Holidays and holy days are always difficult times if things aren't going well. Meant to be seasons of joy and gladness, they can bring sadness instead. Yet, these can be times of healing. For the heart can be opened more easily at any time that a people's traditions and culture bring them to a place of remembering the great secrets of life.
All traditions and all cultures have special days and times when their deepest wisdom and their highest happiness are openly expressed through commemoration and ritual, through song and dance, through familial gathering and the sharing of joy and the celebration of Life Itself.
Difficult Holiday Celebrations With The Family
Celebration wasn't exactly the mood in which Kevin Donka found himself at the start of one particular Christmas season, however. In fact, he was feeling very lonely, very separated.
If only they would understand! he thought to himself. If only they would stop being so critical! If only ...
Some serious misunderstandings had developed in Kevin's family. His sister was hardly speaking to him. His brother was angry, too. Even his father had joined the fray and not on Kevin's side. And while Christmas was not a time to be arguing, Kevin reflected sadly, it was hard to ignore the feeling that his family had made some very unfair judgments about him.
It all had to do with a business agreement he'd entered into with his brother-in-law. Somehow, everyone had concluded that Kevin wasn't living up to his end of the bargain.
If only they would listen! Kevin thought now. I'm the only one who's being fair about this, he told himself bitterly. I'm the only one. I'm the ONLY ONE!
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Anger and Celebrations Just Don't Mix
He was angry. In fact, during the week before Christmas it was just about all he could think about. He had almost decided not to take his own family to his father's house for the annual Christmas holiday gathering.
"I was distraught," he remembers. "I didn't know what to do or how to heal the disagreements between us. And I didn't want to go over there and have all that tension in the air, especially with the kids around. Kids can tell, you know. You think they don't know what's going on, but they know. They can feel it. I didn't want all of that spoiling their Christmas."
Kevin tried everything he knew to get past his feelings. He'd been reading, at the time, a book called The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz. Now he tried to apply one of the four agreements for healthful living mentioned in the text: Never take anything personally.
"It was hard," he says. "It's a great agreement to make with life, but it's hard when it's your own family that's being so judgmental, so critical of you. I thought they knew me better than that."
Kevin Donka is a chiropractor in Lake Hills, Illinois, and has healed many people there.
But now, he mused ironically, he could not even heal himself. Of course, this was a sadness of the heart, not a condition of the body, he told himself, and so it was different. The way things were going, this would take some divine intervention. Something much larger than anything they taught him in chiropractic school.
Then came the Saturday before Christmas. Dinner at the Donka home was normal, if subdued. Kevin knew he'd have to make a final decision soon -- and tell his family about it. How would he explain to his own children that they weren't going to see "Grampa" on Christmas Day? How could he share with his wife, Cristine, the depth of his bitterness?
Children Say The Wisest Things
"Daddy, Daddy, come watch me!" six-year-old Mariah squealed with delight as everyone settled down in the family room after dinner. Her green eyes sparkled, and her soft, straight brown hair swayed as she moved to the music of Britney Spears. She'd been practicing a song with her portable CD player all day. "Can you video me, Daddy?" She begged. "I want to watch it later and see how I'm doing!"
Kevin smiled. Children bring such joy. And his mind was diverted, if only momentarily, from his darker thoughts. So the two went downstairs to the larger space that in Kevin's youth would have been called the "rumpus room." There, he took out the video camera, found a good position on the sofa, and pointed the lens at Mariah as she started her routine all over again.
My Loneliness Is Killing Me
In the song Britney Spears sings, there's a line that goes: "My loneliness is killing me." But Kevin noticed that Mariah sang it differently. Mariah sang, "My onlyness is killing me."
"Sweetie, that's not what she says," Kevin gently corrected his daughter. "Those aren't the words." And he told her how the actual lyrics went.
Mariah thought for a moment. Then she said, "I like it better my way!"
Kevin shrugged, smiled, and they began taping again. This time, now in the mood to tease her father, Mariah did something straight out of her six-year-old impishness. When she came to the line on which her Dad had corrected her, she sashayed toward the camera, put her face directly into the lens, and sang right to Kevin: Your onlyness is killing you, Daddy!
Kevin blinked from his side of the lens, then snapped bolt upright. "I felt as if I'd been hit by a two-by-four," he remembers.
His feelings of separation from his family of origin seared through his soul. His own words came back to him. If only ... if only ... I'm the only one ....
Message From God
Then he knew that he'd received a message from a place far distant from both he and his little girl Mariah -- and yet, existing right there inside of them.
Later that night, as he lay in bed, he picked up another book that he'd been reading Friendship with God. After just a few pages, he turned to Cristine.
"I have to tell you about something that happened tonight," he said, and related his experience with Mariah and the song. "I think it was God talking to me about all this stuff with my family. It says in this book that God talks to us all the time. We just have to be open to it."
"I know," his wife agreed softly. "So, what are you going to do about it?"
A tear traced a path to Kevin's mouth, and he tasted its saltiness. He remembered the two questions from the With God books that he'd memorized.
Is this who I really am?
What would love do now?
"I'm going to go over there on Christmas Day and love them, no matter what they are doing and saying."
The next day, Kevin called his father.
"We'd like to bring the family over for Christmas, Dad, if that's all right with you. I'd like to get past all this stuff that's between us. Let's have a nice holiday."
His father didn't even pause. "That's what I want, too, Kevin," he said.
And Kevin's onlyness wasn't killing him anymore.
It is from the mouths of babes that we so often receive our greatest wisdoms, and the case of little Mariah Donka is a wonderful and heartwarming illustration.
Being Alone Against the World
Feelings of being alone against the world are very common. What is necessary to overcome this condition, as Kevin did in the experience above, is a moment of greater awareness. Sometimes the strangest things can startle us into that awareness. Like the innocent, seemingly unrelated, statement of a child.
But was Mariah's statement unrelated? Did it really have nothing to do with what was going on in her father's life at that moment? Was it simply the chance utterance, the naive outburst, of a rambunctious, playful little girl? Or was this a case of Divine Intervention, of the most surreptitious kind? Could this have been a conversation with God?
I believe it was. In fact, I know it was. And I think that God speaks to us through the mouths of children often. Why? Because children have not forgotten. Children have not been "away" long enough to have lost touch with the deepest truth and the highest reality.
The Truth Will Set You Free
I am reminded of the story I told in Conversations with God, Book 1 about the little girl who sat at her kitchen table one day, busy working with her crayons. Her mom came over to see what it was in which she was so engrossed.
"What are you doing, honey?" she asked.
The little girl looked up, beaming. "I'm drawing a picture of God!"
"Oh, that's so sweet," her mom smiled, "but you know, honey, nobody really knows what God looks like."
"Well," said the little girl, "if you'll just let me finish . . . "
You see how it is with children? It doesn't even occur to them that they cannot know what other people in the world -- the so-called smarter adults -- have no idea about. Not only are children totally clear, they do not judge themselves for saying what they think. Children just blurt out the truth, drop their wisdom, and dance away.
My wonderful friend Rev. Margaret Stevens tells a story on herself of a moment she says she will never forget. She had given her little girl a gentle swat on the bottom and a stern talking-to for something the child had done. When her daughter began to cry, Margaret looked at her and said, "It's okay now, I forgive you."
Her daughter looked straight at her and said, "Your words forgive me, but your eyes don't."
That's a stone-cold, dead-on insight. It's the kind of thing that only a child could see, and only a child could say, so clearly.
Margaret, today in her eighties, still uses that moment as a teaching tool in her talks and sermons, describing how her own child brought her a lifelong lesson about forgiveness, and that it must not be just lip service, but come from the heart.
And now, here in this story, Kevin Donka receives a teaching, too -- this particular wisdom transmitted "by accident" through the mixed-up word of a little child. But was it a mix-up? Was it an accident?
Again I say, no.
Accidents or Messages?
Nor was it an accident that God told me this story, through Kevin. For this teaching was meant not only for the Donka household in Lake Hills, Illinois, but for the many thousands of people who will come to these words here, in this book.
Now I want to tell you that the teaching is larger than you might think. For as I pondered the lessons in Kevin's story, I realized that there was more here than meets the eye.
I saw clearly that "onlyness" is a spiritual condition. It can be non-beneficial or beneficial, depending upon which way we experience it.
If we understand onlyness as meaning that we are separate from everyone else -- the "only one" doing this or that, the "only one" having a particular experience -- then onlyness will be debilitating.
If we understand onlyness to mean that we are united with everyone else -- that there is no one but "us," that we are all One -- then onlyness will be enlivening.
We are either made bigger, or we are made smaller, by our understanding of onlyness.
Here is my understanding.
There is "only God" in the universe. There is nothing else. Now that is an extraordinary statement, of breathtaking implications. Among them: we truly are all One. We are made of the same stuff. Or, as eminent physicist Dr. John Hagelin puts it, "at its basis, everything in life is united. Life is a Unified Field."
Just how unified are we?
The world was shocked to learn in February 2001 that the genetic structure of human beings is 99.9 percent identical. Findings of the Human Genome Project undertaken by two separate teams of scientists around the world produced startling revelations about our species -- evidence that finally gives scientific credence to what spiritual teachers have been telling us from the beginning of time.
Among the early conclusions of these scientific studies:
* There are far fewer human genes than anyone thought -- probably a mere 30,000 or so, and not the 100,000 that most scientists had predicted. That is only a third more than those found in roundworms.
* Of those 30,000 human genes, only 300 have been found that had no recognizable counterpart in the mouse.
You've heard that there are only six degrees of separation between all human beings? Well, there are only 300 genes of difference between human beings and Mickey Mouse.
Life, Love, and God
The more we find out about our world and how it is, and about life and how it works, the more we discover that we do live in a universe of what beautiful little Mariah called onlyness. Life is the only thing there is. All we will see as we discover more and more about it are mere variations on a theme.
I call that theme God.
What evolution invites us to do is to shift our thinking about onlyness, to end the onlyness of separation, and begin the onlyness of unity.
When we truly see that Life is the Only Thing There Is, then we will see that Love is the Only Thing There Is also. And so, too, will we see that about God. For Life, Love, and God are the same thing. These words are interchangeable. You can exchange any one for any other in virtually any sentence without altering the meaning or reducing comprehension. Indeed, you will expand it.
Life, Love, and God are communicating with us in a hundred ways every day, sometimes through the voices of children and sometimes through the whispers of a Friend Within....
Reprinted with permission of the publisher, Hampton Roads.
Moments of Grace: When God touches our Lives Unexpectedly
by Neale Donald Walsch.
We must share our stories about the sacred things we know, which we have learned in the most sacred moments of life. For it is in these sacred moments, these Moments of Grace, that sacred truths are made real for the entire culture. And it is in the living of its most sacred truths that a culture advances as the universe evolves, and in the failure to live those truths that a culture expires. The folks in this book, share theirs freely, so that people everywhere may be inspired by them, may learn from them, may come to remember something they've always known. I have an idea that those who do so are helping to heal the world.
About the Author
Neale Donald Walsch is the author of Conversations with God, Books 1, 2, and 3, Conversation with God for Teens, Friendship with God, and Communion with God, all of which have been New York Times bestsellers. The books have been translated into more than two dozen languages and have sold in the multi-millions of copies. He has written ten other books on related topics. Neale presents lectures and hosts spiritual retreats around the world to support and spread the messages contained in his books.