and boom!  It’s in the news and on social media (whether it’s true or not).  And since the media only communicates mostly the negative, we never hear about the good that is occurring.

I never in my life could have ever imagined that I’d hear politicians, religious leaders, and others spew forth such hateful vitriol towards others, and yet again, it’s always been there.  And yet people believe every word they say and are doing their bidding by further promoting the hate and violence, which is the direct opposite of what their Spiritual Masters taught.

Again, we’re experiencing a spiritual awakening and everything that isn’t working is coming to light so that we can see it, cleanse it, and heal it.  It’s going to take those of us taking part in the Lovelution to see everyone and everything surrounded and embraced in the pure, unconditional, perfect Love of that All-That-Is.

If you so choose, you can decide to be a part of the Lovelution or the Revolution.   One lifts up with love and the other destroys.  Whichever one you select, it will define your true beliefs, what your core values really are, and will show whether you are actually following and practicing the teachings of your Spiritual Masters or the teachings of man. 

Ever since I began my serious spiritual journey, I’ve been working hard at being a part of the Lovelution.  I’m certainly not perfect at it as I’m continuing to learn to be the greatest expression of who I was meant to be.  I’ll fall and trip more times than I would care to admit, but I know what it is I want to aspire to, and I will always try to focus on unconditional love.

Bishop Carlton Pearson said, “As a people and nation, we will survive, arrive, and thrive. As an individual, you create in consciousness the manifestation you desire in your present as well as your future reality. Some people call this faith, others call it positive thinking, and still others call it expanded consciousness. Either way, it's energy and energy means movement. Both faith and fear contain momentum and momentum possesses and processes your life in this earth realm.”

As the great Gandhi once said, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”  Be the love, peace, compassion…  No matter what you choose, remember that love always prevails. 

Published in the Cookeville Herald Citizen newspaper October 28, 2016.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Love of Nature

Last weekend, I went to visit my brother in northern Ohio.  He has a really nice cottage home right within a State Park Forest and his property is surrounded by nature.  Up the hill from his house is a bike trail that goes for miles through the forest.  While I was there, I took a walk on the trail that took me up into the small mountain.  I was in heaven.

I love nature and it can bring me feelings of peace and contentment like nothing else.  Breathing in her magnificent fragrances, listening to her beautiful melodies, and seeing the spectacular scenery was like being in paradise.  My dream has always been to have a place in the mountains or at least surrounded by acres of trees where I can be embraced by Mother Nature’s nurturing peacefulness.  Whether or not I’ll ever see that dream come true is up to the Universe.

While I was walking the trail, I communed with my inner Spirit and we had a nice conversation.  I told her my dreams and wishes and she listened with love and patience.  I just cannot begin to tell you how connected I felt to our beautiful Mother Earth and all of life.  I knew we were one and I could feel her loving energy rise through my feet to the top of my head and fill my heart with gratefulness.

At one point as I came around a curve, a stunning groundhog scrambled to the safety of a large fallen tree.  I don’t know who scared who worse. 

A few minutes later as I was deep in thought, I suddenly heard some kind of whirling coming towards me.  My first thought was that a very large bird was flying right at me while frantically flapping its wings.  I looked up and here came a human being on a mountain bike and I had just enough time to get off the path to let him go by as we quickly exchanged greetings.

I continued walking and didn’t want to stop, but parts of the forest were getting dark.  I knew I didn’t want to be out where I couldn’t see, so I was conflicted about whether I should keep going and hope that the path brought me back to my brother’s, or if I should turn around and head back the way I came.  While these thoughts crossed my mind, the path suddenly turned down the mountain away from my brother’s house, so I knew I needed to turn and head back.

As I came closer to my brother’s place, I really wished I could just stay out in the forest close to nature, communing with all the spectacular life that she embraced, but it was getting late and I knew my family would be worried if I stayed out much longer.

Nature holds so much life and energy and Mother Nature knows what she’s doing when she provides us everything we need to live.  It’s sad that there are so many who take her for granted and are destroying so much of this glorious planet that we call home.  Forests and woods are being leveled, oil and other sources of energy are continuously sucked out of her belly, the air she provides is constantly filled with pollution, and I could go on.  I think Mother Earth deserves so much better.  Besides, once we destroy our Mother, there is no other.

There are many others like me who love to get out into nature.  We know her love and her power and we have nothing but respect for her.  We do our part as we are able to take care of her.  The earth is a huge ball of energy that is made of the very same ‘stuff’ as we are.  When we hurt her, we are only hurting ourselves.

If you’re feeling stressed, depressed, not well, etc., try connecting to Mother Earth.  Feel her presence and her power within you as she can be very healing.  Walk in the woods, lie in the grass, or hug a tree.  Commune with Mother Earth and the God of your understanding.  You’d be amazed at how much better you’ll feel. 

Thich Nhat Hanh said, “You carry Mother Earth within you.  She is not outside of you.  Mother Earth is not just your environment in that insight of inter-being.  It is possible to have real communication with the earth, which is the highest form of prayer.” 

And Chief Seattle stated, “This we know.  The earth does not belong to us; we belong to the earth.  All things are connected like the blood which unites one family.  All things are connected.”

Published in the Cookeville Herald Citizen newspaper October 21, 2016.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Words to Live By

Recently, Danielle Egnew, a beautiful voice in the spiritual community, attended the Interchange Symposium Board in Bozeman, Montana where she sat with a Rabbi, a Muslim woman, a Christian Pastor, a military general, a new energy entrepreneur, and an infectious disease specialist.  At 2:00 that morning, she put together a list of consciousness-focusing life modalities.   She then set them to music and developed a YouTube video to express these heartfelt thoughts.  She calls it ‘Words to Live By…My Credo for the 21st Century.’  It’s a marvelous video with empowering words and I would like to share them with you.

“I am not interested in what is wrong.  I am interested in what is right. If you have solutions, I’m interested.  Come share them with me.  I’ll share mine with you. I’ve gone bored with shock cynicism.  I refuse to sacrifice further IQ points at the altar of the lowest common denominator. Fear is not my University. Providing a shoulder to cry on is part of my design. Lies are boring.  Us-against-them is boring.  Mean, insulting, cutting, bullying, defensiveness, nastiness…boring. I’m not interest in distracting myself with the illusion of limitation. Debates are for the undecided.  I’m happy to discuss. Consensus is my religion. Love is the language of God.  I am at peace in the knowledge that at any given time, someone will be completely unhappy with my perspective.  I don’t need to be ‘in control.’  I do need to be aware.  I’m awake.  In this awareness there can sometimes be pain, loneliness, and fear. This awareness does not define reality…but the state of my own reality in that moment. There is nothing on this earth that love cannot heal.  I am designed to radiate love.  And so are you. I assume the best…as I’m simply not interested in the worst. I do not mistake hyper vigilance for provision. Anger is a symptom of pain.  Love is my bottom line.”

A creed is defined as, ‘a set of beliefs or aims that guide someone's actions,’ and is often a shared statement of belief such as the Nicene Creed, which was established as a statement of faith in Christianity between believers.  Creed was derived from the Latin word ‘credo,’ which means ‘I believe.’   Credo is more of a personal statement and is not necessarily used by a group.

Another great creed was written by Christian D. Larson.  It’s called “The Optimist Creed.”  “Promise yourself….  To be so strong that nothing can disturb your peace of mind.  To talk health, happiness, and prosperity to every person you meet.  To make all your friends feel that there is something in them.  To look at the sunny side of everything and make your optimism come true.  To think only of the best, to work only for the best, and to expect only the best.  To be just as enthusiastic about the success of others as you are about your own. To forget the mistakes of the past and press on to the greater achievements of the future. To wear a cheerful countenance at all times and give every living creature you meet a smile.  To give so much time to the improvement of yourself that you have no time to criticize others.  To be too large for worry, too noble for anger, too strong for fear, and too happy to permit the presence of trouble.”

We can always use someone else’s creed or credo, we can add to them, or we can write our own.  They are words to live by and express our personal beliefs, integrity, and character.  Sometimes, I’ll sing positive and optimistic songs as my credo.  Other times, I’ll read a creed over and over to get the positive words engrained in my brain.  Words have power and it’s up to us to use them for good, not only for ourselves, but for the world.  They can be short sentences or as long as you want.  They can even be written into poems.  Most of all, they should be an expression of who you are as these glorious beings living on this great planet we call Mother Earth.

Once we have our credo developed, we then need to practice living the words we have written.  If you need help, here are two great quotes to get you started:

“Always aim at complete harmony of thought and word and deed. Always aim at purifying your thoughts and everything will be well.”  Gandhi

“Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can.”  John Wesley

Published in the Cookeville Herald Citizen newspaper October 14, 2016.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

A State of Love

“A human being is part of a whole, called by us 'Universe', a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few people nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening the circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.”  Albert Einstein

It is said that we were made in the image of God and that we are all God’s children, and yet we humans sure do like to separate and put people into categories and attach labels to them.  Some even feel they have the right and the power to decide who is good or bad or who should be loved or not loved.  Some are even preaching, teaching, and declaring that certain segments of society should be banished and/or destroyed (murdered).  Many who are saying these things come from the religious and political realms and people are being brainwashed into believing whatever they say.  So rather than putting their beliefs and faith in God (or the God of your understanding), people are putting their beliefs and faith in man. 

How do you tell the difference?  Jesus made it pretty clear when he said, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”  All the great spiritual masters have taught that we are to love one another (no exceptions), and yet if you look around you, listen to the media, or even listen to your family and friends, there isn’t much love going around.  If people really believed and followed their spiritual masters from whatever religion they belong to, then there would be a whole lot more love in the world.

As long as we separate ourselves from our brothers and sisters on this planet for whatever reasons, we are separating ourselves from God.  We say that God is love.  Where’s the love?  When I hear people speak words of hate, bigotry, or ignorance, or when they judge others, I know that they are not coming from a state of love; they are coming from a state of fear and it is not of God.  But there’s hope because more and more people are becoming enlightened knowing that unconditional love really is the only answer!

Marianne Williamson wrote, “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.”

A Course in Miracles states, “If hatred finds a place within your heart, you will perceive a fearful world.  If you feel the Love of God within you, you will look out on a world of mercy and love.  You look upon that which you feel within.” 

We project our beliefs about ourselves and each other out onto the world and it is that world that will manifest from those beliefs.  We see the world as we see ourselves.  If we want love and peace in the world, then we need to cultivate love and peace within us individually.  As Gandhi said, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” 

We have got to stop the hating!  Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Hatred paralyzes life; love releases it.  Hatred confuses life; love harmonizes it.  Hatred darkens life; love illuminates it.” 

We wonder why so many are turning their backs on God, the church, and religions, but people are seeing the hypocrisy and they no longer want anything to do with it because they’re literally not seeing the love.

Martin Sheen said, “We wind up in cells of our own making when we’re not generous, loving, compassionate, and forgiving.  Without love, we build dungeons in our hearts and fill them with our perceived enemies.  We believe they deserve to be there for the harm they caused us, but by imprisoning them we’re destroying our own spirits.  When our dungeons are overflowing with these prisoners we refuse to set free, we become slaves to our self-righteousness, our anger, resentments, and self-loathing, which we let multiply until we wind up imprisoned on our own death row.” 

We have a choice.  We can either promote and live in a state of love…or a state of fear.  Which do you choose?  

Published in the Cookeville Herald Citizen newspaper October 7, 2016.

Friday, September 30, 2016

What Would Love Do?

Last week, I attended our UMMAS Unity retreat at the Kanuga Conference Center in Hendersonville, N.C. (Unity Ministers of the Mid-Atlantic States is a voluntary association of Unity ministers, spiritual leaders, and their spouses/partners from North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, and Alabama).  This was my thirteenth year, and it’s always an incredible experience!  I always come back refreshed, renewed, and filled with so much more love and appreciation for all of life.  The theme this year was "What Would Love Do?”

Our keynote speaker was Rev. Jack Bomar, whose history of being of service to humanity is phenomenal.  Eddie Watkins, Jr., who has played with many well-known artists including Quincy Jones and Barbara Streisand, provided us with extraordinary music.  We also had the opportunity to attend numerous classes and workshops on various topics.

One workshop I attended was “Pathways to Peace and Justice” about looking beyond assumptions, stereotypes, and appearances, and embracing the unity and worth of all people so that we can communicate authentically with others in deeper ways.  They also shared a beautiful prayer with us titled “Our Prayer for All People.”  It states, “There are many names for Spirit, many faces of Spirit, many paths to Spirit, but there is only One Spirit.  And this Spirit expresses through all people.  Knowing this, we bless people of every race, religion, culture, ethnicity, gender, age, sexual orientation, economic status, and mental or physical ability.  We celebrate the Divinity of all people, and give thanks that this is so.”  (

Another workshop I attended was “Loving Our Transgender Neighbors” that gave us information to better understand the transgender journey, Biblical teachings about gender, and our own gender enculturation.  One of the speakers was an amazing transgender woman named Gabrielle Claiborne.  She and Rev. Linda Herzer are co-founders of Transformation Journeys Worldwide.  They offer presentations and workshops in order to share their passion for educating all people about the transgender experience.   I had the opportunity to speak with Gabrielle for a little bit and her heart is so full of love and compassion.  (

The last night of the retreat, we have a talent show and I’ve had the opportunity to participate every year which is so much fun.  This year, I appeared as ‘the Little Old Lady’ in a fun skit with three friends from my Unity helping me.  Fortunately, because we each have a great sense of humor and the gift of spontaneity, it turned out to be hilarious and we had a blast performing it.

The music at Kanuga is provided by fabulous Unity musicians and singers and they are always so uplifting and exhilarating.  They play songs that are meditative and songs that get us dancing, and all of them touch our hearts and souls.

Even though I don’t claim a religion, one reason I love Unity so much is that we really do try to live and follow the practical teachings of Jesus in that he commanded us to love one another (no exceptions), as well as ourselves.  We’re open and accepting and love all people because unconditional love is what Jesus and all the other great spiritual masters taught.

Now that I’m back in ‘reality,’ I need to decide whether I want to stay in a state of love and peace, or if I want to again get involved in all the negative drama of the world.  I’m going to try to choose love and peace.  I know it won’t be easy, especially when we’re bombarded with so much negativity in the media, but it’s my intention that counts and where my heart is.  That doesn’t mean I’m going to ignore everything that’s going on as I still need to be aware of world events, but I don’t have to dwell on them or give my power over to them any longer.

Instead, I’m going to remember the words of Eddie Watkins, Jr.’s song, “What Would Love Do?”  To paraphrase the lyrics:  “Just before you say something you can’t take away, take a breath and let it out, try to think about, what would love do now?  Wondering if you should cross that line for good, whatever you decide, ask yourself from inside, what would love do now?  Everything is either an act of love, or a cry for love, that’s why for love, we try for love, in the end that’s all we know that’s real.  Whether right or wrong, does it matter just as long, as you let your heart decide, ask yourself inside, what would love do now?”

“Love is the only sane and satisfactory answer to the problem of human existence.”  Erich Fromm 

Published in the Cookeville Herald Citizen newspaper September 30, 2016.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Appreciation For Those Who Serve

There are many people in various professions who are under-paid and under-appreciated, and I would just like to express my sincere gratitude to all the wonderful men and women who work in these careers, not for fame and fortune, but because they love being of service and love their jobs.

I’d like to make it clear that there are good and bad people in all occupations, but there are so many more good than not.  The problem is that we just don’t hear about them, especially in the media.  The majority of the media loves to broadcast mostly the negative to the point that they almost glorify and make celebrities out of those who make really horrible choices in their lives.  We rarely, if ever, hear about those who are making a huge difference in the lives of humanity.  Yet each of us can acknowledge and reward those who are making a magnificent difference, not only in the lives of others, but in our own lives as well.

The profession I would first like to recognize is teachers.  When I first started working as a substitute teacher in the schools, I had an awakening to what exactly teachers face in today’s day and age.  It made me appreciate teachers that much more because of what they are trying to do for our children.  Most all teachers are very hard working, and they not only care about your children’s education, but they love and care about your children as well.  Contrary to the way they’re portrayed, they do not just work the hours of eight to three and have all this time off.  Most teachers come in early and stay late, they take work home with them in the evenings and on weekends, they work during their time off, and most even work on their vacations.  Your children spend at least seven or eight hours a day with these wonderful men and women and yet many take them for granted. 

Another profession is law enforcement officers.  These brave men and women literally put their lives on the line every time they go to work never knowing if they will make it home to their families that evening.  They face some of the most volatile situations and sometimes they have to see horrible and gruesome scenes that no one should have to see.  When responding to a call, they never know what they’re going to face.  When it comes to their safety or the safety of others, they literally have a split second to decide if someone is going to pull a gun on them knowing that they could be taking someone’s life whether there’s a gun involved or not.  The media focuses on the ‘bad’ cops with regard to shootings, but no one mentions how many times officers are shot at and how many are injured or killed. 

Next come firefighters, EMT’s, and other first responders.  These are also brave men and women who never know what they’re going to face or whether they’ll make it home at the end of the day.  They save homes, people, animals, and property at the risk of their own lives.  Many volunteer their services and are not paid with an income or benefits.  They also have to see some of the most horrific scenes that no one should ever have to see. 

Our military personnel also deserve a special mention (including the National Guard).  I don’t support war, and it should always be an absolute last resort, but I will totally stand up for our military personnel.  They go into situations, mostly in other countries, where they know they will be killing countless lives, even though society says it’s justified.  They also put their lives on the line to save others, never knowing if they themselves will be alive at the end of the day.  They, too, see things no one should ever see.  Many come back home and are treated horribly, especially when it comes to taking care of their physical and mental health because of the war.

There are many, many others, and you can add your own to this list.  To these brave men and women, I would like to say thank you, I love you, and I appreciate you.  Your service to humanity is not in vain.  You’ve touched and even saved countless lives, and you’ve made a tremendous difference in our world. 

So the next time you see any of these amazing people, please take the time to thank them.  Send them notes of gratitude and gifts from your heart, and let them know that their service and their lives do matter.

“Appreciation is a wonderful thing.  It makes what is excellent in others belong to us as well.”  Voltaire 

Published in the Cookeville Herald Citizen newspaper September 23, 2016.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Everyone Has a Story!

The other day I was in a store and the clerk mentioned to me and another woman that earlier a mother had come in with a child and he was causing a ruckus by crying and whatever else he was doing. In situations like this, I’ve heard many people say that all the parent(s) needs to do is spank or beat the kid(s). Before they could really say anything, I said that we never know what the whole story is.  The child could be autistic, the mother could be having a really bad day because she found out she has an illness, maybe someone died, or it could be any other number of reasons that we weren’t seeing.  And maybe in spite of whatever she’s experiencing, she still had to get some things from the store and didn’t have any other choice but to take her child with her.

Consequently, rather than us going into a state of judgment talking about how awful this child was or how terrible it was that the mother wasn’t keeping her child under control, we took the high road and chose instead to have compassion for her and the child. 

We’ve all been there either with our own children or witnessing other parents having a hard time keeping their children under control or trying to keep them from crying in public.   It’s interesting how many people immediately rush to judgment and think that using violence on the child is the only answer.  Sure, maybe the child(ren) just wants what s/he wants when s/he wants it and the parent said no causing a temper tantrum.  Some parents will immediately stop what they’re doing and leave the store.  Others can’t as they have to finish their shopping before they can leave. 

Instead of jumping to conclusions about what is actually occurring, how about if we show compassion and ask the mom (or dad) if there’s anything we can do to help.  Ask with love and kindness in our hearts.  “I see you’re having a moment.  Is there is anything I can do to help you?”  Maybe we can distract the child by talking to him/her.  There are any number of things we can try before realizing that the only solution is for the parent to get out of the store with any reasonable sanity left.  But we don’t need to judge.

Recently, I saw a great story on Facebook from a “Love What Matters” site about a man who took the high road to help a woman and child on a flight.  Someone witnessed this beautiful man’s compassion and wrote, “On a flight back to Georgia, this man, who was a stranger to this woman, offered to help her because she was pregnant and alone on the flight, and her son was upset and fussy.  He told her that he was a dad and wanted to help her so she could rest. He walked the aisle most of the flight from Minneapolis to Atlanta comforting this woman's son as if he was his own.  I was in tears...not because he was white and she was black...but because it showed me today that there are still good people out there in a world full of turmoil.”

Sure, sometimes your offer of kindness may be met with ‘no thank you,’ or you may even get a nasty response, but it’s what’s in your heart that counts.  If you do get a nasty response, please don’t respond with a nasty reply.  They may just be beyond frustrated and it has nothing to do with you.  You practiced the teachings of Jesus and all the other great Spiritual Masters when you put love and compassion first. 

It’s so easy to sit in judgment of others for whatever reasons, but we have got to realize that everyone has a story.  We don’t know what anyone is going through.  I would highly recommend Googling “Everyone Has a Story” and watch some of the videos.  After watching them, you may find yourself being less judgmental and having a little more compassion for others.

Since we don’t know what others are going through, we can help lighten whatever load they may be carrying with little acts of kindness.  A smile, a hug, or a sincere compliment can go a long way.  Treat people the way you would want to be treated, especially when you’re experiencing any kind of darkness.   It’s called the Golden Rule and it’s in most all religions.

The Bible says, “…clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.  And over all these virtues, put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.”  (Colossians 3:12/14)

And Steve Maroboli stated, “A kind gesture can reach a wound that only compassion can heal.” 

Published in the Cookeville Herald Citizen September 16, 2016.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Rise of the Nones

Recently, I was researching why so many people are leaving the church, turning their backs on God, and not wanting to have anything to do with religion(s), particularly when it comes to Christianity. There are countless articles written on the subject, but what I found was that there are no easy answers.

It also appears there is a new ‘religion’ out there called the Nones and they are on the rise.   The Nones consist of Atheists, Agnostics, those who don’t go to church, those not affiliated with a religion, those who claim to be spiritual rather than religious, and many others.

According to a National Geographic article, the Nones are considered the second largest ‘religious’ group in North America and a good part of Europe.  In North America, they consist of almost a quarter of the population. 

An article in the American Catholic Review magazine stated that about 70% of Nones say they believe in God, a higher power, or a life force in some form.  It also stated that of these, Jesus was still a meaningful spiritual figure because of his healings, how he embraced the social outcasts, and he was critical of religious hypocrisy.  He was also a great moral and spiritual example. stated that 78% of the Nones were raised in highly religious families.  Statistics show that when parents work hard to indoctrinate their children with their religious beliefs, then the chances are good that the child(ren) will later leave the religion or totally hate it.  Some of the reasons were logic, common sense, or lack of evidence.  They also cited religious scandals, sexual abuse, religious politics, religious extremism, and so on.  Some claimed they were seeking a spiritual path of enlightenment and believed in being open-minded, and this segment is also on the rise. 

As an Interfaith Minister, I’ve spoken with many people who don’t go to church and/or don’t believe in God.  Some have said that they tried going to church, but were not made to feel welcome because of the way they looked, their lifestyle, they were judged and ostracized, and some were even kicked out the front door.  I’ve personally witnessed some of these examples in various churches.

I believe a huge reason many are turning away is because of the hypocrisy they see and hear from so many religious leaders and their churches.  They hear the messages of outright hatred towards those who do not believe the way they do.  They also see how so many are trying to force their religion onto others, how they’re trying to make laws based on their religion, how they want only their religion, and how much their words and actions are hurting people.  They see church leaders of various religions committing crimes, ripping their congregants off financially, saying they’re happy when certain segments of society are hurt or killed, and they hear them incite so much violence.  They know this is not the way Jesus and the other great spiritual masters would have wanted it, and they know in their hearts that this isn’t the way it’s supposed to be!  They know the spiritual masters taught messages of unconditional love, kindness, compassion, peace, harmony, and oneness. 

Of course, there are many religions (including denominations, etc.) who are exceptions and who do teach and practice what their spiritual masters taught, but they’re not always easy to find.  Fortunately, I’ve been to several, including several right here in Cookeville.  They consist of loving groups of people, they welcome anyone into their community, and the newcomers will be loved just the way they are. 

The best influence when it comes to religion is to lead by example rather than trying to force a religion on anyone.  Those who are secure in their beliefs have absolutely no desire to force those beliefs on anyone.  They know that unconditional love, kindness, and compassion they show towards others are their greatest testimonies. 

John Shelby Spong said, “God is not a Christian, God is not a Jew, or a Muslim, or a Hindu, or a Buddhist. All of those are human systems which human beings have created to try to help us walk into the mystery of God. I honor my tradition, I walk through my tradition, but I don't think my tradition defines God, I think it only points me to God.” 

If you want your religion and/or church to grow, lead by example and lead with unconditional love.  More people are influenced by the example you set and when they know they are loved and accepted just as they are.  It is said that God is love; therefore, love should be the greatest example.  As Deepak Chopra said, “If love is universal, no one can be left out.”

Published in the Cookeville Herald Citizen newspaper September 9, 2016.