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.

What Next?

When I worked in Washington, D.C., I learned a lot about cycles and systems — how some things, such as freedom and integrity, are permanent, while others, such as administrations and occupations, are fleeting.  Some of my greatest learning came at the end of an election cycle.   People and positions shifted at record speed.  The department in which I thought I’d work for years disappeared overnight.  My boss told me that my marketing colleague and I were “redundant” and that our “skills” were no longer needed.  The whole process was quick, cold and demoralizing.

When I saw my colleague in the hallway, we embraced for a moment, neither of us willing to shatter the brave façade we’d held in public.  As we prepared to walk out the door into the rest of our lives, she gulped back tears and asked, “So, what next?”  I shrugged.  I had no answer.

The days and weeks which followed felt like a slow death.  Then, I realized I was experiencing stages of grief, starting with numbness, then fear, anger and bargaining.  One night I even dreamt that my boss called and said they made a mistake and wanted me back.

As I allowed myself to experience the grief, I cried a river of tears, wrote and rewrote my resume, networked all over town, and told my story to friends and mentors.  Then, I had a tremendous Ah-Ha which moved me toward acceptance: I could be and do anything I wanted.

That Ah-Ha is the place which Richard and Mary-Alice Jafolla, former directors of Silent Unity and authors of The Quest: A Journey of Spiritual Rediscovery and Adventures on the Quest (© 1993), call “Possibility Junction.”  This is the place on our life journeys where the past is behind us, hundreds of pathways beckon, and life can begin anew.

Now, with another election cycle complete, and with holidays rapidly approaching, we can consider taking some quiet moments to grieve whatever losses we’re experiencing, know the past for what it was, and stay faithful and strong as we discern our own “what next.”

While we pause, we can do some practical things:

  1. List all our fears. When we’re willing to look at them, they lose their power.  And, if we’re willing to sit with them long enough, they’ll reveal what we truly value.
  2. List all our values: the tangibles, such as a comfy bed, family dinners and grandma’s heirlooms, and the intangibles such as beauty, compassion and peace of mind. We can prayerfully consider which truly call to us and bring us joy.  Then we can discern exactly which paths to take and which to avoid.
  3. Meditate, allowing ourselves to imagine, contemplate and write down the possibilities which await.
  4. Rest at our junction as long as we need, so we move on our time, not someone else’s.
  5. Remain non-attached and, as much as possible, suspend judgment about the people, places and things involved so the activity of God, Holy Spirit, can do its divine work.
  6. Above all, trust the wisdom within to reveal itself and to guide us on our way.

© 2016 – Rev. Jennifer L. Sacks.  All rights reserved.

Pick Up Your Mat

Having faith in God — and in ourselves — can be a continual challenge.  Travelling faithfully requires that we flow with life, guided by our inner vision even as we heed activity in the outer world.

No matter what may occur in our lives, faith in God and God’s power and presence within us always leads the way.  Though sometimes, we get it backwards.  As in the story of the man Jesus meets at the pool of Bethesda {See John 5:1-9}.

At the pool, many ill people — blind, crippled, paralyzed — wait for an Angel of the Lord to stir the water at certain seasons.  Those who step into the water are healed.  One man, an invalid, has waited by the pool for 38 years (mystically, 38 can represent spiritual discernment).

When Jesus sees the man waiting, he asks: “Do you want to get well?”

At this point, the man doesn’t know who Jesus is.  He replies: “Sir, I have no one to help me into pool when the water is stirred. While I’m trying to get in, someone else goes ahead of me.”

Then Jesus says to him: “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.”  At once, the man is cured; he picks up his mat and walks.  Because he hears Jesus tell him that he can!

Sometimes we need to wait for assistance.  And sometimes we need to lift ourselves up and move, of our own accord.  Even when we’ve been previously blinded by anger, crippled by shame or paralyzed by fear.

Sometimes we wait for someone else to “heal” us, never realizing all the while, that we have the power within us to heal whatever needs healing.  For days, weeks, months, even years, some of us have held false beliefs — in our hearts — that we are somehow broken or unworthy.  We’ve erroneously believed that a power outside of us would one day come along and change our circumstances, instead of understanding that we have all the inner power we need to rise and walk.

When we choose to pick up ourselves and our “mats,” whatever they may be, we align ourselves with God and allow an Angel of the Lord, sometimes called Holy Spirit, room to move.  Without Holy Spirit, we labor, struggle and limit ourselves and others — even though the power and presence of God with us and within us is limitless.  Yet, with Holy Spirit — the thing which stirs the water, our inner well of faith — we’re healed in whatever way we need healing most.

The Truth is: We always have the power to discern whether we want to wait by the pool, attempt to get in the water, or pick ourselves up and move in another direction.  We always have more strategies than we first imagine.  At any moment, we can pick up our mats and walk — as soon as we’re ready to believe that we can.

© 2016 – Rev. Jennifer L. Sacks.  All rights reserved.

Surrender — And Succeed

Sometimes, on our journeys of faith, we reach a juncture with jagged cliffs or steep drops.  If our goal is to reach the other side, whichever side that is, we need to dive or leap.  Either way, we need to let go and fully surrender ourselves and all which was, as we trust in God.

This kind of spiritual, transformational surrender is one of life’s greatest challenges.  When we reach whatever our precipice is, it’s usually because something in life isn’t cooperating with us, and all our personal efforts have failed to create fulfilling change.

As we scan the horizon, we can remember: We have all the inner resources we need to overcome seemingly insurmountable challenges.  These include our powers of intuition and discernment which help us determine how we want to live.  They also allow us to surrender ourselves and our limited vision to God Vision, something more awesome than what we already see.

While surrender often is considered an admission of defeat, it can be a powerful, positive, life-affirming act.  As Richard and Mary-Alice Jafolla, former directors of Silent Unity suggest: When we surrender (also called letting go and letting God), we release our doubts and fears about outcome.  We shift from stagnating in a problem and make way for growth and transformation to occur.

When we surrender, we remember: We can change ourselves and our beliefs.  We also remember: We can’t change other people.  And, especially, we can’t change God.  Which means that no amount of bargaining, begging, crying, pleading or yelling will work.  Neither will shopping lists of everything we want and everything we don’t.

No matter what our situation, we can remember: God is Unconditional Love, Ever-Abiding Grace and Infinite Compassion.  God is not a short-order cook.  Which means, sometimes, things happen in divine ways, not our ways.  It also means that sometimes we believe we want our eggs sunny-side up, but they come scrambled.

That’s when we can choose whether we’ll fight for our way — or whether we’ll surrender to God’s.  Because divine outcome occurs either way.  And when we choose to surrender, life becomes much easier.

Furthermore, in surrender, we realize: Surrender isn’t quitting or sacrificing.  And letting go doesn’t mean giving up.  It means we cooperate with life — from a spiritual perspective.  Rather than staying stuck, we trust in divine outcome, even if we don’t know what that is.  We release our anxiety about results and stop forcing our will on things. We choose to shift our perspective and give the situation to God, remembering that God can only do for us what we allow God to do through us.  Then, we discover the best answers, ideas, solutions, places and companions we need for our ultimate well-being.

Remember Blessed Reader: The choice is always ours.  We can do it our way and stay stuck.  Or we can surrender to God’s Way — and succeed.

© 2016 – Rev. Jennifer L. Sacks.  All rights reserved.

Into the Depths – Part 1

As we faithfully travel our life’s journey, we often reach a point when our previous ways of being, thinking, believing and/or doing no longer work.  While this realization may be scary, it’s also liberating because it frees us to discern how we truly wish to live.  It invites us to discover what serves our lives the most.  It encourages us to live the truly balanced life we seek.  Ultimately, it draws us out of the shallows of Tip-of-the-Iceberg/Second-Hand Living.

Perhaps, Blessed Reader, you recognize those shallows: Where we forever seek, though rarely find.  Dabble a bit here and there.  Live vicariously through social media, movies or television.  Indulge in substances or behaviors which rarely nourish or satisfy.  Where we stay stuck because we think we’re safe.  Or because we falsely believe that if we wish hard enough for something to happen that the God of attraction and magical thinking will do things our way, wave a wand, and change our lives for us.

When we remain in the shallows, rather than venturing into the depths, we usually miss the beautiful, sacred, still small voice — or loud, clanging gong — which always seeks our attention.  This voice is the wisdom and intuition within us, urging us to go beyond the shallows, so we can live our true life purpose.

When we ignore our still, small voice, we stifle the awesome, creative, divine presence of God within us.  We neglect our own self-care by refusing to put on our own oxygen masks first.  We limit our personal potential by denying our authenticity.  In the process, we may feel physically depleted, especially because we lose our connection to God and we forget to trust our own hearts.  Our hearts, which continually call us to leave the shallows and explore new depths.

To truly discern our life purpose – our highest calling – we need to dive deep, into ourselves, and into silence and stillness, so we can connect with God.  In the depths, we discern and know intuitively, through spiritual understanding, wisdom and faith, the truth of ourselves and our lives – the stuff we like and the stuff we don’t.  This process of discernment helps us see beyond outer appearances to infinite possibilities, so we can live as we truly desire.

The only way to discern our true hearts’ desires is to give up Tip-of-the-Iceberg/Second-Hand Living and move into the depths, an often untested or uncharted territory.  In the depths, we understand – perhaps for the first time – that anything less than living our personal truth and making our dreams come true will not work.

In Part 2, a story about finding treasures in the deep and some practical ways to navigate the depths.

© 2016 – Rev. Jennifer L. Sacks.  All rights reserved.

Balance and Flow – Part 1

Ask most people, and they’ll agree: Enjoying everything in moderation and maintaining balance are fine ideals, though fairly challenging as a daily practice.  As with so much else in life, finding our ideal balance requires both patience and persistence.  It also empowers us to stop struggling with an Either/Or existence and embrace a Both/And perspective.  Most significantly, it brings us to a greater realization of God as an infinitely compassionate, unconditionally loving presence in our lives.

The key to finding and maintaining our balance is keeping our hearts (our spiritual and feeling natures) and our minds (our intellectual and thinking natures) aligned.  As spiritual beings living a human, earthly existence, we find life most fulfilling when our hearts and minds are balanced and in sync with one another.

Our hearts, the center of love and compassion, hold our sense of discernment, while our minds, the center of our intellect, help us explore, discover, learn and think.  If we’re too heart-centered, we can become overly sentimental about a long-gone past, hopelessly romantic about someone who doesn’t return our affections, or foolishly compassionate, doing for others what they need to do for themselves.  If we’re too mind-centered, we can become unnecessarily critical or analytical, as well as overwhelmed or fearful, worrying about situations and people we can’t control.

When we’re balanced in heart and mind, we live more fully in the flow of life, floating on our raft, gently down the stream, rather than trying to force the current to move the way we want.  This allows our spiritual nature and our intellectual nature to work in harmony and guide us on our journeys.

Please be aware, however: This is not in any way a passive activity.  In fact, at times it may require tremendous inner strength and spiritual understanding, especially when we face situations we don’t like and circumstances we can’t control.

Yet, as we strive for balance in the most emotionally healthy and spiritually mature ways, we can travel our journeys more comfortably and avoid leaning too much to one side or another.  As we continue our daily practice of aligning ourselves with God first, we find the currents easier to navigate, no matter where we are on our journey.

Our times of silence, prayer and meditation also allow us to reflect on which situations and circumstances we can change, which we cannot, and what course corrections might be necessary along the way.  And be assured, no matter where we are in our lives, we can find our ideal balance and continue forward in trust.

In Part 2, a story about a balanced heart and mind, and practical steps to discern our own divine balance.

 

© 2016 – Rev. Jennifer L. Sacks.  All rights reserved.