Posts tagged: religion

The Powerful I AM

 

I am currently preparing for the publication of my first novel, Merlyn’s Raven, and I am doing a lot of online interviews that will go up around the time of that publication on April 17. Inevitably, in every interview, I start by answering the following prompt: “Tell us a little about yourself.” Often, my response starts with, “I am a wife, a mother…” etc., and I go on defining myself through these “I am” statements. This brought to my mind the topic for this post, which I also spoke about at my church, the USCL, yesterday.

I AM is a very bold statement. It is a statement of identity. When we proclaim I AM, it clearly defines us in a very specific way. When we use an I AM statement, we are declaring a truth about ourselves. “I am a wife.” “I am a mother.” “I am an accountant/truck driver/lawyer/counselor/soccer player” etc., whatever the case may be. We are confidently declaring to the world how we see ourselves and how we expect to be seen by others.

Interestingly, these I AM statements come directly from Creator. In Exodus 3:13, we read the following:

But Moses said to God, “If I come to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your ancestors has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them? God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” He said further, “Thus you shall say to the Israelites, “I AM has sent me to you.”

(The Harper Collins Study Bible)

In this passage, God goes on to tell Moses to call him THE LORD, which translates to the Hebrew letters YHWH, which we say as YAHWEH. This is connected to the Hebrew verb “hayah,” which means “to be.” What is God saying here? Many scholars believe He is commenting on His infinite nature, the fact that God is and always will be. He is commenting on the fact that everything is connected to God and has within it the essence of God, for in order for anything “to be,” it must have the essence of being, which is ultimately God. Whew. That’s very deep, isn’t it? Let’s come back to that concept in a moment.

When I was writing my book about Metatron, I included a section of channeled writings directly from the Archangel. When I did this through automatic writing, I went into an altered state and simply typed whatever Metatron channeled through me. I noticed something very interesting after I read these passages in my “normal” state: any time Metatron made an I am statement, he capitalized both words: I AM. He did this every time. I have no memory of this, but it was obviously important. When I asked Metatron about this, he said that he was affirming in a visual way his connection to Creator, the ultimate I AM, and that we should all recognize our inherent connection to Creator this way. By saying I AM, we are affirming our Divinity and opening a channel for God’s grace, wisdom, healing, and power to flow through us. In other words, we ourselves are God.

Wow!

That’s a very powerful and very profound thought, isn’t it? We ourselves are God. We ourselves are infinite and powerful. We ourselves are capable of anything and everything, just as God is capable of anything and everything.

I was thinking about this and how Jesus used this statement, too. In John 14: 4-10, we read the following:

“Thomas said to him, ‘Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?’ Jesus said to him, ‘I AM the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.’

Philip said to him, ‘Lord, show us the Father, and we shall be satisfied.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, Show us the Father? Do you not believe that I AM in the Father and the Father is in me?’

Unlike some people, I don’t believe in this passage that Jesus is telling his disciples that he is the only way for people to connect with God. I believe he is using himself as an example of the fulfillment of the I AM energy, the great reflection of the God potential in us all. Jesus says boldly, I AM THE WAY. He is affirming that the way to God, to Infinite Intelligence, is within him, and he is reminding us that it is within all of us. Jesus holds himself up as an example and asks us to follow this example. He asks us to affirm to ourselves our I AM presence, our I AM divinity. He asks us to go within and nurture this divine essence, to honor it, and to allow it to lead us to higher spiritual truths and understandings. He reminds us that God is within us all by showing us how he and God are connected. As the great Master Teacher that he is, Jesus instructs us in how to deeply appreciate the connection within that God has gifted to every one of us.

So we come back to the concept of “being.” What are we being? When we use an I AM statement, we are affirming a reality. Can we not then use an I AM statement to create a new and better reality? I believe we can. I believe this is what affirmation statements are all about. I can’t say enough about the power of changing our thoughts into positive statements of intention. I believe this makes such a difference because we are directly tapping into divine energy every time we say I AM in an affirmation. And how can we not bring positive power to our intention if we are accessing the ultimate divine energy?

So today, I urge you to make a commitment to yourself. Promise yourself that you will access this divine energy every day in using personal affirmation, I AM statements. They can be whatever you want or need them to be, but make a point to state them out loud. This is prayer energy mixed with intention energy. This is direct access to our powerful God-source energy within. And this is what Creator tells us is possible for us. What are we waiting for? Let’s use this immensely powerful gift from God!

So try this for yourself. I have listed here some powerful I AM statements. If one doesn’t resonate for you, your Higher Self will know it, and it will not affirm that. That’s OK—use and affirm the statements that are right for you at this time. Or make up some of your own. But use the powerful I AM energy to create a new and better life for yourself.

I AM powerful.

I AM beautiful.

I AM Divine.

I AM strong.

I AM healthy.

I AM smart.

I AM peaceful.

I AM prosperous.

I AM creative.

I AM abundant.

I AM successful.

I AM happy.

I AM joyful.

I AM stress-free.

I AM loving.

I AM loved.

My place is the no-place

My image is without face


Neither of body nor the soul


I am of the Divine Whole.

                  –Rumi 116

 

“See Ya In Another Life, Brother”

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By now, most people who care about it have seen the series finale of the television show Lost. If the buzz I’ve heard around the Internet is any indication, people feel two ways about the ending: they either loved it, or they hated it. I unabashedly fall into the camp of those who loved it, and I’ll tell you exactly why if you indulge me and keep reading.

I came to Lost much later than most fans of the show. I’d heard a lot about it over the years, but I didn’t want to invest in another television show. I’m the kind of person who gets attached to T.V. shows pretty easily if I like the characters, but watching a weekly program is a huge time commitment, not to mention the level of emotional investment I usually tend to make. When Lost started, I wasn’t prepared to do that, and as the show continued on in subsequent seasons, I knew I’d have to start back at the beginning if I wanted to make heads or tails out of the island mythology. But I had a lot of friends who watched the program and would chat about it, and I started to feel a bit left out. Was I really missing something spectacular? It sure sounded like I was. So, last summer, at the beginning of June, I rented season one of Lost from Netflix. I knew that the upcoming season six would be its last on network television, and I wanted to get caught up on the show before it began airing its final episodes in January, 2010. My intention was to watch the show by myself–but when I saw the pilot episode, that quickly changed.

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I was so visually and emotionally impressed with the first episode of Lost that I said to my husband and twin teenaged sons, “I think you guys would really like this show. Do you want to watch it with me?” Thus began a family odyssey last summer, where we watched the whole mystery of the plane crash, the island, and its inhabitants unfold over five seasons. We viewed all five years of the show by the end of 2009, and we were all definitely ready to invest in the final season when it began in January.

I know there are plenty of people out there who think that the mysteries of the island were not explained in a plausible, satisfactory way. I am not one of those people. Quite frankly, I never really cared much about why Oceanic Flight 815 crashed on the island. Although the smoke monster and the polar bear were kind of interesting and frightening, I never really cared why they were strange anomalies on the island. Although the Others and the fights between the different factions of people made for intriguing story lines (sometimes, and sometimes for tedious ones), it never really mattered to me why or how those Others got to the island. All I cared about was the fate of the passengers who crashed, the ones I was introduced to in that pilot episode, the ones who made indelible imprints on my heart.

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Yes, some of the characters bugged me (Shannon), and some of their story lines didn’t make any sense (what was all that about Walt being psychic or something?) And yes, I am in the camp of “Why were some of those characters in the finale and some weren’t?” (Michael and Walt were noticeably absent, but Penny, who’d never even been on the island, was there.) Be that as it may, I can look past that, because the finale was so, so good in so many ways. Mostly, to me, a Spiritualist and a medium, it was incredibly emotionally and spiritually fulfilling, which is why I loved it so much.

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The beauty of the Lost finale lies in the relationships between the main characters. One by one, in their alternate reality off the island, the characters “wake up” to the reality of their lives on the island and the importance of the people that shared those experiences. The emotional intensity of the scenes between Jin and Sun, Charlie and Claire, and especially Sawyer and Juliet were some of the best moments of television I’ve ever witnessed.

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Sure, the flashbacks helped, but what mattered were the connections re-made by the ones experiencing them. And as far as I’m concerned, Terry O’Quinn deserves another Emmy award for his portrayal of John Locke. His post-surgery scene with Jack was breathtaking.

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And wasn’t that always what Lost came down to in the end? The struggle between faith, represented in earlier seasons by John Locke, and science, represented by Dr. Jack Shepherd? I think this is a huge part of the importance of Lost, but to me, the show’s message can be summed up even more simply. It’s a show about love. We see that in the finale as we watch all of the characters come together in a better understanding of themselves and each other while in the alternate reality. And we see that in Jack’s heroic actions on the island itself as he attempts to destroy the Man in Black (now walking around in Locke’s body) and to restore The Light that the island keeps on behalf of the whole universe.

Much has been made of the alternate reality timeline that has been running since the beginning of season six and plays such an important part in the final moments of the show. It’s obvious to me that the alternate reality is a level of the afterlife where, as Christian Shepherd tells his son Jack, there is “no time.” He explains it’s a place that the survivors of the plane crash made after they died so that they could all remember, let go, and move on, together. Did they all die in the plane crash, as some people seem to think, deeming the whole six seasons of Lost a kind of purgatory (or, as Richard called it, “hell”)? No. As we’ve been told many times on Lost, what happened, happened. Everyone died. They just did it at different times: some on the island (like Boone and Shannon and Libby, and, in the heart-breaking way it played out, Jack), some off the island after they’d made their final escape at a time in the future we don’t see (Kate, Sawyer, and presumably Desmond, since Hurley and Ben decided their first order of business as the new island caretakers was to get him back to Penny and their son). For me, this was a beautiful and inspiring idea on the part of the writers, an idea that highlighted once again the importance of our relationships. No matter what our actions in life (Jack’s heroics, Locke’s spiritual growth, Ben’s despicable actions and his subsequent turn-around), what carries the most weight are our connections to the people in our lives. These are the members of our soul group, the ones with whom we learn our most important and valuable life lessons. The survivors of Oceanic 815 and many of the other folks who interacted with them are members of a soul group, and they needed each other for their spiritual evolvement and growth to take place. What a beautiful message!

I’ll admit it: I cried buckets throughout the finale. I never realized how much I cared about Jack until he was mortally wounded, and he and Kate were forced to admit their true love for each other.

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The scenes between Hurley and Jack were very touching as well, as were the interactions between Ben and Hurley. Hurley always was the voice of the viewer on Lost, asking the questions we wanted to ask and voicing our frustrations and our fears. How appropriate that gentle, loving Hurley ends up the caretaker of The Light when Jack completes his final earthly mission. And how wonderful that he can forgive Ben all of his faults and ask him to help with the protection of the island, allowing Ben to finally find some measure of redemption and honor, which is all he really ever wanted in the first place.

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Of course, being human, I was a little disappointed in a couple of things about the finale. I have a hard time believing that Sayid’s relationship with Shannon was more important than the one he shared with Nadia. But perhaps I’m being narrow-minded. Maybe Sayid’s relationship with Shannon was critical to his spiritual evolution, and this was why they were reunited in the afterlife as opposed to him being reunited with Nadia. I’ll have to live with it, I suppose, but I wanted more for Sayid, one of my favorite characters on the show and one who tried so hard to shake off the restraints of his questionable past.

sayid-shannon-lost

I also found myself wondering about the nature of Jack’s relationship with his son, David, in the afterlife they all created. What did this mean? Was this Jack’s way of trying to work out his own issues with his father before he moved on to a higher plane of the Other Side? Was David some other member of Jack’s soul group who stayed behind (like Ben) when Jack moved forward and beyond with his friends from the island?  I don’t know that I’ll ever get an explanation for this, but that’s OK. The mysteries of the Universe sometimes remain that way.

jacks-son-david-lost

Naturally, I’d love to know what happened to Sawyer, Kate, Claire, Miles, Lapidus, and especially Richard in the interim between their leaving the island and the time they all actually passed on to Spirit. What must 19th century Richard think about the modern world he finds himself in? (Is that a Lost spin-off in the making?) I’d love to know how Hurley and Ben get Desmond off the island and back to Penny (again, this might make an intriguing extra episode!) But these are minor questions that don’t really need answers. It’s gratifying to know that eventually, when they’re all ready, they find their way to the people who mean the most to them.

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By far, the scene in the church between Christian and Jack at the end of the episode was incredibly rich and emotional for me. Jack’s transformation and final understanding was incredible to watch (kudos to Matthew Fox for his work in this entire episode), and Christian’s explanations to his son’s questions were especially fulfilling to this Spiritualist medium. I also truly appreciated the set decoration touch of having a stained glass window behind the two that represented many of the world’s most prominent religions. The beauty and the immense understanding offered in the afterlife are available to everyone, no matter what faith they embraced during their physical lifetimes. By the end of Lost, Jack had become a man of faith. Yet his connection to his soul group was critical to his spiritual progression, and none of them could move on without the others–thus, the wonderful scene in the church where they’re all reunited in understanding and love once more.

jack-vincent-lost

Jack’s final scene in Lost brings the whole story full circle in an amazing way. Lying on his back in the bamboo field, bleeding out, he assumes the same position where we first saw him in the pilot episode. He accepts his death and his role in the fate of the island. As he does, Vincent runs in, just as he did when Jack first awoke after the plane crash. This time, though, Vincent lies next to Jack, a beautiful moment of power and compassion as Jack takes his final breaths. He sees the airplane fly over head, the one carrying Sawyer, Miles, Claire, Richard, Lapidus, and Jack’s true love, Kate, and he knows that he’s saved them. He smiles, reassured that he’s fulfilled his destiny. And, as the first episode of Lost began with a shot of Jack’s eye opening up, the last episode ends with a shot of Jack’s eye closing forever.

Well, until he reaches that point of understanding in the afterlife, which has been happening throughout the whole episode.

For me, this episode of Lost fulfilled my hopes for a powerful, provocative, and happy ending for the members of Oceanic Flight 815. What could possibly be better than reuniting with your true loves and your friends in a beautiful place after the hard toil, frustration, and challenge of this physical lifetime? To me, the castaways of the mysterious island deserve this fate. They’ve been through hell on earth, and they’ve found a little piece of heaven on the Other Side.

When we first met Desmond, he said something strange to Jack as they parted: “See ya in another life, brother.” He was certainly right, after all.

AP on TV Lost Reaction

Thank you, Lost. You’ve entertained my family and helped us grow closer by discussing you and your weird, quirky story lines. You’ve helped me to explain commitment and violence to my sons, thus making our communication with each other stronger and better.  You’ve filled my life with adventure and love, and you’ve ended by giving me hope and inspiration. And you delivered, by far, the best television finale I’ve ever seen.

The Radio Ambush

A week or so ago, I was a guest on an internet radio show. I do a lot of these since I’ve published my books, and, for the most part, I really enjoy them. I get to talk with some very interesting, smart, fun people about topics I love: mediumship, ghosts, Tarot, magick, Spiritualism, writing, the creative process, and many others. Whenever I get a request to do one of these shows, I try my best to fit it into my schedule. It’s another way to connect with more people and to spread the message that my books promote. I consider it an honor to be asked to appear, and I am grateful for the opportunity.

Most of these radio shows are done on stations that cater to a metaphysical audience. This latest one was no exception. When the host contacted me, I checked out the webpage and thought the show’s audience would be right up my alley. They’d featured interviews with other mediums, psychics, and ghost hunters. Via email, the host and I arranged a night that would work for both of us for my appearance. That correspondence took place over 3 months before my spot. In the meantime, I tried to send him copies of my books (which didn’t work out), but we didn’t really have any other contact.

The day of my appearance (which was scheduled for that evening), I received a surprising email from the host. He explained that he had a co-host on the show who was a conservative Christian and might have some questions for me about my mediumship work. I got the distinct impression from this that there might be a confrontation about religion on the docket.

Honestly, I didn’t know how to respond. The terrified, non-confrontational part of me wanted to immediately back out. I don’t enjoy fighting about anything, let alone feeling as if I have to defend my spiritual beliefs. I even wrote an entire chapter in my latest book, Ask A Medium, about a similar topic. I wrote that chapter for all of the clients and students who tell me how much they hate trying to defend themselves against radical religious types who berate them and try to scare them out of their spiritual views. I don’t like this any more than the next guy, but over the years, I’ve learned some strategies to at least feel more sure and steady when embroiled in this kind of debate. But having to do this on the radio was not my idea of a fun time.

The responsible part of me chided myself for wanting to cancel my appearance. Having hosted my own radio show, I didn’t want to leave anyone in the lurch if I backed out at the last minute. My reasonable side posited that I had not been treated fairly and told up front that this show might turn into a religious debate, and if I didn’t want to do that, I shouldn’t harbor any qualms about saying, “Forget it.” The self-righteous part of me swelled up, too, saying that I shouldn’t be driven away from an opportunity to talk about my beliefs because I was scared I would offend someone with more strident and stringent views. I should be allowed to speak my piece; after all, wasn’t that why I was invited to participate in the first place?

In the end, I dashed off an email to the host, saying that I was not very happy about the prospect of debating religion on the air, but I would do my best.

Well, I did my best–and then some, perhaps.

Look, here’s the thing: if you’re a Christian, and even if you’re not, don’t fling Bible quotes at me. Truth be told, I like the Bible, and there are some wonderful, inspirational words of great wisdom in there. There is also some stuff that is a product of its time and the many, many interpretations and translations the writings have gone through over the centuries. Using the Bible to back up your case is like building a Three Pigs house out of sticks: it won’t withstand the wind from the Wolf. The Bible can be used to support ANY argument that you want to make. Think it’s OK to kill someone? There’s certainly a lot of havoc-wreaking vengeance in the Old Testament, often initiated by Yahweh Himself. Want to sell your daughter into slavery? Go ahead–the Bible says you can! Considering consulting a medium to talk to the dead? The Old Testament says you shouldn’t, and that God will hate you if you do–but isn’t it funny that God didn’t seem to hate Jesus when he had his pow wow with Moses and Elijah on the mountain as his disciples watched? Do you see what I’m driving at here? Evangelical Christians use the Bible as the literal Word of God, but many, like the co-host of this radio show, use it to support their way of thinking while ignoring some of the other parts that don’t suit their parameters.

So, in this radio discussion, I was lambasted with Bible quotes and had my integrity as a medium called into question. How did I know I was talking to good spirits when there are lots of righteous Christians tricked by the devil? Didn’t I know it was wrong to speak to spirits? Didn’t I worry about the health of my soul?

Well, quite frankly: give me a flipping break.

I believe in intention. And I believe in a loving, nurturing God. If you set your intention to always remain in that Divine Energy that is God, then you are not going to touch in with anything in your mediumship work that is evil or negative. Why? Because God’s energy is in EVERY energy. If you set your intention to connect with the Divine Spark of God that resides within every energy, then you will be able to connect with loving, high vibration energies of loved ones who have passed as well as guides, teachers, and angels. Yes, I am aware of the warnings in the Bible that the devil can disguise himself as an angel. But why would a loving God allow this to happen? If you set your intention to connect first with God, then God is not going to allow anything negative to happen to you. Period. Nothing can harm you. You will find your peace, and you will do your work–any work–in that loving light of Creator. End of story.

So what happened in the interview? I tried to be patient, and I tried to answer the questions in a mild tone of voice and explain my position as lovingly as I could. I even threw a few Bible quotes of my own in there to prove my point about being able to use the Bible to support any position. (Another reason not to quote the Bible to me: I can quote it right back to you, mister.) But ultimately, I said, “Look. You are not going to convince me that I’m wrong, and I’m not going to convince you that you’re wrong. You have your faith, and I have mine. All we’re doing in arguing is perpetuating a negative energy cycle because we’ll wind up mad at each other. Why do that?” Eventually, the co-host relented, and the first host went on with questions about mediumship development–questions I would much rather answer.

I am not advocating disagreements here, nor am I advocating picking a fight and trying to belittle someone else. But I am advocating standing up for your beliefs. Educate yourself. One of the best ways to do this is to read arguments against your beliefs and then to come up with intelligent answers as to why those arguments don’t hold any water. If you’re going to argue theology, know your subject. Be as smart as you can about what you do so that you can present your side in a thoughtful, organized, intelligent way. Knowledge is power.

Try not to let yourself become embroiled in a heated argument, though. I did my best in this instance to control my temper. It takes a lot to make me mad, but I was mad by the end of that segment. (And hey: Jesus got mad in the Bible, too. Remember the scene he made at the temple?) But I tried to remember that keeping a cool head was only going to make me look more reasonable, and raising my voice in anger would make me look defensive. In the end, I was proud of myself for defending my beliefs and not backing down when confronted while remaining reasonable and gracious.

I was, however, quite miffed about the whole situation. I don’t think it was very professional of these radio hosts to treat me this way. I think there’s a lesson here for me about better preparation for these shows. I’ll have to be more careful, more selective, in the future. So I do thank Spirit for this, because I know it will make me a better person in the long run.

I hope some of you will find encouragement by reading this post. Be respectful, but don’t make nice; don’t back down. Your beliefs, and your integrity, are worth more than that.

The Dixie Chicks say it pretty darn well.

May blessings abound for you.

Honors and Other Scary Things

Yesterday, I went to a reception for local authors given by the Ohioana Library and the Cincinnati Public Library. I’d received an invitation in the mail and really didn’t know what to expect. I was pleasantly surprised to find such a large gathering of folks at the main branch of the public library, people who really seemed excited to welcome and honor local writers for their publishing successes. The reception consisted of introductions, a panel of sports writers talking about their work (it seems there are a bunch of Cincinnati writers penning books about the Reds!), and then a presentation of certificates to the authors themselves. During the presentation of the certificates, the hosts read a brief biography about each author, which they asked us to submit beforehand. When I’d accepted the invitation to the event, I’d dashed off my “normal” biography without a second thought and sent it in. It contains the usual information about my work as a medium ,writer, and instructor–no big changes, nothing unusual.

At least, not unusual to me. But as I sat in the audience yesterday, watching the other authors receive their certificates and listening to their biographies, I started to feel very nervous. Most of these people were professional writers with credentials as long as my arm. They taught at the university level or wrote for magazines and newspapers. Some had written countless books about heavy subjects like cancer, cardiology, the architecture of Cincinnati, or the history of the Catholic Church. Many of them had a “Doctor” in front of their names, and lots had awards out the yin-yang. And as I started sweating my background, I started to wonder how my biography would sound to all of these learned, intellectual people. What would they think of a clairvoyant medium? Would they chuckle and shake their heads over my references to Tarot reading or angels? I could just hear the snickers and the whispers as I sat there, my folded hands clutched together in an ever-tightening death grip.

Worse, what would my children think? They sat next to me, politely paying attention, well-trained from their 9 years in Episcopal school, where they sit through chapel services every week. Would they hear their mom’s biography and sink lower in their seats? Would they be embarrassed if someone in the audience laughed as I walked up to accept my certificate?

Boy, your mind can do terrible things to you, can’t it?

When my name was read out (and mispronounced, as usual), I stood and started up the aisle. It felt like I was walking in a dream, underwater, with no clothes on. I was glad I didn’t have to say anything except “thank you” to the woman handing out the certificates because I was afraid my voice wouldn’t work. When I turned to face the gathering, I spotted my husband on the side aisle, the family camera in hand. I tried to smile, but I’m sure it looked more like a grimace. I haven’t yet looked at the pictures he took; I think I’m afraid I’ll be as white as a sheet. Everything seemed amplified: the lights, brighter; the sound, magnified; my feelings of dread, intense enough to turn my stomach.

But you know what? No one laughed. At least, I didn’t see it if they did. I didn’t notice any disbelieving, shaking heads, either. And I wasn’t pelted with tomatoes. I made it back to my seat in one piece, and I sat there, staring at my certificate with the tremor in my hands melting away.

Now, why would I feel this way? Why would I assume the worst at a moment when I should be proud and happy?

It’s hard to say. Sometimes I am still afraid to speak up for my beliefs. There remains a small part of me that wants more than anything to be accepted, liked, and respected by everyone. EVERYONE. This is, I know, completely unrealistic, and yet I can’t deny that the feeling is there. I don’t like confrontation; I don’t like to have to fight for anything, because I’ve never been a good fighter. I prefer peace; I prefer compromise; I definitely prefer everyone getting along. But the world isn’t always like that, is it? Sometimes, you have to stick up for yourself. Sometimes, you have to voice an unpopular opinion because it’s the right thing to do. Sometimes, you have to realize that not everyone is going to agree with you, or, worse yet, that some people may downright not like you for what you believe, say, or do. And you have to be able to live with that.

Over the years, I know I’ve come a long way in this department. It has never been easy or comfortable for me to voice a dissenting opinion. It has been extremely difficult for me to show emotions like anger or grief because, as a child, I wasn’t allowed to have these feelings. I was expected to always be happy, sunny, and/or quiet. Only one person in my household was allowed to have feelings, and it wasn’t me. I have always been a peacemaker, a referee, the one who smoothes things over and makes it nice. I still do this; I accept that this is part of my nature, and it’s not necessarily a bad thing to embrace. And yet, I’ve learned some things about myself and the world around me. I’ve learned that I have the right to believe the things I do and to live the way I want to live, as long as I’m not hurting myself or anyone else in the process. I’ve learned it’s OK to demand respect and to have the expectation that I deserve it. I’ve learned that I’ve worked long and hard to get where I am, and in recognizing my own divinity, that I should love myself and the journey that has brought me to this place. I have learned that I can and should defend myself if I’m backed into a corner (there may be another post coming soon about this), and I should be proud of who I am, no matter what others think of me.

So, even though I’ve learned all of this, I still get nervous sometimes. Just like yesterday. And yet I was relieved and happy when things turned out well. I did belong at that reception. I worked arduously on my books, and it’s nice to receive some recognition for the work. And maybe, just maybe, someone will pick up one of the books who wouldn’t have before, because they remember seeing me there and thinking, “Well, isn’t that an interesting subject to explore?”

After the presentation, they served refreshments. As I stood in line for punch with my boys (who, after all, didn’t seem the least bit embarrassed to be seen with me), a lady approached and asked, “Are you the medium?”

“Yes,” I said with a smile.

“Can I have your card?”

I handed her one with steady hands. Will she call me? I don’t know. It doesn’t matter. All that matters is that I was there, and it was a good experience.

Blessings to you all this fine day.

xo

Religion in America

Since we’re going to talk a bit today about religion, I thought I’d use a pretty picture here of what my good friend Melissa calls “Biblical clouds”:

rays-of-sun-in-black-sky link to an article in USA TODAY, knowing I’d be keen to read it. You should probably read it, too. Go ahead…I’ll wait for you.

I love how the article describes people as exploring “spiritual frontiers.” To me, this is an incredibly apt descriptor, and I see it all the time as a minister at my own church. Folks often come to a Spiritualist church because they’re curious about mediumship and spirit messages, and they want to see if the wacky psychics on the platform during the service will be able to connect with them. Hopefully, by the time they leave, they have a little more respect for and understanding of what we believe as Spiritualists. But over the last 9 years as a minister in a church, I’ve seen more and more turnover, and more people really just “trying on” a spiritual practice to see if it works for them.

And you know what I think of this? I think it’s great.

This attitude would, of course, get me into a lot of trouble with more traditional pastors and ministers. Spiritualism is, by definition, a less-than-mainstream religion, one that some denominations don’t even take seriously as a legitimate religion. I’m not here today to argue the validity of my religion or to criticize people who don’t believe in it. What I find interesting is that, according to this article, more and more Americans are searching for a spiritual practice that fits into their lifestyle and their way of thinking. And I really support this because I don’t necessarily believe that Americans are looking for new religions, per se.

I think what Americans are seeking is a personal relationship with God, and they’re not finding it in the mainstream churches.

To many traditional ministers serving churches and congregations, this may appear to be a reflection of the decline of American values, the hedonism and selfishness of Americans, etc., etc. I would say in response: you’re wrong. I believe that more and more Americans really want to develop a personal relationship with Creator that is not contingent on how many times they attend church services or how much money they drop in the collection plate. Throughout our history, Americans have always been an intelligent, inventive bunch. Because of our inherent nature, we ask questions, and we strive to learn more. I believe the churches that survive into the future will be those that honor the personal struggles to connect with God that their members express. They’ll be the communities that support these individual searches for communion with God, and the ones that help those seeking Creator’s divine presence to understand how to keep that channel open and viable. They’ll be the ones that encourage their members to ask questions of God and to expect to receive answers. They’ll teach the members of their community that Creator is a real presence, not a story in a book or an intervention that happened thousands of years ago. These communities will help others to see that God is right here with us every day, and He manifests within each and every one of us. He is us.

Some critics would equate the decline in religiousness to laziness or a lack of dedication. I would argue, though, that to be a spiritual being, we must be dedicated and responsible. Just because we don’t go to church doesn’t mean that we live our lives without purpose and integrity. We don’t need to go to church every week to recognize the inner divinity of every living creature and to honor that divinity in our words, deeds, and thoughts about that part of creation. We don’t necessarily need our minister or pastor to read stories and explain to us what they mean. We can do this on our own and possibly draw even deeper, richer meaning from them. We need to stop relying on other people to tell us how to live our lives and get in touch with the hidden Source of all life within us, which will lead us in the right direction. We can certainly look to other great spiritual leaders and scripture writings to give us direction, but our ultimate guidance must come from within, which is how we are connected to God in the first place.

Having said that: church is about community. Belonging to a group of like-minded individuals is imperative to some of us, especially during times of trial, pain, grief, and other heavy emotions. It is within these communities that we can truly show all sides of ourselves and share support with others. If we want these communities to grow stronger, we need to help each other connect to Inner Divinity as well as teach all to recognize and respect this beautiful quality in every person. Being a true part of a community takes time, effort, and sincere commitment. But these help us to grow as spiritual individuals, and as we utilize these attributes, we understand how important they are to us as evolving beings.

So…I’d be interested to hear your thoughts. Do you think that religion has a chance to continue in this country? How do you feel about religion or churches/communities in your own life? Do you need this? Feel free to leave a comment.

I bid you all Namaste on this lovely Friday: the Divine within me honors the Divine within you.

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