Wednesday, March 7, 2018

What We Need In School Instead of Mandated Prayer

For as much as I believe in God and the power of prayer, I’m often surprised by the calling for mandated school prayer. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not opposed to the idea of people praying together in school, per se; truth be told, I’d be in favor of it *if* we all had the same spiritual beliefs. But we don’t. We are a very diverse society, not to mention the fact that we live in a country founded on a number of core principles, one of them being religious freedom. Our children come from different families and cultures, with different religious and non-religious backgrounds. Even that statement could open a whole separate discussion on what it means to religious, or event spiritual, etc. Therefore, while nothing should ever stop a child who wants to pray on his or her own from doing so, I find myself at odds with the idea of making group prayer an organized activity in a public school.      

Aside from the above, when I see people shaming the absence of mandated prayer time in school, I wonder to myself, how many of those protesters are stressing the importance of prayer at home, with their own children. The home is such important place for children to learn about spiritual and moral principles, as well as for parents who believe in the importance and utility of prayer to teach that to their children. Perhaps the energy spent trying to socialize a need for mandated prayer would be better invested if we were to encourage one another to make prayer a priority in the home. 

Furthermore, and perhaps even more importantly, an absence of prayer in school does not have to mean an absence of God. Without forcing anyone to pray or to pray in a certain way or with certain terminology, we can still bring God into our schools; we can do this through the very values we help our children carry as they walk into school each day and interact with their fellow classmates. We must take the time, at home, to teach our children (both by words and by example) about kindness, humility, respect, forgiveness, and patience. We have to educate them about the importance of empathy and helping others. We should encourage them to stand up for others unable to defend themselves. We need to help them develop courage as they face different challenges. We ought to instill in them a love of nature. And the list goes on.

In light of recent events in our country, I have seen this wording displayed on t-shirts, posters, and memes, as well as being illustrated in comics and used for points in debate. 

“Dear God,
Why do you allow so much violence in our schools?
- A Concerned Student.

“Dear Concerned Student,
I'm not allowed in schools."
- God

Well, in reality, God is always allowed in schools. Ironically, our religious freedom granted by the US constitution actually protects the rights of all individuals, including students, to pray on their own in and accordance with their particular beliefs should they desire to do so. I’m thankful for this because, as a Spiritist, to me prayer is very important. I believe it is important for children to be taught both why to pray and what it means to pray and that we as parents and other caretakers in their homes and spiritual communities should help them develop the practice.  Like the moral values mentioned above, children can take this with them wherever they go, including school. They can know that when they want to ask God for help from or give thanks, they only need to direct their thoughts to God or to their spiritual mentors.

That said, if God is allowed but not brought into school as we’d like, that is evidenced by different circumstances than what the above-mentioned wording alludes to. Instead,

if we taught children to be compassionate,
if we nurtured our children’s emotional intelligence and taught them kindness and respect, and
if we put more emphasis on resolving and preventing bullying,

then, with this to begin with, God would be more present than ever in our schools.


if we could ensure that all children had the chance to learn on full stomachs and well-nourished bodies,
if we could make certain to include the arts as a part of every child’s education,
if our schools could be adequately staffed, with enough teachers for healthy class-sizes and with enough counselors to give children and parents the attention they need,
and more,

we’d go even further to bring God’s love to children and those whom we entrust with their care during some of the most formative years of their lives.

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Rather than prayer or even the mention of God by name in public schools, we sincerely need the essence of God – love and compassion. 

Thank you for reading.
Blessings to all, today and always

Monday, January 15, 2018

COCO, the Movie! – Great Message – At the Perfect Time – Beautiful Film

STOP!  If you haven’t seen this movie, I HIGHLY recommend you watch it and then, of course, come back for this post to see if you agree with my thoughts! Even so, I will try not to reveal too much detail for those who'd rather keep reading anyway. ;)


So. Who's seen the movie “Coco” ?  I absolutely loved it! For starters, the animation is spectacular. The scenery is authentic, and with some of the characters I even sometimes forgot I was watching animation! Those visuals, combined with great writing and the music that also plays a central role in the movie, make for an authentic, captivating presentation for this touching story.

For me personally, I've also had a special place in my heart for the Spanish language and subsequently the Latin culture ever since I started foreign language classes in High School. I also learned then about the Mexican beliefs and traditions surrounding the "Day of the Dead". As soon as I caught a preview for this Disney/Pixar movie, I couldn't wait to see it, but I loved it even more than I'd expected.

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Aside from the above, this film had something else that spoke to the passion of my spirit. That is the big-screen representation of life-after-death and the ever-important messages revealed through the adventures and discoveries of little Miguel, the main character. 
As the developing story takes viewers from the material to the spiritual realms, at times depicting both side-by-side, we learn through the eyes of Miguel's family (on both planes) what the "Day of the Dead" is really about. Unlike what those unaware may believe, this tradition is not another name for a "day like Halloween". It is about the belief in a sacred opportunity for loved ones in two different realms of life to be together and celebrate their bonds that last long beyond the grave. Miguelito learns, however, that each year when that special and highly anticipated day rolls around, only those with an incarnate loved one who remembers them and puts their picture out on the "ofrenda" (an altar to honor and welcome the deceased loved ones, as well as to offer food and gifts) are allowed to make a visit to the "world of the living". The sorrowful cases of certain discarnates that Miguel finds in the spirit world bring attention to the plight believed to be endured by those who are instead forgotten. 
While the Spiritist understanding of spirit life differs in some details from that of the beliefs behind the "Day of the Dead" in Mexico, one very important, underlying idea is the same - that of the continued relationships nourished by mutual remembrance! Those we love in the spirit realm do rejoice in seeing our accomplishments (especially spiritual ones) and our times of happiness, they support us in our sorrows and trials, and they may become one of the friendly spirits who offer us guidance as we manage our way through the material life. At the same time, those who find themselves in a position of suffering of some kind feel strengthened by our prayers and love. In any case, when we do want to connect with the spirits in thought, what matters most is not the time or place but instead the concentration of our attention and the sincerity of our sentiments. According to Spiritist teachings, the visits between incarnate and discarnate loved ones is not reserved for a single day of the year; barring any individual limitations at the time, our loved ones in spirit can be with and around us at any given moment. Likewise, as we sleep and our bodies rest, our spirits have opportunities to spend time with them in the spirit realm. 

Indeed, the endearing connections we establish with one another remain, even when we are temporarily separated by the incarnate state of one and the discarnate state of another. I really couldn't help but think that while perhaps even those who brought this movie to life may have simply thought it was great story to take to film, perhaps something even greater was behind it, influencing its eventual materialization. As more people begin to see the afterlife as something beyond simply an abstract existence, I believe the timing was right for the appearance of a movie of this kind. 

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As we also see in this movie, there was another great lesson learned by little Miguelito. He came to realize that family is of utmost importance, more than any fame or fortune. His "abuela" (grandmother) and other family members tried to tell him so, but with his child's spirit of adventure and his secret but uncontainable love for music, he needed to follow his dreams and have the experiences he did to learn this important lesson. In the end, his adventures took him full circle, back to his "familia" to whom his albeit stubborn rebellion ultimately brought healing for some long-held misunderstandings about their past.

Through this heartwarming story, "Coco" offers the world a wonderful reminder about the treasure of family and a valuable message about the importance of remembering our loved ones in the spirit realm. Those who await us "on the other side" indeed think of us and take pleasure in receiving our warm thoughts and prayers, knowing that we remember them with the same affection or that we are praying for them if they are suffering. We are so fortunate to have the body of knowledge and study that is Spiritism to bring us evidence (if not proof) of these very principles as a source of comfort and inspiration.

So take this message as inspiration. Let those beloved souls in the spirit realm know they are on your mind and in your heart.

Thank you for reading.

Blessings to all, today and always