Friday, March 29, 2013

Faith to know the outcome

Have you ever been paralyzed about making a decision? Maybe you have two opportunities in front of you but you don't feel like you know which way ultimately to go. You're not sure what to do, who's advice to listen to, and whether you can even trust your self. What if you make the wrong move? What if something bad happens? What if this is your one shot?

This is probably our biggest waste of time and energy as human beings.

So often we forget about the power and authority we have as His creations. We're so focused on what mistakes we might make that we forget that our futures are already secure. We are God’s handiwork, created to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do! God has given us authority to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm youWhen we're in intimate relationship with God, we're doing our best to follow Him and we trust that God knows our hearts.  He promises that He will work for our good. But when we are continuously analyzing and debating and letting go of our peace, we get further away from God.

Consider Jesus' last night in Gethsemane. I'm glad this story is in the Bible because it gives us an example of what to do when we're struggling. The night He is captured, Jesus is deeply troubled, to the point of telling his disciples that His soul is overwhelmed with sorrow. But after praying all night, He is divinely fortified to complete His assignment. Now, I was thinking this morning, did Jesus really have to go through that? It is said He prayed all night, sweating to the point of blood. Yet, knowing what would happen, He also could have been resting with the disciples and other loved ones.  Now, I'm not judging because its awesome that in our weak moments, God shows up to empower us.  But when anxious, afraid, or uncertain about what will comes, we can also be assured that God is our rest, our strength, our hope, our refuge.

This is where we draw on our faith. Faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.  Confidence means to be conscious of one's power, to be certain, to trust and rely upon. Assurance means to guarantee, to be secure.  So even when we feel that we don't "know," the irony is that you do know - you know that God is always for you and so whatever may come He will be with you.

When we let go of control and surrender our own need to micromanage the universe, we enter into complete acceptance of what is and what will be. You begin to really embody what it means to be more than a conqueror because  you already know that whatever problem comes your way, you can overcome it. In fact, you live with complete joy, peace and love - all your birthright and ready for you to claim!

Friday, March 15, 2013

No fear - the courage to face mountains

no fear in facing your mountains
Learning to surrender and trust God with the outcomes is not an easy thing to do in our need-to-know culture. We don't like not being able to plan it out. We want to know what is happening next. So when we reach a point of uncertainty, we start worrying. We get uncomfortable. We imagine all the worst possible outcomes. We become panicky. We might start making choices and decisions to get control of the situation. And many of us run off the path as soon as we can before we've learned what that experience was supposed to teach us.

Yet, Jesus told his disciples, "Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” But if you're like me, when you look up at that mountain you might start thinking about your fear of heights ;). All you can think about at the foot of the mountain is what it’s going to take to get to the top -- how strenuous and shaky the path will be, how much time it's going to take, how tired you'll be when you finish, how many opportunities there will be for something to go wrong. You'll forget about all the times you've done this before. And how strong and accomplished it feels when you've made it. Or how good it feels when you're on the top, fully present and connected to all of God's creation. How much it feels like this is the place you were meant to be.

Fortunately, even when we're too caught up in our own fears and anxiety to move forward, God gives us multiple opportunities to face our mountains. In fact, God reminds us that we don’t even have to climb the mountain. We can simply tell the mountain to get out of our way. That’s how much power we have when we believe and trust in God.

To walk in that kind of confidence, we have to understand that God is with us wherever we go. He never leaves our side. As David writes, "Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest."

Throughout the Bible, God continuously tells us to be courageous, strong, and still (at peace) because He is with us. In His presence we are covered, we are secure. He promises us that He will not fail or forsake us; we have His comfort; and that He will fight for us. What more could we really ask for?

A beautiful passage in A Course in Miracles says, "You can never be deprived of your perfect holiness because its Source goes with you wherever you go. You can never suffer because the Source of all joy goes with you wherever you go. You can never be alone because the Source of all life goes with you wherever you go. Nothing can destroy your peace of mind because God goes with you wherever you go." Lord we thank that you are always with us.  Because of your presence, we do not have to walk in fear. I pray that we are encouraged to live our lives in complete confidence in You, to know that all things are operating in our favor. Amen.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Shine bright

I recently finished a book, The Big Leap, in which the author talks about the "upper limit problem" that keeps people from walking in the complete joy, love, and fullness that is always accessible to us when we're operating in our full potential, which he terms the "zone of genius.”  This zone -- an expression of your unique gifts and talents -- is everyone's birthright.  But because of our upper limit problem, we often subconsciously self-sabotage ourselves when things are going well by allowing fear, worry, blame, insecurity and other negative thought patterns and narratives to block us from receiving what is ours.  We believe that we cannot possibly be entitled to this much joy, so we find ways to limit ourselves.

As I have been thinking about how our stories and internal narratives keep us out of Eden, this book made me contemplate how difficult it is for many of us to accept our greatness.  We think that to be humble and righteous we must deny our gifts and power.  But the truth of the matter is that all your talents and strengths are given to you by God to glorify Him.  God does not create junk.  He says that we are His masterpieces.  If you are a child of God, a reflection of Him, made in His image, light of the world - then your purpose is to shine brightly.  It is not arrogant or unrighteous to accept the truth of what we are created to be.  It is unrighteous to act is if you have nothing to offer the world, no gifts to bring, no potential.  When you do that, you deny God's power and His purpose for you.  Which means that you believe the insane thought that you came into being on your own accord - that is arrogance. 

But you, dear friend, are all together lovely and irreplaceable to God.  You are divine thought brought into being.  Your value has been established by God and it needs no defense.  This is our truth.  So why are you defending an image of yourself that is not real?  Why are you fighting God about who you really are? 

In A Return to Love, Marianne Williamson beautifully writes: “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.  Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.  It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.  We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?  Actually, who are you not to be?  You are a child of God.  Your playing small does not serve the world.  There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you.  We are all meant to shine, as children do.  We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us.  It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone.  And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.  As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

You see, when you allow your own light to shine, you light a path for others.  This is why we are here -- to support each other in remembering who we are and revealing the love that God has for us. 

let your light shine

Dear Lord I pray that we will stand in the truth, Your truth of who we are.  That we will not be afraid to shine brightly, that we let our light continuously light a path to You.  Amen.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Changing your perspective - seeing your obstacles as God's opportunities

One of the biggest blocks to reclaiming our lives and experiencing Eden, is often the stories we tell ourselves about ourselves.  Many of us look at our challenges as obstacles without realizing that those very experiences can be a doorway into miracles -- our very dreams come true.  Particularly when we are in the wilderness, we can become so used to the discomfort of transition that rather than seeing this time of growth as a temporary passage, we make it a permanent lifestyle.  Because we're too afraid to claim what lies ahead, we hold on to old stories or create new ones that make us believe we are unworthy of getting to the other side.  Yet, the truth of the matter is that it is in the going through process that we are strengthened, our faith is built and our relationship with God is deepened in intimacy.  

changing perspective seeing like God

In many ways, our obstacles are a gift - an opportunity for us to remember that we are worthy: before we were even born, God knew us and set us apart for great things.  He comforts and supports us in our times of trouble.  And who we are -- our identity as His -- is secure. 

Critical to my own journey of healing and forgiveness has been learning to see as God sees.  For both my parents and myself, I've had to examine the limiting beliefs that entrapped us.  My parents’ behavior stemmed from their own pain and struggles with self-worth, and I knew I did not want to repeat the cycle.  That has meant both learning to see their heart's struggles with compassion and prayerfully examining what I can learn from their lives so that I do not recycle their stories into mine.  A central question for me is what is the life I want to live?  You see, our lives are always talking, so at some point you will have to examine what is the story that you want your life to tell. 

The good news is that God already has written the story of your life.  Unfortunately, many of us are holding ourselves back from enjoying the experiences of life that God has planned for us.  So, how do we change our perspective to match God's?

1) Trust Him.  I know this statement seems very basic.  But trusting God is the foundation of your journey through this human experience.  Our ability to surrender, to let go, to cast our cares on Him, to lay our burdens down, to enter His rest, to approach our lives with wonder and expectancy is to know at the level of our souls that whatever is happening, God is with us. 

I remember in college, when I first started developing my own personal relationship with God, I was so condemning of myself.  I felt like everything I read about God could not possibly be for me.  I would go to church and cry my eyes out because I did not think it possible that God could really love me.  I would read the Bible and tell myself, oh, that will never be me, I will never have that, that doesn’t apply to me.  But, over the years, as God has lovingly nurtured me and shown me how He has never left my side, I now can open the Bible and be filled with amazement!  I read the scripture now and I am excited about what is promised and what is in store for us.  I can look at my life with great thanks and see where God has been present and how those very promises in the Word are in fact now operating in my life. 

To get to that place of joy, I had to understand that no matter what is happening, God is for me.  The Word says, "We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him,who have been called according to his purpose.”  God works for our good and we have been called for a higher purpose.  He has great plans for our lives that will be fulfilled; we just need to trust him. 

2) Claim your power.  This is a key step that many of us miss.  In some of His last words to the disciples, Jesus says, "Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these . . ." Jesus continues with the familiar promise that whatever we ask in His name, He will do. However, so often we gloss over this first part -- the fact that we have power to do even greater things than Jesus accomplished in His ministry!

Throughout His time on earth, Jesus consistently points out what is possible if we only believe (Matthew 9; Mark 11).  He wanted His life and ministry to be examples of the power we have to change the world.  The Word says, "as a man thinks in his heart, so is he.”  In what ways are you  limiting your power?

We must remember that we are chosen.  We have the strength of God.  All things are possible.  We must reprogram our beliefs to assert that we have the power to overcome any obstacles that block us from what God has in store for us.

3) Renew your mind.  You can see how when you're caught in negative thinking and limiting beliefs, your life plays out.  When you think that everyone is out to get you, you interpret others' actions accordingly to confirm this.  When you do not have a strong sense of self, your interactions with everyone become reflections of your insecurities.  You constantly feel rejected.  You are defensive.  You walk in fear. 

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.  Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.  You see, when you put your mind on God, on things above, and begin to walk by faith, you create a space for new thoughts -- of victory, joy, peace, and love to pour out from your spirit.  That is what He wills for you. 

I want to encourage you that any moment is an opportunity to start anew.  The Bible says that if anyone is in Christ he is already a new creation.  Behold the old has passed, the new has come!  You just have to claim it. 

In the newness, you will see as God sees.  A new heaven and a new earth will emerge, reconciled.  The former things will not be remembered; they will be erased from your mind.  In place of pain and sorrow, there will only be joy.  You will know that God dwells within you; and that you are His.  You will live freely, receiving all that is your inheritance.  And you will know in your soul the truth of His promise that "He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son." Amen.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Setting the standard -- being the thermostat

thermostat not thermometer

In the past few months, I've repeatedly heard the phrase, "being the thermostat, not the thermometer." When it came up again this past week, I was like OK God what are you trying to tell me?
· Thermostat - a device for regulating or controlling the temperature

· Thermometer - an instrument for measuring the temperature surrounding it
I began to understand that so often in our lives we are operating as thermometers, influenced by the environment around us. In this state, we are constantly reacting -- fluctuating according to circumstances and situations. In one day, even one hour, we may go from one end of the spectrum to the other, rising and falling according to what is happening around us.

But a thermostat sets the temperature. It is an instrument that determines what the environment will be.  The thermometer is the influencer.  It is proactive. It creates the standard.

Now, we've all had our moments of weakness when we’ve allowed relationships and situations to impact our feelings and thoughts. In fact, many of us try to resist those "bad" feelings in an effort to maintain control. The downside is that in trying to control everything, we often block ourselves from the opportunity to fully enjoy and experience this life's journey. We are never able to attain true peace, because peace only comes when we fully surrender to whatever God is doing in our lives. Thankfully, it is in our weakness that God's strength is revealed as He empowers us by His grace to overcome whatever we are facing. So this is not about beating myself up over my weaknesses because I know that God's strength is always more than enough for me to overcome whatever is in my way (even if its myself!).

But what if we responded to God when He shows up to set the thermostat? During my own times of challenge, I've learned that all God requires is a little bit of faith. All He needs is our willingness. One small move. To see another side to something. To raise one cry for help. To reach out to one person. To take a time out to breathe and reconnect with who you are when the world is swirling around you. To smile. To ask someone how he or she is doing. To say thank you. To say I'm sorry. One small gift of kindness, one act of love can totally transform the environment.

This is not about getting in folks' faces and telling them what they need to do to change. This is about YOU. We are called to be influencers by setting the example. We don't match evil with evil - we overcome evil with good. In speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity we set the standard for those around us. We seek daily to exhibit who we are as masterpieces of God, the light of the world, salt of the earth.

I've seen how being proactive in maintaining an environment of peace  rather than reacting can totally change relationships. Late last year, I started the simple act of meditating at work. In the middle of the day, I turn off the sound on my computer, shut my door, sit and close my eyes. I have an inside office so my window faces into the hall for all that want to look in. That does not stop me from taking twenty minutes to reconnect with myself, to send thoughts of love, kindness, forgiveness to others, to talk to God, and to just clear my mind. Many work dynamics that previously had me fluctuating all over the place are no longer a factor. I have made a decision that when the environment is shifting around me, I will work to raise the temperature.

Rest assured that as the thermostat, we have the power to sustain the temperature at the highest levels of love, joy and peace. When the atmosphere is not there, we can ask God for his strength to go higher. We can be secure that these are the fruits already promised to us and we are fully equipped to set the standard. It might be difficult but it’s not impossible. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me. Lord, I pray that we will be a thermostat that works!

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Fasting with your heart

As the season of Lent begins, many of us around the world will also be entering a time of fasting for the next 40+ days until Easter. We will give up our favorite foods, decide not to engage in certain behaviors, make new commitments to pray and study. I know because I do this too! Every Lent I give up certain things in my diet, using this period as a time of physical cleansing. There's something about fasting during alongside millions across the globe that gives me the spiritual strength to sustain my commitments.

But like anything we do for God, we must be careful not to let the act and ritual supersede the opportunity for transformation.  Fasting is not about gratifying yourself with how holy you are but rather an opportunity to position yourself to unleash the power of the Spirit and walk in love.

What do I mean by this?

1) Fasting enables you to draw nearer to God. To realize the power He has gifted you to overcome any vice that you may have allowed to take control. After Jesus fasted for forty days and forty nights in the wilderness, He was greatly tempted. Yet, he was able to overcome these temptations because He knew His own power. He knew who He was and who knew who God was. Likewise, when we're in the wilderness, the opportunity is available for us to realize our own power to make decisions about the direction of our lives and what we will let master us. We can remember that we are co-creating with God.

2) Fasting is an opportunity to connect more deeply with others in service.  When we  strip away all the outer things that we don't need and get back to the core of who we are, which is love, we realize how deeply connected we are with others. In Isaiah 58:6-11, the Lord asks, "Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter— when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood? Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard. Then you will call, and the LORD will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I." When we fast and connect more closely to God and ourselves we are able to see each other with more compassion.

3) Ultimately, fasting is an opportunity to go within and to really open your heart. Whatever you are giving up, use that as a triggering mechanism to remind you to keep an open heart, to forgive, to receive love. It's not about who sees what you are doing or showing God your ability to sacrifice. Ask yourself, what is the nature of my heart in this season?  For I desire mercy, not sacrifice,and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings.


It's not my intention to try to convince anyone to fast or participate in Lent. I don't get caught up in such matters. But as we continue on our path, I just use this as an example to remind us to always be conscious of actions and for what purpose we are engaging in them. Our spiritual practices and rituals can be beautiful opportunities for us to go deeper in our relationship with God, ourselves and others. That is my prayer.

Friday, February 8, 2013

God's strength in our weakness

I woke up in a complete funk.

The very idea of getting up, showering, dressing, eating breakfast, opening my front door and getting to the train for work made me want to get back in the bed and hide under the covers.

It was one of those mornings when no good thought would enter my head.

Mind you, I'd woken up at 6 a.m. to have quiet time to meditate, journal, and exercise.  The morning is my space to nurture myself and have some intimacy with God as I begin the day.  But this morning, I simply could not do it.

So as I felt the tiredness in my body and the oppression of my spirit, I started beating myself up - why are you feeling this way?  What is wrong with you? 

I started then blaming God.  Why do you allow this God?  Why do you want to see me unhappy?  After everything I've been through!  I deserve...

It was a downward spiral.

I thought of all the things I could do to change my energy, to even just get myself off the couch.

But I couldn't.

What I could do and what I did was to send a text to a few friends along the lines of help!, pray! and encourage!

One friend sent me a screenshot of a quote that starts with: "Life is too short to wake up in the morning with regrets."
I jumped up.  Life is too short, and I'd just spent 2.5 hours fighting with God and myself...yet, for all that negative energy I wallowed in, I still had to go out and face the day.  I still had to go to work.

And you know what happened?  When I moved, God moved too.

I reached the office late but in time to prepare for the meetings on my calendar.  Right above my computer, a prayer reads: 
Precious Creator of All There is: I know that in every moment, of every day, no matter what the circumstance or situation may appear to be, the fullness of all that God is - IS present in me and as me.  God is present all around me at all times.  God IS all there is.  God is All I am.  God IS right where I am.
I turned on my computer. In my inbox, it was as if the whole universe was responding to that request sent to my friends for encouragement.  Words of love and peace were sent to me all throughout the day.  Words like:
  • God is an ever-present help in times of trouble (Psalm 46:1)
  • He is close to the broken-hearted (Psalm 34:18)
  • He will sustain you in times of trouble (Psalm 55:22)

I received all of it.  It was like God hit the restart button.

Three times that day I also received the scripture 2 Corinthians 12:9-10: His grace is sufficient . . . His power is made perfect in weakness . . . When I am weak, I am strong. 

I didn't understand it. I was like what does my grace is sufficient mean, how can His power be made perfect in my weakness, how can I be weak and then strong?

I looked at the amplified version:  But He said to me, My grace (My favor and loving-kindness and mercy) is enough for you [sufficient against any danger and enables you to bear the trouble manfully]; for My strength and power are made perfect (fulfilled and completed) and show themselves most effective in [your] weakness.  Therefore, I will all the more gladly glory in my weaknesses and infirmities, that the strength and power of Christ (the Messiah) may rest (yes, may pitch a tent over and dwell) upon me!  So for the sake of Christ, I am well pleased and take pleasure in infirmities, insults, hardships, persecutions, perplexities and distresses; for when I am weak [in human strength], then am I [truly] strong (able, powerful in divine strength).

As I meditated on this, I realized that whatever we think we are going through, God's grace is the vehicle for guiding us through it.  It is never dependent on what we do, and it is always enough.  And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.

Furthermore, we don't have to be so resistant to our challenges -- those difficult times, the fighting with God and ourselves, or blaming others and situations for how we feel -- because we can be secure that when our weaknesses are revealed so is God's strength.  When difficulty is present, so is His power.  And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.  When I am weak, then I am strong because in my weakness, God shows up to empower me.

That morning, it was the strength to reach out to loved ones, to get up off the couch, to make it out the front door.  Sometimes it’s just the strength to see something differently, to drop just even one thought that’s hurting you, to believe in even just the possibility that God is more powerful than whatever-it-is.  

One thing we can be certain of is that no matter what, God is with us.  Whatever we need, He has it.  He has plans for us.  He has written the very pages of our lives.  He knows us in intimate detail.  Even the hairs on our heads have been numbered.  You are His great masterpiece - everything and all that you are. He loves you, completely and fully.  Amen!

Friday, February 1, 2013

Finding God in the wilderness

A friend mentioned to me, almost offhandedly, something about entering his wilderness years.  At the time, I didn't really understand what he was talking about.  But hours after that, the word wilderness kept penetrating my spirit.  As I started to meditate more on what it means to be in the wilderness...the searching, the testing, the fear, the courage, the immense faith required, the understanding of one's smallness as well as one's connection to something greater...I realized how powerful and rich this experience can be if we open ourselves to it.

The wilderness period is not uncommon.  We find this stage in our sacred and cultural texts as well as in our everyday lives.  At first, the wilderness can be very frightening.  How did I get here?  What am I supposed to do?  Can I survive?  Where is everyone?  Where is God? 

But, what if, we could get past the fear and see this as the opportunity to deepen our understanding of who God is, and thus, who We are.  What if we used the wilderness as an opportunity to learn what it means to surrender control and trust God? 

spiritual wilderness
I flash-backed to an experience when I was literally in the wilderness.  My best friend and I, both of us searching and trying to understand what God was doing in our lives, decided to take a day off and go to this open land in the woods that a small church owned and maintained specifically for others to find quiet time with God.  My friend and I fasted for the day, in expectancy of what we might learn.  In silence, we walked the grounds of this place.  I found myself drawn to a small lake, and as I departed from my friend to go there, he passed me his bible.  I sat by the lake, waiting for something.  This was the year that I first began questioning what it is that my life is about.  The first time I started to feel that something wasn't quite right.  That I was still somehow in the dark.  That there was something more  I wasn't embodying.  I wanted to be free. 

It began to rain.  I opened my bible to Psalm 29, which reads: ". . . The voice of the Lord is over the waters; the God of glory thunders . . . The voice of the Lord is powerful; the voice of the Lord is majestic.  The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars . . . The voice of the Lord strikes with flashes of lightning.  The voice of the Lord shakes the desert [the wilderness] . . . The voice of the Lord twists the oaks and strips the forests bare.  And in his temple all cry, 'Glory!' The Lord sits enthroned over the flood; the Lord is enthroned as King forever.  The Lord gives strength to his people; the Lord blesses his people with peace."

God reminded me then and now of both His wondrous power and His love for me.  He let me know that He is ruler over all things; and that, no matter what I may experience, He will forever give me His strength and peace.

Paul writes "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”  This one sentence lets us know that 1) God is working on our behalf, 2) whatever he is doing is for our good, 3) we are all called, and 4) we all have purpose.  

What if we really believed that?

Recently, I found myself thinking, I wonder what God is going to do about . . . Not in the usual, oh my God! What are you going to do?!?!?!?!?!  (while pulling my hair out :)).  But, almost laughing to myself, with wonderment and expectation.  Wow, God, I wonder. 

You see, when you change your perspective, you change your experience.   

We all know the story of Moses bringing the Israelites out of Egypt. They were to enter the Promised Land.  On their way to the promises, they experienced God performing wondrous signs and miracles. Yet, still they feared; still they lacked faith.  After years of enslavement, they did not believe they were worthy enough to ever be free.  They wanted to go back to the way things used to be.  That pain and suffering was what they were accustomed to.  They couldn’t fully believe in the future that was theirs, even when it was right in front of them for the taking. 

But the discomfort they experienced in the wilderness, this discomfort of transition, was a temporary passage on the grand journey of their lives.   

When an assembly of men went to explore the Promised Land, they reported that in fact it was the land God was sending to them.  But rather than seeing their destiny, the very promises of God, they saw only the challenges that needed to be overcome to get there.

Yet, the Word of God declares the we are overcomers.  By faith, we overcome anything that comes our way, knowing that anything obstacle, any block in our path has already been overcome by the One who has power over all.

Later, I will  talk more about how we begin to change our perception, to change our stories.  For now, I pray that we begin to believe in our very souls that God is our watchman.  Lord, we thank you that our help comes from you; that at all times and in all places, you provide a shade of protection around us and keep our foot from slipping on the path.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Letting go of control

let go let god

For many of us, the need to control develops as a survival mechanism. At some point in our journey, we begin to believe that we, our beautiful, perfect selves, are not enough. This happens any numbers of ways. Like when we believe the love we gave so openly was rejected. Or the trust we bestowed turned into a trick. When we feel that we aren't seen or heard, even though we courageously exposed ourselves. Or when we experience pain at the hands of those we most desired to give us care. At those points, many of us decide that there is something wrong with us, something that we need to fix to be more worthy of love. We may decide that we cannot bear the thought of experiencing this pain again and we begin to close up and build the walls within to protect ourselves.

I was listening to a talk given by Tara Brach called Letting Go of Control that zones in on our universal addiction to control, sometimes even down to our spiritual practice (the constant search for answers and a secure sense of right or wrong). The talk shares a story about a woman who, as a child, was forced to get a haircut she did not desire. She loved her hair. She believed it beautiful and that it made her special. But her mother told her it was a nuisance. In that moment of losing her hair, she felt that what she wanted didn't matter. She then worked hard over the years through achievements and accomplishments to find that sense of mattering. But she also kept her passions locked in. She cut herself off from her own wants and needs. It was too dangerous to again feel like a nuisance.

I know this story. I have that story. As a child, my hair was a wild mass of uninhibited curls that went all over my head and down my back. But my mother hated my hair. She could never rein it in no matter how hard she tried. One evening, while our family sat watching a movie, my mother sliced through the silence with the command that I "do something" with my hair. At the time, I wasn't quite sure what to do. In my mind, it was "done.” But I felt the anxiety creeping into my body as I sensed the threat of her anger. I went to the bathroom to try to tighten the ponytail I had my hair in. Over and over she sent me to the bathroom to "fix" my hair, each time her rage and my sense of despair rising. Like so many nights, there was nothing to stop her rage from overflowing. She would not be pleased. As usual, I was at a loss to what was happening. I could never predict what might set her off. I felt responsible, because that's what she told me, but there never seemed to be anything I could do or not do to make me safe. That night, my mother made me get a chair and pair of scissors. She forced me into the chair, yanking my hair towards her and proceeded to cut several inches of my hair off until it rested just above my shoulders.

That was a moment among many that made me reach desperately for control, to find ways to make me feel safe, to make sense of the world around me. Maybe if I could keep everything operating smoothly, she would be upset less often. Maybe if I could just manage the world around her, I won't have to suffer. Maybe if I just reach achieve this and accomplish that, I can finally be free.

But the problem with this approach, this need to control, is that in the process we often cut ourselves off from the true experience of life. While I am trying to control my future by planning and overachieving, I am sacrificing opportunities to play and experiment. While I am protecting myself against any pain in relationships, I am blocking myself from the sweet vulnerability of love. While I am trying to be strong, I am missing the opportunity to receive the support of friends.

While trying to keep all the bad things out, I miss the opportunity to fully engage with the beauty of the world. I block myself from experiencing the wonder of life's journey and the expectant joy of promises fulfilled. And I am never at peace, because peace only comes from surrender.

I’ve learned that control is really an illusion, a never-ending search for something outside of me. We use the stories about what happened to us as our reasons.  And they are good reasons. We're doing what we feel we have to in order to be safe. But your real safety is in opening yourself to all of what each moment holds, trusting that God will be with you.  One of my favorite lines from the Course in Miracles states, in my defenselessness, my safety lies. We don't need to allow the past to control our future. Each moment, this moment, is a chance to start anew. The old has gone; the new is here! 

When we release those stories of our past into the past, we remember who we knew ourselves to be before we let the world tell us we were anything different. Inside, where God resides, is everything I will ever need