Relieved to Let Go

As we travel our own faithful journeys, many of us notice that some things and people don’t change, no matter how much we wish they would.  And many of us have fought, labored, and struggled to change or fix something or someone unready for change.

It’s like trying to kill a mosquito — pick your figurative one — with a machete.  In the process, we usually succeed at loping off a proverbial finger, hand, or arm.  And as we sit in the emergency room of life, awaiting treatment, we’re scratching the mosquito bite we got anyway.

This is an exercise in futility, an ineffectual and unfulfilling attempt to find comfort, peace, and especially, relief.  When we get caught in cycles of futility, we falsely believe that if we try it one more time, it — whatever “it” is — will change.  We may justify our actions by asserting these anthems of futility: “But . . . we’ve always done it this way” or “But . . . I always go this way” or “But . . . this is the only way that will work” or “But . . . they won’t like it.”

In the process, we keep ourselves stuck by what we believe and what we say, so we never experience the relief we truly desire, like the Greek myth of Sisyphus, forever trying to push a boulder up a mountain.

If we’re ready to find the relief and peace of mind we seek, let us consider whether we’re also ready to let these go:

  • Acquiring more and more possessions, always expecting the next thing to make us happy.
  • Needing everything to be perfect.
  • Needing everyone to like us and/or agree with us.
  • Needing to be “right.”
  • Arguing with someone who doesn’t value respect and mutuality, and doesn’t want to listen.
  • Lashing out to diminish others so we feel better about ourselves.
  • Rehashing the past, either blaming ourselves or others for outcomes which didn’t work.
  • Worrying about the future and trying to prepare for every imaginable outcome.
  • Gunny-sacking and holding onto to old upsets and grievances.
  • Thinking that loving and liking are synonymous.
  • Believing that we can mature spiritually when we’re emotionally unhealthy.
  • Demanding certainty in a world which can be uncertain.
  • Trying to steer the Universe while we tell God how it’s “supposed” to be.

Each of these blocks our spiritual growth and hinders the ease, comfort, love, peace, and ultimate relief so many of us seek.

Yet, at any moment, no matter where we are on our journey, we can change our minds, alter our beliefs, and act differently.  No matter what has been true for us before, we can choose to let go and let God.  And with trust and faith, we’re relieved to discover how many new paths await us on our way.

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

Be A Light

One of our discoveries on this life journey is that we have divine gifts and talents to share.  Whatever these are, they’re the light of God, expressing through us, shining as us.

Jesus taught in the “Sermon on the Mount”:

You are the light of the world.  A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, so it gives light to all who are in the house.  Let your light shine before others in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify God . . . . (Matthew 5:14-16)

As Jesus, and all great spiritual masters teach, our light allows us to be a Presence and Expression of God in the world.  If you’re ready to discover, develop, and shine the light of God you are, follow these suggestions:

  • Cherish your contemplation, meditation, prayer, and reflection time.  This is our opportunity to connect with God, re-charge our batteries, and take stock of what works or doesn’t work in our lives.
  • Remember that we shine brightest when we manage our energy, rather than our time.  The most energizing activities and work we do is often fun for us, even if the tasks involved aren’t always simple or easy.
  • Consider “To-Do Lists” and “Wish Lists.”  Notice your passions and what energizes you, as well as what depletes and diminishes you.  If it has a “should” or heavy sense of obligation around it, it usually dims our light.
  • Find one thing you can do to shine your light for others.  This can be anything from attending a rally in support of a cause; delivering meals to shut-ins; driving a loved one to the market or an appointment; helping build a house; shipping books overseas so others can learn to read.  Whatever you choose, do it with verve, passion, and joy.
  • Support others who’re trying to find their own light, too, especially children learning new skills or retirees rediscovering former joys.
  • Avoid those who attempt to block or cover your light. Bless them and release them with love, reminding yourself, if necessary, that if they don’t like your light, they can wear sunglasses.
  • Know that sometimes the best we can do is witness another’s journey. We can’t make them see a light if they aren’t ready to remove their blinders.
  • Have a spiritual support network which includes prayer partners, and trusted clergy, coaches, counsellors, and/or friends who encourage and nurture your continued growth and learning.
  • Within your spiritual community, plug into a team or group which enlivens you and reminds all team members of their light, strength, and wisdom to serve.
  • If you aren’t yet connected to a spiritual community, find one which honors diversity and affirms the Presence of God, the Divine Light, in all people.
  • Overall, remember that however we’re called to be a light on the way, we faithfully and compassionately pave a way for others too.

© 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.

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.

All Children of God

As a pastor, I’m sometimes perceived as being closer to God than others.  Though I believe that we’re as close to God as we allow ourselves to be.  When tragedy strikes, as it did again, now in Parkland, Fla., people often ask: “Where was God when this happened?  And I answer: “God was there.  Where they were.  And God is here.  Where we are.”

People also ask: “How could this happen?  Again?”  Some wonder how God could “let it happen.”  Although the truth is, God doesn’t “let” things happen.  We choose how we’ll behave, vote, think, speak, and believe.  We choose whether we’ll address the facts before us or whether we’ll wave them away.   God doesn’t choose for us.  We have choices and free will.  We choose whether we’ll pay attention, whether we’ll open our eyes, our ears, our minds, and our hearts.  Especially when another person doesn’t act, sound, think, live, look, or love as we do.

God doesn’t turn away, though sometimes we do because we don’t want to hear or see.  It’s too painful to listen or look.  “Besides, it isn’t our problem,” some say.  “We don’t know them.  They aren’t our children.”

Though as CNN News Analyst Philip Mudd’s cry reminds us: “A child of God is dead.”

And every death, report of harassment, empty belly, and orphaned child remind us how fragile and how precious life is.  The reports invite us to turn toward one another in compassion, rather than turn away in disgust.  For when we turn away from one another, we also turn away from God.  And in doing so, we turn a “blind” eye to the “other,” who’s also a child of God: mother, father, sister, brother, son, daughter, husband, wife, partner, friend.

As we scan the headlines noting another school shooting, immigration “reform,” and all kinds of neglect and abuse, we would do well to remember: God isn’t a capricious puppeteer pulling our strings, logging whether some of us are more worthy than others, more deserving of peace, love, joy, sustenance, security, and safety.  Each of us is worthy.  We’re all one before God.

In the light of this new day, thoughts and prayers can seem worthless.  Apologies and condolences may ring hollow.  Yet, we’re continually called to open our eyes, to see that the Presence of God is here, with us, within us, and among us.

So, if we need something to do, after we cry, mourn, rage, and write or call our senators and representatives offering our opinions on how to prevent more carnage, we best take a loved one’s hand.  We best look into a stranger’s eyes.  Smile.  Say: “The Divine in me beholds the Divine in you.”  And truly look at them, knowing as we do, that God is here.  Where we are.  All beloved, divine, worthy Children of God.

Namaste, Blessed Readers.

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

The Best That Can Happen

Years ago I knew someone who often asked, when an uncomfortable situation presented itself, “What’s the worst that can happen?”  He prided himself on living by Murphy’s Law: If anything can go wrong, it will.   One day he produced a product with a fatal flaw.  So, each item was removed from the company’s inventory and had to be reproduced.  Then he was removed from the project, rebuked for both his focus and attitude.

Yes, things in life go “wrong,” break, fail, or get messed up.  Though as Master Teacher Emmet Fox explains, “Life is Consciousness,” and where we focus our attention and direct our attitude usually determines our destination.  Or as many artists say: Perspective is everything.

So, rather than view life from an “Ain’t-it-awful?”/ “What’s-wrong-now?” perspective, we can change our thinking and ask other questions.  Instead of wondering what could go “wrong,” we can instead focus on the possibilities and potential of divine outcome.  This change in perspective also can prevent us from stalling on our life journey, if we’re willing to ask: “What’s the best that can happen?”

Viewing life from this vantage requires tremendous trust because we must continually draw on our inner faith and strength.  In the process, we gain clarity about our own personal power and human will, noticing what we can change and what we cannot.  We consider our priorities, watching for open doors and new opportunities.  We use our contemplation, meditation, prayer, and reflection time to release fear and worry, and await divine direction with assurance and confidence.

This perspective also requires that we release our personal ideas about how everything “should” happen or work out.  It means that we stop giving God directions about what we want and how life “should” be.

It also invites other questions, such as: “Am I willing to:

  • Cooperate with God and concede my personal way for God’s way?”
  • Remove my hands from the steering wheel of life and cease trying to control everything?”
  • Live by God’s calendar rather than my own?”
  • Accept that others have different opinions and perspectives from mine, and may never like me or agree with me?”
  • Work through old anger, grief, pain, and resentment to heal myself and forgive the past?”
  • Remember that someone who loves me now might change their mind or that they will die one day?”
  • Withstand silence and be still long enough to truly listen so I know which divine directions are mine, not someone else’s?”
  • Sit back and enjoy the scenery, laughter, hugs, love, joy, and delicacies which flow through life in so many ways?”
  • Wonder, at least once daily, ‘What’s the best that can happen?’ and then do what is mine to do to let it?”

As we answer these questions, we discover a greater depth of faith.  And when we direct it toward the best people, places, and things for our lives, life has a richer perspective, and we see the best happen.

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

Walking in Faith

In the famous story about Jesus walking on water (Matthew 14:22-33), Jesus goes alone to a mountain to pray, after he’s already worked a full day and fed 5,000 people.  Meanwhile, the disciples are at sea, in a boat battered by waves.  During fourth watch, (between 3:00–6:00 AM), Jesus walks upon the sea toward them.  At first, they’re terrified, fearing that he’s a ghost.

To reassure them, Jesus says, “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.”

And Peter answers, “Lord, if it’s you, command me to come to you on the water.”

Jesus replies, “Come forth, Peter.”

So Peter leaves the boat and walks upon the sea toward Jesus. But then, when he feels a strong wind, he’s distracted. He begins to sink and calls to Jesus, “Lord, save me!”

Immediately, Jesus extends his hand, catches Peter, and says, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?”

Sometimes, we’re like Peter, not fully grounded in our faith.  When we feel buffeted by life’s strong winds, we sometimes wake in the wee, small hours of the morning, worrying about difficulties and troubles.  Sometimes, our challenges are like hobgoblins that we imagine will haunt us forever.

Yet, as a master of spiritual maturity, fully grounded in faith, Jesus reminds us: We can learn to walk upon the waves of life when we remain buoyed by the infinite well of faith within us.  We’re also reminded: No matter what may be occurring in our lives, we can go to the “mountaintop,” to reconnect with God in prayer, meditation, contemplation, and reflection.

From that perspective, we can choose whether we’ll let life’s challenges sink us, or whether we’ll choose to do the personal, spiritual work which is needed to rise above them.  These challenges include:

  • Unresolved grief
  • Unresolved conflicts
  • Unhealthy relationships
  • Physical ailments
  • Misdirected compassion
  • Inertia
  • Financial concerns
  • Excessive activity, anger, clutter, overload
  • Addictive behaviors

When our faith is misdirected, we sink.  Sometimes, we drown, spiritually.  Yet, when we choose to lift ourselves up in faith, rather than sink into depths of doubt, fear and worry, we begin to meet life as it is.  We realize that we have greater strength than we imagined to overcome difficulties.  On the way, we also discover that we’re growing in spiritual maturity and walking with ease upon our own sea of life.

© 2017 – Rev. Jennifer L. Sacks.  All rights reserved.

No-Challenge Thanksgiving

If we’re following current news streams or social media feeds, then we’ve likely noticed that we’re in Gratitude Challenge Season.  It’s presumed to be a time when we challenge ourselves to be grateful for people, places and things in our lives.  Sometimes we do this with ease.  We’re thankful for a new job, raise, relationship or opportunity.

And, sometimes we don’t feel thankful. In fact, we may feel afraid, angry, confused, lonely, overwhelmed, sad or upset.  Sometimes, an aspect of grief, whether immediate or unresolved, clouds our perspective.  So, if we attempt to be thankful without acknowledging and owning our “negative” feelings, we may raise our voice, grit our teeth, clench our jaw, or shake our fist.

This is because the real challenge isn’t thanksgiving.  It’s acceptance that sometimes life unfolds in painful ways which we don’t we like and/or didn’t choose.  It’s realizing that thanksgiving and liking aren’t synonymous, that we don’t have to, nor are we commanded, to like everything.  In fact, it’s a height of spiritual bypassing to believe that because we’re spiritual beings living an earthly experience that we “should.”

Our discovery of this, often as an “Ah-Hah” moment, brings us to another level of spiritual maturity.  As we accept something we don’t like or didn’t choose, we can gently shift our perspective — the real challenge for many of us.  Then our thanksgiving perspective shifts also.  And we begin to feel grateful for such things as:

  • An illness requiring extended rest, because we love the view of trees out our window; the softness and warmth of our blankets; movies on demand; library books; and homemade chicken soup.
  • A layoff, because we can explore the true meaning and purpose of our work; learn a new skill or expand our creativity; notice new, open doors and opportunities; meet new people.
  • A debt, because we see that we’re trusted, with credit, to pay our bills on time; reconsider which items we need to feel content and which we can release; reach a new level of trust in God as our supply and sustenance.
  • A loved one’s death, because we appreciate the infinite love, guidance, wisdom, and joy they contributed to our lives; and our unique ability to share their gifts with others.

These are part of my thanksgiving list.  Of course, we can add many others.

And, as we accept that life has challenges, we discover ways to feel thankful continually, in all seasons, so as Disciple Paul advised, we can “give thanks in all circumstances” (1 Thessalonians 5:18).  And along the way, we embrace life as it is and discover new ways to transform it, knowing that no matter who we are, each of us is God’s Beloved, unconditionally loved, always and in all ways.

Happy Thanksgiving, Blessed Readers.  Namaste.

© 2017 – Rev. Jennifer L. Sacks.  All rights reserved.

Today, I Didn’t

Sometimes, we can’t.  So we don’t.  A poem about that kind of faith:

“Today, I Didn’t”

Today, I didn’t make the bed.

And I didn’t hang up my robe.  I left it crumpled on a pillow, where I tossed it on my way to the kitchen to get more coffee and reheat the leftover broccoli quiche.  And to contemplate a forest of trees in the yard and admire God’s handiwork in fading green leaves drenched in sunlight.

Today, I didn’t wash the dishes.

I let them bathe in a pool of warm suds, which quickly turned cold, so I could phone some friends and laugh about the Late Show and remember when we ate ice cream for breakfast and waffles for dinner.

Today, I didn’t put the dirty towels in the hamper.

I left them on the sink near the mirror with the soap smudge I meant to wipe, but didn’t, as I prepared to meet another friend for a short lunch which lasted three hours.

Today, I didn’t watch the news.  Didn’t listen either.  If anything were really new, someone would tell me.  Not about another shooting, fire, flood, executive order, death, birth.  But about claiming rich hopes, scaling greater heights, discovering hidden treasures.

Today, I didn’t complain.

(At least I think I didn’t.)  Not about the traffic, or the blue pickup that cut me off, or how my team played baseball – and lost.  Or the Wi-Fi fritzing out, again, when I tried to download the circus meme declaring that these are not my monkeys.

Today, I didn’t sweep away the cobweb by the stairs.

I thought, perhaps, the spider there needed another moment to rest before I could grab the broom from the closet with the glass cleaner for the mirror with the smudge in the bathroom, across from the bedroom, where the bed still stood, unmade.

© 2017 – Rev. Jennifer L. Sacks.  All rights reserved.