Sunday, November 28, 2010

Anticipating Christmas

Sifting through my mental memory box, I find two images collected during my gradual discovery that Santa Claus is merely a myth.

The first image involves finding the box in the attic that went with the Revlon doll I'd received on Christmas morning when I was five. The doll had not been in the box when I found her under the tree, and I realized she came from a store. The following Christmas, I said to my mother, "I'm not sure I believe in Santa Claus anymore."

"Don't say that, Emily!" she pleaded, holding me close on her lap. "Of course there's a Santa Claus. He's the spirit of Christmas!" After that, Santa Claus was no longer a jolly, magical man in a red suit trimmed in white. He was an unseen spirit, like Jesus and God.

The other image is a vivid, treasured memory of what it was like to really and truly believe in Santa Claus. My brother Steve and I were going to sleep together in the same bed on Christmas Eve, so that we could share the excitement of that special night. I suppose he was four and I was three. The air was thick with magic. "I think I hear sleigh bells on the roof," Steve whispered. We were not lying down, but kneeling at the bottom of the bed, leaning over the foot board, straining to see out the door into the dimly lit hallway. We knew he was coming.

I have waited many years to recapture the thrill of such a sure knowing about the miraculous. I was a 40-year-old mother when I listened to the story of a friend of mine who had been close to death in a hospital. As she lay in her bed, immersed in a pool of pain, Jesus came to her, just as real as you or I. "He was like pure love looking at me," she said. She left her body and He led her down a path toward a river where people beckoned from the far bank. The colors were more vibrant than those we see in our everyday lives. She told Jesus that she couldn't go any further with Him--she had five children to care for. So He brought her back, to her pain and gradual recovery.

Before that time, I had read stories in books and magazines, written by people who had met Jesus, or an angel, or experienced a miracle of healing. But reading stories written by strangers is not the same as hearing such a miraculous tale from the lips of a trusted friend--an ordinary mother, just like me. Tears welled up in my eyes. The Hallelujah Chorus crescendoed inside me. The air was thick with magic. My friend had met Jesus. He had come to her when she needed Him most. Now I knew that He would come to me, too.

I felt again like a small child on Christmas Eve. Back then, I knew that Santa was coming. Now I knew that Jesus was coming. Jesus, who did come as a baby on the first Christmas Eve, comes again to everyone who looks for Him. First, as a blessing in our hearts and souls. Then, as a friend, to light our way in the darkness when we are lost, or sick, or dying. When will I see Him? I don't know when it will happen, but I know that it will. Whenever I think about it, the air is thick with magic.

He is coming!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Burning the Bridge to Hell by Emily VanLaeys

Escape from Hell - by Peter van Laeys

                Well-meaning Christians have tried to scare me into accepting their exclusive brand of faith by assuring me that an eternity in hell awaits me if I don’t agree with their theology. There is one part of their doctrine I agree with: that Jesus is my savior. Jesus taught that the truth sets us free. The Truth that he taught includes the admonishment to love and forgive others, as God loves and forgives us.

              When the Pharisees asked Jesus what was the greatest commandment, Jesus replied: “’Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew  22)

These are the commandments that tell me I am safe in Divine Love: Jesus has saved me because he is the one from whom I learned this. Some people learn the law from other messengers of Love. It is the same message no matter who it comes from.  Jesus also told the Pharisees to obey the spirit of the law; not the letter. The spirit of the law is Love and Love does not damn souls. However, if one believes that God is a vengeful being who punishes his wayward children; she or he may experience hell until the walls of fear melt from around that person’s heart, and the scales fall from his or her eyes. Then the love and light of God, which was always there, will be known.

It is my opinion that no description of Satan’s Hell can surpass the horrors that we see in the news of this world. The evils of war, the torture of one person by another, the abuse of children, the rape of women, the destruction of the earth, the wanton greed that smothers the human spirit: these are the things that separate humanity from their Divine Creator and from each other. These are the images of Hell on Earth. This is the Hell from which I want to be saved!

How can there be so much evil on this planet, created by God of Love and Light? How did we come to separate ourselves so completely from our Divine Creator? Some people blame all of this evil on Satan or Lucifer - who may or may not be the same being. There is a lot of confusion concerning who these entities are, and according to a very informative article by the Theosophical Society, they are not at all the same. As delineated in this article:, there is no scriptural basis for the widely-accepted legend of Lucifer/Satan: “It appears that the whole story of Lucifer as Satan, the fallen rebellious angel, is based entirely on non-canonical sources: the so-called Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha.”

Maybe we can’t blame the evil we see on some non-human entity. Perhaps the evils of greed and selfishness are just the result of humanity’s separation from our divine source, the embodiment of love. It will take a huge leap of imagination for some to consider the possibility that the very religious forefathers who set the doctrines and creeds for people to live by for two millenia are the ones who are responsible for the mistaken belief that humanity must remain separate from God. They told us that Jesus is the ONLY son of God, and no, God does not have a daughter – what a blasphemous idea! They told us that anyone who does not accept this decree, and anyone who does not profess Jesus to be the ONLY way to God, will be damned forever. They told us that we are sinful worms, undeserving of God’s love if we don’t believe that Jesus sacrificed himself to pay our debts. They did their best to take the message of Love out of the Scriptures and instill fear and unbelief in the hearts of God’s children. This fear and lack of belief in our own divine power has greatly contributed to the hellish environment in which we live.

However, the early church fathers did not manage to twist or hide all of the encouragement Jesus blessed us with.  One way he encouraged us was to say: “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden.” (Matthew 5:14) He also said: “Truly, I tell all of you with certainty, the one who believes in me will also do what I am doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the father.” (John 14:12)

Jesus also promised this: "If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, 'Be uprooted and planted in the sea,' and it would obey you!” (Luke 17:6) and then: “I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there' and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you." (Matthew 17:20)

And so I contend: When enough people recognize their oneness with God, as Jesus did when he said: I and the Father are One” (John 10:30), our faith, and love, and wisdom will rid the world of the hell we have created here. Evil will be no more. “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away" (Rev. 21:4). But those who want to keep the old order so they can wage war against one another can remain in the hell they have created for as long as they wish!

This is my interpretation of damnation: that choosing hatred, violence, greed, and separation from Love will allow those who enjoy the power they get from these qualities to stay in hell. Those who recognize their Oneness with God, Love, and Divine Light will find themselves in the kingdom of heaven which Jesus said has been within us all along. (Luke 17:21) So it will be: that the refining fire of divine love will burn the man-made bridge to hell.

Sounds True, Inc.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Thanksgiving Every Day
by Emily VanLaeys

Painting by Peter van Laeys

               On Thanksgiving Day we are reminded that we have many blessings for which to be grateful – just in case we aren’t naturally grateful every other day of the year!  Some people, however, have started to refer to this holiday as “Turkey Day,” as if eating turkey is the main reason for celebration. 

               I have shared Thanksgiving dinner with one family who says “Happy Turkey Day” when they see you  on the fourth Thursday of November. Nobody offered grace before our dinner, and nobody even talked about what they were grateful for.

                That is one sad extreme on the gratefulness scale; an extreme that has become all too common in today’s society. The other extreme – the one that I heartily advocate – is to offer thanks every day. Whether you offer a prayer of thanks to the Creator of all things, or thank another person for something done for or given to you, or write a list of everything you’re grateful for that day, being in a state of gratefulness is a spiritual blessing that enriches your life and the lives of others.

                We have all lived through times when we have felt there was nothing at all to be grateful for. Whenever I have gone through a period of depression I have forced myself to record at least one good thing that happened to me each day. Gradually I would find more things to be grateful for and my lists would grow.

                 Keeping a gratefulness journal forces you to look for blessings in your life. If you have a warm bed to sleep in and food to eat, you can write that down. If a friend calls, or an e-mail comes from a loved one, put that on your list. If you’re unemployed, you can be thankful for those things you haven’t lost. No matter what the circumstances, you can be thankful for the beauty of nature:  the stars overhead, the squirrels leaping from one treetop to another; the birdsong that wakes you up – whatever you experience from where you are.

                Then you can be thankful for the blessings that are yet to come. Some may ask: “How can I be grateful for something that hasn’t happened? What if it doesn’t? I’ll feel pretty silly!” True: if I said, “Thank you for the free trip to Hawaii that I’m about to get,” it would probably not happen. After all, I don’t really believe it will, and I have no idea how it could. Maybe someone with advanced powers of manifestation could make it happen, but I’m not advanced. On the other hand, I can say: “Thank you for the good health my family and I will enjoy this winter,” and feel truly thankful.  I have every reason to believe that we WILL be healthy, and no reason to think otherwise as long as I don’t give in to fear.  Giving thanks for that which you are ABOUT to receive is a demonstration of faith that the source of all abundance provides for your needs. Jesus often told people that it was their faith that made them well. The combination of faith and gratefulness is a very powerful method of prayer.

                I am also grateful for the wonderful things that are going to happen in the coming year, even though I don’t know what they will be. So many people are recognizing the light within themselves and sharing it with the world – positive results are bound to come!  And I am planting seeds each day in meditation, studying and writing about spiritual things, and sharing ideas with other spiritual seekers.

               I feel the divine light growing within; I feel my love for life growing each day; and so I know that good things will be showing up in the outer world, too.

                If you think you can’t be thankful for something that hasn’t happened yet, plant some daffodil bulbs and give thanks for the beauty they will gift you with in the spring. Then look for ways to plant  seeds of love in someone’s life and in your own. Gratefulness will swell up in your heart as you watch and wonder what the seeds will grow to be!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Love is All-That-Is

                                                                 Art by Gaelyn Larrick

God said: I am that I am.
This means: I only am. There is only I. I am all there is. 

From myself all of Creation came to be. I created all of you and all that is from myself.
Nothing else exists. 

I breathed you into existence. When you breathe, it is me breathing. 

I loved you into existence. When you love, you experience me and I experience you.

I am light and so you are light. The light shines in the darkness and there is nothing to be afraid of.

I sang you into existence. Each of you is a note in the never-ending cosmic symphony that I compose, conduct, play, and sing through you. 

I gifted you with freedom of will and you willed to be separate and distinct from me. 

When you cut me off from your soul, you stepped out on the path of an unconscious life.

I have come to you as the fully conscious persons of Buddha, Jesus, and others who planted the seeds of Truth in various scriptures, human hearts, and semi-conscious minds. It is up to you to unearth these seeds, to plant them in your own heart, mind, and soul, and nurture them there.  

Jesus said: I and the Father are One.  The fully conscious Jesus knew that he was one with God, with Love, with All-That-Is. He showed you the way to know and experience this same Oneness. 

As we meditate on these things we bring more light and love to the world. We bring the world back to the knowledge of being One with Creation. Where Oneness is self-conscious, conflict can’t exist. 

Oneness is Peace. Oneness is Love. Oneness is Creation. Oneness is God. In Oneness I am that I am.

Discover Your Divinity!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Love is All-That-Is by Emily VanLaeys

Cosmic Heart by Willow Arlenea
Isn’t it amusing to listen to the endless debates about Creation, when whatever happened, happened billions of years beyond the reach of human memory?   How can anyone actually prove that the universe was designed and created by a divine, benevolent intelligence, or that it was just the result of random chance? Many who believe in the Intelligent Design of the universe still do not credit any of the world religion’s images of God with the creation and evolution of everything. Not a surprise, because there is no one religion that can satisfactorily answer every question that an inquiring mind will have. Perhaps this is because each religion was designed to meet the spiritual needs of a particular section of the human population. If there is an omniscient cosmic intelligence, it would recognize that the immense diversity of human capabilities, worldviews, environmental and cultural backgrounds, interests and experiences, would make it impossible to present the whole world with one pathway to understanding creation and the meaning of life.
Every religion, every culture, and nearly every individual in the world, embraces a different image of God -- an image that may be worshiped, adored, revered, feared, claimed to be dead, or to be a fabrication of the human imagination. But there is no single human brain that can possibly fathom the entirety of the infinite cosmic mystery. So each person chooses the portion of truth that he or she can comprehend, and each portion of truth is embellished with details either fabricated by the individual, or by one of the founders or perpetrators of that particular brand of faith. Those who deny the existence of any Divine intelligence frequently do so because they see the fallacies in the religious doctrines they have been exposed to; and then instead of going a step further to explore the possibility of a divine mystery too large to be explained by any theology or philosophy designed by the human mind, they disregard all theism as an invention of the imagination. Some atheists may dismiss the existence of God because of the limitations of the human brain that cannot conceive of an intelligence greater than its own, or the existence of realms that cannot be seen or heard with the human senses.
 In these times of widespread famine, war, and natural disaster, we often hear people ask: “If there was a god, he wouldn’t allow these things to happen. Others say: “How can God allow these things to happen? Where is God when people are suffering?” Or they echo the lament of Jesus as he cried out from the cross: “God, why have you forsaken us?” Many people believe that the current catastrophes signal the inevitable end of the world as predicted in the Bible and by the Mayans and other prophets. Those who proclaim that there is no god say that it is the wishful thinking of childlike minds to believe that any higher power actually cares what happens to our race and our world. Whatever happens to the world is totally up to us. We'd better make some big changes, or it will be all over soon, whether by environmental destruction, nuclear holocaust, the disappearance of the honeybees, or a wayward asteroid – take your pick!
More and more people don't even want to hear the word “God” spoken. They connect “God” with childhood images of a stern old man sporting a long white beard, who tallies their sins, and deals out punishments accordingly. “God” is also the one who instructs certain factions of society to be excluded from grace: homosexuals, atheists, and anyone or any group who differs in belief or lifestyle from those whose image of God is exclusive to them. Some people confuse the meaning of “God” by saying that God is not the same as Allah, Brahma, or the kami of Shintoism, when all of these names refer to different cultural concepts of God.
“God” is just a word. In fact, it is an abused and over-used word, which might be understood better if it was replaced with another one, such as Creator, Divine Light, Omniscient One, Universal Mind, Heavenly Parent, Eternal Spirit. The possibilities are endless! However, the one word that I believe best sums up the essence of the One in whom we “live and move and have our being“. . . is Love.
When God is thought of as pure love, I find it a little easier to separate truth from fabrication in the religious teachings and doctrines of the world’s faiths. Would love intentionally create a world where greed and violence are a natural part of life? Would love allow any of its children to spend eternity in despair? Would love give up and cease to extend lifelines of hope to any wayward ones who have lost their way? Would love reveal the truth about itself to one segment of its family and then leave it up to them to make sure the other family members get it right? Isn't it possible that Love spoke through the hearts of all the divine messengers who brought us the world's religions, and then the scribes who wrote and edited their messages added their unloving thoughts about revenge, jealousy, and superiority? Well, isn't it?

Sounds True, Inc.

Bridge Across the Fourth Dimension by Emily VanLaeys

Symbol Painting by Chris Lissandrello
Without the gifts of intuition, synchronicity, and of course dreams, I could not have written my first book, DREAM WEAVING: Using Dream Guidance to Create Life's Tapestry. Each chapter was based on one or more dreams and the connection between their spiritual symbolism and the events of everyday life - both personal and universal. Dreams come from that same unseen dimension from which arise intuitive thoughts, imaginary creations, and synchronicity. In that dimension, sometimes known as the fourth dimension, or the "inner planes," ideas are conveyed by symbols rather than actualities. In the process of interpreting these symbols we are forced to stretch our creative muscles, and in so doing, become even more creative and intuitive than we were when the dream or synchronistic event occurred. Consequently, in writing a book about my dreams, I found myself becoming more in touch with the deeper, spiritual side of life than I was prior to beginning that work.

Many of the dreams that I worked with in DREAM WEAVING were very old. They had languished in my dream journals for as long as twenty years, and only when I brought them to light for the purpose of enhancing one of my chapters did I realize how these old dreams still contained wisdom for my current life. One such dream had presented me with a bowl of food - a mixture of green pepper slices, candy canes, and some yarn with which a friend wanted me to knit or weave the concoction together into a homogenous dish. When I originally documented the dream, seven or eight years before putting it in my book, I felt that the green peppers symbolized nourishment for my body and the candy canes begged me to spend more time in play. In the writing of DREAM WEAVING, I allowed myself to spend more time working with each dream, looking for connections inside myself, seeking applications from scripture, myth, or literature. I researched the legend of the candy cane as a symbol of Christ. The bent shape represents the Great Shepherd's staff, and the red stripes recall the words of the prophet Isaiah: "...with his stripes we are healed." (Isaiah 53:5) The white stripes symbolize the purity of the Christ Consciousness, which can be ours when we "sup with him." (Revelation 3:20)

These insights gave new meaning to the dream of pepper strips, candy canes, and yarn. I was reminded that I am part of the body of Christ, and that the yarn could be the sinews that connect my body to his. Because I was struggling with the need for balance, both when I had the dream and later when I wrote about it, I connected it to St. Paul's words in Romans 12:4-6: "For as in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another. We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us..." This verse assured me that I can lead a whole and balanced life even though I am only doing a little part of the work Christ calls us to.

As I delved deeper into the meaning of dreams and life events, I discovered a wellspring of creative ideas for my readers and me to ponder. This work with the unseen dimension also seemed to evoke a wealth of synchronistic guidance. While writing the chapter on my relationship with Jesus I got stuck on the meaning of one dream in which Jesus was knocking at my door and I kept saying: "How can I help you?" The third time I spoke out loud, thus waking myself from the dream. At that point in my writing I took a lunch break. Sometimes when our minds have been wrestling with a problem, letting go of it for awhile gives our intuitive powers an opportunity to do some behind-the-scenes work. On this occasion a serendipitous discovery brought an immediate answer to my question. For no particular reason, I chose for my lunchtime reading a copy of "The New Millennium," a journal published until recently by the Association of Research and Enlightenment. I read an article by Judith Stevens Allison in which she had written: "All great religions emphasize that there is power in the spoken word. The [Edgar Cayce] readings suggest asking aloud three times in your morning meditation, 'Lord, what would You have me do today?'"

When I finished eating my lunch, I closed the chapter with the story of this synchronicity. I declared that I would try this exercise and see what happened. Now readers ask me if I am still asking this question aloud every day and I have to confess I am not. I did try it for awhile, but I continued to have trouble discerning what it was Jesus asked of me each day. Sometimes I thought I knew, but I preferred to stick with the plans I'd already made. Readers may be disappointed in me for not following such conclusive advice, but I don't think the key message behind my experience was the necessity of praying that same question aloud every day. More significant was the demonstration of synchronicity - the way that answers come readily when we dig deeply for spiritual lessons and bring them to light, especially in the written word. And perhaps the guidance received was meant to help someone else more than it did me.
Recently I realized that the same technique I used to connect dreams and events can be applied to the synchronicities of conscious life. In the beginning of DREAM WEAVING I imagined angels toasting each other with glasses of holy water as I traveled from the East coast to the Rockies where I would meet my future husband, also from the East, who would just happen to be eating lunch at the Old Faithful Inn "staffeteria" at the same time I arrived there. This was the synchronistic event that set the course of my life. From then on I recognized the significance of such events and have believed that these synchronicities are orchestrated by unseen guides on the same plane where dreams and myths are created. Universal or personal symbols can be drawn from these experiences just as they are from dreams.

In DREAM WEAVING I told about the serendipity that led to my meeting Lesley, director of Hospice, which involved a common interest in life after death and a job opening that Lesley thought was meant for me but wasn't. Since then, she and I have experienced other serendipitous meetings. One of these occurred when we just missed catching each other by phone, then met in the grocery store where I have shopped several times a week for twelve years and never before bumped into Lesley. Her secretary had suggested that she go to P&C to find the fresh corn she was looking for. Because of the corn we met and were able to set up a lunch date. Corn is a common symbol among different cultures. Ancient Romans planted corn on graves to bring the energy and wisdom of their ancestors to everyday life. Corn is also a symbol of death and rebirth, favorite topics of discussion between Lesley and I since she works with the dying on a daily basis, and the loss of her son is always uppermost in our minds when we meet. I think that our synchronistic meetings, such as the one over the grocery store corn bin, are intended to keep alive our ongoing discourse on the meaning of life and death. These encounters are a continual reminder that there was a reason for our meeting which had nothing to do with the job opening at Hospice.

In the unseen dimension where dreams and synchronicities are created, people connect with one another beyond time and space. I refer to this phenomenon in chapter five of DREAM WEAVING: "Retrieving the Past: A Visit to Soul Space," in which I share the joy of visiting distant friends in a dream. Another example of the soul space phenomenon is the prophetic dream. Such dreams can be explained in a variety of ways, but I choose to believe that prophecies manifest from the inner sanctums of soul space, where past events and future possibilities coexist. Among the prophetic dreams recorded in my book was one that I didn't recognize as prophetic until ten months after the book was published in January 2001. I was visiting an AAUW book group where DREAM WEAVING was being discussed. One of the participants was impressed by the dream referred to on page 154 and read it to the group:

I was lying in bed while a woman, a nurse, watched over me. She said it made her sleepy to watch me sleep! I stayed in bed, because it was so dark out that I assumed it was night. Then I looked at my clock and saw that it was 9:00 a.m., so I got up and went outside. They sky was a predawn gray. Someone told me there had been a disaster in New York City that had created a lot of dust that was blocking the sun. My thought was that this was one of the planetary disasters that had been predicted for the new millennium. I got down on my knees, bowed my head to the ground, and prayed.

The book group was meeting one month after the September 11th disaster in New York City, so we all thought of that immediately. I felt chills listening to someone else read my own words to me. The dream had appeared in July of 1999, but the specific references to the time, 9:00 a.m., and the dust blocking the sun, were too close to reality to be anything but prophetic. If I had not written about that dream in my book it probably would have remained forgotten in my dream journal, and I never would have received such a powerful message of my own intuitive connection to the unseen side of life.

Throughout my life I have maintained that I am not very psychic and I have wondered why it is always other people who have memorable experiences with the supernatural. But I have learned that the practice of writing about my seemingly ordinary experiences and dreams has produced greater intuitive abilities than I would acknowledge if there was no written evidence of them. Also, the process of writing, even non-fiction, requires the use of imagination, an activity which leads the writer to dance with the occupants of soul space. From these dances are born creative ideas, intuitive meanings, and serendipitous gifts. Writing births imagination, imagination births intuitiveness and creativity, and these attributes birth meaning for the lives of writers and readers both.