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Excerpted from "Embracing Death: A New Look at Grief, Gratitude and God"

by Terri Daniel

God: A New Story

At some point in your childhood, if you grew up in Judeo-Christian America, you began learning about God, creation, the Ten Commandments, Heaven and Hell, Jesus, Moses, the Bible, Hanukah, Santa Claus or some combination of the above. And if the Old Testament was part of your childhood teachings, you may have gotten the impression that God is usually angry and disappointed in us because we are unworthy, sinful, marred and imperfect and can't live up to his expectations. A God who wipes out humanity with a flood, murders those who don't follow his rules and encourages genocide against the inhabitants of land he claims for his "chosen" people presents a scary picture. Many of us -- especially those who were raised with strict religious backgrounds -- grew up feeling that we did something wrong just by being born and that we have to work hard all our lives to get back into God's good graces. And maybe if we hit all the right buttons and do all the right things, God won’t be mad at us anymore and we’ll get to go to Heaven.

While this mindset may not be obvious in our outward behavior, it plants invisible, insidious seeds of self-loathing and inadequacy in our thinking, and belittles the dignity of our souls and our very existence. If we're always worried about the King of the Universe being angry with us, we don't have much chance to recognize Divine Love when it's right in front of us. If we're lucky enough to see through this at some point, some of us may become spiritual seekers, but others will be turned off to spirituality of any kind, which eliminates the Divine from our lives completely and leaves us spiritually bereft. It's a lot of pain to live with, and it's all because of a childhood wound caused by the lie that we are not one with God, and that we are, in fact, so separate that it is actually possible for God to judge us.

This is the story most of us were told as children, and it implies that we have a limited amount of time in which to please God before we die, and only one chance to do this for all of eternity. We will either succeed or fail, but either way, we only have only one shot at it. So we plod through our lives doing the best we can, and even though we're good people and follow all the rules, bad things still happen to us. Our hearts get broken, we lose our jobs, our spouses abandon or abuse us, our children get killed by drunk drivers, we get sick or depressed and have the same experiences that everybody else has, despite our belief that if we're "good" we'll be protected from trauma. But trauma happens anyway, and then we think, "Hey, this isn’t supposed to happen. I did all the right things. I'm a good person and God’s supposed to be nice to me. I must have failed in some way, because no matter what I do, I still feel powerless and unsafe, and nothing can fix it; not getting baptized or doing community service or donating to charity or saving the whales… nothing."

Of course nothing can fix it. Because it isn't broken.

These so-called "bad" experiences are part of the soul's journey and the program we signed on for when we chose incarnation. The experience of pain and conflict is as much a gift as the experience of joy and security. We are here to accumulate experience for the purpose of growth and expansion, and the pain, isolation and powerlessness we feel at times can be understood in different ways depending on how we look at it. The biggest error in our thinking is in perceiving God as an authority figure, like a stern parent who disciplines us by dispensing reward and punishment for our behavior. How different would our life experiences be if we saw God not as a parent, but as a partner? As an energy-generating source that supports our growth in whatever way we create it, via whatever experiences we create, offering nothing but unconditional love? Rather than a watchful figure standing over us in judgment, what if God is simply an energy of light that doesn't have an opinion?

In my work as a grief guidance facilitator, I've walked the grief journey with individuals from every religious perspective. Those who've lost a loved one in a tragic manner have one primary question... "Why would a loving God let this happen?"

The answer depends what you think God is.

If we see God as a connective fiber that links every action in the universe in an interdependent movement toward wholeness, then there's no reason why this force would shield us from discomfort and conflict. To expect God to behave like a protective mother hen is an infantile view that further separates and disempowers us. If we think that God's love is supposed to provide us with a conflict-free existence, we will always be disappointed. Because when that expectation is not met -- and it can never be met -- we end up focusing more on our feelings of anger and abandonment than on the valuable lessons these experiences were designed to teach us.

Instead of wondering why bad things are allowed to happen, consider instead that there are no "good" or "bad" things in the universe, only the creations that move us forward in our evolution. We cannot judge these creations, because they are necessary in order for growth and expansion to occur. They are there to provide traction, something to push against, like a swimmer pushing off the edge of a pool.

Contrary to what millions of people came to believe after reading The Secret, everything we create in our lives is a successful and perfect manifestation, even if it doesn't make us happy. If we're manifesting poverty, illness, struggle and loss, it's because our souls are seeking the growth lessons brought through those experiences. If it serves our soul's evolution to be homeless, then these are lessons we put it into our life plans, and they can't be short-circuited. The law of attraction is not just about attracting the fun, easy stuff. We can only attract what our souls are crying out for -- the stuff we came to earth for -- and these things usually don't match up with what our egos prefer. The true secret is to recognize these experiences as growth opportunities rather than tragedies, and work with them from that angle. Every tragedy gives us a chance to practice releasing fear and opening up to Divine guidance, and that practice leads us back to oneness with the energy known as God.

What the ego wants and what the soul wants are usually in opposition to each other. My ego, given free reign, would create a life of comfort and ease, but my soul prefers a life of growth and experience. Once we begin to embrace conflict and uncertainty, we can deal with death, divorce, illness, poverty and all kinds of troublesome experiences from a higher perspective. We begin to learn, through these experiences, how to ventilate, how to walk through walls, how to release resistance and BE with the experience.

That is the real secret.

Terri Daniel is an author and spiritual teacher who works with assistance from the Other Side to advance a metaphysical perspective on birth, death and the afterlife. Her recent book, "A Swan In Heaven" is based on after-death dialogs between Terri and her son, who left the physical plane at age 16. Her new book, "Embracing Death: A New Look at Grief, Gratitude and God," examines cultural myths about the afterlife and offers a path to alternative perceptions via meditation, visualization and channeling. For more information visit http://www.afterlifeawareness.com/

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