As part of my continuing way of re-examining the world based on evidence as well as “faith”, I am trying to verify as much as possible by experience.  The experiences of others are all well and good, but personal experience is best. While I believe and that Shayna is better off where she is and is still connected with us, I’d prefer to know. To that end, I reached out to someone about mediums. He asked me to participate in a certification process he is doing and I  had the reading the day after Kayla’s birthday.  Here are my detailed notes from the reading. I will also post the audio. I believe that Shayna was there and had several messages for members of our family- including aunts and cousins.

The reading is part of a
certification process.  There are strict
rules. The medium only knows my first name.
I only know her first name.  No
phone numbers were exchanged. I dialed into a conference call service. The
third party who set up the meeting knows me and is aware of my blog.

The skeptic in me has to
consider all the ways the experiment or the medium could cheat. The medium has
no way at all of cheating without the experimenter’s cooperation. The
experimenter is not in this for financial gain. He literally gave me copies of
his books at no charge. As far as I know he has no financial incentive to
certify mediums. And if he were going to cheat there would be no need to go
through all of the trouble of setting up the readings.  There is no incentive for him to cheat.

Each medium has to do five
readings and knows they are being scored on an objective scale. So, in addition
to the pressure of being scored, they are given a disincentive to guess because
they’re being graded on a percentage of correct answers. This could make the
medium feel restricted in giving information freely, especially anything that
is a “weak” connection.

I found out about the meeting last week. I have been praying for my spirits
guides and Shayna to show up for a few days.
I meditated for half an hour before making the call. The medium and I
are both nervous.  This can’t be easy.
The medium and I are trying to connect in spirit. My only clue about her is I
think she is probably on the West Coast because the scheduling options I had
mentioned Pacific time.

We call into a conference call
service and she records the conversation.
I am to give only yes and no answers. I am to volunteer no
information.  She doesn’t know my name,
my age, my family status.  Nothing at
all, not even my phone number.

A reading with a psychic
medium is kind of like three way charades from what I understand. Many mediums
don’t get direct dialog or even words. They get pictures or symbols. They will
then either try to interpret that symbol or give it to you literally. At least
three entities are involved, the sitter, the medium and the person on the other
side. This is a complicated process and is prone to errors and interference.
I’m trying to give the medium as much positive energy as I can without giving
anything away. I’m trying to be open, but I can’t give her any information.

In summary, during the session
she connected with Shayna to my satisfaction.
She gave a lot of general things that could have fit a lot of people,
but she also gave specifics and the general things added up to fit Shayna very
well.  Shayna was getting messages through
for different people- an aunt, a cousin or two and a lot for Ty, Kayla and
me.  She went about getting Kayla’s
birthday (the day before) three different ways.

We do introductions-first
names only. She tells me how the process will go and then she starts the

These are my notes from the
call. I took handwritten notes and typed them up later.  She has sent an audio recording of the call
which I then reviewed to add more detail to my notes.

She starts off telling me she
is feeling pressure on her third eye which is someone coming through. She says
it’s like someone is knocking.

She feels a female presence.

Very determined.  (hit) (word corrected by Shayna to
persistent) CORRECT

Persistent.  (Same as determined? hit) CORRECT

Would move mountains for her
family.  (hit) (CORRECT)

Tried her utmost and her best.
Gave it her all in life.  Gave 100% (hit)

Two things- making her feel a
walk or run.  (My first thought was Shayna participated in the Leprachaun Lap for her
Girl Scouts Silver Award.  As I thought
about this overnight I realized that I run/walk every day and not all of the
information is about Shayna. This might be about me.  I spend 90% of the time I’m on the walk
thinking about Shayna and communicating with her. I often cry or smile on these
walks.  Right after Shayna passed I joked
with her that she would have to come with me now.  I always teased her about coming with me when
she was here

Something with the number 9 (I
can’t make a connection to that). The month of September?  (Miss.
As I thought about this overnight and put it in the context of the call
maybe this was a reference to the trip we took to Colorado in September. The
medium said 9 might be September) INDETERMINABLE

Athletic in nature. Going for
brisk walks in shorts (hit) CORRECT

Asks me if I can connect with
a female in spirit like that. (yes)

She tells me when I said “yes”, the spirit put her
hands out and said “Yay!”

Enthusiastic. Compassionate. (hit)

Could be outgoing, sociable,
fun, empathetic (all true) CORRECT

Whole embodiment is living
life to its fullest (hit) CORRECT

On my same level?  Sibling, spouse, friends? (miss- no) INCORRECT

You do understand the walking
or running or exercise? (yes- exercise). And you do understand optimistic and
cheerful? (Yes)

Getting an “E”
connection as a name (hit- Shayna’s middle name is Elayne.  Kayla’s middle name is Elyse).

Gonna write down the name and
say it when we’re done with the test.

Had a lot of friends.  (hit) CORRECT

Enthusiastic about her friends
(hit- she LOVED hanging out with her
friends and she had a crew that was as close as sisters

Having trouble determining her relationship to me .Says she is not getting this from Shayna but “Is this
your daughter?”  (hit).  It felt like a friend on my same level. When I
said “no”, she wondered who else was so enthusiastic about this.  Says the enthusiasm made her think we were on the
same level. CORRECT

Coming through with
positivity.  CORRECT

Showing pom poms, rooting,
football. Something to do with cheerleading? (miss- but we will circle back to
this because it keeps coming back.  Maybe
a misinterpretation.) INDETERMINABLE

Would you understand her love
for animals?- showing a dog (big hit. We
have two dogs. Shayna LOVED them.  Shayna
also wanted to be a vet and volunteered at the zoo

Real love for animals.  Soft spot for animals (hit) CORRECT

Is this the person you most
wanted to connect with?  Then, we will
spend time trying to get more from her.

Would you understand a
hospital bed with her. (Shayna had four
surgeries over her last four years

Would you understand her head
being damaged? Saw a wrap on her head (miss) INCORRECT

Give me a moment to get a
stronger connection with her.

Shes’s making me feel like my
biggest memory she leaves with me is her huge smile. Seeing a beautiful huge
smile  When you look at pictures and when
you see her. And I think she’s talking about a particular picture. (hit- we
just put two poster sized pictures of Shayna in the foyer and I say good
morning to her every morning as I exit the bedroom). CORRECT- BONUS

Shayna says I’m happy.  I’m happy where I am.

I would like to get some more evidence for you..

Do you understand the name
like Elizabeth or Elise or an “El” name. (hit- Shayna’s middle name is Elayne. Kayla’s middle name is Elyse.  Also, her favorite cousin Briana has the
middle name Elizabeth There is another connection to Elizabeth we will circle
back around to

Some of this stuff we’re not
going to be able to validate.  Something
about the test. I want to tell  you what
she is saying.

Getting rose either the name
or something with rose. (hit- Shayna
loved rose perfume and her great grandmother was Emma Rose. She told us we
should have named her Emma

“She has such a beautiful
beautiful light about her”. (hit- she doesn’t know Shayna’s name literally
means Beautiful Light and that is the name of the blog I write for

Shayna is more concerned about
others than herself.  Tells us don’t
worry about her.  “I’m fine. I’m worried
about you.”

Asks if Shayna had a brother.
Getting concern from Shayna toward a younger male she was sisterly toward. (I cannot confirm this.  Couldn’t think of anything at the time.  As I thought about this overnight, I felt
like Shayna was telling me this is Adam

Mentions  that normally when she works with people it’s a three way conversation.  This is a new way of doing it.  It’s a little hard. Doing my best to get the
information from her. She’s trying hard to get information through to you and
I’m trying hard to understand it.

Would you understand the name
Tony or Anthony?  (no- miss.  I can’t even stretch
to get to this one.  I’ve been thinking
about this more. Given that Tywana wouldn’t be in her lexicon of names, I’m
wondering if it’s Tywana

Bringing us to a park.  Park setting or huge backyard.  Picnic bench.
Birthday party or gathering.
Could be a memory or a recent thing. (I’m going to say hit since she mentioned birthday.  The park threw me off, but Kayla’s birthday
was yesterday

Getting a cat as well as a
dog. (I can’t verify a cat. The only one
I can think of is Sunshine, a neighborhood cat from several years ago. The
girls loved playing with him.  Maybe
Shayna has a cat now?) INDETERMINABLE

How can you connect to the El
name?  So I tell her Shayna’s middle name
is Elayne and Kayla’s middle name is Elyse.

She’s talking about braces. I
don’t know if that’s for her or for her sister.
(hit?- Kayla had them. Shayna had
perfect teeth. Didn’t need them.)

Bubbly and talkative. Not
getting her age. I don’t’ know how old she was when she passed.   CORRECT

Very sociable and talkative.
Had a lot of friends (hit- Shayna was
extremely popular

Piano.  She sees a piano followed by a feeling of
diligence.  (hit- this is interesting. I bought a piano for Shayna a couple of years ago
after she begged and begged to get it.
She never put in the effort to learn to play it.  I would bring this up often.  This might relate to something she says later
about being determined. The diligence the medium felt might have been the
diligence Shayna used to get me to buy the piano

Another name- Chris,
Christopher or Christina (doesn’t mean anything to me.  I have a friend named Chris, but this is a
common name) INCORRECT

I’m gonna call her Elayne it’s
her middle name and I don’t know her first name and maybe she’ll give it to me.

It also feels like when she
sets her mind on something it was almost like relentless. She is focused and
determined.  She never gave up on things
she wanted. This was fine with things we wanted too, but if it were something
we didn’t want her to have she never gave up then either.  It was like “Oh my gosh, you’re so stubborn”.
(hit- see above with piano.  Also with
Shayna cutting her hair.

On the things that were more
of a butting of heads.  She says
“Sorry Dad”, but it’s a 75% sorry.
Sorry she pestered me, but she really wanted what she wanted). Mentions
butting of heads, but she always knew we loved her.

I’m going to give you one more
name.  Getting a K-a name Katy, Kathleen.
Do you understand that name? (yes) CORRECT-

How do you connect with that
name?   (hit- I tell her Kayla’s name).

She had a sister named Kayla
and a sister named Elyse? (no-I verify Kayla’s full name).

So, she’s referring to her

Asks if Kayla was the one with
braces (hit) CORRECT

She says I won’t be able to
verify this next thing. Well, maybe…

So she comes to her sister
through her dreams. She says that is really a visitation. (big hit- Shayna has been visiting in very vivid
dreams- more like visions.  This is
documented on my blog, but the medium didn’t even know my name before this

She tells me that she is very
close and protective of her sister.  I
ask for clarification and this is where I let Shayna’s name slip. She tells me
Shayna is now watching over Kayla. She wants Kayla to know she is her
protecting angel. She wants Kayla to be bold and fearless in life.  She wants Kayla to go through life joyfully-
not reckless, but Shayna is watching over her.

Back to cheerleading (still
not a hit. After our conversation after
the call, I think her seeing girls jumping that she interpreted, as
cheerleading might have been volleyball.
Cheerleading kept coming through

Back to the hospital.  She feels Shayna’s passing was quick.  The end was quick. Would you understand the
suddenness of it?  Suddenness.  Too quick for people to have time to respond.
(hit- VERY quick.  Shayna died at home in her bed, but we rushed
her to the hospital where they worked on her for over an hour before
pronouncing her. It was sudden and totally unexpected. She hadn’t even been

We’re in November.  Thanksgiving is coming, but she’s getting a
turkey leg. Is there something else significant about November?  Birthday? Anniversary? (hit- Kayla’s birthday is November 22, always
right around Thanksgiving. It was yesterday.
This might relate to the park thing earlier and birthday.  Our 25th wedding anniversary was November 3rd

This is very strange.  Would you understand something about Asia. I’m
being led to maybe Thailand.  (No.. I
don’t understand that.) Ok, so what I’m seeing is those little statues.  You know those little Buddha statues?  Could be as simple as someone has one of
those statues. That took me to Asia Someone has a Buddha statues. OK. So she’s
showing me a Buddha statue and I’m trying to make it more than it is. Is that
in your home?  (yes)   Is
that something  you got after her
passing? (I have a meditation altar and I bought a Jizo (Asian statue) and
Weeping Buddha for it. I also bought a Buddha that is on the deck. Three
Buddhas total.  All bought since her
passing. (hit)  CORRECT-BONUS

OK, so that’s her way of
saying she is here every day. Mentions a rocking chair. Knows those are common
she knows, but she says Shayna sits in it and if we see it rocking, it’s Shayna
in it. (hit- the rocking chair is in our bedroom.  Ty sits in it almost every day to meditate
and read). “It will rock on its own.” CORRECT-

Tells me Shayna is around us
all the time. She sees life around us. She’s with us every day.  When you’re taking out the garbage she is
with you.  She is in the car with
us.  In every waking moment she is with
us.  She can see, hear and feel us. We
can talk to her.  We can even think to

Trying to get more evidence.

Getting another name.
Michelle, Michael, Mikayla (hit-  I
didn’t recognize the name Michelle. Ty’s sister is Shell (short for
Michelle.  but I did think of my Uncle
Michael when thinking of people who might come through.  ). CORRECT

You have really pretty names.  They’re
not in my data bank. (I had told her I didn’t recognize Michelle)

Mentions gymnastics (miss).  Came up three times now and I kept pushing it
back (again- maybe this was volleyball) INDETERMINABLE

Would you understand that she
had to have a procedure done on her?
We’re in the hospital on the operating table. (hit- Shayna had four in
the last four years). CORRECT

Did she pass in the hospital?
(hit?- she was pronounced in the hospital. Died at home?).  She is showing me she is above. Watching
everyone around her when she passed. Trying to understand that. CORRECT

You said you understood the
rose. How do you connect with that? (I tell her about the perfume and Emma
Rose- her great grandmother and Shayna’s wish to be named Emma).

Did she wear glasses? (hit- Shayna wore glasses or contacts. After she
passed and on the advice of another medium, I put her glasses on my meditation
altar. They are there with the Jizo and one of the Buddhas.  Now she has hit on two things on my
meditation altar which I set up after Shayna’s passing

Going back to surgery.  Sees bright light of operating room.  It was a little scary.  Shayna was brave on the outside, but scared
inside. Used her smile to comfort people.
Didn’t express how scared she was.
It was hard enough as it was. Didn’t want to add that..  CORRECT

Toucan- sees an image of
toucan- (hit, but Shayna worked at the zoo.
I didn’t recognize, but when Kayla heard she said the toucan is Jordan’s
favorite animal.). CORRECT

Make-A-Wish? (At first I thought not a hit.  Maybe Victoria?  I don’t know.
After thought, this might have been not the Make-A-Wish foundation but
make a wish for Kayla’s birthday yesterday.- hit- another reference to Kayla’s
birthday yesterday.

Also showing me a necklace of
significance.  Maybe a chain with a
little something on it. (hit- Ty got a
pendant of Shayna’s thumbprint after her passing

Lots of bracelets (hit- Ty was
given several bracelets after Shayna’s death.
Also, the girls had bracelets with “Play for Shay” made to
wear in her honor for the volleyball team. This would be LOTS of bracelets as I
think everyone on all three teams wore them.).

How do you connect with your
dad? One of the ways she connects with you is through song.  She loves to put a smile on your face.  She is always thinking of ways to put a smile
on my face and in my heart. (hit- Shayna
loves music and we did connect through music. I will often become inspired to
listen to certain songs that speak to our relationship.  I maintain a playlist of songs to play to
remind me of her

Loves to do things to put a
smile on my face.  Still thinking of ways
to put a smile on my face and in my heart. (hit) CORRECT

Shayna has some tears in her
eyes.  Didn’t want to be brave. Inside
she was holding it together for everyone.

Do you understand the name-
Robert- (hit- my uncle.  His wife, my Aunt Betty (Elizabeth name
mentioned earlier) passed a few weeks ago

Shayna tried in school  She tried to please me. (hit- she was an
amazing student) CORRECT

She kept things to herself. When
she had a bad day at school or was feeling a little bit down she kept it quiet,
inside herself. We might discover things she wrote down somewhere.  She didn’t share everything verbally. (hit)

Keeps showing me this kite.
The second time.   Fly high like a
kite.  Just an image of a kite. (this
connected for Ty and Shayna always wanted to fly) CORRECT

Something else. I’ll tell you
after the test. I don’t want to get docked (understandable)

Someone else is coming
through.  Someone who smokes.  Ashtray like when you travel. Older style.
(could be hit- Ty’s father). CORRECT

Hospital gown.  Shayna has put a hospital gown on the medium
and she is walking down a hallway.  Tells
me about tonsils.  Maybe not hers.Tonsils,
throat, adenoids?  (hit?  Kayla
did just have a bad throat infection and they mentioned spots on her tonsils,
but no surgery or procedure

The connection is not as
strong as I would like it to be.  It’s no
fault of your daughter’s.  Nervous about
being recorded and all that (I understand).

Airport or airplane. Trip. If
we are going, Shayna is going with us. If we have gone, she was with us. Asks
if we traveled in November. Now, she gets more specific. Past trip. Very
recent.  (hit– we went to Colorado (and we rarely fly the last time was five years
ago) in September (not November.  Also
Shayna had flown just three days before she passed

Kaleidoscope- just the word.
(can’t make a connection)

Mentions the name Michelle again thinks that will come to me later.  Actually it does.  Ty’s sister (very close to Shayna is named
Michelle.  I forgot because we call her

We end the official evidentiary
session and just talk. Now I can talk freely. As we’re talking Alyson gives the
following. She says this feels more natural and more is coming through.  We’re both more relaxed.

Did she write on herself?  (YES!  Shayna and I butted heads about this
(playfully). I always asked her why not write on paper? Alyson says she likes
Shayna’s creative handwriting, which is a good way to describe it.)

Shayna enjoyed reading books.
Would dive in. Sees a hard copy of Where The Wild Things Are.  Did we go to the library? (All huge hits. Shayna LOVED to read)  Says she is still reading. Had a list of books
to read. This is also true. CORRECT-

Mentions a swimming pool.
Shayna was on swim team.  Didn’t like it.
But, she had a lot of friends there.

We review some things.  I think we figure the cheerleading might have
been volleyball.

The medium saw girls
jumping and thought cheerleading.  Maybe
girls jumping was volleyball.

She tells me Shayna says there
is nothing she would come back and change. All the things we taught her she got
to take with her.

Today is our first holiday since Shayna passed. Thanksgiving is our favorite holiday because there is so much less hustle and bustle than at Christmas and we always spend it with either Ty’s family or my family. This year however we decide to stay home. We had to make three trips to Toledo this week to pick up, drop off, then pick up Kayla again. 18 hours in the car total. And, I don’t think any of the three of us is ready for a holiday with the extended family again.

It’s difficult to explain to people why you don’t want to be around them, but I’m glad that the three of us are on the same page about what we need this holiday and are able to be frank enough to tell others, too. We always spend Christmas at home. So today feels like Christmas minus the presents.

It is a beautiful day, 60 degrees and sunny. Unusual for Thanksgiving in Ohio. Ty and I both get our walks in today, each having a good cry thinking about our baby not being with us. I’m wondering how many more of these I will have to endure, but I quickly set that thought aside. It’s one day at a time for now.

We watch some TV and a movie. After my walk, I actually don’t even leave the house for the remainder of the day. We have the smallest turkey we can find, sweet potato casserole, green beans, roles dressing, deviled eggs. Ty makes a banana pudding for dessert. With only the three of us, the leftovers look like the food has hardly been touched.

It’s just the three of us now. Kayla is such a joy, but I know for all three of us thoughts turn to Shayna several times during the day. How am I supposed to feel? We still have the three of us and today is supposed to be a day of gratitude, but each of us would give anything to have her back with us today. So, we have to hold gratitude and terrible longing in our hearts at the same time.

As I take the dogs out for the last time of the day and get ready for bed I am thinking I made it through another day. One day closer. Ty and I check in with each other. I think, in a way, we were both dreading this day, but it wasn’t as bad as we anticipated it might be. We both felt Shayna’s presence with us at various times of the day. And I’m glad for the space we allowed by not being around hordes of people today. It was what we needed.

As I continue on this journey, I find myself questioning everything. I mean everything, including the nature of reality itself. I think like most of us I think of the dead, the spirit world and, by extension, Shayna as less than real. After all, they don’t have bodies. And we all know what is solid is what is real. What we can touch is real. At least what we can detect with our instruments. If we can’t detect it, it doesn’t exist.

The spirit world is something we can’t see or even detect. It’s supernatural. I don’t believe in the supernatural anymore. But… I do believe there are things beyond our capability to detect or explain. If we were to travel back in time a couple of hundred years and to tell a man living then “Where I come from we can speak into a device on one continent and immediately, without any physical connection, we can hear and even see someone on the other side of the planet.” He would have thought that impossible. Even if we could demonstrate it, he would call it supernatural. Radio waves would be unimaginable. Today we think thoughts. We know there are thoughts, but we don’t know what they are. We deem it impossible for thought to have an impact on the physical world. We deem it impossible to share or project thoughts between people. What if one day we find out thoughts are like radio waves we just can’t detect them, yet?

We hear that in the spirits world, we can think of something and it appears. We hear we can travel to see a loved one just by thinking about them. This defies our laws of physics. When you’re in spirit you’re (just) consciousness. You don’t have a body. So, you’re not really real. Right? This magical place is a place that many of us are starting to believe in, but it’s still difficult to think of it as real.

Physicists themselves are now questioning the nature of reality. Physicists who thought everything solid and made of particles are realizing what we think of as solid is mostly space. It’s not solid at all. Even the “particles” we think of as the indivisible building blocks of all we see are (just) spinning vortices of energy. Ultimately we may find nothing at all is “solid”. It’s all (just) energy arranged in different configurations. And this energy has emerged from a Consciousness or a Mind. So, while for forever we have thought of the material world as “real”. It might just be that this is indeed the Matrix. Possibly (probably?) where live is no more than a simulation projected by consciousness.

As I ponder the afterlife, I wonder if when we get back there we will look at this as a dream. I think about the feeling when you wake up after a dream into which you were totally immersed. It felt so “real”, but when you wake up you realize you were never in any real danger. No matter how bad the nightmare was it’s over now and you’re fine. And you’re back here, in what we perceive as the real world. Could that be what it’s like to wake up “dead”?

This is a difficult thing for me to grasp. I’ve had mediums tell me Shayna is happy, very happy. I’ve been told she is reading. She’s told Kayla that she still watches Netflix. I’ve been told she is still here with us taking part in family life. Here with us every day. I’ve even been given evidence of this. I want to believe this and I do, but I must admit it does seem a bit less than real because she’s not in the body anymore. I imagine her sitting in the car with me or running along side me on my run. But, I can’t wait to find out what it’s like for her to be there with me because for me it’s just a little less than real.

I wonder though. We think of the poor dead people. They are disembodied souls. They are ghosts who can no longer eat or drink or do the things that we think makes life worth living. We, who get to draw breath are so lucky. Are we looking at it backwards? Are they missing anything by not being in the body? If they are pure consciousness, is that less than consciousness in a body? Maybe these bodies, which us who are awakened have realized are not us, are analogous to prison cells. Maybe those who have shed the bodies are outside of the bars and here we sit pitying them because they are no longer inside. They are free to go where and when their minds take them. Maybe….

Today, my buddy Kevin is in town so we get to sit down for one of our deep philosophical talks. The talk turns to aging. Why do we age anyway? I guess biologically and from an evolutionary viewpoint, we couldn’t live forever. Otherwise there would be no room for offspring and no need to reproduce after a certain amount of time. So, after a population has reached a certain level, death becomes necessary. But, death comes all kinds of ways. Death can come from starvation or from a predator. Death comes from accidents. Then, there is disease (why disease is another question that pops into my mind- why viruses and bacteria whose sole mission in life seems to be to kill their hosts?). So death comes. 

Besides death, why do we age? Why the gray hair and the balding and the wrinkles?  There’s more and more gray in my beard.  More and more hair in my ears (and less on top of my head.  Why do we have scars? I have a scar on my arm that goes back to when I was six years old. None of the cells in that scar are the original scar tissue, but when my body creates new cells in that area, for the rest of my life it will create scar tissue there instead of normal tissue. Why? Maybe it’s because when I look at that scar it reminds me of an event that might have shaped my life in some way. Maybe it’s a way of saying “Don’t do that again.”

I think aging is a visible and palpable reminder that we are not going to inhabit these bodies forever. As we age and look into the mirror, we are reminded every day that we’re not that 25 year old anymore. When we get out of a chair after sitting for a while our knees sometimes scream “Hey, we’re not getting any younger." 

Kayla is home this weekend and she and her 20 year old friend are making fun of Ty and her new reading glasses. They think it’s funny that us old people can’t do the things we used to do, that we need glasses to see things they can see easily. There was a time that would have bothered me. Not anymore. My perspective has shifted. I realize I am not my body. I am fully aware of that now. What you see is just my current incarnation. Even though there probably isn’t a molecule in my body that was there when I was five years old (my earliest memory), I am still the same Brian. Even though this body doesn’t look like the body of the 29 year old that married Ty 25 years ago, I am still Brian. I am not a 54 year old. 54 is the age my body happens to be now. My grandmother tried to explain that to me once when I was in my teens. I didn’t get it at all. I get it now, Grandbaby. I snicker to myself as Kayla and Madison have fun at our expense. I nearly say I would like to be alive to see their children make fun of them like this. I know that day is coming. But frankly I don’t want to be in the body that long. I do hope I am there in Spirit to see it though.

Back to aging. Biologically, I don’t see the reason for it. Scientists think the physical process has something to do with our telomeres, caps at the end of our DNA sequences. Telomeres shorten as we get older, scientists think leading to aging. Scientist are working on ways to lengthen them or keep them longer, theoretically slowing or stopping the aging process. That’s interesting enough. Some say it would probably increase the rate of cancer. I don’t know. At this point, I’m not really interested. Bring on the aging.  The gray in the beard, the balding don’t bother me.  The hair in the ears, well I could do without that.  I saw a quote yesterday that compared our bodies to cars. We drive a vehicle until it’s worn out (or we’re tired of it), then we trade it in for another. Very few mistake their cars for themselves. We maintain our cars, we like our cars, but they are just cars. When the time comes we let them go.

I think aging is God’s way of gently reminding us the time to let go grows one day closer every day. That new model is waiting for us when that day comes.

Today is football Saturday. I am a football fanatic and my Buckeyes are playing this weekend. This is our first big test since the first game of the season. We started the year as the consensus #1 team in the country and we have won them all right up until our last two games of the season. Now we play Michigan State and then Michigan back-to-back. I’m also a Bengals fan and we came out of the gate 8-0 this season setting a team record. I detest this time of year- when it’s getting dark and cold, with the exception of football. This year football has been exceptionally good to me. We are half way through the NFL season and most of the way through the college season and I have not tasted defeat. Sweetness. However, perfection on this planet is an elusive illusion and in week 10 of the NFL season, reality is about to hit me even in this, my distraction from real life.

What is it about us that makes us seek perfection? We know we can’t have it, but we crave it anyway. I had a life that was seemingly perfect to many looking in from the outside. I can tell you this though. If you look at someone’s life and you think it’s perfect, you don’t know enough about their life. We all have our burdens to bear, some small some large. And, if, by some chance, your life is perfect for a while- just wait. Things in life always change and the second law of thermodynamics applies. In a closed system, entropy (disorder) always stays the same or increases. Things tend to go to shit, put in layman’s terms.

Each week as the Buckeyes would add another victory, as the Bengals would pull of another game, I’d get an increasing amount of satisfaction, but as the next game approached, I’d get an increasing amount of fear. Nothing goes right forever. An undefeated season in the NFL has been an impossibility since 1972. No team has gone undefeated, a perfect season since the expansion to a 16 game schedule. Sports gives us another life lesson. If you play long enough, you will lose. I love sports because it gives us an acceptable outlet for aggression, lets us practice tribalism without harming anyone and gives us incredible highs. But, those highs come at a price. The reason it’s so thrilling when we win is because there is always the possibility that we could lose. This week, first the Bengals brought me back down to Earth with their defeat on the Monday night game where they looked like the Bengals of old, blinded by the bright lights of night time football. And today, it’s the Buckeyes turn to return me to Earth as their luck finally runs out and they lose to MSU. It was a nice run while it lasted, but that’s it for the Buckeyes. Any chance of repeating as National Champions is gone. One week of imperfection and the season is over.

This tops off a week where Ty’s friend’s father passed away unexpectedly and another friend’s friend committed suicide. My brother and his family came to watch the game with us. I was wondering what the holidays might be like this year, now I know. I said would never be one of those people who hates Christmas because something tragic happened around the holidays. Well, that is partially true. Shayna’s death could have happened any further from Christmas coming on June 24th. So, the anniversary of her death is no where near the holidays. But being around family, seeing their families in tact, laughing, bickering, just being, reminds me that Shayna isn’t with us. I find myself thinking about Shayna constantly, missing her. They tell us that the departed are with us at family gatherings and I try to take comfort in the fact that Shayna is here. But, she’s not eating pizza, she’s not cracking jokes. She’s not here to hug me when I say goodnight to Kayla who is home for her birthday. I go to bed and close my eyes and I miss her so badly I feel like my head is going to explode. Perfection is a LONG, LONG way from here and there will never be even any semblance of it as long as I’m trapped in this flesh. I begin to sob. Ty and I are at the point where when this happens to one of us no words are necessary and none are sufficient. She just holds me while I cry it out. I actually think I feel Shayna’s presence and that does bring some comfort. I have to keep holding on.

As I begin to drift off to sleep I have the feeling I might not wake up. Just a feeling. Just a thought. To my surprise I reject it. “No. This cannot be.” As much as I want to be dead, I’m not looking forward to dying. And, as much as I want to be with Shayna, the thought of leaving Ty and Kayla alone is not something I want to do any time soon.

So, I learn to live with not only imperfection but with the impossibility of even the illusion of perfection. In life, as in the NFL,there are no perfect seasons.

Recently, I made the discovery/announcement/had the revelation that I am no longer identifying as a Christian.  However, I am determined to follow Jesus. That hasn’t changed not a bit. I’ve just moved too far from traditional Christianity to hold onto that tie. The cord has been stretched to the breaking point.

You see one of the problems with traditional Christianity is it can make us spiritually lazy.  Christianity teaches that Jesus paid the price for our sins.  So it is DONE.We’re in. We’re golden.  There is nothing more to be done. There is a debate going back in Bible days about faith versus works and it goes on to this day in the church. However, the tradition I grew up in is a grace-only tradition. There is nothing we can do to earn our salvation. Well, that’s the first line anyway.  

There’s a slight problem with this teaching though. On the one hand, they will say it’s Jesus’s faith, Jesus’ sacrifice that saves us. There is nothing we can do to save ourselves. There is no sin that can’t be forgiven. Except…. we have to believe.  We have to take that step of believing for the sacrifice Jesus made to count.  Jesus paid the price, but God doesn’t apply it to our account until we believe. That, my friends, is a work.  We have to muster up the belief. We have to do something. That, my friends leaves an unforgivable sin, the sin of non-belief.  That is not unconditional grace. 

Some have read the Bible and figured this hypocrisy (or more politely inconsistency) out. The one I know best while a Bible scholar, a dedicated follower of Jesus and big believer in the words of Paul, no longer calls himself a Christian because of this big difference.  He believes it is Jesus who saved us.  We do not save ourselves, even with our belief. And Jesus saved all.  No exceptions. There is nothing you can do or need to do to earn salvation. And, if you believe in the penal substitutionary atonement theory, this makes a lot of sense. 

Here is the way I see it now.  Your salvation is assured.  Whether you believe Jesus paid it all or whether you believe God never planned to send you to a fiery hell makes no difference in your salvation.  It will make a big difference in how you view God however.  Faith versus works is a non-issue for me because if you’re concerned about salvation, don’t be.  You don’t need either faith or works to “save” you.

The real thing we should be focusing on is salvation and sanctification.  These terms are Chrsitianese I know. But, basically salvation is the security of your soul and sanctification is the state of your soul.  If you’re still of the belief some will be saved and some won’t, you’ll need to wrestle with the salvation question. For the sake of argument, let’s say there is a point in time in which you save yourself (with your faith). But, you see this isn’t the end of the journey. This is the beginning.  If salvation is the only goal.  That’s easy peasy. Done. Just hit the “Easy” button Jesus provided. The thing is Jesus called us to live a better life, to sanctify our souls and to reach higher planes in the afterlife. Sanctification is a process. Sanctification is what we are here for, not salvation. We are here to improve ourselves, to sharpen our skills, to learn unconditional love, to learn to forgive quickly.  This isn’t something Jesus does for you. It’s something the Spirit does with you. 

I have just finished reading Roberta Grimes’ book “Liberating Jesus” and the similarity of the paths we have been on has caused me to have some interesting insights into the nature of reality and how we go about discovering what that is.  I have always been a seeker of Truth- probably more than your average bear.  When you lose someone as near to you as Shayna is to Ty, Kayla and I, you question everything including the very reality in which we live. Where do people go when they die? Do they go anywhere or do they just disappear? Will we see them again? Can they see us now?  All of those things most people tuck in the back of their minds as they go about their daily routines are now more important than “What am I going to have for lunch?” or “Where are we going on vacation this year?”

From since I can remember, I have been a believer.  And I was taught that faith. was the most important thing to God.  More important than what you did, was what you believed. If you could believe that Jesus was born of a virgin, did miracles, died on the cross for our sins and was resurrected and ascended into the sky, you would be saved and get a free pass to Heaven.  There was nothing else required. “Heaven? Well, we don’t know so much about Heaven. But, it’s gonna be good. Really good. Trust me.  You want to go.  So, stop questioning and just keep believing.”

That was good enough for a while.  Then, the faith started to slip.  That is a scary moment, but not a total surprise. During the indoctrination they tell you this could happen and it’s called backsliding.  “Hold on. You can’t let it go. Just keep telling yourself it’s all true and all will be well.” That only works so long, then it’s gone.

For me, I started to look for evidence. The Bible was no longer enough. I started looking at science. What could science tell me about the nature of reality? This is a scary quest, but I determined the Truth was more important than security.  If there was no God, no afterlife, no Heaven. Well, so be it. But, if there was I had to know based on more than something someone wrote down over 2,000 years ago.  I set off on this quest, having faith that would I found would not destroy my faith.  Quantum physics, a relatively recent discovery, has opened a whole new view of our universe and our ideas of what is possible and impossible.  Even the most rigid scientist are now very careful about telling us what is supposedly impossible.

Back to the Bible.  If God spoke to those people, why did God stop speaking? That made no sense to me. I began studying church history. i began studying the original languages of key passages in the Bible. I found out how the Bible was put together and some of the political agendas that shaped it. I began reading other scriptures- the dhammapada (Buddhism), the Bhagavad Gita (Hinduism), the Tao Te Ching (Daoism).  Wow. Such wisdom and beauty there. Frankly some are superior to the Bible in some ways (oops blasphemy I know). God hadn’t spoken JUST to the Hebrews. He also spoke to others. Hmmm… I reasoned if He spoke to others then, maybe he’s speaking to others now. Then I found out. Yes.  He is.  God is inspiring people today just as much as He inspired Moses (or whoever wrote the Pentateuch) and Paul and James and the rest.  God hasn’t stopped speaking, it’s just that many of us have stopped listening.  You can find some people with amazing revelations today if you just open your mind and your ears.

The conclusion I have come to is this. The nature of reality, the Truth is revealed to us in many ways.  It is discoverable by various means. Science is catching up with what philosophy, religion and faith has told us for millennia.  Ancient texts and ancient wisdom are being proven to be true. Near Death Experiences are becoming more common telling us about the afterlife. Hypnotic exploration of past lives and the world between lives  is telling us more about how this world relates to the afterworld and we’re even gathering enough information to begin to map out what that looks like. Ancient texts/revelations are one source or set of data, Current revelations/intuition/inspiration is another source.  Experiences like Near Death Experiences are another source.  Scientific exploration and experimentation, including studying things like quantum physics and now starting to study the nature of consciousness (which many scientists are now saying is the foundation of the universe- not matter) is another source. And science is even beginning to study things like remote viewing, extrasensory perception and even mediumship.  When Roberta wrote her book liberating Jesus, she looked at where Jesus’s words lined up with the evidence we are now finding from beyond life data that has been flooding in over the last hundred years or so and found amazing correlations.  

So, I look at all of the data ignoring none of. And in particular, I look for the intersections of these sets of data. Where science and ancient texts and experiences and intuition all line up is most likely where the truth is.  In this way I have become more confident than ever in what I believe even as I continue to refine it as new revelations take me in new directions and I believe closer and closer to Truth.

What am I supposed to do with my life now that my future is in the past?