Can A Sermon Be Meant Just For Me?

girl patientHe said he would die if I left him alone,” I worriedly explained to the nurse. “I have to stay!”  My stepfather, Claude, a minister at a local church, had been run down by a car in the Houston Astrodome parking lot, and it seemed every part of his body had been shattered…

I sat there alone overnight in the near dark of the hospital room looking at Claude’s mangled body. It reminded me of my own mangled life. I had grown up in a home with an abusive parent, leaving me a timid and fearful child. To escape, I married really young. Nine bitter lonely years and two children later my husband revealed a dark secret so repulsive to me I could barely stomach looking at myself in the mirror. How could I have been so blind? We divorced, but the emotional trauma had been firmly embedded in me and my children. One of my children suffered with bipolar disorder so severely that three times she tried to commit suicide. I lost track of how many times she had run away. She turned to drugs.

Sometime around 3a.m. I sat there in the hospital staring at a “man of God” writhing in pain and wondered if he too questioned a loving God and if he also felt abandoned. Then I heard Claude stirring in his bed.  He mumbled and moaned with pain. I reached over to pull the sheet up to his chest. As I slumped back into my chair, he suddenly sat straight up in bed. I was shocked. It usually took two of us to turn him over, and he had not been able to even raise his head alone!

Without a pause, Claude thanked his “audience” and began one of the most amazing sermons I had ever heard. His voice was clear and strong. I frantically glanced around, hoping someone else would come into the room to witness this. No one did. I, alone, was meant to hear.

My stepfather spoke of the importance of using visualization to create a positive state of mind. He urged his invisible audience to use their imaginations to see their circumstances in a better light. He said that seeing things in a positive vein, as if that was the truth, would mirror that perception in reality. Visualization, he went on to say, was a way to bring healing and hope into expression, because seeing things the way one wished they were would cause them to become one’s experience.

For 15 minutes, he eloquently described how thoughts and actions become reality. It was Claude’s voice- his body- that delivered that sermon, but the source of those words was not of this world. I had never heard him utter the word “visualization” before.  He came from a background of traditional practices and these ideas were foreign to a conservative church like his. Even though he acted as if this were one of his usual Sunday sermons, he would never have said these things in his own church.

I chuckled as I imagined the response he would receive if he repeated this sermon to his own congregation, but I was also entranced by it. This sermon, clearly was meant for me. I perched on the edge of my chair eagerly listening, barely breathing for fear of missing even one word. Every sentence was relevant for me. Every word was directed at my attitude toward life. My heartbeat thundered in my ears and my breathing grew shallow.

A warm fullness filled my chest, expanding in the room. The deepest love I’d ever known exploded all around me. I tearfully whispered through measured gasps, “Oh my God!”

Just as suddenly as it all began, it ended. He fell back on his pillow and was sleeping once again. I stat motionless-stunned. The voice still echoed in my head, interrupted only by the steady beeping of the hospital monitors in the background.

Now I understood why I had needed to stay that night. I left that experience with a desire to return to the roots of my spiritual understanding. I began to visualize God in everything. And my whole world transformed.

  • Interview with Jodi McDonald and edited by David Paul Doyle in “When God Spoke To Me” 

 

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How Can I See The Good When All I See Are Flaws?

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There’s an old story about a group of monks living with their master in a Tibetan monastery. Their lives were disciplined and dedicated, and the atmosphere in which they lived harmonious and peaceful. People from villages far and wide flocked to the monastery to bask in the warmth of such a loving spiritual environment.
Then one day the master departed his earthly form. At first the monks continued on as they had in the past, but after a time, the discipline and devotion that had been hallmarks of their daily routine slackened. The number of villagers coming through the doors each day began to drop, and little by little, the monastery fell into a state of disrepair.

Soon the monks were bickering among themselves, some pointing fingers of blame, others filled with guilt. The energy within the monastery walls crackled with animosity.
Finally, the senior monk could take it no longer. Hearing that a spiritual master lived as a hermit two days walk away, the monk wasted no time in seeking him out. Finding the master in his forest hermitage, the monk told him of the sad state the monastery had fallen into and asked his advice.

The master smiled. “There is one living among you who is the incarnation of God. Because God is being disrespected by those around the Incarnated One, God will not show Godself, and the monastery will remain in disrepair.” With those words spoken, the master fell silent and would say no more.

All the way back to the monastery, the monk wondered which of his brothers might be the Incarnated One.

“Perhaps it is Brother Jaspar who does our cooking,” the monk said aloud. But then a second later thought, “No, it can’t be him. He is sloppy and ill tempered and the food he prepares is tasteless.”

“Perhaps our gardener, Brother Timor, is the one,” he then thought. This consideration, too, was quickly followed by denial. “Of course not” he said aloud. “God is not lazy and would never let weeds take over a lettuce patch the way Brother Timor has.”

Finally, after dismissing each and every one of his brothers for this fault or that, the senior monk realized there were none left. Knowing it had to be one of the monks because the master had said it was, he worried over it a bit before a new thought dawned. “Could it be that the Holy One has chosen to display a fault in order to disguise Godself?” he wondered. “Of course it could! That must be it!”

Reaching the monastery, he immediately told his brothers what the master had said and all were just as astonished as he had been to learn the Divine was living among them.
Since each knew it was not himself who was God Incarnate, each began to study his brothers carefully, all trying to determine who among them was the Holy One. But all any of them could see were the faults and failings of the others. If God was in their midst, the Holy One was doing a fine job of hiding Godself. Finding the Incarnated One among such rubble would be difficult, indeed.

 If God insisted on remaining hidden, then they had no recourse but to treat each monk as if he were the Holy One.

Each so concentrated on seeing God in the other that soon their hearts filled with such love for one another the chains of negativity that held them bound fell away. As time passed, they began seeing God not just in each other, but in everyone and everything. Days were spent in joyful reverence, rejoicing in the Presence of the Holy One. The monastery radiated this joy like a beacon and soon the villagers returned, streaming through the doors as they had before, seeking to be touched by the love and devotion present there.

It was some time later that the senior monk decided to pay the master another visit to thank him for the secret he had revealed.

“Did you discover the identity of the Incarnated One?” the master asked.

“We did,” the senior monk replied. “We found God residing in all of us.”

The master smiled.

Why Do The Righteous Suffer?

Job-camel-copyRighteous living does tend to bring its own rewards, but it doesn’t protect people from suffering or hardship.

The story of Job is a fantastical poem of God making a bet with Satan, but it was written in the Bible to teach a real-life lesson.

Job is a rich man living with his large family and extensive flocks.

Job is “blameless” and “upright,” always careful to avoid doing evil.

Yet, Job receives news that his livestock, servants, and ten children have all died due to marauding invaders or natural catastrophes. He goes on to lose his health, looks, and friends.

Job is miserable, but can now better empathize with other people’s pain.

Despite accusations of sin, Job begins to understand that bad things happen to good people. That being “good” doesn’t protect you from tragedy. He learns that horrible things happen to innocent people all the time. He sees it in his own story and in the world. He realizes that it is an illusion to believe that if you do good you will always be “blessed” with good fortune.

He realizes that justice in this world does not exist in terms of suffering and ease. The world is filled with injustice. It is erroneous to believe that people always bring upon themselves their own suffering, or that their suffering is equal to the exactness of what they deserve.

Job’s friends suggest he must be a sinner and his children must have brought their deaths upon themselves through their own erroneous actions, but Job knows it isn’t true.

This teaches us that our sufferings or ease in life are not the point and we shouldn’t get too attached and reliant upon our current conditions.  We also shouldn’t judge others, assuming they have brought their own hardships or misery upon themselves through bad decisions because we don’t know their whole story.

We learn from Job that meaning needs to come from something other than how well we are prospering.

“Naked I came out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return,” states Job.

Job continues to praise God because that is all that really matters in the end- our relationship with God and His love.

Job learns that we can’t fully understand or comprehend God, but Job decides to persist in pursuing wisdom by staying loyal to God and avoiding evil. Besides some confusion and lamenting, he decides to fully accept whatever circumstances he finds himself in.

In the story- Job is materially rewarded in the end by God, perhaps to symbolize an eternal reward, but this may or may not be someone else’s story. Whether or not we prosper or suffer, God’s love, comfort, and sustenance are always there if we tune into His presence and work to show that love to others.

  • The Story of Job/Old Testament

 

How Can I Recognize The Spirit?

rainbow2Miracles heal because they deny body-identification and affirm spirit-identification. By recognizing your spirit, your perception and perspective are corrected.

Spirit is at the center of life.

Miracles are God’s intercession through the Holy Spirit to your spirit or Christ within.

The Holy Spirit is the mechanism of miracles. It separates the light from the darkness.

Miracles honor you because you are lovable. They dispel illusions about yourself and perceive the light in you. By releasing your mind from the imprisonment of your illusions, they restore your sanity.

Miracles are natural signs of forgiveness. Through miracles you accept God’s forgiveness by extending it to others. Miracles are expressions of love.

A miracle is a correction introduced into false thinking.

The forgiven are the means of the Atonement. Being filled with spirit, they forgive in return. Those who are released must join in releasing their brothers, for this is the plan of the Atonement.

Miracles are the way in which minds that serve the Holy Spirit unite with Christ for the salvation or release of all of God’s creations.

Spirit is in a state of grace forever.

Your reality is only spirit.

Therefore you are in a state of grace forever. 

You respond to what you perceive, and as you perceive, so shall you behave.

You should look out from the perception of your own holiness to the holiness of others..

A Course in Miracles

 

 

Spiritual Awakening From Depression

depression

“It was depressing staring at my half-painted bedroom wall- another project still unfinished.

Deep, dark blue and throw-up yellow, just like me: Half the time I was dark and blue and the other half I felt like throwing-up with nausea and stomach pain.

How did I even get in this situation?

I was scarcely 19 with a tiny baby  and a husband who regularly used my body as a punching bag to release his pent up tension. How did I blunder into this life of violence with no phone and no car, cut off from my friends? I couldn’t eat  without pills to calm my stomach. I couldn’t sleep without pills to induce sleep. Roy Orbison’s haunting song voiced my feelings : “Only The Lonely”.

I lay in bed mindlessly, trying to put myself to sleep  with the drone of the T.V. Nuts! The shows were preempted by some crusade… this Billy Graham thing was even on the billboards. I left it on, too lazy to get up and change the channel. Man, there sure were a lot of people packed into that stadium. The men, looking well pressed in their suits and “Christian clean, ” paraded up to the microphone: one by one talking about God while the choir sang about God. Yeah, yeah God.

I had declared myself an agnostic. I would have liked to believe in God, but I wasn’t sure He even existed. It all sounded good on TV and in songs, but I figured talk was cheap  and it was all a bunch of hype. All of these thoughts swarmed in my head, yet I was compelled to keep watching and listening.

After awhile the big guy himself, Billy Graham, came to the microphone. His eyes looked clear and direct, rather intense in a “what you see is what you get” kind of way. I liked his strong chin that belied his soft southern drawl lilting into my bedroom. Something about him drew me in and I listened as he asked people to come forward and accept Jesus. I really didn’t get that part for myself because I wasn’t too sure about what I believed. The song “Just as I Am” blended into the background like wallpaper, setting the stage as Billy’s soothing words kept flowing like honey about how God loves me and accepts me just as I am. Billy even spoke to those of us watching TV and said we could accept Jesus and God in our hearts right then.

I had begun to ponder how that could possibly happen when tears began streaming down my face. I didn’t hear Billy Graham or the TV anymore. All of it was muted by the strong sense of presence right in my bedroom, a presence so all-pervasive I felt nothing but smoothness and peace where a moment ago there had been nothing but roughness and pain.

My whole body seemed to melt as if thawing  from an ice age. I felt alive and-can it be-actually hopeful for the first time since I could remember. A misty fog wafted into my bedroom, absorbing the dark blue and vomit yellow that was my bedroom that was coloring my world. In its place shone gold and violet. I felt love in every part of my being, and my tears kept pouring. So powerful was this feeling of gold and violet, of all that is sweet and calm, that I  felt totally wrapped in peace.

I sobbed from the depths of my being with relief and, surprisingly acceptance that God really does exist.

I was not lost and was definitely not alone.

The Presence, which I knew without a doubt to be God, was with me and in me. I felt this..  this loving mist, this color and smoothness in every part of me. Truly, nothing existed but me and the Presence, soft and strong and gentle all at once.  Time stopped as I experienced a profound communication that penetrated far beyond words or anything known to me. I received a deep understanding that I was loved and accepted no matter what I had done or what had been done to me.

From that instant I was changed….”

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  • David Paul Doyle interview of Adriane Romano in “When God Spoke To Me” 

 

What is Spirituality?

Spirituality is a region of human experience.show 18

Without your own personal inner spiritual experiences of otherworldly wonder, awe, peace, comfort, compassion, clarity or love– talking about spirituality is akin to science fiction. One must have the experiences to truly understand.

Spiritual experiences could include an intense awareness of the present, transcendence of the personal self, a spiritual thought or feeling to do something or that something will happen, a still-small voice that seems independent of thoughts, a feeling of overwhelming loving connection with life or a united group, or with the universe or a supreme being.

People report spiritual experiences with and without the benefit of religion.
Many individuals see themselves on a “spiritual journey” – an intentional direction for spiritual development. They seek spiritual experiences to inform life choices and find meaning. This often includes the practice of “waiting” in connection with the sacred, along with commitment and discipline.

Some seekers find spiritual experiences in sacred spaces, such as awe-inspiring buildings. Others find it in informal Sunday-morning meetings in unused bars, in silent solitary journeys in nature, or simply at home. Many go where they feel inspired, such as a mountain top during sunset, or where they feel nurtured and nourished in the company of kindred spirits.

Spiritual practices could include meditation, prayer, rituals, music, service, inspirational reading, podcasts or talks, gardening, walking, yoga, tai chi, sacred dance, commitment to right action, or pondering and reflection on the sacred.

Sometimes spiritual experiences are transformational- forgiveness becomes possible, inner turmoil and pain is replaced by comfort, joy and love, a life of hate and bitterness is let go and a new life of love and compassion is born, patience is expanded, a solution is realized, a peaceful acceptance of a tragedy occurs, one feels infused with the courage to endure or to do what is needed to be done, wrong thinking is corrected, true priorities are realized, an understanding of one’s faults are brought to light, an overwhelming gratitude is experienced, an insight into how or who to help or befriend, a new found peace, thoughtfulness, kindness, goodness, discipline and gentleness is incorporated into one’s character.

Most major religions or faith groups are rooted in spiritual experiences espoused by their founders. Experiences that made it possible for each leader to bring forth a spiritual message that if followed could lead one on the true spiritual path to the ultimate.

Spiritual seekers today want a direct experience. They are looking to have this experience of spiritual direction for themselves. This seeking is often done in the context of traditional religious groups, in alternative groups, or alone, in an attempt to get in touch with their inner spirit, or being and its connection with Light.

Spirituality and Aging by Robert Atchley

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