Thriving in a Drought

Last week, I retreated along the Frederica River in Georgia.  In the evening, I watched the sun set gold, pink, red and purple as sailboats dropped anchor for the night.  In the morning, I meditated at my bedroom window, gazing at the river’s gentle flow.

Such a lovely contrast it was to the baked ground and dried grass here in North Central Florida, where we’re experiencing a drought.  “My” pond has disappeared, and I miss it.  I loved the flowing water and spurting fountain which reminded me to remain in the flow of life.

Sometimes, in our lives, the flow ceases.  Sometimes things dry up and die, no rain is forecast, and all possibilities are dead ends.  We may experience these droughts in various aspects of our lives: dating, romance or intimate relationships; the best work for our gifts and talents; illness which requires extensive medical care and/or rehabilitation; seeming insurmountable debts or obligations; an unfulfilling spiritual practice.

Droughts, even though we don’t like them, provide opportunities to develop greater spiritual strength.  If you, Blessed Reader, are experiencing a drought, here are some spiritual practices to sustain you:

  • Embrace and rejoice in your time of contemplation, meditation, prayer and reflection.
  • If you haven’t done so already, mourn any losses associated with the drought. Resist the urge to go back and do something the “old way.” Remember that the desire to look backward and wish we’d done it differently is part of the mourning process.
  • Forgive yourself for any choices you made which could have “caused” this drought. Remember that you made the best choices at the time.  Know that you have the inner strength to heal, grow and choose differently, with keener awareness and understanding.
  • Release, in healthy ways, any anger, frustration or impatience you may feel in your body: yell, cry, hit a punching bag, beat a pillow. Also, notice any clenching or tightening in your body. Remember to breathe deeply.
  • Practice gratitude, blessing the past for its gifts. As soon as you can, even if it begins with clenched teeth, thank the past relationship for the love you shared; the medicine and exercises for helping your body heal; the loan for confidence in your ability to repay; the companies or contacts for assisting you in knowing your divine gifts; the spiritual practices for leading you to your new, best path.
  • Discern whether the drought signifies a pause or an ending. Either way, as you prepare to move forward, consider what you can clean, clear or re-purpose while you wait.
  • Avoid clinging to one particular way and resist the urge to rush or force anything. Trust in divine outcome and in your inner wisdom to lead you through your open doors.
  • Remember, no matter what, that you are God’s beloved creation, unconditionally loved, enfolded in infinite compassion and ever-abiding grace, and that you are made to thrive.

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

No More Same Old, Same Old

Years ago I worked with a Negative Nell who continually whined and complained.  Often, my co-workers and I heard her mutter, “SSDD [Same Sh**, Different Day].”  We rarely escaped a meeting without her bemoaning her lot in life and her railing against God for all the misfortunes she faced.  No matter what any of us said or did to encourage or support her, we heard the same thing: “Why bother?  It’s always the same old, same old.”

Perhaps, Blessed Reader, you know the type: Someone who not only can’t see the glass half full, but can’t even see the glass.  Who believes that God is some kind of wicked tyrant or capricious ruler, condemning them to a life of woe and suffering.  Who wants everyone and everything else to change, but who doesn’t know how and/or isn’t willing to think or behave differently.

As a pastor, I realize: Some people haven’t yet heard the message that on this spiritual journey we call our lives, we have numerous, divine opportunities for transformation.  These people don’t yet know that God isn’t a master puppeteer in the sky pulling our strings, giving us more than we can handle or doling out gifts to a favored few.

I want them to know this instead: God is Divine Creator of all things, including us.  God is Ever-Abiding Grace, Infinite Compassion and Unconditional Love, everywhere, all the time.  Therefore, we are divine creations, born with all the faith, strength and wisdom we’ll ever need within us to live glorious lives.

Furthermore, as divine creations, we’re also free agents, which means we have free will to align ourselves with God, to choose who we’ll be, what we want, where we’re going and what we’ll do.  So, no matter what we may have been, thought, done, or believed before, we have the power to transform our lives.  Especially if any of our self-talk sounds like the same old, same old.

The truth is: We can choose to transform ourselves, because transformation begins with us.  Only when we choose to change ourselves and do “it” differently, whatever the “it” is, do we reach the place where transformation is possible.

Rather than believe that we’re automatons which must react in the same old ways, as if we run on only one internal program, we can delete the self-defeating, life-draining mantras and re-wire our thinking and adjust our behavior.  Inevitably, though sometimes slowly, this allows us to alter our circumstances and enjoy new, more enriching outcomes and experiences.

Ultimately, transformation requires trust; first in God, then in ourselves.  And, as we discern and travel our faithful life journeys, we discover wondrous things are unfolding through us and for us, one sacred step at a time.

 

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

“Not to Worry”

Recently, a well-intentioned person, who I believe meant to be empathetic, said to me, “I’m sure you’re worried about this.”  Alas, the person misunderstood.  I wasn’t worried.  Rather, I felt overwhelmed and tired.  And, I also felt a sense of trust, especially in God and Divine Outcome.

Perhaps you’ve noticed, Blessed Reader: Worry is so self-defeating.  It’s one of the things which can bring our life’s journey to a screeching halt because it discombobulates our vision and imagination — our inner, creative compass.  Worry also zaps our spiritual strength, catching us in vicious cycles of more worry.  It raises our blood pressure, taxes our brains and strains our bodies.  Literally, we can tie ourselves up in knots with worry.  Furthermore, worry limits our ability to discern what’s ours to do and the best ways to do it.

Jesus offered divine life wisdom when he said in the passage sometimes called “Free from Anxiety” or “How Not to Worry” (Luke 12:22-32):

“. . . Do not worry . . . . Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life? . . . .  Instead, seek God’s Kingdom . . . and do not fear . . . for God is pleased to give you the Kingdom.”

Because this can be easier said than done, here are some other, practical ways to release worry:

  • Limit your daily intake of news.
  • Discern how you’ll set schedules which work best for you. Once they’re set, stick to them.  These include time to:
    • pay bills, plan budgets and manage finances.
    • eat, exercise, play and rest, including going on vacations and spiritual retreats.
    • check social media, e-mail, texts, and phone messages.
  • Stop these activities an hour before bedtime so you can unwind and relax. Then, don’t resume them until an hour after you awaken.  Either time is fabulous for prayer and meditation.
  • If you still awaken in the middle of the night and can’t return to sleep:
    • Get up and stretch.
    • Contact Silent Unity (1-800-669-7729; silentunity.org) for prayer.
    • Play gentle, meditative music. Breathe deeply.
    • Sip warm milk with honey.
    • Journal, draw, paint or color.
  • Avoid the “worry traps” of comparison tripping and memory loops, as well as the “spiritual indigestion” of over-learning, over-studying, and/or over-following.
  • Call your BFF for a reality check, especially in times of stress or illness.
  • Collect favorite affirmations, blessings, compliments, cards and photos which remind you how much you’re loved, valued and appreciated.
  • Remember two sacred truths:
    • Sometimes, what we see is a highlight reel. Everyone faces loss and difficulties.
    • Part of transformation is moving on from what once fulfilled us, but no longer does.

Above all, trust in God and the wisdom within you.  For as Jesus reminded us: God is our Abundant Source, Eternal Grace, Infinite Compassion, and Unconditional Love, always.

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

Courageous, Strong and Free

This week, if she were still alive, my grandmother would have celebrated her 112th birthday, or her 115th, or possibly her 120th.  The truth is: No one in my family knew Grandma’s exact age.  As she told it, she changed her birth certificate to make herself older so she could emigrate from Eastern Europe to the United States.  She hoped to join other family, already in New York, although she didn’t know exactly how to find them.

When I think about her journey, I’m awed by her faith and spiritual strength, and especially, her trust in God.  What courage it took for a teenage girl, whatever her age, to leave everything she knew behind and sail alone to the promise of a better life.  When she spoke about that journey, she admitted that the obstacles and uncertainty were daunting.

Her journey reminds me of what Jesus tells the disciples (Matthew 17:20-21):

“. . . If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you.”

With faith, nothing is impossible for us.  When we remember that we have an infinite supply of faith within us — we never need pray for more — we can nurture this precious gift and use it to transform ourselves and our experiences.

Just as my grandmother did, we sometimes find ourselves travelling without a clear road map.  Whether literally or figuratively, we may get thrown off course or need to leave a place we once called home.  Yet, as we go forward, one faithful step at a time, we realize: We are free.   Free to choose what is best for us, even when the choices aren’t our favorites.

The truth is: Only when we relinquish our power to choose, do we believe that we’ve lost our faith.  As we travel, we can remember: Events and circumstances have far less power over us when we exercise our freedom to choose who we truly are, what and whom we truly love, how we want to live, and how we want to share ourselves with the world.

I know that was true for my grandmother.  When she arrived, she found her brothers in New York.  She worked as a milliner, making ladies’ hats at a famous department store.  She met my grandfather and had two children, my father and my aunt.   She lived 88 years, give or take some birthdays.  In all the years I knew her, I saw a woman centered in her faith.  Even when she didn’t like what was happening in her world or the world around her, even when she succumbed to the pain of cancer.

Faith the size of a mustard seed.  That’s all it takes to move forward, with strength and courage, trusting that transformation is unfolding before us.

A Blessed Independence Day to All!

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