As I’m sitting in my office, there’s a knock at the front door. Who is knocking at the door in the middle of the day?  Probably the FedEx guy knocking and running away again.  I take my time making my way to the door. When I open it up it’s my friend Kofi and his wife. Kofi is my Jehovah’s Witness friend.  Kofi has been knocking on my door for at least four years now. About once a month Kofi and his son, or his wife, or one of their church members will knock at the door. Kofi will share a pamphlet with me and read a couple of Bible verses.  He has not once asked me to his church, not once tried to coerce me into anything.  We’ve had several interesting discussions about the Bible and what it says. He enjoys listening to my perspective, at least he pretends to. I consider Kofi a friend. I admire this man’s dedication and his patience.  I don’t know what his end game is, but I look forward to our talks.

Today, it’s a video.  The video is a short video “Is There Hope for the Dead?” It’s a short video outlining the promises that Jesus was resurrected and that we too will be resurrected, someday, to live on the Earth again.  The thing about my conversations with Kofi, is I proselytize him just as much as he proselytizes me. I think I might have changed Kofi’s thinking on a few Bible verses. It’s a gentle, respectful back and forth.

His wife asks about the group that Tywana and I were starting (the local Helping Parents Heal affiliate). I tell them we’re no longer meeting, but I tell them about the 2,000 members of the HPH Online Group and the class I’m teaching on Thursday nights “Love Knows No Death”. Kofi suggests maybe I can use the video for our class.  I politely tell him most of us are Christians (or former Christians) and are pretty familiar with the promises of the Bible.  While these promises may bring some comfort and some can have confidence in reports of a man rising over 2,000 years ago and base their entire hope on that, when one loses a child, we often need more.  Vague promises of a resurrection “some day” based on a resurrection that happened in a far away land recorded decades after the fact aren’t enough. But, the good news, is that we have evidence, lots and lots of evidence, from today. That’s what this course is about. Like Thomas had to put his fingers into the scars on Jesus’ resurrection body, we examine the evidence that has been laid out before us to not just believe but to know, that we will see our loved ones again.  Even better, they have never left us. Whether these resurrected bodies will live on this physical Earth, we’ll leave to debate another day. But, yeah, Kofi.  I’m with  you brother.  There is hope for the dead and given that we will all be “dead” someday, that means there is hope for us.

Kofi and I shake hands, I close the door and go back to work, looking forward to the next time he stops by and we can share with each other.

Hellophilia-  the fondness or love for the doctrine of eternal conscious torment

Hellophilia is a word I came up with this morning.  If I’m supposed to write about something, I’ll often get a synchronicity of at least three events. Two can be a coincidence. Three means, “Write this down”.  A couple of nights ago we had some friends over for the Bengals game.  As the party was winding down someone brought up church. One of my friends attends the church that Tywana and I stopped going to a couple of years ago. There were a number of reasons I stopped going there.  Two of the big ones were their homophobia and their hellophilia, their love for the doctrine of eternal conscious torment. My friend brought up the fact that the church was about to start a series I believe called “Heaven/Hell or Here” or something like that.  She said that maybe I wouldn’t want to attend, but the services would be offered on YouTube. So, I might want to check it out.   She knows I am a universalist. I believe that everyone will (eventually) be reconciled back to God and I believe this is not only common sense, simply humane, and reasonable, but that the Bible, as flawed as it is, teaches this. OK. I told her I’d be willing to check it out and I would be more than happy to discuss the topic with her any time.

Then, this morning I wake up and there are several comments from my blog “The Beautiful Heresy” in my email inbox. The Beautiful Heresy is a blog I wrote to combat the notion of Hell.  I figure some spam bot has found the blog and filled up the comments with spam.  The Beautiful Heresy is a blog I started almost a dozen years ago which lays fallow.  I haven’t written on the blog in a few years and most of the comments these days are spam from people pushing mortgages or some nonsense.  Today, a couple of guys have engaged in a conversation where one is trying desperately to convince the other that in fact God is a monster capable of torturing His own offspring for an eternity and if you think so highly of Him that He won’t, he’ll torture you, too.  Interesting that these guys would choose today to go at it. I don’t remember the last time there was a running battle like this on my blog.

The third thing is that, as I’m sitting at my desk, I see an email from my former church. I unsubscribed to their emails a couple of years ago. Again, I don’t remember the last time I saw one from them.  It flashes through my in box just long enough for me to see from Brian Tome.  “What was that?”  I go searching for it in my inbox, in my spam, but I can’t find the email. I know what I saw. I keep searching. Finally, I find it in the trash.  It’s an invitation to a new Facebook Live thing they are doing.  Cue the Twilight Zone music.  Why did this pop through today?

OK. So I email my friend and tell her about the email I got from the church.  I tell her I would be more than happy to share my years of research with her any time she wants.  Yes, universalism is biblical. What is not biblical is eternal conscious torment. There are a handful of verses, mostly poorly translated, that refer to “hell” (which more often should have been Gehenna with no need of translation).  Where Jesus speaks of figurative, redemptive “punishment”. The word that should have been translated “age” or “ages” is translated into forever or forever and ever.  There is no mention of post mortem punishment in the “Old Testament”.  The idea of eternal conscious torment was only invented by the priestly class and later backed up by the state after the Jewish scriptures were written. Why didn’t/don’t Jews believe this doctrine? Did God forget to tell them?  If it’s so important, why is it completely left out of the “Old Testament”? And, no Sheol, is not Hell or a place of torment, King James translators.

More importantly, why the love for the doctrine of eternal conscious torment? Why the hellophilia?  I politely visit the comments where theses guys are going at it. I tell them I don’t do this anymore.  This is settled science for me.  Not only does the Bible not support this, but neither does common sense or experience. Tonight I have a Helping Parents Heal meeting with an afterlife expert where we discuss what people who have actually been to the other side report. There are no reports of eternal conscious torment. Zero, zilch, nada.  But, some people cling to a faulty interpretation of a 2,000 year old book put together by people who wanted to manipulate you into thinking they held they keys to your eternal future.   No, I ain’t got time to get into this with you. But, I do want to interject a question.  Why? Why is so important for you to convince people that God could or would do such a thing?  I ask them not to answer, but to just think about it. But, this morning, here it is in my in-box. It’s not that God does such a thing.  It’s a “choice”.   Just like a parent can’t control his child, God can’t control us and simply sets before us the “choice” to be eternally consciously tormented (without actually telling us directly this is what we are choosing).  Some people simply make this choice and God’s respect for free will is stronger than God’s love for us. Our will is stronger than God’s will because the Bible clearly states God wills that none perish.  So, He lets us walk into the fire and shuts the door behind us with a shrug of His shoulders. The guy tells me he’s a preacher and he’s never preached fire and brimstone.  “What? Why the hell not?”  If this is what people are walking into isn’t this the only thing you should be preaching?” I’m tempted to fire back, but, I hold my tongue. This was my life for a few years.  OK, preacher, you keep on lulling people into what you believe is a false sense of security.  Thank God they’re not in real danger.

Thankfully for him, my friend, and everyone else, they’re wrong about God.  I’m more than willing to share my years of research on the subject to anyone who has ears to listen and truly wants to now how amazing and loving God is, apparently too good to be true for many.  But, if you want to cling to your hellophilia, that’s your choice. I’ll see you on the flip side where I will say “I told you so.”

We’ve all seen the warning on our rear view mirrors “Objects in mirror are closer than they appear”.  In fact, I’ve seen it so many times I had to check to see if it was on the mirror of the car I’ve been driving for three years.  I wasn’t sure because I don’t see it anymore when I look at the mirror.  Our brains are developed to filter out things that are not important.  See the same message in the same place every day and eventually, you simply don’t see it. What if your mirror said “Objects in mirror do not exist”?

I’ve been dabbling in A Course In Miracles which talks about how this world is just illusion.  The science I’ve been studying tells me that time and space don’t objectively exist. They are constructs humans have created to keep everything from happening at once. Physicists are telling us that everything is “just energy”. There is no matter, as such (Max Planck) said this nearly 100 years ago. Ever and ever smaller particles are found and now we’re at the point where we’re saying there are no particles, it’s all “just energy”. All of this blows my mind. What do you mean there is no time? Of course there is. I experience it every day.

Today I’m pondering all of this as I’ve been listening to a series of lectures on A Course In Miracles and trying to wrap my head around these notions. I’ve listened to several lectures on A Course in Miracles in the last few days.  I struggle with it.   I stumble across a three minute video by Donald Hoffman, a professor in cognitive sciences. In the video, “The Debate Over Materialism Is Finally Over”  he claims (and backs up) that our perception of reality is not what reality actually is.  Humans have evolved to perceive what we need to perceive in order to survive. The brain and our senses approximate reality to the degree necessary for our survival but no more. It’s all designed simply to keep this body alive. Anything that doesn’t serve that function is filtered out.  We may not know what ultimate reality is, but we do know it’s not what our senses tell us.  This isn’t the first time I’ve heard this concept. It makes sense.  Brain function burns a lot of calories and can take a lot of time.  Our brains take short cuts to see patterns (and sometimes to create what turn out to be illusions).  OK. I get this. It’s like the convex mirror on the passenger side of your car. The mirror distorts the image you see. Why?  It’s designed that way to give you a wider scope of view.  It’s more important for you to see everything that is behind you than to know precisely how far it is behind you.  A wider scope brings in more information. A trade off is made that shows you more, but it does so at the expense of not being an accurate representation of how far away the objects are.

The claim Donald Hoffman makes is not that the objects we see are closer than they appear. It would be more like “Objects in mirror do not exist”.  I was intrigued so much by the video I spent the next hour and a half watching two more of his videos that went into more detail. I’ve been trying so hard to wrap my head around the claim that space and time do not exist and that material objects are “just energy”, and that this reality is an illusion.  He used a couple of analogies that finally (and I mean after many attempts on my part) worked for me.  Space and time are like the user interface we have to the world. They are the desktop on our computer. The desktop on our computer is a representation of what is going on in our computer.  But, when we look at an icon on the desktop and we see a “folder”, it doesn’t mean the emails we have written that are contained in that folder are blue and square like what we are looking at on the screen.  The screen is space and time.  The icons are objects.  Objects do not actually exist. They are merely representations of something else.  We move the objects within space and time and things happen. But, dragging a folder across your desktop and putting it into the trash doesn’t literally drag the files across the desktop. However, doing so does cause an action to happen in your computer.  The desktop merely shows us what is happening.  Hoffman goes on in a later video to talk about conscious entanglement. Everything is consciousness.  Scientists diving deeper and deeper into the sub-microscopic world of atoms and quarks and gluons, and whatever are like people looking at the icons on our desktop, drilling in, seeing the pixels and saying “Ah… I’ve found the ultimate reality” They’re still looking at the icon which is merely a representation.  The ultimate reality is actually consciousness. We are consciousness interacting with consciousness through forms. When we encounter an object whether it’s another human or a dog or a rock, it’s not actually the object that is real, it’s a consciousness that we interact with through that object.

Suddenly this clicked for me. The Course In Miracles stuff made more sense. The hacks people talk about with law of attraction, with prayer, etc. are when people get a deeper understanding of what is going on behind the scenes.  Instead of moving icons around on the desktop trying to manipulate form to get the effect they want in consciousness, they are going straight to consciousness which is what actually is the cause of any effect we see in form.

Coincidentally, the day I have this revelation is a day that I literally did not want to get out of bed. I woke up wishing I could just lie there forever. Taxes are due. I’ve put if off as long as I possibly could. The accountant has said I have to be there today to face the news.  I’m expecting bad news on another front. My mind has been racing through the worst possible scenarios and today is the day I know I’ll be hearing more.  I’ve been putting out “positive thoughts” into the universe, trying to manifest a miracle.  I go to the accountant and find out how much I owe in taxes.  It’s 4114 dollars.  Not as bad as I thought it might be. Sales were down last year, but the business moves we have made cut our costs even more than the lost sales. So, net profit was up about 25%.  Owing money is a good thing.  It means our profits were up.  On the way home, I’m thinking about the 4114 dollars I owe. I have to write the check to the IRS this afternoon. I look up and in front of me is a semi-trailer.  On the back of the trailer is the number 1441 (4114 rearranged). Odd. I make a mental note.  TtodayI get the news I’ve been trying to avoid and I got the miracle I was hoping for.  Wow.  Really?

If the first video by Hoffman whetted your appetite, here is the one that really put it over the top for me. The concepts can get a bit technical, but it’s the big picture that’s important.

Tywana and I appeared on Tara Robinson’s radio program on WAIF Cincinnati. We discussed our journey to that point with Shayna’s passing and the work we were doing with Helping Parents Heal.

I linger in the doorway
Of alarm clock screaming monsters calling my name
Let me stay
Where the wind will whisper to me
Where the raindrops as they’re falling tell a story

In my field of paper flowers
And candy clouds of lullaby
I lie inside myself for hours
And watch my purple sky fly over me

Don’t say I’m out of touch
With this rampant chaos, your reality
I know well what lies beyond my sleeping refuge
The nightmare I built my own world to escape- Evanescence- Imaginary

Today I feel exhausted.  Four situations in my life have me stressed, three  have me worried, two have me fearful. In one of the groups I’m in a mother who has lost a child says it’s one of those days when she just wants to give up.  She’s not suicidal, just wishes she didn’t have to deal with this anymore.  Tonight, in the group I’m in we’re talking about letting go of control of life and accepting what is. Someone says “Well, I’m sure those of in this room don’t have trouble with this anymore.  Let’s try to recall what that felt like.”  I say “Hold on there, missy.  Let’s not assume we’re all past that, maybe for some of us it’s not a matter of remembering.”  (paraphrasing here).

The idea that everything is in divine order is a new concept to me. I keep coming across it and I want so badly to believe it.  It’s easy to believe when things are going well.  It’s difficult to believe when things are challenging. I’m trying to accept it. I’m working on my analogies.  Life is like a tapestry and when we’re in it, we’re looking at the backside. It’s a mess of threads all mixed up and seemingly forming no pattern, but when we turn it over, we see the beauty that’s been there all along (this is my favorite).

We get home and Tywana and I watch a little TV while I piddle around on Facebook. I see there is a message on our Facebook page from a customer.  The message is simply “The website isn’t working.”  That’s all I need to trigger the fear.  Orders were slow over the weekend and practically non-existent today.  I had to resist the temptation to call my marketing people and my developers who are in the process of fixing the known problems and say “When are you going to get this done?”.  I start thinking “What’s wrong now?  What can I do?  It’s 10 o’clock at night. What if this can’t be fixed?  How will we live?”   All of those things come flooding in just over an hour after we left our meeting on how to live without all these fears and worries.  I jump on the website and submit a test order.  It goes through fine. There’s nothing I can do right now. So, i say to myself, “Let it go.  We’ll see what it’s like in the morning.” and I head off to bed.

The good news is I can usually set this all down and sleep.  I am pretty good at assessing what can be done about each situation right now, in this moment.  If the answer is nothing, I set it aside and say I’ll pick it up when I can do something.  I close my eyes and feel the darkness around me, comforting me. I feel the comfort of the sheets against my skin and I being to drift.  I’ve come to be aware of that moment between being awake and being asleep that the burdens fall away.  As I go down (or up) through various states of consciousness,  I feel at peace, I have no worries, no concerns, no fears.  I feel at Home. This is usually the moment when Tywana nudges me and says “Brian, you’re snoring.” and I reply “I’m not even asleep.”  Tonight, I get the nudge from her. I don’t reply.  I just roll over and reset, trying to get back to that place.  I like to hang out there.  I get impressions I can’t even put into words, but they bring peace.  In spite of my best efforts though, they’re fleeing moments, caught out of the corner of my eye.  I cannot explain, you would not understand.  This is not how I am. Then, I am asleep.  If I’m lucky, I’ll hit that state again in the morning on the way back to this world where I pick up the problems again and see what I can do about each of them.

The song lyrics are from Evanscence’s “Imaginary” which I wasn’t thinking about when I composed this blog, but it came up on my walk this morning and the lyrics perfectly reflected that feeling I have about sleep. Sleep, I think brings me closer to Home, an escape from this “reality”.  More and more, I think this is the imaginary world though.

p.s.- after my walk, I tackle the problem that caused our store to not get any orders.  It was an easy fix. We’re back in business.

Tonight, we have our first group meeting for the course Love Knows No Death.  Love Knows No Death is the single best comprehensive resource for understanding the afterlife.  It’s a workbook coupled with a series of videos that can take you from being skeptical about the afterlife or sorta believing to knowing beyond any reasonable doubt that the afterlife exists and that none of us truly die.  I found it to be so powerful, I wanted to share it with our Helping Parents Heal parents. Since Tywana and I decided to suspend the face-to-face meetings, I launched this little experiment to see how it would go.

We have approximately 1,900 people in our online Facebook group. I didn’t know if 5 people or 50 or 500 would sign up. Given that we’ve only had around 25-50 for an average meeting with great featured speakers, I thought we’d be closer to the 5 than the 50, which was OK by me because I am testing out an entirely new format where instead of me presenting, the group is a discussion group with me just facilitating.  How many people can we handle in this type of format?  Will people hog the mic? If they do, what will I do?  Can people learn to mute an unmute themselves to participate? What will we talk about? I decided not to cap the enrollment or require registration. Let the universe handle it.

All week long I’ve been fielding technical questions on how to get the materials, how to get into the meeting room, etc. I set up the room a week in advance and allowed people to get in and familiarize themselves with the technology before the meeting.  The meeting is to begin at 8:00. At 7:45 I jump on to find a few people waiting for me. I walk a couple of people through some technical difficulties, cleaned up an echo/feedback problem one participant is having and we are ready to kick things off at 8:00. I am pleasantly surprised that we have 30 attendees. Our best attended face-to-face meeting (other than the one where Ernie Jackson spoke) had about 8 people.  Not that the numbers matter, but it’s great to be able to reach as many people as are willing and needing.

I read a short introduction and introduce the first question.  Someone answers.  Then, someone suggests that we go around the room and introduce ourselves.  Panic begins to well up.  At the time, there are 29 people in the room.  I haven’t scheduled an ending time for the meeting.  I just wanted to let it flow and call it when it was done. I do some mental calculations.  29 people introducing themselves, at a minute per person, that’s half an hour. At two minutes a person, that’s an hour. I’ve been warned about mic hogs.I decide to try this. I ask people to give their name, their child’s name and a short synopsis of where they are on their journey. Amazingly, everyone is so respectful of other people’s time.  Some keep it very short, just the facts ma’m.   Others, I could tell want to vent more, so I give them some time.  I gently cut a couple of people a bit short.  But, it goes really well.  I am quite impressed with the group.

The group consists of 29 mothers, me and one father who sits by his wife but does not introduce himself (she does the introductions).  He observes the meeting. I don’t know what the deal is with men on these things, but it’s not my problem to solve. They just don’t show up.  Good for this guy for coming. I know of two fathers who could not make the first meeting.

The discussion is riveting. Everyone is pretty far along when it comes to this afterlife stuff. So, I do hope they’ll find value in the course material. Everyone has already had a reading with a medium, most of them life changing.  Most of us have had readings with Suzanne Giesemann- definitely life changing.

The real quality of the meeting is not so much in the course material, but in the conversation it prompts. Knowing that others are on the journey with you, that you are not alone, that the universe hasn’t singularly picked you out for this, is helpful. When Tywana and I were a few months in, seeing parents who were a year in gave me hope. Now that we’re two years in, seeing parents who are four years in gives me hope.  On average I think this group is about 2-3 years in. The shortest being only three months.  The longest being 13 years.  People are open and honest about their feelings both good and bad which gives others permission to share freely.

We even have the honour of having the illustrious Wendy Zammit sit in on the meeting. Wendy is observing us to see how the AREI group can use Zoom technology for their special interest groups.  I ask that she not judge us too harshly since this is our kickoff.  What Wendy probably doesn’t know is Suzanne Giesemann told me in a reading nearly two years ago that she saw me working with Victor (Wendy’s husband) in the future.  (cue the Twilight Zone music).

Around 9, the conversation is waning and I try to wrap up the meeting, but someone (Tracy) suggests we go a little longer. so we go until around 9:30.

I’d say the experiment was a success.  I think 30 is the right number of people for this type of meeting.  Everyone could speak when they wanted, but there were no big lulls. I wouldn’t want to have many more than 30. So, for future meetings, if they start getting more demand, we might have to cap them.  The Zoom technology that we used worked really well.  People from Australia to Hawaii to New England were on the call all of us in our various time zones and geographies and it was like we were in the same room. I’m looking forward to the next one and what else we can accomplish with HPH.

Many years ago I read the book “Wild At Heart” by John Eldredge.  It’s a book that opened my eyes in a way they had never been opened before.  John Eldredge talks about the transition from boyhood to manhood and how most of us are wounded in childhood (in particular by our fathers for boys).  The book was intended to help men understand and open up their hearts. And it’s an amazing book.  At the time, I was in counseling and the combination of this book helped me to understand how I came to be the man I am and to understand this wound (these wounds) so I could begin working on healing it.

One of my most favorite songs is That’s The Way of the World by Earth, Wind & Fire.  This line in particular stands out to me:

That’s the way of the world
Plant your flower and you grow a pearl
Child is born with a heart of gold
Way of the world makes his heart so cold

They’re talking about that wounding.  It’s not just a wound, as in John Eldredge’s book. it’s many wounds, from many sources.  Our hearts become scarred and, if we’re not careful, we can shut them down to protect from more damage.  In a small group I was in the other night, people were talking about their wounds from childhood, mostly from parents.  We all get them.  I don’t think any of us in that group would describe our parents as bad or malicious.  As parents, I’m sure we all give them.  I know I’ve wounded Kayla.  No one does this intentionally. It is literally the way of the world, as EW&F says.

What I didn’t know when I read John Eldredge’s book those many years ago is this wounding isn’t because of “original sin”. It isn’t Plan B.  It’s why we come to Earth. We come to be wounded, to feel that pain, to learn from it, to grow, and ultimately to overcome increasing our capacity for love, compassion, and empathy. If we didn’t want to be wounded, we would have stayed Home.  One of the Four Agreements which comes up all the time in the New Thought church I’m involved with, is “Don’t take anything personally”. And, this is extremely important.  When I was in counseling working through these issues, my counselor worked with me on getting through some of these issues from my youth and gave me “permission” to be angry about them. Wounds from the church, wounds from classmates, wounds from parents.  After all, if someone hurts you, it’s natural to be angry. Right? But, I was never angry.  She seemed to think I was bypassing a necessary step.  It just wasn’t necessary for me.  I think I intuitively knew not to take the wounds personally.  I knew people were doing the best they could with what they had at the time.  It didn’t make the wounds any less. I still had to work through them. I still work through them. I’ll carry the scars with me until I leave this body.  But, that’s all a part of the plan. Without the wounds I would not be who I am today. Had I never had anything to overcome, I could not be an overcomer.

Money can buy happiness.

The inverse is a lie, told by the rich, to convince the poor to be content.

Tell a starving child in Somalia that money can’t buy him happiness.

Tell the short-sighted, who can’t afford glasses, that seeing the moon clearly at night won’t make them happy.

Tell the nearly-deaf, who can’t afford hearing aids, that hearing their child’s laughter won’t make them happy.

So, I had this debate yesterday. The above assertion was posted by a Facebook friend. He claimed money can buy happiness.  Most of us would say it’s not true. But, we live as though it is. We pursue the almighty dollar like the next one will be the one that makes us happy. And he makes some good points.  Lack of money, in this world, can put you into a state of misery. It’s true that lack of money can lead to misery.  The lack of money can even cost you your life. So, wouldn’t having money buy you happiness?  Not necessarily.

Money buys things, not emotions.  I asked where one could go to purchase this “happiness”.  How much does it cost?  He referred me to his above list. These, these are the things that make one happy. Odd.  Everyone I know has these things. Why aren’t they are happy?

Most of us, everyone I know, has enough money to not be starving, to buy the glasses, to get the hearing aids.  Yet, many of us are far from what we would call “happy”.  In debating this with my friend I pointed out that if what he is asserting were true, anyone who had a certain amount of money would be “happy” and clearly that is not the case.  The data shows that beyond about $75,000/year in income, there is no correlation- no correlation, between money and “happiness”.  Once our basic needs are met, money doesn’t seem to impact our happiness at all.  I read a smaller study that asked people how secure they felt with their level of wealth.  People with over $70 million dollars in the bank often feel insecure about having enough money to survive. Let that sink in. Do you think you’ll ever have “enough”? (I’m asking you, Brian).

I would assert (and I don’t have the data on this one) that beyond a certain amount of income, happiness actually becomes inversely proportional the amount of money one has.  The poor and the middle class can always dream of making more money. We think that if we just had a little more or a lot more, it would finally fill that hole we have and we’d be happy. We could get the stuff. We’d have the security. And all of our problems would be solved. That lie gives us hope and the hope keeps us at least somewhat content. The rich have discovered that that extra money doesn’t buy them squat. They get to the end of the road, having all the money they dreamed of and they’re still miserable. Losing the hope that making more money will buy them happiness leads to despair. Whitney Houston, Michael Jackson, Robin Williams, Chester Bennington, on and on and on…  They not only had money, they had fame.  They had money that most of can only dream of, yet would you describe any of them as happy? I’m pretty sure you wouldn’t. They all killed themselves in one way or another.

Maslow’s hierarchy applies.  We need to have basic needs met before we can move to the next level, but once those needs are met, we do move onto the next level.  We are not content merely with having physiological needs met.  Physiological needs like food, water, and shelter must be met before safety concerns- not being threatened. We can’t be happy when we are starving. That’s true.  All of the above must be met, but then we seek love and belonging.  After we feel loved and that we belong, we seek esteem.  And after we’ve met all of that, we seek self-actualization, meaning, purpose.  Money can buy us levels one and two. Money can buy us things that meet our physical needs and keep us safe (to an extent), but money cannot buy us the things at the top of the pyramid.  Until we have those things, we can be just as miserable as the guy who has no food.

The key to happiness is not in what we can buy, but in how we view our circumstances.  Gratitude is what allows us to be happy.  If we are grateful for the food, the hearing aids, the glasses, we can be happy.  But, if we take them for granted, we can and will be miserable, even with them.

Unfortunately, there are crazy people in this world. Gun control would be as useless as the war on drugs! These idiots will get there hands on weapons regardless of the laws. I get and respect what you are saying. There was nothing anyone could have done to stop or prevent this. I carry everywhere I go. I’m now going to keep a rifle with a night vision scope in my truck. Hopefully I will never need any of my guns but I’d rather have them just in case. More importantly, I gave my life to Jesus and it’s all in His capable hands whether it be tragedy or jubilation! Prayers for all that are in our World.

I awake to the news there has been another mass shooting in America.  20 dead, more than 200 wounded.  The number quickly rises to 50+ dead, over 500 wounded.  If you’ve thought about the ripple effects of even one death or someone being injured in a terrorist attack you realize this is thousands of lives shattered. The families and friends of the victims will carry this for the rest of their lives.

Immediately after the shooting, the standard response happens. News stations breathlessly cover the aftermath.  Reporters fly into Las Vegas to do live shots where the murders happened. The gunman is analyzed. He’s just a normal white guy, a country music fan even.  How could we have predicted this? (maybe if we had known he had bought 40 plus high powered weapons).  The usual debate starts. Some want to ban assault weapons.  Others say this isn’t the time to talk about it.  “Thoughts and prayers” are offered.  First responders are praised because not even more lives were lost.  Whew!  We’re lucky.  Only 550 wounded.

This is the second deadliest gun attack in the United States in less than a year and a half.  Not the second most deadly. The second one that’s been the most deadly.   It’s our new normal people. This was one guy who owned over 40 high powered weapons and had explosives. He had over 20 of those weapons in the hotel room he used as his perch.  Imagine the carnage when (note I say when, not if) a group of determined terrorists does the same thing.  Three or four people with weapons in that situation, we’re talking hundreds dead, thousands wounded.

And here it comes on Facebook.  “All we can do is pray.”  “What is happening to our world?”  The the guy I quoted above summarizes so well many of the arguments I hear.  “Gun control is as useless as the war on drugs.”  “If people want to kill, they can kill with anything, a spoon, a knife, a hammer.” Sorry, I don’t remember the last time 59 people were killed with a spoon or even a knife.  I don’t recall 500 plus people being injured with a hammer. Guns are designed to kill and some guns are designed to kill massive amounts of people. This is patently obvious, yet denied by many.  I am done.

So many of the people who feel they have to be armed just to drive to Walmart, also claim to believe in Jesus’ divine protection.  “I gave my life to Jesus and it’s all in his capable hands…” and “I carry everywhere I go.” are perfectly compatible in their world.  No wonder all they can do is pray. They’re confused about how the world actually works. We can change things through our actions, people. We can do more than pray. If Jesus is protecting you, why do you need the AR-15?  I’m confused.

I’m done with the debate. I’ve seen this same movie too many times. If Sandy Hook didn’t change things nothing will. The numbers will continue to rise. The frequency will as well. We are all upset over Las Vegas and rightly so. But, we had over 15,000 gun deaths in the United States last year. That’s 41 per day.  Las Vegas is just a pretty bad day compared to our normal gun violence that we all think is just baked into the cake. Too many accept there’s nothing we can do about it but pray.  Losing 40+ people a day to gun violence is OK. That’s the price of freedom. But, llosing 50 in one place, that’s a tragedy.

How does this tie into my spirituality?  I don’t want to make this a political blog. Well, first of all I don’t understand why some of these issues are political.  To me, it’s clear we have a problem and the availability of certain types of totally unnecessary weapons with absolute no legitimate use for a citizen is a part of that problem.  But, here’s where I go with this.  I believe in divine providence/soul planning whatever you want to call it. Las Vegas is a tragedy from a human perspective and I wish we could learn from it (we won’t). But, those people who “died” in Las Vegas did not die. They rose up out of their bodies, probably gathered and said “Woah. That was wild.”, were greeted by loved ones, guides, and angels are celebrating their graduations right about now. Also, I’m learning to only deal with the things I can deal with. I’m out when it comes to debating people like the guy I quoted above.  I engaged a bit yesterday with a woman who used the logic that if “everybody” has an AR, she needs to have an AR. And on and one it goes which is why there is more than one gun for every American in this country.  I think I have more faith in Jesus than these so called Christians, because I don’t feel I need an AR to protect myself.  If/when it’s my time to go, I’m going to go.  Until then, I am divinely protected.

I don’t want to become callous to the victims of these tragedies.  My heart breaks at the tremendous sadness that is being felt by families right now. Lives seemingly cut short. Sudden loss.  It’s horrific and it’s unnecessary. But, until we stop thinking all we can do is pray about it, until we stop patting ourselves on the back for the brave first responders, it won’t end. All we will do is pray and it will continue. The first responders will do what they do- respond. But, the carnage will continue while so many of us cling to both our guns and our religion.