About 2 months after Chris was born, I soon lost my desire to go to the Self Realization Temple church services and mediations. I had been the choir director for the past 8 years or so, and now I did not have time to do this much loved activity. I was not seeing my life spiritually transformed as I wanted by being part of Self Realization Fellowship. If anything, I had felt I was betrayed by people who I wished had been more supportive of my marriage. I had long ago left the Church Universal and Triumphant after about two years of involvement. I perceived that it was a cult, and as much as I longed to be a part of that community, I knew it was not healthy for me.
I have decided that I will recall the times that I felt drawn to Jesus and repelled by his followers in the following words.
When I was pregnant with Chris, I felt drawn to record a tape with only Christian songs which I called Amazing Grace. Amazing Grace, How Great Thou Art, Just a Closer Walk with Thee, In the Garden. I also recorded “Open to Peace,” which has songs welcoming new life and songs about how God loves us and loves others through us.
Once when I was pregnant with Chris, I wanted to be alone and escape the torment I was experiencing of being drawn to a man outside my marriage. I was going to go back packing by myself. While on the “devil’s slide” trail, people warned me that it was going to snow, and finally I heeded their warnings. I found a bed and breakfast where the kind owners gave me a tremendous discount so I could stay there. I experienced a profound peace and the love of God descending on me. It was what I was yearning for by going backpacking, but I found it in a warm, cozy room decorated as a school room. This was so like Jesus and his unconditional love.
When I had a home birth with Chris, I was surrounded by beautiful ladies who showered so much love on Cliff and I. I have since lost the video, but I used to love to watch the scene where someone taped the expressions of the women right after Chris was born. Jesus just had to have been present. When Chris emerged, the song I recorded on Open to Peace was playing called. “Welcome to this world you child”. Even though I did not want to ever have children, the story of how Chris was conceived is a miracle, and in some ways a mystery. Yes, that is another story.
As director of the SRF choir, I was inspired to make us a service-centered choir. We were not allowed to sing during church services—only chanting was practiced. But our Temple had Christmas and Easter events which were outside of the services. Thus we sang Christian songs for those events. We also went to nursing homes, children’s hospitals and other places where Christian songs were welcomed, along with the oldies but goodies type like Let me Call you Sweetheart. Songs like Seek and Ye Shall Find, Amazing Grace, and Just a Closer Walk were some of our favorites.
I loved to lead sing alongs, and made a song book so people could know the words. It included the words of many Christian songs. I started an organization called “Sing For Service” where I encouraged people to go to nursing homes all over San Diego county to sing. Many used my book and sang Christian songs.
While leading a Sing for Service group, I met Peter, who had a similar passion for ministering to the abandoned and elderly. He taught me songs which were contemporary to the 80’s with short repetitive verses like Rejoice in the Lord Always. I went to his church, and really wanted to become a Christian. But when I took guitar lessons from him because I was attracted to him (but I did learn some really good things as well!), and I told him of my attraction, he cut off all association with him so I stopped going to church and I think I was once again turned off by Christians.
Christmas carols were my favorite songs, and every year I created a beautiful Christmas program where we wove songs, scriptures, and uplifting stories about Christmas. It got so popular at the SRF temple that we had to have two showings. Once we shared the songs at the San Diego temple. We sang the Hallelujah Chorus acapella because we could not find an accompanist. We received a standing ovation.
I had a dream of having millions of people simultaneously singing the words Alleluia to the tune of Pachelbel’s canon all around the world. It was and still is the most spiritually uplifting song I can sing. I lead this song so many times and people were profoundly moved. Alleluia is a very Christian word, of course.
I produced two other spiritual albums in addition to the Amazing Grace, Open to Peace and Open to Love. They contained many original songs which I realize now contain profound Biblical truths about how much God cares about us and loves us. The beauty and transcendence of the recording sessions were profound. I insisted on having the instruments and vocalists sing together because of the energy we created together. Although we added some instruments and harmonies later, for the most part the music was recorded in this way. Singing from my heart was the most important thing for me. Even though my life did not completely line up with what I was singing because of continued infidelity with either emotional or physical affairs while I was married, my heart longed to be living these spiritual truths.
My very first tape was called The Spirit of Christmas. I had two friends who sang with me, one of whom was a genius at figuring out harmonies as well as knowing traditional Christmas songs. We sang close three part harmonies, singing the songs in ways that were straightforward and simple. My purpose was to create a tool where people who wanted to lead singalongs but did not play guitar could do so. I also created a songbook. I thought that the old Christmas songs were not copyrighted and did not do any of the contemporary songs. I loved the Christ-centered lyrics. I loved singing in a big room where our voices resonated together with a sublime echo. Some people said it was the best Christmas recording they had ever heard because it was so simple yet our voices and spirits blended together to beautifully.
I got the same two women to help me record another recording which was purely gospel songs and old spirituals. Somehow the masters got lost, and the recording was never completely. But I absolutely loved the process of singing yet more Christ centered songs.
I attended a concert where orphans from Uganda shared their testimonies and amazing songs, including Through it all. I was deeply moved and inspired at how they could survive such tragedy with such resilience with the help of Jesus.
Even though the sad time came when I did divorce Cliff when Chris was one year old, we did so in a way that we could stay friends and raise our child together. Six months later I met Robert. It seems like God knew I needed him in my life, because with him two profound things happened. I was no longer addicted to sex and excitement. I was able to be loyal to our marriage. After Robert gave me one massage, I was forever cured of sinus headaches which had plagued me since I was a child.
The way Robert and I got together was miraculous. After hearing and seeing me perform a song called “you can relax now” about how God loves us unconditionally,” he knew I would eventually be his wife. Later, through another experience which is a long story and another miracle, our daughter Mahriyanna was born.
Robert and I struggled in our relationship from the very beginning. When we broke up after a year, I was heartbroken, but I still had hope that we would get back together. A very difficult situation happened with him where I saw that he was going in direction that could be very hurtful to him and others. But I knew if I confronted him, I risked losing him forever. I was in such agony one night that I could hardly bear the emotional pain. I cried out to Jesus and Yogananda, repeating both names alternatively. At one point, I felt a peace that was so profound that all my anxieties drained away and I was in perfect peace. I knew that Jesus was the one who came and gave me his love and reassurance.
When I lived in Eureka Springs, married to Robert, I started attending a Presbyterian Church. Somehow I had connected with the pastor, and I received a personal invitation from him and his wife to visit with them at their home even before I went to church. They seemed so loving and accepting, I was willing to give the service a chance. When the pastor said the dreaded words, “Jesus is the only way,” I cringed and realized that I could not follow a path that said Jesus is the only way which implied that hell was the only alternative if one didn’t believe. I also felt disconnected from the overweight, elderly parishioners who ate junk food at the pot luck I attended. I still appreciate the hospitality of this couple who really did demonstrate Christ-like qualities, including helping me get work.
I would pray with Robert every night before we went to sleep. By this time, I had no defined spiritual path, but I had not given up my belief in God. Often I would fall asleep praying. He would rarely pray aloud, but he encouraged me to say these prayers.
When I lived in Eastwind, an intentional community in Missouri, I thought I had found heaven on earth because finally my dreams of a community where my child could have constant play mates, meals were shared, life was shared, and so much more—I found myself being in the process of getting kicked out. And that is another long story. At one point, I had a strange wound in the palm of my hand, and I clearly remember feeling like I was being crucified, and could identify with Jesus.
When Robert and I lived in Springfield, Missouri for a year, I felt drawn to go to the Unity Church. I loved it because the secretary was so welcoming and friendly, and because Jesus was so much a part of the teachings. I had sang at Unity and other new thought churches in San Diego. I loved connecting with the Christ energy.
When we miraculously were drawn to Fayetteville, Arkansas through a series of amazing events, I discovered St. Paul’s Episcopal Church. They had so many activities at the church including 12 step programs and community outreach things, I was really inspired. I was able to hold some very meaningful events there that helped to create the momentum for the Uphold the Tree ordinance movement and the eventual Tree Sit by Mary Lightheart. Their openness and welcoming inspired me to go to some services and a retreat. But I chose not to attend any more when I asked the pastor, “Do you really believe that Jesus is the only son of God”. I asked this because the Apostle’s creed which contained this statement was recited every Sunday during the service. “No, not really,” he said. He explained it in a way that left me feeling like he was a total hypocrite. I really wanted to believe in an absolute truth. I respected the pastor. But because he said he didn’t really believe what he seemed to be representing, I wasn’t about to become a part of this church.
Robert and I managed to keep our relationship going through the ups and downs for about 8 years. When Mahriyanna was 2, we separated with the hope that our marriage could be restored. A year later, our relationship had deteriorated so much that I completely lost hope of ever being even friends, and being able to co-parent our daughter, now 3. I prayed to God to help me make the decision as to whether or not to run away, leaving my children with their fathers. I asked God to wake me up at 5:00 so that I could get on a Greyhound bus and head for an intentional community where I thought I could find shelter. I did wake up at that time, and when I was in the taxi heading towards the bus station, I saw a church sign which said, “Go in peace, I am with you.” I started sobbing, believing that Jesus was blessing my decision, as painful as it was.
By leaving, I was able to help Robert wake up to very destructive decisions he was making, and we were able to get back together. Also, I was completely taken care of on my trip even though I left with ten dollars in my pocket. My children suffered, but we are very close and I believe the wounds they experienced have been healed.
Robert has been a very wonderful father and member of our community. We are divorced, but Cliff, Robert, and our children are close and support each other in many wonderful tangible ways.