Pie for Breakfast (And a Few Other Ways to Enjoy the Holidays)

During the Thanksgiving holiday before I left Washington, D.C. for good, I relished my time with family and friends. I honored my contemplative spirit which needed a respite from the fast-paced, high-powered lifestyle of “have-to’s, ” “musts” and “shoulds.” Especially, I enjoyed the Friday morning following Thanksgiving when Dad and I ate our traditional post-holiday breakfast of leftover pie and ice cream.

As I savored a combination of apple-cranberry and cherry garnished with coffee ice cream, I recounted a few disappointments, including our lack of a storybook holiday.  Dad, who’d worked in advertising, listened, then said: “Those only happen in movies and commercials.”

Alas, I knew he was correct.  And, as a pastor, I’ve witnessed how many people feel sadness and grief in believing that everyone else has a “Hallmark-Card-I’ll Be Home for the Holidays” experience.

The truth is: Few holidays are ideal.  And when we pressure ourselves to create such a fantasy, we set ourselves up for disillusionment and distress.  Furthermore, the pressure to meet others’ expectations or outshine our neighbors has us saying, doing and buying things which prohibit our contentment and stress our bodies, minds, spirits and bank accounts.

So, no matter whether we’re Type A’s, travelers, homebodies, partiers, contemplatives, or a bit of each, here are some ways to stress less and rejoice more:

  • Begin with the end in mind. During our prayer and meditation time, we can consider our schedules and what will most renew our spirits.  This includes determining who’s most important to us.  A beloved aged relative who affirms our purpose or an ill BFF who needs a boost gets priority over another cocktail party of vacuous conversation.
  • When gathered with a mixed group of varying beliefs and opinions, we can strive to listen more and persuade less. Remember: A person convinced against his/her will is of the same opinion still.  So, we can choose to gently disengage.  When someone, especially a loved one, wants to debate, we can say something such as: “I love you.  Let’s agree to disagree on this one.”  Then we can change the topic to something neutral, such as shared love of a sports team or our fondness for sweet potatoes.
  • If, for whatever reason, we can’t be physically present with loved ones, we can still call or video conference. Schedule a specific time of 20 minutes or more to connect and share.
  • Limit the highlight reels on social media so we enjoy ourselves without comparing our holiday to someone else’s.
  • Remember: Happiness occurs on a scale. This includes feeling calm, content, peaceful, relaxed and/or rested.
  • Remember also: Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s are days on a calendar. Their true purpose isn’t for overdoing, overeating or overspending, but for celebrating rich harvests, welcoming new life, and setting intentions for greater possibilities.  When we maintain this perspective, we often feel more grateful for what we have.
  • And, of course, consider eating pie for breakfast.

Happy Thanksgiving, Blessed Readers!

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

Whose Rules? – Part 1

Many years ago, I saw a poster which began: “With all your heart, say out loud, I want to live a happy life.  Listen to what you just said.”  I read each subsequent phrase to the end, which said: “Take chances.  Be real.”   Then, I cried.

In that moment, I knew.  Those colorfully designed phrases arranged by artist Julie Evans heralded the end of an old life.  My heart was calling me to something else, including the journey to follow something called Rules for Life.

I know many people bristle at the word rules.  They’re frightening because they might constrain us.  Yet, they’re also liberating.  Consider the expression: “When we know the rules, we’re free to live within them.”

When we know our own Rules for Life – the kind Jesus and all other spiritual masters and mystics lived by – we’re free to be our authentic, divine selves.  These rules are usually counter-cultural, because they put us and our relationship with God before anything else.  Ideally, they help us travel a continuously expansive, rich, joyful, fulfilling faith journey.   They invite us to go deep, as Jesus and all mystical masters have done before us.  So, we remember our divinity and our true calling.

Our rules keep us from chasing other people’s dreams, living by unattainable standards, saying things we don’t mean or believe, and buying things we don’t want.  Our rules inspire our authenticity, so we don’t live a lie.

That’s why I believe it’s important to remember that resurrection isn’t a one-time event.  And why some of us travel the faith-filled journey called Eastertide, the 50 days which led from Jesus’s resurrection to Pentecost, when his disciples and followers went forth — deeply grounded in spiritual power — to live their sacred calls.

This part of the journey invites us to choose which rules truly support us in growing more emotionally healthy and spiritually mature.  Slowly, step by step, we can do the inner work which nurtures the divinity we are.  So we live and express the truth of our being.

The process for determining which rules are ours is powerful — and sometimes painful.  As we journey, we discover that we have some flaws, just as the silkiest tapestries, finest crystals and rarest diamonds do.

Sometimes, the flaws show.  So, establishing our own rules requires tremendous faith and courage.  It also means we stop wasting our precious personal power pretending to fit in or make do with a life which saps our energy and stifles our creativity.  As the saying goes, We “get real!”

In Part 2, some practical steps we can take to be real and establish our own rules for life.

 

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

Mountains of Love: Remembering MLK Jr.

Many discussions in life involve the themes of happiness and love. Yet, we don’t always know the difference. One of the best clarifications I’ve read is from an unnamed Catholic priest who worked in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. He said, “When you think about it, if your main goal is to be happy, you’re going to be miserable. But if your main goal is to love, you’re going to be happy.”

As people around the globe remember the legacy of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., perhaps we can reconsider how we experience happiness when we choose to love, especially the seemingly unlovable. When discussing the theme of love in 1953, MLK said: “We realize that we stand surrounded with mountains of love and we deliberately dwell in the valley of hate.” He could speak these words now, in 2016, as so many surrounded by mountains of love choose to dwell in valleys of hatred, upset and anger. For some, it’s easier to remain in the valley than pull themselves out.

To reside in mountains of love takes persistent, determined, spiritual practice. It requires, as MLK taught, that we consider ourselves first, rarely an easy task. Because the truth is, we won’t like some people, and some people won’t like us. Not the way we walk, talk, dress, act, work, think, or breathe. MLK acknowledged: Sometimes others don’t like us because of jealousy about something we have or because they feel hurt about something we did or said.

Nevertheless, he encouraged us “to discover the element of good” in others. He said that when we choose to see “the image of God” within them, we begin to love an “enemy” because we behold the essence of the divine in them, no matter what they’ve said or done. The more we behold this image, the happier we can feel, because we change ourselves and move to a greater consciousness of love.

MLK called this greater consciousness an overflowing, unconditional love for all people, a creative, redemptive, transformative love which seeks nothing in return. MLK said that when we love this way, we love everyone, not because they’re likable, but because this is how we imagine God loves.

This is the core of both the Hebrew and Christian scriptures which MLK preached: We love this way because by doing so, we express – as best we can imagine – God’s unconditional love and infinite compassion.

MLK admitted: It’s a challenge to like some people. Yet, he encourages us to love them because it liberates and strengthens us. He said: “The strong person is the person who” chooses to cut the chains of hatred and chooses love.

Because the truth is: Our hatred hurts us more than anyone else. It destroys all our attempts to be happy and eats away at us from the inside out, hurting our bodies, minds and spirits. As much as hatred can keep us wallowing in the valley forever, love can help us climb mountains we never imagined possible. With love, the journey becomes easier – and maybe, happier, too.

 

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