Moments of Insight and Observation

Clues from Above

I have long wondered why I didn't have any good true-life stories I could tell, of the type Ben tells at his spirituality site. But then, after the story in "A Paradigm Shift" occurred, I realized that maybe I did have enough material to at least start my own story collection. So ... here it is.

An Early Clue

Insight Received in 1995 or 1996 (written 1997)

Anyone who knows me well knows that I over-analyze everything. Yes, INTJ me, overly-rational, with a mind that can chase itself into dark holes and never come out again. This was especially bad soon after my discovery of spiritual Christianity.

....So, I was sitting there one day as I often did, wracking my head, hoping for some clue about my new-found spirituality, any real clue.... How do I become a better person? How do I make myself fit for Heaven? How do I make myself worthy of God? How do I know what to do? What should I do? How should I deal with my own fears and weaknesses? How could I do anything without reliable 2-way prayer? What was I doing wrong? What should I do with my life? Should I take the Bible literally? Why am I fretting like this? Isn't this useless fretting wasting time? Etc. etc., it was all going in circles, and all I felt was frustration. And then it popped into my mind:

Stop worrying about your own salvation, and start worrying about others' (instead)!

Somehow, that seemed a summary of the crux of the situation. On top of that, it was a tool to jump-start me and get me out of the useless introspection. And it was even a little bit of re-assurance that I wasn't operating alone, that sometimes I could "hear" inspiration (even if it wasn't "reliable 2-way prayer").

....I mentioned it to a friend, who said, "That sounds like something Jesus might say." I had to say that I agreed. It even sounded more like what Jesus might say than most other "channeled" messages I've read on the WWW. And since then, while I haven't been able to live up to the message yet, it's served as a potent reminder of which way I ought to be working, and what I ought not be doing.

A Paradigm Shift

Inspiration Received in 1997

Occasionally I work at a soup kitchen where the homeless come in to sit at tables and be served food. I've met some great people there, and in particular the guests (as they are called) have been (usually) extremely polite and gracious.

But I'm a bit of a paranoid hypochondriac, which makes the whole experience a little nervewracking. Cleaning up tables after people have finished eating, for instance, is not usually my idea of fun. I usually don't wind up with table-cleaning duty, but I did recently.

So there I was, cleaning up tables, viewing the food stains I was wiping up with a certain amount of illogical fear and disgust. I know it's all very illogical, and that fear and disgust are not the right way to approach anything, but tell that to an ingrained phobia. It's all well and good to know "what" to do --- do everything with a spirit of caring --- but it's a problem when you still don't know "how" to do it.

But as I was grimacing over one particular table, struggling with internal disgust (at both the job and myself), I suddenly had a shift in viewpoint.

What if the people who had sat here were your children?

Indeed, what if? I snatched up the thought and expanded on it, summoning whatever parental instincts are within me (there aren't many, but I tried). If one's own child (or pet) were sick, one's primary concern is about helping the child --- not worrying about the mess or about catching whatever sickness the child has. Or suppose the children were straying far from what is good and safe --- misbehaving, struggling with personal problems, lost. Maybe wilfully lost, and not ready to come home to safety. I imagine the mother of those children at the table, wiping up the food stains with the bleach-soaked sponge --- with hope, compassion, and patience in her heart, not disgust or fear of contagion. She hopes the best for those children, will do the best for them --- even in a matter as mundane as cleaning up the table --- but knows that their destinies are their own to decide. Perhaps a little bit like ... God's point of view.

This way, the job of cleaning up the table naturally, simply, automatically becomes a job of caring and blessing.

The only difficulty now lay in keeping that new viewpoint, and not lapsing back into the other. (I had previously used a somewhat related mental exercise while dealing with my pet birds' food bowls, but had never thought to apply it with unfamiliar human beings, and didn't keep up the discipline for long.)

So .... It's not about making one's viewpoints change with brute force, of necessarily struggling hard and strong against an irrational phobia. It's about paradigm shifts. It's about using what in aikido we call aiki. Finding the right path, which suddenly makes it all easier.

Of course, the will to change must be there. I think it is when we have the courage to attack our failings, even with the "wrong" methods, that inspiration comes. Sometimes the struggle must be long and hard indeed before the giant Clue from above can reach us.

Post-Script: As recently as 2000 I have found variations on this inspiration useful in turning negativity about others into caring.

Another Paradigm Shift

Around 1997

I think this story was so petty that I didn't want to even write it down until now, years later.

I was getting irritated at the way people around me at the subway station were walking... maybe it was their speed, or just the way they were walking, how the weight shifted from foot to foot.

I was also aware of just how dark my mood was, and how unfair it was to be down on others for the way they were walking. So of course, I tried a little prayer in an effort to see things differently.

Then, as I watched a particular set of heels on the stairs in front of me, came the paradigm shift. It was simply this: How wonderful it is that people walk in so many different ways. How boring it would be if everyone walked the same way. How much more interesting, and wonderful, that everyone is different.

Yes, I reflected, that's true. And it helped.

The Meaning of Self-lessness

Core idea originally from C. S. Lewis (written 1997)

The previous story is a great example of how to deal with selfishness, or self-centeredness. It's like the old joke: "Don't think about elephants!" Everyone winds up thinking about elephants.

Many of the greatest religions say: "Don't think about yourself." The same problem comes up. The more one "tries" to be "selfless," the more one can wind up trapped in a hell of introspection and self-centeredness and frustration.

The trick, then, for becoming "selfless" is to become so thoroughly absorbed by something that one can forget oneself. And one of the best ways to forget something is to concentrate on something else.

In a practical sense, "something else" might be even a book (or even a TV show!); for many people it's one's work. But for spiritual growth, "something else" should frequently include the acts of caring for people, not with fear or a mere sense of obligation, but with (if you can manage it) real compassion. Failing real compassion, even the discipline of doing the action of caring is an important first step.

Being self-less doesn't have to be painful and nasty and a lot like pulling teeth! Of course, it might occasionally become painful, but remember --- we naturally do our best work when we love what we do. Maybe it's a hint from Someone who invented Nature.

So ... take the plunge, if you haven't already. Do an act of caring, even if you don't feel like caring. You might get drawn in by the fun of it, or the challenge. And somewhere along the line, a "spirit of holiness" might just whisper the magic words in your ear, giving you a moment of profound new insight, a change in viewpoint, the next step in the instruction to "be selfless." You'll be on your way.

(There are the extreme cases, where people think "selflessness" means self-neglect or self-abuse; these cases are countered by the argument: "If you want to be a tool for God, remember that any good tool needs maintenance and care: sharpening, oiling, cleaning, repair-work, and time for cooling-off.")

Looking Back...


Looking back now, as I write what was supposed to be a warning about how much time it takes to grow spiritually, I realize something else.

The years have been teaching me patience.

It's been over 2 years since I got plunged into the weird world of spirituality and psychic crud, with proof positive of the existence of spirits and especially the existence of evil spirits.

There have been long weeks, months of pain: mental, physical, emotional, spiritual. Thoughts and other more intelligent things would haunt, torment, or otherwise just bother me minute after minute, hour after hour, day after day, week after week, month after month. Some of them have continued year after year.

I, so used to picking up mental concepts quickly, was frustrated by my (lack of) spiritual and psychic progress. Little steps forward were almost always followed by what seemed like giant steps backward. (I find it especially sad when a motivational author has to refer back to his own positive-thinking writing to help himself through hard times, but I've been in that boat myself quite a bit!)

It's been slow. Progress has been nearly invisible. But I haven't given up. Indeed, I couldn't give up --- I could see no other path for me to remain sane, other than to hope in a good God and the existence of Truth somewhere. And so it has gone on.

Yes, the years have taught me some patience. The thought of more trials ahead really doesn't do much to cheer me up, but if I can keep the attitude of "What a great adventure!", maybe I'll be able to learn more patience, and continue on my way. What's hopeful is that I can more and more maintain the positive outlook --- not that it approaches even 10% of my normal thinking. But it's starting to feel more familiar. That's good.

So, yes. It's slow. It can be painful. Spiritual growth can be fast at times, but usually it's terribly hard to detect.

But I think I can see light at the end of the tunnel, yet more clearly than before. If the light is what it seems to be, this will all have been more than worth it.

A Small Miracle

12/1995 (written 1997)

We realized with a shock that we'd miscalculated the time. We had 40 minutes before the plane left, and we were still at home. The trip to the airport and checking in normally takes over an hour, with 30 minutes of padding. And, given how overbooked and overcrowded the airlines were reported to be that Christmas, missing the plane might mean not being able to see our families at all.

Well, I began praying. I also practiced the fundamental aikido principle of remaining calm and relaxed. The two activities tend to help in combination, and here it seemed particularly reassuring as we ran around madly.

There wasn't enough time to call a taxi, and we didn't dare pin our bet on the local supermarket, where taxis often gather. We ran instead to the Red Line (subway), and after a short wait, the Red Line train pulled in. We jumped off at the Green Line, and hey presto! there was a Green Line car waiting right there (normally a 5-minute wait). We jumped off at the Blue Line, and watched in disbelief as the Blue Line train rolled in --- it's uusually a full 10 or 15-minute wait. At the Airport stop, there was a bus right there --- another 5 to 10 minute wait avoided. What normally can take nearly an hour took only about half that time.

Need I mention I was still praying the whole time?

Despite the convenient "coincidences," we were still in danger of missing the plane. While my companion checked in the suitcase, I ran ahead to the gate, found out the plane was doing final boarding calls, and made sure the gate agents knew to expect one more person. By then out of breath and exhausted, I somehow wound up on the plane, seated next to a woman who was crammed into a single tight seat with a squirming, active little toddler on her lap.

I was afraid my companion hadn't made it, but just as the plane was being closed up, he came by. Since seats were so scarce, he'd been given a roomy first-class seat way up front, and wanted to see if the person next to me was willing to trade.... And so, in a neat, elegant wrap-up to that chapter, we were able to give the woman and her child a much roomier, first-class seat, which she otherwise might not have gotten (if we hadn't been late). I know she needed that extra space much more than we did!

Things proceeded safely from there, and in retrospect, that was one of the most important trips home I have ever had, for various reasons. I am glad I made it, and I am still surprised by how it all came out.

As I understand it, that's how some of the best of God's solutions work: neatly, elegantly, benefitting many in unexpected ways. Amen.

Be Careful How You Bless

1995? (written 1997)

This may seem to be one of the more difficult-to-believe stories, and it's not necessary a Clue given from Above. It certainly doesn't have a happy ending. But nevertheless, this is what I observed, with a few conclusions tacked on.

I was at a shopping mall one day, and, as you probably know, shopping malls often have some water fountains splashing merrily away.

As it so happens, I have found water fountains to often be the homes to certain types of spirit --- water elementals, if you will, or something like that (I'm just guessing); I've had some weird encounters with them. (I have also found large, impressive boulders to often house other types of spirit, but that's a different story entirely.)

I happened to walk by this particular mall's fountain, and noticed a particularly cheerful and happy presence within the water, a bit like a shining, joyful light. What happened from there I'm not too sure --- I think I mentally touched it, and some various unpleasant things happened. In any case, the mood around the fountain suddenly darkened! Instead of cheer, there was now a sense of anger, wrath, darkness, threats, and maybe even fear. My friend K- tried to find out what had upset it. As far as he could tell, the spirit was mostly upset that a human had noticed it sitting there burbling away to itself in what it thought was privacy. (I guess it had never expected a human to be able to sense its presence --- and it's right in that many people don't consciously sense these things.)

Failing to think of any way to alleviate the situation, I prayed for the spirit and left the area quickly.

Here are the essons I learned:

Depressed for No Obvious Reason


Meaningless depression might not be your own!

There was one day recently where, despite my best efforts to remain elevated and within what I consider the light of God, I kept feeling overwhelmed, frustrated, and unhappy. The day was somewhat stressful, but hardly stressful enough to account for the growing number of dark and glowering shapes I drew on the whiteboard to express my discontent with work. About the only time I felt a little better was when I was trying to help my coworker (who shares my office) deal with his own frustration: national bureaucracy (the INS!) had tied up a vital document he needed right away (without which he might have trouble staying in the country -- no wonder he was anxious!).

As the discontent mounted, my frustration with myself grew in a self-destructive, self-feeding downward spiral. Why couldn't I remain elevated? What was keeping me depressed and angry? Why was I so helpless against my own feelings? Why was the world so inexplicably irritating?

Well, a few hours later, my coworker got the official document he had so desperately needed. And you know what? My feeling of frustration lifted --- like a dark thundercloud clearing. In fact, the rest of the day felt much better. The problems I was having at work were not enough to drag me down any more.

So, I realized, it wasn't that I was frustrated and irritated (though it felt that way) --- I was picking up the frustration and irritation of my coworker. No wonder my efforts to feel better failed: I wasn't the source of it. Instead of trying to bail water out of my sinking boat, I probably should've been focusing on closing the hole that let the water in, and then bailing (elevating the spirit).

Closing the connection, however, is a whole different exercise....

Go to where God is...

(In the Company of Angels)


Recently I read this sermon by Laura Raston:
Encounters with Christ Among People with AIDS, and part of it clicked. She wrote of how Christ tells us to come to where the needy are, because that's where Christ is. Sometimes it isn't that the needy need us to bring God to them, but that God is where they are, and we need God.

I think she's right. Here's my own experience with a little of it:

My "psychic" senses are pretty darn fuzzy. I can perceive spirits sometimes, but I usually have a very hard time telling much about them, unless they are very obviously unfriendly or unpleasant. Once in a while, though, I can pick up contextual clues.

In June of 1997 I visited a well-kept (OK, it's also wealthy) nursing home/long-term care facility. I was hanging out in the big physical therapy room, noticing with surprise how truly caring and patient the staff was, as they bustled about helping different people (most elderly and/or injured patients) learn how to walk again or stand up, or in some cases just flexing limbs that would never move freely again.

But as I watched I got the faint impression of a type of spiritual activity I too rarely encounter. Organized, intense spiritual activity, throughout the room. Not the amorphous mass of confusion, pride and noise I encountered once in a church, and certainly not the nastiness of something sinister. This was somehow brighter, more focused; reminiscent of what I have occasionally "seen" during one or two spiritual rescues. The activity wasn't radiating the stereotypical soppy emotion or overdramatic streams of joy --- in fact it was hard to gauge emotionally --- but it felt purposeful and not at all bad. And, judging by the mixture of concentration and caring on the staff people's faces, the effects were outright good.

Given the evidence around me, I decided I was in the company of angels. If one wishes to be in the company of angels, one should go to where they gather --- or rather, to the people to whom they come: the sick, the humbly needful, and the people who do their best to help them. There in that room, I imagine this intense spiritual activity occurs every day: healing the sick and injured, teaching, helping, and very importantly, re-filling and refreshing the human staff --- and I imagine that this activity will continue to occur in that room, as long as the people within it remain honest, caring, and giving.

Maybe Prayer Had Something to Do with It?...

1996 or 1997 (written 1997)

I had been asked to provide some moral support for my friend P as she called up her mother. Their relationship was troubled. The mother is a Christian traditionalist, afraid of things new and different. P is not only skirting the lines of many traditions, but she is also Pagan. Not surprisingly, phone calls between P and her mother are, according to P, often argumentative and destructive --- even though both people are caring people, striving to do what each thinks is right and good. P herself strikes me as being more caring, joyful, and loving than many people I've met in my life --- and that includes a lot of so-called Christians.

As I arrived at P's apartment, I got hints of darkness hanging over the area, though I wasn't at all sure if I was imagining it or not. I did some preliminary prayer, though I didn't really expect any obvious results. Most of my prayer yields no answers that I can see, feel, or hear.

I settled down in P's room and waited as she called up her mother. Again, there were traces of darkness impinging on my awareness, so I prayed for the Lord to send his teams of rescue angels, warrior angels, healers, light-workers, and so on. P began her phone call.

Things began to happen.

I could sense, dimly, shapes moving around. I was surprised, and a little bewildered: I had no idea what to do except keep praying and to try to be spiritually elevated, joyful, and a source of blessing. I prayed over and over, just under my breath: "God, thy will be done here. God, thy will be done," occasionally adding specific requests whose results I couldn't see. The activity around me continued, even as the phone call went on. As far as I could tell, the activity was fairly violent --- I imagined shapes chasing other shapes (it was just a guess). The phone call, though, was peaceful and quiet.

The activity finally began to fade a bit. By then, I had been straining at the edges of my perception so long I was no longer sure what was what any more. I thought the area felt more peaceful than it had, but the room itself was physically dark (no lights were on) so I had trouble checking that.

But perhaps the most telling aspect was that after the phone call, P turned to me and said (approximately), "What were you doing? That was the best phone call I've had with my mother in a long time!"

And that's the important part, isn't it?

Don't you think God can handle it?...


There was a big, personal, important decision facing us. The result of this decision could mean extra days of life for a loved one. I won't go into details, but essentially, I was faced with a choice that had to do with someone else, and neither option clearly recommended itself. I prayed hard, and fervently. God, which should it be? Which choice? A or B? Which would be better for all concerned? And then, I was reminded of a daily prayer I had read in a book: "Lord, whatever happens today, I know that you and I together can handle it." Then the answer itself arrived:

(Whichever one is chosen,) Don't you think God can handle it?

And that was a relief to hear. If we can truly trust God to handle things ... well, He will. This thought would help me soon....

(And as it turned out, various things happened that made the choice itself pretty meaningless. Things worked out better than I might have guessed.)



The demonic attack that night was strong and terrible! Tired, sleepy, confused, I sent up prayer after prayer, seemingly to no avail. But then, it occurred to me (if I remember correctly) that trials happen to everyone, including saints. They are unavoidable. The things that we have control over are not the circumstances (necessarily) but only our own reaction (yes, lessons from Frankl and Covey). Thus, instead of just praying for surcease of all conflict (which we probably won't get in this life), we are often better off praying for peace ---- inner peace, in the midst of outer turmoil. Then, gradually, another thought occurred to me: I'd survived lots of these attacks before. After all, God can handle these things, if I let Him. The key was still: "Lord, whatever happens today, I know that you and I together can handle it."

Yes, if I let Him! And to help God take care of things, I had to relax, let go fear, and trust God. Trust in the God whose glory shines in the stars, in the ocean, in friendship, in love, in all the wonders of the vast universe; God, who created all the spirits, including myself and these annoying attackers. And I know that by relaxing and choosing faith, I also connect myself to the vast, positive powers built into the universe by God (after all, we all know that good relaxation helps the mind psychologically).

I relaxed. I trusted God. I chose faith.

The attack gradually faded, and I had peace.

Admire, Don't Criticize


It was another one of those days. Trying hard to shut up the negative thoughts about other people. Today it was a stream of criticisms about how some other people were walking --- which I don't appreciate, myself. I don't like getting it, I don't like doing it. But criticizing others is one of those stubborn bad habits --- undoubtedly made worse by outside influences.

In any cases, I prayed as I watched someone walk in front of me with a gait I found irritating (and the irritation, of course, made me irritated at it). But suddenly, out of the blue, my paradigm changed. What an interesting and unique way this person was walking. Isn't it actually nice that every person has different ways of doing things, even in as mundane a trait as walking? The human machinery has many different modes of movement, and the most efficient for each human is likely as unique as the combination of mind, musculature, and frame.

That was a neat thought, and it really did stop the irritating stream of criticisms --- at least for the moment. When lost in useless, purposeless criticism: stop, observe, and appreciate instead.

Ask, and You Shall Receive ... a spider?


This is a short, silly story.... Someone else once noted online that, the more she rescued bugs, the easier it got, as if they were starting to trust her. That reminded me of a story of how I once got two flies for the price of one (never mind that one), and this spider-rescue story:

There was a spider high up on a ceiling. As I raised a jar to catch it (on tip toes, on a wobbly table), I prayed something like, "God, please let the spider fall into the jar, since I can't quite reach it safely." I was half-joking. Who was I to ask God for help in this kind of silly situation with a mere spider? So I expected to have to stretch even further off balance and try to wedge a sheet of paper between spider and jar, a situation dangerous for me, the spider, and an innocent pet bystander nearby.... But just when I'd raised the jar in place, as if on cue, plop! in fell the spider. Hardly believing, I covered the jar (though the spider didn't even try to climb out) and rushed it outside and let it go.

Now ... I know how hard it can be to get a spider to do what you want; I've been catching them for years.... So perhaps, just maybe, this was another example of why you should ask God anyway ... just in case.

Can't stop the angry words? Address the source.

Tell them about it...


I was starting to criticise a certain group of people at work to others, and the fact I kept doing it bothered me. I kept resolving to not say such things, but the words kept slipping out, and that was frustrating -- a sign, I thought, of a terrible lack of willpower and compassion.

One day I found myself with one of the people in that very group, a person I happen to trust much more than the others, and it suddenly hit me in a flash of insight: I could tell him truthfully what's bothering me, instead of clamping down on my irritation and letting the pressure build, and that (this insight said) was the better cure to my condition. So I told him in respectful, and constructive, but honest words about what was bothering me about his team; I also got to hear about their own problems and some of their advancements, and so I got more sympathy for them. I don't know if the discussion helped them, but I've felt much better since, and the bitter words don't come slipping out these days.

It's not always safe to frankly talk to a person or a group about your issues with them -- I've been burned by trying to talk to irrational and/or self-important people before (ugh), so I know it doesn't always work -- but it took a little mental nudge to remind me that it can work, and that it's a better overall cure for badmouthing than stoically trying to suppress it. Yes, suppress the symptoms if you have them -- but for goodness' sake, work to address the cause!

Nothing else would work....


One of those days. People at work were pissing me off. I was pissing myself off. I was depressed. I was low in faith -- I knew the reality of the spiritual world, but couldn't feel one iota of the Divine Love that supposedly permeates the universe. And Truth kept escaping me like sand through my fingers, even as different and conflicting beliefs were thrown in my face like the very same sand....

Deep, deep in darkness, feeling alone and in despair, driving my car on the lonely trip back. What was there to do? Music didn't work. The radio was totally wrong. Prayer just didn't seem right -- not petitionary prayer, not thankful prayer. Nothing worked. Nothing was what was necessary ...

I had the sudden realization that I was trying to make myself feel thankful, when I wasn't and couldn't feel thankful, even though spiritually it's supposedly vital. I was trying to make myself feel happy, when I wasn't and couldn't feel happy, even though so many spiritual counselors keep insisting we should and could. I realized those things cannot be forced when one is so lost in despair, and that forcing it -- and failing -- makes things worse. I realized I needed something else just then....

I began to recite the 23rd Psalm. "The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want...." Over and over. Or focusing on a part of it. But all the way home, for half an hour, "...I shall not want." And for some reason, the Psalm was enough. It didn't make me happy -- not immediately, at least. It didn't fix anything. No fireworks, nothing like that. Instead, it just kept me going, and put me back on my feet, and that's pretty much what I needed right then and there.

(Thankfulness and happiness can wait until after the rescue. They can take too much energy for a lost soul to generate, unless some little boost, some catalyst, some injection of hope and peace, is provided.)

P.S. Several weeks later, I was again driving home, this time with a migraine that made me sick to my stomach. Recalling the Psalm, I began it again. And for the rest of the night, reciting that Psalm and the Lord's Prayer were the only things that kept me from throwing up. I don't know if it was a one-time relief, or what will happen if I am prevented from speaking out loud in some way. I guess I will find out soon enough....

Positive is better than negative....


For a long time now, whenever I get angry at work, I've been tempted to change my .signature in my email to express my general contempt for the materialistic and/or myopic mindsets that have ticked me off. I rarely actually wind up doing this, because I know it's silly and vindictive. But recently I found the better way.

A little while ago, I was irritated enough to change my signature file, but as I looked around for a good quote, I was oddly drawn to something that was more hopeful than condemning. Frustrations are bound to occur, but have courage ... that was the basic message. I used it. Now, when I read my own signature, rather than reminding me of my anger, I am reassured that yes, irritations occur, but that things improve.

That reassurance I found to be surprisingly helpful to myself, even though it was nominally directed at others. I realized that signatures -- or whatever message we send out to the world -- can affect us just as much as it affects others, if not moreso. If we wish to cultivate positiveness, we need to produce positiveness, and what we produce will continue to be a help in new and surprising ways down the road.

The wallet.


After a long night of celebratory partying, my coworkers piled into the car ... and there was a realization of a missing wallet. Uh-oh. A couple people checked under the seat, with no luck. There were many long unhappy moments as the owner of the missing wallet went searching. Would we be trapped in Boston for hours? Would this ruin what should have been a long-deserved night of celebration for our company?

I quietly sought prayer, the technique of lifting a concern up to God and then letting go with confidence that God will help (a la Prayer Can Change Your Life, William Parker and Elaine St. Johns). It was difficult, not just because of the alcohol, but because of the people involved, my doubts, my lack of faith, feelings of guilt about other things. But wasn't it worth the effort? Shouldn't we pray with full attention and effort? It wasn't easy to put full attention into it, but I at last let go of the prayer with some sense of reassurance and trust in God, and thought I got some reassurance that wasn't just me.

With that reassurance still in mind, I thought about the situation and things clicked. I'd once found a lost checkbook next to the seat in a car. And earlier that day, I'd been teasing a coworker about his flashlight. So, putting the pieces together, I asked the coworker for his flashlight, shined it next to the seat, and ... there was the wallet.

The Radio Ad Mirror


There's an irritating radio commercial that's aired recently in Boston, about a guy who discovers he didn't get a good deal on his airfare and hotel, and whose vacation is totally ruined as a result (all told in a dry cynical style). Aside from being an annoying commercial, I always wondered why the guy didn't just say "Oh well" and relax and enjoy his vacation. He was so tied to past decisions and unalterable circumstances that he couldn't enjoy what he had. And why would people buy into this kind of commercial anyway? Talk about a "spiritually immature" ad. (Even as I condemned the commercial, I always wondered how my judgmental attitude could come back to haunt me. I couldn't see it happening, but....)

"...And then it happens." I bought a very expensive but (I felt) necessary household item and discovered ... yes, I probably could have gotten a very similar model for half price elsewhere, saving a LOT of money. I did a lot of agonizing, especially since there was a nice long trial period in which I could possibly get the competitor's item shipped out instead. After all, weren't all capital-G Good People extremely frugal? Wasn't wasting money a capital-B Bad Thing? Weren't there capital-B Better Things to do with that much money than waste it on a greedy company? Think of all the poor people out there who....

And then it hit me. This was a lot like that commercial, wasn't it? Thinking about the radio ad was a bit like looking in a mirror. While I still could do something (unlike the guy in the commercial), I was being just as wrapped up in self-imposed misery.

With that comparison in mind, I did actually relax and let go a bit. I'm still not sure what to do, but at least I'm not a total wreck about it. Being a total wreck serves neither me, nor others, nor God, and it takes out even what good should have come out of the purchase. With a clearer mind I can approach the problem with patience and logic and a little more light from above. I should learn to do better research and be more careful, yes, and I should seriously consider returning the item and doing other things with the money, but I should not torture myself over an honest mistake.

(The other thought that came to me was what saints have been saying for a long time. Money in and of itself is not primary. People have used money wisely and foolishly for ages (and I have done both in my short lifetime), but (the mystics say) what matters is whether we act in love and compassion, or selfishness and greed. "And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing." (1 Corinthians 13:1). Rather than worry uselessly (as opposed to usefully) about wasting money that could have gone to chariy, I should rather examine my heart and, with help, clear out the selfishness, and then act with inspiration instead of confusion.)

Double Take


Stop worrying about your own salvation, and start worrying about others' (instead)!

This message (from "
An Early Clue" above) for years had quite an effect on me. But then came a time when I started worrying about my family and friends who are not even remotely Christian (um, that would be most of them). (It also didn't help that at the time I was reading texts that condemn non-Christians to Hell. Ugh.) I was, as is my wont, driving myself into despair with questions.

And then, one day, the phrase above came to me again, except this time it was:

Stop worrying about others' salvation, and start worrying about your own (instead)!

Why the reversal? Didn't that just cast everything into doubt? Was I being mocked? ...But the more I look, the more I think it means this:

If you're so wrapped up in the question of "What's going to happen to me when I die?", you're too wrapped up in self, aka selfishness. So stop worrying about yourself, and start caring for others. BUT, if you start worrying just as uselessly about other people, then you are too busy asking questions and worrying about things that shouldn't burden you. Only God can really speak for other people's destinies; and as much as we have influence over each others' lives, each person is ultimately held accountable for his own actions. Better to concentrate on fixing one's own flaws, than fretting over someone else's.

To go too far in either direction (self-focus without helping others, or outward focus, without cleaning up one's own act) is counter-productive, especially when done in my usual over-analytical and frenetic style. So I think the message also comes down to: Don't even go there.

Christian mystics have warned against having overly personal feelings when one prays. It is better to be compassionate for all, partial toward none. While knowing this won't stop me from wondering about friends and relatives, it does help relieve me of the impossible burden of being responsible for them.

Two-Step Realization


For a long time I've wanted to believe in the principles of positive thinking (a la Norman Vincent Peale), but it's been hard to buy into it fully. And Jesus' injunction to not worry seems so ... bad for planning for the future. Doesn't worry force the subconscious mind to act on problems, instead of letting them sit and do nothing?

One day, in a way that usually comes to me via inspiration, I thought back to an event that happened to me. In that event, a well-meaning stranger, who was legitimately angry at me for a traffic blunder, did something that really freaked me out, something that could've been dangerous had he been ill-intentioned. I was too flustered by the traffic incident to notice what was happening until too late, and once I did, I was too flustered to remember any details (and worse, I knew while it happened that I was too flustered to remember). I'll note I did have SOME presence of a prayerful mind during the event, from habit -- but that was exactly it: I have a habit of mental prayer. The inspired observation was this: all the worry and what-if thinking in the world, all the "I'll do Y if nasty event X happens" thinking, doesn't mean a darn thing unless one's mind is calm enough to think and act clearly, or if the response isn't already built in. Well, OK, interesting observation, something I'd learned at a different level in aikido. But there was something missing from this realization; it wasn't quite complete....

A week or so later, the rest of the inspiration hit me: for weeks, a coworker I know had been getting more and more angry, depressed, obsessed, frustrated, exhausted -- all because he was reading 'net messages that trashed our work. But when he stopped subjecting himself to the torture by no longer reading those messages, he suddenly was back to his more hopeful, cheerful, productive, patient self. The difference was like night and day. I myself learned long ago that reading those messages can depress me and do it only when I'm capable of handling them, but what kind of thoughts do I feed myself in my own head on a daily basis? What real effects might my mental, internal "reading habits" (thinking habits) be having?

So let's put 2 and 2 together for a minute. First: worrying and what-if thinking doesn't actually help in an emergency if one doesn't have a calm mind in the first place. Second: worrying and subjecting oneself to negative material really, truly does waste energy and wear one out (just like Norman Vincent Peale said).

Conclusion? Rather than what-if thinking and fretting, no matter how "useful" it may seem, one is far better off cultivating a peaceful mind steeped in positive, productive thoughts. As with martial arts training, if one makes it a habit, it will stay with one in a real emergency -- trust me, you don't want a fretful, worried mindset in an emergency -- and the rest of the time, it will keep one energized, active, productive, and hopeful.

(P.S. One last realization today, as I looked at another coworker who was looking stressed and tired. Imagine if positive calm thinking could give most of us just a 10% boost. Imagine how powerful the 10% boost could be to someone just a small step away from being super-productive, like most of my coworkers are. Or imagine what the 10% could mean for someone who's a small step away from despair, like many of us have been at some time or other.

Now, imagine what it would mean if it wasn't a mere 10% boost at stake, but a lot, lot more....)

A Multi-Faceted Blunder


Usually when I write to people who I think I can help in some small way, I try to write with their best interests in mind. If on a serious spiritual topic, I definitely try to hook up to the Source of good advice first.

That day, though, I was under heavy psychic attack, and I knew going onto a certain chat space was "iffy" under those conditions. I would not be a very good conductor of inspiration, but I tried to help anyway. I think I helped a bit. Unfortunately, in at least one case, I made a serious mistake.

I saw a posting on the chat board that triggered bells in my mind. Just as an ex-robbery victim may want to give a warning when he comes upon a circumstance much like his own unhappy experience, I saw something that made me want to warn the other person about the spiritual path he was on. My brain went into lecture mode. Even though I was scrambling for the "right way of saying it" that normally goes into the better of my inspired postings, I got only a half-baked idea. I posted the best I could. It was ... inadequate, to say the least. The fruits were poor: the other person was already upset, and my words made it worse. I had very much misjudged what this person needed at the moment.

Later, seeing the bad fruit, I tried checking for the vague sense of connection to the higher Source I usually have when writing like that. I found psychic inteference from my attacker there instead! Bad sign. Then, as I discussed my blunder privately with a friend, I suddenly saw that rather than caring FIRST about the other person, I had focused on my desire to warn with my message. So! not only was my Connection not there (or only partially so), but the my mind was tuned to the wrong part of the spiritual "radio" band -- because my intentions were fundamentally selfish, even if "good" in some secondary way.

Another translation: Seek first to understand, rather than to be understood. If I'd done that, I would've gotten the idea that "emergency first-aid is needed here before a long-term suggestion should be offered" (a lesson in and of itself).

These realizations felt more like real inspirations from on high. (Which is why I write of them here.) They are true fundamentals upon which I must base my correspondences.

Of course, the only thing I could do after these realizations was to repent: backtrack and pick up the right track. First, sincerely apologize, and then: 1. Reach out in prayer and love to God to open the pathway of inspiration, and 2. reach out in caring and compassion to the other, so as to have the right attitude to be able to help properly. If I had done these the first time, the situation would have come out far better overall.

(Oh -- and apologizing and listening over again is something else I'm learning the hard way... a whole 'nother topic!)

Been There, Done That... is better.


Something I have simply begun to know for real, even though I've always known it, is that when one has a big problem in one's life... the best listener is the one who has been there and lived it as well.

Most people make poor listeners ... they judge, or offer advice without understanding, or give answers that aren't what one is ready (read: able) to hear ... not usually their fault; they are often well-intentioned, but so sure of their advice they fail to listen.

If you have a problem, go to God first and foremost. In addition, go to friends you trust and who truly care, but especially turn to those who care, who are trustworthy, and who have also seen the same Hell. They are more likely to understand without pushing one further into that Hell. And if the matter is serious enough, their influence may be the difference between life or death.

(No, not everyone who has passed through Hell can help a particular other person out of it... but don't give up; keep seeking for help if it is needed. You may come to agree with would-be helpers later, or to see they were all wrong, but in the meantime, the one rule is: never give up.)

The Power of Attention


A stitch of attention can save lives.

People are connected in subtle ways. For example, K and I know that whenever I fall asleep in a car, K suddenly has to struggle to stay awake!

One day some years ago (in a house, not the car) I was feeling really out of it ... tired, unfocused, and unhappy. I went up to K and said, "Focus your attention on me." K did, and suddenly my world came into focus. The effect was quite startling and very impressive!

Giving one's attention to another is a blessing. Not giving one's attention when it is needed is, unfortunately, a bit like a curse. Relationships can be ruined if one person consistently fails to give the other(s) any real, focused attention. The other party can feel it, if only subconsciously. The effect of giving attention is a lot like giving water to a thirsty person; withholding attention is like promoting a dry desert.

So ... if you care about someone (person or animal), focus your mind and thoughts and feelings on that someone, even for a few moments. It'll help them focus, wake up, and maybe even give their attention back to you.

Never Give Up

2000. Determination

Japanese comics love to talk about this one, but it certainly is a good philosophy: Never give up.

Some nights where I have sat, empty-hearted, exhausted, drained... it was a matter of searching, searching until I found something that lifted me up. Reach for the uplifting book. Reach for the artist's light pen. Reach for the piece of paper on which to write poetry. Reach for that cheerful music CD. Call a good friend. Or just think and analyze and figure out what went wrong.

(Or, do what many wise people do: stop trying to figure it out, stop thinking, and seek peace and quietude.)

If something doesn't work, try another. Refuse to settle for things that just encourage apathy, pure escapism, or more angst. Keep looking; be willing to try something new, until something sings into your heart and you awaken a little and glimpse hope again.

It might take a long time... it might be hard... but it happens if you never give up.

We're All Faulty

2000. Dare to Say It

Roughly the past half a year has seen me struggling with a deep personal issue. Almost any religion would say I'm sinning, horribly; every day I face divisive emotional pain, and I know I'm causing just as much, if not more, pain to others. It's not even a one-time sin for which I can ask foriveness; it's on-going and I show no signs of stopping. Writing anything on my site has seemed hypocritical. Anyone writing to inspire should not set such a bad example, I'd think. I'm too mired in evil to dare try to say anything good. I'm a total hypocrite.

But gradually, thanks to the wisdom of others, including online frieds, articles like this one, or even realizing that the most helpful hymns are those that assure us that life has troubles and pains (rather than those that confidently and smugly proclaim perfection and victory, which just make me feel worse and more guilty than ever) I have come to decide that proclaiming my own imperfection and weakness is, perhaps, something that I should do.

I should not write when I am tuned too low spiritually, but that said, this kind of terrible situation is all too common to keep hidden -- too many people out there suffer as well, and think they're the only ones.

There are many of us engaged in terrible deeds that go against what we think we know and claim to profess. At least let's acknowledge that and try to struggle on as best we can. Does this mean I'm going to stop "sinning"? No, it's not that easy. I wish I could but I can't. Is it as simple as turning things over to God? Done that too. No miraculous answers yet. Will writing this make it easier? Only for about 45 minutes. Then the pain is back.

The one thing I can say to have learned throughout all this is that I can not ever throw stones at others, because I don't know the whys or the hows. Even if I've been there, every life is different, every choice made under different circumstances. May we not pretend that our lives are always uphill; there's a lot of sliding too. And may we never presume to be able to make claims upon superiority -- we are far too flawed to do that. (But hey, that happens to us too!)

So, in the meantime, let's just take things day by day, moment by moment, always praying for light -- when we can, as much as we can, knowing we can't always succeed.

True Condolence


The layoff was sudden and, at many levels, disheartening....

In any case, I and the other unfortunates (many of whom had been at the company for years) were getting the usual round of "I'm sorry"s from people still gainfully employed. Some of whom had known us, some of whom hadn't.

Some of them were true, honest, helpful -- friends sorry to see us go, who really wanted to keep in touch. But somehow some of the "I'm sorry"s came across ... hollow. Empty. Prompted by duty, or maybe some sense of sympathy or pity. Maybe with some inner horror and relief: "Wow, I'm glad that's not me!" or even the hidden barb: "Well, if it had to be someone, better X than Y." (Perhaps I would feel some of these too, hypocrite that I can be.) I suppose it was better to have received those condolences than not -- some people never came by to say goodbye, and acted as if nothing were wrong.

But one person was different. One person I saw reeled at the news. One person, looking stricken, told me, approximately: "But ... but you can't leave. This place won't be the same without you. You're part of this place."

Oh, I would trade all the frightened, insecure, duty-driven, emotion-starved "I'm sorry"s of the world for one honest, heartfelt cry of loss and distress that reaches out across time and space -- all because it is springs clean and true from deep within the soul.

"Your loss is my loss; this really hurts, because I really care."

And the gratitude that springs up in reply ... also springs up from deep within the soul, where, at a time of personal tragedy, one is so truly thankful to find someone who truly weeps with those who weep.

Unspoken because it goes beyond words, and yet, I believe, eternal: "Thank you..."

Water of Life

2001 (Thanks to: Ben, H, and Dr. Manning's advanced seminar group)

Jesus spoke of being the source of the water of life.

I sort of know the water of life by its absence. The parched emptiness when one feels cut off from others; surrounded by a sea of humanity that is too salty -- too cold, frightened, angry, fearful, defensive -- to drink.

I sort of know the water of life by its presence. Maybe not the purest water; it comes from a tiny spring hidden under the sand, and maybe it's brackish and tainted, but oh, how the parched desert welcomes the free flow of communication, the caring, openness, desire to listen to the other, the seeking of understanding, wanting to get closer, delight in connection, intention to help....

In the gardens of one's life, the rains of life come and go. In times of drought -- or when one winds up in a desert (the nasty, parched places where selfishness reigns) -- any personal reservoir of water soon runs low. So we seek replenishment.

So we hope that we have kept our wellsprings of water clean. Have the rocks of misunderstanding been cleared away? Has the poison of resentment been neutralized by forgiveness and compassion? Do we draw the cleanest water by plunging down into the true depths of the soul, where, in order to be loved, we must sometimes dare to love first? And so, through the agency of friends and loved ones, we seek and receive the water of life.

(One hopes that the thirsty gardener likewise opens his own floodgates of compassion to help his fellow gardeners in need. Indeed, sometimes that's the only way to prime the pump....)

Ask for ... receive ... give ... the cup of cold water.

But yes, there is also the Source of living water ... the boundless, endless Source of life. For those who can reach the Source of living water ... don't just drink a few sips ... dive in!


2001 (Thanks to: Ben, H, and Dr. Manning's advanced seminar group)

A person, a soul, is a wonderful thing -- a shining image of God, vast and deep, wondrous and engaging. That is, when you can find it.

Experimentally, I've noticed layers around the soul: The outermost layers are barriers and masks, the artificial cheer, the overdone gruffness, the professional politeness. Beneath are surface feelings, but too often then there is the anger -- anger at all the hurt and injustice -- and below the anger is the sadness -- sadness at all the hurt and injustice -- and below that is the hurt itself, vast black pools of despair and insecurity and the pointless "I wonder if I deserved it? Maybe I'm unloveable" -- and perhaps, when you dig down deeper, you find the reflection of "justice" that perhaps has been a little twisted so that it has forgotten that people are imperfect and that debtors should be forgiven, or the reflection of "love" that has forgotten it needs to love others first.

And hidden amidst all this is the core, the only real part of us, the part that, when uncovered -- the open heart, the open mind -- suddenly sees new things in others, understands them, views mistakes with compassion, forgives old trespasses, seeks to help the other reach happiness, accepts some pain without complaint and refuses to take other pains personally -- and loves, and laughs, and lives.

All this to say: Most people have protective barriers, masks, shields, and defenses (along with bad mental habits) that block the light of the inner spirit.

And continuing: People tend to feel naked and vulnerable without their defenses, their masks and shields. They feel easily bruised, easily hurt. And we all know deep down that, because human beings are imperfect, that hurt is bound to come. Why love when you can be indifferent? Why hope when you can be a cynic? Why have faith when you can despair? Cloaked in darkness, we expect disappointment and receive it, give it out and magnify it. So, to put away the defenses, all the masks and barriers that put up a false face (the very face that hurts others, by the way) -- isn't this like exposing your soft underbelly to attack?

But yet, when we are open and hopeful, the love flows. Automatically.

And when the love flows freely, there is joy. Automatically.

And then we are clothed in joy, in the aura of joy. Maybe you've felt it beam out in the smile of the friendly cashier. Perhaps you've felt it shining out from the kindly old man or woman who smiles at you from across the bus. Perhaps you've felt that clean, warm light that surrounds the tireless smiling manager of the soup kitchen. Yes, shining raiment.

And so we start putting on the armor of Heaven, tempered by wisdom, fueled by faith, guided by the Love that shines out if only we let it. Clothing of the strongest, finest, most durable kind. No longer a "defense" (though it protects us), nor a "mask" (for it is our inner selves shining through) ... it is something else, very different, far better.

Vulnerable? In that? No.

Paradigm Shift III

2001 (Thanks to: Dr. Manning)

OK, so it was an uncomfortable session. It was about commitment. It was about closing escape routes from a relationship, because there's no other way to see if it can work out or not.

But in the midst of my unhappiness, I thought of the other person. I thought of the other person's irritating mannerisms -- even the voice, the way things were said, got on my nerves.... I knew they shouldn't, but they did. ("You trash the relationship in your own mind," says Dr. Manning, "and then you feel trapped in this thing that you yourself have trashed....")

Into all this came the notion of "Commit to a healthy relationship with this person."

OK (I said), what happens if I try to think that way?... Wow, then the bitterness fades! My God, things are enjoyable again! Those mannerisms are just the way this person is, and because I have chosen to like this person as they are now I can also enjoy those mannerisms because they are part of this person.

This reminded me of a recent Ann Landers column where a widow spoke of how much she had enjoyed (and now missed) her husband's snoring ... because it was an aspect of him.

"This is my beloved, and these are parts of my beloved; therefore will I cherish them."

Oh, and "beloved" is a broad term: I don't think this is just for one person in your entire life ... the same principle can be used with ... anyone. And perhaps should be, because we are called to love our neighbors, not just, say, our SOs.

Commit to a healthy relationship with the other person, no matter who it is, no matter what the form of the relationship may be or become (and, it seems, it may not be or become what you expect) ... but in the meantime, determine to like, determine to keep the relationship healthy, no matter what, and see what happens....

(And of course abuse is not condoned; consider: abuse is not part of a healthy relationship, and bad for everyone involved, so very rarely is there a need to put up with abuse -- and even then, only temporarily and when absolutely necessary, for the sake of a future without it. It must never become acceptable per se.)

For me, this was very much like the earlier paradigm shift, but this time it was for someone I thought I knew too well....

The Little Birdie's Little Birdie

1995 or 1996 (written summer 2001)

The silly grey bird was dead ... he'd died while I was away in another state, trying to put my life back together.

For three months the bird cage sat empty, covered and silent, on a bookshelf. Thinking of getting another bird just seemed wrong. The cage sat and waited, half-forgotten.

Then, one day, our eyes were drawn to it. Something about the cage that day seemed weighty, significant, to both of us.

So, that day, we went to the pet store where I'd gotten my first cockatiel years before. And there, in a cage at the pet store, was one funny little cockatiel who seemed fascinated by us. And, still intrigued, he (she?) then purposefully climbed all the way around the cage walls and came back to look at us. Then, a little while later, he? climbed all the way around the cage, grabbed some food, and came back to look at us. And then again he went around ... repeat. OK, how could we resist?

The time was right. The bird cage got a new inhabitant. One who sometimes runs all the way around the cage, grabs a bite to eat, calls for attention, then runs all the way around again, grabs a bite to eat, calls for attention ... repeat. Funny little grey bird.

Don't rush the timing if things don't seem right yet; it may well be that you can (or should!) wait for the quiet nudge from the "little birdie" who will tell you when. Don't forget to pray....

A "novel" approach to learning

1990 or 1991 (written summer 2001)

Back when I was a young atheist college student studying for my finals....

There was an exam the next day, and I knew I wasn't ready for it. It was maybe 3 or 4 a.m. -- theoretically I had a full 5 hours ahead of me, in which to drench my mind with physics equations and learn how to use them. But no, nothing made any sense. My mind was freezing up.

(These were the years where I would suddenly get the right answer flashing into my mind just AFTER the exam was over. That's how frozen my mind would get -- I would forget even what I knew. Another lesson about how tension is bad.)

I was so stressed out I left my desk and wandered across the hallway to a friend's room. There, I spied an SF novel I'd read some time before -- one of my favorites. I borrowed it and retreated back to my room. And there I read. Yes, with the minutes ticking away, I read a freakin' SF novel. And forgot all about the exam.

But when I finished and finally put the novel down, I looked at my notes, and suddenly the equations made sense. Yes, freeing my mind from paralysis and letting it relax had let in a bit of light and air.

So when I see people "wasting time" when they "should be working," I try to keep that incident in mind. Maybe "wasting time" is exactly what is needed!

The Chair: An Example of "Psychometry"

1997? (written 10/2001)

Psychometry is the ability to touch an object and find out about the object's past and its previous owners, etc.. Well, I'm not much of a psychometrist, but I do have a couple examples of something like it. Before I go more into it, though:

First of all, ever walk into a house and get the creeps? And keep getting the creeps, just in that house, maybe just in one room? Or have you "felt" the presence of a loved one in that person's favorite room or seat? Well, that's a bit like what my experience with psychometry has been. For example: I once found a particular used horror book, and I can tell you just holding the book felt nasty -- whoever had been reading it before must've been in a bad space! Conversely, I have held in my hands a letter from a nun running a charity, and it felt clean and energetic and bright.

Anyway, the Chair. A friend's company had been bought out, and they were getting rid of their furniture. So, we went over to see what we might want to take home. The nice computer swivel chairs were what I wanted. They were pretty much all the same brand and same style -- i.e., identical -- but I went around and tried them out. After all, some might be broken or torn or had their padding worn down.

I came to one chair that was physically identical to all the rest and sat on it. Immediately I felt drowsy and sleepy. Strange. I got up and was fine. I tried other similar chairs. No drowsiness. I went back to this particular chair and felt myself sinking into lethargy again. I got up and went around once more, and the results were the same.

"Oh, that chair?" my friend said. "That's the receptionist's chair. He took a lot of naps." The receptionist had not been very industrious, and had been known to doze far too often... in that chair.

Well, that would explain it -- though only if you can believe in picking up on "vibes." And was it psychometry? Well, if I'd been forced to guess about the previous user of the chair, I would've said it was someone who was sleepy a lot -- and I would've been right!

One last note -- this is something to ponder whenever you buy a previously owned item, when you consider selling or giving something of yours away, and just in general life. (What kind of "impression" are you leaving on your car? Do you want to associate your bed/bedroom with arguments? Is it a good idea to sleep in your study?) That said, though, "vibes" fade over time, and it is also theoretically possible to "clean up" an object or room -- something we can and perhaps should do for the objects around us. And consider: the more we hold love and peace in our own hearts, the more love and peace will soak into our surroundings!

Help with a Presentation

November 2001

I had agreed to do a presentation at a Minneapolis College of Art and Design (MCAD) workshop on the topic of anime. At first I was going to write something about Japanese culture, but after September 11th's events, I felt a call to be more active spiritually. In the case of this presentation, I decided to make it more of a spiritual appeal to the audience, rather than do a more academic presentation. I took a previous essay and tried to turn it into a challenge to the future artists in the audience to remember the spiritual, deeper, more profound side of comics and animation.

A friend gave me one important tip - don't read off a paper, which is what I'd done last time. I also had a brainstorm and made an internet-accessible HTML slide show for my talk. But the night before the presentation, I was in my hotel room endlessly rehearsing all the very important spiritual points I wanted to make. It was maddening. So much to cover, and all so important! (I was also panicking and fervently praying that God's will be done despite my own incompetence.) Suddenly, remembering my own experiences with teachers and lecturers, a thought struck me forcibly, almost like a message: It is better to cover a few things well, than to cover many things poorly. Seeing this important inspiration, I was able to focus on the few things I thought most important.

I'm not an experienced speaker; this was only my second presentation in front of a large group. I guess the pointers I received are obvious to anyone who does this kind of thing. In any case, although my final presentation may not have been stellar, I know the inspiration made a real, positive difference in the outcome. What also helped tremendously is that the speaker who followed me, a professional cartoonist with incredible personality, reinforced what I had said from a different angle. Later, she also gave me this positive feedback: At one point of my Q&A session, someone had asked about sexuality in anime, which has a tendency to idealize human bodies. I replied with something like, "Beautiful young bodies are fine to an extent, but what are you going to do when you get older and your spouse is 55 years old?" She heard my comment and said she felt like cheering! As for me, I was just grateful for an opportunity to state a spiritual truth.

Like I said, maybe it wasn't a stellar presentation, but I hope I covered the most important things well enough. And though the non-academic focus itself may have caused some problems, the lessons I learned are still very much worth while.

Don't Count Sheep

Summer 2002

A while ago I started trying to bring my problems to God as I went to sleep. "Don't count sheep - talk to the Shepherd!" is the motto of a t-shirt. Unfortunately, this wound up with me simply rehearsing all my problems as I went to sleep, which I don't think leads to peaceful slumber at all.

Recently I decided this had to change. Unfortunately, the Lord's Prayer doesn't work well when the mind is wandering. I personally can't count blessings because then I start to worry about them. And studies prove the old standby of counting sheep is counter-productive! But then I had an idea: Why not list attributes of God? "Kind" "wise" "loving" "high" "deep" etc.. You can be creative or traditional... either way, the attributes don't change; there is almost nothing to worry about. Anyway, it seemed to work at least that night. I normally don't post these ideas right away until they've stood the test of time, but maybe this one will be useful to someone else!

Small addendum: Why not address the list to the Shepherd? Share your list of God's qualities with Jesus, and see if He doesn't supply some extras.

Countering the Bills Blues

Fall 2002

Few First World Nation daily life things suck more (so to speak) than paying bills and answering charity requests when, frankly, there's little or no income.

Well, not that things are dire yet for me, but it is terribly depressing to be sitting writing checks while kicking oneself for one's financial failures, debating canceling various extra services, hating the rates of some services, deciding that usury is evil, and otherwise worrying and fretting about the future.

There is one action, though, that I have found instantly imbues the atmosphere with a higher, cleaner spirit: to hold the envelope in hand and to pray for the recipient of the envelope - the clerk or whatever poor sod who sits there and opens all the envelopes and deals with the payments. I ask for God's blessing to rest upon the envelope and touch those who handle it.

Does it work? Well, I have several times discovered that correspondence that comes from certain people has a "vibe" to it (see "The Chair" above - example of empathic psychometry), whether bright or strong or buzzing or whatever. That's one reason I decided to try this. And at least for me, the proof is in the fact that, at least while I pray sincerely for these blessings upon others who touch the envelope while concentrating on the envelope in hand, the dark clouds of worry are pushed back by invisible sunbeams of hope.

(Aside from making the mistake of doing insincere/selfish prayer, it certainly can't hurt to try... though the more depressed one is, the harder it can be.)

Breaking Free of Lies

Aug 2003

Some time ago I noticed the beauty of people's souls when they were relaxed and free of fear. I also noticed the "ugliness" when these people lapse into insecurity and either lash out or withdraw or do destructive things (sometimes self-destructive) when feeling emotionally threatened. I then noticed how such insecurity is the result of lies, lies told to us by others: lies that say we are somehow unworthy or unlikable or ugly or stupid or lazy or screwed up or just bad. The people who told us the lies may have been parents, or family, or schoolyard bullies, or one's boss or spouse - and the lies may have been in the form of lectures or taunts or offhand comments or hurtful body language or just plain verbal abuse. Too often we then start to believe we are unworthy or unlikable or ugly or stupid or whatever, and this hurts us deeply. So then, as a result, we start reacting out of pain and fear when we are reminded of these lies, and then the real ugliness creeps in. Not only that, but the ugliness attempts to spread itself.

One can expect shallow conversation from someone who was too often denied meaningful coversation, or judgment by appearances from someone who was too often judged by her own appearance. One may meet the defensive rage of someone who feels insecure from having been mocked by his own family. One may encounter the prickly barrier of someone who has been ostracized by her peers, not to mention the likelihood of an eating disorder, addiction, or other self-destructive habit. And these days it is well known that a person abused by a parent risks continuing the cycle to the next generation.

Pain begets pain, and hurt begets hurt. And most of us tend to view people who cause pain as being ugly, mean, stupid, or whatever. Hence, we start resembling the lies that were told to us!

But remember ... they are lies! They are NOT TRUE!

When we let go our insecurities and the resulting anger, resentment, bitterness, fear, hatred, the true spirit inside - the joyous, loving, hopeful, faithful spirit inside - shines through. I have seen this beautiful spirit peer through the eyes of people otherwise mired in ugliness, whenever they momentarily forgot to believe those lies.

The other day, I was being hounded by some kind of attacking spirit - oppressive, distracting, gloomy. Then after a prayer, I was thinking of the mingled "ugliness" and beauty of others, and I knew this phenomenon is easiest to see in other people. So after noting the difference between a person who is mired in insecurity, vs. the same person who has forgotten those insecurities, I thought of myself. I thought, maybe I am also a marvelous spirit created by God, and maybe I'm also believing some lies. I started thinking of the things that make me feel low, ugly, dirty, guilty, and contrasted it with the spirit that must be somewhere inside. Then I thought, maybe the negative things are lies. What am I really like? What would I be without the lies? And that's when the flash of thought seemed to explode around me: "I've been believing lies!"

Suddenly the air around me clearer, purer; the psychic oppression was lifted, gone. I don't know whether I changed my own outlook or whether a psychic hanger-on was allowed to share in my insight and was freed of lies, but whatever it was, it was a testament to the power of remembering that destructive thoughts about ourselves are lies. We are not mean, nasty, worthless things. We are created of God, and God makes things of beauty and worth - and most of all, He doesn't make mistakes.

I was there... (the water hose)

Late 2004

Why did I want to go into the courtyard that night? I don't remember now. But there I went, for the first and only time in the two or three months I'd lived there. And there I found the water hose just gushing water... with no one around, the sidewalk blithely hosting the miniature river, and clean water going down the drain (literally). Not to mention the skyrocketing water bill.

Yeah, I turned it off.

Who knows how long the water would've kept running if I hadn't gone out there? After that night, I kept glancing outside for weeks, wondering if it would happen again. So far as I have seen, there has been no gushing water. So, why did I go out into the courtyard that one night, of all nights? I had to credit God. He can apparently get me to go places without me even realizing He's doing so. And He can arrange for something as trivial as turning off a wasteful, gushing water hose.

The thing is, though, I have long had this dread that God will tell me to go somewhere or do something, and that I'll not hear Him, or won't believe it's His voice. Sometimes I get impulses that I often (but not always) ignore, because not every impulse is necessarily holy - and I especially refuse to succomb to impulses accompanied by a jolt of guilt or fear. My God prefers operating at a higher level than guilt or fear. But sometimes the impulses worry me, and I fret that I'm disobeying a divine command.

Fast forward a month or so. Near Christmas of 2004, I was on a little task that I hoped was of service to God. I was near the end, and I was afraid I'd mess it up. I felt that twinge of "hey, go over there and walk around the block," a sort of pressure to go in a certain direction and try to work on my task over there. Naturally, I fretted: What if it's God? What if it's not God? I was going to be late to an important appointment if I went as the impulse said. But if it was a command from God, I better not ignore it. But on the other hand....

So I fretted, paused, hesitated, wondered, got stressed. I decided to ignore the impulse, so the guilt came crashing down on me - what if I were wrong? But then I remembered the water hose, and thought: God can get me where I need to go, and I won't necessarily even know it's happening. It'll just happen.

In other words, I remembered to drop the worry and just walk in faith. Like, duh.

So I rejected the pressure, dropped the guilt, went a different way than what the impulse had said (and in the direction I had originally intended), and over the next few minutes, I almost inadvertently found myself completing my objective - very quickly, smoothly, easily, and with the finishing air of "it went just right and the right things happened." A strong sign that God did indeed have something to do with it.

God sure is good - and I mean that in the "darn good at what He does" sense!

A double tale of a cellphone


Scene: East Coast: waiting for friends to pick me up at a bus stop. Where are they? Calling them on my cell didn't work. Knowing God, there's a reason for me to be waiting here in the cold and dark. Hmm, the woman who's been pacing is coming over to me. What's this? She needs to borrow my cellphone, which I have had prominently displayed. She needs to call her husband who doesn't know she's home early, so he can pick her up out of this cold night. Ah, maybe that's why my friends are late!

Scene: West Coast: sitting on the train heading home. Oops! I missed my stop. That's never happened before. Hmm, make call on cellphone from next station; ask for a ride home. It's dark, it's lonely... except for that guy over there trying to use the public phone. I wonder why I missed my stop? Remembering the cellphone incident on the East Coast, surely God has a reason. Oh look, that guy over there is coming over ... hope he avoids me ... oh wait, he needs to borrow my cellphone to get a ride!

Note to self: in any unexpected situation, just wait - there's a reason (even if it's not obvious immediately). Oh, and... cellphones must not be all bad.

Bus Error

Pun intended


Well, it had been a workday so bad I can only describe it with expletives, so I won't describe it. I got on the bus to get to the train station to go home, and happened to pick a spot in front of the bus' exit door (for some reason I wanted to stand rather than sit, mostly due to my rotten mood). This was fine for most of the way, til an unexpected crowd of passengers lunged at the exit at a normally sedate stop. I didn't have time to move out of the way; I was trapped like a solid obstacle right in the doorway. One man seemed pretty put out, and snapped as he got off, "Oh good, block the exit!" (approximately). There was tons of sarcasm, condemnation, and barbed arrow-tips in the psychic tone of his words. He stomped off in a self-righteous huff, having just done the psychic equivalent of slapping me.

Oh, boy, I was in such a bad mood I almost wanted to do bodily harm to that guy. I also felt bad for having picked a bad spot on the bus (not maliciously), and simultaneously felt thunderously angry and resentful. It was the crowning irritation of a very irritating day.

On the train ride, at least I got to vent to some friendly listeners. A small blessing. Of course I was trying to pray away my bad mood and my resentment, but ... you know how it goes. Not so easy. I had trouble forgiving the guy for his harsh judgmental expression, even though intellectually I knew I ought to forgive, and besides, maybe he'd been having a bad day.

Next day ... next morning ... just as with the cellphone story, I overshot my bus stop. Disoriented and confused, I could only lurch for the bus exit at the next stop. A big crowd of people was pushing its way up even as the bus occupants fought to get out. Of course, it was poor etiquette - arriving passengers are supposed to wait for the people on the bus to get off before boarding.

Then, as I pushed my way out of the bus, it happened: "Sheesh!" The explosive, negative, annoyed, self-righteous comment just burst out of my mouth.

Sound familiar?

Hah, I thought. God's shown me the mirror again: that judgmental and annoying guy is really actually ME. I'd stepped into his shoes, and seen myself from the other side, and seen him from the other side. "Each of us has no right to judge each other," blah blah ... you know the spiel if you're a student of spirituality, but sometimes we can't live it until God helps us through the mirror-glass to "learn" it at a deeper level.

And yes, I got a laugh out of the whole thing, and can only shake my head when I look back at it all. God at work. Now I'm wondering what God does with my latest prayers about driving?

House Sale (Part 1)


It so happened that a house I co-owned had a small but nice little garden I helped create; we moved out old dying hedge and some lawn in favor of flowers and herbs and more flowers. The house itself and its neighboring houses were close to a hundred years old, but across the way rose a sparkling new condominium with manicured lawn (luckily the people in it were great), and here and there other condominiums, some with concrete yards, sprang up. This was near Boston; there are a gazillion hopeful developers there, trying to make a nice profit in the expensive housing market.

For years, while watching the myriad varieties of bees and wasps busily hum at the flowers of the yard, I would quietly pray that whoever got the house next would respect the yard and the house, and enjoy the flowers and bees and patches of green. I dreaded the thought of a giant condo with concrete parking yard taking over the space where now birds and insects congregated. Furthermore, I wanted to see kids enjoying the old house and its nature-filled yard; it was the ideal space for some kids to enjoy and learn from a patch of nature.

Eventually, the time came to sell. Our neighbors (the ones living in the condominium across the street) saw the For Sale sign and, out of the blue, were struck by the thought: perhaps they should buy it to rent it out affordably to friends of theirs who couldn't otherwise afford it.

There were hitches along the way (see Part 2), but eventually they prayerfully bought the house and rented it to their friends. Their friends turned out to have two kids and very green thumbs! Recently I went back and was thrilled to see even more flowers and plants in even better condition, and huge, beautiful butterflies dueling over the choicest flowers, some of which I had planted years before. The kids liked to hang out there, too. It was everything I had asked for in prayer, but even better!

I related the story of the blessed house sale to a friend who had recently sold her house; the new owner of her former house, although a nice guy by all accounts, had heedlessly ripped up the garden, shrubs, and trees she and her husband had lovingly put in. My friend then turned to her husband and exclaimed, "That's what we forgot to do! We forgot to pray that someone who would take care of the garden would buy our house!"

God doesn't always grant every prayer, but this time... let's just say I'm very glad I asked!

The Heart of the Matter (House Sale Part 2)

At one point, the whole sale of the house was in jeopardy. Our lawyer called to say the buyers' lawyer was saying the buyers were unhappy with the condition of the roof, and were refusing to pay the price they'd agreed to. Thousands of dollars were at stake. It was like a game of telephone played by people out to get each other. By the time we heard the message, it made the buyers sound nasty and mercenary. It gave us an icky feeling about the sale.

You know what? I actually knew the buyers were honest, friendly, good, sincerely religious people, with whom I'd shared meals and laughter and discussions about God! So I did what you aren't supposed to do if you're out to fight a battle and win money: I bypassed the lawyers completely, and just called the potential buyers up myself and listened to their concerns. I came to see from their point of view, told them I did so, decided the lower sale value was acceptable, and then helped make sure that the sale went through. The icky feeling was replaced by understanding and acceptance of their needs.

It turns out the buyers had also become seriously concerned about the sale, especially after hearing about our reaction via the lawyer-driven telephone game. One of the buyers had even asked God to make my decision be the sign as to whether to move forward or not! (Wow, talk about faith in being heard!) In any case, it was clear to me that just stopping to listen to them had been the right thing to do - for everyone.

I wonder how many times legal fights occur just because everyone is expecting to fight, and, like the lawyers, paints up the "other guy" as an enemy and doesn't care stop to listen, in person? ("Hardening their hearts" versus "softening hearts"!) I was fortunate to know the true characters of the potential buyers and to be able to talk to them directly.

Imagine what a mess it might've been if we'd gone through the usual official channels - lawyer to lawyer. We might've come to believe the worst about "those other guys" - and the sale perhaps might not have happened.

In any case, the money "loss" for me (at least) was well worth the result - many prayers answered. One of God's miracles!

Reflections on a Soup Kitchen

Written 2007

It's been many long years (nearly a decade) since I worked at the soup kitchen, now 3000 miles away on the other coast. I just recently read
Sara Miles' book, Take This Bread, and it reminded me of what I was missing. Although I already wrote one lesson from the soup kitchen, and mentioned one of the amazing people there, I thought I would summarize what I learned in one place.

(I should note that though it was a "soup kitchen," Saturday/Sunday's Bread seated its guests at tables, more like a restaurant than a cafeteria, then brought meals out to them. Whoever was serving food on "the floor" would be in direct contact with the guests. There was also cooking/prep before the meal hour, and clean-up afterward (of which I imagine an interesting essay or two could be written, but not here).)

  1. God's light is tangible, visible - it's the smile of the elderly black man who makes the soup kitchen happen, who arranges things with graciousness, directs with gentleness, encourages quietly, holds respect without a whip, asks how you're doing, and infuses enthusiasm and eagerness into even the grumpiest and most antisocial volunteer. Wherever he steps, people brighten, straighten, relax, refocus - you can see the effects of that smile the way you can see the wind in tall grass, and that's how you know Something is there. As my friend Ben once wrote of someone else, "I saw him go among them like a source of light, and I saw them come to life...." Here, for the first time (for me), is a man so unconditional in his love, whose light shines so brightly, that race, age, religion, nationality, all melt away into irrelevance. It's not that his culture and his race haven't molded him, but that the end result is so reminiscent of God's Kingdom on Earth that we see nothing else but Jesus. We respect him, we love him; he respects us, he loves us; together we make food for the hungry; there is nothing more to worry about. Whenever I start to forget what God is or what religion should be, I remember this man, and all the dross, the rules, the legalities, just melt away - only the light remains.
  2. God's light is also visible in the gentle but authoritative eyes of the maitre d', a man far older than his vigorous energy would suggest, who directs guests to their seats, calls for meals, lays order onto potential chaos - and, we found out years later, who volunteers at soup kitchens practically every day of every week of every year. He stays at friends houses' and moves from soup kitchen to soup kitchen, with no apparent home to call his own - except the Service to which he has committed his very life. He kept to himself more than the founder and director, but his unfailing calm presence was testimony in and of itself.
  3. The poor and destitute project themselves openly, visibly. They are "readable." This was a surprise to me: You can see their weather-beaten souls right through the lines of care and suffering and self-abuse on their faces. Sure, they may be unpredictable and some may be mentally ill, or perhaps on drugs, and there are liars and cheats among them, but you can SEE the spirits in those ragged guests seated at the tables, partaking of the food, asking (or yelling) for more. And when they get their food, most of them will look you in the eye and say "thank you," and really mean it (even if it's just for that instant), and it is like a little burst of light. Light - not because the thanker or thankee is perfect or holy, but because it is a communication of one spirit to another spirit, direct and personal. I guess that is holy....
  4. Now, walk a few blocks to the expensive, plush part of town, and see the tall Beautiful people in their power suits... and notice you can't see their souls. Their faces - smooth, "attractive," artificially ageless - might as well be made of stiff plastic. When they speak, the voice is smooth, neatly tailored, and passed through a dozen careful filters, and their eyes are emotionless and would prefer not to see you (unless you are one of them). They are perfect, lovely, crafted, odorless, shiny green plastic plants that don't need water, don't get mealybugs, and don't ever change; they are kept away from sun, dusted regularly, and look pleasant until the color fades. ( OK, OK, I know, despite my words about plastic plants, that the lawyers and business moguls are living, wondrous souls, but do they know I am...? How do you connect to that which avoids connection?) Meanwhile, I remember the guests at the soup kitchen as wild dandelions and wild chicory, mower-cut, stubby, unkempt, but alive. Gathered together in one dining room, they are a perfumed sea of chaotic blooms (unopened, or ragged, sometimes gone-to-seed) in vibrant and varied hue. The insects come to feed; the sun and rain feed them; drought hurts them; frost maims them; the lawn mover cuts them down over and over, yet they struggle back.
  5. If you learned that you can talk to homeless people at a soup kitchen, you find you can talk to them on the streets, and that they will talk to you. That first tentative soup kitchen "Hi, would you like more mashed potatoes?" breaks an invisible boundary that might otherwise last an entire lifetime. Now, suddenly, that lump of humanity on the street corner becomes visible, approachable, human: now I can go say "Hello," and give a few quarters, or drop off a McDonald's gift certificate, or a Christmas card, and say "God bless you." Now I can buy a Spare Change or Street Sheet homeless association newspaper and say, "How's it going? How are sales today?" Now the eyes meet, and there is that spark of connection, that divine moment where strangers meet and recognize each other as spiritual beings. It's not something that often happens in any other part of life, even in a busy mall, a workplace, or shopping center. No, it's different. This is an exchange of somehow holy energy, blessed and special and unusual, yet so easily accessible - just check out that rough and sad-eyed man sitting on the sidewalk next to his change cup. I was blind before, but now I can see ... them.
  6. I always left the soup kitchen feeling like I had been privileged to be there; I always felt like I had gained more than I had given. It was, in many ways, tremendously unfair.
God is everywhere - in the sterile business offices, in the skies and oceans, in the hearts of rich and poor. Yet, He is most obvious where there is life - not the plastic, manicured, visually perfect parts of life, but the wild, hurting, noisy, thankful, hopeful, dirty, messy, weedy parts, where both wildflower and gardener cry out to God.

That's what I learned from the soup kitchen.

Successful Spirit Releasement

2007; written 2008

I was busy, nervous, and harried. I was across the country at a small professional seminar. But more importantly, I was hoping to meet a spiritual mentor and friend whom I hadn't seen in years who lived in the area (and yes, I attended the seminar mostly because of this proximity).

As I tried to phone to set up the meeting with my friend, while yet participate in the seminar, I started making mistakes, forgetting things, getting more and more flustered. Finally, after kicking myself mentally for flubbing one MORE thing on the phone to my friend, I actually asked myself, "WHY am I so flustered?"

It was then, as I tried to quiet my mind, that I noticed it (my mind) was buzzing and would not quiet easily. Maybe I was just nervous? But no, I was definitely having more trouble focusing than usual, and I was definitely feeling AFRAID of embarrassing myself, moreso than was rational. And the buzz was ... a buzz. My head doesn't usually buzz.

Hmmm, outside psychic influence? Felt like it!

I got as quiet as I could, and prayed faithfully, earnestly, and single-mindedly as I could for the removal of the influence....

Somewhat to my surprise, the buzzing and confusion lifted - and was gone! I could think more clearly, pay attention to the seminar, and even apologize to my friend on the phone and get matters straightened out. This is one of the few times where I am 99% certain that spirit releasement prayer ... worked!

But before it could work ... I had to notice there was something amiss, identify it, and proceed with confidence! Speaking of confidence ... there is a preceding story and lesson....

Pray with Confidence

2005; written 2008

While going down a mountain in a car, I could not help but notice all the insects splatting haplessly against the windshield. I felt sad for them. I vaguely prayed for them, some kind of hand-wavey wishy-washy woe-are-bugs "Oh God, the poor things. Can't you make this stop? But I don't suppose they will stop... oh! poor bee! What are we humans doing to this poor planet?" The bugs kept splatting and dying. The car was maybe two-thirds down the mountain, with a lot more winding roads and insects to go.

Finally, I thought, "Maybe I should pray with confidence and vigor! What do I have to lose? This is for the bugs!" So I really concentrated, focused on faith, lifted my spiritual eyes higher, and prayed with single mind, intention, gratitude, and belief in the God of loving-kindness who rescues and desires to rescue.

You know... I really, truly think there were no more splatted bugs after that. It's possible the car had merely passed the bug zone altitude... but there were still plenty of wilderness that went by. What I really suspect is that, by God's grace, a nature-loving angel took the effort of perching on the windshield and blocking bugs from a messy demise!

Addendum: In 2009, I was holding my pet bird in a travel case on the way to the emergency late-night clinic. He had injured himself and was freaked out and moving around, making things worse for himself. I kept trying to soothe him and pray that he stop... to no avail. Eventually, mustering up the same feeling of confidence and authority, and reaching up in prayer, I commanded him to stop moving around. He did. He quieted and stayed calm, all the rest of the way to the vet's.

Addendum 2: In 2011, I was having a tough time handling a recurring psychic problem, plus added stressors. I could only pray with fervor, concentration, anger, desperation, and all the authority and confidence I could muster. It didn't help that I was thinking of an old bad sin that I'd half-forgotten. And then - suddenly, a faint feeling of reassurance. The psychic difficulty faded. I prayed for forgiveness as long as that presence was there... perhaps, just maybe, I was heard....

Oils Well that Ends Well


Another example of God getting us where we need to be without having to nudge, prod, pry, shove, or holler.

I drove to a store from an unusual direction, turned prematurely, did a loop, got back on the road, missed the exit, took a different entrance.... You get the idea. The whole way I was thinking, "I am wasting time! I have to be somewhere in less than an hour." Yet, through all the wrong road choices and confusion, I felt a surreal peace.

I parked a little ways from the store in the middle of the parking lot, far from where I would've parked normally.

I later got back to the car and stepped in a puddle next to my car, and my feet nearly went out from under me. Turns out the puddle wasn't water, but something like motor oil. It was as slick as ice, and I know far too many people who have suffered serious, debilitating injuries from slipping. I even had to scrape my shoes in some mulch to get it off - it made every step dangerous.

I went to tell the manager. Last I knew, he was going to have someone put sand on it. Amazing - God can get us where we need to be without us knowing.

Haunted Handwriting


A person I'll call Tom (not his real name) gave me a photocopy of a book about exorcism. I replaced the binder and let it sit, as I had no time to read it.

Some months later, when I finally went to read it, I noticed the whole thing - my new binder and photocopies and all - had a peculiar buzz that I did not like. Knowing that objects retain the energy of their previous owners, and knowing Tom reports occasional wacky psychic stuff in his life, I made a copy of the copy and dumped all the original material.

I checked later and there was that peculiar buzz again! I was puzzled. The book itself had anecdotes of creepy stuff, but the tone was reasonable, and it even contained some Christian prayers.

I ran some experiments that I won't go into here. In any case, after a few days, I figured it out.

It obviously wasn't the paper or binder, which I had replaced completely. It wasn't the book's contents. It was Tom's handwriting on some of the pages. Not what he wrote, but something in the handwriting itself, even across multiple photocopies.

I could have experimented more, but I was tired of the whole thing. On advice from a friend, who explained the "buzz" was clearly doing something not good, I just ripped up the whole thing and threw it all away, and noted to myself the power of our spiritual footprint - or handwriting - in the world. If our handwriting has such power, imagine the power of God acting through us? Art, music, carpentry, crafts, note cards? Like St. Paul's healing handkerchief - but not just the handkerchief, but artistic renditions of it, stories told about it, re-enactments... Who knows? Wow!


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