Higher Caliber Connections

As more people died from gun violence this past week, more terror, shock, and disbelief set in.  While many turn to thoughts and prayers, these feel meaningless and shallow because they propel few of us into transforming ourselves and our communities into places of inclusion and compassion. 

While many also want more conversation, the conversations only succeed with those truly willing to: listen to and behold other people as Beloved Creations of God; check agendas, fears, judgments, and opinions at the door; and stay open to possibilities for long-term, universal gains, not what is most profitable, expedient, or convenient now.

If we hope to transcend the violence, political rhetoric, accusatory outbursts, finger-pointing, and name-calling, then we also must deepen our connections with people who, at first, seem different from us.  We must decide whether deadly weapons, exclusive clubs, and closed gates, are more valuable than the sanctity of all human life.  Not just some lives, in particular places, at certain times. 

The truth is: No matter what others may do, we decide whether we’ll change the caliber of our own consciousness to pave peaceful paths.  Each of us can do this, if we’re willing to push the edges of some comfort zones, step out further in faith, and rise in spiritual maturity.

If you’re ready for this journey, here are some steps you can take:

  • As you pray, include those hurting from grief and loss, as well as those hurting from anger and outrage.  Remember that our prayers don’t condone others’ behavior.  Rather, they open our hearts to feel more compassion and free ourselves with forgiveness.
  • If you support gun control legislation, also support those who advocate for mental health care reform and crisis management.
  • Get involved with civic, ecumenical, and interfaith organizations dedicated to inclusivity, hospitality, and generosity which celebrate common ground and shared values among all people. 
  • Attend churches, synagogues, and mosques which provide opportunities for shared connections.  Many hold gatherings for people of different faiths or ethnicities to break bread together, enjoy sacred conversations, and establish life-long friendships.
  • If you live in a city/municipality which has signed the Charter for Compassion, support their activities and educational outreach.  If not, seek ways to establish your hometown or company as a compassionate place of equity and inclusion.
  • As much as you may be tempted, preserve your valuable energy and avoid heated arguments and drag-down debates with those who aren’t ready to connect with you and listen to your views.
  • Focus on your own positions and what you wish to achieve, rather than attacking “the enemy.”  Remember that spiritual masters are social activists, not re-activists, who strive to love, even when they don’t like others’ choices. 

Above all, remember: God is in the midst of whatever is occurring within us and around us.  Know that in every moment of our journey, we can choose — again — how we’ll express the Presence of God we are and how we’ll serve the best for all humanity.

© 2019 – Rev. Jennifer L. Sacks.  All rights reserved.

Release and Claim: A Spiritual Checklist for the New Year

Now that the holiday frenzy is over, we can continue on our way.  Not with the resolve to slog through life, but with the intention to feel more fulfilled and content. 

So, if we’re ready to reach new destinations, we need to release what doesn’t work so we can claim what does.  As you consider this spiritual checklist, remember that some of these will require a tweak, while others may need an overhaul. 

Release Claim
Engaging with people who ignore, disrespect, diminish, or denigrate you and/or who continually violate your boundaries. Connect with people who honor and respect you, your feelings and needs, and your right to your own space.
Needing to do it all, especially if you think you “have to” or “should,” because someone else is creating your to-do list. Review and evaluate all your activities and obligations so you can accomplish what matters most to you.
Holding yourself to ridiculous, unhealthy standards of living, especially if they’re generally recommended, but aren’t personally fitting. Discover deeper self-awareness so you know which foods and exercises strengthen your system and which weaken them.
Needing everyone to like you and your lifestyle, posts, choices, and beliefs. Embrace your own well-being so you know what you truly love and where to expend your energy in the best ways.
Needing to have and use money for instant gratification. Re-discover treats and joys you already have or something fun you cherished as a child.  Open a savings account with automatic deposit so you can pay yourself first.
Following and liking multiple organizations, places, people, and pages, especially if they’re trendy.   Choose the top three (3) to five (5) which most encourage and inspire you.  Then dig in to learn how they have surpassed obstacles and achieved success on their own terms.
Eating, reading, working, driving, and/or traveling the same way you always have. Shift your routine and discover new cuisines, topics, skills, friends, and avenues.
Being continually distracted with conversations, calls, texts, feeds, and activities. Turn off the noise and unplug at least once daily to be silent and still.  An hour before bedtime is ideal.
Believing that life is martyrdom, sacrifice, and struggle before it’s fun. (Yes, pain occurs, but suffering is optional.) Schedule time for simple delights, such as a cup of cocoa, favorite sit-com, morning walk, or lunch with a dear friend.  Choose to laugh and play daily, even when you feel challenged by circumstances.
Seeking quick-fix spirituality, or following the latest guru, especially if you tend to jump ship when pushed to a personal edge. Commit to one (1) spiritual practice which affirms your divinity and which encourages you to stay strong in your faith, even when life is difficult.

Remember, as you work this process, that you already have within you the divine discernment and intuition to choose your next perfect steps.  Continually affirm that the power and presence of God goes before you, beside you, with you, and within you as you release all you no longer need.  And travel faithfully, as you embrace the courage of your convictions and the strength to live anew.

© 2019 – 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.

Didn’t Know That

In 5th grade, my honors English class had an assignment to teach something.  At that time, I was creating a hooked rug.  The process, as I learned from the yarn store lady, required particular steps and specific methods.

During my presentation, I felt confident because I explained everything exactly as I was taught, until another student asked about a different method.  I was tongue-tied; the yarn store lady didn’t teach me that.  So, I thought the answer was “No.”  Surely, I reasoned, if I could do it, she would have told me.

I must have mumbled because Mr. West, our teacher, thanked me, then called on the next student.  Later, when he gave me feedback, he taught me something many people still are learning: “It’s OK to say ‘I don’t know.’”

On our life journeys, we sometimes imagine that we’re weak or incompetent if we don’t have answers.  Yet, not having an answer is powerful.  If we recognize that we don’t know yet, we’re open to new ideas, possibilities, beliefs, or practices.  We realize that we can do something differently or learn something new, take other steps forward, or find open windows where once we only saw closed doors.

Within each of us are divine spiritual powers of awareness and understanding.  They remind us, often as our still, small voice, that we already know some answers.  Here are some ideas for discovering them:

  • Continue the spiritual practice of prayer, meditation, contemplation, and reflection. Even when nothing seems to unfold then, we often discover answers later, in a conversation with a colleague, on a billboard, in a song lyric, etc.
  • Commit to learning something new about your areas of interest.
  • Steer clear of “know-it-alls” who declare that their way is the only way. Avoid those who require money upfront to provide solutions or offer a quick-fix to an ongoing problem.  Here, the old adage still applies: If it sounds too good to be true, it usually is.
  • Check credentials, certifications, and education. Just because someone declares themselves an expert doesn’t mean that their advice is sound or reliable.
  • Consider the facts and sources, and watch for false news. Take time to do your own research and verify information.
  • When you’re considering answers, check in with your body. Do you feel relaxed?  Peaceful?  Calm?  Relieved? Or is your belly tight or in knots?  Does your head or neck hurt?  Do you suddenly feel insecure or unsafe, or want to run in another direction?
  • Follow only those people who continue their own learning and growth, and who also encourage yours, even if it isn’t their path.
  • Remember: Many strategies can accomplish the same goal and infinite paths can lead to enlightenment.

Overall, trust your inner wisdom.  No matter where you are on your life’s journey, you’ve learned many things.  Let those experiences be the guide to your best pathways and all you need to know.

 

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