Reflections on Life Lessons

Speaker: Lara Pollock

It‟s been a couple years since I‟ve made a presentation. And as is per usual, I‟ve got a lot of material to cover.
I will also be following up with another presentation on August 21st. Today I will lay the ground work for that
presentation. A few weeks ago Amy Geyer had a wonderful service on Views of God. She discussed the
Pacific islands natives who have come to be known as the Cargo Cults as an example of primitive people
developing rituals to appease „the gods of cargo‟ to bring them materials. They were not gods, simply
government personnel supplying strategic locations for military bases. She made a number of fascinating
observations about our natural tendency to assign God-like powers to phenomena which we don‟t understand.
In response, people shared some great perspectives on the mystery of Source. I was fascinated to hear the views
about God from people in this church. After years of seeking and searching, I too have developed a distinctive
idea about the nature of a compassionate creator. However, in preparing to explain my current thought system,
I feel it is important to describe some background information. I have three categories of discussion: my life
experiences which I will share today, and next time I will cover insights I have learned from books, as well as
observations I have made about the world we now perceive. I share these insights to help explain how I arrived
at my current belief system, but also, because I suspect that many of you have had similar experiences and
epiphanies in your own lives. If you are comfortable, feel free to nod or gesture if you can identify with what I
am describing. I want to pool this information and let this sharing be a learning experience for all of us.
Whenever I prepare a presentation for our church, I make a commitment to reveal thoughts, feelings and
experiences that I would not normally share with anyone but my closest friends or family, I am indeed fortunate
to feel safe with you, my church family.

Chapter 1: My childhood, teen, and young adult experiences
I was born in San Antonio, Texas, to Bob and Greta Crosby on Labor Day, 1967. Along with my brother, Paul,
we lived in the country on two acres with trees and rocks and birds and snakes. I dare say, my early childhood
was nearly idyllic. My parents attended the First Unitarian Universalist Church in San Antonio. I went to
preschool at the UU Discovery school. I was very fortunate to have been raised by a UU village. The most
salient association I have with my upbringing is that I was very loved and completely accepted. My parents
gifted me with a core sense of self-worth. I was encouraged to use my imagination and express myself
creatively with art, acting, dancing, poetry, and puppetry. I was extremely sensitive, empathetic, and a bit
dramatic at times. As for my early spiritual memories, I think I just heard or thought that God was everywhere,
a part of everything. My first specific memory of any spiritual awareness was when I was about 5 and I heard a
man speaking at our church say this, “Everything we see in this world, is a reflection of ourselves. It is as if we
are looking into a mirror. What happens outside exactly reflects what is happening inside ourselves.” I didn‟t
know how that could be, but I took a mental note of it, and I have heard or read forms of this insight
throughout my life. (How about you? Have you heard this as well?)

In 1975, when I was seven, our family moved to Wichita, Kansas where my mom, Greta Crosby was called to
be the minister for First UU and my dad, Bob Crosby volunteered as the sound technician for 30 years. I have
to say that Texans don‟t transplant well. I took the move very hard. We moved into the city into a very decent
neighborhood, but it just wasn‟t my tree-filled Texas I loved so dearly. I so missed the country. As a side note,
since becoming an adult, I have chosen to live in the country, currently on 3.5 acres just north of Rose Hill. I
have my rocks and trees and birds and snakes, and I am now quite content living in Kansas.

Back to my childhood influences. After moving to Wichita, I made friends with neighbor kids; many of them
professed to be Christians. As is the case with these well-intentioned folks, they began witnessing to me about
God, creator of the world, Jesus, savior of the world, Bible stories, Satan and his evil plot to overthrow God and
take over the world. If I didn‟t believe in God and accept Jesus as my savior, I was going to burn in hell and so
would anyone else who didn‟t believe, including my parents. Being an impressionable child, I believed a lot of
what my friends told me. I couldn‟t understand how this could be, but I didn‟t want to take chances.
Concurrently, I was fortunate to enjoy many UU activities at the old church building on Fairmount. Such as
Halloween costume parties, Thanksgiving dinners, Christmas Candles and Carols, Hide and seek, story time,
LRY, and many other valuable experiences. I felt safe and accepted in the UU village. But I also had a nagging
belief in God and I did not know what to do with it.

Another influence that grew more pervasive in my childhood was that my father suffered from severe clinical
depression. I don‟t want to speak poorly of him, and I only say this because it impacted my frame of mind. He
dwelled on the horrors of the Viet Nam war, chemical warfare, corrupt politicians, the blatant hypocrisy of the
religious establishment, greedy short-sighted corporate predators, environmental disasters, impending natural
disasters, and the threat of nuclear annihilation. Every day the world was going to hell in a hand basket. As a
child, it was difficult to process this onslaught of negativity. I absorbed his rants and lived in subtle fear every
day that this could be our last.

In my early teens I experienced an overwhelming emotional identity crisis. My parents separated and divorced,
I put pressure on myself to excel in school, one of my Christian friends rejected me because I wasn‟t Christian
enough to be associated with her, and combined with the hormonal fluctuations of puberty, I went into a serious
tail spin. I entertained thoughts of suicide; I thought of all the ways I could escape this lonely, heartbreaking
existence. I could drink several bottles of Nyquil. I could go to sleep in a snow bank and hope to freeze to death.

I could overdose on asprin. I could drown myself. I could cut my wrists. When I was 12 years old, on the
particular day when my Christian friend rejected me, I couldn‟t take the loneliness and pain any more. I began
cutting; slicing through layers of skin to the blue blood vessels below. I told God I was sorry. A few moments
later, out of the blue, a friend called me. The timely phone call interrupted the emotional momentum of the
moment. But I still dwelled on how I could escape. I didn‟t want to die, but I didn‟t want to live.

When a friend of mine started going to a youth group at the Church of Christ, she invited me to come. I visited,
then started attending regularly. The youth group was appealing, because I was so shy, I didn‟t make friends
easily, but here was an automatic group of friends to belong to. I will say going to the Church of Christ did
keep me out of trouble. I had other friends with drinking and drug habits that I had been gravitating toward. I
attended the Church of Christ for the rest of my high school and beginning of my college years. At the young
age of 20, I married my high school beau in the Church. The Church doctrine gave me structure, however, there
was a more insidious nature that I didn‟t always like, but I slowly let permeate my belief system. Much like
brainwashing, I gradually adapted to their extreme beliefs. Creationism, divorce is a mortal sin, Baptism is
essential to save your soul, and many other rules that were based on direct & literal translation of the Bible,
God‟s true and final Word. This doctrine was psychologically damaging as it over-controlled through the use of
guilt and fear-inducing threats of eternal damnation. (I imagine many of you have similar experiences from
various religious denominations, am I preaching to the choir here?)

When I went to Bethel College, I was deeply committed to the Church of Christ. I took two religion classes that
changed my life. The first was Exploring the Religions of the World, taught by Professor Duane Friesen. I
found that I liked learning about many different religions and I found something to appreciate about all of them.
There were several tidbits of information that Dr. Friesen shared that I listened to, didn‟t really understand, but
they came back to me and made more sense 20 years later. He said that according to several verses in the Bible,
such as Mark 1:15, “The kingdom of God is at hand.” He proposed that the kingdom of heaven is here right
now. That we don‟t need to delay our good, we don‟t need to hope to go to heaven in the future. Heaven is
here now. How many of you have heard this? We have even had a few speakers discuss this concept here in
our church. I heard this, but I didn‟t grasp how this could be for many years. Dr. Friesen also described the
Hindu and Buddhist beliefs that we live in a dualistic karmic wheel of good and bad and we reincarnate in a
cycle of birth and death until we can break free through enlightenment. He explained the Buddhist beliefs of
the 8 fold path. The philosophy of attachments which cause misery. That anything we are attached to that can
decay is not real. That anything impermanent is illusion. He spoke of spiritual experience, when an influx of
peace, comfort, and sometimes a unique insight washes over a person, it is usually brief, unexpected, and
powerfully moving.

The other religion class I took was Understanding the Bible, which helped me analyze the Bible, and prompted
me to analyze my strict interpretations of the Bible. It helped me understand the political and cultural context
under which the Bible was written. It helped me see the inconsistencies within the Bible, and the blatant
manipulation of what was included, what was excluded, what was altered, translated and copied and corrupted
which I deduced was for the convenience of people in power, for the purpose of controlling the masses. These
revelations dealt quite a blow to my religious foundation of strict and literal adherence to the Bible‟s rules.
Gradually, I became thoroughly disillusioned with the Church of Christ, God, Jesus, and the Bible. Everything
was speculation, nothing could be proven. If the Bible couldn‟t be taken as perfect word, then none of it was
true. Church of Christ, as most religions, dictated that God created man, but as my disillusionment expanded, I
became convinced that man created God out of insecurity and for the purpose of manipulating and controlling
others through guilt and fear. I began to believe that God did not exist. (I bet some of you can identify with this
thought process)

After graduating college, I was certified to teach high school English. However, there was a hiring freeze in the
Wichita school district and I could not get hired, despite my determined efforts. My disturbing disillusionment
with the Church, and the disappointment of completing my degree, but not having a job to transition into, left
me sliding in the vortex of a deep dark black hole. I experienced another emotional identity crisis, within the
vacuum created by a lack of structured Biblical rules and a lack of scholastic routines to follow. Adding fuel to
the fire, I happened to read John Steinbeck‟s The Grapes of Wrath. The corruption of “Christian” businessmen
with money and power sucking the life out of good hard-working people was the last straw. Echoing my
father‟s dark rantings, I began to rage and rebel as I ruminated on the conditions of the world. I was angry for
allowing myself to be controlled and following arbitrary artificial rules. I deeply resented the mind-game that
was played on me. I became bitter against the Church, God, Jesus and rules in general. (have you been there?).

I ended my empty, dysfunctional marriage. I broke out into the world, where I would finally get to do what I
wanted. No one was going to control me, inhibit me, or tell me what I couldn‟t do. As my orbit continued to
erode, I made more and more irresponsible choices, which set me on a dangerous path to self-destruction. I
began hanging out with a bad crowd, making poor choices. All along my anger festered for being tricked by the
Church. How could I have been manipulated so? I rebelled by doing many things that the church said God
condemned. But guess what, the sky didn‟t fall. No lightning strikes, no burning bushes. Ha, I beat the system,
proving there is no God. I drank too much. I stayed up until 5:00am more often than not. I moved four times in
ten months, I got three speeding tickets in two months and almost lost my driver‟s license, and the list goes on,
and on. Ahhh, to be young and stupid. (I wonder if anyone here has been young and stupid)

The turning point in my life was an odd blessing. I call it a blessing though it didn‟t seem so at the time. At the
time, it was the lowest point of my life. I suffered the consequences for my irresponsible actions. I contracted
an std. I was so ashamed and remorseful. It wasn‟t really the end of the world, but I really thought it was.
Overwhelmed with confusion, depression and regret, I again considered escaping the hell-hole I dug for myself;
ending my angst and agony. Being blessed with an std was the cosmic 2×4 that finally got my attention. I
could have just as easily contracted Hepatitis or AIDS. The cosmic 2×4 helped me dodge that bullet. The
message finally hit home that many rules aren‟t necessarily to control us, they often are intended to protect us.
My life choices knocked me to my knees, then face down in the mud, that is when I surrendered and finally
began to look up.

Chapter 2: The humbled prodigal child returns
And here is how it happened. I had been involved off and on with a person who pursued me even though I was
not attracted to him. I was 23 and he was 33. He eventually weaseled his way into my head. He began to
systematically control every aspect of my life. He was absurdly jealous. I was in trouble if I arrived 2 minutes
late. Even if I didn‟t want to see a horror movie, we were going. It was so subtle and insidious, I didn‟t realize
it, and once I did, it was difficult to extricate. I tried to break it off, but he declined to be broken up with. As
sick as the relationship was, he did help me accomplish one thing, he helped me make peace with God. Very
odd for me to say. Even though he was a micro-managing control freak, when he spoke of God, it was in a
different voice; one that I listened to, not because he required it of me, but because his voice was peaceful. He
explained how he had a health crisis and was very ill for over a year. He was miserable and could not get better.
Being bedridden, he had nothing to do, so he began reading the Bible. He read verses like Mathew 21:22, “You
will receive anything you ask for in prayer, if you believe you have received it.” Luke 11:9, “I say to you, ask
and it will be given to you, seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” And Philipians
4:13 “I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me.” He began to pray. He denied that he felt bad, he
affirmed that he was well, even if he felt bad. He spent hours praying and affirming his health, no matter what
the present condition appeared to be. Within several weeks, he reclaimed his health. He suggested that I just try
praying. He said there is unseen help available to me. But I have to ask for it. I have to knock on the door. I
was so burdened with religious baggage, it took time for me to even consider it, but I tried praying. I did not
feel any particular result, but, it didn‟t hurt either, so I kept praying. I prayed that I would find the person I was
meant to be with. Then I went to visit my mom in Washington state, I was planning to move there for a while,
get the heck out of Kansas, start over, go to the mountains and trees. Two interesting things happened, soon
after praying. This man who wouldn‟t let me break up with him, broke up with me while I was in Washington,
when I told him I was thinking about moving there. Feeling very relieved, I prayed some more to meet the
person I was meant to be with. And the day I landed back in Kansas, my best friend and I went out to
celebrate. And guess who I met? Mr. Danny Pollock. I was delighted to find an equal in so many ways. He
didn‟t try to control me and we had so much in common. Sure we‟ve had struggles, but we‟ve had many, many
great times over the last 20 years. I believe my prayers were answered by a higher power or my higher-self, by
surrendering, setting my intentions, inviting guidance, and allowing results to simply fall into place.

Chapter 3: Transformation
When my daughter Miranda was born in 1993, everything changed. I was astonished at how much I loved our
baby. And how much I loved Danny as we raised her together. Before having a child, I was ambivalent about
living in this incongruent world. Being so sensitive and empathetic, I was not fully committed to enduring it.
I didn‟t care if I lived or not. Having a little loving person who needed me gave me a „life-purpose‟, and I have
never ever considered suicide again.

There are many instances where I have felt guidance in my life, many more than I can describe here. It may
seem like I am one of the naïve natives of the Pacific islands by attributing God-like qualities to a series of
coincidences. I do not think so. I do not think so, based on so many visions and insights that affirm a
connection with Source. Not the dualistic God of the Bible, but so much more. I will describe a powerful
example of this. I am also telling this story to demonstrate that connecting with Source does not mean
everything in the external world goes as we expect. But that we are supported, I feel we are never alone.

When Miranda was about a year old, I was elated to discover I was pregnant. That same evening, I began
spotting then bleeding, I worried something was wrong. An hour later, I had a sinking, slipping feeling. I
checked and found I had passed something. I discovered a translucent marble-sized sac. Upon closer
inspection, I viewed my tiny baby floating in the amniotic fluid. I collapsed with the weight of the knowledge
that there was no hope for this life missed. It took two years to get pregnant again, at 9 weeks, I started spotting.
After a week, I miscarried again. I wept so hard, I could not stop. With memories from the unexpected trauma
of the first loss flooding in, compounding the bitter disappointment of the second loss, I was inconsolable. I
prayed for comfort as we drove to the doctor in the early morning. Then I remember seeing the deep red-orange
sunrise on the horizon. As we drove north, I gazed into the depths of the glowing orb hovering in the east. The
sun followed me; in between trees and light poles, between tears of despair, I could see it moving along with me.
It seemed as if the sun was escorting me. I took a shaky breath and stopped crying as I felt, sensed, heard, knew,
I was not alone. The symbol of the sun following me conveyed into my awareness the nonverbal but distinct
message that I am never alone. I became aware of a Presence that is always with me, even if I seem to be
speeding along in life. Even if I cannot see it with my eyes or measure it with an instrument, I am always
escorted, I am always embraced by Love. It is always Present, my lack of awareness is what makes me feel
separated from this Source.

Now I ask you, have you ever felt a loving, peaceful Presence in a time of trauma, in meditation, in a dream, or
when you needed it the most, or expected it the least? If you cannot recall a sense of Presence, I would first ask
you to think very carefully to make sure you haven‟t blocked it, overlooked it or perhaps minimized its validity.
If you still cannot recall a time of connection, that is okay, too. Simply tracing the trajectory of your own life
lessons can be productive. However, if you wish, inviting a connection, keeping an open mind, and heightening
your awareness may facilitate a spiritual experience in the future. If you have felt guided or have connected
with Presence, I encourage you to explore that experience. Review the events that lead up to it. Gain meaning
from it in your own personal way.

Seven months after the second loss, in March, 1997, I had a very powerful vision that I call The Rainbow
Promise where I experienced the Peaceful Presence again, felt vibrant, colorful, abundant love filling our home;
heard the giggling laughter, saw the bright eyes and smiling face of a baby looking up at me. One year after the
vision, in March, 1998, we were delighted to welcome baby Brett into our family. A year and four months later,
in July 1999, we were surprised with one more giggling smiling baby boy, Tiger. I didn‟t know The Rainbow
Promise was a double rainbow.

Throughout the years, I grew spiritually through reading and discussions with my best friend, but after the
events of 9-11-2001, I knew it was time to reach out to a community. I returned to First UU and, bringing it full
circle, introduced my children to the UU village. I was so glad to know several members from the 70‟s and 80‟s
who were, and still are, active at First UU. Such a warmly welcomed homecoming.

I have shared some deeply personal life lessons with you today, in order to describe my religious and spiritual
journey, which is intertwined with these events. At the August 21st presentation, I will describe my reading
years, how pieces of the puzzle have fit together for me. And how certain observations about the world don‟t fit
together. These sources of information will build the foundation for introducing and discussing my current
belief system.

Taking you back to my first childhood spiritual memory, that everything we see in the world is a reflection of
ourselves, like a mirror. In retrospect, my life experiences mirrored this philosophy. When I dwelled on the
corruption, loneliness and pain in the world, I attracted it and amplified that pain in my life choices. When I
changed my mind, I changed my thoughts, I changed my life. When I looked inward and looked for good, for
peace, for connection, I attracted my good, through surrender and guidance which empowered me transform
my reflection.

I will say this in closing, some would say that like the Pacific island Cargo Cults, we deify scientific
mechanisms that we don‟t understand; that even though there is no God, we are genetically geared to call the
unknown God. My response is this: Maybe we tend to call the unknown God, because at some level we feel,
believe, and know there is a God, a Source, a Compassionate Essence which we are connected to. Could it be
that deification is a core tendency because our Oneness with Source is a core truth?

 

Lara Pollock