Face the Change

Early September, and already yellow leaves appear amidst a green tapestry.  Air is cooler, crisper here, in the morning, and skies are darker, too.  September already, we say.  Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas wait in the wings.

It’s this way, more or less, every year.  But do we notice?  Or are we just trudging through?  Do we accept and embrace the changes occurring, however gradual, however unwelcome?  Do we flow with life’s natural shifts?  Or do we resist and fight the divine process?

Sometimes people say they want change or that they wish something would transform, though few are willing to do the deep, soulful exploration necessary.  The personal assessments which help us release and let go, and welcome the new, also require some dark nights of the soul.  Sometimes people tell me they just can’t do it.  It’s too hard and too scary.  Sometimes they say: “The devil I do know is better than the devil I don’t know.”

Except, as the prophetic David Bowie first noted in 1971, “Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes / Turn and face the strange / Ch-ch-changes / There’s gonna have to be a different man.”  And when we choose to face the “strange,” we also can choose to turn “devil” around so it becomes “lived.”

Lived: How we’ve lived for a specific time is familiar, though not always comfortable, easy, fulfilling, or fun.  Strategies we use to accomplish things are habit, though they may not serve what’s highest and best for our lives now.  So, we wonder, in rare, reflective moments, what that might be.  Which leads to other questions:

  • What would feel more comfortable?
  • What would give us more ease?
  • What would be more fulfilling?
  • What would make life more fun?
  • What one (1) thing are we willing to do now, today, to begin living differently, even though it seems strange?
  • What old habits are we willing to release?
  • When we imagine a joyful, fulfilling life, what do we see ourselves doing? And having?
  • What changes are we willing to embrace to create a new way of life, no matter how strange it now seems, no matter our age?

As we contemplate these questions, we may first realize that some answers are, “I don’t know.”  Yet, as we embrace the willingness to change, we discover that our answers come to us and that facing changes is more pleasant than we thought.

As we take time in the silence and as we get into nature, no matter where we live, we can notice subtle changes occurring around us, reminding us of the sacred, continual process of change.  And always, we can remember: God’s awesome power and presence, God’s love, grace and compassion are in the midst of all the changes, as we gently turn and face a new life unfolding before us.

© 2018 – Rev. Jennifer L. Sacks.  All rights reserved.

All Humanity Included

As a sociology undergrad in Washington, D.C., I learned a lot about protests and civil actions.  And as a participant observer, I canvased communities, conducted surveys, organized protests, marched for causes, and rallied on the steps of the Supreme Court.

As I’ve incorporated this wisdom into ministry, I also have a richer appreciation for the activists who chose paths of peace and non-violence.  Each of these spiritual masters worked daily, faithfully, courageously, diligently, and prayerfully, to create global change and to offer paths of enlightenment to anyone seeking new ways of being and doing.

Overall, one thing is clear: These masters — among them Sojourner Truth, Henry David Thoreau, Dorothea Dix, Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., Mother Theresa, Nelson Mandela — didn’t seek their own glory.  They acted, grounded in the heart of their faith, for the highest and best, the equity and equality of all humanity.  They focused always on the transformation they sought, rather than on what problems they were against.

If you’re ready to help transform our world for the best of all humanity, please consider these suggestions:

  • Get involved with the interfaith councils in your community.
  • Grow your own spiritual understanding by attending an event, meeting, or worship service completely different from your own.
  • If you don’t currently attend a church, mosque, synagogue, or other spiritual center, consider joining one.  Look for those which honor diversity and affirm the Presence of God, the Divine, in all people.
  • Affiliate with and patronize only those groups or companies, especially local businesses, which respect all people.
  • Listen for “Yes, but . . .” language which is the language of exceptions, excuses, and exclusivity.  Seek people, places, and organizations focused on inclusivity.  Listen for the “Yes” which includes everyone.
  • Choose non-violent, peaceful actions, remembering that they are strong, centered demonstrations of assurance, faith, and power.
  • Refrain from screaming, fighting, or arguing, especially with someone who tries to make your way “wrong,” or engage in theological or political debates.  Instead, consider saying: “I hear that’s what you believe.  I believe this.”  Or, as has happened to me, if someone yells: “I’m praying for your soul,” you might reply: “Thank you.  I appreciate your prayers.”
  • Contact all your city, county, state, and national officials to share your concerns and opinions.  Even if you didn’t vote for them, they’re in office to serve the good of all their constituents, not those of a few.
  • If your current, elected officials aren’t serving as you believe best, support the campaigns of candidates who hold similar values to yours.
  • Remember that even those we dislike are children of God.  Rather than using valuable energy hating them, pray for their enlightenment, knowing that, at any moment, hardened hearts can open and blinded eyes can see.
  • Overall, keep your mind — and heart — open.  Stay prayed up, especially as you discern how to act.  And, to avoid discouragement, celebrate even the smallest of victories, knowing that transformation, for all of us, is happening one step at a time.

© 2018 – Rev. Jennifer L. Sacks.  All rights reserved.

End of a Road

During graduate school, I had a friend who served as both BFF and life-raft.  We often shared coffee after class, discussing lectures, classmates’ literary interpretations, and various life events.

At that time, I enjoyed my friend’s perspective.  She excelled in literary criticism and found fine points in plots and characterization I hadn’t yet noticed.  She also could satirize all the professors and many of our classmates.

Later, when we graduated and began drifting apart, I discovered that I was part of her satire also.  She criticized me, my writing, and my choices.  Where once I felt supported, I began to feel diminished.

One day, I wrote an article I especially liked, and with a few edits, my boss published it.  When I shared it with my friend, she cut it to pieces and said I’d never be a true intellectual or literary scholar.  By then, she was applying to Ph.D. programs, and I realized that we’d reached the end of our road together.  That day, devastated and heart-broken, I began to understand the meaning of being in a relationship for a reason, a season, or with a few people, for a lifetime.

As we travel our life journey, we discover many truths.  Among these, we learn that change happens and relationships end, whether marriage, partnership, friendship, school, or business.

To heal and grow from these passages, we must both acknowledge and mourn them, so we can progress in new, healthier ways for us.  Consider these suggestions for navigating endings in your life now:

  • During your daily contemplation, meditation, prayer, and reflection, choose to remember the blessings, even if only a few, from this experience.
  • Note on paper or tablet, where you can refer to it later, what you appreciate about the relationship and how you’ve grown, especially if the relationship was unhealthy.
  • If you must communicate with an “ex,” strive to connect in emotionally healthy ways which ensure your safety and security.
  • Avoid condemning yourself, the other person, or the relationship. Each relationship is sacred in its own way because of how it shapes us.
  • Avoid attempts to “fix” the other person, repair the relationship, or rehash old arguments. Instead, take care of yourself and all you need to heal and thrive.
  • Rather than rush to fill the void of loss with a new relationship, allow yourself time and space to rest, trusting that new roads already await you.
  • Seek ways to serve others, such as tutoring a child or serving dinner at a soup kitchen, especially if you tend to wallow or mope in sadness.
  • Connect with a spiritual community where you continually are reminded of your worth, your wholeness, and your divinity as one of God’s Beloved Creations.

Overall, remember that the other person, as we are, is a Beloved, Divine Child of God.  And God is always with us and within us as we travel along our next, new roads.

© 2018 – Rev. Jennifer L. Sacks.  All rights reserved.

Time for Balance

As the summer months approach in the Northern Hemisphere, many calendars already are full with graduations, weddings, parties, barbecues, concerts, and/or vacations.  In the midst of this, many of us still have our usual work to do, grocery shopping, house cleaning, medical appointments, and other myriad tasks of daily life.

Sometimes, we get overwhelmed.  So much to do, so little time.  At some point, we may find ourselves staring out a window, watching the sky.  Or sitting in traffic, yet again.  Or shuffling the same pile of papers for the fifth time.  We may notice that we feel discontented, frustrated, or stifled.  We’re aware that something isn’t working and that “something’s gotta give,” though we aren’t sure what.  In the rush, rush, rush, we forget that we’re human beings, not human “doings.”

What we seek, no matter what we call it, is a deeper connection with God / Spirit / Our Higher Power — and a greater sense of balance.  Our awareness of this desire brings us to a new level of spiritual maturity, the place where we discover that finding our own inner balance is the key to personal growth and contentment.

To gain greater balance and deepen your spiritual practice, consider these suggestions:

  • Set — and keep — a schedule for daily contemplation, meditation, prayer, and reflection. Remember: God first; then everything else.  If we think we’re too busy for this step, it’s a warning that we’re already imbalanced.  Let’s remind ourselves that spiritual masters begin and end their days with this practice.
  • Set — and keep — a schedule which includes daily, weekly, monthly, and annual self-care for our bodies, homes, and vehicles so we and all our “stuff” are tip-top. Remember: Let’s not be so busy driving that we run out of gas.  Valuing ourselves first actually supports us in serving others better.
  • Integrate times for rest, nourishment, play, and work. Remember: God doesn’t give gold stars for overdoing, sacrificing, or struggling.  We just burn out, become resentful, and often hurt ourselves.
  • Notice and acknowledge both our feelings when we say “Yes” to something and “No” to something. As Jesus advises in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:37), “Let your ‘Yes,’ be ‘Yes,’ and let your ‘No,’ be ‘No.’” Remember: If we waffle, and believe that we “should” do something that isn’t ours to do or that we can’t do, we devalue ourselves and others involved.
  • Discern how we share ourselves on social media, and whom or what we follow. Let us notice whether our feeds uplift and support our lives, or whether we feel “bad” about ourselves and our accomplishments.  Remember: We each have divine gifts which bless this world.  As we focus on ours first, we appreciate ourselves and feel content with who we are now.

Overall, remember: Our lives are divine journeys of learning and growth.  No matter where we are, however we are, we are God’s Beloved, Divine Creations, and God is with us, within us, in the midst of every part of the journey.

© 2018 – Rev. Jennifer L. Sacks.  All rights reserved.

Face Everything and Rise

A reference website I use sometimes runs ads along its margins.  One has a caption which asks, “Will 2018 bring change?” and shows a young woman staring into space.  She reminds me of my younger self in Washington, D.C., several years ago when a new administration came to office and sent some of us to unemployment.

At first, I was in shock.  Then, I felt like a walking anxiety attack.  On nights, when I actually fell asleep, I awoke soon after, shaking in fear.  Sometimes, I created my own waking nightmares, including being a bag lady in the slums.

During that time, an older, wiser friend reminded me that I could choose the nightmares or I could choose the possibilities.  She taught me about visualization, so I could imagine a more prosperous and fulfilling future.

One of the truths we discover on this journey is: Life is change.  Sometimes we choose the change.  Sometimes we don’t.  Either way, it’s discombobulating when change pushes us beyond our comfort zones and/or disrupts our “ideal” plans.

Facing and embracing change, even when we choose it, requires a continual deepening of our inner faith and strength.  It requires courage to face an unknown future with trust.  It means transforming fear from “Forget Everything and Run” to “Face Everything and Rise.”

To help you rise, consider these strategies:

  • Recommit to your spiritual practice and plan extra time for contemplation, meditation, prayer, and reflection.
  • Recommit to any creative activities — carving, crafting, drawing, painting, cooking, baking, singing, dancing, writing, gardening — you love, especially if you’ve neglected them.
  • Recommit to your self-care. See the doctor, dentist, chiropractor, acupuncturist, or other practitioners who support you in your physical healing.  Treat yourself to facials, massages, reflexology, or mani-pedis.
  • Leave room in your schedule for extra rest and for mourning the losses change brings, especially if it’s related to a long-term illness, break-up, divorce, or loved one’s death.
  • Stay connected to loving relatives, trusted friends, clergy, counselors, sponsors, or therapists who can help you navigate the changes in healthy ways. Ask them to pray with you and remind you, as my friend reminded me, about your resilience and ability to learn and adapt.
  • Be gentle with yourself. Avoid making big decisions, such as buying or selling a home or car, diving headlong into a new romance, or trashing valuable possessions, as well as excessive eating, drinking, shopping, or other addictions you’ll regret later.
  • Get out of the house and into nature daily. Notice the gentle changes as trees fill with leaves, flowers bloom, snow melts, and rain falls.

Overall, when we face life’s changes directly, rather than seek the nearest exit, we support our inner growth and transformation.  We harmonize with the ebbs and flows of life, so we feel calmer.  Especially, we remember that we’re divine creations of God, eternally grace-giving, infinitely compassionate, unconditionally loving, so we know that we can overcome life’s challenges and rise beyond them.

© 2018 – Rev. Jennifer L. Sacks.  All rights reserved.