INTRODUCTION

 

The lanky, big eyed, boy cowered in the corner, his hands over his ears, trying to block out the screaming and yelling.  The noise died down awhile later.  He slowly got up and walked to the door and opened it just a crack.  He quickly shut it again as his mother passed by.  He shut his eyes, afraid to look.  Would it be a black eye, bloody nose, or would she fall down and go unconscious?  This had been his fear for so long, that his father would kill her.  The bathroom door closed.  "At least sheís still alive," he sighed, rubbing sweat off his forehead. 

The boy waited until he heard the bathroom door open before looking through the crack again.  His mother went into her bedroom and shut the door behind her.  A few moments later his father joined her.
The boy quickly put on his only jacket and shoes, grabbed a book then tiptoed out.  "Donít anybody move," he said, "please God, let it be all clear until I get outside." He was met by a crisp breeze, which blew the book cover open.  It felt a bit too chilly for mid September, but he figured heíd manage to get through a few chapters of The Grapes of Wrath before evening began to set and he had to go back inside.  Hopefully then his parents would be passed out, sleeping off the alcohol. 

 

 He curled up against the Maple tree near the fence, which separated the backyard from the big field in back.  He tried to give his full attention to the book, but could not concentrate.  So he laid it down and looked up at the clouds.  "Well, at least there is church tomorrow and tomorrow night," he said out loud.  "Yippee, Iíll get away from here for a whole day.  And next Saturday night is our big gospel singing.  That will be fun."  Then a wave of sadness came over him.  "It shouldnít be like this," he continued, "a kid shouldnít have to rely on church events to get a little peace of mind.  Why do they have to be like this?  Will it ever end?  Iíd like to get away from this place for good.  I wish I was old enough to go to college." He looked at the dancing clouds and tree branches that were blowing.  "It must be nicer up there.  God, wherever you are up there, itís got to be better than down here at this crazy house in Shepherdsville, Kentucky.


Then the boy closed his eyes and drifted off to sleep.  Some fifteen minutes later he awoke and his eyes were immediately drawn to a bright light beside the big gas tank on the other side of the yard.  "Humh," he said, "what is that?"  There was a golden swirl with silver strands on the edges.  It reminded him of those big taffee candies you get at the amusement parks.  The swirling slowed until it stopped.  What remained was a ball of golden light about the size of a basketball.  "Iím dreaming," he told himself.  He shut his eyes but could not keep them closed.  When he opened them the ball of light had transformed into a form.  The light was brighter now.  He had to squint.  "Oh, goodness," he said, "Iím starting to have hallucinations.  Theyíll take me to the mental hospital the next time mom goes."  He got up and ran around front, hoping his neighbor Daniel might be riding his bicycle down the road.  Maybe they could go for a walk in the fields and up the railroad tracks.


There was no trace of Daniel.  The boy slowly made his way around back again, realizing he had left his book on the ground.   He spotted the book where he left it, and he also noticed the ball of light had not disappeared.  "Oh, Jesus," he cried out, "Iím really losing it."  Then he had a sudden urge to approach the ball of light.  His heart pounding, and hands shaking he started walking towards it.  "Well, I guess if Iím crazy it wonít matter what I do.  Iíll wind up in a loony bin anyhow."  He walked until he was about ten feet from the light then stopped.  The chill he had felt was gone.  Warmth emanated from this light.  He made himself look at it, inwardly hoping that his brothers didnít get back early and find him standing still staring into space.

The ball unraveled into small strands, which darted out in different directions.  The boy closed his eyes again and stood there frozen for what seemed at least fifteen minutes.  His legs began to ache slightly and he felt stiff, so he took a few steps forward.  He opened his eyes and standing before him was the radiant image of what appeared to be an angel.  Her hair was long and as gold as the ball of light had been.  She wore a snow white robe and her eyes looked silver.  She swayed slightly.  The boy gaped and put his hand over his mouth, too terrified to run or say anything.  He just looked at her.  A smile came over her face then she waved her arm in the direction of the big gas tank.  She wants me to sit down he thought.  He made his way to the tank and jumped up on it as he and his brothers did all the time.

He folded his arms, his eyes never leaving the image.  Then he mustered the courage to speak.  "Who are you?" he asked softly. She grinned and looked at him for several moments before speaking.  He had the strangest thought that this lady, or angel could read his mind.  "I have heard your prayers," she began softly, as she crossed her hands over her heart.  "You have a very tender and good heart, young man.  You have many talents and abilities you do not know about yet.  You are going to help many people in your lifetime.  Let me remind you that  God is watching over you as he does all his children.  He has many ways to reach and to make contact with each of them.  The degree depends upon their faith, capacity, and abilities to receive him.  Be open to the many ways that God can reach out to you.  I promise you he is already doing so daily. 


 

He loves all his children equally, and like any parent, there are some he can reach more easily.  You are one of these children, a little different from the rest.  Though your heart has been wounded by all that you have seen and experienced at home, your spirit is still strong.  You hunger to know God and the ways of goodness, and you have faith that you can know and even befriend, God, your Heavenly father.  Perhaps this is easier since your earth father gives you little time or attention, and is certainly not the loving, caring father a boy needs to be able to count on and look up to.  That you read His Holy Words and talk to Him daily gives him much joy.  If only all his children would talk to him like the simple, loving parent that he is. 


"You pray with earnestness and expectations.  You yearn to get away from your parents and this town and you want to go to college.  Though part of you fears you might never get away and find a better life, another part of you dreams and hopes, and more importantly, expects and knows.  I am here to strengthen your hopes and to remind you that your dreams are real and that God knows them everyone.  He hears you when you tell your friends, "I am going to college.  God is going to find me one," and his face lights up with glee when you add that "it is Godís job to find me a nice college."  That kind of faith and confidence is to be admired by anyone, and more importantly, you must admire and remember your grand faith when you face the obstacles and difficulties that Life presents you with.


"I am here to tell you, dear soul, that your wishes are being granted.  You will go to college and you will get away from here.  Maybe sooner than you think.  You will doubt and even try to deny this visit, but donít ever forget it.  Think of what happened here today when you are feeling low and want to give up, and your faith will be renewed.  It will help get you through the trials you will face ahead.  I must take leave now."  Her image slowly began fading. "When you call out to God or think of me you are halfway to heaven.  By lifting your sights upward, God can help put you in the right frame of mind and thinking so that the cares of this world cannot break your heart or your spirit.  When in the right frame of mind every heartache can be overcome.  I believe that you will become your true self and know happiness and joy that few ever achieve.  Be patient, dear soul.  This will all take time for you to absorb and fully comprehend, but I have total faith and confidence in you.  Anyone who talks to God the way you have and demands and expects results deserves a little extra help along the way.  Feel free to pass my messages on when the time is right.  You are much stronger than you realize, and you are very loved as are all GodÄės children," she whispered, then disappeared. "Please donít leave," he stammered, but she was already gone.


 

Perhaps needless to say, I was that thirteen-year-old boy.  The angelís prediction that I would doubt and try to deny her almost immediately came true.  I mean, after all, angels do not just appear in your back yard and have a conversation with you.  Or do they?  More importantly, I think, was her prediction that I would never forget her visit.  That one came true as well.  And yes, her others all came true.  Less than a year later I moved to my first foster home.  Five years later I was attending Berea College in Berea, Kentucky where I went on to complete my studies in Psychology, Religion and Theology, French, Spanish, German and Voice among other things I jokingly tell my friends.  That is what Liberal Arts is about, isnít it?  The pursuit of many things.

The trials and tribulations did come just as she said they would.  I struggled with chronic depression, low self esteem, and other dysfunctional maladies that come from spending what I call "a lousy childhood."  And when in the throes of the doldrums, pain, and rage, I have had a tendency to block out and forget anything good that has ever happened.  "Out of sight Out of mind" definitely fit me, with one exception: the visit of who I later called "the Mystery Lady".  This memory is one that got in my mind and from then on was never totally out of sight.  When I finally had the nerve to tell some friends about her in college, they teased me and called her "my own private angel."  The thing was, I tried to tell them, she was not my private angel.  She only came to me that one time.  I prayed, pleaded, and even pouted, hoping she would pay me another visit, but she never came back.


 

Some fifteen years after that initial visit I was struggling, it felt more like drowning, in what I call "the abyss of hopelessness and despair".  Though I had graduated from college I had no career direction so I worked in restaurants for four years.  I suffered from intense loneliness, depression, and a yearning to help people but not knowing which routes to pursue.  I was in the throes of "unrequited love" and was plagued by fantasies of suicide.

I  would remember the "mysterious lady, the angel" some days but she seemed as evasive as my hopes and dreams.  Then one day I prayed a simple prayer as I had done so many years ago when I told God I wanted to get away from my parents and to go to college.  Well, maybe this prayer was a bit more complex because I was not  as specific as I had been before.  But that was because I truly did not have anything that concrete to ask for.  I just knew that my life was a mess and I wanted relief.  So, I prayed, "Dear God, help.  My life sucks.  Iím depressed, lonely, untrusting, nervous and donít even want to live sometimes.  I canít go on this way.  Youíve got to help me or send me some help or I just wonít be able to keep on going.  Itís that bad."

I guess that is called being at the end of oneís rope or being at the bottom of the pit.  When youíre at the bottom you cannot go any lower.  I forgot about the prayer and went about my miserable way for several more months.  I did manage to see a therapist and I kept with my jogging, reading and did some singing to keep me from going insane.  Work at the restaurants had its moments.  There were some fun parties and even some romance.  But I was still very unhappy.


As many of us have done, I sank in the throes of despair when I had that bout of "unrequited love" back in 1984.  Call it being love sick, love crazy or caught by the love bug.  It was a big love bug and its bite stung worse than a scorpionís.  I went to bed one night in May, truly agonizing to the point of being pathetic.  I have since learned that such "Dark Nights of the Soul" precede our breakthroughs and awakenings, but at that time I was in the pit and could only see the darkness, instead of the light at the end of the tunnel.  Many of my heroes like Vernon Howard express how such trials and tribulations strengthen the soulís muscles and lead us to breakthroughs and higher levels of awareness, happiness and even onto the road to wisdom.   Some years later I procured Vernon Howardís book The Mystic Path to Cosmic Power, Joseph Murphyís The Power of the Subconscious Mind and Norman Vincent Pealeís The Power of the Plus Factor.  I wish I had known of and read these wonderful books back in 1984.  I might have been spared some suffering.   I have to confess I had Dr. Pealeís The Power of Positive Thinking, and I must admit that it was piled away in some box.  Such wonderful books are just as empowering, enriching and inspiring today as they were when written years ago.


 

All of the positive thinking books remind us that "A great Power" is present within ourselves, call it the power of God, the Universal Law or the Living Spirit to quote Stuart Wilde, the Holy Spirit, or the Plus Factor, to quote Dr. Peale.  And this power is strong enough and great enough to answer our every prayer and make our dreams come true.  We just have to align ourselves with these universal principles and truths and reprogram ourselves with new positive attitudes and mindsets.  It is a journey and these writers assure us that if we do our part the outcome is always much success and happiness. 


The journey is different for everyone to some degree.  But the power within is that spark of love and magic given to us by our creator to burn away our fears, pains and doubts and to manifest our hopes and dreams.  We all have the spark.  It cannot be extinguished or we would cease to be alive.  Norman Vincent Peale calls it the Life Force, which animates and sustains all life on the planet and says that the "Plus Factor" is a special manifestation of it which, if we come to understand and reach out for, can do remarkable things in our lives.   


A few days before """The Writings"" on which Halfway to Heaven is based, I recalled the angel of so many years ago telling me that God could reach out and contact us in so many ways.  It seemed like some line I had read in some book or even dreamed.  I even doubted that I ever heard it.  Once I began """The Writings"" I could see similarities to my precious positive thinking books written by my heroes Napoleon Hill, Joseph Murphy, Norman Vincent Peale, Vernon Howard and Stuart Wilde.   The "Big Five" as I affectionately refer to them.  I tell all of my friends if they want to bring about positive change in their lives they need to read at least one book by one these authors and I assure them they will never be the same again.  These writers have all written, not one, but several books that are powerful, intense, funny, inspirational and most of all helpful.  They are not for the lazy.   They are for those who want, yearn, and need to get on with life and have their dreams come true and who are willing to take the journey to get there.  These books remind of us all that we can create and manifest anything we desire if we are willing to do the "work" as I like to call it.   So although I felt my heroes had done a rather thorough job educating the public, I was informed by some friends that I, too, had a voice and needed to speak. 


"Yes, those books are wonderful" Janet told me.  I carry and sell a lot of them in the store, but there are people who will resonate to your stories and voice.  There is always room for more, and you have to share your "Writings" and stories.  Books have their unique personalities and flavors.  People will identify with your experiences that do not relate to "Your Big Five" as you call them."
My sister Linda all but told me the same thing.  Once I got off my derriere and began the book, I came to realize that my own "Writings" and stories did have their own flavor, individuality, depth, humor and even love.  Yes, this book needed to be written and I was the only person who could write it.  This was another reminder that we all need friends to prod us. 


The "Writings" filled me with hope, passion, courage and gave me faith and courage to passionately pursue my dreams and to reach out and embrace Life in its fullest.  To dare to dream because dreams come true!  To be willing to take the journey to get there, to cry the tears, laugh the laughter and keep on keeping on no matter what. To keep on even, when immobilized by fear and rage at times.  They helped me to lift my head upward and gaze at the stars and Godís beautiful sky even when I was so down that I could do little more than crawl along the way.  They taught me about forgiveness of self and patience,  that word we sigh at and admit we need more ofí.  They talk about hard work and soul work as well as magic and miracles and give pointers and insights into attracting and sustaining them in our daily lives.


 

Did my angel really come to me at age thirteen?  Does God really exist and care that we fulfill our loftiest dreams, hopes and aspirations?  Are """The Writings"" inspired?  My answer is that I think so, but that does not make me special.  And yet it does.  Everyone is special because we are all Godís children.  We all have our unique gifts, ambitions, hopes and dreams and place in the world.  Without us, the world is a sadder place because God created us in all his wonderment and beauty.  How he smiles when we reach out and grab for rainbows, dreams, and magic because, to me, he loves us each and everyone, and He will help us all fulfill our missions on this earth.  But there is a catch. We have to ask and we have to be willing to walk the distance come what may. 

I like to think of God as a big affectionate father figure waiting to embrace us with his magic touch, the glow of his eyes, the sweetness of his smile and with compassion and love so big and strong it can heal our every hurt and pain and truly free us from our limitations and any kind of wounds we may have.  But we have to reach out and ask for help or it cannot come to us.  Go for it!  Dare to dream!  Dare to know the meaning of all your experiences and the lessons you have been challenged with in this lifetime.   And dare to be happy and filled with "the peace that passeth understanding.  Dare to be free!  It is a journey I am still taking, and each day I give humble thanks to God, his angels, and all the people who come into my life.  After all, as my one friend says, "what else have you got to do on the planet that is worthwhile?"

Dare to dream and never give up!  Life is for living, not existing!

 

© 2003 Michael Dennis