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.

Whose Rules? – Part 2

As we consider our Rules for Life, we realize what matters to us most.  We also discover greater appreciation for who we are and where we’ve been, so we can determine what our heart is calling us to contribute to the world.

Our mission at this point on the journey — even if we don’t have absolute clarity about our rules — is to connect with God, in whatever way we know God.  This way, we begin to find God in and through all — the thrills and joys, as well as the pain and discomfort.  We remember that God is our Source, first and foremost, for all we need.  Then we know who we are and what our calling is, just as Jesus did, and all spiritual masters and mystics do.

According to the Gospel Writer called John, Jesus explained this to the disciples who would later teach his ways of living.  Jesus said: “I have not spoken on my own authority, but God which sent me has given me a commandment — what to say and what to speak.” (12:49) Jesus continually connected with God first, so he could fulfill his true calling in service to others.

We, too, can discern how best to live and be.  Though, be prepared.  It’s usually an exercise in subtraction, rather than addition.   The practical part of this is deeply personal, so go slowly:

  • Determine when and where you’ll make time daily to connect with God through silence, prayer and meditation.
  • Keep some kind of journal, notebook or sketch pad so you can chronicle your feelings and thoughts, however scattered or random.
  • Find one trusted mental health or spiritual counselor, other than a dear friend or family member, who truly listens and can help you hear yourself.
  • Listen to your body. Notice what energizes you and what depletes you, as well as when, where and with whom your energy is strongest and weakest.
  • Consider your possessions, which you love and consider beautiful, and which have served their time and need to be released.
  • Discern whether the communities and/or people you follow share similar rules or whether you’re trying to fit square pegs into round holes.
  • Check your To-Do List. Consider what you truly need to do, what someone else can do, what can wait and what doesn’t actually need to be done.
  • Check your Bucket List or List of Dreams to see which are yours, which are someone else’s, and which you’ve put off because you’re doing something you don’t want to do.

Simple tasks, each one, though not always easy.  Yet, as we connect with God, we learn to trust our hearts and our rules become our way of life.

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

Spring Forward

This past Sunday, most of us in the United States turned our clocks forward. Some of us enjoy this change; others, not so much. Either way, in autumn, we’ll turn the clocks back. Yet, our forward motion isn’t predicated on the seasons; it’s predicated on our choices. Because as much as we might wish to turn back the hands of time, the only clocks we can turn back are the ones which we just set forward.

Our acceptance of this is also one of our greatest powers. It certainly was for me at a time in my life when I didn’t have the same spiritual understanding I have now. No matter which way I turned, every pathway I tried was filled with road blocks, dead ends, poison ivy or jagged cliffs. At one point I thought maybe I’d just give up and stay stuck. One night I even dreamt of standing barefoot in a circle of broken glass.

Then, I surrendered, turned to God in prayer, and dove deeper into my inner well of faith. As I continued my prayer practice, I dreamt one night of climbing a mountain (in waking life, I’d never climbed more than a small hill). As I put one foot in front of the other, I found that even though the altitude was high, I could breathe easily. And when I glanced behind me, the only things I could see were lush, green trees and bright, beautiful flowers. Then, I knew there was no going back. The only way out was to follow the pathway ahead. When I awoke, I took the first steps to transform my life and connect with all the people, places and things which would support me in that process.

No matter what has happened in my life since, I have held that image of the lush mountain landscape as a symbol of transformation. In my work as a pastor, I’ve been honored to witness many others transform their lives also as they’ve traveled their own unique paths.

Reflecting on that image of a lush landscape also allows us to turn the past into fertilizer – the wisdom of our own life experiences – to nurture new growth and transform ourselves and our circumstances. This is how we deepen our faith and expand our spiritual understanding, rather than our intellectual thinking and habitual doing.

Then, we discover, as we release our desire to know every fine detail, that we don’t need to know how or exactly where the path leads. We know that’s God’s job. Then, we stop trying to be who we were, so we can become who we truly are.

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

Be Your Own Guru – Part 2

To begin nurturing our inner guru, we recognize that all people possess the innate wisdom and understanding to discern how best to live their lives. As Dr. H. Emilie Cady, a holistic pioneer and New Thought Christian writer and teacher noted in Lessons in Truth (2003 edition, p. 5):

“All joy and strength and good spring up from a fountain within one’s own being, and if we only knew this Truth, we should know that, because God in us is the fountain from which springs all our good, nothing that anyone does or says, or fails to do or say, can take away our joy and good.”

As we believe and claim this truth for ourselves, we begin to embrace our own lives and our personal power to choose how we truly wish to live. We also acknowledge responsibility for our choices – all the stuff we like and all the stuff we don’t.

Fortunately, the spiritual journey provides many do-overs, even though we can’t travel back in a time machine or rewrite our pasts. As long as we’re willing to examine our own choices, recognizing things which worked and things which didn’t, we have the opportunity to begin again, as we are, wherever we are. We have the joy – and the challenges – of fully participating in our own lives without giving away our personal power to someone else by following what they recommend, say, or do – or don’t.

To nurture our inner guru, we subtract (or release), all life-draining emotional, spiritual and/or mental baggage. This is a slow, deliberate, divine journey of self-awareness and self-discovery, filled with tears, laughter, and many Ah-Ha moments. It requires not only aligning ourselves with God, but also “unfollowing” what no longer truly sustains our lives. Which is perhaps why many people give up before they even begin.

So, begin slowly, gently, by considering these questions:

  • What, of your true heart’s desires, have you enjoyed from your bucket list? What are you doing to enjoy more?
  • Which books, newsletters, posts, and feeds do you think you “should” read? Are they truly providing the education, training and/or wisdom you need?
  • Which projects truly “must” be done? Are you the person to do them? Do they actually need to be done at all?
  • Which people truly listen to you and support you in living your dreams and passions? Which people try to catch you in their nets of drama, gossip and hassles?
  • When you request advice, do you understand what is said? Are you supported in determining your own needs, or does the advice-giver act as if they are the “only” expert, following the “only” path, offering the “only” offer there ever will be?

Only we can answer these questions ourselves. Trust that the answers reveal themselves, as we honor the still, small voice which is our inner guru, inviting us – sometimes urging us – to listen.

In Part 3 – Adding “listening” time, embracing silence, and resting in meditation.

 

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

Come Away and Rest

Long before I had credentials to officiate at wedding ceremonies, I coordinated weddings in the family catering business. Officiating is tremendously rewarding and fun. And while it takes a certain amount of work to officiate a wedding ceremony, it isn’t anything like the work required to cater a wedding. As coordinator, I learned a valuable lesson about pacing myself and taking time to rest. As I learned from experience, most of us can go, go, go. Then we need time to rest and recharge.

Understanding our own – and others’ – need for rest sometimes requires deep faith. Because when we rest, we trust that all still will get done as it needs to be done. This is one of the many lessons Jesus offers the disciples. According to the Gospel Writer Mark (6:30-32), Jesus says, “‘Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.’ For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. So they went away . . . to a deserted place by themselves.”

Some Bible scholars call this passage an editorial transition. As a transition, it takes us from one aspect of Jesus’s ministry to another. We also need transitions as part of our life journeys. This means taking time for rest, retreat, solitude, silence and Sabbath to transition from one aspect of our lives to another.

Many of us unintentionally struggle with transition because we’re very busy being Human Doings, rather Human Beings. Perhaps you’ve noticed, Blessed Reader: Our culture seems to reward people for doing more and more with less and less. Many of us live in a continual state of over-functioning, over-commitment, and fatigue. Our lives, our days, our hours, our minutes are scheduled up one end and down the other.

So, Jesus’s editorial transition reminds us of the real transitions of life we’re encouraged to take daily, weekly and monthly. Jesus typically took some private time alone, away from the crowds of people around him, as well as from the disciples.

When we take time to rest, as Jesus describes it, we remove ourselves from the public eye to renew, recharge and rejuvenate. To plug ourselves into the God charger. To refill the physical, mental, emotional, spiritual fuel tank with what we need to continue our divine journey, doing our divine work, whatever our calling. We’re invited to remember: We need time to rest, to stop all our doing and just be.

Transitioning, for a short time, to a “deserted place” is part of our spiritual practice. Transition allows us to expand our consciousness and to renew ourselves in body, mind and spirit. And these transitions require a certain level of trust. We need to stay centered in faith, trusting God – and one another. Because when we make the conscious choice to rest, we also consciously release our need to direct the Universe our way. Some things might not get done, and/or they might not get done as we would do them. Still, we trust that the Universe won’t come to a screeching halt.

This extra-ordinary teaching invites us to discover the opportunities, insights, and revelations which come, not necessarily during the transitions themselves, but in all the moments afterward. Because without his moments away, Jesus could not have run his ministry or lived his life. Neither can we.

Happy Labor Day Rest to All!