“In Celebration of Spring and Easter” (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

Easter Chick with Easter Eggs, Easter 2013

Easter Chick with Easter Eggs, Easter 2013

Spring has sprung, and Easter is again upon us!  There is much to be thankful for in celebrating another Easter – Christ’s ultimate sacrifice in giving his life for us, dying a horrible death beyond words and resurrecting his spirit for us.  Jesus is the God who continually forgives our sins and is our ultimate savior, unable to be replaced by anyone or anything.  And, though there are many things in our world by which we may attempt to replace our Creator, what it all comes down to in the end is that God is the ‘be all and the end all,’ the first and the last, the alpha and the omega. 

So, while many of us are spending additional time at church during this Easter season, reflecting, praying, and meditating on Jesus and his life, death, and resurrection, we must always remember that we are all His children.  With that in mind, those of us who have children of our own must be mindful of not only teaching them about our religious values, but also participating in fun Easter events, such as getting pictures with the Easter Bunny, going to Easter Egg Hunts, or enjoying other fun Easter or Spring activities, including something as simple as walking in the park and viewing the flower blossoms on the trees.

Easter Egg Hunt at St. Oliver's, Snellville, Georgia, March 30, 2013

Easter Egg Hunt at St. Oliver’s, Snellville, Georgia, March 30, 2013

I hope that everyone enjoys a beautiful, wonderful, rejuvenating, and refreshing spring.  And, regardless of the religion that you may or may not practice, hopefully, you will take time to reflect upon and be thankful for all that has been bestowed upon you in your life.  For me, as a Roman Catholic Christian, celebrating Lent with the culmination of Easter in spring is a wonderful time of reflection and renewal.  I hope there are events and celebrations in your lives in which you experience the same!  Happy Easter!

“A Spiritual Inquiry: What is Suffering?” (By: Michele Babcock-Nice)

Suffering.  Just what is ‘suffering’ anyway?  What is the meaning of suffering, and why do people suffer?  Why do we experience suffering?  Dictionaries and encyclopedias generally define suffering as relating to pain, distress, and/or emotional pain; anxiety, stress, or aversion to something subjective; and a negative emotion or feeling, etc. 

The New World Encyclopedia defines suffering “as a negative basic feeling or emotion that involves a subjective character of unpleasantness, aversion, harm, or threat of harm.”  I would like to take this definitions and understanding of suffering a bit further, expanding on it to include many types of suffering, including emotional, psychological, physical, physiological, social, moral, and spiritual suffering.

There are so many different types of suffering, and I’m sure that most of us have experienced many – if not all – of them.  During Lent this year in 2012, I especially and personally contemplated the meaning of suffering.  This is a topic about which I have thought in the past, though I found deeper meaning in contemplating it during this past Lenten season.  I thought about Jesus, and all the suffering, pain, anguish, and turmoil he experienced prior to dying as our Savior.  I know that it was God’s will for this to occur, though I wondered why – as I have wondered why throughout my life – this was necessary to occur. 

One man – one holy, Godly man – is able to save us from our own sinfulness through the power of his suffering, death, and resurrection.  Was there no other way to achieve that?  Why was it necessary that Jesus experience such horrific and indescribable suffering in order to save us?  Why, often, does society – even now – turn against those who are good, honest, moral, and ethical.  Why, sometimes, is it that those who are self-serving, corrupt, unjust, unethical, and immoral make gains in their lives over those who are the opposite of them? 

These are not only religious questions, but also philosophical and humanistic questions worth contemplating.  Why is there suffering in the world?  Why does it occur?  Is it something that is necessary to occur as a result of our own humanity?

When I think about suffering, I think about things that I have experienced in my own life – or even that which family members have experienced – and then, when I hear about another’s suffering, what I have experienced sometimes seems to pale in comparison to theirs.  An adult daughter of a friend and colleague is struggling to heal against breast cancer.  This spring, a young girl in my child’s school was recently diagnosed with bone cancer, while another was diagnosed with diabetes.  The daughter of a close friend has been struggling against breast cancer.  Still others whom we know deal with great physical or emotional pain each day. 

Others suffer with physical pain, including a dog that was reported to have killed a family’s two-month-old baby in April 2012.  Still others also grapple with suffering that they may not be able to alleviate, of loved ones killed and who we are unable to revive and bring back.  An example of this that is still all too fresh in our minds is the suffering and death inflicted upon so many at the movie theater tragedy in Aurora, Colorado (http://www.cbsnews.com/2300-201_162-10013055-2.html?tag=page;next).  And, there are countless other examples of suffering, pain, and death that go on and on, such as the fighting in Syria and Northern Ireland, and even in some of our own neighborhoods, such as those in Chicago.

So much suffering.  Why is there suffering?  Why is it a “normal” condition of human life to have and experience suffering?  Is it expected?  Is it necessary?  Is it an unavoidable condition of human life and of all life on earth?  When people worry, are nervous, or are anxious, they experience some degree of suffering.  When people are hungry, homeless, or in need, they are suffering.  When anyone experiences any type of abuse – emotional, physical, sexual, even spiritual – they are suffering.  How can we understand, alleviate, and/or overcome pain and suffering?

If someone has experienced or witnessed a traumatic situation, such as a tragic death of a family member, loss of their home due to a natural disaster, or was involved in a terrible vehicle accident, they have experienced suffering.  There are also those who self-impose suffering onto themselves, inflicting injury on themselves, drinking, doing drugs, being promiscuous, or doing illegal actions – they are suffering.  Therefore, there exist the questions about why people hurt themselves. 

Personally, I feel sorrow and sympathy for those who are suffering, as well as for those who have some type of need within themselves to create or cause suffering on or toward others.  People who are bullies, those who are abusive, those who commit crimes, those who are hateful, those who have no conscience or sense of any wrong-doing when they take life-altering actions against others – I feel sorry for them and I pray for them.  Indeed, I sometimes also feel anger, spite, judgment, and a lack of understanding for their actions, though I also pray for them. 

For these people I just described, I believe they are those who need the most prayers.  They may be those for whom society and the world let down, didn’t help, and turned away from, forcing them to fend for themselves, to survive in whatever ways possible, even if those ways were criminal.  I feel sorry for them, and I may find it in my heart to be forgiving, but I believe it is important not to forget and not to allow oneself to be open to being hurt and/or injured by them in some way again. 

Through all of this, we still come back to the age-old questions of what is suffering and why do people suffer?  How can we alleviate and/or eliminate pain and suffering?  These are questions that I am unable to answer, and continue to contemplate.  Perhaps you can share your own insights.

References

New World Encyclopedia.  April 21, 2012.  http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Suffering.

“The Aurora Shooting Victims.”  CBS News.  September 15, 2012.  http://www.cbsnews.com/2300-201_162-10013055-2.html?tag=page;next.

“Good Shepherd Sunday: Be A Good Shepherd Today and Everyday” By Michele Babcock-Nice

“Good Shepherd Sunday:

Be A Good Shepherd Today and Everyday”

By Michele Babcock-Nice

April 29, 2012

Today is “Good Shepherd Sunday,” a day for reflecting upon and remembering all the goodness that Jesus has done for us, particularly in his suffering and dying to save us from sin and damnation. Good Shepherd Sunday focuses on John 10 in which Jesus basically tells His followers that He is the Good Shepherd, that in John 10:7, He is “the door of the sheep.” In John 10: 11-15, Jesus states, “I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep…and I lay down my life for the sheep.” Jesus goes on to say, “I give unto them eternal life…” (John 10: 28).

God calls all of us to be good shepherds. The homily that the priest at my church shared today was related to that theme, again calling all of us to be each other’s caretakers, not just being shepherds, but being good shepherds. He also stated the being a good shepherd is not an easy task. In his homily, my pastor also stated that there are those who are wolves, who turn on the shepherd and the sheep.

Importantly and agreeably, we must all be shepherds – and good ones at that. In being good shepherds, God calls us to care for others as well as ourselves, and also to recognize the ways in which we have been sinful, as well as to repent and improve our behavior and our lives. And, sometimes, it is not easy to perceive those who are wolves. At times, wolves masquerade among us as those wearing sheep’s clothing.

It is, therefore, extremely important that we are all good shepherds, being good caretakers of each other, particularly those who are most vulnerable, most in need, and most innocent. Prayer, self-reflection, and requests to God from us to do His will are important in helping us to be better caretakers of others and ourselves, as well as to be good shepherds. Also, if good works are unseen and unrecognized – or worse, viewed as injurious – we must seek shelter, protection, guidance, and comfort from the one and only Good Shepherd, for He sees, knows, and understands everything, even if the world around us does not.

On this Good Shepherd Sunday, seek and strive to be a good shepherd, to your church, to your family, to your neighbors, to your colleagues, to your community, to yourself. Seek to do the greater good. Do not strive to be self-seeking. Place yourself and your works in God’s hands, and He will guide you in being that good shepherd whom He wants you to be.

References

The Holy Bible (1979).  Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.

Book Review of “Conscious Contact: The Twelve Steps as Prayer” (Dr. Mic Hunter); Review and Personal Reflections by: Michele Babcock-Nice

Book Review of:

Conscious Contact: The Twelve Steps as Prayer (Dr. Mic Hunter)

Book Review and Personal Reflections by: Michele Babcock-Nice

In his new book, Conscious Contact: The Twelve Steps as Prayer, Dr. Mic Hunter reveals to readers an inspirational spiritual awakening in his guidance for utilizing the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous in daily prayers for building strength of character, spiritual development, and resistance to vices present in our lives.  Dr. Hunter’s nearly thirty-five years of working with those who have addictions provides both professional and personal meaning, significance, and experience to the writings he offers in his book. 

Dr. Hunter’s insights and expansion on the Twelve Steps as prayers offer everyone – not only those who may be struggling and/or recovering from addictions – to mentally, spiritually, emotionally, and physically benefit from being both “in touch” and honest with themselves, others, and God.  Though I have personally not been afflicted with addictions to alcohol or drugs, I recognize that I am fallible due to my mere existence and humanity; and therefore, Dr. Hunter’s writing has personal and spiritual meaning for me in a manner that guides and leads me into a closer and more intimate relationship with God, myself, and others.

Dr. Hunter first begins his book by listing Alcoholics’ Anonymous’ Twelve Steps, as well as an adapted version of the Steps.  The Steps provide the basis and foundation for his book, leading the reader to focus on one’s own needs, desires, defects, and spirituality.  Dr. Hunter’s book is directly meant for those who are truly commited to making positive change in their lives, and can be utilized for a wide variety of reasons.

Throughout the next several chapters and versions of prayers in his book, Dr. Hunter writes insightfully and provides the reader much guidance and examples in using models and examples of prayers, as well as in developing and shaping them for one’s own personal use.  Dr. Hunter continually calls the reader to contemplate and recognize certain overall beliefs that we may hold about ourselves, as well as the fact that practicing and performing rituals – such as attending church, for example – may become insignificant, ineffective, or boring without the addition to them of things that have personal meaning – such as prayers that directly reflect our own personal ideas, requests, or needs. 

This is definitely as aspect of religion to which I can relate, particularly since I regularly attend church and participate in the same rituals week after week, month after month, and year after year.  Of course, there is nothing wrong with those rituals and I maintain a respect and appreciation for them, however, after forty years, they have, indeed, lost their impact on me to a great extent. 

In any absence of the opportunities to more personally and intimately participate in my church worship celebrations, the religious rituals designed to give thanks to the Creator have become empty and hollow.  As a result, I have personally recognized my robotic, obligatory, and expected responses and actions to them.  These feelings and actions, have therefore caused me to seek increased participation in my church services and activities, in which I regularly read, serve Eucharist, sing, or participate in other ways, such as in the instruction of children.

Praying Holy Child Figurine

Importantly, Dr. Hunters calls the reader to engage in prayers that will assist him or her in becoming a better person and in being victorious over his or her addictions.  Dr. Hunter also correctly observes that, while people do pray, they may not often take the time to listen to and perform the will for them of the Creator.  I was also importantly reminded of that while reading Dr. Hunter’s book. 

In developing one’s prayers, Dr. Hunter recommends his method of asking and answering several questions that he developed.  The questions include:”Is the focus on my behavior?; Is it simple?; Is it something I can do now or soon?; Does it align with my principles?; Would I be comfortable telling others?; [and] Do I have a sense of peace when I think about it?” (p.33).Dr. Hunter then goes into more detail about his questions by assisting the reader with formulating answers to the questions, as well as developing them into prayers. 

Within the Twelve Steps is information intended for people to personally apply to themselves regarding recognizing the existence of the Higher Power; asking for God to remove their faults; being honest about themselves, their character, and their flaws; being open to the care and guidance of others; asking forgiveness for those whom they may have harmed in some way; continually taking a personal inventory of our character and actions; improving our spiritual connection with God; and reaching a spiritual awakening through the practice of the Steps.  

Dr. Hunter shares examples of formulated prayers, both in general and those more personally-related, that include the aims and goals of each of the Twelve Steps.  Thus, the reader is both provided with the groundwork for using the prayers, given general models to begin practicing, and later, encouraged to more personally and intimately relate the prayers to his or her own needs and reflections. 

Of significance and addressed in his book, Dr. Hunter recognizes that we, as people, are human and have fallibilities.  He also recognizes that those strengths and weaknesses make us who we are.  In those individuals who are recovering addicts, Dr. Hunter addresses how he believes people should recognize their weakness and continue onward toward recovery should they experience a relapse.  It is important, therefore, for people to recognize that there is fallibility in our humanity – that’s what makes us human.  Not to recognize it is a danger, as is being too harsh or critical on ourselves for our mistakes, faults, and errors.  

To quote Dr. Hunter regarding relapse in his book, he states:”I have always thought there ought to be a word to describe a relapse that leads to improved recovery.  A word that indicates something valuable has been learned that makes future relapse less likely.  However, far too many people don’t learn from their relapse; either they don’t take the slip seriously and continue on as they had before, changing nothing, somehow expecting that another relapse won’t happen, or they take it far too seriously and are so hard on themselves for having relapsed that their guilt and shame drives them into a binge” (p. 81). 

Of further importance throughout the next two pages of his book, Dr. Hunter describes the manner by which people may grow and develop in their humanity, character, and spirituality, becoming better and more compassionate individuals.  He writes that through our weakness, grief, injury, and/or pain, we have opportunities to grow into people who are stronger and more caring and compassionate toward ourselves and others.  Dr. Hunter also identifies within those pages the needs that we have of God, as well as the hopes, feelings, and actions that we offer to God.  

As an individual who has taken inventory of my own character flaws and about what I would like to change and improve, pages 82-83 of Dr. Hunter’s book are those that most “spoke” to me, personally.  Throughout our lives, everyone experiences good, mediocre, bad, and even tragic situations.  Each of those situations is an opportunity for us to increase our spirituality, become better people, reach out to God and others for guidance and assistance, provide leadership and confidence, and be open to God’s will in our lives.  

In my own life, Dr. Hunter’s book pertains directly to me because I can relate and utilize his writings and developed prayers toward my own faults, including the desire for too much materialism, too little healthy eating and exercise, wanting my own way, being too independent, not being open enough to or trusting of others (but this is also exercised with caution), negative thinking and worrying, having unrealistic expectations, and other flaws.  Dr. Hunter’s book, Conscious Contact: The Twelve Steps as Prayer, thus, has personal and spiritual meaning to me because I can insert my own fallibilities, needs, and shortcomings into the prayers provided.  

Dr. Hunter’s book has given me a much-needed spiritual jolt in my general daily prayers, previous to which I had often given up due to their lack of meaning and eventual belief that little or no good was accomplished from them.  Though I do believe that prayer is helpful, over the years, it had just lost so much personal significance for me, causing me to give up hope that such meaning would ever be re-introduced.  

Conscious Contact: The Twelve Steps as Prayer is another of Dr. Hunter’s books that I will keep closely at hand, referring to it regularly in the redevelopment and enhancement of my own spiritual life and personal daily prayers.  Thus again, Dr. Hunter’s book has provided me with needed rejuvenation and revitalization in my own faith, prayers, and spiritual life.  More importantly for me, by sharing about his own humanity, Dr. Hunter has again renewed my faith in others, showing me that there are those in our world who truly care about the needs, feelings, and lives of others. 

Whether you are a person who is recovering from an addiction, or an individual who is seeking to re-energize your spirituality, Conscious Contact: The Twelve Steps as Prayer is another of Dr. Hunter’s must-reads!  Dr. Hunter has proven, yet again, that truly being “in-touch” with one’s inner self is the key to being in conscious contact with God, themself, and others.   

Source 

Hunter, M. (2012).  Conscious Contact: The Twelve Steps as Prayer.  Charleston, South Carolina: Mic Hunter.

Book Review of “Back to the Source: The Spiritual Principles of Jesus” (Dr. Mic Hunter); Book Review by Michele Babcock-Nice

Jesus Died so we May Live

Back to the Source: The Spiritual Principles of Jesus, by Dr. Mic Hunter, is a provocative, open-minded, “think outside-of-the-box”-type of work that appeals to the individual of any faith and who desires questions, answers, and principles about God, Jesus, and Jesus’ teachings to be explained and supported in an extremely “real-life,” highly-rational, thoroughly-contemplative, and wonderfully-inspirational manner.  

Dr. Hunter’s book is one that readers will find difficulty putting down once they have begun reading it.  When one starts to read it, he or she develops a hunger to read and learn more about what Dr. Hunter has to say.  The reader may even re-read and re-examine part or all of the book several times because it is so well-thought, provocative, and insightful. 

Especially for those who are interested in religion, Jesus’ teachings, Christianity, self-education, and lifelong spiritual growth and development, Dr. Hunter’s book is the epitome of works that reach the very depths of the human soul, and honestly and realistically examine the meanings behind the manner by which Jesus desires people to live.

A very modern, up-to-date, and quite all-encompassing work, Back to the Source: The Spiritual Principles of Jesus examines many present-day issues within society, including war, homosexuality, wealth, poverty, child abuse, universal health care, sexuality, divorce, capital punishment, and the manner by which women, children, and homosexuals are viewed and treated. 

Jesus Finding the Lost Lamb

Highly-supported are the themes that Dr. Hunter presents, with quotes and references to the Bible, as well as his utilization of additional published resources.  Dr. Hunter’s writing is based in the principles and teachings of Jesus – in the manner by which they were originally written, understood, and translated – rather than the “watered-down” versions of today that may exclude or conceal true meanings and understanding.

Dr. Hunter, in his sharing and support of his information in Back to the Source, successfully tells many sides of a story or theme.  In other words, he gets down to the “nitty-gritty” of current, real-life events, as well as particular events and issues in the Bible and in Jesus’ time.  Dr. Hunter tells it like it is, basing his writing in the love that Jesus has for each person, no matter what background, faith, ethnicity, sexual orientation, age, gender, or social status.  In fact, Dr. Hunter is so honest, sincere, and genuine in his writing in that it is so “real” that some readers may get a true education regarding Jesus’ teachings in comparison to certain “popular” societal views and practices. 

In Dr. Hunter’s book, we are consistently reminded that we should seek to orient ourselves and our thoughts and actions in the manner of Jesus.  We are informed to recall that we should and must behave with genuine love and compassion toward everyone, including our enemies.  We are called to remember that we must employ peacefulness and nonviolence in our lifestyles. 

In the manner of an enlightened individual who has had life experience and who is a man of deep faith, Dr. Hunter states that behaving in a loving, compassionate, and peaceful manner is a sign of strength rather than of weakness – as so many in our world seem to believe.  We are reminded that we must be open-minded, tolerant, forgiving, and supportive of others, especially those who are most in need, including the poor, children who are abused and neglected, and those who experience violence and discrimination, such as homosexuals.  We are reminded that people in need and in crisis are worthy of our aid and support.

Jesus Being Crucified

Back to the Source: The Spiritual Principles of Jesus is a work that has taught me more in my faith than I have learned as a lifelong Roman Catholic.  So often, we are “preached at” by our religious institutions without being provided with a greater understanding of Jesus’ teachings and principles.  Dr. Hunter’s book provides the instruction and education that is necessary and that is presently lacking in people’s everyday “going-through-the-motions” type of faith. 

This work further shares and describes genuine observations on how Christians and others of faith in God are not living as we should.  Dr. Hunter calls us to recognize that we should not point fingers at others without first reflecting upon ourselves, on whether or not we hold true the Ten Commandments, and on whether or not we are truly living in the manner that Jesus taught.  To support his observations, Dr. Hunter shares research and statistics of countries throughout the world that are comparable with each other, most particularly the United States of America. 

Therefore, by no means is Back to the Source: The Spiritual Principles of Jesus your common, everyday book about religion, religious faith, and spiritual principles.  It is a book that should be considered a thorough and educational research and reference guide to many Biblical passages and interpretations, the spiritual principles and teachings of Jesus, and a text that tackles current, important issues within our society and how they are – and could be – resolved and improved. 

Back to the Source: The Spiritual Principles of Jesus is a spiritually-enlightened work, written by an open-minded, educated, experienced, wise, and professional individual, who is courageous and unafraid of addressing what occurs, what is good and beneficial, what is lacking, and what is still needed in our society – in order that people may truly practice, understand, and “live” their faith.   Dr. Hunter’s many years of experience as a psychotherapist also give him the knowledge that certain programs for people who are struggling with addictions are based in Jesus’ teachings, and are beneficial, in practice and commitment, to those whom they serve.

Dr. Hunter provides for the reader an opportunity to increase his or her faith, to improve his or her life through a greater understanding and practice of Jesus’ teachings, and to truly, genuinely, and sincerely “live” as Jesus wants us to live.  We are challenged to examine our patterns of thought and action, as well as our lifestyles, so that we may more appropriately follow and understand what Jesus expects of us.  We are reminded to be guided by Jesus’ holy teachings in our lives, to correctly understand the true meaning of his principles, and not to stray from His real expectations. 

I, therefore, am extremely pleased to recommend Back to the Source: The Spiritual Principles of Jesus with the highest of praise and compliments, and without any reservations.

Source

Hunter, M. (2011).  Back to the Source: The Spiritual Principles of Jesus.  Charleston, South Carolina: Mic Hunter.