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.

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.

To Everything, a Season

One of the blessings of ministry — and of life, if we’re paying attention — is how fortunate we are to share our journey with so many others.  Sometimes, we travel together a long way.  Sometimes we meet at a particular juncture, then move on again, each in our own direction.  Either way, when we’re present to the experience, it can transform us in rich and wondrous ways.

Such was the case for me recently when I received a referral from a colleague to officiate a funeral.  I had never met the deceased or her family before.  She was the friend of someone my colleague knew.  The service turnaround was quick.  It was Wednesday evening, the family was arriving in town on Thursday morning, and they wanted to celebrate her life on Friday afternoon.

As we planned the service, I learned about this woman’s abiding faith, her devotion to God, her love for her family and friends, her longing for justice for all people, and her zest for life.  I heard about how she called everyone in the family on their birthday to sing to them and how often it was off-key.  I discovered that she served Kentucky Fried Chicken at an important family event and got caught trying to pass it off as her own recipe.

As I perused my notes and contemplated how to tell her story, I realized the depth of her faith and strength as she lived each season of her life, including her preparation for death.  And I turned to Ecclesiastes 3:1-9:

To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven.  A time to be born, and a time to die.  A time to plant, and a time to harvest what is planted.   . . . A time to break down, and a time to build up.  A time to weep, and a time to laugh.  A time to mourn, and a time to dance.  . . . A time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing.  A time to get, and a time to lose.  . . . .  A time to be silent, and a time to speak.  A time of love, and a time of hate.   A time of war, and a time of peace.

I learn much on my journey through ministry, and one thing is clear: To everything, there is a season.  Some we enjoy, and some we don’t.  Yet, if we’re aware of what’s occurring — a child being born; a loved one dying; one team reaching the playoffs at another’s expense; a dispute settled; a crop planted, then harvested later — we remember that life vibrates in us, as us, in the celebrations as much as in the sorrows.  We discover, on the way, that no one really cares who fried the chicken.  What we remember is that in at least one season, we ate the chicken together.

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

From the Inside Out

Autumn has arrived in the Northern Hemisphere.  A welcome change for some; for others, not so much.  A seasonal change, even when welcome, is still change.

Few of us enjoy change.  Yet, as we mature spiritually (no matter what our calendar age), we realize that change is easier when it occurs from the inside out, as we choose to change ourselves first.

I believe we reach this conclusion after we’ve tried all the other changes, sometimes called “cures.”  You know them if you’ve tried them, Blessed Reader: the Geographic Cure of moving to another city because we’ll have more fun there.  The Re-Decorating Cure when we spend a fortune on new furniture and artwork.  The Diet Cure which requires that we eat pounds and pounds of kale and forsake ice cream forever.  The Divorce Cure because the other person wasn’t “it.”  The New Job Cure because our boss was a jerk and our co-workers were lazy.  The New Car Cure because everyone else has one. The New Friend Cure because none of our old friends really understand or appreciate us.

The Common Denominator is always the same: We are.  And if we don’t change, from the inside out first, none of the “cures” matter.   So, if we truly want to transform our lives, we need to do our own inner work so our outer experiences also reflect those changes.  It’s a simple process, though not always easy.  Because the truth is: We can’t change the past, particular situations, or other people.  Though we can choose to change ourselves, our beliefs and our behavior.

Transforming from the inside out requires that we be willing to:

  • Remove our hands from the Universal Steering Wheel, take our seat, fasten our seat belt and the leave the “driving” to God;
  • Put on our own oxygen mask first, which includes our daily time for prayer, meditation and self-care;
  • Withstand stillness, silence and “delays”;
  • Reconsider our opinions, as well as our limitations, and continually surrender them, especially if they once worked, but no longer do;
  • Open our minds, hearts, ears and eyes so we know which messages are ours and which are someone else’s;
  • Release unhealthy behaviors, habits and relationships;
  • Recognize that we may never know all the sides of a story;
  • Acknowledge that sometimes our perspective is limited;
  • Accept – even if we don’t like it – that some people won’t understand our transformation and will belittle us, condemn us, or leave us.
  • Leave something for tomorrow, so we can sleep peacefully tonight;
  • Take time to relax and enjoy laughter, hugs, raindrops, snowflakes, moon glow, sunshine, love and delicacies which come in abundant ways.
  • Remember that time on this earthly plane is limited — and we get to choose how we want to live it.

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