Thursday, August 13, 2009

Death leads to Other Side

It’s been a while since I posted any paranormal stories, the real-life experiences ordinary people have with the Other Side. To me they demonstrate the existence of spiritual reality—what we call “God”—and they demonstrate its independence from religions. So, more stories:

Mary and her sister took turns staying with her mother during the last weeks of her life. After she died, Mary woke up to her mom’s voice saying, “Mary” just like she always did when she needed me for something.”

Mindy, whose dad passed over years ago:
Just recently I was in a terrible dream in which I was in a woods, lost and hungry. I was crying. Suddenly, quite serenely, my dad walked out of the woods, wearing the khaki pants and flannel shirt I remember him wearing. He held out his arms and hugged me. Then we walked into an adjacent room and we danced. It happened to be Father's Day eve! I woke up happy and nothing that day could have changed my happy, calm, peaceful mood, even though the weather was dreary. It's given me pause to think about him and feel his love for me in strong ways I never felt before.

About three months after her father’s death, Faye was sitting on her couch, grieving his passing, and thinking, “How can we go on? All the ways he helped us—what will happen now?”

A bright light enveloped her, not like the shining sun, but pulsing. It was beautiful and she immediately felt her dad’s presence. Without hearing words she felt the message, “All will be all right. You are strong.”

She sent the message, “We love you. Goodbye.” And it was goodbye. Nothing similar has happened again. She knows that this, not his funeral, was the real goodbye.

Mom was very ill with breast cancer and died November 2005. She knew she was dying but wanted absolutely no one to know about it, including her doctor. She dealt with it all alone and in silence. Before Mom died she had some visitors. She told me these stories ten days before she died, and they are shocking to all of us. She said she was lying in bed when Dad, who had died in 1994, lay down next to her.

"Did he say anything?” I asked. “What did you do?"
"He didn't talk, he just lay there. I didn't talk to him either. I just worried about what I was going to make him for breakfast. I had nothing in the house."

Another time she was in bed and at the foot of it stood her father with a very young child. They smiled at her and left. She said he really was there, but she didn't know who the child was. She thought it was a girl because the child was wearing a white long dress. My cousin assured me it was no girl. She is more into the paranormal than I, someone I need to introduce you to someday. She said she was sure Pa brought Mom's older brother to meet her. This almost-two-year-old had died from some childhood disease.

Bob’s mom was an immigrant. Approaching her room in ER, he heard her having a conversation in her childhood language, but when he got to the room, no one was there but she. Several times during the last weeks of her life, she communicated with her deceased sister and other relatives. Asked how that could happen, she said, “They come to me,” and added, “I do not have a fear of death.”

Her doctor said many patients are able to cross over before their bodies finally let go of this life. On one of those last days, Mom saw a shining golden light with angels inside it. “Do you not see that?” she asked.

Bob tried many medical avenues to save her life, and she fought to stay alive for him and his wife. But then he heard her praying to be taken. Two weeks before she died, he had a fruitful conversation with her and said, “It’s OK to go.” His wife noticed that she seemed more at peace after that—her face had lost its anxious look. When she passed, her face became a visage of joy.

Hospice workers tell people to give their loved ones permission to leave, and there are many stories of dying persons waiting until they have that permission, then dying in peace.

One more story, this one by professional writer Linda Marie, after the loss of a valued friend:
It was July and we were planning a get-together for several mutual “city” friends to be held on my deck. I talked to Coleen one morning, firming up the details, and that night she was gone.
One day the next spring, I was leaning on the railing of my deck, just sort of reflecting on the lake and life and nature.
I looked down and saw a turtle climbing out of the lake onto the sand. It was the first one I had seen that year. Thoughts of Coleen, her massive turtle collection and her unusual intrigue for the shelled species came immediately to mind.
The turtle, just a few feet in front of me, stayed very still, with its neck stretched farther out of its shell than I could recall ever seeing, and it was turned directly toward me for—oh—for a very long time . . .

A friend placed a book into my hands that perfectly accompanies my paranormal posts. I use “paranormal” not only in reference to events that seem to defy the laws of physics but also in reference to events that happen just when we need them or can use them. They are synchronistic. They startle us with their strange, inexplicable fittingness. And they signal inner, deeper, hidden, secret meaning.

Synchronistic is this book coming to me: The Secret Language of Waking Dreams by Michael Avery. His “waking dreams” are my “paranormal” events: the cup falling into my hands, pelicans flying in unusual formation, Julia Bergman’s helicopter stopping right where Mortenson had built his first school (See Synchronistic & paranormal ).

The incidents in my posts stand out in their novelty, but not all nudges from the inner world come through uncommon events. Avery shows us how to read everyday happenings for daily guidance, because each individual has to find her or his own significance in them.

The rationalist will say, “It’s all in your head.” Yes, it is. If my head says I never get inner promptings, I won’t get them, but if I’m open to discerning subtle direction coming from inside, I’ll find such prompts to guide me. If my head says I must obey the bishop, I’ll live according to the bishop’s word. Looking for inner direction requires harder work than obeying outer commands, but it leads to serene confidence, the surety of knowing I’m doing what’s right for me, because the feeling of having been touched by “God” is unmistakable.

An incident in my life many years ago illustrates. I was somewhat frantically looking for a direction in life, doubting myself and down on myself for not having a plan when others seemed to know just what they should do. I opened the Bible for solace and guidance. Out from the pages jumped the verse in John 15: 16: “It was not you who chose me, it was I who chose you.” It assured me, affirmed me as a person, and dispelled my fretfulness. It told me that my unconventional path is not random and that Something guides me.

This or any Bible verse, or any words anywhere, will not have the same meaning and effect on everyone. The nudges, the waking dreams, the awakenings can be—usually ARE—subtle and individual. We have to be alert and receptive.

Stay awake to keep the nudges coming!

Monday, August 3, 2009

Common ground, please

I live a divided life, friend and companion to groups with contrasting beliefs among religious and non-religious, including atheists. I can see that they agree on how life should be lived but disagree on the value of religion. Many in both groups have no idea how much common ground they share with the opposite group.

I’m saddened when I hear one group maligning or misunderstanding the other. Often I say, “I wish you knew the beautiful people I know,” in the group just disparaged. From my conversations with both, I see how much they agree.

The common ground is morality because all of us have a space inside that tells us what is good, true, and beautiful. This space is imagined in various ways—Christians, for instance, personify this mysterious Something as Jesus or Father. We run into trouble if persons in contrasting systems think their way of imagining is the one true right way.

Dogmatism exists in atheism as well as in all the religions, but similar intolerance exists in persons who have no definite beliefs about the spiritual world, persons who don’t care to think about spirituality. In fact, some of them are dogmatic about discounting spirituality, but I think it’s because they conflate it with religion and hate the whole religious scene.

Here’s what atheists don’t know about educated and thoughtful Christians:
• They are faithful to our Christian tradition without claiming exclusive access to the Author of morality we call “God.”

• They are well aware that Christianity began as a Jewish sect and became powerful because the Roman emperor Constantine embraced it.

• They know about parallels between pagan deities and Jesus Christ but, I admit, most still view our God images as superior. But not all. Many stay faithful to our tradition because they recognize its value in their lives—Christian practices satisfy their spiritual needs, despite their awareness of the tradition’s shortcomings. What keeps me in is the good people and the sacred places.

Here’s what Christians don’t know about atheists:
• Their moral standards exceed those of most Christians. I know and know of many corrupt Christians, but I don’t know any corrupt atheists.

• They tend to lump Christians into one common brand—ignorant fundamentalists.

• They are spiritual, although few of them would admit it. It is precisely their integrity that drives their atheism, and they have little tolerance for pretense or compromise.

I’m sure both groups will find fault with my simplistic characterizations, but I hope to draw both closer to the common ground they share with the other. Deep down we are all pursuing truth, beauty, and goodness. That’s easier for religious people because they have the support of their tradition and most don’t have the probing questions of atheism. On the other hand, mature spirituality ALWAYS includes probing questions.

Click around in my index for more on this.
Again I quote an atheist whose name I need to protect from the consequences of being known as one. What does that say about our supposedly Christian society?
The words of an atheist:
Since serious scholars acknowledge that we don't know what a putative historical Jesus said or did, it is hard for me to find inspiration in the constructed character. Some boneheaded things were put into his mouth, so making that character inspirational would, for me, be a matter of constructing my picture of him out of values I already have--sort of like inventing my own superhero and then trying to be inspired by him.
Serious scholars agree enough on what the historical Jesus said to strike down claims that he never existed. I was attracted to atheism upon learning that much of the New Testament is not factual, and I see the atheist argument as an over-reaction. It seems clear to me that, once atheists discovered false Christian claims about Jesus—once they discovered the myth—they leaped to the conclusion that the man never existed. It’s an understandable leap, but lacks discrimination.

My conviction that a Jewish mystic named Jesus wandered in Palestine 2,000 years ago, teaching enduring spiritual truth, rests on his teachings. They are consistent with values everyone already has, yes. That is part of their beauty; it is one way we know he was authentic. More pertinent to the question of his existence is the distinctiveness of his preaching—his extraordinary verbal attributes and his centering on “the Reign of God,” which I detail in more than one chapter of God Is Not Three Guys in the Sky. Now a comment about “boneheaded things put into his mouth.” I’m puzzled. If it refers to self-exalting claims, that’s my whole point. The man was turned into a myth. But, readers, please also read what I say about the dignity and value of religious myth.

Now more about the values everyone has. I’m reading a lovely book by Quaker author/educator Parker Palmer, A Hidden Wholeness: The Journey toward an Undivided Life. Palmer describes the source of the values everyone has. He himself calls it “this core of our humanity” and continues:
Thomas Merton called it true self. Buddhists call it original nature or big self. Quakers call it the inner teacher or the inner light. Hasidic Jews call it a spark of the divine. Humanists call it identity and integrity. In popular parlance, people often call it soul.
I, following Jesus of Nazareth, call it the Reign of God.
Kathleen comments,
This is an interesting discussion that needs to continue. We can learn only when we are willing to listen and understand each other.