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Seven Steps for Healing

Posted August 29, 2015

luminous human


I'm grateful I have never been given a frightening diagnosis from a doctor. No major illnesses or injuries.

But should it ever happen, my first call would be to my friend Jan, who used spiritual principles to help cure cancer years ago.

She told me her story again for my upcoming book, Hell in the Hallway, Light at the Door, which should be out this fall. (Final manuscript was turned in Wednesday!)

At the end, she gave me seven bits of advice for anyone dealing with a major illness, when a door has closed on life as you knew it and the future is uncertain. That's the hallway.

I thought you might like to read it:


“THIS ISN'T GOOD.”

Jan woke up from a colonoscopy with a doctor standing over her.

“This isn't good,” he said.

“Okay.

“No, this really isn't good.”

“Okay,” Jan said again. “So what are we going to do?”

Many years later, Jan told me, “It was in that moment that I knew all of those classes and all of that spiritual training, all the things I'd been working on all my life, really worked.

“I had no fear. I wasn't looking forward to what was going to happen, but I went, Wow, I'm not afraid! I was actually saying that to myself while I was still lying on the bed in the lab.”

Jan agreed to three months of radiation and chemotherapy before surgery. The operation took just two hours instead of the forecast 5 ½ hours, and the malignant tumor already had shrunk from 5.2 to 1.2 centimeters.

The doctor bragged to his staff about his brilliance. They told Jan in a follow-up visit, “Dr. S. has been talking all week about the surgery he did. It was the best, most perfect surgery he's ever done!”

Jan has other ideas about the source of her healing.

Just days after the diagnosis, she had spoken to her minister, who said, “Don't fight this. Anything you fight, fights back. Love it, bless it and let it go.”

Another minister had called to pray with her every day. He was beside her hospital bed on the morning of surgery to pray with Jan and her son, the doctor and nurses.

And Jan had put into practice all the lessons of her lifelong spiritual exploration.

“My faith increased, so even if it didn't turn out like I thought it would, it was going to be okay.”

LESSONS OF LOVE

Shortly before the surgery, Jan felt she received a message from the divine: “Love is the key to life.”

All the lessons in her illness and recovery seemed to be about love.

One day in the grocery store, when Jan, exhausted from treatments, was dragging herself through the aisles, “This lady from nowhere came up to me and said, ‘I want you to know you are being so blessed, that God is taking care of you.' It was exactly what I needed at exactly the right time.”

Her coworkers took on Jan's health as a project, making sure she ate even when she didn't feel like it, bringing her whatever sweet or salty food might tempt her.

Instead of losing the average 60 pounds expected during her course of treatment, Jan lost just 18 pounds. Her friends wouldn't let her stop eating!

“I was able to feel the love that was around me, and that changed my life. It warms your heart. I learned to pass that on to other people, to let people know they're important, to let people know you notice the things they do, that they do make a difference.”

LIFE-CHANGING WORDS

But what stuck in her mind most were the words of her minister: Love it, bless it and let it go.

“It applies to everything! There are so many opportunities I've had to use that,” she said.

“I lived my life differently. I was much more open to love. The little things don't make such a difference anymore. Everybody has different stresses and things that set them off, and I'm not free from that. But overall, it was a total shift in my life.

“I'm not nearly as controlling about things; I let things go. I learned how precious life is. That's why they call it a gift.”

Best of all, Jan has been able to share with others the lesson of Love it, bless it and let it go.

SEVEN WAYS TO HEAL

I asked what else she might tell someone who has received a scary diagnosis, and she offered these ideas:

  1. Fear blocks healing, so several times a day, remember just to breathe. Inhale the healing light that penetrates every cell in your body, and exhale anything unlike the nature of perfect health.
  2. Don't become your diagnosis. You are not your disease. Instead of saying “I have X,” say, “I have received a diagnosis of X.” Encourage your friends and family to do the same. Don't claim the illness as part of who you are.
  3. Don't overdose on information. Poring over test results or going online to look up more about your diagnosis and symptoms can fill you with fear. Stay focused on your healing.
  4. Read something that uplifts you spiritually every morning and evening.
  5. Spend time creating affirmations, listen to music, watch something funny or hang around people who are fun and will keep you encouraged.
  6. Jan also was able to keep working throughout her treatment and recommends it, if possible. She stayed busy and useful and soaked up her coworkers' support.
  7. Healing happens in many ways, and not only for the person who is sick. Those around you might experience emotional healings. You can be sure there is healing in every situation.

Jan remains especially grateful to the minister who told her to love it, bless it and release it.

Years later, when the same minister was diagnosed with cancer himself, Jan urged him to remember his own words of wisdom: Love it, bless it and release it. At this writing, they both are cancer free.

From Hell in the Hallway, Light at the Door, © Ellen Debenport 2015


PS - Have you experienced a major illness? What are one or two things that helped you spiritually? I hope you'll let me know in the Comments below.

   

What the Bible Says About Gays

Posted August 22, 2015

rainbow Bible


Every now and then, I get an email from someone who would like to visit my church but needs to ask, in so many words, whether it's okay to be gay.

I'm always happy to invite them to join us, and I reassure them they will find acceptance as well as other gay people there. And yes, of course, I'll conduct a wedding for them.

I understand their caution, because I know what they've heard from some who call themselves true Christians and beat you over the head with a Bible to prove it.

The other day, one of my readers asked me to address what the Bible really says about gays.

I would like to do that, in this longer-than-usual blog, with a few caveats:

  • This is not about politics. It's about how, when and by whom various parts of the Bible were written.
  • I am speaking only for myself, and do not claim to represent my church or the Unity spiritual movement. While both are open and affirming, you would hear a variety of opinions and explanations about the Bible.
  • There are many, many interpretations of any given scripture, and you can do your own research. If you read just one book on this topic, I would suggest The Sins of Scripture by Bishop John Shelby Spong. He addresses what the Bible says about gays, women, the environment, anti-Semitism and even beating a child with a rod!


THE ANCIENT VIEW

Consider that in 66 books of the Bible, written over a period of about 1,200 years, homosexuality is mentioned maybe half a dozen times.

That's it.

The most frequently quoted scripture is from Leviticus, which contains a long list of rules, called the Holiness Code, written about 600 years before Jesus, while the ancient Jews were in exile. Their strict requirements for religious devotion distinguished them from their Babylonian captors and held them together as a tribe until they could return to their homeland.

Leviticus 18:22 labels any homosexual act an abomination, and a later verse elaborates on it:

If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall be put to death; their blood is upon them. (Leviticus 20:13 NRSV)

Really? Do today's biblical literalists seriously want to put gays to death? I'm pretty sure the Bible does not record any actual executions for homosexuality.

The early Bible also requires the death penalty for children who sass their parents, for adultery, blasphemy and breaking the Sabbath, among other capital offenses.

Why hang onto two verses about homosexuality when we have happily forgotten so many others?

(I love to watch the classic scene from The West Wing when President Jed Bartlett reams a conservative talk radio host by quoting the ridiculously antiquated rules of the Bible to her.)

Remember, the Jews were trying to survive as a people, and increasing their tribe meant safety in numbers.

Sex was for procreation only. Wasting your seed on anything else was considered a sin. This also explains the injunction against onanism and spilling seed on the ground. (Gen. 38:7-10)

The Jews believed their earliest directive from God was to go forth and multiply. But that's another biblical idea we might want to reconsider, now that we have 7-billion people on the planet. (You can watch the population growing by the second on this cool website.)


A THORN IN THE FLESH

Turning to the New Testament, we have a couple of verses from the Apostle Paul.

In his letter to the church in Corinth, Greece, he wrote:

Do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived! Fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, male prostitutes, sodomites, thieves, the greedy, drunkards, revilers, robbers—none of these will inherit the kingdom of God. (1 Cor 6:9-10 NRSV)

And in his letter to the early Christian church in Rome:

For this reason God gave them up to degrading passions. Their women exchanged natural intercourse for unnatural, and in the same way also the men, giving up natural intercourse with women, were consumed with passion for one another. Men committed shameless acts with men and received in their own persons the due penalty for their error. (Romans 1:26-27 NRSV)

Theories abound on what Paul meant.

Maybe in Corinthians he was referring to the well-known Greek practice of grown men having sex with slave boys, which was not about a relationship but about power and exploitation.

Maybe in Romans he was describing an orgy, some speculate, where generally heterosexual people had sex with anyone handy. (And by the way, this is the only verse in the Bible that acknowledges the possibility of lesbian sex.)

But read it in context – look up Romans 1:18-32. Paul specifically is blasting people who know God but do not honor or give thanks to him. The next verses read:

And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind and to things that should not be done. They were filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, covetousness, malice. Full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, craftiness, they are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, rebellious towards parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. (Romans 1:28-30 NRSV)

Notice, God gave them up to this behavior. It's especially telling that Paul might have thought homosexuality was a punishment from God, since so many Bible scholars and theologians believe Paul himself was gay.

Paul clearly hated something about himself, although we don't know what. He called it a “thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, (sent) to torment me.” He said:

Nothing good dwells within me, that is my flesh.

I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do.

Wretched man that I am, who will deliver me from this body of death?


IT'S A NEW DAY

Always remember, we are looking at the Bible through 21st Century eyes. We can scarcely imagine what the people and times were like.

The writers of the Bible, whether old or new testaments, had no concept of a loving relationship between two people of the same gender. Even male-female marriage was a property transaction.

They didn't understand sexual orientation – that is, someone oriented to the same sex, not just for a physical act but for sharing a life. Oriented, the dictionary says, means “intellectually, emotionally, or functionally directed; a usually general or lasting direction of thought, inclination, or interest.”

It is a way of being, and one that we now know is born in roughly 10 percent of the population, about the same percentage as those born left-handed.

So yes, the Bible can be wrong. For us.

It is a product of its times. Its words, even if divinely inspired, were filtered through ordinary human minds. One hopes that human beings have expanded in consciousness the past 2,500 years.

Some timeless truths still speak to us from scripture, but other parts address issues long left behind. We have to decide what still applies.

And I don't care how vociferously someone swears they believe every word of the Bible is literal and inerrant, they don't. They can't. The Bible contradicts itself repeatedly.

No greater contradiction exists than to base today's prejudices on the Bible, while overlooking Jesus' teachings to love and include all people.

Spiritual growth for us means more compassion, more understanding, more acceptance and more forgiveness of the people who share our planet. That's what Jesus modeled as the divine potential in us all.

And Jesus never said a word about gays.


PS -- The story of Sodom and Gomorrah, the cities destroyed by fire and brimstone from heaven, is not about homosexuality. It's about gang rape. Read the whole thing in Genesis 19:1-28. It's one of the most shocking stories of the Bible and a vivid example of how times have changed. And remember, Lot was considered one of the good guys!

   

Wisdom vs. Baggage

Posted August 15, 2015

dividing railroad track


The longer we live, the wiser we get.

Right?

Or do we become more jaded and fearful because of painful past experiences?

Put another way: What is the difference between wisdom and baggage?

I first heard the question posed by a friend, who wasn't sure whether a decision she had made was the result of divine inspiration or her fears from the past.

I've been wrestling with her question for years.

For example, someone who feels she's never had a healthy romantic relationship decides not to date again. Is that decision based on wisdom or baggage?

Someone who has been successful professionally decides not to go for a promotion, because there's no point in risking failure. Is that wisdom or baggage?

A group in a business or church decides not to institute something new because an old-timer says, “We tried that, and it didn't work.” Are they basing the decision on the old-timer's wisdom or baggage?

Sometimes it's hard to tell. Have your experiences taught you careful discernment before making a decision? Or have they persuaded you to stay safe even when your soul longs for greater expression?

I've been working on definitions for wisdom and baggage, and here's what I have come up with so far:

Wisdom is when your life experiences inform and guide your present decisions in constructive ways.

Baggage is when your life experiences invade the present, making you defensive or fearful, and keeping you guarded against ever feeling pain again.

Does that capture the conundrum?

I would love to hear how you know when you're acting on the wisdom of your life experiences vs. the baggage of your fears and failures.

Can you name a current situation in which you are not sure which is governing you? I hope you will leave comments below, because I am always trying to understand this better!


PS – Hey, my peeps in north central Texas . . . I'll be at Unity of Dallas for the Sunday services on Aug. 30, speaking with my buddy Rev. Ed Townley. We served there together a decade ago. We're going to pull up two chairs and compare notes on how our spiritual views have changed since then. And they have! I'd love to see you, if you're in the vicinity.

   

Finding Words for Prayer

Posted August 8, 2015

dove word cloud


Do you think about the words you use when you pray?

Do you use words at all?

This comes up for me every time I teach a class about prayer, and I've taught a couple of them lately.

I don't want to tell people there's any wrong way to pray.

However . . .

The affirmative prayer that I have learned over the years is very different from asking God to fix my life.

My intention now is to remember that the love and intelligence we call God permeates every aspect of the universe, and I am part of that divine energy. So anything I could possibly need is already available.

I affirm that in prayer.

And I affirm the same for others when I pray for them.

Maybe the problem is with the word prayer. The dictionary defines prayer as an address or petition to God, and that's not what I'm doing.

I am finding words to acknowledge the one presence and power in the universe and centering myself in it. Then I can declare – claim, ask, demand, call it what you will – my desires, knowing my thoughts have the power to create.

So prayer is focused thought that moves the divine creative energy of the universe. Powerful stuff.

And not what most of us were taught.

The old prayer language runs deep. I have been on a non-traditional spiritual path for a couple of decades now, and I still have to stop and remember sometimes that I am not asking a supreme being to intervene on my behalf. I am acknowledging the good already available.

This is a radical change for many people and can take years to assimilate. I know, because they keep coming to my prayer classes!

Carefully choosing the words used in prayer is probably the best way to make this shift.

Granted, I'm a word person. But here's my rationale:

  • Words express what we're thinking.
  • So consciously and deliberately changing the words we use forces us to change the way we are thinking.
  • That, in turn, elevates consciousness to a better place.
  • Then our thoughts create from a higher perspective. Or put another way, positive words heighten our energetic vibration.

We use affirmations for the same reason. The words force a change in thinking, which shifts expectations, which brings about different results.

Make sense?

Words matter in prayer to extent you want to change what you are creating.

Of course, you might not believe your thoughts actually show up in your life as tangible events and things. In that case, prayer is asking for help from a power outside of you, which is the method used by billions of people on the planet.

But asking for help can mean focusing on the problem, and it's easy to end up in an orgy of worry and fear disguised as prayer.

I will share with you the prayer formula I've been using the last couple of years, borrowed from friends with the Centers for Spiritual Living. This is from a little book called Five Steps to Freedom by John B. Waterhouse.

  1. I know God is all there is, present everywhere.
  2. I am a part of that power and presence.
  3. I focus on the positive, and voice my desires, affirming the highest and best outcome for all.
  4. I am grateful for the circumstances right now.
  5. I release this into the Infinite Mind.

These are drastically abridged descriptions of the five steps, but even in shorthand, I find them useful. They act as a trellis on which prayers can flourish.

Not everyone needs such structure, but I'm one of those people who started out saying, “Tell me exactly what to say and do. Give me a recipe!”

I appreciate a step-by-step method that reminds me to shift my words and my consciousness.

Have you changed the way you pray over time? Do you make an effort to use different words?

I'd love to hear about your experience in the comment section below.


PS – One of my favorite books on this topic is How to Pray Without Talking to God by Linda Martella-Whitsett.

   

The Life Change No One Talks About

Posted August 1, 2015

winter scene


When my mother retired after decades as a schoolteacher and counselor, she told me how profoundly she felt a loss of identity.

In the schools, crowds parted for her as she walked through the halls. Everyone spoke to her. Kids behaved better and cleaned up their language around her.

Not so in the regular world, she said. Not anymore.

At the time, I listened politely. But I didn't begin to understand the impact of retirement until I was working on my upcoming book, Hell in the Hallway, Light at the Door.

Retirement is a hallway, when you know one door has closed, but you don't know which door will open next.

Actually, retirement is a double-whammy hallway. There's a period of uncertainty while you anticipate retiring. Then the official day comes, and you enter a period of adjustment.

Some people need a year or two, or more, to find their bearings and create new ways to identify themselves, to establish new ways of being.

The book is full of real people's stories, and one of them is a beautiful description of the pain and adjustment, then finally, the joys of retirement. It was told to me by a woman in Chicago who deeply grieved this shift in her life, but stayed conscious through it.

I thought you might like to read that excerpt. Even if you are nowhere near retirement, you probably know someone who is.

I have become much more sensitive to this major life event, just by listening to those who have retired or those who are approaching it, often with trepidation.

Napping in a hammock can sound enticing when you're working fulltime. But retirement is so much more than rest, and more than finding ways to stay busy.

Retirement is a soul's passage into a new, and sometimes final, chapter of the human experience. And like winter, it has its own beauty.

The short excerpt from the book is here.


PS – Have you retired? What's the one thing people should know about themselves before they retire? I hope you'll share below.

   




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