Welcome to another course that hopefully will challenge readers and students to extend the cherished boundaries of their thoughts, emotions and spiritual awareness.  Changing how we think from much that we have been taught can violate our comfort zones as well as much that we hold sacred.  Life itself can be a very frightening experience.   Very little is certain.  Nothing stays the same.  Our feelings and thoughts change constantly as we learn new ways to understand what we believe we know.

     Consider, for example, the nature of something many of us have in common Ė our relationships.  There are times when couples are challenged emotionally when they exchange vows and rings.  They can be challenged again when their potential for creativity brings a new life into our world.  Nations go to war and sometimes our loved ones are returned to us with bodies radically damaged or they may not return at all.  And there are times when marriages are destabilized because of issues surrounding finances, communication, loneliness and infidelity.

     How do we greet lifeís changes?  How do we grow in the midst of paradigms that have come from our respective religious heritages that may cause us to deny how we think and feel because of our need to please God or to remain faithful to the definitions taught to us about what it means to remain a disciple of Jesus Christ?

     This course will invite students to think the unthinkable.  It may offer guidance that appears to miss the mark or is down right absurd.  If the course were designed to comfort and reinforce The Good News that has been passed along for thousands of years, this course would not challenge our thinking.  The course would represent the same thinking that has been around for centuries packaged with slight differences and adequately footnoted for authenticity and authority from the Scriptures.

     I never ask students to agree with what I write.  I only hope that my words will open a door or two to new thought patterns, new insights, new ways to circumvent or understand what makes us afraid and to develop a new appreciation for the genius of our creator.

     Our creator has total confidence that all of us are fine just as we are.  Each of us is somewhere on the continuum of learning and growing.  Even those of us who appear extremely savage, primitive and evil are under the care of the one we call God.  What we do, think and feel on the stage of life demonstrates who and what we are at every level of our growth pattern. It should be pointed out that absolutely no one can fail.  Think of the implications of that last statement.

     Many of us become caught in a vast cycle of repeating the same themes until we learn to move beyond them.   The appearance of others being hurt while we learn is very real, but we need to remember that appearances are just that.  For example, Socrates was forced to drink poison.  Jesus was nailed to a cross.  Babies can be still-born.   Innocent bystanders can be caught in a cross-fire between warring street gangs.  There is no justice, of course, in such circumstances but did their respective consciousness vaporize because their bodies were destroyed?  The appearance that they died is very real to those who are still in solid form contemplating the meaning of such senseless acts.  In Godís reality, all of them are fine, alive and still growing.

     The fact that no one dies has nothing to do with a personís religious or philosophical orientation -- systems we have created to explain the unexplainable.  We are invited by religious authorities to have faith that our created explanations are real.  Yet, even the ones who have no religious beliefs will experience the identical transition from their physical shells as did all the popes and arch-bishops that ever lived.  This reality has nothing to do with divine rewards anymore than such an understanding was first required prior to our coming through the birth canal of our mothers.

     As we will see in this course, those who considered themselves highly learned and evolved in their religious beliefs, may have evolved only to their self-understanding.  Those who never read the Scriptures, never attended church services and never heard of the name of Jesus may be among those that are highly evolved.  Why?  They have personalized loving energy patterns and have never stopped letting these patterns show up during every experience.  This process was acknowledged by Jesus when he indicated that first will be last and the last shall be first.

     Often the beings that are ignorant of religious beliefs may have accessed the vast resources of their inner being.  Those who have tapped into their inner treasure possess a knowing and in that knowing lies great powers of spirit.  Their knowing cannot be passed on to others.  They entered the earth with the mission statement of lighting the path for others.  They plant seeds which may bloom in the consciousness of others, but no one can uncover the source of their wisdom in order to attain it for themselves without acquiring it the old-fashioned way of learning it one lesson at a time over thousands of years.

     Many come to the earth and settle for wealth, fame and political power.  Others create books filled with the wisdom.  There are the many remarkable rewards that come from the material world.  The wise old souls, however, remain amused as they observe the complicated dramas that unfold during humankindís struggles.

     In time, every road, every venue, every belief system enables believers to learn as they evolve into the beings they were created to be.  The meaning we give to our experiences is what separates our growth patterns, i.e. the sheep thoughts from the goat thoughts or the wheat from the chaff.  There is no race against time or anyone else to achieve what Christians call salvation.  The same destiny awaits all of us.

     While this understanding appears to have no divine justice in it, it is the ultimate form of justice.  Our creator has placed a compass in us, the existence of which may remain disguised, hidden or unknown for thousands of years.  As more life experiences are collected within us, we learn to discern the value each of them has for our continued growth.  This compass helps us to separate the glittering, often sought after, treasures of our world from the essential elements like compassionate living that will elude pilgrims until they desire it.

     No saviors are needed here because no one can save us from anything.  We have everything we need to find our way back home.  Sooner or later we will resonate with what will work for us.  Students of life learn only when they desire to have more than what is offered by the physical world that is constantly changing.

     Enjoy the course.  Help yourself to what makes sense to you.  The rest you may release and categorize as the musings of an overactive imagination.  The one element I would leave with you is this: If you do not enjoy life, if happiness always eludes you and if smiles are chased from your face, you are the one who must change how you think.  No one, no treasure, no savior can do that for you.  Life will always be what it is.  When you make a judgment about it, you are revealing only how you think, feel and perceive -- nothing else. Enjoy the course!