Judgment Day

We’ve all heard the story before.  When you die, you’ll go up to the pearly gates and God (or somebody) will discuss your life with you.  You’ll look at the good deeds and bad as well as the various religious decisions you made.  At the end you’ll be given your sentence: Heaven or Hell.  OK, so I don’t know if this is how it really goes.  I suppose it’s in The Bible somewhere but I’ll admit to never actually reading about it, that I can remember.  I’m sure there is some variation of this story in each religion.  I mean without Judgment Day how in the world will we control the masses?  Of course I also think it has to be more than just an issue of control.  If so many people and organizations believe some version of it, then some version of it is probably true.

Today, I’m going to share with you my version.  Over the years I’ve read a lot of spiritual and woo-woo books that have helped me formulate this idea.  I do believe there is a Judgment Day, but the person doing the judging is us or rather the divine part of us.  I believe that before entering our bodies and lives we create a contract.  We have various challenges we must work through and qualities we must work with.  I think we make pacts with other souls to help us meet our goals.  If there is someone in your life who presses your buttons, you better believe it’s in their contract to do that.

With that being said I believe that when we die our souls leave our body and ascend to the other side (Heaven if you’d like).  Once there we are greeted by a soulmate-spirit guide, angel, or deceased loved one-who leads us to our life review.  During this life review we see and experience everything we did in our human life at a whole other level.  (Does the phrase “my life flashed before my eyes” ring a bell?)   We feel the pain we caused others as well as the joy.  We understand at a deep level what affect our decisions had on the world around us.

When the review is over we evaluate ourselves and how successful we were at achieving the goals set forth in our contract.  In some cases we may have reached the level intended and can ascend to the next Heavenly stage.  In other cases we see that we still have much to learn and after some rest we get started on planning another life on Earth-which some might consider Hell.

What I believe is that our souls are of God.  That is the image and likeness within us.  When we emerge into life it is God’s wish to experience the realm of humanity.  The devil we encounter in this human world is that of free will or ego.  It is the gift we are given by God to learn,  make choices, and live.  We cannot truly experience anything unless we have felt it’s polar opposite.  So we are both God (soul) and the Devil (ego, free will).

At the end of our life we will be judged, but not by any man in the sky.  We will experience and judge our own experiences, based on what God intended for us to give and take from this life.  The only Hell we can possibly experience is that of leaving Heaven and our limitless form to return to a body on Earth.

So, that’s my take on Judgment Day.  If it feels good to you take it as your own, if not please leave it behind and find what feels like truth to you.  We are all on our own paths and must search within ourselves for the answers to these questions.  This is just an answer that makes sense to me.

 

Why My Daughter May Fear Jesus

My Unity church is a small one.  We don’t have a big children’s program so for that reason my youngest daughter, Callee, is almost five but still a “nursery kid.”  Her age group doesn’t yet get spiritual instruction.  Up until September she hadn’t really been introduced to Jesus.  (In our house we pray to God or Spirit not to Jesus.)

In September we (Callee and I) went to NC for my grandmother’s funeral.  In the days leading up to her death, Mema had a vision of Jesus.  It was a given that when she finally passed everyone talked about that vision.  Jesus had come to take her home.

Before the funeral, the family went to privately view Mema’s body.  I really didn’t want to take Callee into the room.  I didn’t think she would understand.  I thought it might scare her or scar her.  In the end, the confusion scared her more.  There was a mysterious room where people walked into and then started weeping.  My brother-in-law did his best to distract her, but ultimately I decided she needed to see what was going on.

When we showed Callee Mema’s body it was explained to her that now Mema was with Jesus in Heaven.  I did not realize then how seriously she was filing that statement away.

It has been two months since the funeral and pretty often Callee still mentions, out of the blue, that Mema is with Jesus.  The other day though she said something that made me realize that this particular way of explaining death to her may have been a mistake.  We had stopped to check the mail when Callee stepped in a huge fire ant nest while wearing flip flops.  She ended up getting eleven ant bites.  When we got in the house she sat down and was furiously scratching the bites.  While doing this she said in her meanest voice “I wish all the fire ants in the world would just go with Jesus to Heaven.”

On one hand, I wanted to crack up laughing but on the other hand, it made me sad.  Now my little girl equates Jesus with dying.  I’m realizing now that although it wouldn’t have been as sweet, it would have been much more productive to have just told her that Mema had died.

With this in mind I just have to hope that she doesn’t come in contact with someone trying to evangelize to her.  The moment they ask her if she wants to have Jesus in her heart she’s likely to wonder if it’s some kind of death threat!

Learning From Loss

Today is October 25, 2010.  Last year on this day I experienced the first real loss of my life…the death of one of my best friends.  It was a loss that came out of no where and taught me a lesson in uncertainty.  There are deaths that you prepare yourself for (or at least as much as your imagination will allow you to prepare).  In adulthood, as your parents and grandparents age, you watch their health carefully and become more aware of their mortality.   When people you love get serious illnesses (such as cancer), as much as you want them to overcome, you realistically know anything could happen.  BUT you never expect that a young mother could deliver her twin babies on a Friday and die unexpectedly on Sunday.  Amy was the picture of health, finally embarking on the journey of motherhood she’d longed for.  I had plans for Amy… so many of us had plans for her.

This weekend, I was reading the book “Embracing Uncertainty” by Susan Jeffers, Ph.D.  Amy was on my mind as I started the chapter called “Embracing the Learning.”  In the chapter she talks about how everything is a learning experience and the key is to remember this fact during the bad times and the good times.  She included an exercise where you make a statement and follow it with the phrase “I can learn from this.”  She gave these first two vague examples:

“I lost my job…………I can learn from this.”

“I lost my relationship……………I can learn from this.”

The next example she gave was this:

“My best friend died……………I can learn from this.”

That last example was so specific that it felt like it was just for me.  I’d randomly picked this book off the shelf at the library and just happened to have started reading it the weekend of the anniversary of Amy’s death.

So what have I learned from my best friend’s death?

I learned that there are no guarantees in life and just because you make plans doesn’t mean they will come to fruition.  You have to let go of expectations because clinging to them only causes suffering.  I learned that my husband is the best thing that ever happened to me and I want to spend as much time as I am given making sure he knows that.  I was reminded that experiences are better than stuff.  The memories I have of the fun and love-filled times with Amy mean so much more to me than anything I could have (whether related to Amy or not).  I learned that I want to live life to the fullest because again there are no guarantees.

As I make the list of things that I learned I realize that time has shifted my energy.  The only thing good about experiencing such a shattered heart is that it has to remain open for a time.  When your heart is open, you feel more and can really live those lessons.  They permeate you (or can if you let them).  But over time the wound closes and you don’t always remember what you knew in the fragile moments.  Although I often think of how amazing and important my husband is, I don’t tell him nearly enough.  I’ve gone back to making plans and hoping, praying, clinging to outcomes.  Over the past months I’ve thought about the future far too often, instead of being present and full.

So on this anniversary, I will spend the day living fully, experiencing life, and possibly making memories to cherish.  I will tell my husband and my daughters how much I love them now.  I will wonder about our future but I will also embrace the uncertainty of it all.

None of us Really Know…Do We?

I just finished reading the book Silence of the Heart by Paul Ferrini.  It talked a lot, like most of the spiritual books I read, about the inward journey being the place where you find your truth.  All of the outward stuff just forces us, if we wise up, to ask those inward questions.  When we bump up against something and it makes us go “OWIEEEEE!” we ought to ask ourselves why.  That is where we get real answers.  That is how we move forward on our unique path to enlightenment.

I went to my grandmother’s funeral a few weeks ago.  She was a wonderful woman, who lived a long life and had a lot of experiences.  I went to the service hoping to cry and laugh at the stories told about her.   But I also knew since she attended a baptist church the sermon would go hand in hand with the celebration of her life.

It’s been a long time since I’ve attended a church like that.  I got bumped…big time.  In a way I thought maybe I’d conjured up and exaggerated the message, that maybe it was bitterness that caused me to remember only one particular aspect.  But no.  The only message I took a way from Mema’s funeral sermon was:

If people don’t ask Jesus into their hearts they are doomed to Hell.  It doesn’t matter how good they are, all that matters is they allow Jesus to save them.  All the other religions are wrong…end of discussion.  And since Mema had Jesus in her heart, the only way to see her again is to take Jesus into your heart.

I was squirming in my seat.  My stomach was doing flips.  A lump was forming in my throat.  I wanted to scream.  I wanted to run.  That is how I felt as I listened to the minister speak.  That is what I felt as I was supposed to be honoring my grandmother’s life.

So why did it bug me?  Why does this particular bump hurt so badly time and time again?  First off, this is my family’s religion.  This is their way of life.  For a girl who did her best to be pleasing (although I’m sure some might argue this), it really sucks to know that your family’s religion and beliefs tell them over and over that all the good I’ve done amounts to nothing.  I can spend years teaching inner city school children and serving food at the homeless shelter but I’m still going to burn in Hell with the worst of them.  In the end it only really matters that I’m on the right team.  And I’m not.  In ways I wish I could go back but I would be deceiving everyone if I did.

Which brings me to my next point.  There are so many people I want to shake and say “don’t you see how much of this life, this moment, this world you are missing out on by living a dream.”  We build up walls between us and our brothers and our sisters, so that we can stake claim to some plot of land in the afterlife that may or may not exist.  I am as convinced that they are wrong as the minister and his congregants are convinced they are right.  So I have built my own walls.  I have chosen to love my brothers and sisters less.  I’ve been prideful and smug.  I’m no different than the man that smiled and told a roomful of mourners that unless they followed his ideas they would suffer in a fiery Hell forever.

The truth is we don’t know.  None of us actually know what happens when we die.  We don’t actually know if there is a God.  We take it by faith.  We look at our own personal life experience and if we see something that appears as God there we make a choice to believe.  The books we read are all just experiences shared by other people just like us.  It is not my place to tell you where or how you should find God.  It is not my place to tell you that your God is not the right God.  I should simply love you for having the courage to seek at all.  And I hope to be loved for those reasons as well.

OpinionatedGift’s Click

I met OpinionatedGift through this blog and Twitter.  He left a nice comment, I clicked on his blog, read and instantly knew he was good people.  I have so enjoyed reading his thoughts and opinions over the last year.  He is a really good friend and someone I have a lot of respect for.  He was among the first group of people I asked to write a click story for me.  I’ve tried not to pressure him too much, but remind him every now and then that I’m still waiting for his click.  He always tells me he’s still thinking about it.  Last week I read the following post on his personal blog and I thought…that’s it.  I emailed and asked if I could share it here.  He kindly agreed.  You can follow him on Twitter here and read his blog here.

Twelve years ago this week I was spending my days going through my father’s apartment with my brother. Dad had shot himself on the 9th and his body was found by his oldest friend in New York on the 12th. Twelve years ago Wednesday.

Twelve years ago I was sifting through grief, memory and questions questions questions. Not the ones you might think. The fact is, when I got the call from my brother that the police had called him from Dad’s apartment, I knew what had happened. I’d hoped I was wrong. But I knew.

Mom said it best that night when we called to let her know. “He was always so sad”. It was true. He was also scared. Whatever the combination, he had a dim world view.

I loved my dad. He was basically a good man who never really dealt with his anger issues, his alcoholism or his strengths. A talented actor, he’d packed us up from Tucson Arizona, sold the Ford Falcon and got us on a train to New York City and went straight into substitute teaching and social work. His career as an actor was essentially small productions in holes in the wall (before the moniker “Off Off Broadway” was coined.) and extra work in movies.

As a kid I would listen while he would lament the vagaries of the business and how hard it was…and it instilled in me the belief that the business was indeed brutal. It didn’t stop me from wanting to be an actor. It didn’t stop me from thinking I could do better. But these things are insidious and the sins of the father are often visited upon the son. His beliefs did become mine and even when I achieved some pretty good if minor successes, my joy would be tainted by fear of the success not lasting.

Now to be sure, being an actor isn’t easy. It can be brutal, but I can see very clearly as I look back how my own thoughts and feelings that were inherited affected the way I approached my career and subsequently the way my career developed…or didn’t as it turns out.

Twelve years ago fears and doubts overtook my father to the point that he no longer was able to reason. This man who raced down the street with me…encouraged me to take the training wheels off my back when he knew I could. The man who when he saw I was floundering in my efforts to audition for the High School of Performing Arts bought a gazillion plays for me to look through and helped me find the right pieces and even coached me. A man who as a social worker had saved or improved as best he could, so many lives, wasn’t even able to remember a simple meditation technique because anxiety had overcome him.

He’d been given Buspar and started to take it, then stopped. 12 years ago it got so bad that he sat at the edge of his bed and ate the barrel of a .357 magnum. He left a note that was really more of an excuse than anything else. Fears of a cancer that didn’t exist.

Two weeks later, the girl he wanted to marry, a dancer from Japan was finally allowed back into the country. He’d become convinced it wouldn’t happen after months of legal back and forth. Fear of being alone and abandoned convinced him that his life wouldn’t work out as he desired. So it seems he decided to just stop trying.

12 years later I still wrestle with loving him and hating him. Remembering his capacity for compassion for everyone while he seemed to only have pity for himself. I am sometimes on the edge of forgiving him. And then I remember having to tell my daughter what happened. I remember how as she is now almost 20 years old, she can’t play chess because that’s what she used to do with Grandpa. I can’t quite do it.

For the past 12 years, for about 3 weeks before and after the anniversaries, he shows up in my dreams. Sometimes as if he’s never been gone, sometimes as if he’s only been on some trip in South America or something and we all just THOUGHT he was dead.I forget about it…forget it’s that time of year…sometimes even the days of his actual death or the day he was found go by entirely unnoticed. Sometimes not.

Twelve years later I can watch Dirty Harry make one line comments about his Magnum and still get a kick out of it. But when Heroes first aired and there was an episode with half a skull being cut off and brains removed, I get completely worked up.

I wrestle with fear too. And it’s not hard to see how it keeps me from acting. Clouds my thinking. I’ve made a decades long struggle of shifting from “can’t” to “can”. It hasn’t been easy.

Twelve years ago I cremated my father. Twelve years later I’m still cremating parts of his legacy so I can rise from the ashes.

Ramblings

I have had no burst of inspiration today.  There’s no words of wisdom or deep questions I have for myself or you.  I’m writing this on Sunday, April 25.  The 25th of each month is no longer just another day.  The 25th will forever be the date that signifies one more month without Amy in my life.  Someone wrote the other day on Facebook that they think of her everyday.  I paused for a moment realizing that I don’t think of her as much anymore.  Everyday seems like a lot, but compared to every minute it is not.  For so many weeks, maybe even months, a minute could not pass without a memory or thought of Amy coming to mind.  But yes, like the friend on Facebook, I do still think of her everyday.  Yesterday I was on the couch reading and I stopped for a moment to think of her.  I looked up from my book and on PBS was a commercial for a documentary about frogs.  Today the girls brought me yet another mysterious toy frog that they found in their room.  She’s still sending me signs.  I hope she never stops.

I used a gift certificate and bought two books yesterday:  Love Without Conditions by Paul Ferrini and The Master Key System by Charles F. Haanel. I started reading them both yesterday.  Apparently The Master Key System is a 24 week program.  You are supposed to read each chapter over a week period and apply what you are learning.  I’m excited about it, but hope that I can stick with it.  I’ve bought and read several books like this one and never treated them like a class, but instead just devoured them and placed them back on the bookshelf.  Intellectually I understand a lot of what (I think) is going to be presented in this book, but it is really time to take it to the next level.  The best way to get to that next level is to use the book as suggested.

The other book, Love Without Conditions, is just wonderful.  Seeing as I had my belief in Jesus shaken a bit a week or so ago, this book is just what I needed.  It is not a channeled book specifically, but the text comes through the author from Jesus.  Ferrini says in the introduction that we all have access to Jesus and can commune with him and get the same information from within our consciousness directly from him.  I believe that because I have experienced it!  I have realized through some of the comments I received on that post, some answers I received within, and from what I read in this book that I really don’t need absolute proof of Jesus’ human existence on this earth for me to know that he is a spiritual teacher for me.  His words and lessons will not change.

Happy Monday everyone!  Have a great work/school week and for those of you who might be wondering…I did sign up to give a talk at church this summer.

Speaking Up

I learned from the 2008 presidential campaign that it is better for my health and well-being to keep my mind out of politics.  I tend to get bent out of shape and have learned that trying to argue politics with loved ones who disagree is akin to beating my head against a wall.  So these days, most of the time, I have my head in the sand.  When I do pull it out, I get some information via three blogs I love: The Rant by Tom Degan, Musings of a Madman, and Gifts of Thought.  These guys commentate on politics with a liberal leaning stance.  Through their blogs (and links they provide)  I’ve learned a bit about the Tea Party Movement.  I try not to worry about the effects of misinformation and hatred that is being propagated by so many of our citizens, but there are times when it is so in my face that I can’t help but worry.

Yesterday while visiting FB, I saw this on my homepage:

DEAR LORD, THIS YEAR YOU TOOK MY FAVORITE ACTOR, PATRICK SWAYZIE. YOU TOOK MY FAVORITE ACTRESS, FARAH FAWCETT. YOU TOOK MY FAVORITE SINGER, MICHAEL JACKSON. I JUST WANTED TO LET YOU KNOW, MY FAVORITE PRESIDENT IS BARACK OBAMA. AMEN

I visited the page and was shocked to see that it had over 500,000 “fans” and as of this writing it has over 900,000.  I also read through the comments and though there was the occasional “liberal troll” speaking out for how wrong it was, most people thought it was funny.  Joke or no joke, I view this as a public wish for the death of our president.  And the nearly one million people who have joined the page are in essence signing a petition.  And I know some of you might be reading thinking Geez, Leslee, get a life, lighten up, stop taking things so seriously.  And to that my response would be to share two very important lessons I learned as a kid.  First, hate is a strong word and you should think before you use it.  Second, it’s not OK to joke about death or wish harm on anyone else.  So if you realize those are two tenets I’ve tried to live my life by, it should be easy to see why I can’t lighten up on this one.

Somehow the current state of political affairs has brought out the worst in some.  I mean in looking at this group title I might start to stereotype who would join.  But when I look at the page it is filled with regular people.  Little silver-haired ladies, young soccer moms, cute Bieber looking teenage boys, and clean cut businessmen.   In my mind I think that hate has made it to the mainstream.  The powers behind this all have managed to feed on the weakest part of our essence, the fear that we are not safe and secure.  They’ve repeated the messages so often and so loudly that to many people it has become TRUTH.  And just to drive the message home they add God into the mix.  The next thing you know, good Christians are calling for the death of our president and all the liberals who love him.

So yes, I am worried about the future of my country.  I’m not worried because Barack Obama is president.  I’m worried because millions of children are being fed a steady diet of hate, intolerance and inflexibility.  In 2012 I will probably vote for Obama once again but I will not involve my daughters in the process.  In 08 I was proud to have my lil ones chanting O-BAM-A, but now, my protective instincts say otherwise.  What a sad state of affairs….

Here’s an interesting video, and for the record if my conservative father felt the same as this tea-partier he’d be calling for his own daughter’s head on a stick….or in boiling water.

I’ll end this with an interesting thought that popped into my head during meditation:  What if the Anti-Christ isn’t one person, but instead an entire angry mob of Christians forgetting to ask themselves the one question they so prevalently display on their t-shirts and bumper sticker: What would Jesus do?