Timeless Spirit Logo ARTICLE

A Spiritually Enlightening Online Magazine. July's Theme: "Key to Heaven"
Volume 3 Issue 5 ISSN# 1708-3265
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by SpiritPainter

"Heaven or Hell, there's only two choices, do you know where you're going when you die?" As the deceased's adopted daughter wept, those words were fired like a machine gun burst this past winter at the small crowd of mostly Native Americans. The lone non-Natives were the deceased, a Jewish rabbi friend of the family, and of course the preacher. The preacher grinned behind the pulpit, and added defensively, but still grinning, "I didn't say that, the Bible said that!"

I listened hard for the Twilight Zone theme, but all I heard was soft sobbing and uncomfortable shuffling and shifting.

So when it was our turn, my wife and I lit the smudge and began ceremony, moving on to singing a blessing with the rattle and hand drum, and finishing with words of blessing and comfort to all, as best we knew. The preacher left soon after we began, possibly having had enough of the feathers and smoke. He had done his job, he had taken advantage of a "teachable moment" when people are thinking about final things, to do his best to scare anyone not already a member of his religion into at least considering it.

I don't think anyone did.

The Rabbi elegantly and sensitively closed the eclectic service. He didn't mention heaven.

"Heaven" is one of those words loaded with meaning, but just exactly what meaning, is impossible to know.

I know my meaning and the preacher's weren't the same.

Actually, "heaven," rather like a wine glass, no longer has any inherent meaning for me. I don't know what it means till I know what if anything's in there, and until I do, it's an empty vessel. Might be cabernet sauvignon; might be Gatorade; might be Jimmy Jones' Koolade. Might be a lot of nothing pretending to be something.

Many Native American languages are verb-based rather than noun-based. So to me, anyway, "heavening" makes sense, but "heaven" does not. If we are eternal beings, heaven can't be a destination and still be heaven, at least not as a place of eternal bliss, which is pretty much the standard default definition. You stop at a destination, but life is a journey, so if you stop, you die. But we cannot die if we are eternal beings, so we can't stop, not really.

But we can sure enough be heavening at any given moment. We can even be heavening and not realize it till much later when we look back and see how all the pieces of the journey have fallen into perfect place so far, in perfect order and with perfect timing. Finding out we were heavening the whole time we thought we were helling is truly a heavenly experience!

Helling is temporary. Heavening is eternal.

And that's the Good News. Even finding out you were wrong can be a heavening experience, because it helps you correct your trajectory.

Just ask the preacher. But don't ask him too soon. Ask him next lifetime, or the one after that, or inbetween, if you meet up with him there. But don't be surprised if he's shocked to see you there, at the heavenly wayside inn, because he might have mistaken it for his mansion. It's not his fault, it's just the way he was taught.

Just wish him well and get on the next train. Next time you see him, he might have got it.

Spyder SpiritPainter Webb has been a cartoonist for over twenty years, and is the creator of the metaphysical comic strip Sacred Cows. He and his wife are faithkeepers (ordained ministers) in the Native American tradition. SpiritPainter is currently studying for a Doctor of Divinity, and Reiki Master certification.

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