Into Each Life a Little Cake Must Fall: Lessons from a Cake-Tastrophe

Posted on Updated on

Pastry cook prepares a cake with cream and chocolate

This is the tale of an epic Cake-Fail.

It felt, at the time, like an absolute disaster.

Real disasters, like earthquakes, tornadoes, wars and disease put this story in perspective.

But in our day-to day lives, there are experiences that feel like disasters at the time; experiences in which survival adrenaline is at work; in which you encounter failure a dozen ways over. Life itself may not be at stake, but it can be difficult persuading your mind of that fact when faced with the crushing of plans, or a spectacular “miss”when your results are at stake. Your results and failures, of course, never affect just you, but a whole host of people either waiting for your promised outcome, or cleaning up after you when something goes wrong.

Whether your flop happens in a single moment or in a slow build-up over years, when it does hit, all you can see is the ruin—a crisis to deal with, and no-way out.

In thinking about some of the more difficult challenges I’ve been facing recently, I found myself ruminating on that experience, so long ago now…

It’s Not Always a “Piece of Cake”…

It was in the early 90’s, during a short time when I was mostly a stay-at-home mom. Unable to sit around, and with my corporate travel restricted due to my young baby, I had a stint as a high-end cake decorator—pastry school, seminars—the works.

I trained with some of the greats, whose names are known to all the famous cake people on TV today. It was before the Food Network and YouTube turned spectacular cakes into a competitive sport, as well as into a skill accessible to anyone with a computer. Back then it was still a rarified world of buttercream and gum paste specialists, and my own presentations were replete with “ooh’s and ah’s” from admirers when I produced my floral fantasies in sugar, the likes of which few people in that era had ever seen.

Baby shower cake with intricate lacework, sugar doll and hours and hours of work…one of my favorites, done in 1992, prior to the birth of my niece, Jenna.

Through a caterer, I got an order for a cake for a garden wedding on an estate in Greenwich, CT. The couple were very specific about the kind of cake they wanted: poppy seed with raspberry filling. I went to my baker, Manfred, to put in the order. He was a Viennese pastry whiz who sold me delicious “blanks” (un-iced cakes) from his shop. I conveyed the rather unusual flavor request, and he nodded. In my mind, I was envisioning a thin spread of raspberry jam between several torted layers of each cake. Torting, or having many layers of filling in each cake, is part of the art of fine pastry, and I left the execution of same in his capable Viennese hands.

Cake. Chocolate Mud Cake #2
Torted Layers

Two solid weeks were spent working on the elaborate buttercream flowers that would go on the cake. There was no room for food in either my fridge or my freezer; the kitchen was a mass of colored containers of icing and Tupperware containers of frozen buttercream roses, sweet peas, bleeding hearts, daffodils and my specialty: multi-colored pansies.

Not the cake of this story, this bridal shower cake shows a sample of some of the buttercream flowers I loved to do. This is one of the few photos I have available now. Credit for the buttercream technique goes to the incomparable Betty van Norstrand, with whom I studied at Vie de France Pastry School.

When I picked up the “blank” cakes the day before the wedding, I saw that instead of a thin layer of raspberry jam, Manfred had created each cake alternating multiple 1/2″ layers of raspberry mousse with an equal proportion of cake. Not what I’d thought, but, hey.

Ok, then. I set to work.

Fourteen hours of decorating later, after pounding in the requisite dowels and structural supports that go into the architecture of wedding cakes; after endless intricate and meticulous buttercream Cornelli work: after icing flower placements and finishing flourishes, at 10:30 on the morning of the wedding I loaded the cake into the back of my minivan for delivery. Because my daughter was hardly more than a baby, she got to come on the delivery run too, as did my husband, acting as driver and loyal supporter and helper.

Did I mention it was a hot, humid summer day?

As my husband slowly pulled the car about five feet down the sloped driveway, he glanced in the rear view mirror and said: “Oh Shit!”

This was not a good sound.

I ran around to the back, lifted the tailgate, and stared at a fallen, soggy mass of stair-stepped layers. The mere vibration of the car had been enough to coax every torted layer to slip past all the internal supports and external baffling, The gelatinous texture of the filling had provided a nice slippery surface so that with the slightest encouragement, the cake layers had gone for a ride on a confectionary Slip ‘n’ Slide, leaving a disastrous mess of mousse and the pillaged wreck of cake and buttercream.

I can still feel the shock and disbelief that simply did not register at first. I don’t like to think about that moment, even 25 years later.

We jumped back into the car and drove down the hill to the bakery. I was in total panic. Manfred came out to the car and said: “Oh, Shit! Oh Shit!”

He was followed by his wife (the “bad cop” in the relationship) harping loudly: “It’s not our fault! It’s not our fault!”

Manfred shook his head ruefully and then looked at his watch: 11:00 a.m.

“I have some frozen layers in stock. Give me two hours. I can cover them with fondant—then you can just do the flowers,”  he offered.

Fortunately, I always made many more flowers than needed in case of breakage.

Two hours till pickup of the layers…that gave me…how long?

The wedding was at 6:00 p.m.. I had to deliver it well before then. I’d have two, maybe three hours to pull it together. At most.

It looked something like this, only many times worse. Of course, we weren’t standing around taking photos, so I took this facsimile off the Internet. Note that the filling here is also raspberry jam! Hmmmm…

Now I had to call the client. We drove back home, because this was before cellphones. My heart was racing as I dialed the bride’s number.

The father of the bride answered.

“I have bad news and good news,” I began. “The bad news is that the wedding cake I just spent 14 hours decorating collapsed in my car. The good news is that you will have a wedding cake.”

I held my breath, waiting for his response.

The father said, in a voice full of compassionate concern: “Oh, how terrible for you!”

What? Yes, that’s what he said. He paused and thought.

“I think I can buy you a little extra window of time,” he said, with the satisfied air of someone who had just solved a puzzle, “The cocktail hour is at 6:30-7:30 p.m. Why don’t you come then, after the ceremony?”

I could have cried with gratitude. In fact, maybe I did.

While my husband scooped the buttercream disaster out of the back of the van with cardboard shovels that he concocted, I called my sister-in-law to beg her to please come and watch my daughter so I could concentrate on the Herculean task at hand.

She later told me she hadn’t heard my voice sound like that since my mother had died a few years before.

I got to work filling pastry bags and organizing the remaining flowers, entirely re-designing the cake in my head. I had no idea what size layers Manfred had on hand. Fortunately, one layer had escaped the “car”-nage—the small top layer that would rest separately on elevated crystal pillars. One less layer to worry about, I thought, even if it would look slightly different than the rest.

My husband picked up the frozen cakes from Manfred. It’s worth noting that putting fondant over frozen layers is risky, as the fondant will sweat with moisture. The fondant could tear, or the flowers get runny, or who knows what else. I just hoped if that was going to happen, it would take place after the cake was safely at the client’s and I was nowhere in sight.

At 6:30, I pulled my minivan into the driveway of the home-wedding-in-a-mansion in Greenwich. I could see the bride and the guests with their canapes and cocktails under a tent in the distance. The caterer came running out to meet me, threw her arms around me and gave me a huge hug, like a war veteran meeting another battle-scarred soldier. Together, we got the cake settled onto its display table in the house, put the top layer with the bride & groom decoration on top, hugged again and I left. The fact that it wasn’t poppy seed and raspberry seemed to matter not at all.

My husband and I had a dinner out, including a few stiff drinks—and neither one of us was a drinker.

Some time not that long after, my corporate career came calling again, and I laid my pastry bags down for good.

Things I Learned from the Great Cake-Tastrophe

People Recognize that Shit Happens. They Can be Surprisingly Kind and Generous. Also, Looking Back Through the Rear View Mirror, Grace Abounded.

That Manfred had extra cake layers in the freezer, of a wedding cake size— that alone was grace. Otherwise,who knows what I’d have done…I might have had to stack up a bunch of cookies on a plate and plunk a bride and groom on top.

fase preparazione  pasta con macchinario industriale
Commercial sheeter

Manfred also had a commercial sheeter (a machine that can roll out large amounts of dough or fondant in just a few passes). I could never have covered three large cakes by hand in that time, if I’d had the fondant in my supplies—which of course, I didn’t. He didn’t have to offer his help, but he did. In the middle of a busy workday and took his time to bail me out right now. When I later tried to reimburse him for the extra cakes, he told me to forget it.

I was also extremely grateful that it was the bride’s father who picked up the phone, because had it been the mother-of-the-bride, or the bride herself, it could much more easily have been a very different story. (I refer you to any episode of Bridezillas for potential reactions.)

Killer bride photo series. Bridezilla with wooden rolling pin. Studio shot
What I was expecting

The father was not only cool in a crisis, he was kind. His approach to the news was that it was just another thing to deal with, and everything has a solution. He took in the whole picture, not just how he or his daughter were affected. Miraculously, he put himself in my shoes and didn’t make me wrong. He had an ease with the problem-solving and came up with a solution. I was left with the feeling that this quality is probably what made him the kind of businessman who could afford a mansion in Greenwich. This was both Grace and Kindness in spades.

I offered the bridal couple a compensatory anniversary cake for the fact that they had not gotten their flavor request. They never asked for it. They could easily have asked for a refund, or asked me to fulfill on my free cake, but they never did.

What I got

My husband did whatever was necessary in the background without asking about it, dropping whatever else he had in mind for his weekend. My sister-in-law dropped all her plans to come babysit the whole day, and babysitting was not her favorite thing. In a crisis, the reinforcements rallied.

When you share a failure story, you find others have trod the same path. That’s often what makes them compassionate, especially if something similar has ever happened to them. War veterans stick together.

Manfred, a master baker, told me in the aftermath that this is exactly why he hated doing wedding cakes; he’d had enough of his own disasters. Owing to the precarious nature of wedding cake transport, he had evolved the method he had done with me: he left the layers frozen, covered them with fondant at the last minute, put a few simple roses on the cake, drove like hell to the wedding location and prayed.

The caterer at the wedding who ran out to meet me with open arms wasn’t angry, or sniping about how I’d let her down or how her client weren’t properly served. She approached me as someone who has seen her share of disasters and pulled it out of the hat at the last moment herself. That too surprised me no end.

Even Masters Get the Blues

Chef Kumin
Chef Albert Kumin

Some time after this, I shared my Cake-Fail story with Chef Albert Kumin, with whom I studied at Vie de France Pastry School. Chef Kumin was a former White House Pastry Chef, the founding pastry chef of Windows on the World, a legendary chocolatier, and at the time, one of the few people preserving and teaching the art of pulled and blown sugar. (He also bore a strong resemblance to the Swedish Chef from the Muppets.) When I told him what had happened, he shook his head and said: “Once I was in a big competition in Canada. I’d worked forever on four-foot tall intricate woven sugar baskets with blown sugar fruit. They were so tall and heavy it took a few people to lift them. When I got to the site, I saw they had to be transported through a revolving door.” He shook his head again, sighing ruefully. “We did our best, but, the whole thing shattered in an instant.”

(Anyone who has watched Cake Challenges on the Food Network knows that transporting a large confection from the work site to exhibition the table just 4 feet away can be the most perilous part of the contest.)

Sometimes, Pressure Yields Great Results

The cake I actually delivered, with three large tiers plus the top layer, was assembled and decorated in less than four hours. In some ways, it looked better than the one I’d slaved over for four times as long. I had learned this as a painter back in art school: the quick impromptu variation dashed off after laboring long hours on some drawing or painting was often better than the one on which so much studied effort had been expended. All the carefulness of the first work gets metabolized by that long study; spontaneity arises from that integrated foundation in a freer, more poetic way.Screen Shot 2015-07-14 at 1.12.16 PM

Epilogue: 25 years later…

I was on a drive with a friend when this old experience flashed though my mind.

I realized that the memory of the Cake Fail came to me because from some perspectives, life can look just like that mess of buttercream and mousse smeared in the back of my car. I know the image came to encourage others, that even when you are looking at a situation to which the only reaction is “Oh, Shit”, a million small and large graces abound. And out of that mess arose an even more wonderful creation, supported by many other hands.

If I wasn’t on a diet, I think I’d have a piece of cake, just about now!

beautiful young woman eating cake secretly

What is YOUR Cake-Tastrophe? Would love to hear from you in the comments!


Why Healing is Accelerated in a Group Setting

Posted on Updated on

You can open to the Divine by yourself in a cave, but for most people, it’s far easier to do in the company of others. What kind of company? “Good Company” advise the Great Ones. That is the meaning of the word “Satsang” — a community of truth-seekers.

Cave at Qumrun, in Israel; where the desert fathers retreated in solitude.

My mentor, Rev. Dr. Ron Roth, who spent over 40 years conducting healing services with attendance ranging from 10 to 10,000 people at any given event, used to warn the audience: “When I call out your condition, NOW is the time to come forward for healing. Don’t think you’re going to corner me privately later in the hall and get any result.” 

He was referring to the fact that in the energy of the group prayer and devotion, the healing presence of the Holy Spirit and the holy spirit helpers were called forth in that elevated energy (vibration is another way of saying it)  and performed the healing work in a way that usually was astonishing and miraculous. “When Kathryn Kuhlman led services,” he would exhort over and over, “she would stand and sing with the choir and the audience for over an hour before she began the healing portion.” 

Why did she do this? Why did Ron insist on long intervals of musical prayer? Indeed, I learned the role of music in healing by serving as one of Ron’s musical team for almost 10 years. I experienced firsthand how music and chanting elevate the vibrational field. All cultures and traditions everywhere recognize this, and there are virtually no healing traditions that don’t include some sort of meditative sounding, whether it is drumming, om-ing, singing, chanting, gongs, kirtan or any other form of music.

Ron Roth at a 2004 healing retreat.
Ron Roth at a 2004 healing retreat.

Yogananda once held a service in which he had the jam-packed crowd at Carnegie Hall chanting “Oh God Beautiful” for an hour and twenty five minutes!:

“For one hour and twenty-five minutes, the thousands of voices of the entire audience chanted…in a divine atmosphere of joyous praise…The next day many men and women testified to the God-perception and the healing of body, mind, and soul that had taken place during the sacred chanting, and numerous requests came in to repeat the song at other services.“* *

Could Yogananda, or other great mystics, bring about healing without a crowd of chanters? Yes. Such Divine Masters vibrate at a level much greater than your average spiritual healer.

Paramhansa Yogananda
Paramhansa Yogananda

I studied with Mahendra Trivedi for a time, and he joked about experiments in India where they hooked him up to various scientific apparatus and brought in the greatest of Reiki healers, whose effect was absolutely nil. The reason, he chuckled, was “the stronger energy always wins.” His own energetic field was so much higher that nothing she did could affect him in any way. But he himself has transmuted, in scientific experiments, just about every substance known to man, and great healings have also occurred through him. So the fully God-Realized can and do emit a healing energy regardless of the environment.

Yet, many of them; in fact almost all I can think of, did use the group to amplify and generate the field and invite in the Divine Presence. John of God, perhaps the greatest medium and spiritist healer in hundreds of years, has several hundred mediums meditating to generate the field in which the benevolent Encidades (healing entities) do their work through him. At the Casa Dom Inacio in Brazil, this energy field is called the “current”. It comes from the portuguese word corrente, which means both an energetic/electrical current and a chain…it is a healing current formed by a chain of people.”Sit in the current” is the most frequent prescription given at the Casa.

Ron Roth, at the invitation of John of God, conducts a healing service at the Casa Dom Inacio in 2004. That's me on guitar in the background.
Ron Roth, at the invitation of John of God, conducts a healing service at the Casa Dom Inacio in 2004. That’s me on guitar in the background.

Current is a beautiful example of “give & get.” Some people prefer to have a healer work on them in private. This is effective too, depending on the healer. But one must remember, that’s all about the “getting.” The beauty of healing in and with a group, is that you are also giving. And in terms of your own Grace Bank Account, that can only be a good thing.

Healing services are an opportunity to come together and generate that energetic field in such a way that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. This is the meaning underlying the famous quote of Jesus: “Where two or more are gathered together, there am I among you.” 

Join me at our next free healing event January 10th, 2015 in Evanston, IL: https://revnettie.com/healing-events/

**(source: http://www.yogananda-srf.org/Kirtan_Chanting.aspx#.VKhbZidwsRI)

What Can I Expect at a Healing Service?

Posted on Updated on

Gentle Healing WordsTwo groups of people can typically be expected to come to a healing service:

Senior woman suffering from neck pain with eyes closed in the medical office1) Those in physical or emotional pain, sometimes with very serious illnesses and even desperate for anything that might help, and



Serene young woman with hands together in prayer pose  in the desert in China, silhouette, sun setting, profile2) Spiritual “seekers”, or those who are drawn to spiritually-charged environments where they experience Divine Presence, whether they are immediately concerned with healing a particular condition or not.

But really, do you know anyone whose life doesn’t “hurt” in some way? It may not be a physical need at all; sometimes it’s just an intense spiritual longing; longing to be free, to feel whole, to know God, by whatever name or form you recognize.

Whatever brings you into the room, there is one big question on the mind of most people who come to a healing service, event or retreat: “Will I get a miracle healing of my situation?”

This question comes with a whole lot of little questions dangling off of it. Questions such as: “I don’t know if I even believe in this—why am I here?” or

Everyone else will get something, but probably not me, right?” or

Why does this one get healed and so many others don’t? Why does someone experience instantaneous relief, and for others it may be a long process, and for some …’they died anyway.'”

Here’s what I want to say right at the get-go: I have no idea who will or won’t get healed, what level of healing they may experience, what is energetically initiated for them, and how it may play out in an individual’s life in terms of time. Unfortunately, “knowing” did not come with the job description. 🙂

I wish I did know.

Every one who dares to be identified as a “healer” of any level of ability—whether being a healer constitutes a mommy-kiss on the bruised knee, being a medical doctor or even a John of God—all healers must ask themselves the same thing: why do some “boo-boos” heal and some don’t?  The truth is, we don’t really know why two situations that look very similar end up with different results, although it can be pretty enticing to make up fascinating reasons, which may or may not have merit, and there are some great books on the subject. We just surrender to Divine Will.

But I do know a few things.

I know that great miracles of healing  do indeed exist, and I’ve witnessed them and been a part of them; the long slow ones and the “miraculous” instantaneous ones. When it comes to the great healers, I’ve been with some of the Best in the World; those who heal publicly, and those who heal silently from a distance.

Rev. Nettie plays music for Padre Ron Roth & John of God in Brazil in 2004
Rev. Nettie plays music for Padre Ron Roth & John of God in Brazil in 2004

I know enough to know that with all that I do know, I don’t know much. (Say that one five times fast.)

Here’s what else I know: healing, by whatever means it happens, is a function of Divine Grace, not of the person through whom it comes. Grace means, hey, you may or may not deserve it, but here’s a gift from the Divine.

If you don’t get the gift you were hoping & praying for, then sometimes the gift is accepting that you’ve got some learning from the situation you’ve got.

Life is like PhotogI’ve been with enough spiritually amazing people who have died of cancer or had other disagreeable endings (at least from our physical point of view.) All have said to me or to others: “I would not trade what I’ve learned from this experience for anything.” That doesn’t stop me or them from desiring or praying for a different ending. Listen, surrender is difficult, and every time you think you’ve mastered it in one area, up pops the opportunity in yet another.

Surrender is like an ongoing game of Spiritual Whack-a-Mole.

And you thought you’d “handled” that one…

Here’s another thing I know: healing comes from the word for “whole”. Healing is, much as WE DO NOT WANT TO HEAR THIS, not really ultimately about making our arthritis go away or our cancer disappear—although, I’ll take all the physical healing I can get or give. God knows I’ve chased that kind of healing literally to the “ends of the earth” for myself and many others. I’m as agog as anyone else each and every time I hear of or witness a miraculous physical or emotional healing. It’s what I live for.

But that’s not truly Wholeness, is it? Because—brace yourself for this news—in this game of Life, nobody gets out alive. So healed today, gone tomorrow is still the unfortunate truth.

Then, wholeness means something else; healing means something else, beyond just bodily or  emotional healing.

Healing is about one thing only: healing that sense of being separate from your Divine origins; call it “separated from God, or Spirit or the Self.

When we recognize someone as “enlightened” or “awakened”, we are recognizing that they have healed that breech at the soul level. What happens then to the body is immaterial (pun intended). That is one reason why Ramana Maharshi, the great Indian saint of the last century, cared little when his devotees begged him to heal himself of the cancer that took him out; why I believe that Ron Roth spent two years in a wheelchair before finally exiting, and there are many other stories like this.

So what can you expect at a healing service?

Rev. Nettie blessing through the eyes.
Rev. Nettie blessing through the eyes.

On the pure physical level, the formats differ from healer to healer. In the legacy I’m a part of, there will definitely be a good deal of music and chanting to bring everyone into a sense of unity, community and raised vibrations. As Ron Roth used to teach us, all spiritual traditions start with raising the vibrations through chant, drum, music. There are some talks that are divinely guided in that they are usually inspired in a way that someone in the room needs to hear.  And then there are some organized hands-on healing prayers, where you may be lightly touched on the head.

In our Dec 13th Service in Evanston, IL, Rev. Wendy Chojnowski and I will be working together. We’ve had that opportunity before in one way or another, and it’s always full of delightful spiritual surprises and amplified energy. Our styles are different, but we are sourced from the Same Place.

Rev. Wendy Chojnowski in one of her healing moments.

In some way, we who function as the conduits open up to let a more powerful energy of Grace touch your life. That Divine Wisdom knows exactly how much voltage you can handle, what needs to be done, in what order, for the healing of your own life. You can relax, and rest in the fact that a Grace bigger than your small self can be in control, even if you can’t dictate the outcome. Powerful Healing Vortex

Sometimes people experience immediate releases of pain or find out within a short period of time that something troubling them in their life miraculously clears up. Some people notice incremental changes. And others walk away feeling “nothing happened.” And maybe in the moment, it didn’t in a way they wanted. From where I stand, something always happens when you open yourself to greater blessing energy. Maybe, five years later, they turn around and realize that some profound changes in their lives were initiated by someone’s Grace-filled touch at a particularly crucial moment.

What can you expect at a healing service? Expect the good. Expect a better, higher connection with God; another name for Good. Expect to open to more goodness and love in your life. Be willing. Be open. Open yourself to possibilities that you only dare to hope for. Ask for what you need. Ask to be Whole. And then, be grateful.creative-----flowers--gifs--Pebbles-1--BORROWED-picfor-me----flower--Pink-Only--butterflies-and-flowers_mediumjpgMore on that another time.

Join us in Evanston, IL on Dec. 13th for our Free Healing Service: Grace, Power & Miracles… from 4 pm to 6:30 pm at Unity on the North Shore

Details here: https://revnettie.com/healing-events/

Sign up here: http://www.meetup.com/Evanston-Free-Spiritual-Healing-Service-Event/

Download flyer: Dec13FlyerFInal3








The Inner Voice

Posted on Updated on

Healing Event at Olga’s

Learning to trust the inner voice, (or Inner Voice) is natural to some people, but a learned skill for most.

In the beginning the Voice can seem like just another thought amidst the LA Freeway Traffic Jam of the Mind. Yet something about it catches our attention: perhaps the thought is novel in some way, or there is a body sensation that accompanies it, or it’s a thought that just keeps coming around for another turn, asking for attention. Learning the difference between the voice of guidance (“call that person!”) and the voice of the ego-mind (“go ahead, eat the chocolate cake!”) is a skill worth mastering. And, it’s a lesson that’s never over, Spirit keeps upping the ante.

Life teaches us about intuition, and for some it’s a slow learning process. “I had a feeling I shouldn’t have gone out tonight…” “I knew I should have called her…”  My healer friend Robbins Hopkins has an expression: “You get as many chances as you need.” It’s her gentle take on the reality that life will keep repeating the circumstances—both the tough lessons and the golden opportunities— till you step up and match the lesson being offered.

For some people, guidance comes in very strongly, in a clearly discernible way. Over decades, I’ve become one of those people. It wasn’t always as clear as it is now. Still, there are moments when I question, because it can be a thin line between your lower mind and your higher Self at times. Negotiating that line is one of the main lessons in life.

Just prior to a trip to California to do a healing/blessing event, when I received an inner message saying I should bring along a red silk sari I bought two years ago on a trip to India and had never yet worn, that little voice of doubt raised it’s volume for a few moments. Wearing a queenly red sari and playing the guitar at the same time could raise all sorts of questions in the minds of attendees, and did I really want to deal with that? (One of the participants later suggested I call it a “guitari.”)

But years of experience have taught me to trust and listen, and so I did. Upon arriving in CA, I found that my co-leader, Rev. Susi Roos, had also brought along her Indian garb, so we knew something was afoot.

That something turned out to be an evening devoted to the blessings of the Divine Feminine. Everything both of us had brought in our hearts and in our suitcases turned out to be perfectly synched, helping to create a powerful experience for the attendees and for us as well.

Celebrating at the end of a beautiful event: Olga Llerena, Rev. Susi Roos, Rev. Nettie Spiwack, Bob Bearden

What messages have you received that you have brushed aside as silly thoughts, or that put you at risk of looking foolish? When have you followed that guidance and realized it was the Real Deal? I’d love to hear from you in the comments! (If you are reading this on the Home Page, Comments links are at the bottom. If you are reading this as a single-entry page, the Comments link is at the top.)


A Night to Remember

Posted on Updated on

Evicting Cancer Seminar & Healing Service Aug. 9th, 2011There are times in your life when you can see everything coming together in a way that is so perfect and so fluid that you can only stand aside and watch the pieces fall into place, knowing that only divine Grace could so direct the play.

Two years ago, on the night after my mentor Ron Roth died, I had a vivid dream visitation; a dream in which my friend Rev. Susi Roos and I were dressing in ministerial vestments in the vestry of a Catholic church. Ron Roth, in full priestly regalia, came charging down the aisle of the cathedral, holding his bishop’s staff and scolding us loudly in his most annoyed tone.

“Where are you, I’m WAITING for you!” he said impatiently.

He turned back toward the altar, and Susi and I fled down the aisle after him, practically running to keep up. He mounted the platform and we slid into seats behind him and looked out at a vast crowd.

Ron Roth blessing his spiritual daughter, Tania, during Mass at the Casa in Brazil in 2004

On August 9th, that dream came to life when Susi and I got into our ministerial vestments in the vestry of St. Catherine of Siena Roman Catholic church in Rialto, California. And though Ron was not there in body, he certainly was fully present for both of us and for the people of the parish in the San Bernardino area who came in droves to attend the seminar and healing service Evicting Cancer, which, two years ago when I had the dream, was not even a glimmer in either of our eyes.

When I first floated the idea for doing this interfaith educational and healing event past Fr. Steve Porter, whom I had met in Brazil, I did some rapid math in my head. I knew his parish was large, and I figured that among 9000 people, many lives must be touched by cancer. How many would turn out on a weekday or weeknight to hear two unknown female ministers was at best a gamble—I figured anywhere from 10 to 100. But the Holy Spirit had other ideas.

Unknown to me when we had first spoken of the idea was the fact that Fr. Steve has conducted regular healing services at his church for years, and had everything and everyone in place to hold a large-scale event that otherwise would have taken a huge amount of logistical arrangements if we were truly starting from scratch—which we weren’t. With Fr. Steve’s enthusiastic support, the first of two events that day had around 300 people in attendance at 10:00 a.m.

Rev. Susi Roos opens the Evicting Cancer event

A wonderful musical ministry team gave their time to support the services, and to provide translation during our talks as well. After we were introduced in English and Spanish by Fr. Steve, Rev. Susi, who works as both a nurse and a mind/body specialist at a leading cancer treatment facility, spent the first hour talking on the three biggest mistakes people make when addressing cancer, and gave easy and practical things people could do to greatly assist the effectiveness of their treatment. She put all the medical information into a spiritual context, touching on some of the concepts from her in-depth teleseminars and home-study programs.

Then it was my turn to open people up to a higher energy transmission through teaching and leading worship (something I’ve done many times on a scale larger than 300 people) and in the laying-on-of-hands healing (something I’ve done in smaller events).

Fr. Steve had arranged with one of the prayer groups to provide support, and in accordance with the way they conduct healing services at this church, every individual is personally escorted by a healing minister to come for laying on of hands; the minister stays with them if they go “down under the Power of the Spirit” (involuntarily fall gently to rest on the floor while healing is done on an unconscious level).

Rev. Susi anointing with blessed oil.

Our spiritual assistants also functioned as translators as the vast majority of those attending had Spanish as their primary language.

I knew one thing: don’t prepare too much, because whatever you think will happen, it will surely be something different. And so it was.

Rev. Nettie blesses at the evening service.

I was ready to lay hands on people in blessing, but shortly into the personal blessings I was led to look at them in the eyes, and as I did, thoughts would come flooding in, differing from one person to the next, such as “have courage!” or “you are loved…” There was clearly an energy being transmitted through the gazing, and all I had to do was get out of the way and let it happen. I also found myself clearing much “junk”—removing invisible energy blocks before passing people on to Susi, who then anointed them with oil. As she blessed them, many went down under the Power. Fr. Steve moved amongst the people and between us, lending energetic, logistical and prayer support.

The morning, scheduled to go from 10:00 – 12:00, continued till 1:00 p.m., as people waited patiently in line for their turn.

The evening event began at 7:00 pm, and saw many more people fill the church. This time it was clear to Fr. Steve that at least half were not his parishioners, but those who had heard about the opportunity through friends or through the local Spanish radio station, and had come with hope in their hearts, some bringing children, some with older people in wheelchairs, some holding pictures of loved ones.

As the evening went on, the Divine energy in the church became electric; people were open, full of devotion and enthusiastically ready to receive Grace. Reflected on many faces as they approached, was much fear, pain and suffering, and devotion as well. But just under the surface lay a hunger and thirst for love, hope, and most of all, peace—the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

The service started promptly at 7:00 and didn’t end till after 11:00. Fr. Steve estimated that we had over 1000 in attendance and about 700 who came up to be personally blessed. I had no idea how many; I could only see the person in front of me, and Juvenal, the human angel who was assisting me, pointed me where I needed to go in the cases of the elderly and wheelchair patients.

This time, as the evening went on, as I looked at the person in front of me, I knew within seconds who was physically sick and who was there for emotional reasons. If I asked, they would verify the information and give a few words about their situation. As expected, there were many with cancers, but there were many other conditions as well, often advanced and serious, as well as those seeking help with emotional problems.

Rev. Nettie blessing through the eyes.

People come to healing services hoping for miraculous help. And what they mean is, on the physical level, they want their cancers to disappear; their ailments—many of which took years and years to establish—to vanish immediately. I’ve been in this world of healing long enough to know that this indeed happens at times, and I believe that when it happens it’s to build faith not only in that person, but in all who know them.

More often, a new kind of journey is initiated. Susi quotes her first patient in this field who begged for her help, sensing Susi knew things that could help her, even though the doctors had told her they couldn’t do any more: “You turned my death sentence into a healing journey,” she later said.

While I’ve experienced that journey in my own life and witnessed it in so many others—some near and dear to me—that night took everything I’ve ever been through in the world of spiritual healing to a whole new level.

I stood at the center of the healing vortex and I could see, feel and know that an energetic transformation had happened for many attendees; that infusion of Divine energy would revitalize them; some in the physical, some in the emotional, some in the spiritual, and some in all three.

An infusion of energy always alters that which it touches; it’s a physical law. What’s less well-known is that it is a spiritual law as well.

As a result, I know that not only the people who came were changed; I, too, am changed.

For almost 30 years I have resounded with the quote from George Bernard Shaw that starts: This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one…

On August 9th, I was fully used by that purpose. There is no better place to be. For that privilege, I am grateful to God.

Our gratitude also goes to Fr. Steve Porter for making this event available to the people of his community, with whom we now share a profound sense of love and blessing.

Rev. Susi, Rev. Nettie & Fr. Steve, the day after the services.