Sunday, September 26, 2010

Many Bridges to God

This is a chapter called "Many Paths" in Dream Weaving : Using Dream Guidance to Create Life's Tapestry
by Emily VanLaeys, copyright 2001

When I was a child, my best friend, Nancy, went to Hebrew school. She showed me how to write some Hebrew words and vainly tried to teach me the correct pronunciation of “challah,” the braided bread with a shiny crust and fluffy center that she shared with me on Jewish holidays. When Nancy turned thirteen, I attended her bat mitzvah at the temple.
Another friend, Louisa, took me to several events at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I learned the story of Joseph Smith and how the angel Moroni led him to the golden tablets, which he transcribed and published as The Book of Mormon. I told Louisa that I couldn’t accept her church’s idea that God the Father is a physical person. (By age twelve, I had given up the fantasy that I would one day sit on God’s lap while He showed me illustrations of the dinosaurs the way they really looked.) But I respected her right to believe it if she could picture God eating spaghetti and eliminating waste like any other person.
One summer, I went to vacation Bible school with my Baptist friend, Yvonne, where I made known my belief that God the Father and Jesus, His Son, could not be one and the same person. And I visited the Catholic Church with Patty, who lent me a little lace doily to put on my head before we entered the sanctuary. I was bewildered by the plethora of statues and candles, the aroma of incense, and the strange Latin words.
On my fourteenth Christmas, my father gave me a little book of quotes called The Understanding Heart. My favorite quote came from Ella Wheeler Wilcox:

So many gods, so many creeds,
So many paths that wind and wind,
While just the art of being kind
Is all the sad world needs.

Having so many friends of different faith backgrounds, I found a lot of comfort in this bit of wisdom. Each of my friends was certain that her path was the straightest way to God, and since I cared for all of them, I believed that a loving God had a place in His heart for each and every one.
This childhood belief is one I have taken with me from the Congregational Church I was baptized in, to the Methodist Church I was married in, to the Unitarian Church, the first church that Mark and I joined together, to the Southern Baptist Missionary Union, where I worked in Birmingham, and to every interfaith dialogue I’ve had with friends and acquaintances throughout my life. The God I believe in is not exclusive.
About the same time that I joined the Oneonta Interfaith Committee, I had a dream in which I sat in the audience at a lecture hall, listening to a presentation being given by a group of people. After they had been speaking for a while, some of the presenters stated that they were Mormons and that they wished to speak to us about their faith. The audience groaned. I sympathized with the speakers and felt embarrassed for them. Why couldn’t the audience listen politely to what they had to say? I did not speak, but one of the Mormons, a woman, apparently sensed my thought. She led me up to the platform and arranged my hair in a lovely French braid that started at the nape of my neck. She made me feel beautiful!
I have tried to make a French braid, but my hair is so fine, the result looks like a skinny sausage on the back of my head. I had no idea that a French braid can start at the nape of the neck, but sometime after that dream, I found a picture of one in a hairdresser’s book. To have this exquisite hairstyle created for me was such a beautiful gift; I interpreted the dream to be a message that my acceptance of different religions is one of my spiritual gifts.
I have never chosen to follow one particular faith or denomination to the exclusion of all others, and I don’t think I ever will, because I see facets of truth in most of the religions I encounter. Each church or spiritual path meets the needs of the people who find their way to that specific strand of God’s message, but we all have such diverse experiences, ideas, and attitudes about God that we have to take different approaches in seeking Him (or Her!). I have accepted Jesus Christ as my Way Shower, but I know that others have come to know God better than I have by following the path of Buddha, Krishna, or another aspect of God. This does not mean that Buddha’s way is better than the way of Christ, but that others are better disciples of their teacher than I am of mine.
The same week as the “braid” dream, I had a whole series of interfaith dreams in one night. In the first, I was talking on the phone to a friend who belongs to a fundamentalist church. I heard her husband’s voice in the background. This friend is not actually married, but I identified the speaker as Bob, a very vocal fundamentalist I had known in college. He was talking about Native American spirituality, and I was pleased to hear him say that Native Americans are children of God.
Next, I found myself in a large building where I was going to attend a banquet. I was at the top of a staircase and noticed Nancy’s mother descending. I called after her, “Can you tell me what it’s like to be Jewish in New York?” She didn’t answer because she was too far off by then, down in the basement. The basement reminds me that Judaism is the foundation of Christianity, the faith that I follow most closely.
In another room, I met Louisa’s ex-husband Hand, with his new wife. Before their divorce, Louisa had abandoned Mormonism for the Roman Catholic Church, and her husband had converted from the Dutch Reformed Church to Catholicism. In the dream, Hank told me that he was becoming disillusioned with the Catholic Church because he didn’t understand the symbolism of the Eucharist and some of the other rites observed in that church.
Then Mark and I were cleaning up at the end of the banquet. We were servants rather than guests. A deeply religious man we know was there with his wife. This man is very concerned about Satan’s activities in the world. He believes that the devil uses new age devotees, Mormons, followers of Eastern religions, and others outside the mainstream of Christianity to execute his diabolic deeds. He and his wife had fallen asleep as the banquet was ending. They had a long drive ahead of them, and I was worried that they might not be able to drive home safely.

Most of the other guests had left by then, but a man who was still there told me that he liked one of the dishes I had cooked. He told this story: He had a cup of water that refilled itself as he extended goodwill toward others. The miracle repeated itself many times. It made him feel so good that he started approaching people just to witness this phenomenon. He shook hands with three more people, and the water dried up a little bit each time until the cup was empty.
This night of multifaith dreams summons up the imagery of Ella Wheeler Wilcox’s words: “So many paths that wind and wind . . .” The man with the miracle cup discovered the essence of her message: “While just the art of being kind is all the sad world needs.” When the man’s genuine love for others culminated in kind deeds, his cup was full. When his motive changed from one of selfless love to a desire to see particular results, the cup dried up. Each faith and denomination offers its own ideas about the kind of salvation (or miracle) that followers can expect to receive when they express certain beliefs or live a holy life. But love is the bond that connects all faiths and all peoples, weaving us into a single, braided path to God.
There are many among my acquaintances who would tell me that I am mistaken, for after all Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6) This declaration makes for a pretty straight and narrow path for those who believe that one must call on the person of Jesus in order to enter the kingdom of God. But the Christ Consciousness with which Jesus is identified has many other names! We may call Him the “Truth,” the “Way,” the “Life” or the “Light.” Or we may just call Him “Love.” What we choose to call Him doesn’t change what He is: the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end; the One who invites each of us to eternal life when we follow the way of Love. Love is the basic requirement for pilgrims who want to trod the Christ highway.
Some of my friends, like the man who fell asleep at the dram banquet, prefer to confine themselves to one narrow strip of the highway. He refuses to acknowledge those of other spiritual persuasions as children of God, so he is “asleep,” incapable of grasping the full meaning of Jesus’ commandment: “Do not judge, so that you may not be judged.”(Matt. 7:1) He and his wife had a long road ahead of them, and if these two are dream aspects of myself, I must learn not to judge fundamentalists or my road home will be very long, too!
Sometimes I am like Hank, the dream personage who was losing interest in Catholicism because he didn’t understand it. We tend to judge people and institutions we know little about, and I grew up with scant understanding of Roman Catholic beliefs. My Protestant upbringing had taught me that Roman Catholics worshipped Mary and prayed to her and the saints, too, a blasphemous practice which broke the First Commandment. When one of my Catholic friends told me, “Mary is the mother of God,” I replied, “That’s impossible. God created everything and everybody, including Mary, so she can’t be his mother.”
I think I was eleven years old when I made that pronouncement. But it wasn’t too long afterward that I learned that the pragmatic nature of Protestantism did not suit one who had always lived partially in the realm of the imagination. As a young child, I had suspected that some kind of magic existed in the real universe. As a young adult, I dipped into books such as Song of Bernadette by Franz Werfel and The Blessed Virgin Mary by Corinne Heline, and discovered that real people called mystics knew the secret of penetrating the veil between this tangible, yet temporal work, and the ethereal, yet eternal. If I told my Protestant peers about Bernadette’s visions of “The Lady” or the assumption of Mary into the heavenly Jerusalem, where living mystics go to join with saints and angels in the work of transferring divine energy from heaven to earth, most of them would say, “Impossible!” But having accepted the imagination as a divine gift that allows us to see beyond the limits of ordinary sight to the possibilities of life on other planes, my response to the testimonies of mystics is, “Why not?”
My discovery of mysticism led to my acceptance of Mary as Queen of Heaven and divine mother to all who need her. I learned in my Unity studies to pray to Father-Mother God, because God the Creator emanates masculine and feminine love, an unconditional love greater than anything we can attribute to father or mother. When Mark and I were having trouble conceiving a child, however, I felt the need to talk to a real divine mother—one I could visualize and connect with on a personal level. So I began to pray to Mary. I learned the words to the “Hail Mary,” realizing that Jesus’ mother was, in a sense, “mother of God” because her Son embodied the Christ Spirit, which is one with God. My need for a divine mother and my belief in mystic saints made up the Roman Catholic strand I braided into my personal path to God.
Among those who recognize the divine mother’s part in the scheme of Creation are the Native Americans who connect with Mother Earth as if she were a live, spiritual being. While I don’t personally know any Native Americans, I have met them through books and workshops and mutual friends. I’m glad that the fundamentalist in my dream included them as children of God! Some Christians don’t think Native Americans belong in God’s family because of their belief in “multiple gods.” But then, some monotheists think that Christians worship multiple gods in the Trinity. It all comes down to different ways of understanding the multiple aspects of a Creator too complex to be confined to a single personality or gender.
Native Americans recognize divine creativity in all of nature. They look upon plants and animals, wind and rain, as brothers and sisters to be treated with care and respect. This is different from the traditional attitude that Christians have taken toward God’s instructions to Adam and Eve: “. . . fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing . . .” (Gen. 1:28) We have taken the first dictionary definition for subdue:  “To conquer and subjugate; put down; vanquish,” instead of the last definition: “To bring (land) under cultivation.” We have vanquished the land to such an alarming extent that soon there may be none left to cultivate, unless we learn the ways of native peoples who treat every living thing like family.
Jesus said that God is aware of every sparrow that falls (Matt. 10:29), so it feels natural to weave a love and respect for nature into the Christian faith. St. Francis sang the praises of Brother Sun and Sister Moon in his Canticle of the Creatures several hundred years before Europeans and Native Americans met and began to learn from one another’s cultures. He knew that, when Christ requested that we love our neighbors as ourselves, he was including all of Creation in the neighborhood!
I think that the banquet in my dream represented the “neighborhood” of multiple faiths coming together for fellowship. Soon after these dreams inspired me, I introduced the idea of the Building Bridges Forums to the Oneonta Interfaith Committee. The following year we hosted several such interfaith dialogues, where representatives of the various faith communities shared some of their practices and beliefs in order to increase understanding among them. As planning coordinator and hostess, I did not represent the Presbyterian Church to which I belong, but rather I served the whole concept of building bridges among people of differing views. There were some who attended only when their own church was being represented. Their absence from the other forums reminds me of the dream couple who slept through the end of the banquet. But there was a core group of people who sincerely enjoyed listening to the various faith lessons and gleaned some bits of truth from each of them. These were the people who realize that Jesus never said the kingdom of heaven can be found in one particular church. He did say, “The kingdom of God is within you.” (Luke 17:21) Deep within the core of each soul, a place sometimes represented by a basement in dreams, no specific creeds or doctrines are necessary. Only love.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Outdoor Weddings Build Bridges Between Humanity and Nature

As increasing numbers of people are recognizing their kinship with Nature, more and more couples are electing to take their marriage vows in the great outdoors.  The majority of the weddings I have performed in my three years as a wedding celebrant have taken place in the open air. I have conducted ceremonies in a boat on a lake, on lakeshores and riverbanks, on farms, in gardens, and in parks. Once upon a time, if a marriage was not sanctioned in a church, the only choice was a courthouse or a judge’s office. Now that the concept of celebrancy has made it possible for couples to have meaningful ceremonies without the benefit of a specific religious clergyperson, the venue selection for weddings is limited only by the logistics of getting guests and celebrant to the chosen site.
 Outdoor wedding sites lend themselves to the incorporation of readings and symbolism that compare the beauty and love of nature with the love shared by the bride and groom. One of my favorites is this excerpt from Captain Corelli’s Mandolin by Louis de Bernieres:

Love is a temporary madness, it erupts like volcanoes and then subsides.
And when it subsides you have to make a decision.
You have to work out whether your roots have so entwined together
that it is inconceivable that you should ever part.
Because this is what love is.
Love is not breathless, it is not excitement,
it is not the promulgation of promises of eternal passion. . . .
That is just ‘being in love’ which any fool can do.
Love itself is what is left over when being in love has burned away,
and this is both an art and a fortunate accident.
May your roots grow towards each other underground,
and when all the pretty blossoms fall from your branches,
you find out that you are one tree, and not two.

The couples who choose this reading for their wedding ceremony have realized that yes, their roots are so entwined that they never want to part, and they love to spend time outside together.

Sometimes a couple chooses to marry during a particular season because of what it symbolizes to them. I performed a late August wedding at a farm, where the bridal party stood with me in front of a golden corn field, under a deep blue sky. In the opening words to their ceremony I told their guests that they had been invited “to witness this blessed union at Maple Shade Farm, where the fruits of divine creation and human labor are harvested, because the bride and groom view their marriage as an opportunity to celebrate their eternal, spiritual connection with the earth and all of God's creation, as well as with each other. They chose to marry at this time because they feel that the ripe corn symbolizes the strength and abundance of the relationship they have been nurturing these past three years, and the love that provides nourishment for their souls.” Later, as the bride and groom took their vows, a flock of ravens rose up from the cornfield and soared overhead to bless the couple with their magnificence.

Nature often bestows her personal gift on the bride and groom that choose to marry outdoors. During one mountain-top wedding a Monarch butterfly fluttered around the couple throughout the entire ceremony. Another farm wedding was blessed by a hummingbird that flitted from the groom's boutonniere to the bride’s bouquet of sunflowers as they took their vows!

An outdoor wedding poses certain challenges such as: making alternate plans in case of inclement weather and foregoing candles and tall flower vases that may be blown over by a sudden gust of wind. But for those who love the beauty of nature, and for those who feel most connected to the divine essence of life when they are among trees or on a waterfront, an outdoor wedding with a nature-theme ceremony can be the most meaningful way to celebrate a new beginning as husband and wife. It can also symbolize the beginning of a union that will be dedicated to building bridges of love between humanity and nature.

Learn more about Emily's custom-written ceremonies at: Custom Wedding Ceremonies

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Clouds Bridge Heaven and Earth

Cloud Bow over Pacific Ocean - Sorry, I didn't get a picture of the one I saw.

On September 11th, I participated in the Sacred Earth Art Retreat led by Sarah Root and Jay Cardinale at Jay's beautiful country property. I was one of six women who began the day in a sacred circle to call in the spirits of Nature to bless our efforts to be "attuned to the sacred and to nature’s energy and wisdom"(Sarah's words: Earth Wisdom Retreats.) As we stood together in this circle, I looked up at the brilliant blue sky, studded with a few wispy clouds, and noticed one unusual cloud formation that rose vertically from the horizon. 

The activities that followed involved sitting for discussion, closing our eyes for meditation, focusing on the grass and trees around us. The next time I look up at the sky I saw that the cloud pillar had continued to moved across the sky until it arched over the entire vista around us. This "cloud-bow" remained in the sky throughout the day, blessing our "awakening of an Earth-sacred lifestyle and (y)our own powerful inner knowing, to become a radiant channel of the divine…connecting ever deeper with (y)our soul" (Sarah Root). 

My husband, Mark, who has been a pilot of planes and hang gliders, is very knowledgeable about cloud formations. When I told him about the cloud-bow he pretended not to believe me  - which means he found it unbelievable, but he knows I don't make things up! His reaction verifies my belief that this was a special sign from Nature, letting us know that our commitment to build a bridge between her and humanity was appreciated. 

Some Native Americans believed in cloud spirits and looked to the clouds for messages from the spirit world. Most of us have enjoyed lying on our backs and finding animals and other beings in the cloud formations above. Some people today engage in an activity called "cloud scrying" which involves asking the subconscious to present them with images that may provide guidance for their lives. You can read more about cloud scrying at: Cloud Pictures

Have you received a message from the clouds, or perhaps a message from another aspect of Nature that you'd like to share? I'd love to hear about it!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Divine Light, Solar Light , Light of the World

       Divine Light has been an abstract concept in my mind for many years. One of my favorite scripture passages has been: "Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light upon my path." I loved Jesus' reminder that I, too, am a light for the world. I learned to use the healing energy of Reiki, which can be thought of as Light, and I imagined white light coming into my crown chakra during meditation. When I read The Lightworker's Way by Doreen Virtue, I thought of myself as one of this group because of my desire to heal the planet and its inhabitants.

       It wasn't until I worked with the CD: Solar Radiance: Becoming a More Perfect Light, Orin Meditations channeled by Sanaya Roman, that I experienced light as an energy that I could invite into my soul, be transformed by, and send out to be shared with others. Having reached the understanding that every aspect of Creation is composed of the same Light, Love, and Intelligence as its Creator, I understood that the Sun truly is Divine, just as many ancients believed. I enjoyed these meditations during a sojourn to Ocean City, Maryland, where my husband attended a physician's assistant conference at the hotel. While he was listening to medical lectures, I soaked up the rays of the physical sun on the beach, and encountered the radiance of the sun's soul (solar soul light!).

       Later, back home, I invited a clairvoyant-gifted friend to visit and watch while I meditated with solar light. I knew Evie had the ability to see what was happening on the higher planes of reality, so I wanted to find out if her observation would verify the experience I thought I was having. She took notes while I meditated, and later told me she couldn't write fast enough to document all of the changes she saw! The first thing that happened was that my face and form grew blurry and blended into my surroundings. Then my face began to glow with a white aura. It became lighter as I meditated on filling myself with more light. When my face and body grew distinct again, it was a younger, taller,and more beautiful version of me. (Gee, I wish I could have seen that!)

       When Sanaya's voice told me to radiate my light out into the room, Evie saw the light in my living room grow brighter, and she felt its peacefulness. During the section about joining with latticework of light in the universal mind, she saw a pattern, like a checkerboard of light, emanate from my head out into the room. Near the end of the meditation, Sanaya says to imagine a more and more perfect light, at which point Evie saw the white light from my face rise higher and higher.

       This experience taught me that the imagination is more powerful than most people realize. While I was imagining the experiences that Sanaya described on the CD, they were actually happening in the spiritual realm that Evie could see. Afterward, I knew with certainty that Divine Light is a real force in our lives, that we can experience it ourselves, and use it to transform the world into the beautiful, peaceful place God meant it to be. It will take many people working with the Light to expand its beauty from the confines of our homes, but the more we work with the Light, the stronger it becomes.

        You are the light of the world - so let your light shine!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Building Bridges of Light

Sunrise by Chris Lissandrello

        Whether you are Republican or Democrat, Conservative or Liberal, you probably realize by now that the world will not be transformed and renewed by politics, war, or protest. (If it was going to happen, wouldn't it have happened by now?) Many believe that the only way to true transformation will come when more people understand that Light is one of the most powerful forces in the universe, and that each of us can use Light to heal our lives and our world.
        Politicians deal with the current social issues that plague the outer, material world. For humanity to find a true, lasting peace, we must transform ourselves from the inside out. Jesus said: "Render unto Caesar what is Caesar's, and render unto God what is God's." The squabbling between the Left, the Right, and those in-between, over the best way to improve our lives in this physical world, are the earmarks of Caesar's domain. And we all know what happened to Caesar's empire!
        So, what do we render unto God - and where? The answer to both questions is "light." People of faith have recognized God as Light throughout history. Followers of earth-based religions have worshiped sun gods and fire gods for thousands of years. In the Bhagavad-gita of Hinduism, the Blessed One says: "I am light in the moon and sun . . . And brilliance in fire am I." The Psalmist wrote: "The Lord is my light and my salvation -- whom shall I fear?" The Quran proclaims: "God is the light of the heavens and the earth."

        "I am the light of the world," said Jesus. He was our way shower; his life was a pattern that demonstrated how we can live as bridges of light between earth and heaven. Jesus also told us: "You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven." (Matthew 5:14-17)

       Traditionally this verse has been interpreted as a metaphor -- with light symbolizing the gifts and talents we use to perform good deeds. But light is also a very real element, which can be seen emanating from our bodies by some clairvoyants. Scientists tell us that invisible light exists throughout the universe. The British physicist, James Clerk Maxwell (1831-1879), demonstrated that visible light was a minute part of the vast electromagnetic spectrum. We now know that even in the deepest, darkest vacuum of space, there are over 400 million photons of non-visible light per cubic inch! (The Akashic Light, by T. Lee Baumann, M.D.) So, why shouldn't some of this invisible light dwell within our very own selves?  

       Mystics and those who have had near-death experiences have had first-hand encounters with the living, intelligent Divine Light. They describe the Light as the embodiment of unconditional love. Whether we can see it or not, we, too, can experience this Light in meditation and prayer, let it fill the cells in our bodies, and radiate it back out to the world. I have been working with Light in this way for the past year, and I've noticed many positive transformations in my life and the lives of those I touch. As more and more people become involved in this lightwork, the transformation of our world will become more apparent.

       You can begin to build your own bridges of light when you pray and meditate. Imagine the golden rays of divine light shining down from the spiritual sun, entering through your crown, filling every atom of your body. See the light growing brighter and brighter. Reality arises from the realm of imagination. As you visualize yourself growing lighter, you will feel light and peaceful within. When you feel that you are full of light, visualize streams of light emanating from your body out to the people or places that need healing.

       Namaste: "The Light in me honors the Light in you."

The Multifaceted Path

I have come to realize that there are as many ways to understand the Universe as there are snowflakes in a winter storm, and just as many ways to connect with it. Some of us have an understanding that we call God. Some don’t believe in God, and yet believe in a Universal Mind that orchestrates the grand symphony of life. Others believe in many gods: the gods of Nature – one for each little part of Creation. But then, that Creation is connected by One Life Force that lives, and breathes, and has its being in all of these separate gods.

I have friends and acquaintances that include an assortment of Protestants, a Christian Scientist, Hindus, Latter Day Saints, Catholics, Reiki masters, Quakers, and Jews. I count among my best friends a psychic Unitarian who leads guided meditations, a Yoga teacher who practices mindfulness meditation, a polytheistic Animist, and a Presbyterian who sees auras. Each one is following a path of love – for love is the main component of each individual path. I respect and honor them all.

Mark and I have warmed a pew at the First
United Presbyterian Church in Oneonta for twenty years. Belonging to a spiritual community is an important element in our life. I think of church as the trailhead of my spiritual path. I begin my week on Sunday morning with uplifting music, theological lessons to ponder, and connections with church family members. Love fills the sanctuary with a palpable energy! During the week I dally on several stepping stones of my multifaceted path, making sure not to stay on one well-worn section for too long. I may read some words of wisdom in a book such as The Third Jesus: The Christ We Cannot Ignore by Deepak Chopra, or gaze at the miraculous photographs in Crop Circles: Signs, Wonders and Mysteries by Steve and Karen Alexander. I will read The Upper Room devotions with Mark in the morning, and pray with him at bedtime. I’ll meditate with one of my CDs: my current favorite is: “Solar Radiance: Becoming a More Perfect Light” with Sanaya Roman. I may go into the Artisan’s Guild and talk to Debbie, a Wiccan high priestess, who creates beautiful crystal jewelry and offers energy healings to clients. Debbie is “a good witch,” who, like Glenda in The Wizard of Oz, casts spells only in the name of love and goodwill.

On the first Wednesday of each month I like to attend Vespers at the Unitarian-Universalist Society, where Diana leads participants in a guided meditation, sometimes to help us forgive those who have “trespassed against us,” sometimes to obtain guidance for our spiritual path. Then we light candles for every joy and every concern that we lift up in prayer. The pool of flames reminds us of the Light and Love that is expressed with our gratitude and intercessions.

Sometimes I’ll have a conversation, online, on the phone, or in person over tea, with a friend who likes to share thoughts about the path she’s on. Lilly serves the gods of nature who she also refers to as “the gods of love.” She speaks of “Loving Kindness” as a goddess, and vows to serve this goddess in all of her actions and dealings. Lilly’s path is peopled with love and joy and beauty!

Anna tells me about the yoga classes she teaches. I attended these classes for a couple of years, and I know that she shares her expertise in a gentle and caring manner. Anna tells her students: “There is a word that is often heard in the practice of yoga. That word is Ahimsa. Ahimsa is a Sanskrit word that may be translated as non-harming. But it is also translated as love. Let us love ourselves in our practice, offering kindness to ourselves. . . . Non-harming, letting go of violence. Love. We might just call it compassion."

It has always been my belief that everyone is a begotten child of God. I don't think of myself as an adopted child, as many Christians refer to themselves - because I think each of us is created by the same Divine Love that also poured life into the man, Jesus, - who demonstrates for us how to behave as divine children. If we see each other as One in spirit, having one parentage, and one divine consciousness, how much easier it is to love one another! We can even call God by different names, and follow different messengers, such as Buddha, or Mohammed, or Joseph Smith. But if we worship in the spirit of love, and listen with our hearts to each teacher's messages of love, we are still all One. As interfaith minister, Susanna Macomb says: “It is love, after all, that breaks down the prejudice and fear between people of different faiths and different cultures.”