My sister and I watched westerns on TV as kids growing up in the 1950’s. They were on every Saturday and we sat waiting for them to begin, ready for another episode of our favorite shows.

As I grew older, my TV watching evolved, growing a bit more edgy with the introduction of martial arts movies. They were all entirely predictable, but I loved watching the fantastic moves of the heroes and villains.

I’m providing this background so that you can see how unusual it is that one of my all-time favorite movies falls way outside of these interests. It is Music Man, written by Meredith Wilson. It’s a musical about a traveling salesman, Professor Harold Hill played by Robert Preston. He spends the majority of the movie conning the parents of River City, Iowa into buying musical instruments for their children. He promises to turn the kids into a marching band, but has no real intent to stay once the parents have paid him. That is until he meets the town librarian, Marion Paroo, played by Shirley Jones. She spurns all of his early attempts to strike up a meaningful relationship, but eventually gives in.

My parents bought the soundtrack to the movie and I spent hours memorizing all of the parts. I could have even done a one-man show.

One of my favorite songs was Professor Hill’s attack on the town’s pool hall. His song was intended to whip the townspeople into a frenzy, so they would want their children in his band, and, of course, buy his instruments.

He told them they had trouble in River City, trouble with a capital T, that rhymed with P, which stood for ‘pool. He told them their children would fritter away all their time and convinced them the pool hall represented all sorts of evil and frightening things. They fell for it and lined up to buy their child an instrument of their own, to keep them out of trouble.

When the time came for him to leave with all of their money, he couldn’t do it. He’d fallen for Marion, the Librarian. And, as unlikely as it seemed, the instruments showed up, along with uniforms. The band assembled and marched down the main street in town, playing a tune for all they were worth.

Whenever I think about a trouble I am experiencing, this movie comes to mind and I wonder, what will happen next and whether everything will be resolved in the end?

I have to coach myself to step back and take a look from a distance and see if I can view the trouble from a different perspective.

I’ve found that it is helpful to become aware of what is happening inside of me.

If I have a ‘need’ that is driving me, I know I’m in trouble. If I’m focused on only one acceptable outcome, I know this spells trouble for me. If I’m anger or sadness takes over, blinding me to the bigger picture, yes, I’m in trouble.

Trouble, like so many other clever things knows how to follow you wherever you go, like a lost puppy searching for a new home. Trouble seems to figure out your weak spot and sit there, waiting for you.

What I end up doing, once I realize trouble has knocked on my door, is to ask for its message. What is it waiting to tell me? Why is it present?

As I open my heart, my eyes and my mind, hints arrive. I begin to see the ‘need’ that lurks behind the scenes. And, I sense there are other more valuable outcomes than the single one that first appeared to me. And, when I release any anger or sadness, my vision clears, opening a vista of opportunities.

I feel like Professor Harold Hill, marching at the head of the band, knowing all will be well in River City.

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Free Will

Imagine you are sitting at a desk. You are in a comfortable chair with your feet firmly placed on the floor. Your posture is upright and your mind is sharp. You look down and see a piece of paper laying across the top of the desk. Surprisingly, it stretches out endlessly in to the left and to the right. A pen rests on the paper and you pick it up.

A voice calls out to you with a question. It is a soothing voice, one you think you ought to recognize. You decide to let go of trying to know who it is and center in on the question itself.

The voice says, “This is the continuum of ‘free will’ and you stand at the middle point. The left end represents your belief that you do not have any free will and that all things are already decided for you. The right end signifies that you believe you have absolute free will to decide whatever you want to experience in life, with no barriers or requirements. Consider carefully, because whatever you choose will determine the course of your life. On what part of the paper do you choose to make your mark?”

This is no simple decision.

Many of us are taught through our religious training that (god), regardless of the tradition, has a ‘will’ for us. Ordinarily, this ‘will’ is either unknown to us or must be told to us by others, who are said to possess greater understanding. They become the interpreters of (god’s) will.

I wonder, how is it that they know something we don’t? How have they come by this knowledge and how can they tell all others what is right and true for them?

I wanted to know more about this, so I asked (god) (Lia) this morning, and this is what she said.

“You may choose to experience life as unhappiness, discontentment and unfulfillment by choosing fear (rather than love) as the basis for your decisions. Aligning with what others tell you is my will is one way to do this. What is happening here is that you are allowing others to control your decisions out of fear that I will be displeased with you and reject you. You are accepting that they know the truth but that you don’t. Your trust is placed in them, rather than in me and in yourself. Whenever you concede to others, you lose all of your power and sacrifice your free will, which is your greatest and most beautiful gift.”

She went on to say, “This may surprise you, but I have no will for you to behave in any particular or specific manner. That does not mean that I do not know what you choose. I do. I also know that if it is your desire to live a happy, contented, joy filled life, exercising your free will is the pathway. You are made completely and entirely of love, so you are your most happy, contented, joy filled self when you are acting (choosing) in accordance with your very nature. There is an alignment of love in this. Just because I know this to be true, I do not have a will for you to be this way. That is your choice.”

And finally, she said, “You are in this world to create and experience whatever you desire. Free will gives you the choice to align with fear or with love. This is up to you.”

Accepting this as the truth for me, I feel free to choose any option and embrace any opportunity, knowing that the ones that most serve me are those made from love, because they align with my very nature.

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