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

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Rest from the busyness of life

being in his rest

I have to admit that it has been hard for me to keep up with writing here in the midst of the holiday season. At the end of December, I was caught up in the frenzy of tying up loose ends at work, preparing to travel to another part of the country, joining the crowds of last minute shoppers in the annual exchange of currency and finding time to reconnect with friends and family. But as I approached the beginning of a new year, one of the greatest gifts I gave to myself was time.

After a week spent in my hometown, I returned to my apartment; and, for another week, I rarely left my apartment. The few times I did leave were never further than a one-mile radius. I journaled for what seemed like hours, touching areas of my heart I had not yet given myself the space to be with. I prayed and meditated about my wounds and my dreams, wrapping myself in love. In my apartment, I sang loudly and off-tune and did yoga in my underwear. I cried. Sobbed even, until my whole body rocked.

For a week, I allowed myself to just truly be.

On New Year's Eve, I woke up and had the strongest sense of gratitude for everything and every person that has been in my life. As I was praising God in my living room, I was overcome with complete certainty that everything I desire, is already given. Everything I've been searching for, I already have. Every prayer I've ever prayed has been answered.

It was a sacred space.

I was reminded, again, that so often we're caught up in the busyness of life at the expense of our spirits. As Neale Donald Walsch writes, "[L]life has nothing to do with what you are doing, and everything to do with what you are being. Be careful not to get caught in the 'doingness' of your life. That is not what you are here for. You are a sacred soul, and you came here to the earth to Be something." When we focus on what needs to be done, what should be done, or what everyone else is doing/ needs to do, we fail to give ourselves the space to just breathe.

But when we allow ourselves to pause, to be, to connect with God, our divine source, we create a sanctuary. Even if for just a few minutes -- one moment -- we allow ourselves to enter His rest. In the rest of God, our souls are stilled; and it is in the stillness that God speaks.

The LORD said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the LORD, for the LORD is about to pass by.” Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind, there was an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave. (1 Kings 19:11-13)

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

The real story of you - God's track record

my story and God

So much of coming into your purpose is uncovering the stories that you have been telling yourself about who you are.  By stories, I mean those myths in your mind that make you feel that for some reason God is holding back all His promises -- specifically from you.

Months ago, I was encouraging a friend about following his dreams and taking hold of what he was created to do. After all my exhortation, he says well, what about you?

Instantly, I go into my diatribe about figuring out what to do with my life and how I don't have this and don't have that.

He says, "well what do you need to figure out?"

"Well, I mean I wish that I could just know what was going to happen," I said, already impatient with him questioning me.

"But, what do you mean? What is it that you want that you don't already have?"

For one moment, I paused and thought to myself, yes, what is it that I don't already have. For that moment I had clarity -- yes, I thought, yes, I have peace, love, joy, freedom, security, abundance!

But, in the next moment my faith was replaced with my stubborn persistence to hold on to my story. "But, I mean I wish I could just know for sure, like for real, that everything is going to be okay."

Fortunately, my friend was just as stubborn and persistent. "Don't you already know? You can be and have anything you desire. Frankly, I can't see it any other way. Look at your record. It's who you are."

So, let me remind you of God's track record.

What we say:
  • Something bad will happen
  • I will be hurt
  • I'm not good enough
  • It's my fault 
  • I can't do it
  • I don't deserve it
  • It will not last  
  • I'm not worthy
  • I have no talents
  • I am alone
  • I am broken
  • I am ashamed
  • I can't ignore my past
  • No one loves me

What God says:
In all things, He works for my good (Romans 8:28)
No weapon formed against me shall prosper (Isaiah 54:17)
I am fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14)
I am holy and blameless in his sight (Ephesians 1:4)
I can do all things through Him who strengthens me (Philippians 4:13)
I am blessed (Deuteronomy 28)
Goodness will follow me all the days of my life (Psalm 23:6)
I am His masterpiece (Ephesians 2:10)
I have unique  gifts (Romans 12:6-8)
He will be with me always (Romans 8:38-39; Matthew 28:20 )
I am healed (Isaiah 53:5)
I will never be put to shame (Joel 2:27)
I am a new creature; old things are passed away (2 Corinthians 5:17)
I am complete love itself  (1 John 4: 7-18)

Dear Lord, I pray that we will let go of our false stories and take on Your truths. We set the record straight! We know that our true story is still in motion and walk in confidence that He who began a good work in us will carry it to completion! Amen.  

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Surrendering your plans to God's plans

trust and surrender

I know that this is the time when we're all making our plans for the upcoming year. We're creating our goals and setting intentions, prayerfully trusting God to bring new fruit into our lives. And there is nothing wrong with that. We know that in faith, we can approach God with freedom and confidence, trusting that when you believe, whatever you ask for in prayer will be yours.

But the key here is believing, trusting and having faith in God. Many are the plan's in a person's heart, but it is the Lord's purpose that prevails.  This is not to discourage you but rather to greatly encourage you that God has a plan for your life that can not be thwarted. The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it. That means YOU.

And God has promised us great things! We may not always know all the details of what is going to happen, but God does. All the days of your life are written in His book. He has a plan for you. In your deepest heart of hearts you already know what your destiny is. Your life's purpose is to know in the depths of your soul that you are the great masterpiece of God. And you can trust that the work's of his hand will never be abandoned.

So let's use this life as an opportunity to enjoy all the promises of God. Promises like love, peace, joy, grace, and abundance. He has promised that nothing, no thing, can separate us from His love. No matter what you do, you are not more powerful than God.

You see, when you know who you are on the inside, it doesn't really matter what is happening on the outside. Circumstances and situations are always impermanent. Never put your hope in that which is temporary.  Learn to be content whatever the circumstances. As Paul writes, "I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength." What is the secret he writes about? It is to put your hope and trust in the Lord, for in Him and through Him all things are possible.  You were created in His image, a living lamp into God's very nature.  He does not change, and so neither do you.

So go ahead and even make those "mistakes" (I prefer to call mistakes, lessons learned!). Give yourself permission to do the things you are afraid of. Sometimes we psych ourselves out trying to create rules and regulations but our heart is not in it. That's why you find yourself back in the same place, repeating the same cycle. Do not be like the Pharisees, saying one thing, yet constantly doing another. Let God penetrate your heart. This may mean that you have to fall before you can get back up. But it will be worth it in the end.

In 2013, I want to continue to follow those whispers of God, the seemingly random things that come into our minds, our Spirits....the oh that would be interesting if...or that might be fun...or I really used to like doing that when I was younger...or everyone always says that I'd be great at that...or I've always wanted to go there/do that/find this/speak to him/her...those things we usually ignore or are distracted away from. Because all the while that we're searching for purpose, meaning, trying to figure out what it is we really yourself, you already know

This year, I surrender to all that God would have for me. We're in this together! Be strong and courageous because the Lord our God is always and forever with us.