Grateful Heart Monday

Welcome to another chapter of Grateful Heart Monday, a day where I reflect on a piece of gratitude that I’m truly thankful for, which for today is for finding Angel’s Landing Spiritual Center here in Toledo, Ohio.

How I came to find Angel’s Landing Spiritual Center began with my therapist some time ago. After observing my long struggle here in Toledo in finding and connecting with those who actually have a desire to talk about God, Christ, spirituality, and everything in between, and who also DON’T use the Bible as an absolute, she suggested I don’t give up my search.

My problem was that I’ve faced so much opposition in my life with too many places of worship where my sexuality was negatively viewed as a sin. Add in the fact that my partner has felt for some time that all religion was poison and there wasn’t much of a push by either of us to find any type of spiritual home any time soon. In other words, I didn’t quite feel motivated to take any new action. Yet, thanks to the easy access of the internet on my mobile phone and the ease of Google, I decided one evening out of boredom to search one last time for a spiritual place of worship here in Toledo.

For the life of me, I can’t remember the exact combination of words I searched for in that moment, but the first result that appeared is one I had never come across before, that being Angel’s Landing Spiritual Center. I’ve done many searches in the past here in Toledo, and never once did this place ever come back in any of them. Why it appeared this time around, I don’t know. Maybe I was never ready for it to become a part of my life or maybe my life wasn’t ready to become a part of them any time I had searched prior.

Nevertheless, what convinced me to check them out was what appeared in their mission statement on their website. It read as follows: Angel’s Landing is an independent Spiritual Center. Our journey together is based on the teachings of the “Master Teacher,” Jesus the Christ. We focus on lessons from Scripture as well as the wisdom of many other enlightened teachers who have graced us with their expressions of this Divine Love. There are no “religious” limitations of our exploration, discoveries or enlightened choices. We come together drawn by the Power of God expressing through, and as, each of us. That is why our community is called, “Angel’s Landing Spiritual Center!” For some reason, those words really connected with my Soul and I felt this push from within to stop in one Sunday. So, when I finally decided to go, thankfully, my partner opted to attend as well, a decision I didn’t take lightly.

We really didn’t know what to expect when we first walked through the door at the end of this business plaza on an exceptionally warm and sunny February Sunday morning. I was pleasantly surprised when we were cheerfully greeted as soon as we entered, by a woman with extremely bright and cheerful energy, someone who also told us how accepted and loved our relationship was by her, and someone who made sure to help us feel right at home. It didn’t take long for a number of others in attendance to demonstrate the same warm welcome as well.

I never once felt out of place during the hour-long service, which was definitely one I enjoyed immensely, mainly because it didn’t follow the usual Sunday morning worship format I had come to loathe over the years. You see, I’m not a fan of that all rise, all sit, read this, read that, sing this, sing that, listen to this, listen to that, and well you get my point. Thankfully this service felt very much different. And by the end of it, when all of us drew together in a circle of friendship and sang “Let There Be Peace On Earth” hand in hand, I felt something I haven’t felt in a long, long time, that being a spiritual family. Even better, we got to break bread with them afterward, as they always do a potluck each week once the service is over.

But, the biggest piece of gratitude I have for Angel’s Landing Spiritual Center actually deals with my partner. I have felt quite spiritually disconnected from him in the past year or two and often considered the part that was missing in our relationship was worshipping God together. When he opted to attend the service with me, I honestly figured he’d go and say afterward it wasn’t for him, yet the exact opposite happened. During it, he reached for my hand a number of times, something he’s normally not comfortable with and something I’ve been praying for a long time now. And when the service ended, it was he who said he definitely wanted to come back before I even had a chance to say the same.

So, I have a lot to be grateful for when it comes to Angel’s Landing Spiritual Center in Toledo, Ohio. After being unconditionally loved and embraced there, moved enough to start regularly attending, and feeling a long-standing prayer had finally been answered with my partner and I, I’m very thankful for finding this beautiful place to worship, as it’s now become a wonderful part of both my spiritual journey, as well as my partner’s.

Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson

Thought For The Day

Quote #1

“True faith is keeping your eyes on God when the world around you is falling apart.” (Unknown)

Quote #2

“It’s a weak faith that only serves God in times of blessings. The book of Job teaches us that true faith, genuine faith, great faith is revealed only when we serve and trust God in the hard times, the times of suffering, loss, and opposition. That’s the kind of faith that makes the world sit up and take notice.” (Ray Stedman)

Quote #3

“We’re not always going to understand why something happens. True faith is trusting even when it doesn’t make sense.” (Joel Olsteen)

Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson

Would You Still Have Your Faith In God After Suffering For A Long Time?

I have to admit I find it extremely frustrating when a religious person tells me how great their faith in God is when everything is going so well for them in their life. Is that really true faith? In my opinion, I believe one’s true faith in God is forged when everything seems to be falling apart in life and has been for a long period of time.

Throughout my spiritual journey, I’ve met a lot of people from many different religious backgrounds who seem to have plenty of faith in their Higher Power when life is going their way. Sometimes it even feels as if they like to congratulate themselves on their level of faith by believing they must be doing everything right with God because their life is going so smoothly. A good relationship, a good job, a good pay, a good family life, a good health, and a good set of material things MUST equal how GREAT God is and GREAT their faith in God is right? Yet, what happens to their faith when those good things suddenly begin to disappear from their life and they start suffering? And what happens when that suffering goes on and on and on for a long time? Sadly, many tend to lose their faith in God in times like that. They become negative, bitter and usually struggle to understand why God would let such bad things happen to them, especially when others seem to have it so much better.

You see, that’s my story. I was once someone who proclaimed how great God was and how great my faith in God was. It always came though during those periods of my life when things were going my way, when no one I loved was dying, when I was getting a great income, when I was taking nice vacations, when I was is in an awesome relationship, when I was affording nice things, and when I wasn’t ever thinking about my health at all because I was so active in life. My faith in God began to show its weakness though when my father committed suicide in 1996 and when my mother took her drunken fall down the stairs to her death in 2005. After making it through both of those difficult periods with a sliver of faith, it wasn’t until 2010 when I saw the true fragility of my faith.

It was in 2010 when I lost my business, then my financial fortune, then my health, then my ability to remain physically active in life, and then my capacity to work and earn any sort of income for myself. As each of these things disappeared and didn’t return, more and more of my “awesome faith” in God disappeared as well. As days turned into weeks, and weeks into months, and months into years, I began to wonder why I still believed and sought God, when I had lost so much of those good things.

When my spiritual teacher left my active life in the spring of 2016 and told me I had to walk the next leg of my journey alone, I lost the last thing I had left in my life that was helping me to desperately cling to what little faith I still had left in God. And let me tell you, those first few months after that would test my faith beyond anything I’d ever experience before in life.

But here I am in February of 2019 still moving forward, still believing in God, and still keeping my faith, even when a sane person would probably have done otherwise by this point under the same suffering and conditions I’ve continued to endure. I honestly can’t say why I’ve been able to hold onto my faith in God, but I have, and I’m thankful I have, as it’s probably the only thing keeping me going these days. There are days though where I really question whether God exists and why I still believe in Him given the hell I’ve gone through and keep going through. Yet, if you want to know what my gut tells me about why I still have any sort of faith in God, it’s this.

Because I believe that true faith isn’t forged in life when you have everything going well for you. Rather, I think true faith is built during times of long suffering, as what eventually arises out of that is an understanding that life isn’t about having any of those good things whatsoever. Instead, what I’ve found in all this long suffering is that life is more about getting in touch with an unlimited well of unconditional love for myself and others, learning how to appreciate everyone and everything no matter what the circumstances, and being able to forgive, even when it hurts, all of which were things I never could quite grasp in any period of my life prior, where I thought I had such a great faith in God…when I actually didn’t…

Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson