Blessings On Easter Sunday

kyle_ssi_003I stayed away from church of any kind for thirty years, and now after just a few years back, it is quite odd still for me to deal with the idea of Easter.

If Jesus died on the cross so to absolve me or cleanse me of my sins, then why does the idea of hell even exist? One minute I was told that Jesus had “saved me” and the next minute I was told, “You better shape up or you’ll find yourself in hell!”

These people were really adamant in their belief’s, and I was flabbergasted that they could possibly believe these things. Often I have said and will say again, that they had God made out to be a lot like Santa Clause.

I always knew and I know now that God is much more than that. When I was a kid I resented and hated these people and the word “Christians” was pretty much the same as a curse word to me. The word or the idea evoked in my mind someone who was holier than I was, someone who was very judgmental and condemning.

Unless you were on his team. Unless you cut your hair like he did. Unless you wore the same brands of clothes. Unless you were pretty much a clone of him.

Now that I am older, it is all okay. I really am okay with everyone, no matter what they “believe”.

I have come to understand that people who have “belief’s” are people who don’t know. Belief is fear. It is something you hang on to. Your team decides to wear the blue hat and the blue hat is the only way. I get it. People with belief’s are always trying to get you to agree with them or make you “see” how right they actually are.

A person who needs so badly to be right, must not be.

I don’t believe anything. I know what I know. What I know about God is that God is not a noun. God is a verb, an action in motion. God is in everything and everyone. There is nothing that is not “of God”.

What I know about people is that we are all people. We have all been born under different circumstances in to this world, and we all will live here and then die. We are all in the same predicament, but each on his or her own journey.

What I know about Jesus is that with all the miracles he performed, he didn’t have to get on the cross. He could have easily overpowered those that were there, or frightened them to the hills. But he didn’t. He let them put him up there, and he took all their punishment. While hanging there, he looked out at the people and he said, “Forgive them Father, for they know not what they do.”
Jesus taught me that by crucifying him, those people were actually crucifying themselves. They were damaging themselves. They were acting out of fear. The scene of the crucifixion was a picture of their insides. Instead of being angry with them, or instead of being afraid, Jesus wept for them. Because He saw.

What I know about me is that if you are a human, we are on the same team.We may not all know it, but I do.

On this Easter Sunday I invite not just you, but myself as well, to take this opportunity to let down our walls a little bit more. These belief’s that we hold like shields are unnecessary. Let us examine ourselves, take a look at our lives, and honestly see where we make decisions and are living from fear.
Of the thousands of ministers in the world who will tell you that you should be “God-fearing”, I am not one of them. I will tell you that “God is Love”. I will tell you that to make decisions and live our lives from Love is to live in Heaven. To live in fear is hell.

God lives within each and every one of us, not just in ministers or monk’s or the pope. God lives in YOU.

I probably would not be so graceful while being crucified, but I know that this is the goal. This is what to strive for. So let us strive to live our lives from Love instead of fear, no matter what difficulties we may face in our lives.

Blessings to you and Happy Easter!

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About Prayer(part 3)

Prayer flags at Kanuga 2013

Prayer flags at Kanuga 2013

“Our thoughts are prayers
and we are always praying.
Our thoughts are prayers
listen to what you’re saying. 
Seek a higher consciousness,
a state of peacefulness
and know that God is always there,
and every thought becomes a prayer” 

You are a prayer. Your life is a prayer. It is impossible to escape the fact that every single moment counts.

Every thought that goes through your mind.

Every word that you say.

Everything that you do.

This is how I’ve come to understand prayer. Prayer is the kind of person I am and the way I live my life. I have come to understand that all things in the Universe are in Divine Order, even when tragedy strikes, or even when I don’t necessarily agree with, like, or understand circumstances. I look up at the moon and the sun, and I look at my hands, and I listen to the voices of my wife and daughter, and I know that God doesn’t mess up.

And suddenly when I stop fighting everything, when everything is okay just like it is,… then everything is okay just like it is.

This feeling is a wonderful prayer.

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Religious Abuse

Kyle Shiver INHA

Kyle Shiver INHA

A few weeks ago I was interviewed on a radio show called “Different Strokes For Different Folks”, hosted by David Clarke.

He asked me some very good questions and one of them really took me by surprise. We were talking about the church that I was raised in, the Church of Christ, and he asked me something like, “Do you think you were religiously abused as a child?

My brain started spinning pretty fast because this was being recorded live. This was the first time I’d ever heard the term “religious abuse”, but something in the way the question was framed led me to believe that this might be a normal topic of conversation on this particular show.

I stammered some with my answer, but said “No, I wouldn’t go so far as to call it “religious abuse”.

I’ve been thinking about this ever since.

Growing up in the above mentioned church, I was in fact told a lot of things that didn’t necessarily make sense to me. Just to make a long story short, and also to keep you from reading all about my experience which you probably already know about anyway, let’s just say that they portrayed God to be exactly like Santa Clause. If you are a good boy or girl, you get rewarded, but if you are a bad boy or girl, you get punished.

By the time I was ten, I had already figured out that these people were doing the best that they could, but that they had no answers any more than I did. And it is for this reason that I said “No” in answer to David’s question.

As a child, when I’d ask a legitimate question about something, they would get strange looks on their faces and say something like, “Well you better believe that it is just this way or you will go to hell!”

I just wanted to know what life was about, why I am here, and what happens when we die. The idea that if I “Lived a good life and was “God-Fearing”, I would be rewarded with a place in Heaven after I died never resonated with me in the least.

There was a lot of fear. There were a lot of threats. There were no reasonable answers to anything. There was talk about Gods love and the greatness of His love, but there were too many conditions on this love for a boy to count on his fingers and toes.

Certainly I thought at the time, and I still think that fear and shame based religions are really sad. I knew then and I know today that the Love of God has no conditions on it. I know that God IS Love and to me the idea that God would love one person more than another person is as silly as you could possible get.

You could say that what these people are doing is “abusive”, but again, they really don’t know any better. They have been taught fear and shame and that is all they know. So what do you expect them to teach?

In any case, thank you for having me on your show David, and for asking such thought-provoking questions!

You can listen to the show HERE

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About Prayer (part 2)

IMG_1837I’ve been reading “Conversations With God” lately and Neale Donald Walsch explains how our relationship with God becomes like our relationship with our parents. We ask, beg, plead, and try to bargain to get what we want.

The trouble here is that God is not your parents and He/She/It does not work in this fashion.

All of our spiritual teachers tell us that if we want certain things, then we must do certain things. It’s pretty simple really. If you want to be forgiven you must forgive. If you want to get, then you must give. We are told to treat others the way that we want to be treated.

In other words, I had to do all the things that I really didn’t want to do. I didn’t even know how to be forgiving or how to be giving. I didn’t understand why anyone would want to forgive people who had wronged them in some way. I sure didn’t understand why I should give, especially since I always seemed to have so little.

But it works.

Try looking at it this way; Praying is not talking to God. Prayer is taking an action towards God. Prayer to me is action. Prayer is my part or my side of my relationship with God.

Prayer is working through a resentment or a grudge that I am holding on to and letting it go. If you don’t know how to let it go, then you have to find someone to help you. That is what I had to do and still have to do at times. “How can I see this differently?” “How can I possibly forgive?”

It is me who has to change, and when I do, I instantly feel better. See how that works? I do my part by forgiving and I am automatically forgiven.

Prayer is giving when you feel like you can’t give. Look around you and find something that you don’t use anymore, or something that you bought and never used. Give it away to someone who could and would use it! Give a little bit of money instead of waiting until you can make a big donation.  This is prayer.

These rules, or “Universal Laws” that are set down before us appear not only in the Bible, but can easily be found in any spiritual text. The rules do not say, “You forgive so and so, and then I will consider forgiving you” or “Give away a percentage, and then you might receive something back”. No. The Law of Cause and Effect” is exactly like the Law of Gravity. These laws are cut and dried, black and white. You step off the Empire State Building and we’ll see you later. You don’t give and you aren’t going to get.

In short, when it starts to feel like life has turned against me, I know better than to think that it is God turning against me. God is always there. The problem is that I am not in accordance with the Universal Laws.

 

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You Can Always Help Somebody!

IMG_2356You may be surprised to learn that many of the blogs I write, are directed at my self.

After all, I’m just a person like you are! I have plenty of room for growth and the Universe makes sure that I get my share of challenges. How else can we grow?

You know how on an obstacle course, one person will climb over a wall, and then turn to help the next person over? That is just how I see my self in life. There is just a certain point that you reach, and suddenly people start asking you questions, or coming to you for counsel, or just simply saying, “Please help me!” but in this instance, I am at the same time, attempting to climb my next walls too.

Thank goodness there are people there to lean down and extend a hand!

Here is one thing I know: It doesn’t matter how tough things are for you right now, you can always help somebody! Seriously. Help move a couch, give someone a few bucks, or even just a simple look in the eye with a smile.

Let us remember that it is in giving that we receive, it is in forgiving that we are forgiven, and it is in healing that we are healed.

Amen and so it is.

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About Prayer (part 1)

kyle_ssi_002 3Praying is not about asking, begging, pleading, bargaining, and surely not about insisting.

Prayer is also not just for ministers, swami’s, guru’s, Joel Osteen, or the Pope.

The truth is that God communicate’s with us all the time in many ways, and we communicate with God too. But too many of us feel that there is a “communication error”.

Maybe the angels are working on one of the tower’s? Or maybe they are just re-working the network?

Many times we feel as if we are trying to place a call, but it just won’t go through. There just isn’t anyone on the other end. Many of us have already just cancelled our service with God.

I have cancelled my service more than once, and I haven’t always been so polite about it.

It is no fun to be broke and not really know how you are going to financially get by. It is no fun to invest your heart and soul and everything else you have in to something, only to watch other people achieve success. It is also not much fun to struggle with things like alcohol and drugs, food, sex, money, and relationships. Heck, at that point, what isn’t a struggle? There have been times in my life when it was just absolutely no fun being me.

Until I learned how to pray.

It was the tough times in life that taught me prayer. You see, like many people do, I only prayed when times were tough. I only spoke to God when money seemed tight, or when I couldn’t get my way no matter how hard I tried, or when I continued to drink even when evidence showed that I’m not the kind of person that should drink.

If things were okay, I never thought about God for a second.

It wasn’t until I realized and was willing to admit that my so-called “relationship with God” was one-sided, that things could begin to change. Things really began to change when I saw and pondered the question, “What does God want from me?”

We each have our own ideas about what God wants from us. I personally lean towards thinking that God wants us to use our “God-given talents”, and of course we know simple suggestions such as “the Golden Rule”. No matter our belief’s or our religion or lack of religion, this world simply cannot function for me if I am in a constant state of take take take. Things just don’t work that way.

So initially for me, prayer became simply looking for ways that I could give.

- Do you pray only when you are in trouble?
- What do you think God would want from you?
- Can you find ways to be more giving in life? 

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True Sacrifice Is…

IMG_3335True sacrifice is to “stop thinking”.

When I am thinking a lot, it is either about a resentment, or it is about my “next big thing”. Sometimes it is about trying to make a decision, and I just cannot figure out what to do.

When I’m thinking a lot, there isn’t much emphasis on what is happening right now in this present moment, and this becomes a problem. It seems ironic to me how “thinking” and “problems” seem to go together hand in hand.

Is it the problems that cause me to have to think so hard? Or is it the thinking that causes all the problems?

It also seems very ironic to me that when I am centered and in this present moment, there is no problem.

It is only when I feel the  need to “teach someone a lesson”, or when I am torn between going one way or the other, or when I am trying to come up with a plan to get rich, that my problems seem to escalate.

Knowing that it is not my job to teach anyone a lesson, it is not my job to know what is best for me, and that my life is okay right now just the way it is, is a sacrifice. It is a sacrifice of my self. It is saying to God (or the Universe), You know better than I do!

When my brain gets hold of something and won’t let it go, I just have to ask my self one simple question; “Do you really believe what you say you believe?”

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A Night Owl and the Morning Birds

kyle 6 sunflowerMy grandmother used to tell me, “Your mother never could get you to go to sleep at night.”

I remember reading by flashlight beneath the covers, watching late-night television with the sound off, and I still consider earphones to be one of the greatest inventions of mankind. Mom always had a bedtime for me, and I probably never actually went to bed at that time. There has always been too much to do.

I’m a night owl.

The quiet of the middle of the night has always appealed to me. Everything seems more still, the over-all energy level of things goes way down, and there are a lot less distractions during the day. I’ve always been very creative with music, painting, and these days most of my time is spent writing. No matter what creative outlet I’m exploring, I have to “get in my groove”, and once I’m in, it is nice to be undisturbed.

When moving to a new city or place, the first thing I’ve always  looked for is a 24 hour grocery store and to see what my late night options are.

Yes, I have had “day jobs” and at times in my life have been on a “day time schedule”, and I can do that. But left to my own devices…. the night time is the right time.  My job as a musician is perfect for a night owl of course. Getting home from work at 10:30 or 11 p.m. is typically an early day for me, though I have been doing a lot more earlier gigs these last few years.

This particular morning finds me getting up at 6:30 a.m. This is getting more and more common due to the many church events I’ve been doing the past couple of years. The pleasure here is that it is like a Disney movie, with all the birds chirping in their morning song and only an occasional car going by in the distance.

I could sit and listen to this all day…

 

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Mrs. Janet Halliburton

Mrs. Halliburton at work!

Mrs. Halliburton at work!

The subject of this first edition of my new category called “People Who Inspire Me” is Mrs. Janet Halliburton.

Mrs. Halliburton is my daughter’s kindergarten teacher, at Marshpoint Elementary  here in Savannah.

Recently I got to spend the day at the school because of a new program called “Watch Dogs“, and it was really a treat to get to spend time in the classroom and on the playground with my daughter and her friends.

While in the classroom, sitting at a table with my daughter Lily and a few other children who were all drawing, I asked about these particular markers the kids were using, because, being an artist myself, I had never seen these particular markers and was interested in them.

Mrs. Halliburton began to tell me about the markers, and as we talked about the markers and where they came from, I got quite a lesson…

I’ll let her tell you in her own words;

With recent budget restrictions, our school system has funded the classroom teachers $200-$300 for start up supplies for the school year for our classrooms.  That would include (for kindergarten) supplies like: construction paper, paint, other art supplies, instructional materials, etc.  Lots of expenses come up during the course of the school year, so teachers have come to rely on organizations like Donorschoose.org to supplement our supply needs. This year I applied for and was funded for writing journals and writing tools like fancy crayons, markers, pencils and highlighters.  We use these supplies for creative writing and handwriting practice.  The kids really enjoy the fancy tools when they do their writing.  Donorschoose.org is a fabulous resource for anyone who is looking for creative funding for projects of all kinds.  I encourage you to check it out!

$200-$300 ??? That was the first thing that caught my ear. We’ll be nice and use the estimate of 20 students per class, then we’ll do the math on that. Not only are our teachers under-payed,(strictly my own humble opinion) but they are also under great pressure to get the job done without the proper supplies.(even the blind can see this)

I began to ask a little about her personal life, being careful not to prod too much. Mrs. Halliburton told me that she is married and has three kids of her own, who attend high school here in Savannah. When I asked her about her daily work hours, and again, I will let her tell you in her own words;

The work day for teachers begins officially at 8:15 and UNOFFICIALLY ends at 4:15.  I say “unofficially” because I rarely see my colleagues leave at that time. Normally, teachers take home work (grading, planning, preparing materials) well into the evening hours.  Often we are doing trainings or school-related workshops or classes in the summer months as well. So, our “clock” hours don’t really reflect the time we put into our profession.

“Clock hours”??? I wondered which “clock hours” were used in all of her efforts to obtain just the basic materials that are needed in the classrooms of our children.

What is inspiring to me here, is that Mrs. Halliburton is “solution oriented”. I’m sure that just like everywhere else in life, there are some teachers who are, and some who aren’t solution oriented, but Mrs. Halliburton sure is!

She could easily fall into all of the negative things that are clearly a reality in her situation. The pay, the hours, the lack of assistance and supplies, but instead she finds a way to get it done. And she gets it done right! Let’s not forget that it isn’t like she doesn’t have anything to do at home, with a husband and her own three kids.

When I sent this to Mrs. Halliburton for her approval, she replied and made mention that there are currently 16 teachers at Marshpoint who have submitted and received funding for projects from Donorschoose.org. That was music to my ears! It is an honor to know Mrs. Halliburton, and also to know that there are lots of people in the world, who are making a difference!

Again in her own words; Of course we are always asking our class parents for the “normal” school supplies, like glue sticks, writing paper, crayons, scissors, etc.  Most parents are very willing to send in reinforcement supplies as the kids run out during the school year.  I am lucky to have a very giving group of parents this year and I consider it a blessing as that is not always the case.  We have 22 students in our special needs inclusion/regular ed kindergarten this year.

I highly suggest that we check out Donorschoose.org and I highly suggest that we take better care of our teachers. Theirs are the hands that we put our children in to every day. You may not even have kids, but consider the fact that these are the next generation, and they will be running things before we know it.

Let us all take the cue from Mrs. Halliburton and be solution oriented people in our own daily lives. We all have our challenges in lives, and we can all choose to spend time in the problem, or we can spend our time in the solution.

Thank you Mrs. Halliburton for being YOU!

 

 

 

 

 

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Lunch With A Spirit

IMG_1838The other day I was blessed to spend some time and have lunch with Micheal Elliott.

Micheal is renowned for many things. He is a minister, he has fed many a homeless person, has authored and published 8 books, and is also well known for his appreciation for nudity.

I was very happy to see that he got dressed before trekking to our chosen meeting location. Many a body part have I seen at Huc A Poo’s on Tybee Island(our chosen location for lunch), but I am typically there with my band, and we play after 10 p.m.

We met at noon, the sun was shining brightly, and the tables on the deck were filled with vacationing families. They must all be here on vacation because I noticed that neither Micheal or myself saw anyone we knew, and between the two of us, I would imagine that we know every local. We were fortunate to get a table.

Micheal is a Great Spirit. He is alive. He has a heart of gold, and he holds nothing back. He is an inventor, a creator, he is a “doer”, and he is someone who is happening to life, instead of sitting around and waiting for life to happen to him. You know I love it!

Micheal and I both love UGA football, and we both love music, but what we have in common more than anything, is that we are both listening for God. We are both watching and waiting for our cue. We are both letting go and healing from “what was”. We both know that it is no mistake that we are here on earth, and that we both have a purpose. We just aren’t exactly sure what our purpose is right now.

Several years ago, a great tidal wave washed over us both, taking everything in its path back out to sea with it. Except for us.

When this happens in life and you find yourself standing alone on the beach, with everything that you knew before washed to sea, there is a period of “What the heck just hit me?” that occur’s. You are dizzy from the blow, reeling and injured. Your faith is questioned, your very foundation is shaken, and it takes time to put things back together again.

But things always come back together again.

We got to talking a bit about our experiences in working with other’s, and Micheal said something to the effect of, “People always say that God is not talking to them.” He quickly had to hold up a hand to restrain my excitement, because as he and I both know, God is always talking to everyone.

God is usually pretty loud.

The problem is that sometimes He’s telling us things that we don’t want to hear. Sometimes He’s telling us things that we just cannot accept. Sometimes He and all our friends will be trying to tell us something, yet still we cannot hear or see.

Sometimes it takes an awful lot to get my attention. Like a tidal wave.

Though our life circumstances have been vastly different, Micheal and I have both been going through this “re-construction” period at the very same time. We have each tried out various things, and we have each not quite found our spot yet. We also both have blogs in which we have written our way through this process, though Micheal is a much more open and personable writer than I am. We have each aired what we need to air, and done it in our own way.

Now we stand ready, aimed, and listening.

 

 

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