Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays. Whatever your belief or non-belief (to say you believe in nothing is still a belief system); whatever deity or non-deity you look toward for guidance, comfort, or even out of a sense of obligation, is a personal choice. It is a choice that no other person, group, or government should take from you.

Religion or spirituality should consist of what works for you. What helps you get through each day; what guides you with a strong moral code.

During this time spent with family, friends, strangers, a snow angel, or a cup of coffee, the message of peace, tolerance, and respect becomes loud. Thundering through valleys, from mountaintops, the message is everywhere. But what happens when the celebration comes to an end? What happens when family depart from one another, heading to respective homes before another year passes? Does the message become lost amidst the daily struggle, stress, and other outside influences and obligations? Do we lose our sense of community and connection to others? Do we lose a connection with ourselves?

The questions that should be asked: what brings you peace, what can I do for you, how can I be respectful, how can I show you compassion, how can I understand your beliefs, your point of view, beyond being tolerant.

We should not be asking: how can you believe in that, what good does that belief bring to you. We should not be condemning people who have belief, who believe differently than ourselves, who hold to that belief with conviction.

Wars have consumed our history, plague our present, and muddy the future. And over what? A difference of opinion or belief? An eye and prayer to a different god or deity, or to none at all? Why are we so threatened with what is different, foreign , or unknown? With 10-minutes of respectful listening, we could gain an important and vital understanding of what that belief system means to someone, why they hold dear to those convictions.

Some beliefs are to believe in nothing, that this is all a veil, a system, a programming that consumes the mind and robs the soul of a true existence. To this I say, that veil was created by a lack of respect, a lack of understanding, a lack of self-awareness, of our sphere of influence. The veil further darkened by clinging to suffering and things, becoming lost along a path when the path already exists.

And the way to that path is already known to each person. They just need a way to uncover and bring to the surface its knowledge. Some do this through believing in nothing, others through the religion of their choice, because that is what works for them.

On this spring day with the tinge of winter, Easter is upon us. The cream corn casserole, a staple and tradition that my grandfather started and I humbly continue to prepare for the holidays, is in the oven and filling the house with memories. Leroy lays at my feet while I watch robins cling to thin branches waving back and forth from a strong northern wind. Scattered on the mushy and brown grass are berries from the tree that birds have partially eaten and discarded. Large raven shadows race back and forth from rooftops. Beneath the blue pock-marked sky, nature plays a song, and each musician has a role.

What does this mesmerizing scene have to do with belief? I am humbled and feel privileged to be a part of this, and from that I derive peace, respect, and love. Not only for each blade of grass, each tree, each bird, but everything that plays a part. I realize that through this complex and beautiful system, we are all connected, and play our part to preserve, grow, and nurture all creatures and beings.

What you believe in, and what you derive your purpose in life, what gives you a spark to keep going through the darkest depths and the emptiest of fields, is all that matters if you are true to yourself, and have respect, peace, and love for all others.

I hope we all find some peace, comfort, and belief today.

My beliefs have changed and morphed much over the years.  As I have gained more experience, listened to others, and finally listened to myself, I have come to a set of beliefs that work for me internally.  That work for me as I venture out into the world and interact with others.  With a strong moral code, understanding, and tolerance for others beliefs, how can this not work?  Why would I be sent to hell for that?

It is about personal choice, what works for you, and what works within community as we are all in this together regardless of your gender, orientation, belief, color, background.