Friday, May 26, 2017

To Honor and Respect All Life

"To honor and respect means to think of the land and the water, air, plants, and animals who live there as having an equal right to be here. We are not the supreme and all-knowing beings living at the pinnacle of evolution, but are in fact members of the sacred hoop of life, along with the trees, rocks, coyotes, eagles, fish, and toads. Each performs its given task in the sacred hoop of the Great Spirit, as we have one, too."  Wolf Song of the Abenaki Tribe

According to the Bible and other religions’ holy books, God (by whatever name you use) created the world and everything on it.  We call this beautiful, magnificent world “Mother Earth.”  Since the beginning of time, she has been providing for us and she gives us everything we need to survive. 

Everything in existence is made of the exact same thing.  If you put a sample of everything upon the earth whether it’s human, animal, anything in nature, solid objects, etc., under the most powerful magnifying scope, you would find that we’re all made of the same energy, which consists of protons, neutrons, electrons, and mostly empty space.  Once we awaken to this wisdom, we realize our connectedness to each other and to all of life. 

And yet we have this illusion of separateness, and we separate each other and all things with labels.  Wayne Dyer, a well-known spiritual author and speaker, said that if you take the labels off of everything, you will realize that everything is one energy.  So, I tried it.  I stood in our front yard and looked at everything around me.  I took the labels off.  It only happened for a few seconds, but for those few seconds, I saw everything blend into each other.  That’s when I had the most amazing aha moment!  I saw everything as one energy and I got it.  Everything really is connected!  Since then, my perspective on all of life changed and it deepened my spiritual beliefs. 

I also realized that it is only we humans who separate each other from each other.  We separate ourselves from our glorious Mother Earth to the point that we don’t take care of her.  In fact, many are destroying her.  The creator gave us this magnificent being called earth and if we don’t come together to save her, we will only destroy ourselves.  By disrespecting and dishonoring our planet and everything on it, as well as each other, we are disrespecting and dishonoring the very one who created us.

“Grandfather, look at our brokenness.  We know that in all creation, only the human family has strayed from the Sacred Way. We know that we are the ones who are divided and we are the ones who must come back together to walk the Sacred Way. Grandfather, Sacred One, teach us love, compassion, and honor that we may heal the earth and heal each other.” Ojibwa Prayer  

Published in the Cookeville Herald Citizen newspaper May 26, 2017.

Friday, May 19, 2017

A Seeker of Love and Truth

“Live righteously and love everyone; you will build up around you an aura of light and love.”   Unknown

I’m a seeker…a seeker of love and truth.  I don’t know why I was put on this path, but for most of my adult life, I’ve been on this incredible spiritual journey always looking for answers to life’s greatest mysteries.  I went from believing in a religion which said that if I questioned what they told me then I was a bad person, to opening my heart and mind to learning everything the Universe (or by whatever name you use) has for me to learn.  I may have come a long way, but I still have a long ways to go.  In fact, I usually say that in the realm of everything there is to know, I still don’t know anything.  Yet I keep learning.  I keep learning from these amazing people who have learned before me.  And I also learn by going within to listen to that still small voice that never steers me wrong and always speaks with a voice so full of pure, unconditional, perfect love.

One of the greatest lessons I’ve learned is that unconditional love really is the answer.  Love not only for others, but for ourselves as well.  If we lead with this kind of love in our hearts and lead from our souls, then that love will guide us into some of the most remarkable experiences; experiences that will not only change our lives, but the lives of those around us.  Is it easy to have this kind of love?  Not always.  The more we work on it, though, the easier it becomes.

It’s the reason I became an ordained interfaith minister.  I love to love and I’m not ashamed of it.  I’ve taken some hits for teaching people to love and to be kind to one another.  It’s hard to understand how anyone can find fault with teaching love, kindness, and compassion, the same things that Jesus and so many other masters have taught before us.  1 Corinthians 13:4-8 even states, “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.  Love never fails.” 

The Prophet Muhammad said, “There is reward for kindness to every living thing.”  He also stated, “Be kind, for whenever kindness becomes part of something, it beautifies it.”  Anita Moorjani claimed, “Unconditional love is our birthright, not judgment or condemnation, and there’s nothing we need to do to earn it.  This is simply who and what we are.”  And Alphonse de Lamartine declared, “To love for the sake of being loved is human, but to love for the sake of loving is angelic.” 

Published in the Cookeville Herald Citizen newspaper May 19, 2017.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Love is All Inclusive

At one time, Native Americans were mostly considered savages and were moved to reservations or slaughtered.  After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, approximately 120,000 people of Japanese ancestry, mostly American adults and children, were forced to live in incarceration camps in America.  Then there was the Holocaust where German authorities committed genocide on over six million Jews, Gypsies, disabled, Slavics, Jehovah’s Witnesses, homosexuals, mentally ill, and others.   Also throughout history at various times, women were considered property and men could do whatever they wanted to them, and black people were kept as slaves.  These are just a few examples throughout history. Many of these groups were even considered subhuman.

We’ve come a long way, but we still have a long way to go.  Today, Muslims, Mexicans, blacks and other people of color, women, those in the LBGTQ communities, the homeless, poor, those of particular religions, and so many others continue to have to fight the battle to equality. 

For those of us who aren’t in any of the above groups and have not yet had to experience any of these injustices, it’s hard for us to understand what they went through or are going through.  We can have an idea in order to have empathy and show compassion, but we can never truly know how anyone actually feels. 

John F. Kennedy stated, “If we cannot now end our differences, at least we can help make the world safe for diversity.”   The good news is that there are millions of people all over the world who are uniting to bring people together in spite of any perceived differences!  They’re out there practicing the teachings of their spiritual masters in that they’re lifting people up, working to bring equality to all people, and working to overcome the injustices that so many are experiencing just because of their beliefs, color, lifestyles, nationality, religion, and so on. 

Nelson Mandela said, “As long as poverty, injustice and gross inequality persist in our world, none of us can truly rest.”  He also said, “To deny people their human rights is to challenge their very humanity.”

Max de Pree stated, “We need to give each other the space to grow, to be ourselves, to exercise our diversity. We need to give each other space so that we may both give and receive such beautiful things as ideas, openness, dignity, joy, healing, and inclusion.”  Desmond Tutu declared, “Isn't it amazing that we are all made in God's image, and yet there is so much diversity among his people?”  And Gandhi said, “Our ability to reach unity in diversity will be the beauty and the test of our civilization.”  

We all share space on this great planet called Mother Earth; therefore, can’t we just learn to live together in peace and harmony?  As someone once said, “The beauty of the world lies in the diversity of its people.”  And personally, I believe that because of our diversity, we are one beautiful planet!

Published in the Cookeville Herald Citizen newspaper May 12, 2017.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Lucky to Have Friends

“If you have two friends in your lifetime, you’re lucky.  If you have one good friend, you’re more than lucky.”  S.E. Hinton

Over our lifetime, we have the opportunities to meet countless people and hopefully be lucky enough to make some good friends along the way.  The Merriam Dictionary describes a friend as “one attached to another by affection or esteem; a favored companion.”  Of course, there are numerous degrees of friends, everything from acquaintances to deep, bonding lifelong friends.  We have them in schools, workplaces, neighborhoods, churches, and so on. 

Hopefully, we can get along with most of the people who are in our lives whether they are friends, co-workers, and/or even family.  Some relationships can be a real adventure in that there can be conflict or even outright hostility for whatever reasons. These can be great lessons in learning how to deal with difficult people.  Some of these difficult relationships will work themselves out to where we can eventually get along, and if we’re really lucky, we may end up being the best of friends.  With some others, no matter how hard we try to get along or how nice we are to them, we realize that there will never be any kind of relationship; therefore, we just have to bless them and let them go.

There are many reasons why we may not be able to get along with someone no matter how hard we try.  It could be a personality conflict, they may have issues in their personal lives, they may not agree with your beliefs, lifestyle, religion, etc., and therefore, don’t want to associate with you, or it could be any number of things. 

There are some who are happy being miserable or they’re constantly surrounded by chaos and they may not know how to be friends.  I once knew someone who was consistently surrounded by chaos, and I asked my inner spirit why.  She replied, “Because that’s all she knows.”  Sometimes that chaos can become our identity.  Thich Naht Hanh said, “When another person makes you suffer, it is because he suffers deeply within himself, and his suffering is spilling over.  He does not need punishment; he needs help.” 

There’s not much we can do when people are determined not to be our friends no matter what the environment.  What I try to do is to see them embraced with love and light, to have more compassion and understanding for what they may be going through, and then I release and let them go. 

Then there are the rare friends who will make you laugh a little louder, your smile a little brighter, and your life a little better.  They lift you up, encourage you, support you, lend you their shoulders, and they’re always there to love you unconditionally no matter what.  These are the friendships we should concentrate on building.  These are the friendships that can last a life time.

“A friend loves at all times.”  Proverbs 17:17

Published in the Cookeville Herald Citizen newspaper May 5, 2017.