Posts Tagged ‘Whitney Hopler writing’

Well-Being with Whitney: Near-Death Experience Lessons: Part 3

Wednesday, April 26th, 2017

People who have returned from near-death experiences (NDEs) know that every day of life is a gift. They died and saw how suddenly our earthly lives can end; they returned with gratitude for more time to finish fulfilling their purposes here. While they may have been afraid to die before their NDEs, they no longer have any fear of death because they’ve already experienced it and know that the process isn’t scary. For the rest of their earthly lives, they exemplify the courage it takes to live every day fully and well. All of us can learn well-being lessons of courage from NDE survivors.

After returning from NDEs, people who went to heaven report miraculously losing their fear of death. The end of their earthly lives no longer scares them, since they’ve already experienced the peaceful transition of dying and the wonders of the afterlife. But their calm, confident view on death — which is one of the most common and powerful human fears — astonishes others. Here’s why NDE survivors say they’re no longer afraid of dying.

Overcoming Reasons to be Afraid

People who haven’t died yet are usually afraid of death, for a variety of reasons. But many of those reasons are surpassed by newfound confidence for those who have died and come back to life again during an NDE.

If people fear death because it’s the great unknown, they overcome that fear after going through an NDE and discovering exactly what happens during the dying process. NDE survivors often describe their experiences as being so vividly real that they’re even more powerful than anything they’ve experienced during their regular, earthly lives.

Memories made during NDEs are incredibly detailed and make lasting impressions on those who have returned from them.

If people are afraid of their soul being annihilated after death, they’re no longer scared after an NDE because they’ve learned that they’re eternal beings who will always exist — and not only that, but they’re fully conscious and treasured by a loving Creator for who they are.

If people are scared of death separating them from loved ones, they find out during an NDE that family and friends reunite in heaven.

The only reason that NDE survivors give for being afraid of death is that they fear going to hell to suffer and be separated from God. But those who visited heaven during their NDEs generally have no fear of death at all.

Discovering that Consciousness Continues

NDEs show that the most common reason for fearing death — the obliteration of consciousness — doesn’t actually happen. NDE survivors say that the death of their physical bodies wasn’t the death of their souls. Even after they leave their bodies behind, the true essence of who they are (their conscious souls) continues into the afterlife.

“When NDEers say they have lost their fear of death, they most often mean that they no longer fear that obliteration of consciousness itself,” writes pioneering NDE researcher Raymond A. Moody in his book The Light Beyond.

An NDE survivor interviewed by Kenneth Ring and Evelyn Elsaesser Valarino for their book Lessons from the Light: What We Can Learn from the Near-Death Experience declares: “There is no such thing as death per se. Death in our three dimensional space/time view of things is simply a biological event that has nothing to do with consciousness, which is continuous…”.

Breaking Free of Pain

Experiencing complete healing and relief from pain in heaven also reassures NDE survivors that they don’t have to be afraid of death.

In Lessons from the Light, Ring and Valarino quote an NDE survivor who says that after her experience: “I now have no fear of death. Let me tell you from personal experience, no matter how bad that pain gets, it does end, and you will find yourself out of the body, in another dimension, still very much alive, and in no pain.”

Death feels positive, not negative, says an NDE survivor who Mally Cox-Chapman interviewed for her book The Case for Heaven: Near-Death Experiences as Evidence of the Afterlife: “I enjoyed feeling the freedom of death. I wish I could describe it. But not being afraid of dying is like saying riding a bicycle is easy. Until you’ve done it yourself, you don’t know.”

Celebrating Life

After losing their earthly lives and then regaining them, NDE survivors return with a renewed appreciation for life that also gives them the confidence they need to prepare for their permanent death (whenever that happens) without fear.

An NDE survivor Moody interviewed for The Light Beyond recalls: “For the first 56 years of my life, I lived in constant fear of death. My focus was on avoiding death, which I regarded as a terrible thing. After my experience, I realized that by living my entire life in fear of death, I was blocking my appreciation for life.”

Moody explains that the many NDE survivors he has studied have told him, “… that the experience makes life richer and fuller than ever before. The ones I know want more than ever to continue living. In fact, many feel they are living for the first time.”

“We can live each day with grace and dignity, with an assurance that we’re going to be in a better place,” writes NDE survivor Don Piper in his book Heaven is Real: Lessons on Earthly Joy – from the Man Who Spent 90 Minutes in Heaven.

Ring and Valarino write that many people who have returned from NDEs celebrate life by volunteering to help terminally ill patients approach death with peace “because they have come to feel such an affinity with the dying and know they can help such persons more easily make their transitions and with less fear.”

The key to approaching both life and death without fear is focusing on God, Piper writes in Heaven is Real: ” … the end can come at any minute. We need to be prepared. I look forward to that transition. I can’t choose the time or the place of my death, but I can choose how I cross over that final bridge. I don’t know how or when it will happen, but here’s one simple thing I want and for which I pray: I want to be a faithful witness to God’s love and grace and to die in a positive way.”

Well-Being with Whitney: Near-Death Experience Lessons: Part 2

Wednesday, April 19th, 2017

After a near-death experience (NDE), people who return from the afterlife often comment on the wonderful music they heard in heaven. Music is a powerful force for well-being, they report, because musical sound waves help bring people into harmony with God and each other. Here’s why NDE survivors incorporate music into their daily lives — and how we can benefit from doing so, as well.

Imagine the last time you heard music that resonated so deeply in your soul that it stirred up deep emotions and moved you to smile or cry. Now imagine music so extraordinary that its impact on you is far more powerful than that — music that connects with you so deeply that you become a part of it as you hear its complex sounds and join its praise to the universe’s Creator. That’s the kind of heavenly music that people describe in near-death experience stories. They report angels singing and wonderful music known as the “music of the spheres,” which expresses creation’s harmony in the form of celestial vibrations.

Transcendent Sounds

Music is indeed a universal language that connects all people and other parts of creation — including angels — together. Since everyone and everything in the universe vibrates, the sound vibrations of music affect the core of every aspect of the universe that God has made. Musical sounds are built into the fabric of creation, helping to connect all parts of it in harmony.

“Music is well said to be the speech of angels,” Scottish author Thomas Carlyle famously said. Music plays a vital role in angelic work acting as messengers between God and human beings.

In his book Heaven, Randy Alcorn writes that, “Music is transcendent — a bridge between this world and another.”

The DNA in the human body’s cells “emits and receives both phonons and photons — electromagnetic waves of sound and light,” writes NDE researcher P.M.H. Atwater in her book Near-Death Experiences: The Rest of the Story: What They Teach Us About Living, Dying, and Our True Purpose. “… Today DNA is considered a text, a keyboard, a musical score that follows the rules of grammar and language. … our bodies are made of light and sound at the most primal level, and so are the worlds of spirit and the structures of matter. Life and death are coded in the language of light and sound. We stumble upon this coding in near-death states, not knowing what we’ve found until we come to realize that the essence of otherworlds, of origin, is implanted in our very genes.”

Music of the Spheres

Constantly playing in the background of many NDEs are sounds that some people call “music of the spheres” – musical vibrations that emanate from every part of heaven. Angels, people, animals, plants, water, rocks — everyone and everything is alive with music and expressing God’s creative energy in musical form.

“During many near-death scenarios a distinct kind of music is heard unlike that on earth; dubbed ‘music of the spheres’ for lack of a better term,” Atwater writes in Near-Death Experiences. “… Background sound and melody (similar to ‘hoomi’ singing/bell-like overtone harmonics) are present in the majority of near-death experiences.”

The ancient Greek philosopher Pythagoras originated the music of the spheres concept to explain the structure underlying the entire universe, and the ancient Greek author Plotinus wrote about it in the Ennead: “If the stars pass a blessed existence in their vision of the life inherent in their souls, and if, by force of their souls’ tendency to become one … they are like the strings of a lyre, which, being struck in tune, sing a melody in some natural scale.”

Thomas Aquinas, the patron saint of people who love angels, wrote about the work angels do transmitting God’s creative energy throughout creation through means such as the music of the spheres. He wrote in the Summa Theologica that “everything that moves in nature is moved by the Ruler; the angels transmit the motion to the spheres.”

Praising the Creator

The essence of the music that people hear during NDEs is a message of praise to God for creating and sustaining every part of a vast and awe-inspiring universe. Angels and other spirits (like people who have died and gone to heaven) all participate together in praising God through the music.

“The songs emphasize God’s greatness, justice, truth, holiness, and uniqueness,” Alcorn writes in Heaven.

The world’s most used religious text, the Bible, describes musical worship of God happening in heaven often, and describes the power of that sound in a Book of Isaiah story about seraphim angels worshiping God that the prophet Isaiah hears through clairaudience while in a temple on Earth: “At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke” (Isaiah 6:4).

Beautiful Harmony

All the music that people report hearing in NDEs harmonizes in sounds that are never discordant but instead merge beautifully into a unified whole.

In his book An Inquiry into the Existence of Guardian Angels: A Journalist’s Investigative Report, Pierre Jovanovic includes an NDE story from a man whose guardian angel took him to a heavenly concert: “This time we were audience to a choir of angels singing. Angels were totally outside my reality at the time, yet somehow I knew these beautiful beings to be angelic. They sang the most lovely and extraordinary music I had ever heard. They were identical, each equally beautiful.”

Don Piper recalls in 90 Minutes in Heaven: A True Story of Death & Life (his book with Cecil Murphey) how much he enjoyed the musical harmony he heard during his NDE: “I didn’t just hear music. It seemed as if I were part of the music – and it played in and through my body. I stood still, and yet I felt embraced by the sounds. … The melodies of praise filled the atmosphere. The nonstop intensity and endless variety overwhelmed me. … The celestial tunes surpassed any I had ever heard. I couldn’t calculate the number of songs – perhaps thousands – offered up simultaneously, and yet there was no chaos, because I had the capacity to hear each one and discern the lyrics and melody.”

 

Well-Being with Whitney: Near-Death Experience Lessons: Part 1

Wednesday, April 12th, 2017

People who have survived near-death experiences (NDEs) often make significant changes to their lives after they return from the afterlife — and many of those changes relate to strengthening their well-being. Those who have experienced what it’s like to be completely well in heaven have a lot to teach us about how to live our earthly lives well!

The first lesson is simply to remember that every choice we make about our words and actions truly matters from an eternal perspective. A common part of an NDE is a life review.

People who have had an NDE often report that their entire lives have flashed before their eyes – they’ve simultaneously seen every moment in their earthly lifetimes, yet somehow understood it all completely, during a process known as a life review. Angels, who act as guides for dying people during NDEs, sometimes help people process their life reviews.

People Seeing Scenes from their Lives and Feeling the Impact

During life reviews, people see different scenes from their lives replayed for them as if they’re watching a movie about their own lives.

But they don’t passively watch; they actively experience every thought, word, and deed as they feel the impact of their choices on themselves and every other person with whom they have interacted.

When a person has an NDE, “His whole life passes before him like a film, in the space of 10 seconds, but in three dimensions, with the effects of his actions and words experienced by others,” writes Pierre Jovanovic in his book An Inquiry into the Existence of Guardian Angels: A Journalist’s Investigative Report. “…when the subject relives his life in three dimensions, he is invariably judged by the love he has brought/given to others. Period. He relives each of his actions and words, as well as their effect on others. If he has slapped someone in the face, he relives the slap as if he has given it to himself, experiencing it in the other’s place.”

In his book Spirits, Angels, Demons, and Gods: Experiences on the Road to the Heavens and to the Hells, Don Little writes that, “Activated thoughts, words, and deeds become entities.

In the ethereal, nothing is hidden – nothing! … Souls see and feel the rippling effect of every person that their choices, intentions, thoughts, words, and deeds – good or evil – has ever affected, or will ever affect anyone in the future, and they may see and feel it as though they were in several other people’s bodies at the same time.”

Renowned NDE researcher P.M.H. Atwater writes in her book Near-Death Experiences: The Rest of the Story: What They Teach Us About Living and Dying and Our True Purpose that some people only saw “segments” of their lives during their life reviews. But, Atwater writes, “Some accounts cover the entire impact of a person’s existence: everything said, thought, or done since birth, and the effect he or she had on everyone, even passerby, whether met or not, and on the air, soil, plants, water, animals … the entire gestalt of one’s life – the result of ever having taken a breath.”

Angels Guiding People through the Process to Help Them Learn

While people are reviewing their lives, they may have angels — especially guardian angels — guiding them through process and supporting them as they deal with waves of strong emotions. The angels seem to want to help people learn spiritual lessons from their reviews.

Mary C. Neal, a medical doctor who had an NDE after a kayaking accident, writes in her book To Heaven and Back: A Doctor’s Extraordinary Account of Her Death, Heaven, Angels, and Life Again: A True Story about how she found herself in a hallway after traveling there accompanied by angels: “I knew with a profound certainty that it represented the last branch point of life, the gate through which each human being must pass. It was clear that this hall is the place where each of us is given the opportunity to review our lives and our choices, and where we are each given a final opportunity to choose God or to turn away – for eternity.”

Neal, who writes that angels communicated with her through the “pure form” of telepathy during her NDE, points out that angels always hope that people will keep learning and growing — whether during an NDE, or simply in the midst of regular, day-to-day life: “Angels often expose us to, or push us into, a situation that will force our redirection. Of course, our redirection is not really forced; rather, as we are compelled to face the fork in our road, we make a choice to turn left or turn right. Every choice leads us forward, and there is no going backward, no ‘redo.’”

Little writes that, “There is always a teacher present to initiate the life review and to be supportive along with the soul’s spirit guides. … The teacher has the ability to enter your mind and evoke your life review. … The teacher possesses an ineffable force that starts the vicissitudes of your life on the Earth coming to the fore as on a movie screen in order to give you a chance to review and learn from your mistakes and to learn about the things that you did that were of benefit to you and also to God’s creation.”

Life Reviews Focusing on How People Have Treated Others

What seems to matter most in NDE life reviews is how people have treated others during their lives so far. Once people see and feel the impact of how they’ve interacted with other people, they report, they learn that love is what’s most important in life.

“Often the life events reviewed and reinforced that are of greatest importance are those where they showed kindness and love to others,” write Joyce and Dennis Ashton in their book Jesus Wept: Understanding & Enduring Loss. “Personal accomplishments did not seem most significant. It wasn’t the honors or praise of men. Rather, it was the love and charity they showed to other human beings.”

P.M.H. Atwater, who notes that in her NDE research about half of people in all the cases she studied experienced life reviews, half of adults met angels, and 70 percent of children met angels, writes that life reviews magnify the importance of what people may have previously thought were just little things. “The life review actually highlights the little things in life – how we treat each other, lies we told, what we did about our promises and goals, how willing we were to ‘walk that extra mile’ to get a job done or lend a helping hand. It is as if a life review is actually a teaching mechanism, an opportunity to ‘peel back the layers’ so deeds versus consequences can be weighed and measured.”

Jovanovic mentions in An Inquiry Into the Existence of Guardian Angels that, “…less than a third of NDEs with angels included a complete life review of the life lived – as if their presence dispensed with that requirement.” Perhaps some people reflected on portions of their lives through conversations with angels rather than by watching the entire chronology of their lives in a life review movie.

Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, who was a pioneering doctor in NDE research, told Jovanovic: “… at our death, we will be responsible for each of our thoughts, each of our statements, and each of our deeds … everything has its consequences. When you are in the Light, you will be accountable for everything, including your choices. Each person is entirely responsible.”

Well-Being with Whitney: Arianna Huffington to Speak at Mason’s Leading to Well-Being Conference

Wednesday, April 5th, 2017

What is success, really? That’s a question iconic media leader Arianna Huffington has raised in our culture lately, provoking discussion and change among many people who are rethinking their approach to success. Huffington, founder of The Huffington Post and founder and CEO of Thrive Global, will present a keynote speech on “Redefining Success: The Third Metric That Can Benefit Your Bottom Line” at the Leading to Well-Being Conference on Friday, April 7th. As the Communications Coordinator for George Mason University’s Center for the Advancement of Well-Being, I helped plan the conference. As a contributing writer for Thrive Global and longtime fan of Huffington, I’m especially looking forward to her speech there. Here’s an article I wrote about the conference for Mason. I hope it will inspire you and motivate you to join us!

The first two metrics of success are those traditionally associated with rising to the top of a career: money and power. But, according to Huffington, there’s a third metric that’s even more meaningful, and that is “based on well-being, health, our ability to unplug and recharge and renew ourselves, and to find joy in both our job and the rest of our life.”

Well-being – more than anything else – leads to real success, Huffington wrote in her bestselling book Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and Wonder. In the book, she advised: “Don’t just climb the ladder of success – a ladder that leads, after all, to higher and higher levels of stress and burnout – but chart a new path to success, remaking it in a way that includes not just the conventional metrics of money and power, but a third metric that includes well-being, wisdom, wonder and giving, so that the goal is not just to succeed but to thrive.”

Huffington’s message is spot-on for leaders who are trying to cope with the stress and burnout that pervades many workplaces. People don’t have to look far to find examples of what’s not working well for leaders. “Whenever we look around the world, we see smart leaders – in politics, in business, in media – making terrible decisions. What they’re lacking is not IQ, but wisdom,” Huffington wrote in Thrive. “Which is no surprise; it has never been harder to tap into our inner wisdom, because in order to do so, we have to disconnect from all our omnipresent devices – our gadgets, our screens, our social media – and reconnect with ourselves.”

The process of changing for the better begins by clarifying what people truly value the most. In Thrive, Huffington challenged leaders to consider, “Why do we spend so much of our limited time on this earth focusing on all the things that our eulogies will never cover?” By learning well-being practices that help people focus well – such as mindfulness, exercise, and sleep, people can discover what they really care about the most, and set goals that focus on those values.

One well-being practice in particular – sleep – is a struggle for many people in this age of widespread insomnia. People often work so hard that they can’t relax enough to sleep, which leads to a myriad of health problems. So Huffington tackled the sleep issue in her latest bestselling book, The Sleep Revolution: Transforming Your Life, One Night at a Time. “By helping us keep the world in perspective, sleep gives us a chance to refocus on the essence of who we are,” she wrote in the book. “And in that place of connection, it is easier for the fears and concerns of the world to drop away.” People can improve their ability to do every task in both their professional and personal lives by simply sleeping well. “Everything you do, you’ll do better with a good night’s sleep,” Huffington has remarked.

People who neglect their well-being often do so because they think that investing time taking care of themselves will make them less productive at work. Ironically, many research studies (some of which Huffington will discuss in her conference speech) have shown that making time for well-being practices actually leads to greater productivity in the workplace. Not only is well-being good for people’s health and relationships, it’s also good for companies’ bottom lines. That’s because employees often work to their fullest potential when they’re taking good care of themselves. Huffington has often talked about how her own work improves when she’s paying attention to her well-being. “I’m much more creative when I’ve actually taken care of myself,” she has said.

As people incorporate well-being practices into their lives, they’ll build the inner strength of resilience that is crucial for success as in any type of leadership role. Challenges and crises will hit all leaders on the job. Uncertainty will lurk in the background of all workplaces. Even leaders who try their best will sometimes make mistakes. In light of all that, Huffington has commented, fear threatens to overwhelm leaders – but resilience empowers them to move forward with courage. “Fearlessness is not the absence of fear,” she has said. “It’s the mastery of fear. It’s about getting up one more time than we fall down.”

Join Huffington, Dr. David Rock, and more than twenty other leadership experts and researchers presenting at this year’s Leading to Well-Being Conference on Friday, April 7th by registering now. The focus that day will be on exploring what it takes to build resilient teams, leaders, and organizations, and how to prosper during times of great challenge, change, and uncertainty.

Well-Being with Whitney: Spring Cleaning for Your Soul

Wednesday, March 29th, 2017

When spring arrives, more sunlight brightens your home as the days grow longer, and fresh air blows in once the temperatures warm up enough to open your windows. But all the light and fresh air reveal what you may not have noticed during the dark, cold days of winter: Your house is a mess. It’s not fun to see the clutter and dirt that needs to be cleaned up around your house, but the more light and air that flow in, the more motivated you are to do some spring cleaning.

Spring cleaning can be more than just a chore, however. It can actually be exciting if you use the time to start cleaning up something far greater than your house: your soul. The more you invite God to blow the fresh air of his love into your life, the more motivated you become to cleanse negativity out of your mind and welcome in positivity that shines bright.

Here are 6 ways to spring clean your soul:

  • Eliminate clutter. Get rid of distractions that block your ability to focus on the values that are most important to you. Take an honest look at what might be interfering with spending time with God in prayer and meditation, so you can tap into wisdom and know what matters most. Are you devoting more time and energy to working, watching TV, shopping, playing sports, pursuing a hobby, or something else than you’re devoting to time with God? How much time are you really spending praying, meditating, and at your place of worship? Are frazzled thoughts cluttering your inner life, or are you making time regularly for quiet reflection, and asking God to renew your mind? Eliminate clutter in your schedule and your mind to create space to focus on what’s truly important.
  • Scrub away dirt and disinfect. Cleanse dirty attitudes and behaviors and purify your soul. What kinds of filthy attitudes are lurking in your soul? Are you harboring bitterness against people who have hurt you? Do you entertain judgmental thoughts about people you don’t like? Are you infected with anger, fear, or selfishness? How do impure behaviors affect your life? Are you struggling with a bad habit or even an addiction that causes trouble whenever it rears its ugly head? Pray about each dirty attitude and behavior, asking God to help you clean up each specific one. Whenever negative thoughts enter your mind, purposefully replace them with positive ones.  Whenever you’re tempted to slide back into a bad behavior, ask God to empower you to resist and overcome temptation.
  • Suck up everyday annoyances and persistent resentments that will stain your soul if you let them accumulate. Keep short accounts with people rather than letting issues between you pile up and spill over into dirty arguments. Ask God to help you learn how to deal well with difficult people and those whose personalities differ significantly from yours. Whenever people offend you in minor ways, be willing to let the issues go. Whenever people offend you in major ways, be willing to forgive them and reconcile if possible. Do all you can to live at peace with others and resolve conflicts quickly and wisely.
  • Wipe away vestiges of the past that are hindering you from moving into the future with confidence. Consider how you need healing from past traumas and losses. Then patiently work through the healing process as God leads you, from prayer and journaling to support groups and counseling. Expect that each time you deal with one layer of dust from your past, you can see a bit more clearly as you move into the future.
  • Make your relationships shine by serving others as God leads you. Be creative about figuring out how often you can bless others through your words and actions. Remember that even a brief encouraging comment or small act of kindness can make a significant, positive difference in someone’s life. Every day, look for opportunities to encourage or help the people with whom you come into contact.
  • Rearrange your life so you can move into your future with positive plans and goals. Build your decisions for how to use your resources (time, energy, talent, money, etc.) around pursuing your dreams, so you can focus on what’s important without being sidetracked by what’s urgent. Set specific and measurable goals to help you move closer to achieving what you hope to accomplish. Check your progress regularly, and make whatever adjustments you need to make to keep your life organized well.

Well-Being with Whitney: A Tulip Tale

Wednesday, March 22nd, 2017

How much are you worth? What are you basing your value on, and why?

Looking at thousands of blooming tulips recently at the Philadelphia Flower Show, I was amazed at the diverse beauty surrounding me: white and yellow Angel’s Dream tulips with smooth wing-like petals, purplish Blue Parrot tulips with rippled petals, bright orange Ballerina tulips with petals that looked like dancers’ arms elegantly reaching upward. A new tulip variety that botanists developed just for the show made its debut: the Philly Belle, a deep red flower with fringed edges.

The tulips at the flower show — America’s largest and oldest (since 1829) — were prized. They were carefully arranged by professional florists into creative designs, and then admired by thousands of visitors. These were celebrity flowers that were photographed and talked about widely.

I couldn’t help but wonder: What about the tulips growing in places that were out of the spotlight, like those tucked away in the corner of a neglected backyard, or those blooming in the wild? Just because those tulips are noticed less, does that make them less valuable?

Then I thought about the “Tulip Mania” in the Netherlands during the 1600s. After the Dutch brought tulip bulbs from Turkey to the Netherlands, the exotic tulip flowers became status symbols. Their financial value skyrocketed so high during the 1630s that the price of a single bulb for a rare tulip variety cost as much as an entire house. Men in love paid marriage dowries with tulips — just one bulb was enough for a father to give his permission for a daughter to wed. One unfortunate man mistook a tulip bulb for an onion and ate it. People were so outraged about that mistake that they sent him to jail.

By 1637, however, the tulip bubble burst. Doubts crept into people’s minds about how much more tulip prizes could rise. Those doubts led to tulip prices plummeting. As a result, many Dutch families who had mortgaged their homes to buy tulips and resell them lost their fortunes and ended up in poverty.

All through the dramatic financial changes, however, the tulips themselves remained the same. Their beauty was unchanged. So how much were they really worth?

When it comes to the issue of confidence, we can learn a lot from tulips. Different people assign differing amounts of value to us. We set a certain value on ourselves, depending on our self-esteem. Just like what happened to flowers during Tulip Mania, our perceived worth can either skyrocket or plummet. But the fact remains that our real worth — our intrinsic value — remains unchanged.

Who  knows best what our true value is? I believe it’s the one who created us: God. As Creator of both humans and tulips — as well as a lot of other awesome living things — God says that we’re all valuable and worthy of love, no matter what. It’s not the circumstances around us or the opinions of others that determine our value. It’s simply the fact that the One who made us loves us. In fact, God loves us so much — completely and unconditionally — that our value is so high it’s actually unlimited.

If we believe that, then it’s clear that we’re worth taking good care of, so we should always invest in our own well-being. Just like tulips sprout up through soil, absorb rainwater, and open themselves to the sun, we too should nurture ourselves with confidence. We have great intrinsic value. So let’s bloom and flourish!

 

 

Well-Being with Whitney: Saint Patrick as a Role Model

Wednesday, March 15th, 2017

This week people all around the world will celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, which was inspired by the life of Saint Patrick, one of the world’s most beloved saints. I have Irish heritage (from the Shannon clan), so I naturally love St. Patrick, but I also admire his wisdom on well-being.

Patrick was a man of great faith who relied on God for the wisdom to live well. Check out my new Crosswalk.com article “5 Ways St. Patrick’s Life Shows the Power of Prayer.”

Patrick was also a person who noticed and appreciated the wonder of life. Read more in my new Thrive Global article “5 Lessons on Wonder from St. Patrick.”

Praying and celebrating are two vital aspects of well-being that we can pursue any day of the year!

Well-Being with Whitney: Beyond Limits with Thomas Edison

Wednesday, March 8th, 2017

One of the most famous inventors in history, Thomas Edison, made a myriad of important discoveries because of his determination to push past the limits of what others thought was possible. Edison patented more than 1,000 inventions — including the phonograph, the motion picture camera, and the first practical electric light bulb — during his lifetime (1847-1931). His work exploring physical science like chemistry, electricity, and machinery is well known. But Edison also worked to investigate the spiritual world by testing what the human mind can perceive beyond the boundaries of the physical senses. Edison was fascinated by extrasensory perception (ESP) and explored that phenomenon in various ways. His work with ESP is a a great lesson in the importance of creativity.

“If we all did the things we are capable of doing, we would literally astound ourselves,” Edison once remarked.

Telepathy Experiments

Telepathy (mind to mind communication) was the subject of a series of experiments that Edison and some of his laboratory employees conducted in the early 1900s with Bert Reese, a man who was famous for his intuitive abilities. The experiments, which Edison recorded in his notebooks, involved Edison and his coworkers writing information down on pieces of paper while Reese was in another room and testing to see if Reese could perceive what they’d written without looking at the papers — only by reading their minds as they thought about the information.

Edison observed the experiments with Reese and his employees. Then Edison participated himself in several experiments, including one in which he wrote: “Is there anything better than hydroxide of nickel for an alkaline battery?” (a question he was wondering about because he was trying to develop a strong alkaline storage battery at the time).

Reese’s responses in all of the experiments showed that he apparently could perceive the written information while in another location where he couldn’t read the papers. In response to Edison’s question about the battery, Reese told him, “There is nothing better than hydroxide of nickel for an alkaline battery” when Edison returned to the room where he was waiting.

But Reese’s work was controversial, and some people said that his apparent telepathic ESP ability was a hoax. Still, Edison believed that Reese was truly about to read people’s minds. Edison said, “I am certain that Reese was neither a medium nor a fake. I saw him several times and on each occasion I wrote something on a piece of paper when Reese was not near … In no single case was one of these papers handled by Reese … yet he recited correctly the contents of each paper.”

Afterward, Edison conducted some telepathy experiments without Reese. Edison had electrical machines built for four of his employees to wear on their heads in a series of experiments where they tried to read each other’s thoughts telepathically. But these experiments failed to produce any clear results of telepathic ESP at work.

Psychokinesis Experiments

Edison was also fascinated with psychokinesis (the ability to move physical objects using only mental energy). In his notebooks, Edison recorded how he tried to move objects with his mind. After failing to do so in several experiments, however, Edison turned his attention to other experiments.

In an interview about his fascination with ESP experiments, Edison told The New York Times in 1910 that, even though his work was inconclusive, “There are bigger things remaining for discovery than any of the big things we have yet discovered.”

An Afterlife Communication Machine

Perhaps the most startling way in which Edison explored ESP was by contemplating how to build a machine to communicate with people who had died. This device would be able to send messages back and forth from the earthly dimension to the afterlife, Edison explained in some interviews he gave during the 1920s that elicited some people’s curiosity and other people’s ridicule.

“If our personality survives, then it is strictly logical and scientific to assume that it retains memory, intellect, and other faculties and knowledge that we acquire on this earth,” Edison said in article published in Scientific American magazine’s October 1920 issue. “Therefore, if personality exists after what we call death, it’s reasonable to conclude that those who leave this earth would like to communicate with those they have left here. … If we can evolve an instrument so delicate as to be affected, or moved, or manipulated by our personality as it survives in the next life, such an instrument, when made available, ought to record something.”

Since no evidence survives of such a machine or even a prototype for it, Edison likely never actually built the machine he had contemplated. But one of Edison’s employees, Dr. Miller Hutchinson, said that he worked with Edison on plans for the machine. In his diary, Hutchinson expressed enthusiasm for scientific research into the spiritual realm. He wrote: “Edison and I are convinced that in the fields of psychic research will yet be discovered facts that will prove of greater significance to the thinking of the human race than all the inventions we have ever made in the field of electricity.”

Still Experimenting When He Died?

Throughout his life, Edison had been fascinated with energy, and some people believe that Edison was experimenting with the electromagnetic energy of the spiritual realm when he died on October 18, 1931. Edison had reportedly told some of his employees that he would try to stop clocks after his death, as he was leaving the earthly dimension for the afterlife.

Three of Edison’s employees had their clocks inexplicably stop at 3:24 a.m. on October 18, 1931: the exact time that Edison passed away. Just three minutes later, at 3:27 a.m., the large clock in the office and research library of Edison’s West Orange, New Jersey laboratory stopped without any physical explanation, as well — and still remains stopped at that time. Believers say that Edison’s soul was giving people a miraculous sign that he had discovered there really is life after death.

Well-Being with Whitney: Lent and the Beauty of Ugly Scars

Wednesday, March 1st, 2017

Today I observed a cherished Ash Wednesday tradition: Getting my forehead smeared with ashes at a church service, as a reminder of my mortality and dependence on God. Year after year, the experience is humbling. “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return,” the person who smears the ashes says to each of us who receives the burnt dust on our faces. At Lent, we come face to face with God’s unconditional love. All of the scars from the pain we’ve gone through — no matter how deep — can’t separate us from God’s great love. God takes our ugliness and transforms it into beauty.

Your scars are marks of God’s work in your life – evidence that you’ve gone through a struggle and emerged victorious with God’s help. In all of their ugliness, they can actually be beautiful.

Jesus Christ could have easily eliminated the scars from his crucifixion after he was resurrected. But he chose instead to display the scars in his glorified body.  He even invited the apostle Thomas to touch his wounds, saying in John 20:27: “… ‘Put your finger here; see my hands.  Reach out your hand and put it into my side.  Stop doubting and believe.’”  Jesus’ scars were powerful.  As Isaiah 53:5 prophesied, “… by his wounds we are healed.” His choice to keep his crucifixion scars still visible after his resurrection emphasize the value in brokenness and redemption.

Scars may be external, like a scarred knee that reminds you of a bad fall or a line that marks where you had surgery. Or they may be emotional, like the jagged memories of betrayal or abuse that make it hard for you to trust people now. We’re all carrying scars of some kind around with us. Looking at the scars on your body or feeling their pain in your soul may not be something you want to do. After all, scars are ugly. But if you consider the stories behind them, scars can communicate beautiful lessons to you.

No matter what kind of scars you have, our society will pressure you to try to hide them. More than 12.7 million cosmetic surgical and nonsurgical procedures were performed in the United States in 2015, according to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, and Americans spent almost $13.5 billion on those procedures.  That’s a lot of effort and cost to try to fight external imperfections, like scars. An AP-Ipsos poll from 2006 showed that Americans have trouble showing people their internal scars. It revealed that about 4 in 10 people think it’s sometimes justified to lie to others rather than honestly acknowledging the truth about something embarrassing in their lives.

But every scar tells a valuable story – the story of how you were wounded, and what has happened so far as a result. If you look at your scars from God’s perspective, you’ll start to see that there’s more to their stories than just suffering. Within each story lies the potential for redemption.

When you allow the ugliness of your scars – both external and internal – to disturb you, you can turn away from pride and toward humility, which makes you more beautiful in God’s sight.  As Psalm 51:17 declares, “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.”

So don’t be afraid to reveal your scars and take an honest look at them.  Here are 5 questions you can ask yourself to discover beautiful messages hidden inside your scars:

  1. What different kinds of scars are you carrying?
  2. How did you get each of them?
  3. What can you learn from the experiences that gave you those scars?
  4. How can you gain confidence and courage from the process of recovering from those experiences?
  5. What positive choices can you make that will help you heal from your wounds?  Possibilities include: talking with a counselor or trusted friend about your scars, pursuing forgiveness and reconciliation, and letting old dreams go so you can dream new ones.

The next time you encounter the ugliness of your scars, let it lead you to the beauty of Christ.  Remember his promise in 2 Corinthians 12:9: “… My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Then you’ll discover why the apostle Paul declares in the next verse: “For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

Well-Being with Whitney: Facebook or Face to Face?

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2017

Today’s communications technologies make it possible to stay in frequent contact with many people who aren’t physically present with us. Satellites beam webcam videos of soldiers deployed across the globe back to their families at home. Employees on business trips stay in touch with their coworkers through frequent cell phone conversations. Millions of Americans reach out to friends through social networking sites such as Facebook. We’re constantly plugged in to communicate with each other.

But while it’s now possible to contact people anywhere at any time, ironically, it’s often more difficult to truly connect with them. Contact doesn’t necessarily equal connection. That’s because we need to spend time with people in person — face to face — to be able to connect with them in the ways that build meaningful relationships.

Approximately 80 percent of all communication is nonverbal: cues like facial expressions, hand gestures, and body language. That means that, even when we can hear someone’s tone of voice over a phone, we’re still getting only about 20 percent of what he or she is trying to tell us. And some means of communicating — like texting or e-mailing — limits our messages even more.

Even those who regularly contact many people on a regular basis can still be lonely. Despite hundreds of “friends” on online buddy lists and cell phones packed with phone numbers, they won’t enjoy close relationships if they don’t spend enough time with others face to face.

God himself modeled the importance of face-to-face relationships when he chose to come to Earth as Jesus rather than communicate with humans from afar forever.  As John 1:14 says: “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.”  Jesus didn’t just send people messages; he left heaven to enter time and space in the middle of this fallen world and looked into the faces of those he had created. He made himself available to communicate in person and build real relationships.

So what about you?  How much face-to-face time do you spend with the people in your life?  Some of them may actually be quite lonely, despite how plugged in they seem to be. Ask God to reveal who those people are. Then pray for God to give you more love for them – love that compels you to reach out to them in person.

People need the encouragement, support, and accountability that can only come in deep ways through face-to-face relationships.  Online or over the phone, people can talk and talk, yet never move beyond superficial discussions.  Or worse, they can pretend to be someone they aren’t and deceive others.  But when people come face to face with other people, they’re compelled to be real with each other and reach out in deeper ways.  When you’re willing to share space – not just electronic messages – with others, you can develop the kind of relationships that God will use to help you all grow.

It’s simple to increase the amount of face-to-face time you spend with people you already know. The next time you want to contact a friend, get together for a fun outing rather than just chatting through instant messages. Instead of having your family members eat meals on separate schedules, schedule shared mealtimes at your kitchen or dining room table as often as possible, and talk while you eat. Invite people from your church or workplace over to your house to get to know them better; invite kids that your kids know from school to come over for play dates.

Reaching out to people you haven’t yet met but who don’t get much face-to-face time with others is simple, too.  You can volunteer a bit of time at your local nursing home, hospital, or prison to bring much-needed encouragement to the people there.

Yes, spending time with people face-to-face can be inconvenient.  It takes much more time and energy than just sending an e-mail or making a phone call.  And yes, face-to-face relationships can be messy, because they draw you much deeper into other people’s lives than simply sending electronic greetings.  But Jesus was willing to sacrifice everything – even his life – for relationships, and he calls you to make sacrifices, too, so that his love can flow through you into other people’s lives.

Engaging with people face to face does even more than inviting God’s love into you and others’ lives. It prepares you for that wonderful day when you’ll arrive in heaven. The more you let God’s love flow through you, the more you’ll learn about him, until you’ll finally be in a place with no more sin and be able to see others and even God himself face to face. As 1 Corinthians 13:12 reveals: “Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face.”