March On

During my years in Washington, D.C., I participated in several rallies and marches.  One occurred at Ward Circle, just outside the American University campus where I was completing my final semester as a sociology undergrad.  For a class activity, I stood with Professor Barbara Kaplan, waving a sign which read: “Peace Now.”

Times were calm.  People drove past, waving and honking sporadically.  No one much cared about some college students protesting in the nation’s capital.  When my picture appeared in the school newspaper, I felt honored.  Professor Kaplan patted me on the back and winked: “Well done.  Now you’ll have a file at FBI headquarters.”  I wasn’t concerned.

A few years later, I marched with a group of women along Constitution Avenue to a rally at the Supreme Court.  We waved signs supporting women’s rights, especially for equal pay and affordable health care.  On the Supreme Court steps, as I awaited the keynote address, another woman approached and started talking.  At first, I thought we shared similar views.  Then she barraged my friends and me with statistics about abortion, birth control and infant mortality.  I attempted to shout her down, but to no avail.  Eventually, I became hoarse, muttered something like, “Whatever,” and moved away.  But not before I heard her say, “They’ll get you for this.  You’re going to hell.”

For a while, I felt nervous, not about hell, but about what my employer might think.  Or other friends and co-workers who didn’t agree with me.  Then, I remembered: I’m an American with freedom of speech, who can stand on the Supreme Court steps and declare my beliefs.

Nowhere, on those occasions or any others, do I remember any violence.  The usual Washington, D.C. security systems functioned properly, and we marched peacefully, albeit loudly.  No one fought or feared the “other side.”

I reflect upon those times, as the liberties our founding fathers and mothers, immigrant ancestors, and spiritual wayshowers established for our well-being are threatened.  I think about how each generation is called to stand up, to step out in faith — yet again — to transform our world so it becomes a better place for generations to come.

I also notice tremendous anxiety, dread and tension.  I pastor to people who fear for their safety, security and livelihoods, including some young adults concerned about what might happen to them if they’re arrested.  Others who campaigned for various causes still look forlorn.  They hang their heads with downcast eyes.  All express their concerns about the future and strive to realign with their faith.

Everywhere, it seems, we seek an encouraging word.  So, to all who march, wherever they may be, I offer this ancient assurance, passed from generation to generation:

“Be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you [and within you] wherever you go.”   (Joshua 1:9)

Lift your gaze, raise your heads high, and march on, Blessed Readers.

© 2017 – Rev. Jennifer L. Sacks.  All rights reserved.

Not Mine, But Thine

As 2017 unfolds, some of us are noticing that what we wholeheartedly resolved on January 1st is already a challenge to manage.   Perhaps we’re avoiding, procrastinating or resisting.  Perhaps we’ve asked ourselves: “Do I really want this?” or “Is this truly best for me?”

If we’ve asked either of those questions, or one like them, then we’re ready to take another faithful step forward, to consider putting our personal will in the backseat and allowing God’s will to direct our lives.

While God’s will is rarely easy to understand, it’s always for our best.  As Richard and Mary-Alice Jafolla, former directors of Silent Unity, explain:

God’s will is the unrelenting desire in you to express your divine potential.  . . . God’s will is radiant health, abundant prosperity, limitless love, eternal happiness, and the knowledge that you are part of God.  . . . God’s will is God, seeking to express in you and as you.  [Adventures on the Quest,  2001, p. 120]

When we argue for our will, instead of trusting God’s, we imprison ourselves in destructive behaviors and self-defeating attitudes.  We wander endlessly, needlessly, dazed and confused, like Alice in the rabbit hole, because we refuse to open our eyes, ears, minds, hearts, and especially ourselves, to behold what’s before us — in new, transformative ways.

Ultimately, to know God’s will, we must surrender preconceived notions — including other’s opinions and the way it’s always been done — to something greater.  Discerning God’s will, rather than our own, requires faith, patience and trust so we know exactly which steps to take and when.

Here, then, are some practical ways to discern God’s will:

  • Schedule daily time for contemplation, meditation and prayer in a sacred way and comfortable place. This includes sitting on our meditation cushion, as well as hiking in the forest, fishing on the lake, or strolling through the park.
  • Breathe deeply, gently, and speak the words: “Not my way, God, but Your way. Not my will, but Thy will be done.”
  • Acknowledge and mourn whichever desires, dreams and/or goals are dead and which won’t occur as we once hoped.
  • Concede our ideas about how something “should” unfold and allow time and space for Holy Spirit to do Its work.
  • Consider which roads are blocked, whether detours can be cleared and what other avenues may lead to something better than we imagined.
  • Stop checking the rear-view mirror and release the past to the past.
  • Focus on the road before us, eyes on the horizon, while still noticing what’s immediately ahead.
  • Remember: God is eternally grace-giving, infinitely compassionate and unconditionally loving. Refuse to believe fatalistic notions portraying God as a capricious presence which wills evil, pain and suffering on Its creations, or picks and chooses who wins and who loses in some great cosmic lottery.
  • Trust that every ending brings another beginning, and know that as we release our way, God’s way meets us exactly where we are.

© 2017 – Rev. Jennifer L. Sacks.  All rights reserved.