Thursday, July 21, 2016

What Happens to Our Faith When We Lose Someone We Love?

Many times I've thought about this. I've heard some people cry out, "Why did God let this happen?" And sometimes, there are those who completely lose faith in God because someone they love had passed away. Death is inevitable. Losing loved ones is inevitable. We know these facts to be true, so why do some of us get so incredibly angry once they lose their loved ones? If your faith in whatever religion you practice is strong, then why can't you comprehend that all life goes -- and in most faiths -- go to God?

Today is July 21rst. On this day, four years ago, I lost my father at 12:21 in the afternoon. He lost his battle with cancer. For some strange reason, most of our relatives die on the 21rst, and on the 21rst minute. And for some odd reason, I always see the number, 12:21, or 1221, as those who see 11:11 all the time on the clock.

My father was sent to hospice one week before he passed away. The thing is -- it happened so suddenly -- he declined really quickly after he had taken a hard fall which left him with a broken hip. After that, it was just spiraled downhill from there. I remember him saying to me, "Deb, all I want is another ten years!" And all he had was another week left. My family and I all trekked up to hospice every single day. On day seven, on July 21, 2012, I decided to take a "mental health day". My wife was home with me. I asked her to take the day off with me -- I don't know why, but now looking back, I do. I had grabbed a cup of coffee and sat outside on the deck with Madelene. Something strange happened though. I felt different. I felt a wave of calmness. And at 12:21, this moth with a descending angel on it appeared right on my coffee table outside, right next to my mug.

Funny, I seemed to have strengthen my faith due to losing my dad. I've had so many signs and dreams  that cannot be explained. It rejuvenated my faith to a much higher level. It was like, I knew that I knew that I knew...that something out there, someone out there, a God, a deity, a higher power was definitely evident and willing to show proof. Not many people get proof of a god or their own faith. Some people lose hope and turn to atheism, hoping to get questions answered, hoping to find themselves, and most of all, find God again.

When Dad left us, there was an unspeakable and indescribable sense of peace that overcame us. We were all able to sit down during dinner and talk about Dad in positive ways. It's not like we wanted him to leave us -- but we wanted the suffering to end. We couldn't bear it any longer. All of us, tired and exhausted from being "on call" for another trip to the hospital in the middle of the night, or taking turns sitting with him while he zoned out on all those pain meds that made him into a zombie. Most of our suffering was during the time of his suffering. So when his suffering ended, it almost felt like our suffering lessened, but now with the remaining loss, the remaining void of our father and my mother's husband. And as I've said before, the silence around here is almost deafening. His prominent energy, loud laughter, and his powerful personality is all a memory now.

If you've ever dealt with watching a loved one suffer with a disease, especially the big "C", it's just excruciating to endure. It truly puts your faith on the line. Many prayers go unanswered, but in reality, they were answered. We feel ignored by God or somehow, ripped off. During times of desperation during our grief, we sometimes want to reach out to psychic mediums and find out if they're okay -- as if we could possibly do something about it. We wander over into other faith systems and see what their beliefs are like. We then seem to close off "religion" or "God" a little, because sometimes, it angers us that we have to go through this heartbreaking time in our life. No one's immune to death or immune to losing someone through death.

For me, I delved back into my faith because I noticed the miracles. Be open to the little "hellos" and the subtle signs of God speaking volumes to you. It may not come in the form of a voice, a letter, an email or other types of "black and white" messages. You have to be open to seeing the possibilities of the afterlife. I became more aware and conscious. I started to wake up and when I did, I saw all the blessings of life and death.

Jesus said, "There are many rooms in my Father's home, and I am going to prepare a place for you. If this were not so, I would tell you plainly." --John 14:2

"We know that when this earthly tent we live in is taken down--when we die and leave these bodies--we will have a home in heaven, an eternal body made for us by God himself and not by human hands. We grow weary in our present bodies, and we long for the day when we will put on our heavenly bodies like new clothing. For we will not be spirits without bodies, but we will put on new heavenly bodies. Our dying bodies make us groan and sigh, but it's not that we want to die and have no bodies at all. We want to slip into our new bodies so that these dying bodies will be swallowed up by everlasting life. God himself has prepared us for this, and as a guarantee he has given us his Holy Spirit. So we are always confident, even though we know that as long as we live in these bodies we are not at home with the Lord. That is why we live by believing and not by seeing. Yes, we are fully confident and we would rather be away from these bodies, for then we will be at home with the Lord." --2 Corinthians 5:1-8

Planting a tree for Dad.
A couple of weeks ago, a friend had stated that it was going to be her mother's 4th year in heaven in a couple of days. The dates of our lost loves ones are hard to deal with. But if you can think of it in a positive way and do something constructively positive, like planting a tree in their name, or perhaps celebrating their everlasting life through cooking a nice meal -- then that day alone will feel "special" and not so dreadful. Be open to signs and hellos from your loved ones, especially on their day of passing. Let it strengthen your faith or see beyond this third dimensional world. This veil between life and the spiritual world is so incredibly thin, that we need to be open and receptive to actually feel their presence with us. Because they're right here, all the time, at any given time.

Have faith.

And may all of us rest in peace. Our minds are overloaded, overwhelmed and saddened by losses of our loved ones. They're at rest and we're not. Think about that for a second. They're actually telling us to "rest in peace" while their souls are free and painless. We suffer so terribly. Let them see us conquer this dreadful world. And let them also see us appreciate this beautiful world. There is good and bad, depending on how our minds perceive it.

Never lose faith.

For more of Deb's articles, please visit: www.debrapasquella.com or join her on Facebook and Twitter. Check out her cooking blog for some of her famous recipes!

Friday, July 08, 2016

The World's Gone Mad

The world has completely divided, separating into groups who are against other groups. Political, religious, racial -- we're all at odds with one another. I am opening up my eyes to one thing: just because one bad egg in a particular group goes haywire, doesn't mean all of them are bad.  For instance, I had a moment of insanity yesterday afternoon when one Trump supporter insulted me. I almost had a knee-jerk reaction to detest the entire group. But then, a few of my friends who are Trump supporters took the time out to explain their views to me, which were far from hateful. Then I saw one of my friends on Periscope. He's a black man in his mid 30's or so who was speaking about what happened to Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. He stated that all blacks and all whites should separate and live in their own societies. He was angry. He also said that the reason why most black people are poor and live in the ghetto with drug and alcohol addictions is because of white people. He said to me, "I bet you have a nice house and a car, right?" He assumed it was only because I was white. He blamed white people for "making" black people alcoholics. He said that white people pushed alcohol on them, leaving no accountability for the person drinking. As I kept listening to him, more and more people were commenting about his views on white people. He said, "All white people are racists -- you can't tell me otherwise." So I told him, "I'm white and I have no ill feelings toward you, or anyone else who's black." He then said, "Oh yeah? I bet your parents wouldn't let you date a black man...?" So I just told him it would be hard since I'm a lesbian. (Trying to lighten up the mood, but he wasn't having it.) I just left it at that. But the fact is, I wasn't allowed to date black guys when I was younger. I didn't understand it either, and I can only contribute it to the old fashioned Italian mindset...ignorance...lack of exposure...handed down views...and so on. I wonder why I never accepted the mindset as I was brought up with it. But he was way too angry to even talk to.

My friend, now former due to his anger toward white people, is angry and rightfully so I guess. Why are there some cops who shoot black people? Why are there some citizens who kill cops? And the people they are all shooting may not even be the opposition. We're labeling them as a "whole" and not getting facts. We're furious and taking it out on anyone who seems to be apart of the group we're against.

Why are we so against...?

The hardest division for me is that some (not all) Christians are against me being apart of their faith because I'm gay. I even heard one person say to me, "Either call yourself a lesbian and lose the Christian part, or be a Christian and stop being a lesbian." What a simple solution! I was pushed away, shunned and even reprimanded by my own church who said it was a "dead end road". Not all Christians treated me like that though. I was welcomed by many who accepted me. I even met Christian pastors and Lutheran priests who were also gay. I am incredibly thankful that my bad experiences with just a few Christians didn't make me "hate" the entire group. And I say "hate" because that's what we do when we feel oppressed. We feel resentful. We want justice and we start acting upon our initial fear and bitterness. When you act on fear and bitterness, it's "hatred".

Not all cops are racists. Not all cops are trigger happy. The same applies: not all black people have guns or cause violence. Not all black people are drug addicts. But we assume the stereotypical traits of a particular group. Just as you have with Trump supporters: not all supporters are racist and uneducated. Many at these rallies seem to hold that trait, especially in my local town, Sugarloaf, NY.  There's a really great Mexican restaurant named, The Cancun Inn owned by the nicest people. They inevitably got run over by the Trump train. A lady named Esther Levy and her friend, Alvin Goldstein said they got kicked out of the eatery because Esther was wearing a Trump hat and a Trump pin. But as it turns out, stories are being told that the couple had one too many drinks and started badgering the staff, saying that their ancestors came here legally and demanded proof of their citizenship. They were definitely invoking a reaction, especially wearing the Trump gear. You can't tell me that it shouldn't matter. If you know how hurt and offended Mexicans are by Trump's views, then you should also know that you're also going to get less than desirable service if you're doing something intentionally to hurt somebody. It's just common sense. As I stated before, not all Trump supporters are out to start a fight. Unfortunately, these people were.

Yesterday, they found a black man hanging from a tree in Piedmont Park in Atlanta, GA. The police department stated that it was consistent with a suicide, but still have yet to do a full autopsy. They said there were no signs of a struggle or foul play. Some people said that the Ku Klux Klan were seen passing around flyers that day. Many do not believe this man's death was a suicide. And honestly, I don't even believe it. I mean, on one hand, I can definitely see someone getting so frustrated over the racial wars that've been going on and just decided he didn't want to be apart of that world any longer. But you can't just leave it at that! There's so much anger on both sides. Black people are angry, white people are angry -- everyone seems to be angered by all this. Nobody's going to believe the police that it was just a suicide. Nobody. Even if it's consistent with a suicide, INVESTIGATE more.

There is a past that's not being forgiven. There's also a past that some people aren't letting go of, whether you are white, black, gay, Christian or Jewish. There are many black people who simply cannot let go and forgive the past of what their ancestors went through. At the same time, there are many white people who refuse to let go of racism, i.e.: KKK, southern white supremacists, political racists, etc. And because of this tragic history of ours, we continue to live in the past and not the present. We're making things worse and worse. Our egos are getting bigger and bigger. The anger we're holding onto will only manifest in a much larger capacity. It's almost as if we're moving backwards in society. The progression we've made has gone down the drain. The hidden resentment and anger has reared its ugly head. We're now seeing the true colors -- the true opinions, the true intentions and feelings towards certain groups.

It was really disheartening to see that anti-semitism still exists in the town that I grew up in. Kiyras Joel is a small Hasidic section of Monroe, NY. It used to be small, but now they have expanded and continuing to do so. They wanted to annex 500+ acres and expand their community within the town of Monroe. The citizens of Monroe are outraged, only because of the unethical ways they have obtained their land and water supply. Many are on Medicaid and welfare while maintaining high paying jobs in NYC that's supposedly not accounted for. Kiryas Joel is, at least on paper, the poorest community in the entire United States.  The incomes are not reported and section 8 is prominent in this community. The amount of corruption in this seemingly "small" community has the people of Monroe ready for war. Even though their anger is justified by the dishonesty of some citizens in Kiyras Joel, there are "some" people of Monroe who are so angry, that they are pouring out anti-semitism all over social media. I wrote an article about Kiyras Joel here. It speaks about my own experience dealing with this community. From observations alone, and by working for the local telephone company, they would provide me with a social security number in order to open up a new account. Most of the social security numbers were from a deceased loved one or a very young child. They used a dead person’s identity or a child’s, in order to open up an account.  I wasn’t going to say, ‘all of them’ do this, because that would be wrong. Many of the residents of Kiryas Joel were found on fraudulent assistance from the government or using somebody else's identity from Medicare or Medicaid to get a discount. So the bulk weren't all "disabled" or "poor" --- they were using fake identification cards to get a lower cost. The village of Kiyras Joel also paid off Gov. Cuomo under the table in order to buy more land that wasn't agreed upon by the neighboring towns. And so, the war begun. For a few of our Monroe residents, it was no longer about the corruption. The anger intensified so much so, that it became more bout anti-semitism than it did about the illegal business they were doing. Is anti-semitism a legit and rational response to the corruption of this community?

My point of this is: just because a few bad eggs have ruined the reputation for whichever group, you cannot place blame on all of them. Just like my black friend on Periscope -- he blamed ME for his oppression. He blamed ME for the alcoholism in his community. He blamed ME for his family and friends living in section 8. He blamed...me. I'm on his side, but yet he doesn't believe me. Why should he? I'm white. So now, in his mind, all white people are racists. He mentioned that I was never oppressed. I'm a white Christian lesbian. I have been with my wife for 22 years. It was only in 2008 that we were "allowed' to marry each other. And while I admit that it's not like being black and driving in a white neighborhood and getting pulled over, I also know that I always give the benefit of the doubt for all people: cops, blacks, criminals, white people, Hasidic Jews -- anyone who seems to be getting the backlash for their own people. It's not fair. I will never put a label on you just because you belong to a particular group. I will never assume "you're one of them", or that you hate me because "I'm one of them".

Shouldn't we all be one?

In a perfect world...in a perfect world.



For more of Deb's articles, please visit: www.debrapasquella.com or join her on Facebook and Twitter. Check out her cooking blog for some of her famous recipes!

Wednesday, July 06, 2016

When You Love Yourself, You're Able to Love Others the Same

"Is your god better than my god?"
Losing a friend is strange, isn't it? I've lost a couple. I guess you can say it ended due to a conflict of interest for the most part. Some of my friendships ended on some sort of strange political view, to which I decided to just end it altogether. The thing is, friends and family members really shouldn't discuss anything political. On a religious note, if you share the same faith -- fine. But there are people who just can't "share" -- they have to use their bullhorn and blast you out of the park with their "GOD" and how you should worship who they worship.

No. It doesn't work that way.

Many of my friends are usually Christian heterosexuals who feel the need to tell me that I'm going to hell for being married to my wife of 22 years. And of course, I'm confident enough in my own faith to believe otherwise. If you'd like to read about my theology -- click here. Trust me, it's not some "gay agenda" I'm trying to sell you. It's just my faith. But like my friends who worship another God -- we respect each other's beliefs. We don't call each other sinners. It's so strange because one would think two totally different people of faith would be of more conflict, but it's not. Christians are fighting with Christians more than they do than those who reject their god. It's not that I'm weak in my faith in God, but it shows that my faith and confidence in my God is much stronger than petty fights with someone else's ego.

And there's that word again: ego.

The ego needs to be right all the time. It needs to have you agree with them. And if it fails to do so, then the ego goes into fight mode. It's impossible to argue with someone with an extremely large ego. It's not even about the topic at hand anymore -- it's about them and their faith and that if their faith is wrong, then they basically lose. (Or lose it.)

So one day, since my highly religious friend continues to pray for me because she's convinced that my destiny is in a fiery lake of hell, I then decided to end the friendship altogether. It was too much maintenance and too much "explaining" to do. There were too many bible verses that were going to be tossed around like a volleyball. I mean, come on, let's face it -- it's totally pointless if you're not going to use scriptures to uplift someone. People are getting way too comfortable reading off scriptures and using it to bash other people with, or to make them feel bad about themselves. This is so wrong. The only thing they're doing is scaring them away from God.

Your faith, my faith, anyone's faith is not science-based. (No I am not going into atheism here, bear with me.) Our faith is of a spiritual nature which nobody can prove. Nobody. And although I have had quite a few spiritual experiences which cannot be explained or proven, this is why my faith is so strong. I know for myself that God is here, and that God does accept me 'as is' and doesn't think I'm a filthy heathen as all of His followers seem to think. He knows my heart and He understands why people do the things they do.

When you threaten someone's faith system that has been instilled for many years, even maybe since childhood, you threaten their ego. You threaten the one thing that has held them together. You also "may" be threatening their own true sexual orientation or identity. So there's that. A topic for another time. When someone is confident in their arguments, there isn't any name calling, nor is there any desire to continue the debate, because debates happen when two unconfident people are trying to seek out the truth. I don't argue anymore because for me, I already know. But I'm not going to push my religion -- eh that word irks me -- my faith upon other people and make them feel uncomfortable. It's my own personal journey. If you want me to share it, then I would gladly do so. But I wouldn't share it in hopes it knocks some sense in ya. That's not how I do things.

Let me sidetrack for a sec...

When my dad got diagnosed with cancer back in 2010, we were all so terrified to lose him. I guess for all of us, losing a parent is most terrifying. When he passed over, my world was muted. It's like walking into a busy fairground filled with people laughing and having fun, and then all of the sudden, the sound disappears. It's the only way I can explain what I mean. Someone muted my world. His voice would fill a room (or two or three) and his presence alone was always noticed. His spirit, his lively being, was so bright, that you couldn't ignore it. His wheezy laughter is gone, his loud jokes are now evaporated into nothingness. It's so silent around here. Even his personal belongings, trucks and bulldozers and heavy equipment, one by one vanished. The property looks empty (cleaner) but empty.

He rarely spoke about God, even though he was brought up in a Catholic household. Both my parents raised me to be Catholic. I went through the motions of communion, confirmation, Catholic night school -- you name it. But dad rarely shared his feelings about God, until he got sick. He knew that my wife and I were believers and asked us to pray over him one day. He held my hand and stared at me like a little boy, scared and shaken from the excruciating pain. The sicker he got, the more questions he asked. Then one day, Madelene's mother came over with her husband, both who are apart of the church. They took my father in a private room and asked if he accepted Jesus as his Savior. He accepted and repented of his sins. That's huge for someone to do when they're new Christians. After that day, it was as if he was a different person. He didn't fuss over the small things anymore. My mom even noticed it. And so, I never question where my dad is right now. In fact, I see him in my dreams and he helps me with many things. We have conversations in the dream. The number that I constantly see is 12:21 on the clock, whether day or night. It was the same time he went to be with God. I've been seeing that number a lot lately, especially when I'm going through a rough time. I truly believe his spirit is around me, as well as in heaven.

So my point of this story is this: my dad came to me in a dream (whether you believe this or not), and explained why he was the "tough guy who didn't need God" all his life. He said that his ego couldn't get out of its own way. His ego led him to appear tough, strong, resilient, but he stated that inside, he was just a scared little boy hoping to scare off the bad guys. He wanted to protect his family, and so he puffed up his chest and pretended to be bigger than he was. And he was a big guy! It all made sense now. He had to play that role in order to make us feel safe. But he didn't have to do that in retrospect. All he had to do was accept himself as is, but at that point, his ego was large enough to crush mountains. And so he continued on as the 'scary big guy on top of the mountain'. And we loved him anyway.

The ego hides the 'little boy' or 'little girl' that's deep inside. The ego tries to protect the vulnerability, the humanness of one's being. It's also a survival mechanism that many use in order to navigate around this scary world. Even those who live in downtrodden urban areas use their ego as a safeguard against other large egomaniacs. It never ends and continues to thrive off one another, making itself larger than the other. When it comes down to politics, especially for those who are oppressed, the outrage by many communities will also have their egos puffing out their chests in order to become heard and seen by all. We don't have any candidates who we can safely stand behind without getting backlash for our support. Think about it: each side loathes the other tremendously -- more than any other election in history. It's gotten so bad, that people have done lost their minds. Friendships are ending and so is our entire sense of respect for one another.

Whenever you hear me talk about politics, it's never one sided nor is it ever clear on who I am supporting. In fact, I rarely ever participate in political conversations, unless I see someone hurting another person due to religious views. The non-scientitifc side of politics seems to override anything logical. And while I rely on my "non-scientific faith" -- I also don't use it to beat someone to a bloody pulp with. Religion is a 'bad' word in my opinion. Spiritual faith should not hurt! What are we doing to one another? Why can't people accept others who don't necessarily fit their view of "God"? Why can't they just live their life and let others live theirs? They can't, because their ego is blinding them. Most homophobic people are scared that other people's lifestyles will impact the way their children live or persuade them to live an ungodly life. Perhaps they'll become one of those "dirty, filthy heathens". I've been called so many horrible names by our Christian community, and yet I still stand strong, being a Christian and relying on my faith and my God to get me through.

In politics, each side of the coin is corrupt. Why lose friendships and family members over such nonsense? How large is your own ego? Can you safely sit down with someone of the opposite political party or someone who doesn't believe in your god? How much strength would it take to fully accept someone for who they are and what they stand for? How much strength would it take to just love people as they are? But first, you have to love yourself. Maybe that's the issue we should all be discussing.

For more of Deb's articles, please visit: www.debrapasquella.com or join her on Facebook and Twitter. Check out her cooking blog for some of her famous recipes!