Thursday, May 24, 2012

Jesus Ascends, But We Are Not Alone

Do you ever feel like you are looking for an opportunity, but all the doors seem to be closed? Do you ever have a great idea and put it out there, only to be told “No” by multiple people? Does it ever seem like the path of your life is stuck, and you don’t know in which direction to walk anymore?

We have all felt blocked at certain times in our life. No matter how hard you try, you just can’t get moving. These are times when our faith must really kick in, when we believe that God does in fact have a plan for our lives, and in due time, that plan will unfold.

While Jesus was still on this earth, he told his followers that once he left this world, we would not be alone. He said, “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever” (John 14:16). This Advocate is also called the Helper or the Holy Spirit. Jesus says that he will not leave us orphaned as children without our parents. We will have this Advocate who will abide in us and be with us always to help us through.

To me, the Holy Spirit might be one of the most beautiful aspects to Christianity. God did amazing and miraculous things in and through Jesus Christ, but the Holy Spirit is the way that we connect to Jesus after all these years. The Holy Spirit is both in you and around you. The Spirit is the one who helps to transform our lives and guide our paths.

I want to read you a poem about destiny. It is thought-provoking, and while you hear it, keep in the back of your mind the thought that it is the Holy Spirit who leads us into our destinies.

Let me read to you a poem titled,“Follow Your Destiny, Wherever It Leads You” by Vicki Silvers:

There comes a time in your life when you realize that if you stand still, you will remain at this point forever. You realize that if you fall and stay down, Life will pass you by. Life’s circumstances are not always what you might wish them to be. The pattern of Life does not necessarily go as you plan. Beyond any understanding, you may at times be led in different directions that you never imagined, dreamed, or designed. Yet if you had never put any effort into choosing a path, or tried to carry out your dream, then perhaps you would have no direction at all. Rather than wondering about or~ questioning the direction your life has taken, accept the fact that there is a path before you now. Shake off the “why’s” and “what if’s,” and rid yourself of confusion. Whatever was — is in the past. Whatever is — that’s what’s important. The past is a brief reflection. The future is yet to be realized. Today is here. Walk your path one step at a time — with courage, faith, and determination. Keep your head up, and cast your dreams to the stars. Soon your steps will become firm and your footing will be solid again. A path that you never imagined will become the most comfortable direction you could have ever hoped to follow. Keep your belief in yourself and walk into your new journey. You will find it-magnificent, spectacular, and beyond your wildest imaginings.

There are three lines of the poem that really stick out to me:

First, “The pattern of life does not necessarily go as you plan. Beyond any understanding, you may at times be led in different directions that you ever imagined, dreamed, or designed.” Isn’t this the truth?! Life does not go as we plan, but I have come to find that the surprising twists and turns our lives take lead to very interesting and worthwhile places, places we wouldn’t have known to choose ourselves. When we open ourselves to the movements of the Spirit, God’s will for our lives takes over and we find ourselves in unknown territory, but its okay because it is divine territory.

The second line of the poem that I want us to reflect upon is: “Rather than wondering about or question the direction your life has taken, accept the fact that there is a path before you now.” We all have ideas and dreams and hopes for our lives, and that is a good thing, but we must ultimately hand over our lives to God’s will. The Advocate’s primary work is to give us a path and to encourage us forward on that path. And in fact, we are on that path right now! No matter how stuck or frustrated you might feel at this moment, things are happening. Stars are being aligned; circumstances are being brought together all so that God may move you forward in your life.

The third line: “Keep your belief in yourself and walk into your new journey.” I would also add, “Keep your belief in God and walk into your new journey.” Even if you feel stagnant right now, you are not. You are on a journey and God is leading you forward into your destiny. Change is always happening in big ways and small ways. People of great faith know that life is not about the destination, it’s about the journey we are on now. So believe in yourself, believe in God and enjoy the journey.

In my experience, I have found a name for God that rings true to me. God is the Great Orchestrator. God is the true designer of our lives, putting the right people and opportunities in place at just the right time so that we can receive them and handle them with skill. God is orchestrating our futures, and God always has a symphony in mind when it comes to our destinies.

My friends, Jesus has ascended to heaven, but we are not alone. We are surrounded by and filled with the Holy Spirit, who is orchestrating all of our lives in ways unknown. Do not be afraid. Be filled with joy and confidence. The journey that you are on is not a dead end road, it is a mystical path which will continue to unfold before you, leading you into a brilliant future, planned by God’s own mind.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

From Fear to Personal Power

My friend’s former roommate, Kerin, has some real problems. She’s unemployed, 2 months behind in the rent and constantly in fear of running into the landlord. The man she is dating has recently begun making excuses for why he can’t get together, and whenever Kerin talks to her mother on the phone, they argue. It seems as if nothing is going right for her, and she often laments how she hates her life.

Those of us who have to listen to Kerin’s tales of woe want to feel sorry for her, but she makes it difficult. The main reason is because Kerin isn’t doing anything to change her situation. She’s just crying about it.

One day, I sat down with Kerin and asked her what the problem was? Why was she going out late all the time and waking up late every day instead of looking for a job? Why was she not talking to both her boyfriend and mother anymore instead of trying to work things out? We sat there for a moment, silent tears streaming down Kerin’s face, and then she finally said, “I’m just so scared.”

Kerin had gotten to the point where she was afraid to deal with life. Too many things made her anxious, and she felt powerless to change her circumstances. It was as though the sky were falling. She didn’t have the confidence to do anything, and even if she did, she didn’t know who she was or what she wanted to do.

Many people seek to move from a place of fear to empowerment so I have outlined three steps to take you from fear to personal power:

1. Confront the fear. You have to look into the face of your fear and see it clearly for what it is. Just an obstacle in your path that you can handle. You don’t need to hide or feel ashamed or doubt yourself. You can approach any situation. Handle it the best you can, and that will be enough. Most situations are manageable. We just get afraid when we’ve never confronted them before, and we are not sure how to handle our experience. But, you can handle it. You will not die. You will simply learn, and more painfully, you will grow. If you want something, you go after it. No excuses. That’s no fear.

2. Decide what to do. You need a course of action, and it’s up to you to decide what that plan is going to look like. You should figure out the end results that you want, and then, when you have made your decision about what your future will look like, you start planning from the beginning. You see your destination and you learn to walk there. It’s kind of like being on a golf course and walking towards that 18th pin. When you tee off, you hit a nice, long straight drive down the fairway. Then, you walk to your ball. Now, you can see the pin. You hit another shot, walk to your ball and take aim again. When you reach the green, it’s time to go in for the kill. You putt the ball. It falls into the cup! It’s as though you knew what to do at every juncture, your steps took you in the right direction, and you were spot on with your instinct, your intuition.

3. Implement the plan. Now, it’s time to execute, to take action. You know what you want, and you aren’t afraid to go get it. It’s time to put the plan in motion. The first thing you do is take a step. One step leads to another and before you know it, something really exciting has happened. You don’t know where it will lead, but you have a good feeling that it will definitely lead somewhere that you would want to be. Now, you are one step closer to having the reality you envision in your mind and the feeling you crave in your heart. Take another step. And another. Repeat. That’s all wise action is is walking forwards with purpose and insight.

There will be hurdles though. There will be times when the road seems impassable. There will be times when the water is too high. There will be times when your spirit wants to quit. Or when it wants to fight. Through it all, embrace. Take it in and don’t let it hurt you. Nothing can hurt you if you don’t let it. Jump each hurdle as it comes in your path, and even if one knocks you down, get up and finish the race. One hurdle is not enough to keep you down. Keep running while breathing deep. Relax into the flow of movement. That is taking action. Relax and keep moving forward.

After the disciples healed in Jesus’ name, they were arrested and put in jail. When they were released, the disciples did not become afraid and go into recluse. Instead, the disciples became bold. They let their light shine. Bold means being courageous. It means being willing to give all of yourself without hesitation or self-doubt. It’s the action, the walking forward, the running, the flying that we are capable of when set in motion. To be bold is to live fully. The disciples were living fully when the Holy Spirit descended on them, and they became bold.

I pray that Kerin can learn to be bold. I pray that she stops feeling afraid and that she realizes she’s just as good of a person as everybody else. She has just as much to offer. Inside, she already knows what she has to do. Go back to school, but she’s hesitant to make the investment. Instead, she’s investing in nothing and squandering her life. These are precious years for us to be building. We can build up. We can build expansive. But growing is not optional; it is what we are here to do.

Let’s grow healthy. Let’s grow strong. Let’s move away from fear to people who own their power, and therefore, own their life.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

What Have You Done For Me Lately?

Some people are excellent at being grateful and content. Then, there’s the rest of us. The people who aren’t quite satisfied. The people who want more.

There’s a fine line we must walk as people who want to be faithful and successful at the same time. On the one hand, we have been richly blessed, and we should acknowledge our blessing and be happy with what we have. On the other hand, we are meant to excel in this life so we need to go after what we want and constantly be pushing boundaries. I believe we can do and be both.

Real problems develop when our desire for success, power, wealth, fame and accolades surpass our contentment and gratitude. We walk around always wanting more from this person or that and from God. And when we don’t get what we want, we are bitter. The other day I found myself trying to count my blessings, but then thinking that just one thing was really missing from my life – my published book- and I found myself saying to God, “God, you have helped me through so much. But it has been awhile since something truly great happened in my life. I think it’s time.”

And then, the Janet Jackson song “What have you done for me lately?” popped into my head.

In the song, Janet’s boyfriend used to do nice things for her like take her out to dinner and dancing, but then, he stops doing nice things for her. She feels taken for granted and unappreciated. Janet’s friend says to her, “I know he used to do nice stuff for you. But what has he done for you lately?”

The reality is, God and people are always doing nice things for us if we have the eyes to see and the heart to appreciate. In today’s scripture reading, we hear that “God is love.” And that “We love because God first loved us.” We know what love is because of God. That feeling we have that makes us look at children with adoration. That feeling we have that makes us want to give to others. That feeling we have that makes our hearts swoon and our stomachs turn. They are all feelings of love that come from God.

So the next time we are feeling like we deserve more and that God hasn’t blessed us enough, let us think of love. It is always surrounding us, whether we feel it from someone else or we feel it for someone else, it is from God. What has God done for you lately? God has loved you.

There are three simple ideas I have about love that can keep our hearts forever in check:

1. Love is a gift. It comes from seemingly nowhere, (although we know where its from- God). It doesn’t matter if you do or say the right things. It doesn’t matter if you are perfect or flawed. The people who love you love you for who you are, and there’s nothing you can do to change that. Let’s say it right now, turn to someone near you and say to them: You are loved, and there’s nothing you can do about it.

2. The more you feel love, the more you want to give. When your cup runs over and love is pouring out of your heart, you can’t help but share it. A warning to the wise, this will get you hurt because not everyone you want to share love with is ready to receive it or is experiencing the same overflow of love, but wisdom tells us it’s the way to live. Better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all. Or better to have loved and it not be reciprocated than never to have loved at all. At the end of the worship service, we will sing “Pass It On.” The refrain goes: that’s how it is with God’s love, once you experience it, you spread God’s love to everyone, you want to pass it on.

3. Keep some love for yourself. We are so quick to give away that which we have. We want to share it! It’s such a glorious feeling to give and share with another, but each of us is a tender and vulnerable being that needs to hold some love in to nourish ourselves. Just make sure that as God loves you and your heart is filled with love, you give some of it to yourself. You need it and you deserve it!

“God,” we might ask, “What have you done for me lately?”

The answer we hear is soft but clear. “I love you, my child. I love you when you wake up and go to bed. I love you when your bad and when your good. I love you when you are near and when you are far.”

My friends, etch it on your hearts. God is love, and we love because God first loved us.