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Things Aren't So Bad After All
It is always easy to find reasons to despair or lament. Every day seems to bring news of fresh outrages in our country and world. But there are signs of hope as well. Let’s look at poverty.
Despite a very deep recession that shook the economy around the world, extreme poverty has been declining even in some of the world’s most challenged nations. It was reported in 2011 by the Brookings Institute that almost half a billion people rose out of extreme poverty between 2005 and 2010.
Consider that-half a billion in only five years. The rise in incomes occurred at the same time as a significant decline in deaths from malnutrition and infectious diseases, according to a study in this month’s medical journal The Lancet. The number of deaths from communicable, maternal, neonatal and nutritional causes decreased by 17% and life expectancy rose by more than 10 years.
So, we have more money, live longer and suffer less frequently from diseases humans have been plagued with for centuries. While we struggle to survive, the governing powers of countries have to look to conserving land, air and water for our future generations. In fact, in the US alone, our air and water quality since 1970 has improved dramatically and acid rain pollutants have been reduced by 60%. Industries are monitored so they can no longer dump toxic waste and raw sewage into our lakes and rivers as they did 50 years ago. 90% of Americans have access to public drinking water-up 10% since the 1990’s.
All good news, but yes, we still suffer from too much violence. Records indicate violent crime has actually dropped steadily since the 1990”s but sometimes it hard to believe when we read the news. But every time there is a tragedy, whether by nature or man’s hands, Americans respond with an incredible level of concern and charity. After the Newtown shooting, the community was showered with money, food, toys and even college scholarships to the point that donations have been diverted to others in need.
Yes, we live in a dangerous world and we are surrounded by suffering. However, we are also surrounded by wondrous acts of love and kindness, and good will in large and small cases. This is the season of hope the start of a wonderful new year. Be thankful for the abundance we share and remember to pass on whatever you can to make 2013 the best year yet not only for yourself but for all men, women and children.
Love and Light,
Remember The Ones You Love
by Bonnie Crosier - Student Minister
I recently spent time with a woman in one of the local nursing homes. She is a very interesting women in that she remembers her earlier years like they were yesterday. When it comes to yesterday, well, she has a hard time remembering that. At 92 she has begun her journey with the onset of dementia. We have talked a few times and her smile tells a story all its own. Her eyes light up when she talks of her life as a young woman. You can tell by the way she dresses that she still has pride in the way she looks and I've been told if her hair isn't quite right when the staff gets her ready for the day, it has to be done over.
On this last visit I asked her, with everything she has seen in her life, what was the most memorable event that took place. Without hesitation, she said the day she married her husband. She married him when she was in her teens and told me about their lives together. She then said he would be coming shortly. He had passed away a couple of years ago but in her mind, he was still there with her. Surprising in a way that in her 92 years of so many changes and events in history, she valued the relationship she had with him over any other event that had taken place.
Nearing the end of the visit, we had talked about flowers and I had mentioned that I loved the smell of carnations. She agreed and said it seemed like some time since she had gotten any. I asked her if I were to bring her one on the next visit, what color would she want. Without missing a beat, she said pink. How fitting for her to pick a love color.
Someone who valued love over any other event in time. As we near this Valentine’s Day, let us remember the people in our lives that are important to each and every one of us. Let’s take the time to share with those people the difference they make in our lives each day. Whether it’s a spouse, family member, friend or acquaintance, let’s let them know what a blessing they are in our daily lives.
Welcome to Spring
by The Reverend Sharon Bianchi
Welcome to March and to an early Easter this year. Easter is a day of celebration; a day when Jesus rose into heaven leaving a tomb empty of his earthly remains. For us, as Spiritualists, it is a time to celebrate rebirth. The Spring of the year when trees bud once again, flowers begin to poke their heads out of the soil, and the days get longer and the sun warmer and brighter. It is a time of rebirth.
Our birth began in the spiritual realm where we were born into perfection; into all knowledge, naturalness, freedom and with the absence of unhappiness or pain. When we experience physical birth, we come into the world with no knowledge, dependent on others for our care, needing to be taught the simplest of things. So really, physical birth is our secondary birth in which we must learn, and experience so when it is time for our death, our soul can again be reborn into our natural life.
When we awaken each day, we can rise up to the opportunities ahead of us. We have 365 days to take advantage of a daily rebirth and become whatever we desire to be and do whatever we desire to do. Take stock in all that you have learned in your life so far. Isn’t it remarkable how much you know from the days of your physical birth when you knew nothing? As this Easter morning dawns, look at this as a time or rebirth, a fresh start, a new beginning. Consider this to be the best possible time for yourself, your family, your friends and your universal brothers and sisters.
As Spiritualists, we believe that truth is truth. There is an articulate logic behind shared concepts that extends into most faiths. In Buddhism, for example, there extends the unique expression of faith called the Four Noble Truths, whereby one can attain enlightenment.
These “truths” deal with the reality of suffering in life. The first acknowledges that suffering exists. The second, that suffering will occur. The third assures one that the suffering will end, and the fourth affirms the way leading to the end of suffering. Buddhists believe that an understanding of these four noble truths is how one will develop spiritually. It is within the context of the fourth truth Buddhism teaches that eight disciplines are needed to attain the fourth truth.
These disciplines include:
1. Understanding that reality is not the same as its appearance
2. Changing individual thinking to reflect proper understanding of reality
3. Speaking truthfully, kindly, and humbly
4. Behaving without harming others
5. Working without harming others
6. Making physical self-improvement
7. Practicing mindfulness
This advocates a life of moderation. They can be applied to the wants and needs of every aspect of life: physical, emotional, philosophical, spiritual, relational, intellectual and metaphysical. What is there on this list of eight disciplines that each of us, as Spiritualists, should not be striving to attain?
These shared concepts can help each one of us progress toward not only our own spiritual enlightenment but that of all we encounter as they will learn from our lesson. Buddha, like Jesus Christ, shared their truth with us and it is up to us to learn and live that truth.
Blessings to all,
(Excerpts taken from The Indispensable Guide to practically Everything by Bryan McAnally.)
Being In The Present
by Bonnie Crosier - Student Minister
Around 1985, I had the pleasure to spend some time with a wonderful person. I worked with her husband Ken for that year and into the next. Linda was an inspiration that has touched my life in so many ways even after all these years. These people were not rich by any means monetarily but they had something that more than compensated that sort of wealth.
They had each other, a son and an understanding of what it meant to be loved by God. Linda was at the end of her struggles with diabetes. She had gone through several amputations and when I first met her, she had just lost her sight. I remember visiting her and reading a number of books. Her favorite, anything by Zig Ziglar. I asked her why this author? She said his simple principles of life are whet kept her going. She felt as if his words of inspiration were those coming from God.
On one of the last visits with Linda before she passed, she had told me that her sense of taste had been compromised and she started talking about the things she missed in life because of this disease. But now, she couldn't taste the sweet and salty taste of butter on a piece of toast. She told me she gave up on the little petty things long ago that really didn't mean much.
She had found the joys in life to be things as simple as the soft whisper of the nurses coming in her room in the middle of the night. The fragrant smell of the flowers her husband would bring her once a week. The smell of the playground that would trail her son as he would come in to see her. To her, the biggest blessing was having someone there, just being.
We learn in Hospice training that it’s not the gifts we bring or the words we say that mean the most to a hospice patient. It’s just being there, in the present. It reminds me of God in our lives and the comfort we receive by just knowing that he is there. We don’t always get conformation of his presence but know he is there with us, helping us get through those times in our lives when we need him most, just being in the present.
Rumblings from the President
by Butch Tull - Board President
Imagine that you walk into a store to buy a single item, but all the merchandise is randomly scattered about with no sense of order. How long will it take you to find what you are looking for? Would you not find it easier if the items were neatly arranged and the aisles were clearly labeled? You can take a similar approach with your spiritual growth. While you’re thinking about it, with spring here and spring planting started, here’s something else to ponder:
If you plant, plant honesty, you will reap trust.
If you plant goodness, you will reap friends.
If you plant humility, you will reap greatness.
If you plant perseverance, you will reap victory.
If you plant consideration, you will reap harmony.
If you plant hard work, you will reap success.
If you plant forgiveness, you will reap reconciliation.
If you plant faith, you will reap miracles.
So be careful what you plant now. It will determine what you will reap tomorrow.
Love and Blessings,
Comfort is Bliss
by The Reverend Sharon Bianchi
I love sweatpants. I don’t know who invented them but if they were here right now, I would kiss them. My husband always said he wished he had invented a “Get Dressed” machine. You know, you enter a tube-like contraption and -POOF in an instant, you are completely dressed, groomed, and ready to head out the door. I’m sure he would have made a fortune if only he had followed through. (Probably had one on The Jetsons but they always wore the same outfit so—just saying.)
Anyway, back to sweatpants. When I come home from a long, hard day at work, the first thing I do is head for the bedroom and change into sweats, a tee shirt and no shoes. Ah, the bliss of getting out of those work clothes and into my baggy, well-worn sweatpants. See, it is all about being comfortable.
I get that same feeling on Sundays when I come to our little church.
There is that sense of bliss and well-worn comfort. Now, I obviously don’t wear sweatpants to church (but I could) but you get my drift?
It is our mission to make everyone feel comfortable coming to church without being hampered by rules and doctrines and other things akin to those darn work clothes. After all, we are family and we should always be comfortable sitting down with family. Right?
The True Meaning of Life
We are visitors on this planet
We are here for ninety
Or one hundred years
At the very most.
During that period we must
Try to do something good
With our lives.
If you contribute to other
People’s happiness, you will
Find the true goal,
The true meaning of life.
The Dalai Lama’s words are true-we are just visitors here on this earth plane. So many people spend their time asking “What is my purpose?” “What does life really mean?” It is really quite simple. Be the best person you can be. Never intentionally hurt another. Be of service to your fellow man, and above all enjoy your life. Be happy. Be grateful for this fantastic experience. When you do that, you have found your true purpose.
Love and light,
We Are Never Alone
by The Reverend Sharon Bianchi
When one decides to become an ordained minister, learning to counsel becomes an important part of the minister’s duties and one of the most difficult. Recently, I have had a number of people who have lost children. In need of comfort and reassurance that their beloved child is still present in their lives, even if they are not with them physically.
But offering solace is not easy when questions haunt me even after all these years of practice. Why? Why does God allow this to happen, much less cause it to happen. This question lead to a journey of reflection to see if I could answer this question to my own satisfaction, let alone that of someone else. For many, God is looked upon as in control, a master manipulator. We the sheep, blindly follow where lead. So, when a child or any loved one ides for seemingly so good reason, we view this as God showing us who hold the power. But we are lacking the knowledge to understand why.
When we hold this view, we place out trust in the idea that God knows and someday we will understand. For many however, this leap of faith is just one step too far. So what if we look a God’s power differently? Instead of viewing God’s power as all encompassing and beyond question, view it as the power of presence. God is everywhere at all times. God is a part of each of us within each of us. The true power of God is the power of presence not the power of control. Tragedy will strike and God will be present, suffering right along with us because we are part of God.
We are all connected. When we have no other place to turn in our grief, we turn to the one who is powerful enough to be with us in our moment of suffering and our hour of pain. When the loss of a child is experienced, we only need to remember that the loss we suffer is also God’s loss. Our tears and God’s tears for God is always, always with us.
Spirituality and Health
Excerpted from Practical Spiritual Healing Guide
Spirituality and Health are so related that you could not separate them if you tried. How can this be said with such certainty? Because you are not just a human being made up of flesh, blood, organs, and
cells. You are a being who has a spirit which impacts every aspect of your life including your health.
Today, many doctors are speaking with their patients about the mind
body connection. They are starting to understand how much spirituality and health are connected. The can recognize
that what goes on in a person’s mind-thoughts, feelings and emotions has a profound impact on their physical health.
They are starting to realize that to heal the patient’s physical body, they also have to address the spirit of their patients.
Spirituality and Self Help: Researchers have found when a person who suffers from depression believes there is a personal God who cares about them, they have better mental health outcomes.
Spirituality and Stress: In another study it was found that belief in God had a positive impact on the reduction of stress and anxiety. Those who didn’t have this belief had distinct differences in their
Prayer and Healing: Dr. Larry Dossey wrote that there is evidence that prayer for one’s self or by others praying for that person resulted in significant improvement in their condition.
Complementary and Alternative Medicine: Spirituality based treatments can have a major affect on an individual’s physical health. Acupuncture promotes harmony and balance. Yoga focuses on the union of mind and body spirit helping one to relax and breathe
properly. Reiki and Healing Hands Massage can help release negative emotions trapped in the body and mind and restore your spirit and body to good health.
Forgiveness: Holding grudges can affect your health in a negative way. Constant anger and resentment can cause your body to produce a variety of illnesses. Forgiving others helps release the negative emotions and bring peace and well being.
So you can see that spirituality and health are intertwined. Each one affects the other. Maintain a healthy lifestyle and a regular spiritual practice and enjoy the best of both worlds.
The Season To Be Grateful
We have all heard the expression “ attitude of gratitude”. But what exactly is “an attitude of gratitude?” How can we develop it? Simply put, an attitude of gratitude means that we are always looking for the good in everyone we meet or seeking the good in every experience we may have.
This is the result in our belief in a giver of good and our desire, or maybe a better way to say it, our willingness to experience the good we are given. Whether we call the giver God, Allah, Infinite Intelligence or Spirit, we can achieve the “attitude” where we give of ourselves and then receive the bounty of good in which we dwell. Whatever we give our attention to or form a belief in, becomes our experience. So it only makes sense that if we want to develop an “attitude of gratitude” we should focus our attention on the blessings in our lives-our families, our homes, our jobs and our church community for example. Once we begin to do this, our “attitude of gratitude” will bring strength, comfort and peace not only to ourselves but to those around us.
An ancient proverb states, “A donkey may carry a heavy load of precious sandalwood on its back and never know its preciousness, only its weight.” Without an attitude of gratitude, we may feel the weight of our life’s experiences and lose sight of the precious nature of the gift we have been given.