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Saturday Meditation: Truth

From today’s Daily Word:

The Truth of God is active in me.

In this moment of prayer, I release any misconceptions that have limited my thinking and being in the world. Spirit in me reveals Truth to my soul.

I speak Truth to my body with affirmations of health and wholeness. As I contemplate my home and workplace, my friendships and family, I affirm the Truth of harmony and prosperity.

Truth is unchanging. It is love, peace, health and eternal goodness. As I contemplate my life through the lens of Truth, I do so with thanksgiving. Thank You, God, for the eternal Truth, everywhere present, revealed in prayer and expressed through me.

Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may walk in your truth; give me an undivided heart to revere your name.–Psalm 86:11

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Saturday Inspiration: God’s Protection

From today’s Daily Word:

The presence and power of God are my protection.

I n my prayers and anytime I notice doubt or fear creeping into mind, I remind myself that I am always in God’s care.

Perhaps a situation is troubling me and my imagination is running rampant. Instead of giving into it, I redirect my focus to the protective Presence within and around me. Silently or aloud I affirm: The presence and power of God are my protection. As I repeat these words and take them to heart, any anxious thoughts are calmed. I relax into the clear knowing that God is always with me.

I know this truth for others as well. I visualize divine light surrounding my dear ones near and far. With peace and assurance, I say, “All is well.”

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.-Psalm 46:1

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God and Spirituality in Water Signs, Part Two

In Part One, I discussed the prevalence of faith, God and spirituality in Water Signs, and the important role they play in the development of the plot and characters. Coming from a traditional home and raised in the Catholic Church, it never occurred to me that everyday activities —  like reading my daily horoscope with my mom every morning before going to school, and later, starting each day with a passage from the Daily Word magazine — could be perceived by many as “anti-Christian, or anti-God”.

Neither has ever changed the fundamental beliefs with which I was raised. Nor did the supernatural experience I had with the “remote viewing” psychic who turned out to be the only one who could rid me of the menacing panic and anxiety disorder that plagued me for many years.

When choosing to make some of my own trials and tribulations public knowledge via the character of Madeline Rose, I also strove to uphold traditional faith. In the Prologue, readers discover that the two main characters are taking marriage vows at St. Ambrose Catholic Church in Deerfield Beach, FL and throughout the book, attending weekly mass is an integral part of Maddy’s life. In fact, much of her role as a catalyst for Ken involves helping him find his way back to their shared religious faith, although Maddy accomplishes it strictly through example:

“Hey Maddy?”

“Yes?”

“What time is mass tonight at St. Augustine, do you know?”

“Um, I am pretty sure it is still 6 p.m. on Saturday. Don’t think they’ve gone back to winter hours yet. Why?”

“Because I’d like to go with you before we have dinner.”

“Really?” Maddy was happily surprised by his request. Although she was a regular churchgoer, it had never been her style to force anyone else to adopt her habits; as long as a man respected her right to attend mass, she was fine with him staying home. Much more important to Maddy was the way in which he conducted his life. After all, Jake knelt in a pew every Sunday, and it hadn’t prevented him from mistreating her.

“Sure,” he said softly. “You inspire me, Madeline Rose. I want to do everything the right way.”

And of course, at this phase of the book, “the right way” also entails waiting until marriage before consummating their relationship, just like God intended — something Ken is more than willing to do, having realized from the start that Madeline is no ordinary woman. But such high ideals also cause complications in the relationship, not simply due to normal, raging hormones, but also to each one’s nagging insecurities.

While Ken is thrilled by the prospect of someday being Maddy’s “first”, he fears the fact that he’s been with other women somehow diminishes her opinion of him. In Chapter 6, during an intimate moment, he flat-out asks if she’s bothered by his past:

“Does it bother you that I’ve been with a woman before?”

“Kenny, no,” she sighed. “No…I don’t judge you for that at all. I mean, it’s completely normal. It’s just that…well…I wish we were on the same level playing field in that regard, that’s all. I know it’s probably too much to hope for with any guy, but it kind of makes me feel bad, like I’m not being fair to you.”

“Shh,” he replied softly. “Madeline Rose, I am here with you because I wanna be. There’s no one else like you out there. And if I have to wait to marry you before I can be with you, then that is exactly what I’m gonna do.”

And while Catholic faith and family upbringing are motivating factors, there’s also a much deeper psychological reason for Madeline’s reticence — the devastating duo of fear and insecurity. But try as she might, she remains frustratingly unable to express her true feelings to Ken who, as a result, spends a great deal of the book hurt and confused by her actions.

For Maddy, it went far beyond the “your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit” teachings of the Catholic Church, repeated so often throughout her schooling she could almost hear them in her sleep. She’d long ago accepted the validity of these words; indeed, she took them to heart and wanted nothing more than to give herself to her husband — whoever he might turn out to be — for the very first time on their wedding night. It was simply that, as she grew older, she realized how few people, good people, had practically applied the same beliefs.

In Part Two, as Maddy is adjusting to life in South Florida, coping with the news of Ken’s engagement to another woman, and running into some pretty dishonorable men (I will devote another post to the exploration of the minor male characters of the book, deliberately created as a contrast to Ken), her faith in God is the one constant in her life, aside from the support of family and close friends.

Moving through these difficulties compels her to develop a deeper understanding and relationship with her Creator, an effort that is eventually assisted by Ann Claire and Unity Church. However, Madeline never once renounces the tenets of the faith within which she was raised, perceiving these new insights simply as methods for breathing life into her belief system. As a result, she’s a stronger, more emotionally mature and spiritually advanced woman by the time she and Ken reunite toward the end of the novel.

For his part, Ken has also done quite a bit of maturing by the end — mainly due to the responsibilities of fatherhood, the pressing demands of a successful career, and the struggle to save a marriage which, in the end, fails in spite of his best efforts. Still, the process of honoring his commitments makes him a better man. And it is not until his divorce is final that he and Madeline even come back into each other’s lives — a reunion that is guided along by the advice of a psychic.

To emphasize the characters’ closeness with their respective mothers and to bring their spirituality full-circle, I purposely created Chapter 31 to center around a Mothers Day celebration at the home of Carl and Paula Lockheart, Ken’s parents. He and Maddy have just spent a platonic night together in Madeline’s home, after having spent an entire day rediscovering each other and clearing up the misunderstandings from the past. I will delve more into the specifics of this mutual emotional release in another post, but it is no coincidence that their forgiveness of each other’s previous transgressions and reaffirmation of their love for each other is confirmed through their attendance at mass the next day:

“Standing in the pew with him again, reciting familiar prayers and singing timeless church hymns had been such a powerfully emotional experience — and yet another example of having come “full-circle”. There were several moments during the service when she found herself dabbing at her eyes with a tissue, thoroughly overwhelmed in the best sense of the word. It was during those times that Ken would look over and smile, or squeeze her hand reassuringly.”

This divine experience is followed by Madeline finally meeting Ken’s parents after sixteen long years — a delightful scene that unfolds over dinner and karaoke at the elder Lockhearts’ Royal Oak Hills home, where among other welcome news, Maddy learns that Carl and Ken have also reconciled their past differences and now share a close father-son relationship. This scene also marks the first time she has sung in front of audience in quite some time, another example of coming full-circle.

Both characters also acknowledge the hand of God not just in their much-desired reunion, but along the broken road that ultimately led them back to each other.

Coming Soon: more fact versus fiction, thoughts on the character of Erin and a look at some of the other men Maddy dates.

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God and Spirituality in Water Signs, Part One

Front cover of my novel, Water Signs: A Story of Love and Renewal

As in real life, faith and belief in God and spiritual growth play a major role in Water Signs, particularly in the character development of the book’s heroine, Madeline. Like me, she was brought up in a traditional, Catholic home where the family attended weekly mass together, celebrated sacramental milestones (First Holy Communion, Confirmation, etc) and sent their children to parochial school.  One of the things for which I am most grateful to this very day is the solid foundation of faith my parents gave me — along with clear boundaries of discipline. While I never thought of them as being overly strict or too lenient, my guess is that by today’s standards, most kids would view them as “out of touch”.

Given the prevalence of current cultural problems like drug and alcohol abuse, sexually transmitted diseases and generally out-of-control, irresponsible behavior,  I consider myself very fortunate indeed to have grown up with parents who cared enough to set and enforce the rules. This responsibility mainly fell onto my mom, since my dad’s work as a surgeon often kept him out of the house during the after-school hours of dinner, homework and play time. Being a strong, independent and determined woman, mom was never one to scold, “Just wait until your father gets home!” when one of us was in need of severe reprimanding. Whenever there was a need for punishment (which, in truth, was rare as we were all pretty good kids most of the time), she had no qualms dispensing it. For me, one warning look from my mother was typically enough to change my behavior. I knew she meant business.

But I also knew her as not only disciplinarian, but as ever-willing helper with school-work, homeroom mother, Home & School Association President, confidante and comforter. Perhaps most importantly, she was also my first spiritual guide who taught me how to make the Sign of the Cross and recite prayers like the Our Father.  And the values imparted in the home were reinforced through 18 years of Catholic schooling — from Montessori to university.

However, our traditional beliefs never stopped us from doing something that I now know many Christians consider the work of the Devil — reading a daily horoscope. Along with the crossword puzzle, my mother and I used to take great delight in checking out that day’s forecast for Aries and Pisces, our respective signs. Never did either of us think of it as anything more than fun entertainment, kind of like a thought for the day. And in no way did it change our beliefs about God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit; it was simply an enjoyable activity that became part of our morning routine.

In the novel, the same is true for Madeline. Thus, when she unexpectedly makes Ken’s acquaintance at the Somers Point dance club in Chapter One, she takes no offense when he expresses his delight upon discovering that they are both Pisces. He’s further intrigued to learn that not only do they share the same sign, but also the same exact birthday, down to the year.  As an author, I gave my two main characters the same date of birth to enhance the “star-crossed”, “soul-mate” aspect of the novel, as if to suggest that God purposely brought these two souls into the world simultaneously so that they could experience life in a physical body and aid in each other’s spiritual growth while on Earth. Once they’d finally met each other for seemingly the first time (at least at the physical level), this purpose could be fulfilled. In real-life, “Ken” and I are both Pisces born in the same year, but about two weeks apart.

The Pisces symbol also reflects real life significance in terms of Madeline’s grandmother. In a previous post, I revealed that March 7 — the shared birthday of Ken and Madeline — was actually my maternal grandmother’s birthday. I’d enjoyed an especially close bond with her, having been born several months after my grandfather’s death and thus provided her a much-needed, joyful distraction from bereavement and sorrow. According to my mom, it was almost as if I were her baby, given the way she constantly doted over me. Although she died quite traumatically a month before I turned seven, my remembrances of her are crystal-clear, thanks to the close bond we’d shared, and the many wonderful hours we’d spent together. “Nanny” epitomized everything a grandmother should be: loving, warm, caring and comforting. A stickler for looking her best, she always had her hair done, and wore nice dresses with matching pearl necklaces and earrings. Her best accessories, however, were her ever-present smile and joyful disposition.

Which brings me to perhaps the most controversial element of the book, which is also an event straight out of real life. While still battling panic and anxiety disorder — in spite of embracing just about every known remedy from prayer and meditation to Yoga and exercise — I bumped into a very interesting woman at a monthly business/networking meeting. Trained in what is known in military circles as “remote viewing”, she was in reality what most civilians call a psychic — and many Christians a “handmaiden of the Devil”, although upon first sight, she looked like just another no-nonsense businesswoman.

When Maddy meets Ann Claire in the novel, it’s an accurate retelling of my own experience. Thus, when Ann accurately calls out Maddy’s guilt for “leaving behind a middle brother who is handicapped” (my brother Ralph who is in-between oldest son, Mark, and youngest son, Paul), and notes that she is still “in mourning” for a grandmother who’d passed away over 20 years prior, it’s an example of fact that has only been fictionalized marginally. I might have changed the names and altered the descriptions a bit, but the basic events are 100% true, including the fact that Maddy awakes one morning — six months after a private reading with Ann — to discover that for the first time in years, her head is clear, her stomach is calm and that the black cloud that seemed to relentlessly hang over her head has completely dissipated:

And exactly six months later, Maddy awoke with a clear head, a calm stomach and an overall feeling of excellent health for the first time in nearly eight years. It was as if a black cloud had finally been lifted, leaving a clear, blue sky and a brilliant rainbow in its place. Overcome with sheer gratitude, joy and relief, Madeline called Ann to share the wonderful news, exclaiming, “Ann, thank God I ran into you that night! I don’t know what I would have done if I hadn’t — I was at my wits’ end!”

“Madeline,” she replied dryly, “You manifested me into your life, don’t you know that? God led you to me, based on your own intentions.”

As was true for me at the time, Madeline doesn’t quite grasp the meaning of that statement until much later, when she takes a course at Unity Church in Delray Beach. She’d been reading Daily Word faithfully for years, having been gifted a subscription by her mother, and had even called their toll-free prayer line on many occasions, without really knowing anything more about the organization. That would change upon meeting the local minister and taking a few classes.

More thoughts on God and spirituality in my next post.

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